Sunday, 30 September 2007
Forgot to tell you ... my dear friend in Perth, Laura, has started blogging - so do drop by (just click on the pink words) and leave her a friendly word. She got bitten by the blog bug on her recent world trip, when she regularly posted pics and news on another site via which I enjoyed much vicarious travelling.
Got a head cold that's a pain in the everything and an energy-sapping nuisance.
So here's an easy collection of pics I took in Santa Monica, last Monday afternoon. It's the closest seaside town to Beverly Hills, with a great beach, complete with famous pier and funfair. We went to check out a couple of promising spots to open some more Bondis. The first one we looked at ...
... was bright and spacious, and on a great street, just one back from the dowtown's most significant thoroughfare, which is the Third Street Promenade. It had big skylights (below) which, with the interesting rafters, offer plenty of potential for decor.
It was on Second Street, just a short walk from the beach: the street numbers get higher as you get further from the beach.
The second spot was on Wilshire Boulevard, just a few doors away from the corner of the Third Street Prom - which is fabulous. There are other successful and good-looking restaurants in the row and there's a good feel about it all ...
It was a great old building, with that SoCal-Spanish character that I like so much.
So - an interesting day looking at property.
:: Dave had a meeting, so I went for a wander. I took a cab out to the Bergamot Station, which is an old train depot now converted to about 30 art galleries. Heaven on a stick, I thought, rubbing my hands in glee. But its website had misinformed me - nothing was open, so after dismally looking through a few front windows and shaking a few locked doors, I had to call a cab to take me back to town. Hey ho! Just my luck.
:: This is the Third Street Prom ...
It's a fun place, with fantastic cafes, shops, restaurants and loads of people - though Monday arvo was a bit quiet. It goes for three blocks, I think, and makes me wonder if this wouldn't be a great idea for Rokeby Road. Get rid of the cars - Santa Monica is the best place in LA for parking, with plenty of multi-storeys, some of them free - and let people saunter about, with plenty for kids to do and look at.
:: Around a corner, I came across this amazing shop ...
... which sold only books on art and architecture. Imagine the happy browsing a girl could do in here! And it was simply enormous. (Sorry about the blurry pic - I have trouble holding my little camera still enough when the light's not brilliant. Sometimes I use Will's nifty monopod, but with the little silver Fuji screwed to the top of it, it makes me feel a bit too like Gandalph the Grey to take it out of the house!)
:: I fantasised about converting this attractive store into a gallery ... not that it was for sale, for lease or even empty. But I fancied it!
:: I was also drawn to this derelict theatre that looks as though it's about to undergo restoration. These old buildings make the place as far as I'm concerned ...
That's it - I'm off to bed with tissues, tea and Harry. So looking forward to finishing the Harrys so I can move on to my book pile ...
Friday, 28 September 2007
There had been mention that Martha was going to put in an appearance at Rufus's show at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday night, and we were not disappointed. She stomped on stage in high heels and a satin dress that she really didn't seem comfortable in, judging by the amount of fiddling with it she did, and how often she yanked at it!
Rufus had sort of fluffed his way charmingly through a good few songs - though there were several that he did brilliantly - but it was with utter joy that we could sit back, relax, and watch Martha let loose on this ripper. Such a voice! It can be big and belting, and then tiny and childlike, smooth or husky, steady and quavering. And this song seemed absolutely perfect for her - she brought the house down.
Later, she returned to the stage with their mum, Kate McGarrigle, which was a further treat, and she sang - brilliantly again - Someone to Watch Over Me, dedicated to her brand-new husband of just two weeks. Aaaah! By this time we were in the encores, and Rufus, who had come out to do a previous number in Judy Garland drag, was now in his bathrobe, stockings and men's shoes - so there was a very humorous, laidback ambience, with much family banter between the three.
The next night, at the minuscule Hotel Cafe, off Hollywood Boulevard, was a far more intimate show. Martha was on stage for exactly an hour, from 9 to 10pm, and was the middle act of three scheduled for the night - but she was the headliner as far as were were concerned. So tiny was this place that Dave had been at the bar buying a drink when Martha came up and ordered a beer right next to him! And she had to walk right by me to get on the little corner stage - I'd snaffled a spot right up the front, and was only about 3m away from her.
She was very funny and warm, and joked a lot with the crowd - if you could call 50 people a crowd - about guitar keys, bootleg recordings and lyrics. A couple of times she started a song and swore when she realised the words had eluded her! But the crowd helped.
She did a few new songs and some of her more familiar stuff (Factory, the Car Song), and again we were knocked out by the variety of tone and depth of her voice. And she sings with her entire body, stamping her feet and getting right into it - if you watch the clip above of her doing Stormy Weather you'll see what I mean.
We'd been curious to see if Rufus or Kate McG would appear, and while Rufus was absent (probably recovering from what Martha said had been a big night the night before), Mum was there and came on stage to play on several numbers, and sang along with that unique, delicately warbly but distinct voice of hers. Oh it was wonderful, and we were so lucky!
As an encore, Martha and Kate sang a French (French-Canadian?) song, Barbara (with a break in the middle while Martha conferred with the audience over some of the words), and then Kate retired and Martha sang You Bloody Motherfucking Asshole, her heartfelt tribute to her dad, Loudon Wainwright III.
At 10 on the dot it was all over. Martha left the stage, the crowd thinned, and David and I walked off to the car and our two-hour drive back to San Diego. What a brilliant, brilliant weekend we'd had with the Wainwrights!
This week's question:
Buy a Friend a Book Week is October 1-7 (as well as the first weeks of January, April, and July). During this week, you’re encouraged to buy a friend a book for no good reason. Not for their birthday, not because it’s a holiday, not to cheer them up–just because it’s a book.
What book would you choose to give to a friend and why?
Impossible - there's no one-book-fits-all formula. In fact, buying books for other people, especially one's friends, is not always an easy thing, unless you've heard them mention titles they're interested in. It'd be like buying a friend a handbag ...
However, other people are a joy to buy books for. I know my dad loves English history, aeroplanes and anything about World War II, so there is almost always something in the bookshops that he would love. And my mum likes historical romances, and any romantic fiction or chick-lit, so choosing books for her is always a pleasure.
But the question is about books for my friends.
And they're all such big readers, and prolific readers, and have such varying tastes in books, that this is too hard, so I'd probably settle for giving them tokens!
Thursday, 27 September 2007
We had a brilliant weekend up in LA. The weather was perfect, the sky was clear and blue, visibility was excellent, the traffic was flowing and all was absolutely right with the world. We went mainly to see Rufus Wainwright's show (tickets $22 each) on Sunday night, and Martha Wainwright's show ($12) the next night, but also to check out some possible locations for Bondis two and three - and why not for four and five?
The centre of Los Angeles, its real CBD, seems surprisingly modest in scale ...
... and in all my visits, I've never been to this actual centre. It may look modest, as I said, but it is vastly spread out.
This photo (above), from south-east of the city, was taken through the car window while we were on the 101, the Hollywood Freeway. We'd been driving through the LA metropolitan area for well over an hour and a half by the time we'd got to this point, which gives you some idea of how h-u-g-e the place is. And there are other big city centres in this general metro sprawl, such as Long Beach, Century City, and Burbank. It's a Big Place!
:: We stayed Sunday night in the glorious old Roosevelt Hotel, a perfect example of 1920s California-Spanish architecture on Hollywood Boulevard. This view from our tenth floor window, across the fire escape ...
... gives you another idea of this city. Hollywood, where we are, is quite a long way away from the city centre. In this pic (above), we're looking south-east.
What an exciting, dynamic atmosphere we found ourselves in! As we drew close to our hotel, Hollywood Boulevard (that's the one lined with all the stars of the Walk of Fame) was being barracaded in readiness for a film premiere at the Kodak Theatre and little clusters of fans were starting to line up.
And in our hotel, a film was actually being made. We had to step around piles of gear and over cables, and there were lights and crew and cameras and hustle and bustle everywhere. As we left the lift in the lobby on Monday morning, we heard a voice on a PA system: 'Quiet please! Director on set!' Any closer and we'd have been in it.
:: Apparently, some Angelenos have whinged about the inconvenience they have to live every day with as movie after movie is made in their hometown, but the LA mayor (whose beautiful Mexican name beginning with V escapes me for the mo) has shot back at them, saying that the movie industry provides over 800,000 LA inhabitants with jobs. Not just acting, directing and producing, but all the more everyday jobs, like painting, electrical work, catering and so on.
:: Hollywood itself is pretty tacky and down-at-heel ...
... with low-rent businesses, dodgy-looking apartment blocks and ill-kept footpaths and roads. But there is lots of reconstruction going on as it gets a much needed overhaul and a revamp.
It's been suggested that Bondi put in proposals for two locations here, both in brand-new developments that are still building sites. The first is near the legendary corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, where a whole block has been bulldozed and where a massive new complex of businesses and homes will soon rise.
The second is in a similar redevelopment to the west, near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and La Brea Avenue. Both are big addresses, so we'll see how we go!
:: But there are fabulous parts to Los Angeles as well. I love Wilshire Boulevard ...
... which is wide and long, stretching west through Hollywood, fashionable West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills all the way to Santa Monica. It's a fabulous drive! In the pic above, we are heading east, with Monday's setting sun behind us, and we're almost in Hollywood.
:: By far the best bit is Santa Monica (so far - though I may yet discover other gorgeous parts as there's so much to see!). If I had to live in LA, I could do it very happily in Santa Monica. But that's another post ...
Wednesday, 26 September 2007
Rufus Wainwright at the Hollywood Bowl
This is just a short clip (not filmed by me) from the concert we saw on Sunday night - an absolute corker of a show, with a fabulous fabulous orchestra, a resplendent Rufus, sensational Martha, and even the legendary Kate on piano for a couple of memorable moments. So much fun!
As you'd expect of this heady mix of Rufus and Judy, this was an outrageous night for people-watching - and you should have heard the audience singing along!
Rufus's voice was not really up to it on several occasions - he was failing to hit high notes towards the end of the night, and even early on, many of the speedy, jazzy numbers were completely beyond him.
The orchestra, though, was out of this world. Fab big brass section, strings and the works.
But Rufus was the first to acknowledge his shortcomings and laugh them off, as did the indulgent audience. He introduced several songs with warnings that he had troouble witht hem, and he ended one particularly difficult song in a blur of words and then 'Whatever!' No-one cared; everyone cheered.
The whole point seemed to have been to recreate a 1961 JG concert right here at the Bowl, and to worship at the temple without slavishly copying Garland's style. And that's what he did.
There was a real Hollywood sort of moment when he spied Debbie Reynolds sitting in the front row and went down to give her a kiss.
When Martha came on and sang 'Stormy Weather', you could hear a pin drop - and later she came back and sang 'Someone to Watch Over Me', in honour of her new husband of two weeks. Both songs were absolute magic, and Rufus was clearly out-performed, though he had a big enough personality to carry it off with grace and affrection. It was all too lovely!
:: Dave and I stayed the night in a marvellous hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, just a walk from the Bowl, and spent Monday in LA.
That night we saw Martha perform in a club that wasn't as big as our Gloster Street family room. the complete opposite of being in an audience of about 10,000 the night before!
I'll post more on all that later ...
Monday, 24 September 2007
These are a couple of shots from last week, of the magnificent campus of the University of Washington, in Seattle.
Lily had been here before with her friend, Nick, who brought her to this spot when the big old cherry trees were in bloom and the lawn beneath them was white with petals.
It's an enormous, spreading campus, littered with Victorian-style buildings that, with its city-side location, give some indication of its wealth and prestige, despite its being a 'public' college. I think it has more than 30,000 students.
I so enjoyed the gardens! Greens everywhere: big broad canopies of leaves, grassy open spaces and, in the dappled shade - which I can't get enough of, and yearn for in Southern California - these drifts of Cyclamen coums ...
:: What a wonderful weekend we're having. It started on Friday night with dinner at the Bondi and then the baseball game at Petco Park, between the Padres (our home side) and the Colorado Rockies.
Saturday began with rain, the first here since April, though it feels much longer. Will was off downtown to see the Red Bull Air Race, which will be in Perth next, so David and I spent a quiet morning shopping, walking the dogs, making coffee, reading the paper and generally enjoying ourselves.
In the mid-afternoon we went to the Bondi to meet friends for a beer. It was full of people - Bondi really looks its best on these sunny, relaxed afternoons - I loved it!
And I heard you gasp at the mention of my drinking beer! Yes! It's a treat I have recently discovered. An icy-cold Little Creatures, all the way from North Freo ... yum. Just the one, Captain Peacock ...
:: Off to Hollywood this arvo. We've a 'super-deluxe-swisho-exclusive-king-bed suite' booked at the historic Roosevelt Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard, and tickets to see Rufus Wainwright doing his acclaimed Judy Garland show at the Hollywood Bowl. I can't wait.
And to think that all those years ago, in the early 1970s, we used to listen to Loudon Wainwright III singing 'Be Careful There's a Baby in the House', all about this little baby boy ...
Tomorrow we'll have a few errands to do in LA and then we see Rufus's sister Martha's show at the much smaller and equally historic Hotel Cafe.
I do so love living in California.
Friday, 21 September 2007
Booking through Thursday
This week's question:
'Imagine that everything is going just swimmingly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. You’re practically bouncing from health and have money in your pocket. The kids are playing and laughing, the puppy is chewing in the cutest possible manner on an officially-sanctioned chew toy, and in between moments of laughter for pure joy, you pick up a book to read . . . What is it?'
I don't really assign books to moods, and the only book I have ever re-read is Pride and Prejudice. So whatever mood I'm in, I'll probably keep on reading the book I'm reading.
But the thought of everything going so completely swimmingly reminds me of holidays, and on holiday I will read effortless pleasers that will maintain and the sustain this mood of la dolce vita. The sort of books you choose by their covers (the more embossed type the better) and how much they weigh. That sort of stuff. Chick lit. Or even crap, basically.
Well, Lily, Lauren and I pulled away from home in San Diego in Lil's well-loaded Corolla at about 11.20am last Tuesday, and we pulled into the driveway of her new house in Olympia at about 6.30pm the next day. It's a long way!
We took the interstate 5 all the way, having decided on the need for a quick drive rather than a scenic one up along the coast. The 5 was really hairy through the guts of LA - narrow lanes and big trucks - and then exceedingly boring once we'd descended from the dry, desert-like hills north of LA down into the massive, flat San Joaquin Valley: industrial-scale farms from hazy horizon to horizon.
Things got prettier and prettier the next day as we headed through the high country of northern California, the landscape rippling into glorious hills of redwood forest. And suddenly, we all gasped and cheered as this came into view:
Mt Shasta, with the last vestiges of snow on its peak.
Oregon wasn't far off, and we crossed it from south to north in a long afternoon, including a tempting drive through Portland towards the end of peak hour, with its big river and dozens upon dozens of bridges: bridges that cross bridges and duck beneath others; double-decker bridges; one-way bridges and drawbridges. I've heard so much about this city I really wanted to visit, but not this trip.
Finally, with Lily cheering and yahooing, we drove over a bridge that had one end in Oregon and the other in Washington:
It was touching to watch Lily as she neared her home of the past year. From the moment we entered Washington, she buzzed with excitement, and repeated how good it was to be back, and how much she'd missed Washington and its quiet, dark forests.
She and two of last year's dorm-mates, Sarah and Larissa, have moved off campus and rented a great house just a couple of miles away from uni:
Larissa and Sarah kept sending text messages while we were on the road, checking on our progress and ETA, and when we finally pulled into the driveway of their new home - which Lily hadn't yet seen - they exploded out of the front door and jumped all over her. It was a fantastic welcome. And they'd even gone to the trouble of cooking dinner for all of us - with dessert!
:: We spent the next few days scouring Goodwill and other op shops, Target, J.C. Penney and all sorts of cheapo stores looking for stuff for the house. Lily bought a brand-new bed, though - can't have my daughter sleeping on a grotty old mattress!
This was my first experience of Goodwill, and I was very impressed. We found this big old dining table for an amazing $49 ...
... (please note the terrific oak floorboards!) and this dear little velvet settee for $35 ...
... (sorry about the blurry pic). It's clean and has no worn bits, though it's a little bit saggy-of-seat, but the girls love its retro colours and cosy look. We also picked up a couple of end tables and place-mats for the new dining table.
Other thrift shops gave up five assorted dining chairs, the most expensive of which was $8. I guess all of this is the result of being in a university town. I imagine a lot of this stuff goes round and round, year after year, as students come and go.
:: While Lily revelled in the space, character and independence of her first shared rented home, over at the University of Washington, in Seattle, poor Lauren had to endure being shunted into a minuscule (3m by 3m) first-year dorm room in a building that houses 850 freshmen. With communal bathrooms. Pretty grim ...
Lauren is a third-year student from Sydney uni, and an elite athlete (she rowed for Australia this year at Henley in the UK), and very luckily has that great Australian attribute: a sense of humour. Which she needed when she realised that the only unoccupied bed in this tiny room, a top bunk, was so near the ceiling she wouldn't be able to sit up in bed ...
... plus, while it was a delightful 23 degrees C (74 F) outside, the entire building was h-e-a-t-e-d to a staggering, claustrophobic, virus-breeding 25.5 C (78 F). And while there were narrow air vents above the windows, the windows themselves didn't open.
My palms are sweating just remembering what it was like. But ... it was clean. And I hope, temporary, until Lauren sorts out the slack administration at UW who seem hell-bent on being as bloody-minded as they can about getting Lauren into the decent digs she was promised as she applied for this exchange.
Thank heavens for the bright, happy, helpful staffers at Evergreen! You little beauty! Lily calls it her hippy college in the forest. And, I think, she'd been unaware of just how much it meant to her until she got back.
:: I left a few days earlier than I'd planned. While it was lovely, as always, to be with Lily, it was such an important time for her to be unencumbered by Mum's Presence. Last year's friends were all drifting back into town, and there were constant bulletins about who was back, and who was still on the road, of Tom on a Greyhound and just a few hours away, or Dick and Jane who were driving back from Colorado, and Harry's dreadful summer working on a golf course; plus everyone's - real or imagined, but, I suspect, always embroidered - stories of dreadful times at home with the hideous parents. And so much shrieking about who was living where with whom, and who was back in digs on campus ... so I thought I'd get back to my own bed, and Dave, and my other teenager. Who will soon be my very last one!
Thursday, 20 September 2007
This is the country that has given the world the car, Seinfeld, a man or two on the moon, the iPod and the breakfast burrito.
So how come it still clings to the arcane, cumbersome and just plain ridiculous imperial system?
Dave has red-wine stains all over a white shirt, and the directions for the pre-wash stain remover suggest making a paste by adding 'one scoop to 16 oz' of water, or a soaking solution by mixing 'two scoops in one gallon'. So I get my bucket, and it's marked off in 'quarts'.
Why have they put up with such silliness for so long?
Even Mexico - even Canada! - is metric the instant you're across the border.
:: I'm just back from the Pacific North West (I do love how that sounds) and the house is exceedingly hairy after leaving the two guys and two dogs alone in it, so I've not much time to blog and instead will have to vacuum and make some pretense at housewifery.
But I had to show you these leaves (above), from the big-leaf maple outside Lily's bedroom window; that's her view, just about.
A couple of weeks ago, in the exhaustion of the heatwave we'd been enduring in Southern California, I whinged to Laura – who was knee-deep in gorgeousness in Tuscany, for heaven's sake – that all I wanted was to hear raindrops dripping on broad green leaves, and see them fall into sun-dappled puddles on the ground.
Wish granted! No wonder the town's called Olympia ...
And this is the tiny-leaf maple (my name!) growing alongside its big brother in Lil's garden. These leaves (below) are only about 4cm (couple of inches) long. Can you imagine the spectacle when autumn really hits?
:: Got to tell you: We're going to see Rufus and Martha Wainwright in concert together at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday, and then again in a small club on Monday. I can't believe it ...
Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Lauren, who was at school with Lily in Perth and is still one of her closest friends, arrived from Sydney on Saturday. Lauren is studying international relations at Sydney uni, and is going to the University of Washington, in Seattle, to study Chinese politics for three months. She chose 'U-Dub' as much for its academic prestige as for the chance to be close to Lily, who is thrilled to bits!
It's been great fun having the two of them here. We've been showing Lauren as much of San Diego as we can, at the same time running around helping Lily get organised for another year at college. Today we went to breakfast at the Bondi, and then to the beautiful Coronado Hotel ...
... it's the world's biggest wooden structure and was built in 1888, right on the broadest, whitest beach in this part of the world. Coronado beach is regularly voted the best in Southern California, and it's not hard to see why.
:: After the Coronado we took the scenic coastal route back to our neck of the woods. It was such a perfect day - warm and windy, with clear blue skies. The girls are loving this summer interval after so recently being in Australia's winter, and before they head north to Washington state, where it rains a great deal (lucky them!)
:: Yesterday, we went to the vast outlet shopping centre at San Ysidro, right on the Mexican border. The shopping is unbelievably cheap, and we rounded off the day by swanning into the shoe department at the Neiman Marcus outlet, where there is the most extraordinary array of discounted designer shoes.
We had a laugh and a half trying on Manolo Blahniks (below, $700 down to $300, with further reductions), Prada, Taryn Ross, Gucci, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors and a heap of others.
There was everything from strappy bejewelled sandals to winter boots, including one pair of genuine Scottish wellies reduced from $450 to $125. But Lily was particularly taken with these sparkly blue Armani heels ...
Many of the shoes were actually hideous, which I guess is why they've ended up here, like these weird Pradas (below) that looked like orthopaedic granny shoes - with an incredibly high heel - and had very strange flesh-coloured knee-high stockings attached. Their original price had been $1300.
:: Lily, Lauren and I begin our drive up the coast tomorrow. It'll take us a couple of days to get to Seattle, where we'll leave Lauren at her orientation day for international students. Then Lily and I will head for Olympia, where she and two of her college mates have rented a house - I think Lily's year in the freshman dorm was enough. She's well and truly over her earlier expressed desire to experience the full US college phenomenon and is looking forward to having a house with a kitchen and laundry. So we'll be hunting down some furniture on craigslist and getting all her stuff out of storage.
If there's time, we're going to visit our relatives on Vancouver Island.
:: No more blogging until I get back to San Diego and the boys, in about 10 days. Bye-ee!
Friday, 7 September 2007
This is a book/reading blog which asks a weekly question, to which readers can reply via their own blogs.
This week's question is about whether you need everything to be j-u-s-t so for you to read, or if, in fact, you can read any time, anywhere.
:: For years now, I've read every night in bed. When the kids were little, this was the only real time available to me; eventually it became habit.
The trouble is that now I can no longer separate the two. I cannot read for any length of time without falling sound asleep - unless I'm working on a manuscript.
I will nod off no matter what the book, no matter how riveting the read, and no matter what time of day. It's tragic.
I love reading! I have a big list and small pile of books to be read, and I have the time, these days, to read plenty. So I must fix this - but how?
There's one advantage to it: I can read and fall asleep on a plane - and I do quite a lot of flying, and at least one long-haul trip to and from Australia a year.
:: I cannot read in a car or bus, as I'll get motion sickness. I can't even read a map if the car's moving.
:: I could not bear to read while I'm walking - the book has to be steady!
:: When I am reading, though, the light has to be good, and I cannot stand music in the background, or noise from the TV (I sound so anal saying this!).
This sets me apart from my daughter (19), who can read and even write essays while listening to her iPod, and my multi-tasking brainiac husband, who can read while listening to current affairs on the radio and watching sport on the telly all at the same time.
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
We've been having a long, slow heatwave. With ghastly humidity. But the worst is over now - there's a coolish breeze this arvo and the forecast for the rest of the week is only mid-20s to high 20s, so that's a relief!
And now Lily is back from Australia. We drove up at sparrow's to meet her plane at LAX yesterday morning, which, fortunately, was a holiday (Labor Day), so Dave had the day off. It's so good to have her home. And she bought hundreds of Madura teabags, Kool Mints, Vittoria coffee, Rexona and Cadbury's hazelnut chocolate. Yay!
The two of us have spent the whole day talking and putting the world to rights, with occasional swimming breaks ...
... and a quick sarnie at lunchtime. She has a lot of summer to catch up on before we head north next week for the long drive up to Olympia.
:: Oh, here's my finished tortoiseshell, which was wrapped with the other two butterflies and delivered at Sunday's surprise baby shower party - for which I also made the duck cakes at the top of the page.
:: Dinner's at the Bondi tonight - there's a new dish on the menu, the main components of which are baked mission figs, prosciutto, and goats' cheese. That'll be for me, thank you very much!