Monday, March 31, 2008

When Classy is a Stretch

As you know, my friends Rick and Zetta are no amateurs when it comes to party throwing. After Zetta organized a wildly successful Pig Roast for Rick’s birthday this year, he wasn’t about to let his wife outdo him—no siree. And what better makings for a fun day than to involve a stretch limo and a trip out of town? So off to Napa we went—all 28 of us—in celebration of Zetta’s birthday.

The day started off bright and early with a sophisticated mimosa brunch at their apartment. Everyone was dressed for success and we were all looking forward to a pleasant day in the countryside. The limo pulled up and those attendees who chose to be more responsible with their money boarded a van they had rented--they even had a sober driver.

Our birthday outing started off innocent enough. You know, passing around a few champagne bottles along with a proverbial jar of Grey Poupon (we couldn't get enough of that joke) while traversing the Golden Gate. And with the van driving along side our limo, it sort of felt like a Secret Service vehicle was watching out for the birthday girl…at first.

Once we were up in Napa, it only made sense to buy some bottles of wine to drink between winery visits. After all, we were supposed to be wine tasting. Little by little, I began to see signs of our party unraveling. At one point I noticed the rental van drive by our limo…full of ½ naked people slamming Mad Dog while head banging to whatever was on their radio. Had things really gotten to this point already? Apparently they had.

Rather than provide details from the rest of the day, I will leave you with this video of our class act while touring the world-renown Napa Valley. How this couple will exceed such festivities next year is a question I very much like to ponder.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


One morning in mid-February, I called Heb in the O.C. on my way to I often do. A few minutes into the conversation, she let me know that she had something to tell me. My stomach flipped, thinking something was wrong. But it turned out that everything is more than OK. The news was that….she and James are going to have their first baby! In August! Hooray!

We immediately arranged a trip for me to visit her a few weeks later so that I could meet their new puppy, Bacon, and help brainstorm baby names. Learning of our weekend plans, a dazzling comrade of mine in SF arranged for Heb and me to accompany his adorable French friend who lives in Hollywood on a surprise evening outing in LA. All we were told was to pack wedding attire. Hmmmmm.

Heb and I spent Saturday afternoon shopping for accessories and laughing hysterically at baby names the other had suggested. “Why not J.J.?,” she questioned me. “Heb! People will associate your baby with J.J. from the show Good Times,” I blurted out through tears of laughter. “Yeah, so what?” she replied.

Finally, it was time to meet up with the adorable Frenchman, and we were ready—I in my short, black cocktail dress with fishnets and plastic jewelry that we picked up from the Limited and Heb in her elegant navy gown and cute new heels. I hoped it didn’t look like she was my Big Sister from the Boys and Girls Club trying to expose me to positive, cultural experiences.

It turned out that the surprise was…the one, the only….MAGIC CASTLE! In case you don’t know what this is (I, too, lived in ignorant darkness until a few months ago), it’s literally a castle in the middle of Hollywood where top-notch magicians perform spectacular tricks. The only way to get inside to watch them is to be a member or a guest of a member….like the adorable Frenchman. How lucky we were!

A summary of our visit:

We entered into the castle foyer where they took your coat and provided the magic words to move the bookcase that leads to inside. Ours was—you guessed it—“Open Sesame!” (See above photo of bookcase).

Wide-eyed, our party of 5 made its way to an old-fashioned bar where we enjoyed some cocktails (and Perrier with lime for Ms. Heb) before spotting an older man seated at a card table. Curious what he was up to, we joined the group of onlookers, clad in formal attire, who had started to gather round.

When it comes to card trickery, this guy was the real deal. He had made his living performing for all sorts of people—from fabulous celebrity private parties to the seedy Vegas scene. Knowing there was more to check out, we eventually dragged ourselves away from his stop-and-really-make-you-think card tricks and bounded down the castle halls in search of our next adventure. To help you understand how it feels to explore this place, think about Wesley as he made his way through the forest in The Princess Bride…but drunk...and with a little less violence.

Next we went down into the dungeon basement where there was another bar. Once the bartender had served everyone cocktails, he kindly asked us to be seated in the wooden bleachers behind us (I wondered if they had risen from the floor or if I had just missed them somehow). He then launched into all sorts of exciting tricks involving dice, cups, and intermittent shots for audience members (I was awarded the first one!).

From the basement, we reemerged into the room with the old fashioned bar where the older man was still performing. We sauntered past him and into a fancy theatre where the 5 of us sat together in a row. The lights dimmed and a man appeared on stage, a man with E.S.P.! For the next 45 minutes, he called on members of the audience and guessed all sorts of things about them, from what word they were thinking of to what they were like as a child to where they planned to go on their next vacation! And he was right!

Once the show ended, I found myself waiting in line…for what I wasn’t entirely sure. Next thing I knew, we were whisked into a different theatre where trippy, electronic music was playing and smoke was blowing around on stage. After a few minutes, a man in a blue cape emerged and performed a choreographed show involving disappearing water, reappearing bunnies and a ballerina on toe. Did you ever see the movie The Labyrinth? If so, this guy reminded me of David Bowie’s character set in a Gargamel’s castle environment. Hooray!

After Heb and I bade farewell to the adorable Frenchman and his fun friends, we walked home to our hotel…attempting to devise theories as to how all the tricks could have been pulled off. Clueless, we gave up and returned to an equally challenging task: coming up with a baby name we both really liked.

Easy Breezy

Since last I wrote, I have finally returned to good health…just in time for my sister’s boyfriend to come stay with me while at some nerdy gaming conference in SF. One interesting thing about Jon, other than his Southern accent, occupation as a 3D artist and uniquely relaxed nature, is that he’s made it his mission to “kindly prepare” my sister for a wide array of unforeseen natural disasters.

For example, if she’s ever stuck in a small space with no air, she’ll now know what to expect since such conditions have been successfully simulated by Jon lying on top of her while smothering her face with a pillow. He calls this helpful lesson “The Utah Cole Mine.” Aware of my unrelenting fear of sharks, he is currently devising a module to help me get ready for the inevitable scenario where I’m confronted by a great white. I will keep you posted on his creative approach and its corresponding title.

Anyway, Jon was a very easy houseguest who was happy to subsist on the contents of my kitchen left over from a week with the flu: orange Vitamin Water and transfat-free crackers. He even voiced his whole-hearted appreciation of the fact that SF’s public access station was running a show hosted by a fabulous tranny about the latest trends in drags shows . Something about “an admirable use of taxpayer dollars.”

But the BEST thing about Jon’s visit was his comment about my living room/"the guest room.” One morning when I asked him how he slept, he stretched his arms high above his head, cleared his throat, smiled and replied that he had had one of the best night's sleeps of his life. He then proceeded to thank me for ensuring that there would be a gentle breeze in the room, resulting in ideal slumber conditions.

Knowing that I had closed the windows the night before to help drown out the sirens on Valencia St right outside, his comment gave me pause. “Huh? Oooooh. That breeze is actually a draft that comes through the CLOSED windows (and then the curtains) in this room…but thanks anyway.”

Never before had I considered that the very same draft that necessitates me hanging out year-round in wool sweaters and fake Uggs could be repositioned as a luxurious, fresh and serene feature for sleepover guests. Suddenly, my apartment seemed a little less ghetto.


Rather than blame my 6-week absence on my previously broken computer (I even had to call the Best Buy Geek Squad to come over!) or on my aching arms resulting from learning how to snowboard (I swear it hurt to type!), I shall simply accept responsibility and attempt to catch you up.

The following entries took place between February 15th and March 22nd.