Bloom

 

Sometimes when I’m out walking, I look around and marvel at how great Los Angeles can be. Our sweet neighborhoods hold every type of house and mostly good people. I love seeing what folks have done to their homes and how they deal with drought in their landscaping. Mostly, I enjoy this city when I’m out walking. I lay claim to it, and it lays claim to me.

 

Road Closed

 

But not always. Los Angeles, like a lot of the country, is injured. And I’m not talking about nature, with her drought and fire damage. I’m referring to our staggering homeless population and city policies that have contributed to it. Rubber-stamping high-priced developments continues to diminish affordable housing here. Hell – the bunkers going up by our home wiped out the character-filled, affordable homes that once added to our neighborhood. The ugly-ass structures now towering over our street leave me wondering which hideous box will serve as the local fall-out shelter. (They really are that heinous, y’all.) And the unprofessional, callous behavior of the developers themselves is appalling. But I guess they donate to the right campaigns, as they continue to enjoy free rein in this town, regardless of their conduct or product.

 

It’s “development” like what’s taking place in our neighborhood that is tarnishing my adopted hometown. Now, when I walk around, I see the cracks. I see the failures of our leaders and the trickle-down effect. The photo above captures this perfectly. When the powers that be dump on their constituents, the constituents dump on their surroundings. It ain’t right and I don’t like it. But there’s no denying it’s happening. And no matter how sweet the neighborhood, no one is immune.

 

I’m trying hard to remember to bloom where I’m planted. And I am definitely planted, y’all. Today – like every day – will find a busload of arriving souls, starry-eyed and hopeful for dreams of L.A. And for her part, Los Angeles will deliver what she can. But she’s not perfect, and those who govern her are as flawed as anyone can be. So while those of us who choose to plant ourselves here get great weather, we also get the weight of the city. And for as long as we remain, we must carry it. That isn’t new. I’ve known that since day 1. It’s just that sometimes, well, it’s hard to bloom where you’re planted when the bloom is off the rose.

So Long, Sucky Year. Hello Hope!

 

Happy New Year!

 

Many, many years ago, while living in Boston, I walked along Newbury Street and passed a homeless lady. She was a regular in that area, and I was used to seeing her on that block. As I walked by, she sang out, “Help the homeless! And happy fucking Mother’s Day.” It did, in fact, happen to be Mother’s Day, so her chant wasn’t terribly odd. I did find it to be terribly funny, though, and I’ve never forgotten it.

 

I bring that up now because in my mind, I’m singing, “Happy New Year! And happy fucking Mother’s Day.” You’re welcome.

 

Seriously – it’s finally here. That god-awful 20-and-17 is behind us. Personally – I’m hopeful. Last year was ugly and depressing. Truth be told, the ugly hasn’t gone away. But at least now I know about it. We all know. And knowing is good, y’all. We know what we’re up against. And we can choose to be better than those who continue to choose ignorance. Better makes me hopeful. Better makes me smile. It’s the right choice for me, and I sincerely hope it is for you, too.

 

As for that homeless lady in Boston, I remember crossing her path on another day. It was summer, and my friend Beaver, who was wearing shorts, was walking close to the lady. As Beaver passed her, the homeless lady looked at Beaver and loudly said, “Ha. I’ve seen better legs on a piano.” You’re welcome for that one, too.

 

Happy New Year.

 

And happy fucking Mother’s Day.

Merry Christmas, Y’all!

 

Wanted to send out sweet wishes for a Merry Christmas. So-Cal style…

 

Palm Tree Rudolph - Made by Gwendlyn

Family Heirloom

 

Have you ever had a thing in your life that you just assumed would always be there? For instance, sitting where I am right now, I can see a couple of paintings I anticipate keeping until I die. I see a book I don’t plan to part with. I even see a very old (and very fragile) tapestry pillow that’s dear to me and that I will fight for. (I’m pretty sure it’s not Mister’s favorite, so a fight could theoretically come to pass.) Yes – I’m talking about stuff here, but it’s stuff I like. Stuff I love.

 

It happens. We fall for things. Sometimes we encounter something and know – all the way down to our toes – that we are smitten. Those moments don’t have to make sense. Those items don’t have to make sense. We feel what we feel and that’s that. Other times, however, with other things, the bonds are slow to develop. We don’t realize it’s happening, but those items are endearing themselves to us, day by day, year by year.

 

Broken Egg Plate

 

That’s what happened to Mister and me with our old deviled egg plate. We got it soon after we were married, as I thought Mister’s famous (and secret-recipe) deviled eggs deserved to be presented on a worthy tray. So I found a simple but lovely Indiana Glass tray and that was that. It survived multiple cross-country moves and multiple raucous parties. It has held all varieties of egg and then some. (We are big deviled egg fans, y’all.) And we loved it.

 

Alas – nothing is forever. The old egg plate made one last appearance at one last party and her number came up. My heart winced, at her loss, but Mister seemed to take it a bit harder. I guess I was surprised by that. But I also understood. I’m a sentimental gal. I can’t help but empathize with the sentimentality of others.

 

Because it weighed on him so, Mister took it upon himself to find a suitable replacement for the old egg plate. Without really knowing it, he tracked down another Indiana Glass tray. This time it’s blue. It hasn’t been christened yet, but will be soon. I’m sure the eggs will be delicious. And I’m sure that in no time our new family heirloom will endear itself to us and our table. Even if we don’t realize it’s happening.

Thursday Memories – Christmas

 

 

This photo was taken some 20-odd years ago at a Christmas Pajama-Jammie-Jam Party. Mister and I threw the bash and darned near every single guest showed up in their jammers. (A few wore next to nothing, so be careful what you wish for when throwing a themed party. I’m just sayin’.)

 

As you can see, I am asleep. And not fake asleep, either. I am full-on, smile-on-my-face, dead-to-the-world asleep. Here’s what I remember: I did a walk-through to pick up stray cups and trash. By the time I went into our room, I thought how appealing and comfy the bed looked. I thought I’d just have a lie down, to confirm how appealing and comfy the bed was. My intention was to simply enjoy the moment, then return to the party. There was a party, remember? And it was going full-swing. There was music and drinking and other stuff, noise and revelry and laughter. It was a good time and I was enjoying the heck out of myself. But then that danged bed caught my eye. Within seconds of lying down, I was out and that was it. Later, I was told that Mister and a whole bunch of people had come in, found me asleep, taken various photos, laughed and made fun of me. Then they all went back out and resumed the party. I didn’t wake until the next morning.

 

Here’s hoping the parties of this Christmas will leave us all filled with joy and good spirits. And, when the time is right, may we all find appealing and comfy beds for our winter slumber.

Flower Power

A while back I told y’all I was crocheting squares for blankets, blankets that would be donated to women going through critical treatment at a local hospital. I said something or other about the beauty of doing something for others, knowing there would never be any acknowledgement from said others. That the giving was the reward. I was content with those thoughts and figured I’d pass on the squares and the rest would be out of my line of sight.

 

Turns out, it was going to be a bit of a hurdle to get those squares to someone who might turn them into the needed blankets. Instead of fretting or waiting, I decided to just take care of it myself. I hadn’t imagined my squares being used together, for if I had, I wouldn’t have embellished so many of them. (I’m a girl. I embellish and bedazzle.) But embellished they were, and I worked with what I had on hand.

 

As I connected the crocheted squares, I did see flaws and janky stitches. I saw mistakes and even added a few more. And through it all, I prayed that the piece be imbued with love. Just love. And an interesting thing happened. I was filled with love. While I worked on the piece, I was calm and content. And when it was finished, I knew it would appeal to some quirky, spirited individual. And that she would love it. I call it Flower Power…

 

Flower Power Blanket

The Mercy of Nature

 

Super Moon

 

On Sunday night, Mister and I pulled out the binos to have a look-see at the Super Moon, and it did not disappoint. Even with regular old binoculars, we could see craters galore and what I refer to as the moon’s belly-button. Later that night, I had a little trouble sleeping. I blamed it on the moon.

 

Monday brought warnings of Santa Anas. Such an innocent-sounding name for such potentially deadly winds. Many of us watched and listened, but the day proceeded with little worry. On Monday night, I again took out the binos and looked in the direction of the moon. Still fantastic, still clear. But the winds were picking up and I could see a haze nearing the moon’s glow. It wasn’t clouds, really. It felt wrong. It was wrong. During the night, I woke to the sounds of the wind and struggled to get even a little sleep. I felt mad at myself, for not being able to rest. The whole of the night limped along that way. When I woke Tuesday morning, I logged on to the interwebz, read a post from The Bloggess, and realized that she had written about her own sleep struggles where nature is concerned, and in a far more eloquent manner than I might ever accomplish. I’m giving you the link to that post here, so that you might read the work of a beautiful writer, as well as get a glimpse of what some (maybe many) of us encounter while being a part of this world, even though our triggers can be quite different.

 

Tuesday also found me cleaning soot, dirt, limbs and leaves from the pool. The Santa Anas had wreaked havoc up the coast, sending fires blazing at an astounding clip. Back here at the homestead, after an hour of cleaning, I had removed most of the leaves and solid sizable debris from the pool’s water. The bottom of the pool was black, however, so I left the poor filter running for a bit, hoping a dent might be made in the sediment.

 

Fire North of Los Angeles

 

I had a few pressing engagements beyond the house, so I ventured out into the devil winds. At one intersection, I saw three separate leaf-filled funnels swirling in the street. The air was dirty and each time I left the relative calm of the car, my eyes burned and itched. News from Ventura, just up the coast, was dire. Before I could get my head around that fire’s continuing damage, news of another fire hit. This time it was just outside Los Angeles proper. I wondered about friends living in those areas. As I drove into North Hollywood, I looked up and saw smoke plumes. The winds continued. No relief.

 

Tuesday night, I went to bed and hoped for the best. The winds were still whipping, still angry, still dangerous. At just after 2am, I woke to strong smells of smoke. I listened intently, in case I could hear the whispers of flames. I heard only wind, and got up to check the area. None of my neighbors’ homes were burning, so it must have been the shifting winds – bringing the heavy smell of destruction to our street. When morning came, there was an added layer of soot on every surface. The pool cleaning began anew, this time with Mister handling the duties. More fires were reported and more damage had been done. Schools were closed. Businesses, too. Folks required to work outside were wearing breathing masks and goggles. The smoke smell was everywhere. There was no keeping it out. Morning news devoted itself solely to fire coverage.

 

I had a lunch meeting slated and while driving there, a sickening haze of smoke hung in Laurel Canyon. If it had been fog, the air would have been cooler. But that wasn’t the case. It was hot out. And this air hurt when breathed in. At the restaurant, a couple sitting nearby were intently following news updates on their phone. After a brief word with them, my table-mates and I came to understand the couple lived only a few streets over from the blazes of the Skirball Fire. They showed us video taken from their backyard, video of too-close flames and low-flying planes, doing the lord’s work by dropping fire repellent where they could. The couple could do nothing but wait. My friends and I offered prayers. Otherwise, there was nothing at all we could do.

 

As I write this, it’s Wednesday, early evening. Properties have been destroyed or are burning. Evacuations are being enforced. Freeways are closed, as fire danger is too near to risk allowing vehicles in certain areas. The Santa Anas are expected to blow through Saturday.  To say we here in Los Angeles are on edge is terribly inadequate. We are heart-broken and we are terrified. California has been scarred by fires this year (as well as years past). The damage is far from over. I don’t know how some folks will recover from this. Sadly, many will not. No matter where we live, we tend to think we control our home life. In suburban settings, we cultivate gardens and mold our outdoors into something pleasing to ourselves. In city settings, we trade home greenery for local parks. And yet, no matter where we reside, we control nothing really. Fires can spark. Tornadoes can twist. Floods can surge. The world, for all its beauty and wonder, is a tricky place. And no matter how much we love it, we will never truly control it.

 

I don’t expect to sleep well tonight. I am at the mercy of Nature.

 

London - The Last Day - Highgate Cemetery - Photo by Mister

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Christmas in Hollywood

 

I have never understood why “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music is considered a holiday song. The mere mention of snowflakes hardly seems reason enough to qualify, but the song is about to be all over the danged place, now that it’s December, so I am obviously wrong in my thinking.

 

Anyhoo – I thought I’d share a few of my own favorite things to kick off the last month of the year. Bear in mind that if you ask me next week, my list will probably change. But this is today. And these are some of the things I’m digging on…

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Squares

 

Squares. I’ve been crocheting all kinds of 9-inch squares to be made into blankets for women undergoing serious treatments at a local hospital. I don’t know how to knit, so I crochet. I don’t really know how to properly crochet either, so the squares turn out a little janky sometimes. That’s okay. It’s all done with good intentions and love, and I like to think those sentiments outweigh my lack of skill. I will likely never meet any of the recipients of the assembled blankets, and that’s okay, too. Doing something for others without accolades is ridiculously fulfilling. I highly recommend it.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Pearls

 

Pearls. I don’t own real pearls, but I do have a few strands of fake beauties. I wear them all the time and someone always comments about how they wish they’d thought to wear their own pearls. The large plastic baubles seen here are especially dear to me. I got them when I was 15 years old. I was at a thrift store in Griffin, GA, and when I spotted these, I knew they were destined to be mine. I can’t remember the price, but they were either fifteen or thirty-five cents. Either way, it was a bargain and I’m still smitten.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Sunsets

 

Sunsets. We’ve been having some real doozies lately and I’m loving them. I take as many photos as I can, for painting references. The thing about sunsets is they’re so spectacular, if I were to paint them, no one would believe it. They’re beyond anything I could come up with on a canvas, and yet I desperately wish I could capture some of what I see in the sky. I try, anyway. And I fail. And then I try again.

 

Mister! Mister!

 

Mister. He pretty much makes the list, no matter when. But it’s still nice to actually like the guy. And for some strange reason, he continues to come home every day. To me. I’m no picnic, y’all, and I know that he could change his mind about this whole till-death-do-us-part business and decide to mosey elsewhere in life. (It could happen.) So I appreciate whatever time I get with the fella. It counts. A lot.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - First Christmas Card of the Season

 

The first Christmas Card of the Year. I always marvel that we continue to receive cards each December! Some of that awe comes from the fact that we occasionally don’t send squat, and reciprocity would dictate not receiving anything in return. But come December, that first card arrives and I start grinning. This year’s first-of-the-season greeting was from our mail carrier. She wanted to let us know that she was retiring.  I’ve liked that gal and she’ll be missed. But life keeps going (if we’re lucky and a cheet-o in a slumpy suit doesn’t get us all killed). So I wish our now former mail carrier the best as she embarks on the next part of her journey.

 

Happy Birthday, Gwendlyn!

 

Friends. The Social Season is in full-swing and I’m already tired. Grateful, but tired. Maybe it’s age, but I am in the throes of deep appreciation for my friends. I, like a lot of folks, know scads of people. But friends, well, that’s another matter. Having friends in one’s life – people we can call on in emergencies or times of need – is a blessing. I don’t get to see these friends nearly enough. But when I do, I catch myself smiling more than usual. I’d say that’s a pretty good sign of how much I care for them there folk. What a gift.

 

A Few of My Favorite Things - Christmas CDs

 

Christmas Music. Even though I don’t get the song referenced in this post’s title being a Christmas song, I still really like when all that great music rolls around. Mister and I have drawers full of Christmas CDs, and will likely add another to the mix this year. It takes a near Herculean effort just to get through them during the month of December. And that is why, Mister, we’ll start listening to them today. I really can’t believe I have to explain my reasons for this year after year, but since you seem to forget from one December to the next, Mister, consider this a written explanation. But I digress… Some songs are loved more than others, naturally, and I’m pretty excited to hear them. Yeah, sure – I may still be wearing flip-flops throughout the month, but a gal can dream. And my dreams are currently taking place in a winter wonderland. Where the soundtrack rules.

 

We’ve got 31 days left in this year, friends. Let’s make it count. I intend to live those days with some of my favorite things keeping me company. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to put on my fake pearls, load the car with a few good Christmas CDs, drop off some crocheting to be donated, visit with friends and pick up a Christmas tree with Mister and get home before sunset to start decorating the tree and stringing up the holiday card display. I may throw some Barb’s Boozy Eggnog into the mix. Why not? I’ve got to shake a tail feather though, as those flip-flops don’t do much in the way of keeping my feet warm after the sun goes down.

 

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.