About a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine had talked me into going to the Bay area to watch Stephen Bishop perform at the Intramuros, South San Francisco, in a benefit concert. She had wanted to see the concert so bad. I had been preoccupied in Los Angeles. She wants to play a role in the concert for worthy causes. For the concert, and about our friendship, we are a study of compare and contrast.
She's into old-school -- the Norman Whitfield/Barrett Strong and Kenneth Gamble/Leon Huff composition-era. I'm into all vibes, a musicologist. She's a hardcore liberal; garrulous. I'm reserved, a somehow liberal conservative; a centrist. She's a fashion freak. I'm careless, fashionwise. She reads fiction and believes in the Zodiac signs. I'm the non-fiction reader kinda guy and have no faith in astrology. She's Libra. I'm Virgo. She cooks good. I'm a mixologist. She has shoulder length curly hair. I'm ishi nkwocha, shaved bald. She's Tonga, a Pacific Islander. I'm Igbo, an African. She's straight. I'm straight. She loves outdoors, and I do, too. She wears contact lenses. I wear prescription glasses; and both coasts are clear.
To make up for ditching Bishop's concert at the Intramuros, she brought up a set of rules on her own terms and whatever she said was going to be the rules. I said "Okay!" She got her way and ordered me around the house. That was cool!
Her set of rules was specifically for the Memorial Day weekend and that whenever it's all over I could take back my manly stuff and go ahead with my own set of rules she'd not have problems complying with. The rules were set as follows: There would be no driving and Friday which commences the holiday weekend would be set for eating out, perhaps a little bit of home cooking and checking out the movies. I knew it was going to be a hell of a fun since summer was just breezing around the corner.
School is over for some -- my daughter is back and it's going to be a long, beautiful summer, especially her tales of academia and life in the dorm. The weather's quite nice. Lots of sunshine. The beaches are full to capacity. Bikinis. Hot pants. Those fine, dark sunglasses. Beautiful faces sipping cocktails in the sun.
The volleyball tournaments: Hermosa Beach. Redondo Beach. Venice Beach. Rockweller Beach. Santa Monica Beach. The mark of summer.
The eateries and the random popped up in-house restaurants. The real deal and summer jams. Ceccone's on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. Jane's House on Hollywood Blvd. The Standard in Downtown Los Angeles. The Mint on Pico Blvd. in West Los Angeles. Club Tatou on Boylston Street in Los Angeles. O'Brien's Irish Pub and Restaurant on Main Street in Santa Monica. The Amazon Hut Brazilian Juice Bar on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.
The new arrivals on the bookshelves. "Rinnavation: Getting Your Best Life Ever," by Lisa Rinna on life's amazing journey. "Bad Mother: A Chronicle Of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, And Occasional Moments Of Grace," by Ayelet Waldman.
At the movies as the summer hits pops up in June. "Public Enemies," directed by Michael Mann and starring Johnny Depp as John Dillinger, the notorious Depression-era bank robber, and Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, the fedral agent who tailed Dillinger. "The Taking Of Pelham 123," starring Academy Award winner Denzel Washington as Walter Mathau, of a New York transit dispatcher and directed by Tony Scott. Here, John Travolta stars as leader of the gang. James Gandofini appears as Mayor of New York whom Travolta must fear. "Funny People," directed by Judd Apatow and starring Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann and Seth Regan. The film is all comedy but Sandler's role as a dying middle-aged man might turn movie goers off.
"Taking Woodstock," directed by Ang Lee based on a true story of Elliot Tiber, an employee at a motel in the Castkills who inadvertantly made Woodstock happen. "Inglorious Bastards," -- another World War 2 story of Nazi occupied France written and directed by Quentin Terantino. The movie features Brad Pitt as the leader of the Jewish-American soldiers dispatched to perform targeted acts of retribution on German troops occupying France. "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," which opens in all theaters June 24. Michael Bay directed, starring Shia LeBeouf as Sam who becomes enmeshed in a battle between two extraterrestial clans "when he buys his first car and it turns out to be an alien robot in disguise." And, of course, there's Eddie Murphy's "Imagine That."
These, and too many others we talked about. So as it happened, she's the one calling the shots. She wanted some African dish, and I was like, o yeah, again? She did not know what was running through my mind about her quest for African food. She's the one calling the shots, remember? I had to oblige since this great country of ours is a nation of rules, fact why it's organized.
For some reason, she figured I was not comfortable with the African restaurant kind of stuff she's been persistent asking for. We have all the time in the world to eat ofe olugbo, bitter leaf soup (dunno why it's my favorite) coupled with the okporoko, stockfish, eju, snail, dried fish and anu ewu, goat meat, as long as her weekend rules were upheld and respected.
However, on Friday, May 22, she decided we should go whole grain, vegetables and stuff like that. One spot was not too far from our location. We walked down about six blocks to this restaurant on the Westside. It was kind of regular and approximately a nice way to begin the long weekend. The restaurant, recently remodelled had a gracious and attentive service. We ordered some seafoods that was served with chunks of salmon, perfectly cooked shrimp with lotta veggies and other health-related fiber stuff. She loves wholesome sweetners such as honey, maple syrup, sorhum, sucanet and stevia.
A good looking evening, we hopped on the bus to the Archlight Cinema in Hollywood to see Ron Howard's "Angels & demons," starring Tom Hanks which to me should be Howard's last in that category. The movie's full of surprises.
On Saturday, May 23, the rules did not change. No driving, remember? After cleaning up and doing the normal around house work, we concluded it's Metro Line time. We arrived at the Wilshire/Vermont Blue Line Station and hopped on the train. Checking out from the Hollywood/Highland Station, we took the steps and bumped on tourists from all walks of life who took pictures of stars and the accomplished on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Walking further down where Hollywood Blvd. meets Vine Street, and on the south of Hollywood laid the plaque of Apollo 13 -- Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin Jr. and Michael Collins -- the first American astronauts to visit the moon.
On the north sits the landmark Capitol Records Tower known to have either recorded or marketed from the 50s to date, Frank Sinatra, Nat king Cole, Duran Duran, Richard Marx, David Bowie, The Beatles, The Beastie Boys, Kenny Rogers, Yellow Card, George Clinton, Selena Quintalline, Poison, The Band, Ice Cube, Radiohead, Tina Turner, Billy Holliday, Miles Davis, Grand Funk Railroad, Pink Floyd, Peter Tosh, Steve Miller Band, Maze, Dave Koz, Freddie Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Grace Jones, Kim Carnes, Queen, Eddie Harris and many others.
In continuation of our excursion, we went underground and hopped back on the train to the North Hollywood Station. A girl sitting next to us was reading a book on Andrew Jackson, an indication President Barack Obama's "The New Dawn" is doing stuff for the "era of the common man" and Jacksonian democracy to have replicated in the age of internet. While the train was about to station, I called my friend, Pascal, that we were on our way to his apartment. We popped up at the 5400 block of fair Avenue at the luxury NoHo (North Hollywood) Commons Apartments. We had arrived on time to watch the Los Angeles Lakers play the Dencer Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. Three other guys and two gorgeous ladies were also visiting my friend, Pascal, and it seemed very much the guys were having a heart attack due to the uncertainties that had clouded Lakers' game during the series.
Our Lakers had pulled this one out to silence the cynics. Even Derek Fisher who had been written off, delivered and helped our Lakers pull a 103-97 victory over the Nuggets. Immediately after the game, we drove in two set of cars to The Echo on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. It's our kind of place. Time is telling. The place had a full bar, a dance floor and more than electric. It's a joint where the 70s and 80s pure funk would blow your mind. It was a blast and by the time it was over, we all realized Hollywood was a city of its own.
On Sunday, May 25, she had asked if I would be going to church. She's a practicing Catholic while I was born a Catholic. A difference. But I had shown her my new religious affiliation. The anonymously written book "I AM GOD: Here's My Message." I told her I would be ordering an additional copy as that might change her thinking on how religion has caused all the world's troubles. She prepared breakfast and we ate.
With that in place, we both agreed it's time to relax our driving restrictions and check out Hollywood proper; where Santa Monica Blvd. meets Western Avenue on the sidewalks women of easy virtue and prostitutes hang out. On the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Wilcox, Dragonfly, the sensational pot-smoking and reggae jams on Thursday nights. Amoeba Music, for all your record albums in any music category, facing the CNN building on Cahuenga and Sunset. The same sex ridden hangouts in West Hollywood on Sunset and Roxbury. After touring Hollywood for a minute coupled with sightseeing we took off for another round at the movies. We saw "Terminator Salvation" at the Mann Theaters in Hollywood. Kind of strange, though, the movie, to me, wasn't anything spectacular. A sequel to the three respective "Terminator" movies. I could not read her feelings about the movie.
On Monday, May 25, the awaited Memorial Day, arrived, eventually. We had been up early. There was the 2009 Los Angeles Marathon which I had never been part of, but have gone to see it, anyway. On this particular day and since all roads had been blocked, we chanced parking around Miracle Mile on the Wilshire Corridor. We had treked about 11 blocks and had stationed on the corner of La Brea Avenue and 3rd Street in Hancock Park. The marathon stretched from da hood through the "Black Township" of the Crenshaw thoroughfare all the way to Hancock Park and finishing up in Koreatown.
We had been almost exhausted and it's time for the last jam to end the holiday weekend. The jam: 23rd Annual UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival on the playgrounds of the campus' Intramural Field in Westwood, California. The previous night, Day 1 of the festival, which we missed as a result of other engagements had Erykah Badu, People Under the Stairs, Leela James and De La Soul take center stage. Day 2 had been slated to run between 12 P.M. until 7 P.M. It went later than that and, as usual, too much of a jam. The line up: Mavado, a.k.a "The Gully God" who performed live for the first time in LA, took the show to another level with his new band. He was equal to the occasion. Other casts in the reggae jam and finale were Michael Montano, Assassin, The Dirty Heads and Morgan Heritage.
Like Woodstock of the hippie-era and a replicated Coachella event in Indio, I had been exhausted from the excursions and partying hard the preceding days, and had laid flat on the field while the ragamuffin vibes transmitted through my head. The stomping UCLA campers and the voices of roots reggae did go through my head, and it was all good.
PHOTOS clockwise from bottom left: (2009 Los Angeles Marathon courtesy of Ian Sephton; MTA Tap Machine; Metro Rail Line; Metro Bus Line 770, Leela James takes center stage and performs "let's Do It Again," courtesy of Singers Room; and the 2009 UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival banner courtesy of The Deli Magazine.)