London Town Fun

On May 10, 2006 I kept an appointment. An appearance in London at 8 A.M. on the live Earthcam situated at Covent Garden. That was 4 P.M. London Time. The middle left photo below shows the webcam view (Ken Garrett downloaded my actual appearance, but it vanished in my e-mail files.) The middle right image is my snapshot of the same location. Then below you see the webcam itself, to the right of the upright support.
Covent Garden, with its markets, cafes, and street performers is a favorite hangout in London.

The piazza shown in the top photo dates from 1632. The reference on one building is to the Punch and Judy shows observed and documented here by Samuel Pepys in 1662.

Covent Garden was originally, in fact, a Convent Garden of the Westminster Abbey monks.

Vegetable fields and fruit trees flourished here from 1536. I missed any explanation of why the “n” was dropped to make Covent Garden the name. Being as neither garden or convent remain any way.

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London’s Eye, The Millennium Wheel, is currently the world’s tallest observation structure of its kind. It soars to 443 feet on the South Bank of River Thames.

The stark facade of the Tate Modern Museum. The Spartan feel is from a design that was originally the Bankside Power Station. The some 20,000 sq ft of interior space became a selling point for converting to a museum, beginning with its funding in 1996.

The enterance and foyer of the Tate Modern.


The Cambridge Pub, Cappuccetto’s, and SoupWorks at Leicester Square, above. Also, Bar Soho.

A view of rooftops and chimneys as seen from an above leg of the Underground.

Views from The Underground.

London is a sea of suits. Men dress for work. And if any respectable English Gentleman should forget, he is reminded to adjust his dress before leaving the WC.

Handyman

For the Christmas season of 1971 San Diego had no Home Depot, Lowe’s, Home Base or Builder’s Emporium. It was Handyman. Notice the price of the drill and jig saw. Now a days you pay that much just for bits and blades.

Twisted Tails of Copenhagen


Few spires are this beautiful or unique. Borsen–the old Copenhagen Stock Exchange. Hans Van Steenwinckle was the architect. Rundetaarn, shown in my previous essay, was also designed by him. It is a Dragonspire he created in 1625 for the Stock Exchange Building.

The tails of four dragons are twisted together in symbolic guardianship. This twining is a statement of strength. But the architect achieved a lightness and grace with the open chamber just below his dragons.

Death By Inconsolable Shame


The spiral or circular ramp. These have fascinated architects and their clients through centuries.

Rundetaarn (The Round Tower) 1642 of Copenhagen, Denmark has a ramp some 685 feet long spiraling around a hollow core. King Christian IV rode up and down this ramp with a horse and carriage. Home to Europe’s oldest functioning observatory, which sets a top with the viewing platform. A haven for scientists, intellectuals and teachers.

An inscription on the side is a rebus or code. “Lead, God, into the heart of King Christian IV The Right Teaching and Justice, 1642.” The tower is over 114 feet tall with a view of old Copenhagen that is a pleasure to behold.


The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

 

The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

The spires of old town Copenhagen stand like sentinels. They seem to call and speak to one another.

In view from Rundetaarn is another spiral design, The Church Of Our Savior, 1752.

There is a tragic legend of this tower’s architect, Laurids de Thurah. Spirals found in fortress towers turn to the left giving guards a free hand and extended reach advantage for defending right handed swordsmen. Conversely spiral stairs found in churches have a right turn helix.

The legend say when Laurids inspected his completed work a realization fell upon him like a mortifying pall. His spiral sprung the wrong way. His design was flawed.


His shame was so inconsolable he threw himself from the top of what was supposed to be his masterpiece.

The story must of stuck in my mind. Everywhere I turned in Copenhagen that church spire seemed to always catch some part of my peripheral site. The lurking ghost of Laurids. I was compelled time and time again to photograph this tower. Lovely site, sad legend.
But alas, if one happens to come across a book of history’s greatest urban legends, this story is surely amongst them. Architect Laurids de Thurah, in fact, enjoyed opening day as a moment of great pomp and circumstance. King Frederik V walked all the way up this grand spire as 27 canons saluted in the church square.


All the pomp and circumstance was repeated in 1996 upon the church’s restoration. Prince Joachim made the same walk as Frederik. No one then, or before, dove from the tower.

What is true, however, Laurids de Thurah died only seven years after completion of his spire. Reportedly Poor and forgotten. Maybe the legend was created to remember him in a more dramatic and enduring way. Not just to say he died in bed one day.


Thanks to Tom. His rendering of the church tower story to me and his metaphorical descriptions of Copenhagen and its features were of sublime inspiration. Also to Heather for research on the design theory of spiral towers (Right hand vs left helix).

More views from a top Rundetaarn).

 

More “Dead”

Mexico’s Day of The Dead is all about gentile and happy spirits of the after life. But there’s also more Halloween-like legends of darker angels. The malcontents and evil doers on the other side.
One of Mexico’s most legendary locations for this phenomena is Guadalajara’s downtown cemetery–their “Haunted” cemetery–Panteon de Belen. Many dates on the tombs and gravestones are from the mid 1800’s. These were well-to-do and important citizens of Guadalajara. But the graveyard came into existence during some of Mexico’s hardest times. Dark years seem to produce dark legends of after life.


The atmosphere within the walls of Belan is tranquil and beautiful. Pleasing landscaping–an array of interesting trees. There’s one tree in particular. Thick, sinuous roots form a massive trunk and vast canopy. This is Guadalajara’s most guarded tree. If it is allowed to die, a rapacious vampire will be unleashed upon a defenseless city population.
He’s terrorized the region before. Evidence was dead animals all around. Not only dead but sucked dry and bloodless. Then children died this way. A vampire was on the loose. People dared not venture out at night for fear of Lestat. A vigilante group was formed to track down the evil creature. Find him, they did; Captured by net. A lethal wooden stake was driven through his heart. And to take no chances his body was entombed in a concrete sarcophicus and buried deeply at Belan. Happiness reclaimed the homeland. Until….


The lethal wooden stake grew longer and wider from the vampire’s heart. It punched through the concrete sarcophicus lid and out of the grave. The stake became this tree. Not a sap producing tree but one of blood from all the creatures the vampire killed. Any little nick or damage, the tree dripped blood. And if the tree is allowed to die, the vampire WILL RETURN!


This story was being told to a group of very  young school children on a Day of The Dead field trip to Belan.


A heightened spookiness is possible by taking a night time tour. The chance of witnessing some of the phenomena is rumored to be quite great! For instance, one story says someone committed suicide–by neck, hanging from a tree. A night time shadow of this tree sometimes appears even though it was cut down long ago.
A cemetery guard has been seen. But there is no guard. Those who saw this guard’s face say it matched a portrait attached to one of the graves.
There’s an approaching clip clop and rattle of an 1800’s horse drawn coffin wagon. It stops at the cemetery gate. Nothing is ever there except hints of moving shadows.
Perhaps this was just too much after life activity to suit “Los Hombres Ilustres,” prominent Jalisco State and Guadalajara dignitaries buried here. They were excavated in 1947 and moved to a new Memorial “La Rotonda de Los Hombres Illustres” next to Guadalajara Cathedral.


The architecture next to them may seem familiar to those big shots. The Cathedral towers and the Belan Cemetery Pavilion under which the illustrious were buried had the same architect.

Dias de los Muertos

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While we in the U.S. go all out for festive, imaginative–if not outrageous–costuming, parties and trick or treating at Halloween time, in Mexico they begin celebrating Dias de los Muertos, Days of the Dead.
On Halloween Day, 2004. I was in the heart of Old Mexico, Michoacan. They don’t celebrate Halloween as we know it. October 31st, Hollows Eve, marks the beginning of a three day celebration which also encompasses All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These are Dias de Los Muertos.  The focus is not so much on costumes and trick or treating, but on remembrance of dead loved ones and connecting with their spirits.
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Don’t mistake this as grim and serious. These are days of parties, feasts and family reunions from both sides of the grave and mortal plane. The departed are not sadly viewed as having vanished from daily life. But they’re happy, active participants. Their spirits are guardians of the living.
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Each region of Mexico offers a slight variation of these customs. But generally this is a holiday with marigold adorned altars in the home, favorite foods of the loved ones prepared and lavishly displayed, favorite drinks–even booze or cigarettes if those were enjoyed. There are ceremonial skulls and skeletons. Paper decorations in bright colors. Harvested crops. Tall continually lit candle sticks.
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Every object placed at the home altar has meaning. Four symbols of nature are always present. Earth, Wind, Water, and Fire.
Earth is represented by flowers and crops. Souls are enticed to the altar and fed by aroma; the mouth watering smell of their favorite foods.
Wind is symbolized by a moving object. Colorful tissue paper and hanging cut out decorations are commonly used to to sway or toss about in a breeze or draft.
Water in a decorative bowl. Quenching a soul’s thirst after a long journey home. Even a hand towel is provided.
Fire glows with candles.
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Some regions of Mexico are more known for one particular aspect of the holiday than others. For instance, “La Calaca”–the skeleton– is famous in the Mexico City region. Bakeries have skeleton and skull decorations displayed. Attached are verses dedicated to the dead. Special breads are shaped and baked to be sold specifically for altar offerings.
In something like trick or treating, children collect candies on this holiday. But often these are “muertos,” little candy skulls.
La Calaca is not meant to be scary, but fun. The typical female ceremonial skeleton is lavishly dressed, adorned with jewelery, and a floppy wide brim hat. The man often has a bottle of booze in hand. In short, they’re ready to party.
The altar tradition is deeply rooted in Michoacan. I visited the small village of Santa Fe De La Laguna on the road from Morelia to Uruapan. The residents are an indigenous people, The Purepecha Indians. They mainly speak Purepechan rather than Spanish. Many still wear traditional garments. When the Spanish arrived in the 1500’s they found this group battling the Aztecs. Needless to say neither group was any match for the Conquistadors.
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The Spanish called these Indians The Tarascan. After slaughtering thousands of them in conquest, Spain sought to be a kinder, gentler ruler. One gesture was to not to completely strip away their spiritual beliefs. Instead many rituals, including Dias de Los Muertos, were allowed to remain. And these were folded into Christian customs. Thus you have this blending of pre-Hispanic rituals with the All Saints and All Souls tradition.
People of this village retain old values of openness and hospitality. I walked by an open door. I saw inside just a bit. There I noticed a beautifully flowered altar. A seated group of Tarascan ladies warmly extended an invitation to enter. Their simple yet welcoming home had three main rooms. The largest was devoted to the altar. Men sat in a smaller room. The other was occupied by the women. This village has a unique variation of Dias de Los Muertos. The women attend exclusively to the all the aspects of planning and setting up for the holiday. The altar, the food, the cleaning and decorating of the grave site, etc. The men are involved only with harvest rituals.
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I studied the array of yellow, orange and red altar flowers, the tall candles, the uniquely shaped bread offerings, the prepared food, and the apparent keepsakes of a child. This was All Saints Day–dedicated to the spirits of children.
I was invited to a delicious bowl of red tomato fish soup and a tamale wrapped in banana leaves. The women were very pleased I accepted their offering. They smiled at my obvious enjoyment of the meal. I was offered another serving.
Other regions celebrate this day with parades. A Lidless coffin lifted up to catch flowers, fruits and candles. A crackle of firecrackers. At night the tall altar candles burn continuously in remembrance.
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November 2nd, All Souls Day, is the day of spiritual reunion with adult loved ones. Activities shift to the graveyard. Flower strewn paths to family plots.  Sites are cleaned, groomed and lavishly decorated with marigolds and other flowers. A picnic is enjoyed–a savory array of the departed one’s favorite foods. Some share tequila. Others set off fireworks. A Mariachi Band is often present. Festivities for this “Night of The Dead” are an all night affair. The night glows from a myriad of burning candles.
A lot of Americans who visit Mexico this time of year may well leave impressed with the color, beauty and charm of this occasion. These are intriguing customs that have spiritual value. Not just a party excuse or candy grab. It is to honor and remember deceased loved ones as well as to eat, drink and be merry.
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But there is some danger of all this falling by the way side. The U.S. manner of celebrating Halloween is expanding and becoming ever more popular in the urban and border areas of Mexico. Wall Mart and others well supply Mexico with all the mass produced witch’s hats, Spider Man costumes, and other Halloween paraphernalia available in the U.S.. This influence seems enough for government and private institutions to now educate about and promote the old traditions.
Santa Fe de La Laguna, has resisted change for centuries. Hopefully they will continue to hang on to what is uniquely theirs. Even in the midst of N.A.F.T.A., “globalization,” and the “new world order.”

IL Duomo

Milan’s High Gothic Cathedral “Il Duomo,” from 1386 is having a face lift. A long needed cleaning to turn dark gray into white with hints of pink. So for now views are obscured by scaffolding. Several of the statue topped spires are complete. And looking nice. Ceremonies and services continue inside.

Pan Pacific

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Pan Pacific Auditorium, Welton Becket, architect. Surrounded by barbed wire and cyclone fence, circa 1988.

Before Los Angeles had a commerce and population requiring such indoor venues as The Staples Center, The L.A. Sports Arena, and the L.A. Convention Center, there was the venerable Pan Pacific Auditorium. The nearly endless list of events there included Ice Capades, Harlem Globetrotters, Wrestling, UCLA basketball, Political rallies, and concerts of all musical genres. In fact, Elvis had left the building…following his concert there in 1957.
The striking streamline moderne facade of that multi functional hall made an impression on me at an early age (1960’s) when Dad took me on his tropical fish store route. Later during my years at UCLA I liked to drive by and admire it. But the old beauty by then was neglected and left behind by the newer, larger, exhibit halls. Talk was afloat for years about restoration. But the only result was more crumbling and decay. It is a scenario all too familiar, especially in San Diego with the California Theatre and the La Jolla cottages, Red Roost and Red Rest.

While I was taking this photo from behind the post office, a resident of the neighborhood said “It’s a fire waiting to happen.”  Sadly he was right.

http://www.lafire.com/famous_fires/MajorIncident-index.htm

“Even vanished Becket buildings have left an indelible after-image: the Pan Pacific Auditorium remains a part of the mental landscape of L.A. long after the actual building burned and crumbled.” –Alan Hess

Historical photographs of this and other L.A. landmarks, go here:
hollywoodphotographs.com/search….

The Ferry

2009 marks the 40th year since we last saw the graceful San Diego Coronado Ferry Boats.  This part of San Diego history is remembered fondly by many of us who rode these wonderful vessels.  There was kind of smell associated with the ferry boats.  A combination of marine air and the tar coated timber pilings at the dock.

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The Crown City was one of the newer sleek ferry boats.  It could carry the most cars of any in the fleet.  The Coronado Historical Association’s Newsletter of Spring 2008 reports it is still in service at Martha’s Vineyard.
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The Coronado went to Argentina and served on the Amazon River.  It is reported she is beached and abandoned somewhere there.

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The San Diego skyline from the Coronado ferry dock.  Not so big and built up as we know it today.
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The ferry boats were basically an extension of Harbor Drive.  Here you can barely make out the the Harbor House Restaurant sign.

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The San Diego is aground on the banks of the Sacramento River.  The Coronado Historical Association indicates there were repeated efforts to bring her back to San Diego to be adaptively reused as a dinner boat.  But no such success. UPDATE: The San Diego was finally taken apart for scrap. She is no more.

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The handsome San Diego Coronado Ferry offices.

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The bridge that replaced the ferry boats is a great achievement and an important element of our cityscape. But we missed a great opportunity to save part of San Diego’s history by letting all the ferry boats go away.   They were an iconic part of San Diego’s identity for so many years, and added a lot of character to our port.  No doubt in my mind if one had been kept in service here for harbor cruises or a party boat, it would have been a very popular tourist attraction.  Is all hope gone to ever bring one back for that?

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The passenger deck. Gorgeous wood interior – benches, rails, banisters. Brass fittings. Very craftsman.

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Stairs from the auto deck to the passenger deck. Note the city bus on the right.

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The San Diego crossing toward Coronado

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Cable Crossing Don’t Anchor West

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City Bus Route on the ferry.

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The Coronado departing Coronado.

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The Crown City with Coronado and North Island in the background. Shot from one of the other ferry boats.

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Coronado Ferry Landing

 

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The ferry boat on the right was the Silver Strand, which appears to have been moth-balled at this point.

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The inactive Silver Strand.

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The apparently moth balled Silver Strand and North Island. Tied up at a rather cluttered repair and maintenance dock.

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While autos obviously drove onto the ferry, passengers had a separate ramp.

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Pedestrian Passengers came aboard the upper deck.

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The San Diego loading cars and passengers in Coronado.

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The San Diego leaving Coronado

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The Crown City boarding cars at Coronado. Note the Western Metal building in the background

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The easy-on-the-eye San Diego skyline of January 1969 – and jet landing.

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The view of the San Diego ferry landing from the Coronado ferry landing. Several sites in good view here. Old City Hall (County Admin Building), Harbor House Restaurant, The SDG&E Power station, and before the Power station is the Old Police Headquarters.

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Ferry passenger ramps, Coronado terminal.

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Looking over to the moth balled Silver Strand ferry boat. Some of the windows are boarded.

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The Crown City heading to San Diego.

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The Coronado.

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The Coronado once more.

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The San Diego.

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A past facing the future.

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The Crown City

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The inactive Silver Strand

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The Coronado

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Life boat aboard The San Diego.

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Certificate courtesy of Steve Lieber.

Belvederes of La Jolla

 

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Perhaps small in stature compared to the breakwater wall at Children’s Pool beach or La Jolla Cave. But La Jolla coastline wouldn’t be quite the same without little Belvederes. Those four small green wooden structures nestled to La Jolla’s coastline between Scripps Park, Shell Beach and Children’s Pool beach. For a sheltered sit and ocean view. Moreover, these are among the last few links to “Old La Jolla.” Days when this was a seaside village and artist colony. When it was only accessible over hills of dusty roads. When Scripps Park was populated with vacation tents during summer months.

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The old photo from La Jolla Historical Society shows a belvedere at Scripps Park between 1890 and 1905. The gingerbread roof. Ladies in their Victorian dresses and hats. A picnic meal. All atop a dirt bluff.

Perhaps its a bit miraculous the belvederes survived. Not disposed of in the name of “progress” or replaced by plain old benches, or something tacky.

But there they are. A concrete foundation and boardwalk nowadays. But still board and baton painted green.. Braving the sometimes not so peaceful Pacific.

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