I’ve been doing everything I can not to think about Donald Trump and the unfolding GOP disaster all the time. And it’s working … a little.
But even after I turn off MSNBC/CNN/FauxNews and stop reading NYT/LAT/WSJ/Huff Post/Talking PointsMemo/Drudge/Politico/RealClearPolitics, it takes real effort to forget about the scandal du jour:
the firing of Andrew McCabe and the attacks on the FBI, DOJ, and the Mueller investigation … the Stormy Daniels storm … Cambridge Analytica ... Mike (“Benghazi!”) Pompeo taking over the State Department … Gina (Torture Queen/Evidence Destroyer) Haspel taking over the CIA … Scott Pruitt’s assault on the EPA … Kris Kobach’s assault on voting rights … Ben Carson’s $31,000 table … the rise of slippery Lawrence Kudlow … the nutty truthfulness of Sam Nunberg … Devin Nunes and the House GOP “Intelligence” Committee Report … Trump’s gambling-junkie body man John McEntee being escorted off the White House grounds (and promptly rehired by the campaign) … and everything about Sarah Huckabee Sanders … but I can do it.
What I’ve been doing is working on WHEN I GOT OUT and leaning on old friends and familiar things for comfort, distraction, and courage until November 6th when the Big Push-Back from the American people occurs.
A couple of weeks ago – and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day -- the Tiny Goddess and I saw Van Morrison in concert at the Wiltern Theatre here in LA, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve seen Van in concert, but the total is close to forty. The first show was one of our first dates – May,1972, at Carnegie Hall, with Grin, Nils Lofgren’s group, as the opening act.
I’ve blogged before about Van. “There may be better songwriters (Dylan), better performers (Springsteen) and better vocalists (lots of African-American singers including Ray Charles, Al Green, Sam Cooke, etc.), but no one puts together the total package like Van.” There are 21 references to Van in my past blogs: use the handy search function. I do.
This concert at the Wiltern found Van in close-to-top form. The band—five pieces including back-up singer Dana Masters and an appearance by Van’s daughter Shana--featured many musicians who have worked with Van for many years. In fact, bassist David Hayes played at that Carnegie Hall concert in 1972!
The setlist was representative of the kind of show Van’s been doing in the past few years: a mixture of genre songs (blues, rhythm and blues, standards), a few “greatest hits,” a few surprises from his deep catalog, one or two from whatever new album he has out, and one or two “workshops” – extended songs where Van really explores and creates. It’s these that I – and every true Van fan – wait for.
Here’s the setlist from our show (the first of two at the Wiltern), along with some sources:
Hold It! (Wait a Minute Baby) (Eddie Cleanhead Vinson)
Moondance/So What (Miles Davis)
I Get a Kick Out of You (Cole Porter)
How Far from God (Sister Rosetta Tharpe)
Sometimes We Cry (w/Dana Masters)
Baby Please Don't Go (Leadbelly)/Parchman Farm (Mose Allison)/ Don't Start Crying Now (Slim Harpo)/ I Got My Mojo Working (Muddy Waters)
I Can Tell (Bo Diddley)
Beautiful Vision (w/ his daughter Shana Morrison)
In the Midnight
In the Afternoon/Ancient Highway /Big Joe Turner Sings/ Raincheck/ Golden
Help Me (Sonny Boy Williamson II)
Did Ye Get Healed?
In the Garden/Holy Guardian Angel
Celtic Excavation/Into the Mystic
Except for “Into the Mystic,” virtually none of these songs would be on my list of favorite Van songs. (I guess I should qualify that: the two “workshops” he performed for us – “In the Midnight” and “In the Afternoon” – are special because of what Van does with them.) Nonetheless, this concert was a complete pleasure. I’m not a fan of Van’s genre albums (jazz, standards, country, blues, skiffle, etc.), yet none of the genre songs he sang at the Wiltern sounded tired or routine. His blues medley was especially strong.
Van is now 72 and has released three albums in the last eight months. It was wonderful to see him in top form – “a working man in his prime.” Just what we needed.
“In the Garden” + “Into the Mystic” – the last 22 minutes of this show, from the February 26th at the Wiltern – Obnoxious as they are, it’s amazing what these phones can do, audio and video.
One of my favorite places to be is any museum. With the everyday horror show around us, going to a museum and seeing the best of human endeavor – great paintings and beautiful sculptures – is a tonic; an antidote to Trumpism. And going with Calder makes it all that much more fun for me. I see everything though his three-year-old eyes and try to explain to him what needs explaining.
The TG and I have been doing heavy Calder-watching duty, and fortunately, he loves museums. (Both his parents are artists and have MFAs--Daddy in sculpture, Mommy in photography—so he’s grown up in museums and galleries.) And honestly, it’s a lot easier to take him on a big outing than watch him around the house, going from activity to activity to activity. From reading to play-dough to gardening to block building to the playground to the sandbox and back to reading.
In the past ten days, we’ve been to the Norton Simon Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the California Science Center, and the Getty Villa. You can add our beloved Descanso Gardens for their Tulip Festival to that list.
The TG and I did visit one museum without Calder. We stole some time and saw the big, advance-ticketed Jasper Johns show--“JASPER JOHNS: Something Resembling Truth”-- at the Broad Museum. It was our first time at the Broad. The building is creepy, like a cave inside, covered with packing material outside. (It stands next to Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the Broad architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro never figured out what to put next to a masterpiece.)
But the Johns show inside had some spectacular art. Some famous flags and targets, some paintings with words and numbers and colors; it sounds so simple, but Johns’ art is magical. You can’t really appreciate the craft that goes into each work (as Johns’ layered in paint-infused encaustic over newspaper clippings) until you get very, very close. As much as I love my art books, there is no substitute for the real thing.
-- with a wonderful show of Degas bronzes – Do you know that Degas exhibited only one bronze sculpture during his lifetime?
The TG and I are going back to NYC for awhile, and I intend to see more Old Friends: two good friends from high school … the Met and the Frick … “Turandot” and “My Fair Lady” … Central Park and Greenwich Village … and my family and a wedding, too.