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Monday, January 30, 2012


DIVINE INSPIRATION—“Inspiration” is a daily blog covering design trends and events from the experts at Hold it Contemporary, a sharp furnishing and accessories retailer headquartered in Mission Valley.

The stylish daily blog covers tops from international design to local design events. Proprietor Michael McAllister’s marketing team puts it together and it is one of the best looking design blogs I’ve seen or read in the blogosphere.

Image: Innovation divans available at Hold It Contemporary Home, 1570 Camino De La Reina San Diego, CA 92108-1528, 619 295-6660.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


HEROS SERVED--Help support the arson damaged Alice Birney Elementary school in University Heights, San Diego and get a bit to eat while at it.

On Friday, Feb. 3 come out and enjoy food from: New York on Rye, Tabe, Groggy's and Mrs Frostie, with 20% of the proceeds benefiting Friends of Alice Birney Elementary. If you can not attend, you can still support by making cash donations at or at the mailing address at end of this blog.

Friday, February 3, 2012
3:30-7:00 PM
Parking lot of New Vision Christian Fellowship
1353 Park Blvd
San Diego, CA 92103

A legacy rich older public school was the victim of a suspicious fire on Monday, Jan 16, 2012. The fire destroyed Alice Birney Elementary’s cafeteria, auditorium and all the supplies used in the before and after school programs — art supplies, balls, books, games, music and all sorts of other things. These items were supplied by a grant and cannot be replaced with existing funds. Please help the kids recover their school by donating any amount.

Friends of Alice Birney Elementary is a non-profit 501(c)(3). Tax ID # 27-2414127.

Or mail a check in any amount to: Friends of Alice Birney Elementary
4345 Campus Drive
San Diego, CA 92103

Saturday, January 28, 2012


BUNGALOW ‘LOCOS’ UPDATE--American Bungalow Magazine saved our 1915 craftsman bungalow in San Diego from the clutches of a planned remuddlization into something more modern. An ardent San Diego bungalow historian (the late fine arts professor Don Covington) asked us as new homeowners what we had planned for our newly purchased home.

Eagerly Tom and Phyllis Shess shared every mid-century modern detail after all it was then just an old house that needed help. Ever the Southern gentleman, Covington nodded and softly mentioned that modernizing a bungalow with contemporary detailing and furnishings was akin to putting a mini-skirt on great, grandmother: “Yes, it can be done---but..”

Covington loaned them a copy of American Bungalow Magazine. "We had never read one before. After reading it (and later subscribing to it) we saw the light. We were not living in an old house—instead we were proudly owners of a classic Craftsman bungalow in a North Park community filled with homes built by many of Southern California’s master builders.

"We became born again Craftsman era buffs. And, our proudest moment as homeowners came when American Bungalow Magazine founder and publisher John Brinkmann and photographer Alexander Vertikoff paid us a visit," said Phyllis Shess.

Brinkmann continues to flourish at the helm of his family’s three-decade, three generation icon to the Arts & Craftsman movement in the U.S. and Canada. Also, it is apparent his team has not lost its pioneering spirit as he’s created a new website called

According to the site, “…Bungalocals is the place where American Bungalow's readers and their friends can share all that is authentic or unique to their area and the places they visit and discover.
“…At, you can contribute different kinds of content, including reviews, photos, events, votes, quick tips, private messages, and more. Our users provide the content, and the site is driven by what our readers contribute.”

There just a few rules. And they can be viewed at

Thank you, Brinkmann Family for all you have done to preserve and encourage the nurturing of an amazing cultural phenomenon called the Arts & Crafts Movement. We look forward to participating in

Image: Photo of the “saved” 1915 bungalow, which made its proud appearance in the Winter, 2004 edition of American Bungalow Magazine. Also above blog photo of is of Alexander Vertikoff (left) and John Brinkmann during recent visit to San Diego. Photographed by Tom Shess, San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles Magazine on the historic Quince Street Bridge, San Diego CA.

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).

Friday, January 27, 2012


TRUE GRIT--New York Times war correspondent Christopher "C.J." Chivers, who is covering the Middle East war theatre with and his colleague Times photographer Tyler Hicks, has a personal blog that covers a lot more detail than his contributions to the NYT’s regular blog “At War/Notes from the Front Lines.” C.J.s blog is

Chivers blog details his day job. But in a corner of his blog is a very dark room, where the ugly side of war is laid out without sparing the reader from the true realities of modern warfare. The title of that dark room is called “The Morgue.” In newspaper parlance, every publication has a morgue. That’s where past articles are stored for future research.

Chivers personal blog is as riveting as I’ve ever read. For the squeamish, be wary of clicking on to Chivers’ “The Morgue.” Subject matter there is chilling as a cold sweat bad dream.

C.J. Chivers is a senior writer for The New York Times, where he reports for the Foreign and Investigative desks, covering conflict, crime, the arms trade and human rights. His work also appears on the NYT’s At War and Lens blogs. He is a frequent contributor to Esquire, an occasion contributor to other publications and the author of "The Gun" (Simon & Schuster, 2010), a history of automatic arms and their influence on human security and war. The Atlantic and The Washington Post selected the book as a New York Times Editor’s Pick and a Best Book of 2010.

Born in upstate New York in 1964, Mr. Chivers graduated cum laude from Cornell University in January 1988. From 1988 until 1994, he was an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps, serving in the Persian Gulf war and performing peacekeeping duties as a company commander during the Los Angeles riots in 1992. He also graduated from several military schools, including the U.S. Army’s Ranger Course. He was honorably discharged as a captain in 1994.

Image from C.J. Chivers blog

Thursday, January 26, 2012


GUEST BLOG—The following news flash is from West Coaster, a Craft Beer publication and website: “…Today, Thurs. (Jan. 26), New English Brewing’s tasting room in Sorrento Valley will open to the public for the first time at 4 pm.

The guests of the soft opening held about two weeks ago read like a who’s who of San Diego beer, with appearances by Lee and Jennifer Chase of Blind Lady, Greg Koch of Stone, Colby Chandler of Ballast Point, Bruce Glassman of Chefs Press/San Diego’s Top Brewers, Dan Selis of Mission, Gary Pitman of Manzanita, Chris White of White Labs, writer Brandon Hernandez, and more.

Great show of support for owner/brewer Simon Lacey, who’s really been performing all his duties as a one-man team, with some occasional help from homebrewer Kenny who offered his services when Lacey spoke at a QUAFF meeting more than a year ago. Lacey’s Explorer E.S.B. — the brewery’s flagship — and Brewers Special Brown Ale were obvious hits, as both casks blew before the night was out. New English’s tasting room will also be open Fridays from 4-8 and Saturdays from 12-8.”

More Beer News: Ballast Point Brewing Co. will unveil today (Jan 26) its first bottling of 2012 Sea Monster Imperial Stout. Bottles will be hitting retail outlets next week. Taste Sea Monster at the brewery’s two locations beginning at 11 am tomorrow. Location Info:

For more craft beer and food events go to and check out this feisty newsmagazine’s “daily” event calendar for more great happenings.

Image: Invitation to New English Brewing Co.’s taste room grand opening.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


OH, HENRY BEGINNING--It was the best of times, it was the Dickens of times or maybe it was the night before Christmas? Whatever it was, it is what it is.

It’s so easy to digress. For example, today’s post is about San Diegan Henry DeVries, who along with his daughter Karla DeVries have published a monograph “How to write a book in Kindle style” with a subhead “Book Style in a 2012 Kindle World.” It’s for real. Skip to the bottom for a search engine address for this excellent read.

It’s clear to me now; Henry and Karla are Rand & McNally for the e-book set. If you follow their word maps you’ll be publishing your work in a Kindle world in no time. I’m a believer. And, I’m starting my Kindle novel—pronto, but first some unfinished business.

It has been my dream for years to publish a mystery. Alas, it has been languishing on the shelf with real dust for a cover. It has been maligned by editors and called an ithyphallic tome by literary agents ranging from Italy to Itapecerica de Serra. It has been lambasted by being called an itty-bitty work itching to fail by falling on to itself because of an itemized lack of avoiding the word “it.”

It is a new day! No longer can those smug literary agents peer and sneer over their reading glasses. Ha! Thanks to Kindle my life’s work: “Gin Mills, Sleazy Bars and Tawdry Significant Others” will find publishing nirvana. It’s now possible.

It’s also time for my medication so—at last--here’s my O’Henry ending: Read DeVries and DeVries on “How to write a book in Kindle style.” It could change your literary life and remember you read it here in italics with exclamation points, too!

Image: Kindle

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


LOCAL WINNERS--Two San Diegans, Theresa (Terri) Green and Steve Gould did very well in The Nature Conservancy sixth annual photography contest held recently. Steve garnered a finalist (top ten) and an Honorable Mention for his two images. Terri’s Honorable Mention (HM) image as well as those of other contest notables appear on The Nature Conservancy’s website

Steve’s top “finalist” image captured King Penguins on the March along Right Whale Beach, South Georgia Island. His HM was for an image of early morning sand dunes at Monument Valley, Utah (see above).

Terri’s HM captured Tufa towers at Mono Lake, a remarkable image that in my humble opinion deserved a higher prize. But because we all love animals, the contest winners seemed to be skewed toward animals over landscape and still lifes (Just an observation not a complaint).

In all 50 U.S. states and more than 30 countries, The Nature Conservancy is engaged in cutting-edge projects to protect nature and preserve life on planet Earth.

The scope of The Nature Conservancy is vast. There are countless ways to get involved world-wide. For just one example, when you join with the TNC to plant a billion trees in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, you are making a difference. One dollar donated plants one tree.

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends through the dedicated efforts of our diverse staff, including more than 550 scientists, located in all 50 U.S. states and 33 countries; and with the help of our many partners, from individuals and governments to local nonprofits and corporations; and by using a non-confrontational, collaborative approach and staying true to our five unique core values.

That’s how The Nature Conservancy has done so much to advance conservation around the world since our founding in 1951. For info on all TNC programs go to

Images: The Nature Conservancy. Top to lower: Steve Gould, Sand Dunes, Monument Valley; Terri Green, Mono Lake, CA and TNC volunteer up to his waist in work.

Monday, January 23, 2012


SWEET KNOWLEDGE--Early last year, decided to complete my Masters Degree. I’m one course short. By chance, I discovered an institution of higher learning based in Pennsylvania that would enroll me with little or no advance notice. Since PA is home state to my wife’s mom and my dad, we decided to combine higher education with vacation time.

Ahead is a short digression: Because my father was an orphan, losing his parents illnesses pandemic to rural coal mining areas of Pennsylvania in the 1920s, he seldom spoke about his childhood. But before I launched into family reunion chatter, we fortified ourselves with a visit to Hershey, PA, a quaint town where the Hershey’s chocolates are made. Chocolate being the number one on our food group pyramid. In fact, our family crest is in Latin and roughly translated is kindly pass the Reese’s pieces.

Meanwhile, first day of class at Hershey’s University, proved to be our last. The post-graduate program there is only an hour long. Time flies when you’re on the grounds of the famous chocolate factory. If you pass the class, which is basically a hand to lips chocolate tasting course, you will have your Masters Degree (see image).

Frivolity aside, one of the serious sidebars of visiting Hershey, PA is knowing that the Hershey chocolates factory founder gave virtually all of his fortune and name to creating the Milton Hershey School, a free boarding school K-12 for financially strapped families. The co-educational school was founded in 1918 and operates today in Hershey, PA with 2,000 students on campus.

Orphans make up a large part of the enrollment. The school provides them with a world-class education, meals, clothing, a nurturing home, health care, counseling and career training for all. Dad would have loved it there.

A wonderful filmmaker, Catherine Wade made a documentary at the 100th anniversary of the founding of the school. It’s an hour long but I’ve only gone three minutes into the film without crying. Please view as much as you can. Click following address into your search engine:

Hershey’s Chocolate World (factory tour):
Hershey Gardens:
Hotel Hershey:
Milton Hershey School: www.mhs-pa-org/

Captions: Hershey Gardens in winter. I figured anyone can show a summer shot, but in San Diego we need to remember snow. Alumni reunion hug at Milton Hershey School, 2010 and Hotel Hershey (Marriott: 4 stars).

Credits: This blog was based on a blog feature that first appeared on San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles website: www.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


SAVE THE DATE—Aficionados of vintage residential architecture please save March 17 & 18 because that’s when SOHO’s annual Historic Home Tour Weekend takes place.

This year Save Our Heritage Organisation showcases early 20th century Bankers Hill homes. In addition, the two-day event offers lectures, walking tours, cocktail party & the Sunday historic home tour.

Outtatowners may take exception with the headline above but if you put all the elements of the SOHO weekend together the overall package makes it the best in the west.

Consider the fact, SOHO docents and management are total professionals in historic home preservation and documentation. The inventory of architectural diversity of early 20th century homes by noted architects and master builders are second to none. According to American Bungalow Magazine, San Diego has one of the largest collections of Arts & Crafts bungalow neighborhoods in the U.S. based on diversity of design and sheer numbers.

March is a splendid month to visit San Diego. No smog, fog or traffic clog.

Plus, the Historic Home Tour Weekend is held adjacent to Balboa Park, one of the finest public parks in America. Balboa Park is surrounded by historic home neighborhoods.

Do the math. All of the above add up to making SOHOs annual Historic Home Tour Weekend the West’s best vintage home weekend & tour.

And for all locals, who’ve always wanted to get into historic preservation, then there’s no time like the present to volunteer. There’s plenty of time to get involved in this year’s big event by contacting SOHO at 619-297-9327 or

Saturday, January 21, 2012

ULTIMO GUACAMOLE: Recipe for the Ages

EDITOR’S NOTE: In preparation for the Super Bowl, we blog about Southern California’s three major food groups: Avocado, Salsa & Guacamole. The Spicy Guacamole recipe is from Brittany over at Kitchenette Food & Photography blog.

GUEST BLOG: This is a recipe that really makes me miss San Diego. Guacamole used to be a fairly large part of my diet! Between my regular stops at a variety of Mexican restaurants and drive-thrus, and the near constant availability of quality guacamole ingredients, there was always an excuse to indulge in this flavorful dip.

Guacamole combines two things I love in one little bowl.

For starters, it’s Mexican food! We take our Mexican food pretty seriously in San Diego, as evidenced by San Diego's recent victory in the Burrito War. (Foil wrapped, steamed tortillas? Pfft.)

Also, it brings people together! Let’s face it – no Super Bowl or Cinco de Mayo party is complete without guacamole. I love to entertain, so anything that can be served at a party is my kind of food.

I suppose I’ve been working on this guacamole in some form or another for several years now. I didn’t start documenting the amounts of what I added until fairly recently, but it has pretty much always been made with the same ingredients.

The thing about guacamole is that it’s made from nearly all fresh ingredients, so a recipe isn’t going to be 100% foolproof. You’ll have to make some adjustments depending on how each ingredient in that batch tastes.

My guacamole tip is this: baby steps. Add maybe half of the fresh ingredients to the avocados and taste the result before adding the remainder. There’s nothing worse than finding out you got a really strong onion or an especially spicy pepper after you’ve added all of it to the bowl. Be sure to taste before you commit!

If you don't want this too spicy, you can take the seeds out of the pepper or simply add less. Regardless of your desired spice level, be sure to add the pepper, onion, cilantro, and lime cautiously. Add around 1/2 to 3/4 of each of these ingredients at first, taste the guacamole, then add more as you see fit.

• 6 ripe hass avocados (about 2 pounds)

• juice from 2-3 limes

• 1 large tomato, seeds and pulp removed, diced

• 1 serrano chili, minced

• 1/2 a red onion, minced

• 3/4 cup chopped cilantro

• 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

• a few turns of freshly ground black pepper

• 1/2 teaspoon cumin

• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1/4 teaspoon paprika method

• Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and place in a bowl. Squeeze the juice of two limes over the avocados and mix well. This will keep them form turning brown. Use your knife to cut up the avocados, but leave them in fairly large chunks. They'll continue to break up as you mix in the rest of the ingredients.

• Add the rest of the ingredients. Remember to be mindful of the fresh ingredients, they can be potent at times! Carefully mix everything together, trying not to turn the avocados into complete mush.

• Taste and add more lime juice, serrano chili, onion, and cilantro if necessary.
Yields: About 4 cups

To store leftovers, or if making ahead of time: cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the guacamole to prevent browning. Refrigerate.

Original photography by Brittany Everett/

Friday, January 20, 2012


FAIR BALL--If someone near and dear is a softball or hardball aficionado, then here’s an event for baseball lovers of every stripe.

The 2nd annual National Baseball & Softball Expo will be held 9 am to 5 pm Sat. and Sun., Jan. 21 & 22 at the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park. Tickets are $10.

NBSE is a modern, engaging baseball and softball exposition that brings the sports’ experience to people in a fun, family-friendly way. Professionals will be on hand to participate, exhibitors will demonstrate their newest equipment and educational elements will also be included. Check out the latest in mitts, cleats, bats and who’s whom in baseball instruction. Make a day of it.

For more information, please visit
The San Diego Hall of Champions is the new home of the National Baseball & Softball Expo. The 70,000 square foot San Diego Hall of Champions is the nation’s largest multi-sport museum boasting three levels of memorabilia.

FYI: Check out this blog’s handy restaurant roster of where to eat in Balboa Park. It was posted last weekend in this blog as "Inside the Park (Dining) Home Runs."

Images: Wikipedia images

Thursday, January 19, 2012


TECH GIANTS LETTER TO CONGRESS--Dear Chairman Pat Leahy, Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, Chairman Lamar Smith and Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr:

The undersigned Internet and technology companies write to express our concern with legislative measures that have been introduced in the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives, S. 968 (the “PROTECT IP Act”) and H.R. 3261 (the “Stop Online Piracy Act”).

We support the bills’ stated goals -- providing additional enforcement tools to combat foreign “rogue” websites that are dedicated to copyright infringement or counterfeiting.

Unfortunately, the bills as drafted would expose law-abiding U.S. Internet and technology companies to new uncertain liabilities, private rights of action, and technology mandates that would require monitoring of web sites. We are concerned that these measures pose a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job-creation, as well as to our Nation’s cybersecurity. We cannot support these bills as written and ask that you consider more targeted ways to combat foreign “rogue” websites dedicated to copyright infringement and trademark counterfeiting, while preserving the innovation and dynamism that has made the Internet such an important driver of economic growth and job creation.

One issue merits special attention. We are very concerned that the bills as written would seriously undermine the effective mechanism Congress enacted in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) to provide a safe harbor for Internet companies that act in good faith to remove infringing content from their sites.

Since their enactment in 1998, the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions for online service providers have been a cornerstone of the U.S. Internet and technology industry’s growth and success. While we work together to find additional ways to target foreign “rogue” sites, we should not jeopardize a foundational structure that has worked for content owners and Internet companies alike and provides certainty to innovators with new ideas for how people create, find, discuss, an share information lawfully online.

We are proud to be part of an industry that has been crucial to U.S. economic growth and job creation. A recent McKinsey Global Institute report found that the Internet accounts for 3.4 percent of GDP in the 13 countries that McKinsey studied, and, in the U.S., the Internet’s contribution to GDP is even larger. If Internet consumption and expenditure were a sector, its contribution to GDP would be greater than energy, agriculture, communication, mining, or utilities. In addition, the Internet industry has increased productivity for small and medium-sized businesses by 10%. We urge you not to risk either this success or the tremendous benefits the Internet has brought to hundreds of millions of Americans and people around the world.

We stand ready to work with the Congress to develop targeted solutions to address the problem of foreign “rogue” websites.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

AOL Inc.
eBay Inc.
Facebook Inc.
Google Inc.
LinkedIn Corporation
Mozilla Corp.
Twitter, Inc.
Yahoo! Inc.
Zynga Game Network

Letter source:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


DATE NIRVANA--Don't you just love coming late into a conversation, especially when the first words you hear are "airborne insemination"...hmmm? My early career background was editor of PSA inflight magazines so my imagination took over until I listened more closely. During a visit with friends in Palm Desert, the conversation at the other end of the table concerned the annual Indio Date Festival (Feb. 17-26) plus how tasty the dates were at the Shields Date Garden (read farm) located just outside of Indio, CA.

It turned out, airborne insemination was part of a PR presentation on how date palms breed. A 15-minute film on the sex life of a date is shown daily in the Shields Date Garden theatre. Before you yawn or blanch with too much information, please note that the ageless palm's sex life has harem like overtones. For example, over the past 6,000 years or so, the average male palm tree is responsible for pollinating 100 or so female palms. Yes, on the seventh day he rested. That's where airborne insemination came in. No more need be said, but if you insist on pursue this go to a handy You Tube presentation:
(if this doesn’t readily link up then copy and place in your search engine.

Gee Whiz factoid: California’s Coachella Valley produces 30 million pounds of dates per year or about 95% of edible date crops in U.S.

Shield's Date Garden Store
80-225 U.S. Highway 111
Indio, CA 92201-6599
Phone: 760-347-7768 or mail order 800-414-2555
Hours: 9am to 5pm Daily.
Order Desk: 8am to 5pm PST Monday thru Friday.
Orders placed after 10am PST will ship the next day.

Indio, CA has been home to the National Date Festival & County Fair for more than 60 years, it’s a week long of crazy fun with live entertainment including camel and ostrich races and a nightly Arabian Nights musical pageant. There’s also a carnival, food of all varieties and lots of shopping, 760 863-8247,

Images: Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Guest Blog—Today we’re in Fiji thanks to Marguarite Clark, owner of Marguarite Clark Public Relations ( She penned this travel blog after recently returning to San Diego from the gorgeous island nation.

FIJI CHRONICLES--Those of us who travel for work know it isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, but you didn’t need to twist my arm when I was invited to Fiji for a press trip. My client is Royal Davui Island Resort Fiji – and my very tough job was to introduce a group of journalists to the many activities and natural beauty of this spectacular resort.

Royal Davui is not a hard sell. In fact, it’s just what you picture when envisioning the ultimate island getaway: a remote retreat with sapphire blue seas, white sandy beaches and towering palms. This über-exclusive escape is even situated atop a living barrier reef – home to a variety of fish, sea creatures and spectacular coral gardens. While I did spend time relaxing and reveling in the beauty of this amazing spot – each spacious room has sweeping ocean views and its own pool – a large portion of my days was consumed by the multitude of fun activities this idyllic island paradise offers.

Here’s a small sampling of my itinerary:
• I faced my fears and tried my hand at zip lining. I was reluctant at first, but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of whisking through the verdant Wainadoi Forest (as long as I didn’t look down). Zip Fiji was our operator, and they did a fabulous job.

• A real highlight was a boat trip from the resort to the sand quay – a deserted sand bar – for swimming and breakfast (lower image). We spent hours at this remote spot luxuriating in complete solitude.

• I also did some game fishing. This was my first time fishing and with beginner’s luck I caught a large Spanish mackerel! We brought it back to the resort where the kitchen prepared my fresh catch for our lunch – it was delicious! In fact, the resort’s Banyan Restaurant & Bar is widely known for its ultra-fresh Pacific fusion cuisine. The food throughout my entire trip was incredible – lots of fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables.

• I was treated to some Fijian culture and visited a church service at a village on the nearby island, Beqa. The singing by the children and adults in their choir was spine tingling….simply amazing.

• Sea kayaking around the island of Royal Davui (top and middle image) was an incredible experience. The water is so clear that I could see perfectly the vibrant fish and coral below me.

• I had the chance to do some hobie cat sailing with a young guide – Kaveni Natadra – the current Fiji youth champion. That fellow can sail! Although, we went so fast that we ultimately tipped over! It was exhilarating, but quite a chore up righting our boat.

One of my favorite moments of the trip was visiting the former home of Raymond Burr – the famed Hollywood actor who starred in television’s Ironsides. Located on the main island, Viti Levu, his home has been transformed into a charming five-room boutique hotel called Fiji Orchid. We had a few hours before our departure back to LAX, so we dined there while awaiting our flight. . They took great care of us! It was a wonderful finale to a simply fabulous trip.


Images: Fiji Photography by David Lansing

Monday, January 16, 2012


EXPO GROUNDBREAKING—Acting San Diego Mayor Percival Wood declared July 19-22, 1911, special days whereby “people should set aside their business cares” to celebrate the official ground breaking of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

The four days, including parades, pageants and post-Victorian hoopla, all intended to focus worldwide attention to the marvels of San Diego as a place to prosper in the sun. City fathers knew that the 1912 opening of the Panama Canal was near. San Diego was a shoo-in to attract lucrative new commerce because it was the nearest U.S. Pacific-side harbor to the canal.

The 1915 Exposition in the newly named Balboa Park would be the clincher. With high hopes and low funds, the then Exposition Board gathered on July 19 with ceremonial shovels in hand. Today, the Expo shovel site is near where Interstate 5 zips under Park Boulevard.

Acting Expo director (local banker) Joseph W. Sefton, Jr., began the 10 am event--attended by a reported 25,000 throng--by handing a silvery shovel to President William H. Taft’s representative, John Barrett, Director of the Pan-American Union in Washington, D.C., a precursor of the Organization of American States. Barrett was followed by a lineup of civic leaders, who took turns digging in the dirt.

Soon, Barrett read a message from President Taft toasting the upcoming Expo all success, especially in fostering stronger ties with Latin America.

The booming port, envisioned 100 years ago never came to be as a commercial success akin to San Francisco or Los Angeles. Instead, important parts of San Diego’s waterfronts, would be reserved for the U.S. Navy, who found San Diego’s natural harbor a military asset, a place to base the ships needed to protect the new canal and to allow conversion of aging battleships into new “flattops,” where WWI-era bi-planes could land upon.

The rest is history.

Presently, a new civic committee is organizing a 2015 public fete for 100th Anniversary of the Expo.

Caption: Right to left, beginning far right: business magnate John D. Spreckels: acting San Diego Mayor Percival Wood; Lee Gates, representing California Governor Hiram Johnson; President Taft’s envoy John Barrett, with shovel; Hotelier U.S. Grant, Jr.; Architect Bertram Goodhue, light suit; Joseph W. Sefton; unidentified; Aubrey Davidson and farther left with arms crossed, merchant Julius Wangenheim

Credits: The full text of this blog first appeared in the July,2011 issue of San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles.

Image courtesy of San Diego History Center. The non-profit San Diego History Center collects, preserves, exhibits and interprets materials in order to promote the history of the San Diego region. To become a member or for information on tours, educational programs and the center’s museums, contact the San Diego History Center, 1649 El Prado, Ste. 3; 619-232-6203,

Sunday, January 15, 2012


THINKING FOUNTAIN--Next time you’re having lunch at David Cohn’s Prado Restaurant, the finest public park restaurant west of NYC’s Central Park, take time to locate the nearby “Persian Water Rug” fountain.

Created by architect Richard S. Requa, AIA in 1935, the fountain/sculpture is found southeast of The Prado’s patio dining area. Leading Requa historian Parker Jackson reminded me that Requa, was the Supervisor of Architecture and Landscaping for the 1935 Exposition. “The Water Rug's pedigree can be traced to ancient Persian gardens and palaces. The style is called 'chadar', which means shawl,” says Jackson.

If you face the fountain do a 180-degree turn and you’ll see the 1915 Botanical Garden across the park. The corridor between the two is meant to be a tranquil retreat for Balboa Park visitors.

When I do see Parker Jackson (I’ve written two articles on Jackson’s home, which was nee Richard Requa’s model home for a Kensington Tract), we often discuss the idea that a plaque should be placed near the fountain to alert visitors to its historical significance.

A few years back, Parker inspired me to the point that I wanted to recreate the Persian rug in my sideyard. My wife and I were dismayed that the lowest bid any contractor gave us was $35,000. The idea faded but it’s still on my wish list.

For an detailed article on the Requa public park rug copy the following Internet address in your search engine. A Jackson penned article should appear from the San Diego Historical Society’s superbly written “Journal of San Diego History.”

Images: (TOP)Parker Jackson, left with Tom Shess, 2006 pictured in front of his Requa designed home. Photography by Michael Shess. (MIDDLE)Fountain photo by Tom Shess, 2011. (LOWER)Persian Water Rug, 1935 courtesy of Parker Jackson.

Saturday, January 14, 2012


For Updated List go to June 24 blog

BALBOA PARK CUISINE-- Seems like everytime I wandered into a restaurant in Balboa Park it was just closing. Yes, I could get up earlier but then we wouldn’t have this handy list. This blog combined with San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles intern Anthony Tangredi, who compiled this handy list, including the hours these epicurean notables are open.

The Prado at Balboa Park
1549 El Prado
Plaza de Panama, Balboa Park, indoor, outdoor.
Comment: Easy one of the best park restaurants in the nation, The Prado, is an award-winning, full-service restaurant located in the House of Hospitality. It offers charming indoor and outdoor dining. The décor reflects the history of the Balboa Park and includes whimsical accessories inspired by the Park museum collections. The diverse Latin-Italian fusion cuisine includes an array of appetizers, salads, sandwiches and imaginative entrées. The lounge combines a lighter menu with a wide variety of margaritas, sangria, beer, wine and other beverages. Reservations are accepted and recommended.
Hours: Lunch: M-F, 11:30 am to 3 pm; Sat & Sun lunch 11 am to 3 pm. Dinner: Tues. thru Sun beginning at 5:30 pm. Closed Monday evenings.

19th Hole Café at Balboa Park Golf Complex
2600 Golf Course Drive
(South Park) Indoor, outdoor season weather permitting.
Hours: 6 am until dusk, daily.
Comment: This venerable café for the golf set at Balboa Park’s Muni golf course is a favorite with neighbors as well as the golf set. Open really early and sticks around for lunch. Nice downtown view from the window tables.

Sculpture Court Café (San Diego Museum of Art)
1450 El Prado
Plaza de Panama, Balboa Park, indoor, but open air bring a sweater.
619-702-6373 for info or reservations,
Hours: Open for lunch & dinner Tues thru Sun from 11 am to 8 pm in the summer, and Tues thru Sun 11 am to 4 pm year round. Happy Hour is available Tues thru Sat from 3 pm to 6 pm with discounted specials. Closed Mondays
Comment: The museum has partnered with Guiseppe Catering to open a European style café in the Sculpture Court, offering sit down service, as well as Grab & Go counter with prepared sandwiches, salads, desserts, and beverages. Items offered include artisan pizzas, Panini, artisanal cheese plates served with seasonal fruites, truffle honey, marcona almonds and fresh baguette. Try a cured salami board with grape chutney, grain mustard, cornichons and faccacia, or many other fresh dishes. The cafe also features an espresso bar, beer, spirits and non-alcoholic beverages and fresh baked desserts.

The Tea Pavilion at the Japanese Friendship Garden
2215 Pan American Plaza
Adjacent to Spreckels Organ Pavillion, Balboa Park, indoor outdoor seating.
Hours: 10 am to 5 pm daily (winter hours).
Comment: Serves traditional Japanese green tea, herbal and specialty teas as well as sushi made fresh daily, Japanese noodles, rice, miso soup, salads and snacks. Enjoy the magnificent views from inside the Tea Pavilion or from the outdoor courtyard and deck. Unique imported food, beverages and gifts, as well as imported bulk teas, are available for purchase. The Tea Pavilion is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, later during the summer months. For information please call (619) 231-0048.

Albert’s Restaurant, (Inside San Diego Zoo)
2920 Zoo Drive
Balboa Park. Zoo admission required to access restaurant.
619-685-3200, reservations taken. Indoor/outdoor seating,
Hours: 11 am to 3 pm Mon thru Fri; 11 am to 3:30 pm Sat and Sun
Comment: Unique garden setting restaurant offers a wide range of entrees including pasta, steak, seafood, pizza, salad, and sandwiches, as well as a children's menu. This full-service eatery and bar is located amidst a tropical garden. Albert's is open year-round for lunch and serves dinner during the summer's "Nighttime Zoo" experience. The restaurant is named after a famous zoo resident, Albert the Gorilla, who died in 1979.
There are ten food venues inside the Zoo, including Tree Top Café.

Lady Carolyn’s Pub
1363 Old Globe Way,
Balboa Park, Outdoor seating only
619-231-1941 x2751,
Hours: Pub opens at 7 p.m. Tues-Fri, and at 1 p.m. Sat and Sun. Closing hours depend on theatre show.
Comment: Serves hearty soups in a sourdough bread tureen; a cool, crisp salad; or a warm fruit crumble. Sip an icy juice squeeze, a rich cappuccino, a robust Merlot, or a steaming Irish coffee. Memo to the Bard: When will there be a classic English tea room opened here for high tea?

Home Plate Café (Hall of Champions Sports Museum)
2131 Pan American Plaza
Balboa Park, Indoor & outdoor seating
Hours: Open daily 10 am to 4 pm
Comment: A full-service delicatessen offering a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches named for some of San Diego's greatest athletes. You can sit in our cool and comfortable indoor dining area or on our outdoor benches and even phone-in orders "to-go" if you're in a rush. If you need a sports news fix, your favorite satellite sports channel is beamed to televisions within the cafe. Beer and wine service is also available.

Village Grill
1700 Village Place
(next door to Spanish Village). Outdoor seating.
619- 702-2428,
Hours: 9 am to 4 pm daily.
Comment: Serves pizza, hotdogs, hamburgers, and other fast food items which are made on site. Sit at the tile-decorated tables under the shady umbrellas and enjoy casual dining and people watching.

Galileo’s Cafe (Reuben H. Fleet Science Center)
1875 El Prado,
Balboa Park (next to big fountain adjacent Park Blvd.
Hours: Open daily at 9:30 am Opens daily at 9:30 a.m. Closing hours depend on theater show schedule, but the cafe is generally open in the evenings Wednesday thru Sat.
Comment: Offers a healthful alternative to traditional fast food. Our menu includes soups, sandwiches, and pastries as well as specialty wood-fired pizzas and salads from Pizza Nova. Located off of the east rotunda in the the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center with tables outside next to the fountain.

Flight Path Grill (Aerospace Museum)
2001 Pan American Plaza
Balboa Park,
619-234-8291 x148
Hours: 11 am to 4 pm daily
Comment: New at the San Diego Air & Space Museum is an outdoor restaurant featuring hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, salad and more! Enjoy your meal at a picnic table or covered cabana. Museum admission ticket needed to access café.

Credits: This restaurant listing was researched by San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles Intern Anthony Tangredi, a Senior at St. Augustine High School, San Diego.

Images: Top: Alex Joy, co-owner Paume Café & Grill by Holden DeMayo; (lower). The Prado menu image courtesy of Cohn Restaurants. Please Note: the menu date for restaurant week.

Friday, January 13, 2012


BALBOA PARK WEEK CONTINUES--The spirit of John Muir, among the nation’s earliest and foremost advocates for preserving wilderness and the environment, will come alive during a performance by
actor and scholar Doug Hulmes at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, at the Recital Hall
in Balboa Park. Admission is free. A public reception will be held at 5:30 pm.

“Celebrate Trees – An Evening with Naturalist John Muir” is an entertaining and educational adventure into the philosophy and writings of Muir, who spent much of his life exploring and studying the Sierras and Alaska at the turn of the 20th century. Hulmes, a professor of environmental studies at Prescott College in Arizona, has portrayed Muir internationally since 1993.

Admission is free for the performance and a reception presented by the California Center for Sustainable Energy.

Muir wrote profusely about his travels and exploits in nature, especially in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. He promoted the designation of Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest as national parks and was one of the founders and first president of the Sierra Club in 1892. Muir has been called the "patron saint of the American wilderness" and its "archetypal free spirit." He died in 1914 at the age of 76.

In one of Muir’s popular essays he wrote, "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life."

Hulmes transforms into Muir in the style of Chautauqua, a highly popular form of entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Typically, troupes of Chautauqua actors would travel in a circuit of performances, covering small communities and farming areas. The advent of radio and movies brought about the demise of the art form’s popularity.

Hulmes typically portrays the character of Muir in a 35-minute presentation, then takes questions from the audience as the character and closes with questions as a scholar of John Muir. Hulmes came to perform as Muir because of a course that he teaches on "Philosophies of the Interpretive Naturalists.” The performance is funded through a grant from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to the Advice and Technical Assistance Center for Urban Forestry at the
California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego.

Info: 858-244-1177 and email:

Image: (Top:) Doug Hulmes portrays John Muir. Photo: California Center for Sustainable Energy.

UPCOMING: Saturday's blog: Maybe you’ll be surprised at how many placed you can grab a bite to eat in Balboa Park: From haute cuisine to the Park's best kept secret dining spot. Check out Paume Grill, Morley Field's newest coolly delicious take-out.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


MOVIES & MUMMYS—This Saturday, the San Diego Museum of Man presents a public lecture on the ancient Egyptian mummy genre and its early 21st century return to American film screens. With Universal Studios' special-effects-driven remake and sequel, The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001), mummies have made a comeback with the proliferation of Netflix venues and TV rerun programming everywhere.

Called “Unwrapping the Mummy: Hollywood Fantasies, Egyptian Realities, the lecture is set for Saturday, January 14, 2012 - 11am in SDMoM’s Gill Auditorium in Balboa Park, 1350 El Prado Lecture free with paid admission to the museum and is also free to SDMoM members. Info: 619. 239-2001.

Stuart Tyson Smith, PhD,Professor & Chair of Anthropology, UC California, Santa Barbara will compare Hollywood's depiction of mummies to the insights that archaeology and Egyptology have given us into the reality of death and burial in ancient Egypt, where mummies took a central, if a generally less mobile, role. Dr. Smith will conclude his talk by considering the origins of Hollywood's mummy myths and offering some insights into the process of being a consultant on Stargate, The Mummy, and The Mummy Returns.

SDMom is an accredited Smithsonian affiliate. It is located beneath the ornate 200-foot California Tower, the SDMoM is the city's only museum devoted to anthropology and archaeology. With its Spanish colonial and mission style architecture, the landmark building was originally constructed for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. Today, a key focus of the SDMoM is to create and display dynamic and educational anthropological exhibits about people and places throughout the Americas and around the world. For more information on the SDMoM, please visit

Image: San Diego Museum of Man is located in Balboa Park below the famed California Tower. Photo of the California Tower was taken in 1915 just after its completion. Image is courtesy of the San Diego Museum of Man Marketing Dept and San Diego History Center, 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, 619-232-6203,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

BATTLE OVER BALBOA PARK: Part 2/Alternative Plans Outlined

Editor’s Note: This balanced view of the proposed “carless” improvements to the main El Prado area in Balboa Park first appeared in the January, 2012 edition of North Park News, a publication of REP Publications. Penned by reporter Delle Willet, the “Battle over Balboa Park” is reprinted with permission

BALBOA PARK WEEK--On July 19 the city approved a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with the Plaza de Panama Committee, which served as a contract to continue with the Plaza de Panama plan. At the same time, a number of alternatives to this proposed project are also being thoroughly studied in the EIR. The environmental review process will assess potential impacts of the proposed project and alternatives in the areas of traffic circulation, cultural and historic resources, biological resources, and a number of others. Some people believe as is, the MOU puts the city in the position to go with Jacobs’ plan and precludes them using any alternative.

In response to the memorandum, SOHO sued in San Diego Superior Court to rescind the memorandum claiming the city approved the contract illegally before the completion of a state environmental review. On Dec. 16, Superior Court Judge Judith F. Hayes, in a preliminary ruling, deemed the memorandum illegal for the time being. With final ruling pending, Jacobs declined to comment.

The Plaza de Panama website reports a partial list of backers that includes the majority of Balboa Park institutions, ConVis, San Diego Hotel-Motel Association, Downtown San Diego Partnership, over 900 individuals and businesses.

Representing the public (with over 5000 signatures so far on a petition) and a coalition of over 20 groups and organizations, including The League of Woman Voters, The Committee of 100, Citizens Coordinate for Century 3, SOHO recommends the SOHO Precise Plan “Lite,” an alternative plan that consists of a low-cost, reversible, and phased-design approach for the Plaza de Panama Circulation and Parking Project that complies with the existing Balboa Park Master Plan and Central Mesa Precise Plan. The plan meets the goal of converting the Plaza de Panama to pedestrian use while retaining the maximum degree of flexibility, programmability and access to all, and would allow for managed traffic on the Cabrillo Bridge when appropriate or desired. All of this achieved with the least impact to the park and the National Historic Landmark District.

The SOHO Plan for Circulation is to route two-way vehicular traffic along the southwest corner of the Plaza de Panama, adjacent to the Mingei International Museum, and provide a valet and passenger drop-off on both sides of through traffic. In addition, a new entrance driveway would be provided into the Alcazar Garden parking lot by modifying the existing southern exit road.

SOHO Parking Plan
The SOHO Plan for Parking will replace all 54 current parking spaces in the Plaza de Panama, including the 20 accessible spaces, by creating new public parking spaces in existing parking lots behind park institutions and streets, enabling better and more direct access for visitors and the disabled.
The SOHO alternative plan has no significant adverse effects, and a limited amount of proposed changes, therefore this project could proceed without the need of an EIR. It also has consensus of most of San Diegans, according to Bruce Coons, executive director of SOHO.

“This is a perfect time to try out the plan with the 2015 Centennial. We can see how it works and then adopt it permanently or change it later,” said Coons. “Why do something permanent and unchangeable when we can use a plan that can be changed ?”

The SOHO part of the plan can be accomplished well under $1 million. The potential funding sources: Through the use of a CCDC Redevelopment Tax Increment for funding project sites contiguous to CCDC’s downtown Project Area, the General Fund’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), and the Tourist Marketing District. As a project for the 2015 Centennial could be yet another source of funding.

The principal objections to the Jacobs’/CIVITAS plan include: That the Centennial Bridge and Road will impact the historic nature of the Park that could result in a loss of its National Register District classification and the grant support that comes with this designation. That the bypass bridge would ruin the historic appearance of Cabrillo Bridge. That the plan does not have the public’s support nor the support of the 20-member coalition made up of historical societies, community and neighborhood activists, and preservation and environmental stakeholders.

Plea for a Vote
Coons believes that the Jacobs’ plan should be put to a vote. “If we let the public decide it will end the arguments. San Diego has the right to be ugly as well as it does to be beautiful. If the public votes for this plan then SOHO won’t protest. If this isn’t put to the public vote, people will be shocked when they see how much this changes Balboa Park, and they’ll say ‘Why did you let this happen!’” said Coons.

The preservation of Balboa Park is one of the toughest and biggest preservation fights that San Diego has ever had and it’s garnered more support for SOHO than any other. The two other large ones preservationists fought for and won are Petco Park and the Gaslamp District. “Now people love them; everybody wants to say they fathered them now that they see that they are successful,” said Coons.

Images: Plaza de Panama, central Balboa Park, San Diego, CA. by

Comments regarding this series should be directed to REP Publishing Inc., publisher of SD METRO, the North Park News and the West Coast Craftsman. Contact: Manny Cruz (619) 287-1865.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ARCHIVE / BALBOA PARK BATTLE: Part 1/ Balanced Report

Editor’s Note: This balanced view of the proposed “carless” improvements to the main Prado area in Balboa Park first appeared in the January edition of North Park News, a publication of REP Publications. Penned by reporter Delle Willet, the “Battle over Balboa Park” is reprinted with permission
BALBOA PARK WEEK: Balboa Park’s plazas were originally designed like the grand plazas of Europe, accommodating pedestrians, automobiles and pigeons. Over the years, however, the park has literally been taken over by cars with nearly 7,000 vehicles driving through the plazas and promenades daily. With 12 million visitors to the park each year, conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles abound.

This problem has long been recognized, and every plan for the park in the past 60 years has had a goal to remove the cars and return the park’s core to people.

With the 2015 Centennial Celebration of the 1915 Panama-California Exhibition in Balboa Park presenting the perfect opportunity, plans have been developed to make the Plaza de Panama a centerpiece for the centennial, removing approximately 54 parking spaces as well as preparing the park for the additional pedestrians and cars that it will require.

The two major plans being considered are The Plaza de Panama Circulation and Parking Project, presented by The Plaza de Panama Committee, a nonprofit entity formed by Dr. Irwin Jacobs, and the SOHO Precise Plan “Lite” that complies with the existing Balboa Park Master Plan and Central Mesa Precise Plan, represented by Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) and a coalition of over 20 groups and organizations.

The Plaza de Panama Project is a permanent plan that involves building a bypass road— the Centennial Bridge—from the Cabrillo Bridge through the Alcazar Garden parking lot and on to a new 785-space, paid-parking, underground garage south of the Spreckles Organ Pavilion, topped with a two-acre park; free accessible tram service from the parking structure to the Plaza de Panama, resurfacing the plaza with contemporary hardscape materials, and adding shade trees, benches and replicas of the original street lights. Overall, the project adds 267 parking spots in the heart of the park and provides for increased disabled parking, a safe drop-off area and valet service.

All told, the project will reclaim 6.3 acres of parks and plazas (the Plaza de Panama, West El Prado, Plaza de California and the Esplanade) for pedestrian use only from what are now roads and surface parking lots, and significantly reduce conflicts between pedestrians and cars. This plan has been vetted by CIVITAS, a landscape and planning firm. The project is estimated to cost $40 million. Approximately $25 million of this cost is for plaza and park improvements, the construction of Centennial Bridge and Road, and improvements to the Alcazar Garden parking lot. The underground parking structure is estimated to cost $15 million.

The project will be paid for by private donations raised by the Plaza de Panama Committee and a self-supporting bond. No taxpayer funds will be required. The bond will be repaid with revenue generated from parking lot charges. The revenue will also pay for operation and maintenance of the garage and free tram service. A study found that the parking structure would generate enough revenue to support a construction bond, operations and maintenance of the structure, and the operation of the free tram.

The Plaza de Panama Committee has agreed to cover all cost overruns to ensure that there is no risk to taxpayer funds. The Committee will spend over $1,000,000 on the Environmental Information Report (EIR). Leading up to the MOU meeting, Jacobs, co-founder of Qualcomm Inc., has already spent over $2 million on public meetings and planning.

The Plaza de Panama Project must be approved by the San Diego City Council. Leading up to the decision by the City Council, a number of other bodies must provide advisory votes on the project. These include the Balboa Park Committee, the Park and Recreation Board, the Historical Resources Board and the Planning Commission.

It is anticipated that the Draft EIR will be completed and ready for public review and comment January 2012; presented to the City Council in summer 2012; and with all approvals in place, construction started by January 2013 with a scheduled completion date of January 2015.

To date the Committee has participated in roughly 90 meetings with citizen groups, Balboa Park organizations and other stakeholders. Feedback has resulted in positive changes to the project from the first meeting, held more than a year ago. Since then, there have been countless improvements made to the project based on public feedback, and there continue to be.

Tomorrow: BATTLE OF BALBOA PARK: Part 2/ Alternative Plans Outlined

Images: Irwin Jacobs (top) and Bruce Coons (lower) photos: REP Publishing.

Comments regarding this series should be directed to REP Publishing Inc., publisher of SD METRO, the North Park News and the West Coast Craftsman. Contact: Manny Cruz (619) 287-1865.

Monday, January 9, 2012


BALBOA PARK WEEK—This blog will spend the upcoming week in Balboa Park, one of the world’s great city parks to discuss issues and two upcoming lectures. Ever since City Park was renamed Balboa Park 100 years ago, the populace has been squabbling over numerous issues. On Tuesday and Wednesday there is a two-part blog that presents balanced reporting on the newest civic dust up regarding proposals to revamp the center of the park to be more pedestrian friendly. Obviously, there are more issues at hand however, the series “Battle of Balboa Park” does a very good job of defining the issues.

Today’s blog is on the Cabrillo Bridge. We go back into the first days of the bridge, when pedestrians were off limits. It seems we’re still fighting that battle. I wrote the following for San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles and it appeared in the magazine’s November, 2011 issue:

Bridge over Troubled Mutters
What’s cooler than driving across Balboa Park’s Cabrillo (aka Prado) Bridge on a sunny day in a top-down convertible? To this day, generations of San Diego, whether we drive, bike, stroll or jog continue to enjoy crossing the famed local span.

Sadly, no one recalls the name of the young woman behind the wheel in the photo (above), but when we asked many auto buffs in town they recognized her ride as a 1931 Chrysler CD Eight Roadster. The San Diego History Center has put a 1931 date on the image. Said sources believe it was snapped as a promotional photo for a local new car dealership.

The big roadster was originally priced at $1,495 and was powered by an 80-horsepower eight-cylinder (“straight-eight”) engine. Chrysler stats showed a total of 1,462 were built that year.

Lately, automobile traffic into Balboa Park is big news as tempers and lawsuits have been flaring over a City proposal to create a diversionary roadway from the east end of Cabrillo (officially, the Prado) Bridge to planned parking areas south of the Organ Pavilion. The diversion plan is aimed at returning the Plaza de Panama (area in front of the San Diego Museum of Art) into a pedestrian zone. The jury is still out.

Meanwhile, the 120-foot tall span was custom built (cost $250,000) for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and after its April 1914 completion pedestrians had sole crossing rights.

However, if you were a VIP, like then 1914 Mayor Charles F. O’Neill, you be the first to drive across it as long as Asst. Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt was also in the car. Lesser beings hiked across the bridge. In 1917, the City lifted the ban on vehicles and to this day San Diegans have been allowed to drive over the bridge and through Balboa Park’s woods to give our visiting grandma’s the royal tour. FDR returned in 1935, this time as 32nd President of the United States, to recross the bridge for Balboa Park's second Exposition.

Architecturally, the 120-foot-tall bridge is an early example of a closed spandrel arched bridge designed in the Spanish Colonial genre by Thomas B. Hunter and constructed under the supervision of architect Frank P. Allen, Jr.

Cars and all, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historic Resources. As for the muttering and sputtering over Balboa Park roadway issues stay tuned to ardent and independent Balboa Park watchers like North Park News for updates.

Image: Courtesy of San Diego History Center and San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


NIFTY-FIFTY--I’m amazed at myself for being such a complete zero when it comes to basic gardening around the home. Yes, I know I can hire someone to do it. But I’d rather do-it-myself. Can it be that difficult to find the right drought resistant plants for the homestead? A friend, who grows perfect roses seemingly on concrete, gave me one of those sideways grins. “I feel your pain.” I don’t want sympathy I want results. No different than being the coach of the NFL Chargers.

I digress, but my rosy friend did give me a green thumb tip that I will be forever grateful.

Enter the marketing department at the San Diego County Water Authority that has compiled a roster of 50 local plants that grow in our semi-arid part of the world and thrive. The SDCWA worked with Cuyamaca College’s Water Conservation Garden staff to produce a remarkable list of drought tolerant, non-invasive plants.

I traveled out to the five-acre Cuyamaca College garden and found new inspiration. I met the Garden’s plant expert Ms. Smarty Plants, whom I swore I met in another life. At any rate, she led me to believe even I can grow water miser plants. The trick I learned is to get them planted properly. I’ll keep you posted on how my garden grows.

Meanwhile, the Nifty/Fifty plants are on display “live” at the Water Conservation Garden, which is open every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Call for winter hours.) Tours are offered each Saturday morning and by appointment. Also, they have classes, workshops, and gardening festivals for the entire family. Address: 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West, West El Cajon, CA 92019. Contract info: or call 619-660-0614 x10.

But if you can’t make it out to Rancho San Diego, then download the Nifty/Fifty PDF at the following long address:

More Water Miser News: Also, the SDCWA has a very cool new digital flip magazine called “A Homeowner’s Guide to a WaterSmart Landscape. Download at

Images: Cuyamaca College Water Conservation Garden website and San Diego Water Authority website.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


SUDS CITY, USAThe New York Times travel section has caught on. Today, they published a feature naming San Diego #14 on a list of 45 must visit places in the world for 2012. The world’s leading daily newspaper gave one reason for putting San Diego on the list: B-E-E-R.

Making the list is certainly a way-to-go for all the mentioned brewers (Karl Strauss, Hess) and bistros (Local Habit, O’Briens, Hamilton’s) serving Craft Beer. And, make no bones about it Craft Beer made locally by smaller brewers and brew pubs is the reason.

Beer from San Diego Craft Beer brewers is simply better.

Before we get too excited about the kudos, should note that NYT methodology for the listing also included Outer Space (#20) and Antarctica (#32).

For a view of the entire article: or

For more on local beer scene go to

Images: Hess Brewing, Local Habit (restaurant view) and Karl Strauss/Two Tortugas.

Friday, January 6, 2012


SWEDISH MYSTERIES--I am presently escaping from reality by enjoying a slow afternoon in San Diego by reading a mystery novel by Swedish author Henning Mankell. A golden sunlight is filtering in through the large tree in our backyard and through the large family room windows. It is warm enough so I don’t have to wear a heavy winter coat as I normally do when reading Mankell mysteries. His series of eight detective inspector Kurt Wallender mysteries takes place in Sweden and often in mid-winter.

I’m now into my fourth Wallender novel. He was the rage a couple of years back, but I’m finally getting around to reading this series. I’m hooked on author Mankell just as bad as when I discovered Michael Connelly’s works. Reason is Author Mankell has created a no-nonsense anti-hero and he writes as sparse as week old snow along side a Swedish highway—E-65 to be exact. I am not a neatkik, but Wallender is too much of a slob even for me and he gives way too much information about all the reasons his wife left him. She left him because he’s boring!

But, that aside, Wallender is a damn good cop. He goes from the crime scene (point a) to the conclusion (point z). He doggedly pursues clues and explains the logic behind his every move. He is lovelorn but no seedy sex scenes because no women in the book are remotely interested in wanting to go out with him (even for coffee) much less hop in bed with this 43-year old career law enforcement genius.

Author Mankell’s idea of a subplot is to rail against the foibles of the Swedish bureaucracy, especially the justice system. He’s not Mr. Excitement when it comes to plots, but his words ring true and he makes you feel like you’re shoulder to shoulder with his hero as we plod through the snow at midnight in the dead of winter in mid-Sweden.

I’m also delighted that Mankell isn’t tripping over himself to be Bruce Willis glib. There are no Robert Ludlum chase scenes or Ian Fleming trysts with exotic younger women. His movie versions may be quite different!

I only paused to write this review because Kurt Wallender is having a bad evening with a plate of mussels he ate. I’m giving him time to recover from his vivid gastric distress before we jump in his old Peugeot and head for the next village. And, by the way, all the villages in Kurt Wallender’s world are spelled like the bottom line of an optometrist’s eye chart. Read Henning Mankell with a map of Southern Sweden nearby.

Mankell, like sardines, is an acquired taste. If you wish to try Wallender on wry go to the following URL address for a complete Henning Mankell mystery online:

Also, a few years back BBC did a TV series called “Wallender” with Kenneth Branagh in the lead. I recently purchased three episodes for $14 by not reading carefully. I haven’t watched any of the series but I can’t wait to see how this fine actor is able to breathe some life into such a ragamuffin character. Also, there is a Swedish TV series on Wallender as well with English subtitles also available on UPDATE: The BBC Wallender series follows the Mankell novels very closely while the Swedish version borrow Wallender and have create new non-Mankell written episodes. Each have loyalists as to which is best. Don't compare just enjoy. I suggest following the Swedish dvd series after you've exhausted the BBC series.

But, for now, I’m content to read Mankell’s novels at home next to the fireplace in the family room with my cat curled up nearby and wearing a jacket to protect me from a biting Swedish winter. Ses Senare.

Images: Henning Mankell (right) courtesy of and Kenneth Branagh (left) via