Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 16

Neko Case at Bimbo's 365 Club

I used to think I hated country music. Then, three years ago Tom, Chris and I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, and I saw many artists I consider to be rock stars honored there. Once that experience opened my mind, I realized that I don't hate country music at all. I just hate bad music. Of any genre. So while I still happily disdain the likes of Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Martina McBride, there is plenty of country music I like: Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., Mary Chapin Carpenter (a fellow Brown graduate, no less), The Knitters, Blood on the Saddle. And now I add Neko Case to that list.

I was first introduced to Case's talent when I saw the New Pornographers open for Belle and Sebastian in the spring. I was intrigued, but I have learned their music is nothing like Case's solo stuff. She plays true alt-country that engaged me even though I didn't know a single song prior to last night. Before the show began, Ann Marie and I had to giggle our way through a little junior high school drama involving a former friend of hers and acquaintance of mine. We sort of dragged my co-worker and new live music buddy, Tom, into our adolescent world, but he was a good sport about it. Once the short-lived drama passed, we could relax and let Case's music wash over us.

Talk about a good time. Imagine if we lived in world where there was no music? Hmmm... I think they call that Hell.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Potlucks and Baby Showers

Those two activities sound downright domestic, don't they? Well, the way my friends do it, I'd say domesticity has become quite sassy.

First, Denise invited me to join Gourmet Group, which she was hosting on Thursday evening. I can't really say what an "ordinary" potluck is because I so rarely attend such events, but I can say Gourmet Group is anything but ordinary. For one thing, the women in Gourmet Group are all fabulous and extraordinarily nice. For another, they are amazing cooks. This month's gathering featured Mexican treats like homemade tamales, empanadas and enchiladas much tastier than the lowly enchiladas I brought. Since I don't have the greatest interest in becoming a better cook myself, I wonder how long it will take the group to notice the dishes I bring are not quite the same caliber as everything else. Maybe I'll just offer to bring the cocktails every month. In keeping with the theme, we also had a pinata, and boy did we beat the crap out of that poor thing in an effort to free the candy inside. And somewhere there is photographic evidence of our comically violent behavior.

As an added bonus, Denise and Paul have a hot tub on their roofdeck. I told Denise that if I had a roofdeck with a hot tub I'd probably never go out.

Then on Saturday, Sebastian and his wife, Mary, threw a shower for their new baby, Giuseppe, who was born a little premature a couple of months ago. If you're thinking this was an afternoon affair featuring quiche and annoying baby games, think again. After a workday that found me hanging out with ham radio operators (a.k.a. the nerdiest people on earth) in the Oakland Hills and asking passersby in downtown San Francisco what they thought about a U-C Chancellor's apparent suicide, I strolled along the Embarcadero to the Hi Dive, which Mary and Sebastian had rented out to accommodate the 100 guests. Giuseppe did leave his own party about half an hour after I arrived, but Jack, Helen, Erin, Doug, Liz and the Fabulous Patti were all there. At 10:30 or so the celebration moved to Favorite Bar and continued for as long as we could take it. I made it to about 12:30, I believe.

Giuseppe may be only two months old, but he hosts a mean bash. I almost shudder to think what this kid's 21st birthday will be like.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Absolute Perfection

What do you say when it's a sunny 85 degrees in a city that usually hovers at 65 this time of year, and it's your day off?

I, for one, say thank you.

We are in the grips of a heat wave in the Bay Area, and it is truly blissful. If you don't live here, please let me explain that in San Francisco the mercury generally peaks between 60 and 67 degrees all year. That's great in the winter when much of the country is buried in snow, but wearing a jacket all summer is kind of a drag. But sometimes it gets a little colder in the winter, and sometimes we get the benefit of a really warm summer or early fall day.

So today, on the longest day of the year and one of the few when San Francisco will actually be hot, I spent as much time as possible outside. I took my run and then met Gretchen at one of Mario's outdoor tables for lunch. We snacked and chatted while watching other sun worshippers in Washington Square Park. Then we ran into a bunch of people we know, including Clea, who is two and half years old and very charming, and Sebastian, who treated us to gelato. Yummy. After a few late afternoon errands, I considered going with my friend Greg and a few of his buddies to witness the end of the solstice daylight at the beach, but instead I opted to meet Jack at the Ferry Building. He and I drank wine outdoors and watched the 8:35 p.m. sunset from the City's opposite waterfront.

It's supposed to be even warmer tomorrow, and I have a big day ahead of me. The gym, an appointment, shopping and a pot luck where we will eat on Denise's roof and indulge in the hot tub afterward. Yeah, yeah, then it's back to work on Friday, but who can be bothered to think about that now?

I know the song is actually about hormones, but nonetheless, Martha Reeves knew her stuff when she quavered about the glory of a heat wave.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Joys of Job Satisfaction

My job is not perfect, not even close. But here is reason number 517 why I love it.

Yesterday, my employer dispatched me to the Steps of Rome cafe in North Beach for the World Cup soccer match between the United States and Italy. Yes, it was obscenely crowded, and because I was working, I had to turn down a genuinely nice gentleman's offer to buy me a Peroni when I arrived. But I got to spend two and a half hours amongst wall to wall passionate and... well, I'll just say it... hot soccer fans. What a pleasant discovery that men who follow this sport are so easy on the eyes. Or at least the ones following it in North Beach yesterday were. And lest you think I am so superficial that I was only interested in the eye candy, the game was terrific. I'm not a huge futbol fan, but that match had me on the edge of my (metaphoric since I didn't actually have one) seat.

After the game I was supposed to take in the North Beach Festival for work as well, but something came up, and I was instead sent to Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente's house. In case you were wondering, he has a very nice backyard deck.

And to think I get paid for this stuff.

Friday, June 16, 2006

An Extra Weekend Day

Well, the universe certainly has smiled on me this week.

One of my co-workers was sick yesterday, so I was called in to work for him last night. In return, I got to take today, which is normally the "Monday" of my work week, off! I'll take this opportunity to tell you that, as much as I love my job and the decadence of having two mid-week days off, there is something a little tragic about having your work week start on Friday when everyone else in the world is gearing up for their weekends. But no tragedy for me today. Plus, since I didn't have to go work until 7:00 last night, yesterday was, for all intent and purposes, still an intact day off. So I have had three days of leisure! And what, might you ask, have I done with my bonus hours of me-time? Well, since I worked until 3:00 in the morning, I have spent a good part of today asleep. But I also took a mid-afternoon run in the sunshine and have been basking in the knowledge that the day is my own.

In a little while I'm going to meet Wendy for a cocktail at the Hemlock Tavern before we go to the Jacksnack Photo Attack (credit where credit is due: Erin came up with that name for Jack's photo show). There's a party after that, but since I really do have to go to work tomorrow, I may skip that. My partying stamina is not what it used to be, let alone my ability to bounce back and be productive at work the next day.

In other sassy happenings... In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a little bit of a music fan. So when I learned that Favorite Bar has employed the services of a disc jockey to play music from the 60's, 70's or 80's on Tuesday evenings, I was cautiously intrigued. That sort of thing could either be great or go horribly awry. Well, one night, Sebastian, the bartender who seems to be in charge of this whole shebang, told me that if I have any music requests, I should email them to him and he would pass them on to his trusty wax spinner. This past Tuesday was 70's night, and I sent Sebastian a list of about 12 songs or so. Fair enough. But next Tuesday will feature 80's music, and in an effort to protect the world from a noxious assault of Madonna, Bon Jovi, Lionel Ritchie and Def Leopard, I put together a comprehensive list of 80's music that actually matters. I'm not sure exactly how many songs I came up with, but the list I sent him Wednesday night was five and a half pages. Single spaced. Imagine Madness, The Clash, The English Beat, Marshall Crenshaw, The Housemartins, The Go-Go's, The Jam, Icicle Works, The Pixies, Elvis Costello, Fun Boy Three, Strawberry Switchblade... Oh, I could go on. And on, believe me. And I've already thought of about 15 more tunes I egregiously omitted (how could I think an 80's playlist would be complete without the Plimsouls, Julian Cope, Joe Jackson or the maestros known as Flesh For Lulu?), so Sebastian is about to get an addendum.

And I'm already thinking about my 60's requests for the following Tuesday. That's likely to be a long list, too.

Poor Sebastian, little did he know he was unleashing the beast. I bet he'll never solicit song requests from me again. People really should be careful when they talk to me about music.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Laziest Day Ever

That's what I had today.

I started with the best of intentions this morning. I was going to the gym. I was going to shower my apartment with what it desperately needs: a thorough cleaning. I was going to take advantage of the warm, if slightly muggy, weather and take a long walk across the City.

None of that happened, but I did a very good job of polishing my napping skills. They were rusty and demanded my immediate attention.

Not that the day was a total loss. I did manage to go for a run, do a little grocery shopping and strip my couch cushions of their slip covers so I could drop said covers off at the cleaners. My couch is off-white, and a good scrub for the slip covers had become quite necessary. I also wrote my little neighborhood newspaper column, which isn't even due until Friday. But other than that, it was a day to watch time go by while relaxation ran the show. And I'd say it was worth it. The gym will still be there tomorrow, and my apartment will still need to be cleaned. I was even supposed to meet Mollena at Amnesia for a little live music tonight, but I never heard from her, so here I sit in my pajamas, sipping Chimay and watching That Thing You Do!. Amnesia with Mollena would have been fun, but I'll "settle" for one of my favorite movies paired with one of my favorite beers, thanks very much.

I also got a call today from Schleevin, who told me his apartment in New York has been overrun with bed bugs. He said he went to bed one night and awoke the next morning looking like a giant pustule. His words, not mine. He was delivering this bit of news because I am theoretically staying with him when I go to New York next month. Or perhaps not. Poor Schleevin, 2006 simply has not been his year.

I'll make up for my day of sloth later this week. Not only does my work week kick off on Friday, but I have a lot of socializing to do. I believe Helen and I are going out tomorrow night; I'm having drinks with Wendy and going to Jack's photo show Friday night; and Saturday into Sunday is Daryl's 24-hour going away party. Just thinking about all that makes me want to take another nap.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 15

Music for 2 Cellos and 24 Televisions at La Val's Subterranean

Even though this show was produced by the Crowded Fire Theatre Company, and Paul, Gretchen and I saw the performance at La Val's, one of my favorite places to see a play, I wouldn't exactly call it theatre. But it was definitely music. Composer and Crowded Fire company member David Rhodes created the piece which is performed both electronically and, as it would happen, by two cellists. Meantime, video images on no more and no less than 24 televisions accompany the music. The result is engaging, even a little mesmerizing at times. I'd say you should go see it, but we went on closing night, so sadly... you can't.

And we were treated to an opening act as well. Crowded Fire inspires people to sign up for their mailing list with a giveaway before every show, and this time the giveaway was orchestrated by company member Mollena, who happens to be one of the most dynamic, kick-ass people walking the face of the earth. When it came time to award the coveted package of Mentos that was the grand prize, Mollena didn't just hand them over. She pulled them from her bra strap and serenaded the winner with a word perfect, a cappella rendition of the Mentos commercial. You have to know that was some hysterical and fabulous pre-show entertainment.

Add to all that the pizza and beer at La Val's, and I'd call it a perfect night out.

After the show Paul and Gretchen offered Mollena and their other friend Bree a ride back to the City, so we all piled into Paul and Gretchie's new (to them) Golf for the trek over the bridge. The lively in-car conversation ranged from people who walk over the bridge in clown suits to a man who got locked out of his house in a bunny suit to other men who have asked Bree to make bunny suits for them. For the record, she has always said no.

By the way, I can now tell you: Gretchen is pregnant! I've been sitting on this knowledge since late March, but it's okay to talk about it now. If anything in life merits a big fat YAY, it is the imminent arrival of this little guy. I think the gene pool Gretchie and Paul create just might result in a perfect little person. Aside from Nephew Sassy, of course.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Eggs With A Side of Nudity

Today I took advantage of a rare Saturday off work and treated Terry to a glamour afternoon for her birthday. The anniversary of her birth is actually tomorrow, but I can't make the party, so the celebration of Terry begins now. We started with a delicious mimosa brunch at Bia's in the Haight. But as we were finishing our snacks and drinks, we noticed a caravan of about twenty naked bicyclists parading down Haight Street. While many of you who live elsewhere may think naked cyclists ride through San Francisco all the time, I have to say, save Bay To Breakers, I have never seen anything like this. In fact, I used to live in the Haight (okay, Cole Valley), and back then the man I dubbed the Rogue Hugger due to his drug-induced need to embrace strangers was as exciting as it got.

I will also add that what I saw today reminded me that all the penises I've seen by choice are really rather attractive. And clearly that's not always the case. Granted it was about 55 degrees this afternoon, but even so. I guess I have better taste in men than I thought.

After brunch and the freedom-from-clothing parade, Terry and I hit Lavande Nail Spa for luscious pedicures. All in all, an excellent Saturday afternoon, especially since I am usually holed up in a studio on weekends. Tonight I'm going with Gretchen and Paul to see their friend David's play at La Val's in Berkeley. I think the show is kind of an avant-garde music-theatre combination. I'll let you know how it is.

By the way, I know I haven't written about my adventures in almost a week, and for that I can offer no excuse other than laziness. So now let's back up a few days and get a little caught up. On Thursday I caught up with Daryl at Zeitgeist for his penultimate social gathering before the big move to Philly. Always fun, especially when Daryl told me he is teaching his creative writing students in Oakland the dance from "Thriller." Do you even know anyone who has learned the dance from "Thriller?" Frankly, I thought I didn't either, but where Daryl is concerned, I am never surprised. Then last night Emily, Jack and I met at Casanova for a week-ending cocktail. Luckily, I selected all my favorites from Casanova's free jukebox early because about an hour after we arrived the DJ showed up. He was doing well until he decided to spin selections from the likes of Billy Ocean and Loverboy. May I just say, ick. Casanova deserves better. But the bad soundtrack was tolerable for a while because we were delighting in the floor show being performed by the Mission-hipster mating crowd. One gentleman in particular tenaciously hit on two women despite the fact they were having none of it. We could do nothing but admire his persistence... and laugh heartily at him. It was kind of like watching a zoo exhibit: Wanna Be Player in his natural habitat. Once a bachelorette party arrived, however, we knew it was time to go. We have our limits.

Hey, guess what?!? Just seconds ago I found out that my friend Omar got engaged! He's another friend I've known for twenty-five years, and a few years ago he told me he often dated women he wasn't crazy about just to be with someone. But I know he is head over heels for his fiancee, so this is an excellent development. Yay!!!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Goodbye Gata

My friend Daryl, a.k.a. Dr. Rainbow, the Gata and a plethora of other nicknames for which I take no responsibility, is leaving town. This is not good news, as this dude, whom you see on the right of this photo, is one serious partier. Brilliant and creative, Daryl is one of the most fun people I have ever known. He's a musician, DJ and organizer of not-to-be-missed happenings like the Turkey Fry, Chili Off, 24-Hour Babagoo and Pie Off. When I first met him six years ago, I had the honor of being a Pie Off judge. I literally was recognized on the street from my participation in that event for a year afterward. That's right. I actually entered the Pie Off in 2002, but that year was marred by scandal when Daryl won the grand prize himself. An investigation was promised, but I'm not sure if the findings were conclusive.

If you have never met Daryl, you should hope he is moving to your town. Oh, and by the way, the other prince of fabulousness in the picture is my friend Victor. They are flanking me at my last birthday party.

In other news, I have settled back into city life after my trek to the wilds of the Southern California suburbs.

On Saturday I had an intern shadow me at work. It was a little odd just because about two and a half years ago, my career took a bit of a turn. So while I work in the same industry, my current job is somewhat different from the first 15 years of my professional life. But one of my managers told our intern I am fun, and honestly, I think I lived up to the hype. Plus, we got to spend most of our time in the sunshine of Crissy Field. Not bad for a workday.

That night I went with Katie, Steve, Bill and Kim to see Craig Ferguson at Cobb's Comedy Club. Because it's my life, I not only ran into four people I know in the audience, but I also knew one of the warm-up comedians. He is a friend of my friend Wendy. Unfortunately, Craig was not as funny as I wanted him to be. He was good for a few chuckles, but not much more than that. I rarely go to comedy clubs, though, so it was fun to do something a little different.

And now I am resting up before a week of big fun. Oh, and I suppose I should crack that sample ballot and decide whom and what to vote for tomorrow.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sassy Suburban Heaven

There is no doubt about it; I am a city girl. Give me an urban skyline, a gaggle of live music venues and streets filled with hipsters, and I am a happy denizen. But I have to admit, I am having the loveliest time here in beautiful South Pasadena, residence of the handsome gentleman to the left: Nephew Sassy. As the name would suggest, South Pasadena shares its northern border with the southern border of Pasadena, the suburban paradise I called home until I left for college in the fall of 1988.

Nephew Sassy and I have had quite the time getting to know each other. He is going to be a wonderful co-conspirator when he gets a little older. In the meantime, he allowed me to hang out with him while he had his lunch yesterday afternoon, and he was a very good sport and let me hold him for a much longer time than I would let someone I just met hold me. He even posed for this photo with me without complaining about the paparazzi. My brother Mike and sister-in-law Maki are doing really well, too. They're tired, but happy.

Then at about 6:00 yesterday evening the amazing and talented Schleevin, who is in Southern California from New York, joined the party. Do you have someone in your life for whom you hold such a deep and genuine affection it's almost a little overwhelming? You really should. As I have said in previous posts, for me, that person is Schleevin. Even when we are 100 years old and drooling into cups and he no longer has a prostate, I am convinced we will still be friends. I would do anything for this lad; I love him that much. Anyway, last night Schleevin, Mike, Maki, Nephew Sassy and I took a trip to 1952 by walking down to the corner drugstore and soda fountain for milk shakes. Our dessert already ingested, Schleevin and I put on our best camera-ready faces for the above commemorative photo before taking off for dinner. We ended up at a very delicious restaurant tucked into a converted firehouse where we chowed down on salads and, of all things, meatloaf. It was fancy meatloaf, but meatloaf nonetheless. We then drove into Los Angeles proper and paid a visit to The Bounty, a bar which used to play host to the likes of Walter Winchell and Charlton Heston. We didn't see Charlton there last night, but that's his loss, because it certainly was a fabulous evening.

This morning I took a very long run in the warm San Gabriel Valley air. I headed east through South Pasadena into San Marino and was so distracted by the familiar streets and places (including a diner my friends and I used to frequent on late Friday and Saturday nights in high school) that I didn't realize how far I had gone. I think the whole route was between six and seven miles, but in all honesty, I got tired and walked the last third. After my run, I grabbed a smoothie and some snacks at the independently-owned coffee and ice cream place in Mike and Maki's neighborhood. Anyone who believes, like I know a lot of you do, that Southern California is nothing more than ugly tract houses insulating countless strip malls should take a trip to South Pasadena. Or San Marino. Or Pasadena, although as the largest of the three towns, Pasadena does have a few strip malls. But only a few.

I have several more hours here before I trek back up north to my city life. It's nice to pay a visit to suburbia every once in a while, and it's even nicer when it doesn't scare you.