Thursday, December 28, 2006

for the literal: a recipe.


i've been enjoying my life immensely, onion cellar notwithstanding. the shows are regularly scheduled and going very well for what they are. people are happy. i show up at night, and during the day i am doing things i want. it's been so long since i have.

i sleep late, read late, go to yoga every day, let the mail continue to pile up and am shocked to find that i don't care as much as i thought i would...don't care about pushing forward, don't care about standing still, am simply happy to be where i am most of the time. this must be rare, i think, i should enjoy it.

i go to rob's apartment in harvard square and he pours the wine and spins the discs....old discs, seventy-eights that he's been collected for forty-some-odd years. bix beiderbecke, hoagy carmichael, the old jazz from way back when. his apartment is an old refuge, a dusty library of music and art, the cats who count. the other night was zappa night. i hadn't listened to "absolutely free" since high school. rob dug the libretto out of some hidden place. i sat listening and happy, nagged only slightly by the voice i've gotten so used to over the past six years "get up and go. there is too much other shit to do." "fuck you", i answer, "i sit and listen". we fight, that voice and i. through rob i met a wonderful francophile math professor named sandy who is letting me crash in an empty room in his harvard square house. i have a key and crash there when i don't feel like driving home to the south end. i eat scallops and mashed potatoes. i drink tasty beers during every performance. my belly is toned (from the yoga) yet substantial (from the beck's). it's gorgeous and i fondle it a lot.

as for MY apartment, the need to escape is easy to sympathize with. there are IMMENSE piles of cultural debris and barely any blank spots. i've been letting mail and "objet d'tour" pile up since about 2003, saying "i'll get to that when we get a break". out videotapes, photographs, CDs, books, press gathered from remote lands, books i've bought or been given, random everything is scattered. i got even lazier in this past six months, knowing i would have this time off. i would come home from tour and dump piles and bags thinking "january. I Will Deal." this wouldn't be so bad if i weren't the sort of person who didn't feel a compulsion to archive, save and savor. but every painting or drawing given to me must be photographed, shared and stored; every book must be read; every CD listened to; every press clipping dated and filed. i know, i know. i could liberate myself and throw it all away. i can't. i mustn't. i need a bigger apartment. as my friend marcus once said...."aahhhh i'm drowning in my own biology!" (this was right after: "i'm urinating in the fields of the zeitgeist!!"). he's my favorite poet.

i haven't played any real or new music yet. this comes after things are clean. it's also freezing in there. but songs are always in my head. i jot down lyrics on envelopes and leave them in a pile on the piano. my mind is sifting, shuffling, preparing to make new things. music things, book things, theater things. i miss thinking about art. i've spent so much time thinking about the business of the band that i'm very rusty.

i am still working on a long rambling blog about the onion cellar. and by the way, my friends, re: the last blog:

(pr-bl) n.
A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.

there is no melanie. there is no zucchini cake. it was a metaphor, fucking. well, i suppose a parable doesn't necessarily have to be fictional. i should have elaborated. though i did have a lot of fun trying to distinguish between those who commented to further the metaphor, and those who actually wanted the cake recipe.

for those who are coming to the play in the coming days, just one request:
please make lots of noise. don't be afraid. the crowds (mostly the ART subscribers) can be mighty timid due to their expectations. help them.

oh and anyway: for my parable, i had wanted to find a weird cake that would still seem delicious. i googled "weird cake recipes". this is what i had found. mad love to barb, it's her recipe. if you bake it, please share with all of us the degree of it's actual deliciousness.


½ cup soft butter or margarine

½ cup vegetable oil

13/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

½ cup sour cream

2 cups shredded zucchini with skins on

2 ½ cups flour

4 tbsp cocoa

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

you may add chocolate chips if you like, mini’s or regular size, as much as you want


¼ stick butter

6 tbsp milk

1 tbsp cocoa

1 box powder sugar

1 cup chopped nuts, your preference

Mix margarine or butter, oil and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, sour cream and zucchini. Mix well. Add dry ingredients, mix. Put in 9 x 13 or similar sized pan, greased.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until cake is done in the middle


Bring the first 3 ingredients of frosting to a boil, then remove from heat and add the last 3 ingredients, and mix. Pour on hot cake. Cool cake to eat.




Thursday, December 21, 2006

the onion cellar: a parable



it is your friend john's birthday. his friend melanie, who you barely know, offers up her large house to host a surprise birthday party and dinner. it's an excellent idea. various friends from different walks of john's life call around and the guest list grows organically: there will be a collected 16 guests, some people you know and some who you don't. so that melanie doesn't have to cook up a huge dinner, everybody agrees to bring a different dish. you agree to make a giant cake. you are very excited. you love to bake and have an old family recipe for a zucchini-chocolate cake that everybody always goes mad for.

however, your kitchen is covered in unopened mail and CDs and papers and your stove is from 1947 and doesn't have a thermostat. melanie, being a totally decent human being, offers to let you use her kitchen. over an email, she informs you that not only does she have a state-of-the-art kitchen with every single amenity you could ever want, but (did you know?) she used to be a professional chef before she went into internet marketing. she know everything about cooking and would love to give you hand if you're rusty and guide you through her kitchen's funks as she cooks on the stove-top for the dinner. she tells you that she loves to cook with other people and a cake baked together has twice the love in it. you are overwhelmed by her kind offer and pleasant demeanor and agree to meet her at 3 pm at her house. the party starts at 7 pm. you bring her a nice bottle of wine for herself to say thank you.

when you get there, melanie greets you warmly and shows you into the kitchen. she was right: this place is unbelievable. marble counters, 6 burners on a island-stove, pots and pans of every size hanging from the ceiling. the place is equipped to the gills. melanie puts on some soothing classical music and helps you unpack your groceries & ingredients. she chats away about how she loves cooking. as you take the zucchini out of your grocery bag she gives you a weird look. you laugh and tell her that you know it sounds odd, but the cake is a a zucchini-chocolate cake and has been beloved by three generations of your family. she smiles kindly and tells you how much she loves more "creative" cooking. you think you see some hesitation when she says this and possibly a patronizing tone in her voice, but you barely pay attention. you talk for a while about cooking a recipes and uncork the wine you brought. the atmpsphere is congenial. at 4:00 you realize that time is flying and you should start baking.

by 4:30, you're cranking on the cake. melanie is kind enough to let you use her basic ingredients like flour and salt, and she shows you how to use her futuristic oven. you're still adding things to the batter when melanie approaches you with a question.

listen, she says: listen, i should have mentioned this before but a couple of people that are coming are vegan. would you mind terribly if we cut out the eggs and milk and butter?

you are confused. you've already made the batter. but she asks you so nicely. um....i don't know, you say, i'm pretty sure that the cake needs those ingredients to bake. melanie looks at you kindly and says, guess what? they don't! i used to work in a vegan bakery. i know just the trick, and it'll taste almost exactly the same, she says. really? you are incredulous. really, she says. i'll help you out and tell you exactly what to use to replace the dairy, it just so happens i have all the right ingredients. you feel it is impossible to say no. she's being nice about it, and she's letting you use her awesome kitchen. ok, you agree. sure. so she pulls out a bunch of soy and tofu and other unknown-looking vegan products from the fridge. you feel a little skeptical, but feel you can instinctively trust her. she was a chef.

she guides you about how much of what to add to your original batter, and you start the process over. you're getting a little nervous about the time, but it should have plenty of time to bake. people aren't coming over until seven. you can let the cake cool during dinner and ice it right before you serve it. no problem. the batter looks a little clumpy, but melanie assures you that it will come out fine. you start getting back into the happy cooking process, chop choping away at your zucchini.

at around 5:30, melanie lets the real bomb drop.

listen, she says: listen, i should have mentioned this before, but i'm allergic to zucchini and i actually can't stand chocolate. i feel my eyes starting to water and my skin is breaking out into hives. can you please ditch the zucchini part of the cake? and you're in luck...i have CAROB in the fridge, tons of it! we can use that instead of the chocolate. and your icing should be fine, she says. she really looks nervous, and she's right...the hives are starting to show. you feel terrible. are awestruck at the absurdity of the situation. why didn't she tell you this when you were unpacking your grocery bag and laying your ingredients out on the table?

i guess so, you say, now fully disappointed that your cake will taste NOTHING like your cake.

then you think for a second and say:
melanie, i think maybe you should bake this cake alone. and i'll help, you add. but i don't know anything about vegan cooking.

no no! she looks at you earnestly. this is YOUR cake and you wanted to bake it! i'm just asking if you can change a couple of ingredients.

melanie, you try to say nicely, you're asking for some pretty serious changes. my recipe was for a zucchini-chocolate cake with dairy. you're talking about making a vegan carob cake. that's sort of fucked up.

are we making this cake together or not? she asks impatiently.

you stand there staring at each other, at an impasse. melanie finally says fine, she'll do it. but she's grumpy.
five minutes later she turns around and says: listen, i really think you should be doing this. you agreed to make the cake. i have all these other things i need to cook.

you are paralysed with the ridiculousness of this all, and you start throwing carob chips into a blender, just to get the bad vibes out of the room. in your head, you're already waiting for dinner to be over so you can forget this experience and go home. then things go from bad to worse as melanie starts complaining about the way you're dealing with the carob.
you throw your hands up.
melanie, you say, make the damn cake. yourself. i'll do something else. i'll chop carrots. whatever you want, i'm just not going to deal in the cake department. it's 6 pm and there are people coming over in an hour. we need a cake.

fine, she says, quietly. i will.

your friend bob comes over early and dips his finger in the cake batter. he looks at you questioningly.
melanie smiles warmly at him and tells him that you two have been having a good time and baking the cake "together".
you try to keep your mouth shut.

the party starts. birthday john comes over and is pleasantly surprised. you try to forget your cake debacle and enjoy the dinner. the cake is finished and drying on the rack. melanie comes over and whispers that you need to ice it. you leave the table and go to the kitchen. you take a crumb-sized bite of the carob vegan cake. it tastes heavy and alien. you try to let go of what you want it to taste like. you try to open your culinary mind. it's not TERRIBLE. it's just not like anything you wanted to eat. you were really looking forward to eating the zucchini-chocolate cake. you sigh. at least the icing is delicious.

as you enter the room with the cake, everybody oohs and aahs. melanie announces that you two worked very hard together on this cake, and that it's an old family recipe of yours.
this pisses you off.
you do not want to ruin the party, but that last part was just too much to handle.
actually, you tell the assembled guests, it isn't a family recipe.
actually, you say, this is not the cake i wanted to bake.
melanie wanted to make the cake vegan and i let her do it, you say. and it tastes ok for a vegan cake, but you might be underwhelmed.

the room is hushed. you've insulted the hostess. this is not cool.

people eat the cake. the icing is complimented. the vegans in the room assure you that for a vegan cake, it kicks ass.
everybody compliments the two of you. the party is still a party. nobody seems fazed by the cake debacle. you feel silly.

melanie wraps the cake up (unsurprisingly, there is a large chunk leftover), and gives you the tupperware container to take home.

in the car on the way back home, your two best friends, doghead and arty, can sense your shitty mood as you lay down in the back seat.
we gotta be honest with you, doghead says.
lay it on me, you say.
the vegan cake wasn't that bad, he says. it really wasn't. but i've had the zucchini-chocolate cake. i feel your pain.
really? you ask.
arty, who is sitting in the passenger's seat, takes your hand.
i know you slaved in a kitchen all day, he says, and the icing was to DIE for, but, honey?
yes? you say.
that cake was NOT FUCKING CAKE., he says. it was a brick of doom.

you all laugh.

you tell him you know, and thanks for being honest.

it's a long drive home (about 38 hours) and there are no rest-stops on the way, so the three of you will be forced to eat nothing but this cake for fucking breakfast, lunch and dinner.

several hours later, you are very hungry.
you scrape off the icing and eat that.
you think that fasting might be healthier than eating non-stop cake.

you try to remain cheerful and look out the window at the big world which is passing by as the sun starts coming up over the horizon.
the party was a good party despite the cake debacle.
and it feels almost good to be hungry, you feel sort of lean and mean.
you are looking forward to getting home and making a cake you like.
you drift off to sleep, listening to your friends chat in the front seat....still hungry, but happier than ever to have friends who will be honest with you about your cake, because they truly understand and love you. this is better than cake.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

nine awesome things


since i often use this as a tablet in which to mourn the negative aspects of my existence, i thought i would share some nice/awesome things to make up for all the recent darkness.

then, of course, i will follow up quickly with a very dark and self-absorbed post.
blogging karma.

1. last night i watched THE ENITRE INDIANA JONES TRILOGY...yes, all three, back to back, me & cormac in our pyjamas, pomegranate juice, pumpkin and corn soup, fresh guac and chips and gingersnap cookies. we took a break between each episode and walked around cormac's neighborhood in chilly moonlit allston, in our pyjamas, coats and hats and scarfs. raiders is classic, temple of doom sucked even MORE than i remember it sucking (WTF with that one???? did they fire ALL the good writers? ech...) and last crusade was a triumphant comeback. very few movie stars i could actually admit wanting to bang, and harrison ford is one of them (jack nicholson is another, and i think the only other is heathers-era christian slater...maybe judd nelson from breakfast club...ok, and maybe buster keaton). anyway, it was AWESOME. only the penitent man shall pass.

2. i managed to get ALL of my christmas shopping done in UNDER three hours by deciding i would but NOTHING BUT BOOKS for all of loved ones. luckily the amazing harvard book store was at my disposal and i walked through it's graceful aisles and i found something for everyone. i overfilled one eeuuuuge shopping basket and had come back with my car because i couldn't carry it all. spoiler: here were multiple copies purchased for various friends of "towelhead" by elicia erian (AWESOME). i am free.

3. cafe pamplona, which is cosmically located one block away from the zero arrow theater where we are putting on The Onion Cellar, has had garlic soup almost every day i've been in. they also added an extensive tea menu to their kitchen. need i say more? it's AWESOME. i sit there, journal in hand, and feel bliss unending.

4. my apartment is a fucking mess but i DONNNNNNNNN'T CARE. i haven't opened my mail for two weeks. i used to get excited about opening packages in the mail and now i get excited that i have the willpower to step over the pile without feeling anxious. it feels: AWESOME.

5. during my book shopping, i found a coffee table book of bansky's work. i didn't know he was so known and published. if you don't know his shit because you live outside the UK, go look and feel hope for the universe and the future of art and mankind: he's: AWESOME.

6. sand from someone's hair from the sky from the theater in my bed. music left like a gift. AWESOME.

7. december and NO SNOW. global warming blows but AAAAHHHHH AWESOME.

8. coconut green tea from tealuxe alone every morning. my apartment. alone. my piano, untuned. my CD collection. my clothes. all the things i miss about my life. FUCKING AWESOME.

9. being able to look at my life next month and actually see blank days and time to do WHAT I be able to say yes instead of always no no no, i can't, i'm sorry, i'm be able to choose what i am doing instead of being a slave to an unrelenting an unfamiliar gift....time to spend around things that make me happy, time to make music, time to write, time to collaborate, time to read, time to listen to music again without irritation, time to clean, time to sew, time to drink, time to plan, time to laze, time to travel, time to sleep, time to be around good and nurturing company, time to breathe out, time to waste.....time to do AWESOME and i've waited so fucking long to get here....

next installment: compliments, complaints and reflections about the current theatrical state of things. i'm over the worst of it.

we're doing nine shows a week. brutal but not as hard as it sounds. it's like vegas, i assume.
for those of you who are local and coming to the onion cellar, instructions to follow.

holiday cheere



10: this was just too perfect not to add but i had to come back and edit the post. as soon as i posted this, i literally i got up from the computer and went to the bathroom to pee and my cell phone was in my back pants pocket and LANDED IN THE BLOODY FUCKING TOILET. i fished it out and and it's FINE. it turned right back on, lit up like a fucking christmas tree. god is on my side. c'mon. must i point out how AWESOME that is? i think not.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Million Dollar Dead Dancers Society


i've waited so long to articulate everything that's happened with the Onion Cellar in the last few months that i feel like i will alienate everybody with a blog that is so vast and epic in length and scope that only 4 or 5 people will get to the end.
maybe i should offer a prize? a cake?
but how will i i know? maybe a test or an essay question at the end

PLease write an essay of no less than 1500 words describing Amanda's experience with the American Repertory Theater.


Please choose 2 out of the 4 following questions, in essay format. Each answer must be no less than 1000 words.

1. Why did Amanda ignore all the red flags waving in her face when she still had time to fix the problem?
2. Is there a difference between art that is "good" and art that is "bad"? What about art that is "safe" or "not safe"?
3. Do you agree with Amanda's decision to continue on with the project despite the drastic turn of events? Why or why not?
4. Please expound on the difficult artistic terrain between "integrity" and "responsibility".

i'll work on it

put on pot of tea. boiling and ignoring it.
2 shows down. 38 shows left.

i feel so fucking weird and alone up there. i can't describe it. i'm working on it.

i needed the onion cellar, it self, most of all. for my self. we make what we need. that's how it works.
there was only one solution tonight:
had to borrow pope's computer, since my disc drive is broken, crawl into bed with headphones, insert Dead Poets Society DVD, watch entirety and weep.
had to put pope's computer back downstairs, still weeping, steal some of his toilet paper (i'm out) come back up here and sit in my cold kitchen.

tomorrow night maybe i'll watch Dancer in the Dark. then the next night, Million Dollar Baby. i'll alternate.
my own little onion cellar atop a few square feet of comforter. crying into stolen toilet paper and getting it all out of my system.
maybe 38 shows later, and Dead Poets Society x 12, Dancer in the Dark x 13 and Million Dollar Baby x 13 later i'll be ready to get up, get dressed, go to the cineplex, watch Borat and start life afresh. hope it's still playing by then.

all the water boiled away, just added more.

right now i'm alone, it feels fine to be alone, standing to the side, and all i have to do is look around and remind myself that for fucks sake, maybe it really did have to be this way, and that every person in the world who's ever tried to make anything real has had to deal with exactly what i'm feeling now.
i should not ever expect it to be easy....i expected that, how stupid...
i SHOULD expect that the majority will not want to cry, splatter, shake, grab, yell, mess, smear, pull...YAWP the world out of it's sleepiness, kicking and screaming!aaahhhhhhhgahgahgfahgfhashfgashgahjlehd.......

I went to the woods because i wanted to live deliberately.
i wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life...
to put to rout all that was not life;
and not, when i came to die, discover that i had not lived.



Sunday, December 03, 2006

swivel chair 101

as stupid as this sounds, i can't really write about what's going on. i've actually attempted several times in the past few weeks to write here but find myself impossibly frustrated and stumped. too sad, too many sensitive people and situations and it just plain fucking sucks.

i'm trying to put something longer and more articulate together for later, but i'll just say: the last few weeks have been the hardest of the past few years, harder than touring, harder than anything. i've had to watch this play/project that i've been working on for over two years take a direction that is out of my control...hours of brain and soul work lost. the show still emerges, but under someone else's somewhat alien wing. it's been painful in a deep way, like a creative miscarriage and a forced adoption on top. whatever. the worst hopefully came and went four or five days ago and i'm on the mend, no more tears, ready to see if i can at least make sense of this story. the adult theater world. the big. real. theater world. it's....different.

stories are helpful. here's one.

four days ago i went to see a theater project put on by the American Repertory Theater Institute students who are part of our play (the onion cellar) which goes up next week. they are acting students. a group of 15 of them put on a performance in the theater that our show will be held. it was a really well-rehearsed, directed, lit and staged set of solo or duo vignettes called "object exercises" in which the students had been given 6 weeks or so to create a physical performance using a simple object. the actor plus a broom, plus a trash can, plus a water bottle, etc. you get it. one performer did a piece using a black office swivel chair, you know the type, adjustable back, 6-forked swivel bottom, cheap-ass upholstery. he dressed in a tux, knee pads and elbow pads and did a performance/dance with the chair using the james bond theme. he slid around on it, danced with it and under it, bounded, glided, generally become one with it. it was amazing, astounding even.

tonight i went to my friend andrew's house. greg was there. we drank malt liquor forties and break-danced to wu-tang and run DMC for 3 hours non-stop. at one point, i was taking a breather in the kitchen and greg collapsed in a black office swivel chair next to me. andrew came in and force-wheeled greg back onto the living room dance floor. greg went mad, dancing with the swivel chair and doing moves heretofore unknown by any break-dancer.

no plan. no rehearsals. no director. no set designer. no dramaturgs. no assistant dramaturgs. no office and no xerox machines. no ten-minute breaks every hour and fifty minutes. no stage manager. no assistant stage managers. no assistant to the assistant stage managers. no lighting designer. no speech coach.

it was better.

metaphor digested.


cross-posted to