Matt and Tony are joined by guest Fixer Jess Adducci as they work harder than ever before to fix the 2004 movie Timeline. Starring Paul Walker and Gerard Butler (among others), this adaptation of one of Matt and Tony’s favorite books proved to be their hardest fix yet.
Last night was nice. We’ve developed a bit of tradition during Tony’s visits to St Louis of watching whatever the newest DC animated movie is of the moment. We watched Batman Ninja, enjoyed some Thai food, and unplugged for a while. It was refreshing.
I’m writing this at the end of a production block. We do these week-long shooting marathons a half dozen times a year. Tony has been here in St Louis for nearly a week now and we’ve been recording more podcasts and shooting new episodes of Cocktail Moment, while trying to catch up on movies, video games, and just life in general. Sometimes it feels like all we talk about is the channel. I don’t mean that negatively. It’s something we both care about and both want to see grow and be successful. But we’ve got to break it up sometimes with distractions. We went to a ball game on Saturday and had a great time, but it wasn’t long before we were talking about the channel and then shooting some video for the channel.
Nowadays our production team has doubled and we are producing original content at least once a week. It’s very fulfilling to have so much great work to show for our efforts, but it’s also very overwhelming at times. I have to remember to take the time to maintain the friendships that led to this wonderful team.
Looking back on the last two years of TSD, things have certainly changed a lot. In the beginning it was just Tony and myself producing a handful of episodes here and there. We got to hang out and do something we love a few times a year and the stress of it was pretty minimal. Jake and I were pretty casual friends at the beginning of all of this, but through no small part of our work together on TSD we’ve grown incredibly close and I count him among my closest friends and confidants. Joey is a somewhat recent addition to my life, but we’ve become steadfast friends so quickly through creative collaboration “in the trenches.”
Tony and I have been friends for going on twenty years now. He’s talked about it in a previous week, so I won’t go into a lot of detail on that. Suffice it to say, our bond of friendship is strong and producing creative projects together just strengthens it. TSD has been, overall, wonderful of us. It gives us ‘an excuse’ to spend time together doing things we love. It’s easy, however, to fall into the trap of making every interaction we have ‘about work.’
The greatest joy of working on this channel is getting to work alongside some of my favorite people-Tony, Jake, and Joey are hard-working creatives and we all do an incredible job of making each other better. In the chaos of production, I’m so grateful to be surrounded by friends. It would be so easy to get burnt out on each other after gruelling shoots and long weeks of production but we still find ourselves wanting to grab a drink or have a soak in the hot tub after it’s all done. The affection for each other is genuine, the bond we’re sharing is strong. Production weeks, like the one we’re finishing now, can be so overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for me, but I’m so glad to have these guys with me to get through it all. Work is something that’s tying us all together right now. Friendship is what’s making it worth doing.
There are times when I’m thumbing through the tattered files of my memories, that I come across a moment that is hilariously revealing. As a gay man who spent most of his life closeted and fighting to stay in the closet, these moments are a dime a dozen: making a wig out of my mother’s garden twine, pining for a stunning periwinkle cloaked cape, and choreographing “I’m a Slave 4 U” in my underwear.
Yeah. Totes straight.
Those clues to my true sexuality were about as hidden as an old man’s moose knuckle with his pants pulled up to his nipples. In those old boxes of memories, there are other hidden things I wasn’t expecting to find: the path to becoming an amateur pastry chef, the reasons why other careers never felt “right”, and my proclivity for smartass remarks that make even my loved ones want to slap me.
In my senior year of English in high school, we all had to record and make senior videos. These were videos that included photos of our lives up until that time, our wants and wishes for the future, and who we wanted to be. At the time, I was working at Dairy Queen and loving it. I worked there for five years and had a blast making ice cream cakes, sundaes, cones, and blizzards. Even at home, I was baking and cooking everything I could. I even got into making and rolling my own pasta for homemade fettuccine alfredo. If I wasn’t making the kitchen look like an active crime scene, I was in front of the TV watching the Food Network until my eyes hurt. So, in my senior video, I said I wanted to be a culinary artist. I can still see my teacher’s face when I said that: scrunched up and twisted, like a baby who just decided that their mashed pea puree would look better on the floor than in their mouth. That face made me second-guess just about everything. That same year, I was also one of the top tenors in our state for All-State Choirs.
Music has always been a big part of my life. My mother was our church pianist, my dad played the guitar and mandolin. I started playing the piano in first grade. I can remember practicing hand positions and scales and learning everyone’s eternal jam, “Hot Cross Buns”. I sang in church constantly at our Sunday night services where anyone could sing a song or a hymn. I was nothing short of a diva. Shocker, right? But, growing up in a religious family, these behaviors were reinforced by the idea that talent is a divine gift, ’ and therefore a ‘calling’ for your life. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I was told, “If you don’t use the gift God gave you, it’s a sin. You musn’t squander the gifts you’ve been given.”
Therefore, to avoid squandering my “God-given gifts”, I dove headfirst into that musical rabbit hole. I went to college for music. I studied abroad for music. I was in a Young Artist program for a prestigious group,and I performed as a concert soloist with the heads of professional music departments. I had no issues getting work, and by all accounts, I was incredibly successful very early in my journey. This made it easy to feel like music really was at the core of who I am, who I was meant to be, and who I will be. Resting on my laurels, I slid by not noticing the growing storm clouds.
In 2013 I applied to a few Masters programs. I networked, prepared tirelessly, drove hours to schools, and auditioned. I was accepted to all my schools. I was elated. Life was going swimmingly…until it didn’t. No one offered me any sort of financial assistance: no scholarships, no grants, no teaching assistantship. My student loans would not even cover one semester. I begged and pleaded with the departments, prostrating myself like an initiate priest taking their vows. I could not understand why this terrible thing was happening to me. I was MEANT for this life! This was God’s plan for me! Why me, God? Why, me???? *insert torrential rainstorm*
All joking aside, this roadblock, this failure, rattled me to my core. I had a plan. I was a “musician.” What was I to do? The terrible emptiness that followed my final call with the financial aid office is something I can still feel to this day. I was housesitting at the time and I just went to the front porch, sat on the porch swing, and watched the rain fall. All those Simple Plan music videos I watched during my emo-preteen phase had prepared me well for this very moment. As the shock faded and I started to pick myself up, I went into first-aid mode. I dug out all the bad in that wound and tried to find what was left. I dissected “who am I?” as if it were a frog splayed out on a lab table, spread eagle, with its entrails being shown to him. When my depression was at its worst, I probably smelled about as bad as that frog did too.
I spent years in that desperate rut, but finally, the answer came to me. I had been looking at it from a career standpoint, when I really needed to look deeper–people are not careers. We are not jobs. I realized what I love most in life is making people feel a sense of “home,” and in doing so, making them feel loved. There’s a good episode of Friends that displays it perfectly: Monica is trying to get people to hang out at their apartment. She does everything: bakes, cleans, remodels. In the last scene, the gang finally comes back over to her apartment and she collapses in the chair after working tirelessly, and passes out saying “I’m the hostess, I’m the hostess.” Her friends are happy with their freshly baked cookies and everything looks homey and cozy. That’s me.
Following that feeling brought me back to food. With the weight of expectation off my shoulders , I let myself really discover who I was by doing what I loved. I love food. I love the feelings it gives people. I love the power it has to bring back to life those that have passed, those we’ve loved, and the times we shared with them around the table. Is there really anything as caring as a plate full of freshly baked cookies or a pie from a friend?
So here I am today, still chasing my gut. I know who I am now, for the most part. It took me years of parsing through the good, the bad, the painful, and the joyful to get here. Some days, I’m tired and exhausted and I may fail at being joyful, but my hope is that people will always know my love for them through the food I serve.
I hope you feel loved, I hope that you feel at home…and most importantly, I hope you feel full.
If dogs are man’s best friend then don’t they deserve the best treats? Jake is joined in the kitchen by Teddy Duval who’s just turned five! His treat? Peanut butter and bacon bones that any pup would love.