Saturday, August 16, 2014

Selling Across From the Venice Freak Show

From time to time I sell on the Venice Beach Boardwalk with Eduardo, and we spent three days there this week, taking advantage of beautiful weather and the last days of summer before the kids go back to school.
Even on a bad day, Venice is never dull.  Tourists from literally all over the world come to Venice Beach year round, and you meet the most interesting people.  There I am entertained by an endless stream of "fashion dos and don'ts" (it would make quite a book), and immersed in a sea of colorful characters, where outrageous rules, talking to yourself is the norm, and you need to be careful where you sleep.
Mother Nature provides the backdrop.
Not a bad place to call your office.  So anyway, on Friday, we arrived late and immediately found a space directly across from the Venice Freak Show.  Lucky, I thought!  I've walked past the Freak Show many times, but never sold particularly close to it, at least not on a day when it was open, which is just Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
It immediately became clear why it was so easy to get a space there.  Freak Show owner Todd Ray stands out in front of the show like a carnival barker and draws people in all afternoon.  "Have you seen the two-headed turtle?  It's alive, come and see it for free.  See the world's smallest man, the Wolfman, the Fire-Eating Lady, and Morgue, who will do tricks that will blow your mind.  We have a two headed pig, a two-headed chicken, a five legged dog that you can pet.  All for only five dollars."  Over and over and over and over and over.  And. Over.  At first he was just DRIVING ME CRAZY.  But then, I became intrigued.  Heck, I became hypnotized by the rhythm, the cadence.  How does this guy DO this all day long?  He was really good at it!  By 4:00 pm, he had me sold.  "Do you want to go in"?  Eduardo asked me.  "I'll pay for you."  "YEAH!"  I said.  So my sweet love gave me five dollars and in I went.

The stage area was small and intimate, with only two rows of folding chairs, and the first act up was Morgue, a performance artist who takes a power drill and puts a giant drill bit up his nose.  Yes, UP HIS NOSE.  And then releases it from the drill and leaves the bit lodged in his head while he introduces Asia Ray (Todd's daughter), the Fire Eating Lady.  Asia Ray sits down and has electricity sent through her body, and then proceeds to light her torches with her finger, and then her tongue.
Now Asia Ray is another reason why I was so intrigued I had to go in.  I had been watching her interact with people all afternoon in front of the show between her performances, and she is such a young, pretty, tiny little thing.  All the little kids outside seemed so excited to meet her and take a picture with her after her performance.  Well I have to say her composure on stage was amazing, and she did a great job with her fire eating, but what I found the most unbelievable skill of Asia Ray was her ability to keep it together while working with Morgue.

As you may remember, when we last left Morgue, he was retaining a very long drill bit in his nasal cavity.  He pulled it out of his nose, and then moved on to his second trick, namely swallowing a sword.  I had never seen this done before in person, and I just couldn't get over it.  How does that sword come out so clean?  No blood, no goo.  Where does it go?  I'm shaking my head in disbelief as I'm writing this.  Fascinating.  But his last trick really took the cake.  He inserted a large metal hook in his nose, and gently worked it into his nasal cavity until it came out his mouth.  I was so freaked out by this (as well as the first two tricks) that I took NO pictures.  AND YOU ARE ALLOWED TO TAKE PICTURES!!  I was just frozen.  So in the interest of giving you a visual, here is a picture I took off the AMC website, so you can see Morgue with the hook thing going on.
It's one thing to look at a photo, by the way, but an entirely different experience to be up close and personal, to watch him actually perform this stunt and then have him walk right past you so you can see it a foot from your face.  It was haunting.  By the time these stunts were over, I was a bit dazed and had a hard time walking around the museum part of the show.  But I did manage to grab a picture of (what else) this mermaid.
From what I understand, Venice Freak Show is now on AMC and Netflix, so you can check it out on TV, but honestly it was quite the in-your-face experience to see it live.  I recommend it!  And for only five dollars.  Only five dollars.  Five dollars.  Five Dollars.  And on.  And on.  And. On.  oops, sorry.... lost myself for a moment......

xoxo Linda

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Those Petty Welcome Home Annoyances and a Look Back at Milwaukee

I have been back in Los Angeles for almost a week now, sorting through the many feelings associated with being home.  There is the joy of being reunited with my love.  That's the oh, so sweet part!  And then there's the reality of the little surprises that need to be dealt with.  Like the dead battery in the car that turns out to need replacing.  And the iPhone that has been disabled and never backed up, and ditto, must be replaced.  Then there are the motherly worry items.  Like the recently graduated son who is fervently interviewing for the right job (fingers crossed)!  And the daughter who is studying abroad and just did her first bungee jump in New Zealand (thank God I found out about that one after, not before).  New Zealand, where the internet service feels like she might as well be on Mars.  You get the idea.  But life is good and I embrace it all with open arms, and with that let's take a look at the highlights of my almost three weeks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Son Tommy and Niece Alyssa take on cleaning duty at my Grandparents' house.
My major purpose for traveling to Milwaukee was to help my dad with a project.  He has many!!  "Could you please choose ONE",  I asked him, "and let's do it in the summer, because I hate being cold."  Since my dad turns 79 years old this week, we thought it would be a nice birthday gift to help him get his new office ready to move into, a project that has been ongoing for a while.  By the way, we should all be so ambitious as to want to move into a new office at the age of 79!!  It's a long story, but making this happen would require a veritable jigsaw puzzle of maneuvers, starting with cleaning out my grandparents' (my father's parents) house.  Now mind you they have been dead for over fifteen years, and the house was most recently occupied by a questionable house sitter, but that's another story.  I will not go there, and instead, will do like this sign I saw in Milwaukee's Historic Third Ward, and.......
My son Tommy, a veritable trooper, joined me for this project, spending two weeks in Milwaukee, taking up residence on an air bed with my sleeping bag (from the camping portion of this adventure).  My brother and sister-in-law, Steve and Melinda, and niece Alyssa rounded out the work team, coming down from Minnesota for the weekend to help out.  Meet my brother (below), sporting a stylish plastic vegetable decoration.  We decided my grandma was the "Queen of Plastic Decorations", having a plethora of plastic fruits and flowers for every possible occasion.
On Saturday we spent the entire day playing the "Sort the Stuff into Four Piles" game.  The piles consisted of Trash, Goodwill, Keep to Sell Later on eBay, and Take Home as Treasure.  The reward was a trip down memory lane, spending time together, many laughs, and revisiting the items we remembered so well as kids.  Progress was good, but Tommy and I would make four subsequent trips to the house, and four more trips to the Goodwill, before the job was done!

Interspersed with this cleaning operation was a chance for me to show Tommy some of the other places that were so meaningful to me as a kid.  There were two lakes that were near and dear to my heart, both where my other set of grandparents (my mother's parents) had homes when I was growing up.  First we visited Lake Keesus, where the house still stands today, lovingly maintained by its gracious subsequent owners.
Home to my most precious childhood memories, I think this place is the reason for my lifelong love of water.
Our next stop that day was Pewaukee Lake, where my mother's parents first lived when I was very young.  The house is no longer standing.  Unfortunately the new owners knocked it down and built a brand new house.  They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.  Sorry, not really.  That just popped in my mind.  Anyway, we were still able to stop at a local watering hole to enjoy a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy at the lake,
and make some new friends.
Pewaukee Lake is large enough to have a small downtown area with a beach,
and I got to dip my toes in the water.  The air temperature that day was about 83 degrees, but honestly it felt like about 183 degrees because of the humidity.  Standing in the lake sure felt good.

We also spent some time during our stay exploring a few of the beaches of Lake Michigan in the Milwaukee area.  The Village of Fox Point offers Doctor's Park, which has lush tree lined paths,
moss covered railings,
 and old weathered stone piers once you get to the beach.
There I was content to walk on the beach and enjoy the makeshift driftwood sculptures, rather than dip my toes into the decidedly chilly waters of Lake Michigan.
Just a few blocks from Doctor's Park, on Beach Road, is the infamous art filled Mary Nohl House, lovingly nicknamed "The Witch's House", and placed on the National Register of Historic Places and named a Milwaukee County Landmark.
Mary Nohl used concrete and found objects from the beach to create a Folk Art Wonderland, embellishing her home both inside and out with hundreds of artworks, luring curiosity seekers of all ages to pass by for a glimpse for at least the last forty years or so. 
The property was turned over to the Kohler Foundation for preservation after Mary Nohl's death in 2001.  Although the Foundation has fought hard for over a decade to keep this well known landmark on site and offer small tours, sadly the residents of Fox Point refused to budge and would not allow it to happen.  Kohler is faced with having to gently dismantle the property and reassemble it in Sheboygan.  Being an artist myself, I find it so very sad that a small group of wealthy people who mostly moved into the neighborhood after Mary Nohl, knowing quite well what they were getting into having her house in the neighborhood, can now dictate the fate of this artistic treasure.  This topic is rant worthy.  Nuff said.

Moving further south on Lake Drive, tiny Big Bay Park lies just below Palisades Road.  On the day we stopped, it was just getting ready to rain, and the deep colors of the Lake looked as dramatic as any ocean.
Continuing south on Lake Drive, just past UWM (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee) is my favorite street, Wahl Avenue.  This street is home to some stately old mansions with a view of the Lake, and this one particular home is of my favorite.  Ahh..... I would love to see the inside of this architectural gem.
Adjacent to Wahl Avenue is arguably the finest French restaurant in Milwaukee, Lake Park Bistro, where Tommy and I were treated to lunch by my Aunt Carmen and Uncle Gene.  Alas, Tommy sputtered through lunch suffering from some type of allergy attack from the house cleaning over the weekend (breathing in too much of the mold, mildew, and dust cocktail, perhaps, landing us at Urgent Care later that evening), but both the lunch companions and the food were divine in spite of it all.  I had the salmon, and it was YUM, not to mention pretty as a picture.
Also located on Wahl Avenue near the Lake Park Bistro is the historic North Point Lighthouse, a picturesque restored 19th Century lighthouse featuring a maritime museum.
If you make your way from there to Lincoln Memorial Drive, you will cruise past Bradford Beach, the Milwaukee Art Museum (see my Milwaukee blog post last September), and continue south to the Historic Third Ward.  One Sunday after a run to the Goodwill, Tommy and I headed over to the Third Ward to enjoy the perfect Milwaukee summer day.  We headed for the Water Buffalo,
where we found a waterfront table on the Milwaukee River.  If you look closely at the fishing boat below, you will see there's a young lady on board taking a snooze in the warm Milwaukee sunshine.
There were so many boats on the river that day it was amazing.  It was so great to see so many people out enjoying the river that glorious Sunday.  We snacked on Roasted Pimento Cheese Spread,
and Shrimp and Avocado Salad, and drank "Spotted Cow" on tap, a local brew from New Glarus, Wisconsin, all served by our charming waitress Sara!

Other notable meals on the trip were a Friday night family Fish Fry, a Milwaukee tradition, at the Hollander Cafe in Wauwatosa.  Here's a little family pic (minus me) in this charming area of Wauwatosa outside the restaurant.
My Fish Tacos there were delicious, but I found the beer a little pricey, with mine coming in at $9.50 a glass (that's for a small, not a large).  Come on, people, isn't this Beertown, USA? 

And then there was the fabulous home cooked dinner at my cousins Mark and Kelly's house.  Check out this beautiful food, which was accompanied by LOTS of great wine and conversation.  Did I mention we had LOTS of wine?
We also had delicious meals with Uncle Tom and Aunt Pat, and cousins Ron and Gloria, so all and all we were pretty spoiled when it came to good food!

But what about the project, you may ask.  Did you finish the office?  In a word, no.  We bit off more than we could chew.  But we got closer.  After we cleaned out the grandparents house, we did some painting at the office.  Here's dad painting a wall,
and Tommy learning to paint doors.
But our time had run out, and we needed to get back to Los Angeles.  Vamanos!  We came, we saw, we conquered.... kind of.  But more importantly we connected with our roots and learned a few things along the way.

At the Milwaukee airport, after clearing security, I paused to recombombulate my discombombulation at this convenient area.
grabbed my
and boarded for the first leg of my flight to Minneapolis/St. Paul aboard Delta.  The flight out of Milwaukee afforded a gorgeous final view of Lake Michigan,
and changing planes in Minneapolis/St. Paul was a breeze.  The Delta waiting area was super cool, with little "pods" with charging stations for your phone and iPads to use for free.  The gate attendant was very nice and helped me change seats to get a window, once I told her that I write a travel blog and like to take pictures out the window.  Sweet!  It was a scenic lift-off, out of MSP,
followed by an anti-climactic descent (scenery wise, anyway) into Los Angeles.  The gal next to me, who had never been to LA before, asked me "Where's the foliage"?.  She's got a point there.
But God Bless LA.  The landing may not be so pretty, but it's quite lovely once you get here.  And for sure it's "Home, Sweet Home". 

So this was a super long post, and if you hung in there all the way, you are particularly awesome!! And I'm pretty sure there's a trip right around the corner, so stay tuned for what happens next.

Sweet dreams to all,  and thanks for following.......

xoxo Linda