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Be part of the fun! Send me your best joke(s) and interesting information. If I like it and if it's new (at least to me), I will publish it, give you credit and add my original drawings to give it that personal touch. Sounds like a deal?

Raoul Pascual: Hamburg in Los Angeles
Hamburg Visits Los Angeles, CA
by Raoul Pascual. Photos courtesy of Hamburg Ballet and City of Hamburg

The Sea Witch transforms the Little Mermaid into a human.

riday night my wife and I joined the southbound weekend getaway traffic to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa to watch the Hamburg Ballet perform its interpretation of The Little Mermaid. American-born John Neumeier, Director and Chief Choreographer of the ballet company, in collaboration with Russian-born American musical composer Lera Auerbach created the play to commemorate the 200th birthday of the beloved children's book author Hans Christian Andersen who was a contemporary of English author Charles Dickens.

Video courtesy of Hamburg-Travel

Hans Christian Andersen suffered a depression because of the marriage of his best friend. Director John Neumeier brings out the emotional tension in the Little Mermaid who was in reality the alter ego of its famous author.

"Having directed the Hamburg Ballet for nearly 40 years, it is a very special, nostalgic moment for me, as an American, to present two of my most important works [The Little Mermaid and Nijinsky] in the United States," says John Neumeier, the world's longest director of a ballet company.

Mr. Neumeier is an honorary citizen of Hamburg, Germany's second largest city and Northern Germany's prime maritime location and cultural hub. Neumeier is Hamburg's most important representative, promoting the city's outstanding cultural landscape. The start of the company's US tour is also accompanied by Hamburg's Senator of Culture, Prof. Barbara Kisseler: "In the year of John Neumeier's 40th anniversary in Hamburg, I am very happy to join him and the Hamburg Ballet on a visit to his home country and to our sister city Chicago. The Hamburg Ballet performances in the Harris Theater Chicago mark a wonderful starting signal for another upcoming anniversary: in 2014 we celebrate 20 years of sister city relationship with Chicago."

Just before the performance, my wife and I were thrilled to meet Mr. Neumeier who explained his fascinating angle to this complex romantic ballet. Unlike the animated Disney story, Mr. Neumeier focused on the darker emotional tension of the characters which he believes was closer to the original tale. Based on his research, Mr. Neumeier figured the author had a deep attraction for his best friend Edvard Collin and Hans was crushed and abandoned when Edvard got married. This was the backdrop and the beginning of this modern interpretation about unrequited love. Just as the little mermaid, who gave up everything, could never be part of the world of the prince, Hans could never be a part of Edvard's world again. In fact, Hans, the author, played a major character who warns the mermaid not to fall in love but even his own creation had a will of her own. What a masterful concept. The dance movements were modern and expressive, the costumes were influenced by the Japanese Kabuki design, the music was haunting and the minimalist sets were stunning.

Rathaus town hall, Jungfernstieg City. Photo by Christian Spahrbier

Curiosity about the origin of the play prompted me to do a little research and I found some information about John Neumeier and Hamburg.

John Neumeier has been officially appointed as cultural ambassador for Hamburg --- a city that boasts Europe's longest-standing People's Opera, top-class museums and an exciting creative and music scene. For example, Hamburg is currently developing one of the world's most spectacular, daring architectural projects: the Elbphilharmonie concert house in the heart of Hamburg's port district. But not only lovers of classical music find a home here. After all, Hamburg is the place where the Beatles launched their career more than 50 years ago and where the Reeperbahn Festival every year in September celebrates Europe's newcomers in pop music. In short, the city offers a various cultural landscape where the HAMBURG BALLET and JOHN NEUMEIER play a vital part.

Chinese Market. Photo by Christian Spahrbier

Hamburg Fischmarkt
Virtually anything not nailed down firmly has been traded at Hamburg’s most traditional market since 1703. From dusty porcelain coffee pots to a quacking family of live ducks, anything can be acquired down here in the shadow of the former fish auction hall. Every Sunday morning, night clubbers from the Reeperbahn, clutching fish rolls and hot coffee descend on the waterfront and hope that it will give them a second wind. For early risers, bargain hunters and tourists alike, brunching to jazz, pop or rock music in the historic building is a popular option.

Video courtesy of Hamburg-Travel

Evening ambiance at the Landungsbruecken. Photo by Christian Spahrbier

Architecture in Hamburg
For over a century, Hamburg has been renowned for its bold urban planning. Such striking architectural designs as Chilehaus, dating from the 1920s, or today’s HafenCity Hamburg are setting the bar for living and working in a big city. Much has been done in recent years to make the city centre between the Alster and the port even more inviting. In the 1970s, the first spacious shopping passages were built there. Today, the new Europa-Passage and the new layout for Jungfernstieg are in the same spirit. The ambitious architectural scene in Hamburg is unique in Germany and Europe.

HafenCity. Photo by Roberto Kai Hegeler

HafenCity InfoCenter in the Kesselhaus
The Kesselhaus, a former boiler house, hosts a vivid exhibition on Europe’s largest urban development project. Located inside the Kesselhaus, the HafenCity InfoCenter presents an 8 x 4 meter model of the development site as well as layout drawings and informative events.

Hafengeburtstag harbour birthday in 2009. Photo by Christian Spahrbier

Growth of Tourism in Hamburg
Hamburg’s tourism industry has been growing since the city started staging musicals in the middle of the 1980s. Generating annual revenue of around 7.4 billion euros and 108,000 jobs, the tourist sector is one of the biggest drivers of the city. A record result of 8.95 million overnight stays was achieved in 2010, 750,000 (9.2 percent) more than in 2009. There are also around 111 million day-trippers to Hamburg – coming for an excursion, a one-day business trip or merely to go shopping. No other German city has witnessed such an increase in the number of overnight stays as Hamburg – up 88 percent since 2001. On a European scale, this puts Hamburg in 11th place in the city destination ranking, behind Amsterdam and ahead of Dublin.

One day my wife and I hope to join the record tourist members and visit this fabled home of John Neumeier. The modern lifestyle and architecture of this port town is a far cry from its humble origins around 1835 when a depressed Hans Christian Andersen penned his story of woe.

For more information about Hamburg, please follow this link.

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For Austin Deep in the Heart of Austin Texas-

From JRP, Iligan City, Philippines - Hi Raoul! When I was in Austin in 1957 it was a small town. I was even interviewed by a local newspaper & remember telling him our family is in the fishpond business. A Mexican brick layer in the lime plant I observed for a week took me to his houseboat in a lake near Austin & we had steak & beer while we fish. I thought the guy's lifestyle is better than the millionaire I stayed with in Salt Lake city.

For Italian Profiling -

From Pia Hugo, La Crescenta, CA - Hi Raoul! I came here to make reservations for our Sta. Barbara trip and decided to read the Italian jokes because. I have a few from my church. Very funny! Give Mike my thanks! And the illustrations are, as always, very creative! Thanks for the laughs :)

From Dette of Iligan City, Philippines - Always a treat and lift of the spirits whenever I see your cartoons. More power!

From Dette of Iligan City, Philippines - First of all, that cartoon of the lady reindeer and Sta Claus had me laughing loud. You really have imagination, lots. Original too. Congrats. But I really have to thank you for that X'mas story. It touches the heart. May I use the story for my own column in "Mindanao Scoop"? With your name and the "Traveling Boy" properly acknowledged of course. It says below "All Rights Reserved". Does this mean I can't reprint your article even if I acknowledge authorship? Merry Christmas!

From Nina of Quezon City, Philippines - Your Big Bear adventure sure looks cool. Most of my friends in San Diego only go there during winter probably because that's the best place to experience snow in Southern California but I didn't know that summer in Big Bear is a good treat as well.

From Hannah of Monrovia, CA - We've been to Big Bear for several anniversary week-ends and enjoyed kayaking on the lake. But we didn't know the history of the place and we didn't know the owners of the fabulous homes on the lake. Sounds like you had a lot of fun. You make us want to jump in the car and go this weekend.

From J.B. of Virginia - Nice [Big Bear Lake article] ... isn't [the pleasure of taking a vacation] why we are fighting wars, sacrificing, staying up long hours, suffering?.Isn't it for our freedom of self determination ... for our right to live our lives the way we want to and for the ones we care about?

From Tom of Pasadena, CA - Great Big Bear story Raoul. You definitely caught the essence of the place and remind me when my Mom and Dad and 5 brothers and sisters went there to camp in a 14 foot trailer and fish from a 10 foot boat with a 5 horse power Johnson Motor on it.One Summer I caught a 6 pound trout and got my picture in the paper. I was stoked as an 11 year old kid.Many happy memories came flooding back into my cranium regarding the great times enjoyed at Big Bear Lake.Thanks for your sharing them with me.

* * *

So glad you enjoyed the article Tom. Your childhood must have been fun. A 6 pound trout? Wow!! That must have been delicious. --- Raoul

* * *

It was delicious but the fame of catching it was tough to take with all the paparazzi hanging around. Ha! You have a real gift for writing, I thought I was right there with you in that article. --- Tom

From Mike & Trish Marzell of Lucky Bear Fishing Charters, Big Bear Lake, CA - Hi Raoul, You wrote such a wonderful article on summer in Big Bear! Nice website. Thank you for coming out fishing with us - we had so much fun with Josh, you and Dan. We're thinking up good legends and "UFO" is priceless! Please tell us whenever you come up the mountain; we would love to take you and your family out again. You are a great writer (kept us interested). We are going to read your other articles. Thank you again.

Some responses from my Lake Tahoe Adventure

From RV of Covina, CA - I enjoyed reading your Lake Tahoe blog. It brings back memories when I brought my mom & dad to Tahoe in 1999. My dad loved the place so much that when my brother arrived two weeks later, we drove up to Tahoe again. I'm sure you had a wonderful time with Danny, Edwin and their families. Those are golden moments, including the snow chain malfunction, which you won't get tired of re-telling over and over again.

From Hannah of Monrovia, CA - Thanks for your story about the blizzard. It made our day to see how God protected you guys. Otto remembered your bear story--same result; exciting adventure and no one got hurt; but now you have another marvelous God adventure to share!

From Kathleen of Massachusetts- Just read your mini-blog and let me tell you, you guys are very blessed. I won't say, lucky, I'll say blessed. Those slippery ice/snow scenarios are really dangerous. Glad God sent you the snow plow!

We don't get that much snow where we live, but in blizzards, we don't go out. It's too scary. One time we were retrieving our daughter Mercy from Providence, a 25 minute trip in regular weather. It took us 3 hours to get home, driving on the highway in blinding snow. Blinding. We couldn't see a foot in front of us, and if we pulled over there was a chance of getting plowed in to. Never again.

That stuff is pretty, but it's deadly on the highway and for hikers.

From Cindi of Connecticut - A great story and your family has an everlasting memory. There is nothing like home, especially when home is in So CA!

From Terry os Santa Monica, CA - Wow, what a compelling story about snowy Lake Tahoe and the tire chains!

I remember driving my van up to Mammoth to go skiing in my much younger days and having similar episodes with chains. One time a rear chain came loose and wrapped itself completely around the axle. It took two of us, on our backs in the icy slush, in the dark, without wire cutters, hours to untangle that dang chain. It still seems like yesterday. So I empathize with your plight, and glory in your release.

Welcome home.

From Ding of Vancouver, BC- Wow, brave souls, glad you got home safely ;-) Thanks for the TGIF, as always!

From Maria of San Antonio, CA (the email that my article was based on) - Only nuts and daredevils went to Lake Tahoe last weekend. The lat time we went up to the mountains in spite of the blizzard warning, we got snowed in. We just stayed home and watched our own leaks.

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