carol's kitchen

Friday, November 17, 2017

MY MAD HATTER



The best thing about the Mad Hatter Parade is I know everybody in it.  I used to think Macy’s million dollar extravaganza, which I watched at home in front of the TV, was pretty good, but I’ve forsaken all that for the joys & pleasures of a small town event, put on by my far-out friends & neighbors in the far-fetched city of Vallejo, known as The Mad Hatter Parade.  

The magic of the madness is the work of maestro Frank Malifrando who brings together Vallejo’s most colorful and insane local characters who come out the cracks once a year to strut their stuff down Georgia Street and kick off the holiday season with one big wacky tacky phantasmagorical tea party.    

First off, I smile at the mayor who strides down the street at the head of the parade, waving at his constituents, and he smiles back.  Here comes Adolpho, mistress of audacious grace in his sequined gown and fabulous furs, blowing kisses to the crowd that hoots & hollers as he floats by.  I shout and jump for joy when I see Shannon & Kathy O’Hare, King and Queen of all things fantastic in Vallejo, who swoop in on their fabulous racket-making airborne contraption, with springs & wings & strange moving parts that sing & swing & propel them onward, upward, and away they go.  

I’m impressed with fire breathing dragons & martial arts demonstrations; salsa dancing couples warm my heart, as do the classy old cars like my father used to drive, and laughing firemen and policemen who look like real people when you get close.  I salute the suits from the chamber of commerce.

I love all the fabulous floats with their crazy costumed characters who animate the tea party, but most of all, the thing I love best about the Mad Hatter Parade, I love the high school marching bands.  I search the young earnest faces of boys and girls of every race color & stripe, growing up, taking on the troubles of the world, their lives still in front of them, fervently pursuing their hopes & dreams, banging on drums and tooting trumpets with all their hearts and souls to proclaim good things are coming, oh man, yes they are, yes they are.  The leader tosses his baton high into the sky – and my heart soars with it. 

One year I brought my grandchildren and they loved the Mad Hatter Parade too, especially a mechanical alligator and the lights on the Soma sculpture.   The following year I brought my sisters and brothers-in-law from Florida, who understood what I loved about this parade and got into the spirit of it with me.  What’s not to love about magnificent prancing white Lipizzaner horses with decorated tails & manes?   And the flotilla of lighted boats when night fell, which I enjoyed in my warm home, watching through the window.

But the absolute best part of the Mad Hatter Parade is the crowd, the people, the families who show up, young & old, all colors & kinds, friends & neighbors who pour into Georgia Street, unfold their folding chairs, push up the visors of their baseball caps, slip on their sunglasses & sit back to enjoy the show. Three years in a row, ever since I moved to this town, I’ve come out for the Mad Hatter’s Parade, and I’ve gotta say without any doubt, as great as the parade is, in Vallejo the audience is as good as the show.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

I SAID I WAS DONE BUT I LIED

BINGO

If I won the $360 million powerball jackpot on Saturday I’d buy the Fettig brothers’ property for however much they want and send them away happy. Then I’d buy me some friendly, bright-eyed politicians, hire Anthony Scaramucci to take care of the good old boys in the back room, and fix up Vallejo’s waterfront the way it should be.'

I’m writing today about the Florence Douglas Senior Center, on Amador Street, where I attended a Brain Training Session last week. Six students, older women, though non older than I, sat around a table in a large room for an hour and a half on Tuesday afternoon, talking, answering questions, enjoying each other’s company. Our teacher was a younger woman who exuded irresistible joy and happiness.

We enjoyed a little snack before starting the work. One woman brought a variety of gourmet cheeses and crackers, and the teacher brought fresh sliced mango and excellent mixed nuts. We settled down and were asked to come up with a word starting with the first letter of our name that tells something about us. The introductions went around the table, starting with me, who chose clever. Loretta was lonely, which made me sad, although the others made me laugh. We were asked to write the names of 10 different green vegetables, which brought about a pleasant conversation. Then we answered a page full of difficult questions, such as where was Abraham Lincoln born, and what’s the northernmost city in the world? I only knew a few answers. The conversation was lively. I felt safe and comfortable with the women, who were as smart as I am — probably smarter.

Time flew. The teacher gave us homework. I’d had a good time, met interesting people, enjoyed some pleasant chit chat, but was skeptical about the work. As far as I could tell my brain was the same.
I returned home and got busy on the patio. I cut down all the dried pea vines, cleaned up the vegetable box, and picked a bunch of red chard for my dinner. I carried a big bag out to the trash, prepped the chard, and sat down to work on my novel. I felt bright, clear and alert, and calm. Happy, too.

I realized that somehow, my brain had been trained. It had gotten a workout while I was having a good time in that room with those women in the Senior Center, and the teacher who made it feel like fun. Now I’m looking forward to next time. Five bucks per class, two Tuesdays a month. A deal.
I want to praise the Florence Douglas Senior Center on Amador Street. Next time I’ll go early and have the Meals on Wheels lunch, which is served in the next room, with a live jazz band entertaining the diners. Pass the Jell-O and deal me in.

Friday, June 02, 2017

DONE

I’m done.   If I was younger and not handicapped I’d sell my house and run.  I’m happy now that I wasn’t appointed to the Arts Commission, because I would have to resign.  Bring on Mario’s morbid monuments – I couldn’t care less.  This is my last letter to the editor, my last criticism or praise for anything Vallejo.  My love for this place is over.  I won’t shop here or spend my money in local businesses. After what I saw in the eyes of Verda-Aliga last night I realized Vallejo means nothing more to me now than an address for my mail.

Good-bye.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

SOUR GRAPES



I’m a sore loser; I admit it so let’s get that settled right now.  Don’t expect me to be happy about the fact that the mayor and city council of Vallejo, in their infinite wisdom, decided not to appoint me to the Arts & Culture Commission.
 
Don’t worry, I’ll get over it.  Politics is a game, isn’t it?  When I first moved to Vallejo I ran for the beautification board and was not elected.  Council-member Robert McConnell explained it was because no one knew me then.  That made sense.   I didn’t feel betrayed.  Now, however, they know me pretty well.  What's the reason this time? 
Was it something I said?  Did I mention I helped create, write, get placed into the general plan, argued and wrote letters for this newly created Arts and Culture Commission?   It was my baby.
But there are worse things.  And now that I’m off the hook of having to comply with official acts and ordinances that would necessarily quiet my otherwise outspoken opinions, I don’t need to play by the rules.  I can climb back up my band wagon and speak my mind, say what I think like I used to do when I wrote a column for the now defunct VIB (rip) and made some people mad.
My love for public art has been seriously cultivated over many years - as an observer all over the world.  I’ve stared at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Pyramids in Egypt, The Taj Mahal in India, The Fountains of Trevi in Rome, and the sculpture strewn all over New York City.  Now I look at an object on the ground in front of our Ferry Building, and ask myself how this can happen. 
When I moved to Vallejo in July 2014, into a condo at Mariner’s Landing, with a wonderful view of the river and Mare Island, I couldn’t help notice the blight called Independence Park along the water in front of my house.  I wrote a petition to the city to fix up that park.  Another baby of mine.  A thousand people signed.  It’s a story that has come to include memories of Osby Davis that make me smile – yes! --  and visions of giant bronze heroic monuments that give me nightmares. 
Another example of things gone wrong: Sacramento Street corner of Georgia.  My quarrel here is not with the artist but with the deciders who agreed to allow that picture to get painted on that wall.  The stilted coloring book style is cold and simplistic; it’s too big for the space, and not suitable for the heart of downtown Vallejo.  It says nothing about our city and who we are.  Where is the soul?
Ditto about the so called art painted on utility boxes along the waterfront and scattered around other downtown corners of our city.  Who let them do that?  Is this kindergarten?  The drawings pinned to my refrigerator are better and more interesting than that stuff.  If I was a visitor stepping off the ferry, seeing Vallejo for the first time, and was greeted by that cutsy stuff on utility boxes directly across the street from our debarcadero, I’d not be impressed.  I wouldn’t think the people here think much of themselves.  I wouldn’t be moved to check out their art galleries.
I wouldn’t want to go to the dentist either, another choice offered to ferry riders on said debarcadero.  I love the dentist inside; he made two nice crowns for me recently, but he’s in the wrong place.   That’s not what we want on our beautiful waterfront. 
Public Art is not my only obsession in Vallejo.  Another important item I also wanted to work on as a commissioner was to bring the diverse cultures in Vallejo together through the arts. I never understood why all the art & cultural events in Vallejo are attended by white people only.  I began to inquire why more black artists didn’t take part, and I uncovered some interesting answers.  And I’m glad to see that rabbi larry is asking the same questions.  Is it a Jewish thing?  I may not be a commissioner but I can still help them to achieve this necessary coming together our city needs.https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

Here’s a special shout out to Councilman McConnell for not appointing me to the Arts Commission that I helped create and that I consider my baby.  I’m not the first mother to have her baby taken away from her.  Now Pharoah’s children are looking after it and doing a good job, I hope.  In any case, I’ll be watching them, you can be sure.  


Friday, April 28, 2017

MISERY



If you ever start thinking your somebody, I’ll tell you what: this city will bring you down.  Cut me down to size is what they did.  I was too sure of myself: imagined that after helping to write the policies and guideline for the newly created Arts & culture commission, after having stood before the City council talking about the need to add the commission to the new general plan, having spoken out and written about the importance of public art in Vallejo, after all that, the city council, in its infinite wisdom, failed to appoint me to a seat, however well  qualified I may be.  Not good enough, or perhaps I’ve been too outspoken.  I haven’t hidden my opinions about the art in Vallejo, my likes and dislikes, my thoughts about what sort of art we need adorning our city, to make us proud. 

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

DETECTIVE STORY

Last Wednesday, I went to the Chase bank on Tennessee and Broadway. Standing in front of the teller, finishing up my business, I placed my keys on the ledge in front of me so I could sign the receipt. Just as I was about to put the keys in my pocket, my phone rang, and I grabbed the phone from my pocket instead, spoke for half a minute, then looked back to my keys.

But they were gone.

Several people at the bank tried to help me find them. They weren’t in my car, or in my pockets, not in my bag or on the floor, or anywhere. While the search was going on, certain the key-snatcher would steal it, I kept an eye on my little red Honda FIT, parked in the first space in front of the big glass doors of the bank. I asked the security guard to continue the vigil while I went home to get my duplicate key. A kind customer at the bank, Tom Green, a veteran and a gentleman, who lives in Country Club Crest, and to whom I am eternally grateful, drove me home and back. When we returned some 20 minutes later, my car was still there.


Why would someone snatch my keys and not steal my car? It makes no sense. Once home I decided to wait a day or so before making a new set of keys, on the off chance someone picked them up by mistake and brought them back to the bank. But I never really believed that would happen.

Next day, I got a call from a fellow named Jason who works at the Fairfield Public Library, asking me to call Detective John Corcoran of the Pinole Police Department about some keys. Imagine my shock when Detective Corcoran told me he’d arrested a couple driving a stolen car in Pinole the day before, and a search turned up my keys in the back of their car. My library card was on the key-ring and that’s how he found me. The little plastic card contained a bar-code that allowed Jason to trace me in the library’s data base. How about them apples!


As there was a warrant out for the woman’s arrest, Detective Corcoran was also able to search their motel room, where he found piles of mail stolen from Vallejo. Incidentally, he told me the mail would be turned over to the Post Office, but would probably never be processed because the Post Office to too understaffed to handle that work.

Why didn’t they steal my car? They could have had they acted quickly. The detective guessed they may have had a change of heart. I’ll never know. I didn’t press charges.


The story gets better: Detective Corcoran not only found my keys, and found me, he drove all the way up to Vallejo to deliver them in person. What a fine fellow!

Heartfelt thanks and three cheers for Detective John Corcoran of the Pinole Police Department — and to the Good Samaritan at the bank, Tom Green of Country Club Crest.

And here’s a $1 million idea for the Vallejo Police Department: Manufacture and sell small plastic cards for key-rings with bar-codes containing the owner’s ID that only police can read.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

LET IT RIP, VALLEJO!

I attended the first performance of the Vallejo Symphony Orchestra in its new venue at the old Empress Theatre in beautiful downtown Vallejo on Sunday, March 12.  Before things got going, I took the opportunity to turn back from my vantage point in the second row of the orchestra, and marvel at the sight of a great upward sweep of happy music-lover faces, young and old, filling every seat in the house.  The show was sold out.  Bravo Vallejo!

I loved the beautiful Empress setting, with its rich red velvet curtains and massive gilded curlicues, as befits a world-class symphony orchestra, and the words “VALLEJO SYMPHONY” projected in subtle light on the valance of the proscenium above the orchestra. 

Many years of concert-going taught me that audiences must refrain from applauding between movements.  We should hold it in until the end of the piece.  I always wait to be sure it’s the end lest I look like a jerk, unfamiliar with the music, ignorant of correct protocol of classical performances.

But I had nothing to fear in Vallejo, at that wonderful concert in the Empress Theatre on Sunday.  This audience went so crazy ga-ga loco over the performance of masterworks by Haydn, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky, with Livia Sohn, the brilliant violin soloist, under the magic baton of conductor Marc Taddei, we couldn’t hold ourselves back, applauded wildly in between movements as well as at the end, howling and cheering like utter fools.

Mr. Taddei, the kind and wise conductor, rather than reprimand us for bad behavior, as other maestros might have done, turned to the audience with grace and dignity, smiled at us, accepted our unbounded joy, thanked us, even acknowledged one of the solo performers in one instance, before turning back and getting on with the rest of the piece. 

So, who made the rules?  Who dictates concert etiquette?  Afluent magazine, claiming to be the authority, informs us that “applause should only occur when the work is finished and not in between movements.”  They also instruct their readers in the art of clapping, included here just for fun.  “The appropriate way to clap is holding your hands slightly to your left and clapping small brisk claps. Never clap in front of your face. For a standing ovation – stand, lift your elbows high and slightly to the left, then clap small and briskly.”
 
Elsewhere I dug up bits like these: “Mozart took delight in audiences clapping at once in response to a nice musical effect. Individual movements were encored in response to audience applause.”  “In their day, audiences spontaneously clapped when they heard something they really liked -- even if it meant breaking into the music before its conclusion.  If audiences didn't applaud during the performance, composers would get worried. (How well I understand.)  Brahms figured his first piano concerto was a total flop because there was so little audience response.” “Some composers actually composed their music to incite audience response in the midst of a piece.” 
 
Speaking of audiences, the eminent conductor Pierre Monteux said, “their artificial restraint from applause between movements of a concerto or symphony… certainly does not fit in with the composers’ intentions."

Brooklyn Philharmonic CEO Richard Dare says: "Perhaps it's time to simply allow ourselves to react to classical music with our hearts just as we do when we meet other forms of art. Classical music belongs to the audience -- to its listeners, not the critics; to the citizens, not the snobs."

The rolling of eyes and killing looks are, “born of a snobbishness, a device whereby some people (yours truly among them) can feel superior by showing that they know the piece isn't over yet. It is entirely a twentieth century convention - a custom that would shock Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and any other composer prior to our own time.” 

Vallejo is a city of the future; no longer a twentieth century mindset; and this seems a fitting time for a healthy re-examination of old customs.  Here’s an alternative concert manifesto: We, Vallejo music lovers, claim the right to clap with all our hearts and souls whenever and however the music makes us do it.  Even at the symphony.

Arise, fellow Vallejoans, come one come all.  Go to the Vallejo Symphony.  Buy your tickets in advance.  Clap your heads off if you feel like it, for beautiful music, performed by the world class Vallejo Symphony Orchestra, under the brilliant baton of maestro Marc Taddei, a gentleman who understands feelings.   If Tchaikowsky can let it rip, we can too.