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Flashdance

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Image Credit: Flashdance, 1983

As Auntie Mame once put it so perfectly, “Well, when you’re from Pittsburgh you have to do something.” In this week’s film Flashdance (Disc/Download), that “something” includes performing a New Wave/Kabuki strip tease under a strobe light in the corner of a dive bar. All I can say is, this Steel-Town girl is having one hell of a Saturday night.

Requested by a long-time Cinema Sips fan (aka my mom), Flashdance should absolutely be watched with a cocktail while you’re hunkered down in your sweats, contemplating the physics involved in pulling your bra out through your sleeve. Jennifer Beals had moves, I tell you. Steelworker by day, aspiring dancer by night, Alex Owens has aspirations of dancing with the Pittsburgh Conservatory. On one hand, I applaud the fact that this is not yet another story about a small town girl trying make it big on the New York Stage. Though still a long shot for a dancer with zero formal training, Pittsburgh seems a little more attainable than Manhattan.  On the other, I look at this and go, Pittsburgh??? Girl, take your adorable dog and get the heck out. The weather is terrible.

Speaking of weather, the drizzly, grey location shots put me in the mood for a warming fall beverage. Research (okay, Google) has unearthed a bygone Western PA cocktail that actually sounds not as terrible as the name would suggest, and surprisingly perfect for this movie where a hot date is a visit to a scrap yard. While watching Flashdance, I recommend drinking a Fussfungle.

Fussfungle

2 oz Rye Whiskey

1/2 oz Burnt Brown Sugar-Molasses Syrup*

Dash of Orange Bitters

Orange twist for garnish

Combine Whiskey, bitters, and syrup in a shaker with ice, and stir until chilled. Strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube or ball, and garnish with an orange twist.

*Burnt Brown Sugar-Molasses Syrup: heat ½ cup brown sugar in a saucepan until it starts to melt. While continuously stirring, allow it to puff up, and the second it turns dark brown/black, turn off the heat. Add ½ cup water, and continue to stir. Add ¼ cup molasses, and stir until mixed and dissolved. Remove from stove and refrigerate.

Romance fans will love seeing a younger Michael Nouri in the role of Alex’s lover, long before he would turn into a silver fox and start wooing the geriatric set. The thing about Flashdance is that it should be too cheesy to work, but with its quiet love story, memorable choreography, and evergreen plot about a girl who dares to dream, it has somehow evolved into a movie with staying power. Being’s believing, I guess. Cheers!

Wonder Boys

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Wonder Boys

Image Credit: Wonder Boys, 2000

As I prepare for a trip to Pittsburgh later this week, I find myself in the midst of an existential crisis. While it’s always fun to visit distant family, I still find myself sighing at the prospect of I.C. Light and “yinz” instead of “y’all”. Plus, there’s the inevitable feeling of inadequacy returning to the city of my youth, not having quite reached that writing career pinnacle yet.  Wonder Boys (DVD/Download), that fantastic adaptation of a Michael Chabon novel, is exactly what I need in my life right now.

There are many things that draw me toward Wonder Boys- the story of a washed up literary giant who’s struggling to find his footing again. As Professor Grady Tripp, Michael Douglas becomes the teacher every writer wishes they had. Funny, encouraging, eccentric, he treats his students like the contemporaries they are. Tobey Maguire gives a quirky performance as his depressed, brilliant protégé James Leer, and Robert Downey Jr. turns on the manic charm as book editor Terry Crabtree. For cinephiles like me, the movie is a dream, filled with Marilyn Monroe references, and classic film trivia galore. I also love that it satirizes the pretentiousness of the literary and academic worlds, with Michael Douglas as a messy antidote- prowling his car through slushy grey streets, dead dog in his trunk, weed in the glove box. It’s just…. so Pittsburgh.

To me, one of the great things about this city is the constant dichotomy between old and new. Sure there are trendy lounges and hip hotels now, but there are still dive bars in the hills where James Brown impersonators like Vernon Hardapple hang out. As an ode to his pregnant baby mama/cocktail waitress Oola (who never forgets a drink), while watching Wonder Boys I recommend drinking a Double Dickel on the Rocks.

Double Dickel on the Rocks

2 oz George Dickel No. 12® Tennessee Whiskey

Lemon twist

Pour whiskey in a glass filled with cracked ice. Top with lemon twist.

Double Dickel

 

While I struggle to find a place for my latest manuscript (even if that place is buried inside my desk drawer), and I begin working on the next one, I have to remind myself that it’s not about recognition or seeing your book in an airport bookstore, or that coveted interview on NPR.  It’s about the act of writing.  As Professor Tripp says, “Nobody teaches a writer anything.  You tell ’em what you know.  You tell ’em to find their voice and stay with it.  You tell the ones that have it to keep at it, you tell the ones that don’t have it to keep at it too… because that’s the only way they’re gonna get to where they’re going.”  As I return to Pittsburgh, I feel comforted and encouraged by that advice.  I haven’t arrived yet, but at least I know where I want to go.  Cheers!