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Monday, November 7, 2016

The Los Angeles Central Library - a research repository and a gem of art and architecture

The city of  Los Angeles has many faces. Some people see it as a cancerous urban sprawl, with awful
rush hour traffic, bad air, and crime. For others it's the glitz of Hollywood, the metropolis of business. It is all these things, but the city, including its neighboring areas, is also one of the most important cultural centers of the world. What?! I hear some people call. Yes, and I repeat it: Los Angeles is one of the most important centers of art, architecture, music, and literature. It has some of the most interesting and amazing museums, theaters, and art galleries. If you do just a little of research, you'll find out that many of the world's most famous writers, musicians, singers, sculptors, painters, and other artists have at one time or the other called Los Angeles their home. So, move aside San Francisco and New York! Just kidding.

Of course, the negative sides of Los Angeles do exist. It is a sometimes ugly urban sprawl and anybody who is forced to drive on the freeways during rush hours knows the challenge. And let me tell you, when I first came to Los Angeles over thirty years ago, I told myself that the one city I never wanted to live in was Los Angeles. Well, famous last words. I changed my mind and here I am.

There is a secret about Los Angeles. Well, it's actually no longer a secret. In the midst of cars, gasoline fumes, skyscrapers (some of the world's most beautiful, by the way), and clogged freeways, you find amazing treasures. In two of my last posts, I wrote about the beautiful Huntington Library and gardens in Pasadena.

Today, I want to show you another treasure--the Los Angeles Central Library downtown with one of the most extensive collections of books, maps, and works of art. It's not only a repository of literature, art, and culture, but an architectural landmark. It has been designated a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument. And I have to admit (and hang my head in shame) that after living here for over two decades, this is the first time I have visited the main library. I've never been without a library card but I have always frequented my local library in Santa Monica. The main reason was that driving downtown and parking there can be such a hassle. But now, that we have a new train line that connects Santa Monica with downtown L.A., the journey is a breeze. And the last station of the newly opened Expo line is just a couple of blocks away from the library.

So yesterday, I embarked on the adventure and here are some pictures.

The new train! Expo Line Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles

Left: View from the train

Most of the descriptions below are from the walk-in tours you can either to take on your own or with a docent.

And here it is: Main Entrance from Hope Street

The main building, called Goodhue Building, designed by the architect Bertram Goodhue

The main lobby with the rotunda, wall paintings, and chandelier
The chandelier is made of cast bronze and weighs one ton. The murals above were painted by the magazine illustrator Dean Cornwell.

There are three sculptures by artist Lee Lawrie. This marble figure symbolizes what the Library represents. In her right hand is a book with quotations in five languages. In her left hand is a torch which represents civilization's power over land and sea. The crown contains a miniature model of the Library--two angels for the City of Los Angeles and the bear and star for the State of California.

The two pictures above are from the Tom Bradley Wing. In 1986 two arson fires destroyed 400.000 books and damaged 800.000. 95 percent were saved. After the fire, the library was restored and underwent a major renovation and improvement. One of the additions was the Tom Bradley wing (named after the former mayor of Los Angeles). The three chandeliers above are made of aluminum and fiberglass and weigh 2.000 pounds each. They represent the three themes: the natural world, the man-made world and the spiritual world. (I wouldn't want to stand under them during an earthquake!)

And here is one of the library's reading rooms

How many of you remember this? I do! When I did research in my early college years, that's how we found the books, by going through the card catalog, often very tedious and painstaking work. Nowadays, this is merely a nice memory as we breeze through the search engine on our computers!

Above an early map of Santa Monica

The three pictures below show just how carefully crafted and artistic every room is. So much care went into the building and the renovation. 

 One of the many beautiful ceilings

Right next to the library are the majestic skyscrapers that make out the Los Angeles skyline

I hope you enjoyed the short tour through one of the pearls of Los Angeles. If you want to know more about the library and its history:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Poem that Rhymes!

Poets are not academics (though some are) or highly educated men and women (though they may be), but most of them are ordinary everyday people with the desire to express something fun or meaningful or turbulent or painful or joyful and so on and so on (you choose).

Many are computer nerds, taxi drivers, hamburger flippers at McDonald's, cleaning men and women, students, drug addicts, police officers, shoe sales people, firemen, some doctors (yes it happens), teachers (okay, that may be obvious), presidents (you never know). Anyway, my point is--is there a point? Not sure. There is no rule or regulation as to who can and should write poetry--or anything else for that matter.

That brings me to a poem of my own. Nothing serious, just a fun play with words. So, please don't take it seriously. It really isn't meant to be taken seriously.

Here we go, a silly poem that rhymes--well somewhat:

A Poem that Rhymes 

On the deck in front of my room
at Cambria Pines Lodge
a little after noon
I’m tempted to snooze
but my undone work
wraps around my neck like a noose.

It is so tight
I want to fight
but then I see the light
and throw pen and paper out of sight.

I’d rather go for a walk
I don’t need to talk
or sing like a lark.

I sigh and admit
that this sounds like shit
but write I must
even if nothing
comes out of it.

There’s nothing to say
that hasn’t already been said
I’ve nothing to say
at the end of the day.

Oh, the freedom of silence
around me and in my mind
so I gaze at the highland
in the distance and pray
and so it’s okay
that I’ve nothing to say.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Dreaming and Research - Central Coast of California

One of my favorite types of research for my novels is traveling to different places where my characters live and work. This time, I spent a few days in one of my favorite spots in California, namely in Cambria at the Cambria Pines Lodge. Since the fictitious Segantino family lives in the wine region of the Central Coast in California, the Paso Robles area was on my itinerary as well. And last but not least, I checked out the California Polytechnic State University or Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. This is the place where Julietta Santucci, a major character in The Wine Lover's Daughter series, studies architecture and environmental design.

Here are a few pictures of my vacation/research in beautiful San Luis Obispo county.

Cambria Pines Lodge, Cambria

Cambria Pines Lodge is situated on a hill above the town of Cambria and is a charming lodge with beautiful gardens, the perfect place to dream and write.
A very special kind of flower bed

 A garden with organically grown herbs and vegetables they use for cooking is also part of the landscape.

View from my room

A couple of miles north of Cambria is a famous elephant seal spot. These amazing animals come here year after year to breed, raise their young, and relax between their long and arduous migrations in the Pacific Ocean. Every season has its own kind of spectacle. In September, the young males are jousting playfully, preparing for the serious and often bloody fights for dominance and their chosen females.

Of course, a visit to the famous wine region around Paso Robles, the imaginary home of the Segantino family, is mandatory!

Next stop is San Luis Obispo, where I took a brief walk through the Cal Poly campus, a well-known technical and agricultural university.

Another important spot that plays a role in my next novel is the Benedictine monastery in San Luis Obispo, but time ran out and I had to postpone this for another visit. There is always a reason to come back to this beautiful area of California.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Surprise Find - New "old" Poems

I was browsing through my Writing directory and came across a folder I totally forgot about, called Poems 2000. These are poems I wrote around the year 2000 and after reading a few, I decided to review them and perhaps use them in a new poetry volume.

Here is one of them. Not sure what made me write it--perhaps an old man sitting on a park bench or memories of my father? 

I hope you'll enjoy it!

The Old Man and his Memories

He always walks the same street
stops at the same coffee shop
sits at his favorite table
looking lonely and somewhat bored

Today is different; today his eyes
accentuated by the blue hat
are deep and longing
he scans the sky
as if he heard the spirits of lost friends
converse with one another
somewhere above the evening clouds

He’s holding a long-stemmed rose
a perfect bud of red with white tips
who knows which young girl
took pity on an old man
quite decently dressed
alone and possibly ill
the blotchy skin
one edge of his mouth drooping
and the hands unsteady
signs of a past stroke

Perhaps he’s thinking of that night
he walked along the beach
of the flecks of gold on the horizon
of his wife, long dead,
who used to love sunsets
of his married daughter who lives in France
and the grandchild, a girl with long dark hair,
who sends him letters in French
he barely understands but
delights in anyway

I don’t have it bad
he probably thinks
a place to live
a few friends
you can’t ask too much at my age
an occasional phone call from overseas
the usual invitation to come and visit
We’ll take you to Paris
didn’t you always want to go there?

No, not anymore, not without his wife
it would be too sad to always be reminded
how much she would have enjoyed it
more than he who’d really rather stay home
but he would have gone to please her
but now there is no reason anymore

His daughter and the family come to visit
once in a while for a few weeks
the young girls passing by the coffee shop
remind him of her; she used to have long hair
braided the French way

Tonight, perhaps, he’ll sort out
the old photos in the cardboard boxes
and stick them into albums
which he had been planning to do for a long time
only to abandon the task
feeling the life flow out of him and settle
in memories of past adventures
past loves

Sometimes, before falling asleep,
voices from within the bedroom walls
convince him that someone is still alive there

He’s smiling now
a slightly crooked smile
one corner of his mouth pointing upwards
the other one hanging down.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Finding Angelo (The Wine Lover's Daughter, Book 2) - paperback is out!!

Dear Loyal Readers,

I have great news for those of you who still like to hold a "real" book--made of reap paper and ink and with a beautiful glossy cover--in their hands. The paperback version of Finding Angelo is now available on Amazon.

Link: Paperback Finding Angelo

As a reminder, here is the blurb again:
A hidden diary and a crumpled envelope, postmarked in Italy, are the only clues Martin Segantino has to what happened to his younger brother Angelo, the black sheep of the family, who disappeared under mysterious circumstances twenty years ago. When the police find the skeleton of Angelo's close friend buried in one of the fields on the Segantino vineyards, the hunt for Angelo begins. Is he the killer or is he himself a victim? Sofia Segantino, great-niece of Angelo by marriage, embarks on her own search for the missing man. On her trip through the Piedmont region of Italy, she uncovers clues of Angelo's whereabouts, which puts her in grave danger. The local gangsters are equally interested in the elusive Angelo and are ready to do whatever it takes to find him. Will Sofia be able to outsmart them?

Part family drama, part suspense, Finding Angelo takes the reader on a thrilling journey from California via Chicago and New York to Italy.

Happy Reading, my Fellow Bookworms!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Huntington Library, Pasadena, California - Part 2

My second visit to the Huntington Library was in company with my friend Jackie Ingerson. This time around, I got to see one of the great treasures I didn't have enough time for during my first visit: original manuscripts and the Gutenberg Bible!

But first a few more shots of the beautiful gardens. In one of them, the rose bushes were named after famous actors and artists. Here is one dedicated to Henry Fonda.

The Japanese Garden and Pavilion belong to the most serene sceneries.

The next series of pictures are of original manuscripts and of the famous Gutenberg Bible.

On the right and below is the original manuscript of Jack London's White Fang

The next manuscripts are from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Milton's Paradise Lost

This photo below doesn't do the Gutenberg Bible justice. You really have to see it in person to appreciate the beauty of it. The old-fashioned script makes it look like it was produced by the hand of a perfect scrivener. The print and the decorations are gorgeous.

I could spend whole days in this place. I hope you enjoyed the "walk" through one of southern California's precious heritages.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Huntington Library, Pasadena, California - go on a treasure hunt!

One of my favorite places in the southern California area is the Huntington Library. "Library" is almost a misnomer, if you think of a regular public library. The Huntington Library is a vast landscape with gardens, museums, coffee shops, pavilions and more. It's almost impossible to see everything in one visit and once you are there, you will want to come back for more. The first time I visited this amazing place was with my good friend Shawn Gadberry and we focused on the valuable paintings, some of the gorgeous gardens, such as the one devoted to Shakespeare.

The Picture Gallery
Pinkie by Sir Thomas Lawrence
The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough (the painting, of course)

One of the many gorgeous gardens
The Bard

After all this food for the soul and spirit in this exciting environment, we also needed food for the body. The Rose Cafe serves the most delicious and very extensive English Afternoon Tea.

I'm glad we saw the art and the gardens before indulging in this spread. We may not have made it afterwards!

Photos courtesy Shawn Gadberry.
More to follow!