LA and Up the California Coast
We drove straight from Phoenix to our first show in the LA area, a coffeehouse in Long Beach called Viento y Agua. We played as the feature for their open mic. Since we got their early there were a few minutes to read while we waited. I’m reading the Dolly Parton autobiography to prepare for the day when we finally have lunch together. The show was one of the most varied open mics I’ve seen in a while with poetry, politics, opera, the fastest drum set-up and break down in history, interpretive dance and of course, banjo. We stayed based in Long Beach for a few days with friends, Dorothy and Lance, I’d met at Loyola New Orleans once upon a time ago. A few years back they started dancing Lindy Hop and West Coast Swing so they took me to see a wonderful dance band call Leftover Cuties and boy were they cute! I had a great time dancing in the fancy hotel lobby of Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica. The fancy staircase at the entrance caught my attention right away. After the dance, walked out to the beach and put our feet in the ocean while gazing off at the famous Santa Monica Pier with the ferris wheel light show. My friends showed me some sites in Long Beach including Signal Hill where each fancy house comes with an oil derrick in the back yard and the Bamboo Teri House with their giant boat of delicious, fresh sushi.
Two more shows in the LA area. The first at Republic of Pie in North Hollywood where we were given yummy bowls of savory pot pies and played on a stage under a screen showing a Marx Brothers movie. Our friend Zachary Bernstein graced us with some of his comedic and skillfully composed musical numbers. Our last show before leaving the city was in Fullerton at a long, skinny coffee shop called The Night Owl. It felt like we were playing in a friendly hallway. A relaxing show with a special visit from my co-teacher and the music director at the camp, Four Winds Westward Ho, where I did an artist residency last summer. Katie Stump played us one of her newest songs that had not been performed yet! It got me excited about working at camp again this summer in the beautiful San Juan Islands. My friend Jim was also there taking pictures and in the morning made us yummy green breakfast juice.
So, the LA shows were all fun but being LA, I defiantly spent more energy and money then made. This was partly due to Tom and I visiting McCabe’s Guitar Shop. Now a staple when I’m anywhere near Santa Monica. I could truly spend ALL DAY there and not finish playing all the instruments. Amongst all the guitars, basses, violins, violas, cellos, mandolins, lap dulcimers, harps of all sizes, instruments I’d only read about in books, and ukuleles, There was an entire room of banjos not including the hallway filled with tiny tenor banjos and banjolele’s and mando/banjos and whatever you can dream of! I treated myself to a pair of brushes for my washboard, a new vocal mic and some strings. I did not treat myself to the $2,000 open back Vega banjo… Ooh and they also had the banjo that I’d seen in a catalog a few days before and was delighted to see in person. Zombie Banjo! The neck has zombie themed carvings, the back of the resonator has a splattered with blood and scratched up look and the metal flange piece was red with teeth like a circular saw. Oh, and it sounded good too.
Finally, Tom and I ran away from the traffic and smog. I’ll admit I was starting to drag from all the traveling and driving in traffic jams both literal and metaphorical. Soon though we arrived at Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Garden and the sky opened up into a clear, cool, blue. Sculptures of sea lions, tigers, wooly mammoths, exotic birds, shapes and craftily twisted metals were surrounded by a vineyard of grapes lined with lavender, rosemary, and sweet flowers. Large glasses of delicious chilled white wine were placed in our hands. More listeners went home with Songs From a Book of Memories CD’s then at any show yet. Everything looked up. We got a recommendation to stay in Morro Bay State Park. Not too far from San Luis Obispo where we were scheduled to play the next night. It was a lovely camp ground built in the 1930’s by the CCC in the wake of the Great Depression. A boardwalk and nature path circled us around the inter-coastal bay. Many birds and bugs and pods of seaweed, draping foamy green seaweed and crabs and mystery objects were founds as well as sanity.
The second evening we drove into SLO for our show at Bon Temps Creole Cafe. On the way through downtown I started telling Tom that I remembered someone saying there was a wall covered in bubble gum somewhere here. The words were barely out of my mouth when we passed an alleyway and I saw out of the corner of my eye that both side where covered in little speckles of grayed colors. “And there it is!” I squealed. Later at the show we got red beans and rice with the best tender but not soggy collards and craw fish etouffee. We watched some local musicians and Nathan Fox , a pop folk singer/songwriter who was the featured act, up from LA. This was also a great crowd. I highly recommend the Songwriter’s At Play program organized by Steve J Keys. Both of our show’s in the area were arranged by him and had nice full crowds.
After a second night of camping we headed up to Oakland…