Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Simpsons Me, Teen Angst Me

While I admit I don't watch "The Simpsons," and I have no intention of seeing The Simpsons Movie, I was pretty tickled when Katie sent me a Simpsons-ized version of myself. It's frightening but in a funny way.

Even though she's a cartoon, the Simpsons me might be a little more interesting than the teenage me. Or at least I doubt she takes herself as seriously as the teenage me did. For reasons I won't bore you with now, I had occasion on Sunday night to dig out old copies of Polygraph, my high school's literary magazine. I was looking for some genuinely good commentary written by one of my former schoolmates, but in the process I stumbled upon some of my own submissions.

Poetry. Written by a teenage me. Good lord.

Needless to say, I had mercifully forgotten some of the deep and meaning-filled verse I had painstaking composed for Polygraph. But lucky me, I was reminded on Sunday night. For example:

I can hear it in the background:
The faint roar
With the deafening whisper.
Now who could ever forget,
The day the world stood still
And watched success.


It didn't matter what kind.
They held their hands high,
Took a deep breath,
And cried.
But in their eyes
All you could see
Was never ending


To me it makes no difference
If no one understands.
The words, they made sense to me.
It was something that they said.

All I can say is: bless my little adolescent heart. I wonder if I'll look at the ramblings on this space years from now and feel the same kind of embarrassed amusement. Well, since this is a chronicle of my real life, I certainly hope not. Speaking of real life, it now calls. I'm meeting Rosa at the Hotel Utah in about 45 minutes; so I have to get going. I'm helping her out with a little... um... project involving a certain gentleman tonight.

But ooooh, guess what?!? The Go-Go's are playing at the Independent in October. I am sooooo there.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

All That Jazz... Or Not

The North Beach Jazz Festival was fun last night but unfortunately, not because of the music. The first band I saw was playing at Tony Nik's, and honestly, I wanted to like them. I even forgave them for playing two Beatles covers in a row, as unnecessary and strange as the pseudo-jazz versions of "Dear Prudence" and "In My Life" were. However, when they busted out with renditions of David Bowie and U2 tunes, I had to give up on them.

Regardless, Tony Nik's was a hot bed of fun people, which made up for the less than stellar musicians. Of course, there was Helen. But just by chance, I also ran into Linnea, whom I hadn't seen since my birthday last December. She is super neat, and it was nice to see her. Then Mr. Gowdy showed up. Plus, my friend Wendy was out at the festival, and I caught up with her at a bar (the name of which escapes me) on Grant Avenue.

The band at that bar was better than the one at Tony Nik's, but not much. However, Linnea came with me to the second bar, and by coincidence, Mr. Gowdy met a few of his friends there, too. Add Wendy and a couple of her buddies into the mix, and you had a serious party. Well, you had a serious party until about midnight, when I pretty much turned into a pumpkin. Two glasses of wine and two ciders, and I was done. I swear these days I age three years for every one calendar year that goes by.

Getting home relatively early was a good thing for me, though. I was able to get a decent amount of sleep, save waking up at 6 a.m. due to... um... monthly discomfort. But a few Advil later, I could snooze further, and then I had a lovely singing lesson with Best Friend this afternoon.

Now Laino and I are supposed to go out tonight, but she's been held up at work. Hopefully we'll still make it out, even if just for a little while. I haven't seen Laino in months, and on the 4th of July she got engaged. So needless to say, we have a lot to catch up on.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Blissed Out

Well, I was a little bit decadent today. After the gym this morning, I met Katie at Bliss in the W Hotel for manicures and pedicures. More specifically, we each got a hot cream manicure and a hot milk and almond pedicure. I'm generally just a pedicure girl and very rarely get manicures, but Katie does. So I figured, why not? She and I were able to chat and giggle while our hands and feet were pampered and "Sex and the City" episodes danced on a television screen before us.

On my way to Bliss, I ran into Don, a former co-worker of mine and one of the nicest guys walking the face of the earth. He was hosting an event in Union Square featuring the cast of Jersey Boys. I walked by just as the actors belted out the last notes of "December, 1963," but I caught Don. I hadn't seen him in a years, so that was super fun.

Anyway, I must say the Bliss manicure and pedicure are pretty good. Not so good that I'm going to abandon my regular nail spa, but definitely first rate. This being Bliss, the treatments are also very pricey, but it was worth it for a day of girly bonding with Katie.

After Bliss, I went to Macy's to use the $30 in "Star Rewards" I earned when I spent all that money there last week. The Star Rewards are only good this week, so the pressure was on for me to find something to buy. I looked through the work out clothes. No, they have a better selection at Lombardi Sports. I carefully perused the lingere section, but nothing grabbed me. I made my way through the entire floor of shoes but came up empty (why are so many shoes so ugly these days?). In the end I got new pajamas. Hardly the most exciting purchase but somewhat practical, at least.

Don't I lead just the most exciting life? This must make for some fascinating reading.

Tonight the North Beach Jazz Festival begins, so I'm meeting Helen in that neighborhood this evening. This will probably be the only day to actually enjoy the jazz, as North Beach is likely to be a bridge and tunnel nightmare for the rest of the festival. Yuck. But tonight the jazz will be hot (hopefully), even though, as is typical for July, San Francisco will be cold.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Shopping and Swapping

I would make a really good rich person.

For some reason, I saw fit this week to spend money like it was going out of style. Or like I actually had some to spend. But in the moment, it all seemed so reasonable. Some may even say necessary. It started Wednesday with the purchase of new shower curtains, which I definitely needed. Then on Thursday, I had to get some new towels. After all, I had new shower curtains; how could I not procure new towels? So I headed to Macy's and managed to spend almost $300 in just under 30 minutes. What, you may ask, could I have possibly found to spend $300 on in Macy's? Well, a lot of crap I decided I had to have. There were the towels, the skin cleanser and moisturizer (which I did need), and the really cute swing coat that was 40% off. How could I walk by that? If it had ended there, that would have been enough. But no. On Thursday night, Ann Marie and I went to a vintage jewelry trunk show, and I got myself a silver necklace-bracelet-earring set.

Between my love of spas and my apparent penchant for spending money, I really would be very good at being wealthy. I also enjoy sleeping late and spending hours at the gym in the middle of the day. Plus, I possess superior lunching skills.

It might be time for me to consider marrying rich.

To counteract the effects of all that consumerism, I did something a little different today: I went to a book swap. I love to read, and unfortunately for my cozy little living space, I have a tendency to collect more books than I can comfortably store. To that end, the idea of unloading a few of them really appealed to me. So with the promise to myself to take away fewer books than I brought in, I headed for the swap.

And what I found tucked into a little industrial space South of Market was more like a disco with books. My bag of books and $5 got me in, got me a complimentary cocktail and got me the right to take home however many books I wanted. There was also a DJ spinning in the corner, and everybody was very chatty and friendly. When new books arrived, the book swap organizers would swiftly sort and deposit them on shelves open for browsing. If a particularly desirable selection was discovered, this one gentleman would shout to the room, "Has anyone not read Portnoy's Complaint?!" Or "Has anyone not read A Confederacy of Dunces?!" Or "Has anyone not read On the Road?!" And the book in question would go the the quickest hand raised.

There were some pretty impressive offerings: Pride and Prejudice, Brave New World, The Fountainhead, The God of Small Things, Heart of Darkness. I admit that every time I saw a book I had read and really enjoyed (like several I just mentioned), I would be a little offended that someone was giving it away, but to each his own, I suppose. There was also, of course, a whole lot of crap. A lot of Dan Brown, Mary Higgins Clark and the like.

With my already-full bookshelves in mind, I was very selective in my choosing, and in the end, I took only two books. But I had an excellent time while I was there. Today's event was organized by Swap SF, and apparently they do this kind of thing regularly. I'm going to keep that in mind, should that marrying rich plan happen not to work out for me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bourbon, Beer and Burgers

That title certainly sounds decadent, doesn't it?

Well, not to disappoint, but my life really isn't so saucy. Margie switched shifts with me at work on Saturday, so that night I was able to attend "Bourbonpalooza," also known as Higgins' birthday party. Now, I don't drink bourbon (because... ick), but how could I miss a party with that kind of name? As it turns out, Bourbonpalooza was, for the most part, quite the staid and adult affair. Higgins loves bourbon, and I believe his past birthday celebrations have been epic, but this Bourbonpalooza was lovely by virtue of its subtlety. A friend of Higgins' got him some super fancy bourbon that they serve at the Kentucky Derby, and I tried a little sip of that. It was quite tasty, even to a non-bourbon fan like me. Mostly, however, I just enjoyed the vodka-cranberries Higgins mixed for me, and made myself at home at the snack table. Higgins lays out a mean party spread, let me tell you.

Last night I met my friend Debbie at The District, a new wine bar South of Market. The crowd was a little annoying, but the wine was delicious, and Debbie and I always have fun together. Plus, the bar played The Birds and Citizen Kane on a huge flat screen television. As some random man on the bar stool next to me said, "Sure beats sports, doesn't it?"

Then today, after an unusual bit of summer rain this morning, Katie and I decided to take in a Chimay lunch at Zeitgeist. The sun had come out by the afternoon, and Zeitgeist's beer patio was warm and inviting.

(I'll pause here to acknowledge that it may appear as though I have abandoned my two-day-a-week-only drinking habit, but in fact, I have not. I just happen to be writing about drinking... and eating.)

A couple of Chimays into the afternoon, I decided I needed some solid lunch, as well; so I indulged in a Zeitgeist cheeseburger. Oh, my god, yummy. Katie's husband was making her dinner at home, so she had to pass on Zeitgeist's grill menu, poor thing. Once suitably sated, Katie and I called it a successful lunch. She and I have started a bit of a Wednesday afternoon bonding tradition. Next week we're going to get mani-pedi's at Bliss and then the following Wednesday brings lunch with Katie's husband Steve, plus Bill, Kim, Gretchen and Isaac.

It's good to have Wednesdays off from work.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

She Gave Birth To Me?

I've known since early childhood that my mother used to be a professional singer. Initially that awareness was merely a byproduct of my elementary school knowledge that Diva Mommy knew (and was not particularly fond of, I'll have you know) Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on "Star Trek."

Over the years, little nuggets from my mother's younger life would make themselves known in between the private school days, adolescent sleep-overs, "Facts of Life" episodes, crushes on ridiculous boys, Go-Go's, Monkees and English Beat records, lazy summers and Judy Blume books that comprised my suburban existence. For example, when Spike Lee became famous in the '80's, Diva Mommy nonchalantly commented that she had worked with his father, jazz bassist Bill Lee, and a very young Spike had even come over to play with my sisters and oldest brother while the elder Lee and my mother worked on musical arrangements. On another occasion, she casually mentioned that Tony Curtis had hit on her. In fact, if I'm remembering the story correctly, he may have suggested she be his mistress and move to California (my parents and elder siblings still lived in the Midwest at that time), even though she, herself, was also married.

And that's how my knowledge of her career has accumulated over the years. There were no long reminiscences; just the odd anecdote here and there. Starting in the '90's, my mother began mentioning old friendships and work relationships once the people she'd known died. Cases in point: Burgess Meredith (that's right) and James Brown. A few years ago, my dad and I went to see Paula West at the Plush Room, and when Paula offered up her rendition of Oscar Brown, Jr's "The Snake," from Kicks and Co., my dad turned to me and whispered, "That's the show your mother did in New York." That was 2001 and the first I'd heard that my mom did any show in New York. By the way, I think it was during Kicks and Co. that she met Burgess. Anyway, when Oscar Brown, Jr, died a couple of years ago, I called Diva Mommy in Hawaii to tell her, and only then was I regaled with a few tales of how she and Oscar ran around New York during rehearsals for Kicks. And last fall, while I was rehearsing with Fake Band, Diva Mommy sent me some copies of an old newsletter... from a prison where she and Al Jarreau had performed in the '60's.

I've never actually heard Diva Mommy sing, as a throat condition forced her retirement from the microphone before she gave birth to me, the youngest of her six kids, at age 35. Some of my older siblings have vague memories of hanging around nightclubs or even being taken on tour, but I missed all that.

You may wonder why I am bringing all this up right now. Well, my brother Michael has made it his mission to find some recordings of our mother, and he's doing a decent job of searching, at least. He charged his band mate, Dan, with chatting up the aforementioned Bill Lee when Dan met him on a plane. Mr. Lee remembered Diva Mommy but has no recordings. Undaunted, my brother has kept looking, and he discovered that, in fact, an album does exist. It's called "We'll Be Together Again," and it came out sometime in 1959. Or at least she rehearsed for it in 1958. We've gotten this information from one of a few old newspaper articles on my mother that Mike just unearthed last week. Apparently, around the same time, Diva Mommy appeared on a Chicago television show called "Triumph" and was singing at places like that city's Blue Orchid Junior Room, Robert's Show Club and The Blue Angel. My sister, Fabulous Patti, even gets an in utero mention in one of the articles.

You may also wonder why on earth my siblings and I don't just ask Diva Mommy about her career and her album. I suppose we could, and we have on occasion, but I'm telling you, she's pretty mum about the whole thing. Plus, I confess it kind of amuses me that she generally only brings up her singing years when someone dies.

As more details of my mother's chanteuse life sink in, however, the more extraordinary it seems to me that I'm actually related to her. I mean, I have a great education, career and life, really, but compared to this woman, I'm downright ordinary.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Spa and Live Music: Two Things That Are Making Me Happy Today

Yesterday began like any perfect day would... with a visit to the spa. I found myself in the Lap of Luxury at 11 a.m., and after almost an hour of cardio in the spa gym, the pampering began. Visits to the steam room and sauna were had, as well as a dips in the pool and hot tub. Then I got an orange sugar body scrub thingy that has left my skin super soft and my overall energy incredibly radiant.

I'm generally pretty worn out after a spa day, so it was all I could do to get a little laundry done, play on the computer and lounge on my couch for much of the late afternoon.

Then I met Carolyn in North Beach for a night out. We started our evening at Mario's for snacks and conversation. Frankly, Carolyn and I are so fabulous when we hang out together, we don't understand why we aren't superheroes. Or at least why a "That Girl" style television show based on our lives doesn't exist. Well, despite those great omissions from the universe, Carolyn and I persevere.

At about 9:00, we met my rock star friend Phil at the Bamboo Hut. In all honesty, the Bamboo Hut is a bar I generally avoid, but Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen and The Barbary Coasters (pictured above in cartoon form) were playing there. Tippy and her Paddlemen were fabulous as always, but I expected that. I'd never seen The Barbary Coasters before, and I now love them. They are twist-inducing pop goodness, and they cover "Steppin' Stone, " a song not only made famous by the Monkees in the '60's and the Untouchables in the '80's, but covered by my own short-lived high school band, The Volatile Molatovs. Okay, it wasn't really my band, as I was in it for only a very brief time, but The Volatile Molatovs really was our name (courtesy of Chris Dowd from Fishbone, thank you very much).

Anyway, a good time was had by all. Carolyn had to go home early, so she missed The Barbary Coasters, but she'll see them another time. If I could spend all my days at the spa and all my nights seeing bands, I'd be a happy woman. Well, I'm already a happy woman, but if all my days were like yesterday, I'd be one very lucky woman.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Keeping Up With... Myself

Sometimes even my own life makes me a little tired.

Things have been going swimmingly since we last spoke at about noon on July 4th. I took my power nap that day and then met the other Margarita Club members at Sadie's on Potrero for popcorn and adult beverages. We were pretty much the only ones there, what with it being a national holiday and all, so we had the run of the place, including the pool table and the jukebox! You know I loved that. After Margarita Club, I went to the Lower Haight, where my friend Wendy was throwing an impromptu 4th of July party.

One drink, lots of snacks and half a Monkees Greatest Hits cd on the stereo later, I was ready to call it a night. I made my way through the renegade fireworks shows on Haight Street and managed to find a cab fairly easily. So I got home in time to watch the last half of San Francisco's official fireworks show from my roof. It's often foggy on July 4th, so being able to see the fireworks above the Bay is a serious bonus.

The next day was so full, it's a good thing I didn't have to work. After laundry and my run, I met Katie and her husband Steve at Zeitgeist for a couple of Chimays. I then caught up with Higgins and Ron for band practice. We rehearsed in this little park downtown, and one of my co-workers happened upon us on his way to the Ferry Building. He had a listen and told me he was very impressed, but honestly, all the credit has to go to Higgins and Ron... as I'm still learning my way through the songs. After that, Sheela and I went to the Latin American Club for the evening. That was, of course, very fun, and we met a nice young gentleman there. He has a girlfriend, so no funny business was involved. He was just nice to talk to; he's a writer, and he's trying to move to Seattle.

It's 48 hours later, and I still feel fatigued just thinking about all I did on Thursday.

Given how much I packed into Wednesday and Thursday, I stayed in last night. I went to bed relatively early (for a Friday night, anyway) and was ready for more fun when I got up this morning. Okay, I work Saturday nights, so I couldn't get crazy, but I did get a lot done this afternoon (exercise, an eyebrow wax and shopping for hair products, exercise clothes and environmentally friendly laundry detergent). I'm taking it easy for the next couple of days and committing only to work, sing and relax, but things get busy again soon. I already have social plans Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday of next week.

I'll have to get a lot of rest now so I have the energy to do it all.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

And the Rockets Red Glare...

Happy birthday, America! Your residents are taking a day off from thinking about the mess we've made of your reputation around the world to celebrate the anniversary of your existence. We'll resume thinking about how much we're screwing up your potential tomorrow.

I began my Independence Day very early this morning. 3:30 a.m. to be precise, as I had to be at work at 4:00. Ah, the joys of working in a 24-hour business. However, I am now at home and about to power nap. The power nap is certainly something to celebrate.

I had a lovely day off yesterday leading up to my early morning work shift today. Nothing earth-shattering happened, but for me, enjoyment of the ordinary is an excellent reminder of how lucky I am to lead the life I do. After a trip to the gym yesterday, I met my friend Katie at Sunflower in the Mission for lunch. Once we had officially eaten too much (and by that I mean I ate too much; Katie showed wonderful restraint), we parted ways, and I ran some errands. Simple stuff: the post office, the grocery store. Then I treated myself to a pedicure, followed by a few more errands before I retired to my couch for the evening. I admit I didn't get much sleep before needing to report for duty this morning, but that's okay.

After my power nap this afternoon, I'm going to go running, and then I'll be meeting Tom, Valerie, Kevin, Chris and a host of others for the annual 4th of July Margarita Club tradition. Plus, I have tomorrow off, too! It's like I have a three-day weekend this week with just a little work thrown in this morning. And that is also something most definitely worth celebrating.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Taxicab Confessions... Or I Should Say Blathering

On Friday night my friend Terry and I found ourselves at Club Deluxe in the Haight, where we also met Joe and a friend of his. Not only did we have an enjoyable time chatting over several a Deluxe Spa Collins (I drank three, which necessitated a trip to the pizza joint down the block for some stabilizing carbohydrates), but as luck would have it, we were there on the last Friday of the month... when Deluxe has the Shuckin' and Jivin' Showcase, featuring R&B, jump blues and other stompers from the '40's and 50's all played from 78-rpm records. I admit, I'm uncertain how I feel about the name of this showcase, but the music is great.

I must now stop this narrative and acknowledge that Shellac Shack, another evening of music summoned from the era of the legendary 78, happens five times a month in the Mission and North Beach. I bring this up because I know the DJ who produces that particular listening party, and he introduced me to Shellac Shack long before I stumbled upon Shuckin' and Jivin'.

Okay, back to our story. With an excellent soundtrack in the background, the four of us wiled away a few hours. A gentleman sitting a few barstools away was certain he knew me from somewhere, but I don't believe I've ever seen him before in my life. He was kind of cute and probably very nice, but unfortunately, he had a bit of a creepy thing going on, too. Ah, well. We'd arrived at 8:00 and by 11:30 or so had had enough fun (read: cocktails). Plus, Joey and I both had to work Saturday morning. So the party disbanded, and I hailed a cab home.

And that's where I encountered the Chatty Cab Driver.

In general, I am wary of the Chatty Cab Driver, but I let my guard down for a minute because this guy looked to be about 70 years old and seemed innocuous enough. I believe he was harmless, but he certainly was quick to size me up. Within seconds he took notice of my outfit (a cute Betsy Johnson dress and shoes, along with my saucy H&M trapeze coat), my looks, my demeanor and most likely my diction and asked me what on earth I was doing in the Haight. I told him how much I enjoy the Haight, prompting him to offer that I look more like I belong in the Marina.

If you read this post from a few weeks ago, it will come as no surprise to you that I was slightly horrified.

The Marina? Really? I told my loquacious driver that I much prefer many a neighborhood to the Marina. In response, he informed me that all the rich men are in the Marina... and aren't I looking for a rich man? That's right. When I told him I'd rather have a brilliant man, he concluded out loud that I like them poor but smart. Anyway, we then went on to discuss my ethnic background (I'm Jamaican, Scottish, Native American, Irish, African, French and English, for those of you keeping score at home) and my cabbie's dating habits. He was African American and told me he tends to date Caucasian and Asian women. In fact, he spent time in Asia so he could meet women, in case you were wondering. You weren't? What do you know, neither was I. And may I mention again that he was about 70 years old?

At least he didn't hit on me. Small blessings, I suppose. Believe me when I tell you that I've never been accused of being too nice, but sometimes I simply need not to talk to people at all.