Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bring On the Diamonds and Tin

San Francisco and I are celebrating our anniversary! We've been together for ten years and are still going strong.

On November 30, 1996, my sister Fabulous Patti and I drove up to the City after spending Thanksgiving with Diva Mommy in Pasadena, and my new life began. I had been living in New England since graduating from Brown in 1992, and, by and large, I hated it there. Fabulous Patti, who had graduated from Berkeley in 1981 and lived in the East Bay for several years before heading to medical school and then to get a masters in public health, had moved back to the Bay Area that July and offered to let me live with her in the City rent-free while I got settled.

How cool is that??!!!

Actually it's even cooler than you think because Fabulous Patti ended up letting me live with her without paying a dime of rent for a year and a half. That's one super sibling.

Anyway, I remember how much promise the City by the Bay held for me. Even though I had only visited three times before, and the first two times had been before I was seven years old, I knew I would fit right in. I would have a tremendous career married to a delicately Bohemian lifestyle. I would meet the man of my dreams. I would be an active member of the West Coast intelligentsia.

Well, the man of my dreams hasn't exactly materialized, even though I have dated some characters. Most of the dreams my paramours have ended up in have seemed more like nightmares, but for the most part, the gentlemen have been lovely fellows. Sort of, anyway.

I'm not really the Bohemian type either. I had seen Rent on Broadway about five months before I moved here, and I was on a struggling artist kick. I did spend several years as an actor, though, and did a lot of crappy plays in small theatre spaces in the Tenderloin, North Beach and the Mission. That kind of counts as Bohemian, right? And now I'm in my fake band, and it really doesn't get much more struggling than us.

My career, however, has gone swimmingly. If I were a more aggressive person I probably could have taken it to even greater heights by now, but in a lot of ways, my work life has surpassed all my expectations. Even when I was unemployed in 2004, I did some cool things, like work in the District Attorney's Office. Not bad, considering I'm not a lawyer. I actually began working for my current bosses a mere two weeks after my arrival, but at that time I held a different position than I do now. I subsequently worked for four other employers and had that little unemployment thing before coming back to the people who first welcomed me professionally. I guess things really do come full circle.

But probably the best part of my life in San Francisco has been the friends I've made. Yes, the live music is great, the theatre is awesome and the bars and restaurants have amazing treats to offer, but I have met some tremendous people. I even met some of them on the first full day I lived here, and we are still friends.

Now, no relationship is perfect, and San Francisco and I have had some rocky times. I've been robbed several times, and some creepy guy with a decidedly menacing attitude followed me through Golden Gate Park one afternoon in 1999. Plus, the cost of living here can occasionally cause tension. But we've been good at working through our problems.

Overall, I really don't think it gets much better than this (well, maybe if I lived in Hawaii, but that's another story). No offense, New England, but after ten years, I can definitively say that San Francisco kicks your ass. Okay, I've been saying that since my first week here, but now I have a decade of evidence to back me up.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Finger Food, Jazz-Soaked Good Time

With the long holiday weekend rolling toward its end, Ann Marie and I decided to hit the town last night. After all, what else would two sassy, single girls do on a Saturday night? Okay, technically we're only talking one single girl, but Ann Marie's boyfriend is out of town, so she was an honorary single girl for the evening.

We began our good time by indulging in East African cuisine at Massawa on Haight Street. Once we had eaten our weight in sambusas, beef, chick peas, mushrooms and injera, we pulled ourselves away from the restaurant and headed to Favorite Bar 2 to digest over a cocktail. Since Favorite Bar 2 is primarily a live music spot, a really good jazz band was playing. Unfortunately, they were a little loud, so after a couple of songs Ann Marie and I beat it out of there.

Call us old, but sometimes we like to to able to hear ourselves think.

Not quite ready to call it a night, however, we swung by the original Favorite Bar to giggle over one more drink. After I cleverly (okay, meanly) observed that some Neanderthal-type guy was chewing his gum like a moron, we dissolved into junior high school hysterics.

Sometimes immaturity is so very satisfying.

And I do believe that guy was oblivious to what I had said about him. At least I hope so. If not, he certainly has permission to say any mean thing he would like about decidedly not-perfect me. What's good for the goose, after all. Apparently we were not the only ones enjoying a night out, though, because Favorite Bar soon became far too crowded for our taste, and we left. No wonder I prefer going out during the week.

Tonight after work I intend to clean my apartment and bust out the holiday decorations. I'm also going to start on the Sassy holiday card list. Every year I send out about 100 or so bits of happiness via the U.S. postal service. It's a habit that has gotten me scolded by one friend for wasting paper and called obnoxious by San Francisco's District Attorney in 2004 when she learned that I had written and mailed all 100 holiday cards by December 5th that year.

That's right. I am that big a geek.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Turkey Day Post Mortem

I hope you had an excellent Thanksgiving and that your tryptophan hangover isn't too bad this morning. I had a wonderful day, myself. Here are some highlights:

Playing games and coloring with my 9-year old cousin (well, technically my first cousin, once removed), Anna. We also watched Aladdin, which is one of my very favorite Disney features. That Anna is one fabulous hostess. We're going to have to figure out a time for her to visit me in the City; we'd take San Francisco by storm.

Playing Go-Go's songs on Anna's guitar. I'd tell you the crowd demanded Go-Go's selections, but honestly, "Our Lips Are Sealed" and "We Got the Beat" are the only songs I remember how to play. Especially since "We Got the Beat" is basically one chord. Don, who is related to me in some way (he's my uncle David's cousin... you figure out what that makes him to me), started a tip jar for me, and I earned three whole dollars! Check me out, being a professional musician.

Eating and drinking until I was practically sick with happy satiety. All the turkey, stuffing, green beans and sweet potatoes I could eat, plus all the Moet and Chandon champagne I could drink. Can you say yummy?!

Seeing all my relatives. Being part of my family, they are, of course, crazy. But only in the best possible way. My Uncle Tom's wife, also known as my aunt, Heather had some pretty bad news, but she maintained a great attitude. And things like that just make you more fully appreciate the good things you have.

This has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, really, but another highlight was that my fake band was on television last night. I intentionally didn't tell anyone for fear that I would be horrified by the tv piece, but I taped it, and it was actually pretty funny. The best part was the two shots of Emily, Carolyn, Paul, Denise and Gina acting like enthusiastic fans. My friends are awesome.

All in all, I'd call the day a smashing success. Even Jack and his brother had fun. Any year you'd like to join the Crazy Sassy Thanksgiving Celebration, just let me know. All are always welcome. But now Thanksgiving is over. Boo. However, that means the fun now kicks into overdrive. I don't know about you, but to me... it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Yippee!!!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Over the River and Through the Woods... Plus, Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 25

I certainly have some music to be thankful for today, as Mr. Gowdy burned his vinyl copy of the Bangles self-titled EP onto cd for me this week. I always say the Bangles are one of my favorite bands, but truthfully, I don't like any of their hit records. Well, actually, I do like their cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter," and that was a hit in 1987. I also suppose "Manic Monday" is tolerable, but I would never choose to listen to that song. "Walk Like an Egyptian" is an absolute embarrassment, though, and you don't want to get me started on the hell that is that "Eternal Flame" song.

However, I am crazy for the Bangles early tunes. Their major label debut album, All Over the Place, is 60's-flavored pop music genius. It features the singles "Hero Takes a Fall" and "Going Down to Liverpool," as well as a host of excellent album tracks like "Live," "More Than Meets the Eye," "Tell Me" and my personal favorite, "James."

And then, there is the 5 song EP released on Faulty Products/I.R.S. Records in 1982 when Annette Zilinskas was still the band's bass player.

I have loved this record for 24 years, and it's a shame that more people aren't familiar with it. But sadly, it's no longer commercially available, so I am beyond happy that I now own a copy. (I used to have it on cassette, but I have no idea what happened to that tape). I have been listening to this cd over and over again since getting my hot little hands on it yesterday afternoon. My favorite songs are "The Real World" and "I'm In Line," but all five tracks are gems. If you like the Bangles at all, you should find a way to give this record a listen and hear what the group sounded like before fame and high falutin' record producers got hold of them.

By the way, the Bangles released an album in 2003, and that one was pretty good, too. But it doesn't hold a candle to the Faulty Products 5-song collection. Whatever my feelings on their hit singles, the Bangles remain one of my favorite bands.

Music is not the only thing I have to be thankful for today, but I am on a Bangle-induced high right now. However, I love Thanksgiving for a bunch of reasons. First of all, it's a holiday organized around eating! That's my kind of day. Also, it's the "official" beginning of the holiday season. And, call me cheesy, but I actually do take a minute every Thanksgiving to reflect on all the good things in my life.

And every year I come to the same conclusion: I am a really lucky person.

To celebrate love, happiness and charmed lives, I am going over the river and through the woods... also known as down the Peninsula... to my Aunt Mary and Uncle David's place for a Sassy family Thanksgiving. Fabulous Patti will be there, of course, along with various other uncles and cousins. Even my friend Jack and his brother will be joining us. These are sassy good times, my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Who Says They Don't Like Mondays?

This has been the greatest day ever. It has featured out of control egos, secret meetings and a serious temper tantrum. I'm not going to go into detail, but I assure you I am not making any of this up. And I'm not even talking about the cancellation of the O.J. interview and book or Kramer's racist rant. Those were just icing on the cake.

It's a glorious day when real life not only imitates but outdoes soap operas.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 24

"The English Beat" at Mezzanine

I put "The English Beat" in quotation marks because the band is now just lead singer Dave Wakeling with some session musicians. But this is still some of my all-time favorite music, regardless who is playing drums, bass or keyboard.

Okay, I do miss Ranking Roger, but sometimes in life we have to do without.

I've seen Dave Wakeling about seven times over the last five years, and at this point, I think he's given up the idea of writing any new songs. Or if he has written new material, he doesn't bother to play it. The set consists of English Beat gems, including deep-cut album tracks, and three or four General Public songs. Most of the songs are from the Beat's first album, but this time around Dave and the boys also played "Ackee 1-2-3," which I loved! "All Out To Get You," "Jeanette" and "Sugar and Stress" would have been nice, too, but maybe those numbers will pop up in the next show.

Experience has taught me that the best place to be during a Dave Wakeling show is right at the very front. In part that's because the last two times I saw him, he was performing at the very tiny Red Devil Lounge. It was sadistically crowded both times, making the front the only place to get any air. Additionally, there is always a group of forty-year old former frat boys who think they can still dance like it's 1981, and they decide to slam. You can only avoid that in the very front or further in the back.

So I opt for the front where I can dance and sing with abandon and pretend Dave and the boys are playing the songs just for me. And that's where I took in the tunes on Thursday night, alongside Fabulous Patti and Carla, my English Beat friend. Even though Carla and I work in same industry, we didn't know each other until we met and bonded at a Dave show last year. We reconnected at this performance.

Mezzanine is larger and much nicer than the Red Devil Lounge, and as a consequence was not as crowded, but it still got pretty hot during the show. I must have been rather sweaty because late in the evening, the bass player, in a completely unsolicited gesture, offered me a towel. So either he thought I was a mess, or he was hitting on me. Since he made an effort to shake my hand and call me sweetheart at the end, I think he may have been hitting on me. Too bad for him I have no interest in being a groupie.

Especially since I am now a rock star in my own right.

That's right, I'm still basking in the glory of my fake band's performance on Tuesday night. Be warned, whether I can really sing or not, I may milk this for months to come. Not to mention that the fake band may play again. One night at Ashkenaz, and six rock stars (in our own minds) have been born....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thank you, Berkeley!

Once upon a time... let's call it late July.... a sassy-haired girl went to the East Coast on holiday to visit friends and pay homage to her beloved alma mater (see link on the left). One day, while jogging along Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, and listening to Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoffs' version of "Different Drum" on her iPod, the girl realized something. That pop ditty written by Michael Nesmith and originally made famous in 1967 by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys would be an excellent karaoke song. While hardly singer, our sassy heroine has been known to hold her own behind a karaoke microphone, and she imagined herself belting out that number in front of friends and admirers.

Little did the girl know, her imagination would turn to reality... only better. Just a few weeks after her return home, a couple of her co-workers invited her to join a band they were putting together for a work project. She immediately accepted, and the band began rehearsing a playlist that included "Different Drum," Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," the Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang," Wilson Pickett's "Midnight Hour," Green Day's "When I Come Around" and an original tune written by the instigator of the project. They were working with an enthusiastic, young music coach, and their goal was a live performance in Berkeley on Tuesday, November 14th....

It was epic. A night to remember.

In a blaze of glory last night, my fake band showed the crowd that we were likely both the poorest excuses for musicians and the greatest rock and roll hams ever to take the stage at Ashkenaz. At risk of sounding arrogant, I will say that our performance was probably the best of all the bands on the bill, but that's because we know we're not very good... So we just acted like the rock stars that deep down we know we are. We also packed the house with a ton of our friends and co-workers, making for a very friendly room.

I sang off-key at times, but I also hit some really solid, pitch-perfect notes, too. My friend Katie pointed out that my sassy rocker chick moves were slightly reminiscent of Belinda Carlisle, so I guess all those years of watching Go-Go's videos and the 10+ times I've seen them in concert have been good for something. Besides, even after 30 years of performing, Belinda can't sing either, and that has never stopped her.

I now officially want to be a rock star.

Don't worry, neither I nor any of my fellow fake band members will be quitting our day jobs, but this has been more fun than anything I've done in a long time. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself now that we don't have rehearsal every week, and I won't be spending time doing vocal exercises that barely seemed to help.

I highly recommend the fake band experience to anyone and everyone. Since Blogger is once again not allowing me to post pictures, you can find a photo gallery of our performance here.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol. 23

The Beautiful South at the Fillmore

Never has there been more apt a post title on this space. I was in a positively terrible mood on Friday night. Call it hormones because nothing significantly bad happened to me, but I fell into such a downward spiral that I was literally in tears by 9 p.m. when I met Ann Marie at her apartment. I would have stayed home and wallowed, but I'd waited for more than six years for the Beautiful South to come back to San Francisco, and there was no way I was going to miss them.

Now, to Ann Marie's credit, her wit, charm and all around fabulousness began the process of pulling me out of my funk. She had me laughing within 20 seconds of seeing her. I don't mean to brag, but my friends are the most wonderful people in the world.

The Beautiful South then took Ann Marie's lead and handily finished the job. Just as it happened six years ago, we met once again under the chandeliers of the Fillmore, and they serenaded me from misery into bliss. In the 17 years they've been together, the Beautiful South have produced about 600 albums, seven of which I own. But I am really most familiar with the their first three records, so I figured I'd be a little lost in the midst of their prodigious repertoire.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. Perhaps most of their fans are more familiar with their earlier tunes, because they played virtually all of my favorite songs. From the dry sarcasm of "Song For Whoever" to the irreverence of "A Little Time" to the dark humor of "Woman in the Wall," there was plenty to sing along with. Vocalist Paul Heaton chatted with the audience, consulted a notebook on a music stand for help with the lyrics and danced with a cheerful abandon that made me yearn just a bit for the Housemartins. (I never got a chance to see them live.) Also, because San Francisco is the world's tiniest town, Ann Marie and I ran into my friends Tracy and John. Tracy is seven months pregnant, but that didn't keep her away from the show. Talk about a rock star.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening, and when they played "You Keep It All In," I felt like I was in heaven. Thank you, Beautiful South, your music really does make me happy.

By and large, my good mood has stayed intact... well, sort of, anyway. But I'm happy today, and I figure some lyrics from the Beautiful South ditty "Don't Marry Her" to be a little bit appropriate: And the Sunday sun shines down on San Francisco Bay....

P.S. A complete and total aside, do you know what's really, really fun? Scarfing down hot pizza slices with Helen at Favorite Bar at 11:30 on a Saturday night with no regard for the amateur weekend mating crowd who are looking each other up and down all around you. Giggling to the 4th grade humor of the phrase "the itchy eye" with Liz and Doug after the pizza is gone is a pretty good time, too.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Most Beautiful Girls and A Most Disturbing Dream

My friend Stephanie is a charter member and the president of the Most Beautiful Girls in the World Club. The club's rich and storied history began back in the day when it was formed by Stephanie and a friend of hers. The other founder relinquished her membership when she and Stephanie drifted apart, but I'd like to believe she is heading up a satellite chapter somewhere.

Well, yesterday Stephanie invited me to join.

Forget the Junior League, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Guardsmen or the Hair Club for Men, this is a truly top drawer organization. Where else can members showcase their poise, talent, brilliance and beauty inside and out? Not to mention driving boys crazy. Needless, to say, I graciously accepted the invitation.

Personally, I believe I will make a very good member.

I began this post with that egotistical bit of whimsy so I could ease you in before I unleashed the tale of my rather disturbing dream. A co-worker of mine recently wrote on her blog about how well she analyzes dreams, but I don't think I'll be asking her to interpret this one. Last night, or rather early this morning, I dreamt about... wait for it.... incontinence! More specifically, I had an incontinent housemate who seemed oblivious to his condition. Plus, the incontinence was contagious. Thankfully, I managed to skirt the ailment, but only barely. And all this played out with the English Beat's Special Beat Service album serving as the soundtrack. I'd like to believe the Beat became part of my hallucination because I'm going to see Dave Wakeling next week and not because their music subconsciously reminds me of bodily functions.

Ick, all the way around.

At least I have all day to shake the dream off, and then tonight Ann Marie and I are going to see the Beautiful South at the Fillmore. I have only seen them twice and the last time was over six years ago. So yippee!!!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Six Days and Counting

Yes, Virgina, my fake band really is going to perform. In less than a week we will take the stage for our debut (and likely final) concert. At this point, I have let go of any notion that I will sing really well. My plan is just to stay on key to the best of my ability and project a ton of rock star attitude. I did spend almost ten years as an actor, so I am confident that I can act like a singer. And I certainly can act like a rock star; I do that in my imagination all the time.

I have invited a ton of my friends to come see us, but I left any real musicians I know off the guest list. That would be just a little too embarrassing. Regardless of who is there, I do believe this will be a night to remember. We have been having such a good time in rehearsals that the show should be a blast. Plus, the other guy who sings not only has a great voice but is a total ham, which should make for fabulous entertainment. So I believe everyone will have fun, even if we suck. Especially if we suck, probably.

However, to have any hope of singing on key, I have to commit myself to practice, which is what will consume my free time over the next few days. This is a lot off effort for six short songs, only two of which feature me on lead vocals. It's a good thing it is so much fun.

To change gears just a bit... You may have heard there was a little election last night. Well, in case you missed it, here is my review.
The House of Representatives: We knew this was coming, but ha, ha, ha, ha!
The Senate, too!: Ha, ha, ha, ha!
Former California Congressman Richard Pombo: HA, HA, HA, HA!!!!
The Defeat of California State Proposition 85: Thank F-ing GOD.
Arnie is Re-elected Governor of California: It's shameful for yet a second time, but Phil Angelides ran an anemic campaign.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cute Dresses and Overused Lines

I have a problem.

Apparently I have lost my ability to stay within my budget. When I mentioned in my last post that I spent way too much money on that Betsy Johnson dress I bought on Thursday, I wasn't kidding. We're talking more money than I have ever spent on a dress in my life. So I promised myself that I would buy no more new clothing (except maybe a coat, as I am on the hunt for one) until the beginning of the year. I also have to forgo a spa treatment this month. While it will be a challenge, I think I'll be able to stay away from the spa until December, but apparently I have no will power when it comes to cute dresses.

I was on my way to Walgreens today, armed with an ever-so-glamorous shopping list of shampoo, hair gel, toilet paper and cleaning supplies, when a dress in the window at Belle Cose on Polk Street called my name. In fact, I'd say it shouted, cried and begged for me. Within ten minutes, purchase made. And here's the rub: since I just spent so much money on the Betsy Johnson dress, I figured the $140 price tag of the Belle Cose number to be a bargain. What kind of weird, skewed perspective have I adopted? Well, whatever my perspective, this little purchase has left me with ten dollars in my checking account until pay day. That's right. No need to worry, as I do have a savings account I can dip into, but still.

I am out of control.

Okay, perhaps I am being a little dramatic here. I am actually financially very healthy. I pay my credit card bill in full every month and carry no other debt. I have a 401K and an IRA. And I stash a decent portion of my monthly income in the aforementioned savings account. I often end up spending that stash when I overspend, but at least it earns a higher interest rate while it's there.

So I guess I am living within my means, but still. Exactly how much money do I think I have? Yes, I make enough to live comfortably in San Francisco, and I am fully aware that not everyone can say that. But those coffers are going to run dry one day if I don't pull myself together. And since men who grossly prioritize making a lot of money tend to turn me off, I shouldn't count on marrying rich.

Therefore, I probably need to watch it.

Well, at least I'll look really cute, even if I have to eat Top Ramen six nights a week because I'm spending all my money on clothes. I'm going to wear my new dress to work tomorrow.

Also today, my friend Helen broke up with the guy she has been dating for the last couple of months. I mean no disrespect to either one of them, but I have to laugh just a little because she used the "I just don't want to be in a relationship right now" line on him. Is it just me, or have you both heard and said that several times? I know the answer is yes, and that the line has been a load of crap every time. I think I've said it twice, and both times I sincerely believed I was telling the truth, even though I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn't really interested in the fellows I was cutting loose. And both times I soon realized I had been kidding myself; it was about the guys, not me wanting to be alone.

I think I've heard it twice, as well. The first time was way back in 1993, and the guy who fed it to me met a woman through a newspaper personal ad (keep in mind, this was before the days of mainstream online dating) within a week and was married to her within nine months. That sounds like a guy who doesn't want to be in a relationship, doesn't it? I was devastated at the time, but I was only 23. Plus, with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, I can say that the dude was kind of a loser, and today I am very, very glad he dumped me. The second time was in 2000, and I actually think that guy was telling me the truth. He continued to date casually off and on, but every woman he dated heard the same line. And it was almost five full years before he ended up in another serious relationship.

So I guess it isn't always just a line. But it's still pretty funny and probably should be exorcised from our dating patter.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

They Run and Hide Their Heads

Today it rained significantly for the first time this season.

I have to admit, through the spring, summer and early fall, I tend to forget that it rains here. I grow so accustomed to the cool, but DRY weather, that the notion of rain-soaked jogs and umbrella-crowded sidewalks completely leaves my consciousness. Well, I was reminded today. The rain was pretty light, but it was somewhat consistent throughout the day.

It hardly seems fair, since it rained well into May this year. In the ten years (!) I've lived in San Francisco, I've observed an average rainy season that lasts from November until about late February. Apparently the true average San Francisco rainy season is longer than that, but my experience has shown me otherwise. As a consequence, if it rains into May, like it did this year, the next rainy season shouldn't start, in my opinion, until late January. Seems reasonable to me.

Rain or no rain, I was out and about today, and I got the cutest dress from Betsey Johnson. It cost far more than I should be spending, and I think I'm probably too old for Betsey Johnson clothing, but I don't care. It's so cute. I'll have to wear it to every fancy function I attend from now until next October to make it worth the expenditure, but that's okay. You should just expect to see it a lot if you actually know me.

After shopping and a run through the off-and-on sprinkles, we had band rehearsal. Here is what I learned tonight: I can't really sing. I can fake it okay, but as for any true vocal talent... Well, if you're planning to come see us, don't hold your expectations too high. Some of the other band members aren't necessarily the best musicians either, making for quite the cacophony in our set. Our teacher Chris tells me we're above average for his students, but part of me thinks he's just being nice.

That, or a lot of people he teaches are really, really bad.

Well, for our upcoming big concert, I'll just have to wear my new fancy dress and count on my acting and performing abilities to outweigh whatever vocal skills I do or don't have. That's my plan, and I'm sticking with it.

P.S. If you got the musical reference in the title of this post you now possess much of my respect.