Been Pretty Busy, Thursday, January 26, 2017

Been pretty busy, and I didn’t even do all I’d planned to do. Sunday was a very rainy day, with a flash flood advisory and serious flooding in many parts of Long Beach. The Fox Coffee House, one of my main hangs, took on some serious water and will probably not reopen until next week.


Cindy Alexander

While the rain was exciting, and will be the source of its own blog entry in the near future, and it gave me an enforced chance to rest my body a bit, it did have a big downside. I had purchased tickets to see Cindy Alexander at the Hotel Cafe that night. Cindy is a beautiful and talented singer/songwriter that I followed religiously for several years earlier in this century, seeing her many times in many venues, but haven’t seen her perform in eleven or twelve years. Since I saw her last she had married, become the mother of twins, and survived a breast cancer episode that resulted in a double-mastectomy. She has come through it all just as lovely and stronger than ever, and has just released her eighth studio album, “Deep Waters“. I was looking forward very much to catching up with her, but the closed freeways and general turmoil kept me home. Now she is off to the east on her tour with no local dates scheduled in the near future. So sad!

Monday was another rainy day, and I again stayed close to home. Two of my local favorites, Samantha Parker and Deja Nichole, were scheduled to perform at a singer/songwriter showcase at the Federal Bar in North Hollywood, but I was feeling a bit under the weather and not up to a trip to the valley, so I again stayed home.


James Combs and Erin Hawkins with Great Willow

I had plans for Tuesday night as well, and this time I followed through. My friend James Combs, the nicest man in music, was playing with his band Great Willow at one of my favorite (and world’s smallest) honky-tonks, the Cinema Bar in Culver City. Great Willow is the latest of several collaborations that James has had over the years involving sweet-singing (and the world’s best whistler) Erin Hawkins. I have seen them a couple of times in minimal settings, and this was the first time I got to see them as an entire band; I was not disappointed and had a very nice evening out.


Wednesday began with my breakfast at Steelhead and then a trip up to Culver City for the funeral of Paula Adele Unger Boelsems, aka Paula Dell. Paula is the daring young lady flying through the air on the cover of “Los Angeles: Portrait of a City“. That picture was shot in 1954 at the Original Muscle Beach (OMB), and Paula was the queen of OMB. I didn’t meet Paula until 1977, but while she may have transitioned from queen to grand dame, she was still flying high. Paula was an acrobat, a circus performer, a pioneering stuntwoman (she was shot from a cannon in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”), a private pilot, a mover/shaker/official of the International Federation of Sports Acrobatics (now known as Acrobatic Gymnastics), and generally beloved by all who knew her. I had the privilege of working with and learning from both Paula and her long-time partner, Russ Saunders, in my early days at Muscle Beach, and the honor of serving as a pall-bearer at both of their funerals.


Acro Salute

This was definitely a bittersweet affair. On the one hand we mourn her passing, but on the other hers was a long life well lived and the occasion of her funeral was an opportunity for many old friends to reunite. I had known Paula for 40 years, but there were others who had known her for 50 or even 60 years. Just as musicians in New Orleans have jazz funerals, acrobats have acro funerals, and our remembrance would not have been complete without the dual handstand salute by David Floyd, Bonnie Morgan, Jack Kalvan, and Jeri Habberstad Kalvan. The highlight, however, may have been the graveside demonstration by Paula’s older sister Rosalie (93 years young) that she can still stand on her hands.





Then on Wednesday night I drove into Hollywood to the famous Whisky a Go Go to see the showcase performance by Cameo Adele. Cameo is a soulful young singer from Anaheim who is part of the a cappella trio Bedlam Lullaby. I have written before about Bedlam Lullaby, but this time Cameo was featuring music from her own recently released CD “To You From Venus”. She is a dynamic performer and it was real treat to see her on the same stage that has been graced by performers like The Doors, Guns and Roses, and just about every big name in rock,  with a full band behind her. Samantha (Bulls Daughter) Parks and Denicar Bergancia, her sisters from Bedlam Lullaby, provided backup vocals, and Victor Ujadughele played bass. Cameo also had a drummer, keyboard player, and a two man horn section.

I did capture some video, but the sound at the very front by the stage was not great. The bass is drowning out all the upper ranges. I am sure that the vocal quality could be improved by applying some equalization algorithm, but I have neither the know how or the tools to accomplish that at this point. If anyone else would like to clean it up for me I would love that! E-mail me if interested. Of course you can always check out Cameo on Soundcloud!





Womens March LA, Saturday, January 21, 2017

It has been an eventful couple of days! The rain on Friday and yesterday kept me close to home and off my feet, so I have been able to make some significant improvement on my pulled butt muscle. This morning I am able to almost comfortably extend my feet to the chair across and maintain a decent dandasana, which had been out of reach for a couple of days.


I did violate my suspension on Saturday, however, and took the Blue Line downtown for the big march. I got to the Wardlow Blue Line Station at 8:50, just after a train downtown had departed, and noticed some differences from the typical Saturday. First, there was a rather long line of folks queued up by the fare dispensers, and they did not seem to be seasoned riders. Even though a northbound train had just departed there was still quite a crowd on the platform. They had been unable to get on the train that just left.


No Mas!

There were several families traveling together, and I even saw a couple of optimists with double strollers! Everyone who was on the platform managed to get on the next train, but by the time we got to the Green Line we were accepting no more passengers. At each station the conductor had to open the doors to let the rare passenger depart, and then those on the platform would attempt to cram themselves into the open doors of already filled cars. Some of those left behind on the 10 stations from Willowbrook to 7th St. Metro were carpetbaggers like ourselves, but most were locals who were expecting an easy Saturday commute to work, shopping, or recreation, some with bikes or even wheelchairs.


At the Metro Center station I exited to 7th Street and joined the throngs heading for Pershing Square. I got down to Olive and turned left towards Pershing Square, but didn’t get very far. It appeared that Olive was packed completely all the way to Pershing Square, and no one was going anywhere! After marking time for a while the message “Turn left on 7th” began to percolate through the crowd coming from ahead, so I and many others reversed course, went back to 7th, and headed west.

One of the limiting factors for me in considering excursions like this is bathroom availability, and bathrooms were not readily available. I saw a Mexican restaurant on the other side of 7th St., and given that I was about at the end of my range and hungry to boot I stopped for a couple of tacos and to use the restroom. I started a trend, and the restaurant, which had been almost empty, quickly began to fill up.

Took Broadway for a while, going past LA landmarks like Clifton’s Cafeteria and the Los Angeles Theater, but that street also filled up, so headed west again and ultimately wound up getting to City Hall on Spring Street.


It appeared that the crowds were way bigger than anticipated as there were a lot of motorists who were stuck in their cars on Broadway and Spring, but all of them seemed to be in very good spirits, even playing music for the crowds. I finally got to Spring and 1st and parked myself between City Hall and the LAPD headquarters to soak up the ambience for a while. Couldn’t get that much of a perspective on the crowd, but it appeared that all of the major streets approaching City Hall were completely packed. Spirits were very high, and the police presence was extremely mellow!

I was quite distant from the action, and feeling a bit of apprehension about the return trip, so after a half hour I decided to head back to LB. As the vertical streets between Spring and Olive were all filled up I headed another block west and made my way down Main St. towards 7th. There were a lot of others with the same idea, and Main was thronged with groups lining up to get into restaurants along the way. While the march was not such a positive event for the local commuters, it was very good for the local restaurants!


North on Main

Another casualty of the event was the Metro bus service schedules. Northbound traffic on Main was at a virtual standstill, and that included Metro buses caught in the scrum as far as the eye could see. I’m sure there were a lot of folks waiting for those buses who were not very happy.


South on Main

Eventually I made it back to the 7th St/Metro Center, and as anticipated it was absolutely packed. I did make one good strategic decision and bypassed the stairs to the platform, took the elevator down instead, and managed to squeeze myself onto the train that was arriving at the same time as the elevator.

The trip back was pretty uncomfortable; virtually no one exited the train for the first ten stops, and I found myself shielding a very crotchety elderly black lady in a wheelchair who was coming back from shopping at Walmart, was very tired, did not want to be bumped or touched, and was obviously and vocally very pissed off about the whole affair! The atmosphere improved when she exited at Slauson, but not before she made the young lady who had had the temerity to have accidentally brushed her foot cry by telling her that she was leaving the train not because it was her stop but “to get away from you!”


Standing in Line for the American Dream, Wednesday, January 19, 2017

Well, after the very positive report on my physical situation yesterday, I am now in the process of absorbing yet another injury. Not serious, I hope, and the rain predicted over the next day or so may help me to limit my activities enough for healing.


Oh, what happened, you ask? Getting older does have a certain suckage factor! I have been experiencing a lot of tightness and tenderness in my left butt area due to my new foot work. I tried running for a bus yesterday and pulled up lame (sad face emoji here). A bummer, but it is better today which is a good sign, and I am also refraining from hurting it more, another good sign!

I am currently reading Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Professor Hochschild left the familiar confines of her emeritus professorship at UC Berkeley and moved down to rural southwest Louisiana and spent several years hanging out with, listening to, and talking with Tea Party supporters. 2014 indicators had Louisiana with a poverty rate of 20.6%, ranking 49th out of 51 (states plus DC).  In 2012 Louisiana received 44% of its revenue from the Federal government, yet to say that Tea Party (TP) supporters have an antipathy towards the Federal Government would be a gross understatement.


Unemployed men in soup kitchen line

Ms. Hochschild was exploring the sociology behind this disconnect. I am about a third of the way through, and have come across a very powerful metaphor. She was searching for an image of their current economic situation that would resonate most strongly with them, and this is what she found…

You are patiently standing in a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage. You are situated in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, and predominantly male, some with college degrees, some not.
Just over the brow of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line. Many in the back of the line are people of color— poor, young and old, mainly without college degrees. It’s scary to look back; there are so many behind you, and in principle you wish them well. Still, you’ve waited a long time, worked hard, and the line is barely moving. You deserve to move forward a little faster. You’re patient but weary. You focus ahead, especially on those at the very top of the hill. (Hochschild, p. 136)

They are patient, but the line isn’t moving very much at all, and worse, they see people cutting ahead of them in line! Immigrants, Muslims, blacks, women… When she started exploring the images of those line cutters she noticed a curious phenomenon…

Curiously, the people of the right I came to know spoke freely about Mexicans (4 percent of Louisianans were Hispanic in 2011) and Muslims (who accounted for 1 percent) but were generally silent about blacks, who, at 26 percent, were the state’s largest minority. (Hochschild, p.146)

On further examination and reflection she finds that …

Among the older right-wing whites I came to know, blacks entered their lives, not as neighbors and colleagues, but through the television screen and newspaper where they appeared in disparate images. In one image, blacks were rich mega-stars… In a second image, blacks were a disproportionate part of the criminal class…And in a third image, blacks were living on welfare. (Hochschild, p. 147)


Now here comes the punch line, and a hint of hope for the future…

Missing from the image of blacks in most of the minds of those I came to know was a man or woman standing patiently in line next to them waiting for a well-deserved reward. (Hochschild, p. 147)


Numerous articles analyzing the election results at the county level have made note of a very sharp urban/rural divide, and I believe that this missing image is the key to that divide. There is a lot more space and much less population mobility in rural areas, and folks living there are much less likely to be encountering individuals with disparate backgrounds, beliefs, and ethnicity than folks in urban areas.


Those of us living cheek-by-jowl with people not like us come to realize that Mexicans are not rapists and are really hard workers (most of whom, by the way, are able to get along in AT LEAST two languages\, one more than I can), that immigrants work really hard to achieve that American dream through their 7-11’s and other small businesses, and that blacks are co-workers, neighbors, parents, and all too often victims. We come to realize that all of us are sharing the same dream, and all of us have been living our whole lives waiting for that dream. There is an old proverb that says “Familiarity breeds contempt”, but I don’t buy that.  I believe that in this arena we need to change that to “Familiarity breeds coexistence”.

Why can’t we all just get along?


Hochschild, Arlie Russell. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right. The New Press. Kindle Edition

Most pictures courtesy of Google Photos



Status Update, Wednesday, January 18, 2017

While the picture above is of the Fox Coffee House in Wrigley (where I was when I started this post yesterday), I am now in Steelhead Coffee over in California Heights. Have already met and networked with Kate from Fix Long Beach, an agency that provides free spaying and neutering to low income residents of Long Beach (a very timely meeting as Ramona’s dog Grace is currently in heat), Shoshanah from Sugar Mama Sweets, and Katie from Galileo Innovation Summer Camps. One of the biggest barriers in the way of my getting any blog entries out is the fact that I so easily get involved in conversations!


Now about that update. Nothing much new on the triceps front. Still not cleared to do any kind of physical therapy, but I have been doing yoga minus the down dogs and chaturangas, and as of this week I have added in an extended plank into my morning practice. Currently at a minute and a half, and plan on staying there for a while.


The feet have made some real progress. I have been working for a year now trying to transform my gait from the pirate’s waddle that it had degenerated to into something more much more parallel and straight ahead, and that is coming along well. My right foot is now mostly okay with the new burdens that have been placed on it, although the first metatarsal seems to still be prone to complaints.


I have been doing barre work, hill work, and walking in the sand to strengthen them and getting some good results. The pictures are the imprints of my feet from my last sand walking, and I think that they look pretty good for someone whose podiatrist had written them off as hopelessly flat some years ago.

I have also been taking a ballet class from Carri Burbank Glen at Elevation Studios on Saturday mornings. The first two classes after the break were positively torturous on my feet, and I was hobbling out of class by the end. This past Saturday, however, my feet finally got sufficiently warmed up and ready to work like feet again. I was glissading and echape’ing and saute’ing across the floor with alacrity, and my pas de chats were positively catlike! Felt real good! I’m thinking that with my improved stability and movement that I may take up slacklining next.


Final bows at the Boobie Trap

On the fun and recreation side, I have been frequenting events involving local performers. Most notably the Fox Coffee House open mics on Thursdays and Saturdays, and the monthly Speak it Easy:Creative Food for the Soul event. Did meet up with Kerry Winston Ward, the Fabulous Morgans (Gary and Bonnie), and Jack and Jeri Kalvan a couple of weeks ago for Scot Nery’s Boobie Trap, an event that I really do want to do a full blog post on at some point in the near future. My latest escapade was a trip to Long Beach Live, another entertainment potpourri that has been added to the spectrum of local events as of last month and is currently housed at the Mirage Cafe in Bixby Knolls. I am including a link to video that I shot there. It includes segments from the notable performances by spoken word poet Tiffany Dawn Hasse, singer Deja Nichole (a favorite of mine!), and comedian Wyatt Cote.


Speak it Easy, Wednesday, January 12, 2017

For the past four years every second Wednesday of the month has seen another incarnation of Speak It Easy: Creative Food for the Soul, and yesterday was no exception. I journeyed to the Callaloo Caribbean Kitchen on Anaheim to see the current incarnation. This was my third excursion to SIE, and once again it was a very worthwhile trip!photo-jan-11-8-14-49-pm.

SIE is the result of a collaboration between Donovan Brown (of The Black Noise), Lance Lowe, Samantha Parker, and Shelley Bruce, and is described as a vaudeville show as the founders did not want to restrict the types of expression in the show. Wednesday’s show had spoken word artists, an ongoing painting, several musical acts, a very engaging comedian, and a dance number.


As is usually the case, Donovan was joined by Victor Ujadughele to open the night as The Black Noise, a jazzy-rappy duo with Donovan taking the lead on the vocals and Victor providing the rhythm on his guitar. The Black Noise did a couple of numbers and then turned the mic over to another duo, Tony and Joseph. Tony and Joseph are part of an improv group and were looking to expand their horizons a bit by channeling The Black Noise, with Tony doing the vocals and Joseph strumming the guitar. I didn’t get the name of their Improv group, but if any readers provide me with that information I will be sure to include it.

Then things got really good! In the audience was the lovely Cameo Adele, and rumor had it that she was not planning on performing that night. She did give in to pressure, however, as she is performing a showcase at the Whiskey on the 25th of January and needs to take all opportunities to promote it. She rose to the occasion and improvised a very nice number with Victor. Video included! You can get more information about the event at the Whiskey here.


While Cameo was performing I noticed that Denicar Bergancia was in the audience, and that made me very happy indeed! Denicar, along with host Sam Parks and the aforementioned Cameo, make up the a cappella trio Bedlam Lullaby. I have seen Bedlam Lullaby on several occasions and have been enthralled by them. My prayers were answered when the trio took the mic. They performed several numbers, on of which I recorded and can be found below.

Denicar, by the way, also is the creative force behind Harmony Cakes, and she had provided us with a delicious cake that was eagerly consumed at the end of the evening.

Other performers on the evening included Monty Kong, who is a Brooklyn rapper transplanted to Long Beach who turned it up for the evening. There was a very polished spoken word duo, Stephanie and Eddy, who performed as Steady. Stephanie and Eddie, who are also community organizers, have been together forever, but only married for a short time. Also taking the stage was Igi, a very unlikely looking hip-hop dancer who displayed some serious agility and body control. Artist Shelley Bruce was a constant presence and created a painting while the show was in progress.


As if I hadn’t already had enough on my plate, there was also a performance by Mardy Mac Fly, a young comedian who had impressed me greatly the first time I had come to SIE. I very much regretted at the time that I hadn’t recorded any of his material, so this time I managed to record it. I am including one clip below, and I have another on my YouTube channel.