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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Farewell to Jorge Mester

My friend and I had dinner at a great café in Echo Park before attending a Symphony at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. The surprise of the evening came when Jorge Mester announced that he was retiring and the performance we were attending was his last. It saddened me to see such a talented man retire. I must admit that I don’t know much about music, and basically listen to what I like. I don’t really care if something is popular or not, and I have never been one to follow trends. But to me, Jorge Mester has always been an amazing man. The first time I listened to him conduct a piano concerto, I knew how lucky I was to be in the presence of such a wonderful, energetic person with a great sense of humor and a deep passion for his work. As his orchestra followed his leadership, the music created touched me to the core.

On his last night, Jennifer Frautschi played the violin flawlessly, and later came back out after an standing ovation to talk to the crowd about her wonderful experiences as a child and how Mr. Mester had never given up on her and had kept inviting her back as she improved after each performance.

For me, it was tough to see Jorge Mester go as his colleagues showered him with flowers, champagne and gifts. But it was even tougher for his orchestra to say farewell as one of the performers read a letter addressed to him out loud with teary eyes and a lump in her voice. Yes, indeed the Pasadena Symphony will never be the same without him. The next conductor who replaces Jorge Mester will have to fill up a pretty big pair of shoes. I do not envy him or her. Here are some pictures of the memorable night.

We started at Masa, a bakery and café in Echo Park with great panini sandwiches and pizzas and a warm ambiance.

It’s still early and not all tables are filled. If you plan to go there, get there early or expect to wait a long time!

Their speciality: chocolate Bread pudding not to be missed because no other place makes it like here. Sorry, this picture doesn’t do it justice. The taste is absolutely extraordinary.

We left stuffed. This is the pix of the outside – low key but absolutely one of my favorite places.

We arrived at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, a beautiful piece of architecture with many intricate details which my old cell phone fails to capture.

Inside the auditorium, doors open, inviting the guests in. A raffle was going on for a Harry Winston watch. I almost bought a ticket but the cost of the raffle, a whopping $100 bucks, stopped me. I’m not a gambler nor do I need a $27,000 watch. If the ticket was $20, I may have bought one. And if I had won, I would've sold the watch and used a portion of the money to help out a friend of mine whose been having some bad luck and has been in a really terrible mood lately.

A blurry photo of the ceiling. You would think I would be able to take a good picture of something that’s not moving but then again I never said I was good at photography :)

Inside the Auditorium, getting ready to perform

The spunky Jorge Mester conducting

Flowers and gifts for Jorge Mester

Hugs and farewells…ahhh…so sad…

The Crowd leaving. There were young people there as well, even though my camera manages to capture mostly the mature audience.

People hanging in the lobby and a long bathroom line for the ladies at the end of the hall.

We’re outside and off to our car.

No limo for us! But they were picking up a group. I think there was a prom going on in the building behind the limo because when we first arrived, girls were dressed in sexy gowns and boys in their suits. So cute!

And the end...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Me Generation

Photographer: Salvatore Vuono

If you’re going to have a heart attack, don’t do it while walking in LA. Of course this is a ridiculous statement because no one “plans” on having a heart attack. But the reality of it is that Angelenos living on the Westside don’t give a s--- about anyone except themselves, their looks, money, clothes and their cars.

So, why am I so cynical? May be because I’m upset about what happened on Mother’s day. Unlike the importance of Mother’s Day to so many, for me it’s meaningless because I have to take care of my mom everyday and I have to put in 100 times more of an effort caring for her than the average person. Nevertheless, I did take out my mom to a brunch and bought her gifts. Unfortunately on the way back, my car went dead on a busy street. I put on my hazard lights and tried to call AAA but all I got was a recording that said wait. Cars passed by and went around me but no one offered to help. One man offered his help but the cars behind him all started honking their loud horns, so he gave up and left.

I put my car in neutral and started pushing it to get it out of the way, but wasn’t successful because I needed someone to steer. My mom couldn’t help because she’s not in the best of health. The Police finally arrived. He wasn’t all that bright. He was tall and bony. I was staring at him thinking if I can easily punch this guy and knock him down, what would a criminal do to him? Honestly, why would the police department hire someone so inept?

Anyhow, he wanted to impound my car. I wanted to yell, “you idiot” but knew very well that I couldn’t. “My car is a stick shift and I just need help to get it out of the way.”

He says, “It doesn’t matter. I have to have it towed to one of our places. You’re blocking traffic on a busy street.”

Daahhh…you think? I wanted to say. “I just need someone to steer or push my car so that I can move it out of the way of traffic.

He looks at me dumfounded and says, “You want me to push your car?”

I wanted to be sarcastic and say, “Yes, that’s the idea you moron!!” But instead I just nodded and he starts pushing my car before I had a chance to sit in it and steer. I run after the car, jump in and the idiot yelled brake…brake. I ignored his stupid comment as I steered my car onto a side street and park in a 2 hour parking zone.

The idiot came by and said, “Oh, I see what you were doing. You wanted to park here?” All I could manage was a simple “yes,” because what do you say to a scarecrow? I mean if you were blocking traffic and had a stick shift, what would be the first thing that come to your mind? Get the f---- out of the way; right?

Anyway, to make a very long day short, I was never able to get ahold of AAA who has no problem charging me their yearly dues but fails to provide a service. Luckily, I was near a hotel and ended up abandoning my car and taking a taxi home. The police department threatened to impound my car if I didn’t move it come morning. Helpful; aren’t they?

By midnight I had managed to take care of everything myself, but I was so stressed out that the next day I woke up with a migraine and was sick all day, not because of all the car problems but because of lack of compassion in people. I have always been very independent, and where most people disappear at the first hint of problems, I have taken on many responsibilities. So, I’m not one of those damsels in stress, but I can’t help but compare the way I treat strangers and the way they treat me. Granted, there are good people in this world but they are a rare breed. As each day passes us by, we are moving toward a more callous and unfeeling society.

I was reading an article the other day about this Good Samaritan in New York who noticed a man attacking a woman. He went to her rescue. The attacker stabbed him in the torso with a knife and took off. After chasing his assailant, the man collapses to the ground as pedestrians walked on by, watching him lay in a pool of blood. The woman he had helped save had abandoned him as well. An hour passed by and no one lifted a finger to help until someone decided to call 911. By the time the Good Samaritan got help, he was dead. So, are people just “indifferent” or is that thought process too simplified?

I believe that we are all trapped in The Me Generation. What’s in it for me…me…me…me. There’s no sense of responsibility whatsoever. I mean the younger generation yells, save the environment, go green or save the economy or help change politics but the bottom line is many are only worried about their own pockets and futures. And it is true that people are all busy running around and don’t have a lot of time to assist everybody but there are many times when they do have the time but they don’t help.

My car broke down on a Sunday – a day when the sun was shinning brightly and people were more relaxed and had the time to help. They all saw me pushing my car by myself and not one pedestrian or one driver came by to say, “here, let me help push it with you or at least say “here, I will steer and you push.” Lucky for me, the incident wasn’t that grave and I was able to take care of it myself. But what if something much more serious had happened like what happened to that Good Samaritan from New York? Would anyone reach out to help? I doubt it. I have helped many on the streets of Los Angeles and during my travels while others casually looked over and passed on by. Which brings me to my first point: If you’re going to have a heart attack, don’t do it while walking in LA or perhaps anywhere else in a big city because nobody gives a s---.