Summer Like it Hot

But not I! ūüėÄ

Since I put up my Winter travel recommendation sticky-post late, I am offsetting it with an early-ish Summer piece.  This is Part One.

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It is already summer here in Valencia this week, hovering around 100F, unhappily for me. The minute the weather turns sultry I begin dreaming of cooler climes.¬†If you have been following this blog for awhile, you know I am a cold weather fan. If I were like most people, I would pick Palm Springs or Phoenix even in August. But I am the Vermont in February Un-y-Mooner, if you recall. So …

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Now, I have already shared two places that I can heartily recommend for those of you who want to escape the heat. They are the Jersey Shore and La Jolla. See both posts for details. If I knew it better, I would recommend Vancouver/Vancouver Island. What all of these places have in common is beautiful beaches, old, lovely architecture, gorgeous vegetation, elegant upscale vintage towns with places to eat and shop in abundance and, wait for it: moderate, balmy temperatures even in August.

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As you know, if you read about my Jersey Shore, there used to be elegant old hotels there. I am no longer familiar with the local accommodations, so I will just suggest using a VRBO or Air BnB (see my Oakland post for winter). As for La Jolla, I do have a recommendation: La Jolla Shores Hotel.

It’s right on the beach, within a few steps of all the attractions. A large, sprawling complex with comfortable rooms and verandas for dining or having an afternoon drink to watch the sun set. It reminds me of those old, gracious, rambling colonial hotels one finds in Montego Bay. It is reasonable by La Jolla standards and the staff are friendly. Q.E.D.!

While you are in La Jolla, make sure you try the ice cream at Bobboi Natural Gelato, 8008 Girard Street, #150  Рexpect the unexpected in flavors like Charcoal Vanilla or Blood Orange or Meyer Lemon and Mint,

and have one dinner at Osteria Romantica, 2151 Avenida De La Playa La Jolla, CA 92037.

The latter is literally two short blocks from La Jolla Shores Hotel and wonderful, from the menu selection’s authenticity, to the quality of the food, to the service and ambience. A bit of Italy in California.

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If you are in the mood for Mexican, and don’t mind rustic, head right to The Taco Stand for hands down the best Mexican food in La Jolla.

Right across the street on Pearl is El Pescador, our favorite fish restaurant.

And yet another absolute must is Oscars, at its four locations for Mexican seafood!

But, if you want to sit and look out directly onto the Pacific, head to Carolines at the famous Birch Aquarium of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

There is no end of things to do in La Jolla: take a snorkeling¬†tour of the coast, go to any one of the dozens of coves and watch the sun set or jog along the beach at sunrise. ¬†The shops are too numerous to list, but one of our favorites is Gepetto’s toy store. You can visit the Museum of Contemporary Art. There are, of course, many other things to do in the San Diego area that are unique, including the famous kayak tours, the world renowned San Diego Zoo¬†and Safari Park, both of which I have visited several times and highly recommend, Old Town¬†— which from my experience is the best way to get a taste of Mexico, while staying in California — and shopping in Horton Plaza or La Jolla Village.

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But, my main tip for a perfect place to spend a summer vacation has to be Woods Hole/Falmouth/Martha’s Vineyard in¬†Massachusetts, and that is coming up in Part Two: Summer Came Running:Languor Management.

Images: Chez Bebe Assets/La Jolla, California

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Ooh la LA

The weather has been so delightful lately, that I realized¬†it was time to invite people to visit Southern California before it’s too late and we are either roasting alive¬†or dying of thirst, LOL! These¬†are my¬†insider’s tips on visiting La-La land: the only five places you will need to know¬†to¬†party like a native. ūüėČ

Rooftop Bar, Hotel The Standard, Downtown L.A., Los Angeles, California, USA

New York is the place to visit in autumn, as I wrote last year. ¬†Spring is the time to visit LA. When I was reflecting on¬†Los Angeles, and trying to summarize what it is about LA that is so attractive to people — apart from endless sunshine, that is, natch — the word seductive came to mind.

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A few years ago, I read this book about France and the French character.  It is worth reading just to see how differently the French look at everyday life, relationships, food, tourists, Americans etc.  Not to say that they are right or wrong, necessarily but truly it is a culture apart. France is seductive.

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Los Angeles is like that. Someone should write a book about it¬†(note to self). Unlike NYC that instantly triggers love or hate, Los Angeles sidles up to¬†you and lures you in with that sultry come hither environment that allows everyone to be utterly, nakedly themselves. And that is no mere metaphor. You have permission to be as uninhibited and as outrageously ‘you’, as you want here — and that is what I love most about this city, its welcoming diversity.

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There are three urban hubs that you need to hit if you want to understand California. ¬†In some ways it should be two or three states. ¬†San Francisco and San Diego are distinctive megalopolises with their own sphere of influence and mindsets. ¬†You won’t get to know or¬†understand¬†all three, by just visiting one of them.

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People everywhere¬†are drawn to Los Angeles, but not for the beaches, because, honestly, there¬†are others far more beautiful. ¬†If you are looking for the ideal beach environment, go to Cape Cod, Monterey, the Northeastern coast of Brazil or the Caribbean. ¬†Don’t come to LA for that.

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People love Los Angeles because of its gigantic entertainment industry and the allure of being close to the stars. If you are a wannabe, the magnetism of LA is powerful and rightly so. But, I think the true main attraction of LA is that, you can park philosophies and ideologies at the threshold when you land at LAX and step into a completely welcoming, accepting culture that signals immediately: anything goes. Relax, have a great time. Not a Hawaii-lie-around-the-pool great time. ¬†A get-out-there-and-have-a-ball. Mingle, go to barbecues, hit the club scene, do a night on the town. Be free to enjoy yourself, however you like. Angelenos are incredibly outgoing and friendly, right away. ¬†They don’t need time to warm up to you. ¬†For a transplanted NYer it was palpable immediately. Smiles and welcomes, sincere ones, not papier-m√Ęch√©¬†politeness, characterizes the citizenry.

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Last week, my cousin was in Los Angeles on an assignment. She always stays at the London West Hollywood.  Claire and I chatted in her sleek ultra-modern suite and then went up to the roof patio for dinner.  It was a beautiful clear day looking out over LA on the top floor of the hotel in late afternoon.  As we were sitting there gabbing, afloat over the city, evening fell, draping everything with its violet shawl. All around us was a crystal view of the sprawl that is the LA metropolis,  its lights flickering on and the stars popping out overhead. Some miles to the east, Downtown appeared as a cluster of glittering stacks that huddled together like intimate giants sharing a secret. Farther along Wilshire, Century City was gazing across the concourse toward Westwood. It was pure magic.

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Come to Los Angeles between April and July.  Summers here are too brutal now, the autumn is unremarkable and the winters, well, they can be misty and dull.

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Here is where I would start. ¬†Stay at one of the newly restored more affordable hotels Downtown or on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. There is a lot to do at night on this stretch of the Strip. If you like off-off-off Broadway entertainment, lol, the Strip is the place to go. ¬†Start at the Whiskey. ¬†You can walk to it from the London WH, and frankly, that is where I would stay. ¬†Rooms average¬†about US$350, reasonable¬†by LA standards. The other advantage you would have is being able to get to Beverly Hills, Century City, Westwood, the Melrose restaurant row very easily, even using¬†LA’s notoriously limited¬†public transportation. ¬†I have ridden the Metro bus and train system locally and they are clean, air conditioned, safe and comfortable. ¬†Not like London, Paris or NY, not efficient, fast and ubitquitous, but good. You can even get to Downtown and Pasadena using public transportation, from a central hub of West Hollywood. Hollywood itself is also east on Sunset, so you couldn’t ask for a better place as home base.

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Not to oversell this location, you can also take Sunset to Santa Monica, Brentwood and Venice Beach. Although, as I will explain in a minute, I would suggest the South Bay or Beach Cities instead.  They are far more exemplary of what Angelenos consider beach living, while Santa Monica and Venice are for tourists.

From the hub you choose, I would visit the following places, depending on how much time you have:

  1. Downtown, LA
  2. West Hollywood/Hollywood/Melrose
  3. Pasadena
  4. South Bay beach cities: Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach
  5. Beverly Hills/Westwood

As you plan your visit, just remember the LA Golden rule:

Everything is always 45 minutes away from everything else …

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Downtown, as I have said previously somewhere on this blog, is really hopping now.  If there is a happening place in LA, DT is it.  It is packed with restaurants, clubs, bars, loft-hotels and entertainment.  The Disney Concert Hall, the Chandler Pavillion complex and other similar venues for traditional theater- and concert-going are at the north end.  There are museums and cathedrals as well as the very trendy and cool Grand Central Market that is worth an afternoon of eating and coffee in itself.

There is also a fab Art Walk that takes you around to galleries and the hidden creative underground/grunge that makes LA appealing for millennials right now, from burning men to urban hipsters.  The Natural History Museum and the Staples Center are at the bottom of DT LA and both are worth the trip.  Just walk up and down the north/south artery of Figueroa and you will see a history of architecture from the 18th through the 21st centuries, rising on either side of you.  While you are doing that, make sure to stop at Fig&7th to have a snack or a drink and get in a bit of shopping. Just a block or two north and you can eat at the famous, original Pantry, continuously open since 1924. Or take Wilshire from DT, via the Metros, all the way West to the beach, and watch the progress of the city the automobile built, materialize as you go.

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And while you are there, make sure you have afternoon English tea at the Biltmore Hotel. It is an LA institution and I guarantee you will gape at the¬†world’s glitterati parading around you as they stream into DT in droves, snapping up refurbished buildings to re-rent out or install start-ups. It is very reasonably priced at about $200 per night for old world luxury.

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When we are DT, we eat at various places. ¬†You can always grab a bite at the Grand Central Market, with all its many food stalls.¬†If you are deep in the dough, try the Water Grill¬†for perfect food in a flawless upscale environment. ¬†If, like us, you are on a budget, head to the Fisherman’s Outlet. ¬†An LA legend¬†is Philippe’s for sandwiches.

West Hollywood/Hollywood/Melrose I probably don’t need to tell you too much about this part of LA, West of Downtown. ¬†This is the hub of the night scene. There is shopping, of course, with a robust array of boutiques and galleries. But clubs and restaurants are the main draw. The Viper Room, Whiskey a Go Go,¬†the Roxy Theatre¬†and all sorts of sky bars are strung along Sunset. ¬†Just drop your stuff at the hotel and head out in either direction on the Boulevard and you will stumble on them. ¬†Whenever I am in this area and I have time, I make my way over to¬†Little Ethiopia for lunch. ¬†Not only is it affordable, it is exotic and exquisite food made and served by natives. ¬†Try Messob, my fave.

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Pasadena¬†may be a bit more staid but for my money, skip the Getty¬†and¬†the LACMA and¬†head straight to the Norton Simon Museum, Gamble House, Asia Pacific¬†Museum and Huntington Library and gardens¬†that stretch from one end of Old Pasadena to the other. ¬†There is more shopping and eating in Pasadena, with every kind of food from all over the world, than in any place outside of DT LA. It is a beautiful, pristine, elegant old city that has been updated and now boasts an influx of condo dwellers at an unprecedented rate. ¬†Every possible kind of entertainment is available and you can walk to it, from the Metro which has several stations in Old Town. Definitely check out The Pasadena Playhouse for live theater, as well as various cinema complexes up and down the main east-west thoroughfare — especially at The Paseo –, Colorado Boulevard. ¬†You can attend free concerts all summer at the Levitt Pavilion¬†or the symphony at the stunning, world class Ambassador Auditorium.

Make sure you stop by the largest independent bookstore in Southern California, Vromans and have a homemade sundae at the 100 year old Fairoaks Pharmacy in South Pasadena. Eat dinner at the incomparable El Cholo, for Mexican food, SoCal style.

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Southbay/The Beach Cities This may be a bit out of the way, unless you have a car. If so, head west on Sunset to the 405/San Diego Freeway and points south. ¬†Get off at Rosecrans and go west¬†to Pacific Coast Highway, turning south again. ¬†You will be in Manhattan Beach, the largest of the three. ¬†Turn right on Manhattan Beach Boulevard and take it down to the Ocean. There you will find yourself amid the real coupon-clipping laid back millionaires that teem all over this part of LA. ¬†These are the Angelenos who never work. Everywhere around you will be bronzed blonds zipping along in Italian convertibles. ¬†There are literally dozens of places to eat, in every price range, as well as boutiques and bars. ¬†But, of course, as you rise over the crest of the hill on MB Blvd., you will see the Pacific gleaming and winking¬†ahead of you. ¬†Bring a towel and beach wear. This is the place to watch the roller-bladers gliding¬†along The Strand in front of the multi-million dollar manses¬†that perch at the sand’s edge. ¬†Take your margarita down there and imagine what life would be like if you had nothing to do every day but gaze out at the ocean liners and Catalina, while your help kept you supplied with refreshments.

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MBch is the best kept secret in the Southland. ¬†Try the ancient Kettle for lunch and Love&Salt for dinner. Farther down PCH pointing south is Hermosa Beach. ¬†Like Manhattan, it is for play not work, but trendier, younger, hipper and more bohemian. ¬†Finally, a bit farther down is Redondo Beach. ¬†It has the Pier and attracts an older, quieter crowd. ¬†You can’t go wrong with any of the three. ¬†Hermosa has a comedy club that is actually fabulous. You never know who is going to do a gig there, often well known comics, so check before you go and reserve a seat.

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Beverly Hills/ Bel Air/ Westwood I typically avoid the first two. ¬†By the way, Century City is in this area but it is largely businesses and residential. ¬†There is not much there to recommend you spend time in CC when you could be Downtown, in Manhattan Beach, or Pasadena. Beverly Hills needs little introduction. If mansion-crawling is your thing, just go west on Sunset from West Hollywood, and you will be in Bel Air in ten minutes. ¬†It is self-explanatory once you see the sign (you can’t miss it). If you find yourself in Bel Air, visit the North side of the UCLA campus, the old part of this 419¬†acre magnificat. ¬†You shouldn’t¬†waste time looking at houses in BH, the main attraction of which is that Sultanic¬†mecca known as Rodeo Drive. By the way, if you want to stay in this part of LA and actually go to the LACMA anyway, you can stay at the iconic Beverly Wilshire (Pretty Woman). But, it’s pricey.

Don’t bother eating in BH either. Overpriced, overhyped, mediocre food. ¬†No celebs will be eating there, just tourists. ¬†Eat instead in Westwood, the home village of UCLA, SoCal’s other premiere University (beside CalTech). ¬†There are so many fantastic places to eat in Westwood, I would need another post for them. ¬†Our favorite is Native Foods.

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Ok, ok, I hear you saying, but what if I absolutely must tell people I ate in Beverly Hills and money is no object? Then absolutely, you have to go to Crustacean, if for nothing else, the experience of the place. ¬†You won’t be sorry — broke, but happy. ¬† If you just need to use a restroom and grab a snack so you won’t faint while shopping, go to Neiman Marcus, located on Wilshire.

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Then head over to Westwood, gape at billionaire’s row on Wilshire as you approach the Westwood Village, and rest on the UCLA south campus after all this activity.

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By the way, there are three more items you might want to consider: LAX, Burbank Airport and Union Station.  If you want to start in the South Bay and see these three beautiful and entertaining beach cities, by all means fly into LAX.  They are just 15 minutes south on the 405 Freeway.  If you want to start in Pasadena or West Hollywood? Use the very nice, easy, safe Burbank Airport, you will be just minutes away from both.  If you plan to start Downtown, consider taking Amtrak to Union Station and see a classic with one of the best restaurants anywhere, Traxx.

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That’s it. ¬†If you just hit those five key spots, you will be immersed in LA and totally ‘get it’ ever after.

Images: Beth Byrnes, The London West Hollywood and The Examiner

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East of eatin’

Summer is finally upon us and it roared into Santa Clarita with a vengeance. It has been hovering around 100F for over a week. This is the time I begin dreaming of snow and even the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas in July seems like a high point, LOL!

We’ve been back and forth to San Diego. I was supposed to go on the family pilgrimage to Plum Island next week but I am just too busy.

The Houstapo (our local HOA) has been making the rounds dreaming up expensive improvements to all our properties, so Geoffrey and I have planned to stay put until the middle of August, working on the house and yard.

But, I did spend the latter part of May and the first half of June down south, so I have lots of pictures. Some of them are in this post.

Might as well explain them right now. This is another of the five quarters, called East Village, which is just, well, east of the Gaslamp quarter with all its restaurants and shops.

East Village is undergoing a building renaissance with new lofts springing up in glass-clad towers and old warehouses being refurbished as office buildings, eateries and clubs. It is also home to the Petco Stadium that hosts the Padres baseball team. San Diegans are fiercely proud of the Padres and you can see it all over East Village.

We stumbled on this part of Downtown when we were seeking out SD’s best bagelry, which turns out to be Brooklyn Bagel & Bialy. We suddenly realized it was the ideal place to buy an investment property so we have been back scouring each street.

There is also a stunning library there.  And a homeless Veteran population that has no where else to go and seems to be tolerated, if not welcomed.

Nonetheless, the quarter seems quietly industrious and clean. I can see an Air BnB making a steady income in the last affordable part of a major coastal city.

Since downtown San Diego is right on the ocean, you can feel and smell the sea from East Village, like no other part of Downtown. That is a nice perk and added incentive to invest there.

Not much else to report. Just waiting for the three years and six months to be up until we can hopefully go back to having civilization in this country. It has gradually sunk in that being civilized, like being adult, is harder than being barbarian and juvenile. Lately life just seems to rotate around the calendar with complete regularity. Just when I have gotten used to cool weather, the summer slams into us. The older I get, the more my life just seems like one big wheel, whirling faster and faster.

I guess America needed an infantile regression because the pain of facing adult, advanced responsibilities has finally caught up with the 35% of the voting population that made this choice — at the behest of the billionaire rulers — in a futile dream that somehow those billionaires would make life easy and safe for them again.

It would be tempting to fill this blog with inspirational fantasies of positivity or to simply indulge in weekly rants about selfishness and stupidity. But, I am just not into either. So, I will share my trivia and my photos until something changes. Until I see clear signs that the major blunder of last November is about to be corrected.

There are lots of things to be grateful for, and I am. Not the least of which is you, my WP community. Much love to you all.

Images: Chez BeBe assets: East Village, Downtown San Diego

 

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Sandy ego

I’m back!¬†My only excuse is I have been busy (like all of you!). Down¬†to San Diego, up to Valencia and all the chores involved with both houses, as well as the new car, is stretching every minute four or five times.

But here I am with the latest updates. ¬†I have to admit the craziness in the world outside our doors has me a bit on edge, but that’s because I am high strung. It is just a new excuse to be nervous. ūüėÄ

As I may have mentioned before, there are two new projects in the works.

One is buying an investment property in Downtown San Diego (which we have fallen in love with) and the other is a new company that I have been putting together for the past year.

We are making slow but steady progress on both, but it has meant stealing time from other things, like blogging and finishing two knitting projects that are ready to be assembled.

Not my photography, however. I take the D610 with the 16-85 mm lens wherever I go and so new series and sets are always in the works.

I will be heading down to San Diego again next week and continuing to chronicle my exploration of the city and the greater metro area (which are both complex and vast) as well as experimenting with new ways of taking pictures for different purposes.

You saw one, my last post (I blink …) and I will be talking about another new technique next post.

Meanwhile, here are pictures of the Gaslamp Quarter of Downtown. There are five “Quarters” (clearly they don’t mean fourths but areas).

The Gaslamp is the oldest part of the city and the most bustling and active. It is filled with bars, restaurants, mom & pop shops, dance spots, theaters and a vibrant street life. It is a maze of fun and energy.

I hope you can get a sense of that from these shots, which are just a fraction of the ones I took on several days wandering around looking at investment condos.

San Diego is experiencing the kind of explosive growth that Los Angeles went through about 20 years ago.

No one can buy property in DTLA for less than $2mm these days, even for a dinky apartment.

Those prices are approaching NYC’s, which are now astronomical.

But DTSD is still affordable. You can get a 1500 sq ft loft for under one million dollars.

Next time I get a chance, I will show you pictures I took of the most affordable part of the city, close to the water in what is called the East Village Quarter.

It looks nothing like the East Village in Manhattan, but it has real sea breezes so you feel as if you are at the beach all the time. And people are pretty proud of its edgy urban hipster environment.

If you have any spare money at all and live in SoCal, DTSD is the place in which to invest, imho.

More on all this in my next post. ‚̧

(Meanwhile, I am eyeing Phase One Cameras. You can get them refurbished. Imagine shooting with 100 megapixels?)

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Images: Chez BeBe assets: The Gaslamp Quarter of Downtown San Diego, California

 

I blink therefore I am

Well, I’ve blown my posting schedule so I will stop making promises about regular posts.

One reason is all this running back and forth to San Diego. It has been fun, but exhausting.   I also just got a shiny new car and have had fun getting it all tricked out.  Got some tasteful license plate frames that sparkle subtly and a custom license plate with my name, Bethany, on it.

After I bought the custom plate, Geoffrey reminded me that I had better watch what I say on NextDoor as I will be highly visible in our neighborhood now, LOL! Oops.

Back to this post. I recently attended an Art Wolfe seminar. Wolfe is a pioneering photographer, known world-wide, as well as artist and author (over 100 books). He has been everywhere that any of us could imagine wanting to take photographs or sketch or paint.  In fact, he was among the first photographers to climb Mt. Everest some 45 years ago. But Wolfe is both a pioneer, a master and an iconoclast.

His instruction in this particular day-long seminar was about finding extraordinary art in ordinary, everyday places and subjects.  He tells his students that there is little excitement in taking the 2000th shot of the Tetons or Iguassu falls, penguins on ice in Antartica or a monastery jutting out from a cliff in the Himalayas. Lots of people have been there and done that.

Instead, he looks for beautiful possibilities in plain or even ugly places and objects.  Up for a challenge, I took 100 pictures all around Valencia and sought out the ugliest things I could find. The results were really encouraging. This post features just a handful of my processed pictures.

As always, I used my four digital cameras (mostly the Nikons, D800 and D610, with their best lenses) and shot in RAW, then turned the best 75 of those shots into TIFs in Lightroom; then took the TIFs into Photoshop to make any further adjustments (like cropping in tight, while maintaining the original ratio so size and information were not compromised, or straightening them or removing excess noise or distracting artifacts, etc.). Often that was all they needed, but I also ran some of them through the various programs in Topaz (I have them all, the latest versions of Textures and Glow, being my favorites). I selected the best 50 or so and turned them into the final, lossy JPEGs.

The originals would really make you laugh and can be seen on my Flickr photostream.

Now when I am out with my cameras (and I always have at least one with me, or use my phone when desperate), I purposely seek out subjects with exceptional characteristics Wolfe listed in his neat little summary: line, color, texture, or all three. He takes people on photographic safaris all over the world, all year long, so I plan to sign up for one when I can snag a block of time. Pretty exciting.

The meaning of the title of this post is conciously conceiving of your eye as a camera, or deliberately making your camera do what your eyes and mind do automatically. When we look at something, we immediately process it in our mental machinery and the result is usually added values. If we can train ourselves to use our eyes and camera together as one artistic assembly, we can produce limitless, original works.

Wolfe frames and sells many of his to museums, offices, homes, and public spaces. When you see them framed, you realize the genius of his eye and mind. I hope to train myself along those lines.  All of these pictures in RAW were over 40 feet wide in their original format.

Another reason I have been so busy and therefore absent for longer stretches here, is that we have decided to buy a condo in Downtown San Diego. My next post will be about that. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am at the prospects there.

My in-laws have planned a family trip to a resort scheduled for two weeks this summer and then my family is making their annual pilgrimage to Plum Island in July, so I have a lot of decisions to make, upcoming. I am now just keeping a set of suitcases in the foyer. With all this traveling, no point in putting them away.

We plan to head to the beach in Ventura on Saturday. It is supposed to rain, but that just makes the prospect of dark waves and lots of wind-whipped seafoam all the more attractive to my Yankee heart.  If we do go, I will be bringing the cameras, natch.

Miss you all and love you! Stay tuned.

Images: Chez BeBe assets: Art of the Real originals

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Calaughornia

When I first visited out here back in the 1980s, I was immediately struck by how cheerful everyone was.

It didn’t seem forced or phony. People were literally happy. I cannot explain it. Golden state atmosphere, perhaps? Everything turns to gold. Or could it be that unhappy people just leave.

Unhappy like — forgive me — a lot of people in New Jersey, as an example that comes to mind immediately. Now, don’t get me wrong. NJ, especially at the shore and Monmouth, Ocean, Freehold counties, is gorgeous. Rolling green farms, orchards loaded with fruit, white beaches with warm, blue water and undulating dunes, bursting with lobsters, crab and other sea fare. ¬†I love New Jersey and my parents owned a home there at the beach for my entire childhood.

While I was living there, I never noticed the sadness or pessimism. But the minute I left the East Coast, traveled the world and ultimately moved to California, I could spot someone from the Garden State immediately. They always seemed to have a cloud following them around.

New Yorkers are seriously, pragmatic, street-savvy people. But they aren’t sad.

Forgive these sweeping generalizations because I am sure there are many exceptions to all of this. These are my ethnographic observations and merely anecdotal.

But, of one thing I am sure. California is a happier place to be for many reasons. And believe me, I resisted it for years. I simply could not incarnate in a place where everyone was just celebrating all the time. It seemed impossible and wrong, somehow. But this year, of all times in my life, I am so grateful I am here in California. I want to wrap this state around me and my family and protect us from the dark waves rolling over our country. It has become my bunker.

Pivoting a bit — and coming back to the standard explanations for California happiness — is trust. Californians trust their state to do good and right things that will make them happy. They don’t need a disruptor disintermediating. They trust their interlocutors and leaders.

One of the reasons is, the state has been controlled for the most part, for decades,¬†by progressives. And the result is a superior health care system, responsiveness to the homeless population, low crime rates, a well regulated and equipped law enforcement system and an adequate infrastructure maintenance and development program. It isn’t perfect, as the recent dam overflow demonstrated but it is better than most.

This is a large, expansive, and populous state with a thriving economy. ¬†While my beloved New York State will always be home and first in my estimation, I finally acknowledge the excellence of quality living in California. A high standard of living, every kind of natural resource and beautiful weather are just icing on the cake. And all that with those pesky rules, restrictions and regulations that libertarians are always dreaming should be done away with. Uh, I don’t think so. They work here and no one seems to chafe at them.

For all the people that ridicule Californians for being superficial, light-weights or shallow, for bleeding heart liberalism and left-wing fringe-ism, Californians are actually having a good time, while caring for and about their fellow men and women. In fact, you can only be generous to others, when your basic needs are met. They are met here in abundance. California has been and will continue to actually walk the progressive talk. If you want to know what the future would look like throughout this country, if progressives were enabled to implement their policies and realize their vision of America as a prospering people who look out for each other and embody the highest values of the human spirit, just look at California right now.

Californians are having the last laugh.

Images: Chez BeBe assets: San Diego, California

Dumocracy

Every single day, for as long as I can remember, stretching back to when I was a toddler I have tried to learn as much as I can about the world around me.

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And, every single day since I was 17 or 18 and discovered that the key to getting the most out of being a member of the so-called most intelligent earthly species was to be conscious, to study and think deeply, I have also sought to develop awareness, of myself, others and that same world, starting right in my little family and radiating outward.

Radiating outward to encompass the neighborhood, the city, the region, the country, the world, the universe.

If I want to be healthy, I have to study hard, a lot of complex subjects that include biology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry, biochemistry, agriculture, climate, ecology. Just for that one endeavor.

When I buy a car, I do extensive research, now made easier by dozens of online sites that put every car on the planet at my fingertips.

So too any household products or a vacation or an academic course or a home to buy or rent.

This is just common sense to me. It is the way I was raised. My parents counseled me to do whatever I could to the very best of my ability and to stretch beyond what I thought were my limits, so I could grow. And the ultimate goal was not only to ensure my own success but that of those and the world around me too.

That is why the current mental sophistry is so unfathomable. When did learning¬†— excellent learning¬†— and reaching higher toward the best that human beings can be and do become suspect?

I can understand the fear about job scarcity and terrorism, while vehemently disagreeing about the way they are being handled. ¬†For example, the current administration head has lied and given coal miners the false hope that those jobs are returning. They will not return, because the owners are increasingly mechanizing¬†operations and clean energy ¬†manufacturing is becoming more cost effective than fossil fuels production. Terrorists have caused fewer violent deaths in the US than toddlers with their parents’ guns. But, those lies appeal to the fearful. Those I can understand because people are reacting to the world emotionally and not thinking it through or doing their homework with sound information sourcing.

What I cannot understand is the reverse intellectual snobbery that attends the destruction of our information sources, sciences and schools. A small group of dark, destructive men is taking over all three areas.

Clearly, there are dual motives in attacking our free public education system: power and money grabs. But, learning systems cannot be based on profiteering. They must be founded in scientific and empirical knowledge of human (i.e., child) development and a sound, thorough understanding of the physical and social world in which that child is held. Ideology is fine, theorizing a natural outgrowth of human study, but there are actual provable traits and features of human growth that must form the basis of a curriculum. You can’t just dream things up in your head and then ramrod them through by force, if you want an educated, thriving species.

According to the man who runs the White House, the white nationalist, Stephen¬†Bannon, a main aim of the new regime dictating US policy is to “deconstruct” the Federal government. They will be bolstering defense and national security (lucrative defense and weapons contracts, building of private prisons, an enormous militarized deportation force that will involve the erection of massive detention centers and of course the infamous ‘wall’) but destroying other structures such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education under a completely unqualified woman whose only credentials are being the sister of the man who formed Blackwater and marriage to a billionaire.

When do you ever hear of benevolent entities wishing to disasssemble protective apparatuses and strip ordinary people of basic human necessities?

Even Glenn Beck, someone I rarely agree with, has sounded the ominous bell about the minds behind the new isolationist and white national philosophy of this administration, the late French philosopher, Jacques Derrida who came up with the idea of applying Deconstruction wherever one wishes to dismantle ideology and Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian who promotes economic nationalism.  According to Beck, Bannon is dangerous.

It is highly irresponsible for people to vote for figures who will determine the world’s fate without knowing what beliefs and agenda are behind their actions. Apparently, 25% of the American adult population did exactly that. ¬†No, good paying jobs in obsolete sectors are not being created by these people. They are not improving the economy for the average person and greatest number of people (for example, the middle class will see virtually no tax breaks at all under their plan) and worst of all, they have aimed their deconstruction at education.

By the way, the world’s “white” population is only 10%. So who are these malicious white nationalists doing this for? Certainly not humanity writ large.

Now, as they blatantly defend their ties to the Russian government and a growing circle of illicit oligarchs, they attack the free press and begin to take down the schooling of the populace. If you want to take away someone’s rights and resources, that is how you do it. ¬†Keep people disinformed and diseducated.

When you vote, you have to be more proactive than apparently this 25% were. What investigation of this group did they do? Are they willing to give up these intellectual freedoms for the fools’ gold they were promised last year? How about those who did not vote or protest voted for a third party candidate. ¬†How will they¬†make this up to us?

I am sorry for being so serious, but this is a grave forecast. This is the aspiration of Steve Bannon and his coterie of nefarious puppetmasters with their megalomaniacal dream of upheaval and world domination. And make no mistake, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, who have economic aspirations to transfer massive wealth to their corporate cronies, are quietly sitting back and handing the keys to the kingdom to these rasputins.

Again, every single day, I strive to be awake and aware, no matter how painful. Yes, I would like to bury my head and wait this out. But at the other end of this process, which may be a full 16 years from now, America and the world will be very different places if we continue on blithely ignoring what is unfolding right in front of us. No science, no education, no legitimate press, in other words, no facts, no truths, just lies to keep us compliant.  1984 will look like a picnic when these people are done with us.

They need to keep us stuck on stupid. And we are still doing little to stop them.

He must go

Image: Wikimedia commons