Cool street mural celebrates human imagination.

Lizards undergo transformations in a very creative street mural in San Diego.
Lizards undergo transformations in a very creative street mural in San Diego.

Here’s a very cool mural I spotted last weekend after I watched the Boulevard BOO! Parade. I was just walking along through a neighborhood west of San Diego’s College area.

You can find this artwork at the corner of 56th Street and El Cajon Boulevard.

Ant and cacti grown to gigantic proportions beside an ordinary sidewalk.
Ant and cacti grown to gigantic proportions beside an ordinary sidewalk.
Cool urban art attracts the eye and stimulates the mind of those passing by.
Cool urban art attracts the eye and stimulates the mind of those passing by.
Colorful images on a building at 56th and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego.
Colorful images on a building at 56th Street and El Cajon Boulevard in San Diego.

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Bocce Ball Tournament at Little Italy’s Festa.

Participants in Little Italy's Festa Bocce Ball Tournament at practice.
Participants in Little Italy’s Festa Bocce Ball Tournament at practice.

During last Sunday’s Festa event in San Diego’s Little Italy, an exciting bocce tournament was held at Amici Park, right next to all the glorious Gesso Italiano chalk art.

Bocce is similar to lawn bowling and dates back to the ancient Roman Empire. According to a plaque set in the concrete near one of Amici Park’s bocce courts, it’s the world’s oldest sport!

I captured a few pics of the action!

Two bocce courts are open to the public in Amici Park near sculptures of Italian food!
Two bocce courts are open to the public in Amici Park near sculptures of Italian food!
Man prepares to strategically send bocce ball down the long court.
Man prepares to strategically send bocce ball down the long court.
Watching the action on a lazy, perfect San Diego weekend.
Watching the action on a lazy, perfect San Diego weekend.
I saw a lot of stylish hats and calculating, cunning players.
I saw a lot of stylish hats and calculating, cunning players.
Gentleman leans against checkered tablecloth set with a plate of metal artichokes.
Gentleman leans against checkered tablecloth set with a plate of metal artichokes.
Rules of bocce on a plaque. The right way to play bocce is the way your dad plays!
Rules of bocce on a plaque. The right way to play bocce is the way your dad plays!

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Take a cool ride on an old, restored streetcar!

Here comes the San Diego Trolley's cool Silver Line, approaching America Plaza!
Here comes the San Diego Trolley’s cool Silver Line, approaching America Plaza!

Do you love riding on trains? I do! Please take a ride with me on a cool restored streetcar that runs in a circle through downtown San Diego!

Here comes PCC 529 now, coming down the track toward the America Plaza trolley station! This beautiful President’s Conference Committee car was built in 1945 and is an example of the sort of transportation common throughout San Diego during that era. Streetcars have run through San Diego’s history since the 1890’s. Today they’re making a bit of a comeback with this Vintage Trolley, which runs on a downtown loop called the Silver Line.

PCC 529, before it was lovingly restored by volunteers, sat rusting under some pine trees in South Lake Tahoe. How it got there, I don’t know. But here it comes now, getting closer to the station, so lets tap our Compass cards on the ticket reader and hurry up to hop aboard!

PCC 529 is a lovingly restored President's Conference Committee streetcar.
PCC 529 is a meticulously restored President’s Conference Committee streetcar.
As we ride down C Street, a modern red trolley is seen on the opposite track.
As we ride down C Street, a modern red trolley is seen on the opposite track.

We immediately head up to the front seat to watch the friendly MTS driver pilot this old streetcar down the track. Unlike modern trolleys or light rail, this vehicle really clatters and jerks along and makes you feel like your laboring forward! Whenever the door opens, a bell rings!

Turning around, we notice the beautiful streetcar appears almost empty at the moment.
Turning around, we notice the beautiful streetcar appears almost empty at the moment.
No, there's one more passenger looking out the window at downtown San Diego.
No, there’s one more passenger looking out the window at downtown San Diego.
Images inside the Silver Line show streetcars on San Diego roads long ago.
Images inside the Silver Line show streetcars on San Diego roads and bridges  long ago.

Walking down toward the rear of the refurbished car, we check out some old black-and-white photos. It’s cool to envision the streets of San Diego filled with streetcars over half a century ago!

Here's an old photo of a streetcar that was pulled by a horse--or is that a mule.
Here’s an old photo of a streetcar that was pulled by a horse–or is that a mule.
Another passenger steps onto the restored trolley at the Fifth Avenue station.
Another passenger steps onto the restored trolley at the Fifth Avenue station.

The bells rings, the door opens, and another passenger steps aboard!

These windows open, so riders can enjoy the fresh air outside.
These windows open, so riders can enjoy the fresh air outside.

You can dangle your arm out a window if you like, I suppose. It’s fun to just sit and watch the buildings and people flash by. This is what I call riding in style!

As we get off at City College, other folks step aboard the historic streetcar.
As we get off at City College, other folks step aboard the historic streetcar.

Our short ride is over!

I turn around to enjoy another glance at this classic example of public transit.
I turn around to enjoy another glance at this classic example of public transit.
There goes PCC 529. That was one super fun ride!
There goes PCC 529. That was one super fun ride!

Thanks for joining me. That was fun!

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Watching for rare birds at Tweet Street park.

Looking west along the narrow linear Cortez Hill Park, also called Tweet Street.
Looking west along the narrow linear Cortez Hill Park, also called Tweet Street.

Every day for the past six years I’ve been watching for rare birds.

As you might have read on this blog, I live at the top of Cortez Hill in downtown San Diego. One cool feature of my neighborhood is a modest but well-loved park that awaits a few steps from my front door. Cortez Hill Park, more commonly called Tweet Street, is an extremely narrow urban park that stretches for several blocks along Date Street and Tenth Avenue. Completed in 2008, it includes a small playground, dog rest areas, and benches where visitors can rest and enjoy the San Diego sunshine. But Tweet Street’s unique purpose is to provide an inviting refuge of trees, shrubs and birdhouses that encourages birds to take up residence!

I remember when Tweet Street first opened, and my excitement. The artistic, brightly painted birdhouses were simply fun to walk past, and the idea that the park would soon be full of birds put a spring in my step.

Years later, I’m still watching for birds. Occasionally one can be glimpsed or heard in the deeper parts of the trees, or down on the hillside above Interstate 5. But to see a bird near the sidewalk is a rare thing. I’ve never seen a single birdhouse being used.

I suppose the lesson is that birdhouses shouldn’t be erected 5 or 6 feet from a popular walkway, where many people pass throughout the day, often with dogs. And that birds need a little more cover than what an extremely narrow park provides. Don’t get me wrong, I love Tweet Street! I love how the trees have grown out. I love walking along the park and gazing out at different vistas. The idea of attracting birds was terrific. But birds have their own notions about where to live. It seems they prefer a little more privacy.

Metal artwork resembles a bird perched atop trees in the downtown community.
Metal artwork resembles a bird perched atop trees in the downtown community.
Houses for birds are creative works of imagination, built by local artists in 2008.
Houses for birds are creative works of imagination, built by local artists in 2008.
Birds might choose to live in this traffic light.
Birds might choose to live in this traffic light.
Display near center of park shows how to build a birdhouse.
Display near center of park shows how to build a birdhouse.
Bees have taken over this wooden birdhouse.
Bees have taken over this empty wooden birdhouse.
The eyes of this colorful cat invite birds to enter.
The eyes of this colorful, weather-beaten cat invite courageous birds to enter.
Human condos and apartments are across the street from vacant bird housing.
Human condos and apartments are across the street from vacant bird housing.
House finches are among the birds that visit the Tweet Street park.
House finches are among the birds that occasionally visit the Tweet Street park.
Another fanciful birdhouse in the downtown San Diego park.
Another fanciful but unused birdhouse in the downtown San Diego park.
Stylish birdhouse, palm tree and downtown buildings.
Stylish birdhouse, palm tree and downtown buildings.
Squirrel perched on fence above Interstate 5 at edge of Tweet Street park.
Squirrel perched on fence above Interstate 5 at edge of Tweet Street park.

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African-Americans helped to build San Diego.

Public art at Lillian Place shows African-American history in San Diego.
Public art at Lillian Place shows many facets of African-American history in San Diego.

Should you walk through downtown San Diego’s East Village in the vicinity of 14th and J Streets, you might be attracted to several large yellow panels along the sidewalk. This proud display of public art at Lillian Place was raised to commemorate how African-Americans have played an important role in building our diverse and beautiful city.

The artwork is titled “A San Diego African-American Legacy” and represents African-American contributions to San Diego’s development and rich history.

Cast metal parachute recalls the Top Black Owned Business in the United States.
Cast metal parachute recalls 1943’s Top Black Owned Business in the United States.

Here’s a large portion of the text contained on the panels:

People of African decent were present in San Diego as early as the establishment of Presidio de San Diego in 1769, and played a role in settling the area now known as Old Town.

In the later decades of the 1800s, African-Americans began emigrating to Horton New Town, San Diego’s present-day downtown, relocating primarily from the southern US.

Religious institutions were, and continue to be a cornerstone of the African-American community. In 1887, the African Methodist Episcopal Church became the first organized African-American congregation in downtown San Diego, followed soon after by Calvary Baptist and Bethel AME. At the same time, African-American social and civic groups like the Violet Club, Acme Social Club and Fidelity Lodge #10 of the Prince Hall Masons became important organizations in the community.

San Diego was once the center of a thriving jazz, blues, and gospel music scene. The Creole Palace at the Douglas Hotel and the Crossroads Jazz Club were just two of the spots that hosted local and national talent playing to mixed audiences.

African-Americans have always played a major role in amateur and professional sports in San Diego. Local favorite Archie Moore fought at the city Coliseum as did other champions. San Diegan John Ritchey became the first black player in the Pacific Coast League when he was signed as a catcher to the then minor league padres in 1948.

The entrepreneurial spirit of the African-American community flourished through the 20th century with doctor’s offices, hotels and clubs, barbers and beauty parlors, cafes and restaurants, ice cream parlors, laundries, jewelers and pool halls that served the African American community as well as other San Diegans.

During World War II, African-American stunt pilot and businessman Howard Skippy Smith owned the Pacific parachute Company factory on 8th Avenue. Named the Top Black Owned Business in the United States in 1943, Mr. Smith operated an integrated work place that reflected the ethnic and racial diversity of wartime San Diego.

On this block of J Street, African-American Lillian Grant owned multiple buildings, offering rooms to an ethnically mixed clientele during the time of segregation. Next door at the corner of 14th and J Streets sat the Vine/Carter Hotels. Known as the colored hotels, it was owned and operated by African-Americans Alonzo and Katie Carter from the 1930s to the 1950s.

African-Americans helped build religious institutions and community organizations.
African-Americans helped to build religious institutions and community organizations.
Exact duplicate of baseball catcher's mitt from the 1940's made of cast metal.
Exact duplicate of baseball catcher’s mitt from the 1940’s made of cast metal.
Artwork shows San Diego an important center of jazz, blues, and gospel music.
Artwork shows San Diego as an important center of jazz, blues, and gospel music.
Hair curling iron symbolic of thriving African-American entrepreneurs.
Hair curling iron is a symbol of many thriving African-American entrepreneurs.

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Street art rough sketches on a downtown bridge.

Sketch of female face and buildings on Sixth Avenue bridge above Interstate 5.
Sketch of female face and buildings, on Sixth Avenue bridge above Interstate 5.

Just before sundown yesterday I spotted these small unfinished works of art while I walked over the Sixth Avenue bridge that spans Interstate 5. They were down near the ground right next to the sidewalk, beneath the chain link fence overlooking the freeway.

I wonder who sketched these small scenes. Was it an art student? Are these works in progress? Are they the doodles of some inspired passerby, or a creative homeless person?

Had it not been for my blog and my endless quest for new material, I probably wouldn’t have noticed these faint drawings.

Mysterious unfinished street art of woman holding hamburger.
Mysterious unfinished street art of woman holding hamburger.
Stylish figure on couch with vase seems the work of a practiced artist.
Stylish figure on couch with vase seems the work of a practiced artist.
A miniature horse runs along a sidewalk in downtown San Diego.
A miniature horse runs along a sidewalk in downtown San Diego.

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Joy of Urban Living mural in East Village.

Joy of Urban Living mural by Rafael Lopez.
Joy of Urban Living mural by Rafael Lopez.

Another mural representing the artwork of Rafael Lopez can be spotted on a parking lot wall in East Village. Appropriately called Joy of Urban Living, this mural is also part of the Urban Art Trail project in San Diego. An unknown prankster seems to have added the funny image you see in the third photograph.

Mural by East Village parking lot adds life to neighborhood.
Mural by East Village parking lot adds life to neighborhood.
Frankenstein monster head with tentacles added to mural.
Frankenstein monster head with tentacles added to mural.

Here’s a better photograph that I snapped at a later time…

An unobstructed photo of the Joy of Urban Living mural by Rafael Lopez.
An unobstructed photo of the Joy of Urban Living mural by Rafael Lopez.

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