Which Traditions Are You Celebrating?

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Which Traditions Are You Celebrating?

Living in the Bay Area is like living in a big village. Starting in January 24, 1848, when gold was first discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, thousands of people from all over the world rushed to the Port of San Francisco. In addition people born in other parts of the United States and whose ancestors came from Europe, travelled there by land. Thus, the process of the melting pot started almost 168 years ago.

Nevertheless, each group tried to retain its individuality by celebrating specific holidays akin to their background that eventually became the traditions celebrated by many and not only by those who live in San Francisco. The Irish have their Saint Patrick’s Day, the Chinese celebrate the colorful Chinese New Year, Mexicans have Cinco De Mayo, the Japanese have their annual Cherry Blossom festival. Later on, more immigrants started to pour in, including people from different countries in Europe, Africa, Australia and Asia as well as different republics of the former Soviet Union.

Our family is originally from Latvia and we moved to San Francisco in August, 1980. There were also immigrants who came from Mongolia. It started in 1949. By now there are about 5,000 people of Mongolian descent in the State of California, with about 3,000 living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I came across this wonderful ethnic group and met some of them last year while we had an intern working for our company over the summer. Bill is a very smart and capable person. This year he is graduating from college in San Diego. It was thanks to him that I attended the Mongolian Festival in Golden Gate Park for the first time last year, commemorating the national holiday called Naadam. This year Bill’s parents invited me again to join them in the Park. “Naadam” literally translates to “Game”. Part of the celebration is “the three games of men”, which are Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery.

This year, the 18th Annual Naadam Festival took place on July 11th and was a very good opportunity for me to meet the people in their national costumes and of course to take photographs. Two of the images are going to be included in my next book “42 Encounters in San Francisco with Couples.” I expect it to be ready by Thanksgiving. Enjoy and Share.

P.S. I am sorry that I can only share four images with you. I did not see any of the three sports mentioned, but there were beautiful dancers and other performers. Check your calendar for next year’s festival. It is worth the visit. No special invitation is needed.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />                                                               Signature

How To Have An Affinity With Nature

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How To Have An Affinity With Nature

As a photographer and a storyteller, I have the incredible opportunity to share my insights with you. But how can I know what you are feeling while reading my stories or just glancing at my images? Sometimes the feedback I get is that you are receiving a positive message or that my photos make you smile. Can I expect more? After all, it has taken a lot of my time, discipline and motivation week after week to send you my images, since I’ve been sending them to you over the last four years. Why should I put so much energy in working on my stories and books? The answer came during our recent trip to The Sea Ranch, that I wrote about last week. On our relaxing trip, I was reading Mikkel Aaland’s book “The Sword of Heaven”. In the introduction of Part Three he writes, “Things that have affinity in their inmost natures seek one another”. I found a number of definitions online for the word affinity – “a feeling of closeness and understanding that someone has for another person because of their similar qualities, ideas.” “A relationship or resemblance in structure between species that suggests a common origin.” Reading this I remembered a message from one of my photography teachers, a well-known National Geographic Photographer, Sam Abel. He shared a lesson with us that he received from his father, who was also a photographer – “Be ready and wait, the object will appear in front of you”. I’m familiar with this concept in the mortgage business as well. Sometimes I do not see how to solve the challenging circumstances in one of my clients’ loan requests, right away. I put their file aside and then spontaneously, a solution comes, but only if there is an affinity between me and my client. But there is yet another important element, which is summarized in the Russian proverb, which I have mentioned previously in my writing – “The prey runs towards its hunter”. One needs to be a hunter, in other words, to have an affinity with its prey, the hunter needs to be ready for the encounter.

The famous French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called it the “decisive moment”. When a photographer with a camera in his hands is ready, the subject will appear. You can see the remarkable results in his photography books.

Back home I am reading Mikkel Aaland’s latest book “The River in My Background.” There he describes his experience in Norway during the winter. “Beauty surrounds me, when just moment ago all was mundane and ordinary. All I have to do is slow down and look and the marvel of it will be revealed.”

As a photographer I am learning how to develop an affinity with the environments that I photograph. This is how I was able to create the images that became a part of my forthcoming photography book, “42 Encounters in San Francisco”. The book is being printed and you will soon be able to hold it in your hands, and enjoy reading and smiling on every page. Enjoy and Share.

P.S. The images of the fox that I captured in The Sea Ranch are a good example of the allegory of the hunter and the prey. When was the last time that you saw a fox in the wild, peeing and yawning before settling down for a nap? I was able to take those shots because in that moment, I had an affinity with nature. Fortunately for the fox, I was shooting with my pocket camera, not a rifle.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />                                                               Signature

The Simple Beauty

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The Simple Beauty

The term “Simple Beauty” is a bit of an oxymoron. It originates from the Ancient Greek word oksus which means “sharp”, “pointed” and the word moros which means “dull”, “stupid”, “foolish”. Out of curiosity, I explored examples of oxymorons online, and found some great ones like, “living dead” and “jumbo shrimp”. As Plato said, “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”. Beauty cannot be either simple or complex. Perhaps another title for this story could be “How to Find Beauty in Nature’s Simplicity”. But this would also be misleading, since who can define Nature? In the Torah it is written, “While God was creating our world/Nature every day was called “good”. And later on, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate it”. (Genesis 3:6)

I thought about all of this while walking on a trail along the ocean in The Sea Ranch.

We decided to take this weekend trip at the spur of the moment. On the Tuesday before, my wife Elfa asked me what we should do over the 4th of July weekend. I suggested that we visit “The Sea Ranch”, as we haven’t been there for a long time. My wife is a realist, and was concerned that we would not be able to rent a house on such short notice, while I did not have a doubt. This is why we’ve lived and worked successfully together for so many years. She asks a question, and I have to find an answer. This time, the answer was on the web. She found a house that was available and at about 5pm on Friday, we reached our favorite destination. We went for a walk after dinner, and I was felt dizzy from the fresh sea air that filled my lungs. After sitting in the office for 10 hours, I often go for a half an hour walk in our neighborhood, after dinner. But here it is different. You are in the middle of the Nature. Everything is simple. The ocean waves crash the shore, wild flowers stick out from the yellow grass, and there is a specific smell in the air. A few people walk by, some with dogs. Sometimes a jogger rushes by on her or his mission. Rustic houses color the background. A flock of pelicans settle down for the night on a big rock not far from the shore. Black tailed deer and their babies have their supper in the open field. I feel welcomed, embraced, a part of the big picture we call Nature.

Enjoy and Share.

P.S. As a photographer, I can only focus and isolate a very small part of what my eyes see. The problem is always which four images to choose to share with you.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />                                                               Signature

Why Do People Like Having Pets?

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Why Do People Like Having Pets?

Thinking about the subject of keeping pets, my memory goes back to Riga.  When I was about 5 years young, we had a pet kitten. To our surprise, one day my “kitten” gave birth to four other ones.  I particularly remember this because my nanny took those tiny creatures to the attic and drowned them in a bucket of water.  Probably this was (and perhaps still is) the method to control the cat population.  We got our next kitten many years later, when we lived in a rural area in Israel.  We had just become vegetarians and tried to teach our cat to do the same.  In spite of our efforts, he would go to the field to catch mice, which he brought us back as gifts.  At night he would sit in the kitchen and catch huge cockroaches, who flew in through the open window.  One day as my wife walked home from the local grocery store, a small dog followed her.  In spite of our efforts to get rid of him, he kept coming back.  But our cat probably felt that this insult was too much to bear and a few days the cat disappeared.  We called our new dog companion Lucky, and he traveled with us wherever we moved.  Then one day we moved to a village and he disappeared as well.  We suspected that he ate poisoned meat, which our neighbors used to keep wild animals away.

When we moved to San Francisco, we got a new kitten.  We called him Champion or Champy. He was very cute, and grew up into huge, gorgeous hairy creature.  Unexpectedly, I developed asthma and the first question the Chinese doctor, we were referred to, asked if we had a cat.  It turned out that I was allergic, and we had to give Champy away to friends.  Our next pet was an Irish setter puppy that we called Amber.  When she grew up, she turned out to be beautiful, but rather nasty animal.  When we reprimanded her for bad behavior, she would punish us by chewing antique furniture or defecating on our Persian rug.  She had a tendency to jump over our fence.  I had to look for her over all of the neighborhood until one day after she ran away she was killed by a car in front of our house.  My wife demanded that our next dog have short legs.  So we got a Welsh Corgi, whom the breeder gave a Scottish name Angus.  He was our trusted companion for over thirteen years until his passing.

Since then, we have been discussing who would be our next best friend.  The solution might be not far away.  When our daughter Alona decided to move from Paris back to the Bay Area, one of the important questions on her agenda was, which dog would she get?  And since she is often away on business trips, it will fall on the shoulders of the “grandparents” – us, to keep a watchful eye on her companion.  Stay tuned.  I will keep you posted.  One of my upcoming photo projects is going to be “42 Encounters with Dog Lovers”.  Enjoy and Share.

P.S. Animals, like people, behave strangely.  I recently visited a client.  When I walked by her bedroom, I noticed that her bedcover was moving.  First I thought it was wind, but it turned to be her gorgeous cat, who for some strange reason liked to be under the covers.  When we recently visited the UC Berkeley campus, I encountered a couple with two cats on a leash, like this potbelly pig I encountered on my way to work.

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Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />                                                               Signature

Celebration of Life

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Celebration of Life

About a month ago we were invited to our friend Irv Spivak’s Birthday’s party. We’ve been friends for over ten years, since he joined our BNI networking group. We discovered there were a number of things we had in common. We both lived in Israel and speak Hebrew, and we both like to tell jokes. At that time he worked at the Simayof Jewelry Store, helping buyers celebrate their lives by spending a lot of money on diamonds and jewelry. His next job was at the Payne Mansion Hotel, where he helped to organize events. While there, he developed his next occupation officiating special celebrations like weddings, childbirth celebrations and funerals. No matter what Irv touched, it was always a celebration of life.

The party was his 63rd Birthday celebration, and I did not know what to expect, since I was told that Irv had started chemotherapy. Generally, people are not known to celebrate during these unfortunate life circumstances. The party was held in Golden Gate Park, but it was not a typical picnic. It was a celebration of life. Music blasted with the help of a DJ, while people danced on the grass. Smoke rose from a huge grill. Huge amounts of food and drinks covered tables, children played lawn games, and everyone had a good time. And to top all of this, cigars were freely distributed by our celebrating host. Part of Irv’s celebration of life was his love for food. I was surprised when one day a few years ago he announced that he would start a special diet. A few months later, a new Irv appeared in his new clothes, 40 lbs. lighter. Similar to many diets, the transformation did not last. We had lunch a few months ago and Irv was dressed in his old clothes, and enjoyed bread with butter and the rest of his meal with a great appetite.

Unfortunately, his disease caused him to lose weight again. But his big blue eyes were shining at every guest he greeted. Seeing us, his first words were “Let me tell you a joke”, which he told with great pleasure. When I texted Irv last Sunday to find out how he is doing, I received a reply from our mutual friend Constance Adamopolis, who is an incredible events organizer and helped create Irv’s Birthday party. She has worked with Irv on many life-celebrating projects. Constance told me that Irv is in hospice and that he does not have much time left. When we went to visit him there, Irv had difficulty speaking, but when my wife Elfa told him a joke, his face lit up, and he showed his thumb up. There are so many small things that can teach us how to celebrate life.

Enjoy your life and Share with a friend.

P.S. I hope that these four images will help you remember to celebrate life as long as you can.

P.P.S. Yesterday, July 21st at 2.30 pm Irv’s soul left this world.

Do Not Keep Me As A Secret!
Smile And Please SHARE It With A Friend!

Cheers,

Manny<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />                                                               Signature