Monday, December 31, 2007

Lessons of 2007

Twenty-Oh-Seven is drawing to close, and tonight we will pause to celebrate the beginning of Twenty-Oh-Eight. It will be a time to reflect on the year that has past, anticipate the year that will come and deal with how old we all are.

Then of course, there are the resolutions. But whatever. I'm bored with resolutions, and mine are the same every year. If you want a reminder of what my annual resolutions are, look through the archives of this blog. I've decided, instead, to devote this particular post to what I've learned over the last 365 days. So off the top of my head...

1. If you cut your drinking to two days a week, you'll lose a little weight, seemingly without trying. And you'll feel better. Plus, you really won't miss the alcohol.

2. Never say never. That motto applied to many situations in my life this year, including boys, my plans for this evening (can you believe I'll be in North Beach on New Year's Eve?!?), and actively participating in that which I had previously judged and judged harshly: social networking websites.

3. If you're a woman and can sing at all, you'll get hit on every time you do karaoke. Every time.

4. A really good running route takes you down Los Feliz Boulevard in Los Angeles. You don't live in L.A.? Well, I don't either, but I make it down there to go running, as well as participate in other fun activities, on a fairly regular basis.

5. Sometimes it's very easy to find yourself in a real life episode of "Behind the Music," as ridiculous and inappropriate as that may be.

Okay, that's all I can think of for now. I'm sure I learned more this year, but that should keep you going through the last hours of 2007. Happy New Year, my friends!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Beat Surrender

There's never a dull moment in the life of a fake rock star, and Kelcey, Fabulous Patti, myself and Emily (pictured here) were all fake rock stars at Joxer Daly's in Culver City on Wednesday night. Well, Kelcey was not a fake rock star that night. Apparently, he had been given the hook while trying to sing a rather inebriated version of "All Shook Up" during Emily's birthday party at the aforementioned Joxer Daly's two weeks before. So he stayed away from the karaoke microphone this time around. The rest of us had no such fear, however.

After several successful solo numbers, Emily and I decided to duet on the Jam's "Beat Surrender" because, frankly, when you find "Beat Surrender" at a karaoke bar, you have to sing it. Right? Um, perhaps wrong. We gave it the best we had, and Emily and I can both sing (especially Emily), but... Well, let's just say the beat definitely surrendered during our attempt. I learned that I really only should sing songs I've practiced, and somewhere in the universe, Paul Weller's ears were bleeding.

That tiny transgression aside, we had quite a lot of fun. I sang three of my tried and true numbers, and Emily belted out Irene Cara's "Fame," complete with dance moves that got the attention of literally every man in the joint. The only two remotely attractive guys there were generous with their flirtation, however, and I found myself doing a little cramped swing dancing in front of the karaoke stage, too. One of the benefits of going out in a city where you don't live: the consequence-free dance.

Once back home by the Bay, the rock star theme continued. Last night I went with Helen to see a real rock star, my musician friend Pat Johnson, play at the Knockout in the Mission. He was really good and played my very favorite song of his, "The Very Last Time." Yay! I cast aside any pretense of being too cool for the room and sang along, even when Pat momentarily messed up the words.

Do you know what I did today? Absolutely nothing. After sleeping for twelve hours (I guess the bronchitis, funky work hours and traveling left me a little tired), I spent another hour and a half in bed finishing Him Her Him Again The End of Him by Patricia Marx. For the record, that book is excellent; one of the funniest I've read in a while. After all the resting, I took a run, which was mostly a walk, and now here I am at work. I could be at Pat and Jess' holiday poker party, but I've spent all month switching Saturday shifts and otherwise tweaking my schedule to make it to parties. So I figured I'd be responsible and go to work this time.

I'm not sure living up to my employment responsibilities would exactly count as rock star behavior, but I guess that's why I'm just a fake rock star.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Palm Trees and Pinkberry For Christmas

Greetings from Los Feliz!

In typical Sassy fashion, I have had a very glamorous holiday. After work on Christmas Day... Oh, yeah, I had to work Christmas morning. Starting at 4 a.m. But honestly, it could be a lot worse. I like my job, and I actually kind of like working on holidays. Most of the time, anyway. It feels very festive to me.

Okay, maybe I'll back up just a little bit. I went to bed early on Christmas Eve, after snuggling under the fuzzy blanket on my couch to watch "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and then got up before dawn for work. I looked for Santa Claus, but I guess he was done delivering toys in my neighborhood by the time I left for my job. After work, I packed my suitcase and hoped on a plane for L.A.

Once safely on the ground in Burbank, my sister Fabulous Patti collected me, and we went to her place in Los Feliz for our family Christmas party. Siblings, nephews, a niece and Diva Mommy all gathered for Christmas in style. My 19-month nephew Mikey Jet was the biggest hit of the party, as he ran, jumped, sang and giggled his way through the evening. But I'd say everyone was full of holiday cheer as we ate and opened presents. My favorite part might have been when my brother Michael opened the "Get Smart" complete series dvd box set that I... oh, I mean Santa... got him. Giving presents may be more fun than getting them.

Well, maybe not, because do you know what I got for Christmas? A Pinkberry gift card!!!!! I am so happy. I've already indulged in a little of the Pink, and I'll be paying Pinkberry another visit before I go home tomorrow night. Yummy. It's possible this may be the best Christmas present I've ever gotten.

It's a little on the cold side today in the neighborhood below Griffith Park. Some strong winds are blowing, and I'd say they're Santa Anas, but the Santa Ana winds are supposed to warm. At least the Santa Anas I remember from my childhood in Pasadena were always warm. These winds, not so much. I'm just glad I brought my big coat.

Tonight Fabulous Patti and I are going to meet my friend Emily for karaoke in Culver City. Talk about your happy holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Love Is All You Need

If you know me at all, you know that there is only one thing I want for my birthday: a good party. I don't need any stuff; so I get the best gift every year when dozens of my friends turn up for my little birthday celebration. I may love the fact that my birthday is right before Christmas (and honestly, I do), but I know that's an inconvenient time for others. So it makes me incredibly happy that my friends make time to toast the anniversary of my birth when there are other parties and obligations to consider.

And this year was no exception. In fact, my friends were complete rock stars this time around because they put up with my coughing and congestion all night, as I was in complete denial that I am still sick. I have since come out of that denial, and I admit it: I'm still sick.

Well, illness be damned, about 30 of us descended upon Club Deluxe for the Night of Sassy 2007, and it was super-duper fun. Even with all my coughing and wheezing. A really good jazz band played, prompting Kevin to take me for a twirl on the dance floor... as pictured above. Lots of other fun people were there, including Rosa and Tihanna, who are posing with me in this shot to the left. I was incredibly impressed that Tihanna made it, given that she has been working double shifts all week and has gotten very little sleep. And Rosa has taken a new job where she works all night. So I also was impressed that she was up for a party at the end of her work week. Not that I don't equally appreciate everyone who came. Carolyn is in the midst of moving, for example, but she took a little time out to swing by the soiree. Tom was invited to at least two other birthday parties last night, as well, but he still made it to mine. In fact, he came to my party instead of attending the other two. Anne is pregnant and, I believe, just getting over morning sickness, but nonetheless, she was there.

I could go on and sing the praises of everyone who came, but suffice it to say, I greatly love all my friends.

There was a time, not so long ago, when my birthday party was all about having a huge guest list. I would invite everyone... and I mean everyone... I knew and liked at all, and it was like some sort of challenge to get as many of them as possible to attend. That effort reached a pinnacle in 2002 when I lured 80 people to the Red Devil Lounge for my 33rd birthday. That was definitely a fun night, but over the years I've become a little overwhelmed by the idea of inviting 120 people to a party to ensure that at least 60 show up. The bigger the party, the less quality time I get to spend with anyone, really. Plus, I was inviting people whom I never see during the rest of the year, and that was beginning to feel silly. Add the fact that a few of my friends now have small children and don't party like they used to... and I decided to change my attitude.

I'm very social and still have a lot of friends whom I see regularly; so I'm happy to say my party will continue to draw a crowd. But I pared down the invitation list this year to about 60 and was able to have actual conversations with the people who made it. And I'd say a good time was had by all. By the end of the night, I could barely carry on a conversation without the eruption of a coughing fit. So I took myself home at about 12:45. That didn't stop Andrey, Katya, Jake, Camilla, Eric, Jack and Tom (all pictured with me here) from continuing to celebrate in my honor. For all I know, they're still drinking. In fact, I'd really expect nothing less.

There is no better way to celebrate the anniversary of your birth than to surround yourself with people you're lucky enough to call your friends.

Friday, December 21, 2007

You Say It's Your Birthday

Is it wrong that my birthday is my favorite day of the year?

Well, right or wrong, my birthday is, in fact, my favorite day of the year. And my birthday is today... YAY!!!! We're having a potluck at work today with lots of delicious snacks and good cheer. The potluck is actually in honor of the holidays, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm going to pretend it's all for me. (Yes, I know I probably should be ashamed to make that admission, but whatever... it's my birthday. Besides, Diana put a candle in my little potluck hamburger for me. So there.)

Then tonight, I'll be gathering with about 30 of my closest friends in the Haight for a little birthday party. In my world, December 21st is the definition of "good times."

Not that this birthday has been without a teeny bit of drama. While I have been steadily getting over the pesky chest cold I picked up last week, this virus has made it clear that it's not going without a fight. To that end, my body picked last night to succumb to coughing fits. All. Night. Long. Even though I'd slept very well on Wednesday night. The result: I'm operating on about four and a half hours of sleep. No matter, though. I'll just grab a power nap after work and be good to go by tonight. Not even a nagging, congesty cough can ruin my favorite day of the year.

Oooh, and yesterday I got myself the greatest birthday present: Kate Spade open-toed, patent leather heels which were 50% off! You know I'll be sporting those babies tonight.

Did I mention that my birthday is my favorite day of the year?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Season Interrupted

My holiday season had been bubbling along quite nicely. As you know, my company holiday party was Tuesday night. On Wednesday, Terry treated me to a pre-birthday dinner. And on Thursday, I went on a perfectly pleasant date with Mark.

Then it happened. Late Thursday night, I was felled by a vicious parasite. The resulting illness has overtaken my body and rendered me a coughing, congested wreck. This disease is so virulent and potent, it has paralyzed me. I am a miserable shell; a shivering, hacking wreck. All at the hands of a virus so malevolent it defies description.

Although, I believe, in the parlance of the vernacular, it is known as a cold.

After work last night, I was supposed to party hop from Tara's holiday cocktail celebration to Lucy's birthday soiree. And today I had planned a visit to the gym, followed by a pedicure and shopping for a birthday dress. Then back to work. Well, none of those plans have come to fruition. I attended no parties last night. I can't exercise (the horror!). My dress shopping and pedicure will have to wait, and I'm not even going to work tonight. I rarely, if ever, call in sick to work; so you know this is bad. Not that being exiled to my couch while succumbing to frequent coughing fits isn't fun, too.

Always one to find a bright side, I do recognize that this forced relaxation will allow me time to write my newspaper column, which is due Tuesday, as well as my Christmas cards, which should have been done two weeks ago. Of course, I haven't done any of that yet. But I have caught up on my television watching and my lack of sleep due to chest congestion. My Friends dvd box sets are providing me with some lovely company during this trying time. HBO has stepped up to the plate, as well.

Hopefully this will all be wrapped up soon, though. I have a birthday coming up on Friday, and I must be in top shape for that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ooooh, My Head

So, my company holiday party was last night.

I actually missed most of it because, ironically, I was at work, but I made it for the tail end of the free cocktails. That would have been well and fine, as I had planned simply to swing by for a drink or two on the boss and go home. Good plan, huh?

Well, I had forgotten that I work with a few serious partiers. And once we got kicked out of Bimbo's at the far too decent hour of 10:00, about ten of us took the after party to Tony Nik's down the street. I didn't stay out terribly late, but suffice it to say I drank far more than I had intended. Ouch.

The good news is that I don't have to work today, and I plan to lounge for the next couple of hours before I sweat out this mini-hangover at the gym. The bad news is that my downstairs neighbor seems to have chosen today to practice his electric guitar. Urban living, I suppose.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

How Duh Became This Season's Hottest Buzz Word

We'll get to the title of this post shortly, but first, a moment in musical history.

Throughout the summer and fall, Rosa has played many an open mic night at McGrath's in Alameda. I have occasionally joined her, and Doug has occasionally joined the both of us. It's been a while, but we regrouped this weekend to take our show out of McGrath's and up the hill to Doug's holiday party. Fake Band took the "stage" first, and we followed. While practicing on Wednesday night, Doug christened our little trio The Sub Rosas, which is absolutely perfect. We created a set list consisting of two of Rosa's original numbers, plus six cover songs. And with all due respect to Tony Hatch, Kirsty MacColl, Stevie Nicks and Melanie Safka, Rosa's songs were the best. Rehearsed and ready to go, we planned to knock 'em dead come Friday night. Or something to that effect.

Well, everyone's health was safe, as we certainly knocked no one dead. Make no mistake, our performance wasn't bad at all. I'd go as far as to call it pretty good, and people even paid attention. However, by the time we began to play, Doug had perhaps imbibed a little too much. So he wasn't as sharp on the bass as usual. That's a nice of way of saying he hit at least one wrong note in every song, which is very unusual for him. He's really a very good bassist... when sober. Plus, we had to start one song over because Doug was obliviously blocking Rosa's view of her music.

Regardless, it was super fun, and I caught a few people singing along with our rendition of "Downtown." (I know, aren't you just shocked I wanted to sing that song?) In addition to "Downtown" and Rosa's originals, we did "They Don't Know," "Lay Down," "Somewhere Only We Know" and a marriage of "Landslide" and "Dust in the Wind." I really wish I could figure out a way to sing for a living. Hmmm.... that seems a highly doubtful prospect, so I'll definitely stick with my day job.

Well, Rosa and I are planning to conquer the musical world during our spare time.

After Doug's party on Friday night and work on Saturday, I was ready for a Saturday night out. First, I went to Katie and Steve's annual holiday party. Or more accurately I should say, I went to Katie and Steve's annual holiday spread with a party in the background. They had the most delicious snacks of the season so far. Totally yummy!

Once full on champagne, sausage-stuffed mushrooms, meatballs, sliced fruit and sweet and spicy nuts, I made my way across town for my friend Beth's birthday party. Beth and I posed for this little photo at the end of the evening, after I'd met a host of interesting people, including a woman with the same first name and birthday as me. I'm not kidding. She is four years my junior, but imagine, another December 21st-born Sassy at the same party! Needless to say, we bonded instantly.

Sadly, Beth's husband broke the news to me that they will not be having their annual New Year's Eve party this year because Beth has been asked to open for Cake at the Warfield that night. Sadness... because that is a truly fun party. But I told both Beth and Eli that I would forgive them if Beth set me up with Xan McCurdy. I wonder if they knew I was serious?

At one point during the evening, I was talking to my Birthday Twin, this guy named Kamau and some other guy, who was rather inebriated. Kamau is African-American with kind of cool hair, which seemed to prompt The Drunk to look at the two of us and proclaim, "Oh, my God, you guys obviously should know each other. Duh!" Kamau, myself and Birthday Twin were all a tiny bit shocked by this statement, but the idea that the black man and the half-black woman at the party were somehow obligated to meet was far too stupid to inspire true offense. So in laughing at the poor drunken lout, we decided that for the rest of the evening, we would punctuate every sentence with "Duh!" And we found it works with pretty much anything.

"Hey, I'm going to get another beer. Duh!"
"Wow, that's a super cute coat. Duh!"
"I think I need the loo. Duh!"
"You should come see my comedy show next week. Duh!"

Little did The Drunk know that his ignorance provided us with much merriment for the rest of the evening. See, even the drunk and ignorant can't ruin a truly good party.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

'Tis The Season

I am a Christmas fanatic. I generally start singing Christmas songs in mid-September, and by this time of year, the halls of my apartment are fully decked, my heart is four sizes larger than normal and 60 to 100 holiday cards have been written and mailed.

Not so much this year.

Not that I'm the least bit unhappy. In fact, I went through a teeny, tiny depressive period this fall, and I think I have fully pulled out of it. (Knock wood.) It's just that a lot is going on, and I seem to have no time for Christmas. No halls have been decked, no holiday cards written and don't even talk to me about shopping. My heart is pretty large, but I'm not sure how much the Christmas spirit has to do with that. So perhaps 'tisn't the season for holiday madness in my world yet, but I'll you what 'tis the season for.

1. Celebrity sightings
Okay, I should say celebrity sighting. Singular. This afternoon I met my friend Wendy at the Grove on Fillmore for one last bonding session before she moves to New York on Monday. We'd been discussing boys and all topics related to boys for a while when I realized that the man next to us with his two small children and two female companions was, in fact, Dave Chappelle.

Dave had looked over at us a couple of times before I realized who he was, but I'd thought perhaps my and Wendy's boy talk had a gotten a little too saucy for the nearby small tots. So I just made a mental note to speak more quietly. Once I recognized Dave as himself, I admit, I kind of looked for excuses to engage him. With two kids in the mix, it was pretty easy. One of his sons started bopping around to "The Letter" by the Box Tops, which was playing on the Grove's sound system, and I took that opportunity to congratulate the little boy on his good taste. The Box Tops featured Alex Chilton, after all.

As Dave as his brood were leaving, he fixed his gaze on me for a minute, smiled and asked me how I was doing. I was caught a little off guard and didn't really know what to say. I was too embarrassed to gush over his talent, so I just told him how cute I found his children to be (and the were super cute). He seemed to appreciate the compliment. I appreciated that, at the end of the day, I ran into a celebrity, and he spoke to me first. Ha!

2. Socializing
I guess this sort of falls under the category of holiday madness because some of my socializing involves holiday parties. But there have also been and continue to be birthday parties, as well as other social events. And fate has been kind to me this year, as most of these parties fall on evenings when I don't have to work. Or I have been able to adjust my work schedule to accommodate my playtime. That was not the case last year, so yay!

Plus, next week I have a date with a guy I met at Wendy's going away party. I'm not sure what, if anything, will come of this date, but it is always nice to be taken out by a decent fellow.

3. Overindulging
Unfortunately, the close companion of all this socializing is a lot of eating and drinking. I have already decided to relax my two-day a week only drinking rule for the month of December, and for the past couple of weeks, my alcohol consumption has grown from one or two days a week to three or even four days a week. Add the abundant snacks that are also available (and I can never resist), and I foresee a little dieting and a whole lot of exercising come January.

4. Singing
There hasn't really been more singing this season than any other month, but Rosa and I will be singing at Doug's holiday party tomorrow night. Doug will join us on bass; Rosa will play guitar; and Rosa and I will sing five songs each. Fake Band is also playing this party, but I will not be reliving my days with them by joining in on any numbers. Not that they asked, but I'm very happy to be doing my own thing.


The long and short of it is that while I may not be my usual Christmas-obsessed self right now, 'tis still the season for some very good times.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Rock Star Weekend

I should clarify right away that this weekend was a rock star weekend for me. Any self respecting rock star would scoff at my partying prowess over the last 48 hours, but it was a good showing for the old lady that I have become. Don't get me wrong, I socialize quite regularly, but these days I like to go out relatively early and return home relatively early. So to attend four parties in one weekend, and to stay out until after 3 a.m. Saturday night/Sunday morning is kind of big deal in my world. Especially since I work weekends, as well.

But I am getting ahead of myself here.

The rock star weekend began Friday night with the very sophisticated cookie and cocktail party at Jim and Molly's. They have a lovely apartment in Russian Hill, and it was packed with cookies, savory snacks and delicious wine. Not to mention fun people. Most of the Gourmet Group girls were there, as well as various husbands, boyfriends and friends. Laughter filled the air, cookies were consumed, and an impromptu dance party began at about 11:30.

I got home at the fairly decent hour of 12:30 that night, but I had to be at work at 11 o'clock the next morning. Take into account that I go running before work every day, and you'll understand that I didn't get quite as much sleep as I would have liked. But I was okay and ready for work Saturday afternoon.

Immediately following work, I hit the first of three Saturday night parties: Kim's birthday soiree. It was also a sophisticated and adult affair at a private room in a Financial District restaurant. Talk about good snacks; they were not only tasty but very fancy. The wine was also flowing in celebration of Kim, and we had delicious birthday cake. Some of the partiers are pictured above: Katie, myself, Birthday Girl Kim, Gretchie, Paul and Bill.

After about two hours at Kim's party, I hopped in a cab and made my way to the Marina for Emily's birthday bash. Emily and her friends had staked out their space in a crowded wine bar, and I arrived just in time for champagne. After a glass of bubbly and some good conversation with Emily, her friend Isha and a random (to me) anesthesiologist, I was off again. This time to the Lower Haight for Wendy's going away party.

The fair Wendy is moving to New York in just about a week, and in the middle of her super-fun goodbye party, I realized just how much I'm going to miss her. Wendy is an actor, yoga instructor and superhero whom I became friends with about four and a half years ago. She's positively neato, and New York will be very lucky to have her. Wendy and I posed for this picture as I was waiting for my cab home at about 3 a.m., after a night of nothing but good times.

At Wendy's party, I got a chance to see Camilla, whom I hadn't seen since July, as well as Jake, Davin, Mark, Rick, Jordan, Bernadette and a host of other people. I also met Wendy's old friend Mark (about half the guys at this party were named Mark), whom I think I'm going to hang out with again before he heads back down to L.A. in a week or so. You know if you read this space with any kind of regularity that I visit L.A. fairly often. So I'm excited to have another friend down there.

When I finally arrived home after the party marathon that was my Saturday night, I didn't settle into bed until almost 5 a.m. I don't know if I remember the last time I stayed up that late because I was socializing. (I'm thinking it was my birthday almost a full year ago.) Luckily, I don't work until 5 p.m. on Sundays, so I was able to get enough sleep, go running and still show up to my job feeling fresh.

Oh, yes, in my own way, I am a rock star.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Running Away With the Circus: Theatre That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 16

Cirque du Soleil's Kooza under Le Grand Chapiteau

Call me crazy, but I generally have found the Cirque du Soleil shows I've seen to be underwhelming. Even O at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas is not, in my opinion, all it's cracked up to be. Make no mistake, I very much respect the skill and artistry every Cirque show features, but I just haven't found them all that exciting.

Until Kooza.

Kooza is running in San Francisco right now, and it is amazing. I probably like this show more than the other Cirque shows I've seen because it most resembles a traditional circus. Without the bearded ladies and abused animals, that is. Acrobats, contortionists, clowns, trapeze artists, tight-rope walkers, comedy... Kooza has it all. And the result is truly phenomenal. I'm not going to waste your time trying to give you a play by play because Kooza needs to be experienced.

Just go see it, if you can. I'm no acrobat, but sometimes I'd like to run away with the circus.

Prior to the show, Gretchen and I swung by Tony Nik's for a couple of cocktails. We used to go to Tony Nik's all the time before Gretchen had her baby and Tony Nik's was overrun by the many annoying people who hang out there now. But last night the bar wasn't crowded, and Devon very sweetly recreated for me a vanilla-apple cocktail I'd had at Palomino a couple of weeks ago. It was just like old times. "Old times" being 2003 through 2005, by the way.

Cocktails and the circus? That's one good Wednesday night.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fine and Dandy at the Napper Tandy

My work schedule has been a little bit different due to the holiday weekend, and that meant I had last night off. Saturday nights out are now at a premium in my life, so I wanted to make the most of it. To that end, after work Joey and I joined Valerie, Kevin, Tom, Andrey, Chris, Eric and some work friends of Kevin's at the Napper Tandy in the Mission. While the Napper Tandy is Valerie and Kevin's neighborhood bar, I had never been there; so I was excited to check it out. Especially since on Saturday nights they feature, you guessed it, karaoke!

Don't worry, my karaoke habit will play itself out one day soon, and you'll no longer have to read about it.

Anyway, that photo above was actually taken at the end of the evening (at least at the end of my evening; the party was still going strong when I left at 12:45) after we had all taken our turns at the microphone. Well, some of us, like me, had taken several turns. I sang "Somewhere Only We Know," "Downtown" and "Back On the Chain Gang," with my last selection featuring most of the Napper Tandy on background vocals. I realize that I've begun singing the same songs over and over again when I go out for karaoke. I need to expand my repertoire.

By the way: I know poor Chris is half cut out of that photo, but in the only other one I had of the group of us, Eric is hidden by my pony tail, and Valerie and Tom are making slightly weird faces. My apologies, Chris.

All of that said, the actual point of this post is not karaoke, believe it not, but more that I was reminded what fabulous and wonderful friends I have. I was out with only a handful of them last night, but I think it was a fair sample. The long and short of it is this: my friends rock and are super fun. Following are a few cases in point.

Kevin, whom I don't see very often, is incredibly clever and has stellar music taste. Before the karaoke began, he programmed 17 songs in the jukebox, including Buddy Holly and the Go-Go's. Does it get better than that? Valerie, Kevin's girlfriend and one of the very first people I met in San Francisco 11 years ago, continues her passionate pursuit of an acting career. She may not be gracing the cover of Entertainment Weekly, but she is one of the most driven and committed actors I know. Tom embraces his geeky interests, like video games, with such charm that he turns geekiness to an incredibly hip quality. Honestly. Chris is nothing less than a total rock star. He has it all: brains, talent, generosity, charisma. I could go on and on. Andrey has a way of making me feel very loved and very cute when we go out, and he does so without being at all slimy. Plus, he may be the best karaoke buddy ever. He sings very well and seems to know all the words to every pop song ever written. Andrey is from Moscow and says he and his friends learned English by listening to American pop music, hence his vast knowledge of lyrics. Very impressive. And speaking (again) of karaoke, I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Eric knows how to work a karaoke mic like no body's business. Not to mention that he and Chris taught me how to play Texas Hold 'Em a few years ago.

These people are really a mere drop in the bucket of my entire pool of luvvies. I could write volumes about the fabulousness embodied by all the people I have the privilege of calling my friends. I mentioned in my Thanksgiving Eve post that I'm thankful for all the love I have in my life and all the people who love me. And that gratitude continues. Believe me when I tell you that I am one lucky girl.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Urban Chic Thanksgiving

A few years ago, I would gather with a lucky chosen few at my friend Daniel's 10th floor apartment high atop Russian Hill for Thanksgiving dinner. Daniel and I dubbed it the Urban Chic Thanksgiving, and for the two (or was it three?) years it lasted, it was quite the wonderful tradition. But times change, and for the last couple of years, I have spent Thanksgiving at my Aunt Mary and Uncle David's place in Los Altos.

Well, this year, Mary, David and my cousin Anna decided to come to the City for Thanksgiving. My sister Fabulous Patti, brother Michael, sister-in-law Maki and nephew Mikey Jet also made the trek up to San Francisco from Los Angeles. Add another uncle and cousin to the downtown party, and the Urban Chic Thanksgiving was reborn. My own apartment is way too small to host a Thanksgiving affair; so the ten of us piled into First Crush at about 4:30 for dinner. This is me and Anna rocking our sunglasses like the rock stars we both know we are. I'd wanted to snap a photo of all of us at the table, but the restaurant was full and the waiter overwhelmed. Plus, the lovable Mikey Jet had already demonstrated his vocal ability by screaming bloody murder every time Mike and Maki tried to put him in the high chair to eat. So the last thing I wanted to do was bother anyone further.

I certainly hope we gave that waiter a really good tip.

Anyway, instead of the big table photo, I corralled a stranger into snapping this lovely shot of Mike, Fabulous Patti, myself, Maki and Mikey Jet outside the restaurant once we were all pleasantly full. Do we not look happy? I'd actually never eaten out for Thanksgiving before, and it was a very nice experience. For one thing, I didn't overeat. Well, not at the restaurant, anyway, but we'll get to that later. Even though the meal was probably packed with calories, you can't help yourself to seconds and thirds at a restaurant. So portion control was handled for me, and I definitely appreciated that.

Of course, it wouldn't be a true Urban Chic Thanksgiving without Daniel. Lucky for me, he and Mark had invited me to their newly renovated home for dinner. Obviously, I had other dinner plans, but Fabulous Patti and I swung by after dinner for dessert and champagne with Daniel, Mark, their friend Scott and Mark's father Mel. Mel sweetly snapped this photo of FP, Daniel, Mark and myself. Just as proof we were all there.

It would be at Daniel and Mark's that the overeating occurred. Even though I'd already had dessert, I couldn't resist the very large slice of pumpkin pie offered me. I mean, refusal would be rude, wouldn't it? Well, polite or not, the pie was delicious, and even though I had no room for a second dessert, I ate it anyway. Yummy. After dessert, the champagne flowed, and we all engaged in urban chic conversation which was both stimulating and well worthy of the glamorous affair.

Needless to say, I found myself at the gym before work Friday morning. I probably would have gone to the gym anyway, but it was extra necessary that morning. Whether it helped or not, at least I feel less guilty about all I ate on Thursday.

Next stop: my birthday and Christmas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

When I was in junior high and high school, the day before Thanksgiving was my very favorite day of the year. Well, except my birthday, but if you know me at all, you know that goes without saying. Anyway, the day before Thanksgiving was my (almost) favorite day of the year because all the fun and goodness of the holiday season was right in front of me. The day before Thanksgiving is the beginning of the best six weeks on the calendar.

And it doesn't hurt that my birthday is also in December.

Anyway, I was thinking about that today, as I enjoyed a day of lounging, baking a pumpkin pie, buying champagne and exercising. And today also got me thinking about some things in my life for which I'm thankful. I think I wrote about things to be thankful for on this space at this time last year, but every Thanksgiving inspires me to think about how fortunate I am.

Honestly. So here are some things I'm thankful for this year.

1. My health. I know this one is totally overdone, but today I saw a wheelchair-bound woman being helped into a van by a nurse. Not to assume that the wheelchair woman isn't perfectly healthy other than her inability to walk, but I am genuinely thankful that everything in my body functions properly. And it all functions properly in a pretty cute package, if I do say so myself.

2. The bunches and bunches of love in my life. I'll admit that I'm not working a whole lot of the romantic-type love with the perfect guy right now, but I'm still surrounded by affection. And it's affection from a ton of super-smart, super-interesting and super-creative people. Gotta love that.

3. A job that I enjoy. They call it work... as opposed to say, nap... for a reason, and I can't say my job is perfect. But for fifteen years I've had a rather successful career that is still going strong. I try to remember that even when I get frustrated with work.

4. My current work schedule. Wednesday and Thursday are my regular days off, which means that I have Thanksgiving off, as I did last year and the year before. That may not seem like much to you, but in my position, working holidays, even major holidays, is expected. So I'm happy to have one holiday off every year. Until and unless my schedule changes.

5. A super cute apartment in a nice neighborhood in a fabulous city. Yes, I admit I would rather live in Hawaii, and I'm still enamored with Los Feliz in L.A., but San Francisco isn't too shabby. A lot of people would love to live here, and I actually do. Yay!

6. Music. This actually should be number one because I'm a music fanatic, and as I've said before: music never lets you down. But I think I am more thankful for my health. Imagine how sucky it would be if I suddenly lost my hearing and couldn't listen to music anymore. Let's not even talk about that.

7. A comfortable lifestyle. I'm far from rich, and frankly, I've spent large portions of my life happily making ends meet on a much smaller salary than I command right now. However, I really do appreciate having the ability to go to the spa once a month or so; to visit Diva Mommy in Hawaii a couple of times a year; to go to all the live music shows I want; to keep my membership at the Fancy Gym; and to buy shoes when I want them.

8. The open mic circuit, karaoke and my singing lessons. Whoever would have thought that singing would become my primary hobby? And that I could actually do it without shattering glass or causing dogs to whimper? Not me.

9. Naps. I think this one needs no explanation.

10. Lee Pace. He's the star of the new television show "Pushing Daisies," and he's become my new tv boyfriend. Talented, charming and very hot. That's all we really want from our tv boyfriends, and Lee doesn't disappoint. (For the record, I'm not throwing over my other tv boyfriend, Peter Krause, for Lee. They can share my affections.)

Okay, that's all I can think of right now. But I bet I'll be able to come up with about 1000 more. I'm a lucky girl, and it's good to remember that. Frequently. Not just once a year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Easy Lounge...

... on Lakeshore Avenue in Oakland may be my new favorite bar. For one thing, it's called the Easy Lounge; do bar names get any better than that? For another thing, it seems to be open during the day... at least on Saturdays. And to a person like me, who likes to get her drink on but still go to bed at a decent hour, daytime drinking hours are a huge bonus. If all of that isn't enough, the proprietors of the Easy Lounge buy fresh fruit from the local farmers market and use their haul to make fresh, satisfying cocktails.

Yummy.

I discovered the Easy Lounge yesterday when Mindi had her birthday party there. The special cocktails of the day included a fruity concoction made with fresh muddled strawberries, a raspberry margarita and this Frangelico thing. The Frangelico thing had no fruit in it, but it did feature Frangelico, cream, Kaluha and lord knows what else. It probably packed about 1000 calories per sip, but it was worth it. I could have thrown back six or so seven of those little rich numbers. In fact, here are Mindi and myself enjoying our cocktails in honor of her birthday. We are ever so slightly out of focus (and I'm a little shiny; how about some powder, Sassy?), but you get the idea.

However, there was no time for overindulging at the Easy Lounge because after about an hour at Mindi's party, Tom and I took off for Stephanie's wedding in Santa Clara. Tom had never met Stephanie before watching her get married, but he was still game for the party. We got a tiny bit lost on the way, but we made it. The reception was quite fun, especially since Tom and I were seated with Alexandra, a woman we both know and like but hardly ever see, and Stephanie's friend Isabel, who was super fun. We all decided we wanted to be the rowdy table, but we failed in that endeavor. For one thing, our table was only half full (by the way, who rsvp's "yes" for a wedding and then doesn't show up without letting the bride or groom know?), and for another, there was a much rowdier table than ours. Well, the best laid plans.

If an afternoon birthday party and evening wedding weren't enough, at about 11:00, Tom and I made our way back to the City for a party at Eric's place. The party was winding down as we arrived, but we livened it up a bit. At one point it became a sing along, with all eight or so of us lingering partiers singing songs like "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and "Don't Stop Believin'" to Eric's acoustic guitar accompaniment. Yes, those songs are cheesy, but they're fun, and it was 1:00 in the morning. What else would you expect at that hour?

Needless to say, I had taken the day (or night, I should say) off work to accommodate all this socializing. And I'd say it was totally worth it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Night The Mint Imploded

For those of you keeping score at home, I'll tell you that my karaoke habit continues to grow. It's a cheap (in more ways than one) and easy way for me to feed my singing urge. The thing about karaoke, however, is that it's only fun if you check your judgement at the door. Whether you can sing or not, the point to is work up the nerve to get up and belt out a tune. Karaoke is the great equalizer: one of the only forums where all things.. or singers... are truly equal. Good or bad.

That said, the Mint Karaoke Lounge, as I have mentioned before on this space, is known for attracting incredibly good singers. It actually can be quite intimidating as great voice after great voice takes to the microphone. And a lot of the same ringers frequent the Mint on a regular basis. In fact, a guy working at the sushi restaurant next door put it bluntly, telling my friend Sheela one evening: "The same people come here and sing the same songs night after night."

Huh. Night after night, except last Wednesday. Wherever all those ringers were that night, I'm certain their ears were bleeding.

My friend Katie and I decided to swing by the Mint to sing a song or ten on Wednesday night, and frankly, we were horrified by what we saw. Or heard, I should say. Yes, I know I'm breaking the cardinal karaoke rule by being judgmental, but oh, dear Lord. Screech after screech, horribly off-key song after horribly off-key song, squeal after squeal... the scene at the Mint on Wednesday was like nothing I'd ever seen there. Not to mention that most of the "singers" chose to punctuate their performances with really bad undulating that I guess was supposed to pass for dance moves. I'm all for "selling it" when you do karaoke, but really, now. It was bad news. Plus, to add insult to injury, it was really crowded, meaning lots and lots of... interesting, let's say... performances.

Now, in all fairness, some of the brave people who got up to sing were really fun, regardless of talent level. For example, the guy who sang the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There" was quite awesome in his cheesiness. But the woman who sang some song that referenced Taco Bell in its lyrics was not.

Katie, who has perfect pitch, was easily the best singer of the night. At least while we were there. I took second place. Katie sang a Lisa Stansfield song, while I picked Petula Clark's "Downtown" from my ever-expanding karaoke repertoire. I was also going to sing "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane, but it was so crowded, it took too long for my second song to come up. So I left. As I was making my exit, I noticed a couple of the regular ringers had trickled in. I can only imagine what they thought of the spectacle.

After recovering from this week's karaoke adventure, I met Kate (not to be confused with Katie, who is a totally different friend) on Thursday night at Solstice for snacks and conversation. After swapping stories, mostly about boys, over brussels sprouts, mac and cheese and french fries, we decided that in a lot of ways, our lives are just like they were two and half years ago when we first became friends.

Welcome to 2005, I suppose.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Totally Yay!

Lots to talk about in this post; so let's get to it. First of all, I'm a geek. I know this already.

About a week ago, I hopped onto Amazon.com and bought myself a copy of Totally Go-Go's. "What in Heaven's name is that?" you may ask. Well, it's a concert video recorded at Palos Verdes High School in December, 1981, and released in 1982. Yes, I said 1982. Which means this video is long since out of print, but luckily, Amazon sells used stuff, too. I taped the audio of Totally Go-Go's off KROQ at some point back in '82 and listened to it over and over, but with the exception of a few clips here and there, I had never seen it.

Until now, that is. It arrived yesterday, and after returning from a relatively early evening of cocktails (okay, club soda for me) with Phil and some of his friends, I popped that bad boy right into the vcr. Is it wrong that I spent 40 dollars on a 25-year old video tape and was watching it at midnight on a Friday night/Saturday morning?

Yeah, probably. But as I've said before and surely will say again: music never lets you down.

* * * * *

My actor/writer/director/producer friend Dan cast me in a staged reading this week and mentioned to me that he hoped he'd get a mention on this space. Well, here it is, and not just because I was in the reading, but because it was an enjoyable experience. The play by Beth Soloway was decent, and the whole thing was very fun. There was no audience; we were recording our reading specifically for the playwright's benefit. So we all stood in front of microphones, and it felt like an old-time radio play. Or at least what I imagine an old time radio play to be like.

Another actor in the reading was Shaun Landry, who must be one of the funniest people on earth. She's also a professional comedienne and improviser, so I suppose that makes sense. We all went to the Chieftain for drinks and snacks after the reading, and Shaun had me in stitches the entire evening. She regaled us with tales of everything... from her story about Mayor Gavin Newsom doing the cabbage patch to comparing her husband's looks to Benny Hill. Yes, Benny Hill.

* * * * *

Argonautika at Berkeley Rep is really good. It's a little on the long side, but it's based on a Greek myth, so of course it's long. They left nothing out of those suckers. There is this really cool call and response kind of song/chant which introduces all the Argonauts, and they reprise it for the curtain call using the actors' real names as each takes a bow. It was super neat.

* * * * *

Do you know what I'm doing tomorrow? Before work, I'm going over to Rosa's house in Berkeley, and we're going to sing! My work schedule of late has been keeping me away from open mic in Alameda, but I'm determined to make it after work this Tuesday. Since Rosa and I won't have time to practice right before, we're doing it tomorrow. I am so excited. As you have probably gathered, I love to sing.

* * * * *

Carolyn and I have hatched a top secret plan. Since it's top secret, I can't really tell you any details. But I will let you know if it works. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Slices of Life

Nothing terribly earth shattering has happened over the last couple of days, so I'll just share a few tidbits with you.

Last night, my friend Carolyn and I were discussing boys, theatre and other life-altering phenomenon at the bar at Enricos when our attention was captured suddenly by about ten cops tearing down Broadway toward Montgomery. Several police cars then sped after them, including one that was driving backwards. It was all very dramatic and a tiny bit scary. I hope they caught whomever they were chasing.

I have found heaven on Earth, and it is the steam room at my gym. I've always loved that steam room, but I was reminded of it's glory this morning.

Speaking of the gym, someone with good taste was in charge of the music pumping through the gym sound system this morning. "I'm the Man" by Joe Jackson played as I ambled toward the ab machines. Not bad at all for a gym.

Speaking of music, "Beat Surrender" by the Jam might just be one of the greatest songs ever. I've probably mentioned that on this space before, but it bears repeating. I wish I'd written that song.

Don't you love the way the topics in this stream of consciousness post lead from one to the other?

Tonight I'm going to opening night of Mary Zimmerman's Argonautika at Berkeley Rep. The last Mary Zimmerman play I saw was Metamorphoses back in 1999. My actor friends Jessica, Richard and Barry were all in Metamorphoses at one point or another as the show ran here, in Los Angeles and Seattle. However, none of them went with Metamorphoses to Broadway. Sad.

I had two cocktails at lunch today with a former co-worker of mine. Don't worry, today is my day off; so I was allowed. However, for a girl who only drinks two days of week now, cocktails at lunch is quite decadent. They were delicious, though... these vanilla apple cosmo things. Yummy. I just hope I can stay awake through the play tonight.

Fred 62, my new favorite restaurant in L.A., got a mention in this week's Entertainment Weekly. I just hope it doesn't get too trendy. Well, it already is a little trendy, but I hope it retains its character.

Tomorrow, I'm going to re-awaken my actor self by doing a staged reading of a play by Beth Soloway. I'm also going to the spa earlier in the day for a vanilla fig sugar body scrub. Between the spa and the reading, tomorrow might just be the best day ever.

Today's been pretty good, though, too.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

... And Hilarity Ensued

Every time I go out with my friends Phil and Joey I laugh so hard I almost pee in my pants. And last night was no exception. Perhaps that doesn't sound like the classiest or most savory endorsement, but believe me, it's a very good thing.

Also, slices from the random hole-in-the-wall pizza joint on Geary near the Edinburgh Castle are actually quite delicious. Just so you know.

Friday, November 02, 2007

We Came, We Saw, We Sang Our Hearts Out

I arrived at Encore Karaoke to the sounds of Tom singing "Birdhouse In Your Soul" by They Might Be Giants, and I knew it was going to be a good night.

This post will be a mostly a visual tour through our evening of song singing. The photo above would be me during my rendition of Petula Clark's "Downtown." As I suspected it would be, that is my new favorite karaoke song. I'm just sad I sang it early in the evening. We began our singing marathon at 8 p.m., when there was hardly anyone in the place. So even though Encore did get crowded as the night went on, we still got to sing a lot.

I sang five songs: "Back on the Chain Gang," the aforementioned "Downtown," "Different Drum," "Stay (I Missed You)" and "Magic." Yes, I ended with Olivia Newton John. I didn't sing that one as well as the previous four, but who cares? It's karaoke, for cryin' out loud. You've got to bust out with some Olivia. Tom sang three songs, and I snapped this shot while he warbled through Radiohead's "Creep."

The cool things about Encore Karaoke is that they also have a pool table, giving you something else to do while you're waiting to sing. I beat Eric in one pool game (okay, so I didn't actually beat him; he scratched on the eight ball), and then Eric stepped in for me while I sang to best Chris in a game.

Speaking of Eric, I believe he sang four songs. Maybe five. He's super fun to go karaoke-ing (is that a word?) with because he a serious ham. If you can't tell from this photo. So whatever vocal talent he does or doesn't have, he knows how to sell it. He loves to sing, and his choices ran the gamut of genres.

Even Chris got up to sing, which is rare. Chris has really good pitch, but he doesn't think he can sing. So while he will come to a karaoke bar, he generally shuns the microphone. But he got up this time to sing "Rainbow Connection," and it was just so damn cute.

Most of the other people at Encore that night had more enthusiasm than talent, but there were a couple of really good singers. This one woman who sang "Get Here" by Oleta Adams sounded like she was better suited for "American Idol" than a karaoke lounge. She had a very good voice; far better than me and my friends.

At about 11:00, Sheela and her husband Ben joined us. Because of the late arrival, Sheela only got to sing two songs, and one of them was a song Tom had chosen but left before he could sing it. That song would be "Stand By Me," and this is Sheela stopping to smile as she stepped in for Tom. She also sang a totally cute Carpenters song, which got the whole place singing along with her.

The only "bad" part of the evening was the car wreck of a couple sitting near us. I call them a car wreck because we couldn't stop looking at them, even though we really didn't like what we saw. You see, the guy looked to be about 65, and his date/girlfriend/whatever looked about 40. And they made out, to put it mildly, the entire time they were there. They didn't even sing. They came in, sat down, lapped at each other for two hours and then left.

Ick.

It's bad enough to be in the proximity of such a display, but I'm sorry, the obvious difference in their ages made it much, much worse. That said, I've made out in public before; a few times in fact. Although I always have been kissing someone my own age. But nonetheless, I now wonder how embarrassed I should be about my behavior. Even in hindsight. May I say again: ick.

As Tom and Chris were leaving, I got them to stop so I could pose for a photo with the boys. Look at how happy we all are. I'd say a wonderful time was had by all behind the karaoke microphones.

I'm not sure there is any more pure fun than singing songs.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Earthquake

Sometimes things happen that make my job really fun. As weird and even cruel as it may seem to associate a natural disaster with fun, it can be. And let me just say that tonight's earthquake (okay, technically, last night's earthquake) was moderate, and as of now, there have been no reports of major damage or injuries.

So I was able to enjoy the adrenaline and remember why I do what I do for a living. The Little Girls* would be so proud.


*My fondest admiration will be yours if you get that reference.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Gourmet Girl

I am not a cook.

Perhaps it's a good thing I'm not married because if I were (and I'm about to employ traditional marriage role stereotypes merely for the sake of comedy), my poor husband would starve to death. But every once in a while I branch out from the land of fresh fruit and vegetables paired with frozen entrees and attempt to create food from a list of ingredients. Traditionally, those occasions have been a handful of Thanksgiving holidays.

But then last year, I joined Gourmet Group, the lovely members of which are pictured above. My friend Denise introduced me to the group, and so far, I have managed to fool them into thinking I can cook. Well, it's not so much that I fool them as it is that I often can't make it to the "meetings" (also known as pot luck lunches/dinners). So I have been able to access my limited repertoire and show up with "expertly" prepared delicacies.

Unfortunately, as of this weekend's get together, I have officially exhausted the list of things I can cook. Well, technically, I can make pumpkin pie, but I buy canned pumpkin, which is probably cheating.

Anyway, this time around the Gourmet Group theme was "Family Recipes;" so I decided to bring lemon meringue pie. At the holidays my mother always made several desserts: sweet potato pie, apple pie, lemon meringue pie, chocolate cake and pound cake. For the record, I come from a large family, so it made sense for my mom to cook that much. Anyway, not only was lemon meringue pie probably my favorite dessert growing up, but it is sinfully easily to make. At least the recipe I know makes it sinfully easy to make.

That did not stop me from having drama as I tried to prepare my Gourmet Group lemon meringue on Sunday morning. First, I kind of misjudged how much time I would need, so from the get go I was running behind. Then I messed up the eggs. How does one mess up eggs, you may wonder. Well, does it really matter? I managed it, and since I had only purchased the exact number of eggs I needed, I had to go to the grocery store for more.

Once back home with my extra eggs, things went fairly smoothly. Until I realized/remembered I don't own measuring spoons. Did I mention that I don't cook? I managed without the spoons and finished the pie, which, as you can see, turned out okay. It was pretty, and it tasted pretty good, too.

Gourmet Group was fun and delicious, and all the other women seemed impressed with my pie. Poor foolish things. We had lots of other tasty treats, too. I ate way too much, but it was totally worth it. I'm not sure what I'll do when the next Gourmet Group comes along since I've already worked my way through all the recipes I know. All four of them. Well, we'll see.

Maybe I can start bringing drinks to every gathering.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 33

Sinister Dexter at Grant and Green

It takes a lot to get me to go out in North Beach on a weekend evening these days. What is one of the City's most delightful neighborhoods on, say, a Wednesday afternoon is downright horrifying on Friday and Saturday nights. But the lure of my friend Kate and a little live music did the trick, and last night I found myself out and about. In North Beach.

Kate and I became friends a couple of years ago when she dated my friend Brad. For a while in 2005 we were all kind of a buddy threesome, with Kate even telling me once she thought Brad and I would end up together because of our strong friendship chemistry. (No offense to Brad, but I laughed at that one.) But then Kate and Brad broke up, and a few months later, he and I drifted apart. So I've only seen Kate once or twice in the last year and a half or so. Well, she and I have decided to make a concerted effort to hang out more, and she suggested taking in her friend Josh's band, Sinister Dexter. Between being intrigued by the description of Sinister Dexter as a swing/funk/brass band and always being up for live music, I readily agreed, and we were off and running.

Kate and I began our evening with a few cocktails at Tony Nik's, a bar I used to frequent quite often until the night-time North Beach crowds and some subtle changes in TN's vibe drove me elsewhere. But I still go there every once in a while, and Kate and I spent at least one epic night there in... again... 2005. So it made sense as our starting point. After sipping a few cocktails meticulously crafted by the fabulous Darin, we took the party a few blocks away to Grant and Green, where Sinister Dexter was playing.

Sinister Dexter was just beginning their second set as we arrived, and within two songs I was in love with them. This 12-piece band has a 7-man horn section. That's right, two trombones, two trumpets and three saxophones. I love brass instruments and instantly developed crushes on all the horn players just because I could. The lead singer was the tiniest bit annoying because, as the only woman in the outfit, she seemed to be trying a little too hard to be sexy and draw attention to herself. That said, she also has a fantastic voice and sings better than I likely can even dream of singing. So I'm probably a little jealous.

Musically, Sinister Dexter's sound is exactly as Kate described it: a swing/funk/brass mix. Their original numbers were nestled alongside covers of everything from Louis Prima's "Jump, Jive and Wail" to Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" to the Blues Brothers' "Hey, Bartender" (a parody version of which I used to sing with Fake Band) to the Ike and Tina Turner version of "Proud Mary." They were so good and had so much energy. Kate, who went to Stanford, tells me that most of the guys are former Stanford band geeks, which makes me love them even more. Say the words "band geek," and you may as well be saying "Sassy's dream man." (A little sad but very true.)

Before I knew it, it was almost 2 a.m. and the staff of Grant and Green were ushering us all out the door. I have a very active social life and go out a lot, but at my advanced age, it is rare that I'm still at a bar at closing time. All in all, I'd give the evening an "A+." I had actually been feeling pretty low all day (stupid emotions!), but Kate and Sinister Dexter pulled me right out of that nonsense. After all, friends are great therapy, and as I've said on this space before, music never lets you down.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fine Art Afternoon

About eight years ago, I had a conversation with my friend Biraj, during which he lamented the fact that he had no girlfriend. Biraj often did that (still does), but I distinctly remember this particular exchange because Biraj said that without a significant other with whom to enjoy it, he was missing much of what San Francisco has to offer. Including and especially the museums.

With all due respect to the lovely and talented Biraj, I am nothing like that. Well, not that I don't occasionally whine about being single, but I do not let the lack of a boyfriend stop me from doing anything. Like treating myself to the Peter Max and the Summer of Love exhibition at the de Young Museum this afternoon.

Okay, in all honesty, this was the first time I'd been to the de Young. I've visited SF Moma, the Academy of Sciences and the San Francisco Museum of Arts and Crafts, but before today, not the de Young. But that's mostly because until recently, I never knew exactly where in Golden Gate Park I could find it. And then there was that whole de Young renovation, funding, parking drama that I never completely understood. Anyway, I stumbled upon the de Young a week and a half ago as I was making my way to Emily and James' Octoberfest barbecue in Speedway Meadow, and I made a mental note. I had been meaning to take in the Peter Max exhibition for several weeks, and it is closing on Sunday, so I knew I had to get on it.

I have to admit, I was a little underwhelmed by the de Young's Peter Max collection. Make no mistake, the pictures are fabulous; there just aren't very many of them. What the de Young does have an abundance of, however, is gift shops. A large one on every floor, as a matter of fact, with at least two small satellite shops that I noticed. I also meandered through the Nan Kempner American Chic exhibition, which was interesting until I realized that I basically was looking at the contents of a dead, wealthy woman's closet. That said, Mrs. Kempner did own a Pierre Cardin little black dress that I am certain would look fabulous on me. The only problem being that Mrs. Kempner's dress is probably at least three sizes too small for me, and none of the many de Young gift shops were selling any Pierre Cardin knock-offs in multiple sizes.

Whatever.

It may seem like I didn't like the de Young, but actually I very much did. And today I barely made a dent in all this museum has to offer. So I definitely will have to go back. I may even become a member; one fee entitles me to membership at both the de Young and the Legion of Honor. That wouldn't be bad at all.

On my way home from the de Young, I stopped by my version of a crack den: Borders. I simply cannot walk in that place without buying something, and today was no different. I was probably there for only ten minutes, but that was plenty of time for me to procure two paperbacks. Yes, two more books, even though I have literal stacks that have yet to be read. Not to mention my pile of New Yorker magazines that gets bigger and bigger every week.

I need serious help. Well, I suppose there are worse addictions than purchasing literature.

Tonight I am comfortably settled at home and switching between "Pushing Daisies" and Game One of the World Series (where the Red Sox are currently spanking the Rockies; yay) on my television set. Tomorrow I'm going with Valerie to see After the Quake at Berkeley Rep, and on Friday, Kate and I are going to see a swing/funk/brass band (whatever that may sound like) in North Beach.

All of this amid deliciously warm weather around the Bay. We need more days like this, my friends.

*Peter Max picture courtesy of gallerym.com

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tearing Up Tinsel Town

Well, I didn't exactly tear anything up, but I did have a fabulous time down in the City of Angels. My trip began Wednesday afternoon with my usual run down Los Feliz Boulevard. That evening, my sister Fabulous Patti introduced me to my new favorite restaurant, Fred 62 (see previous post). After that, we went to The Brass Monkey, a karaoke lounge in L.A.'s Koreatown.

The Brass Monkey is unlike any other karaoke lounge. Well, that's not totally true. It actually seemed to be a very typical karaoke lounge, except that virtually no one there on Wednesday night could sing. And the place was pretty crowded. Talented singers or not, they were nonetheless the most attentive karaoke audience I've ever seen, with people singing along and cheering for me, an unknown tourist, when I finally got up to the microphone. See if anyone at The Mint pays you any attention if you're not a regular there. Plus, one woman at The Brass Monkey sang the theme song from "The Greatest American Hero." She didn't sing it very well, but it was still one of the most brilliant karaoke moments I have ever witnessed.

On Thursday night, FP and I met my high school friend Kristie in Silver Lake for dinner at the Edendale Grill and a post dinner cocktail at the Mixville Bar. Delicious food was consumed and enlightened conversation was had on the patio in front of the converted firehouse that is now the Edendale Grill. Yummy. That's a photo of myself with Kristie just before our feast began. Fabulous Patti and I decided to go to The Derby after dinner, and that was... well, just a little disappointing. The space is really cool with two stages of live music happening at once, but only one of the many bands playing Thursday night was any good. Some of the boys in the place were kind of cute, but they tended to hang on girls who looked like poster children for drug abuse. I'm not usually so catty when it comes to other women, but these girls were something else. Maybe I'm getting old because I seem to have missed the memo proclaiming the heroin chic look back in vogue.

Friday turned out to be somewhat of a lazy day, but who cares? I was on vacation, after all. After my run, I lounged around Fabulous Patti's apartment while she took a nap. We then ordered Chinese food from a delicious restaurant in Hollywood before heading out to Atwater Village to meet some other friends of mine from high school.

Emily and Dionne (pictured here with Fabulous Patti and myself) were part of this group of decidedly cool kids two years ahead of me in high school. They not only listened to all the good music, but they actually went to live music shows years before such a habit became a regular part of my life. I may have known the Three O'Clock, but Emily and Dionne were at the clubs watching them play while I was at home listening to them on Rodney's Sunday night show on KROQ. Emily now works for the city of Los Angeles; Dionne is a professor at Loyola Marymount University; and we all caught up on what has shaped our lives over the past twenty years. We met at the Big Foot Lodge and sipped girl scout cookie cocktails (that's really what they were called) while we dished on all things Poly (our little private high school in Pasadena), politics and L.A., in general.

Once back in the City by the Bay on Saturday afternoon, I had to get cute and scoot to my friend Anne's wedding in Berkeley. Hey, Anne is also a friend of mine from high school; apparently, it was an all-high school weekend for me. Anyway, Anne and her now-husband Stoycho were married at Cafe de la Paz near the U. C. Berkeley campus. They used the theme from "The Pink Panther" as their wedding music, and we all dined on delicious Argentinian food while the wine and sangria flowed at the reception. I was able to pin the bride down for a photo before I left. This is Anne (second from the left), along with Keri, me and their friend Stephen before Keri, Stephen and I made our exit.

Today, after laundry and a very long run/walk across almost the entire city, it was back to work. I suppose all good things must come to an end, including mini-vacations. Oh, well.

This is totally off the subject, but the Red Sox won the ALCS tonight and are going to the World Series. Yay.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Whenever You Want It

From the menu of my new favorite restaurant, Fred 62 on Vermont Avenue in Los Feliz:

Beer served from 6:30 a.m. until 1:30 a.m.

Just in case you were wondering.

(For the record, morning, noon and night beer service is not what makes the fabulous retro-cool but still modern diner that is Fred 62 my new favorite snack joint. I've yet to even have a beer there. But I can't say it hurts, either.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

From McGrath's to Mulholland

Sometimes life takes you from one extreme to another. Okay, we're not really talking extremes here, but nonetheless.

Last night, I made a triumphant return to the open mic at McGrath's in Alameda (pictured here... for the record, I don't know who those guys are) to sing with Rosa. Perhaps it's an overstatement to call my return triumphant, but it certainly was fun. Some of the regulars now know me and were very friendly last night, even though I haven't been there in two months or so.

Rosa sang "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor, along with two of her original songs. She was, of course, amazing. I just sent her an email offering my services as fan club president when she puts her real band together. I also told her I'd be her occasional back-up singer, if she wants one. As for me last night, I sang "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac and one of my old stand-bys, Keane's "Somewhere Only We know." Ironically, I was nervous about "Landslide" because last night was the first time Rosa and I had performed it together, and we'd had to spend a little time working out some kinks beforehand. But that number went really well. However, when we got to "Somewhere Only We Know," a song I've sang at McGrath's before, as well as several karaoke bars, I kind of forgot the words. I do that a lot with that song; I have know idea what my problem is.

Luckily Rosa pulled a major Wayne Gretzky and saved the song by playing the verse chords until I found my way back to the right lyrics. Actually, she thought she'd messed up and was trying to figure out where she was, but either way, it worked. I managed to remember what verse I was supposed to be singing, and we made it to the chorus unscathed.

There were some other good performances last night, too. One band was a duo that called themselves Peter and the Wolf. I think the singer/songwriter was named Peter, making his bass player the Wolf, I suppose. They were pretty good. Then, after Rosa and I had wowed the crowd, this guy who looked about 16 years old took to the mic. He sang "What I Got" by Sublime, "Under the Bridge" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, some song neither Rosa nor I had ever heard before about the vulgar manner of having sex, and "Bubble Toes" by Jack Johnson. He was my favorite not only because he looked so young and innocent and not only because he sang well, but because he forgot the words to all of his songs. If he even knew them in the first place. Let's just say I could relate to that.

So that was then, and this is now, and this afternoon I write to you from sunny Los Angeles. I'm not on Mulholland Drive at the moment, but Mulholland sounded better alongside McGrath's in this post title. Where I am is Los Feliz, happily looking out at the Griffith Park Observatory. I'm about to go jogging along Los Feliz Boulevard, and tonight, I'm dragging my sister, Fabulous Patti, to karaoke. Tomorrow night, I'm going to have dinner and cocktails in Silver Lake with FP, my friend Kristie and hopefully, my friend Debbie, who just moved here to work for Barack Obama's campaign. And on Friday, I'll be catching up with some high school friends, two of whom I haven't seen in 20 years!

Then on Saturday, it's back to the Bay for Anne's wedding in Berkeley.

I'm no fortune teller, but I'd say it's going to be a good few days. I'll say hello to Hollywood Boulevard for you.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 32

The Sweet Hollywaiians and the Frisky Frolics at the Make Out Room

I must tell you, dear readers, I was in a positively crap-tastic mood on Friday night. The reasons why don't matter (plus, it's possible I don't really remember them), but what does matter is that I was certain, absolutely certain, nothing could pull me out of my crabbiness. I actually considered calling all the friends I was planning to meet that evening to cancel so I could just go home and sulk.

And then, at about 7:45, I walked into the Make Out Room.

Remember a couple of posts ago when I told you that music never lets you down? Well, in case you needed more evidence, here it is. I had ventured over to the Make Out Room to see the Frisky Frolics and the Sweet Hollywaiians perform. The Frisky Frolics opened the show. They describe themselves as "Tin Pan Alley Troubadours," and two of the members are also in Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen. So I knew I'd like them.

Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed. The Frisky Frolics are, in fact, quite a lot of fun. It also helped that the audience was populated by people who were on their way to some kind of crazy costume party, and they were decked out in powdered wigs, tights and platform shoes. Those people were as entertaining as the band. I was pretty sad to see them leave as they made their way to their party.

After the Frolics, the Sweet Hollywaiians took the stage. With completely stoic looks on their faces, the band members treated the crowd to tune after tune of 20's and 30's Hawaiian, swing, ragtime fun. My friend Tom showed up about halfway through the Sweet Hollwaiians' set, and he was instantly sorry he'd been late. Well, we bought cd's, so Tom only had to be disappointed temporarily.

Things went a little downhill after the show was over, however. The good news is that Carolyn and her sister joined us, but the bad news is that the Make Out Room went through an instant transformation the second the bands were done. For one thing, throngs of people poured in (Tom speculated they had been waiting for the moment they wouldn't have to pay the live music cover charge), and unfortunately, my dear Make Out Room suddenly became a frat party. We endured one drink before running for our lives; Tom went home, while Carolyn, Aisha and I went to a wine bar a couple of blocks away. The wine bar was much more sane.

It's sad when a good bar becomes a frat party. Even temporarily.

In other sassy happenings... I finished reading Valley of the Dolls this weekend, and I've decided it just may be the best book ever. Ever. Here's what I've learned from the Jacqueline Susann masterpiece: nice girls finish last. Dead last. Poor Anne Welles almost made it out unscathed; she came this close. Also, it's pretty entertaining to read a story featuring a character so obviously based on Judy Garland (that would be Neely). It wasn't even subtle. I'm tempted to read more Jacqueline Susann, but do you think any of her other books could be as good? I doubt it.

(And yes, a woman with an Ivy League degree in English and American Literature just wrote that last paragraph. Just goes to show, you never know what you'll find deliciously entertaining.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is It Wrong...

... that I didn't dress properly for the weather today, and since I didn't have time to go home this afternoon as it was turning colder, I stopped into Banana Republic and bought myself a brand new coat instead?

Well, right or wrong, that's exactly what I did. Right between my singing lesson and my afternoon facial.

Now, I already had been eyeing this coat (pictured here), so it wasn't an entirely impulsive purchase. The reality, however, is that I don't need another new coat; I've bought three in the last seven or eight months. But as you can see, this one is green and just oh, so cute.

Apparently, I can never stop working. Someone has got to keep the financial tank full against all the spending.

Hey, you want to know a secret? In a couple of hours I'm auditioning for a band! I'm not sure I really want to be in this band, but it will be fun to sing with them this evening.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Creeping Toward the Dark Side

My little singing hobby is poised to turn me into a person I've always judged. A person I immediately deem a loser without even knowing him or her. A person I've never really wanted to know.

That would be a person who does karaoke on a regular basis.

And so loves their karaoke habit that they will swing by a karaoke lounge alone just to sing a song or two.

I'm not quite there yet, but I'm dangerously close. Now, I do think hanging out in a karaoke lounge alone is probably better than hanging out in a regular bar alone, but just barely. At least in a karaoke lounge singing, good or bad, is the focus, as opposed to just alcohol. And honestly, the last few times I've done karaoke, I've eschewed the liquor and just sipped sparkling water while I awaited my turn at the microphone.

Believe me, I have no delusions that my life has not taken a pathetic turn, but that's the way it goes sometimes, I suppose. Last night, Sheela and I went out for a karaoke evening. We have confirmed that they no longer feature karaoke at Julie's Supper Club (stinky Julie's!), so we were on the hunt for another good venue. Our quest lead us to Amnesia on Valencia, where they have Rock Out Karaoke on Tuesday nights. Sheela and I both love Amnesia and were excited about the possibility.

However, once there, we discovered that maybe that particular karaoke night isn't for us. First of all, the crowd was a tiny bit... um... okay, I'll just say it: scary. I have, at various times in my life, fancied myself a Mission hipster, but the Mission types who showed up for karaoke last night at Amnesia were nothing like me. It may be because I'm getting old. Or I'm not as hip as I believe I am. Or. I am hip, but these people really were just scary.

Any of those explanations are plausible.

If the crowd wasn't enough (and for the record all the people were very nice... well, except maybe the guy who took Sheela to task for supporting Hillary Clinton), when we sang, we learned that Amnesia's sound system isn't really that conducive to karaoke. We could each hear the music but not ourselves. Only when I really belted my notes out, could I hear myself. That may explain why everyone who sang before me seemed to be yelling; that's the only way the poor dears could hear what they were doing. Not to mention, the bathrooms at Amnesia are more frightening than the crowd. And I'm a girl who has been in plenty of bar bathrooms.

All of that said, however, I can't say I won't give karaoke at Amnesia another try one day.

But last night, Sheela and I bolted from Amnesia after one song each and went to.... yes... the Mint. It was crowded at first, but a birthday party soon cleared out, leaving all of 10 of us in the place. Perfect. It took forever for my songs to come up, and I would accuse the guy running the karaoke of pandering to the regulars, but honestly, I think he was just unorganized. As we were leaving, a poor guy in town on business from New York, tried to talk Sheela and me into staying and hanging out with him, but we declined. He was actually kind of cute, if a little cheesy (he'd been at the Balboa Cafe before coming to the Mint), but he was a stranger, and it was almost 1 a.m.

It was when he tried to persuade us to meet him there tonight that it happened. I came precariously close to the Dark Side. Sheela turned down the guy's invitation for tonight outright, but I am going to a playreading at a cafe somewhat near the Mint. So I took the lonely fellow's card and told him I'd call him if I felt like singing after my playreading. Now, I have very little, if any, intention of calling the New York business traveler, but the idea of swinging by the Mint for a song or two is actually very appealing. Even if I go by myself. Not to mention that Encore Karaoke (mentioned in a previous post on this space) is a place I imagine I'd feel comfortable going alone.

See, I'm on the verge of becoming one of those tragic karaoke people. The good news is that my work schedule, which has been a bit wacky for the past month, is about to get back to normal. So I'll be going to open mic in Alameda next Tuesday to sing with Rosa. The open mic we go to is a little pathetic in it's own right, but it's a step or 10 above karaoke.

I think I really just need to join a band. However well I do or don't sing.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Music That Always Makes Me the Happiest

The Go-Go's. All the time. They also happened to play at The Independent last night.

If you know me at all, you know that the Go-Go's are my favorite band. Yes, my very favorite. Above the Beatles, above Buddy Holly, above the English Beat and above a host of other musicians whom I love and will admit are more talented than the Go-Go's. But the music these five women write and play has made me incredibly happy since early 1982. At this point, I could launch into a review of last night's show, but it's a familiar story. It was a sold out club show; you know that goes. It was crowded, but the venue is small enough that you had a good view from anywhere. The Go-Go's looked great and sounded better (I think Belinda Carlisle has even taken some singing lessons recently) as they tore through their set.

Instead of all those details, however, I'll simply say this....

In 1992 Nick Hornby released his first book, the autobiographical Fever Pitch, about a man and his love for his football (or soccer, as we call it here in the Colonies) team. The book was made into a movie in England in 1997. That film was adapted into an American version by the Farrelly brothers in 2005. For the American film, soccer was replaced by baseball, with the Boston Red Sox serving as the team over which the protagonist obsesses. Ironically, the Farrellys had to re-work their script during filming when the Red Sox went to the playoffs and then won the 2004 World Series, but that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.

Anyway, in the American film, my incredibly clever fantasy husband Jimmy Fallon (yes, I know he's married to another woman in real life, but whatever) plays the hapless Red Sox fan at the center of the film, and at one point, he utters this line:

"... the Red Sox never let you down.... they haven't won a World Series in a century or so... So what? They're here. Every April, they're here. At 1:05 or 7:05 there is a game. And if it gets rained out, guess what? They make it up to you. Does anyone else in your life do that?"*

Well, the way Jimmy Fallon's Fever Pitch character feels about the Red Sox is the way I feel about music. Music never lets you down. Even if your favorite band breaks up, you'll always have their records. Plus, until the members start to die, there is potential for a reunion tour. And frankly, even death doesn't stop some bands (INXS, anyone?). There are so many things in life that can let you down: jobs, general circumstances, people, the weather. Hell, we even let ourselves down on occasion; at least I do.

But music. Music never lets you down. No matter what, your favorite songs, albums, concertos and symphonies will always be there for you.

And for the music, I say to the Go-Go's: thank you, ladies. Thank you. You may not be Buddy Holly, the Beatles or Marvin Gaye, but I still thank you for 25... well, 30, really, years of happiness. And counting.

*thanks to imdb.com for the exact Fever Pitch line quotation

Friday, October 05, 2007

Angela Made Me Do It

Okay, perhaps it isn't nice to pass responsibility for my indulgent purchases onto someone else, but here's what happened.

Last week (or thereabouts) Angela told me she had ordered a fabulous pair of Cole Haan shoes online. They were perhaps a bit out of her budget, but they were so cute. Which, as you can see from the photo, they are. Being the excellent enabler that I am, I assured Angela that these shoes were, in fact, a worthwhile purchase.

That would be the entire story, except... I saw the shoes in Bloomingdales last night. And purchased them this morning. The ones I got are slightly different than Angela's, but they're basically the same. The only difference is that mine are regular leather with just a patent leather toe, as opposed to all patent leather. How is it that I've never felt an ounce of peer pressure to do hard drugs or even smoke pot, but a friend of mine buys herself an expensive pair of shoes and I procure virtually the same pair mere days later?

Perhaps shopping is its own drug.

P.S. For the record, Angela is still mulling over the wisdom of spending so much money on shoes and may return her pair. I assure you, I'm keeping mine.