Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Jazz Mecca in Culver City, CA - Sony Holland Dazzles

The San Francisco jazz scene has not been the same since our beloved diva, Sony Holland, and her talented songwriter husband, Jerry Holland, headed to the tinsel town of Los Angeles.  Oh, sure, they occasionally drive north to do a few gigs for their loyal Bay area fans but it looks like they are going to stay in the land of traffic jams and smog.  That means, of course, that we will make the journey, occasionally, if our budgets allow, to be enchanted by her sensual voice, working its magic with Jerry's new lyrics or singing the standards from the Great American songbook or newer hits that strike her fancy.  No matter what she chooses, she captivates audiences who join her steadily increasing fan base.

Friday, I arrived at San Francisco International almost two hours early for my 1:50PM flight to LAX.  Virgin America leaves from the international terminal and I wanted to allow for plenty of time to make my way to the departure lounge, figuring there might be a lot of weekend traffic.  This was one time I wouldn't leap to the front if they asked for volunteers to stay behind for a free travel voucher.  No sir, I do have my priorities ....can't miss Sony Holland, even for that.  I was so excited because I hadn't seen the Hollands since June and it had been about three months since I'd seen my good friend, Joanne Olivieri ( Poetic Shutterbug ), who used to do some work for Sony ( pretty sad, really, since Jo and I only live about ten miles apart!! ).  

At any rate, the flight was uneventful and I caught the Radisson hotel shuttle within minutes of disembarking.  When I got to the hotel, I took a peek inside the Jazz Club which looked quite snazzy.  Lo and behold, there was Jerry Holland, checking things out himself.  I gave him a big hug, then went to take my bag up to my room.  Before I took a few steps, the door from the courtyard opened and there was Jo who greeted me with a hug and announced she was starving.  Since I was hungry as well, we immediately headed to the lobby bar and shared a chicken quesadilla.  I did not share my Patron reposada margarita.  Jerry Holland walked up then and said, "I should have known you'd find the bar already."  Now, whatever did he mean by that?

It turns out that Jo and I had both been on the Virgin America flight, and in the departure lounge at the same time and never even saw each other....wierd, huh?  There might have been some gorgeous hunk flying with us and we were totally oblivious.  Jo is so busy clutching the arm rests, anyway, when she's airborne,CSI would have a perfect set of prints imbedded in them should they ever be needed.

Sony was doing two sets, the first starting at 8PM so I was downstairs about 7:10PM to see our other San Francisco friends when the club doors opened at 7:30PM.  There were seven of us from the Bay area and we all were at tables right up front, to cheer her on.  It did our hearts good to see the venue completely packed.  Even the seats back in the bar area were filled!  Merle Kreibich of IN HOUSE Music had done an incredible job of setting up this site at the Culver City Radisson as an excellent jazz club which has performances every Friday in a dinner theatre setting.

To say that Sony ( and Jerry, who accompanied Sony and the band for a few numbers ) was fantastic is a major understatement. I loved the new original songs Jerry has written since their move to Los Angeles.  To hear some of them - and some of the songs from her other CDs, go to Sony's website at  For those of you lucky enough to live in the Los Angeles and Orange County area, her gigs are also listed sure to tell her that Carmen and Jo sent you, if you see her.   The band that normally plays with her are also outstanding - Theo Saunders on the piano ( simply superb ), John B. Williams on bass ( he played for Nancy Wilson for over forty years  and with Doc Severinson and the Tonight show band for seven years ), Larry Koonse on guitar ( he's recorded with Al Hirt, Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt
and many more ) and drummer, Tony Austin.

Both sets were a mix of Jerry Holland originals, old and new and many old favorites.  Sony sings "At Last" better than anyone, in my opinion and when she did  "The Last Time Ever I Saw Your Face", she brought the house down.  It was all over far too quickly to suit me.  Long after everyone left, we sat in the lobby, the San Franciscans, Jerry and Sony, and Sabrina, the beautiful Siberian husky, sipping champagne and eating luscious chocolate truffles.  Only Jo and Sabrina were teetotalers!

Saturday morning, Jo and I had a farewell breakfast with our friend, who is at the Grammy Awards as I write this.  I long for the day that we see Sony Holland receiving her Grammy for singing a Jerry Holland song!

Scraggly Bird of Paradise on the Radisson property - Hawaii needn't worry!

Palms helping mask the Culver City freeway noise

Los Angeles snow

Beautiful courtyard trees

Ferns in the courtyard

Radisson, Culver City, CA - lobby bar

Interior of the Culver City  Jazz Club at the Radisson

The interior bar at the Radisson's Culver City Jazz Club

Sony Holland - simply the best!

Sony Holland and Carmen Henesy

A hello from Merle Kreibich of In House Music who is the master mind behind the Jazz Club at the Radisson

 Sony Holland, our beloved jazz diva

 Sabrina, a big fan of the Holland duo
The Hollands and the San Francisco Contingent

My healthy fruit selections for breakfast

The waffle maniac's breakfast - at least she kept it to one order of waffles!

The green stuff makes this breakfast not too bad.

Just so you can get an idea of how wonderful Sony Holland is, here are a couple of her You Tube videos:

Time is Running Out - At Midnight, Monday 2-1-10, It'll Be Over!

I know there are others, like me, who love giveaways.  I just discovered this one and you have a little over 24 hours to enter.  KS, at ...while we're waiting is giving one lucky person two stoneware Le Creuset oven to table dishes!  They come in a variety of yummy colors.  I want cobalt blue if I'm a winner.  If you win, please make something scrumptious and invite me to dinner.  Also, invite your nice single older widowed uncle who is over fifty ( I don't mind younger men! ).  If he has money and likes to travel, even better!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thank You to Bhavesh Chhatbar

It is indeed an honor to receive the following award from my friend, Bhavesh Chhatbar of
Information is Everything.  His blog is filled with beatiful photography and is such a joy to visit.
Bhavesh is from India, one of my favorite countries in the entire world.  On his site, he lists
many more amazing blogs to which he has also given this award.  Check it out and see!

Friday, January 29, 2010

B is for Barcelona

Today is the second week of Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. 

The letter "B" is our topic and I have chosen one of my favorite cities in the world - Barcelona, a place I have visited about ten times if my memory serves me correctly.  Most recently, I was there for four days in October 2008, as part of my 65th birthday celebration, along with four friends, and I also spent three days there in April 2007, with my dear friend, Sherry Arndt, at the end of our transatlantic crossing on the Navigator of the Seas.

picture courtesy of
Panorama of the city with the spires of Gaudi's unfinished Sagrada Familia 
Barcelona, with a metropolitan area of over four million people, is the capital of Catalonia, with its own language.  Spanish, however, is the national language and is spoken and understood almost universally.  The city lies on the northeast coast of the Iberian peninsula and faces the Mediterranean Sea.

It is a city both ancient and modern, tracing its history back to the time of the Romans in the 2nd century B. C.  The Visigoths conquered the city in the 5th century and the Moors took it in the 8th century.  Louis, the son of Charlemagne, reconquered Barcelona, in 801.

From the 12th through the 14th centuries, Catulunya was wealthy, with Barcelona ruling a small empire which included Sicily, Malta,Sardinia, parts of Greece, the Balearics, and the French regions of Rousillon and Cerdagne.  The 15th century, however, saw a reversal of fortune, with the onset of the plague, bank failures and other traders taking over their markets.  Opposition to the Spanish throne on several occasions, resulted in the defeat of Barcelona and even in the
banning of the Catalan language, in 1714.

Around the 1830's, the European Romantic Movement helped usher in the Catalan Renaissance, with a strong nationalist movement.  The turn of the century, in Spain, was a period of great political unrest. However, with the death of Franco, Catalunya returned and Barcelona, as its capital, is a city to be treasured and enjoyed.

Barcelona has a warm Mediterranean climate so it is a year-round city to visit.  It can be quite hot and humid in the summer - and very crowded, especially in August.  Many Catalans
vacation themselves at that time so shops may be closed.  Late spring or fall are nicer times to visit to avoid crowds and to maximize your time in Barcelona.

To really avail yourself of all that Barcelona has to offer, please refer to the websites at the end of this article.  I will mention only a few.  Of course, there are museums and arts to please every taste.  Throughout the city, the work of Gaudi is evident - in lamp posts, buildings, parks.

Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, is a Gaudi work on the Paseo de Gracia in the stylish Ensanche district.  It was completed in 1910 and was Gaudi's final civil work before he devoted himself to the Sagrada Familia temple on which he worked until his death.  This building has few straight lines and, as you can see, has curves and undulating forms.  La Pedrera was declared a World Heritage site in 1984.

Park Guell was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984.  It is home to the Casa 
Museo Gaudi ( the Gaudi Museum ).  Gaudi lived there in the Pink Tower from 1906 until 1925, a year before his death.  Many of his personal objects and furnishings are there.

The Casa Batllo is also on the Paseo de Gracia and is one of the most famous of Gaudi's buildings.  I never get tired of seeing it and no trip to Barcelona is complete until I have passed by there!
 A Gaudi alligator at La Sagrada Familia

 Crucifix at La Sagrada Familia
 Eternal construction at La Sagrada Familia - estimated to be complete in 2020

Barcelona is a city of wonderful restaurants from the simple to the most elegant.  With its proximity to the Mediterranean, there is never a shortage of excellent seafood and, of course, one may simply feast on assorted tapas rather than eat a whole meal.  Outdoor dining abounds and prices range from reasonable to extreme.  Spain is well known for its excellent wines.

Colon Square Restaurants by Gipsy Bokeh

Our nice waiters at Colon Square

Padron peppers and scrumptious octopus

The city is resplendent with stunning architecture - from ancient to modern.  My first trip to Barcelona, I rode the hop on, hop off buses to the end of each route, just to get a feel for the city and I was overwhelmed with its incredible beauty.  The lCatalans take much delight in their home and, on Sundays, people are out in huge numbers, strolling hand in hand, along the avenues, and at Placa Catalunya, walking down La Rambla, enjoying the fresh air and listening to street musicians.  It is a remarkarkable place.

Another pretty building

Apartment building

Barcelona turrets

The old and the new

Of course, the famous street, La Rambla, is a favorite of tourists, running from Placa Catalunya to the statue of Christopher Columbus at the port.  It is lively from morning till late night, with its hotels, restaurants, shops of all sorts, mimes, entertainers and the like.

Flower stall on La Rambla

Entertainment on La Rambla

The fountain at Placa Catalunya

Beautiful light fixture

 I have talked about La Boqueria in another post but I can't write about Barcelona without mentioning this incredible market on La Rambla.  Whenever I travel about the world, I always visits markets but this one is my all time favorite.  It is so beautifully organized and alluring.  For the best prices, choose stalls that are further away from the street!

La Boqueria Vegetables


Eggs of every kind!

Goodness, do I ever wish I had some right now!!

The Agbar and the Diaganol Hotel by Gipsy Bokeh

The Statue of Christopher Columbus at the port end of La Rambla

Icari by Thor

Nothing I can write can do this city justice.  You have to visit to experience Barcelona.  It is fashionable, modern, exciting, but honors the old traditions and its history stretches back two thousand years.  I never tire of visiting.  When I arrive there, it feels like I am going home.

To learn more about Barcelona, check out the following websites, for a start:

Also, thank you to the photographers ( names with their pictures ) who allowed their pictures to be shared.  At least, there was a little variety from mine!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010



Her life was never varied,
She had her same routine,
Up each day by six o’clock,
For a run that kept her lean.

She always had her cereal,
With protein, flax, and soy,
And dreamed about a puppy,
To bring her lots of joy.

She worked hard at the office,
With a zest unmatched by few,
Whatever needed doing,
She would pitch right in and do!

At lunch, she liked to wander,
In little shops and such,
Her kindnesses to all she met,
Made her loved so much.

Every other evening,
She would take the time,
To visit a home for elders,
And play a piano most sublime!

As she left one evening,
A handsome man came near,
To thank her for always bringing,
His elder mother so much cheer.

As the weeks turned into months,
This man would always stay,
And many times, he’d bring to her,
A lovely rose bouquet.

And so it came to pass in June,
In the lovely church in town,
A joyous marriage happened,
With everyone around.

Carmen Henesy

Copyright (c) 2009 by Carmen Henesy
All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Efforts of Royal Caribbean Cruise Line in Haiti

Many of my followers may be aware that, prior to the loss of my job of 21 years as a forensic nurse with the city and county of San Francisco, cruising was one of my favorite pastimes.  In fact, it was a way I was able to unwind from the stress of working in the field of interpersonal violence.  As soon as I walked up the gangway of a ship, my cares and worries seemed to evaporate,  I loved being completely pampered by the wonderful crew on board and, sitting for hours, mesmerized by the ocean, was just wonderful.  In the past fifteen years, since I discovered Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, I rarely sailed with any other company.  With my birthday trip this past October, I was up to 77 cruises with this company.  I had not, however, sailed into Labadee, Haiti.

Labadee is situated on Haiti's northern coast and is a port visited by several of Royal Caribbean's megaships, including the newest, Oasis of the Seas.  Royal Caribbean developed the port for use as a tourist spot with water sports, beaches and a native crafts market . It is completely isolated from the rest of the island,  by mountains and passengers are not allowed to leave the area which is guarded by private security.  To accomodate the new Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean spent more than $50 million. 

For almost twenty-five years now, Royal Caribbean has provided the largest amount of tourist revenue to the island of Haiti.  For every ship that ports there, the Haitian government receives $6 per person.   Royal Caribbean also employs three hundred Haitians at its Labadee site and has two hundred local artisans who sell their wares at the Labadee crafts market.

When the earthquake hit Haiti, Royal Caribbean was immediately in touch with the authorities to offer aid and to make decisions as to whether to resume cruise service to Labadee.  For details of Royal Caribbean's contributions in that area, see Humanitarian Relief in Haiti

Immediately, food, water, and medical supplies were transported in the holds of Royal Caribbean ships - over 120 pallets to date.  Beach chairs were given to be used as makeshift
hospital beds.  According to Chairman and CEO, Richard Fain, the company also fund agencies who specialize in emergency assistance such as Food For the Poor, the Pan American Development Foundation and their own Solano Foundation. 

Mr. Fain thought about whether having the ships return to Haiti would be insensitive but, after being asked by the government not to stay away, their cruise schedule was reinstated.  It was felt that bypassing Haiti would do more financial harm to a country already deprived of most of their essential income.  Passengers were informed that all revenue from Royal Caribbean sales on Labadee ( drinks, water sports, etc ) would go to earthquake relief and some activities on board the ships are geared toward projects for children on the island.  Donations for Haitian earthquake relief can even be added to passenger ship's charges.

I appreciate that Royal Caribbean, a company that has been a huge presence in Haiti, has done so much to help in the relief effort.  It is as it should be.

Monday, January 25, 2010

It Wasn't Love at First Sight

Okay, I thought the title might get you...but this post isn't about  romance or love at all, at least not about any hearthrob of mine.  It is about love, though - an undying, painful, terribly unsatisfying longing I have for an elusive litte fruit which I have eaten only twice in my sixty-five years!  Most of you, I would imagine, have never even tasted it unless you live in or have visited southeast Asia, India, or, perhaps, Puerto Rico or parts of the Caribbean or South America where, I understand, it is now being grown.  I am talking about the mangosteen - no relation, in any way, shape, form or taste, to the mango - or Garcinia mangostana L, an exotic fruit, known as the "queen of fruits."

picture from

I met my first mangosteen at the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok, Thailand in February of 1997 ( the date is as important to me as my first kiss ).  I was there overnight, as the guest of Royal Caribbean, prior to setting sail on a twelve day cruise that was to take me to  exotic ports in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, ending up in Singapore.   We were hosted to a buffet luncheon prior to boarding buses for a city tour of Bangkok and the long drive to the port. 

I found myself in front of a huge fruit table and enjoyed slices of pineapple and mango, sections of pommelo ( which I had never eaten before ) and paused before a small purplish fruit.  I asked the server what it was and she said, "Oh, it is the queen of fruits, you must try is the mangosteen but is should be called the mangoqueen."  As usual, willing to try anything, I added it to my plate.   I didn't think it looked that exciting, frankly!

When I got back to my table, one of the waiters smiled his approval and came over, took a knife, and cut my mangosteen in half, presenting it to me like a trophy, indicating I should take one of the white segments.  I put it in my mouth, chewed and swallowed.  Oh, my heavens, what was this taste?  Sheer ecstasy, sweet and sour, peach, lychee, strawberry - a myriad of wonderful fruits all rolled up into one.  I finished it in seconds while the others at the table watched.  In spite of my encouragement, not one person went to get one, even when I offered to bring them back as I went for more.  By the time we were leaving for the bus I had finished another three.  Much to my delight, the very sweet Thai waiter handed me a bag as I left the dining room - inside, a half dozen more mangosteens. 

picture from

Throughout the rest of that southeast Asian cruise, I kept on the lookout, in all the markets I visited, but never encountered the mangosteen again.  Often, at my neighborhood grocery, Manila Market, here in Daly City, CA, I find exotic fruits such as lychee, jackfruit, longan and, even durian, that has been shipped frozen, but, thus far, no mangosteen has arrived.  After investigating, I learned that the United States had banned importing of the fresh fruit because of concern that they might be infested with the  Asian fruit fly which could damage U. S. fruit crops.  Only since 2007, have they allowed the importation of fresh, irradiated fruit from Thailand.  Otherwise, canned products may be imporated but reports are that this does not compare with the taste of the fresh fruit.

In 2008, on my birthday trip to Europe, much to my delight, when we were strolling through Barcelona's wonderful market, La Boquerria, on La Rambla, there, in the fruit section, I saw my beloved mangosteens!  Though a bit expensive, I immediately bought several which I shared with my friends who agreed that, indeed, these were the queen, if not, the king of fruits!

Mangosteens have long been used in Ayurvedic medicine and by native healers.  The rind of the fruit contains a number of complex chemicals, including tannic acid and xanthones.  At one time, when dysentery was very common, it was used to treat this.  Now, China and India used the dried fruits, shipped from Singapore, to make a number of medicines which are used to treat diarrhea, cystitis and to regulate menstruation.  There are claims, as well, that it helps support microbiological balance, helps the immune system, improves joint flexibility, and provides mental support.  Of course, none of this is really proven.

There are numerous websites and links to which you may refer for more information.  In terms of those who often, in desperation, try anything in hopes of seeking cancer cures, please go to: 
American Cancer Society - Mangosteen JuiceThat site also has some excellent sources of other articles on supplements.

After writing this today, I was so much wanting a mangosteen, I actually found a place in southern California that imports exotic fruits and, although, it is very expensive, they have fresh mangosteen from Thailand that are sent out express mail the day they arrive.  I just ordered six for my family.  Perhaps I will keep three for myself and give each of my boys one!  After all, they are still young and, in their lifetimes, maybe mangosteens will be much more accesible. 

If you are interested, check out: