One week back and we're just about over our jet-lag and settled in our apartment - and its one bathroom (sob). The US vacation memories are starting to fade quickly, so I figured I better get this down before it's all a blur of redwoods and Menchies (two highlights of our trip).
My visits to California always include an afternoon at LACMA, of which I have fond memories from when I was a child (when the grounds, kids' activities and film series were arguably better than the art). I'm gratified that my own children actually like going there, especially to see Jeff Koons' giant balloon dog and his sculpture of Michael Jackson & Bubbles.
So I figured a visit to the Tim Burton retrospective would be fun for the whole family. I don't know why I somehow blanked that much of Burton's work is dark, dark, dark and actually might be scary to a six year-old or a ten-year old (or their mother). The exhibit consists of hundreds of examples of Burtons's drawings & storyboards, as well as video showings of his short films and models, puppets & costumes from his various projects.
Both the kids had recently seen Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" so they were somehwhat familiar with his world and they dug the puppets and models. But many of Burton's images can be quite disturbing and at times I found myself literally being dragged by a small child past entire walls of drawings and paintings to get to the next section.
What I retained from the exhibit is that from very early on Burton had a singular style and vision which he has somehow managed to pursue without being watered down by Hollywood, an amazing achievement in itself whether or not you respond to his alienated, melancholy heroes and horror-fun-house visuals. Personally, I often find his work - especially the earlier stuff - funny and touching, but you couldn't pay me to be in his head for five minutes.
The second show I saw was actually a live comedy show co-hosted by Chis Mancini of the Comedy Film Nerds Podcast. As my family can attest, I have become somewhat of a podcast whore and my kids have gotten used to waving their arms in front of me to get my attention since I walk around with headphones on most of the time. As many of my favorites are hosted by comedians, I was hoping to catch a live show or two when I was in LA.
However, once I got there, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that I am too old to be frequenting comedy clubs, a sentiment reinforced by the fact that I crashed out at 10 pm every night. So when I heard that Chris Mancini was hosting this show to benefit a pre-school near my mom's house (and that it was starting at 8 pm), I figured that might be about my speed.
I dragged my sister J along to the venue (a church community center) so I wouldn't seem like a total dork and had the pleasure of meeting Chris in person (humble brag: this blog has actually gotten a shout-out on his show and whether or not he knew who I was, he acted like he did).
The performers were a mix of comedians and writers and as the theme was Young and Old, there was a lot of talk about parents, kids, getting older and looking back, all of which I can relate to. I admit it felt good to be laughing and nodding along with my sister in a group of people sharing the experience - something podcasts obviously can't replicate. So maybe my next visit I will actually get up the guts to venture back to a club or theater. As long as its an early show.
My most unexpected cultural experience in LA came following a call to my cousin Crescent (the" cool one" in our family as I was growing up. Example: she named herself Crescent). My sister A and I had called her to see if she wanted to join us for a yoga class, but she came back with a counter-offer: go hear a talk about oral sex at the Pleasure Chest, a sex shop in West Hollywood. (Dad, if you're reading this, stop now.)
This may or may not shock a lot of people, but I had never been to a sex shop before. I guess I always imagined them kind of trashy and sordid and filled with creepy guys who might get a little too close when browsing the aisles. But the Pleasure Chest is bright and clean and gives off more of a comic book or video store vibe - a place where people who like a certain form of entertainment (SEX!) can find something to make their (SEX!) lives a little more fun.
The choice is vast and ranges from the comical to the kinky, and there were far more women and couples there than creepy guys (in fact, I don't think I saw any). The talk was given by self-titled Sex Nerd Sandra, who I coincidentally had already read on the Nerdist site, a companion to the Nerdist podcast, which I greatly enjoy (despite being light-years away from their usual demographic, I suspect).
Sandra's lecture was informative, honest, filled with good-humor and included quite a lot of audience interaction (verbal, not physical, in case you're wondering). Besides the novelty of being at a sex talk with my sister and cousin, I learned a few new techniques (the "pepper grinder"! the "beer-can tip"! the "baby push"!) I will not be so indiscreet as to say which ones I tried out at home, but the talk did not go to waste.
What I came away with most from the evening was not a bunch of new toys, but Sandra's insistence that talking openly about sex with your partner is the key to mutually assured satisfaction. Sandra has a new podcast (for info go to her blog, sexnerdsandra.com), which are live recordings of the sex education talks she gives. So if you're curious, check it out - No Judgements, as Sandra would say.
Hope all of you had a great summer. Any experiences to share or recommendations to make? What fall movies and tv shows are you looking forward to most? Comment away...