Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Song at a Time

A few months ago, Rosa and I decided to take over the world. Our domination tool would be music, and we were going to enact our plan one song at a time.

Well, tonight our musical domination fantasy took a tiny step closer to reality when the Sub Rosas made their San Francisco debut. I realize that the Sub Rosas had only played in Alameda and Oakland, making us an East Bay outfit, I suppose, even though I live in San Francisco. Well, we took the act across the Bay tonight to the open mic/open jam at Blondie's in the Mission. Technically, it was only 2/3 of the Sub Rosas because Doug wasn't available, but we just got Scotty, a bass player who was there, to sit in with us.

After a set by the house jam band, who I assume opens the Blondie's open jam every week, Rosa and I took the stage. I sang lead first, warbling my way through "Understanding Jane" (which I changed to "James"), "Someday, Someway" and "They Don't Know." People were very attentive and appreciative, and I even caught the eye of some guy who was singing the Marshall Crenshaw song along with me. We messed up the tiniest bit here and there, and we need to play the Icicle Works song faster, but overall, it went rather well. Then Rosa sang "Lay Down," "Fire and Rain" and "Wild World" and got several musicians to accompany her on the James Taylor and Cat Stevens numbers. Rosa didn't sing any of her original songs, but there will be time for those in the future.

Fabulous Patti is in town from L.A., and she thought we were great. Yes, she's my sister, but she's also really honest. Trust me. She told me that I have more of a musical theatre voice than a rock and roll voice because I insist on hitting all my notes and enunciating my words, but I take that as a compliment. For obvious reasons. While I don't necessarily want to sound like Julie Andrews when I sing jingle jangle pop songs in a bar (don't worry, I don't), I have always regarded musical theatre singers as more talented than rock stars. So bring it on. FP was also incredibly impressed with Rosa... because who wouldn't be?

Needless to say, I'll believe we'll be gracing the stage at Blondie's again. Musical domination one song at a time, my friends.

On another note, I'd like to offer you some advice on how not to be a sucker. When you get coupon in the mail for 15% off from, say, Bloomingdales, just throw it out. Because if you tuck it into your purse and swing by Bloomingdales "just to look around," you'll end up with a new $365 dress that you don't need and can't exactly afford. It will be terribly cute; so you'll love it, but you won't need it. And, because you've already been sucked in, you'll let the saleswoman talk you into opening a Bloomingdale's charge account even though you need another credit/charge card like you need a hole in the head because if you open one, you'll save another 15%. So when all is said and done, that $365 dress only will have cost you about $255 or so. A veritable bargain, right?

Ahem. I'll be wearing my new dress when we go out to celebrate Fabulous Patti's birthday tomorrow night. I'm a sucker, but I guess I'll be fabulously dressed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Weekend Update

I impulse-posted last night after seeing my friend Barry on television, but otherwise, I've been a bit remiss this week in keeping up with this space. Just a little; I know some people who only update their blogs once every two weeks or so. However, I do value my gentle readers (virtually all of whom are friends who see and/or talk to me on a regular basis, but whatever), and I want to make sure the Sassy happenings stay as fresh as possible.

To that end, here are some tidbits from the last few days.

1. Last night I learned that the Attic is only my new favorite bar when there's a good DJ in charge of the turntables. Yes, the Chimay is still only five bucks no matter what, but if the soundtrack sucks, how can I possibly enjoy my libation? With all due respect to last night's music maven, the 80's rap made my drink a little sour and sent me and my friend Anjolie fleeing to the Latin American Club. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it, but it wasn't my thing.

2. On Wednesday night I went to see my musician friend Pat Johnson play at the Make Out Room, and he proclaimed me to be his only fan. As flattering as that was to hear, it is completely untrue. Pat is great, and lots of people far hipper than me know it.

3. I watched the Independent Spirit Awards on IFC this afternoon and was very excited when Juno won best picture and Ellen Page won best actress. Now, it's a little unfair for me to root for Juno since I didn't see any of the other nominated films, but I loved that little movie, particularly Ellen Page's performance.

4. On Thursday night Denise and I went to see Carrie Fisher's one-woman show, Wishful Drinking, at Berkeley Rep. It was pretty good, and I give Carrie a tremendous amount of credit for being able to laugh at her life and her problems. However, watching her chain smoke and swig Coke Zero while reminiscing kind of pales in comparison to Danny Hoch's solo show, which is about to close. They're two completely different pieces, but they still ran back to back at the same theatre, which invites comparison. For me, anyway.

5. Earlier on Thursday afternoon, I got together with Rosa to sing songs in preparation for our next open mic. After that, we watched the Democratic debate over pizza and salads at Bobby G's on University Avenue.

So now you're all caught up. The Academy Awards are tomorrow, and I'll be rooting for Juno. Despite the fact that I, again, haven't seen any of the other films. Or perhaps because of that fact.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Don't I Know You?

It's not unusual in my world but still fun: looking up at the television and seeing someone I know there. This time it was my old aquaintance Barry.

Barry and I were both in a production of Bertolt Brecht's The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui back in 1997. It was the first play I did in San Francisco (these were the days when I was an actor), and I believe it was the first play Barry had ever done. Barry was and I presume still is a cool guy. He would give me rides to and from rehearsal, and he just had this sort of terminally suave swagger and aura. He also schooled me on the ins and outs of meeting men in bars, telling me that if I see an attractive man in a bar, I should chat him up because unless he has kissed a woman in the prior five minutes, the man is available and looking.

I tend to doubt the veracity of Barry's advice, but eleven years later, I still remember it.

I remember him hitting on at least one of my female friends who didn't really appreciate the attention, but Barry wasn't slimy. Not in my opinion, anyway. He was like an anachronism; a long-lost member of the Rat Pack somehow living in San Francisco during the dot-com boom. He would tell semi-drunken stories of running into Tori Spelling in the elevator of the Sir Francis Drake hotel and the like. And he wrote a column for the SF Weekly that would usually get him free meals.

Sometime around 1999 or 2000 Barry's acting career took a pretty big step forward. He was cast in a production of Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses that was running in Berkeley. He went with the show to the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, and I believe he also may have traveled with the production to Seattle. Metamorphoses later went to Broadway, sadly with neither Barry nor Jessica, another friend of mine who had been in the Berkeley and Los Angeles runs of the show.

But the momentum was there, and Barry stayed in L.A. to pursue acting. I hadn't heard much about him over the last eight years, but there he was tonight in a commercial for Propel Fitness Water. I quick check of IMDB shows some episodic television and film work that Barry has been doing over the last five years or so. I should try to look him up the next time I go to Los Angeles; we could reminisce about our old Brechtian days.

It always makes me a little bit giddy to see one of my actor friends on TV, and I'll never grow tired of it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Life's A Kick In That Town

Living in the Bay Area, I regularly cross paths with many a Los Angeles hater. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but look at the photo of Venice Beach to the right. How on earth could you hate that?

Okay, in all fairness, I know very few people who hate the beach. Most of the Los Angeles disdain I encounter focuses on traffic, pollution and the people. While I strongly disagree with the gross generalizations heaped upon millions of individuals who call themselves Los Angelenos, I do understand a lack of interest in smog and clogged freeways.

Regardless, I happen to quite like L.A. and just returned from another mini-vacation there. I took that Venice Beach photograph on Saturday evening as the sun was setting, and I must say, looking at it makes me very happy. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself here. My mini-vacation began on Wednesday afternoon, and a few hours after my arrival, my sister Fabulous Patti and I met my friends Kristie and Gabriella for dinner at Blair's in Silver Lake. I had salad, french fries and beer. Yummy.

On Thursday, I treated myself to Valentine's Day chocolates and a mid-day nap, after which I headed to Pasadena to see my nephew Mikey Jet. Oh, and his parents, of course. We read books and played cars, and I learned that Mikey Jet is awfully strong for a 20-month old. That fact became apparent when I wanted him to relinquish his grip on my purse at the end of the visit. Later that night, Emily and I (pictured above) went to the Backstage Bar and Grill in Culver City for a little karaoke. After being hit on by a very sketchy dude who initially enlisted his friend's sister to act as his wing man (what?), we met 22-year old Dennis, who became our karaoke fan and friend. It was a little unnerving for Emily and me to realize that we are closer in age to Dennis' parents than we are to him, but he was very nice. If rather young.

On Friday, I enjoyed a delicious lunch with Assaf at Lulu's on Beverly Boulevard. We talked all things L.A., including entertainment industry strikes, over big salads and sparkling water. After lunch, Assaf lead me to Melrose Avenue so I could shop for vintage clothes. I insisted on a pit stop at the Melrose Pinkberry, but after that I found the coolest vintage coat at a little place called The Way We Wore. It's red with (fake) brown fur trim, and I absolutely love it. I have a lot of nice coats, but this one might be my most glamorous. Assaf and I snapped this photo right before we parted ways for the day.

That night, Fabulous Patti and I went to Tiki Ti, which may be my favorite bar ever. I had been to Tiki Ti before, but my love for it was solidified on this trip. This tiny watering hole is only open a few days a week and serves a myriad of tropical drinks but no beer. So don't be like the clueless guy who asked for beer on Friday night. I had a brief conversation about basketball with another man at Tiki Ti who actually used the term "bitchin" without irony. Before you judge, however, I'll tell you that he was really cute and honestly didn't seem at all moronic. Unlike that guy who ordered the beer. After Tiki Ti, we went to the Good Luck Bar, which was also fun. There we met a musician who tends bar at The Echo. He and I talked music for a little while until he had to go meet another friend.

On Saturday, I dragged Fabulous Patti to Venice (okay, she was very willing to go), where we met my college friends Brent and Joanna at the On the Waterfront Cafe. I haven't seen Brent and Joanna in almost six years, and the last time was just a brief encounter at my ten-year reunion at Brown. They have a young son now who looks just like both of them and is an extremely well-mannered little boy. We spent the late afternoon catching up over many glasses of Erdinger on the Waterfront's back patio, which is where Joanna and I posed for this photo. Over all those beers, I recruited Joanna for the Los Angeles line up of my band. Whatever band that may be. Joanna sings really well; so I have to maintain my voice lessons to keep up with her. Now, given that I live up here, the Los Angeles line up of whatever band I have in mind may only exist at karaoke bars or in Joanna's living room, but whatever. Every band has to start somewhere.

All of this brings us to today, and after brunch at Fred 62 late this morning, I returned to the City by the Bay. I have no plans to visit L.A. again until May, but I think I can hold on until then. Especially since I intend to go to Hawaii in April. Los Angeles will be there when I return, and if I stay in touch with that Echo bartender guy, I should be well-informed of upcoming live music and 60's dance parties at The Echo, The Echoplex and Spaceland.

And you know I'll like that.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Love Song

In case you haven't noticed by now, I'm a bit of a music fan.

I've been known to stop conversations mid-sentence if I happen to hear a favorite song of mine. The conversation can continue at any time; I've only got scant minutes to sing passionately along with the song. I staunchly defend my favorite music, despite what anyone else may think of it. I have a very active, if wholly irrational, crush on Buddy Holly. Seriously.

I recently had drinks with a friend of mine, and when he told me that he doesn't really pay attention to lyrics and that most of his music is in storage and he doesn't really miss it, I can proudly say that I didn't just get up and walk out right then and there. I do think I looked at him like he was insane and asked how he could function in the world while separated from his music, but at least I stayed on my barstool until the cocktails were gone.

Anyway, you also may have noticed that this particular music fan has been a little restless this winter. To satisfy said restlessness, I hopped a Southwest flight to L.A. today. I chose as my airplane book a tome I have wanted to read for a while now: Rob Sheffield's Love Is a Mix Tape. I heard about this book almost as soon as it was published last year, but I'm a kind of cheap (although apparently not cheap enough to do something financially and environmentally prudent like set foot into a library), so I waited for the paperback release.

I'm only on page 72, but Love Is a Mix Tape is exactly the kind of book that makes me so very happy. I have spent all 72 pages full of emotion and on the verge of tears... not only because poor Rob Sheffield lost the love of his life when his wife died unexpectedly in 1997 at age 31, but because Sheffield is a man who gets it. With all due respect to his wife, the love of this Rolling Stone writer's life may very well be music, and that is a love I completely understand. Sheffield benchmarks the major events of his life with music he was listening to at the time. In fact, often the music is the major event. Plus, he knows the value of a good (or even bad) mix tape.

At one point during his recollection of the early years of his relationship with his wife, Sheffield writes: "I realize it's frowned on to choose a mate based on something superficial like the music they love." He goes on to say how music served as a bond between him and his wife, but.... I'm sorry, Rob, "superficial"? Music? Virtually all of the most intense love affairs and crushes I've ever had began because the guy had a passion for music. Maybe that could well explain why I'm still single, but still. There is nothing superficial about the love of music. Please.

Even though I suspect I may actually cry at some point, I can't wait to continue reading this book.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Music In My Headphones, In Berkeley and At The Attic

Little does Marshall Crenshaw know, he has provided the soundtrack for my life over the last several days.

Really, I'm talking about just one song: Crenshaw's 1982 hit "Someday, Someway." It should come as no surprise that this catchy little number has had such a presence in my world for the last week or so. For one thing, it holds a prominent position on my iPod playlist. I never skip "Someday, Someway" when it pops into my headphones during my runs, and sometimes I listen to it repeatedly.

However, I've also been singing "Someday, Someway" lately. Not only did I sing it with Mindi on Wednesday night, but this afternoon, I practiced it with Rosa at her place in Berkeley. Rosa's and my rendition was much better than my attempt with Mindi primarily because I left the guitar playing to Rosa. She and I are gearing up for another open mic appearance, which will probably happen in the next couple of weeks at a bar in the Mission, as opposed to Alameda. It's like we're taking the Sub Rosas on tour! Rosa also played me a couple of new songs she's written, and they're really good.

One day maybe I'll write music. Maybe.

In addition to all that, I sang along with "Someday, Someway" Friday night at my new favorite bar, the Attic. I know, I know, it seems like I have a new favorite watering hole every month or so. Recent favorites include the Easy Lounge, the Knockout and Coffee Bar. And the Attic is hardly new. I first noticed it a decade ago, when I used to live up the street from it (a ways up the street, but up the street nonetheless). My friend Joel was a big Attic fan back in the day, but at that time it was too smoky for me.

Well, the smoke is gone, and the Attic has found a place in my heart. For one thing, they have Chimay for $5. Need I say more? Probably not, but I will. Apparently, they have a really good happy hour, but we got there too late to experience that. I believe my friend Pat worked behind the Attic bar at one time, but I have no idea if he still does. What truly has endeared the Attic to me is the music. And if Friday night was a representative example, I'm talking good music. For a few years now, I've heard rumblings about music at the Attic. Evidently Sunday nights there see an oldies dance party, but I work Sunday nights, so I wouldn't know for sure. I finally managed to make it to the Attic Friday night for the Teenage Kicks monthly pop party featuring 60's pop, 80's indie and power pop.

In other words, a night of music designed for me.

Alongside Marshall Crenshaw, we heard Blondie, the Beatles and a host of music unfamiliar to me but intriguing and fabulous. I met one of the evening's DJs, Victor (excuse me, that would be DJ El Guapo), after passing him some requests written on a napkin. Sadly, he didn't have any of the songs I suggested, but he liked them. He mentioned that he worries when people make requests because he thinks they don't like what he's playing. I assured him that requests from me are the result of excitement about what I'm hearing and the subsequent desire to participate. He seemed happy to hear that, which is a good thing because he'll probably be getting more Sassy napkin requests in the future.

$5 Belgian beer and good songs. I guess it doesn't take much to keep me happy on a Friday night.

On a completely unrelated note, my friend Omar was quoted today in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article on Barack Obama's presidential bid. Omar is so fancy. By comparison, I spent a chunk of time this evening discussing with my friend Phil who shot J.R. on "Dallas." That, by the way, would be Kristin, played by Bing Crosby's daughter, Mary. Yes, that bit of information has been in my memory since 1980.

My parents must be so proud.

***Attic photo by Norman O.***

Thursday, February 07, 2008

So You Wanna Be A Rock and Roll Star?

Seven years ago, three San Francisco friends gathered in a Potrero Hill apartment with the intention of starting a band. Mindi, the would-be drummer, had already come up with a name for the group, which would specialize in three chord pop songs: Blo Pop. Sassy would sing, and Adam would play guitar. They didn't have a bass player, but that could come later.

The original 2001 line up of Blo Pop made it through exactly two rehearsals, during which they never played a single full song.

Ah, the best of intentions. I may have told you this tale before, but I repeat it today because last night, Mindi and I got together to revive Blo Pop. Unfortunately, Adam has kind of been voted out without his knowledge, but we assume that, seven years later, he has better things to do than worry about us. He was officially replaced last night by Mindi's husband, Matt.

Mindi and Matt live in this great loft in the East Bay where they have a full rock and roll set up, complete with drums, two guitars, a bass, a microphone (with mic stand) and an amplifier. Yes, this is where they live. The new Blo Pop line up rocked through "Someday, Someway," "Understanding Jane" and "Our Lips Are Sealed" with Mindi on drums, me on vocals and guitar and Matt on a second guitar for OLAS. It was rock and roll history... right there in Emeryville.

Okay, so maybe we weren't that good.

For one thing, I don't really play guitar. I did, about 20 years ago, and I certainly remember basic chords. But two decades later, even simple songs present a bit of a challenge, and this morning, my callous-free fingertips are still upset with me. Not only are my skills not mad, they're not even the least bit bothered. But I can sing (at least pop music), and Mindi and Matt play well enough for the songs we took on. The long and short of it is, no matter our musical prowess, it was super fun.

After the Blo Pop reunion concert, we settled down a bit to play Rock Band. Yes, the video game. Now, that was one ridiculous good time. Mindi and Matt play music, be it themselves or gamer-style, in their little loft home on a regular basis, making them perhaps the cutest couple ever. Or at least one of the cutest; I'm lucky enough to know several darn cute couples.

Live music and rock star video games. I wonder if this is how the Beatles or Buddy Holly started.

However accomplished Blo Pop is or isn't, it was nice to play some music and sing again. Aside from exactly two singing lessons and a couple of karaoke evenings, I have been sort of allowing my musical muscles to atrophy lately. But all of that is over now. I'm meeting Rosa on Sunday afternoon for a Sub Rosas practice, and she and I will probably play another open mic soon after I return from my trip to L.A. next week.

There is no greater happiness than a three chord pop song.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

One Zolicious* Birthday

There is a reason this coming Tuesday is known as Super Tuesday. Contrary to what you may heard, however, that reason is not because Tuesday will see the multi-state presidential primary. Nor is it because this Tuesday is Fat Tuesday. Tuesday, February 5, 2008, will be a super day because it is my amazing friend Carolyn's 30th birthday.

Not wanting to overshadow the politicos or Mardi Gras revelers, Carolyn generously opted to celebrate three decades on the planet with a party last night at Cigar Bar on Montgomery Street. Donning a fabulous red dress and a tiara, the lovely and talented Carolyn welcomed family and friends and even took a minute to pose for this photo with me and her sister Aisha. Everyone who was anyone was there, including Carolyn's parents, her fiance Dima, the aforementioned Aisha, Dima's poker buddies, Valerie, Kevin, Paul, Denise, various other friends and me. Between the good company, delicious cocktails and gooey chocolate birthday cake, it may have been a perfect party.

I stayed up way too late after returning home from the celebration, but I think that's because I'd had a Diet Coke at 6 p.m. I almost never drink caffeine; so it provides me with quite the kick on the rare occasion that I do indulge.

Carolyn's party was but one highlight of an overall lovely weekend. On Friday night Kurt and I had cocktails at Tony Nik's, and this afternoon I got a pedicure and managed to avoid the entire first half of the Super Bowl as well as the half-time show. I definitely consider that to be a coup. Aside from the fact that it provides an iron-clad excuse to eat too much guacamole, there is pretty much only one thing I like about the Super Bowl: it means that football season is over. Thank goodness for that.

In other Sassy happenings, I have some excellent news! My dear friend Schleevin has just booked a job portraying Gentleman Caller (I presume) in a production of The Glass Menagerie opening at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego next month. While San Diego is hundreds of miles away, it is much closer than New York City, where Schleevin lives. And given that he and I have not seen each other since mid-2006, I just may have to summon my inner jet setter and fly down to San Diego to see this show and hang out with him.

Such a jaunt would sandwich nicely between my next trip to L.A. and my intended April vacation in Hawaii.

*The brilliant Denise coined the term "Zolicious" to describe all things Carolyn, and it is incredibly appropriate.