ECLECTIC FRIDAY: MEXICAN MERCADO, BIKE WEEK AND OPERA

What an eclectic day we had yesterday! (Friday)

First, Elizabeth took me to a wonderful Mexican market on the west side of Phoenix. The “Los Altos Rancho Mercado” was everything its title promised. And more. It was like being in Mexico.  Quite an international experience.

Of course, we sampled some things and also ordered a custom-made cake for a double birthday party we will be having this coming week as my eldest daughter, her husband and my four grandchildren will be coming to visit us from Vienna, Austria.

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Second, we then drove all the way up to Cave Creek to look for something quite innocuous – a particular lamp shade Elizabeth wanted. Instead, we landed smack in the middle of a huge motorcycle crowd. It was the annual Bike Week in Cave Creek.

There were thousands of bikes and probably several thousand bikers who clogged up the main drag of this western town that still looks like it is just leaving the 19th century.

Third, in the evening, we attended the Arizona Opera performance of Rossini’s “Cinderella” at the Phoenix Symphony Hall. And what a zoo it was!  The traffic, congestion and the crowds were WORSE than last weekend during the Final Four tournament in Phoenix.

As it turns out, the city morons once again overbooked overlapping events. Last night, the AZ Diamondbacks were swinging in Major League Baseball. The Phoenix Suns were saying goodbye to their NBA season. And there was also some kind of a dance event at the Herberger Theater. All at basically the same time and withing a few hundred yards of year other.  Insanity!

It took us forever to get there and park. We just made it as the opera was opening. And it took us also forever to leave even though it was nearly 11 PM.

As for the opera, Rossini’s “Cinderella” opened exactly 200 years ago (in 1817).

Stand by for more for an interesting story on the history of this opera, and Rossini’s relationship with Beethoven.

Great Art vs. Popular Music

ROSSINI AND BEETHOVEN: HOW GREAT GERMAN MUSIC MASTER KILLED ROSSINI’S ZEAL TO COMPOSE

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“Since hearing Beethoven’s Third Symphony, Eroica, Rossini had been moved to meet Beethoven and had tried several times through a few people to meet the composer. It seems most likely that Antonio Salieri was the culprit (so to speak 😉 of setting up the meeting, since he had played violin at the 1813 premiere of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, and was a friend and former teacher of Beethoven.”

The most popular composer in Beethoven’s final years, even in Vienna where he lived, was not Beethoven himself but Gioachino Rossini, whose light-as-a-feather smash-hit comic operas, such as The Barber of Seville (1816) – all laughs, saucy farce and hummable tunes – were arguably closer to the general public’s idea of an ‘Ode to Joy’.

When Rossini arrived at Beethoven’s tiny flat in Vienna, he traveled with his complete entourage of hanger-oner (like the groupies in today’s rock bands), servants and admirers. Rossini clambered up the rickety stairs to Beethoven’s tiny flat. Her was stunned at the poverty and squalor in which the greatest living composer at the time was living.

Moved by compassion, he offered to help Beethoven financially. And paid a compliment to Rossini that wounded the Italian composer to the core. Here’s an excerpt about that conversation:

38-year-old Rossini succeeded in meeting Ludwig van Beethoven, who was then aged 51, deaf, cantankerous and in failing health. Communicating in writing, Beethoven noted: “Ah, Rossini. So you’re the composer of The Barber of Seville. I congratulate you.  I love your operatic comedies. Your music will be played as long as Italian opera exists. Never try to write anything else but your operatic comedies. Serious music would do violence to your soul.”

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it was probably easier for Rossini to gain a larger following, because his Barber of Seville and other light comic operas were easily digestible, easy on the ears kinds of works. The public could “get” them in one setting, hum them on the way home, and then easily forget them as they went upon their daily lives – much like pop music “ditties,” as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter called them a century later.

When Rossini reached the age of 38, he had already written 38 operas. He was a big star akin to the most popular rock musicians today. Yet he suddenly quit composing. It is unclear whether or not Beethoven’s remark played a part in this decision. But it is a fact Rossini lived out the rest of his life without writing a single operatic score.

So maybe Great Art won over commercial successes of Popular Music in the end.

 

 

RETURN TO PHOENIX SYMPHONY

Elizabeth and I did not waste any time getting re-immersed into the Arizona desert cultural life. Last night, we attended a performance of Beethoven’s 3rd symphony, the “Eroica,” by the Phoenix Symphony orchestra. It was another wonderful performance which the conductor, Tito Munoz, led without referring to any sheet music over the entire 48-minutes of its length.

But first, we had to endure – and I underscore ENDURE – you might even say suffer through György Ligeti’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.

LIGETI’S MUSIC: CACOPHONY OF DISCONSONANT SOUNDS

Who is Ligeti? (1923-206). Exactly. Based on what we heard last night, you didn’t miss much if you have never heard of him. His music was a cacophony of disconsonant sounds. Kind of like a bunch of mice in a drunken rage partying while cat’s away. Awful.

If that’s what passes as “contemporary” or “modern” music, I’d even take rap over it.

Anyway, here’s the official bio summary for this mice music composer: György Sándor Ligeti was a Hungarian composer of contemporary classical music. He has been described as “one of the most important avant-garde composers in the latter half of the twentieth century”.

BACKGROUND TO BEETHOVEN’S THIRD SYMPHONY – “EROICA”

And now, back to Beethoven’s “Eroica” symphony. Completed in 1804 and first performed in 1805, Beethoven originally dedicated the third symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte. Beethoven believed Napoleon embodied the democratic and anti-monarchical ideals of the French Revolution.

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In autumn of 1804, however, Beethoven withdrew his dedication of the third symphony to Napoleon, lest it cost the composer’s fee paid him by a royal patron. So, Beethoven re-dedicated his third symphony to Prince Joseph Franz Maximilian Lobkowitz – nonetheless, despite such a bread-and-butter consideration, the politically idealistic Beethoven titled the work “Buonaparte”.  Later, about the composer’s response to Napoleon having proclaimed himself Emperor of the French (14 May 1804), Beethoven’s secretary, Ferdinand Ries wrote:.

“In writing this symphony, Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him, and compared him to the greatest consuls of Ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven’s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word “Buonaparte” inscribed at the very top of the title-page and “Ludwig van Beethoven” at the very bottom …

I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, “So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of Man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!” Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be recopied, and it was only now that the symphony received the title Sinfonia eroica.”

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UPDATE March 24, 2017

MOZART REQUIEM AT PHOENIX SYMPHONY HALL

Last night, Elizabeth and I attended a wonderful performance of the “Mozart Requiem” by the Phoenix Symphony and Chorus.

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UPDATE APRIL 2, 2017

“March Madness” Phoenix-style on April Fools’ Day

BEETHOVEN’S 9TH SQUEEZED IN BETWEEN “FINAL FOUR” AND ROCK MUSIC FESTIVAL

Our first “park and ride” experience on Phoenix light rail system

We expected this Saturday night to be a madhouse in downtown Phoenix.  The greedy city fathers – or morons, take your pick – managed to schedule at least three major events on the same day at about the same time in an already crowded city center of a major metropolitan area that’s home to nearly 5 million people.

First, and the biggest madness of them all was the culmination of NCAA’s “March Madness” basketball tournament – the Final Four.  Both semifinal games were played on Saturday, April 1.  (Never mind that “March Madness” has now spilled over into April). 🙂

Second, there was a related Music Festival featuring major rock bands.

And then there was Beethoven’s 9th and the most majestic symphony being performed on Saturday evening by the Phoenix Symphony and Chorus. Beethoven would have felt rather small in comparison to the crowds that the other two New World Order crowd opiates attracted. But what Beethoven and the Phoenix Symphony lacked in numbers they more than made up in class.

It was a magnificent performance. What made it so special for Elizabeth and me was that only a week ago we had a chance to see and hear Mozart’s magnificent Requiem at the same venue performed by the same orchestral and choral ensembles.

As we were walking out after last night’s performance, I asked Elizabeth, “which one did you like better?”

“Both,” was her answer.

Indeed. They are both so very different and yet so fabulous.

OUR FIRST PHOENIX LIGHT RAIL EXPERIENCE

As a result of all the warnings about possible overcrowding in downtown Phoenix, Elizabeth and I decided to take the Leaf on its first desert outing and park it at the Camelback Rd light rail station. We took the light rail train, which is really a tram, from there to downtown Phoenix. And back, of course, after the concert.

It was an interesting experience. Certainly a lot cheaper than driving. With gas and parking, out trips to the Phoenix Symphony Hall probably cost about $35. Last night, we spent $4 on two return tickets. And left ZERO carbon footprint for the night since we used the Leaf (our electric car) to get to the train station.

But, of course, there was also waiting and crowding in the tram car on the way back. Still, it was a good experience.

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“ODE TO JOY” BY HAWAII SYMPHONY: SPIRITUAL CLIMAX OF 2016

HAWAII SYMPHONY’S “ODE TO JOY:” SPIRITUAL CLIMAX OF 2016

Wow. I had tears in my eyes at the end of the year-ending concert by Hawaii Symphony which featured Beethoven’s 9th symphony – Ode to Joy. And not just at the end. All four movements were masterfully played.

One could not have wished for a more perfect climax to an exciting year. I had to sleep on it in order to climb down emotionally enough from last night so as to be able to write about it.

It was the first time that I have had a chance to see a female conductor in action. And boy, was she ever terrific. She conducted not just with her arms, she put her whole body and soul into it.

No wonder JoAnn Falletta has a list of credits as long as my arm. But I did not know that beforehand (see http://www.joannfalletta.com/ for her bio).

At the end of last night’s performance, the audience was positively ecstatic. You’d think you were at a sporting event judging by the cheering and applause.

I’ll probably write more after I get back home to Maui this evening. Meanwhile, happy New Year to those of you in Australia, Asia and the eastern time zone!

ABOUT BEETHOVEN’S 9th SYMPHONY

Ludwig van Beethoven was almost completely deaf when he composed his ninth symphony. The Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (also known as “the Choral” and “Ode to Joy”), is Beethoven’s final complete symphony. Completed in 1824, the symphony is one of the best-known works in classical music.

Beethoven’s deafness created one of the most touching stories in music. When the symphony was completed, he remained facing the orchestra and could not hear the thunderous applause of the audience for his new symphony. Caroline Unger, thimg_1575e mezzo-soprano soloist, had to tap the deaf composer’s arm and have him turn around so that he could see how the crowd’s response. Many of those in attendance, including Miss Unger, had tears in their eyes when they realized the extent of Beethoven’s deafness.

It was first performed on May 7, 1824 at the Kaerntnertor Theater in Vienna.The theater no longer exists. Today, on the site of the old theater is the Hotel Sacher, right behind the Vienna State Opera House. Without knowing this historical tidbit until just now, it is interesting Elizabeth and I were drawn to Hotel Sacher and went there for meals and deserts every day during our May 2014 visit to Vienna. Like the famous Sachertorte (cake see – https://goo.gl/kFIUYm).

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GREETINGS FROM ATOP DIAMONDHEAD SUMMIT

Attending the year-end Hawaii symphony concert was the main reason I flew to Honolulu for a day and a half visit. But not the only one.

When I got to Honolulu on Friday morning, the weather was wet and drizzly. My tentative plan was to drive out to the Pipeline, Oahu’s notorious surfing spot on its north shore. But as I headed out in that direction, drizzle and low clouds that were practically touching the ground dissuaded me from it.

So I turned around and drove in the opposite direction. And decided to try to climb Diamondback. By the time I made it to the world famous volcano that seems to grace every postcard of Honolulu, the rain had abated to just a light drizzle. Which actually made the hike quite enjoyable and easier than on my two previous climbs.

So here are some shots from the summit.

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By the time I made it there, even the drizzle had stopped. But the clouds were still there, providing an unusual backdrop to the usually sunny Waikiki beaches.

Here are some more scenes from the Diamondhead hike. You can see how low the clouds were from this panorama shot.

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WALK ON WAIKIKI BEACH

After a short nap, I went back out and walked on Waikiki beach. I don’t think I have ever seen it looking so gloomy. Yet the weather did not deter the tourists for doing what they came to Hawaii to do – lie, surf, sail or frolic on the beach. 🙂

I first went to my favorite hotel – the Royal Hawaiian.  When it was build in 1927, it was the tallest structure on Waikiki. Now it looks like a midget compared to the hotel skyscrapers around it. Yet it still has that old world Art Deco charm. I just love it. I could not imagine a visit to Honolulu without stopping by at the Royal Hawaiian.

This time, as I bonus I got to see it decked out in Christmas decorations. Which included this amazing gingerbread model of the hotel itself.

Right next door lies one of those hotel skyscrapers – the Sheraton, which now also manages the Royal Hawaiian.

That was the first hotel at which I stayed on my first visit to Hawaii 30 years ago. Its lobby was also looking very festive. You can also see from its beach the view of the Diamondhead which I had climbed a few hours before.

But my favorite view was this model who posed next to a giant sand castle display in the hotel lobby. 🙂 She was actually posing for her “sugar daddy.” I think I overheard them speaking Russian. Which stood out in a hotel lobby where 90% of faces and conversations were Japanese.

WAIKIKI BEACH SUNSET SILHOUETTES

Late this afternoon, I walked back to Waikiki beach to see if the sun would grace us with its appearance at least at the end of the day.

Turns out – not really. But not for a lack of trying.

Normally, this late i the day there would have been a symphony of colors here on the beach. But not today.

Which was actually a silver lining. Literally. 🙂 For, it gave me a chance to shoot this photo essay of Waikiki beach silhouettes.

I was sitting on a bench and drinking my coffee. And people were walking by, back and forth, back and forth… as the sun was struggling to break through the clouds.

As a result, these pictures almost look like B&W photos. Do you have a favorite?

VISIT TO TRUMP TOWER, STREET MARKET

On my way back to my hotel, I stopped at the Trump Tower for a nature call.  So I texted a friend:

“By the way, I just used the restroom in the Trump tower.   For free. One of the new taxpayer perks, I hear.” 🙂

Farther down Waikiki, a street market had just opened (after 4PM). And it was bustling. They even had Elvis helping create a festive atmosphere. 🙂

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Saturday, Dec 31, 2016

WAIKIKI BEACH: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES!

The morning of my second day in Honolulu was filled with sparkling sunshine. By the time I made it back to Waikiki beach, a little after 9 AM, all sorts of usual activities were already under way.

What a difference a day makes! It’s hard to believe this is the same beach photographed from the same spots as the shots I took yesterday. It looked like God has decided to give Honolulu beautiful year-end weather. Take a look…

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KAILUA BEACH, WAIMANALO BAY AND KAPUU BEACH

After a nice Waikiki beach walk, I checked out of my hotel and pointed my car northward – toward Kailua on the windward Oahu coast. I did it with some trepidation for two reasons.

First, rainy clouds were still enveloping the high peaks of the Pali, the mountains that run like a spine parallel to the north shore of Oahu. Second, Kailua is where Obama is supposed to be vacationing. And the last thing I wanted was to run into him and his entourage or get delayed in traffic because of all his security.

But because the Kailua beach is one of the nicest beaches on Oahu, I decided to go there anyway.

As it turns out, my worries were unfounded. After driving through the drizzle at the top of the mountain range, the weather was mostly sunny over the ocean on the other side. As for Obama, there was no sign of him. So it was all good.

And this is what I saw on the beach…

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From Kailua, I continued on to the northeast corner of Oahu. From our previous visits there, I knew there would be probably a good view of the Makapuu beach from the lookout of the same name. It was very windy there so I did not hang around for too long. But here’s a panorama shot I took from the lookout.

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UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY: BEAUTIFUL CHRISTMAS DECOR IN DOWNTOWN HONOLULU

By the time I reentered Honolulu from the east, I thought I was done with my sightseeing. And then I took a “wrong” exit from the H1 freeway. Which turned out to be a perfect entrance into the enchanted world of Christmas in downtown Honolulu.

As I made the left turn from Punchbowl on King Street, I was stunned to see giant figures depicting Christmas scenes in front of the state and city buildings. So I quickly swung left again and ended up right at the entrance of a free public car park.  My spirit guides had it all laid out for me like a red carpet. I just had to walk on it.

And then I actually walk back along King Street admiring the spirit of Christmas in Honolulu on this New Year’s Eve of 2016.  I also marveled at it was all open to the public as our country used to be in the old days – no security screening, no cameras, just JOY OF CHRISTMAS.

Here’s a short video I shot inside the Honolulu City Hall:

Here are also some still shots now of a display of holiday spirit as magnificent as I have ever seen anywhere in the world.

(By the way, these are not inflatable figures. They are permanent sculptures.)

IOLANI PALACE: REMINDER OF SAD HAWAIIAN HISTORY

As I walked onto the beautiful grounds of Iolani Palace, the former royal Hawaiian residence, dotted with huge Monkey Pod trees, I was reminded of its sad history.

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On Jan 17, 1893, United States government overthrew the Hawaiian monarch Queen Liliuokalani at gunpoint, cowardly hiding behind a group of American sugar planters under Sanford Ballard Dole. The coup occurred with the foreknowledge of John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawaii, and 300 U.S. Marines from the U.S. cruiser Boston were called to Hawaii, allegedly to protect American lives (for more click here – https://goo.gl/CxZGoE).

And the coup was proclaimed right here, at the Aliiolani Palace, right across King Street from the royal residence at Iolani Palace.

Every time I think about it, I hang my head low in shame.

“These are hallowed grounds for Native Hawaiians,” I was thinking, “and it is a park of shame for the rest of us Americans.”

Which is why I fly the old Royal Hawaiian flag in front my Rainbow Shower home. And do ceremony of atonement and contrition at that spot every Jan 17 when I am in residence at the Rainbow Shower. It is my way of showing respect for the Native Hawaiians, and apologizing for the crime the US government committed against them almost 124 years ago.

Here are now photos of Iolani Palace. For more on that, including our visit inside the royal palace in May 2011, click on… https://goo.gl/AeOiwA.

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ALA MOANA HULA DANCERS

My final stop before going to the airport was at the Ala Moana mall. I figured they might have some holiday shows there. And sure enough, a group of Hawaiian women were performing hula dances just as I got there.

And that’s all she wrote from this trip to Honolulu.

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TOPLESS STREET WALKER IN DOWNTOWN HONOLULU

I almost forgot about this little tidbit. As I was driving from the Honolulu City Hall on King Street toward Ala Moana, I was stopped at a red light. My mind was still on the marvelous Christmas display I had just seen, and on the Hawaiian history that unfolded at Iolani Palace 124 years ago.

Suddenly I noticed a woman on a sidewalk who looked like a Native Hawaiian. She took off the pink rag she wore as her top and entered the crosswalk right in front of me topless. She seemed completely casual about that and took her time putting her hands to cover her breasts, like this woman in a file photo from NYC.

Unfortunately, the light changed to green before I had a chance to get my camera ready to shoot. Which is why I have to use this file photos to give you an idea of what I saw.

What do you suppose that was all about? An exhibitionist? And activist like these women in NYC and DC?

The Hawaiian woman, though, did not look like she cared if anybody stared. She walked topless across one of the busiest streets in Honolulu as if that’s the most natural thing to do.

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HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM HAWAII!

Which Hawaii? The sunny or the rainy one?

Turns out – BOTH. On the same day. 🙂

Beautiful day in Oahu, flash flood at the Rainbow Shower in Maui

What a way to end the year. The same day could not have looked any more different between Oahu and Maui than this Christmas Eve.

FLOODING IN MAUI

My foot bridge is gone – for the third and probably final time. I could not even see anywhere its big and heavy (200 pounds) boards. The big bridge has been damaged but is still standing.

So as most things in life, the “good” often comes with the “bad.” So I wish you all a happy new year from both sunshine and rain in the same day.

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Epilogue of Saturday’s flash flood

BRIDGE REPAIRS DONE!

Finally the sun came out today and I was able to do some repairs and clean up after the flash flood on Saturday.

After about two hours work, and 2 1/2 pounds of lost weight, I was covered in mud head to toe. But the job was done and both bridges repaired.

My wonderful Japanese neighbors, Yumi and Taka, had found my foot bridge on their property and hauled it back into place before even started my work.

Of course, I thank them profusely as I never expected them to. I was just about to go hunt for downstream when they texted me that they had found the bridge and brought it back.

You can also see in the middle shot the two plants – money plant and red T-plant – which I have now put to mark the Music Crystal Transceivers despacho (buried underneath). Both were uprooted by the flood and deposited at this spot.

By the way, the erosion around the foot bridge has been so bad that the far end of it hanging onto what’s left of the riverbank by fingernails. I shored it up some more today with two long steel rods which I drove into the ground to support the bricks.
But as I said to Yumi and Taka after I was done, the next flood, if there is one (hope not), will be the end of the bridge.
“After that, I’ll cut it up for firewood,” I told them. They both laughed.

THE END. (I hope).

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UPDATE JAN 6, 2017

MORE “FARMER’S YOGA” AT THE RAINBOW SHOWER, GLEAMING ANUENUE (horse)

We have have had three consecutive days without rain! Which is a real blessing after suffering a two-year El Niño and scores of flash floods.

So yesterday, I put on my grubbies, grabbed my chainsaw and other tools, and headed down to the jungle at the bottom of the Rainbow Shower gulch to clear some large fallen trees.

The heavy and constant rains have made the tree crowns top heavy. And so they have eventually collapsed creating an impassable wall wooden wall.

I cannot remember how many times I have had to do that in the last 8 years. Probably several dozen jungle clearing efforts like that.
 

It took me a little over two hours of heavy chainsaw work to open up a path through the jungle. I worked in rubber boots because the ground was still muddy. Good news: Down 2.2 pounds at the end.

After I cleaned up, I drove on to Kihei and treated myself to a slice of delicious Maui Pie.

I know, driving 25 miles for a piece of pie may sound a bit excessive. But so was the chainsaw work I did. I had to cut most of the time by holding the chainsaw above my shoulders. And I’ve had rotator cuff surgeries on both shoulders a few years back (sports injuries – tennis, hiking, etc.).
 
Besides, I drive an electric car and have solar electricity. It’s not like I am wasting energy frivolously. And the pie was delicious, as usual. Mountain berry flavor. 🙂 Yum!

Anyway, this is what the jungle looks like now.

GLEAMING ANUENUE

Today I also polished our Anuenue bronze sculpture which has been relaxing on our front lawn for almost 8 years now. His name means “rainbow” in Hawaiian – appropriate for a guardian of the Rainbow Shower (name of my property).

Anuenue actually hails from Thailand. I had him first shipped to my home in Arizona back in 2006, and then on to Hawaii when I moved here in early 2009. So this horse is a world traveler even though he has been sedentary for the last 8 years. 🙂

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