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!

And in the end, the Love you take


Occasionally, I fantasize about living in another time. Perhaps I’m romanticizing the past but as a child growing up I sensed people and things around me were different. There was a particular formality and a protocol that I enjoyed. If it were up to me, I would have preferred to live my entire lifetime with people being civil to one another, well-mannered, speaking in complete sentences with a love of language and a pervading gentleness.

Recently I told someone whom I’ve known for many years about my first trip solo. I remarked that I would not have gone through with it today. It was my Grand Tour. I rediscovered home and more importantly, I found out who I was. This is why travel is like an education.

Did you know that the word tourism is from the French word tour: a circular itinerary that leads back to the point of origin: home.

Had I been an eccentric British aristocrat, young and male in the sixteenth century, at age eighteen I would have embarked on the classical Grand Tour. It would have begun in London, over a wager and a cup of tea, then crossed the Channel to continental Europe by ferry. Stopping in Paris, the Dutch countryside along the way, to Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Portugal, Spain, Greece. Culminating in Italy of course; Venice, Florence, and Rome, before coming full circle before making my way home.

The Grand Tour was a rite of passage, a visual bucket list, of Greco-Roman ruins and Baroque sculptures, Gothic architecture and neoclassical paintings. Of foreign languages, cultures, and landscapes that produced scientists, authors, and patrons of the arts. At the end of this tour I would have returned, a writer who has traveled, a traveler who has written, a different person to my point of departure, forever changed by the sights I had seen.

But this is not the sixteenth century. Travel today is on a timer and budget. So we each draft different bucket lists, follow different itineraries, and on the way are molded differently by the beauty we choose to see.

Leonardo da Vinci wrote that “the eye encompasses the beauty of the whole world.”

When I went on a Grand Tour of my own, I went to see culture, art, and history. I saw great ruins, statues, palaces on cliffs. Freemason symbols in renaissance chapels, scandalous paintings in underground crypts. I saw fishermen’s boats and seaside lace makers, bright red geraniums against faded peach walls. And when the sunlight hit the waves, a hundred shades of blue and green, and foam that looked like champagne.

But most importantly, later I saw the person I had become. I marveled at my new habits and thoughts, recognized old, familiar ones. I took a million mental pictures to keep, of all these beautiful sights: of a tongue scalded by morning coffee, of telltale chocolate on a chin. Faces of consternation at an indecipherable map. The sight of a man kissing a child’s forehead, a couple analyzing a sculpture, debating with the audio guide. Deciphering train and ferry schedules, converting currencies. But the sight I remember most; two hands finding one another beneath a tablecloth.

Did you take a Grand Tour, and if so, where did you go and how did it affect your life?


The Tempest
The Tempest

We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.”

William Shakespeare, The Tempest

I was twelve years old when I introduced myself to Shakespeare and read The Tempest. I recall there were moments when I could not grasp the language but I stuck with it. Why am I bringing that up? Because just as my twelve year old self had a stick with it attitude, today marks the seventh birthday of my Blog. So here we are 400 posts later. Hip, hip, hooray! I should add that I have Mars in Capricorn so not only do I have enormous strength in the pursuit of my goals, but I revere the classics.

Last week as part of Brit Week I saw a modern film production of Hamlet, starring Maxine Peake. It was part of the 400th anniversary of the playwrights death honoring him and his work. Now I can understand and appreciate Shakespeare as I couldn’t  back then.

Sometimes it feels like blogging has become a relic and that other avenues of communication are much more accessible. Maybe it’s the fact that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter; we only have time to catch up on someone’s life with an easy, “Like” aka Lazy button. Long captions? Forget it. And I’m not only referring to those under 30. Adults over 50 who were weaned on real books, don’t take the time. Blogs brought the written word into the digital age and now, they are dying a slow death.

So, what happened to blogging? Snapchat and instagram have become king and queen of the kingdom.

When I started my blog, it felt like a small community. It seemed as if everyone knew each other and was rooting for each other. They were link ups, and comments. Everyone read blogs over their morning coffee, wanting to be inspired. Now, it’s a race to create your own brand a unique identity on mobile platforms. With millions of people constantly getting thrown information, it’s a race to stay relevant.

I have come to look at my blog as a resume addendum of sorts. Truth be told, I may have missed the boat. My blog was loaded with original content and like my inquisitive mind covered a variety of topics. If I had built a real and tangible brand, I should have done it years ago and struck while the iron was hot. For now, I question my own future of blogging. Not because I don’t love it— trust me, if I didn’t love it, I couldn’t do it. Nor would I have been able to teach it. But moreso, I ask myself, what’s in store for this platform? Will it continue to fade and die a slow death like a Shakespeare character?

The internet is a peculiar place—that never forgets, so what we put out into cyberspace may come back to haunt later.

But all worlds eventually come to an end. Even, especially ours.

So what’s your vote? Is blogging over? Or are you like me, a writer, who creates art for art sake and is hopeful to the end?

Getting into…Book Mischief

Yesterday I headed to the 20th annual Los Angeles Times Book Festival held at the beautiful USC campus. Literary mayhem at its finest. The festival featured two jam packed days of free readings by a veritable who’s who in the national literary scene, Los Angles Times journalists and celebrity authors. There were poetry readings, books galore, book clubs, art and photography, live music, all set to the international foods that make us the city’s cultural diversity. It was like being dizzy on the spoken word!
It was even exciting getting there; the Gold Line to a shuttle bus that took the participants directly to the campus. From my window seat, I got to admire the old homes in the hills and see the repainted Shrine Auditorium. Like Dorothy in Oz, I returned home again. And best of all, the experience will make for special stories to share with others.

Honesty: the best of all the lost arts



Writing is my love. But it wasn’t always this way, I had a love-hate relationship with it for years. I’ll spare you the details for another time. I do so much of it now that it feels when I’m not doing it, something is off. It’s my mind and heart in unison, communicating and singing together in harmony. Sometimes, it’s a matter of words getting reasonably sorted, arranging them like a conductor to sound out their rhythms. One has to continually learn the art of a good sentence, the ways to tailor cadence. The more I maneuver and manipulate the more I find lines and paragraphs becoming supple material to work with; to construct, assemble, polish to the right pitch.

It’s an ongoing process of learning and refining. You have to love language. Once in a while a word pops into my head and I have to look it up to make sure it’s just right. That I find interesting and exciting. My precision while hard to live with serves me well in this respect. I just can’t let it go, it has to have the perfect meaning and intonation to have power.

I read so much material that people send me that I thought I’d write this post for them and offer my tips. Sometimes their work is good, other times it oozes imperfection, is long-winded and in my opinion denotes a lack of attention. So I ask you reader if you are a writer these questions:

1. Do you read your material aloud? That usually reveals a multitude of sins, such as repeated words, or overly long baggy sentences.

2. Do you look at your previous work and wince at the grammar? You can only improve by working at it. Grammar is not my strongest suit, but I forced myself to learn or re-learn it because I had a motive and desire to improve.

3. Do you look at your work with a critical perspective or find yourself being complacent. Where do you want to go next? Is it worth pushing yourself out of the comfort zone to do so? If a section you wrote doesn’t flow, why – and how can you rectify it?

The flip-side to ‘write, write, write:’ is ‘read, read, read.’

And finally, every writer has a different trajectory, and way of doing things. So many love to write about packaging up their personal experience then delivering it as truth. Of course we all have our own quirks and interests and means of getting our work done. So don’t beat yourself up, perhaps some of this will be relevant, or maybe it’s not, but only you can answer that question.

Crack that Shell

Years ago I was talking to a friend telling him how difficult it was to write. He stopped me and asked would I write for something other than the recognition and success? I thought he was crazy to insinuate that it be a hobby— after all I had already been published! Didn’t he know who he was talking to? To my detriment, I stayed in that state of mind. The truth is, he was making me take a break from my complaining and to find a reason outside of my false ego.

As any artist will tell you, you have to have a driven dancing&tutuspassion that will sustain the most challenging of times. Writing is like a marriage; easy to be happy when you are naïve and hopeful but harder to sustain in maturity when know the pitfalls. With pitfalls, you can choose to opt out and point blame or you find other reasons to keep going.

The relationship you have with your Art is similar; it has to go beyond the superficial aspects of glamour. It has to motivate you even when you know what you’ve written isn’t any good. And trust me on this one, it will happen. Not everything you write will be beautiful and lush. You will spend days writing only to see it land in the trash.

There’s no other way to get better than to practice and to adopt diligence and faith.