A. Russo – More than the sum of my parts.


October 2015

The Last Supper??

So yeah, it’s been a while since I wrote something. Anything, actually. This is because I had to use the vacation I earned at work or lose it. So you know, ‘we will conditionally allow you two weeks of vacation – you earned them. They’re yours. Just as long as you use them before December 31st.’

Sucks, because I was actually hoping to use them next year to drive to New York and see my family, while still having a little ‘wiggle room’ for later in the year. But no worries. My family is awesome, and when they heard I was taking a week off in October my folks decided to drive down here and see me. Awesome on a lot of levels. My folks pretty much rock. I didn’t have a magical fairy-tale childhood or anything, but I did have a happy one with parents who love the hell out of me and that’s something I never take for granted. It’s also something I worry about losing, especially with the genderfluid thing. They don’t really understand it, and we don’t talk about it a lot. I think they’d get it if we sat down and chatted but I’m not going to push it because I’m still sorting a lot out myself.

Long story short(er), my parents are pretty great and I wanted to make them a special dinner before their long drive home (and my unfortunate return to work) tomorrow. We’d just watched a cooking show where they made homemade pasta. I thought, why not? Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been cooking like crazy the whole time they’ve been here. My mom and I love to cook; my dad and I love to eat. Food happens in our family. It’s a bonding thing. I generally cook to show people I care. I’m an emotional eunuch otherwise, but I make a mean ‘I’m sorry’ cupcake.

I figured, why not do homemade pasta? How awesome would that be? I have a pasta roller for my mixer, I can totes do this.

It took me three hours. THREE HOURS. To make homemade pasta. Seriously. This shit is tough. There’s a reason we get it in boxes. I made the dough, kneaded it, let it rest, sectioned it, and started rolling it out. Everything went pretty smoothly until the part where you supposedly cut it into neat little strips which then roll up to make adorable little nests of pasta.

Hell no.

My pasta didn’t do that. It just sort of stuck to itself in a big old mess. So, fine. I threw it back into the pasta roller, re-rolled it, re-stretched it, re-cut it, and floured the SHIT out of it. I did this for over an hour (with a little help), separating and flouring each individual damned noodle.

At least while I did this I had time to get the sauce going; this I do regularly. I know I make a mean pasta sauce. My DNA is half marinara. I also had time to do a really nice ricotta blended with olive oil, fresh basil, and roasted garlic. While cutting. Each. Individual. Noodle.

The final result, I will admit, was pretty damn good. Of course, when I placed it in front of my dad he had to ask what kind of pasta it was. It was sort of wide, not uniform, a little wonky, and kinda amateur-looking. Mostly because by the end I was all, “Fuck it, I’m just getting this crap MADE.”

I smiled cheerfully at him and said, “It’s fuckaccini.”

I have not had the pleasure of seeing my dad snort tomato sauce before, but it’s quite the sight.

Dinner was consumed over a lot of laughter. It wasn’t perfect but it was delicious, and we had even more laughs to remember (my mom was my official fuckaccini flourer). I know tomorrow we’re going to hug and kiss each other good-bye. We’ll do it quickly, like ripping off a band-aid. No one in my family lingers over good-byes because we’ll cry and we don’t want to. Saying good-bye to my parents is like ripping my heart out all over again. I wasn’t supposed to live this far away. I wasn’t supposed to be the kid who moved away. I was always the homebody, and now I’m sort of lost in a life I didn’t want in a state I dislike.

But you know, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I know I want to get back home. I can’t quite manage it yet, I need a job. I need finances. I know where my heart is though. It’s up in the middle of nowhere, New York State, pretty far from the city, close to the mountains I grew up in. I’m gonna get back there someday. For now I’m going to see all I can of my parents, and every meal we make together, every road trip, every phone call, will motivate me and remind me of where I want to be.

In the meantime, however, I’m looking forward to resuming my usual activities – reading, writing, and bitching about my day job. You know, the usual.


Still a Man’s World

I haven’t had a lot of time to write lately because work has been putting the ‘salaried means you get to work extra hours for no overtime’ smackdown on me. It sucks on many levels, not the least of which is because I can think of about three-hundred-seventy-two things I’d rather be doing without struggling too hard. On top of that my parents are driving down for a visit so the few hours I’ve had at home have been spent cleaning up my clutter (not mess, mind you, just clutter).

It’s given me a lot of time to poke and prod around the web on my phone and one thing I’m starting to notice is that the world isn’t as forward-thinking as we could hope. Yeah, I know a lot of us know that. Those of us who fall into the gay, queer, bi, questioning, etc. categories know it all too well. But I’m even going back to a more basic level. One we thought we’d gotten over.

Culture still sends the message that men and women aren’t equal, and it’s better to be a man than a woman.

I was shuffling through ads waiting for a job to run at work and I realized I’m seeing plenty of ads that encourage women to be more masculine, more rugged. Tomboys. It’s encouraged. In some cases, desirable. A woman or a girl can build stuff, play in the mud, anything she wants, wear rugged jeans, big boots, a plaid shirt – and society in general will indulgently (and sometimes) call her a tomboy. They’ll praise her for being strong.

But a man or a boy plays dress-up with mom’s clothes, has dolls, likes make-up, and suddenly it’s a problem. A big problem.

I’m not even going to address that, because, damn, we know that’s an issue. Why can’t you just let a person be a person?

It’s all right if your girl wants to be a tomboy. But OH NO, we can’t have boys pretending to be GIRLS.

WTF, guys?

Is being a woman so bad that we don’t want to encourage men to embrace the feminine? Are we still stuck in the Dark Ages here or what? Here I’d thought we were at least past this whole ‘man good, woman bad’ chest-thumping period of culture. Sadly no, it’s still very much in evidence. It makes me angry, particularly because (as you know) I play both sides of the field. Or neither side of the field. Which ever I feel like that day. If I want to wear a pretty dress, it doesn’t make me weak. It makes me strong. It makes me feel good. If I want dress slacks and a tie with a sharp suit coat, then that’s good too.

Someday maybe we’ll get past sex and gender and realize we’re all just humans. In the meantime I’m just going to have to go back to the man/woman thing and start flapping my loud mouth about gender inequality in general.

Eh, well, it’s what I do.


A Musical Day!

I actually did not have to look this one up – because I knew it already! October 8, 1982 was the opening date of the musical Cats on Broadway. It became one of the longest-running musicals on Broadway, running for 18 years.

I was lucky enough to grow up outside of NY city, so I had access to Broadway with just a 2-hour train ride. Now obviously (or maybe not so obviously but you’re too kind to say so) I’m too young to have seen Cats when it opened. And it wasn’t October 8 when I saw it. But I still remember it because it was my very first musical!

I was just starting to get into musical theater and a friend of mine loaned me a CD of the music. I memorized it and sang it all the dang time. When my grandmother got wind of this, she took me to Broadway. We stood there in Times Square at the discount ticket booth and she managed to get us two seats next to each other in the fourth row back in the orchestra. That’s crazy!

I remember when the lights went down and the music began, and little twinkling lights began to sparkle all over the theater through curls of fog. It was so magical, so surreal, I fell in love instantly. p until then I’d just seen little amateur shows with terrible effects and maybe one poor beleaguered piano teacher clunking out the score. This was something else.

At one point Bustopher Jones came dancing down the aisle, grabbed my grandma’s hands, pulled her up and danced with her for a second or two, and then sat her back down. I was beside myself. And then, of course, was the scene with Mr Mistoffelees, which has remained one of my favorite Broadway bits EVER. I always thought if I were to be on Broadway, that’s the role I’d want (technically my first pick would be Javert in Les Miserables but let’s face it, there isn’t enough testosterone in the world to make my voice get as low as he sings). Besides, Mr. Mistoffelees gets that awesome leap sequence in his dance. Can’t quite see Javert bursting into a round of spins and leaps like Mr. Mistoffelees does. Dance, dance, suicide, dance… no, that wouldn’t work.

Anyway, when the musical was done my grandma took me to this little restaurant that looked like a total dive but served the best Chinese food I’ve ever eaten (welcome to NYC – if the place looks like a crackhouse but a billion people are eating there, you want to be one of them). That was the beginning of a life-long love of musical theater.

If you’re not sure why this is relevant, book-ish-ly speaking, it’s because the musical was actually based on a book by T.S.Eliot called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Naturally, I do have the book. I think it’s adorable. It’s a collection of poems – yes, about cats. No deep meaning. Just kitties.

I think I might have cried when Cats stopped running on Broadway. I saw it three times (it was beaten out by Les Mis which I’ve seen 4 times), and each was just as magical as the last. From the costumes to the lighting to the music and dancing… just incredible.

And a priceless memory with my grandma, who is now 86… I’m always going to remember that day she opened my eyes to an incredible new world. Thanks, grandma!


Taco, Anyone?

Apparently yesterday was National Taco Day. Am I alone in not knowing such a day even existed? How did we wind up with National Taco Day? I feel like I should be wearing an ‘I ❤ TACOS’ t-shirt or something. And what happened to Taco Tuesday? Didn’t they get the LEGO memo?

In honor of National Taco Day (and because I decided to wonder where the heck the taco actually came from, anyway), I dug up this article about it. Don’t worry. I didn’t spend THAT much time digging. But it was pretty interesting, anyhow.

I didn’t realize the taco is a relatively new food, historically speaking. That was pretty cool. Being an avid cook (and, ergo, diner), I do like to read up on food history. I’ll admit, I’m not a big Mexican (or even Tex-Mex) fan, so I’ve never looked any of it up.

Anyhow, happy National Taco Day!


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