Gypsy Spirit and Sounds

If my last post on the presence and power of synchronicity didn’t convince you, try this one…

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

On Friday, I headed downtown for The Local Gypsy weekly outing to bask in the aural pleasures of a Gypsy music ensemble.

On Saturday, I met a cat named Gypsy.

And on Sunday, over an afternoon glass of wine with my friend, Ross, I learned that he had devoted his undergraduate thesis to Gypsy culture.

Oh, and for much of the weekend, I wore a necklace I bought at The Velvet Gypsy, a tiny cornucopia of global goodies on the Venice Beach boardwalk.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Maybe this means I should max out my credit cards and book that coveted trip to Southern Spain to revel in Gypsy-rooted Spanish guitar and flamenco?  Or perhaps I should sell my furniture, donate my clothes and embark on a day-by-day odyssey, trading jewelry I fashion for food?  (Don’t worry, Mom.  I love sushi too much to leave myself in that magnitude of a lurch.)

Whatever the reason, I know that the Gypsy spirit dwells deep inside me — and that the forces fueling me to engage in this year-long experiment are well nourished by these undeniable synchronicities.

Now on to the fun part!

Just when I was starting to hone in on what the week’s activity might be, my answer came in the form of an email from my dear friend, David Ackerly — and daytime downtown denizen, as the Directing Attorney for the Inner City Law Center‘s Homeless Veterans Project.

(On a side note, the Inner City Law Center is an extraordinary legal services organization serving Los Angeles’ most impoverished citizens in housing and benefits-related matters.  If you’d like to assist ICLC in obtaining a $50,000 grant from Pepsi by merely clicking your mouse, you can do so right here.)

An avid music lover and intrepid cultural explorer, David informed me that Parno Graszt, or “White Horse” in Romani — a well-known collection of Roma (or Gypsy) musicians and performers from Paszab, Hungary — would be regaling downtown Los Angeles with a free Friday afternoon concert as part of the inimitable Grand Performances series.

That was an easy decision.

After fetching David at his office, we maneuvered through downtown’s one-way streets and managed to score a parking space on South Olive, just behind the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) and California Plaza, in which the concerts are held.  (If you ever pull into one of these $3/hour spaces, place a nickel in the meter and laugh.  I think it may actually subtract time.)

Shuddering briefly as I glanced up at the Wells Fargo Tower office building in which I used to toil endlessly as a litigation associate, I took a seat next to David on the sunny amphitheater steps and turned my attention to the delectable wrap I had just purchased from Mendocino Farms — and the exuberant music of Parno Graszt.

The Full Ensemble

For more than twenty years, this crew has been belting out flavorful, traditional Gypsy sounds on an array of instruments, including the accordion, double bass, guitars, milk churns, water cans and more.  The ecstatic music seems to take on a life of its own; it bounces and flows and gleefully possesses all who are near.

Simon Broughton, a well known music journalist, has described Parno Graszt’s musical art as “The source of Gypsy music itself.”

But given how far into Asia and Europe the Roma people have spread since leaving behind their roots in northern India, Gypsy music may vary widely.  Stylistic differences between Roma musical groups, I learned, tend to reflect the instrumental traditions of the countries in which they live.  And Parno Graszt is said to embody the essence of Hungarian Gypsy music.

However their sonic and visual delights are characterized, one thing’s for certain: they sure make you want to dance.

No wonder I enjoyed them so much.

Me, Blissfully Dancing (photo by Eric Balaire at Lightning in a Bottle Festival)

To the Gypsy spirit in all of us…

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Filed under Art, Cultural, Life, Music, Performance

Shrine of Synchronicity

Go ahead, roll your eyes or call it what you (or my very East Coast parents) will — new age-y, mumbo jumbo, California beach brain — but I firmly subscribe to the notion that there are no coincidences, only universally intended synchronicities.  Sure, their underlying significance may be elusive, but when they happen, I can’t help but take notice.

So, cut to a sunny afternoon in Santa Monica at my beloved Café Bolivar, where the nourishing food is as delicious as the rich coffee, the staff as warm as the sunlight drenching the bright orange chairs, and the music as global as the Manu Chao station on Pandora.com.

After savoring the last bite of a steaming hot arepa (Venezuelan corn bread with a dose of magic) stuffed with mango and avocado, I flipped open my MacBook Pro and began typing.  In between paragraphs, I smiled hello to a man settling in to the table next to me, with a folder in hand.  We had never met, but recognized each other as Bolivar regulars.

After affably introducing himself, Marty — who reminded me of my father, only five inches taller and considerably more mellow — asked what I was writing.  Tickled to talk to anyone who might be interested in hearing about my blog, I enthusiastically explained the concept behind The Local Gypsy, and began rattling off the adventures upon which I had already embarked.

As I navigated to http://www.thelocalgypsy.com and pointed the screen his way to give him a glimpse, Marty asked what my next activity would be.  Before the words “Lake Shrine” fully escaped my lips, he slapped the wooden table in exclamation.

Lake Shrine's "Wall-less" Temple

Umm, was it something I said?

My confusion was extinguished a moment later, however, when he extracted from his folder a black and white photo of Paramahansa Yogananda.

Wow.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda — Indian guru, author of Autobiography of a Yogi, and founder of the worldwide spiritual organization, Self-Realization Fellowship — established Lake Shrine Temple in 1950.  A ten-acre gem located just east of the Pacific Ocean on Sunset Boulevard in the Pacific Palisades, Lake Shrine is home to astounding natural beauty: a spring-fed lake and waterfalls, countless species of trees, dazzling flowers and abundant animals, including swans, koi, turtles and dragonflies.  The lush grounds also feature the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial (where some of the famed leader’s ashes are consecrated in a 1,000-year-old Chinese sarcophagus), a “wall-less” temple, a Dutch windmill, Court of Religions, a houseboat — and, since 1996, a hilltop temple in which large group meditations and services are regularly held.  (See here for the event calendar.)

Paradise on Sunset Boulevard

Lake Shrine also happens to be nestled directly across Sunset Boulevard from Paseo Miramar, a winding road that leads to a Topanga State Park hiking trail that I frequent.  I must have laid eyes on Lake Shrine’s welcome sign close to fifty times, yet I had never turned into its parking lot.

And now, a fellow Café Bolivar lover, whom I too had seen on many occasions but had only just met, turned out to be a Lake Shrine volunteer and Yogananda devotee, offering to take me on a personal tour.

Yes, please.

And so we arranged to visit Lake Shrine together on a Thursday, in order to catch the weekly 12:00-12:30 p.m. monk-guided meditation.  As Monday turned into Tuesday, and Tuesday into Wednesday, I began to sense that, although it had taken me five years to get there, the time was ripe.

Indeed it was.

The preceding week had been extraordinarily frenetic.  My birthday, a houseguest, friends’ parties, and the final days of the World Cup kept my social calendar buzzing and liver working overtime; the penetrating and unrelenting June Gloom prevented the sun from offering calming respite and recharge.  And bubbling excitement over a new project was energetically challenged by physical exhaustion and the scratchy-throat threat of a cold.  Let’s just say that I needed to chill — badly.

And that’s exactly what happened when I stepped past the “Welcome to these Meditation Gardens” sign and into the tranquil vortex that is Lake Shrine.

It was as if I had walked through an invisible doorway that sifted out all my stress and tension, and then, weightlessly, I entered another dimension full of light and color — sort of like Dorothy must have felt when she and Toto were deposited in the Land of Oz.

Turtle and Dragonfly Haven

Perhaps the most striking realization I had while gazing out on the landscape before me was that this place is actually real, and not a psychedelically inspired scene from a film.  The sights, sounds and scents were truly intoxicating.

The Court of Religions Honors the World's Principal Five: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam

And I could not have been more grateful for Marty.  As we meandered down the path surrounding the lake, he enlightened me on historical points of interest; the site, for example, had been a movie set in the early days of Hollywood.  We discussed the lotus flower motif in the wall-less temples’ pinnacles and the dedication of Gandhi’s memorial.  Marty also described how he, ten years earlier, had found the Self-Realization Fellowship, and touched on Yogananda’s teachings and the ancient practice of Kriya Yoga.

Dutch Windmill Meditation Chapel

Upon reaching the Dutch windmill that had been converted into an airy chapel, we took seats and adjusted our postures in preparation for meditation.  Save for my occasional dry cough that at times frustrated my concentration and which, for a moment and the sake of others, led me to consider walking outside, the thirty minutes seemed to fly by — a bold statement, mind you, for someone as antsy as I.

Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial

Following the meditation exercises, Marty graciously introduced me to the gentle monk who had guided them, and then led me up a set of stairs to the stunning hilltop temple.  Unlike many of the synagogues and churches I’ve visited, this edifice was flooded with light, and seemed to glow from within.  I made a mental note to check my schedule and return soon for a Friday night group meditation.

Magical Place

After delighting in the colorful koi congregating near the houseboat, talk of the Krishna sculpture reminded me that, through two separate groups of friends, I knew a man in LA named Krishna, who had grown up in and met his girlfriend through the Self-Realization Fellowship tradition.

Krishna

When I mentioned this to Marty, his expression shifted.   I went further, stating Krishna’s last name; Marty’s eyes widened, and, before he finished saying, “He lives with my daughter,” I blurted, “Your daughter’s Samantha?!”

WOW.

This simply can’t be reduced to mere coincidence.

But why these synchronicities?

I can’t say for sure.  Perhaps someday it will be abundantly clear.

In the meantime, I’m going to crack open my brand new copy of Autobiography of a Yogi.

With Marty in The Court of Religions

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Filed under Cultural, Landmarks, Peaceful

American “Pie”

What’s big and round and has America written all over it?

Nope, not apple pie.

I’m talking BIG.  REALLY BIG.  Like 32.5 feet in diameter.

In case you haven’t already guessed…

The Famous Randy's Donuts

The well-known Los Angeles landmark — a giant donut perched atop the roadside shack that is now Randy’s Donuts — has been drawing the likes of locals, tourists and, of course, Hollywood for decades.

Designed by Henry J. Goodwin and built in 1953, the donut shop was originally the second of ten locations of the Big Donut Drive-In chain.  Like the famous Tail o’ the Pup hot dog stand in Los Angeles (built in 1946 and currently awaiting its second relocation), it is a prime example of the kitschy “programmatic architecture” that became popular in the first half of the 20th century.  The “onomatopoeia,” if you will, of building construction, the term is used to describe shops and restaurants built to resemble the goods they sold — an architectural gimmick to draw in the throngs of people riding the explosive wave of American automobile culture.

Tail O' The Pup (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While many of these novelty buildings have fallen prey to demolition, this particular one continues to thrive well into the 21st century.  After changing hands several times and acquiring the name “Randy’s Donuts,” the shop was purchased in 1978 by brothers Larry and Ron Weintraub, who have been churning out the sugary treats ever since.

Today, Randy’s Donuts is recognized on a global scale.  Not only is the colossal donut structure in close proximity to LAX (the world’s 6th busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic), it has also made multiple pop culture cameo appearances.  Notable examples include the films Earth Girls Are Easy and Coming to America, as well as Randy Newman’s music video for his 1980s ode to the City of Angels, “I Love LA.”  (Watch this and travel back in time.)

It is also the cover image for the critically acclaimed Time Out Los Angeles city guide – a copy of which happens to have a home on my bedside table.  Glancing at it the other day, I thought how curious it was that I had yet to sample the doughy deliciousness and snap a shot of the iconic building.

There are at least two reasons for that.

The first is simple:  I love donuts.

While in recent years I’ve traded in pizza for quinoa and Mr. Goodbar for organic dark chocolate, donuts will always occupy a special place in my palate and heart.

The passage of more than two decades has done nothing to diminish the thrill of crowding around the kitchen table with my brother and cousins, as my Grandma Helen and Grandpa Phil strolled in the door, sporting grand smiles and a paper box stuffed with glazed, powdered and chocolate frosted circles of sweetness.

The second reason may be a bit quirkier.

I have an obsession with Americana.  Something tells me that, in a past life, I cruised down Route 66 in a turquoise and chrome convertible, weaving through red desert mesas under the azure western sky.  Just ask my brother, Justin; not a day passed on our cross-country road trip when I didn’t drag him to Graceland, Cadillac Ranch or the Big Texan.

So how was it that Randy’s Donuts  — a mere 7.2 miles from my front door — was sure to serve up a dose of both guilty pleasures, and I had yet to indulge?

Well … as they say, timing is everything.

And July 4th was just around the corner.  What better way to celebrate American independence, I thought, than to stuff myself with thousands of calories at a tourist attraction?

As the afternoon sun beat out the morning fog this past Saturday, I visually shape-shifted my 2005 Subaru Outback into a 1957 Chevy Bel Air and headed towards Randy’s Donuts.

Located at the intersection of Manchester and La Cienega Boulevards in Inglewood, Randy’s Donuts is open 24 hours a day and boasts both drive-thru and walk-up window options.  Though the former seemed more in the spirit of the era that spawned such a spectacle, the promise of warm sun on my face was too enticing.

After taking some requisite photos, I practically skipped to the menu to decide what it would be.  Apple fritter?  Chocolate glazed?  Cinnamon?  After a few moments of indecision — I wanted them all — I decided to go with the sugar-glazed classic, a mere 70 cents.

As I handed the cheery clerk a dollar bill, and she in turn placed in my palm a donut that seemed nearly as big as the replica towering over us, I started to salivate.

As I stepped away, I took my first bite.  It was positively scrumptious.

And then I did what any good American does.  I ate the whole thing.

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Water IS Life

If you rode in a car in Los Angeles sometime over the past several months and happened to look up, chances are you caught sight of a striking image — a man, illuminated by a celestial ray of light, floating ethereally in a turquoise pool, surrounded by cavern walls dripping with stalactites.

This stunning photograph, shot in one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s famous cenotes — the Mayan-derived word for the fresh water sinkholes that dot the region’s jungle terrain (and in which I have had the immense pleasure of swimming and scuba diving) — graced the streetlight banners advertising National Geographic’s recent exhibit at The Annenberg Space for Photography, entitled “Water: Our Thirsty World”.

Curated in connection with the venerated magazine’s April cover story on water, the show promised hundreds of images, displayed both in print and embodied in a film presentation narrated by award-winning photographers.  Its goal was to document the deleterious effects our planet’s rapidly diminishing water sources are imposing on humans, animals and ecosystems from California to Kenya.

Addicted to all things National Geographic and never having been to The Annenberg Space for Photography, I was sold the second I’d read about the program’s opening back in March.  Now it was June, the exhibit was about to close, and I was determined not to let procrastination cheat me out of the experience.

Generally speaking, I prefer going to museums on my own; doing so enables me to focus more on the exhibition and less on conversation with my companion. (Yes, I have self-diagnosed ADD.) But it seemed fitting that I attend this particular exhibit with Olivier Chatard.

Olivier :: L'Artiste

A talented designer with a passion for conservation, Olivier conceived, produced and directed — among other related projects — “Awareness,” a short film utilizing sensually stunning imagery and music to elucidate excessive water consumption in the western world. It was recently featured at the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival and Los Angeles’ New Media Film Festival. (You can read about and watch the film here.)

Our plan was to meet on Friday at 2:00 p.m. in front of the museum.

After spending a hideously frustrating 1.5 hours in traffic — I’m pretty laid back for a New Yorker but severely abhor being late — I finally pulled into the museum’s underground parking structure at 2:15 p.m. (Notably, parking is $3.50 with validation, and something obscene without … $34? $44?)

Descending towards P1 and accompanied by the sound of tires squawking on the glistening surface, the parking lot seemed strangely familiar.   It wasn’t until I emerged outside, dwarfed by twin office buildings that seemed to kiss the clouds, that I realized the museum was built at the base of the Century Plaza Towers — in which Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, the law firm at which I used to work, had an office.

Century Plaza Towers

How poignant, I thought as I looked down at my platform sandals and up at the museum’s glass doors; four years earlier, I would have been cloaked in business casual and cooped up in an conference room, reviewing documents on behalf of a corporate client.

I began to ponder how far I had come with respect to my shift in lifestyle, and where I still wanted to go in terms of utilizing my law degree, when the 2:22 p.m. display on my iPhone snapped me out of my reverie.

The Annenberg Space for Photography

I dashed up the stairs towards Olivier.  We hugged hello and breezed through the free entryway, taking seats just as the film presentation was to begin. (As my friend Monick likes to say, “My timing is perfect and elegant.”)

Over the next hour, we traveled to the Tibetan plateau, the Ganges, Haiti, the Dead Sea — and were deposited right back at home in California.

I witnessed Kenyan women making 5-hour odysseys, on foot under the blazing sun, to retrieve fresh water to haul back to their villages — every day. I was introduced to Asian farmers whose futures are in peril, due to the region’s rapid desertification. And I learned about how Southern California’s Owens Lake — which in 1924 was 108 square miles and, on average, 25-50 feet deep — was reduced, in roughly a decade, to a dry lakebed after its sources were diverted to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Kenyan Women As Beasts of Burden. Photograph by Lynn Johnson. © National Geographic

I had known that our planet’s water issues were critical. But this barrage of visually arresting images and fascinating historical perspective was astonishing. And seeing it in the wake of the Gulf oil spill made it all the more stirring.

The Virtually Dry Los Angeles River. Photograph © Edward Burtynsky, National Geographic.

I could feel the wheels in my head and heart churning, as I triumphantly located my validated parking ticket and bid Olivier goodbye. And as I drove home, looking up every now and then at one of those streetlight banners, an idea took root.

And now, as I dust off my resume, it is germinating…

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Santa Monica Slam

Anyone living in New York City with a penchant for tennis appreciates what an expensive and schleppy habit the sport can be.

The dollars my generous parents invested into lessons during my adolescent years might have nourished an Ethiopian village.  And the hours spent hauling out to Queens to access courts that didn’t force us onto food stamps unquestionably outnumbered those spent pummeling forehands and smashing volleys.

But I loved the game, and by high school, my skills earned me a position on the formidable Horace Mann tennis team.

Truth be told, though, I never had what my father used to call a “killer instinct.”  No matter how committed he was to instill in me a desire to slaughter my ponytailed, white-skirted opponents, I was always content merely to be out on the court, swinging my racket and savoring the crisp, east coast fall.

Playing tennis en plein air in Riverdale, a tree-lined enclave in the Bronx, was a welcome antidote to the frenzy of Manhattan life and a high school education as academically demanding as law school would later prove to be.  Bopping around the bright green surface, everything else that ordinarily weighed on my mind — from presenting my research on the seven sacred rites of the Lakota to pondering how long I’d be grounded after getting caught going to the Palladium — seemed trapped in the net that separated me from my opponents.

But when I left for college in Northern California, where free and available courts were as ubiquitous as warm sunny days, and my schedule was — shall we say — flexible, something strange happened.  I stopped playing tennis.

Perhaps it was the distraction of the then-unfamiliar wonderland that is California, with its sandstone beachside cliffs and 6’2” bronzed surfers.  Or perhaps it was the shocking ­news that my former tennis instructor had attempted to kidnap and rape one of his students (coincidentally, the sister of a guy who lived in my co-op during sophomore year) before taking his own life.  (See The New York Times article).

Whatever the reason, my tennis racket has languished, since 1993, in various closets across the United States.

Until now.

Reunited...

After several years of passing by open courts in city parks all over Los Angeles and muttering how ludicrous it is that I don’t play, I decided that the time to let my racket see the light of day had finally arrived.

And after seventeen years, it was just that easy.

Koo, a girlfriend who also had not played tennis in nearly two decades, quickly agreed to join me in an effort to jumpstart her game as well.  We decided to meet Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in Marine Park, just east of Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica and roughly a five-minute drive or ten-minute bike ride from home — hardly akin to rush hour traffic on the Queensboro Bridge.

Prepared to wait a good 30-45 minutes — it was, after all, a Sunday afternoon — I entered the park gate at 12:45 p.m., armed with my now ancient racket and slew of partially-flat tennis balls, ready to stake my claim to the next available court.

My vigilance, however, was superfluous.

Just as I began making my way between the courts and bushy green wall of vines, dotted with vibrant, fragrant flowers — again, the antithesis of a Long Island City tennis bubble — a middle-aged man rallying back and forth with his son called out that they would be done momentarily.

Marine Park Flora

Yeahhh … that this was the first time I set out to play tennis in Los Angeles seemed more preposterous with each passing moment.

Just as they began gathering their equipment to clear the court, Koo arrived with a bright smile and her typical, Aussie-inflected, “Hi darling!”

Game's On!

We spent the next hour and a half re-connecting with our strokes and footwork, and eventually played a couple of sets — proud when we slammed an ace and amused when a well-intentioned lob metamorphosed into a home run.  The doses of merriment we both experienced must have been good medicine for the agony that plagued our right forearms in the days that followed…because we can’t wait to play again this weekend.

If you have read either of my previous two posts (M & Ms:: Part 1 and M & Ms :: Part 2), you’ll know that I recently enjoyed an exceptionally fabulous trip to New York, visiting family, friends and the spectacular Dia:Beacon.

Happy Me

But when it comes to playing tennis, I’ll take Los Angeles any day.

Who else is in?

Happy Koo

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M & Ms :: Part 2

So, where was I?  (A week of post-NYC fatigue, a profoundly late night celebrating a friend’s birthday, a cold, and preoccupation with prepping for Lightning in a Bottle triggered my severe procrastination affliction and set my writing back a few days.)

Oh, yes.  Mother’s Day.

3:49 a.m.  After visiting with friends and bouncing around Brooklyn for several hours, I gingerly turned the key to my parents’ apartment, cautious not to wake them up.

I needn’t have worried.

My dad was slouched on the couch, with his head cocked back, glasses crooked, mouth wide open, and snoring like a freight train.

I kicked off my boots and sunk my toes into the plush carpet, luxuriating in the notion that it would be mere minutes before I could crawl under a fluffy comforter.  Walking towards the bathroom to brush my teeth, however, I noticed that the lights were on in my parents’ bedroom.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with my mother, Donna, she’s what you’d call a worrier.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking — ALL mothers worry.  But to a degree.

My mom’s capacity to fret might actually warrant a Guinness Record.  I recall an occasion, for example, when I had accidentally fallen asleep at a friend’s place.  She wandered Central Park at sunrise, searching for my dead body.

On this particular night, it turned out that not only had my iPhone battery died, but I had also managed to lose it somewhere between Bar Reis in Park Slope and East 90th Street.  So when I failed to respond to her text message asking when I would be home, she couldn’t sleep.

What do most people do when plagued with insomnia?  Brew herbal tea.  Read a magazine.  Count sheep.

Not Donna.

She had spent the previous hour trying on and reorganizing the more than fifty t-shirts and sweaters now stacked so neatly in her armoire that she might consider a gig at The Gap.

Anyways, this was all a really long-winded explanation for the rather late start to our Mother’s Day odyssey — replete with a 2-hour brunch and some irksome directional shortcomings attributable to my ordinarily map-minded father — to visit the stunning Dia:Beacon.

Approaching Dia:Beacon

The moment we walked into the museum’s expansive and light-drenched galleries, any residual irritability was absorbed immediately by the bright hardwood floors, which seemed to store a piece of history within every grain.

Formerly a box printing factory, Dia:Beacon rests on the banks of the Hudson River, sixty miles north of New York City.  (Though we made the trip by car, the Metro-North train runs from Grand Central Terminal and stops a mere five-minute walk from the museum.)  Since 2003, it has been home to massive works and installations by significant contemporary artists, including Andy Warhol, Agnes Martin and Richard Serra.

Much like Los Angeles’ Getty Museum, the space itself is a main attraction.  Even the penetrating cold the gray skies imposed could not undermine the setting’s spectacular nature; the calm that overcame me as I stepped inside was intoxicating.  And the vastness of its galleries permit art to be displayed on a scale unlike anything even remotely conceivable — in terms of both space and cost — in New York City.  I was giddily dwarfed.

The art adorning the museum’s walls and floors proved just as breathtaking.  Though it’s impossible to choose favorites, I was particularly dazzled by:

(Note that the museum doesn’t allow photographs.  Clicking on the links above will bring up images of these works.)

And just as we had begun traipsing through Richard Serra’s steel installation so colossal it might house a small village, nearby museum staff gently informed us that it was 6:00 p.m., and time to go.

Mom & Dad

As we made our way to Cafe Amarcord on Beacon’s main drag for dinner, I knew that we had all enjoyed a special Mother’s Day…which was followed by a night of very sound sleep.

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M & Ms :: Part 1

Museums make me happy.

Ever since I was a little girl growing up within one square mile of at least ten of them — including such supreme abodes of art as the Metropolitan, Guggenheim and Whitney — I reveled in wandering through galleries exploding with Jackson Pollock’s canvases and calmed by Constantin Brancusi’s bronzes.

Initially instilled by my parents, my appreciation for art increased exponentially under the tutelage of Mr. Yates, my beloved high school art history teacher, whose engaging wit made class more enjoyable than the vodka tonics my girlfriends and I would sip at The Coffee Shop after absconding from school on the number 1 train. (Ah, the pre-Giuliani days!)

My interest flourished over the ensuing years.  I interned at a SoHo gallery, penned a college paper on the parallels between Keith Haring and Navajo sandpaintings, and flew across the Atlantic to visit the Prado and the Louvre.

Ever since I moved to Southern California, however, my track record has wavered a bit.  And no, it’s not because living out here breeds vapidity.  It’s just that the weather seems to call out “hike in the mountains” more than it does “an afternoon inside windowless walls of art.”

In an effort to switch course, I decided that week #3’s activity should re-charge my artistic affinities.

So which one would it be?  The Hammer?  The Craft and Folk Art Museum?  Or maybe the Pacific Asia Museum?  Hmmm…

But then I looked at the calendar — Mother’s Day.  And it comes only once a year.

Knowing that my New York City-dwelling mom was steeped in self-pity over the fact that her two kids live thousands of miles away in Los Angeles and Denver, I called up my scheme-loving dad to concoct an early mother’s day surprise.

It worked.

So, too, did my week #3 plan to visit a museum — albeit across the continent from Los Angeles.

Stay tuned for Part 2, our Mother’s Day outing up the Hudson River to DIA: Beacon

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