Extra Sad

As emotionally tough as it is to work with the homeless, last night I saw something that seemed to make it even worse. a loss of hope, perhaps. . .

teddy bear, homeless, discarded





Poetry Tuesday: For my Brother Hagok

By Ho Nansorhon, Korea (1563-1589).

The candlelight shines low on the dark window,
Fireflies flit across the housetops.
As the night grows colder,
I hear autumn leaves rustle to the ground.
There’s been no news for some time from your place of exile.
Because of you,
My mind is never free of worry.

Thinking of a distant temple,
I see a deserted hillside
Filled with the radiance of the moon.


Music Monday: In Your Wildest Dreams

This time I’m going to cross you up with a completely different type of music and musician; male, for one thing, and as far away from singer-songwriter as possible, for another.

I don’t know if Horton Heat is an actual reverend, but I’d rather stay in the dark about that one. Instead I’ll just enjoy his raspy voice and quirky lyrics, though this one is less on that side and more on the Heat part of his spectrum.

I first heard this song as the opening piece of a short film called “Peep Show,” which takes what you think it is and gives it a really funny 180. I love this movie, and the song perfectly sets it.


Travel Thursday Encore: Chilly Spain Part 8

Washington Irving

Not wanting to cover the same ground today, I’d noticed on the map that there had been an original path between the main part of the complex and the Generalife, not in use now because that way the tourists missed most of the gardens. . . and then I noticed yet another path down to the river, through the forest, and decided it was just the thing I needed, a little nature photography to give my analytical mind a break.
At first I thought “Cuesta de los Chinos,” or at least the last word, was a diminutive for “Chinese,” but then I didn’t know it also referred to the little pebbles that made up the path. Obviously something I needed to learn in my path through life.
Having stopped to look at the towers closest to me–seeing them from the other side–I now turned around to look for the Generalife, hoping to get a glimpse through the trees. I couldn’t, at first, but then I looked higher and gasped, because it looked so tiny! My feet instantly started hurting as I realized how far I’d come. It looked like it was floating on a green sea of vegetation, reminding me of that shot of the pyramids of Tikal in Star Wars. . . you know, at the end, the rebel base.
The pebbles were still warm from a morning filled with sunshine breaking through the gaps in the trees, though now the road was in shade. The air here was not only cooler, but sweeter, and as I walked on a bed of pine needles covering said pebbles I wished I had someone with me who could name all the flowers just from the potpourri in the air as I shot them. Turning back, I could barely see any of the Alhambra’s buildings through all the vegetation; I felt like an explorer in America hundreds of years ago, tramping through a virgin forest. {Later I did have someone identify, from the photos, a fig tree, an oak, laurel, jasmine, aloe. . . and are those really pistachios actually growing on a tree instead of on vines like normal nuts? And pomegranates. . . I mean granadas; yes, that’s what the city was named for.}
Turning forward again, I enjoyed the look of sunlight dappling the road, the pebbles giving a lot more texture than mere cement. Again I wished I had a model with me. . . which is a damn rare thought, usually I can’t wait to get away from them. Remembering to use my other senses, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath through my nose; the perfume of the flowers suddenly refreshed me, took away any tiredness, though it quickly lapsed toward overwhelming.
A little while later I reached the river, but I didn’t try to ford it, since I had to get back to shooting the Alhambra, and I’d already gone to the Albacin anyway. But I did stand and look and shoot for a while, finally searching for the exact spot where the museum I went to yesterday was located before turning back.
Finally I started the return trek, wishing I’d brought a lunch, more in regular mode than photographer’s; for instance, I no longer thought of the overhanging trees and resulting gloom as “romantic;” instead I was checking dark places for attackers. Because of this attention to detail, I spotted a little path off the trail and simply had to see what was up there. Maybe I might find another erotic statue. . . and yes, I laughed.
Luckily it wasn’t that big of a hill, nor that steep once I got over the humpy part, but it was just high enough to see over most of the trees. Due to the towers being the tallest part of the Alhambra, the complex looked a lot closer than it really was, though I made it back away again with a wide angle lens. Someone had brought a chair up here once, then left it, which got me even higher {if I didn’t look down}. When I was done with that, I let out a sigh as I realized I was gonna remember this walk and this road more than the beautiful buildings.
There was one tower, standing all alone on the east side, I hadn’t noticed, so I had to check the books to get that story–morning glory–even if it was as made up as most of them. . . but hell, I was in the perfect place for a romantic lie.
It took a while, but I finally found the Tower of the Infants; its remote and wooded location was said to attract the romantics, though I didn’t see much romanticism possible in the place where the Sultan’s daughters lived. In fact, there was only one story about it at all, and it was Washington Irving’s, which automatically made it suspect: A young and buxom Andalucian damsel first appeared to him in the upper tower, her head covered with flowers. . . . and that’s it. Obviously she didn’t need rescuing, and for sure he didn’t manage to seduce her, otherwise he would have told us. After all, even us romantic guys need sex once in a while. . .


Poetry Tuesday: Ultima Ratio

By Friedrich Georg Junger (1898-1977), originally in German.

Like vapor, the titanic scheme
Is dissipated,
Everything grows rusty now
That they created.

They hoped to make their craze
The lasting Plan,
Now it falls apart everywhere,
Sheet steel and span.

Raw chaos lies heaped up
On wide display.
Be patient. Even the fag-ends
Will crumble away.

Everything they made contained
What brought their fall
And the great burden they were
Crushes them all.


Music Monday: Barcelona Nights

By Ottmar Liebert, a German guy living in New Mexico, doing flamenco music. Nothing strange about that, right? This is the song that really got me into flamenco music, or at least the newer version of it. . . which is called, as you might guess from the album this song is on, Nouveau Flamenco. And I’m just now realizing the last time I saw Ottmar live was well over 15 years ago, in Mexico City. Gotta do something about that. . .


Travel Thursday Encore: Chilly Spain, part 7

Part 7. . . seriously?
Yep, seriously. Not done yet.

Taking a very long walk from the entrance all the way past the last building I’d been to, then strolling through what was referred to as “a park” on the maps but was actually just a bunch of grass and sad-looking trees, I finally reached the Generalife, the country estate of the Nasrid kings on top of Cerro Del Sol.
There was an easier way to get to the Generalife itself, but then I would have missed the gardens, which would have been a really dumb thing to do if I wanted to make the book photographically complete. This path was called “Callejón de las Adelfas,” but since I wasn’t sure if that meant fairies or oleander–the dictionary wasn’t sure, that is–I had to convince myself I didn’t care that much.
I suddenly laughed as I thought how funny it was that those who lived in the Alhambra, instead of heading hundreds of miles away, like to the coast, had their “summer retreat” right on the next hill. Lazy fat rich people, sigh. . . or as they put it, “Escape the intrigues of palace life and enjoy tranquility high above the city, a little closer to heaven.” The name Generalife meant, at least in one translation, “garden of lofty paradise,” so you can see how they convinced themselves.
Making a circle to take it all in, then looking up toward the bulk of the fortress, I confirmed that it was a garden, and it was lofty. Paradise, though, remains to be seen, as the old coroner joke goes.
The gardens had been started in the thirteen century–“Sheesh, that’s old!”–but had been modified many times since, including orchids, vegetables, vines, even pastures for livestock. . . or maybe I shouldn’t have told you that last one. Despite not having a pool, the place I was standing in was known as the Patio de Polo, where visitors left their horses, so as you can see everything had a name no matter how pedestrian. Or maybe they ran out of poetic inspiration.
The long pathway with all the fountains was soothing and nice, though not a big deal for someone used to the huge gardens of Southern California. This was called the “Patio de la Acequia,” which translated to “Courtyard of the Irrigation Channel,” not exactly the most poetic translation ever, even if it was accurate. Extra careful with the camera, I enjoyed the spray from the fountains—a nineteenth century addition, ha!—and I saw plenty of women delighting in spotting designs in the stone path, mostly hearts. Too bad I didn’t have a model with me; it would take very little urging to get any normal girl to eagerly pose with the motifs like tourists with the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I shot them anyway, and it helped that the designs were in a vegetation tunnel where I could rest in the shade for a while.
With the trees blocking a lot of the sun, I was able to see the garden in a different light, so to speak. Murky, in a photographic sense, it did seem to lend a beautiful glow to the roses, even the leaves. The gentle breeze didn’t hurt either. Why, from this angle it was even romantic, even though it looked like many other places I’d been to. . . well, other places I’d called romantic, so okay.
And then suddenly, just like that, this dream world snapped out and the place was again full of tourists, and loud ones at that. . . not that there’s any other kind, right? How had I not noticed them? How had I thought of this place as tranquil? How had I enjoyed those golden moments? I was almost annoyed at the real world.
I set up for a long shot of the garden, doing the minute-long open-lens thing so the tourists would look like ghosts. After that, while listening in on some woman who seemed to know what she was talking about, I shot myrtle, climbing roses, shade-providing pergolas, and finally a long pool flanked by potted plants and shaded by trees. It was no surprise someone had said “the eye shall not tire of contemplating it.”
The next garden had two names, depending on how you felt, I guess: either “Patio de los Cipreses” or “Patio de la Sultana.” Most of you whom I know read this would probably be happy with “Courtyard of the Cypresses,” but there’s a few divas where “Courtyard of the Sultana” is more your style. Either way, this garden was truly exquisite, the trees and shrubs filled with roses, jasmine, and verbena; I recognized the sight of the first, the smell of the second, and the third I overheard from the same lady as before. Footpaths led to tiny ponds with floating water lilies and exotic fish, gilded gazebos and kiosks meant to shade the stroller from the sun, and even the sounds from the water were beautiful. And reading that these gardens were a special playground for the women of the harem–some taking pleasure in gardening, others simply cherishing a lazy promenade on a warm day, or tanning–I could easily imagine women pouring out of the buildings from all directions, like swarms of bees flying from the hive in search of honey, pausing when they found a flower. This patio just seemed to have more personality, which to my mind meant it had to have some kind of cool story to it.
Of course it did: this was where the wife of Sultan Abul-Hasan met her secret lover. . .
Not wanting to think about such things when it was so easy to feel lonely so far away from home, I sucked it up and took the long climb up to the buildings. Not finding much to shoot there, though I could see how these buildings might be of interest to an architect, I wandered into an ivy–or something similar–covered walkway, the vegetation making for some fun streaming lighting. Another great place to shoot a model, it actually reminded me of the hallway outside Royce Hall at UCLA. . . had they left it untended for a century or so. . . though sometimes it looked that way. . . oh, the janitors are gonna get me for that. . .
Finally I turned around and took in the scene below me, and the obvious first thing I noticed was all the water. Probably due to their cultural past of having to survive in the desert, H2O was very important to the Muslims who built and lived here. It’s everywhere, but not just in places to drink or bathe; they made art of it like they did everything else. Did they place the fountains in just the right place to make those little rainbows, to bead those little drops right on the perfectly situated flowers, or was it all a happy accident?
The perfect placement of the dew, Nature’s sprinkler system, enhanced the amazing bouquet wafting from the roses, magnolia, eucalyptus. Even the cypress infiltrated into this austere corner where I wrote down all these thoughts, on this bench where who knows how many ladies with romance in their hearts sat to engrave their musings while they waited for their loved one. . .
In a way it reminded me of the Court of the Lions, where there were no walls in the buildings facing the court, and the little canals went right inside. On the other hand, the vibe was totally different. Great in the summer heat, though probably raising the humidity, but not so great in the winter. And of course it left them with no privacy, unless they went upstairs, but on the other hand no one was going to come in here that you didn’t trust. . . which is why so many were assassinated by family members who wanted the throne or more riches. There was a sense of harmony within all the elements, even sound: the music of the water splashing from the fountains dovetailed so nicely with the chirpings of these amazingly happy birds.
Walking down now, I couldn’t help but notice the railings along the staircase, crudely carved half-tubes on either side. For a moment I wondered what the hell they were, but quickly remembered reading about them, and I wasn’t surprised that this particular thing stayed in my memory. Picture it: young lady walking innocently along, someone up top sees her, pulls up the door on the dam, and suddenly water runs down to the bottom in torrents and she’s completely soaked. The women are laughing because it wasn’t them, and the men are trying to see how transparent the clothes are.
Perhaps history’s first wet t-shirt contest. . .