Brainy Cultural Paradise

Side View

Most beautiful libraries focus on what’s inside. Our downtown library both in Pasadena and in Los Angeles are just that. I love a vaulted ceilings and overflowing bookshelves, but I’d have to say for me, the grounds and the facades are just as important. From structures steeped in design history, libraries prove that free books and internet access aren’t the only reason to visit an architectural gem. But the one I love going to the most is a short drive away. Having discovered it when I lived in Los Feliz, it’s still as wonderful now as it was then. There aren’t many things that can claim that sort of history.

Front of Bldg. taken at angle

The Brand Library in Glendale, is unique, most likely because it was a home. Leslie Coombs Brand built his residence on a lot at the base of the Verdugo Mountains. His beloved Miradero—a Spanish word meaning “a high place overlooking an extensive view.” is a 5,000 square foot Moorish mansion. Its design interest lies in a Saracenic inspired exterior with minarets and repeating scalloped arches.  And it’s contrasting late-Victorian style interior gives it warmth. Together these two elements denote a rare sort of beauty and grandeur.  When Brand died in 1925 he left his home and adjacent land to the City for use as a public park and library.


As an Art and Music Library, The Brand Library has  Galleries and a Recital Hall, where art exhibitions are hosted and classical concert performances are given. The setting is surrounded by a magnificent verdant park, hiking trails, and a Japanese garden. So not only does it foster beauty and literacy but it inspires intellectual curiosity and stimulates the imagination. My, oh my, a treasure for my heart and mind!

Heart Giving

Being the start of the new year, I’ve been thinking about gifts; those that we give and those that we receive.

While living in Las Vegas, I befriended a neighbor. She was an older Russian woman, recently widowed, who had married a Psychiatrist. She was well-off but lonely. Having been a homemaker, she did not have children and had a very small circle of friends. Her only living relative was a sister in Russia. I encouraged her to get involve in the Arts, which she did. And, I invited her to dinner a few times a month. She was an excellent guest and always brought me a box of chocolates or flowers. She took note of my formal table setting (we ate in the dining room) and I wore a pretty apron with slacks, never jeans or a casual dress. She was delighted that I served a small appetizer and began the meal with a homemade soup and ended with a liqueur. One day when I couldn’t get her on the phone, I went to her house and was about to leave a note when she answered the door, puffy eyed. “My darling” she said, “Come in.” I sat there and listened to her, speaking as little as possible, because that was what she needed. After a while she asked me into her bedroom and showed me her enormous jewelry collection; both real and costume. My eyes danced. A costume cuff bracelet caught my eye. She offered it to me. Sensing that it might have come from her husband that she loved so much, I could not accept it.

Months later, on a spring day she had left her french doors open and was burglarized. She called me for moral support when the Police arrived. Later, when the fear died down, she said, “Your bracelet is gone. You see I wanted you to have it, it had to leave me anyway.”

I watched a sense of generosity filled with warmth that echoed a feeling of life, in the spirit of wanting to give.  The virtue of generosity is spontaneous and joyful with a reward that is priceless. It enables the giver to know their best self and ultimately their power. And I realized my error. It enabled me to  acknowledge how profound life is, to be uplifted in an instant. Lesson learned; allow others to give to you. Don’t block it. Their is grace in receiving.

By giving or receiving, we experience oneness and a wonderful connection with others.

Christmas with Love from Mrs. Claus

Summer always brings back memories of my father; having fun, outings with friends, dancing, picnics of ham sandwiches and fresh fruit, dining al fresco on fresh lobster, driving in a convertible, and sun drenched skin with trips to the beach. But Winter is my Mother’s season. She symbolizes home and hearth, family, singing, gift giving, Christ consciousness (love) cozy blankets, luxurious sweaters and savoring hot Mexican chocolate. In case you’ve never had it, remember the Aztecs invented chocolate. I recommend Ibarra made in whole milk- I promise you, you’ll never drink anything else again.

Last night when I heard about the incident in Berlin, I recalled browsing through the aisles at the marketplace hot apple cider in hand while choosing a gift for her. Despite the fact that she’s always been and still is fashion-conscious, unlike me she’s easy to shop for. Perhaps it’s her mother gene that appreciates any gesture I or anyone else makes, but her receptivity produces a pleasure in giving her things.

In Macy’s last week on a hunt to buy her a Christmas gift, I mentioned to the sales clerk that she likes color and described her style; flats, skinny jeans, nautical striped tees, and scarves topped with her bob hair-cut. Despite her youthful appearance she never has looked age inappropriate. In fact when I was growing up I once asked her, “Why don’t you wear shorter dresses,” her response was matter-of-fact, “I can’t show my knees, I’m a mother.” The sales person naturally asked her age. But that’s for me to know and not for others to ask.

When I found this video, Christmas with Love from Mrs. Claus, I thought of her. Perhaps it’s because she lives by the Jane Austen quote; It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.

Wishing everyone a Merry and Happy Christmas!

Summer Love

One of the best things about summer is all the music you hear being played outdoors. Last week I dined at one of my favorite restaurants, Bistro 45, in Pasadena, a French-American bistro, where I had the second best meal of my life; the first being at Joel Robuchon’s in Las Vegas. With that in mind, rather than write about music or food I thought I’d appeal to your visual senses and share my summer favorites. Here are my pics for summer 2016:

All on PBS.
Dancing on the Edge:
How many times have I claimed that my favorite era is the 1930’s. And this mini-series has it all. A black jazz band becomes entangled in the aristocratic world of 1930s London as they seek fame and fortune.

The series has concluded for the season but I had to include it because it’s top notch. Set in the 1960s, the show follows Endeavour Morse in his early years as a police constable. Working alongside his senior partner DI Fred Thursday, Morse engages in a number of investigations around Oxford. The intricate mysteries are wonderfully woven and intelligent.

Inspector Lewis:
Inspector Robert Lewis and Sergeant James Hathaway solve the tough cases that the inhabitants of Oxford throw at them.

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline. A captivating story of two very different women who build an unexpected friendship: a 91-year-old woman with a hidden past as an orphan-train rider and the teenage girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever thought to ask.

Autobiography of a Yogi by Parmahansa Yogananda. Having read this thirty years ago, today it strikes me differently. It’s rich and loaded with imagery. A beautifully written account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation. The author clearly explains the subtle but definite laws behind both the ordinary events of everyday life and the extraordinary events commonly termed miracles

Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman, is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella, Lady Susan. Lady Susan Vernon takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate and, while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica — and herself too, naturally. This movie is sharp, outrageously comical and as a period piece goes, a feast for the eyes.
ILoveParis. Parisian Chic for over 40. Fabulous over 40. This is an extraordinary channel on how women walking the streets of Paris exude confidence and clean simple style.

WhatsItliketv. This intrigues me. Expats are interviewed and chat about living in a new country, a new city and how they chose their new domicile while they share their cultural observations.

Kathryn Morgan. A former soloist with the New York City Ballet. She applies a level of graceful precision to dancing and doles out real talk including sharing her struggle with an under-active thyroid that we don’t usually see or hear from ballerinas.

Watch Sunset

Yesterday I intended to upload this blog post, but the day got ahead of me with appointments and I spent time seeking the right avenue to create a play list. I found it and it will be posted next time. Then I heard about the disaster in Nice and goose bumps flooded my body in the heat of the day, as it confirmed much emotion. And the world reverberates with calls of prayer for the victims in the attacks.

As I see it, there is a divide between ideas and ideologies with struggles in communication. This gap is between the urge of expansion and the need for consolidating a belief and/or political systems. This is as much of a challenge to humanity whether it is expressed as Islamic fundamentalism underscoring the various conflicts in the Middle East or as the self-righteous rhetoric going on now with the presidential elections in the U.S.

Instead of fighting with anger and more guns, let’s try the Gandhi approach. Let’s align ourselves with the Muslim brethren to dialogue and negotiate offering a peace pipe. There is no peace without prayer. Only through peace do we acknowledge that as humans we share the same basic needs and desires. By bringing in clergy, peace makers and others who understand the Koran, and the sub-religions it has produced can we build an alliance beginning with government, to regional and grass-roots levels. Words may prove helpful to give form, focus, and support observations with a goal of practical implementation of rules, and understanding a particular religious and philosophical perspective.

If we strive to understand the myths and realities of Jihad, education becomes our weapon against the fight. While it may not immediately turn things around, if we allow unconstructive expression to persist, it triggers the attracting of glamour and illusion of martyrdom masquerading as universal truth. Instead let’s embrace our similarities and jointly address God. In the past differences in religion created thorns. Keep in mind even Jesus was seen as a radical in his day. At a time when Muslims are expecting to be ostracized, — expecting to be hated, love them, and create another outcome.

Use the breath, meditation, and prayerful aspiration to stay centered, which means holding steady to a center of inner magnetism that transcends multiplicity and expresses unity. This requires dis-identification with mind and identification with Self. If this process is already known to you, you have already won half the current and near-term battles. Only by working in harmony, with civility and respect is there a possibility for a social order that is administered with love and inclusivity.

France, is our friend, pray not only when she is in trouble, continuously and for world peace.

Now for the post that should have been…

Do you love fireworks? I do. I also love the Eiffel Tower. Every year, France combines the two, and you have Bastille Day, on July 14.

It commemorates the Fête de la Fédération, a huge feast and official event that took place on July 14, 1790, the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille.

The storming of the Bastille is seen as a symbol of the uprising of the modern French government. The Bastille was a prison, and a symbol of the absolute power of King Louis XVI. By capturing the Bastille, the French citizens made it clear that the king’s power was no longer absolute, and that they demanded a voice in how they were ruled.

The storming of the prison was a symbol of liberty, and the fight against oppression for all French people. And so began the French Revolution, and a new form of government. Akin to American 4th of July, it represents freedom.all-white-outfit-rainbow-accessories

As I see it, summer also represents freedom; not because of politics or history but because of our natural attunement to water, and the ocean. Nothing screams more than summer than wearing all white. Another one of my loves, especially when it’s teamed up with tan or beige- it looks so clean and polished. I’ve chosen two fashion picks that I’d wear in a heartbeat; one that says let’s play and the other than says I know what I want.


Now that I have your eyes, let’s turn to your ears…

Spring Forward


This week with the start of spring, I celebrated the passage along with what would have been my father’s 91st birthday, with a film. I attended, Le Lycee Francais de Los Angeles in collaboration with the French Consulate’s and Alliance Francaise de Los Angeles, Film Festival.

The film Maestro was held at the Theatre Raymond Kabbaz.

It was a comedy that revolves around Henri, a young actor with much ambition who finds himself involved with legendary independent filmmaker, Cedric Rovere. Henri looks up to him and the Director takes a liking to Henri, although the young actors nature is banal he lives in a world that doesn’t go beyond pop culture.

The film they shoot is a period piece, based on the Greek Goddess Astraea. The young woman who plays Astraea becomes Henri’s love interest. She much like the Director, is sophisticated; they live in a mental world inhabited by Voltaire and Prevost.

Even when the conditions during the shoot aren’t quite what Henri expected, he is won over by the charms of his on-screen partner.

The comedic action takes place between the misfit couple, reminding one of how compromising oneself doesn’t lead to love when it’s not a fit. The sophisticate never gets understood or appreciated.

Through the generosity of the master filmmaker, Henri emerges somewhat transformed by the experience. And Cedric is also won over by Henri’s eager imagination, youthful spirit, and eagerness to love and views the film shoot as an unexpected gift.