Saturday, October 24, 2009

Project Clothesline - Costume Competition

Shipboard, Halloween 1936

LuRene and Agnes win third
prize as clothes poles.
Prize—two silver loving cups
inscribed “S.S. California”

Announced by purser over loud
speaker in main dining room
during dinner.


"Talk to me, designers."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Marianne Faithfull in Big Sur

A siren’s sultry song brought us back to Big Sur, California for an encore visit. Legendary singer and enchantress, Marianne Faithfull, was going to perform at an outdoor benefit concert at the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur, and we had to be there.

Marianne Faithfull first became famous in the sixties at age 17, for her rendition of “As Tears Go By”, a song written by the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. She also gained some notoriety as Jagger’s girlfriend, and for her years of hard-living.

The Henry Miller Memorial Library was established in 1981, and is located on Highway 1 in Big Sur. The Library’s redwood cabin and grounds were the gift of the artist Emil White, Miller’s long-time friend and assistant. It houses a trove of Miller’s personal papers, a bookshop, and is also a cultural and educational center for the community.

Novelist Henry Miller is well known for his controversial books “Tropic of Cancer” and “Tropic of Capricorn”, but he also wrote “Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.”

He was passionate about music, and wrote the following: “I prefer music above all arts, because it is so absolutely sufficient unto itself and because it tends toward silence.”

When planning concert events, the Library tries to select performers that “Henry would have approved of.” Past benefit concerts at the Library have featured the likes of Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass and Patti Smith. The posters from these concerts have become collectors’ items, and can still be purchased at the Library.

When the gates were finally flung open at 7:00 P.M, a small crowd of waiting fans streamed in. We followed strings of tiny fairy lights and candles, to the outdoor concert venue, which resembled a magical bohemian grove. With less than 200 seats, it was a very intimate setting. As part of the event, the Library also hosted an alfresco wine tasting on the deck.

The tradition at these concerts is to begin with Magnus Toren, the Library’s director, singing a song by Dan Bern entitled, “Marilyn”. Many people confuse Henry Miller with Arthur Miller (the playwright who was married to Marilyn Monroe). The first line of this song explains that “Marilyn Monroe didn’t marry Henry Miller”.

Then it was time for Marianne.

Her performance style is very cabaret-like, perhaps influenced by Kurt Weill whom she greatly admires. Her voice and presence are reflective of a woman who has been there, done that and survived. Accompanied by an amazing guitarist, Doug Pettibone, her songs at times seemed autobiographical. She sang “Broken English” (inspired by Ulrike Meinhof), “Why’d Ya Do It?” with a raunchy reggae beat (lyrics by English poet Heathcote Williams), “Strange Weather”, “The Crane Wife 3”, and Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home”. When she finally performed “As Tears Go By”, the entire audience sang along.

Afterwards, Ms. Faithfull sat outside in the cold and graciously autographed my poster (which now hangs in our hall). Later, everyone, including Marianne, headed down the road to the Big Sur Bakery for the after-party.

Here are a few interesting things that you might not know about Marianne.

This former rock princess is actually royalty. She is descended from the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg line, and has just inherited the title of Baroness Sacher-Masoch.

Befitting her royal status she once lived near Leixlip Castle in Shell Cottage on the grounds of Carton House, in Maynooth, County Kildare, Ireland. The cottage was decorated inside and out by Lady Emily Fitzgerald (1731-1814), with shells from around the world. Marianne resided there for 10 years, but now lives mainly in Paris.

In 2006 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She is truly a survivor!

The poet, Allan Ginsburg, an old friend, once referred to her as the “Professor of Poetics, Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets”.

How Henry would have enjoyed this evening!

Sur la route,

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sea Gypsy

Sea Gypsy

I am fevered with the sunset,
I am fretful with the bay,
For the wander-thirst is on me
And my soul is in Cathay.

There’s a schooner in the offing,
With her topsails shot with fire,
And my heart has gone aboard her
For the Islands of Desire.

I must forth again to-morrow!
With the sunset I must be
Hull down on the trail of rapture
In the wonder of the sea.

Poem by Bliss Carman, from More Songs from Vagabondia

Boat docked at Moss Landing California, October 2009

Still riding the waves,

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Trés Chick

Wander down almost any street in San Juan Bautista, California, and you will encounter one of the towns’ feathered residents strutting their stuff.

Several hundred feral roosters and chickens have the run of the place. You will find them clucking, perched in trees, nesting in the bushes, pecking in the gardens of the adobes, and wandering in and out of the quaint shops. Basically, they're everywhere!

Accustomed to people, they preen and pose for cameras.

It is a great tourist draw, second only to the town’s historic Spanish Mission (1797). Legend has it that the early priests bought chickens with them, and some escaped into the town. These are the ancestors of the modern day birds roaming the village. This year we were among the visitors flocking here for the annual Chicken Festival.

Festivities included a parade, antique vendors, a crowing contest for the kids, a chicken barbeque, and the crowning of a "Miss Chicken Festival" queen.

Chicken Couture - as modeled by one of the "Miss Chicken Festival" hopefulls.

I came home with lots to crow about!

Sur la route,