Twain and classic literary characters roam Old Town!

Mark Twain uses his cane to point out his classic novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Many 19th century authors and fictional characters were seen walking about during TwainFest.
Mark Twain uses cane to point out his classic novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Many 19th century authors and fictional characters were seen walking around during TwainFest.

TwainFest last summer was awesome. So today I had to go again!

A uniquely wonderful cultural event, TwainFest celebrates Mark Twain and other famous 19th century authors. Held every year in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the event includes games and activities for the entire family, including Costume and Liar’s contests (the latter as a tribute to Twain’s tall tales), vintage dancing, and all sorts of historical performances and reenactments. TwainFest is presented by Fiesta de Reyes and created by the literature-loving folks at Write Out Loud.

I walked about randomly for about an hour just aiming my camera at familiar old classics that I love come to life. I saw lots of San Diegans in period costume, many portraying well known characters from literature.

I hope you enjoy these photos…

A random writer helps to pen one of three endless stories at the family friendly event. ...And, lo, from out of the mist stepped a phantom it was the ghost of Mark Twain!
A random writer helps to pen one of three endless stories at the family friendly event. …And, lo, from out of the mist stepped a phantom: it was the ghost of Mark Twain!
Mr. Samuel Clemens, American author of many famous books and stories, relaxes under a tree in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park during 2015 TwainFest.
Mr. Samuel Clemens, American author of many timeless books and stories, relaxes under a tree in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park during 2015 TwainFest.
Mark Twain's beloved character Aunt Polly is looking around for Tom Sawyer and Huck, who are probably running about engaged in mischief once again.
Mark Twain’s beloved character Aunt Polly is looking around for Tom Sawyer and Huck, who are probably running about engaged in mischief once again.
Some lively Irish music dating from the Old West is played during TwainFest on the Fiesta de Reyes stage. Laughter. Levity. Literature.
Some lively Irish music dating from the Old West is played during TwainFest on the Fiesta de Reyes stage. Laughter. Levity. Literature.
A storyteller making the rounds at TwainFest asks the audience between musical performances to solve humorous riddles.
A storyteller making the rounds at TwainFest challenges the audience between musical performances to solve humorous riddles.
This elegantly-dressed gentleman informed me he would be reading classic fiction to the crowd later today.
This elegantly-dressed gentleman informed me he would be reading classic fiction to the crowd later today.
Not to miss this history and literature-inspired event, a couple of fun-loving pirates come shuffling along through Old Town's central plaza.
Not to miss this history and literature-inspired event, a couple of fun-loving pirates come shuffling along through Old Town’s central plaza.
Oh, goodness! It's one of the most famous fictional, rascally pirates of all! Long John Silver! What's that in the bottle
Oh, goodness! It’s one of the most famous fictional, rascally pirates of all! Long John Silver! What’s that in the bottle?
Captain Swordfish, representing the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and a really big harpoon. Perhaps it was once used to hunt Moby Dick.
Al Sorkin, aka Captain Swordfish, represents the Maritime Museum of San Diego. That’s a really big harpoon! Perhaps it was once used to hunt Moby Dick.
These two friendly folks in period costume were greeting visitors at the entrance to the Casa de Estudillo.
Two friendly people in period costume were greeting visitors at the entrance to the Casa de Estudillo.
This funny guy said he was a sort-of Mad Hatter with a Bowie knife! He looked more like a 19th century Willy Wonka to me!
This funny guy said he was a sort-of Mad Hatter with a Bowie knife! He looked more like a 19th century Willy Wonka to me!
Uh oh. While no one was looking Henry David Thoreau got out of his jail cell!
Uh oh. While no one was looking Henry David Thoreau got out of his jail cell! That was awfully disobedient!
These two snake oil salespeople were selling Ether of Muse. One whiff of the potent elixir and writing literature is a snap.
These two snake oil salespeople were selling Ether of Muse. One whiff of the potent elixir and writing literature is a snap.
This mild, ordinary lady in a bonnet demonstrated what happens when one sniffs essence of Emily Dickinson. She recited breathless poetry for minutes on end.
This mild, ordinary lady in a bonnet demonstrated what happens when one sniffs essence of Emily Dickinson. She recited breathless poetry for minutes on end.
Girl greets large puppet Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson at 2015 TwainFest in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park!
Girl greets large puppet Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson at 2015 TwainFest in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park!

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Love, magic, and how to really change the world.

Many harvested sunflowers.
Abundant sunflowers.

With love and (what seems) magic we can actually change the entire world. I’m absolutely serious.

Here’s a very short story I wrote a couple months ago. It seems to affect people deeply.  I’m going to reblog the story just this once.  Perhaps you might enjoy reading it. The story is titled An Unexpected Sunflower. Simply click the link. As you will see, you can truly change the world.

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White whale glimpsed from deck of world’s oldest sailing ship.

San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts begins the Moby Dick Marathon Reading on the poop deck of the Star of India.
San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts begins the Moby Dick Marathon Reading on the poop deck of the Star of India.

The Star of India is the world’s oldest ship that sails. It’s docked in San Diego Bay. Yesterday, from the barque’s 150 year old deck, a rare white whale was glimpsed like a snowy hill in the air, far, far away. The whale was just visible, a dim revelation, at the edge of human sight.

Mysterious and sublime, the elusive Moby Dick was seen by a fortunate few in the imagination’s eye, as readers took turns speaking words on pages that were written over a century ago by the great American author Herman Melville.

The wonderful Moby Dick Marathon Reading commenced at noon, and continued far into the dark night. The event was put on by the Maritime Museum of San Diego and Write Out Loud. I swung on by a few times, breathed in the mood, the salt air. I love the novel. It might be my favorite. I love the idea of reading atop the swelling sea, about a bright phantom moving darkly below, down in the unfathomable depths.

The Maritime Museum of San Diego and Write Out Loud created a cool event that hopefully becomes a yearly tradition.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego and Write Out Loud created a cool event that hopefully becomes a yearly tradition.
Diagram of Bark Star of India, launched as Euterpe on November 14, 1863 at Ramsey, Isle of Man. The world's oldest active sailing ship and oldest merchantman afloat.
Diagram of Bark Star of India, launched as Euterpe on November 14, 1863 at Ramsey, Isle of Man. The world’s oldest active sailing ship and oldest merchantman afloat.
An ageless volume of classic literature, published in 1851, shortly before the construction of this ship, was shared by many readers, many voices.
An ageless volume of classic literature, published in 1851, shortly before the construction of this ship, was brought to life by many readers.
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail...
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail…
Listeners follow Melville's words with their own beloved books, or gaze out at the water on a fine summer day on San Diego's Embarcadero.
Listeners follow Melville’s words with their own beloved books, or gaze out at the water on a fine summer day on San Diego’s Embarcadero.
Kids walk up onto Star of India's high poop deck. Perhaps the eyes of youth, probing the horizon, can discern the strange wonder of Moby Dick.
Kids walk up onto Star of India’s high poop deck. Perhaps the eyes of youth, probing the horizon, can discern the strange wonder of Moby Dick.
Or age with its wisdom, staring into thin pages, might glimpse the white whale.
Or age with its collected wisdom, staring into thin pages, might glimpse the white whale.
White sails, yards, shrouds, ropes and blue sky.
White sails, yards, shrouds, ropes and open blue sky.
Illustration on plaque found on main deck, showing a Pull on the Lee ForeBraces. The sails must be kept to the wind.
Illustration on plaque found on main deck, showing a Pull on the Lee ForeBraces. The sails must be kept to the wind.
Passionate reader turns the pages of Moby Dick. Melville describes many large cetaceans in the oceans of the world, but only one great white whale, nemesis of Captain Ahab.
Passionate reader turns the pages of Moby Dick. Melville describes many large cetaceans in the oceans of the world, but only one great white whale, nemesis of Captain Ahab.
Painting of Star of India under sail by marine artist Frederick Wetzel. The historic three-masted bark is shown clearing Point Loma during a festive event back in 1984.
Painting of Star of India under sail by marine artist Frederick Wetzel. The historic three-masted bark is shown clearing Point Loma during a festive event back in 1984.
Steering wheel and binnacle, instruments of navigation used by generations of restless, active seafaring men.
Steering wheel and binnacle, instruments of navigation used by generations of restless, active seafaring men.
The stern of our beautiful Star of India. A large American flag billows in the sea breeze.
The stern of our beautiful Star of India. A gigantic American flag billows in the sea breeze.
A reader awaits his turn. Ishmael recalls his strange voyage side by side with varied characters, representatives of the human race. Including a humane cannibal and a tyrannical captain.
A reader awaits his turn. Ishmael recalls his strange voyage side by side with varied characters, representatives of the human race, including a humane cannibal and a tyrannical captain.
The sun's horizontal rays turn gold as day nears an end.
The sun’s horizontal rays splash sails with gold as another day nears an end.
Ahab addresses Starbuck and crew: ...it was Moby Dick that dismasted me...I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn..and round perdition’s flames before I give him up...
Ahab addresses Starbuck and crew: …it was Moby Dick that dismasted me…I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn..and round perdition’s flames before I give him up…
Vengeance on a dumb brute! cried Starbuck, that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous...
Vengeance on a dumb brute! cried Starbuck, that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous…
Photo taken from wooden bench, over a skylight which provides filtered daylight for the ship's elegant cabin below.
Photo taken from wooden bench, over a skylight which provides filtered daylight for the ship’s elegant saloon below.
Reading on into the twilight. Once begun, the great novel drives onward, pulling readers into its tragic quest for an unpredictable, dangerous unknown.
Reading on into the twilight. Once begun, the great novel drives forward, pulling readers into its tragic quest for an unpredictable, dangerous unknown.
Shadow moves across the deep.
Shadow moves across the deep.
As the sun sets, by sheer chance it seems, Chapter 37 of Moby Dick is read, which is titled Sunset.
As the sun sets, by sheer chance it seems, Chapter 37 of Moby Dick is begun, titled Sunset.
Light shines from behind the figurehead of the beautiful Star of India, a favorite attraction on San Diego Bay.
Light shines from behind the figurehead of the beautiful Star of India, a favorite attraction on San Diego Bay.
Is that lone bird an albatross flown from Melville's great novel. No, just a gull in the dying light.
Is that lone bird an albatross flown from Melville’s great novel? No, just a common gull in the dying light.
The sky through ship's rigging is tinged orange, red, purple and gold.
The sky through ship’s rigging is tinged orange, red, purple and gold.
Night comes on. Melville has already referenced the blackness of darkness. He now speaks about the whiteness of the whale, and the majestic, pure, terrifying color white.
Night comes on. Melville has already referenced the blackness of darkness. He now speaks about the whiteness of the whale, and the majestic, pure, terrifying color white.
It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me.
It was the whiteness of the whale that above all things appalled me.
Before inevitable night falls and stars emerge, glowing color paints the world.
Before inevitable night falls and stars emerge, glowing color paints the world.
Masts of tall ship Californian, of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and a brilliant sunset. Unlike a fictional whale, these beautiful things are quite easily seen.
Masts of tall ship Californian, of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, and a brilliant sunset. Unlike a fictional whale, these profoundly beautiful things are quite easily seen.

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A short story to make you smile and cry.

sunflowers

Every few years, it seems, an unexpected sunflower springs up near the place where I live. So I decided to write a short story…

AN UNEXPECTED SUNFLOWER

(a small story)

by Richard

Lucy was surprised to see that an unexpected sunflower had sprouted in a corner of her backyard. Where it came from, she didn’t know. Every day she carefully watered the plant. It quickly grew.

When the bud opened the bloom was just glorious. Large, yellow and beautiful, like a cheerful sun in a small green world.

Gazing at the sunflower, Lucy felt that life was indeed good.

Every person on Earth, she thought, deserved the feeling that life is good. Why not? Suddenly she had an absurd impulse: to give that one magical flower to the entire world.

Every person should see it. Smell it. Touch it.

At last Lucy settled on her best idea. She’d give the sunflower to a friend, who would then pass the flower to another friend, who’d pass it to another friend… And so on.

Seven billion people on an impossibly big planet wouldn’t see her flower, but a few would. That’s the best she could do.

Several days later she carefully harvested the sunflower and placed it in a tall vase. She brought the flower across town and gave it to her Uncle Carl, who was under blankets with a bad case of the flu. A note was tied to the sunflower’s stem: Once this small bit of sunshine has been enjoyed, please give to a friend.

“Thank you,” he said, sincerely.

The next day Uncle Carl was visited by Alfonso, one of his war buddies. “Now you have to give this to one of your friends,” he said. “And add a little water.”

The sunflower descended like a beam of golden sunshine when Alfonso handed it to his daughter, Maria. She rose from her dining room chair, stunned. “That’s for me?” she asked, with absolute disbelief. “Seriously?”

“Yes,” he smiled. “You’re my friend, right? But read the note. You now have to give it to someone that you think is special.”

Maria gave the flower to William.

William gave the flower to Jerry.

Jerry gave the flower to Daniella.

Before class, Daniella handed the sunflower to her Geometry teacher. Mr. Harrow didn’t know how to react. “Read the note,” she explained.

“But the flower is drying out,” he said. “It won’t last much longer.”

“You’re the best math teacher I ever had. So take it.”

Mr. Harrow took the vase containing the sunflower home. He read the note attached to the stem: Once this small bit of sunshine has been enjoyed, please give to a friend. He wondered who the blue vase belonged to. He placed the vase by the television and thought of his late wife.

Next morning the flower had entirely wilted. The crumpled petals had lost their brilliant color and several had fallen off.

Mr. Harrow removed the note from the stem and put it in a drawer. He carried the vase out to his compost pile, and quickly tossed the flower onto the heap. The vase he carefully cleaned and placed in a corner of his quiet house.

The following spring Mr. Harrow took a slow stroll through the backyard on a gloomy, gray day. As he came around the garage he was taken by complete surprise. Two sunflowers were rising from the dead compost.

The small miracle caused Mr. Harrow to wipe away a few tears.

Perhaps, he thought, being a teacher of math wasn’t such a useless thing. Because he appreciated the revealed meaning of the sunflowers. And it was: simple multiplication can quickly encompass the world.

If seeds were carefully harvested from a dying bloom–and just two seeds sprouted–one sunflower might become two. Then, repeated, two sunflowers might become four. Four sunflowers might become eight. Eight sunflowers might become sixteen. And in 33 generations–33 years–one seed might produce well over seven billion sunflowers. Enough sunflowers for everybody. Everybody in the world.

Mr. Harrow found the old note in the back of the drawer. It still read: Once this small bit of sunshine has been enjoyed, please give to a friend. He then added in his own writing: When the bloom finally fades, harvest the seeds and grow more sunflowers. He made two photocopies of the note, one for each of his miracle sunflowers.

In math, even the smallest fraction contains world-changing power.  One in seven billion seems like nothing, until it is turned upside down.

. . .

Lucy lay in a dark hospital.

The memory of her miracle garden had long vanished.  She had become very old.

Judy, her granddaughter, came to visit one late Thursday afternoon. She was holding a surprise behind her back. She presented a sunflower, like sunshine, in a tall, new vase.

“Can you believe it? Out of the blue my best friend gave me this! Isn’t it amazing? And it has a strange note. I’m supposed to give this flower to someone I love. I would like you to have this.”

Attached to the stem of the sunflower was a small photocopied note. The first half of the handwriting Lucy recognized. It was her own.

To read more stories like this, visit Short Stories by Richard.

You might also want to check out my Foolyman Stories blog, for some creative writing that’s just plain silly!

Leonard Nimoy lives at Spock Block in Encinitas.

The Spock Block celebration centered upon Encinitas City Hall on Vulcan Avenue.
The Spock Block celebration is taking place near Encinitas City Hall on Vulcan Avenue.

The City of Encinitas, a coastal beach city in San Diego’s North County, has a week-long celebration underway honoring the late Leonard Nimoy. If the immensely popular actor, author, director, poet, songwriter and photographer had not passed away in February this year, he would have celebrated his 84th birthday last Thursday. Nimoy’s rich life and artistry is being remembered, as well as his iconic role as Mr. Spock on Star Trek. Encinitas City Hall is located on Vulcan Avenue, and as every Trekker knows, Vulcan was the name of Spock’s home planet. So by official decree, a short stretch of Vulcan Avenue has been temporarily renamed Spock Block.

Today I took a long stroll around Encinitas, hoping to spot a few cool sights in and around Spock Block. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be much going on. I guess there wasn’t enough time for preparation and publicity. Maybe next year the festival (or Enterprise!) can grow into a much more interesting phenomenon.  How about some cool displays?  A science fiction film fest?  A cosplay contest?  Get creative!

Fortunately, I did get lots of other awesome pics around Encinitas, so I suppose more blog posts will be forthcoming!

A restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway had a special Live Long and Lobster deal!
A fun-loving restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway had a special Live Long and Lobster deal!  Seems entirely logical to me!
Encinitas surfers arrive from Vulcan Avenue--or perhaps from Spock's home planet...
Encinitas surfers arrive from Vulcan Avenue–or perhaps an avenue located somewhere on Spock’s distant home planet…

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Sculpture of Mark Twain reading book on bench.

Sculpture of Mark Twain sitting on a bench at Fenton Marketplace in Mission Valley.
Bronze sculpture of Mark Twain sitting on a bench at Fenton Marketplace in Mission Valley.

A very famous author is known to hang out in San Diego.  He’s usually seen just off Friars Road in Mission Valley. He likes to sit on a bench at Fenton Marketplace in front of the International House of Pancakes!

Who is this celebrated writer of American literature? That prolific master of humor and satire, Mark Twain!

According to my research on the internet, Mr. Samuel Clemens seems to get around. He’s been seen in the same pose in numerous cities. That’s because the bronze sculpture, by artist Gary Lee Price, is practically mass-produced!

Samuel Clemens gazes up from his book.
Samuel Clemens gazes up dreamily from his book.
Mark Twain is reading his own classic American novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Mark Twain is reading his own classic American novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Famous author sits on bench by fountain in front of IHOP.
Famous author with biting wit sits on bench by fountain in front of IHOP.

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Mark Twain lives at Old Town’s TwainFest!

Here comes Mark Twain during Old Town San Diego's literary TwainFest!
Here comes Mark Twain during Old Town San Diego’s literary TwainFest!

One of my favorite San Diego events of all time took place today in historic Old Town!

TwainFest is an amazing annual festival celebrating Mark Twain and other famous authors from the 19th century. While there seems to be an emphasis on American and English novelists, I saw homages to writers, poets and storytellers from around the world. Scenes from American and California history also appear in several of the exhibits. Which makes sense, because Old Town is a history-filled park recreating the earliest days of San Diego!

To get an idea of what TwainFest is about, enjoy a quick look at these fun pics! And be sure to attend next year, if you can!

TwainFest is part of Stagecoach Days at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Event is part of Stagecoach Days at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
And here comes a towering puppet of American author Edgar Allan Poe!
And here comes a towering puppet of American author Edgar Allan Poe!
Lots of entertainment included a stage with music and various contests.
Lots of entertainment included a stage with music and various contests.
Music included those familiar old folk songs that had everyone clapping.
Music included those familiar old folk songs that had everyone clapping.
Costumed participants were roaming about the central plaza of historic Old Town.
Costumed participants roaming about the central plaza of historic Old Town.
Families enjoyed many activities including games.
Families enjoyed many activities including games.
Excited kids blast off across the grass in an old-fashioned sack race!
Excited kids blast off across the grass in an old-fashioned sack race!
Kids of all ages enjoyed many unique literature-themed games and activities.
Kids of all ages enjoyed many unique literature-themed games and activities.
The TwainFest Wheel of Fiction featured many famous writers.
The TwainFest Wheel of Fiction featured many famous writers.
Booth inspired by Lewis Carroll had me making up a silly word!
Booth inspired by Lewis Carroll had me making up a silly word!
Never-ending stories had visitors adding their imaginative sentences.
Never-ending stories had visitors adding their imaginative sentences.
The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County readies to soar from a catapult!
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County ready to soar from catapult!
I wonder if Mark Twain imagined kids would replicate his famous short story!
I wonder if Mark Twain imagined kids would replicate his famous short story!
Children really enjoyed this guy's amazing flea circus!
Children really enjoyed this cool guy’s amazing flea circus!
A flea performer mounts the trapeze before the incredulous audience.
A flea performer mounts the trapeze before the incredulous audience.
Girl uses magnifying lenses to watch a flea take a swan dive from high platform.
Girl uses magnifying lenses to watch a flea take a swan dive from high platform.
The Quotation Machine rumbled before producing a quote.
The Quotation Machine rumbled before producing a quote.
Here come some horses around the Old Town San Diego square!
Here come some horses around the Old Town San Diego square!
The Marshall informed me that all was well.
The Marshall informed me that all was well.
Small audience in one shady corner enjoyed music and stories.
Small audience in one shady corner enjoyed music and stories.
The big Liar's Contest featured lots of tall tales and jaw-dropping whoppers.
The big Liar’s Contest featured lots of tall tales and jaw-dropping whoppers.
This guy is demonstrating the eloquent effects of literary potions.
This slick salesman is demonstrating the eloquent effects of literary potions.
Bottled Verne, Dickinson, Whitman, Bronte, Byron and more!
Bottled Verne, Dickinson, Whitman, Bronte, Byron and more!
Voters in election of 1872 must pass a literacy test!
Voters in presidential election of 1872 must pass a literacy test!
Of course, TwainFest had a bookstore with many classics of literature!
Of course, TwainFest had a bookstore with many classics of literature!
People could trade places with Henry David Thoreau.
People could trade places with Henry David Thoreau.
The guilty author of civil disobedience!
The obviously guilty author of civil disobedience!
Thoreau locks himself in with a brave visitor.
Thoreau locks himself in with a brave visitor.
It's the Daniel Webster Frog Toss!
It’s the Daniel Webster Frog Toss!
Carroll's Red Queen challenges all comers to flamingo croquet!
Carroll’s Red Queen challenges all comers to flamingo croquet!
Old Town event included the historic Mason Street School.
Old Town event included the historic Mason Street School.
Actors read poetry from Alice in Wonderland in one room schoolhouse.
Actors read poetry from Alice in Wonderland in one room schoolhouse.
Here come participants in the literary costume contest!
Here come participants in the fancy literary costume contest!
The spirit of Twain lives at this wonderful annual festival.
The spirit of Twain lives at this very wonderful annual festival.

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