Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Friendship Therapy

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my friends? I love them as much as music and good acting, and in my world, that is very high praise.

On Sunday I went to Tom, Chris and Nick's annual Memorial Day barbecue. I have gone to this party every year of its existence, and much like fine wine, it gets better and better with age. These fellows are very popular, so there were about a bazillion people there this year. Above is a photo of myself with Emily, Erin and Jack enjoying the festivities alongside Chris, one of our hosts, who graciously agreed to pose with us. Between the drinks, delicious snacks, Dance-Dance Revolution and seat of your pants good times, this was party not to be missed.

My friend Gry is also in town. I met Gry in an acting class back in 1998, and we have been good friends ever since. She moved to New York in 2001 and then to Denmark in 2003, but that doesn't stop her from paying a visit to her San Francisco stomping ground every once in a while. Back in the day, Gry and I had a standing Wednesday evening happy hour at Casanova, so that's where we met tonight, even though it's Tuesday. Much like many a Wednesday of yore, we fell into a pattern of good drink and even better conversation. It doesn't hurt that Casanova has a free jukebox which I loaded with The Jam, The Beau Brummels and early Who this evening. I will admit that I've been feeling a little low lately, but tonight any feelings of dejection completely melted away in the red light and vinyl couches of the fabulous Casanova. Who needs therapy when you have Gry, a good cocktail and "Beat Surrender" playing in the background?

And if a long weekend barbecue and bonding time with Gry were not enough, tomorrow I will be seeing one of my favorite friends in the whole world. Schleevin and I have known each other for almost 25 years (damn, we're old), and we are going to get together for snacks and cocktails when I jaunt down to Southern California to meet Nephew Sassy. Schleevin is wonderful and talented and super-neat, and I absolutely can't wait to see him!

Honestly, can a girl ask for any more happiness in life?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My American Idol: Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 14

John Doe and various others crooning (and screaming) Replacements tunes at 12 Galaxies

So apparently the season finale of that show was on last night, and I've heard talk that some guy named Taylor or Tyler or Tiny won. I wouldn't actually know for sure because I've never seen that insipid boob tube phenomenon, but last night I got the chance to see one of my own musical idols up close.

Ann Marie, Adam and I started the evening at the Make Out Room to see Pat Johnson, a rather talented musician I know. After Pat's set, we scooched around the corner and met Tom at 12 Galaxies for a Replacements tribute show which featured, among the many performers, none other than John Doe. The extraordinary John Doe in a Replacements tribute show. I actually interviewed Paul Westerberg about 15 years ago, and I wish I had been psychic because it would have been fabulous to ask him how it feels to have John Doe pay homage to him in a small San Francisco club

But I'm not psychic, and Paul Westerberg wasn't there last night, anyway. I can, however, tell you how it felt for me to see a rockstar mainstay of my formative years stand mere feet before me strumming his acoustic guitar. It felt a little bit like auditory heaven. Ann Marie and I were slightly disappointed that John only sang three songs, but the other performers (including the aforementioned Pat Johnson, who also played this show in addition to his Make Out Room gig) were all good, too.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Wednesday evening.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Best Friends and A Really Good Mood

I had not intended to post today, figuring I would wait to report on the adventures of my work weekend, which begins tonight but won't really get going until tomorrow and Thursday.

But then something glorious happened. I have made a new best friend: my co-worker Patti. I've always liked Patti a lot, but at work today, I had occasion to offer that I am 36 years old. Patti looked right at me with an expression of genuine shock and said, "You're 36? I didn't even think you were 30 yet." I want you to let that sink in: she didn't even think I was 30. I was so thrilled that I hugged her with sincere vigor and proclaimed her my new best friend. I meant it, too. Not that I think 36 is old, but still. As I thought about it later, it occurred to me that maybe she thought I was so young because I bounce around our workplace everyday saying things like "Yay!" and "Yippee!" with my special brand of sassy energy. Plus, I am her go-to girl for bar recommendations (so far I have sent her to Favorite Bar, Anu on 6th Street and 15 Romolo in North Beach). So maybe I come off just a tad immature. Well, you know what? I don't care; if it makes me seem young, I'll take it.

This has put me in a good mood of colossal proportions.

In other friend news, I also found out today that my very, very good friend Jenny is coming to town tomorrow. She and I have spent endless evenings bonding over snacks and cocktails while trying to decipher the confounding behavior of ridiculous boys. But in 2003 she moved to Boston for graduate school and decided to stay. Whatever. I haven't seen her in what feels like forever, so I am very excited. She and I will be getting pedicures on Thursday and catching up on tales of the latest ridiculous boys in our lives. I can't wait!

I always say Sassyland is home to a truly good life, and everyday offers more evidence of that fact.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Books That Are Making Me Happy Today, vol 2

Goats by Mark Jude Poirier and Little Children by Tom Perrotta

I must apologize, gentle readers. While I have kept you in the loop of all the theatre and music that adds joy to my sass, I have been remiss when it comes to books. I have this terrible tendency to procure books much faster than I can read them. It's a good thing I secretly harbor the soul of a technology-phobic old lady and don't trust online shopping. Otherwise, Amazon would be the death of me. But I've made some progress in my backlog, so let's get at least a little bit caught up.

I recently finished Goats, which was recommended to me by Father Sassy when I visited him in Gig Harbor. The family at the center of Goats would make Norman Rockwell roll over in his grave, but these days, all of us recognize it. Teenage Ellis is a freshman at a tony East Coast prep school while his barely functional mother, Wendy, and her stoner boarder known as Goat Man keep the home fires burning in Arizona. Add Ellis' dad, his moronic roommate, Wendy's leech of a boyfriend and yes, some actual goats, and you've got quite the cast of characters. And Poirier's writing is breezy without being pedestrian, making this a very pleasant read. I have since moved on to Little Children, which is lots of fun so far. I'd call this one a really good beach read, even though I am tearing through it in my urban apartment. The action is stuck in a very specific time, but I am enjoying the cultural references. And this tale of thirty-something parents is perfect for anyone, with kids or not, who has woken up and found themselves suddenly and bewilderingly in the midst of adulthood. In other words, it's perfect for me and pretty much all of my friends.

Books definitely make the world happier. And after spending my college years immersed in the greatest hits of the canon, I have no problem reading books that are a little bit fluffy. Of course, the Ivy League literature major in me does have her limits. You will never catch me perusing a copy of The Da Vinci Code. I don't care how many copies it has sold. And after being burned in the late '90's by a couple particularly terrible selections, I now walk right by any contemporary novel bearing Oprah's Book Club seal (she got crafty a few years ago when she began choosing classics). I love that Oprah is getting so many people to read, but in my opinion, Jonathan Franzen was wise to reject membership... or at least that seal.

In other news, several of my co-workers are getting sick, and that fact has me concerned both for their health and, honestly, my own. Viruses rip through my workplace like tornadoes, so once a few of us get sick, we are all susceptible. And I have no time for disease. On Wednesday night Ann Marie and I are going to not one, but two live music shows. And we have corralled Richard, Adam and possibly my co-worker Tom, providing he's not one of the infirm, to come with us. Then Terry and I are reviving our recently dormant margarita Thursday habit. This weekend is Tom, Chris and Nick's annual Memorial Day barbecue. And next week my friend Gry, whom I have not seen or talked to in almost two years, is in town, and I'm taking a small jaunt down to Southern California to meet Nephew Sassy in person. He has no immune system yet, so I can't bring along any germs.

To that end, I am indulging in lots of Airborne and zinc lozenges tonight while I watch the Giants play the Cardinals. My baseball boyfriends Mike Matheny and Omar Vizquel are so far leading the team toward victory, but as we all know, anything can happen.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Birthdays, Baseball and Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 13

A few tidbits from the Land of Sassy this evening:

Yesterday was my friend Tom's 34th birthday, so the troops gathered for cocktails and frivolity to honor the day he was born. Now, Tom is notorious for planning his birthday celebration at the very last minute, but after more than nine years of friendship, I am on to him. Knowing his big day was approaching, I specifically had reserved the evening for whatever he would put together. And wouldn't you know it, Thursday night came along and my in-box was graced with an email from Tom informing me of the plan. Regardless of the late notice, the party sure was fun. And Tom's roommates Chris and Nick (who is also Tom's brother) made him an ooey-gooey birthday cake that tasted like a strawberry milkshake. Not bad for a couple of boys who wear their lack of cooking expertise as a badge of honor.

Do you know what's a good song? "The Happening" by The Supremes. In case you don't know, it was the title track from a 1967 film of the same name. The movie is supposedly horrible, but the song certainly isn't. The songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland crafted quite the perfect little 60's pop tune in this number. If I ever form a girl group, we are definitely going to cover it. You know what else is a good song? "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" by the great Jackie Wilson. I just downloaded that one from iTunes. This morning I listened to "The Happening" over and over for the first half of my run, and I imagine "Higher and Higher" will get similar treatment. (For the record, the only song thus far whose repeated playing has propelled me through my entire four-mile endorphin route is "Here Comes Your Man" by the Pixies. I'll let you know if/when that changes.)

Barry Bonds hit his 714th career home run this afternoon and has tied Babe Ruth's tally. I think that's neat. Mike Matheny also hit a home run today and helped the Giants beat the A's 4 to 2. But no one will ever remember that home run. Sorry, Mike.

Tonight I've been invited to Ben's birthday party, Eric's birthday party and another party my friend Wendy, whom I haven't seen in months because she has been in India, is attending. There are also two live music shows I'd like to see. How ever will a girl choose? Well, I won't have to because I have to be at work at 4:00 tomorrow morning. That's right, 4:00 a.m. Eric tried to talk me into going to his party anyway and just staying up all night. Maybe ten years ago I would have considered that, but now this girl needs her rest. So happy birthday, fellows. Wendy, I'll catch up with you another time. And I'll just have faith the bands I want to see tonight will play again soon. And tomorrow morning I'll have to miss Bay to Breakers, San Francisco's most fun street party dressed up like a foot race. But at least I'll get to talk about it a lot at work. Plus, I am greatly consoled by the fact that I am already in my pajamas, and I will soon nestle into my couch while cocooned in a fuzzy blanket.

It's a very good life, believe me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Theatre That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 6

Moliere's The Miser at Berkeley Rep

Do you want to see some truly astounding acting? As in it-takes-your-breath-away-and-makes-you-want-to-trip-the-light-fantastic-in-a-rainstorm-just-like-Gene-Kelly-did level acting? Well, then drive, BART, swim, walk or do whatever you can to get to Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre and see The Miser. The story could be streamlined a bit, as some of the scenes are way too long. But this adaptation of the Moliere classic features incredibly clever dialogue (two regional references notwithstanding; I always find those to be hokey) and some just plain brilliant acting. Everyone in the ensemble is absolutely terrific, and if you're anything like me, you'll want to see it just to marvel at the talent onstage before you.

In other words, this show is pretty damn good. The photo is creepy, but honestly, the show is great.

And frankly, Berkeley Rep's whole season this year has been pretty damn good. I didn't love Finn In the Underworld, and Comedy on the Bridge/Brundibar and Zorro in Hell were not perfect while enjoyable. But their productions of Our Town, Nine Parts of Desire, The Glass Menagerie and The Miser have all been top notch. No wonder Berkeley Rep won the Tony for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 1997. Really, do yourself a favor and see this play.

After the show, I ended up spending more energy than I would have ever expected ducking that 70-year old man who hit on me the last time I went to Berkeley Rep. Terry chronicles that part of the evening on her blog, so you should read about it there.

In totally unrelated news, I have discovered a new favorite place in San Francisco. It's a new boutique in North Beach featuring a host of pretty things available for purchase, and the owner, Giulia, is super-duper nice. And the very best part is you can go there with a group of friends and drink champagne and get pedicures while you shop. Champagne, pedicures and shopping all in one location! All of you have to do is give Giulia about a week's notice and agree that you and your friends will actually buy stuff while you're sipping champagne and having your feet attended to. This is my idea of heaven, and I intend to indulge as often as humanly possible.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Glamour Lunch

The glamour lunch is the close, but much more fashionable cousin of the power lunch.

The fog has returned, so this afternoon my friend Katie and I sought out some of the few San Francisco blocks soaked in sunshine and met at Market Bar for lunch. Of course we wanted to dine outside, but even we were surprised to find ourselves seated at a coveted table alongside the promenade in front of the restaurant. Even the most seasoned of socialites yearn for a table like this. There we feasted on burgers and beer (Anchor Steam for Katie, Chimay for me) while chatting and watching the parade of joggers, tourists and dogs pass by. Katie and I work for the same company, so most of our conversation was shop talk. But ours is, overall, a very good professional life, making the shop talk mighty enjoyable.

After lunch, I popped inside the Ferry Building to pick up three of those delicious French macaroons from Miette and then climbed aboard MUNI, which handily took me to the Lower Haight. Once there I perused stacks and stacks of actual vinyl at an incredibly nifty little record store. Macy's was my next destination where I purchased bath rugs and face cleanser. I have finally given in to the great dissatisfaction I have felt for the undersized, ghetto Target bath mats I bought four and a half years ago. It was tremendously liberating to realize I could just buy new ones. And to make a good day even better, while purchasing my face cleanser I got the fine surprise of a gift with purchase at the Lancome counter. The gift even includes sunglasses (!) which look disturbingly like a pair of vintage Dolce and Gabbana glasses I dropped far too much money on a few weeks ago. Had I but held out for the Lancome counter.

And now I have a short respite at home before Terry collects me for another evening of fine theatre in Berkeley. As Calvin so keenly said to Hobbes on their delineated pages more than a decade ago: "The days are just packed."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol. 12

Matt Nathanson at The Swedish American Hall

Have you ever been to the Swedish American Hall? It's above Cafe du Nord, and it is the strangest venue in the world. Paul, Denise and I walked in last night to behold what looked like a high school assembly. There were folding chairs set up in front of a small stage, and the snack bar offered homemade sandwiches and soda, but no alcohol. None. We drank in the ambiance, got over the shock of the scene and found a piece of wall by the staircase to lean on (we had arrived too late to secure folding chairs for ourselves).

Then the genius that is Matt Nathanson took the stage. I admit, for all that I like his music, I probably wouldn't sit at home and just listen to a Matt Nathanson cd. In fact, I have one, and I don't sit at home and just listen to it. But he is one amazing performer; I have seen him several times, and he never ceases to impress me. Do yourself a favor and get tickets to his next show. Not only does he pour passion into performing his singer-songwriter gems, but through engaging banter with the audience, he showcases his dead brilliant sense of humor. Is it a concert or a comedy show? I imagine no one... Matt included... knows for sure. {Gentlemen callers take note: funny gets me every time.}

During his hour or so onstage, Matt treated us to his vocal styling via original compositions nicely accented with slices of Psychedelic Furs, Cure and Postal Service tunes. He also did a full cover of Elvis Costello's "What's So Funny ('bout Peace, Love and Understanding)" and a campy rendition of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing." And the best part about Matt is that he and his wife live just down the block! Okay, so they may not live down the block, but they do live somewhere in San Francisco. The show last night made me so happy, I didn't know what to do with myself. And Matt tours all the time, so if you don't live in San Francisco, he'll probably stop by your neighborhood soon.

Truly talented musicians make the world a better place.

We'd worn Matt out by about 10:00, so after the show Denise, Paul and I ambled down the block and paid a visit to the Lucky 13 where we discovered what has to be the city's best jukebox... perhaps aside from the one at Casanova. For reasons of luck and timing, we got to put in five free selections, which we chose very carefully. Of course, we never actually heard our songs, but we did enjoy the anticipation while we sipped our drinks. And our own banter easily rivaled that of Matt's. Paul and Denise are super neato people and always fun to hang out with. I adore and cherish all my many friends, but I don't know what I did before these two moved here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Yes, This IS Heaven

I love city living. My urban-chic existence comes to rest nightly in a hill-top apartment building where about 23 of us share a street number, as well as hallyways and a laundry room. A new gentleman recently moved into our address of distinction. He is all of 23, at the oldest, with the most adorable English accent and very earnest demeanor. Well, upon my return home from the gym this afternoon, something much like a wail stopped me in my tracks on the stairway up to my unit. It took a second to distinguish the sound, but soon I recognized it as singing emanating from my new neighbor's apartment. Loud, off-key singing of the most brilliant of tunes.

Yes, kids, it was the Belinda Carlisle classic, "Heaven Is A Place On Earth."

I am a gargantuan Go-Go's fan, but with the exception of one or two songs (including her cover of Freda Payne's "Band of Gold"), Belinda Carlisle's solo stuff is nothing more than over-produced pop diarrhea. I suppose it's not her fault; she just needed better songwriters and producers. And okay, if she was going to be a solo artiste, as opposed to one fifth of a band who started as scrappy punk rock chicks, she needed to actually learn to sing. But today I bow down and thank Belinda for that awful hit record because hearing a freshly-scrubbed English lad pour his soul into an early afternoon rendition he thought no one else would hear was absolutely priceless. At least it was worth the amount I pay in rent every month.

I soooooo want to be this guy's friend. I like to sing.

Another one of my neighbors is an actual musician, and according to a saxophonist I met last year, he may be one of the best young jazz pianists in the City. I hear him practicing on occasion, but as impressive as his playing is, compared to Mr. Belinda, he's a little... well, ordinary. No offense, Adam. In other news from my building, someone moved out a few weeks ago and left a fishbowl on top of the mail boxes. One inspired denizen wasn't going to settle for that; he turned the empty bowl into a home for a real, live fish, and he let us all participate in naming our community pet. I suggested Sid Fish-ous.

I am never moving.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Theatre That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 5

Honestly... pretty much any play at La Val's Subterranean in Berkeley.

Now, I have seen several shows at La Val's in the past, and they all stank. Every one. But it really didn't matter because the beauty of La Val's is that it is actually a pizza place with a theatre in the basement. So you can eat pizza and drink Bass or Newcastle while you take in the live action. Who wouldn't enjoy that, regardless of the caliber of the play in front of them? That's what Paul, Denise, Ann Marie and I thought when we decided to hit La Val's on Thursday night.

But the good news is that Impact Theatre's Money and Run: Episode 4 is currently running at La Val's, and it is really fun. And I'm not just saying that because my friend Carolyn is in it; believe me, in my day, I've both been in and seen many friends in some really bad plays. I actually did a rather decent show with Impact about 100 years ago (also known as 1998), and now they're the theatre in residence at La Val's. Money and Run is a high caliber, frenzied comedy punctuated by deliciously horrible 80's music. We're talking Journey, Eddie Money, Loverboy, Heart and Bonnie Tyler. I maintain the only reason I recognized any of the songs in the show is that I had to get very cozy with all that music for a job I had in 2001. Trust me, I wasn't listening to that crap twenty years ago. Or today. But it worked for the play, and I have to admit that, thanks to an upbeat remake and another job of mine about ten years ago, I do know all the words to "Total Eclipse of the Heart." Ann Marie and I were singing along with that little ditty during intermission, much to the entertainment of a young gentleman sitting two rows ahead of us. He looked about 19, so we decided he must have been shocked to see anyone old enough to actually know the words.

As we were congratulating Carolyn on her fine performance afterward, who should walk up, but the actress who played Kim Deal in the Pixies play I saw a few weeks ago! I was so thrilled, I immediately gushed and told her how much I had loved the Pixies play (okay, it was really more about the Breeders, but I like the Pixies better). You'd have thought I was talking to the actual Kim Deal. Actress Kim Deal was very polite, but I probably scared her a little bit.

And if last night's pizza dinner wasn't delicious enough, it was a co-worker's birthday today, and we had pizza to celebrate. We put a candle in one of the pies and sang "Happy Birthday" to him, and then I proclaimed we are all really happy he'd been born. This guy embarrasses kind of easily, which made our birthday display even more fun. I'd better be careful though; between last night and today, I've eaten so much that I'm going to look like a pizza soon. Or at least my thighs will.

Given that I've gone out the last two nights in a row, and I'll be going out tomorrow after work, I've decided to stay in tonight and hide from the Cinco de Mayo amateurs. I've curled up with my tv boyfriend Peter Krause, thanks to a "Six Feet Under" double-header on cable. Much more satisfying than stepping over a bunch of drunks who have been sucking down margaritas since 3:00 this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Wicked Hung-ovah

I cannot party like I did when I was 25. Hell, I can't even party like I did when I was 30. Oh, who am I kidding? I can't party at all anymore. I can sit quietly and have a few cocktails, but even then I have to be careful.

Since thousands of people were filling the streets all over the country yesterday, we had kind of a busy day at work. So last night I decided to unwind with exactly one drink at Favorite Bar. The end of that last sentence would be what's commonly referred to as famous last words. A friend I hadn't seen in months was also there providing entertainment from his collection of 78 rpm records (yes, 78's), and I ended up chatting extensively with him. So three hours and four beers later, I pulled myself off my barstool and went home.

Everything was fine until today. To my credit, I managed to go running before work. And for the record, I usually find exercise to be an excellent hangover antidote. Not so much this time. At about 2:00 this afternoon I succumbed to my fuzzy-headed fatigue and completely lost focus. Everything began to move in slow motion, making the last four hours of work seem like about four days. It didn't help matters that after work tonight I was committed to participate in a playwriting workshop where I read scenes aloud so the writers could hear their work. I'm sure they all loved how well my hungover self brought their characters to life.

All this because of only four beers over three hours. I become more and more of a lightweight as I get older. But now I'm back home, and all is well. I've been reunited with my couch, and I'm about to have some chocolate chip waffles. Perfect hangover food in my opinion. And since it's now my work weekend, I can sleep as late I want tomorrow. Gotta love that.