Chef Stu’s Apple, Rhubarb, Berry Pie

CRUST
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 TB sugar
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
6 TB iced water

FILLING
10 strawberies, cleaned, quartered
1/2 cup blueberries
2 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch slices, or 1 cup of rhubarb pieces.
1 lemon, juice of
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2inch cubes
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup of flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 T butter, cubed.
1 egg and a TB of milk/cream, mixed for egg wash

CRUST: Use store-bought crust if you don’t want to make your own, but it’s pretty easy. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and the two cold sticks of butter in a food processor and pulse till the butter is pea sized shaped (I use a manual pastry blender, but I’m old school). Now by hand, add 4TB of the ice water, mixing with a fork, adding the next 2BT slowly if needed. If you can crunch the dough in your fist and and it holds together it got enough water. If not add another tablespoon or two. Make two hockey pucks of the dough (one a bit bigger), wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour (up to 48 hours). Remove from fridge 30 min before using.

THE PIE: Roll out the larger disc and line pie plate. Use a fork to puncture holes (this is called scoring) all over the bottom, to prevent air bubbles and ensure even heating.

FILLING: Prep berries and rhubarb and put in large bowl. In a separate bowl, add lemon juice. Peel, core and dice the apples adding to the lemon juice as you go (so the apples don’t brown). Add the apples and juice to the berries. Add sugar, flour, cinnamon. Mix slowly until uniform. Fill pie.

Roll out smaller dough disk and cover the pie. Make 5 slits for air holes. Paint crust with egg wash. Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes, until crust is golden.

UPGRADES
– crust: substitute half of the butter with lard (even more flakier)
– filling: substitute half of white sugar with brown sugar (deeper sweetness)
– filling: add tsp of ground cloves (slightly more mature tasting)
– filling: add tsp of nutmeg (slightly more mature tasting)

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HANDY DANDY GUIDE TO PRIDE CONVERSATIONS

Don’t fight about Pride, arm yourself with facts. Mainstream media, and to a large extent the larger non-LGBT community, have helped to perpetuate a few myths about BLM and Pride and the reasoning behind it all. Below are some common statements you might hear concerning Pride and a suggested answer.


Divisive or Connective?
How a person chooses to view the world impacts how they interact with it. If you see Pride as creating a divide than you are right, that’s what it is for you. Conflict exists as a function of communication which can make things better, or for some it’ll create fear. Either are okay but it’s when we are not in touch with our emotions, we essentially put ourselves into a bubble.

If I told my aunt I had a cold or a bad encounter with a bully at school she would discount my entire experience, trading my feelings for how she wanted to see me. “Oh you just need some rest.”, “Ignore them, they don’t matter.”, “But you can do everything they can, you’re just letting them get to you.”. While I admire her ability to maintain an aura of peace around our family I started to notice that what she was doing was protecting herself from having to get involved and possibly experience the pain the comes from identifying with my powerlessness. She loved me dearly so her comments were meant from a place of love, yet their effect was profoundly dismissive. She was right, Maybe I should try harder, be less loud or try ignoring the situation. But is this helping to solve my problem? It does make my aunt feel better and affirm to her that she’s on the outside looking in. In reality she’s now complicit in the problem, confirming that my bullies are right.

Tolerance is being with others whose life experiences are different from yours and not trying to change that. Don’t think there’s a problem? That’s okay, but anything you contribute to the larger conversation, is still a contribution. The world has never gotten along and while it’s a nobble goal, it’s perhaps a naive one. Peace and goodwill are concepts, not ways of life. Peace cannot exist in a vacuum, it comes with non-peace. We can pretend it’s otherwise, but the wars still rage. If you find yourself asking ‘What’s the problem?’, that’s a good start. If you don’t want to get involved that’s your right.

While concentration camps are being built in Chechnya, Torontonians could ask themselves what has been their contribution to the Pride/Police debate? What you experience is directly related to how you experience the world. Some see conflict as destructive while others use it to be constructive. ‘I have better things to do’, ‘this is all nonsense’ is a contribution. Albeit, not a very constructive one.


Statement: The police union claims this is discriminatory because everyone should be allowed to march.
A:
 With friends like these, who needs enemies? Instead of curiosity about what’s wrong, they try and out-victim the victims. By police logic the Boy Scouts, women’s only hours and seniors homes who prohibit one group in favour of another are therefore discriminatory because they are restricted to those it was created for. The gym I go to is owned by a university who close it daily for a women’s only hour. Imagine if the school threatened the gym’s funding, because they were prohibiting men. It’s fantastic if men support the space but insisting they are allies and therefore be able to work out with them misses the point entirely.

Making space’s safe by prohibiting others from taking too much space is how an unhealthy balance can be restored, even if only temporarily. By police logic our allies are picked for us, like it or not. It’s nice to have allies but since when did we imbue them with this much power over our parade? A local politician who comes to your annual house party is not an ally in the same way as the straight friend who calls you up periodically to see how your doing. The police are that once a year politician.



Statement: There are better ways to achieve change within the LGBT community.
A: What happened this past Pride might only news to some, it’s been ongoing for decades.


Statement: How is banning cops going to help bring people together?
A: The cops have not been banned. Their guns, tasers and uniforms are. The cops that are there in an official capacity are not at question. Just the ones who want to march with us.


Statement: BLM tactics are too aggressive.
A: To put things in perspective, our current parade is the result of over 1,000 LGBT people marching down Yonge Street in 1981, no permits, yelling “Fuck-you 52!”. When a handful of black people organize a peaceful sit-in for 20 minutes they are branded aggressive. Hmmm.


Statement: Pride is for everyone, we all should be included.
A: This would mean all of our allies should feel safe before we do. Pride has never been for all human rights, you’re thinking of the Santa Claus Parade. All parades stand for something but that doesn’t mean they against everything else.


Statement: All Lives Matter.
A: No, actually they don’t. Not equally. That’s what this is all about. If all lives mattered, there wouldn’t be a parade in the first place.


Statement: Why is everything in the LGBT community about sex and gender?
A: Because that’s the definition of LGBT, who and how we choose to love. Let’s not confuse it with fashion sense or any other ‘lifestyle’ choice.


Statement: They’ve taken over Pride.
A: Who then should get more space? Viagra, The Pickle Barrel, TD, Trojan, Fido, Bud Light, Stoli, Air Canada, Truvada or Toyota? While making room for the general public and importing high-priced talent from the US (and elsewhere) they were simultaneously striping the communities longest running stage, Blockorama, of half its operating funds, then axed the black queer youth and south asian stage. Meanwhile the cost to participate in Pride has become inaccessible to much of the community. Does your community event want a listing in the Pride Guide? Pay up.


Statement: But what about the funding?
A: In recent history TD demanded all plackets and banners be pre-approved by them (at first ask, Pride obliged), Trojan demanded that NO other condoms be used or sold at Pride (Pride obliged, banning ALL competitors condoms and forcing AIDS organizations to strike a deal with Trojan) and then some of our ‘allies’ at city hall threatened to cut funding based on who we decided was allowed in our parade. Do you really want our funding to be used to control us? Here, let me give you $100 to support you being you. Just keep yourself small and don’t cause a fuss if you want to see another $100 next year. It’s the golden rule of fundraising, don’t set up a conflict where you allow your sponsors to dictate what you do. That’s not an ally.


Statement: What’s the big deal, the cops are our friends.
A: Not to everyone. Shree Paradkar of the Toronto Star puts it like this “the power dynamics between an armed, uniformed, institutionalized force and a grassroots grouping of pariahs would have made accusations of reverse discrimination laughable. One was formed out of protest to the other. The inherent tension did not warrant an inclusion of the perpetrator and executor of inequality.”

Imagine having grown up in the residential school system where many of your teachers regularly beat you and many of your peers. There’s no one around to help and so the abuse continues year after year. One day there’s a march for of Freedom From Residential Schools, a celebration of aboriginal freedom. But there’s a catch. Residential teachers from every single school in the province are going to show up and march alongside with you as your allies.


Statement: BLM lost an opportunity to get outsiders onside.
A: Read the Salon article Black People Are Not Here To Teach You


Statement: Cops are great people, some are even identify as LGBT.
A: Yes, the same goes for any industry. The people are not in question as much as the institution. As far as organizations one doesn’t have to look far to get a sense for the corruption. It’s one thing to have a bad or rouge cop but the bigger problem is that bad cops are often protected while the people they are paid to keep safe, are not.

Statement: They are dividing Pride.
It doesn’t have to feel like that. What if we all take a step back and ask ourselves, is this what we really want? Surely there’s always room for improvement and dialogue. The same goes for the police. Wouldn’t it be something if Pride uses it’s position for the betterment of our city? The conversations with the police is about making relations better. We will all benefit from that, even the cops.


Statement: Why can’t they just ask, instead of forcing the issue.
They have been, for years. BLM is not a group unto itself. They represent many groups throughout the city and use their actions to tackle shared problems. Not too long ago AIDS forced an entire generation to demand change in the same way. Peaceful disruptions like die-ins were tactics that worked when asking failed. The LGBT movement grew from anger and frustration, asking and waiting had failed. Historically most change happens this way, through peaceful demonstration and acts of interruption.


Statement: This is reverse racism.
A: Read the article VICE article Dear White People, Please Stop Pretending Reverse Racism Is Real


Statement: But what have we really achieved?
Remember that list of demands the Executive Director signed? They have been met.
This is not a BLM issue, they represent many community groups. Now that they have achieved their goals, it’s up to us to start acting like a community by listening to one another.


I’m straight and I don’t like what’s going on.
There’s lots you can do, but forcing your opinion is not one of them. If you are not a POC or LGBT and you have strong opinions on a matter not directly affecting you, perhaps you could check your privilege. It’s not just poor sensitive you, nobody likes conflict. But your rights are not at stake here. It’s not my place to decide if an abused woman was really abused. My job is to listen and provide support as she needs it. This goes for the reverse, victims are not always completely innocent. We are all connected and interdependent so if you think there is a universal victimhood that is automatically truthful, than you too are part of the problem. Being a victim is not a virtue, neither is being a bully. Extreme positions, create extreme situations. Listen for what’s real and speak for yourself, avoid telling others what life is or should be like.


If you have a Statement & Answer you’d like to add, or a suggestion, please leave us a comment below. 

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Flying United?

Where There’s Smoke: #FreeCannabisCulture

Two years ago the Trudeau government promised to support the legalization of marijuana but instead has continued urging a police crackdown on dispensaries. Dubbed Project Gator, the most recent raids occurred across Canada today with dozens of police simultaneously swooping in on five Cannabis Culture locations in Toronto, one in Vancouver and one in Hamilton arresting five people.  Continue reading

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REVIEW: Damaged Goods

Combine Who Framed Roger Rabbit with a gay South Park you’d end up close to TOSOS Damaged Goods. Virginia Baeta’s queer metaphorical twist on a murder mystery is a fun and whimsical journey into the gender-bending world of Thomas Sparks, a private dick who is bent on bedding the seductive Iris Carnegie played by the uber-talented Karen Stanion.

Sexy, sultry and seductive, the cast of Damaged Goods are as smart as they are funny. If the writing doesn’t hook you, the adorable and enduring characters will. Although, good luck figuring out who the cis characters are, but perhaps that’s the point.

Photo: Karen Stanion and Virginia Baeta by Ben Strothmann.

TADA
15 W 28th Street
New York, NY 10001
Until March 18th, 2017 or
TICKETS

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Perfect Clams

Today we combine our series revolving around the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto and our visit to Chef Pietro’s restaurant Monte’s in New York. You may remember his clam dish that was featured a few posts back. I got him to show me the dish again hands on his kitchen, and he shared a very cool tidbit: “When the clams start to open, pry them open, don’t wait till they fully open, or they will be slightly over done”. Very cool.

Upcoming tidbits will include sea asparagus, escarole, and other cool greens. See you soon. Don’t forget to make any suggestions for upcoming shows and to also order your Kitchen Tidbits if you haven’t already done so – all proceeds go to Nikibasika youth project in Uganda.

Order Kitchen Tidbits (Canada)
Order Kitchen Tidbits (US)

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REVIEW: Introducing Mr Wilde or Work is the Curse of the Drinking Class

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Written and performed by Neil Titley, “Introducing Mr Wilde, or Work is the Curse of the Drinking Class” is a smart and often cheeky introduction to the life and death of Oscar Wilde. Introducing Mr. Wilde has literally toured the world including sold out performances for the last three years at the highly competitive Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and is now at the Red Sandcastle Theatre as part of The Wilde Festival. What Titley lacks in flamboyant dress he makes up for with deliciously dreamy story-telling and a sincerity of character that was as compelling as he was funny.


Introducing Mr Wilde, or Work is the Curse of the Drinking Class
Jan 6–15, 2017, various showtimes
Red Sandcastle Theatre
922 Queen St E, Toronto

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Street Children

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Street Children by Pia Scala-Zankel is pure unadulterated street realness. Unsettling at times, Street Children is set during the 1986 on the Hudson Piers in New York City and portrays the lives of the LGBT street youth in a real and honest light. This period in our history was one of the most exciting times for our community because our of our struggles an entire activist community was born.

This period was also the most dangerous because of the prevailing homo/transphobia as well as the AIDS crises. Street kids, hustlers, prostitutes, drug addicts and criminals are labels that are used to cast off the ‘other’ yet despite this this, these kids formed into a family that bonded together in order to ride the most tragic circumstances imaginable. Street Children is a ninety minute journey into the courageous lives of our communities unintended activists. If there is an activist bone in your body, this play will find and expose that part of yourself that is willing to fight and protect the most vulnerable people in our culture, LGBT street youth. #StreetChildren #NoShade

 

New Ohio Theatre
TICKETS
Vertigo Theater Company

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Photo: Ted Alcorn


 

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Black Boys

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As provocative as it is entertaining, Black Boys is a camp adventure into queer male blackness. Stephen Jackman-Torkoff, Tawiah Ben M’Carthy, and Thomas Olajide make up the three member performance team Saga Colectif which mix together personal stories, beautiful choreography, smart dialogue and potent stage presence into a metatheatrical experience that’ll reinvigorate your love for live theatre. The performances were potent, complex and brought out more questions than answers, which fuelled the sense of urgency behind the exploration of the ties the bind us to our past, and each other.

Black Boys
November 19 – DECEMBER 11, 2017
Buddies In Bad Times Theatre
TICKETS

Photo by Tanja-Tiziana

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Yes Sir I Have Arrived (Chapter 14)

On the Finch bus going west I sit with Elaine and thank her for what seems to be the tenth time for coming along with me to support me on my first night at Charlie T’s as Hilary is nowhere to be found.  Elaine’s never been inside a strip club, and after me telling her the stories about me and Hilary’s investigation, one would guess that she’d really be put off, but instead she’s agreed to be moral support. I plan on having her sit at a table close to the stage and tell her that I want her to be completely honest and critique my set. Walking into Charlie T’s with Elaine I feel prepared. The shoes, perfume, and my stretchy ruby slip dress provide me with enough security. My mind is on hyper-speed looking to find answers to the questions: Why am I not nervous? Why am I not shaking? I was totally nervous when I auditioned for Theatre school as the preparation alone of knowing two characters, two pieces, and understanding my three year post-grad stint depended solely upon my talent, or me displaying whatever qualities in those moments so the teachers could assess me, really had me on the edge. But now, I didn’t need to audition to work here – the stakes were not that high. Using improvisational skills I had learned since I took Improv comedy and drama from the age of 9 I would be doing what those theatre sissy’s couldn’t handle – studying characters by working alongside them and actually getting to be one of them.  This is my present rationalization: I am engaging in a real-life character study. I will master this character, I convince myself and put my new two-day old burlesque entertainer license in the front pocket of my green suede backpack. I will completely look, dress and smell alluring enough that I can convince these men I’m a real deal stripper. 

      The first thing I do when I’m entering the club is squint my eyes to try to see anything in front of my face.  Even though it’s ten o’ clock outside the cold November night is well on its way to darkness, I find the club darker than it was before. But out splayed in front of me, like that roadhouse strip club in a movie, I can’t deny the pride I feel as I have finally arrived at this soundproof, secret island. Too many of the days I wanted to scream, snatch, claw and dance into something this real, this dangerous, this risky, and now, I feel exactly like I am doing just that. My heart pumps faster and I cover it up by nodding to the last part of Pearl Jam’s EvenflowIf only they knew how I’ve been preparing for working by doing all my research in clubs they’d really respect my commitment, I think. Convincing myself that Danny was going to give me a warm welcome almost manifested the reality set before me. This wasn’t fictional but the reality that I choose to work in. All the characters were here like a few days ago as I find comfort in seeing the same waitress, bartender, bar-back, DJ and girls who I just shook hands with before.  Looking around I wonder how many girls were freelancing and how many actually held a place on schedule. Okay -time for a pow-wow to keep Elaine from taking off, I lean in,
“Okay – Elaine, before I go back there to change, I have to check in with the DJ so he can see my license.” I say loudly over Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.”

                         Nodding happily Elaine tells me she’s sitting up at the left side of the stage. If it was Hilary she’d be coming through the change room door with me, but that’s not going to happen tonight.  It’s not that I miss her, it’s just that I’ve adjusted the plan to accommodate her absence and now have an objective witness who can help to sharpen and direct my first attempt at a stage show. Who better than to have a photographer friend?
Confidently walking to the booth I feel  all the heads from the men turn and look my way, as if they all know I’m the “new girl”. That’s totally not self-centered for me to think that as I feel it. I slip into to the dark DJ booth where I find it somewhat funny that the size is just a little bit larger than a phone booth, and ironically enough there is a phone in here alongside a lighting board. Looking at the puffy Chinese face of Jeremy the DJ (who will forever be permeated into my psyche as the one who beats up on his stripper girlfriend Jelilah) cradling the phone on his shoulder, who I hope he doesn’t pick up on the fact that I already hate him makes me avert my eyes so I begin to look down at all the CD’s he has. Three huge leather bound CD books fan out like oversized albums, I take in a deep breath as I can’t even imagine owning one book that size filled with CD’s never mind three. Hilary and I still listen to tapes. He puts his pudgy hand over the receiver and asks me to get out my license. I give it to him and while he’s on the phone he writes down the number at the bottom of the clipboard, telling the caller to ‘get back to him in five as he has to take care of the freelancer’.  I accept my new identity as now the ‘Freelancer.’
“Hey, Okay so did you see Danny yet?” He asks me tapping his pen.
“No, I thought I had to check in with you first,” I quickly answer.
“Normally yes, but since it’s your fir-“ he pauses in the way Fred Flintstone does in the cartoon where the aliens take over and has him repeat in monotone: Yabba Dabba Do.  Jeremy’s automatic response has him turning on the microphone, “Thank you Christina, she’s something else eh boys? Don’t be shy, you can get Christina or anyone of our sensational girls over to your table for a private dance. Drink specials al night. Enter to win a car from Labbatts Blue – just ask your sexy server for a ballot, and here next up we have another gorgeous girl – Wild Cherry. Let’s give her a warm welcome.” He looks out the window, presses some buttons on the CD player, clicks off the mic and writes down my name.
“Athena with an I?”
“No, A-T-H-E-N-A. I can’t picture where the ‘I’ went in so I don’t say anything. It makes methink about why someone would choose to become a strip club DJ, and how much High School he’s done.  Out to my left I watched a curly-haired brunette get on stage in a shiny red bell-bottomed pantsuit and bounce around the back bar to “Love in an Elevator”

“I’m assuming your freelancing and not on schedule, right?”
“Yeah, I’m not sure about going on schedule yet – but tonight I’m definitely freelancing.”
“You know you have to give me the ten dollar stage fee now, and freelancers are also required to do one stage show – sometimes more than one if I’m short of schedule girls that shift.  You need to tell me what you’re dancing to.”
I took out my three CD’s (Romeo and Juliette Soundtrack, Garbage, PJ Harvey) and showed him the order as I marked it on the discs. He didn’t compliment me on my organizational song listing skills, or say how much he liked the film Romeo and Juliette.
“So, tracks one, six and nine right?” I nod. “Don’t forget to pick this up before you go tonight, I don’t keep CD’s overnight. Always keep your ears open for your name, but chances are you won’t go up for another hour.”
That is perfect, I think, as that way I can put more make-up on and settle in. I didn’t think Elaine would want to sit for an hour, but at this point what was I going to say to her?
“Thank you Jeremy.” I say in a voice that I believe is more mature than the average stripper. He nods back at me. I pass a girl with short red hair and white sarong on her way to see him and she smiles at me.

Back in the office I still believe it resembles an office found in a mechanics garage. The Sunshine girl I had previously noticed was still there. It’s funny to me how I was just here once, but the fact that I have returned, and am here now, proves that I didn’t imagine any of it.  Danny was wearing a suit again, and this time jumped out of his chair to shake my hand.
“Good to see you! Did Mark drive you in? Have a seat.”  He looked excited and straightens his tie. I sit across from him watching him search through papers beside the ash tray.
“Hey, yeah, well I took the bus in tonight.” I am not going to tell him that I can’t yet reason paying the ten dollars for the DJ and another ten to get driven one way as that was a luxury for the girls who’re already making money. I am completely bedazzled by the signs of women’s prosperity all around me. If they could afford these nice costumes, and shoes and to get their nails and hair done, then they must be doing really well here.  He gets up to close the door.  I now begin to feel amused at this entire ‘signing up’ process. Maybe I should be leery of what I’m signing myself up for, a voice in the back says,
“These are just to make sure that the name on the license matches up with the girl on the floor, and if you’re even thinking at this point of going on schedule, and I pay you then we may need to get your SIN number.”
“But, if I work here tonight, I don’t need to give you my SIN right?” If my SIN was involved there’d be a record of me working here – and I definitely do not want that. I fill out the sheet with my address, birth-date, and sign the bottom. Nothing really scare me other than writing: zero, under the place asking me if I had any piercings or tattoos.  I wondered how many other girls had left that part blank. I didn’t want to joke around with Danny or make it too casual, as he needs to know that I take this very seriously.
“Do I get a lock from you for the lockers?” I ask him, handing him the sheet. He looks it over as I wait anxiously to change and hit the floor.
“Nice choice of name – Athena.” I get goosebumps by the way that he says it – and so readily accepting of my false moniker.  All part of this work world.  Come in, give your music, pay your fee to work – the concept alone is so utterly strange to grasp. I think about how many other people I currently know who pay to work and accept that rule with no questions asked.
Danny escorts me across the floor, as he nods and winks at the dancers. I feel as if there’s a big sign around my face reading: NEW GIRL! NEW GIRL! And I just want to get my make-up touched up and avoid these men (potential customers) seeing me without my costume on in my everyday winter coat. I don’t want them to be able to identify me by my vintage coat out in public as that would really be shitty.  I wonder, why doesn’t this club have a door from the outside that leads into the change room, why the inconvenience of a long walk from the front entrance?  I see Elaine and she waves at me.
“Is that your friend Hilary?” Danny asks me. He must really need girls to work here, otherwise why would he remember her name.
“Uh, no Hilary can’t come until next week” I make up an excuse as I really want to tell him, “Yeah she’s kinda pre-occupied with her newest drug Heroin. But doncha worry nothin’ cause she’s just a regular ole lush like me.” Instead I continue to tell him unnecessary, albeit helpful information like how she did get her license with me and will be coming to make an appearance soon, but Elaine is my moral support for my first evening on the pole.
“Okay Summer….hey Summer,” Danny tries to get the attention of the pasty-skinned brunette behind a circle of skinny strippers. Now if anything I am nervous. The girls wobble, lurch, teeter and mince around this depressing gum-ball pink colored change room.  Tall lockers line the walls along all three sides with one wall covered by a mirror and counter and to the left pay-lockers.  These are the same looney-lockers which exist in shopping malls, and make me panic as I don’t think I have a looney on me.  A red-head pulls out her orange key as she avoids being run-down by a black girl trying to rush out the door.
“Come on girl please move, I got to change for my second song!” She throws down a hand towel the size of a place-mat and a shiny blue purse.
“Shit, if it’s your second song that means that I’m on soon too,” a bleach blonde with terrible roots pipes up.
Danny’s male presence is somewhat accepted and cancelled out in the changeroom with half-naked, half-dressed dancers. I like him. He’s comforting to me at this time the same way your mother is on the first day of grade one.
“Summer, can you please take a sec and help out the new freelancer Athena in finding a locker to use eh?”
In the same manner a father would leave his daughter when she’s gone to sleepover camp, Danny tries to untie me with a helpful stripper to be a ‘buddy’.


“Move, move, sorry…” The dancer I just saw hit the stage as ‘Wild Cherry’ bursts in this tight space and is completely naked aside from her scuffed white stilettos holding two sweaty glasses of white wine which she plunks down on the counter, wine sloshing over falling onto the pile of her shiny red costume.
“Hi! I’m Athena, howzit going?” I greet her as I apply lip liner.
“Are you always going to talk that way?” she confronts me turning to focus her gaze on my hair. I immediately recognize her assessing my tresses from years of clubbing experience and become self conscious immediately.
“Oh, I just wanted to…I just…” oh shit, I think, why did I just do that? In barely seconds after Danny exited I have not remained invisible or established street cred in a positive manner.  Why didn’t I just follow the ruse of not talking to another stripper unless she speaks first?
“Scootch over Kat, “ Wild Cherry slurs pushing into a drunk girl with a short bob of blonde and glittery pink halter top on. She slings her silver mini-backpack into her locker where there’s more sparkly spandex than the entire Pride Parade.  I couldn’t be distracted or make another mistake, I have to be focused, forget everything and apply my make-up with out interruption, I think.   My eyeshadow goes on with focus as Kat wraps herself in a cheap flea-market fuzzy blanket and complains how “fuckin’ freezing-ass cold” she is. I am now exposing myself to a certain lower class Canadian dialect as I hear their comments,
Shit, I seen buddy at the bar and no ways is he coming out with me tonite
Nobody gonna take my regular – I gots half an hour and half a bottle of blue before my next set guy.”
I keep applying my blush deeper and another girl chimes in about how hot the lights are on stage and how she’s slipping every, “which fuckin’ way to Sunday cause some dumb bitch wore too much lotion on stage tonight” Now my black liquid liner which requires patience and adept focus is applied as a shooter tray is placed on the counter and a girl with sweat dripping from her forehead and chest asks everyone for a baby wipe and some rollies as her friend is here with the ‘seriously good hydro’.  Four girls who are fussing in their lockers with perfume and cigarettes commiserate with the plan on chipping in to getting some of said hydro, and one of my eyes is almost dry when another girl comes back with a cooler and yells about how: stupid this shit hole club is for never bringing in enough men!.  I feel comfortably detached as I observe their chaotic routine feeling entirely removed and loving every second of it.

Compared to the dressing rooms in movies and in Markham Theatre where I’d performed for the last four years in Arts High School, these girls have a bum deal. Here I smell and feel chaos – true chaos where they’re packed in and have no other alternative then to be prickly, cramped and annoyed leading to some unavoidable confrontations and complaints about personal space. What they need is really proper lighting, I think, and how tragic it is to do my makeup in a dingy mirror with a single, fixture-less light bulb hanging down.  On the positive side: at least the mirror went across the entire wall, but who can imagine these third-world, barely adequate conditions exist behind the swinging change room door? Definitely not me.  Do not show that this phases you, the voice inside my head tells me. The space we have behind the Have-A-Java counter isn’t much bigger than this, I reason.  Somehow with the girls swooping in crying about customers, lighting up cigarettes and joints, and yelling at each other about who’s set was up next, I manage to get my black g-string on, short-shorts, and sheer black top. I shove everything in my back-pack and bend down to find my own Loonie-locker. I start to open the ones that aren’t locked and to my surprise every single one of them is stuffed to the capacity with some other strippers stilettos, costume bags and crap. I’m taken over by a surge of frustration and panic as I feel the heat before the tears begin.  NO, you can’t cry like a baby Annie. You just need to pull it together and ask if someone can share their locker with you. Gazing up at the tall, gawky blonde chatting with the implanted dancer I just chicken out. Taking my backpack and coat with me I leave the change room in my costume and quickly zoom across past the tables focusing straight ahead at the office. I knock on the door and Danny opens it knowing just by a quick glance-over why I came.
“Okay, usually Athena there are plenty of available lockers, and that’s why you may have to get here earlier next time to just get one, okay? But for now, since it’s your first night I’m going to let you keep your stuff in here. I got no problem with unlocking the door to let you get what you need.” He becomes my savior and I thank him while spraying myself quickly one more time with my drug-store score of: White River Musk. I am also grateful to be out of the noisy change room and somehow blessed with a quiet, private, suite of my own.  Not bad, I think ready to take on the floor for a first shift.
I try to move around the tables in my new ridiculously high platform mary-janes as naturally as possible. I’ve been doing this for years, I try to convince myself. Watching how the other girls glide into places at tables with customers I see them laugh, touch their boobs, and somehow make conversation, I take a breath and re-assure myself that I can attract someone to come to my table to get a table dance with me using improv. One of the shooter girls from the back of the room makes her way over to me.
“Good Evening doll! What club are you coming from or are you new on schedule or just freelancing for tonight?” She asks me through a perfect pair of glossed burgundy lips.
“Hey, I’m just freelancing tonight, but if it works out I’m thinking of going on schedule”
“Did you go up on stage yet? She asks balancing her tray on one knee.
“No, I go on in about thirty minutes or something,” choosing to withhold the fact that it will be my first time.
“I’m Anastasia,” She holds out her hand which has incredibly polished long nails in a shiny pearly-pink colour.
“Hi, I’m Athena,” every time I say my name I feel more and more in character.
“Cool name, like that a lot.” She nods and her short cropped brownish black hair falls to the other side. “Okay so hon, here’s how it works…when you sit with a customer and you’re talking and stuff, if you see me coming up act all totally surprised like, and I’ll offer you guys a shooter, so hold off him getting you a second drink when you see me coming up, Okay?” Second drink? I hadn’t even had a chance to snatch a customer to get me a first, and now I was pre-occupied with another pressure added to simply getting my customer to buy a lap dance from me. Her shooter tray featured a coffee-coloured shooter which I’m sure I’ll love, and more than that makes me want to ask if she’ll throw me a freebie but I don’t dare.  She picks up her tray with expertise and smiles, “thanks”
“I think I’m up to dance soon so I’ll see you around,” Feeling better having talked to one of the staff I go out further on the floor to check on Elaine.

“Oh my God Annie, you look so good!  Wow…this is totally surreal…I seriously can’t believe you’re going for this. Do you think they’d let me take photo’s in here?” Typical of Elaine, so clueless.
“Probably not for privacy reasons.  But can you just imagine if you could – that would be the best art piece ever. Look at my mary jane platforms, don’t they rock?” I ask her trying to stay calm.
“For sure! Okay so are you going around to actually talk to these guys?” Elaine’s eyebrows twist and she turns her head to the direction of perverts row.
“Yeah, but I still have to listen for the DJ to call me up to the stage.” As we talk there’ s waitresses moving around tables, men drinking and eating with some girls and people yelling for the shooter girl to take a shooter out of another girls bra. It’s busy and I am overwhelmed with what to do next.
“Okay Elaine, so when I’m done on stage I’ll get dressed and sit back here with you.”  In my palm I clench my little change purse. I really want a drink but don’t know where to sit. I don’t feel ready to be with an entire group of men at one table so I focus on the loaners. Most of them are sitting in perverts row, but if I approach them, I don’t want the girl on stage to blame me for taking away the attention off her. Taking a deep breath I try to feel out instinctively who’d be receptive enough to a newbie such as myself. Moving to the back I spot Olivia with a black guy who’s having an intimate talk with her.

“Excuse me hon, coming through!” The barback Rick is moving a huge box of empties through to the kitchen .
“Sorry,” I move out of the way and then hear a voice say, “That was a close one eh?”
“Yeah,” I see a guy with glasses and a Pink Floyd shirt sitting at a two-seater alone. Could this be my first taker? He seemed to look like the guy who’d never left his parents house. I think he’s harmless enough and approach him.
“Hows it going? I’m Athena,” I put my little towel down and have a seat.
“Are you new? I don’t think I’ve seen you before,” he says sipping a blue.
“It’s my first night here.” Shit – why did I say that?
“Where’d you work before?” he asks assuming that it’s my first night working in this club, not first night dancing.
“No, I mean it’s my first night dancing ever.”
“Really? That’s so funny. I am always having the newbies sit with me. I’m Donny.”
“Hey Donny, that’s a great name.” I try to keep up my veneer of cool and not share any of Annie with him.
“So didcha pick the name Athena cause of the Who song?” he asks, I want to keep the focus away from me and on him.
“I didn’t know that the Who has a song called Athena, cool… do you like rock?” I can see a waitress coming up behind him like a great shining godess.
“Hey yeah, but who doesn’t love rock? I love rock and roll, put another dime in the juke“ Donnybegins to ruin the Joan Jett song for me forever and I want to hug the curly haired waitress for saving me.
“And how are we doing Donny?” She rests her hand on his shoulder.
“Good.”
  “Can I get you another Dry?”
“Sure, and Athena do you want something?” Bingo – I want one of everything, and quickly.
“Thanks! How about a Mike’s Hard Lemonade?” I wanted to jump up and get it myself at this point.
“Okay – I’ll be back in a jiffy. What’s your name again?” She asks
“I’m Athena, I met you here before with Mark,” I say thinking it would be stupid for her to recall me previously with clothes on.
“Okay….yeah…welcome to Charlies!” She genuinely smiles and heads over to the bar area. Donnie shifts his gaze to her tush and I’m watching the girl on stage and the whole moment is surreal as I’m not acustomer any more but have finally crossed over to the other side. 

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Lavender Infused Baked Peaches

Today’s Tidbits

  • Lavender is a unique taste – infuse honey with it and drizzle over baked peaches (see recipe below)
  • Infuse cream with lavender, and add to profiteroles
  • Infuse an icing (icing sugar + milk) with lavender, and drizzle on top of pastries
Lavender profiterole
Lavender profiterole

Happy Thanksgiving (in Canada) everyone. Today is a quick baked peach recipe with only 7 ingredients but that tastes amazing. I fancy it up with a touch of lavender. I like lavender as a taste, but you can only use a bit of it or your dishes ended up tasting like fancy hand soap. Apparently there is culinary lavender, but I can never find it, so I just buy the dried lavender sprigs and use the seeds. The stems are aromatic too.


Baked Peaches
(if you don’t do the lavender stuff,  it’ll still taste amazing)

Baked Lavender Infused Peaches
Baked Lavender Infused Peaches

1/3 cup liquid honey
16 sprigs of dried lavender (8 for the seeds, 8 for decoration)
4 peaches, cut in half
Cinnamon sugar (combine 1tsp cinnamon and 2 tbsp of white sugar)
½ Tbsp butter per peach half
1 tsp brown sugar per peach half

Infuse liquid honey with lavender by taking 1/3 cup of pourable honey and adding the seeds from 8 dried lavender sprigs. Zap in the microwave for 30 secs, or heat in a saucepan and put aside.

Lavender Infused Baked Peaches served with Strawberry Pana Cotta
Lavender Infused Baked Peaches served with Strawberry Pana Cotta

Cut peaches in half, remove stone and carve out a small cavity in each half. Put lavender sprigs on bottom of baking tray and add peach halves cut side up.

Add to each peach ½ tbsp of butter, 1 tsp of brown sugar, and a sprinkle of the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Bake at 375F for 30mins. Remove, and drizzle honey (try not to include too many lavender seeds) on each peach. Decorate with a sprig of lavender. Voila!

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Hosanna

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Hosanna’s Higher Self
If Requiem For A Dream, Moulin Rouge and Carrie had a rendezvous their offspring would be a lot like Hosanna. Damien Atkins was riveting in his portrayal of Hosanna, an aging drag queen who models herself after the legendary Elizabeth Taylor. Hosanna’s outrageously sharp tongue lands her in a fight with her biker boyfriend Cuirette played by the larger than life Jason Cadieux. From the first scene Jason and Damien had the room in the palm of their hands as Hosanna’s life gets told through a heated argument between the two of them which makes for an incredible amount of edgy tension.

The Gender Offence
I can see why this play was controversial, especially to some within the LGBT community because it portrays gender in a way that is arguably not realistic. Written by Michael Tremblay, Hosanna tells the story of a transvestite who ultimately comes out as a gay man.

The program labels Hosanna a “drag queen” which is quite different from how she actually was throughout the story. Typically a drag queen is someone who dresses up for theatrical purposes with the word ‘drag’ referring to clothing. That’s different from a Trans person who has chosen to live their life as another gender. One is entertainment while the other is an expression of authenticity so when our heroine Hosanna retires all of her womanly things and comes out as a gay man the suggestion is that Hosanna really just needed to find her prince charming and then she would be able to give up wanting to be a woman.

Being LGBT, coming out or coming of age are processes that propel people towards authenticity which something people generally desire more of over time.

Sexuality is far more fluid than we give it room for in our current binary system so perhaps her gender expression was more reflection of the time period in history. After all, this play was written in 1973 which was a time when our society was literally at war with the LGBT community. In many ways one could almost view Hosanna as a tragic love story because her choice to give up being a drag queen came on the heels of her realization that not only did society hate her, everyone in her community did too. Hosanna is powerfully acted and at its core is a twisted love story and beautiful train wreck all in one.

Blowing Smoke, The Irony of Scents 
Side note: The program notes say that playwright Michael Trembly had wanted the audience to experience the heavy cheap perfume Hosanna spritzed throughout the show but we Canadians have banned scents so the audience smelt nothing. Ironically all the way through the show both actors smoked ‘fake’ cigarettes made of what smelled like lettuce or rose leaf which is precisely 100 times more disgusting.

Hosanna
Young Centre for the Performing Arts
On stage from September 23, 2016

 

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Blind Date: The Nose Knows

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Blind Date is a raw, intimate and honest portrayal of what it means to put yourself out there. Rebecca Northan creates an experience that moves beyond the traditional notion of theatre. The performance takes the entire audience along with them on a voyeuristic journey into someone else’s life and the date is both familiar and not. When I go to a play I sometimes wonder if the actors or director has considered the entire space. Often theatre is set up so that we go in, all face forward on our chairs and watch as the actors entertain us from the confines of the stage. Blind Date used up the entire space, the actors knew we were all there and this became “our” experience.

Prior to the show we’re all hanging out in the Cabaret space and mingling with the performers. You can tell who’s in the show because they have red clowns noses on which at first I didn’t quite understand because if this is a play about a blind date, how is a clown’s nose appropriate?

By the end of the show the noses provided two really important functions for me. First, they created a separation between the actor and the selected ‘date’. In this particular show the audience member was really on his game and I had brief moments where I forgot he wasn’t a professional actor. That being said there is an unbelievable risk being taken by both David Benjamin Tomlinson and Julie Orton because they become fully responsible for carrying the full weight of the performance. No matter what happens. When you stick an unknown entity such as an audience member into a full show there is no telling how many terrible things can go wrong. The audience member could just be impossible, difficult, afraid, defensive or a whole host of possibilities. I suppose on that’s not unlike going on a blind date where your mind will want to run over all the scary things that could go wrong which is precisely why this show works so leaving meriting on the edge of my stool for the whole show.

“Fundamentally it’s the same show every night but then again it’s not.” -Mark Aikman, Buddies In Bad Times Theatre

The clown noses were also a metaphor for how brave it is to put oneself out there. Whether that’s in the form of a blind date or by being visibly queer when you make some portion of your self stand out you risk being made fun of. That’s kind of what the whole performance was like, a giant risk-taking adventure that paid off.

“Where does the date begin and the fantasy end? By constructing this simple yet brilliant meta-theatrical premise in her show, Northan has created a spellbinding evening of unpredictability and performance acumen.” -David Bateman, Bateman Reviews

The show takes the entire audience on a voyeuristic journey and David Tomlinson where truly lots could go wrong and yet nothing did. Even the moments when it seemed the ‘date’ was upstaging David, he handled it with mastery which filled the space with authenticity. I’m going back for another Blind Date.

Julie Orton and David Benjamin Tomlinson take turns in the starring role. Check the schedule below to see who’s performing when. Until October 9th, 2016 at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre.

 Photo of Julie Orton and  David Benjamin Tomlinson by Tanja-Tiziana.

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Kitchen Tidbits, New Book by The Reading Salon

We’re excited about Chef Stewart Borden’s new book Kitchen Tidbits. Stewart is the musical genius behind The Reading Salon and if you ever seen one of our movies, shows, plays or performances then you’ve already been dazzled by his talent. It’s available for sale through Amazon (Canada) or Amazon (USA) and Kindle with all proceeds donated to the Nikibasika Development Project in Uganda.  Continue reading

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TO’s War On Cyclists

UPDATE (November 8, 2016):
The other day I got my Notice of Trial in the mail, it was notarized by the city clerk on my birthday. It could be a coincidence or maybe it’s just the city’s way of saying happy birthday, we love that you live here!

The ticket was for $325 which is what you fine a speeding car that runs a red. It’s a very dangerous thing to do, someone could get killed, hence such a huge fine and 2 demerit points. But why apply this to cyclists like me even though I’m traveling 6km/hour along the shoulder of a T intersection? These are not even remotely the same offences yet I’m paying a fine almost double what my bike costs because this cop had a point to prove.

Continue reading

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Kitchen Tidbits: Vongole Posillipo

Kitchen Tidbits coverI’m so excited, my book, Kitchen Tidbits is now available through Amazon! The book is filled with the tips and tricks that I picked up while studying at the International Culinary School in New York City. All proceeds from the book are being donated to the Nikibasika Development Program in Uganda.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to my amazing teachers and classmates who taught me so much.

Kitchen Tidbits inside credits

I’m currently testing recipes for Joanne Moscani-Piano’s father, and one of the recipes is his popular clam dish (Vongole Posillipo). The full recipe will be out in his cookbook, but it’s one of those wonderful “seven ingredient” recipes: evo, garlic, clams, plum tomatoes, oregano, pepper, parsley. Yum. You can serve this over pasta as well.

TODAY’S TIDBITS

  • Why don’t some clams open: Clams are alive when you put them in the pot and are aggressively holding their shells shut. During the cooking they die and stop holding the shells together so they open. If they don’t, then they were dead before (and probably rotten) and have rigor mortis which holds the shell shut.
  • 4 flavors: very basically, I think of always balancing 4 flavors: sweet, sour, salt, pepper. More on flavor profiles to come, but I find this to be one of the most fundamental things about cooking:
    • Sweet: e.g. onions, carrots, sugar, maple syrop
    • Sour: e.g. balsamic, lemon, tomatoes
    • Salt: e.g. anchovies, parmesan, bacon, kosher salt
    • Pepper: e.g. dijon, thai chili, tabasco, red pepper flakes, pepper
  • Don’t add salt to a clam dish. The salt water released by the clams will be salty enough. In fact, Chef Pietro recommends diluting with a little water to take down the salt profile.

What secret ingredient do you use for sweet, sour, salt, pepper?


Buy now: Amazon (Canada) or Amazon (USA)

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EMBARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE (Chapter Thirteen)

I feel the warm air rising up from my bedroom vent as I hold my hands on top as homeless men do over huge oil can fires in movies. As the heat flows back into my body, the scenes from last night form like Sea Monkey crystals into my consciousness. Sprawling out like a gummy octopus on the broadloom I grab my white, eyelet pillow and rest my poor pounding cranium. My shift at Have-a-Java isn’t until 3:00, so I’d have plenty of time to lie here recovering from my guilt, shame and anger. 
 I go over last nights events in a mini-monologue: maybe last night was a test. Why had I mixed my booze? There was no sense in asking these questions, like there’s no point in asking why my mouth tastes like someone has left a gasoline-and-vodka soaked pinecone in it, and yet ….still, I do. Why? It’s Martinis. Proper Martini’s in Martini glasses with olives. Last night was my first official night drinking a Martini! That makes sense. After our work party I left with Taylor to meet his friends at another bar. I hate olives, but I drank it anyway. God…again…why? It only figures that after a work dinner I’d latch on with the one person who’s as much fun to be with as Hilary. Could I be attracted to Taylor? I question…maybe. He did look great last night; much cuter wearing a non-work shirt.

My index finger gets pulled up to my teeth as if they are magnetically charged. Biting on my nail I grind it up into a paste so I can swallow it. The whole process is soothing for me. I try to remember more about last night. Taylor was kind of wasted too. I begin to chastise myself. Everything would be so underhandedly brilliant if I didn’t get trashed last night and blabber on about mine and Hilary’s plan to strip. I panic slightly, did I hit on him a lot? My mind clicks on the expression on Taylor’s face in his apartment. I could see myself opening my shopping bags and pulling out the slips and shiny, lollipop-red, slut – length, negligees from Eatons and The Bay wanting to get a reaction out of him. When I told him they were to wear stripping I remember him saying stuff like: “You can’t be serious. Please tell me you’re joking.” Did that impress him? Holding onto a little sliver of nail between my teeth, I bite down on it, experiencing a little more relief from the sound.
 I think back to last nights work dinner and me picking a seat between Laura and Jenny. Rolling slowly onto my back, I can picture myself with both of them when our pesto-sundried-pasta came to the table. I try to hear pieces of what I may have said. Certain shards of our conversation slice my brain into clarity. Like I told Jenny how much I respect Courtney Love for stripping and then making a huge name for herself in Rock and Roll. I’m not sure if I told her or Laura that I was planning to strip. I remember being really chummy with my manager Georgina at the table and getting the waitress to bring her Long Island Iced Teas.

I was making sure that she didn’t suspect that I was going to leave my job with her and Tom and start stripping. If I wasn’t so anxious about this plan, I wouldn’t be drinking as much, I reasoned all this and more feeling embarrassed of my actions. Why was having all my co-workers, and boss in the same place so stressful? This was supposed to be my week to try out my new job, and still continue to work at Have-a-Java during the day. What if Taylor tells someone? I contemplate calling Taylor that very second and then I realize I don’t have his number. 
 Curling on my side like a shrimp my eyes focus on the shopping bags at the foot of my bed. My badly attacked fingernails reach out to the bags for my goodies. Using them as a distraction from my horrid memories, I look down at the lingerie we bought. Everything appears so dangerously beautiful to me. I hold the shiny ruby red g-string as if it were a gun, turning it around in my hands looking at the way it reflects the light in my bedroom. As I feel the slip I remember the acting exercises we used to do in Drama. We learned to use props to form a character. Costumes can give you so much to actualize a real, believable, rocking character. I start feeling resentful. All those classes, auditions and plays for what? Maybe those techniques will be useful to me now as a stripper, I hopefully pray. Carefully cutting off the tag, I take off my mud splattered bells and put the g-string on. Ewww!, I reel back in disgust, as my pubic hair sticks out from the sides. Am I going to shave this craziness, or get waxed? The idea of waxing scares me as I know it involves someone dumping hot wax on your crotch and then quickly ripping it off before you can scream. I don’t even know how long that lasts too. I turn around in front of the mirror and see how insanely large my bum looks wearing a g-string. It feels like I have a wedgie stuck up there. Now I know why I have always stuck to wearing “Bubbie underwear” all these years. These do not feel comfortable at all. Good thing I can take them off on my third song on stage, I think in relief.

If I owned a stereo that had a CD player in it I could put on my new CD’s, I reflect, but instead I only have a crummy tape player. Plucking a Nirvana Live in Bancock bootleg tape out from my shoebox I press play. Hearing it start on the song Polly, I stop and flip it over, making a mental not to share that joke with Hilary later, as that’s the song some kids played when raping a girl in a trailer park somewhere in the states.

Dun Dun Da-Dun, “Hey Wait! I’ve got a new complaint!” Kurt’s swollen vocal chords move me to dance in front of my mirror. My nausea and head-achey feeling is immediately overshadowed by my motivation to watch myself naked in front of the mirror. My arms become goose-pimpley from knowing I will soon be doing this on a stage in front of strange men for lots of cash. I will make a lot of cash, I promise myself. My lips need coating of what I’d call: Lustful Disguise: the perfect rock n roll red, and swing over to my white wicker make-up table to put some on. I need to feel like Courtney Love or Debbie Harry. My slept-in mascara smudges brilliantly, giving me that effortless smokey-eye affect, I admire my eyes, and my gaze goes downwards towards my lips. A little pot of silver glitter amongst the make-up collection sticks out and I dip my finger in it to apply it to my bottom lip to give it a disco-ball shine.

Tossing my head back and forth like I saw the girls do on stage, I get myself hyped up. Trying to imitate the way the other strippers had moved on stage feels phony to me, so I allow the song to move me in ways I’d never explored before. Lip-synching Kurt’s words I’m filled with newfound strength, I only wish I had a guitar strapped around my neck and a mic in front of me. Getting excited I start to find other songs I could practice to. Just then my phone startles me with its ringing. Breathlessly, I manage to say hello as it falls from my hands. It feels like I’m caught stealing cookies from the pantry. I hear Bubby Esther’s voice and for some reason I become angry.
 “Bubby! I … how are you?” I ask hoping that this call will be quick. 
 “Annie, I miss you, what are you doing? Did you eat lunch?” Her questions normally wouldn’t agitate me this way, but at this second I wished I didn’t have her on my phone. Pushing aside my feelings I try to sound alright.
 “Bubby, I miss you too, I was just putting make-up over my bad skin, it’s still not that good.” 
 “Oy, Mamalah, did you call that doctor’s number, let me give it to you again – Doctor…uh…uh…Sher-something-Stein … hold the line, I’ll go find it.” The loud echo of her receiver thudding against her kitchen counter rings in my ears. I can almost see her food-encrusted receiver as she always talks and eats. Picking it up again she spits out his name, “Doctor Sherman, he’s good. He’s very good…a specialist who for sure will help your face.” She’s more enthusiastic as I hear it in her sing-song voice. Thinking quickly, I know the only way to get her off the phone would be to tell her I had just sat down for something to eat, or that I’m starving and have to prepare something to eat. Wanting to get back to my planning, I rush all my words,
 “Okay bubby please give me the number tomorrow. I’m going to toast a bagel. I’m so hungry, I feel like I’m going to pass out and should have something to eat before I go back to work. I love you and I promise to come visit soon!” I finish up hoping that I don’t sound too cold

“Okay, Mamalah, go eat, go eat, but when you come I’m going to make the most delicious barley soup for you, and it’s very good for the complexion.” She makes the soup sound magical in only the way she can.
 “Thank you Bubby – I love you, bye!”
 “Okay Annie, love you!” Hanging up I push away my guilt and dial Elaine’s number hoping that her answering machine picks up so I can just leave her a message. I feel like cheering when it does. 
 “Hey hon, I want to apologize on behalf of Hilary yesterday – you know how she can act weird sometimes because of stuff, and there’s something that we’re planning that I do want to talk to you about but maybe I’ll get a hold of you later on cause I’m heading out to work – bye!” I also want to call Hilary and tell her about my getting a little too drunk and possibly blabbing to the others about our plans, but I just can’t right now. When I could tell her is the question. Completely loosing my dancing-fantasy mood I clean up and sort out my back pack for dancing. Putting that new world away in the corner of my closet, I begrudgingly get my black polo shirt and cords on for work. 
 The entire subway ride downtown I sweat and itch at my skin as I’ve already convinced myself that my secret got out. Playing the scenario in my head I see the news spreading like coffee beans spilling from the bag when it tears. I see Laura whispering to Sandra who laughs, “Oh my God! Annie is going to start stripping? For real…that’s so crazy.” And of course, Tom and Georgina will know all about it. I imagined their disapproving and disappointed glances directed towards me. Would I say that I was drunk, and simply talking out of my ass, or would I cover up with pointing out the incredulousness, “How could you even conceive that I would do that, totally ridiculous. Really, isn’t it obvious by my lack of fake boobs?” I’d laugh too. 
 Okay, just go in there and hold it together, I think. I see Tom pouring Toranni syrup in soda water. I cheerily greet him. 
 “Hey Tom, are any of those Eye-talian sodies for me?” I pronounce Italian the way he does hoping that he’d laugh. He gives me a weary attempt at a chuckle, making it hard for me to guess if he knows. 
 “Sh-shure, you may need a drink after last night.” Jenny says laughing. Kevin looks up at me from the bean bar.
 “Annie, I didn’t know if you were going to make it after that last one.” Both of them are shaking their heads. I feel myself blushing.
 “Yeah, talk about ringing in the holiday season with a bit too much cheer, I try to joke.
 “Well, we all had fun, and I also woke up with a killer hangover,” Kevin pats my back.
 “Y-y-you get ho-home okay?” Tom asks me refilling up the espresso machine.
 “Sure she got home okay…”Jenny says winking at me and exchanging looks with Kevin.
 Maybe they don’t know. Maybe they just think I was drinking a little bit more than them, and that’s the worst of it. Heading into the back room I bump into Taylor.
 “Hey T! I hope that you’re not…” He interrupts me and puts his hand on my shoulder. I continue talking feeling embarrassed from his gesture.
 “I’m sorry about,” I try to think about the right way to explain my behavior last night and get cut off.
 “Trust me I have a hangover the size of this fridge, and I just want you to know I don’t care if you’re going to strip, or whatever. I can’t stop you but at least do it with a friend.” He uses the same tone of an older brother making me feel somewhat looked after. 
 “I’m guilty of drinking a lot last night, but please, please don’t say anything to the others about me trying stripping.” I wait for his expression to change, and when he smiles I feel better. His smile is genuine and Taylor is a good guy, and I don’t doubt that he’ll keep our talk private. 
 “Okie-Dokie,” he jokes breathing out heavily while tying his apron on, “I still think the dancing thing is totally unbelievable but if it’s worth anything I know you’re going to go through it no matter what I or anyone else tells you, and be smart about it.” I hear what he’s saying but have to respond with another explanation.
 “It’s just to see what it’s about. That’s all. We’re cool right?”
 “Yeah.” His smile makes my stomach flutter, and again I wonder if I do have a crush on him.
 “On a side note, my friends thought you were hilarious,” he says and I roll my eyes and give him a goofy grin. If there’s one thing I truly enjoy it’s how much a group of strangers appreciate my drunk humor. 
 “Right on,” I consider telling him how hot he looks without his shirt on, but am interrupted by the door opening and being accosted by Tom’s ugly head. He brusquely directs us, “L-l-lu-look, I’m g-g-gonna get stock from the storage room and when I get back I n-n-need you to focus on cu-customers, okay?” Taylor nods a “sure thing Tom,” as I too agree and silently fume about again being told what to do. Tom chooses to work the evening shift when he could just as easily go home and not be missed. I can’t be the only one who thinks we get more done without him slowing us down. 
 Taylor and I start working behind the counter. Every time our sides touch or bump slightly I look at him and smile. The chat we had made me feel better, so I start joking around with Kevin and Jenny.
 After a few customers had cleared out and we’re back to replenishing stock, I approach Kevin and ask him what I was really like at the party. 
 “An animal. Total animal.” He tells me in his best Schwarzenegger accent. Slight panic comes back and I want to grill him like cops do in detective shows, but Jenny’s ears perk up and she slides between us to make me feel better, “Hey, she wasn’t that bad. You were just loud, and then you said the waiter was hot, but he really wasn’t at all. You didn’t do anything that isn’t already what we’re used to.”
 “Did you think I said anything else that tripped you out?” I ask while casually fixing some paper bags under the register.
 “You just had fun, and I was glad you didn’t go home alone after cause Taylor offered…you know we always got your back.” She tilts her head. For some strange reason I toy with the idea to reveal my plan with her later today and just as quickly as the thought pops into my head, I push it away knowing that if I tell anyone at work, not only would everyone be talking about it, but what if I didn’t want to leave Have-a-Java cause I don’t like my new job? 
 “That hot waiter wasn’t half as hot as Kevin,” I say covering up my relief with a joke. 
 “Shucks, lil old me?” he fakes a bashful look and grabs the J-cloth throwing it in the air playing hackey-sack with it.
 “Tom and Georgina didn’t care that we were a little wild eh?” I ask Jenny while I slip a rice krispie square in a bag for later.
 “I don’t think they care, they’re leaving after tomorrow for their vacation, and guess who they put in charge as manager? Ground control to Major Taylor” We all look over at Taylor, whose the only one out of us that bothers to wipe the seats down. 
 “Hey that’s right, so T, now that you’re the temp manager, will you gimmie a raise?” Kevin puts out his hand. Now here’s a perk – no Tom and Georgina for a few weeks. There must be a God, I think. 
 “Annie the ph-phone’s for you.” Tom says shooting me a glare. I watch him leave with his milk crate in hand to go out to the storage room. 
 “Sorry Tom,” I half-heartedly apologize. “Hello?”
 “Annie? It’s me, Carrie – can you talk?” she asks anxiously. By the sound of her voce I guessed that she’d already heard from Michelle that Mark showed me around the club. 
 “Can’t really talk now, but I think I’m going to start at Charlie T’s tonight” I tell her in a whisper looking over at the gang busily doing their jobs. We exchange some more words and I hang up the phone feeling excited and ready to never think about cleaning up the bean bar again.
As soon as I unlock the front door I hear my parents arguing. Their voices carry from their bedroom all the way to the front hall, busting through my mothers theory that everyone would get their privacy in this new place, as no door was thick enough to soundproof their yelling. It sounds like they were mid to near finishing this fight by the way their words sped up. I decide to not head upstairs into the noise, but stay safely inside the kitchen where I plan to grab some juice. Just then I hear my fathers feet heavily pounding down the stairs. Each time he steps down I think the step will crack under his weight. He calls back to my mother,
 “Just shut up willya? You live in a fantasy world.” He’s heading to the kitchen which only has one entrance and a balcony on the other side leaving me without an alternate way out. I feel trapped when I see him blurt out,

“Your mother doesn’t understand shit. We can’t afford to live this way. She expects money to fall off the fucking trees, so we’re bound to lose this house.” Feeling anxious I take in his stature. From his beet red face to his ugly army-green overalls and Teva sandals he wore as slippers I can’t help but see him as a grown figure of a cartoon Ogre. Whenever he gets into fits of rage or arguing with my mother, he starts talking to me as if we were comrades, which the truth is I can’t tolerate being in the same room with him raging mad or not. Forcefully pulling open the fridge I watch him grab the big container of orange juice shaking it furiously to let out his anger. As the juice fills his special frozen glass he always keeps in the freezer, he spits out,
 “You want some advice? Marry rich.” He swigs back the juice. I try to hide as there is nothing that is more disturbing and unpredictable than my father in a bad mood. 
 “Move!” he shouts at me. Why I stop at that exact place in the room, I don’t know and just scramble to get out of his way like a fly but I’m too late and he swings his arm towards me like an ape, pushing my body away from him so he can get through. Some people say they just don’t know what their force is capable of when they’re driven by rage, but he definitely does and just doesn’t care who’s in his path when he gets on a rampage. Rubbing my right side to prevent a bruise, I push all my feelings of hurt, fear and anger to the back of my stomach, as now I really don’t have a choice. I need to start dancing to get out of this hell house. He swipes again at my head and I run up the stairs. Whenever I tell my mom to leave my dad, she talks the same old story about not being financially able to. The real deal is obvious, she’ll stay with him as long as she gets to live in the house she wants. Our stupid furniture-less house. I call Mark’s number.
 You’ve reached Mark’s pager. Key in your number and press the pound sign. I keyed in my number thinking how I only knew one other person with a paper and that was Carrie’s ex-boyfriend who sold weed to club kids. Pulling the backpack with the shoes, license and costumes out of my closet I decided that I’d wear my hair up, maybe after curling it with my mom’s rollers. My phone rang and I jumped for it.

“Hello Mark?” I anxiously asked. 
 “Hello?” Instead of Mark it was Hilary. I didn’t expect to hear from her, but I feel relieved in a way that she’s calling me. 
 “Hilary, hey, are you at home?”
 “No, I’m still downtown at Kendal’s – who’s Mark?” 
 “Remember I told you about him? Michelle’s brother who showed me around the club and is a driver? I think I’m ready to go in tonight, but …I’ll wait for you if you want to come to Charlie T’s with me tomorrow evening.” As much as I’m pissed that she’s over at Kendal’s, I still want her to come work with me the first night. I hear her breathe slowly and then clear her throat.
 “Hilary…what’s going on?” I ask in a panic.
 “I’m really super high. I’m so high it’s insane.” Great, fucking great, I think. Without trying to act as if I’m not angry about feeling abandoned by her, I still can’t help but hate that she did heroin again. 
 “Thanks a lot Hilary. Thanks for leaving me to do this on my own. What were you thinking?” I hope that she feels guilty, straightens her shit out and comes back up here from the city.
 “What?” She is spacing out.
 I understand how easily she can be overtaken by her newfound obsession to try and keep trying heroin, but didn’t anticipate that she’d be staying with Kendal all the time and doing it when we had plans. I didn’t anticipate that this new drug obsession would carry over so long. 
 “I will work with you, sure I’ll go to that club with you – but not now. Not while I’m in the city with Kendal. How about we do it next week?” She says this in a voice that is totally not hers. Maybe I’ll just settle for that, as it’s easier than once again telling her how hurt I feel about messing up the big plans. 
 “Yeah, sure, we’ll start next week. Are you going to be in okay condition? I ask her choosing something a television character would say in my situation, rather than discussing my concern for her ‘using’ with Kendal and practically leaving this planet. 
 “I’m totally okay, are you?” she asked sounding like she meant it.
 “I’m…” my eyes locked on a rectangle, green and purple Guatemalan print coin purse I got as a birthday gift from a high school friend. I see it lying beside my shoe-box of tapes. Plucking it up I unzip and zip it up again, back and forth, finding comfort in the motion. 
 “I’m going to call Mark to arrange for him to drive me, and then you can come with me the next time I go okay?” I get cut off hearing my call waiting beep knowing it’s Mark. “But Hilary, you need to be at your house, not downtown cool?” I tell her trying to quickly finish up to get to the other line. 
 “Hello Annie? It’s Mark.” I could hear his voice coming through a phone from a busy street. 
 “Mark, are you driving girls tonight?” I ask him hoping that he would take me home after my first shift. 
 “Yeah – are you ready to go in?” he asks me. I don’t know if I want him to take me there. Really, I’d just need a drive home after. 
 “Yeah, but I’m going to just need you to take me home when my time is done, I’m going in on my own, now without my other friend who also wants to do it.” Hoping that he’d be okay with that, I pause.
 “Okay, yeah, I’ll take you home tonight at 2:30am. It’s fifteen normally, but ten for your first big night. Don’t forget your license and to check in with the DJ. I’ll tell Danny you are coming in tonight to freelance.” Mark’s voice came through calm and clear helping me to take in these details easily. It was a refreshing change from all the chaos around me. 
 “Yeah cool. Thanks – see you later, bye.” I hang up knowing that I had to try to make money this way. I was focused on my eyes shadow and blush to put in a makeup bag for tonight. There was something pushing me on, filling me with a defiant confidence. Repeating to myself, that I don’t really need Hilary by my side to try freelancing one night shift, I got ready. 
 Even though, I repeat this thought, another message came clear to me; take someone else along. Taylor’s words of bringing a friend prompted me to call up Elaine. So after calling her and getting her to bring me a Mickey of Smirnoff when she meets me at Finch Station to grab the bus, I was really set. Moving back to my closet I reach into the pocket of my winter coat and take out the rhinestone purple daisy ring she gave back to me. Slipping it on my finger I feel like a female version of Hercules. Hey Ho, lets go.

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Official Selections + Special Mention From The Jury Of The Kolkata Shorts International Film Festival (India)

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