Friday, June 03, 2016

Madison Paige Makes a Big Splash

I didn’t love all the music I heard at the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend. It’s a very musically oriented event, with lots of bands and DJs playing, but I didn’t have use for all of it. Many of the performances, even some of the live ones, seemed a little computer-generated and inorganic, and after a few shows, I really began to long for the warm magic that can occur when a band plays together.

Just when I’d really had enough of DJs with laptops, along came Madison Paige. My expectations were low going in, because I knew she was very young (23) and primarily known as a model. Her set, at 11am on a hung-over Sunday, would, in fact, be the first one she ever played live.

I didn’t get any better of a feeling about what was about to happen when I saw the band’s set-up, either. There was a guitarist, a bassist, and a drum machine. Some of the backing vocals were recorded. Madison herself didn’t pay an instrument, she just sang, hunched over the microphone self-consciously.

But she was really good! Maybe she could work on her stage presence a little, but she really can sing—I’m confident that her own vocals were live. And the songs, which she writes herself, were well crafted, with intelligent lyrics full of interesting imagery and metaphor. She had worked a lot harder at her songs than she probably needed to, considering that she is, a) firmly rooted in the pop tradition, b) so hot that people will almost pay money just to look at her, and c) in possession of a day job.

Is she pop’s next big thing? Will I one day be bragging that I saw her first show ever? I don’t know. I just know that on a hot morning when I was in a hard-to-impress mood, Madison Paige’s talent jumped out at me, and that’s a hard thing to do at an event as kinetic and overstimulating as The Dinah. Here’s a link to my concert review, posted on the Girls That Roam site.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria

Girls That Roam comes through for me again: I’ve just had another Orlando article published. This one is on Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria, a quirky place that I liked a lot. This restaurant was one of many that pleasantly surprised me in Orlando. It’s in the middle of a strip mall, which didn’t seem to bode well. But the mall turned out to be cooler than expected--there was a great record store there called Retro Records, which impressed me. And then the restaurant turned out to be really interesting. I still think about my lunch, which was the sandwich pictured, called the Mama Ling Ling’s Thanksgiving. It was very comforting, full of stuffing and gravy, but it had funky touches, too, like some kind of curry sauce. I think I called it “Benetton on a plate” in my article and that pretty much describes it. I highly recommend the place if you’re in Orlando at lunchtime.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How Long Would it Have Been Without Pictures?

I’ve just had another article published on Girls That Roam. It’s on the Dominican Republic. The whole Dominican Republic. The DR is small, as countries go, but large for a story subject and this article got a little long. It was based on a trip that didn’t last even a week but which packed a lot in, including time in the city of Santo Domingo, on the beach, and in the mountainous interior of the country. That’s practically three different vacations in one, so I think I can be forgiven a little verbosity, although I do know that this is something I should work on.

Most people who visit the Dominican Republic don’t do any of the things I did. They head right to the all-inclusive beach resorts on the east coast, skipping Santo Domingo and not even realizing there are mountains. My feeling is that beaches are fine if there really isn’t anything else to do, including charades, so my challenge here is to alert the world that there is more to the country than gated ocean-side resorts. I am a little nagged by the idea that if I really wanted people to read my article and accept my thesis, I might have made it a little shorter. But what’s done is done. Please enjoy. Just pace yourself.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Picture Sells a Thousand Words

One of the especially fun things about this past trip to Palm Springs is that Pipi and I got to work together. Technically, this is not the first time in our relationship we’ve been co-workers, but that’s a story for another day, and anyway, it wasn’t in a capacity anything like this. At the Dinah, we got to function as a reporting duo, where I wrote the stories and Pipi took the photos. I think she did a fabulous job, and I wanted to show off some of her work. The link here is to the same article I posted a few days ago, although this one goes to the Seattle Lesbian’s version, which used slightly larger versions of each photo. Even if you’ve already read the article, or have no intention of reading my words, please take a look at the photos that go along with it. Pipi took all of the shots (including the one at the top of this post), and they are very good, especially considering the lighting challenges and subjects’ varying states of inebriation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

An Affair to Remember (For a Change)

Earlier this spring, I was sent to cover the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend. There was a time when this would have been a dream assignment. Three days of partying with thousands of lesbians while listening to live music would have pretty much been my idea of heaven when I was in my early-to-mid-twenties.

The thing is, though, that at 24 I never would have come home with the story. I would have told myself that to get the story, I needed to immerse myself in the experience. Three hangovers later, I would have come home with a pocket full of phone numbers I would never call and a notebook full of observations like “Rum & Coke rocks!” and “Melissa Etheridge smiled at me—I’m sure of it!”

Now, in my 40s, I have the connections and a track record that gets me sent on assignments like this. The thing is, though, that Dinah Shore no longer seems like the assignment of a lifetime. To a married woman who is really just a campfire guitar girl at heart, the idea of three days of thumping techno music in the desert with drunk lesbians on the make kind of sounds like hell.

But when the opportunity to go came my way, thanks to The Seattle Lesbian, I went, and I got the story. Lucidity has its advantages, and one is that now when I’m sent to do a job, I do it without blacking out or going home with a stranger. (I’m not saying I actually did these things when I was younger—I didn’t. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.)

My weekend in Palm Springs wasn’t all adulting. I did have some fun, starting with a road trip from the Bay Area to Southern California with two women whose company I enjoyed. I’d never met them; the carpool was organized by my editor at Girls That Roam, for whom I am also writing Dinah stories. The three of us, later joined by Pipi, who served as an official photographer, had a lot of fun in a fabulous house we rented. I did see some good music, and I did put down a few drinks, just nothing like what would have happened when I was younger.

I also had the chance to catch up with an old friend who lives part time in Palm Springs. Tobias was really my first friend—we moved to the same street when we were both about three years old. We lost touch for a while, then reconnected through Facebook. This reconnection was entirely virtual, and before Dinah Shore Weekend, it had been something like 25 years since we’d seen each other in person. It seems odd to go to a lesbian party and end up eating breakfast with a man but that’s how it worked out.

Getting older obviously isn’t all fun and games, but there are benefits. I now get assignments that I couldn’t have handled when I was young, and I’ve lived long enough that I’m able to know the joys of reconnecting with a long-lost friend. One thing I learned at the Dinah is that I’ll take that over a weekend spent inebriated any day.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

On the Road Again

Recently it has come to my attention that I need more exercise than I am getting. (This news comes to me by way of my pants-based early-warning system.)

For this reason—and also the simple fact that I missed it—I’m reviving the Oakland walking project. For those just tuning in, the goal here is to walk the length of every street in Oakland, CA, the city I live in. I was very devoted to the project for a few years, but then I joined a gym and drifted away from it. But like I said, I did miss it, and it’s time to step up my regimen, so we’ll see what adding a walk or two a week does for me. My prediction is that it will have more of an effect on my blog than my waistline. I can live with that.

This photo was taken last week during my first exploratory walk in years, in the northern reaches of the Rockridge neighborhood. The cat carving is exactly the kind of senseless weirdness that I love about Oakland. I have missed small discoveries like this.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

An Oasis of Calm in Santo Domingo

I’ve had another article published on the Girls That Roam site. It’s a review of the hotel I stayed in last summer in the Dominican Republic.

I think I come off as a little bit of a wussy traveler in this one, whining about the heat and how everyone speaks Spanish. In real life, I wasn’t a bit disappointed that people spoke Spanish; I was disappointed with myself for not speaking it better. Or at all, almost. I thought I would be able to get by, having taken a year at U.C. Berkeley Extension and done respectably well. But I was rusty, and Dominican Spanish is different from Mexican Spanish, and to my chagrin, I struggled with basic conversations.

Consequently, I found my hotel to be an oasis and a safety zone. I’m not proud of this, and I assure you, I did leave the property and venture out into the real country. But I sure appreciated the comfort when I was there. Here is my review of the hotel I stayed in, the Renaissance Santo Domingo Jaragua Hotel & Casino.

(Spoiler: I liked it. I’m going to like most places with exotic cocktails.)