Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Holiday Weekend In Review (Cliff Notes version)

Saturday: I cracked my front tooth trying to rip open a plastic packet of pickled ginger.

Damn supermarket sushi!

Sunday: Either a lightning strike or high winds took a huge chunk out of a beautiful tree in front of our house.

Looks like lightning on our tree...

......but three other trees on our street also got ripped apart...

...including one that took out its frustration on a minivan.

The wrath of god!
(How else could you explain a minivan getting whacked?)

Monday: Dijareedoo!

You didn't have a dijareedoo at your Memorial Day picnic?


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Add Insult to Injury

One day after my last post...

...the addition of a nice black edge on top of the net, to make it even more visible.

I'm trying to let this whole matter go. Really, life is too short (and feel free to insert your own cliched platitude here...)

But obviously, since I'm blogging about it, I haven't gotten to the acceptance stage yet.

Last night. I dreamt that one of my daughters and I were in their backyard trying to get out before anyone saw us -- what we were doing there in the first place I don't know (investigating the best way to take down that net perhaps?) There were a series of platforms and ladders that needed to be negoitated to get to the gate to escape. I think we finally made it out, although that part is fuzzy.

Hmmm...Dr.Freud, your analysis, please? (Remember, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar...)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

An Illustrated Guide to Why I Hate Suburbia

It seems our next-door neighbor took it upon himself to add a little extra adornment to our backyard's fence (notice I said "our" fence, as in my husband paid for it...)

It's a lovely screen of wire and wooden sticks, nailed onto the entire side of the fence that divides our yards, from front to back; extending up about 4 feet from the top of the fence.

Red arrows in the photo below added to show the wood posts -- no arrows necessary in real life -- they are quite visible to the naked eye, thank you very much.

Evidently, he's turning his backyard into some sort of makeshift baseball diamond. Keep in mind that we are all on 1/4 acre lots with more house than backyard.

Shouldn't surprise me, since same neighbor decided years ago that his son and friends should try to hit the balls into our backyard for a "homerun." Why our yard was chosen over the other two adjoining ones, I don't know.

I do know that it's meant(for at least the last seven years) that we could look up and see a strange kid in our backyard at any given moment (the back of our house is all windows.) Meaning no privacy in a backyard where we've planted numerous trees around the perimeter for just that purpose.

I've tried to be good-natured about the errant boys - they're just being kids, after all - but I can't help but wonder how many have been traumatized by looking into our house to see me breastfeeding (when that was part of my daily routine) or in a nightgown or towel?

Well, I suppose I can get some satisfaction in that the boys' parents will have to pay for their psychotherapy.

My more benevolent Esteemed Husband thinks at least the wire addition was an effort to keep the balls (and kids) out of our yard. The Cranky Wife thinks the kids are in Jr. High now and will still easily hit one over.

And it just looks like crap.

Our beautifully-industrial New View in more detail

More than anything else, what really irks me is that our considerate neighbor didn't bother to ask us before nailing this monstrosity to a fence that does not belong to them.

Common courtesy -- that's all I expect.

See, we would have said, "Yes," if only in the name of good will (although rightfully I probably would have made some sort of passive aggressive "joke" about it being an eyesore.)

So, while visions of checking building regulations (or just knocking the dang thing down with a hammer in the darkness of night) danced through my head, we will do nothing. It's not worth starting a feud. (Just worth a bitchy blogpost, evidently.)

Who knows? Maybe it's all some sort of twisted revenge...we don't use pesticides on our lawn and so we're probably responsible for an occasional (or two...or twenty) dandelion cropping up in the neighbor's perfectly manicured front yard.

Yeah, not a single tree in their backyard (now baseball diamond) but their grass really is greener.

But our yard has bunnies...

Monday, May 21, 2007

Concierge Me

A couple of you may know that I started writing a column for a monthly magazine a few months ago. (Yes, somebody is giving me actual U.S. currency to write down the warped thoughts that clog up my brain. Amazing!)

So...I present in the space below the column that appears below my name in current issue of the unnamed publication. (Now, that's a convoluted sentence...)

I can't say it's my best writing, but it sure beats having to put together a blog post from scratch. Enjoy!

A recent survey of Average Americans shows that their Number One Concern is “lack of time.” Okay, by “survey” I mean asking my husband and the lady in front of us in the Target check-out line.

But we all three agreed that there are not enough hours in the day to conquer one’s minimum-daily-requirement of obligatory tasks and still have time left-over to heckle American Idol contestants and make videos to post on YouTube.

So what’s a time-deprived American Adult to do? Since the American Way guarantees an entrepreneur stands ready to profit from our every need – a new service industry has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of our no-time pyre -- the personal concierge.

The website of one such service – headconcierge.com – describes its “lifestyle management services” as encompassing everything “from arranging a special evening to organizing the carrying out of any menial task.”

Since I already have my own personal assistant skilled in carrying out menial tasks (my husband) and two little-concierges-in-training (explains why all our dinner reservations are at Applebees) the headconcierge.com pitch didn’t really move me.

Until I got to this line:
“Just imagine a life where any conceivable task is completed quickly, efficiently and with a minimum of fuss.”

“Just imagine” eh?

“Any conceivable task”?

Okay…what conceivable task do I hate so much that I’d be willing to pay someone to do it for me? The first thing that sprang to mind – five little letters: O-B-G-Y-N.

Alright, that’s medically inadvisable and probably not on the list of your typical concierge duties.

So while a personal concierge is a fine idea, perhaps what I need is a stand-in …you know, like the person who substitutes for an actor before a scene is shot…

I can see it now – my stand-in sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, paging listlessly through last month’s Easy Yet Purposeless Family Crafts That You Feel Guilty Throwing Out magazine – while I lounge outside getting a pedicure from a guy named Sven in my air-conditioned Winnebago.

Forty-five minutes later, a quick call to my cell-phone tells me they’re ready for my close-up. Nearly painless!

Yes, so many, many things that a stand-in could be used for:

To take your place during the daily “Hot enough for you?” chit chat with the tedious co-worker you usually hide from…

To attend school functions and kids’ parties (and I’ll request my stand-in has thinner thighs than I do – we moms can be pretty critical)…

To call in sick for you (requires an impressionist -- preferably with an encyclopedic knowledge of exotic diseases)…

To step in during automatically after the first five minutes of your child’s half-hour monologue detailing the personalities of each and every Pokemon character…

To eat your vegetables.

But I digress…

I can only think of one person I’d actually hire to be my own personal concierge -- Jack Bauer. He’s high energy, requires very little coddling and he’s got a soft spot for the ladies. Plus he’d pretty much guarantee the kids would never get bullied.

Jack and his buddies from CTU would have come in handy a few days ago when my little family was taking a walk around the neighborhood. We encountered a familiar-looking woman escorting a gaggle of children. She greeted us with a huge hello, but I hadn’t the foggiest idea where we knew her from. So we picked up our pace and moved on before my memory lapse became evident.

Now imagine the same situation with Bauer backing me up…a van trails us discreetly and when the unknown soccer mom crosses our path, Jack’s there to snap her photo and relay it to Chloe who instantaneously cross-references it with her database…and in a split second: “Mary Smith -- Room Mom in 2004” is whispered into my earpiece.

Sure – I’d still probably walk away without any more of a conversation than “Hi!” But at least I’d know exactly whom I was being antisocial to.

Monday, May 14, 2007

One Lucky Mother

This may have been the best Mother's Day ever in my personal history of motherhood. Primarily because my husband worked his b-u-t-t (as the kids would spell) off and did everything from planning stages through execution to clean-up afterwards. What a guy!

So forgive me for gloating.

In the days leading up to Mother's Day, our kids were very excited about the gifts they had purchased in their grade school's "Secret Shop"...

The younger, being one of many words and few secrets, gave me liberal hints about what she had bought for me. Told me she wasn't sure if one of my gifts was "real" because it had only cost 50 cents. She said, "Maybe it's real, or maybe it isn't, I don't know..."

Figuring it was a "diamond" adjustable ring or something of that sort, I told her that for 50 cents, it probably wasn't "real" but that I was sure I'd love it regardless.

Still, I was surprised yesterday morning when I opened the brown lunch bag that the gift has been secreted in. This is what I found inside:

I'm a Million Dollar Mom!

So...it wasn't "real"...but how sweet the gift of naivete that would make my 7-year-old think it was possible to buy a million dollar bill for 50 cents (and no wonder she had said she wanted to share the gift with me if it was real!) How much is that worth?

And my other daughter then gave me her paper bagged gift -- with another of the same bill inside.

So I guess I'm the two-million dollar mom. Woo hoo!

The day was a whirlwind of festivities (AKA a whirlwind of meals) -- from breakfast in bed...

Lunch at my mother-in-law's house with my husband's side of the family...

...where I was joined by the other Secret Shop gift from my youngest -- a bear we named "Gingerbread." Strangely, Gingerbread wanted to spend most of her time with my daughter (or at least that's what my Little Miss told me that the bear told her.)

And dinner with my mom and the rest of my family...

Yes, I'm still blurring my girls' faces...don't feel comfortable putting them up on the internet for all to see -- if only so that if they misbehave in public I can still pretend that they don't belong to me.

But I feel I can get away with the photo below from Mother's Day 2002, since they don't look anything like this anymore (although part of me still wishes they did!)

(I just came across this picture last week while going through the Mother's Day archives to see whose obligation..er...turn...it was to host this year. Not that we would be the kind to keep a tally or anything in case a sibling would try and escape their duty.)

Anyway, the photo's here because not only does it feature my girls in their old versions, but also my cat Leo trying to remind me of his existence. Which is even sweeter now that he doesn't exist (at least in the physical world) anymore.

2007 brought the first Mother's Day for us without a pet. And although I never thought of Leo or his brother Zeke as my "children," Leo was a very integral (and vocal) part of our family -- and 7 months after his death I think of him pretty much every day. He came up in casual conversation with my 10-year-old just tonight (I don't remember why she brought him up)...we were talking lightheartedly and suddenly she burst into tears. Aw.

But I leave you on a somewhat less poignant note, courtesy of Mother's Day 2005:

My Mom (the Queen) & Me (making a statement of undetermined nature.)

Thursday, May 10, 2007


It's been almost two weeks since the Michael Penn concert at World Cafe Live, so I think it's about time to wrap this little blog party up.

Honestly, most of you would best be served to just look at the photos and leave it at that. Nothing too revelatory to follow, I'm afraid. But fear of being tedious never stopped me before, so why should it now?

As if to prove that point, I resort to a flashback:

A few weeks before the show, I got the grand idea to put together a copy of the tribute CD that the Pennlist members had compiled last fall, Look What the Fans Drug In, and give it to MP.

I had been meaning to make liner notes booklets for my husband and myself anyway...

And it seemed appropriate that somebody should give a copy to the man who inspired the project. So I anointed myself "somebody."

But ultimately, the decision was made because I'm always looking for some excuse to get into a project that will let me avoid cleaning my house.

Plus, for whatever reason I like to "collect" clip-art that interests me, so I had a virtual folder full of stuff that seemed semi-appropriate...that I could work in with the liner notes text.

Sample pages: A tuning fork -- self-explanatory.
The illustration on the right was originally captioned "boy listening to microphone"

Of course, not being a graphic designer by any means, it took far longer than I expected...plus I turned into a regular Martha Stewart assembling the darn thing with my paper cutter and various grades of paper.

But did it I did, and for a totally done-at-home effort the booklets turned out pretty okay.

All this background to say that I was even more nervous than usual as I stood in that meet-and-greet line, with my self-inflicted mission to hand these CDs over to MP.

Back to post-show:

As the line of fans thinned out, Esteemed Husband and I made our way over to Michael. I babbled something or other as I presented the tribute CDs to him...luckily, he was super-gracious...and I was super-relieved.

And we did the obligatory photo thing:

I'm wearing 3 1/2 inch heels and these two lovely blue-eyed lads still tower over me...

So...MP bid us adieu with a thanks for coming...we walked off...and realized -- we hadn't had our Palms & Runes.. and MHJ reissue CDs signed.

I believe the expression you're looking for here is, "Duh!"

To the back of the pack we went, to wait for a second audience.

Among the folks hanging out after the show was Philadelphia's own superb singer/songwriter Jim Boggia -- who opened for MP at The Point (RIP) in April 2005.

Michael Penn, Jebin Bruni & Jim Boggia (looking sharp in his pinstripes)

Jim has also opened for Aimee Mann (as part of Four Way Street) which is how I first became aware of him. Highly recommend his CDs "Fidelity is the Enemy" and "Safe In Sound."

But I digress...

Eventually we got back up to MP and I asked him an irrelevant question or two (I'm under contractual obligation to say insignificant things to people I admire.)

No need to go into specifics except to say that he was kind enough to answer me and go into a fair bit of detail, which was nice.

My body language betrays my nervousness -- the arms crossed protectively...

...the semi-crazed expression, which I suppose is better than fully-crazed. I have no freakin' recollection of what I was demonstrating -- if anything -- I'm half-Italian, so I don't need a reason to talk with my hands.

And here's where I destroy any remaining shreds of credibility:

I'd be disappointing those who expect shallowness if I neglected to dissect Mr. Penn's appearance this time 'round.

To summarize: he looked quite fine.

Females (and other admirers of men's fashion) may care to read on:

His white shirt, vest & jeans combo worked very well for him. I may be prejudiced as I was also wearing a white shirt, vest & jeans - I'm a big fan of the vest -- although MP is much trimmer than I and thankfully his shirt didn't involve ruffles like mine did.

As a matter of fact, at some point during a tuning interlude in the show a woman yelled out, "Nice vest!" I'd like to point out that that was not me, although if I were the type to yell things out during a show...well...I probably would have yelled out a song request...but anyway, she was correct...

Most impressed when MP came out after the show wearing a long corduroy jacket (maybe one would call it a "topcoat." In the International Male catalog, a jacket of that length would probably be called a "duster." Not that I ever studied the I.M. catalog in my single days or anything...)

The garment in question. Spencer was showing MP how that evening's World Cafe Live menu was superimposed over his photo, btw.

Whatever you call it, the jacket looked terrific. Love that jacket. Covet that jacket. The overall effect with the vest was simply splendid.

The last time Michael Penn played Philadelphia, my inner fangirl made a point of mentioning how his close-cropped hair was particularly flattering.

It was longer this time - at least on top -- but (as a purely objective critic) it not only looked quite nice, but was more appropriate with his outfit than shorter hair would have been...

Yes, Michael, you have my stamp of approval on your hairstyle. You can now go about living your life freely with that knowledge.

More importantly than the superficial crap, MP appears to be a genuinely nice person. Which isn't required for a great night of music, but certainly appreciated. His stage persona is self-deprecatingly witty...he can rib an audience member ever so gently when they deserve it...and after the show he was patient with and attentive to his fans.

In summary...all was good. Good (okay, it was great) music, good venue, good fans, good tablemates, good husband (mine, I don't know about yours...but mine is pretty darn sweet.)

I leave you with a photo of our little Pennlist assemblage, taken shortly before we disbanded for the evening:

Spencer, Kristen (displaying the MP emblazoned menu) Sasquatch, Merujo, Yours Truly & Esteemed Husband

As Spencer, Esteemed Husband & I walked back to our vehicles, a cargo van honked as it passed us on the street. I turned around to see the passenger-side window roll down and someone wave to us.

Who was it? That I leave to your imagination...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

More photos of some musician guy who I never mention in my blog

Folks, I present to you additional photos of Michael Penn performing at Philadelphia's World Cafe Live on Friday, April 27th. (With my apologies to Mr. Penn for the severe upward angle from which I was shooting. Almost too close, if there is such a thing...)

(Oh, one photo of Jebin Bruni too - although it's rather fuzzy; sorry, he was on the other side of the stage from my seat.)

Jebin Bruni

A ROUGH SET LIST - order not necessarily right (but close-ish - I took alot of this from the Joe's Pub setlist - thanks usblu!) and I may have forgotten a song*...forgive me for not being in the mood to be distracted by taking notes during the show. Feel free to correct me if you see a mistake.

*This list was revised May 18, 2007 using information from a member of the michaelpennlist who goes by the nom de plume of twilight_magic1. (Thanks!) I feel pretty confident that it is now correct.

Making Me 3 For 3
Lucky One
Bucket Brigade
Brave New World
Bad Sign
Me Around
Long Way Down
Don't Let Me Go
Bunker Hill
Denton Road
Cupid's Gor a Brand New Gun
Walter Reed
I Can Tell

(I think these were in the first encore, but I may be completely mixed up as to what was encore and what was pre-encore...)

Out of My Hands
High Time
Second Encore: No Myth


And not being one to feel guilty about recycling my writing, here's what I posted on the Pennlist after the show (so if you've read it already there feel free to skip this part entirely):

His entire performance just flew by for me. It was really stellar,
although I did miss having Buddy Judge's harmonies like we did last time.

The No Myth tale (and somebody correct me if I don't recall the details properly): Michael was all set to play the song in the first encore - as he started he was saying something along the lines of "Well...ok...here it is..." (I paraphrase) when a too-loud guy started yelling out "No! Don't play it!"

And I think a general ruckus began with people voicing their opinions(or maybe just the same loud guy repeating himself solo)(or some combination.)

So, MP calmly says something like "Alright then..." moves his capo to another fret and starts into Out of My Hands.

He did come back and do No Myth for a second encore. And a really nice version -- I think it's the first time I've ever heard him do it without inserting a "not the name of the song" and "also not the name of the song" into the chorus. Which was very funny before, but I really enjoyed hearing the song sung straight this time.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Five Short Questions, Five Long Answers


Merujo, of Church of the Big Sky fame, was kind enough to send the following five questions for me to answer - as part of something vaguely resembling a chain letter, but infinitely more interesting (at least in the episodes that preceded mine.)

Anyway, I have tried to answer her questions as thoroughly and honestly as possible. (And please forgive me for not editing myself more in Question #1.)

If you'd like to continue the interview chain, please see the end of this post.

1. How did you determine you wanted a career in radio? What was your first on-air gig?

Um, Ms. Merujo, isn't that technically two questions?

Short answer: I never determined I wanted a career in radio. Just fell into it.

Extremely long answer: I really wanted to be a recording engineer - starting when I was a young teen. Sort of a frustrated musician thing...I had an okay voice, studied classical piano & classical/folk guitar for years -- developed a basic level of technique, but I didn't have the "gift."

But I always loved machinery; took things apart to see how they worked as a kid, fixed things that were broken, etc. Switches & sliders turned me on.

I thought being part of the record business as an audio engineer would be the coolest thing ever.

But at the time there were no 4-year college offerings for music production - and as a good student, there was no question that I would be going to college.

So I decided to study television production.

Even so, during high school I joined an Explorers post at our local radio station (WPAZ in Pottstown, PA - woo hoo!) It amused me to no end that this allowed me to have a Boy Scout membership card with my name on it (Explorers being under the auspices of BSA.) Yes, I am easily amused.

Learned to cue up a record (turntables, my friends!) and run a board. And every week, my friend Carmelina & I would tape a goofy little segment detailing upcoming events at our high school. So I guess that got me comfortable behind the mic.

Like 8 million other people who attended Temple University, I majored in Radio-TV-Film (with a minor in Art & Music.) Also ran the dorm radio station which no-one could actually hear in the dorm or anywhere else (hence no pressure!) and did a radio show pretty much playing only Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Squeeze, Pat Benatar & Tom Petty.

Seems I couldn't avoid radio, even though I theoretically wanted to work in TV.

In my senior year of college, I accepted an internship at a Philadelphia adult contemporary radio station. I typed labels for the carts (Carts?! Typewriter?! This was a long time ago, folks) and basically didn't speak to anyone at the station for the entire semester. Literally. Painfully shy.

In 1981, Like 7.9 million people graduating with an RTF degree, I couldn't find a job. But I only looked in TV, not radio.

Fast forward several YEARS...I went on a date with a guy who was an intern at a small Philadelphia talk radio station. Radio started to look pretty good to me.

Soon after, I too was working for free on the morning drive show -- with a guy named Peter Tilden (who's been on L.A. radio since, oh, 1988? when he left the rest of the crew behind in Philadelphia. Thanks Peter.)

Anyway, Peter put me on the air, I said something typically inane, got a lot of positive feedback about my voice & the rest is history.

Keep in mind, I had absolutely no aspirations to be on the air. None whatsoever. Completely planned to be behind-the-scenes. But things just turned out that way. And I've been lucky enough to work for 20+ years in a major market without ever being fired.

My two years at that station, "Talk 900," were actually great experience, because the folks running the joint were long-time veterans of Philadelphia talk radio. I learned a lot fast. And I got to do everything: was a board-op, morning drive sidekick/producer, production director, public service director, and hand model (okay, I made the last part up just to see if anyone was still paying attention.)

Oh, and eventually I started getting paid.

2. Everyone loves to hear bad travel stories. What's the most horrible trip you've ever taken? (And on the flip side – what's your dream destination for a vacation?)

Hmmm, well...last year's vacation at the Jersey shore was pretty bad. Nothing like hiding a slime-drooling cancer-stricken cat in a tiny bedroom to make for a fun time. So, out of laziness, I'll just refer everyone to this blog post from last June.

I honestly can't pick a dream destination per se...I'd love to go back to Nevis, where Esteemed Husband & I honeymooned. That's the dream of relaxation - ever elusive.

But it would be wonderful to spend an extended period of time (months? years?) exploring my family's roots in Italy & England (and my husband's in Denmark & Austria-Hungary -- or whatever that region is called now.) Strictly a fantasy, I'm afraid. I also would love to have the resources (and babysitting) to visit Japan at least once during my lifetime.

3. What's your favorite guilty pleasure (movie, food, music, TV, you name it) that you'll almost be too embarrassed to admit to here on your blog?

Oh crap. The thing that embarrasses me the most right now is the frequency with which Michael Penn appears in my blog. But I don't necessarily feel guilty about that...

Um, I actually think Velveeta is tasty. And I could easily consume an entire jar of jalapeno peppers in one sitting with no gastro-intestinal repercussions.

But maybe that's more of a talent than a guilty pleasure...?

Oh yeah -- Second Life. My current favorite waste of time. I never ever expected to find myself drawn to "walking around" a virtual steampunk town, but the appeal lies in the appreciation of the work and imagination others have put into its creation. Plus, it reminds me eerily of a recurring dream I've had for years. Whether that means anything, only time will tell.

And you can fly.

4. If you could switch places with one person in this world for one day, who would it be?

Well, duh, Aimee Mann.

Or Michael Penn -- no-one said I couldn't be a guy, right?

Actually, I'm pretty content being myself. I'm a firm believer that (to a certain extent) one creates one's own reality with what one is given - by luck or chance - and that nobody's life is perfect. Not to say that I'm always happy...but for most of my problems, I've got no-one but myself to blame.

That said, if I could switch permanently, I'd definitely want to be a white male. Not that I don't thoroughly enjoy being a girl -- I adore it -- but honestly, we all know who wields the power in this grand ole country of ours.

Not that it should be that way, not that I want it to be that way, but I'm afraid that that's the way it is.

Just let me add, I'd like to be a tall white male with a full head of hair. Thank you.

5. Recommend five musicians or CDs that you think the whole world should be listening to (and for some strange reason, the world is missing out):

I guess it would just be too predictable to list MP's last five CDs, eh?

Here I take the evasive way out. Of course, it's obvious from my blog that I think Michael Penn's music deserves a much-larger audience...

And there are other lesser-known folks who have put out CDs that I've loved. But I'm loathe to name them, lest I neglect to mention someone.

Plus, I can't presume for the whole wide world.

So, let me just end by saying my Esteemed Husband writes some awesome lyrics. Even though 90% of his songs seem to intimate that I'm really rather mean.



1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me." (And make sure I have your e-mail address so I can zap you the questions!)
2. I will respond by e-mailing you five questions. I get to pick them, and you have to answer them all.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Michael Penn at World Cafe Live - The Sequel


There's a thin line between avid appreciation and idle idolatry.

And although I may appear that I have crossed that fine line, oh, about two years ago in my numerous mentions of Michael Penn -- be assured that my zealousness is fueled by a very grounded-in-reality belief in this guy's talent...and so I proselytize and post and generally try to twist the arms of anyone not familiar with Mr. Penn's music. Because I think everyone should be.

And besides, the masthead of this blog does contains the word "obsessions." So, ya know, let me have my fun.

Plus, I have photos.

Before I launch into my saga -- Michael is halfway through a short tour. He doesn't play outside of L.A. very often. So if you're anywhere near the cities listed below, do yourself a favor and check him out.

You can thank me later with gifts of cash (I accept Paypal) or dark chocolate.

May 3 2007
Iron Horse
Northampton, Massachusetts

May 5 2007
Club Cafe
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

May 6 2007
Beachland Ballroom
Cleveland, Ohio

May 8 2007
The Ark
Ann Arbor, Michigan

May 9 2007
Chicago, Illinois


For those not familiar with World Cafe Live, it's a great intimate venue for live music in Philadelphia. Michael Penn played there the last time he visited our fine city (see my October 2005 posts for details and photos) in support of his album, Mr. Hollywood Jr., 1947.

That was one terrific show, for which Esteemed Husband and I had terrific seats. So I was very pleased to learn April 2007 would bring a much anticipated sequel - with MP back on the same World Cafe Live stage. And extremely pleased to be able to get the same seats we had last time.

Only this time, we made arrangements to share the table with other folks from our little Penn-centric yahoo group, the michaelpennlist. Joining us would be Spencer, the fearless ruler...er, moderator...of the list and his fiancee Kristen (a very witty young lady who regularly cracks me up); the lovely and talented Miss Merujo of blogging fame (who is just as interesting and sublimely entertaining in person) & her good friend Sasquatch (who I felt like I knew from reading about him in Merujo's blog) who were driving up to Philly from D.C.; and our fellow pennlisters Lance & his wife Jamie, who made the cross-state trek to see Michael (and they're also seeing him again in Pittsburgh in two days -- grrrrr, I'm jealous.)

(Did I just write the longest sentence in the history of blogdom? Sorry.)

We made tentative arrangements to meet in the upstairs bar at World Cafe Live sometime around 5:30-5:45. Except Esteemed Husband and I made a wrong route choice and ended up getting stuck in a Jersey jughandle for about 10 minutes. So, when I walked into the lobby upstairs (huffing and puffing from running up the stairs) it was 6 PM.

Spencer was there - and greeted us with (actually whispered - he had laryngitis) "You just missed Michael - he literally just left a minute ago."

I'm pleased to say it was the only disappointment of the evening.

If you can judge an artist by his fans, well...gee...now I don't know how to finish the sentence with sounding like I'm congratulating myself. What I mean to say is that every Michael Penn fan I've ever had the pleasure to meet in person has been interesting, intelligent, and generally cool. And the folks we spent last Friday night with exemplified that.

Soon we were seated at our front-and-center table. Drinks were served; food arrived (eventually -- it seemed to take forever) and we all prepared ourselves for a stellar evening of musical entertainment.

The opening act was "The Last Town Chorus" which is basically a showcase for Megan Hickey.

She proceeded to lull the audience with her ethereal voice and the echo-ing twang of her lap steel guitar. Although her breathy songs seemed all too similar to each other to this unfamiliar listener, her take on David Bowie's "Modern Love" cut through the ether and got the biggest response from the crowd.

And then it was time for Michael Penn.

He opened with a new (unreleased) song, "Making Me 3 for 3." An unexpected surprise! Five days later, it's still stuck in my head.

About ninety minutes (including two encores) of Michael Penn at-his-best followed. He was accompanied by keyboardist extraordinaire Jebin Bruni.

Michael amused the audience with witty banter, even as he claimed he didn't have "the gift of gab" during his between-song tuning. He tells us that there's a mic at the soundboard and that the audience should consider this "a public square" and invites us to use it for "something you want to get off your chest, a good joke" even "a well-placed heckle" while he tunes his guitar. (His between-song tuning has become somewhat of a running joke in and of itself.)

The obligatory tuning photo

I'm pleased to say one brave soul told a (long) Buddy Rich joke, after which Michael says, "I could have tuned three guitars" in the time it took to tell it.

But noone else dared grab the mic. Unfortunately, there was a guy sitting at the table behind me that didn't need one, as his yelling-out-inane-things between songs grew louder and louder as the evening (and his presumably drunken state) progressed. (Mental note: Next time pack muzzle.)

All banter and loud guys aside, the audience was unflaggingly enthusiastic as Mr. Penn showcased his unique blend of carefully-crafted music with songs that spanned his 20+ year career.

Michael Penn's lyrics generally probe the intricacies of relationships -- with an emphasis on longing and disillusionment- - wrapped up with flourishes and hooks that soar.

What makes his live performances so effective is that he that obviously "feels" (for lack of a more eloquent word) the words as he sings them. One of the lucky benefits of sitting so close to the stage is that I could see how MP pauses briefly before he launches into each new song -- closing his eyes and seemingly putting himself into character for the story he is about to present. It's lovely to watch.

And amazing to see how powerful a man and his guitar can be.

On that note, I must end for the day (I think I've spent more time writing this than the length of the actual show.)

Stay tuned for the next chapter -- more musical details and our post-show adventures!