How about that Fourth of July parade?
I‚Äôve seen every one but one (was out of town), and I think this may have been the best yet. Great spirit, good music, perfect weather, many civic groups, no fist fights that I saw or public intoxication, animals all dressed up for humiliation (oops, I mean, isn‚Äôt that darling?!), children being force marched, surfers crossing the parade route with boards (huh? where did all these weird people come from?), some notable costuming, athletic displays, church and synagogue denizens, more politicians than you could shake a DA at, hula hoops, a few cross dressers, and some really cool vehicles we hadn‚Äôt seen before. I love it. You want a Hollywood parade? Go to Pasadena.
I felt one eyebrow involuntarily rise when the car went by carrying the dynamic duo of Bob Holbrook and Bobby Shriver. You‚Äôll have to tell me what that means.
A laudable side event was the homemade, hand decorated cookies being passed out with smiles along the parade route by a group of young neighborhood women who decided to channel their anger over the Supreme Court‚Äôs latest ruling assaulting women‚Äôs rights (Hobby Lobby) by adorning said cookies with sugary representations of a uterus, as in, keep your hands off my very personal business. They reported getting extremely enthusiastic responses, and the opportunity for a little education of the uninformed.
I think most of us don‚Äôt want the parade to get too big and fancy. The charm and attraction is that it is a small town parade, and we are still a small town. Or, smallish city, at least. (But check back in four months. There are folks trying to change that.) Kudos to the organizers, the Ocean Park neighborhood association. Took us more than 130 years to decide to have a parade, so in the eighth year, we are still creating our new tradition. Let‚Äôs keep it small, homey and DIY. Long may it wave.
Santa Monica, known for live music, year round ‚Äì why not?
I was chatting with a local musician friend about the notion of making Santa Monica known for, among its other treasures, its performing artists ‚Äî actually performing, all over Santa Monica. Not just on the Promenade, not just on Make Music Day, but everywhere, all year long. And not just music, either. But I‚Äôll get to that in a minute.
He loved the idea, as does nearly everyone so far to whom I‚Äôve tossed it out. But he came up with a good suggestion. Keep it low.
His argument spoke loud and clear to me. He was, I‚Äôm sure, inspired by the acoustic band we had stopped to listen to at the Main Street farmers market earlier. Two guitars, a banjo and a guy slapping on one of those small percussion boxes you sit on. If we were talking, at normal level, we couldn‚Äôt hear them very well, and I didn‚Äôt like that. But live music is not supposed to be background for chatter anyway. He was decrying the setup on the Third Street Promenade, where he had recently strolled with his honey, where too much amplification meant one act‚Äôs sound bled into the next, and no one was approaching the musicians very closely because of the volume.
I like the Promenade arrangement, because if the performer is good, the volume brings it to my attention as I stroll. In a smaller park, surrounded by housing, you wouldn‚Äôt want amped up performers. My friend pointed out that it‚Äôs a plus if you have to walk right up to the performers to hear them. It makes for a more intimate experience for both audience and performer, and keeps the rest of the park for other activities while using up minimal space for the music. Go on up close to find out if you like what‚Äôs being performed, and if not, carry on watching birds, writing sonnets, throwing Frisbees or counting ants or your age spots.
I hope to be talking soon to city staff about this possibility, probably along with Recreation and Parks Commission chair Phil Brock, who first got me thinking about it maybe a year and a half ago. Seems like the costs could be really minimal: a very small stage at every designated venue, just something portable that announces, this is where the music happens, and allows performers to rest equipment or folding chairs; a website similar to what was used for MakeMusicLA recently, where interested performers could post video/audio for audition. Someone on city staff, qualified, or perhaps an outside source or even a music-savvy volunteer, could listen and assign dates, times and venues, and post a schedule for the public. Musicians certainly deserve to be paid, but a program this extensive couldn‚Äôt operate that way. I think we can still wind up with something good that will benefit everyone.
A talented musician from anywhere would be given a stage (at our recent Make Music Day, two dudes flew in from Hawaii just to perform here), but I would hope it would encourage our local musicians to get themselves out in the world and the Santa Monica sunshine and share their talent. Surely this could be of great benefit to our school kids too.
But wait! Why limit it to music? Our pool of local talent covers the spectrum. Those small stages could as easily be used for prose or poetry readings, for jugglers, kabuki, mimes, magic, comedians (? ‚Äì not sure), dramatic pairings, you name it. Visual arts too — let‚Äôs get painters onto the street corners; that could be fascinating for everyone, and very inspiring to fallen-away artists.
I can‚Äôt wait for the day I‚Äôm traveling and say I‚Äôm from Santa Monica, and someone responds, oh yeah, that‚Äôs that town that has all the street performers, everywhere, all the time, right? That sounds great! You‚Äôre so lucky to live there!
Instead of, Santa Monica? “Baywatch,” right?
I never know how to respond to that one.
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than the things you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ‚Äî Mark Twain
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn‚Äôt live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org