Sunday, October 27, 2013

Paris or Palo Alto?

I am still enjoying and reminiscing about our vacation holiday in France. While walking down our main street, University Avenue, here in Palo Alto, California, I am reminded and taken back to France and especially the nearly two weeks we spent in Paris.
Greeting cards from University Art Annex on Hamilton Avenue.

Bon Vivant Café recalls the charm of a Parisian brasserie on Bryant Street.

Croissants and French Toast at Café Epi on University Avenue.

Chantal Guillon Macarons and Tea on University Avenue.

La Boulange Bakery on University Avenue.
The French flag flies during "happy hour" at La Boulange.
The chain is now owned by Starbucks Coffee.
BTW, Starbucks is found on every other Parisian corner.

Les Petits Cadeaux boutique on University Avenue.

Paris Baguette, a Korean owned company, on University Avenue.
Fact: there are 2,900 stores in Korea, 50 in China and 15 in the USA.

Peninsula Optical on University Avenue with a French Boz eyewear poster
with Eiffel Tower design.

A JCDecaux Public Toilet, the maker of French self-cleaning commodes, at Hamilton and Waverley.

8-foot-tall architectural model of the Eiffel Tower in Restoration Hardware
on University Avenue.
The historic City of Paris Dyeing and Cleaning Works building on Homer Ave.
Originally built in the 1920's, it is now an office building.
When we travel in Europe, we are constantly amazed how many American companies have a large presence there.  A French or British or Dutch or German shopping district or mall looks just like an American one. Some of the American companies we saw in France include: Abercrombie & Fitch, American Apparel, Apple Inc., Burger King, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Domino’s Pizza, Gap, Hard Rock Café, Harley-Davidson, Hyatt Hotels, KFC, Marriott Hotel, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Ralph Lauren, Starbucks Coffee, Subway, UPS, Walt Disney Company.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

“I Am Harvey Milk” recording

Just released this week and already in the top 10 iTunes Classical List! Download your copy today. You won't be disappointed.
If you prefer, order your CD at

 Here is a synopsis my husband, Eddie, has written of what you will hear:

A Synopsis of “I Am Harvey Milk

The curtain opens as a young boy (Harvey at about age 9 in 1942) stands mid-stage, listening to an opera diva’s aria over the radio. He begins singing “An Operatic Masterpiece” of how he wants to his life to be like an opera. Along the way, the Chorus joins him in song; and as the young Harvey ends by telling us that his name is Harvey Milk, the adult Harvey reveals in the last moment of the song the name he is often called: “And they call me ‘Faggot’!”

From near the beginning of Harvey’s all-too-short life to the end, we now jump to November 1978 as we hear from the closest witness of his death, “I Am the Bullet.”

Going back from that tragic moment in late ’78 to January, we hear Harvey and Chorus triumphantly declare “You Are Here” as he becomes the first gay (who is also a Jew) to become elected to a public office in America.


The scene is May 1978 in San Francisco. The weather is warming. The tank tops and short shorts are donned. The time is a Friday night. The Chorus rocks the house with “Friday Night in the Castro.”


Harvey’s Mother In February 1978 reflects on the worries, questions, and doubts she has had in the past about her gay son in a hauntingly beautiful “Was I Wrong?

Harvey saw the world as basically good and one that could even be better. Deep-down, he and we want to believe that Society ‘believes in you, believes in me.’ He places his bets on “A Decent Society,” as told by the Chorus.

But that same decent society throws its verbal barbs at any one different, any one representing ‘the other’ in our world. The Chorus reminds us all of those difficult, hurtful times when we have all been ‘the other’ in “Sticks and Stones.”

In March of 1978, Harvey tells us of his delight that Mayor Moscone is signing a bill outlawing discrimination within San Francisco based on sexual orientation and is signing it with a “Lavender Pen.”

Young Harvey, a non-identified female, and Adult Harvey thank those teachers who taught them and helped them become who they are in “Thank You, Mrs. Rosenblat.

The summer of 1978 sees more and more gays and lesbians seeking the refuge of San Francisco to escape the troubles of other towns and states where being openly out is impossible. The Chorus in “San Francisco” reminds everyone listening of how beautiful it is to seek and find a refuge when it is so desperately needed.

Harvey was one just to do the things that needed to be done, no matter the odds, and he was also the one to encourage the others to do the same. His Mother encourages him to take chances worth taking in life, and the Chorus joins her in telling us all just to “Leap.”

It is June 1978, and Harvey is making one of his all-time important and inspiring messages during the Pride season of San Francisco. His message of ‘Come Out’ booms from all the rafters as the Chorus, Young Harvey, and the Mother/Female Vocalist joins him in “Tired of the Silence.”

"The world-premiere cast recording of Andrew Lippa's I Am Harvey Milk, which features composer-lyricist Lippa as the late gay rights pioneer alongside Tony Award winner Laura Benanti and San Francisco's Gay Men's Chorus, is now available for download.

Lippa (Big Fish, The Wild Party, The Addams Family, jon & jen) penned original music and lyrics for the oratorio that premiered June 26 in San Francisco. It utilizes some of Milk's actual words for the text.

Lippa portrayed Milk, the first openly-gay man to hold public office in California, along with Tony Award winner Benanti (Gypsy, Women on the Verge) as the soprano soloist and Noah Marlowe as young Harvey Milk. They were joined by the 300-member SFGMC. Dr. Timothy Seelig conducted the oratorio that has orchestrations by August Erksmoen and accompaniment by the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony.

The live recording was mixed and mastered by multi-Grammy Award winner Leslie Ann Jones at Skywalker Ranch. I Am Harvey Milk is available now at and is also available on iTunes."

Friday, October 11, 2013

National Coming Out Day 2013

In celebration of National Coming Out Day, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus released today the CD of the world premiere "I Am Harvey Milk" by Broadway composer Andrew Lippa. This live recording is from the world-premiere performance by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and features Andrew Lippa, Tony award-winner Laura Benanti, and Noah Marlowe.
Please listen/watch this incredible finale from that show, and order your CD at

I Am Harvey Milk Original Cast Recording


My husband, Eddie, sings on this recording. He has been a member of SFGMC for several years. I am especially proud that he helped to bring this work to fruition by volunteering to be the project manager for this production for almost two years. He facilitated meetings, raised money, promoted it in the Bay Area and generally helped to keep things on track. He put in countless hours into this amazing project.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

More notes on France and Paris

While in France and particularly in Paris, we learned some things that might prove helpful to others planning such a trip in the future:

- Number One, above all, the French SMOKE way too much. All ages. Everywhere. Whole family groups: kids, parents, grandparents, great grandparents. In ALL outdoor cafes and plazas. On sidewalks, doorways, under windows. In restaurants they leave the table multiple times to go smoke outside the front door. This was our #1 issue in France. And, oh, cigarette butts everywhere.
- In addition, all waiters, bar tenders, and store clerks have to rush outside from time to time (often in mid-service) to smoke; and no one seems to question the practice or the timing.
- Many toilets, even in the nicest settings, have no seats -- including in unisex toilets. Don't expect to find soap, paper towels or hand driers either.
- Entres are starters or appetizers, not the main dish. (Evidently, we are the only country in the world where an entree is often called the main dish. I guess Americans did not translate correctly the original French word.)
- French, like many Europeans, like their beer mixed with other things, usually something very sweet. In Paris, the happy-hour drink of choice was called a Monaco: half beer + lemonade (which is really a lemon-lime soda) + Grenadine.
- Cafes only serve drinks, no food. Brasseries serve food.
- Motorcycles rule the day in Paris. They are everywhere, parked by the scores on every street.
- Good luck figuring out what street you are on. Street signs at intersections and corners are random and optional. When they are posted, they are on the sides of buildings above the ground floor.
- Parisians love Nutella. It is everywhere and on every thing. Of course, they in general just love anything chocolate. In the grocery store, the breakfast cereal shelves are full of brands of cereal that include bits of chocolate in them. Even the “healthy” and “nutritious” choices. It is difficult to find cereal without chocolate. Interestingly, they don't like peanut butter.

And three American stereotypes that were totally destroyed for us:

- It is much easier to find healthier eating choices in Paris and in France than we expected. In fact, rarely did we get a dish than seemed to be dripping or overly laden in butter or full-fat cream. This was a big concern for us since we don't like dishes heavily drenched in butter, cheeses, creams and sauces. We also don’t eat beef or pork. What we found (with a little looking) were many wonderful fish, seafood, chicken and vegetarian dishes.
- The French are VERY friendly, in the cities and in the towns and countryside. We loved every one we met. People even stopped on the sidewalks to help us find our way.
- Speaking only English is not a crime in France, and people will easily and readily accommodate. (They do appreciate a 'bonjour' and respond cheerfully after such, in whatever language one uses with them.)

On our trip we took three popular histories of Paris. All three were excellent and made our experience in France richer and more appreciative. We highly recommend them.
Seven Ages of Paris by Alistair Horne. “This highly readable uses an admittedly idiosyncratic organizational scheme to trace the history of Paris through seven periods, beginning in the 12th century and ending with the death of Charles de Gaulle in 1969. His "ages" focus on medieval and Renaissance Paris; the era of King Henry IV; the 18th century and Louis XIV; revolutionary and Napoleonic Paris; the 19th century, culminating in the Bloody Week of the Commune; the Belle poque; and the age of war and occupation. Each section includes fascinating insights into the social and cultural life of the age, fashions in clothing, architectural developments, leading personalities, and lifestyles of rich and poor alike.”
Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb. “This is the Paris you never knew. From the Revolution to the present, Graham Robb has distilled a series of astonishing true narratives, all stranger than fiction, of the lives of the great, the near-great, and the forgotten.”
The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough. “Between 1830 and 1900, hundreds of Americans--many of them future household names like Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, Samuel Morse, and Harriet Beecher Stowe--migrated to Paris. McCullough shows first how the City of Light affected each of them in turn, and how they helped shape American art, medicine, writing, science, and politics in profound ways when they came back to the United States.”

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