Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Finally, warm weekends are BACK....


"Sir, please sign my tattoo"
Originally uploaded by V'ron
And I'm not talking just about the weather. Friday night I grabbed my zoo pass and the kids and headed out to an evening members' event and it was lovely. It's great to go to the zoo late in the day, and I don't mind because with a pass, we get unlimted trips so its not like we paid all this money for just a few hours. Its easier to enjoy it that way. They had a few bands, including this one called Catch of the Day out of Slinger, I'll have to catch them again when I don't have a pair of kids who desperately want to see real fish. I was drawn to their reggae-ska version of "Hotel California." It started out mellow and reggae, and drifted into frenetic and ska, and back to mellow and reggae. I caught snippets of their arrangements and they're fun and interesting.
Overall, I'm am so glad I invested in that zoo pass. The crowd was as laid back as the slower parts of Catch of the Day, and the flamingoes are back! And they're gorgeous. I read on the Zoo's site that they're back for good.

Parents, Buy Your Child a Mandolin
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
Also back: the South Shore Farmers' Market -- opening Saturday morning with the Milwaukee Mandolin Orchestra providing a lovely backdrop. Also plenty of cake being passed around, to celebrate the beginning of the market's 10th summer. It's really grown over the years, and is turning into quite the south side gathering. I always run into people I know there, noshing on those wonderful, still-warm tamales. I'd mentioned to a friend that as a kid, what I knew from tamales were those disgusting ones in a jar that were wrapped in paper, and these are nothing like it. Wild Flour bakery has added really good hamburger buns to their selection, and while we're not swimming in produce yet, it's definitely spinach, lettuce and strawberry season, so it's time for that salad that everybody's making with the spinach, strawberries and pecans. The kids had a time and a half playing at the park across the street, and we headed out for errands. I headed for a nap-- because Brian and I had Les Paul tickets Saturday night.
And Les Paul kept the warm theme of this weekend going. It was a genuinely warm, intimate show there. We hiked up all those stairs to our gallery seats at the Pabst behind somebody who put it well: "We're here tonight, and that's all that matters." I turn around, and behind me is a woman whose tattoo has been autographed by the man.
Arthritis prevents Les Paul from those amazing runs he used to do, but he proved that it still takes an ear and a love of music to make wonderful songs come out of the instrument he invented. Early in the set, he held out a note with that amazing sustain of his, and bent it at the very last minute and in time that drew smiles and gasps from the audience. He knew it too -- as the stage monitor cameras caught his shit-eating grin. He brought up guests and friends on various instruments,including an 8-year old blues prodigy, a tap dancing man, a wonderful jazz diva woman, and local boy made good Jon Paris. His own trio all got their due, and they were amazing as well. His keyboardist seemed to rattle off anything you could throw at him, his guitarist filled in those runs that his arthritis stole from him, and his bass player charmed me and the crowd with a hysterically jazzy blues about the difficulty of taking one's stand up bass on an airplane.
This was a birthday party for Paul, a fundraiser for the House of Sound exhibit at Discovery World, and he could have read the phone book and we would have cheered. But, despite the fact that his invention alone justifies his existence, he also proved that in addition to inventor and musician, he is a master storyteller, with an almost music sense of comic timing. And best of all, after all these years, he hasn't lost his Waukesha accent! He still sounds like Wisconsin! He tells a story like a good cheesehead would, and I got the feeling like I was invited into the kitchen at somebody's grampa's out in Waukesha, drinking some beers and telling old stories,complete with dirty old man jokes, inside digs, and great little moments he said changed his life. Remarkable still, I felt this intimacy and warmth way up in the nosebleed seats. That's how special the evening was. Perfect, warm Wisconsin evening, returned to the man himself, who acknowledged, "I'm not a humble man, but I am touched."


rings of fire
Originally uploaded by V'ron.
The night ended from warm to hot, as we stopped into Eric Griswold's Burning Snow center, to share in a solstice party he was throwing to prepare for this year's Burning Man festival. Of course the evening was capped with a burning demonstration, and a touching moment when a pillar, emblazoned with a portrait of Griswold's cat, was burned in effigy and honor. Charles had been in Eric's life for almost a quarter of a century, and he passed on just last week. So we all celebrated Charles' life, the burning festival, and just some good, warm Wisconsin folk over the longest day of the year.
And one final warm moment: I didn't leave the party empty handed. Guido's Racecar's Johnny Washday and Roni Allwaise were there, and they presented me with a gift, in exchange for some photo work I did for them, but also for friendship. I'm now the proud owner of one of Washday's wonderful cigar box guitars! It's beautiful and it's a sturdy, good sounding instrument, too. Now I have to learn to play it. Like Les Paul, I'm not a humble person, but I'll tell ya, I am touched, by the gift, by the warmth of this whole weekend, by everything.

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