Uninhibited Love at the California Plaza.

Well. I’ve been back in Los Angeles for a month now, and due to that inherently adaptable nature that has permitted the human race to swarm over every continent, it feels like I was never away. I don’t even having a craving for crawfish.

I rounded out New Orleans with a weekend full of tourist attractions and returned to California armed with a determination to DO STUFF.  STUFF being frivolous, fun things that are either cheap or free. Not getting-your-life-in-order-and-making-something-of-yourself-stuff, obviously.

Last weekend I spent Friday and Saturday nights at the California Plaza downtown, which is a small open air amphitheatre combined with a landscaped pond and two staging areas. The top station of Angel’s Flight is housed there.

Angel’s Flight: a 50 cent tram ride that will take you from the bottom of a steep hill to the top of it, or vice versa. A short ride, over in mere seconds, it is a relic of a bygone era where LA folks still adhered to European and East Coast fashion trends and would faint whilst walking up a hill in the desert heat and many layers of petticoats, corsets, and wool. Unlike today’s unofficial SoCal uniform of shorts, loose fitting top, and a light sweater carried only to protect oneself from the arctic air-conditioning.

Throughout the summer they have live concerts every weekend that are freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. So last Friday I saw a fantastic reggae/ska band (the combination works, I promise), followed by drinks at Bernadette’s, a bar noted for it’s collection of crappy junk on the shelves. You can call it nostalgic kitsch if you want… you hoarder. The bar’s nice by the way, I’d happily go there again, I’m just not planning on moving in.

Saturday night, after a picnic in delightful Barnsdall Art Park – which has NO PUBLIC TOILETS. If the museum is open you can use the ones in there, but we all know that museum hours are capricious little buggers, and then you’re stuck with legging it down the hill, jumping in your car to zoom over to the nearby Riteaid, and finding an employee with nothing to do so they can key in the super duper secret pin number that unlocks the restroom – I pootled back to the plaza to see the Love Uninhibited Orchestra.

The concept is simple, the result is pure awesome. They are an orchestra, they play only love songs (mostly from the 70s) and the crowd has to be uninhibited because the lyrics are projected on a big screen behind the band and it’s audience participation all the way.

Our little section of the amphitheatre did seem to be particularly loud, and accompanied the orchestra not only with enthusiastic, off-key vocals, but also a chorus of clinking and sloshing. I’m not one to brag (unless I parallel park perfectly, and then I tell EVERYONE) but our rendition of Tom Jones’ ‘It’s Not Unusual’ was outstanding.

The open air free Summer concert is an integral part of LA life. I get a kick out of seeing families at them: everyone relaxes; parents’ adult beverages happily coexist with the kids’ juice boxes; there’s dancing down by the stage, and lolling about on blankets everywhere else. The highlight of the Love Uninhibited Orchestra, was actually a large group of kids of various ages (say 6 – 16) that had clearly been dragged along by their parents, and then gleefully discovered they recognized all the songs. By about the third tune, most of the audience had spied their silhouettes dancing on the opposite side of the water, making up superbly choregraphed routines incorporating synchronised ballet leaps, dabbing, flossing, some leg kicking move that I’ve seen around a lot but don’t know what it’s called, conga lines, classic kick lines, and some scary lifts and spins with the younger kids. They were brilliant, joyous, uninhibited, and, in stark contrast to their parents, completely sober.

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Bayou Boogaloo

The Bayou Boogaloo took place a good three weeks ago, and I’m still happy about it. Bayou by the way is a Southern word for a body of water, that’s not wide enough to be a lake, not grassy enough to be a marsh, and not fast moving enough to be a river or a stream. The St John bayou runs through the heart of the city and is one of the prettiest places to bike, run (should you be so willfully and ridiculously inclined in this perfect-for-passing-out-unconscious heat), walk, kayak, or sit under a tree and do nothing.

Once a year a 0.3 mile strip of the bayou welcomes a slew of beer tents, food stalls, and stages on its grassy verges for the eagerly anticipated Bayou Boogaloo. A free festival that brings everyone outdoors so they can stuff themselves to the gills; dance, drink and dehydrate; and then drunkenly clamber onto canoes, kayaks, inflatable swans, flamingos, unicorns and some truly inspired home made rafts to float around getting sunburnt and wasted, until the sun goes down.

Hands down my favourite raft of the day was the platform lovingly crafted from bits of plywood with a rickety railing, zero method of steering, and festooned with flags including..wait for it.. our very own Welsh dragon. Tiny nation, will travel.

Special mentions go to the two groups of people who took the traditional wooden picnic tables with built in benches perched upon boogie boards and barrels… and spectacularly failed to get them to float.

The braver (most inebriated) folks went swimming in the bayou, something that is strongly discouraged due it to being mega mingingly dirty, full of broken glass, rusted metal (and sunken picnic benches), and home to alligators. In fact, I ended my evening sitting on the bank gazing over the dark waters and saying to my friends, “What’s that? Is that..? Oh my god is that an alligator?  It is isn’t it, isn’t it!” And them saying, “Nah. Don’t be daft, that’s a HOLY SHITBALLS, IT’S A GATOR!20180519_154110

 

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Look really closely… there’s a Welsh flag on that raft.

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Traffic jam on the bayou.

 

 

Trespasser.

Been meaning to write for ages – so much to say , so little time – but tonight’s incident cannot wait. After a lovely evening at Oyster fest and Frenchmen St, I came home, opened the bathroom draw and there, nestled amongst my moisturizers was a cockroach.

Yeah. Cockroach. Not a little one either.

The trespasser most likely came in from the back of the sink. I tried to do the decent thing and trap it with a cup. Unfortunately it was a bit speedy and fled the drawer with a death defying leap to the floor. With the adrenalin now coursing through my veins ( they are really very quick which tends to make me a bit skittish) I was a tad over enthusiastic on the cup trapping, and the cockroach was rather eager to escape… and that’s how we ended up with a cockroach in two halves on the bathroom floor and the head half still very much alive.

After a swift mercy killing and a burial at sea, I realized something quite horrible… my toothbrush was in that drawer.  Said toothbrush is now soaking in bleach.

Hope you all had a good weekend.

A little City Park exploration.

Ok. I’ve recovered from the shock of Infinity War, and now I’m just kind of numb about it. Not really excited to see where they go with it next. Don’t get me wrong, the film was fantastic and superbly crafted but I feel like I did after the Buffy season 7 finale, or the last Harry Potter book… what do we now? Cup of tea anyone?

Life on the bayou though continues to be incredible. I explored City Park last week which is enormous, and needs several more days of exploring. I wandered through the botanical gardens (ver, ver charming I want to go back with a sketch book and a picnic) where they have a tropical house with an Alligator Gar, a fish that is clearly at the top of the fresh water food chain.  It is MASSIVE and apparently the 5ft monster I saw was only a wee tiddler, they can grow up to three times that size. I guess this one stopped growing after it had eaten all its little friends (the rest of the pond was suspiciously fishy free). The tropical house was also home to a cobalt blue tarantula, which was nowhere to be seen. I peered into that tank from all different angles, couldn’t spot it, and then left the tropical house extremely quickly doing the get-that-spider-off-me shimmy shake.

Next stop was a small landscaped wood with the only hill in New Orleans, a whopping 46ft above sea level. Fairy tale pretty, the wood has several look outs over the lake and there’s no trace of the city at all.  I’m normally so proud of Griffith Park back in LA as a lovely place to escape, but on this occasion I was green with envy – I want a magical lake and an enchanted forest!

There’s also a stunning sculpture garden free to the public (although if you have Louisiana ID everything is free on a Wednesday) displaying a diverse range from classical Greco-Roman statues, to political commentary pieces, to genius level of mind bending clever construction, to oh-my-that-looks-like-a-giant-butt-plug-on-casters. Damn it why did I forgot to take photos? Fear not I shall go back and get piccies of the plug for you.

Ooh they had an Enrique Alferez sculpture area in the botanical gardens too, and whilst his sculptures were gorgeous the thing that really intrigued me was a little tidbit of information about his father Longinos Alferez, who was also a sculptor, primarily of religious statues. Longinos committed suicide at 117 years old, by walking up a mountain and then throwing himself off it.  One would think that at 117, the walk up the mountain alone would do the job. But I guess that’s the point isn’t it, you’re 117, still robust as a  mountain goat and getting impatient to move on.

That’s it for now, it is the Bayou Boogaloo this weekend, and there is much boogalooing to be done.

 

Storytelling and Theological Theory.

Friday night I went to see Queer Mountain Cabaret Storytelling.  Seeing that written down, I just keep thinking there’s a Netflix Series in that title; a vignette of tales about the lives of a lumberjack choir. Cliché? Yes. Do you want to see it? Yeah you do! Admit it, you would binge watch that in a heart beat.

The show was utterly fascinating. I laughed a lot at what people were saying but the humor came from their self deprecation, not from the circumstances of the story, so the majority of the time we merely a quiet, attentive audience. Ooh wait, disclaimer: there was one guy who told a story about his high school graduation and an army of PTA moms armed with ball point pens frenziedly stabbing a giant inflatable penis.

Anyhoo, leaving that spectacular mental image to one side, the other stories were poignant and revealing: family acceptance; self-acceptance; loves that got away; loves that worked out spectacularly well; one very long story about a woman’s fear of vaginas (other people’s not her own); and the lows of having a career on stage. I love watching stand-up comedy, but the storytelling was far more appealing to me… I think  it’s because I’m nosy. Jokes are great, but people’s life stories are captivating, and I’ve long had a habit of changing conversational tack with the phrase, “So I want to ask you something, and please tell me to F’ off if you don’t want to answer it, but..”

Which wonkily leads me to a hypothetical theological theory about miracles.

Hypothetically, let’s say god(s) exist. This theological theory says our creation story was not particularly divine, but neither was it a random accident. Instead life was created as a form of entertainment. Godflix. There’s no grand plan, we ‘re just long running moving picture shows. And when people shake their fists skywards at calamity and tragedy, there’s a bunch of deities on a couch with a bucket of popcorn, murmuring “Oh my me! They just never get a break! One more episode, maybe two. How many are left in the season? I need to see what happens next.” For the most part they’re just spectators grumbling if there’s a plot twist they don’t like, but occasionally you’ll get one or two who are really invested in the characters, who are distraught when their favourites on the show don’t get together after years of will they/ won’t they scripting. So they sit at a desk, surviving only on Doritos and box wine for three days, passionately writing alternative fan fiction to make that happy ending come true … and that is where miracles come from.

Wow.  Really living up to the rambling part of my name today.

 

Jammin’ on Julia.

‘Twas the night before Jazz Fest and all round the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Completely not true – there were winged termites running riot and having a party – see last post’s picture. Not to mention a couple of moths, and some quite interesting, not-scary-enough-to-panic-me-but-just-keep-your-distance-sunshine, red bugs.

However I was not there at the time to enjoy Insectapalooza.  Instead I was on Julia Street, which is the New Orleans Art District, a two block strip of art galleries, on a very pleasant, wide sunny road.

I’m making the sunny part up. I was there at night.

Every year the arts district hosts Jammin’ on Julia. Gallery doors are propped open, and  the automobile traffic in the street is replaced with bands, installations, food, booze and art-loving, alcohol-guzzling pedestrians. I was going to go for an hour, I stayed for three.

There are a plethora of galleries in New Orleans, if you’re visiting and feel you’ve had your fill of them in the French Quarter, I encourage you to fortify yourself with a beignet and head over to Julia in the CBD. The galleries in the French Quarter are for the most part either selling the same paintings or at least very similar styles, whereas in the arts district they deal in distinctly different genres. They’re pretty proud of it too… I was informed by one gallery owner, “Oh it’s a totally different caliber of work over here, not all the mush they do for the tourists.” He wasn’t wrong, but I happen to like the tourist mush, it has mass appeal after all because it is so very appealing. The tourist mush is also cheaper. I stared at one pile of welded metal wondering if it was supposed to conjure up images of giant chopsticks, and discovered the price on it was $18,500.

Giant metal chopsticks… or new car.  Which would I rather?

Don’t be put off, there was plenty of cool stuff to make up for the chopsticks. If I had a Pinterest board, it would feature the following items:

  1. Delicate loops of wood carved from one massive piece to look like.. well I was seeing sponge actually, but I guess you could go with any network of holes –  honeycomb, English crumpets, fishnet tights?
  2. Storms of metal butterflies bursting out of walls and musical instruments.
  3. A house, not the artwork inside it but the actual house, that had pieces displayed all the way up on the third and fourth floors.  The ground floor was a light, airy space, but each ascending floor appeared more and more unkempt and neglected, until by the fourth floor you were walking through a near derelict level with sparse industrial sculptures, peeling green paint (come on up and get your lead poisoning for free folks!), a dusty unused fireplace and one beaten wing backed leather chair just perfect for quiet reflection and making a kill list.
  4. A huge illuminated bull.

The bull is my favourite by far and away. It has a stained glass quality to it but also, kind of a hippy Mystery Machine vibe. Certainly it’s eye-catching.

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Always a pleasure, never a chore.

 

 

Obviously I needed a picture from the front…20180505_195203.jpg

But it’s the view from the back that really grabs your attention.20180505_204920.jpg