Homeless man sleeps beneath angels.

homeless man sleeps beneath angels

Early this evening, while I walked from work to the trolley station, I spotted this weird but truly wonderful car. I’ve seen it several times in recent months parked in the same area.

As I took out my camera, a man with a green parrot on his shoulder emerged from within and gave a friendly hello. He didn’t mind having photos taken. He claimed pictures of his strange vehicle are all over the internet.

He explained he was homeless. When I asked his name, he replied Peter Pan, followed by numerous other names, all beginning with the letter P.

He was very glad to show off his unique creation!

The roof of the car is topped with numerous bird cages containing angels. The hood features a detailed winter scene with Christmas trees, quaint houses, reindeer and snowmen. On the sides of the car are Christmas ornaments and a variety of snowy scenes from the holiday season, plus images from British literature and classic children’s stories. He pointed out painted pictures of Scrooge and Marley’s office, Mary Poppins with her umbrella, the Baker Street residence of Sherlock Holmes, the Wonkavator from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the flying bed from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He loved pointing out every detail!

He lamented that other homeless people were often mean, tearing off bits of scenery and tossing them over a nearby fence onto the trolley tracks.

I asked Peter Pan if decorating his car was done just for fun, or if he had some larger purpose. He indicated it was his hobby.

I must confess, I love the same classic stories that he loves. Most are joyful fantasies from childhood. (How fitting a bookstore is in this photograph’s background!)

sweet fantasy and the imaginarium carriage

Here’s a close-up pic of the car’s opposite side. The Christmas Imaginarium Carriage appears to be the fantastic vehicle’s name!

Cowboys have gunfight on a San Diego street!

Cowboys have a gun battle in San Diego's Old Town.
Cowboys have a gun battle in San Diego’s Old Town.

Look at these larger-than-life cowboys! They’re shooting it out in Old Town!

This whimsical art can be found on San Diego Avenue, in a courtyard among shops and restaurants catering largely to tourists. I’m not sure whether it represents the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral or just an Old West scene from a typical Western movie.

Is one of the cowboys Wyatt Earp? After his famous gunfight, Wyatt moved to San Diego to participate in a land boom, running saloons, gambling halls and a brothel!

cowboys have gunfight on san diego street

Like the plant beside him, this guy might soon get planted.
Like the plant beside him, this guy might soon get planted.
Wyatt Earp was here.
Wyatt Earp was here.
Stern lawman patrols San Diego Avenue.
Stern lawman patrols San Diego Avenue.

Is this the most haunted house in America?

perhaps the most haunted house in america

Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, the world famous Whaley House is undeniably an interesting place!

This rather plain-looking house, located near the center of Old Town at 2476 San Diego Avenue, fairly oozes with history. And it is said by some to be the most haunted house in America!

Now a museum, the Whaley House was built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley, a New York businessman who originally came to California for the gold rush of 1849. It was the very first two-story brick building in San Diego, built in the Greek Revival architectural style. In addition to being the Whaley family residence, at different times it served as the location of a general store, a county courthouse, a commercial theater, a ballroom, a school and polling place.

Various murders, hangings, suicides and untimely deaths have occurred in and around the Whaley residence. Up to half a dozen different dead Whaleys are said to linger as ghosts. The place has developed such a reputation as a haunted house that the museum offers late night ghost hunting tours. Over 100,000 people visit the museum annually.

Several months ago I happened to find myself near the Whaley House with a little free time. Seeing a docent dressed in a period costume standing on the front porch, I made my way over to speak with her.

She was very friendly. She seemed sincere when she claimed to have had several ghostly experiences in the Whaley House. She claimed that she’s heard footsteps pacing in the upstairs theater when nobody was present. She’s also seen a strange shadow moving back and forth on an upstairs wall, with no perceptible source.

The cashier at the gift shop next door claimed to have seen the mysterious shadow, as well. I asked her if she believed in ghosts, and she carefully remained neutral. I was interested to see that almost every book and souvenir in the gift shop exploited the museums’s spooky reputation, including shirts that read “Got Ghosts?”

Life Magazine and Travel Channel’s America’s Most Haunted have both called the Whaley House the most haunted house in America. The Whaley House has appeared on numerous popular television shows and firmly established itself in the popular culture.

Old Town's historic Whaley House.
Old Town’s historic Whaley House.
Gazing toward Whaley House past gas lamp on San Diego Avenue.
Gazing toward Whaley House past gas lamp on San Diego Avenue.
The luxurious Whaley House served as granary, store, courthouse, school and theater.
The luxurious Whaley House served as granary, store, courthouse, school and theater.
Whaley House, built 1856-57, is the oldest brick structure in southern California.
Whaley House, built 1856-57, is the oldest brick structure in southern California.
Boy ventures into supposedly haunted Whaley House.
Boy ventures into supposedly haunted Whaley House.

Graveyard contains early San Diego residents.

graveyard contains early san diego residents

El Campo Santo (which means “The Holy Field” in Spanish) is a small Roman Catholic graveyard in Old Town, nestled between buildings several blocks south of the State Park. It contains a variety of weathered tombstones and crosses marking the final resting places of many early San Diego residents. It is designated California Historical Landmark #68.

Established in 1849, the cemetery reached full capacity in 1880. Today it is a popular attraction for passing tourists.

Walk about carefully and read the old inscriptions, and you’ll discover pioneer families, soldiers, politicians, small children, Mexicans, Native Americans, unknown people, rich and poor, educated and illiterate . . . buried side by side.

Nearly five hundred people were buried at El Campo Santo. One of the graves belongs to notorious Santiago “Yankee Jim” Robinson. He stole San Diego’s only row boat, and was hung at the site of the nearby Whaley House.

Supposedly all sorts of ghosts, vapors, hovering torsos, spectral figures and weird apparitions have been seen at this cemetery. And supposedly they set off car alarms along San Diego Avenue.

One ghost is said to be a prostitute who was denied burial. Another is said to be Antonio Garra, a notable Native American. As chief of the Cupenos tribe, Garra led an uprising in 1851 against the people of San Diego due to unfair taxation. When finally captured, he was made to stand beside an open grave and executed by firing squad.

If such ghosts do exist, it seems they have one definite reason to be upset! In 1889 a horse-drawn streetcar line was built right through the hallowed cemetery. In 1942 the tracks were paved over with asphalt, creating the busy roadway. Today, according to a sign by the sidewalk, there are numerous graves directly under the street!

People read plaques and headstones in Old Town cemetery.
People read plaques and headstones in Old Town cemetery.
Do not disturb the peace and tranquility of those who have reposed from earthly cares.
Do not disturb the peace and tranquility of those who have reposed from earthly cares.
More than 20 men, women and children lie buried beneath San Diego Avenue.
More than 20 men, women and children lie buried beneath San Diego Avenue.
Grave site marker embedded in San Diego Avenue asphalt.
Grave site marker embedded in San Diego Avenue asphalt.
The Holy Field contains many of San Diego's original residents.
The Holy Field contains many of San Diego’s original residents.
Sign in wall that encloses El Campo Santo.
Sign in wall that encloses El Campo Santo.

Boring object transformed by inspiration.

transformer transformed into cacti

During my walk through Old Town I spotted this electrical transformer in a patch of cacti. It was artfully painted to fit right in!

I love how a little imagination can change a dull, boring object into an inspired piece that fits into greater beauty. Very cool!

Utility box in Old Town painted with cacti.
Ugly transformer in Old Town transformed into cacti.

Mexican cafes and cantinas in Old Town.

Just one of many colorful eateries along San Diego Avenue.
Just one of many colorful eateries along San Diego Avenue.

These pics offer a sample of the sort of Mexican-themed eateries one encounters in the commercial part of Old Town, which runs several blocks south of the State Park along San Diego Avenue. Lots of seating outdoors, an eyeful of festive colors and a cool, laid-back Southern California atmosphere.

Eating great Mexican food outdoors in San Diego's Old Town.
Eating great Mexican food outdoors in San Diego’s Old Town.
Fountain and splash of color in courtyard of an Old Town restaurant.
Fountain and splash of color in courtyard of an Old Town restaurant.
Keep Calm and Drink Tequila.
Keep Calm and Drink Tequila.
Old Town pedestrians can buy hot buttery tortillas.
Old Town pedestrians can buy hot buttery tortillas.
Ladies prepare fresh tortillas for people passing on the sidewalk.
Ladies prepare fresh tortillas for people passing on the sidewalk.
Bienvenidos a Old Town! Where great food and a festive atmosphere mingle with San Diego's rich, colorful history.
Bienvenidos a Old Town! Where great food and a festive atmosphere mingle with San Diego’s rich, colorful history.

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Priest on steps of historic Old Town church.

priest on steps of historic old town church

I was fortunate to get this great photograph while walking past the Immaculate Conception Church last Sunday morning. (Yes, I did a lot of walking last weekend!) It’s located directly across the street from the colorful shop in the previous blog post.

This historic church in Old Town was built in 1917, and its bell tower contains one of two original bells from the centuries old San Diego Mission. The other bell can be found at Mission San Diego de Alcala in Mission Valley.

I believe that’s a Catholic priest by the front steps with his hand on an elderly gentleman. It’s a warm gesture and a beautiful photo!

Here are more pics taken on later dates…

Man looks up at entrance to church.
Man looks up at entrance to Old Town church.
One of the original mission bells.
One of the original San Diego Mission bells can be seen in tower above.

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Colorful market on a corner in Old Town.

The Old Town Market is one very popular destination.
The Old Town Market is one very popular destination.

Little shops selling all sorts of colorful souvenirs, curios and crafts can be found everywhere in Old Town, both in the State Park and in the touristy area just to the south. Many of the items for sale are Mexican in origin or style. You can find pottery, painted tiles, jewelry, maracas, pinatas, lucha libre masks, and all sorts of unique leather and wood-carved crafts. A few stores have a Western theme and sell cowboy hats, boots, Native American art and other stuff related to the American frontier experience. It’s fun just to browse and soak it all in!

Kid checks out a bunch of Mexican Lucha Libre masks.
Kid checks out a bunch of Mexican Lucha Libre masks.
Tourists take a stroll through the colorful Old Town Market.
Tourists take a stroll through the colorful Old Town Market.
Very colorful pottery can be found everywhere.
Very colorful pottery can be found everywhere.
Painted tiles for sale hang on an orange wall.
Painted tiles for sale hang on an orange wall.
Vendor at Old Town Market at work with a power drill.
Vendor at Old Town Market at work with a power drill.
Painted plates for sale in a corner of Old Town.
Painted plates for sale in a corner of Old Town.
Many Western items on display in an Old Town shop.
Many Western items on display in an Old Town shop.
Hundreds of Mexican ornaments and trinkets.
Hundreds of Mexican ornaments and trinkets.
Colorfully painted gourds and posters.
Colorfully painted gourds and posters.
A guitarist performs for shoppers.
A guitarist performs for shoppers.

Ghosts from history and a walk through Old Town.

ghost from history walks through old town

No, that isn’t really a ghost. At least, I don’t think so!

This cool photo shows a fellow dressed like an early resident of San Diego. I spotted him walking through Old Town first thing in the morning, before the daily throng of tourists began to filter in.

You can walk with a costumed tour guide and learn all about the early history of San Diego, back when the tiny, seldom-visited town belonged to Spain, then Mexico, then finally the United States. The hour-long walking tour is free and begins at the Robinson-Rose House at the northwest end of the large central plaza. Several historic buildings and interesting museums are visited during the leisurely tour. Whether or not you see a ghost might depend on your imagination!  The walking tours begin at 11 am and 2 pm.

Tour guide shows native Lemonade Berry near Casa de Estudillo in Old Town.
Tour guide shows native Lemonade Berry near Casa de Estudillo in Old Town.
Friendly volunteer tour guide sums up San Diego's early history at end of a fascinating one hour tour.
Friendly volunteer tour guide sums up San Diego’s early history at end of a fascinating one hour tour.

United States flag raised in Southern California.

united states flag raised in southern california

This historical plaque, located in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park’s grassy central Plaza de Las Armas, reads:

On this spot the United States Flag was first raised in Southern California by Lt. Stephen C. Rowan U.S.N. commanding Sailors and Marines July 29, 1846

Looking past the bronze plaque at a few Old Town buildings.
Looking past the bronze plaque at a few Old Town buildings.