Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All You Need Is... Sin City?

Sometimes a quick getaway is all you need.  I try to take mini-vacations as often as possible, as I find them very head-clearing and relaxing.  So this past weekend, my sister Fabulous Patti and I hit Las Vegas for about 48 hours, and it was the perfect ending to the long Thanksgiving weekend.  After all the turkey was eaten and thanks given, we met at the Mirage on Saturday afternoon (I flew, while FP drove from L.A.).  Once settled in, our first order of business was to play the penny slots.

That's right, the penny slots.  We are both such high rollers, aren't we?

They make look innocuous, but the penny slots pretty much kicked both of our behinds on Saturday night.  I've always considered slot machines to be simply video games, and the money I lose is just money I spend to play. Well, after blowing through about $60 on Saturday night, I decided to try and employ a little strategy.  So I cut myself off and promised the slot machines that we would meet another day.

On Sunday I began the day at the Mirage gym and spa, where I spent three hours exercising and luxuriating. I'm not sure too many people associate Las Vegas with fitness and an afternoon at the spa, but I do. Then that evening, we went to Cirque du Soleil's The Beatles Love. I'd seen Love before, but FP had not. Having seen it before did not prevent me from tearing up, though, just as I had during my first viewing.  I just get overwhelmed by the music, and then I start thinking about how John and George are dead and how that's not fair and... well, you can imagine how things devolve from there.

Monday saw the end of our little sojourn away from reality.  Fabulous Patti left at about noon, but I had a few hours to kill before my flight.  So after lunch, I did a penny slots tour of the Bellagio, Paris and the Flamingo.  This time I was a force to be reckoned with.  I lost $8 at the Bellagio but promptly won it back at Paris.  However, I started losing at Paris and found myself down about $17 from where I started.  Then I wandered into the Flamingo, and my fortunes changed almost instantly.  Between luck and strategy (mostly luck, I admit), I conquered the slots and ended the day up about $30 or so.  No, that didn't make up for what I'd lost on Saturday night, but it did make me feel better.  It's fine to consider slot machines video games, but isn't a video game that pays you a better deal?

I came home from Sin City last night and proceeded to get up at 5:00 this morning so I could make it to the gym before cleaning up and heading to the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew my driver's license before it expires in three weeks.  The lines at San Francisco's DMV have been exceptionally long lately, so I decided it best to get there very early.  I arrived at 7:30, half an hour before the DMV even opens, and found twelve people already in line. Getting there that early proved to be worth it, though, because by 8:20 my license was renewed and I was happily on my way to work.

From Vegas to an early morning at the DMV... yes, how fortunes can change so very quickly.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Images of Thanks

Here are a few photos from the super fun Thanksgiving dinner party I attended at my friend Tom's parents' pad last night. We came, we ate, we drank.  We also laughed and had a fantastic time. Not everyone at the party is represented here, but at least you'll get an idea of the merriment.  And if you look closely, you can see the thankfulness in our eyes.  Enjoy!

Irina and me before the feasting began.

Stimulating conversation over turkey.

I'm not completely certain what's going on here, but I love this picture. Irina, Roland and an innocent Brussels sprout (with Tom looking on from behind).

Tom, Chris and me (plus Nick raiding the dessert table). This one came out a teeny bit fuzzy, but I've just decided the fuzz makes it look kind of vintage.  At that point we were very full, but we nonetheless managed to keep smiling.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

That Time Again

Happy Thanksgiving, gentle readers!  Ever since I started this little chronicle, I've taken time on Thanksgiving to acknowledge, in print, all that I am thankful for.

However, I don't want to risk boring you with yet another list of the things I love about my life.  If you're interested in such a list, please feel free to see my Thanksgiving 2009 post.  Or my Thanksgiving posts from any year, really.

So I now find myself wondering what to write today.  I can tell you that I've been thinking a lot about appreciation and gratitude for the last few months, and that certainly resonates on Thanksgiving.  Live everyday, my pretties; recognize the wonderfulness in everything you have; and take nothing and no one for granted.  Perhaps that will be my New Year's resolution for 2011, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

I've been celebrating Thanksgiving in typical urban chic fashion this year. After work yesterday, I hit my favorite karaoke den to sing songs.  That's not an unusual activity for me, but I haven't sung a note in almost two weeks due to the nasty cold I managed to pick up on the 15th.  I got a chance last night to warble quite a few tunes, and even though my voice was rusty at first, it was still fun.  Once my voice warmed up, I sounded okay.  When all the songs had been sung, I headed down the block where my friend Emmie and some others were celebrating Emmie leaving an awful job and getting a much better one.  In this troubled economy, no less.

I had to call it a night early because at 6:00 this morning I found myself at work.  Many people probably can't imagine working on Thanksgiving, but I work in a 24-hour-365-day-a-year business.  So there you go.  Plus, I really like working on holidays.  There's a great vibe among my coworkers, and on Thanksgiving (and Christmas) we get a catered feast courtesy of the boss.  Super yummy!

After work, I'll take the party to my friend Tom's parents' house.  Tom, myself, various other friends, and of course his parents, will then celebrate Thanksgiving with the typical sit down dinner and stimulating conversation. Imagine the Algonquin Round Table with turkey and cranberries...or something like that.  Because I am such a committed cook, I will be bringing a bottle of French champagne and a bottle of California sparkling wine to the meal.  That may sound like I'm cheating, but I can tell you that everyone always appreciates my liquid contribution.

I'll have to make it another early night because I have to be at work very early again tomorrow morning.  However, I'm certain I'll find a way to squeeze in an episode or two of the original Beverly Hills, 90210 on the Soap Opera Network's marathon this evening.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I'm not ashamed to admit I love that deliciously bad 1990's Aaron Spelling creation.  Entertainment pleasure that guilty certainly could be considered something I'm thankful for.

I hope your Thanksgiving is as a lovely as mine is shaping up to be.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Anachronistic Intellect

"I'm listening to you talk right now, and you sound like... like... a time when people used to be intelligent.  Like the 60's, back when people were really intelligent."

Someone said those words to me last night.  I was at one of my favorite haunts, the Burritt Room, to see Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen, and I was chatting with a rather prominent local musician.  This musician and I don't know each other that well; we've become acquainted at shows over the years, many of them his.  Anyway, in the middle of our conversation, he saw reason to say that to me.  I take any acknowledgement of my intellect as a compliment, but I also like that he associates my intelligence with the 1960's (in my fantasy life, I'm a total mod scenester).

Add to all of the above the fact that this man really is a very talented musician, and well... those couple of sentences pretty much made my weekend.  So thank you, sir.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fab Four In The Future

In case you missed all the hoopla this week, I am here to tell you that the entire Beatles catalog now is available on iTunes.  I will say that I still love owning records, even if I own them in CD form; a computer full of mp3's simply is not the same.  I also still make a point of frequenting brick and mortar record stores, preferably independent ones.  Nonetheless, iTunes does have a place in my life, as I find it very useful for purchasing individual songs (I don't know about you, but it's been years since I've run across a 45 in a record store).

I know virtually every Beatles song, and generally feel satisfied with the fact that I own only six of their albums.  However, recently I have been jonesing for a couple of specific numbers not on any of my six albums: "Hold Me Tight" and "Yes It Is."  Now, thanks to a few clicks of the mouse on iTunes this week, I own both.  One day I expect to add to my Beatles album collection, but picking up a song here and there also works. 

Since I was hanging around iTunes anyway, I also bought ditties by the Go-Betweens and Plain White T's.  I never manage to escape from the iTunes music store without a few more songs than I intended to buy. 

That's all about that's happening here.  I've been sick all week and even stayed home from work for two days (a rare occurrence) and haven't exercised since Monday morning (an even more rare occurrence).  But I'm on the mend now and intend to rally this evening to attend my friend Rico's birthday party for a bit and then hit the Tippy Canoe and the Paddlemen show.  We'll see if I make it, or if my pajamas and couch seduce me into spending another cozy night at home with just my lingering cough.

My cough has been reliable and loyal company this week, but I'm hoping to play with some other kids tonight.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The photograph to the left was taken on Easter Sunday, 1976. Isn't my family attractive, and isn't our table cloth so very 1970's? Love it.

You can spot a six year-old me in this picture way in the back sitting near the wall on the right side of the table. My father is in the foreground on the left.  My mother is also in this shot, of course, as are all of my brothers and sisters, an aunt and uncle, my grandmother (although she's partially hidden) and my godfather. My grandfather took the photo, which is why he's not in it.

I've been thinking about my dad, in particular, a lot for the past couple of days. He's a published poet and a personal trainer (who says artists can't be into fitness?), and he's brilliant. He also, along with my equally brilliant mother, instilled in me some values that I consider to be very much a part of who I am.  Among the things my parents taught me:
  • Value education. A good education is its own reward and under no circumstances should be considered just a means to a larger paycheck.
  • A love of books and music. My mom is a former jazz singer, so of course the daughter of a writer and a singer would love reading and music. My dad pretty much only likes classical music and jazz, so generally he's unimpressed by my taste in music, but whatever. No Nick Lowe, Buddy Holly or the Go-Go's for him.
  • Do what you love in life. It doesn't matter if you make $20,000 a year or $200,000, what's most important is that you love what you do (and that you're as well educated as possible).
That's just the tip of the iceberg.  Admittedly, my dad has not been the world's most perfect parent, but I wouldn't trade him for anything (or anyone). The same goes for my mother. They each have their foibles, let's say, but I couldn't imagine having been born to a better pair.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rhythm and Melody

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my Sober Nixon bandmates and I recently did some recording in my living room (while watching the Giants beat the Phillies and win the NLCS, by the way).  Well, slowly but surely Sober Nixon's bass player, Ho, who also is serving as producer on this little project, is polishing up each of the songs we recorded.

If you want to hear one of the recordings, simply click here.  Remember, we're a cover band.  So yes, we play songs other people wrote.

I admit, my vocal rendition lacks the anger of Elvis Costello or the urgent melancholy of Nick Lowe, who did write this tune.  However, I stand by my performance.  Especially since I'm in the process of learning to sing, and probably the most important thing I've learned is that it's a slow process.  Anyway, enough with the excuses... just enjoy!  We're not exactly a garage band, but I think our recent recording session makes us at least a living room band.

Monday, November 08, 2010

We Could Live Beside The Ocean...

Day and time: Monday at approximately 3:00 p.m.
Place: Santa Monica, California
Weather: Mostly sunny skies, believe it or not.

Sometimes my cell phone camera takes fantastic photos, other times not so much.  I discovered while singing at Boardwalk 11 last night that my "real" camera (which has issues of  its own) either has a dead battery or simply has completely died, so I snapped this shot of Santa Monica Beach this afternoon with my cell phone.  Looks kind of gloomy and, as my friend Nina pointed out, even rainy, doesn't it?  Well, aside from some wind, the weather actually was quite lovely.  I even considered buying a sun hat.  In November.  In San Francisco, you have to wear your winter coat whenever you visit the ocean, no matter what the season.

On this third day of my Los Angeles mini-vacation, my sister Fabulous Patti and I drove from Los Feliz to the coast and pretended to be tourists by paying the Santa Monica Pier a little visit.  On the way, we stopped by the La Brea Tar Pits, per my request.  I hadn't been there since a school field trip in second or third grade, and I wanted to see if anything has changed.  By all appearances, it has not, although we didn't actually go into the Tar Pits museum.

After the Pier, where we had decidedly yummy milkshakes, we walked along the Third Street Promenade for a while and then headed back east and hit this comfortable little restaurant for dinner.  I have another almost full day of mini-vacation tomorrow before flying back to the Bay in the evening.  I think I'll make the most of it by relaxing as much as possible.  I know you would do the same.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Southland Sunday Night

A lot of people don't like Los Angeles. Especially a lot of people in the Bay Area. However, I happen to love it. I grew up in Pasadena, which was quite a lovely place to spend my formative years, and even though I don't live in the L.A. area now, I visit quite often. Of course, if you read this little chronicle with any kind of regularity, then you know that already.

I happen to be in L.A. for a mini-vacation as I type, and it has been quite the lovely time so far. Last night I visited my brother, sister-in-law and nephew Mikey Jet, and we sang songs and read stories and played the "Penguin Game."  If you want details on the Penguin Game, you'll have to ask Mikey.

Today I brunched at Fred 62, purchased myself a new dress and coat at my favorite clothing store in the world and am about to go sing songs with my friends Emily and Dionne.  I believe I'll taking a journey to Santa Monica tomorrow afternoon and possibly dining with Katya and Dave in the evening.  Then it's back to the Bay on Tuesday night.

Until then, however, this California Girl will be living it up in La La Land.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Whisper Words of Wisdom

Focus too much on what you thought or hoped would be, and you risk missing the beauty and joy of what is.

Find the above quotation to be inspirational?  Well, you can thank me because I made it up.  Or I think I made it up, anyway.  More likely than not, someone or several someones significantly more profound than me already uttered a similar sentiment, if not almost those exact words.  While I'm aware that it probably is arrogant at best to quote oneself for inspiration, I think the idea behind these words is pretty important.

When I was in my twenties I spent a lot of time worrying and fretting.  Would I be successful in my career?  When would I get married?  Would I get married at all?  How would I meet the man I'd marry?  JEEZ.  I get tired just thinking about all that fretting.  For the record, I have done quite well in my career, and at 40 years old, I have never been married.  Sometimes I feel sad about my marital status, but other times I am just fine with it and at other times am quite happy about it, frankly.

So exactly what did all that worrying do for me?  One could argue that worrying made me work harder for my career success, but I doubt that.  I've always worked hard, and I enjoy what I do, so it rarely feels like work, anyway.  Another justifying thought is that the twenties are an insecure time for many people, and worrying is pretty normal.  Fair enough.  However, I truly believe all that worrying did absolutely nothing for me.  No wait, I do think it made me miss out on at least a little bit of the carefree fun that can fill the decade right after college.

I had this revelation about my behavior and mental state in my twenties about ten years ago and decided that one of the very few regrets I have is not having more fun back then.  Well, recently, I discovered that old habits die hard.  I don't worry nearly as much as I used to, and I am very well grounded and do appreciate all the good things in my life.  However, sometimes I find myself focusing on what I thought my life would like at this point (the aforementioned marriage, the children I thought I'd have even though I never have been really super certain I wanted kids), and I realize that I when I do that, I turn a blind eye what's going on in the moment.

I don't know about yours, but my life is really, really fun, and I don't want to miss a minute of it because I'm focusing on the fact that I haven't yet had and may never have opportunity to spend years changing diapers or negotiating house chores with a roommate to whom I'm legally bound (and yes, presumably in love with).  Don't get me wrong, I'd still like to get married one day, and I have nothing against children, but until then, why not enjoy all that I already have and let the future work itself out?

Wise words for today and everyday, I hope.

(By the way, I hope this post doesn't come off as overly self-righteous or annoying; that's not generally my style or intent.)

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Have you heard?  A little team known as the San Francisco Giants won the World Series last night, beating the Texas Rangers in the Series four games to one.  The Giants have not won a World Series since the 1950's... when they were still the New York Giants.  And the last time they tried, in the 2002 World Series against the Anaheim Angels, it was particularly heartbreaking (especially for me since I hate the Angels).

This year things are different.  The 2010 Giants were the serious underdogs of the playoffs and have been called "scrappy" and "misfits."  However, when you get right down to it, they're simply a good team.  San Franciscans have been waiting a long time for this victory, and parties broke out in the streets after Giants closer (and my boyfriend) Brian Wilson struck out the Rangers Nelson Cruz in the bottom of the 9th inning to end the game and the Series.  As the night wore on, the street parties got a little rowdy and out of hand, but for the most part they stayed sane.

As for me, after the game I went to the Beatles karaoke-sing along event that I go to every first Monday of the month.  I have to admit, in comparison to celebrating the World Series, singing Beatles songs in a bar/cafe was a little boring (can you believe I said that?).  So I left early.  At that point I wasn't about to go looking for a street party to join, but I didn't want to go home either, so I went to a regular karaoke bar nearby, thinking it might be a little more lively, and it was.  Slightly, anyway.  But it was energized by enough patrons donning orange and black that I stayed to sing a couple of songs before heading home.

And now that San Francisco has won the World Series, all I have to do is wait through the excruciating late Fall and Winter months until baseball begins again.