Monday, November 01, 2004

The Velveeta incident.

Last night, after catching a screening of "Vera Drake," I headed to Larry and David's condo for their fourth annual Halloween Wine and Cheese Celebration. I probably had too much wine and some really, really exotic cheese, most of it goat cheese though I think the capper was an extremely harsh bleu cheese. I also preferred the white wines to the rather tart darker wines of the evening, though I had a bit of a good port while I was there.

Larry and David had set up a banquet table in their living room to allow for 16 people, though only 15 were there. (The opera guy was a no-show.)

At the center of the banquet table was a bouquet intended to mock me. There was a cornucopia of flowers, knick-knacks and, in plain view, a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese.

Last week, coming there for dinner, I brought two boxes of Velveeta Shells and Cheese that I thought I could make to compliment Larry's attempt at Shepherd's Pie. I mean, I was in the mood for Shells and Cheese, and I didn't think that it was going to be a big deal. I mean, it's Shepherd's Pie, so I thought it would be all right to make side items. (Besides, I was going over there to watch "Desperate Housewives," a show that almost merits Velveeta.) When I came in with the boxes, Larry threw a fit, refused to allow me to make my damn pasta, suggested that I was some philistine and made jokes about it all that evening.

So coming into the wine-and-cheese party, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to know that mocking my Velveeta was going to be a running joke, which it was.

The centerpiece was out of my reach, so I was staring down the "macaroni of my discontent" all night.

My place at the table for the seven-course meal was between Andy, the quiet, pensive, fiercely intelligent performance artist/drummer who's working on his latest album, and Duncan, the fabulous, scene-stealing, all-that actor/performance artist/drag queen pictured above who has a performance at Eyedrum scheduled this week.

I told them I wasn't doing a reading this year, and Andy, who said he enjoyed last year's reading (even the part when I started to lose it and ran from the room), asked me if I was still writing. I told him that I'm generally stuck and feel like I'm making too many compromises in every aspect of my life.

Andy told me to work until I found myself unstuck.

Anyway, on to more interesting things, Duncan and I entered into what became a heated discussion about the new Anita Baker CD.

When I told him that what I'd heard of it was a bit weak, Duncan gasped and went into hysterics. And when I told him that it's generally regarded around my store as a boring piece-of-work and that her voice has gotten weaker with age, Duncan threw himself into some sort of brilliant, hand-waving fit, as though I'd just spoken out against the goddess.

"For your INFORMATION, we saw Miss Baker at Chastain last year," he intoned. "And she sounded just like the CD I have at home. Of course, that wasn't new material, but I think she's still able to hold her own."

From that, I went on to praise the new Queen Latifah CD, and Duncan seemed to react as though I'd redeemed myself somewhat.

He asked me who I liked, so I mentioned Annie Lennox. And that redeemed me in his eyes, too.

Unfortunately, then Duncan and I came to verbal blows over what we thought of Barbra and Diana Ross.

"You pay Mary what she's worth," I said, speaking for Diana. "You do not take two girls who were Supremes AFTER YOU LEFT THE GROUP and claim to be the Supremes."

Duncan said that I was being unfair to Diana, that all assertive black females in the music business end up with the "bitch" label they don't deserve and that her reputation and her rumored backstabbing wasn't her fault so much as Berry Gordy's.

"You take three teenage girls from the ghetto, and I mean the GHET-TO, and you put them in front of an older, powerful man, and you see what happens ...," Duncan said, explaining the downfall of Motown's best girl group. "He was married, and she was a teenage girl. But he was the boss."

As for Barbra, Duncan told me that I wasn't old enough to "get" her. I said that my first impression of Barbra came from "The Main Event," "Yentl" and "Nuts," so I'd caught her in the wrong era.

I also talked to Duncan about what's going on in my life. Duncan, upon hearing that friends had suggested that I drop my jobs and concentrate solely on writing, told me that living like a starving artist was bullshit.

"Honey, there's nothing wrong with being able to pay your bills and have a roof over your head," he said.

Everything Duncan said was punctuated with attitude, and I was lucky to be sitting next to him.

Other people, at other corners of the table, were having their own good conversations.

Occasionally, I would look over at other people to see what was going on.

The single one of the Davids (for there were seven people named David) was having a nice, long chat with the new guy Juan Pablo, who was one of the hottest men I've ever seen in my life. Juan Pablo lives in the complex with Larry and David.

And I'm thinking Larry was being strategic with where he had everyone sit, for the plates were marked. Single David and Juan Pablo looked like they were having fun.

And I know this because I looked at Juan Pablo - and his hair, his eyes, the top two buttons of his shirt undone - over and over throughout the night.

In the middle of my conversation with Duncan (who was with his partner David) and Andy (who was with his partner David), I mentioned to Duncan that I was probably being too superficial when I kept glancing in Juan Pablo's direction.

So Duncan told me it was more than all right.

"Honey, you're a gay man," Duncan said to me, indicating Juan Pablo. "And if you're gay in front of a man who looks like that, you're expected to ... FEEL something."

The night ended with me having a long conversation with Brad, my old friend from college. A long conversation. But it was so late, and I'd had so much wine. So I'm just going to pretend that I don't know what things we discussed on the couch while I had my arm around him.

I came home late to find that I'd not reset the time on my TV, so I ended up with the full episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and only 15 minutes of "Desperate Housewives."

It was a good night, although I think I'm more a Velveeta guy than a goat cheese one.

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