Nancy Davis Kho's Blog

July 9, 2019

If You Had a Time Machine…

…and could go back to the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s of your youth, what would you bring back to 2019?

I’m doing another special “Listener-Contributed” podcast episode and I’d love to know…what do you miss from that era? Can be physical or metaphysical – think Jolt Cola, or the jolt you used to get waking up to yet another unstructured day of summer vacation.

(The theme for this episode is 100% induced by my family’s binge-watching of Stranger Things Season 3 over the holiday weekend, by the way – just seeing the mall full of shoppers, the Sam Goody store, the Regis Hair Salon had me in my Gen X feels. Also the deserted downtown that was only missing a tumbleweed to be complete. No one is saying the good old days were all good.)

But let’s allow ourselves to wallow just a bit. Let me know what you miss! Leave a comment below, email me, or (pretty please) press that blue button you see on the right hand side of and record your answer. I’ll smoosh all the responses together in to Episode 59, to air next week.

And that means you have to move fast – I’m hoping to get everyone’s responses in by Thursday 7/9, 5 pm PT. So let me know what you think!

Is it wrong to wish we could go rescue the young, innocent MJ?


Wanted to hip you to a fun summer read – BOOZE AND VINYL: A Spirited Guide to Great Music and Mixed Drinks, by André and Tenaya Darlington. It’s a coffee table book that pairs up classic vinyl with two cocktails each – one for Side A and one for Side B, duh. Liner notes about the album, suggested food pairings, and drinks that pair perfectly with the album in question (for instance, for Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Keef’s signature drink during its recording: a bottle of Jim Beam, a can of Coke, and a can of Coors, lined up and sipped from in turn.) And it didn’t go unnoticed that it’s from Running Press, which is publishing my book in December…thrilled to be in such good company between the pages. (Not to be confused with the Between the Sheets cocktail that pairs with Madonna’s Like a Virgin.) Cheers!


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                  Related StoriesPutting the Story in Family HistoryMidlife Mixtape LIVEGreat Garbage Can Debacle of 2019 
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Published on July 09, 2019 11:39

July 2, 2019

Ep 58 Transnational Writer Xu Xi  


“You’re not alone”: Hong Kong-raised writer Xu Xi reflects on being betwixt and between cultures, languages, and life stages, and channels Confucian wisdom to understand the desire to make a stand at midlife.

Xu Xi’s website
This Fish is Fowl: Essays of Being (American Lives Series – University of  Nebraska Press, 2019)
International MFA in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Vermont College of Fine Arts
@xuxiwriter on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

What happens when a globetrotter discovers Chuck Berry?

Thanks as always to M. The Heir Apparent, who provides the music behind the Midlife Mixtape podcast – check him out here!

The post Ep 58 Transnational Writer Xu Xi   appeared first on Midlife Mixtape .

CommentsFantastic! I want to hear some childhood stories from those ... by Helen KhoRelated StoriesEp 55 The Hard Times Founder Matt SaincomeEp 57 Leadership Coach Karen WalrondEp 56 Midlife Mixtape LIVE at Betabrand Podcast Theater 
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Published on July 02, 2019 06:55

June 26, 2019

Putting the Story in Family History

Three cousins in Yorkshire circa 1918. The one on the right is my mom’s mom.

I have a love/hate relationship to these genetic testing services like 23AndMe. On the one hand, it’s certainly interesting to learn that you had forebears in parts of the world you didn’t expect, or that you are statistically significantly Neanderthal. (Your Neanderthal ancestors’ swag brought all the Homo Sapiens to the block. I imagine Early Woman thinking to herself, “Those SHOULDERS! Besides, I think I can evolve him!”)

But many of us grew up in A Time Before Google hearing stories of our family history that we have integrated into our identities. Maybe your reticence or your fiery temper or your inability to cook aren’t personal failings: they’re GENETICS.  I mean, EVERYONE in our family is like that. That’s our story and a lot of us were perfectly happy to stick with it.

Here, in the parlance of Brené Brown, is the story I tell myself: I am 100% British (Welsh on one side, English on the other) going all the way back to the acorn that started my family tree. My maternal grandparents emigrated from Yorkshire, and on my dad’s side, we can trace our genealogy back to the 1600s in England and Wales. There’s a reason I have eaten an entire tube of McVities Digestives in one sitting and am always game for a long stop at a dark pub and am currently transfixed by Outlander. It’s GENETICS.

So when these DNA-testing kits started coming out a few years back, I kept my distance. My husband had his tested as a favor to one of our daughters who wasn’t old enough to do her own but is very interested in the genetic stew of Asian influences in her bloodstream, so she figured she could look at his results, divide by two, and mix with British to figure out her specific recipe.

Meanwhile, time passed, and it seemed like everyone I know was spitting in a tube and sending in the kits to get tested. At one of my Cat Club Dance Parties, I spied my friend Charles huddled with my husband in a corner, hunched over the brightly graphics of Charles’ African ancestry on his phone, while Depeche Mode throbbed in the background.

Even my 91-year-old aunt Noonie wanted to try it, so my sister helped her send in her kit back in January. I didn’t see the point, what with her (and my) British forebearers, but whatever makes Noonie happy. As soon as I heard the results were in, I called her. “I’m part GREEK!” Noonie said to me on the phone. “That’s why I like lamb so much!” She also learned she was Irish, Scottish, Danish, and German.

What she was not, except for a very small 2% of her very small being, was British. And if my mom’s sister isn’t British, that must mean my mom isn’t British, which means that I am not British.

“That’s fascinating, Noonie,” I said to her. “But I rebuke those results and will do everything in my power to forget you ever told me about them.” I am 100% British and that is facts. You couldn’t pay me enough to spit in a tube now.

The evolving science of genetics means that people who have their DNA on file at these companies can get increasingly precise analyses of their bloodlines, too. My husband, for instance, recently got an email with this exciting news: “You have a new Trait report available: Fear of Public Speaking.” Weird flex for a guy who regularly addresses ballrooms full of renewable energy professionals and delivers all the family eulogies, but ok.

The same week, I received an email from a woman in Scotland whose great-grandfather and mine were brothers, and who has extensively researched our family tree and offered to share it with me. She’s done a ton of work and very kindly emailed me stories of soldiers and day laborers and workhouse stints. (My people were definitely on the “Downstairs” end of the “Upstairs Downstairs” scenario. A few of them were “Crawl Space.”) It’s been fascinating to receive and read the research she conducted the old-fashioned way, through obituaries and birth notices and substantiated family lore.

In fact, one of the emails she sent me was titled “Scandal with the Vicar.”

And in the end, that’s why I’m never getting my DNA tested. Because I ask you:  if you had a choice of genetics-informed Fear of Public Speaking or oral-tradition Scandal with the Vicar, which family story would you rather hear?

The post Putting the Story in Family History appeared first on Midlife Mixtape .

CommentsAs a person with a doctorate in genetics, I am skeptical and ... by Mary A BrownWell, good for you AND ME, Nancy. I heard a podcast (that I can ... by AlisonI’m such a great story! I’m working on something similar. ... by LeAnaRelated StoriesGreat Garbage Can Debacle of 2019High School Musical ReduxEgo Decernere 
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Published on June 26, 2019 07:12

June 18, 2019

Ep 57 Leadership Coach Karen Walrond

“Follow your curiosity”: Coach, speaker, author, and host of the Make Light podcast Karen Walrond on the benefits of taking ownership of your career, why diversity and inclusion aren’t the same thing, and rest as a radical act.

Karen’s website, Chookaloonks
Karen’s book, The Beauty of Different: Observations of a Confident Misfit
The Make Light Show
Mira Jacobs’ book, Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations
Ep 43 guest R. Eric Thomas on Democratic POTUS candidates’ walk-up music

Thanks as always to M. The Heir Apparent, who provides the music behind the Midlife Mixtape podcast – check him out here!

The post Ep 57 Leadership Coach Karen Walrond appeared first on Midlife Mixtape .

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Published on June 18, 2019 06:50

June 12, 2019

You Might Have to Put on a Red Light

It’s come to this. I’m shining fancy lightbulbs at my knees, and that’s not a euphemism.

Last fall I was hiking on my regular uneven Oakland Hills trail, a 4.5-mile out and back walk I do a few times each week (sadly, no longer with my canine companion, but I do like to imagine his spirit cavorting alongside.) About ¾ of the way through the walk, something in my knee felt funny. Not painful, but not right either. “That’s weird,” I thought to myself. “I’ll ice it when I get home,” which I didn’t do.

Eight months later, I wrap an infrared light pad around my knee three times a day and microwave the still-swollen kneecap for 20 minutes at a go, praying for a miracle, or at least a fraction of the miracles promised by its overseas manufacturer. The theory is that the red light boosts collagen or gooses mitochondria or increases healing bloodflow or some such. I’m just here for the anti-inflammatory action, but it sounds like it does everything from clearing up wrinkles to cleaning out the gutters. I’ll test all that out later.

When I talked about my knee with a real live orthopedist back in February, he looked at the X-rays, sighed, and said, “Yup. That’s what 52-year-old knees look like. You’ll probably need them replaced at some point.” He went on to say that I could still do all the hiking I want; it just needs to be on flat, smooth surfaces. (Is that hiking? I thought that was called Mall Walking. Side note: what will Gen X’s version of Mall Walking be? At the rate they’re closing, there won’t be any malls left soon; do we all just wear Virtual Reality headsets on treadmills? Where are you supposed to get the Cinnabon reward?)

Over on my podcast I proselytize that being over 40 is a good thing, on so many levels, and I really do believe it. It’s just this one level – the one in which these mortal vessels we call our bodies operate – where it’s not so fun. And I know I’m not alone in searching for miracle cures for the weird chronic aches and pains that make us grunt when we stand up, or interrupt cocktail party conversations for a real quick quad stretch in the corner, the better to remain upright until the party ends.

So I pretend I never talked to that orthopedist and continue to pursue alternative approaches.

The other night I had a looooong phone call with one of my favorite people, my husband’s grad school roommate and the best man at our wedding, Joe. We caught each other up on family and work and whatnot. Then we compared notes on our physical decline, with me advocating intermittent fasting and a processed-food-free diet, Joe talking up red light therapy and keto. I would like to say I was horrified by it – after all, Joe and I used to be part of a group of youngsters who went to JazzFest in New Orleans every year, sleeping 93 people to a hotel room and kicking off our 19-hour days there with breakfast beer and a nice light fried oyster Po’ boy. The evils of processed food and benefits of standing desks were not part of our conversation back in the early ‘90s.

But I was too busy scribbling down “red lite? Paleo? Do I have to give up BEER?:( “ onto a piece of paper to take notice, and releasing all qualms about taking medical advice from a guy whose advanced degree focused not so much on medicine as on cross-cultural marketing and international accounting standards.

The red-light therapy band, applied for 20 minutes three times a day, has done nothing so far, but the packaging and my buddy Dr. Master of International Management says it takes a few months to work.

Another friend recommended sports massage, so I have a treatment booked this week with a woman I’ve seen once before. She is tiny and has two parallel bars installed in the ceiling of her treatment room, the better to hold onto while she walks on your back. When she did this to me the first time, I issued a noise the likes of which has never emanated from my body before. I think it was the unfamiliar sound of excess air being squeezed out of my spleen. When I give her permission to do whatever is necessary to release my knee from its stiffened state this week, I may be booking myself a one-way ticket to Relaxation, but with an extended layover at Staggering Discomfort. Hope my spleen is ready for the adventure.

You know what? Roxanne may not have needed to put on the red light in 1978 when the song came out.

But by now, she’s probably strapping them to her lumbar, both thighs, and a shoulder. And that’s not a euphemism.

***Hey Bay Area Peeps: Come out and hear my dear friend Mary Laura Philpott discuss her wonderful memoir-in-essays I MISS YOU WHEN I BLINK next Thursday, June 20th at 7 pm at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland. It says I’m going to be “In Conversation” with her, but between us, I’m planning to say “Heeeeeeeeere’s Mary Laura” and then join you in the seats. Hope to see you there!

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CommentsYou're looking at someone who broke her ankle walking! Sure, my ... by Mary A Brownalmost spit out my coffee: Where are you supposed to get the ... by EdKeep me posted ‍♀️ by DawnRelated StoriesMidlife Mixtape LIVEThe Thank-You Project – Now Available for Pre-OrderEp 53 Founder Melanie Notkin 
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Published on June 12, 2019 06:44

June 4, 2019

Ep 56 Midlife Mixtape LIVE at Betabrand Podcast Theater

“The gift of experience”: Host Nancy Davis Kho, musician Kyle Terrizzi aka M. The Heir Apparent, and SF Chronicle Senior Political Writer Joe Garofoli at Betabrand’s Podcast Theater on first concerts, generational soundtracks, and antidotes for outrage fatigue.

M. The Heir Apparent aka Kyle Terrizzi performs the Midlife Mixtape Podcast theme song, “Be Free”, at Betabrand’s Podcast Theater on May 30th 2019

Nancy in conversation with the San Francisco Chronicle’s Senior Political Writer Joe Garofoli

Stream M. The Heir Apparent aka Kyle Terrizzi on Spotify
M. The Heir Apparent’s website with tour info
It’s All Political Podcast with San Francisco Chronicle Senior Political Writer Joe Garofoli
Betabrand – Crowdfunded Clothing
Pre-order Nancy’s new book, THE THANK-YOU PROJECT: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time

The post Ep 56 Midlife Mixtape LIVE at Betabrand Podcast Theater appeared first on Midlife Mixtape .

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Published on June 04, 2019 06:31

May 29, 2019

Dining Room Desolation

This is my dining room table. It is also a metaphor.

When our youngest daughter, who will collect her high school diploma tonight, was heading into her freshman year four years ago, she spread her summer reading and writing assignment onto the dining room table to work. There’s nice natural light in there, it’s close to snacks in the kitchen, and the desk in her room is small. I figured it was a temporary thing and didn’t tell her not to.

She never stopped using it as her desk.

Freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior year, our beautiful table has been covered by Spanish flashcards, physics textbooks, AP US Gov homework. There were staplers and scissors, highlighters and rulers, permissions slips I was supposed to sign but only saw after the trip to the museum or performance had passed. Paperclips. A comb. Hanging chads from torn-out notebook pages fluttered to the dining room rug like snow.

Oh, it made my husband, but mostly me, crazy. I like to entertain. I like to invite people for dinner. But with the homework center at the public center of our home, it became too hard to do that. It involved giving her at least a 72-hour warning period to clear everything off, and then the stuff on top of the table just became piles in the corner of the dining room, and really, there were so many notebooks and textbooks that there wasn’t an alternative site for them, so what was the point. With summer assignments and college applications factored in, this was a 12-months-of-the-year situation.

I offered to take her to Ikea to buy a bigger desk for her room. “Why?” she would ask, impish smile on her face. “This works fine.”

So we adapted. I only demanded the table be cleared off for Christmas and Easter dinner; we have a kitchen table, after all.  When we had people over to visit and sat in the adjoining living room, with the view through the dining room/study center, I’d just wave my hand at the messy mound of schoolwork in the foreground and say, “That’s her desk” and hope they’d get distracted by the oak trees through the window beyond.

But when we rounded the bend onto second semester of senior year, I allowed myself to feel excited about the prospect of a clean tabletop and the ability to eat at it again. I finally bought an interesting dining room chandelier after 16 years of wanting to replace the bottom-shelf Home Depot fixture that came with the house. I cracked a few cookbooks looking for inspiration.

Last Friday was her last full day of high school, and my husband had been egging her on all week. “You’re gonna clear off the table, right? You can get rid of everything in the dining room over Memorial Day weekend, right? No need for anything on that table anymore, right?” We invited friends over for brunch on Sunday, the first meal in what I hope will be a new era of entertaining again.

On Sunday morning, in the course of about an hour and with virtually no prompting, she cleared the table. I set it with an old tablecloth in her new university’s colors, and put out matching candleholders made by the mom of her onetime nanny, a whole lifetime ago. It looks so lovely now. I took a picture to remember the moment.

I am so unexpectedly sad about this stupid cleared table. It kind of hurts my eyes. I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture of the table when it was a mess, and our daughter was literally in the center of our lives.

But then I spotted this in the corner – piles. Her messy piles of stuff are still in there, at least until she starts college in the fall.

Phew. We still have a little more time.

Whenever our daughter gets to DJ right now, this is the album that’s on – Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride

The post Dining Room Desolation appeared first on Midlife Mixtape .

CommentsBittersweet ❤️ by VikkiI've been due for a good cry. And then you handed me this ... by KarenLast year I said, “Wow, no more books, papers, notebooks or ... by JillYes . xoxo by MelisaAaaaaack! All of this. All of it. Beautiful. by AnnYAY! Dining room tables…three generations of books and table ... by Kho HelenRelated StoriesDining Room DolefulMake It LastLearning to Disengage 
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Published on May 29, 2019 07:08

May 21, 2019

Ep 55 The Hard Times Founder Matt Saincome

“Try a bunch of stuff”: Matt Saincome, Editor-in-chief of the internet’s most popular music satire site, talks about pursuing the crazy ideas that don’t go away, what makes a good “Aging Punk” joke, and the unspoken punk dress-up code.

The Hard Times
The Hard Times Podcast Network
OutVoice publisher payment platform
Midlife Mixtape LIVE from the Betabrand Podcast Theater in San Francisco on Thursday May 30threserve your free ticket here!
Pre-order Nancy’s new book, THE THANK-YOU PROJECT: Cultivating Happiness One Letter of Gratitude at a Time

Here’s one of Matt’s music recs if you don’t know them yet – Turnstile

Thanks as always to M. The Heir Apparent, who provides the music behind the podcast – check him out here!

The post Ep 55 The Hard Times Founder Matt Saincome appeared first on Midlife Mixtape .

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Published on May 21, 2019 06:35

May 14, 2019

Concert Review: Tedeschi Trucks Band

photo creds John “Z-man” Lucas

The Band: Tedeschi Trucks Band, May 10 2019. This blues/rock supergroup is led by wife-and-husband duo Susan Tedeschi (of Susan Tedeschi’s Soul Stew Revival) and Derek Trucks (of The Allman Brothers and Derek Trucks Band.) Take some blues, add in a sprinkle of Motown sound, a whiff of the Grateful Dead, top with some of the most virtuoso guitar playing you’ll ever see, and wrap it all up in vocals for dayyzzzz, and you’ve got an idea of why the band’s 2011 album Revelator won the Grammy for Best Blues Album, and why they can easily sell out a two-night stand in Oakland.

The Venue: The Fox Theater in Oakland. I love taking people who have never been to the Fox to the Fox. I feel like I’m showing them my newly refurbished living room. “Did you look at the ceiling tiles yet? Check out the statuary! Oh, drunk people ALWAYS think there’s a staircase here on this low platform where we’re standing, just grab them by the waist and throw them toward the actual staircase!”

The Company: I’m used to driving the concert bus around here, informing people that I’ve bought two tickets to Band X that they may not know but should, and do they want to come with me? So how nice was it to be on the receiving end of that phone call, when my friend John and his wife Kathy invited us to come with them to see Tedeschi Trucks. Even my husband fell in line with the plan, which is a rarity.

Interestingly, he and Kathy spent the time before the curtain fell discussing their shared worst fear: being unfairly imprisoned and having no one get them out of jail. I promised my husband that of course I would get him out, but it might take a couple of weeks, because did he not see how many good bands are on the schedule at the Fox? So Kathy has now volunteered to be Andrew’s one call from jail.

The Crowd: Well, the band itself is diverse, so that should count for something. But out there on the floor it was fifty shades of pale, kind of a weird feeling when you’re in Oakland, California. Or as my husband said, “It feels like we’re in the Western European Arrivals Lounge at Ellis Island.” The age span was pretty broad, but this definitely was the kind of crowd who shouldn’t leave the house without SPF 30, present company included.

Worth Hiring the Sitter?

Because we are mere months away from any empty nest and my kids are almost aged out of even BEING babysitters, I will give you the assessment from the young couple who were our elbow partners for the show. They had a 1- and 3-year-old at home their sitter, had driven in from Danville, caught dinner in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood before the show, and then were treated to almost three full hours of Tedeschi Trucks blues.

Their answer to whether it’s worth hiring the sitter: hells to the yes.

I was entirely unfamiliar with Tedeschi Trucks’ music before the show, but having read the great Alan Paul book about The Allman Brothers, “One Way Out”, I at least knew from Derek Trucks. John mentioned to me on the way into the show that Trucks is considered one of the world’s greatest guitarists, to which in my head I said “He’s no Prince.” Sorry but that one clip of Prince playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” at the George Harrison Rock and Roll HOF induction is the answer to that question, forever. (The only part of that Wine Country movie everyone watched last weekend that I related to was Maya Rudolph’s soliloquy about Prince in the hot tub, TBH. That part felt accurate.)

THAT SAID: Holy cow is Derek Trucks an astonishingly talented guitarist. I literally held my head in my hands at one point in the show, fearful it would explode from what I was seeing. He is insanely, insanely good.

Shot at the Fox during TT’s last trip through the Bay Area…

And Susan Tedeschi’s voice is amazing. It sounds like she has probably never hit a false note in her life. I turned to Kathy at what point and said, “What must their Thanksgiving dinner be like?” You know, “I’ll put the turkey in, and then maybe, since we’re all here, we can just really quickly record a blockbuster blues album, and then we start the gravy.” The rest of the band, from dual drums to a great brass section (I’m a sucker for a trombone) to backup singers, was also incredibly talented.

They pack a lot of music into their show, but not a lot of chit-chat – I don’t think they addressed us even once. They are professionals at the top of their game, their focus is on musical precision, and they’re there to play you music – Tedeschi Trucks didn’t even have an opening band, just started at 8 pm, took a short break at 9:15, and were still playing when we slipped out the door a few minutes before 11.

If this is what letting someone else drive the concert bus feels like, I’m ready to take my seat in the back row.


The post Concert Review: Tedeschi Trucks Band appeared first on Midlife Mixtape .

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Published on May 14, 2019 13:52

May 9, 2019

Midlife Mixtape LIVE

Three weeks from tonight, Midlife Mixtape is going LIVE in the Mission neighborhood in San Francisco! Betabrand, a really rad clothing line that is based in San Francisco, converts its factory/store into a Podcast Theater every Thursday night, and they’ve invited me to record the Midlife Mixtape Podcast there on Thursday, May 30th from 6:30-8:00 pm.

To make it worth your while to come out, I’m packing a lot into those 90 minutes.

First, the doors open at 6:30 and there will be free beer and wine. So, it’s a cocktail party.

Second, we’ll kick off the show promptly at 7 with Kyle Terrizzi aka M. The Heir Apparent aka the incredibly talented Bay Area singer/songwriter who plays the Midlife Mixtape Podcast theme song, “Be Free” . He’s going to play it and some of his other music live that night. So, it’s a concert.

Third, my guest for the evening is The San Francisco Chronicle’s senior political writer, Joe Garofoli. Talk about someone whose choice of a career may have taken an unexpected turn or two by midlife…I’m hoping he’ll have advice from the front line about how to pace ourselves during the upcoming election cycle, and how to pivot when life throws your industry a few curve balls. So, it’s an interview.

We’ll have some audience participation games with prizes. So, game show.

Finally, can you believe the gorgeous posters that Betabrand creates for each podcast event? You can see mine on the wall now if you stroll by their 780 Valencia Street location… so, Art Show.

photo creds Ann Trunko

And when it ends at 8 pm, you will stumble out into the Mission, smack dab in the middle of one of the best restaurant/bar scenes in the Bay Area. So, cooking show? Not really. Unless someone invites you into a kitchen.

Still, this cocktail party/concert/interview/game show/art show night should be really fun. I hope that if you’re in the Bay Area – or have friends here who you could send my way – that you will reserve your seat soon! Tickets are going fast – they’re free but Betabrand has limited seating, so click through here and register for your free ticket.

(The recording of the show will go up as a future podcast episode so those of you who can’t make it will still get to hear M., Joe, me, and various audience shenanigans.)

See you on the 30th!

The new Vampire Weekend album came out last week and it’s all we’re listening to. Love this one with the sisters Haim.

The post Midlife Mixtape LIVE appeared first on Midlife Mixtape .

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Published on May 09, 2019 07:19