a personal collection of original music, photographs, observations and other random stuff that happens inside my head…
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Union Station, Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles’ Union Station is the last of the “great stations” built in America; it opened its doors in 1939 and, within its highly celebrated first three days, accommodated over 1.5 million visitors.  Although it is considered small in size when compared to other “great stations”, it is an architectural gem.  For more images, please browse my Photo Gallery here.

Located next to historic Olvera Street (considered the birthplace of Los Angeles), the station and its grounds occupy the land that was formerly “Old Chinatown”.  Designed by the father and son team of John Parkinson and Donald B. Parkinson (who also designed the Los Angeles  City Hall and other landmarks), the exterior of the building combines “Dutch Colonial Revival Style architecture (the suggestion of the Dutch born Jan von der Linden), Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne style, with architectural details such as eight-pointed stars”. (www.wikipedia.com) Its interior is surprisingly dark and somber despite the large arched windows that line the expansive waiting room on both sides.    While one would expect a large amount of echo in such a cavernous space, the architects accounted for this by lining the upper walls with cork made from recycled corncobs.  Featuring impressive details such as Terra Cotta floors inlaid with Travertine marble and  a ceiling that reaches over 50 feet high, the cavernous space is remarkably quiet and feels more like a church than a busy transportation hub.

Los Angeles’ Union Station  served as home to the very last Harvey House Restaurant to be built as part of a railroad station.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was forced to close in 1967 due to its inability to turn a profit; with the increasing popularity of travel by air and automobile, the great railways experienced a sharp decline.  There are fabulous images of and a more detailed history about Union Station’s Harvey House here.

Happily, there is a resurgence in the popularity of not only railway travel, but in the utilization of public transportation in general.  Union Station thrives and bustles;  it’s not only a hub for long-distance services like Amtrak and MetroLink,  but also for local rail and bus transit as well.  Even more exciting is that Union Station is planned to be a major hub for the future California High-Speed Rail System.   When it’s finished, passengers will be able to get from Los Angeles’ Union Station to the planned Transbay Terminal in San Francisco in about 2-1/2 hours!!!  I can’t wait.

I love LA.

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Gallery: Union Station, Los Angeles, CA

Union Station, Los Angeles, CA

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For my blog on this fantastic architectural gem, please click here.

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Eventually – Remixed

Eventually Remix by Danica Waters

FREE DOWNLOAD… a more complex, remixed version of my song Eventually, featuring the work of San Diego’s David Page on drums, Paul Castellanos on violin, and Jeff Pekarek on bass. Produced by Myles Crawley.

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Urban Organic Gardener- Mike Lieberman

I love creative people.  Seriously.  They make my world happy.  And I am sooooooo jazzed to have found this site!  Urban Organic Gardener features great ideas from a fellow city-dweller (here in Los Angeles, nonetheless!) bent on celebrating the organic farming tradition no matter WHERE you live.

I’m so excited, I actually went out and purchased six – yes SIX – different tomato plants I thought I didn’t have room for on my landing.  To heck with that!  I’ll just hang them from the rails!

In my perfect world, I would pay Mike Lieberman, creator of the website Urban Organic Gardener,  HUGE dollars to take his ideas to schools and summer camps everywhere.  I can tell from his writing and his simple but super-effective style that he’s got the STUFF – that je ne sais quoi – that would resonate and truly inspire kids of all ages to get involved in actively raising their own food.  Check his ideas out  here.

How is it that we have disassociated ourselves from our connection with the earth, from the magic that transpires when our fingers connect with seed and soil?  It is one of the most basic and essential functions of our humanity.  My heart breaks when I read how our genetically modified food, our pesticide-laden, wax-covered  crops, are sending our world population into an ever-enlarging downward spiral.

But on the upside, I’ve been fortunate enough to have have witnessed the IMMEDIATE behavioral change in inner-city children of poverty within half an hour of serving them fresh vegetables and non-processed, home-cooked fare.  Their sense of relaxation and well being, along with their increased ability to focus on the tasks at hand was unmistakeable and remains unforgettable.  I wish I could tell you how many times principals, teachers, and others go out of their own pocket to try to provide this “luxury” for the children who are hurting the most.

We have an opportunity here.  It’s time we replace the typical,  “bean-seed-in-a-styrofoam-cup-for-a-grade-on-a-science-experiment” mentality towards gardening in our schools.   We need to restore the magic.   That method should be replaced with the combined effort of raising a salad garden, or a salsa garden, or something that allows the children to take the harvest and make something of it – even if it has to be hung from the rafters.  I say we tie in a quick lesson on economics, and compare the cost of planting & maintaining organic gardens with the cost and environmental impact spawned by trucking, by preservation, by going to the grocery store.

I do believe that our reconnection to that which nourishes and supports us is essential to our survival on many different levels.  I am heartened when I read about how people who are mentally injured – be that through exposure to war, drug addiction, or genetics gone awry – find peace and a sense of purpose through the gentle, quiet, spiritual act of connecting with the land.  Imagine if we could empower our homeless to maintain self-watering or  “hanging gardens” planted on the vast expanses of chain-link fences throughout the city.  Imagine if we could empower them to grow food for themselves – out of containers that would otherwise occupy landfills across the nation. It may not be perfect, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what we’ve got going now.

My endless thanks to people like Mike, whose ingenuity and determination expand our horizons in the simplest ways and break through the illusory limitations we’ve become so accustomed to accepting.  You inspire me to no end.

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The Big P (Picture) Project

“Through personal preference, presence and persistence we can piece together the big picture and initiate the public paradigm shift needed to transform our population to one with a positive impact on our planet, people and pocket-books”

Whew. That’s a lot of “P’s”.  But it takes a lot of “P’s” to put together a project about the big Picture.  No pun intended.  I have another personal  P I’d like to add to the pile:  PROUD.  I’ve known the creators of The Big P Project since they were in Colorado gradeschools.  It takes a lot of courage to pack up everything you have, leave everything you’ve known behind, and start a new life in a big city like Los Angeles.  It’s especially daunting when it seems like the prevailing consumer-crazy lifestyle stands in stark contrast to everything you believe in.  But rather than turn tail and head back to the mountains, founder Madison Moross has (with the help of co-founders Phannie Haver  and Nick Ware) created a website dedicated to enlightening the rest of us on how we can be more intelligent and conscious consumers.

“In our current, highly-consumptive society, we are quickly degrading the resources and biodiversity in which human vitality depends. As our society becomes more specialized and technologically efficient, we are both becoming increasingly disconnected from ourselves, our community and our relationship with our natural habitat.  We seem to also be becoming less able or interested in the related consequences.  Trying to distinguish how humans can restoratively be a part of rather than impair this is important part of our long-term mission… Conscious consumerism is the intentional purchase of products and services that the customer considers to be made ethically. This may mean with minimal harm to or exploitation of humans, animals and/or the natural eco-system, and strict withdraw of purchases that don’t meet this standard.”  (The Big P Project) 

It makes me happy to see so many members of Generation Y care so deeply about our connection to each other and to the planet that supports us all.  Their enthusiasm and commitment has inspired me to make my own personal pledge and take action to eradicate all harmful chemicals from my cleaning arsenal.  I should have done it a long time ago – you can read about my adventures here.

Check them out – join them on Facebook – make your own pledge.  I guarantee you’ll come away feeling a heck of a lot more empowered.

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Endless Thanks to Rapture Man and the Halleleujah Gypsies

You never know; this just might be it. If Rapture Man and the Hallelujah Gypsies are correct, today will mark the End of the World As We Know It.  According to them, my kids won’t even make it through dinner before The End officially ends it all.  I have lots of friends on Facebook who have lost sleep over what might happen today; of course I have many other friends who are blatantly blowing raspberries at the whole idea.  Either way, every single one of us has something in common:  we’ve all engaged in a moment (or several) of self-reflection, and we’ve all come away with a stronger sense of appreciation for the moments we’ve had on this awesome planet, and for the people we’ve shared them with.  Here’s where I think  Rapture Man just might have succeeded in his prediction of the End of the World As We Know It.

Respectfully moving past all the differences in opinion of How It All Came To Be, we’ll land in the inescapable, undeniable and truly wondrous world of  Quantum Physics.  Basic metaphysical laws dictate that awareness and emotion create profound change at the most fundamental levels.  Faced with the prospect of today’s impending doom, I can’t help but notice that we’re not thinking about all the negative stuff that seems to come with Life.  We’re not bitching about the little irritations, the folks who cut us off on the freeway, the rude cashier at the grocery store.  We’re spending our time, energy, awareness and emotion actively appreciating our lives, feeling super-lucky to have our friends and family, and even formulating healthy inner visions about how we can be even better people, should we live to see tomorrow.

I, for one, am absolutely  flooded with love and gratitude;   my moments on Earth have been nothing short of magical.  When I contemplate my crazy life path, I stand awestruck at its twistings and turnings; how am I so lucky as to have shared such awesome unpredictable moments with so many utterly fantastic people?  I am so fortunate to have known you all.  And the places I’ve seen!  I mean, how incredible is this planet, with its jagged, breathtaking peaks and shaded, womb-like wooded valleys; its quietly burbling baby streams that eventually grow to feed the raging rivers, determined to indelibly carve their energy into the face of the planet as they race to join the vast oceans teeming with unseen life at the end of the line.  It’s all interconnected. And how humbling  it has been to stand on a beach as the waves crash against it, wiggle my toes in the foam and realize I’m getting to watch the whole cycle begin again.   Yep, I’m grateful.  And I know I’m not alone.

So, if we’re all focusing today on what we appreciate, if our awareness and emotion is centered on memories and thoughts that transport us back to an ultimate state of Love, then maybe Rapture Man and the Halleleujah Gypsies have correctly prophesied The End of the World As We Know It, unwittingly helping us find our collective power to create an even better one in its place.

(And, at the very least, I’ve just come up with a damn fine name for a band!)

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Project Rhythm Seed

In my list of favorite things, Project Rhythm Seed is tops. The site doesn’t inundate you with waaayyyy too much information about everything happening everywhere. Instead, Project Rhythm Seed delivers well-written, suitably in-depth articles about the hippest things happening in today’s music scene. And with special segments like Free Music Friday, which features authorized free downloads from artists coming from a wide variety of musical genres, you can’t go wrong. You can check them out at www.projectrhythmseed.org, or simply click here.

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Thanks, But I Don’t Want To Live In A Bubble

Several years ago I had the pleasure of teaching computer literacy to children in grades 1-5 at a school for the gifted and talented. I vividly recall advising elementary school students who were tasked with an internet research project to be extremely discriminatory when it came to choosing which link they would click on. I spent a lot of time teaching them what to look for – and what to stay away from. Even a keyword search on something as seemingly harmless as “Howler Monkeys” would turn up all sorts of deviant variations on the theme. Thankfully, the school district had strong content filters, but who knows what these kids would have been exposed to at home?

Now, it appears our information is being filtered for us automatically. Unfortunately, it’s not limited to just those sites with an xxx rating. Now, based on what we most frequently “click” while surfing the internet,  an algorithm makes largely ignorant decisions about who we are and subsequently chooses our content for us.  Granted, I’m kinda’ glad I don’t have to wade through a bunch of questionable sites when trying to research a particular topic.  But I will NEVER consider having vital news and information automatically filtered out of my available options a good thing.  Let me choose. Let me customize my own filters.  Check out this video – what do you think?

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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!

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Hollywood Forever, Part One

Hollywood Forever Cemetery # 1

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It was a cloudy, late afternoon the first time I visited the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  I’d heard a little bit about it being the final resting place of many of Hollywood’s finest, including Rudolph Valentino, Tyrone Power, Douglas Fairbanks and his son, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and of Cecil B. DeMille, who was basically the father of the whole Hollywood phenomenon.   I’ve seen my fair share  of cemeteries around the world.  I figured this one would be like all the others, just with famous names attached to the headstones.  I was wrong.  Additionally, what I thought would be a casual check off my long list of places I wanted to see while I live here in Los Angeles turned into a place I’ll return to again and again.  Oddly, the words spoken by the VooDoo doctor’s wife in Clint Eastwood‘s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil have been on constant replay in my head since I first visited Hollywood Forever:  “To understand the living, you got to commune with the dead“.

Maybe it’s the way the whole experience presented itself.  I was standing in what should have been a cold, silent mausoleum looking at Valentino’s burial chamber.  I was aware of music playing in the background; it was increasing in volume, and it definitely wasn’t somber.  Just as I snapped my first photo, I realized that what I was listening to was strains of Fleetwood Mac’s You Make Loving Fun. At Valentino’s resting place. ( “Hmmm…”  I thought to myself. ” I’ll bet he did, indeed!”)   The music thumped along as I walked back through the hallways;  by the time I got to the long line of marble saints in the entryway, the music had changed to the GorillazFeel Good Inc. I know I have a better than average imagination, but something inside of me  half expected the gargantuan marble saints to break from their pedestals and start groovin’ to the beat.

Back outside, we  realized that the music was coming from some sort of party in a wide open grassy space that lay between two mausoleums and backed up to Paramount Studios.  Folks in all sorts of artistically casual attire poured in, Frisbees were flying, and the full bar was flowing freely.  Someone was having a really healthy celebration of LIFE, right there where he/she was buried.   The music changed again, this time to James Blake’s Wilhelm Scream,  just as we reached the gravesite of Johnny Ramone. How fitting.

The Hollywood Forever grounds are extensive and extremely beautiful.  I can’t say they’re perfectly manicured; to the contrary, parts of the cemetery  had a slightly worn, neglected feel to them.  Studying a site map of the grounds, I recognized the obvious names, but couldn’t help but wonder at the hundreds of names I was completely unfamiliar with.  Who were these people?  What contribution did they make?  I hadn’t known then about the fantastic Interactive Site Map on Hollywood Forever’s website.  In what must have been a painstaking labor of love, Hollywood Forever has created a place in which, with a simple scroll of a mouse, you can click on the location of a grave and get, at the very least, a photo  and bio of the individual interred there.   It’s a fascinating glimpse into some of the personalities who shaped the Hollywood phenomenon and their experiences along the way,  and I strongly recommend visiting the website prior to a physical visit to the cemetery grounds.

Leaving the cemetery that day, I had a lingering feeling that I needed to go back.  It was something I couldn’t put my finger on, and it didn’t register until my second visit, the details of which I’ll save for my next post…

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