For Talisse


I wrote this for my new granddaughter:

When I look in your eyes, I hear the soft strumming of a mandolin, punctuated by finger cymbals.

The universe celebrates your birth by dancing a giddy Tarantella led by a magic dragon strewn in a million flowers.

When I look in your eyes I see swaying palms
and olive trees of peace.

The precious fruit of life bursts forth and nourishes
your soul.

When I look in your eyes, I see perfection
wrapped in a soft pink cloak.

Posted in Family, Granddaughters, Living, Music | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame


On a Cheer Day, I can See Forever


ALUMNI OF THE WEEK: Patricia Alfano 1965-1968

It was 1965, and I was trying to find myself—not that I was ever lost—but merely confused. I wanted to do something I loved with the skills I had acquired at the ripe old age of 18.

By that time, I studied ballet, tap and jazz for 15 years and performed with the USO (United Service Organization), took part in a stage production of Peter and the Wolf (I was the bird) and danced on TV.

Art and dancing were always my main enjoyments in life, in spite of the fact that my father wanted me to study law. “You can argue with anyone about anything and win,” he would say. “You need to be a lawyer.”

One day that year, I heard an announcement on the radio that the Philadelphia Eagles planned to hold auditions for cheerleaders. They were looking for women with dancing talent more than cheerleading skills. Thinking I just might have a chance, I drove to the Philadelphia Armory and auditioned. Bernadette Donnelly, a former New York City Rockette, and Mary Watson choreographed the routines to which we performed.

I made it.

Being an Eaglette was one of the best experiences of my life. It wasn’t just the camaraderie (shout out to Jean Borrell, Cheryl Gargiulo, Terri Salmond, Pat Morris and Sandy Flynn), the thrill of performing, dancing on the Mike Douglas Show, ushering at the Second Annual Quaker City Jazz Festival at the Philadelphia Spectrum or the hoards of cute guys who followed us down the street as we marched to Franklin Field that taught me about confidence, perfecting my craft or the belief that I could do anything if I tried. It was much more than that. It was the spirit of the experience—that ethereal stuff that creates pure joy.

In 1968, I left Philadelphia and moved to Washington, D.C., which meant saying goodbye to my beloved Eaglettes. One year later, I headed west to San Francisco, California.

I returned to college to study technical art and graphics so that I could earn a living doing the other thing I loved besides dancing—art. I landed a job at a small art studio in Mountain View, California and then worked in the video game industry where I drew dragons and other cool stuff.

After the video game company went out of business, my husband and I opened an art studio that provided illustrations for high school and college textbook publishers. It was a huge success until art-based technology caused the price of hand-drawn illustrations to plummet.

My family and I moved around quite a bit. In 1988, we relocated from Santa Cruz, California to Sarasota, Florida, and then in 1992 to Austin, Texas where I worked at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) as an illustrator.

When our son graduated from UT in 2004, we all headed back to California. I got a job in marketing at San Diego State University where I wrote, did web design and became involved in all things hi-tech. Our son moved to Los Angeles to work in advertising. Two years ago, we left San Diego and joined our son in Los Angeles who now works for The Music Center.

As my interest turned to writing, I won several writing contests, and had my stuff published here and there. I became a CNN iReporter and began doing freelance writing and illustrating for web-based and print publications.

So far, no one has asked me to dance; but I do remember some of the South Rampart Street Parade and Eagles Fight Song routines from my Eaglette days.

I am currently working on a project for my son’s (Monk Turner) latest record album, God Complex, which features the 12 gods of Mt. Olympus singing autobiographical tunes.

You can read more about my adventures (and see my artwork) on my blog:

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Furniture and the Decline of Civilization


A sketch of my dining room

My Crib

If what I learned at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is true, our civilization is definitely on the decline.

The museum had this little display of bowls, which went from crude to elegant and back to crude. The guide explained that the care taken in producing these bowls coincided with the rise and fall of a particular culture in Mexico.

In my opinion, the lack of pride in workmanship in America and elsewhere tells the story of our eventual demise. For instance, I grew up during a time when if you needed furniture, you went to a store, chose your item, and it would be delivered just as you saw it in the showroom. It was well constructed and delivered assembled. That piece would last forever—and one did not have to put it together or sacrifice price for quality.

Like the manufacturers of the furniture, the delivery people also took pride in their work. They were respectful and put up with my mother who would change her mind a million times as to where she wanted the new furnishings placed. She sometimes had them rearrange other rooms as well. Then, she would search for a scratch or ding and call up the store to demand money off the bill. Of course, she always cooked a delicious meal for them, which they greatly appreciated.

a picture of my grandfather

My Grandfather

We were far from rich, but my mother used her artistic skills to make our home a showplace. I suppose she inherited her love of design from her paternal side of the family who own a furniture business in Teramo, Italy. Their pieces are like three-dimensional works of art—beautiful, unique, well made and creative. She then passed that love on to me. I remember my grandfather, a carpenter, teaching me about measuring twice and cutting once and why creating something beautiful by hand is important.

Once my mother made a cover for a sofa. She forgot the seam allowance and it was too small. Frustrated, she flung the thing into the middle of the street. We both stood at the window and watched as cars ran over it. Her face twisted into a look that showed she was searching for a solution, and after a few hours, she brought it back into the house and threw it in the laundry. Afterwards, she took it all apart and added piping. It fit. It also looked fabulous.

Today, I furnish my place with stuff from flea markets, garage sales, dumpsters, consignment stores (where I trade in other things) or Craigslist. We don’t have much, but what we have has quality workmanship. Even when we lived in a trailer for two years, I decorated it to look like something that could be photographed for a magazine. And if I lived in a cardboard box, my box would win an award. I would see to it.

I guess my immediate surroundings affect my mood more than most people. How can I get depressed when I can sit in my well-organized closet and look at all my stuff? It makes me feel both grateful and visually pleased.

The other day, I decided that I needed to find something for all my art supplies. Right now, they have taken over my space and are threatening to invade places where they should not be—like the bathroom. Easy enough, I thought.

I began searching on Craigslist, and then moved on to places like Cost Plus and Ikea. I’m not a big fan of having to assemble my furniture. First, I never do it correctly. Second, I need to recruit at least two other people to hold parts together as I add more parts (incorrectly). Then there is all the disassembling and reassembling—at least 20 times. Finally, as I scrutinize what I am about to buy, I hear my grandfather’s words on how to create a fine piece of furniture. Like the bowls in the Mexican museum created during the cultural decline, the quality makes me cringe.

As I looked for my art storage piece, everything I found was either too expensive, the wrong size or out of stock. Why a company would post an item when you can’t buy it online or in the store is beyond my understanding. At one place, I thought I would try to find out when the out-of-stock item would be available and get some answers to other questions.

Enter Anna. Anna is the online virtual woman who offers customer assistance. Anna is sometimes a snarky skank. When I asked about assembly help, I told her I didn’t want to have to put the thing together myself. Her reply was, “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.”


I didn’t want to buy from them anyway. It has been my experience that their stuff, which is not that inexpensive, falls apart after a short time. Besides, the names of all the things are in Norwegian. Or Lithuanian. Or something.

I still haven’t found what I need for my art supplies. They stare at me from inside of stuffed bags scattered here and there. I will wait until I find just the right thing. It will be affordable, beautiful and whisper to me that there is still hope for our civilization.

Posted in Ancestors, Art, Culture, Family, Living, Observations, Traditions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hot in LA

SunsetStripWEBThe Sunset Strip in Los Angeles is known for its unconventionality—a freewheeling, act-as-crazy-as-you-want place where people see life as a big movie audition. One never knows if what is happening is really happening, or if it is just another film shoot.

Take, for instance, the day I was waiting for a bus in an outdoor dining area in front of a medical building in West Hollywood.

It was a typical Hollywood day: the sun was out; the traffic was bad; and just about everyone on the patio sat engrossed in his or her electronic device.

I had my sketchbook with me, as I always do and was busy trying to capture the image on a building that had a huge painting of Cindy Crawford on it for the longest time. Cindy had recently been replaced with the cast of Hot in Cleveland. I wanted to draw this building because it included so much of the stereotypical Southern California vibe—Hollywood architecture, the plastic model-slash-actress, palm trees and Sunset Strip commerce.

The stillness around me was only slightly interrupted by the Angelenos sipping their chai tea while simultaneously pecking at their gadgets. Once in a while, one of them would look up as if to make sure the sky was still there and think about what key to hit next. Isolated by their electronic world, they showed little interest in or awareness of their environment.

But, the calm and cool setting was about to unravel.

In the middle of trying to copy the billboard’s version of Wendie Malick’s face, the shrill of sirens blasting and police cars giving chase broke my concentration. I turned around to see a Ferrari at the lead dragging what looked like shrubbery and a chain. The procession came to a halt right in front of me after the police surrounded the Ferrari, got out of their vehicles and drew their weapons.

When I saw the guns, I screamed for everyone to get down. Still texting, they calmly obliged, not missing a stroke. From my vantage point under the table, I was able to peer through the glass enclosure and watch the scene unfold. I took a quick inventory of my possessions to decide which one might be the most bulletproof. Only my sketchbook came close.

Everyone was now prone, and only the drink and food items were left on the tables. Even the security guards had taken cover. I kept listening for the word, cut! But it never came. An eternity passed as I switched my attention between the guns in front of me and the ants crawling at my side. When finally I could see the alleged perpetrator safely secured and the firearms put away, I sighed with relief.

At that point, I used my newly discovered powers to announce that it was once again safe to rise and sit at the tables. The patrons obliged and calmly assumed their earlier positions as if nothing had happened.

After clearing the intersection, they all drove away: the Ferrari still sporting the shrubbery and chain, heading towards Beverly Hills; the suspect in the back seat of a police car; and the cops taking off in different directions.

But, this is Hollywood, and what followed one of the most heart-pounding experiences of my life was typical for this town.

Within minutes, a TMZ tour bus stopped at the exact place where the incident had just happened. I could not figure out why TMZ didn’t follow the police cars for a story. They were still visible in the distance. Instead, they headed towards the star’s homes in Beverly Hills.

Maybe they would find the Ferrari.

Behind the tour bus, the actor, director and producer, Rob Reiner followed by his entourage, nonchalantly crossed the street to go to lunch.



Posted in California, DPChallenge, Living, Misadventure, Observations, Weekly writing Challenge, Writing challenges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Geishas with Guns


Sharing my art is how I express joy. It is also how I vent my frustration.

I used to paint pictures of pretty flowers and bucolic scenes. Now, my work sports geishas with guns and ballerinas with baseball bats. Today, a girly hoodlum wearing an ornamented hairdo is more interesting to me than a pot of geraniums.

Blame it on 2013—the worst year I could ever remember—starting with the legal battle I fought and won against my former senior apartment landlords who were abusing the elderly residents, and ending with the death of my beloved father. In between, I received a diagnosis of a serious medical condition, moved twice, bid farewell to my cherished 1997 Nissan pickup and reluctantly took part in a few other unpleasant adventures.

Once I was content to draw inside the lines and on traditional materials. Now, I want to splatter my anguish all over the place: on mannequins, trash cans, film canisters and anything else I could find that will accept what my rattle can and paint markers have to offer. The outer manifestation of my inner world has to show that this once calm and rational female will tell her story like a geisha-gone-wild.

All the turmoil of the past year got me thinking—how do strong women deal with adversity and ultimately triumph? How does a geisha who serves, performs and wears a happy face cope when what she would really like to do is figuratively blow away her misery?

Looking for some role models to follow, I came across that of Erin Brockovich, whose story I had heard many years ago. Former beauty queen turned advocate, if Brockovich were a geisha with a gun, her weapon would be an AK-47.

Her website describes her moxie:

Erin’s exhaustive investigation uncovered that Pacific Gas & Electric had been poisoning the small town of Hinkley’s Water for over 30 years. It was because of Erin’s unwavering tenacity that PG&E had been exposed for leaking toxic Chromium 6 into the ground water. This poison affected the health of the population of Hinkley. In 1996, as a result of the largest direct action lawsuit of its kind, spear-headed by Erin and Ed Masry, the utility giant was forced to pay out the largest toxic tort injury settlement in US history: $333 million in damages to more than 600 Hinkley residents.

A quote on Brockovich’s website reads:

If you follow your heart, if you listen to your gut and if you extend your hand to help another, not for any agenda, but for the sake of humanity, you are going to find the truth.

I thought about this as I poured over civil codes and landlord-tenant law to research remedies for the mental and emotional abuse of the elderly. Other than a brief stint at a law firm, I had no formal legal training—only guts and the memory of my father telling me I would make a good lawyer.

“You should be a lady lawyer,” he would say. “I never saw a person who can argue about anything with anybody and win like you can.”

My father was way ahead of his time when it came to women’s liberation and the prospect of me jumping into the ring with the big boys.

While working on the lawsuit, I got a call from my doctor. During a routine physical, lab tests showed I had a serious medical condition. This diagnosis began my journey through a maze of “007s,” (doctors with a license to kill) and drug regimens whose side effects had me seriously considering death as a viable option to the treatments.

After consulting a medical advocate and being told that only 20 to 25 percent of the physicians in the United States are any good, I began to familiarize myself with how the human body works, medical jargon and a myriad of studies and journals.

I switched back and forth between the medical literature and legal documents, sometimes losing my place between complicated precedents and cells that danced a wild salsa instead of performing their elaborate kabuki theater like they should.

Fortunately I found a doctor in Los Angeles who specializes in my affliction to take me on as a patient. He is in that top-tier of good doctors and turned my situation around in a matter of months. Unfortunately, I had to move to LA—after I had just escaped the abusive senior complex and moved to Solana Beach.

Prior to 2013, I worked in the style of the French Impressionists and told stories of things belonging to the bourgeoisie. The subjects included wine bottles that stood guard over sumptuous gourmet pastries and produce. I drew portraits of patrician women, both foreign and domestic.

I was a geisha with a water pistol back then.

When my father passed away the day after Thanksgiving, my whole world shattered. The last piece of glue that was holding me together snapped.

I never got to say goodbye. I was in treatment in Los Angeles while he was in the Intensive Care Unit in New Jersey. Only our spiritual fingertips could reach across the continent to touch one last time.

I comforted myself by recognizing that neither of us ever said goodbye anyway. It was always, “I will call you again real soon, Daddy.” To which he would answer, “And I’ll be waiting for that call.”

I always ended with “I love you Popsicle.”

His response was always “I love you too, Babycakes.”

He would have loved my geishas.

Posted in Art, Culture, death, Family, geisha, Living, Misadventure, Observations, Research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Finding the Sun in Vancouver

Books“Maybe I should pour something for you that is a little more calming,” the sleepy-eyed, Seattle coffee shop barista remarked. Agitated with his slow service, I responded by rolling my eyes and loudly drumming my fingers on the counter.

The third day into a rainy road trip had taken my last ounce of patience.

It was early March, and my son had insisted that we—he, my husband and I—should all drive to Canada from San Diego, California in the new used car we bought when our 1997 Nissan truck with 300,000 miles succumbed to old age. He thought the trip might be good for me; cure my recent crabby attitude and all that.

His persistence stemmed from a concern over my wallowing in a deep, dark funk for several months. Concern over my father’s health, a surge of unexpected bills and harassment from new landlords, which resulted in an expensive move, had all but destroyed my optimism and resources.

At first I did not want to go but, eventually I relented, and the three of us piled into the new used car to go find Canada.

The first day of the trip was fine. The second day we crossed the border into Oregon and sheets of rain came down like a curtain, casting a morbid spell where I sat in the back seat of the car feeling sorry for myself. I just wanted to go home.

DrivingThe Oregonians annoyed me with their obliviousness to the rain. They blithely walked through it without the need to do anything to avoid getting soaked. I however, was an obvious tourist sheltering myself with a huge umbrella and wearing two winter coats, a hat and heavy gloves.

As if the rain and cramped quarters were not enough, somewhere between Eugene and Portland, my stomach rebelled. I was miserable. When the guys decided to stop and get something to eat at the food carts that are popular in the area, I protested, but got out of the car anyway.

Sloshing around the lot where the carts were, I spotted one where the vendor was pushing all sorts of stuff through a machine that poured juice out one end while it vomited pulp out the other. I liked his approachable and easy-going attitude, so I did what I always do when I like someone—I told him my life’s story. He suggested I try one of his drinks, which I bought. Whatever was in the drink stopped my stomach problems and lifted my spirits. I even stopped complaining—until Seattle.

Seattle had the most splendid public library and some of the friendliest folks I have ever met. Nothing seemed to bother them—not the rain, long lines or a barista who called each one “Dude.”

SeattleSignThat night we stayed in a place where everyone shared the bathrooms and showers. My irritation was palpable. At this point in my life, having a personal toilet in a strange place did not seem like too much to ask.

The next morning, I set out looking for my daily fix of coffee. I traipsed three or four blocks through more rain from the room with no toilet to the only Starbucks that opened at 6 a.m. Blasting through the doors, I stood for what seemed like an eternity as the overly mellow barista ignored my shuffling and finger tapping at the coffee bar before suggesting he pour me a more calming drink.

“No,” I snapped. “I don’t need to calm down. Just give me a cup of the house coffee.”

That afternoon saw the last leg of the trip. Canada seemed like some Land of Oz now and I just wanted to get there so I could turn around and leave.

MuseumAs we left Seattle, the rain eased a bit and brightened the overcast sky. We were only 141 miles from our destination, which meant I could begin planning the return trip in my head.

At the Canadian border, the sun finally broke through the clouds. It blinded me for a second so that I did not notice the lush green countryside or the crystal blue water that surrounded Vancouver.TreesThe politeness of the people caught me off-guard as well. Everyone smiled. I wondered if the cart vender from Oregon who had settled my stomach and nerves shipped his drinks up there.

We checked into a motel painted hot pink and apple green on the outside and various other colors on the inside. A small, disorganized manager with a thick Indian accent gave us a tour of the place as if it were the Taj Mahal. His arms moved in grand sweeping gestures as he smiled and pointed out things like the heater and dilapidated lamps.

At that moment, I understood the true meaning of the quote, “Perception is Reality.” I realized it is not so much what life throws at us, but how we choose to catch it; and that a hot pink and apple green, falling-down dump can look just like a castle if we squint our inner eye a certain way.

My self-absorbed problems and emotions had held me back from actually seeing and simply enjoying each moment that I was fortunate enough to live. When I opened myself to that gratitude, I understood that it is okay to eat ice cream no matter how cold or rainy the weather is, enjoy someone singing a Louisiana blues song in a Vancouver farmer’s market and accept the fact that even though you do not have your own toilet, life will go on.

MapleSyrupWe took the coastal route home, stopping to put our feet in the sand and admire the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

The sun shone the entire way back—even in Washington and Oregon. But, by then, I would not have minded if it rained.


Posted in California, Culture, Family, Living, Misadventure, Observations, Parenting, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Weekly Writing Challenge–A Diverse Manner of Speaking

Montage of state representations

By Bohemian Opus

My friend still speaks with a New Jersey accent—but it is now laced with a Texas twang. Although he spent his formative years on the East Coast, his move to Austin, Texas affected his speech.

A typical sentence from him sounds like this: “Ah was fixin’ to cawl youze, but, you know, Vinny and his wAHfe, you know, Mabel Sue, came to visit for a tAHme.”

Many people I know struggle with getting rid of their native accents and colloquialisms when faced with moving to a new place. Some are successful; others like my friend wind up speaking a whole different language.

When I lived in Texas and it was time for a performance review at my job, my supervisor asked me to step into his office and “pull the door to.” I stood there speechless trying to figure out what he meant. “Pull it to what?” I asked. More silence. What he meant was for me to close the door. Fortunately for me, he had a good sense of humor.

My own East Coast vernacular has softened and changed since I left New Jersey many years ago. A move to California followed by one to Florida, and then another to Texas before returning to California has altered my way of speaking. I suppose a good way to describe it now is that my speech is like the song “A Little Bit Country, A little Bit Rock and Roll.” New Jersey is still there, but surfer-speak sometimes sneaks in along with a few southern words or phrases. For instance I might say, “I thought y’all gave a good tawk, fer sher.”

Like my friend and I making hash out of different regional accents and phrases, my Italian family made minestrone out of the English language. In the Italian-American neighborhood of my childhood, we called a dish towel a mopeen, which is from the Sicilian and Calabrese dialects, mappina. I did not begin to call the thing a dish towel until recently.

And I’ll never forget the day I told one of my teachers that her class gave me agita (heartburn).

One bad habit I inherited from my father is making up my own words. He is a pro at that. Whenever he can not fully express himself in Italian or English, he makes up something. Give-a-shitty is an example of one of his adjectives that he uses to describe a job poorly done. “She turned in a real give-a-shitty report.” Billowfied is another one. This word expresses the demeanor of a person who uses flowery speech and gestures while attempting to explain his or her way out of a bad situation. “She got all billowfied once I told her about the give-a-shitty report not being accepted.”

The other day I caught myself telling a lamp shop owner that the shade she suggested for my lamp base was too doilyfied, meaning it resembled something that would interest my grandmother. She gave me a blank stare followed by a request to please explain the term so she could look for a more suitable shade.

I used to fret over my accent, regional slang and not understanding what people in other parts of the country were trying to say. But now I decided that as long as I do not do a give-a-shitty job and act all billowfied to defend myself if I do; then it is okay to call a dish towel a mopeen as I pull the door to.

Fer sher

In response to the weekly writing challenge: A Manner of Speaking

Posted in California, Culture, DPChallenge, Living, Misadventure, Observations, Weekly writing Challenge, Writing challenges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Art with a Soul

Bottle with jewelry on it in front of stenciled sign

Rows of lush paintings and intricate sculptures dot the walls, while carefully arranged collections of jewelry, textiles and avant-garde creations grace the elegantly draped tables. A fashionable woman dressed in a chic, off-the-runway look bustles back and forth simultaneously tending to guests and several buffets. Outside, musicians tune their instruments to get the sound just right for the evening’s performance.

No, this is not some fancy gallery opening in New York City’s SoHo District.

It is the charming atelier, Art N Soul on 101 in the sleepy beach town of Encinitas, Ca., where at least four times a year, the owners, Cindy Blumkin and Paige Perkins, host an open gallery brimming with food, beverages and entertainment. This evening they bid farewell to winter with the Spring Celebration.

Pictures of Cindy Blumkin and Paige PerkinsWhat sets Art N Soul apart from other galleries and retail establishments is that it gives 100 percent of its profits to charitable organizations, which they rotate about every two years. Neither Blumkin, who is in charge of the business operations nor Perkins, the creative force behind the gallery, draws a salary. The mostly local artists keep 60 percent of what they have sold. The other 40 percent pays the rent, utilities and operating costs. Then, four mostly small, grassroots charities divvy up the rest.

Blumkin describes how it all started on their website:

“Paige Perkins and I had hosted private fundraisers for friends who were suffering and dying of cancer. We succeeded in raising money that assisted our friends in the last months of their lives. We were so satisfied and humbled by our efforts, I began dreaming of a way to do this on a daily basis.”

That dream came true in 2007, when Blumkin was finally able to combine herPicture of the inside of Art N Soul Gallery philanthropy efforts, commitment for social change and support for local artists with Perkins’ creative vision for an organic and accessible space that incorporated recycled materials.

In their first year of business, Art N Soul raised more than $22,000, which it divided among its first chosen charities.  During that time, they also hosted a benefit for a local high school where students held a 24-hour paint-in and then auctioned off their work in the store. In spite of a crippling recession, artists and charities have received about $90,000 to date.

Unlike traditional galleries, Art N Soul’s mission is to attract passionate artists whose main wish is to promote their extraordinary, imaginative and sometimes outrageous work. And that art is actually affordable, which makes it easy for those who want to buy a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece to wear or use in their home décor.

Art N Soul has only one rule for the artists: there are no rules. This becomes clear when a trip through the door sets off a visual explosion of shape, color, texture and form that cascades into a colorful array of tactile and uncommon textures.

Picture of John and Sandy ClauderVolunteers who are equally passionate about giving back to the community, staff the gallery; and their stories are just as colorful as the kaleidoscopic art that surrounds them. Take, for instance, John and Sandy Clauder. They have a band called, Drums of Fire, which provides entertainment for Art N Soul’s open-gallery events. That wouldn’t be so unusual except that John, a studio musician, once played with the 60s rock group, The Mamas & The Papas. He also toured with Buffalo Springfield and Nancy Sinatra among other headliners.

The Clauders met many years ago in Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard where Sandy was doing Canada Dry commercials. She walked into a nightclub where John was playing at the time and the rest is history. Four years ago, two of their children, Patrick and Nick joined the band.

Picture of Michelle Hoffee“Clothes should tell a story,” says one of the artists, Michelle Hoffee. Her eco-prints, naturally dyed and handcrafted clothing and accessories hang next to a display that holds her small, captivating sculptures called “spirit dolls” as well as the name of her business, Living & Dyeing. Hoffee, who is a practitioner of reconstructing and upcycling makes her own fabrics using leaves to create the unique designs.

When asked about the past seven years, Blumkin sums it up by saying, “From the start, I wanted this place to be about the artists, the community and the volunteers. It’s just been a wonderful experience.”

And it has been a wonderful experience as well for those of us lucky enough to visit Art N Soul or benefit from their charitable donations.

Art N Soul is located at 633 South Coast Highway, Encinitas, Ca. For more information call (858) 442-8666 or visit Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and during the summer months, extend to include Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Appointments are also available.

Posted in Art, California, Galleries, Living, Music, Observations, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reluctant Reflections and Non-Resolutions

Round Midnight

Sketch by Bohemian Opus

Around the end of the year, we Americans feel compelled to look at the past 365 days and decide what we can do to make the next 365 days better.

I was never one to get all excited over New Year’s resolutions. They always reminded me of my childhood when I had relinquish something for Lent.

“How about liver?” I consistently responded to the what-are-you-giving-up question. I hated liver.

According to the Chinese horoscope, 2013 will be the Year of the Snake—more precisely, the water snake. Snakes are not my favorite animals. I was much more excited about the Year of the Dragon. Dragons are cool.

Ancient Chinese wisdom says that people born in the Year of the Snake are keen, cunning, intelligent, wise and lucky. They are great mediators and good at doing business. The Year of the Snake is supposedly good for scientists and scholars. So far, none of these snake things apply to me. Maybe I should just skip this year and go straight to the Year of the Horse.

Some horoscopes say 2013 will be the Year of the Black Snake. I lived in Florida where there are black snakes that are also water snakes. Imagine the entire 2013-snake year wrapped up in one disgusting reptile. The Floridian black water snakes are very aggressive. If one of those critters gets into a swimming pool, it will chase whatever else is in the pool including humans. And it is impossible to outwit them. I tried.

But, I digress.

This year, on December 31 around midnight, I’ll probably do what I always do—drink tea and listen to jazz. Although I’m not one to list the five happiest, saddest or funniest events of the past year, I’ll probably drag out some photos and mull over a few of the more outstanding highlights—like the trip to San Francisco over the Memorial Day weekend. That was fun. I got to see my friend, Choogie, hike at Big Sur, visit some old hangouts and try out some new food. I’m always up for trying new food—unless it is snake.

Since I retired, every day has been just about perfect. The only exception being the time it has taken me to let go of my former lifestyle and embrace one that includes activities such as relaxing and contemplating my navel.

When I first left the workforce, I found myself stressing as if I still had a job. Everything was a task that I had to complete perfectly and on time. I guess it was sometime last spring when I realized that if my cooking sucked or I didn’t clean the bathroom, it would not be noted on my performance evaluation. I was finally able to exhale.

Then I got the urge to paint. I also thought about becoming a ballerina, but at my age, painting was more doable. I painted in oils many years ago, but when I moved from California to Florida, I became depressed and stopped. I didn’t think I would ever paint again until I returned to California and once again felt inspired. I figured I should at least give it a try.

I picked up a brush and enrolled in some online classes and a few workshops. After a shaky start, I realized that I had not forgotten much. I was a little rusty, but before long I was painting with confidence once again. Now painting, along with writing, takes priority over everything else.

I am not planning on making any resolutions—unless I resolve to never again clean the bathroom or do anything else that is boring. I have no regrets that another year is passing, and have no expectations or desires for the New Year. I’ll kiss the dragon goodbye and keep on living exactly as I do now—with the exception of maybe trying to make peace with the black water reptile.

Posted in Art, California, Family, Friends, Living, Misadventure, Observations, Traditions, Travel, Writing challenges | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Ravi Shankar and Me

two lilies“Ravi who?”

My face twisted into a quizzical look as I posed the question to my friend, Jane who was jumping up and down. Her shiny black hair danced in the sun with each bounce.

“Ravi SHANKAR!” She screamed.

In the 1960s, Jane was the first in my group of teenage friends to discover Pandit, as Shankar became known. At that time, I was not quite sure what to make of him or his long-necked, funny-looking guitar. We Jersey girls all loved Motown, Elvis and The Beatles. Only Jane with her Mensa IQ knew about this fancy Eastern stuff.

Jane’s father was a prominent orthopedic surgeon and not exactly thrilled that his only daughter was hanging out with us wild girls who the politicians bused from a place 10 miles away to the high school that was in their exclusive, bucolic town. Jane’s father especially didn’t like us after I convinced her and a few others to cut class and go on American Bandstand, which had not yet left Philadelphia. Who knew her grandmother would be watching the show as we danced the Mashed Potato across her black-and-white television screen?

A few years later, around the time I started burning incense, wearing Patchouli oil and thinking about what it would be like to live in a peaceful world without wars and hatred, I began to take his music seriously. It became the Eastern thread that wove its way into the tapestry of my tie-dyed universe.

I’m not sure exactly what lured me to listen again to Shankar’s music. Maybe it was watching the small, wiry man on the television. Or, maybe it was just the idea that the music was something my parents wouldn’t understand that placed it high on my list of priorities.

I can still recall watching Pandit teach George Harrison how to play the sitar. I had never seen such a patient teacher in my life. In my ethnic community, I was more used to temper tantrums and things becoming airborne when one’s patience ran out. But, there he sat, calmly going over the lesson until he was sure Harrison understood.

20ProgramRoseFlatWebIt was these thoughts that drifted through my mind as I attended Ravi Shankar’s memorial service in Encinitas, California on a warm, sunny Thursday in December. I thought back to Jane’s excitement after she bought one of his thirty-three-and-a-third-RPM vinyl records and my attempt to redeem myself with her parents so that I could listen to the album.

Shankar’s music played throughout the service, and with each tune another memory from my youth marched across my mind: hanging out in the Haight Ashbury after leaving the East Coast for San Francisco; my crazy life in Berkeley; living in a commune; and finally, discovering the self that I never thought I would find. It all passed in front of me as I stared at the picture of the elegant, elderly man whose music once accompanied me as I zoned out of one world and into another.

At the Self-Realization Fellowship where the memorial was held, one person after another paid tribute to this talented man of peace whose humility and sense of humor touched so many. Just when I thought I could not cry another tear, his son-in-law, film director, Joe Write brought some levity to the crowd by recalling his first meeting with his future father-in-law.

“He asked me if I washed every day,” Write said drawing laughter from the crowd. Then he went on to talk about Shankar’s further questioning on whether Write washed “only his face and hands, or everything.” Write called this first meeting, “Page One: Personal Hygiene.”

Write went on to describe a time when Shankar faced a risky medical procedure. He described the scene where he saw Shankar’s fingers moving as if he held an invisible sitar while the doctors wheeled him away.

“I never at any moment saw his fingers not playing, not beating a rhythm,” Write said.

The tears came again.

The moving tribute left me with a renewed appreciation for the real treasures in life. When we must bid farewell to an important piece of our autobiographical puzzle, we come to realize that the once familiar picture will be missing something that can only be filled with memories.

Ravi Shankar will live forever through his music, and for me, he will always be the brightest color on the canvas that is my life.

I am sure Jane would agree.

Posted in Art, California, Living, Music, Observations, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments