Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day!

Today is Squirrel Appreciation Day!

Yes, appreciate those rodents, all 280 different species of them. Appreciate their bushy tails, large eyes, cute smiles, quick tree-climbing ability. Appreciate the joy a squirrel brings to our local public parks and many gardens. Sometimes, they act as pest control agents at no charge, devouring insects. They can also tackle waste, by grabbing small food scraps left by stupid humans. They eat mushrooms, resulting in their waste from digestion resulting in new, much needed spores that help the ecosystem. They are also cute, and inspire resourcefulness and quite clever. Here is one in action…

But perhaps, the best reason to appreciate is their nut-burying behavior. They bury nuts, then often forget (or do they?!). The results are many more trees grown from those seeds within, which helps the world of humans in many ways.

So appreciate the squirrels of the world, give back and spread cheer to the little critters. Feed some natural nuts or seeds, if you can spare (avoid processed food). If you have a yard or a porch, add a squirrel feeder. Also, place a small tub of clean water nearby. And overall, let the squirrels be their natural, adorable selves.

– Orion T

The above pictures were taken deepen with Stanley Park, Vancouver BC, Canada. You are likely to cross path with some scavenging squirrels on Squirrel Trail, and Beaver Lake. You might even find some rare red or black ones.

The Sadly Gone Newsstand

Last Christmas Eve, I stopped by the world-famous Pike Place Market, to have a last look at a familiar staple of preserved atmosphere for 40 years within Downtown Seattle. There was the First and Pike News newsstand in all its glory, for over 40 years on the corner, ever welcoming and giving locals and tourists a deep look into Seattle culture in print, along with a very wide selection of magazines and reads from around the world.

First and Pike News closed on December 31st, 2019.

That part of the market hit me as a wonderful, nostalgic part of this city, that will likely never come back. Meanwhile, the local Barnes and Noble book store, with another large newsstand holding rows of magazines, recently closed on January 18th, 2020. Both closings add a sadness, of a declining city tradition that is the great multiple newspapers and magazine newsstand.

Both, doubly sad signs of that wholesome access to news and magazines in print, dwindling as not just from its outdated model of receiving ad revenues, but its lessening exposure in public places. More people are exponentially are drawn to new media with our Reddits, Facebooks, Twitters. Then battle it out with instant messages, notifications, invitations, interruptions, memes, all taking our attention to faster and shorter spans, as we frantically swipe through ad revenue life-streams, polluted with data mining, privacy-invading bots, mostly run by online conglomerates.

But for a moment, let’s take a look at the beauty that was a wholesome, plentiful newsstand, with its cheapo snacks, postcards, maps, other helpful things that would help both travelers and locals find their way. We then swipe those eyes on printed pages, keep us focused on just the words and images. Those were light, convenient, with no battery charge notice.

That is a beautiful view of colorful machine-bound printed paperworks.

To see a row of frequent prints, each and choice of topics tailor-made by a passionate and dedicated staff is a joy that I shall remember. The newsstand has the nostalgia of browsing and enjoyment of sampling through what’s worth paying. Also, as a light read for that day in the park or evening on a porch. Some places give a little more like snacks and maps. The sadly gone First and Pike News stand offered many more delights and souvenirs for the passing tourists.

Now, that thrill left this part of Seattle. But maybe, you might know of some newsstands in your area. Stop by, browse and appreciate the joy of printed media, formatted for your full attention. Buy some papers and cheap stuff, and smile to the seller. Every little bit of support helps, and maybe keep that wholesome bit of honest joy a part of your neighborhood for more days ahead.

Orion T

Rocking along Swami's Beach in Southern California

I love them California beaches, from south of San Diego to the north of Crescent City. I’ve explored a good many, appreciating for each stretch of sand locale feels a little different and unique in some special way.

Being away from those beaches for too long, I miss that exploration, and rediscovery. I miss the freedom, and escape that California beaches often provide, and knowing what’s special about each.

Thus, I feel the love again in my periodic return to southern California. For my last trip, though I did something different in escaping the old, yet still familiar areas of San Diego, and Los Angeles/Orange County regions that sometime feel stuck with for too short the time.

So, I shared an nice adventure with an old, very dear friend who drove me to the in-between town area of Encinitas (northest San Diego County). We first enjoying some great Mexican food (huge shout out to the La Especial Norte restaurant, with my highest recommendation for hungry people there). Then, checked out a beach area, less familiar with and not been.

After a short drive, and a walk down to an opening between the nearby cliffs, and I found a pleasant little beach land, known as Swami’s Beach…

This first appears as a little beach, with very limited access through its north end via small open area. But then, walk down the sands a little further, around some crooked cliffs, and there you will see, much more coast with exploring by foot to be done.

But first, who is the Swami, you might ask… That would be Swami Paramahansa Yogananda, and you should check out his Wikipedia page. He stayed in Encintas for some time, at his Self-Realization Fellowship ashram nearby upon a cliff, built in 1937. The beach was eventually named after him unofficially by the surfer community, as his presence became well known, and respected. Much of that known beach, still public, was considered part of the long stretch, further down to San Elijo State Beach (another beach on my list to check out someday).

So, walking down, I noticed right away those wonderful waves of the San Diego shore, which were calming down after the high tide earlier. But still mighty for the surfers here to appreciate during our visit. It’s everything I still love about best about these slightly out of town shore spots. Plenty of room for free-minded people to bond with the waves, dig deep into the sand, led the oceanic breeze brush your face.

But what makes Swami’s Beach memorable and special? There’s much to admire here. At first, its the coziness and peaceful seclusion below the high cliffs (when the high tide is gone). Then, you would notice the many small rocks upon the shore.

These beautiful pebbles, are many and embedded against the waves, scatter, leaving a natural decoration upon the sand for some parts…

Then going forth, there are more rocks…

And then more,

And then, you just have to stop and admire, see what your shoes are stumbling over as you look down. I love these colors together.

These rocks are plenty enough feature to take in for now. I have much more to share, and they deserve another post. For that, I will be back with more on Swami’s Beach.

Orion T

Return to Little Tokyo

One of favorite places to visit in the central Los Angeles is within its historic district of Little Tokyo.

Little Tokyo is the cultural hub and concentration of Japanese culture, accelerated by the settling of Japanese immigrants in the late 19th century. Much of this was due to increased labor needed, resulting from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barring Chinese laborers. Little Tokyo grew from the opening of the Kame Restaurant on East First Street in 1885, which attracted many immigrants to the area, and eventually settled.

Through tough times, the area thrived until World War II, with Japan then at war with the US. This led to the signing of Executive Order 9066, where a mass relocation and confiscation of property of Japanese immigrants across the U.S West Coast would devastate the local community. The area was nearly lost to the Japanese business owners. Eventually, the war ended, and the Japanese community would slowly regain their lost area, growing Little Tokyo through the decades once again to the wonderful cultural spot it is now.

The Japanese Village Plaza

I gained a heartfelt love for Japanese culture, growing up near San Francisco’s Japantown in my teenage years. I enjoyed its history, food, and unique architecture. And with that and foremost, its stylized art then known to me as Japanimation (and later anime, and manga in printed form) applied to visual media in all forms.

Eventually living in South California, I would visit Little Tokyo often with friend of my college anime club, spending many hours going through shops, eating its specialized food, visiting art museums, and feeling further ingrained to its unique and awesome culture. This area, I would greatly miss as I left my old life in Southern California over 10 years ago.

Coming back, I was happy to see it all still very vibrant with all the crazy silly things that I grew to love about Japanese culture since my youth. Here are some recent pictures more reminiscent of that childhood part…

It’s thriving now, far more than I recall in my many visits over a decade ago. There are definitively more more businesses of Japanese influence here. The central area seems cleaner as well, with fresher paint and better details than I recall before. Pretty much all my favorite stores were still there, and packed. The anime/manga influence is also vibrant, with the Jungle Hoppy Shop store being my favorite and doubled in size now.

I also noticed a plentiful choice of Japanese restaurants, with a variety of specialties and appeal. Some showed their pride in preparation of eats, to public eyes, which I would enjoyed a moment in watch…

I would remain in Little Tokyo for only a couple hours with an old college friend, reminiscing of our time spent in this wonderful district. For lunch, we picked upon Daikokuya, a popular rice and ramen-noodle restaurant in the area. There was a 45-minute wait to this small, yet very cozy place. Eventually, the wait was worth it, and I enjoyed their prized Daikaku Ramen bowl and some takoyaki (octopus balls)…YUM!

An overall, I will surely return to Little Tokyo, again and again. You should too.

– Orion T

A small bit of Downtown Los Angeles art…

I spent some hours in Downtown Los Angeles last week, sadly with two little time to explore much of this grand area.

In the past, I would check out the many awesome murals there, and explore its art galleries. This time not, as I there for other meetings, then moving on to my next destination before the sunfall. Yet, with about 15 minutes to spare, I checked out a couple large murals by the Pico public rail station.

The one from the pic above is byFabio Lopez, who goes by his street artist name Dourone, a Spanish artist from Madrid, Spain. His artwork is featured on many walls around the world, each with a different message and unique vision. Check out more his work via instagram @duourone and on his official site dourone.com

Here below is another mural, in beautiful color giving love to the Clippers and its star player, Kawhi Leonard. The surrounding is a mix of positive messages and imagery that matches the vibe of this colorful city. I could not find any info on the artist.

And that was all for my mural gazing in the downtown area for now. I shall return eventually, and hopefully have more time for urban exploring and other grand mural finds.

– Orion T

Far out in Vancity's Duckburg…

I think those are ducks in the picture above. Either way, I like their style.

Sometimes, very orderly…maybe forming a conga line.

Sometimes, just mingling…perhaps sharing their opinion of us tourists staring at them.

Very social creatures here.

-Orion T

Pics taken from a nice morning walk in Central Vancouver (Canada), along English Bay.