Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas, Los Angeles Style

For the second time this month, I find myself in the City of Angels.

This time it was for the Sassy family Christmas celebration. I flew down to Burbank from the Bay Area after work on Christmas Day (oh, yes, I still work all the holidays) and have been here ever since. I fly back north in just a few hours, but it's been a fun weekend. My brother Peter made the Christmas scene from Germany this year and brought his girlfriend and her daughter with him. I haven't seen Peter in more than 7 years and thought I might cry when I arrived, but instead, it was he who burst into tears when he saw me. And of course, my mother flew in from Hawaii and joined me, Peter and our other siblings, nephews and one niece at my sister Fabulous Patti's pad in Los Feliz.

And that's where the Christmas party to end all Christmas parties took place.

We always have fun, but a lack of Christmas music this year (we actually had plenty, but it didn't seem like very much) prompted me to plug in my iPod and inspire the dance party and sing-along. We shook our collective groove thing to The Beatles, The Monkees, Stevie Wonder, The Selector, The Supremes, Darlene Love, The Jackson 5 and Bobby Darin, just to name a few. Even my friend Pat Johnson made a soundtrack appearance with his song "The Very Last Time," a personal favorite of mine. I might have been the only one singing along to that one, but whatever.

The day after Christmas was sort of a lazy one for my mom, Fabulous Patti and me, but we were very tired. I got a second wind in the evening, however, and took off for West Los Angeles where I met my friend Emily in one of the private studios at Max Karaoke. For two and a half hours we sang our hearts out. The song selection at Max Karaoke is amazing, and we were able to belt out numbers from the Waitresses, Squeeze, Madness, The Jam, The Beautiful South, The Belle Stars, Jesus Jones, Yaz, The Charlatans, The Crystals, The Angels, The Bangles, Janis Joplin, The Go-Go's and Elvis Costello, not to mention selections from Rent, A Chorus Line and Rocky Horror Picture Show.

If I lived in L.A., I would try to sing at Max Karaoke at least once a week.

Then today, Fabulous Patti, my mom and I went to Dusty's in Silver Lake for brunch. Sooo delicious and they have $5 mimosas on weekends. I'd be embarrassed to tell you I had three, but I'm on vacation. And that brings us to the present. I just have to tidy a few things up and make my regular pilgrimage to Pinkberry before I'm on my way home. Bummer. Too bad things like work, responsibility and real life get in the way of playtime in the Southland.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Kevin Hickey Saved the Day!

Merry Christmas Eve, gentle readers! I trust you are having a lovely holiday... or at least will tomorrow. I am relaxing after a busy day and will be jetting down to L.A. after work tomorrow for the Sassy family Christmas celebration.

However, before any of that can be considered, I have something very important to discuss with you. This week something tremendous happened: I became old. Or middle aged, anyway. You may have seen references in previous posts on this space, but it's official now. On Monday, December 21, 2009, I turned 40 years old. I hadn't exactly been looking forward to the occasion, so I decided to have three days worth of parties to celebrate and keep myself from simply crawling under my bed and crying. There was a big Saturday night dance party on the 19th, a Sunday afternoon karaoke party on the 20th and an official birthday dinner on the 21st.

I planned everything well in advance and had secured a space for the Saturday night dance party by Thanksgiving. That party would start at 7 p.m. and feature music from DJ English Steve, whom I had hired to spin 60's soul and power pop, a little Motown, 70's post punk and 80's new wave and ska. Also, my band Sober Nixon would play a short set in the middle of things, and then the whole party would wrap up around midnight. At least that was the plan until I learned two days before my party that the owner of the venue, which shall remain nameless (this space is only for happy thoughts), had booked an entire evening of house music DJ's on that same night. She did this even though her event coordinator had given me the green light to bring my own DJ and perform with my band, as well as approving the time frame I'd requested. Plus, he had taken a $600 deposit from me to secure my reservation for the evening.

To make a long story short, there apparently was some kind of gross miscommunication between the owner of the venue and her event coordinator, and my party was thrown over for the evening of house music DJ's. Ick. I understand that they can make more money with four DJ's promoting the night and potentially bringing in a few hundred people, but it's just unprofessional to double book like that, especially since they took my money.

Luckily for me, however, I know Kevin Hickey.

About half an hour before I got official confirmation that my Saturday night dance party had no home (the official confirmation came the day before, mind you), the brilliant Kevin suggested I contact Il Pirata, a bar and restaurant in Potrero Hill where Kevin had held his 40th birthday party last year. I did, and within five minutes my party had been rebooked. I didn't bother bringing Sober Nixon to Il Pirata (we hadn't rehearsed enough, anyway), but English Steve still could spin. And spin he did. I may be 40, but I danced like I was 21 that night. Okay, technically, I was still 39 during the dance party, but you get my point. It was so, so, so much fun, as evidenced by the above photo of me with some of my very satisfied party guests.

Had it not been for Kevin Hickey, the 45-50 people who attended the dance party would have been crammed into my living room listening to my cd's while they jockeyed for somewhere to sit. So yay, Il Pirata! Boo, stupid original venue! And for the record, I have not yet received a refund of my deposit from that stupid joint, even though the owner claims she is going to return my money. I have legal resources to help me secure my $600, if necessary, but let's hope it doesn't come to that.

On Sunday, nine of us gathered at The Mint to sing songs. It was awfully crowded because The Mint was throwing their holiday party that afternoon, but that meant we got free food. Yum! And even though the wait was long, I still managed to sing "Perfect" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding." Singing songs will always make me happy, no matter what my age.

Then on Monday, also known as The Day I Became Old, the ten of us pictured here sat down at Amber India for a delicious dinner. If you have to be 40, I'd recommend at least enjoying a fabulous meal. Taste buds, I've decided, know no age. We drank scrumptious cocktails, munched on amazing food and engaged fantastic conversation. It was all so very grown up (and probably the only grown up thing I'll ever do, so it's a shame if you missed it).

Unfortunately for me, I've had to work at 4:00 in the morning all this week, including on my birthday and the day after. But I used the last gasp of my youth to celebrate with carefree abandon despite those early morning wake up calls. Tomorrow I get to "sleep in" since I don't have to be at work until 6 a.m., but then it's Christmas. And the party just goes on and on...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Escape To L.A.

Sometimes when life gives me lemons, I... run away. I don't mean "run away" in the sense of disappearing without leaving word or abandoning my responsibilities. I just mean that sometimes I benefit from a few head clearing days away from my life.

Life handed me a plate full of something very, very sour recently. So it was not hard last week, when I received an invitation to my friend Emily's birthday celebration in Los Angeles, to decide to make a spontaneous visit to the City of Angels. I rarely, if ever, do anything spontaneous. I'm a planner at heart, but I found a $97 round-trip flight down to Southern California and arranged to stay with my sister Fabulous Patti in Los Feliz, thus making this last minute sojourn seem like destiny. With that, I packed a suitcase, headed to the airport on Saturday afternoon, and told my routine in San Francisco that it could, with all due respect, kiss my ass for 48 hours.

When I arrived in the pouring rain Saturday night, the first order of business was running errands with FP in advance of our family's upcoming Christmas celebration. Champagne had to purchased so it would be handy on December 25th, after all. We didn't do much else on Saturday, mostly because of the weather. We had planned to go to Tiki Ti, my favorite bar on the east side of Hollywood, but in the end, it was just as fun to stay in and watch PBS. (I know, how's that for an exciting Saturday night? I didn't care. I was out of town, and frankly, that's all that mattered to me.)

The rain had cleared out by yesterday morning, and I was free to go running down Los Feliz Boulevard, pictured here. My Los Feliz runs tend to degrade into walks very quickly, but I go about four miles, and I love the route. Sometimes I head up into Griffith Park, as well, but I skipped that on this trip. After a lazy afternoon of napping, I hopped into Fabulous Patti's car and headed down to Marina del Rey to celebrate Emily. She and I, along with her new boyfriend and several of her friends, went to Manhattan Beach for holiday fireworks at the pier, followed by cocktails and dancing at a small lounge. After that came snacks and karaoke at Pancho's.

Not bad for a Sunday night, huh? I have to admit, I remained fairly blue for most of this trip, but when Emily and I took to Pancho's karaoke stage to duet on "Don't Stop Believin'," I had to be happy for at least those four minutes. Yes, that song sucks, but karaoke bars everywhere and the television show "Glee" have given it a second life. And if you can hit the notes, which Emily can, and I pretty much can, it's really fun to sing. Plus, the crowd absolutely loved it and us.

I've felt pretty good today, which is a good thing, since I'm heading back to the Bay in just a couple of hours. My flight has been delayed, but soon enough I'll be back in San Francisco...hopefully re-energized and ready to fight a pile of rotten citrus.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


I guess it says something about life that I'm almost 40 years old (12 days and counting), and I still stumble upon things that amaze me.

Case in point: the extraordinary talent of some performers. I went to the opening of the latest Cirque du Soleil show, Ovo, last week, and it was, of course, tremendous. Now, I've seen several Cirque shows before, including Love, which is my absolute favorite. So one would think I'd be accustomed to the brilliance of their performances. However, each new show brings with it more amazing displays of talent. So good. If you get a chance to see Ovo, I'd highly recommend you do. Although, if you're going to see any one Cirque show, it definitely would be worth the driving time or the airfare to scoot to Vegas to see Love. The Beatles and Cirque du Soleil? You can't possibly go wrong with that combination.

Another thing that amazes me is the depth and intensity of human emotions. Even and especially emotions we try to talk ourselves out of because we know they aren't good for us. Or perhaps I should say emotions we try to talk ourselves out of because they are wrapped up in situations that aren't good for us. That, my dear readers, is a jaw-dropper every time.