Drinking good bubbly doesn't mean you have to break the bank. (Photo courtesy Google Images)

HOW DO HUMANS CELEBRATE?

With drink, of course, and food. In ancient times (nine months ago), by gathering together, hugging and kissing friends and family who share the elation. But what are you doing even as you prepare those elements? You’re probably dancing or at least swaying, to the music playing in the room or in your head, and maybe singing along.

Of all the art forms, music is most able to penetrate your mind, heart and soul intact, probably because it alone is without any material substance. (And yes, I do know music creates sound waves and vibrations, but those are just delivery systems.) It is very portable, across time and space. No canvas, no bodies in motion, no video, no buildings or statues, just those notes that hang in the air for less than an instant each but hang together magically.

Writing can of course move and inspire you, leave you with a feeling, but you can’t bring it back word for word unless you have some kind of photographic memory. Only music is so uniquely accessible. Not note for exact note maybe (hey! – you forgot the cowbell!), but close enough. Not perhaps an entire album or even the whole song (it’s okay to only love the chorus), but enough. Snippets will do. It could be a tune you haven’t heard for years but, there it is, old friend.

“ALIVE INSIDE”

Science (remember science?) has shown that the first part of a human embryo brain to become functional is the one that recognizes music. And it is the last to go. Which is why some have had great success bringing people out of deep dementia to come alive for at least the time music is playing, the music they loved when they were younger. Sometimes the memories and emotions the music triggers are as vivid as if it were yesterday. It seems miraculous. Social worker Dan Cohen discovered the phenomenon and made a documentary in 2014 called “Alive Inside,” and it will blow your mind. You should be able to find it on Youtube.

BUT LET’S RETURN

To the present, just last Saturday, when the Presidential election results became indisputable to all but a loopy few, and many felt the need to celebrate, perhaps as never before for an election. I was sad not to be able to join in (I’ve been uber-cautious since the pandemic hit) but watched a lot on TV, street celebrations all over the world (we’re sorry, we’re sorry! please love us again) and heard the horns honking and sometimes voices raised, here in Ocean Park.

In 2008 many celebrated because a black man had finally been elected president; surely, most of this celebration was less a crazy enthusiasm for Joe than for ridding ourselves of a strangely orange man many felt was destroying democracy, honesty, civility and the office of the President at every turn.

The first song that popped into my mind was, “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead!” from “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), then of course “Dancin’ in the Streets” (Martha & the Vandellas, 1964) and “Na Na Hey Hey, Kiss Him Goodbye” (Steam, 1969).

A DJ friend in Madison, Brian Hirsh, called to chat, and sent me some of the songs he played at a spontaneous street party in his neighborhood Saturday afternoon. Some good ones to add to your next big celebration party: Kool & the Gang, “Celebration” (1980), “This Land Is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie (1940), Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up (Long version)” from 1970 and the oh-so-danceable “I Thank You” from Sam & Dave (1968).

There are so many more, but now, a breaking news shout out:

SANTA MONICA BUSINESS GOOD CITIZEN AWARD

Goes again to California Pizza Kitchen on Wilshire, this time with a gold star, for continuing for many years to offer a free entree on Veterans Day to military and veterans. An admirable gesture. There have always been a number of restaurants offering that but I made it a tradition to go to CPK because they were always so gracious and you wound up having half a dozen employees from kitchen to management offering a big smile, welcome and “thank you for your service.” One year they asked me if I wanted to share a table with another veteran, and I wound up in a great conversation with another Santa Monican who served.

Any restaurant who offered that Veterans Day special specified it had to be dine-in, otherwise some would probably schedule a series of grab-and-goes. If you come in, maybe you’ll bring a friend or two, maybe you’ll have a drink or order dessert, and you will hopefully have an experience that will result in your returning. That’s just good business. I was planning on skipping it this year, then my daughter suggested I call them to see if they allowed take-out, under these circumstances, and she was right.

Her call was a gift in itself. She said, “I know you didn’t want to serve, when you were 19 and in college, but you felt at that time that it was the right thing to do, for your country and for the world, and didn’t think it was right to dodge the draft if someone else had to take your place, so you did it, and I thank you for that, and acknowledge you for it.” She got it exactly right. Of course, a year after I got out, I was demonstrating against the war, and lost the sight in one eye, hit with a large rock while covering an anti-war march for the student newspaper.

So, thanks Nicole, thanks Dian, and thank you California Pizza Kitchen.

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,500 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com