Birthday Party Playlist Part 3 (Or Passenger Side Memories)

As I continue to perfect my birthday party playlist, it’s time to talk about the great friend taking me to my birthday concert tomorrow… and the people I’ve known the longest in the world. They’re all amazing people, and we’ve spent endless hours in each other’s cars.

So here it goes…

Wilco’s Passenger Side is for Susan. It’s for our mutual love of the band and all the times we have seen them together live. It’s for being my concert buddy for all these years. For all the music we’ve shared. For accepting my Thanksgiving dinner invitation back when I was just a stranger in a Beverly Glen parking lot. For never letting me down. For never letting me off the hook. For knowing my grandparents and why I miss them so much. For sharing her critter stories. For her generous heart and her big, bold laugh. For inviting me to her wedding where I got to see her father walk her down the aisle just one year before I heard her beautiful tribute at his memorial. And for being my driver to Wilco, Dylan, and My Morning Jacket tomorrow night. I can’t wait for the show!!!

Barry White’s What Am I Going to Do With You is for Becky. It’s for being my very first Pi Phi friend. It’s for that road trip we took to Madison where we listened to his baritone the entire way. It’s for our talks about book sales that turned into so much more. It’s for dancing to the Beastie Boys together in our bathrobes. It’s for reading our course packs aloud when we were sick of studying and drawing all over each other’s arms out of boredom. It’s for that summer we just got fat instead of studying for physics. It’s for laughing at me for resting my head on piles of dirty laundry during all-nighters. It’s for flying me back home for her wedding. It’s for her mom’s photography that still hangs in my bathroom. It’s for being by my side when I did the boldest, most bat shit crazy thing of my entire life – and for not talking me out of it. It’s for seeing what I saw that weekend.

And now?

My absolute oldest friends in the world… my middle school crew.

U2’s Party Girl is for Chris. It’s for introducing me to U2 in the first place. It’s for becoming my friend at Bloc Camp when we bonded over a game of spoons and a mutual love of Twin Peaks. I owe him 100 apologies and 1000 thank yous, and I love him all the more for never asking for either. It’s for listening for hours back when we were 12. It’s for never judging. It’s for always standing by my side – no matter what. It’s for working harder than everyone around him and making things happen. It’s for seeing his dad get up to give a toast at his wedding and knowing how much that meant. It’s for always driving back when I was the last to get my license. It’s for calling me out on my crap when I need it. And it’s for always believing in me.


Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll is for Kristy. It’s for knowing my story so well it only takes a single word to explain what might take a lifetime to explain to someone else. It’s for being strong enough to cry back when I couldn’t do the same. It’s for asking me to be in her wedding and not hating me for being a bad bridesmaid. It’s for being so different from me and loving me anyway. It’s for the snow days we knew about the night before – the ones where she overheard her dad calling off classes during finals. It’s for our mutual love of Severyn shirts. It’s for our boating safety classes, our road trip to Andrea’s wedding, and it’s for that buffalo chicken dip recipe. Mmmm…

The Indigo Girls’ Romeo and Juliet is for Andrea. It’s for the ski trip we took to Boyne – the one where we played the song so many times her little sister nearly jumped out the window of a snow-covered sedan. It’s for our love of Laura Palmer. It’s for driving me to high school dances with her headlights off and always taking the Andrea way around our hometown. It’s for the clay pots she made up at my cottage and the time we spent playing cards at hers. It’s for the pig roast at her wedding reception and the carefree way she let the waves of Lake Michigan lap at her wedding dress without a care in the world. It’s for our talks about books, boys, and babies. It’s for being patient with me. It’s for her kindness. It’s for the way we can always pick up where we left off no matter how much time passes between conversations. And it’s for her loyalty.

Jay-Z and Panjabi MC’s Beware is for Adrienne who also turns 35 tomorrow. It’s for the 24 birthdays that have passed since we first met. It’s for our talks about ambition, handbags, and unmet expectations. It’s for taking me skiing with her family when we were 15. It’s for all the years our dads coached our sports teams together and parked those ridiculous turbo diesels next to each other. It’s for laughing over the newspaper protecting the trunks of those precious cars from our cleats. It’s for 6 am swimming practice together. It’s for that San Diego trip where we blasted the Chamillionaire and the laughing fits we had over card games at my cottage. It’s for the trips we took to Amoeba Records. It’s for the music we’ve introduced to each other. It’s for her bachelorette party in Vegas where we all got bruises on our ankles from that poll pole. For our talks over fancy sushi.

For our 30th birthday we spent together at Supper in the East Village.

30th birthday party goers on Dogs Dishes and Decor

Aren’t our necklaces amazing?

And for being my birthday buddy for life. Happy (almost) Birthday, Adrienne!!!

#chieftainsforever

If you wanna know what else is on that playlist, check out the industry stories here and the Michigan stories here.

Birthday Party Playlist Part 2 (Or I Cry… Just a Little)

Guys, tomorrow is my birthday! And today I need to talk about the other people who inspired songs on my birthday party playlist.

There are so many people I love. Truly. And if I had my way they’d never go away. They’d all be here to toast the good times together. But since I’m not supreme dictator of the universe, it’s not the case. And that’s OK.

So, anyway here it goes:

Pharrell and Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines is for Gilbylocks. It’s for that Sunday morning dance party we had in the Bronson Canyon Parking lot. The one Benito filmed. It’s for our sunny convent breakfasts after CrossFit. It’s for laughing with me about a flaming pink teakettle. It’s for going on this gut wrenching, heart-opening journey with me – and for understanding why it’s the thing that just might change my life. It’s for those talks we had in the back of a SXSW cab. It’s for instigating the birthday backbend test to see if we’re old. It’s for carving my name into a tree in Calcutta. It’s for making me her kohona. I love you, Suzie. Come home from Sweden soon.

David Bowie’s China Girl is for Gillian. It’s for being with me at Cabo Cantina when we put it on the juke box that Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It’s for knowing — really knowing — what this business has been like for me. It’s for our inside joke about my illegitimate children. It’s for almost setting ourselves on fire the first time we tried to light a grill. It’s for being one of my very first dinner party partners back in the day. It’s for bonding with me over a love of Laura Palmer. It’s for letting me be Ziggy’s dog sitter. And it’s for always calling when she’s back from making big box office hits.

Bertie Higgins’ Key Largo is for Sarah. She and her husband may be the only other people on the planet who also have this song in their iTunes library. It’s for always listening to the boy drama. For working with me until midnight on stupid soap opera recaps. For making me get on the stage to sing a little Garth Brooks on her birthday. For her thoughtfulness. For her encouragement. And for her sunny spirit.

George Straight’s Easy Come, Easy Go is for Pewther. It’s for finding it in my iTunes library the last time he stayed with me. It’s for offering to come down when my dog died even though I didn’t let him. It’s for making me laugh — easily and often. For making cuddling easy. For making frozen pizza and reruns of The Office seem like a night at the symphony. For the times he’d stop me from being bossy by just saying, “Hold Me.” He wasn’t easy to let go.

2Pac’s Thugz Mansion is for Dana. It’s because it blew me away when I first learned the sweet, soft-spoken girl sitting in the cubicle next to me at ABC loved her some Pac. It’s for our Maha Yoga dates and our bagel Sundays. It’s for that wedding dress shopping adventure in Orange County. It’s for celebrating my 30th birthday and her wedding together at the Mandarin Oriental. It’s for telling me about the best Italian restaurant in the East Village. It’s for her loyalty. And her honesty. (BTW, Happy Anniversary, Dana and Alex!) #gangstarapforever

Nelly’s Country Grammar is for, well, Nelly P. It’s for batting 1,000 on birthday party attendance in our 20’s. It’s for pickle tacos at Malo. For making me laugh over IM at 4 am when we were pulling our hair out over the marketing plans for our theses. It’s for bringing a bag of candy to my first Easter Dinner. It’s for saying, “We almost wrote, ‘you ARE hot’ on the cake instead of ‘Happy Birthday’” that year I’d been Bill Callahaned myself. It’s for coining the term in the first place. It’s for all the cigarettes we smoked outside every club in Hollywood in our 20’s. For letting me cry on his patio when I called in sick to work over a broken heart. For being the cell phone number I still have memorized.

Baby Bash and T-Pain’s Cyclone is for Danielle. It’s for making it my song – and making me laugh for the reason she chose it. It’s for our laundry nights during slumber parties. It’s for her big, big heart – the one that no matter how broken it is never seems to be too full for someone else. It’s for the encouragement she has given me to follow my dreams and follow my heart. It’s for the hours we spent on the phone the night Melissa’s dad died. It’s for somehow knowing Melissa needed that rose on September 11th… the one she saved when she was sad. It’s for getting why I have to put bows and sparkles on everything too. It’s for sharing the pleasure and the pain of being alive. And it’s for loving pink as much as I do.

Lil Jon’s Get Low is also for Melissa. It’s because one song isn’t enough. It’s because we danced to it so many times on a couch in Santa Monica that afternoon in August. It’s not just about the people we’ve lost since we met. It’s about the family I have because of her. It’s about making Suzie and me go to SXSW in the first place. It’s about making me take the tags off the Ted Baker suit when I was agonizing over it. It’s about the strength she had to just cry in the middle of a bar on Abbot Kinney — and about what I’ve learned from her loss. It’s about the day we cried on the phone when I walked her through her dog’s final hours. It’s about loaning him to me in the first place when I’d lost mine. It’s about the way somehow we’ve made each other do the tough stuff even when we didn’t want to. It’s about our honesty over tacos on Lincoln Avenue and hauling trash into the Albertson’s dumpster. It’s about the battle not to be broken laptops but shiny MacBook pros instead. Chris Rock says, “We should all be ashamed of ourselves for liking this song….” but we’re not ashamed. At all.

And finally…

Flo Rida’s I Cry is for my Bumpa. I know it sounds weird to say Flo Rida reminds you of your Grandpa, but it’s because the song makes me happy. And every time I hear it, I start skipping — or dancing in my car. The first time I caught myself doing it, I started smiling through the tears that came streaming down my face. It’s because my spontaneous skipping in the Hollywood Hills brought me back to a night with my Bumpa in Detroit so many years ago. He was carrying a picnic basket as we walked through the streets near the Renaissance Center. All of a sudden, for no apparent reason, he started skipping and singing, “We’re off to see the wizard,” and it was just infectious. His joy was contagious. And the world needs so much more of that. I’ve only started to scratch the surface when it comes to telling his story – of saying what he meant to me – but THAT might take a lifetime.

OK, I’m going to get into this mocha and bagel now because it’s my birthday week and I wanna.

Carbs on Dogs Dishes and Decor

My kitchen table is a mess. And Today? I don’t care.

Then I’m gonna dance in my kitchen, Bumpa style.

I might even make that face I make when I dance – the one that startles my aunt ‘cuz I do that thing with my mouth that he did when he danced.

#love

The Island Rum Incident (Or How to Make Pina Colada Cupcakes)

When I was 13, my dad and I went to the Bahamas for Spring Break. Our first night there, we heard a delightful reggae sound coming from the bar. Unable to pass up a live performance, we stopped by to check it out. When our waitress came by to get our order, my dad ordered a glass of wine, and I attempted to order a virgin pina colada. The waitress scowled and replied in a thick accent, “It’s the same price without alcohol.”

“That’s OK. I don’t need the rum,” I replied.

“But it’s the same price,” she insisted. This went on for quite a while until I finally requested a Sprite instead of the Pina Colada I actually wanted. I mean, I was 13 and didn’t look a day older than that from the neck up. I was rocking braces with florescent pink rubber bands. You know the kind that make you look like you have an entire pack of Hubba Bubba stuck in your teeth? Yeah, I had those. I also had the bad braids you pay for on the beach. I was clearly nowhere near the legal drinking age anywhere in the world, but she didn’t seem to notice or care. My dad was so amused by the entire exchange that he never intervened. He probably would have stopped her from bringing me a hurricane glass brimming with rum if she had won the battle of the wills, but he was too busy chuckling over the whole thing to get involved. Plus, I’m not one to be pushed around. Never was.

We later figured out the entire altercation was because rum is so cheap in the islands that it’s less expensive than drink mixers or soda. It’s common for island bars to increase the amount of rum in cocktails because it’s practically less expensive than the ice in the glass.

So anyway, I didn’t get my fruity drink that night and rather grudgingly sipped on my Sprite before choking down what was easily the most chewy conch dinner ever served to anyone.

Now I’d happily have a nice Bahamian lady over serve me, but I’m a long way from the islands. Sure southern California doesn’t completely suck, but there isn’t anyone with dreads playing the steel drums in my lobby, and I’m a long way from feeling irie. Or whatever.

To capture a little of the island feel amidst the smog and haze of Hollywood today, I put on some vintage Jimmy Cliff tunes and whipped up pina colada cupcakes.

These pina colada cupcakes are so good I almost forgot I was in the land of smog and traffic. Almost.

Here’s the recipe in case your weather is making you want to run away to warmer places where they’ll try to get your kids drunk to the sound of steel drums.

Pina Colada Cupcakes

2 ½ C flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ C butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 C brown sugar
1 C cream of coconut
2 tsp coconut extract
½ C chopped pineapple

Makes 24

Preheat the oven to 350. Place liners in the cupcake pans.

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. In a medium bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add coconut extract and blend.

Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix to blend. Add the cream of coconut and mix to blend. Add the remaining half of the dry ingredients and blend. Add the pineapple and mix thoroughly.

Pour the batter into the cupcake liners. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

2, 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
½ C butter, room temperature
3/4 tsp coconut extract
2-3 C powdered sugar, sifted

Cream the butter and cream cheese. Add the coconut extract and mix thoroughly. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar and mix. Add additional sugar by ¼ cupfuls until the frosting reaches desired sweetness and consistency.

Garnish cupcakes with toasted coconut, maraschino cherries, and candied pineapple.

Note: I prefer to toast the coconut in a frying pan over medium heat because it’s too easy to forget about it in the oven. I also find it easier to control the heat on the burner, but that’s just me.

Don’t Give Up (Or Sometimes It’s OK to Vandalize the Kinkos Bathroom)

So I really want to wallow in self-pity today, but I’m not going to do it. I’m back in LA after a trip to Michigan, and now I’m experiencing some sort of post travel hangover.

You know, the kind that makes you want to get in the car again?

To go somewhere. Anywhere. Just so you don’t have to be in your own home facing your life again.

Because I kind of resemble a responsible adult, I’m not allowing myself to do that any more than I’m going to be all gloomy today.

See, my mother’s siblings and I went back to Michigan to celebrate my grandmother’s 86th birthday last week. While it was wonderful to be with my family, my grandfather passed away the day before her birthday two years ago, so the annual trip is always a bit bittersweet. I’ve allowed myself some time to be sad — and to celebrate with my family — and now it’s time to get back to business. This means blogging, setting calls, dusting around the TV, and other sorts of tedious activities. Well, not that blogging is totally tedious. I quite like it, actually.

I just find it hard to be all perky and witty when I’m not feeling it, but I guess life is about doing things even when you’re not feeling it sometimes. It’s about swinging at another pitch when your arms are aching. Getting out of bed when your heart is breaking. Walking another mile when your blisters burst two miles back. It’s about not giving up.

And sometimes, when you aren’t sure you can stand it another moment, someone else gives you the motivation.

I came across this graffiti in the Kinkos bathroom when I was having a bad day, and I was sort of glad someone had defaced the place with a Sharpie because I needed motivation. I also needed the reminder today when I wanted to crawl back in bed with the third Hunger Games book and avoid my life.

So, I’m going to be an adult today.

This means I’m going to turn off sad songs by The xx and blast the Billy Ocean so I can write my long overdue Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Post. I’m going to be an adult today.

Hell, I might even dust.