Dinner With Baker Jen

 

 

 

Friday night found us having dinner with our friend, Baker Jen. And as she and Mister are drinking soul-mates, they both relished Paisley Martinis.

 

 

We had a fab time and we laughed and talked and, as often happens when friends get together, we solved all the world’s problems in one evening. Right in our living room. Unfortunately, the world has no idea. Too bad.

 

It was a grand night. And I have to tell you – one of the highlights was the potatoes shown below. I roasted those babies in goose fat and they were sublime. Lucky for me, I made extra. Yum!

 

 

Summer will be swirling around us for some time. I hope to see more friends and have more fun and delicious food, and I recommend the same for you. For now, I’ve got some delicious potatoes to remind me of one swell night.

High Fives For All My Friends!

 

 

The last couple of days have found me feeling fairly grand. I’m in a good mood. I feel energetic and alive. Everywhere I look, I see something awesome. And I’ve caught myself – a couple of times – very nearly high-fiving strangers.

 

If I were coming off a week at Rock Camp, I’d attribute my state of grace to that. But Rock Camp hasn’t happened yet. And I didn’t make it to Ladies Rock Camp last weekend. So what gives?

 

Well, I did hang out with my friend Betro, and she told me all I’d missed at Ladies Camp. Then I hung out with Baker Jen, and she shared her experiences of Ladies Camp. Put them together, and apparently I have vicariously caught the excellent Rock Camp vibes. What a feat!

 

I gotta tell ya – this has caught me by surprise. It’s a wonderful surprise, granted, but a surprise just the same. And as I’m reveling in the glow of all this love, I’m also thinking about how amazing these people truly are. We are, without a doubt, the most positive friggin’ group I’ve ever encountered. We’re human, sure, but we lift each other and support each other in ways most folks have never known. And while Girls Rock Camp Alliance is an international organization with super-duper branches all over the globe, I have heard from multiple volunteers that what we’ve managed to create here in Los Angeles is the envy of many camps. Honestly, it makes me love and appreciate us even more.

 

This year I’m crazy-excited for a friend who’s signed up to volunteer at Rock Camp. I’ve known for a while that she is perfect for our tribe and that she just needed to commit. As scheduling has permitted, she’s done it and I can hardly wait! She has no idea how rad these chicks are. How much fun it is to watch the kids as they explore and become themselves. How emotional it is to be around this level of support. How she’ll never be the same after volunteering with Rock Camp L.A.

 

To be sure, we’re an exclusive lot. And we welcome everyone with open arms. All that’s required of volunteers is that they show up and let the positive waves wash over them. That’s it. Well – that and a lot of high-fiving. Seriously – on that front we’re a sick bunch. Deliriously so.

Living Art

 

 

My friend Baker Jen visited yesterday and brought a gift: the orchid you see above.

 

Apparently Baker Jen, while stupid-talented in the kitchen, has a bit of a black thumb (her label, not mine). She received the orchid as a gift and didn’t want it to die, so she asked if I would care for it. I said yes and there you go.

 

It really is lovely, and I really do admire it. Living art. Who knew?

Beer Am Be Good

 

 

Last night Mister was working late and I had hit the wall with working around the homie. Out of the blue, my friend Baker Jen called and we ended up talking for a couple of hours. During the conversation, I decided to have myself a beer. Because beer am be good, y’all. Anyhoo – while talking with Baker Jen, I thought of a few nice things about beer (and alcohol in general).

 

I swear more when I drink. Now friends – I can’t believe it’s possible for me to swear more, but apparently I can. As Baker Jen was there at the beginning of last night’s conversation – before I had a couple of pints – and at the end, she could tell you just how much more I can swear. True story.

 

Two nights ago – after a cocktail – I met Bob Blumer, a co-author of Pizza On The Grill. We talked a bit about his book and his technique, and then he told me how the latest edition includes recipes for gluten-free crust. I looked at him, paused a moment, then said, “I feel like the ‘Patrick Henry’ of bread: Give me gluten or give me death!” Later that night it occurred to me that that guy is going to totally steal that from me. Damn.

 

Baker Jen and I were talking about martinis. She is into something called a Paisley Martini, which I believe will be right up Mister’s alcoholic alley. I told her I’m a vodka martini gal. Dirty. Dirrrrty. And I’m not talking high-school-cheerleader dirty either. Porn-star dirty. Again, true story.

 

There was a lot more talk about drinking, and a lot more swearing (from me). At some point, Mister made it home and I knew it was time to call it an evening.

 

I had a lot of laughs with Baker Jen. We also talked a lot of life. She’s a good soul. A good gal. And a good friend. It’s pretty freakin’ awesome to know people who accept you for exactly who you are. Sober or not.

 

True story.

Ladies Rock Camp 2014!

“Jump in and feel it

Your invitation to freedom

Enjoy this moment

Believe, Wonder, Love”

Jump In

words and music by “Wonderlove”

 

 

This past weekend just about killed me.

 

 

“Ladies Rock Camp” rolled around on the calendar and I had signed on to teach Vocals and be an all-around volunteer. It sounds simple, I know. And maybe that simplicity of idea is what keeps me coming back every year. I mean, my job is to show up, teach Vocals, and be of service wherever else I’m needed. No big deal, right?

 

 

On Friday morning, I cajoled Mister into dropping me off at a fellow volunteer’s pad for a carpooling session. It was 7:30am. Lauren and Beth were ready to go and just as excited as I. We’ve all been through this before and know how rewarding it is. The 3 of us climbed into Lauren’s car and we hit the road, with downtown L.A. in mind. Traffic was, well, it was traffic, so we arrived at Camp just at 8:30 and headed up the stairs to greet the other volunteers.

 

 

This summer will mark the 5th year of Rock & Roll Camp For Girls L.A. As that camp has always been held at the same location (same for Ladies Rock Camp), the joint has become quite familiar. Climbing the stairs to the school is such an easy experience. It brings me comfort, and makes me smile. That was a pretty good start to the first day.

 

 

We volunteers got in, went over the schedule and the campers started arriving. We all dove in together and there was no turning back. Before I knew it, those chicks had formed bands, popped their instrument cherries, started writing their original songs and jumped head-first into songwriting. The day flew, and by the time shadows were cast by the downtown buildings, the entire camp was dancing and singing to live band karaoke! At 9:45, we all vacated the premises and headed home for the night. Lauren, Beth and I were pretty tired. We did talk on the way home, but not nearly as much as we had that morning. Day 1 down.

 

 

Mister again dropped me off for Saturday morning’s carpool. Lauren, Beth and I were a wee bit more sluggish than we’d been the previous day. As it was Saturday, there was zero-point-zero traffic, so we flew along the 101 to downtown L.A. It was grand!

 

 

Saturday of Ladies Rock Camp is similar to Wednesday of Girls Camp: there are a lot of breakdowns. You’re exhausted. Really exhausted. For the campers, emotions run high and there’s a tremendous amount of anxiety and fear: the showcase is only 1 day away. Will the songs get finished? Will the various parts be learned? Will it all come together? There are always a ton of questions and what-ifs. And there is always only one answer: yes. Yes, the songs will be finished. Yes, the parts will be learned. Yes, it will all most assuredly come together, and brilliantly. I don’t know how it works. It just does. In that regard, the lady campers are no different from the girls. And as the volunteers who’ve watched this again and again, it’s up to us to keep the boat steady. We provide the calm. We show – through our behavior – that there’s nothing to worry about. I like to think it helps. I certainly hope it does anyway.

 

 

So Saturday saw more instrument instruction and band practice, as well as through various workshops and panels. Late in the afternoon, it was time for a stage run-through for all the bands. That’s when the nerves really get going.

 

 

And you know what happened? They were fine. No, they were great. They all got up on that giant rehearsal stage and rocked it. Ladies who’d never ever played their chosen instruments just wailed! And it was awesome. It prepared them for the real showcase and helped to explain the process. For me, it was a revelation when I witnessed 2 bands step up and into their greatness. You see, both of those bands were formed without vocalists. But do you think they let that stop them? Noooooooo. Those gals just grabbed microphones and let rip. In harmony, I might add. I was grinning from ear to ear and felt so inspired. Yes, they were afraid. And yes, they did it anyway. I know I could use some of that Rock Camp Gusto in my life. How about you?

 

 

After the run-through, it was time for dinner and our big old Rock Camp Jam night. There may have been beer involved as well. Ahem. Let’s just say it was an awesome night and I was more than a little tired at its close. Day 2 down.

 

 

On Sunday morning, Mister dropped me off for the final carpool. Lauren, Beth and I barely spoke at all as we cruised across the city’s empty highways. The previous 2 days had been long (8:30am to almost 10pm), but this one was going to separate the girls from the gals: the showcase wasn’t due to start until 9pm. All of us stood strong and hit it hard.

 

 

While the lady campers were going through band practice, final workshops and band photos, we volunteers were wearing multiple hats. Not only were we helping the bands wherever they needed us, but we were also breaking down the camp itself. For on Monday morning, school would be back in session and that place had to look the way we’d found it. That meant taking down all the vibe, cleaning up after ourselves, returning desks and chairs to their homes, getting gear to the club for the showcase and packing away the rest of our gear and equipment. I can’t speak for all the volunteers, but let me say for myself how glad I was to have been P90-X-ing for so long. I put my muscles and stamina to good use, y’all. And then some.

 

 

I caught a ride to the club with excellent volunteer and Drum Instructor, Danita. We both were pretty quiet on the way, as we were dog-tired and knew the night was young. Once there, all volunteers got to work to get the club and stage ready. As my two co-vocal-instructors were working hard at other duties, I grabbed all the vocalists (including the chicks who decided to sing while playing other instruments) and we headed backstage for warm-ups. That was fairly quick, as I didn’t want to keep them from their bands for too long. I knew there was nervous energy to be shared with their fellow campers. So after our quick warm-up session, the gals headed back into the club. Speaking of the club, it was filling up fast. And that was beautiful, y’all. Spouses, partners, family members, friends – so many folks came out to support the lady campers. I was mightily impressed. As I looked around the club, smiling, the lights began to dim. The show was beginning…

 

 

Mornings at Rock Camp begin with Punk Rock Aerobics. This serves to loosen up the campers (and the volunteers), as well as warm up our bodies for the day’s activities. For giggles, we start our showcases the same way. So as we all began following Captain Chaska’s on-stage moves, I looked around the club. Men, women, old, young – we were all doing the routine and there was no judgment. As far as I could see, all were participating and that was cool. Personally, I booty-bumped a rather famous attendee and he just smiled. Why not? We were all smiling, moving our bodies to Enya and Salt-n-Pepa. And then the bands took the stage.

 

 

One after another, they blew my mind.

 

 

They blew their own minds!

 

 

And perhaps most importantly, they had fun.

 

 

Yes, every single dollar of their tuition went to pay for young campers’ scholarships at summer camp.

 

 

Yes, they did some things they’d perhaps never done before.

 

 

And yes, they (hopefully) experienced growth.

 

 

And they did it all while having fun. I smiled that night and I’m smiling now.

 

 

At the end of the evening, Baker Jen offered to give me a ride home while Lauren and Beth soaked up the last of the Ladies Rock Camp glow. I accepted the ride and Jen’s fine company. When I got home, I washed my face and brushed my teeth as quickly as I could. It was 1:10am when I crawled into bed.

 

 

I fell asleep thinking that I had survived, and about that day’s closing ceremony, which took place just before we left the school and headed over to the club for the showcase. Each lady camper shared something personally significant that was experienced over the weekend. Then we volunteers took turns doing the same. Amazing, deep, joyful, heartfelt words were spoken. Vulnerability was firing through the air. So was safety. And support. We knew we could be honest with each other. We knew we could expose our souls. When it was my turn to speak, I told how each year, when I’m driving to Rock Camp for Girls or Ladies Rock Camp, my inner critic yells at me, telling me I don’t belong there, that I have nothing to offer and that I simply don’t measure up to the other amazing, awesome volunteers. I fought back tears, then I said that this was the first year I’ve actually thought that maybe I do belong there. That maybe those chicks are my tribe, and that maybe I’m part of theirs. This was the first year my inner critic didn’t outweigh my hope, my self-belief. Just before I left the club, many amazing volunteers approached me, hugged me and told me I absolutely do belong. That I am a crucial part of the tribe. And I believed them. For the first time, I really did believe them.

 

 

Best Ladies Rock Camp ever.

The Universe is Conspiring in Your Favor

 

“Oh, God, if I’m anything by a clinical name, I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters

J.D. Salinger

(1919 – 2010)

 

When the email arrived, explaining the evening’s events, I considered deleting it. But I didn’t. Yes, part of me wanted to hide away, doing my best rendition of a recluse. But another part of me – a much quieter part – wanted to go. That part of me thought the night sounded like fun. And fun has been sorely lacking. So I didn’t delete the email. In fact, a day after receiving it I decided to purchase a ticket online. I knew that if I didn’t get an advance ticket, I would definitely crawl under a rock that night, pretending no one was home. I also knew that if I did get an advance ticket, I would definitely go to the danged event. I’m too frugal to spend money on something and not attend. I didn’t just meet me. So I committed. Ticket for one, please.

 

 

By the time the appointed day arrived, I realized some company would be nice. (Duh.) So I texted my pals Betro and Baker Jen. Turned out Betro was indeed planning to attend, but had to arrive early to take care of some set-up duties. Baker Jen was on the fence. She was sort of planning her own recluse performance and besides, there would be traffic and it was a school night. I told her I’d wait for her after work, and that if she made it to my house I’d be more than happy to drive us both. She was this close to bailing, I could tell, but she didn’t. By the time she made it to the house, we were both ready to hunker down in the car for the cross-town journey. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

 

 

Los Angeles traffic simply is. Anyone who battles it with an air of non-acceptance will always lose. (Road rage, anyone?) Those of us who acknowledge it and move on, well, do move on. I’ve often wished I had a Powerful Mach 5, so that I could push a steering wheel button and launch myself high overhead, avoiding the traffic and snarls of L.A. roads, but my ’66 Volvo doesn’t begin to resemble Speed Racer’s hoopty, so there you go. On that evening, Baker Jen and I accepted the situation and slowly rolled into the dark L.A. night.

 

 

As we followed red tail lights, Baker Jen shared some of her life with me. I replied in kind. Neither of us was in a socializing mode, but we knew enough to at least try to lift our own spirits. (Friends, that job will always fall squarely on our own shoulders, no matter how much we may wish for others to fill the role of Joy Dealers. End of sermon.) So there in the car, my friend and I talked about life, exactly as it is, not as we wish it to be. We talked about our feelings and disappointments. We talked about stress and our fears of what harm that dastardly villain might be doing. Baker Jen told me about a Wanda Sykes routine in which she jokes about her infant daughter’s inability to just be content. Baker Jen paraphrased by saying, “If you can’t handle Baby, life is gonna kick your ass!” From that point on, our running joke of the night became I can’t handle Baby! Life is kicking my ass! Before we knew it, we were both laughing. Honestly.

 

 

When we arrived at the Bootleg Theater, we didn’t know what to expect. All we’d been told was that the evening was a benefit for Rock Camp. We had absolutely no idea what Ladies Arm Wrestling was about (besides the obvious assumptions). We did not know there would be such theater involved. We didn’t know how magnificent the production would be. We didn’t anticipate the supportive crowd (mostly male, by the way). We didn’t know the bar would be selling 22-ounce beers.

 

 

As we looked around, we spotted more and more of our Rock Camp friends. It didn’t take long for those smiling faces to induce smiles from us. We laughed loudly. We hugged heartily. Memories of traffic were fading. Life’s stress stepped aside long enough for us to enjoy the night.

 

 

By the time the championship match was being decided, I was hoarse from screaming for my fave competitor of the night, “Less Slim More Shady.” When she won the competition, I cheered with abandon. We all did.

 

 

Baker Jen and I were tired out from all the activity (and from the beer), so we said our goodbyes and moseyed back down the street to the car and made our way home. As we moved easily down the late-night, traffic-free highway, Baker Jen said that she thought the Universe had conspired to get her out that night. She said she thought maybe she was meant to venture out – outside herself – for a while. I thought about her words and said I agreed. It seemed the Universe did us both a good turn in sending us out into the world.

 

 

When I said goodbye to Baker Jen, she tossed out one more “I can’t handle Baby!” before climbing into her car and driving away. I headed into the house to wash my face and get ready for bed.

 

 

A few minutes later, as I was closing my eyes and starting to drift off, I realized I was smiling. I had had such a fun night. I was so glad I’d committed and gotten a ticket. I quietly laughed a bit, thinking of the Wanda Sykes bit. I can handle Baby, I thought. I really can. Then peaceful sleep washed over me, like a soft, blue blanket, filled with warm stars.

Baker Jen

 

 

I saw Baker Jen a few nights ago. She made a killer dinner of BBQ brisket. It about made me pass out, it was so good. Then she over-stuffed me at the end of the night with bo-licious banana bread. And let’s not even mention the beer. Stout, anyone?

 

Anyhoo… Baker Jen sent me home with some leftovers for Mister. That guy has been snarfing the brisket and banana bread like nobody’s bidness. As of last night, it’s all finally gone. Happily.

 

So to Baker Jen, super-duper thanks! You rule! Mister thanks you! I thank you! For reals! We salute you!

Waiter, There’s a Fly in My Beer

 

 

My friend, Baker Jen, came over the other night and that girl was bearing gifts, y’all. Beer!

 

Baker Jen had been in San Diego a few days before and she’d stopped by Stone Brewing Co. for some – what else – beer. Having procured 2 liters of special tap (Old Guardian Oak-Smoked Barley Wine and Punk Style Scottish Ale), she headed back to L.A. and realized she needed to drink that high-alcohol-content brew in 7 to 10 days, for the sake of freshness. After she contacted me for imbibing help, I offered up some ribs and the rest, as they say, is history.

 

Or so I think. I mean, I did have my fair share of that dee-lish beer. I do seem to remember having a grand time. And I do remember having a full belly. Sadly, I also remember when a fly headed straight into my beautiful beer. That drunk fly didn’t stand a chance…