The Walker

January 8, 2014 § 2 Comments

He comes to mind periodically, usually when I myself am out walking. We called him The Walker and for years we’d see him striding  briskly through Silverlake and environs, always shirtless and in gym shorts, his head bent down over a periodical.

Over time, he caught the media’s attention and through their stories we learned he was a cardiologist in private practice somewhere in the Valley and that he walked long distances–10 miles comes to mind–every day.

He became a fixture; if you mentioned The Walker, everyone knew who you meant.

I sometimes wondered how a busy cardiologist could have time for a daily 2-3 hour exercise program.

A few years back, we learned the answer when he was indicted for running an opiod prescription mill. The case had not progressed very far before the walking doctor was found dead in his hot tub. He had committed suicide.

The man lives on, however, in two Silverlake murals. The students at Micheltorena School included him in a mural at the far end of their school yard.IMG_2773

Then there’s the artist who wryly inserted him into another Sunset Boulevard mural: Amidst chiaroscuro scenes of bygone L.A. days, The Walker is the sole figure in color.  Now he, too, is gone.

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A doe in the headlights

January 7, 2014 § 2 Comments

Walt Disney Concert Hall. A small ensemble and a famous conductor/composer of New Music wait on stage. A trim young woman in narrow black slacks and scoop-necked black top enters holding a wireless microphone. She stops, looks around as though she’s not quite sure what she’s doing there.

The iconic conductor gives the ensemble a signal, music issues forth, and instantly the woman morphs into an assured vocalist. She sings in short, breathy phrases with dreamy concentration. At times she gestures languidly. The poignant lyrics, inspired by letters between distant lovers five centuries ago, evoke love and loss.

Her companion, foil, background is the ensemble’s lush music. Together they weave a melancholy and utterly captivating tapestry of sound.

The piece concludes and, instantly, the vocalist is again a bewildered child: stiff, uncertain of what to do or where to go until the conductor seizes her hand and leads her into a bow. They exit, but wild applause draws her back onstage where she stands in bewilderment until running off again.

The abrupt transformations astonishes me. The young woman is Julia Holter and the composition —Memory Drew Her Portrait— is hers. The piece was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and this performance is its world premiere. Holter is a CalArts MFA with three albums who has performed on multiple continents.

Why the deer-in-the-headlights ungainliness?

The Phil’s New Music group played three other compositions that evening; their male composers had no difficulty mounting the stage or taking bows. I had hoped that by now, young women would have learned to step into their power rather than feel flummoxed by it. Can it be that women still aren’t supposed to display confidence, strength, and, yes, even pride?

I guess not.

 

Thanksgivukkah in Venice

December 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

IMG_1360  My very first day in Los Angeles, my host took me to Venice Beach. Why? I don’t know; it was Memorial Day, screaming hot, and the place was packed with people. Jerry Brown ran for president that year and there was even a campaign rally gearing up.

Is all of L.A. this crazy? I wondered.

Fortunately, no.

I’ve been back to Venice many time since then and seen the beachfront in more pacific moods, most recently on Thanksgiving day. Tourists were out, shops and eateries were open, vendors had their wares displayed (calaveras appear to be the souvenir du jour), skateboarders were in their pit, homeless folks gathered under the palms–but the crowds were elsewhere (Wal-Mart, maybe?) and the mood was mellow.

Here are a few shots from Venice Beach and vicinity:

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Mystery lots update

November 11, 2013 § 1 Comment

Two Silverlake construction projects would appear to be moving forward. Mostly the progress is illusionary.

IMG_3017  Months ago, workers dug trenches and poured footers at the plot where Glendale Blvd. makes a 90 degree turn and Rowena begins. And then . . . nothing. Dirt, concrete, rebar left as it was. Unconfirmed rumor: The developers are behind on payments.

IMG_3052Then there’s the site of the late, lamented Coffee Table on Rowena. Developers put up a large sign announcing “exciting” new construction “coming soon”; that was, oh, maybe six months ago. Other than brush clearing, nothing else has been done.

October 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

There’s a new entry in the low-water front lawn category, Silverlake Division.  Our neighbor collected plants and rocks for three years, then spent months placing them just so. It’s a wide-ranging collection of shapes and sizes and every day –and at different times of day– the garden appears altered. Thank you, Allie & Eddy.

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How I know it’s Halloween

October 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Sayonara, Shakespeare!

September 8, 2013 § 1 Comment

ScanIt’s over.

Sunday, September 1, the curtain came down on Independent Shakespeare Company’s 10th season of free performances.

That’s a metaphoric curtain, of course, since ISC performs on a bare bones, temporary stage in a natural amphitheater located where Griffith Park’s old zoo once stood.

We were there, cheering along with approximately 996 others, at the conclusion of As You Like It, the third of this year’s ISC’s productions, which included She Stoops to Conquer and Macbeth.

The actors in AYLI were brilliant, as usual, although the staging was a little flat and static in places. No matter; the company’s venture into Restoration comedy (She Stoops to Conquer) was cleverly done and Macbeth’s Melissa Chalsma and Luis Galindo nailed the lead couple’s unbridled and desperate ambition.

We’ve attended ISC performances for maybe eight years and, over time, seen actors grow and productions expand. The fairy costumes for 2012’s Midsummer’s Night Dream  deserved an award for their gold lame weirdness, which conveyed the scary-dream nature of the queer beings that wore them. ISC fight scenes are always beautifully choreographed (if that’s not an oxymoron), Macbeth’s being exceptionally bloody this year.

ISC’s apocryphal tale of their origins is that at their first performance, the audience consisted of 14 people and a dog—and the dog left at intermission. That doesn’t happen now. L.A. has discovered that Thursdays through Sundays throughout the summer, sitting in front of the ISC stage is the place to be. The company reports that 43,000 people attended this year’s performances.

I think of ISC as “the little Shakespeare company that could.” Melissa Chalsma and David Melville came to L.A. and started with almost nothing but determination and a wonderful rapport with Shakespeare’s language. I especially appreciate how they showcase actors of diverse ethnicities and races and reach out to audiences across language, class and race.

Luckily, ISC has found a permanent home in Atwater Crossing so their productions will continue through the winter. Cyrano, Romeo & Juliet, plus David Melville’s old chestnut, A Christmas Carol with Charles Dickens are on the schedule.

As for me, I’ve already marked June 24 on my 2014 calendar, ready for next season’s Twelfth Night, Richard III, and Taming of the Shrew.

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This just in: ISC’s Thank You for Coming video.

Coyote tales

August 26, 2013 § 1 Comment

I lived in Silverlake for years thinking the neighborhood had an unusually large number of feral dogs because at night or when police sirens blared a chorus of great throaty yowls arose.

Then I camped in the San Gabriel Mountains, where signs warned against feeding coyotes, and heard the same yipping bark.

I got back to the city and immediately called the rangers’ station in Griffith Park. Was it possible that coyotes from the park could range as far as Silverlake, a good two miles away?

“They could,” a ranger told me, “but more likely they’re living right in your neighborhood.”

But this is a densely populated urban area, I protested; surely no wild creature that size lived so close to humans.

“Sure, they do,” the ranger said. “They’re living in the brush all over those hills.”

Once I accepted that fact, I began to see what had been hidden in plain sight. Coyotes crossing streets, loping from one patch of brush to another. Coyote pups gamboling in the reservoir meadow (back when it was still fenced in). Coyotes sitting inside the reservoir fence staring out, as if we were on display and he a zoo visitor. Pass-throughs just big enough for a coyote dug under the reservoir fence.

From these encounters, I’ve learned that while caution is always advised, coyotes aren’t really interested in messing with two-leggeds. Pussy cats and small dogs are another matter, to which the frequency of “lost pet” flyers attest.

It’s no surprise then that coyotes figure  prominently in our public art. The Gold Line stop on 26th Street in Lincoln Heights features a coyote tale. The Micheltorena Street School painted one into its Sunset Boulevard mural.IMG_3021

And one day, this image—a stencil actually—appeared near the Los Angeles River at the base of a Memorial Bridge pylon. It’s good we snapped the photo when we did: the next time I passed by, it was gone. An overzealous graffiti removal team had painted it over.

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Postscript: Last week, up the hill from our house, we turned the corner and there, in the middle of the street, trotting towards us in a manner I can only describe as insouciant, was a coyote, adolescent-sized. He paused, we moved to the sidewalk, and all of us resumed our travels. Just another day in the urban wilderness.

Band geeks find love

July 21, 2013 § 1 Comment

Have you ever seen a violin in a marching band?

MP 4 Neither had I until Mucca Pazza* emerged from the Angles Flight funicular and marched into California Plaza for their noontime gig at Grand Performances.

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Self-described as a “punk circus band,” Mucca Pazza brought 22 musicians wearing bits and pieces of mismatched band uniforms, dorky hats included, from their home town of Chicago where it’s made a name for itself by providing an afterlife for high school and college band geeks.

Heavy on brass and percussion, Mucca Pazza also features saxophones of various pitches, clarinets, electric guitar and mandolin, and an accordion. (Adding to the punk vibe, the latter three plus the violinist wear amplifiers attached to helmets lest their contributions go unnoticed.)

MP 5Don’t go to hear Mucca Pazza expecting Sousa. Their jazzy, pulsating rhythms suggest Big Band jazz as might be played by meth heads and are matched to syncopated moves that blend Motown and locked-ward bedlam.

MP 2No punk circus band could do without cheerleaders; Mucca Pazza has two: hyperbolic young women with ginormous pompoms who over-compensate for never making the squad in high school.

 

Photographs don’t do them justice so check out their music video. http://www.grandperformances.org/events/lunch-box-mucca-pazza/

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*Wikipedia says that Mucca Pazza “comes from the Italian for ‘crazy cow,’ which is also a name for the Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.” Sounds entirely plausible.

The all-seeing eye

July 19, 2013 § 2 Comments

It’s a given that L.A. has lots of cool murals; I’ve found one that mysterious as well as cool.

Hoover Street parallels Virgil to the east; above Sunset, it dead ends at a hillside. A split staircase, built in 1928, links Hoover to Prospect Street above. Someone used that concrete wall for this colorful, eye-grabbing mural:

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I love the way the vivid blue water cascades down the central staircase. It flows from cupped hands beneath the all-seeing eye.

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Wings sprout from either side of the Great Eye making me think of  seraphim, described in the Hebrew Bible as creatures with multiple eyes and six wings. Can’t say that’s what the artist was thinking about.

The female figure below the west stairs looks like she’s lifting the earth. To the east, the male clasps a young tree. To me, the mural is redolent of fecundity, creation, our rootedness in the earth. I find it intriguing, calming and cooling (all that blue), provocative. What do you think?

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