Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Brief Visit To North Park

As many of you would have noticed by now, a smorg is a slow-moving creature. And as I've had quite a bit of distance to move of late (have just relocated to the South Bay area of Chula Vista... quite a few miles closer to the Mexican border), I have been even slower-moving than usual!

I did get up to visit the old haunts in North Park over the weekend, though (had to go see about a few old furry friends). Dropped off some mails at the always overly busy North Park Post Office on Grimm St... I wonder which speedophobic architect designed the place. Everything there seems set up to make the traffic flow as retarded as possible. Just have a look at where they've set up the quick-drop mail boxes... Why put the things out of reach against the building where people have to park and get out of their car to deposit their mail when they could have put the boxes at the edge of the sidewalk where people can just drive by, roll down their car window, drop their posts and be off?

The staff inside do their best, of course, but the building fights rather than help them move the customer through the line as quickly as possible. It also doesn't help that there are rarely ever more than 2 customer service staff manning the counter at the same time (so the line goes right out the front door on a regular basis).

I also dropped in at Auntie Helen's, the perpetually characterful thrift-shop on 30th between Lincoln and Polk with its eclectic but always friendly staff and clientele... and manned by the gay world's most serene-tempered dog (don't get startled if the white fluffy shawl on the countertop suddenly shifts its position or raises its head to sniff at you... it really actually is a dog!).

Last Sunday in North Park was actually livelier than usual with its Festival of the Arts taking over University Avenue between 30th and 32nd Streets. Multiple stages showing live rock bands, dance troupes, local kids music programs, local vendors, lots of good food.

I followed a particularly inviting scent to a stall near Illinois St where a friendly guy was grilling a bunch of mouth-watering Mexican hotdogs (fat sausages wrapped in juicy bacon!). Naturally I couldn't resist ridding him of the well-endowed links...

Though, as you can see from the photos, bacon has a demoralizingly disturbing way of shrinking into near-nothingness as it makes its way from the grill to my plate... Where the heck did all that tasty bit of fat go???

Don't be alarmed by the cloudiness in the video, though. It's normal weather for San Diego this time of year. The locals call it 'May Gray' and 'June Gloom'... The low layer of cloud usually burns off by noon and leaves you with a brilliantly sunny afternoon that explains nearly everyone's tan (and skin cancer, among other things).

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

RIP Giuletta Simionato (1910 - 5 May 2010)

A sad news for the operatic world today. Giulietta Simionato (12 May 1910 - 5 May 2010), the great Italian mezzo-soprano (also known as Maria Callas' best friend and singing partner), passed away at Via di Trigoria in Rome, Italy earlier today. Simionato was a superstar in Romantic Period Italian opera from the 1930's until her retirement in 1966 and helped ushering in the rejuvenation of the bel canto operas... for which I shall be eternally grateful.

There are many good clips of La Simionato on Youtube and elsewhere. This one features her in the wonderful Santuzza-Turiddu duet from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana from 1955 with Giuseppe Di Stefano. One good news is that she is very well represented on good quality CDs. There is nothing like getting to hear her live, of course (I didn't... I wasn't even the sparkle in my father's eyes yet when she retired from the singing scene), but even an electronically captured glimpse of her is worth seeking out.

This should also remind many of us not to take the wonderful singers performing on the stage today for granted. They won't always be there. If you have a chance to catch someone like Jonas Kaufmann, Edita Gruberova, Nina Stemme, Patricia Racette, Vesselina Kasarova, Renee Fleming, Ewa Podles, Bryn Terfel, Juan Diego Florez, Ramon Vargas, Simon Keenlyside and others live today, for Pete's sake, don't put it off!