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.

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!

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How to almost touch the stars.

Stars.

I just finished writing another short story. It’s titled The Highest Seat.

This very small work of fiction concerns stars and how one can almost touch them.

The unusual concept behind the story arose from something a friend mentioned. We were talking during my Sunday visit to Balboa Park.

The story is based a little on truth, and much on imagination. If you’re a dreamer, you might like it.

Read it here!

Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek at the Comic-Con Museum.

The Comic-Con Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park opened this weekend. One of the museum’s inaugural exhibits is titled Gene Roddenberry: Sci-Fi Visionary. Gene Roddenberry was the creator of Star Trek.

Gene Roddenberry: Sci-Fi Visionary celebrates the achievements of a writer and producer whose storied life was filled with optimism about the human race and our shared future. That optimism was embodied in Star Trek, and is one very big reason why generations of fans have loved the many television series and movies in the enduring science fiction franchise.

I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation and reruns of the original Star Trek series. I loved the space travel, strange new worlds, sense of wonder and discovery, how Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov . . . Picard, Riker, Data, Deanna, Geordi, Beverly, Worf . . . and a family of diverse characters overcame strange, sometimes daunting challenges, mostly using their moral sense and intelligence, never losing their faith in the potential good of humanity.

I loved the philosophical themes and the alien encounters. It all was fun, original, thought-provoking, exciting. I still enjoy watching the original series, even if the special effects are dated. My attachment to Star Trek is permanent. Like legions of other fans.

So, obviously, I was excited to view this major exhibit at the newly opened Comic-Con Museum. Gene Roddenberry’s creative genius and humanity is on full display–his writings, sketches, quotes, screenplays–plus there are original props and costumes from Star Trek.

If you’re a fan of Star Trek and happen to be in San Diego, this is a must see exhibition.

Here’s a little of what you’ll discover…

A colorful pathway through the exhibit details the life of Gene Roddenberry. He was a World War II pilot, police officer and Hollywood writer, before launching his enduring idea of Star Trek.
Original costumes from Star Trek productions on display.
The optimism and imagination of a curious mind are recalled.
Lexoriter word processor used by Roddenberry writing scripts for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Roddenberry’s personal film projector used to screen Star Trek episodes at home.
Historical documents, letters, artwork and scripts are displayed, pertaining to the creative work of Gene Roddenberry.
Lyrics to the musical theme from Star Trek written by Roddenberry.
Star Trek communicators foresaw today’s cellphone technology. “The Menagerie” script of Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, Gene’s wife and actress who portrayed Nurse Chapel.
May Gene Roddenberry’s hopeful, positive world view Live Long and Prosper!

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!

A mystery concerning several very odd things.

An exquisitely beautiful seagull feather on the wet concrete at my feet.

Have you ever encountered a deep mystery whose solution turned out to be obvious?

A mystery like that unfolds in my new short story A Half Dozen Odd Things.

I love to walk around the city, take photographs, make discoveries . . . and occasionally write short fiction.

Do you love to read?

To solve the surprising mystery of A Half Dozen Odd Things, click here!

I hope you have a great Sunday!

Richard

A story about one teacher’s strange lesson.

A mysterious reflection in the rippled water.

Readers who are new to Cool San Diego Sights probably don’t know that, when I’m not walking around the city taking photographs, I love to write fiction.

Well, I’ve completed another very short story. This one is about a school teacher and a very peculiar lesson taught to her students.

The lesson isn’t merely strange–it might be one of the most important lessons any person, young or old, could learn.

To read it, click here!

Ghost wind, a walking house and moon stones.

A magical look west toward sails, clouds and the descending sun.

I published another short work of fiction a couple weeks ago. I wasn’t sure I wanted to publicize it on Cool San Diego Sights, but I read the story again this morning and I still sort of like it. So here goes…

Ghost Wind is the title. It’s about life. Your life, my life, everybody’s life. How invisible wind fills our sails. Read it here.

While I’m at it, here are two more that I also published not too long ago. You can find them all on my website Short Stories by Richard.

Night Walking is a story about a walking house. And dreaming.

The Specimen is about throwing moon stones. And yearning.

There.

Have a great day!

More cool sights are on the way!

Richard

Smiles and creativity at North Park Book Fair!

The first annual (hopefully) North Park Book Fair was held today!

Book lovers, authors, poets, artists, and everyone and anyone who loves reading, writing and creativity showed up for the two block long festival!

As you can see from the upcoming photos, North Park Way between 29th Street and Ray Street was absolutely alive!

At first I just wandered past the booths, trying to absorb it all, amazed by everything that I saw. Then I figured I’d blog about the event and began to record smiles!

Read the photo captions to learn more about what I discovered…

Not only was there live painting, local authors and small presses, but one could enjoy poetry readings, storytelling for kids, and perusing thousands of books for sale! And food, too!
When I reported the street was packed, I wasn’t kidding!
A friendly North Park Main Street volunteer smiles for a pic. Thanks for the great event!
The San Diego Public Library had tables full of used books for sale.
Friends of the San Diego Public Library smile! I’ve purchased oodles of used books at the Central Library over the years.
I almost bought this book about San Diego. I have too much to read, already.
Kids could draw fun comic panels at the Little Fish Comic Book Studio booth.
Keithan Jones of KID Comics smiles. Look at all the cool independent comic book art he created!
He did this great Wonder Woman sketch!
I listened for a while as poets presented their words to the gathered crowd.
Live poetry at the North Park Book Fair! This animated poet received big applause!
A smile from an Accidental Aliens writer!
Smiles from two Accidental Aliens artists!
Beatrice Zamora wrote award-winning children’s book The Spirit of Chicano Park. She’ll be dancing at the big Danza event at Chicano Park tomorrow!
Book, books, books everywhere!
Armando Elizarraras created some very cool artwork based on portraits of famous authors. Check out his tattooed Edgar Allan Poe with The Tell-Tale Heart!
MORE. LESS. etc. Three sequential books by artist, author and poet Ted Washington! Can poems include mathematical formulas?
The folks of Write Out Loud were at the North Park Book Fair, presenting this fun, fishy Kamishibai street theatre story!
Book fair goers could indicate with chalk the place where they most like to read…
In bed, on the toilet, by the pool, at the beach, with a cat . . . or anyplace!
The smile of superhero creator @boypoetic!
Tamra L. Dempsey took photographs for the beautiful book A Journey Through Literary America! It includes literary passages by famous authors.
One smile and one semi-smile. It’s all good. Keep on creating!
Cynthia Diamond wrote all these Wyrd Love books. I remembered seeing her years ago at a big Liberty Station book event!
Douglas W. Mengers wrote a book about San Diego Trolleys. I learned some interesting history when we chatted.
This book contains lots of old images of rail transportation in San Diego.
Lots to see and do at the North Park Book Fair!

Love of reading on a library bookmobile!

Yesterday I enjoyed a long walk in Poway. As I explored the area near Old Poway Park, I happened upon a San Diego County Library bookmobile. I took these photos.

I love how this bookmobile features painted images of diverse people reading, devouring the written word. Gaining knowledge. Activating limitless human imagination.

My own love of reading has only grown stronger with time. Experience has shown me that books are like windows that can be opened to previously undiscovered truths. They enrich one’s inner life.

When I saw the image of the boy pushing books in a cart, I had to smile. In middle school I worked as a page at a library shelving books. I can still picture that library–each room and each wonderful section.

One cool thing about being a library page was I could determine which books were showcased at the end of the shelves. There were so many fascinating titles, so many beautiful covers.

I could choose from a whole world at my fingertips.

Back when I was a kid pushing carts full of returned library books, I had no idea that one day my own fiction would be read by people everywhere around the world. And that my short story, One Thousand Likes, would be included in a textbook by a major international publisher.

Much like a book, the pages of a life turn and strange surprises await!

To read my stories, click Short Stories by Richard.

A special song celebrates beautiful Coronado.

There’s a special, very beautifully written song that celebrates Coronado. The song, which has become beloved by many over the years, was written by composer and Coronado resident Joan Brown Goldberg, who passed away in early 2020.

I learned about The Coronado Song yesterday in Encinitas of all places. I was outside the old 19th century schoolhouse, lingering after a historical walking tour of Encinitas, when I approached a pianist who was playing among nearby vendors at a small crafts event.

The musician, whom you can see in my photos, is Famous Frank. He told me about Joan Brown Goldberg and how he’d played The Coronado Song during a music festival at the Emerald C Gallery a couple years ago. He described The Coronado Song as the unofficial theme song of Coronado.

I did a little searching, and discovered here that “…For a time the song with piano accompaniment was sold around town and at the Hotel del Coronado.”

I also found here that Joan Brown Goldberg “…was a talented composer, writing over 40 songs. Her most recognized work was ‘The Coronado Song,’ which won several international contests. The song was played before the annual Coronado July 4th Parade at the grandstand for 20 years.”

You can see some of the sheet music here.

I love the poetry and feeling in her lyrics. I’ve transcribed the words for the enjoyment of all.

THE CORONADO SONG

Music and Lyrics by Joan Brown Goldberg

Coronado, where the sun shines
Where the grand Hotel meets the sea
And the crashing waves
Will set you ablaze
And launch you into a dream.

Coronado, little island,
With skies as blue as can be
I long to walk on your tanned
California sand
And sit by your sparkling sea.

I miss your cold windy days
That grey winter haze
And fog horns blowin’ all night

Your summer perfume
Of jasmine in bloom
Your seaside seagulls in flight.

Coronado, on a sea breeze,
You know you’re haunting me so.
You are the Queen of the Coast
You’re the mariner’s host
And the most lovely Lady I know!

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!

A short story about life, death and laughter.

I’ve published another very short work of fiction. This piece is titled The Fight. It’s about living and dying . . . and laughter.

Perhaps you’ll enjoy this little story. It includes life experiences that are relatable.

Getting this simple story to work has been a struggle. I published The Fight prematurely a couple weeks ago, then pulled it down. A tale about life and death should be written carefully.

And laughter is a serious matter, too!

Now I hope I have things about right.

Read the story here!