Notable People I Have Met ~ Part Eight



Carlos Vega ~ drummer







CarlosVega is perhaps best known as the drummer who played with James Taylor for about 13 years. Among musicians, he was known as a premier recording session drummer, having played with the best session musicians on albums for many of the most popular artists.



Click on this link for his biography.

Click on this link for his drum solo video.

   Carlos was about 19 years old when I played my first gig with him. It was about 1976 and we were playing for a private party at the legendary Hollywood restaurant, Ma Maison, a favorite celebrity hangout.

   I was a guitar player and singer in a quartet called The Entertainers that was often booked at upscale locales for a very wealthy clientele. We played with a variety of drummers, including the legendary Ralph Humphrey who played with Frank Zappa and just about everybody else in the upper crust of musicians.

   When Ralph was unable to do the Ma Maison gig with us, he recommended young Carlos Vega, who was already making a name for himself by playing gigs with famous jazz players such as Freddie Hubbard.

   We were blown away by his remarkable balance between technical virtuosity and natural feeling. He was always right in the pocket, deep in the groove. I played with a variety of musicians during my fifteen years of gigs and recording sessions before changing careers, but I’d never met a young man so gifted and yet so humble about his talents. He was incredibly polite, 
the kind of young man you’d want to bring home to meet your sister.

   Carlos was a joyful soul on the brink of a great career. Sadly, he committed suicide in 1998 at age 41. I am so glad our paths crossed, and so sorry he left this world too soon. I will always think of him as the eager young musician I knew, with so many great years ahead.





~ to be continued

Notable People I Have Met ~ Part Two



Ray Bradbury


Bradbury at Fowler Brothers bookstore in 1975

I was lucky to have met Ray Bradbury on several different occasions through the years, at book signings and talks.


The first time was July 16th, 1975, at Fowler Brothers bookstore in downtown Los Angeles where he was signing books. My wife and I happened to see a small notice of the event in the newspaper, but it was poorly publicized and we were just about the only ones there.



He agreed to the book signing for sentimental reasons. The bookstore was where he'd met his wife, Maggie, in 1946. She was a knowledgeable salesclerk, according to Bradbury, quoted in a Los Angeles Times story: "There are not that many bookstores left where you are going to get that kind of service or that kind of intellect." Sadly, the store closed in 1994.

He signed a few books for mesome old editions from home, and some new books which I purchased at the store. Perhaps because there was no one there except my wife and I, he took the time to write personalized messages in each book. In my copy of "Dandelion Wine" he wrote: "To Russ ~ Good wishes from the boy who became the man who made this wine.”

I asked if I could photograph him and he said yes, explaining that years ago when he'd met philosopher and writer Bertrand Russell he wished he'd taken his photo. I timidly took a few photos using my terrible Kodak 110 camera.

The last time I saw Ray Bradbury was in October 2000, at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena. My wife and I were browsing when we heard his unmistakable, enthusiastic voice. He was looking at a display of Halloween gifts, shopping for his grandchildren. I walked over to him and said, "My goodness, it’s the father of Halloween, shopping for Halloween gifts." (He's author of the novel, “The Halloween Tree.”) It was like finding Charles Dickens shopping for Christmas gifts.

He was very friendly, seemingly glad to be recognized, and a bit frail, walking with a cane. He showed me his tie, emblazoned with small pumpkins on a black background. A young female bookstore employee was helping him reach some of the gifts, but she seemed impatient. She asked if he wanted to purchase any books and he said: "No, I've got plenty of books. You know, I've written quite a few of the books you have here on your bookshelves." She didn't know.

Have you read Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine"? It begins with an ode to the beginning of summer, seen through the eyes of youth. The copy he signed for me will always be one of my most treasured possessions. Although Ray Bradbury is known for science fiction, "Dandelion Wine" is not really a science fiction book. It's a deeply felt chronicle of his own youth, seen through the eyes of a boy who begins the summer with a revelation: He’s alive, really alive! What follows is a series of awakenings and realizations in rural Green Town, a magical small town based on Waukegan, Illinois, where Bradbury was born.

Bradbury is a writer who, like Steinbeck, sees everything through a magnifying glass; sometimes through a microscope. Like all the best writers, he teaches his readers how to see, how to think. “Dandelion Wine” taught me so many things when I was first coming of age. His stories remind me of the stories told by my own beloved grandparents, lessons from another place and time, where people are thoughtful and kind by nature. Home.

~Ray Bradbury died June 5, 2012, at age 91


~ story and photo by Russ Allison Loar

© All Rights Reserved




Fever




I was about 12 years old and my fever kept rising.


I suppose it was a bad case of the flu. I can’t remember precisely. It may have been mononucleosis. As my temperature rose unchecked, I slipped into a place between life and death, a hallucinatory place. There before me was an immense stone floating impossibly in the air.
After all these years I still have a precise memory of that vision. It was a message that took me many years to understand, something hard to put into words, something about faith, something about a spiritual place, an eternal place where the normal laws of physics do not apply.
A few years ago I put my vision into a poem.

There is wildness here,
Raw and raging
Beneath this exterior,
Pulsing.

There are visions here
Of soaring over lifetimes of leaf-filled trees
And rust-colored hills,
Over yellow fields,
Over oceans.

There is forgetting here
Of the small things people say,
The small things people do.

There is a last angry echo
Of the unheard voice,
The deeper self,
The truer self,
The wilder self
That wearies of all man-made things.

There is a silence here
That grows and infuses,
Like the melancholy tint
Of an old photograph,
An old photograph you walk around in,
Examining with wonder the frozen, yet flowing
Moments of a life.

There is a wildness here
That rises like an immense stone,
Floating impossibly
In the pure blue sky
Of a secret spring.





~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Castle in the Pyrenees by René Magritte
© All Rights Reserved

You Are Here



You are here.

         I am here.

I am writing this for you to read. How do you like it so far? Not too interesting, eh? Well, you see, there’s a very important theory behind this rather unorthodox way of beginning a . . . of beginning a . . . of beginning this. You see, blah blah, blah and et cetera ad infinitum. (Imagine a long-winded, deeply serious lecture, punctuated with those very special words that immediately give you the impression the speaker is indeed much more learned, articulate and insightful than you, humble reader, could ever be.)

 Excuse me for a minute, I have to get something from the attic.

          [Time passes.]

          {Back again.}

 Thanks for waiting.

          I had to go look for this book on various schools of literary criticism, because I was going to look up a suitable word to brandish in my discussion of  just what in the hell it is I’m doing here. But it seems I’ve brought down the wrong book. You see, I keep all my books on literary criticism packed in boxes up in my attic. I find the chore of writing more relaxing this way. 

Anyway, the word I was looking for was mimetic—an all-time favorite with those who would rather discuss reading than read—but I’ve got the wrong book. Please excuse me for another moment because I must take this book back to the attic, for in browsing through its index, I stumbled upon the entry: “Neo-Platonism,” and it’s making me queasy. I’ll be right back. 

[More time passes.] 

{Back again.} 

Sorry I took so long, but I couldn’t find what I was looking for, and because I am a bit obsessive-compulsive, I nearly got sucked into cleaning my carpets because the steam cleaner is also in the attic, near my box of books on literary theory. 

I do get distracted by the ephemera of everyday life. In fact, I’ve spent the last few years on preparations alone, laying the groundwork for some really serious and incredibly important writing. 

First, I had to buy a computer because the writing machine I purchased shortly after the age of reptiles required cranking by way of foot pedals. Then there was the moving. I had to move to a more literary city where I was less likely to have neighbors who rebuilt 55 Chevys in their garages late into the night. And you know what a time-consuming task moving can be. It was. Only last week did I finally finish decorating my den slash office. And then there were those photo albums I’d always meant to organize. And so forth. 

You get the idea. 

So anyway, I was about to explain that this rather freeform manner in which I am writing is actually based on my experiences in graduate school. I learned that one can invent a plausible literary theory for  anything. For example, Hamlet is really a dog afraid to bite his evil master. Bad Hamlet! Bad, bad Hamlet! 

            It’s not that I believe that traditional storytelling is that passé. I love a good story, especially when it has the word “that” in it a lot. I myself have many ideas for stories, like the one about how Mozart is reincarnated into the 1970s as a slovenly piano player in a suburban steak house. He can play pretty well, but this time around he attracts more flies than attention. 

But the minute you (I) start writing a story like that, you’re just (I’m just) chained to this traditional structure of character and plot development and so on and so forth, until you just think (I just think), “Why bother?” Because in the end, it’s just another gimmicky story of the type that one sells to the movies (Make me an offer!). Where’s the fun in that? 

Huh? 

[Insert interjection here.] 

So if one (Don’t worry, I’m not going to do this anymore, after this one last time.) does not engage in storytelling, then what is the point? And there (here) we have arrived at the crux of the issue (Sorry, I could not resist one last parenthetical. But then, you had to know it was coming, didn’t you?). 

Was it not some philosopher employed by the Hallmark greeting card company who once wrote, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey.”? Or is this just an excuse to demonstrate the use of punctuation outside quotation marks, since the question mark in question would alter the original intention of the quoted material if placed within the close-quote marks? (Take that you funky wagnalls.) 

        Which reminds me of a story: 

        Once upon a time, there was a little brown mouse with tiny black eyes who was very, very hungry. He was searching for something to eat in old Mr. Shimelplatzer’s house when he happened upon a bottle of Minoxidil. Old Mr. Shimelplatzer was trying to grow some new hair. The little brown mouse with the tiny black eyes pushed the plastic bottle off the bathroom counter falling to the floor cap flying contents oozing puddle. 

        The little brown mouse with the tiny black eyes scampered over to the towel rack, lowered himself paw-over-paw down the bath towel and tiptoed across the throw rug, leaping over the bathroom scale to inspect the strange-smelling pool of liquid. After the little brown mouse with the tiny black eyes licked it all up, he awakened the next morning to find himself transformed into a super-steroid, red-eyed, 23-foot monster mouse. He subsequently killed a lot of slow-moving  senior citizens before being blown up with microwave radiation by the National Guard. 

        Excuse me for just a moment.

        [A brief interlude, passes.] 

        I had to open the door of my den slash office for Inky, my swaybellied black cat who spends many long hours in the faded adobe-colored recliner where I once spent many long hours writing something I called poetry. Inky will not stop meowing at my door until I let her in, then she meows at me for a minute or two before settling in on the seat of the well-worn recliner, where I once spent many long hours writing something I called poetry. 

        Ah yes, sigh, those heady, ennui-filled days of youth. Now, I sit wearily on this adjustable office chair and type assorted letters into this computer that appear before me on this screen where they line up to become words and sentences, where they all gather together to do this funny little dance called, “Pretending To Matter.”



~ Text and artwork by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved