If you don’t have any young kids, you better go out and borrow a couple for Sunday. If they’re younger than 2, even better because you might feel a little conspicuous going by yourself to McCabe’s at the far east end of Pico Boulevard, from 11 a.m. to noon, to catch the kids’ matinee show with the Masanga Marimba Ensemble. But if you don’t, you’ll be missing something good.
I caught this colorfully costumed “waka waka” large band enlivening the Main Street Farmers’ Market last April, and thoroughly enjoyed their show. They haul out seven Zimbabwean marimbas of varying sizes and rhythmically and melodically whack away at them with enthusiasm, big smiles and skill, anchored by horns, various percussion and the outstanding drumming of Alex Smith.
All of the 10 players get a solo shot and also a chance to sing. But the lead vocalist, ringleader and founder of this merry band is Ric Alviso, a music professor at Santa Monica College and at CSU Northridge, where the band came together in 2000, and remains mostly students and former students of the valley college.
(I have to throw in this gentle jab for Alviso: Ric, you’re a teacher. How can you call this show, on your website, a “Kid’s Koncert?” McCabe’s gets it right, with the apostrophe, “Kids’ Matinee Show,” for many, not just one, kid — and they sure don’t go cutesy with “Koncert.” It doesn’t sell more tickets and it’s a bad example, so why do it? Proper English is dying a terrible death, and teachers should be defending it. Yes, I’m the Grammar Police, and you’re busted, Dr. Alviso. But I’ve heard you’re a really good teacher otherwise, so I’ll give you a pass this time. Just fire your webmaster.)
What I saw and heard at the Farmers’ Market convinces me these folks can put on a rockin’ show for kids. The rhythms ooze sunshine and smiles and carry you along, and who doesn’t dig seeing a bunch of grownups hitting things with sticks and just loving it? Grownups in the audience may be able to stay in their seats, but I doubt kids will.
Masanga promises this show will be “geared to little ones” and “no hyena mask this time — we promise,” but “lots of dancing.” One reason to take those under 2 — they’re free.
If you can’t make it Sunday, come back to the Farmers’ Market on Main Street a week later, May 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., for a full adult dose of Masanga Marimba.
If you don’t have Saturday planned yet, I’m here to help with that too. One of Santa Monica’s best secrets is the very small Raw Star Caf√©, on the other, ocean end of Pico, which serves vegan, organic and raw food that looks beautiful and tastes even better. I’m no vegan, but I haven’t tasted a less-than-delicious dish there yet, out of maybe 20. Plus, most Saturday evenings you get live music thrown in, sometimes a DJ or a reggae band a little later, but early on (6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.) you get the guitar and the jazz, country and pop stylings of chanteuse Diane Michelle, a local world-touring veteran and recording artist. Originals, classics and obscures. I suppose I have to tell you she’s my wife, but if I wasn’t still a huge fan of her music after 30 years I’d just not mention the show. It’s my job to tell you where I think the good stuff is hidden, never mind the nepotism.
If you’re younger than me but older than those 2 year olds, there’s a church in Ocean Park that apparently puts on some terrific music nights once a month. I say “apparently” because I have only heard about it, often glowing reports of certain performers (it’s not consistent, as you might expect), from another family member who would not want me showing up on her turf. I’m sure you can find it though, and if you’re under drinking age but love live music, you’ll probably become a regular.
It’s really gratifying to drive by Los Amigos basketball courts (at the SMASH/John Muir campus) and see the gate open and the courts accessible and being used during the hours they’re supposed to be, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and all weekend. It wasn’t that way for about 20 years, for multiple reasons that steadfastly resisted resolution, until I investigated the matter and the Daily Press ran a three-part series earlier this year.
Santa Monica Maintenance Manager Devin Starnes gave me a lot of his time for that story. I was frustrated because nothing he promised was happening after three months, but maybe that’s just how slowly the wheels of bureaucracy turn.
Since the series ran, everything he promised has been 100 percent. Not 99 percent, but perfect. I’ve driven by the courts at just after 6 p.m. and the gate is wide open. The other day it was 9:50 p.m. and the gate was wide open, and three young guys were taking their shots. Starnes did not stonewall, gave access to the press, gave straight answers, kept his word (eventually) and followed through. Unusual behavior these days for a public servant, and it should be acknowledged.
Belting out stories
My previous column told the tale, and mentioned the tales, of Ignacio Alejandro Benevides Corona, sole proprietor of Alex’s Shoe Repair at the north end of Main Street. The shoemaker son of a shoemaker who couldn’t get any of his four sons interested in carrying on the family tradition (includes four uncles) is still there six days a week, breathing life back into your precious leather at really reasonable rates.
Sure enough, it took a couple more days for my belt repair to be completed, but now it looks like new and will probably last another 10 years. By the time I got it Ignacio had read the column, and picked up a few extra copies. This after voicing his skepticism that I would ever write anything, because so many others had promised it but never followed through, he told me.
He obviously liked my profile but didn’t comment much. I know he took it to heart, though. It took me a long time to exit his shop that day because he launched into a long shaggy dog story. Since I had written of his predilection for spinning yarns, I guess he felt obligated to give me another. Got to keep up the reputation, you know.
I thought that was touching, but Ignacio, no need to make them up like that. I like the ones best that you say are out of your own life, especially the ones involving women and fights. They might not be completely, or even a little bit, true, but they’re entertaining and real, and that’s good enough for me.
But sometimes I just have to drop my stuff off and get going, so no need to lay any more “Gulliver’s Travels” on me for a while. I’m good. And your rep is safe.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at email@example.com.