CURIOUS CITY — SURE GLAD I WENT TO THE “SANTA MONICA TALKS PRESENTATION” at Tongva Park Thursday, for several reasons. Our outgoing City Manager Rod Gould gave a very professional presentation on the state of the city, and man did I sleep better that night.
Everything’s fine! Finer than fine. Santa Monica’s on the cutting edge of everything, we’re rolling in dough, and water, and transportation ‚Äì love that light rail, can’t wait for our fantastic bike share program (see David Pisarra’s excellent “What’s the Point?” column in yesterday’s Daily Press) ‚Äì we’re building all the right kind of developments, and all my silly little fears about the future of our cherished little city by the sea turning into a concrete jungle West LA west, just vanished into the balmy night air.
A similar presentation will be given tomorrow night at 6:15 p.m. at Real Office Centers, 604 Arizona (underground parking at Main library validated).
Go! Learn! Ask some hard questions ‚Äì no one did at Tongva. One softball water question lobbed at Gould was quickly, cheerfully lobbed back, dismissed in one sentence. Maybe two. Not sure, I was a little distracted by tiny tacos.
The main reason to go, of course, is the ahi tuna tartare/avocado/spicy citrus mayo mini tacos provided by Del Frisco’s Grille. Yes, your city servants care so much about you hearing the right facts about your city they will feed you and give you (non-alcoholic) drinks in order to lure you out of your cozy little living quarters. I salute Del Frisco for going public with their ahi mini tacos. They’re certainly running the risk of being raided, because those puppies are way more addictive than crack, or Project Runway.
JONI REDUX, 35 YEARS ON
Last week I wrote about the remarkable convergence, within three days and mostly within Santa Monica’s borders, of art exhibitions by three famous musicians, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. The first two shows continue at Bergamot, and I especially recommend the Dylan at Andrew Weiss Gallery, there through early January. The Robert Berman Gallery, besides Neil Young, has a diverse 35th Anniversary Show featuring Dali and Dennis Hopper, Burroughs and Robbie Conal, Man Ray and many others. Ending soon.
Joni Mitchell’s show at the Hammer Museum in Westwood was not only her remarkable paintings but a film she edited of a new ballet done to her songs.It was a one-night stand. Which brings me sadly, painfully to unfinished business.
I wrote that I “was unsuccessful in my attempt to get a word with her (Mitchell), face to face. I had a reason. I wanted to test her memory. And my charisma from the old days. And maybe get another date.” Then I promised readers “the rest of that story,” next column. Yeah, that sounds a bit provocative, I know, but it is a pretty good story (usually my wife brings it up and makes me tell it), though without the hoped for fairytale ending.
Thirty-five years ago Mitchell walked into my dear friend Fay Abrams’ Mariposa Gallery in Albuquerque when I still lived there, and bought a goose-shaped tea service for her parents’ anniversary. Fay accurately (psychically) predicted when Mitchell would come in to pick it up, and I showed up and trailed her from room to room as she browsed, like a tongue-tied schoolboy, all nerve and brain function drained from my being. I had interviewed and hung out with plenty of big name musicians, but Joni Mitchell was one of my very few music heroes.
I hesitated and hesitated until finally she was out the door with her treasure. My friend gave me a wide-eyed WTF look and I made the last move possible ‚Äì out the door behind her, calling after her, “Ms. Mitchell!” (sheesh), spinning a little blah blah blah and then, “May I take you to dinner tonight?” She said yes. I was not shocked, only upset that I had almost blown it.
There was no Internet then, for me to look up a few things about her, so I forgot about that famous interview she did that so angered her that she swore off any contact with the music press, an embargo that lasted nearly 10 years. So when, over drinks before dinner at a cool southwestern-style bar in Old Town, she asked what I did, and I answered honestly that I was a music critic, it’s a wonder she didn’t throw her drink in my face and storm out. (Which would have also been a good story.)
I found out over dinner (tiny place, tucked away, yes, romantic) that she had just returned from Mexico, working with Charles Mingus as he pursued radical treatment for his ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). I knew who Mingus was, but not enough to understand the import of what she was telling me. This had not made the news yet, that I was aware of, and I should have reacted with “What?! Please tell me all about it! What’s he like? Could he still play? You wrote words? To Mingus songs?!” I’m sure she was looking for the reaction that did not come.
We had a pleasant enough evening but it did not meet my goal. She did not write a song about me the next morning, as I made her breakfast. (To be clear: there was no next morning.) I was way off my game, because of nervousness. I wasn’t bad company, but Joni Mitchell deserves inspiration. She was probably thinking about her drive up to Abiquiu the next day, to visit another pretty good painter, Georgia O’Keefe.
If I had a moment with her at the Hammer, I would have first reminded her of the circumstances of our meeting to see if she remembered. If she didn’t? ‚Äì good laugh, another good part to the story. If she did, I was going to admit my off night as a worthy conversationalist and ask for another chance, another date. Only this time I would have brought my wife, also an accomplished professional singer and painter, who may be an even bigger Joni fan than I am. We’ll go to the Mermaid Caf√©, have fun tonight.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “There are no wrong notes.” ‚Äì Thelonious Monk
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him email@example.com