Thursday, July 31, 2008

Good Vibrations

California Girls

Last night my friend scored tickets to see a live, intimate taping of Brian Wilson at the Nissan-Yahoo concert series. It was the two of us, Brian's amazing band, and about 200 of our closest friends, including
Harry Shearer, a/k/a
Mr. Burns, a/k/a

Derek Smalls.

And Rodney Bingenheimer and Darrell Hammond.

Plus we saw Kelsey Grammar walking by.

Star sightings aside, it reminded me why classics are classics. I was never a huge Beach Boys fan -- never had anything against them. That music is just packed into the soundtrack of my life, along with Billy Joel and Earth, Wind and Fire and the Monkees and of course the Beatles. Among, oh, about a hundred other bands.

But last night, Brian, like a stately old king that had barely lived through many wars, headed up a band bursting with fresh young talent. They played classics and new stuff. And as hokey as "Good Vibrations" may sound on your AM radio, it brought me chills. He was masterful, rode easy on his legacy.

After a rendition of "California Girls," I realized that's what I am now. And that makes me happy.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Made It - Part 2

And no, the red is not the blood. But maybe.

When I was in college, greedily lapping up all the art-history and classical civilizations classes I could, I dated a sweet, sweet waiter named Christian. He was from Hell's Kitchen. He didn't know a lot about art, or literature, or anything that involved aesthetic sensibility. But he was a great cook, supersexy tennis player, fun to dance with, and good, good, good as gold.

But there were three "strikes" that led to the ending for me. The first was that he wore gray jazz shoes when we went on a date. Mind you, this was the late '80s, but still. Um. I have always looked to a man's shoes as a way to decode him, a kind of cultural and personality Rorschach test, if you will. That may sound very unfair and slightly unkind, but hey, it was the '80s. Enough on that.

The second strike was something he said at a private moment. It was so private, in fact, that I will not even share it on this blog.

The third strike was that we went to MOMA, the modern art museum in NY. We were looking at some Mondrians, and I was reguritating all I had learned about abstract art: That it is not representative. Rather, it's more about the impression the work leaves, that it's how a piece plays, how it makes you feel, the geometry and balance of it all, blah blah blah. And after this lengthy explanation, he nodded in deep understanding, took a long look at the piece, and turned to me and said, "So the blue is the water?"

Personally, as the product of an AMAZING artist mother and grandmother, I have always felt particularly untalented when it comes to painting. But I took this abstract art class from the Annie Wharton (she's so cool and lovely and funny and chic. I can't believe she's my friend) and I was really pleased with some of my creations. I felt satisfied, like I did when I was about 5 and made this series of posters of a guy looking at a clock that I thought were so hilarious and I put them on my wall and laughed and laughed for a year, it didn't matter if anybody else got it.

This is a nice surprise about being 40licious -- there's more to tackle. I will never run out of stuff to learn.


pink oyster




blue oyster

Thursday, July 24, 2008

40licious and a half

Lesson #7, above. Lucy didn't get a say in this executive decision.

I've been 40licious for six months. It's been amazing, really, the journey to here, so far. The best way to mark it, I think, is to outline 20 things I've learned since I got to this point.

1. Sometimes you just have to let things go. Take the high road, especially when ego is involved. Mine or otherwise.
2. Sometimes you can't figure out the route to the high road until after you've passed it, and by then it's just a faraway squiggly blue line on a map.
3. Dogs and egg yolks: No.
4. PMS is kind of like some weird sneaky parasite demon that makes you do all kinds of whacked-out stuff. It's just best to schedule around it.
5. It pays to buy good face cream. I am particularly fond of Kiehl's Abyssine Cream SPF 23 for day, and Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Plantidote serum and cream before bed.
6. It's OK to tell your shrink you're not coming back. Very liberating, actually.
7. In terms of furniture, less is more. I got rid of my rugs and love how my floor looks now.
8. Try something new that makes you uncomfortable. I took an art class last weekend from the lovely Tinkerbellian Annie Wharton and I feel like my life has changed. She unlatched a new door for beauty and truth. Now if I can just nail F on the guitar ...
9. Good work follows you and pays you back when you least expect it.
10. Family is everything. There is nobody I'd rather be with, now that I understand the proper dosage. They have the basic dossier on you and love you all the more for it.
11. Better to spend $3,000 on an amazing trip that you'll remember for the rest of your life than do some stupid stock gamble with the money.
12. Never, ever trust your instincts on the stock market.
13. There is an intrinsic irony in making jam: Fruit ripens at the hottest time of the year, and you have to be standing over a hot stove for hours to make it. There's really no way out of that one.
14. I would put my hard-earned principles aside if it meant that someone else would be deeply, deeply hurt. Kind of like the Dalai Lama would do.
15. You will really only eat half as much popcorn as you think you will. Just get the small.
16. There is great liberation in not having to be right all the time.
17. There is power in stillness and silence.
18. When you love a book or find it particularly useful, buy at least five copies of it and give it away.
19. It costs about $50,000 to adopt a child, $20,000 to go through the state system and get one that's hard to place, and $100 (or more if you serve good tequila) to throw a last-man-standing dinner party.
20. Republicans can be cute and funny and charming and even big-hearted. In fact, this whole political labeling thing makes absolutely no sense. One of my dearest friends, who considers herself an "R," is socially liberal but fiscally conservative. I consider myself a "D," and I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative. So, um ... I guess we're voting for the same person.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Made It

I re-cut my movie, "40licious!" and this, folks, is the God's honest truth of what happened when I went to see Barry Manilow for my 40licious birthday in February. I invited about 75 people. Eight came. Perhaps not a great turnout, but I was shocked -- it was, probably, not the kind of thing I'd go to myself -- that these people loved me enough to get their heinies on a plane and check into the Las Vegas Hilton. There were even two from work who went with me, and of course I plan to repay their kindness and affection by blackmailing the hell out of them.

I don't know why it's fuzzy. Sorry about that. But anyway ...

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Night and the Lights Are Low ...

ABBA performs on Wonderama, 1976. My mother dated Bob McCallister, the host, in the '80s. He dumped her when he realized she wasn't rich. Jerk.

I remember being about 9 years old, at the height of the Disco Epoch, and imagining my teen and adult life being somewhat like the songs I listed to under my pillow on a Snoopy AM radio. There were a lot of songs about going out dancing. In fact, I think musicians were jailed and tortured if they produced a song that didn't involve the concept of looking fine and hooking up over a couple well executed Hustle moves. My adult life, I was convinced, would involve lots of lip gloss, some kind of boyfriend in a flared-leg suit, shiny long hair and of course, unlimited disco dancing, occasionally on roller skates.

I do rock the lip gloss occasionally, but I'm not sure when my other dreams bowed out. However, the music will always be with me, laser-etched into my DNA, my hard wiring. Disco is perennially happy and sexy and infuses hope and beauty into the most trite of activities (Car Wash, anyone?)

A couple years ago Special K snagged tix to Mamma Mia!, which is a "jukebox" musical built upon a skeleton of ABBA songs and a wacky story of a girl who isn't sure which of her mother's three lovers is her father -- so she invites the all! To her wedding! Dancing and copious alcohol consumption ensue! We saw Doogie Howser there and got up and danced with everyone, even though it was the "B" company in Thousand Oaks and there was an understudy!

And now (I am only explaining this to those who have been locked in the trunk of a 1973 Olds Cutlass for the past five years) Benny, Bjorn and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson went ahead and made a movie of the musical. With big stars. Which we decided we HAD to see on opening night at the ghastly Americana at Brand theaters where it's all mediocre and American and crowded and too expensive. HOWEVER, it was fun to see Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan cutting loose.

We didn't dance in the aisles this time, nor did we see Neil Patrick Harris. My advice to you: Even if you're not nutso over the movie, sit through the credits.

And to ABBA, I say, thank you for the music, for giving it to me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

So Many Surprises at 40licious

Someone I work with died.

I knew her well enough that we had a mutual admiration for each other as "the other non-corporate wacky redhead."

The first couple months I got there, Charlene McComas was planning a trip to Seattle. I did a brain dump and told her all the things I'd do if I were going home. She brought me back a mug.

But I didn't know her well enough to know that she'd had a recurrence of breast cancer that spread through her body, to her spine, made her nearly blind, made her body simply stop working early last Sunday morning.

Nobody at work talked about her all week. Then tonight, at the "Celebration of Life," we talked about vacations, food, art. I could only really talk about Charlene when I met her siblings and her sweet, Irish ma. We held hands.

I never know where they go when they die. But I'm sure they're somewhere close. They'd fucking better be.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

F Me! / Also: My New Boyfriend - Part 3

I am actually doing it.

I have permanent nerve damage in my left fingertips to prove it.

I am practicing guitar.

I've understand that I will need to know exactly three chords for Nanci Griffith's "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness." I first heard this song when El Jefe and I were moving from New Mexico to Seattle. I knew why I was moving -- New Mexico was too dusty, too far from water and my family, we'd done everything we could do there and the next step was to become permanent fixtures in the grimy little town of Gallup. I'm not sure why he was moving, but maybe it was his best offer. We had begun crumbling as a couple. We stopped in Los Angeles and his friend hooked us up with tickets for the Tonight Show, just when Jay Leno had begun his reign. I can't for the life of me remember who the celebrity was, but Nanci played this song of a lover absent in spirit and I was enchanted. I want to learn this song on guitar. Maybe it's because I have a historical attraction to addicts. Maybe it's because it all seemed so familiar and sad and lovely. Maybe because it's pretty.

Three chords. C is easy. G is fun. But F???? Drat!!!! I must be missing a joint, or be severely anatomically incorrect.

My teacher is patient and kind and has told me to only practice F, and stop singing along. He told me, "I will not let you fail," which has brought all kinds of warm fuzzies to this whole process. In this late-night frustration, when F is a millimeter out of reach, I turned to ... my new boyfriend.

Introducing Justin Sandercoe.

And guess what? I hit F, and it rang out loud and true. Well, once or twice, anyway.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Surrender to the Freckle

I write so much about other people, that it's sort of a shock to see when someone writes about me. It's happened a few times, like when my play was up in Seattle, and I had all kinds of adoring journalists calling me for the lowdown on the body-image thing. I think I was professionally happiest then.

I've recently come upon my ex-boyfriend's blog. I hold my breath with a voyeuristic caution, reading about his life now, since there's barely been a word between us since we split last fall. I'm surprised he frequently mentions whiskey, because I could hardly get him to drink a glass of cabernet with me. I wonder who the fresh-faced young things are in the pictures under the "friends" section of his MySpace page. (22? Honestly???!!!) I am reminded of his talent and beauty with words sung and written, and regret that I didn't get to see more of that when he lived here. His 20-second interpretation of our 12 or so years, weaving in and out of each other's lives:
I was working as a dinner host and a night auditor at the time, at a Hotel across town called The Red Bull Inn. It was owned by Paul Gimbel who was described to me years later, by the mother of one of my life's great loves, as the black sheep of the Gimbel family. Gimbel of Macy's and Gimbel's that is. The very same. Colleen had dated him back in the late Fifties when she was a globe hopping, jet setting, prima ballerina of the Milan stage and a fledgling film star who had managed to land a couple of small dancing roles in American films by Italian directors. This was before she met the strikingly handsome Patrick McGrady and married him and gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Vanessa, with whom I was to fall impossibly in love at first glance many years later when I witnessed her reading Dorothy Parker poems at an open mic in Port Townsend Washington. Life is just a little peculiar sometimes, no? I was to spend most of my thirties and half of my forties in love and incompatible with this vision in red hair and black leather, with porcelain skin, legs up to her hips and bodacious curves impossible to fathom without the sound of your own blood rushing through your ears. Truth be told, I love her still…as long as we're not in the same room. Every Italian boy surrenders to the freckle at some point in his life.
Sigh. And I think every freckle has surrendered to the horn of Fortuna ... at least a couple times.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

40licious Hall o' Fame: Fun With Pop Rocks

The link isn't quite working directly; search for "Liquid Muse" on the site and pick "alcohol-free cocktails." You'll be glad you spent that extra four seconds.

I hereby initiate another rockin' person into the 40licious Hall o' Fame: My good friend Natalie Bovis-Nelsen, aka The Liquid Muse. There are several reasons I could have previously put her right in there. She's clasped on so tight to her mission to make a living as a cocktail writer/blogger and it's actually happening for her. She held her own with those icky pigs on the Tom Leykis show yesterday. But what really tipped the balance, for me, was that she invented a drink featuring Pop Rocks.

I remember hearing that Mikey died from ingesting, simultaneously, Pop Rocks and Coke. If I ever decide to off myself, that's how I'm going down. And don't try to stop me.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Artifact: Of Writing and Forgetting

When you've worked as a writer, by the time you hit 40licious, you've likely stopped and started about 100 projects. Thirty years ago they would have been written longhand on yellow paper, dissolved or crumpled and tossed. Now they sit, forgotten and perfect as they day they were created, on my external hard drive. I found this by accident and can't for the life of me remember writing it. What was it for? The only thing I can tell you is that it's all true. And that I have no idea what to do with it now, though I kind of like it.

Look at them, their faces pressed up against the glass. Four minutes. They can’t wait four fucking minutes. There’s Frank, woozy old Yalie. That guy hasn’t done a thing in 30 years except tell everyone he went to Yale. And drink. He can still do the puzzle, though, like it was nothing. All downs or all across, he switches every day. That kills me. How the hell does he know that Clytemnestra’s sister was Helen? The longest I’ve ever seen him take was 12 minutes, and that was because he was distracted. The day his son died.

I’m not opening up. I’ve still got two minutes. Two minutes, people, and I still need to program all the songs in the jukebox. So if you don’t like Earth Wind and Fire, put your own goddamn quarters in there. That’s what it’s for. I’ve got plenty of change. I don’t see you. I don’t see you, Laura, pretending to rummage around for something in your purse. A lipstick. A lottery ticket. Papers and that roll-your-own tobacco.

And Doug. Sweet Doug. He’s the last real hippie in New York. For real, those are actually clothes he still has from the 70s. Uh oh, he’s got a brown bag with him again. Yesterday he brought me a sandwich made with hummus. He ground the garbanzos himself. He hasn’t cut his hair since 1982, but they made him, when he went to work for the city, fixing boilers in public schools. That job lasted exactly 72 hours. All that hair, gone, what a waste. Doug, you’re going to have to wait until I line up all the chairs. Like that.

30 seconds. Last wipe down the bar. It’s good, these clean towels, white, bleach. Mmm. In 11 hours, this whole stack will be gray, stinking like beer and pineapple juice and melted ice cubes coated with cheap scotch. Cheap scotch is like Listerine. I will never understand that. At least drink rum. That tastes good.

A big ring of keys and a turn of the lock. Happy hour has officially begun.

They take their regular places, backs to the window, front to me, like waiting puppies. Would it kill you to come in at 5:02 some day? Just for once? To sit at a different chair? To maybe go to Bahama Mama’s across the street? They have happy hour too, you know. No, not these people. They like their bars straight up. Old. Irish. Plain. Booze and wood and a big mirror. I guess you really don’t need much more than that for drinking.

It could be worse. I could have to work Arnie’s shift every night. He’s got the yuppie crowd. Somehow it became cool to hang out in old man dive bars. The men in dark suits, women with frosted blond hair, French nails, leather briefcases. All laughing so hard in their little circle of friends, desperately ignoring each other. The money’s better at night, that’s for sure. But the shit you have to put up with. I helped Arnie on st. Patrick’s day, all these drunk firefighters. An inch of beer on the floor. When I gave the tab to one guy he told me he’d pay it only if I let him feel me up. Fucker. He was drunk enough that I could throw him out before he knew what hit him, they started calling me Terminator after that. I guess it’s all shit, just a different brand.

Laura and Doug and Frank all sit at their regular seats. They face away from the window, maybe they wither up if they get too much sun. Rum and Coke for Laura. Well scotch and splash of water for Frank. Tequila and orange juice for Doug. In a year, it hasn’t changed, except for the time when Laura won a judgment against her landlord. She ordered champagne cocktails for all of them. Frank drank his scotch anyway.

These three are the most regular. There are others, maybe they come in a couple times a week, a couple times a month. Like Brad, the Heat Seeker, we named him. He used to play lead guitar. Now he’s a music tutor for prep school kids. Amstel Light, “to keep his girlish figure,” he says. Sometimes he’ll leave with a woman, but he’ll never come in with anybody. He works it. Makes sure they know that he knows Dick Clark. He’s a little bit orange from tanning.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Funniest Four Minutes of My Week

Oh. My. God.

The worst (and possibly best) voice mail message ever.

I don't know who this Olga is, but I love, love, love her for making this public., the site that hosts this message, implies that Dimitri is a "douchebag," but dear 40licious readers, I think we can do better. I mean, who uses those, anyway? They're not very good for you because they disturb the body's natural Ph balance.

I can't stop howling. Even though it is not in the kindest and most compassionate way.

God. Oh my God. Please bless Dimitri and Olga.