Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Big 5-0...Revisited

A few weekends ago, we helped to surprise The Boyfriend's parents for their 50th Wedding Anniversary by taking them to see the Chi-Lites Revue and the Temptations. Little did they know what else was in store for them.
His brothers and sister had most of the room set up by the time we arrived with the cases of sodas: tables draped with cream-colored tablecloths and sprinkled with golden confetti, a "Happy 50th Anniversary" banner above the entryway, the 60-pound cake centered among the many gifts, the mouthwatering aroma of meats and rice and beans escaping from the kitchen. The DJ stationed his gear in one corner while the rest of us ran around, moving tables or opening bags of ice. Family and friends began arriving around 1pm, some The Boyfriend hadn't seen in many years so rounds of hugs and kisses followed by the usual "what have you been up to" while I helped out in the kitchen. So many generations in one room: aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. Almost 100 people in all and more were expected before the festivities ended. Close to 2pm, everyone quieted down with the news that the unsuspecting couple had just arrived, under the assumption that they were going to someone else's birthday party. They walked through the entryway, everyone shouted Happy Anniversary! Her eyes welled with tears of joy, and they made the rounds of the room, stopping to say hello to shake hands to hug to kiss each person. A guitar trio played a sweet Mexican love song as the couple danced the first dance of the day. Food appeared on the tables, a yummy mixture of roast beef with potatoes, rice, beans and chicken. They cut the cake, doling out plate after plate of strawberries and cream sandwiched between slices of spongecake. We watched a slide show of old photographs going back to the 1930s of the two as children, of their children, of their children's children. A few young dancers wearing flowery dresses or too-large sombreros danced for everyone. The music mixed with happy voices, laughing singing talking. And all the while the two, man and wife for 50 years, smiled.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Livin' La Vida Eternal

Before getting all gussied up for yet another show in Los Angeles, The Boyfriend and I spent early Saturday afternoon eating and shopping. First stop: The Park Pantry for blueberry pancakes, dripping with fresh butter and maple syrup. Next: Borders in order to use my coupon for the Little Miss Sunshine DVD (and yet another book to add to my pile) followed by a walk along 2nd Avenue. We windowshopped, checked out a few clothing stores, and I even managed to buy a Kenneth Cole shirt at Buffalo Exchange. This, from the guy who hates clothes shopping. The Boyfriend even bought a nice short-sleeved brown shirt and a snazzy tee.

We rested for an hour before hopping in the car once more, this time headed for dinner and a play in LA. We spent much of the drive counting how many drivers talked on their cell phones while steering. It reminded me of the traveling games my brother and I used to play anytime our parents packed us into the camper for a trip: how many different states' license plates did we see or, who would be the first to punch the other in the shoulder each time we spotted a Volkswagen. By the time we reached our exit at Wilshire Blvd., we counted roughly 25 people, one hand holding the phone to their cocked heads while trying to keep their vehicles steadily moving at 65+ miles per hour. We then spent the next 30 minutes trying to drive around Westwood looking for something resembling a restaurant or a parking space. No such luck, so we opted for dinner in West Hollywood at a great little Argentinian place I knew called the Tango Grill. When I was single, my friends and I always used to eat there before heading to the bars -- good food and within stumbling walking distance of Mickey's, Trunks and Rage. I convinced The Boyfriend to try the Milanesa (a breaded flat steak) while I chose the Suprema de Pollo Napolitana (breaded boneless chicken topped with thick tomato slices and Provolone cheese).

We re-traced our route back to Wilshire and made good time to the Wadsworth Theater on the Veterans Administration campus. However, we missed the turn-off and had to make a right then a U-turn followed by a left in order to make it back to the entrance. Still a little early, we decided to stand in front of the theater rather than wait in the car, even though it was a bit chilly. By California standards, "a bit chilly" means maybe 50˚F, so while we braved the cooler air, many of the ticketholders huddled beneath the three heat lamps as if they were large umbrellas protecting them from a downpour. The doors finally opened at 20 minutes to curtain, and the throng moved en masse to try to squeeze through the doors as quickly as possible. We finally passed through the doors and followed two annoyingly bratty girls down the aisle and unfortunately discovered they were to sit in our row. They blocked the aisle arguing about who was going to sit where and I don't want to sit next to you or to Mom and do we have to be this far back and on and on. The Boyfriend noticed two empty seats on the opposite end of the row and thank goodness they turned out to be ours and with a buffer of people between us and the brats!
As we sat down, the voice of Shadoe Stevens echoed through the theater, announcing that the Altar Boyz would be arriving in 10 minutes. "Peace out!" Then, we took a look at the stage. For a normal theater production, the curtain is closed until the show begins, but for Altar Boyz, the stage is set up for a rock concert. The band warms up, roadies and stage hands bring equipment onto the stage, check the mics, etc.. Five panels of lights stand behind the band, and the singing group's logo hangs just above them. As Shadoe Stevens announced the arrival of the boy band, the lights dimmed, a stage hand walked on stage with a handheld smoke machine not realizing that the show had started until he turned to face the audience. He quickly exited the stage just as the Altar Boyz ran on, singing and dancing, bringing their "Raise the Praise" tour to Los Angeles. Yes, they were a Christian pop boy band, and they planned on saving souls with their music and their exhausting dancing. And we laughed ourselves to tears! The band members were: Matthew, the good-looking, Justin Timberlake-ish leader of the group; Mark, the group's choreographer who has a very apparent infatuation with Matthew (but not apparent to Matthew or the rest of the group); Luke, the thug wannabe who drives the van as well as sings; Juan who adds that little bit of Latin flavor to the group; and Abraham, the lyricist who also happens to be Jewish. Along with their weird machine which tallied the number of unsaved souls in the audience to digitally display above stage, they sing songs of love and faith, including a song about virginity called Girl, You Make Me Wanna Wait and Mark's Epiphany where he finally comes out -- as a Catholic. (During Girl..., Matthew sang to a woman in the audience and brought her onstage, not realizing until she was in the spotlight that she was pregnant. I was rolling in my seat!) Very campy and over the top, and we loved every minute of it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

First Line Friday

The answer to last week's Oscar-winning First Line:

For All We Know performed by The Carpenters; music/lyrics by Fred Carlin, Robb Wilson and Arthur James



From the liner notes to The Carpenters' album The Singles 1969-1973, written by Digby Diehl:

On the concert trail in November, 1970, Richard was worried about finding the right song to follow the phenomenal successes of Close To You and We've Only Just Begun, which was still No. 1 in the nation. During a concert tour in Toronto and Chicago with Englebert Humperdinck, Richard was especially preoccupied by this problem. Ever resourceful, the Carpenters' manager, Sherwin Bash (a former Arabic camel-trader), advised Richard and Karen to take their minds off their work and see a movie playing locally: Lovers And Other Strangers. For All We Know was a song written for a wedding scene in the movie. Richard and Karen were immediately taken with it and decided they should record it for single release as soon as they returned home. It was released in mid-December and in two months became their third gold single. As a result of the hit record, For All We Know won the Academy Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture in 1970.


This week, I started using a new online tool that sounds interesting, but I'm still not too sure about it: LinkedIn. It's a big networking site. Me, I'm not a big networker and prefer sitting behind the scenes, allowing others to do what they do best. But hey, you have to try new things otherwise you can't grow, right?

Which brings me to this week's First Line. Released in 1996 by Elastica....

Riding on any wave
There is the luck you crave
They don't believe it now, they just think it's stupid
So got anything ?


Have a good weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Intertribal Music

The Boyfriend works for the United American Indian Involvement as a Program Coordinator. So Sunday morning, after the wonderfully exhausting trip to LA, we found ourselves at a high school gym in Torrance, CA, for the 11th Annual Wildhorse Pow-wow. We caught up with one of his co-workers and spent the next few hours listening to the intertribal drums ushering in dancers dressed in colorful garments -- decked out in beads, gold or silver bells, streamers in blues yellows whites. Some of the men wore single feathers in their hair while one dancer fashioned what resembled a helmet of dark brown feathers tipped with beige. Another circle of the same feathers sprouted from the back of his white leather gear. His armbands were fashioned with yellow and red beads, and he carried a wooden scepter, designed like a bird with sharp, yellow-orange beak at the tip. The women's outfits draped about them, jangling with bells or shimmering with bright colors. One woman attached a dozen turtle shells filled with beans or pebbles around her ankles to add her sounds to the music. As the drums beat a steady cadence and the voices rose and fell in time, the many dancers circled the floor, most lightly stepping to the beat by a few twisting whirling pounding nimbly along with the crowd. My legs bounced in time to the steady beat as we sat in the bleachers. I wanted to join in the celebration but was too self-conscious to do so.

I sat in wonder at how connected all those people were to their heritage and thought about my own family and how little I know of where I come from. What part of Ireland was Kathleen Anderson from? How does Tom Mix figure into my Dad's side of the family? What brought past generations from Germany to the United States? So much that I want to know, that I don't know, that I should know.

We wandered outside to take a look at what some of the tables offered. Information on community services and health & wellness programs. Jewelry and dreamcatchers, artwork, clothing, musical instruments and CDs of intertribal drums. I bought a small bear with a salmon in its motuh, carved in opalite that changed colors in the sunlight; The Boyfriend found a few bracelets with hand-fashioned clay beads for his nieces. Then, we made our way to the food area and ate two delicious Indian tacos: fry bread filled with beans, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, and ground beef. (Somewhere at the pow-wow, I managed to find a flyer with the recipe for fry bread and hope to try my hand making some.)

CS met us later in the evening to take in Music & Lyrics starring Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore, and I think CS and The Boyfriend enjoyed the film more than I did. A good date film, but I get tired of Hugh Grant in the same role. He knows how to deliver a good one-liner but tends to be the same character in every film, the witty, charming British guy who always has a clever word or joke but no real substance. He and Drew had great chemistry together, though; I liked seeing them together on screen. Kristen Johnston stole all her scenes as Drew's sister and delivered genuine laughs. A so-so film. We ate afterwards at Ruby's, The Boyfriend and I trying to be good by substituting turkey patties for ground beef while CS munched on a BBQ chicken salad. Not as good as the Indian tacos, but what can you do?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

No One Mourns the Wicked
Once in our seats, we marveled at what we saw on-stage: the curtain resembled a large, aged map of Oz, detailing every inch from Munchkinland on the outer edge to a large Emerald City at the center, replete with sparkling green gems. At the sides of the stage were sets of spiral staircases, decorated with clock springs and faces. A large fabric-and-wood dragon loomed over the stage with glowing red eyes and as the orchestra began the first few notes, the dragon roared to life, spewing smoke from its open mouth and nose. Soon, three flying monkeys climbed down the right side stairs to a set of cogs and wheels, spinning them carefully, raising the map to reveal a small group of Munchkins singing that the Wicked Witch is dead. Galinda soon arrived on her bubble machine, joining the revelry. Until someone asked if it were true, that she and the Wicked Witch used to be friends.

And so begins the tale of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, though not the story you might expect -- even if you have read Gregory Maguire's Wicked. The musical tells of her time at the University of Shiz, where she meets Galinda, a perky, blonde, spoiled girl who believes she can get by on looks and personality. The two immediately loathe each other but soon find themselves as roommates. After a simple act of gratitude, Galinda begins to realize that perhaps she misjudged the poor green girl and decides to take Elphaba under her wing, trying to transform her into one of the popular people. But the Wizard and his politics get in the way of their budding friendship, forcing the two women down very different paths.

The musical took some liberties with the book -- especially at the end -- but in spite of that, I found myself enjoying the show. Stephen Schwartz's music blended nicely with the characters and the story, and I found my eyes welling during the duet between Elphaba and Galinda. Eden Espinosa's Elphaba was strong and independent with a belting voice chock full of emotion. Megan Hilty as Galinda (pictured) was bubbly, typically blond and somewhat goofy, but carried across her transformation from empty-headed young girl to strong-minded woman impeccably. Kristoffer Cusick gave a fine performance as Fiyero, the love interest for both Elphaba and Galinda. (Although, when he first rolled onto the stage, The Boyfriend and I both wondered what Jimmy Fallon was doing in a musical -- albeit a better-looking, hunkier version of him.) Jenna Leigh Green reprised her role as Elphaba's invalid sister Nessarose from Broadway. Carol Kane gave a wonderfully evil performance as Madame Morrible, and John Rubenstein did a great job as The Wizard. Eugene Lee's sets and Susan Hilferty's costumes were both dazzling and amazing.

The giddiness from running down the aisle before the show started, didn't let up until we reached home that night. Those colorful sets. The music. The dancing. The sight of Elphaba flying at the end of the first act. In fact, I think I'm still a little giddy.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Defying Gravity

Before heading to Los Angeles, we had to stop at The Home Depot because I forgot to bring a pair of ratty, old jeans, and The Boyfriend absolutely refused to allow me to paint in my new ones. I could have smacked myself for leaving the old pair spread on my bed back home, and they sat there laughing at me when I arrived home last night. We headed directly to the paint section and bought a drop cloth to cover his office furniture and a pair of white coveralls for me, very similar to the ones worn by the government officials in E.T. when they carted the ailing alien to one of their vans. Threw the bags into the back seat and soon we were on the freeway, Edith Massey's cover of Big Girls Don't Cry blaring through the speakers.

When we reached his office building, we drove to the parking lot in back, hoping that either the gate was open or that one of the security guards would allow us in; no such luck, so we parked in front of the building in a metered spot. Said meter needed to be fed 50¢ every hour, or The Boyfriend's car faced a parking ticket. (You should have seen the look on peoples' faces as I walked to the car with quarters in hand, legs clad in white crème brûlée-blotched coveralls with the arms tied about my waist to keep them from slipping. Even a homeless guy ran across the street to get away.) With only one roller, a small fine art paint brush and an eighth of a roll of blue painter's tape (thanks to Maintenance), we managed to paint two walls with minimal problems and no spills. A nice job, and I don't think either of us has ever felt as butch.

Both our stomachs roared so we packed the tools away, changed clothes and quickly left the building. The meter had one minute left as we tossed bags and clothes into the trunk. From there, we drove to the French Quarter in West Hollywood for a late lunch and on the way, The Boyfriend jokingly said maybe we should see if they have tickets for Wicked. I really wanted to see the show, but tickets cost well into the $100s, and the show was sold out until roughly June. So I just smirked and left it at that while we ate. Afterwards, we made our way to the heart of West Hollywood, paying the $6 to park at the Pacific Design Center because we couldn't find any street or metered spots. Walking through the parking lot, I found a shiny, new penny and slid it into my pocket, then we hit A Different Light bookstore. And I walked out of there with three more books to add to the pile. We strolled along Santa Monica Blvd. trying to find something else to do, but neither of us is much into the bar scene so we trudged back to his car.
As we started down Melrose, The Boyfriend asked again about Wicked, and I sat quiet for a moment. We're already in Los Angeles. It's only 5:30pm, and the drive home is going to suck. They probably won't have tickets, but what if.... I said what the Hell, and we made it to the theater in 20 minutes. As expected, that evening's show was Sold Out, and we missed the ticket lottery by just a few minutes. However, since we really had no other plans for the night, we decided to wait in the cancellation line. Eight people already stood in line so we jumped right in and for the next two hours joked and laughed with the people in line. The couple in front of us drove all the way from Ontario, CA, and the wife had us in stitches the entire time. One couple in front of them had tickets for the previous night's performance, but forgot and so here they were, defeated at trying to exchange the tickets so they felt waiting was better than nothing. More and more people congregated behind us, reaching almost to the corner and around the building. As the clock ticked closer and closer to 8pm, the man in charge of the cancellations called for the first group of two. Then, a group of four. Then, silence until 5 mintuutes to curtain, the man called the couple in front of us. The Boyfriend and I looked at each other, disappointment starting to show on my face, until the man lifted the ropes and told us to go the next window. We got in!! Orchestra seats, fifth row, at half the price!!!! We giddily ran down the aisle, almost knocking over one of the ushers, and plopped into the seats. The lights dimmed almost immediately, the orchestra played, the dragon above the stage came to life, and for the next three hours, we were transported to Oz.

Friday, February 16, 2007

First Line Friday

The answer to last week's:

My Funny Valentine performed by Linda Ronstadt; music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Lorenz Hart


The song first appeared in the musical Babes in Arms in 1937, sung by Mitzi Green. Since then, according to Wikipedia, more than 600 artists have recroded their own versions of this song, ranging from Judy Garland to Sarah Vaughan to Linda Ronstadt to Frank Sinatra. Matt Damon even sings it in The Talented Mr. Ripley.

With the Academy Awards only two weeks away, I've chosen an Oscar-winning song for the next first Line. Without further ado....

Love, look at the two of us
Strangers in many ways
We've got a lifetime to share
So much to say


The Carpenters recorded the song after hearing it during a movie in 1970. Their recording earned them a third Gold Single and helped the song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Na Na, Hey Hey

Tuesday night, as CS, RG and myself dug into a plate of Spinach Artichoke Dip at the Claim Jumper, RG told us the details of what happened Friday night.

"My group of twelve showed up for Happy Hour at Hamburger Mary's. I get there first and have to scout around, trying to find someone who can help with the large group. I wanted the Leg Lounge, and they said we could sit there if I opened up a tab on my credit card."

One of my chips broke in the dip. "You're kidding."

"I wish, but we were such a big group that I said okay and went to the bar with my card. We sat up there for a long time, wondering if anyone was going to serve us so I went down to the bar again. They told me to just go ahead and order from the bar. I let the group know, and they went down in groups and ordered. Almost an hour later, and we're hungry wondering where the food is so I trudged back to the bar. The bartender said that the server set our food on the bar but we never came down to get it."

"What?!" CS almost screamed. "They couldn't take the extra few steps to bring it to you?"

"Guess not. We had to file down to the bar to pick up our own food."

"No wonder business had been dropping off," I mumbled. "And then tonight...."

"I know!" resumed RG. "One of the Managers told me on Friday that they would officially be closing Tuesday night. I can't believe that when I showed up, they taped this itty bitty, hand-made sign saying 'Sorry, Hun. We're Closed.'"

I thought back to the email I had received Monday from Hamburger Mary's, going on and on about the last Dreamgirls Revue that night to be followed the next with the official closing party. "Print this coupon and get 50% off merchandise!" (I just had to get the brown t-shirt with the words "Big Red Cock" and a picture of a red rooster.) As I shut down my computer on Tuesday, trying to kill some time before heading to the restaurant, RG called, fuming. Hamburger Mary's decided to make Monday their last night.

"I saw the Manager walking around inside," continued RG while the waiter set down our plates of food, "so I called. He told me that since they'd sold all the alcohol the night before that they decided not to open at all. I screamed at him that I had a group of people already on the way. What was I supposed to do?! He mumbled something then hung up."

"I'll say it again," I said after taking a bite of my fishstick. "No wonder they were closing. The service seemed almost non-existant. Having to pick up your food yourself? C'mon, that's not how a business should be run." RG and CS murmured agreement then moved onto the enormous plates of food before us.

Back home, after a belt-popping dinner and some last-minute Valentine's shopping, I checked my email and found a message from Hamburger Mary's, sent at 8pm stating that they would not be open on Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Day for Valentines

Tomorrow, I will write about the unhappy events regarding Hamburger Mary's last night; I'm still a bit upset about their lack of professionalism, but with this being a happy day, I'll leave those remarks for tomorrow. So...
>I head for The Boyfriend's tonight after work for take out from Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ followed by a movie and then Lost. I do have gifts, too, though not the usual chocolates. The first gift was tickets for Annie; the rest will remain a mystery because I know he reads this blog. (Hi, Sweetie!)

In other Valentine-related news, we surprised his parents on Saturday night for their 50th Wedding Anniversary. They got all gussied up for what they thought would be just a nice dinner, but they were surprised not only with dinner of chicken cordon bleu and all the trimmings, but a Valentine's Dance featuring a great local band called Sangria Band and special musical guests The Chi-Lites Revue and The Temptations Revue. A great night filled with music and dancing; The Boyfriend's sister somehow managed to drag me onto the dance floor. According to The Boyfriend, he didn't know I could shake my ass like that. Neither did I. One of the best moments was watching his parents slow dance, being the center of attention on the floor and listening to every applaud their togetherness.
The next night, we finally saw Babel. An incredible film, weaving together 4 interconnecting stories. Fantastic performances by Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho, and deserved Oscar nods for Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi. Rinko stunned me with her portrayal of a deaf-mute Japanese girl trying to connect with others in a sound-filled world; not bad for a first film role. The story about communication and human connections doesn't flow like most moviegoers would expect -- the tales jump back and forth in time so we get an idea of what was going on with each different story at the same point in time while giving enough space to tell each tale. Imaginative, with fine directing and an amazing script, I think this will win Best Picture. Then again, I thought Brokeback Mountain would win last year so what do I know?

Happy Valentine's Day!!!

Monday, February 12, 2007

It Was Only a Dream

I know that I didn't eat anything out of the ordinary last night before going to bed. Just a few minutes on the computer, a couple of pages of a book, then off to Slumberland. So tell me what you think....

I'm sitting in a dim movie theater, old-time like the old vaudeville houses. Bright red curtain concealing the stage. The walls a mixture of brown pitch and copper and black. The seats are filled with many men and women, a few dressed casually in jeans and button-down shirts, but for the most part, the crowd is surly, ripped and soiled dark clothing, mussed hair, slightly ashen skin. From my seat by the Exit hallway, I listen to the rumble of voices echo throughout the theater, scanning each of the faces but not paying attention to them. A man steps on stage, introduces himself as Dario Argento. "If any of you have ever been in one of my movies, you may leave." Hundreds stand and clomp their way to the doors, disgruntled looks thrown like darts toward the stage, leaving a mere handful of us scattered about the seats. Once they've gone, he asks me to check to make sure there is an Exit door at the end of the hallway. I obey, quickly step from my seat into the short hallway. The door is there, and like the walls, is covered with white paint spotted and streaked on a pitch brown background, resembling clawmarks. Sunlight glows through the dingy door windows. I return to my seat, nod. Dario says, "Thank you, G-. Now, pick up the shoe." In the seat next to me, I find a black, dirty, worn, Doc Marten, not a pair but only the right shoe. I think, I don't want this and toss it to a young man about twenty feet to my right. His thick, dark hair is cut short but shines from too much gel. Dario turns to him, "Can you throw that shoe?" "Of course," says the young man and hurls it toward the front of the theater. Dario walks to the shoe, shines a flashlight on it. "Now you see, by the way it landed, you will be the first to die." The men crowded around the lit shoe, oohing and aahing.

I forced myself awake at that point. Not that I felt scared. (I know of Argento's horror films but have never seen one; I have no idea why I would even dream about him.) A sense of disappointment and disgust hit me, and I didn't want to see what was going to happen next. That was 4am this morning, and I could not get back to sleep. Each time I closed my eyes, those red curtains and Dario crept unbidden into my mind. I think I dozed, but very fitfully so I finally shrugged off my covers and read until my alarm sounded at 6:30am. Now, I'm groggy, yawning my mouth as wide as possible, struggling to keep myself from slumping over in front of my computer asleep.

Friday, February 09, 2007

First Line Friday

Congratulations to Sorted for the correct answer to last week's First Line:

Land of Confusion by Genesis; music by Genesis, lyrics by Mike Rutherford


This track from Genesis' 1986 Invisible Touch album reached #4 on the U.S. billboard charts and #14 on the U.K. Singles. The video for this song, which you can view here, was created using puppets by Fluck and Law, and earned the band a 1987 Grammy for Best Concept Video.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I thought it apropos to select a shmaltzy, romantic, lovey-dovey song as the next First Line. So without further ado....

Behold the way our fine feathered friend
His virtue doth parade
Thou knowest not my dim-witted friend
The picture thou hast made


This is an oldie from 1937, though my favorite cover was sung by Linda Ronstadt in 1990 -- along with a little help from Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Big Mouth = Shut

I shouldn't have said anything Monday. True, Woody's at the Beach (formerly Victor/Victoria's and The Little Shrimp -- a one-time hangout of the late Rock Hudson) has been sold. As has The Boom Boom Room. Bounce a.k.a. Main Street quietly morphed into a straight bar. The Ozz Supperclub and the Frat House fell victim to eminent domain thanks to the widening projects of two freeways. But I wasn't expecting this, not after they just celebrated their one year anniversary in January.
RG emailed that Hamburger Mary's in Newport Beach will be closing its doors on Tuesday the 13th. Another piece of Gay Orange County disappears. I hate to say that I was expecting this, but, well.... When the restaurant first opened, most of us reveled in the excitement of having a gay restaurant, deep at the heart of conservative OC. Cars continually circled the parking lot trying in vain to find a space. The tables overflowed with people who sometimes waited an hour for a seat, the bar crowded with people -- gay and straight -- enjoying the drinks or ogling the bartenders. Everyone shouted to one another because of the loud music and the louder conversation. Decent food and a good variety of hamburgers, salads, pizzas and whatever else someone might want (Mary Tyler S'Mores...mmmmm). I stopped by occasionally, by myself or with The Boyfriend, but noticed a slow decline in the service. The menu changed once or twice, favorite items replaced with so-so dishes (Deep Fried Twinkies....blechh). The last time I was there, I think The Boyfriend and I were the only customers. My cousin read my posts about Hamburger Mary's and treated his partner to dinner during the Christmas holiday last year. He told me later how empty the place was. No one greeted them or guided them to a table so after 15 minutes they asked at the bar where they could sit. They had to order their food from the bar and then pick it up from the bar themselves. What started off as a boon to the gay scene in Orange County seemed to quickly unravel.

So next Tuesday, the 13th of February, a few of us will be stopping by Hamburger Mary's around 6pm for dinner and drinks to wish a fond farewell to yet another gay establishment. Stop on by if you're in the gayborhood.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"I am falling/Like a stone/Like a storm/Being born again/Into the sweet morning fog."
- Kate Bush
, The Morning Fog

Last night after dinner with CS and Joela, we quickly locked ourselves into our cars as the air had grown chilly and slightly damp thanks to the low-lying clouds. I headed for the 22 freeway for the drive home, but the construction at my usual on ramp forced me to find another ramp. I turned onto Harbor Blvd. and for some reason passed right by the onramp there, noticing it only after passing beneath the freeway, silently chastising myself. So I quickly hung a right onto Trask, passing once again underneath the freeway and audibly gasping as the taillights from the car in front disappear immediately after leaving the light. It was as if they had been swallowed by a large sea creature from the very bottom of the Marianas Trench. I slowed down as my car entered the fog, the tendrils wrapping themselves around the beams from my headlights. The purplishgrey murky air enveloped everything leaving only pools of smoky orange from streetlights or reds from car taillights or barely visible cones of light from oncoming cars. The sidewalks, the buildings, the sidestreets just weren't there anymore.

I hunched over the steering wheel peering through the windshield trying to watch for any cars that the fog might suddenly reveal. I slowed to a crawl in the dark spaces between streetlights, wishing those orange haloes would cut through the darkness better. I should have been more thankful for those little oases of light as the construction on the 22 freeway spilled over to Trask, ripping up parts of the pavement, cones with minimal reflective bands popping up haphazardly in the middle of a lane, some streetlights no even turning on as I manouevered through the maze. I noticed in my rearview mirror that a few cars slowly followed behind, allowing me to take the brunt should anything suddenly emerge ahead. I eased my foot on the gas pedal, but so did the other cars.

Eventually, we made it to Beach Blvd. which was still shrouded in fog, but thanks to the many cars and businesses, enough light diffused through to allow us to go our separate ways along the boulevard. I made the turn onto Beach and quickly merged into the slow lane. Traffic moved at a much more relaxed pace and as we approached the Westminster Memorial Park, it even seemed to pick up speed for a brief moment. I guess it wasn't just me who found it a bit eerie watching the globes of light floating in the graveyard, the fog trickling from the grass over the curb into the street as if it were trying to snare a car or two to add to its inhabitants.

I was never so glad to get home, turn on the electric blanket and hide beneath the covers.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Her Heart Belongs to Daddy

I stood in the shower Saturday morning contemplating the gayness of my blog, wondering if I could really call it a gay blog. I rarely discuss my political views -- why should I when others do it more eloquently than I ever could? I don't talk about the difficulties of being gay in one of the most conservative counties in the country, mostly because I haven't really come across any problems. Then again, I spend quite a bit of time in Long Beach with The Boyfriend, escaping from the Orange Curtain as often as possible. Also, not much gayness happens in Orange County -- unless, of course, you count Disneyland. We don't have a Pride Festival. Gay restaurants, clubs and bars are closing left and right. My car doesn't sport a rainbow sticker. Even the religious protests at AIDS Walk OC have dropped from 15 people three years ago to one lone man with a megaphone last year. Has living in Orange County started to erase my gayness? Am I losing my rainbow flair?
Then, Saturday evening, The Boyfriend and I saw Annie at the Performing Arts Center, and my gayness was restored. I must admit that I had never seen a professional production of Annie before -- only the elementary school production from one of my Mother's schools many, many years ago. And all I remember of that was Annie being blond. A good show for such a young bunch of kids, but I have to admit enjoying the show on Saturday much more. A great cast, including Conrad John Schuck as Daddy Warbucks, Marissa O'Donnell (what a voice!) as Annie, and Alene Robertson as Mrs. Hannigan. The young girls who played the Orphans were fantastic, too. Ming Cho Lee's created some incredible sets, bringing New York of the 1930s to life on stage with amazing detail. And the music - I forgot how much the show is part of American culture until I heard the songs and recognized most of them almost immediately, from the melancholy Maybe to the optimistic Tomorrow to the jazzy-bluesy Easy Street to the kitschy You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile. Sandy appeared on stage long enough for the requisite oohs and aahs, which all the kids in the audience loved, but for much of the show remained off stage. The politics in the show -- FDR, the New Deal, the Depression, Hoover-villes -- probably whooshed over the heads of the kids, but I liked the fact that the show was made for everyone to enjoy and to get something out of, whether it was seeing kids on stage pulling one over on Mrs.Hannigan or glimpsing what life was like during the 1930s.

It did my gay heart good.

Friday, February 02, 2007

First Line Friday

Time to reveal the answer to last week's First Line:

Fire by The Pointer Sisters; music/lyrics by Bruce Springsteen

Congratulations to Christian for being the first to name that tune. The Pointer Sisters released their version of the single in 1978, shortly after morphing from a quartet into a trio. The song was certified gold and reached #2 on the U.S. Billboard Charts. While I personally feel that The Pointer Sisters recorded the definitive version of this classic, many others have pointed out a more special and unique version: Robin Williams as Elmer Fudd recorded during Williams' early days in stand-up.
While our friend Chris was visiting, we also took some time out to see a film: Children of Men from director Alfonso Cuarón. The world in 2027 has turned into a desolate place. Due to an unknown virus, women become infertile, effectively bringing about the end of makind. Countries turn to all out war against themselves and against one another. Britain, in an attempt to keep its integrity, establishes laws to remove all non-British citizens from the country, jailing refugees in cages and carting them to Bexhill, a seaside town turned into a sort of concentration camp. In the midst of it all, government worker Theo (Clive Owen) is approached by his wife (Julianne Moore) -- whom he hasn't seen in nearly twenty years -- to aid her militant group by getting transit papers for a young refugee woman so she can travel safely to the sea and outside of British authority. Theo soon learns that the young woman, Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey), is pregnant with the first new child that anyone on earth has seen in over 18 years and that some of the people, lead by Luke (Chiwetel Ejiofor), trying to get her safe passage to the sea, in fact want to use her newborn child as a symbol to fight for refugee rights. Theo takes matters into his own hands to protect Kee and her unborn child and to get them through the bleak Bexhill to safety.

A great sci-fi movie. And it doesn't hurt that Clive Owen's in it. This got me to thinking about what my next First Line should be, and I finally hit upon it last night. So without further ado....

I must've dreamed a thousand dreams
Been haunted by a million screams
But I can hear the marching feet
They're moving into the street


A classic from Genesis released in 1986 with a very memorable video.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Universal

Chris, a friend of The Boyfriend's, was visiting from Las Vegas with the sole purpose of using his free passes to Universal Studios before they expired at the end of the month. So the three of us piled into a car and sped our way to Studio City. The drive didn't take too long, and in what seemed like maybe half an hour, we pulled into a space in the Jurassic Parking Structure. (Seriously -- that's what it was called, with a huge cutout of a T-Rex hovering above the entrance.) We walked from one end of City Walk, past the bizarre mix of shops and restaurants (ranging from Hello Kitty to Abercrombie & Fitch to Popcornopolis), past the short queues to buy tickets and spun through the turnstiles into the Studio.

I hate to say it, but much of the theme park aspect of the studios was closed: the Van Helsing Haunted Set - closed; the Waterworld Show - closed; Terminator 3-D and the Wild West Stunt Show - closed. We wandered through the London street sets and the faded cutouts of actors from The Hitcher and Babe, trying to find our way to the Mummy's Revenge "rollercoaster." According to the map, Mummy's Revenge and a few other shows were located on the lot itself, and the only way to get there was via a series of long escalators alongside the Back to the Future: The ride (which was open but had a 45-minute wait).

The trip down offered interesting views of Burbank, a golf course, the back lot of Universal and the other movie studios in the area, including Warner Bros. and NBC. Once we stepped off the last of the escalators, a man in a mummy costume stalked his way through the guests, somewhat herding us to the Revenge of the Mummy, which was fine with us as that was our destination. But, before we could walk down the queue, an attendant scolded Chris that he couldn't take his man sack with him and to place it in one of the convenient lockers next door. Which took 15 mintues to accomplish because the lockers were fingerprint-activated, meaning they had to scan in a fingerprint in order to open one. And from what I could tell of the confused guests, instructions weren't readily available as to how to work the machines. With man sack safely locked away, we made for the ride, walking into a mummy's tomb during an excavation. A few scare gags awaited the curious (and bored), such as sticking your hand in a hole in the wall only to have air blast at it. A cheesy movie about the curse of Imhotep played non-stop and earshattering. I was thankful we didn't stay in that room too long. Up a few steps and a ride operator dressed in a Moroccan-style hoody directed us to our awaiting coaster car, and we were on our way.

The set up was very cool with the car entering the mummy's chamber only to awaken the wrath of Imhotep. Mummy hands and torsos crept from the walls and ceiling trying to grab us as the car passed into the treasure room where Imhotep asked us to join his legion of the undead. Turned a corner and a nciely-done animatronic Imhotep cursed us for breaking into his tomb and zoom! we were shot into the darkness. That was about as much zooming as the car did; once inside the darkness, the roller coaster turned became nothing more than a carnival ride in the dark, with aribrushed painting of angry mummies highlighted with neon lights around each turn. The car rose along a small incline, turned a corner and stopped. Flesh-eating scarab beatles whipped along our feet, then the car moved backwards through the track, winding up in the desert outside the pyramid as an eclipse darkened the skies, destroying Imhotep. The whole ride over in less than a minute.

For some reason I expected more and walked away a little disappointed; we rode it a second time just to make sure we hadn't missed anything. Chris and The Boyfriend then rode Jurassic Park while I watched. The weather became a bit overcast and chilly, and the idea of getting drenched held no appeal for me so I snapped a few pictures of their boat. I almost took a picture of Lou Diamond Phillips who was there with a group of children but decided that he might prefer a little incognito time. We spent maybe another 30 minutes down there, paying homage to Lucille Ball, enjoying the blasts of warmth from the Backdraft fire extravaganza, but then the rain started and our stomachs grumbled so we temporarily left the park for lunch at the Saddle Ranch Chop House before returning for the Studio Tour. What was left to see was either outdated or malfunctioned (like the cars in the Tokyo Drift section of the tour). A nice day, but I think I've had my Universal fix for a while.

We finally left around 7pm, stopping in some of the crowded shops along City Walk to browse. Traffic moved slower than a snail so we didn't arrive back in Long Beach until close to 8:30pm. After a brief rest and a little bit to eat, we walked over to the Mineshaft for drinks and spent much of the time playing a computer game in the corner, trying to knock the high scores from a game in which you remove sets of blocks to reveal a picture a man in all his naked glory. We did manage to score eight of the Top Ten spots before heading over to The Brit to close out the night. I haven't closed a bar in years. Damn, I feel old!