Tag Archives: Alexandra Heard

hollywood holidays ©alexashersears

Growing up, it always felt like the holidays arrived in Los Angeles like any other city. Except they didn’t. In this almost seasonless town, we have to work to make the change of season apparent. Fortunately, this place enjoys a little dramatic flair and has no issues with a bit of cosmetic work.

There will be ice rinks when it is is 80 degrees. There will be snow falling while you’re holiday shopping. There will be halls decked and trees trimmed. All in Tinseltown will be calm and all will be bright.

From the time I was a little girl, the season was marked with certain traditions. The tree went up on the Capitol Records building. The fake snow (magical, wonderful, horrible, plasticky stuff) fell from the top of the Regent Beverly Wilshire when we went for Christmas carols and high tea. And at home, the holiday music played from just after Thanksgiving until New Year’s.

The Reg Bev Wil has changed owners, but the Capitol Records tree still shines bright. And the music, to this very day, the music just does something spectacular. And it gets better with time.

When I hear The Beach Boys “The Man With All The Toys,” I’m eight years old again, in the passenger seat of my dad’s little Alfa Romeo. It was more of a weekend car, what my sister and I would jokingly call a selfish car because only one other person could be with him in it. Oh, how we fought for that passenger seat. It made my mother nuts. He got a four seater Mustang soon after.

Driving down Wilshire – Beverly Hills bedecked and bedazzled for the holidays – the Alfa’s top down and the sun shining, and me, dad and The Beach Boys singing in harmony? That’s the holidays. There would be snow come actual Christmas, as we headed up to the mountains, but for the majority of the holiday season as I lived it, it was about 68 degrees with clear skies. And the music was always fabulous.

Like a family recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing, for each of us there is a version of a classic Christmas song that we hold dear. One that feels like home. One that sounds like the holidays. For me, “White Christmas” has to be by Otis Redding. And “Winter Wonderland”? Aretha. Totally. And sometimes we make room for new recipes. For years I loved the Harry Connick, Jr. version of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”, but now I’m pretty smitten with Rufus Wainwright’s take on it. And I’ve been listening to Sarah MacLachlan’s version of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas.”

When asked what my top FIVE holiday songs were, these came to mind, though I have another dozen that didn’t make the cut. And then there are the ones I simply like. It’s a lot of music in one short month, I tell ya.

Since it’s the season for sharing, press play (below) and enjoy a few of my favorite things. Grab some tea/cocoa/wine and cookies and enjoy. (If you don’t already have a Spotify account, a basic one is free – check it out.)

But first, five great things someone else said about the power of music:

Sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time. – Nick Hornby

Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. – Plato

There is no feeling, except the extremes of fear and grief, that does not find relief in music. – George Eliot

No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious & charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful. – Kurt Vonnegut

If you cannot teach me to fly, teach me to sing. – J.M. Barrie

 

Mama’s Losin’ It

The traffic in LA in the last couple of years seems to have made all previous traffic seem like a walk in the park. Or smooth sailing down an empty highway.

But this year, I don’t know why, it feels like it’s imploded. Traffic is everywhere at every hour. And on Saturday night, I felt like I was previewing a glimpse what the city would be like in a major crisis (and a particularly unattractive glimpse it was) as they closed part of the 405 (again) for paving, and then decided that since they had all those trucks and orange signs and all that tar, why not be thrifty and also pave one of the main boulevards people could be using to get around the freeway shutdown. On. A Saturday. Night.

I don’t care where you live. If you drive or ride shotgun. Traffic can make all of us ragey or it can force us (force us) to take a Zen approach and be content with being someone going nowhere.

And now I’d like to imagine that one day, sitting in traffic on the 405 or the 101 or the stuck in the canyons (cue The Californians…), I might look over and see a group of people in a van, playing instruments and singing. Like these guys.

My cousin sent me a YouTube of a song to listen to today. Not that one. Or the one after this. Totally unrelated. But after the song she sent, I noticed a picture in the righthand sidebar – this postage stamp-sized picture of what looked like musicians cramped into a car singing. And it was. The “Van Sessions.”

The band is called Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, “a rock/country/soul band from San Francisco with a busy touring schedule. Between gigs they pass the time by playing cover songs in their van, recording them with an iPhone and posting them online for fun. They do, indeed, wear their seatbelts.”

And I kept clicking and listening to songs from my childhood – Madonna, Whitney Houston, George Michael – they even cover Dirty Dancing territory, guys. Now I want to imagine that even though they’re carpooling it in the Bay Area and know a traffic very different from our own, that perhaps we in LA can learn a lesson or two about what can be done with all of this gridlock.

Being someone going nowhere – with a kazoo.

Time to start a band. Or just listen to one. (One that just happens to be starting their California Album Tour this week – only connect, right?)