Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Visit with Aunt Crazy

This week began with a special treat – one of those moments where you truly understand the term “blessing in disguise.”  In order to address some client needs, I unexpectedly needed to travel to a city where my old pal – let’s call her Aunt Crazy – resides.  While my meetings had all the charm of attempting to perform root canal on oneself using an old paper clip, a quick text to Aunt Crazy revealed that she was available to get me suitably sloshed before I returned to the airport to head home.

Aunt Crazy and I worked together years ago at a company who was long-recognized for its superior technology solutions, but is more recently notable for having lost a billion dollar lawsuit which it foolishly permitted to proceed to trial, since everyone knew it was going to lose.  We both left the company around the same time, when it became clear that unmarried women and sarcastic gay guys don’t get promoted past a certain level no matter how hard they work, or how well they perform. 

A lesson to all you kids singing show tunes and reading People (mostly for Royal Wedding coverage and the photos of hunky moron Brad from the Bachelor) – as well as the girls who hang with them: unless your career plans include creating a media empire, you can take your work seriously and do it well, but you should also make time for important things like soap operas starring people a generation younger than you, spending plenty of time at the gym, and picking up boys.

Yes, those last two activities are the same thing.

Anyway, to return from that tangent, Aunt Crazy (who earns that nickname simply by virtue of hosting an annual Oscar party where the guests wear black tie – from the waist up – and sweatpants) picked me up on a random street corner, after circling the neighborhood for half an hour trying to find me.  This point becomes more ironic when she finally arrives and the first thing I notice on her dashboard is a GPS.  Perhaps, like me, she programs in the destination, then proceeds to ignore the device, either by talking on the phone, blasting the radio and singing along to Sugarland songs, or yelling at the damn thing, “That’s not the way I want to go!”

When we finally sorted out logistics, Aunt Crazy and I had a blast – we had some snacks at a local tapas bar, caught up on all the people we used to work with, and discussed our mutual desire to start a family.  (Not with each other.)  Aunt Crazy is looking to adopt, while Neil and I continue to discuss the idea of having children.  We commiserated over the challenges – whether it’s the ready availability of two children for a single woman (Aunt Crazy wants a matched set, so they’ll have someone to confide in when she inevitably drives them nuts), or Neil’s concern about being too old, or my irrational concern that my hair-trigger midlife crisis will spin out of control if I have to face my own mortality through the eyes of my child.

Too quickly, though, I had to head out to the airport, saying goodbye to Aunt Crazy for another three or four years.  Unfortunately, shortly after arriving, my flight began to post a series of successive delays that kept us on the ground until well after 10pm and limiting my dinner choices to foods that can be purchased at a newsstand.  I’d love to tell you that eating a bag of Sour Patch Kids for dinner brought back great memories of college, but it’s just not the same without the drugs.

And, of course I arrived home way too late to watch Pretty Little Liars, so I got up at 6am the next day and turned on the DVR.  I’d love to say the season finale clarified things for me, but all it seemed to do was confirm that Ian did, indeed, kill Allison – providing no twist or other compelling narrative – and otherwise create a bunch of confusion on loose threads, but which don’t quite add up to a cliffhanger.  Plus, they killed off Ryan Merriman who never really got to show the acting range that one can only truly exhibit with his shirt off.

Thus starved for entertainment, off we trekked to see the very first performance of Broadway’s “Sister Act” – adapted from the movie starring Whoopi Goldberg, by the Whoopi Goldberg production company (see, lesson in paragraph three of this blog, kiddies.)  Our expectations were high, as the show is hot off its run on London’s West End (though this is no longer an arbiter of class – and hasn’t been since Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber sent us dreck like Starlight Express.  If I want roller skating in my musicals, I’ll skip that for Cheyenne Jackson wearing cutoff denim in Xanadu – for more than the obvious reasons.)

You could feel the anticipation and excitement in audience, teeming with every homo in the tri-state area who could get his hands on a ticket. 

Sadly, dear readers, I can’t fully recommend the show – a bloated two-and-a-half hour commitment that has too-few moments of real joy and rapture.  The stage is entirely too large for the activity on it, and the staging is – with the exception of tow numbers, a fantasy dream sequence and a solo power ballad – unimpressive.  The choreography is hokey and line-dance-y; the jokes are really corny and obvious, and the book is – with the exception to two lines – very weak.  The star, Patina Miller, lacks the glory notes in her upper register to pull off the songs, which is sort of OK, since most of the music is unmemorable.  Pacing is uneven, particularly in the first act, which takes just over an hour to accomplish a slow set up that needs to be done in half the time, and with more energy.  It’s too long a sit to get to what the audience came for: those singing nuns from the movie.  Still, the second act moves a bit more briskly and, despite the generic music and some wacky capers that are lifted right out of a Keystone Kops sequence in a 1920 nickelodeon, the energy and uplift at the end gets the crowd applauding and generated a standing ovation.

I imagine there’s a enough good will for the movie – and for Whoopi – as well as enough of a curiosity factor, to goose advance sales for a few months.  And even though the show played in London, they made some changes, so there’s no reason to think they won’t further adjust it through previews.

Other than that, it was a relatively quiet week.  We went out for Pookie's birthday.  We did a little shopping.  I've been looking for a pair of jeans since Christmas - which seems crazy since I have almost 20 pairs and half of them I bought through Gilt Group - but I really needed a pair that I bought in real time.  Buying online restricts me to designers and brand I already know, and even then I'm taking a guess that the weight and texture of the material, and the actual color, will work for me.  Actual shopping permits the assessment of critical questions like: "Does the fit accentuate the musculature of my thighs, or make me look crammed into a sausage casing?"  and "How cute is my butt?"

I also needed to find a few shirts, and spend some time in a fitting room praying to the fashion gods for the end of gingham.  Yes, I like how it looks on me - but if I buy one more gingham shirt I'm gonna need some red shoes and a Scarecrow.

We decided to spend what was left of Saturday afternoon downtown, and started by going to Chinatown.  The weather has gotten a little colder and wetter than it was the past two weekends, but we couldn't sit inside and watch television.  So instead of watching frantic crowds of Asian people trying in vain to dodge a nuclear holocaust, we figured we'd watch them fight over oyster mushrooms.

If you've never been to the Hong Kong Supermarket, I can't say I recommend it.  It's perceived as being this sort of ethnic food superstore, but it isn't terribly large.  I suppose it claims to offer an authentic experience because all the pushing and shoving and jostling seems to re-create the effect of riding the subway in Tokyo. The fish all had cloudy eyes and were piled high atop trays of ice, and the produce all looked a little wilted and forlorn.  

I expected a market of largely exotic and relatively fresh, foods - but beyond the stacks of squid and some rather pale pumpkin chunks, the remainder of the store was as a much a paean to consumer packaged foods as any Safeway.  I'm not exactly sure how to end communism, but I'm fairly certain it involves using high fructose corn syrup.

Anyhow, I wish I had some sort of profound observation or lesson with which to close.  But I don't.  The closest I can offer is a cautionary tale picked up at Hong Kong Supermarket: Politics and sarcasm aside, those little cookies with the Panda faces - politically incorrect though they may be - are delicious.  If this is China's answer to Teddy Grahams, we're going to be in serious trouble when it gets to the big stuff.


  1. NO ONE - I repeat - NO ONE can put imagery into a blog post like you, Sir Eric. NO ONE. I defy anyone to find me a blogger other than yourself who can pack "holocaust" & "oyster mushrooms" into a sentence without making the reader question the statement and restart from the beginning.
    Secondly, WHAT? They didn't get you off the ground until WHEN? I am so, so sorry. You so wanted to be home at a reasonable hour. In case there is any question as to why, I will testify (or ovarify, to be gender-neutral) that you wanted to see NEIL... and also watch Pretty Little Liars. But Neil did come first!!
    Finally, thank you so much for the shout out! You kept me grinning all night. I really do miss you, man. I hope you don't HAVE to come back to Richmond for a follow-up to the root canal, but selfishly I would love it.
    I hope to see you the weekend of 4/29!! Morning suits for the gentleman, hats for the "ladies", and Pimms Cup for all - REQUIRED! ;)

  2. PS - Why on EARTH didn't I take down that damn GPS before seeing you? Hahahaha!!!