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A Moment of Silence and Perhaps a Kind Deed

“I’m not gonna die. I’ll go home like a shooting star.”
-Sojourner Truth

Born 27 May 1929 in Needles, California, Donald William Parrish completed his 86-year journey through this life on 20 December 2015 in Coos Bay, Oregon.

I feel profoundly blessed that I followed my inner nudge to stop in and see Dad before driving up to Portland on Saturday 19 December; a Spiritual Imperative of sorts, even though I was leaving fully an hour (okay, two hours) later than I had intended. It was only a brief visit, but the content was truly precious. Sunday morning when I turned on my phone I learned from my brother, Luke, that Dad had passed away during the night.

I do feel sad, but also grateful ---profoundly, unutterably grateful-- that I listened to that inner guidance. I cannot really know whether anything I said or did in that brief audience made any difference to him, but it made a profound difference to ME. I feel peaceful, and “complete enough,” having expressed what was truly important in any life: that he was loved.

I wish to express my profound appreciation and gratitude to the staff at Baycrest care facility in Coos Bay, Oregon. For the two years he was there they were genuinely kind, and seemed to see and appreciate who Don Parrish was between, through, and beyond his dementia.

Most particularly I acknowledge and appreciate my eldest brother, Luke, who with support from his wife Lisa did so much to ensure that Dad was safe and as comfortable as possible in these last couple of years. At the point that my father’s dementia was progressing and he needed more care than his second wife, Signe, could provide at home, Luke and Lisa brought him up to Oregon where he could be safe and cared for at Baycrest. When I expressed gratitude to Luke for all his care he said it was an honor to have done so. Because I know my brother to be a good man, I understand that it was, indeed, an honor for him. AND I still deeply appreciate everything he did to provide for and protect our dad at the end of his earthly journey.

The idea dropped into my mind that I am now “halfway to being an orphan,” the sort of phrase my father might use, in keeping with his poetically-accurate-and-seldom-too-delicate sensibility. It is a very strange feeling. Bittersweet to think of bringing him a piece of pie (mincemeat or walnut, preferably!) and then to realize that everything Dad and I share from now on is in contained to my memory.

My father wrote his own obituary, and therein specified that he wished no (memorial) services to be held, but that if anyone wished to have a moment of silence or do a kind deed that would suffice as remembrance.

Because it was his wish I will respect that, though I find it rather... un-settling. I do not even for a moment believe that my father intended any selfishness in requesting no services be held. Rather, he likely saw it as reducing a burden on loved ones to “put on” an event while they were grieving. I now understand what a gift-- what a relief it would be-- to be able to DO something that would make this shift seem a little more real, a little more complete. I see now that the point of a memorial is only partially to celebrate the life of the Loved One who has passed on; the true benefit is that it provides the survivors a way to honour, celebrate and assimilate the Loved One’s place in their own lives so that they can figure out how to go forward without that person’s presence. Because my dad was progressively manifesting less of the personality we had always known and enjoyed, it was in some ways like he was “gone before he was gone”-- so I found myself missing "him" but not truly free to grieve the loss until now.

So I shall honour his wish for no service, and honour my own need to metabolise the place he had in my life by posting a few photos and stories here. My Readers (Hi, You Two!) know that I post rather desultorily at best (evinced in this case by a very eventful year having passed with nary an entry), but as time and brainshare permit I shall extend other observations and ruminations, possibly a few more photos. Check back whenever you get the nudge, there may be something new.

Among other things, my father could be a very, very funny man: I have grade-school memories of him drawing “tattoos” on my arm with a ballpoint pen, a fanciful, tongue-in-cheek nod to sailors he might have met somewhere. Favourite motifs were skull-and-crossbones, sailing ships, mermaids, and apple pies, usually with a banner underneath that read “MOTHER.” He was also a tinkerer of no mean ambition; he built a cannon, a modular/collapsible boat, a dollhouse, some tables and stools, numerous camping boxes, various combustible and/or exploding devices and (why ever not?) a trebuchet.

Who he was -- his spirit-- and the lessons he taught me (some enjoyed, some not) will be a meditation for later-- feel free to check back here in a month or so. I have more stories and memories that captured his way of being, and I’d love to share them, one or two at a time, here or in conversation with my Peeps. For now, let me express appreciation to the Soul who served as my father in this lifetime, and wish him Safe Travels and Happy Journeys.

If you’d like to wear mismatched socks for a day in Don Parrish’s honor, enjoy the reactions you get and tell me about them; in return, I’ll tell you the story of how that came to be part of Parrish Family Lore. Any of my friends and readers are most welcome to reach out to me (frankly email is better than leaving a comment here; I see it sooner and respond more aptly). I would surely find it comforting to share a laugh and spill a tear while I get used to the idea that he won’t be eating that piece of pie.

Happy Landings, Pop. I love you, too.

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Eleven years since that Twelfth Night

Art is partly communication, but only partly. The rest is discovery.
-William Golding

So today is Epiphany, or Dreikoenigstag

Eleven years ago today I flew from Hamburg (where I visited my host parents from my foreign exchange year) to Zurich, boarded a train that took me through the Swiss alps via the Gotthard Tunnel (truly the BEST, most satisfying 84 bucks I've spent in my entire life!) and arrived at Milano Centrale late in the afternoon. There I was met by TAT, an erstwhile college housemate who has lived in Italy for many years. We hung out together, seeing Milano and its offerings, before heading up to spend the weekend at Villa Magenta in the miniscule village of Polina, perched atop a mountain above the Italian part of Lago Maggiore.

I tried to post here the brief photo essay from the moment when, to commemorate the occasion, we stepped out to have a picture taken and were both quite astonished to find ourselves thigh-deep in snow! One of us (probably I) started laughing, and we both cracked up completely, unable to stop. DPM kept snapping away, so the goofiness of the occasion is captured for posterity.

(Unfortunately, I have not been able to get either my computer nor LiveJournal to pick up the photos, so having spent an hour trying I will have to just leave this here as a bookmark and figure it out later. PFEH!

I have a great many other happy feelings and fond memories from that trip, which journal thereof I cannot, alas, find in any of my previous hard drives. I reckon it'll turn up eventually.

In any case, I celebrate my 30-plus years of friendship with Moteo, who can still make me laugh whenever we see each other.
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Sometimes "Christmas Cheer" is a(n) Euphemism

"The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live."
-George Carlin

Driving home from the lovely Christmas celebration last night I passed this scene. Stuff like that makes me snicker, and I simply HAD to double back to take a photo. We've had a couple of windy days so I knew everything had just gotten blown over, but it looked for all the world like Santa and Frosty (AND the reindeer!) had been making a little TOO merry and just passed out on the lawn!

I left them to sleep it off...

Sleepin' it off
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And To All a Good Night

"You can keep a dog; but it is the cat who keeps people, because cats find humans useful domestic animals."
--George Mikes

Spent a very pleasant Christmas day chez QST. Blu fiiiiiinally settled on my lap after dinner, and stayed there for an hour.

Blu Christmas 2

So technically I had a Blu Christmas, but was very happy about it.

Happy Holidays, Dear Ones!
More news soon, honest!
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Glossing over the Dreadful Bits

"I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything."
-Steven Wright, comedian (b. 1955)

So it's like this: Some parts of this summer have been impressively unpleasant (such as having Shingles, and then a subsequent weird, immuno-freakout response called Erythema Multiforme). Other parts of this summer have been perfectly delightful (such as having mildly idyllic summer weather and being visited by dear friends, including NMS and Moteo, both of whom I've known since college).

Another high point was when QEH, whom I know through the Los Angeles PAX community, offered to throw some cups for me to carve, since that is one of the things I miss the most about not having access to pottery classes through a studio these days. So she threw eleven, cone-10 porcelain cup "blanks" for me! Over the course of the summer QEH not only brought the blanks to me but also took the carved cups away to be fired, hosted me at her studio in Pasadena while I glazed them, and then brought the finished cups back to me! The extra schlepping evolved to accommodate my recurrent low-energy/ healing phases, whenever she was coming into L.A. I like to think that on each occasion I fed, enjoyed, amused, and praised her well enough that she feels appreciated for the extra effort on her part, but I just gotta tell the world that the beautiful pieces you see in photos below would truly not have been possible without her. She's a pip, she is.

(*The word "pip" actually has at least twelve definitions. Here I refer to "one extraordinary of its kind.")

Here are the ten cups as first carved, before firing:
ten cups

And after glazing:
swirled pair
Glaze test
celadon trio
choppy set

For me the most satisfying moments of making pottery are;
1) Actually making it (particularly carving!);
2) Getting it back from the glaze kiln;
3) Giving it away to someone who really adores it.

Reckon I'll just look at 'em for a while before I think about Step 3.
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First the Berlin Wall, Now This...

"The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely."
-Lorraine Hansberry, playwright and painter (1930-1965)

Today I called and found out that my eighty-six year old mother --who has at best only a nodding acquaintance with the twenty-first century-- got an answering machine. I'm beginning to wonder what other miracles are possible...

(When I lived in Germany in the mid-eighties, nearly everyone I knew there was certain --absolutely, the-earth-isn't-flat-it's-round CERTAIN-- that the Berlin Wall would simply never come down, or definitely not in their lifetimes. Within five years down the wall came and ReUnification began.)
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Win a Free Trip Around the Sun!

"Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything."
-source unknown

As of yesterday I have lived in one place for a full year. Considering that for nearly three years prior to arriving here I hadn't stayed anywhere longer than four months at a time, that's cause for celebration. WooHoo!

I am so grateful for my beautiful apartment, my fun and interesting job, and being able to gather my wits and mentally "unpack." I may have observed previously that Los Angeles doesn't really feel like "home" to me, but there is much to enjoy and appreciate here, which I make it a point to do.

It's also worth noting that what actually BELONGS to me here could fit into my car...
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Hard to Believe They Let Me In, Part II

(What follows is the interview companion to the Sunset Strip Music Festival article I wrote in August of 2013, which is the previous entry here. This is my full-length version, if you scroll down a couple entries you'll see the link to what appears in the online magazine version, complete with photos).

Happy Tears for Sad Robot
by Jocelyn Parrish

I used to think that writers were fascinating people.  Now I know that they’re just curious people who write about what interests them.  When I signed on for this adventure (see link to SSMF article), I did so with a certain what-the-hell spirit, even though I wouldn’t list rock music in my top ten preferred genres. I’m a total sissy when it comes to loud noises, crowded spaces, and too much sun for that matter.  Even so, I was pretty geeked about getting to do a real interview on Saturday afternoon with a rock band, because it’s SO unlike my life and so... well, interesting.

The members of Sad Robot were still a little sweaty after their set at the Whisky.  Their single “Hold On” recently held the #1 spot for 4 out of 10 straight weeks on KROQ’s Locals Only Playlist. I sat with Cat (lead singer/songwriter), Nick (guitarist/arranger), and Derek (bassist) on a quiet, shady staircase behind the Viper Room. Their drummer, Jake, was not present for the interview (he was out schlepping the equipment, which is what ya do before ya have roadies).

Because I’m not well-versed in rock music as a genre, I had only heard of a few of their surely well-known influences, but I did ask how they defined themselves. “Well, musically,” said Cat, “we’re our own hodgepodge.” She pointed out that being eclectic can help or hurt --if you’re "unclassifiable" it’s hard to know where to sell your records-- but that they’re always evolving, and that they consider themselves more than a rock band. In ten years the sound will be different, and they trust listeners will come along with them.

Since I couldn’t really talk about rock, I wanted to know about them. Something in their set had caught my attention, which I treasure in my work as an actor: Generosity. Chemistry is great but it’s not predictable; Generosity comes from intention. We quickly fell into a fascinating conversation about what really happens onstage when people play together, and how the members of Sad Robot work together to meet the audience’s mood. They consider pacing, add tension where needed, listen to each other; every show is changed by the crowd on a given night. Cat reads the mood, the band follows. At one point, Nick remarked, “We just kind of make space for Cat to do her thing.” Each used the word “space” several times in different ways, and I got a lovely sense that they each bring themselves in a way that really makes space for Sad Robot to be...more: every contribution expands rather than fills, enriches and never competes.

Reflecting on it afterwards, I really felt the lack of hearing from Jake in our interview, like a big part of the whole was missing. Yet, oddly enough, it’s kind of like he was there, in the way the others included his perspective in speaking of the whole band, even without talking about him directly. Their bassist is still a fairly new addition (Sad Robot had previously pared themselves to a 3 piece band); Derek didn't say much, but his quietly cheerful presence added nicely to the mix (and he had the best hair; beauuutifully cut, quirky, charming!). I got a clear feeling that this was one band rather than a collection of people onstage; that their whole truly is greater than the sum of its parts. Sad Robot wants their music to be "bigger than just us," and it is. As we were leaving I admitted excitedly to Diana, "Now I want to go look and see who else has that same quality of band unity!”

Everything I heard --onstage and off--makes me trust them, makes me want to see where they’ll go musically, and I don’t even like rock music! (Did I mention that?) They know how to take us on a great ride in live performance, and Sad Robot will show us something new even when covering a familiar song, because they’re showing up as themselves, ever exploring and expanding. Now, THAT’s interesting.
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Hard to Believe They Let Me In, Part I

Yikes! First Wednesday in JUNE already! Okay, I know my Readers (Up to Three Now, Not Including my Mom!) have been lurking restively by their computers, waiting for me to share other exciting Adventures of Jocelyn. For now I shall resort to posting something written in August, the "Director's Cut" (so to speak) of the Sunset Strip Music Festival article(s) I wrote for Rock World Magazine. Scroll down a few entries for links to the articles as they appeared online, wherein fully half of what I wrote was lopped off for space reasons. What's here is my full version, with all the pie fights put back in. Pull up a chair and a cup of something cozy (or refreshing). I hope you enjoy it.

Sunset Strip Music Festival 2013: Finding My Inner Badass
by Jocelyn Parrish
I gotta ‘fess up right away: It’s not like I did this on a dare or anything, but I would never have gone to this event on purpose. A friend was in need of a writer, however, so I signed on for the adventure, even though I’m totally the wrong person to cover a gig like this. I had a Surprisingly Good Time, albeit for completely different reasons than everyone else who went.

So here's what I know about rock music: I like classical music. I don’t mean that in a snooty, exclusive way, but I grew up listening to Mom’s Beethoven (and Brahms and Franck). I could pronounce all the composer’s names correctly, so when the college radio station needed announcers I stepped up --the only theatre person in their crowd of music majors (weirdly enough, the jazz DJs were all studying Business). To be perfectly accurate, there's classical music I just. Don't. Like. (Vivaldi: Mosquitos Crashing into a Metal Bucket. Bach: Tedious AND Prolific! Berlioz: Whyyyyyyyyy?) So really I’m an Equal Opportunity Snob, like everyone else. I enjoy big band, celtic, world music, and lots of obscure stuff, in addition to Paul Simon, Ella Fitzgerald, and (I kid you not) Fred Astaire; I got over my crush on Neil Diamond a lonnnnng time ago, but I still know the songs. Country music on road trips. Beatles, definitely.

The point is that I’m fairly open-minded, but (apart from quite mysteriously knowing Cosmo's Factory very well) anything described as “rock” is just not on my radar. I actually had to ask Diana, Rock World’s co-founder, lead photographer, and my personal guide through this music festival weekend, what she meant when she referred to “STP.” And even then all I know about Stone Temple Pilots is that people buy their t-shirts. Are ya beginning to see how NOT the Target Demographic I am? Nevertheless, armed with earplugs (which nobody seems to take as a sign of disrespect), good shoes and --this is LA-- sunscreen and sunglasses, I stepped forth to see what there was to see.

The opening event of this festival was held Thursday evening at House of Blues, a tribute ceremony for 2013 honoree Joan Jett. Once it really sunk in that we’re on, you know, THE Sunset Strip I kind of expected to...feel something...special. It was then and there I vowed to write this whole article without using the word "iconic" just because it’s so tempting.

So, Joan Jett:
According to her friends, she's a truly wonderful person: hardworking, kind, a humanitarian;
She's 50-something and still very hot;
She's a lesbian, and possibly a vegetarian;
And (this was uttered frequently, sincerely, reverently and as a tremendous compliment) she’s a Total Badass.

Once the glowing accolades (from the likes of Carmen Electra, Margaret Cho and, on video, Howard Dean) concluded, everyone waited for an hour politely if listlessly, all but ignoring the footage of old MTV videos (big blue eyes, lush pillowy lips, OMG we all looked so young!). Word trickled through that the expected 9 pm start time was for some reason delayed an hour (Don't they know we're paying for parking?). I went outside, past the red carpet, in search of some fresh air, which took some doing to get beyond the alley of smokers.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts came on at 10 pm, at which point everyone in the room went completely bananas --I could hear them from my perch outside the House of Blues, so I went scampering back inside. Hundreds of people were suddenly very, very happy. She loved them right back, and gave them the rock they came for.

I am entirely serious when I tell you that the man next to me, a reporter (who was gallant enough to offer me a seat in a VIP section) leaned over and shouted, "Pretty good for a lesbian, huh?"
Now, what DO ya say to that, really? Point out that even I know that Ms. Jett is virtually a priestess to several kazillion people who appreciate her authenticity, humanity, integrity, her standing for everyone’s right to do what they believe in? That she made some truly brave, groundbreaking (contract-declining!) choices early in her career that forever changed the way artists reached their audiences?
In an effort to politely dodge the tacky question, I made some kind of glorfling noise and shrugged.
Then --apparently in case I didn’t know what a lesbian was-- he said, “She likes girls.”
I nodded gravely.
A moment later came the question, “Do you like boys or girls?”
I eyed him contemplatively and considered replying disingenuously that “I like everybody,” but realized that could lead into deeper waters than I had the energy to swim out of, so I just smiled and said that I liked boys.  Shortly after that, Diana had as many photos as she needed, so I thanked him for the seat and we left.

So we covered the part about my not being a rock fan; did I mention that I don't like crowds, either? I guess I like PEOPLE okay, but maybe fifteen of 'em at a time, ya know? More than that is fine if they're an audience --by which I mean they’re all sitting politely over there somewhere. So I wasn’t really looking forward to attending a huge, crowded event. However, A LOT of people worked very, very hard to give an enormous street party that spanned three days (well, two evenings and a full day). And I gladly state that they did an amazing job. Legions of volunteers, staff, security, vendors, rockers and roadies totally brought it, to show fifteen thousand people a good time.

Sunset Strip Music Festival was a gateway into several worlds at once, and they all sort of overlapped each other. I noticed a subtle shift over the course of the day in the attendees; people who came earlier in the day were there for the music, more of the evening people were there for the “scene.”  There were 42 different artists on Saturday alone, something for every possible taste within the rock music genre. Sponsor booths gave away swag, and Jack Daniels “uniformed” hotties roamed the crowd handing out bandanas and sunglasses (Did they find those jobs in Variety, or through a temp agency?  I tried to imagine the posting:  “Seeking T&A Babes: Young (20s), hot, blondes preferred. Big boobs, fake okay.”) There was a LOT of female cleavage, which at some point almost became invisible (to me, anyway; I didn’t ask any of the men). It seemed that a great deal of individual effort went into being noticed, resulting in an enormous collective Meh. Since I don’t even own a pair of jeans I had agonized over what to wear, but ended up with the outfit that worked best with my most comfortable shoes (yeah, 'cuz Nondescript is the new Hip).

Standing in line for one thing or another is also a big part of festivals.  I’m sure that numerous lifelong friendships have been started, arguments carried on, babies conceived, apartments found, all while standing in one line or another to get stamped, ticketed, or let in somewhere.  Total strangers become fairly chummy in a short span of time, exchanging lore about the bands, commiserating about the weather when appropriate, sharing snacks and um... yeah, snacks.  So while waiting to get stamped at the Viper Room on Saturday for Scott Weiland’s second night, I chatted with the guys next to us about our Top Five Best. Concerts. EVar... until Diana tapped me on the shoulder to introduce me to her friend. I turned around to meet surely be the nicest man ever to be covered in ink.  Rick is tall and lanky, with long dark hair and lively eyes twinkling out from under a low-slung fancy black leather cowboy hat.  He wore a sleeveless shirt and leather vest, and jeans that are shredded but not sloppy. I don’t personally care for body art, but his “sleeves” are unique and quite beautiful. It’s a little hard to pinpoint his age; he’s clearly been in the scene for a long time yet has a bright, youthful quality (I can only assume Rick has a painting of himself somewhere that makes Dorian Gray’s portrait look like Elijah Wood...). He’s had his own band for years, has played and partied with people you’ve heard of, if ya know what I mean; he’s also kind, polite, curious, has genuine enthusiasm for the music, and a steady --if unconventional-- Day Job. Even with bone-deep badass rocker cred, there’s something pleasantly sleek about him; he knows exactly who he is and doesn’t need to prove anything.

I’m not particularly embarrassed to admit that I’d had to miss Friday because I just couldn’t stay out late three nights in a row. From Rick’s glowing recount, I almost wish I’d gone.  Almost. The timing on Friday night’s festival experience was to some extent one of competing headliners, requiring a Game Plan for getting in to see everybody (get stamped for the Whisky, then wait in line for Scott Weiland, get stamped for the Roxy, go to a friend’s art opening, have a drink at the Rainbow, then go back to the Whisky, and so on).  While surely some people go out of morbid curiosity to see whether an old rocker has still got it together, Rick and Diana averred that Scott Weiland’s Friday night show at the Viper was spectacular. Weiland is a unique singer who can go from a beautiful, almost tender sound to a powerful, grungy rock & roll voice.  Stone Temple Pilots were (and continue to be) mega-big, and to get this close to a near-legend is a rare experience. His band was bigger, the space smaller.  Weiland and the band were in great form, compelling and clearly into his performance, and the crowd was right there with him.  Sometimes people want a stimulating new experience, at other times we want a communal experience of familiarity. Weiland and his band (the “Wildabouts” part of “Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts”) played several STP hits from the mid-90s, and the fans sang along, which was satisfying for everyone.  

In contrast to a trip down memory lane, The Icarus Line at the Roxy was a different kind of compelling, Rick reported.  “Mesmerizing on every level.  Blew my f**king mind.” Diana enthusiastically concurred. Reminiscent of punk blended with early Pink Floyd in the sense of experimentation and coolness, their singer has powerful, Mick Jagger-level charisma. The crowd loved them, and everyone connected in an inspiring, unique, special way. My companions seemed to agree that The Icarus Line was one, if not the, highlight of the festival.

In general I like to think that most people would have the good sense not to sit next to a jet airplane on an aircraft carrier. Yet here we all were, standing beside various gigantic equipment putting forth vibrations surely felt at LAX, with everyone apparently very proud of the volume produced (and withstood).

As we arrived, Street Drum Corps got the West Stage underway, fronted by a trio of masked, heavily-inked blokes drumming with panache. After the first vigorous number, the lead singer uncovered his surprisingly sweet face and took over. That’s when I noticed the scantily clad women dancing at either side of mid stage. On stilts. I can't say I would have come up with that idea, but apparently someone thought it was important to cover all bases, in case watching the drummers wasn't interesting enough.

Somehow rock seems a little incongruous in the daytime.  It seems odd to put a band with a couple of albums under their belt, and that has toured the US and Japan, on a tiny stage back behind the food arena, but I felt like LA alternative/indie band Sabrosa Purr “played big” as though the place was packed and they were on at 10 pm.

Then it was over to the Whisky.  Whisky a Go-Go is about to celebrate 50 years as a venue, and Van Halen and Motley Crue are among literally scores of bands that got their start there (even I have heard of Van Halen, okay?).  My favorite part of the Whisky’s Yelp profile reads, “Noise Level: Very Loud” and “Good for Kids: No.”  Sad Robot recently held the #1 spot for 4 out of 10 straight weeks on KROQ’s Locals Only Playlist with “Hold On.” It was a pleasure to actually be able to hear the lead singer, well, sing: definitely got a little Janis goin' on, there. I loved their cover of “Ain't no Sunshine” for showing me something new about a song we all know pretty well. I had a delightful interview with the band (see interview). Keep your eye on these guys.

The Dreaming (Diana's fave local band) definitely had the most “committed” hair flopping (and hey, it looks great in coloured lights!). Everybody really “brings it”; nobody phones it in for a festival. Diana insisted I come up front for a totally different experience, which I was only able to stand for a couple of minutes. My teeth rattled and my heart was confused about which beat to follow, but I GOT it: Something ineffable passes back and forth between the crowd and the band.

So the Good News is that Orgy was quite the popular show. The Bad News is that the place was so packed that security declared The Whisky at capacity and wouldn’t let anyone in, even with our press wristbands. Presumably this will be taken into account for next year and they'll get a bigger venue or better time spot. Then I’ll be able to hear what “industrial glam rock” sounds like. Somehow the gracefully seasoned Diana slipped past the guards with a flash of her impressive camera lens (which I swear is the size of a Jack Russell Terrier).

While waiting outside the Whisky I wandered up to the East Stage and listened to Slick Rick and beatbox innovator Dougie Fresh. They brought on surprise guest Wayne Brady, comedian, improv artist, and new host of Whose Line Is It Anyway? This seemed like a totally different crowd, leading me to realize that there were actually about three different festivals showing up in one place. Event organizers had taken some pains to appeal to different listeners; a savvy move.

Diana returned to move us along our rock journey. I kinda liked what I heard from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club --a bit wistful, and bluesier than what I’d been hearing all day-- but I got an even bigger kick out of  Diana describing them as “old-school shoe-gazing” music. Originally from San Francisco, they have albums on Echo and Virgin, and the good size of their crowd on the main West Stage spoke to their repute.

A highlights for me was having dinner (finally, at ten o'clock!) at the Rainbow. I was fine with making another trip to the ad hoc food court, but Diana insisted that this was an experience not to be missed. Once again, she was right. Those in the know, go to the 'Bow.

Diana and Rick looked way more rocker-chic “in” than I, not to mention recognized by the gentleman at the gate, who almost didn’t let me in with them. I’m glad they vouched for me, because I loved the Rainbow. It was a different kind of Loud inside; festival headliner Linkin Park was launching their mortar shells outside but in here I could sing along with “I Wanna Be Sedated.” Neither Rick nor Diana seemed too interested in Linkin Park; both agreed it was a disappointing evolution of the festival that didn’t honor the “Sunset Strip rock” they loved.

The restaurant was large and busy yet very cozy, the walls closely paved with photos and music memorabilia; think 1970s Howard Johnson’s, done over by very “hip” hobbits. The entire day must have been hellish for the service staff, yet we were met with indefatigable good cheer and well-served. The halibut was fantastic, and mashed potatoes...oh, my.
If it is possible to EAT a hug, that's what it would be like.

On any given night, you could go to the Rainbow and see someone who is, was, or will be famous. People come from all over the world for a glimpse of that.  But more importantly the Rainbow provides the space for musicians to hang before and after shows on the Strip, and because they’re fed and cared for as well as at home (possibly better), they keep coming back.  According to Rick, everyone is treated like family there, which is unique on Sunset Strip. Mario Maglieri, Lou Adler and Elmer Valentine started several of the clubs on the Strip in the 1960s, and all this time they really seem to have “looked after the kids” and made sure everyone was all right.  It’s a tough world, a tough business, even a tough town; but the regulars at the Rainbow feel looked after, welcomed, cared for.  I was a total stranger --and clearly not a rocker-- but I felt that way, too.

I did encounter a resident jester on my way up to the ladies’ loo; a leanly vulpine, youngish blond man standing at the top of the stairs offering “assistance” by steering unwary neophytes rightwards into a blank corner instead of leftways to the restroom. Since the mistake is quickly discovered and corrected, the only purpose I could discern was his own amusement. On my way back out I asked how many people he had “gotten” including me, he admitted to “thirteen so far, and you’re about to mess up my next one," so I left him to it.

Before we left Diana escorted me to the Rainbow’s attic bar/dance floor/party nest, an intimate, multi-level wooden loft I found delightful in an anthropological way, since this Uptight White Chick is far more likely to end up in outer space than to organically arrive here in a social situation. A velvet rope hangs across the teensy wooden ladder staircase that disappears into a dark alcove. With an air of affable debauchery, I’m encouraged up into the nook --past the sign that reads “RESERVED”-- and told stories about decades of goings-on there that are anything but.

Scott Weiland live at the Viper Room is surely the best rock event I never went to. Diana and Rick reiterated that this was a not-to-be-missed occasion.   Rock fans often thirst for and revel in the sense that Something Magical is Happening in This Moment that May Not Ever Happen Again...  And I’m Here to Witness It. That’s the appeal.  Not bragging rights, but being part of something that cannot easily be duplicated. So: a guy who fills stadiums. Playing in a club.  Like the Beatles one afternoon on a rooftop... Despite the hordes of people still outside begging to be let into the once-in-a-lifetime intimate show, our press wristbands earned us some special (if slightly reluctant) treatment: we waited for only 90 minutes. Others waited longer and to even less purpose.

As an actor I've worked in some utterly miniscule blackbox theatres in my time, all of them bigger than this one. At surely double capacity, the only way we were gonna even make it past the top of the stairs and into the room would be to scoot in behind the bar, and I didn’t think the bartender would let me do that even if I gave him ten bucks and showed him my rack. From what I heard about Friday night’s show, I imagine that the people who wedged themselves into the Viper on Saturday were very happy with their close-enough-to-hear-AND-see experience.  Compelling musician, great voice, great tunes, sharing the love, RIGHT THERE.  I bet it was awesome. But the squeeze was just too much, and even the downstairs “overflow room” set my claustrophobia wiggles going. We backed out, disappointed (if a little relieved). A fresh-faced young man out on the street seemed mystified that we were leaving, but asked hopefully if we could sell him a ticket.

As we surfaced and walked back up Sunset Boulevard a little before midnight, crews were already dismantling the stages and collecting the trash, putting the magic away for next year.

1. Form follows function. The best rock hairstyles allow for maximum swingage, and to cover earplugs, whether you’re a performer or not.

2. No matter where you are, the proper response to "How Y'all doin' tonight?" is always, always, always "WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

3. It takes a very particular set of skills to work as a doorman or a bouncer at a nightclub. There’s probably a special school for it.

4. Non-conformist vibe aside, rockers work as hard to excel at what they do as anybody else. Even if rock music isn’t my thing, I have enormous respect for the people who actually perform it -- they work as hard, schlepp as much, and sacrifice as much as anybody else.

Among all the Goth and Punk I’d seen in the crowds that day, there were also plenty of fashionable but not statement-oriented Angelenos (and a resounding absence of any Midwestern vibe whatsoever). An impressive percentage of people sported tattoos of varying acreage. I idly wondered what these people do for day jobs and how many of them can show up to work dressed that way.

That’s when it came to me: This is all about the Quest for the Inner Badass. Rock is about calling it like it is, daring people to either like “it” or fix “it.”  We’re all here to be seen, and to connect with the part of us that isn’t fully... domesticated. The part of us that doesn’t conform or give a Flying Eek-a-Mouse what anyone thinks. For millennia we humans have designated shamans to represent and mentor our connection to our deeper selves, both primally and spiritually. The Bacchanal had a sacred purpose.  Long before music ever branched into genres there were two basic truths:  

We’re all Soul, and
Everything is Energy.

We NEED poets to articulate deep feelings --longing, loss, alienation, need, hope. Some of us will be inspired to show up and make our own expression, others will enjoy that a part of themselves is spoken aloud for them, enough that they can go find it when they need to. Particularly in rock music there's a premium value given to passion and/or abandon; to being carried away by the sound and emotion. Whether we make art or music ourselves, we need and designate someone in our tribe to do it for us. Someone like Joan Jett. She never became just a persona; she’s still one of us. She’s just a hardworking, convention-busting, truth-telling...
We need her.
And every other rocker out there.

add to LJ post
Diana's photos for the magazine article are quite wonderful, if you check out the links. I snapped this one with my phone that Saturday evening; it caught the light and the crowd surprisingly well, and there's something about the couple in the right-hand foreground that really delights me.

Special thanks go to Ben Hunter (who really knows from Rock & Roll) for helping me find my way to writing respectfully about an unfamiliar world from an outsider's point of view.

btw I was kidding about the pie fights. I'm so sorry.
Kitty Mommy Icon

Times Have Changed

"Every one of us is precious in the cosmic perspective. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another."
-Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

One thing about having a rather unusual name (which is now significantly more popular than when I was young) is that I truly NEVER saw this kind of thing when I was growing up. Tiny license plates, personalized stationery, and little plaques that read, "Susan's Room" or "This belongs to Karen" were pleasures denied to many children, all because printing processes used to be so expensive to set up and therefore difficult to customize.

Ah, but that's what therapy is for, isn't it?


Maybe I'd get one of these for my bicycle...