24 February 2005

Imagine my pleasant surprise

when my flourescent-light induced headache was suddenly lifted as I paced the aisles of Office Max. What was this miraculous cure, you ask?

"Aruba, Jamaica, oooh I wanna take you......."

Oh, yes. It really was on the loudspeaker. And there WAS much merriment.

22 February 2005

Brian Wilson said it best:

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take you to
Bermuda, Bahamas, C'mon pretty mama.
Key Largo, Montego, Baby why don't we go down to Kokomo
We'll get there fast and then we'll take it slow...
That's where you wanna go: way down to Kokomo
I have always loved that song. I went through an intense Beach Boys/oldies phase in elementary school, and that was one of my favorites! I still jam out to it today if I ever happen upon it on the radio.

But, I digress. The kokomo in question here shall thus be renamed Cafe Cocomo. As evidenced in more one recent post, my February shall thus be renamed "Salsarary." (Unless you're AZ, then it can stay Red February).

I just wanted to describe my first encounter at the famed Cafe Cocomo.

My friend from Berkeley Opera and SFCM, Fabs, and I finally arrived (see yesterday's entry) at Cocomo around 9pm, just as the intermediate class was ending. We grabbed a drink, found a place to sit just off of the dance floor, and waited for the DJ (Chata Gutierrez!) to get the crowd going. It wasn't too terribly crowded, yet.

Let me set the stage for you: there are two of us, single, not-unattractive women waiting to dance. One of us (me) has limited salsa experience, but is eager in spirit and has plenty of rhythm. Plus, am boosted by a certain someone's comment (you know who you are) that I am not 'hopeless' when it comes to salsa. Then there is Fabs, who used to compete professionally as a Latin dancer. Yeah. She knows her s*#t, man! I did get to dance Saturday night, but really, I wouldn't have called the night a waste if I had just sat and watched her dance with some of the excellent leaders there---they were just that good.

The evening proceeded with a little caution, much fun, and, of course, various dance partners. Oh salsero, salsero, let me count thy ways . . .
  1. Young black male. Totally inexperienced leader. It was the blind leading the blind. But we both had fun just trying it out. An non-threatening way to wade into the salsa-ery waters. We would dance a couple more times throughout the evening.
  2. Cue Miguel. Fortunately, he was a decent dancer - and not many levels beyond myself. Unfortunately, he was eye level with my 'girls.' (Well, maybe not unfortunate for him, but it sure makes turns a little difficult). As an added bonus, he tells me he plays the pan flute.
  3. After some egging from Fabs, I ask a tall (!) Latin man to dance. He was a really good dancer, and a great leader. I just felt bad that I didn't know enough to follow him very well. But he was very patient, kind, and explained some things to me. I must admit, however, that my merengue wasn't too shabby. Later on in the evening, he asked me dance again, checking to see what I'd learned so far.
  4. Bald white dude, Sam. Told me I should've come earlier for the lesson, but that I wasn't doing too badly. Showed me some more moves and led well, but had really bad BO.
  5. Suave black man. Asked me to dance, and was (again) not too upset that I was a beginner. He was just showing off, though, in his leading. All over the place -- more Cuban style, too.

All in all, I learned enough to know that I need to know more to have the confidence to really get out there and do it (and not feel bad when asked/asking to dance). HA! But, it was SO MUCH FUN!!!!! Tonight, I went to a beginners' salsa class. It was fun, and I am going to stick with this and see what I can learn. Keep an eye out for more salsa-craziness!

21 February 2005

What a difference a day makes

LOVE that song! But what I really mean is TGIPresidents' Day. I was thankful for the morning to sleep in (even the phone ringing at 8:30 this morning did not keep me from staying in bed until 10). Yay!

It was a crazy weekend spent driving all over the bay. And, somewhat unnaturally, getting lost almost every time I hit the road. I blame a certain online map making site.

Incident one was Saturday morning. It was raining and gross. I had to be in Oakland for a competition at 10:30. I basically knew where I was going, but I printed out directions, just in case. I follow the directions and end up in some canyon in Piedmont. Despite its magnificent beauty and lush vegetation, it was not the Mount Zion Lutheran Church off of Park Boulevard. I see an old man walking his dog, so I roll down my window to say, "Excuse me, can you help me? I am in the wrong place." He looks at me -- all big red lips, diva hair and sparkling earrings -- and says, "You sure are." Classic. He points me in the right direction and the day continues.

Fast forward to incident two, on Saturday night. Still raining. After a much needed and fun afternoon with Bettina and the Queen, Fabs and I head to Cafe Cocomo to get our salsa on. Fabs brought internet directions with her. Those of you who have ever been to Cocomo know that it is in a middle-of-nowhere industrial part of SF, nearish Potrero. There are no street lights here. After asking ourselves "Was THAT Indiana street?" and doing a U-turn or two, we finally made it. GREAT night of dancing, but that's another blog.

The third incident was Sunday afternoon. On our way to catch West Bay Opera's production of Lucia di Lammermoor, SW brings out the directions she got online. However, they are not to the right place. ALAS. We make our way, eventually, to the theater. I must say that this production was amazing. Beautifully sung and incredibly powerful all around.

Now I am at home, and not planning on getting lost on my next trek (down to the supermarket). If you don't hear from me in a week, send out a search party!

16 February 2005

Why I love MUNI

I know, I know. There are several reasons why San Franciscans tend to curse MUNI, and complain and whine and so on an so forth. Having lived here for almost 4 years, one would think I would know MUNI better. But before I started commuting via MUNI last week, I really didn't.

Sure, I was grateful for MUNI when going to the ball park, the library or the beach. Even the occaisonal trek to the movies. But I was a tourist. I drove. I still do, drive, but not nearly as much.

So why do I love MUNI? Because I get to read, don't stress out about the crazy SF drivers, and can just sit back and observe.
And boy howdy, there have been things to observe. Here is a list. Most are from MUNI, but I've thrown a few non-MUNI ones in as well.

  • Middle school kids are LOUD. No one else on MUNI speaks to one another. Ever.
    First, it was a trio of middle school girls, just out of class. They would shreik every time the lights flashed. Shrieked every time they said the name of (I'm assuming) their crush. LOUD. Next, a gaggle of middle school boys, talking very rapidly in a combination of english, spanish, and pubuescent voice cracks - all punctuated with the bounce of a basketball. LOUD. The MUNI driver shushed them (but not, curiously enough, the girls!) They quieted down until they disembarked, when they went out of their way to annoy the driver, who retorted "HEY, I remember faces, guys." Whoa dude, *scary*. It was quite funny; the rest of my fellow passangers and I were totally (if silently) cheering for the boys.
  • This morning, as I exited the trolly car, so did three guys. They RAN FULL OUT across the street and down the sidewalk and jumped into some bushes. WHAT? As I walked by, I noticed that the bushes concealed the backdoor to a restaurant. I glanced at my watch. 9:01. They had *just* made it!
  • My job is located very close to the base of telegraph hill -- under Coit tower. About 3/4 of the way up the hill is a large house. One morning last week I saw the garbage man (waste management specialist, for your PC'ers) descending the stairs. He was about half-way down, and was dragging behind him a rather full recyling bin. Felt bad for the guy, but at least on the way back up the bins are empty.
  • Because I ride the trolly, not just the normal express buses and so-forth, I get to see a lot of tourists. I love it. I love trying to guess where they are from--before hearing them talk--based on their clothes, accessories (fanny pack? backpack? man purse?) and attitudes. Some might say this makes me judgemental and stereotyping. I prefer to think of it as honing my skills of observation for when I start up my own PI firm. Besides, I appreciate these tourists, and empathize with them. As a traveler, I am familiar with the adrenaline rush that accompanies riding foreign public transportation: a curious mix of trepidation ("Did I miss the stop"), curiousity ("what's that?") , excitement ("Can't wait to get there!) and frustration ("What kind of ticket do I need and why do I have a pocket full of useless centimes ?!!?"). Always an adventure.
  • Normal MUNI-ite activities: reading, staring, listening to music, sleeping, drooling, foot tapping, talking to oneself (special circumstances), continuous glancing at watch, and
  • Things MUNI-ites avoid at all costs: eye-contact, talking to fellow passengers, using a cell phone (!), being seen with a map, eating, smiling, flirting and PDA.
  • I haven't figured out yet why some mornings the bus is super crowded, and other mornings the same bus isn't.

15 February 2005

A portrait of the artist as a young man, in a way

I'll be the first to admit that I did NOT carefully read this book for my AP lit class. I just couldn't do it; couldn't follow Joyce's punctuationless rambling. (By which, of course, I mean his captivating stream-of-consciousness style).

I have, however, been enjoying The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht. Mr. Lebrecht is not just another fiction writer penning an historical fiction about the lives of musicians and the people around them. Although this is his first novel, he has written 10 other books. He is a learned musicologist and a keen commentator on music, culture and politics.

I'm reading this book on my daily commutes, and it is quite good. Without going into too much plot detail, I will tell you that it focuses on two main characters: Dovidl, the precociously gifted violinist; and Martin, his best friend and cohort, with more of a talent for analysis than musical performance. This is their story, set during and after WWII London.

Lebrecht's characters make some fascinating observations about artists, managers, and the relationship between the two. I can't say that they are true of every artist or manager all of the time, but they are interesting, and do transcend the novels' physical setting. I include them here for your perusal.

The thing you have to remember about artists . . . is never to trust their immediate response. Whatever the news, their reaction will be self-protective. The mask goes on, and you see only what they let you see. These creatures carry their emotions around in a violin-case, reserving their only honest expression for the public stage. In private, they turn emotion on and off at will. Never believe an artist when he weeps or declares love. It's all a grand performance (pg. 150).
Treat [an artists'] upsets as you would a child's tantrums. Console, then instruct. Show compassion when it is called for, firmness when it runs out. Give them an illusion of your love for them -- but never love itself, or they will devour you (pg. 150).
Never trust a musician when he speaks about love, never trust a manager when he talks about money (pg. 151).
There is in every artist . . . a hard core of brute egotism. The talent that wrests music from a contraption of wood and gut [or any instrument] is like a natural gas. Funneled and refined, it gives heat and light. Uncontrolled, it maims and destroys. I know musicians of the most saintly countenance who commit unpardonable acts of betrayal in pursuit of some trivial gain. Confronted with the pain they have inflicted, they shrug and blame it on their art -- as if making music relieves them of moral responsibility (pg. 112).

Faced with a choice between saving the human race and having fluffy towels in their dressing room, they will always go for the fluffy towels. Art is their excuse for everything, to us and to whatever they use for a conscience. Remember that . . . Never let yourself be overwhelmed by beauty, or some artist will use it to destroy you (pg. 112).

NB: Today is my sibling's (BEST brother in the WORLD) 23rd birthday! Happy Birthday, W!!!!

14 February 2005

Follow-up, aka NYC part II

Technically speaking, this post has nothing to do with NYC, but for the sake of keeping last night's promise for a part two, well. . .
My friends tend to tease me, but not in a bad way, about my rather eclectic taste in music. Not content to listen to the usual mix of 80s new wave, brit pop or the latest Dr. Dre discovery, I've always had a large collection of jazz, Latin and world music in my CD player.

I've had a fondness for jazz - especially big band -- since I was a child. Some of my earliest childhood memories include dancing with my grandma to her collection of big band LP's on her massive record player.

As for Latin music, that love affair also started in childhood. My elementary school best friends' mother, Dorenda, was (and still is, I guess) a flamenco dancer. We'd go watch her concerts, and then return to the house, sneak into Dorenda's closet and try on all her big skirts and 'play' her castanets. We put on flamenco records and dance in the basement, attempting to recreate what we saw on the stage. Classic. (Side note: I never saw Dorenda without her fake eyelashes. Even to this day. And I've known her for 20 years!)

Once high school rolled around, my ears were opened to the joys of salsa, merengue, cumbia, cha-cha-cha etc etc. Every time our group of friends headed to Rudy's house, there were assorted family members there dancing. Always. Without fail, always a party.

But what really did it for me was going to a Carnevale (SALSA VS MERENGUE VS CUMBIA! DENVER CARNEVALE 1997) party with my friend Anna and her parents. Knowing that I did not know a lick of Spanish, nor any of the dances, she gave me the following words of advice: say "si" if someone asks "baila con migo" and that was it. I danced with this guy Oscar for a ridiculous number of hours. Anytime that either of us needed to communicate verbally, we had to get Anna (conveniently dancing with Oscar's friend) to be our translator. It was literally one of the best times I've had in my life [and I still have Oscar's phone number in my ticket scrapbook -- the first number I ever got! :)]

I felt high for weeks after that. I mean, what was this music and why had I never heard any of it before?!?!? It was totally unlike the mix of classical, country and oldies that I had relished all growing up. The next day, I ran to Blockbuster Music and bought my first salsa CD: Salsa Fresca. I listened to it everyday for the rest of that school year, I think. I read and re-read the liner notes (which aren't bad), about son, sensual style, and salsero. I've worn that CD out, and am on the hunt for a new one.

The rest, as they say, is history. I've never *officially* taken a salsa dance class (lots of unofficial ones, though), but that is on my list for 2005. I mean, I dance around in my kitchen, but that doesn't count. And SF has some awesome salsa places. Vamos a bailar!

New York city?!?! Part I

Anyone remember that Salsa commercial? Where the guy buys salsa NOT from El Paso, and it's from NYC?


That's NOT the type of salsa I'm here to discuss.

AZ got hooked up on some email list of some friends-of-friends. These guys throw MAJOR parties once every couple months or so. Tonight was the Valentines Day semi-formal dance party. Featuring Wild 94.9's awesome DJ, Jose Melendez. Also fun: each lady got a red rose (!), salsa (!) lessons by Eldon Bryce from Metronome, seeing good friends and making new ones, getting to dress up in semi-formal wear (fun purple dress), open bar, hors d'oeuvres, and all for $20. WELL worth it.

Dude, sometimes I forget how much I really love to dance. I like to dance with men who know how to dance. I also like to dance with my friends in a big circle, just being silly and having fun.

But now, it is bedtime. 7am will come soon, I fear, and I need to sleep and let my feet recuperate. All in all, a really fun party. Stay tuned, cause tomorrow in Part II, I'll have more to say about Salsa (not the condiment) when I can think clearly...ciao!

08 February 2005

Modern $*&?@ Technology

Everyone knows how to work a telephone, right?

Well, I thought I knew how to work one. I mean, I can even use my handy-dandy, high-powered camera phone. Without consulting the guide.

So, I'm at work learning how to use the front desk phone system, because from time to time everyone helps out and covers the receptionists' lunch hour.

You wouldn't find as many buttons if you were standing in one of Kathy Lee's sweatshops.

M, the fabulously patient and nice receptionist talked me through "the phone." After at least 20 minutes of explanation, she pointed me to the cheat sheet and other helpful papers. Then, I sat and watched her take a few calls.

Here is an excerpt from my lesson today:

M: When someone calls, the name of which foundation they're calling comes up *here*. Ask them their name and organization and then try their extension. Now, you have to say xyz name twice and if they answer go back to your call and press xyz extension. If not, go back and press these two buttons. If someone else calls while you are on line 1, line 2 will NOT light up, but it will show on the message board. THEN, you have to press hold, go to line 2, press hold, go back to held 1, try their extension and go back. You can press transfer twice to go back to the original. Now, if it's a board member calling---see the list in the book---you can interrupt a staff member. If the caller sounds fishy, screen them extra carefully. If it's meany Mr. X, try putting him through to so-an-so, but they might not want to take it, but you absolutely MUST NOT LEAVE MR. X ON HOLD for longer than 5 seconds!!! Keep trying extensions until someone agrees to talk to him. If all else fails, press the eject button on the upper left corner and yell until someone gets a ladder to peel you off the ceiling.

Me: um, okay.

M: okay, you try a call now.
Well, let's just say on my first call, I forgot to screen, forgot whom the person I forgot to screen was calling for, and had no idea which buttons to push. M helped me out, and we had tag-team phone operations. Me stumbling over English, and M pushing buttons. And then...three calls at once! ACK!
BUT, on my fifth call, things went okay. I finally got the hang of it.

Now, I don't have to fill in for a couple of months. By which time I will have forgotten everything, I'm sure.

05 February 2005

Easy as 1-2-3

I'm sloooooooowly adding cool new things to my blog! I mean, this is a BIG deal to those of us who once confused the terms "hyperlink" and "hypercolor" [aside: those hypercolor shirts were awesome - until you started sweating and the armpits just got darker . . . ]

Witness the blog counter under my links list to the right. Eventually, it will not look so sad with its little single digits. I think the first 10 hits will probably be me, making sure it works! HA!

Just check it out. FREE counters available!

PS: Just kicked some audition arse up in Oakland. Yea!

04 February 2005

You just never know . . .

So, I was wandering through the Sunset today, trying in vain to locate 4 x 6 index cards, when the thought struck me:

"Where did all these crazy people come from?"

Not, as in, the stork brought them or anything. But, when I lived in this neighborhood, I didn't remember all of the crazies here. Examples: the old woman smoking (that in and of itself makes you crazy in California) and soundlessly muttering outside of the Happy Donuts; old man crouching at the same corner excitedly examing a bottle he just found; the resident homeless crazy woman singing some rock song at the top of her lungs; the CRAZY-ASS drivers -- well, that isn't new.

Well, I'm now safely ensconced back in my 'hood. Right near Haight Asbury, where all the normal people live. . .

02 February 2005

It's official . . .

. . . I am now part of corporate America. Well, at least the part of corporate America that is comprised of grant giving non-profit funds.
You are looking at the newest member of the Walter and Elise Haas Fund.
I start on Monday.

Thanks to the fine folks at Smith Hampton and Devlin for landing me the job!

In other news, I'm off to show #3 at Berkeley! Ciao!

01 February 2005

Weird, but not in a bad way . . .

So, I've been mentioned in my first ever review as a singer. It's pretty exciting - but still a little weird, you know? It's not too bad, though. Apparently, I am hilarious.

Check it out at http://www.sfcv.org/arts_revs/berkopera_2_1_05.php

Next Sunday - there shall be champagne!