Monday, July 20, 2009

Shakespeare Turns Savage

This past Saturday, after viciously cleaning my box and catching up on my laundry, and after a hearty breakfast at the Hippie Kitchen (beans, salad, and guacamole), I caught up on my Email, finalized my budget all the way through May of next year (including my annual shopping trip to Narayangarh, Nepal), and writing the Uncle Walter post while watching, The 40 Year Old Virgin, I attended a local performance of Shakespeare's pastoral comedy, As You Like It, with my friend Christa, who was visiting from Ridgecrest.
She's a lovely girl I met a couple of years ago in Nevada, who I helped move back near her dear mother here in California. Lovely woman.
Anyway, we made our way to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, on Temple, near Grand, by seven. The stage and seating were outside of the church, and all of the reserved seating had already been taken, but the Shakespeare Festival/LA has a long standing tradition of not turning anyone away, especially if you bring a canned good for the Food Bank of Southern California (eat your heart out San Francisco). Christa brought a can of watercress that I had given her, and I brought some instant yams. It had been bright and too sunny all day, and the sun would not go down for another hour, which was just about when the play began. It was warm, neither of us bringing a coat or jacket.
As You Like It is not my favorite of Shakespeare's comedies, that would be A Mid-Summer Night's Dream (after seeing Diana Rigg perform in it in 1969. Speaking of which, Happy Birthday Dame Diana! And Natalie Wood! Diana is 71 today, and Natalie would have been). However we thoroughly enjoyed the production's portrayal of the travails of Rosalind/Ganymede and Orlando and all the rest. I hadn't seen Shakespeare since the same company performed The Merry Wives of Windsor in Pershing Square back in 2002.
Speaking of which again, there was a promised free concert at the Downtown Stage of Pershing Square Sunday afternoon, which one web site said began at three, and which did not specify who would be playing. But I thought it would be fun, and Christa agreed.
Pershing Square is a 5 acre, block sized public park in the middle of downtown Los Angeles, surrounded by Hill Street and Olive, on the east and west sides respectively, and Fifth and Sixth on the north and south. It's been in existence under various names since 1866, and became a nice place for homeless people to hangout during the day. It was renovated in 1992, and now has a big pond on the south side that is continuously refilled by a fountain, and a ten story purple bell tower. The north side of the park is cemented in with a thin layer of grass situated in strategic strips. The picture above was taken pretty much where the stage was set for Sunday's concert, facing south. Interestingly enough, the base of the large building shown in the upper middle of that picture is the City National Bank Building, which is over twenty stories tall, and the sight of the last job I had working for somebody else. Customer Service for the City of Los Angeles Parking Enforcement, arguably the worst job I ever had. Anyway, once in the park you are surrounded by skyscrapers on every side, and the park links the Jewelery District on the south, with the Financial District, and Bunker Hill, on the north.
Christa and I got there early, around one forty-five, not knowing how many people would eventually show, and secured a nice spot on the west side of the lawn, our own table and lawn chairs, under a nice shady tree. We needn't of gotten there so early, as the information I had gotten had been wrong, and the show did not begin until four. That was okay, we had a nice chat, and although it was intolerably sunny, there was a goodly breeze and not too hot.
After a while Christa listened to her I pod, and took a book from my backpack, and skimmed through it. "The Evolution of God," by Robert Wright. Well, God had to evolve too, you know. He didn't just fall out of the cabbage patch! And there is a reason that prehistoric cave paintings never show the crucifixion. The one true God had not made Christianity available to those living 30,000 years ago. What's up with that?
I soon got sleepy from reading, and began looking at the pigeons and sparrows battling each other for food, and determined that life without arms and hands is hard. I mean wings are great! You get to fly all over the place, and you probably won't develop the fear of heights that I have. But the act of eating is a particularly difficult one. For instance, I noticed one little sparrow who had the good fortune to secure a nice big piece of a potato chip. He had it in it's little beak, and very soon all of the other sparrows and pigeons wanted some of that potato chip. So it flew away high into a nearby tree to get away from his competitors. One problem though, in order to eat the potato chip he had to let go of it, which when he did, the chip fell all the way down to the ground. He had to soar after it to secure it once more, just as a big old pigeon was about to get it. But our sparrow got there just before the pigeon, got it in it's little beak again, and took it way up into another tree. And the whole thing started over again, until the little sparrow flew out of my sight without yet getting to munch down on any of that tasty and nutritious potato chip.
Life without arms and legs is hard. And frustrating, I imagine.
The band had been setting up all of the while this was going on, taking their sweet time about it. At four o'clock, the Savage City Band was announced, and they swung into an instrumental intro number. This band, I later found out, hails from Orange County, our misguided conservative neighbors to the south. It was a ten piece band, with a four man brass section, keyboards, drummer, bass and lead guitar, and a dedicated tambourine player. The lead singer was a immense, six foot tall, redhead, by the name of Deanna Savage, which may have been the source of the band's name. I don't know for sure.
The played mostly R&B, original and cover tunes. Ms Savage was good. The band was good. I thought we were listening to a cross between Heart with a brass section, or Chicago, or Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishman Band with a female singer. They even played Feeling Alright, Dave Mason's song that Cocker made famous.
Everybody there, Christa and I, all had a great time. We had to leave after the first set so we could grab some dinner before going to see the new Johnny Depp film, Public Enemies, before Christa left for Ridgecrest.
I really had no desire to see this film, even though Michael Mann, the director is consistently good, especially in the crime genera. Like "Valkyrie," I knew how it would turn out, having watched a television documentary on the life of John Dillinger (played by Depp in the film) with my mother as she recovered from oral surgery 40 years ago. It was a good film! I was not disappointed. Mann was great as usual, Depp and Christian Bale, and the rest of the cast and production were top notch. I'm glad we went.
But the interesting thing to me, what amazes me the most, is the complex engineering that evolution and natural selection has provided for the brain, that allows us, allowed me to remember that afternoon with my mother lying on the couch, clearly in pain, with me sitting close by, watching a television show about John Dillinger, so many years ago. I knew Dillinger had worn a mustache. And it bothered me that for most of the film Depp was not wearing one. Not until the end of the film did he wear a mustache.
Maybe I remember that day so clearly because of this. I remember my mother asking me after the scene when Dillinger was shot dead in front of the movie theater, "Is that how you want to wind up?"
"No," I told her.
Dear mother, I'm sorry I caused you so much pain, and I told you that when you were alive. And you'll be happy to know that so far I've resisted the urge to rob a bank.
Not one.
So far.

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