Thanks, Gay Mafia

Last night's flight from IAD to SFO was delayed in the terminal for thirty minutes, then on the tarmac for sixty more and then in the sky for another forty-five because of the weather in San Francisco (we circled over Utah twice) but it was still one of the better airplane experiences I've ever had.

First, there was nobody in the seat next to me but in the seat next to that one was a handsome older gay man named Paul with whom I gabbed about books, travel and life in San Francisco for the first hour of the trip.

Then I ordered a glass of red wine from the touchscreen in front of me and instead of delivering crappy stuff in a tiny plastic cup, one of two hot older male flight attendants brought me wine in a glass made of actual glass and said, "I thought you might like to try what they're drinking up in first."

A little while later the other hot older gentleman, who looked sort of like a slightly younger version of Sir Ian McKellen, came to my seat and asked, "Would you like a cookie? I have one left from first class. It's still warm."

Shortly after that I got up to pee and both daddies were standing in the back of the plane chatting. I thanked them for the wine and the cookie and we started talking and didn't stop for an hour. They told me crazy stories about the things they'd done and seen in their long careers as flight attendants, most of which I can't share here except to say that you can get away with a whole lot of risqué shit on an airplane if you're so motivated.

We finally landed at SFO almost three hours after we were supposed to and the weather made the final descent one of the dicier ones I'd had to endure but I still walked off the plane with a huge smile on my face.

Thanks, Gay Mafia.

A Long Time Coming

It's kinda hard to believe that it was almost five years ago that Tina Fey announced she was working on a musical adaptation of Mean Girls.

On the night of the aforementioned announcement I stayed up late casting the project to my liking for this web log. Over the course of the next few days quite a few people shared it and I got kudos from friends, colleagues and even some strangers. Then, as things tend to do on the World Wide Web, the post faded away. A few months later popular millennial-focused website Thought Catalog picked it up and a whole bunch more people read it (a few of whom used Thought Catalog's comments section to call me a racist for my casting choices). Needless to say, I've been waiting for this shiz for quite a long time and now finally, as of last month, Mean Girls the Musical is an actual thing. I know this because I saw it last night in it's five-week, pre-Broadway run at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Because I wanted to fully enjoy my theater-going experience (and allow those sitting next to me to do the same), I didn't take notes during the performance, but below are some things I wanted to make mention of.

  • The set's backdrop is a series of massive television screens that change to reveal different locations (Cady's living room, the high school cafeteria, etc.) throughout the show. Before the show starts, however, said screens display the Burn Book. Its digital pages turn every few minutes to reveal dozens of harsh but hilarious burns such as "David Kendrick pops boners on the bus" next to one poor teen's picture and "Like if corn flakes were a person" above someone else's. It's dope.
  • Grey Henson, the guy who plays Damian, should get a Tony nom. He and Janis take turns narrating the show and he's very much flawless.
  • Unlike in the 2005 movie, social media plays an appropriately large role here. In fact, in one scene it's revealed that Donald Trump has blocked Regina George on Twitter because she cyber-bullied him.
  • Janis Ian (Janis Sarkisian in the musical version) may or may not sing a delicious second-act power ballad about flipping the bird to her haters.
  • In 2013 I wrote of Janis, "I can already imagine her "Where You Sit in the Cafeteria is Crucial" monologue turning into one of the show's big numbers." Although my casting choice was off, my song idea was not. It made it in. In fact, if memory serves me correctly, it's the second song.
  • After seeing her play Campbell in Bring It On: The Musical in San Francisco, I just had to cast Taylor Louderman as Gretchen Wieners in my version of Mean Girls. Apparently I wasn't so far off as, five years later, she plays Regina George in Tina Fey's official MGtM production.
  • The best lines from the movie and so many gut-splitting new ones land just as well, if not better, on stage. I mean, come on, Tina Fey wrote 'em.

Mani My Hero

After two especially debaucherous weeks in a row, first in Spain and then in Monterey and Palm Springs, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with alcohol, my constant and necessary air travel companion, on my 8:30am flight from SFO to BWI yesterday, so I consider it nothing short of a miracle that the woman seated directly to my right was a licensed clinical hypnotherapist.

I'd boarded the plane just before she did and she asked if I'd help put her bag in the overhead compartment. I responded with "Anything for you, queen." or something similarly inane that I allow to spill out of my mouth a hundred times a day like a reflex and she smiled, thanked me and sat down in the seat next to mine. After a moment she said she could tell that I was a good person and asked if I'd let her hold onto my arm during takeoff because she struggles with motion sickness. I said of course and for the hour and a half that followed we spilled our respective guts to each other.

Her name is Mani and she got it out of me, quite quickly actually, that I was nothing short of terrified, just then, to be sitting in the miles between solid ground and outer space. A look of polite concern came over her face and she explained that for human beings negative experiences imprint differently than positive experiences and for certain people, people like me, for instance, specific negative experiences often imprint deeper.

"Do you shy away from scary or violent books and movies, too?" she asked.

"I'm basically afraid of everything," I confessed.

"It's not your fault," she said. "It's part of who you are, and of evolution."

To help me with flying and my general anxiety she suggested that I create a daily Trust Log to put my focus on all the ways in which life is trustworthy.

"Write down all the things in a day that work out for you," she told me. "For instance, you made it safely to the airport today and we took off on time. I'm sure your days are full of things like that. Try and start to notice them."

I told her I'd try.

Finally, she asked if I'd be willing to do an exercise with her. When I agreed she asked me to tell her about something happy that calms me down. I thought about it for a while and said, "At our house we always have music playing, usually soundtracks from Broadway musicals. Recently, my happy place has been standing in the living room and throwing a small football back and forth with Sidney while the two of us belt out show tunes."

"Going forward," she advised, "whenever your find yourself in a situation that's causing you anxiety, touch your thumb and forefinger together and go to your living room with Sid, the football and the Broadway music."

"Really?" I asked, in a not-so-subtly skeptical tone of voice.

"Really," she said.

So for the rest of the flight that's just what I did.

And it worked.

I didn't have to get hammered and I actually fell asleep for almost an hour in the middle of the journey which doesn't (soberly) happen to me, ever.

It was amazing.

I'm not sure if it'll last forever, this "go to your happy place by touching your fingers together" thing, and I'm not sure if I'll ever keep a Trust Log, but a complete stranger made me feel safe on a cross-country flight on a day when that's exactly what I needed and I think that's pretty damn incredible.

So thanks Mani, kind stranger.