Monday, July 28, 2008

Viva Las Vegas!

I used to think I hated Las Vegas. The snob in me looked right down my nose at the tackiness, the gambling and the overall concept of the city. That all changed, however, in September, 2002, when the Go-Go's played the Las Vegas Hilton. Seeing the Go-Go's in Sin City was too hysterical an opportunity to pass up, so I corralled Daniel, Melanie, Sean and April, and we took a little trip to the desert. The concert was fabulous, of course, but more importantly, I fell in love with Las Vegas that weekend.

Everything I thought I'd hate about Vegas I loved: the excess, the tackiness, the sounds of the slot machines and roulette wheels. While I didn't gamble that weekend, I nonetheless loved the energy in the casinos. I then took three more trips to Vegas over the next six months. After all that, our love affair lost a little steam, and I hadn't been to Vegas in more than five years. Until this weekend, that is.

My friend Andrey (pictured here with me as the party was getting rolling) has celebrated his birthday in Las Vegas for the last four years, but for various reasons, this was the first year I could attend. The affair is about four and a half days long, and actually is still going on now, as Andrey, Tom, Chris and Eric, at least, are not planning to come home until tomorrow morning when they pile into their rented van and make the 10 hour drive back to the Bay. I couldn't take any time off work; so I joined the celebration only from Friday night through last night.

I didn't mind the abbreviated stay, however. In a city where 3 a.m. is considered early evening and sleep is for suckers, I figured I'd be awake for most of the 48 hours I was in town. And to a certain degree, that was the case (that just means I got less sleep than I do at home). It is said on commercials that was happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but I'll share some details of the trip.

As would be expected in the desert in July, it was very hot. 100 degrees, in fact, when my plane landed at 9:30 Friday night. It clouded up and rained a little bit Saturday morning, however, and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees, making Saturday afternoon quite pleasant. The mercury climbed again yesterday, but I just spent most of my time indoors.

I still don't really gamble, but I do enjoy the nickel and penny slots in Vegas. Here's the thing, though. Because I'm not a gambler, I tend to regard slot machines more like video games that happen to cost money. It never occurs to me to bet aggressively or strategize in any way because I like the game and am not thinking about cash. That said, I did win $7 on Saturday night and $5 in the airport last night as I waited for my delayed flight home. That may not sound like much, but keep in mind, I'm talking nickel and penny slots. My new favorite slot machine is the I Dream of Jeannie game, and yes, it's just as horrifying as you would expect.

Like the television show, which, for the record, was my favorite when I watched it in reruns at age 7 (I had a huge little girl crush on Larry Hagman's Major Nelson), this game is extraordinarily sexist. However, once you get past that, it's really very funny. Jeannie talks to you as you play, calling you Master and saying things like "I thought you'd be pleased!" and "I am happy here with you!" when you do well. Also, when her bottle pops up during a spin, she proclaims "YES!" in a tone of voice that really sounds like she could use a little privacy. The game is so ridiculous, it's nothing short of incredibly entertaining. All in all, I spent about $50 over the course of my stay to win 12 bucks, but given that I'm just interested in playing, as opposed to winning, I didn't mind dropping $38 for the privilege of participating in the game. I'm such a high roller, I know.

As for the birthday party itself, we revelers danced, drank, ate and spent a lot of time by the pool at the Mirage. On Friday night we went to a club called Revolution, which was created by the Cirque du Soleil people in honor of the Beatles and Love, which is playing at the Mirage. You'd think that I'd love a club like that, but except for the decor, there was nothing Beatles or 60's era about the place. The music was the same horrible techno, hip-hop nonsense you hear at any dance club these days, but I made the best of it.

After lots of pool time Saturday afternoon, the entire party gathered at the Paris hotel that night for Andrey's official birthday dinner. Toasts were made, wine and champagne were consumed and lots of delicious food was enjoyed at Mon Ami Gabi. Do we not look well sated in this post-dinner photo? Frankly, I think I'm still full. Not so full, however, that Patti, Kevin, Chris, Eric, Tom, Andrey and I couldn't go to the Bellagio for a three hour champagne brunch yesterday afternoon. Yes, three hours. We drank more than we ate and played games (Keno and non-gambling games the boys made up) at the table. I may not gamble, but I'm all about the Vegas indulgence.

The only part of my trip I didn't enjoy was the journey home. My 9:00 p.m. flight was delayed two hours, and when we finally did land in Oakland, we sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes until a gate opened up. I was sad my mini-vacation was over, but after all that, I was very happy to see the inside of my apartment when I finally got home.

Not only am I still full, I'm still tired. 48 hours in Vegas apparently is enough for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sharing the Spotlight

I am one step closer to being in a band.

Now, if you have been a regular reader of the ramblings to be found here, you may, at this point, be thinking, "Um... Sassy, haven't you been in bands before?"

Well, yes, I have. There was Fake Band, which formed in the fall of 2006. In fact, it was Fake Band that gave me the confidence (some may say delusion?) to engage in my subsequent musical endeavors. After I left Fake Band in the spring of last year, I spent a few months as the second vocalist for Daydrinker. That was super fun, but Higgins' wife Jayn recently had a baby. Why does that matter? Higgins was the driving force of Daydrinker; so the birth of little Peaches meant the end of that band. At least for next 18 years or so.

Then there was the Sub Rosas, but we really were only a band for a few open mics, one party and one official gig. For the last few months, I have been pursuing my solo career via open mics with Jackie accompanying me on guitar and karaoke. There's nothing wrong with being a solo artist, but I've had band fantasies since junior high school, and I seem to insist on chasing those fantasies.

And that leads us to the present. Somehow, probably over too many cocktails and too many evenings at karaoke bars, I managed to convince my friend Andrey to sing with me. He has a great voice and excellent pitch. That puts him one up on me, as I have great voice but just pretty good pitch. I figure he can harmonize with me and provide the extra dimension of a set of male pipes.

So Andrey and I decided to take on the Blondie's Open Jam last night. We got together with Jackie on Tuesday and worked out renditions of U2's "The Sweetest Thing" and The Kinks' "Better Things." U2 is one of Andrey's favorite bands, and I chose "The Sweetest Thing" because the lyrics break down easily for two singers. I've wanted to sing "Better Things" for while because that is one of the happiest songs ever written, after maybe "Downtown" by Petula Clark and Pat Johnson's "The Very Last Time." I also planned to pull out "Perfect" by Fairground Attraction without Andrey, and Nick Lowe's (or Elvis Costello's, if you must) "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding."

Unfortunately, the open mic was a bit of a train wreck. The reasons why don't matter, but neither Andrey nor I were particularly happy with our performance. A whole mess of our friends had come to see us, and they all liked it, but that might have had more to do with Blondies' 16-ounce martinis than our musical prowess. I do think some people were genuinely impressed, though. My friend Carolyn is a huge Elvis Costello fan, and when I dedicated "Peace, Love and Understanding" to her, she said it was the best moment of her life. Obviously that was an exaggeration, but I don't think she lied about enjoying our version of the song. And Chris got three hot Frenchmen from the crowd to pose for a photo with me. Good performance or bad, that was a winning moment.

Despite this less than stellar outing, Andrey wants to keep singing with me. Our friend Eric wants us to join his band, which would just be the three of us harmonizing while he also plays guitar. Andrey and I think that idea may be a bit out of our reach, but we're willing to try. So I could find myself in another band before I know it.

In other news, today at work I was on You Tube scouring the collection of Schoolhouse Rock vignettes to be found there. No, I wasn't slacking. I actually have the kind of job that occasionally warrants hopping onto You Tube to find a Schoolhouse Rock song or two. Anyway, talk about happy. Those little ditties about multiplication put such a serious smile on my face that I may never feel sad again.

(But don't count on that.)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Headed For the Red Carpet

Every family has a star.

For many years I arrogantly assumed the star in my family to be me. Not that I'm famous or anything, but I figured my overall fabulousness makes me a star. Well, apparently, arrogance doesn't mean anything because my brother Michael took full control of the family star power this morning.

When he was nominated for an Emmy Award.

That's right, an Emmy. It's all thanks to the animated gentlemen pictured here. They are Phineas and Ferb, and my brother, along with two of his band mates, wrote the main theme music for their show. I have to admit, I'm a little confused because I just hopped on to the International Movie Database and the title sequence theme seems to be a song written and performed by Bowling For Soup. Bowling For Soup does perform the song but written by them?

I'm guessing that IMDB is wrong, but does it really matter? No. Bowling For Soup wasn't nominated for an Emmy, and my brother was! I have been basking in his reflected glory all day long.

I also already have begun lobbying to go to the ceremony. Of course, my brother's wife Maki might have other ideas about who gets to go to Emmys, and even if I get by her, I'll probably have to wrestle my sister for the honor.

Maki might be a problem, but my sister? I think I can take her.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Mics Are Open

After a hiatus from singing due to bronchitis and just being busy... I made a triumphant return this afternoon when Jackie and I played the open mic at the Black Magic Voodoo Lounge on Van Ness and Lombard.

It was super duper fun.

At the Black Magic, you can play a bunch of songs, and we played six. Even though we haven't worked out anything new in weeks, we've never performed at the Black Magic before... So no one there yet had heard our overplayed version of "Different Drum." What's old is new, my friends. We also played the Beatles, the Bangles, Icicle Works, Fairground Attraction and Elvis Costello. In my opinion, I sang better during our rehearsal in my living room beforehand, but I'm getting better in front of an audience. And as always, our "set" was very well received. People seem to insist on thinking I can sing, and I like the idea of believing them.

If that's not enough, the drinks at the Black Magic are really cheap. So you can sing and get a good buzz on without breaking the bank. I don't know about you, but that sounds like the perfect afternoon to me.

Suzanne also came to fill her role as a Sassy fan, and after the singing, she, Jackie and I grabbed a little dinner at La Barca. We needed it. Did I mention that the cocktails at the Black Magic are cheap? Anyway, in between songs and bites at dinner, Suzanne and I talked about plans to spread our fabulousness around the City and share it with worthy boys. Those boys are going to be so lucky.

So that was my Sunday. Tomorrow it's back to work, but a bunch of us are planning to do karaoke at the Knockout tomorrow night. It's just one party after another here in Sassyland.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Get Your Kicks

Most people get their kicks on Route 66, but I'm talking about Teenage Kicks at the Attic. I've mentioned Teenage Kicks on this space before, but it has become my absolute favorite DJ night in all the world. So it deserves a little repeat coverage.

Teenage Kicks features 60's pop and 80's indie. In other words, it's a night of music seemingly designed for my pleasure. Every song is always better than the last, and they're all top notch, even and including the tunes I don't know already.

Allow me to back up a bit, though. Last night, Teenage Kicks capped off what was actually a rather long day. It began after just six hours of sleep with a morning doctor's appointment and continued with work. After work, I took my friend Phil out for a drink, as he left town this morning and is going to be gone for just over three weeks. Boo. How San Francisco will manage without Phil, I can't say. Anyway, he and I hit Tony Nik's for cocktails (me) and a beer (him).

Phil needed to get home early to pack for his trip; so he and I parted ways at about 9:00 p. m., and I beat a path for the Attic where Tom, Adam and I enjoyed drinks and the music. I bopped on my barstool to song after song, beaming with delight the entire time. Much to the amusement (and probably eventual irritation) of Tom and Adam, I proclaimed nearly every ditty to be my favorite ever, whether I'd heard it before or not. The highlight of the night, however, was when one of the DJs played "Jet Fighter" by the Three O'Clock.

Yes, the Three O'Clock. Needless to say, I was in heaven. Maybe it's just me, but in my opinion, there is no happiness quite as great as hearing a song you love as you sip Chimay in the Mission on a Friday night.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Star Spangled Three Day Weekend

Ah, the 4th of July, also known as Independence Day, also known as America's birthday. It's a time for barbecues, parades and of course, fireworks, like these pictured here. However, if you live in San Francisco, you didn't see anything like this photo this year because the City by the Bay was socked in by fog. As it is probably four out of every five Independence Days. The City sponsors a fireworks show each year, anyway, and I'm certain 2008's display lit up the fog quite nicely.

There were plenty of illegal fireworks to see, though. So no one really missed anything.

With the 4th falling on a Friday this year, lots of folks have been treated to a three day weekend. Okay, I'm not one of them, but I worked early on Friday and was done by noon. So it has felt like a three day weekend for me, and it's been full of good times.

After work and a power nap, the 4th found me at Anjolie and Dave's for a barbecue. There was so much delicious food: grilled skirt steak, chicken, corn on the cob, asparagus and burgers. Yummy. Plus, there were homemade desserts. I couldn't stay at the barbecue too long, however, because I had to make my way across town to Kevin and Valerie's for the home edition of Margarita Club. This Club meeting featured a grill your own quesadilla bar (which I skipped due to some slight over consumption at Anjolie and Dave's) and all the margaritas we could drink. Margarita Club is one organization I highly recommend you join, if you can.

Yesterday began with a mimosa brunch at Town's End with Katie and Teri, followed by a nap (yay!) and a trip to the gym. Then I met Gretchen at Tony Nik's, and after a while Katie, Steve, Bill, Kim and some other friends of Bill and Kim's joined us, too. That was ridiculously fun, even though I probably had one too many cocktails. Or two too many. Katie, Steve and I wisely stopped for pizza on the way home.

This morning was a bit slow with me snoozing until almost 11 a.m., but after a six mile run/power walk and an afternoon pedicure, I'm good to go. And I'm going with Carolyn and Andrey to see my musician friend Pat Johnson play tonight. Sheela and I were supposed to go to the Knockout tomorrow evening, but she just had to cancel. That's probably for the best, though. I may need some rest after my weekend, and I'm supposed to be practicing for my next open mic appearance, which is theoretically next Sunday.

Karaoke at the Knockout would only get me so far in that endeavor.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Belting Them Out At the Knockout

Pssst, I have a secret. The very best karaoke in all of San Francisco and maybe the world is at the Knockout in the Mission.

I'd heard about Krazy Karaoke, as they call it, before, but my former work schedule always forced me to miss it. However, now that I have more normal hours, I can do anything... including belt a tune at the Knockout. To that end, Sheela and I went last night.

Oh, my god, you have never seen a karaoke song list like this.

Want to sing "Stand and Deliver" or "Kings of the Wild Frontier" by Adam and the Ants? Done. How about "Hero Takes a Fall" by the Bangles? Absolutely. "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass" by Nick Lowe? Easy.

If those numbers don't strike your fancy, you can choose from multiple tunes by the Beautiful South or the dozens of Jam selections. That's right, dozens of songs by the Jam. And the Beautiful South; I don't think I've ever seen that band in a karaoke song book. This is just the tip of the iceberg, my friends. So many songs by so many artists, including tons you never stumble upon in regular karaoke bars. Plus, it wasn't the least bit crowded last night; so I got to sing three times over the course of just two hours.

I definitely will be going back to Krazy Karaoke. In fact, it's likely I'll become a regular. This is the best thing to happen to karaoke in San Francisco since Julie's Supper Club stopped having it on Wednesday nights.

The Knockout was part of my weekend fun, as well. On Saturday night, Denise, Carolyn and I bellied up to the bar for beer and 60's music at Teenage Dance Craze. The music was awesome, but it was super crowded. So we left by about 11:30. Truthfully, I could have stayed all night, but when good music is in the air, I become oblivious to everything else around me. Including wall to wall people.

Other weekend activities included singing (of course) and watching Spain defeat Germany in the Euro Cup finals. I felt a little bad about the Germans' loss because I was watching the match with some Germany fans. Not to mention that my brother Peter lives in Munich, but, oh well. Only two years until the World Cup, right?

This coming weekend: margarita club, a mimosa brunch and some live music. Summer 2008 is shaping up quite nicely, my friends.