Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
A Los Angeles blog
from Echo Park

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Fix provides a respite...

berryman.jpg...from the doldrums on a Sunday afternoon. The cafe on Echo Park Ave. in Elysian Heights has been having festivals to fit the space on weekends, with music by Robert Berryman's reggae-blues-international band African Cowboy and craft vendors in the four-car parking lot. My family and I stopped by yesterday intending to stay to hear a couple of songs, consume a coffee and a cup of yogurt (though my daughter would have preferred the gelato -- she knows all the flavors, but she'd already exceeded her dessert quota for the day if not the week), and then head back home. We ended up staying and staying, until the vendors -- and the sun -- were packing up, as friends and neighbors popped up from all directions, some of them with kids. Our friend Joe D'Augustine was carrying seven or eight classic paperbacks he had just found on the street; Joe and his wife, Heather, were joined by the author D.R. Haney, whose novel Banned for Life I had just borrowed. Another literary light who was hanging out, with his dog on leash, was Joe Donnelly, published/editor of Slake literary journal, which had made the L.A. Times best seller list this week. I didn't know that literary journals could do that. Oddly, it was classified as "nonfiction" though it contains fiction. Our neighbor Iva Gueorguieva stopped by with her mom and son. The actor Roger Smith was there, too, hanging out with his daughter. I heard he'd taken the mic on a previous occasion, joining African Cowboy for at least one song. But I missed that show. My daughter, Madeleine, asked, "Why isn't Roger singing?" Perhaps he had done so earlier yesterday. And, in any case, Berryman had a full crowd, all seats taken, his band focused and intent -- I couldn't believe it was free. At that moment it seemed like a dream of a good neighborhood, where you can walk to a tiny festival and hear music performed by musicians who happen to be neighbors, socialize with your next door neighbors and others whom you like but rarely see. Meanwhile, the vendors are knitting and silk-screening, a chalk-artist creates a face on the driveway apron, and, if you haven't already consumed too many treats for one day, there's gelato. The only thing missing was the Fallen Fruit Collective, with bushels of free, locally grown, produce, harvested from the overhanging branches of Joe & Heather, Iva, Robert, etc. etc.

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