Pimlico

Honeymoon-England-London2-WEBIt’s good to have friends. While on our European Honeymoon my new bride Chelsea and I were especially grateful to have friends in London. With a posh flat in Pimlico.
Near the river Thames and one block from a tube station.
On one of the most convenient subway lines in town.
Lucky.

Chelsea plays on the stairs at a riverside park in London

Chelsea plays on the stairs at a riverside park in London

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A reunion of Chelsea’s gang in Britain

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While there I met a number of her university chums and was welcomed warmly. We saw the typical stuff (a drink at a pub by Big Ben, The Buckingham Palace and gardens, stuff like that) and passed the iconic Battersea Power Station (seen in a shot in The Beatles’ 1965 movie Help!(“The Royal Fuse has just blown!”), in the video for the 1982 hit single “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” by Judas Priest and the cover art of Pink Floyd’s 1977 album Animals).

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The Battersea Power Station as seen from a passing train. This largest brick building in Europe is finally being preserved ,renovated and converted to a complex of shops, residences and parks.

Of course we went to a museum, I’m guessing you already figured that out from reading all these bits I put up about our journey this year. This time it was the Tate Modern in the former Bankside Power Station (we love those art deco monoliths, yes we do).
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My reflection in a Soviet propaganda poster at the Tate Modern Art Museum in London

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The astonishingly open space in the center of the Tate Modern building where the power equipment used to be

The astonishingly open space in the center of the Tate Modern building where the power equipment used to be

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By now you’ve probably grown bored by reading about our journey and perhaps you’ll soon glaze over as you would when great grand-dad pulls out his 50 year old 35mm slideshow of his trip to [insert boredtodeath location here] but I’ll sign off of the Honeymoon reflections here with one last bit.

Chelsea’s a born traveller, restless, inquisitive, well organized and willing to wrestle with the little things like schedules, transportation arrangements and suggested destinations that would drive me nuts. I am incredibly lucky that this woman married me and I’ll keep the memories of my first trip abroad with me forever. Thanks for your interest, friends, we’ll keep you posted as we travel about.
I’m gonna make some new music now. See ya next week.

Edinburgh Castle

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Inside what is quite possibly the world’s coolest Starbucks

From the day we first met to talk my wife has been talking about her experiences in Europe, and her university days in Scotland. One thing that kept coming up is that Edinburgh has the most awesome Starbucks in the world (that’s right, Starbucks) by virtue of it’s location looking toward Edinburgh Castle. Well during our honeymoon trip Chelsea made certain that we started our first day in Edinburgh with breakfast at that coffee house looking at the Castle we’d soon be exploring.

From its position on the Castle Rock the historic fortress dominates the Edinburgh skyline. There has been a castle on the rock since the 12th century and it was a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603.  It has been besieged, both successfully and unsuccessfully, on several occasions. With the exceptions of St Margaret’s Chapel from the early 12th century (the oldest building in Edinburgh) the Royal Palace and the early-16th-century Great Hall, the surviving buildings are from after the Lang Siege of the 16th century, when the medieval structures were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment. crown-jewels

We spent the better part of an appropriately rainy day exploring the Scottish National War Memorial, the National War Museum of Scotland and the very moving regimental museums that are in the castle, and also viewing a full-on description of the saga of the royal Scottish regalia, known as the Honours of Scotland (or Scottish Crown Jewels). These exhibits are complete with dioramas dramatising the key points during the honours history as they’ve been hidden and even lost over the course of their existence.

The lost Honours of Scotland are rediscovered in this diorama from the exhibit

The lost Honours of Scotland are rediscovered in this diorama from the exhibit

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I’m in one of the more modern jail cells in the Castle

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Clearly sleeping conditions in the vast damp stone castle were once quite spartan, like everything else in the tough austere reality that was and is Scotland.

The royal pet cemetery at the castle has one helluva view.

The royal pet cemetery at the castle has one helluva view.

Appropriately wet and thoroughly fascinated we explored the Edinburgh Castle

Appropriately wet and thoroughly fascinated we explored the Edinburgh Castle

Vigeland Park

Honeymoon-Statues-1c-WEBIt’s the world’s largest sculpture park consisting of the work of a single artist… 200 plus sculptures in bronze, granite and wrought iron: Gustav Vigeland’s lifework.
98-1He lived from 1869 until 1943, and it seems as if he spent the entire time sculpting. He was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.

In 1921: The Municipality of Oslo agreed to build a studio, residence and future museum for the artist and his work. In return Vigeland donated nearly all his works, previous and future, to the city. The artist also designed the architectural layout of the park which was completed between 1939 and 1949.

Showcasing a large body of work there are  peaceful and moving pieces throughout the park, while many others are quite bizarre and disturbing. This seems appropriate as it was Vigeland’s intention to reflect the human condition in the sculptures.

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The 46 foot tall monolith is surrounded by other sculptures including this one that depicts a child riding on a woman and using her braids as a bridle.

At the highest point in the park there’s a 46 foot high Monolith… 121 human figures form a pillar carved from a single piece of granite represent man’s desire to become close with the spiritual world. This and the Angry Boy sculpture are the most popular attractions in the park.

For some reason many visitors to the park want to be photographed while holding the Angry Boy statue’s hand, which has worn off the brownish green patina from the bronze and given Angry Boy a golden hand. This actually concerns the  staff of the museum as traces of Gustav Vigeland’s original modelling have disappeared from this behavior.

While the museum has stated (in typically polite Norwegian fashion),”We encourage the public to help us taking care of The Angry Boy by not touching his hand. Thank you for our co-operation”, it seems unlikely (to me at least) that this suggestion is likely to be taken seriously by the general tourist public.

The Angry Boy and his golden hand

The Angry Boy and his golden hand

Pole to Pole

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Seems my bride and I don’t travel to experience gourmet meals, raise heavenly bar bills or lay by the pool at some opulent hotel…from Bodie to Memphis, Reno to Oslo: it seems that what Chelsea and I like to do the most is… go to museums. Nerds together whatever the weather, I suppose, no wonder we get along.

The Fram (“Forward”) is a ship preserved at the Fram Museum in Oslo. She’s  sailed farther north (85°57′N) and farther south (78°41′S) than any other wooden ship. Used in expeditions of the Arctic and Antarctic regions by Norwegian explorers, she was built  for Fridtjof Nansen’s 1893 Arctic expedition in which she was supposed to end up surrounded by the Arctic ice sheet and float with it over the North Pole.  Locked in the ice, the Fram was carried for hundreds of miles over three years, and the course of her drift changed many times, but the ship never did get as close to the Pole as they had hoped – the northernmost point reached: 85° 57′ ̒N. Expedition leader Nansen realized that the Fram would not get as close to the North Pole as he had expected, so he and Hjalmar Johansen left the ship on March 14th 1895 and set out with three dog-drawn sledges in an attempt to make the Pole across the ice. They didn’t make it and had  to abandon the attempt on April 9th, setting  course for Franz Josef Land, where they were forced to spend the winter in a crude hut.

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The FRAM now sits complete in a museum built around her

In 1909 Robert E. Peary claimed to have reached the North Pole, and while Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had planned to try for the North Pole, this news filled Amundsen with a desire to make a bid for the South Pole instead. He did all the detailed planning himself taking great pains to keep his decision a secret, even from his crew.

While competing British explorer Robert Falcon Scott put his faith in “modern” motorized sledges and horses, Amundsen took 100 North Greenland sledge dogs—the best and strongest available. Besides their durability as pack animals, dogs could be fed to other dogs and could provide fresh meat for the men in the polar party. One of the  Scott’s motor sledges was lost during its unloading from his ship, breaking through the sea ice and sinking, and later when advised to kill ponies for food  Scott refused to do it. Fellow explorer Oates is reported as saying to him, “Sir, I’m afraid you’ll come to regret not taking my advice”, and in fact four ponies died during the journey either from the cold or because they slowed the team down and had to be shot.

Amundsen’s Norwegian experience with cold weather travel and his pragmatic common sense combined with a bit of luck allowed his team to reach their goal, while it seems that Scott’s reliance on machines and horses, and perhaps his headstrong British stubbornness, led his expedition to disaster.

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Chelsea on board the FRAM

 

 

The Fram Museum exhibits flesh out the story of these and other expeditions in great detail, and even more than that you can board the vessel and wander through most of her compartments and all of her deck, making the experience very immersive as you see the quarters, common areas, engine room and deck of the small vessel that men took such daring risks on.

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Vikings!

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Called one of the finest finds to have survived the Age of the Vikings, the Oseberg ship (or in Norwegian: Osebergskipet) is a remarkably well-preserved Viking ship discovered in a large burial mound at the Oseberg farm in Vestfold county, Norway. It was discovered and excavated from the largest known ship burial in the world by Norwegian archaeologist Haakon Shetelig and Swedish archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson in 1904-1905. It’s on display at the Viking Ship Museum located on the Bygdøy peninsula in Oslo.  The hall for the Oseberg ship was built and the ship was moved from University of Oslo shelters in 1926. The halls for the additional displays of Viking Ships ships found in Gokstad and Tune were completed in 1932.
Nearby are other museums, including the Kon-Tiki and Fram and the Norsk Folkemuseum. Bygdøy is largely a residential zone of upscale demographics and as you head to the museums you pass by The King’s Forest and the Bygdøy Royal Estate (which is the official summer residence of the King of Norway and protected from development).
My bride and I  visited this area while in Norway on our honeymoon and so, armed with a traditional Norwegian carryalong lunch of open-faced cheese and butter sandwiches (separated by wax paper), Chelsea and I set out for our day as museum nerds in  Bygdøy.
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I’m checking out this sled that was excavated from Viking burial mounds

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Actual surviving Viking boots!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at these artifacts it’s very striking what hearty folk these Vikings were, setting out on ocean voyages on such tiny spartan vessels. Norwegians in general are often taciturn people, not given to anything like the over-enthusiastic behavior of people here in Los Angeles. I’ve been told that they treasure solitude and that on a day-off hike in the woods it can ruin the entire experience for a Norwegian should they encounter another person. We were treated with such warmth in Oslo that the expected feeling of disorientation  I imagined before I got there never happened. I didn’t know the language and had never experienced such sustained sunlight, yet being there surrounded by my wife’s “second family” from her school days I felt at home almost immediately.

Summer is short in that part of the world, and in Oslo people waste no time in celebrating the warm weather. The country is beautiful, and the city of Oslo, for example, has made two-thirds of it’s forests, hills and lakes protected areas giving it an airy and green appearance. The hilltops surrounding the city are free of development so from anywhere in town you can see the trees. As the days grow shorter and winter (such as it is) starts to grow closer in Southern California I am remembering the long days and virtually non-existant nights in Norway this last spring, where the sun just barely set, darkness never completely fell and everything I saw was totally new to me.

The sun sets outside the Oslo Opera house where we saw a performance of Swan Lake

The sun sets outside the Oslo Opera house where we saw a performance of Swan Lake

The Oslo Love Locks Bridge

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The river Akerselva is the main supply of drinking water for the city of Oslo. It’s the “vein of the city”, running through the city’s most populated areas and ending in the Oslo Fjord. It’s a beautiful area to walk through, as I did with my new bride Chelsea as my guide when we were there celebrating our honeymoon this last spring.
Honeymoon-Oslo-BridgeOfLocks1-WEBAs the riverwalk passes the Oslo Art College there’s a footbridge where folks have followed the European custom that seems to have taken hold this century, leaving “love locks” behind to mark their relationships. Word is that this practice started in Rome Italy around 2000 on the Milvian bridge over the Tiber, and it has spread throughout Europe.

Actually, according to the wikipedia, the practice,”dates back at least 100 years to a melancholy Serbian tale of World War I, with an attribution for the bridge Most Ljubavi (lit. the Bridge of Love) in spa town of Vrnjačka Banja. A local schoolmistress named Nada, who was from Vrnjačka Banja, fell in love with a Serbian officer named Relja. After they committed to each other Relja went to war in Greece where he fell in love with a local woman from Corfu. As a consequence, Relja and Nada broke off their engagement. Nada never recovered from that devastating blow, and after some time she died due to heartbreak from her unfortunate love. As young women from Vrnjačka Banja wanted to protect their own loves, they started writing down their names, with the names of their loved ones, on padlocks and affixing them to the railings of the bridge where Nada and Relja used to meet”

All one has to do is google “love locks” to discover an immense number of pics which show bridges and other public areas completely inundated with padlocks left by lovers, some custom made or lovingly engraved.

When Chelsea came across this sight on one of our evening Oslo riverwalks she was captivated by the idea and soon we returned to the bridge where my bride, who dearly loves to make a plan and carry it out, placed her own lock among the other celebrations of romance.Honeymoon-Oslo-BridgeOfLocks2-WEB

 

The Clive Kennedy Band

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The Clive Kennedy Band performed live on the DC LIVE podcast this week

Regular followers of this blog are probably already aware that I’ve been performing with my friend Clive Kennedy on and off for many years now. We’ve been doing more shows in the LA area than ever before these last few months and now that I’ve returned from my European Honeymoon we are back to work (adding our new bassist Mr John Wareham to the group…welcome John!).

This last week we were featured on a podcast put together by Don Cromwell: DC LIVE. You can hear the entire hilarious and musical thing right here.

And now it’s time we were back on stage so this weekend we’ll be playing a show at LA’s legendary nightclub The MINT.

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Oslo City Hall

OsloCityHall.jpgI’ve heard it said that some people think the Oslo City Hall is the ugliest building in Norway, but I don’t agree. I loved it instantly the day we walked around the exterior, the imposing solidity and the detail on the outside of the building impressed me. Here I am on the side that faces the harbor.OsloCityhall-WesBricklayerWEBjpg

We were unable to go inside during the National Day Holiday Weekend, so we had to come back another day to view the interior, but the outside spaces are pretty impressive. Some motifs reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright. The roof of the eastern tower has a 49-bell carillon which plays every hour.

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The clock on the harbor side is very simple but on the city side there’s an ornate astronomical one. … and in the courtyard under that clock there are art works on both sides of the entrance depicting old Norse Mythology.

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Courtyard Woodcuts display Mythology Motifs

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Construction started in 1931, but was interrupted by World War ll and the occupation of Norway before being completed and having it’s official inauguration in 1950. The building was considered a necessary focal point where Norwegians could take pride in their country after the war.

Mural depicting WWll German Occupiers who are portrayed as insects forcing the people of Norway into camps

Mural depicting WWll German Occupiers who are portrayed as insects forcing the people of Norway into camps

There is a huge main hall and there are beautiful impressively furnished rooms with high ceilings and many murals depicting Norwegians as hard working industrious people. There is also one room with art that portrays the dark days of Nazi occupation using images of insects forcing suffering people into camps. I spent some time in this room feeling very overwhelmed by emotion as I viewed the grim artwork that fills all the walls and the ceiling of the space.

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Norwegian architects Arnstein Arneberg and Magnus Poulsson designed the building after the model of the Stockholm City hall. The first stone of the edifice was traditionally laid down by King Haakon VII. Because construction and design of this building took 30 years to complete the art esthetic changed over the course of the building’s erection and the architects used both romanticist and modernist concepts in creating the City Hall.

Huge murals depict hardworking Norwegians fill much of the interior spaces in Oslo City Hall

Huge murals depict hardworking Norwegians fill much of the interior spaces in Oslo City Hall

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There is also art portraying the Norwegian love of nature and being outdoors. Because the country is so large and the population so small it’s possible to be very much away from civilization. I have heard it said that when a Norwegian sets out on a hike alone the day can be ruined if they have the misfortune to encounter another person.

Each year on the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death (December 10) Oslo City Hall hosts the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in which the annual laureate gives his or her lecture and is awarded the medal and diploma. The Norwegian Royal Family and Prime Minister attend.
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While the memories of meeting the people who are my wife’s second family in Norway were the most exciting and gratifying part of our Honeymoon, the fact that Chelsea has a relentless desire to travel and take in sights and history made the trip a very full and satisfying one. I’m a somewhat clueless devotee of architecture but I know what I like when I see it and I’m always fascinated to see more of the stuff that humans build.

Oslo Folk Museum

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There have been some requests for more pix and posts about the honeymoon in Norway and I’ll be glad to comply. This one’s gonna be pretty nerdy. There’s an awesome open-air museum in Oslo that’s largely a collection of buildings from around the country preserved as they were in their original (and widely varied) places in time. The Gol Stave Church,  from the collections of King Oscar II was re-erected in 1885 on a neighboring site. It was among five buildings moved to the present site when Norsk Folkemuseum (recognized as the world’s first open air museum) opened its gates to the public in 1901. Hans Aall was the director until his death in 1946.

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That gal far across the colorful courtyard of the Folk Museum is my bride

That gal in red far across the colorful courtyard of the Folk Museum is my bride Chelsea

There are exhibits of traditional Norwegian clothing and also some fascinating examples of tools, furniture and household items from every era of Norwegian history. The progression of housing, carpentry, agriculture and technologies that changed daily life in the country (including weapons and warfare) is addressed in the indoor exhibits where we spent the first part of the day. But, yeah,I like buildings so naturally I shot 200 or so pix of the various houses, farms and urban structures in the museum. There are re-enactors roaming about the property too. We saw a horse hitched up at the 50s farm exhibit, and a woman was playing a haunting tune on a traditional Norwegian fiddle as we entered one of the more ancient farm houses.NorwayWEB-FolkMuseum-1e.jpg
Probably most fascinating to me personally was the1865 tenement building relocated from 15 Wessels gate in Oslo.NorwayWEB-FolkMuseum-1f.jpg Seven of the nine flats show typical interiors from various periods of the 19th and 20th centuries, including personal favorites of mine from the early to mid 1900s. There is also a wine shop from the same period.
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The rooms in the tenement are curated with such care that it seems as if the occupants have only stepped out momentarily and could return at any time.

1930s Bedroom

1930s Bedroom

All little touches that make a pre WWll home looked lived in are present, the dishes on the counter, commercial products in the pantry and cleaning brush in the sink. There are books on the nightstand, brushes on the vanity and a pitcher and basin for washing up in the bedroom. The desk, dining room and cocktail table are ready for use.

 

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1930s Living areas

There are 60s rooms, 70s rooms… even a flat inhabited by an immigrant family from Pakistan as it was furnished in 2002.

It looks like the student in the family just stepped out of their room in the 60s Oslo flat exhibit.

The museum is located on the Bygdøy peninsula on the western side of Oslo near The Viking Ship Museum and The Polar Ship FRAM Museum (both of which we also visited) and the KON-TIKI museum (which we didn’t- because ya just can’t do everything). The Norsk Folkemuseum was one of those things I am incredibly grateful we did while on our European Honeymoon, and thanks to my Chelsea’s ability to arrange things we did a lot.

More to come.

The Last Sundowners

Dennis Stahl leads The Sundowners through their final show before a capacity crowd at the Old Town Pub

Dennis Stahl leads The Sundowners through their final show before a capacity crowd at the Old Town Pub

Last night ended a nine year odyssey in the Pasadena area: It was the last time the unique and much beloved Sundowners would play together as a band. A full to overflowing Old Town Pub show ended the band’s career with a love-fest: an impressive turn out of friends and adoring fans from the bands long history. With bassist Michael Harpel moving to Austin TX the group is finished: there is no way to replace any member of The Sundowners, they were a band that could only exist within the interactive chemistry of it’s parts. If you’re one of the loyal readers of this space you know how near and dear to Mister Nervous’ heart this band has been. My own group is now down to one member as our drummer Kelly had to quit earlier this year… and Mister Nervous played more shows as a band with The Sundowners than we did with any other group in LA (they played at our record release show, for instance). The instant friendship that I found with Dennis Stahl has been one of the most lasting effects of the formation of my own band, and now we’re both moving on to whatever is next.

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Dennis Stahl – Mark Ferris – Lydee Walsh – Michael Harpel

There is an impressive  record of the Sundowners career in the collection of tunes they’ve made available online and on cd over the years and that’s worth a listen even now that you can no longer catch ‘em live if you’re one of the uninitiated. Finished in the literal eleventh hour (they were burning the just-mastered cds at the show last night) THE LAST SUNDOWNERS ep contains the gem Comets which is easily one of the more complex, adventurous and emotionally satisfying songs in the Sundowners catalog.Sundowners-LastShow4c

So here’s to our good friend Michael Harpel as he embarks on the next adventure in his journey. I’m grateful to have been at last night’s show and to be a small part of the Sundowners’ history and I’m very pleased to know that every member of this talented band is moving on to new creative horizons.

Love you guys!

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(Thanks to Chelsea Bagnard and Veronica Andrade for the pix in this post)