Friday, July 9, 2010

Swingin' Under the Palms

There are a half-dozen free publications in the S.B. area that list all the goings-on, and there are more such events than you can digest -- every subculture, taste, art and diversion (and some perversion, like naked yoga). If you're tied to a work schedule with a commute involved (so many people here work out of home or coffee shops, but someone has to haul the coal), I'd guess you would only look through these once in a while, rarely jogging outside your routine. We're free birds this month, and having noticed a free series of evening concerts at a seaside park that started last week, duly made note on the calendar and headed there last night, after a blissful hour at California Pizza Kitchen. Chase Palm Park has a lovely lagoon, is across the highway from the Pacific, is indeed ringed by palm trees, and somehow has golf course-quality grass. The solid stage has a curved backwall to handle the sound and a rising hill in front of it so all the viewing/listening spots are good.
The group was called Blame Sally, three lady troubadors from San Fran, with a bassist in back. All sang on their original numbers, playing keys/accordian, guitar, and percussion. I have no idea what kind of drum she spanked and sticked, but it was so much more appropriate to the music than a standard kit.
You have to bring jackets and blankets to outdoor events here on a summer evening, as the chill ocean breezes make it seem more like late October than July (we learned this the hard way). That is a small price to pay for the good part, which is: no bugs! You know how mosquitoes and other flying demons make evenings outdoors a dodgy experience in the other, humid areas of the country -- the lack of such irritation coupled with the near certainty of no rain makes for a vibrant fresh-air culture.
The demographics are fascinating to observe at events also. Dance has deep roots here, for a couple of reasons. The daughters of a large moneyed, educated elite are schooled in all types -- ballet, jazz and Spanish. Schools and clubs practice all year for the flamenco and tango performances during the Fiesta in August (originally called Old Spanish Days when begun in the 20s). Many show business people also have dance and music in their backgrounds, and the families seem to cherish these arts for their own sake as much as for their career value. The Mexican and Spanish traditions (and there are many distinct ones) are alive in both the Anglo and Hispanic communities. It seems that once in a while we really can all get along.
Last night a large area was filled with dancers from the first number on; I assume it's that way at each of these park concerts. Some were doing the Grateful Dead twirling, some elegant ballet, some just gettin' down with great enthusiasm, showing off the amazing physical prowess of the lifelong Californian fitness devotee. I imagine there were a lot a musicians in the crowd every bit as good as the performers on stage, and many songwriters too.
On the opposite side, a half-dozen jugglers were flipping their colorful clubs quite well (no one got bonked). People brought their dogs, well-behaved big breeds mostly on leash; next to us was a Spanish Water Dog (never heard of or saw one of those before) quite intent on catching his floppy fabric frisbee.
The only drawback to experiencing all this wonderful art is the traffic (150,000 people hemmed in between mountain and coast makes it rather dense) and the city's counterproductive parking restrictions. We enjoyed the long walk back to what must have been the last free space for miles (judging from how long it took to find), so that worked out too. A stop at Yogurtland on busy nighttime State Street put a tasty cap on the evening.
Next week at the park, there's a local favorite oldies band, and it's on the calendar already. Can't wait to see the dancing.

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