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And Now, the Very Lovely and Talented–

Sometimes, in life, you meet someone and  just know there is something special about them.

At the time I first met Angela Carole Brown, some 20 years ago, she had this really cute bob, and her sparkle and throaty laugh were immediately intoxicating.  She was working as a waitress, picking up a paycheck like the rest of us, and I would soon be her co-worker.  What I didn’t know at the time, though, was how extremely talented and diverse she is.

In those days, everyone I knew was working some entertainment angle, so when I heard that Angie would be singing at a club, I wasn’t altogether surprised.  It was L.A., after all.  But as we were sat and she was ushered to the stage, I couldn’t take my eyes off her.

She had full command of the audience, and her song selection was impeccable.  Her voice can be both full-bodied and strong, then turn on a dime, becoming incredibly intimate.

While she made her mark singing standards and jazz in L.A. clubs, she also fronts Orchestre Surréal, is an accomplished artist, and published novelist.  There isn’t much she can’t do, and my hope for her is that she find an even wider platform for her art. (more…)

I Have a Need for Solitude

I’ve been in an odd mood lately.

Aside from the time spent with our family, which I love, I’m finding it hard to be positive or upbeat these days, which is just not like me.  I tend to let things roll right off my back, but am finding this funk hard to shake.

I notice it most when I’m alone, whether in the car, running errands, or just hanging out.  It hovers, enveloping, and at times grows so strong it makes my heart race.

Partly this feeling is caused by economics.  It’s hard to be enthusiastic about work — or anything else — when you’re getting paid a whole lot less than you’re used to and, indeed, far less than you are worth.  Especially when finances are tight, prices are skyrocketing, and you have that added pressure of trying to stretch your money to the next paycheck.

Part of this is impatience.  After 10 years spent writing my novel, I want it to be published and in people’s hand right now.  And yet with agents and publishers having 3-month turnarounds, there is nothing remotely expedient about this process.

Part of this is political.  When I voted for Obama, I voted for change — and leadership.  While I like some of what he has done, I was hoping for more.  I wanted to see him dismantle the big behemoths — education, healthcare, defense, environment — and start from scratch.  Put together blue ribbon panels and have the experts — not politicians or lobbyists — tell us how we can do things better.  We need to start again, from the ground up, and actually solve problems — no more patches. (more…)

(Un)Hidden Talents

Talent is an odd thing.  Some people long for it.  Others have it, but don’t use it.  And fewer still can match their talent with the drive and determination needed to truly succeed.  To be willing to do what ever it takes — to put their talent out there, on display, for all to see.

Think about what talents you have.  What are you good at?

Whatever it is, would you have the guts to go to your local mall, set up a stage and sound system, and begin to sing, or recite your poetry, or do your needlepoint, or stand on your head?

To take such a leap requires steely ambition, nerve, and the sheer belief that you will somehow — against all odds — triumph.

Not too long ago, we took the boys to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, which I hadn’t been to in years. In my memory, the area had been filled with the usual, forgettable street entertainers, with far too many interchangeable Peruvian bands, pedaling their nicely-fluted, generic CD’s.

Imagine my surprise, then, to find on this random foray not one, but two, terrific performers. The first, John West, has been performing on the Promenade for several years.  Just Google any variation of “amazing 3rd street singer” and you’ll find scores of home-loaded videos by tourists drawn in by his subtle grooves.

What is really amazing is that we almost missed him.  He was performing next to a loud and energetic hip-hop dance troupe, which normally would’ve held our boys interest.  But just to the side of them, a guy sat quietly with his guitar, with another guy on drum.  Despite the frenetic show in front of us, the kids pulled us away, gravitating toward him and his really smooth sound.   The songs he played were the kind of hypnotic thing you’d want to listen to after-hours, drink-in-hand.  Music you linger in… (more…)

Eva by Heart

My partner Russ is a huge — and I mean HUGE — Donna Summer fan.  He’s told me that, when she sings, it is as if he is hearing the voice of an angel, as if God himself is singing through her.  I feel the same way about Eva Cassidy.

I first discovered Eva about 10 years ago, while sampling CD’s at Barnes & Noble. They’d installed scanners in their music section, and I loved how you could just wander around, pick any disc at random, and immediately hear snippets of its songs. To me, there is something about the tangible act of holding something, acknowledging its artwork, weight and various attributes, which iTunes, for all its convenience, just can’t duplicate.

But there I was, on my lunch break, in the racks of B&N, hoping to make a new musical discovery, when I suddenly stumbled upon Eva.  I’d never heard of her, but as the red light scanned the plain black and white bar code, unveiling the opening strains of “I Know You by Heart”, I was entranced.  Such a soulful voice, pure and unforced, as if she were singing directly to me — it immediately struck a chord within. I listened to all I could, then put in another of her CD’s, and listened to that as well.

But, somehow, as I continued to listen, I inherently knew that she was dead.  Don’t ask me how — I just knew. (more…)

The Dreaming Fields

Growing up, we often spent summers in southern Georgia —  Waycross, to be specific.  My mom, Dottie, had grown up there, and it seemed that whenever someone got married or died, we’d return.  That is, until I was old enough to protest, and stay on my own.

During those early years, I felt incredibly connected to my southern relatives.  They had big, friendly hearts and outgoing natures, but it was hard to see the connection between them and my often-rigid mother.  Still, I felt close to them.

Every trip, we would stay at Waycross’ finest, the Holiday Inn, the lobby of which retained the faint hint of cigarette smoke, escaping through the cocktail lounge door.  Aside from the pool, the motel also featured a putting green, where we kids would play for hours.

I always noticed, though, the division that seemed to exist between black and white.  There would be African Americans by the pool, or at the lake where we often had family functions, but it was almost as if I could tell they were eying us cautiously, making sure that neither side stepped over an invisible line into inappropriate behavior.

There was something about the inhabitants of the south which I found intriguing, regardless of color.  Something about their unhurried pace and languid tongue…  The way the humidity didn’t seem to bother them at all, while I, on the other hand, almost felt as if I were suffocating. (more…)