These are stories about those places that are noteworthy either as public attractions, or perhaps even quiet personal places that make a difference in people’s lives. They are the places that give us energy, sustenance and reflective moments that help us to live richer lives.

Palazzo in Firenze

Once upon a time, in a magnificent palazzo in the center of Firenze (Florence) Italy, lived Beatrice Portinari with her adoring family. They spent their summers and weekends in the cool Florentine hills in her family’s serene villa—the quiet and lush Tuscan countryside unfolding just beyond the city. Italy, in 1275, was on the cusp of the Italian Renaissance, poised to leave medieval times behind.

Tuscan hills at Villa

“Bice,” celebrated her 8th birthday with a lavish party at her country villa. There she met young Dante Alighieri for the first time. The 9 year-old-boy found himself speechless—love at first sight. More than just smitten with her beauty, he sensed something deeper. Her presence seemed to exude a spiritual quality, an aura of perfection. Had Dante seen an angel? Perhaps. Would his life ever be the same? No.

Dante Alighieri

Dante also lived in Firenze, but his family had a country villa, as well. In fact, his country home was just a ten-minute walk from Beatrice‘s place. Even though they shared a geographically small world, they only encountered one another a few times in their lives. Sadly, Bice died at the age of 24, but her influence remained a constant companion in both Dante‘s writing and in his dreams—she was his muse and inspiration.

Likeness of Beatrice

Dante‘s book La Vita Nuova was written about his love for Beatrice. His adoration was neither physical nor earthly, but was rather an ethereal, aspirational, platonic or even agape love that inspired his journey toward enlightenment. In Dante’s La Davina Commedia (The Divine Comedy), Beatrice appeared as a guide to lead him into Heaven. While Dante could only approach Heaven, Beatrice took her seat next to God, as an amazing divine spirit—truly other-worldly.

We imagine our “Best Self” as a modest reflection of Heaven’s perfection. In order to move toward our “Heavenly Best,” don’t we all need a muse—someone who inspires, guides and leads us to our highest possibility? How romantic a thought, to be smitten by an earthly presence who shows us a way that we could otherwise never even imagine. For us, the story of Dante and Beatrice presents a powerful, idealistic yet tangible image—a vision to help us navigate this Life on Earth and beyond.

Credits

Featured image above: Dante encounters Beatrice in the historic center of Florence, Italy C1285—this painting is dated 1883 by the artist Henry Holiday, on display in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England.

Dante: Painting by Attilio Roncaldier 1801-1884, Ravenna, Museo Dantesco.

Beatrice: Painting by Washington Allston 1819, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Related Stories and Music

Winter’s End
This musical story and lyrics were written by Cheryl, alone in Tuscany on a cold winter dusk as she gazed out the window toward the beautiful Villa Portinari. Following are her poetic musings put to music. 

Beatrice’s Ghost
This music was spontaneously written and recorded in our Tuscan cantina by Joshua Housh in 2009—inspired by the mystery of the nearby historic villas of Beatrice and Dante.

If you have a great life, but still sense a longing for something more; if you ever considered acting on your special dream that has waited patiently for what seems like an entire lifetime; or if you’ve ever tried to create, or even change a long-term relationship, this book may be for you.

The title is Time to Partner—Relationship Changed Through Dreams, Intuition, Trust and Courage.

The story of our journey into a new way to partner together is now available thanks to the wonderful capabilities of Apple Books. Originally, we documented our process of personal change by writing the story and then binding the books by hand—creating only 27 copies. That was over 20 years ago. However, more recently, technology has opened doors to other possibilities.

The entire book has been transformed into a digital format, exactly like the original (amazingly close, except for a few improvements). The new version includes stories, art, poetry, quotes and 14 original songs. In the book we share the details of the first four years of our partnered journey, openly disclosing the dissatisfaction, risk, creative spark, intuition, dream and magic exactly as it happened. Now, our hope of sharing it with a broader group has become a reality. As we pass the 50-year mark in our relationship, we think it is a good time to reissue the digital story.

Join us on our adventure

You can easily get the e-book with just a few clicks. However, the app is only available at the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Simply go to Apple Books and search for Time to Partner—download for free and you’re ready to start reading, viewing and listening.

Below is a short video called Accidental Authors, we made as a way to introduce the book. Check it out to discover something that might spark your own insights and inspirations. Also, feel free to share the link with any friends you think could be interested. Basically, we’re inviting you to take Time to Partner!

Cheryl and Emerson

Accidental Authors (Trailer)

Uncommon Promise (Music)

An “uncommon promise” became extremely important to us in the early years of our relationship. We knew we had to become impeccable with our word, and open and honest like never before. It was then, that we decided to use “Uncommon Promise” as the name for all of the art, music and stories we were creating together. Then, we decided to write our feelings of recommitment into a new song so we could capture that feeling and sincerity for all times. At that moment, we envisioned our journey into a stronger relationship like trying to discover an unimaginably beautiful Pearl. We haven’t yet uncovered everything we’ve been searching for, but remain committed to the quest.

 

Summers’ submittal

On a beautiful morning, July 1st, 1849 Dr. John Edward Summers, an Army physician was on duty at the Mission of San Diego de Alcalá. His task was to record the weather conditions at the post. So he followed orders, even though they were out of the ordinary, and submitted his findings to Washington. In doing so, he became the first official “weather observer” in what was to be the city of San Diego, California—in the United States of America. That simple action began a maritime tradition that would continue on into the future.

Urban Lighthouses

Fast forward 155 years to 2004. The beautiful city of San Diego had grown and changed dramatically. The twin residential towers called “Grande North and South” on Pacific Highway neared completion with a surprise in store. Artist, Spencer Finch, was diligently designing a special project for the apex of the architectural masterpieces. His vision harkened back through time to Dr. Summers, his fateful orders and the ongoing seafaring tradition of reporting the weather. The Grande sculpture became a modern-day “lighthouse,”  with a dramatic effect, visible for miles around.

Watercolors of the sky

In his own words, Finch described his inspiration and intention: “My vision was to create watercolors of the skies that would become a project of light and shadow in the sky at an enormous scale, thereby making the connection between the picture, the idea and the weather forecast.” His creation would tie directly to weather data, giving immediacy and accuracy to his ever-changing climate-predicting message.

Sunny skies tomorrow

To this day, beacons of light announce the upcoming weather. A plaque on a column at the Grande Towers bears the 2000 year-old saying: Red skies at night, sailors’ delight. Gray skies at morning, sailors take warning. Every evening the massive lanterns mimic the layered Pacific skies—with either an orange/red mesmerizing glow like a California sunset, (signaling yet another clear day of delight) or, both towers become a moody gray/blue/violet (if rain is in the forecast). A passing glance at the colors, orange or blue, communicates tomorrow’s prediction. Reporting the weather has never been easier or more straightforward.

Whether you’re an art aficionado, a weather enthusiast, or just wonder if you’re going to need an umbrella, you’ll love Spencer Finch’s Grande idea.

 

Related Story and Music

Still Water

Still Water.

Discovering the Grande Towers and their maritime tradition, we were taken back to a storied time of our own when we battled “Will against will, with the sea.” Fifteen years ago seems like yesterday with fond and vivid memories for sure. We had decided to go on a week long sailing trip to Croatia with friends. It was unlike us, certainly not our normal routine, but we approached it as an opportunity—a very different kind of “workshop” that would certainly teach us something important about ourselves, since it would be so different than anything we had ever done or known. It did exactly that! [. . .]

Coffee is an integral part of Italian culture.

Intreccio

Every morning begins with an espresso, a cappuccino, or a caffè macchiato (an espresso, stained with milk). A fresh pasta, pastry, typically accompanies the coffee. Just those two simple ingredients constitute collazione, breakfast. There are coffee bars in almost every town, even tiny burgs where there are few, if any other shops. We’ve enjoyed the simple ambience of many and how they must compete for the loyalty of locals. Now that the Tokyo olympic games are over, we thought it would be fun to conduct our own little competition for the best Tuscan coffee bar this season!

The criteria for judging this play-off has been established as follows:

(1) best espresso—duhh?

(2) friendliest barrista/staff 

(3) yummiest pastries—whether made in the back room kitchen or brought in daily from a nearby pasticceria, pastry bakery

Sara waiting to go for coffee

(4) best dog treats (Our ever-present doxy, Sara insisted.)

And since we’re reasonably sure that we’ve visited just about every bar in Tuscany at least once for the past two decades, we consider ourselves “expat-experts” of sorts.  

Three outstanding bars made it to the last round of the competition after extensive discussion and debate. The finalists are: 

Bar Cesare in Florence, definitely excels with its in-house pasticceria. Their sfoglia con ricotta, crispy-layered pastry with sweetened cheese, are so delicious that it jostles memories of the famous cartoon dog who floated mid-air with delight when he was given a dog treat. But alas, Bar Cesare offers absolutely NO dog treats. Sara gave it a “dew claw down” (the doggie version of a thumbs down). In fact, the owners, staff and patrons pay very little attention to Sara. Too bad guys! 

Cafe Lorenzo, (which we have written about before) is located in Pian di Mugnone. Great ambience, yummy pastries (made fresh every day on site) and macchiati—so good that we had to restrain ourselves from excessive savoring, to accommodate the rapid 2-sip custom. However, despite their strong competitive scoring, their dog treats are always scraps of cornetti (croissants). So, due to that avoidable, yet critical omission of actual heart-healthy dog treats, we moved on. Sorry Lorenzo

Outstanding K9 hospitality

Cafe Plineo, located in the river-town of Sieci, proved to be the toughest of all competitors. Their coffee is excellent; the owners are delightful; they have a pastry called an intreccio—a cinnamon braided pastry with walnuts (with an outlandish premium 10 ₵ surcharge); and they ALWAYS, ALWAYS make-over Sara and give her a wholesome dog treat just for being cute. Needless to say, Plineo won the competition “paws-down” with the warmed-up intreccio and hearty treats for sweet Sara. According to Sara, they won by a nose—which, for a dachshund is a significant point margin. 

Walter, Simone & 2021 Trophy

Congratulations to Walter (say Vall-tear) and Simone (Mario, unfortunately wasn’t there for the closing ceremony). We appreciate all that you guys do each day to make our Italian bar-hopping experience more delicious and enjoyable—also, for the heartfelt hospitality you extend to dear Sara, our poochy companion. She appreciates your attention to the moon and back.

So, Dear Readers, if you ever find yourself near the small town of Sieci, along the Arno river, you must stop at Plineo for a taste of an incredible intreccio and where you can get a dog treat to go!

Thus ends the annual “Best Italian Bar” competition for 2021 (special pandemic edition). 

Ciao, ciao, ciao!
Cheryl, Em and Sara

You might also enjoy another doggy/bar story complete with music called “Isabella“—written in 2013 about our other previous Italian Doxy companion.

There’s an old saying about Tuscan wines—a Chianti wine you want in front of you at the table. A Pomino wine you must keep by your side—so special, it’s to be reserved for just the right moment.

Pomino

While hiking on a crisp, clear spring morning in the Pratomagno hills of Tuscany, we came upon a valley view that drew us deeper into the Frescobaldi family history. Pomino (which means little apple) is a small town tucked away in the Tuscan Hills that surround the beautiful Renaissance city of Florence, Italy. In 1716, the Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici identified the four most highly prized territories of Tuscany for the production of wines. Today, not many know about the intimate burg of just over 200 people, but they certainly know of the famous wine that’s produced there—Pomino Bianco. The town’s elevation is some 600 meters above sea level, where white grapes grow best, so that’s the specialty in that small region. Pomino and its renowned wines are a relatively small part of the historic Marchesi de Frescobaldi estate, which has remained a family operation for over 30 generations and 700 years.

Castello Pomino

Clearly we are not wine experts, but we are compulsively drawn to the serenity, beauty and history of Tuscan culture. Surrounding the ancient Castello Pomino, lay an incredibly lush valley of vineyards. The castle was built in the 1500s and now serves as the centerpiece for that unique wine-making territory. The owners refer to the area as: “Elegance and femininity. A hidden gem that’s revealed among the woods of the Florentine mountains.” Irresistible!

The Frescobaldi family made wines that were well known throughout Europe. They socialized with the likes of artists, such as Donatello, Michelozzo Michelozzi, and Filippo Brunelleschi. Most Florentines will tell you that their city, although cosmopolitan, actually enjoys a “small town” feel. Everybody seems to know everybody else. So it’s no surprise to learn that Frescobaldi furnished wines to the well known locals, and further afield to the Papal Court in Rome. After all, at the World’s Fair of 1873 in Vienna, the wines of Pomino won coveted awards, and in 1878 took the gold medal at the World’s Fair in Paris, the highest international recognition of its time.

Splash of white wine

You might say that our story is similar to a Pomino wine—you want to save it until just the right moment. We find ourselves reminiscing about those beautiful treks through the rolling Tuscan hills. Now, some 10 years after that quiet hike in the Pratomagno, we decided it was the right time to “uncork this story.” Ahh, breathe in the distinct magic of the elixir! We savor every sip of those memories and hope you too become a bit intoxicated by the romance of it all.

Related stories and music

Tuscan Hills

You might also enjoy another story about inspiration in the Pratomagno mountains called Nipozzano Castle—have a look! And just to get you in the mood for a hypnotic Tuscan adventure, below is our song called “Tuscan Hills” written in 2003. Enjoy!

Gallery

This is a short story with a long, happy ending.

Sometimes, we want something to happen so badly, that we will do just about anything humanly possible to make it so. But, no matter how hard we try, plan and anticipate, it seems that we just can’t force a yield. NOPE. Not happening. 

Then, in that final minute, we wonder whether trying one last time might be the magical push that will work—or maybe just one more try after that? Perhaps another?

Let’s face it. It seems that it would be a cryin’ shame if we gave up just one moment too soon. Then, how do we know when to stop? A reasonable person would understand how to decide that tricky question. But, are WE reasonable? Sometimes, we’re NOT!

Voila!

So, here’s the deal. All we wanted to do was create a little one-room studio apartment in Italy. That sounds so romantic, yet easy enough. Then the twelve months project turned into four grueling years, and we were on the verge of giving up—calling it quits—surrendering to the powers that be—bowing to the bureaucracy—admitting defeat. Then, Voila! One last gut-wrenching try turned our building dirge into a victory dance. Ahhhh!

What we learned was this: there is no real answer to the question of when to let go. The dilemma is always “of the moment.” It can’t be graphed, outlined, critical-pathed or magic-8 balled ahead of time. We’ll quit when we quit . . . or not. Perhaps we might muster an ounce of courage and effort in the last seconds of trying. Give it one more go. When that final push results in success, we are reminded to NEVER GIVE UP! This may be a fool’s lesson, but we’ll take it. ALWAYS try one more time! TRUST in yourself and the process—there could be magic just around the corner!

We invite you to read our BACK STORY—called “Meeting the Notaio.” It’s the story with a happy ending, no matter what trials and tribulations are encountered.

Color us sad.

We were born right smack-dab in the middle of the 20th century. Our entire lives have been full of national middle-class possibility. The Great American Dream was truly achievable, if not expected. The idea was so ingrained in us that we never thought consciously about it. Hard work was the key. As Americans, ideals were at our fingertips—the promise of equal opportunity for all, freedom, prosperity and justice. Right? We fully understood the power of that promise and took full advantage of our privilege. Privilege. Back then, we had no idea that being white had anything to do with anything. But now, we clearly understand that isn’t true. As most “people of color” would say at that time, those years may have seemed more like an American nightmare.

The President of the US at the time was Harry Truman, who signed an Executive Order calling for military integration of races in 1948. Shortly after that, in 1954 the Supreme Court declared an end to Jim Crow laws that allowed separate schools for black and white students. That seminal case, Brown v. The Board of Education, signaled the beginning of the end of state-sponsored segregation. 

The famous, Ben’s Chili Bowl

So we were born into the era of desegregation—at least that was our assumption. Seventy-three years later we caught a first-hand glimpse into a different perspective, through a virtual reality documentary film, “Traveling While Black.” The Canadian/American film was directed by Roger Ross Williams and released in 2019. It was both shocking and powerful for us. The film was set in Ben’s Chili Bowl, a well-known diner in Washington DC. Through the magic of 3-D headsets, we sat virtually with three African-American people in a 4 person booth, listening as they talked about their experience as traveling citizens. It seemed so realistic. Clearly, we had lived in different times, places and cultures. The truth is, we were fellow Americans, but to those people of color, we were inhabitants of totally different countries on opposite sides of the earth. What they said was disturbing and deeply sad.

1940 edition

In 1936, during the era of Jim Crow laws mandating segregation, New York City mailman Victor Hugo Green wrote the “Green Book” to help those of color navigate the hostile and often dangerous American highways and byways. The automobile generally symbolized freedom and made leisure travel possible. Disturbed with “separate, but unequal” public transportation, African-Americans bought cars, if they could, to gain some degree of control over their lives. But even though they could travel, they were often met with a hostile experience—routinely denied access to motels, restrooms, diners, and all other necessities while on the road. The “Green Book” became an essential guide to avoid “discomfort, discrimination, segregation and insult,” as George Schuyler wrote in 1930. It truly was a stressful period in American history where unconscionable discrimination was openly enforced until 1965 when many of the laws were finally overturned. But that certainly wasn’t the end of disdain and discrimination.

Tamir Rice 2002 -2014

Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice sat across the table from us at Ben’s Chili Bar, recounting the details of the tragic day when her son died. Everyone in the diner respectfully turned to listen—you could have heard a pin drop. On November 22, 2014 a 12-year-old African-American boy, full of promise, was killed in Cleveland, Ohio. A  26-year-old white policeman, Timothy Loehmann, was the on-duty officer that day. Rice was carrying a replica toy gun which was all the reason Officer Loehmann needed to justify shooting him. The event happened in the blink of an eye. The squad car pulled alongside Tamir, who visibly shrugged his shoulders. In the police camera footage that’s all we saw. But Loehmann responded to the shrug with gunshots. Tamir died the following day. 

Samaria Rice recounting the tragic events

Our experience that afternoon in the Chili Bowl was terribly uncomfortable, as we sat there alongside the community of color. We were riveted to every word painfully shared by Samaria Rice. All eyes were focused on her and also on us, her booth-mates and the only white people in the room. They looked to us for minute indications of shock, sadness, empathy, solidarity—humanity. Whether traveling across our country or even within their own neighborhoods, people of color have told similar heart-wrenching accounts. Tamir’s story is but one sad tale of events—amid countless insults and injury over centuries. We hope that the “regulars” at Ben’s Chili Bowl who were peering into our faces, saw the empathy and humanity they longed to see.

The hope for shared humanity was the overarching message in the “movie. “The “Green Book” remains an important historic reminder that change and promise may be slow in coming, but they are always possible. We must believe that—and make it so.

 

Related Story and Music


End of the Line,” written in 2005 also explores the importance of moving beyond a dualistic world-view to become more accepting of differences; less focused on division; interested in breaking down barriers—simply more inclusive. Feel free to check it out if you’re so inclined.

There’s nothing quite like a good friend!

Best friend Emelee

The saying goes that all you really need in this life is love, a therapist and a good friend, not necessarily in that order, or even all of them at the same time. The “Big Three.” It’s dynamic. For us the love can be a person, a thing or an activity; the therapist can be a religious leader, counselor or healer; and the friend can be a spouse, family member, acquaintance or a beloved pet. In fact, the best of times is when love, the therapist and the friend ARE experienced, all three together. And once in a great while, it’s possible to have all three wrapped into one—for example, in the form of that special little dog. She can be a trusted confidant, someone who will never disclose a single word you’ve said. She can deliver fur therapy that dries the most mournful tears. She might follow every step you make, mirroring the very essence of friendship. To imagine Life without the “Big Three” is to ask the question: How long can you hold your breath under water?

Not that long.

Flame of Friendship

Our morning walk/exercise takes us by a beautiful sculpture that always makes us smile. The name is “Flame of Friendship” by the famous Mexican artist/sculptor Leonardo Nierman, located between the Marina and the Convention Center in San Diego. It was dedicated in 2000 as an expression of the warm friendship that exists between the US and Mexico—a centuries-old partnership, an intertwining of cultures, faiths and the very definitions of the two countries.

Friendship is a fundamental human need that finds expression at many levels: personal, interpersonal, cultural and national, creating bonds that we might literally guard with our very lives. Why? Because our humanity depends on them. We share a fundamental human need for warmth and connection. May the Flame of Friendship! burn ever more brightly.

Gallery

You might be interested in few other stories and songs about different expressions of friendship that have been meaningful for us over the years. Following are three musical stories that begin painting a picture of what friendship/love can look like in the everyday and how simple actions can instantly plumb the depths of feeling, emotion and life itself.

Musical Stories

Finally Friends

Circle of Trust

Helping Hand

Family Ties

Hidden bits of history are embedded within the new.

Inside new buildings and structures of any large city we find traces of grandeur, clues to a vibrant, distant past. Days-gone-by are tucked in and amongst new forms. We love the diversity and visual interest that’s generated when styles and eras get juxtaposed against each other—natural companions like a grandmother and toddler out for a walk in the sun.

When we moved to San Diego, we wanted to explore and learn all we could about how the city has cared for its elderly buildings—that tells much about who a town’s people really are. We couldn’t think of a better place to start than the old majestic theaters. We wondered: Where are they, and how have they been preserved for future generations? Here’s what we discovered.

Spreckels Theater

 

Terra cotta exterior

In the beginning.

San Diego philanthropist John D. Spreckels  changed the face of the city forever, with his great idea—a “Eureka!” moment. Just after the turn of the century, he decided to build a state-of-the-art theater downtown on Broadway. Completion was planned to coincide with the opening of the Panama Canal and the Balboa Park Exposition in honor of that opening. The theater was also planned to have the same number of seats as the year—1915. Spreckels hired architect Harrison Albright to design the interior in the ornate Baroque style, while the exterior was clad in the fashionably new architectural terra cotta. Their deadline, however, didn’t hold. They completed the project and opened three years ahead of schedule, on August 23, 1912. So, did they change the seat count or does the theater have 1915, as planned? That will remain as a good trivia question. 

Spreckels Marquee

The Spreckels Theater is especially important because it was the venue that made large scale performing arts possible in San Diego. Originally, the theater presented live theatrical productions since it preceded “talkies” and the creation of Hollywood, as we now know it. By 1931, everything had changed in terms of cinema-making and it was converted into a first-run movie-house to compete with the Balboa, Fox and California theaters, which had been built in the two decades following the Spreckels first opening, The city was growing fast!

Entrance lobby

Long after the decline of the Hollywood movie extravaganzas, in 1976 the venue was renovated to once again accommodate live performances as it still does to this day. The Spreckels Theater has proudly been in continuous operation as a theater for over 100 years with the exception of brief periods for renovation.

In 1975, the Spreckels Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and continues to operate as a state-of-the-art theater for the enjoyment of San Diegans and visitors alike.

Balboa Theater

The Balboa Theater is the quintessential Spanish Colonial movie palace.

The historic Balboa Theater opened in 1924, twelve years after the Spreckels. Designed by William H. Wheeler in the Mission/Spanish Revival style, the theater holds a special place in the hearts of San Diegans, since its name has always been tied to the local history.

Balboa interior

After years of struggle trying to save the old theater which had been vacant for over 20 years, it was finally added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. An important milestone was finally reached when after years of waiting, the city decided to fully fund its future. Following a careful renovation focused on restoring it to the original grandeur, it reopened as a performing arts venue in 2008 and has been welcomed back as a favorite performance location. The old theater holds a special sentimental attachment for those who have grown-up in the area and the many visitors every year. 

The Wonder Morton Organ

The 1339 seat Balboa Theater originally housed the famous Wonder Morton organ. But, the theater was in such poor condition that the city officials decided to move it for safe-keeping. It went to its new home, The Fox Theater in 1929. From that time, the Balboa functioned without an organ. After the Balboa was restored in 2009, it was then in need of another organ. The city searched for an appropriate replacement. In Pennsylvania, they finally found another 1929 Robert Morton organ, similar to the original—one of only four in the entire world. The organ was relocated to San Diego, where it was refurbished and rededicated. The original Balboa Theater organ still resides in the Old Fox Theater, which is housed inside the Copley Symphony Hall.

The Balboa Theater is also fortunate to be located at a prominent location within the city. It is adjacent to the new Horton Plaza Park, the historic Irving Gill Fountain in the park, and the historic USS Grant Hotel—all on Broadway!

Copley Symphony Hall—Old Fox Theater

Grand opening 1929

That sly Fox!

The Fox Theater first opened to patrons on November 8, 1929 with almost 3,000 seats, over twice the size of the Balboa Theater. Much has happened since then as the movie industry has gone through many changes resulting in closure of the Fox to the public in 1975. It was then converted for live productions in 1977, and reopened as a short-term use solution. Thinking that the movie palaces were relics of the past, city leaders and developers turned their focus elsewhere, even considering demolition as perhaps the best alternative. 

History is tucked inside!

Interest in building an office tower in place of the theater sparked both controversy and creativity. But what about the Fox Theater? The creative solution was to completely strip away the exterior and build a new structure around it without disturbing the original theater within.

In 1985, the old Fox Theater reopened with a new name, the Copley Symphony Hall—an amazingly beautiful restoration, tucked deep inside the new office/hotel/parking tower. Imagine the old Fox Theater as the core of the structure with everything else built completely around it. No matter what goes on in our modern world, the Fox is protected and preserved. Nothing impacts the theater, since it is cocooned inside the Symphony Hall structure. The Fox has its own foundation and a buffer of space around on four sides with its own roof—literally nothing touches it. The solution was a stroke of genius, creating a true win/win for everyone involved. 

Interior detailing is impeccable

While the modern work was underway outside the theater, there was a concurrent project to completely renovate and restore the inside of the theater to meet current codes and return it to its glory days of 1929, as accurately as possible. Fortunately, the company that originally painted the Fox was still in business for the 1985 restoration. So, of course they were hired again 56 years later to completely reproduce the authentic opening-day color scheme. They repainted the faded surfaces, the colors popped, and the Old Fox was revived—brought back to life for a new purpose in all of its historical beauty. 

Organ rises from the floor

Today, during  special performances, the “Wonder Morton” organ rises from its secret hiding place below the stage. The projectionist also casts images on a lowered screen, using the two original carbon-arc projectors for special showings. The combination of the sound of the organ along with the images, creates quite a breath-taking experience! We think that multi-media is a modern invention, yet at the revived Fox Theater, we get a glimpse into the creative imaginations of times gone by.

The grand marquee

Although the grand marquee is now gone, it was a necessary compromise to save the essential parts of the theater. It would  be interesting to have that fantastic piece of illuminated art positioned over the new entrance—in stark contrast to the contemporary tower—an exciting signal that a surprise awaits within: The Old Fox theater, that movie-land jewel of another era is hidden safely inside!

 

The beautiful Fox Theater is our grand finale. We hope you enjoyed this little tour of the “Majestic Theaters of San Diego.” If you get the chance, visit them in person—there’s nothing like seeing the real thing!

Note: The featured black and  white photo at the beginning of this story is in honor of the “New California Theater” of San Diego, which opened in 1919. At the time, it was called the “cathedral of the motion picture,” with ceilings of gold leaf, murals throughout and its own Wurlitzer organ. The original beauty has since faded as neglect has taken its toll. Hopefully, some day soon, it will see its own restoration and resurgence back into the main stream of San Diego’s artistic lifestyle—a dream that is long overdue! 

You might also enjoy another story about discovery, recovery and conservation called “Water’s Edge.” However, instead of architecture in a city, it dives into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of the beautiful Italian island of Elba. Join us for an excursion into the “deep blue” with a side trip into our own psychologies.

music

 

Italy is in a class all by itself.

The incomparable Vespa is known around the world, but that’s just one minor detail in the vast array of Italian accomplishments. The distinctions are many, including: food, art, the Renaissance, the Roman Empire, the Vatican, incredible villas, world-class fashion, fast cars (Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati ), passionate lovers, espresso, the original organized crime group (a dubious distinction), beautiful cities, culture, opera, and the list goes on and on. But, in addition to the many significant accomplishments over literally millennia, there is nothing quite like the unique Italian personality—a tireless energy, generosity and unmistakable presence, easily seen in their facial expressions, synchronized with flamboyant gestures or easily heard in their voices, as they speak. Spoken words sound like poetry, lyrical and lilting. The Tuscans are particularly proud of their language, since their favorite son, Dante Aligheri, invented it.

Traveling around Italy, wandering the towns and narrow back-streets, one can find all sorts of clever, cute, hilarious and sometimes downright unbelievable Italian sights. Following is a gallery of some surprising and often quirky discoveries we’ve made over several decades of living amongst the amazing Italians. They offer a seemingly endless source of inspiration, and yes, humorous, free entertainment. Their most fascinating contributions can be found scattered around in the every-day activities. You absolutely have to love the Italians!