Friday, May 30, 2014

San Diego's Jewish festival delights with classics, klezmer, folk tunes

Yale Strom's violin heats up the Lyceum Monday at the lively Klezmer Summit.

Kosher treats await at the Lyceum with world class music, theater, tributes to Irving Berlin and Pete Seeger

 

Torchy ballads will be served up again by 
talented klezmer diva Elizabeth Schwartz.
Violinist Asi Matathias and pianist Victor Stanislavsky performed Thursday.

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THERE'S NO BUSINESS like show business, and there's no Jewish arts festival west of Tel Aviv with as much energy and talent as the Lipinsky Family San Diego Jewish Arts Festival.
Don't miss it, folks. It's world class and it's right here in River City!
The impressive 21st annual festival  kicked off to raves and appreciative audiences and continues through June 18 in San Diego's lively downtown and North County.

Cookie and Keller are among legions of  appreciative fans
as the Lipinsky Family Jewish Arts Festival continues. 

THURSDAY'S well tuned concert featured Israeli violinist Asi Matathias and pianist Victor Stanislavsky who presented a nearly flawless 90-minutes of Saint-Saens, Brahms and other well chosen treats. With maturity and precision, these young virtuosi had the all-ages audience attentive and wanting more.   Proceeds benefit the America-Israel Cultural Foundation; the audience showed its support of this endeavor with generous applause and "bravos."
AMONG MYRIAD delights as the festival continues is a world-premiere work about a beloved American composer-lyricist, Israel Isidor Baline, born in Belarus in 1888. (You may know him better as Irving Berlin, the musical genius who gave us "God Bless America," "White Christmas," the score of "Annie Get Your Gun" and countless other treasures.)
Irving Berlin, beloved by Americans,
is honored in song by Hershey Felder. 
An original piece about Berlin's music and life headlines the annual Lipinsky sponsored Jewish Festival, on tap through June 18 in downtown and North County.
This year's festival is again curated, organized and directed by devoted San Diego Rep associate artistic director Todd Salovey, whose enthusiastic welcomes are festival tradition.

Hershey Felder
presents Berlin tribute.
The Lyceum, home of San Diego Repertory Theatre, awaits with delights.
 HE PREVIEWED an upcoming fest highlight, a nearly sold out performance of  "Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin."  The piece spotlights the legendary American composer and Jewish cultural hero who rocketed to fame with "Alexander's Ragtime Band," "There's No Business Like Show Business," "Oh, How I Hate To Get Up in the Morning," and dozens of other beloved hits. Felder's highly anticipated Berlin show is Sunday, at 7:30 p.m. June 1, on the Rep's Lyceum Stage. Tickets are $55 or $118 for a special reception.
FELDER, a talented pianist, composer, actor and writer, is known around town; his "Composers Sonata" has been staged at the Old Globe Theatre and his "The Pianist of Willesden Lane," is on the Lyceum marquee enticing subscribers to the Rep's next season.
Yale Strom, at right, and an arsenal of red hot talent ,brought
down the house at the 2013 San Diego Jewish Arts Festival. 
DON'T MISS the 13th annual Klezmer Summit Monday, June 2. "My Yidishe Mambo" showcases gifted musicians Yale Strom and Gilbert Castellanos and last year's fest had people practically dancing in the aisles with its unique Jewish-Latin hybrid sound. Hot Pstromi includes Jeff Pekarek (bass), Lou Fanucchi (accordion), Fred Benedetti (guitar), Duncan Moore (percussion), Elizabeth Schwartz (vocals) and Strom (violin), joining Castellanos (trumpet), Irving Flores (piano) and Gene Perry (Afro-Cuban percussion).

The legendary Pete Seeger will be
honored in a special tribute.
ANOTHER FEST highlight is a tribute to the late folk singer and activist Pete Seeger, Monday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. Seeger's long career inspired the popular Rep show, "A Hammer, a Bell and a Song to Sing." The Lyceum's Seeger tribute includes a staged reading of Salovey’s musical “Pete Seeger Sings Out,” with actor-musicians Dave Crossland, Jim Mooney and Vaughn Armstrong.
 A second performance is at 7:30 p.m. June 10 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
For the Seeger NCRT show, go to www.northcoastrep.org or call (858) 481-1055.
The Jewish Festival also includes a "Women of Valor"  reading honoring San Diego's accomplished Jewish women June 18, in the Encinitas Library, 7 p.m. And there are several free events. For details or tickets visit www.sdrep.org or call 619 544-1000.
Fisherman Larry Giles in search of the big one (catch
and release, of course) off the Florida coast.

COMING UP: From klezmer and other Yiddish treats to gators, a wildlife preserve, fishing, flowers and girl watching in Florida. We're about arts, adventure and exploration, always with a sense of fun. Explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com





Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fort Lauderdale by water taxi -- a relaxing way to see the sights, homes, foliage

GET A BIRD'S EYE GLIMPSE OF THE HOMES AND LIFESTYLE OF THE FILTHY RICH
Fort Lauderdale's famous Water Taxi takes tourists and locals on the city's famous waterways, with ease and beauty. 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

DECADES AGO -- before the white man set foot here --  water was the only way to get around in what is now Fort Lauderdale.
It's still the most relaxing, prettiest and most interesting way to see the sights.
One sees the beautiful back yards of the mansions from the canals.
If you love star gossip and wouldn't shy from a glimpse of the rich and famous, Fort Lauderdale's your place.
NFL stars, singers, musicians, actors, writers and, yes, porn stars invested in Fort Lauderdale.
TO YOUR LEFT ladies and gentlemen:  that's where Sonny and Cher lived for years.
Down the way, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz loved their little white home on the corner. Andy Griffith lived nearby.  He loved to come out in his own boat. ("Little" in Lauderdale may mean 5,000 square feet, so keep that in mind.)
Over there -- that's the palatial estate where many "Magnum P.I." episodes were shot. There's the home of an oil sheik from Saudi Arabia.  He bought his daughter a little place down the canal for a wedding gift last fall.
WE'VE BEEN to Fort Lauderdale many times, always on the prowl for new adventures.
Fort Lauderdale at night is aglow with street and water traffic.
The town has exciting nightlife, beautiful waterfront dining, and gorgeous shops on fashionable Las Olas Boulevard, the Rodeo Drive of southern Florida.
But the town's Intracoastal Waterway system makes its canals a unique and beautiful way to see the sights. You'll learn the city's history from the draw bridges of the historic Esplanade area, to the "spring break" beaches, resort areas, new homes and stately old ones.
WHETHER YOU want history, scenery, eateries or a blend, Fort Lauderdale's Water Taxi service will deliver.  Its main route travels in two directions, upbound and downbound.
Is this croc for real?  See for yourself on Fort Lauderdale's water taxi.
DOWNBOUND takes you down to the New River, and the downtown Fort Lauderdale and the trendy yet historic Las Olas area. Upbound takes you “up” north, towards the Galleria Mall and Shooters Restaurant. The Hollywood Route, heads south to Hollywood Beach, the young crowd and beach life.
It's a thrill to move via water taxi under one of the several Fort Lauderdale bridges.
WE'VE HOPPED on and off many times and have always had entertaining, helpful crew. They know their stuff, like to chat about the locals and their mansions, and help you get where you need to go.
In fact, the crew will happily help you plan your time in Fort Lauderdale, as you cruise past the town's sites. They know the history, the mansions, the stars, the sales prices and new and former owners of the sleek mega yachts. They share tips on the hottest restaurants, bars and attractions steps from water taxi stops. They offer discounts at the eateries and attractions for water taxi travelers.

THE FORT Lauderdale Water Taxi runs year-round, closing only Christmas Day. During the huge upcoming Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, service will be limited because the waterways are the main boat show venues.

Fort Lauderdale's water life is at the heart of the city.
 THE WATER taxis glide by the town's exciting nightlife, outdoor eateries, the famous shops of Las Olas Boulevard, beautiful beaches, yacht clubs and majestic cruise ships traveling in and out of Port Everglades. Nothing worldwide compares to Fort Lauderdale's Intracoastal Waterway. Its lovely canals are so unique and beautiful, they have earned Fort Lauderdale the moniker “Venice of America.” Water Taxi is the best way to see them!

Cookie waits in the wind for
a water taxi to take her to dinner.
Violinist Yale Strom got a standing
ovation at last year's klezmer summit!
THE WATER Taxi can also take you to Hollywood! Hop on in Fort Lauderdale at Stop 5 -- The Hilton Marina/Convention Center -- and hop off in the heart of Hollywood Beach, steps from fabulous dockside eateries. The Hollywood trip allows visitors to transfer in Fort Lauderdale. And when much of the world is snow-covered, the Hollywood Water Taxi is prepared for any weather.  It runs December through April and features a cabin with both air conditioning and heat, a full bar, snacks and restrooms.

NEXT UP: Highlights from the annual Lipinsky Jewish Arts Festival, which again features the talents of Yale Strom and other gifted musicians.  Saturday's post shares highlights and concert times on the Lyceum stage in downtown San Diego.

Flamingos abound in their brilliant plumage, and we visit them next.













ON TAP: Fort Lauderdale's wildlife and flowers are world famous. Bonnet House beckons, with gorgeous gardens and the inspiration for the estate's name, the bonnet lily. In mid-Ft. Lauderdale sits a verdant acreage and home, show piece of a history-minded, arts loving family who gave it to Florida. Lauderdale has the bustle and hustle of a beach town, but with playful flamingos, crocodiles and a wildlife refuge. How does nature survive and thrive among high rises, condos and mega-mansions. The welcoming Hyatt Pier 66 puts us in the center of the action.  We're about adventure tips with a sense of fun so take time to explore, learn and live. Visit us Wednesdays, weekends and as the muse invites, at www.whereiscookie.com 








Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day remembrance: Serene Crete cemetery pays homage to horrible WWII conflict

Approaching Crete at dusk, one sees hills of olive trees, and beautiful caves and beaches, with little hint
of the heavy casualties during the infamous Battle for Crete, eventually a German victory in 1941.



Cookie pays her respects to the fallen at Suda Bar War Cemetery.




















THOUSANDS DIED FOR FREEDOM ON THIS IDYLLIC MEDITERRANEAN ISLAND


STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

ON THIS  holiday Monday, honoring the fallen who died for peace, freedom and a better world, we travel to the Suda Bay War Cemetery in the Greek Isles.
As one enters the cemetery, a caretaker greets the car or hiker.
Beautiful inlaid stone crosses accent the solemn tone.
True, it is possible to visit Crete without including this moving  memorial. The island offers glamorous resorts and beaches. THE CAPITAL city Heraklion, is one of the Mediterranean's most fascinating and vibrant cities, replete with unusual museums, delightful gardens and eateries. But the cemetery is important. Strolling past geraniums red as Christmas berries, it's hard to imagine the violence, bloodshed and death that marked ferocious World War II battles for this key harbor.  
PAST SMALL, neat farmhouses, sunning chickens and sleeping dogs, one comes quietly to Suda Bay and the memorial.
Elegant stone walking paths flank rows and rows of crosses and white marble grave markers.  What stories the ghosts could tell, of 1940 when Italy invaded mainland Greece and Crete's excellent harbors became a contentious battleground.  The Germans wanted the strategic point, critical to their war effort. ALLIED BOMBERS were within range. After much carnage, dominance of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean ended in mid-1941 when the Germans launched a massive airborne attack. Days of desperate and heroic fighting followed, but Allied troops were forced to evacuate.  Thousands were taken prisoner or died.
Crete's key location made it a point of contention in WWII.
NOW,  REMAINS of the fallen sit sentinel at the northwest corner of Crete's Suda Bay. The meticulously groomed cemetery holds the graves of hundreds, mostly Commonwealth, who struggled valiantly to defend Crete against the German invasion in May and June of 1941. During two months of horrible battle, thousands perished.  More than 1,500 WWII servicemen are commemorated in the cemetery -- along with 19 World War I soldiers and some from other conflicts.
 CRETE's FAME goes back centuries before this memorial.  The island was central to the sophisticated Minoan Civilization, dating to 2700 B.C., and regarded as the earliest recorded civilization in Europe.
This imposing, largest Greek isle is also one of the largest in the Mediterranean, covering 8.303 kilometers and spanning 260 km, east to west.
A marker honors a fallen soldier, a doctor, above; below,
one of several historic churches remaining in Crete.
Its lovely, cave-lined coastline gives way to varied landscape, with many mountains.
In the U.S., our Memorial Day was born of the ashes of the Civil War. Originally called Decoration Day, it was officially proclaimed after the war that tore our country apart, on May 5, 1868. General John Alexander Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, with veterans of all military branches observed the day later that month, on May 30, 1868.
NEW YORK officially recognized the holiday in 1873 and by 1890 all the northern states joined. It took the losses of World War I for the southern states to recognize the day.  From then on, the holiday was expanded to honor the dead of all wars and U.S. military actions.

Luxury hotel accommodations are available
on Crete, here a Four Seasons beach.
FOR NEARLY a century, people called the holiday "Decoration Day" but it was not until 1967 that President Lyndon Banes Johnson signed legislation officially renaming the holiday "Memorial Day."

That atrocities and barbarism scarred this idyllic place called Crete seems incredible and unfitting.
Downey and Northridge, Calif., join San Diego
in celebrating Greek heritage during the next two weeks.
But the memorial's countless markers
tell the tragic tale.
HAPPILY, many Greek communities across the U.S. celebrate their heritage in the days before and after our U.S. Memorial Day. Moussaka, souvlaki, and gyros will soon be served in Downey, Calif., and other Los Angeles area towns. The Valley Greek Festival in Northridge, goes on the boards daily during Memorial Day weekend, 1-9 p.m.
COMING: Popular Ft. Lauderdale water taxis offer leisurely cruising along
the city's world famous waterways with commentary on celebrity homes.
THE 30th annual Downey Greek Festival is June 7-8, with Greek fare and vendors showing Greek music, crafts and more.  Here in San Diego, St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church stages its annual Greek Festival, June 13-15 with parking behind the San Diego Unified School District offices near Park Blvd. and El Cajon Blvd. All share heritage, culture, music, traditions, customs and food.
Sounds like "opa" time to me.




COMING UP: Fort Lauderdale and its famous water taxis offer romance, comfort, boats with a view, homes of the rich and famous, and a history lesson to boot. Find it soon at www.whereiscookie.com 
Ephesus intrigues with its ancient buildings, walkways and artwork.
Then off to ancient Ephesus where the Bible's Paul preached and the mother of Jesus lived out her life. We offer a modern approach to travel and the arts as we zip through time and explore the wonders of the centuries. Our adventure tips are laced with a sense of fun with "insider" pointers. Take time to explore, learn and live. Please visit us Wednesdays, weekends and as the muse invites, at: www.whereiscookie.com



Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sexy boobies, the ocean's faithful birdies, fly high, feast, fool around

This booby has his eye on the seas below, looking for a meal.  He also eyes the female booby, vying for her graces.
This booby is at least as interesting as the female breast to many.  
Boobies often fly in pairs, or quartets, forming little groups as they hunt.
We watched these two for hours off the coast of Costa Rica.

A SALUTE TO THE FUN-LOVING BOOBY:
DANCER, FLYER, FISHERMAN, FAST DIVER, LOYAL FRIEND OF CRUISERS

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER


WE WATCHED them for hours. No, not female-breast boobies, as a joke-cracking neighbors surmised at my e-mail proclamation: "You won't believe the boobies." His retort:  "When you mentioned boobies, I got all excited.  Then I realized you were talking about birds."
But what birds.  Maybe my friend wasn't so far afield with his suggestive wisecrack because, Chuck,  boobies are sexy!
They dance, they prance, they snuggle and nuzzle.  They do it all without snapping their garters, donning sleazy corsets or fancy lingerie.  They don't send roses or ply their girlfriend with expensive liquor.
THEY HAVE elaborate courtships, mate for life and some believe they enjoy sex.
My kind of birds.
They also soar over the seas, darting, diving, riding the drafts of cruise ships such as ours, the Legend of the Seas, a dowager of the fleet of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.
The blue footed booby is light
on his feet, and those famous
feet move to attract a mate.
Boobies were our faithful escorts through much of our journey down the western coast of Mexico and into Central and South America.
This daring seabird is comfortable and abundant in many of the world's tropical waters.
The perfect symmetry and grace of the booby may have inspired
early day flyers, including the Wright Brothers.
The brown booby, our friends in this story, is cousin to the more famous blue-footed booby known in the Galapagos and "Down Under." Our brown friend ranges as far north as the Gulf of California, and even on both coasts of the United States.
Like other boobies, it feeds with spectacular plunges into the sea.
"Come look at this," Keller cried one morning. He'd been watching them for nearly an hour, he said, both bird and man looking for flying fish. The first booby appeared out of nowhere, he said,  descended expertly, then boom --  plunged deep into the waters after his catch. Sometimes he devoured it -- sometimes not.

Some believe the booby's soaring and diving is part of the attraction of a mate.

DESPITE ITS unfortunate name, the booby is one smart birdie. Some believe the Wright Brothers studied him! This master of the sky is patient and strong. Red-footed boobies get the booby endurance award, traveling up to 93 miles, but the brown boobies we saw followed our ship for more than 65 miles one day. The silly sounding name derives from a Spanish slang term bobo, meaning "stupid." Hungry sailors noticed these tame birds landing on board ships. Hmmmmmm.  Could they be eaten?  Indeed they were, as they're easily captured. In fact, ship-wrecked sailors, including William Bligh of the famous Bounty, caught and ate boobies to stay alive after being set adrift.
DURING MATING season, boobies are are among the thousands of species of critters who gather to pair up, engage in their own special breed of flying, dancing and romancing.
For my money, they're one of the most fascinating -- and sexy -- birds.  I loved being
Clever writing, strong
acting and interesting
characters await in
"Mud Blue Sky" by Moxie.
in their presence for a few days. I may borrow from the booby romance ritual.  I'm practicing my footwork!

DON'T MISS:  Moxie Theatre's "Mud Blue Sky" is a lively new comedy in a lively theater town.  The story is about aging flight attendants, friendship and a pot dealer who misses his prom. Witty dialogue, fine acting and sharp direction unfold with humor, pathos and insight into the human condition. All for an enriching  time at the theater. The production runs through June 8 in Cygnet's old space near UCSD in San Diego. Call 858 598-7620, www.moxietheatre.com

Greece's Suda Bay War Cemetery attracts tourists worldwide. 
Crete's excellent harbors played a key role in World War II.  

COMING SOON:  Before we dip over to sunny Fort Lauderdale with its romantic water taxis, hip eateries and exciting nightlife, we pay homage to a Greek war cemetery, which houses the remains of thousands of Americans, Aussies, Brits and Kiwis. Our annual homage to Memorial Day, next. We're about travel advice and adventure tips, always with a sense of fun! Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out Wednesdays, weekends and as the muse dictates, at: www.whereiscookie.com

Friday, May 16, 2014

Cabo calls -- with wowing rocks, top beaches, glass blowing, shopping and a peaceful mission

BAJA TIP OFFERS FAST GROWING CABO SAN LUCAS, QUIET AND ARTSY TODO SANTOS
The approach to Cabo San Lucas is a memorable one, with its unique rock formations.
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

REMEMBER that bittersweet Eagles song of the 1970s, "Hotel California"?
The song may refer to a hotel in the sleepy little town of Todos Santos, which means "all saints."  Ironic, given the attraction to the place from the not-so-saintly musicians of the day.
Besides the Eagles, many other other rock stars stayed there, including Crosby Stills and Nash. Of course Keith Richards married Patti  Hansen there. But the genesis of the famous song can't be authenticated.
Above, top, tourists enjoy spectacular "Cabo" views.
And Todos Santos is proud of its beautiful mission church.
FIRST, CABO SAN Lucas.  The rock formations of this lovely place on the Baja California tip are legendary.  We'd explored them before, along with many other tourist boats full of anglers (the sport fishing is world class), snorkelers, and other varieties of sun seekers. All of us reveled in the peace and beauty,spiced up by the region's reputation for fun.
Baja California's peninsula, in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, is home to "Los Cabos" -- Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo.

The bathroom of the Hotel California, below,
is a throw-back to 1970s hippy days.
At right, one of many new buildings.


The bay of Cabo San Lucas was once a base for pirate vessels waiting to pounce on Spanish treasure ships. Even fifteen years ago, it was little more than a fishing and canning village occasionally visited by adventurous sports fishermen. Its beach escapes, fabulous snorkeling, parasailing, scuba and sea exploration now recommend it to wealthy second-home owners.  And it has its own "outback," complete with camels.  A few of our group took the camel trek, actually riding on the beasts as they photographed indigenous flora and fauna.
New hotels and condos are going up throughout the Baja peninsula.
Cabo is also famous for its glassware.  We visited a factory, and stopped at a lovely vista to sip a margarita or two. Salsa -- both the dance and the sauce -- is an artform in Cabo; lively music echoed from the hotel lobbies and pools.
 Glassware in bright colors makes popular gifts in Cabo's many shops.
CABO NATIVES are proud of their dolphins, too, claiming these smart and graceful creatures flirt with and communicate with those who venture into the water to swim with them. In winter, Cabo boasts that it has the best whale watching on the Pacific, but I'd put our San Diego whale watching ventures up against theirs.  Still, the peninsula is known for its superb spots to view migrating whales.  Human travelers -- including golfers from all over the world -- come to Cabo for its inviting greens, many with splendid sea views.
Cabo's destinctive
rock formations.
Cabo's colorful history includes many shipwreck stories, and you can still dive for vestiges of the doomed vessels. Scuba aficionados seek out ruins around Pelican Rock, Land's End, Neptune's Finger, Sand Falls, and other imaginative names.
Cookie strolls a sculpture arcade in Todos Santos' zocalo.
The display honors residents who made contributions to the town. 
WE WERE happy we'd chosen the trek to Todos Santos, a small coastal town at the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, on the Pacific side of the Peninsula.  It's only an hour's drive north of Cabo but it's another world -- quiet, unspoiled, with mango, avocado and papaya trees downtown.

The rocks call,
and the fun awaits.
The trip
Keller shops for a t-shirt in pretty Todos Santos.
to Todos took us past gorgeous new hotels designed for  U.S. and European tourists. Condos attract ex-patriots, college students on breaks and time share owners, all discovering the Baja. Arriving in Todos Santos, we were greeted by friendly people, quaint galleries and shops, the famous and popular Hotel California with its unique bathrooms, and a beautiful old Jesuit mission. The Jesuits settled in the 1700s, and the church is well loved. We walked past an artful sculpture arcade honoring town founders and leaders.  We admired restored colonial buildings from the last century and enjoyed ice cream in the zocalo -- town square -- a colorful gathering spot.
THE TOWN is  a haven for artists, craftsmen, surfers and travelers seeking adventure, nature and what some call "Mexico's healthiest lifestyle." Todos attracts hikers, surfers, wildlife enthusiasts, kayakers, snorkelers and birders, too.
 The two destinations are radically different.  While Todos Santos' waters are quiet, Cabo's bay boasts high-powered, radar-equipped fishing yachts. Multi-million-dollar second homes are going up in prime vantage points, fringed by thousands of transplanted palms.

Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos offer many birds;
this booby was our escort down the Baja, into Central America and home.
WHILE TODOS Santos felt authentic and Mexican, Cabo felt more like the U.S. than part of Mexico.  We spoke to content ex-pats who bragged about a mammoth Wal-Mart, new restaurants and a choice of fancy bars.  Puerto Paraíso, an enormous mall on the marina, has everything one can purchase in the states.
Each place has much to recommend it, but you'll decide which suits your fancy best -- Cabo San Lucas or Todos Santos. And you can always visit them both.

COMING SOON:  The magnificent boobies, and we don't mean female breasts. We're about travel advice and adventure tips with a sense of fun. Remember to explore, learn and live.  Visit us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com