Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Live! At Largo at the Coronet!

Ah, Largo. Owned and booked by just one man, its very independence gives it the right to be a bit eccentric. One might even call the ticket procuring process byzantine. Even so, after attending two performances there last week I have to give it a grudging thumbs up over venues like the Wilturn operated by Live Nation or some other mega-conglomerate. My reasoning? Access!

I never did brave Largo when it was at its tiny former location on Fairfax Avenue. I wasn't dedicated enough to get in. But now, in the quaint old Coronet Theater, Largo seats 250 people. Better yet, it doesn't matter who you are. We showed up early to get our tickets the night of Aimee Mann's Christmas Show, and guess what? Fourth row center. For all I know Ben Stiller might have been there with Oprah Whinfrey. I wouldn't know, since they would have been seated far behind us if they had shown up later. It truly seems to be first come, first serve. This was borne out later in the week when we returned to see genial comedian Paul F. Tompkin's show. This time the folks behind us were talking loudly about the various T.V. shows they appeared on. A zoo keeper given better seats than industry insiders? At Largo it seems possible.

It was a happy day for the Coronet Theater when Largo owner Mark Flanagan took an interest in it. Without his intervention it would have been demolished and turned into an Urban Outfitters, another chunk of Los Angeles history preserved only in photos. The fact that it was saved seems important to me. As the photo at the right shows, Bertold Brecht and Charles Laughton rehearsed here in 1947. The small bar next door, now incorporated into the Largo courtyard, was once the original Troubadour where Woody Guthrie used to play.

In its day, the Coronet was apparently quite grand. Works by Picasso and Chagall lined the walls. Legend has it that Igor Stravinsky helped paint the lobby. Eugene O'neill, Jimmy Stewart, and Charlie Chaplin attended performances. The photo at the left shows Chaplin with his fourth wife Oona.

I wonder if they're sitting in our seats?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Story of One Shallot's Teeth

I work at a zoo. I don't know why, but many people seem to think that zoo = place to drop off unwanted pets. Let me assure you, this is not the case. True, the zoo I work at houses a large number of rescued parrots and primates. So many, in fact, that we can barely keep up with them all. But unwanted pets? Well, when was the last time that you saw a house cat in a zoo exhibit?

Even so, many animals are abandoned by our back gate every year. Bunnies are a particular problem where I work; at one point someone dumped about 50 of them in the park next door! Everyone did their best to get them to a rabbit rescue, but not before they were traumatized by dogs, cars, and who-knows-what-else!

So I guess it was only a matter of time before I ended up with a hard-luck rabbit of my own. We already have something of a menagerie at our house. But this guy was just too pathetic to trust
to fate. So I took him home and named him Shallot.

Shallot is blind in one eye, was emaciated, and has terrible problems with his teeth. His front teeth grow so crookedly that they curve in four different directions, with the top two growing backwards into the roof of his mouth. No wonder he was so skinny! He couldn't chew vegetables at all. He was surviving by picking up small pieces with his tongue and pulling them into his mouth. He lived with some other bunnies at the zoo for a while, but it was obvious that he couldn't compete with them. So I finally brought him home.

Turns out, he's a wonderful guy! I was afraid that the fact that we have to take him to the vet every two or three weeks to get his teeth trimmed would make him skittish. Far from it! He roams my studio, grooming my ankles while I work at my desk, and generally brightens up the place. He doesn't seem to mind his carrier, and has been designated a "well-mannered bunny" by my vet's office staff.

Now that he is healthier and more robust, the next step is to trim all his teeth. For that he'll have to stay at the vet all day and be mildly sedated. I'll probably still have to dice up his food really finely, but it should improve his ability to chew. So wish Shallot luck! Hopefully by 2010 he'll be eating almost like a normal rabbit.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Trees' Knees

I'm from The South. A part of the south that many people don't consider The South, true, but that doesn't mean that I don't miss tropical rain storms and humid summer nights.

What it does mean is this: I had to have a vintage cypress knee lamp in the new house. Fortunately my mother had given us one years ago. Now, for the first time, we have a place to put it. So this weekend we bought a shade and finally unpacked it. Its mid-century kitsch quotient blends perfectly with our decor.

What exactly are cypress knee? Parts of the root that stick up above the soil, and often the water level, of marsh or swamp growing trees. What do they do? Well, they certainly aren't meant for lamp bases, but no one seems to know what they really do for the tree. One theory is that they function as part of the gas exchange mechanism, but the trees seem to grow just fine without them. It is odd, though, that they seem to appear much more often on trees that live in flooded areas.

Before laws were passed banning the cutting of the knees in wetland areas all manner of objects were made from them. Not just lamps; clocks, sculptures, candy dishes, you name it. But only one eccentric man held a patent on the idea of using them in this way: Thomas Gaskin. According to an article from RoadsideAmerica.com, he actually opened a museum in Palmdale, Florida to showcase his knees, one of which is said to have resembled Josef Stalin. His knees were renowned for a satiny look, which he achieved by removing the wood fibers one by one with his tongue.

I doubt that my cypress knee lamp has such an exotic pedigree. But it does remind me of my Florida roots, and of the "old, weird" America that existed before I was born.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Meet the Roul-roul Partridge

I like charismatic mega-fauna as well as the next person. Elephants, tigers, emus... let's face it, they're hard to miss, and often a delight to watch. But what of shy mini-fauna? I think some of them should have a chance at the spotlight too!

So without further ado, I give you Rollulus rouloul, the roul-roul partridge. I imagine that this little bird is all but invisible in her forest home in Indonesia. Of course, I know her as an aviary denizen, and quite a stunning one, with a dark green body, black head, and brown wings. But even in an aviary she is easy to overlook until you get to know her. The Roul-roul that I work with is actually rather personable once she warms up to you. I ply her with meal worms, so she often follows me around the exhibit when I clean it, hoping that I might unearth some bugs for her to munch on.

Roul-rouls in the wild are threatened with habitat destruction, although they seem to be more adaptable than many forest birds. That's good, because this species is monotypic, meaning that there are no other species in their genus.

Unfortunately captive breeding of these guys is out of the question at my zoo since we only have the one female. Too bad, since the male is even cuter than the female. He bears a serious expression and a shocking red crest, which together make him look like some sort of tiny gladiator. Roul-roul is such a mouthful for such a little bird. Maybe they should have been called the Spartacus partridge.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Snake Plant, Don't Do Me Wrong!

A stark fact: I suck at growing plants. No, this isn't false modesty. I would never make it as a horticulturist. To make matters worse, my mother has a house full of plants. She even works in a plant nursery... on top of a mountain where it snows. I live in sunny SoCal and can't grow a thing. Worse yet, on those rare occasions when I do get something to grow my cats invariably eat it.

Even cacti. I think they have issues about sharing the house with other living things.

Still, plants look nice and I'd like to have some. So I'm trying again. And I'm doing the smart thing this time: I'm basing my plant buying on movies I like. Basically this means just one thing: Sanseveria. Lost Highway is one of my all time favorite films. Sure, the couple portrayed in that story line is a bit more dysfunctional than Gabriel and I... but they seem like they have about the same level of plant expertise

Not to mention the fact that this plant seems to be all over the TV show Mad Men. We are trying for a sort of Atomic Ranch vibe for our place, so...

After I bought one I did a little research and learned that not only are they
often called snake plants (much cooler than your average non-ophidian plant) but they are also named after Raimond de Sangro, a prince of Sanseviero who was a horticultural patron during the 18th century. Too bad he wasn't the patron saint of horticulture, because I need all the help I can get.

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