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Cosmos' Doggie Blog

When it comes to summertime, I’m an equal opportunity concert hound — especially when those concerts are free, family-friendly, and outdoors. It makes no difference to me whether the music is rock, country, Cajun, or classical, whether it’s on a weekday or weekend, or whether the concerts take place in the historic Spreckels Organ Pavilion or on a lawn at the fringes of Balboa Park’s vast 1,200-acre footprint.

Nevertheless, as much as I dig the International Summer Organ Festival and the Twilight in the Park concert series, there is a very special community vibe that only the Bird Park Summer Concerts can offer. A dozen years in the making, these bi-weekly Saturday evening concerts draw hundreds of residents, and their pooches, from the surrounding Morley Field and North Park neighborhoods.

Located in a small community park at the corner of Upas and 28th Streets, concert seating is open and sur l’herbe, which facilitates my mingling and scavenging efforts. But it’s the top dog local performers, from a variety of genres, that are the real attraction.

In fact, kicking off this year’s summer concert season in Balboa Park on June 14 is none other than the king of the local blues scene himself, Bill Magee and his band. For you lazy dogs who can’t be bothered with clicking the link above, here is the complete Bird Park Summer Concerts schedule:

June 14 — Bill Magee Blues Band

June 28 — The Craig Ingraham Band (folk)

July 12 — The Ballad Mongers (indie rock)

July 26 — Mark Jackson Band (country)

Aug 9 — Bayou Brothers feat. Robin Henkel (Zydeco/folk)

Concerts run from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, offering ample time for dancing, dining, and making new friends.

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Cabrillo Bridge, Balboa Park, roadway openEven though having the historic Cabrillo Bridge closed to traffic over the past five months presented some unique opportunities to change my routine, my tail has not stopped wagging since its reopening on Monday.

While crews continue to work like dogs to complete the important retrofitting of the bridge’s main support arches and other aesthetic enhancements, the roadway over the bridge is once again allowing for quick and easy access for any and all vehicles.

Why would this matter to a dog, who is inexplicably prohibited by state law from owning and operating a motorized vehicle? Here are my top five reasons:

  1. Most scenic drive in San Diego — One of my most memorable experiences as a pup was the first time I was driven over the bridge in the family car, under the archway through the Museum of Man’s picturesque courtyard, and on to the many other wonders Balboa Park’s Central Mesa had in store.
  2. More cars and bikes to chase — Though I’m actually on a leash while sipping cappuccinos in the Plaza de Panama courtyard, the returning stream of cars and bicycles really gets my juices flowing and ready for a leash-free run through one of Balboa Park’s many dog parks. Speaking of which …
  3. Quicker access to Nate Point’s Dog Park— Yes, I realize the nearest dog park really isn’t that far from the Central Mesa area. But when you gotta go, you gotta go. And when that happens, I can now resume hitching a ride for a speedy return to some of my favorite sniffing grounds.
  4. Resurfaced roadway — With the retrofitting came a completely resurfaced road across the bridge. Not only does the new pavement look nicer, but fewer bumps in the road mean fewer accidents when I’m being rushed to Nate’s Point to take care of urgent business.
  5. It’ll be open for another 100 years! — That’s not to say there won’t be times when the bridge will be closed for additional maintenance or for special events. But at least we know that the earthquake retrofitting work completed during the closure will help ensure the Cabrillo Bridge continues to serve as a spectacular link between Balboa Park’s Central and West Mesas (and Nate’s Point Dog Park).
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It looks like the barking heads in Washington are no longer dragging their tails when it comes to bringing the troops home from Afghanistan this year. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, there’s no denying that all our returning service members and their families deserve a hero’s welcome, whether they call San Diego home or are just passing through for some much needed R&R.

If there weren’t already a million reasons for men and women in uniform to scout Balboa Park’s amenities this summer, the Blue Star Museum program is adding one more: free admission at participating museums for active duty military personnel, including National Guard and Reserve, and up to five family members through Labor Day.

Over 2,000 museums and cultural attractions across America, including a dozen in San Diego, are participating in this year’s program, and many of those museums are right here in Balboa Park:

  • Japanese Friendship Garden
  • Mingei International Museum
  • Museum of Photographic Arts
  • San Diego Hall of Champions
  • San Diego History Center
  • The San Diego Museum of Art
  • Veterans Museum and Memorial Center

Summertime is always the best time to see top dog exhibitions in Balboa Park, and this summer is no exception. At the San Diego History Center, for instance, military families can see the unprecedented collaborative exhibition Presidio to Pacific Powerhouse: How the Military Shaped San Diego and its satellite display at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center.

The San Diego Museum of Art is rolling out two blockbuster shows this summer: Spanish Sojourns: Robert Henri and the Spirit of Spain and Sorolla and America. On June 21, the Mingei International Museum opens the very cool Surf Craft — Design and the Culture of Board Riding, and the Museum of Photographic Arts explores the legacy of the legendary photographer Ansel Adams in After Ansel Adams — to mention a few highlights.

Of course the only active duty service dogs permitted in museums are those certified to accompany people with disabilities.

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Cosmos Blog, Ethnic Food Fair, NewmanNewman writes: Dear Cosmos, As Memorial Day weekend approaches, I’m getting more nervous about the Ethnic Food Fair on Sunday. It seems every year I get so overwhelmed with all the choices, I end up missing something good.

Cosmos: We must be litter-mates adopted by different families, because I used to have the very same problem. Even though many of the 30 cultures that participate in the House of Pacific Relations Ethnic Food Fair serve similar dishes each year, certain ones will throw me a curve now and then. And by the time I realize it, I’m stuffed to the jowls and can’t swallow another bite.

Ethnic Food Fair, House of Pacific Relations, Balboa Park, Indian dancer girl, photo by Richard BentonIn recent years, thankfully, the Ethnic Food Fair organizers have become quite web savvy and now post the complete menu of each culture’s offerings well ahead of time. Though to be honest, I don’t know if they do this to be helpful or cruel (in a good way).

Regardless, now that the Ethnic Food Fair menu is live, I can formulate my approach in advance. I can even create a schedule of which food station I’ll be sniffing and begging at for scraps in coordination with the day’s schedule of cultural entertainment.

Though I’m still in the early planning stages, here’s what my morning looks like: I’ll start at the House of France for French pastries and éclairs and the House of Denmark for aebleskiver (sphere-shaped pancakes) and kringle (stuffed pastries). The House of Italy will fuel my day-long scavenging with espressos, cappuccinos, and Americanos.

Once lunchtime rolls around, I’ll be rolling over to the House of Argentina for sausage sandwiches and sausage rolls, the House of Norway for an open-faced shrimp sandwich, and the House of Turkey for a beef kebab sandwich. And once those appetizers are consumed, it’ll be time for a meat pie from the House of Scotland, carne asada nachos from the House of Mexico, and potstickers from the House of China.

If all goes according to schedule, that should leave me ample time (and intestinal space) to hit four to five more houses (toe-nails crossed). If not, well, there’s always next year.

Posted in Ask Cosmos | add a comment

With our recent run of record-breaking spring temperatures, it’s clearly never too early to think about the coolest places for us hot dogs to chill out. Being a longtime Balboa Park resident, I’ve learned quite a few tricks that both old and new dogs can easily learn to beat the heat.

Journey to the South Pacific, IMAX film, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Balboa ParkFirst and foremost, it’s important to realize that as the mercury rises, so does the AC (and dehumidifiers) inside most Balboa Park museums in order to protect fragile artworks and artifacts.

To put it another way, for less than the price of Costco’s cheapest window air conditioner, my bipedal readers could buy an annual Balboa Park Explorer pass and spend a year’s worth of excessively warm days inside the climate-controlled galleries of over a dozen different museums.

In addition, many museums regularly show movies. So instead of running to the multiplex for the latest “blockbuster” that will be sitting in your nearest Redbox machine before you can say “I can’t believe I spent $12 on that turd!” you can chillax in one of four different state-of-the-art theaters within Balboa Park.

Pawing through this week’s schedule, the Reuben H. Fleet is currently showing the very cool underwater adventure Journey to the South Pacific inside its unique full-dome IMAX theater. The San Diego Natural History Museum shows movies like Ocean Oasis and Great White Shark 3-D in its giant-screen theater all-day long, included in the regular admission price. The Museum of Photographic Arts will be featuring the Japan Film Festival in its cozy screening room this Sunday, May 18. And the San Diego Air & Space Museum presents pup-friendly films, not just in 3-D, but 4-D!

And for us four-legged critters, who generally can’t enter the indoor cultural attractions, it’s worth pointing out Balboa Park has trees, lots of shady trees, something that no San Diego public beach can offer.

Posted in Museums | add a comment
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