Inspiration in the City of Angels

Excerpts from articles I’ve written about a few of the compelling stories I’ve encountered here in Los Angeles:

‘Gifted’ Musician Rocks ‘Social Harmony’

He boasts a four-octave vocal range and has written more than 300 original songs. In just one year, he has led his band through nearly 60 performances in more than 30 venues. When he holds his15-second falsetto note, one wonders if he just might one day soon rival the long note of soul great Bill Wither in “Lovely Day.” Yet, there is one more reason they call this young musician “gifted.” Twenty-five year-old Scott Siegel lives with autism…

Filmmaker Leads Grassroots Campaign to Bring OCD to the Big Screen

It is a film about extreme paranoia and debilitating fear. It is a story of illusion and immobilizing dread. No, this is not a horror movie. It is a narrative drama meant to illuminate the disturbing realities of the fourth largest mental illness plaguing millions of Americans today. Machine Man, a feature film about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), is a story meant to save lives.

“I didn’t know that it’s so common and that people have these thoughts that are called ‘harming thoughts,’” Kellie Madison said. “They walk around in life worried that they’re going to hurt another human being and the anxiety is so great it debilitates them… it was so heart-breaking learning about what these people are going through. I knew I had to make a movie on it.”

Neighbor Goods Leads the Borrow Lend Movement

Why buy when you can borrow? That’s the idea behind 32-year-old Micki Krimmel’s new project – a website that facilitates lending and sharing within local communities. In an age where neighbors seem more like strangers, NeighborGoods.net encourages people to again borrow and lend as friends. “NeighborGoods is a service that connects friends and neighbors to save money and resources by sharing stuff they already own instead of purchasing new stuff,” Krimmel explained.

Mindscraps: D’Cache to the Artwalk at the Miracle Mile

It appears the Flamenco restaurant will be my home away from home. Friday night I organized a girls night out and took them all to D’Cache for sangria, chocolate souffle and live Flamenco! This time I tried various tapas: empanadas, pinchos de carne, mushroom pizette and fried yucca… exquisite!

The restaurant was a hit with the other six women who joined and we all end up showing off our sultry Flamenco moves along with another all female birthday group.

I’ve decided I need to work there. The romantic ambiance of the candlelit restaurant, the savory food, the sweet sangria and the live Flamenco music infect me with an utter sensation of feeling alive with magic! I’ll be calling the restaurant tomorrow… informing them they have a new waitress… in lesser words. 😉

After dinner, I felt like I had stepped back into Central America as we hit a latino club for some reggaeton! The night was a blast and the women were fabulous… we can’t wait to do it all again!!

Saturday was all about expression. Art class with Clara Berta and her two other students was a spirit-lifting success… smashing glass, white-washing a painted canvas to begin anew and adding the final touches to a third. All three pieces I’m currently working on look promising… promising enough for me at least! I’ll post when they’re complete.

I met with Clara again in the afternoon after she clued me into the autumn artwalk at the Miracle Mile. We discovered a great new gallery Art Space Ware House, which opened just three weeks ago. Some photo on canvas modified with texture and paint has inspired me to experiment with modifying my own photos soon!

In one of the galleries I picked up an informative magazine about The Julia Dean Photo Workshops. Apparently the artist is going to begin offering workshops in Guatemala. I just about died. I’m going to contact her in the mere hope that somehow I can convince her she needs me to help with something… anything!! I’ve certainly got plenty of photos and connections in Guatemala!

The highlight of our Miracle Mile exploration though would have to be Colleen French and her Renegade Dinner Club. Owner of two restaurants in Portland, OR, Colleen lives in LA after falling for an Cali dude. Consequently, no longer cooks in her own restaurants, but still relishes in her passion for cooking by offering to cook for anyone willing to buy the food. She and friends had just recently traveled out to have a gourmet dinner in the desert. They trucked in a beautiful hand carved table made from shipping pallets, strung together sheets and fabric for a colorful, make-shift canopy and dined in the desert! I LOVE the concept. Colleen even has her truck set-up to be a rustic, portable kitchen, complete with two propane-fueled burners. We spotted her outside the gallery that featured the set up from the dinner in the desert an old record-player accompanied her slow cooked pulled-pork and chicken… all served from the back of her truck. Both were a savory surprise!

Flamenco: Kristelle Monterrosa

Saturday night was a night of dancing, madness and magic. Kristelle and I connected on the web through Couchsurfing.com. Both new to LA, it was Kristelle who reached out and contacted me first. Saturday night I invited her to join my boyfriend, some of his friends and I for dinner. Kristelle crackled with a vibrant, magnetic energy from the moment she first slid into our car. This woman is full of life and spirit… an absolute breathe of fresh air. She is here in LA to further her acting career after studying and acting in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At dinner, the pure-heartedly passionate and compassionate Kristelle managed to move me to tears…

After dinner Kristelle suggested we hit a hot, new Spanish tapas restaurant for dessert and sangria. What a treat we were in for!! Live, flamenco music greeted us at the door and Kristelle and I quickly hit the dance floor to get our flamenco on! The sangria, with a splash of cinnamon and nutmeg proved to be a burst of succulence in a cup. And the chocolate souffle she recommended? Rich and divine!

As the night progressed, we found ourselves left with an intimate group of 16 after hours in the restaurant. One of the other 16 turned out to be the lead singer for the Gipsy Kings and he, along with the other musicians, delighted the rest of us a to an impromptu, private concert. All I can say is WOW!! This was definitely one of my most magical nights since my arrival in LA.

Kristelle is planning on offering flamenco classes here in LA. I will definitely be among her first students!

Below you can see a video of her dance flamenco:

[youtube]2UYmCSPfN5Y&[/youtube]

A play she helped develope is also currently hitting the stage in Buenos Aires: Medea Tango

Dance Like No One is Watching…

Live like your last day
Drink like its water
Theres no tommorow
And you think no one can hear you
Raise your hands to be called on
You know all the answers
Your the most colourful thing that i’ve seen
Your the most colourful thing that i’ve seen
Your the most colourful thing that i’ve seen
You dance like no-one’s watching
Sing ’til the song ends
The you sing some more
And we can hardly believe it
Words that flow from your mouth,
Drink like its water
Your the most colourful thing that i’ve seen
Your the most beautiful thing that i’ve seen
Your the most colourful thing that i’ve seen
You are an enigma walking
Make no excuses for the way that you carry on
And we can hardly believe it
Words that flow from your mouth
Drink like its water girl
Drink like its water girl
Your the most colourful thing that i’ve seen
Your the most beautiful thing that i’ve seen
Your the most colourful thing that i’ve seen
You are so colourful

[youtube]NzHRmMGocD8[/youtube]

Mind Scraps: Hitting the Notes or Touching the Soul

Saturday night Playa del Carmen hosted a pre-concert for its International Jazz Festival coming up in November. The main attractions for the 2010 summer highlight includeded smooth jazz singer/songwriter Phil Perry and renowned jazz pop singer Bryan McKnight.

Admittedly, I don’t know Perry’s music too well. His performance was fun. I felt his heart and passion for his music, but I can’t say his concert really touched me the way some artists can.

McKnight’s performance, even less so. Yes, Bryan has a beautiful voice. Yes, he can do fancy scales. But, the entire time, he was putting on a show. And that’s exactly what I got from the experience. A talented, seasoned artist doing no more than putting on a show. I didn’t feel his heart, or his passion. It simply wasn’t there. I imagine after his professed 21 years in the biz, it could be difficult to deliver heart every time, for every concert. One song… I thought I started to feel it come through. But that’s it. Thus, I enjoyed the music, the clear notes. But, I left the concert feeling a yearning for more…

So who touches me? That night of the concert, as I felt a lack of spirit, my thoughts wandered to Paul Potts and his performance on Britian’s Got Talent. I’ve watched the video below a countless number of times. My eyes still well up when I watch it:

[youtube]DelJrP3P7tA[/youtube]

A true example of an artist pouring his heart out.

Another that came to mind, is a young man I met recently in Cancun, MX. He might not hit every note, clear and sharp (yet, with a bit a voice training I feel he very easily could). Yet his voice is saturated with spirit. He’s singing for the sheer joy of singing… sharing what’s inside the best way he can… through his voice. Every time I hear him sing, whether in person or on video, his sweet, pure voice brings a smile to my lips and my heart.

[youtube]2tf9TlVY2UA[/youtube]

There’s more to sharing music than just hitting the notes clearly…

Mind Scraps: Natural Symphony at the Sea

A musician in Chihuahua connected me with the Musico Magico in Facebook when he found out that I was headed to the Riveria Maya. Now that I had finally made it to Playa del Carmen, I called him up to see if his offer to rendezvous was still good. It was more than good. “Come with my friends and I to a local virgin beach,” he offered. I jumped at the chance. And it was at Paal Mul that I caught a glimpse of a most awing understanding of sound.

Musico Magico, as I call him, is a kindred spirit. Like me, he enjoys conversations about energy, spirit, karma and the magic of life. And like my friend in Chihuahua, he’s an accomplished musician. His story is an inspiring one. He originally arrived in Playa with nothing more than a backpack. Now, after six years, he has led successful real estate ventures and construction ventures, while also traveling substantially and performing in the local music scene.

When we arrived at the virgin beach accompanied by four others, I noted that Musico Magico’s eyes were the same color as one of the alluring shades of this seven-color Riviera ocean: a light, clear and mesmerizing sea green. Musico Magico has a potent presence. His gem-like eyes lock into yours, silently and reverently prodding your spirit to see who you might truly be.

I waded into the sea, a warm soothing bath that stretched away beyond the horizon. The slight rhythmic cycle of the waves rocked me comfortingly like a mother with her child. When people ask me where I’m from, I like to respond “del mundo” (from the world). I should start responding “del mar” (from the sea). No matter where I travel to on land, the sense of “home” always seems to escape me. But when I reach the sea… I feel it… I feel “at home.” As I frolic in her waves near shore my thoughts always wander further and further out to sea. What if I just started swimming toward that elusive horizon? I often take long swims out past where most others go, always slightly toying with the idea to answer that call… Go. Swim further. Dive deeper. Go discover the underwater world of magic. Turning back toward the others, I rejoined them closer to shore. As we chatted, I dug my hands into the smooth sand below the water. Gasp! Just centimeters below the surface a chilly sensation! “It’s the cenotes (underground rivers),” the others explained. “You can feel them emptying out into the ocean.” I quickly became entranced by digging various pockets into the sand in order to feel the cool rush of sweet water mix with the warm, salty sea water.

Musico Magico and I escaped from the others for a short walk down the shell-filled beach. As we waded into the water, my feet were caressed by the finest, softest sand I’ve yet to encounter. Musico Magico grabbed a handful and began rubbing it on his skin. “Smell it,” he said. “You can smell the sulfur. This sand is full of healing nutrients.” Following his lead, I slowly smothered the sand upon my face, marveling at how some people pay big bucks for such natural elements in spas.

After the impromptu sand facial, we both fell into a peaceful trance. Floating on our backs, we each got lost in our own thoughts, our own emotions, our own spiritual commune. That’s when the world of sound suddenly began to open up for me in a way I had never experienced before. All at once, my consciousness seemed to register the crystal clear notes of the natural symphony around me. Further out at sea, I heard the waves breaking upon the reef that lay just below the surface of the water. I became attuned to the waves breaking upon shore; not just in front of me, but also to either side of me as the coast slightly curved. Each position of the breaking waves held its own unique tone. The water lapping up against my skin rang out in a higher note. The caressing breeze that swept past my ears a soft, beckoning whisper. Two birds calling out from land… I heard each element of the natural world music as if I was surrounded by a massive sound system precisely set up for optimal acoustics. Eyes closed, utterly captivated, the water rocked me silently and I just listened… with ears and soul.

View the Flickr album of Paal Mul and Playa del Carmen by clicking here.

The Magical Flute of a Rarámuri Boy

Rod Murphy of 614 Films captured this beautiful moment we shared while working deep into the Sierra Madre Mountains at the bottom of the Urique Canyon in Northerwestern Mexico. Serbando Palma playing his handmade, wooden flute:

[youtube]nptOAritw9A&hl[/youtube]

Mind Scraps: Finally Film

Exciting news! The man featured in the documentary “Being the Diablo” has invited me to collaborate on another documentary film – this time, one that features the Copper Canyon Ultramarathon. I’ve been itching to get more involved in documentary and film making for too long now. Finally… I am!

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Helped film two most interesting interviews today. Jay and I spoke with Barclay Martin and Paul Pearce about a concert held in the middle of jungle. Ten thousand locals gathered to watch 13 young kids accomplish the unimaginable. They are producing a documentary feature film about the event. Speaking with them super-charged my enthusiasm about getting involved with the projects surrounding the Tarahumara.

I’m waiting to get the files from Jay so I can help him edit a compelling piece from our interviews. In the meantime, check out the bios of Barclay and Paul below:

Barclay Martin

Kansas City-based singer/songwriter Barclay Martin has had a successful recording career highlighted by international travel since 2000. Martin’s current project, the Barclay Martin Ensemble, produced a music video and is set to release its first album in May 2008.

Martin also has invested his talent and passion in support of Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. He participated in a trip to CFCA’s projects in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in November 2006.

In 2007, Martin traveled to the Philippines several times to work with Filipino musicians and children. He arranged for local musicians to introduce Filipino young people from the CFCA projects to the traditional songs and instruments of their culture. Martin’s journey is the framework for the film Zamboanga. This is Martin’s first time as featured artist and music director for a full-length film.

Paul Pearce

As the director of international programs for the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, Paul Pearce is responsible for the organizational structure and direction of CFCA overseas programs. CFCA is a Kansas City-based sponsorship organization that brings support to children and the aging who struggle to overcome dire poverty. The Philippines is one of 25 countries where CFCA strives to walk with the poor.

Pearce has traveled to the Philippines yearly since 1998, observing the strength, talent and perseverance of the poorest segment of the population. The documentary film project Zamboanga grew in part from the profound effect the people living in such harsh conditions made on Pearce. The Filipino spirit in Mindanao, where the film takes place, radiates joy and song, despite the oppressive and violent realities the people face every day. Pearce feels that the film and its music represent a celebration of the freedom CFCA helps its sponsored communities achieve. This is Pearce’s first producing credit on a feature-length documentary film.

Zomboanga

In a remote part of the Philippines, people live with the daily threat of terrorist attacks. They are challenged by poverty. And they shine.

The documentary Zamboanga follows musician Barclay Martin’s journey through the southern region of the Philippines where he comes face-to-face with the persevering soul of the country. The trek leads to a regional concert where thousands of people, Christian, Muslim and indigenous communities, come to participate in and celebrate the wealth of a vibrant culture.

As he meets and performs with local musicians and watches Western-mesmerized kids discover their own rich heritage, Martin and the audience find an original world rhythm and a new, deeper meaning of harmony.

[vimeo]4187650&amp[/vimeo]

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Missed updating last night, so just wanted to throw another shout out to Bob. He invited me to have dinner at his parents house where we filled our bellies with savory roast doused in a deliciously smoky gravy on a cold winter’s night. The warm buttery rolls, mashed potatoes and green beans accented our roast. Chocolate cookies for dessert. Thanks Bob!

Spoke with Fer earlier in the day…

Some interesting metaphors:

“Arriving with one foot in the door and one foot already on its way out.”
“Arriving with two suitcases – one packed for the relationship and one already packed for taking off.”
“Taking a shower, putting on only your shoes and running out the door.”

People who say they have nothing to hide, have something to hide.

Musica En Vivo at Rainbow Cafe

Rainbow CafeGetting back to “work” isn’t so bad. I’m perched at Rainbow Cafe in La Antigua Guatelama equipping my new laptop with all the apps, tools and widgets I need to really feel back “online.”

Wicho and Choko at Rainbow Cafe in La Antigua GuatemalaAll the while, I’m listening to “Wicho and Choko” rock out with their electric guitars with ease while sipping my Papaya and yogurt licuado.

Que Rico!