Sunday, February 28, 2010
Tons of people, including some I scarcely have contact with, came out of the woodwork on Facebook, Twitter, and e-mails with comments for me, and in some cases about me. Most of them fell into the category of good-natured ribbing about my misplaced loyalties, but a few were downright mean. I refrained from saying much until now, because I wanted to focus on one thing - rooting for Team Canada in a POSITIVE way. Because politics, nationalism, and everything else aside, the Olympics is a about celebrating athletic achievement. And on that front, I had major reasons to want to celebrate.
Now that the Olympics are over, it's time for me to clear the air, vent a little, and send out some well deserved thanks. So here goes....
To the haters that suggested I am a disgrace to my country
I am privileged to live in a nation that respects my right to choose and express my own opinions, even when they go against the grain. Democracy and free speech go hand in hand. I suggest you remember that...it might come in handy for YOU some day.
To all my Canadian friends and supporters
Thank you for your friendship, love, and offers to put a roof over my head in the event the haters turn me in to the INS and succeed in having me deported. I love you more than words can say, because I knew you'd be there for me, gold medal or not.
To Brianna, Jen, Rachel, Nadine, Larry and Steve
Thank you for being my lifeline, my sanity, and my support system. And for listening patiently to all the rants and raves I didn't post throughout the whole tournament. Special props to Bri for being a "honorary Canadian" along with me at the gold medal watch party, and enduring boos from a room full of Team USA fans as we cheered our boys to victory. It's a memory I'll cherish forever. Way to represent!!!
To all my friends who chanted back "USA!" to my "GO CANADA!" cheers
I love each and every one of you for your unflagging dedication to your team. You understand exactly how I feel about mine. So we really are the same, you and I. We just wear different colored jerseys. Your boys did you proud, and you should be honored to support them.
To the combined squads of the US and Canadian Hockey teams
You are ALL warriors. Together, you brought hockey to the attention of the world, and advanced your sport more today than at any moment in recent history. If every person who witnessed your battle buys a game ticket, dons a jersey, learns to skate, or wants to play because of you, then the war is won, and the victor is the game of hockey itself. You already know hockey is for everyone. Now the world knows it too.
To Team Canada goalie Robert Luongo
This week you emerged from the shadow of a giant and showed the world how to withstand pressure at any cost. And you were destined to do it on your home ice. Congratulations and thank you.
To Team USA goalie Ryan Miller
You were a model of grace under pressure, humble and thoughtful as both a winner and loser. You were the ultimate example of good sportsmanship, and I can think of no one more deserving to be named MVP.
To Steve Yzerman, Mike Babcock, and the management and coaching staff of Team Canada
Thank you for seeing something special in a 20 year-old defenceman, and giving him the opportunity to show the world what he has to offer it. Canada finally knows who Drew Doughty is, and so does the world. Thank you for believing in him.
To Brownie, JJ, Quickie, Dewey and Zeus
You were the Kings of my Olympics. I was endlessly proud every moment you took the ice. I know you will all bring that same will to win back to the Kings for the rest of the season, and into our first play-off appearance in too many years. And I will be there in Section 114 enjoying every moment. GO KINGS GO!
And last but not least, to Drew Doughty
Thank you for being you, believing in yourself, realizing that age is just a number, knowing that heart counts more than experience, and daring to dream. You are my inspiration. The gold is yours...now go enjoy enjoy it!
Saturday, February 27, 2010
First a little background. The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) is a professional hockey league with teams across North America. It works as one of the feeder leagues for the NHL, like a rough equivalent of Double A baseball. The American Hockey League (AHL) is like Triple A baseball - those are the players one step away from getting the call up to the "The Show." So the Reign is the ECHL affiliate for the Los Angeles Kings. Make sense?
Citizens Bank Arena, where the Reign play, is quite nice, and the parking is free. So for a mere $18 you can get this view, which would cost you roughly 5 times more at an NHL game.
And since we were there on a giveaway night, we even got a free blanket. You just can't beat this deal!
I didn't know most of the Reign players, but Brianna and Jen come to quite a few games, so she was able to help me know who to watch for. Bri's favorite player is #21 - forward Greg Hogeboom, who I nicknamed Boomer. It's up there with the best player nicknames of all time, in my humble opinion.
Sitting behind the bench at a minor league game has one significant difference from the NHL - the players never seem to sit down. Either they don't get all that tired or they're just so anxious to get out there they have ants in their pants.
Personally, I think it's the latter, because they certainly skate fast enough. Although I must say, watching a minor league game will make you understand pretty quickly why NHL defencemen take so long to develop, because NO ONE in the minors plays defence. Even the defencemen! It's basically one end rush after another. As soon as somebody gets the puck, they're skating as fast as they can to try to put it in the net. Because you gotta show your skills to get the NHL scouts to notice.
Like the NHL, the Reign have mascots - they actually have two! Blaze the Dragon and Jordan the Dark Night actually had a "dance off" on the ice, which was hilarious. Blaze has some serious break dancing skills, kind of like a particular Kings employee I know. Coincidence? I think not!
Minor league hockey also has much better contests than the NHL. "Chuck-a-Puck" has got to be the most hilarious mess I've ever seen. You buy numbered pucks for $1, then throw them on the ice and try to hit one of two targets - the helmet in the center of the ice, or one of those green astro-turf circles.
I think the entire arena was down in the lower bowl seats just launching those pucks onto the ice. People were having a blast. And all I could think watching this was how long it would take to clean up the mess. Looks like someone thought of a creative use for the nets!
The Reign won the game, which was a super end to a fun evening. But the best thing about the game was #1 Star of the Night - goalie Curtis Darling.
Oh, the things you could do with that. I can't imagine what this poor guy goes through in the locker room. "Darling, could you get the hell out of my way next time and quit stick handling the puck?" "How about stopping the puck next time, Darling?" And my favorite, "Could you toss me my cup, Darling?" Then again, he's a good looking guy, so I'm sure there are plenty of girls running around the arena screaming "Darling," and he probably doesn't care much.
The ECHL games are mostly on weekends, so if you find yourself sitting at home bored on a Saturday night, check out the Ontario Reign. And give a shout out to my Darling while you're there.
Friday, February 26, 2010
The main purpose of our visit was to check out songwriter extraordinaire Dan Wilson. The last time we saw him at this same venue, he was promoting Free Life, then his most recent release. He doesn't have a new disc ready yet, but he's been holed up at home writing all winter, so we got to hear some new things planned for an eventual album in addition to some old Semisonic tracks and my personal favorite song - the title track from Free Life.
In addition to writing graceful and beautiful songs, Dan is incredibly funny. He's got this hot music theory professor vibe I just love - he's older, he wears glasses, but he's got this undeniably hip style at the same time. And watching him collaborate on stage with a pianist and back-up singer for a couple songs was a treat - a smile kept sneaking across his face as the professor appreciated the contributions of his students on a certain chord or harmony. I can't wait until he has a new album.
Dan alone would have been well worth the $15 door for me, but we got to see some other great artists as well. The first was Laura Meyer.
Laura is the kind of artist Hotel Cafe was made for - a tiny girl with a beachy-hippie style playing lovely finger picked guitar and singing sweet, sad songs about love and traveling the world searching for and experiencing it. She' s a beach babe and fellow sister of uncontrollable curly hair, so she resonated with me. And I give her credit for smart marketing - her website has 4 songs available for free download, and I already got an e-mail from her this morning thanking me for coming to the show last night. I hope she goes places.
Jim Bianco is listed under the genres Rock, Music, Singer/Songwriter, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Country, Americana, Adult Alternative in iTunes, and he actually fits (at least partially) in all of them, which is a strange and rare feat. It's an even stranger feat to assemble a band of dopplegangers for some notable celebrities. Tammy and I renamed them the "Separated at Birth" band.
Jim himself bears a small resemblance to Bradley Cooper, and the guitar player to his right strangely resembles Geoffrey Rush.
The sax player looks like a shorter haired George Clooney, and the keyboard guy could pass for Johnny Depp, don't you think?
OK, maybe it was the drinks talking. I can tell you that the opening song had me swearing I was hearing the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and loving every minute of it. Song titles like "Shut Up and Kiss Me" and lyrics including "My friends and I are sinners...." confirmed we were dealing with a rogue talent in the best way possible. And any band that can rock a strip tease song as part of their set is fine by me.
But my favorite new artist of the night was Joey Ryan, who is in the middle of a month long residency at Hotel Cafe to promote his newest album, Kenter Canyon.
There isn't anything NOT to like about Joey Ryan. He's good looking, the songs are solid, and he's smart enough to entice the amazing Sara Bareilles to guest on one of his songs ("Broken Headlights"). "Off Chasing The Wind," a new unrecorded track he performed at the show, pretty much sums up his style - beautiful harmonies combined with thoughtful, intelligent lyrics that are romantic and touching without being syrupy.
You can find Joey at Hotel Cafe Thursday nights for the next few weeks, so if you're in town, check him out. And tell him his "front row cynic" sent you.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Stanley and I agreed I could write his final blog as a letter to Mary. So here's what I'm sending her. Enjoy!
Thank you so much for giving me the chance to host Flat Stanley as part of your class project. I know the letter you sent me said I should only keep him for two weeks, but we were having so much fun we just lost track of time! I'm really sorry, but I hope all the stories Stanley shares with you and your class will make up for it.
Stanley has been a lot of places with me since November, so I thought a list of all the places he visited would help you.
- Los Angeles, CA
- Hollywood, CA
- Riverside, CA
- Washington, DC
- Harrisonburg, VA
- Rehoboth Beach, DE
- Lewes, DE
- Chicago, IL
- Toronto, Ontario (Canada)
- A book with printed copies of Flat Stanley's blog (that's like a diary, except on the computer)
- A CD of all the photos he's taken, plus a video of him riding the elevator at the CN Tower in Toronto.
- Official photos of Stanley and I meeting the Stanley Cup.
- Travel brochures from the Hockey Hall of Fame and CN Tower
- Canadian "loonie" (one dollar) and "toonie" (two dollars) coins
- Tickets from the Kings games Stanley has attended
- Roster cards for some of his favorite players
- An LA Kings game program.
I am very sad to see Stanley go, and all of his new friends here in LA will miss him too. But we shared some incredible adventures, and I will have those memories for life. Best of luck to you and Stanley as you continue your journey learning more about this big, amazing world we live in.
Friday, February 19, 2010
In spite of all that, I try to remain optimistic and find creative ways to have fun that don't involve huge financial resources. Because I absolutely refuse to let a crappy economy suck all the happiness out of me. Life is meant to be LIVED, people! And fun can be found on the cheap...you just need to know where to look.
And don't forget to join e-mail lists for places you frequent, and follow them on social media sites like Facebook. I just got an e-mail from the Troubadour today about a FREE Dinosaur Jr. show next week. FREE!
So those are my favorite steals this week. Now tell me about yours! I would love reader comments on ideas you have for fun and inexpensive shopping and entertainment. Together, we can all get through this tough economy....and have a great time!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
This was my second Bob Schneider show. The first was in Austin is 2007, when Tammy and I were in town for the annual Austin City Limits Festival. On a recommendation from Tammy's friend, we caught Bob with one of his many bands, The Scabs, playing at Austin's legendary blues club Antone's. Antone's has hosted the likes of B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughn over the years, so we knew Bob was no slouch. After that night, I knew he would be worth seeing again if I ever had the opportunity.
So it was perfect timing when Tammy and I spotted the poster for Bob's show last night on the wall of the Troubadour when we checked out Daniel Merriweather back in January. He is currently on tour promoting his latest release, Lovely Creatures.
I'm not an expert on Bob's catalog, but from flipping through some of the song selections on his website, last nights set was a combination of Bob classics and newer material, with the common theme being that it all rocked. And Bob even pulled a few surprises, like pulling out the trumpet and showing off some serious multi-instrumentalist skills.
Of course, he's no stranger to the guitar, and he makes it look good.
(Photo courtesy of Bob Schneider Facebook Fan Page)
The set ended after midnight, so it was a long night but the best time I've had musically in quite a while. So if you see him coming through your town, check Bob out. And bring some friends, because I guarantee it will be a PARTY!
(Photo courtesy of Tammy Good)
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
But I decided to go in spite of all the reasons not to attend. For one, I believe in supporting my friends even if it's not convenient, because that's what friendship is about. And two, I firmly believe in supporting artists. I get so much added to my life by musicians, actors, and entertainers of all sorts, it's the right thing to give them something back. I think most non-performers just see the fun of being in front of an audience and miss the hard work that goes into the performance. Plus it's such a difficult thing to make a living as an entertainer, and living in LA has taught me there are so many talented folks out there that deserve more attention than they get.
So I left work and headed out to the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club at Universal City Walk. The club is located on the site of the old B.B. King's club, so it was designed more for music, but is still intimate enough to work for comedy. The 3rd level seating is really high, but close to the stage so you've got a good view no matter where you sit.
The current decor is a beach bar theme, and while the background music was nice, I could deal without the piped in wave noise. But overall, when I think Jon Lovitz I think Lower East side NYC, and I would love to see this place redone in that vein. And the menu totally makes me want to grab some street cart food. Check this out....
Hot dogs by the fat guy on Borat - nice! The only bad news about the menu is...this is ALL of it. Hot dogs and pastrami. That's it. So if you're a vegetarian, don't see comedy here, or at least don't come hungry. The good news is the prices are right, and I can recommend the pastrami. As tempted as I was by the Fried Twinkie Dog and chili cheese Fritos, I didn't' want to go to bed with heartburn.
I was a total bonus to see the man himself hanging out in the back! I love it when actors are actually hands-on with their business.
OK, I already know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Meg, you're nuts. You want me to come out on a work night, sit in traffic getting to Universal Studio, PAY to park, then pay a cover charge to see some comedy, and all I get to eat are hot dogs?" You have a point, but stay with me for a second, and you'll see what potential this has to be an amazing deal.
General parking IS $10 at Universal, but you can valet for only $3 - a very well kept secret. The door charge tonight was $5, and you get 5 comedians! That's a buck a comedian, and you're probably coming in around a nickel a joke! Domestic beer bottles are $5, and the simplest dog is $4, so there's a great date night marketing scheme in here. Two dogs, two beers, and some jokes for $25. Better than a Dodger family pack! Mr Lovitz, if you're reading, I'm available for a small consulting fee... I really think I can help you market your business!
And the comedians, with the exception of one I won't mention, we're VERY GOOD. Jay did hosting duties as well as his own show, and was predictably clutch.
Travis Cohen here was hilarious as well! His shtick is Jewish mixed with politics ("We need a Jewish president that won't spend ANY money on anything"). Apparently he also "puts the lickin' in Republican." I met him before the show and he is extremely nice as well as funny. Plus I loved his Abe Lincoln lapel pin.
But my favorite discovery of the night was Carlie & Doni. Their comedy is incredibly original - the conversations of best friends riffing on each other turned into song. I asked after the show if they sell recordings of their stuff, and they're working on it. In the meantime, check out some videos of them performing at:
You'll be glad you did. And if you see these girls on the marquee at a comedy club near you, don't be an idiot. Get in there and check them out. I don't care what night of the week it is!
LA Kings defenceman Drew Doughty starts his quest for Olympic Gold today as Team Canada takes on Norway. Drew is used to the pressure of being the youngest guy on an NHL team, but being the youngest member of a squad carrying the expectations of a nation is an entirely different thing altogether. So I figured giving Drew a little blog love might be just the thing to get his Olympic adventure off to a good start.
I am proud of my growing collection of Doughty hockey gear, which now includes both Kings and Team Canada hockey jerseys, plenty of signed photos, pucks, and even a signed stick. But when you love a player as much as I love Drew, you can never have too much stuff.
Thanks to my buddy Ed Liberato, I now have a Drew Doughty hockey card collection started. He turned me onto Pat's Cards, which featured Drew as their player of the day during the first week of February. So of course I just had to go check out what kinds of cards were available. And as with all things Drew, I went a little nutty and bought one of every card they had. How nice they arrived just before the Olympics!
One thing almost every card has in common - a photo of Drew with his mouth open. This Black Diamond Rookie card is probably my favorite example. I like to think he concentrates better with that expression.
This card is the only one where his mouth is closed, which is cool all on its own. But it's a doubly cool piece of the collection because it also has him wearing the number 80 - his rookie number during pre-season before he became an "official" member of the Kings roster.
Although my absolute favorite card in the collection is this Guelph Storm number from the season before Drew's draft eligibility year.
I just LOVE the picture on the back. That expression pretty much says, "I've got major skills people, and I'm not afraid to use them. Don't even think you're taking that puck away from me." Such a bad ass!
So I'm looking forward to Drew bringing all that skill and attitude to the ice in Vancouver and bringing the Olympic Gold back to Canada where it belongs. And I believe in Drew and Team Canada so much, I even made a bet with Nadine, who is rooting for Alex Ovechkin and "Mother Russia." We're both planning on a Canada-Russia final, and the loser gets to buy the winner a massage at our favorite spa, Burke-Williams.
I sure am looking forward to relaxing on her dime. GO TEAM CANADA! GO DREW!
Sunday, February 14, 2010
#9 - You will get mountains of attention from your friends, who feel compelled to call, text or e-mail to make sure you're "OK."
#8 - You can bask in the glow of the knowledge that all your married friends (especially those with children) are living vicariously through you.
#7 - You are under no pressure to impress any "special someone" with a creative/expensive/romantic gift, so you can buy yourself a gift you know you'll love instead!
#6 - You don't have to share your chocolate.
#5 - You don't have to worry about what you look like naked, since no one else will be looking.
#4 - You can eat even more chocolate since you're not worried about how you look.#3 - You can wish everyone "Happy Singles Appreciation Day!" Or use my old standby - "Happy Sappy Shit Day!"
#2 - You can say "I Love You" to as many different people as you want.
#1 - You can spend time thinking how lucky you are to have so many people in your life that DO love you and always will. And that's the best kind of love you'll ever know.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
A big celebration was exactly what the Kings and their fans needed to shake off Thursday nights disappointing loss to the Oilers. Tonight offered the perfect solution, as the Kings celebrated 5 players (including DREW!) that will participate in Olympic hockey next week. It was also a night for some personal celebration with my favorite Kings fans - my friends! My buddy Nichole was celebrating her 21st birthday, so we all pitched in and got a luxury box in her honor. What a great night!
The view from up here is fun, especially when they do projections on the ice. I never really get to see what those look like sitting down behind the glass.
The Kings gave us a terrific effort tonight from start to finish. The first period was about establishing physical dominance, which we accomplished thanks to a nice little tilt from Rich Clune, our latest call-up from Kings affiliate the Manchester Monarchs. Clune actually looked great in camp this year but got hurt so he didn't make the team, but he sure made the most of his NHL coming out party tonight!
It took us until the 2nd period to get any goals, but good old grinder Brad Richardson did his thing and got a tip-in in front of the net, assisted by none other than Rich Clune! Congrats on your first NHL point, kiddo! Then the Kings broke it open in the 3rd with two more goals, including one assisted by Drew, for his 34th of the season! In the end, the Kings won 3-0 and got our favorite goalie Quickie a well deserved shut-out. Our boys are going to be amazing for their respective Olympic teams!
Speaking of the Olympics, the coolest part of the night was definitely the big send-off ceremony after the game honoring the Kings and Avalanche players that will be representing their countries. And in honor of Drew representing Team Canada on the blueline, I broke out my Team Canada jersey. I think I look pretty good in red, eh?
Best of luck to all our Olympians! I just hope the rest of you know Drew will be the one bringing home the GOLD MEDAL!
My "Hottie of the Night" tonight was such an easy choice it really wasn't fair. Because tonight featured the first return to Staples Center ice of a huge fan favorite King from last season - Avs defenceman - #27 Kyle Quincey.
My friends and I were absolutely heart-broken when we traded Kyle at the end of last season. He played so well for us after we claimed him on waivers from Detroit. And he's a total cutie pie! When he looks at you with those intense eyes, you just melt. Caught ya lookin'!
Of course, it might have helped that I was holding this fine piece of Jen and Brianna artwork against the glass during warm-ups. Pretty hard to miss!
At Brianna's request, I do have a runner-up hottie as well. Center Ryan O'Reilly is certainly worth a look - nice choice Bri!
So this is the last I'll see of my Kings at Staples for the next 3 weeks, since their next home game isn't until Saturday, March 6. In the meantime, I'll be following the Olympics closely on TV, and you'll hear me chanting "Eh, Oh Canada, GO!"
Drew winning the GOLD is gonna be SWEET!
GO CANADA GO! GO DREW GO!
This year, when she asked me the same question, I said yes. New year, new me....right? Time to put my money where my mouth is. So I registered for the LA Kings 5K Run to benefit the American Heart Association. My first race...ever!
A 5K is 3.1 miles, so I figured this shouldn't be that big of a deal. My normal elliptical workout is anywhere between 2.6 and 2.7 miles in 35 minutes depending on my pace. Of course, I still haven't been able to get back to my pre-holidays gym schedule, so some actual "training" for this event might have helped, but I ran short on time. At least the Kings have been playing a ton of home games the past two weeks and I've been walking back and forth to Staples Center 3 times a week, which is 2.5 miles round trip. I figured I'd be OK.
So I headed out the door at 6:45 AM this morning and walked down to Staples Center for the race. I figured a little 1.25 mile warm-up would do me some good.
My goals for the race were pretty simple. Finish, and don't be last. My actual time would be measured by this cool little chip attached to my shoe.
The blue carpet was at the start and finish line, and when you step on it, it magically talks to the pink chip and logs your start and finish time.
I also had my pedometer on my iPod going, so I could get an idea of my pace during the race. And most importantly, I had my favorite work-out buddy, coach and mentor with me!
It's such an amazing thing to have a friend with you when you try something for the first time. Feeling that tap on my shoulder when she found me at the start line and said, "I am so proud of you for doing this" made every bit of sweat and effort worth it. And when I finished, she was right there cheering me on. I wouldn't have done it without her, so thanks Denie! You're the best!
Nadine, of course, is a superwoman, and ran the thing! GREAT JOB DENIE! She also convinced me to do a Komen for the Cure 5K at Dodger Stadium in March. Piece of cake!
Because it's really not that hard to walk 3.1 miles. All it takes is 48:11 minutes, 5443 steps, 250 calories, and a good friend. And a lot of heart!