Monday, June 30, 2008

See Me, Feed Me

"I wonder what kind of food they serve," CM asked as we drove along Vermont Ave. around 11:30AM on Sunday.

"Well," I pulled a note from my shirt pocket with the word Nesamis and an address. "My guess is probably Indian or Persian." We crested the small hill, slowly leaving the apartment buildings and expensive homes in favor of boutique clothing stores, Skylight books and dozens of restaurants. I scanned the storefronts for the restaurant at which we were to meet Ike and his partner. "I think that was it," I pointed as we passed a French restaurant called Mes Amis.

We circled about, drove by one more time to make certain, then turned into a neighborhood to find parking. Ike phoned as we paralleled into a space. "I just saw you two pass. You should be able to find parking down any one of the side streets."

Ike greeted us as we stepped onto the curb and ushered us to a small table along the sidewalk. I tried sliding my legs beneath the table as I sat down, but the construction of the table made that literally impossible so I sat sidesaddle, twisting my torso to grab my drink or to talk with Ike and CM. Ike had invited us to this quaint little bistro to make up for his guilt at not being able to attend the 40th fiesta last week. Something about his 76-year-old neighbor and a sick dog. Excuses, excuses. So, while I glanced over the menu, he handed CM a gift bag covered in rubber duckies, and inside: a mix CD with some great music, an artistic sepia-toned photograph of a cat, and a mug and letter opener from the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna.

After the initial giggles and jokes about the letter opener, I sat back and listened while they chatted away, talking shop, talking about former co-workers, about Ike's recent adventures in Europe, telling the story of the 76-year-old neighbor. I'm not much of a conversationist and enjoyed their ease at speaking, the easy laughter at the mention of Tang and the Carpenters, the subtle humor injected into talk of work. I jumped in a few times, but just let them talk and catch up.

Ike's partner called during their chat to say that he was on the way and asked us to order for him. We placed the order (a Frittata Provençale for me, scrambled eggs and potatoes for CM, a vegetarian sandwich for Ike and a chicken breast sandwich for Ike's partner). Ike's partner showed up 15 minutes after his call, and we all talked about Europe, roller coasters, robert Downey Jr., movies, blogs and much more, all the while our stomachs rumbling. The waiter stopped by to say the food was almost ready, then disappeared for almost 45 minutes, leaving us with nothing but our drinks. We finally signaled another waitress to find our waiter who, when he appeared, assured us that the food would be ready in about two minutes then started offering excuses as he hurriedly backed away from the four disgruntled gay men at his station. By 1:15PM, the food was finally set on the table, none of us is sure why such small portions took almost an hour and 15 minutes to make it to the table. At least it tasted okay.

We wrapped up about half an hour later, hugging our goodbyes and making a quick dash into Skylight Books before heading for Hollywood.
I purchased tickets early Saturday morning for a matinée of The Who's Tommy at the Ricardo Montalbán Theatre. CM had seen it twice before, but this production was said to offer a unique listening experience in the form of headphones to be worn during the entire show. The papers all raved about the technology which induced us to get the tickets. That, and being able to see Alice Ripley (from the original Broadway cast) and Nona Hendryx perform.

One window at the front of the theater displayed a gigantic ad for the Bose headphones to be used during the performance, and the ad was replicated in the program. We found our seats in the mezzanine, placed the headphones on, and I bopped along to a very jazzed-up version of The Girl from Ipenema. An usher was still going row to row with a damp cloth wiping headphones as through the bright stage light shining directly into my eyes, I made out a border of sharp steel rods meshed with black fabric surrounding the stage. Like a dark, monstrous mouth waiting to bite the audience. We glanced through the programs until a voice with somewhat of a British accent instructed us to put on our "Bose around-ear headphones to enjoy the EXP3D experience." When the orchestra finally started, we could every strum of the guitars, click of the drumsticks and inhale of the wind players.

A little after 3PM, the lights dimmed and then, in sporadic, disconnected scenes, the story of Tommy played itself on stage. The first fifteen minutes or so relied solely on the orchestra and the actor's movements - no dialogue or singing at all. Which was a bit odd, only because between the scenes, the stage lights were dark for long periods of time while the music and sound effects, including a parachute drop and a B17 flying overhead, continued. The entire first act was like that and came across rather disjointed. Thankfully, the music was incredible as was the dancing and the acrobatics of all the Tommys (because at various times, they hovered above the stage while singing). During intermission, we stepped outside for some air, noticing that my watch read only 4PM. The first act lasted a scant 50 minutes. The second act also sped by, but seemed more cohesive. The story gelled, and we suffered through fewer moments of complete darkness on stage while someone sang through the headphones. But as we walked to the car, CM checked his cell phone, and the time, in glowing white numbers, was barely after 5PM. Neither of us was certain if anything had been cut, but less than two hours for The Who's "Tommy"? that just didn't feel right.

I will say that the performances made up for the quick pace of the show. The fantastic Alice Ripley reprised her Broadway role of Mrs. Walker, Tommy's Mother. Tom Schmid surprised us as Capt. Walker, with a solid, pure voice. The two boys who played young Tommy (L.J. Benet and Lorenzo Doryon) did amazing jobs as the other characters bandied them about while they remained like rag dolls, unaware of what was going on around them. Jenna Leigh Green gave a good performance as Sally Simpson, and Nona Hendryx was a good choice for the Acid Queen. But the best performance of all was delivered by Aleks Pevec as Tommy. Powerful voice, great dancing skills and his shirtless homage to Roger Daultry throughout the second act, well, I'm sure all the gay boys in the audience were atwitter.

We tried piecing together what was missing from the show as we drove to Lakewood for dinner, but by the time we sat down at the El Torito, we gave up.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Today's the Day!

“Life begins at 40 - but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.”

Helen Rowland (English-American writer, 1876-1950)

Happy Birthday, Sassy Boy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cyber, Baby

I bought it as a gag gift. I swear! I didn't realize just how enrapt CM would be with his new little toy.
>Say "Hello" to Matteo, our new little cyberbaby, thanks to a little game I found called baby pals. CM spent a good hour and a half Sunday night "adopting" little Matteo: choosing skin and eye color, head and belly shape, even gender. And once that was done, he started feeding, playing, bathing, changing diapers, talking to and teaching him how to walk and talk. I seriously believed we would laugh over the game, then I would take it back to the store in exchange for a more exciting game, but CM is enthralled with it, tinkering around for a good two hours before finally turning in last night. In fact, he's on the couch as I type, messing with Matteo's hairstyle. Hopefully, he got rid of the blue ....

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Big 4-0

7:15 on Sunday morning. Both cars filled with piñatas, gift boxes, tables, chairs, all the necessities to get the fiesta started. Within 15 minutes, the first batch of supplies was spread along a stone picnic table while I assisted CM with marking our party spot with vinyl Mexican party flags. A good thing, too, as a man carrying a roll of yellow caution tape stopped between the tress near our area not a few minutes later, hands on hips and staring at our area. He quickly pulled out his cell and called his wife, telling her that someone had already staked out the area. I privately smiled as I trekked back and forth hefting card tables, chairs, cartons of sodas and bottled water up and down the small hill.

The area or park we commandeered sat in just the right spot to see Mothers' Beach to the right and the Marine Stadium, with its speed boats and water skiers, to the left. Two wide trees -- one strong enough to hold the 4 pounds of candy in the piñata -- provided the perfect amount of shade which was enhanced by the cool breeze blowing in from the harbor. A few of the guests would be bringing their children so the playground not 50 feet away would do nicely. The perfect spot. Andy by 10am, everything was in its place.

Around 11:30, I headed back to the apartment to gussy up, grab the cake and stop by the store for some last minute foodstuffs. As I set the cake on one of the card tables, CM told me that two people had already cancelled, "Because it's too hot." He'd also talked a third person who was about to cancel into coming. Silly people. We had shade, a cool breeze, gallons of cold water for drinking or pouring over someone's, they already said that they would come. I felt sad for CM, watching him amble toward his car.

I finished the rest of the setup then sat down with a book and a Coke to wait, glancing up every 5 minutes or so to wave to the first partygoer whenever he or she should arrive. Finally, around 1:35 PM, our friend CS called, just a little bit lost though he lives in Long Beach, too. I managed to get him turned around and within a few minutes, he pulled his car alongside mine, and together, we unloaded a few more chairs and a lawn bowling game (oversized plastic bowing pins with a red and a blue ball) for the kids. CM showed up soon after with the two humongous burritos, trays of beans and rice and shredded chicken, and tortillas from SuperMex, which we held back from devouring until the other guests arrived.

A few more people had called to cancel, but by the time we dug into the food, we had roughly twenty guests. M&L brought the twins for everyone to coo and cuddle over, my Area Manager arrived with her husband and son, a former co-worker of CM's made an appearance as well as a few of his long-time friends. I made sure everyone signed the special "Birthday Dog" instead of a guestbook. We ate until our bellies hurt, played silly party games like "Stick the Nose on the Clown" and CM Trivia, watched as one of the kids party-hopped almost the entire park, then pulled out the blindfold and whacked away at the piñata. Let me tell you, some of those kids can hit pretty darn hard! So can some of the adults, but we laughed hard as our friend RG swung at the floating ball of papier maché and streamers like Luke Skywalker while I raised and dropped the piñata just out of striking distance. CM eventually broke it open, spewing candy all over the ground, while the kids (and some adults) grabbed as much as they could stuff in to their little party boxes. (Oh, I almost forgot: CM made little gift boxes for each guest containing a luchadore (Mexican wrestler) doll, either a donkey piñata figurine or a rubber duckie wearing a sombrero, a plastic ring, a little maze game with a bb inside, a tube of bubbles, and more candy.) We decided early on against having 40 candles in the cake (fire hazard) but found a few candles with a "40" on top; however, the wind refused to allow the candles to stay lit so CM pretended to blow them out and then divvied the chocolate cream with buttercream frosting cake.

What a great party, and CS and RG stayed later to help with the clean up, which was greatly appreciated. Each took home quite a bit of extra food, as well. After all the fun, the presents, the food, the friends, the clean up, we finally headed for home, tired, burnt redder than lobsters, but very happy. Check out all the pictures here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tag! I'm It!!

I've been tagged by Alex over at Black Queens Logic to reveal a few unknown facts about myself. Who am I not to oblige a fellow blogger? so without further ado....

1. Share 5 unknown Facts about yourself.

2. Pay it forward! Link 5 more bloggers and include their names in your post.

3. Leave them a comment on their blog and let them know that they’ve been tagged.

1. I collect souvenir programs from plays and musicals. My drawer beneath the built-in display cabinet in the living room overflows with such oversized programs from The Lion King, two productions of Show Boat, Cabaret and about 35-40 others. Not to mention the little handouts and playbills sometimes given.

2. I love reading ghost and zombie stories, getting caught up in the action and gore, rapidly flipping the pages. But sit me down in front of Session 9 or Dawn of the Dead, and I watch through closed eyes or latticed fingers.

3. I write much better than I speak. At least, I hope I do. My public speaking abilities amount to almost nothing. Too many ideas float through my mind, and I want to present them all at once, causing me to stammer and hesitate. When writing, though, I take my time, think things through.

4. Outside the U.S., I've been to Spain, Russia, Sweden and Canada. But I've never been to me.

5. I've only met one other blogger whose blog I read. (I spied another at the gym, but we never spoke to one another.)

As for tagging, if you've read this post -- and haven't already written five things about yourself -- consider yourself tagged.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Random Long Beach Moments

Last night, CM and I lounged on the couch each playing our little Nintendo DS. Diesel had stretched himself on the carpet in front of the kitchen, enjoying the cool breeze flowing into the apartment. Around 10PM, the unmuffled cries and moans, the headboard rattling against the wall, the thump and thrust of bodies ramming into each other jolted us from our games. Diesel sprang from the ground, ears pointed, head cautiously bobbing up and down, not sure if someone were in distress or if one of the feral cats in the neighborhood were in heat. CM and I looked at each, stifling a laugh and tried to return to our games, but the downstairs neighbors didn't let up until well after 11PM.

Even as we climbed into bed, their racket echoed off the walls of other apartment buildings.

"No one orgasms that much that often," I said. "She is so faking it."

CM laughed as the rattling and grunting finally stopped.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Saturday marked the first birthday party for Riley and Jackie, our friend's twins, so we headed for Huntington Harbor to spend a few hours around the pool with the kids. Before leaving Long Beach, we stopped at the Creative Cakery, per the Mother's request, for two individual nut-free mini-bunt cakes for the twins. We selected two double-chocolate chocolate chip cakes with cream cheese frosting and held ourselves back from devouring them before reaching the party.

We arrived soon afterwards at our friend's Mom's condo complex and gathered with the rest of the adult partiers around the tables and the food while a few others kept an eye on the kids in the pool. The twins were already grabbing everyone's attention acting all cute and smiley and chatty, and before I had a chance to sit down, my index fingers were gripped tightly and I found myself helping Riley as he high-stepped and tiptoed toward the pool and the other kids. (Now, I'm not used to little kids; I've no nieces or nephews, never changed a diaper, never airplaned Gerbers into a babe's mouth. I don't consider myself even remotely capable of handling kids, but Riley and Jackie don't seem to sense my fear and will grab my hands, pull my glasses from my head, giggle and squeal at my goofy faces.) I made sure he didn't get to close to the water, but I could tell he wanted to jump right in and splash around. His Mommy scooped him up and changed him into his little swim trunks then allowed him to sit in the water with his older half-sister and half-brother. Then, she slipped Jackie into her little one piece and sat on the steps creating little splashes and smiles. CM and I took the opportunity to grab a few platefuls of beans, tortillas, rice and chicken to silence our growling stomachs.

When it came time to blow out the candles, the twins just stared at the cake while Mommy and Daddy tried to get them to blow. Maybe they're still too young to understand that part of the party. No matter, though, as we all cheered and their faces lit up. While someone cut the cake, the twins were strapped into their high chairs and presented with their personal mini-cakes. Jackie tentatively touched the cream cheese frosting then opened her mouth and tied to shove the entire cake in there; Riley looked at the cake, looked at us, looked back at the cake, looked at us and on and on until Mommy pushed his hand into the cake and raised it to his mouth. Once he tasted it, the rest of the cake ended up smeared across his cheeks.

The next day -- Fathers Day -- I drove to meet the folks at their house for a little barbecue while CM headed for his to watch the Lakers game. Unbeknownst to my Brother and myself, we had been volunteered by our folks to help with a few things around the place. While my brother barbecued the pork loins, I hooked up the (very) old VCR to the TV in my parents' bedroom and managed to get it right the first time as the main title of Cinderella faded onto the screen. Lunch was great, and we munched corn on the cob, pork loin baked beans and applesauce while discussing tiger Woods at the US Open, my parents' upcoming tip through the Panama Canal (my Father is excited beyond belief!!), the renovations my Brother is wreaking on his house. After lunch, I climbed into the attic to find a tarp which my brother used to cover a sliding lounge in the backyard, then loaded a few folding chairs into my car for the coming weekend.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

To My Cousin

I can still remember those days back in elementary school, when we would stop by for a visit. Usually around the time when my Brother and I were in need of a haircut. Your Mother would seat us in a high stool, one at a time, and trim the excess hair sticking out from beneath the large mixing bowl she'd placed over our heads. Then, you and I would gather some of the neighborhood kids and scramble to the nearest park for war games, rides on the swings and down the slide, chasing each other around until time to eat.

Times have definitely changed. We both survived high school band geek syndrome, earned Bachelor Degrees, traveled around the U.S. and Europe, and now enjoy being who we were meant to be with the people we love. But the travel bug sunk its teeth deep into you, carrying you across the Atlantic to Spain. How long have you lived there? I seem to remember it was only to be for a semester abroad and now....

Almost thirteen, fourteen years later, and you're finally tying the knot. I'm happy that you and R. found each other and have stayed together for so long. I can't remember a time after college when you weren't together, traveling across Europe or forcing our family on an unsuspecting R. for Christmases. And I believe that you two will continue to see the world together for many, many years to come.

Here's to the two of you on your wedding day. May you live happy and love always.

Your Cousin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Behind the Door

"Don't do that!"

I quickly shook my head, blinked my eyes into focus. The fingers of my outstretched hand almost touched the doorknob.

"Mister, don't do that."

I half-turned and saw a young boy at the bottom of the steps, staring up at me. "I..." was all I could manage. Glancing quickly around, I found myself standing on the porch of the Eidolon place, but I couldn't for the life of me remember getting there. My mind replayed parking my car (still down the street a few houses), walking along the sidewalk as always, passing the old place, and then...and then.....

The boy offered a small, pale hand to me. I reached mine toward him and stepped away from the door. A frantic scratching started on the other side of it, near the bottom, rattling the door like a snare drum. A sharp stabbing pain slashed behind my eyes, and I pressed my fists into them, trying to rub the pain away. The worst smell, of something rotten and festering, seemed to cloud around me, to wrap around my waist like a rope and tug me back to the door as the rattling scratching intensified cracking the frame splintering into pieces as another rope coiled around my legs I opened my mouth to scream

"You should come down now, Mister." The boy's hand genlty held mine. The scratching had stopped. The smell, gone. The pain, gone. I dared to look at the door, still solid but badly in need of paint. With a slight tug, the boy guided me carefully down the steps to the end of the walk. He released my hand at the sidewalk while I continued a few more steps. "He's not allowed to come out."

I turned around. "Who's not--" I was alone, staring at the house. I reached into my pocket, grabbed my keys and ran to the car to move it as far away from there as possible.

Monday, June 09, 2008

What a Loverly Sunday!
I started a tradition about 8 years ago of taking my Mother to see a play or a musical for Mothers Day. Many years ago, she and a few friends had season tickets to the Ahmanson in downtown Los Angeles, and their many years of faithful ticketing managed to move them all the way to the Orchestra level. But one year, the first touring company of The Phantom of the Opera. rolled into town, rooting themselves into the Ahmanson for the next five years and displacing the season ticket holders to a smaller theater -- the James Doolittle (now known as the Ricardo Montalban) -- in a seedier part of Hollywood. Thanks to the move and the terrible parking in poorly lit lots and curbsides, she finally gave up her tickets, and only occasionally saw a show. I decided to revive that because I knew how much she enjoyed the theater, and that Mothers Day, I treated her to Amy's View. Since that time, we've seen quite a few shows, both plays and musicals.

My Father felt left out, so I took him to see Saturday Night Fever one Fathers Day, and as with my Mother, we've now seen quite a few shows.

This year, I combined the two special occasions and treated them to a matinée performance of My Fair Lady, the latest production direct from London. Such a great musical -- even though I don't like how the ending veers from Shaw's original Pygmalion, my only gripe about the entire show. Not everything requires a happy ending. Lisa O'Hare played a wonderful Eliza Doolittle, with such a commanding voice that she outshined Christopher Cazenove as Professor Henry Higgins. What was an even greater thrill was seeing Marni Nixon on stage, though in a non-singing role as Mrs. Higgins. (Isn't it ironic?) I particularly enjoyed the choreography by Matthew Bourne because it related to the scenes and music -- the aristocrat's equine prancing while at the races was a marvelous touch.

My parents raved about the show as we rode the elevator down, as we drove to the restaurant for a bite, and all during the meal. I guess I made the right choice. :-)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Latest Musical Obsession

The Ting Tings -- think of them as a mix of '80s British New Wave, Missing Persons and New Order. A fantastic album, full of catchy beats and smart lyrics. Favorite songs: Great DJ (above), Fruit Machine, Keep Your Head and That's Not My Name.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Bookwhore Chronicles: 123 Meme

Well, since I've been tagged by Ur-Spo, and he is a doctor, I guess I should follow his advice and participate. I wonder if I should ask him for a prescription....?

Step One – pull out a book on the book shelf.
Step Two – go to page 123.
Step Three – locate the fifth sentence and post the next three sentences on your blog.

Step Four – tag 5 more people.

My book: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

"I sat down at once to write the letter, expressing myself in it as civilly, as clearly, and as briefly as possible. Mr. Fairlie did not hurry his reply. Nearly an hour elapsed before the answer was placed in my hands."

I'm not sure whom I should tag, though. I've seen this on many blogs already. If you would like to participate, please do so and leave a comment!!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Random Long Beach Moments

A new Ralphs opened on 4th St. about a month ago. Okay, not a "new" Ralphs, but a remodeled one complete with shiny new, rust-colored floors and narrow aisles crammed into a tiny building with an even tinier parking lot. It's nice to have one so close to the apartment, and I'm sure the residents right across the street love it since they no longer have to trek all the way to PCH for groceries.

On my drive home this evening, I slowed to a stop so that a group of women and children -- two women each pushing a stroller and surrounded by four or five children -- could cross at the crosswalk. The woman at the front nodded and smiled in my direction, glancing left and right as the group crossed to watch for cars. A black convertible Volkswagen approached from the opposite direction, swiftly closing in on the crosswalk. As the crossers reached the halfway point, the lead woman quickly pulled back her stroller as the black Volkswagen sped through, narrowly missing the stroller. Every driver behind me, and many of the stunned pedestians, turned to watch the older woman, sunglasses shielding her eyes, cell phone in hand glued to the side of her face, as she sped along 4th St. not in the least aware that she almost hit someone.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Young at Heart

Early Sunday afternoon, CM and I headed down Pacific Coast Highway to briefly visit my Aunt and Uncle in Huntington Beach. They will be flying to Spain soon for my cousin's wedding, and in lieu of sending a gift, which more than likely would never reach its intended destination, we opted to give cash to my Aunt to deposit into my cousin's account. No fuss, no muss, no customs official ripping open a box and possibly pocketing the gift for his/herself.

After handing her the check but before we could beat a hasty retreat, my Uncle asked if I wouldn't mind watering the plants a few times a week while they were away. I sighed quietly and said yes, knowing full well what was to come next. CM settled into the couch while I followed my Uncle to the backyard, listening to him explain how each pot was to be watered -- this one only lightly on the topsoil, don't set the hose in this pot but use the watering can instead, set the hose at one end of the dirt to allow the water to slowly work its way into the dirt around the onions and peas, those must be watered heavily each time you come over. I've watered their plants before so I nodded my head, asked a few questions here and there. But I must say, the garden looked incredible. A sea of bright red wildflowers, tall onion stalks with yellowy flowers on the tips, a few small squash almost ready for picking, young tomatoes, fava beans, snow peas (he pulled two from the plant and handed me one which crunched with a sweetness I'd never tasted in a pea before), rosemary, oranges and Thai dragon peppers. "Much of it's for making my own salsa," he said smiling. Between two of the larger planters, he had stationed two plastic garbage cans, each filled with yard clippings, fruit rinds, and assorted biodegradble stuffs, stewing in the heat to create a very rich compost. He promised to spread the mush throughout the planters before they left.

As we stepped back inside the house, he recommended taking any of the vegetables that I wanted, otherwise they would rot and go to waste in the summer sun. CM and I gave each other that special little nod, and we politely excused ourselves, wishing them well on the trip, and promising to take good care of the plants.

We stopped for lunch at a little coffee shop not too far from where I used to live in Huntington Beach, then raced to Irvine to reach the movie theater in time. We both wanted to see Young@Heart, but the only theater within a 25-mile area showing it was way down in Irvine, fairly close to my office. Young@Heart is a British documentary about a chorus of senior citizens in a small New England community. But not just any chorus. These seniors sing everything from The Ramones' I Want To Be Sedated to Talking Head's Road To Nowhere. In fact, the opening of the film focuses on 92-year-old Eileen Hall, using her cane to step up to the mic and take the lead on The Clash's Should I Stay Or Should I Go?. The documentary follows the chorus during a seven-week rehearsal to prepare a new show that will be taking them to Europe, a trip they've made in the past to much critical and public acclaim. The film offers a unique glimpse into the lives of seniors, how they handle the pressure of rehearsing, performing and the difficulties of aging, and dealing with the loss of friends. And they threw in a few cheeky music videos, to boot. It's a charming, sometimes sad, always very uplifting documentary. I just hope when I'm their age that I'm as active and sharp as they are.