Category Archives: California

Whales and world class music in LA


Los Angeles

Los Angeles at night

In January I made a trip to Los Angeles as a musical pilgrimage of sorts. I am a big fan of Henryk Górecki, a contemporary Polish composer best known for his haunting Third Symphony, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. He wrote this piece in 1976 and initially it wasn’t well received. It didn’t become famous until a 1991 recording with the London Sinfonietta, featuring the soloist soprano Dawn Upshaw. This recording to date has sold more than a million copies – more than any other contemporary classical record – making it a rare commercial success in the world of classical music. Górecki commented on this unexpected success,“Perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music […] somehow I hit the right note, something they were missing. Something somewhere had been lost to them. I feel that I instinctively knew what they needed.” Read the rest of this entry


San Diego beyond the zoo


Cabrillo Monument

Cabrillo Monument

I miss San Diego. And I imagine I’m not alone in that sentiment. In fact, anybody who visits is likely to wish they could linger a bit longer and come back soon. To me San Diego combines the best of California: LA’s balmy weather with San Francisco-like character of distinct neighborhoods, history – and street cars. For most people San Diego Zoo is the first association with the city. It was for me as well and I’ll write another blog about the sun & fun side of San Diego, the zoo included. But this one is about old San Diego and its charms.

Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo – or rather João Rodrigues Cabrilho – sailing up the west coast of North America in service of Spain discovered San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542. He called it San Miguel. The voyage’s diary provides a description of the not-so-friendly first encounter with the locals:

“…they went about six leagues along the coast running north-northwest, and discovered a port, closed and very good, which they named San Miguel. (…) Having cast anchor in it, they went ashore where there were people. Three of them waited, but all the rest fled. To these three they gave some presents and they said by signs that in the interior men like the Spaniards had passed. They gave signs of great fear. On the night of this day they went ashore from the ships to fish with a net, and it appears that here there were some Indians, and that they began to shoot at them with arrows and wounded three men.”

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If you’re going to San Francisco…


Golden Gate Bridge where I got my tan

…be sure to wear some flowers in your hair, sings Scott McKenzie (I would add a jacket and sunscreen – see below). San Francisco, the Golden City…First impression: love it! Second thought: I still love it but why is it foggy every day until noon and lows drop into the 50s in August?? That fairly typical reaction to SF’s unique coastal climate was well summed up by a statement often attributed to Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Apparently Twain never actually said it but whoever did clearly shared my experience from a last year’s trip. Another highlight of that trip in a similar vein: a facial sunburn acquired on a cloudy day while freezing on a boat to Alcatraz. But even if the weather is not always LA-style “California dreamin” you really barely notice. So much to do, see, taste! Plus, because of SF’s topography it has many different microclimates. If it’s cloudy where you are it may be sunny just over the hill – that is if you manage to climb it, they are steep =) Read the rest of this entry