Saturday, September 30, 2006

Closing Time Comes Quickly at the Hemlock Tavern

That's certainly what Carolyn and I learned last night. We had gone to the Hemlock Tavern with Carolyn's fiance, Dima, and my live music buddy, Tom, to see Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen. I have extolled the virtues of Tippy and her Paddlemen on this space before, but I can't say enough good things. They are absolutely my new favorite local band, and you should do yourself a favor and see them as soon as possible. Tippy's music is proof that combining pop hooks with country elements and adding a ukulele yields excellent results.

Tippy was second on the bill, and the whole show started about an hour late. So Dima actually didn't see any of it, as he was tired after a long work week and went home at about 10:30. Tom saw the first band, The Jolenes, but had to leave to pick up his girlfriend from work before Tippy's set was done. Carolyn and I went the distance, though. We bought CD's from Tippy after her performance (only $5, kids) and had a drink with her, as well. Carolyn and I had no interest in the headliner, however, so we settled into seats at the window and engaged in our brand of droll and compelling conversation over Newcastle and Stella.

Before we knew it, we heard these startling words: "Last call!"

A glance at my cell phone confirmed that it had, in fact, become 1:30 in the morning. Don't ask me how, given I have long passed the closing time partier stage of my social life. So we scooted out to the growing taxi queue on Polk Street and headed to our respective homes. And I just accepted that I wouldn't be getting much sleep. I could have captured a few more winks this morning, but because I am a certifiable freakshow, I had to get up early and go running before heading into work. At least I'm a social freakshow with a well conditioned cardiovascular system.

Tonight I should rest, but instead I'm going to meet The Other Tom for a night out. Emily, Fabulous Patti and her gentleman friend, Tim, all may catch up with us. I think I'm going to suggest Favorite Bar 2.

Tomorrow I sleep.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Cutest Thing

My friend Luke told me the cutest thing ever tonight. It's not a huge deal, but basically he said that he is at least conscious of dropping some of his really self-destructive habits because about nine months ago I looked him straight in the eye and told him that I care about him and think he should take better care of himself. I am not in the habit of saving of people and have no interest of getting into said habit, but still, that is too cute. Whether Luke actually changes his behavior or not, I feel a little humbled by the idea that my concern at least got him to consider it.

I'd say that's pretty good for a girl who is afraid of intimacy and has no interest in saving people.

In other Sassy happenings, the first rehearsal of my music project went very well tonight. I am one of two singers in a band. That's right, me in a band. We are, thankfully, being guided by a music teacher, and for the record, said teacher, Chris, is kind of hot, even though I think he's about 100 years younger than me. He's very supportive, enthusiastic and smiley, though, and he does an excellent job of convincing our band that we don't suck. By the way, did I mention he's kind of hot? We actually will be performing in a couple of months, but I need a few more rehearsals before I decide if I will tell you where or when.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


That is soooo what I am. This morning I went with Helen to an invitation-only preview of San Francisco's new Bloomingdales, which is set to open tomorrow, along with the expansion of the Westfield Shopping Center. After waiting in a line that moved quickly but stretched around the block, we entered the pristine and shiny new space. Salespeople were readily available, displays had yet to be mussed and tester lipstick sported nary a smudge.

At the end of the day, though, it is still just a department store. So I vowed only to look. I was not going to be sucked into making a purchase just because a big mall is opening tomorrow. Please, I'm way too strong to fall for that sort of amateur trickery.

Famous last words.

First, I saw the pashminas. Luckily, none of them really grabbed me, so I walked away. But when we got to the third (or was it the fourth?) floor, I was lured in by the cute mod-style coats. I actually tried on a $525 Diane Von Furstenberg number but was able to resist. Barely. This, after they had removed it from the mannequin for me. There was also an adorable black and white Tibby coat, but I was too late; someone else bought the last one in the store (also stripped off a mannequin) before I could pounce. However, before you conclude that my will power and poor fortune saved my credit card balance, I did see a darling BCBG Max Azria dress that I tried on "just for fun." They had only one in my size, and it fit perfectly. Who cares that I just bought a new dress for Matt's wedding; Bloomingdales only had one of these dresses in my size on their preview day, and I had found it!

The dress is now hanging in my closet, and Visa is very happy that I am one of their customers. And for the record, I am now on a mission: a cute mod coat will be mine before the season is done.

In other random news...

Do you have friends with whom you just laugh until your side aches? For me, one of those friends is Ann Marie. She and I are like junior high school girls without all the catty back-stabbing. We got together at Favorite Bar last night, and the giggle fits kicked in immediately. Some of the words that crack us up: yeti, thing, stinky, tambourine. Out of context this list probably seems pretty lame, but believe me, it is actually incredibly funny.

While I was at the gym today, I heard a Celine Dion song that once had been a staple at a former job of mine. In hindsight, I have no idea how I lived through all those months. The gym was redeemed a few minutes later when The English Beat's "Twist and Crawl" poured out of their sound system. For that job, however, there was no redemption. Getting let go from that position was one of the best things that ever happened to me, and my current workplace is 100% Celine-free. Thank goodness.

I was supposed to go to a wine tasting event with Emily tonight, but we both flaked. She has to go out of town in the morning, and frankly, all my shopping today wore me out. But tomorrow I am meeting Fabulous Patti and her new gentleman friend at Zeitgeist before embarking on day one of a... um... music project I'm doing with some co-workers of mine. More details on the music project once I assess just how embarrassing it will be for us. Then on Friday I'm going with Tom, Carolyn and maybe Dima to see Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen. Yay!!! And on Saturday I see my other friend Tom, who has proven very elusive for the past few months. I'd say it was a good call to stay in tonight and rest up in anticipation of all that.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Where the Literati Congregate

Lest you think Favorite Bar is frequented by uncultured heathens, I will share with you this little anecdote from Friday night. With Helen and Bob on my left, I was delicately perched on my barstool wondering if I could possibly have ordered a sweeter or girlier drink than the Stoli blueberry cosmopolitan sitting before me. Suddenly a random man to my right broke away from his companions and asked me a question.

Random Man: Excuse me, do you know who wrote Paradise Lost?
Me, without batting an eye: John Milton.
Random Man: Of course, John Milton! Thanks a lot!

He then turned back to his friends to engage in what I could only assume was a witty and spirited deconstruction of the epic poem.

Okay, in truth I have no idea what Random Man and his friends talked about next. A little while later I jumped into a conversation with them about The Stone Poney's "Different Drum." When I offered that Michael Nesmith had written that 1967 pop ditty, I was treated to a horrific rendition of "Valleri" by The Monkees, courtesy of the guy who had asked me about John Milton. After they left, I found myself chatting about baseball with an overly-tatooed fellow who had appropriated the barstool next to mine. While I admit baseball and music are far more likely to be topics of conversation between myself and strangers at Favorite Bar, the Random Man really did ask me about Paradise Lost. How often does 17th Century literature come up during weekend bar chatter? I'd say the exchange was evidence that Favorite Bar clearly attracts a top drawer crowd. Well, except for the dysfunctional drunk regulars.

In other news, after work last night I went to a fundraiser thrown by my friends in AtmosTheatre to support their upcoming production of two John Patrick Shanley plays. It was definitely my kind of fundraiser, complete with snacks, cocktails and free massages. Plus, I got a chance to spend a little time with my friend Victor, whom I haven't seen since my birthday last year. Yippee!

Also, something really big and really good happened last week. On Thursday Gretchen and Paul had their baby! Well, Gretchen had the baby, but Paul helped make him. I've yet to meet him, but based on the photo I saw today, I can tell you that little Isaac Malcolm is awfully cute. Gretchen told me stories which very much encourage my belief that childbirth is an evil joke played upon women, but I still think it's wonderful that she and Paul created this new little person.

And finally, today is my brother Michael's birthday. He's 40. My brother Peter turns 41 tomorrow. Before you ask, I'll just say that yes, being one year apart and having birthdays so close together did cause a little brotherly drama between the two of them growing up. But they are (supposedly) actual adults now, and I am fast closing in on 37. My goodness, how did we all get so old?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Just Because We're Cute

That's honestly the only reason for this post. Pictured here are Bob, me, Emily and Helen enjoying ourselves at Emily's party last weekend. I think it's a nice photo to share.

Other than that, I haven't anything new to report. It is a beautiful day; I really should get out of my apartment and enjoy it. I'm meeting my friend Katie at Favorite Bar 2 tonight. Perhaps I can leave a little early to enjoy the sunset and maybe indulge in some retail therapy before catching up with her. After my vacation I have no money, but when has that stopped the retail therapy before?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I Should Be At The Theatre

The Berkeley Repertory Theatre, to be specific.

Instead I am at home this evening after spending the day with the beverage to the right. As it turns out, the lead actress in Mother Courage sprained her ankle, and while we mean no disrespect to the understudy, Terry and I opted to see the show another night (media passes made that decision kind of easy). But I had a very fun day, regardless.

After a lovely workout at the gym, I met Denise at Zuni Cafe for a late lunch. The lunch was good, but dessert was better: caramel pot au creme. How decadent, no? Then we walked to Zeitgeist for Anchor Steam under the afternoon sun. Zeitgeist was one of my mainstays when I was unemployed and working part time. Nothing feels more deliciously delinquent than planting yourself at a picnic table in Zeitgeist's beer patio at noon on a weekday. It certainly breaks up the monotony of job hunting. While I may now be gainfully employed, my work schedule allows for a little "delinquent" behavior every now and then. After Zeitgeist, we hit the Financial District and met the aforementioned Terry at Grumpy's for snacks, more drinks and gossip.

All in all, an excellent day off work. And Terry and I intend to catch Mother Courage in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Here's To Good Friends

If you were cognizant and watching television in the 70's and early 80's, you may remember the title of this post as the beginning of a commercial jingle for Lowenbrau beer. However, this post is not an ode to that beverage but an ode to actual friends of mine.

But tonight is kind of special. First of all, today is Wendell's birthday! Wendell is a friend of mine from Brown, and he turned 39 today. He is also one of the smartest people I have ever known. Certainly, everyone... and I mean everyone... I knew for the first 22 years of my life was smart, but Wendell is one of the most intuitively intelligent people I have ever encountered. And on top of his intelligence and good education, he has always followed his heart and just done what he wanted to do with his life. Sometimes that looked like he had no ambition, but I think he has been happy with his choices, overall. I have tremendous respect for really intelligent, well educated people who don't feel an obligation to "live up" to their pedigree by taking some job they don't enjoy just because it makes a ton of money and/or looks good on the surface. Truly tremendous respect.

So I called and emailed Wendell today to wish him well and let him know how very excited I am for his special day. He lives in Maine, and I haven't seen or talked to him in more than five years. It was well past time for us to reconnect.

I also met my friend Debbie at Favorite Bar 2 tonight. Debbie is a Very Important Person. She works for San Francisco's District Attorney. If you're not familiar with our D.A., Kamala Harris, I'll just tell you: she is amazing. And thanks to Debbie, I am, myself, acquainted with Madame District Attorney, as well. It's good to know Very Important People. Anyway, Debbie and I made a little pact tonight. She surfs in her spare time and has pledged to take me to Bolinas because I have never been there. In return, I have promised to take her to a ton of theatre and live music performances because she says she doesn't get enough arts and culture in her life. Now, being a Very Important Person renders Debbie very busy, so I'm not sure when we'll accomplish all these goals. But our intentions are good.

And tonight Favorite Bar 2 featured live jazz and poetry. Debbie had to leave at 9:15 to drive her boyfriend to the airport, and I didn't stay too long after the jazz musicians were done. But the couple of poets I saw were much better than the FB2 comedians. That I can say for certain.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Big Star, Small Party... A Typical Sassy Weekend

You want to do something fun? Go to the Jackpine Social Club's next tribute show. In May they paid tribute to the Replacements; this time around it was Big Star. What a totally fun Friday night: an entire evening of musicians playing Big Star tunes at 12 Galaxies. Well, except for the guys who played "Alex Chilton" by the Replacements, but all things considered, I'd say that was a very reasonable exception. Sadly, I missed Pat Johnson's mini set because I had to work late, but what can you do about that? I met Tom there, and Sheela soon joined us. Tom was a very good sport about the fact that Sheela and I were chatty Cathys during some of the music because we hadn't seen each other in a few months. But we did pay attention. Of course.

I had a little too much Newcastle while enjoying all that Big Star, so I was a bit tired... okay, hungover... at work on Saturday.

On Saturday night, Emily had a party to celebrate her first year of living in San Francisco. A sophisticated affair, the soiree drew a relatively small crowd to Emily's SOMA condominium, but the quality was certainly there. Helen, Super Bobby and I joined the fun around 10, and the champagne was already flowing. The evening was also a celebration of Emily's boyfriend's birthday, so we indulged in decadent German chocolate cake, too. Yum.

It's really nice to live some place that isn't boring.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Paradise Lost. Now, Back to Reality

At 8:00 this morning I was on Waikiki Beach taking a dip in the very warm Pacific Ocean.

Now, I am back here.

Not that here, also known as San Francisco, is a bad place. Beautiful bridges, Wine Country to the north and vibrant theatre and music scenes are just some of what San Francisco has to offer. But sorry kids, the fog-ridden City by the Bay is no Hawaii. My all-too-short vacation ended before I knew it. Now I understand why my friends looked at me like I had three heads when I said I was going to Honolulu for only four days. But what did I know? I only have so much vacation time, and because of my weird work schedule I had to take a vacation day to go to Matt's wedding last Saturday. Yeah, I know: blah, blah, blah. I won't be making such excuses next time; I'll simply be spending more time in the Aloha State.

My tropical adventures continued nicely after we last spoke. I went back to Duke's Canoe Club with Diva Mommy on Tuesday evening. It was much nicer than it had been on Sunday: mellower with a significantly lower frat boy quotient. While we were there, I took an illicit soak in the neighboring hotel's Jacuzzi spa. I'm such a rebel. On Wednesday, Fabulous Patti, Diva Mommy and I piled into the car and drove up to the North Shore. Once there, we went to Waimea Beach and grabbed a sunset dinner at Jameson's By the Sea in Haleiwa. I will say that venturing to the North Shore meant a lot of time in the car, which maybe wasn't the best idea during such a short trip. The fact that we got a little lost on the way didn't help much. But regardless, it was all nothing short of delightful. I already miss my warm morning jogs dodging the (other) tourists along Kalakaua Avenue. It was just like jogging through Fisherman's Wharf, only with much better weather.

But given that I had to come back, at least I have lots of fun planned. As always. Sheela and I are going to Bruno's, and then I think we'll meet Tom at the Big Star tribute show. Emily is having a party this weekend, and next week, I believe I will be seeing my elusive friend Debbie for the first time in almost a year. And there's also Berkeley Rep next week, too.

That's all well and fine, but at this moment, all I'm looking forward to is my next Hawaii trip. Currently I'm thinking March, 2007. Who's in?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Found in Waikiki

My mother is a brilliant woman: two years ago she moved to Hawaii. And this week I am visiting her. I don't have much time, as I am using the world's most expensive public computer, but here are some highlights of my visit with Diva Mommy.

1. It took all of 24 hours for some 600-year old man to hit on me.
2. The W Hotel in Waikiki is a wonderful place. I wish I was rich so I could live there.
3. Waikiki is very touristy, but Diva Mommy lives only a couple of miles away, so it is also a very convenient place to stay. It does remind me of a cross between Disneyland and Las Vegas, however.
4. Regardless of the touristy nature, Waikiki Beach is lovely. And the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ohau is even lovelier. I could live in that water.
5. We went to the Pali Lookout today, where a bunch of soldiers got thrown off the side about a million years ago. I'm glad that wasn't me.
6. Diva Mommy took my sister, Fabulous Patti, and me to this bar called Duke's Canoe Club. It's slightly horrifying; much like a big frat party. But the fact that former jazz singer and music afficionado Diva Mommy goes there regularly to people watch and listen to the music is so hysterical that I have forgiven the frat party atmosphere.
7. Much like my experience in New England, I am finding running in 85 degree humidity to be a slight challenge. But I've done it every morning, anyway. Between how much I have been eating and my daily appearance in a bathing suit, I have to keep up my exercise.

Okay, I'm off to the beach. But I have just one question for you before I go: do I have to come home?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Day Matt Got Married

In all my talk over the last few posts about dresses and shoes for Matt's wedding, I failed to mention one thing: Matt and I used to date.

Now, we dated very briefly, and it was many years ago, but at the time I fell for him like a ton of bricks. Sadly for me, he fell for me like he stumbled on uneven pavement and quickly regained his balance. It didn't help matters that the men I dated in the subsequent months were all... let's say, inappropriate. For me, anyway.

First there was Edgar. I went on a date with him just as things between Matt and me started going south. Nice enough guy, but we had absolutely nothing to talk about over dinner. I mean nothing. It was likely the longest meal of my life. After said long meal, we went to his very nice condo in South Beach. Where he had Star Wars posters on the walls. Yes, I know that men of my generation live by those movies, but really, if you're an adult, you should take the posters off your walls. And if you want to date me, in particular, you should not let your adolescent obsession with George Lucas see the light of day in any way.

Then there was Nathan. I met him in a poetry group I was briefly involved with, and his poetry was so deliciously bad, I developed an instant attraction to him. Sadly, his personality matched his verse. On our one and only date, he asked me in the middle if I minded if he "smoked a little weed." Enough said (although honestly, I could go on).

After Nathan came Tim. He was nice enough and really cute, too. But he was kind of a homophobe, which I regard as, at best, a rookie move here in San Francisco. Not to mention the fact that he was actually involved with another woman when he and I went out, and she got pregnant soon after. Fair enough; let her keep him.

And finally that brings us to Larry, who on paper was perfect for me in every way. Cute, smart, interested in writing and theatre. But in reality I felt no chemistry. Zero. And I mean no disrespect, but he was a pretty bad kisser, too. But that was probably just a result of the lack of chemistry. He could tell I wasn't into him, too, which made things easier for me but probably worse for him.

All of this is to say, it took me a while to get over Matt. But I did, and we stayed friends, and over the years we would often talk about meeting people we weren't very excited about. Generally that's not a huge problem for me because, as evidenced in the above anecdote, guys can tell when I'm not really into them and, as a consequence, stop calling. But Matt found himself in a series of short, dead-end relationships with women for whom he could only summon lukewarm feelings. So I was honestly thrilled when he met his now-wife, Kristen, two years ago. It's a cute story, too; one that involves a winery, her 30th birthday party and an add Matt later placed on Craigslist's Missed Connections. In fact, it's so cute, it ended up in a recent issue of People Magazine.

I will say, though, I was feeling a little trepidation around this wedding since I am nowhere near marriage yet. And it's just a little weird to see someone you used to make out with taking such a step, even many years later.

But as it turns out, it was positively lovely to see them get married. The ceremony was short, the food was delicious and there was plenty of wine. Plenty. Plus, Kristen did not subject all us single girls to that humiliating bouquet toss. I absolutely love her for that.

The wedding over, I'm now off to Hawaii to visit my mom. Matt and Kristen may have gotten married, but it looks like I'm getting a honeymoon-style vacation.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Carrie Bradshaw Would Be Horrified....

... but personally, I love a bargain.

With Matt's wedding less than 48 hours away, I decided I need new shoes to go with the very lovely dress I have purchased for the occasion. The dress is burgundy, but for some reason, the black shoes I already own and thought would be perfect simply do not complement it. Luckily for me, I attended a shoe event at Macy's tonight. And I just paid my Macy's card bill, so I went with a clean financial slate.

With Gabriella in tow, I decided to indulge in the free cocktails at the event and not leave until I had found the perfect, non-black shoes. Even if it meant biting the bullet and throwing down a few hundred dollars on a designer pair. Well, six or seven pairs of shoes later, which I could only try on once the very harried salespeople actually took notice of Gabriella and me, I had found nothing. Everything was either uncomfortable or ugly. Of course I saw about a million pairs of cute black shoes, but that did not help me. I was about to give up when I remembered that Macy's has moved several shoe brands from their signature "Shoes on Two" location up to the fourth floor. The fourth floor being the junior department. In other words, the world of ghetto-ized shoes that appeal to teenagers and early-twentysomethings.

I may be 15 to 20 years too old for that floor, but it was there that I found a pair of silver, strappy Chinese Laundry heels on the sale rack. Upon trying them on, I found them to be both comfortable and cute. They don't look quite like the shoe in the above photo, but you get the picture. And as luck would have it, they were on super-duper, extra sale. The total price including tax: $18.72.

Designers be damned; give me a comfortable $20 pair of shoes any day of the week. And believe it or not, the silver shoes look far better with the burgundy dress than the black do.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 21

The Moore Brothers and The Matinees at the Make Out Room

The Moore Brothers and The Matinees prove that you don't need a lot of bells and whistles to make good music. Armed with only their voices and a couple of guitars, both groups crooned sweet harmonies that created a most melodic evening.

I've actually wanted to see The Moore Brothers for almost two years but have been perpetually stymied in that quest for one reason or another. But after hitting the Make Out Room with Tom and Ann Marie last night, I am a Moore virgin no longer. And it was worth the wait. I have to admit, they seemed a little bit stoned, but they were still really good. And I have never smoked pot (honestly), so what do I know from stoned or sober? I'd never heard of The Matinees before, and they turned out to be quite a treat. Discovering new bands is one of the best parts of going to live music shows. There was a third band on the bill, but they stank, so I'll leave them out of this volume.

One thing I have to remember when I go to the Make Out Room, however, is that their cocktails are very, very strong. I had two cosmopolitans and felt like I'd had about fifty. The fact that I'd worked a ten hour day and hadn't eaten anything substantive since about 2:00 probably didn't help matters. I've known for years that Make Out Room bartenders pour with a heavy hand, but I need to act on that knowledge and stick with beer, cider or, better yet, club soda when I go there.

There is, of course, more live music in the offing. Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen are playing the Hemlock Tavern on the 29th. Tom and I talked with our co-worker Jaclyn about going to see the Two Gallants at the Bottom of the Hill next month. The Knitters are also coming to town in October. And I just learned that The Beautiful South will be at the Fillmore in November! I am sooooo there.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Single Girl Weekend... Or Not

My twice-divorced friend Kristie came to visit me this weekend. Last year she came up to San Francisco from Southern California for a few days, and I showed her the upside of the single life. We hit Favorite Bar, Ti Couz, Casanova, the Slanted Door and a Madness concert at Bimbo's. That's right, Madness. So I was not at all surprised that she wanted to return, especially since her new job has proven a little overwhelming.

Poor Kristie. She kind of picked the wrong weekend to come back.

Not only did I have to work the entire time she was here, but also I was committed to my former co-worker James' wedding reception on Saturday and Gretchen and Paul's baby shower on Sunday. Nice single life, huh? For the record, that is not a typical Sassy weekend. Now, the wedding reception didn't actually start until 10 p.m. (don't ask me), so at least we were able to go to Favorite Bar beforehand. By the way, Kristie agrees that Favorite Bar is a wonderful place. Granted, since she doesn't live here, she really doesn't have a whole lot of perspective, but whatever. Anyway, we'd had a few cocktails by the time we got to James' wedding reception, but luckily it was really casual. So James didn't mind that we needed to leave soon after arriving so I could put myself to bed.

I call myself a partier, but I am really a total lightweight.

Gretchen and Paul's baby shower was really, really fun. And I'm not just saying that because I co-hosted it. Mostly it was fun because no stupid baby games were invited. Also, it was co-ed, which is just better. We simply gathered at Gretchen and Paul's place for snacks, drinks and to shower them with love and good wishes. Oh, and gifts. And then we borrowed an idea from the only other traditional baby shower I've attended (Sebastian's doesn't really count) and painted onesies. That is, we took a whole bunch of plain white onesies, and all the guests decorated them with fabric paint. I wrote "Brown, Class of 2027" on mine. I think their baby will appreciate that. Gretchen and Paul said they did, as long as I help them pay the tuition if their son decides he wants to go there because of me.

She didn't know anyone, but I think even Kristie had good time.

But now that the weekend is over, the more typical Sassy activities resume. Tom, Ann Marie and I are planning to see The Moore Brothers at the Make Out Room tomorrow, and I'm going to some kind of designer shoe event on Thursday. I can't afford to buy designer shoes, but I'm all for browsing with a cocktail in my hand. Okay, so I have another wedding next weekend, but then I'm off to Hawaii after that. Talk about good times.