Let’s say you’re a magician and tonight is your first big show for an audience - your big break. Somehow, that small YouTube video you posted in your garage blew up and now people want to see what else you can do. You’re excited, your audience is excited, everyone’s excited. As the show goes on, things are going so smoothly. You’re getting a lot of Oooo’s and Ahhh’s and then you decide to pull out the big guns - even though it's a trick that everyone’s seen 1000+ times - the one with a tabletop full of dinner china and you pull the tablecloth out from under it without breaking anything. It’s the oldest trick in the book - other than pulling a rabbit out of a hat. You’ve got this. Then you pull.
Everything comes crashing down. Every plate and drinking glass shatters as they hit the stage floor - I picture the shot in Titanic when all the plates shatter as the boat sinks - the silverware clangs, each with an extremely high pitch that hurts your audience’s ears that they, and you, and instinctually cover their ears to protect them, while squeezing their eyes shut. A few moments later, after the audience has stopped screaming, caught their breaths, and uncovered their ears, you stand, look out into the audience and that’s when you see that the dinner knife has landed sharp, pointy side down, in the carpet, at an audience member’s feet.
That is what it felt like for me (and probably most, if not all, of the world) when the pandemic hit.
Prior to 2020, on the surface, I was never bored. I was performing every Monday night with the Fans of Mumo at Musical Mondays, line dancing every Tuesday and Friday at Oil Can Harry’s, attending a traditional weekly TV night that had started way back in 2010, working fairly steadily on TV/movie productions as a background actor/extra (which I LOVE), driving for Uber (which I didn’t love), was leading a writers group for TV writers, and working on a few promising pilots myself. I’m a workaholic and by keeping myself extra busy and thinking about everyone else, I was ignoring some deeper issues.
Prior to/As 2020 began, I was slowly tearing off the onion layers, processing some traumatic events in my past. Meanwhile, when/as/while Donald Trump was in office, a lot of people in my life started showing their true colors of bigotry, etc, which brought up even more feelings that I still feel guilty for as I’m writing this. Everyday there was something different in the news that DT said or did and we (or at least I) couldn’t keep up and got extremely overwhelmed. The world I trusted and felt safe in was crumbling almost, if not faster, than when Dorothy landed in Munchkinland. I’ve learned tons more about how unsafe this world can be in the last fourish years than I have my whole life - and still have tons more to learn - about my white privilege, how one sided my entire education was, and how extremely sheltered my childhood was.
To be clear, I grew up in a conservative Mormon/LDS house where there’s still tension because of my sexuality - which, if you haven't discovered it by now, I identify as gay. It’s not like I was locked up like Disney’s version of Rapunzel during my entire childhood... Probably more like Sleeping Beauty - conservative enough to “keep me close to home” yet, not enough freedom to explore new things to discover my own identity; not just about my sexuality… everything. But that is a completely different post.
As 2020 started, just before Covid, my life made a drastic left turn. My best friend from college died from breast cancer.
Nikki Gwin - 1977 - 2020
She was the first person, yes, the very first person, to show me unconditional love. (At least, that I noticed. I’ve learned stories of others over the past few years who showed it to me but I didn’t even know about - that's how sheltered I was.) As I was processing her death and Covid was beginning to make headlines, I auditioned for the LA Wranglers, a line dance team associated with a local Los Angeles bar called Oil Can Harry’s. I made the team and was given a schedule for the year of our planned performances. (I really don’t know how I made the team because my thoughts and emotions were all over the place during that audition, lol). Slowly, while other countries were going on lockdown, these performance events were getting cancelled. Then went Comic-Con, WonderCon, other travel plans, money, toilet paper - gone, gone... gone, gone, gone.
Going from having my days filled to zilch was difficult, to say the least. Questions went through my head of: Now what am I going to do? What is the world gonna look like after this? How do I pay my bills with just one $1200 stimulus check? How long is this going to last? What will my job be like? I can’t drive for Uber and put myself a risk, should I though? I need to eat. Am I going to be evicted when I can’t pay my rent? Who can I go to if I need to borrow some money?
Social Zoom calls worked for like a month, but even those started stressing me out and feeling more like a tease. Then, it got worse - local businesses were dropping like flies - more specifically, the gay bars.
When Rage was officially sold, the bar where Musical Mondays was held, I wasn’t that surprised. Rumors had been floating around for a while and I’d kinda already processed this as six years prior, when the bar Eleven closed, the place where Musical Mondays LA originated. The uncertainty of where the weekly event was going to be held brought on so many questions and emotions and everything turned out great. With Rage gone, Musical Mondays is now homeless again. I'm not sure where we’ll end up, but I believe that The Fans of Mumo/Musical Mondays will be back and better than ever!.
During 2020 I had to stop going to therapy because I didn’t know when/where my next paycheck was gonna come from. I was so stressed that there were days that I couldn’t get out of bed and was sleeping 16 hours a day. Memes were being posted that said “If you don’t come out of this with a new skill, you’ve wasted your time!” and they made me feel so guilty for sleeping and not understanding what I was feeling. Then I saw a post that made so much more sense to me. “Now is your chance to just take a break.” With the world literally on hold, there were no distractions for me to avoid peeling away these onion layers I’d been [half] ignoring. I started small and learned (still am learning) to forgive myself if I didn’t accomplish anything that day, even if all I did was get out of bed. I started by cutting back on social media, journaling, doing daily yoga again, reading two chapters of a book a day, and world building some short stories on days when my stress wasn’t overriding my emotions. It was and still is really hard, but I started to give myself permission to say YES to things/thoughts/emotions that I’d usually say NO to regarding my self care and mental health. I also chose to begin the mourning process of ‘The Before Times,’ as people started to say, so that when this was over, I’d come out feeling at least somewhat more stable than I was currently feeling.
By Fall of 2020, Oil Can Harry’s was the last thing that I was still holding on to from ‘The Before Times.’ Rumors swarmed that the building was for sale, but nobody had bought it yet. Could it be? Was there going to be at least one thing from my past that would still be in my future? At the end of 2020, Oil Can Harry’s was officially sold and closed. On February 8, 2021, I learned that the OCH sign had officially been taken down from the building - the nail in the coffin.
Honestly, I don’t know how I feel about this yet as I’ve already processed a bar closing on me and adjusting to a new venue with Musical Mondays, and the pandemic isn’t over yet. The faces I saw at OCH will be seen at another bar, and it will be lovely, but OCH, will definitely be missed. I’ll probably have a rush of emotions when humans are given permission (and I feel safe) to mingle socially again. But until then, I still have some personal work to do.
After almost a year of being alone, by myself, with my own thoughts, and nobody else around, I think (No, wait, I know! Be more confident, Chris!) I’m actually starting to see a new life for me or at least a better version of what I was aiming for before the pandemic hit.
Somehow, during quarantine, I was led to Tarot cards - both as a creative writer's block tool and a mental health, constructive therapy tool.
Over this past year, I’ve learned some major insights about myself - like, even though I was (am?) a social butterfly, I’m an introvert, with extrovert tendencies; that the reason I didn’t know who I was/am is that I was unknowingly suffering from FOMO, like, all the time - comparing myself to my friends, their families, their accomplishments, their relationships, and thinking I was lacking in comparison. I was able to have a chiropractor help me alleviate some of my back pain - had to stop because of finances, but between that and the daily yoga, my back is feeling soooo much better. I was able to organize some creative thoughts about the stories/worlds I want to create/write/tell and found more of my voice and, if everything goes to plan, I hope to self publish some short stories on Amazon later this year. I still want to work/write TV, but this is my path for the time being, and I’m learning not to force too much all at once.
And now, February of 2021...
TV/movie production has found a way to continue, so I’m back to work. The Wranglers are still together - even though we don’t have a rehearsal space. The Fans of Mumo are welcoming when I do have the strength to Zoom with them. I’m learning to recognize love when I see it - from my friends/chosen family and learning to accept how blood doesn’t automatically make someone family (there’s a lot to unpack there, so we won’t here). I’m feeling more comfortable in my own skin than I think I ever have. I’m learning to live a more flowy lifestyle, and doing things that I want to do and not asking ‘should I do this because so and so is doing it’ kinda thing. I’m being selfish and because of this, I’m actually beginning to feel, dare I say… happy? But, like, anxious-happy because I’m still not sure if this feeling I’m feeling is anxiety, happiness, or like a weight has been lifted off my chest - if that makes any sense. I'll journal about it and get back to you.
I’ve noticed that I’ve started to see the glass half full instead of half empty, that I am not as emotional over online trolls as I once was - I mean, it is still a work in progress, but there’s definitely been some personal growth there. I'm not sure I ever had the opportunity, or even gave myself the opportunity, to love, find, and accept my true self until 2020. Reprogramming my brain has been really hard, but I really glad I'm doing it. I’ve only scratched the surface and I still have a long way to go, but I’m feeling really good about where I’m heading. I’m learning to be okay with being a human who is still figuring it all out. By taking a bunch of steps backward, getting rid of a lot of "noise," and looking inward, it looks like I am going to come out of this pandemic with a new skill after all.
Yes, the handling of the pandemic from the USA has not been good, but DT is gone (hopefully forever) and there’s a new administration in office. If worse comes to worse, and you’ve read this far and I've depressed you, just remember that the next generation to hold positions of power will be more caring of LGBTQ, POC, female, and are more aware of mental health than the States have ever been and were homeschooled with parents who were day drinking.
Whatever you are feeling right now, it’s valid. My unsolicited advice? Remember to take this one day at a time. Stay strong. Wear your mask(s). Get vaccinated when you can. ‘The Before Times’ will definitely be missed but I can’t wait to perform a comeback magic show, full of self confidence, love, and acceptance, that’s not just for one night, but every single day.
Admittedly, I’m a few years behind as I just finished binging the Disney series Liv and Maddie (2013 - 2017) and happy tears are still streaming down my face as I write this. It’s been a long time since a show has brought me to these kinds of tears - on multiple occasions, which the show successfully did. While I was tweeting my progress as I watched, some people asked "What's so great about it?" and I feel the best part about the show - or even, dare I say, overall message that I got from it - is to follow your dreams, which is an important message that should never be forgotten and often is. I wasn't even seeking this series out when I found it. It just popped up on my Netflix feed and I couldn’t stop watching.
For those who’ve never heard of this series, the core of the show revolves around a pair of twins, Liv and Maddie who are sisters by chance, friends by choice. Liv, is a successful actress and singer who has decided to return home from being the lead of a TV series called “Sing it Loud” in Los Angeles to spend her high school years with her sister and family in Wisconsin.
Maddie, her twin, is a competitive and achieved basketball player. Joey, one of their younger brothers is a fantasy geek and has an extremely hard time making friends. Parker, the pre-teen baby of the family is a scientist and inventor. Karen is their mother who starts as the school’s counselor, and then promoted to Vice Principal And Pete, their father, who’s the high school’s (and Maddie’s) basketball coach. The series went for four seasons, with 80 episodes in total.
With this blog post, I have no intention of robbing you of the enjoyment of watching the Rooney family grow up together - and, yes, that goes for Mr. and Mrs. Rooney as well. More often than not, you'll find me watching TV shows on networks such as The CW, Freeform, Disney, Nickelodeon, and Netflix via Dreamworks and sometimes feel that these types of shows don't get the recognition that they deserve, and I'd like to change that - even if it's just one blog post at a time.
I did a little research on how the show was originally conceived and then after filming the pilot, the entire concept was changed, which then gave us the gem Liv and Maddie (which this probably explains how everyone in the family has brown hair, while Liv and Maddie are both blonde.) I’m glad that Disney and the creative team behind the show didn’t give up on it, as a lot of Hollywood projects have so many uphill battles to conquer in order to make it to the airwaves. So, to John Beck and Ron Hart… thank you for these stories. I, being a teen/YA TV show enthusiast, am not sure how I’ve gone this long without knowing about you, but I’m paying attention now, so keep up the good work. (Also, shameless self promotion here, I’d love to meet with you guys to pick your brain on your creative process. Please DM me.)
My next shout out goes to Dove Cameron, the lead actress who played both the roles of Liv and Maddie throughout the entire series - also kudos to the editing team as the green/split screen moments were hardly noticeable (to me, anyway). Dove, you’ve probably been told this a million times over, but you’re going places. I’m putting you up on the same pedestal as Nina Dobrev from The Vampire Diaries. After watching Nina’s work on TVD, playing both Elena, Katherine, and all her other dopplegangers, I know she's a treasure to work with and hope to one day work with her; and now Dove, you’ve been added to the list.
Joey Bragg also gets a shout out. I related to his character because I also had a hard time making friends as a kid. Part of that has to do with not really knowing who I was and coming to terms with my sexuality, which is a completely different blog post all together, but it was great to see this character grow while also staying true to himself throughout his entire journey. If Joey Rooney were in my social circle, either as I was growing up or right now, I think I could be friends with him based on his love of cats alone.
I liked how positive the series was toward social issues - the main one being about how society treats girls. Liv constantly wanted to use her career to change the conversation from girls can only like pink and barbies to girls are beautiful, no matter what they look like. A message that is really important for young viewers everywhere.
I also enjoyed how science and learning were happily practiced - highly unbelievable for a preteen to make all those inventions (and dig all those holes), but still happily practiced. It was nice to see Karen and Pete not live vicariously through their children. They let their kids be who they were and supported them in their endeavors, while also living their own lives. (With the exception that I do think that Joey and Parker got off way too easy for collapsing the Rooney home at the end of season 3, but this is a comedy series, so I’ll let it slide.)
It was really interesting how the show tackled traditional Hollywood. Nobody cared that Liv was a TV star - mostly - and her peers treated her like she was one of their own - again, mostly. Maddie at one point dated one of Liv’s costars and she didn’t get starstruck over him. Hardly anyone got starstruck. It was a nice take. Refreshing, actually.
As a Teen/YA/Fantasy writer/producer, it’s my dream to write and tell stories that will inspire people. Not to open a can of worms, but lately, I’ve felt a little lost, creatively speaking, which has felt paralyzing. But ever since I turned on that first episode of Liv and Maddie my creativity has sorta bounced back. So, thank you to the cast and crew for reminding in every single episode to stay true to myself and to keep following my dreams.
Good Bye, Rooney family! I'll miss you!
I’m going to be honest: this is my first blog post. I don’t know if I even have a future blogging, but I guess there’s only one way to find out.
Today’s topic: Reese’s Candy
If you've been living under a rock and have no idea what candy I'm talking about, Reese's is a candy made by Hershey's that has the precise combo of both (equal parts?) chocolate and peanut butter.
For those who don’t know me at all, Reese’s is like my alcohol. On stressful days, some people go home and have a glass of wine. I go home and have a king size Reese’s - though I’m no a stranger to having an adult beverage when I’m stressed out.
When I was a kid, my mom would always get them and I’d always get Rolo’s or M&M’s because they had “more” pieces in them. Who wants just two pieces of candy? I can’t define the “a ha” moment in my life when Reese's became my favorite candy of all time, but it is, and I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.
I’m not even sure how it happened, but Reese’s even followed me back on Twitter.
I strongly feel that my calling in life is to write, and produce tell Teen/YA/Fantasy stories with LGBTQ lead characters, but if Hershey’s/Reese’s offered me a job, I’d definitely have a hard time turning it down.
Whispers a side note: I have been adding more fitness into my life lately, eating healthier, going too the gym, doing yoga, etc; and it's not like I have (or need) a Reese's every day, but it's very possible that this candy is to blame for the absence of my defined 8-pack.
10. Reese’s Pieces
I’m gonna be real, guys, and some of you are going to hate me for this, but Reese’s Pieces, to me, are not that great. Sometimes I feel like this candy is like a the step child that Peanut Butter had before Chocolate came along. I’ll get Peanut Butter M&M’s before I’ll get this candy. I’ll even get the Reese’s Peanut Butter chips that you bake cookies with (and I don’t bake/cook - another blog post for another time) before I get Reese’s Pieces. Heck, I’ll eat a table spoon(s) of regular peanut butter before I buy these. I think I just need more chocolate in my life than what this candy provides. Even though I speak badly about these candies now, they do come up again in this list, with a more positive review.
9. Reese’s Outrageous
I told you Reese's Pieces would come back into play! This was a new taste for me the other day. I bought two, just in case I really liked them, and I did. The first one had a lot of caramel in it so it overpowered the peanut butter taste. I almost didn’t even eat my second bar. (Let’s be real, of course I was going to eat the second one.) The second one tasted better and the caramel actually somehow enhanced the peanut butter taste. My life wasn’t changed for the better after having them, but I'd eat another.
8. Holiday Reese’s - Eggs/Pumpkins/Trees/etc.
IMHO - A Reese’s is a Reese’s, whatever shape, right? (Of course I know this blog post says otherwise...) BUT - I saw a recent blog post about how there was a poll done to find out which holiday version is best (there are probably TONS of these online). Nobody has ever asked me to participate in one of these, so my opinion wasn’t counted. I dunno that I could participate. I’ve never tried to put the bunnies against the trees. Though, now I do want to wait until Christmas to save one tree until Easter, just to see what I’d say. But also, it must be noted, that part of me doesn’t want to do this because when a Reese’s has been on the shelf for too long and the Peanut Butter loses its oil and it all dried up and crumbly... those are the WORST. (I'd still eat it though.)
7. Reese’s Mini’s
It’s been a while since I've purchased these. I like eating them by the handful(s).
6. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups w/ Reese’s Pieces
Reese's Pieces came back again! Maybe I like them more than I originally thought...? But it has to be the King Size, not the standard size. The crunch that the pieces offer when eating these, is awesome.
5. Reese’s Lovers - Chocolate/Peanut Butter
These are new and advertised as ‘limited time only,' so get them while you can! These were actually a cool (and perfect) marketing idea. If you like chocolate more, you can have more chocolate one. If you like peanut butter more, you can have more peanut butter one. At first I leaned more toward the chocolate ones. But after trying both, multiple times, I now understand the peanut butter ones more and can't decide which one is my favorite.
4. Reese’s Fastbreak
These are at (almost) every gas station. King size or regular works, but I usually go for the King Size. Over the last few years I’ve started to get anxiety while driving and these have easily been able take (most of) the edge off.
3. Reese’s Miniatures
These are great, especially if you are on the run and need a "quick fix." Oh, and you should totally freeze them! So good!
2. Regular Reese’s
There’s nothing like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. This perfect combination of both chocolate and peanut butter is heavenly and can turn a frown upside down, even if only for a few moments.
1. Reese’s Cookie Crunchy Cookie Cups
Again, it has to be the king size. I've tried the standard size, but the cookie crunch isn’t as strong as is it in the Big Cup. The crunch that these offer is way better than the Reese’s Pieces candy. The cookie kinda tastes like an Oreo. Maybe that’s why I like it so much?
So there you have it! My top 10 Reese's candies. Are craving a Reese's now? Sugar High/Los? Or do you now feel a cavity forming just from reading this? Do you agree? Disagree? Feel Free to share and let's discuss all things chocolate and peanut butter!