Monday, November 26, 2007

Who Made The Mac & Cheese?

Why the Mack, Of Course
© 2007 Leighann Lord

On Thanksgiving I was most grateful that the family dinner was not at my house. With all the shopping, cooking and cleaning I'm ready for folks to leave before they ring the bell.

This year my Cousin graciously invited us all to her home for Thanksgiving, and asked us to bring a dish. When people ask us to bring a dish, they don’t mean me. They mean my Husband. I'm a good cook, but he’s an excellent cook. Over time, our kitchen has become his kitchen and my culinary skills have become rusty. I can still make a mean pot of pasta but man can not live by carbs alone.

My Husband's cooking capabilities are well known. My girlfriends love his Israeli Salad. I don't know all what he puts in it, but I'm pretty sure one of the ingredients must be crack, because once you start eating it you can't stop. I was threatened with the end of life long friendships if I didn’t come across with the recipe. I did, of course. My Husband is always happy to share, but personally, I think stuff tastes better when other people make it.

My Mom's side of the family still speaks quite fondly of the ribs my Husband made one Christmas – pork, beef, AND lamb – with home made barbeque sauce. I, not so fondly, remember shopping with him for all the ingredients he needed to make said sauce. After the third store I asked why he didn’t just buy plain old barbeque sauce. Time stopped, the sky grew dark and he gave me a look that made my blood run cold. I believe this was the same look given to witches by the Inquisition before they were burned at the stake.

When my Cousin called to invite us for Thanksgiving dinner she asked my Husband to make The Mac & Cheese. Uh oh. I was worried. Excellent cook that he is, he's never made Mac & Cheese. That's my fault. I’m not a fan of The Mac. Actually The Mac is fine, it's The Cheese I can't stand. I’ll eat pizza, but no Mac & Cheese, cheese burgers, cheese fries, cheese cake, cheese doodles, Cheez-Its® or Cheez Whiz®.

Although my Husband often whips up new dishes for me to try, he won't make anything he knows I hate. It's not just wasting food, but I'm sure he got tired of seeing me pout like a five-year-old whenever he put something on my plate I wouldn't eat.

The center piece of the Thanksgiving meal is the turkey, but the importance of the accompanying dishes can not be underestimated. A family favorite like Mac & Cheese can make or break the meal and your reputation. Mess it up and you'll never live it down. Children yet to be born into the family will know that Aunt or Uncle Whoever makes the worst whatchamacalit. I was worried about my Husband’s culinary legacy, and by extension my own.
"You messed up the Mac & Cheese!"
"Me? I didn’t make it. My Husband did."
"Yeah, but you married him!"
Oh the shame, but my in-house chef did not disappoint. I'm proud to say he threw it down like a pro and his Mac & Cheese was a hit with The Fam. It may not reach the legendary status of his ribs, but The Mack made good. The Mac & Cheese was so tasty I was sorry we didn't bring any back home. That's the bad part about not having Thanksgiving dinner at your house: No left overs to nibble on later. No worries though; The Mack made another batch just for me. Ain’t love grand?

I’m still not a complete Mac & Cheese convert. I’ll only eat it now if I know my Husband made it. Everybody else will still get the pout.

Now that he's proven himself, I have a feeling my husband will be asked to make the Christmas Mac & Cheese. And I'll be ready just in case anyone wants me to make my famous Holiday Spaghetti.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Black Credit Check

By Leighann Lord, © 2007

"What do you want me to say about you?" This is what any decent MC will ask before bringing you up on stage. A good MC will ask this even if they already know you. It gives you the chance to say how you want to be introduced to the audience. A very good MC, by the way, is one who not only asks, but remembers and does it.

Some comics don't care how they're introduced. They tell the MC, "Just say anything." I applaud their bravery. There are very few MCs I would trust to do this. Presentation is key and those few seconds when the microphone passes from MC to Comic are too precious to waste recouping from an off-color-meant-to-be-funny-but-not intro from an incompetent MC.

Another version of this is, "What are your credits?" Credits mean everything and nothing. They look and sound good on the resume, but you've still gotta do the job. I know comics who don't use credits, claiming the audience doesn't care. Saturday night, third show, drinking since noon? No, they probably don't care. But more often then not I've seen people's ears perk up, and their attention become focused, when they hear a show mentioned that they know and like.

Credits matter very much to a comedy club. It's their way of advertising that they have the best talent. "You've seen them on TV, now see them here!" When an audience member calls to make a reservation they usually ask, "Who's going to be on the show?" At a showcase club this could be 10 comics who, while great, are not household names yet. The club will then name the comics and their credits. The club is banking that even if the caller doesn't know the comic, they will recognize the name of the TV show.

Unlike an MC, a club does not ask a comic how he or she would like to be introduced or in this case, advertised to the public. Does that matter? I didn't think so until I learned that a local club was peddling me to prospective audience members as "... Leighann Lord from 'Def Comedy Jam'...." While it's true that I did appear on "Def Comedy All Star Jam" back 1996, I was perplexed as to why a comedy club would use a credit that was over 10 years old, especially when I have so many more recent ones.

Besides being true, credits should also be current. If you're introduced with a show that's no longer on the air it makes you sound old and dated. As great as it was in it's day, "Evening at the Improv" doesn't carry quite the same cache it once did. However, it's not just that the "Def Jam" credit is old, but I believe the club deliberately chose to use it because it does something my other credits do not: label me as a Black Comic.

Part of me understands. It's all about marketing. Admirably, some clubs want their line up to reflect the diversity of their audience and they do this using the United Colors of Benetton Formula: one of everything. However it's not quite politically correct to say, "Hey, we've got Caucasians, an Asian, a Black, and a Chic." And so I end up being "... Leighann Lord from 'Def Comedy Jam.'"

I should know better than to take this personally; but there are times when I'm more than a little hurt, pissed and perturbed that after 15 years in the business, somebody thinks "Black Comic" is the only label that fits me. But from a pure business stand point it's also a tad misleading.

"Def Jam" is not just the title of a TV show, but it has evolved into describing a genre of comedy. In the main, introducing or advertising a comic with the "Def Jam" credit tells the audience they are going to see some rough and raunchy, urban comedy. Not exactly my style. For the record the show that would have best described me was the wonderful but sadly short lived "Comic Justice." Hosted by AJ Jamal it featured Black comics who were hip, smart and I dare say cerebral.

Selfishly I wish the show had survived so I had a chance to do it. I also believe the show would have been a lovely counter balance to "Def Jam." It would have given us a little variety and diversity. The Black Community is not monolithic and yet that is how we're often represented. We are "Good Times", "The Cosby Show" and everything in between and beyond.

I guess I should just be grateful that the credit the club used for me was at least accurate. Some have no qualms about engaging in wholesale fabrication. Much like inattentive MCs who don't bother asking for my credits and just assume I've been on BET. Funny, they never assume I've been on the "Tonight Show" or "Letterman." I guess that's not part of the marketing plan.

Sometimes I think my husband has the right idea. When MC's ask him, "What do you want me to say about you?" He says, "Next act, very funny." And would you believe they still mess it up?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

I Love the Smell of Icy Hot in the Morning

© 2007 Leighann Lord

As I sit here with a ThermaCare Heat Wrap on my back, an Icy Hot Medicated Sleeve on my knee and liberal amounts of BenGay coating my triceps, biceps, and quads, I'm wondering how the hell I got here.

Back in 2006 I began doing mixed martial arts to get in shape. One class per week turned into two; two turned into four. Now I average six hours of training per week. I'm in the best shape of my life, I'm learning skills I hope I never need and I'm having fun.

Well apparently I messed around and got good enough to get invited to participate in an upcoming tournament. Holy crap, Bat Man! I was really just in this for fun and a killer set of abs. It never crossed my mind that I – The Delicate Flower – would ever compete in a tournament, but I was so stunned and flattered by the invitation that I said, yes. This is very reminiscent of how I accepted my husband’s proposal of marriage, but that's a story for another time.

So now in addition to my regular classes, I also go to tournament training: three hours on Sunday. Praise the Lord and let's get ready to rumble. If you’re keeping score at home, that nine hours of training. No wonder I don’t have time to go to the movies, see my friends or wander through mall clothing stores trying on cute outfits.

The extra training has been intense. This is where I’m actually applying the skills and techniques I’ve learned in order to beat, I mean best my opponent. I've never considered myself a violent person — sale days not with standing. In my experience, a well-placed elbow will let a fellow shopper know that you mean business. Only one of you is leaving with that last pair of size eights and it's not her.

Kicking ass sounds like fun but I've learned that one can not kick ass without presenting one's own posterior for a reciprocal thrashing. There's always someone with more skill, speed, stamina and strength. Even if you’re winning it’s exhausting and giving can hurt just as much as receiving.

Recently while going for a take down I felt my knee do something a knee was never meant to do. It slipped out of place ever so slightly to the left and then, as if knowing it shouldn’t be there, quickly slid back to the right. For the record a knee is supposed to bend, not slide. Sliding bad. Bending good.

I remember in "A League of There Own" Tom Hanks shouting, "There’s no crying in baseball." Well, let me tell you, there is crying in martial arts. As a matter of fact, if you get whacked in the nose with just the right amount of force, it’s biologically impossible not to cry.

I also never realized how long a two minute round is. It doesn’t sound like much until you begin slugging it out, toe to toe. How anyone can do it for 12 rounds is beyond me. I have a new found respect for professional boxers. I even understand why someone would take a dive. For me, "Rocky IV" is now a horror movie. There's not enough BenGay in the world to make me fight the female equivalent of Dolph Lundgren.

Come to think of it, I don’t know who I’ll be fighting. Matches are based on belt ranking (red) and weight (a lady’s got to have some secrets). On one hand, I’m glad that I’ve trimmed down. Hopefully this means I won’t be up against any bruisers in the Amazon Division. But one the other hand, a little extra weight could be a nice cushion. Maybe getting punched in the fat hurts less.

For now, adrenaline gets me through the training, but the next day I’m a wreck. I walk like Fred Sanford and I smell like a medicine cabinet. In order of increasing pungency I’ve used Ben Gay, IcyHot and Tiger Balm. I guess the theory is the worse it smells the better it works. Perhaps the odor is meant to distract you from the pain. I personally prefer Sports Creme because it's odorless, but then I worry: If I can’t smell it, is it really working? What I wouldn’t pay for a muscle creme that smelled like cupcakes. Cupcakes are very distracting.

Muhammad Ali once said, "I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.'" While I’ve always loved that quote, I am ever so grateful that hitting to the head is not allowed in the tournament.

When it’s over, I’m going to treat myself to a trip to The Mall. The other shoppers will probably smell me coming and get out of the way before anybody gets hurts.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Succeed or Breed?

© 2007 Leighann Lord
As a former English major, bookstore clerk and all around bibliophile, I read a lot. I finish most of the books I start, but there are a couple I just can't seem to get through. Years ago I picked up the engagingly titled "How To Marry A Black Man" by Monique Jellerette. I didn't finish it which probably explains how I ended up marrying a white guy. Perhaps the book should be subtitled: "Read it Cover to Cover and You'll Get a Brother; Only Read Half and You'll Stray off the Path."

I've also never been able to finish reading "Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude" by Clement Stone. I pick it up every few months and begin re-reading it and I always stop shortly after the author begins to rail about the dangers of sex.

"Another force with which every human being has to contend, and which, if not met with PMA [Positive Mental Attitude], can cause physical, moral and mental destruction is the power of sex. Sex represents the greatest challenge of change! Each human being has the power to choose for himself whether he will use the tremendous power of sex for good or for evil. Each human being must contend with the problems that will arise in his life because of sex." (p. 86)

It’s not that I agree or disagree, but I feel like I’ve been baited and switched. I'm reading a book about success and then I'm blind sided by a sermon. Thankfully, the author doesn't leave you hanging. He asks and answers the question inquiring minds want to know: "How can you transmute the power of sex into the good and the beautiful?" (p. 87) I'm thinking dinner, candles, and soft music, but the author’s says:

"Keep your mind on the things you want and off the things you don't want. This means you keep your mind on immediate, intermediate, and distant desirable objects. The instinct of sex in the subconscious mind will be patient if it has hope that you will fulfill life's mission."
He also says:
"Work long hours at a labor of love. It will keep you busy, occupy your thoughts, and use up surplus energy."
So basically, work hard and don’t think about it? I guess that's how he wrote the book. I resent the implication that hard working, success oriented people aren’t having sex. Just because it has to be scheduled in one’s day planner, doesn’t mean its not happening.

This advice is a hard sell for the let it all hang out society that is modern America. We are loathe to postpone pleasure of any sort. We don't wait well and are unaccustomed to it. Two words: instant gratification. Think it, want it, have it NOW.

All the media messages that matter say if you want sex, have sex. What are you waiting for? Oh, right the video equipment. Apparently sex today must be taped and posted on You Tube. If it doesn't go viral, how good could it be? No boundaries. No privacy. No waiting. Today, all that wonderful sexual energy, Mr. Clement speaks so highly of is spent having sex. And when folks are done they have just enough energy left to roll over and turn off the camera.

I’m willing to wager, given his ardent sincerity on the subject of sex, that the author had a colorful youth. But for some, age and time dulls the ardor; makes us forget or want to. As my grandmother often said, "Many a gay blade, turns into a sword of righteousness."

The hormone haze of sex and love that begins at puberty thrusts us all headlong into a lifelong dance that has many missteps. The trick is to find the balance between being a wall flower and a video ho; between complete denial and full on hedonism.

A respectful acknowledgment perhaps?

As Spike ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer;" "Lover’s Walk;" Season 3) so eloquently said:
"Love isn't brains, children, it's blood... blood screaming inside you to
work its will. I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it."
Love’s bitch indeed. Happy reading. Happy dancing.

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