It’s a Twister, Martha!- Butter Twists! -179 eggs, 137 3/4 cups of sugar, 130 1/4 sticks of Butter, and 166 3/4 cups of flour used so far- 77 recipes to go!

January 21, 2011


Martha's Butter Twists

André's Butter Twists

I have a little hobby I started back in 1993. I’d just left the circus and returned to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I was couch surfing while trying to find gainful employment and a home of my own. I was offered the chance to work a few clown gigs since my time with Ringling had afforded me a bit of local fame. The skill most asked for was ballon twisting. I had no idea of how to even construct a simple balloon dog. I went to a local bookstore and picked up a book on Balloonology 101 and a bag of 260s. 260 is in reference to the size of a balloon once inflated. 260s are 60 inches long and 2 inches thick. They are the standard size most balloon twisters use. I quickly familiarized myself with the various types of twists, locks and knots needed to properly assemble a balloon sculpture.

Over the years I developed larger sculptures. I learned to weave balloons into baskets and other various containers. I then filled these with balloon flowers and tiny balloon insects to create elaborate arrangements. People love them. I even started a small side-business for awhile called PopArt (latex life forms with a twist).

Last weekend a friend and colleague asked if I would create a basket arrangement for her sister’s baby shower. I told her I could but I uncharacteristically jotted down the appointment on the wrong day on my calendar and I missed it completely. In order to make it up to her I baked her a batch of Martha’s cookies – Butter Twists, or in this case, I’m Sorry Cookies.

These are delicious and crisp cookies made from flour, egg, sugar, vanilla extract, and lots of butter. The dough is refrigerated and scooped out into teaspoon sized balls which are rolled on a floured surface into 3-inch ropes which are then twisted and baked till golden. They are buttery and mildly sweet with a salty aftertaste from the addition of coarse salt to the rich dough. They were much appreciated by my co-worker and all was forgiven for my lapse in organization. Once again, cookies saved the day.

I have a friend named Drew. He and I lived together for almost three years back in the 90s. It was in my little shack a few blocks from the mighty Mississippi river in an area of downtown Baton Rouge called Beauregard Town. It’s a house I’ve written about quite a few times now. There were two bedrooms separated by a small bathroom and adjacent to a great room that consisted of the living room and open kitchen.

Drew lived in the smaller back bedroom. He was a graduate student in theatre direction. When he entered the program he fell immediately in love with a fellow grad student named Louise. Drew, Louise and I first met when a flood drove them from their apartment near Louisiana State University and into my flat. I helped them salvage what they could but most everything they owned was waterlogged. They were both fascinating and incredibly intelligent people. My experiences up to that point had not put me in close proximity with true intellectuals. These two certainly were having both come from impressive academic backgrounds.

Drew was a very tall and slender fellow with an immense cloud of tight blonde curls that emanated from his pale and wrinkle-less scalp.  He had small steely-blue eyes set deep in an otherwise featureless face. He wore thin wire-framed glasses which he would often clean to make a point or chew on the arms when pondering a question. He often dressed in drab green pants and jackets rescued from what I imagine were rummage sales in Slovenia. He spouted politics, science, and philosophy with annoying regularity but I adored him. He was the smartest and most foolish person I knew and I couldn’t help but love the paradox that was Drew.

Louise, on the other hand was a pill. She was a single mother embroiled in a vague custody arrangement with her ex husband over her son, Jason. Louise alluded to a personal troubled past which included a recent nervous breakdown. She was quite petite and even paler than Drew with bright red hair and large green eyes that darted about nervously. She spoke with an affected New England dialect even though she was admittedly from below the Mason-Dixon line.  She, too was an intellectual but her topics of choice tended towards feminism, social injustice and conspiracy theories. She wore no make-up and her hair was rarely washed. Louise also had a distinct odor (which she would’ve pretentiously spelled odour) It was a smell I could best describe as a combination of patchouli and spoiled milk. I was intrigued by Louise but having struggled with my own lapses in sanity, I kept my distance lest I fall into her pit of crazy.

Drew and Louise stayed for a week with me and my boyfriend at the time, Troy. I have many stories about Troy but I’m in a pretty good mood right now and don’t want to spoil it. I’ll owe you some Troy stories with a future cookie.

During the time they stayed with us I got to know them quite well. We spent many nights cooking, sharing stories and smoking cigarettes and, of course, other stuff- they were grad students, for Pete’s sake. By the time they were ready to move back into their relatively dry apartment we had become the best of friends. I understood the dynamic of the relationship and why they were so drawn to each other. Drew loved Louise’s son, Jason. Drew deeply desired to be a father. Louise desperately desired to meet a husband. Neither of them were particularly drawn to the other beyond these simple desires and therefore in less than a year their relationship fizzled.

It was about the same time that Troy and I were finally able to call it quits. Drew and I met for a drink and to celebrate our new found bachelorhood when we came to the conclusion we should share my rental as friends and roomies. The very next day I helped Drew move his meager possessions into our house. We were terrific roommates. Very much the odd couple. He was the straight, intellectual slob and I was the gay local-yokel clown and yet our dynamic complimented each other. He became the little brother I always wanted and like a brother he could annoy the hell out of me and then do something so thoughtful that I had no choice but to forgive him. I’m sure I annoyed him many times, too. I’m certainly no saint, and as my significant other can attest, I have my moments.

We lived together for the next two years. After he graduated, he decided to hang around Baton Rouge until he could decide what to do next. It was during this time he tried his hand at several menial jobs including a vacuum cleaner salesman. He even tried his sales pitch on me which included me stepping into a large plastic bag as he suctioned the air out of the bag, sealing me tightly and rendering me immobile. I suggested he not try this tactic with the average housewife lest he end up on the ten o’clock news. After abandoning the alluring life of a traveling vacuum salesman, Drew soon met a young lady at an office where he’d secured a temporary position. Winnie was a tall brunette of what appeared to be Mediterranean decent- I later found out she was Black Irish, whatever that means. Her olive skin was lovely but caked in layers of thick make-up which concealed any naturally occuring beauty or feminine feature. I found her overly-made-up face a bit grotesque. As a former clown I feel I have a right to call people out on bad make-up choices. She had large horse-like teeth and when the light was just right you could see the trace of stubble under her chin and along the sides of her jaw. This is probably why she wore so much make-up. A friend noticed her stubble when we went out for dinner and later asked me if my friend was dating a tranny.

Winnie had a daughter, Fiona. She was adorable. Drew loved Fiona. Again, Drew desperately wanted to be a father and here was Winnie and Fiona desperately needing a daddy. Drew’s room and wallet quickly filled with photos of Fiona. He took her on excursions and all-day-adventures so that she and he could bond in a surrogate father-daughter relationship. I could see what was going on but I couldn’t interfere with my friend’s happiness. And he was truly happy. He soon moved in with Winnie and Fiona and quickly became the breadwinner and man-of-the-house. Drew and Fiona soon wed in a big family-filled church wedding and became a happy unit of three. Drew moved his new family to Astoria, New York, a wonderful Greek neighborhood in Queens. I visited them a couple of times during their time as newlyweds. Winnie chose not to work opting to stay at home and “keep house.” Fiona was enrolled in a small private school a few blocks from their tiny apartment. Drew was working as a contracted laborer for studio electrics hanging lights and rigging wires for television broadcasts and theatrical productions.

When I first stepped into their abode I was shocked. Their tiny apartment was filled with crap. I’m not saying that to be mean. Winnie had developed a shopping obsession and the tiny apartment was filled from top to bottom in boxes, clothes, toys, and useless items she had purchased during one of her daily shopping expeditions. There was also a pet gerbil lurking somewhere in the piles of junk evidenced by tiny pellets of gerbil poop on every surface. My heart broke for Drew and Fiona. Drew worked seventeen-hour days to pay the outrageous rent on their tiny flat and to keep Fiona in school. On top of that he had to deal with a wife who was quickly sinking into obsessive and damaging behaviors. I knew that this was the beginning of the end but, yet again, I said nothing. My friend had made a string of decisions that brought him to this point and as his friend, my role was to listen when he needed to speak and support him the best I could. I certainly couldn’t interfere.

Shortly after his father passed away, Winnie and Fiona left to return to Baton Rouge and a quick and painful divorce soon followed. I spoke with Drew weekly during what I imagine was the worse year of his life. He was quite sad and my heart was heavy for him but I knew one day he’d find his way around to a happier place.

He did.

Drew and I have been friends now for eighteen years. He met a wonderful and stunningly beautiful chanteuse named Kay and they live in the same little flat in Astoria. She has dazzling red hair and a beautiful warm smile and a singing voice that would melt butter.

She loves Drew for being Drew and he loves Kay for being Kay.

In the Fall of last year we all stood together in the beautiful setting of Alamo Park in front of the famed Victorian homes famously named The Painted Ladies, in Kay’s beloved city of San Francisco. We stood there in front of family and friends and one precariously kilted bagpiper standing in front of the mother of the bride on a windy afternoon. My love, Dan sat among the gathering of friends and I, newly ordained by the power of the internet, pronounced them man and wife. It was bliss. Simple as that.

There is a passage in the great Hindu poem The Mahabharata when the character Yudhistra is questioned by his father, a deity disguised as a great lake. Yudhistra is blessed with the noble ability to only speak truth. When his father, Dharma, asked him the question:

What is the inevitable?

Yudhistra serenely answered:

Happiness.

To my friends, Drew and Kay, I could wish nothing more. May you both bless each other with many, many happy days.

That goes for all of you who have a special someone in your life who fills your days with simple joy.

If you’re not there yet, hang in there. Remember, happiness is inevitable.

Yudhistra said so.

So do I.

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