Old Town home of Squibob, who inspired Mark Twain.

One of San Diego’s most famous houses stands in Old Town at 4015 Harney Street. It’s a modest little structure that you might easily pass by without a second glance.

For a couple of years, 1853-1854, the Derby-Pendleton House was the home of Lieutenant George Horatio Derby, an American humorist who wrote articles for California newspapers, including the San Diego Herald, under the pseudonyms Squibob and John Phoenix. It is said his style of writing, employing absurdity, exaggeration, irreverence and good fun, inspired Mark Twain, Artemus Ward, Bret Harte and others.

Derby’s Wikipedia page states: According to the newly (2010) published Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. One, Ulysses S. Grant was a classmate of “Squibob’s” and the General told Twain some stories of Squibob at West Point.

In 1856 Derby’s immensely popular book Phoenixiana was published. It contains many of his humorous pieces, including articles he wrote concerning San Diego. I like the gentle humor of his description of Old Town’s Fourth of July in 1854. It is found on page 123: At 9 A.M. precisely, the San Diego Light Infantry, in full uniform, consisting of Brown’s little boy, in his shirt-tail, fired a national salute with a large bunch of fire-crackers. This part of the celebration went off admirably; with the exception of the young gentleman having set fire to his shirt tail, which was fortunately immediately extinguished without incident.

Why was Lt. George H. Derby, a West Point graduate and engineer of the United States Topographical Corps, in San Diego? To survey the San Diego River and build a dike that would divert its water into False Bay–now Mission Bay.

While in San Diego, he and his wife rented a prefabricated house that was originally brought by ship around Cape Horn. Learn all about the Derby-Pendleton House’s complex history here. It has had many owners, including William Heath Davis and Don Juan Bandini, and has been moved repeatedly.

You can see an historical marker concerning Derby Dike here. You might note that the marker was placed by Squibob Chapter, E Clampus Vitus.

The San Diego chapter of E Clampus Vitus, “a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West,” is named after Derby’s pseudonym, Squibob. The motto of Clampers is Credo Quia Absurdum, which purportedly means “I believe it because it is absurd.”

In 1962 an historical plaque was placed on The Derby-Pendleton House by the San Diego chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution. I took a photo of it yesterday.

Public domain photo of Lieutenant George Horatio Derby.
From the book cover of Phoenixiana.

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Frankenstein’s monster lives in San Diego!

A few months ago Frankenstein’s monster came to life in downtown San Diego. I saw the awesome monster this afternoon when I stepped through the door of artist James Watts’ studio!

The creature, years in the making, now lives among other imaginative sculptures and works of art. I blogged about some of that artwork a short while ago here.

Frankenstein’s monster has a skin made of hammered aluminum. He’s covered with images cut from old lunchboxes, advertisements, and other odd things. When the innocent monster was assembled and jolted into life, it appears his skin rapidly absorbed impressions from the world he was born into.

James Watts wants viewers of his art to make their own discoveries. Each block that composes the monster’s body is numbered. The two hemispheres of the brain include the word NO or YES. One includes the moon, the other the sun. He showed me several other cleverly arranged images. I saw fun word play.

The sculpture is like a giant jigsaw puzzle or visual poem. All is open to interpretation.

The heart of the Frankenstein monster is made of three pieces that fit together. One piece represents love, another lust, another the mind.

I saw several superheroes and cartoon characters on the monster’s skin, parts of old advertisements, and multiple instances of the Three Stooges.

What do you see?

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

The extraordinary TwainFest at Heritage Park!

TwainFest returned to San Diego today. And it was just as wonderful as ever!

This year the festival of mostly Victorian-era literature was held in Heritage Park, a short distance from Old Town. Families turned out to enjoy games, readings, reenactments of scenes from beloved books, puppet shows, costumed literary characters…you get the picture!

TwainFest is presented by Write Out Loud, whose mission is to inspire, challenge and entertain by reading literature aloud to audiences of all ages.

Write Out Loud offers educational programs, including performances for high school students, and they present the annual San Diego ​Student ​Shakespeare Festival in Balboa Park! Visit this website to learn more!

As I walked around Heritage Park enjoying the festival, I watched Tom Sawyer induce visitors to whitewash a fence, laughed at the craziness of a delightfully manic Mad Hatter Tea Party, lifted my eyes to giant roving Twain, Poe and Shakespeare puppets, and saw characters from Treasure Island and even some steampunk cosplay! There was action in every direction!

I finally joined other visitors to listen to The Extraordinary Mark Twain. Two actors–an older gentleman and youthful girl–painted a picture of the great American humorist and author. They employed the biography written by Twain’s daughter Susy. Her observations were published in 1988 and titled Papa: An Intimate Biography of Mark Twain.

We learned that Mark Twain had a Roman nose and kind blue eyes. And that he used strong words and had a temper. And that he was frequently absent-minded.

He was funny and philosophical and always very earnest.

And, of course, he loved a good joke.

My photos provide a small taste of today’s fun!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

People tricked by Tom Sawyer at TwainFest!

Tom Sawyer tricked several people at TwainFest today.

I was walking nonchalantly though Heritage Park near Old Town San Diego when Tom Sawyer passed by in a big hurry…

Did Tom Sawyer steal the school bell? Why the hurry? It appears Mark Twain’s beloved character is playing hooky, running through Heritage Park during TwainFest.
Uh, oh! Aunt Polly has spotted Tom and is giving chase!
Tom tries to hide behind a fence, but Aunt Polly is familiar with his antics and quickly finds him.
Aunt Polly tells that mischievous boy Tom he has a chore to do. He must whitewash the fence!
He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. –Mark Twain from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
Here comes Becky Thatcher, looking for Tom.
Becky observes poor suffering Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence.
Tom explains to Becky that it isn’t every day a person gets to whitewash a fence. In fact, it’s quite a privilege.
Becky Thatcher gives Tom a whole apple for this rare opportunity to whitewash the fence!
Several visitors to TwainFest are lured into Tom Sawyer’s scheme. They happen to find small objects on the grass nearby, and offer them to Tom so that they, too, might whitewash that fence!
Tom’s basket fills with contributions.
The TwainFest visitors and Becky get to work while Tom takes another bite from his apple.
Whitewashing the fence is such fun!
Tom Sawyer lies back with his apple and enjoys the fruits of his trickery.
Here comes Aunt Polly! Uh, oh! She’s searching for Tom!
Tom Sawyer’s in big trouble…again!
Tom does his best to explain this rather unusual situation, but Aunt Polly has heard it all. She isn’t easily fooled.
Tom shouts and points his finger into the distance, causing Aunt Polly to turn in surprise. That clever Tom Sawyer takes full advantage of his distraction! Run!
Tom Sawyer makes his escape!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Actors read literary works online for TwainFest!

The spirit of Twain lives in this wonderful annual festival.

Do you love reading literature from the 19th century?

I do!

I love Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, Jules Verne, Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville . . . there are too many great Victorian authors from this period to mention!

If you love to read these authors, too, there’s an online event in progress that you’ll probably like!

During this special event you can listen to selections from 19th century literature read aloud by San Diego actors!

It’s part of Write Out Loud’s virtual TwainFest, and you can subscribe by clicking here to get daily links to new YouTube readings in your email!

What was the event like before the coronavirus pandemic? To see photos from TwainFest last year in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, click here!

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 his cane to point out his classic novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

To read a few stories I’ve written, click Short Stories by Richard.

Cool photo memories from August 2015.

Another month has slipped away already? Summer is halfway over? The days fly quickly!

Well, I suppose it’s time to once again turn the clock back and recall what I was blogging about five years ago.

In August 2015 a whole bunch of interesting things were going on in San Diego!

In Old Town the early trades of San Diego came to life again, and Mark Twain and other famous authors seemed to rise from the dead! On the Star of India, the world’s oldest active sailing ship, an extraordinary Moby Dick reading marathon activated the imagination of those who listened. In Balboa Park, a special exhibit retold the history of the Spanish Village colony of artists, and suffragettes went on a march! At Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers were still in San Diego and putting on their annual FanFest!

And much more was happening all over the city, from Hillcrest to Chula Vista! Of course, I also saw a lot of fascinating activity downtown during my walks.

It was one very fun month!

Click the following links to see many photos!

Trades That Shaped the West live on in Old Town.

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

History of Spanish Village artists in Balboa Park.

Photos of San Diego Chargers 2015 FanFest.

Photos of art come to life at CityFest in Hillcrest.

Twain and classic literary characters roam Old Town!

Workers install engraved name pavers at Broadway Pier.

Fishermen unroll a huge net onto Tuna Harbor pier.

Photos of good times at Chula Vista’s HarborFest!

Suffrage rally and parade celebrates 19th Amendment.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Historical marker near Midway and Rosecrans.

Historical marker recalls early San Diego's La Playa Trail. This plaque can be found on Rosecrans Street near Midway Drive.
Historical marker recalls early San Diego’s La Playa Trail. This plaque can be found on Rosecrans Street near Midway Drive.

While walking around Point Loma this weekend, I came upon another historical marker with a plaque that commemorates San Diego’s famous old La Playa Trail. This marker stands in front of a shopping center near the corner of Midway Drive and Rosecrans Street. It features one of six similar plaques created back in the 1930s.

You can see a photo of another such plaque at the east end of the La Playa Trail, near Mission San Diego de Alcala, by clicking here. You can see a third plaque at the base of Presidio Hill and learn about the remaining three plaques (which I have yet to photograph) here.

According to Wikipedia: “The La Playa Trail was a historic bayside trail in San Diego, connecting the settled inland areas to the commercial anchorage at Old La Playa on San Diego Bay…The trail was used during the Pre-Hispanic (Native American), Spanish, Mexican and American periods of San Diego history. Much of the length of the original trail corresponds to the current Rosecrans Street in the San Diego neighborhood of Point Loma…The trail was already established by the time the Spanish settlers arrived in 1769; the first inhabitants of the area, including the Kumeyaay tribe, used it to access the beaches of San Diego Bay. It was improved and extended during the Spanish colonization of the region, reaching Old Town San Diego and Mission San Diego de Alcalá in Mission Valley by the 1770s. Cargo which had been unloaded by ship at Ballast Point in Old La Playa was transported along the trail several miles inland to Old Town…”

US Boundary Survey of 1850 shows the La Playa Trail along San Diego Bay and the San Diego River. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
US Boundary Survey of 1850 shows the La Playa Trail along San Diego Bay and the San Diego River. (New San Diego is where downtown is today.) Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Have you read the classic of American Literature, Two Years Before the Mast? It’s one of my all-time favorite books. Richard Henry Dana Jr. wrote an account of a sailor’s life on the coast of California in the mid-1830s, and a good portion of his fascinating narrative describes San Diego.

La Playa (then a beach on Point Loma just inside San Diego Bay) is where merchant ship Pilgrim unloaded cattle hides that had been gathered by Dana and his shipmates up and down the California coast. When Dana rode on horseback from the hide houses on the beach to Old Town, or farther east to Mission San Diego, he followed the La Playa Trail!

La Playa Trail. Oldest commercial trail in western United States. Erected by San Diego Historical Society. 1938.
La Playa Trail. Oldest commercial trail in western United States. Erected by San Diego Historical Society. 1938.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Great writing, reading celebrated at TwainFest!

Giant puppets representing Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe roam Old Town San Diego State Historic Park during 2019 TwainFest!
Giant puppets representing Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe roam Old Town San Diego State Historic Park during 2019 TwainFest!

Today I enjoyed one of my very favorite San Diego events. I headed to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park for a celebration of great writing and reading at 2019 TwainFest!

Literature is the focus of this annual festival–the most famous 19th century literature and writers in particular. Produced by Write Out Loud, TwainFest features live readings, performances, period music and costumes, games, and a variety of fun activities for the entire family.

Kids not only develop an appreciation for classic books, but they experience the joy of creativity!

Here comes a tall Mark Twain puppet walking through Old Town San Diego!
Here comes a tall Mark Twain puppet walking through Old Town San Diego!

A noon parade circles the Old Town plaza during 2019 TwainFest, where great writers and reading are celebrated!
A noon parade circles the Old Town plaza during 2019 TwainFest, where great writers and reading are celebrated!

Many characters in 19th century period costume could be spotted at the annual event.
Many characters in 19th century period costume could be spotted at the annual event.

Musical entertainment on the main stage. Fiesta de Reyes presents TwainFest by Write Out Loud. Laughter, Levity and Literature.
Musical entertainment on the main stage. Fiesta de Reyes presents TwainFest by Write Out Loud. Laughter, Levity and Literature.

This sea captain might have been an acquaintance of Herman Melville. He has been joined by Lewis Carroll's Red Queen.
This salty Captain Swordfish might have been an acquaintance of Moby Dick author Herman Melville. He has been joined by Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen.

I met Walt Whitman, who told me this is his first time at TwainFest.
I met poet Walt Whitman, who told me this is his first time at TwainFest.

One of many fun games at TwainFest. Spinning the Wheel of Fiction, in order to solve a literary clue.
One of many fun games at TwainFest. Spinning the Wheel of Fiction, in order to solve a literary clue.

Characters and scenes from Mark Twain's stories could be colored, like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.
Characters and scenes from Mark Twain’s stories could be colored, like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.

Anyone could walk up, grab a marker, and help write several Never Ending Stories.
Anyone could walk up, grab a marker, and help write several Never Ending Stories.

A performance of a magical folk tale in the Japanese Kamishibai tradition.
A performance of a magical folk tale in the Japanese Kamishibai tradition.

Lively music from 19th century San Diego adds life to the cultural event.
Lively music from 19th century San Diego adds life to the cultural event.

Some fun musical accompaniment nearby.
Some fun musical accompaniment nearby.

Kids were learning how to play drums and the fife.
Kids were learning how to play drums and the fife.

The young and the young at heart could play Victorian era games on the grass, including wheelbarrow races, sack races, egg races and the game of graces.
The young and the young at heart could play Victorian era games on the grass, including wheelbarrow races, sack races, egg races and the game of graces.

A crazy wheelbarrow race is underway. It's hard not to fall out when you turn!
A crazy wheelbarrow race is underway. It’s hard not to fall out when your driver abruptly turns!

Visitors to TwainFest could learn how to make simple books by folding paper and applying fancy cover designs with a glue stick.
Visitors to TwainFest could learn how to make simple books by folding paper and applying fancy cover designs with a glue stick.

Of course, a literature themed event must include lots of classic books.
Of course, a literature themed event must include lots of classic books.

Shelves full of books!
Shelves full of books!

Some history reenactors had set up a Civil War era field encampment.
Some history reenactors had set up a Civil War era field encampment.

Union soldiers in uniform appear at attention.
Union soldiers in uniform appear at attention.

The nearby Headquarters Post Office contained more costumed participants.
The nearby Headquarters Post Office contained more costumed participants.

A working telegraph was on display.
A working telegraph was on display.

While walking about, I noticed many smiling volunteers handing out TwainFest programs.
While walking about, I noticed many smiling people handing out TwainFest programs. (I’m sure Write Out Loud always welcomes new volunteers.)

Stories were being told at the Casa de Estudillo about immigrants, the descendants of early California, and the road to women's suffrage.
Stories were being told at the Casa de Estudillo about immigrants, the descendants of early California, and the road to women’s suffrage.

At the Old Town Courthouse Museum, people could take a literacy test to see whether they could vote in the election of 1872.
At the Old Town Courthouse Museum, people could take a literacy test to see whether they could vote in the election of 1872.

Political illustrations and cartoons from print over a century ago.
Political illustrations and cartoons from print over a century ago.

Young people were enjoying a Mad Hatter tea party, with Alice and other Wonderland characters!
Young people were enjoying a Mad Hatter tea party, with Alice and other Wonderland characters!

It appeared that some people had already painted Tom Sawyer's fence with whitewash!
It appeared that some people had already painted Tom Sawyer’s fence with whitewash!

Is that the Red Queen or the Queen of Hearts? I get them confused.
Is that the Red Queen or the Queen of Hearts? I get them confused.

Don't be an idiom. (You probably don't want to be an oxymoron either.)
Don’t be an idiom. (You probably don’t want to be an oxymoron either.)

More dramatic words were being read inside Old Town's one room Mason Street Schoolhouse. I recognized funny passages from Tom Sawyer.
More dramatic words were being read inside Old Town’s one room Mason Street Schoolhouse. I recognized those funny wart-cure passages from Tom Sawyer.

A puppet show delights kids in Old Town's plaza.
A puppet show delights kids in Old Town’s plaza.

The smiles go on and on during TwainFest...
The smiles and good times live on and on during TwainFest…

...thanks in part to this amiable if somewhat satirical fellow.
…thanks in part to this amiable if somewhat satirical fellow.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Wizard of Oz glass panels at Coronado Library.

Five years ago I blogged about the Wizard of Oz festival which was held in Coronado’s Spreckels Park. After checking out the festival, I took three photos of the beautiful Wizard of Oz glass panels inside the Coronado Library, which is located across Orange Avenue from the park.

Last weekend during my visit to Coronado I enjoyed looking at the panels again. I had stepped into the library to photograph pieces of art by two internationally famous artists. (I’ll post those photos at some point in the future, probably after Comic-Con.)

The thing is, as I paused in front of the wonderful Wizard of Oz artwork at the entrance to the children’s room, I suddenly realized I hadn’t posted photos of all the fun scenes. So I will right now!

This colorful Wizard of Oz Children’s Library Entry Portal was created by artist Brenda Smith.

Enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A few short stories about light in one’s life.

To an ancient person, light is a life-sustaining gift from a distant bright god. To a modern person, light is electromagnetic radiation that can be detected by the eye’s retina. To an artist, light might be some of both . . . and much more.

When I write, I’m never certain what precise thing light represents. In many stories it seems to symbolize a life-sustaining hope, or a radiation of the spirit detected by the heart. It might signal a burning love, living with eyes wide open, or intangible rays from beyond that define life’s shape. A glimpse of ultimate truth. A bright gift that is magical, momentary, precious.

I don’t know. What is light to you?

Following are seven short works of fiction where light is an integral part of the story:

Light at the Edges

The Firefly

One Lone Candle

One Strange, Shimmering Dream

How to Paint Angels

A Dance in the Lightning

Walking on Light