Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Made in L.A.

The Totems of Kenzi Shiokava

On Sunday afternoon Larry, my brother, Ken and I walked over to the Hammer Museum. Mom conveniently lives next door! I like the Hammer. It's entirely manageable for a short visit. The current exhibit is called "Made in L.A. 2016," highlighting the work of Los Angeles area artists. Much of it was of the conceptual variety. There were also many applied arts pieces. Especially intriguing was the wood work of artist, Kenzi Shiokava. We ran into our friend, storyboard artist Michael A. Jackson and he told us more about his friend, Kenzi. Kenzi is culturally Japanese but was raised in Brazil. It seems, that during Shiokava's Los Angeles years, he was Marlon Brando's gardener while pursuing an art education! You can view more of Kenzi's artwork here
Here are some more pieces from this fascinating show:
Adobe bricks made from Los Angeles soil
Painted backdrops from the Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas
Chunky Knit!

Even though this Museum is manageable, Ken and I were tired. We rested a bit while Larry zoomed around. Where does Mr. Larry get his energy?
Tired Siblings

"Made in L.A." is open until August 28th. If you're in Westwood within the next few days, stop by and see it! It's FREE!

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Happy 99th Birthday Uncle Mort!

We're lucky to have longevity in our family! My Dad's older brother, Mort is 99 years old today.  On the other side of our family, my Mom's older sister, Mae will be 99 in December. My brother and I hope to be around for a few more decades!
Sunday was the last day of my brother, Ken's visit to L.A. We started out the day with brunch at Hillcrest Country Club, courtesy of Auntie Mae. It was just the five of us. We really had a chance to visit. I like small groups!
Larry, Ken, Mae, Roz (clockwise)

After brunch, Ken, Larry and I visited the Hammer Museum in Westwood. I'll save those photos for tomorrow's post.
In the evening we drove to Uncle Mort's house in Playa del Rey. This was a pre-birthday celebration. Since Ken was leaving town Sunday night, my cousins decided to have two small parties for the on Sunday and one today.
It was a wonderful gathering. We enjoyed a Chinese feast, cake and ice-cream and PRESENTS!
Uncle Mort at 99
Eric, Rob and Amie
Top Row: Larry, Max, Ellen, Natasha, Eric, Carol, Rob, Amie. Bottom Row: Roz, Ken, Mort and Benji
Barbara and Mahong flew in later in the evening. This is Barbara at Mort's 98th Birthday!
Ellen and Carol
Natasha and Max

Everyone had a great time!

Kathy and her adorable doggies
Later, there was coloring!
Sunset over Playa del Rey
Happy Birthday Uncle Mort!

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Saturday Field Trip

My brother Ken was in town for a long weekend. We haven't seen each other for 4 years, even though we're in constant contact through e-mail and phone.This was an abbreviated trip, but we really covered a lot of ground!
The Graying of the Bloom Siblings

We had various meals with family members on both sides of our family throughout the weekend. I wanted at least ONE day of Ken's vacation to be a re-introduction to his home town. Larry and I planned a fun-filled day, seeing sites around the City.

I picked Ken up at Mom's place in Westwood on Saturday morning. Our first stop was Westwood Music. Ken used to frequent this shop quite a bit when he lived here. The shop looks the same, with major improvements to the workroom!
The original neon sign at Westwood Music, in business since 1947

As we drove back to our house to pick up Larry, I drove Ken through our old neighborhoods, past our previous homes, shops and schools. Ken was amazed at the traffic.  Welcome to L.A., Bro.
After a quick tour of our palatial estate in lovely Wilshire Vista, Larry piled us into the car and drove to the Watts Towers. Ken had never visited this "eighth wonder of the world." I do love this place. The genius of Simon Rodia is evident in the longevity of these structures. Of course, various preservation projects are ongoing here, but the Towers are extremely impressive. We had an excellent tour guide!
After looking through the two art galleries attached to the site, we made our way up the Harbor Freeway to Echo Park. More traffic.
Ken's selection of Mexican food in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina is slim. He's always up for tacos when he visits L.A. My favorite taco place is Guisado's. Their corn tortillas are made onsite and extremely flavorful. Amazingly, there wasn't a long line at 1pm on Saturday! We each enjoyed various tacos. Yum!
Shrimp Taco at Guisado's

Next stop, a few miles west to Wacko / Soap Plant / La Luz de Jesus. You may have read about THIS online. We just HAD to see it in the "flesh." Also, Wacko is an excellent store for books, kitsch stuff, soap and other accessories! There were lots of people in the back gallery, taking selfies with Styrofoam Donald.
Statue, "The Emperor Has No Balls," by Ginger
Next stop, Barnsdall Park to tour the recently restored Hollyhock House, designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I was disappointed that a few of the previously opened rooms were off-limits, but Ken enjoyed the flawless woodwork in the main areas of the house. 
Hollyhock House, Barnsdall Park

I saw a cute lady in the restroom applying black and white make-up to her face. I asked her if this was for some Day of the Dead celebration (even though it's August, not October). She said that she and a group of friends were having a Panda Party in the park. She invited us over for refreshments.  Cute. The next day we were at the Hammer Museum and saw this art movie with guys dancing around, topless, wearing panda hats. Did I miss some sort of new holiday?
Preparing for the Panda Party

After Barnsdall, we took a drive up Beachwood Canyon to see if any of the little courtyards that Ken and Ginny lived in decades ago were still there. Negative. Most of the bungalow courts in the Canyon are gone, replaced by monstrous apartment buildings. Sigh. More traffic and hordes of crowds in Hollywood as we made our way back to Chez Bloom-Underhill.
We rested a bit and managed to play a few songs on our various guitars, banjos and ukuleles. I hadn't actually jammed with my brother in probably 30 years or more! That was fun. If Ken and Ginny lived in Los Angeles, I'd be a much better uke player. He's an inspiring musician and teacher. Larry recorded bits and pieces of our jam. If it's acceptable, I'll post it in a few days.
Time to hit more traffic and head over to the Original Farmers Market for dinner and music. We had a lovely dinner at the Singapore Banana Leaf. One of my friends was appearing with a local band, but they were the second band on the bill. We were exhausted from our busy day and left early. Sunday was another action-packed day. Stay tuned.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

The Olympics - Vintage Photo Friday

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 1932 Olympic Summer Games

It is a possibility that Los Angeles may, once again, host the Olympic Games in 2024. We were the host city in 1932 and then again in 1984. With the closing of this year's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, I'm looking forward to regular television programming returning.  Yeah, I'm a curmudgeon about the Olympics. They're exciting to me for about 2 days. I realize that athletes train their entire lives for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Then what? They still have to get a job that usually doesn't involve their athletic prowess. Some athletes are lucky enough to build on their Olympic participation, many are not.
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 1984

It was a glorious 2-1/2 weeks in Los Angeles in 1984 when we hosted the Olympics. Many residents, fearing extra traffic and crowds left town for the duration of the games. People curbed their driving. There was no smog. The weather was perfect. I attended many events in person, which was a thrill. It was a wonderful time in Los Angeles.
L.A. Public Library Photo Archives

My Dad attended many of the events during the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles. I even have a printed program from the 1932 opening ceremonies at the Coliseum where my tween-aged Dad pasted newspaper clippings of his favorite Olympic swimming star, Johnny Weismuller!

The Olympics makes a city do some wondrous things. For instance, the renaming of 10th Street. 10th Street in Los Angeles was renamed Olympic Boulevard for the 1932 Summer Olympics, as that was the occasion of the tenth modern event. Tenth Street School, at Olympic and Grattan, was founded in 1888 and has kept the original name. Parts of the old 10th Street exist as smaller streets near Hancock Park, in Westlake, and in the Central City East area southeast of Downtown. 10th Street stopped at the eastern edge of 20th Century Fox Studios. It picked up on the western side of the Studio as Country Club Drive. Below, see Shirley Temple at the 1939 bridge dedication at the Studio.
The Olympic Blvd. bridge dedication, connecting the north and south portions of 20th Century Fox Studios, 1939. Shirley Temple, presiding

In 1932, Helms Bakeries became the official bread supplier for the Olympics. The company’s signature “Olympic Bread” was packaged in distinctive wrapping that sported the famous five-ringed Olympic symbol. The recently restored Helms Bakeries neon sign still proudly advertises that Olympic history.
Helms Bakery Neon

Enjoy the closing ceremonies on August 21st, broadcast from Rio!

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Thursday, August 18, 2016


Ken and Ellen Bloom, Beverly Hills

Later today I'm trekking to the Los Angeles International Airport to pick up my brother, Ken, flying in from North Carolina. He's on a whirlwind visit for only three days! We have to pack in quite a bit of activity in those three days. Most of the time, Ken wants to spend with our Mom. Roz is 94. Ken and his wife, Ginny visited for Mom's 90th birthday, but four years seems like a long time between visits when you're in your 90s. We speak on the phone and e-mail back and forth all the time, but it's not the same as being here in person! Ginny can't make it to L.A. this time. We'll miss her.
Ellen and Ken Bloom, Hollywood

Ken is seven years older than me. Since we're not that close in age, we never really had any sibling rivalry. Most of the time, Ken looked out for me when I was a kid. If he wanted to use Mom's car, she'd always say, "You can use the car, but you have to take your sister with you." Luckily, Ken was alright with that. Most of the time, he took me to the record shop, the annex at The Ashgrove or to McCabe's Guitar shop. I loved sitting around, watching and listening to Ken and his friends play folk music. When I think about it now, I realize I was a fairly lucky 10-14-year-old to be experiencing musical greats like Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Pete Seeger, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, The New Lost City Ramblers, Reverend Gary Davis and many many more legendary performers in their prime. The Ashgrove was a legendary folk club in West Hollywood between 1958 and 1973. 
Palm Springs, 1964.  Thank you, George Bloom, for being such a shutter-bug during our formative years!

Ken got his start performing professionally during those years. He's played with many musicians along the way in L.A., San Francisco, Chicago, New York, North Carolina and beyond. Ken and Ginny have lived in Pilot Mountain, North Carolina for over 25 years. He builds bowed dulcimers, gives lessons and still performs in the region. Every April he holds the Bowed Dulcimer Festival in Pilot Mountain. I'm so glad to see that he's as active as ever in the music community.
Ken (center) with Lewis and Clarke Expedition, 1967
Ken on banjo, The late 1980s

Ken taught me how to play the guitar and banjo. I must say, that I don't practice as much as Ken does. I have too many other hobby distractions. Ken actually built me a ukulele a few years ago. It's a beautiful instrument and now I'm obsessed with playing the uke!
Pilot Mountain, 1991
Los Angeles, 2004
Can't wait to see Kenny later today!

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