Dude, That’s Not Music

When the giant Indie 103.1 fell, public radio station KCRW was all over it. Taking out a full page ad in the LA WEEKLY, they announced their rivals' collapse, and were careful not to outwardly celebrate the anticipated surge in their listenership. Instead, they reinforced this promotional message: We all have a right to independent music. But KCRW isn’t the only station to adopt the influx of confused, Indie kids without a radio wave to ride home. Out of a little building on the Loyola Marymount campus blasts a radio signal for KXLU.

Years ago, I would listen to teens in still-developing voices take shifts between classes, popping in records from Rilo Kiley and The Magnetic Fields. One grad student with a booming baritone was so passionate about 40’s jazz guitarist Charlie Christian, that we all fell in love with him. They would always play my song requests for those harrowing morning commutes. When I needed to avoid looping news on NPR or shameless jock rock on KROQ, I’d flip my dial to the artful, homespun station.

Then something changed. There seemed to be a silent contest between the students to see who could find the most obscure, avant garde band. It was the ever-so-familiar “Who’s More Punk?” contest that moved from an isolated social sphere to a public arena. And the music went downhill from there. Elliot Smith and Fugazi were replaced by bands with names like, Giraffe Chainsaw Melody and Winged Pistol School Bus. Poor listeners sat on congested freeways listening to spoons scraping guitar strings and crashing dishes in the background. The student DJs sat pleased with themselves, thinking, “Ha. Top that one.” Of course the DJ on the next shift would play a ballad featuring a screeching cat, a banjo and an alphabetical reading of Vietnamese last names. Worse, the sincere enthusiasm was replaced by apathetic droning. Girls in pixie voices mumble, "Sooo, like, um..." and mussed hair depressives who believe dead air is okay make make awkward sounds every one in a while.

KXLU, we get it. You’re different. You're light years ahead of the rest of this big, dumb population. Now can you please go back to playing real music?

Thank you.


Central Avenue - Who Knew?

In the cinematic masterpiece known in layman's terms simply as Clueless, Cher hit the nail on the head when describing her Beverly Hills home, "The columns date all the way back to 1972."

It's true; L.A. has a shabby sense of history. Aside from a few enclaves downtown and in old Hollywood, we are largely without gargoyles, Victorians and baroque architecture. Everything is razed and replaced with a giant stucco box painted in neutral or pastel colors. Just look at the Westside.

I was blissfully slapped with a dose of history when I took in the play Blues for Central Avenue. These days, Central Avenue is not so...central. The faded streets are controlled by gangs and is but a bleak strip of liquor stores and-run down apartment buildings. Metal bars are strapped to everything. Little did I know that Count Basie, Duke Ellington and other jazz legends played in clubs all along The Stem - as Central Avenue was once called.

During WWII blacks were given jobs that once belonged to soldiers, and the thriving community had money to spend. They opened banks, newspapers and restaurants. The cutting-edge jazz movement rivaled Bourbon Street and attracted the white Hollywood crowds. Blues for Central Avenue brought this heyday back to life, with top-notch swing dancing, jazz music and comedic actors bursting with sentiment.

In a perfect world, this play would not only show in Hollywood, but on Central Avenue itself. It may be a catalyst in putting a sense of community back in the neighborhood. Not only was Blues for Central Avenue a great show, but it infused a bit of history and romance into a town ridden with strip malls.


Jumping Off the Bodhi Tree

They call Los Angeles the land of fruits and nuts, and it's not a nod to our robust agricultural industry. The thing is, a lot of these fruits and nuts come from places that are very...meat and potatoes, the metaphorical opposite. It's like blaming the dog instead of the fleas.

Case in point? An old friend I'll refer to as "Bretta" hailed from the South, loved barbecue and craved the white picket fence. I immediately took to her because of her lurid stories involving Duran Duran in a hotel room in the 90s. Then she slept over, and that changed everything. She drank too much Cabernet and passed out on my bed. She woke to find my cat curled up on her chest, purring. She leaped out of bed, squealed with terror and accused the cat of trying to "suck the soul out of her." This is the part where I should have pointed to the front door, right? She was still too drunk, and I was desperate to make new friends. With spooky blue eyes opened way too wide she explained that cats for centuries have been known to suck the souls out of people's bodies while sleeping.


She was so shaken and adamant about proving it that even I looked at my cat and wondered if his deadpan stare was hiding the evil that lay within. Then I was ashamed of myself. I agreed to take her to The Bodhi Tree, the trendy New Age book shop in Los Angeles. Conveniently located next to celeb-heavy Urth Cafe, it was the chic place to go to seek enlightenment - and watch Salma Hayek drink a latte.

As Bretta hunched on the floor pouring over books about cats, I wondered what her Southern, barbecue-loving friends and family thought of this. I decided it would be the last day I would ever see her again. I skipped out and went next door for a cafe Americana. I would have stayed, but I was sick of watching everyone pretending not to watch Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro eating salad on the sidewalk. I decided to give the infamous Bodhi Tree a chance. As it turns out, it was just another New Age store with a covetous zip code. It has the same standard pitfalls:

~ Weepy middle-aged women in loose clothing

~ Local papers filled with ads of men using intense stares and white ponytails to attract the weepy middle-aged women in loose clothing

~ Goatees, goatees, goatees

~ Beautifully toned, "enlightened" yogi girls who roll their eyes and get impatient in line

~ Self-proclaimed gurus interrupting you to tell you about your energy

Some of my favorite ads:

~ A black man with Vulcan eyebrows and a smirk describes himself as "The Master of the Light and Dark, Traveler of the All Worlds"

~ An ad reading,"Would You Like to Become God?"

~ A "Soul Spa" offering an "Aura Video Station"

~ A gourmet brunch and labyrinth walk special

Honestly, I would love to attend most of these events, if only so to write about them. But I won't be taking my old friend Bretta. I've jumped off the Bodhi Tree, and I took my evil, soul-sucking cat with me.



Cleaning Off the Casting Couch

Back before cell phones and instant messaging, it was easier for husbands with wanderlust to go on about their debauchery. These days, the guy you once had chemistry class with in high school can find out what you ate for dinner last night, thanks to a little thing called Facebook. With cameras built into cell phones and text messaging that tracks one’s whereabouts in mere seconds, it’s impossible to get away with an illicit love affair, right?

Well, you would think. Here in Los Angeles, balding, middle-aged studio execs duck into Mirabelle on Sunset, with a barely legal actress on their arm. In a little black dress stretched across their rumbling bellies and stars in their eyes, they laugh at bad jokes and God knows what else until they get a one-liner in the next Kate Hudson comedy. Most of the men are married, and I’ve even heard one say, “I like to take the European approach to marriage.” Not only do their poor wives have no idea that their husbands have taken the intercontinental cop out, but those poor Europeans! They get blamed for everything, from laziness in hygiene to farcical marriages.

Thank goodness for a new website called womansavers. This website allows jilted ladies to post the photo of the man that wronged them along with a nice little bio. All single ladies who can’t get a good Google read on their new mystery man can visit this site, just to ensure they don’t pull up a match. One may accuse this site of being sexist. I would argue that it’s merely informative, and if men feel the need to band together and out the naughty temptresses they once dated, feel free. But so you know, mansavers.com is already taken.