May is a beautiful month in Los Angeles. The weather begins to get warmer, the air becomes to clear up, and the purple jacaranda trees begin to bloom. All these other seasons, these trees were there, just there. Standing high, with their branches facing the prussian blue sky. Yet, they are noticed only when they bloom and those lightly fragrant, trumpet shaped purple jacarandas cover the path you walk everyday to work or to buy groceries.
“The hills are alive with the sound of music...”
The Hollywood Bowl, situated in the Hollywood hills of Los Angeles is truly iconic. Being the largest amphitheater in the United States with a seating capacity of 18,000, the Bowl has witnessed many stellar performances ever since its inception in 1922. The area around the Bowl hosts picnic spots where music enthusiasts can bring wine and food and dine and make merry. I love going to the Bowl for a variety of reasons but today I am going to focus on discipline.
In India we have a screwed up sense of discipline. It’s fashionable to be late. If you walk in to an appointment half an hour later, you are considered to be an important person. In America, you can’t afford to be late. It might cost you a job, security, and most of all, credibility.
I am always amazed at the discipline exhibited at the Bowl. The outdoor summer concerts begin at 8 p.m and you can fix your watch on the basis of this because rest assured they would begin exactly at 8. The people are seated in their designated seats. At the last classical concert I went to, there were two rows of seats empty before me. In India, people would scamper up from the seats behind and move forward. Here no one does that. People sat huddled together in their seats, without an inch of space to move or croon their neck but this did not cause them to move ahead.
Every concert begins with the US national anthem. You will witness 18,000 people rising on their feet with great patriotism looking ahead eagerly at the American flag. I remember, in India, we had to be told “please stand up for the national anthem” before you got at least 50% of the crowd to stand up. The rest 50% just didn’t care.
The Bowl concerts are great fun because they let you bring in drinks and food. Unlike in India, however, people hardly litter or cause disturbance to their neighbors while eating. People don’t talk; their phones are silenced or switched off. People in big groups are mindful of the neighbors. When the concert begins, there is silence that prevails.
The kids need a special mention. Here, I’ve seen 4-5 year olds attentively listening to Dudamel conduct Tchaikovsky, without complaining or being bored. The West inculcates in children an aptitude for art, music, and the real good things in life. My mother used to attend a lot of Carnatic music concerts while I was growing up. I remember the tantrums I threw to escape being pulled along for a concert!
All this suggests a great sense of discipline among the Bowl goers. People stand in queues, they are mindful of other people, they respect each other and they are all here for a collective cause- to listen to some great music. Discipline need not always be seen as conformity, obeying the rules. In the case of the Bowl, discipline can be seen as respect for the higher form of music, the music being the end all of everything, even greater than the musician itself. Respect the music because that’s what you are truly there for.
Every summer, I hibernate. It's a ritual I religiously follow, especially after I moved to Los Angeles, a way of putting down the weight of all that goes by in Fall and Spring. Summer offers me two wonderful months of just being with myself. It provides a way to reenergize, restore calmness, and re-find myself. This summer was not much different. I hibernated and ruminated. Mulling over a couple of things while making a meal or two can be exhilaratingly liberating. It's a liberty I don't often find in my otherwise busy PhD routine. During summer, there is no real need to socialize. This frees up my mind to wander sporadically, which is otherwise cluttered with conversations and useless, troublesome worries.
Summer is also the perfect time to enjoy some good Californian and Italian wine. This summer is dedicated to Bella Sera. She is a beauty! The Bella Sera Pinot Grigio floats down your throat with ease. The grapes come from the Veneto region of Northeast Italy. The wine is crisp and refreshing with citrus aromas and flavors of ripe apple and pear. So flavorful and pairs well with pastas, fresh vegetables, and chicken. Moreover, I never thought there was something called budget wine, till I met Bella. It’s definitely the best under $10 wine you can pick!
Traveling is an essential part of summer, especially the Californian summer! This summer I did a road trip with a couple of friends. We decided to drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, from Los Angeles all the way up to San Francisco with pit stops in Solvang, Carmel, and Monterey.
Solvang is a quaint Danish town in Santa Barbara county. The drive to Solvang is beautiful on a perfect summer day. The white cumulous nimbus clouds hang over the brownish green dunes and hills. Cows graze along the fields and the bright sun looks over the horizon shining in all its glory. This is where you want to lose yourself. As a dear friend of mine would say, go lie down on the green fields, read a book, and take a nap under the vastness of the universe. To commune with nature as the Pantheists so delightfully wrote about in their Romantic verses is bliss. In todays busy world not many of us are lucky enough to take time off for such a rediscovery.
After reenergizing ourselves with some pancakes and sleep, we left for the longest leg of our journey- from Solvang to Carmel through San Louis Obispo country and Big Sur. The beauty of the Pacific cannot be described in words. The California 1 a.k.a the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is one of the most scenic routes to travel upon. For countless miles, you drive along the PCH overlooking the majestic Pacific. She lies in all her azure elegance. Yet another way of ruminating and rediscovering myself.
After hours of driving, we finally reached Big Sur. The 90 miles of Central California coastline known as Big Sur, midway between Santa Cruz and Santa Barbara, extending inland to the abruptly rising Santa Lucia Mountains, has inspired writings by Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac, photographs by Ansel Adams and music from sources as varied as John Adams and the Beach Boys. The magnificence of this place moves you. We got caught in a traffic jam induced by an accident and therefore had all the time to soak in the true brilliance. When we finally reached Carmel, it was evening.
Carmel is a small beach town in Central California. We hogged on some Mediterranean food and then drove to our destination for the night, Pacific Grove. The next day morning, we got ourselves some bikes and we biked along the PCH- from Pacific Grove to Asilomar state beach. The weather was exquisite. To bike along the water and truly take in the fresh air was truly breathtaking.
The road trip ended with our final leg to San Francisco where the highlight was kite flying! On our way back, all of us though tired felt a sense of rediscovery. To truly feel alive, you need to go out and breathe the air, feel one with nature.
Summer has almost come to an end, but I’m now geared up for the next school season. Fall and Spring will feel much lighter now that the batteries have been recharged. Though of course, I can’t help wait for the next summer already ;)
The warmth of the air rubbing against their pain-stricken faces did not stop them from speeding down the freeway carefree, like furtive lovers away to a hideout. She looked at him longingly. Age did not show on his face, yet there was something about him so distant as if he had lived 200 years and he continued to tell the tradition. He was a careful driver, forever cautious at the wheel. She could see the strained muscles at the nape of his neck, the tight clench of his fists at the steering wheel. She paused for a moment before she turned to gaze out of the window. There are moments and when they are lost you wait for them to come back much alike waiting for cherry blossoms to bloom. Cranberries played at the backdrop, it was one of the CDs they kept listening to. They hummed along. It would take them another hour to reach their destination. In that one hour they would travel time, travel the boundaries mediated by time and space, go beyond words, traverse finite feelings and myriad beings. There would be moments when he would become her and she would become him and both of them become no more.