An Afternoon at the Cheech–1


Some of you may remember the comedy duo Cheech and Chong way back in the day. Cheech has spent his life collecting Chicano and Chicana art. This year he gave a lot of his art collection to open a new museum in Riverside, California. Earlier this week my grandson, his girlfriend and I went to visit the museum. Photos and videos are allowed without flash. The following is the first set of photos I took. Please note that you need to see this art for yourself. Photos do not do it justice. Much of it is multidimensional and looks very different depending on where the viewer stands.

This is what you see when you enter the door; it is two stories high and multidimensional. Look how different the next photo of it looks from this one.

Walk farther to the side and it looks totally different again.

This speaks for itself. Right now where I live the air is clean enough that unless it is foggy, I can see all the way to downtown LA 30 plus miles away.

All the art at this museum has a message; much of it illustrates the ills of society.

The influence of indigenous art, e.g. Aztec, Mayan, can be seem in much of the art and the statements the art makes.

The woman above and the woman below hang next to each other.

An Afternoon at The Getty Center


Yesterday my daughter and I drove to The Getty Center to wander around, look at the art, eat at the restaurant, enjoy the views which are quite spectacular.

Two views of the Pacific Ocean from different vantage points. The Getty Center is on top of a hill with spectacular views in almost every direction.

Looking in the opposite direction is a view of a lot of Los Angeles.

In the distance loom the snow capped mountains close to where I live in the San Gabriel Valley.

Across the 405 freeway are large houses and vineyards.

Currently, one entire section of The Getty Center features a Mayan codex, a few pages of one of the oldest ever found.

The view from where I took several photos back through an open area. The Getty Center is huge, made mostly out of limestone.

Much of the art currently on view is about the Virgin of Guadalupe and religious paintings related to the birth of Jesus.

Blackwater Draw


I walk the mile long trail down into the depths,

caliche, gravel, larger rocks strewn by millennia.

The ancients–Clovis, Folsom, Portales

Man–hunted here at the shores of a lake

nearly 12,000 years ago. In 1929, an amateur

archeologist discovered a spear point lodged in bone.

Scattered cottonwoods whisper in the wind,

timeless voices call me, beckoning.

Who were these people? What did they

look like? Where did they come

from? In whose gods, goddesses, did

they believe? Doubtless hunger

drove them to this place of water

and plenty. Columbia mammoths, giant

sloths, dire wolves, saber toothed cats.

I walk this long path, read signs

that tell what diggers found at specific

spots along the trail: bison horns

spanning seven feet, mammoths twice

the size of elephants. I stand in the shade

of the cottonwoods. They whisper to me.

They tell me ancient tales of hunger, strife,

beauty, love, endurance, woe, war, weaponry,

courage and community. How did they overcome

danger, fear? My skin tingles strangely

in the summer heat. Now this land is dry,

desert, the water that sustained teeming life

evaporated in the crystalline air.

Twelve thousand years from now who will stand here?

Will this place exist? Will someone wonder the meaning

of our bones, who we were, what we believed?

Wandering the World–Italy, Part One


Last November I spent a little over a week in Italy. We spent only 1/2 day in Rome then drove to Sorrento where we stayed for a week. From there we wandered down the Amalfi Coast, over to Naples, Pompeii, and Capri. Want to avoid the summer heat and crowds? Go in November. Yes, it is chilly and sometimes rainy with big storms at night. Nevertheless, you can really see what people do who live there and avoid masses of tourists. Here are some of my favorite photos:

The above photos taken in Rome. The following were taken in Sorrento.

Vesuvius. I think I saw it nearly every day.

The Churches of Lalibela


Last night part of 60 Minutes featured these churches.  Several years ago I went with friends from Ethiopia to see them.  We spent almost an entire day hiking through around and up and down all eleven of them. I decided to travel back a few years and relive my experiences there and share it here.

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800 years ago these churches were carved from the top down out of solid stone. They dug a trench deep all around what is now each church and then worked from there.  Everything is stone, including the interior columns and spaces.

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There are areas around all the churches and drainage canals so they do not flood in the rainy season.

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The inside of each church is decorated with carvings, frescoes, and wall hangings.

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Because 800 years of wear and tear and especially rain was beginning to take its toll, they covered them several years ago.  Now, according the the architect on 60 Minutes, they are experiencing the opposite problem.  The stone is getting too dry and contracting. They are teaching local people how to preserve the stone so it will last hundreds more years.

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Dino, my Ethiopia friend, and the guide, in white.

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Why the ridiculous looking socks?  Fleas are a problem.  Many of the churches have old carpet on the floors, thousands of people still workshop in them regularly.  We were told to spray our ankles, tuck our pants inside out socks, spray our socks. It worked.

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And here is probably the most photographed of them from up above. Yes, you do get to climb all the way down there if you want to go inside.  We did. The story goes that the king went to Jerusalem and wanted to create an Ethiopian Jerusalem.  There is a river nearby which they call the River Jordan. As you tour, they explain every detail and how they match passages and stories from the Biblical Jerusalem.  How did they build all of these out of solid stone?  With the help of angels.

 

 

 

 

Italy–a day in Naples


Naples is big; it is old; it contains stark extremes.  How old?  The New Castle was built in the 13th century; yes, that one is the new one.  Coming from Sorrento one first sees the ship yards, huge apartment complexes where the less fortunate dwell, industrial areas.

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Some said they thought it looked dingy.  I laughed to myself.  These buildings are old and near the sea.  Will anything built in the US last this long?

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IMG_4505Then we drove up higher and higher into another part of Naples.  You can see Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

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The island to the right in the distance is Capri. More on Capri in a later post. In this part of Naples it is obvious that some people live very well there.

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Then we went lower again driving along the seafront and parked where we could walk to the oldest part of Naples.

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A very old cathedral in the background to the left.  We wanted to go in but it was closed until later in the day.  To the right of this photo, a large group of protestors were shouting slogans, etc. through loud speakers. Military were evident in the square.

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A city government building.  The statues are of various famous people in the history of Naples.

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Looking across the square from the church steps.

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The oldest opera house is in Naples.  Operas are still performed here.

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We walked to another area and went inside this building which is filled with restaurants and shops, many with very high end clothing.

IMG_4532As we left, I noticed the bay was filled with tiny sailboats.  It was very windy and I thought they were very brave.  Later, I learned that these tiny boats are training boats, the ones you use when you are first learning to sail.  It looks daunting to me. I have only sailed on boats much bigger.

Why do so many people still live so near a non-dormant volcano?  Someone asked this question.  The response was:  Why do people live in Florida, Houston where there are hurricanes rather often.  Why do people live where there are tornadoes, earthquakes, mudslides? At least Vesuvius provides a beautiful backdrop.

 

 

Italy–Pompeii


Although I had heard about, read articles, seen photos and documentaries, nothing prepared me for its size, grandeur, and wealth.

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To get here you have to climb up a hill.  This is where the gladiators lived and trained.

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The doors are copies, the rest not.  Gladiators lived in the rooms behind the doors and exercised and practiced in the green area shown in the previous two photos.

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This is the tiny amphitheater which holds about 1000 persons. Occasionally, performances, e.g. concerts, are still held here.

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An we walked around, I took pictures of the various buildings, streets, walls.

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Looking back toward the small amphitheater.

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This is the large amphitheater which holds 5000.  Just like in theaters now, the seats vary in size, view, etc. so that the where you get to sit depends on who you are and how much you have to spend.

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Looking toward what remains of the stage and area behind the stage.

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Streets were laid out in a grid at right angles to each other.  This is a typical street with sidewalks on each side.  Notice the large stones in the middle.  At times with excessive rain, the streets would flood.  The large stones allowed people to cross without getting their feet wet.  The spaces in the middle were designed so carts could pass through.  Along the sides are spaces for shops.

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The wealthy in Pompeii lived in very large, elegant houses, with water collection systems, heated and running water.  This is the entry to one such house.

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The courtyard at the same house.

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What remain of the frescoes there.  Considering this was buried for nearly 2000 years…

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Part of the dining room.  There, like in Rome, people reclined while eating.

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We moved on to another house.

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More frescoes.  Most of them tell a well known story.

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When they excavated this second house, they found this table with three legs–common then apparently.  This is not a new table, it is one from Pompeii found in this house.

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Decorated walls in this second house.

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An original floor in the same house.

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A place where someone had a shop with items for sale.

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We also visited the bathhouse area where there would be separate bathhouses for men and women, exercise rooms, hot water, steam, just like today.

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Although the walls, floors, streets and sidewalks are as they were before the volcanic eruption, in some places they have restored roofs to look like what they would have looked like then.

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They knew that domed structures are more stable.

Next we walked to the brothel.  Many of the sexually graphic frescoes remain.  They illustrate different positions.  I might also add that both stone and painted penises are everywhere in Pompeii.  Why?  They were the symbol of a good life, of prosperity, of fertility, of joy, of, well, everything good. I took some photos of the frescoes at the brothel but do not want to get thrown off my blogging site so will not put them here.

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Another typical street headed toward the giant city square.

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Standing in the middle, looking toward one direction.  I was astonished at the size of this place.  We went a good time of the year–the off season.  The guide told us that in high season there are so many people here, it is difficult to move through them at times.

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Looking the other direction with Mount Vesuvius in the background. Before the eruption this volcano was just a tall mountain or so the people there thought.  Then it was approximately 10,000 feet.  The eruption made it fall into itself and decrease by about 6000 feet.

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More photos of the square.

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The view walking down the steps leaving Pompeii.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Argentina-Buenos Aires Neighborhoods


Buenos Aires has many neighborhoods, areas with sometimes distinct character.  Our hotel in San Telmo made it easy to see a lot of the city by walking.  Other areas we strolled through include Centro and Recoleta. In the three days we stayed there, we walked 35 miles according to my Fitbit.

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This Starbucks was exactly one block from our hotel.  We went there the first morning for the typical Argentinian breakfast:  coffee and a biscuit (not like the ones here) or a small croissant with some sweet glaze on top.  Starbucks can be found throughout the city.

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Everywhere you see beautiful parks and people use them for strolling, dog walking, jogging, relaxing, picnicking, hanging out–you name it.  Plus the trees–on all major streets, on side streets, everywhere.  Of course, it was the end of summer.  Perhaps parks receive less use in winter.

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Even on main thorough fares, like this one which is claimed to be the longest street in the world, trees reside on the sides, in the middle, everywhere.

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This is a mall, seriously.  We ate a delicious lunch here one day and came back the next day for a drink.  I had coffee; Gaston had a green drink with mint and ginger which was refreshing and delicious.  The ceiling is well–take a look!

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Hard to believe this is a mall.

One day we took the train to its end at the train station. The recently restored train station contains the fanciest Starbucks ever with incredible murals.

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The ceiling is beautiful too.

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From this station it is possible to take a train to various parts of the city but also trains go from here way out into the suburbs.  Reminded me of the subway and train system in New York City and its suburbs where I once lived.

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San Martin, the hero who freed southern South America from Spain, crossed the Andes with mules, not horses–Hugo, Gaston’s dad, gave me lots of history lessons.  However, when I saw this statue, I did not know all the history yet.  This park, filled with huge trees, borders several streets where, like much of Buenos Aires, modern and antique coexist.

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Suddenly we notice men on horseback riding out of a military area next to San Martin Park.  We rushed across the park to watch, hoping they would ride around the park.  They did not; they headed down a street.

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We never discovered the purpose of this little parade of military personnel on horseback.

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The buildings around the park provide a perfect example of the traditional, the centuries old beside the modern.  The traditional building in the middle houses very exclusive apartments.

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The opposite side of the park from the statue of San Martin overlooks the English Tower, given to Argentina by the English before the little war over the Falkland Islands which both countries claimed.  The English won.

A friend told me to take tea at the Alvear Palace Hotel so we headed to Recoleta area.  We strolled around, did not take tea, but we did have lunch in one of the small restaurants inside the hotel area.

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Next to this restaurant resides a tea store, Tealosophy,  where they sell nothing but tea.  I quit counting at fifty different blends.  In Argentina International Women’s Day was highly celebrated. This tea shop created a special blend just for that event, Mujeres Power.  I bought some; it smells heavenly but have not tried it yet.

We walked down to another park near the famous cemetery where all the national heroes and important people have been buried for centuries.  Nearby we saw the largest tree I have ever seen.

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The branches, which were impossible to photo in one picture, extend far and are so heavy they are supported by cement or metal columns.

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The tree is to the left in this photo.  The walk leads to a monastery and the cemetery.

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The cemetery was full of people.

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The artwork here speaks for itself.

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As we walked back we circled this famous piece–a tulip that opens and closes.

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Then farther down the street which is close to the port–we could hear ship sounds, etc.–we saw this living wall.

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Yes, this wall is made of living plants.  I could not help but stop and stare.

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The building which holds their equivalent of the US Congress.  I continue to wonder how I managed to walk past the Pink House–like US White House–several times and never take a photo.  Perhaps I was distracted by the protesters.  Argentina is used to protests which appear to be legally protected.  In the one we saw one evening, the protestors carried banners of Che Guevara.

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And finally some typical views, this one along a side street.

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The Haunting of the Mexican Border


If you have any interest whatsoever as to how times have changed along the border, the culture of the people of Sonora and Chihuahua, this is a must read. I need to go visit my friends who live there.

Dawn Wink: Dewdrops

Cowboy and flowers on grave © Cowboy and flowers on grave © Tim Fuller

coverThe Haunting of the Mexican Border

I had no idea the blessing I was about to receive when I was asked to review The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey by Kathryn Ferguson for Story Circle Book Reviews. I said yes, since how could I possible resist that title? I spent the next few weeks savoring the experiences, ideas, and prose of this book. This is not a book that I read fast. I found myself re-reading sentences for the sheer beauty of the prose and scenes for the powerful experiences conveyed.

Mostly, I was taken with the melding of past and present, as my own experiences growing up on a ranch along the San Pedro River, a vein for Mexican migrants coming to the US, sent me reeling between the intimate familiarity of the rhythms of migration in this region…

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Costa Rican Adventure, Day Two–Part One


After a buffet breakfast of traditional foods, e.g. gallo pinto and plantanos fritos–my favorites, we headed to the central part of San Jose which is only foot traffic, no vehicles.

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We strolled to El Mercado where my grandson bought a stuffed sloth–I love bargaining so we got it for a good price.  My only disappointment was the rush so we could see everything–the disadvantage of being on a tour. Eventually, we ended up at the National Theatre.

Located in the central section of San Jose, it is considered the finest historical building in the capital and remains relatively unchanged since it was built in 1897–it opened on Oct. 21 of that year.  Most of its opulent furnishing were imported from Europe.  At the time of its opening fewer than 20,000 people inhabited San Jose.  It was financed via a coffee tax which was then and still is the major export and cash crop.

This theatre remains in use today and houses a small, cosy restaurant next to the main lobby.  We ate our first Tico lunch there.

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This and the following photos were taken in the lobby of this theatre.

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I took this and the following photo while seated in the main seating area looking up to the ornate ceiling.  Originally, the theatre was designed for multipurpose use so the main floor has seating than can be removed and the floor risen to the level of the stage and consequently transformed into a dance floor.  Rarely is this aspect used today.

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We left this area and climbed the stairs to the balcony where the president and cabinet still sit for performances.  Neither the president nor any of the cabinet have body guards.  We were reminded that in 1948, the country disbanded its army and still has no military. The following two photos were taken from the stairwell.

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This area is a large reception room across from the balcony level.  The incredibly intricate parquet floor has been covered by carpet for protection  so you can see only portions of it as you walk around.

We also visited what is know as the Gold Museum, my favorite.  It houses a huge collection of pre-Columbian gold artifacts and other antiquities. No cameras, purses, backpacks, iPads, nothing can be taken in so no photos.  It is literally underground.  Visitors are directed to lockers in which to put all these belongings, lock them, take the key with you as you browse the incredible collection.  There is an excellent gift shop where you can purchase copies of these artifacts, painted wood jaguar heads, and other handcrafts.  This is not our typical, touristy gift job.  As a result I now own four jaguars, three heads (two from Mexico and the one I bought here) and an entire jaguar from Mexico for a total of four.