Tag Archives: San Pedro

Flippers Up

Meanwhile down the Street…. from tim maxeiner on Vimeo.

A few days ago my Peedrow buddy Tim and I went paddling off Point Fermin.  It was the first time I had gone out on the ocean since my failed landing in August. The Pacific lived up to its name: peaceful, flat, calm. Our journey started with pelicans by the tide pools. Then the sea lions greeted us at the buoy. Looking toward Point Fermin, I saw fins breaking the surface. A family of white-sided Pacific dolphins — my favorite porpoises — came to greet us. An adult led the way, followed by a smaller dolphin  shadowed by a baby. This breed of dolphins are smaller and more active than the common dolphins that we typically see off San Pedro; usually they travel in groups, not nuclear units. This trio headed straight for us, parting around us then coming back for more. I felt welcomed back to the water I cherish, home again.

We were heading north when we spotted something floating between us and Catalina.”Let’s check it out,” I urged Tim. We paddled toward Twin Harbor, and the dark spot on the ocean turned out to be a giant sea lion, taking a siesta in the quiet ocean. It lay on its side, side flippers and tail in the air, as we quietly circled around it. I have been working as a volunteer with the animals at the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro, so I wanted to make sure it was okay. It seemed more than okay: beatific in fact, Zen and in bliss in its moment of still harmony in the Pacific. We circled this floating, breathing sculpture quietly, then said goodbye. On we paddled, past garibaldi and kelp, where nature meets city — San Pedro.

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Sunset, Cabrillo Beach, Dec. 22

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I haven’t posted any sunrises or sunsets for a while, but tonight’s was so spectacular I feel compelled to share. It had a been a stormy day, inside and out — torrential rain followed by piercing sun. Alexander Hamilton (the dog) and I took a walk out on Cabrillo pier; the foot of a rainbow waited for us at the end.

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Mama’s “Wonderful Life”

Mama and three of her sons.

Mama and three of her sons.

My grandmother used to watch It’s a Wonderful Life every Christmas. During the several years in which she lived with us in our ranch house in Wisconsin, Mama would usually retreat to her basement bedroom so she could view her favorite movie without all the noise of grandchildren and pets that surrounded the TV in our family room. After she moved out, it would strike me how dark and cold the room that was now used for storage was, when I would go grab something – one of Mom’s 1950s dresses, maybe — from it. Mama made the dank space warm and grandmotherly, with her constant crocheting and her love of old Frank Capra movies or TV shows starring Barbara Stanwyck.

The woman born Guyla Duncan didn’t have the easiest life; her World War I veteran, jack-of-all-trades husband had trouble staying in one place, and away from the bottle. They moved constantly, from Florida to Kentucky to California then back to Florida. So Guyla wasn’t too picky about her surroundings; a basement in the cold Midwest kept barely tolerable by the orange glow of a space heater was fine by her.hoooray

Mama survived the Depression, two world wars, six children, breast cancer, and her husband, so she had a pretty realistic view of the world. She knew damn well life wasn’t always wonderful. And yet she loved this sentimental holiday movie, with its beyond-happy ending and steadfast faith in bucolic small-town America. I came to love it too, once I got beyond my adolescent snobbiness. In fact, the screwball comedies of the golden age of Hollywood are one of my favorite things in the world, up there with Brazilian music, feminist art, and whiskers on kittens.

Using the tools of urbane high jinks, slapstick comedy, and witty romantic banter, filmmakers such as Capra, Howard Hawks, and Preston Sturges offered social commentary dressed up as popcorn entertainment. Stanley Cavell has written about how these comedies of remarriage reimagined the relationships between sexes, with women given equal footing with men as smart, classy, independent creatures — Katherine Hepburn was as adept at cutting repartee as Cary Grant. Many of these movies also flipped class structure – the department-store owner hanging with his employees, pouring coca cola into a glass of rare wine and discovering it really does taste better. It’s a Wonderful Life offers a blistering critique of Big Money and corporate banks and a plea for small, family-owned businesses. This is not old-fashioned mawkishness: In the TV show The Newsroom, Olivia Munn’s character uses Capra’s film to explain to Emily Mortimer’s the basis and importance of the Glass-Steagall Act.

It’s a Wonderful Life was released in 1946 – scarcely a wonderful time in world history. It pretty much bombed back then, but it has become perhaps the most beloved movie in all of American cinema. That was the decade Mama’s son Leon was injured at Iwo Jima and she survived a double mastectomy. This movie, like all the screwball comedies, offered a vision of the way things could, and should, be, not the way they were. It provided relief, comfort, a good laugh, and hope, all while pointedly critiquing the evil of capitalism gone awry.

That was 70 years ago. On Friday night, you can relive that first run, when the San Pedro International Film Festival shows It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen at the historic Warner Grand Theater. I probably don’t need to point out how appropriate this film is to this moment in time, how it’s an example of art that speaks to, and not down to, multiple constituents who feel disenfranchised in our current society, while always keeping its thumb firmly on the real villain. Or how we need its humor, its love, its screwball hope.

I used to see Mama watching It’s a Wonderful Life, but I never once sat down and watched it with her from start to finish – just as my son never watches it with me. I wish I had asked her what she got from it, if she felt keenly its affirmation of rootedness – of characters who may dream of the travel they see in posters – of lassoing the stars — but in fact never leave home, and live happily ever after.

I’ll be introducing the film at the Warner Grand, 478 W. 6th Street, San Pedro, on December 23 at 7 p.m. You can buy tickets at Spiffest.org.

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Metallic Sunrise

 

Sunrise, Dec. 11, 2016

Sunrise, Dec. 11, 2016. Photo by Evelyn McDonnell

The sun finally broke through days of gray skies yesterday morning.

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Sunrise Dec. 9

Sunrise, Cabrillo Beach, Dec. 9, 2016

Sunrise, Cabrillo Beach, Dec. 9, 2016

The sun splashed above the clouds early yesterday morning but never broke at the horizon. It barely peeked through all day and there was no sunset; we even had moisture in the air last night. (I wouldn’t go so far as to call it rain.) Today the sea and the sky have merged into one gray slate, the line between water and air indistinguishable. Twice, I’ve see the sun shine a spotlight on ocean patches, but it was quickly overtaken by clouds. Time blurs like the elements. When does the day begin and end if we don’t have the sun to mark it?

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Sunrise, Sunset

Sunset, Point Fermin, Dec. 8, 2016

Sunset, Point Fermin, Dec. 8, 2016

Every day I count my blessings to live in a beautiful place. San Pedro may house the port of one of the biggest cities in the world, but past the cranes, barges, and refineries lie the cliffs of Point Fermin and the dark blue Pacific Ocean. Unusually for California, our house is located on a bluff facing east, so we can watch the sun rise over the water from our bed. At night, we can take a short walk down the beach and look back at the point to see the sun setting, casting our house into darkness while lighting up Catalina.

I’m going to try to start documenting the daily entrance and egress of this celestial body, as it bids hello and goodbye to the west coast of North America. These photos are taken from Cabrillo Beach this evening. In the far right of the photo of Point Fermin, you can see the lights of our house, among others. It’s a good time to reflect on the things that are eternal, ineffable, and even divine.

Catalina Island, Dec. 8, 2016

Catalina Island, Dec. 8, 2016

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Galileo in Cabrillo

I think Galileo would appreciate tonight's moonrise over Cabrillo

I think Galileo would appreciate tonight’s moonrise over Cabrillo Beach.

Big news for San Pedro: The next production of The Industry, the site-specific, tech-savvy, game-changing Los Angeles opera company, will take place at Cabrillo Beach in 2017. The Industry is pretty much the coolest theater company in Southern California, if not the world. Their production of Invisible Cities, based on the Italo Calvino novel, was staged at Union Station, with protagonists Marco Polo and Kublai Khan mingling with real travelers in real time. Last year, their “mobile opera” Hopscotch moved from various  spots in Downtown LA. Both drew tremendous acclaim and press attention.

The company debuted a gorgeous film of Invisible Cities at Pedro’s Warner Grand Theatre this evening. They opened the event by announcing Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo as their next production. The show will take place around a bonfire on Cabrillo — aka my front yard. (After the party, there will be the after-party.) Artistic Director Yuval Sharon said the Industry chose San Pedro because of our town’s (see what I did there? “Our Town?”) “long rich history of labor equality, their union history, and their connection to the port.” Galileo depicts the battle between reason and authority — a timely issue, as Sharon noted. The Industry will be working in collaboration with Tim Robbins’ politically conscious The Actors’ Gang (whom I saw stage a production of Our Town, coincidentally, several years ago), with art by locally based sculptor Liz Glynn. Even more encouragingly, Sharon said the company is eager to work with homegrown businesses and talent. Representatives of locals-only arts organizations San Pedro Ballet and Grand Vision were in the house.

As a denizen of the beach, I’m not so crazy about Sharon’s request for a helicopter; we get enough of those around here, thank you very much. But otherwise, as we say around these parts, STOKED.) Galileo will take place September 16, 17, 23, and 24.

Ironically, right before the announcement and screening, the San Pedro International Film Festival wrapped with a panel discussion about establishing a creative corridor in town. The conversation was interesting but lacking in context and depth, conflating technology with arts and never addressing how gentrification is another word for displacement. The whole conversation was largely rendered moot with the Industry’s announcement next door, though the panelists seemed oblivious of the pending tremblor. In the words of Angela Romero, “that’s so Pedro.”

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