Life and Life Only

Happy Weekend….and Beware of the Crazy Hippie Hill People


Posting will be light over the next three days.
(Back in full force on Tuesday.) In addition to grading the first drafts of stories from my fabulously smart UC Irvine students, it’s…..TOPANGA DAYS weekend!

For those of you who don’t live in LA (or if you do, but you’re citified types who consider the out-of-doors to be the distance between your house and the car)….a quick rundown:

Topanga Days is the yearly 3-day, sorta weird,
semi-post-hippie country fair/music festival held every Memorial Day weekend in the chaparral-covered, coyote and rattlesnake-haunted hills of Topanga Canyon.

Along with the fair,
on Saturday there’s the Tough Topanga 10K, which—due to its uphill/downhill nature—lives up to its name.Then on Monday at 9 am, there’s the Topanga Days Parade. Everyone in town turns out for the thing—either to be in the parade or to watch it.

Topanga Days parade floats are…..peculiar
. Often they’re the result of someone waking up early on parade morning, turning to their spouse or S.O., and saying “Fred, how about we prune some’a those overgrown vines in the yard and duct tape ’em to the kids and to the pick-up….”
In the years when my now-21 year old could still be embarrassed by his mother, I used to rollerblade the parade route with another middle-aged Topanga mom—each of us wearing snazzy tie-dyed get ups, plus fairy wings and tiaras. Now I just watch others make blissful fools of themselves.

So come on up to the hills.
And leave your sensible adult judgment at home. You won’t be needing it.

PS: The beautiful young women in the parade day photo are kids I’ve known since before they could walk. Now they’re graduating college.

Community—where ever and however you find it—is a very good thing.


  • Gee, Celeste. I might have guessed fairy wings and a tiara would be part of your normal street attire. But, on rollerblades. Holy Topanga, Batwoman!

    This has me cleaning coffee off my monitor! …. “Fred, how about we prune some’a those overgrown vines in the yard and duct tape ‘em to the kids and to the pick-up….”

  • In the South, it’s not exactly overgrown vines that we cut and tape. We have to fight the Kudzu vines from taking over the kids. Here’s a picture of the family standing in front of the house a few hours after we planted some. That’s me on the right. — (LINK) Our Happy Family

    I was listening to a round-up of local celebrations and craft fairs on radio last week. There is a “Pimento Festival” in Zebulon, Georgia, and there is a contest for the best pimento cheese sandwich. How more exciting can you get than that?

    Here is a recipe along with a video to explain the importance of making good pimento cheese: (LINK) Yummmmm

    “Community is a very good thing.”

  • Ah the canyons! Even though she Wrote it about Laurel I’m thinking of Joni Mitchell. And let’s not forget that yester was the 66th birthday of Robert Zimmerman.

  • Of course Laurel Canyon was for the music types. Joni lived there and so did Neil Young and Frank Zappa was a real Mother. And remember the old “Cat and the Fiddle?” Those were the days! (I was young so of course those were thre days)

    Topanga was a rustic hideaway. A little too rustic for me but definitely Hippie Paradise. 1967, where are the snows of yesterday . . .

  • Woody, I think I need to explore the pimento issue more thoroughly, and the Kudzu photo’s pretty funny.

    RLC Didn’t know it was the amazing Mr. Zimmerman’s birthday. As it happens, my favorite song to play on the phone to friends with birthdays is “Forever Young,” which, by the way, to my way of thinking is NOT at all a song about clinging to youth.

    But, heck yeah, we have musical history in Topanga that can go toe-to-toe with Laurel. I had to write something vaguely meditative about Topanga for one of the LA Weekly’s “Best of” issues. Here’s some of it from the music section. (Do I sound defensive of my canyon? Probably.)

    In the ’50s, left-wing artists and intellectuals fled to the canyon to wait out McCarthy. It was then that actor Will Geer established his Theatricum Botanicum. Woody Guthrie gravitated to Will’s theater whenever he was in California, along with Pete Seeger, Odetta and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. In the ’60s and early ’70s, musician/residents such as Neil Young, Canned Heat, the Eagles, Little Feat, Mick Fleetwood and Linda Ronstadt gathered regularly to perform at local hangouts like the Topanga Corral and the Mermaid Tavern — reinvented by then as an upscale music salon. Jim Morrison wrote “Roadhouse Blues” about the Corral, and bought the cabin right behind the place to have his own foothold in Topanga. On certain summer weekends, Taj Mahal would deep-sea fish in the morning, then stand atop a flatbed truck parked at town’s center and give away the day’s catch, whereupon he and his band would play while everybody danced.

    So there!

  • By the way, In during World War II, the gangster Mickey Cohen operated a clandestine casino and brothel out of the historic Mermaid Tavern (which also at one time operated as a gay night club, owned by the West Hollywood chief of vice).

    When I excavated to build my house a few hundred yards away from where the Mermaid still stands, the skip-loader dug up what appears to be an extremely rusted, 1940s-vintage pocket revolver.

    I mean, what’s not to like about a place like that?

  • Can’t remember the exact title but there was a great book on the LA music scene from the thirties till the present around 2000 I think) that covers all you talk about and more. My favorite part was the description of Sonny Bono as Phil Specter’s Gopher: “Sonny was so far up Phil’s ass that his whole head was brown!”

    Also covered the great unmentionable. Just how tied into the music scene Charles Manson was pre-helter skelter.

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