Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Bananaman Returns to Wine Country

Sonoma 2018
Day 1
Saturday, January 13, 2018

I have a milestone birthday coming up this month, and I wanted to go someplace special with my friends. While I would have liked to go to New York to see Rockapella this weekend, I didn't want to be cold.  Like, NYC Winter Cold.  I've done that, but didn't want to do it for my birthday. I also wanted to boost the wine country community after the horrific fires devastated the folks in the area this past December.  So I decided to spend the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in Sonoma, and invited some of my closest friends to join me.  Some of them could make it, so it was time to plan.  I knew a couple of places that I wanted to go, based on a previous trip to Sonoma, a couple of which could not happen because they were closed, but we made plans around that.  Flights and hotels were booked, and we were excited to spend a few days with each other to eat, drink, relax, and enjoy each other's company.

The day started with us getting an alert from Southwest that our flight to Sacramento would be an hour late to depart.  Linda, Mox, Glenndy and I decided to go to the airport anyway and have breakfast together while we waited.  The departure time changed several times so I'm glad we were already in the airport so we wouldn't stress out over what time to get there.  While we were waiting in the gate area, a woman with a toddler was kind of irritating us, but we watched over her car seat while she went to the restroom anyway.  She then held up the line to board the plane because of some cancellation having to do with changing her baby's ticket to a lap seat only, which had occurred when she checked in earlier in the day.   Later in Sacramento, as we waited for our rental car shuttle to leave the terminal, she delayed us again because someone offered up their seats to her and luggage needed to be taken off and put on and...we texted each other about the whole thing and giggled quietly.  

The Girls' Row

I would have taken a picture of The Boys' Row, but there was a woman in the middle of it.  At least she didn't have her hair in a hot mess, like someone else on the plane.  Yeah, I'm mean.

Hello, Spider-Bunny!

While on our way to Sonoma, we stopped at Red Robin for a late lunch.  I reminisced about the time Jenny couldn't park the big SUV she rented, and wondered what I bought in the nearby Target.  The service was weird, but I enjoyed my short stack of onion rings.  I especially enjoyed the fact that there was a Hidden Mickey in its presentation.  


As we arrived in the Napa and Sonoma area, we saw the effects of the fires on the region.  There were still areas of black, and some of the trees that had burned were now growing moss on their trunks.  We would learn the next day that the grapevines saved much of the region because there wasn't any fuel for the fires to burn due to the dormant vines.  I read somewhere that the soil was affected by the flame retardant, so we'll see in a couple of years if any good wine comes out of this coming season's crop.  Meanwhile, we did see some homes that were burned to the ground and I felt sad for the victims.  

Glenndy and I arrived at our hotel and checked in.  I asked the hotel clerk if Weff could have a room nearby.  Glenndy's room was not near me because they had reserved, like, a hotel of their own or something.  My room was quite nice, and had a fireplace with pictures of a vineyard and old school winery vehicles on the walls.

I know your OCD is making you crazy right now.
As I was unpacking, I received a text from Weff that they were checked in and their room was around the corner from mine.  I met up with them and Glenndy in the hotel lobby and we walked over to The Plaza Bistro, where we had dinner reservations.  Mox and Linda arrived about a minute after we did (they were staying in other hotels), so we were seated almost immediately.  We didn't realize how large the restaurant was, and they had a nice table ready for us in the back, where most of the seating was located.  I was ready to start off the wine weekend and ordered a glass of 2014 Cabernet Franc from Imagery, which I enjoyed.

Bananaman made his appearance and the birthday celebration officially started.
It's Bananaman Time!

The server confused us because he didn't go in any particular order around the table.   I mean, at least tell us you're going to ask the ladies first, dude.  He didn't.  He was kind of like that all night, which annoyed us. At least I enjoyed my food:

Pork Scallopini with Kale, Mashed Potatoes,
and caper butter sauce
Bread pudding with chocolate chips
and hazelnut gelato

I was glad there were no raisins in the bread pudding, but it was more dense than I prefer.  It also didn't go with the grappa I ordered, but that's my fault because I couldn't resist the grappa, although it was really strong.  I don't remember what kind I had before, but I don't remember it being that strong.  It also looked like water, but I was careful not to confuse one glass with the other.  Maybe I should have just had the grappa and the gelato.  Or just the gelato.  Whatevs.  All I know is that it took forever for us to get the check, then we realized it was on the cabinet behind Double N.  Perhaps we would have paid it sooner if it had been placed where we would look for it, like on the dinner table.


You know how I am.  I needed pics of my friends with Bananaman.  See how happy we are?

Weff, Glenndy, and I walked back to our hotel and Linda and Mox drove to theirs.  Outside one of the bars, we saw this sign.

When I returned to the hotel, I got ready for bed and set the Duraflame on fire.  Yes, in the fireplace.  I figured it was a good time to start my new book, which goes along with the theme of the weekend.  Remember the 7 people shown above?  It wouldn't remain 7 for very long...

Ten Little Indians wasn't available
 in the bookstore at BUR

Next up:  Biscotti Day

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Seize Your Moment

Well, in all of the catching up I was doing on this blog, I completely forgot that I hadn't shared my thoughts about "Coco!"  I saw this the day after Thanksgiving with my friend Linda.

  • I started crying with the opening credits.  I figured I was done for.  I was right.  Pretty sure it wasn't just because I was so happy that the "Frozen" short was finally over.
  • Love the Disney logo with the cemetery in the background.
  • Yes, as a musician, the thought of someone who had to hide their love for music kills me.   But it was more than that which made me love this movie: it was the love of family.
  • The landscapes were gorgeous, especially the Marigold Bridge and the whole Land of the Dead.
  • I learned a lot about Dia De Los Muertos, which I only knew a little bit about before I saw the film.  Lovely tradition.
  • I liked the way the skeletons moved, and the way Miguel tried to move like them.
  • "I'm supposed to play music!"
  • Awww....Hector.
  • Plot twist!  I had a feeling it would go that way, but not until pretty late in the movie.
  • Cute that one of the characters' names is Chicharron.  I love chicharron.  Now I'm hungry.
I cried A LOT during this movie.  Pixar has done it again.  Muchas Gracias, Pixar.

Beauty and the Beast in the Water

After we watched the Rose Parade on New Year's Day, we went to El Torito for brunch.  Actually, it was probably lunch because of the food offerings, but I made it brunch when I put bacon in my taco.  I know I have bacon at lunch, too, but I wanted some sort of breakfast.  I said I didn't really have any plans for the day, and we thought of seeing a movie.  Bro was "all movied out", but somehow V convinced him to see "The Shape of Water", so onward we went, back to AMC Santa Anita.  No, I did not order another huge bucket of popcorn; we were still full from lunchy brunch.  Bro didn't realize so many people would want to watch the film, as the theater was almost full when we arrived, but I had bought our tickets ahead of time because I knew it was getting good reviews from critics and the public.

  • The score by Alexandre Desplat is beautiful.  And now he's won a Golden Globe.  Congratulations!
  • I want to meet that creature guy.  He seems nice.  He's also glow-y.
  • Wondering if Liz has seen this yet and understands what the egg timer was for when she got it as a promotional item.  Because...yeah....eggs, I guess.  I got a long-sleeved shirt and wore it to the movie.
  • Octavia Spencer is awesome as usual.  "She said, 'Thank you'."  (That's not what she said).
  • Sally Hawkins does a wonderful job without using mostly her facial expressions.
  • "When he looks at me, he doesn't know how I am incomplete."
  • V asked what else Michael Shannon was in, because she only remembers him playing bad guys.  I forgot, too, and didn't check online before I remembered: General Zod.  He does play baddies well.
  • I really liked the humour Richard Jenkins added to the movie.  "I mean, he ate a cat, so..."
  • "No, no, don't play with the kitties."
  • Strickland's fingers:  Eeeeewww.
  • How did she know that he would like eating eggs?
  • When she started singing, does that mean that he had been healing her?
  • Beautifully done.  Yes, it's weird, but it was beautifully weird.
I'm glad I have my shirt, because I liked this movie.  Nice way to start 2018.

I Love You Awesome Nerds

Bro and V came over to my house a little bit early on NYE so we could see "Pitch Perfect3" before heading out to Anaheim.  We all love the Pitch Perfect movies, because, HELLO, A CAPPELLA!  We'd seen the second one together, so we were finishing out the trilogy (and 2017) together, too.  I was excited to use my AMC Stubs perk to upgrade to a large popcorn because that bucket is too big for just me.  Somehow we finished it together.

We're Back, Pitches!

  • Wait.  Is this an action movie now?
  • So do they all share that one bed?  Or maybe just Beca and Amy?  That place is tiny.
  • Aw, no Jesse?  I'm so depressed.
  • I liked the New Barden Bellas' "Sit Still, Look Pretty". I also thought their outfits were cute.
  • Fave song of the film is "Freedom 90 x Cups".  I love the George Michael "Freedom 90" and they did it justice.
  • Not enough a cappella for me.  I get that the point was for them to excel above acts with instruments, but I still wanted more a/c.
  • "We like to keep it oral."
  • Loved all of the fun of the riff off, with the country band singing stuff out of their genre.
  • "Evermoist?  More like Never Moist."
  • My favorite USO outfit was the red/white striped halter top with the blue jeans.  Not that I could pull that off, because *horizontal stripes*.  
  • Wasn't fond of Lithgow's Australian accent.  Maybe because Rebel Wilson's is real, so his is clearly not.
  • Loved seeing Amy kick butt on the yacht.
  • Nice to see behind-the-scenes clips from all 3 movies during the credits.

This was fun, but I still prefer the original.  You know I'm going to watch it over and over again, though, right?  It's a cappella!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Floating Rocks

My friends and I went to the El Capitan on opening night to see "Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi".  I mean, how could I not go?  It's STAR WARS!  When we arrived, they were still cleaning up after the marathon session of the other seven movies, but at least we got to see the AT-AT in front of the theater.

Not life-sized, but it was BIG.

AT-AT Butt
AT-AT Middle

The line to enter was long, but moved quickly by the time we arrived. I wanted to get a picture with the Stormtroopers because I was wearing my Hello Kitty Stormtrooper shirt, and I was the last one allowed to do so, but the woman who took it for me totally messed up and that irritated me because she didn't even let me check the picture before she shooed me away.  Luckily for me, I have previous pictures with Stormtroopers.  

I used the facilities and got my popcorn and drink, and sat down just in time before the trailers started.  The El Capitan being a Disney theater, we saw Disney/Pixar/Marvel trailers.  They all got folks excited, so that was fun.  Then we saw a really cool laser show and Rey did some light saber moves for us.  Cool!  There was a lot of red in the theater.

Imperial Guard in the box seat area

Then the Lucasfilm logo came up, and all was well.
  • I love that crawl.
  • Luke just tosses the light saber we've all waited for him to use again.  Silly Luke.
  • Chewie might as well have eaten that porg.  I mean, it was already dead, so now it died in vain just because of that little porg with the big eyes.  This is why I don't live on a farm.  I'd probably become a vegetarian.
  • Note to self: don't let Rey near any of my fragile items.
  • Is it wrong that I giggle when Hux gets worried and makes that face?
  • Finn. Naked. Wet.
  • "The Falcon?  Wait.  Where's Han?"  Ouch. Too soon!
  • I want one of those horse goat things.
  • Leia using the Force!  Yes!
  • Aw, the R2 - Luke reunion!  "That was a cheap move."
  • YODA!!!  "Young Skywalker.  Missed you, I have."
  • That tree was in the shape of the Rebellion symbol!  Or the fire was.  Or both.
  • The scene between Luke and Leia had me crying immediately.  "I know what you're going to say.  I've changed my hair."
  • "Blast that piece of junk OUT OF THE SKY!!!!!"  Dude needs anger management therapy.
  • Luke brushing off his shoulder after all of the Imperial gunfire: that reminds me of the Vanguard drummers doing that in their shows. Yes, even during Star Wars, I think of drum corps.
  • The second time I watched this film, I noticed that one of the clues that Luke wasn't really there was the fact that when he slid his foot, the ground did not change from white to red, like it did for Kylo Ren.
  • Plenty of battles in this film to like, but my favorite was Kylo & Rey vs. Imperial Guard.
  • Did anyone else notice that there were a lot of shots of people's hands?
  • I don't think I realized until my second viewing of the film that Kylo's helmet was a tribute to his grandfather.  DUH.
  • I want one of those crystal critter things, more than I want the horse goat thing.
  • So is Phasma dead?  Because I like her.  Also, I like my Phasma purse.
  • Wait.  Did that kid use the Force to pick up his broom?  Is he going to ride the broom someday?  Oh, wrong franchise.
  • "In loving memory of our princess."  With Leia's theme.  TEARS.

Afterward, we went downstairs to look at the costumes used in the film.

General Leia Organa costume

Rey and Kylo Ren costumes

Luke costume

By the time we got outside, they had started dismantling the AT-AT.

Decapitated AT-AT

I really enjoyed the movie, and hope I can see it a third time before it leaves theaters.

Until the next one, May The Force Be With You.  Always.

Choose Kind

Lori and I met for lunch at Mikomi Sushi, then walked to the Studio Movie Grill to watch "Wonder".  The theater is still under renovation under the new owner, so I still don't know what the experience is going to be like in there once they start serving food to folks at their seats.  I'm a bit apprehensive about that because I don't want people coming in to serve patrons during the movie, so that post will have to wait for another day.  Or never, because I just read some reviews about dine-in theaters, and the concept of folks coming in and out of the theater during the movie makes my eyes twitch.

Anyway, on to the movie.

  • I remember Jacob Tremblay from "Room" and was impressed by him back then.  I'm even more impressed now.  He's just incredible, and I loved him from the first words he spoke in the film.
  • "Dude, this is AFTER plastic surgery!  It takes a lot of work to look this good."
  • All the kids in this film are good, actually, and I really liked Noah Jupe, whom plays Jack Will. 
  • The film's story is brought from different perspectives of the folks around Auggie, and how they deal with his first day going to school after being home schooled due to his condition.  I enjoyed this format a lot.  I need to read the book to see if it's written that way, too.
  • I don't think Owen Wilson should be allowed in any more movies with a dog as a family pet.  I'm just saying.
  • "I know you don't always like it, but I love it.  It's my son's face!" 
  • Julia Roberts is great, as usual.  I loved her reaction when Auggie says he's bringing his friend home to play for the first time.
  • "You can't blend in when you were born to stand out."
  • Dude, Auggie's astronaut comforter is awesome.
  • Why didn't I have a teacher like Mr. Brown?  Daveed Diggs has charisma, and I like it.
  • I like Auggie's sister's nickname, "Via".  I also like the actress playing her, Izabela Vidovic.  I cried with her. Actually, I cried with everyone.  This movie made me a mess of tears.
  • "Auggie can't change the way he looks.  So maybe we should change the way we see." 
  • "When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind."
I enjoyed this movie, and I look forward to reading the book.  If you watch it and you don't cry, be kind, and don't tell me.

DLR LotD 12/31/17

Disneyland Resort
Line of the Day

Sunday, December 31, 2017

"I'll have whatever the fish dessert is." -- Bro, to server Andi, at Catal

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Welcome to the Renaissance

A couple of years ago when I was watching the Tony Awards on TV, I saw the cast of "Something Rotten" perform one of their songs from the show, and I said to myself, "I have GOT to see this show when it comes to town!"  The show dates were announced for the Ahmanson Theatre, and I asked Liz if she'd like to join me.  She didn't know about the show, but looked at the subject matter and decided to accept.

We met for dinner at the Music Center and dined at Patina's venue there, Pinot Bar.  The food was pretty good, and the company, as usual, was great. 

Braised short rib with mashed potatoes
I wasn't paying attention to the dates on the sign (above), and wasn't sure if we were there for previews or opening night.  Turns out it was the latter.  I was trying to take a picture of this costume... 

...and suddenly, a woman went behind it to pose with her head on top of it.  I asked Liz, "Is that Joanne Worley?"  Liz said yes.  I don't know why I didn't keep snapping pictures so that I could get her in one.  She still looks great!  Liz took one look at the merchandise and decided that she would like the show. I bought a "Bottoms Up!" shot glass.

Our seats were house left on the mezzanine level.  Liz took this picture of me.

Onward with my thoughts on the show:

  • The show opens with a narrator, and we are introduced to the London Theater scene in Shakespeare's time, where he's the It Boy and our jealous protagonist explains his feelings about Will in "God, I Hate Shakespeare". (This was on one of the shirts in the souvenir kiosk and is what made Liz decide she'd enjoy the show).
  • Rob McClure, who plays said protagonist Nick Bottom, is very funny and has a nice, strong voice.  
  • As soon as Shakespeare entered the stage, the crowd got all excited.  He was awesome.  I wasn't able to read the program and didn't realize that the excitement was due to the fact that he was being played by none other than "RENT"'s Adam Pascal.  Wow.
  • I liked the sweet relationship that developed between Nigel and Portia, despite her father's opposition to it.
  • "A Musical" was everything I remembered from seeing it on TV, and then some.  I mean, cramming all of the musicals we've come to know in one song is a feat in itself, but adding the humor was genius.  Oh, and the choreography!  Yes, this was the big production number of the night, and it did not disappoint in the least.
  • "Sometimes they stay on one note for several words so when the note changes, you notice."  "That sounds miserable." "I believe it's pronounced Miserables."
  • I loved soothsayer Nostradamus' lines the most, because of his reference to the musicals he saw in the future.  At one point, he stands up during the rehearsal for "Omelette", and says, "CATS!  Cats prowling around the audience, singing."  <pause>  "No, that can't be, that's right!"
  • There were some lines that make it worth seeing live theater because you just never know what they're going to add. One actor asks the soothsayer about the Nazis (from The Sound of Music): "These Nazis.  Are they good people or bad people."   Answer: " seems like that would be an important thing to know."  
  • Hilarious use of the big egg in place of Yorick's skull.
  • Oh, all the singing and dancing about eggs.  Hilarious.
During intermission, I asked Liz what she thought so far.  She said, "It's ridiculous, and I love it."  That pretty much sums it up for me, too.  "Something Rotten", for me, was something awesome.

A few days later, one of the cast members (understudy for Shakespeare) posted a video after the curtain call of Adam Pascal singing something from RENT, to request donations for Broadway Cares.  I wish he could have done this the night we were there, because ROGER!  RENT!  Sigh.