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Archive for the ‘entertainment’ Category

Heaven Adores You – a heartfelt tribute in film to Elliott Smith

It was three years ago I discovered the Kickstarter campaign of a filmmaker named Nickolas Rossi. He had a vision of creating a documentary film about singer/songwriter Elliott Smith that would be less drama about his life and more music focused; what came to be known as a “love letter” to Elliott Smith. And as I followed the path of creation that became the film Heaven Adores You, it was evident every step of the way that this project was being done with the utmost love, respect and admiration for Elliott and his family and friends as well.

And finally the time arrived for me to be able to view this film that I had literally been counting the days to see. The screenings have been at various film festivals literally all over the globe, which is a testament to the worldwide appeal of Elliott Smith’s music. But last night was a very special screening I attended, the showing of the film in Portland, Oregon, a city that is widely held as Elliott’s hometown.

The theatre was packed, a sold out show, and the energy of breath-holding anticipation for Heaven Adores You in Portland was palpable. After a lovely set of Elliott Smith songs performed by the Portland Cello Project it was time to see the film that so many have waited to see.

What I watched for 104 minutes was a very well crafted tribute to Elliott showcasing his music not just from his days of fame but also treating the viewer to some rare songs from his adolescence where it becomes obvious that he had the seeds of musical talent and genius ready to sprout.

Heaven Adores You is also well seasoned with snippets of commentary and memories from Elliott’s dear ones that shared in his lifetime. I found myself in more moments of laughter than tears as I watched this film, not being awash in the usual drama and darkness that is often attached to the telling of Elliott Smith’s lifetime.

And then there is also the visually stunning cinematography that adds to the breath and depth of Elliott’s journey in the various places he lived and created and played his lovely music.

Heaven Adores You is the ultimate gift of tribute to this lovely troubadour who left us all too soon; it is a fitting homage of love to a man who was really just all about love himself.

http://heavenadoresyou.com/

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His music still plays, and his spirit still shines

Elliott Smith, singer songwriter extraordinaire by many people’s standards, would have been 44 today, had he not died a much too early death in October of 2003. After his passing, a good share of his notoriety came not due to the amazing music he created, but by the manner of his death, and the sometimes dysfunctional life he led as he dealt with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression.

But those who were close to him knew the fullness of his generosity, his great sense of humor, his compassion, and the other endearing qualities that inspired his family and friends to honor him with a series of four benefit shows in four different cities. They run from August 4th to August 10th and are the brainchild of Ashley Welch, Elliott’s younger sister, who decided to pay tribute to all the great things about her brother that made him her “hero”, as she describes Elliott in Autumn deWilde’s book, Elliott Smith.

One of those great things about Elliott Smith was his generous nature. Elliott was known as one to never turn down a chance to play a benefit show for someone, and before his death he had begun the process to start his own non-profit to help abused children. In this light of his giving so much to others, every show in each city – Portland, OR; Los Angeles; Austin, TX; and New York City – will be donating all the proceeds to a non-profit in that particular city. All the musicians are playing for free, as Elliott inspires so many to share and reach out to others as he did in his lifetime.

Another great thing about Elliott Smith was of course the music, the amazing legacy he left behind, the songbook of an extremely gifted and talented singer and songwriter and troubadour. He is revered by his musical peers, as is evidenced by all who agreed to come out and play these benefit shows for free. Some are more well known than others, but all shared the music with Elliott and shared the joy of music with him.

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the first show, in my city of Portland, a place Elliott called home for a time. He is well loved here, and the energy that night was just one big lovefest of Elliott, of music, of joy. Sweet and touching stories were told about Elliott from his friends, revealing a much more positive side of his life that was often overlooked. The crowd made much of the event a singalong, as the well loved and familiar words and melodies sang out in a loving cacophony.

Many famous musical artists are often memorialized in tribute shows, and that speaks to the success and inspiration of their music. But these shows touting Elliott Smith touched my heart in a different way. It wasn’t just the music we celebrated, but the fact that he used his fame for the greater good, to give back to others less fortunate. And really, Elliott shows us that we can all do this, in our own way; we don’t have to be famous to be angels of generosity. Here’s to you, dear Elliott – thank you for inspiring all of us through your music but most of all through your shining soul.

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

 

Huber’s Cafe – a Chinese owner, American turkey, and Spanish coffee

It was another luncheon outing of the “lovely library ladies”, the group of us from the book club who meet once a month for lunch at various eateries in Portland. This time we decided to try Huber’s Cafe, the restaurant that sports this claim to fame, “Established in 1879, Huber’s is Portland’s oldest restaurant”. It is a beautifully old, dark wood, lowly lit place from a time past. The room we ate lunch in is covered by a ceiling of Tiffany glass, along with a bar that looks like it came out of an old Hollywood movie, complete with the original brass cash register.

Huber’s was started by Frank Huber, but was eventually taken over and bought by Jim Louie, a Chinese immigrant hired by Frank Huber as Huber’s original cook. The main menu item of the early Huber’s was a turkey sandwich and coleslaw, and Jim Louie continued on with the turkey tradition, expanding the menu to include many different types of turkey offerings. The turkey melt sandwich I had with brie cheese and caramelized onions on a toasted baguette was very tasty, along with Huber’s famous coleslaw that lived up to its reputation as delicious.

But the best part, and certainly most entertaining was the Spanish coffee we had after our meal. This drink was developed by James Louie, another member of the Louie family, and having it prepared table side is an event in itself.  This amazing and very yummy drink consists of Kahlua, 151 proof Bacardi rum, Bols triple sec and hot coffee, topped with fresh whipped cream and nutmeg – what a tantalizing combination of flavors it is! The bartender came to our table with a tray of all the needed ingredients and special heat resistant glasses rimmed in sugar, and proceeded to concoct our beverages with the showmanship of a magician. He poured layers of the various liquors into the two glasses he held, as he moved his arms in an sweeping arc, almost like the movements of a ballet dancer. And at one point in this performance, he lit the liquid inside the glasses on fire, adding much flair to the whole spectacle.

It was the perfect end to a delightful lunch on a cold and rainy Portland day, as we added another great Portland food destination to our ever growing list of lunch time adventures had by the lovely library ladies.

The bar at Huber's

The bar at Huber’s

The start of Spanish coffee

The start of Spanish coffee

Lighting the coffee on fire

Lighting it on fire

Topping it off with fresh whipped cream

Topping it off with fresh whipped cream

Ready to drink!

Ready to drink!

 

 

 

 

 

The sparkling Christmas lights of Peacock Lane

Since I am spending Christmas here in Portland this year, and not traveling back to Minnesota to be with my family, I was able to experience a Portland Christmas tradition the other night. I learned about the Lights on Peacock Lane, which is a holiday tradition going back to the 1920’s. Since that time, every house on the SE Portland street of Peacock Lane has participated in decorating for the Christmas holiday with lights, yard ornaments of all types, and even music that plays for everyone to hear. Since it was one of the few rain-free nights we have had in awhile, their were plenty of people out and about to view the shining lights and festive decorations. I guess there is even a special song that has been written in honor of this event, although I didn’t hear anyone singing it, not even the carolers who were there. But it was a beautiful sight, and a lovely evening to share with my fellow Portlanders, as I spend Christmas in the place I love the best.

 

 

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Hunting season, with my car instead of a gun

My newly married daughter is already a widow; a hunting widow that is. Her beloved is deep in the throes of hunting season, leaving her alone on recent weekends to traipse after the ever elusive deer with his trusty bow and arrows in hand. And the beauty of hunting with a bow rather than a gun is the extended season offered to the bow hunters. They can keep trying and trying long after the regular deer season has come and gone. And try and try he did, coming home an unhappy hunter in his first few attempts, with no trophy to show for his efforts. That is until last weekend, when he shot an eight point buck (the number having to do with the size of Bambi’s antlers) and he finally comes back home a happy hunter. But fear not, hunting season does not end just because of a successful hunt. No, my son-in-law is leaving right after Thanksgiving dinner to try for more; afflicted with the hunting fever.

And all this talk about hunting and deer brought back the memory of my first deer; that is, the first (and thankfully only) deer I ever hit with my car. I was so unprepared, as I drove home one night after aerobics class, oblivious to the suburban deer that decided to cross the road right in front of my car. And unlike my happy hunter son-in-law, I did not celebrate my first kill. Instead I felt sick inside – I had taken down one of God’s beautiful creatures, and a baby at that! Oh, the horror! Luckily for me, my big boat of a 1977 Impala just ran right over the poor creature, sustaining not a lick of damage except for the deer hide underneath my car that smelled worse and worse as I drove home. After I got home I called the police to tell them what happened, said a prayer so I would be forgiven, and swore that I would always scan the sides of the nighttime road with my “deer eyes”.

But as the years went by, I found that the best laid plans sometimes falter, and I had a few other run-ins with my car vs. nature. There was the goose I hit as it tried to cross the highway with what I’m assuming was its mate; I just wanted to pull the car over and cry. And to add insult to injury, after I got to work and told a co-worker about what happened with the goose, she proceeded to tell me that geese mate for life. Now all I could think about was the widowed goose, the poor little goslings I left without a mother or father, and how I managed to tear a lovely goose family apart.

Then there was the raccoon I almost managed to avoid. I swerved to avoid him on the two lane road in the way that they always tell you not to, but it was late and there was only me on the road at the time. But this poor guy must have been old and he was a bit overweight, even for raccoon standards, and his last minute decision to try and make it across landed him right into my front bumper. And unlike my old Impala, my newer Honda Civic didn’t do so well, and pieces of plastic went flying down the road along with the now very dead raccoon.

But by far the worst roadkill for me was when I hit a hawk. Yes, I hit a hawk that was sitting on the road in the middle of the night eating roadkill. What the hell was he doing there, eating food that was usually left for the crows to pick up, and what happened to his super sharp reflexes that should have had him flying away at the last second, like the crows always did? Maybe he had eaten some tainted meat and was brain addled, but I’ll never know because I killed him! And this really broke my heart, as I have a strong affinity for the raptors. I love to watch them soar in the sky, riding the unseen currents of air. I would always seemed to spot them when I was out walking or even driving, as if we had some sort of connection. And now, I had destroyed one, never to soar again.

I only hope that all those poor creatures I inadvertently killed with my innocent car can forgive me, as they reside in animal Heaven now, safe and sound from the perils of the roadways. And I am happy to be car-free now, no longer driving a weapon of destruction against nature. My hunting season has now ended.

My son-in-law, the happy hunter

Only in Portland

Keep Portland Weird! The bumper stickers with this quirky catchphrase in bright yellow letters can be seen all around town. Some of the locals find it trite, but for me it was a draw to this “weird” city, a place where the eccentric are encouraged to come out in full force. The origin of this slogan was actually a campaign started by a company to encourage shopping at local merchants around town, but it really defines the energy of this very interesting city.

Another aspect of Portland that makes it so unique is its almost overzealous love of dogs, rivaled only by some European cities. Instead of most major cities who would have to post a “dogs allowed” sign in the window of any business, Portland assumes that dogs are allowed everywhere! The only sign posted here is “only service dogs allowed”. And Portlanders are not shy about taking their dogs everywhere, often dressed in cute little doggie clothes, making them as eccentric as their owners. I have seen dogs in many restaurants, coffeehouses, all kinds of local businesses and even in the grocery store. But this morning as I was picking up a few things at the grocery store across the street, I encountered a surprising lack of Portland patience for our canine friends.

I was in the produce section, trying to size up the pomegranates and figure out what makes one pomegranate better than the other, when I heard the announcement from a less than happy employee – “Would the person who owns the dogs chained outside to the bike rack please go and take care of them – they will not stop barking! Thank you.” And this is something else that amazes me, is the honor system that is in place; allowing people to leave their dogs chained up outside an establishment while they take care of their business, never giving a worry or second thought that someone might come by and steal their precious pooch. Only in Portland…

And in another vein of quirkiness, I am proud to say that I live in the city that houses America’s Largest Hat Museum, simply named The Hat Museum. I had the good fortune to be able to take a tour through it with a women’s writing group one rainy Saturday afternoon. Reservations are required, and only groups of up to six people are allowed, so it is not like just any old museum that one might stroll through.

The museum is located in the Ladd-Reingold house, a vintage house through and through, built in 1910. Of course for many years it was a private residence, but now it is literally filled to the rafters with hats of all kinds. I was greeted at the door by Alyce, our tour guide, dressed in a wonderful outfit from the turn of the 20th century; a beautiful vintage dress circa early 1900’s, black lace gloves, black leather boots from that period, and of course an extremely flamboyant hat full of ribbons, feathers and flowers.

We started on the first floor, gazing in awe at the stunning collection of antique and vintage hats, some of which were adorned in very ostentatious ways. Then we moved on to a more modern day collection, learning all along how hats have really been a huge part of our histories and cultures. The second floor houses a massive collection of men’s hats, where we learned that because of the overwhelming desire for beaver hats in the day, the poor beaver was almost hunted to extinction. After that we moved on to the unusual collection of novelty hats, which included hats for every occasion and holiday, even one that was made to resemble a Thanksgiving dinner table – very quirky! We finished up with the collection of international hats, most of which have been sent to the Hat Museum from people all over the world.

So it is with great pride and joy that I shout out to all who will listen – Keep Portland Weird! And I love being able to relay stories to my non-Portland friends, beginning with the words, “Only in Portland”…

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The gifts of perfect timing

I took a break from reading the 500 some page book club book about Teddy Roosevelt to check and see if the mail had arrived yet. As I walked into the foyer of my apartment building, I saw a large wooden desk sitting there with a yellow post-it note proclaiming “Free”. I have been keeping my eye out lately for a desk of some type, but it needed to be smaller than this one. I was anxious to replace the TV tray that I had been using as a combination desk to write at and kitchen table to eat at. Rick and James were in the office, the manager and assistant manager of my building, and I lamented to them how much I would have loved that desk but it was just too big for my studio apartment. One of them mentioned a smaller desk they had seen in the basement, in the corner where people leave “free stuff”;  things that are let go for one reason or another, usually because it is easier than trying to haul large and bulky items to the nearest Goodwill.

I found the adorable white wicker desk just sitting there in the corner, amongst a mattress, a broken entertainment center, a battered tool box and a box full of old clothes and shoes. I felt like I was at the humane society, picking out the perfect pet. Instead I had found the perfect desk! I ran up to the office, out of breath and proclaimed, “I’ll take it!” James graciously offered to bring it up to my apartment on the fourth floor; good thing he was there at the time or else I don’t know how I would have managed it on my own, and then I may have lost my chance to have such a great find – for free!

But wait, there’s more!

As I started to rearrange things in my home to accommodate my new piece of furniture, I heard a knock at the door. I answered it and there stood Rick with a lovely black office chair that looked as if no one had spent any time sitting in it. Another free gift! Rick must have been paying attention to me when I was rambling on about how I have the world’s most uncomfortable plastic folding chair that I bought only because I didn’t feel like driving all over to find something better and yeah I hate to complain but it really would be nice to have something a bit more comfortable and on and on. And now here he was, with the perfect chair to match my perfect desk – yes, what a perfect day!

After all was said and done, with my new desk in place and the drawers full of all the things I had previously kept on a kitchen shelf, I could see how perfect timing, what is called synchronicity, played a part in all of this. I had to come down to get my mail, just at the time that the desk was there, just at the time that Rick and James where there to tell me about a better desk and to hear about my sad chair story, just at the time that James was there to carry my treasure find to my apartment, just at the time that Rick thought to give me his old office chair. This is how the Universe lines up the dominoes of our life’s happenings, then gives them a joyful flick to fall into perfect succession – this is how it’s done!

As far as I’m concerned, there is no such thing as luck or fate or serendipity; there are no coincidences. We are all part of a much greater plan than we can imagine. And when we take the time to step back and stop trying to control everything, we might just find ourselves the recipients of perfect gifts that can only come from perfect timing.

From this….

…to this!!

 

 

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