Fix Me a Sammich, Martha!- Chocolate Sandwich Cookies! -209 eggs, 158 3/4 cups of sugar, 156 sticks of Butter, and 195 cups of flour used so far- 57 recipes to go!

April 14, 2011

Marthas Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Andrés Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

I know this cookie looks a lot like the chocolate cookie cutouts I made a little over a year ago, but I assure it isn’t. Martha’s Chocolate Sandwich Cookies are a rich, chocolaty butter cookie filled and topped with a white chocolate ganache made from melted white chocolate and heavy cream with a touch of corn syrup added for extra-sheen. I was looking for a cookie I hadn’t tackled yet that I could shape into AIDS ribbons for a photo shoot I was asked to participate in for the cover of Kansas City’s Camp Magazine- the local gay rag (feel free to click on the link to the right under PRESS).

I can’t believe I’ve been at this for a year. I hope to finish this project in September and I’m looking forward to moving on past this challenge to explore my hand at writing a bit of fiction. Writing this much about myself feels a bit conceited. Luckily, I can do conceited very well.

Many readers have asked me what I plan on doing with all these stories at the end of this challenge. I will probably pull them together and look for a narrative arc, or at least devise one so that I can shop it around to a few publishers. Any publishers out there reading this? (insert sad puppy dog eyes here)

I was thinking about my friend, Al today. He’s an interesting character who is certainly worth a blog post. I met Al when he first entered the graduate directing program at LSU’s theatre department. As a directing student he was required to work with the local professional arm of the program where I was the resident music director and director of education and outreach.

Al was a strange and eccentric person. I loved him immediately. Even though he was a few years younger than myself, his shaggy and greying beard, his unkempt hair, his wire-framed glasses (c. 1975), his tweed coats, and his slouchy posture added the illusion of at least ten years to his actual age. Al was from New York City and had theatrical interests that leaned towards the classics. Mostly ancient Greek. He was also fond of the masterpieces of Russian literature. Dostoevski was, by far, his favorite.

It’s one thing to want to explore a career in the theatre. It’s another to want to produce theatre in America that no American really wants to see in a commercial venue. Believe it or not, audiences aren’t clamoring for tickets to see a new translation of The Women of Troy or War and Peace. Al wasn’t fazed by this notion, though. He loved his work and that was what he was going to do. I admired his resolve although I questioned his logic and his seemingly blind optimism.

Al had fascinating parents. His father was, for a time, the foremost and most outspoken socialist in America. In fact he penned several controversial books on the subject and was closely watched by the C.I.A.. After his death there have been several books penned about him as well as numerous political studies courses in universities across the world devoted to the study of Al’s daddy.

Al’s mother was one of the founding editors of The Village Voice, New York City’s popular politically liberal weekly newspaper. Al grew up in the shadow of two prominent New York intellectuals and national figures. Al was himself, an intellectual but I always felt that he expressed himself in a heightened vocabulary to win the approval of the shadowy phantom-figures of his parents. Approval that he was fated to never receive. This made me a bit sad for Al. Of course, in Southern Louisiana his advanced language skills were dismissed by most as pedantic or pretentious. It was difficult for the locals to connect with this young, professorial New York intellectual. Honestly, how often does someone use the word, “Lugubrious”?

During his time at LSU, Al and I grew close. Well, as close as anyone can be with a New York intellectual. He was a skilled director, even though his tastes in theatre were vastly different than my own. I composed the choruses for his production of The Women of Troy and although I didn’t get to see the production as I had taken another gig out of town, I heard it was quite good. He sent me a T-Shirt he had printed for the production, though. It read, “Contemporary plays are for pussies!”  I got a chuckle from a statement that was so very, well… Al.

Towards the end of his three-year study at LSU, Al penned a script for a theatrical production of Dostoevsky’s The Brother’s Karamazov and staged a reading of the play. He cast me in a small role and the reading was attended by a small but appreciative audience of friends and colleagues. The play took almost nine hours to read. It was a day-long event. I loved the fact that Al never considered nine hours is perhaps too long for people to sit through. He just pressed forward.

After graduating with his M.F.A. in directing, Al returned to New York City to manage his struggling theatre company and his struggling relationship with his long-time girlfriend, an elementary school teacher in the New York Public School System.  I got a phone call from him out of the blue to come up to New York and compose the score for his production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV pts 1 and 2.  Al, through a connection his mother had, was able to secure the famed LaMama Experimental Theatre Company’s space on the lower East side of Manhattan. LaMama is a six floor building with rehearsal space on the top floor and small theatres on all the other floors. The work they do is mostly daring, sometimes compelling and often avantgarde (i.e. makes no sense to anyone).

During the rehearsals and performance, I stayed with Al in his tiny flat in Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side. This is the neighborhood George Carlin grew up in and often referred to in his many comic monologues. When I say the flat was small, I mean tiny. It consisted of two rooms which were the size of most walk-in closets anywhere else in the United States. One room was the bedroom and the other was the den/kitchen/dining room with a small futon and a skinny door that led to a tiny toilet, tiny sink and tiny shower. The size of the accommodations wouldn’t have bothered me as much if Al kept the space clean or, at least sanitary. There were dirty dishes and containers of food that were, as evidenced by the growth of fuzzy, greenish-gray mold, months old. The smell was intense. I made it my first order of business to scrub the place from top to bottom before I would allow myself to lay my head down to sleep. When Al went out into the city for the day, I did just that. When he returned, he seemed a bit put off by my instigating war on his sloppy lifestyle.

Rehearsals were a challenge. I had a dolly with my keyboard and amp strapped down with bungee cables. I’d wheel my equipment slowly down the subway stairs, all 120-pounds of it, and then back up the stairs once I got to the lower East side. I’d then have to wheel it  into the theatre’s ancient elevator, which consisted of an archaic pulley rope system.  Of course, I only did this on the days when the elevator was operational which was almost never. Most rehearsals I’d have to lift my equipment up step-by-step to the sixth floor. I’d begin each rehearsal drenched in sweat and suffering heart palpitations. Go Shakespeare!

Al asked if I could play the roles of Westmoreland and the old Justice Silence. I agreed. This was not the best decision. The music which was performed live by myself and a percussionist required that we both sit at the back of the audience during the performance . For my entrances on stage, I’d have to run out of the back of the house, down two flights of stairs cross through the basement, up another flight of stairs and then onto the stage. After the production audience members told me they loved the choice I had made for my characters to be heavy breathers.

I decided after all of this: the cramped and untidy living quarters, the tiny paycheck, the aerobic transport of equipment, the exhausting back and forth on stage-  in order for Al and I to remain friends, I couldn’t continue to work with him.

I never told him that. When he’d call with project ideas and requests, I’d always find an excuse. (I’d love to but I can’t. I’m working on another show. I’m recovering from spinal meningitis. My Sea Monkey’s died and I’m in mourning.) After many offers and many refusals, I think he got the idea.

That’s why I was curious when he called me out of the blue.

I’d like to now present a dramatization of the conversation.

AL- Hey, André. I’ve got some news for you. Want to guess what it is?

ME- Are you getting married?

AL- Hardly. I broke up with my girlfriend months ago. Guess again!

ME- You’ve landed an awesome directing gig?

AL- Nope. Give up?

ME- Uh… Yeah.

AL- I’m Gay!

ME- (pause)

AL- I said, I’m GAY!

ME- That’s impossible, Al. I’ve seen your kitchen.

AL- I’ve finally realized that I like men.

ME- You’re not kidding?

AL- No. Not at all. Don’t worry. I’m not going to hit on you. You’re not my type.

ME- Uh… thanks?

AL- So, what do you think?

ME- I’m feeling a bit lugubrious.

Over the years I’ve met just about every type of gay man out there: Bears, Leather Daddies, Otters, Chubs, Twinks, Tweakers, Club Kids, Guppies, Drag Queens, Transvestites, Radical Faeries, Masters, Slaves, Chasers, Onanists, Silver Foxes, and Episcopalians. I’ve never met a gay man like Al. He’s  in a classification all his own.

Meet theTweedies. They’re gay, professorial types with a penchant for classical literature, warm cognac, comfortable sneakers, tweed coats, knit ties and  good cigars. They use words like Neo-Classical and Resplendent and are learning Russian to translate the works of Chekov for kicks. They diagram the meter of ancient Greek poetry like other men watch pornography and I’m very proud to have their founder as one of my weirdest and most wonderful friends.

One Response to “Fix Me a Sammich, Martha!- Chocolate Sandwich Cookies! -209 eggs, 158 3/4 cups of sugar, 156 sticks of Butter, and 195 cups of flour used so far- 57 recipes to go!”

  1. Rachael Says:

    The Brothers Karamazov experience was awesome for me. . . I remember the rehearsals like a sort of master class that I got into by accident – getting to see many of the actors I watched onstage all the time create their characters, and being able to actually work with them. Was super cool for me at the time (and the venue for my most awkward stage kiss ever). I also remember the cast all taking shots of vodka at the very necessary breaks during the loooooooong performance 😉 Thanks for bringing up the memory!

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