Posts Tagged ‘ Music ’

140 Maiden Lane

On Saturday afternoon, Scott and I wandered into 140 Maiden LaneFrank Lloyd Wright‘s sole contribution to San Francisco architecture.  We were unaware of the building’s cultural significance when we entered it.  We were merely curious if the building’s interior matched its plain yet elegant exterior.  We were surprised to find an architectural marvel inside.

Visiting 140 Maiden Lane was a serendipitous detour.  I had been leading the way to Britex, my favourite fabric store, when beautiful voices beckoned.  We walked along Grant Avenue and turned left onto Maiden Lane, where a tenor and a soprano were performing for passersby.  They stood in the middle of the street.  As they sang, their operatic voices reverberated off the surrounding buildings.  We listened to several arias, and then Scott tipped the buskers as we walked past them towards Britex’s back door.  A century ago, if voices beckoned visitors onto Maiden Lane (which used to be called Morton Street), the voices likely would have belonged to prostitutes, and the visitors likely would have been johns.  The 1906 earthquake destroyed the Morton Street red-light district.  But I digress.

Across the street from Britex, a large “goop MRKT” banner fluttered in the wind above 140 Maiden Lane.  “goop MRKT” is a pop-up curation of Gwyneth Paltrow‘s lifestyle brand.  Scott told me that he had noticed 140 Maiden Lane before but it had always been closed or vacant.  The building’s tall exterior wall of tan brick is relieved by a metal gate hung below a brick arch.

As the gate was open, we walked through the arch into a lovely atrium merchandised with tasteful art, books, and clothing.  The space itself seemed to be the main attraction for many of the visitors I observed.  A large white circular ramp spirals up from the atrium to a mezzanine like a giant nautilus shell.  A drop ceiling features 120 white acrylic domes which conceal the building’s pitched glass roof.  A hanging planter floats over the atrium like a verdant flying saucer.  A small plaque near the door reads “This structure [is] designated by the American Institute of Architects as one of 17 American buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright to be retained as an example of his architectural contribution to American Culture – 1960.”  Scott and I peeked behind wooden doors to find hidden offices and a decommissioned dumbwaiter.  We opened drawers full of fancy soaps for sale.  Eventually, we left and went to Britex.

The next day, I returned to 140 Maiden Lane with a prospective client.  We had hit it off while exploring the newly-renovated San Francisco Museum of Modern Art so I was happy to share this discovery with him.  He seemed taken with the black walnut built-in furniture and fixtures, so we sat in silent appreciation of our surroundings.  Before we left, I asked a clerk to tell us about the building’s history.  She told us that gift shop owner V.C. Morris commissioned Frank Lloyd Wright to renovate 140 Maiden Lane in the late 1940’s, and that the circular ramp in the atrium served as a physical proof of concept for the architect’s interior design of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.  She advised us that “goop MRKT” is open at 140 Maiden Lane only until May 22, so there are a few days left to enjoy the space before it closes.

 

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Dance On

I recently lent a Sarah Harmer CD to an Austrian colleague named Harmer.  My colleague claims his last name isn’t very common, so I think it would be neat if he and Sarah Harmer were related to each other.

Sarah Harmer’s music is delicious, like a slice of Canadiana served warm with maple syrup.

Her songs have become a soundtrack to my life. My favourites are stored in my iCloud, so she occasionally rides shotgun on my daily commute. Her voice rises over the hum of the dishwasher when I want to pair some good tunes with my good housekeeping; and I dance with Scott in the kitchen whenever we hear her streaming on CBC Radio.

Two years ago tonight, I took this photo of Sarah Harmer performing at Spaceland in Silver Lake. After Sarah’s set, we lingered by the stage door until she came over to greet us. Scott took a photo of me and Sarah as we chatted. When I told her that her music inspires impromptu dance parties chez nous, she wrote “Helsa & Scott – Dance On ♥ Sarah Harmer” as she autographed our copy of Oh Little Fire. We will, thanks to her!

“Where The Streets Have No Name”

Bono wrote the lyrics to “Where The Streets Have No Name” after hearing a story about how a person’s address in Belfast is indicative of his or her religion and income.  In 1987, U2 filmed their guerilla video for “Where The Streets Have No Name” on the roof of the Republic Liquor Store at 7th and Main, a block from where we now live in downtown L.A.  The intersection marks the southwestern border of Skid Row, an urban wasteland where the streets have names but not much else going for them.  In 1999, the Los Angeles City Council passed an Adaptive Reuse Ordinance which enables developers to convert vacant office and commercial buildings into renovated live-work spaces.  This shift in urban policy spurred gentrification in the city’s Historic Core.  These days, transient hotels and loft conversions share the same zip codes in our neighbourhood.  A graph of gentrification vs. time for downtown L.A. would show an inflection point at x = 2010.  For the time being, the area supports the demographic diversity which Belfast lacked in Bono’s mind.

The Republic Liquor Store has given way to a 24-hour Mexican greasy spoon called Margarita’s Place.  By staging their video on a rooftop, U2 paid homage to The Beatles.  In 1969, the Beatles played atop the Savile Row roof of Apple Records.  No. 3 Savile Row in London is much more posh than 103 E. 7th St. in L.A.  At the entrance to Margarita’s Place, a sign states “No Drugs, No Drug Dealers, No Loitering, No Weapons, The Los Angeles Police Department Makes Regular and Frecuent [sic] Patrols of These Premises”.  Consider yourself warned.

During U2’s video shoot, fans lined the street in front of Dearden’s.  Dearden’s is a furniture store which recently celebrated its centenary.

The Beaux Arts-style Board of Trade Building which Bono serenaded in the video is now SB Main, a loft conversion.

Two blocks away, developers have converted the old Rosslyn Hotel into Rosslyn Lofts.  A refurbished rooftop neon sign glows with pride over the building’s original “1100 – NEW MILLION DOLLAR – HOTEL ROSSLYN – FIRE PROOF ROOMS – POPULAR PRICES”.  Bono’s fascination with the “Million Dollar Hotel” likely inspired the large replica sign that served as a backdrop for the video.  The replica was mispelled; it read “1100 – NEW MILLION DOLLAR – HOTEL ROSLYN”.

In the video, a big blue sign advertised The Cecil Hotel’s “LOW – MONTHLY – WEEKLY – RATES – 700 ROOMS” as Bono sang “I want to reach out / And touch the flame / Where the streets have no name”.  The sign is now red, and it’s been modified to promote the hotel’s “LOW – DAILY – WEEKLY – RATES – 700 ROOMS”.  Several floors of this flop house have been renovated and re-branded as Stay, a cheap and chic hotel which shares an elevator with its gritty parent Cecil.  We stayed at Stay while we were loft-hunting in downtown L.A. less than two years ago.  It was an eye-opener to ride the lift with guests who had checked out long before they checked into the Cecil.

Harry Perry

Earlier this summer, we trolled the Venice Beach Boardwalk looking for a famous busker named Harry Perry as our Canadian musician friends Jason and Kelly were keen to meet him.  Harry Perry’s electric guitar, in-line skates, and Sikh turban make him pretty easy to spot in a crowd.  He was performing near the north end of Ocean Front Walk when we found him.  We listened to Harry sing several trippy songs about science fiction and Jason, who’s a jazz guitarist, admired Harry’s chops.      

Last month, Scott and I re-traced our steps along the boardwalk with my cheeky Australian aunt and uncle.  They were hunting for tacky souvenirs so we wandered through head shops and T-shirt stalls searching for counter-culture artifacts that would scandalize their children.  Halfway up the promenade, we ran into Harry Perry.  He was in the middle of a song, so I took a photo of him as I waited for a chance to talk with him.  Once he finished his song, he posed for a couple of photos with his fans, sold some T-shirts and CDs, and offered positive affirmations to passersby.

We made eye contact so I asked him how his running was going; I had read that he runs 20 miles each day.  He told me that he had completed a marathon recently and is planning to do a couple more races this year.  He’s 59-years-old and he’s in incredible shape!

Cemetery Cinema

The Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a unique setting to watch a film on a Saturday night.  Cinespia is in its tenth season of transforming this famous cemetery into a moonlit cinema.  Last weekend, we watched “The Sting” (1973) with 3,000 other movie lovers and the spirits of screen legends interred nearby.

In the daytime, the cemetery is popular with tourists who want to commune with dead celebs such as Looney Tunes voice actor Mel Blanc; producer Cecil B. DeMille; actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr.; “Golden Girl” Estelle Getty; philanthropist Griffith J. Griffith; guitarist Johnny Ramone; gangster Bugsy Siegel; and actress Fay Wray.  Hollywood Forever is bordered by strip malls and car repair garages so its glamour is a bit frayed at the edges.

As the sun set, we enjoyed a picnic with our Canadian friends Ethan and Zarene on the grass beside the mausoleum which holds Rudolph Valentino’s tomb.  The lawn was cool and damp so we sat on an unzipped sleeping bag as we dug into stromboli, salad, corn on the cob, and cake.  The group next to us huddled around a tablecloth covered in tea lights, so we were in fine company dining al fresco.  DJs Hair and Carlos Niño spun Bob Dylan and Portishead to keep the crowd feeling groovy.  Most smokers were kind enough to congregate near the porta-potties next to a field of parked cars.  Scott was smart to pack our camping headlamps so that we could find our way in the dark.

Just after sunset, “The Sting” was projected onto the side of Valentino’s mausoleum.  “The Sting” stars Robert Redford and the late Paul Newman as Depression-era grifters who con a mob boss out of half a million dollars.  The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director in 1974.  It’s fun and exciting to watch – such a crowd-pleaser!

Jared Harris, Amoeba Music, and “The Rachel Papers”

Last week, “Mad Men” was filming an episode a couple blocks from our loft in downtown L.A.   As I waited to meet Jon Hamm (who plays Don Draper on the series), I took this photo of his co-star Jared Harris (who plays Lane Pryce, Don Draper’s former British overlord / new business partner).  The crew member I was speaking with as I snapped this shot was surprised that the British actor has fans in America.    

One of my favourite retail haunts in L.A. is Amoeba Music.  Amoeba Music is the world’s largest independent record store:  new and used vinyl, CDs, DVDs, posters, T-shirts…  it’s all there.  Our French friends Aude and Adrien brought us to the Haight-Ashbury store in San Francisco last summer and when we moved to L.A. last fall, I was eager to explore the Hollywood store on Sunset Blvd.  The original store is still open on Telegraph St. in Berkeley.

Recently, I bought a used DVD of “The Rachel Papers” (1989) at Amoeba Music.  I was excited to find it as I had seen the film once on late-night TV in the early 1990s.  I had liked the film enough to read the novel, which is by Martin Amis.  Scott watched the film with me and we’re sorry to report it hasn’t aged well despite its interesting cast:  Ione Skye, Jonathan Pryce, James Spader, and you guessed it, Jared Harris.  Although Jared Harris once lamented on NPR that being a chameleon-like actor is “good for the craft; crap for the career” and that “in this country, a good actor is confused with a famous actor”, we recognized him right away and are happy that he’s still a good actor and now a famous one, too.

Santa Catalina Island: “The Vanishing Canadian”

“I found my love in Avalon beside the bay / I left my love in Avalon and sailed away…”  Unlike Nat King Cole, I lost my love near Avalon this past weekend. 

On Sunday, I took a wrong turn near the end of our hike on Catalina Island.  That morning, we had taken a bus from Avalon up to the Airport in the Sky which is located 1,602 ft (488 m) above sea level.  After a delicious picnic with our French friends Aude and Adrien, we hiked five miles before hopping on a bus headed towards Avalon.  Along the way, we saw several bison.  Bison aren’t endemic to the area:  fourteen bison were brought to Catalina in 1924 during the filming of Zane Grey’s “The Vanishing American” (1925).  After shooting wrapped, the bison were set free to roam and propagate on the island.  Before the Catalina Island Conservancy thinned the herd to its current count of 150 to 200 animals, there were as many as 600 big brown beasts dotting the island’s grassy hills.  

Two miles from Avalon, we got off the bus so that we could walk under the eucalyptus trees which line Stagecoach Road.  We were on the outskirts of town when I lagged behind (again) to take photos.  Scott, Aude and Adrien kept walking as they assumed that I would eventually catch up with them.  This had been our routine all afternoon.  Unfortunately, I assumed that Scott had taken a staircase carved into the hill between two houses, which was a more adventurous path than sticking to the main road.  After I descended the staircase and walked for a bit, I realized that my party was nowhere in sight.  By then, I couldn’t find the staircase again, so the best thing I could do was walk through Avalon back to our campsite at Hermit Gulch.  Fortunately, Scott and our friends returned to our campsite as well once they realized I had taken a wrong turn and wandered away.  I’m sorry my stupidity caused them to worry and I’m happy we weren’t apart for long.  We cleaned up and went for a satisfying dinner at The Lobster Trap in Avalon:  the cioppino is excellent. 

Ironically, I was in a similar situation two years ago when I hiked the Manly to Spit Bridge Scenic Walkway near Sydney, Australia with Mama Chow.  During that hike, I was the one who had walked ahead on the trail and she was the one who had lagged behind to take photos.  Neither of us realized that there was a fork in the trail (it wasn’t on the map).  We took different paths and because hers turned out to be a shortcut, she ended up a mile ahead of me:  hikers I met on the trail told me that they had seen a small Asian woman with a big hat and that I needed to run if I was to catch up to her!  We were very relieved to find each other.  We finished the hike, took a taxi back to Sydney, and celebrated our final night in Australia by going out for sushi.

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