Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Nutcracker in the desert

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Nutcrackers and nuts returned with us to our latest, favorite site in the desert to bask in the warm sun and cheer us inside the trailer during the cool December evenings by the Vallecito Mountains.  We were lucky to enjoy five sunny days before the Pineapple Express delivered wind and rain as we safely crossed over the mountains (due in part to Airstream’s aerodynamics and handling stability*) on our way back to San Diego last Friday.

DSC_0013 Nutcrackers in the desert

DSC_0099 Our desert campsite

Larry enjoyed getting up before sunrise and taking walks while sipping hot coffee as the sun rose.  Meanwhile, on the first morning, I was busy taking advantage of how beautiful the early morning sunlight looks as it streams into the Airstream, making everything look happy and festive.

DSC_0001 Nutcracker & books

Featured in this display is E.T.A Hoffmann‘s Nutcracker, first written in 1816.  This version was translated by Ralph Manheim and published in 1984 by Crown Publishers, INC., and illustrated by Maurice Sendak,* who did the brilliant set designs and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Christmas production of Nutcracker,* which was made into a movie, Nutcracker: The Motion Picture,* in 1986.  This film is my favorite version over the years, but my video wore out, and it wasn’t until 2011 when it became available on DVD.

Before viewing my new Nutcracker DVD, I thought it would be good to go back and read the book, a real book that can provide a satisfying sensory experience.  For the occasion, I wore a Victorian style smoking cap adapted and embellished by Larry (a work in progress), similar to those worn by Professor Albus Dumbledore,* and a Hawaiian shirt inspired by Dr. C. (insightout).

DSC_0091 Reading Hoffmann's Nutcracker

The stockings were hung in the trailer with care, in hopes that Herr Drosselmeier would soon be there. (He was last seen in the desert delivering nutcrackers seven years ago.)

DSC_0092 Nutcracker - The Motion Picture

He did briefly appear on our seldom used TV screen, but was turned off because we prefer evenings relaxing on the lounge while watching stars through the Vista View windows, votive candlelight dancing on the shiny aluminum interior, and listening to the music of R. Carlos Nakai.*

DSC_0121 Nutcracker anticipation

It’s magical, peaceful, and timeless…  funny how time just slips away.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Smell a good book lately?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Unlike digital books and magazines, the print media conveys more than just ideas or concepts via symbols relayed to the brain from the eye.  A printed book, magazine, newspaper, or even a mailing envelope can stimulate all five senses.  It is understandable that many travelers and RVers prefer e-books and the convenience and light weight of electronic devices that can hold hundreds of books, but I prefer the wonder of a book that can only be fully experienced and appreciated as an integral whole.

I was excited last week to receive an out-of-print copy of Desert Years: Undreaming the American Dream, by Cynthia Rich, who, along with her domestic partner Barbara Macdonald, spent 6 years (1983-1989) full-timing in a trailer at Agua Caliente County Park, where we camped earlier this month.

DSC_0239 Cynthia Rich, "Desert Years"

Cynthia wrote about life and social issues there, which enriches our understanding and appreciation of our favorite desert campground.

DSC_0224 "Desert Years" back cover

As I carefully removed this 25-year-old book from its plastic storage bag, its musty smell transported me back in time, even before reading it.  (There’s a chemical reason why old books smell so good.*)

I currently subscribe to two magazines, Macworld and Airstream Life.  I brought along their latest issues to read on our last camping trip.  I was saddened to learn that I was holding the last printed issue of Macworld, after 30 years of publication.  The remaining issues of my subscription are available online and include hyperlinks for expanded content (as I do here), but the experience will not be the same for me.  I like to see and feel its full-sized, glossy cover and enjoy its fresh smell as I flip through its pages, often back to front, and pause when I see something interesting.

DSC_0034 Last Macworld print issue!

Economics are accelerating the demise of the print media,* as evidenced in our thinning daily newspaper that is yielding fewer pages for lining our cockatoo cage.  I don’t mind paying more for a good, printed book or a magazine that can provide a total and satisfying sensory experience.  I like to feel the weight and denseness of a quality book, along with the texture of its pages.  I like to see its pages as they age and perhaps reveal a reader’s underlined word or phrase, a scribbled note, a drop of coffee or wine or a telltale dog-ear, smudge or teardrop.  I like to hear it as I turn the page or quickly fan through its pages, and then close it and set it down.  Sometimes, I even find the taste of glue interesting on the magazine’s renewal envelope!

Fortunately, Airstream Life still publishes a printed magazine (digital issues are available for iPad via iTunes).  I bring along the current print issue on every camping trip to enjoy reading and displaying it in our magazine rack, or on our table as it beckons to be rediscovered, read, and photographed!

DSC_0030 Airstream Life and books

Another feature of printed media is that it can be signed in ink by the author, which can enhance its sentimental and/or economic value.

DSC_0215 Signed by the author

And of course, books are magical* and make great gifts!

Andy Rooney once said, “If you had to make a list of all the good things in the world, books would be right up there near the top.“*

Thank you, Cynthia Rich, for your work and inspiration!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Grazing and gazing at Agua Caliente

Friday, November 14th, 2014

It was love at first sight when we began camping at Agua Caliente County Park four years ago at a campsite that had beautiful vista views and was far from the maddening crowd.  We lost that site two years ago to “cabinization of our parks,” when seven cabins replaced eleven full hookup RV sites!  We found an alternative site that had some of the amenities of our first site here, but it was not as private and was vulnerable to noisy neighbors, often lacking in good camping etiquette, who were either inconsiderate or were oblivious to how easily sound travels through a campground.  We began this fall camping season at a promising new site that may better meet our needs.

DSC_0057 Agua Caliente Fall 2014

DSC_0084 Our new campsite

One of the challenges for this park is dealing with flash floods that periodically rush down the Tierra Blanca Mountains and wash out roads and campsites.*  I learned from our neighbor that medical permittee, Barbara Macdonald, and her domestic partner of 26 years, Cynthia Rich (Desert Years: Undreaming the American Dream, and Dharma Gleanings), built a rock retaining wall on their 1983-1989 trailer site (seen below) to control erosion.

DSC_0194 Retaining wall of 1980s

One of the assets of this park is the scenic Moonlight Canyon Trail that I enjoy hiking every time we are here and where I had my close encounter with Peninsular Bighorn Sheep three years ago.

DSC_0103 Hiking Moonlight Canyon

The slopes abound with various cacti, such as ocotillo, barrel, and cholla, which provide food for the sheep.  The following day, I spotted bighorn sheep on a ridge above the campground caravan area.

DSC_0141 Seven Bighorn Sheep

Seeing bighorn sheep always brings a smile to my face… and sunshine makes me happy!*

DSC_0104 Hiker:Author resting

And hiking gives me an appetite for Larry’s savory carne asada.

DSC_0156 Carne asada

We sipped Ménage à Trois red wine* as the full moon rose…

DSC_0173 Star gazing

And leaned back to stargaze and contemplate the heavens* and this site.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Happy in sunny San Diego

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Our Airstream Safari trailer is happy as a clam after getting the salt deposits washed off upon returning to home base after basking on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach for 5 days.  The big, annual wash and wax job will take place next month before we begin our fall camping schedule.

DSC_0335 Salt deposits washed off

We have been happily enjoying viewing free, over-the-air high definition TV over the summer and celebrating our independence from pay TV with the help of our Mohu Leaf 50 indoor antenna, saving us $75/month.

Last week, we were happy to discover the first flower bud on one of our pitahaya cactus plants, Hylocereus undatus, that we planted three years ago.  This is also known as Dragon Fruit and we are happy that it grows well in San Diego.

DSC_0001 Our first pitahaya flower bud

We obtained our plants and sample fruit of the Pitahaya Roja* (seen below) from Ong Nursery.

Last night our pitahaya bloomed under a full moon. Pitahaya flowers in Southern California bloom for one night only.

DSC_0054 1st Pitahaya bloom

Pitahaya pistil with writhing tentacles happily rises above 800 stamens.**

DSC_0052 Pistil rises above stamens

I climbed a stepladder under the full moon and applied a small brush to cross-pollinate two flowers.  The deed was completed by happy bees in the early morning.

DSC_0087 Bees pollinating pitahaya

We now await the fruits of our labors.

DSC_0021 Ripe pitahaya fruit

Eating Dragon Fruit* is a happy, refreshing and healthy experience.

Another happy experience occurred early this summer when we gathered with friends for a Victorian picnic in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

SAMSUNG CSC

(Photo credit: Travel writer, Charlie Jung)

Seen on the table is ham and cheese stromboli (made by Larry), along with German coleslaw, fresh fruit, lemonade, lemon curd, pickles, empanadas, hard boiled eggs, and sliced cheese.

SAMSUNG CSC

(Above photo credit: Travel writer, Charlie Jung)

HPIM2905 Bill & Larry, happy in Old Town

And of course, we had a Happy time in Old Town San Diego!*

And continue to be Happy in America’s Finest City!*

* This is a link to a YouTube video.

** Pitahaya: A Promising New Fruit Crop for Southern California, Paul H. Thomson, 2002

Celebrating independence from pay TV

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

We are now home for the summer and celebrating Independence Day by celebrating our independence from pay TV, which will save us $900 per year!  A 12% increase in our cable bill this winter motivated us to take stock of our TV viewing habits, preferences, and the costs for pay TV, which led to an exploration of alternatives.

We are happy with the high-speed internet service provided by our cable company, but we were not happy to pay $75/month for cable TV and TV fees for the 75 or so channels that we mostly don’t watch, except for a few such as PBS, CBS, and MSNBC.  We first explored the possibility of selecting a more economical package, a lower tier of channels that included our favorites.  I was surprised that our cable company told us that to go to the next lower tier, we would need their cable TV box that would filter out channels that we would not be paying for.  But we did not want to rent a cable box, especially after recent reports that they are high energy users.*

We then explored the over-the-air (OTA) TV option by using TV Fool’s TV Signal Locator tool to determine what broadcast TV signals are available in our area. Once we realized that we could watch PBS via KPBS-HD, CBS via KFMB-DT, and other high-definition channels for free (and our favorite MSNBC shows, such as The Rachel Maddow Show could be viewed the next day on the internet), we used AntennaWeb’s tool to determine the proper antenna type for our viewing preferences, which turned out to be a small multidirectional antenna.  We chose the Mohu Leaf 50™ Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna.*

DSC_0414 Mohu Leaf 50 amp

The test was to see if we could actually wean ourselves from cable TV, so we disconnected our cable TV coax and connected our Mohu Leaf antenna that was hung high on our living room window.  We were thrilled that this antenna picked up OTA high-definition broadcasts that often had better quality images than seen via our cable TV service, such as SpongeBob SquarePants broadcast by XHGC-HD.

DSC_0378 SpongeBob via XHGC-HD

Of course, it helps that we are on a hill and not far from one of three local TV broadcast towers.  We kept the antenna connected to our now cable-free TV for a month to prove to ourselves that we were not addicted to cable TV before actually discontinuing our cable TV service.  It was easier for us since we are not avid sports fans and can be satisfied by content provided by PBS, CBS, and other local TV stations.

DSC_0395 KPBS-HD OTA (Over the air)

DSC_0408_2 CBS, OTA, via KFMB-DT

We then discontinued our cable TV service and bought another Mohu Leaf antenna and a Mediasonic HW180STB Homeworx HDTV Digital Converter Box for our older, analog TV in the bedroom.  (The converter box is turned off when not in use to keep it cool and to save on energy costs.  It can also be brought into the trailer to enable our older TV to receive digital broadcasts.)

DSC_0386 Mediasonic HomeWorx converter

We now enjoy TV for free as it was meant to be when I was growing up and watching The Howdy Doody Show.*  Howdy Doody is always on (or nearby) the TV in our Airstream Safari trailer!

DSC_0371-2 Howdy Doody on TV

Declaring independence from pay TV is a liberating experience!

And, as Whispering Jack Smith sings,

The best things in life are free“!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

 

 

Ocean knight currents, part four

Saturday, June 14th, 2014

I cautiously passed the windmill facing the ocean, which I had originally and mistakenly perceived to be a giant with waving arms,* and sallied forth to find the museum housing musical instruments that are close to my heart, such as the lute.

DSC_0165-2 South Carlsbad windmill

While venturing eastward, I came upon a lovely field of flowers (The Flower Fields® at Carlsbad Ranch)* with a beautiful damsel (Dulcinea?)* in the middle beckoning visitors to enjoy the splendor of ten million Ranunculus flowers.

DSC_0163 Flower Fields of Carlsbad

Assured that the lady was safe behind a white picket fence, I continued on in search of stringed instruments and came upon a magnificent castle* on top of a hill with a commanding view of the countryside and the Pacific Ocean.  This is the home of the Museum of Making Music,* which displays hundreds of vintage instruments and presents special exhibitions twice a year along with concerts, workshops, and educational programs.  (I last made a pilgrimage here in 2008 to view a special exhibit of ukuleles.)  I was delighted that my quest was at an end as I experienced their current, special exhibit, “The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument.”

DSC_0149 MOMM's banjo exhibit (1)

DSC_0150 MOMM's banjo exhibit (2)

The banjo’s roots are thought to go back to West Africa, where hide-covered gourd folk lutes, such as the akonting, were plucked.*  The concept was transported to Colonial America by Africans via the Atlantic slave trade.

DSC_0159 Banjo's roots

An early version of the banjo was played in degrading minstrel shows of the 1800s.  My favorite black banjo/guitar/singer of the folk song era of the 1960s was Elizabeth Cotten,* best known for her timeless song, “Freight Train.”*

DSC_0146 Recapturing the Banjo

Back at camp, Larry prepared lunch featuring pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish, fried masa pies filled with ham and cheese.

DSC_0176 Larry's pupusas

A couple strolled into the sunset as I reflected on our successful quests, the rebirth of the San Diego Opera, and why music is so important.*

DSC_0018 Stroll into the sunset

It’s nice to remember the sun’s gonna shine again.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Mountain knight stars, part one

Friday, April 18th, 2014

As we prepared for a change in our camping venue, from the now hot desert to our relatively cool mountains, we heard the shocking news that the San Diego Opera would begin to shut down after the last performance of Don Quixote* in April.  San Diego Opera, considered one of the top ten opera companies in the nation, is poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.  I was especially saddened because I have performed as a supernumerary in 21 San Diego operas over a ten year period, which included roles such as the soldier, guard, henchman seen here in Tosca, and lead waiter in Cosi fan tutte.*  I brought along the novel, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, to read during our 5-day mountain camping trip so that I could totally immerse myself in this multifaceted story (and local drama) and appreciate the character of Don Quixote, brought to life onstage by bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto* in the operatic version, Don Quichotte, by Jules Massenet.*

DSC_0067 Don Quixote & knights

The more I read, the more I began to identify with this knight-errant character, who goes on quests, searches for adventures, does good deeds, appreciates beauty, pursues dreams, fights for things he loves, and yet remains compassionate.  I began to see parallelisms as waxing moonlight gleamed on our trailer’s armor when the stars began to shine.*

DSC_0075 Armour under mtn

As we battled the hot sun by extending the rear awning with an additional sail held in place by ratcheted webbing, I remembered Don Quixote’s battle with giants (windmill sails).*

DSC_0029 Rear awning extension sail

We trekked on mountain trails on a quest for adventure.*

DSC_0054 Larry, Mac, & Tasha, Cedar Trail

I spotted what looked like a Dementor or something else* and prepared to do battle.

DSC_0095 Dementor?

But just then, a wary wild turkey hen emerged while foraging.

DSC_0017 Wary turkey hen

Her worried look seemed justified because she was being pursued and courted by a strutting tom turkey, whose grandiose display reminded me of the valiant character, Don Quixote.

DSC_0142 Tom turkey struts

More mountain adventures are coming up in part two, along with stunning flowers, feasts, stars, and more about Don Quixote and the San Diego Opera,** why this opera needs to be saved,* and how you can come to its rescue!  San Diego Opera makes music worth seeing… and saving!***

*This is a YouTube video.

**UCSD-TV San Diego Opera Spotlight video

***This is a San Diego Opera video produced by UCSD-TV

StoryCorps Airstream in San Diego

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

As we relaxed in the shade under oak and pine trees in front of our Airstream trailer while camping in the Cuyamacas, we listened to the KPBS-FM Midday Edition story, “StoryCorps In San Diego To Record Veteran’s Stories“, and we were thrilled to learn that StoryCorps would be using a modified Airstream trailer as a mobile recording studio in San Diego over a three-week period in June!  So with just three days left before they were due to leave, Larry and I visited the StoryCorps MobileBooth parked in front of the USS-Midway (CV-41)* and interviewed its Site Supervisor, Whitney Henry-Lester, who welcomed me aboard to do a photo shoot.

DSC_0014 StoryCorps' Airstream by USS Midway

Whitney told me that StoryCorps’ mobile tours began in 2005 with this modified 25′ Airstream trailer, built in 2005 in Ohio and towed by a one-ton pickup.  StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization, now has a fleet of three Airstream trailers to carry out its mission “to provide people of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.”  When I asked why StoryCorps chose Airstream for its MobileBooths, Whitney said, “Because it has an Americana feel… it is an American icon.”  StoryCorps founder, Dave Isay,* says that they have recorded close to 50,000 stories in all 50 states, “… stories important enough to be part of American history.”

These two American icons, the Airstream trailer* and the USS Midway Museum, provided the perfect setting for StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative “to record, preserve, and share the stories of veterans, service members, and military families.”  Each 40-minute conversation is recorded on a free CD to share and one CD is sent to the American Folklife Center* at the Library of Congress.  See and listen to two retired Navy aviators as they share their stories with StoryCorps in San Diego.*

DSC_0003 Airstream wheelchair access

Modifications to this StoryCorps custom-built Airstream include a wheelchair ramp, front office, many storage compartments, and a soundproof recording booth behind two doors. (I did not see the recording booth because a recording session was taking place, but images of this room are seen in the slideshow, “A Tour of the StoryCorps Airstream“.)

DSC_0020 MobileBooth front office

DSC_0024 Door to Recording Booth

Near the front door is a portrait of Studs Terkel, who cut the ribbon on StoryCorps’ first recording booth in Grand Central Terminal in 2003.  Studs Terkel was a great oral historian who highly valued the human voice and active listening.  In 2005, the StoryCorps Airstream MobileBooth came to his driveway and recorded his stories, including “The Human Voice“.*

DSC_0018 Studs Terkel portrait

StoryCorps says, “Every voice matters”… and Listening Is an Act of Love.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

One Earth, many celebrations

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

One Earth, our Earth, robust with a magnificent array of diverse flora, fauna, and elements, provides infinite opportunities to celebrate all that there is here and beyond, including the past, present, and future.  One moon, our moon, was a new moon last week, heralding the beginning of the Chinese New Year as we returned to the Anza-Borrego Desert during a week filled with anniversaries and special occasions!

(Photo Credit: NASA, Wikimedia Commons)

On Monday, Larry set up his Chinese New Year’s display outside while I set up for a photo shoot inside our Airstream Safari to commemorate some of the other significant occasions of the week, such as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday*, Fat Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, and our 42nd Anniversary (special wine provided by our good friend Casey)!

According to Wikipedia, Chinese New Year usually falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice.  It is also called the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival, and is the longest and most important festivity in the Chinese calendar.  It is a time for house cleaning and family reunions and feasts.  Chinese New Year 2013*, the Year of the Water Snake*, began on February 10 and ends 15 days later with the Lantern Festival.

I confess that on Shrove Tuesday I did have a good time photographing and eating blueberry pancakes that Larry made to celebrate Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), the last day and night of the Carnival season, which is celebrated by eating richer, fatty foods, such as pancakes.  This day is also known as Pancake Day in the UK, where pancake races* are held.

Blueberries were added for their good taste, nutritional, and their antioxidant qualities.*  A female hummingbird joined us for brunch.

On Thursday, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, which also marked our 42nd Anniversary.  On the table is seen homegrown Bird of Paradise flowers, a Year of the Snake figurine, Chinese gold ingots (for wealth and prosperity), Mardi Gras beads, and a Valentine’s Day teddy bear* with good tidings.

We also celebrated our desert surroundings of flora and fauna basking in the sun shining in the blue sky… a diversity of life connected by the classical elements.

This theme is projected by Richard Blanco in his One Today poem, read by him at the 2013 Presidential Inaugural.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Following stars and gold

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Clear starry skies were seen on Twelfth Night, an auspicious sign for our successful return to the Anza-Borrego Desert on Epiphany, also known as Día de los Reyes, The Day of the Kings.  A new study suggests that the Magi, following a star, journeyed from the Far East (China) on a spice trade route, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

(Photo credit: Nina Aldin Thune, Magi, Wikimedia Commons)

Away from most light pollution, we enjoyed the dark desert skies filled with stars.  (See previous article, [Earth] “Once dark, now too bright!“)

We did turn on Larry’s New Year’s display lights for yet another celebration of life, including Epiphany, also known as “The Day of the Lights”.

Epiphany also marks the beginning of the Carnival season, which continues through Shrove Tuesday.  Since this season is also known as “king cake season”, Larry adapted a Panettone recipe by Mario Batali and added candied fruit, rum, and brandy.

We shared this delicious cake with the campground rangers and hosts.

We also fed the hummingbirds, such as Anna’s Hummingbird seen below.

Seen below is a Costa’s Hummingbird, which is typically smaller and, according to Wikipedia, “The male Costa’s Hummingbird’s most distinguishing feature is its vibrant purple cap and throat with the throat feathers flaring out and back behind its head.”

We were also nourished by food for thought in the form of books and magazines, and by listening to KPBS via 97.7 FM Calexico, which brought us the sad news of the death of Public TV travel star and host, Huell Howser.  We have followed Huell Howser’s California’s Gold series for years and have delighted in his enthusiastic visits of people and places up and down California.  View KVIE Public Television’s video, “Huell Howser – California’s Dreamer” and YouTube’s “A Farewell to Huell Howser“.  Huell donated his entire California’s Gold series to Chapman University, which may be viewed on their Huell Howser Archive website, including Episode 148, “Road Trip to Anza-Borrego“.

And so the adventure continues into 2013, and as Huell would say, “California, Here I Come“!

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.