What does it feel like to play the Spreckels Organ?

What does it feel like to play the Spreckels Organ, the world’s largest musical instrument located in the heart of Balboa Park?

Raul Prieto Ramírez, internationally renowned San Diego Civic Organist, played Johann Sebastian Bach’s masterpiece Toccata and Fugue in D minor to start today’s free Sunday concert.

Perhaps this series of photos can transmit a bit of the feeling…

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!

Paloma Flamenco dancing at Music en la Calle!

Yesterday afternoon I spent a couple of hours at Music en la Calle, a wonderful, free cultural event brought to the City Heights community by Bodhi Tree Concerts. Families and neighbors were treated to music, dance and even a circus performance at the new permanent outdoor tent of Fern Street Circus.

I loved every performance. And I took oodles of photographs! So many that I’m going to share them over several blog posts!

To start, I thought you might enjoy these photos of Paloma Flamenco. Their expressive dancing, bursting with fire, passion, exuberance and joy, makes a fine visual representation of the diverse colors that were brought to life at Music en la Calle.

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!

Unsung hero is a bright light in City Heights!

Volunteers for a community clean-up gather in City Heights for the Global Day of Caring.
Volunteers for a community clean-up gather in City Heights for the Global Day of Caring.

I’m honored to know an unsung hero in City Heights. Carlos Quezada, co-founder of Love City Heights, has been named by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez an Unsung Hero for the 80th Assembly District!

Carlos has been working diligently for years to celebrate and revitalize the diverse east San Diego neighborhood of City Heights. He’s the driving force behind the “drive-through art gallery” on University Avenue between I-805 and I-15 that I’ve blogged about for a couple of years now.

Carlos has brought many great artists and muralists together with school students and community businesses and organizations to paint a picture in City Heights of a bright now and even brighter future. It’s amazing how one positive, energetic person can have a tremendous impact on their community!

And you know what true unselfishness is? I was going to take Carlos’ photo once and he modestly rebuffed my attempt. The only photograph of Carlos that I’ve posted until now is the one you see above. See the guy in the very back wearing a Love City Heights T-shirt? That’s him!

Congratulations to Carlos Quezada!

Yet another mural is being painted today, and I’m about to head out my door to see it!


I finally got a photo of Carlos! That’s him on the left. To the right is Melody De Los Cobos, the Artistic Director of Love City Heights. She’s a super cool artist who is well known in the local arts community!

Carlos Quezada and Melody De Los Cobos of Love City Heights.
Carlos Quezada and Melody De Los Cobos of Love City Heights.

A lesson I have learned from blogging.

Never stop flying.
Never stop flying.

This coming Sunday, Cool San Diego Sights turns seven years old.

Seven years doing this? Unbelievable.

Starting a blog and watching it grow very, very slowly over many years has taught me an important lesson about life. Patience and perseverance might be the two most important keys to success.

While having fun and doing things that I love–walking and writing–I have spent literally thousands of hours working on Cool San Diego Sights. A good chunk of my life has been spent taking and selecting photos, cropping and adjusting them, doing research, being a detective, plotting out future blogs, making corrections, being obsessive/compulsive, providing updates, pulling out my hair (what’s left of it), periodically wondering if I should quit this sometimes tedious exercise…

And now, to my complete surprise, I find myself getting traffic from Google News, News Break, Chrome’s suggested articles, and a remarkable variety of major websites.

As a result of Cool San Diego Sights’ growing success, one of my other websites, Short Stories by Richard, is being visited by students from classrooms around the world. Most are reading my little story One Thousand Likes, which I’m told might be used in an upcoming twelfth grade textbook produced by one of the world’s most prestigious publishers.

Pinch me.

Is this real?

To think this thing started on a whim. I’ve always walked. I had an unused little camera. I created a simple, easy WordPress blog. I figured I’d post a photo and a few words once in a while.

So if you’re a blogger or writer out there in a ridiculously enormous world that contains billions of web pages, and you’ve begun to wonder if it’s really worth the effort–keep at it! Don’t give up! Do your best! Stay passionate! Write well, be truthful, be original, be creative, be smart, be curious, understand and appeal to your readers’ humanity, and remember to always maintain your sense of humor!

And never lose hope! Because you never know!

Remembering the music of Jared Jacobsen.

Notes of elegance and joy are missing from the world.

Today, during the Sunday organ concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, I learned that former San Diego Civic Organist Jared Jacobsen has passed away.

The news is sudden and painful.

I don’t believe I ever heard Jared play during his tenure as San Diego Civic Organist, which lasted from 1978 to 1985. But I have occasionally heard him playing the Spreckels Organ as a Sunday substitute, and have been dazzled by his artistry during past International Summer Organ Festivals.

The music that flowed through him was polished, elegant and above all joyful.

His notes uplifted every person who listened in the audience. He made thousands of lives more beautiful. He had a great smile and sense of humor, and uncommon poise, and a love for the organ, the King of Instruments. His passion came through during every performance.

I was told a memorial concert is being planned, to be held during an evening at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion.

I just want to say I miss him.


There is to be a special concert to honor Jared’s life and music. From the Spreckels Organ Society blog:

Celebration for Jared: Free Concert on Saturday Nov 23 at 5 p.m.

A special concert, presented free to the public by Raúl Prieto Ramírez, San Diego Civic Organist, and Robert Plimpton, San Diego Civic Organist Emeritus, together with other artists as noted below. The purpose of this concert is honor the life and music of Jared Jacobsen (1949-2019), San Diego’s Fifth Official Civic Organist from 1978-85. Jared was a musical inspiration to all who knew him! This concert will convene friends and admirers from near and far for a reprise (and augmentation) of his final concert on the Spreckels Organ, which was held on January 1st of this year.

To honor Jared, the Spreckels Organ Society has named its Education Fund for him. All donations received by the Society at Saturday’s concert will be matched dollar-for-dollar by individual gifts from the Spreckels Organ Society’s Trustees, up to the amount of $12,000. Online donations are also accepted.

Music like shadow and sunlight in leaves.

This evening I enjoyed another extraordinary concert of the 2019 San Diego International Organ Festival.

In a groundbreaking musical performance, San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez was joined on stage by a symphonic string quartet. Kathryn Hatmaker and Wesley Precourt played violin; Hanah Stuart played viola; and Alex Greenbaum played violoncello. The result was nothing less than brilliant.

The highlight of the concert was a sublime performance of César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor, transcribed by Raúl Prieto Ramírez for the organ.

The resonant voice of the Spreckels Organ and the yearning quality of the strings combined to bring forth exquisitely complex emotions. Bittersweet joy and heartbreak flowed together. The notes were rich with passion and tinged with regret. A whole lot like life.

A standing ovation concluded the evening.

Before the concert began in Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion, I walked through the nearby Japanese Friendship Garden.

When I saw my photographs of the garden’s natural beauty, it occurred to me that the music this evening was much like shadow and sunlight in leaves.

The rare magic produced this evening was the result of three San Diego treasures coming together: the world-class San Diego Symphony with its many talented musicians, one of the world’s most accomplished organists, and the Spreckels Organ, one of the most amazing musical instruments in the world.

May this magic become a tradition.

Flamenco dancing at San Diego Museum of Art!

This evening the San Diego Museum of Art held a free public event titled On the Steps At SDMA: The Golden Age Of Spain. The small outdoor festival, which was held in Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama, celebrated the museum’s current exhibition, which features fine art produced in the Spanish Empire from about 1600 to 1750.

Local artists had booths near the museum’s front steps, as did Balboa Park’s House of Spain, but my favorite part of the event was the fantastic flamenco dancing.

I lingered for a good while and enjoyed performances by Flamenco Sur (Carlos Hernandez and Students), Olé Flamenco, and Luna Flamenca Dance Company.

Each dancer possessed fire, intensity, passion.

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!

Comic-Con panel: The rise of Mexican filmmaking.

Today I attended a fascinating panel at 2019 Comic-Con titled Making a Bridge with Genre Movies. The panel wasn’t held in the San Diego Convention Center, but offsite in Barrio Logan, in the Artists’ Loft at BarrioHaus. Panels at this location tend to concentrate on Latinx culture and contributions to the popular arts.

Four panelists–Victor Osuna, Frank Rodriguez, Sebastian Finck and Mitch Hyman–discussed the rise of independent Mexican filmmaking and how Latin filmmakers have increasingly achieved success reaching an international audience. I was introduced to the hashtag #Jallywood, which is a combination of Jalisco and Hollywood. Filmmakers are striving to attract creative people for projects in Mexico.

I learned that using today’s technology, a quality film can be produced by anyone anywhere. With the internet, to achieve substantial success no longer requires a relocation to Hollywood or other media centers–it requires vision, passion, persistence, and a broadly appealing story. Good stories are universal in nature–all people react similarly to powerful human dramas and themes. Genres, styles and topics might be diverse, but basic human emotions are shared by all. Spicing a film with the culture of Mexico, or any other place, simply adds uniqueness and authenticity. The trick is connection: creating that irresistible appeal.

I learned that not only is the cost of producing a film in Mexico much less expensive than the United States, but there are fantastic settings (and stories) just waiting to be tapped. The opportunities in Mexico are wide open to any creator who is optimistic–who can see and grasp that unlimited future.

In this digital world, isn’t that true for much creative activity? While good equipment and skilled production is essential for filmmaking, isn’t it the extent to which the end product achieves likes and shares and downloads and streams that increasingly determines real success?

At the panel’s conclusion, the audience was asked to share their experience on social media.

Seems to me like good advice!

Why did this panel fascinate me? I do a little writing here.

How the most wonderful dreams are made real.

Your most wonderful dreams can turn into reality . . . with effort, optimism and dogged persistence. And patience. And unwavering vision.

Over the years I’ve recorded many instances of extraordinary–even improbable–dreams coming true. I’ve learned about or have met people who raise their eyes toward a distant, shimmering dream, then reach up to grab it.

All of these individuals are motivated by an undying passion.

Here are a few instances that I happen to remember. I’ve blogged about athletes who achieve the pinnacle of success; artists, inventors and visionaries who create astonishing new wonders; students who step confidently into the future…

Click the following links:

Celebration of Champions at Elite Athlete Training Center!

“There is no shortcut to true success.”

More photos of amazing, experimental holographic art!

An amazing cube, like real Space: full of stars!

The fantastic, amazing Harper’s Topiary Garden!

Aviation history at Waldo Dean Waterman Park.

World’s most amazing car, displayed in San Diego!

Cool photos of creativity at Maker Faire San Diego!

Salk Institute architect Louis Kahn: an amazing exhibit!

Founders of Balboa Park linger in Sefton Plaza.

Kid entrepreneurs showcase their creativity!

San Diego school students do amazing things!

What amazing things will you do?

Cool San Diego Sights turns five years old!

This coming Friday, Cool San Diego Sights will celebrate its five year anniversary!

Huh? Seriously? How is that possible?

Apparently I’m having fun, because time is flying!

I keep telling myself that I’m going to slow down this blogging thing, but it doesn’t seem to happen. I keep on walking like crazy, and I keep seeing more “cool” stuff. And so the trusty old camera keeps rising up to snap photographs.

I suppose as long as my legs continue to move, Cool San Diego Sights will expand!

Thanks to all who visit this blog. Some of you I know personally, thousands of you I will never meet. Thank you for coming along on my semi-random walks around San Diego.

During the past five years, too many amazing things have happened to mention. Starting this blog has allowed me to see things I would never have seen, meet people I would never have met. It has completely changed my life.

When I hit the publish button for my first modest post, Ribbon of life mural by the San Diego River, I had no idea how this thing would grow. Cool San Diego Sights now features 1784 blog posts and nearly twenty thousand photographs. It’s approaching half a million page views.

Cool San Diego Sights has also been the successful launching pad for Short Stories by Richard. Writing fiction is my true passion. I still can’t believe that my short story One Thousand Likes has been read by a bunch of tenth grade students. That’s utterly amazing. What an honor.

So, here we are, moving through time, and I have no idea where my next walk will be. Probably from Cortez Hill to a downtown trolley station as I head off to my job this morning. And then I’ll just keep pushing forward.

As of this moment, the only material waiting in my computer are photos of cool street art along El Cajon Boulevard, which I’ll post in the next few days. Beyond that, who knows? Anything is possible!

Have a great week!