The Freeway, The Huntington Library, Blue and Pinkie

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Here’s a snippet of conversation from my day.
I was in the beautiful Japanese gardens of the Huntington Library when a pretty Japanese woman, who seemed to have taken a bit of a shine to me, sidled up alongside. She showed me a photograph she had just taken of me without my knowing. After making some self-deprecating remark – instead of running away from my potential stalker, as any sane person would – I heard myself say the following to her:
‘Mine’s so small, especially when you look at yours; it’s so BIG!’
She agreed, nodding enthusiastically.
‘Here,’ I said, placing mine in her hand. ‘Would you like to hold it? Feel the weight!’
She did, wiggling it a bit and smiling with delight.
This is word-for-word what was said and yes, it’s all true. Get to the end of this post and I might tell you what it’s all about. In the meantime…
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Today, having finally readjusted to the time zone, I decided to go to Pasedena to visit the aforementioned Huntington Library, ‘one of the world’s great cultural, research and educational centres’ according to its immodest website but having been there, one could not disagree. It is a fabulous collection of buildings housing some exceptional artworks and historical documents set in some of of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen. I spent five hours there and barely scratched the surface.
And speaking of surfaces… I travelled along the Santa Monica freeway to get there and it was one of the most poorly surfaced roads I have ever driven on. At one point, I actually began to think there was something wrong with the car as it started to judder on the rough surface. The juddering was so bad I wondered if it was a safety feature designed to slow cars down. Maybe it was?
But back to Hungtington… apart from the joy of the gardens there are many unique treasures in the scattered buildings, including a two-volume Gutenberg Bible dating back to 1455, a Shakespeare folio edition and from Chaucher’s Canterbury Tales, The Ellesmere Manuscript, dated 1410 – and I didn’t get to see any of them. I did get to see one of the world’s great paintings, though, Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy and it’s companion piece Pinkie by Thomas Lawrence. It was a real joy.

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Most of my time, though, was spent enjoying the gardens and especially the Japanese garden. I have a special love of Japanese culture and its art – the two are often indivisible in a manner not often found in the West where they tend to be separated out and are seen to be different things. The Japanese are almost blind to the differences – you’d have thought England would elevate tea-making to an art form, after all but it isn’t us who did so, it’s the Japanese. Even eating has its rituals which carries a meal far beyond the simple consumption of food.
Bamboo gardens play beautifully with light, stone gardens show rigid pattern combined with elegant, sweeping form. Even the layout of a traditional Japanese home has a simplistic minimalism far ahead of its time. Shadow and light, density and sparseness are all combined in sweeping landscapes soothing and beautiful to see.
Should you ever find yorself in LA, forget the Viper Rooms, Disneyworld and the Universal Studios tour and take in this unique paen to the American appreciation of its own and other cultures. You’ll be giving your soul a treat.

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So, what of my curious Japanese admirer? What did she have that was bigger than mine, yet once she got her hands on it, made her appreciate mine not only for its dimensions but its ability?
My camera, of course. She was carrying a Goliath (Canon 5D with monstrous lens) compared to my David, a Sony NEX6 with its precision 16-50 zoom. The majority of photos you’ll see from my trip are all taken on this camera and its baby brother, the 5. The rest are taken on my phone, the Sony Z1.
See? Bigger isn’t always better.

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