Plastissimo Alto and The Varsity: Part Ten
Or: Don’t walk away from the arts, Palo Alto
10:55 a.m., Wednesday, November 2, 2011, As I am walking north on the east side of Bryant, Mayor Sid Espinosa approaches; we are each talking on our cells as we grow nearer. Sid has the phone to his left ear and his right index finger in his right ear to dampen the din coming from construction at the former Nevada Building, on the corner.
Me, to my phone: Here comes our Mayor, I’ll see if he can say hello. (to Sid) Hello, Mayor Espinosa! Good morning!
My phone (to me and potentially to our Mayor, since I had her on speaker- phone earlier and she might not have gathered that I am now ambulatory and semi-private and she is not on speaker-phone): Hello, Mayor!
(The mayor smiles and nods and points towards his phone. He doesn’t know that he has missed saying hello the great-niece of a great American, the former U.S. Senator from Minnesota Eugene McCarthy, also a poet and presidential candidate. I never met the man, and am not sure even if I had heard of him during his lifetime, but I have lifted a glass to his portrait at least twice at the St. Paul Hotel, in the lobby bar, where they have a gallery of great men and women including Hubert Humphrey and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This is the third recent meeting or near-meeting I have had or fantasized about with Sid, in advance of his actual office hours upcoming this Friday. Previously I had written him about the possibility of coming by with Bill Kreutzmann, the founding drummer of the Grateful Dead, who is in a band and was in town with my friend Malcolm Welbourne; they play together as 7 Walkers. I am hoping to leverage my relationship with Mali into something that impacts Kreutzman’s legacy here, his hometown, something like a Claes Oldenburg drum kit, a public monument, or traction regarding The Varsity Theatre using Bill’s name and influence. Also, second, I had wanted to send Sid a link if not an actual habeas corpus regarding Sara Moussavian, profiled in the Weekly recently for her advocacy for disability rights; I met Sara in Brian Evans’ macroeconomics course at Foothill, and said I would link her to Sid, one way or another (which could make a good pro-Ability slogan). I do not bother to explain any of this to the woman not-on-speakerphone, the singer-songwriter and mother-of-a-four-year-old, Bethany Yarrow; when I met Yarrow previously, her daughter was in the arms of the tour-nanny, Mary Beth McCarthy Yarrow, Eugene McCarthy’s niece – I had always thought, for these ensuing years, that she was his daughter, the Senator’s, however; I did hear from her friends one night at the Daily Grill, after her show at the Getty, the story of how Mary Beth met Peter Yarrow, of Peter Paul and Mary fame, at a Eugene McCarthy rally, circa 1968. A man there at that post-show dinner, an activist, said he was in love with Mary Beth McCarthy but knew he was going to be aced out by Peter Yarrow. He was discussing it like it was from the previous week. I could definitely picture this, and found Mary Beth McCarthy still quite charming; I later sent her a note about being pleased to have met “three generations of lovely McCarthy-Yarrow ladies” or some-such.
I made a note to self to send word to Sid Espinosa explaining all this, then went back to concluding my nine-minute call to Bethany, at 10:48.
Let me retrace my morning, today, 11/2/11 (or as my friend the Tarot reading musician might suggest I write it, 11/II/11, for the six wands of communication, a good omen:
8 a.m. I speak to HRB regarding 456 University, Keynes and the semantic and philosophical distinction between “intervention” and “being creative and pro-active” a propos of the potential roles leadership (council, boards, commissioners) could play in actualizing the substantial public benefit of the Varsity Theatre reverting to a public hall and not becoming office space.
8:15: I sit next to councilmember Nancy Shepherd and pass her a hand-written note summarizing the three-minute address I just made, and offering to send her a written version of it, for her records (as if she would not have time to find it here; as a convenience, or to reiterate). We have a brief whisper-meeting on these topics. Here I am not a lobbyist but a galley-ist, since we are in Council Chambers. She sits, at least in this instance, with the people, as Council liaison to the Historic Resources Board.
9:00 I leave HRB and happen to meet one of the other speakers, a woman named Ms. Rose, hand her my card and give her the elevator or in-front-of-elevator pitch about the Varsity and TLPW456. She says that coincidentally her husband (perhaps he is a Mr. Rose or at least and certainly a Ms. Rose’s husband) was on the board of Borders. Their architect –they are making a presentation about 601 Melville an historic 1905 home they own and or live in –Aino De Rosa, suggests that Laura Surma’s claim in a 2005 thesis at Stanford, that Borders had agreed in a lease to pay for the reversion of 456 University could be, if true, an important detail that I should forward to the bankruptcy judge.
9:05: Speaking of the Devil and Daniel Webster, (literally speaking), I run into City Attorney Molly Stump, near the Mildred Howard, and she asks me about the Varsity but I instead hit her (figuratively speaking) with my bit about Dylan and Newport and whether to plug in or not is content – she insists, in a friendly way, that they already checked that and believe to be in the right. We are both heading to Coupa Café where she fakes me into buying a pastry, but refuses my offer to split mine with her. She says she will invite me to her office some time to see the light installation her husband the artist has designed, site-specific but not earmarked for our otherwise excellent PAPAC collection; she has seen the Picasso however.
At 9:04 I am remembering, I shot this photo of the “M” of the Mildred Howard public art piece “Clear Story” framing the American flag.
I also told Karen Imperial about the upcoming show and soiree tomorrow Thursday at Smith Andersen, featuring seven tattoo artists and or Enrique Chagoya, and music by Akira Tana, and promised to get back to her with any appropriate information about memorials for Philip Kirkeby who passed away last week. I had invited Joe Oliveira to play the event and sit in with Akira Tana and he wrote back to see we would have to continue elsewhere and otherwise. Also, Akira had said I could invite my other Gunn classmate, Esther Berndt to sit in on sax, if I can get to it.
The Times had an ad from the Soros Foundation about their grants for new Americans and it made me think about my potential client, a Vietnamese student I met who wants to do a Frank Sinatra inspired session — mayben Soros could fund that. I recall tracking a former Stanford music student, getting a PhD in UCSD, who I found through that same source, the Soros awards.
While enjoying my cappuccino and the New York Times – something about Ai Weiwei, something French for THE PEOPLE BEFORE FINANCE, which I think would be a good slogan for our
Fete De La Musique event coming up in June, 2012, — I had made a mental note to buy the Times for myself or at least check it here at Palo Alto Main Library, I also make quick not-terribly disturbing calls to my neighbors, to: Mia Levin regarding meeting her to bush in SF Friday, and Jeff Adachi, and Peter Kirkeby the framer, Lisa Fay Beatty, because I had promised to co-produce her monologue about Nina Simone – I am prompted by the book I check out the night before, “the Day Nina Simone Stopped Singing” by Darina Al-Joundi, a memoir of a lapsed Muslim living in Beirut and her father’s preference for American soul over the Koran – I thought about calling Gina Ali or someone as talented about trying to adapt that to stage, my version of what became “The King’s Speech” – previously I had offered to coach an Iranian engineering grad student to adapt for stage a story she told me about Pink Floyd’s the Wall, coming to Another Planet Entertainment stage I see Jim Harrington trying to tell me in the Daily News today, as an aside, I had also tried to reach, based on an item by Sal Pizzaro in the Mercury, Abilities United about their upcoming event here, Fran Arrillaga, the Matteonis (I think family members of a former little league teammate, or
Okay, it’s 11:35 now and I will have to stop here, in 23 minutes so here is an outline of what I meant to continue to say:
Dr. Kathy Johnson of Home Care Associates, ran into on sidewalk
A limo driver taking two parking spots in front of Coupa, I shot two photos of, idling with engine on. (reminds that one of the articles in Times was about the fact that it takes 916 gallons of water to grow and make Levi’s jeans, and we should perhaps freeze them to kill germs rather than washing them so often). I think limo was waiting for a French dude on a dog and pony but carrying a plush cat — was it a Jim Davis license — but his website seemed to be an Owl — owlpixels? 4 million users, 20 partnerships in only 4 months, blah blah blaw, hoo? hoo? hoo?
Leaving downtown at around 10, to avoid the dreaded over-parking ticket, I pass two uniformed Fire brass crossing Bryant towards City Hall and flash my NO ON D signboard as they traverse me in the crosswalk. I shout to them once they have reached safety that I went to school with the daughter of the man who wrote the purportedly offending collective bargaining law and they give me thumbs up and say “Yes, we know Mr. Alan Davis. Thank for your support.” As always I thank them for their public service.
Karen Imperial and Doug — she agreed in principle to play Lytton Plaza someday — she owns a gallery , Bryant Street Gallery, but also sings and writes and plays gutiar and mandolin; she showed me performance at El Cerrito Folk festival. She played “don’t Walk Away, Rene” which made me think of Bethany — who plays “Send me Home, cindy” and all this lead to a firm enough for Plastic Alto offer that I will send in writing to Bethany — she called me an “impetus” and I said “I’ve been called verse”. for Bethany and Rufus to play Bryant Gallery as an anchor some time. She is in studio now and finishing up with the four-year-old. Which reminds me that Mia Levin, who I met at Terman, said she could not busk today because she wants to find a new school for her 7-year-old — although she said her 20-year-old was doing great – and I had the chance to verify that for myself a few months ago when I rang them and daughter was holding down the fort.
Also Karen’s assistant Jeanne brought in a nice piece depicting a honey bear bottle – for donation – and was also featured or her work was — candy — in the Merc recently regarding the donation to ICA.
Karen and Doug, who had just finished sweeping the floors and self-effacing, also do “Find My Way Home” by Steve Winwood and or Eric Clapton Blind Faith.
1o:50 or so: I pull over. leaving my engine idling, in front of 601 Melville and snap a photo, and read the plaque and notice the Halloween decorations but I hope my photo reminds me of Allen Ginsburg “Howl” and Moloch — Ginsburg’s epic poem –about his fear of a nuclear Cold War anhiliation, was partly inspired by hallucination that a giant building was actually a monster; see also the recent animated about the haunted house. I also note that the Rose House — discussion of whose glassworks reminds me to ring my Gunn classmates Phil and Roger Bibo of Franciscan Glass — I don’t stop, won’t stop – the brothers are willing to work it out, yo — is so near to Lucie Stern and such a grand scale that it might as well be part of the master-planned civic cultural nexus. See also 431 Kipling where Gertrude Stein’s sister or sister-in-law once hung the first great collection of Matisses. Can I end — it is now no longer morning, it is 12:15 p.m. even though by poetic license I am claining it is still 10;45 a.m. — by saying that Matisse was once young and well-hung in Palo Alto, as was Eugene Robinson of Oxbow, House of Faith and “Fight” fame?
DISCLOSURE: This could be called more log-rolling ala my Beth Custer piece above (“Brava for Beth Custer”, she is a client) in that Karen and I shook on me writing about her if she agrees to play Palo Alto; the potential actual Bethany Yarrow show is not related). What got me from Karen Imperial to Bethany Yarrow was the leap from Renee to “Get Along Cindy” which Bethany performs, and it is a John Lomax song-catch that may have originated in the Carolina’s. I was calling Bethany out of the blue — having met her in 2007 and having saved her number in my cell — on that flimsy basis of identifying the song or distinguishing the two songs – of Renee and Cindy — and it morphed, for better or for verse, bad for Karen and her post here, good if Bethany actually takes me up on my bona fide offer — but I am also indebted to Astra Taylor and Rebecca Solnit for the strolling non-meeting with the Mayor conceit and who knows who to thank — I was improvising, while Beth Custer chatted and played live for or with Anthony Bonet at KALX — for delivering me Sid Espinosa. I get the impression — although he surely does not relish it or twist it or spin it the way I do here, in my 180th post — that Sid is constantly multi-tasking if not juggling ten or more projects and important matters.
Note: in addition to the book about the Muslim party girl and Nina Simone, I grabbed from the display a coffee table book about designer Alex Steinweiss and his cover art. I especially was struck by Negro Folk Symphony of 1963. I only permitted myself to have this in my circulation for about 20 hours: