Monday, February 23, 2015


When I get home, Lily always greets me at the door for a friendly conversation. For everyone else, though, she sharpens her claws. Don't take it personally: after years of training with the secret service, she's a bonafide watchcat, and it's hard for her to change her ways. 

Home (January 9, 2015)
(Illustration Friday: January 9, 2015)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Where's Melissa?

Hi everyone,

I'm still here! The cold winter weather has plagued me with a series of colds and turned me into a bear, so the Kitties and I have been hibernating. I'm just thawing out this week and will resume Melissa's Kitties very soon....

Coming Soon....

I hope you are all well. Here's to spring!


Friday, January 09, 2015


Hi everyone,

I bought John Waters's latest book, Carsick, this summer while he was book touring and stopped in D.C. for a conversation with Washington Post reviewer Louis Bayard at the Sixth and I Synagogue. He wore fire engine red pants and a black jacket. (Sometimes, he's worth seeing just for his fashion sense.)

Carsick recounts his adventure hitchhiking from his home in Baltimore, Maryland, to his timeshare apartment in San Francisco, California. Before telling readers what really happened on his trip, he offers two novellas that imagine the best- and worst-case scenarios. Each chapter is new ride. Only John Waters, a 63-year-old cult film director, writer, actor, and performer – who can easily afford faster, safer ways to travel – would consider making this trip in real life. The rest of us conventional types wondered Louis Bayard's very first question: What were you thinking, hitchhiking on your own these days? Noting that his "criminal friends" were the ones who were most against his idea and that made him nervous, he responds, "It's dangerous. But so is driving, and so is staying home. That's very dangerous. Nothing will ever happen to you again in your life!"

John Waters always says interesting things like this, statements that make me think and see things differently. I've been a fan since seeing Hairspray in the '80s and, of course, since he cast Johnny Depp in 1990's Cry-Baby, happy to help steer his film career in the right direction. (You can find my Johnny Kitties tribute to that movie here.) I met him once before at a book signing for his previous (fantastic) book, Role Models. When I met him this time, I told him how much I liked that book and that I was excited to read this one. He thanked me twice for both compliments. He's nice too! Can I consider us friends now?

Carsick is an entertaining, funny, quick read. The novellas offer a glimpse into John Waters's warped, wonderful imagination and introduce readers to all those people the rest of us are afraid to approach. (I always learn new things from John Waters, who in his nonjudgmental way of life, flirts with the fringe of society.) In the best-case scenario, he receives $5 million to finance his next film, experiences magic from outer space, runs into a long-lost friend, meets one of his movie-star idols, and falls in love by the time he reaches San Francisco. On his worst rides, he encounters a drunk driver, torturers, kidnappers, overzealous fans, and death. The pleasant surprise of the real rides is that everyone who picks him up is content and kind.

I finished this book feeling good about the world and the people in it, though I agree with John Waters's personal assistant, who acknowledges how his recognizable face helped move him across the country. Upon his arrival in San Francisco, she said, "if it were my unknown ass, I'd still be [hitchhiking] in West Virginia waiting for a ride." So, you may decide against trying this kind of road trip yourself and, instead, read this book to imagine what would happen if you ever dared it. With John Waters as your guide (complete with a 30-song playlist provided on the last page), I think you're safe.

Buckle up,

P.S. For more of my book reviews, click the new Keep Reading tab below the banner on my blog. This page will be updated as new book reviews are posted.

Friday, January 02, 2015

It's winter?

Hi everyone,

I'd been down and out with a cold for practically the entire month of December, so I'm a little late in wishing you happy holidays. Don't worry, the Kitties have been playing nonstop while waiting for my energy to return. It's not snowing here in D.C., so I don't know where they've been!

Winter 2014

Here's to 2015,

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


Hi everyone,

At the end of October, I took the train up to New York for a three-day Broadway Extravaganza. I saw four fantastic shows!

Theatre (December 7, 2014)
(Illustration Friday: November 14, 2014)

  • The River, at Circle in the Square, is a drama about a guy with relationship issues and his love for fishing. In the scene here, our man (Hugh Jackman/B.J.) is surprised by his girlfriend's (Laura Donnelly/Mini) beginner's luck. 
  • Cabaret, at Studio 54, is an iconic musical set in 1930s Berlin about a cabaret singer and her relationship with an American as the Nazis begin to gain power. In this scene, the cabaret's emcee, played by Alan Cumming/Simon introduces some of the cabaret's dancers (Ashes and Lily), including its main attraction Sally Bowles (Michelle Williams/Mini). 
  • Set to some amazing music by Sting, The Last Ship at the Neil Simon Theatre is a new musical about a man (Michael Esper) who, after 15 years, returns to his hometown  – a working-class shipbuilding community in Northern England, where he faces his first love Meg (Rachel Tucker) and unresolved issues with his father. As Father O'Brien (Fred Applegate), the town's beloved minister, brings the community together to give the dying industry a proper send off by building one last ship, memories arise and old wounds begin to heal. Here, the foreman Jackie White (Jimmy Nail/B.J.) directs his workers (Comet, Gordon, and Simon) as they build the massive ship with Father O'Brien (Norman), Meg (Lily), and her son Tom (Colin Kelly Sordelet/Tyrone) watching the feat.     
  • On the Town, at Lyric Theatre, is the classic musical about three Navy sailors (Tony Yazbeck, Jay Armstrong Johnson, and Clyde Alves) on 24-hour leave in New York City. In this scene, the boys (Comet, Gordon, and B.J.) get off the boat at 6 a.m. to start their day, just as a construction worker (Philip Boykin/Norman) arrives for work.

I've been slow drawing and blogging these days, but I hope to post reviews of these shows here sometime soon. In the meantime, get your tickets now because these shows are all worth seeing! Cabaret now stars Emma Stone in the role of Sally Bowles! The Last Ship, my favorite of the four, now has Sting himself in the role of Jackie White for a limited time through January 10th! What are you waiting for? Treat yourself and go!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cyndi Lauper: A Memoir

Hi everyone,

Photo credit: © Kat Villacorta
A few weeks ago, I caught Cyndi Lauper on "Front and Center" on PBS. This hour-long concert (which you can watch here) celebrates the 30th anniversary of her debut album, She's So Unusual, which she performs from start to finish. And there I was, in the middle of the night, remembering all the lyrics, singing and dancing along like no time had passed.

The last time I saw her in concert was with my dad and sister in Boston Common when she was touring in support of this album. It was my first concert ever. The two things that I remember from it are 1) Cyndi belting out "Money Changes Everything" while fearlessly climbing high above the stage on sound equipment and running along back-wall scaffolding, and 2) the photos I took of her from atop my dad's shoulders, above a sea of bouncing fans. The only thing visible in those photos was the shock of Cyndi's orange hair, a fiery dot from our distance. 

I've lost track of her music over the years, but the same Cyndi-infused delight resurfaces in me whenever she shows up. Were you as excited as I was about her recurring role on "Mad About You" in the '90s? Did you catch her surprise appearance on "The Voice" a few years ago? Didn't the Tonys telecast become instantly cooler with Cyndi there in support of Kinky Boots? I guess I shouldn't have been surprised this year when my mom described an outfit I had just received for my birthday as "very Cyndi Lauper" and that the next gift I opened was her recent memoir. (Thanks, Dad!) 

Cyndi Lauper's memoir is a quick read, maybe because I read it every day since opening the cover. During the first half of the book, I was shocked to learn about this young girl in Queens, who grew up poor in an unstable family situation, struggled in school and with various jobs, and had to run away from home for her own safety. She suffered from illnesses and depression while fighting off hunger and barely paying rent. I stopped reading every once in a while to inspect the front cover: This is Cyndi Lauper – amazing singer, songwriter, and performer, Grammy and Tony winner, and all-around cool, confident artist – right? 

What kept Cyndi going were her singular vision of the artist she wanted to become and her deep connection to music and singing. Just as I felt while watching her climb far above the concert stage all those years ago, reading her story, I was taken aback by her fearless drive to move forward in life to reach her creative goals and her matter-of-fact acceptance of whatever hurdles are thrown in her path.

The second half of the book caught me up on the music I've missed since Cyndi's second album, True Colors. The number and variety – from rock and dance to jazz and blues – are surprising. Cyndi's still doing whatever she can to grow as an artist and offer something new. She lets you into her unique, all-encompassing creative process; the look, sound, and feel of everything she does has artful meaning behind it. She talks honestly about her shortcomings and struggles to grow and be heard in a male-dominated, sales-driven industry. She offers empowering advice about how to lead your life as you want it and inspires with every triumph, including her work, her sense of humor in the face of darkness, and her dedicated efforts toward equal rights for women and the gay community. Throw some wrestlers and drag queens in there, and you've got an entertaining story about the unpredictable, rewarding life of a special lady.

My favorite thing about this book is Cyndi's one-of-a-kind voice and approach. It's as if she is sitting next to you, personally telling her story. As if we were catching up like old girlfriends, she ends some anecdotes with "(Can you believe it?)" or "C'est la vie... (That's French for 'whatever!')" Taking her time when working on an album is for the best, she explains, "I mean, I could have done it really quick, but what was I going to put out – some piece of poop? (You feeling the alliteration?)" And, though she puts herself down for having no filter when speaking her mind and doing things her own way, she takes it in stride, always with her eye on improving: "I'm learning more and more how to do this without ruffling feathers, but I must confess that I don't know how to do it as well as I'd like to. I've plucked a few chickens in my time. I have never been a delicate flower. Hopefully I am getting better. Or, as Yoda would say, 'Better I'm getting.'"

Can you hear her? While reading this book, your internal voice will absorb Cyndi's infectious enthusiasm and boldness and develop a heavy Queens accent. What else can a fan ask for? This memoir is "very Cyndi Lauper." Awesome she is. 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

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