Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Living Large In L.A.

Well, I probably didn't really "live large," but I certainly had a great mini-vacation. The only drawback was that I fell ill Friday morning. I get throat/tonsil infections every three to five years, and one set in late Thursday night. However, I certainly wasn't going to let a colony of tiny microbes stop me; so after a quick trip to urgent care for antibiotics, I was good to go. And on Friday, that meant going to Disneyland. Armed with four free passes, I met Emily, Domenica and Corey at the Magic Kingdom, and we ran the place. Disneyland is all decked out for the holidays right now, and Emily and I couldn't resist snapping the above photo in front of a very thoroughly lit Small World. I imagine Disneyland will have one heck of a PG&E bill this season.

On Friday night, I joined Emily and her friends, along with my sister Fabulous Patti, at Hollywood Park for a concert by Dave Wakeling of the English Beat. Dave lives in Southern California and tours all over the state with studio musicians filling in for the rest of the Beat. Even though I've seen him at least eight times over the last seven years, I never get sick of his music. We all skanked and sang through Dave's hour and a half long set, and it's possible I knew all the words to every song. During a little post-show chat, we got Dave to pose for this photo with us. Needless to say, he was more than willing to allow himself to be flanked by a group of pretty girls.

Saturday was a little more mellow. I spent the afternoon shopping in Silver Lake's Sunset Junction neighborhood. Then Fabulous Patti and I went to the Griffith Observatory before heading to South Pasadena to visit our nephew Mikey Jet (oh, and his parents). On Sunday, I met Bill and Irina for brunch where we were served by a rather hot waiter who was both a pretty good flirt and willing to take this commemorative photo for us. And that pretty much ended my visit. The weather was great all four days I was in town, which is a really good thing since it's raining in L.A. this week.

Now that I've returned to the Bay, I'm looking forward to Thanksgiving, Arabian Nights at Berkeley Rep, boy shopping with Suzanne and another open mic performance. See why I needed a vacation? I had to rest up for all of this.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N... In the L.A. Sun!

I've taken today and tomorrow off work and am spending a long weekend in Los Angeles. I have to work through the holidays, so I figured I'd take a mini-vacation before the season kicks into gear next week.

And that brings me to Los Feliz, where I arrived last night. So far today, I've done as little as possible, lest I forget I'm supposed to be relaxing. After taking my usual run down Los Feliz Boulevard, I met my high school friend Alison for brunch at Fred 62. After that I did a small bit of shopping and hit Pinkberry, of course.

I then spent a little chunk of time working out the logistics for my trip to Disneyland tomorrow. I'm going with Emily, who is another high school friend, and Domenica and Corey, Bay Area friends who now live in San Diego. After Disneyland, Emily and I, along with my sister Fabulous Patti and some friends of Emily's, will be seeing Dave Wakeling at Hollywood Park tomorrow night. Saturday and Sunday are looking a little more fluid at this point, but I'm hoping to do some champagne tasting at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, on my friend Andrey's recommendation.

There was a moment this morning when I was feeling like the infatuation I felt for Los Angeles last fall and this past winter was starting to fade. I grew up here (in Pasadena, to be specific) and always have liked it, but it was like the promised land to me about a year ago. However, as this trip began, I was wondering if my love affair with L.A. had just been a fling. Then, as I was walking along Vermont Avenue this afternoon, I looked up into the hills to see the Hollywood sign and the Griffith Park Observatory, and that euphoric rush of love came back. San Francisco is my home now, but there never can be too much love for the City of Angels.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

La Vie Boheme

I have seen the musical Rent seven times: once on Broadway with the original cast, once in Boston, once in Los Angeles and four times in San Francisco. And that's not counting the evening I sat through that god awful film adaptation. I am aware that several members of original Broadway cast, who were also in the film, very much liked the celluloid version and were quite disappointed it wasn't better received. Well, I mean no disrespect to them or to director Chris Columbus, but that movie seee-ucked.

Anyway. While I have seen Rent seven times, until last Thursday night, I had never seen the Puccini opera upon which it is based: La Boheme. However, I rectified that situation by attending the final dress rehearsal of San Francisco Opera's current production of La Boheme. It is wonderful. The singing is, of course, amazing, especially that of the woman who plays Musetta. She is phenomenal. And the sets are beautiful. All in all, it was a very cultured and satisfying evening.

All of that said, I have an evil confession to make. I think I like Rent better. I know, I know. I fully expect Puccini's ghost to smite me anytime now. If one day I suddenly turn into a puff of smoke, you'll know why. It's just that I find myself very impressed with how well Jonathan Larson not only adapted the story but expanded it. He took the slightly dull supporting characters of Colline and Schunard and gave them a very significant story line in the 20th century version.

Plus, it's easier to sing along with rock songs than with opera. And I like that Mimi lives at the end of Rent.

Yep. Smiting to come any day now.

Not seeing cultural redemption on the horizon, I decided to move forward with my weekend. On Friday night Tom, Andrey, Olena, Berto, Indie and I hit the Attic for Teenage Kicks, which was quite the blast. And later this afternoon, Jackie and I will be gracing the Black Magic open mic with a few of our fabulous cover tunes. Andrey was supposed to sing with me, but the poor lad has been felled by a sore throat. I'm no opera or Broadway singer, but the cocktails will be flowing today, and it should be a good time.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Kids In America

Although the song isn't lyrically appropriate, overall, especially since I think it actually pokes a little gentle fun at The Colonies and those of us who live here, sometime back in March or April, I decided that a refrain from Kim Wilde's "Kids In America" would be the perfect theme for Barack Obama's presidential campaign:

New York to east California
There's a new wave comin', I warn ya
We're the kids in America
We're the kids in America

In case you haven't heard, last night Barack Obama was elected President of the United States. There are a lot of things I could say about this fact, but I'd be writing all night, and I have a show at Berkeley Rep to get to this evening. So I'll just offer a few tidbits.

First of all, it's not something I spent a lot of time thinking about, but if you'd asked me at any time prior to this year if I thought an African American would be elected president, my answer would have been, "One day, to be certain, but not in my lifetime." I'm 38 years old; born after the bulk of the civil rights movement and raised by a Caucasian father and African American mother in an environment where I never thought there was anything unusual about people of different races loving each other, as opposed to hating each other. But obviously I'm aware of racism because, despite my upbringing, I still never thought I'd see this day.

I've never been happier to be proven wrong. Not only has an African American been elected president, but a brilliant, well educated African American who, by all appearances, has the vision to be an excellent leader. Thank you for that, Mr. President Elect. (Plus, I'll share a little secret: I'm thrilled that Obama is bracial, like me. Yay!)

I went to sleep Monday night feeling like a child on Christmas Eve. I bounded out of bed in the morning and was at my polling place ready to vote at 7:05 a.m. So were the 30 other people in line ahead of me, and the many others who arrived during the hour it took me to complete my civic duty. Throughout the day I became so nervous about the outcome of the election that I felt nauseous. I finally let myself breathe at about 6 p.m. Pacific Time when it was estimated that Obama had won Ohio. Even though we knew what was going to happen by the time the polls closed in California two hours later, it was still an incredible thrill to see the announcement on CNN that Obama had been elected. I was at a party with Denise and Paul at the time, and we all let out a serious cheer and toasted the moment with glasses of Veuve Clicquot.

I called my friend Chris a few minutes later, and he was crying so hard, he couldn't speak.

After the speeches, Paul, Denise and I did a little party hopping and found ourselves in San Francisco's Union Square at about 11:00. The energy was electric, people were jubilant, and it looked like there had been a street party earlier (and by all accounts, I think there had been). It seemed that people of all races and ages were out, revelling in Obama's victory and the pride of being kids in America.

I'm generally cynical about politicians, and it remains to be seen if Obama can keep all the promises he's made on the campaign trail. I tend to doubt he'll be able to, but for now, it feels really wonderful to hope.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol... oh, I don't know

She and Him at Bimbo's 365 Club

I have to admit I've grown bored with numbering the missives on this space in which I gush about music. Sorry. Anyway, last spring an email from All Music tipped me off to a new album by actress Zooey Deschanel and musician M. Ward. The pair had worked together on a film and decided to continue making music under the name She and Him. Deschanel sings, Ward plays guitar, and both write the songs.

Back in the day, if I may grossly oversimplify things, music lovers would hear a song on the radio, and if they liked what they heard, buy a 45-rpm single at their local record store. Often that purchase would lead to something bigger: namely procuring the full length album where the song could be found. Other songs from that album may make it onto the radio airwaves, they may not. It was a good system, and it worked for decades.

Well, this is 2008. I had not in the spring and still have not heard any She and Him songs on the radio. Admittedly, I don't listen to every radio station in San Francisco; I don't even listen to most of them. What I did on that spring day after reading the She and Him album review on the All Music website was head to Amazon. There I could preview every track of Volume One. It's a collection of country-flavored tunes, 60's girl group-esque ditties and a couple of covers.

I chose my favorite numbers, generally leaning toward the girl group sound, and that night hopped onto iTunes where I downloaded "Why Do You let Me Stay Here?", "Sweet Darlin'" and "I Was Made For You." No radio station necessary (scores of people I know will not be at all happy I just wrote those words), no album purchase required. The country-ish songs came off a little too sappy in their 30-second Amazon previews for my taste; so I stayed away from them.

Well, I may only own three songs, but over the last half year I have fallen in love with She and Him. So I jumped at the chance to see the duo perform at Bimbo's 365 Club last night (they've also got a show there tonight). Lavender Diamond, a band I had stumbled upon on MySpace last year, was the opening act. I invited Bill, Kim, Mary Beth and Kurt to come along, and we all gathered at the historic Bimbo's to take in some new music.

The show was phenomenal. The sap I'd heard within She and Him's country tunes was completely absent from the live performance, and every number sparkled. And of course, I was delighted to sing along... loudly... with the songs I already know well and love. Both Kurt and Mary Beth, who were not familiar with She and Him's music before last night, enjoyed the show so much they thanked me for inviting them. She and Him are just so good. They're so good, they're so good, they're so good.

I still haven't heard them on the radio, but after last night, I just may buy that whole album. You should do yourself a favor and do the same.