COVID Convos - It’s Hard Out Here - IN Here! - For An Extrovert! A Survival Guide For Those Struggling With Social Distancing

by Michael P Coleman

COVID Convos is a series of original columns conceptualized to give you something else to think about as we manage the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, they will provide you with a different perspective about an issue related to the crisis…or a brief smile. Remember, with COVID-19: this too shall pass.

It’s taken me awhile to wrap my ahead around this whole social distancing thing. It’s not obstinance or stupidity on my part — my name’s not Donald Trump, after all — but rather a lifetime of extroversion that gave me such a jolt when I was told that, to help stop the spread of coronavirus, we all need to stay at home as much as possible, and stay at least six feet from other people when we venture out.

Stay at home? Six feet?? It may have well as been six miles. I’m a hugger. A touchy-feely hugger. And when I heard that, in California, we’re just two weeks into a social distancing practice that has been extended until at least the end of April and could last until late spring / early summer, I started to freak out.

Just to make sure you’re caught up, introverts derive their energy from solo activities and turning inward (so I’m told), whereas that kind of thing wears extroverts out. We get charged up via external, outward interactions. And for the most part, or at least for this extrovert, the crowd can’t get big enough!

I love my our introverts. God KNOWS I do. (Yes, I said that in my Harpo / The Color Purple voice), but I’m learning that some of them don’t really get this. In a sense, introverts have been practicing for Coronavirus Season for their entire lives.

Long before we called it “social distancing,” introverts have cherished their alone time and relished in weekends to themselves, curled up with Netflix or a very small group of friends or family. I’ve had the good fortune of marrying two introverts over the course of my life — I guess opposites really DO attract.

One of those introverts, my ex-wife, recently reminded me that her social life really hasn’t changed in this day of social distancing. While she’s working from home now during the day, her evenings and weekends have always been, largely, spent ensconced in her home. And while my husband is more of a social introvert, I have to drag him out of the house on weekends, when he’d prefer to be chilling in his favorite sweatpants in front of a Golden Girls marathon.

But me? I’m out, all of the time. I’ve been working part-time from home since the late 1990s and full time since 2013, and even that was a transition! I joined a gym more for the opportunities for social interaction than anything else. While my blood pressure, weight, and overall health have improved, by FAR I’d say the biggest benefit has been getting me out of the house and in front of a varied group of people every day. Since gyms were shuttered a couple of weeks ago, I’ve struggled to replace that outlet.

Read MPC's full column.

Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

COVID Convos — Fat People Should Not Be Hoarding Groceries

COVID Convos is a series of original columns conceptualized to give you something else to think about as we manage the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully, the opinion pieces will provide you with a different perspective about an issue related to the crisis, or a brief smile...or both! 

Remember, with COVID-19: this too shall pass! 

If your feelings aren’t too hurt — or you want a few good, much needed laughs — read MPC’s full column here.

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

 
Johnny Mathis “Let The Good Times Roll” In San Rafael — A Concert Review Photo courtesy of Dave Koz
 

by Michael P Coleman

I am not in the habit of making creative suggestions to legends like the incomparable Johnny Mathis. He’s been thrilling audiences for 64 years — and counting! — in part because he knows what he’s doing. And Mathis’ current tour, dubbed The Voice Of Romance, is aptly entitled, as anyone who attended one of his recent Valentine’s Day shows can attest.

But if Mathis is ever in the market for a new name for his superb stage show, he could consider Unpredictable. Just when I thought I had him all figured out, the 84 year old icon proved he has still got a few tricks under that immaculately tailored sleeve.

Mathis kicked off his show at Marin Veterans Memorial Auditorium in San Rafael with “When I Fall In Love,” first popularized by Doris Day and made popular by one of Mathis’ idols, Nat “King” Cole. Mathis recorded a brilliant version of the tune for his Open Fire, Two Guitars masterpiece in 1959. Sunday evening, his live rendition included a largely forgotten prelude that spoke of feelings of obsolescence.

“Perhaps I’m old fashioned,” Mathis crooned, but “when I fall in love, it will be forever.” The refrain echoed the seemingly undying love Mathis’ fans have had for him since first being smitten by that voice of his, way back in 1956.

And while Day, Cole, and countless others who have recorded “When I Fall In Love” are long gone, Mathis is still at it.

And he’s still got it!

Most of the hits were there, from “Misty” to “Chances Are” and “The 12th Of Never,” to a brilliant Henry Mancini set which capped the concert’s first half. Mathis had earned a handful of standing ovations to accompany the audible sighs and gasps from the crowd by then, and had more than earned a brief break.

But like a master showman, Mathis saved the concert’s most stunning moment for the show’s second half.

Click here to read MPC’s full review, and find out the song with which Mathis closed the show, leaving fans dancing out of the venue!

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

Get To Know Great Wines At Inaugural Tasting Event In Oakland

by Michael P Coleman

Whether you are a wine enthusiast or are just starting your journey, wine is meant to be enjoyed. A new organization, Les-Sommeliers, is paving the way with a Black History Month event at The Alice Collective in Oakland on February 15 from 4-7:30pm. 

Les-Sommeliers is an organization of sommeliers for some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants. They want to connect top wine brands with today’s diverse wine consumers, specifically African Americans, Latinos, and Asians.

Now, admit it: you Google’d “sommelier.”  I did! It’s pronounced So-mell-ee-AY.  I’m relatively new to wine, having shifted my focus from the beer and spirits which had been more popular with my family and friends. I know good wine when I taste it — I just don’t immediately know where to find it. That’s where Morancy and Les-Sommeliers come in.

If you didn’t Google it, a “sommelier” is simply a wine steward, someone who knows wines inside and out, and who takes pleasure in welcoming others into the fold.

Ruben Morancy is Les-Sommeliers’ founder. He has been a sommelier for more than 15 years.

“I founded Les-Sommeliers having noticed that most events and wine marketers had been mostly focused on a mainstream, elite consumer,” Morancy said. “We want to change that.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Click here to read MPC's full story.

Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

blackoutweekend eblast 700
by Michael P Coleman

Blackout Weekend is one of our region’s annual highlights, to be held in Lake Tahoe March 12 -15. Billed as the “ultimate snow adventure,” the event offers young urban professionals the opportunity to enjoy the snow sports they love by day, along with many opportunities to party by night. 

The weekend offers a full schedule of networking mixers, meet ups, parties, and daytime activities that are enjoyed by a broad group of attendees — including non-skiers! 

One of those non-skiers is, somewhat surprisingly, Blackout Weekend’s organizer Cherice Calhoun. Despite the fact that she’s only been on a pair of skis a couple of times, the four day event, which attracted over 500 people last year, is a labor of love.

“Years ago, I was invited to attend a black ski weekend organized by UCLA,” Calhoun recalls, “and I’ll be honest: I didn’t go to that event to ski. I think I’d been on skis just once before in my life. I went to that event because it sounded like a fun getaway. I knew there would be parties and I’d meet some new people.” 

“That event was my inspiration to launch Blackout Weekend,” Calhoun continued. “People are really drawn to it. I have attendees who have met their significant others on the trip. Once at a bar, I spoke to a woman who was waiting for her best friend to arrive, and she told me they met each other at Blackout Weekend years ago.” 

“In fact, about 60% of Blackout Weekend’s attendees are non-skiers,” Calhoun shared. “It’s a winter activities trip, but attendees have wound up forming lasting relationships.” 

Click here to read MPC's full feature.

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

EXCLUSIVE! Kenny G Remembers "Miracles: The Holiday Album" on its 25th Anniversary

by Michael P Coleman

1994 was a great year for holiday music, but it wasn’t all about Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” It was also the year Kenny G released his landmark Miracles: The Holiday Album.

The project features 11 stunningly beautiful instrumental arrangements and performances of yuletide favorites, plus a couple of original compositions that stop you in your tracks.

Miracles is perfectly sequenced, starting with sublime versions of “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas,” followed by a sexy rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” I’m sure many September babies are born every year because someone played it under the mistletoe during the prior holiday season!

And the album reverently closes with “Away In A Manager” and “Brahms Lullaby.” Listening to them, you can almost see that nativity scene in Bethlehem, all those years ago.

Kenny G is wrapping up his annual Christmas tour and getting ready for his return to the Blue Note for a New Years Eve residency, December 27 – 31.

Between sold-out concerts, I asked the artist about the making of Miracles, and specifically, whether he considered adding a vocal to it, as he almost always did on his mainstream albums.

“[Arista head] Clive Davis wanted a vocal very badly on it,” Kenny G recalled during our EXCLUSIVE conversation. “I didn’t — I wanted it instrumental. I didn’t want anything to upset the flow of what I had.”

“He and I argued about that for about a month. I told him that if he wanted a vocal, it should be Whitney Houston, and he said ‘Nah, she’s not going to do it’. He came up with some other suggestions, and I didn’t like any of those. So we fought about it.”

Kenny told me that Davis eventually conceded and released Miracles without a vocal. The album went on to be the best-selling Christmas album of all time (Sorry, Mariah) and spawn two sequels, Faith and Wishes.

But even with the project’s overwhelming success, Davis would not admit that Kenny’s instincts had been on the money.

“I went up to Clive years later and said ‘Hey, wan’t I right to not put the vocal on the album,’ “ Kenny G recalled. “And he looked at me and said ‘No, it would have sold even more, a LOT more, if you had listened to me!’ “

In spite of its branding, Miracles: The Holiday Album is primarily a Christmas disc — which always blew my mind given the artist is Jewish! As if to remind fans of that, Kenny wrote and recorded “The Chanukah Song” for the album.

I asked the legend about the song’s genesis.

“I just wrote a song that I felt sounded like those I heard at the synagogue,” Kenny G shared. “It’s not a traditional song that anyone recognizes. But it has that feel, that Chanukah vibe.”

Before Kenny took off, I asked him whether he had a favorite on Miracles.

“Honestly, not really,” Kenny G admitted. “They’re all just beautiful renditions. I just love the way the whole album turned out. I experimented with different saxophones and different melodies for the different songs, just to find the right song with the right key and all of that stuff. Every single one of them is like a gem to me.”

If you’ve somehow missed the album over the last quarter of a century, there’s a holiday miracle waiting for you wherever you consume digital music. But you’ve got time — I wager that Miracles: The Holiday Album will be available on whatever format music fans are listening to 100 years from now.

And don’t forget to grab a couple of the few remaining tickets to one of Kenny’s year-end shows in Napa. If you’ve not caught him and his band live, trust me: they know how to party.

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP

Remembering The Sears Holiday Wish Book

by Michael P Coleman

With Halloween behind us, my mind wafts to an annual, magical day in the home in which I grew up. It always came weeks before Santa Claus miraculously came down the chimney that our family’s ranch house didn’t have.

On that day’s dawn, my mother headed out for her weekly shopping trip — usually at metro Detroit’s sparkly new Fairlane Town Center. Sometimes she went alone, other times with my grandmother, “Ma,” and on some days, a subset of her children accompanied her.

But independent of how that Saturday started each year, it ended the same way: with the delivery of the Sears Holiday Wish Book into my and my brother and sisters’ hot little hands.

Today, in a world replete with iPad-clutching toddlers, it’s hard to convey the impact of that inches-thick catalog’s arrival in our home. Today, kids of all ages can and do shop online. With a few quick clicks and an active Amazon Prime account, today’s kids can have many of their hearts’ desires delivered in a nondescript cardboard carton within hours.

But back in the day, when the colorful Sears Holiday Wish Book was tossed on the kitchen table, and the manifestation of our Christmas dreams was weeks away (if you were lucky), it was a whole different thing.

Click here to read MPC’s nostalgic take on the Sears Wish Book, and see some of its actual pages (of toys!) from back in the day!

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Click here to connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman, click here to check out his blog, or follow him on Instagram and Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP