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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

 

Changes in regard to coffee

Yes it’s true, we Portlanders love our coffee, and there are a plethora of coffeehouses all around town to drive home that truth. I myself have a list of favorites in my neighborhood, but what a joy it is to discover a new treasure outside of the Alphabet District, the quaint and quirky name of the area in which I live.

And yes it’s true, shortly after moving here I dared to get rid of my coffeepot and the monkey on my back habit of half a pot of coffee in the morning. I had started to feel like a coffee junkie, so I quit cold turkey, suffered the pangs of caffeine withdrawal and stayed away for a time. Well, a short time that is, until I found myself tiptoeing back to instant coffee, only one cup a day. And hey, that’s not really an addiction, only one cup of instant coffee in the morning, is it? And I can quit anytime! But today was different, I just needed more – and here is my story…

Two Cup Day

I had relegated myself

To a self-imposed limit

Only one cup of coffee

To start my day

But today felt different

A cool breeze

Gray clouds in the skylight

The flickering candle I had lit

To stave off the dim daylight

One last swallow of the first cup

And off to the kitchen

Marching triumphantly

To celebrate my new holiday

Behold the inauguration of

Two Cup Day

tiny coffee

Spreading joy through a box of cookies

I came upon them again, the eager young faces, asking me as I passed by if I would like to buy some cookies. The past couple of times I have given them a quick smile, saying “no thank you”, and kept on my way. But this time I thought oh, what the heck, I have some cash on me and besides, who doesn’t love Girl Scout cookies?

It’s always been a dilemma, making the choice between the ever popular Thin Mints, or maybe the yummy Samoas with the great combination of caramel and coconut, or should I get my personal favorite, the tangy lemon cookie they call Lemonades? What to do, what to do! As I listened to the three giggly girls giving me their best sales pitches for each cookie, I made a final decision to go with the Thin Mints, having a plan in mind as to what to do with them (besides just eating them!)

I handed one of the girls the only cash I had, a twenty dollar bill, and smiled at their squirrely laughter as they oh so slowly counted out my change. Moms were close at hand, making sure that the money end of things was handled correctly, and they happily thanked me for my cookie purchase. And bless her heart, the girl who handed my change back to me did exactly what I do with any cash I have in my billfold – she placed all the bills facing in the same direction – someone after my own obsessive/compulsive heart!

Once I got to the library for my weekly volunteer shift, I was able to put my Girl Scout cookie plan into action. I had decided that instead of once again eating the treats in the break room that all the others have brought before, I would be the one this time to make a contribution. And oh, the joy it brought! My choice of Thin Mints was heartily endorsed by Matt, one of the younger employees who is a bit on the shy side. But his face literally lit up when he asked, “Who brought the cookies?” When I told him I did, he opened up with a smile and told me of his passion for Thin Mints that was completely unexpected.

How fun to have a simple box of cookies elicit such joy; from the young girls who were so eager to sell them, to their mom’s grateful thank-yous for supporting their daughters in this endeavor, to the beaming face of Matt as he enjoyed an unexpected treat that day.

And as I was getting ready to go home, I heard a quiet voice in the break room, asking me if I was going to take the cookies home with me. “No, I’m leaving them here,” I told Matt, who I swear actually breathed a sigh of relief. And he promised me with a sheepish grin that he would try very hard to leave some cookies for the others to enjoy.

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

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