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August 2009

Life Online and Free Stuff -- Coke Edition

See Part 1 of this story here.

At Blogger Prom, I ended up having a fun conversation with a woman who does PR for a beverage company and they had brought Newcastle Brown Ale to the Prom. Newcastle is one of my favorite beers. We followed up after the prom in emails "nice to meet and chat" etc. She then asked if I wanted to try Newcastle's new summer ale sometime and I said yes, but before we could arrange a meet up, they had run out of the summer ale (it was a trial run). Oh well. But then she asked if she could send me some CocaCola products in the new aluminum cans to try out. Well sure! I'm a loyal Diet Coke fan, why not?

So this week in the mail I got these:


Sweet little 8.5 ounce bottles of Coke, Diet Coke and MY ABSOLUTE CURRENT FAVORITE Coke Zero. I've already drunk the Diet Coke and Coke Zero, I'll give the regular coke to Kurt or to his mom as regular coke is way too sweet for me.

How can you not love free stuff? 

Ah, but I hear some of you: it's not really free because you are shilling for Coke and for The Gap now. Well, I have no problem with saying I love something when I do. I've shopped at the Gap ever since I moved to LA 25 years ago (cuz there wasn't any such thing as "the Gap" on Maui). And my relationship to Coca Cola goes all the way back to Tab and Fresca. (Man I LOVE Fresca! Add some vodka and lime juice, and damn you have a fine cocktail.) 

All through high school I drank diet coke probably twice a day. Diet Coke for breakfast and a Diet Coke and a twix for a snack on the drive home. As Diet Coke became more mainstream, Tab was being edged out. But one of my friends at Seabury, we'll call her Tabitha as another friend called her back then, was not going to let Tab go. She never switched and to this day I believe she's still a die hard fan of Tab. 

When Coke Zero came out, I gave it a try and loved it. It's my zero calorie beverage of choice now, though I'm happy to have a DC if the CZ is not available. I haven't seen the aluminum bottles in stores yet (haven't really been looking) but I did notice new smaller plastic bottles of DC and CZ. Normally you can only get 16oz plastic bottles, but now there are (I think) 12 oz bottles.

In the summer of '06 when I was spending much of my days getting to know Paddy and living online while sitting in a F U N K Y movie location in Mexico City (oh and working too), we would have our Diet Coke breaks. You'd have to ask the catering guys to get a diet coke because they weren't just sitting around in coolers like they are on set in the US. It felt awkward to "order" a Diet Coke from them, but after a while you sorta got used to it. They would bring it in a nice glass with ice and lime. YUM. Paddy and I, to this day, wax nostalgic about CLETUS and their Diet Coke deliveries.

Oh dear, I have gone on and on, haven't I? Well, that's a blogger for you.

I am loving my online life and experience. I get excited to meet new people and try new things and I appreciate free stuff to try. Why not?

Online Life and Free Stuff -- Blogger Prom and Gap Edition

I've been blogging in various ways since October 2005. Not very long compared to some, longer than a lot of others. But only in the last six months to a year has my online life really started to be more than just me writing down what I'm feeling or doing. This comes with the whole "Social Media" boom of Facebook going uber mainstream (not just for college kids) and Twitter exploding all over the place.


Lots of people who are not online as much as I am might think it is a lonely place to be. One person in front of a monitor and keyboard, silently typing away into the virtual ether. Wrong and wrong. If you interact on Facebook and Twitter and comment often on people's blogs and websites, you start making friends fast. And with new friends come unexpected benefits. 

I started my book blog in 2005. I start this blog in the summer of 2006 while in Mexico City (oh that's why it's called what it is). In 2006 I also started living on line in earnest, reading blogs and websites with great regularity and commenting often. One of those sites was LA Metblogs and when they said they were looking for new writers in 2007, I applied and was asked to join up! Through Metblogs I've met an amazing array of brilliant funny people. I started the Classic Eats series last fall and have met even more fun people in real life as we eat our way across LA. One person I met was Caroline on Crack and because of her, I got invited to Blogger Prom earlier this summer. 

With Twitter going great guns, I met new friends there, online, many of whom were also going to Blogger Prom. So the night of the great event, I ended up meeting The Slack Mistresses, Be The Boy, Lisa of 1 Good Foot, and Kim Prince of House of Prince in real life! And OMG what a great time we all had. Plus Blogger Prom was a completely free event -- free food, free cocktails and tons of give aways, plus a huge goody bag full of great stuff. All FREE.

Not long after that glorious evening, I got an invite from Nina, aka The Slack Mistress, to come to a Gap Jeans Born To Fit party. I wasn't exactly sure what this was all about, but I was told I would get a free pair of jeans and who says no to a free pair of jeans or to Nina? Not me. Plus it would be chance to meet more online peeps. 

The party was at the Gap Pop Up Store on Robertson (it's open until Sept. 27, read more about it here.) and was completely private to our group. There was free valet parking, to start (nice!) and when you walked in a Gap representative greeted you with a coupon for your free jeans and other info about their pop up store. Then a guy offered me cocktails so I said yes to Sangria, thanks! And another gentleman offered lovely pu-pus. This was already great! While I was talking to Lisa (of 1 Good Foot), I saw a woman walk in and I recognized her instantly -- GINA! Holy cow. We'd been twitter friends and there she was. FUN.

Then it was time to browse the jeans. I think there were only about 15 women there to try on jeans and three or four Gap sales people to help you find your perfect fit. I worked with a nice young gentleman who knew his jeanery and suggested a few different styles to try. I went into the fitting room with a few pairs and settled on the Long and Lean style in a size 14. But the 14 was a touch big (yay) so the nice young gentleman suggested the 12s. I was unsure but gave it a go. I put the 12s on and they seemed a skosh small, but when I walked out, a couple of the ladies who were there said, "oh yes, they look great!" and I was still a bit unsure. The nice guy helping me also said he thought they looked perfect. I hemmed and hawed a little, asking are you sure? He said, and I quote: 



I changed back to my clothes and poked around, trying on a few shirts and sweaters then put a purple t-shirt on my to-go pile. Then we all socialized a bit more, having a few more drinks and snacks. When it was time to go, I paid for my shirt, got my bag of clothes and hugged and kissed my new friends good-bye and left. Total cost for the evening? $22. I got cocktails, dinner, new jeans, new shirt and free parking for $22. If I hadn't have bought the shirt, it would have been $2 total. NICE!

Nina got to host this awesome shindig because she was contacted by a Gap representative who found her through her blog. ONLINE.

Am I getting through to you yet about life online? How about this: Remember that Sarah was on the Oprah Winfrey show because a producer found her Mar Vista Mom blog and she and three neighbors got rooms redesigned by Nate Berkus for free. 

Good. I'm going to finish my little story about bloggy life and free stuff in the next post. Stay tuned!

Green Day Saves My Soul

Tuesday night was Green Day at the Forum.

I'll be honest. I cried. More than once.


I've never been to a concert this big (approx. 18,000 people) and I've never been to a proper "rock concert." The hardest concert I've been is, Police? This was new. But walking in I knew it wasn't going to be some mosh pit stage diving insanity. There were tons of people our age and older and tons of people our age and older with their kids -- young kids, 8, 9, 10 year olds. That was awesome to see. Green Day has been around for 22 years so it makes sense.

We got to our seats just as the opening band, Franz Ferdinand was finishing their short set. They ended with a scottish pipes and drummer group on stage. Then the stage was reset and shortly after 9pm Green Day walked from the very back of the floor area to the stage, along the sides. They started with 21st Century Breakdown, which set me off crying immediately, along with jumping up and down and waving my arms around, like you do. Then they played Know Your Enemy and that was great. 


Everyone was on their feet the whole time and we had binoculars to watch up close (thanks Debra and Chris!). We lucked out on seats, not in their location so much (you can see how high/far we were) but because there were just two seats together in that particular spot. Even though we were far, I didn't feel that far away from the show, because the the entire place is the show, the people around you, the energy, the joy, the noise, that is all part of the show and it was tremendous.

For a perfect example, they started the song Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which is slower song and Billie Joe (the lead singer for you non Green Day fans) sang the first line and then the crowd took over. Everyone (including me) sang almost the whole first part of the song. Billie Joe just stood there, holding the microphone up, then just listened, then bowed down, then walked back to the middle of the stage and got on his knees, listening. It was a really cool, dare I say, powerful moment. Thousands of people singing a song about loneliness, together. Phenomenal. 

When Basket Case started, the crowd went wild, but not more than the guy in front of us. Oh man. There were two kids in front of us, 15 maybe? The taller one practically went into convulsions, putting his hands to his face and bending over yelling "Oh my god! Oh my god!" (and I couldn't hear the rest.) "Stoked" doesn't seem to come anywhere near to covering what he felt. I tapped him on the shoulder and handed him the binoculars. He was beyond crazy happy. He handed them back after a short time but I then handed them to his friend, who watched for a few minutes then handed them back to me, also stoked. I know they probably wouldn't like to hear it but they were adorable.

When the opening drums/bass riff to Longview started, the kid went into convulsions again and I wished he were at the front of the stage because for Longview, Billie Joe said "Who knows the words to this song? Seriously, who knows all the words?" He then picked out a kid from the front of the floor gang and had him pulled up on stage. The kid was maybe 14 or 15 and hugged Billie Joe first off. Then Billie Joe handed him the mic and let the kid rip. And the kid ripped! He sang that song and ran around the stage like he'd been doing it his whole life. Oh man. It was great to have the binoculars then so you could see how crazy happy the kid was. When the song ended, Billie Joe had him stage dive into the crowd. Awesome!


Later he did a similar thing with Jesus of Suburbia, saying to the crowd "Who can play the guitar?" and he pulled a 21 year old guy with long hair up to play on the song. That guy also worked that stage like he had been on tour for ages. But looking close with the binoculars, you could tell it was not pre planned or anything. That guy was over the moon. He also got to stage dive off.

The show was three hours total, which amazed me because it all just flew by. Billie Joe talked a lot between songs, yelling at the crowd to get up, get your hands up. Saying that we are all here right now, there are no tvs, no computers no cell phones -- just this moment right now. This moment of hope. (No really, that's what he said!) He talked about how awesome California is and how happy they were to be here. In fact, after the crowd sang the whole first part of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, he said, and it sounded and looked like he was pretty stoked, "That's Los Angeles!" Later he told a funny story about being on Sunset Blvd, outside a bar, arguing with his wife on the cell phone one Friday night last year and a guy driving by yelled "Hey Billie Joe! Fuck You! Fuck Green Day!" Then the guy's car was stopped in Friday night Sunset Blvd traffic and Billie Joe said to his wife "Can you hang on a second?" and then he ran over to the car, dove through the window and started beating the guy up. Then he dove back out the window and into the bar and finished the call with his wife, saying "I love you." I can't quite explain why, but I love that story because it is SO LA.

The bass player, Mike Dirnt, ran around the stage a lot, but generally stayed pretty low key. I loved it when he would walk out onto the small catwalk part of the stage into the crowd and would touch the end of his base to people's heads and hands, like he was anointing them with the music. Tre Cool is just kind of a spaz, throwing his drumsticks behind him after every two or three songs. He would occasionally get up and run around the stage. Next to his drum kit was a small table with a fan and a plastic drink cup with paper umbrella. And Billie Joe -- just all over the place, yelling and swearing and tearing it up, but in such a positive, funny, good spirit.

We had earplugs, but I couldn't use them the whole time, I would take them out and put them back in. My ears are still ringing a bit, but it was worth it. The music wasn't so bad, it was the screaming crowd that really hurt the eardrums!

They did the usual "good night!" and then came back for another 40 minutes. The encore started with American Idiot (gawds I love that song) and ended with just Billie Joe on an acoustic guitar playing three slower songs, ending in Good Riddance. Now, Good Riddance will make me cry EVERY TIME because of one of the most touching moments I remember on tv. It was when ER was good in the 90's and Jeanie Boulet was friends with the chief surgeon's son who was 12 and had cancer. The kid listened to Green Day and when he died, she sang Good Riddance a capella at his service. It was mind blowingly moving. (Yes, I am a pop culture junkie, FYI.) Add to that my sister dying of cancer and damn, I'm reduced to a puddle when that quiet guitar starts up. 

This was how it looked for those last slow songs at the end: 


Green Day has been saving my soul this year. I have hooked into their music because it allows me to express anger and fear and rage in a "healthy way" while I drive along, yelling the lyrics, pounding the steering wheel. I mentioned this to a friend recently and he asked "what are you angry about?" and without hesitation I said "My sister dying." Quite frankly, I'm fucking pissed. So Green Day has helped me, continues to help me express myself out loud. I don't know how I'd be doing it otherwise. 

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right. 
I hope you had the time of your life. 

I had a great time, Green Day, thank you. Thank you for saving my soul.


(There's me telling the world (well, Facebook and Twitter) how happy I was after the concert. All photos by Kurt Frey taken on his iphone. Kurt was a good sport for going with me!)

The Grief Is Always There

It's been a teary few days, Jen is so much on my mind. It started with a little photo project I did for Grace (which she'll get in a few days) and involved finding a baby picture of her with her mom. This is the one I found and used:


Gawd, look how young Jen is, she's 25 in this picture, Grace only a few months.

Just looking through pictures to find one was a bittersweet walk through nice memories.

Yesterday I went to a christening for a friend's second son. I got teary eyed walking into the church and waving at them as any big life marker, christening, wedding, graduation, funeral, makes me very emotional these days. And I had not yet met my friend's two boys so it was a wonderful and sweet visit. Her oldest son is so calm and cute in public and with strangers. He's only two but was comfortable enough to come hang out on my lap while he ate his grapes at brunch after. What a doll.

But driving up to the church for the christening made me teary, thinking of -- and this is going sound ridiculous, just go with it -- some day when we have kids and we won't be baptizing them and Jen won't be there for that. Really it's just thinking about having kids and having events, birthdays, etc and Jen won't be there. It makes me so sad now thinking about how much I miss her now and how much I will miss her then. Fack.

This morning I got a friend request on Facebook from someone who's name I did not recognize. I saw we had 10 friends in common, all from Seabury, but it didn't help. Luckily there was a piece of info saying that she was the younger sister of someone else I knew. She is the younger sister of Jen's high school boyfriend. (I knew her with a nickname version of her full name.) Once I figured it out, I was really pleased and so happy to "friend" her back and leave a "hi!" message on her page. But oh it's hard to not then feel all there is to feel about how I'm connected to her. It's not just that we went to Seabury together. She was Jen's boyfriend's sister. 

Cue the tears.

Weigh In Wednesday On Thursday

Kittyonapplescale Today the scale said 186. Good news.

I've been slowly working my way back to 99% vegan eating and while that has been going very well (had corn on the cob with butter (I'm not crazy), steamed broccoli and rice for dinner) I still am eating too much 99% vegan. Because as I've known for a while now, the recent Time magazine article notwithstanding, it's not exercise that helps you lose weight. It's not a particular diet that helps you lose weight. The only thing that helps you lose weight is eating less. It is that simple. Eat less. Doesn't matter what you eat, just eat less of it.

Exercise is for improving your mental and physical health. Eating tons of plants and low fat, whole grain foods is to improve you mental and physical health, decreasing disease, etc. Consume fewer calories, you will lose weight.

For now, for me, the eating 99% vegan is a better bet that even if I'm overeating, at least I'm overeating whole grains and beans and veggies. My arteries are grateful.

Happy Belated Birthday Kurt!

Kurt has pretty much the best mother in law in the world (if I do say so myself). For his birthday she Fed Ex'd a dozen Home Maid Bakery Malasadas to him. MMmmmmm. He even let me have two of them.



Kurt's had a pretty good birthday month. His actual mother gave him an HD TV of his choice! And just like with the malasadas, I benefit from this as well. 

Happy Birthday dearest one of mine!

The Seattle Trip -- Part III

Having survived the hottest day on record, we awoke to a gorgeous day and a gorgeous view. 


We packed our bags and then packed up the car and said good-bye to our little Bunglaow on the Bluff.


We parked in front of the main house and awaited our pick up by the Albrecht's. Next time we come, and the temperatures are more in line with the area, I would love to stay in the main house.


Beyond the house is the Post Office with original interiors, complete with Fallout Shelter signs. Love those old things.



Then we were off to an EXCELLENT local breakfast place that the Albrecht's frequent called the Blue Moose. It's in the boatyards and is very local. Perfect!


Then we went on a driving tour of Port Townsend and beyond to Fort Worden State Park. We saw amazing houses along the way, beautiful wooden boats, gorgeous water views and, of course, the blimp hanger that is now a theater.


Every town needs a blimp hanger. 

Then we got into our car and followed the Albrecht's to their house in Port Hadlock to see where K1 grew up. It's gorgeous and amazing and wow. Here's the view from inside:


And a better one from in front:


Breathtaking. And K1 says I grew up in a beautiful place. HA!

We chatted for a few more minutes and thanked Ginny and Terry profusely for a wonderful breakfast, tour and visit. We had a really really nice time and are really looking forward to another visit soon.

Gas was gotten and we motored back south toward Poulsbo for a 24th high school reunion. Okay, it wasn't officially a Seabury Reunion, but when you have 33 alumni from your class, one of whom has died (Miss you Bruce!), when three of you get together, that's almost 10% of the class! 

There we were: Julia, Steve and Courtney, together again!
Julia steve and opihi1

Courtney and I saw each other in March or April this year for the first time in 23 or 24 years. Steve and I haven't seen each other since maybe 1986? Yowza! But it was like no time had passed as we chatted and laughed and shed a few happy tears and sad tears (for Bruce and Jai). Steve pulled out some yearbooks and we howled and told stories, each of us remember different things, sometimes our memories overlapping, sometimes not. Occasionally one of us would shout "They did WHAT? When was that?!?!" It was perfect. Kurt and Steve's partner seemed to enjoy themselves so we were clearly not talking about Seabury ALL the time. 

Steve made us a gorgeous cold supper:


And we talked and laughed for a few more hours. We played some pool upstairs, then we put on jammies and watched a movie, then went to sleep. Steve kindly put us all up for the night in lovely guest quarters. 

Next morning was some more coffee and breakfast chat and soon we had to say good-bye to Steve. It was WAY TOO SHORT of a visit, but a great start. You always want to leave wanting more. More hugs a few more happy tears and we were on our way, following Courtney back to Tacoma.

We got to meet her husband Dan and her son Drew and see their gorgeous house and then we had gorgeous house envy. We like the old victorians and craftsmen styles and Dan and Courtney have done an outstanding job fixing theirs up. We have serious house envy. Serious. So envious I only took one photo. I was so distracted.

Courtney's kitchen

I'm behind the camera dripping with kitchen lust.

Then the five of us went to lunch down on the water and had a great visit getting to know Dan and Drew. What a tremendous family of amazing people they are. I can't wait to spend more time with them again too!

But too soon, we had to get back to Renton and to the Freys. We gave big hugs and kisses all around and headed back North to Seattle. We checked back into our quality hotel and headed over to the Northern Frey's for an afternoon of, uh, Uno and Wii, telling them of our travels. We had dinner at a town called Black Diamond in a historic bakery building, dining on prime rib with a view of Mt. Rainier. Lovely night.

Then back to their place for more Uno and Wii, then back to the hotel to awake to packing our bags one more time, picking up Dot and heading to the airport to fly home on Virgin America (upper class!) and be home with the kitties by early evening. Home safe and sound after a great trip.

The whole experience was just what I wanted (except for the hotness). Visiting family and great great friends that I haven't seen in ages and realizing there is no reason it should be ages! Seriously. 

This has been mostly a travelogue, but I know I'll get around to more details and insights in future posts. 

Thanks to everyone for all the meals that you bought us! Dang, we couldn't pay for a thing, no matter how hard we tried. Thank you, you are all very wonderful and generous and we can't wait to return the favor.


Fun Guests From Out Of Town

This last week we had great company! Pranab and Kate were in LA for just two short nights and one full day, but we made the very most of it.

Monday night we played poker with a couple of other friends (six of us in all). We had $5 buy in and played for a few hours. Excellent pizza was delivered, cocktails and wine were consumed, snacks snacked upon. We called it quits around 11:30 P&K had just flown in from Taipei (and boy were their arms tired) and another guest, DKSG was getting on a plane to Guam the next morning at eight. Kurt described the evening's games as "pandemonium" because everyone was laughing and chatting so much we had to recheck the bets more than a few times. FUN! 

The dining room table poker table looked not too much the worse for wear the next day.

Poker aftermath

Tuesday morning, we all slept in and around 1pm we picked up P&K at their hotel in Santa Monica and made our way downtown for late lunch. We ended up at the Nickel Diner for a variety of yummy foods and great conversation with Kristen, our friend and the co-owner. Then they closed between lunch and dinner and she kicked our asses to the street and we headed to my favorite place of all time, The BonaVista at the Bonaventure Hotel. The bar that goes in circles. We were a bit early (they open at 5pm) so we hung in the lobby for a short while then headed up in the glass elevators, got our seats and watched LA turn around us. Oh and we had large cocktails.


Then we left, but not before taking a wacky photo 35 stories up and going round and round.


We moseyed back to our house and had a few more snacks, a few more drinks (Kurt was designated driver, by the way, in case you were worried.) and then after talking about all the Uno we played in Seattle, Kate wanted to play! So we played two hilarious rounds of Uno, which was interrupted at one point when, having run out of the small amount of tonic for the vodka and tonics, Kate, staring at the bottle of Kahlua at our bar, asked "Do you have any milk?" I looked at her, then at the bottle of Kahlua and a huge lightbulb went off. "You want a Caucasian!" 


(This is not Kate.)

So I happily skipped into the kitchen and mixed up the first white russian I've made since probably, oh I don't know, high school? College? Probably college. Kate seemed to enjoy it, so all was right with the world.

Not long after, Kurt took them back to the hotel after lots of goodbye hugs and kisses from me as they were getting on a plane at noonish and I had to go to a work meeting the next day. Our visit was brief but packed full of fun.