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November 18th, 2003

mom's party

Kate spent two whole days cooking a whole bunch of tapas-style fare for the party we threw for my mom's 70th birthday. She did really well, too... we had a 100% success rate on "servability" and 80% on things coming out exactly as we hoped they would.

She made two different kinds of potatoes, one with a very spicy tomato sauce and the other with aioli. She made chicken liver paté from scratch, and a really yummy thing with sauteéd mushrooms and aioli on bread which was then broiled. There was fried calamari and black olive tapanade, and gougere which is a cheesy puff pastry. And for sweets there were caramel apple bites and two different flavors of chocolate truffle.

My only contribution to the whole affair, other than acting as sous chef and bartender (although I did mix up some wicked cosmopolitans), was to make fancy labels for all the dishes. Since the whole menu had a tapas-ish feel to it, I decided to do them all in Spanish with snotty little "for the rest of you" English translations underneath. That turned out to be difficult, because food words don't always translate literally, plus none of this food was exactly things you learn how to say in classes. So I think some of them were a little "off"... the best I could come up with for "Fried Calamari" was Salteado de Calamares Empanados which isn't quite right but oh well. Some stuff was easier, such as Tostadas de Setas con Ajo and Paté con Higadillos de Pollo and Tapenade con Aceitunas Negras (that last was one of the few that translated literally out of English). I had fun doing all that, but Kate has to take the majority of the credit for the success of the party.

We had I think 14 people at the party, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. The most dubious guest was Cal Skinner, who ran for Governor of Illinois on the Libertarian ticket in 2000 and is known for some really out-there stances on things. But other than some political schmoozing, he was fine except right at the end, when he found out Kate has worked with DCFS in the past. Then he had to bring out some statistics he has on how the majority of all foster care child sexual abuse reports are "homosexual" and what did Kate think of that. She correctly pointed out that there's a big difference between one's normal, healthy sexual preference, and pedophilia. Skinner claimed not to be able to understand the distinction, but I guess they've already started an email dialog about it, and no one I know is more persuasive than Kate, especially when she's 100% in her element (troubled youth plus LBGT issues), so I have this fantasy that she'll singlehandedly undo what I felt was poorly-veiled homophobia. I doubt it, though.

Mom was really thrilled by how well things worked out. It turned out to be a much more meaningful present than the actual gifts we got her, since we're trying to keep her all socialized and in fact get her even more comfortable around people since when Dad was alive, they didn't entertain much.

Liz Phair

Kate and Kathy and I went to see Liz Phair last night. I had a chance to see her perform way back in 1994, just as "Never Said" was starting to get a lot of airplay. There was something like a $3 cover for her performance at a tiny live-music venue here called the Blind Pig. But for some reason, I didn't go, I don't remember why, but I do remember saying to myself that I'd catch her the next time she was in town.

Except Exile in Guyville, as everyone knows, suddenly became this Indie Rock hit, she was suddenly in big demand, and she never came back to the Blind Pig (which no longer even exists), and last night's show at the Auditorium was the best I could do.

The Auditorium isn't a huge place, but it's certainly not very intimate, and while we had 8th row seats, there was still nothing like a small-club feel to it. But oh well.

I was struck by her stage presence, especially since she's really a tiny little thing. Her 5'2 height is given in the song "6'1"" but you don't realize how small she is until you see her. I was glad that she still seems to have that really casual, bantering, flirting relationship with her audience. She used to get really bad stage fright, I guess, and you can still see bits of that in how she interacts with the audience.

I was especially pleased that she stuck mostly to older stuff from Guyville and Whipsmart. Naturally she had to play a few things off Liz Phair ("Rock Me" and "H.W.C" of course, but also, strangely enough, "Friend of Mine") and I was surprised that the crowd was noticeably quieter during them... I didn't know if that was mass editorial comment, or what. One can argue her "sell-out" status with this new album, and may or may not be right, but she seemed just as comfortable performing the new stuff that makes her sound more like Avril Lavigne as her older, rawer stuff. Or maybe she's just a good enough performer that can just keep the same air regardless of what she's playing.

At least her voice has gotten much, much better over the years. Some of the tapes of shows I've heard from the mid-90's are a bit painful here and there.

But the bottom line was all three of us had a great time, I swear Liz made eye contact with me once or twice, some woman was hitting on Kathy which amused me greatly, we had chocolate afterward, and Kate even stole a poster for me.

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