Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The cure for what ails you

The weather outside is downright frightful, you guys.  I happen to LOVE it!  We don’t get a lot of the rainytime here by the beach in So Cal, so when it happens I appreciate it like the dickens.  (What does that even mean?) The last few days have been a regular Stormwatch 2010.  It’s wet!  And blustery!  I’ve been wearing my cute polka dotted rain boots like it’s my damn job, and scarfing and hatting it up like a pro.   Watch out!  It’s supposed to pour on my birthday and, while I wish my nearest and dearest didn’t have to navigate around in it and risk life and limb to come celebrate, I think the rain is a special gift from the heavens just for me.  Hooray!  Cozytime!
In college and for years afterward, I had a long standing tradition with one of my very best friends (who is currently debating his alias for this blog.  I guess you never know when someone needs to be mindful of their non-existent political career?  No one can be sure.  I’ll keep you posted.  For now, let’s just call him...Carlos.)  on my birthday day that involved bellinis, South Coast Plaza, frantic last minute gift buying (Gloves! For everyone!), bellinis, chicken Alfredo pizza, bellinis, Caesar salad and Birraporetti’s.  Sadly, that all came to a crushing end when Birraporetti’s closed down a few years ago.  Assholes.  (He found a Birraporetti’s during his travels last year in…Dallas?  Tennessee?  Whatever…that helps me not at all.  Where do the people of Orange County go to swing dance on Monday nights and get leered at by creeps of inappropriate age now, you guys?  The end of an era!)
Anyway, we’d find our parking at South Coast, dash around like lunatics getting our gifts (Weird heated foot baths! For everyone!) and then get down to the real business of wallowing in boozy, Christmas tree-d, holiday music-ed nirvana.  We’d split the Caesar salad and chicken Alfredo pizza…which we still talk about in hushed and reverent tones to this day (you’d be hard pressed to find a better one and the fact that this place is now a Claim Jumper is a travesty on man and nature.), people watch, chitchat, solve (everyone else’s) problems (so easy!) and just hang right out.  This is one of the traditions that used to make me feel as though Christmas, with all of its joyous trappings, had arrived. 
I thought about this the other day when we ended up having an impromptu lunch (stuffed baked potatoes at Lucille’s, you guys…not the same.) because he needed to pick up a gift on 2nd Street and I, obviously, needed to boss supervise.  It was freezing and rainy and we decided we needed a little warming splash.  So, we shared an umbrella (Chivalrous!  Though now that I think about it, he didn't throw his coat over any puddles for me.  Rude!) and splashed and lurched over to Bono’s where we sat at the bar, admired their pretty tree, appreciated their Christmas tunes, analyzed Tom Brady’s hideous press conference hair on the TV (what was that?!  He has no people who will just PUSH IT BACK OFF OF HIS FOREHEAD? So greasy! I was upset by it.) and got serious about some Irish coffee.  Like…very serious. 
Oh! Hello, Christmas!

Come on! Is there anything better?  I’m dedicated to absorbing and emanating as much holiday love and cheer this season as I can…I really want to breathe it all in, slow down and appreciate it, and this was the perfect way to herald in this holiday week.  To warm up, caff up  and catch up.   And they were deeeeeeelish!  Hot coffee, a (very, very) generous splash of Jameson (oh, bartender!  You old so and so!) and the cutest whipped cream festoon you ever did see.  Y-U-M, internet!  We each had three.  Don’t judge.  You should have one or three, too!
‘Tis the season!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Decubed Dynamic Duo

Vanessa: So…Tuesday!  I’m going to see his show Monday night, and then we get to see my Buble again on Tuesday at Leno!

bacibug: I know!  Aren’t you so excited that you get to spend two whole days with him?! Hey, has he gotten married ye…..
Vanessa: Don’t even say it, Sue.  Don’t.
bacibug: ….
Vanessa: Anyway, what time can you get up here?  Are you taking the train?  Get here early because I kind of need your help before we leave.  Brian is so mad at me about these Christmas cards!  I need to get them done bef…[muffled side conversation.  bacibug: Is that a Belinda Carlisle song in the background?  I would bet $5, plus all of the money in my wallet that it is.].  Hold on.  I’m conferencing Bri in.
Brian: I love your blog!  When are you going to write about me?  [Unmistakable sound of Cher singing in the background.]
bacibug:  After I come up on Tuesday!  I’ll write a special guest post about you two.  You’ll need to sign a release.  And make sure you’re especially cute for the photo.
Brian:  Perfect! 
Vanessa: OK, but seriously?  I need you to help me get these Christmas cards out.  Be here by 2:00!
bacibug: OK!  Dang. 
Oh, internet!  You know how some people toil their days away in a private office, or maybe in a bullpen with their own teensy cubicle…a little space carved out all of their own?  Not my best pal!  Vanessa and Brian have been single handedly keeping live music and the concert industry alive, you guys.  For years.  And for years (well, there was a dark year when V went Big Swanky consumer product PR, but we don’t talk about that.) they have done so in tandem.  Sharing an office like Statler and Waldorf, and dispensing their opinions and knowledge just like everyone’s favorite crabby Muppet critics.  It’s the funniest thing you have ever seen and they are highly skilled in the art of compromise:
bacibug: What color are they painting your office?
Vanessa: Bri is making us paint it blue.
Brian’s FB status: Hey, do you guys know that new Cee-Lo song?  I DO BECAUSE V HAS PLAYED IT ON REPEAT 35 TIMES TODAY.  MAKE IT STOP.
Totally candid action shot.
It’s really sweet.  They work, listen to music, scheme and kibitz.  It’s like a new adventure every day and perfect for someone like me: I know when I solicit Vaness for her opinion, gossip or advice during the day, I also have Brian’s at the ready.  It’s very convenient for me to consolidate feedback regarding my various and sundry neuroses!  I couldn’t love these two any more.
bacibug: [stuffing and sealing 45371289746 holiday cards] Jesus…how many of these do you guys have to send out?! If I get a paper cut this close to holiday party season Imma be super pissed.
Vanessa: So many.  And Bri had them all alphabetized and ready and now I have to sign all of them.  I already did three boxes!
Bri: Just so you know, there are 100 people coming to the holiday party.  200 cups aren’t enough.  So I got 400!  But they’re kind of small, so I’m just going to ask for a double every time I get a drink.  Smart, right?
Vanessa & bacibug: Super smart.
Brian: I photoshopped a Santa hat on Kyler!  Look how cute!  I like it in blue better than red.   He’s the best looking cat in the world for sure. (bacibug: he kind of is, internet!  The hat just sort of gilds the lily!)
bacibug: What are we listening to?  Shouldn’t it be Christmas music?
Vanessa: Sue!  You know I love Bryan Adams! This is his acoustic album!  I’m preparing myself for the concert next year.  I’ll probably cry! [turns it up.]  I love the Canadians!
Bri: [side-eyes his workday partner and, obviously, calculates that it isn’t worth the hassle because it’s quitin’ time and just easier to make a run for it.  He’s so lucky.] I’m going home!
Vanessa: [turns it up] I love his one! (bacibug: it was “Cuts Like a Knife”, you guys.  Welcome to 1987.)

Monday, December 13, 2010


I’m the first to admit it: I totally have an addictive personality.  I’m a hedonist when it comes to many, many things.  Cheese. Fat babies. Salted caramel. Laughs. Malbec. Snuggles. Baci. Trashy TV. Marinara. Words.  Music that stops me in my tracks.  I can’t get enough.  But never, ever would I think that I’d be one of those people.  You know the ones…with their nerdy shoes, and their towels and their cardiovascular health.  But it sure did happen.

I’m addicted to spin class, you guys. 
Listen, nobody is more surprised than me.  And if you would have told me 5 years ago that I’d drag myself out of my cozy bed 3 mornings a week, throw my hair in a disastrous (DISASTROUS!) bun, brave the freezing (65°) dawn and slog all the way (6 blocks) to the old gymnasium, I would have paused my TiVo’d episode of Six Feet Under just long enough to give you the stink eye from my perch on the couch, and tell you to hurry up and order a pizza already, damn.   But here I sit before you today, a devotee.   I know, you guys.
It started out innocently enough.  I’d just won my work-sponsored Biggest Loser-esque (ahhhh, a story for another time, pets!) competition and wanted to use the cash prize to invest in my health, so I joined my local gym.  I hadn’t belonged to a gym for a few years…ever since I stopped my membership at a swanky Irvine one.  My intentions there were good, but one too many 6am yoga classes staring at some random CEO’s hairy bubble gum got to be too much.  (SERIOUSLY?  You’re a professional!  You have got to know that those dolphin shorts or whatever you insist on wearing flap open when you’re Downdogging and Warrioring and leaping about.  Put on some pants, sir!  My eyes!)  Anyway, I was excited to join a smaller, more intimate gym and love the cozy community of my local one.  So there I was.  I figured since I was starting something new, I should be open to testing myself, so when I got invited to “just try” out a spin class one Saturday morning, I challenged myself to it.
Uh, holy hell, y’all.  What a nightmare.
I felt out of sorts to begin with because let’s face it…I hadn’t been on a bike in 56723920976 years.  At least.  (Well, 10ish.  Since the Tandem Debacle of Independence Day, 1998.)  And I wasn’t much for group classes.  But I showed up, hid in the back and willed myself not to pass out.  It worked.  Barely.
The class was packed and confusing and it HURT, ok?  And everybody was all pedal, pedal, pedaling away like Lance freaking Armstrong and I thought I was going to die dead.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one…I noticed a gent who kept glancing at me in the mirror while I was huffing--and trying not to burst in to tears--with a look of concern through the whole class.  Afterward I found out he was probably mind Jedi-ing me not to drop right dead on his day off…he’s a cardiologist.  (Can you imagine, you guys?! Embarassing!)  Anyway, I was totally spastic, but I survived.  And I even went back!
Fast forward almost 2 years and here we are.  Still showing up!  Granted, I have my whole annoying OCD routine with the seat adjusting and the disinfectant wiping of the knobs and the whatnot, plus my specific personal rules regarding where EXACTLY I sit in class.  Also, I spend the whole time thinking of cake, Italy, that one cute dress, and if everyone else wishes it was over as much as I do, but whatever, right?  I even prance around in the fancy shoes, you guys! Honestly, I have come to really rely on the stress release of it.  And you kind of feel like you accomplish something in that long, tortuous, hideous sweaty hour.  (Well…52 minutes.  You know I mosey around getting myself all situated and then jump my ass off that bike as soon as I can.) 
The thing is that I’m lucky enough to have the best Spin guru ever!  Erin makes every class different and always has just the right music to get you pumped right up.  She really, truly is a Godsend.  Everyone should be lucky enough to have an Erin…she keeps people coming back for more torment because she’s just that good.  And because we’re scared of her. 
So, I’m addicted to it and happily so.  I even thought maybe I was going to be a biker!  (Cyclist?  Street spinner?  What are those people I hate driving next to?)  With a cute little ensemble and jaunty helmet and everything!  But after I went derriere-over-tea-kettle this summer during a pub crawl on bikes, that dream was shattered.  All it takes is one scraped-up elbow owie and I realized I’m destined to stay in one spot.  Riding on a bike that goes to nowhere.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Everybody’s got their something

Oh, you guys.  What a topsy-turvy week this has been and we’re only half-way through.  I’m reminded everyday that you, me, we should all always be braced for the unexpected.  Some of it is exhilarating, some of it is exhausting and all of it is part of this crazy-ass, beautiful dance of life.  It’s like The Waltz.  No!  Actually, it’s more like The Smurf!  A sloppy, last-call, last-person-on-the-dance-floor-at-closing-time-working-it-OUT-til-the-lights-come-on Smurf.  Hmmm.

Anyway, I’ve been having loads of scintillating conversations with one of my sistah SOULjahs (Hi Megs!) and the theme of (one of) our ongoing analysis is that there’s something so gorgeous about the daunting process of finding out what your something is.  Just like there’s beauty in the struggle that’s sometimes hard to see, we agree that we always want to be self-aware and in discovery of what our talents and energies—both innate and cultivated—are so that there’s always some sort of evolution.  I think Megan's something is her artful eye and her keen ability to make things beautiful.  A lot of the time, they’re simple.  For instance, one of mine is
(SIDEBAR!  I’m writing this at the café [natch!] and there is so much going on I don’t even know what to do.  There’s a guy here who I always think is Steve Edwards--you LA people (Brian) know who that is--but it isn’t him.  He doesn’t look like him…I just think that’s his name, but it isn’t him.  He kind of looks like Charles Gibson from GMA. He is/was a morning personality from when we were little and I think he was teamed up with Christina Ferraro?  [Not like, with her…it isn’t Lee Iacocca.] But it's that guy for sure. What’s his name?!  It’s driving me bonkers. I see him cattin’ around town all of the damn time. Monday I saw him at Trader Joe’s, yesterday I saw him here and now he’s here again.  Yes, I am too…don’t judge.  I was hoping he’d log in to Facebook so my nosy ass could spy over his shoulder at his MAC and catch his name, but he isn’t cooperating.  Probably because he’s like a grown grandpa man and has better things to do.  I tried Googling him, but nothing.  He’s very tall, and very dashing and very nice, but I still can’t bring myself to dork-out enough to be all, “Heyyyyyy, you’re from…” and hope that he fills in the blank before it gets awkward.  Oh!  His cell just rang and it’s Earth, Wind & Fire!  Awww.  I kind of wish he was my dad.  I wonder if he wishes the smokers would just freakin’ stop already with the grody stank out here, too.  Also, I keep getting distracted because someone named hott__naughtee__wett__tshirt keeps trying to IM me.  What?!  No.  Not interested in your situation, hott__naughtee.  And you need spell check.  Ignore!  There’s also some guy who’s whistling like it’s his damn job.  Sir!  Please!  Enough with the chipper.  And they’re playing epic Christmas music right now, too, which I happen to adore.  I’m over-stimulated, y’all.  Back to the regularly scheduled program.)
                                                                               that I will always want to feed you.  I think there’s nothing better than caring for your people so much that you want to stuff their gaping maws with delicious and delightful  delicacies.  I devour cookbooks, food books and cooking shows.  I love a clever just-because dinner party!  You just had a baby?  Here’s a lasagna! Your Pop died?  Sounds like you need some pumpkin bread!  It’s Monday?  I’m coming over to make polenta! I love it.  Food and it’s rituals are something that I have always associated with love and nurturing and memories.   (Oh! Café fake-Dad is leaving.  Bye, not-Steve Edwards!) I’m sure it gets old sometimes for the people near to me, but by now I think they know that it’s one of my non-negotiable somethings.   I embrace it and hope that it never goes away.  
What’s your something?  I’m sure it’s good. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cake! Let them eat it.

So, one of my nearest and dearest—a BFF, bestie, pal and mate of my little soul—turns 40 this month, you guys.  40!  Our birthdays are a day (and three years) apart (Ohhh!  December 22 will be here before you know it…you should take the day off and spend it drinking bubbles with me.  I’ll tell you my birth story and, possibly, reenact the part where I got sent home in a Christmas stocking.  Oh, yes I sure did!) and we always celebrate by taking a day that week to luxuriate at the spa, drink too much at lunch and get to really, truly catch up on the year.  It’s a tradition that, in the 11 years we’ve been friends, I’ve come to cherish fiercely and it wouldn’t feel like my birthday, which is really what I consider the true kick-off to The Holidays, without my friend.  Jennie’s life is super cray-cray: she’s a wife, a mother of 5 (she had 3 AT ONE TIME.) and a hugely successful business owner.  She’s also an amazing daughter, sister, friend and oenophile. (And a scrap booker, which still cracks me up.)  It boggles me how she fits it all in, but she does.  (I can barely keep up with my TiVo.) I love that she’s always so honest about how the juggling isn’t easy, and she has some really funny parenting stories that would break the faint of heart, but she gets it all done and is still able to squeeze any drop of fun and joy from an experience and embrace it.  She knows that it’s all fodder for the memoirs, and that The Crazy is what makes life interesting.

Grabbing 40 by the disco balls!

Anyway, her husband threw a blow-out 40th Boogie Disco party for her this past weekend and it was F-U-N, you guys.  So fun.  People were decked out and ready to do The Hustle (DIRTY!) all night long.  I ended up going as Rhoda, in case you wanted to know.  Originally, I was going to wear my little silver and blue bell-sleeved mini-dress (CUTE!) but when I tried it on the night before, found out that in the 563899247 years since I’d last donned it, it got…shorter?  Rude, right?  Like…indecently short.  I was going to try and be all ballsy about it and just throw on some silver tights and show up anyway all “What?  Yeah, that’s right.”, but really?  I’m not Lindsay Lohan.  Just because it technically fits doesn’t mean you should wear it out the house, am I right?  (Seriously, girls.  DO. NOT.)  Given that this was not going to be a demure event and that there would for sure be a dance-off, and cocktails, and light acrobatics, and more cocktails, I decided it was more prudent to keep the Lady Business secured.  Also, we all know I’m prone to falling when over-stimulated.  (Look at me!  So responsible!)  So that’s when Plan B took over…I blue shimmer-shadowed my eyeballs, feathered the shit out of my hair and dug out the enormous gold hoops.  I’ll say it: I was a cute Rhoda.
As with anything they do, there were lots of exciting and special details: a choreographed dance, wardrobe changes, the perfect music, her almost-80-year old mother in a black wig plus sequined bandana and, impressively, fellas with creepy facial hair that was actually real…like, these guys spent the week growing out ‘staches that they then apparently spent hours sculpting in to ‘70’s, handle-barred submission.  That’s dedication to the cause!   And also: there was cake.  The birthday girl has a favorite…an Albertson’s strawberry,-Bavarian-creamed-whipped-cream-frostinged extravaganza, so that’s what she got.  I sure did eat my piece that night when it came my way, but the almost-40 year old was too busy shaking her thang and batting her glittered lashes to the masses to be bothered.  (PS: Dessert never bothers me.)    At breakfast the next morning with her sisters and mother (who I also happen to L-O-V-E, LOVE.), Jennie was telling us that she woke up in the hotel room famished, as you’re wont to do after a night of debauchery and wig-wearing.   And the only thing that she spied was the cake, which wasn’t going to do the trick. 
“So,” I said, “you didn’t have ANY of your special cake?”
“Oh no, dude,” she said, “I had to take one bite, because according to my mother it’s bad luck to not have a bite of your own birthday cake.  So I got up and took a bite.” And then she immediately needed to drink Bloody Marys.
Knowing this also to be true as it’s always been a rule in my life, it made sense.  I also began to hope that there is some sort of grace period or statute of limitations on cake rules.  Like did she have 24 hours from candle blow-out to eat some or what?  (I’ll have to research this.) And when we all went our separate ways after hugs and kisses, I started thinking about some of the other cake rules: the first wedding anniversary frozen tier; the sleeping with a piece of wedding cake under your pillow so you have sweet dreams about your one true love.  Which…who does that…nobody, right?  I mean, that’s totally impractical and messy, though it’s sweet and promising in theory so…whatever.  And the one where whoever finds that weird baby in the King’s cake during Mardi Gras gets good luck. 
It’s obvious to me that we need more cake rules around here and my plan is to start implementing new ones in to society.  Fun and exciting, right?  It’s still a work in progress.  (I’m still really busy trying to make it a law that engaged men should have to wear a ring, too.  It just makes sense.) Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.  I’m sure you guys can’t wait!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

There’s a little place I know

Look here, you guys.  I’m a straight-up sucker for nostalgia.  And coffee.   Good espresso in teensy cups reminds me of being a mini, two-pigtailed Susanna, plopped atop laps around kitchen tables filled with great-aunties, great-uncles, my Nonno and my Nonna.  If it was breakfast, there would be toasted Italian bread with sesame seeds for dunking in to my sugary (and I mean sugary!) black joy.  If it was after dinner, we used Italian cookies or—oh, even better!—those Danish butter cookies in the blue tin with the cronchity, delicious sugared tops.  You know the ones. (I always started with a whole little sleeve of the pretzel-shaped because, naturally, they are the most exciting.  There’s a very strategic dunking procedure involved that results in the right coffeed-cookie ratio; a perfect bite that leaves the treat just dunk-drunk enough, but doesn’t result in leaving you with creepy, soggy crumbs at the bottom of your cup.  These are the lessons of my youth, people!)     Anyway, after dinner and in to the late, late night is when these coffee klatches happened and when you could count on the juiciest conversations.  Mostly in Italian, always passionately loud with cigarettes waving frantically around to make whatever important point, and English enough for 5 year old, adorably curious me (nosy!) to stay quietly fascinated enough that they’d forget I was even there, letting all of the gory details slip right out.  I’m pretty sure this is where I learned to pay attention.

My gramps, Nonno Frank, used to frequent a bakery on Vermont called Sarno’s and I loved when he would take me with him.  Loved!  I was his only grandbaby and it was so much fun to get hauled around the city by him because Frank?  Knew EVERYONE.  Sarno’s was like his office and he was the Mayor of Fun.  He would congregate daily with his consiglieri for hours and hours.  Doing nothing but yapping it up, drinking espresso and eating pastries.  Sometimes they’d take a break and hit Palermo’s for a pie with anchovies, but after pizza they were right back at Sarno’s, discussing important details of who knows what.   I think that’s a pretty good way to spend the day.  In the early 1980’s the LA Times ran  an article about the restaurant and there was Frank, front and center in this half-page candid color picture with his jaunty cap cocked, giving someone at his table the what-for.  It captured his dolce vita perfectly, and was a point of pride* in his late life.
Which is why, to be sure,  I have such a fond adoration for the Italian café on my block.  My little neighborhood has no shortage of coffee: there are two Starbucks (Starbi? Starbuckses?), a Peet’s, a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and a Polly’s all within short blocks of each other.  On the same street.  You could do a wild and crazy coffee crawl and hit all of them in half an hour.  Aroma di Roma, though, is where the people congregate. 

Hey thanks, Tim Jordan!
 It’s our sweet hamlet’s little haunt for cappuccino, gelato and conversation.  By day it’s where people come to meet, to work, to decompress after the gym, get fueled for their day, have a morning-after post-mortem and the most delicious breakfast focaccia in the universe: panini-toasted and smeared with cream cheese, then festooned with chopped red onion, tomato, basil and a drizzle of olive oil. (Or the apricot croissant! Warmed! Yowsies!)  By night it’s the place for dinner, wine and solving all of the world’s problems.  It’s a magnet for ex-patriots from around the world and I have spent many hours people watching to my heart’s content.  I'm also guilty of skipping up the street for a refill, quick squeeze and 2-minute catch-up with one of my nearest and dearest who alerts me to their pop-in to caff it up.  You see all of the same faces, usually at the same times, convening to connect, to catch up, to play chess and cards.  There’s always a political debate in the works, a saucy flirtation on the make, a broken heart being mended or grand plan being made.  This is where they come to check in, check out, strategize and scheme.  It’s got an energy and pulse that lures you in and makes you feel like your day isn’t complete unless you grab a quick jolt just the way you like it (I mean coffee, you guys.  Don’t be DIRTY!) and update from one of your favorite familiars. 
Everybody should be so lucky to have a check-in point...especially one that has plates of prosciutto and perfectly stinky cheese to share.  Nonno would pull up a chair for sure.

*Also a point of pride: the Madonna video he was in when he was 70.  It’s true.  He's the ticket-taker, you guys! Frank's MTV debute!