We’ve been coming to Olvera Street’s annual Blessing of the Animals event since 2004. First a couple years with Shadow and then one with Ranger. Buster, our 18ish-year-old Russion tortoise, has been the designated representative of the various pets of our household every year since 2007.

This is the second year that we’ve joined with the fine folks at the Reptile & Amphibian Rescue Network and been a part of the initial processional. Last year we lucked into accompanying them basically by being at  their booth wherein they invited us, and this year we did the same thing, thereby getting ceremoniously doused with the holy H2O by Archbishop Jose Gomez at the front of the long line of other pet owners, and allowing Susan and me to quickly get to the real reason for coming downtown: margaritas at La Golondrina.

I set up our GoPro on a corner of Buster’s basket and timelapsed from prior to the event’s commencement of the procession to well into our lunch. The following stills pulled from the video show Buster and me prior to the event; the moment a bemused Archbishop Gomez flings water in our general direction; Buster in line at La Golondrina with a curious little girl; and lastly the moment Buster escaped the confines of the basket. Thankfully her freedom was short-lived thanks to Susan’s sharp-eye.

In the course of my duties yesterday, I did a follow-up with a lady in South Los Angeles with whom I’ve been I’m working as she transitions from unknowingly tethering her dog in violation of the law to doing so via a lawful alternative system. Progress has been slow, but that’s not the point of this post.

The point is that near the end of my visit with a promise from her that she would have everything completed within a week, a neighbor pedaled up with with a guitar slung across his bike’s handlebars curious as to why there was a guy in a uniform and a badge in his friend’s yard. She put him quickly at ease and we discussed the issue with him promising to help her get her dog properly confined.

I’m not at liberty to divulge specificities, so all I can say is the lady is a singer and told me that back in day she was a member of a prominent gospel group that performed all over the world and on television for such variety programming as “The Flip Wilson Show” and “The Mike Douglas Show.”

And before I left them the neighbor picked up his guitar and treated me to the following impromptu quick minute of music, which I offer to you because it was  such a pleasant and surprise joy to unexpectedly find myself enjoying those beautiful moments in a place not very well known for providing such things.

Susan’s not very good at answering the question “Hey baby… what do you want for Christmas?” That’s not a judgment, just a fact borne of the roughly 16 Christmases we’ve been together. Sure there were times when she knew EXACTLY what she wanted, such as that year she said without pause and I kid you not: “A rototiller!” But mostly when asked she typically shrugs. Concurrently I’m not at all very good at intuitively knowing what she might want.

So on the day before this past Christmas Eve when we did an out and back through Echo Park for our regular pre-Christmas local shop/walk-around, one of the last places we popped into was a dark, dusty and rather dreary antique shop on the north side of Sunset Boulevard just west of the bend at Mohawk Street. Nothing from the jumbled piles of stuff jumped out at me, but a framed print depicting a monochromatic farm-like setting of old buildings and birds and barren trees got Susan’s eye. She picked it up and gave it a good looking over.

The proprietor offered “That’s a Wyeth. A lithograph.” Sure enough the signature in the bottom right read Andrew Wyeth. And when she asked how much, he said “$150.” At that pricepoint, she promptly set it back down and we were soon on our way.

I mentioned how I’m not very intuitive, but I’m not a blob of gelatinous goo either. So when sometime later that day, Susan commented offhandedly that she really liked that picture, I knew what I had to do.

And the next day I did. Loading myself up with enough cash to make a polite but firm and very fair counter offer I prayed the place was open on Christmas Eve, which it was. Marching straight back to the print I reminded the owner of our visit yesterday with the Wyeth and told him what I was willing to pay. He mulled it a moment, said OK and the transaction was complete.

Susan was very pleased when she unwrapped it the next morning, and it has since found a home on the dining room side table.

I wrote all that because it finally dawned on me that there might be a title to that work of art, and it only took some brief googling to find out it is called “The Mill,” most likely painted in 1958 around the time the Wyeths bought the property and subsequently restored it. I found other paintings (more famously “Night Sleeper,” featuring Wyeth’s dog) that feature the location, known as Brinton’s Mill, built in 1720, in Birmingham Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

Note: I know I do not utilize this place much anymore, but with my Dodgers in the World Series for the first time since 1988 and facing elimination by the Houston Astros in Game Six tonight (on Halloween!) here at home, I’d be remiss as a life-long fan if I didn’t post up the following fantasy that I SO hope becomes reality:

I had a vision last night. It is of a tomorrow not too far from now. Not too far at all on the calendar, but to get there we must leap across a wide and deep chasm tonight that so many are saying we cannot and will not clear.

In my vision we take that leap and we do end up on the other side where there stands a man on a hill in a field. He is surrounded and protected by his fellows and the field is encircled with the love shown him by the cheering and supportive throngs. But in the midst of all that joy and support the hill he stands upon is a lonely, lonely place. In his right hand he holds his weapon of choice, a palm-sized orb of bright white leather and red thread, with which he is so well practiced and so highly skilled.

He is a dignified, respectful man, wise beyond his 31 years, who in the direct face of a recent reprehensible and disgusting display of racist ignorance and derision — with the world seemingly clamoring for him to respond to it with furious condemnation — instead he returned a calm consideration and a thoughtul decency requiring so much more strength to deliver.

Swaggering forth to face that young man from a five-sided white pentagon embedded in the earth — an equally lonely place — comes the insulting enemy. He has been labeled a beast and called a monster, but he, too, is just a young man, though one infinitely less wise than his 33 years. On his head sits a helmet that shields his grotesquely styled locks from view and in his hands he wields his weapon of choice, a strong and well-turned staff made from the hearty wood of an ash tree, with which he too is well practiced and so highly skilled.

The cacophonous chorus of cheers for the man on the hill turn to a tempest of torment for his opponent sixty feet and six inches away as the two settle in and prepare for battle amidst the deafening din.

With laser precision and able command of a wicked wizardry the man on the hill flings the orb twisting and turning, rising and dropping in a succession of launches toward the pentagon where the pineapple-haired hater tries in vain to launch it into the air and beyond the field entirely. The first is swung at mightily yet missed entirely. The second is fouled off into the crowd, which then rises as one cheering louder. The third he watches go low and beyond the reach of his staff. He starts to chop at the fourth but pulls back at the last possible millimeter as the bottom drops out too soon and bounces in the dirt before him. He crowds in for the fifth and the man on the hill brings it in high and tight forcing him to twist out of its way.

And the sixth? Well, that comes after both men step aside amid deep breaths and deeper thoughts to gather themselves. And when it does it is a righteous freight train perfectly straight down the middle that he freezes before and can only simply stand and watch as he is slain.

And the surrrounding crowd in unison with all those across the land joyously cry out “Yuuuuuuuuuuuu!” And that man on the hill was not so lonely anymore.

#GoDodgers
#ThisTeam
#GetToWednesday
#YuGotThis

Gustavo Dudamel conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony may have been listed as the star of the show (and it was fantastic!), but the reason I bought tickets to the July 13, 2017 performance at the Hollywood Bowl was that my beloved Vin Scully — eternal voice of the Dodgers and of ALL of Los Angeles — was on the bill to narrate Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” and he did so beautifully with characteristic humility and eloquence.
 
The chance to hear again what has been the voice of ALL of my summers as a native angeleno was something I couldn’t pass up, nor could I not memorialize the occasion.
 
NOTES: Scully’s narration begins at about the 8:20 mark. An encore performance is scheduled for July 18, 2017, at the Bowl. This performance was recorded (faaaaar better than me and my handheld recorder from Section J) and is scheduled to be broadcast July 30, 2017, on KUSC-FM (91.5). Gawd bless my fellow audience members. This was my first visit to the Bowl in several years where everyone was pretty much completely quiet throughout the whole program.
 
If the embed at the top is not functioning, here the direct link to my YouTube post: https://youtu.be/rUbrYgvWMFI

There’s a striking mural depicting the facets and faces of the Black Panther movement on the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and 11th Avenue titled “To Protect And Serve” that I’ve found very revelatory ever since I first discovered it back about 10 years ago.

It was painted in 1995 by Noni Olabisi, and the story of how it almost never was until the community and the Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC) rallied against opposition to it from civic leaders is compelling in its own right.

In the 22 years since its installation, it has proven to be as polarizing a work of art as the movement, enduring various defacements and damage.

About six months ago I was pleased in passing to find it being restored. The dramatic color scheme, long faded from years standing against the afternoon sun, was brought back to gloriously eye-popping vibrancy. But there was little time to celebrate its renewal. Seemingly only days after work had been completed I drove by and found the center of the mural caved in. The heartbreaking indentation looked to be about as wide and as high as a bumper, so my assumption was a vehicle involved. The question was, given the indignities this mural has endured over its years, was its ramming accidental or intentional? Passing by a few days later I saw the letters “KKK” had been added near the crushed section.

The damage stood until a couple months ago, when repairs were made to the wall, leaving a large replastered area. I figured fixing the wall was inevitable, but not so clearly a given was if the mural would be.

Then came Tuesday afternoon and on my way home from work I saw Olabisi, brush in hand and filling in that void. I thought about turning around and coming back to meet her, but I was lazytired and so I didn’t. Yesterday afternoon, same story, but different ending; this time after seeing her I yanked a right at the next street and came back up 11th Avenue where I found her in conversation with a fellow named Victor. I stepped right up and told her how thrilled I was to see the mural being re-completed. She bemoaned the fact that in the time between Tuesday evening and now someone had already marred it. She pointed out the word “Apache” had been tagged onto the sleeve of one of the officers depicted subduing Bobby Seale whose face had been covered in black spray paint. We all stood there shaking our heads.

The three of us eased into a wide-ranging discussion on race, art, history, politics, the Rwanda genocide, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, basic human goodness and instincts, Tupac, Jimi, Daryl Gates, and how love and respect is the answer to combating evil. I asked her about the significance of the bright circle on the beret near the top center of the mural (visible in the picture above with Olabisi on the left and Victor on the right), and she told me it represented the sun which shines upon us all equally and without discrimination. Amen, sister.

Before I gave Olabisi a hug goodbye, I was emphasizing my continuing belief — despite ample evidence to the contrary — in the basic goodness of us as individuals and as a species. A young lady, showed up to take some pictures of the mural and as she passed us Olabisi was talking to me about Hendrix and trying to remember a statement attributed to him. “When the power of love… is greater,” she started, but couldn’t remember the rest, and I couldn’t either.

The young lady turned around and finished it for her: “than the love of power…”

“That’s it!” Olabisi exclaimed. “When the power of love is greater than the love of power then the world will know peace.”

Righteous.

I have this mantra, taught to me by my beloved mother at a very early age. Our cat Puddy had been missing for a day or two and I was ripping around the apartment building and through our unit looking high and low in a frantic fruitless search all the while bawling like a baby at her being gone.

Mom sat me down and had me compose myself and said she’s going to teach me the “magic prayer.” And she made me repeat it after her, over and over and over:

“Nothing is lost, it is simply not revealed.”

Of course as a seven or eight year old, when Puddy did not reveal herself immediately, I went back to tearing my world apart, but at least instead of crying, I just kept saying those words over and over and over and over.

And you know what. I found Puddy soon after. She was trapped in the cabinet under the bathroom sink. Thankfully she was OK — doubly thankful because in fact, losing her had been entirely my fault. Mischievous brat that I was, I had seen her enter through the open cabinet door and I rushed up and closed it behind her. Of course I hadn’t intentionally planned on leaving her confined in the dark without any food or water for the next day-plus. At some point I must’ve gotten bored waiting for her to scratch at the door from inside and I went and found other ways to occupy that day, ultimately forgetting about her. Or at least until I couldn’t find her yet had still forgotten where I’d left her.

But me being an idiot evil child isn’t the point. The point is the magic prayer worked.

And it has done so throughout my life. I can’t give you a scientifically determined percentage of success, but over my many years when garage door openers or keys or lists, or phones or wallets or paperwork, or my sanity has vanished, I literally say those words out loud and more often than not whatever was lost becomes revealed. Sometimes it happens quickly. Sometimes not so quickly.

It happened not so quickly just this morning. Last week after the raptor presentation at Wild Birds Unlimited out in Thousand Oaks that Susan and I went to, we bought a couple of hummingbird swings. While Susan was at the market this morning I went out to mount themnext to the feeder sand in the course of screwing in the hook for the second one, it fell out and down from the porch to the brick walkway about 10 feet below with a plink. I went down and did a cursory search of the ground and came away empty handed.

So I said “Nothing is lost, it is simply not revealed” and went about my business.

A short while later, Susan got home and after putting away the groceries she came to me at my desk and handed me an eyeglass case, to which I was all “huh?”

I opened it. and inside was a long-missing favorite pair of sunglasses, themselves of which had been absent since sometime around a hike we had done, coincidentally, in Thousand Oaks nearly two years ago.

Waaaaay back then when they came up as gone I’d said the magic prayer, and then every now and then I’d remember they were still missing and tear the place apart only to end up reciting the prayer again.

Susan said she found the case in the driver side door compartment of her car where it apparently sat for aaaaall this time, because a yellow piece of paper there caught her eye. Ironically that piece of yellow paper had the address of Wild Birds Unlimited that I’d written on it and had dropped into that compartment upon our arrival last week.

Huh.

As to that hummingbird swing hook. It’ll turn up. One of these days. Or years.

Nothing is lost, it is simply not revealed. Indeed.

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