Monday, September 3, 2012

Bacharach/David's "Wives and Lovers:" "I'm WARNING YOU"

As you probably know by now, legendary Burt Bacharach lyricist Hal David passed away last Saturday, September 2, at the age of 91. David brought his lyrical talents to such pop gems as “Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head,” “Do You Know the Way To San Jose,” “Walk On By” and “I Say A Little Prayer.”

For people my age, the songs of Bacharach/David evoke images of a certain era. Hits such as the beautifully tender “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and the lighthearted, humorous “Do You Know the Way To San Jose” are some of the first songs I remember hearing that weren't nursery rhymes or from “Sesame Street.” Bacharach/David compositions have earned the respect and admiration of young people today, who understand and appreciate the timeless beauty of these songs. 

However, at least from my perspective as a little girl at the time, it wasn't music for prepubescent kids who loved the Osmonds, or teenagers who worshiped Led Zeppelin. This was music your suburban parents listened to, to be played on large stereo consoles in living rooms with avocado green drapes and gold carpets, at cocktail parties, or for summer barbecues, or on the AM radio in your mom's station wagon when she picked you up from school. Your long-haired, older stoner brother, with his mustache, sideburns and Led Zeppelin tank top, was way too "cool" to listen to it. It was music for sophisticated, mainstream grown-ups, performed on television shows by such adult contemporary artists as Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones and Dusty Springfield.

Hal David's passing has made me think of some of my favorite Bacharach/David compositions, such as “One Less Bell to Answer,” “There Is Always Something There To Remind Me,” “Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head,” “Don't Make Me Over,” “The Look of Love” and “(They Long To Be) Close to You.” If you've heard any of these songs (and if you haven't, you must have been living under a rock for most of your life), you'll know why they're so exquisite, and why the lyrics, ranging from heartbreaking to witty to sweetly sentimental, work perfectly with the melodies and chord changes.

But I've also been reminded of a Bacharach/David song that, unlike the songs mentioned above, isn't tender or funny or sweet. In fact, it comes across a little sinister. 1963's “Wives and Lovers,” originally recorded by Jack Jones, captures the mood of the time, but not in a particularly positive way. Here's the video for your entertainment (or possibly dismay):

The song, sung from the point of view of a not-so-objective observer, offers advice to a young wife. He immediately addresses her: “Hey! Little girl” (one imagines him grabbing the young woman while she's in the middle of ironing, and shaking her by the shoulders), and then offers his “wisdom.” “Comb your hair, fix your makeup” he commands - just because you're married, doesn't mean you can relax and let yourself go. Keep yourself pretty, little girl, or you're in deep trouble:

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don't send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again.

Wow. That's a marriage built on a shaky grounds, if just the sight of his wife in curlers is enough to make him run off with his secretary. And the “men will always be men” lyric is depressing, if not insulting to guys. “Men will always be men”suggests that “men” is synonymous with “skirt-chasing bastards.” It's a world of Don Drapers: handsome, leering, successful, untrustworthy men who chase their secretaries around their desks while demanding perfection from their wives. There aren't any devoted husbands in this scenario; they'll dump you as soon as they see you lounging around the house without makeup and wearing fuzzy slippers.

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms whenever he comes home to you.
I'm warning you.

Wait, what? “I'm warning you?” Who are you, anyway, and why are you giving me all this unasked-for advice about my marriage? You're starting to creep me out.

I'm sure that when Hal David originally penned these lyrics, his intention wasn't for them to come off creepy. He probably wanted it to be a light, humorous commentary on how young wives shouldn't “give up” - they should retain the good looks and glamor they possessed when their husbands first met them, to keep the marriage fresh. I understand that. 

But, unless the husband was making enough to hire a full-time maid for the household chores, it also sounds like a lot of work. Would I be expected, in the 1963 world of this song, to cook breakfast for my husband, clean the house, do all the shopping and laundry, prepare dinner for him - and still greet him at the door wearing makeup, in a chic little cocktail dress, and finish the evening with mind-blowing sex? (No wonder women back then were turning to “mother's little helper.”)

Hey! Little girl!
Better wear something pretty
Something you'd wear to the city and
Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music,
Time to get ready for love.

I don't know; I think I have a headache. I'm exhausted. Can't we just cuddle and watch “The Jack Benny Show” instead? Do I really have to dress up for you every single night, without fear of you running off with that floozy stenographer? Are our marital bonds really that fragile? Seriously – if I greet you at the door once in a while in pajamas and no makeup, are you really going to divorce me and move in with that redheaded vixen in accounting?

This song makes me grateful I live the modern age, and especially thankful for my loyal, highly-evolved husband – who has seen me many times wearing sweats and no makeup, and – unlike the guys in the song - shows no signs of fleeing in terror or running off with a 20-year-old waitress. (In turn, if he wanted to wear a t-shirt full of holes around the house and a pair of cut-offs, I also wouldn't be driven to infidelity because of it.) I'm also grateful I'm not expected to have dinner on the table every night while looking like Marilyn Monroe, or that I'm not expected to give up my career and have kids, or "obey" my husband . . . the list of things I'm grateful for in the year 2012 is endless.
That said – if there's ever a knock at the door and a mysterious stranger standing in the shadows addresses me with, “Hey! Little girl!,” I'll just slam the door on him.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The First 70: The California State Parks Due To Be Closed July 1

Sometimes we get so busy with our jobs and personal lives, that we don't realize something we cherish, something we assume will always be there and that we take for granted, is about to be taken away from us. And sadly, sometimes when we finally take a moment to pause the rhythm of our daily lives, to be quiet and listen, it might be too late to do anything about it.

My husband Dave and I attended a free screening of the documentary “The First 70” at the REI store in Santa Monica last Thursday evening.

The film focuses on the upcoming closure of 70 California state parks this July 1; the filmmakers visited each park and interviewed park employees. Unfortunately, it wasn't the most ideal setting for a screening – a small movie screen was set up in the middle of the fluorescent lit store; when the film finally started after several technical errors (and many apologies from the embarrassed REI employee), it was often interrupted by loud announcements from the store's intercom.

But once the film started, the twenty or so people watching were transfixed by the images of these parks: cascading waterfalls, lush green hills, a curious deer staring into the camera, soaring birds, a historic mansion lovingly maintained by a park employee (who remarked sadly that she had hoped to work at the park until her retirement). Park employees, as well as activists fighting to stop the closures, were interviewed for the film.

The general concern of the people interviewed seems to be this: the short term solution of closing these parks in order to make budget cuts (folks, I'm not even going to pretend to understand how the California budget works, so I'm not going to go into detail about that issue) is ultimately a disastrous one. When these parks are closed, it will be impossible to keep people out of them completely. As one man in the film remarked, the state is probably not going to build ten foot walls around these large expanses of land; people will most likely continue to hike past the “PARK CLOSED” signs, and possibly even camp.

People hiking into closed, unsupervised parks may not seem like a big deal. But unfortunately, less conscientious people might leave litter, and there won't be any park employees to clean up the mess. Without park supervision, there's also greater danger of fires being started by careless visitors. And with no park rangers around, if someone is injured or lost or in danger, who is there to help? Vandalism and graffiti are also major concerns, as many of these parks are the site of historic homes and buildings. It was suggested in the film that closing the parks will ultimately end up costing the state more, due to the maintenance and repairs that would be required for the damage done. 


Another sort of damage, in a cultural sense, that would be caused by the closures would be the impact upon school, church and youth groups. Many of these parks have educational buildings, bookstores, guided tours, etc.; children won't get to benefit from them if these facilities are closed. (One park employee interviewed bemoaned the fact that children would no longer be able to look through the telescope in his local park's observatory.)

To try to come up with a short term solution and to avoid park closures, several non-profit groups have become involved (you can find links at the end of this post). They've raised enough money (as well as their voices) to prevent several of the parks from closing. One gentleman, interviewed in the film, is a business owner who took over financial responsibility for one of the parks and saved it from closure. He owns a brewery and obtains the water for his brewery from the stream in the park, he wanted to give something back by saving the park from closure. Fortunately, this man didn't want the logo for his brewery displayed anywhere in the park; he simply wanted the park to continue as it had always been.

However, in the discussion with two non-profit heads after the film, the question was raised whether or not it was a wise idea to try to raise money from the private sector. Shouldn't it be the state's responsibility? One of the non-profit leaders, Alden Olmsted (head of Olmsted Park Fund), replied that he hoped raising from the private sector was only a short term solution, as the parks are ultimately the state's responsibility. The concern was raised that if businesses took over the park, they might want to display their company's logo throughout the park (not all business owners being as hands-off as the brewery owner). In the meantime, they're trying to raise enough funds as possible, as well as enough uproar, to stop the closures of the remaining parks.

With the deadline of July 1 coming up, hopefully it's not too late. It's not surprising that more people aren't aware of this issue and the upcoming deadline, with the constant barrage of celebrity gossip and partisan bickering that dominates our headlines. (Why isn't this all over the news?)

Here's how you can help:

A personal end note: yesterday was Father's Day. My father passed away in 2007 after a long battle with emphysema. He could be a difficult, cranky guy, especially as he grew older and dealt with his debilitating health, but he had a good heart, loved children, and was very witty and intelligent.

One thing he enjoyed doing when we were kids was going on family road trips. He loved to drive, especially along winding mountain roads, and liked to view the changing scenery; he'd make sure to announce points of interest along the way. In the summer of 1970, we took one of these road trips, trailer in tow, across the United States. One thing he always made sure to do is go to as many state and national parks as possible. There are photos of my brother, sister, mother and I, squinting in the sun (he always had to take photos of us in the sun! why?), usually standing before a statue of a bear, or a historic plaque, or noteworthy sign. 

I think he felt it was important to take us to visit these natural treasures, to show us that there was a rich, fascinating and adventurous world beyond our little suburb of Cherry Hill. But mostly, especially since he a banker and worked in an office from 9 to 5, I think he relished getting out and enjoying nature.

As I watched “The First 70” film, I thought of my dad and his love of parks, and started to feel very emotional. I understand that some sacrifices have to be made in an attempt to balance the California budget, but . . . this? Really? I think he would have been disgusted by the whole thing. 

I'm grateful and I feel lucky to have had a father who understood the importance of traveling beyond one's own backyard, and hiking amongst the pines and streams, in a paradise not to be taken for granted.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Disneyland Ch-ch-ch-changes: Innovation, or Just a Push to Sell More Merch?

In 1970, when I was five years old and we were still living in New Jersey, my dad took us on a road trip out west. Our trip to California naturally included a visit to the Magic Kingdom. There is approximately fifteen minutes of home movie footage of our visit to Disneyland. It includes shots of the park and the costumed characters, but mostly consists of shots of cute young women in miniskirts (obviously Dad was holding the camera).

One thing the footage doesn't include is my most vivid memory of our visit to Disneyland: the Haunted Mansion. I was a neurotic little girl, and the experience of visiting the mansion terrified me to the point of tears. The Victorian ghosts in the ballroom, whirling to a demented, discordant organ waltz; the rattling coffin and its distressed occupant's muffled voice: “Lemme outta here! Lemme outta here!;” the long, dark, narrow hallway in which a candelabra floats; wispy spirits soaring howling into the dark sky from the attic roof; the trembling tombstones; the skeletal arm of a corpse, shovel in hand, as it tries to dig its way out of a stone crypt – this all must have proved too much for my fragile nerves. (I was kind of a nervous wreck as a kid. The intro to the T.V. show “Outer Limits” was enough to send me running from the room in terror.)

As anyone who has visited the Haunted Mansion knows, the ride isn't entirely dark and morbid; there are fun, silly elements, which were most likely added to lighten the mood and to make the ride less frightening for children. Singing tombstone busts, onto which the comical faces of real life men are projected, sing about the “grim grinning ghosts” who come out to “socialize.” The ride's narrator informs us that the ballroom guests have just arrived for a “swingin' wake;” the bouncy song played in the attic mentions the “silly spooks,” as if to reassure children that they have nothing to fear from these ghouls.

Perhaps the goofiest group of ghosts appear at the end of the ride. As the narrator of the ride warns, “Beware of hitch hiking ghosts!,” these menacing fellows greet the riders:

The ride concludes with the doombuggies riding past mirrors, in which images of the hitch hiking ghosts mysteriously appear next to the riders. These comical hitch hiking ghosts couldn't be less frightening.

Yet it was at this point in the ride that I distinctly remember looking in the mirror, and seeing my reflection - a sobbing, frightened little girl in ponytails (I don't remember which ghost was trying to "follow me home"). So despite all Disney Imagineers' efforts to lighten the darkness of the ride, it must have been lost on me when I was five years old. The horrifying aspects of the Haunted Mansion were apparently too overwhelming for me, and probably for thousands of other children before and since.

Fast forward to adulthood – and I love the Haunted Mansion. It's not only one of my favorite attractions at Disneyland, it's one of my favorite places in the world. I have a passion for all things 19th century, so I love the the whole theme of the mansion. (Its architecture was based on the homes in New Orleans' Garden District.) The Imagineers paid strict attention to detail, from the pet cemetery outside to the flowered, fading wallpaper, to the portraits and furniture vases and dying flowers, to the Victorian costumes of the ballroom dancers. And despite its morbid, Gothic elements, it's also deliciously campy and charmingly outdated. It seems to capture certain kitschy elements of the 1960's as much as it does the Victorian age. The fact that the cars used in the ride are called “doombuggies” and that the ghosts are attending a “swingin' wake” immediately date the ride (does anyone even talk about "dune buggies" anymore?).

Here's a link to the whole ride, in case you've never had the pleasure of experiencing it. (I suspect that those with zero interest in Disneyland have stopped reading this a while back.)

My favorite attractions at Disneyland – the so-called “dark rides” - all have that same winning combination of attention to design and detail and period accuracy, as well as 60's camp. And it's geeks like me and my friend – I'll call her “E” (she's so Disney-obsessive that she actually works there now!) who think these classic attractions should be preserved, just as historical societies work to preserve public buildings and private homes of significance. It's not that I'm against all changes to the rides, as long as they're done with the same high quality Walt Disney was known to demand, and in the spirit of the original attraction.

When I first heard there were going to be changes to the Haunted Mansion, I was appalled. Disneyland (understandably; they are ultimately a huge corporation that wants to make a profit!) is very motivated to push their movies and products, and often alter their attractions to promote them. I was afraid they would incorporate the Eddie Murphy "Haunted Mansion" movie into the ride. Fortunately, they did no such thing, but the changes they did make, in my opinion, improved the ride. They removed the cheap, doll-like bride in the attic (she looked like something out of a makeshift carnival Halloween house), with the glowing red heart:

and replaced her with a realistic video projection of a murderous bride.

The new bride (whose name is apparently Connie), is a pretty blond; she looks like a deranged soap opera star. She smiles maniacally and cracks morbid jokes: “I do . . . and so I did!;" “'Til death do us part,” as her bouquet disappears and is replaced by an ax. In the wedding portrait, the groom slowly disappears and is replaced by another groom, and yet another; we are lead to believe that she's murdered several of her husbands. (Fortunately, they've kept the demented, discordant piano accompaniment of “Here Comes the Bride” played in this part of the ride.)

I particularly liked this change to the Haunted Mansion, because it seems like it was made to improve the ride, instead of to solely to sell goods – which brings us to the changes on "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Johnny Depp of the Caribbean

The recent changes on “Pirates of the Caribbean” seem to just be for the purpose of hyping the movie franchise, and nothing more. In order to promote the Johnny Depp “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies (which are, ironically based on the ride), they've added an animatronic “Jack Sparrow,” the pirate portrayed by Johnny Depp in the film. Though it looks like they tried to make him blend in with the other animatronic pirates who have been fixtures in the ride since the early 70's, he still looks out of place. He looks too detailed and realistic. Whereas there's a cartoonish look about the other pirates, Jack Sparrow looks like, well, Johnny Depp, exactly like Johnny Depp. He seems to be placed in random spots throughout the ride, with no real purpose except to remind the rider to go see the next “Pirates” movie.

Soundtrack music from the movie has also been added to the attraction. As the rider's boat emerges from a dark tunnel, music from the movie begins to play; it immediately suggests a certain mood, like soundtrack music is supposed to. Before the addition of the movie music, there had been an eerie silence at that point in the ride, interrupted only by the pirates' shouts and cannonballs. Hearing the soaring orchestral score makes me feel like I'm in a movie theater, instead of traveling back in time through a dark tunnel to the land of pirates. Like the addition of Jack Sparrow, adding the movie music is only there to remind the rider of the "Pirates" movies; it doesn't contribute anything interesting to the ride.
It's a Small World – or, USA! USA!

There had been rumors swirling for some time about changes to Small World - there was talk that a “USA land” would be added, as well as Disney characters throughout the ride. Ultimately, the changes weren't as bad as I expected.

Although Walt Disney was an integral force behind the Small World attraction, it wasn't originally part of Disneyland. It was created for the 1964 New York World's Fair as part of the UNICEF pavilion, and was designed by Walt, along with the wonderfully talented Mary Blair, Marc Davis, and several other Disney Imagineers. The ride hadn't featured any Disney characters until recently. Characters such as Ariel, Pinocchio and Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” have been placed throughout the ride. The characters were designed in the same style as the original Mary Blair dolls and, unlike the Depp/Jack Sparrow figure on the “Pirates” ride, they seem to blend in well. (I especially liked the addition of the "Alice in Wonderland" characters to England, as Lewis Carroll is such a part of classic English children's literature.) 

I have to wonder why the decision had been made to add Disney characters, over 40 years after the ride's debut. It feels like a piece of history has been tampered with, given that the ride was part of the World's Fair. I'm not sure what the reasoning was – did they suddenly want to keep the ride more consistent with the rest of Disneyland by adding Disney characters, or was it to try to sell more Disney character merchandise?

More perplexing than the addition of the Disney characters is the addition of the North America room. This bothered me for a few reasons. The first is that the design of the room and the characters (which includes Woody the cowboy and his gal pal Jessie, from “Toy Story”) doesn't equal the quality of the Mary Blair design; it looks cheap by comparison, and not nearly as detailed. Second, North America is portrayed as the Wild West, with cowboys, Native Americans, horses, barns, cows, etc. There's no Manhattan, there's no Golden Gate bridge, no big city element at all. Look, I realize I'm not talking about high art. Iit's Disneyland, and probably anyone who isn't a fan of classic Disney attractions wouldn't understand why I'd be so picky.  But the Imagineers are known for both their enormous creativity and their strict attention to detail; not including any city element to a portrayal of North America seems lacking in both. I'm a city-dwelling American; perhaps we just appear as cowboys and cowgirls to the rest of the world? Or maybe the room just wasn't as well thought out and designed with the loving care and detail that Mary Blair, Walt and the other Imagineers would have given it.

Don't Mess With the Tiki Room!

Walt's favorite attraction at the park was the Enchanted Tiki Room. It was the first Disney attraction to use Audio-Anamatronics, a technology that enabled mechanical humans and animals to appear very life-like. Those who have visited the Tiki Room are familiar with the colorful birds, and their hilariously bad accents and stereotypes. There is Jose from Mexico, Michael from Ireland, Pierre from France and Fritz from Germany. Jose complains, upon being woken up from his nap to start the show, that his siestas are getting “chorter and chorter;” Fritz, the German, comes off somewhat strict and authoritaran; Pierre the French bird, when introducing the lady birds, gushes with enthusiasm: “Collette! Suzette! Fifi! Gigi!;” and Michael the Irish bird has a brogue that sounds about as authentic as the Lucky Charms leprechaun.

The theme song is ridiculously catchy and performed in a Polynesian lounge style that was all the rage in the early 60's, when the show opened. The show is charming and wonderfully dated. After the opening theme song “The Tiki Tiki Tiki Room," performed by the male birds, the female birds descend from a giant perch that emerges from the ceiling. White-plumed and bejeweled, the lady birds break into “Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing,” and Jose implores the audience to sing along. It is difficult to imagine the typical texting teen, to whom the word “tweet” now has an entirely different meaning, engaging in this sing along without embarrassment. (Fine; let them busy themselves with their smart phones if they're bored by the show.) I've seen the Tiki Room show dozens of times, and I get a kick from the bemused expressions of the people in the audience. I imagine most of the out-of-state tourists are thinking, “This is just so unbelievably corny and outdated, but it's really cute and hilarious.” I'll sometimes see people singing along with the “Birdies” song, laughing at themselves for doing so. I like to think that even the typical American Disneyland tourist, usually saturated with reality shows and high-tech video games for entertainment, seems to understand that he or she is experiencing something really special and magical.

Disney geeks, of course, have always known how special and magical the Tiki Room is. And that's why I was dismayed, several years ago, when there were rumors that the soundtrack would be “updated.” My mind went to dark places; my first thought is that the kooky early 60's Polynesian feel of the music would be replaced by some hip hop track, with a rap by one of the birds.

I don't know if the geeks had any influence, or if the rumors had simply been exaggerated, but ultimately the changes to the Tiki Room were very minimal. The soundtrack was remastered, not replaced, the birds were cleaned and had missing feathers replaced, the thatched roof was repaired, and the audio animatronics were updated internally (while still maintaining their old look). I wasn't looking forward to the Tiki Room being modernized, so I was relieved to find out it had simply undergone a much-needed restoration.

Walt Wanted Change and Innovation, Not Fluorescent Pooh
I've read that Walt Disney wanted Disneyland to be a place that was constantly changing and evolving. I have a hard time believing, though, that he would have wanted timeless, endearing attractions like the Country Bear Jamboree, to be replaced by something vastly inferior like the hideous, fluorescent Pooh Bear ride. (The experience of riding the new Winnie the Pooh attraction after the Country Bear Jamboree closed, might require another nerdy Disneyland blog post).

Fortunately, classic attractions like the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Small World still remain, and the changes, though some of them are unnecessary and annoying, don't affect the overall magical experience of these rides. I hope the people behind the changes at Disneyland are respectful enough to know what a disaster it would be to do away with any of these classic dark rides, or modernize them beyond recognition. Don't get me wrong; I understand that Disneyland needs to sell merchandise, and that there's a lot of marketing involved. But when rides are altered solely for the purpose of marketing, they're missing the point. Walt Disney was obviously hugely successful and became a very wealthy man, but he initially lost money when Disneyland was built because he was so passionate about making it perfect. A lot of love went into creating Disneyland, and I sometimes wonder if the current heads of Disneyland have forgotten that.

I think Disneyland, as was Walt's wish, should continue to change and evolve, with the innovation, imagination and quality which would have made him proud. As the park is now over sixty years old and a part of southern California history, they need to respect and preserve the aspects of the park that remain timeless, entertaining, creative and unique.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Introductory Prattle

Welcome to my blog! I've been procrastinating about writing one for the past couple of years, and am taking advantage of my five-month break from college to begin.

My name is Carolyn Soyars. My “maiden” name (was I ever really a maiden?) was Carolyn Edwards, and that is still the name under which I perform music. Though it is not my bread-and-butter (if it was, I'd have surely starved by now), it is my favorite hobby in the world. I played in bands for many years, and will be writing some (hopefully amusing) posts about my various experiences.

I abandoned my dream of rock stardom when I was about 29, and have frankly been enjoying life much more ever since. I'm currently 47, and even if I had become a huge music star, in a music industry obsessed with age I'd surely be approaching the “witching hour." (Yes, I realize Madonna's in her 50's, but she's an anomaly; not every celebrity is fortunate/fabulous enough to be carried on a golden throne onto the Super Bowl stage, in full Cleopatra regalia, by her handsome Egyptian dancer slaves.) I don't at all regret not having “made it,” but have come to realize over the years it was a blessing in disguise. Younger people might roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, right,” but the people my age probably know what I'm talking about. More on this later.

I have a job as a copyright supervisor at a music publishing company, which I won't be writing about very often because 1) it's boring to anyone who doesn't work in that world, and 2) I don't want to be fired for writing about my day-to-day experiences at the company on a public blog. I will say that I enjoy it, especially the nerdy, research part of my job in which I get to search through old song files from the 30's and 40's. The crumbling, decades-old letters between struggling songwriters and the cigar-chomping executives supposedly guiding their careers, are often amusing and sometimes painful (songwriters were so naive back then). It's a fascinating aspect of my job which makes me think about eventually working as a library or museum archivist; I love digging into old historical documents and letters.

As far as my music – will tell you everything you would ever want to know. Though I usually play several shows throughout the year as a keyboardist for other bands and projects, I only perform with my band (under Carolyn Edwards) once a year or so. (Why? The simple answer is I'm busy working full-time and also going to college part-time. It takes less time to play for other people than to organize my own shows.) These occasional shows are usually performed at my favorite little Echo Park French restaurant (okay, the only French restaurant in Echo Park), Taix (pronounced “tex,” not “tay.”). It's a small, dark lounge, with very 70's decor, and it's packed on Friday and Saturday nights with lively, chattering people of all ages. People can order a delicious French meal (I recommend the trout almondine) and enjoy a quality dinner while seeing bands. It's a very “grown-up” venue for music (as opposed to standing for hours in a crowded, dingy club and drinking cheap beer; it seems like my friends and I are well beyond that stage in our lives now). 


I recorded my eponymous album “Carolyn Edwards” and released it in 2006. The (rather lengthy) recording process and the eventual release of the CD gave me a great sense of artistic and personal satisfaction. It was well-received critically and was played on college radio stations in small towns I didn't even know existed (thanks to a college radio promotion campaign). Unfortunately, it was released right around the time record stores were collapsing, and right before most people started buying their music via downloads. Several friends of mine and I had a little co-op label called True Classical (an incredibly misleading name; not my idea). True Classical had distribution, but at the time my CD was released, Tower Records went out of business, along with many other record stores. And none of the songs from my CD landed that major film and T.V. placement I'd been hoping for (the holy grail for musicians nowadays, as it's difficult for indie artists to make money from CD sales). So needless to say, I didn't see a return on my investment.
The practical side of me thinks it's ridiculous to spend all that money again and release another CD (I'm not romantic enough to “do it for art's sake”), not to mention trying to find the time to record between a full-time job, college and my personal life. Still, perhaps I'll record and release another one eventually. Since I don't write, record and perform music for a living, there is no motivating factor to do so other than for the love of the music, and also no established time frame - I could record it next year, or I could do it when I'm 60.

In other music news – my husband and I have recently formed a folk duo called Dave & Carolyn, in the spirit of Ian & Sylvia (and, more importantly, Mitch & Mickey from “A Mighty Wind”). One of the appealing aspects of a folk duo such as this is its extreme low maintenance. Our act consists solely of vocals, acoustic guitars, and a melodica I purchased recently from McCabe's. There are no rehearsals to pay for as we can rehearse at home, and no lugging of heavy equipment to the shows. The word “organic” is overused nowadays in describing acoustic music, but there is something pretty cool about not having to plug in; we could play our music anywhere, at any time. There is also a great satisfaction and excitement in discovering “new music” as old as the 1700's, and participating in the folk music tradition in our own little way. 

We perform mostly covers and traditional music, and have been playing the second Tuesday of each month at the Unurban Cafe in Santa Monica. I'll definitely be writing a whole post about the experience of playing there, which has been both positive and – how shall I put this? - an extreme test of our patience. The last gig was the most trying of all of them, but, as a rock drummer I used to work with philosophized daily, “It is what it is.” Yep, the Unurban "is what it is." I view the Unurban shows as free rehearsals, the chance to entertain a few friends on a weeknight, and a challenge in getting the Unurban college student regulars to occasionally glance up from their homework and watch us. It is also really fun to play this music, and to play instruments (guitar and melodica) that I usually don't play otherwise. Eventually Dave and I hope to play other venues, but despite its, ummm, quirks, the Unurban is a fun place to start.

Oh, and if I don't have enough to occupy my time with – did I mention I'm a part-time college student? I'm nearing the end of month two of a five-month long break, then classes will once again commence at the end of August. (I will be writing much about the joys and challenges of being a middle-agedcollege student.) After avoiding college for years, I started attending in spring of 2010, and found that I loved it! My goal is to earn my AA in English and to then transfer to Mount St. Mary's Weekend College, which seems to be the best option for working adults.

I have done extensive research on various college options for working adults, and I'll be writing about my experience here. Hopefully it will help other adults in a similar situation, who are thinking about attending or returning to college. It's not as intimidating as it seems! Plus, working adults, who have had years of real life and work experience and hopefully a degree of self-education, often excel in their studies more than kids who attend  collegeimmediately after high school. (I was added to both the president's and the dean's honor list for last year, which I guarantee you would not have been the case when I was 20!)

This concludes my Introductory Prattle.  Thanks for indulging me. I've always had fun with occasional blogging on Myspace (remember Myspace?) so this is something I hope to regularly contribute to, work and college permitting. Future prattles will be dwell further on college and music adventures, as well as other obsessions like vintage Disneyland and Victorian literature.