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How to Breathe in 2019

The world today can be hard to digest. From repeated mass shootings to hateful political rhetoric to the impact of climate change, we’re inundated with negativity each time we turn on a television or read a headline.

That, compounded with the natural stress associated with daily life (health, career, relationships), can be overwhelming—but how can we avoid it?

My solution lately has been to focus more on spirituality, health and wellness. To fill my life with as many positive elements as I can from curating my social content to include more “good news” (I recommend following groups such as the Good News Network and Positive News UK) to listening to soothing music and vibrations as I work.

My greatest coping mechanism? Immersing myself in nature.

There are few things more beneficial to the soul than a walk in the woods or near water (I prefer both, quite frankly).

On my near-daily walks to a nearby lake, I can feel my blood pressure lower the instant I step onto the trail. I’m met with the sounds of birds chirping, children giggling and splashes of water as I start my trek. I don’t time myself or run—I deliberately take my time to … (forgive me) … stop and smell the roses.

I enjoy taking photos of flowers at different stages of bloom; of trees as their leaves appear, change color and disappear; of ducks as they emerge with a new batch of ducklings each spring and the occasional eagle or heron that may fly alongside me.

Though there are always other people on the trail, it somehow remains remarkably serene, all of us in a silent agreement to enjoy Mother Earth’s bounty and beauty without disrupting one another.

At times I’ll sit on one of the benches along the path and reflect on the day or try to strategize ways to solve a problem. The fresh air of nature coupled with the exercise of the walk produces a bouquet of endorphins that helps provide a brighter outlook on everything, so I always leave feeling better than when I arrived.

The great thing about walks in nature is that they can be tailored to both extroverts and introverts.

I’m an extrovert by nature—I like to be social. But I only like to be social if I’ve had an ample amount of “alone time” to prepare. So I’m one of those people who will gladly welcome company on a walk … but would sometimes prefer the solitude of a solo jaunt if I’m headed there to clear my head.

I feel the same way about romantic love—I want a partner that will desire me and shower me with attention and affection … and then go away for a bit and not be offended that I want to be alone sometimes; that I need to be alone sometimes.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve never married? 🙂

But I digress …

Introverts can benefit just as much from these nature breaks, as they’re never required to go with anyone else. And the best thing about nature walks in general is that they’re free.

I realize that I am blessed to live in a part of the world that has no shortage of forests or bodies of water, but even in the middle of large cities there are usually parks to sneak off to if no hiking trails can be found nearby.

The main thing to do is to find someplace to breathe. Practice mindfulness whenever you can and try to reset your personal compass to point it in a direction of love.

Love for yourself, love for others and love for our earth.

Order from Chaos: New Exhibit “Tucked In” Highlights Child’s Creative Coping Mechanism

Photos from the exhibit on display now at Arcane Space

There are few things more devastating than learning a child is seriously ill, but that’s what happened to the Evans family in 2006 when Sian, 7, was diagnosed with T-Cell Leukemia.

As they all navigated the new normal of Sian’s medical orders and treatments, her mother Morleigh began to discover hidden scenes that she would construct to work through her feelings.

Using dolls, stuffed toys, blankets and trinkets, Sian crafted silent stories that helped her process what she was so bravely enduring.

From Barbies taking a group carriage ride to Care Bears methodically lined up for slumber, the scenes are both heartwarming and heartbreaking when considering their context.

In the new exhibit at Arcane Space, “Tucked In” features images that Morleigh took of these creations, all captured in great detail at the time of their discovery.

Donned in soft plush carpet reminiscent of a young girl’s room, the space also features a workshop area with toys that children are invited to use to create their own scenes. When I visited, two kids were deep in concentration, crafting personal masterpieces. As I observed their intense focus, I was reminded of how therapeutic creative exploration can be—both for children and adults.


I lost a grandfather I never met to leukemia and have known countless other friends and family members who have suffered through cancer. Each journey carried unimaginable amounts of agony regardless of the outcome. This exhibit shows art that both respects that type of journey and perhaps makes sense of it in the most pure way.

Thankfully, Sian survived the cancer and is a thriving young woman today. Visitors to the exhibit have the opportunity to purchase prints of her various scenes (prices range from $100 – $800) and/or a book of the images with an introduction from Morleigh ($170). Proceeds benefit Cancer Support Community Los Angeles. Admission to the exhibit is free.

“Tucked In” welcomes visitors to Arcane Space Thursday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. through May 26.

The Magic of the Marquis

The fruit basket from my most recent visit to the property.

My house is full of distractions.

There’s a TV, equipped with thousands of channels and a box that streams content from a dozen more.

There’s a picture window, where I can see the squirrels chase birds.

There’s a fireplace that crackles to life and candles that glow on its screen.

There’s a kitchen that helps invent grand meals.

There’s a record player with a stack of vinyls that beg often to be played.

Like many writers, home isn’t the greatest place for me to spill ink.

But it’s not just getting out of my own space that sparks creativity, it’s being in the right space. And that space for me for several months has been the Sunset Marquis.

Every few Fridays, I take a beautiful flight down the coast to my second home right off the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. My ritual is to unpack, eat a piece of fruit from the basket that greets me and fire up the laptop to meet my first self-imposed deadline.

I take my shoes off, slide my feet into a pair of the plush slippers provided by the hotel and begin to write. And I write until I’ve reached my pre-determined page count, for it’s only then I’m allowed to head down to the bar. So I always make my deadline.

Bar 1200 is too classy to be called a watering hole; too intimate to be cold. The bartenders are friendly, the drinks are strong and the playlist is perfect.

It’s small, cozy, dark, safe and full of stories. Have I mentioned that I love stories?

In my visits after midnight, I’ve met aspiring actresses, former bar owners, fellow writers, rock stars, filmmakers, mystics, fashion designers and photographers. None of them shy; all of them warm. A community of creatives who all feel an unspoken kinship.

When I first read Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers, years ago, I was fascinated by a story he told about the Italian people of Roseto, who ate unhealthy foods, smoked and drank, yet had remarkably less heart issues than their American counterparts. The only explanation? They had a strong sense of community.

Writing is a fairly solitary sport unless you’re a member of a boisterous writers’ room or participating in a class or workshop. Since I’m in neither situation, writing alone is my default. Until I discovered the Marquis, I didn’t realize how much I needed a sense of belonging to perfect my craft.

It’s nice that the reservation desk remembers I sometimes need a late check-in (depending on my flight’s arrival); that the bar manager knows without a doubt I’ll start with a lemon drop; that the restaurant seats me under the heaters in the wintertime since I easily get cold.

And it’s not just great service—it’s the overall vibe. The welcoming feeling when I wander into the on-site art gallery to gaze at images of my favorite bands; the chats I have about pop culture with the bell hop I consider a true friend.

The Marquis manages to have the luxuries and clientele of the most prestigious properties but lacks the pretension.

And I may not be a household name like many of the guests, or have scripted the Great American Novel (yet), but I do always feel like I fit in when I’m there.

For that, I’m eternally grateful.

The Great Thaw of 2019

13 Days

That’s how long I was prevented from driving my own car. Nearly two weeks.

It’s the longest I’ve gone without driving since I spent 10 days in Japan for a speaking engagement in 2015. From February 4 – 16 I only left the house to walk to the grocery store once and for work twice (I was picked up at the bottom of my icy hill after walking/falling down it). It was a test of survival skills and mental health. I passed the first with flying colors; the jury is still out on the second.

I’d spent much of December and January on the road—home to Oregon for the holidays; San Francisco and Los Angeles to see friends, attend some events and to work on creative projects. I was working on my tan just three weeks prior to this snow-pocalypse and was somewhat blinded by its duration.

Folks who aren’t familiar with Pacific Northwest weather (other than the false assumption it rains all the time) assume that snow is a normal part of our winters, but really it’s not. We usually get a dusting of a few inches in January or February that lasts for a day or two at best and then we’re back to our usual cold, drizzly atmosphere. It seldom sticks to the ground, let alone a few feet at a time.

One of my Midwestern friends who expressed concern when she saw the national weather reports warning of our demise said she knew I’d be okay because I’m a “planner” and she was right. Though not specifically prepared for snow, I am infinitely prepared for an earthquake (having lived through three in my life; the largest here in Seattle in 2001). So I had plenty of food, water, flashlights, phone chargers and foot warmers. Thank God.

Day 1 of the storm, my power went out from 9:30 p.m. until sometime before 4:00 a.m. Thankfully, I had cranked up the heat in the hours prior, so I was able to put towels under the door to my bedroom and block in much of that warmth as I slept. The next day, my employer closed our office deeming the roads too dangerous to travel, so we all worked from home. NOTE: For those who like to brag “I grew up in the Northeast/Midwest/Montana/Canada, etc.” and think you’d do fine in a Seattle snowstorm, I urge you to read this.

Days 3 – 7 are mostly a blur. It was more of the same; work from home, walk outside in my Muck Boots every few hours with my broomstick to brush the snow off my satellite dish; heat something in the oven for added warmth; run the hot water so the pipes don’t freeze; pack on layers of clothes; rinse, lather, repeat. Mail delivery and pizza delivery stopped in our neighborhood. The Space Needle closed. So did Fred Meyer. It was the end of times.

Day 8 brought my second power outage and damage to my backyard trees (despite the fact I was also taking the broom to brush heavy, wet snow off their branches). I was growing tired of the eerie silence that blanketed my street. All of the familiar sounds had ceased to exist. There were no children playing, birds singing or cars warming up. On top of that, it was dark save for the candles and camping lanterns that illuminated random windows.

Day 9 the power came back on and I slid down my hill (mostly on my feet, but once unfortunately on my back) and caught a rideshare to my office. After work, my boss was kind enough to drive me to the nearby grocery store to get as many non-refrigerated supplies as I was able to carry and I took a rideshare back to the main road and climbed up that horrible hill to get home. Still no mail delivery.

Day 10 and 11 I lost power once more, but only at night so I was able to work from home. On day 11 I also felt confident enough to walk to the grocery store in my neighborhood to replenish my refrigerated staples. It was a treacherous walk and I was sore the entire night and next day from climbing over the accumulated snow.

Day 12 I again returned to my office via rideshare from the bottom of the hill and returned in the same fashion. By the time I got home, our mail delivery had resumed and signs of life were starting to emerge.

Day 13 we had reached 37 degrees and it was raining, so much of the street was clear; the hill was no longer icy and with a little digging out from the lingering snow, I successfully got my car out. I first went to the movies (it’s Oscar season and I’m shamefully far behind), then to Target (oh, how wonderful to aimlessly wander those aisles!) and finally to my PO Box in a different town, where the majority of my mail is delivered. I can’t overstate how much joy I felt being out and about, hearing the din of other humans, looking at a view that wasn’t my own backyard.

I will never again take the freedom to move about for granted.

Like a Song: Heartland

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

I’ve always saved things. Too many things, to be exact. Not to hoarder levels or anything to be concerned about, but I tend to keep far more than I need, not because of any insecurity or fear, but because of sentimentality. I save everything from boarding passes to clothing that no longer fits just because I associate it with a warm memory and treasure the greeting cards I receive sometimes more than the gifts that accompany them.

I get this quality (or character flaw) from my father. He had a tough time throwing anything away that he ever remotely cared about. With the exception of a few cleaning sprees that cleared out clutter, the music, letters from family in Greece and mementos from his time as a sailor stayed with him until his death three years ago.

My mother, alternately, is just the opposite. She has no trouble letting go of things, because to her, that’s all they are — things. When my dad passed away, she cleaned out his half of the closet in the first 48 hours. Afraid she would regret not having the items later, I asked her multiple times if she was sure she didn’t want to keep more of them. “I’m not going to wear any of it,” she responded. Not able to argue with logic, I reluctantly drove her to the donation site and deposited bags of his clothes.

On my four-plus hour drive back to Seattle that week, “Heartland” was one of the songs I played repeatedly to cope with my grief. The intensity of Bono’s voice matched my feelings at the time and singing/crying along with him was therapeutic. In the months that followed, each time I would visit my mom, I’d notice that she’d got rid of more things they’d both acquired in their 50-plus years of marriage. When I asked her about this, she said she didn’t see the point in keeping things around that she doesn’t use or need. That she would feel awful if my sister and I had to go through mountains of stuff when she passes someday.

A selfless, beautiful act.

Continuing the discussion, I told her how much I appreciated that, but begged her not to let go of things that still bring her joy. She promised she wouldn’t on the condition that for every birthday and Mother’s Day going forward I would only buy her “experiences” instead of material items. I agreed to the deal and since then we’ve been to U2 and Billy Joel concerts in Seattle; visited my aunt in Kansas; feasted at The Pioneer Woman’s restaurant in Oklahoma; touched an iceberg in Newfoundland, Canada; and hunted ghosts in San Francisco. Spending that time with her has produced some of the best memories of my life.

This year, just a few weeks ago, our destination for her 78th birthday was Memphis, Tennessee. Though both of us had been to other parts of the state previously, neither of us had been to Memphis and we both had motives for wanting to go. She and my dad loved listening to classic Sun Studio artists such as Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, and I have been a fan of U2’s Rattle And Hum since it came out 30 years ago. The Rattle And Hum film shows U2 taking a tour of Graceland and recording in Sun Studio, where a few tracks from the album were completed. On our first full day in town, we visited both landmarks.

Freeway like a river cuts through this land
Into the side of love

Though it’s undeniably touristy, Graceland is still a very peaceful property, lush with green grass, trees and horses that roam out back. It’s easy to see why Elvis spent so much time here and his family went to great lengths to preserve it as it was when he was alive. Walking through it is really like being in a time capsule, complete with the sights and sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s. As we advanced through the rooms my mom pointed out where there were pieces of furniture or accents similar to items she and my dad once had.

The color schemes are what got me the most. Born in 1975, I have vivid memories of the dull brown, green and mustard hues of that era, because our modest house wasn’t updated until well into the ‘80s. Everything was darker back then: the carpeting, the photographs, the mood.

Through the ghost-ranch hills
Death Valley waters
In the towers of steel
Belief goes on and on

Though many of the items are whimsical, I couldn’t help but feel somber as the tour concluded. After exploring several indoor spaces, we were led outside to the Meditation Garden, which is where Elvis and several of his family members are buried. It’s a beautiful space with stained glass, flowers and fountains that surround the tombstones.

The group we were with was very respectful as we approached the graves, and of course all I could think about was Larry Mullen Jr. once standing exactly where I stood, arms folded, head hung in sadness as he reflected on his deceased musical hero. In my mind, “Heartland” was playing on repeat.

I snapped a few photos, then Mom and I walked around the side of the yard to sit down for a moment. There, she told me how much the death of Elvis in 1977 affected my dad. “He really got upset. That was one of the first musicians he truly loved after becoming an American, and he and Elvis were only a few weeks apart in age, so it hit him especially hard.”

I was not yet 2 years old when Elvis passed, so of course I don’t remember the mourning, but I did feel a twinge of guilt for being able to experience Graceland, though my dad never did. It would have meant so much more to him than it did to me.

In this heartland
In this heartland soil

From Graceland, we went straight to Sun Studio where our incredibly kind tour guide found me a pair of drumsticks so I could take a proper photo at Larry’s drum set. After the picture was taken, I sat on his stool, conjuring the ghosts of the space, and imagined all the souls who sang before them. Glancing from a portrait of Bono (in that era) over to one of Elvis with Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis, I was overcome by the magnitude of the American influence. For me, The Beatles are where my love of music began, but of course John Lennon is quoted as saying it was Elvis who inspired him. I finally understood why.

The next day, Mom and I set out for the National Civil Rights Museum, which stands on the property where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. As we turned onto the street of the old Lorraine Motel, “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” came on the iPhone shuffle. How fitting, I thought, as I smiled to myself.

I became dizzy both when we lingered just inside the balcony where King was shot and again when we went across the street and stood where his killer was when he fired the fatal bullets. Overcome with sadness, we silently walked back to the rental car for the trip home. As we exited the parking lot, I realized it was too quiet, so I put my iPhone back through the car stereo. The song that started playing without being prompted? “Heartland.”

U2 have given me goosebumps many times in the past with their greatness, but this was something special. The band had seen something in our country that I hadn’t, something they so eloquently conveyed in “Heartland.” As the song played, I felt an enormous sense of renewed love for my country and everything it represents. It was this country that produced a man as strong as King who was able to reach millions through acts of peace instead of violence. It was this country that allowed my parents, from opposite sides of the ocean — an immigrant and a native-born citizen — to fall in love and build a life together.

It is this country, despite its current and former flaws, where everything is still possible.

In this heartland
Heaven knows this is a heartland
Heartland, heaven knows this is a heartland

(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2018.

ALCHEMY AT THE APOLLO: REFLECTING ON U2’S HISTORIC NIGHT

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

There are sacred spaces throughout the world—from houses of worship to wonders of nature. Places that change your chemistry as you enter them because of the palpable energy that permeates throughout.

Nestled in the heart of Harlem, The Apollo Theater is a sacred space.

Last night, U2 weaved their magic into a long-standing tapestry of historic performances, both honoring the heroes that came before them and confirming their place among the greats.

Opening its doors in 1914 as Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, the space officially became the Apollo in 1934. Under its new ownership, the focus shifted from burlesque to variety shows and welcomed African-American performers and patrons for the first time. What resulted was a renaissance of jazz, blues, dance and comedy.

Ella Fitgerald won an “Amateur Night” competition there as a teenager, which kick-started her career. The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Richard Pryor, The Jackson 5 and countless others also began their legendary journeys in the space. James Brown was so important to the Apollo that after he passed away, his body was brought to the theater to receive mourners ahead of his funeral.

When the smiling members of U2 wandered onto the stage last night without any announcement or warning, it was as if those of us in the audience time-traveled back to 1980 when the band first arrived in New York, “on a cold and wet December day.”

The four young boys made their American debut at The Ritz rock club, and three of the songs they played at that first U.S. concert opened the Apollo show last night. Their ages may have shifted, but their energy certainly hasn’t.

Capping off the high-charged trio of “I Will Follow,” “The Electric Co.,” and “Out of Control” was “Red Flag Day,” a rocker from Songs of Experience, which sounds more at home after those classic tracks than it does on its own album.

From there, for seven more songs, they continued at a pace bands half their age would arguably find challenging to sustain, only slowing slightly for “Beautiful Day.”

Furthermore, the usual Bono commentary was quite minimal this evening. Despite several celebrities in attendance, including Jared Leto, Jon Bon Jovi, and Little Steven, Bono only called out to Harry Belafonte, who was in the balcony.

At the end of the main set, Bono briefly let the audience physically support him as he hoisted his megaphone up during “American Soul,” I, for one, breathed a sigh of relief when he safely landed back on the stage.

The band saved the tear-inducing moments for the first encore.

When they re-emerged, Bono said, “Let’s try a song that we played the first time we came here in 80-whatever-it-was …” and the curtain raised to reveal the shimmering instruments and smiling faces of the Sun Ra Arkestra along with the Sex Mob Orchestra, whose horns brought “Angel of Harlem” an incomparable electricity. The only time the band previously played at the Apollo, in 1988, was to film portions of the video for this song.

Next, a rousing “Desire” led into a heavy-on-funk, stripped down arrangement of “When Love Comes to Town” and concluded with a raw “Stuck in a Moment,” which Bono dedicated to Anthony Bourdain and his family after an acknowledgement of the recent celebrity losses and a mention of INXS’s Michael Hutchence, for whom the song was originally written.

The second encore included Bono and The Edge on “Every Breaking Wave” (it only took two takes—whoopsie) and the full band for “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses?” and the finale of “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way.”

Though the set list was heavy on mainstream hits, nothing about the Apollo show felt basic. U2 is accustomed to playing to tens of thousands of people per night, but here they had just over 1,500, and seemed almost more at home in this setting.

Those in attendance—a mix of contest winners who were subscribers of either Sirius XM or U2.com, or were drawn from a Twitter contest—enjoyed an alchemy that doesn’t happen at every rock concert. It was an exchange of energy between the band, who were exuberant, and their followers, who were euphoric, and the building itself, which holds the secrets, successes and souls of those who have blessed its stage in decades past.

A sacred show in a sacred space.

(c) atu2.com/Kokkoris, 2018.

Transcendent

Springsteen on Broadway Marquee

Marquee outside the Walter Kerr Theatre

Not yet a week ago, my friend Jill and I had a delicious Italian dinner followed by a visit to the Walter Kerr Theatre for Springsteen on Broadway.

I’ve seen Bruce before—twice—but only accompanying my favorite living band (U2). He was phenomenal, but on those occasions he was playing their songs, so I was especially excited to hear him sing his own stuff on this night. Even more excited because I read his exceptional memoir last year.

I thought, because I’d read the book, I knew what I was in for … but I couldn’t have been more wrong. What I expected was a pleasant night of songs with a few anecdotal introductions. What I got was something I keep calling ‘transcendent’ because that’s really the only word I can find that comes close. All of this came free of cell phones blocking views (thanks to the theater’s strict policy) and courtesy of well-behaved guests (you could hear a pin drop).

For two hours (with no intermission), I experienced perpetual goosebumps as The Boss shared his soul by way of beautiful prose, quiet song rendition, theatrical storytelling, stand-up comedy, monologue delivery and rousing acoustic versions of his most famous tunes.

The whole thing was mind-blowing, but if I had to identify highlights, I’d say the joy with which he spoke of his 92-year-old mother (who currently battles Alzheimer’s); the crowd enthusiasm in response to “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”; the first few piano tickles of “Tougher Than The Rest” and the duration of the time his wife, Patti, joined him on stage (two songs, near the middle).

His self-deprecating tone shows a man more humble than necessary, yet eternally endearing. Though he may never have worked in the factories (as he points out early in the show), he’s done his time for America a million times over.

I feel incredibly grateful I got to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event, which still simmers to life in my subconscious this many days later.

U2 Through the Lens of Friendship: An Interview with Julian Lennon

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

‘Someone To Look Up To’ Photo (c) Julian Lennon, Used with Permission

Throughout the years, U2 has collaborated with many fellow artists, from legends they admire to fresh talents emerging on the scene. One such artist is their contemporary — acclaimed musician/photographer/humanitarian Julian Lennon. In addition to photographing the band over the years, Lennon is a backing vocalist on the track “Red Flag Day” from Songs Of Experience. In the following interview, conducted via email, Lennon shares details of their history together as artists and friends, his contribution to their current album, and the thousands of photos he still has of the band, which have yet to be released.

TK: When did you first meet/become friends with U2? 

JL: To be honest, I couldn’t tell you the first time … it could have been at the Formosa Cafe in L.A. about 30 years ago. We kept bumping into each other until eventually they asked me if I’d like to come to one of their shows, and I think the first time I went was because we had a security guard in common, Jerry Mele, who used to work for me, but was now working for them. I recall Oasis were their opening act, it was in the U.S. many, many moons ago … but I have a terrible memory, so can’t be sure. 😉

[Editor’s note: Oasis only opened for U2 twice, so the show Lennon references must have been in Oakland in 1997.]

TK: In an interview a few years back, you mentioned a treasure trove of U2 photos you took that weren’t released because they were being saved for possible use on an upcoming U2 album. Since they don’t appear on Songs Of Experience, will they be held for a future album or released in a different way? 

JL: Well, I have about 8000+ pictures, not all good by any means, as I was just starting to get into photography then, so a lot of blurry shots! But sometimes that can work too as a medium, as a more artistic slant to the conversation, so to speak. There are a few plans in the works with some of the images, for potential one-offs and limited edition images, but I really do need a month to go through all of them again, as I’ve had so many other projects to deal with in between. I’ll get around to them sooner than later …

TK: If/when they’re released, is there any chance of an exhibit of U2 works, exclusively? Is there any way to purchase any of your U2 prints that have already been displayed?

JL: I’ve already had exclusive U2 exhibitions, one as part of my first-ever exhibition, at the Morrison Hotel Gallery in NYC. I’ve had many since with them in Europe too, in Paris, when they were also performing there. The “Timeless” Collection (U2 inclusive) has been available for sale and to view on my photography website since 2010.

TK: I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Morleigh Steinberg in December, who co-owns the Arcane Space in Venice, California. She spoke of wanting to display a diverse array of artists/photographers. Any chance of exhibiting there (U2 content or not)?

JL: I had the pleasure of dining with The Boys a few nights ago, and Edge mentioned this too … it’s always a possibility.

TK: Fans were delighted to hear your backing vocals on “Red Flag Day.” How did the band approach you to work on that track?

JL: I went to visit U2 whilst they were working on the track, whilst they were still playing with the vocal arrangements, and B just said, “Jules, try this melody, it’s more suited to your tonal range” and that was it, I just sang along. Sometimes with Bono and Edge, sometimes solo, and my voice was blended into their background vocal tracks. I can’t really hear myself in there, but hey … happy to be part of it, regardless … 😉

TK: Throughout your musical career, you’ve collaborated with several of your contemporaries. What’s it like working with U2 compared to others with whom you’ve recorded? 

JL: Well, I’d hardly say I was working with them, as such, it was more like a little bit of fun for 5 minutes … The Boys are pretty low key when recording, and don’t often like having people around, so it’s always a pleasure to get the odd invite, if we’re in the same city, to hang out, talk about the World, and music, etc. etc.

TK: Any chance of you joining U2 on stage when they (presumably) sing “Red Flag Day” on their upcoming tour?

JL: Ha … Doubtful … If it was a “Proper” Duet as such, maybe there would be, or even an old classic like “Stand By Me,” which Bono and I have sung together now on quite a few occasions, but I think that decision is always last minute with Bono. He, and the rest of the guys, have to be feeling it, so to speak … I think it’s a show-by-show experience and decision.

TK: Would you ever want U2 to contribute to any of your future songs?

JL: I play them the odd song, here and there, listen to what they have to say … I think we’re both quite particular in our approach to songwriting, but never say never … who knows? 

TK: As a fan, do you have any favorite U2 songs or albums?

JL: Of course … too many to mention … “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “One,” “Vertigo,” “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” … the list goes on. It’s more a case of which few I don’t like … that would be easier! 😉

TK: In addition to musical gifts, you also share a common spirit with U2 in the humanitarian sense. Your White Feather Foundation does everything from bringing clean water to African communities to preserving indigenous people’s territories in Australia. Tell us more about your foundation and how our readers can help if they’d like to get involved.

JL: In all honesty, the easiest way to know what we do, and to learn the story behind The White Feather Foundation is to go to our website, and read up on our projects … otherwise I’d be writing a few pages out for an answer.

TK: Your new children’s book, Heal The Earth, was just released. Tell us about it.

JL: Well, it’s part of a trilogy to help children understand, in story form, the problems we face as a society, on a humanitarian and environmental level, and what we can do about those problems … but it’s more about starting a conversation with the next generation, at an early age, so they understand what’s happening to the world that they are going to inherit, and that there are possibilities for change, for the betterment of all life.

TK: Heal The Earth is the second in a trilogy. When can we expect the third book to arrive?

JL: Same time around, in the 3rd year … 😉

TK: At one point it was mentioned you may be writing an autobiography … is that in the works? You seem to always have a lot on your plate.

JL: I’m never not busy, one way or another. If I don’t have a project, or 2, or 3 on the go, at any given point in time, I start to worry that I’m not doing enough, for Myself, for My art, for the World. The autobiography is still a consideration, but I’ve just [got] too much going on to consider that as an option right now. 

TK: Fans of your Instagram feed (myself included) have really enjoyed your stunning photos from Cuba. Will those also become an exhibit? 

JL: Most of the Instagram shots that were seen were shot with an iPhone, so not really the quality that’s needed to put a show together, but I did take along a new camera that I recently purchased, the Sony AR7 III. Though the pictures won’t be identical to the iPhone pics, there are many that are very similar, so yes, there’s every chance they may become an exhibition at some point, but I’ve just finished editing all of my Cuba/Havana images, which will become a “Collection” on my photography website very soon …

TK: What’s the one question that journalists never ask you that you wish they’d ask?

JL: Am I happy? 🙂

(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2018.

 Lennon’s new book, “Heal The Earth,” will be released on April 3 and is available now for pre-order on Amazon. The third book in the trilogy will be released on or around Earth Day, 2019. A direct link to his U2 photography is here.

Bookstores for Browsing (and Buying)

Powell's Bookstore shelf

Staff guidance at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne

I travel a lot—both for business and leisure—and though I always pack plenty of reading material, I’ve noticed that doesn’t stop me from seeking out great bookstores wherever I land.

There have been times when the task wasn’t so easy. Once I was in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina with hours to spare before my flight home and I’d already finished every book I’d brought along on the trip. Not wanting to pay premium prices at the airport, I walked up and down the main streets looking for a bookstore, but had no luck. I ducked into a visitor information center and the host told me they unfortunately didn’t have any more bookstores in the area. She recommended I go to a drugstore for a magazine. I thanked her and kept walking. Soon, I found the public library. I entered and asked the librarian if it was indeed true there were no shops in the immediate vicinity. She regretfully confirmed there wasn’t, but when I told her of my predicament, directed me to their used library book sale where I scored two 50 cent paperbacks for my journey. Still, I was rattled that a major metropolitan area doesn’t have the demand to keep a bookshop in business.

Coming from Seattle, where independent bookstores like Elliot Bay Book Company and Third Place Books thrive, I’m spoiled with many places to explore. The following are five of my favorite U.S. bookshops outside of my own city.

  1. City Lights (San Francisco)
    I first discovered this gem during a girls’ night (seriously) with a few local friends back in 2011. The plan was for us to have cocktails at the nearby Tosca, but we needed to kill some time while we waited for a table. Ascending the stairs to a small nook on the upper level, I thought my friend was right behind me and asked her if she’d read a book that I was pointing to. When I turned around, she wasn’t there, but I had chills up and down my spine. A few minutes later when she made her way up, I joked that the place must be haunted and a local interjected that indeed there are rumors it is. Regardless of the spirits present (or not), the selection is eclectic and vast, just as you’d expect in this city known for its progressive slant.
  2. Left Bank Books (St. Louis)
    As a college student in Columbia, Missouri in the ’90s, I frequently made trips to St. Louis for Ted Drewes frozen custard. On one of those journeys, I took a friend along who was a St. Louis native, and she introduced me to this treasure trove. With a focus on community and a knowledgeable staff that encourages you to linger, I find it hard to leave whenever I visit.
  3. Compass Books SFO (San Francisco)
    I know, I know. San Fran is already on the list—I just can’t help it if they have an embarrassment of literary riches. And this one is in an airport. Yes, you heard me. The “West’s Oldest Independent Bookseller” is my first stop every time I land in Terminal 2 at SFO. In addition to the usual bestsellers, they have fantastic bargain shelves and unique gifts/greeting cards you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.
  4. Tattered Cover (Denver)
    Following the U2 tour in May of 2011, my boss and I went out to breakfast at a place we’d seen featured on the Food Network. Full from a delicious meal and with hours to spare before the next concert, we decided it would be best to walk off our pancakes and explore the area. By chance, we landed in this mammoth-yet-somehow-amazingly-cozy independent bookstore. It’s the sort of place where the smell of coffee wafts from the café as you browse and lively conversations among bookworms are abundant. I wanted to move in immediately.
  5. Powells City of Books (Portland)
    I’m proud to say that my hometown boasts what I think is the greatest indie bookstore in America (and is actually the world’s largest). This iconic shop where I spent hours scouring used racks as a teenager, looking for (and finding) my next Beatles fix, has the vibe of a classic record store and a selection that could never disappoint. I’ve never once left without making a purchase.

Other stores I planned to include until I learned they recently closed were: Granada Books in Santa Barbara and 2nd Edition in Raleigh. May they rest in peace.

A Trip Through The Joshua Tree Exhibit with Morleigh Steinberg

By Tassoula E. Kokkoris

This work was commissioned for the site atu2, which was online from 1995 – 2020 and it still protected under a shared copyright.

Frally Hynes, The Edge and Morleigh Steinberg at the exhibit premiere.
Photo courtesy of ARCANE Space.

As I entered ARCANE Space in Venice, California, barefoot to preserve the pristine white floor, I was immediately drawn in by its simplicity. Instead of a busy display with title cards and distracting noise, I was invited to experience the art on my terms, bearing witness to the works in basic frames; the artist’s statement the sole narrative.

Exploring the room, I imagined I was a hitchhiker on this journey, taking a trip through the America many never see. Grainy images of desert sands and empty roads suddenly felt as if they were in motion. I could almost hear the wind howling as I traveled deeper into the imagery. These landscapes were no longer places from the past, but vibrant signs of life — a bus arriving at its destination; clouds moving rapidly across the sky; a Joshua tree, standing healthy and proud.

This current exhibit, The Joshua Tree: Photographs by The Edge, focuses primarily on the countryside the guitarist captured while on the original tour in the ’80s, and the scenery feels just as timeless as the music. U2 fans will delight in a special section toward the back of the installation, which features single images of each band member.

The curator of the exhibit, who also happens to be the co-owner of ARCANE Space — and the wife of the artist — Morleigh Steinberg, was kind enough to walk me through the collection and provide additional insight. Her energy can only be described as infectious; her spirit kind and ethereal. She’s the type of artist who is so excited about the art, she makes you want to go home and pick up a paintbrush, even if you’re not a painter.

That passion, coupled with the complementary creativity of her co-owner, singer Frally Hynes (who joined us mid-interview), makes it easy to realize why the positive atmosphere in ARCANE is so palpable.

TK: Most U2 fans know you primarily as a choreographer and dancer. What inspired you to open ARCANE Space?

MS: I wanted to have a manageable place to present more visual types of work; not just theatrical. To not have to wait on other people to display the work; to give artists a chance to present in a space that’s not a gallery.

TK: The debut exhibit was a series of photos you personally took; this one is also photography — are you open to other exploring other mediums in the space?

MS: Of course! I’ve thought about doing a sound installation where people could experience that. There’s a graffiti artist I’d like to show — I’d also love to do something interactive, something digital with iPads and be able to bring in a more broad mix of work.

TK: Who’s idea was it to display The Edge’s photographs?

MS: It was his idea to do the book [that’s featured in The Joshua Tree 7LP Super Deluxe Box Set] and I asked him if we could display the images, since they were his photos. 

TK: And fast! 

MS: Yes! It wouldn’t have made sense to wait — we had to do this at the end of the [Joshua Tree 2017] tour for the connection to still be there.

TK: Going back to the time of the original Joshua Tree tour, there are various articles that say you knew U2 back then, but some say you didn’t. We know you were in the “With Or Without You” video, so was that the first encounter? What’s the true timeline of your history with them?

MS: We didn’t shoot the video together. I filmed with Matt Mahurin separately from the band; they filmed with Meiert Avis. But I did meet them at that time, so I knew them back then.

TK: But you didn’t choreograph for them until Zoo TV?

MS: Right — that was the first time I worked with them directly.

TK: Do you have a favorite photograph in this exhibit?

MS: [Points to one of the darker photos] Maybe this one? It changes every day. [Walks across room and points to nighttime image] I also love this one.

TK: So, you like the moody stuff? [Laughing]

MS: [Smiling] I guess. Really, I like it all!

TK: A few years back, your husband had a Twitter account, @360FromTheEdge, where he tweeted photos very regularly from the 360 tour. Is there any chance of him resurrecting that?

MS: The band does still post to Twitter and Instagram.

TK: But that’s sporadic and it’s all of them. Edge was really consistent when he was doing his own. You could feel his sense of humor coming through. I was hoping he’d maybe return to that at some point.

MS: He’s just so busy. I’m sure that’s why he doesn’t post more.

TK: Remembering that Twitter account, with the exception of brief captions, it was 100% photography. And now I’m standing in an exhibit of his works. Is The Edge really just a frustrated photographer who’s made a life as a musician?

MS: He’s just good at everything! He can do anything. He’s come to dance class with me and he’s a great dancer. He’s got the Tom Jones Welsh moves!

Frally and I laugh at this point with raised eyebrows.

MS: [Also laughing] Seriously, he can dance! But he does have a great eye for photography and he enjoys it.

TK: This exhibit is only on display for another week; what happens to the prints afterward? 

MS: Well, some of them have sold, so they’ll go to their new owners, but I have considered touring the collection — perhaps New York and London?

TK: You mentioned this is just a selection of photos you curated, so we can assume there are more?

MS: Yes, there are several more and I’ve thought about that as well. Making a new exhibit from a different group of the images. Also, these [points to installation] are digital prints made from the original 35mm negatives. I have wondered about showing the actual photos, but they’re so old and delicate.

TK: For those who may not be able to visit the space or afford an actual print, is there another way they can experience the Joshua Tree art?

MS: Well, there’s the book that’s being sold on U2.com as part of the deluxe set and we’ll also produce an 8×8 book specifically of images from this exhibit. That will be available here in the space and online on Dec. 14.

TK: It should be noted the prints aren’t being sold for profit. How did you select the charity that receives the proceeds?

MS: When we decided to do this, Edge said, “I want the money to go to a local charity. To help children.” We knew of the GO campaign here in L.A. because he’d previously worked with them, so we decided on that.

TK: So, what’s next for ARCANE Space?

MS: After this exhibit we’ll have a pop-up shop where we’ll sell prints for the holidays, so a few of the images here will still be up. We’re also looking to do shows with Andrew McPhersonAtiba Jefferson and others.

TK: Do you have a dream artist you’d like to feature?

MS: They’re all dream artists! All of them.

TK: Would you consider featuring anything political in the space?

MS: Of course!

TK: Will there be any other exhibitors that U2 fans would get excited about? 

MS: I’d love to get Gavin [Friday] in here.

TK: We’d love that too! What about Bono?

MS: Bono’s drawings are fantastic. His Peter and the Wolf illustrations were great. He’d be wonderful too. We have so many possibilities, I’m just excited for all of them.

TK: I so appreciate you making time for me today. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. On a closing note — who inspires you?

MS: Creative, like-minded people. And productive people. People with their eyes open.

(c) @U2/Kokkoris, 2017.

The Joshua Tree: Photographs by The Edge runs through December 17 at ARCANE Space, which is located at 324 Sunset Avenue in Venice, California. Admission is free. You can follow the space on Instagram as well.

Author’s note: A representative from the GO Campaign was in the space while I visited; she shared stories about the Recycled Orchestra, which The Edge has worked with — check them out. The way they build their own instruments reminded me of the first electric guitar The Edge’s brother Dik built when they were becoming musicians.

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