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Got romanesco? Phan Thi To Trinh and Quynh Trang Phamat at Underwood Farms at the Hollywood Farmers Market.

Got Romanesco? Phan Thi To Trinh and Quynh Trang Pham admiring produce at Underwood Farms at the Hollywood Farmers Market.

My Aunt Lorraine lived to be 100. My father never lost a word until the day he died, which was at 95. My mom didn’t like getting older so after her 90th birthday she quipped on her deathbed “Somebody’s gotta go first!”

Their secret to longevity?

There was no secret except that they grew up on family farms in Minnesota (mom) or Kansas (dad). They never saw a can or box or package needing a label listing chemical ingredients until the Great Depression morphed into World War II. Cutting off the head of a chicken for Sunday dinner, butchering pigs and cows in a freezing December, ice fishing, soup from garden cabbage and pole beans and apple cider from trees and water from a well was their supermarket.

No wonder my mother loved Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony!

My parents return to an old dating spot on Olvers St. at La Golondrina for their 60th anniversary

My parents return to La Golondrina, a 1930s dating spot for them on Olvera Street, for their 60th anniversary and a truthful song, Cielito Lindo.

Truth be known, it was my mom who introduced Jan and me to what now can be found everywhere, farmers markets. She hustled us over to one in Villa Park in Pasadena, she and my dad helped tend and till our first garden in Eagle Rock and she constructed a major boysenberry arbor at her house which we still miss. How she loved a good juicy berry dessert!

Phan Thi To Trinh and Pham Truong Son happy in Hollywood..

Phan Thi To Trinh and Pham Truong Son holding up the Peace Sign in Hollywood.

I’ve written a lot of blogs about other places, Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, the Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas, Tokyo, Hanoi, San Francisco and Big Sur. But I’m from West Hollywood. Hell, I was born in the same hospital as John Cage (The Good Samaritan).

So for all my international readers in 78 countries, trust me. The Sunday Hollywood Farmers Market has to be on your to do list if you come to LA. It has the most pizzazz, best street food and street musicians, spices, farmers and people watching. It’s from 8 AM to 1 PM and then you can have a great movie experience at the historic Cinerama Dome on Sunset Blvd. Think about it…..

And stop rubbing your subway eyes, the Song Hong players from Hanoi met us at the Metro stop for the Pantages Theater at Hollywood and Vine. It’s not just Disney Hall that’s cool here as LA is finding more ways around the car.

Time for a disclaimer. My photos with Song Hong were random and there is no endorsement attached to the farmers or vendors I highlight. I like everybody there. After all, fruits and vegetables are not a hardware store where you need the right nail or screw or fan belt size.

OK, cue music!

The charismatic harpist Phillip King with the Song Hong Ensemble.

What smiles! The charismatic harpist Phillip King with the Song Hong Ensemble of Hanoi, Vietnam.

What clicked for me with this group is their collective curiosity. They wanted the recipe for my chicken. They ate everything and took extras back to the hotel. And we had to describe a lot of “I’ve never seen that in Asia” vegetables, like the romanesco photo that opened this post.

Or cheese. Asia is not based on dairy products. Nothing is more Western than cheese or cream. So a yummy tasting at Drake Farms was a hit.

See you at the Hollywood Farmers Market!

What a band tasting Drake Farms Goat Cheese!

And speaking of goats, I was born during the Year of the Sheep. Goats, sheep, bighorn sheep, they all feel like relatives to me!

Phan Thi to Trinh with one of my animal relatives from Soledad Farms.

Phan Thi To Trinh with one of my animal relatives from Soledad Farm.

Having studied a lot of the ideas of Peter Drucker, I have to say the Soledad Farm team is marketing brilliantly. The purpose of marketing is to make selling something unnecessary. Talk about building trust with your customers. This young kid will soon be contributing to your next purchase of goat cheese. Real animals producing food for humans. My parents grew up with that in Minnesota and Kansas and would be so happy to chat with these farmers!

If you recall from my last post, we’d served California cheese and walnuts for our welcoming dinner for Song Hong. The walnuts and dried fruit were a hit and everyone was happy to meet some of the purveyors. So our first stop was at Rancho La Vina Farms. God’s greatest walnuts and walnut oil are yours. And, spoiler alert, some are headed home to Hanoi as presents.

Tasting the best of California at Rancho La Vina Farms.

Tasting the best of California at Rancho La Vina Farms, founded in 1869.

One personal goal I had for Ascending Dragon in 2010, the largest cultural exchange in history between our countries and funded by the U.S. State Department, was to make Vietnam a country, not a war, for the American audiences who came to the concerts. Classical music is one great way to move forward and new music is even better.

Buddhism and acceptance is in the Vietnamese DNA but for us in the U.S. figuring out what happened in Southeast Asia is, to be kind, a work not really in progress. Carlos Fuentes was right, that people want to forget things as fast as they can but that contradicts our true destiny, which is with memory…

Because in talking with Christopher Schubert of  Rancho La Vina, we learned he was stationed in the Mekong Delta in 1972. For any young readers I have, that means during the Vietnam War. It’s always somewhere potentially in the background. He was touched and aware of what Song Hong represented buying California walnuts for presents in Vietnam.

So yes, this is a good story taking shape as our extended friendship with Vietnam deepens and matures. I won’t say more in a blog. That’s coming in a book under construction, rest assured. So I can talk about Mexico, too.

A happy portrait with Christopher Schubert of Rancho La Vina Farms!

A happy portrait with Christopher Schubert of Rancho La Vina Farms!

I hope you noticed Christopher’s last name. Look familiar, musician friends? Well, he says he’s related to Franz, and I’ll bet it checks out, if distantly. I played the U.S. premiere of H.K. Gruber’s Frankenstein! at Tanglewood in 1979 and know from him that these things happen. As Heinz admitted to me he wished he’d written his grandfather’s well known song! That would be Silent Night…..

California dried fruit was one of the many “what is that?” we had to answer for our Song Hong Friends.  A stop at Avila Farms helped answer that question, with generous tastes all around.

But sometimes you get lucky and the camera captures a moment, a look or a pose, that is priceless. For me the next photo is one of those moments.

A picture worth a 1,000 words at Avila Farms.

A picture worth a 1,000 words at Avila Farms.

Mom and dad, I’ll bet the farm on this farmers market photo for you.

If Secretary Kerry’s State Department wants proof of the wisdom of Secretary Clinton’s State Department funding Ascending Dragon, the body language in this photo between Phan Thi To Trinh and Jan Karlin demonstrates what we accomplished, in less than five years. Body language cannot be faked and how their arms are touching is the story of the photo. I’ll use one word to describe the impact on me…

Love…which is what moves mountains, isn’t it?

Or family, which brings me to another touching moment.

Father and daughter at the Hollywood.Farmers Market.

Father and daughter reunion at the Hollywood Farmers Market.

Violinist Pham Truong Song has an easy to understand motivation to connect with California. His beautiful daughter Nhu Pham is a student at San Jose State studying graphic design. They hadn’t seen each other in a while, so this trip to Los Angeles was a perfect opportunity for their happy reunion!

Lilacs from the Tehachapi Mountains.

Lilacs from the Tehachapi Mountains.

The Vietnamese LOVE flowers, which is wonderful. Trust me, if you ever perform there you will probably drown in the bouquets offered to you in gratitude at the end of the concert. It makes for the best smelling hotel room I’ve ever had!

So we had a lot of “flower ops”…

Violist Do Huong Tra My with California flowers.

Violist Do Huong Tra My with California flowers.

Every hotel room needs some lillies!

Every hotel room needs some lillies!

Phan Thi To Trinh can't resist, either!

Phan Thi To Trinh can’t resist, either!

So a great time was had by all!

I’ll leave you with one last thought for this post. It combines my two loves, Mexico and Vietnam, and the photo closer could well be a great marketing statement for my next LA International New Music Festival.

But some serious cross cultural detente is in order….

The Mexican Day of the Dead spooks all Asia. From their point of view it isn’t seen as a happy, festive idea. Eating a sugar skull? Yikes…….

A serious Buddhist should do a daily corpse meditation (it is what it sounds like…image your own body, for a few minutes in daily meditation, transformed as a corpse to develop acceptance of the inevitable. Mom always taught me to do my homework…). The unique atmosphere of the Day of the Dead, however, is not what they have in mind throughout the temples and sanghas of Asia. To them it appears to invite bad luck, not family memories of the departed.

So I explained the custom and traditions, before the Spanish Conquest, that dominate the Americas. The Vietnamese know a lot about extractive colonialism and Song Hong is a smart bunch. They got it immediately why Latin America would maintain its indigenous traditions in relation to European, oh here comes that word, imperialism.

I mentioned in my last post that violist Do Huong Tra My is literally taking flight in most of my photos. Here’s one of many from Easter Sunday on Venice Beach.

Do Huong Tra My taking flight on Venice Beach.

Do Huong Tra My dancing on Venice Beach.

It was no surprise that after I explained the situation and custom of the Day of the Dead, spunky and energetic Do Huong Tra My got up and went straight into a new culture ordering a cup of the best coffee in LA, Cafecito Organico. She reminds me of another Year of the Horse person in my life, my wife Jan!

Cultures mix as Do Truong Tra My orders from Cafecito Organico.

Cultures mix as Do Truong Tra My fearlessly orders from Cafecito Organico.

This picture makes me realize I have three loves. Mexico, Vietnam and Los Angeles. I’ll be back soon with another post for the LA International New Music Festival. We’re all on One Planet with lots of fascinating parts.

And I might already have a good poster image for our next festival……

Best, best, best,