28 October 2007

Singing Solves Everything, Part Two (still working backwards)

And we're back. When we left off I was crossing the Richmond Bridge on the way to my very own private deck in heaven (Mendocino). I was full of energy having slept very late to recover from the previous evening's festivities, which included...

Karaoke. I mean, what did you expect? You know what I like. Here you can see Marcus reaching deep into his core to wail "Today!" better than Neil ever could.

Alisa, Marcus and I ended up embracing a couple of lurkers when we stepped up for "You're the Inspiration," which was a total hit--the whole bar was singing along (except, apparently, for the girl in the foreground of this photo). We even gained a couple of groupies who trailed us the rest of the night--you can see one of them behind us (I figure she's either bowing to show her allegiance, or casting a very powerful spell).

Encore Karaoke is easily the greatest karaoke joint I've ever been to (which statement does NOT put it in competition with Live Band Karaoke, since that is a completely different animal). Above, you will see Cameron and I giving Beck's "Sexx Laws" a sizzling treatment--I mean, what other karaoke book has "Sexx Laws"? Someone knew what they were doing. It was a great sing, especially about a third of the way through the first verse when our eyes locked in the simultaneous realization that this song is even dirtier in print than it sounds when you listen to the record--we then had no choice but to sing louder. I'm glad that every time we take out sweet little Cameron, liquor and smut seem to dominate (here's hoping he hasn't linked his mom to this blog).

If Gnu looks tired, it's probably because Encore wasn't our first stop. Oh no, dear reader, Alisa planned the kind of birthday-night-out every little pill of a girl dreams about. And believe me, I had been a pill about the whole thing--unable to get excited or contribute anything productive to the planning of my birthday (which might let you in on why I thought it best to go away by myself) I washed my hands of all decision-making and left it in her able hands. What a sweetheart she is! Before the karaoke dive, we hit the tony Top of the Mark on Nob Hill.

With the help of a first-class wedding band, we boogied down with all the elderly and foreigners the city's nightlife had to offer. There was a middle-aged woman in a white suit doing pole dance moves without the pole; a very old man cutting a serious rug with his young-enough-to-be-his-granddaughter date; an aging greek gentleman, shirt unbuttoned to his navel and at least 7 lbs of gold chain around his neck; and, everyone's favorite, an Asian lady who would turn you around on the dance floor, shove jazz hands in your direction, squeal samurai style, then lock fingers with you for a quick sweep of the dance floor (in her excitement she stabbed one of her heels through my right middle toe--but I bear you no ill will, sweet woman...you were an absolute treat).

The desserts were delish, but don't get the virgin strawberry daiquiri because you'll regret it all night.

The apron I'm wearing here (which I love love love) was hand sewn by Ashley, and was the first of two aprons I received for my birthday--I opened Alisa's lovely full length next (which I also love love love). Funny thing is the Bakers had also meant to buy me an apron, but talked to Alisa first and settled on a Williams Sonoma gift card. I don't know what it implies about me that three (actually four--Amy apparently thought about it too) people thought I'd like nothing better than an apron, and that they happened to be right. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm reminded of the family Christmas letter my Mom wrote a couple of years ago in which she illustrated very factually what my year had been like and it made me sound like a 60 year old spinster minus the cats (I believe knitting, Relief Society and City Hall were involved). Maybe in my thirties I should embark on some hipper hobbies--you know, like turn-tabling and krump dancing. Or maybe improv...

The gift basket in the photo is the aforementioned "getaway" basket from Mackenzie (with contributions by Amy and Vicky). It was so lovely--I ate through it the next two days and soaked in some of it on Saturday night. You are all so thoughtful.

And that's it, dear reader. My 30th birthday, finish to start. Believe it or not, one of the best birthdays I can remember. Maybe some time soon I'll tell you about what a relief it is to have it over with, but for now I'll leave you with some parting hotness (nothing is sexier than a banjo and a refrigerator)...

Singing Solves Everything, Part One (working backwards)

I don't want to do this but I know I have to, so I guess I better just get it over with: this post and the post following are about the weekend of my 30th birthday. It was grand. But just because it was grand doesn't mean I want to talk about it (does anyone get that?). However, the grandness of which I speak is largely due to the extreme love and generosity of my friends and parents and so I feel obliged to prove my unending gratitude with heaps of pictures, most of which I'm certain will bore you, dear reader, to tears. Nevertheless...

Part One (Working Backwards--in order to keep things at least a touch interesting, I'll begin with the latest events and work my way back toward when it all began; also, I haven't yet received Friday night's pictures):

Arriving back in the East Bay, I thought to myself, "What next?"

Towards the end of my trip, I finally got a halfway decent shot of a stand of eucalyptus trees (I'd been trying for one all weekend). There is something so California about a windbreak of Eucalyptus--it makes my heart melt (which is weird because Eucalyptus are non-native, and because whose heart melts over stuff like that?).

*Note: most highway shots were taken while driving by raising my right arm, camera in hand, through the sun roof. You may find I've not yet mastered the technique.

Here on my hillside perch above the mighty Pacific I'll tell you a bit about what I'd been doing. When I took this arm's length self-portrait, two turkey vultures were occassionaly swooping over my head. I was watching the tide, listening to the break, and splitting segments of dried sea grass into a pile in front of my feet. It was a fab break from my ride down the 1. I left the hotel at noon and stopped here a bit north of Bodega Bay . I'm not sure how much time I spent in this semi-catatonic state, but I emerged thoroughly relieved of the minor dread that had been building in my stomach since leaving Mendocino, and felt ready to enjoy the remaining 4 hours it took to drive Shoreline Highway all the way to Muir Beach, where I then turned home to Alameda. The next few pictures should help explain the minor dread...

I mean, who would want to leave this place? Above you can witness the view from my private deck.

If I look on the verge of happy tears, it's probably because I was. I got to The Heritage House Saturday afternoon, armed with a fluffy bathrobe, a brimming getaway basket (thanks to Mackenzie, Amy, and Vicky--more on this later) and a heart full of song (thanks to the new "Playlist 30" on my pod). I pretty much holed up on this deck and in my room the whole time, except when exploring the grounds. I don't have much to say about it. It was just perfect.

The inland drive to Mendocino was equally wonderful. I purchased a sack of Pink Ladies and a jar of fresh applesauce here at Gowan's Oak Tree, just before entering a redwood forest. Don't be surprised if one day soon you hear from a mutual friend that I've given it all up to sell apples on the roadside. I could do it, too--I could totally be happy as an apple farmer (I really hope you'll follow that link and click "OK" when the dialog box pops up--especially if you're Sarah. Think of it as a bleated birthday present to me).

Admittedly I'm not as enthusiastic about grapes as I am about apples, but man is October a good time for photographing vineyards. It reminded me of the ivy covered house at 5th North and 3rd East where I lived my last year of undergrad--in the fall, the leaves would turn all golden and deep red and I felt like the luckiest girl in the world (even though most of my roomates there fell into the category of a. narcissistic, b. "creative"--read "actress", or c. bulemic). And maybe I could enjoy life as a vintner. I mean, they get into some crazy stuff...

Folks, they cleared the manger scene out of this creche to fill it with Halloween ghoulies. Talk about post-modern.

I didn't get any decipherable shots of the coastal dairies I drove by, but the air was thick with cheese and I'm perfectly convinced that I could happily live with the stench of manure if it meant I got to live at the beach with my cheese cows. Grandpa F. would be so proud--I'm sure it would be enough to undo the painful tears Larry provoked when he heartlessly told a dying old rancher that a young man like himself wouldn't ever be a farmer (you asked for a blog, so I even gave you a shout out!).

Not pictured here are the 170-something songs I whistled, hummed, sang, or emoted through all the time I was driving. There is for sure no better medicine for any ailment than singing--can anyone else relate to that? I've known this about myself for a long time, but it's starting to become a stronger fact the more I think about it. If I had any doubts about spending my 30th birthday completely alone (which I guess I hadn't yet mentioned was the whole intent of this trip), they quickly and finally dissipated when, shortly after leaving the 101, this song popped up. No way could I have felt better in any moment than right then and there.

06 September 2007

Big Doings

I was about to say that the last couple of weeks have been crazy busy with work and fun, but looking back now, they seem to hold steady with a past year that I can only consider "balls to the wall" in character. Had I time, visual aids, and wit enough in my pocket, dear reader, to lay all my adventures at your feet I would. I'd write of Portland and Wilco, of Hwy 1 and Vacation Wonderland. I'd tell tales of the Mola Mola; sing songs of the Tiki Lounge. I'd weave you my new sweater. I'd help you paint your new room. I'd root for the Cubs and plan your next party. I'd hurl curses at hay. I'd send you an evite.

But I won't, because I'm exhausted.

28 August 2007

All things shall be revealed

Disc #6 revealed its shiny face this morning, and boy is it a goodie: Keep It Like a Secret, by Built To Spill. I should have known for two reasons:

  1. Beyond being one of my all-time faves (and I do mean ALL TIME--I don't like being boxed into any "top ten" corners, but I can almost guarantee that if someone put a razor to my throat this would end up on the list), the album's first track "The Plan" is the best way to start, well, anything--but especially a daytrip to Santa Barbara.
  2. After spending quite a long time wondering "what the H happened to that album?!", my friend Cameron burned me a copy a mere 3 weeks ago. Of course.

With this cd changer thing all wrapped up like a Scooby Doo ending, I guess I'm back down to two Great Life Mysteries.

25 August 2007

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

A couple of weekends ago my friend Ashley and I were rocking the Best of the Bay party at the DeYoung (hooray for Nan Kempner and paper flowers) when we were hit on by the woman to the left of this text (and if you click no other link in this post, click that one). While I waited in line behind her to pay the parking machine she chatted me up about the event, thinking that it was an exclusive deal put on by the SF Bay Guardian for their customers ("I used to advertise with them"), and seemed sorry to find that it was actually open to the unwashed masses. She starts asking me pointed questions and, by the time Ashley came around with the car, she had a camera out to take our pictures. Why?

She runs a professional matchmaking service. And she had a client in mind for me.

Now I'm not here to discuss the merits of dating, or internet dating, or executive offline matchmaking, or blind dating, or speed dating, or mail-order brides. But I would like to discuss how I got into the position of letting a complete and totally sketchy stranger who wanted to set me up with older asian men take my picture. MORMON GIRLS ARE NICE. Perhaps too nice. Now maybe you're a Mormon boy who would care to take issue with this statement, but I'll leave you to that offline. All I know is I couldn't put off this woman, who was essentially a stand in for some awkward man out there, without feeling like a total jerk, so I gave her my least-favorite email address and let her take my picture. So did Ashley. I can't explain it.

I've been trying to imagine the potentially humiliating things that might result from this encounter and the list has gotten uncomfortably long. Do me a favor: if you find my picture in one of those ghastly "where is she now?" classmates.com pop-ups, please let me know.

15 August 2007

It's all coming back to me now

It's been almost 3 years since my sister broke the CD changer in my car. It was midway through a day trip to Santa Barbara to go kayaking, and we were heading over to the Paseo to catch this new movie Garden State that everybody had been buzzing about (spawning the fun new adjective "brafftastic") when Rachel attempted to slip in a new CD and the whole thing went kaput. I never doubted the changer would break--CD changers ALWAYS break (there has to be some inherent design flaw), and I only have one because I bought my car used and the previous owner was lame enough to pay extra for it. After a short but painful period during which I was forced to rely upon radio in the car, I obtained a new iPod + FM adaptor and I've never looked back.

Fast forward to last Monday...

I get in my car to go to work and, upon ignition, notice a noise coming from the changer. It's the sound of the carousel scooting around to find out where it's holding discs, a sound the poor little H hasn't made for years. When it's through, I look at the display and notice that numbers 1-6 are lit up, indicating that the thing holds CDs. Of course I know it's holding CDs--they're the same 6 CDs that were ripped from my life 3 years ago, but the display hasn't recognized them since a couple of months after the changer first broke. Just for funzies I hit eject (and yes, I used to try this all the time, but gave it up after a year or so of no effect), select a spot and, Braff-be-praised, out shoots a disc! I hit eject again, and out comes another! Holy H! I end up getting 3 of the 6 CDs out that morning, but the rest remain stubbornly locked in changer purgatory.

Wait, though...the next morning, I get in my car and without even so much as looking at the CD player, out pop 2 more. Can you believe that?! WTH?!

What's most fun about this whole thing is remembering that the changer-breaking episode occurred shortly after a trip to Rhino where I had purchased several new albums. I'd listened to them each maybe once before I lost them to the changer's inevitable demise. I could remember what 2 of them were, but the other 4 have remained a mystery. Until now.

This all has a very time capsule feeling to it, so I now present to you the albums I was listening to back when Garden State was in the theaters:
  1. Early Recordings, Quasi
  2. Veni Vidi Vicious, The Hives
  3. a burned Black Eyed Peas album I lifted from my brother
  4. Want One, Rufus Wainwright
  5. A Ghost is Born, Wilco
  6. ?

That's right. All but one disc came out and I can't for the life of me remember what it is. And it's still in there. Any guesses what it might be, faithful blog reader? Point your mouse over to the comment section and let's hear it...

29 July 2007

Potty Mouth

There's a line from "Meet Me in St Louis" that goes a little something like this: "There's the H to pay if my family ever finds out I called long distance."
What's that?
"I said, there's the H to pay if my family ever finds out I called long distance!"

In an attempt to curb our potty mouths, Alisa and I are inserting "H" for all swears. Allow me to illustrate:

H, man.
What the H?!
That's H'ed up the H.
Holy H.
You H H.
H no!
You H'in H H'er, you H'ed my H!!

I think it's been pretty effective so far. Feel free to give it a spin.

28 July 2007

Shorty McShort Short

One recent Saturday I arose mid-morning to pay bills and watch a mix of cartoons and cooking shows. Since I'm only willing to pay for the very lowliest basic cable (which includes local channels 2-13, two redundant espn's, a Christian network, TBS, TNT, and about half a dozen foreign language stations) I have to settle for PBS cooking shows instead of their flashier Food Network rivals--truth be told I actually prefer Jacques Pepin to Rachel Ray, but to each their own. Anyway, at the tail end of Lidia's couscous episode, I was assaulted by this totally wretched Gloria Estefan PBS ad. I felt simultaneously betrayed and physically ill, and decided I wanted to share with my faithful readers (thanks Mom for reading this aloud to the rest of the fam--that makes about 9 then...) PBS' previously grand tradition of outstanding ads.

I spent many hours back in KBYU's master control watching a spot we called Shorty McShort Short (at one point the big whigs in Springville actually had to tell us to stop inserting it into the on-air interstitials). I want you to see it--I myself am aching to watch it right now--but it's nowhere to be found. I spent some serious time on this and am tremendously disappointed, but I won't cheapen it with a flawed description. May I please offer this in its place (a close runner up for what I inserted most into the playlist--I dare you to watch the pregnant mother and daughter, about 50 seconds from the end, at 3 in the morning when you're cold and alone and not cry your own eyes out).

22 July 2007

Rock and Roll

It's been awhile and there's lots to talk about, but I don't want to waste any time with civilities so I'm just going to get to it...the second greatest moment of my life occurred two weeks ago: LIVE BAND ROCK AND ROLL KARAOKE!!! While I was down home for the 4th of July (what's more American than Claremont? Nothing. Nothing.) I found out from my friend Ben that this was going down at a bar in Long Beach while I was in town, so 63, Dale and I went to check it out. Hopes were high, and I was in no way disappointed. Here I am, somewhere in the middle of my performance of "Borderline" (I can think of only one other time when I've been caught anywhere close to this happy on film, and that was my second day in Italy, eating gelato on a street median near the Vatican--did you know they let you choose three kinds!?!?). Ben--the blond head in the bottom right corner--sang a smashing "Jump" (no matter what he thinks, I jumped every time), and Dale used his patented manyell to rock "Sister Christian" (motorin'!). 63, poor dear, had some decision-making issues and ran out of time, but life is full of second chances and I look forward to hearing his "Where the Streets Have No Name" one day soon. LIVE BAND KARAOKE is so awesome that writing about it makes me have to pee my pants a little. Here are the ways it tops your mom's karaoke:
  1. the band is so loud you can't hear yourself, so when it's over you have no idea whether you were on tune--you only know that you rocked.
  2. if you lose the rhythm or don't know when to come in, a member of the band will help you out for a bit.
  3. you still have all the words in front of you, but they're on paper so no one has to watch them go by with a cheery but incongruous digital background that says "Happy Birthday!" or "Aloha!"
  4. you're on stage with a whole band (Mr. Mister Miyagi was a 5-piece) so you don't have to worry about being the focal point.
  5. it's like seeing a live band, so everyone is on their feet singing along instead of sitting at tables and casually appraising you, and...
  6. it fulfills all your rock'n'roll fantasies.

I can't stress to you enough, dear reader, how fab this felt. As much as I love regular karaoke, I always have lingering feelings of foolishness and regret after an appearance--but LIVE BAND KARAOKE only left me feeling like the prettiest and rockin'est girl at the party. If you're in LA, please go (and tell me about it later). For those of you in the Bay, I've been doing some research and may have found a karaoke band in the Mission that plays every second Saturday--I'll pass along the info when I've got it. For now, go forth and rock.

02 July 2007


I have a new policy.

I spent last summer in LA doing an internship at the California Science Center (where you can experience my handiwork right now). Before I began, however, I drove cross country with my friend Corby to move him to upstate New York where he is--even now, as you read this--mowing several acres of lawn for Academy Award winner Timothy Hutton. Sometime on our second run through Tennessee (we had to backtrack three hours from Nashville to Memphis in order to see Graceland--totally worth it) I got a call from my bumbling and irate landlord informing me that the girl I had found to sublet my place was certainly NOT allowed to live there, meaning I had to pay rent all summer for a place I wasn't living in. Poo. (By the by, Norman just sold the place...may the golden era of parking in the driveway and laundry after 9pm begin!).

When I got to LA, Renee, Joey, and Sandra graciously allowed me to stay on their couch for free during the weekdays (bless you all! i wish you much joy with the new season of SYTYCD--may it get better each time you rewatch it). Renee and I, finding ourselves under the same roof for the first time in six years, had decided that summer 2006 would undoubtedly be the BEST SUMMER EVER.

I can't speak for Renee, but I think summer 2006 certainly holds up with the best of them. And in the spirit of its success, I've decided on a new policy. Every summer shall henceforth be referred to as the BEST SUMMER EVER. Now, I know all you nitpickers and "best-of" listmakers out there will shudder at the thought of equally weighting all summers, but that's just not the case. Does it wrongfully diminish past summers to endow current summer with expectancy and hopefulness? I think not. The BEST SUMMER EVER is the summer you're in, and I'm in summer 2007 which, eleven days in, is indeed the BEST SUMMER EVER. My cruiser agrees, and she urges you to do the same.

28 June 2007

Over and over and over again

I just finished watching the lovely film Gosford Park for probably the 37th time and I can't quite put my finger on why it is I never get tired of it. "It's a Robert Altman masterpiece," you tell me in a knowing tone, "of course you don't get sick of it. The layered dialogue, the brilliant acting, the elegant staging, hot hot hot Clive Owen (holy crap, I can't even talk about it)--there's so much to digest!" True, to be sure. The problem with all that is it doesn't quite explain away my ability to watch the following list of films over and over and over again:

Breathtaking, right? I absolutely could watch any one of these movies any time of any day and be completely content--try me sometime. You may have heard me refer to these four in particular as "Forester Family Favorites". Granted, I do have some more worthy selections in this over and over and over again category, like:

...but still, I can't come up with a common theme. I wouldn't call any of these "all time" favorites (actually, that was a lie--two of them are definitely on that list), yet there's something sweet and comforting and constantly renewable about them. Do other people have these? I think I can guess what Renee's is:

27 June 2007

Miss Noel's House of Dreams

I'm not one for pomp and circumstance, but I do enjoy a good festivity now and again. Graduation at the Paramount Theater was all well and good, but what was really getting me through as I sweated over page 106 of my thesis was the after party I had planned with my family and friends at this pink anomaly:

T.J.s Ginger Bread House

I've been driving past this place on my way to the Webster tube for almost two years now and until three weeks ago it lived only in my dreams, shrouded in myth. What was a baby pink, heart-covered Victorian claiming to be a cajun restaurant doing wedged underneath the BART tracks and 880 south a mere stone's throw from blighted West Oakland? After a year of timid drive-bys I was tempted to drop in, but then a little birdie told me that besides needing a reservation waaaaaay in advance, you need to order your food ahead of time...what was this place?!

I knew wondrous things must be waiting for me inside, so I decided I'd wait and book an inaugural visit in honor of my graduation. A couple weeks before the date I called the number and spoke with a lovely woman who turned out to be Miss Noel (emphasis on the "Miss"): our hostess, server, quizmaster, entertainer and confidante for the evening. She asked me to come in as soon as possible to pick up menus (no place could be less online) so I could get everyone's order in ahead of time. I would have asked why this was necessary (out of curiosity--not contrariness) but she had just mentioned that she'd give me a cookie and a lemonade when I picked them up, so I hardly had time to hang up the phone before the screen door hit my bum on the way out to the car. I didn't get a cookie--but I did get a hug from Miss Noel and something that looked like this:

That's my sister holding a plate of "sassy" cornbread smothered in what can only be described as movie-theatre popcorn butter. Sensational.

Miss Noel and I quickly bonded and set our date for the 16th of June. It was one of the great events of my life--we were treated to fruit salad and fruit punch, games of chance and skill, and tips on life and love from Miss Noel herself. At one point she pulled a knife out of her apron--no joke!-- to show us how she protects a pretty little bit of a thing like herself. Here she is pulling out another recommendation:

Germs are nothing to kid about.

Miss Noel was one of those sweet people that talk like they've known you forever, which is very touching and sweet until you start to feel really awkward about nodding your head so much while they go on and on. Eventually you realize that you have nothing to say in return because you're not one of those people, so you just blather on with "thank you so much!" and "so true!" and my favorite: thhe upward sliding "ahhhh." The whole evening was this on-your-toes mix of being put at your ease without ever feeling easy. The highlights (sponsored by Ted on the Web, the West Coast's expert on "awkward") included a rope puzzle that kept Gnu and Alisa literally tied up for much longer than was entertaining for anyone (I won't post the pictures because I'm pretty sure Alisa and/or Whitney would kill me), and a 15 minute lecture Erica received extolling personal safety for the single woman. Also, there's this gem:

My pop ended up willingly posing for a picture with a flower in his hair (I told you wondrous things were waiting inside). We also snapped what is maybe the greatest ever photo of the grandmas:

A glorious time was had by all.