Things are looking up at USC!

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Gargoyle with a monkey seen from the Tudor Campus Center Courtyard

Today, while driving from our new classroom space in the Shrine Auditorium back to the office, I took some photos of what you might see at USC if you look up while you are walking on campus. Do you know where these are?  IMG_3996IMG_3995

IMG_3997IMG_4000My favorite stop on our impromptu tour was at the Mudd Philosophy Library depicted below:

There is a lovely courtyard. You can see this to your left as you enter the campus from the Exposition Metro stop. IMG_4001IMG_4004

Just magnificent. The reading room is so inviting. Makes me want to start studying Philosophy!                    

The library has tile mosaic panels around the room under the windows with each of the philosophers of note. 

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Forgive how dim this is. I didn’t want to use my flash.

IMG_4008As you leave Mudd Hall, don’t forget to thank the guy who’s holding the light for you as you leave! 

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L’il Monster from South Park

One of my colleagues from work sent me a lovely but unsettling text message last night. It said:

“Umm I just want to let you know that I like your blog…but I keep reading the name as life in the 8 tre(y) which is a notorious gang that is near where I live. Lol!!!”

She then included the following link:

This is not what my little old blog is about

“Oh dear thanks for letting me know” I texted back to her.

Thus began my education about the Westside Eight Trey (83) Gangster Crips.  Dang! What’s a girl gotta do to get on 60 minutes?

Apparently assault, car jack, sell drugs, and probably murder. This group has more followers than the best blogger on the internet, having identified offshoot groups (according to this helpful article my friend sent me)  in Denver, CO; Aurora CO: Hennepin, Minnesota; Harris County, TX; Wichita, KS; St. Louis, MO; Albuquerque, NM; and Portland, OR, in addition to “owning” 40 blocks of Los Angeles.

Wow. Now that’s some serious readership. My little blogs about dinner parties and trips to the Hollywood Bowl and other theatres around LA  have a way to go before I can pull in that kind of power.

“Tookie’s gang started on 83rd Street but eventually spread north and south and formed several clicks including the Original South Side, Deep Side South Side, Bacc West Side, Far West Side and Nutty North Side. ”

(The last, Nutty North Side, is probably where I would belong.)

So I’m going to form my own click – and change my name to “L’il Monster Blogger from South Park.” You can call me LMBSP. Rolls trippingly off the tongue, doesn’t it? Probably a more concise name would be more useful. The following names are not available, having been become deceased, RIP:

8-Ball, Cocaine, D.B., Lucky, Roach.

But I’m going to keep thinking about it.

 

Dinner With Friends

Since moving from our home in the Valley to our downtown condo, we haven’t done a lot of entertaining. Our condo is plenty big for us, but we can’t handle more than two other couples for dinner and only then if we are strategic to the point of military precision about our movements from the living room to the dining area, because you need to file in in the prescribed seating order and then stay there; there is no room for gracious serving from the left and clearing to the right.

“Hey, can you pass me jImmie’s plate and the salad bowl” – it’s more like that.

But I have tried to get these two couples of friends together to meet for years. A few other times we have been able to wrangle half of one couple but never all four of them. Tonight we finally succeeded.

My menu was from The Sprouted Kitchen, my favorite cookbook ever. Wild cod with a lemon, shallot caper relish, a zesty quinoa and black bean salad, a green salad, and roasted asparagus with mustard thyme bread crumbs, lemon zest, hard-boiled eggs and Parmesan cheese. I know. It sounds like a lot of things that wouldn’t necessarily go well together, right? Wrong!

And for dessert, this beautiful almond meal gluten-free cake with whipped cream with mascarpone in it and mashed strawberries in top. I must say it was a spectacular meal. (I know. Overwhelming modesty.)

The Sprouted Kitchen website

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I used to entertain a lot-huge parties in our big house with the newly renovated kitchen big enough to do a cooking show. (Theoretically. I never trotted it out on an real cooking show.) Anything under 25 people wouldn’t cause me to break a sweat. I remember on my fortieth birthday, I was ASMing on August Wilson’s “Jitney” at The Mark Taper Forum, and I decided I would have a party for forty friends: 20 old and 20 new. My brother in SF, the commercial fisherman, sent me 10 dungenous crabs in a cooler for the party, and I ordered a Honey-baked Ham with all that that entailed  to serve as well.

It was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, a holiday; I love that about my birthday, because it ensures a three-day weekend and when I had ordered the ham, I had asked two times about the fact that it was a holiday and both times they assured me that they would be open. That Monday, which was my birthday, I drove over the hill to pick up the ham only to find the store closed and half of my dinner was not accessible. In my disbelief, I stood, both hands above my head leaning against the door with it’s infuriating sign: “Closed for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday.”   But it’s my birthday, toooooo!

So I whipped up two trays of lasagna instead: one veggie, one regular. Then when the 40 people showed up for dinner, it was all ready. No sweat. Really no sweat beyond my first rage and disbelief that they would have sold me a ham to pick up on a day when the store was closed.

So then,  why is it that it took me the entire time from 7:30Am to 6:00pm yesterday  to get ready for dinner for six?  Let me look at what I did yesterday. Got up at 7:30, made the cake. Went to the Citadel Outlet stores at 10:00AM to return the suit I had bought for my husband last week. Drove to Fish King in Glendale to get good enough fish to serve to my friends.  Stopped in to visit Tina and Michael at their house which was nearby, then promptly left the fish in their refrigerator. Off to Trader Joe’s for a few essentials. Got home and realized I had forgotten the shallots and capers and limes. So I went to Ralph’s. Hmm. Note to self – need to apply same military precision to the prep…. Probably the difference is that I just don’t have a good enough memory to remember what it is that I needed at each of these stores. So I rushed around wasting time. That sounds and is moronic. Even armed with my lists.

Anyway, lest I completely squash my good feelings about last night’s party, I will just say it was a great success. Our friends hit it off and after dinner we watched the video I made about our recent trip to Alaska. I have officially become my maternal grandparents, who used to set up the slide carousel and show photos from their trips to various European cities after dinner. I secretly thrilled to these shows because I had a taste for adventure and imagined what it would be like to visit those places as a new  and sophisticated grown up.

I don’t know. Last night’s dinner went so well I may even try it again soon.  Maybe without the “home movies.”

Lose Yourself on the way to Valencia

This morning, the warm up music for Jim’s 7:15AM spin class at YAS was Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” and hearing it again made my heart fill with happiness and anticipation. Eminem’s song might seem an unlikely anthem for a 54-year old college professor of technical theatre.

But where this song took me was back to my days as a hard-driving hockey mom. I say hard-driving because then, back in 2000-2003, approximately, we drove an average of five round trips a week from our home in Van Nuys to our son’s hockey rink in Valencia. And that was just the practice trips. Practices were usually three nights a week, and then there was a game a week. He might also have a few other coaching sessions other times during the week. The game trips were sometimes even longer, as we travelled to Anaheim, Riverside, Encinitas, etc. for the games.

And all along the way, this precious time spent sometimes together as a family, or me solo with our son on some practice nights were some of the happiest times of my life.

Chris chose the music to listen to in the car during these 45 minute  to 1.5 hour trips to Valencia. As any parent of a  teen knows, the resistance to our music  or NPR can be so strenuous and unpleasant that one would do anything to  minimize stress or strife in the car. Even listen to Eminem.

I remember once, a few years later when Chris had more sensibly elected to play with a team in Panorama City, we were driving to practice one night and were fighting in the car about homework, or a messy room, or some other now insignificant issue, when my cell phone rang. This was pre don’t-answer-your-cell-phone-under-penalty-of-death-or-major-fines, so I picked it up. Chris continued to harangue me, and if you were to go to the archives of KCRW’s website, you would hear him in the background nagging at me and my shocked, anger-tinged voice answering and turning sweet as I said Hello to Matt Holzman, who was calling to tell me that I had just won a 17′ iMac computer. My anger and the resulting embarrassment at having been caught fighting in the car with my son by Matt Holzman turned instantly to wonderment and elation, as Chris listened and fumed in the passenger seat. Let me just say that was the best way to end an argument I have ever experienced.

But back to our friend Eminem.

That song became our pre-game anthem, blasting in the hockey-gear- stench-filled car on the way to points arctic for weekly games.  And it was sweet, the anticipation of the game, of seeing the other parents, of watching the boys as they blasted out of the locker room, fully charged and ready to win. And the writer in me admired the lyrics booming from the CD player in the car:

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready

Those were good days, those hockey days. Ice Hockey is a total commitment, financial, time, energy. The hockey parents used to joke that hockey was cheaper than rehab. We spent so much time with our boys and with each other. Holidays, every weekend, and several nights a week cheering them on as they became men. Those night drives to Valencia  after a long day at work were grueling, and yet transformative of him, of me, of our family, and ultimately of our relationship. And sometimes just the sound of a song can make you lose yourself. This morning, I was a proud hockey mom again, feeling energized, happy, and ready to spin my heart out. Thanks, Eminem.

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Wet Hair at the Hollywood Bowl

photo 1Last night we headed out to go to the Hollywood Bowl because I had been given comps to see “Hair” by the sound designer, my colleague Phil Allen.  All day it had been kind of overcast and cloudy, but really really hot.

I knew that the Hollywood bowl was going to be like Mount Everest for my 87-year-old husband. But karmically, things seemed to be falling together neatly. On Friday, at work I had to call a student to find out if he had the units to do a lighting design this fall. Kevin has been working as a parking attendant at the Hollywood Bowl since the age of 14. Please don’t think less of me because honestly, I didn’t call him to take advantage of this fact.

But when I did reach him, he told me that he could help me out with parking. He said he would put my name on the list, and that I should drive up the hill to Lot A and look for him.

We left the apartment at 6:00. I had a beautiful basket full of poached Salmon, a lovely quinoa salad, and for dessert, berries and some brownie bites from Smart and Final. I was feeling very, very Martha Stewart.

We got to the Hollywood Bowl and it was a complete cluster f–k. I didn’t know what lane to get into, because I literally hadn’t come to the Hollywood Bowl in five years, and the cop was pointing me to turn left when I need to go straight ahead. I said to him “My names on the list” and he waved me into the right lane, after admonishing me with a good natured retort: “We can’t read minds, here! Have a nice evening!”

I got to the bottom of the hill.  I said “My name’s on the list.” (Surely the sweetest words in the history of theatre.) Sure enough, miraculously, it was. We drove up the hill and Kevin was there and  said “Park right here,” pointing to his left to an area which was clearly not a parking spot. 

I unloaded my husband’s  walker, and gave the keys to Kevin and we walked into the bowl. 

We were now standing in front of the black macadam  Mount Everest. A rise which is probably 50° and my husband turned to me with woeful eyes and said, “How far is it?”

I looked down at the tickets and I could see that we needed to go about hundred feet further up the hill to the entrance. People were walking by shooting me dirty looks for bringing somebody with a walker on this hill.

Some kind Bowl usher helped us and pointed us to the elevator which eliminated 20 steps up. We took the elevator up and went our way up the longest handicap ramp in history. Now were on the flat area between the seating heading towards our seats. It was still  really early and the boxes in the Bowl were full of happy picnickers but the upper levels were still pretty empty.

We got to the entrance to the seating area where we needed to leave the walker and my husband looked up and said “What row are we in?” Again, woeful eyes.

I was thinking, ” Yeah,  it’s a great idea to come to the Hollywood Bowl as the last event in one’s life.”

We climbed, my husband holding onto the backs of the benches and we finally got to row 11. We sat down on our Hollywood Bowl blanket  and I opened the basket for dinner. Things were looking up.

Two pretty girls were sitting in front of us who asked us to take their picture. I did and they then took our picture, too.

photo 2It was only about 6:30 and the show was scheduled to start at 8:00. Two other people I knew came to sit down next to us because they, too,  had been given tickets by our friend. We were very jolly. The show began. It was magical. We were having a great time.

After intermission, I felt the first drops of rain. The chatter amongst the audience as these drops began to fall and intensify in frequency and weight rolled through the audience so  that the show could have stopped for all we were aware. 

I was trying to cover us up with the little blue cotton shawl that I had brought to put across our laps so that we wouldn’t get salmon on  our pants.

Pretty soon, one of the actors came out and said-“Don’t leave! “We’re bringing you ponchos!”

Keep in mind that here were 17,000 of us sitting in the audience. I thought, Yeah, and I have some swamp property in Florida….

My husband’s  hat was drenched.

I couldn’t stop laughing with Annie Wareham who was sitting to my right, her hair beginning to plaster itself to her head. The irony of being in the middle of a 3 year drought in Southern California on the one time in 5 years  we had attended a show at the Bowl in the midst of what was becoming an enthusiastic episode of rain was too much. Show? What show?

I think it was somewhere around this time that the purportedly naked people came onstage, because I completely missed them. 

One of the girls to my left, a former student USC,  was wearing a USC poncho. Good planning, Sara! Her friend got up and offered to bring us ponchos and disappeared. 10 minutes later  this goddess of mercy came back with the ponchos and handed me a flat packet with two inside. And just like were instructed to do on the aircraft, I helped my husband on with his poncho before putting mine on.  Oh no, it’s the opposite, right?

Now Annie and I were taking selfies to text to the sound mixing area which we could see was tented with a poncho or clear tarp under which Phil had a flashlight and was mixing the show. Which, miraculously, was proceeding apace. Those poor  wet actors. To their credit, they used this event to unify the audience so that by the final number, “Let the Sunshine In!” we were all singing at the tops of our lungs. The audience filed out of the bowl, chatting amiably with each other, in love with the performers, each other, the rain.

It was the best time I’ve had at the Hollywood Bowl in years.  After the show, we waited for a lot of the people to leave and then we made our way back to the car.  Kevin was waiting and pulled the car around right to us. I gave him 20 bucks. And that, I think, was our last trip to the Hollywood bowl.

Get A Room – We’re Working Here!

Last night my husband and I attended a play at a local theatre. We had a lovely dinner before hand at Jones Cafe – Italian, and we were in a particularly receptive mood to see the show.

I am one of the LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards voters. The membership guidelines are strict about not reviewing the plays on social media so I will forego commenting on the play beyond saying that you should go see “In A Dark, Dark House.”

The house was small, and the Matrix Theatre’s  seating area is broad and shallow;  the approximately 30 audience members were evenly arranged around the center of the house, in the first several rows.

Just before the play began, a family of four walked in: Dad,  probably in his early sixties, two daughters in their late twenties, and the second wife, or girlfriend of Dad. I  listened as they discussed where  to sit. Dad wanted to be in the front row. The daughters suggested  that seats further in the rear of the theatre would give them all a better perspective on the action. In hindsight, I wish their suggestion had been taken. One of them seemed to be in the know; I heard her say “We should sit house left because more of the action takes place stage right.”  But Dad was  firm in his position, so they all plopped down immediately in front of us, Dad’s  lady friend just to my left.

Their conversation was light and banal; they discussed  a book that one of the daughters had been reading at home. When Dad denied having the book, she cited specifically where in his bedroom bookshelf it was, and that it had  a red cover. “I have been reading from it lately,”  she said almost petulant. (You never believe me implicit in her tone. )

I pegged the woman as Dad’s girlfriend, because she said  “How well you know where it is!” seeming to imply that the daughter was inappropriately  foraging for reading material in her father’s bedroom.

I didn’t know what the play was about,  but as it unfolded, I became aware that there was a completely separate show directly in front of us. The woman  couldn’t keep her hands off of Dad. First she slung her arm around his neck, cupping his chin in her right hand and pulling his head conspiratorially toward her lips, she whispered into his ear. Now, the play had begun, the actors were working right in front of us, with a lot of the action indeed taking place on the stage right side of the stage in front of our section.

The front row is smack up against the stage, and Dad and his girlfriend were as well lit as the actors on the stage. She ran her well manicured hands from the nape of his neck up through his hair to his forehead. What was she doing? Looking for Nits?  And now she  whispered again, stroking his back methodically, in long languorous swaths from his shoulder to his belt line. He was sitting forward; I couldn’t tell if the material of the play was making him uncomfortable, or if it was her extremely inappropriate stroking. Geez.

I looked to my right to see if Jimmie was as aware of their activity as I was,  but he was inscrutable – focussed intently on the two actors on stage.

Later, he told me that he was ready to lean forward and tap them on their shoulder to say “You are very distracting. It’s difficult to watch the play with all that you are doing.” I would have been mortified if he had done that, but it really was incredible how active these folks were.

The wonderful monologue from Aaron Posner’s “Stupid Fucking Bird,” now playing at the Theatre At Boston Court in Pasadena, which we saw last week came to mind. Early in that play, as the cast gathered to rehearse a play (very meta), one of the actors broke the fourth wall with an hysterical monologue about the fact that ( forgive my paraphrase)  “We can see you out there, you know. We can see you thumbing through your program to see if Arye Gross (a cast member) has ever done anything at The Taper, etc.” It was  a wonderful moment.  I wished we could, just for the moment, cross-pollinate these two plays so that that actor could be given the opportunity to address Dad and his girlfriend at the theatre where we sat.

But we don’t always get what we want.

Teddy Bear On The Line

This morning, as I drove down Vermont Ave. toward USC, I spotted a dirty, rather bedraggled looking teddy bear hanging from the power line over the intersection of Adams and Vermont. It swayed slowly in the passing whoosh of air from the traffic below.

I remembered back from the let 90s how there had  been suddenly dozens of pairs of sneakers over the power lines all over the city  and how I had tried to understand what that was about.

Teddy got me thinking about it again, so I googled it to be reminded about  what the shoes meant and found this great post from back in the dark ages of 1996. Straight dope column on shoes over the power lines

In the vein of the one person who said the dangling shoes indicated that a murder had occurred nearby, I got this really creepy feeling that the bears indicate something dark about the availability of children nearby for nefarious purposes. But I am happy to say that I was not the only person to have seen a teddy from above.Teddy bears above.

I was reading an article in the New York Times on Sunday about Emojis  and the obsession of people to find a way to depict ideas, invitations, signposts in pictograms- really just a 2D example of whatever the person who threw Teddy into the sky was trying to do, right?

Really they are saying, just like the emoji stringer, “Here’s a symbol- guess what it means and you get a prize, or you get a date, or you make the person reading your text to smile,”  and I started to think about what would some more fun things to string up onto the power line be?

1.  Baseball glove- “Hey, there’s a game just around the corner! Come join us. We are in early innings.

2.  The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.- “Come join our book club to discuss this amazing book!”

3.  Apron- “there is a kickass bakery in this neighborhood.”

Well, you get the idea. We could all use a bit more symbolism and mystery in our lives, don’t you think?