Monthly Archives: September 2011

Fast (Just Over 30 Minute) Primal Chicken Curry in a Skillet with Cauliflower and Sweet Potato

This is one of my favorite recipes, and it is a snap to make. Most of the cooking time is unattended, so I can easily browse the internet or do something else while the meal is cooking. It does have a fair bit of prep (chopping), but after that, it pretty much cooks itself with just an occasional stir.

Some Primal or Paleo dieters may not eat sweet potatoes, but I love them. They are nutrition powerhouses, and they lend this dish a subtle (and VERY pleasant) sweetness. However, this recipe is so easily adapted that you could double the amount of cauliflower and leave the sweet potatoes out altogether, or you could substitute an equal amount of many different vegetables, including turnips or butternut squash, or you could even try something like carrots or cabbage if you wanted. You can also make the dish hotter by using hot curry or more curry powder. Once you have the basic technique down, you will see how easy it is to modify this dish. For more notes on possible modifications and suggestions, keep reading after the recipe.

Primal/Paleo Skillet Chicken Curry

2 large chicken breasts (breast halves), sliced into bite-size medallions
2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or coconut), divided
1 large onion, diced
3 or 4 teaspoons Curry Powder (I use ½ hot and ½ sweet curry)
2 teaspoons table salt
8 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 ½ tablespoons fresh ginger, grated or chopped very fine
¾ cup chicken broth (optional—can be replaced by an equal amount of water)
½ head of cauliflower, chopped coarsely into bite-size pieces
3 or 4 medium sweet potatoes, about 1 ½ pounds, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 small container (8 oz) whole milk yogurt (optional)
½ cup chopped cilantro

Chicken Breast Strips

To begin, slice your chicken breasts into strips about ¾ inch wide, and then slice each strip into small bite-size medallions. The size and shape are not important, since they will end up tossed into the final dish, so as long as they are small enough to fit onto a fork (and into a mouth!), all will be fine. I would also go ahead and chop the cauliflower into cubes about ¾ inch per side, but again, you are not looking for an exact dice, so a coarse chop is fine. Set the cauliflower aside. If you are fast at grating ginger and chopping garlic, you can wait and do that while the onions are cooking in step two in order to save time, but if you might be a bit slower at this task, go ahead and prepare those two things now and set them aside.

Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to a 12 inch nonstick skillet for which you have a tight fitting lid and put it on the burner over medium-high heat and let it heat up for a few minutes. When it is hot, add the chicken all at once. You will want to stir the chicken every few minutes and continue cooking it until it is done (no pink at all), but we are not looking to brown the chicken here—just cook it through. Meanwhile, while the chicken is cooking, you can quickly chop the onion and measure out the curry and salt (the curry & salt will be added at the same time, so they can be portioned into the same small bowl).

When the chicken is done, dump the contents of the skillet onto a plate and set aside (the chicken will be added back at the end). Add the additional one tablespoon of oil to the skillet and add the onions immediately, since the skillet should still be hot from cooking the chicken. Add the curry powder and salt and stir to combine. The onions should cook for about 5 or 8 minutes over medium-high heat (you can adjust the flame up or down as needed), stirring occasionally. While the onions are cooking, go ahead and grate your ginger and chop the garlic if you haven’t done so already. Also measure out your liquid (chicken broth or water). I recommend that you also peel the sweet potatoes and chop them at the last minute to avoid any discoloration.  The onions will be done when they are completely wilted and translucent, and the curry has started to become sticky, so that the onions begin clumping together. Quickly stir in the ginger and garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Don’t cook too long at this point or the garlic will become bitter.

Add the chicken broth (or water—but this is Primal CHICKEN Curry, so go with the broth if you can) and stir to loosen any curry that has become stuck around the edges of the pan. You should have something that looks like a loose onion gravy in the bottom of the pan. Add your cauliflower and sweet potatoes, swirl the pan briefly (no need to stir at this point), and cover the pan tightly. Reduce the heat to medium or medium low. Set a timer for 10 minutes and let the vegetables steam undisturbed for that length of time.Primal Chicken Curry in Skillet

When the timer goes off, remove the lid and stir the vegetables. Since the pan may be full, it might be easiest to lift the vegetables up with a nonstick-safe spatula and turn them over in the pan, rather than trying to stir them in a circular motion. Turn the vegetables until the curry coats everything in the pan (the turmeric in the curry will turn everything yellow, as seen below). Replace the lid and reduce the flame to medium-low or low and let it cook for an additional 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, stir as before, and if you see any pieces that are looking uncooked, poke them down to the bottom of the pan. Replace the lid and cook an additional 5 or 10 minutes. You can check after 5 minutes, and if the vegetables are done (easily pierced with a fork), continue with the next step. Otherwise, let it cook an additional 5 minutes.

This time, when the timer goes off, it is time to add the cooked chicken and any juices, and the green peas. Stir everything together and let it heat through. If the curry is seeming a little bit watery at this point, you can leave the lid off to let some steam evaporate. Otherwise, replace the lid while the chicken is heating. This step will probably require about 5 minutes.

When the chicken is heated through, remove the pan from the flame. Add the yogurt, if using. I recommend it, since this dish is very low in fat, and the yogurt adds some richness, but it will taste fine without the yogurt. Quickly chop the cilantro, sprinkle over the top of your delicious Paleo Chicken Curry, and stir it in. Dish it up and serve!

Some notes: The recipe calls for sweet potatoes and cauliflower. If you are omitting the sweet potatoes, you should be aware that cauliflower will absorb much less moisture than the sweet potatoes, so reduce the chicken broth to ½ cup. My favorite sweet potatoes are the white Japanese sweet potatoes, but you can use any kind of sweet potato or yam that you prefer. The Japanese version tends to start discoloring very quickly after being peeled, though, so I usually leave peeling and chopping them until the last minute before I know they are going into the pan (you can see some of the discoloration in my photo above, where the edges of the potato have started to turn dark—and that was only about two minutes after they had been peeled)!Paleo Chicken Curry in a Bowl

With this basic method and a good 12 inch nonstick skillet, you can improvise many different recipes , including cauliflower rice paella and Jambalaya (I’ll be publishing my recipes for both soon). My absolute favorite is the T-Fal Professional Total Nonstick Saute Pan—by far the best nonstick skillet I’ve ever used—and it’s cheap to boot. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a lid. Luckily, the lid from my 12 inch All Clad pan (not nonstick) fits it perfectly.

One final note: one of the reasons I love this recipe is because it produces plenty of scraps (potato peel, cauliflower core, cilantro stems) that I can feed to my backyard chickens! Please let me know how you like the recipe!

Scraps for my Backyard Hens

Scraps for my Backyard Hens!

Foo Fighters vs. Westboro Baptist Church (AKA Why I Love Pat Smear)

And I’m learning to love Dave Grohl. It seems the Foo Fighters played in Kansas City, and they were picketed by Fred Phelps and his filthy family. I have had some personal experience with these people; when my partner’s cousin was awarded a Matthew Shepard scholarship in Iowa when she was a senior in high school, Phelps and family decided to show up and picket her high school graduation! These people are virulently anti-gay, and they also picket the funerals of soldiers. In the video, you can see the type of signs they carry, including “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” These people are nuts.

How to Avoid the Painful & Embarrassing Condition Known as “Chub Rub” (Inner Thigh Chafing)

I want to let you know that I have found what I consider to be the perfect solution to the condition known as Chub Rub, or inner thigh chafing. It is dead simple, and it does its job perfectly. It works so well for me that I can actually say it works like magic. If you just want to see the solution without reading the entire post, click here.

Chub Rub

I became intimately familiar with inner thigh chafing (AKA Chub Rub) a few years ago when I tried to start an exercise program. It was the middle of summer in Austin, Texas (where the temperature often exceeds 100 degrees F (in fact, we get about 90 days per year over 100). If you are not familiar with this condition, let me tell you…it is very painful. It is enough to put you off working out for several days at least, until you recover. I imagine that a great many people start an exercise program only to be halted in their tracks when they run into this problem, and that’s a shame because–as I’ve discovered–it’s easy to prevent.

The Cure for Thigh Chafing

Body Glide, the cure for Chub Rub

Body Glide, the Cure for Chub Rub!

I tried many different products on my way to finding the perfect solution to this problem. I tried spray-on powders, regular powder, and various brands of creams and lotions, but none of them worked very well. It was only when I found a product called Body Glide that I finally found the thing I had been looking for. It is a stick (sort of like a roll-up solid underarm deodorant stick) that contains allantoin. To apply it, you simply rub it on the area(s) that might become chafed, and that’s it! It is resistant to sweat and it doesn’t feel the least bit greasy or slick or anything. It is unscented, and it doesn’t contain any ingredients like mint to make it feel “cooling” or “tingling” (something I don’t appreciate–I don’t really want my thighs or anything else between my legs to *tingle*, thank-you-very-much!); in fact, it’s hard to tell that you’re wearing anything at all, except that you won’t see any of the chafing or blisters or rashes that you might otherwise develop.

If you are going to go out for a walk or a run, especially during hot weather, this product can be a lifesaver! I also recommend using it if you’re going to be spending a long afternoon walking, such as at a street fair or an amusement park, or if you work outdoors during hot weather. I used to work at an outdoor café, and I used this product every day. In fact, I’ll admit it now: I still use it every day. It’s difficult to find locally (and it’s usually much more expensive), so I recommend buying it at Amazon.  Here in Austin, you can find it at Mellow Johnny’s (Lance Armstrong’s bike shop), but it was twice the price, and they were frequently out of stock.

What is Chub Rub?

When you are overweight, you tend to carry some extra fat around your upper thighs, including the inside of the thighs. As you walk, the skin that covers this bulging area rubs against the skin on your other thigh, and you can develop a friction rash. This can happen at any time, but it tends to be worse in the summertime, because it’s an area that is not well ventilated. The sweat collects there until the area is pretty much damp, and the sweat increases the amount of friction you experience…by a LOT! It can be so painful that you end up waddling back home, trying to keep your legs apart to avoid the pain, which is very embarrassing.

Of course, it is not only people who are chubby who experience this. If you are a thin person who runs long distances, you are likely to experience some of the same type of irritation, especially if you wear ill-fitting clothing. It is not necessary to have skin-on-skin contact to develop a friction rash. Ill-fitting clothes that rub your skin can lead to the same type of irritation. Experienced marathoners know this, and so they take steps to shield the places where this irritation is most likely to occur, such as nipples (shirt rubbing back and forth over a long period of time) or underarms (arms swinging back and forth as you run—this is especially true for men with a “V” shaped chest, where your lats will rub against your triceps and develop an underarm rash). Many women who wear skirts also experience thigh chafing as they go about their normal daily routines.

You can avoid this type of irritation without using any type of product by wearing tight-fitting clothing (as in skin tight, so that it doesn’t move around on your body at all) that is made of a fabric like spandex or nylon (think of bicycle shorts), but this is probably not an option for most chubby people, because they’d be too embarrassed to wear such tight clothing.

One more little known tip: Body Glide (and allantoin) are not just a preventative for chafing…they also work as a cure for people who have an existing friction rash!  So if you have already gotten the dreaded chub rub, spread a little of the BodyGlide over the affected area, and it will soothe the stinging and burning, as well as help speed up the healing process!

My Go-To Weeknight Primal Beef Stew Recipe

This Primal/Paleo Beef Stew recipe has become one of my favorites, and I make it at least once a week. It requires a pressure cooker, so if you don’t have one, I recommend the Instant Pot Multifunction Pressure Cooker, which is one of the newer electric safety countertop pressure cookers. It is nothing like the old pressure cooker that your grandmother (or great-grandmother!) fretted over because she was afraid it would explode. It has a tight fitting lid with a safety lock so that the lid can’t be removed until the pressure is entirely released, and I use it several times a week. A big bonus is that you can use it all summer long without heating up your entire house, since the heat is retained in the interior rather than being released into the air as steam. It is well worth the price, which was under $100 at the time I was writing this. You can also use a stovetop pressure cooker if you like (Please note that it is possible to cook this stew without using a pressure cooker; details at the end of the article). Total cooking time with a pressure cooker is about an hour (mostly hands-off). Back to the recipe:

Primal Beef Stew

I developed this recipe on my own, and I can honestly say that I’ve never made a bad batch. There are several options for changing it up, so I will lay out my favorite version, and then mention some of the different ways you can customize the recipe. I specify amounts for each of the ingredients listed, but know in advance that most of these things can be adjusted to taste very easily.


  • Beef stew meat (2 or 3 pounds–grass fed stew beef is the most healthy, if you can afford it)
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 or 8 cloves of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup red wine (or chicken broth or beef stock or water or Guinness beer)
  • 1 to 2 pounds of carrots, peeled and chopped into ¾ inch slices/discs
  • 2 or 3 bay leaves (optional)
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into ¾ inch slices (approximately)Chopped Carrots

And the recipe? Add the first seven ingredients to the pressure cooker and stir. The size of the carrots is not too important, and I actually prefer a mix of sizes. The pressure cooker will cook them well, but larger chunks will retain a bit of firmness, while smaller pieces may be quite soft at the end. Using beef stock or water or chicken broth as the liquid will give your stew a more traditional flavor, while red wine will give it a sort of beef burgundy richness. I have lately been using Guinness beer, and I think it makes a great alternative.  After stirring, tuck the bay leaves down into the meat (if using). Put the lid on and start the pressure cooker on high. Set the timer for 40 minutes. If you are using a stovetop pressure cooker, start timing after it reaches pressure.

Once the first 40 minutes is up, carefully release the pressure (being careful not to burn yourself with hot steam—I use a wooden spoon handle to do this). When the steam is released and the safety latch opens, take the lid off and add the parsnips. Stir until mixed, breaking up any beef chunks that have stuck together. Place the lid on and cook on high for 9 or 10 more minutes. At the end of the cooking time, you can either let the pressure reduce on its own, or you can release the steam if you want to serve it quickly. Taste the stew and adjust the salt and pepper or other seasonings if necessary.
That’s it! You’ve just made some delicious and totally paleo/primal friendly beef stew with about 10 minutes of actual work (chopping and stirring), and less than an hour of cooking time.

Now for the ways you can customize:

Parsnip Beef Stew

If your parsnips are thick, cut the discs in half.

I prefer a thick stew without too much liquid (you MUST use some liquid in a pressure cooker, or the food will burn, by the way), so if you prefer a more soupy or brothy stew, add another cup or so of liquid (but be aware that whatever liquid you add will not escape as steam, since it is sealed tightly, and the meat and vegetables will release some liquid as they cook, so the finished stew will look more liquid-y than what you see in the pot at the beginning).

I specify parsnips because I love them, and think they give a great flavor to the stew. If you’ve never had them, they’re kind of like a super-carrot, or a very strongly flavored carrot that is a bit perfume-y. They look like a carrot, but they’re white instead of orange. If you don’t like parsnips , or if you can’t find them (it’s harder to find them during the summer—here in Austin, Whole Foods doesn’t have them year-round, but Central Market does), you can substitute either rutabagas or turnips with excellent results; just cut them into ½ to ¾ inch dice and add them during the last 10 minutes in place of the parsnips. The reason for the divided cooking time is because the vegetables that go in at the end are softer, and if you cooked them for 40 minutes in a pressure cooker, they would completely fall apart into mush, whereas the carrots are much more firm, so they can take a longer cooking without dissolving. Turnips and rutabagas are a bit firmer than parsnips, but they should still be entirely cooked in the allotted 10 minutes. You could also add cauliflower (I have done it before when I didn’t have anything else on hand), but cauliflower is quite delicate, and if you cook it for longer than 5 minutes in a pressure cooker, it will dissolve, so just shorten the cooking time. The meat will be entirely cooked during the first 40 minutes, so the last 5 or 10 minutes is not even necessary. If you want just a beef and carrot stew, simply stop the cooking at 40 minutes and you’re done!

One last tip: the parsnips tend to start becoming discolored after they are peeled and chopped, so I usually wait until the first 40 minutes is up and then peel and chop them quickly.  Parsnips are also quite variable in size, unlike most carrots.  A parsnip might be an inch and a half thick at the top, only to taper quickly to a quarter-inch point.  With thick parsnips, rather than cutting them into discs, I cut the thicker part off and cut it in half before cutting it into half moonshapes, and then cut the thinner part into discs.

Primal Beef Stew

Primal Beef Stew

Without a pressure cooker: if I were going to spend all day cooking beef stew, I would not follow this recipe.  I would first brown the meat in small batches on all sides to develop some flavor and fond in the pot, and then I would simmer the ingredients for two hours or longer, long enough to give the collagen and connective tissue a chance to dissolve (stew meat is usually a mix of different cuts, and it usually includes a fair amount of connective tissue).  The recipe above takes several shortcuts in order to make it an easy meal to make on weeknights.  If you have all day, you can follow the steps above, but brown the meat in batches, then add your wine or broth and scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan (this will add flavor to the broth), add the ingredients as described in the first cooking period above (onions, garlic, beef, carrots, liquid (wine or broth or water), bay leaves, salt, pepper) and place the lid on the pot.  Then place it in an oven that is set at 325 degrees F for two hours or longer.  Add the parsnips or other ingredients and put it back in the over for another 30 minutes.

On the Occasion of My 45th Birthday

I turned 45 today, and my mother turned 66 (I was born on her 21st birthday, just so any of you who might be so inclined don’t have to do any subtraction). My mother and I are both overweight, just as my grandmother was before us. This year, I intend to break that cycle for good.

Although I’ve posted a few things on this site already, I mean this to be the real foundational post for my site. I was prompted to start this site when I realized how out of shape I had gotten, and I want to chronicle my progress as I get back in shape. I’m giving myself a year to do this, and I am not sticking to any specific hard-and-fast goals; instead, I’m simply saying that I want to look good shirtless by next Labor Day (2012), when I hope to go to Southern Decadence in New Orleans and celebrate.

Although my goal is loose, I do have some specific ideas about how I’m going to achieve them. First of all, I intend to permanently adapt to a “Primal” method of eating and working out. I may not get those Vibram Five Finger Shoes (which could be called Five Toe Shoes), because, even though I find them interesting and I really think they might work, I know a lot of people who find them weird or gross. I also may not get into kettlebell exercises, even though I know that’s the hot new thing in fitness (a few years ago it was balancing on giant balls). I definitely plan to walk more. Now that we have gotten through the worst of the summer weather in Austin, I plan to start doing a nightly walk around Lady Bird Lake, which offers different trails from 2 to 10 miles, depending on the loop you do and which bridges you cross. I like walking because it’s low-impact, and I still have some lingering lower back pain from a ruptured disc that was mostly repaired with spinal surgery ten years ago (although if I stress my lower back by bending or twisting in a certain way (especially while picking up something heavy), I tend to get some throbbing/shooting sciatic pain that lasts for a few days, so I tend to be pretty easygoing when it comes to exercises. It’s not that I can’t lift weights, it’s just that I’m very careful how I go about it, and I don’t do any sort of jumping or violent movements that involve bending or twisting. When I lift weights (and I intend to begin doing so again—it’s been over a year since I last went to the gym), I tend to do heavy weights with low repetitions in a slow, controlled movement, but I may change that up depending on the recommendations in the Primal Blueprint book (I’ve finished reading the first part, which covers diet and recipes, but I’ve only skimmed the exercise part). And that’s it for exercises: walking and weight-lifting, and maybe some others that I’ll decide to add after I finish the book.

For diet, I find eating a Primal diet to be quite easy. I actually started to try this in the spring, and I managed to lose about ten pounds (I think it was around ten pounds—I don’t own a scale and I don’t intend to buy one, so if I ever mention my weight, it’s something I’ve learned on the scale at the gym). Based on my current body composition and the fit of my clothes (I’m not quite at the fattest I’ve ever been, but close), I would say I probably weigh at least 235 pounds, but perhaps as much as 245…or even 250. When I tried this in the spring of 2011, it was diet only, with a bit of extra walking thrown in, but no weights or other exercises, and I did manage to lose some weight…but then came the hottest summer on record, and I gave up the nightly walks and then doubled down on the mistakes by choosing to begin eating sugar again (in the form of ice cream and peanut butter M&Ms, mostly)! This was an unnecessary and silly mistake, because the primal diet was not difficult for me. It basically involves cutting out grains and sugar. That’s really pretty much what it boils down to: no bread, no pasta, and no sugar. I kind of think of it as cutting out the “white” foods: sugar is white in its crystalline form, flour is white, and pasta is made of flour. I also think white potatoes are too heavy in starch for the amount of nutrients they contain, so I would usually prefer to eat a sweet potato (which is nutrient-dense) over a white potato. There are a few foods such as cauliflower that are exceptions to the rule (cauliflower is great, and it can be made into many different things, and it takes on the flavor of a sauce very well, so I find it very versatile). I’ll be posting some recipes as I go along, and as I experiment and adapt my favorite recipes to the Primal method (and I promise you that anything I post is something I’ve actually made and eaten).

There are some parts of the Primal method that I will not be following (the method actually allows you to cheat and adapt things to your own lifestyle, though, so this is not really cheating…more like not following every single guideline). The specific things that I will not be cutting out of my diet are:

1. Coffee
2. Alcohol
3. Diet Dr. Pepper
4. Dessert

This does not mean that I will be having dessert every evening. I WILL be having a cup of coffee every day (with Splenda, even though I know some people think it’s a nasty chemical and that it shouldn’t be part of a Primal/Paleo diet…so maybe Splenda should be the #5 thing that I won’t be cutting out). I will also have alcohol pretty much whenever I decide I’d like to have a drink. I realize it contains calories, and that I usually drink it with diet soda (Jim Beam and Dr. Pepper is my “usual” drink), but I simply don’t care. I will limit my intake to reasonable levels, but I am not going to put any specific limits on the first three things. For item number 4, dessert, I plan to allow myself to have dessert one night per week, on Sundays. This might be ice cream or a slice of cake (Whole Foods here in Austin makes truly excellent carrot cake), or it might be something else. This doesn’t mean that I’m doing a whole “cheat day” where I can go to town eating anything and everything I want on Sundays, it simply means that I plan to have one dessert after dinner on Sunday evenings (and that one dessert might be cake AND ice cream, so I’m letting you know in advance that I plan to allow myself some leeway when determining what my dessert for the week will be)!

A few other caveats about my plan: I don’t like to cheat on the rules, so I consider all of the rules to be fairly flexible. The Primal Blueprint book says that they know people who live and work in the modern world can’t follow the diet 100% at all times, so you are just supposed to strive to keep up a high percentage (80 or 90 percent) of following the guidelines. If I have a reason to go out to eat such as an anniversary or birthday or the last day of the school year (my partner Michael is a school teacher), or even if my friends just ask me to go out to Happy Hour, I plan to allow myself some leeway. Corn chips and margaritas are pretty much the antithesis of the Primal diet, but they are a big part of the culture of Austin, so if I do go out to Happy Hour with friends (which is something I love to do, because I love a good margarita* and I also love a good bargain), I’m going to relax and enjoy myself, and then get back on track the next day (*As a note of clarification, I should say that I used to be a bartender, and that I love a well-made cocktail, not just a margarita). I am also going to do this without guilt. I think enjoying life and hanging out with friends and family is what it’s all about, so I’m not going to deny myself the opportunity to have some fun in service to some arbitrary bit of diet advice. I may choose to eat less of the chips and salsa, and I may order the agave nectar margarita (I don’t know what I think of this whole agave syrup thing yet, but I’m skeptical), or I may not, and whatever I choose in each situation will be fine. Having said that, if I get six months into this thing and find that I’m not looking like I’m on track to meet my goals, I reserve the right to change my mind about anything I’ve said so far, including cutting out Sunday night desserts (but never my morning cup of coffee)! If that comes to pass, I will update you accordingly, since I intent to be entirely forthcoming about my progress each step of the way.

I hope you’ll bookmark my site and check back in with me. Or feel free to use the links in the sidebar to buy the Primal Method book or the Primal Method cookbook and join me on this journey from fat to fitness!

Freddie Mercury Made Me Cry Tonight

My birthday is coming up on Sunday, September 11th, 2011, and I kicked off the weekend of celebrations by going to tonight’s “Way Gay” Sing-Along at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in downtown Austin. The Alamo Drafthouse, for those who don’t know, is a local chain of movie theaters that shows an eclectic mix of first-run, mainstream movies and arthouse movies, plus a lot of repertory and revival and special programming, such as sing-alongs and theme nights like “Girlie Night” and “Terror Tuesdays”. You can buy food and drink from a waiter while you’re seated in the theater. Tonight’s specific theme was in celebration of Pride weekend, which is taking place in September for the first time (Austin’s pride has always been in June, but it was moved in hopes of cooler weather).

I went to this sing-along on a whim, hoping to have some margaritas and some laughs, and maybe to sing along with some gayish pop songs, and I can tell you that my stomach was hurting from laughing even before the show started (the Alamo plays funny and bizarre videos before the movies instead of commercials, and tonight’s were particularly funny). The show started with “Jittergbug” by Wham, and the audience was immediately up on its feet, dancing and singing (the theme of this show is audience participation). I was enjoying myself a lot, and then an unexpected thing happened. I found myself tearing up. I had just laughed aloud at a particularly funny moment in the video for “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen (you can see the bizarre crotch shot at 58 seconds , followed immediately by Freddie Mercury’s glowing red eyes at the 1:01 mark). The moment that caused a surge of emotions was the segment from 1:45, which begins with a strut, and ends with a fast spin at around the 2:00 mark. For some reason, watching Freddie Mercury strut and prance struck a nerve with me. He was one of the only “out” rock stars of the 80’s, and he was really only completely outed once it was confirmed he had AIDS, and watching him in this video (which was filmed when he was younger than I am now), brought forth a rush of love for the man. In today’s world, he would have had his crooked teeth straightened and his record label would probably have pushed him to work out and develop some more muscle, but watching him dance and perform on a big screen like the rock star he was, while listening to his music at a very loud volume, I really appreciated him in a way I never have before.

I had a similar experience a few minutes later when Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” came on. The video was one of my favorites when I was in high school (it features muscular dancers with painted bodies and Tarzan loincloths), and knowing that Sir Elton is actually still standing today made me…proud. And happy for him. The show moved on through more of the usual suspects (Lady Gaga, Britney), and I have to say that I enjoyed every minute of it, even if the rest of the evening didn’t touch me in quite the profound way that Freddie Mercury and Elton John did. Perhaps because they were actual gay men who “made it” at a time when doing so was incredibly difficult.

If you get a chance to go to “Way Gay” or any of the other Alamo Sing-Alongs, you should jump.

9/11 is My Birthday

9/11 is my birthday, and in 2001, I had taken the day off to relax and sleep in and have a fun day. I woke up right at 8:00 and turned on CNN. I saw scenes of people running and smoke billowing, and it was obvious that everything was out of control in the newsroom. Nobody had yet realized that the first tower had collapsed, and it took them what seemed like at least 10 minutes to actually get back to the story and say what had actually happened. It was just scenes of people running and the tower on fire, and the scrawl at the bottom said “Border between US and Mexico closed”. I was left wondering: “What? Mexico attacked us?!” for around 10 minutes before somebody at CNN thought to change the scrawl and start reporting again on the earlier events, because in the next few minutes, the other plane hit while I was watching. I will say that I was happy to be home and safe on that day, but I’m not sure if I’m happy to have been seeing all of that live.

Of course, now every year as my birthday approaches, I hear the “seven years ago today” stuff, and it’s worse this year, of course, as I knew it would be, because it is the 10th anniversary. I was always particularly happy with my birthdate, since my mother and I share the same birthday (I was born on her 21st birthday), but now the date is forever entwined with something else. I realize that it’s infinitely trivial to feel that my birthday has been ruined, when so many people lost so much more, but I can’t help the way I feel about it. Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving and all the other days of celebration belong to everybody. The one day of the year that was “mine” is now seen as a tragedy, and it’s almost embarrassing to want to celebrate on that day.

Of course, I’m not the only person who feels this way; Anna Quindlen wrote an essay about having a child with a September 11th birthday.  Like her son, I still get the response “Really?” when an operator on the phone or somebody at the DMV asks for my birthdate, and the comment is usually accompanied by a commiserating look or an awkward silence. So when you see me sitting on a patio this Sunday having a margarita and doing my best to have a great time, you should know that I’m doing it with a hellbent can’t-let-the-terrorists-win fervor!


So, this is my first post on this, my new personal site. I plan to fill this out in the next several days with information about what prompted me to start this site (getting fat), and what my plans are (to get in shape). Please come back and read all about it over the next several days!