Thursday, December 20, 2012

SAG Nominating Committee; Yea or Nay?

I have never written about movie awards before but something magical happened to me this year that prompted me to change all that. For the first time in all the years I've been an active member of the Screen Actors Guild I was randomly chosen to be part of the elite SAG Nominating Committee for film. 

What this means is that I got to watch a shitload of this season's films and then voted for who, in my estimation, should be nominated for the SAG Award in the following categories: best lead male and lead female, best supporting male and supporting female, best performance by a cast, and best stunt ensemble (go figure).

It's an interesting film season, in that there isn't a decisive front runner in any category. Remember a few years back when Helen Mirren graced the silver screen in The Queen? She received endless accolades, sashayed down many a red carpet, and, according to IMDb, snatched up no less than 29 statuettes, plaques, ribbons and bangles portraying the stalwart, corgi-loving QE2. 

This year is different, however. There doesn't seem to be a clear cut favorite. Let's look at the Best Actress category: The LA Film Critics lauded the work of Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook and Emmanuelle Riva for Amour, the NY Film Critics Circle preferred Rachel Weisz for Deep Blue Sea, the National Board of Review opted for Jessica Chastain for Zero Dark Thirty, the DC Film Critics went gaga over Quvenzhané Wallis (gotta love a girl with a Q, V, Z, and an accent in her name) for Beasts of the Southern Wild, and the Hollywood Film Festival selected Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone. It's a celluloid free for all and this made my job all the more tantalizing.

On top of which, 2012 was a significant year to be participating because, Mayan apocalypse aside, this is the year when two of our acting unions, SAG and AFTRA, joined, creating the spanking new, yet not necessarily clever sounding, SAG-AFTRA. 


(I find it rather unfortunate that SAG-AFTRA's anagram is a gas fart or perhaps worse a fag tsar.)

I excitedly awaited each movie that ended up unceremoniously crammed into my mailbox. Opening a SAG Nominating Committee envelope felt like Christmas. "Goody. What do I get to see today?" Not all the films sent to me were the foshizzle. For every Lincoln, or even Skyfall there were two loosely crafted, over-acted, under-scripted sacks of shit I had to suffer through. (Is it Woody Allen's intention to film a movie in every major European city, and get progressively worse while doing so?)

It soon became clear to me that Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway will fare well whether I vote for them or not. So instead, I decided to stand up for the lesser-knowns... It's entirely possible that because of me the world will fall in love with Ann Dowd or Matthias Schoenaerts. Let's face facts, the SAG Awards are a precursor to the Valhalla of the awards season, the Oscar, and it became my mission to promote new, noteworthy talent over those already in the club with crackerjack publicists, so that they (the lesser-knowns) may join the ranks.

Now, I'm not naive. I'm aware that every person nominated cannot be an unknown from a low budget film. After all, these are American film awards, and what's more American than our beloved name brands. (The only explanation I ever came up with as to why we elected a second George Bush to the White House.)

By my count there were eight almost-definitive, name brand nominations to expect this season: Daniel Day-Lewis, John Hawkes, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Anne Hathaway, and Sally Field. It should be noted that all of these luminaries have scored previous SAG as well as Academy Award nominations, four of them winning seven Oscars between them.

But even if these eight actors are shoe-ins, that still gave me twelve acting slots to help fill with lesser-knowns. 

For two weeks I dedicated myself to watching movies. I took mental notes, marked up my voters manual, and finally on December 9th proudly cast my votes. I couldn't wait to see how my small contribution might influence the outcome.

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to present the Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for 2013:

LEADING MALE
Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook   
Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln  
John Hawkes - The Sessions 
Hugh Jackman - Les Misérables 
Denzel Washington - Flight 

LEADING FEMALE
Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty 
Marion Cotillard - Rust And Bone 
Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook 
Helen Mirren - Hitchcock 
Naomi Watts - The Impossible 

SUPPORTING MALE
Alan Arkin - Argo 
Javier Bardem - Skyfall 
Robert De Niro - Silver Linings Playbook 
Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master 
Tommy Lee Jones - Lincoln 

SUPPORTING FEMALE
Sally Field - Lincoln 
Anne Hathaway - Les Misérables 
Helen Hunt - The Sessions 
Nicole Kidman - The Paperboy 
Maggie Smith - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 

Where's the new blood!?

Every single one of these actors is a seasoned veteran. They share a whopping 49 Academy Award nominations between them, with 17 Oscar wins altogether. Only Cooper and Jackman out of the twenty have thus far been deprived of an Oscar nod, but certainly they are hardly unknown, thanks most recently to hangovers and wolverines

And no offense to Washington, Cotillard, Field, Hunt, the entire supporting actor category, and Dames Helen and Maggie, but they already have little gold men in their powder rooms. It's time to share. The only Oscar winner from this list that I'm surprised and tickled about is kicky Nikki Kidman. Her balls to the wall performance in the little seen movie The Paperboy was quite unexpected.

But where are the unpredictable nominations like exhilarating Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Smashed, for instance? Or what about engaging Ezra Miller in Perks of Being a Wallflower? And where the fuck was Joaquin Phoenix? Granted he's no lesser-known, nor is he a stranger to the awards circuit but his work in The Master was really quite superb. And there are so many others: Matthias Schoenaerts in Rust and Bone, Ann Down in Compliance, Tom Holland in The Impossible, Juno Temple in Killer Joe, Omar Sy in The Intouchables, Pauline Collins in Quartet, Jason Clarke in Zero Dark Thirty and someone, anyone from Anna Karenina. But the most startling omissions for me were glorious Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour.

Really, fellow SAG voters? REALLY!

And after all the work I've done, and yes screening twenty some odd films in a fortnight, without my voice being heard is heart-rending work. I'm disillusioned and pissed off that actors, actors, are just as easily swayed by the glossy pabulum that is force fed to us by studio execs and publicists.

My idealism has taken a beating.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tinsel Isn't the Only Thing that's Glossy

I had no idea this would happen.

Really. 

The whole thing started with an innocuous phone call.

LESBIAN FRIEND: How would you and Michael like to be interviewed for the magazine my wife works for? The article would be about gay parenting. Sort of like a real life Modern Family.

ME: Cool.

See. An interview. That was the extent of it. Emails were sent, phone calls were made, and before I knew it a photo shoot was scheduled to occur in my house. Now, one might imagine any photographer worth his or her aperture would provide his or her own equipment. But somehow the photographer that came to my house to shoot my family neglected to bring any lighting apparatus of any sort, and on a day that was fifty-two shades of battleship gray. Trust me, my bullshit meter was going crazy. 

The photographer busied himself moving my living room furniture around, trying to find a glimmer of natural light (knocking my standing lamp over in the process) as Michael and I were being interviewed by an appropriately inquisitive yet somewhat apologetic reporter.

bullshit bullshit bullshit

Like most "Hollywood" scenarios this felt like another never-to-be-realized puff of smoke. "We think your family would be the great subject of a reality tv show, I'll be in touch." "You would be perfect as the best friend to conjoined twins played by Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear." "President Obama would like to fly your family to DC and make you the poster family for gay, adopted, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, interfaith families everywhere!" (Okay, that last one didn't happen, but a guy can dream.)  

Needless to say, I didn't have much hope that we would be included in the issue at all. But in January and February, on the cover of Natural Child World, at a newsstand hopefully near you you very well may see this...


...my family on glossy paper representing the new normal.

DC, we await your call.


Monday, August 27, 2012

How Legitimate Must the Rape Be?

I know of a fourteen-year-old young man who was finally given permission. He convinced his parents to let him ride the train into the city to take a summer musical theater class. Every Tuesday and Thursday for six weeks he rode his gold Schwinn to the nearby suburban train station. After responsibly locking up the bike, the young man purchased a round trip ticket and boarded a San Francisco-bound train. Once in The City, he connected to a bus that would take him up Third Avenue and make a left onto Geary. This young man would then disembark at Union Square Park and walk two blocks west to the American Conservatory Theatre where the class took place.

One day, as he was taking the train from the hustle and bustle back home he entered into what he considered a grown-up conversation with a well turned out older man of twenty-five or twenty-six, who wore a light wool sports jacket of charcoal grey with brown pinstripes. The young man, now feeling confident with his life path, poured out his heart and soul, shared his dreams, and perhaps even a few of his fears, for the older man was so very attentive, just the kind of professional the young man imagined he might one day become if his acting career didn't materialize

Coincidentally, they got off at the same stop, and as the train pulled away from the station the older man queried, "Have you ever thought about modeling?"

The young man couldn't believe his ears. Finally someone recognized his potential. The older man continued, "I represent a line of swim suits, and I think you'd be the perfect model."

The young man thought this older man of twenty-five or twenty-six uncannily perceptive, for the young man was quite the accomplished swimmer and had been on swim teams since he was seven. And it was there, by the train tracks, that the young man felt he was finally teetering upon the precipice of adulthood, a dazzling yet perhaps scary place where starry-eyed dreams can intertwine with reality.

The older man said, "I can't continue this out here. Let's go inside." The young man nodded and the two entered the sad little train station, where the older man gestured to the men's room. The young man, with a degree of caution, followed the older man into the lavatory, which smelled of industrial detergent and feet. Much to the younger man's surprise, the older man of twenty-five or twenty-six took off his charcoal grey with brown pinstripes sports jacket and hung it on the corner of one of the bathroom stalls. Then he undid his belt and unzipped his pants to reveal to the young man a rather skimpy, multicolored, Speedo-like swimsuit.

The young man thought it odd the older man had swimwear underneath his clothing, but with everything he'd seen and heard on his many recent solo jaunts to San Francisco (working on a scene from Mame no less) the young man was learning to accept what his suburban sensibilities deemed as outlandish. He didn't want to appear a rube so he acted as if strangers wearing Lycra beneath wool was an everyday occurrence. Besides, it made sense to the young man that people who regularly frequented The City would have a certain cosmopolitan flair and embrace capricious eccentricities. And the fact he was wearing a bathing suit surly must legitimize his claim that he was some sort of scout for swimwear models, doesn't it?

Then the older man looked over his shoulder to make sure no one was coming into the john, which didn't seem to have any foot traffic at all, and jutted his chin towards an open stall. Without a second thought, the young man acquiesced. It wasn't a choice the young man found difficult to justify, after all the young man knew to get the job he would have to show the older man his body.

Once in the stall, the older man unzipped and pulled down the young man's pants, and then lifted his shirt to get the lay of the land, the young man supposed. One glance at his tighty whities and the young man immediately wished his mother bought him more sophisticated underwear. Their eyes briefly met, but the older man broke away to once again gaze intently at the young man's almost hairless body. Biology took over and that thing happened, which happens to pubescent boys when over scrutinized.

Mortified, the young man tried to cover himself immediately, but the older man with a voice the young man misinterpreted as compassion said, "Don't worry. I'll take care of that for you."

And with deft precision, the older man pulled down the young man's Jockey shorts and began to stroke.

***

All this talk in the news lately of forcible and legitimate rape has made me think of this incident quite a lot actually, for the young man in the story was a fourteen-year-old me.

I'll be honest, I was unsure if the word rape, statutory or otherwise, even pertained to the violation I experienced. (I always thought of it as molestation.) In skimming through various websites I found that the umbrella phase sexual assault most likely pertains, but I'm still unclear if I was technically raped. In my case, penetration, which seems to be a defining rape act, did not occur.

Before you allow those speculative doubts that we all have to surface, let me assure you that I wasn't an old fourteen; carnality wasn't oozing from my pores and I certainly wasn't looking for it. The medication I took to abate my epilepsy slowed down my puberty considerably, thus I looked closer to twelve than the age of consent; thus my musical theater teacher saw fit to have me work on a scene playing Mame Dennis' ten-year-old nephew, Patrick; and finally thus at fourteen (late for most boys) I hadn't previously ejaculated until that moment in a smelly train station bathroom stall, with the hands of another man upon me, into a toilet.

Following the abuse (and with distance and perspective I find this incredible), the older man and I made plans to meet the following week on the doorstep of the American Conservatory Theatre!

What came next was a deluge emotions. Shame, fear, anger, and yes, fervor (which spiraled back into shame because I felt I must be mentally imbalanced for feeling sexual arousal of any kind) tsunamied up inside me, each demanding to be validated. They have ebbed and flowed throughout my life, morphing into varying degrees of confusion, doubt, prudishness and abandon, clouding my all-consuming need to be desired with sexual desire itself (I would basically fall for those who coveted me). That this one act can create such a hairball of conflicting emotions, that I am probably still in some way navigating, bargaining with or against, manipulating, or trying like hell to disregard what may bubble to the surface these thirty-six years later shows just how corrosive a sexual assault can be.

On the day I was to meet the older man again, my panoply of emotion had crystallized into razor sharp dread. As I exited ACT, instinct took over and I quickly ducked out of the building into busy Geary Street not looking for him at all. I have no idea if he was waiting for me, nor have I ever heard from nor seen him again.

Up till now, I haven't made this part of my life public; I believe I've only told four people. I certainly didn't tell anyone at the time. Not that I could have articulated this when I was fourteen, but I didn't trust there was a support system in place to actually help me. On top of which, and this is truly unfortunate, I was afraid that I would be made to feel culpable of the molestation.

And this is where society fails horribly. We are a skeptical bunch and have the tendency to blithely spread seeds of doubt with phrases like, "Well, he was asking for it," or "She always wears those low-cut dresses." As long as we allow ourselves to place blame on anyone but the attacker we are enabling a system we all know is broken. And somehow my fourteen-year-old self knew this.

Rep. Todd Akin said he misspoke. But his apology, if that's what you want to call it, cannot stop the damage. By speaking the phrase "legitimate rape" he has conjured into America's already vivid imagination that there must be such a thing as it's antithesis, or "illegitimate rape". Which implies what? That some of us really wanted it, or perhaps the molestation although unfortunate wasn't that all that bad, or maybe we deserved to be assaulted because we were not man or woman enough and needed to be sexually shown the way.

Whether any of these thoughts actually went through the congressman's head is less to the point than the fact that he presented glaring misinformation as truth, all the while holding up a figurative Bible to authenticate his claim, and that sort of Christian vigilantism scares the fuck out of me. I worry what the ripple effects of his statements will do to today's fourteen-year-olds who are sexually assaulted. I'm afraid they, like me, will keep mum because they can't help but question the legitimacy of their attacks.

As I should not be judged, neither in any way, shape, or form should we judge the decision any woman or girl has to make after being impregnated by a rapist. It's their body, their business. Unlike Mr. Akin and his brethren, I believe our primary concern should not be for unborn fetuses (which oddly stops becoming a concern to Republican budget cutters once these children are born), but rather we should move heaven and earth to give aid to those who are violated. Help the women, the girls, and yes, the men and boys who've been abused, offer them services and never belittle anyone's pain by misusing qualifying words.

It's true that I wasn't tied up and beaten to a pulp, but my experience, although less forcible, was no less legitimate.



For anyone who has experienced a sexual assault and would like help call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800) 656-HOPE. Also you can visit the following website: RAINN, I found it incredibly helpful.


Friday, August 3, 2012

Bad Mommy: Palin Parenting

Scenario: You've traveled all day with your three and a half year old boy. When you get to your destination you see that your son's energy is at a all time high and the kid is bouncing off the linoleum. Do you...

A. Help him get rid of that excess energy by running him around or taking him swimming which he really, really, really wants to do. Or...
B. Turn on the cameras, tell him to settle down and desperately hope that he will.

Bristol Palin, reality show personality and failed abstinence poster child, chose B. Instead of tuckering out the little bugger, she chose to lounge on the sectional with younger sister Willow and unsuccessfully attempted to talk Tripp into a state of calm

Take a peek from Palin's what's-the-point reality show, Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp.




I have a fondness for the name Tripp. I myself am a Junior, and assumed at some point I'd have a boy who would be the third. I looked at all the nicknames: Trey, Tirch, Trace, Rerun, Ditto. But after many sleepless nights I knew my first son would be Trip Foster (only one P) . Somewhat peculiarly, my brother, Todd, stole the name Richard Hutchins Foster III out from under me and gave it to his son, my nephew, who he then nicknamed Deke. And he did so WITHOUT ASKING ME! Trip being out of the question, Michael and I named our only son Sebastian, who we call Bash. (Trip...Bash...I guess I have a thing for monosyllabic semi-destructive sounding verbs as boy names.)

But enough of Foster genealogy and back to bad parenting 101...

Kids hear words. Kids repeat words. The use of faggot doesn't necessarily bother me. (Although, it strikes me that the context in which he used the epithet was entirely correct, thus he must hear it with some frequency...hmmmm.) What gets my goat is that three times during this exchange both Bristol and Aunt Willow try to reprimand the boy and then don't follow through. Big mistake. If you warn a child there's going to be a time out, or his mouth will be washed out with soap if the bad behavior continues, by all means be ready to follow through.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating shoving soap into a kid's mouth and swishing it around. If you can be imprisoned by punishing a child with Tabasco on his tongue, then it strikes me that there should be legal repercussions when forcing your kid eat a bar of Zest. My suggestion...drop the soapy, empty threats, and opt for another consequence that, when needed, can be acted upon. "God's watching you..." Really!

Bristol says, "I know he's going to continue to push the boundaries and push the limit," to which I query, What boundaries? Tripp was totally in charge of two grown women, whose body language was that of older sisters, not of Mom and Aunt. Bristol is too worried about being anything but good cop and Aunt Willow's threats are baseless. On top of which, both young women are giggling through the entire exchange. No wonder Tripp feels perfectly safe saying, I hate you and go away, you faggot. The grownups won't do anything to stop him.

I know Bristol is relatively young, but she chose this life. She's got to turn off the cameras, stop focusing on herself and not worry what others may think. Tripp is already starting life at a deficit: his father has posed for Playgirl, and his granny has written unbelievably knuckleheaded things such as, “I didn’t believe the theory that human beings – thinking, loving beings – originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea." It's up to Bristol to save him from home spun mediocrity. She has got to get a backbone and not shy away from being the bad cop. For the sake of her and her boy she needs to stand up and be a parent. NOW.

"I'm doing a terrible job disciplining Tripp" is simply not acceptable.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Letter to Dan Cathy

Dear Dan Cathy,

Boy, have you taken your hits in the news lately. And to be honest, I don't think the bad press over your statements shooting down gay marriage is entirely justified. On the Ken Coleman radio show you pronounced our generation has "the audacity to try to redefine what marriage is all about." I, however, believe you, as CEO of the overly-hyphenated Chik-fil-A, not only have every right to say whatever ding-dong thing you please, but you also have the right to donate your personal millions towards any conservative, bigoted, homophobic cause of your choosing. Unlike many, I don't consider your words to be full of hate (a word my mother taught me never to use), you simply were expressing your limited interpretation of the Bible, ignoring basic tenants like benevolence, tolerance and love. It might surprise you--me being a married gay man with two kids--that on this, Chik-fil-A Appreciation Day, I write to share my support.

I am not a marketing professional, by any means, however I have some thoughts that might help you out of this morass. (Face it, sales have plummeted since you made those hurtful statements.) Yes, you do live in a free country. And yes, you have the right to say any small-minded thing that pops into your head. But...and this is where I want you to pay attention...don't play the victim when those you've offended (along with their supporters and families) refuse to empty their wallets to buy your chicken samitch. Why would I want to give you my money, which then you in turn would place in the coffers of extreme Christian groups that are trying to eviscerate my family?

What I'm trying to say is next time you might want to keep that yap of yours shut. You've angered so many... Mayor Rahm Emanuel, for example, is trying to keep your chicken from infiltrating Chicago saying, "Chik-fil-A's values are not Chicago values." Likewise, Mayor Thomas M. Menino from Boston does not want the chain to enter his neck of the woods either. He even took time to compose a letter which highlights, "When Massachusetts became the first state in the country to recognize equal marriage rights, I personally stood on City Hall Plaza to greet same sex couples coming here to be married. It would be an insult to them...to have a Chick-fil-A across the street from that spot." Snap! And even the Jim Henson Company vowed never to work with you again. They pulled their merch and released the following statement, "Lisa Henson, our CEO is personally a strong supporter of gay marriage and has directed us to donate the payment we received from Chick-Fil-A to GLAAD." Dude, you pissed off the Muppets!


There is, however, an upside to this fracas. This surge of liberal love has given you some stalwart conservative supporters. Like cockroaches after a nuclear blast, they've come guns-a-blazin' to your defense.

Mike Huckabee, a staunch supporter of fucking with the gays, created a Facebook page called Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day, which is encouraging Americans to support your freedom of speech and intolerant, Christian stance by stuffing their faces at a Chik-fil-A restaurant today.

In support of Huckabee's idea, peach shake-besotted Rick Santorum tweeted:


Not to be outdone, Sarah Palin grabbed hubby Todd and rushed to a nearby restaurant (hopefully with a view of Russia) to get this photo op...


This is crazy. When have you ever heard of politicians promoting fast food? Michelle Obama has it all wrong. She has gone on ad nauseum about the benefits of eating healthily, but this last week has shown that's not what the American people want to hear. No, they want to flock to your chain and gorge on bleached flour, MSG, saturated fats and TBHQ (a preservative made from butane). This truly is a feather in your balding cap...although unlike you, Michelle Obama will probably be invited back to Sesame Street.


Perhaps your biggest win might be that of author, religious speaker, sometimes television interviewee, and all around Christian good guy, Jonathan Merritt. He's speaks very highly of Chik-fil-A, promoting both your philanthropy and your sandwiches opining, "boycotts are such a waste of time." He followed up this wisdom by plugging your philosophy,"anti-gay marriage is not the same as being anti-gay." 

Why do I bring up Jonathan Merritt, a name you might not recognize? Because this man who has been voraciously vocal against gay marriage, who, it seems, eats regularly at your food chain...wait for it...was recently outed. That's right, he was caught kanoodling with one of his blog fans. The self-deceiving, closet case is a tricky niche market but, by gumbo, you successfully tapped that biotch. Kudos to you.

I would imagine you're desperately trying to figure out how win back the proud, self-respecting gays and lesbians. Let's just face facts, you're never going to do this with Chik-fil-A. Firstly, there's those stupid hyphens, forced misspellings and that bizarre capital A...sooooo 1980's. For the Castro, the Village, Palm Beach, West Hollywood, etc. you'll need to open an entirely different chain that's seemingly separate. Something classy and erudite without peculiar punctuation.

I took the liberty to rearrange the letters of your name and your company's name and created what I think would be a perfect compliment to Chik-fil-A. I present to you...

Lady Chichi Kaftan

Okay, it might not necessarily sound classy, and I don't know what kind of food you'd serve, but the gays would flock to it!

Sincerely,
Hutchins Foster
Writer, Actor, Mommy with a Penis 

PS. Unlike with Chik-fil-A, you might want to keep Lady Chichi Kaftan open on Sundays. I know you have a thing about working on the Sabbath, but it might help you to know that going to brunch is considered gay church.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In Search of Dumpster Babies

At the insistence of my six-year-old daughter we took a much needed stroll around the neighborhood. And while engaged in a discussion about a magical, fuchsia and lavender-colored, flying horse named Princess Celestia (see earlier entry), I spotted this.


This made me wonder what would prompt someone to stencil this rather bothersome decree on their dumpster.

Might there be a grizzly history attached to this dumpster? Might it simply be a warning because of past grizzly events? Or might it simply be a random tagging by a conscientious Crip?

In 2001, about a year before Michael and I started the adoption process, "dumpster babies" were on the rise. Now, all fifty states have enacted their own version of the Safe Haven Law, which allows parents to relinquish a newborn baby to any hospital (sometimes a police station or fire station depending on the state), within 72 hours of the child's birth without any threat of being prosecuted.* 

One would think finding a baby in a dumpster would be a thing of the past. But if that's the case...if there are programs and release sites available...why am I coming across this edict during my neighborhood constitutional in twenty-twelve?

I went online to find out some abandonment statistics. Instead, I found a whole dumpster baby subculture...

There's the episode of Family Guy in which a dumpster baby twirls his umbilical cord and sings Prom Night Dumpster BabyThere's a blog called I Want a Dumpster Baby, which chronicles the trials and tribulations of a woman trying to get pregnantDumpster Baby is a low budget, horror flick, and on reading the IMDb reviews I found out the acting is horrible, the sound abysmal, and the ending utterly predictable; the one bright spot, however, seems to be that "there's a couple decent sets of tits." And then on the punk album The Unclaimed Freight Band, the band Dumpster Babies sing mildly humorous yet atonal songs including: Bung Hole, Where is My Duet (With Tony Bennett), and Phone Douche.

This was getting me nowhere. I went to Google Images and quizzically found dumpsters stenciled in the exact same manner, all over Los Angeles, making me think it was less an urban proclamation and more a publicity gimmick.


What started out as a legitimate concern became a peculiar commentary of today's culture. And because preposterousness seems to be the order of the day look at the definition and usage I found for "dumpster baby" when I went to Urban Dictionary:

The Dumpster Babies were an elite fighting force in the war on terror. Their members were comprised of the bastard children of central Texas prostitutes. They were raised by the state and taught a variety of complex fighting styles. The trademark look of the Dumpster Babies were their horrendous mustaches and mirrored aviator sunglasses.

Mohammed: They killed the men, sold the children and went family style on the women.

Habeeb: Fuckin' Dumpster Babies!


*National Safe Haven Alliance would be a good place to start if you have questions about what relinquishment services your state offers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Trifecta

Yesterday, I'm driving home from a fundraising meeting at Maxwell's school when I hear the following three news items on the radio back to back:

-A mountain lion was wandering around downtown Santa Monica.

-A single-engined plane crashed into suburban Glendale.

-A $50,000 reward was offered for anyone who has information about a double hit-and-run that fatally killed a 79 year old woman from Pacoima.

And that terrifying news trifecta made me stop texting my husband, grip the steering wheel with both hands, and take in my surroundings as if at any moment destruction could be hurled into my path.

Southern California with all of its earthquakes, mudslides, heat strokes and Kardashians feels as if it has gotten more deadly. It's lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my...literally. The lion of yesterday, few weeks ago a mama grizzly and two of her young were spotted curled up in a tree in a residential area of Altadena, and the tigers...well, off the top of my head I don't recall any tiger sightings, but give it time. I'm sure a couple will break out of the zoo any day now.

Unfortunately the mountain lion had to be killed after failed attempts to tranquilize it. The plane, thankfully, did not harm anyone, even the pilot escaped with minor injuries, but it did knock out three major electric lines, causing 300 homes to lose power. This leaves the most dangerous of the three unrelated stories, oh my, being the two who hit-and-ran and elderly lady on her way to church. They were described as a Hispanic man driving a red Nissan pick-up and a white woman driving a white Chevrolet Monte Carlo. And they are still at large.

As we approach summer there is a chill in the air.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Homomony



I'll be  honest, I was okay with his chess-playing ways. I trusted that his bald eagle emblazoned plate was pretty dog gone full. I mean, his to do list from the outset was enough to make most people curl up into a ball and take a nap for four years. I didn't need nor expect him to take the pro stance until well into his second term. But President Obama's announcement last week that he is now in support of gay marriage caught in my throat and brought tears to my eyes in a way I could not have anticipated.

A sitting president of the United States has finally supported not only homomony, but also my own personal lifestyle, my marriage, my children and...in a word...me. Boy howdy, I cried like Sherri Shepherd after she was kicked off of Dancing with the Stars.

When I examine it, however, my emotionality may not solely belong to this momentous event. Let's face it, this last week was one for the books when it comes to gay marriage and gay marriage adjacent news. Day after day we were bombarded with juicy items culminating with our president's announcement.

Let me start with the joyous fact that my husband and I just celebrated our eleventh anniversary. Not that it's a legally recognized eleven years, but after the planning, the church ceremony, the one hundred fifty guests, the reception complete with open bar, photo booth and Go Big Daddy Band (only to be followed by a joint mortgage, living wills and two adopted children) I challenge anyone to find a couple more married (in or out of quotation marks) than we are. I love my husband, and I'm proud we made it to our steel wedding anniversary. (Who created the anniversary gift list? What was I supposed to give the man? Lug nuts?)

Seemingly unrelated, Maurice Sendak, the children's author and illustrator who showed us Where the Wild Things Are passed away at 83. Among Sendak's many accomplishments were working with Jim Henson, producing a children's show with Carole King, designing sets for opera and ballet, and winning numerous awards including the Caldecott Medal for children's literature. Sendak was also gay, something he didn't make public until 2008, one year after the passing of his partner of fifty years, Eugene Glynn. Now, I don't pretend to know Mr. Sendak or Mr. Glynn. They were of a different time when being discrete was a way of survival, but I have to wonder had the laws been different, had in their day a sitting president espoused acceptance, would they have publicly come out of the closet, or might they have taken it a step further and chosen homomony? And in examining Mr. Sendak's own words, Let the wild rumpus start, I'd like to think they would have.

Even John Travolta and the many male massage therapists he allegedly fondled, propositioned, and masturbated in front of over the years came to mind. I can't help but speculate if the man who brought to life Vinnie Barbarino, Tony Manero and a Cher-sounding Edna Turnblad was given the freedom to live his true life, if he didn't have to worry about perceptions and innuendo while being a box office success, if he could have married the man of his dreams (still speculating) without fretting about the shadow of Scientology, there might not be a mountain of sexual harassment law suits piling up at a furious rate.

Also, last week, pulpits across North Carolina were abuzz with anti gay marriage rhetoric. Religious leaders encouraged their parishioners to vote for the passing of Amendment One, which would make the state's ban on same sex marriage a constitutional amendment. (Excuse me, Ma'am, but your church and state are commingling.) And no one was louder than Pastor Sean Harris, who gained notoriety when he proselytized, "Dads, the second you see your sons dropping the limp wrists, you walk over there and crack that wrist. Man up. Give him a good punch." Sentences made only more horrifying by congregants heard in the background punctuating Harris's words with jovial laughter and heartfelt Amens. Without quite apologizing, Harris has since admitted that he got caught up in the moment and probably shouldn't have used such violent imagery, and actually likened himself Jesus who he says also used hyperbole to get his message across to his flock. I'm feeling generous today, so let's take him at his word. My concern, however, is for those in the congregation who egged him on with relish and fervor, for those who could not define hyperbole let alone spell it. I worry that seeds have been planted, that nagging suspicions will gestate into paranoia, that Junior's effeminate comment or laissez faire hand on hip will tip the scale and what was intended as exaggeration, overstatement, amplification will suddenly be thrust into bone-crushing action, causing nightmarish realities.

Which brings us to Amendment One, which perhaps unsurprisingly passed last Tuesday, not only banning same sex marriage, but civil unions and domestic partnerships as well. What's heartbreaking is that by my calculations only twenty-two percent of the state's population voted on the measure that inevitably denied rights. One of the commercials promoting Amendment One used the following jaw-dropping language... "The Marriage Amendment...protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman just as God designed it." As you take a moment to digest this bitter cocktail of church and state, allow me the following futuristic fantasy. A United States in which both parties have to stoke the God fire in order to win. In fact, at presidential debates, the candidates goal is to out-God each other. Freedom of religion is nonexistent. In fact, if Buddha, Vishnu, Yahweh, Allah or Jughead are mentioned or prayed to the punishment is grizzly, Christian, Inquisition-like torture. And the strongest of those who survive will be placed in a televised competition where they'll hunt each other down until only the strongest of them survives...oh, wait, that's The Hunger Games. Let's be honest, there's nothing in the Bible against homomony. Were North Carolina Republicans honest, the wording of their commercial should have been, "The Marriage Amendment...protects marriage as the union of one man and one woman because, let's face it, homosexuals freak us the fuck out."


Then, as if to counter the results of North Carolina's election and question heavily the over usage of the phase "traditional marriage," prominent historian and Yale professor John Boswell, who died in 1994, started haunting the blogosphere. Boswell was a firebrand who won the National Book Award in 1981 for his book, Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality. (For the title alone I'd give him an award...and a sloppy, wet kiss.) But it was his The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe (1994) that discussed the acceptance of various homosexual marriages throughout European history. The above image, according to Boswell, is of the marriage of Saints Sergius and Bacchus. And who is the guy in the middle standing in as pronubus or best man? That's right, it's the big cheese, Jesu Christo himself, officiating over the ceremony. Boswell claims to have discovered Christian liturgical documents entitled the "Office of Same-Sex Union" and "Order for Uniting Two Men," making Sergius and Bacchus's marriage as "traditional" as any other...except this bride and groom both had penises.

And all this before President Barack Hussein Obama sat down with Robin Roberts and put to bed (sorry for that choice) any questions any of us had about his personal feelings towards gay marriage. It was an acceptance...no, that doesn't quite define what I felt. Hmmmmmmmm. You know when your badass coach gives you a thumbs up for a well swum race? Or when your hard-as-nails teacher returns a test emblazoned with an A++ ? Or when the sexy stranger at the other side of the bar smiles a devious smile and buys your drink with no strings attached? Well, what I felt was more validating than the three of those combined.

Risking possible political suicide, our president spoke his truth. And I have to believe that because it seems that this action could cause more alienation than political gain.

There will be truckloads of fallout from this interview. But I encourage us all to sift through the chaff (Bristol Palin, go home!) and move forward positively.

The President has spoken.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy Steel Anniversary

Eleven years ago today I married my husband. It wasn't a legal marriage, in the sense that it was not recognized by the government. However, we did get married in a church, and I defy anyone to tell me our wedding wasn't recognized by a much higher power.

But this isn't about getting on my political high horse. This is about love, and a wonderful man, and a beautiful day eleven years ago...


What a day. I think of all the planning that went into it. Typical list: the church, the reception, the dinner, the invitations, the flowers (blue hydrangeas), the photographer (Tracey Landworth she's brilliant, check out her link), the wardrobe, the band (Eddie Watkins Jr & The Go Big Daddy Band, also stupendous), the seating arrangements, the cake, the open bar, the 150 guests, and our biggest splurge, the white chocolate place cards.


Our families arrived before the ceremony to take pictures. This one is just brimming with racial harmony!


Here's my baby and I after we tied the knot. It was the most fun I'd ever had. It was Mari, our very good friend who passed away this last October, who suggested we both walk down the aisle to Tuck and Patti's Takes My Breath Away (if I knew how, I'd have it piping in as you read this). We crafted what the ceremony would be, we wrote our own vows, and there was a built in audience who had to listen to every word. What more could two actors hope for.


For our seeming unconventionality, the event had its recognizable elements: saying I do, the first dance (Dinah Washington's What a Difference a Day Makes), bride drunk off her ass and tripping down the stairs. Slice of cake anyone?


Tracey incorporated a photo booth at the reception. It was a blast, and as you can see, it got pretty trashed by the end of the evening.

I love looking back on that day. I love the wonderful friends and family who shared it with us. And I love the man who chose Cinco de Mayo as our anniversary.

Happy Steel Anniversary Darling.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Arts-in-Education; a Love Letter

Dear Jacqueline,

Firstly, let me apologize upfront for a few things: the public manner in which I'm sending this, for any unnecessary exposition which will allow my readers to follow more closely, and also for my tardiness, but if you read my previous entry, you'll understand that illness has made me its bitch and almost three weeks later I'm still reeling from side effects. (My ear is still ringing!)

To the thick of it then... Thank you so much for what you have given Sebastian, and in turn my family. Your talents at directing are immeasurable, and I don't use that word lightly. Working was an absolute hit, and to see all those children up on stage, not only giving it their all, but also showing various levels of stage proficiency was mind blowing performance after performance.

As you know, Sebastian bucked a bit at the thought of going to so many rehearsals. He'd get on the bus and come home rather than stay at school where you were weaving your magic. And when, at two weeks out, you told me Sebastian still didn't know his stuff, I wondered if my little one would ever take ownership of his songs, his choreography, his blocking and intentions, or if he'd aimlessly meander on stage with his mouth agape.

But the week of the performance, Sebastian's behavior towards the show changed. Once the set was built, the lights hung, the orchestra was in place, and the costumes and props filled those many racks, Sebastian's enthusiasm became evident. I noticed a little smile played upon on his lips from time to time, as if he were privy to state secrets that he could barely contain. He'd say cryptic things like, "Wait until you see Brother Trucker," and then mysteriously slink away. The bug bit him big time and I could tell he was finally owning it.

There was also a palpable change in how he carried himself. His back became straighter. His sentences held more command. His homework ethic had gained focus. And he began to follow through and do the small things when first asked: make his bed, feed the dogs. I was amazed.

Now, I've been a stage actor and an arts-in-ed instructor for most of my life. You'd think I wouldn't be bamboozled by theater's positive byproducts. But shame on me, I was wary to attribute Sebastian's behaviors to simply being in "the school musical." As much as I tried to poo poo what was right in front of me, however, I finally had to reexamine what I've known for so many years, that the discipline, the sense of community, and the artistic integrity that theater builds is undeniable.

And let's talk about community... Your ability to take students of various ages, from elementary to high school, and make a cohesive whole was amazing. I believe being around older kids, watching them work and interrelate, has not only given Sebastian school cred, but also interpersonal and language skills he previously did not have.

And don't get me started on the show itself. As I'm sure you've heard from others, Working seemed to be such a strange show for kids. And then when I heard the difficult music, I'll be honest Jacqueline, I questioned your sanity. I mean, Grease!, sure. Bye, Bye Birdie, why not? Godspell, Annie, Little Shop of Horrors, go to it. But Studs Terkel's Working?

But from the opening song, Wow!!, to the curtain call, I could tell you know your shit, girl. I have never seen my son so laser focused. Walking to his mark, freezing in his baseball stance waiting for his musical cue, and then hitting those mime baseballs out of the park again and again...I'll say it again, Wow!!

You have to realize, Michael and I put Sebastian on medication at the beginning of the school year to help him focus. And because of disastrous results, in March, we took him off all meds, right about the time he was in the thick of rehearsals, so to see him so engaged and committed seemed a minor miracle.

Sebastian still sings snippets from the show, sometimes he makes up his own stuff, and what knocks my socks off is that he seems to be enjoying life just a little bit more.

Thank you for that, Jacqueline.

I asked Sebastian if he wanted to be in the show next year and he smiled (more state secrets) and said, "I'm not sure." But there's no mistaking the twinkle in his eye. So, if he does the show next year, and the school is lucky enough to maintain your services, I cannot wait for the end results.

Your lifelong fan,
Hutch

Monday, April 23, 2012

Illness Sucks


Without getting into specifics, I've been on my back for seven days...and not in the good way.

Why the fuck am I being quixotic? I'll tell you the specifics. What started as a cough continued into a flair of sinusitis and an ear infection. This led to flu like symptoms, you know, charming things like body aches, shakes, sweats, slight nausea, diarrhea. And add to that, what sent me skittering along the precipice...dehydration...again. I don't know why my body has never had a problem maintaining hydration until this year.

My most embarrassing moment happened after I suffered through a painful, loose bowel movement and then broke out into severe flop sweat. My entire shirt was soaked through and I simultaneously felt like puking and passing out. The only thing I thought would give me any sense of relief was the cool tile floor. With my pants still around my ankles and my rear still unwiped, I placed my cheek on the bathroom floor hoping that this was the illness's rock bottom (no pun intended). I stayed there for twenty to thirty minutes praying for the strength to wipe my ass or be hit by lightning.

Once I got back into bed, nothing could get me out. Not even feeding my kids. I sent them into the kitchen, unarmed, with images of The Hunger Games in my head. At the sound of a box of Cap'n Crunch falling to the floor, I remember lifting my head from my pillow and croaking, "Graze, my little scavengers! Graze!!"

After taking regimens of antibiotics I'm much better. The flu like symptoms are gone but my mind is still so fuzzy. I get dizzy when standing, or sitting, or sorting socks...doing anything really. I've relegated all responsibilities to my husband, who's been a champ but I believe is buckling under the pressure. And now my left ear has this persistent ringing that is driving me bonkers.

Illness is demoralizing, degrading, and is not for wimps!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bucking Trends



Jessica Simpson's cover of Elle this month seems familiar, doesn't it? And I don't think any of us has to dig too deeply into our sleep-deprived, vodka-soaked brains to suss out the reference. Who could forget the Vanity Fair cover that Annie Liebovitz shot so startlingly of Demi Moore's pregnant voluptuousness back in 1991? From the exact same pose, to the ginormous bling on their left middle fingers, to the fact these two celebutants are both carrying girl children, the Simpson pic is a duplicate of what some found scandalous twenty-one years ago. (Although I prefer Demi's arrogant in-the-distance gaze to Jessica's in-your-face, Zoolander directness.) But this piece isn't about who did what first, nor artistic integrity, nor is it about nudity on magazine covers, which for the record I am wholeheartedly for.

No, this is about trends.

Recently, Ms. Simpson announced that her baby girl will be named...take a breath here...Maxwell. What! For those of you just tuning into my blog, Maxwell is my daughter's name. When Michael and I chose it, we thought we were being unique and cutting edge. We had never met a female Maxwell before, so you can imagine how taken aback I was.


How dare she!

Barely, did I recover from Jessica Simpson's name steal when I found out that actress Lindsay Sloane (yeah, I don't know who she is either) gave birth to a girl in January and also chose the name (all together now) Maxwell!!


What the hell is going on here? Don't tell me this is a trend!

Naming children is somewhat of a tricky business. You don't want to be outlandish and name your kid Superbeast, Circuit Breaker, or DoorMat (be sure to take note Nic Cage). You also don't want to be mundane and give the kid a palindromic like Bob, or Nan, or any of the other sobriquets from the See Spot Run series. But that middle ground, that vast and immeasurable middle ground is potentially treacherous, thus we depend on our celebrities to give their kids trend-setting names, giving us a framework in which to then name our children.

But here's the problem, sometimes celebrity baby names get too popular. In the 1980's, according to The Baby Name Wizard, the name Ava did not even make the top one thousand girl names. But in the nineties, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe came along (aww, remember when they were the golden couple?) and named their little bundle Ava, a name which has gained more and more popularity over the years. In fact, just last year Ava was the fifth most popular girl name.

I imagine Reese and Ryan are not solely responsible for the popularity of Ava. Sometimes, and I have no other way to describe it, but a name becomes air born. Back in 2002, when Michael and I started the adoption process, we really liked the name Phineas as a possible boy name, calling him Finn for short. Then, less than two years later, Julia Roberts gave birth to twins and names her boy Phinnaeus. A couple of years after that the popular kids TV show, Phineas and Ferb first airs. And now on Glee the lead romantic character is named Finn. So, perhaps it isn't just the stars' doing, perhaps popular names somehow beam into our collective consciousness.

Now, check out other celebrity kid's names which are presently in most elementary classrooms across America. Melanie Griffith brought Dakota and Stella to the popular name table. Jayden and Willow have become forces to be reckoned with because of Will and Jada Pinkett. Brangelina has made Maddox, Shiloh, Knox and Vivienne viable possibilities. And Bristol wasn't even on the chart before 2008, but some lipstick wearing soccer mom caught our attention and bam, today it's number 562.

But the last thing I want is for "Maxwell" to become a thing.

Perhaps it will blow over, but just in case I would like to make a plea to pregnant mothers-to-be and future parents everywhere...please don't make Maxwell your girl name choice. Let it remain unique. I get that you might want go nontraditional with a traditional boy name for your future daughter, and I applaud you for this choice, but if you all go gung-ho and call your double-X chromosomed bundles Maxwell then the name will loose its specialness. Below I have provided a list of boy names that would be kick-ass for girls:

Xavier
Dylan
Ryder
Keenan
Griffin
Harrison
Greyson
Abernathy
Paxton
Wylie
Vaughn
Prescott
Ozzy

I just don't ever want to introduce my daughter and have someone else say, "Oh, just like Jessica Simpson's baby."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Dog Named Travis

My first meeting with Travis
I was exhausted. After a full day of work all I wanted to do was go home and fall into a vodka induced coma, something I had only heard about but never aspired towards. But as I was walking past the pet store I stopped. Something told me to step inside and take a peek at the puppies. And there was this one, the cutest baby husky you ever did see, that made me question whether an alcoholic stupor was all it was cracked up to be. I smiled. Not in an I-can't-live-without-him kind of way, but just enough to ask the man behind the counter how much he was.

Without answering my query, the pet store guy--a slightly greasy man who I'll name Serge--asked me to step into one of the back rooms telling me he would bring the husky to me. Then, when the blue-eyed bundle of fluff was in my arms, Serge whipped out an Instamatic and snapped our picture. After flapping it about for the allotted amount of time, Serge then handed the partially developed, somewhat-still-damp photo and declared, "See how good the two of you look together?"

That smarmy asshole! I wonder how many dickheads have been suckered in by this obvious ploy.

It's a horrible picture. Oh, sure, the dog photographed well, but I look like I could use a deep tissue massage with a happy ending. But stubble and Jew fro aside, Serge was right, we do look like we belong together.

Every logical part of my being screamed to put the puppy down and get out of there. I knew Serge was a shyster and would charge me an arm and a leg while telling me what a great deal I was getting. I knew the dog was probably born in some puppy mill in the backwoods of Minnesota next to a moonshine distillery, or somewhere equally dubious. I knew my busy New York life didn't have room to properly raise and care for a puppy, no matter how fetchingly beautiful his eyes were.

Yes, that's what my brain told me, but I chose to listen to my heart instead and whipped out the plastic. Serge's technique worked like a charm and I became a dickhead of the highest order. When I left that Astoria, Queens pet store not only did I have a puppy secured in a cardboard box, but I also managed to rack up even more debt.

That was fifteen years ago.

For the first week he was with me I called him Clancy. But for some reason that didn't feel quite right, so I was always on the lookout for the perfect name. Out of the blue "Travis" came to me. I racked my brain to find "Travis" references. The only thing I came up with was the Levi's 501 ad for women, where the cowgirl, who starts out lounging in a car in the classic James Dean pose, stands up and yells, "Travis, you're a year too late." I still don't know what that means, but enigmatic message aside, take a gander at my handsome husky's face...definitely a Travis.

Early on, Travis let it be known that his spot was at my feet. Whether at the computer or watching TV, Travis's routine has been to nudge my legs apart and settle in.

My biggest success with Travis was that I trained him to walk off leash, and from what I understand, that isn't easy to teach huskies, who are bred to run ahead without looking back. But Travis always looked back, always kept tabs on where I was.

Travis and I accepting Michael into the pack
Six months after Travis entered my life, Michael came along, and Travis was obliging and allowed Michael to stay. When we moved to Los Angeles, I saw first hand how big Travis's heart can be. First, he had to welcome our second dog, Cosmo (also named Clancy for about a week...I don't know how I know this, but I'm destined to have a dog named Clancy at some point in my life). Then when Michael and I started the adopting children, Travis graciously accepted Thing 1 and Thing 2, who have systematically pulled, prodded and pulverized his tail, his ears and pretty much every orifice without uttering one bark of complaint.

If I feel guilt about anything it's that over the years, as life has gotten more complicated, Travis has received less and less affection. But no matter how busy I've gotten, Travis has remained faithful and loving, maintaining his spot at my feet.

About a year and a half ago, Travis let it be known that he didn't want to sleep outside anymore. This was a big deal for a dog who loved outdoor weather, the more inclement the better. His sight and hearing started deteriorating shortly after that. Now, it's harder for him to get up and down stairs, and Travis distrusts the wood flooring we have in our house, and only goes into the kitchen with its slate floors and our dining room which has a rug. Travis has had four or five seizures that I know of. He falls to the ground, voids his bladder and shakes uncontrollably. It was after one of these seizures that I told the children that Travis wasn't going to be with us too much longer. That was two years ago and Travis is still here.

He's been bleeding from his mouth recently, and when last week I searched for the source I felt a mass at his gum line. We took him to the vet and it turns out Travis has cancer, a golf ball sized lump grows under his tongue. He's in no pain, but the doctor wanted to euthanize him immediately, saying the growth was metathesizing at a rapid rate and he will eventually have a hard time eating and breathing. And even though Travis is the equivalent of a 95 year old, I decided against the vet's recommendation. I want Travis to be at home when he goes.

After such dire news, I expected to witness Travis's failing health during this past week, but quite the contrary, he's his old self. His eyes still light up for suppertime, he's been more social with Cosmo and the kids, and he's even attempted a happy dance or two.

I may have him only a couple more days--maybe a couple more weeks--but when the time does come, I don't intend to write about it. I'd rather marvel at the life force that is Travis, from the blue-eyed puppy in a box to the distinguished family pet he is now.

My old man today
There's my good boy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Don't Dog the Penis

Reading the newspaper today, my husband came across a Los Angeles Times article in which the Parents Television Council, a conservative watchdog group, has been counting the number of times penis and vagina have been used in network prime time television. The usage of these words, we are told, has escalated dramatically over the past ten years, which prompted PTC president, Tim Winter, to say, "It's a broader reflection of the progression of raunch."

The progression of raunch? The utterances of penis and vagina from our lips is raunch? Now, I don't know about other parents, but in our house we don't use the colloquial pee pee and va jay jay. We labels it as we sees it. It's big p and capital v all the way. Consequently, penis and vagina are said quite frequently, and as the children have gotten older these two choice anatomical sobriquets have only gained momentum, quite possibly making ours the house Tim Winter would say is the raunchiest in America.

Trust me, penis is a better choice than what I was raised with...my mother taught me to call my member a do do. That's right, do do like the opposite of don't don't. And aside from assigning it asinine nomenclature, my mother discouraged us from discussing it or anything else below the belt line...ever. I have two younger sisters and yet don't remember the word vagina being spoken by anyone at any time. I can only imagine what euphemism Mom chose for them. Cupcake? Pussy willow? Lock box?

I imagine my little family is even more free and easy saying penis because it's part of my work. Mommy with a Wee-Wee just wouldn't sound as...substantial.

Which reminds me, a few years back, I did a Mother's Day show called Momilicious or Mompalooza or something like that, and in it I got to work with Laraine Newman and Caroline Aaron. To promote the show we did a radio spot reading our pieces. We had to tweak them, taking out curse words and salacious subject matter, to fit with FCC regulations, but that didn't bother me one bit because I remember thinking how I had made it.

People will hear me read and flock to my blog. Laraine Newman, for God's sake! SNL royalty. I've hit the big time.

I remember how excited I was when I turned on the radio and heard my voice coming over the airwaves. The host, Wendy Hammers, introduced me, telling the listeners that I had a blog called "Mommy with a beeeeeeeeep." 

What the fuck!

She continued, "And you can find Hutch's blog at double-u double-u double-u dot mommy with a beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep dot blogspot dot com."

No. No. No. Noooooooooooooooo!

I was crestfallen as I watched fickle fame and flimsy fortune slip fortuitously out of my hands.

The shows that PTC have cited to use penis and vagina most frequently are 2 Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men, 30 Rock, The Office, American Dad, Family Guy and Grey's Anatomy. OK, PTC may have a point, some of those shows bleep even my raunchiness meter. But their word usage is the least of my worries, it's the content that parents should be concerned about.

Now, I personally love adult humor because it's for adults. However, any parent who plops their impressionable five year old in front of the telly to watch Family Guy and then complains when Baby Stewie spouts penis, vaginaslut, or douche nozzle is...well...a douche nozzle.

There's not one show on that list that I allow my kids watch. Well, maybe 30 Rock, but come on, it's Tina Fey. But for the most part they'd both rather watch their own shows: Maxwell is still having a love affair with Phineas and Ferb, while Sebastian just discovered the zaniness that is Laverne and Shirley. Not a penis nor vagina in sight.

So, here's my query... Why the study? (And who are the pervs stuck at home counting penises in the first place?) I get the importance of offering children age appropriate programming, but these shows weren't developed for kids. Here's a flash overly sensitive parents, change the channel, or better yet turn the TV off all together.

You see, I'd get it if you were disgruntled by too many crotch or boobie shots. Or you were disgusted by simulated sex scenes or titillating innuendo. I understand that your little one might be too young for hospital operations, zombie feeding frenzies, violent gun play or anything including syringes, autopsies or Nicolette Sheridan. But to get up in arms about words?

Come on people, don't dog the penis. That's my brand.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fruit Mind Salad

So many arbitrary ideas, from Ben Affleck's Oscar win (?) to honkeys once again wanting to use the N word (??!?), skittering around in my head like evasive, one-winged butterflies. And it seems if I can catch just one of these lopsided lepidopterans, I'd be off and running to write my next entry/script/book/opus.

RANDOMNESS... I forbid for it to be a curse, so, here goes...

A lot has transpired as of late. I handed in my piece to The G Man Magazine, the online magazine I've been writing for. It's about (surprise) my life as a gay parent, and contrary to political vitriol it's really quite unremarkable, and not scourgelike at all. In it, I rant--you know how much I love to rant--interspliced with anti gay marriage quotes from the Republican presidential hopefuls (those who've both fallen and are still standing). The G Man Magazine will be subscription based this go around, hopefully putting a shekel or two into my pocket. I'll provide more info to you as I get it. Hope you'll check it out.

Next, health has been a recurring issue as of late. About a month ago, Maxwell's school was having a Bingo Night and I was in charge of the bake sale, having allowed the PTA to talk me into creating a fundraising committee and becoming it's chair.

There's nothing more scintillating *yawn* then elementary school politics.

Anyway, during the night, between selling cake pops and helping Sebastian with his Bingo card, I started feeling feint. I went to the bathroom, splashed water on my face, thought I was all better, and then realized when I stood fully upright that, indeed, I was not. Feeling lightheaded, I went to the ground, called for help, and the half hour that followed was a flurry of paramedics, emergency vehicles, EKGs, gurneys, trip to the hospital, swinging doors, interns, doctors, nurses, the dreaded hospital gown, the even more dreaded oxygen tube, tubes stuck into both my arms (in case of surgery), lots of questions, signature here, signature there, only to land in a scratchy-sheeted hospital bed. I tell ya, they move you fast when they think it's a cardiac issue. I felt like I was in my own private episode of ER.

Selling Rice Krispie Treats one moment, prepped for heart surgery the next...actually that sounds more like House. It was only when the sassy, Black nurse checked my vitals (even she was cast like a television stereotype) that it became evident that my heart was fine. They took all my fluids for testing and then I waited...four hours. Thankfully, I had my own TV, although I cannot recommend watching Grey's Anatomy while waiting for results.

Side note: how much did all this cost...the ambulance ride and hospital care? It totaled almost $8,000! Thank Gaga I have coverage. Does anyone know the refrain to Socialized Medicine, because I'd sing a few bars.

The long and the short of it: dehydration. Doesn't even sound like a real thing, does it? It reminds me when some star is rushed from the set to the hospital and it's announced the next day that they collapsed from exhaustion. Exhaustion, riiiiiiiight.

Dehydration, no big deal. Just send me home, I'll drink a bottle of Gatorade and I'll be fine.

Well, I got to go home, but this ol' bod don't bounce back like it used to. One full week my friends. That's how long it took for me to get back to normal. I was chugging water, Gatorade, coconut water like it was going out of style. If you could pour it I chugged it.

Then, just as I was able to stand without feeling wobbly, I managed to twist my ankle. Bless. And this past week, my sinuses have been doing this Mexican Hat Dance thing. Diarrhea. Aches in my knee (I suspect arthritis). None if it serious, but in entering my fiftieth year on this planet, it makes me realize just how fragile things can be.

Fuck my knee. I'm going spinning.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Ten Days in New York for Christmas with Two Children and a Working-Actor Husband: Part the Second

Days 2 & 3: Rockefeller Center and NYFD

It seems my days leading up to Christmas were a delicate balance between enjoying the very adult New York I remembered while searching desperately for the kid-friendly New York that would keep my children from throwing themselves in front of subway trains. Now, I'm not saying there isn't anything for little ones to do in the Big Apple, but when I typed children's activities NYC (or some similar prompt) in the Google search box it seemed as if the same ten things kept popping up, most of which were seasonal, and I was in the wrong season. 

The tree at the Americana in Glendale, CA
with 15,000 twinkling lights, 10,000
ornaments and a superimposed Kringle
Sebastian and Maxwell may have bah humbugged the Christmas tree at the Metropolitan Museum (refer to last entry), but it was a new day, the sky had cleared and I was determined to impress my kids with the Christmas tree of all Christmas trees. That's right, the stunner at Rockefeller Center, which was a mere two city blocks from our hotel.

Then a disquieting thought descended. Shortly after Thanksgiving I took my little ones to the Americana (an outdoor, Disneyesque shopping mall in Glendale, California) where a mammoth Christmas tree was being pieced together. And on a sign was the bold declaration that this tree was taller then the one at 30 Rock. (I did some research and found that Travel and Leisure supported this claim: in 2010, of the top ten tallest Christmas trees in the nation, the Americana's was number five at a 100 feet, while Rockefeller Center's was at number ten at a measly 74 feet.) My little canker sores had already laid witness to a tree that dwarfs Rockefeller Plaza's. What if the iconic gem of NYC yuletide fails to impress?

We walked Michael to the subway, and the second he disappeared down the hole, I was faced with my children's anticipating eyes.

But before I could utter a word, Sebastian immediately started in with a familiar refrain, "I want to go to a fire station!" I whipped out my smart phone and deduced that the nearest fire station was at 48th and 8th, which reminds me of another of my Big Apple stories...

Shortly after moving to New York in the late eighties, I got an apartment in Hell's Kitchen and worked for the Schubert Organization as a Broadway usher. I was quickly attached to The Royal Theatre, which has since been renamed the Bernard B Jacobs Theater, and the first show I ushered at the Royale was David Mamet's Speed the Plow with Joe Mantegna, Ron Silver (Tony winner), and drum roll please Madonna. The stories surrounding this show could fill books. But I will sum up my experience with...it was a small show in a big house that everybody, I repeat, everybody!, came to see. Besides the fanatic fans who wore Like a Virgin sweatshirts covered in Madonna pins expecting the Material Girl to sing in act two, I handed programs to Sean Penn (the ex-husband) and Warren Beatty (the at-the-time present beau), Barbra, Faye, Goldie, Jackie O, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards and Colleen Dewhurst (who were performing Long Day's Journey into Night at the Neil Simon Theatre), an unbelievably statuesque Iman, pocket-sized Tom Cruise, MTM with her smile, Charlene Tilton with her five-year-old daughter Cherish (to a David Mamet play !?!!...can you say fucking inappropriate), Mike Tyson with Robin Givens (a week after the Barbara Walters interview), McEnroe without Tatum and a heavily body guarded, pre-glyph Prince, to name a few. But the most telling celebrity story surrounding Speed the Plow was one night a lanky, slightly greasy man jumped up even before the intermission lights fully came on and bee-lined to the top of the aisle where I happened to be standing. With an exasperated I-can't-believe-I-have-to-sit-through-another-act-of-this-crap look on his face he demanded, "Where can I get a drink?" I pointed the way, he managed a monosyllabic grunt which I took for thanks, although it very well could have been fuck off, and was the first to pony up to the bar, where he ordered a double. Who was this incredibly put upon, in dire need of a drink patron? Why the Malkovich known as John, of course.

For six whole months the Royale was packed. People swarmed to see if Madonna could act, and I somehow maneuvered my way into the thick of it.

One sunny afternoon, I was on my way to my apartment after ushering a matinee. I was wearing Top-Siders with no socks and sported a backpack, casual twinkie chic as I recall. I turned onto my street, just off of 8th Ave. and some kid asked me for a quarter. Being a seasoned New Yorker of six months I pointedly ignored him and kept on walking. I remember feeling proud of my disdain towards this kid, proud that I had successfully adopted contemptuous big city ways. As I got closer to 9th Ave. the same kid grabbed my left wrist and yelled, "All I asked for was a quarter!" and then took off. I was shell shocked. My personal space had been egregiously violated. I knew he must have done something. The little fucker cut me. I looked around to see if there was any blood, if anyone...anyone...witnessed the infraction. But there was no one on the street, and no gaping wound upon my person. I may not have been injured but my wrist tingled from where he grabbed me. It just didn't make any sense. Why would the kid scare me like that? And grab my wrist of all things? For a quarter? 

I took a couple more steps, then stopped again to recheck my backpack, my clothes, my wrist and eventually what struck me was how tan I had gotten during my time in New York. There was this pale, fish-belly white stripe on my wrist where my watch usually lived... 

My watch! The Cartier Tank watch Mom gave me for graduation...where is it? I put it on today, didn't I? (Light bulb) That asshole stole it! 

I turned towards where he took off and could just barely make out his form as he turned south onto 8th Ave. My shoulders sagged with resignation. Well, that bites. Mom is going to be royally pissed. I'll never hear the end of it. And the thought of her nonstop carping spurred me into action. Fuck it. I'm going after him.

I raced down 48th. Top-Siders slapped the sidewalk, backpack banged against my back and yet I flew. My adrenaline was pumping so fast I was barely winded when I got to 8th Ave. I turned the corner expecting Nimble Fingers to be long gone. But I was wrong. This kid, whose name I was to find out was Malvin Webb, was only a couple of feet in front of me, sauntering! Nothing could have pissed me off more than the audacity of his strut.

At the time, I was deep into the Meisner Technique. I can already hear some of you snickering, but for those of you not in the know, Sanford Meisner created an acting technique whereby what you do on stage has nothing to do with any of your own preconceived notions, but rather your entire performance is hinged on interpreting the other actors' emotional life and then taking it very personally. As a Meisner student, I clocked in hours of exercises knowing exactly how I felt in any given moment. I became a Zen master deciphering nuance.

The end of your sentence lilted upwards and you raised an eyebrow. Does that mean you're questioning me? Fuck you!

During that time if you were to have asked me the innocuous, "How are you?" I would have let loose with unvarnished, splinter-filled truth. (I have since learned that fine is the preferred response for a reason.) And right then, looking at Malvin Webb's back, nonchalantly strolling away from the scene of his crime, I was filled with a volcanic anger that leads men to do stupid things.

I caught up to the kid, placed my hand on his shoulder am I really doing this?, turned him to face me and yelled, "Where is my fucking watch?"

His eyes grew as big as Courtney Love's addiction, surprised as hell that I ran after him, then he shrugged off my hand and took off across 8th in slowing traffic. What else could I do? I followed close behind, dodging taxis and yelling nonstop obscenities.

Poor Malvin didn't realize he was headed right towards the fire station at 48th and 8th, where two fire men happened to be hanging out enjoying a cigarette break. They saw a crazed, backpack-wearing fool giving chase to a skinny, guilty looking kid and threw down their butts ready to intervene.

Malvin realized his blunder and quickly veered uptown. I was right on his heels and saw my opportunity. Either I attempt what I've only seen on tv and nail the bastard, or let him slip from my fingers. Meisner kicked into high gear and I thought, "Get the asshole!" I grabbed the kid with both arms and we body-slammed into a bus stopped at the red light. Baretta would have been proud.

Then he purposefully dropped my watch, trying to get rid of the evidence, and that prompted me to label the event to anyone who would listen, "Did you see that? That's my watch that fell out of his hands! He stole my watch. And when I grabbed him he dropped it. But that is my watch and it was in his hand. He stole my fucking watch!"

Two firemen took him into custody which Malvin didn't fight. Personally, I think he was relieved he was being escorted away from me.

Then another fireman brought me into the fire house lounge area. He saw how amped up I was and told me to calm down. Calm down? Are you kidding me? I need to own this emotion. I might need to recall it for the stage. And then he offered me coffee. First you want me to calm down, then you offer me coffee? Which is it? Oh, that's good. I have to remember that.

Eventually, the police came and took Malvin Webb into custody. He didn't show up to the grand jury trial and I never found out what happened to him. But if not for the wonderful services of Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 I never would have gotten my watch back. They will forever be in my debt.

And without knowing my story, Sebastian wanted to go to "Broadway's Firehouse" on 48th and 8th more than any other place in New York.

We went to the station and not only was it open, but two firetrucks from another station were parked in front. One of the firemen saw my son openly salivate and asked if he and Maxwell wanted to sit inside the truck. He was a true gem, very patient with the kids, coaxing them along if they got shy, really very wonderful.




While the kids were sitting inside the truck and trying on helmets, our friendly fireman informed us of a Fire Department store in Rockefeller Plaza! Who knew?

I found myself very much tickled by the message on the fire truck's windshield. 


The fireman then asked if the kids wanted to go on the tiller, the back of the truck that has it's own steering wheel. Sebastian was just climbing up when the call came in. The fireman deftly lifted Sebastian down and then a bunch of them quickly donned their gear, hustled onto the truck and sirened away. Bash was slack jawed with amazement.

After the trucks took off, I noticed a  plaque out in front. It hadn't been there when Malvin Webb was taken into custody. It was commendation for the firehouse's courageous work on 9/11. Fifteen firefighters from Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9 were lost that day.

I couldn't help but wonder if one of those men was the firefighter who offered me a cup of coffee.

***

After a quick stop in at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, which the kids were surprisingly into, we made our way to Rockefeller Center. The Americana's tree may be taller, but come on, what setting tops this?


The next day was a repeat trip to show Michael all we'd seen. We flirted with the idea of ice skating but the line was crazy long (I imagine two hours worth). Instead, and this may sound cheesy, we went to the Rock Center Cafe with a table that overlooked the skaters. 



Right next to the cafe is a replica of the Swarovski crystal star that sits atop the tree, and little Maxwell Pearl was drawn to that bauble like Joan Rivers to reconstructive surgery. Whoever becomes this girl's spouse better have bank because Maxwell likes bling.


And right around the corner from the star...the NYFD store! Sebastian couldn't believe his good fortune, and if hard pressed he might tell you it's his favorite place in the city. 


So, once again, the Christmas tree was not the hit. Maxwell loved the crystal star, Sebastian the firefighter store, and my husband...well my husband was much more impressed with the 2012 FDNY Firefighters calendar.


And really, who can blame him!