VIDEO – Jack Harter “No Doors” Helicopter Adventure – Kauai 2015, Day 7

(Video follows at end of post)

I was glad I was alone, because I was alarmingly uptight as I drove my way to Lihue Airport for my 11am “No Doors” Helicopter Tour, tossing around all the possible outcomes.

First, there were the practical concerns: Will I be too gripped with nerves to enjoy myself in the air? Will the views of Kauai be worth the money I’m spending?

And there were the more irrational fears: What if my seat belt snaps loose and I fall out? Will we smash into the side of a volcano? What if the pilot slumps forward with chest pains and I have to land the chopper myself?

And then there was just vanity: What if everyone else is laughing and high-fiving while I sit frozen, bug-eyed and gape-mouthed; the only coward on board, the designated Don Knotts?

Then I’m belted in. And the helicopter bursts off the planet and rocks and banks its way straight into the air. And the Earth drops out from beneath me. I lean my head out the giant hole to my right, where there’s normally a door, and look down. The ground folds up before my eyes. It’s pulling away so fast I almost feel like waving good-bye to it. And all the worries I had in the car are gone, not because I’m suddenly at peace with the situation, but because my thoughts have collapsed into a puddle of pure baby babble.

My left hand is clutched around the bottom of my seat cushion and my right hand is hooked so tightly through the hand strap above I can feel my own fingernails cutting into me. I can momentarily release one hand or the other, but not both at the same time. The temperature has dropped thirty degrees in the air and we’re surging through the skies at nearly a hundred miles an hour. I feel like my glasses are going to be ripped right off my face. My eyes are full of water, and my ears are full of wind and the piercing whip of the chopper blades above my head. I am no longer worried about crashing. I’m positive I’ll die of pure fright first.

To the pilot and the three other passengers on the plane, I wonder if I look like I’m holding it together. And then I realize I don’t exactly hear anyone else yelling “Yippee!” and making giddy engine noises with their lips. Everyone is silent. We can each push a button in front of us and communicate through our headsets, but so far no one has tried it.

I slide my foot across the floor just to the edge of the copter. Green trees below zip by so fast they look like their painted tops are smearing into one another. I tip my foot out into the open air, and the cold grabs it straight through my sock. Then I lift my leg and extend my foot all the way out. The pressure of the wind shoves it right back in. I was told during the safety meeting not to put my hands or legs outside the helicopter, so by doing so, I’ve just convinced myself I have a measure of control over my situation.

The girl next to me is named Heather. Heather already has both hands around her camera, snapping pictures out the other side of the helicopter. So I decide I can do the same. I take a picture, then flip a switch with my thumbnail and take ten seconds of video. Then I drop the camera back around my neck, and quickly return my hands to the seat cushion and the hand strap. In between when my hands are momentarily free, I feel my body at the complete mercy of the aircraft, as it banks between two towering walls of mountain, and then blasts free, straight out over the open Pacific. I’m thinking about all the other options in the “Adventures” section of my guide book: kayaking, horseback riding, snuba, spas, tennis. But I chose this, the one activity I had to bully myself into doing, over the course of an entire week, day after day. “You’re not leaving this island until you take a no-doors helicopter tour,” I told myself. “You’ll never forgive yourself if you don’t.” Heather stops from picture-snapping, turns to me and smiles madly.

And over the ocean, the climate begins to shift. It’s closer to “merely cool” than “frigid.” My body adopts a shaky ease and I slip my hand out of the upper strap. The husband half of the couple in the front seat pushes his button and everyone hears, “Are those whales?” And down below us on our right, there’s a trio of humpbacks arriving for vacation in the warm, shallow Hawaiian waters. My God’s-eye view of their graceful arcing between air and ocean is inspiring. To the right of them is a pod of dolphins darting into the sky and splashing back down on their sides. And to my right is the Na Pali Coast. The cliffs rise as high as four thousand feet in front of my eyes. They’re colored bright green mixed with torchy orange and red. It’s magnificent. It completely deletes the fear from my body.

For the next hour, our pilot Jason flies us through lush, tropical valleys and circles over waterfalls that plunge thousands of feet down against the sides of razor-sheer cliffs. We zoom over the enormous Waimea Canyon, covering what seems to be an endless expanse from the ground in only a few minutes by air.

Andrew Doughty in The Ultimate Kauai Guide Book wrote this: “Going to Kauai without taking a helicopter trip is like going to see the Sistine Chapel and not looking up.”

Heather and I are now best friends, partners in danger. She presses down her button and says, “Jason, when do we start the barrel rolls?” I press down my button and proclaim, “The back row is united in this request!” But helicopters don’t do barrel rolls. They’ll slice the passengers to ribbons. It doesn’t matter. I pressed the button and spoke up, and that was brave, even if I only did it once.

When we landed and wobbled back to the van, I passed the next four tourists ready to take our spots. They were trying hard to look carefree, I could tell. One of them yelled over to me, “How was it?” and the rest silently fixed on me, eagerly awaiting re-assurance. “You’ll see for yourself,” I told them and strutted away, the cool cat. “You just slung off a major fear!” I told myself. “You can take life by the throat. There’s no stopping you now.”

On the way home, a grasshopper flew into the car and landed on my neck. I screamed and nearly drove into a coconut tree.

Jack Harter Helicopters Website – Click Here

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Dispatch from the Aloha Sunset Cottage – Kauai 2015, Day 6

We took the day off from sight-seeing to lay low at the Ahola Sunset. Michael worked on his film. I worked on my tan. Please enjoy a mini-instgram luau, until tomorrow. Mahalo!

We don’t miss you at all, Reality.

Waimea Canyon on the west side of the island. Red rocks as far as the eye can see.

While I’m napping in the sun, Michael sneaks out and leaves freshly squeezed grapefruit juice next to me. He’s like my own private little hula elf!

My read for the trip. I don’t know why I thought I’d get through 1900 pages. I haven’t even hit 200 yet.

I have now sucked down jars of Nutella in a total of two states!

Spiny-backed orb weaver caught at Kauai’s Hindu Monastery

We took the dive at Ho’opi’i Falls.  Country boy Michael had no problem diving into a pool in the middle of the sticks. City-boy Green needed a few steep inhales first, but finally made the plunge.

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Dispatch from the Aloha Sunset Cottage – Kauai 2015, Day 5

If you know anything about Michael, you know he can find beauty just about anywhere. He’s lucky that way. And even if it leads to overstatement once in a while, there was no arguing when, as we watched the Wailua River from Kauai’s Hindu Monastery, he turned to me and said, “This is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Fortunately for us, the monastery isn’t easy to find and only open to visitors from 9 to noon every day.  That cuts down almost entirely on the tourist flow. You’ve got to really be determined to find this spot.  So we had it nearly all to ourselves, if you don’t count the three thousand mosquitoes. Remember to bring bug repellant to the monastery. Slapping the back of your own neck every five seconds will not help you achieve inner tranquility.

The monastery was founded in 1970 and lives at the foot of an ancient volcano. Every structure on the 376 acres is built entirely out of hand-carved stones from India.  Just outside the temple itself sits a 16 ton Black granite Nandi Bull who worships the Hindu deity, Shiva.  Morning prayers are in the temple from 9am to 10:30.  No pictures in the temple allowed.

Visitors are welcome to enter the temple and join the morning communal worship (don’t be deterred by the sign at the gate), or wander about until 10:30 at which point it’s open to anyone who wants to spend time in there so that later their significant other can say, “I never thought the day would come I’d see you meditating in a Hawaiian Hindu temple!”

A winding stone path leads you to a giant banyan tree where Lord Shanmuga awaits you. Six flat stones have been placed inside the tree for meditation.

Hinduism respects all living creatures, great and small, equally.  So if you’re a cat who’s found your way here, you’re protected by the Eternal Hindu Law known as, “Fuck yeah I landed in butter!”

If you’re hovering around the age of forty and you’re looking at Wailua Falls, you’ll probably start humming the theme from Fantasy Island and hearing a little French man screaming “Da plane!” inside your head. These are indeed the falls used in the opening sequence of the show, and if you didn’t know it before you got here, don’t worry. Everyone mentions it.

The steep, sticky, overgrown trails that lead adventure-seekers down to the pool below the falls have been bound up in so much fencing and “Danger of Death” warnings (with that poor little stick guy losing his footing), that the thought of making our way to it quickly lost its thrill. Hawaiians may be laid-back, but it turns out they’re just as afraid of the word “liability” as we are back on the mainland.

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Dispatch from the Aloha Sunset Cottage – Kauai 2015, Day 4

Today is a “recharge the batteries day” A little sun, a little surf and sand, and a lot of sushi.  Tomorrow we visit Kauai’s Hindu Monastery in Wailua and hit the waterfall trifecta: Wailua, Ho’opi’i and Opaeka’a.  And the day after that, a “no-doors” helicopter tour of the island.  Expect some tremendous photos when they find my camera after recovering the body.  Aloha!

View above from Kalihiwai Beach in Kalihiwai

Can you see me?

Our backyard buddy. He’s coming home in my pocket.

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Dispatch from the Aloha Sunset Cottage – Kauai 2015, Day 3

We ventured to the south side of the island today. First stop was Talk Story Books in what is billed in guidebooks as “historic downtown Hanapepe,” a title one might challenge after actually seeing it. There’s a small strip of art galleries that seem to be thriving (if paintings are your thing, we both recommend Giorgio’s Gallery), a couple of quaint little sandwich-smoothie spots, and a place that will put a funny saying on a t-shirt and sell it to you. But on equal footing in this quasi ghost town are multiple boarded up buildings that were once local play houses, movie theaters and other business of an artistic lean. The spot that seems to be the most happening is the liquor store at the far end of the road.  Go figure.

Nevertheless, you can feel the fighting spirit all over Hanapepe. And here’s Talk Story, going strong for over ten years. It probably doesn’t hurt when you’re the only bookstore within fifty miles, possibly the only bookstore on the entire island of Kauai.

Every book store worth its salt needs a resident shop cat, and Talk Story knows it. Meet Celeste, one of Mental Floss’s “Top Ten Bookstore Cats.”  What exactly must a cat do to make this list?  Number one, live in a book store.  Number two, don’t die before Mental Floss hears about you.

Onto the Hanapepe Swinging Bridge! Originally built in the early 1900s, then pretty much obliterated by Hurricane Iniki in 1993 (the same hurricane responsible for setting all the damn roosters free), then re-built, presumably by those people in the little green house in case they ever wanted to get an “Aloha Friday!” t-shirt printed up from across the river.

This is one of the few bridges I’ve ever seen that looks so simple I could actually deconstruct it in my head.  I even said to Michael, “Give me a year and some planks of wood and I could build this bridge!” to which Michael replied, “Now THERE’S a blog I’d pay to read!”

On to Waimea Canyon, reportedly dubbed by Mark Twain as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” And that’s no joke. It’s spectacular! Two-dimensional pictures don’t do it justice, so I’m including this single shot of Michael, and leaving it at that.  And there’s plenty of room for your jaw to drop as you’re taking it all in, because it’s a long, long way down.  In fact, I recall an exchange between the two of us that went something along the lines of…

Michael: “Come here, babe. Come look.”
Gary: “No way. I’m not coming over there.”
Michael: “It’s ok.  It’s not a sheer drop.”
Gary: “No fucking way am I coming over there.”
Michael: “But it’s not a sheer drop!”
Gary: “Well… okay, as long as it’s not a sheer drop.”
Michael. “It’s definitely not a sheer drop. You’d bounce at least two or three times before going over the edge.”

“Waimea” is Hawaiian for “red river,” a reference to the all the red soil. Michael likened it to walking on Mars.

And check it out!  I just happened to have a copy of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles in my backpack. In case you didn’t know, somewhere on my body at all times is the perfect book!  It’s just a question of how handsy you wanna get looking for it.

Next… we hiked the Waimea Canyon Trail in Koke’e, Kauai.  Name a place I would never go if I wasn’t in love with a country boy!

Do we want to take the short route, as indicated by the sign? Or do we go in the opposite direction where someone has scratched in the word “WATERFALL” in the sneaky scribble of a Glad Bag serial killer who’s figured out a way to get the victims to come to him?

Guess which route we took?
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Dispatch from the Aloha Sunset Cottage – Kauai 2015, Day 2

How would you like to wake up and meet this little lady in the yard while you’re picking oranges for breakfast?*

And how much would you dig running into this friendly face as you’re driving down the street?**

And God in heaven, what if you were out swimming and you brushed up against one of these?***Here’s breakfast for Day 2, personally prepared at the Aloha Sunset Cottage by Mister Michael Granberry.  He dubbed it “Grilled Salmon with Parmesan Avocado Corners.”  And if you’re thinking “Hey!  Those are just diagonally cut pieces of toast with smeared avocado and Kraft Parmesan from the can!” keep it to yourself or you’ll be sleeping on the porch with the spiders and the pig.

Remember yesterday, when I expertly found the hidden trail leading to gorgeous Secret Beach all by myself?  I felt so proud and accomplished that I took Michael there today.  As we started the trail, I warned him with loving concern, “Go slow and stay a little behind me because it gets dangerous and I wouldn’t want–”

By that point he was already about 30 feet ahead of me.  And by the time we hit the beach, he’d extended his lead to a good quarter mile, plus I’d been lapped by a collie with a deformed leg and a little boy wearing a Dora the Explorer hat.

Secret Beach is gorgeous.  Plus it’s actually appropriately named.  First, you have to locate an un-named dirt road off the 56,  follow it a good quarter mile to park, and then find the start of the “death trail” leading down to the shore. There were more fiddler crabs on the sand then there were people.  We saw a dude flying a kite, a dude playing a ukulele, and a guy stretched out the sand who may or may not have been dead.  We didn’t think twice about it though, because if you’re lucky enough to die at Secret Beach, you should be celebrated for going out at one of the prettiest spots on the island.

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Dispatch from the Aloha Sunset Cottage – Kauai 2015, Day 1 –

Across from Lumaha’i River, Ha’ena, Kauai

Three steps up the wooden porch and just to the left of the front door to our cottage in Kauai sits a large cat carrier wrapped in a palm-leaf tarp. Inside lives Snowflake, a 16 year old, blue-eyed short hair cat. Her presence is mentioned in nearly every on-line review of the Aloha Sunset cottage, almost as if she’s one of the investors in the property. “Thanks Catherine, Allen and Snowflake for sharing your peaceful slice of heaven with us.”

Sometimes, she’s even mentioned before the humans: “Dear Snowflake, you, Allen and Catherine made our 25th wedding anniversary unforgettable!”

And sometimes, the humans are disregarded altogether: “Other than the peace and beauty of this tropical paradise, Snowflake, you really made us feel welcome!”

Being the cat people we are, Michael and I flew here with as much anticipation for meeting Snowflake as we were for setting our eyes on the mountains, waterfalls, canyons and beaches. You can see mountains, waterfalls, canyons and beaches just about anywhere. There is only one Aloha Kitty.

Before heading off the property for day number one of sightseeing, we made a beeline fifty feet across the grass to the citrus trees, where Michael promptly picked three of the pinkest grapefruits his eyes could spot and started juggling them. I might have been tempted to make a gently snarky comment about how much my boyfriend loves to juggle (he even joined a “juggling club” at work). But I thought better of it. After all, it would be just as easy for Michael to post a picture of me on his website with the caption, “Here’s Gary on a Sunday, watching his ninth episode of Password Plus.”

Michael brought those grapefruits back with us into the house, and ten minutes later I was sipping on the sweetest, freshest juice I’d ever tasted in my life. It was immediately decreed an every-morning ritual: The Granberry “pick ‘n juggle,” which sounds like a cross between a local food store in Hooterville and a sex act still banned in conservative states. But we’re sticking with it.

By the way, here’s a picture of the two us on Delta Flight 1735 heading to Lihue Airport from L.A. I’m fake-smiling either because we’re close to landing or I have traveler’s gas. I can’t remember which. And don’t worry about that horrified look on Michael’s face. We haven’t been ordered to put on life vests for a water landing. He’s just watching Maleficent on the back of the seat in front of him. (His official review – “It was like Lord of the Rings for nine year old girls.”)

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Jalapeño Cheddar Scones – 2014

If you’re anything like me, you obsess over your hair at all hours. You have a large wooden box on your toilet tank stocked with gels, mousse, shine spray, molding clay, pomade, clippers and step by step instructions from the Evergreen Beauty College on how to master the “Epic Slick Back.” You run your fingers through your hair at every red light in case it shifted while you were coming to a stop. You routinely ask your boyfriend “How does my hair look?” and he says, “Who cares? We’re at Dennys.” You use your thumb to cover your hair in photos just to re-assure yourself you’ll be one of those lucky guys who still looks “smokin” when bald. Then you take the picture to your therapist and make sure he agrees out loud, before signing the check.

I have paddle brushes, silicone rod brushes, radial brushes and half-radial brushes. I have rat-tail combs and wide-tooth combs, an afro pick and a lice comb I found at the public park. If you’re anything like me, you’ll pick things up you find lying around at public parks and try to sell them on E-bay to earn enough money to go to Hawaii. The lice comb didn’t actually sell, but I did cash in on a half-eaten pack of Certs and a baby pacifier I listed as “slightly used,” which as far as I know is true, so please don’t report me. Aside from my hair, my ninety-six percent positive feedback is all I have going for me.

I think sometimes if I didn’t have a job in television, I could collect all the hair care products I have, take a picture of myself standing behind them, and advertise myself as a professional stylist. The problem is there’s so much competition in that field these days, I don’t know how much money I’d make. I could possibly change my professional title to something that would sound more appealing to wealthy people, like “wig butler.” I’m sure there must be some rich people that have wig butlers. Beyoncé for one. Carol Channing for another. Those people who go to conventions dressed like video game characters. I bet they all spend thousands of dollars every month to have wig butlers on retainer, and In Style just hasn’t gotten around to reporting it yet.

I decided to grow my hair long again the night I saw Jared Leto accept his Academy Award for Dallas Buyers Club. I remember watching him on stage paying tribute to gay men and women in Ukraine struggling to live their lives free of persecution, and it led me to say to myself, “If I had long hair, my pecs would totally pop! I’m the perfect body type!” Then I wished Anne Hathaway would get off the stage because she really needed to be wearing a bra. I know people have piled on Anne Hathaway lately, but I didn’t even see Les Misérables, so I feel okay criticizing her.

When you start growing your hair out, you have to remember to be patient. There will be about six months before it reaches past your ears where it will tend to flip out on both sides. This is what is called a “growth stage” by people who care about you, and “dumpy housewife from the 1950s” by people you’re related to. And because excessive humidity will make your hair blow up to three times its normal size, during this period you must under no circumstances set foot in dry saunas, greenhouses, and the entire state of Florida. You should take my word for it on this. One time, I walked into my apartment building’s laundry room looking like a guy, and I came out looking like Vanessa Huxtable from Season Five of The Cosby Show.

If you remain patient, stay well-stocked on leave-in conditioners, repeat to yourself that good things come to those who wait, and confidently own the sloppy appearance you’ll have to sport in public for the better part of a year, eventually you will look into a mirror, and looking back at you will be a guy with long, awesome, lush, single-length hair that extends all the way to the shoulders. And then everyone will finally pay you that compliment you’ve been waiting months and months to hear: “You should cut that and give it to a chemo patient!”

Get the Recipe for Jalapeño Cheddar Scones HERE

Cheesecake Marbled Brownies 2014

I was four seasons into watching Game of Thrones before I finally had the nerve to admit to Michael I had no idea what the fuck was going on.

So many beards. So many heads on pikes. All the boobs and scullery maids and stone walls. None of it makes sense to me. I feel like HBO forgot to air one of the seasons and just decided to see if anyone would speak up about it.

Every so often Peter Dinklage would say something snarky, or a dragon would fly by, and for a moment I’d be back on board and really proud of myself for keeping up. But it wouldn’t be long before a man with long hair would start growling next to a fireplace about crossing some giant sea and getting revenge against some other flea-ridden Jack Black look-a-like who may or may not still have his penis, and suddenly my head would drop forward like someone yanked my cervical vertebrae right out the back of my neck.

I still have no idea how many fucking Stark children there are. I know there’s the sourpuss red head, the butch one, the paralyzed one, the half-breed. And I feel like there are two younger ones — a Bobby and Cindy Stark — stashed away someplace, deep under the roots of some thousand year old talking tree, cowering in fear because some evil warlord needs to find them and eat their livers so he can take over Gallipoli.

For me, Game of Thrones was over once and for all when the show killed off that bratty little inbred king who liked to stomp around and scream and kill people when they irritated him in the slightest. Was I the only one who liked that kid? I felt he was very relatable.

So now, Michael is in the den watching Sunday night’s episode while I make cheesecake marbled brownies for work tomorrow. I could hear the show from the kitchen, and as I dropped the pans into the oven I said to myself, “I bet pretty soon someone’s gonna be bitching about taking back Castle Black,” and sure enough I was right! I don’t even know which one Castle Black is. I looked it up once on the Game of Thrones wiki, and this is what it said: “Castle Black is one of only three mannered castles left on the Wall along with Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and The Shadow Tower. It has a sept but no Godswood. Those who are followers must travel into the Haunted Forest to take their vows before a heart tree.”   It’s like calculus for hobbit nerds.  I’m turning my Sunday nights back over to baking.  Follow me to the brownies, and leave your dire wolf at the door.

Get the Recipe for Cheesecake Marbled Brownies HERE

Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies OR “Dreams of the Unemployed”

There are certain nightmares that zero in so precisely on our fear of helplessness that even when we wake up we can’t shake ourselves free of the terror.  Some seem to be common to the human race as a whole: forgetting to study for an important test, falling out of a speeding roller coaster, murdering someone and having to live with the gnawing guilt.  Others are more random but feel just as gut wrenching.

I once had a nightmare where I was the passenger in a car being driven by Andy Dick.  We were in downtown New Delhi, and he was going out of his way to hit every water buffalo in the street.  My arms were frozen and useless at my side so I couldn’t grab the wheel from him, but I remember screaming over and over, “At least use hand signals!” Finally, he pulled to the side of the road, ran out and jumped down a manhole.  He popped back with two bottles of 7-Up, and then proposed marriage to me.  I told my then-boyfriend Steve about the nightmare the next morning, and he didn’t give my any sympathy at all.  He just sneered and said, “Yeah, Andy Dick marries you.  That’s one way for him to get the country’s sympathy back.”

Whenever I’m unemployed, I always have the same nightmare.  I open a letter from the Electric Company and it says I owe them hundreds of thousands of dollars.  There are so many zeroes that they don’t all fit in the little printed box.  The words “Final Notice!” and “Service Discontinued!” scream at me in giant diagonal red letters.  I curl up into a ball in the corner and wail, overwhelmed with shame and guilt and the embarrassing stigma of financial failure. It happened again just last week, and I woke up in a cold sweat.  I jumped out of bed and ran to find Michael, hoping he could calm me down.

“It really freaked me out!” I told him.
“I’ll bet,” he answered.  He nodded, but just a little and it might have qualified as more of a head wobble, something that one does to recover from a sneeze.  He didn’t even look over at me.  He was tossing sunflower seeds and millet at the finches gathering around the birdbath for their breakfast in the yard.
“Could you imagine ever getting a bill like that?” I pleaded.
“Nope,” he said
“I mean… that would wipe me out completely!”
“Yes it would,” he said.  His hand continued flinging seed, unbroken in its rhythm.

It was apparent that he’d heard me recount this dream one too many times in the past, and all the dramatic tricks in the world would not be enough to pry out of him any sympathy or a pep talk about how the next job was just around the corner.   But instead of surrendering, I made up additional details that hadn’t actually happened in the dream, hoping to win him over.

“And then all the numbers jumped off the page and landed on my face and started sucking it off like an octopus!”
“That’s rough.”
“I’ll say!  And I started to cry but I didn’t have any eyes left because the octopus had sucked them off, so my head filled up like a water balloon and exploded all over the living room!”

Michael sighed and finally turned and looked me straight in the eyes. “You’ve been out of work one day,” he said. “You’re not gonna go broke anytime soon.  Go inside and watch The Price is Right.”

I looked down at the finches.  They were even less concerned.  It’s difficult to admit that all the sympathy and concern God has poured into my boyfriend to sustain him his entire life, I’ve managed to completely suck out of him in the nine years we’ve been together.

Michael is much more patient than I am.  If we were ever asked to pick out motivational t-shirts, his would read, “Go with the flow!” while mine would read, “Get this fucking river out of my way before I punch you in the nuts.”

That isn’t to say I won’t sit and watch game shows all day when I’m unemployed.  Because I sure shit will.  I’ll just feel mountains of pounding Catholic guilt about it afterwards.  And poor Michael has to hear about it.  And as the days of unemployment progress, it only gets worse for him.  It won’t be long before my idle producer brain starts feeling the itch to solve problems that are no longer being presented to me on a Monday-through-Friday basis.  And from there, it’s a quick jump before I start suggesting to Michael better ways for him to accomplish things he can already do perfectly well on his own.

This morning, as Michael was packing the cookies I made him to take to work, I found myself lecturing him on the proper transportation of baked goods.  “Don’t put the cookie caddy on the passenger seat,” I warned. “Set it gently on the floor in front of the passenger seat so it won’t slide around. And be sure to put your name on BOTH the top and the bottom pieces of the cookie caddy.  We don’t want them to get separated!  But in the event they do, we want to make sure we get both pieces back.  You should use masking tape and a sharpie pen.  Sometimes a ballpoint pen isn’t thick enough.  Sharpie is definitely the way to go.”

I sounded like a mother detailing for her four-year-old the extensive dangers of improperly using school paste.  Why I didn’t end up with a chocolate macadamia smack-print on my cheek is a testament to Michael’s saintly level of patience, and my ability to clearly read whenever his face, silent and idle, is nevertheless telling me in no uncertain terms, “Go into the other room and watch The fucking Price is Right.”

Andy Dick really dodged a bullet.

Get the Recipe HERE

Mediterranean Style Chicken Breasts with Tomato Bruschetta Topping (And I’m Off to D.C.)

I’ll be spending the next week on my first trip to Washington D.C., visiting my sister and her family, the Smithsonian, the Spy Museum, The News Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, Madam’s Organ Bar, The White House, the national monuments, the used bookstores, the speakeasies and the cherry blossoms. But first things first… let’s hit that LAX Starbucks.  It’s not a true vacation unless you start here.  The smell of agitation, stress and an amalgam of international farts await you!

The only line that’s longer is for the Burger King.  I don’t do well at airports. From the moment I walk in until the moment I’m out the other side, I’ve got my fists balled up and my brain turned down to simmer while I play I Love Lucy episodes in my head, the same way I do when I’m at the proctologist’s office, Sunday mass, or when someone forces me to watch a movie with hobbits in it.

I only have about 55 minutes until I board or “plane up” or whatever the girl at the gate’s gonna call it to prove her airline is the hippest, so I’ll get on with this chicken recipe. I certainly don’t want to short change it as I’ve had the recipe pinned to my wall for about three years (with many thanks to Sam at My Carolina Kitchen for sharing it with me!) I served it forgetting to add the feta and basil to the top, so I made Michael put down his fork while I rained them down over his half-eaten plate, then ran to the bedroom closet to re-fetch the camera.  I bypassed the kalamata olives included in the original recipe because I’m about as big of a fan of kalamata olives as I am paying $8.75 for an airport Whopper with cheese.

This is a terrific recipe.  Straightforward, impressive-looking, minimal task time, maximum flavor burst.  Give it a try.

As for me, I’ll see you when I hit the IAD at 7pm Eastern time!


The 2014 Academy Awards – Your Top Tweets. #Oscars #Oscars 2014


Ellen’s celeb selfie crashed #Twitter.  This is what happens when gays are allowed to marry.  #Oscars

Tweeting pics of yourself at the Elton John party DURING the #Oscars just tells everyone you aren’t big enough to get invited TO the Oscars

Everyone is so unfunny and grim on Twitter tonight, then I realized I was on the 12 Years a Slave feed. #oscar #oscars2014

Oh dear. Tyson Beckford is not one for chit chat. Maybe don’t make him a red carpet correspondent. #Oscars2014

The glitz! The glamour! The chicks who can’t walk in heels! It’s the #Oscars2014

No matter how famous and successful he gets, I will never EVER be certain I’m spelling McConnaughey correctly #Oscars2014

Someone get the hook. Tyson Beckford snuck out in front of the camera again. #Oscars2014 #notgivingup

Is Tyson Beckford auditioning for a Zoolander sequel? #Oscars

Is Tyson Beckford auditioning for a part on “Almost Human”? #Oscars2014

As the women try to keep their hair dry, McConnaughey is just trying to keep his weed dry. #Oscars2014 #oscar


Judging by the outfit, not only is Ellen hosting but I think someone’s gonna get the keys to the chocolate factory at night’s end. #oscars

Why is Ellen dressed like Pinocchio? #oscars

Keep it short Anne Hathaway. We’re still on the fence about u. #oscars


And the #Oscar goes to… JESUS! #Oscars

Jared Leto has rad hair, an Oscar and knows McConaughey. Meanwhile I have dark facial spots, a Jesus candle and my mailman calls me “weird guy” #Oscars

My boyfriend has requested I stop making him ask me who I’m wearing (FYI it’s a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt). #Oscar

Ya’ll… Harrison Ford missed rehearsal #oscars

Yep lets give Channing Tatum the really hard foreign names to say, because he’s the smartest! #oscars

If ur gonna make me watch Channing Tatum say “Zana Abdul Nanno” he should at least be in a bikini brief. #oscars

It was not fair for Matthew McConnaughey to get Kim Novak stoned just before they went on stage. #oscars

Does anyone know if Kim Novak has a cigarette? #oscars

The way Kim Novak has no idea what “Magic Mike” actually is but goes on praising it. That’s acting, kids. #oscars


GreenBerry TreeHouse Cookies

As it has been pouring rain outside for the last two days (the first real storm to hit Los Angeles since we moved into the treehouse), I decided to commemorate the event and the explosion of green we’re nearly instantaneously getting in the yard as the plants and flowers drink to their health and present us with a pre-spring preview bloom.

This is pretty much a standard cooking with a little food coloring added for some Saturday jazz.  I happened to have on hand walnuts, pecans, white and dark chocolate chips, so in they all went.

Michael and I have barricaded ourselves into the TreeHouse and we’re not coming out until the rain stops pounding or Monday morning rolls around.  So if you want a cookie, slip into your swimsuit, throw on your water wings and dog paddle your way up the river of mud and rocks that has become our street. We’ll leave you some in the mailbox.


Watching Amazon Pilot Season: “The After”

Welcome to internet television, where there… are… no… rules!  At least that’s what we’re told. But usually internet tv shows boil down more or less to the same conventions we see everywhere else, except people say “fuck” way more.  That was certainly the case with The After.  Chris Carter was really going for a record with this one!  Add up all the movies starring Harvey Keitel ever made and you still don’t hear the word “fuck” as much as you do in the fifty-five minutes this supernatural apocalyptic thriller took to unfold.

The heroine of The After is Gigi, a sexy French girl we first think is an assassin but actually turns out to be an actress merely preparing to audition for the role of an assassin.  Because it’s always important to reference modern technology in an internet pilot to keep the kids interested, she FaceTimes with her sexy husband and adorable little girl who mumbles incoherently and toddles back and forth in a way I suppose parents who have kids find adorable, but that lead my mind to drift to more important issues like “What ever happened to Shields and Yarnell?” and “Why do my fingers smell like roast beef?”

Bad news, people: Gigi doesn’t get the part.  Even worse news: the audition was in Century City, which is basically a single street with big buildings sandwiched between Beverly Hills and the Westfield Shopping Mall and can apparently be rented out super-cheap because it’s subbed in as “important big city business hub” on every tv show since Knots Landing was still on the air.

Next thing you know, Gigi finds herself trapped in an elevator with a diverse group of strangers with varying ethnic backgrounds and mysterious pasts, including a Latina cop, a white middle aged dowager with a cane, an Irish loud-mouth brute (“We’re goona have tah take the fookin’ starwell!”), and a pudgy birthday clown.  The maximum capacity of the elevator did not allow for an emotionally-brittle Korean or a mean-faced Middle Easterner who regrets his past, so we’ll have to wait on them til we get a series pick-up.

In the span of about five seconds, everyone in the jammed elevator goes into red-alert panic, which I can tell you from first hand experience is not believable because once I got stuck in an elevator with Emmy-winning actress Tyne Daly while we were both on our way up to Islands Fine Burgers and Drinks, and instead of freaking out we sat down on the floor and played Uno until Guapo the security guard came and freed us with his special elevator key.

The gang eventually makes it into a locked parking structure, where they encounter a wrongly accused African American who’s recently escaped from prison, a sexy Southern “gal on the go,” and Adrian Pasdar, who has yet to be hired for a role where he doesn’t have to wear a dress shirt and an Armani two-button dress vest. For the next ten minutes, they all spend so long arguing and yelling at each other about what their next move should be that I honestly thought this show was going to be about a group of people having to re-populate the Earth from inside an underground West L.A.-adjacent parking structure (My boyfriend said that he’d be willing to have sex with the clown). –>READ MORE< --

Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics: Opening Ceremonies – Your Top Tweets

Damn you #WinterOlympics – Everyone is so bundled I can’t tell who’s a scruffy hot guy and who’s a lesbian!

I wonder if Sarah Palin is watching the #OpeningCeremony from her backyard #Russia #WinterOlympics

Will live-tweeting about an event that ended 8 hours ago punch a hole in the space-time continuum? #WinterOlympics #OpeningCeremony

If 007 doesn’t parachute out a plane with Putin, these ceremonies are a bust. #WinterOlympics #ParadeOfNations

If it weren’t for the #WinterOlympics and the #SuperBowI, kids wouldn’t know what Roman numerals were!

If they put Putin on that old game show “Make Me Laugh” he’d hella clean up! #WinterOlypmics

Every Olympics sneaks in one fake country. This year it’s “NillaWafer!”

Russia wins gold in pounding vodka #WinterOlympics

All the (male) American Olympians look like the bad guys in high school underdog movies. #WinterOlympics #Biff #Chet

Do those little dancing marshmallows have to hop around through the entire parade of nations? #WinterOlympics

Argentina has no snow. They just came for international sex. #WinterOlympics

Well Ireland looks a little drab, but luckily they brought Judy Jetson with them to jazz it up. #WinterOlympics

I’ll forgive Russia for their intolerance if they forgive us for the endless Jimmy Fallon commercials. #WinterOlympics

“Great Britain is believed to be the birthplace of curling… but we can’t be sure cuz none of them will cop to it” Matt Lauer #WinterOlympics

We are red, we are white, we are Danish dy-no-mite #WinterOlympics

Only in the #WinterOlympics can you be 43 years old and qualify for an event. Congrats, one dude from Venezuela!

Oh dear… Germany looks like a tribe of marching everlasting gobstoppers #WinterOlympics

The guy announcing the countries sounds like the guy who announces the performances on #DancingWithTheStars #WinterOlympics

There are more people on my sofa than there are athletes representing Zimbabwe. #WinterOlympics

All my life, the #WinterOlympics have been closely linked with pizza. This is but one small reason why I have yet to qualify for an event.

My favorite tweet tonight about the opening ceremonies: “It’s crazy how people live all over the world!” #WinterOlympics

If you’re a Winter Olympian, you can compete in like 13 #WinterOlympics in a row and win gold in all of ‘em

#WinterOlympics tweets aren’t as funny as #Bachelorette tweets

Those dancing marshmallow people look like they’re starting to run outta steam. #WinterOlympics

Matt Lauer’s commentary is not great. Next time let’s let Siri do it. #WinterOlympics

I feel so lame… these athletes work so hard and I’m debating whether or not to get off the couch and buy tickets to the #LegoMovie #WinterOlympics

Only during the opening ceremonies would your feed include the tweet, “OMG Poland is sooooo adorable!” #WinterOlympics

Oh USA those sweaters… It’s like someone raided the Palin closet #WinterOlympics

That USA sweater is gonna be a hot fashion item, and then it will be tomorrow. #WinterOlympics

Yipers someone tell USA that ugly sweater parties are only for Christmas time. #WinterOlympics

Hey I didn’t know Team USA had their sweaters designed by my nana. #WinterOlympics

#WinterOlympics US wins the first gold in the new ugly sweater competition. #WinterOlympics

What the fuck are we wearing? We suck. #WinterOlympics


Juan Pablo Galavis: “The Bachelor” – January 27, 2014: #YourTopTweets #Bachelor


Juan Pablo I would just like to say I visually enjoy you #Bachelor

Does every season of this show HAVE to have a girl with a lazy eye? #Bachelor

How is “Dog Lover” a profession? #bachelor

If I say “Donut Eater” is a profession, can I give up the law and just eat Krispy Kremes all day? #Bachelor

Unfortunately we could only clear songs in the public domain so they all did Karaoke to “Stars and Stripes Forever” #Bachelor

What do I need to do to get a ‘Sharleen is not impressed’ meme going? #bachelor

Idk how I feel about sharleen.. #Bachelor

charlene needs to go #bachelor

I hate Sharleeen #Bachelor

Sharleen says she doesn’t want children. Juan Pablo has a child. So naturally he gives her the rose. #Bachelor

Sharleen: Yes, I love children. They’re delicious! #Bachelor


Salted Caramel Apple Pie

You will never be happy with a straight-up old school apple pie after you power down a few slices of this Salted Caramel Apple Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds.

I didn’t know that a pie could lift you completely out of a mild January depression and make you so happy that you put on your yellow and purple boxer briefs just to entertain your boyfriend by dancing up and down the hall doing your best impression of a Laker Girl.  Yet, there I was, gyrating in front of the linen closet with my arm behind my head, flapping back and forth doing “the sprinkler.”

For real.  This is a pie you make only for people you truly love.


January 23 is National Pie Day!

I don’t know about you, but January 23rd is about my least favorite day of the year. About as far away from Christmas and as deep into the deep, winter doldrums as we can get. Oh, and by the way, it’s still an exhausting nine months until my birthday.  Thank heaven for The National Pie Council and whatever high-ranking government palms they had to grease to have today officially declared “National Pie Day!”

In honor of this day of reflection, celebrating all that the pie has given our nation, I give you my FIVE FAVORITE PIE RECIPES also known as the ONLY FIVE PIE RECIPES I KNOW! But don’t let that fool you. They’re all terrific, and well worth the day off of work. Wait.. you didn’t report to work today on accident, did you? It’s National Pie Day, you know! Didn’t you notice the lack of traffic on the freeways?

And don’t go in to work tomorrow either. That’s National Peanut Butter Day! No, I’m not kidding.