Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sly Stone Would Be Proud

Because it was a sassy family affair at lunchtime today.

My uncle Kevin is in town from Rochester; so I met him and my Aunt Mary and Uncle David (they live here) for an early lunch at the Ferry Building this morning. As we were waiting for The Slanted Door to open, we decided to pose in front of the Bay. That's me with Mary and Kevin. Then, at about 11:04, the host unlocked the door, and we poured, alongside about eight other people who had been waiting with their faces pressed against the glass, into The Slanted Door for snacks.

Can you say yum? We had Shaking Beef, Lemongrass Tofu and Five-Spice Grilled Chicken. Mary, David and Kevin also shared a bottle of Cab Franc, but I had to work, so I had lemonade. If you've been to The Slanted Door, you know how delicious it was. I still miss The Slanted Door's old location in The Mission, but I'm okay with enjoying a bay view while I savor my beef and tofu.

I spend a lot more time with my friends, and in a lot of ways I'm a very independent person, but there is something wonderful about family. Nothing compares to the often dysfunctional bonds created by insane people thrown together at the whim of the universe. Family also serves as a little glimpse of the past and a nice reminder of the factors that made me... well, me.

That can either be comforting or scary, and I choose to see it as comforting.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy(?) Memorial Day

We Americans will use any excuse to party.

One would think a holiday intended to honor the country's war dead would be solemn in tone. Perhaps emotional. Even understated. Well, it is all of those things, but over the years, Memorial Day weekend has also become the unofficial start of summer. Which means parties.

Being the patriotic girl that I am, every year at this time I go to Tom, Nick and Chris' annual Memorial Day weekend barbecue. In fact, I believe myself to be the only guest that has attended all ten of these yearly affairs. Tom is the only one of the hosts to have attended all ten, as well. So of course, he and I had to snap this photo at last night's festivities.

Back in 1998, Tom and his then-roommates Valerie and Wendy had a small barbecue on Memorial Day for their theatre crowd friends, of which I was one. Through the years, the roommates residing with Tom in his Potrero Hill flat have changed, but the party has remained a constant. The only change was the move of party date from Memorial Day to the day before Memorial Day. Oh, there was one other change. In 2002 they actually had the party in June because of holiday weekend conflicts among the hosts, but that didn't go over very well. It worked out for me because I had been at my ten-year reunion at Brown during Memorial Day weekend that year, but overall, 2002 did not yield the most successful Memorial Day party.

Flash forward to 2007, and the party has grown exponentially. I would guess about 15 people attended the first gathering in 1998, but this year, Tom, Nick and Chris invited about 400 people. Obviously not everyone could attend, but Tom, Nick and Chris managed to corral a rather healthy crowd into their backyard. The guests come from all walks of life these days, too, as opposed to just the theatre community.

The party is about 12 hours long, and this year I took in the evening portion of the affair because I had to work during the day yesterday. Once safely nestled into the celebration, I indulged in delicious snacks and got to hang out with not only my hosts but also with Valerie, Kevin, Adam, Eric, Andrey, Irina and tons of others. Plus, as is the case every year, I met some fun, creative new people, too. The backyard featured all the snacks and drinks we could want, as well as a DJ (a first for the Memorial Day party); while guests were treated to extra warmth, portable karaoke and Nintendo Wii inside.

I made it through about five hours of the 12-hour extravaganza, but it was a good five hours. I look forward to the party for Memorial Day weekend 2008.

Friday, May 25, 2007

It Was 15 Years Ago Today...

No one taught the band to play, but I did walk out the Van Wickle Gates and officially graduate from Brown University.

Something about me you should (and likely already do) know: college had a sizable effect on my life. I loved Brown and never regretted my decision to go there instead of hoity toity Harvard. Not that Brown isn't also very prestigious, but even at eighteen years old, I knew I wanted my college years to be about the experience, as opposed to the name on my diploma. Don't get me wrong, Harvard is obviously an incredible school. However, my point is that I wanted to go to Brown, and no acceptance letter from any other university or bigger bragging rights based on the fame of any potential alma mater would stop me.

My primary extra curricular activity at Brown inspired me to go into my chosen profession. My confidence in my intelligence was solidified in college. Some work I did for one of my literature professors can be found today on the Internet. I believe at least part of my conviction that class and money are totally unrelated to be a result of my educational experience (both high school and college). I took a semester abroad and got to study in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1991. Yes, I could have done that while a student at any university, but I give Brown credit. Plus, I met some incredibly brilliant people. Okay, that also could and would have happened at any university, but you get the picture.

Now, at this point you might be wondering if there is a reunion to commemorate this 15th anniversary of my graduation. Well, in fact there is. It's going on right now, and I am not there. I decided in March that I would save the vacation days I would need to make a trip to Rhode Island and use them instead for another Hawaiian vacation in September.

So I am here in San Francisco this weekend instead of at Brown. I was even on the reunion committee, too.

I am a terrible alumna? Well, I still love Brown.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 31

The Three O'Clock and The Bees

Sometimes I am reminded of excellent music taste from my past. Perhaps because I was in my hometown two weeks ago, I have found myself thinking a lot lately about The Three O'Clock. I have been a fan of these prominent members of L.A.'s Paisley Underground for decades. Driven by this recollection, I hopped onto You Tube last weekend and found The Three O'Clock's 1983 performance on MV3, a Los Angeles music show which aired on terrestrial television (a very good thing for us Los Angelenos who were not yet wired for cable and, as a consequence, couldn't have our MTV).

Ah, The Three O'Clock. "Sorry," "The Girl with the Guitar" (which is quoted on my high school senior yearbook page, thank you very much), "Jet Fighter," "With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend." All excellent ditties.

Despite my love of The Three O'Clock, however, I don't actually own any of their albums. Or more accurately, I should say I didn't own any until now. I assumed all their records to be out of print at this point, but how wrong I was. So now, grossly incorrect assumption behind me, I am in possession of four Three O'Clock albums on two compact discs. It's like loving the '60's in the '80's all over again.

While sometimes I am reminded of excellent music taste from my past, other times I am simply a Jane Come Lately. And that is the case when it comes to The Bees (known here in the states as A Band of Bees).

The Bees quietly slipped into my orbit Tuesday afternoon by way of a simple email from All Music. How I had not previously been aware of this indie/psychedelia outfit, I cannot explain. I'm starting small with The Bees; I have purchased three songs from iTunes, my favorite of which may be "Chicken Payback." Of course the other two numbers, "These Are Ghosts" and "One Glass of Water," are pretty darn good, too. So maybe it's unfair to pick just one favorite.

I look forward to many a rendezvous with The Bees.

So that's what I've been listening to this week. Here's what I've been doing. After work on Tuesday I scooted to Brainwash to see Daydrinker. I actually was supposed to get together with them tonight to kind of audition to sing with them. However, Higgins had to cancel, so we're rescheduling for next week. I hope I'm good enough to become a musical Daydrinker. After all, I'm already well versed in the non-musical practice of afternoon imbibing.

I worked an extra day on Wednesday, after which I met the girls in Gourmet Group for a delicious dinner. I made my famous chicken salad, which means Gourmet Group has now been treated to two of the four dishes I know how to make. If I continue to be an active Gourmet Group member, I'm going to need to learn some new recipes. This afternoon I went to the East Bay for my weekly singing lesson with Best Friend, and tonight I'm meeting my friend Kate at the Latin American Club. I haven't seen Kate in more than a year, so we have a lot of catching up to do.

Then it's back to work tomorrow (weekends are awfully short when they're only one day long), but on Sunday I'm going to Tom and Chris' annual Memorial Day party. This is the tenth such gathering, and I have attended every one. Tom, Chris and their third roommate, Nick, have invited about 400 people. So it's bound to be a good time.

Now bad for a backyard get together, I'd say.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Theatre That's Making Me Happy Today, vol 14

Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist at Berkeley Rep

Back in the '60's, a young Davy Jones played the Artful Dodger in the musical Oliver!. Jones would later find international fame as a member of The Monkees, and Oliver! would become a popular film that left audiences humming tunes like "Consider Yourself" and "Food, Glorious Food" for decades to come.

Well, the current production of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist at Berkeley Rep is nothing like that.

For one thing, it's not a musical, even though some pitch perfect a capella vocals do punctuate the action at varying points in the show. It's also much darker than Oliver! could ever dream of being. I have to admit, I have never read Oliver Twist, even though I count myself among Dickens fans. However, according to the young actor who plays Oliver (as well as many others, I imagine), the Oliver Twist running in Berkeley is much more similar in tone to the novel.

But above all else, it is really, really good.

If you think an adaptation of a nearly 200-year old book can't be provoking or relevant in 2007, think again. Plus, in what I have come to recognize as grand Berkeley Rep tradition, the show features some incredible acting. Sometimes bringing a classic to life in the 21st century is just the kind of theatre we need to make us happy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

And In Time, We All Were Stars

My friend Biraj is in town from New York this week, so tonight (well, technically last night, as it is early Thursday morning) we got together at Julie's Supper Club with our friend Sheela and a bunch of Biraj's other buddies. Biraj is another friend from my days as an actor. He and I met at a playreading mere weeks after I moved to San Francisco, and then we did a couple of plays together in 1999 and 2000. And it was Biraj who introduced me to Sheela after he met her at a commercial audition in 1999. We commemorated our night together with this photo.

Anyway, I've written about this before, but it bears repeating. On Wednesday nights, Julie's Supper Club transforms from a sophisticated, hipster watering hole to a paradise of the greatest of all art forms: karaoke.

You may wonder if we sang. Oh, hell yes, we sang. Here I am letting my inner chanteuse break free. If you look closely and know the words of the song, you will be able to ascertain that I am, in fact, singing Dolly Parton. I also, with varying degrees of success, warbled my way through tunes by the Pretenders, Belinda Carlisle and Olivia Newton John. Now, before all you music snobs recoil in horror at the mere mention of Olivia and Belinda, please be reminded that one is supposed to select cheesy songs for karaoke. If you're going to waste time worrying about being cool, why are you there?

That said, Biraj actually kicked my ass in performing category. Not that he can sing at all. In fact, he's tone deaf. However, what he lacks in talent, he makes up for in charisma, which is, of course, the entire point of karaoke. He and his friend Woody sang tandem on a couple of songs, including "Peaches" by the Presidents of the United States of America, which I believe is what they're belting out in this photo.

Sheela also bellied up to the microphone, selecting songs by Meredith Brooks, Avril Lavigne (whom her daughter loves) and REO Speedwagon. Talk about an entertaining evening. We had cocktails, but with all that expert singing, we didn't even need liquor.

Ah, yes. I have my singing lesson this afternoon, which is probably a very good thing.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Cue Peaches & Herb Song Here

On Saturday evening I found myself in beautiful Pasadena, where I engaged in the final act of my mini-vacation by attending the all-alumni reunion for my high school's 100th birthday. "All alumni?" you ask. Yes. The honorable Polytechnic School is private, so inviting all living alumni to an event is not a terribly daunting task. And of course, not everyone showed up.

But a couple of friends of mine and I did. Since all three of us are single, my friends Kristie, Gabriella and I (pictured above) went to the event as each other's "dates."

There were plenty of other alums there, as well, including several from our class of 1988. (Yes, we're that old.) Based on these photos, it may look like the only students at Poly were girls. Worry not, plenty of boys went there, and many even attended the reunion. These are just the best pictures.

I get very nostalgic every time I go back to my high school, which, technically, is also my junior high and grammar school. I went to dear Poly for 11 years... from 2nd grade through high school graduation. It wasn't perfect, if for no other reason than we all have to experience our secondary educations while we are adolescents. However, much like my beloved Brown University, Poly played a really large part in creating the person I am today. At risk of sounding egotistical, I'm going to tell you that the person I am today is pretty neato. I believe myself to be fairly well-grounded. Plus, I have really good values and never-ending confidence in my intelligence. I do bring along my own special brand of dysfunction, but overall, I qualify as neato.

For all of that, I am truly grateful. Of course, my family has something to do with the person I have become, but still... Thank you, Poly. And happy 100th birthday! You still look young and vivacious to me.

Now, aside from the reunion, plenty of other fun times shaped the second half of my Los Angeles sojourn. As I mentioned in an edit to my last post, I ventured into Hollywood twice on Friday. That afternoon, I met my friend Assaf for lunch, where we posed for this lovely photograph. Assaf and I met ten years ago, when we were both actors in San Francisco. Five years and a Rutgers graduate degree in theatre later, Assaf moved to Southern California to become a big time tv and movie star, and by and large, he's done it. You regularly can find him on your television screen or at your local cineplex.

That night, Mr. Gowdy, another San Francisco transplant (okay, he's originally from New England, but I don't hold that against him), and I went out for cocktails. First, he directed Fabulous Patti and me to Tiki Ti, a teeny, tiny tiki bar on Sunset. I should have snapped a photo in that place, because it was hysterical. The size of a closet with drinks that pack a wallop, Tiki Ti may become a regular stop for me when I pay the City of Angels a visit. Once Mr. Gowdy arrived, Tiki Ti was packed. So Fabulous Patti bid us farewell, and Mr G. and I took off for the Cat and Fiddle, one of the only bars in Hollywood I've actually been to before. Once settled on the Cat and Fiddle's patio, we sipped beer (Chimay for me, Guinness for him) and talked about everything. And I mean everything.

To give you an idea of the caliber of fun that was had on Friday, here are a couple of quotes:
"I didn't see anything fly out of your butt."--Fabulous Patti.
"Are you sure your hair isn't going to catch on fire?"--Mr. Gowdy.
In context those lines aren't quite as random, but they still paint a picture, don't they?

My mini-vacation was so much fun, I didn't want to come home. However, I did and am settling back into my San Francisco routine. Including work. My job is great, but wouldn't it be wonderful if life consisted simply of getting together with old friends, cocktailing and generally just playing? I wonder how I get that life.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Hooray For Hollywood

Okay, so I haven't been to Hollywood on this trip, but "Hooray for Los Feliz" doesn't sound quite as glamorous. Nor does "Hooray for Anaheim," to say the least. Anyway, here's a little recap of how I have spent the first 32 hours or so of my mini-vacation.

1. Patronized the Los Feliz Pinkberry twice already. What is Pinkberry, you may ask? Well, it's a new low calorie, nonfat frozen dessert that is apparently, according to its website, only available in New York and Los Angeles. They call it frozen yogurt, but it tastes more like, quoting Fabulous Patti here, "a creamier version of sherbet." I've had it with strawberries, kiwi and bananas on top, as well as Cocoa Pebbles. Yummy.

2. Gone running through Los Feliz while being careful not to run too far up Hollywood Boulevard. Because who knows where that will lead me.

3. On Phil's recommendation, had dinner last night at the Rustic Canyon, a wine bar in Santa Monica. The wine was delicious, and as for the dining experience... I have four words for you: rocky road bread pudding. Do you really need to know anything else?

4. Had dinner tonight at the Dresden Room Restaurant while Marty and Elaine serenaded the crowd on the other side of the wall in the lounge. It was so very old-school Hollywood, I expected William Holden and Lana Turner to walk in at any moment. For the record, if you don't know who Marty and Elaine are, stop reading this blog and see Swingers immediately.

5. Taken the Los Angeles Metro. That may not seem like a big deal to you, but to a girl who grew up in the Driving Capital of the Universe, accessible public transit in this town is momentous. And the Metro here is very clean and polite. Probably because it's relatively new.

6. Worshipped at the home of the Mouse: Disneyland. My friend Gabriella and I spent this afternoon in the Magic Kingdom, and it was wonderful. For one thing, there were no lines, whatsoever. We never had to wait more than maybe ten minutes for a ride, and on some rides, like the Indiana Jones one, we basically walked right on. Add some cotton candy, which we did, and you have a perfect theme park day. By the way, if you're thinking, "Hey, they've made a couple of very successful movies based on Pirates of the Caribbean. I wonder if they've altered the ride to reflect that," the answer would be yes. A Johnny Depp replica pirate is now featured in the famous attraction, immortalizing the actor for generations to come. Who'd have thought that when 21 Jump Street premiered 20 years ago?

So far, it's been such a lovely mini-vacation, I'm already planning my next Los Angeles sojourn. However, this one isn't over yet. I'm going to hang out with my tv/movie star friend Assaf tomorrow, and then there's the all-alumni reunion at my high school on Saturday. I'll definitely keep you posted as to how that goes...

********EDITED ON SATURDAY, MAY 12th TO ADD********
So as it turns out, I did go to Hollywood on Friday. Twice, in fact. Thus making the title of this post accurate. Although Hollywood is a pretty scummy place; at least parts of it are. And it's way too touristy. But what are you gonna do? I'm the girl who jogs through Fisherman's Wharf five days a week.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Out of The Frying Pan And Into the Fire

So today was a mildly stressful day at work. To begin with, I was doing my least favorite part of my job. The fact that it was incredibly busy was just an added bonus. It was just a treat, let me tell you. I like my job very much, but days like today really test that affection.

So it's a really good thing I'm going on my mini-vacation, right?

Well, except that Los Angeles seems to be on fire. Specifically, the part of Los Angeles where I will be staying. My sister, Fabulous Patti, lives in Los Feliz, just a cozy distance from Griffith Park, where a lovely brush fire continues to burn. When I talked to Fabulous Patti tonight, she actually was packing some things, should she be forced to evacuate. As this evening wore on, however, FP became more and more convinced that she would not have to evacuate. Let's hope that holds.

I certainly would hate for my sister's apartment to be reduced to just a single ash.

Assuming the city is not all burned up when I get there, I have a fun few days planned. I intend to go to the Dresden Room and a wine bar in Santa Monica that my friend Phil recommended. I'm going to try to see my friend Assaf, whom I missed the last time I was in L.A. And of course, I have the event at my high school on Saturday night. It should be nothing short of delightful to get all dressed up and have a little visit with my past.

Perhaps the best part of my vacation, however, will be the little trip my friend Gabriella and I are taking to Disneyland on Thursday! I've known Gabriella for 30 (!) years, but she and I haven't been to Disneyland together since 5th grade. It is definitely time to call on the Magic Kingdom again.

Can you tell I'm looking forward to getting away?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Today I attended my first Giants game of the season. Actually, I believe this is the first game I've attended since 2005, which is pretty lame, considering I can walk to the ball park from my apartment.

Regardless, my San Francisco Giants faced the Philadelphia Phillies this afternoon, and I was there courtesy of the big boss at work. He had an extra ticket, so I joined him, his lady friend and his son in the sunshine-drenched seats on the third base line. Because this is my life, I, of course, ran into someone else I know there. On my way to the ball park, I happened to randomly call my friend Tom, only to learn he would be watching the game three sections over from us. I paid Tom a visit during the bottom of the 7th inning, and we had our would-have-been phone conversation in person.

It was also a perfect afternoon to be outside. Because of the weather here, baseball games in San Francisco usually mean blankets and warm jackets, but it was sunny and about 75 degrees today. Plus, the Giants won! I think it was very kind of them to play so well while we were watching.

I admit I was late to the game because I got off to a bit of a slow start this morning. For one thing, I still have the tail end of my cold from earlier this week, and let me tell you, this thing is not going quietly. It's decided that for a grand finale, it will settle in my chest for a while. Always a party. That made my morning run a bit more of a challenge than usual. So much so, in fact, that half of it became my morning walk. Plus, I was a little tired after a night out with Paul and Denise. We went to the Latin American Club last night, and while I only had three cocktails, that may have been one too many. But we had fun, and neither Paul nor Denise seemed to mind my tipsy rambling at the end of the night.

But after cocktails last night and baseball this afternoon, I find myself at work this evening. Well, all play and no work would make me a dull girl, right? Or something like that, I suppose.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ready For My Close Up

How come, during all those years I did theatre, none of my fellow actors told me how much fun there is to be had doing films?

I wrapped up my little acting project today, and it was quite the good time. As I mentioned before, I did a couple of scenes from the movie Full Frontal for some student directors at the Academy of Art University, and here's what I learned about acting for film. You shoot your scene over and over again from a bunch of different angles, so it doesn't matter if you mess up a line here and there. You also have many opportunities to get the right read on your lines, respond to your scene partner and nail a moment. And since you do it so many times, you end up with a lot of different, but equally good moments and reads, and the director can choose the best ones.

All of that said, I am aware that shooting two very short scenes is probably nothing like acting in a full-length film. I have heard that true film work is very technical and often quite tedious. Nonetheless, today was still really fun. Plus, I got paid for this project, and it demanded very little of my time. I just rehearsed each scene a couple of times, did the shoot and collected my check (well, not really; they're mailing it to me) before moving on with my life.

Not bad, if I do say so myself. This experience may inspire me to become a hobbyist actor on a regular basis again. I do have about 300 headshots left from my first acting go 'round, and it might be nice to put them to use. Especially since my family and friends seem to have no interest in receiving autographed photos of me for Christmas and their birthdays.

In other news, I am handily getting over my cold, but I have been felled by some other weird ailment. I have some kind of soreness in my stomach/diaphragm area that has prevented me from going running today. It hurts significantly more when I move fast, so I got about ten steps into my run before I had to give up. I am not happy about that, but I will not be beaten by some little pain. Tomorrow I'm going to get up early so I can go to the gym and use the exercise bike, which is much easier on the abs. Don't worry, if the pain doesn't go away, I'll investigate the cause so I may seek the appropriate treatment, if necessary.

But for now, I'll just exercise around it. Ha!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Want a Little Cheese With That Whine?

I admit there are times when I am a serious baby. And one of those times is when I am sick.

In other words, now.

I live in serious denial anytime I become ill, but there is no denying it today. Nor was there any denying it yesterday. Or late Sunday night. I just have to make it through a few more hours at work this evening, and then it will be my weekend. So I'll be able to rest and recuperate for two whole days, right? No such luck. On Thursday morning I'll be filming my scenes for the acting project I'm involved in, and I have no fewer than three rehearsals tomorrow. I also had a short one this morning before work. So no rest for the weary.

I know, poor me.

I will say that if I must be felled by illness, I'm glad it happened now. You see, next week, I'm taking a mini vacation. I'm going to L.A. for an event at my high school/junior high/elementary school, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. I went to the same little private school from second grade through high school graduation, and I have seriously fond memories. Now, I've realized recently that I may have been kind of loser in high school, but that doesn't keep me from staying connected. Don't get me wrong, I had plenty of friends, and my love of music made me one of the "cool" kids, at least in the eyes of some. I also did very well academically, and I was brave enough to sing in all the talent shows. But sometimes I look back at how I dressed and carried myself, not to mention the fact that I was overweight, and... well, let's just say I wonder how interesting I really was.

(FYI, by no means do I intend to imply that all overweight kids are losers. I am merely talking about myself... or the me that I was back then.)

That was 20 years ago, however, and I am certainly not a loser now. So back to school I go. I'm also planning a bunch of other fun activities for my trip down south, but I'll tell you more about those when they happen. Until then, I'll just continue with the sniffling and wheezing....