Powerful genius at San Diego’s Ion Theatre.

The Aliens, a powerful award-winning play by Annie Baker, is now playing at the Ion Theatre in San Diego.
The Aliens, an award-winning play by Annie Baker, is now playing at the Ion Theatre in San Diego.

Yesterday evening I experienced something completely unexpected. Out of the blue I received a powerful jolt, as if struck to the core by a hammer.

What happened? I went to see The Aliens at the Ion Theatre. The Ion Theatre Company produces cutting edge live theater in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood. The Aliens is a very unusual and surprising play that won the 2010 Obie Award for Best New American Play. It was written by Annie Baker.

I wasn’t expecting such power.

The Aliens is well performed by three great actors: Brian Butler, Tyler Oakley and Reed Willard. The characters they portray are absolutely human–slightly absurd and terribly broken. They are troubled in ways that are disturbing, heart-wrenching. They are frustrated, uncertain, in pain, alienated, almost hopeless.

But they aren’t hopeless.

Each character possesses awkward warmth and connection. And humor.

Then, like a bolt from the blue, at the very end, the emotional hammer strikes. I won’t tell you what happens. You’ll have to find out for yourselves.

Here’s a hint. In everyone there is unique genius. And while some people might not go far in this world, that genius–that yearning outflow from each individual heart–never stops. Life’s path might be unexpectedly short, but genius does not die.

Thoughtful adults should see this play. Check out the Ion Theatre’s website. The Aliens runs through December 12.

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Photos of street art on University Avenue in Hillcrest.

Super cool street art on side of building on University Avenue in Hillcrest.
Super cool street art on side of building on University Avenue in Hillcrest.

A month or so ago I enjoyed a pleasant walk down University Avenue in Hillcrest, a neighborhood just north of downtown San Diego. I spotted a whole bunch of colorful artwork, which I’d like to now share. In no particular order:

I don't know if this qualifies as street art, but I like this cool Jack in the Box sign.
I don’t know if this qualifies as street art, but I like this cool Jack in the Box sign.
Exist1981 street art on a corner of University Avenue in Hillcrest, San Diego.
Exist1981 street art on a corner of University Avenue in Hillcrest, San Diego.
Fun chalk art sign in front of Fiji Yogurt.
Fun chalk art sign in front of Fiji Yogurt.
Long blue hair becomes ocean surf. Artwork painted on California Coast Credit Union.
Long blue hair becomes ocean surf. Artwork painted on California Coast Credit Union.
A colorful image of wine and grapes seen during a walk through Hillcrest.
A colorful image of wine and grapes seen during a walk through Hillcrest.
Filter...Where good things happen!
Filter…Where good things happen!
More cool street art in Hillcrest has a mythical, possibly Egyptian appearance.
More cool street art in Hillcrest has a mythical, possibly Egyptian appearance.
I was told by a worker at this thrift store that the rainbow-like mural is a work in progress.
I was told by a worker at this thrift store that the rainbow-like mural is a work in progress.
This large bold spray paint mural on University Avenue is signed by artists Fizix, Revolver, Eyemax 2015.
This large bold spray paint mural on University Avenue is signed by artists Fizix, Revolver, Eyemax 2015.
This is the best photo I could get of a really long colorful mural along a rooftop. I see James Dean and Muttley!
This is the best photo I could get of a really long colorful mural along a rooftop. I see James Dean and Muttley!
Live a great story. Sticker on a utility box.
Live a great story. Sticker on a utility box.
A school of fish on an electrical transformer box.
A school of fish on an electrical transformer box.
A windtorn mountaintop meditation, face in hands.
A windtorn mountaintop meditation, face in hands.

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Ace Hardware loading dock mural enlivens Hillcrest.

The Loading Dock is a large public mural painted by Linda Churchill of Muralizing. It's located on the west side of Ace Hardware, on Tenth Avenue near University in Hillcrest.
The Loading Dock is a large public mural painted by Linda Churchill of Muralizing. It’s located on the west side of the Ace Hardware building in Hillcrest.

Check out this public art!  You can find it a few steps south of University Avenue on 10th Avenue, in Hillcrest. The large mural enlivens the Ace Hardware store building and is a cool sight for those passing by.  It was painted by local artist Linda Churchill, whose work can be seen around San Diego. According to one article I found on the internet, “The Loading Dock” received an Orchid Award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation.

The Loading Dock, dedicated 1998 to the Community of Hillcrest by Joe Jeter, Bruce Reeves, Hillcrest Ace Hardware. Building our community one home at a time. Linda Churchill, muralist.
The Loading Dock, dedicated 1998 to the Community of Hillcrest by Joe Jeter, Bruce Reeves, Hillcrest Ace Hardware. Building our community one home at a time. Linda Churchill, muralist.
The cool, nostalgic trompe l'oeil painting depicts an old-fashioned hardware store loading dock, complete with realistic Ace Stores delivery truck.
The cool, nostalgic trompe l’oeil painting depicts an old-fashioned hardware store loading dock, complete with realistic Ace Stores delivery truck.
This image of yesteryear appears to include some modern hardware store products, including shiny new garbage cans and a nice big barbecue grill.
This image of yesteryear appears to include some modern hardware store products, including shiny new garbage cans and a nice big barbecue grill.
Two helpful Ace Hardware employees seem to have emerged from the past to welcome neighbors and shoppers who walk down the sidewalk in art-filled Hillcrest.
Two helpful Ace Hardware employees seem to have emerged from the past to welcome neighbors and shoppers who walk down the sidewalk in art-filled Hillcrest.

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Photos of art come to life at CityFest in Hillcrest.

Artist creates live street art during 2015 CityFest in Hillcrest.
Artist creates live street art during 2015 CityFest in Hillcrest.

This afternoon I walked with my camera through CityFest. The annual street festival attracts an enthusiastic crowd of about 150,000 people to Hillcrest, a community directly north of downtown San Diego. Hillcrest might be considered one of San Diego’s bohemian neighborhoods, where free-spirited artists mingle with happy-go-lucky youth and a sizable LGBT population. Everybody I saw was just out enjoying a good time.

CityFest is a very popular summer festival held in Hillcrest along Fifth Avenue, south of University.
CityFest is a very popular summer festival held in Hillcrest along Fifth Avenue, south of University.
Main stage at CityFest features live music from noon until almost midnight.
Main stage at CityFest features live music from noon until almost midnight.
Lots of artwork was being created while the public watched.
Lots of artwork was being created while the public watched.
Another big canvas brought to life by urban artists.
Another big canvas brought to life by urban artists.
Cans of paint in many colors.
Cans of paint in many colors.
Funky art could be spotted all around CityFest, as well as the usual street festival stuff including lots of food.
Funky art could be spotted all around CityFest, as well as the usual street festival stuff, including lots of food.
I don't know the name of this tall guy with the rainbow wings and multiple carnival mask faces. Lots of people were posing for photographs.
I don’t know the name of this tall guy with the rainbow wings and multiple carnival mask faces. Lots of people were posing for photographs.
The most crowded tent seemed to belong to the Rad Hatter, where young and old could craft unique paper hats for free.
The most crowded tent seemed to belong to the Rad Hatter, where young and old could craft unique paper hats for free.
Many local artists had their work on display and for sale at CityFest in Hillcrest.
Many local artists had their work on display and for sale at CityFest in Hillcrest.
Colorful pop art seems to be a favorite at this annual street festival.
Colorful pop art seems to be a favorite at this annual street festival.
I see Batman and Marilyn Monroe, among other boldly painted faces.
I see Batman and Marilyn Monroe, among other boldly painted faces.

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Super cool street murals on two Hillcrest walls.

Mermaids are one element in cool street art on wall of The Merrow.
Mermaids are an element in street art painted on outside wall of The Merrow.

Check out these photos of two building walls in Hillcrest. Both border a short driveway and tiny parking lot on University Avenue, next to The Merrow, a bar that features great live music, and Tabletop Commons, a cool eatery where diners can also play a huge assortment of games.

After looking at the names on one mural, and doing some searching on the internet, I believe these were spray painted–at least in part–by the prolific street artist Fizix. If someone knows more, leave a comment!

Ancient ship hull threatened by mines and an underwater plant with huge teeth!
Ship hull threatened by mines and a monstrous underwater plant with huge teeth!
Graffiti lady dances on wall bordering tiny parking lot, across from Tabletop Commons in Hillcrest.
Graffiti lady dances on wall bordering tiny parking lot, across from Tabletop Commons in Hillcrest.
Piano, face and mad swirls of color. More awesome street art in uptown San Diego.
Piano, face and mad swirls of color. Super cool street art in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood.
Another feast for the eyes painted in an art-filled neighborhood.
Another delicious bite of a visual feast.  Lots of urban art can be found in this uptown community.
Stylish figures on wall leading from alley to parking lot of The Merrow and Tabletop Commons.
Fantastic faces on wall next to The Merrow and Tabletop Commons.
Spray paint mural contains Egyptian symbols. A dazzling display of human creativity.
Spray paint mural contains Egyptian symbols and motifs. A dazzling display of human creativity.
Pink abstract cat awaits at edge of Hillcrest alley.
Pink abstract cat awaits at edge of Hillcrest alley.

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Before I Die: chalk street art dreams in Hillcrest.

People walk down a Hillcrest sidewalk past chalk street art desires.
People walk down a Hillcrest sidewalk past chalk street art dreams.

Human dreams are wildly varied and ever-changing. I saw proof of this in Hillcrest. Dozens of desires have been documented at a street corner on University Avenue, written in chalk on what appears to be a very large chalkboard. People passing by have paused for a moment to write what they would like to accomplish before they die.

This dynamic neighborhood, just north of downtown San Diego, is youthful and worldly. Those who’ve chosen to contribute to this participative street art have listed many dreams. Some are crude, some are desperate, some are erased.  Some are possible, some are impossible.  Some are profound. The absurd and the serious mingle together. Some dreams are mere whims, other dreams are ambitious. Some are selfish, some are unselfish.

Before I die I want to... Hunt mud ducks. Feel I am worthy.
Before I die I want to… Hunt mud ducks. Feel I am worthy.
Save the world. Make love. Visit Paris. Meet my biological parents.
Save the world. Make love. Visit Paris. Meet my biological parents.
Publish a book. Drink one more drink.
Publish a book. Drink one more drink.
Find hidden treasure. Find Waldo.
Find hidden treasure. Find Waldo.
People walk toward Alibi as they review reasons for living.
People walk toward Alibi as they review reasons for living.

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Creative trashcan art adds fun to Hillcrest streets.

Dozens of trashcans on the streets of Hillcrest have been painted by local artists.
Dozens of trashcans on the streets of Hillcrest have been painted by local artists.

In the past couple years, most of the trashcans lining the streets of Hillcrest have been colorfully painted by local artists. During a recent walk, I passed quite a few of these street art trashcans and took some photos. Many of these fun creations were seen along University Avenue, between Fourth Avenue and Park Boulevard.

Every sort of colorful design can be found on these decorated trash cans.
Every sort of colorful design can be found on these decorated trash cans.
Lighted buildings rise next to a guitar player strumming under the stars.
Lighted buildings rise next to a guitar player strumming under the stars.
Many of the trashcans have a carnival theme, with masks, happy faces and crazy fun.
Many of the trashcans have a carnival theme, with masks, happy faces and crazy fun.
People walk past a cool spot to toss garbage, on University Avenue near Fourth Avenue in Hillcrest.
People walk past a cool spot to toss garbage, on University Avenue near Fourth Avenue in Hillcrest.
This looks like some sort of strange bug jester.
This looks like some sort of strange bug jester.
Wildly creative street art can be found throughout San Diego's Hillcrest community.
Wildly creative street art can be found throughout San Diego’s Hillcrest community.
A purple mask-like face that's difficult to miss!
A purple mask-like face that’s very difficult to miss!
An exotic blue face near a dirty orange construction cone.
An exotic blue face near a dirty orange construction cone.
Bicyclist in Hillcrest rides down the sidewalk past another great example of trashcan art.
Bicyclist in Hillcrest rides down the sidewalk past another great example of trashcan art.
I think I saw this green face on Star Trek.
I think I saw this green face on Star Trek.
An artistic trashcan waits by a bus stop near the Hillcrest landmark sign.
An artistic trashcan waits by a bus stop near the Hillcrest landmark sign.
Masks and confetti represent the party atmosphere in youthful Hillcrest.
Masks and confetti reflect the party atmosphere in youthful Hillcrest.
A big, joyful saxophone has been painted on this trashcan.
A big, joyful saxophone has been painted on this trashcan.
Here's an urban rooster.
Here’s an urban rooster.
Pineapple, fresh strawberries, watermelon, and some litter.
Pineapple, fresh strawberries, watermelon, and some litter.
These trashcans with images of food are located near Normal Street.
These trashcans with images of food are located near Normal Street.
A tree along busy University Avenue adds even more life to the city.
A tree along busy University Avenue adds life to the city.
Trashcan with Sphinx and pyramids is appropriate for the Egyptian Quarter, near the intersection of University and Park Boulevard.
Trashcan with Sphinx and pyramids is appropriate for the Egyptian Quarter, near the intersection of University and Park Boulevard.
Female face with Pharoah mask was painted by a local artist on Park Boulevard.
Female face with a Pharoah headdress was painted by a local artist on Park Boulevard.

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