I’m just going to go ahead and say it: TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” might actually be awesome

While everyone else is busy pretending they hated the season premiere of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and denouncing the future of America, I’m just going to go ahead and say it: I love Honey Boo Boo and everything she stands for. She and her Mountain Dew guzzling, cheese ball scarfing redneck family just happen to also be progressive, lovely people who teach their children that tummies are beautiful and it doesn’t matter how many chins you have as long as you’re happy.

Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson was first seen in all her belly-shaking glory on Toddlers and Tiaras. She strutted the stage in her midriff bearing cowgirl outfit with the toddler equivalent of a beer gut, practically screaming a big “fuck you” to all the tight-lipped, perfectly groomed pageant mothers and their creepy china doll daughters. (For the record, we’re still of the camp that believes all child pageants are, by nature, creepy and rather deplorable. Tummies aside). While the television audience watched in horror, Alana’s mother, June, “vajiggle-jaggled”  her double chins and made a face we all wish we hadn’t seen, encouraging her “Smoochie” to work it. From that moment, it was clear that this was not your typical pageant family in that they don’t give a single fuck what you think.

In the first episode of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” a show dedicated entirely to documenting the ridiculousness of the Thompson family, they proved their flippancy when they proudly weighed themselves on national television. One of the four daughters decides she wanted to lose weight (subsequently, her nickname is “Chubbs”) and asked her very large mother if she would join. The mother’s response was music to my ears. It was perfect. Like a choir of angels. She said, “I’m pretty happy with myself, but for support for you, I’ll do it.” And fatties everywhere rejoiced because finally someone on tv acknowledged that you can, in fact, be fat and happy.

This is why Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is way more than a trashy reality show about a pack of crazy rednecks. It’s rare that we see fat people on television, much less fat people who are happy with themseleves. Fat is a four letter word in our society and so often an insult used to describe something one would never want to be, or to decry a lesser version of humanity. In reality, fat is a descriptor. It describes overweight people, and nothing more. It does not mean “disgusting” or “bad.” It just means fat, and Honey Boo Boo’s family understands that.

Daughter Lauryn said, “My mama, from her feet to her head, is enormous. What? I mean there’s no other way to describe her.” It’s true. June is fat and happy and that’s cool. Alana exclaimed, “My mama weighs the most in our family because she’s fat.” Also true! And they all moved on and had fun with their fat mother because, as it turns out, fat people are human beings that love and have fun and have interests too. Just like skinny people.

It is truly refreshing to see fat people portrayed as real people on television. In a world of The Biggest Loser, More to Love, Dance Your Ass Off and Mike and Molly, which all focus on fatness as a personal shortcoming or a joke, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo is (pardon the pun) like a thick milkshake on a hot day.

Granted there have only been two episodes, and there is still much room for error, but this season looks promising. Not only has the family proved to be incredibly body positive, but they’re progressive in other ways too. After losing a few pageants, Alana’s dad, Sugar Bear, brings her a glammed-up teacup pig to comfort her. Naturally. Alana decides that her new (male) pig is gay and will therefore dress in drag while accompanying her to pageants. When her sister cries that a pig can’t be gay, Alana so eloquently replies “It can if it want to. You can’t tell that pig what to do.” Preach it, girl. Granted, Alana’s definition of gay is slightly problematic (if a boy dresses as a girl he is gay– and vice versa), she is, after all, only 6. And this six-year-old is both aware — in  a vague sense– of homosexuality…and is totally chill about it.

Going forward, one of the largest problems I actually foresee is a probable swine flu outbreak in the family. Between Alana sleeping in her pet pig’s crib and her sister bobbing for raw pig feet at the redneck games, they seem to be at high risk. A porcine epidemic notwithstanding, it looks like there’s a lot of belly jiggling in our television future. I am so down with that. Get it, Honey Boo Boo Child!




How do you like them apples? On the rocks, thanks.

Move over Halloween! Everyone’s favorite October holiday is already upon us: National Applejack Month. That’s right, 31 days of boozy, cider-filled glory. Now that’s a Phoenix-approved holiday.

Historically, applejack was made by freezing fermented apple juice to force the water to the top, then removing the excess water to make the alcohol content higher.  It was then thawed, and voila, a concentrated and high-in-alcohol cider remains. Now, it comes in a handy bottle and the only process is giving the cashier at the liquor store a few bucks. Our puritanical predecessors were big fans of applejack, and what better way to celebrate the fall harvest?  Get drunk like a pilgrim this month and try these apple concoctions on for size. We scoured the Internetz to find them, just for you!

Jack Briar at Temple Bar, $9: Laird’s Applejack, Chai-spiced Grenadine, Lemon, Down east Cider Float.

Apple Crisp: 4 oz. Applejack, 4 oz. fresh lemon juice, 1 oz. Cointreau or triple sec. Garnish with a halved crab apple

Apple Pie: Half Woodstock Autumn Ale or Harpoon Winter Warmer, Half cider (Ok, it’s not made with Applejack but so good!)

Applejack Old Fashioned: 2 oz. Applejack, 2 dashes Fee Brother’s Whiskey Barrel Aged Aromatic Bitters, 1 tsp. real maple syrup

Applejack Collins: 2 oz. Applejack, 1 oz. Lemon Juice, 4 dashes Orange Bitters, ½ tsp. Superfine Sugar, Sparkling Water

Jack Rose: 2 oz. Applejack, ¾ oz. lime juice, ¼ oz. grenadine

Puerto Apple: 1 1/2 oz. Applejack, 3/4 oz. Lime Juice, 1 oz. Orgeat Syrup, 1 tbsp.White Rum

Wild Thanksgiving: 1 oz. Applejack, Cranberry Juice, 1 splash Rose’s Lime Juice, 1 oz. Wild Turkey 80 Proof Bourbon



Dr. Westchesterson Story in the Boston Phoenix

Contrary to popular belief, Massachusetts does extend beyond Worcester. Furthermore, people actually live out there. Due to its reputation as the forgotten land, Western Massachusetts is a mecca for those on the fringes of society: everything weird, crazy and outlandish culminates in the Happy Valley. This section of the state is also a sort  of Bermuda Triangle for the locals; no one leaves, and they often fall out of touch with outside society. I lived in the  413 for 18 years, but I managed to escape, and I live to tell the tale.

I have some suspicions as to why Western Massachusetts is called the “Happy Valley” and doctor/rapper/stoner Dr. Westchesterson confirms them. Recently, Westchesterson, returned home to Western Mass after some time in Oregeon and a pesky little felony over a mere 20 pounds of marijuana in his car.  The doctor fled the law and took sanctuary in the hills of the Happy Valley. But he’s not exactly laying low: Westchesterson has recently gained some local fame after he entered the rap game, spitting rhymes about the hard hills of his home town, Agawam, and the local landmarks.

Hailing from Western Mass, particularly a town like Agawam, does not generally a hip-hop superstar make. But neither does a degree in (ahem) horticulture and biochemistry from Amherst College. Or a medical degree from Oregon Health and Science University.  Not like that’s stopping Westchesterson.

The doc’s most famous video, “413”, is a celebration of the majestic monuments of Western Mass, such as Mrs. Murphy’s Donuts and the Yankee Candle flagship store. It went viral almost immediately after its release on April 20 (yeah), with locals writing comments about the long-overdue praise of the area, and how the video boosted their hometown pride. Fans and local news outlets seem to think that Westchesterson is the perfect Happy Valley spokesman, but perhaps they missed the irony of an academic wearing a brown and orange suit with a gold chain while pursuing a satirical rap career — not the most effective representative for a place that complains of not being taken seriously.

Sullivan’s Review in the Boston Phoenix

Sullivan’s is the kind of place your grandfather might have taken your grandmother when they were dating — a place for cheap eats, a romantic stroll, and necking in the parking lot. Open since 1951, the Southie mainstay — offering hamburgers for less than $2 and some of the only crinkle-cut fries in Boston — is nestled in the corner of Castle Island, an old fortress turned mob haunt turned family park.

Sullivan’s is charming in that peculiar Boston way that is somehow really unwelcoming while still making you feel right at home. On a nice day, the infamous line wraps all the way around the parking lot; tight-lipped townie cashiers brusquely take your order. Intimidating, maybe, but this no-frills system is efficient — you’ll get your food in 10 minutes. During my visit, I was lucky enough to nab a picnic table (there’s no inside seating).

Since their patties are pretty thin, Sullivan’s only cooks them well-done, but my burger — with lettuce, tomato, mayo, and ketchup — still packed plenty of flavor. It’s not gourmet, but for $1.90, I wasn’t looking for anything fancy. A large side of French fries ($1.95/small; $3.25/large) is pricier than anything else on the lunch menu, but totally worth it. Hot and delicious, these fries serve as a reminder of a better time, when crinkle-cut fries weren’t so rare. The large is just enough to split between two people — or sate the cravings of a crinkle-cut junkie.

Sullivan’s also has one of the best-priced lobster rolls around — for $9.95, you get a toasted hot-dog bun overflowing with quality lobster meat, lightly dressed in mayonnaise. Sullivan’s doesn’t screw around with celery or lettuce or distracting spices; they skip straight to the good stuff, letting the natural seafood flavor shine through.

After your meal, take a stroll around the island, play soccer in the grass, or lie on the beach — the greenery of the park against the harbor view proves that city-dwellers don’t have to roam far for a quick escape from urban bustle. But anyone planning to make the trek on a rainy day, take heed: Sullivan’s will close “if there are more seagulls than cars in the parking lot.”

Sullivan’s, located at 2080 Day Boulevard in South Boston, is open from the last weekend in February to the last weekend in November, seven days a week, 8:30 am–sunset, unless the weather is bad. Call 617.268.5685 or visit sullivanscastleisland.com.

-July 2012