SOMETHING OUT OF CLASSIC TV…

We were obsessed. We didn’t realize we were doing it, but we started to fetishize all men that weren’t white. They didn’t need to be on TV, it was ALL with a capital A-L-L men that weren’t white. The idea of dating someone who wasn’t white was exciting.
___________________________________________________

The town I grew up in was small. One of the biggest crimes of my childhood was a burglary committed by the local bad boy. (He dyed his bangs with hydrogen peroxide.) Too young to have a driver’s license, he used a lawn tractor as his getaway vehicle. Everyone knew he did it because like any small town, there was gossip. After the break-in most people still didn’t lock their homes. Despite the gossip, the town was a lot like Pleasantville (prior to receiving color). Part of me enjoyed the closeness. I could count on things like knowing that the family of my elementary school librarian would have my back if I ever needed them. But, being a small town, people would always see you as who you were in elementary school.

i-am-me-i-am-okayKnowing nearly all your classmates from an early age, reinvention at any age was prohibitive. Unlike many, who can reinvent themselves in high school, a third of the class you knew since you were six and the other two thirds you knew since 6th grade. These other two thirds were experiencing the same problem because we were all attending the same regional middle school high/high school.  Regional schools are common for Middle-of-Nowhere, Connecticut, where towns are so small there aren’t enough students to fill one school. Two or more towns join together to send their students to one location. My school had three towns, grades 6-12. This meant that middle school and high school shared common areas like cafeteria, computer lab and library. We’d see each other in passing, but didn’t r mix.

When I graduated eighth grade, life inside the regional middle school/high school didn’t change much. Classes moved to the other side of the building and I went from being the quintessential nerd in middle school to the awkward nerd-hippy in high school. Those qualities rendered me updateable… that and I had paralyzing shyness.

I was like those girls in the makeover movies (pre-makeover). I paraded through the halls with my over-stuffed L.L. Bean backpack and flute. I yearned for the romance the Christian Slater films (sans Heathers) promised. Hell, while learning how to write a children’s play my senior project (a requirement to independently study something you know nothing about, write a paper and give a presentation), I wrote a draft-outline and act one for a romantic film. The lead male was named Chris (as in Christian Slater) and the protagonist was a shy mousy girl from a small town. This kind of voyeuristic dating, dating on paper, was easier for me to wrap my dopey brain around than “hey, I like you” dating. Dating in the real world was as improbable as me being able to hit a three point shot from mid-court. Still, my mom thought she should tell me who and what I should date.

Don’t date a jerk.

Date someone who respects you.

Date someone like you.

When she said, “date someone like you,” she meant, “date someone with your same

fullsizerender

Suzanne

values.” Dating someone who was middle class and white was not part of the equation. Race never came up. My family didn’t discussed race in a let’s have a dialogue kind of way. We only discussed people. Race only came up when they told my sister and me how they we
nt to hear Martin Luther King Jr. speak and listen to “good music.” One of my takeaways from this repeated story was their incredulity of how they were one of the only white couples there. Another favorite repeated story was when they visited St. Kits with my grandparents the waiter offered to take me outside (when I was having a baby melt-down) and comfort me so they could eat their lunch in peace. Every time I visited my grandma, I saw the portrait of Suzanne that my mom painted when she was a college sophomore. Every now and then they would reminisce at the art professor’s comments, “You’re the first white girl I’ve met that can paint a Black person.” Beyond these glossed-over differences, we didn’t talk about racial differences.

christian-slater-autograph

It was my friends and TV that had a larger influence on my understanding of people who
were desirous. Sure, there was Christian Slater, but he was always a little too damaged. Baboon heart, way too in to roses, suicidal introvert… While I tried to figure out dating, I tried to find friends with whom I fit. I had two distinct groups: in junior high, I hung with the mall group of “we don’t have a group city-type.” (By small, I mean 3.) In high school, I migrated to the “studious hodgepodge” of athletes, band geeks, and all-around smarty pants-wise-asses. One of the city-types left, leaving our group at two, the city-type and me. Even though her family lived in town for years and was active in the founding of it, she had the worldly influence that cable and four older siblings brought her.

Since she worked in the cafeteria during lunch, I tried to navigate hanging out with my more-studious-hodgepodge group. The hodgepodge always ate lunch together and I sometimes joined them. Remember that paralyzing shyness? Even though they were friends, I had a deep fear of being rejected if I asked to sit with them and they said no. Most days I’d take lunch and sit outside the band room and do homework… or just sit outside the band room and be sad. On days where I felt slightly braver, I would force myself to sit in the cafeteria. I’d find an empty table where I didn’t have to worry about rejection and sit alone. On some days, other lonely people joined me. Lacking strong social skills, I didn’t always feel welcome to join my friends because I wasn’t expressly invited to join. From 9th to 12th grade, I slowly got over this.

Very slowly.

While my understanding of navigating these seemingly complex social interactions grew, the student body grew too. When I entered the ninth grade there were 300 students in the whole high school. By the time I graduated, we had 500. And with this growth, we went from counting the number of non-white students on one hand to needing two. (There were seven.)

I was a natural introvert, shy and a little (very) naïve. It’s a no wonder my teens were tough. Band was a default comfort zone. Not having enough instruments in middle school or high school to play a full score, it was the only class where middle school and high school interacted. It offered forced social interaction with my classmates, half of whom were upperclassmen. It was a little intimidating being surrounded by people with facial hair and boobs, but it was exhilarating to have a tangential friendship with them. Band also provided a uniqueness of heightened racial diversity. The principle drummer (the only drummer for five years) was an Indian-American upperclassman. Intersecting through the years we had a brother and sister of Middle East descent (trumpet and clarinet respectively); a Black guy on bass and one Asian boy, on percussion. By the time I was a senior, there were enough students to support having junior high and high school bands. For the Memorial Day parades, we joined forces and invited the sixth graders to join. That influx brought an Asian girl. She played Second Flute and was next to me. In most places, six non-white students won’t qualify as diverse. But, those 6 non-white students out of a 30-member band gave us 20% diversity.

Outside the band walls, the school’s diversity plummeted to .014%. Consequently, I only saw my school as “just white.”

There wasn’t racial tension in Band. We were just trying to stay on beat. With the lack of diversity in the school and consequent lack of interactions with people who weren’t white, I didn’t have a framework to view race. My family’s “Martin Luther King Jr. is awesome” philosophy didn’t provide a framework. The school’s curriculum didn’t provide one. Race and racial differences weren’t discussed and since race wasn’t discussed openly, understanding the different experiences, philosophies and even religions that race could bring wasn’t discussed either. Scanning the student body, the only races that were apparent were Black and Indian-American. With my naiveté, people that were different, (like the brother and sister of Middle-East descent) were categorized as, “not white” or “they have a good tan.”

I can’t say if this naïveté is good or bad. It’s how I grew up and it’s what made me. Despite the shyness, I always liked people. I knew there was an Arian Signing Society 30 minutes from my home, but I didn’t see racism as a “this is happening now” way of life. The singing society was so far out of my love everyone world, it was as unbelievable as the Tooth Fairy. I continued to compartmentalize racism to history books, movies and the Deep South.

Because of my lack of understanding of racial differences, the differences were glamorized with more city-edge friends. Music videos felt like a roadmap of how to date and become datable. The videos became escapism in those formative years when you want to fit in, but are a little too square peg/round hole. Blessed Union of Souls “I Believe” spoke to my love everyone view. I thought I could be like Lucy and just wrap my phantom boyfriend in a hug and protect him from that mean white world. And while I loved this ballad, a die-hard favorite was Salt n Peppa’s “Shoop.” Despite a lot of the innuendo going over my head, the vaguely pro-feminist lyrics appealed to me. The men featured in the lyrics and in the video were hot, particularly the one categorized as, “A body like Arnold with a Denzel face…” These were the years before YouTube, DVR and any kind of V.O.D. that allowed you to watch your favorite video ad nauseam. Since technology to pause real-time TV didn’t exist, when “Shoop” came on, we would stop everything we were doing and watch the video. If someone had gotten up to get a snack, we’d holler to the next room to make sure no one missed the video. Denzel

We were obsessed. We didn’t realize we were doing it, but we started to fetishize all men that weren’t white. They didn’t need to be on TV, it was ALL with a capital A-L-L men that weren’t white. The idea of dating someone who wasn’t white was exciting. These men became trophies. If I dated one, I wouldn’t be merely dating a non-jerk, like my mom had asked for, I would be dating a man like those music vides. I would have made it to the dating zenith.

This more confident future self, would tell people, “Not only did I have a man on my arm, I’m dating outside my race. Take that you racist jerk; I’m open-minded.”

Wow.

I was an ass.

For years theories among friends and family of why I preferred men who weren’t white to white persisted. They ranged in everything from the visit to St. Kits when I was an inconsolable infant and a waiter had to hold and comfort me to my theory of my own insecurities around my genetic condition that causes brown spots and purple tumors to grow on and in my skin. By dating someone who isn’t white, theoretically, they would look past these imperfections and judge me by the content of my character. Whatever experience made me have my dating preferences and choices, I didn’t see my actions as racist. But truly, judging someone’s different and often darker skin as meritorious and a reason to date is just as wrong as condemning them because their skin is different. Age and life experience bring clarity. I was young and naïve. I thought I was being idealistic. It took me awhile to see what I was doing and that what I was doing was wrong.

Recipe: Black and White Cookies.
black and white cookie

Step by step directions:

  1. Go to the local bakery and and purchase.
  2. If your bakery doesn’t bake these scrumptious sugar cookies with two types of frosting, Call Zaro’s Bagels in New York City and have them shipped. Nobody does Black and White cookies like Zaro’s.

 

 

SPIRIT GUIDE, A NEW FRIEND, A NEW ADVENTURE

The clicks and dings of the free AOL Dialup Fax crawled through the air as my resume traveled from my PC to Paramount Pictures. It felt like this fax was taking longer than normal. I couldn’t be late for my LNT job, but I was convinced if I didn’t get my resume in right then, I’d lose the opportunity to interview. I couldn’t stand the idea of someone else taking my potential job.

________________________________________________________________

I was on my way to becoming an adult. After finishing my semester “abroad” I had secured an apartment on my own. From the suggestion of TV Trenches, I was working at Linen N Things (LNT) and was able to make rent and pay bills. I was happy to be working, but when you move across the country to work in entertainment, there’s a difference between working and working in Hollywood.Looking for a Job - Cardboard Box

Before bed, I sent an email to an alumni group, explaining I wanted to get my foot in the door at an entertainment company. When I woke up I had an email from Spirit Guide. She was a Paramount Page; they were hiring. Not knowing who I was, she told me to fax my resume in and she’d vouch for me. I would never put my name on the line for a complete stranger, but here Spirt Guide was doing just that.

I thought I was going to cry.

The clicks and dings of the free AOL Dialup Fax crawled through the air as my resume traveled from my PC to Paramount Pictures. It felt like this fax was taking longer than normal. I couldn’t be late for my LNT job, but I was convinced if I didn’t get my resume in right then, I’d lose the opportunity to interview. I couldn’t stand the idea of someone else taking my potential job.

Shortly after that morning, LNT had a fourth round of  layoffs, which I was part of. I continued to look for work. Weeks dragged on. I was stretching my severance, but I hadn’t heard from Paramount and the severance money was virtually dried up. That’s when I got an interview at a European Canadian Co-Production Company. After the interview they handed me a script and asked me to submit coverage (essentially a book report). I turned it in the following Monday and was offered a job assisting the Development Department. A couple days passed and I was informed I’d be assisting the president because the current assistant was leaving.

Swimming with SharksI was excited for the new work and the full time employment, but that position turned into one of my worst jobs.

Ever!

I gained immeasurable weight, my skin broke out and I was always on the verge of tears. One day the president would berate me if I asked a question. The next day I wouldn’t ask a clarifying question and when I screwed up, he’d berate me for not asking a question. The following day I needed to protect myself, so I asked clarifying questions. He would eviscerate me for asking questions.

On one of the particularly terrible days, the Paramount Page program called. They were setting up interviews.

Thank you Spirit Guide!

The interview would be in June. My heart sank. I couldn’t go; I’d be in CT for my sister’s wedding. I apologized and tried to reschedule. They told me not to worry; there would be another round in August.
In my August Interview, I wore the Talbot’s power suit my parents and grandparents gave me several Christmas prior. I was ready.
Power Suit
Except, I was not. This was not some one on one interview. Fifty of us were in one of the original RKO screening rooms and we had to get up in front of the people we were competing with and explain why we’d be good at the job. I was more nervous explaining my assets in front of my peers than speaking publicly. I talked about college, my love of the entertainment industry and gave examples of leadership skills from church camp (such as leading night hikes and camp fire songs), and was careful to leave off the church part.
My work to be a less shy version of my high school self paid off— I got one of the coveted jobs.

I needed to do something nice for Spirit Guide. I couldn’t afford lunch, but thought coffee would work. She told me that she didn’t drink coffee.

Who doesn’t drink coffee?

Paramount Water TowerApparently, Spirit Guide. She countered with ice cream from the on-lot convenience store. Since there were no toppings, I even threw in a Coke. We ate our ice cream underneath the Paramount Water Tower. Over our snack we talk about goals. We both were aspiring TV writers. She told me I needed a writing group and invited me to join her’s. She explained it was mainly a collection of college friends who were writing majors. She named names and despite all of us having the same writing degree from the same small college, I didn’t know any of them. Again, I was blown away by her generosity. Apparently, this is who Spirit Guide was, a genuine person who likes helping people. Despite all the new people I met at church, she was the first person I really connected with that I didn’t know before my move to Los Angeles. I was so excited to know her and grateful for her help.

 

It was a simple bowl of ice cream for a simpler (more broke) time. But, one can still make an epic sundae from a convenience store with no official sundae toppings.

At a convenience store (like the Water Tower Cafe), you have plenty of crumbled cookie options, various candies and even fresh bananas. If you prefer to drink your snack, there is always a root beer float! If I wanted a sundae, the me of today would not be stymied by no official sundae bar. I’d insist that Spirit Guide and I throw caution to the wind and create a calorie-laden treat.

*GAMEBOY & THAI GASTRONOMY

While quirks and questions outweighed things I liked, it didn’t seem like reason enough to end it. I figured I’d date him until he did something that was reproachable and warranted a breakup or until we fell madly in love and got married. He was okay, so I decided I could cook him dinner.

——————————————————————————————————————————

In the spring of 2003, I was living the Hopeless Romantic life. Joe Millionaire and The Bachelorette catered to my thirst for love. I would watch both regularly on my T-VCR. It was the days when those AOL dialup discs were everywhere, enabling us to get online for free. It was also a time when many didn’t multi-task like watch TV and surf the internet simultaneously, neither did I. Like many things at that time, Yahoo Personals was also free. I did my searches before or after these two shows.yahoo personals Yahoo Personals did what it promised; it provided prospective people that could be The One. Overall many people were leery of online dating, probably because of the newness of it. Despite people still relying on traditional dating modalities, there was still a good assortment of potential future boyfriends.

I guess this is the benefit of living in a city as large as Los Angeles.

Among the assortment, I met Gameboy, a Scientologist. He was witty and smart (enough). It wasn’t until a couple dates, I learned he liked Halo, a military first-person shooter game. I’m  not sure what the object is besides shoot stuff. Gameboy loved inviting friends over for a multiplayer Halo Party. This was before flat screens TVs were readily available; most TVs still had a picture tube, which made them bulky. People would load their TVs and gaming consoles into their cars and schlep across town to play video games. I suppose it was more interactive than staying at home and logging on at a specified time, but barely. All the effort to play video games seemed ridiculous. I would have been okay if he didn’t invite me, but since he extended an invitation, I thought I had to accept. While it was interactive for them, it certainly wasn’t an interactive date. Gameboy made a half-hearted offer for me to play. I declined; I was already getting motion sick, besides I didn’t want to make him lose. I didn’t care if it was a dating faux pas, I turned down future Halo Parties.

microsoft-previewed-a-new-halo-game-out-next-year

While Gameboy’s love of first person shooter games is the thing I remember most, it was our first date that won me over. We went for Thai food in Pasadena. Similar to what I did with the Redheaded Italian, I met Gameboy at the restaurant. It was raining in Los Angeles, but we braved the big spring storm. (As I came to learn, to the local population, driving in rain is a big deal and shows you like a person.)

Gameboy didn’t change the plan like the Redheaded Italian. I didn’t need to translate like I did with Mucho Gusto. And, as far as I knew, he didn’t take comicbooks like Comicbook Crook. We drove our own vehicles to the restaurant and had a conversation in English while we waited for our dinner to arrive. It was perfect. Then the restaurant lost power.

He wished for a Mini Maglite. I hadn’t been out of college for a year and was still giddy on TV production advice I received, “If you want to work in TV production, the two things you should always have are a Mini Maglite and an 8 inch crescent wrench.”

I have both in my purse.

I rummaged in my purse and pulled out the Mini Maglite. Gameboy was pleasantly shocked. Then, he disassembled it, turning it into a candle.

maglite_candle

It was unique and romantic. I was enraptured by his ingenuity. (I didn’t know at the time, that this is a well-known feature of the Mini Maglite.)

The first date was great. The subsequent dates, not so much. Prior to the Halo Party, parts of future dates included watching him play video games with his roommate. I thought I could learn to love the quirk.

His gaming was chronic.

While quirks and questions outweighed things I liked, it didn’t seem like reason enough to end it. He didn’t care I attended church regularly and I didn’t care he had separated from the church of Scientology and that his parents and sister still attended. The me of today would see that lack of compatibility is reason enough, but again, I was an unskilled dater. I figured I’d date him until he did something that was reproachable and warranted a breakup or until we fell madly in love and got married.

He was okay, so I decided I could cook him dinner.

During dinner, somehow Gameboy and I started talking about a future family. It wasn’t our family per say; it was an amorphous family. Since he had disconnected from the church of Scientology, I didn’t think twice about letting him know what I thought about the religion he was raised with.

“If I have kids, under no uncertain terms,will I raise them with Scientology. Further, I can’t get behind a religion that started based off a bet some science fiction writer made.”

To my surprise, his hackles went up. “L. Ron. Hubbard is a great man. I don’t care that he used to write Science Fiction; his writing helped develop a lot of concepts that are important to Scientology. I might not currently practice, but it’s important to my family. I want to raise my kids with the same religion that made me me. Besides, if it’s so bad, why do so many people practice it?”

He left shortly after dessert. We hugged each other goodnight. He said he’d call, but he didn’t. I didn’t even need to break up with him. I just had to offend him.

I was so excited about my first Thai iced tea from our memorable first date, I wanted to recreate the memory. In lieu of a pre-dinner cocktail, I  made Thai iced tea. I’ve tried different recipes since then, but my favorite is from  Thai Table.

THAI ICED TEA

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons Thai tea to taste

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS
1. Add sugar and sweet condensed milk to a glass or cup.
2. Put one tablespoon of Thai tea  in a tea sock or lose tea bag.
3. Place the tea  directly above the glass.
4. Pour hot water over tea.
5. Set the tea aside.
6. Steep for 5 minutes and remove.
7. Stir until the sugar and sweet condensed milk are dissolved.
8. Add ice and top the tea with milk.

Thai Iced Tea

*B.S. (BEFORE SONODORO) and SHRIMP DEVEINE

Sex was still something I couldn’t fathom, but all the dancing and flirting senior year of college did a lot to build confidence. It was on one of hopeless romantic nights when I set up my Yahoo Personals account.
_______________________________________________________________3-28-14 Mariposa

In all of Los Angeles County there was only one place that would rent to me. I loved my first solo apartment. But, let’s be honest— It was in a questionable area.

My slumlord deemed me “a ghost.”

She explained: “You have no credit. Having no credit is worse than having bad credit.”

Her rationale made no sense. I had had a credit card for four years and a cell phone for two. I paid them off in full each month.  Surely, that should have given me credit. Apparently, it did not and that’s how I ended up living at Mariposa and Hollywood in late 2002.

Pride and lack of experience prohibited me from asking my parents to co-sign on an alternate (safer) apartment. I was excited I got Mariposa all on my own. Bonus, I could paint it any way I liked! I was the center of my own universe. If you walked four blocks east you could see the Hollywood sign. Eight blocks west I once received a rate inquiry. Ten years later I learned the area of Western and Hollywood was the unofficial Red Light District.

That explains so much! 

Welcome to Little Armenia. The area had character. And, unlike most L.A. apartments, I didn’t even need to buy a fridge! Sure, the fridge barely kept food cold enough and had exoskeletons of cockroaches emended into the rubber on the door, but I was living in Los Angeles

The city’s car culture lead to extreme isolation. I really wanted to date. Really REALLY wanted to date. Sex was still something I couldn’t fathom, but all the dancing and flirting senior year of college did a lot to build confidence. It was on one of hopeless romantic nights when I set up my Yahoo Personals account.yahoo personals

I met a tall redheaded Italian-American. (I was super excited to tell my Italian-American artist friend back home.) In the early days of internet dating, it was customary to meet in a crowded area. That’s exactly what I did with the Redheaded Italian. But, he wanted to forego the original plans and go for sushi off the 5. I hated driving in Los Angeles and the 5 is a trucking route. When he offered to drive, I didn’t question the potential danger; I was just relieved I didn’t have to drive.

When we got to the restaurant I was perplexed that it was in a strip mall. He assured me that most good L.A. sushi is in a strip mall. My doubt eased when we were seated at the sushi bar and he knew all the chefs by name. I ate all kinds of wonderful and mysterious sushi, including tempura-battered shrimp heads.

Tasty sushi prepared at japanese restaurant.

It was a good evening and as relaxed as a first date could be. He did the majority of the talking, mostly, about his ex-girlfriend. I didn’t mind; it meant I didn’t have to talk so much. Clearly he still cared about her. I figured if he could care this much about someone who cheated on him, he could care for me too. I learned that he was close to his family. I had visions of meeting them and laughed to myself how at 4′ 11.5″ I would fit in among a family of giants.

He drove me back to my car. We made plans for another date and then I drove home. Since my apartment didn’t come with parking, I had to park several blocks away. I used it to plan the dinner i would make for the Redheaded Italian, which would have to be sentimental, yet cost-effective.

Living in my very first apartment I had a very strict weekly food budget. My favorite grocery store was Food4Less (eight blocks away), followed by Jon’s (four blocks away). This dinner was going to go over my weekly budget, but I was determined to make it special.

Struggling to make ends meet sometimes, one applies for jobs they wouldn’t usually apply for. I applied for a position at a small marketing company. I made it to Round 2.

Round two was like a cage match. With our mentors, another girl and I were sent to the Pavilions at Melrose and Vine for the day-long interview.

It wasn’t marketing at all. We were carnival barkers.

carnival-barkerStep 1: Place yourself in a well-traveled area to hock stuff.
Step 2: The hook. “Hey, come see what we’re doing to help missing children.”
Step 2A: If they have a kid, offer to fingerprint it. Once the kid is ‘printed, give the parent the fingerprinted card, gratis.
Step 3: The merchandise. They’re looking at it. Hand them the item they look interested in.
Step 4: The pitch. Explain proceeds from the gifts you’re selling helps to prevent and protect missing and exploited children.
Step 5: The close. With the pitch and item in their hand, odds are the mark, I mean good citizen, will buy it.

Cha ching!

I was walking distance from Paramount Pictures, home of Sherry Lansing, Linda Obst and a myriad of other entertainment executives I looked up to and wanted to emulate. Here I was harassing people that could be potential bosses or co-workers.

I hated it.

But, my competitive streak was stronger than the other girl. I won.

Day 1: Training Day (unpaid). It was also my special dinner with the Redheaded Italian. Work was supposed to be over at 5, but my supervisor kept making us stay later. I kept calling to push back dinner. Eventually the Redheaded Italian said, “let’s re-schedule.”

He probably thought I was a flake. I didn’t care.
1. The sherbet in my icebox (in the fridge that barely kept food at a safe temperature) would turn into soft serve soon.
2. Food could potentially spoil.
3. I was over my weekly food budget.
4. There is no clear salary for my new job.

I got home at 9pm. I didn’t bother to cook. My dinner was rainbow sherbet, straight from the container.

Day 2: More training (also unpaid). An all-day lecture. At 6am I called home. My mom gave me permission to quit. (It felt silly I needed this, but it was good to have Mom’s blessing to do something so devious.) I called work, told them I was sick and quit.

Since I no longer had the job I hated and the shrimp was going to go bad, I decided to turn the Italian Redhead’s dinner into a celebration dinner for me. I was excited to learn how to devein shrimp. If it came out good, I could possibly make the meal for him. I waited for his call to reschedule.

He never called. I was a little sad for missing out on the potential for love, but I was more relieved. At his height I’m not sure how I could’ve afforded to keep feeding him. The meal lasted several days.

(It only occurred to me while writing this post that I’ve done several variations of this meal. The first time I reimagined the meal was for Sonodoro.)

INGREDIENTS
Penne Pasta
6 TBS Butter
½ medium white onion
10 shrimp
1 green bell pepper
½ red bell pepper
½ yellow bell pepper
2 Roma tomatoes
½ cup black olives, pitted & cut in half (optional)
1 lime
salt and ground pepper to taste

 2014-03-27 19.34.30

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

DEVEIN the shrimp (washed and set aside).

devein shrimp

DICE your onion. The pieces should be shouldn’t be too small. If you let them soak in rice vinegar or salt for half an hour before cooking, it will help eliminate some of their bad-breath power.

SEED & CHOP peppers into pieces that are roughly 1” by ½”. Put these in a bowl.

2014-03-27 19.59.01
Half your pitted black olives (about ½ cup) and put in a seperate bowl.

Chop the tomatoes….

PASTA
Cook according to package instructions.

SAUTEE
While pasta is cooking, melt butter in a heavy pan and slowly cook onion on a low to medium heat. When it is almost translucent, add the peppers. Let them cook. I like my veggies crisp, so I don’t do too much cooking with any of it. Dump veggies into a bowl and set set aside.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

A citrus juicer helps make juicing easier.

Melt more butter and add the shrimp. Cook until pink on both sides. Add veggies to shrimp. Stir together and add remaining tomatoes, and lime juice. Cover with lid and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Drain water from pasta and toss pasta with veggies. Cook together and keep on low heat until your company arrives and/or is ready to eat. (As an alternate to shrimp you can use pitted black olives.)

*CUTTER’S CAPRESE SALAD

I can’t remember if Cutter and I met during a fire drill or through friends. Somehow we met. What I do remember is that he lived by Fenway Park and was an easy walk to/from campus and an even easier T-ride.

Copley Square

He had a video editing internship in Copley Square and invited me to meet him for lunch at his office when his hours were over. I was excited to actually know someone who worked in one of those fancy offices and proudly walked past the throngs of people going to the grocery store that was in the same building. Too timid to go into his office and not wanting to get him in trouble for having a visitor, I waited outside the office doors. When he he came out, he greeted me with an awkward “we just started dating” hug and kiss. Then we walked to his apartment, which was about fifteen minutes away.

He lived in a second story walk up and when we got back to his place, the mid-day spring sunlight was streaming in casting beautiful light along the exposed brick walls. He offered me a chair by the wet bar so we could easily talk while he made lunch.

Lunch was fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar. I found it to be incredibly elegant. I also later found out it was a simple caprese salad. It doesn’t matter it was “simple.” This is the first caprese salad anyone ever made me. And, he purchased all the ingredients from Boston’s historic Farmers’ Market. (*Bonus points.)

Finished

The same spring light that made the brick look so good made Cutter look even better. With his blond hair and butter yellow shirt, he was nearly glowing. I was enraptured. I was having a great conversation with a cute boy who was making me lunch. No one had ever done this. We were at peace and we were alone.

Then, a roommate walked in from a bedroom— It was one of my friends from the Broadcast Journalism School. I’m not sure who was more shocked. My friend and I typically talked TV production and the Red Sox. The most personal we ever got career goals. We were both caught off guard that he saw this other, more vulnerable, side of me. We made small talk and then he left. My friend and I never spoke about that day.

When we were finally alone, Cutter announced lunch was ready. He continued to amaze. He opened the living room window and we climbed onto the porch a previous tenant had constructed. We were going to have a spring picnic!

Wow.

It was a perfect lunch and a warm memory, but summer was around the corner. We saw each other a couple more times, our talks got further between, and then I graduated. Neither he nor I officially ended anything. We just kind of drifted apart. I never saw any of the stuff he edited. I don’t know if he has siblings. I’m not even sure where he’s from. It’s not that he wasn’t nice, we just came into each other’s lives when we were both under the crunch of finals and life transitions. People today would classify our few encounters as “hanging out.” Heck, even then, people probably called it hanging out. But, to me it was dating, even if it was casual.

It doesn’t matter how you want to label it, what Cutter showed was kindness. And, most importantly, yes, there are guys out there who like cooking.

Epilogue
Several weeks ago (ironically 13 years to month we drifted apart), I was at an alumni event in Los Angeles and saw Cutter. We were watching a live-stream event our alma mater was webcasting. While trying to watch the screen, we kept looking at each other out of the corner of our eyes. There was a shared sense of recognition and the desperate hope we could melt into the atmosphere, hoping we weren’t really seeing each other and ostensibly leave the event unscathed.

LA Webcast

INGREDIENTS:
Your favorite in-season tomato
Fresh basil
Fresh mozzarella from the deli. (I go to Monte Carlo in Burbank)
(If can’t get to store that has it, Bel Gioioso has packaged cheese that has a wonderful flavor and texture.)
Olive oil
Nice balsamic vinegar
Ingredients
STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS
Rather than topping your salad with oil and vinegar, Drizzle olive oil and balsamic on plate. It will give your presentation a cleaner look. (For a bigger presentation factor, I like breaking out a plate/bowl.)
 Base
Arrange with tomato, basil and mozzerella.
 Tomatoe and fresh ingredients
Top with more olive oil and cracked pepper. I provide my guests a small carafe of oil and vinegar so they can top how they like, but they got to see the nice presentation.

INSIDER’S TIP:
If tomatoes taste more like cardboard than tomatoes,  you can add a little salt to bring out the tomato flavor.

*LET ME HEAR YOUR BAR TALK

About an hour later, the gorgeous Multi-cam Maven came back. She had wavy brown hair and killer smile, and she was a magnet for unwanted come-ons. This time, she was having an issue with a lanky boy and asked me to intervene. It seemed logical to pick someone of comparable beauty to distract him. There were others in the group that were more beautiful and alluring, but she picked ME. I was flattered. This simple request was another instance among many that helped restore the confidence Comicbook Crook took.

_________________________________________________________________________

In the fall of our senior year, SuperFoods introduced me to her group. They adopted me and Mutli-cam Maven, who was also a friend of SuperFoods. In the spring, I lost SuperFoods to the West Coast, where she was doing her semester “abroad” in our school’s Los Angeles program. The group continued the bi-weekly excursions, while I stuck to one night of dancing.

Kells EXT

Senior Year. It was my Freedom Year. I was no longer tied to Comicbook Crook and I was enjoying the single life. In the fall, I was introduced to Sissy K’s. We never went to the bar; we were always on the second floor, dancing at the club. It wasn’t just a fallback club; it was the club of choice. Every now and then, members of our tiny group persuaded the rest of us to go to places like The Kells, an Irish bar out in Allston with two levels of dancing. (The Kells had more a frat-boy-jock culture with mediocre music. I was not a fan.) We also tried a mixed ages club in Faneuil Hall, but it felt like everyone was in their 30s-40s, married and trying to reclaim their youth. Given we were still in college, even someone 5 years older seemed old. I realize now how ridiculous this is, especially since when I’m out dancing, I don’t care what those college kids think.

The memory of SuperFoods having to rescue me from the gargantuan man was still at the forefront of my mind. The Kells and the mixed-ages bar were not my favorite places, but they helped scrub that memory. Despite the bad experience, my love for Sissy K’s was undying. It had the best Top 40 dance music and a fun crowd. Besides, I had started wearing a fake engagement ring; it felt like I had protective shield around me.  If somebody started getting handsey, I’d point to the ring, smile and say, “My fiancé is okay with me going out dancing with my friends, he just wants me to be respectful.” Looking back on it, I can’t believe this seemed acceptable. Would I be okay dating a man that prohibits me from doing certain things? Certainly not, but, this was reasonable to a 22 year old me, and it was less confrontational than, “Get away from me I don’t want to talk/dance/have a drink with you.” Since then, I’ve refined my avoidance tactics…

  1. If my group isn’t close, find a group of women and dance with them.
  2. Tell him, “I’m going to go dance over there. Don’t come with me.”
  3. And a favorite, “I’m waiting for my boyfriend; he’s in the bathroom.”Sissy K's Dancing

During one trip to Sissy K’s I was dancing with this mini dude. I was in heals (which maybe made me 5’1″) and I was as tall as him. He reminded me of this short guy from my freshman year Tae Kwon Do class, who thought it was okay to pick me up and carry me like a doll. (What is it with men needing to do this?) Needless to say between this memory and my recent experience, I was on edge. When Mini Dude got handsey, he received  my long-winded explanation about the fake engagement ring. He stopped trying to grope me. When the song was over, I didn’t even say bye; I just danced over to my friends.

I stayed with the core group; about an hour later, the gorgeous Multi-cam Maven came back. She had wavy brown hair and killer smile, and she was a magnet for unwanted come-ons. This time, she was having an issue with a lanky boy and asked me to intervene. It seemed logical to pick someone of comparable beauty to distract him. There were others in the group that were more beautiful and alluring, but she picked ME. I was flattered. This simple request was another instance among many that helped restore the confidence Comicbook Crook took. More than anything, I was happy to protect my friend. I danced and talked with the lanky boy; he never touched me. When the song was over I excused myself to return to my friends that were on the other side of the room. All of a sudden Mini Dude bounded in and was throwing punches. The crowd swarmed.

A taller person shoved me back, blocking me from my friends.

Where are the bouncers?

I was scared. I couldn’t see my friends and I was worried I was going to get trampled. When the bouncers finally got there and broke up the fight, my friends and I found each other. One was laughing. She turned to the group beaming, “See, I was right; it was Sarah.”

I was sheepish. “What are you talking about? Men don’t fight over a friend’s wing-woman. That’s all I am.” Nobody listened to my argument.

Mini-Dude and his alcohol-fueled small dog syndrome ruined the evening of dancing. We went home. On the way, we stopped at the Convenience store inside the dorm and picked up supplies for salsa con queso. We spent the rest of the night in, eating and watching a movie.

Even though salsa con queso was our food of choice, I do not have a bad association with it. In general, salsa con queso was a staple food among us. We’d eat it from a jar and when time allowed, we made it from scratch. We were aware of the calories, but didn’t particularly care. Besides, when you’re in your early twenties staying up late eating and waking up early to go work it off isn’t a big deal. More than anything, salsa con queso was a way for us to hang out. Unlike cake or donuts, you can’t take a plate of it back to your room and hide.

I’m judicious with how often I make this stuff now, but I stick to the dorm recipe.

Salsa con Queso

INGREDIENTS
1 12 oz. jar favorite chunky salsa. (We preferred Ortega medium.)
1 16 oz. pkg. Velveeta cheese cut in to cubes.
Tortilla chips

STEP-BY-STEP DIRECTIONS

Microwave-Queso-Dip

Microwave:
1. In 1 ½ quart microwavable bowl, heat salsa and cheese at medium for 7 to 9 minutes.

2. Stir every minute or so until cheese melts and is well blended.

3. Serve with chips.
I now, prefer stop top because I have greater control over the heat.

Stove Top:
In saucepan, over medium-low heat, heat salsa and cheese, stirring constantly until cheese melts and is well blended.

*DORM COOKING – WASHING AWAY A NIGHT OF SKEEZY MEN

I shoved hard against his chest and kicked. When that didn’t work, I yelled at him to put me down. He did not put me down. He tried to take a kiss. I continued to push away and averted my face so my lips would be as far away from him as possible.

___________________________________________________________________________

Church camp helped rewrite my shaky inner-monologue and during senior year that inner-monologue continued to slough off. In large part this was because SuperFoods wouldn’t let me cloister myself away from irreverence. Hanging out and relaxing is natural for many people; for me it was not. But, with her constant encouragement, slowly, I was becoming comfortable with something as simple as hanging out. Bedroom Eyes started my affair with flirting and dancing, but they improved over time with SuperFoods’s continued to push to go out dancing at least one night a week. She didn’t need to push too much since I loved dancing. The problem was, I had done all of my sexy flirting dancing with a gay boy, so dancing and flirting with a straight guy was something I had to get used to.

I was excited about my growing flirting skills and wasn’t completely adept at using them. Clearly, this would take time too. Given my deep naiveté (as demonstrated with Guapo) and my diminutive size, my friends tried to look out for me. Standing at 4’ 11.5” I could easily get lost in a crowd, left behind (like they did at the Purple Shamrock) or just get into a situation.

sissy K's EXT

My friends recognized (and worried) that men gravitated towards me and acted like it was okay to do whatever they wanted because I’m small. Some men were more aggressive than others and I still needed to work on standing up for myself. One night while we were at Sissy K’s, I had the opportunity.

It didn’t work.

Sissy K’s was a bar in Faneuil Hall and our favorite place to dance. Shortly after arriving, the group splintered off and no sooner was there ten feet between us, one gargantuan man approached me with his friends and said he was going to pick me up. They were built like football players and looked like they had seen better days. He had a puffy face and bulbous nose, which I assumed was from drinking too much and his advanced age. With a bar that was predominantly college students and young professionals, he and his friends were by far the oldest there. I was scared, angry and incredulous that he thought his behavior was acceptable. I stood there and firmly told him, “DO NOT PICK ME UP.”

jack-facing-giant

He picked me up anyway.

I was horrified. I shoved hard against his chest and kicked. When that didn’t work, I yelled at him to put me down.

He did not put me down. He tried to take a kiss. I continued to push away and averted my face so my lips would be as far away from him as possible.

Where are the bouncers?

The giant’s friends laughed and continued to goad him on.

Why is this okay? Why me? I didn’t ask for this. I don’t even look that good.

SuperFoods hurried over. She looked so small below me. Copping her Brooklyn attitude, she only used  when necessary, she forced the giant to put me down. As soon he did, she yanked me away.

I was shaken up. She hugged me. We found our group of girls and she told them she was taking me home. On our way out, SuperFoods chastised the bouncers for doing a bang up job for protecting women against obtrusive drunk men. We walked home in almost complete silence and spent an evening in, cooking and eating.
I do not associate my recipe of the evening with the skeezy man; I associate with SuperFoods, our friendship and our shared passion for cooking.

DORM-STYLE CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CREAM PIE

Without dating someone, I still needed my baking & cooking for love fix. Like an addict, I kept baking/cooking supplies around because “you just never know.” As luck would have it, I had supplies for a dorm version of my Church Camp Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie.

INGREDIENTS
1 pre-baked graham cracker crust
½ cup chopped salted peanuts
16oz can Reddi-Wip
8oz cream cheese
1 cup melted dark chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter

**Hairdryer

Ingredients

STEP-BY STEP DIRECTIONS

THE CRUST
1. Take cover off pie shell.
2. Spread ¼ cup peanut butter in shell as best as possible.
3. Turn hairdryer on to high heat and melt the peanut butter into the crust. This will also help spread the peanut butter and in turn make it more spreadable.

**If you need more peanut butter to get a micro coat on the whole shell, that’s fine. Take more from your jar and spread until satisfied. This is comfort food, after all.

THE FILLING
4. 
Using a wooden spoon beat the cream cheese until smooth.
5. Add remaining ¾ cup peanut butter, ½ cup melted chocolate chips, and ¼ cup roasted peanuts, beat together.

Cream Cheese Batter
6. Create a cream cheese bowl/cavern within the mixing bowl.
7. Spray in roughly 4 cups Reddi-Wip into the cavern.
8. Fold it into the peanut butter/chocolate mixture.

9. Spoon into the prepared pan.

Pie

THE REST
10. In your secret microwave, melt more chocolate chips on 10 second increments, mixing as you go and adding a judicious amount of milk (or Reddi-wip) to keep it moist.
11. Spoon chocolate syrup onto plates.
12. The pie hasn’t had time to set up, but cut it as best you can and put it on the chocolate pool.
13. Garnish with more Reddi-Wip and chopped peanuts.

Pie Final

*THE BIG SANDWICH – A CAMPING ADVENTURE

Cosby SweaterMost people would not continue to date this guy. But, our relationship was like eating bad chocolate. You eat it because it’s chocolate. You’re disappointed it’s not great. You hope the next bite will be better. So, you take another bite, certain it will be better than the last. And, when it’s not, you keep eating until that piece of chocolate is all gone and you have a bellyache.

———————————————————

I dove into the deep end dating Cosby Sweater and did the best I could with my limited dating experience. I wasn’t sure I was ready for all the “norms” of an adult relationship. But again, I had no hymen and harbored the desire to make sex with him special. Even though there was something “off” about my first sexual experience, my conscious mind did not make the connection that it was date rape.  I had planned I would give my virginity to my husband or the man that would be my husband, so I tried to rectify this sexual experience. And yes, I now realize this was insane, but mind you, I was thinking I was going to spend the rest of my life with this guy…

…or at least make it more special than a one night stand.

There was a month left of school before Cosby Sweater would graduate. One month to organize the chaos. One month to make something happen. In that month while dealing with all this new stuff, I gladly took on the caregiver role he was seeming to require. I was twenty and it seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

While we worked through early relationship kinks, we got to know each other in the traditional where are you from sense.

What was your childhood like?

“One time when my dad was beating up Mom, I had to call the police. The cops came and took him away. After he moved out, Mom divorced him. I saw him on weekends.”

Even prior to Cosby Sweater interceding on his mom’s behalf, it seemed he had always been a target of his father’s criticism. Calling the cops only further complicated their relationship. Anything in Cosby Sweater’s life was up for critique, including me.

Cosby Sweater was 5 feet 7 inches, 126 pounds; I was 4 feet 11 inches, 135 pounds. I was happy to still be shedding my freshman weight, but not happy to outweigh my boyfriend. Body image issues continued with his consistent reminders of his father’s potential criticisms, in addition to my writing major being a poor decision, my complexion was a favorite topic. Pointing out zits, Cosby Sweater gave them sound effects, like the sound of popcorn popping.

Seriously?

A boyfriend is supposed to give you complements, not point out shortcomings that are out of your control.

His observations (and sound effects) hurt my feelings. But, I rationalized and put it under “Idiosyncrasies I Need to Get Used To.”

Cosby Sweater

Most people would not continue to date this guy. But, our relationship was like eating bad chocolate. You eat it because it’s chocolate. You’re disappointed it’s not great. You hope the next bite will be better. So, you take another bite, certain it will be better than the last. And, when it’s not, you keep eating until that piece of chocolate is all gone and you have a bellyache.

I kept hoping moments with Cosby Sweater would get better. The twenty-year-old me was thinking he was preparing me for judgment of his father. I’ve since realized he learned how to judge and communicate the way his father did. I thought I could love him into the man I knew he could be. And while loving him into the man I knew he could be, the pride of having an honest-to-goodness boyfriend I could love outweighed any critique he could dish out. (Besides, I was still trying to make my first sexual experience mean something.) Cosby Sweater accepted my love and affection. He seemed to think he was justified in his actions. I was not perfect. My skin was not perfect. I was a poor example of quality girlfriend. Cosby Sweater seemed to worry that his father would think he wasn’t perfect either.

Sure enough, when I Mr. Cosby Sweater and step-mom during Graduation Weekend my “poor choice” of major and bad skin came up. On some level I respected Mr. Cosby Sweater wanted the best for his son, but was more hurt that he was as critical as predicted. I was still in college and needed time to prove I was good enough for the family. Cosby Sweater’s mom, however, did not criticize— She appreciated who I was, what I was doing with my life and where I wanted to go. She was also wowed by my kindness. At the family dinner, I met more relatives, including his cousin and her husband.

His cousin invited us on a couples-only camping trip. I felt so grownup.

It was just like the movies!

Camping

I was still nervous about sex and emotionally reeling from my first sexual experience. One night while laying in our zipped-together sleeping bags, Cosby Sweater leaned over and kissed me sweetly. He said, “two weeks after we met, I knew how I wanted to propose.”

Um. Gulp!

Counting my church camp boyfriend, PK, this was only my second relationship. I wasn’t quite ready for marriage, but the idea of a future proposal helped me reconcile the sex out of marriage; it made me feel like this relationship was heading somewhere… Even though I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to marry Cosby Sweater. In fact, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to marry him. Being very curious I asked him how he was going to propose. He said I would have to wait until it actually happened.

Damn!

I guess I better see if I can  actually be okay with this sex thing.

Marriage CartoonWhile erasing the bad from the my first sexual experience, this non-proposal piqued my need to understand Cosby Sweater more. It’s not real life, but I was hoping that with love he would be the man I needed. Some may consider our one month of dating would qualify him as a stranger, but I had a large emotional investment and had figured out ways to love him. Besides, a couples-only weekend was a way for us to get to know each other better. We talked to the cousin-couple about relationships, food and cooking. More importantly, I was introduced to Cosby Sweater’s Big Sandwich. Rather, the recipe was his cousin’s. As she explained her method of constructing this gargantuan sandwich, she winked and said, “it is a two hand job.”

Maybe, her husband was a two-hand job. Nothing about Cosby Sweater required two hands.  

The best thing I got from this relationship was the Big Sandwich. As with most recipes I learn, I typically find a way to make them better. I’ve tested different assembly orders of the contents, but the order below gives proper flavor balance. Some reasons are for practicality (you don’t want cheese next to tomatoes due to a chemical reaction that can happen), but the rest is for taste and presentation.

INGREDIENTS:
Round loaf of bread (about a pound; I prefer pumpernickel since it has more flavor oomph for this recipe)
Pesto
Black pitted Olives (sliced on horizontal bias)
Roasted Red Pepper
Tomato
Meat** (can replace with cucumber cut on vertical bias)
Cheese
Sweet Onion
Lettuce

ROASTED PEPPERS

Grateful I had a stash of roasted peppers!

THE REST:

1. Slice the top off the round loaf. (It’ll become a lid of sorts, so you don’t want to make it too thin/thick/uneven.)

SLICE TOP(Rather than slicing the top straight off, I turn the loaf, making a perforated cut around the circumferance of the top. By doing this, it helps to ensure that your top is even.)

2. Hollow out the bread, leaving some room for the walls.

IMG_3847(To help with hollowing out, take a cerated knife and cut along the edges. It is more efficient than grabbing fistfuls of bread innards.)

3. Layer your ingredients it the same order they’re listed above. (Don’t do more than one layer each, if you’re too generous with your ingredients, the sandwich will fall apart.)

4. Slice the sandwich like a pie. (You should be able to get 8 pie-shaped pieces.)

MIDDLE
5. Skewer each piece with a large toothpick.

IMG_3855

Featured Bread: Artisan Beer Boule

6. Keep the sandwich wedges in their circular shape; wrap the whole sandwich in aluminum foil.

7. Refrigerate. (Tastes should have time to commingle and get to know one another before having a party in your mouth- 24 hours is ideal.)

TIPS:

You can typically preorder your bread boule from your local bakery. When you do this, you can specify the size.  (You’ll want a loaf that is 1 pond or more.) Also, pumpernickel is often overlooked, and I’ve often had to special order this flavor.

Budget about 1.5 hours for prep, assembly and cleanup.

FALLING APART

While slicing, sometimes, one wedge falls apart. That’s when you eat the evidence.