Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Other Broadway

My lunch break from work was always some ungodly great escape, but no great escape could ever top my weekly forays down Broadway in DTLA (Downtown LA). No lover of Mexican culture, I was nevertheless in awe of all the cool shops down this heavily Latinized section of town. I'd walk down the hill from 1st Street and cut over past all the bridal dress shops - teenage brides served daily! - and head over to The Bradbury Building. It's weird stepping in there and seeing those legendary staircases and balconies where Darryl Hannah attacked Harrison Ford in "Blade Runner" and the immortal Edmond O'Brien facing down his killer in "D.O.A." Brilliant. It's also home to the classiest-looking Subway I've ever eaten at. Next door is the world's oldest men's barber supply store. You can actually pick your favorite straight razors and shaving cream brushes; the selection is incredible.

Next door to the Million Dollar Theatre is a wild place called the Farmacia Y Botanica Million Dollar, which has in addition to Jesus and Virgin Mary statues figurines of El Diablo (Satan) and The Grim Reaper. In addition to the incense and votive candles are green penis candles and red vagina candles. This is religion a la Burger King - "Have It Your Way", divinity and sex objects galore, a real action kind of place, y'know. A few steps away is the legendary Grand Central Market where you can buy any kind of food you like and then some. I saw a lot of cabezas (cow and sheep heads). I think I saw a few pig skulls, too, which reminded me of Rory Calhoun in "Motel Hell".

Meanwhile a lot of bad cha cha music booms out of tinny speakers just like the beginning of "Touch of Evil". You'll be looking over your shoulder making sure Uncle Joe Grande isn't trying to throw a bottle of acid at you. Take another block down and after you pass Falles Paredes (sounds like Phallus Paradise!) you'll chow down at Hoagies And Wings, one of the few places in L.A. where the hoagies actually have some soul and personality. More importantly, though, is the International House of Music, an enormous music store with PA equipment, turntables for the DJ's and even tympani and cellos for all the cats fromneighboring concert halls like The Music Center, The Walt Disney Concert Hall and The Colburn School for The Performing Arts, in case they're short a few strings or reeds. I also liked the "Nipper" statue in front greeting you as you entered the store. Awesome!

Broadway was such a fucking Shangri-La from all the starchy, uptight, post 9/11 paranoia motherfuckers I had to suffer all day at the Board of Supervisors. While the job I deserted hangs a pall over me like a bad nightmare I have to confess to missing my little escapes, like the majesty that is Broadway and all its beautifully eccentric quirks. Any place that can pull off a cool Subway deserves your respect.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Outer Spaceways Incorporated

In the late Eighties I was fortunate to catch Sun Ra & His Astro-Infinity Arkestra at a country & western club (!) in the San Fernando Valley called The Palomino. (Years later my band Trash Can School played there opening for The Laughing Hyenas, but that's another story). You'd never know it but Sun Ra, like any punk band, had a marvelous little merch stand going on. To this day I still have a cool t-shirt of The Great Master that I almost wore out.  I also scored a sweet concert program that was printed chapbook size and contained rare band photos, Ra's unique poetry, and excerpts of interviews where he espoused his philosophy on society, blacknuss, and the solar system. Here are a few excerpts I'm happy to share with you:

The very first Sun Ra album I ever owned was in 1972 and was a live album called "Nothing Is" on a record label every bit as mysterious as Mr. Ra, ESP-Disk. The cover showed Ra in his space outfit with a large flame covering most of his face and had the inscription, "At first nothing is..." and the back cover had a poem by him, "The Garden of Eatened". For a religious kid all these biblical undercurrents made a large impression on me and yet it all culminated in space travel.

The music inside was nothing short of a revelation: Ra playing his wild synthesizer and organ, and the three most intense saxophone players I ever heard this side of Kirk and Dolphy: Marshall Allen on alto, John Gilmore on tenor and Pat Patrick on baritone. I also liked the fact that the band loved to sing: "Sun Ra and his band from outer space will entertain you now"..."If you find life boring just the same old, same thing, come on sign up with outer spaceways incorporated"..."The next stop's Mars"..."This is the theme of tomorrow's land, a cosmic paradise"...I was hooked, and spent the next sumpteen years hunting down every Ra album I could find.

Click on image for maximum results:

The show at The Palomino was one of the most generous I've ever seen: Ra and his band played an eclectic mix of free jazz, space electronics, Tiki lounge music, vintage twenties big band jazz, wild hard-bop, and because they had recently contributed to an album of Disney movie tunes, even a few Disney movie covers. I think they did a song from "Peter Pan", and it was actually quite touching. Before you could shed a poignant tear they were off playing "Rocket Number Nine Take Off ToThe Planet Venus".

When the band played this ultra-eclectic mix I never thought that this was a show-off "we can play anything" orgy like so many other artists do. It merely highlighted the fact that Ra loved all kinds of music and even stated in his movie "Space Is The Place" that the greatest medicine for the ills of the galaxy was music.

Click on image for maximum results:

Friday, July 1, 2011

Accessories Bought and Made

Last week I completed the design and sewing of a steak bag, which was a conglomeration of different oxblood leather hides. I wanted the bag to be a nice circular shape with a slight oval curve. The banding around the bag was a textured harder leather to keep the bag framed when placed on a tabled surface. The inside of the bag is lined with a cell phone pocket, a wallet and/or small purse pocket and another pocket (maybe for the mp3 player of your choice). I wanted the handles of the bag to be special so we decided on two cartoony frankfurters to be hot linked to your arm. I think the end result was pretty special and I'm making another one that I plan on selling.

Pictured below are three accessories for your review, two made and one bought. The two made is the: 1) bad penny belt with a nice gray leather hide used. Although you can't see it in the photo I punched a lot of cool moon craters of varying sizes. What you can see, however is: 2) My moon crater leather bracelet, a small black leather band with moon craters of various sizes. I made it small and tight for best effect; a large and loose bracelet would simply look damaged. The bought piece is the other bracelet with metal coils with leather links aligning them quite nicely. This great bracelet is available from Topman ( . They have a very eclectic selection of men's bracelets which can't be, pun alert, topped anywhere else.

Items that I bought recently include Oliver Peoples sunglasses - the Sheldrake series is a favorite, but they're all cool and stylish. The accessories you wear can be every bit as crucial as the major articles of clothing you wear every day. An outift can look incomplete until a necklace or bracelet is added into the equation, so don't scrimp on getting the little touches that complete your look. It's the little things that count.

I'll leave you with this awesome cooking apron made with red leather and festooned with black stitches embroidered all over. If meat is murder than let's put all our cards on the table, I say.