Friday Night Poop Poop Platter 

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It’s Friday night and Mama wanted some Chinese for din din. I recalled getting take out from Szechuan Palace in Playa del Rey once before and really enjoyed it. So I called in an order for a pu pu platter and shrimp with veggies for us to share back at the apartment. I work very close by and I picked up the food on my way home. I open up the cartons and to our dismay, the food was completely overcooked, tasteless and just plain bad. It looked as nasty as it tasted.  

 
The fried shrimp was like cardboard. The fried wontons looked like shriveled testicles 

and the broccoli in the entree was so mushy, I couldn’t even use a fork to lift it up to my mouth. The egg roll was so over fried, it tasted like a rolled up newspaper. 

 I know…I’m an idiot for not taking any photos and we certainly shouldn’t have even eaten as much as we did…but we were hungry and lazy. We were going to just blow it off and chalk it up as a bad dinner, but then I was like FUCK THAT I had to WORK TO EARN THE MONEY TO PAY FOR THIS DOG SHIT. I’m not going to finish eating it and then be pissed off tomorrow that I didn’t do anything about it tonight. 

I called the restaurant to tell them I was very upset at the quality of this “food”. The woman/owner(?) was really defensive and rude, telling me that’s what a pu pu platter SHOULD look like and that the food was FRESH at restaurant, but that she can’t HELP how it tasted once I got it home. HUH??  I told her this was totally unacceptable and gross and if we had been at the restaurant we would have sent it back, demanding for it to be taken off the bill. I asked if she would refund my money and she told me I had to DRIVE IT BACK TO THE RESTAURANT AND SHOW HER, BEFORE SHE WOULD GIVE ME A REFUND. So…I did just that. I packed up the rest of this CRAP and drove it back to the restaurant. She was waiting for me by the door with a big scowl on her mug. She shook her head at me as if I WAS RIPPING HER OFF?!? TACO BELL would have been 10X better and less expensive than this sorry excuse for a dinner. She opened the bag and inspected the boxes, GROWLED at me 

 
and said THESE ARE EMPTY. I said, no they’re not. And she said THESE ARE EMPTY. And I said, no they’re not. And again she said THESE ARE EMPTY. And I said no they’re not. There is 1/3 of the entree left and almost 1/2 the POOP POOP platter left. I stayed completely calm because I knew that I was not leaving the front of her establishment until I got my refund. After making me wait for her to complete two phone calls, she VERY UNHAPPILY gave me my refund (MINUS THE TIPPPPP?!?) and I said THANKS and walked out. Let’s be real folks, CRAP FOOD AND CRAP CUSTOMER SERVICE is not the way to go in a competitive market. What ever happened to having pride in your business and “the customer is always right?” She was a nasty CRANK who had no customer relation skills. I just hope I don’t get food poisoning from that GARBAGE I ingested. And now, at this very moment, even Mama’s stomach, which is normally able to handle anything from giant hot fudge sundaes to Spicy McChicken Sandwiches to 6 pieces of bacon in one sitting, is making some rather concerning alien noises. Oh God. Noooooo. What exactly WAS that “chicken like substance” that she stuffed into her pie hole? 😱😱

GROSSS. I rarely ever write negative reviews or posts on anything, but in this case I felt it absolutely necessary to share this total bummer of a dining experience.   

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Far Out in East Jesus

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“When you get to Slab City, be sure to keep on going until you get to East Jesus.” Grateful for the tip I received from two cool chicks I met at the Salton Sea Mud Pots, I decided to follow their advice to seek out East Jesus (and avoid West Satan) after spending time at Salvation Mountain. If I had known what kind of a surreal treat I was in for, I would have allotted an extra hour or two for this tripindicular excursion. The time and depth of my maiden flight through Slab City and East Jesus were just enough to mystify and intrigue me to the point of journaling my thoughts on this adventure and wanting to go back for more.

 
As I rounded the corner from Salvation Mountain, I was flashed a smile and a peace sign from atop the portal (aka guard tower) of what is affectionately known as “The Slabs,” or Slab City. This Sonoran Desert campsite was once home to the U.S. Marines’ Camp Dunlap in the 1940s and 1950s. The area was eventually abandoned, with the structures demolished, leaving only the concrete foundation slabs behind. Thus the name Slab City was born and somewhere around 1965 people began migrating to this territory slowly but surely for a multitude of reasons. Slabbers consist of everyone from snowbirds, retirees and the impoverished, to wanderers, artists, students and escapees of Corporate America. People from all walks of life including those simply wanting to live off the grid… way off the grid. Common denominator being the fundamental concept of freedom. Slab City is considered the “last free place on earth,” as its land is technically owned by (the AWOL landlords of) the California State Lands Commission, where people inhabit space here free of charge with little to no oversight, but also freedom as it relates to a genuine “live and let live” community. People come as they are, free to be who they want to be, and free from the usual constrictions of modern societal standards, judgment  and pressures.   

On the flip side, Slab City is also free from any formal electricity, running water, sewage system, traffic signals, toilets or trash service, with the woefully unmet expectation of “pack it in and pack it out.” People live in creative adaptations of tents, campers, trailers, vans, buses and RVs and commute to the decaying towns of Niland or Calipatria for necessary supplies and goods and some even bring in or build their own solar panel systems for energy. 

  
    
 Consisting more of camps rather than buildings, the town boasts a library, internet cafe, Christian Center, skate park housed in the remains of the old military base pool, hot springs, shower and a water tank turned hostel as well as a spot called the Oasis Club where you can grab a cup of coffee, Builder Bill’s outdoor live music venue called The Range and of course, the private artist residency of East Jesus and its brilliantly eerie sculpture garden. While it looks somewhat post-apocalyptic at first glance, this nomadic community of like-minded individuals is a wildly fascinating cross-section of our contemporary culture.  

   
  
Flash back to 2007, when Burning Man enthusiast Charlie Russell (rest in peace, May 2011) said goodbye to Oakland and headed out to Slab City to work with Salvation Mountain’s Leonard Knight, as well as establish a site where he could create and exhibit art on a larger scale. The official set up costs in Slab City were well within his budget: free!  Upon settling in with his art cars, including his beloved VW bus and bejeweled work of art, Cinnabar Charm, Charlie’s original vision morphed into the prolific reality of a sustainable, habitable and ever-changing living art installation and community, East Jesus.     

Little by little, Charlie crafted an entire complex of utilitarian spaces out of what many would consider useless junk. He fabricated living quarters out of the large shipping container that he had transported from Oakland with his belongings, along with hospitality and operations facilities, and a music room complete with a sound and lighting system. He devised an intricate system of solar panels that were used to juice up batteries for power, as well as installing a generator for back up. Sheer genius. Charlie wanted all who were artistically inclined to be able to take refuge at this sanctuary and safe haven where they could have the freedom to “do as thou wilt.” As others journeyed out to the desert, the sculpture garden grew in size. East Jesus is a nomadic civilization beyond the edge of the world, where free-range art lives and breathes. An other-worldly vortex of art, if you will, where every action is an opportunity for self expression. Re-use, re-purpose, and if all else fails, recycle. Find the beauty in everything.  It’s the kind of place you could expect to encounter sightings of such mythical creatures as goblins, gnomes and the occasional unicorn.

 
I strolled through the sculpture garden one late afternoon in February and took my time contemplating each piece of art, utterly mesmerized. An elephant constructed out of tires, a giant alligator made from chicken wire and used plastic grocery bags,  

a car covered in elaborate shell designs, wind chimes designed from a slew of random junk frolicking in the breeze,  

a Car-B-Cue (an annual ceremonial car burning in Charlie’s honor), 

a wall of thoughtfully stacked televisions with pointed messages painted on each screen, and on and on it goes.   

I’m itching to spend more time with the residents time so I can deepen my knowledge about this unique and collaborative commune. The energy here is unlike any other. A cauldron of magic, love, passion, anger, discovery, expression, ingenuity and fantasy. Like an extended session on Freud’s couch.

While I am not at liberty to speak for or about the inhabitants of Slab City or East Jesus, I am altogether fascinated by this place and feel compelled to make a return trip for a deeper dive into the people who live here, who they are, what brought them and why they stay. I am strangely attracted to this freedom from modern life and must feed my artistic curiosity. I raise my Chocolate Martini to you, Charlie Russell, Lynne Bright, Builder Bill, Leonard Knight, Frank and everyone else who has ever brought their positive and creative energy to Slab City and East Jesus.
  

Timeless Tunes, Delectable Bites and General Sherman

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My favorite old school radio station, Cruisin’ 1430 AM, streamed out of Denver, is always playing hits from Johnny Rivers, and I love his music, so after a quick search I learned he was scheduled to play in Visalia, California on February 27th. As I checked the map, I noticed that it isn’t too terribly far from Sequoia National Park. Well shoot! That’s a doable drive, right? A weekend of live music and giant trees sounds like fun, so off we go! Decided to make Day One the long trek to Sequoia National Park so that Sunday could be a relatively easy drive back to LA. What I love most about my road trips is being able to drive freely on the open road with my co-pilot Elliott, some good tunes playing on my stereo, taking in all the scenery and not being burdened and annoyed by bumper to bumper traffic as I traverse the city streets getting from Point A to Point B. And that is exactly what I got. Easy breezing through the agricultural fields, orange orchards and small towns of McFarland, Delano, Porterville,Exeter, and on to Lake Kaweah where people were out boating and camping and loving life.


  

I decided to stop in Three Rivers for some nutritional fuel before heading into the trees and I could NOT have POSSIBLY made a better choice than to stop off at ol’ Buckaroo for some lunch. Equipped with a kitchen housed in a food truck that creates MAGICALLY DELICIOUS organic chow, an open seating area that faces the mountains and a rushing river, blue skies above, flowers and trees in bloom, AND a totally chill dog-friendly vibe. I was one happy clam. I ordered a blueberry basil soda (YUM) and the house-made lemon ricotta pancakes… dear GOD in heaven, these were TOO GOOD for words! I don’t think I will ever forget that whole scenario, so it’s definitely worth mentioning here. After sufficiently stuffing my face, we got back in the car and made our way into the park to meet this General Sherman that I’d heard so much about.


  
 Unfortunately, I am plagued with a propensity for vertigo and motion sickness so I will say that the 18-mile switchback drive from the entrance of Sequoia National Park to the point where General Sherman lives was a completely nauseating and un-fun experience for me… AND I WAS DRIVING. Thankfully, it only took about 45 minutes to get there and I was able to score a parking spot in the very puny adjacent lot, as I was not feeling inspired to take a long hike after that drive, especially knowing that I had to drive back down the same way I came. Fun. Regardless, breathtaking beauty surrounds and the aroma of fresh air in the woods was completely intoxicating. Quite a few people shared my plan to beat the spring and summer crowds on this chilly day, as I even had to wait my turn to take most photos, but well worth every minute. Finally, Elliott and I got to meet the most famous Giant Sequoia, General Sherman in person! The largest known living tree on earth. Whoa. That’s insane. This guy is 275 feet tall, 25 feet around and has had somewhere between 2,300 and 2,700 birthdays, No joke! I wanted to run up to him and give him a great big hug, but unlike the disrespectful group in front of me, I read the signs posted EVERYWHERE that asked people to PLEASE NOT step on the ground near the Giant Sequoias, as it damages their roots. I thought it would most certainly bring me bad karma to do so, therefore I chose to have a few photos taken from farther back which is fine by me if it helps prolong the lives of these bad boys. Being in the presence of such gigantic trees that have been living on this earth for so long was quite a humbling experience. I read somewhere that walking in nature actually changes your brain activity for the better and who could argue with that? While I was not excited to get back in the car for that 18-mile pin curve drive, I felt almost cleansed in a way after making the trek and spending some time amongst these splendidly enormous and ancient plants and was even graced with a waterfall sighting on my way down the mountain.





 Fast forward a few hours, after some much needed rest and relaxation at the hotel and I had gained my second wind to go see me some Johnny Rivers! And for the record, downtown Visalia is utterly darling. Eclectic, vintage, quaint and friendly area with boutiques, antique shoppes, restaurants, cafes and the historic Fox Theatre, which was the venue for the show. I am a huge fan of all historic theatres and love seeing live music performed on their stages. Built in 1930 this jewel was built as part of the Fox Theatre chain, where it showed movies for 66 years before closing down. Thanks to local efforts and generous funding, the Fox was restored and reopened in 1999.

  
Johnny took the stage around 8pm and opened with “Seventh Son”. I will tell you, from note one I thought to myself, “Damn, this guy has still got it!” I bobbed and sang along in my seat with hit after hit, “Tracks of my Tears,” “Mountain of Love,” “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Summer Rain,” a captivating rendition of “House of the Rising Sun,” “Poor Side of Town,” “Route 66,” “Memphis,” and one of the best of the night, “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Blues.” His voice has been remarkably preserved, his guitar playing was raw, adventurous and spot on. Virtually impossible to say anything negative about his performance. I knew every song, except for a cover which I suspected was a Sade original? The guy still rocks it like he’s in his 30’s. Not bad for this 73 year old Louisiana boy. 



It was announced that Johnny Rivers would be giving autographs after the show, so I squeezed and weaved my way through the crowd as quickly as possible to get to the merchandise table in order to purchase a CD for Johnny to sign. It was there I met up with Chuck and Debbie, a likely pair of fun loving hooligans who were also in the front of the line for Johnny’s autograph. Debbie and I shared some laughs as we verbally wrestled which one of us would run away with Johnny if he asked, while Chuck acted as referee scoring our insults and comebacks. Highly entertaining. I always dig making new friends on my adventures. And here he comes! Johnny Rivers makes his way to the merch table and Debbie and I are ready to make our move. I give him my CD and say, “My name is Sally,” as he grabs my CD out of my hand while he hastily and carelessly signs the cover and replies, “I don’t do names. If I signed everyone’s names on their CDs I would be here all night,” and hands me back my CD. Well…damn. Really?


So, now it’s Debbie’s turn and she says in her cutest most flirtatious voice, “Johnny are you happily married?” and… no response at all. She repeated her question and again was greeted with crickets as he rushed to hand her back her CD. SNAAAAAP! Wow, could he have been any LESS enthusiastic or friendly with the crowd of people that makes it possible for him to still perform live in front of audiences? I get it, you’re tired or you had a bad day and don’t feel like being chatty, but come on man! Humor us just a little, would you? We left the line and went out front of the theatre to lick our wounded egos and laughed heartily as we realized NEITHER of us would be running away with Johnny Rivers. I told her that’s fine with me, I will stick to my one true love, Tom Selleck, thank you very much. Funny stuff! Great meeting you two and I hope to run into you again somewhere. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the show but was admittedly a bit put off by the whole autograph incident, so I will give Johnny an A for his musical performance, and a D for his crotchety personality.



 As I walked back to my car, I stopped into this hip little coffee shop called Tazzaria just as they were closing and this adorable young man, Austin explained that they were closing for the night and aren’t open on Sundays. Hearing a brief run down of my efforts to get to the show that night and then getting snubbed by Johnny Rivers himself, and bummed out that I wouldn’t get to try this place out in the morning, Austin went above and beyond cool and not only let me have a cookie but made me a steamed skim milk with sugar free vanilla (on the house!) to go with it. Seriously, I absolutely love cool people. He had no obligation to say anything other than, “Sorry Ma’am, we’re closed,” but instead, took the high road and was super kind and cool to me. Thank you for being you, Austin and I will see you on the flip side! Open road, fresh air, pancakes, trees, good music, cool people and a chocolate chip cookie with milk before turning in for the night. And to quote Ice Cube…I gotta say it was a good day!

There Will Be A Few Mud Pots on the Way to Salvation 

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The longer I live in Los Angeles, the more I understand the need to escape the madness. As many awe-inspiring things as there are to see and do here, the crowds, traffic and frenetic pace and attitudes can prove somewhat stifling and claustrophobic at times. I like to alternate my weekends for a good healthy blend of landscapes, cultures, activities and entertainment. So off I go, this time headed for the Sonoran Desert. Destination, Salvation Mountain. Located approximately 200 miles east of LAX, 80 miles southeast of Palm Springs and 20 miles from the southeast edge of the Salton Sea in the agriculturally rich Imperial Valley, you will come to the towns of Calipatria and Niland. 

   
 
   
Don’t blink or you will miss them! Yet, when you take a closer look, you will find a treasure trove of gems just waiting for you to discover. Checking in to the ONE hotel in the entire surrounding area, the Calipatria Inn (a fine little establishment with on site dining and very nice and helpful staff!), I was able to glean a bit of friendly local intel and started plotting my day. 

   
 Went into town to grab a bite to eat at Archie’s Place and was not only treated to incredibly taste home cooked Mexican fare, but spent time talking to the owner and her enchanting little boy. They were so excited to hear that I came to see Salvation Mountain. The restaurant owner proudly showed me a photo of her son with creator Leonard Knight, who came in regularly for brunch. Some of the best enchiladas I have ever had and the freshly made hibiscus tea was out of this world.

  
   
 First stop, the Salton Sea Geothermal Mud Volcanoes (aka the “mud pots”). Very easy to find off Highway 111 at the intersection of Shrimpf and Davis Road inbetween Niland and Calipatria. Not far from “town,” but take it slow and easy, as the road is a real washboard in some places. You will look to your right and see the behemoth geothermal power plant in the background but in the foreground you will notice these giant ant hill looking formations. Park anywhere along the side of the road and as you walk toward the pots, and you will be able to hear the gurgling and bubbling noises coming from inside the earth. Totally fascinating! There are 20+ hills and as you walk around you can peer into them and watch them burp and spew mud. Very science class photo-worthy!   

   
   
 

   
    
 Elliott must have thought there were evil spirits coming out of these volcanoes and proceeded to bark and try to attack them. Gotta love that little guy! Hopefully he doesn’t know something that I don’t? Took many photos of this slice of land that perhaps resembles another planet in outer space. I visited the geothermal fields in Iceland but they definitely didn’t look like this. Really cool and quick side trip while you’re in the area. So pleased I was able to encounter these anomalies of nature. After wiping off Elliott’s incredibly muddy paws, we cheerfully said so long to the mud pots and headed out for legendary Salvation Mountain.

   
 A quick 15 minute drive through Niland and you really won’t believe your eyes as you approach this brightly colored mountainous work of folk art. Leonard Knight’s vision of his undying and passionate tribute to God with the simple goal of spreading the message “God is love.” And that’s it. He just wanted to share the love of God and teach people that if you accept Jesus into your heart, and repent your sins, you will be saved. 

  
Born 1931 in Vermont as one of six kids raised on a farm, Leonard dropped out of high school and later entered the Army in the Korean War. While out West visiting his sister in 1967, Leonard accepted Jesus into his life and became obsessed with sharing this new found love with others. Rejected and misunderstood in his mission to spread his knowledge, Leonard was struck with a plan as he watched a hot air balloon fly over head in Burlington one day. He would build his own hot air balloon to fly God’s message above for all to see and learn. Slowly but surely Leonard actually sewed together a patchwork hot air balloon while living in Arizona. Sadly, that hot air balloon never took flight to spread Knight’s message, but it did inspire the heart broken Leonard to make one last ditch effort to memorialize God’s Word before leaving the West and heading home. Thus Salvation Mountain was born. Heading over to Slab City, California where he once visited with his boss at the time, he returned to the area for what he thought would be a week, in order to leave some small monument behind for others to see. 

   
 Erected of his own blood, sweat and tears, the first monument was made of a cement-junk mixture covered by paint and literally crumbled to the ground due to the instability of the sand after four years. Never losing faith in his vision, he started over using a mixture of native adobe clay and straw, and continued working tirelessly for decades using over an estimated 100,000 gallons of (donated!) paint used to replicate the bright colors of his patchwork hot air balloon. As the mountain grew, it eventually topped out at 50 feet in height. At one point Imperial County tried to tear down the Mountain by scandalously attempting to prove it was filled with toxic waste but with the love and support of his followers, his beloved work was saved from demolition. He even went on to expand by including a “museum” of sorts. Always evolving, always adding on, knowing that he would never truly finish his creation. Knight actually lived in his truck on the property until his passing in February 2014. Oh if only I had gotten the chance to meet and talk to Leonard himself. What a joy that would have been!

  
 In 2002, Salvation Mountain received an official status as a National Treasure of the United States and is now being overseen by the non-profit organization, Salvation Mountain, Inc. who protect and maintain this spectacular gift that Knight hoped people from all over the world would come to see. It truly is something that everyone should experience for themselves. There is definitely a peaceful energy surrounding this place under the bright blue sky. Many people making their way around, using their “inside voices” as they ooh and ahh at every turn, taking countless photos. As I walked around, taking it all in… the energy of the bright colors, the flowers, trees, waterfalls, birds, and vast amount of random personal objects left by others…it’s almost overwhelming.  This magnificent masterpiece will persevere as a one of a kind work of art, piece of history, architectural marvel and true folk legend. The enormity of the Mountain only goes to show the level of undying life-long dedication and determination this man had in expressing himself through art. Now that’s impressive. Art IS life. Go out and find some. 

  

  

It’s Better to Whistle Than Whine 

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Who’s up for an evening of old-time music performed in the living room of a 1908 farm house for a small and intimate group of friends, neighbors and music lovers alike? Everyone will have their own unique story of their introduction to David Bunn’s elusive Deep End Sessions, but I fancy my own, so here it is. My sister (in Kansas City of all places?!) came across an article describing this event and immediately forwarded it to me, knowing that I am a rabid fan of music and adventure. It took a little bit of timing and luck, but I finally nabbed an RSVP and was counting down the days until my turn on March 6, when I would get to attend the performance of Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones at the Deep End Ranch in Santa Paula. Once you are a confirmed guest, David will send an incredibly informative email with highly detailed directions to follow, as his 200-acre citrus ranch is actually OFF the GPS grid, if you can even believe such a place exists in the Google Maps and Waze revolution. 

  
 Picture this if you will…A leisurely Sunday afternoon drive on the 126 through the Santa Clara River Valley in Southern California. As you leave the insanity of LA freeway navigation behind you, the sun is shining through your windshield, with nary a car in sight. Orchards of orange trees and crop fields as far as the eye can see. Roadside fruit and vegetable stands dotted throughout as you pass by the itty-bitty towns of Piru and Fillmore. Now this is my kind of driving. From the hellacious 405, to the monstrous I-5, to the lovely 126, to a down-home county road, to the final stretch along a one-lane country road overlooking the valley, and voila! You have reached your destination. Absolutely stunning. Surrounded by citrus orchards, you find yourself enveloped in the sights, sounds and smells of the bucolic scenery around you. The heavenly scent of orange blossoms in the air, beautiful bountiful fruit trees in every direction. Horses in the stable nodding hello as you make your way down the dirt road leading up to the rambling farm house of David Bunn and his wife Ellen Birell. Over the last year and a half, they have ever so graciously further opened up their home in old-time traditional style and turned a small private affair into a slightly larger, yet still quite intimate, gathering to include like-minded individuals near and far for an evening of old-time music and fellowship at the homestead. I can see why they left LA 10 years ago to start their new lives on the ranch. 

   
  
  
As I arrived, people were milling about mingling, sipping wine and nibbling on cheese. A truly picturesque setting. Even a small ce-ment pond in the patio area to boot. David welcomed me and tipped me off to head in towards the living room so I could pick out my seat before everyone else made their way. 

  
I strategically chose a chair with photo and video background in mind. Truth be told, there’s not one bad seat in the house. Approximately 60 of us gathered around in the living room and adjoining sun porches, all in perfect view of the musicians. David started the evening off with a warm welcome and a mini background of the event itself and then introduced us to his musical guests: Erynn Marshall and Carl Jones.  

  
Erynn Marshall, an old-time fiddler, is a Canadian-born transplant to the South by way of her graduate studies in ethnomusicology and the knowledge of old-time Appalachian music. Along her travels and field work, she met veteran banjo, mandolin and guitar playing singer songwriter Carl Jones and they have been making music together ever since. Carl was born in Macon, Georgia and is a finger-picking wizard as well as a part time comedian and story teller. They are so completely at ease as they share quips, tales and histories of the songs they play. So happy are they, you can watch them grin as they voraciously play their instruments. Such talented musicians. Fiddle/guitar combo, guitar/clawhammer banjo combo, guitar/mandolin combo, singing, crowd “bahhhhh” participation, foot stomping, hootin’, hollerin’ and some really heavy fiddle and finger-pickin’ action. Upbeat toe tappers as well as good ol’ melodic Kentucky ballads. Even a tune we all got to whistle to… And I love to whistle! I don’t know about other evenings, but this roomful was really into it. All acoustic. No amplifiers. No sound board, laptops, DJs or modern technology. Just the pure raw sounds made by two humans and their musical instruments. Oh so refreshing and delightful! The way music was meant to be enjoyed. 

  
 
Tasty vittles cooking in the kitchen, the last rays of sunshine streaming into the house through the windows as the sun goes down on another day, and the frogs come out to play and begin making music of their own. Oh and don’t forget the two very sweet and well behaved spaniel dogs roaming the house looking for pats and pets. Am I really here in person? This is all just about too perfect. 

After nearly two hours of music, with a short intermission inbetween, we break for dinner. David’s small but faithful tribe now includes two female resident chefs who can cook up some mean vegetarian chili. Accompanied by mouth watering cornbread and sinfully delicious honey butter. I was one happy camper. Breaking bread with others. A sense of community. Lively discussions of any and all music-related topics. I loved watching the energy transition from observational to interactive.   

Chatted with a few new aquaintances and even got to spend some time chewing the fat with Carl Jones himself. You don’t get much more down to earth than this guy. Humble, engaging and so personable. Sharing tales of touring, ukuleles and cat sitters. I’m a fan of the man behind this music. 

 

As people finished up eating, the jam session started as the guests brought out their own instruments and started picking and strumming right along with Erynn and Carl. The energy was so warm and so alive. Undoubtedly, this went on for hours, however, being the working girl that I am, I had to bid adieu to David and thank him sincerely for allowing me to experience this night of old-time music and fun. 

  
It’s not often that you get to actually be a part of something like this. Not in this day and age anyway. Such a distinctive and memorable evening on the Deep End Ranch. How will I ever enjoy a ginormous venue again after this? I’m already wanting to go back for more Deep End Sessions! Thank you to David, Ellen and the tribe, Erynn and Carl, as well as the kind strangers who made sure I got to my car safely and made it out to the main road in the pitch dark. And this my friends, is what you can look forward to when you open your mind, expand your horizons and explore the road less taken. 

Uke Your Way to Happiness

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When I bought my first ukulele on a whim a number of years ago I never imagined I would end up buying two more and playing uke performances every few months in Los Angeles California of all places! But since then, the uke has transformed into so much more than just a cute yet mostly decorative instrument that I “should learn to play some day”. That “some day” is now and I’ve been taking group lessons for nearly two years in Manhattan Beach at Dietz Brothers Music School. Let me tell you something, music lessons are not just for kids, silly rabbit. They are for everyone of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. It’s not just an instrument for people who spend most of their time on the beaches of Hawaii either. The only thing it requires is a love of music… well practice and a little patience too. 

  
Such a sense of fun and nonjudgmental acceptance by a group of people brought together for one reason: to learn and play the ukulele! I love that our teacher is less about theory and all about about playing. She teaches us theory along the way, but we get the instant gratification of learning new songs every week at class. The school is very close to my place, class starts later in the evening so I’m not being rushed through rush hour AND I get to bring Elliott, who has become the class mascot. What’s there not to love about this set up? 

Music has been an integral part of my being since the womb, I’m sure. And a life without music would be a terribly sad existence. I played the recorder for the Recorder Society in elementary school, and then went on to be the first chair floutist in the State of Colorado through Colorado Honor Band and now, many moons later, here I am strumming and singing a wide assortment of hits, both past and present, on the ukulele. I can certainly say, your brain will never dull while learning something new like an instrument. Man, it sure takes some hand/eye/brain coordination to pull this all together and I’m hardly a pro, but I do okay! Of course I practiced my other instruments a lot more and didn’t have an office job to drain my brain like I do now, but such is life, right? Hell, if a woman 20+ years older than me can learn to play the banjo then I can surely learn the ukulele.

  
The point I’m trying to make is, these little 4 (and 6) stringed pieces of carved wood have brought me such joy, accomplishment, belonging and happiness while feeding music to my spirit on a regular basis and then, every so often, I get to perform a few songs within the safe confines of a group for others to enjoy. And if and when I’m lucky, I can wrangle up someone I know to come watch!  

After last night’s performance, I just felt the need to share my love of music from a different perspective than my usual concert replay. Playing an instrument as an adult is highly underrated and is a somewhat untapped source of happiness that every single human could benefit from. Don’t just listen to other people’s music. Make your own music! It’s good for the soul!