Thursday, December 30, 2010

Down Time...

We've had some down-time from gigs for the last two days, which was good, as it gave us time to do other things.

Now, when I come up here, if nothing else, I know I'm going to eat well. There are plenty of great restaurants in the East Bay, and we always seem to find at least one. Now, anyone who knows me is aware that I'm a big breakfast fan. Gimme' a good breakfast, and that can hold me until the late hours of the evening. Yesterday, Chris and I went to this little cash-only joint in Lafayette known as Millie's. They open at 5:00am and close at 2:30pm, so it's not a dinner place. Breakfast and lunch are their specialties. The place is a real hole-in-the-wall and, if you blink, you'll miss it as you drive by. Of course, you could always just look for the line of people standing outside waiting for a table. We rolled up at 10:15am, and there were about a dozen people in line. I'm glad we waited:

The line outside Millie's in Lafayette, California...

Breakfast didn't disappoint. It wasn't cheap, but it was damn good, and the pancakes were just ridiculous. Easily some of the best I've ever had.

This breakfast was crazy tasty...

After breakfast, we went back to Chris' to hang out for a littl while before he had to take his folks to the airport. While he did that, I went shopping up in Pleasant Hill. I really didn't want to make the ride to San Francisco Int'l.

On his was back to the house, Chris stopped and picked up the fixin's for dinner. Chris is Hell On Wheels in the kitchen, and he would prove it. Not sure what the dish was actually called, but it was noodles and veal and it was really, really good. I'm not normally a veal fan, but I could've done seconds. Here's a shot of Chef Chris flexing his culinary muscle in the kitchen:

And not a fire extinguisher to be found...

So, after two days of not being musicians, we're back at it tonight, with a gig at Maria Maria, which is a restaurant that Carlos Santana has an interest in. It's a nice 7-10PM gig, so it won't be a late night, which is good, because we've had a few of those already.

Guess I should tune my guitars...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Bay...

I don't play guitar too often these days. Every once in a while I'll pick one up, but those times are few and far between.

Twice a year, though, I make a pilgrimage to the Bay Area to sit in with a musician buddy of mine, Chris Estes. Music is what Chris does, and he's pretty good. It's great to be able to play a few gigs twice a year with him. Once I get back to San Diego, I can start the process of being "over" playing guitar for about five months, and then I'll start gettin' the jones to play again.

And then I'll come back to The Bay.

I left San Diego at about 3:00am this past Monday morning. My plan was that I be north of Los Angeles by 6:00am to avoid the Monday morning traffic. Well, I overshot that goal a little, because I was north of Los Angeles by 5:00am. By 6:00am, Los Angeles was a distant memory.

I attribute this to two things. First, I left San Diego at an insanely early hour. The second thing, and probably the one which shoulders the greatest responsibility for the pace of my trip, was my rental car. When I come up here, I'll rent a car so I don't put the miles on my 1999 Ford Explorer. Well, when I was at the Avis counter on Sunday, I asked the woman what kind of car I was getting. "A Chevy Impala" was her reply. Oh yeah, that's sporty. I made a comment about a complimentary Corvette upgrade, and she countered that with a "Mustang hardtop". It was only a total of fifteen bucks more for the duration of the rental, so I said "Oh, gimme' the Mustang".

I walked into the parking garage and hitting the "UNLOCK" button on the key, and the headlights of a 2010 Ford Mustang GT with a 5.0 came to life. "Mother of God" I thought. And I was right. What an amazing car. It wasn't enough that this is a fast car, it's also Fire Engine Red:

The Beast
See, when cops are looking for people who are speeding, they're never looking for sleek sports cars that are red; never happens. The truth of the matter, though, is that I only saw two Highway Patrol during my entire trip up here Monday, and they were both seen at the tail end of the drive, so it was all good.

We played a gig at a local club last night called Meenar. It's a cool little place, and Andy, the bartender, seemed to be on a mission to make sure I was not short on bourbon all night. Kudos, Andy, mission accomplished.

I'm still trying to figure out how to embed the video from my drive into my blog, so I don't have that ready yet. My Canon G12 was mounted on the dashboard, and I shot nine short, separate segments. I want to edit them all together as one video before posting it here. Big fun and many laughs await you, trust me.

We're going to have a "lay low" day tomorrow; I might even go try to find a jacket I've been wanting. Hey, I got eighty bucks in "Kohl's Cash" just burning a hole in my pocket!

And, remember, you can always find me on Facebook, too!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Already???

As I sit here, I wonder where the time went.

My last entry was a lot longer ago than I thought, and certainly more time has elapsed than I'd wanted. 'Tis all good, though, as I intend to make up for it.

Tomorrow is Christmas, and there will be the obligatory "What did Santa bring you?" moments with family and friends. There will be presents in the morning, followed by a breakfast which will contain far more calories than is healthy, driving to be with family for dinner, driving home, and going to bed. A full day, to be sure.

Looking back on the last couple of weeks, I must admit, I'm proud of myself. Contrary to some pretty clear instructions contained in the Official Guy Handbook, I didn't wait until the last minute to start my Christmas shopping. I know, I know. A faux pas, to be sure, but it certainly helped to maintain my sanity. Second, I didn't step foot in a shopping mall. Don't get me wrong, I like people. I'm a people person. But I'm not a fan of them when they turn into the walking dead. Maybe it's because, when I go shopping, I usually know what I'm buying. I go from "Point A" (my truck) to "Point B" (whatever store is selling whatever I'm buying). I find what I want to buy, I pay for it, and I leave. I don't browse. I don't "get" browsing in malls during the holidays. Know what you want, go get it, and go home. It's a pretty simple formula.

Another small victory for me was ensuring that my Dad's Christmas present would be under his tree Christmas morning. This is a rarity. There's a running joke with my Dad that nothing is ever on time, to wit: I was born on July 16. Dad still mentions that he needs to mail out my birthday card.

It gets like that.

But "J.P." will enjoy his gift.

Years ago, Dad lost an album by a group known as The Australian Jazz Quartet. From what I can tell through some research, it only had one pressing on Bethlehem Records back in 1956 or 1957. I finally found one for him (well, two, actually: I'll keep one) with the help of a friend in Portland, Oregon. I bought it, but then I had to contend with the fact that my Dad has finally jumped feet first into the 1990's, and bought himself a CD player while, at the same time, getting rid of his turntable. A co-worker transferred the album to CD for me, so Dad will be getting the actual album as well as a CD.

I know he'll dig it.

I'm actually looking forward to after Christmas. Twice a year, I go up to the Bay Area to play gigs with my buddy Chris Estes. He's an ex-sales professional who now plays music full-time. Not bad work if you can get it. My San Diego-based band, Zendog, disbanded long ago, and my interests have morphed into other things, primarily photography. But, to be completely honest, every so often, I miss it. So, having a buddy who doesn't mind if I sit in, I do. Granted, I gotta' drive eight hours to get there, but it's a lot of fun, so I think it's worth it. I call it "The Semi-Annual Steve Gets His Ya-Yas Out Tour".

During the trip, I'm going to try a couple of different things. First, I've got an "air card", which means I can get online from just about anywhere that has cell service. I could blog from the road. I probably won't, but it's in the plans so, hey, at least give me some credit for that. Second, I'm going to shoot video with a dash-mounted Canon G12, equipped with a remote release. Hopefully, I can figure out how to embed video into my blog. I can include tragically boring snippets of me on the road, drinking coffee, havin' a smoke, and maybe even doing my best Tom Cruise singing Tom Petty from "Jerry Maguire".

Hey, it could happen.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas!

Wrapping Up Another Year...

I'm finding it a bit difficult to believe that's it's been six months since I've posted anything. It seems as though, as soo...