November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Instead of getting up for 4 a.m. doorbusters, I tried to sleep in today. But with my lower back hurting more and more every day, I can't get several hours of uninterrupted sleep anymore. Still, I was able to hang out in bed til 12:45 p.m., which is exactly what I was looking for.
Last year I went to the mall on Black Friday and marvelled at how empty it was, but this year there was no way I could haul myself out that far so I settled for some midtown shopping. On my way to Lord & Taylor, I stumbled upon a Bank of America-sponsored pop-up store on Fifth Avenue and 36th Street, where I got a free cup of coffee (with a splash of hot chocolate) and a free massage! They're also offering free gift wrap, free holiday greetings you can videotape in front of a green screen, and "concierge services" which they steered me away from since they could tell right away I was a local.

The massage was OK, in one of those massage chairs like they have at the nail salon, which sometimes actually make my back feel worse. But, you get what you pay for, and since it was free, I was trying to enjoy it as much as possible.

Bank of America is, of course, trying to get people to sign up for their new "Americard," but I think people are just drinking the free coffee and using the public bathrooms. I saw lots of people taking a load off and piling their shopping bags up on the couches, munching on the free chocolates, but nobody signing up for anything. Oh well, thanks Bank of America for a very expensive and enjoyable marketing promotion. 'Tis the season for giving.

Afterwards I was inspired to spend $75 at Ann Taylor LOFT to get a free sequined clutch purse, and to buy new jeans and a fancy dress at GAP.

Braving Herald Square on Black Friday stressed me out again so I stopped by HRC for a dip in the hot tub, and back home to eat a leftover turkey dinner.

I tried to go out last night, but nobody - not even Rodeo Bar - was accommodating a wayward soul such as myself on Thanksgiving night. I got a couple of drinks at The Magician, but it was nothing compared to Thanksgiving 1997 when I got drunk at Down the Hatch with Neal and was at the all-night McDonald's on W. 3rd St. til 5 a.m.

Oh well, at least I still have tonight and tomorrow before back to work on Monday.

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm thinking a lot about my family today. I haven't spoken to my parents since January but I normally wouldn't see them on Thanksgiving anyway. But as I'm hanging out in my apartment baking pumpkin bread and making green bean casserole, I'm reminded of my father's side of the family, big dinners at Grammy's house and weird German desserts.

I grew up with a lot of German vernacular that was poorly pronounced and never spelled out or written down. I've actually been a motivated baker lately (like baking my own birthday cake) so I set my mind to trying to track down recipes of some of the things I grew up eating that I actually liked. There were the molasses Christmas cookies that used to be my favorite, Lebkuchen, and an anise and nutmug dessert called Gesundheitskuchen which is more like a cake but is baked in a loaf pan and sliced like bread. None of the recipes I found online were exactly what I remembered, but I think I've become a good enough baker to fiddle around with the ingredients to try to replicate my grandmother's version, which had been replicated by my mother after she became absorbed into my father's traditional German family.

Especially after my grandmother died when I was 10, Thanksgiving (or any other holiday for that matter) with my family was never really about home and hearth. I do have fond memories of waking up to the smell of the turkey already cooking, of my father carving it and doling out the crispy skin for us to snack on, of eating whatever we wanted and as much as we wanted, all washed down with grape juice to mimic a sophisticated dinner experience. But mom always acted like it was a huge bother and never enjoyed herself, and made us feel guilty for all the effort she put into it. And it was almost always just the four of us, four people who didn't get along with each other, eating in silence.

Besides, this time of year, I am missing my father's brother, my favorite uncle. He died about a year ago at Thanksgivingtime and I still feel guilty for not going to Syracuse for the wake or funeral. I couldn't deal with seeing my parents. I hope, wherever he is, that he understands and forgives me.

I chose to spend today alone, despite a genuine invitation from Maria's family, because I've been too stressed at work, travelling too much for work, and not sleeping enough. I wasn't sure if I was going to cook and didn't want to have any plans today, but so far it's turning out ok. I'm cooking about half a turkey dinner, with turkey roulade contributed by Murray's, stuffing contributed by Edith, and green bean casserole and mashed potatoes made by me.

November 14, 2007

Van Halen

Van Halen is now 3/4 Van Halen, with the replacement of Michael Anthony with Eddie's son Wolfgang. Wolfgang doesn't really rock, but he's only 16. Still, he looks like Valerie Bertinelli before Jenny Craig. With her hair from One Day at a Time.

I never thought this before, but at the MSG show last night, I thought all Van Halen songs sound alike. Correction: all David Lee Roth Van Halen songs sound alike, at least performed live. I thought I would know more of them, but sticking to the Diamond Dave repertoire and leaving out the Sammy Hagar stuff limited my knowledge, so only about half the songs sounded familiar to me. Still, with Eddie's guitar and pretty good harmonizing vocals, they all had that Van Halen something that made me really enjoy the whole show.

We had terrible seats. Pretty awful, as in, the last row. The speakers blocked the big screen behind them so I couldn't even watch the show on that. But Roth, replete with a variety of brocade jackets and tophats, had an onstage demeanor that was more circus ringmaster than rock band lead singer, so I could definitely see him gesturing wildly and flipping around the mic stand like a baton.

Dave looks good. I know you won't believe me, but he does. He lost a lot of weight and looks pretty fit, and even his thinning hair was smartly cropped and neat. His wide smile and flamboyance makes him a great showman and draws the eyes to the face rather than to the laced-up crotch of his leather pants, but it was all a bit...Fosse.

And you know what? He can still do those jumping kicks. It was like 1984 all over again.

As a 9 year old I loved "Jump." I didn't understand it at all but I think I was kind of attracted to Dave's charisma, and at the time I couldn't resist a good synthesizer.

When I agreed to go to the show, I figured I would just get drunk and eat popcorn. I did have a couple Pork Slaps at Fat Annie's before the show, but I wasn't drunk. Instead, sitting in my seat, the fifth wheel to a married couple and a couple of dudes from work who are a little too friendly with each other, I just got depressed. I remembered myself as a 9 year old. And I felt old and sad.

Oh, I didn't feel pathetic for being at a Van Halen show (pretty cool actually). Everybody there was actually much older than me. It was more the comparison of my current self with my former third grader self, who loved Van Halen and Def Leppard and dreamed of dating a rock star one day. That hasn't happened yet.

The only Van Halen music I own is from the Sammy Hagar era, but I do own a David Lee Roth solo album on vinyl. I don't think I'll ever play any of that stuff at home, but I have been humming "Dance the Night Away" to myself today...

November 11, 2007

Detroit Rock Sandi

I had to work again this weekend, this time travelling to my second least favorite city in the U.S.: Detroit. (Houston is my least favorite.)

This is the second city where I've seen the KIDZ BOP WORLD TOUR so far, and fortunately I didn't have to do a lot. But still, I left my house at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday and didn't return til about an hour ago - and after working til 8 p.m. on Friday night and too tired to go out after, that's pretty much the whole weekend.

It's a surprisingly quick flight out there, on a cramped regional jet. I was lucky to be travelling with Sebouh and Kevin, and we all ventured out to Dearborn for an authentic Lebanese dinner. At Al-Ameer, I felt like I was back in the 70s at a family dining restaurant, with stained glass chandeliers in every booth. Except Seb was speaking Arabic to our waitress and half the food was on a stick.

It was great, actually. Seb is our resident Lebanese expert (despite my jaunt to Edgware Road with Claude Chalhoub in 2002) so I let him order for me, getting a nice selection of kabob and shwarma, hummous, salads, rices, falafel, and plenty of stuff to dip it in (like tahini and lebneh, sometimes called "yogurt cheese" and really good). Topped off with some baklava and I had a happy tummy ache.

I was going to go to bed early, but my hotel - the Atheneum, where I stayed the last time work brought me to Detroit about eight years ago - was recently part of a revitalization of Downtown Detroit to include a new casino as part of Greektown. Curiosity got the best of me and I braved the cigar smoke to walk through the entire thing and even play some slots. Competitiveness also got the best of me and I dropped some serious $20s in the PONG-themed slot machine just trying to get to the bonus round where you actually get to play PONG for cash. Silly me - I always forget you can't play slots like they're video games. They're WAY too expensive.

So after losing a wallet-full of money, and being disgusted at how NOT-nice the casino was (and didn't even pretend to be like the Atlantic City casinos do), I headed back to the hotel to do what I'd been dreaming about ever since I booked the room: take a bubble bath in the "deep soak tub." The rooms are sort of Greek-themed like the rest of the hotel (and the neighborhood), so there's a certain hedonism you feel when you walk in. It's not as bad as Caesar's, but I definitely wanted to take advantage while I was there, especially with the way I've been feeling lately.

Sipping some white wine while listening to Mariah Carey was all the relaxation I needed to get ready to work the next day...

This morning I woke up early on my own after hoping to sleep in, but that meant I could forage for breakfast in the very dead downtown area. I found the Detroit Breakfast House & Grill, the only hoppin' spot for miles, at about the moment I was going to give up and go to Au Bon Pain. It's definitely a hometown favorite, filled with post- and/or pre-church worshippers nattily dressed, surrounding themselves with stuffed French toast, chicken and waffles, and cheese grits. I went a little easy on myself and had the turkey sausage benedict, which still came out on a really buttery grilled English muffin with some slippery breakfast potatoes on the side. My first batch of poached eggs came out hard - and the waitress knew that was bad so she put them down and took them right back, apologizing all over the place. When the new wet eggs came out and burst all over my plate, I knew it was worth the wait.

It was a little unnerving because everybody there called me "young lady," but when they could see I was all by myself and I was nice about the hard eggs and the wait (and I think I was a little sniffly too with a cold weather scratchy throat), they started calling me "sweetheart." That was some hospitality I had never before experienced in Detroit.

I had a good full stomach in anticipation of drinking mimosas at the pre-show reception we threw for our colleagues at Dodge, who sponsored the show at the overly-ornate Fox Theatre. The Byzantine gaudiness of the place really overwhelmed my interest in its history - apparently built by the Fox movie studio in the '20s as a movie theater. The live acts that play there now are mostly of the "heritage artist" variety, like Neil Young last night and Kenny Rogers in December. KIDZ BOP really livened up the place. I was still hoping for more confetti.

Back home now to an undecorated apartment, with all Halloween decorations down (except the candy corn lights) and a little too early for the Christmas stuff to go up. I'm always looking for a little more sparkle. And the face painter at the party today told me I wasn't allowed because I'm an adult.


November 04, 2007

Duran Duran on Broadway

About 1000 middle-aged women, gay men and myself lived out a childhood fantasy last night and saw Duran Duran in the small Barrymore Theater on Broadway.

I'd seen them a year or two ago at The Garden, but at this show we were close, in the third row in the balcony. John Taylor actually raised his eyebrows at me and the screaming woman next to me.

It was a gamble to go see this show because the main focus is their new album, but I was intrigued by its production by Timbaland and collaborations with Justin Timberlake. Still, does anybody want to hear new music by Duran Duran?

The new stuff is pretty good. About half of it I actually really liked upon first listen. Some of it screams JT, and I kept hoping they'd break out into a cover of "Sexyback."

Like any Broadway show, there was an intermission, and the show was actually split into three acts. Act One was the new stuff, and Act Two was a special Devo-like "Electroset" where they lined up downstage with keyboards and did robotic versions of "All She Wants Is," "I Don't Want Your Love" (!!!!), and a weird electro remix of "Skin Trade."

Act Three was what they called "Essential Duran Duran," though I don't consider their relatively recent single "Reach Up for the Sunrise" essential despite the fact it was in a commercial or two. Still, I was happy to jump to my feet for "Notorious" and "The Reflex," and bounce around to "Planet Earth" and "Girls on Film." I'm betting the audience was disappointed they didn't hear "Rio" (I personally was hoping for Arcadia's "Election Day") but instead they got "A View to a Kill" (the James Bond theme) and "Ordinary World."

The band looks good and they had nice matching outfits, though Simon was the only one with a huge bulge in his pants. The addition of a horn section (saxophone solos!) and a soulful backup singer really filled out the sound, and in that intimate setting, it sounded great.

I kind of want to go again.

Thru 11/13.

Duran Duran Continues Its Revival With a Debut on a Broadway Stage - The New York Times