Slim Cessna’s Auto Club: Children of the Lord

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I have been watching Slim Cessna’s Auto Club since their first Denver shows in 1992 and I have to say, this band still knocks me out! Sold out New Year’s shows at the Bluebird Theatre and the impossibly packed Lion’s Lair, oh those were the days! Fast forward 22 years and Slim Cessna and his banjo-playing partner in crime, Munly are still a timeless, hardcore alt country force to be reckoned with. This band eludes any specific genre, as you can find pieces of religious gospel, classic country, gothic hillbilly, blues and rock all commingling beneath a dark and gritty veil. With Lord Dwight Pentacost on the guitar and Daniel Grandbois at the standup bass, mix in the dark and lovely harmonies and a pedal steel guitar…oh how I love their rough eclectic sound! You can dance, you can sing, you can yodel, you can two-step, square-dance and bang your head, all at the same show. How many bands can you say that about?

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I was buzzing with excitement when I find out Slim and the gang were playing a show in LA, as I am painfully overdue for a shot of their musical brew. The venue was The Echo in the SilverLake/Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Gotta say, not exactly my cup of tea, but in all fairness, there were no major issues. The venue is nothing much to look at; basic small rock club… an all black room with some cushioned bench seating to the side and virtual future lung cancer ward on the back patio filled with your typical LA hipsters. However, the really noteworthy feature of this venue is its sound system. It ROCKS.

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This was a live show of the greatest of the Greatest Hits of Slim Cessa’s Auto Club. Starting the show with an extend-o version of “He, Roger Williams,” the crowd was entranced by Reverend Slim Cessna and was already begging for more. Munly’s “Magalina Hagalina Boom Boom” revved the crowd up even further with cheers that would rival a much larger venue. The energy in the room was ablaze with the edgy, sexy “Red Pirate of the Prairie.”  Fists were pumping and heads were bobbing along with “This is How We Do Things in the Country,” and arms were waving in unison for their hardcore gospel hit “Children of the Lord.” God damn, I LOVED watching the band blow people’s minds. Looking around at the 30-something-ish, uber-hipster crowd, some were singing along with all the lyrics while others simply looked stupefied and bewildered at what they were experiencing. I think they were waiting to witness a laying on of hands and hear Slim start speaking in tongues. I swear, I could actually SEE people at the point of connection to the music and letting themselves go with this strangely hypnotic sound that is Slim Cessna’s Auto Club.  There were most definitely a large number of converts last night at The Echo. As they played “A Smashing Indictment of Character” and “That Fierce Cow is Common Sense in a Country Dress” the crowd and the band had become one as Slim and Munly made their way in and out of the crowd, getting us all down on the floor with them and jumping up again like a bunch of kids playing Simon Says. It was such a thrill to see that Slim Cessna’s crowds love them just as much in cities outside their hometown of Denver. Why is this band not playing bigger venues like The Hollywood Bowl? People would go NUTS for these guys on a larger scale.

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Slim and Munly singing, swaying and dancing their fancy footwork in sync, their playful theatrics, just too much! “Cranston” is another one of those songs that just mesmerizes the crowd. They have always been such an amusing band to watch perform live. Regardless of your musical tastes, if you have a pulse, you will be anticipating their next move and dancing right along with them.

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Ending the night with “Hold My Head” as Slim surfed out into the crowd and was delivered safely back to the stage by his loyal congregation where he proclaimed, “We’re Slim Cessna’s Auto Club from Denver, Colorado. Thank you! We’ll see you next time everyone!” Whew! We made it! Hot, sweaty and satisfied. Ears and spirits have been filled and lifted with The Good Word of Slim Cessna. If only all preachers and sermons were like this, churches would be packed every Sunday. If given the chance, see them live or at least check them out online. You will be born again.

Rise and shine and give God the glory…Children of the Lord!

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Gypsy Allstars: Baila Me and Bellydancing

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The Gypsy Allstars playing at Herb Alpert’s incredibly cool venue, Vibrato Jazz Grill in Bel Air, California.

Gypsy music. The steamy rhythms and raw, lustful vocals of the wandering Romani musicians throughout Northern India and Eastern Europe. An alluring blend of musical language, style and dance. Just sounds sexy, doesn’t it?
For the past 25 years, the Gipsy Kings have lavished us with their gifts of music and passion. We were captivated by their fiery melodies and impressed by the fullness of their compositions.

In 2013, Gipsy King drummer Cedric Leonardi reached out to his fellow alum, including vocalist and guitar virtuoso Mario Reyes, to create a new collaborative sound reuniting them with their blood line connections to the Rajasthani gypsy tribes of India. These seasoned musicians seem to flourish in their effortless fusion of sensual international sounds. The result is an untamed, fleshy and succulent breath of fresh air. Breathing new life into old favorites such as “Baila Me,” and “Bamboleo” with Indian chanting and vigorous drumming. Their music captures your senses and doesn’t let go. You cannot help but move. My belly dancing moves of the past kicked in without hesitation. It’s like an involuntary reflex when you are watching them perform live as you are mentally and spiritually transported to far away lands.

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Rajasthani musicians of India. What incredible voices. Excellent addition to this musical adventure.

They rounded out the evening with a provocative “Un Amor,” one of my very favorite tunes. Mmmm. Delicious. Attending their show at Herb Alpert’s Vibrato Jazz Grill in Bel Air only intensified this adventure in all things gypsy. The intimate size. The candlelit room. The nearly perfect acoustics. Dancing. Dining. Drinking. Altogether exhilarating.

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A tasty concoction of vodka, St. Germaine and lime juice, whipped up for me by my friendly bartender Philip. Salud! and Sante!

Chill Out: LA Style

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The scenery for the Chill Out. I was able to snap this photo right before the Chill Out started.

As you know, I am a devout fan of seeking out life. I am up for almost any adventure, at least once. While researching my options for this weekend, as I always do, I came across a blurb on LA Weekly’s Facebook page that caught my immediate attention: 5 Chill Things to Do in L.A. This Week for $5 or Less. Hey! Who doesn’t like to have fun for $5 or less? United Kingdom DJ Oliver Payne was hosting a listening party to KLF’s 1990 ambient LP, Chill Out. Seems cool right? Well there were a few rules attached. You must arrive by 7pm. No late entries. No talking. No cell phones. No Ins/Outs. And you would be committing yourself to 44 minutes and 20 seconds of pure chilling out to the sounds of KLF. Bring a blanket, a pillow and anything else that will make you comfy as you lie out under the stars of a night sky in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles California, while sharing this intimate experience with those around you.

COUNT ME IN! Of course, I called to ask permission and Elliott was welcome (thank you cool dog-friendly promoters)! After spending the afternoon perusing the Annenberg Space for Photography’s Country Western photo exhibit, we headed out for the evening’s main event. I was really excited to see just what was in store for us. Waze map app lands me at a building in a very industrial part of town, graffiti, large factory-looking structures, mostly vacant, and I was starting to get a little weirded out. I see two seemingly intimidating men standing outside the front doors of a building that I assumed was a homeless shelter, mental hospital or small inner city prison, and thought, “nahhh,” that can’t be the right place, CAN IT? COULD IT BE? Why yes, yes it was. The space at 356 South Mission Road. Ohhhhh myyyyy. Take a deep breath, it’s another adventure. It will all be fiiiine. Who knows? It could be a life changing experience. Thanks to my good parking Karma, I score a close spot, grab a blankie from the back of my car and head towards the building with Elliott in tow.

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The part of town I spent my Chill Out in, before nighttime fell.

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356 S. Mission Street, Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, aka 356 Mission Gallery.

I get to the door and I say, “umm is this the Chill Out party?” The guys are super cool and push the door open for me and say “yeah, go on in and have a great time,” and I step inside of this ginormous warehouse. Upon entering I am now in a boutique art gallery of sorts. Random books, tshirts, shoes, jewelry and other artistic goods. I’m looking around and everyone else seems to know where they are going. It was such a strange sensation. I make my way through the people in the front room/boutique and the next open space has large work bench tables with Samosas in baskets for people to eat (Indian appetizers). I had just eaten like a starved moose in Century City and could not fathom one more bite of food crossing my lips, although I was wildly curious to taste them to further enhance my current experience. But I declined and kept walking. The next space of the warehouse was more of an artist workspace, dimly lit, large canvases, a few people doing their creative thing.  I stepped outside into a back courtyard that had a basketball hoop with small white lights hanging and benches around the perimeter. People were quietly talking amongst themselves and Elliott and I were feeling a bit out of sorts. I looked up and saw BARBED WIRE all around the building. Ok…what WAS this building? It HAD to be some sort of institution? My vibes were pretty strong and I am telling you, this place has housed people of some sort. Patients? Prisoners? Something. I walk to the end of the courtyard and there is a small sign with an arrow pointing to the Chill Out yard. I look ahead and there is a sign with the rules. A guy is walking toward me who seemed to be “in the know” and I ask him, “are we allowed to go in early?” He answers in a totally laid back way, “oh yeah, go in and grab a spot.”

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So perplexing. What’s with the barbed wire??

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Graffiti filled courtyard with a basketball hoop between warehouses. I have got to look into this.

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This way to the Chill Out yard.

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Rules of the Chill Out experience

Ok, so while I’m on somewhat high alert, nothing seems to be too out of sorts or creepy. I think we are safe to continue. I walk around the corner and there is another (larger) courtyard area that has astroturf laid out on top of the concrete, bean bags strewn about and a couple of futon couches. I made a bee-line for the futon which had a couple on one end of it and just enough space for Elliott and I to stretch out a bit. So glad I nabbed it when I did. People started pouring in with their blankets, yoga mats, and even a hairless 2 pound chihuahua wearing a sweater. I would say the crowd was somewhat varied in age, but mostly 30’s-40’s is my guess. An eclectic bunch, no one too outrageous. No gang bangers, no club kids, and no uber hipsters. But definitely a creative and artsy bunch. The night was actually a tad chilly and I was really happy I grabbed my own blanket as I left the car. We settle in to our spot, Elliott gets comfy and we watch as the rest arrive. It had the feel of a sacred happening. Everyone walking carefully and speaking in whispers.

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As people were arriving grabbing their Chill Out spots.

At the exact stroke of 7:00pm, all the lights go out, and up on the screen is displayed a green pasture with grazing sheep. The music starts and Elliott drifts off to sleep. As I focused my mind on the music, the grazing sheep, the cool night air, I was lulled into a state of total relaxation. I dozed in and out. Are they pumping something into the air above us? In the moments that I would open my eyes, I was fixated on this guy, maybe early 40’s, trying SO HARD to “chill out” as he wrestled with the bean bag chair and took puff after puff of weed off his pipe. It was somewhat ironic thinking that I was completely sedated and sober, while this guy was ready to trip his ass off yet could not get into the moment. My mind would catch samples in the songs of things like Elvis singing “In the Ghetto,” an old classic “Stranger on the Shore,” by Acker Bilk and even Pink Floyd bits thrown in. Utterly bewitching. I looked down at Elliott several times and he was completely zonked out. As snug as a bug in a rug, with the blanket on top of him and breathing deeply. I was sliding in and out of consciousness, more in than out. And as quickly as it started, the music ended, the grazing sheep disappeared and the lights came up. The crowd clapped. And it was over. Bottles of water were waiting for us as well as more snacks. Had we done something to necessitate nutritive replenishment? Kind, but so odd.

Was this some secret transcendental meditation experiment? Was I injected with something on the way in? I felt totally calm and at peace. Almost like I was glowing from within. I went up and spoke to the DJ Oliver for a few minutes and told him what an awesome experience this was and he was really pleased that I enjoyed myself. This was the first event of its kind in the United States. He has done this in the U.K. and Italy with a really positive response as well. I mean, I was somewhat speechless to be honest.

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The mastermind and host of the evening, DJ Oliver Payne.

I decided to leave on a high note and floated back toward the main warehouse. As I made my way through all the people milling about, I got to chat briefly with a lovely young lady named Sheryl, who was there representing Ooga Booga, the retail entity that occupies the space in the front of the warehouse. When she asked where I drove in from tonight, I told her Manhattan Beach. Her response was “Oh my God, that’s dedication!” I said “anything for a cool, new adventure.” And that it was.  So bizarre. So cool. So L.A.

Keep calm and Chill Out, my friends.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S_lktstwrs

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People still gathered after the experience ends.

British Invasion: Blast From the Past Still Packs a Punch

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The glorious Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, CA.

Friday night, September 19, 2014 at the fantastically historic Saban Theatre (1930) in Beverly Hills, joined by my fellow music loving friend Maxine for an evening of Brit Pop bands of the 60’s. We had such a jolly good time! No, I’m not from England, nor was I alive in the 60’s, but as a genuine lover of all music, I have always had a personal fondness for the light and frolicky quality of that era’s music and was really looking forward to a fun night of music from the fabulous 60’s!

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Terry Sylvester of The Hollies

After a rather long running, tepid and unnecessary performance from a local 60’s band The Malibooz, Terry Sylvester of The Hollies came out and got the crowd shaking to “Bus Stop” and “Carrie Anne” making us beg for more. Literally! Really, they should have been given a much longer set time. They sounded so fantastic and I was completely bummed out there was no time for “Long Cool Woman,” “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” and what about “The Air That I Breathe???” Next time, skip the opening local act and give the real talent more stage time, PLEASE?

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Mike Pender of The Searchers

Next up, Mike Pender of The Searchers. Mike was quite the handsome young buck back in the day, and I gotta say, he is still LOOKIN GOOD. Decked out in a black suit with a full head of thick wavy hair,the term SILVER FOX comes to mind. I went wild for “Needles and Pins,” one of my personal all time favorite songs and of course the always playful singalong “Love Potion Number 9!” More! More! We want more!

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Chad and Jeremy

Chad and Jeremy took the stage and amazed everyone with their incredibly timeless voices. Singing mostly acoustic, they were beautifully on key. Impressive! “Yesterday’s Gone,” “Willow Weep for Me,” and their big money maker, “A Summer Song.” What a delightful duo these two are. Carrying their audience back to less complicated days of young love and warm summer days at the beach. Both English, Jeremy is a very well spoken man wearing a suit, while Chad is now a jeans and leather necklace wearing hippy living in Idaho. Go figure! But they still sound wonderful together!

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Billy J. Kramer

Billy J. Kramer posseses a very large stage presence. He is all over the place! He sang his hit “Bad to Me,” as well as truly respectable versions of his famous 60’s cover of the Burt Bacharach song “Trains and Boats and Planes,” and the Walker Brothers smash hit “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” He is an extremely passionate man, wholeheartedly dedicated to the hey day of the British Invasion. He even wrote a song called “To Liverpool With Love,” in honor of Brian Epstein who helped catapult The Beatles to mega success. I liked Billy. I really did. I think he is a talented musician worthy of this tour, but if I were running the show, I would have swapped places with him and The Hollies. Just my opinion, but in all seriousness.

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Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon

Peter Asher of Peter and Gordon, who was more or less the emcee of the night, wooed us with “I Go To Pieces,” “A World Without Love,” and a sassy, snappy “Lady Godiva.” He is a HOOT! Wearing a black and white checked suit, brimming with youthful energy and full of wonderfully entertaining stories about the good old days back in England.

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Denny Laine of The Moody Blues

And last but not least, was Denny Laine of The Moody Blues! Strangely, his set was also incredibly short but thank God for small miracles he did play another one of my all time favorite tunes, “”Go Now.” Ohhhhh I love that song! Love it! He appropriately ended the night with The Wings’ hit “Band on the Run,” and I listened to it as I was heading out to beat the crowds to the garage.
What a show! What a lineup! A few things could have been better, but it really was awesome to hear snippets from all these guys, still singing and sounding remarkably solid. Outta sight, man!

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Air Supply: Just When I Thought I Was Over You

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The universal language of love knows no boundaries. It isn’t something that you “grow out of.” It envelops and grabs ahold of you no matter who you are or where you’re from. Music ties feelings and memories together like nothing else can. A certain song or lyrics can bring about a shower of memories raining down upon you instantaneously. Music is the soundtrack of life. Air Supply, the ever-loving soft rock duo, adored and respected by music fans around the world, has mastered the language of love while triumphantly singing their songs to enamored and affected audiences for nearly 40 years now. Co-founded by singer-songwriter/guitarist Graham Russell and lead vocalist Russell Hitchcock while performing Jesus Christ Superstar in Sydney Australia in 1975, these two musicians prove that you absolutely can live out your dreams eternally. If you really love what you do, people will love it too. And they do.

The venue was Humphrey’s by the Bay. What a hidden treasure this place is! An exotic and intimate outdoor venue tucked behind the hotel in a lush garden area filled with foliage and Palm trees, bordered by boats docked on the bay. Fantastic sound system (and lights of course!) with an authentic tropical island feel to it. Looking around at the crowd, elderly to youth and everyone in-between. Notable mentions were the two different men I saw, one up front pounding his muscular fist as he sang along with every word while beads of sweat were running down his face and the other wearing a US Marine baseball cap sitting next to his wife mouthing out the words to the songs. Air Supply transcends expectations of the norm. I love it!

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Watching an Air Supply show, you are transported into a dreamy world of emotions, yearning, love, lust, dreams, anticipation, pain, heartache, loneliness and hope. Everyone has been there before. We can all relate to the lyrics. The heart wants what the heart wants. Sometimes it succeeds and sometimes it fails, but above all, you allowed yourself to feel.

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I am awed at the preservation of these two musicians’ vocals. They are in the elite club of those fortunate enough to have retained their gifts.

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In the darkened background, but well worth mentioning are Amir Efrat on keyboards and Aviv Cohen on drums who make up half of the superbly talented backup band. Note the artistry of the lights, compliments of my friend Troy Stubby, their brilliant lighting guy!

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They sang their song “The One That You Love,” as they made their way through the venue. The crowd went wild. Everyone trying to touch them, take selfies as they passed by, even dancing with and for them. What a scene!

Now the night has gone
Now the night has gone away
Doesn’t seem that long
We hardly had two words to say

Hold me in your arms for just another day
I promise this one will go slow, oh
We have the right to know
We have the right to know

Don’t say the mornings come
Don’t say the mornings come so soon
Must we end this way
When so much here is hard to lose

Love is everywhere, I know it is
Such moments as this are too few, oh
It’s all up to you
It’s all up to you

Here I am the one that you love
Askin’ for another day
Understand the one that you love
Loves you in so many ways

Tell me we can stay
Tell me we can stay, oh please
They are the words to say
The only words I can believe

Hold me in your arms for just another day
I promise this one will go slow, oh
We have the right you know
We have the right you know

Here I am the one that you love
Askin’ for another day
Understand the one that you love
Loves you in so many ways

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Here I am the one that you love
Askin’ for another day
Understand the one that you love
Loves you in so many ways

The night has gone
A part of yesterday
I don’t know what to say
I don’t know what to say

Here I am, the one that you love
Askin’ for another day
Understand the one that you love
Loves you in so many ways

Here I am the one that you love
Askin’ for another day
Understand the one that you love
Loves you in so many ways

Here I am the one that you love
Askin’ for another day
Understand the one that you love
Loves you in so many ways

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Russell with bass player Jonni Lightfoot. I love the weight of the newer sound of Air Supply. The heavier, meatier interpretation lends to an almost symphonic feel that only adds to the intensity of their songs.

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Russell sings as Aaron McLain grinds it out on the guitar. Heavy and hard on the outside, yet soft and emotional on the inside. I really dig it!

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Graham and Russell are the best of friends, a shared connection that allows them to effortlessly co-exist onstage in perfect synchronicity.

Russell sounds as good as he ever did. Able to reach all the high registers, right on key. He is such a unique frontman to watch, as he draws you in while singing each song with endless passion and emotion. He really gives it up to the crowd, showing his vulnerabilities and proving that we are all thinking, feeling beings.

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Graham has composed and arranged thousands of songs in his career and continues to do so with the recent club remix of “Desert Sea Sky.”  A genius lyricist and master creator of heartfelt ballads. Together he and Russell have hit the jackpot. His inspirations are The Beatles and classical music. Makes total sense.

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Another sensational show under their belts. Air Supply fans seem to have an insatiable appetite for them. They certainly got everything they came for, and then some. How gratifying it must be to know that after 39 years, fans desperately love your music, rush the stage and sing along with your lyrics? Your audience still makes the connection and is moved by it. Phenomenal!

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Look who I got to hang out with after the show, thanks to my dear friend Troy Stubby who just happens to be their lighting guy?!?
Graham was everything you would hope someone of his stature would be. What an intelligent, well-spoken, creative, multi-talented and all around nice guy. The icing on the cake!

And I will leave you with this:
Love is universal language

Needs no translation, for it is

Spoken with a smile, a touch,

And a hug

It travels the seven seas

Crosses the highest hill

To return to roost

Before a warm fire

And a blanket shared.

 

Head in the sky and feet in the sand: A Weekend of Connecting in San Diego

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How about a weekend in San Diego, hanging out with my dear buddy Troy, checking out some sights and watching the Air Supply show? Count me in!

Arrived in to San Diego on an unusually hot day, greeted with a big smile and full on hug. Troyyyy! With not much time to spare before he had to report to the concert venue for work, we landed at a cool little place called The Living Room Coffeehouse. It felt like we were eating in a treehouse. Enjoying our small window of time together under the shade of a ginormous tree. Troy is one of those friends that makes you feel good the minute you lay eyes on him. Glowing with a warm energy, totally easy going and always smiling and happy to see you. What a delightful, albeit brief interlude.

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My friend Troy. One of the sweetest, most genuinely cool people I’ve ever known.

I dropped him off at work and started a day of exploration with my little man Elliott.
We made our first stop at the bay, sitting in the shade of the Palm trees on soft green grass, staring out at millions of boats, taking in the cool breeze off the water.

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What a gorgeous day to be by the bay.

Feeling rejuvenated, we made our way to the Sheriff Museum in Old Town.
What a fantastic little museum! Full of educational history and artifacts, staffed by incredibly friendly retired Sheriff Deputies who are more than happy to share their stories with you.

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Impressive collection of Sheriff badges!

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You play, you pay. Sally and Elliott locked up for having too much fun.

Took a stroll through Old Town looking in shops and people watching before I came upon a mariachi band concert…in a shady park. Ahhhh!
You would never know these talented musicians were kids from Chula Vista High School! Such a festive happening!

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Casa de Estudillo. 1827 Spanish architecture of the first settlers in the area.

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Immaculate Conception Church in Old Town San Diego. Love it! Look at that blue sky!

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Old Town San Diego is a spicy blend of cultutral activites, shopping and dining topped off with fascinating history.

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Art sculptures in Old Town San Diego. There’s a new Sheriff in town.

Drained by the hot sun, we retreated to the hotel for nap time

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Absolutely pooped out after a long day in the sweltering coastal heat.

and a little dip in the pool

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Ahhhhh aquatherapy.

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Lushly landscaped pool areas are a must!

After a salad and a shower, I was finally ready to head over to the show!
I was really looking forward to an evening of Air Supply!

Humphrey’s by the Bay is a fabulous and intimate outdoor venue, nestled behind the hotel and bordered by the boats on the bay. The foliage is so thick, you feel as though you’re in some hidden tropical destination. Really cool!

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Humphrey’s by the Bay. What a super fantastic outdoor venue. Can you see all the lights of the boats in the background? What a perfect concert setting!

Please see my forthcoming review of the show, but in a word, spectacular!

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Graham and Russell of Air Supply. Wow. Can you say “staying power?”

Got to hang out for bevvies after the show… what a memorable evening! My how time sure does fly when you’re having fun.

In the blink of an eye, it was morning and I had to say so long to my friend. Even on no sleep, Troy is a happy camper! So sad to see him go. I have such limited social interaction here in LA, that my time with special people is beyond precious to me. My dear friend Troy. So very thankful we are still so close after all these years. Wow!

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Sleepy but smiley after a great night! See you soon my friend!

Once again returned to solo status, I decided I better fuel up for another day in San Diego with Elliott. And what better fuel than vanilla French toast delivered to the room?

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Perfect start to my Sunday morning. Vanilla french toast and pineapple coconut water. Yummmm!

On a whim, I found myself at the Junipero Serra Museum (Founding Father of California Missions) in Presidio Park. Awesome find!

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The Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park above Old Town San Diego. What a treasure!

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The site of the original Mission has been turned into a preserve/park and the bricks used to make this cross were found among the ruins. What a wonderful tribute to Father Junipero Serra! The “Father” of California Missions.

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The site of the real first Mission settlement in San Diego’s Presidio Park.

Drove through the historic Gaslamp District. What a bustling, jumping part of town! Mostly restaurants and bars, with a few boutiques thrown in. This section of town is definitely thriving.
Good to see all this action!

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Historic Gaslamp District in San Diego is full of restaurants of all kinds.

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Hard Rock Cafe…An oldie but goodie!

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The hustle and bustle of the Gaslamp District on a Sunday afternoon.

It was already blazing hot and silly me, I thought we could cool down at the coast. Cruised through Ocean Beach and ended up at Sunset Cliffs National Park. Whoa!! This scenic stretch of coastal driving, looking out over the cliffs. Just stunning. The dirt and sand were so hot I had to carry Elliott to save his paws from burning. We squatted for a few minutes watching kids jump off the cliffs into the water below while screaming all the way down. Poor Elliott wanted to jump in and cool off, and I did too! SO HOT!

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Sunset Cliffs National Park in Ocean Beach. You can drive or walk along for miles.

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Elliott yearning to jump in and cool off!

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Reminds me of Cabo San Lucas. Just beautiful!

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Rules are for fools not cools, right?

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Come on…everyone’s doing it! Kowabungaaaa!

Our last stop for the day, Mission San Diego de Alcala. It is now 95 degrees outside and I’m melting. I won’t let Elliott’s feet touch the ground. This is insane heat for the coast. But alas, we forge ahead.
Southern California’s first mission. Beautiful architecture. Fascinating history. Lovely and lush landscaping.
Peace. Serenity. Quiet. We made our way through the self guided tour, fanning us with the brochure to avoid fainting. I’m pretty sure I sweat off 6 or 7 pounds as I wandered the grounds of this historic monument. I have such an attraction to Missions and religious art. They are simply intoxicating to me.

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MIssion San Diego de Alcala. Southern California’s first offical Misson founded in 1769. Stunning!

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The cathedral of Mission San Diego. Note the stone cross on the floor in honor of a slain Father in a brutal attack.

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Fray Junipero Serra. What a pioneer and religious hero!

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Fountain at Mission San Diego de Alcala. I love all the colors, textures and shapes in this photo!

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The iconic symbol of Missions, the bell tower.

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As Elliott and I made our way back to Manhattan Beach with the A/C blasting and the stereo turned up, I ruminated on this weekend with a bittersweet taste on my tongue. I’m so incredibly lucky and grateful for my weekend adventures, they have exceeded any and all expectations I could have ever had, but the good times always seem just a little bit better when you have someone great along for the ride! Thank you Troy for sharing a moment of your hard earned and well deserved life with me this weekend. What a special treat that our paths could finally intersect. You’ve come a longggg way, baby! Maybe all this Air Supply music is getting to my brain but here’s my thought for the weekend: Whether a passing moment, a fateful night or a life long bond, our spirits need to connect with others in a loving way. And just like the hokey pokey…that’s what it’s all about.

Koreatown: Adventures in Red Bean Paste

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And we have arrived!

Still on my list of places to check out, I decided it was as good a day as any to head down to Koreatown Los Angeles, (referred to as K-Town). I’ve heard some colorful stories about this place but felt it would be perfectly safe on a Sunday afternoon, right? I had a couple of destinations lined up to visit, grabbed my pal Elliott, fired up my Waze app and off we went!

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Koreatown Los Angeles

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Koreatown

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A little different than Manhattan Beach.

I have never actually been to Korea, but I’m thinking it may share a strong resemblance to what I witnessed on my afternoon adventure. Farmers markets swarming with people filled with all sorts of fascinating foreign food objects. Very little (if any?) English being spoken. Interestingly enough and in complete contrast to American stores and malls of any kind, no strollers whatsoever? Could it be that Koreans actually leave their tots at home for everyone’s well being? What a novel idea! Hello Kitty-esque, K-Pop (Korean Pop music is a HUGE phenomenon), clothing and jewelry stores galore and get this, even a real live Tupperware kiosk!

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The never-ending fascination with Hello-Kitty type of goods.

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K-Pop is where it’s at!

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The market inside Koreatown Plaza.

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Mmmm I’ll take six of these, please!

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Rubberized squid, anyone?

A small gaggle of beautiful Korean children came up to say hello to Elliott. Thankfully, he was on his very best behavior, as their adult guardian stood back and watched me like a hawk. I think Elliott knew better than to act out here. Smart dog. The malls were incredibly clean, well laid out and very uncluttered. Not a lot of hype and fanfare, like what you see as you pass an Abercrombie & Fitch or Sephora.

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Koreatown Galleria. Impeccably clean and uncluttered. No trashy-dressed teens cruising here.

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I love the colors against the stark white. Children’s clothing store.

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Beautiful fountain inside the mall.

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Spectacular rooftop view of Los Angeles.

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Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.

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Perfect glimpse of Korean shopping.

I was now on the hunt for Korean BB Cream, otherwise known as Beauty Balm, since the Koreans know their BB Creams! You think American women are obsessed with beauty? They don’t hold a candle to these women. And let’s face it, Korean women know their beauty products. Just look at their flawless porcelain skin! Not one wrinkle. Not one sun spot. Perfection. Asian women have skin genes from the Gods I tell you. Beauty stores filled with skin whitening potions, Bubble Hair Color and skads of facial creams. Everything written in Korean so I’m not completely sure what anything actually was. I went inside one store and was immediately tagged by the woman at the door, as she alerted her coworker in the back with something spoken in Korean. That woman followed me around the store NOT MORE THAN THREE INCHES BEHIND ME. UMMM. Okay? Can you say UNCOMFORTABLE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE? Whoa. What was that all about? Moving on now…I slowly entered the next beauty store fearing a repeat performance, but to my relief, I was greeted by a very sweet woman who was totally enamored with Elliott! She just could not get enough of him. Her two coworkers stood back and watched as if their peer was playing with some rare alien creature. She didn’t seem to share their sentiments for me or Elliott and happily showed me the 987284838751 varieties of BB and CC creams while trying her best to explain each one’s benefits to me in painfully broken English. Her coworkers seemed rather leery of the situation, watching and whispering. In addition to the dozen or so “looks” Elliott and I received throughout the day…this could give a girl a complex. Was it me specifically? The fact that I was the only Caucasian in these malls? Or perhaps because I was carrying Elliott in my arms with my “Police Line Do Not Cross” purse strapped across my chest? I have no idea, but I have to admit I didn’t feel overly welcomed with open arms by most of the people I came across. I did end up purchasing a lovely silky formula that blends to your individual skin tone and is reportedly one of the favorites in Korea. She smiled brightly as she handed me a frequent shopper card and told me to come back again soon. Too cute! Gotta love it!

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The woman inside Palace Beauty was so kind and helpful! Loved examining all the foreign potions and lotions!

Speaking of which, I went on to share a few humorous minutes with the young girl at the Bosco Bakery Cafe, as I really wanted to try a Korean “sweet”…you know how it is…when in Rome.
Poor thing knew almost no English at all. She was really trying her best to describe what all these things were. Bless her! We were both laughing simply because we saw the comedy of the language barrier over her baked goods. It was a cool reminder that we are just two people living in our own separate worlds in Los Angeles. So different, yet the same. Finally I asked something to the effect of “which is your favorite?” as I pointed to her. I think that registered and she quickly pointed to a small container of these little round bread balls? Cool! Sure! Why not? I took my purchase and sat down to try. Well I bit into one and recognized the inside…red bean paste. All right! Hey not bad at all. I was quite proud of my bravery…and it turned out to be yummy in the end!

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The tasty unofficially named “Red Bean Paste Bread Balls”

Apparently drunk and delusional with my new found confidence in trying unknown foods, I headed to my last stop for the day. BCD Tofu House. A Korean restaurant that is said to be “one of the best” in town. It’s like a Korean upscale version of “Denny’s”. Open 24 hours with with menu of traditional Korean dishes. Not a Korean BBQ, mind you, which I have been to before in Denver and enjoyed very much. I chatted with the very friendly host and after investigating the menu, I stepped out cautiously and ordered the vegetarian combo with rice. To go, of course, since Elliott was waiting impatiently for me out front. Don’t want my small dog to piss anyone off at a Korean restaurant, if you know what I mean?
My eagerly awaited order arrived with several containers all neatly stacked into one bag. I opened them all up to see just what I was about to feast on and here is what I saw (photo was taken after I had taken a few bites of rice and then dipped my spoon in the red sauce container)

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The Korean version of Denny’s.

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Appetitzing, isn’t it?

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My question is: what was MURDERED in the bowl in the bottom right?

A room temperature, dead and fried whole fish, a plate of cold limp veggies topped with tofu, a container of white rice and two (one not pictured) containers of SOME SLIMY SUBSTANCE in a red sauce that tasted like cigarette butts mixed with oyster sauce. OH DEAR GOD ALMIGHTY. Even ELLIOTT sniffed at everything and TURNED AWAY. What in the HELLL was all this and why did it make me want to gag? I ate a few more bites of the rice, packaged it all back up in the bag and laughed to myself about how “BRAVE” I was to try those red bean paste bread balls and then to think I was ready to ingest something like THIS?? Omg. I’m so white. So vanilla. Clearly not the crazy adventurist I THINK I am at times. Ha! Got some good chuckles out of it as I said my goodbyes to Koreatown and headed back to the beach. As fate would have it, while I was stopped at the on-ramp for the freeway, a very scraggly homeless woman came up to my window asking if I had any money so she could get something to eat. 3,2,1….JACKPOT!! I said, “do you like Korean food?” to which she replied, “Sure, I’ll try anything.” I grabbed the bag of (insert your best guess here) and said “HERE YOU GO! ENJOY!” She looked at me and said “Oh thank you. God Bless!” I waved goodbye as I thought…hold your blessings until you open all the containers. But hopefully she was able to fill her empty belly while becoming a new fan of Korean cuisine?
Life…always something new and different around every corner. You may not love it all, but it’s always worth investigating!

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Not sure of the significance but reminded me of the Korean Friendship Bell in San Pedro?