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a personal collection of original music, photographs, observations and other random stuff that happens inside my head…

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Hollywood Forever, Part 2

Hollywood Forever Cemetery #2

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I have a deep aversion to the thought of being buried when I pass on.  After some self-analysis, I realize I have always experienced cemeteries as cold and foreign places. Having lost my father, all of my grandparents, several distant relatives, two schoolmates and another very close friend, I can say I have been to more than my fair share.  While beautiful in a surreal sort of way, the grounds of most of the cemeteries I’ve visited were manicured to the point that it appeared that they, too, had been embalmed; it was all too fake, too controlled.  I vividly recall deciding after each funeral I attended that I would never go back.  No matter how park-like or serene the surroundings, it was to no avail; there was no life there.  I remember feeling especially sad for my father, who was a true nature lover and who I’m sure would have preferred to have been scattered about an autumnal aspen grove in the Colorado mountains than to be stuck in a hole somewhere in the Midwest.   The whole process felt sad, somehow like the cemetery was a sort of interruption of the natural flow of things, and the dead had somehow been banished to their own equivalent of a leper’s colony.  Through preservation of their bodies the dead were no longer allowed to contribute to the flow of Life, nor were they in a place where such preservation would serve them well.

That’s why I was so surprised at being nothing short of compelled to revisit the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  When I returned, I realized what had nagged on me after my first visit: rather than feeling like death, the grounds felt- and left me feeling – completely alive. Here was an ongoing acceptance and celebration of life in all of its stages. Interspersed among the hundreds of graves, giant gray geese made nests and the ganders strutted about protectively.  Rather than relocate the geese, a simple sign was placed to warn visitors:  “WARNING: Geese are aggressive”.  (And yes, if you unwittingly get too close to a nesting goose, be prepared for a four-foot tall hissing gander to come after you.  That’s just the way it is.) As I discreetly watched a woman who had come to remember who I presume was her deceased husband, I had to smile; after she changed the flowers at his grave and lit some ceremonial incense, she walked towards the geese and began speaking to them. The ganders relaxed – they seemingly knew her well, and I could tell it gave her peace, delight, and a continued sense of purpose.

As I continued to tune in to what was happening around me, it occurred to me that if you came to Hollywood Forever to focus only on sorrow, you would be hard-pressed to not be distracted by the Life that was going on right underneath your nose.  Wading through water lilies, a pristine white crane courted my camera lens, while half a dozen peacocks showed off for onlookers just beyond.  Across the grounds, a fantastic white swan preened his feathers and gazed at his reflection at the Fairbanks Memorial.   And never mind the droppings – in the ongoing circle of life, “Sh!* Happens”.  I was most touched by the undeniable respect and care given to the feral cats that inhabit the spaces between the mausoleums. Rather than trap them or chase them off, the groundskeepers opt to take care of them, and trays filled with cat food are set out and meticulously covered with little tents to ward off any rain.  In my humble opinion, that’s a sample of humanity at its finest.

Instead of focusing on the “I’m so sad you’re gone” aspect of death, Hollywood Forever chooses instead to embrace and celebrate the essence of lives well-lived – the “I’m so happy you were here” part.  This focus is backed by ongoing cultural events held right on the premises, which enhance the lives of the living, and include art exhibits, movie screenings on the Fairbanks Lawn, live concerts held on the grounds and in the Masonic Lodge, and even a spectacular annual celebration of El Dia de los Muertos.  I cannot wait to go.

Ironically, I recently learned of another famous cemetery in the Los Angeles area.  Here’s a small sampling of their Visitor Guidelines:

“·  Picnicking and lying down on lawns or benches on the grounds are prohibited.

·  Loitering is prohibited.”

Hmmm….  Compare that to today’s press release in the Huffington Post advertising Hollywood Forever’s classic film screening of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Celebrating the life of Elizabeth Taylor, tomorrow night’s show will mark the beginning of the 10th Annual Cinespia Classic Film Screening, which is held on the Fairbanks Lawn at the Hollywood Forever grounds:

“Two Wheel It: Bicyclists who line up in the driveway before we open the gate are let in before cars. Help keep LA’s air clean and we’ll give you special treatment.

Pack a Picnic: Bring your favorite food, wine, beer or cocktails. Small tables with collapsible/screw-on legs are handy, and a couple small candles help set the mood. Barbecues, grills, and fires are not allowed. Travel light and use a cooler or basket with wheels to make transportation easy.

Seating: Pillows and blankets will keep you cozy and comfy for the movie. A blanket is essential for your set up, and we recommend laying a tarp down under your blanket to keep it dry — it works wonders. We have a chair-free area in the center of the lawn; arrange your spread there for an unobstructed view. If you do bring a chair, make sure it’s 30 inches or lower with a seat that rests on the ground.

Special Needs:
We have areas reserved for wheelchairs and people who need special assistance. We also provide handicapped parking and restrooms — just ask our staff when pulling in and they’ll direct you.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Boulevard, at Gordon Street, (323-221-3343 or www.cinespia.org)”

While I still wouldn’t wish to be buried anywhere, when it’s my time, I would be more than happy to have a part of me sprinkled over the Hollywood Forever grounds –   especially the part of me that loves concerts, old movies, picnics with small candles, and art.  And when you come to visit, don’t forget the popcorn!

Posted May 13th, 2011.

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Ok, it’s my birthday, and I’m cleaning house… Free Downloads, everybody! :)

I love birthdays… It’s like getting to celebrate your very own personal New Year…

In keeping with clearing out the old to make way for the new, this year I figure NO HOLDS BARRED! Having just moved to Los Angeles, it seems like I’ve cleaned out and eliminated in every other aspect of my life – now it’s time to clean out the creative stuff in my studio. (If you only knew how many pieces of music I have sitting in hard-drives – stuff for albums, stuff for film and tv, holiday stuff, jingle-kinda’ stuff… Lord. Time to chase away the spiders and blow off the dust, girl.)

So today we’ll start with some free downloads. They didn’t require too much polishing, and feature some amazing instrumentalists from San Diego… I hope you enjoy them! (Songs & accompanying stories will be posted subsequent to this post… just keepin’ it easy. 🙂 )

Posted March 5th, 2011.

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An Ode to St. Valentine

Valentine’s Day has always been a really weird day at my house.   This Valentine’s Day began with my kids reminding me for the umteen-millionth  time how Valentine’s Day is the “stupidest, most worthless day EVERRRRR…”.  On their return home, I got another earful from my son about how he was trying to forget it was Valentine’s Day but he “got hit in the face with, like, fourty-five shiny, freakin’  heart-shaped balloons” as he tried to pass some lucky recipient in the school hallway.

Sigh.

Poor St. Valentine.   I doubt he envisioned shiny heart- shaped balloons as a commemoration of his martyrdom.  Torture and decapitation = heart-shaped balloons.  Struggling with that one, myself.  And what about the cherub, the symbol of the romantic love he championed?  Personally, I’m still trying to get past the little flying naked baby as an appropriate symbol for anything but, say, baby diapers.  Naked flying babies could be dangerous. after all.  (Come to think of it, is that where the chocolate comes in?  The whole ritual smacks of those really bad baby shower activities where you have to taste-test a candy-bar out of a diaper.   Ewwww….  )  Let’s see.  St.Valentine + Romantic Love = Naked Flying Baby Boy.   Hmmmm…   Let’s rephrase that.  Esteemed Church Official/Saint+Romantic Love = Naked Flying Baby Boy.  That is wrong on soooo many levels.

Ok, so maybe we should look at the WHOLE history of the Valentine’s Day mystery… as much as one can figure out the original ingredients of a really good Pagan/Christian Stew that ‘s  been left to simmer a long, looong time, topped with a healthy dollop of commercialism.  (My endless thanks to good ol’ Wikipedia.)

It seems that there were several saints by the name of Valentine.  None of them really had anything to do with Romantic Love at all, but through the ages, it seems that the Saint Valentine responsible for all this muss and fuss was able to be narrowed down a bit.    This particular St. Valentine everyone seemed to know something about had been persecuted as a Christian by Roman Emperor Claudius II.  The story goes that while imprisoning and torturing Valentine, Claudius kindly paid him a visit.  The two had a nice long conversation, and it seems Claudius liked Valentine enough to try to persuade him to convert to Roman Paganism.  As any good martyr would do, Valentine refused and gallantly tried to convert the great Claudius to Christianity, which got him more torture and a big fat ugly death sentence.  Still, being a stoic, good martyr as martyrs go, Valentine cured Claudius’ daughter of  her blindness before he was horrendously murdered.  The End?

Welllll….. the “Romantic Legend Board” voted: Two Thumbs Down – Not Romantic Enough. Thus,  the “Romantic Legend” of St. Valentine was born.  Further embellishments on the legend report Valentine and Claudius’ daughter were deeply in love, and Valentine supposedly sent her a letter declaring his love for her which was delivered as he was on his way to being beaten,  stoned, and decapitated. That’s the original Valentine, folks. Makes you want one, doesn’t it?  (No wonder guys break up with chicks the day before Valentine’s Day… who wants to say they’ve lost their head over their beloved? ) Of course, every embellishment has its variation.  (FYI, according to Wikipedia, that version was  supplied, coincidentally and with no connection to historical fact, by American Greetings to History.com.)

The second Romantic Legend of St. Valentine goes something along the lines of this:

Valentine was a priest who refused to abide by a previously unchallenged law dictated by none other than Claudius, which ordered all young men to remain single.   Apparently, Claudius was trying to build his army, and he figured out that married men didn’t make good soldiers.   According to Wikipedia, “The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men.   When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine%27s_Day).  Their words.  Haven’t researched that further.   Doesn’t matter.  Marriage is marriage as far as I’m concerned.  It’s just that church officialcherub thing.

Moving on,  let’s switch from the Religious to the Commercial Quagmire, compliments of none other than the endlessly romantic Geoffrey Chaucer (1342/43-1400).  According to history, the first official connection St. Valentine really had to Romantic Love was through Chaucer’s The Parliament of Fowles. In this literary work, Chaucer portrays Valentine as the patron the of marriage of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia, and further depicts all the imagery the modern Valentine’s Day evokes:  Love-Birds, Voluptuous Blossoms of Spring, Venus, and – hold on, folks, CUPID.  And Hello, Hallmark!  Chaucer officially started the tradition of composing Love Poems on Valentine’s Day.  (Thanks, Geoffrey.  Really.)

FYI, in 1969 (ahem!),  the February 14th  feast day of St. Valentine was actually removed from the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints because they said they knew nothing of the man, except that he (or one of the many) was buried on that day on the Via Flaminia. ( Odd, since the God Cupid (cherub=naked flying boy) was of Roman origin.  So was the ancient Roman holiday Lupercalia, which was originally observed February 13 – 15 as an archaic rite connected to fertility.  You think they’d want a piece of that.)  But hey, the Churches of England and Elsewhere kept the celebration alive. (How decent of them.)  Of course, by the early 1900’s, the greeting card industry had gone ballistic, ironically promoting the very paganism that sent St. Valentine to his death.  Add confectioners and jewelers and florists to Chaucer’s Happy Wagon.  No stopping that train in 1969.

So, all of this, this, ENORMOUSLY DRAMA-LADEN DAY is the work of early screenwriters, folks.  Early Hollywood.  Trust me – they’re laughing at us all the way to the bank.    Ahhh, but like all the other suckers out there,  I love Hollywood.  I always will.  It keeps us entertained, at the very least.  Good, bad, gorgeous and freakin’ 45-shiny-balloon-UGLY, any story that features romance at the heart of the story line (or the punch line, hard to tell sometimes), no matter what happens on this ultra-weird day, I remain the mom who will always tell her kids they are her very own Valentines, year after year after year.

Posted March 5th, 2011.

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Solstice to Solstice – My Blog Journey Begins

 

“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.   We are like eggs at present.   And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. “

C. S. Lewis

Welcome to my blogsite.  December 21, 2010 seemed the perfect day to launch it, as the astronomical, astrological, numerological, and other unnamed and generally illogical signs all point to today being an amazing day to start something new.  After all , everything in our natural world begins a new cycle on this very day.

 

I intend it to be a humble perspective into my world; as an outlet for my muses, memories, and for my multimedia menagerie that has outgrown the proverbial china cabinet I’ve been keeping it in…    Sort of like a giant “coming out’ party.    I welcome your comments and contributions – sharing makes everything more vibrant  (that’s why there’s more than one facet on a diamond, right?) .  Cheers and Happy Solstice.

Posted December 21st, 2010.

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