Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Make Music Pasadena: WTF?

Okay I let my lazy/busy-ness get the best of me and now I'm a week behind again. So let's back the truck up to last Saturday -the 19th - when I decided to check out the Make Music Pasadena Festival. A one day event that promised a big line up on several stages as well as "hundreds of spontaneous musical performances," whatever that means. And it's all FOR FREE. And free stuff is never bad... right?

Now keep in mind this is the Saturday that followed the ill-fated outing to the movie at the cemetery and while I was ready to curse the outside world and become a shut-in forever, I let my pointless optimism get the best of me and instead elected to give this a shot. How do you think it turned out?

Oh, wait, did you read the title of this post yet? Yeah. So you know where I'm going with this.

I'd recruited my sister Katie and Becca to tag along with me. Devin intended to come along, but wasn't feeling great and needed to rest up for the Iron Maiden concert he'd randomly decided to attend later that evening. (This from the man who listens to Band of Horses and Connor Oberst.)

When we arrived in Old Town Pasadena I noticed some crowds, but nothing more spectacular than any other Saturday. Shouldn't there be... I don't know... some stages set up some place? Or tents, perhaps?

I thought about this one weekend when Devin and I went to a bar for his cousin's birthday party, only to find the place totally empty, and after waiting around for 20 minutes realized that we'd (I'd) mixed up the dates and we were actually a full week early. I wondered if maybe I'd made the same error once again. Maybe this was all taking place tomorrow?

Then we drove passed a street and I noticed a modest stage and a smattering of people. It wasn't what I'd anticipated, but it showed some promise. And hey, it was still early.

Little did I realize this would be the only real evidence of this alleged festival that I'd see for the next 3 hours.

As we wandered the streets, feet hurting, thirsty, hot, I couldn't find a single event. There was no music in the air. No plastic cups of beer. At one point I saw a large crowd inside a bar and thought perhaps there was something happening inside, but I think they were all just watching a World Cup game. A few people we passed were referring to pieces of paper that appeared to be maps and a schedule of events. I stopped to ask (or perhaps confronted) a young couple to find out where they'd obtained their map. The boy and girl looked at one another in silence, then back at me, then at one another. It was as if they were getting in trouble, or I'd asked them a trick question. Eventually one of them said he'd gotten the map from a local security person. Ok, noted. Thank you, nerd.

I was getting a bit crabby so we decided to grab lunch. As we neared the restaurant, I spotted one of the security people with the coveted maps and ran up to him. He was busy directing a long line of cars into one of the public parking structures. How could there be this many cars showing up but so few festival goers in action? What was I missing?! Or, what was going on in this parking garage?

After lunch, we used the map to try to locate one of the stages. Try being the key word here. Sure enough, when we arrived at the location where music was promised, we found nothing. NOTHING!

Seriously, was this a joke? Looking at the map (the map of lies!) I saw at least 20 sponsor logos. What could the sponsors' money possibly have been put toward? Besides printing the maps themselves. It was as if the festival was conceived by 3 music enthusiasts during a night of heavy drinking and they all were like "Yeah man, we should totally put on a festival. It's gonna be awesome!" And Guy 1 promised to book the bands, Guy 2 promised to set up the stages, and Guy 3 promised to do the web page and map. Then when Saturday rolled around, Guy 3 was like "WTF? guys?" And Guys 1 and 2 were like, "Oh, sorry dude. I didn't know you were serious. Nice map."

We made our way to another bar to formulate our plan. As we sipped on white wine sangria, we lamented what a waste the festival had turned out to be. Coming from upstate/central New York, where it snows and is cloudy 11 months out of the year, we'll take any excuse to be outside in the summer, drunk on sunshine and Coors Light. Every weekend there is some kind of festival to attend and we know how to do them right. Close off the streets, put up massive beer tents, turn up the music, provide assorted fried foods. Could Make Music Pasadena not figure out ANY of these winning factors?

The one band I wanted to see all day was Matt & Kim. And actually, I wanted to see them so badly that I refused to give up and go home. We concluded that we'd make our way to where the stage was supposed to be, and if the whole thing was just a catastrophe we would leave.

When we arrived at that street, however, we discovered a big stage, a decent sized crowd, and some food stands. "A festival!" Becca shouted out. She was right. So this is where it had been hiding.

Now don't get too excited. It was only 1 block long, there wasn't anything to do besides the stage, and there was NO BEER. I know, super fun. And as if they wanted to end all fun, they were actually handing out nicorette samples. Sigh.

Matt & Kim came on about 30 minutes later and their show was terrific. So full of energy. And balloons. And dancing on chairs. It almost made the whole day worth it. Almost. Really I wished I'd just come down only to see their show, and spent the rest of my day doing something (anything) else.

To summarize:

Matt & Kim - Cheers
Make Music Pasadena - Jeers
Future Attempts to Enjoy Society - Inconclusive

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Trouble With Doing Stuff

I'm going to take a break from my usual, more or less positive outlook on life to discuss a major roadblock I frequently encounter in my quest to experience all this world has to offer. You see, it would appear that LEAVING MY HOUSE IS A FREAKING NIGHTMARE AND STAYING IN MY HOUSE IS AWESOME.

I like being a homebody. Very much. And I'm married to a homebody, thereby increasing our homebodiness exponentially. Sure, in a perfect world I could be talked out of feeling this way and become one of those freaks who "can't sit still." But the fact of the matter is sitting on my couch rules, as does ordering food and having it delivered to my house, then eating it on my couch, and then sitting on my couch some more. There. I said it.

However, I realize that other people find this behavior unacceptable, if a little gross, so I really do put in a valiant effort to be the sort of individual who takes friends up on party invitations and the like. And still, more often than not, no matter what I'm doing, there comes a certain point in the day's or night's activity when it occurs to me that it would be just as remarkably wonderful to be at home, not doing said activity. Case in point: a trip to Vegas during which Devin and I were back at our hotel room by 11:30 each night, having tacitly reached an agreement that the casino floor was too loud and involved too much standing.

The bottom line is I've tried to Do Stuff. I even made a blog about it. See? I want to be like you people, with your sun-kissed cheeks and your tales to tell your children. Unfortunately, it's ill-fated events like Saturday's that force me to wonder if perhaps I'm wasting my time.

Allow me to elaborate. It all began with a visit to a friend's house to watch the US vs England World Cup match. Have I told you guys how I'm a huge soccer fan? No, just kidding. I could care less, but I DO love an excuse to get together and, if forced to leave my house, a friend's house is my favorite place to be. If not my couch, then yours. It seems like a perfectly fair policy.

So the game ended after what seemed like 20 minutes, and we proceeded to sip on beers and Pimm's until the late afternoon. At this point, I noticed Devin frequently checking the clock on his cellphone and took note that we would need to get going for our second set of plans for the day. We were due to meet up with some other friends to watch Beetlejuice at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. That sounds very goth, but it's actually very hip. For those of you nonlocal readers, the cemetery screenings are a summer tradition in which modern classics are projected onto the side of a building, while people gather on the lawn with picnics. I'd gone last summer to see Dazed and Confused, and it was a lot of fun to sit amongst the crowd, sipping red wine, surrounded by ornate graves of old Hollywood movie stars I've never heard of.

Here's what isn't fun about it: the fact that everyone else wants to be there too. Two huge lines form hours before the gates open. One is a line of people that winds around and down several blocks. The other is a line of cars. Last time I think we lucked out in our timing, and may have inadvertently slipped into the cheaters car line of people cutting the regular line and we wound up getting in. Some of our friends were not so lucky, and waited in the people line for 2 hours only to be told that there was no more available seating.

Now, back to Saturday afternoon. Devin is saying we need to make our move and soon. And as keen as I am on sitting in the cool night air and watching a movie I already know I like, I was not so hot on the idea of driving to the store for snacks, then across town, and then fighting thousands of good citizens for a measly plot of lawn. Daydrinking had taken its toll and I sort of just wanted to, well, be home.

But the truth was we'd already made these plans. And I didn't want to be the sort of last minute canceling flakes that I detest, so we got off our butts and started hurrying to get there. As a bonus, we recruited our drunk hosts to come along.

When we arrived on the street outside the cemetery, we got in the car line just as we had last time. It didn't seem to be that long, and we still had plenty of time. Twenty minutes later, we'd eeked our way up to the gates, where a security person told us that, oh by the way, as of today, you can't enter from this direction. We'd need to drive ahead and get in the line around the block. Marvelous.

So ahead we went, and joined the more lengthy, proper car line. Having been told that 400 cars would be allowed in to park, and doing some really really careless counting, we figured we couldn't have been more that 200 cars back. Sure we'd wasted some time, but okay, we could make this happen.

And then we sat there for 2 hours. This was my view.

The cars did not move, even as the gates opened. Craning our necks and looking way up yonder where the car line turned right at the street light, cheating cars coming straight were slipping their way in. Our friends squeezed in the back seat seemed to be of good spirits, but I was growing cranky and headachy and I worried that Devin's shouting at people trying to cut in line would maybe get us all stabbed.

My mind wandered, and I imagined being at home, submerged in a bubble bath, listening to the sounds of Devin practicing guitar in the other room and Seamus's claws clickety clacking across the hard woods in the living room as he looked for the cats.

Then Devin honked the horn in frustration, and suddenly I was jolted back to reality, steeping in car exhaust and staring unapologetically at the ridiculously outfitted hipsters moving along in the people line next to us.

By the time it was dark, and with minutes to go before the movie started, we made it to the entrance. Of course, we should have noticed the cars ahead of us all leaving and speeding off down the road, but we were dizzy with hope that we hadn't wasted our entire evening sitting in a line of cars.

As we pulled up, the same security guy as before leaned into my passenger window and asked -- get this -- "Can I help you?"

I was so dumbfounded by this statement that I couldn't respond, and just sort of pointed toward the entrance. I wish I'd thought to respond with, "Yeah, what are all these people waiting in line for?" or "Can I get directions to the cemetery?" or "Yes, I'm here to pay my respects to my great grandmother."

I mean, really. Sir, let me into the god damn movie. I have to pee and I'm going completely stir crazy in this hatchback. I may punch my husband. Let me in!

Of course, then he reveals that they weren't taking any more cars unless we were "on the list." Did you know you have to be on a list to see a free movie at a cemetery now?

Could he perhaps have sent some other employee down into the car line to let everyone know that, in fact, it was full and save us all a good chunk of our only time here on this planet?

As we pulled away, we called our other friends driving behind us. I felt responsible for misleading them into the wrong line in the first place, perhaps effectively ruining our chances. Though I think it was all a lost cause from the moment we arrived. There was some brief discussion about whether we should regroup and attempt to do something else, but really all I wanted was to be at my favorite place: home.

40 minutes later, we walked in our back door and I felt the same sense of relief that normally follows a particularly horrid travel experience filled with flight delays and turbulence and some ordeal with security. Oh, home. Home sweet home. Where there is water, and Advil, and ramen noodles, and my couch, and a Netflix envelope with season 1, disc 2 of Damages.

I was so exhausted by Saturday's catastrophe that on Sunday I didn't go to the roller derby as I'd planned. I know, this would've made for some good blog fodder, but I'm easily traumatized.

I guess now I just have to figure out how to experience the rest of the world without leaving home. Any ideas? No?


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tokyo Delve's

First off - please excuse my blog absence as of late. It's not owing to a lack of Doing Stuff. On the contrary, I think I done did too much stuff, and apparently it's easy for me to feel overwhelmed and incapable of documenting these events. So I'll try to get caught up. This will take us back a few weeks, to a birthday celebration at Tokyo Delve's.

[Pictures for today's post provided by Barry. You're very lucky, you know. Because my pictures were simply awful.]

Tokyo Delve's sushi restaurant is an experience like no other. Well, I'm sure similar establishments exist, but this is the only sushi place I've ever been to that's resulted in me punching an ice cream cake, later being kicked out of a karaoke bar Jazzy-Jeff-on-Fresh-Prince-of-Bel-Air-style (you know what I mean), and winding up hosting an after party with my friends and 5 randos my sister acquired from the local grocery store at 1 am. And this was just what happened one of the times I went. There are other horror stories for other visits. But more on that later.

Actually, no. No more on that later. I think you get the picture and I'd really rather save myself the embarrassment. Suffice it to say this place effs your s up.

Whenever asked for advice on what someone should do for an upcoming birthday or to entertain an out of town visitor, Tokyo Delve's is always my recommendation. Of course, the moment I say the name I feel a little queasy. It is not for the faint of heart. Or the regrettably old at heart 20 somethings like me.

In order to go to this place, you must make a reservation for one of 3 nightly seatings. It's pretty much like dinner theater. Like Medieval Times but better. When you arrive at the restaurant, you check in with clipboard-holding security personnel who check you off the list, give you a wrist band (you know nothing civilized ever comes from something requiring wrist bands), and ask you to wait in line until it's time for your show.

There's Barry holding the camera. Can you find me?

The line outside is one of my favorite parts of the evening because it's only a matter of time before the doors open and unleash the crowd from the previous show. When this happens, a group of screaming maniacs comes spilling out, all of them about to face-plant into the side walk, or perhaps wander carelessly into traffic. The women, dressed in outfits that were probably sexy at one point in the evening, now have mini skirts riding up to terrible heights. Their strapless tops sag dangerously low. They are either stumbling around in their platform heels, or barefoot, having given up and elected to carry their shoes (or having some how lost them completely).

And the outpouring of the drunks was as entertaining as ever on our recent trip to TD's for Becca and Shannon's birthday excitement. One man walked out still chowing on sushi rolls. Another guy stood in the street, quietly trying to take pictures, while nearly being hit by a bus. I couldn't look away. The hands-down highlight was the fighting couple. The woman, a raving, near-barfing lunatic. The man, calmly trying to stop her from stabbing him with a stiletto. I'm not sure what they were fighting about, but as we stood at the back of the line we had a good view of the chaos. She pushed him away; he approached, trying to make amends. She threatened to dive into the street; he and their friends restrained her. She screamed in his face; he decided he'd had enough and began to walk away. This of course only worked to anger her further. Then came the slapping and clawing. I know, it should have made me feel bad for the both of them, but our show was about 1 hour late to start and something had to keep us busy.

Finally it was time to enter. While walking in the front door, the waitstaff greeted us with high fives and fist bumps.

The decor of the restaurant is exactly right. Picture a banquet hall, with rows and rows of tables, tightly packed in so that your back pretty much touches the back of the person sitting directly behind you. The walls of this place are painted black and the lighting is provided by strings of Christmas lights hung haphazardly, giving the room the feel of a party in a frat house basement.

But it's not the look of the place that encourages the excessive drinking. It's the mini kegs and bottles of sake placed in front of customers within seconds. And mere seconds after that, the waiter instructs everyone on how to assemble a sake bomb. Fill your beer glass about half way, balance your chopsticks atop the glass, and teeter the little sake cup between the chopsticks. Ready?

Now it's time for the shouting by the waitstaff. Oh, the shouting.
"When I yell sake, you say bomb. Sake!"
Then you pound your fists madly on the table until the little sake cup lands in your beer, at which point the entire table is soaked, and you and your friends chug the whole terrible concoction. Lather, rinse, repeat.

You see how things are about the get out of hand.

The rest of the dinner consists of average tasting sushi served in waves on large trays to your table. Then there is much standing on chairs and dancing. Then the waitstaff performs a few dance numbers.

And lastly, there is the Splitting of the Check, which is always the worst point in the evening for 3 reasons. 1. It turns out to be horrendously expensive. 2. Everyone is too drunk to pay attention to the math. 3. No one wants to pay for anything and believes somehow they owe $20.

The Splitting of the Check has lead to serious fights on more than one of my visits. My advice for anyone planning a night out to TD's is to force everyone to agree to split the check evenly, no matter what, or prepare to spend 45 minutes arguing with your friends while the restaurant empties out.

Thankfully, on this visit we had agreed to split everything evenly between everyone, so the process was rather painless. Well, it still made me die a little inside to hand over all that money, but at least no one was punching anyone else.

I had fun. I always do. But this visit came well over 2 years after the one before it. And I think that in that time I managed to calm down a little, so I kept the sake bombing under control. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that I simply cannot handle hangovers anymore, and I can't sacrifice a Saturday to feeling like hell. There's too much housework to be done, errands to run. It's a sad reality, but a comfortable one.

In conclusion, as much as I sincerely urge everyone to try this place, it's definitely something you only need to do once. Or, in my case, 6 times but the 6th time is the last. Really.