Travel Thursday: Chilly Spain, the sequel

AUGUSTUS HARE (describing the Alhambra)
The most perfectly beautiful place in the world

After the surprisingly uninteresting Patio del Cuarto Dorado–Golden Room, as you no doubt figured out {oops, sorry about the accidental rhyme}–I found myself in a dark passageway that climbed obliquely to the Court of the Myrtles, at least according to the map. At the end of the hallway I instinctively took the turn to the left. . . and bumped into a wall.
“What a stupid place to put a wall!” I muttered as I rubbed my nose. Probably put there to foil assassins, since it makes a lot of noise when you break a nose. My mood was helped, though, when I turned around and looked in the right direction, where the wall opened to show flowers, or so I thought.
The Patio de los Arrayanes–Myrtles, if you didn’t know; I didn’t–was a wide open space with a long goldfish pool surrounded by fragrant shrubs. . . but no real flowers, strangely enough. Even worse, it was incredibly bright after that dark corridor, so I spent too much time rubbing my eyes to appreciate it fully. On the other hand, it allowed my other senses to kick in, and for someone who’s allergic to perfume, I have to admit I’d never smelled shrubs like these.
Once my eyes were back in play, I walked along the pool, concentrating on the arches while checking the book and glancing at the water every so often. “The long central pool helps not only to cool and refresh the surrounding rooms, but also to dissolve all the courtyard’s diverse and potentially discordant elements in a glittering surface where visitors can observe at night the shining of the stars and the moon, and enjoy by day the spectacle of goldfish swimming in between the reflected arches of the galleries.” I frowned at the book (the book didn’t seem to mind): Why couldn’t the writer keep it simple? Did they really feel such a need to make the prose match the decorations?
Next up was the Hall of the Ambassadors, which the book told me was the place where King Ferdinand and Columbus discussed the route to India that ran into a roadblock–or is that seablock?–called America. {“The only thing Columbus ever found was that he was lost!”} It was a perfectly square hall that was supposed to be one of the most magnificent rooms in the palace, every surface intricately wrought with inscriptions and ornamental patterns and topped by an incredible carved wooden dome which represented the seven heavens of Islamic Paradise. Even better were the latticed windows, which permitted dots of light to enter and make a pattern on the floor, practically the only light in the room. The book told me those windows usta have stained glass, which was incredibly hard to picture.
I spent a few minutes looking around, thinking of photo angles and then realizing they wouldn’t work, then saying the hell with it and shooting anyway with barely a grumble. From there I went on to the Torre de Comares. . . yeah, don’t ask me what that one means. This place had even funkier windows, enormous rounded holes that offered views in all directions. I liked them, and shot them over and over. After all, there’s no rule that says windows have to be square or rectangle.
According to the book, this tower was the tallest in the whole place, but looking up you wouldn’t know it. Not impressed, I moved on.

Washington Irving
FOLLOW ME UP THE NARROW, OBSCURE SPIRAL STAIRCASE. . . WHERE THE PROUD MONARCHS OF GRANADA AND THEIR QUEENS HAVE OFTEN ASCENDED. . . TO WATCH THE APPROACH OF INVADING ARMIES, OR GAZE WITH ANXIOUS HEARTS ON THE BATTLES IN THE VEGA.

I am not buying Washington Irving on this one: having been on the battlefield, what the fuck’s so romantic about people killing each other? Why couldn’t he have just mentioned the great view?

Richard Ford
THE ALLADIN GORGEOUSNESS WHICH
ONCE SHOWN WITHIN, WHERE THE
OPENING OF A SINGLE DOOR, AS IF BY
THE TAP OF A FAIRY’S WAND, ADMITTED
THE STRANGER INTO AN ALMOST
PARADISE.

This actually made me a little uneasy, as I’m used to symmetry, focal points, logical sequences. Everything about this place screams secrecy, intrigue; your imagination tends to run wild, and not in a good way. I know that’s part of the Alhambra’s charm, but it’s. . . too much. Fun to look at for a while, but the thought of living here makes me shiver. I’d always be wondering if someone was hidden around the corner, waiting to jump me, or even just watching me from the tons of latticed windows on the upper floors.
Or maybe it’s just so different than the culture I grew up in. Islam doesn’t like real representations; you not only can’t show Allah, but any human or animal forms at all. Maybe that’s what this place really needs: some artwork inspired from something other than flowers and vines.

This quote, on the other hand, I can totally go for. . .
Washington Irving
On one side is heard the refreshing sound
of waters from the Fountain of the Lions, and
on the other side the soft splash from the basin in the garden of Lindaraxa. It is impossible to contemplate this scene so perfectly oriental without feeling the early associations of Arabian romance, and almost expecting to see the white arm of some
mysterious princess beckoning from the gallery.

Yeah, the princess part, you know me well.
The Patio de los Leones–okay, okay, Patio of the Lions–is the most photographed place in the palace and was the center of the sultan’s domestic life. Describing it is kinda hard, but it’s basically a symmetrical arcade of horseshoe arches and white marble columns bordering the courtyard, while a fountain supported by twelve marble lions tinkles in the middle. Because the arches made for open pavilions instead of real walls, and because there were similar watercourses both inside and outside, it was easy to confuse which was interior and which was exterior.
I almost wasn’t in the mood to appreciate it, because, just like the previous patio, the entrance, from the southwest corner, provided an angled and very unclassical view. One book said the architects wanted to woo the visitor with lush and mysterious effects, but I stopped being wooed a long time ago.
Taking a deep breath–the loud “whoosh!” immediately afterward a dead giveaway–I took in the patio with a new perspective. . . mental perspective, that is, not linear. It didn’t take a genius to see why this place was named after lions, though the dozen statues supporting the fountain barely looked like cats. . . maybe because they appeared to be kinda snarling as they spit out the water, but I think the sculptor had only heard of this animal, never seen one, and even then it was a rough description.
Straddling one of the small channels that flowed symbolically to the four corners of the earth, and more literally to the surrounding apartments, feeding the small fountains inside–if you could call it an inside–it seemed like something was missing, though I couldn’t tell what it was. And since I’d be here for three weeks, I figured it would come to me on its own, but it never did.

Nina Murdoch (puritanical Australian)
IT SEEMS CROWDED AND UNATTRACTIVE WITH ITS 124 COLUMNS, ARCHES, TILED PAVILIONS, LARGE FOUNTAIN, EIGHT SMALLER ONES, AND TWELVE FUNNY LIONS.

Sure sounds puritanical, doesn’t she? And according to history, this patio usta be a garden, which probably complimented the architecture better than what it looks like now. With flowers, trees, and plants, I can imagine it looking crowded, but right now, with pebbles that make it look like a Japanese garden, it seemed eerily desolate, despite all the tourists. Did I say Japanese garden? How ‘bout a kitty-litter box? For these goofy lions.
Staying in that same part of the world, it occurred to me that these dozens of skinny columns and thin archways, with their honeycombed decorations, reminded me of Thailand, some multi-roof Nepali pagoda style of architecture that spread to East Asia. {I’ll spare you my research on the erotic art on the roof struts, especially since there weren’t any here.}
But then I finally stepped on the pebbles, and found myself looking down in surprise: the softness, the way the pebbles allowed the weight of the body to sink in, was cushioning my feet, actually relaxing them. The harder I worked to tire myself, the more energy that flowed into my body, right through the material under the soles of my boots. New-agey awesome.
I went inside, so to speak, and when I turned around to gaze at the patio and the fountain of lions, it finally looked awesome. The columns brought shadows in, making it seem like a forest as I stood next to the small fountain inside. With the sun toward me, it was very difficult to see the fountain, let alone photograph it, as it was in full shadow. The fountain next to me was fed by a channel that came from the lion waterway, so I followed the channel and finally made out the big fountain in the strong shade.
Here’s a quote I really liked: A structure so open to the elements and incorporating so many pools and fountains might be all very well for the summer, but would have been rather less inviting during Granada’s cold and damp winters. It is a breakdown of the typical western barriers between exteriors and interiors. Rooms open up into landscaped courtyards and an abundance of water flows from open to enclosed spaces, echoing the sounds of rivers and softening in its reflections the hardness of man-made lines.

They missed the checkers, or rather chessboard, on the floor, but I forgave them.
Moving on to greener pastures–like a cow–I headed south, into the Galeria de Abencerrajes–no, I’m tired of translating!–where Sultan Moulay Abdul Hassan piled the heads of the sons of his first wife–all sixteen of them–so that Boabdil, son of his second wife, could inherit the throne. The metaphorically bloodstained room had a central fountain fed by one of the four channels that were arranged like a cross around the fountain; the central marble basin had oxidized iron stains that some said were the bloodstains from the previous story, but even as I doubted that, I looked up and gasped. The spectacular honeycombed star-shaped stalactite ceiling was beyond description, so I’m not even gonna try, though I will say the entire star reflecting from the ceiling into the fountain was simply too cool. According to legend this might have been a music room, where listeners could look at the ceiling and imagine they were outside, but seriously, go hunt for images–someone had to get this shot as awesomely as real life.

Washington Irving
Bears the suggestive name of the Hall of
the Two Sisters. Some destroy the romance of
the name by attributing it to two enormous
slabs of alabaster which lie side by side, and
form a great part of the pavement. . . others
are disposed to give the name a more poetical
significance, as the vague memorial of Moorish beauties who once graced this hall, which was evidently a part of the royal harem.

On the north side of the courtyard was the resplendent Sala de las Dos Hermanas–look above for translation–which also has a staggering honeycomb dome, made of five thousand tiny cells, known as the “celestial vault.” From here a secluded portico overlooks the Jardines de Daraxa, though I was thinking I wished I’d seen this roof first, because as great as it was, it couldn’t compare to the previous one; it’s disappointing in comparison. Luckily the filigree surfaces of the wall coverings were so intricate and beautiful that it led the place to be called the most luxurious book of poems ever produced. And what I saw in the book I was given as a study aid helped, especially since it involved one of my favorite artists:
“Especially intriguing is the geometrical complexity that made the Alhambra of absorbing interest to such a lover of visual paradox as the 20th century illustrator M. C. Escher. This is present in the glazed and colored tiles that cover the lower levels of the walls. In their interlacing of abstract shapes–a technique of Persian origin–these create mesmerizing kaleidoscopic effects evoking at times both flickering stars and flowers bursting into bloom.”

to be contiued. . .

;o)

Confessions and Cops

Yesterday started inauspiciously as I had to retrace my steps for a couple of blocks because I remembered I’d forgotten—sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?—to close my laptop, leaving it sitting there on the desk and stewing along with the router and modem I had also forgotten to shut down. I don’t remember what I’d left on the screen, but heaven forfend my mother coming over and accidentally hitting the mouse to remove the screensaver. . .
It wasn’t till I got on the bus and out of this unusually humid heat that I realized I’d forgotten my new reading glasses. . . and for a book signing! Suddenly I have three pairs, if you count my new Cyclops camera, instead of just the shades.
As I like to mention, when I’m going to a concert one of that night’s musician’s songs comes on while I’m making my way there. I wasn’t going to a concert today, but I was meeting Christiane Kinney for dinner before the book reading, and of course Almost by her band Riddle the Sphinx gently blasts into my ears. By now I’ve become pretty expert at navigating my way through Park La Brea, so I was early for our meeting, sitting on their back porch waiting for Chris and/or Sean to show up. Luckily I’d remembered my Kindle Fire, and spent some time playing chess, watching a Firefly episode, and solving a sudoku on its hardest setting in only 5:03.
It was both fun and surreal having dinner with two kids under five and two still-very-much-kids well older than that, but I made a conscious effort to only remember the fun moments as we gorged ourselves at Farmer’s Market, then walked over to Barnes and Noble, where the kiddie section was right next to the place where the readings were held; an unlucky coincidence, no doubt. On the way we spotted the Goodyear blimp overhead, and even though I took a few shots with the little camera it wasn’t any kind of big deal compared to the one I’d gotten at the Rose Bowl during the Women’s World Cup Final in ‘99, so they’re not gonna get posted.
IMG_0272
Even though I’d timed it to arrive purposefully late, it wasn’t late enough, as tonight’s writing diva Caprice Crane hadn’t shown up yet; I knew I was late because the only seat I could find was in the back. In front of me there’s a guy in suit and tie–who turned out to be Caprice’s agent–telling a cutesy blonde that he’s going to Burning Man, but I heard Birmingham, which made me wonder why she was so excited. . .
Not much preliminaries once Caprice arrives with her famous mother–Ginger from Gilligan’s Island–in tow, launching right into a bit from her new book, Confessions of a Hater. It’s described as being a young adult novel, though I imagine from her earlier works the only difference will be a few less swear words. . . and then during the reading she blows that theory out of the water. I do love witty women, though, and her replies during the Q&A were golden; I caught a few with the little camera in the video below, but I’m now realizing the Cyclops–in a video I’m not posting–is not good when it comes to recording sound.


When it was over and people were lining up to get their books autographed, I instead tootled to the play area–I mean, children’s section–to hang for a while longer with the Kinneys until they left and I joined the end of the autograph line; four-year-old Ireland refused to give me a hug, so there will be no repeat of the Merida backpack on her next birthday. . . which I would probably keep for myself anyway. As always I manage to come up with something unusual enough to make the celeb remember me—hopefully, anyway—and by the time I told her what part of her first novel made me a lifelong fan, and that I sometimes followed her on Twitter, I had her laughing; she even mentioned that in the autograph.
Okay, time to go. . . except, is that Missy Peregrym from Rookie Blue and Reaper sitting in the back, playing with her phone? It is! Now, considering Caprice always mentions Missy in her book acknowledgments, I knew they were friends, but she hadn’t been here for the previous reading a couple of years ago—probably filming in Toronto—so I didn’t expect her to be here this time either. Of course, reverse expectation. . .
Just like Daniela Ruah and Molly Quinn, Missy was completely nice and joking along, even when I reminded her of that time someone had painted a beard on a billboard shot of her, which someone else had dubbed Wookie Blue; her face when she explained the billboard was 20 minutes from where she’d grown up was hilarious. She even posed for a photo with me before I could say I only wanted a shot of her; said photo below has been cropped not just for security reasons, but because I photograph even worse than I look, which I didn’t think was possible. Taking the photo with my camera was Missy’s friend, whom I think plays the new character on Rookie Blue—the young pixie manic girl cop who’s fooling around with Dov—but I wasn’t sure enough to mention it, though I probably should have asked.
IMG_0280better
So, I missed July: Daniela in May, Molly in June, Missy in August. I am seriously hoping that means meeting two of my fave actresses in September, though I will certainly take Katherine Heigl or Uma Thurman or Charlize Theron as worthy of both spots. But the thing to take away from this encounter is another checkmark on the fave actress bucket list! Squeeeee! {I can’t believe I just wrote that, but I’m honor bound to keep it there.}
Relatively pleasant walk to Wilshire, but public transport clusterfuck after that! Both the regular and the express arrived at the same time, and figuring I wasn’t in a hurry, and my fave seat was available, I took the slow one. I thought I’d made the right choice when a cute brunette sat across from me. . .
But it was so slow I finally got off at Wilshire/Western to catch the purple line, rather than going on to Wilshire/Vermont and catching either the purple or red, as is my usual. Turns out the purple was on shuttle duty, taking me only to Vermont, where I just missed the red. . . and then finding out the red was only running every 20 minutes instead of 10 as usual.
So yeah, missed my bus, which meant an hour wait for the next one. And I couldn’t get internet inside Union Station, or just outside amongst the roses and birds of paradise. Finally I went over close to the bus stop on the other side of the skyscraper, where I’d gotten the public internet before, but it was only one bar and horribly slow. Still, it was enough to see when my bus was coming. . . only to have it read no information available. At the bus stop they have a board listing when the next bus of each line is coming, and my bus wasn’t listed there either, even though it was supposedly due in less than ten minutes. Shit!
Thinking that I’d have to take the Pasadena train and trek an hour home again, I waited it out, and the bus arrived two minutes early; I’m guessing its GPS was out. The surly young female driver didn’t make it any better, but I got my seat and wasn’t bothered, so it ended better than expected while I looked over the above video for the first time, though nowhere near how I’d hoped. . .
And then I remembered I’d just met Andi from Reaper and Andy from Wookie. . . er, Rookie Blue, and all was right with the world. . .
;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Violins of St. Cecilia

In honor of FINALLY getting a ticket for Hilary Hahn at Disney Hall early next year, an excerpt from “A Song For St, Cecilia’s Day,” by John Dryden.

Sharp violins proclaim
Their jealous pangs and desperation
Fury, frantic indignation
Depths of pains and heights of passion
For the fair disdainful dame.

;o)

Travel Thursday: Chilly Spain, part 1

I’ve found the cure for jet lag! Watch all fourteen episodes of “Max Headroom” in a row! I am refreshed!
For the next few weeks the travel spot will be taken up by stuff that I saw and happened to me while on assignment shooting one of the marvels of the Middle Ages and before, the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, which I recently listed as my favorite place in the world. But two weeks in the dead of winter. . . sunny Spain my ass! It’s from a few years ago, so don’t whine if things have changed.
{I was going to add “don’t try some of this stuff at home,” but since it’s impossible to unless you live in Granada. . .}

The road into the Alhambra from the south was designed so the visitor would end up at the starting point of the palaces. The palaces are to the right of the path, but being a contrary individual I instead turned left, into the Alcazaba, which was once a separate palace, all the way to the western edge of the grounds, with its own entrance from town; its massive battlements were later transformed into a guard house and palace garrison. Napoleon stationed his troops there, but before leaving he blew up enough of the place to keep it from being used that way again.
Okay, enough bare bones. I walked through the Torre de Homenaje, the Tower of Homage, as if you couldn’t figure it out yourself. It dominated the eastern end of the keep, but more impressive was the Torre de la Vela, Tower of the Candle, topped with a few flags and a bell that still rings every year to commemorate the taking of the Alhambra by the Christians. . . which is so incredibly Christian of them. Ever hear about the American Secretary of State who told the Arabs and the Israelis to stop fighting and behave like good Christians? Some might say it’s sad to think of all the fighting that went on just because they believed in different gods, but what’s worse is it’s the same god, just a different interpretation. And nothing’s really changed: there’s always some power-hungry guy who wants you to believe that heaven’s a place to which some people will get to go to after they die, but only if you have the approval of his organization.
And then I saw the pretty wisteria and forgot all thought about religion, bringing the camera to my eye. . .
Between the two main towers extends what in all other known medieval fortresses would have been an empty space for troops to maneuver in times of war. However, this Plaza de las Armas was turned into a miniature township complete with paved streets, residences for the army elite, and a public bath right below the Torre de la Vela. Since I’d just walked through it, I didn’t think it was possible, being so small, so I turned around to make sure, and yep, it was damned small. What I at first thought was something like the remains of a labyrinth turned out to be the foundations of the previous buildings. Those were probably bedrooms, and this bigger one was a living or meeting room; as you can tell, I always have fun playing archaeologist. Bending down, I picked up what I first thought was a piece of pottery, wondering how old it could be, but quickly realized it was probably just a dropped coffee mug. Still, that didn’t keep me from my usual flight of fancy, thinking about how different, or more likely how alike, those inhabitants had been to us modern types. When it comes down to it, they loved and hated and fought wars and planted seeds and had kids and, who knows, maybe they found relics from an even more distant past and wondered about those ancients. . .
And as always when I had such thoughts, I remembered a movie called “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” where some guy in a plane throws a Coke bottle out the window, and a tribal boy in Africa finds it. No one in the village knows what the hell it is, and everyone uses it for different things: rolling bread or a flower holder or a ton of other things. Before you know it they’re fighting over it, and the formerly peaceful village is ripped apart.
And then I wondered what some archaeologist a thousand years from now would think of a Coke bottle. . .
A sign pointed toward the barbican, but since I’m allergic to heights, I passed.
{to be continued}

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Insomnia

Written almost 1000 years ago by Abu Amir al-Hammarah, it makes a dreary and hated subject almost flowery.

When the bird of sleep
thought to nest
in my eye

it saw the eyelashes
and flew away
for fear of nets.

;o)

UCLA Sports Season Starts

Ever been waiting for a bus, comes full, others are squeezing in, you decide to wait for the next one, and it comes two minutes later completely empty? Yeah, that happened. . . but will never happen again. . .

Okay, no intro necessary, just photos. It’s time for soccer!

Oowie!

Oowie!

Slip and slide

Slip and slide

Mine!

Mine!

Hey, how are ya?

Hey, how are ya?

Oops!

Oops!

Why did I include this shot?

Why did I include this shot?

Because the goalie's smiling. . .

Because the goalie’s smiling. . .

I was here first!

I was here first!

!116

Goalies call this the mosh pit

Goalies call this the mosh pit

Knocking heads

Knocking heads

;o)