Get Smart? Not Likely

 

Yesterday I was out for a nice, long walk, when I looked across the street and spotted this sign…

 

Du-Par's Flawed Signage

 

The apostrophe in “your’s” just about killed me. I actually turned away, shaking my head, then doubled back to snap the pic. When I finally walked away for good, I started thinking about how many sets of eyes must have fallen on that text before the sign was printed. At first, I was angry. Angry that the collective we are so friggin’ stupid as to not correct such an obvious error. And then I was simply sad. Sad that we are so stupid. Sad that we don’t value education. Sad that my favorite pancake house let me down with a typo.

 

And then I kind of got over it, because really. It’s just a sign. Not a sign. Or at least that’s what I thought. And then I looked down and spotted this…

 

Get Smart

 

It was as if the spelling and grammar gods sent me a little validation. Very little, I admit, but I’ll take what I can get.

Tierra del Sol Foundation

 

First Street Gallery Art Center of the Tierra del Sol Foundation

 

This post is in honor of “Giving Tuesday.” Sort of, which I’ll explain in a moment. Anyhoo – this day is pretty cool, as it’s all about giving back (instead of consumer-ing the shit out of a bunch of stuff we may not actually need). This marks the 6th year of Giving Tuesday (started in New York by some fine folks at the 92nd Street Y) and it has become a global opportunity to make a difference, instead of merely shopping. It is held on the first Tuesday after American Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday – 28 November of this year. The point, as I understand it, is to donate to a worthy cause and help the world in the process. Every little bit counts, and as most of us have something we care about, if not a few things, we get to make a difference by supporting those whose work is all about making a difference. In other words, even if I only give a couple of dollars to a charity I respect, it will be added to someone else’s couple of dollars, and will eventually pay for progress and positive change. That’s the idea anyway and I believe it.

 

First Street Gallery Art Center: Various Artist Works

 

But Giving Tuesday is only part of what I want to share. I recently toured First Street Gallery Art Center in Claremont, CA. The center is part of Tierra del Sol Foundation and I swear – they ought to call themselves Tierra del Soul! I had been told about First Street and had even read a bit online, but I was not prepared for the magnificence I witnessed during that tour. The short explanation is this: this center serves folks with physical and/or intellectual disabilities, by giving them creative space to create their own art. I believe there were 40 artists at work in the space that day – along with about 10 instructors -  and yet it was incredibly quiet. Everyone was focused on the art! And what art is was! I saw people working on paintings, sculpture, drawing, mixed media pieces and a bunch of other things I haven’t yet gotten my mind around. It was overwhelming, in the most beautiful way.

 

First Street: Artist Helen Rae

 

And it gets better! The artists at this fabulous center are good, y’all. They are encouraged to sell their works and they earn income from their sales. Lest you think the pieces are sold only from the center itself, let me tell you that some of the artists I met are getting gallery shows around the freaking globe. Helen Rae‘s work is highly collected and demands a pretty penny. I watched her working and was taken by how content she seemed. Here she was, in a room full of people, sharing table space with another artist, and yet she was fine. She had all the space she needed in order to create. I certainly took note of the situation and hope I remember what I saw, especially if I get all whiny about my own creative corner set-up.

 

First Street: Artist Joe Zaldivar

 

Another of the astounding artists I met was Joe Zaldivar. Joe was so smiley and industrious! I saw him working and can tell you this – the man is fast. He was free-handing every aspect of the work and I was blown away by the results. I can’t draw a straight line to save my life, but Joe sure can. His pieces are fun and detailed and they really make me happy. Joe is also in demand and showing his work around the world. It doesn’t surprise me, either, as I can’t be the only person who sees his pieces and smiles from the inside out.

 

First Street: Artist Dru McKenzie

 

As the tour continued, I met artists who are creating characters for all sorts of ideas (animation projects, games) and I could barely keep the flies from coming in my mouth because I could barely lift my chin up from the floor. The work was that impressive. And so were the artists. I saw human beings being treated like human beings. The artists I met were confident and capable folks who were treated with respect. It was beautiful. I have to tell you – I felt there was well-deserved and healthy swagger in that room. I was in awe. Still am.

 

So here’s the deal. On this Giving Tuesday, I plan to send a little money to the fine folks at First Street Gallery Art Center. My contribution may only be a drop in the bucket, but as I recently told a friend, buckets are filled by drops. Every little bit, y’all. Every little bit. And I encourage you to honor the soulful intent behind Giving Tuesday and give to a cause that makes your heart smile. If you can give generously, great! If you can give a little, great! Because if you can give anything at all, you are blessed. It’s a wonderful thing – being blessed. It is greater still to know it.

 

And In The End…

 

Earlier this month I wrote about saying goodbye to my old Volvo. I told of how the car’s radio, broken for years, had magically sparked to life as I took the old gal out for her last ride.  The song that was playing when the music came through the speakers? “When I Need You” by Leo Sayer. The radio station? 100.3 The Sound.

 

100.3 The Sound

 

Yesterday the FCC made it possible for only a few piggies to have all the pie in the broadcast radio and TV markets of America. I’m simplifying, to be sure, but that’s the way a lot of folks see it, and I’m one of them there folks.

 

Yesterday was also the last day an L.A. radio station served our market. 100.3 The Sound has been around for 10 years and it’s been grand. The station played classic rock, but not like some of the nationally programmed crap we’re fed. The Sound used real-live DJs, and they were responsible for providing listeners with music not found anywhere else on the dial. The DJs had distinct personalities and tastes. That used to be common. I grew up with terrestrial radio like that. But today? Nope. Up and down the dial, it’s nowhere to be found, or it’s so rare as to require a wire hanger and acrobatic maneuvers in order to tune it in.

 

The Sound knew the end was nigh, as it had been sold to one of those aforementioned station-grabbing piggies. The DJs had been preparing us – the listeners – and themselves for the inevitable last song. Along the way, I paid attention to the DJs, to the station’s ads and to the music. One of the spots referenced the fact that a lot of the songs played there may never again be heard on radio. Think about that. Will I happen to hear “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads elsewhere? Sure. But will I hear “Fool to Cry” by The Rolling Stones? Probably not. And I damn sure won’t hear “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” by Traffic. Not gonna happen. Not in the Los Angeles market anyway. Not anymore.

 

So as 100.3 The Sound wrapped up their run yesterday, Andy Chanley (the first DJ at the station, a decade ago) said something about “…the last 11 words of this album side…” I immediately started crying. I knew what was coming: side 2 of “Abbey Road” in its entirety. For a few years in my youth, I fell asleep listening to that each and every night. On vinyl, just like they played it on The Sound. Yesterday, as I listened to the masterpiece in the middle of the day, I took care of some bid-ness and earned my keep. All the DJs and staff had gathered for the final farewell. They expressed their gratitude for each other, for the listeners, for the station, for the music. At the close of “Abbey Road,” the format immediately changed to christian pop, whatever the fuck that ungodly mess is. The now former DJs and staff are all likely searching for new jobs.

 

Speaking for the listeners, I can tell you that we are merely searching.

The End of An Era

 

 

Seventeen years ago I needed a car. I had an old beater, and it had served me well. Its hatchback had also fallen on my head a few times and jacked up my neck. There are a lot of things up with which I can put, but bodily harm ain’t one of ‘em. So the beater had to go.

 

 

I was out walking one day and I passed a couple of old ladies sitting on a bench. As I moved by them, I overheard one of the ladies saying she needed to sell her recently deceased friend’s car, as that was the last item to settle in the deceased’s estate. I stopped in my tracks and actually backed up. I looked at the ladies and said, “I need a car.” Conversation ensued and we set an appointment for me to test drive the vehicle.

 

 

When I  showed up, I knew I was in trouble, as I instantly fell in love with the car. After a very quick negotiation, we shook on the price and the deal was done. That’s how I became the caretaker of a 1966 Volvo 122 S.

 

 

I have loved that car more than you know. The adventures we’ve shared – some good, some not-so-good – are etched in my memory. I once drove her through a flooded intersection and the water was so high, it knocked out the engine. Momentum got me to the side of the road, where I had to wait for the old gal to dry out before she’d start again. I had to learn to use a choke with this car. When she was cold, I’d ride the choke like nobody’s business, until she warmed up a bit. I got real good at it, too. And I remember this one time, I was driving her in downtown L.A. Mister and his buddy Jack Daniels were in the back seat and my friend Gillian was in the front. As I took a hard left turn, at speed, Gillian’s passenger side door started to swing open. I reached across, real quick-like, and grabbed the door before she fell out. Also, whenever the front windshield fogged over, I used a throw pillow to wipe it clean so that I could see. I’ve kept a couple of leopard-printed throw pillows in there for the front passengers (myself included). The seat webbing has sagged and I can’t see over the dash without the boost of a pillow. These are just a few of the memories I’ve stored involving the old Volvo. Truth be told, there are too many to recount.

 

 

But now, well, it’s the end of an era. The old gal has been sold to someone else. I imagine he’s gonna hot-rod the shit out of it and make it into something altogether different. That’s okay. She belongs to him now and he gets to do as he pleases. I don’t begrudge him that. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s how it’s supposed to be. He’s gonna tweak and tinker and come up with something that makes his heart melt. Honestly, I kind of knew he was in trouble the first time he came to see her. It looked to me like he fell in love with her, instantly.

 

 

Nothing lasts forever, friends. The car’s original owner, Gertrude, had the old Volvo from 1966 (when it was brand-spanking-new) until her death in 2000. Sammie, the gal who sold the car to me, well, she passed away last year. And now the old Volvo is off to other parts of the world, and to new adventures with her new owner. If he’s lucky, she’s got another 100,000 miles in her. Volvos are weird that way. Only time will tell.

 

 

The day before I watched her drive away for the last time, I took her for a spin. I don’t know what possessed me, but I reached over to the old radio. It’s been broken for years, so I’ve always just driven around with my own thoughts providing the soundtrack for my travels. But there I was, reaching for that knob, as if it was something I’d done every day. And I swear, the radio came on. And so I listened to “The Sound,” a radio station that’s about to be gone forever, as its new owners plan to switch the format from Classic Rock to Christian Pop. (I would call that an oxymoron, but it’s simply moronic.) I started laughing and crying, and it wasn’t lost on me that the old gal was giving me the gift of a little goodbye music. That she was playing herself off the stage. That she was giving me one last memory.

 

 

And memories I have. Along with more photos than most people might find sensible. I don’t know what to tell you. I loved the old gal. She got me around. In style. She came along just when I needed her and she helped me be true to myself. That one’s too deep to go into, so you’ll just have to trust me.

 

 

I wish the new owner well. I hope he and the old Volvo have spectacular adventures and that they make memories he can file away for himself. Memories that bring a smile to his face someday, when he’s well into middle-age and remembering.

 

 

We should all be so lucky as to have fond memories. Of life, of love, of cars. I can almost hear the old gal humming, and she’s beautiful.