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Saturday, March 31, 2012

STAYCATION: SAN DIEGO’S LITTLE ITALY/Part 2





CAFÉS & COFFEE—San Diego’s Little Italy is more than just savory restaurants, it is a first class design and artist’s district as well, especially contemporary show rooms such as www.tokeweb.com; www.mixturehome.com and www.Modul-studio-SanDiego.com). In the mix for Craftsman furnishings there’s (www.thebungalowstore.com) and (www.boomerangformodern.com), the latter being a gem for mid-century modern new and retro.

After touring the design shops, we were easily distracted by pannini’s for lunch on Friday at Tazza d’Oro (619-795-8380) and Café Zucchero (www.cafezucchero.com) for breakfast on Saturday morning. Dining was our theme for this visit.

Unlike other ethnic-style neighborhoods Little Italy’s merchant association has its act together. They hire street sweepers that roam the ‘hood all the time. Plus, they set out hundreds of chairs out on the streets for the locals and tourists to stop and enjoy bites to eat at small tables. The result is a very Euro experience without being contrived.

Dinner on the second night (Friday) of our two-day staycation was to La Villa Restaurant (same family as Tazza d’Oro), where we had a superb meal (my birthday and to my surprise our in-town son was able to join us). By walking up to the lunch hostess we were able to reserve one of La Villa’s two four seat window tables for later in the evening. With the planning of a windstorm, we were delighted to blow into La Villa, where we enjoyed nicely prepared pasta and meat dishes. The people watching--an amazing blend of good looking locals and tourists of all ages—was our dessert.

La Villa is another home run by owners Salvatore and Daniela Caniglia and Antonino Mastellone, the noise behind Buon Appetito, Sogno Di Vino (wine bar) and the wonderful fresh market Market by Buon Appetito.

Saturday breakfast took us to Café Zucchero with its covered and heated sidewalk area (as the morning so near the harbor can be chilly). Café Z seems a bit touristy on the outside, but inside it is sophisticated fare. It is so typical of Europe and American’s big Eastern cities. They separate the morning coffee and pastries from the brunch bunch. If you only want coffee and pastry you do it yourself at the coffee bar next to the block long.

Saturday morning was slightly overcast as we toured Little Italy’s five-block long Farmers Market. The pace was leisurely as the street market was only two blocks south of our hotel.

Little Italy is where we go for a taste of Europe. We came back refreshed and the only thing we missed was another set of stamps in our passport.

Images: La Villa Restaurant, India Street, Little Italy, San Diego; Bar area La Villa Restaurant; Bloggers Phyllis, Michael and Tom Shess at delightful window table at La Villa, March 23, 2012. Pannini at Tazza d’Oro Café, India Street, San Diego.

Friday, March 30, 2012

STAYCATION: SAN DIEGO’S LITTLE ITALY/Part 1





FUN ON A BUDGET—Ms. Bloggette, my significant other, created a fun two-day vacation that had all the earmarks of a Euro-style visit without breaking the bank and/or having to fuss with a limited parking neighborhood. Ever sharp-eyed for a deal, months ago she spotted a two-day Internet coupon deal at a hotel in the heart of San Diego’s Little Italy (less than five miles from Blog Central), plus we used a discount offer to rent a Smart Car to take us there and back. She selected a Euro style hotel to go with Little Italy’s very Mediterranean village feel.


TRIP DETAILS:

How we got there: We signed up for CarGo, a new venture that offers temporary rentals of tiny Smart Cars. By signing up as charter members we received a free half-hour rental as part of the $35 membership. Round trip from our North Park Neighborhood to Little Italy is four miles or about 11 minutes in normal traffic. What’s great about CarGo is we left it right on the street next to our hotel and on the way home we located one five blocks away. It added to the fun of doing something different and we avoided a $22 per night hotel parking charge and didn’t have to feed pesky parking meters. Cost. With the coupon our round trip cost us $2.15.

Where we stayed: Porto Vista Hotel 1835 Columbia Street (www.portovistasd.com) is on west facing hill in Little Italy, the hub of food, fests and Italian-American flavored friendliness. This is no boutique. Being two miles from Lindbergh International and in the heart of Little Italy, this 190-room operation is more efficient than cozy.

The suites on the west side of the hotel offer an amazing view of Little Italy and sunsets over San Diego Harbor. Our Harbor Suite ($80 upgrade from our coupon rate) was plenty large for two with a king-sized bed, marble appointed bath with tub and shower, wet bar and two verandas, two huge TVs and I felt like I was in a little sister to a favored HUSA hotel chain operation in Madrid. Closets are modern armoires.

The weatherman cooperated with two beautiful days with late March sunsets that we’ve grown to expect in San Diego.

Our first evening at Porto Vista, we dined at its Glass Door Restaurant (glassdoorsd.com) and sat at the popular west facing terrace bar on the fourth floor terrace. We arrived at Happy Hour, which began at 4 pm and we stayed through early evening. Most of the time we were chatting with the restaurant’s genial GM Christian Cardnuto, formerly with Spago in Las Vegas. Highlights of the meal were the Calamari appetizer, $11; The Raw, a salad of uncooked daikon, beets, Asian pear, pickled red onion, frisee, pomegranate and red pepper-melon dressing, $10. Entrees: 1. Orange-Mojito Salmon in swiss chard, purple cabbage, blood orange, heirloom tomato, citrus soy mint sauce and garlic chips, $24. 2. Sea Bass in prosecco-beet sauce, tobiko, broccoli rabe, black cherry gremolata and king oyster mushroom, $30. Portions were medium sized.
GM Cardnuto has worked hard to give the restaurant a rebirth from its former management. He’s created in making it bright, stylish, and fun. He’s managed to blend a fine restaurant with a popular bar.

Back over on the hotel side, one possible deal breaker was the noise level coming from the restaurant foot traffic one floor above our suite. If this hotel was in Barcelona and at this rate and given the view, I would endure the constant restaurant hours foot traffic. Unfortunately, that’s not going to please anyone sensitive to noise. But, because we were out exploring the village most of the time, our time in room was limited. As any serious traveler understands: make the most of it. We always travel with ear plugs for the unexpected.

Staff at the Porto Vista was attentive, sharply dressed, good looking and capable but they were overwhelmed at check out time, but with a late check out we took an early morning stroll along Little Italy’s restaurant row and found the five block long (weekend only) Farmer’s Market along Date Street entertaining. When we returned after noon the check out line had disappeared.

The tab: Hotel Suite (Harbor Suite) $119 per night on our coupon with an $80 per night upgrade to the best two-room suite in the house. Extras included two free drinks at the popular Glass Door Bar and late checkout. Stay: Thurs. and Fri. nights.

Bottom line: We had a great time and recommend Porto Vista for being exactly what it is: Modern, non-chain, affordable, stylish, convenient and a fun place to headquarter for your stay in San Diego. But, I would forgo any rooms directly under the restaurant.

Tomorrow: STAYCATION IN SAN DIEGO’S LITTLE ITALY/Part 2

Images by author or Internet. Top to lower: Porto Vista Hotel, San Diego; Glass Door Restaurant; Sea Bass dinner and Raw Salad.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

DEFINING THE AMAZING & VENERABLE CALIF. BUNGALOW



COOL & QUAINT-- What exactly is a bungalow? What defines a bungalow from just another old house?

Many are familiar with three terms: Arts & Crafts, Craftsman and Bungalow. Arts & Crafts denotes a popular social and architectural philosophy in vogue in Western civilization between the 1850s and 1930s. It was a revolt—in the architectural sense—against the overly ornate style of Victorian architecture often called “gingerbread.” Arts & Crafts philosophy called for fresh beginnings, simplification of living and a negative attitude toward the ills of industrial revolution. Arts & Crafts fit nicely in the Progressive Era of enlightened humanism that was popular a century ago.

Arts & Crafts homes were created on a more horizontal plane as opposed to the vertical look of Victoriana homes. The philosophy called for homes to have light and fresh air. Clear glass vs. stained glass. So the term Arts & Crafts connotes a style or philosophy embracing architecture, art, design and well-being.

Bungalow refers to a particular type of dwelling, one that has a very simple floor plan, probably a porch, lots of windows and is fairly inexpensive to construct.

Craftsman or Craftsman bungalow refers to a bungalow built in the Arts & Crafts manner.

Craftsman is also popular brand of tools sold by the Sears family of businesses. We’ve heard of Craftsman tools and in the early 20th century Sears & Roebuck sold complete home or bungalows out of their famous catalog.

Many homes in North Park were purchased via Sears & Roebuck by ordering a home kit by catalog (hence the term kit home) and the mega retailer would arrange to have it built on your lot. Several early lumberyards in North Park supplied the lumber for these “Craftsman brand kit homes.” Also, during the early 1900s, a furniture retailer Gustav Stickley founded a magazine called “The Craftsman,” which touted the Stickley brand throughout the nation. In San Diego, Marston Department store sold Stickley furniture. And, the Stickley brand was made in the Arts & Crafts mode.

So it is possible to own an Arts & Crafts Craftsman bungalow. And remember not all bungalows are Craftsman. But all Craftsman are bungalows.

Since we’re on a nostalgic bent, let’s email ourselves back to November, 1998, when North Park News published the following article by local historian/artist/author and Arts & Crafts lecturer, the late Donald Covington. Dr. Covington wrote the remainder of this blog article:

“Bungalow! What is it?”
If we are confused about the precise meaning of the term bungalow in today’s usage, it is no wonder. Every authority whom we consult has a slightly different explanation of its meaning. However, all agree on its origin: the East Indian vernacular cottage, the “hindi bangla.” The bangla was the traditional native hut of the state of Bengal; a small rectangular structure with hovering roof of thatch that overhung a peripheral verandah which helped to cool the open-planned interior. In the late 18th century, it was this simple, functional bangla which the young gentry, who followed the victorious armies into the Bengal, adapted for their use as civil servants of the British crown.

In the 19th century, the bangla or bungalow’s economy of space, simplicity of form and rustic charm inspired the English architects of the early Arts & Crafts movement. Adapted for a middle class American lifestyle in the 20th century, the bungalow became the favored Arts & Crafts house type in North America. But it was also adapted to other styles such as Spanish Colonial Revival, American Colonial Revival, Pueblo Revival, etc.

So to continue our exploration of the California bungalow here are a few more definitions written by notable authors, who specialize in the period and the genre.

“Bun-ga-low: a small cottage, usually of one story.” --(American Heritage Dictionary).

“[Craftsman bungalows] were the dominant style for smaller houses built throughout the country during the period 1905 to 1920. The Craftsman style [bungalow] originated in Southern California and its most landmark examples are concentrated there…” –(A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia and Lee McAlester).

“…what we mean by a bungalow is an artistic little dwelling, cheaply but soundly built, with a proper regard to sanitation, and plopped down in some pretty little spot, with just sufficient accommodation for own particular needs.” –(R.A. Briggs, Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1894).
“The bungalow became an omnipresent builders’ house during the first decade of the 20th century. The type, with many variants, appeared as a low, gabled, one or one-and-a-half storied house with the front pitch of the roof extended so as to shelter a generous porch.” --(William H. Jordy: Progressive and Academic Ideals at the turn of the 20th century).

“In practice, the Craftsman bungalow departed considerably from the original Indian model. There were even two-story bungalows. But, especially in Southern California, a region for which the bungalow was ideally suited, the original spirit prevailed, insofar as the mild climate permitted a more thorough integration of the house with its immediate surroundings…” --(Alan Weissman: Craftsman Bungalow).

“…the E.J. Blacker and Gamble houses [in Pasadena], and other impressive examples designed by the Greenes, have…come to be known as the ‘ultimate’ bungalows because of an esthetic kinship with their smaller cousins.” --(Robert Winter & Edward Bosley: “Toward a Simpler Way of Life”).

“In America the term ‘bungalow’ came to mean an unpretentious single-story, or one-and-a-half story house with conspicuous roof and a big porch, located at a resort, in suburbia, or in a semi-rural area. Although t he brothers Greene made some very costly bungalows, the genre became identified with inexpensive housing.”
--(Richard Guy Wilson: “The Art That Is Life”).

“So, if forced to the wall for a technical description, we term bungalows as houses that are no more than one and a half stories, are typically space efficient and cozy, have simple lines that often lent themselves to precut kits, usually have porches and low-pitched roofs, and were designed to shelter families who lived without servants.” --(The Editors of American Bungalow Magazine).

“It was in Southern California that the bungalow, the apotheosis of William Morris’s notion of a proletarian art that he could never himself attain, found its true home. Here a young family on the make, a sick family on the mend, or an old family on meager savings could build a woodsy place in the sun with palm trees and a rose garden. The California bungalow, whatever its size or quality of workmanship, was the closest thing to a democratic art that has ever been produced.” (David Gebhard & Robert Winter: Architecture in Los Angeles).

And finally, a favorite bungalow definition offered to American Bungalow magazine by the eminent authority on Greene & Greene architecture, Randell Makinson, who was reported to have said that: “…the bungalow is not a house type at all, but a frame of mind for living.”

Sources: A version of this article by Thomas Shess and Donald Covington first appeared in North Park News.

About the Authors: Fine Arts Professor Donald Covington and his wife Karon were among the forefront of bungalow area writers and historians. They lived in North Park at 28th and Myrtle Streets. He is the author of “Burlingame: The Tract of Character,” an analysis of the homes within that early San Diego neighborhood.
Thomas Shess and his wife Phyllis founded both North Park News and its bungalow supplement called West Coast Craftsman in 1993. The newspaper continues to thrive in 2012. The couple lives on 28th Street.

Images: TOP: Bungalow in Benicia, CA.

LOWER: This Craftsman style home in San Diego with Japanesque features, including side gable roofs; overhanging eaves with exposed rafter tails and curved detailing; wood shingle siding; and a wrap-around porch supported by tapered half- height piers and wood anchor-like posts. Windows consists of large single pane fixed and single pane casement wood frame windows with divided lite uppers. The brick and stucco piers supporting the porch are common in bungalow design of this period.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BAD KNEES BEARS SHARE SENIOR LEAGUE PITCHER WITH USO



BIGGER TEAM COMES FIRST--Few are more zealous than an amateur baseball manager, especially if his team belongs to hardball league for players 55 years and older. The manager shepherds his Boys of Summer as they don uniforms and head out to rented high school fields to play the game they love. And, like all baseball teams, the key to success is quality pitching.

When Richard Haynie, an Air Force and Vietnam Veteran, joined the latter day bad knees bears as a pitcher, cheers went up along the dugout.

But as the team grew to depend on him, Richard would mysteriously disappear leaving teammates wondering, “where’s Rick?” It should be noted senior-age team absences are rare because these seniors resume the loyalty to the game they shared as schoolboys. Many would rather pass up a knee reconstruction operation than miss pitching a game.

So it was, the manager’s furrowed brow reflected his opinion of the perceived AWOL activity until he got the rest of the story.

Rick continues to miss games on occasion as it turns out for a very good reason. He puts his community service first. For the past nine years, he is a USO volunteer deployed at Lindbergh Field, where he greets young service men and women as they arrive at the airport.

He loves every minute of it. And, knowing where Rick is off to on the occasion he misses a game, it’s understood and cheered.

As a USO volunteer, he provides travel information to the local bases and arranges for shuttle pick-up to Camp Pendleton, North Island, Miramar and other areas. These fresh-faced and brave young people who may be away from home for the first time in their life constantly impress him. But he also meets many returning vets and those who may be leaving for repeated tours to faraway and dangerous places. It is a constant reminder of the sacrifices military personnel and their families make to insure the safety and way of life we so enjoy here in San Diego and throughout the United States.

If you have a couple of hours each month to spare you may want to consider spending it at one of the USO locations. The local contact information can be found http://www.usosandiego.org/

Note: Rick will be pitching today for his new team, the San Diego West Coasters at 3;15 pm, at the ball field located behind Silver Strand Elementary School (off of Leyte Road). Free. Plenty of stadium seats and parking available. Details: 619-846-0980.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

ALL U-CAN-EAT CRAFT BEER & FOOD FESTIVAL WAS A HIT




THIRD YEAR’S A CHARM—San Diego’s growing reputation for producing America’s finest craft beer is already well known, but when you add the genius of beer centric top chefs to a festival, the resulting event is simply too tasty to ignore.

That’s the scene set for The Mission Valley Craft Beer (and food) Festival that’s set for Sunday, April 1, 2012. Already into its third year, the San Diego area fest has been fine-tuned to include the addition of a VIP hour (1-2 p.m.) and a pool-side, meet-the-brewers after party (’til 8 pm) with live music, each $10 more on top of the $40 general admission price.

This year, regular party hours have been cut in half (2-5 pm.), there’s five to 10 more food and drink vendors than last year; picnic tables, additional seating, water stations and two areas for bathrooms have all been added so that guests can get the most out of the all-you-can-eat/drink fest, and this year’s ticket proceeds will go to another charity near and dear to San Diegans—Wounded Warriors Homes.

Last year’s highlights included the Cajun spice and catering company Shaker Bake Foods, whose fragrant piles of peel-and-eat shrimp caused quite the feeding frenzy; they’ll be back again, and this time with a half of a cow. Other anticipated food vendors include the pork-guru behind Carnitas Snack Shack, Chef Hanis Cavin; R-Gang Eatery’s Chef Rich Sweeney, A.K.A. The Gourmet Tater Tot King, and Anthony Friscia of downtown’s first yakitori and ramenjoint, Gaijin, that opened in February.

Chef Jeff Rossman, known most for La Mesa’s Terra American Bistro, will also be on hand representing his latest venture, Bunz, preparing Three Li’l Pig sliders with bacon, ham, pulled pork and beer thyme mustard.

Look forward to even more good eats from Sea Rocket Bistro, Stone World Bistro and Gardens, The Bailey BBQ and of course Executive Chef Karl Prohaska from The Handlery. There will also be vegetarian and vegan options. For more on the culinary participants, check out the Facebook page (Mission Valley Craft Beer and Food Festival).

As for the beer, selections are under wraps but expect the best– especially during the VIP hour — from Ballast Point, Green Flash, Stone Brewing Co., Karl Strauss, Hangar 24 Brewery, On the Tracks, and Monkey Paw. The complete list is 24 breweries, listed below. Three bands will also perform live on the West Coaster stage.

Discounted tickets are available for designated drivers and The Handlery Hotel is offering special-event room rates. The after-party is a must, and was added to the event roster so brewers could enjoy themselves after a hard day of festival work. Tickets are on sale now throughTicketDerby.com; there is a link on the Facebook page that leads to the ticketing site.

Confirmed Breweries:
Mission Brewery, The Beer Company, Lighting Brewery, Ballast Point Brewing, Green Flash, Oggi’s, Stone Brewing Co., On The Tracks Brewing, Hangar 24 Brewery, Monkey Paw Brewing Co., Karl Strauss Brewing Co., Coronado Brewing Co., Crispin Cider Co. Tailgate Brewing, Rough Draft Brewing Co., Butchers Brewing, Latitude 33 Brewery, El Cajon Brewing Co., La Jolla Brewhouse, Golden Coast Mead, Hess Brewing, Eel River Brewing, Lagunitas Brewing, Manzanita Brewing

Transportation Options: The festival is encouraging taking the Trolley to the festival. Parking is available approximately 0.4 miles west of the Handlery (see below)

• Trolley: Take the Green Line trolley to Fashion Valley. Then: Walk down to Avenida Del Rio Rd below the station, walk West toward Fashion Valley Road (toward the golf course), turn left on Fashion Valley Road, turn right on Hotel Circle N, Handerly Hotel will be on the right.

• Parking: Parking will be available off property at the Sundt lot just west of the Handlery for free. There will be signs directing you to this lot. Address: 1660 Hotel Cir N #400, San Diego, CA

• Shuttle: There is additional overflow parking at the Crowne Plaza Resort for $5. The CP will be running a shuttle to the festival.

TICKETS: General admission is $40, and VIP admission is $50.
Click here to view more info/purchase tickets.

NOTE: Founded by Steve and Mia Roseberry in Vista, California, their mission is to provide medically discharged single men and women of the armed forces with affordable housing and additional resources to ease the transition from active duty military to living independently as veterans of war. The program is targeted specifically at those with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); affordable housing is available to eligible persons for up to two and a half years, allowing savings for cars, deposits for renting or down payments for homes. Before the Roseberrys founded Wounded Warriors Homes, every weekend they transformed theirs into a sanctuary for the very people they help now, citing the importance of calm and stability that a comforting environment provides. This cause is truly noble, and pairs perfectly with San Diego’s military and craft beer backgrounds.

Images and event news from West Coaster, a craft beer newspaper covering the San Diego region. See current and back issues of West Coaster online, www.westcoastersd.com

Monday, March 26, 2012

MY, MY BIRDIE


SINGING SENSATION--With the advent of all the new “Idol” type entertainment shows young talents are getting the spotlight more than ever before, especially singers. But I’ve always been curious why some marvelous voices get a big ho hum by the public while others cause us to stand up and cheer. Must be something to do with their voices having a certain “catch” to them.

We’ve all heard that catch in the pop voices from Sarah McLachlan, REM, to Darius Rucker and Perla Batalla (add your favorite vocalists here).

Case in point, Jasmine Van Den Bogaerde from Lymington, England is already a recording sensation, who’s almost 16. Called simply Birdie, she’s a classically trained pianist, who has been writing her own music since she was in grammar school. But, it isn’t her piano virtuosity or music writing that is stunning--it’s that voice. The voice is haunting. Mature beyond her years. Especially notable is her 2011 hit, a rendition of “Skinny Love,” a cover of the American Group Bon Iver original

If this is news, click over to You Tube because she’s well worth a listen.. Her great uncle was Brit actor Sir Dirk Bogarde and by the time 2012 is over everyone will know her name.

Here’s to hoping this Brit, Scot, Dane and Belgian chanteuse will well handle fame and fortune and all those other imposters coming her way.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

SUNDAY REVIEW / SWEET SCIENCE OF BATTLING THE WITLESS WITH WIT



“…In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing…”
-- Autobiography of Mark Twain


OVERDUE BILL--Robin Hood is a metaphor for the little guy bettering the thugs of the world with dashes of daring and wit. Let’s focus on the latter. The Robin Hood I admire is when he’s at his best using his rapier wit instead of a pointed arrow. That’s why in the American political scene I prefer Bill Maher’s wit over Rush Limbaugh’s bombast. Does this make me a pinko leftist? Who cares about me? What is appealing about Maher’s writing is he has a gift of making his points with a clever writing style reminiscent of Robin Hood or Mark Twain. For my taste, Limbaugh steps in the gutter too often to make his points.

It’s too reminiscent of arguing with a bully. Offer civilized debate to a thug and they will dismiss any and all arguments with a rude epithet similar to “…Fok you and the donkey you rode in on…” It’s as if the laws of winning debate are tilted toward who ever envokes God or the F-Bomb first. Americans are smarter than that—when will the red-faced, eye-bulging debaters in either party get that message?

In a recent New York Times opinion page essay TV pundit Bill Maher makes a few points showing his appeal to the left, but done so in a graceful, intelligent package. Reading Maher is preferred than wiping the spits of vitriol off my glasses.

Here are a few lines:

“…When did we get it in our heads that we have the right to never hear anything we don’t like?”

“…Let’s have an amnesty — from the left and the right — on every made-up, fake, totally insincere, playacted hurt, insult, slight and affront. Let’s make this Sunday the National Day of No Outrage.”

“…If that doesn’t work, what about this: If you see or hear something you don’t like in the media, just go on with your life. Turn the page or flip the dial or pick up your roll of quarters and leave the booth.”

“…The right side of America is mad at President Obama because he hugged Derrick Bell, a law professor who believed we live in a racist country, 22 years ago; the left side of America is mad at Rush Limbaugh for seemingly proving him right…”

“…The answer to whenever another human being annoys you is not “make them go away forever.” We need to learn to coexist, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. For example, I find Rush Limbaugh obnoxious, but I’ve been able to coexist comfortably with him for 20 years by using this simple method: I never listen to his program. The only time I hear him is when I’m at a stoplight next to a pickup truck.”

“…I don’t want to live in a country where no one ever says anything that offends anyone. That’s why we have Canada. That’s not us. If we sand down our rough edges and drain all the color, emotion and spontaneity out of our discourse, we’ll end up with political candidates who never say anything but the safest, blandest, emptiest, most unctuous focus-grouped platitudes and cant. In other words, we’ll get Mitt Romney.

Sources: Bill Maher is host of “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO and A version of this New York Times op-ed appeared in print on March 22, 2012, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: “Please Stop Apologizing.”

You can find Maher’s essay in the New York Times website by copying and pasting the following long URL into your search engine:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/22/opinion/please-stop-apologizing.html?src=ISMR_AP_LO_MST_FB


Images: Mark Twain: Photograph by Mathew Brady, National Archives.
Bill Maher: http://www.hbo.com/real-time-with-bill-maher/index.html

And, let’s end where we began praising wit over the witless.

“He who jumps for the moon and gets it not leaps higher than he who stoops for a penny in the mud.”

― Howard Pyle, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood


SUNDAY REVIEW—A new online literary review appearing exclusively on Pillar to Post (www.tomshess.blogspot.com).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

ARCHIVE / "FOREVER PLAID" KEEPS ON GIVING


HEAVENLY MUSIC IN THE ‘HOOD—“Forever Plaid,” is an affectionate musical homage to the close-harmony 'guy groups' that reached the height of their popularity during the 1950s. This quartet of high-school chums, and their earnest dreams of recording an album, ended when the quartet’s cherry red '54 Mercury collided with a bus filled with schoolgirls on their way to see the Beatles' American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. The girls were fine. The play begins with the wondrous and wondering Plaids returning from the afterlife for one final chance at musical glory.

The musical is popular staple in San Diego and will return to the Birch North Park Theatre on March 30, 31 and April 1. The Music and Theatre Company production features David Humphrey as Frankie; Scott Dreier as Smudge; Jeffrey Parsons as Sparky and Kurt Norby will be Jinx.

Because the Birch (29th & University) is a venue inspired and resurrected by a hard working North Park community bent on restoring this icon theatre to its vaudeville era roots (it has a six story fly for storing scenery), this blog will forever champion productions there.

As part of the community outreach, the producers of “Forever Plaid” are offering selected community schools and non-profits a piece of the box office for selling tickets.

An example of this teamwork is St. Augustine High’s Visual & Performing Arts will receive $5 from each ticket sold from the Saints community. If you’d like to see fun, live and professional live theater and help amateur productions at the same time type “Saints” in the promo code when you order your tickets online.

Three performances only. Plenty of time to book a reserved seat for only $20.

PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE 24 hours a day:
http://www.birchnorthparktheatre.net/
Click “Tickets” image for fast online ticket reservation with Visa/MasterCard

OR CALL BOX OFFICE 619-239-8836
Box Office is open at 2891 University Ave.
Tuesday - Friday 12:30 - 4:30 pm

Friday, March 23, 2012

UNBEARABLE BEING OF BURROUGHLESSNESS



BIT OF NYC IN SAN DIEGO-- New Yorkers, who live west of the Hudson will never be completely won over by their new San Diego homes or lifestyles. Somehow Mission Beach will never be Coney Island and our Gaslamp District pales when compared with SoHO, Greenwich Village or all those new up from warehouse districts on the lower East side.

It’s understandable if they cheer for all things New York. They moan about having to leave Manhattan behind like locals bemoan not being 21 years old anymore. But San Diegans abide. They’ve heard the same noise from Chicagolanders, Clevelanders even Pittsburghers. In fact, the only ones who don’t wax nostalgic about their hometown are those Phoenicians. You can’t get the ‘Zonies to leave.

When I feel like a bit of easy Sunday sophistication, I unwrap my home delivered New York Times and head for my local North Park neighborhood for a huge double latte at Café Cardamon at Upas and 30th. Lattes deserve big mugs like the ones they also serve at North Park Coffee house stalwards like Claire de Lune (29th & University) or Cafe Calabria (near 30th & Univ).

From there take a hearty walk over to Balboa Park to visit the Museum of Photographic Arts. One of the ongoing exhibitions drawn from MOPA’s permanent collection is “Eyes of a Nation.” The show (thru May 13) is featuring artists working from the 1870s thru 1970s. Many of the icon images are widely USA but many are of New York. Also worth the trip alone is a visit to MOPA’s first-rate book/gift shop. Obviously, MOPA is open year around to everyone no matter what hometown they’re from. And, that’s a good thing. http://www.mopa.org/

Museum & Store Hours:
Tuesday - Sunday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

1649 El Prado San Diego, CA 92101
T: 619.238.7559 | F: 619.238.8777 | info@mopa.org

Images from MOPA’s “Eyes of a Nation.” Ends May 13.
‘Sea of Hats” by Lou Stouman 1940 c. MOPA. Bequest of the Lou Stouman Estate.

“New York at Night” by Berenice Abbott 1935 c. Berenice Abbott. Print is a gift of Prentice and Paul Sac.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

WHAT MAKES THE WORLD GO ‘ROUND?



BECAUSE IT CAN—Well if love made the world go ‘round then this old house would have burned down a long time ago. Or, so goes the John Prine tune. But what makes it spin? Or as a young 8-year-old relative recently asked “why doesn’t it just stop spinning like a top?”

Because kids demand answers, I shrugged and looked at my wife for an answer. And she offered: “it spins because it can.”

Sensing, a bigger answer was needed, I took a stab. My answer was a bit more convoluted. “The planet spins because of multi-faceted, gyro-maniacal, oven convection forces generated by gasses rising from cattle ranches in Texas.” No fool, the kid picked my wife’s answer. And, basically, she’s right on the money. The earth spins because it was made that way [cue religious music] in the beginning. And, it keeps spinning because space is a vacuum and there’s nothing out there (so far) that gets in its way to stop it from spinning.

A more technical answer came from Cal Tech’s myriad of blogs: “…Earth spins because of the way it was formed. Our solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago when a huge cloud of gas and dust started to collapse under its own gravity. As the cloud collapsed, it started to spin. Some of the material within this cloud gathered into swirling eddies and eventually formed into planets. As the planets formed they kept this spinning motion. This is similar to what you see when skaters pull in their arms and spin faster. As material gathered in more closely to form a planet, like Earth, the material spun faster. The Earth keeps on spinning because there are no forces acting to stop it.”

“…but why does Venus spin in an opposite direction than the Earth. For that answer I referred him to the late actor W.C. Fields, who reportedly said, “go away kid, you bother me.”

Sources: http://coolcosmos.ipac.caltech.edu/cosmic_kids/AskKids/earthspin.shtml
Also on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VWM0XswwGg

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SPRING FASHION NEVER STANDS STILL



DOG DAYS OF STYLE—Ah, March, the new cruelest month for mature male fashion. The equinox is here again: time when nature struts her peacocks. And nowhere is the view more memorable than sitting in the patio section of large discount warehouse operation watching American, post-50, male shoppers walking by. Granted, who among us is a fashion critic, I mean really? And, I only pick on the male gender because I value my remaining years. The following comments reflect upon a parade I witnessed only moments ago.

STOP ME IF I EVER…

--keep a full head of gray hair, but dye my moustache jet black.

--am tempted to wear horn-rim eye glasses the size of grapefruits like I did in the early 90s.

--leave the house wearing denim cut-offs with knee-length black socks fitting into high top tennis shoes. This view was enhanced by tucking a beer t-shirt into the jeans and supporting a rounded beer belly with wide-strap industrial strength suspenders.

--don my vintage searsucker blazer over a Pendleton lumberjack plaid shirt. The look gets better knowing this model was wearing bib overalls.

--walk through the store imitating a wide-mouth bass with every step.

--exhibit untanned chest open to the navel with a gold chains and oversized tinted sunglasses, uncuffed white pants and white shoes with pink rubber soles. Dare I mention the red-dyed comb-over and newly acquired botox lips. Get thee to central casting.

Again, I offer this Spring Fashion Show not for criticism of my fellow male, but to point out if you match your socks you too can go out in public feeling like a fashion plate.

Images: Thank you page 35 of the Internet for these pictures. Even a cute pup can’t pull off a combover. Shorts, white socks and sandals are the real reasons the rest of the world rolls its eyes at American Tourists.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

WHAT YOUR BODY IS TELLING YOU ABOUT SMOKING


NO BUTTS, PLEASE--Recently, I read in a hospital brochure from San Diego’s Scripps Clinic (not from the Internet) regarding the impact smoking has on our bodies. It’s straightforward and eye-opening news. The brochure’s title and message is clear: “quit smoking and time is on your side.”

Once you quit smoking…

WITHIN 20 MINUTES, your blood pressure returns to normal and cardiovascular damage begins to subside.

WITHIN 8 HOURS, carbon monoxide levels in your blood decrease and oxygen levels increase to normal.

WITHIN 24 HOURS, your chance of a heart attack decreases

WITHIN 48 HOURS, damaged nerve endings start to re-grow and your sense of smell and taste begin to improve.

WITHIN 72 HOURS, nicotine is all out of the body and your bronchial tubes relax and make it easier to breathe.

For more information call the American Lung Assn. for help. 1-800-NO BUTTS

Image courtesy Penn Leonard Davis Institute, Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics

Monday, March 19, 2012

NOT SO CLOSE SHAVES IN U.S. PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY


RAZOR WIT—Today marks a rather important personal event in that it is the fifth anniversary of the demise of my moustache, a constant companion of mine for more than 30 years. I remember the angst involved leading up to my decision to part ways with the hairy upper lip. Hours were spent in front of the mirror debating pro and con. Now that I’m clean shaven facial hair seems rather silly. But that’s just me and it did get me thinking about beards and moustaches in general.

Male facial hair made a big impact during the Hippie years beginning in the middle 1960s, a fad inspired more by the Beatles than the moustache wax lobby. But the biggest years for facial hair in America began during the Civil War when soldiers and officers on both sides just didn’t have the time or inclination to shave every day.

To this day our facially “hairiest” President has to be Rutherford B. Hayes, who never once shaved during his tenure in the White House 1877-1881. Hayes was a civil war general and one heck of a president. If anyone reads a biography of Hayes, his four years were jammed with decisions and events that impact us today. [See notes at end of this blog.]

We’re all familiar with the story that a young girl mentioned to Abraham Lincoln that he’d look less pale and wan if he grew beard. Abe took the suggestion to heart and was the first Chief Executive to be inaugurated sporting a beard. Lincoln started a fad in the White House. Presidents from Lincoln to Taft all had facial hair. All Presidents before Lincoln were clean-shaven and so were all Presidents after Taft. From 1860 to 1913 it was facial hair’s finest hour when moustaches and muttonchops ruled the White House and the world.

But, it makes one wonder what Rutherford B. Hayes would have looked like under that tangle of beard?

Notes: For more on our 19th President Rutherford B. Hayes read the excellent Wikipedia bio. Also, our White House has a fascinating webpage devoted to biographies of all our Presidents and well worth a visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/the-presidents

Image: www.Whitehouse.gov

Sunday, March 18, 2012

SUNDAY REVIEW /THE ROAD NOT TAKEN/Guest Blog/By Robert Frost


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

About the Author--Robert Lee Frost (March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963) was a popular American poet. Frost was honored frequently during his lifetime, receiving four Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry. He spoke at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy.

Despite his later association with rural life, Frost grew up in the city, and published his first poem in his high school's magazine. Frost's poems are critiqued in the "Anthology of Modern American Poetry", Oxford University Press, where it is mentioned that behind a sometimes charmingly familiar and rural façade.

Sources: Biography: Wikipedia; Poem is in public domain posted by Google.
Image: public domain, United States Postal Service via Wikipedia



SUNDAY REVIEW—A new online literary review appearing exclusively on Pillar to Post (www.tomshess.blogspot.com).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

THE HAZE OF ST. PATRICK’S DAYS PAST





TIPSY NOSTAGLIA—OK, I’ve been sober since Halloween 1986 but I can still taste that Irish Coffee at Tom Bergin’s saloon in LA’s Wilshire District as if it were served ten minutes ago. Also, I wonder my O’Shess shamrock is still hanging up on the west wall. Will someone on Fairfax Ave. please check?

Another pub I loved crawling was Perry’s Saloon along Union Street in San Francisco. While living there as an Examiner reporter, I had a good saloon on each side of Russian Hill: Perry’s in Cow Hollow and the late, great Powell’s in North Beach. Perry’s front window table is still hard to beat on a chilly night.

Add Harry Caray’s in Chicago with my oldest son and Manhattan’s P.J. Clarke’s on my list of great bars, each with a fabulous history.

Across the pond, I had memorable Irish coffee’s at the London Playboy Club then there was the world’s most expensive martini at Harry’s Bar at the Paris Ritz hotel and a vin ordinaire seated at a small table near the stage at the Moulin Rouge. Check out the MR’s website for a fun time. http://www.moulinrouge.fr/ Ah, those Parisian’s. My investigative report from back stage was the dancers were all longer-legged Brits.

In Venice, cheers to the four Pan Am stewardesses from Frisco, who clinked flutes with me at the Danieli Hotel Lobby, only steps from the Grand Canal. We were all staying there, separate rooms, alas.

The highest I ever got on a glass of Champagne was aboard the Concorde at 60,000 ft. from London to Beirut. Lately, British Airways has a terrific tea service at 4 pm whatever cloud your Boeing 777 happens to be flying through.

The owner of Las Hadas resort in Manzanillo set up a white cloth row of tables to feed and Champagne a corps of travel writers on a bluff over looking a Pacific sunset. Hard to forget that Champagne and lobster.

Another sunset appreciated was with a bottle of local Panamanian beer on the fantail of a Royal Cruise liner through the Panama Canal. Gave a whole new meaning to lock and loaded.

While in Port Vila in the New Hebrides I shared a local punch rum drink after they saved me from drowning. Somehow, I had fallen out of the rented outrigger and fell into the lagoon. Flailing to find shore, the Kiwi couple merely pointed out: “Stand up, Yank the water’s only a meter deep.”

Speaking of Asia, I shared a gin and tonic with my imaginary friend Rudyard Barnett at the bar in the Raffles Hotel. He was curious why on earth I was wearing a wool suit in Singapore? Explanation: It was cold and wintry when I left Seattle. “The aroma of wet wool is unforgettable. You should get yourself to an Orchard Road tailor for something more equatorially suitable.”

And, as for my farewell drink, it was another flute of bubbles at the oyster bar at Pax Restaurant (long gone) in La Jolla, where my future bride suggested I’d be a great catch if I stopped drinking. Talk about Sophie’s choice. That glass of bubbly was my last. A decision and promise well kept.

Images: Internet from various websites, including the Concorde.

Friday, March 16, 2012

TOP OF THE TANK / RAISED BY A BUNGALOW




CALIFORNIA CRAFTSMAN--Our modest one story 1915 Craftsman bungalow that we immodestly call The Shess Bungalow sits on 28th Street in San Diego's historic North Park Arts & Crafts era district just a couple of cracked sidewalks away from famed Balboa Park.

Our pride and joy sits fence to hedge among more stately two-story neighbors with more impressive designer pedigrees. At birth, our one-story bungalow fell between the kit homes created by Sears and the cherished work of local icon builder and designer of the Arts & Crafts period David Owen Dryden. Its total lack of embellishments and its exuberant naïveté were its main key to survival over the years.

Our bungalow withstood well-meaning owner improvements over the years. It came into our hands 23 years ago in need of some immediate affection.

We too were naïve. We first believed we purchased an older home. Unbeknownst to us at the time we had a Craftsman bungalow, a fact we realized when we read our first issues of American Bungalow and Old House Journal magazines at the home of North Park historians Don and Karon Covington.

From that day forward we realized a Craftsman bungalow is much like a cat-it owns you and not the other way around.

So educated into the genre, our family began a love affair with our home that continues to this day. Because our home did not come with many built in adornments, we were able to choose what improvements were important to us.

Two home elements were created by my wife, Phyllis. She designed a replica of a Batchelder fireplace (using San Diego area Craftsman tile artist Laird Plumleigh and chimney builder Jim Crawford of Authentic Fireplaces)) and a guest bathroom that might have appeared originally, complete with hexagon floor tile. Our bath’s triple door built-in medicine chest is copied based on master builder David Owen Dryden’s bathroom cabinet from Della Tanner’s home two doors down. Phyllis also designed the nook table in the kitchen.

Our work, hand scraping all the lead based paint exterior and interior, replacing ruined windows and termite damage with modern period equivalents. Plus, furnishing it and accessorizing it with a comfortable mix of antique and reproductions. We beam when visitors insist that our new work appears original. And, in 2000, we were paid a huge compliment by the Save Our Heritage Organisation (Soho) when they included our 28th Street home on its popular Arts & Crafts Weekend Home tour.

A common thread in our family was the love of actually being surrounded by the heritage of our town and our neighborhood. Corny as it may be the love of restoring our home created a loving family bond. It focused us on heritage and in this shatterproof age it gave all of us the understanding that all things old are not automatically trashable.

In this old bungalow, we raised a family and our Craftsman home helped raise us.

Images: Kitchen nook and fireplace design by Phyllis Shess. Art tiles by Laird Plumleigh.

Top of the Tank is an occasional series on life in historic North Park, one of the nation's most diverse and architecturally significant neighborhoods with special emphasis on the Arts & Crafts Era (1890-1920).