Music and nostalgia…particularly Hamlisch, David and Williams

I often listen to evening local talk radio, and last night, following the announcement of the death of Andy Williams, 40-something-ish on-air host Tim Conway, Jr. asked others in the studio to share their thoughts. Each person respectfully mentioned his lengthy career and musical contribution, but Conway stated he had never heard and did not have any personal memory linking the singer to the song Moon River.

I aged on the spot!

I recall spending the night at my grandparents’ home and enjoying Andy with them.  Television options weren’t plentiful, and the Andy Williams Show appealed to multiple generations. I am also sure I never missed the annual Christmas shows.

I haven’t listened to an Andy Williams recording in years, but when I hear his voice I immediately know who it is and feel very nostalgic.

And speaking of musical nostalgia…

Despite publicity that tickets to Neil Diamond’s summer return to the Greek Theater celebrating the 40th Anniversary of  “HOT AUGUST NIGHT” were available, I was completely discouraged from making an effort once I saw the exorbitant ticket prices. I could get a decent seat somewhere in the cool $250’s. I’m impulsive, but not THAT impulsive.

Change of plans.

We took advantage of a real  “hot August night” to enjoy a lovely evening at the famed Hollywood Bowl. It wasn’t Neil Diamond, but I was very excited to see headliners Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Carlos Santana perform together. Santana has been on my “must see” list for a very long time. The performance also introduced me to tabla master Zakir Hussain, and Gregoire Maret, a skillful artist with a jazz harmonica.

The Bowl, the largest natural amphitheater in the U.S., has been a huge draw for showcasing many of the world’s greatest musicians and performers.  Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, the Bowl has been attracting music lovers for 96 years. Pre-concert picnicking at the Bowl extends the evening’s enjoyment, offering relaxation under the stars.

Whenever Jay and I sit in our more modest middle of the Bowl seats, I think back to my first Bowl concert when I was treated to my friend Pattie’s family luxury —I thought of them that way–box seats. The  evening’s headliner was Burt Bacharach at the height of his glamorous public persona. He was still married to Angie Dickinson and churning out hit singles by the dozen.

Jackie DeShannon’s version of “What the World Needs Now is Love” was still wafting over the airwaves and Dusty Springfield had a new release, “The Look of Love.” Already hooked on musical theater, I sang along to the Bacharach/David  “Promises, Promises” soundtrack until the vinyl was well worn. I was thrilled with this concert and immediately enamored with the Hollywood Bowl.

I remembered my early Bacharach concert experience when I heard that Hal David, the quiet half of the Bacharach-David songwriting duo, passed away on September 1st. He collaborated with other composers, but when I was growing up, it was always Bacharach and David.

Sometimes I enjoy a little singable “calm down” music and my “best of” CD offering plenty of Bacharach/David, Dionne Warwick and others who sang those melodies so beautifully comes out to play.

As it happened, we were at the Bowl immediately following the death of Marvin Hamlisch, a friend of the Los Angeles music community and a Bowl supporter. His musical contributions will be missed, but  his stunning song catalog is well-known to anyone who pays attention to music and will remain popular.

He did, after all, begin composing at age eight!  Then at thirty years old he jumped into international recognition with three Academy Awards in one evening, for “The Sting” and “The Way We Were.” He also won a Pulitzer and Tony for his score of “A Chorus Line.

I must say that I love his music…all of it!

Three very talented musicians have passed away this summer, and they represent an era in music that isn’t likely to be seen again. It’s hard to place the simple lyrics and easy delivery of Bacharach/David or Andy Williams in today’s entertainment environment. And Hamlisch, a musical prodigy and genius, well…rare!

Tim Conway, Jr. wrapped up the radio segment referring to  Williams as a crooner, then concluded that famous crooners, Bing Crosby and Perry Como, now Williams, “are gone.” I hadn’t thought of that word in years.

A crooner, by definition, relates to singing “popular songs in a soft, sentimental manner.” I suppose if we use that as a working definition, then at times I am a crooner! Oh, I like that!

If you’re needing a boost to your overall well-being maybe  you need to sing a little bit, too. It’s a great way to get the most out of your weekend exhale! Just please don’t tell me you don’t know Moon River!

Let’s all breathe lighter!

Aw shucks! No shuttle, but I did see the giant LACMA boulder!

I enjoy my weekends. And my weekend begins just as early as I can manage. I pile a lot of living into Friday! And as such, I missed Endeavor’s Los Angeles fly over.

I was in the Pasadena area, but Pasadena is a large city.  The shuttle flew over my daughter’s house, my mom and dad enjoyed a sighting, and while Jay was working outdoors he could almost reach out and touch it. Me? No!

Although disappointed, I think perhaps it’s fitting that I would miss out. You see, I did not make the effort to go with my family when the Columbia 2 completed the 2nd Space Shuttle Mission, coming to rest in Palmdale, California, November 14, 1981.

The landing was scheduled for Saturday, and Jay packed our two children and his mother into our motor home and headed out on a Friday to be sure to witness the landing. I don’t know what important business prevented me from making the trip with them. I sadly suspect it was more about a busy young mother recognizing this was her big break–an empty house! Quiet!

They have wonderful memories of a major moment in space history. I have a nice souvenir button commemorating an event I didn’t witness.

But I learned my lesson! I do my best to follow anything that’s interesting or remotely newsworthy. I am willing to  put myself out there to be witness to history when I can. Did you forget that I followed Michael Heizer’s 340-ton granite megalith on its journey to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art?

Do you want to see it shrink-wrapped before it arrived at the museum? I can refresh your memory here.

Although I missed the space shuttle this past Friday, later that evening I did make it to LACMA for Friday night jazz…and this was my first opportunity to enjoy a brief moment with Levitated Mass.

My apologies for the photography! My friend Ellen and I should have arrived while there was still light. But in my desire to take a short cut and avoid the worst of Friday night Los Angeles traffic, I decided to Mapquest a short cut. Dear family members, please don’t laugh too hard.

I anticipated being early enough to snap a good photo of the artist’s famous installation.

It would be such a wonderful thing if this late in life I developed a sense of direction. Instead, I rely on the printed word and that let me down. Thankfully, we pulled over and my iPhone navigator shortened the gap and we arrived in time to hear saxophone and woodwind specialist Louis Van Taylor. Sublime. Worth the traffic.

But  the sun was setting, and to my surprise, the artist’s installation was without spotlight. For photo opportunity I was slightly disappointed, but the lack of artificial lighting made sense. It stands-or hovers–over a fifteen-foot channel, drawing visitors to walk beneath the pyramidal stone obscuring all light, blocking out all space overhead.

It definitely makes an impression, but arriving so late in the afternoon it was impossible to do it justice. I will return! And next time with the good camera!

But I can share another LACMA delight. Daylight museum visits fail to do justice to Chris Burden’s Urban Light.

More than two hundred restored cast-iron lampposts from Los Angeles County sit in LACMA’s front courtyard, open to the street, fully lit from dawn to dusk. We won’t discuss energy efficiency, okay? Let’s just talk about how striking and beautiful this is!

So listening to a great jazz combo in this beautiful setting of lights amid palm trees, part of an installation by Robert Irwin, designer of the Getty garden, made for a wonderful evening. Following a day of high temperatures, we simply relaxed and recognized that one way to better appreciate being part of an overcrowded almost combustible urban society is to take advantage of its artistic offerings.

It took a little planning and effort to get across town at rush hour. But the reward was a lovely evening. And it was the perfect prelude to a very busy weekend. Aren’t older people supposed to slow down? Maybe next year.

After a fully active weekend I’m ready to go to work Monday morning. I don’t sing “Manic Monday” with the Bangles. I go to work to calm it all down. I’ll sing Lindsey Buckinghams’ lyrics, “Monday morning you sure look fine!”

Here’s to a new week.

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The PURPLES have it! What color are you eating?

I’ve been saturating myself in California history. I would love to have more time to read, but I’m slowly making my way through Kevin Starr’s multi-volume history of California, “Americans and the California Dream.”

When I opened my farm-fresh produce box this week I immediately grabbed my camera. I’m not always the most observant, but this week’s palette was so beautiful I didn’t just notice, I also flashed to a passage I’d just read.

“In the luxuriance of a bowl of grapes set out in ritual display, in a bottle of wine, the soil and sunshine of California reached millions for whom that distant place would henceforth be envisioned as a sun-graced land resplendent with the goodness of the fruitful earth.”

There are many aspects of California living stressful and not at all inviting, but when it comes to agriculture, we are rich!  Unfortunately I sometimes think we are so saturated with variety that maybe we are just a little spoiled. Occasionally I pull out a favorite mini-tirade about the pitfalls of taking our abundance for granted.

Eating around the color wheel is one of the games I play to prevent falling into a produce rut. I eat a lot of greens. You probably do, too. It’s just nice to mix it up a bit! Did you take a look at those grapes, figs, eggplant and purple onion? Royal colors for regal eating, I’d say.

You’re probably already very familiar with the claims that grapes and red wine (as well as peanuts and some berries) are heart-healthy due to the fat-soluble compound resveratrol. In animal studies resveratrol inhibits the growth of cancer cells. I was glad to see some purple grapes included.

And I love figs–beautifully in season right now! Figs are tremendous sources for calcium, magnesium and fiber, as well as having the reputation as a natural sweetener. The Japanese diet utilizes figs to reduce high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

The purples are simply good for you!

They include nutrients that improve the absorption of calcium and minerals. We sometimes forget that without a wide variety of micronutrients our bodies may not be able to fully utilize even the best of fruit and vegetables. The purple fruit and vegetables in my produce box are known to help lower LDL cholesterol, boost immunity, fight inflammation and are packed with a host of other energy and health and well-being efficiencies.

So tonight’s dinner represented the best of the produce box and the purples all came together in one giant fresh salad. We mesquite roasted the eggplant and purple onion with some of the last of our summer squash. A little olive oil mixed in, the vegetables were added to the grill and cooked until tender. A few of the figs were cooked lightly on the stove top with just a splash of fig-infused balsamic vinegar.

I prepared a nice mix of greens for the bed of the salad, and placed plenty of  vegetables, with beautiful eggplant and purple onion, cut grapes, and a dollop of figs lightly on top. I made a last-minute decision to add a generous cup of chickpeas for protein, but had I been thinking thematically I could have gone for purple-red kidney beans. Maybe it worked better with the contrast color of the chickpeas. I also think the chickpeas added a milder taste than kidney beans, and the eggplant and roasted onion were sweet, but bold.

Mixed with a very light fresh lemon vinaigrette it was just about perfect. If I’d been serving to guests I would have gone for a little feta. I could almost taste it, but I didn’t feel that we absolutely needed it tonight, so instead of those calories, I added in a few calories with crunch, fresh croutons.

It was delicious! I love to encourage eating well, so I would also eagerly invite you to consider a colorful direction if you’re in need of a boost! There’s a lot of beauty in nature’s food palette. Think of your plate as the frame for a beautiful piece of art!

Saturday ushers in the first day of fall–and for me, a new produce box. I wonder what colors I’ll be eating next week?