How Many Hats Does One Need?

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How Many Hats Does One Need?

To find the answer to this question, I had to visit an exhibit “Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade” at the Legion of Honor Museum. There I found out that the actual question was, “Which hat do you need?” According to the Journal des Demoiselles’ suggestion in 1867, “If your purse allows you two hats, you will have one of straw, which can go with everything, and the other will go with your best outfit.”

Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was a French artist famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings. He is well known for his depiction of Parisian Dancers. But he, together with other well-known impressionists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Mary Cassat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, depicted one aspect of modern life in the French capital – high fashion hats and the women who created them. The exhibition at the Legion Museum of Honor features more than 40 impressionist paintings and pastels, as well as a number of the hats from the period of around 1875 to 1914.

I was fascinated not only by incredible artistry of the painters, but also by the history of the millinery trade and by the hats.

In modern times, unless you are the Queen of England or British Aristocracy, women wear beautiful one-of-a-kind hats only on really special occasions. When I checked online for “Hat Stores in San Francisco”, I found quite a few of them. But the question remains, “On what special occasion could women in San Francisco wear a hat? And how about men?” When I was growing up in Riga, my father wore a Fedora hat. He had a few of them. It was common and fashionable for men at that time. A few years ago I bought one for myself. It is a crushable fedora Hat, which I keep in my coat pocket when I travel to New York in the winter.

The fedora hat first appeared in 1882 as a female hat. It was named after the production of the play, “Fedora” by the French author Victorien Sardou. Today, fedora hats are popular again with women, as well as men, who want to look different as well.

To answer my own question, I decided to count how many hats I have. Turns out that besides my crushable fedora, I have six baseball caps, which I wear regularly to protect my head from cold weather plus two hats named “Hooligan” Driving Caps. My wife has also quite a few, among them three made of straw. She also has a few nice ones, but rarely wears them. After all, fashion trends change rapidly. But if you want to experience the forgotten era and see some beautiful art, you still have time. The exhibit is open till September 24, 2017.

P.S. My daughter Alona went to the opening of the exhibit, where many women wore different hats. I was not so lucky, but I still was able to capture at least four images.

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

The Wisdom of Centenarians

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The Wisdom of Centenarians

One of my morning rituals is to look through and read books with the images of great photographers. My current book is “If I live to be 100. The Wisdom of Centenarians.” In the book there are fifty-four beautiful black and-white portraits photographed by Paul Mobley and interviews and essays by Allison Milionis. I am in awe of the remarkable women and men who were blessed to live such a long life.

Here are some of the stories, where they shared their wisdom.

Margaret Wachs, who was born in 1913, marked her 100th birthday by swimming ten laps to help raise money for her church. She was ninety when she took up swimming. On her good days she swims twenty laps. “I don’t say “I’m getting old”, she said. “I don’t even think that way.”

Inger Koedt was born in 1915. “Not a day passes without her reading the newspaper. Inger attributes her long life to many things: a close family, nature, and a healthy diet, to name a few. Resilience also comes to mind as well as the ability to focus on the positive, even in the darkest days. “Yes, hang on to the good things; don’t hang on to the bad things’, she said.

And there is Clara Anderson who was born in 1905. “In her 110 years, Clara has seen the dramatic effects of war, technological advancements and social and environmental changes. When asked to describe how she felt about various events as they were happening, Clara took her time to respond. “A lot of times I think one way, when I collect data and change my mind”, she said. “So I’m consistently learning. It pays to observe your surroundings.”

I reflected on Clara’s comment after reading an article in “The San Francisco Chronicle” on July 9th, 2017 by Jonah Goldberg titled, “Ignorance and Arrogance Fuel Political Polarization”. We are all exposed to the news, which we choose according to our beliefs. And then we act accordingly. But how much do we really know? The article points out, “It struck me how a lot of our political polarization is fueled by plain old ignorance.” He continues, “The problem is that ignorance, being of knowledge, is a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum”. He also quotes Historian Daniel Boorstin, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge.” To support his point, he uses the words of Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn; “It’s a universal law – intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”

To contribute to the words of wisdom, 110 years young at heart Clara Anderson suggested, “Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut and you’ll learn a lot.”

P.S. Since I am only seventy, my wisdom is limited. But I learned a long time ago that my thoughts and words create my reality. Age does not make you wiser, but your outlook on life, which sometimes comes with age, does. Therefore, I wrote this story thinking about you with love in my heart. Make it a good day and enjoy the images of four wise people, whom I encountered in my journeys.

This book inspired me to work yet on another project. Since my wife and I were blessed to be married for fifty years, I am going to photograph other couples, who managed to be together for 50 years. This project might take awhile. Meantime you can start your library with “42 Encounters in San Francisco.” The book has a side benefit. It might help you to become wiser.

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

Dolores Park

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Dolores Park

A few weeks ago after I witnessed the celebration of diversity in San Francisco, you may recall I wrote about the Dyke March that took place in Dolores Park, and was packed with people. On weekdays, Dolores Park is a beautiful, huge grass covered lawn located in a very popular area of our city, bordering Dolores and Church Street between 18th and 20th Street. Nearby, on 18th Street, is the Bi-Rite Supermarket and across the street is the Bi-Rite Ice-Creamery, which often has long lines.   Further on 18th Street is Delfina Restaurant, where you better call a month in advance for a reservation, if you want to have dinner there. Of course you can easily settle with their pizzeria next door. If you have extra time, you can stand in line to buy bread from the Tartine Bakery & Café on the corner of Guerrero Street. As much as we enjoy the Park and the neighborhood today, many do not know about its very interesting history surrounding the area. Before the Spanish missionaries arrived here in 1776 and built the Mission Dolores, the area was inhabited by the Yelamu tribe, who lived here for thousands of years. For the sake of their conversion into Christianity, they were enslaved and were used in the building of the Mission. Within two generations of European contact, the Yelamu people were driven to extinction. In the nineteenth century, the Park’s two plots were owned by the Congregation Sherith Israel and the Congregation Emanu-El, and used as a Jewish Cemetery, which became inactive in 1894 when the Cemetery was moved to Colma. In 1905 the City of San Francisco bought the land to convert it into Mission Park. It was fortuitously timely, since during 1906-1907 the park served as a refugee camp for more than 1600 families made homeless by 1916 earthquake and fire. In 1917 the area became accessible by bringing the J-Church Streetcar line, which still serves the area today.

 

After a significant renovation, the park reopened in January 2016. It also received a new name – Mission Dolores Park. There are six tennis courts, a basketball court, two soccer fields, a playground and a clubhouse with public restrooms and also a pissoir (if you are not sure what it is, look it up online), and an off-leash area for dogs to run. Dolores Park, as it is commonly called, has a designation “Leave No Trace City Park.” It is the first time I came across this definition, which refers to a set of outdoor ethics, built on seven principles:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare;
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces;
  3. Dispose of waste property;
  4. Leave what you find;
  5. Minimize campfire impacts;
  6. Respect wildlife;
  7. Be considerate of other visitors;

 

If you want to relax after work and enjoy views of Downtown San Francisco, Dolores Park is the place. On weekends, it can be quite a busy place.

 

P.S. I have photographed in the park many times, often coming here during the week in the early evening, when the light is beautiful and the people are relaxed. Four images show some of my encounters. Please do not forget to order my photo-story book “42 Encounters in San Francisco”, where you will find more interesting tidbits about our beloved city.

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

Can We Learn How To Care

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Can We Learn How To Care?

Last week I wrote that the most important word in a long lasting marriage and any other relationship is care (actually there are two words – mutual care). Is there a way to learn such an important feature of a human’s well-being, which I suspect is not taught in schools? To find an answer, I decided to check my favorite book – the Torah. The Torah is divided into five books. The last one is called Deuteronomy, (which comes from Greek and means “Second Law”) summarizes the events that the former Hebrew slaves experienced in the preceding forty years living in the desert and receiving God’s laws and commandments through their leader Moses. It was not an easy journey and before passing on at the age of 120, Moses started the new book with a summary of their journey and events. It begins with a complaint – “How can I alone carry your contentiousness, your burdens, and your quarrels? Provide for yourself distinguished men who are wise, discerning and well-known to your tribes and I shall appoint them as your heads (Deuteronomy 1:13)”. I looked up the definition of “discerning”, and the dictionary gave number of meanings. One of them was, “having good judgement”. But when I checked the translation of the Hebrew original word “navon”, one of the meanings was “care”. Now it started to make sense. The leader had to be not only a wise person (hakham), but also had to be able to care about his tribe. The leaders had to learn what Moses was teaching them and then use this knowledge to teach and to judge their brethren. But it was like having a job. In our times, we have many learned people who are experts in their fields, but they are 9 to 5 people. Do they really care about the well-being of their colleagues, about the company they are working for, or their city, state, country? Many loudly express their political preferences, but what are they doing to demonstrate that they really care? You start with small measures, notice what can be done, change, improve, contribute and start to make a difference, because you care. Turns out, it is easier to advise, and not so easy to execute. I found an interesting opinion on this subject in the book titled, “Talks on the Parasha” by Rabbi Adin Even Israel Steinzaltz (Parasha is a weekly portion of the Torah, “Time” Magazine called Rabbi Steinzaltz “once-in-a-millennium scholar”).

In the book rabbi Steinzaltz points out that Moses, who really cared about people whom he led and taught, and he felt lonely, since other leaders were not able to care about their community on his level.

When I ask myself how I can learn to care more about others, the comparison comes with how to learn to be a better photographer. You can have the best camera, to know how it works and takes photos, but if you want to get great images you need to learn how to see, what to include and what not to exclude in your composition, how light affects the final results, and practice, take more images, make errors and when you get frustrated, relax and practice more, and to constantly learn. After all, either, you practice how to photograph or to take care of others, and it is someone else who will appreciate the results. But the decision of what to do has to be yours, since you are the person who cares.

P.S. For me, learning comes from reading books, and I am not alone. I often encounter readers in different places, to which these four images attest. In my photo-story book “42 Encounters in San Francisco,” which is available on Amazon.com, you will find many more whimsical images and interesting stories and, perhaps will learn how to care.

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One Word I Learned After 50 Years Of Marriage

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One Word I Learned
After 50 Years Of Marriage

A few days ago on August 8th, we reached our Golden Anniversary. When I started sharing with you some of the “secrets,” of our marriage last week, I realized that I actually have some additional thoughts, which might help you on your life journey.

We got married on August 8th, 1967. We did not have a big celebration. After our registration in the City Hall in our home town Riga, Latvia, we drove to the countryside where our family gathered to honor us. There were no special festivities, however, what was special there (and still is), was our love for each other. We were twenty years young, and though we both started working when we were fifteen, our life experience was limited. I moved in with my wife, to my new mother-in-law’s apartment which had four bedrooms. Each of us had a room — my wife Elfa and I, her mom, Elfa’s brother, his wife and their daughter, and another family of three adults. We all shared one kitchen and one bathroom. Hot water was not always available. The laundry was washed in the bath tub. When our daughter Alona was born, our loads of laundry increased, since diapers had to be washed every day. Regardless of all the problems, issues, discomforts and a lack of basic necessities, we lived a happy life. After a while we were able to exchange our apartment for another one (they were government-owned). This apartment came without neighbors, but it needed a lot of work. Since I was good with my hands, I started to remodel. It took me three years. At the end, when a government official saw our apartment and wanted it for himself, we finally received permission to emigrate to Israel. As years passed and after living in three different countries (and working in four), owning and managing a company with twenty employees for over thirty years, having two loving daughters, and being happily married for fifty years, I might say that I’ve learned a thing or two about life. If I could summarize my successful life experience in one word, the word would be CARE, and the care starts with you.

When you learn how to take care of yourself, you can take care of your significant other. This idea actually comes from the Torah. When God created human beings, he made them as one person. “God created man in his images, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Only after “God blew into his nostrils the soul of life, a man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). The next step was to separate them into men and women “from man was she taken” (Genesis 2:23). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24).

The traditional Jewish belief is that, forty days before child is born his/her significant other is pre-destined. However, we have to move through life to identify our soul mate.

And when we do, we have to take care of the body, which carries our soul. And this is exactly what my wife Elfa and I have been doing for each other in the last fifty years. During those years as a caring wife, Elfa allowed me to be the head of the family, and I always got the last words, which are “Yes, Dear.” She also reminds me that as a head, it is my responsibility to solve all the major problems, like peace in the world, securing the borders, the problems with refugees and the homeless, and economic reforms, while she deals with all the minor issues – what we will have for dinner, paying our bills on time, which concert or show we are going to see and what is our next travel destination. Of course all of those are jokes; actually in our family we jointly decide on everything because we care for each other.

P.S. While you are reading these lines, we are celebrating our Golden Anniversary in Berlin together with Elfa’s brother and his family, and our daughter Tamar and our son David (Tamar’s husband). You know that you will receive my report upon my return. Meanwhile, enjoy images of couples I encountered in San Francisco, who express their care and love with the kiss.

P.P.S. You can express your care for your family and friends by buying them something special, like my photo-story book “42 Encounters in San Francisco” on Amazon.com.

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What Is Our Secret?

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What Is Our Secret?

August 8, 2017 is an important milestone in our lives. On that date, my beloved wife Elfa and I are celebrating 50 years of our marriage. I am often asked, “What is your secret?” I could give a very simple answer – “I do not have secrets”. However, you might not believe me and suspect that I am keeping something. Therefore, I will just give you a short tour through our life together and perhaps you will find the answer to your quest of how to live long and happy life together.

Elfa and I were both born in Riga, Latvia, which at that time was part of the former Soviet Union. We met at a party, when we were both nineteen, to which Elfa came with her date and I with mine. When I saw her, the rest of the world melted away. I danced with her all evening, and from that day we were together every day. Some months later, there was another party. We were both in charge of planning. I had to get the food (my father worked in the food industry, which was a huge advantage when there was a scarcity of everything). Elfa offered her skills to prepare the food. At that moment I joked that if I liked her cooking I would marry her. The joke persisted when later on that evening, after a few drinks, I took a friend’s ring and put it on Elfa’s finger. It took us another nine months before we were officially married in the City Hall and I put the real ring on her finger. From the start, Elfa knew that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Fifty years later, I still enjoy her cooking. My job is to clean the kitchen. From the start of our relationship we agreed that we were going to always be together. Now we even go grocery shopping together.

Two years after our marriage, we decided to immigrate to Israel. This was a decision which led to many challenging events in our lives, since it took three years for this dream to realize. During this time, I kept working and going to school at night.

Our daughter Alona was growing up with her grandmother, while Elfa was fighting the government for permission to leave the Soviet Union, and we were told that we would never leave Riga. Her efforts and the support of Americans under the slogan “Let My People Go!” helped. One day we received a phone call that we have to leave in two weeks.

From the beginning of our marriage, we lived together with my wife’s mother Masha. Until her death many years later in our home in San Francisco, we always traveled through life together. Since I was surrounded by women of different ages (our daughter Tamar was born in Israel), I have a deep appreciation for the energy a woman brings to her partner’s life. Some time ago I wrote that “In a good relationship there is no right or wrong. There is only right and you know who she is”. Life in Israel was challenging, invigorating and very rewarding. We learned a lot and became people who were ready to move forward. Our reason to come to America, and ending up in San Francisco was to further our education. I wanted to get an MBA. Elfa dreamed of being a fashion designer. When the five of us immigrated here, we all became students. My dream was that one day we would have our own fashion company. It was quite a jump from my engineering background. To learn the business, I joined Helga Howie – a women’s high fashion company in San Francisco, as Vice President. Elfa was working for another fashion company. But my goal was to earn more money. I soon learned that the easy way to make a million dollars in the fashion business is by investing two million. Therefore, when I met Tom Grundy, my future manager at the Colwell Financial mortgage bank and he told me that I could double what I earned before, I only asked, “Where do I sign?” My family worried about my earning a commission-only salary, since I had to feed them. Thirty-four years later I’m still earning a commission. In 1985, our dream of working together with Elfa came true when we started Pacific Bay Financial Corporation. The following thirty-two years have been a wonderful journey full of excitement, challenges, and opportunities and, yes, love. We’ve survived and prospered thanks to our love for what we do, the people we work with and serve, and our family and love of each other.

OK, I will divulge one of my secrets. “The woman is always right; as long as she allows the man to do things his way only to discover that she was right from the start.” There is another Russian version of this bit of wisdom—“If I was only as smart then, as my wife is now”. In most of successful relationships, the man is the head of the family and the woman is the neck. Where the neck turns, is where the head looks. Next week I will share with you some more of my observations of how to achieve a lasting relationship.

P.S. You do not have to wait for a special occasion to express your feelings and appreciation. Flowers (especially roses) are always appreciated. My four images of roses are not exactly what you can buy in a flower shop.

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

Celebration – San Francisco Style

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Celebration – San Francisco Style

A few weeks ago we were planning to have dinner at our favorite restaurant, Zuni Café with friends who live in Mountain View. My friend called concerned about the traffic congestion because of some events in Downtown San Francisco that day. I had no idea what he was talking about, but when I opened the San Francisco Chronicle, I learned about the events that would take place over the coming weekend that my friend was referring to. On Friday, June 23rd was the TransMarch, the following day was the Diversity Celebration in front of City Hall and the Dyke March in Dolores Park. All of those events were preludes to Sunday’s 47th annual Gay Pride Parade.

San Francisco’s 6.2 percent of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) is the highest in the United States. This year the Pride Parade was a celebration of diversity, and a demand for equality; it had a record breaking 250 contingents marching this year, and the SF Pride Director said that a million people were attending the event. Some avoided it because it became too much of a commercial and corporate event. This year I stayed away. My excuse was that I had a client in the office, and I was tired of my excursion from the day before.

I was planning to go to Dolores Park to photograph the Dyke March, but on the way there, while in the underground Muni train, I decided to follow a group of young people who were dressed up and looking joyful. When I came out at the Civic Center station, I encountered many celebrants. Vendors were selling food and multicolor flags. Some were having picnics on the lawn. Music was blasting and people were dancing.

After taking enough images, I decided to walk to my original destination – Dolores Park, which is regularly full of people on the weekends. This time, because of the Dyke March, it was difficult to walk through. Turned out that besides the “Dykes on Bikes”, whom you could see in the Gay Pride Parade, the SF Dyke March Rally is an annual event which brings together upward of 50,000 members of the LGBTQ community, and the first nationwide event took place in Washington DC in April, 1993. Now it is celebrated in other countries as well. My friend was right – because of all the celebrations, many streets were blocked, but it seemed that it did not stop people from getting together and having a good time, and for me to snap a few images.

P.S. I tried to choose four images to give you a sense and the scope of the huge crowds. If you are interested, you can find more images online.

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