Happiness

Someday, Simba, All of This Will Be Yours

I’ve done it! I’VE DONE IT! I finally tricked my therapist into talking about Scandal with me! It has taken months of “emotional honesty” and “working on myself” and whatever to get to this point. Every week I pay her to talk about television for 45 minutes and every week she side-steps all of my clever observations about The Good Wife and thoughts on Modern Family (“I mean, do those people even like each other?”) and forces me to focus on “the issues.” As if anything is more important than Juliana Marguiles’ power suits and Christine Baranski’s reaction shots.

Diane Lockhart gives the Cliff Notes on 85% of my behavior.

Diane Lockhart gives the Cliff Notes on 85% of my behavior.

But now I am triumphant! I was talking to her about a Scandal-watching party I had with a couple of friends and her eyes lit up. “Ooh, I love Scandal!” she cried. She immediately sat back in her chair and tried to wave it away with a return to professionalism (“But why do you keep buying yoga classes on Groupon if you’re never going to use them?”). I was like “Oh, no you don’t. I got you, Myrtle! Now, true or false: everyone’s hair on that show should receive billing as a Special Guest Star?”

Her name is not actually Myrtle but I can’t tell you what it really is. Doctor-patient confidentiality, y’know. I’m actually really serious about my relationship with my therapist. WestWingI respect it so much that she is literally the only person I’ve ever met who I have not stalked on Facebook. That’s respect, y’all. If I’ve met you even once, if you’re dating a friend of mine, if I overheard your name in line at Starbucks, I have looked at every photo of you on Facebook and felt envious of all the fun you had before we met. God, I waste a lot of time.

I’m a little sad that my breakthrough at therapy comes as our time together is coming to an end. We had our last session together yesterday morning. Because I’m cured!

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Just kidding. She’s graduating. My therapist is actually a student. She’s in 5th grade. I help her with her algebra and she coaches me on managing my expectations and reasonable responses to normal situations (“The counter person at the bagel shop is probably not in love with you. But you could always ask him.” “I COULD NEVER DO THAT! YOU’RE CRAZY! Now what are your feelings about Mama Pope? Why is she always lying down? Does she have a bone density problem?!”). True story, two weeks ago she spent the whole session coaching me through writing a two-line text to a guy I have a crush on. When he responded I freaked out and called her emergency number. “WHAT DO I SAY? WHY WON’T YOU ANSWER ME?! I KNOW YOU’RE HOME; IT’S AFTER CURFEW!” Eventually I gave up and dialed 911. Those operators are really good at composing playful banter.

Anyway, I was telling my therapist about the Scandal party in service of a larger story that I thought she might find entertaining. I really see every session as a workshop for a new solo show. I spent our first month together trying to trick her into laughing with deadpan observations about my family and subtly racist humor. From 9 to 9:50 every Thursday I am Kevin Hart in a small, windowless room on JFK Boulevard. I pretend the noise-cancelling machine is applause. Killin’ it.KevinHart

But it’s over now and I’m feeling a little bit sad about it, to be honest. She asked me to make a list of what I felt the important moments in our time together were and she did the same. This, of course, thrilled me because there’s NOTHING I love more than a flashback episode. And this was a flashback episode and a season finale! What’s that you say? This is therapy and not a television series? Oh yeah? Then why did Special Guest Star Chris Meloni show up? And why was “Feels Like I’m 17 Again” playing? (Well, that’s because I accidentally turned my iPhone on in my tote bag. But still!)

Anyway, it was all very emotional and I gave a speech at the end that I’m sure is a lock for an Emmy Award nomination. Watch your back, Tony Shaloub as “Monk”, I’m gunning for you! (I know that Monk is no longer on the air, but I’m pretty sure that Tony Shaloub wins Best Actor every year anyway because the world is a good and just place where order and good sense prevail.)

As if the end of my therapy sessions wasn’t traumatic enough, when I left home this morning I found a letter in the mail that I’d written to myself in January of 2013. I’d written it as part of my training with Artist’s U, a development program for emerging independent artists, and forgotten all of about it, as I do with literally everything I do at every moment of every day. I don’t even remember what the last sentence said. Anyway, sandwiches. What? Oh, the letter. Yes. I was terrified! There is nothing more cruel than to catch your reflection in the eyes of your past self. No matter how good things are going, how different things turned out to be, there’s always a bit of hope dashed, isn’t there? No? Just me. Whatever. Anyway, here’s actual footage of me opening my mailbox.michael-scott-no

I still haven’t read it. I just can’t handle it. WHAT MIGHT IT SAY?! I’m like Brad Pitt at the end of Se7en, except instead of Gwyneth’s head I’m worried I might come face to face with my own hopes and dreams. And let me tell you, my ambitions are every bit as terrifying as the decapitated author of GOOP newsletters.

OKAYAnyway, this blog post isn’t about my anxiety (Oh, OKAY.) I’m not even that concerned about ending my therapy sessions. I mean,  I have plenty of people to talk about Scandal with (and good coping mechanisms or access to pie or whatever). Like my friend Sean; he and I text about Scandal literally all day every day.

Sean is hilarious. I am constantly haranguing him to start a blog. Of course, then I would have to battle him like Highlander because I see every other funny person as a threat to my existence. One night we were live-texting during an episode of Scandal and I marveled at the pregnant Kerri Washington’s intensity during a particular scene; Sean fired back “She’s acting for two.”

I can’t really tell how it lands at a time when I’m not neck deep in madelines and caramel popcorn. But trust me, it was funny then. Ugh now I have all this anxiety that that example doesn’t adequately convey Sean’s hilarity. I mean, in context that joke made me spit out the piece of cupcake I keep lodged in my jaw (like tobacco chew but for people who are more health conscious). Out of context though… Man I don’t know. I mean, what IS comedy, anyway? I am seriously stressing about this. I simply don’t have time to page through a year’s worth of witty text banter to find a perfect example. I don’t have time! I have a day job! I am not caught up on Orphan Black! I have a meatloaf in the oven! I have a wedding to plan! And, no, I am not engaged but I have a plethora of good ideas and a Pinterest login. What else, really, does one need? Honestly, at this point I could get married with a month’s notice and someone else’s credit card. And it would be a ceremony that would blow your weave back. (Natural hair only at my wedding, please. Because Africa.)

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The shade. (Click to enlarge. I don’t have time to bigify this.)

Sean and I have known each other since March of last year and I am consistently amazed by how well we get along because there’s a 14 year age gap between us. Most of the time I forget that and talk to him like he’s one of my hundreds and hundreds of late 20s gay friends. But, bless his heart, he is always kind enough to remind me. The other day we were talking about the OJ Simpson verdict (because we like to keep abreast of current events) and he said “the verdict came out on the day before my birthday. Like my birth canal birthday.”

We went to the same high school, separately of course. The Paleozoic era occurred in the interim. (Boom. Roasted.) It’s a phenomenal private school (pinkies up!) called The Park School outside Baltimore. I always say that when I have kids I’m moving back there just so my kids can go to Park too. That’s high praise considering I have a rather complicated relationship with Baltimore. Which is a ridiculous thing to say. I have a complicated relationship with a whole metropolis? That’s like those women who say they don’t get along with other women. “Really, Paula? You have a beef with over half the world’s population? What’s the common denominator there?”

Oh. The past. What is it and why does it happen all the time?

Speaking of: I got an invitation to my 15 year high school reunion the other day. That was a thing that happened. It had a picture of all of us on graduation day and I just stared at it forever. Look at these children! Look at these skinny shoulders! Look at these high-heeled sandals!!SANDALS

I would show you the full picture but I don’t have permission to broadcast other people’s youthful visages across the Internet. Like I have permission to talk about all the jamooks I go on dates with. Whatever. Price of doing business.Orphan Black

I searched the crowd to find myself. I could remember taking the picture but I didn’t remember where I stood. What a weird feeling. As I passed over faces, I realized that I see a large majority of these people on Facebook all the time and yet this is how I remember them. And most of these embryos have babies now ! Look at that goofy face with the Nick Carter haircut! He’s got a baby! Look at the virgin who can’t drive: two babies!

Suddenly, there I was. Right in the center (R. Eric Thomas: Stealing focus since the late 90s).  Stealingfocus_GinaTorresI didn’t even recognize that guy. I don’t who that is. I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know why he did the things he did. But there he was, me, smiling brightly. It was like some shit out of The Shining. I exist in the past! But howwwww?

Not at all creepy.

Not at all creepy.

15 years! It doesn’t feel long, it doesn’t feel short. I guess that’s why I’m sometimes surprised to remember that Sean and I are not the same age. I don’t feel like I think or act particularly young, but I’m in a state of extended exuberance.

There are times, though, when the chasm between us is enormous. For instance, he texted me that his college was doing a production of Steel Magnolias and I immediately texted back “YOU HAVE TO AUDITION! I DON’T CARE THAT THERE AREN’T ANY MALE PARTS! DO IT!” He replied, “I actually haven’t seen it but I felt like you’d think it was important because you’re always talking about it.” And it’s true, I am always talking about. Aren’t you? God, I have so much to teach him! There are young gay men roaming this Earth who haven’t seen Steel Magnolias! I don’t even know how they find the strength to get out of bed in the morning and pull on their skinny jorts.

It’s a funny thing, moving into the middle of the gay cultural inheritance: I get Judy Garland and Britney Spears, but neither of them had as profound an effect on me as they did on men 10 years older or 10 years younger than me, respectively. More importantly, as I get older, my perspective on the long history of LGBT men and women changes and I start to see the experiences of those who came before me as strikingly important to my own understanding of myself. I think sometimes of what it must have been like to be my age in 1981, the year I was born. I know men who recall with heart-breaking vividness what it felt like to watch all of their friends die. The thought of it is sometimes unbearable to me.

And so there are times, when I’m riffing with Sean, that the great book of the past opens up. And it’s not a bad thing; it feels a bit like being welcomed into a huge, bustling community.

Anyway, the way we came to meet was this: Park reached out to me about 18 months ago and asked me to write a play for a festival of new work by alumni.Ben-Wyatt-gifs-parks-and-recreation-28255952-500-273

It, legit, never occurred to me to write something that was appropriate for high school audiences. Instead, I wrote a farce about mistaken identity, rumors and scandal amidst a group of crazy people meeting on a street corner. All of the characters were me avatars, basically. There was one character who declared, apropos of very little, that she needed to eat every 15 minutes or she got demented. THAT IS A MEDICAL FACT ABOUT MY OWN LIFE.

Sean directed the play, a feat that still astounds me because 1) I am a crazy person who just types stuff that makes me giggle (see above) and 2) this 7-character circus was phenomenal! I was blown away. It was actually funny to other people. Plus, he and the cast (Matt, Jessie, Tony, Lizzie, Kelsey, Christopher and Katelyn–whom I think the world of and cannot praise highly enough) had added sight gags and details that I never would have thought of.

I went down to Baltimore for the festival last March. The school looks so much different than it did when I was there. The bones were the same but everything else had been built up and out, technologized and glassified (architecture!). I was to stay the night in the city because the next day I was doing a workshop called  “Finding Comedy in Life: Performance and Panel”. If it were held today I’d ask them to change the name to “Living Your Life Like Lupita” followed by a breakout work session called “May Your Days Be Meryl and Bright”.

ItsSoWeirdBeingMyOwnRoleModelBetween the matinee performance of the play and the evening show, the cast, directors and writers of all the festival plays gathered for dinner and a Q&A. I LOVE a Q&A because I have SO MANY opinions. “Well,” I said, “The first thing you want to do is date somebody older so they can take you to parties at their rich friends’ houses and you can get a feel for good interior design and a well-appointed mezze platter. But don’t fall in love with them. And don’t let them fall in love with you. You’re young. You have to sleep around.”

I’m available for Career Day if you need me.TIP_OITNB

We went through some great questions about what it was like to be a professional writer (all of which I answered “IDKLOL!”) and then they started asking about what Park was like when we, the alumni, had attended. At one point, a lovely young woman named Grace asked me what it was to be gay at Park in the 90s.

I was like, “The who-what? The when-where? The why-with-which? Oh no, honey. This is the most open place I’ve ever been but nobody was gay here then. The guy who played Jack on Will & Grace wasn’t even gay in the 90s.”

Es-ka-weeze?

Es-ka-weeze?

I then went on to commend the gathered group of high schoolers, many of whom were miraculously out and happy and talking about exes (EXES?! PLURAL!) and starting Gay-Straight Alliances with pictures of Chris Colfer on the walls. I was amazed by them. I was inspired by them. I told them I wish that my 17-year-old self could’ve been so brave, so honest. I wished he could’ve seen it.

During dark times I used to wish that I had the power to time travel, just so I could go to the future and see how everything turned out. I just wanted to know that everything turned out okay. I like that inside the wish for time travel there is the belief that everything does, indeed, have a happy ending. I just couldn’t see it yet.

After dinner we all headed back to the theatre. As we walked along a corridor, we passed a huge wall of photographs from the 100 years of the school’s existence. And suddenly there I was. Right in the middle. I came face to face with a picture of me and Kim, Orlando, Aisha and Ama, sitting outside with the then-headmaster. We’re all no older than 15. We’re all grinning in puffy winter coats that I’m sure were neon, though the photo is black and white. There I was. On the wall of this new building in a place that used to know. Or at least there was a person who looked just like the person I see in old pictures of me.

I pointed it out to the kids from the play and kept walking.

I’m so glad that Grace asked the question she did because it pulled my experience now and my experience then into perspective. I’m the person that the kid in the picture would discover if he were to stumble on a time machine. I’m the man who would tell him how things turned out. And there have been times, more recently, when I thought about time travel and wished that I could go back and rescue that kid. I’d tell him he was loved, and he was whole and complete and he had the gift of honesty just waiting to free him.

But that smiling kid hanging on the walls of my high school is unchanging and he’s unreachable. I can’t rescue him; going back wouldn’t do either of us any good. The stranger in the picture needs me to keep moving forward, to keep evolving and expanding so that one day we might become the person we’re going to be. And so that’s what I’m going to do. For all of us.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a letter from myself that I need to read.

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Race Or Whatever

Om Nom Nom Nom Nom

So, The Hunger Games, talk about a bait and switch. I didn’t read the books but I made sure to see the movie because I thought it was about a sassy independent woman named Katniss who is trying to diet down to her birth weight to win the love of Gale, a blood diamond magnate, all while being plied with carbs by a sinister doll-faced baker who harbors a slightly creepy love. Apparently, I was wrong. I am using italics to telegraph my disapproval.

Despite the italics, I did enjoy The Hunger Games. I love any movie about food. And I know that The Hunger Games is not technically about food so much as it’s about a totalitarian state that has lost its humanity to an obsession with status, leisure and possessions. Or whatever. But I try not to pay attention to that and focus on the food. Trust me, if you take away the carnage, The Hunger Games is basically an episode of Chopped.

Anyway, to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday, I went to see the Hunger Games sequel, Catching Fire. I felt it was an appropriate choice given that Thanksgiving is the greatest eating holiday of the year. I enjoyed it too, even though there was much less food in it. It was like my favorite episode of Lost plus my favorite episode of Project: Runway plus Stanley Tucci’s cackle times two hours of unrelenting human cruelty. So, a great time  for the whole family.

Caesar

Best part, that bit where the island starts spinning. Thrilling! I was like, “Oh, I know what’s happening, Desmond forgot to put the numbers into the computer on time. Katniss needs to go to the Swan station and punch in 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42 and then Capote will stop spinning the island. That crazy Capote.”

When they make a Hunger Games amusement park I hope that’s one of the rides. But, now that I think about it (I try not to put any thought whatsoever into what I write before I write it. That’s my process.) a Hunger Games amusement park is the absolute last place on Earth I’d like to go. 1) Everything will probably kill you; 2) The concession stands will likely be empty.

Unless, of course, it’s an amusement park modeled after the Capitol. That would be fun, if morally awkward. (BTW, “Fun, if morally awkward” is what it reads on my tramp stamp. The more you know.)smileson

Speaking of the Capitol, can we talk about Capote some more? When Plutarch Heavensbee (Lord,  these names. So ethnic!) showed up I was like, “Is Phillip Seymour Hoffman confused? Why is he not wearing a costume? Did he just wander on to the set after teaching a class at Fordham called ‘Symposium on Rumples and Sighs’? Is he cameoing as himself? ” Elizabeth Banks spent 6 hours in the makeup chair (those eyelashes! I die!) and he’s picking a blazer from his personal collection, running a comb through his hair and showing up looking non-plussed. There are no plusses in that scene. He’s like “Hi, I’m Oscar-winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Pleased to meet me. Where do I stand? Never mind; doesn’t matter. I’ll stand wherever I want.” Meanwhile, Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence is dressed like a character from Zoobilee Zoo and going through the nine stages of struggleface and Elizabeth Banks is in the background lip-synching for her life. She is giving you everything! Hair! Glitter! Curtains! Sashay, you stay, Banks.

effie_mahoganyI do find it confusing that her character’s name is Effie Trinket because I always think of Effie White from Dreamgirls and then I think Is JHud here? IS JHUD GOING TO SING?! Which is, I guess, my one criticism of the Hunger Games movies: they don’t have enough moments where JHud enters, the screen goes dark, she looks directly into the camera and sings the hell out of a ballad. Maybe in Mockingjay.

Despite my love for Effie, I think my favorite character is Peeta because in every scene his primary motivation is to get back to baking bread. This is a man who has priorities (And a pretty, pretty face. And absolutely no survival skills. But such a pretty face.) His life is on the line and he’s like “Challah anyone? Freshly baked challah.”peeta

My second favorite character is Finnick, a man who just fucking eats sugar cubes because he can. This guy knows how to live. Plus, he’s like a strangely appealing tornado of sex appeal, cuddly grandma love, and probably diabetes. That’s exactly what I search for on OkCupid ever damn day. As God as my witness, one day I will be Mrs. Finnick O’Dair-Thomas and we will feast on sugar cubes and wear rock candy necklaces forever!Finnick

My least favorite characters are Rue and Beede because I imagined them as blacker.

I’m kidding, INTERNET.

Anyway, what am I talking about? This post isn’t even about the Hunger Games; it’s about food. TWIST! ::cue Lost sound effect and tinkling bells::

Actually, can I be serious for a minute? I know this blog isn’t really the place for seriousness, but I do have a rather sober thought.

Wait, before I get serious, I just want to say that my favorite scene in Catching Fire is the one where Peeta gets electrified and Finnick has to give him CPR because obviously. I love how they edited it so craftily; one gets the impression that Finnick is giving Peeta mouth-to-mouth but there isn’t ever a clear shot of it. Probably because the GIF of their lips touching would break the internet. When I become an overnight singing sensation I’m going to perform at the VMAs in front of a video where Finnick breathes life into Peeta’s obviously Burt’s Bees’ smothered lips on loop.

Okay, now seriousness.

Just kidding! Here’s a GIF of a cat who was shocked by my sudden change of topic!

shockedcat

But seriously. Catching Fire was surprisingly heavy. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how heavy it was; it’s a movie about kids locked in a stadium and told to kill each other. I’m just saying, it’s not exactly Best Man Holiday. It’s weird to claim that I enjoyed a movie that I grimaced through the whole time. And I kind of wonder what it says about our culture that this mentally taxing, dystopian film is such a massive blockbuster.

I found the scene where Gale was whipped to be especially disturbing. It took me by surprise, too. This was the first time I’d seen on-screen whipping since seeing 12 Years A Slave and the combined effect of those two paeans to human darkness really threw me for a loop.

I saw 12 Years the week before. For a month everyone my Facebook had been saying “Oh, you must see this movie! It will destroy you.” But I couldn’t really find a clear spot in my schedule for utter psychological collapse until mid-way through November.

I’ve been trying for weeks to find words to write about the movie but I think I’m just going to give up. It destroyed me. And there’s absolutely no way I can write about it on my ridiculous whimsical blog. I sat, hunched forward, arms crossed through the entire movie. I held my breath. It was oppressive. And the minute the screen went blank and the credits started, I burst into tears. Like sobbing. It would’ve been embarrassing except the theater was full of crying people. The place was a disaster. Even as I fell forward, keening, I started thinking about the kids at the concessions stand. What must it be like to work at a place where every 2 and a half hours, 100 people have complete breakdowns? It was like a psych ward.

I could not stop crying. My friend Daniel sat next to me and rubbed my arm. I’m glad he was there because what I really wanted to do was lie down on the floor and ugly cry. Like I desperately wanted to melt out of my chair and just lay my face in the puddle of tears and popcorn butter and mourn.

This is me after the movie ended:crying

This is me 10 minutes after the movie ended:Crying3

This is me 20 minutes after the movie ended:crying2

This is me the next day:Oprahcry4

I want so much to write about that movie but I just… I have no words. So, I’ll tell you this Thanksgiving story instead:

As every year, I had Thanksgiving at my parents house. In the past, I’ve gotten in trouble for “talking to my friends on the Internet” about the people who gave birth to me, so let’s say I’m not talking about my parents. Let’s say I’m talking about Cliff and Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show. Anyway, it was a nice intimate dinner, just Cliff and Clair, my brother Theo and me, Lisa Bonet.

This is what happens when we discuss my 401k.

This is what happens when we discuss my 401k.

My mother cooks every year, using recipes from a huge binder that she’s been compiling since before I was born. Every year she makes the same thing, so the binder isn’t full of new recipes but rather the same recipes copied over. My grandmother’s rolls recipe in her handwriting, then in my mother’s handwriting, then typed. My aunt’s orange jello recipe photocopied, revised. The stuffing recipe in my mother’s perfect penmanship, then in my teenage scrawl from the year I was entrusted with making it and decided to revise it, then the same recipe typed up from the year we got a computer and a printer.

SECRET FAMILY RECIPE

SECRET FAMILY RECIPE

My mother makes and revises a schedule for Thanksgiving dinner preparation every year, mapping out her plan up to a week in advance. And she saves each year’s schedule, and each year the binder grows. In the back of the binder she keeps the Christmas recipes, the Christmas schedules and every person’s Christmas wish list from every year. And so the binder has become a sort of family history through food, a beautiful scrapbook of our traditions. Nowadays, when we don’t see each other but a few times a year, the binder represents the thread that ties us together even when we’re physically apart.

After dinner this year, Theo went to work (he’s a detective, like a real one, not just a nosey person who watches too much of The Closer like I am) and Cliff and Clair and I retired to the living room to watch TV. Clair had DVR’d an episode of The Big Bang Theory that she really wanted me to watch. Like, she was serious about it. She’d texted me twice to let me know we’d be watching it. After that episode, we switched to TVOne where they were playing old Thanksgiving episodes from The Cosby Show, A Different World, and Living Single. 

rollsI was immediately taken back to a time when my conception of the world, of my place in the world as a black person, was shaped by the people I saw on TV. Inasmuch as 12 Years A Slave destroyed me, The Cosby Show made me by portraying a black family that loved each other, laughed with each other, and wasn’t weighed by oppression. It was liberating and it created a place for me that didn’t exist in the world I knew outside of our happy, literate, talkative home.

macandcheese Similarly, A Different World created a cultural reference point that, with every episode, made me feel more and more in touch with–for lack of a better term–my people. On the night that Whitley was supposed to get married and Dwayne Wayne burst into the ceremony and objected, Clair and I were at Security Square Mall (the black mall), and we stood at the window of a Montgomery Ward store with a crowd of maybe 15, 20 other people watching the now-iconic scene take place, watching Diahann Carroll scream “Die, just die” as Dwayne came running down the aisle. The store manager turned off the TVs just before the end of the episode because they were closing so, of course, we rioted.

At my parents’ house, we eat Thanksgiving dinner at a big wooden table. Just before we sat down, my mother came in and surveyed the room. “Oh no! I didn’t even put on the nice tablecloth,” she said. I replied. “It’s fine. No need to put on airs.” She said to me, “At my age, airs means gas.” We sometimes speak in punchlines.

My mother would like you to know that this is not the fancy tablecloth.

My mother would like you to know that this is not the fancy tablecloth.

We all sat down to eat, my father said grace, and we dug in. We talked about work, we talked about my other brother’s newborn baby, we told old stories we’ve all heard before. We re-wove the fabric of our history, our present and our future, over food.

On the wall behind the big wooden table, my mother has mounted two photographs of a dilapidated gray shack. This is the slave cabin that my great-grandfather was born in. It still stands today in Virginia. My mother and father visited about 10 years ago. It’s no bigger than a common half-bathroom. It’s slats don’t look like they kept out the wind or the rain or the heat. I sat at my parents table, beneath this picture, eating the food that symbolizes our shared heritage, and as with every year I felt the loving embrace of my childhood home, the familiarity of old patterns, the excitement of new ideas. But more than anything I felt grateful. I felt grateful to be free.

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Smash

Happy Black History Smonth!

Oh, it’s been so long since we last had a Smash! (That’s what she said!) The last time Smash came on TV was forever ago! An asteroid hadn’t hit the Earth! And I had yet to sell my soul to Robin Wright’s bangs on House of Cards. It’s a different world, Dwayne Wayne.

Previously on Smash: new show runner Josh Safran showed up and was all like “Last season didn’t happen, okay? We burned a scarf, spat on its grave, and lined up so many buses to throw Theresa Rebeck under you would’ve thought it was a student matinee. We’re different!”

And it’s true.

Smash is so different in fact that this episode opens with a scene from Queer as Folk. Karen is…yawn. Sorry. Karen is being held aloft by what looks to be a mass of gyrating and jump-dancing homosexuals. Pop quiz: Is this is A) Limelight during my freshman year of college (I’m 31, do your own damn math) B) Boys Night Out at Fuerza Bruta (motto: look up… so it’s harder to identify who groped you), or C) the bouncy castle as my son’s Christening (what? I don’t have any straight friends and a petting zoo seemed a little Catholic)?

Hands up if you like Mackelmore and Jager bombs!

Hands up if you like Mackelmore and Jager bombs!

Anywhoozles, this scene is a blah blah dream sequence blah blah Mean Jeremy Jordan zzzzz subplot of intrigue.

Guys, I really wanted to write about Karen this week. I did!  I have so many thoughts about her and about Katherine McPhee (who really hits the riffs in this song snippet with a wallop; that girl should try out for a television singing competition or something). But, listen, I was already sick of her by the time the sexy new credit sequence hit. (That I WILL address that at some point, but suffice to say it was the most enjoyable grand mal seizure I’ve ever had).

Too bad, so sad, Karen. Maybe next episode. (If every other character suddenly dies like this is Downton Abbey or something).

We can however, take a second—Hallelujah—to talk about the triumphant return—Praise your name, Lord—of the only thing keeping this ship sailing (and the only black person any of them know—and yes, I am aware of Tom’s “boyfriend” and no I don’t care). JHUD returns!

And what a return! She’s introduced in a HUGE apartment over-looking Central Park that on most shows signifies that the owner or resident is a mogul of some sort or Patty Hewes or Buzz Aldrin in that one episode of 30 Rock. But, this is Smash-world, which means that someone with a 1999 Audra McDonald level of fame and accomplishment  can totally afford it, too! No (110 in the) shade to Ms. McDonald, but I mean come on. CPWVeronica Chase is supposed to be a 29-year-old Broadway darling, not Alicia Keys. You know in real life she’d still be propped up in a sublet in Brooklyn, selling real estate on weekends.

Smoving on! JHUD is singing! (Because the writers of Smash know which side of the bread their bread is buttered on… what’s that phrase? Where their bread butter comes from? Who brings the boys to the milkyard? Where the dogs got let out from whence? I don’t know.)  ANYWAY, JHUD is singing “Soon As I Get Home” from The Wiz! I’m just going to give you a moment to compose yourself.

Ready?

AAAAGH JHUD in all-white singing the second best song from The Wiz!  Have I died? Am I deceased? Is this my funeral? Because these things are clearly stipulated in my living will? Am I in E. Lynn Heaven?

Jennifer Hudson and her hair

Unbe-weave-able.

It is glorious.

I must admit, however, I’m pulled out of the moment by her Coretta Scott King weave. I know it’s Black History Month, but I am 100% not here for that His Girl Friday cinnamon bun swirl.

Speaking of black hair, I’ve got to go work on my new Good Times-meets-Dark & Lovely drag character, Madame J.J. Walker. I was going to go on and on about, ::cue dramatic music:: THE DRAMATURG, but that’ll have to wait til tomorrow.

Happy Black History Smonth!

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Smash

Paging Salome

Can I just start off by noting how refreshing it is to see Debra Messing’s Julia freed from her crazy woman schmata in Season 2 of Smash?  Last season she was drowning in shrouds and ponchos and bangles and scarves and oversized glasses (we get it: you’re a middle-aged woman who writes for a living. Your vision is poor. Let’s.  Move. On.  We get 44 precious Sminutes a week and you’re spending a half hour fumbling with your eyewear?  I digress.).

Julia (Debra Messing) is delighted because her back is to the mirror.

No one has ever looked this happy in The Shroud of Turin before.

We all know that she was the stand-in for former showrunner and noted accessory aficionado Theresa Rebeck, but by the time Bombshell finally opened in Boston, all of Julia’s lines were being delivered by a pile of wrinkled pashminas.

Theresa Rebeck's collection of scarves.

Theresa Rebeck won a Special Tony for dramatic scarf-swooshing

Worry not, though: new showrunner Josh Safran has banished the scarves, the loose-knit sweaters, the capes!  I imagine it was sort of like the end of The Wiz where Luther Vandross starts singing and all the black people get weirdly semi-naked and you’re watching it for the billionth time at your cousin Poochie’s house and you’re 9 years-old and you’re stealing side-long glances at your Aunt Beneatha, thinking, I feel like the pastor would not approve of this, but she’s just happily humming along because Luther Vandross is a saint and black nudity wasn’t a big deal in the 70s you guess…

INAPPROPRIATE.

INAPPROPRIATE.

ANYWAY, it’s nice to see the stunning D.Mess look stunning and not so much like the Bird Lady from Home Alone 2.  Smoving on.

Okay. Wait. That Bird Lady comparison was weak and imprecise. I’m pulling down the “No Shade” shade here, okay?

No Shade but Season 1 Julia actually dresses just like the one and only Meryl Streep. It’s like they’re the only two social pariahs frequenting  the most annoying boutique on the UES.  No, they don’t shop; they dither. Smeryl may be the best actress to ever live but she’s also that kooky lady who holds up the line at Ten Thousand Villages telling an incomprehensible story about some janky necklace whilst digging in her purse for her clownishly large glasses.

We get it: you cannot see, you’re obsessed with draping fabrics and your spirit animal is Nancy Meyers. Smoving on!

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