Santa Monica

It wasn’t quite warm enough to go swimming at the beach and because of a strong onshore breeze, it was also a bit too cold to sun bathe.  The solution that we came up with was to go fishing.  We had originally considered taking the boat out but that would require a fishing license and as I am now a “non-resident” of California they are quite a bit more expensive than resident licenses.  As California continues to rack up record debts I am always looking for ways to NOT give Sacramento any of my money.  California is the 6th largest economy in the WORLD, has the second highest taxes in the country (second only to New York) and still the state is bankrupt!  Just by living in Texas instead of California, I save 10 ½% in income tax.  What a rip-off!  And so, dodging a fishing license sounded like a good idea to me.  My brother told me that you don’t need a license to fish off any of the piers and so it was settled; we would fish off of the Huntington Pier or Seal Beach Pier.

Just as we got on the road, my nephew Jake (18) announced that Huntington and Seal Beaches “suck” and that we should instead go to Redondo or somewhere else.  We debated and argued a bit and then decided on Santa Monica because – following our fishing trip – we could visit the 3rd Street Promenade.  I haven’t been to the Promenade in over a decade and it would be nice to see some of the old “stomping grounds.”

The pier was full of tourists and fishers providing us a steady stream of people to watch while we waited for our poles to tell us that we had landed a fish.  Once we were behind the buildings at the end of the pier we were shielded from the wind and it was was warm enough to take off our shirts and get a little bit of a tan.  And this would give us a chance to even out the tan lines formed by so many days in the sun wearing a short-sleeved shirt.  The tourists were quite curious about our catch and so many came by to look in our bucket and to inquire if we had caught anything and with the exception of a single sand shark (photo below) and a pair of sea perch, we didn’t catch anything.  And despite the lack of a good catch, it was still a wonderful day.  What’s the saying?  “A bad day of fishing beats a good day of work.”

And after a fine day of fishing we walked to the 3rd Street Promenade located only 2 streets inland from Pacific Coast Hwy (Hwy 1).  If any tourist should come to Los Angeles I would recommend a visit to Santa Monica and to the Promenade.  3rd Street is closed to traffic and there are fountains, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, street performers and the occasional homeless person.

Santa Monica, like many other liberal cities in California offer services to homeless and as a result, they flock here from all around the country.  While there is a need for services to those who are down on their luck, the adage that “if you put out milk for a cat, it will come back for more,” is certainly true in this circumstance.  The municipalities (and states) that offer services to indigent people attract them away from the cities that do not.  And in sort of a perverse way, those who help end up having their city streets clogged with human refuse, tent cities and (sometimes) crazed drug users who will break your car window for .35 cents spare change in your glove box (happened to me 3 times before I made the wise move to abandon California and move to Texas).

We had a great dinner, sipped a beer and watched the never ending stream of tourists, crazies and locals as they walked back and forth across the Promenade.  The street entertainers rotated every hour or so and we had a varying style of music as we sat for 3 or 4 hours talking, laughing and catching up on the years missed as I’ve been overseas.

’m not sure if it is the long hair but it seems easier to meet women when the hair is longer.  A beautiful woman smiled at me as she walked by.  I smiled back and after she passed she looked back, almost expectantly for me to come and talk to her.  My brother smirked at me and said, “Dude, you’d better go get her number.”  I did, and we have a date at a later time.  She is an actress/artist of Ukrainian descent.  I looked her up online and see that she’s been in some movies with some big name stars.  How exciting, a date with a movie star :-x

And in perhaps the dumbest thing I’ve done all year, the next day I cut all my hair off!  Well, it will grow back.  I am a bit curious to see if my luck in the dating circuit changes with a more clean-cut look…


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Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is located on a pre-historic site with archaeological evidence dating to the 2nd millenium BC.  One of the Moghul leaders, Babar, won an important battle here in 1527 AD and later, his grandson, the great leader Akbar moved the capital from Agra.  The Sufi Saint Salim Chishti resided highly revered this area as a holy spot adding to the prestige of the location.  That this was a holy spot further influenced Babar when he selected the site for his capital.  Most of the buildings that are now at the site were constructed between 1572-1585 and are made of local red sandstone that is quarried nearby.

The grounds at the site were immaculately groomed and there were very few people around.  It was nice to be able to roam around the ancient buildings without any crowds & without any organized “supervision.”

The designs of the Imperial grounds were quite elaborate including the capital structure, administrative buildings, and housing for the ruler and his family.  The buildings were in wonderful condition owing to the site being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The detail inside of the buildings was very intricate with a great amount of detail in the facades and stone carving.  I was very impressed with not only the beautiful stonework, but also that the site has remained in such good condition.  I really enjoyed wandering about the 500-year-old buildings.

On the west side of the palace complex lies the great Jami Masjid Mosque.  Inside the main courtyard by the mosque lies Salim Chishti’s tomb (top photo and below).

Inside the eves of the walkways, hundreds of local craftsmen created handiworks of all kinds.  The prices, while relatively inexpensive dropped to only 10 or 20% of the original asking price after I continued strolling by (I wasn’t in the market to buy anything).  But, considering the “new” lower prices, I decided to buy a pair of sandstone carved candle holders.  Only one of the two survived the ride home in my luggage.  The second of the two fragile pieces broke into a hundred pieces after passing through several airport screenings and many baggage handlers.

Later, while I was in Agra, I found that I had still overpaid for these candle holders by two or three hundred percent…

It was in these courtyards that Akbar’s court theologians debated the different religions.  Akbar invited religious leaders from Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, and many more.  They debated the differences of each religion and tried to find common ground in all religions.  Akbar later determined that it was wrong to try and press one’s religious views on another or cause them to change their faith.


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