A look at the stuff that’s fueled my week, published
every Sunday occasionally or whatever, don’t judge me.
“Queer, tender, true. I like those things.” – Gabrielle Hamilton, Mind of a Chef
I spent my first birthday in New York at the now-famous Prune, a narrow little charmer of a restaurant in the East Village. My friend from Kasey took me — it was more like a treat for the both of us, since she’s two weeks older than me. There’s a banquette just underneath some mercury-glass mirrors; they pull out a table for you as you slide in, scoothing it back over your legs as you settle in. I don’t remember much of the meal — some sensible rosé or other in a cute tumblr, impossibly cool New Yorkers all around me, a kitchen humming with activity — but I do remember one dish in particular.
We started with a simply prepared avocado half, with olive oil spilling out the concave once housing the pit. Flaky sea salt covered the avocado’s fleshy surface, a sprig of parsley the lone garnish. The effect of the golden oil and verdant fruit mirrored that of the dappled fall sunshine just outside the window. It was barely anything, truth be told, but life changing in its way.
I’ve had meals conjured from foams and gums and wizardy, but the combination of that honest avocado, shared with one of my closest friends in a nondescript restaurant — I’ve never felt so welcome.
I’ve never felt truly part of the LGBT community — lots of baggage to unpack — but I do hope that each of us, this Pride week, Pride month, find some measure of belonging. Cheers to the queer, the tender, the true.
I recall the avocado at Prune because Kasey and her new husband were in town this week. When I first moved to Chicago, Kasey (a student at Northwestern) and I shared a teeny apartment in Uptown — it’s been a decade since she last saw the city. She and Brian are big beer fans, so I took them to the newly designated Malt Row in Ravenswood for some local brews from Dovetail and Begyle. Afterward, we headed to Map Room, still one of my favorite bars in the city. My guests agreed.
I had to kill a mouse this week. A few months ago, when we initially realized there was a problem, our landlord came in and plugged up all the holes with steel wool. He left some traps, and we thought that was it. It helped for a little while; we caught a mouse that week and thought that was it, the our unwanted roommate was just sneaky. Then last month, we noticed little paw prints on some butter in the counter, plus some scratching noises underneath the sink. There was an entry hole we missed in the cabinet, so we laid two traps and the tainted butter down there, and a few days later, we caught the mouse.
Then this week happened. I came home from picking up pizza dough from the grocery store and as I placed my keys on the kitchen counter, I saw the scurry of another grey lightning bolt duck back behind the oven. The other trap held another teeny brown thing, squeaking and writhing in panic. My heart leapt out of my chest, first because there was now a fourth mouse in as many months, and I didn’t know how long the little guy was there. It could have been hours, torturously wiggling to get out of the glue.
I set up a ziplock plastic bag with baking soda, placed the trap, mouse first, into it and slowly dropped in some vinegar. As the baking soda started to fizz, I quickly closed the bag, and placed it into a grocery bag as quickly-gentle as possible. I couldn’t watch the life get snuffed out of the silly little creature, but I also couldn’t let it suffer.
I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I prayed for the little one’s quick, painless passing.
It’s a two-fer this week, with two podcasts that should be on your radar. First up is The Sewers of Paris. It’s not new, but it’s new to me, a real pleasure because I have a whole backlog of episodes to listen to. Billed as “interviews with gay men about entertainment that changed their lives,” the show is produced by Matt Baume. Matt asks very poignant questions of these men, going beyond just the musicals, books, and television that left a lasting impression — topics span loss, love, nostalgia, coming to terms with identity, really the gamut of the queer (and human) experience. The episodes I’ve listened to so far feature Glen Weldon (NPR), Guy Branam (Talk Show the Game Show), and author Dave Holmes, and each one is a seamless blend of charm, hilarity and insight.
Next podcast? Nancy, hosted by Tobin Low and Kathy Tu. Speaking with them for the Chicago Tribune, I asked them about representation even within the LGBT space and how they navigate their newfound platform. The most recent episode, which explores Orlando one year after the attacks on Pulse nightclub claimed 49 lives, will give you all the feels.
Chicago is in full bloom, and like any good Chicagoan, I’m spending as much time outside as possible. Millennium Park’s lawn is fresh and sharp, thanks to semi-frequent rain, while walking near the Chicago River in my neighborhood smells of jasmine and linden and ozone (a tree branch was struck with lightning, and the smell is not unpleasant). I’m not synesthetic (I wish!), but it does smell like the color blue, if that makes sense?