Let’s start by saying that my Tuesday evenings usually begin with a trip to Weight Watchers. I was a good little girl and went to my meeting and was down three pounds.

Let the eating begin!

Part of the reason my Tuesdays are successful and fulfilling is because I remain flexible. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they don’t. And, usually, the night provides the most interest when I do something completely different than planned.

Last night, I planned to do my WW, sushi and a movie circuit. Then, I found out that the band, Yo La Tengo, was playing at the Fox Theater in Oakland and two of my friends were going, so I set about trying to get a “date” on Facebook. No luck. I wasn’t up to going to a show, standing up for hours on the floor by myself, so that ended up not happening. But, my friends, Josh and Kathy, who were going to the show were more than happy to meet up with me for a drink beforehand. Luckily for me, they were willing to meet at a place I had never been so I got a little sampling of the emerging downtown Oakland scene.

Radio Bar

Inside the red belly of Radio in Oakland

The bar where we met is called, Radio and it’s described on Yelp as a dive, but I think people who are using this word really don’t know the meaning of the word dive. Baggys by the Lake: that’s a dive. Radio, NOT. Lord, I could show those punks the real meaning of the word “dive.” For one, it was pretty clean and stashed with some primo booze.  Radio is hipsterish, though. From the neon sign to the red-tinted light bulbs, mirrors, padded booths, pool and pinball, it’s like hipster daycare. It was not, however, snooty. The bartender was very friendly and on top of his game and the atmosphere was casual enough where I didn’t feel intimidated to walk in wearing electric blue tights, a polka dot shift with a bright yellow sweater (oh and covered by my hot pink trench). I was the only person in there not wearing a black coat, but I didn’t get no stink eyes. I wish I had photographed myself in the outfit, but it’ll show up again soon…especially with spring approaching.

Anyway, we had enough time to hang out for a couple of drinks before the rockers went to their show. I did debate about going, but really the desire to not be in a crowd alone was stronger.

Not to mention, I was starving and just wanted a nice dinner. As if dropped from heaven, a guy in a tie and a skinny suit put a card in my hand for a bar/food place called Disco Volante right around the corner and I was determined to go there and not be intimidated by dining alone. I said goodbye to Josh and Kathy and walked my pink-clad self around the corner.

Disco Volante

More red belly interiors--Disco Volante

The same decorator must have done both Radio and Disco Volante or somebody bought some red lightbulbs in bulk. I never had any trouble with red velvety establishments so it was all right by me. The bartender was lit seemingly from underneath so it was like a scene from Blue Velvet (without Frank). He was a nice barkeep and I was able to have a tasty dinner and a nice Guiness. I started with the grilled dates (stuffed with cheese and wrapped in bacon and then grilled). HEAVEN! I could have snacked on those things all night. Then, I splurged and got the Volante burger and it was delish, especially with the special “bacon jam” condiment. It wasn’t huge or overly sloppy and it was perfectly cooked and I think the bun was fresh made from a local bakery.

Volante Burger

I love you, Volante Burger. And your bacon jam, too!

A sexy leather-jacketed woman and her boyfriend were next to me and they were nice chatters, so that was fun. I’d recommend both spots and would love to have a date with the hubby on 13th and 14th Streets in Oakland.

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robert the sushi chefLast night was so…normal!

I realize how drifting away from my regularly scheduled program can get me out of sorts once I go back to my regularly scheduled program.

No plans. No commitments. Just me. I woke up today feeling like a new woman.

I dropped the kids off with my mother-in-law after school as storm clouds gathered. But, in my head it was all sunshine. How delightful to stare down six hours of freedom! I drove home, tidied up the house and myself and went off to Weight Watchers (mmmyessss, sad but true). After that, armed with pre-calculated points to keep myself in check, I went to a sushi place down the street that I had not visited in awhile, Mijori.

Now, having kept my sacred night out for some time, I’ve learned that sushi is one of THE best dining alone options. First, it’s yummy and interesting. It’s a la carte, so you get to try a lot of different things. And, because there is a bar option, dining alone doesn’t seem like such a dorky thing to do. Even I, the one who has always enjoyed doing many things alone, gets a skeevy feeling every now and then when eating out alone. With sushi, I feel like the chefs are entertaining me and I don’t have to look at anyone else. Plus, it seems that many people go out for sushi alone, so quite often I have people to chat with if I’m up for that sort of thing. And, after a getting on the Weight Watcher’s scale, sushi is pretty much the only dining option that doesn’t set you on a path of destruction.

Mijori is really special in this category. It’s a neighborhood place; nothing fancy, but I’ve come to love the chef, Robert. He’s a lot of fun and knows all the regulars. He really appreciates sushi diners who don’t order the package deals and will treat you really special if you’re adventurous. I recently discovered the sublime qualities of uni and love tasting the differences at different places. Last night, when I ordered the uni, Robert told me that there was a problem with their normal Santa Barbara uni, so they got a higher grade from Japan instead (but same price for me). It was amazing. Buttery with that bottom-of-the-sea flavor without any unpleasant aftertaste. So perfect, I ordered another round (and looks like I didn’t get charged for it…I didn’t say anything but tipped big).

After my sushi din-din, I walked down to the Grand Lake Theater (free popcorn on Tuesdays!) and saw TRUE GRIT. I love the Coen brothers so can rarely be objective about their films, but I just thought this one a stunning thing. I can’t compare it to the novel, because I never read it. I did see the John Wayne version, which I liked ok, but this one really moved me. It’s a rare experience for me with movies these days (even with 3D), to feel like I’m INSIDE the film and this one really gave me that feeling. I came out feeling I had lived that ordeal. Loved the “sepia-like” palette. Matt Damon was at his best, I think. And, what is it about Jeff Bridges: the more crusty and old he gets, the more I just love the guy. I think he’s my favorite actor right now–on and off the screen. His portrayal of Rooster Cockburn is one for the ages. I saw CRAZY HEART on cable recently and thought he was pretty good in that, but there he was able to convey such a mix of honesty, loneliness, debauchery in the character of Rooster Cockburn and then reveal such a love between him and the little girl. It was very moving. And weirdly erotic without being perverted. Those two loved each other.

What can I say? I’m not a film critic. But, I just adored that film and loved how the Coen brothers made it Mattie Ross’s story. She was one kick-ass female role and once my daughter is old enough to handle the violent part, I hope it’s a film we can enjoy together.

Tuesday marked a last call for alcohol, too. I’m going booze free until next Tuesday. I failed to mention that I gained two pounds at the Weight Watchers scale (not exactly the highlight of the evening) and noted that I drank 36 points last week. So, no booze for a week to see if there’s a difference.


angry face on phone

This past Tuesday I used my free night out to help phone bank in support of our upcoming, contentious, and very seriously needed parcel tax to help our schools. If you’re reading and you’re an Alameda resident (living, perhaps in some secret bunker with no media access or human contact), you can visit here for info.

I hate telemarketing. For anything. And I’m one of those people who no longer answers my land line for fear that some sneaky person has manipulated the caller id to make me think they are someone I want to speak with. But, now I was one of those annoying dinner interrupters. For the record, I’m less annoyed by get out the vote calls. I believe in democracy, which means I think everyone needs to exercise his or her right to vote no matter what, and I vote. And while I don’t like being guilted into giving to the fireman’s fund or having to hear a pitch for virtually everything else, elections are important. I do not, however respect the RoboCall!

My human self drafted another supporter to head over for the phone banking session where we were quickly trained and given a list. Should I admit here that at one time, for exactly 90 DAYS I worked for a company whose biggest client was the National Rifle Association and I wrote scripts and managed their telemarketing efforts? The best parts of that experience (besides eventually being fired for “not fitting in”) was listening in on the calls. I also got to travel to Fargo, North Dakota for a week to visit the call center. That might be for another post, but the net of that is Fargo was like being on the moon. Nothing but wrinkled white people, statues of Leif Erickson, and it was in January so I spent my birthday there and it was butt-cold. During that campaign, my favorite responses were a) “Well, my deddy was the one who really supported the NRA and he shot hisself, so we don’t have guns no more.” and b) Sure, I’ll pay my dues, but I’m a convicted felon and can’t have a gun.” A few anti-gun people would answer sometimes and there would be shouting or hangups, but that was sort of par for the course. Ninety days later I was “let go” for not fitting in by the sexual predator CEO (who, disgustingly enough, was a Cosmo bachelor of the month–what a pig!).

I went to my cubicle and started to go down my list feeling absolute terror! What if I got an “anti?” What would I do? I have a cold and sound like a dude. Would people not understand me? I tend to stutter when I am stuffed up. Would I sound like a jackass? What if nobody liked me? But, I figured I’d just do it and see what happened.

I read the script and had to rewrite it in my own words. The Southern gal in me, really felt I should address people as Mr. LAST NAME or Mrs. LAST NAME, but then I know that Californians don’t like that. I also had the ages of the people on the phone and if they were younger than me, it felt weird to address them that way. And, there were a few last names I would have butchered so badly. There were also a few difficult first names, but fortunately those people were NH, or Not Home.

My first obstacle came from getting used to having to “dial” a “3” to get an outside line. I kept hitting 9 and getting a busy signal so at first, I checked off the “busy” square until I realized I was dialing wrong. Once I started to dial correctly, I started to make it through my list. It was about 6-ish and most people in Alameda seem to have jobs and they weren’t home. Or not answering. Then, when I got a few people, they were all “yes” supporters. They were surprisingly nice although I think one woman said “yes” just to get me off the phone. So that was easy, other than my stuttering and fumbling through the script. “Send in your absentee ballot and be sure to sign the back and mail it right away.” Check on the “Y.” Done.

I got through my entire list by 7pm and then had to muster up the energy to call all the “not homes” back. In the end, the “not homes” never answered and I was done, yay.

After that, J and I were off to a fundraiser at the local tiki bar. A great reward for not so much work done (on my end…I could hear J having long conversations with people about the senior exemption, why there was a cap…all those sticky wickets…and realized I got very lucky).

The tiki bar donated all proceeds if you ordered the A-Town cocktail and so I did. Two, actually. And they were made of whiskey which helped my congestion, I’m sure. A few coconut shrimpies and some sweet potato fries and I’d say it wasn’t a bad night. Also, THE Dame, Dorinda, was there in all her fabulousness celebrating her birthday.

I love Forbidden Island. It’s great when you go with a crowd or by yourself or with just one person. You can be a big tiki-kitsche type or just a regular joe. Very non-judgmental. I love the list of cocktails, the bar food, the music, the Tiki-related vids on the TV, and of course, the back patio! Complete with Tiki torches and a giant Tiki head. Perfect for our Island living.

My dilemma for next week: stick to my guns and have a quiet Tuesday alone, or again switch my night for a Wednesday night movie with the gals. I’m torn. It’s breaking my rule again and really does affect my feeling of that unstructured time. While I hate to say no, I’m leaning that way because I’ve had so many commitments lately.

What would you do?


I really am committed to not straying from my night being same time each week. But, sometimes exceptions must be made and I was invited to join a really fabulous bunch gals for a monthly dine-about-town created by the lovely Dorinda Von Stroheim.

We are called “Dames des Gateau” and our mission is to don our vintage finery and have dinner at a Bay Area eatery established prior to the 1970s. Our first adventure was at the lovely Joe’s of Westlake. This place was a great throw-back to the times of Hi-Fi, high-balls and high living. What a great window into the world of Daly City as it began to boom as a San Francisco suburb.

Joe's Westlake, Daly City CA

Joe's of Westlake, interior main dining room

We ordered Manhattans and I had Joe’s Calimari. I got there at seven, which appeared to be right when the early bird diners (a.k.a. VERY OLD PEOPLE) were leaving. One guy even referred to us as the cheerleaders. We were like babies to them. Very nice.

As you can see, the Dames innaugural was quite a feast.

Dottie and Karen

Dottie and Karen show off the creamed spinach.

Creamed spinach seems to be an evolving theme, as is questions.

Last night, my rearranged night out was to meet the Dames at the old I.Magin bathroom in the Macys of Union Square. I missed this bit but there are some cool photos floating around ye olde facebook. Our dinner destination au classique: John’s Grill.

Johns Grill

John's Grill on Ellis

Instead, I went to the bar to wait for the Dames and had myself a very nice, dirty and dry Grey Goose martini. I guess it’s not a martini with Vodka, but never mind. The bartender new what to do. I loved seeing the inside of this place. It was my first time and it oooooozed Sam Spadeness. For those that don’t know, John’s Grill, it’s been right in it’s spot since 1908 and it was made famous in The Maltese Falcon when Detective Sam Spade has dinner there. There’s also an original Maltese Falcon from the movie (apparently there were multiple Maltese Falcons–not just one–which was handy as apparently in real life that Falcon has been stolen) in a glass case. Very nice.

maltese glass

Souvenir glasses were hot.

In the main floor where the bar was, there were tourists and locals and it was hopping. At some point, a homeless man joined me. Keepin it real. But soon, Dame Stephanie joined me and we got the cocktails going as we waited for the Dames to get outta the bathroom.

We were all seated on the third floor which was a bit of a haul in heels, but very ladylike for a bunch of Dames. Gilded Age lamps, lace curtains, and a friendly wait staff set a great mood. And, it was lovely how the lights flickered off of that lovely wood paneling.

Dame Dorinda, our leader, broke the ice during drink orders by providing little books with a Falcon insignia and key questions.

question booklet

The Falcon guards our night's questions.

The cool thing is, the women who have joined the Dames are FABULOUS. Such an amazing combination of whimsy, fashion sense, and devil-may-care and serious, smart, and talented gals out for fun. I am enjoying getting to know Dame Dotty, Dame Karen, Dame Rusty, Dame Stephanie, Dame Shona, Dame Joey, and of course, I already know Dames Alex and Dorinda! But even knowing them, the magic questions are giving me new insight into my friends.

doe and alex

Dames Dorinda and Alex dig in.

I was part of a women’s salon in my younger years in Washington, DC, and this has that same feel to it.

I was feeling a bit depressed about getting older this year, but having this and meeting these new people have made it feel like a new beginning. Forget Botox to look younger, just put on some fancy clothes and have dinner with some interesting pals!

Karen Finlay

Dame Karen makes her point.

The first question was “What advice would we give our 18-year-old selves?” It’s amazing what these answers revealed. I’m always struck to find out that really amazing women I meet now had some of the same insecurities and false starts as I did. I really always felt that everyone else had it together. Well, I still think they had it more together, but still. One answer led to a poll being taken of how many English majors were at the table and about half the table said “yes.”

Telling, don’t you think?

The food at John’s was a bit more upscale than our last dinner. The throwback 50s menu was entertaining (creamed spinach). One highlight was the Jack Lelane salad and I was told that John’s was one of his favorite haunts and on his death last week, his spot was kept vacant with only a candle and there was a little plaque of Jack on the bar.

I had the Oysters Wellington, which they claimed had been in Gourmet Magazine, but there no mention of a year. Oysters were topped with CREAMED SPINACH and covered in puff pastry. I love all of those things but it was just kind of weird. Even for me.

Dessert was good and it was just enough alcohol for me to feel good, but not be all hammered.

Our final question was what would we put from our life right now into a time capsule.

question #2

What would you put in YOUR time capsule?

That was a hard one. I can’t even remember my answer, but right now, I’d love to pack that night and have it back in the future.

John's Grill Window

Looking in the window of John's Grill.


I changed my night this week to tonight (Wednesday). I know, I’m already breaking my #1 rule, but you’ll see why after I post on the night. Until then, here’s a little story of a recent adventure in San Francisco a few weeks before Christmas.

Getting Clocked at Clock Bar By a Miserable Traveler from Long Island and Other Adventures

It was my night out and started out not much different from my usual nights. At the start, the most unusual part about it was that, a) I wasn’t broke and b) I had plans.

 

My mother-in-law came over to watch the kids and I took off for the city in our freshly fixed car. My plan was to hit H&M in Union Square and then head over to Clock Bar at the St. Francis to meet Richard Merrill. A Facebook friend suggested by a high school friend. I have not laid eyes on the high school friend in over 25 years, but through Facebook, we’ve reconnected and it’s been really wonderful and she decided that her friend Richard, who lives in San Francisco, and I should meet. He and I have been Facebook friends for a few months and I’m fascinated by his seemingly daily dine-about-town lifestyle that seems to cover the entire Bay Area. After a few fits and starts, it seemed that tonight we would meet at a bar before he had to go off to his office party. That’s all I knew. But I was game.

 

I finished my shopping early and headed to Clock Bar in the St. Francis. I sidled up to the bar and ordered what I had there the previous week, a smoky rye risky concoction made with the Hangar One Black Qi liqueur (it’s awesome). I drank that one and Richard was running late so I ordered another. During the second belt, this business-y looking blonde woman sat next to me. She reeked of cigarette smoke. I asked her where she bought her cigarettes, joking that there aren’t many places to buy around the area now that Walgreen’s has been banned from such sales. She launched into a tirade that started with a heavy accented, “I’m from New Yawk” and told me that she was chided for smoking in Union Square and how in New York this and in New York that. I told her that I was in New York City the weekend they banned smoking from bars and she was all, “but you can still smoke outside” and I said that well, in San Francisco, they are more accepting of pot smokers. She went on and on and then she told me she was a “scientist” and she worked for a cosmetics company. I told her I was here to meet a friend of a friend through Facebook and she said, “Oh, Facebook. You need to get off of that!”

 

I was like, well, it’s not bad and I’ve had some great experiences reconnecting. She was like, “all everyone does is brag about what they want or use it to cheat on their spouses.” I’m thinking, am I that stupid?

 

I asked her if she held open the eyes of baby rabbits to see if shampoo burned their eyes and she said, “no we don’t do that anymore,” but she was vague as to what sort of science she did for an unnamed cosmetics company.

 

We decided to go out for a smoke right when the person I was to meet, Richard, came in. I told him that I had just met Laura from New York and we were going to smoke and then I’d be back. We tell the bartender we need to settle up and Laura tells me she’ll buy my drinks. I had two pricey drinks but she insisted (seriously, I had $20 of booze!), but she paid. Whatever.

 

As we walk out she yells at me, “what are you doing meeting a gay man you don’t know in bah?” I was like, “what else should I do? I’m married. Should I be meeting straight men, heheheheh.” She shook her head. We walk around looking for a place to buy her menthols to no avail and I’m feeling like she’s a big freak so we go back and hang out with Richard and Walter who are gracious and so nice and they tell Laura they are from New York and they do EVERYTHING to be nice to this woman. But, she went on to continue to complain about San Francisco. “Why do they let children wander into hotels? In New York, not just anyone can walk into a hotel bar!” And we all told her we had gone through many a New York bar. She was all, “well, maybe in Manhattan” and I wondered if the mafia had so overrun Long Island, even the bar at the local La Quinta meant you had to be “in the know” to pass through some velvet rope.

 

Finally, Richard and Walter invited me to crash his AAA party and I said yes and we abandoned that freak. We decided to Muni over one stop and the whole way we just marveled at what a freak “Laura from Long Island” was. We were struck at how all of us, having lived in the south, had just encountered the dumbest, hickest redneckiest idiot north of the Mason Dixon line.

 

We head to 111 Minna which was having Sketch Tuesdays on one side and hosting the insurance geeks of AAA on the other. We walked in and loaded up on office party carbs. It was fun and we talked. I decided I did need a drinking cigarette and asked the coat check boy where I could find one. He told me to go to the biker bar nearby and look for a guy with a respirator and there I could buy a cigarette. I went and found nothing so I came back and ran into the Pandora Design party and bummed a smoke from hip Asian kids. I told them my story of the crazy Long Island woman and my failed attempt at finding the respirator cigarette guy. They laughed.

 

I went back inside to say goodbye to Richard and Walter and I hear, “Hey, are you Lynn Landry?” And I see this person who I have never met in person, but know, through Facebook. Susan Smyth, friend of my college friend Diane who lives in Oakland and is also friends with Chrissy Galbraith. It was awesome to finally run into her. She contracts at AAA.

 

Basically, the moral is, the people I have not met but met on Facebook seem to be the normal people and the freakazoid I talked to at the bar who said that Facebook was evil was the biggest, loudest, meanest freak of them all.

 

It was a pretty fun night for a Tuesday and I was home by 9.

 

Top that!


Sketch Tuesdays

25Jan11

Tonight is my Tuesday and it also happens to be “Sketch Tuesday” at 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco.

You’d think it would be really pretentious, but it’s actually not. I’ve gone to a couple of them. I love meeting the artists, getting a few cool pieces for around $10, and having drinks with friends in one of my favorite gallery spaces. A great way to spend some of my Tuesdays.


It’s Simple

27Dec10

Mom dining out “One Night Out” is not the same as a “Mom’s Night Out.” It is not about being a book club, or playing Bunco, or craft night. It is simply about unstructured time you designate for yourself the same time every week. If you follow the simple rules, you too can experience, just for a few hours, that feeling you used to have before you had kids, before marriage even, when you could do whatever you want.

Why did I start this?

I had my kids later in life, right about the time I was discovering myself. I also got married later (a few years before the kids) and because of this, I had lived a long time  as an adult on my own, doing my own thing. By the time I met my husband, I was fully convinced that I was never going to get married and have kids and I lived my life accordingly. My identity–who I was–was wrapped up in this sure knowledge.

Then, we meet, marry. And for a while, that was only a slight difference in who I was.

Then, I had my first child, and my world was rocked. I was madly in love with my little guy, but I found myself going through a serious identity crisis as a mom. I also had post-partum depression, and, having a kid at a somewhat advanced age, was facing full on the fact that I was not, in fact, that young anymore. I say often that I don’t know if what I went through was due to having kids or simply aging. I will never know this for sure. But, I was still fun and interesting and I didn’t want to give up the things that made me me just because I had kids. How do you do that without neglecting your marriage and kids?

Now, I realize that age has nothing to do with this and my call for a “One Night Out Manifesto” is based more on the fact that having a child and being a part of a marriage means you have to devote time and energy to making sure this system works. I love my children and my husband and don’t want to jeopardize my current lifestyle in any way. I started out having a few ad hoc nights out or coffee with friends, but that always seemed to make me feel like I STILL had no time to myself and it also seemed like one more thing I had to organize, fit in, think about.

So, my husband and I came up with a plan for each of us to have one night out a week. We set up some rules to make this work, and nearly seven years later, we love and need our nights out.

The Rules

1. Pick a night. You each decide on your nights out and you stick with it. Sure, sometimes things happen, but part of the reason why this works so well is that each of us know that one night a week we don’t have to ask permission, seek a sitter, coordinate, or feel guilty about our time alone. We keep weekends as family or date nights. I have Tuesdays and he has Thursdays.

2. Determine your childcare. We are fortunate in that my mother-in-law takes the kids after school on my night so that from 3:30 until curfew, I’m free. She gets time with the kids, my husband picks them up and we are all happy.

3. Determine a curfew or a check in time. If we are going to be out later than 9:30pm, we have to let the other one know so that no one worries.

4. Do not use it to join a club, or do anything that requires commitment. I mean, you can, but that sense of obligation sets in. I’d accept a class because that has a start and finish, but part of the beauty of the one night out is that you don’t have any set obligations or commitments. Keep it loose.

5. Do not use the one night out to run errands, take care of business, or anything like that.

And there you go. If you float the night and don’t block out the time, you won’t have the same feeling of your sacred time. I know many people who set out to do it, but they break that rule and they end up not using the night, or it becomes, like I said, another thing you’re having to work out all the time. If something comes up like a friend in town, or you want to go out on a different night for something special, work that out, but keep your night sacred.

Have fun.