Thursday, November 26, 2009

California capper

The final leg of my November on the go was the Beverly Hills business trip.  Despite weekend work hours that had me gone from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., I was too stubborn to omit any of my favorite L.A. activities from the program.  Without going into exactly how little sleep I got each night, I will say that turning thirty hasn't immediately turned me into an old lady.

And ah, how much we packed in!  Pinkberry at Farmer's Market, ogling New Moon fans at the Grove and ArcLight, a trip to Amoeba.  Friday night I saw my first official Jon Brion show at the Coronet.  A long main set (which included a Led Zeppelin collaboration with John Paul Jones) gave way to a long second set in the Little Room.  I've seen performances in the Little Room before, but never from one of the front tables.  It's certainly a unique experience to be mere feet away from these performers on their scarcely-raised platform.  The Punch Brothers were the Little Room guests that night, and the majority of the set took place with the only trace of Jon being his laughter and requests from the bar.  My favorite songs were Radiohead's "2+2=5," and "Lovefool" by The Cardigans.  I swear, I had no idea knew every word to that song ... especially after all these years.  Toward the end, the Punch Brothers, Fiona Apple, Jon Brion, and Benmont Tench all perched on the tiny stage at once.  I wonder what the record is.

Saturday night, we saw the always-great Paul F. Tompkins show.  His guests were Andy Richter and Paget Brewster.  (Andy Richter Controls the Universe flashback!)  There was even a surprise cameo by Maria Thayer ... or, as I think of her, Sexy Ms. Magoo.  After PFT, we tracked down the Kogi truck for a (very) late dinner.  Short rib burrito: always worth the wait in line.  One of these days I'll save room for dessert.

Sunday, U picked me up and we went straight to the Grove for the Christmas tree lighting.  However, it soon became clear that this would involve a huge crowd and lots of waiting.  We made a break for the surprisingly-busy Farmer's Market for coffee instead.   After a visit to the Urban Light display at LACMA, we ended the evening with much-anticipated meal from Mozza2Go.  It turns out there is no meat in a ginger pig.  Probably a good thing, as we ordered it from the dessert menu.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Touch down, take off

I got home from my Italy and Holland holiday yesterday, and early tomorrow morning I leave again.  Before the working vacation gets underway, in the midst of laundry and repacking, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the birthday trip.

Milano was a much bigger city than I'd expected - the fifth-largest urban area in the E.U., as it turns out.  The Duomo, the only major sight we visited, is surrounded by tall buildings, restaurants, and shops.  A day wasn't nearly enough time to experience Milan properly, but I liked what I saw just fine.  I paid the equivalent of $16.75 for a pistachio milkshake in a fancy tearoom.  That's not something you get to do every day.  I couldn't read the full description; maybe it was made from the milk of Italian unicorns.

Amsterdam felt more manageable to me, though it's by no means a small town.  It was rainy on and off while we were there, but we still explored much of the city on foot.  I saw coffee shops, and shops that actually sold coffee.  The red light district.  The Oude Kerk, the flower market, Central Station, and many lovely old houses on the canals.  Our hotel was a block from the great Van Gogh museum.  I bought Christmas cards from the Rijksmuseum store.  We explored De Pijp - Albert Cuyp market and rijsttafel at Sari Citra.  And yes, I saw the Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet parade!  It was everything I'd hoped for and more. You haven't lived until you've seen little Dutch children in afro wigs and blackface, wearing colorful and festive elf outfits.

Whenever I told anyone in Amsterdam that I was headed to Eindhoven, they were genuinely puzzled.  "Why?  Do you have family there?"  Judging from their reactions, I didn't expect a perfectly nice city with plenty of shopping, cafes, an open market, and a carousel outside our hotel.  We didn't have time to do a lot in Eindhoven, but the Centrum seemed charming.  Hey, the carillon of the nearby old church played "Imagine."

Those were the cities.  Then there was the other part of my trip: the concerts.  Andrew Bird at Melkweg was a good show, though he seemed to be having some trouble focusing.  Many stops and starts because the timing was off, or he couldn't remember something.  The room was very boomy, which didn't help.  Andrew was solo, except for a couple of songs (including "Oh Sister") for which he brought out his solo female opener, Jesca Hoop, and a few songs for which Pat Sansone came out and played piano.  The only song Andrew played from Mysterious Production of Eggs was "The Happy Birthday Song."  Total shout-out, of course.  Right.

The Wilco shows were very good, too.  Paradiso in Amsterdam is a former church, and it was fun to see the band with a backdrop of stained glass windows.  The setlists of Amsterdam and Eindhoven complemented each other very well.  Jeff dedicating "Handshake Drugs" to Zwarte Piet at Paradiso made me laugh, as did the pandering Amsterdam lyrical references.  It was a treat to hear songs like "Cars Can't Escape" and "Wishful Thinking" in Eindhoven.  But for me, the biggest treat in Eindhoven was a totally surprising happy birthday singalong and song dedication.  Whether or not Jeff actually dreamed about killing me (lyrical reference!), it made for an even more memorable, special show.  Thank you, Wilco.        

Good music, new cities, and meeting up with friends halfway around the world.  I just knew this trip would be a great way to kick off my thirties.  On to California!  

Monday, November 16, 2009


I'm in Amsterdam and it's late! Here is Sinterklaas and some Zwarte Pieten:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

November spring

It's 69 degrees outside, and hard to believe that Thanksgiving is eighteen days away.  Shopping for bridesmaid dresses in Chicago on Saturday, it felt like May already.  I keep hoping the good weather will stick around for the numerous flights I need to take in the coming weeks.

If all goes according to plan, November will be bookended by business trips.  Last week I worked overnights at a hospital in southern Indiana, and just after my return from Europe I'm scheduled for a few day shifts in Los Angeles.  That trip makes my November schedule wilder than ever, but it's one I eagerly anticipate.  I haven't had a Largo fix since August.  It would be nice to visit again before the new year.

I also need to buy some sort of exercising machine for my home.  You'd think that living a mere two blocks away from a gym would mean I didn't need to do that, but you would be wrong.  Perhaps it will be a Christmas present to myself.

Oh god, Christmas.