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My Story with Phil Brigandi

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Tired but accomplished - the team which led the bus tour following the Portolá Expedition's route through Orange County in the years 1769-1770. From left to right: Paul Spitzerri, Chris Jepsen, Stephanie George, Phil Brigandi and Eric Plunkett (author of this blog). Our friend and colleague, Phil Brigandi, died on December 12th, 2019. This is my story with Phil.

I met Phil Brigandi at an Orange County Historical Society meeting on April 12th, 2012. I had known about Phil for long before meeting him. He was a hard guy to avoid. Phil seemed to have written or spoken about every historical topic I was interested in and started researching myself. Even after seven years of friendship, I’m still only scratching the surface of the breadth of history Phil knew and wrote about. But the Phil I knew was a kindred spirit. He saw what I saw in the backcountry. He didn’t just see the chaparral and grass covered hills dotted with occasional oaks (which he likened in beauty to “acquired taste”), …

Richard Henry Dana at Dana Point - San Juan Capistrano Visitor Series Part 10

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Artist Rick Blake, an Orange County native and celebrated art teacher at Portola Middle School in Orange, paints beautiful California scenes with an emphasis on the historical coast. In this scene, Richard Henry Dana, the author of one of the best and most important books dealing with the history of California, "Two Years Before the Mast," lands with the crew of the brig "Pilgrim" in Dana Cove (now part of Dana Point which was later named in his honor). Dana made two visits to Dana Point in 1835 to collect cattle hides, or "California Bank Notes," and famously tossed them into the wind off the top of the cliffs, where they ebbed and swayed onto the beach below. On his second trip, he descended the cliff by rope to dislodge hides which were stuck in the cliff face, hanging dangerously over the waves crashing upon the rocks on shore, with only the seagulls soaring below him... or so he wrote (see the cover art on the above linked version of the book). This …