When we first heard that Francesca Smith would organize a 100 Thousand Musicians for Change event in Hollywood, FL it was like a coming home party. This is where Terri used to live when I first met her 8 years ago. And this is where Terri’s mom still lives, and so it is a kind of second home for us. Change would be coming to Hollywood, FL. Whoohoo!!
Hollywood (aka Hollyweird) is a funky town. It has always been kind of an eclectic bohemia in the scheme of glittery South Florida cities. Not much in the way of towering condominiums, more like old houses, one night stand motels like the Lucky Boy Motel, and more legitimate vintage motels, local bars, fortune tellers, old hippies and other dissolute souls found refuge here, side by side. It has changed a lot in the last 10 years, like most old downtown districts, but it still holds on to that strangeness. It is still the place where you can go from the pizza joint open until 4am, to the Exotic Bites
Hookah Bar, to Chocolada where there is always a tourist crowd and a one man band playing out front…
…to the Transylvania Restaurant, part of the large Romanian population that still inhabits Hollywood, FL, which has the twentieth highest percentage of Romanian residents in the US. There is Jamaican food and Peruvian food, Chinese and Mexican, Argentine steak houses and an Irish Pub. Downtown is not far from the dog track and the race track, so those gambling mobster characters with Elvis glasses and gold pinky rings are still around with their thick east coast accents. But the downtown strip does have its dance clubs and hip venues, restaurants and bistros with tables on the sidewalk. Hollywood Blv. downtown is still a bit of a cruising street. Some hot bodies and extreme makeovers with their designer handbags and dogs do make their way through the reggae and rock sounds bleeding out of the nightclubs into the warm night breeze.
But you can also go down to the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, a totally different scene, and join the masses of half-naked and toasty pink Ontarians in speedos baking beneath the endless rows of umbrellas. You can watch people line dance, Budweiser in hand, to French Canadian oldies at the beach bandshell. Fumes from the long row of eateries waft through the air as the toned rollerbladers and joggers whip past the strolling tourist families.
There are oysters and clams and peel your own shrimp at Nicks, one of the oldest places on the broadwalk (I think) a landmark and magnet for all the local misfits and beachbums and location of the opening scene in the classic 1981 movie Body Heat (and also in the more recent goofy movie Marley and Me, which was filmed all over south Florida).
So, back to downtown, where Francesca met us outside of Megabite Lounge, where she held the first part of her two part Musicians for Change event.
We went inside and sat down at a comfy table and didn’t bother to order a drink, we just talked, and the global mysteries began to unwind. The global question apparent: “Is this town right for 100TPC?” I hear this all the time! And I think there should be some comfort in knowing this is indeed the global question, and that there is no need to single out Hollywood, or any other city as an example of “one of those places” where people seem disinterested in wars and global warming. But despite my reassurance that this is a universal problem, that she is not alone in her frustration, that indeed a community for change can be created in Hollywood, Florida, but it might take some time… I don think Francesca was comforted. Like for many of us, the frustration and disappointment and stress of trying to bring people together for a cause bigger than themselves takes its toll.
We then met the owner of Megabite and thanked him for letting the event take place in his venue. I told him I hoped one day there would be 100 Thousand Venues for Change. Afterall, we are in this together, poets, musicians, shopkeepers, lawyers, doctors, electricians and teachers. Venues for Change! I gave him my card.
Then we moved down the stream to a real strange place, the Mystic Water Kava Bar. We found this description of the place online and I think it holds:
“This bar brings a taste of mysticism to Hollywood with its unique kava based drink offerings and one of a kind interior. Kava is a root that creates mildly euphoric effects in users. Trees snake through the space and create an organic feeling in the heady atmosphere. On an open mic night you may be treated to a professional chair massage amongst a crowd of artists, new-agers, ad adventurous spirits in search of a good time off the beaten path.”
We wondered at the art and speculated on the Kava. We met the venue owner, he had just shaved his beard and was explaining how hair has a certain energy projection that can be modulated by its presence or lack thereof. I am sorry to say I got lost in the science. But whatever it was, this place was extremely mellow. A stark contrast to the more glitzy, sexy Megabyte and the Downtown strip in general.
Then we went down to the Arts Park outdoor theater, where the “big band” reggae band, The Resolvers, were playing for free.
They had a full on horn section that was “tight” (Francesca agreed). We stopped a while and listened, it was pretty good, the singer unique and soulful, but we really came to speak to one another, to know each other better, so we headed to the small, great, Greek Joint Café and spoke about Henry Miller, Lawrence Durrel, Blaise Cendrars, Jim Harrison, Flannery O’Conner and T. Coraghessan Boyle. The conversation got much deeper and livelier, less full of doubt. We finally found something we were sure about. Our love of literature! We could think about 100TPC later, make our big plans (or not) later, for the time being, we had real Greek Salad (no lettuce, just thick juicy chunks of peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, just enough calamata olives and a slab of feta cheese) beer, souvlaki, bread, lemon roasted potatoes,
“Bitter Lemons” and “The Colossus of Maroussi”
to heal us,
to help us bridge
a common ground.