May 24, 2015

Good Night, David Letterman

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Good morning and greetings, Golden State Warriors fans.  It’s been an exciting week for the Warrior nation, as behind the fabulous play of MVP Steph Curry, the Warriors now have a commanding 3-0 lead over the Houston Rockets in the best of seven western conference finals, with game four on tap for tonight.  Can anyone say “Sweep?”

It has been a long time between championships in Oakland, as we have to go back to 1975 to when the Warriors last claimed the NBA title.  Coincidentally, that was the same year that yours truly moved to the Golden State and planted myself down on West Cliff Drive, until they downloaded me to Hermosa Beach in 1989.

I remember the lazy, hazy days of the 1980′s.  I was living life on the edge of the continent, while spending my working hours on the radio doing ‘Sportstalk’, with my radio partner, the lovely Jerry Hoffman.

Right after we’d finish the show, I would hurry over to Jesse’s SportsPage, a bar with sawdust on the floor in Soquel, to check out a rookie named Michael Jordan.  He was a phenom, as I watched this fantastic rookie from North Carolina tear up the NBA in his rookie year.

Now after one year of a diet of ginger ale and chips, I decided the bar scene wasn’t for me, so I invested in a 12 foot satellite dish, which I had installed in the driveway behind my rented house.  I now had Michael Jordan coming into my home every night, and loved following him on the road trips.  Unfortunately, in his second year, he broke his foot in Oakland and only played 18 games, but I wasn’t dismayed.  The future looked very golden.

Now back in the 80′s, the NBA was tape delaying the playoffs, with games starting at 11:30 PM.  There was a tremendous series going on between the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle Supersonics, where the first three out of four games went to overtime.  I did not want to miss the fifth game, so I decided to go down to Burdicks Appliance store and get myself a VCR.

I just wanted the basic model so I could record the game and watch it the next day.  Well, I picked up a Magnavox recorder for the price of, if I’m not mistaken, of $1300.  Yes, that is correct, sports fans.  It was state of the art, as I was the first guy on the block with taping capabilities.

Now along with a gigantic satellite came a multitude of programs from all across the sky.  And I soon learned that I could pick up the New York feed of the David Letterman show at 9:30 PM, which my future bride Allison and I enjoyed together. Letterman was an amusing interviewer, skewering some guests along with wacky comedy skits and segments.
So I was taping the Letterman show, and with the addition of another VCR, I started running a master tape of all the best moments, just even one joke or one line of an interview with all the major celebrities, like Cher calling Dave an ass**** or Madonna dropping the F-bombs.  I was also taping Johnny Carson at this time, along with Jay Leno and others.  But it was mostly Letterman, as he was the man.

I continued this practice down in Hermosa Beach, compiling hours and hours of what I thought was the best comedy on TV.  It was fresh and exciting, so inviting to me.

In my master closet today I have over 200 VHS tapes. They range from sitcoms, comedy movie classics, classic NBA games, musical concerts and numerous hours of edited Saturday Night Live from the Belushi-Ackroyd days.  If I had to go into the comedy bunker, I would be entertained for weeks into months.

But with my previous TiVo taping system and now my Direct TV Genie DVR, there is so much to watch on the DVR that I haven’t had time to journey back to the past.  But last week being Dave’s final shows, I went to the closet and pulled out a random tape marked. “Letterman, 1992-93.”
It started out with Howard Stern talking about making a movie, then Sharon Stone “You have lovely legs,” discussing her doing the voiceovers “Yes, yes, yes,” for her movie, Basic Instinct.”  Then it was Rodney Dangerfield on Carson, “Well, Johnny, I can hold my own with women, which is what they tell me to do.”Then it was on to Letterman making fun of Teri Garr, then Dave going door to door in New Jersey doing polling results and then the Smother Brothers, with Tommy doing a great Johnny Carson impression.

But then came the most provocative segment, with Cybil Shepard in the guest seat.  Dave asked her about her time with the Elvis in Graceland, and here is the classic exchange.

Dave “Did you spend any time with him?  Did you get a sense of what he was about?”  Cybil, “I did get to Graceland for dinner.”  Dave, “What did you have?”  Cybil, “Chicken fried steak.  He had a lot of it.  He had a big appetite.  But there was one thing he wouldn’t eat.  Well,…”  A long pause until Dave gets clued in while Cybil is laughing hysterically.

Dave, “Geez, oh my, who would have guessed.  The king of rock and roll.”  Cybil is rolling with laughter. “I’m trying to figure out what you’re having with the chicken fried steak, and, and, and, and boom, it immediately takes a really ugly turn.”  Cybil, “Well, obviously,  our relationship didn’t last too long.”So there you have it.  The reigning king of late night is moving on, and in the words of Jimi Hendrix, and I’m paraphrasing, “Oh, move over Rover, and let the Jimmy’s take over.”

David Letterman was a spokesman, a voice for my generation.  He was funny, quirky, and very clever, and in the early years he could cut a guest to shreds if they weren’t interesting.  But in the last decade he made a lot of sense about what was happening in the world, bringing on important guests to talk about world issues.
But now he is gone, but the late night rating wars will continue.   I’ll miss him and my favorite guests Martin Short, Chris Elliot, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Don Rickles.  Somebody else will anoint the throne.So let me leave you with this quote from the former weatherman from Ball State University, who became a father at 55 and has been a fixture on late night TV since 1982.  In his words,  “I cannot sing, dance or act.  What else would I be but a talk show host?”

Goodbye, David Letterman.  Your country thanks you for your service to the late night comedy nation.
So there weren’t many April showers bringing May flowers, but this week in my garden a solitary bearded iris popped its head out of the ground and made an appearance.  So I thought I would feature some variety of these lovely flowers in this week’s photo segment.   Just like the old song, when Iris eyes are smiling.
On to some late night humor.  “I’ll be honest with you. It’s beginning to look like I’m not going to get “The Tonight Show.” Do you know what I’m going to do when I retire? I hope to become the new face of Scientology.  Earlier today, we got a call from Stephen Hawking. He’s a genius, and after 6,028 shows he ran the numbers and he said it works out to about eight minutes of laughter.” – David Letterman

“In about 34 minutes David Letterman is going to air his last episode. In 1993, I took over his iconic late-night show. I was a complete unknown with no experience performing on TV. I was totally unprepared for that enormous job. I don’t think that could happen today. I don’t think the government would allow it.  I was in way over my head, and with my hair that’s saying something.” – Conan O’Brien

“During a charity boxing match on Friday, Mitt Romney lasted two rounds against Evander Holyfield and raised a million dollars. It was just like Holyfield’s fight with Mike Tyson, except Romney chewed off his other ear talking about his 18 grandchildren.” – Jimmy Fallon  “The government released hundreds of documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound. Among the items is a job application for al-Qaida. It’s like a regular job application except it asks questions like, “Where do you see yourself exploding in the next five years?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Police arrested a man on Long Island yesterday after he stripped naked and threatened Costco customers with a machete. Luckily, Costco customers were able to subdue him with a 50-pack of paper towels. Former “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson posed naked in the shower for a campaign aimed at saving water in drought-stricken California. And as a bonus, it also reminded people to recycle plastic.” – Seth Meyers

Some birthday wishes go out this week, starting today with my better half, my lovely bride Allison.  I can say at this point in life she’s the happiest she’s ever been, and that takes into account putting up with me.   She gets more beautiful every day, and I’m not saying that just because she lets me hold the TV remote in bed.

Also today, it’s the 66th birthday of my Michigan born Marc Techner, who I might also say he’s the happiest he’s ever been, but that’s because of Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors are heading for an NBA championship.
And coming up on Thursday, it is my sister-in-law Wendi’s special day.

.  She is healthy and doing wonderfully well.  I don’t know how she will be celebrating, but rest assured, some form of chocolate will be involved.

So we’ll catch you putting up two back-to back fantastic scoring performances, although each resulted in a loss.  Aloha, mahalo and later, James Harden fans.

May 17, 2015

Put Your Funny Where Your Mouth Is

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 Good morning and greetings, NBA playoff fans.  Last week, I discussed the serious implications of the California drought.  My head almost exploded when writing about the severe conditions affecting us here in the Golden State. Or as the French writer Chamfort once said,” The most wasted of all days is that in which we have not laughed.”
So now that the Golden State Warriors are moving on to the Western Conference Finals to face the Houston Rockets, I thought I would go back to a more comfortable place and take a trip down memory lane.  Journey on back to a light and breezy world of my younger years, when life was sweet and innocent and all I had to worry about was what was for dinner and getting my homework done as quickly as possible.
Or in the words of Mark Twain, “The human race has only one effective weapon and that is laughter.”

I got hooked on the tube in my early years growing up in the Garden State of New Jersey.  I remember the days of black and white TV and being entranced by cartoons, including “Crusader Rabbit,” the first animated series produced specifically for television.

Crusader Rabbit’s buddy was Ragland T. Tiger, known as Rags.  Their running joke was a character would ask Rags what the “T” stood, to which he’d reply, “Larry.  My father couldn’t spell.”Then in was on to  “Rocky and his Friends,” starring Bullwinkle, the anthropomorphic moose and Rocky, a flying squirrel, pitted against their man adversaries, the Russian spies Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale. This was early cold war drama.  We were also introduced to Mr. Peabody and Sherman, who traveled through history using a WABAC time machine.
Then we move on to the more sophisticated comedy, starting with the slapstick hilarity of “The Three Stooges, starring Moe, Shemp and Curly Howard, joined by Larry Fine.  Curly was a totally unique character, with a high-pitched voice and quirky vocal expressions.  He loved making sounds like “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk,” “woob, wwob, woob,” and “sointenly,” as well as barking like a dog and using his teeth as a typewriter.He was also known for his outrageous physical comedy, as he was always getting poked in his eye, slapped around or banged on his head.  As his older brother Moe often told him, “Remind me to murder you later.”
My brothers and I could sit for hours and watch episodes of “The Three Stooges,” and this was when we were in our 20′s and 30′s.  I then moved on to expanding my horizon, with the “The Great One,” Jackie Gleason, so named by Orson Welles after and long and alcohol-filled night on the town, and his sidekick Art Carney, starring in “The Honeymooners.”
Ralph was a bus driver and Norton a sanitation engineer, er sewer worker.  There were just 39 episodes of this dimly lit sitcom made about their gritty Brooklyn lives in the 50′s.   Ralph was always trying to strike it rich, but never succeeded.  He never made it on the $64,000 question.
But he thought he was the king of the castle, and had the love of his life in Alice, although as he often threatened, “One of these day, Alice, bang, zoom, right to the moon.  And he wasn’t too fond of his mother-in-law.  “She’s a blabbermouth, Alice, a blabbermouth.”
One of my favorite lines from the show was when Norton asked Ralph if he could smoke.  Ralph replied, “I don’t care if you burn.”
And then there was “The Phil Silvers show,”  starring Phil as Master “Sergeant Earnest G. Bilko,” who was always working on his get rich quick schemes and gamblings promotions in his lonely outpost of Fort Baxter, Kansas.   In real life, Silvers was a compulsive gambler, but he was a true genius as a military man, always sticking it to Colonel Hall, Sgt. Rupert Ritzik and the boys in his platoon.    Larry David has called “The Phil Silvers Show” his favorite television program.
And there were more, as I was entranced with the comedy of “Laurel and Hardy,” “The Bowery Boys,” and “Abbott and Costello, and “The Little Rascals,” just to name a few.  I remember Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Stymie, Chubby, Darla, and the lovely Mrs. Crabtree. According to film historian Leonard Maltin, the “Our Gang” crowd put boys, girls, whites and blacks together as equals, something that broke new ground.  Who knew?
Then color came into my life, and the comic Woody Allen moved to the center stage.  His early movies including “Take The Money and Run,” ‘Bananas,” and “Play It Again, Sam” were comic gems.  In the words of the Woodman, “Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering, and it’s all over much too soon.”
There have been numerous sitcoms that have come along and entertained me over the years.  Starting with “Cheers,” “Taxi,” “All in the Family,” “The Wonder Years,” and one season of Leslie Nielson and “Police Squad,” which led into the “Naked Gun movies” and “Airplane,” one of the funniest movies of all time, which produced this line, “Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?”

Getting back to the sitcom, there was the “The Larry Sanders Show,” “,Married With Children,” “Roseanne,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Office,” and the leader of the pack, “Seinfeld.”  And from the lips of George Costanza, “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

And of course, there were the great comedy movie classics, starting with the Mel Brooks comedy bonanza “Blazing Saddles,” It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World,” “Caddyshack,” “Annie Hall,” “Dumb and Dumber,” and the cult college classic of all-time, “Animal House, starring John Belushi, which gave us, “Greg, honey, is it supposed to be this soft?” and “Do you mind if we dance with your dates?”
Doug Kenney co-wrote the screenplays for “Animal House,” and Caddyshack,” along with co-founding National Lampoon magazine.  But he was an alcohol and drug abuser and sadly, back in 1980, at age 33, he died while in Kauai after falling from a 30-foot cliff at the Hanapepe Lookout.  His friend, Harold Ramis, said at the time, that Kenney “probably fell while he was looking for a place to jump”.
Kenney’s pal Chevy Chase told Rolling Stone magazine that in his hotel room they found jokes, notes for projects and an outline for a new movie.  They also found written on the back of a hotel receipt, a gag line: “These last few days are among the happiest I’ve ever ignored.”

So when we see what is alive in the sitcom world today, ‘Modern Family” comes to mind, along with the “The Goldbergs” on ABC.  There’s Julia Louise Dreyfus on “Veep” and the second season” of “Married” on FX.  Unfortunately, I think we’ve seen of the last of  Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but you can always check out “Inside Amy Schumer.”

Now of course I’m leaving out lots good shows and great movies, but the Marx Brothers, the Zucker Brothers and the Farrelly Brothers have to be mentioned. As the late, great Milton Berle, who dated Marilyn Monroe once said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”  And it’s cheaper than a week in Hawaii.

So for today’s photo entree, we are returning to the skies over Monterey Bay on the evening of February 22.  There was a large cluster of clouds in the sky and as the sun set into the horizon, the pelicans came flying in from the east, creating a nice backdrop with the crimson sky.
On to some late night humor.  “Hillary Clinton’s younger brother Tony is facing criticism for using the Clintons’ political connections to help his career. So on the down side, she has a sketchy brother named Tony. On the up side, she just locked up every vote in New Jersey.  It turns out Hillary’s brother could damage her campaign. But then Jeb Bush said, “I think we all get a pass on who our brothers are.” – Jimmy Fallon
“It was announced yesterday that Tom Brady will be suspended for the season’s first four games for his alleged role in the deflate-gate scandal. Though the NFL says his punishment could be reduced if he commits a real crime.” – Jimmy Fallon  “The NFL has suspended Tom Brady for four games over deflate-gate. They’re going to punish him by making him stay home in his mansion with his supermodel wife and think about what he did wrong.” – Conan O’Brien
 ”I have nothing against the North Koreans but this Kim Jong Un has got a screw loose. A member of his cabinet, his security minister, nods off, falls sleep. We’ve all done it. Kim Jong Un takes the guy out and has him executed, just for just falling asleep. Oh, and he was also deflating footballs.  New York City has a rat problem. There must be three to four million rats running loose, but finally, Mayor de Blasio has declared war on rats. Here’s what he’s going to do. He’s going to bring in more coyotes.” – David Letterman

“Barbara Walters admitted to stealing an artifact from the White House. She said, “I was young, and I didn’t think President Lincoln would mind.  McDonald’s is starting to introduce kale into their salads. McDonald’s customers heard this and asked, “What’s kale, and what’s a salad?” – Conan O’Brien

So we’ll catch you shut down playing like a true NBA MVP and taking down the Memphis Grizzlies.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

May 10, 2015

There’s No Drought About That

Good morning and greetings, rainfall fans.  As we know, when dealing with important issues of the day, there are always differing opinions, two sides to every coin.  Someone is right, someone is wrong.  And in these pages, I sometimes poke fun at the conservative point of view, because to paraphrase the late Art Linkletter, “Conservatives say the funniest things.”

But one thing we can agree on these days is that the state of California has been going through a severe drought.  People are now showering in the sinks while folks are watching as their lawns go from green to red.   The state is in a crisis.

And, of course, this does not apply to the people of Beverly Hills, but that’s because they have immunity to floods, hurricanes and price increases of whitefish at Nate ‘n Al’s Deli on North Beverly Drive, where they honor one simple commitment.  To serve the finest deli favorites prepared with the best ingredients, featuring the finest corned beef, brisket, stuffed cabbage and short ribs.

Now a long time reader of this blog, who tends to lead to his right and drive to his left, wanted me to bring up the facts concerning this important issue.  In a story written by Malia Zimmerman for Fox News, the long-running California drought, which began back in 2102, could have been avoided if proper measures had been set in place.Now according to the critics ,the Golden State’s misguided environmental policies allowed much-needed rainwater to flow straight into the Pacific. In an average year, California gets enough snow and rain to put 200 million acres under a foot of water, but environmental opposition to dams over the last several decades has allowed the majority of the freshwater to flow into the ocean.

The current drought has left farmlands scorched and residents under strict water consumption orders.  According to Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. “This is a man-made disaster.  Southern California is an arid part of the world where droughts are commonplace, and knowing this, you’d think the government of California would have included this mathematical certainty in its disaster preparedness planning, but the government has done nothing, not even store rain, as the population has continued to grow.”

It seems that Mr. Cohen is pointing the fickled finger of fate at the administration of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who back in April mandated the state’s residents cut water usage by as much as 35 percent, saying, “As Californians, we have to pull together and save water in every way we can.”  One drop at a time.  Three coins in a fountain.

To hear it from the Republican side, “Droughts are nothing new in California, but right now, 70 percent of California’s rainfall washes out to sea because liberals have prevented the construction of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades, during a period in which California’s population has doubled,” says Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and a 2016 GOP presidential candidate. “This is the classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology.”

Let’s forget she laid off 30,000 people at Hewlett-Packard.  Fiorina places the blame for the loss of agriculture on the  manuvering of those dreaded liberal environmentalists, as 400,000 acres of farmland went unplanted last year.

Face it, the farmers are having a tough go of it.  Critics point the fingers at wanting to divert the water to boost fish populations rather than it going to farmers.  Forget about the cashews, save the endangered Delta Smelt.

California produces more than 250 different crops, with $44 billion in sales.  It is the only state to produce 12 key crops such as almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, raisins, kiwi, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, walnuts and a host of great TV shows,like “Secrets and Lies” on ABC.

But my big concern is, what will be the fate of our friend, the avocado?   I ran across an interesting story written by Adam Sternbergh in the April 20, 2105 issue of New York Magazine, titled “Guacanomics, Have You Eaten Your Last Avocado.”  In it, he discusses our lust for this precious fruit, and it’s future on this planet.

Charley Wolk is 78 years old and an avocado farmer, living a half-hour drive north of San Diego in Fallbrook, CA.   Fallbrook is unofficially known as “the Avocado Capital of the World,” and Charley serves as the chairman of the California Avocado Commission, while writing a blog called Growing Avocados, on which he’s billed as “California’s foremost avocado expert.”

Charley says the global demand for avocados has never been higher. People are going crazy for this creamy, fat filled fruit. But there’s only thing that’s troubling Charley and the avocado farmers.  You guessed it.  WATER.  What to do about the drought?

This ongoing dry spell has lasted three years and will extend to a fourth.  California farmers pay dearly for the delivery of water, and it is getting very, very expensive.   “The avocado’s native environment is tropical, and we’re growing them in a desert,” Charley says. It takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados, compared to, for instance, nine gallons to grow a pound of tomatoes. “The issue with water used to be cost. Now it’s availability.”

Now this is slightly off track, but here’s a scary scenario from Jan Eliassson, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, on the world wide scarcity of clean water. “We have a dramatically dangerous situation right now, a new dimension which is creeping into the water equation.  The fact that you have a finite situation, there’s competition about these resources.  There is a risk that water scarcity could be a threat to peace and security.”

“History if full of stories where you fight about resources.  Fighting about water is fighting about our survival.  If we don’t deal with the problem of responsibility in this stage, the problem will grow into a disastrous situation.  I think it’s time for us to wake up.”

Now back to the story.  Technically, the avocado is a berry. But it’s not like any other berry, because it’s not sweet to eat off the tree. The name avocado comes from the Aztec word ahuacatl, which means “testicle,” so named because avocados typically grow in pairs and hang heavy on the tree.

The avocado didn’t land in California until the 1850s, when a tree was imported from Nicaragua by a private citizen as a botanical curiosity.  I’m guessing she was a female admirer.

According to my sources, 44 percent of California is classified as being in “exceptional drought.”  California has missed out on a full year’s worth of precipitation over each of the last three years. Last year was also the warmest year in the state’s recorded history.   When Charley started farming avocados four decades ago, water cost about $72 per acre-foot of water.  Now in some areas it costs about $1,500 per acre-foot.  Holy guacamole.

So the avocado farmers in California are searching for new, more efficient ways to grow avocados, and looking to develop new, heartier, more drought-resistant strains of avocado to grow. So it all comes back to the drought, and the policy and politics involving the state of California.   The critics have pointed the fingers of blame.  Time has been wasted.  Now it’s time for action.  I just hope it’s not too late.

Moving from agriculture to photos, I thought I’d take a break from the landscapes and feature some animal, bird  and marine life I have photographed in the past months of May.

We start out with the an elegant pelican cruising the skies over Monterey Bay, and then onto a great blue heron in the tide pools off West Cliff Drive.  Then we head up the coast to Four Mile Beach, where three harbor seals are keeping a watchful eye on me.  Then we run across a bobcat I found making sand castles up at Four Mile, before returning to town to check out this baby elephant seal and this fully grown sea lion.

We then look in on my sleeping daughter, a monkey and Summer, our golden retriever who celebrated her 10th birthday on Saturday.  And for the grand finale, we check in on Aimee’s pet rabbits, Marvin and Scarlett, who will chew through anything she can get her teeth on.

On to some late night humor.  “Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from the show “19 Kids and Counting” say they are supporting Mike Huckabee for president because he has “common sense.” If there’s anyone who knows about common sense, it’s a family with 19 kids.” – Jimmy Fallon  “A woman held hostage by her boyfriend in Florida managed to escape this week after she convinced him to let her order a pizza using Pizza Hut’s app and wrote “911 hostage help” in the comment section. But really aren’t all Pizza Hut orders a cry for help?” – Seth Meyers

“Remember “deflate-gate”? After the Patriots beat the Colts, 11 of the 12 footballs were found to be deflated. I hope deflate-gate is a good lesson for kids. If you cheat and don’t play fair you will be the MVP of the Super Bowl and marry one of the most beautiful women on earth. Remember that.” – Jimmy Kimmel   “Happy Cinco de Mayo. Today is the day Americans celebrate Mexicans beating the French in the Battle of Puebla by getting blind drunk, listening to mariachi music, and then vomiting in a cab. Or as we call it in Britain — Tuesday.” – James Corden

“Welcome to the program. My name is Dave Letterman, and tonight I’m giving my two-week notice.  Don’t worry about me. I plan to continue to be in show business. I have already been booked to be in a production of “The Sunshine Boys” with Jay Leno.” – David Letterman

“You know what’s going to be big this summer is the new “Indiana Jones” movie. Now Indiana Jones is a little older. In this film he goes in search of a tomb for himself.  Now instead of outrunning a giant boulder, Indiana Jones has to pass an enormous kidney stone.” – David Letterman

“Happy Cinco de Mayo. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, mayor Bill de Blasio is filling all New York City potholes with guacamole.  Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby.  The thing about the Kentucky Derby is that it’s usually won by the horse from Kenya.” – David Letterman

 So we’ll catch you lighting it up for 16 third quarter points and riding your team to a game three victory over the Rockets.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Austin Rivers fans.

May 3, 2015

We Are Only Young Once

Good morning and greetings, May Day fans.  The magnificent month of April is now just dust in the wind, but it went out with a wonderous bang.  On a scale on one to ten, last week was a pretty good one by NBA standards, with the San Antonio Spurs and the L.A. Clippers playoff series turning out to the a, legendary must see TV event.   For pro hoops fans, this was true, unscripted NBA drama, setting the stage to see if the new kids on the block could dethrone the aging champions.

With Kobe Bryant and the Lakers being a non factor in the basketball world, the once dreadful Clips team have become the milk toast of Hollywood.  The Clippers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been as dominating on the court as in their ridiculous TV commercials.  The red carpet had been rolled out for the Clippers to make some noise in the playoffs.  But was it to be their time?
They had narrowly beaten our beloved Warriors in last year’s opening round, but lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in round two.  But ballsy new owner Steve Ballmer blew up the town by plunking down a record $2 billion to purchase the franchise last year from disgraced owner Donald Sterling, so things were looking up.  It was now their time, their town.  Own the playoffs.
But a funny thing happened on the last day of the season, as the seedings went haywire and the Clipper’s opponent in the opening round were the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.  This was a true heavyweight matchup, as both teams were more than worthy of moving on to the next round.  Would this once laughingstock of a franchise unload all their previous baggage and make some history?
Well, Saturday night there was a changing of the guard, as Chris Paul, playing with a painful hamstring injury, refused to lose and put the team on his back as they prevailed over the Spurs in game seven, 111-109.  It was a legendary contest for the ages, as the up and coming Clips kept on coming back and hitting big shots to take down last year’s NBA champions.
Paul hit a spectacular shot with one second left that provided the winning margin, leaving the Spurs and their fans stunned.  It was a shame one team had to lose.  The Clippers now move on to the western conference semi finals, where they face the bearded James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
This is setting up a Western Conference showdown with the Golden State Warriors, who swept the young New Orleans Pelicans in the opening round by a 4-0 margin to move on, where they will take on the depleted Memphis Grizzlies.  The young Warriors crushed the Grizzlies in their two previous meetings, and as former coach Mark Jackson would say, “This team is on a mission from God.”  The Warriors easily handled Memphis in the opening game on Sunday in Oakland, with game two coming up on Tuesday.

So the other highlight of last week was spending some quality time in the emergency room at Dominican Hospital.  Last Monday, at approximately 10:20 am, my 89-year-old mother decided to take a swan dive onto her linoleum kitchen floor.  When my father’s caregiver discovered her, she was down for the count, a very scary situation.

I immediately got a call and hurried down there, following behind the ambulance the mile or so to my parent’s abode.  The Fire Department’s paramedic were already on the scene and checking her vitals. My mother was still on the floor when I arrived and out of it, having no idea what had happened.By some miracle, there was no blood, no bruising, no broken bones.  She did say that her neck hurt, so they put her in a soft collar, placed her in a sheet and carried her outside to the gurney, where she was loaded into the ambulance.   Still having no idea of where she was or who was playing that night, and it was off the the ER at Dominican.
Well, it seemed that it was welcome wagon Monday, as at 11 am, five ambulances arrived at one time.  Inside the waiting room, the place filling up like Grand Central Station.  Scattered about were pregnant women, crying babies, wrenched knees, dog bite victims, criminals in handcuffs, heroin addicts and TV agents, a virtual potpourri of open wounds and injuries.
Since my mother had to be wheeled in, she got a room at the end of the corridor, which unfortunately for me, was away from the control center, the heartbeat of the ER, where all the action is.  Things in here move slowly, so you have a lot of time to hurry up and wait.  The doctor arrived and found her being dehydrated, so they hooked to her up to a saline drip, ordered some tests and told her to relax.
In the meantime, I was in the midst of the worst cold I had in years, a real doozy.  And I had to attend to needs of my 98-year-old father at home, who knew nothing of the situation.  Fortunately, he still doesn’t.
My mother stayed at Dominican for two nights, which I was hoping would be like a vacation from my father, but she had little to eat and not much sleep.  After two nights and a new prescription for an infection, we checked her out and headed back home.  I knew the stress from my lack of sleep and good looks would catch up with me somehow, and I was hit with the mother lode.
But my mother and father survived the ordeal, and my sister-in-law Wendi came down from Marin last Wednesday to help out. My mother got awfully lucky, because she was a concussion or broken hip waiting to happen.  As for me, I have my own issues to deal with, but I’m just happy to be done with this latest crisis.  On to the second round, Warrior fans.

For today’s photo series, we are heading down to Its Beach on the morning of March 13th. I started off shooting the reflection from the clouds down on the sand, and the headed over to Steamer Lane.  The sky was full of beautiful red clouds which changed to orange as it got closer to sunrise.  Then sun the arose and cast a wonderful light across the water.  For my final shot, I got the sun trying to disappear into the clouds.  All in a day’s work.

On to some late night humor.  “Floyd Mayweather said he will make around $200 million for his fight on Saturday against Manny Pacquiao. Meanwhile, the horse that wins the Kentucky Derby will get an extra carrot.  Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen attended a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in New York City this week. Hillary told them, “Good luck with the reboot of your ’90s show.” And they said, “Thanks. Good luck with yours.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to announce tomorrow that he is running for president, making him Hillary Clinton’s only Democratic challenger so far. Or as Hillary put it, “Oooo, appetizers!”According to a survey from the Physical Activity Council, Americans are the least active they’ve been since 2007.   To which Netflix said, “You’re welcome.” – JImmy Fallon

“In Oregon, a number of brewers are competing to turn sewer water into beer. The brewer said, “Hey, if Bud Light can do it, we can do it.”  In Baltimore, the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox played a game today in a completely empty stadium. It was the first major sporting event to be played in an empty stadium, unless you count every professional soccer game in America.” – Conan O’Brien

“Nicki Minaj made a 13-year-old boy’s dream come true when she performed at his bar mitzvah over the weekend.  Imagine being the kid at that school who’s having the next bar mitzvah. How do you compete with that? His friends will say, “What, you’re having a magician? He’d better reach into his hat and pull out Beyoncé.” – James Corden  “There’s a new dating app that pairs attractive females with generous males who will fly them to foreign countries for first dates. If you’d like to know more, tune in to next week’s “Dateline.” -Seth Meyers

So we’ll catch you playing in pain, while hitting impossible shots and willing your team to victory to advance on in the playoffs.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Chris Paul fans.

April 26, 2015

The Father The Son And The Holy Coast

Good morning and greetings, cyber readers.  As you know, my son Jason is a junior at UC Santa Barbara.  During this past spring break, instead of coming home for the week and be surrounded by family, rabbits and mounds of chicken parmesan, he decided to take up a long standing offer and headed off to Mexico with his friend’s family to relax and experience the culture of our neighbors to the south.

Now, I’m not exactly sure where he went, but I’m thinking Baja, somewhere along the coast.  Now when the Gilbert family goes on vacation, we are happy to do nothing besides eat, read, swim and relax.  After returning from his Mexican vacation, Jason informed me that their family did even less, which is quite an accomplishment.

His days were filled with meals of fabulous Mexican cuisine, taking naps in the hammock and vigorous games of Scrabble at night.  The ocean was too rough for him to learn how to surf, so he spent the days happily reading and discovering new recipes for salsa.

So being that I hadn’t seen my first born in three and half months, I decided it was time for my annual road trip down the coast to Goleta, which is where the UC Santa Barbara campus is located.  My plan was to drive down early Saturday morning and spend the day with Jason before heading back early Sunday, so to be back in time for the tip off of the first of the four playoff games on the day.

Now I am an early riser, as I haven’t woken up after 6 am since Woodstock.  There is really no rhyme or reason to why I have to be up at around 5 am, but once I awake my mind is on full alert and at that point, there is no turning back.  Occasionally, I can fall back to sleep, but it’s never for long.

They say life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep, but I’m not buying it.  I know I’m sleep deprived and suffer from a little sleep apnea, but then again, who doesn’t?  So I spend the day yawning and go about my business.

I was a little anxious about getting up early, so I hopped into bed a little after 10 pm.  I was definitely tired from playing basketball in the afternoon, and so I thought I could perhaps drift off to dreamland before hitting the road in the early morning hours, before dawn’s early light.

Well, I finally fell asleep at 11:30, and then slept in till 12:30, and when I awoke and saw the time, I realized in was in trouble.  I tried switching beds, watching TV, but I knew that by 2 am the sleep train had pulled out of the station.

So I just waited till 4 am, and then hit the road. For my four hour plus ride, I had brought along some select Howard Stern cassette tapes that I recorded back in the 80′s.  They included interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, David Lee Roth, Sam Kinison, Gary Shandling, Joe Piscopo and more.  Even though I have heard them numerous times, they are always entertaining and make the time go by much more pleasantly.

So I popped the first cassette tape it and before I could say “Jessica Hahn,” it popped out.  Put the next one in the same thing happened.  Yes, the cassette player was no longer working, so it was on to plan B.
Fortunately, my CD player was still working,  so I stuck in a live Doobie Brothers concert recorded in Milan, Italy, back in 2010.  I was listening to the music while rolling down the highway, and Jesus was just alright with me.
So I arrived at 8:30, and Jason greeted me, fresh from a shower.  He proceeded to make me a wonderful breakfast of rice, zucchini and chicken, when all I wanted was a pop tart.
We then headed over to the admissions building where Jason is employed as a campus tour guide, and gave a 10:30 tour to 30 prospective students and their families.  After a mile and a half trot around the campus, we then headed back to his apartment to catch the tip off of the Golden State game, and then at halftime headed over to Gio’s Pizza in Isla Vista, where I proceeded to consume the biggest slice of pizza in my life.
The slice was tremendously good, as I was surrounded by a sea of college aged males and coeds drinking Bud Lite.  At that point, I felt like I was part of the Gaucho nation, and it felt good.
After the pizza, we split a chocolate milk shake before going back and catching the Pelicans fourth quarter comeback at his place.  But the Warriors came out on top in the end and so things were falling nicely into place.
Jason had to study and I was a bit tired, so we passed up a baseball game against Cal Poly, before heading out to do a little shopping at Trader Joe’s and Vons.
We then headed over to check out my illustrious accommodations at the Motel 6, where at $146.00 per night, they don’t supply you with any shampoo.  But fortunately, when we picked some take out chicken katsu at the L & L Barbecue, I picked up a couple of containers which my son graciously filled with shampoo.
We proceeded to eat and watch the Dallas-Houston game, and I knew my day with my son was coming to a close.  We spent some time talking after the game, and I listened to him talking about his life, his future options and where he might be headed.  It was great  just to listen and hear about how his life plans might be unfolding.
I said my goodbye, headed to the motel, watched a little bit of “The Closer” and fell right asleep.  In the morning, they served no breakfast, and I was on the road and in the early morning fog before 7 am, heading back to Santa Cruz.
It was a lot of driving but well worth the trip.  Jason will graduate next year and who knows what continent he may be heading to.  His life is going by so quickly, and I savored the time spent with my oldest child.  I look at him and he is so familiar.  He is, after all, the best of me.
For today’s photo entree, we are heading back to the evening of January 28th.  The place was Natural Bridges State Beach, and as the sun set into the Pacific, some nicely colored tangerine clouds appeared in the sky.  Then I headed down to the sand, where pink and white clouds were swirling in the backdrop of the remaining final arch.  The clouds then turned from orange to red, and all was good.

On to some late night humor.  “An intruder was arrested at the White House last night after trying to jump the fence. Authorities aren’t releasing the fence jumper’s identity, but they did say that she tore her pantsuit.  A company has come out with a line of medical marijuana dog treats. Finally a medicine that will help my dog lie on the couch all day.” – Seth Meyers

“Teenagers across the country have been participating in something called the Kylie Jenner Lips Challenge, in which they place a jar around their lips and suck in air in order to make their lips swell. While teenagers in China have been participating in “school.”  Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new movie that focuses on a zombie apocalypse. It takes place in an empty wasteland with no living beings. Just like the movie theater where it’s playing.” – Seth Meyers
“Today is Earth Day. The way I see it, as humans the very least we can do is recycle. A lot of recycling is going on this year. For example, Bushes and Clintons.  The New York Mets have won eight games in a row. Astronomers say this won’t happen again for another 10,000 years.” – David Letterman
“There are reports that Kim Jong Un climbed North Korea’s highest mountain. Kim Jong Un said all it took to climb that mountain was hard work, determination, and lying about climbing that mountain.  At the White House yesterday, a little girl actually asked first lady Michelle Obama how old she is. Michelle answered, “Old enough to put you on the No Fly List, sweetheart.” – Jimmy Fallon
So that’s my last blast for April.  We’ll catch you scoring 40 points and hitting a spectacular, game-tying three pointer in the final seconds to force overtime in game three.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

April 19, 2015

They Don’t Give Out Trophies For Regular Season Champions

Good morning and greetings, NBA playoff fans.  Yes, in the words of the Chambers Brothers, “The time has come today,” as it is wonderful to be alive and a pro basketball fan.  The fabulously entertaining NBA regular season came to a stunning conclusion Wednesday night, and now it is on to the postseason, when the big boys lace up their sneakers and go for the gold-the NBA championship.

Last year’s first round of the playoffs were utterly fantastic, in which three out of the four western conference matchups went down to the final game of the series.  In the other, a miraculous, last second, buzzer beating shot by Portland’s Damian Lillard stunned the Houston Rockets in the game six finale.  My head was about to explode, but that’s what two frenzied weeks of wild finishes and  wall to wall action will do to you.

Now for the long standing Warrior nation, this is your time to rise and shine.   Golden State has been hands down, from start to finish, the best team in the NBA this season.    It has been a miraculous run, as no one, including Stephen Curry’s barber, expected the Warriors to win 67 regular season games.

But there was some doubt heading into the new campaign.  Former coach Mark Jackson, who had led the Warriors to a 51 win season the year before, was thrown out the door last May and replaced by TNT’s Stevie Kerr, who had as much NBA head coaching experience as my mother-in-law.  This was a big gamble, as the team thrived under Jackson and were headed down the road to playoff prosperity.

So they awarded Steve Kerr with a 5 year, $25 million contract.  Would this former reserve shooting guard, who once traded punches and received a black eye from then teammate Michael Jordan, be the man to lead the Warriors to the promised land?

Well, it appears that owner Joe Lacob got it right in replacing Jackson, who always said that the hand of God was guiding the Warrior team.  Golden State got off to a tremendous start, stunning everyone around the league by winning 20 out of their first 22 games  The dream was in motion and the fans were going wild.
But first let’s give credit to Mark Jackson for getting the ball rolling.  As he said a few months back on his first return to Oracle Arena an ESPN commentator, “Steve Kerr’s done an outstanding job. He deserves a lot of credit. I think while giving him credit, there’s no need to take away credit from the past. You can’t disrespect the caterpillar and rave about the butterfly.”
Throughout the season, there were miraculous nightly performances by all-star guard Stephen Curry, with this ball handling, drives to the hoop and extraordinary clutch three point shooting, making him arguably the most exciting performer in the NBA today.

As he said after Wednesday night’s regular season finale, “We’re a resilient group, and we’re hungry to achieve the next level.  Our record is great.  I don’t think anyone could imagine 67 wins going into the season.  We wanted to finish strong, look forward to the playoffs and bottle up all that mojo we established over these 82 games.”

It’s been a season beyond expectations.  Curry’s partner in the backcourt, all-star Klay Thompson, scored 37, yes 37, points in one quarter earlier in the season, an unbelievable scoring performance.  When he squares his shoulders to the basket when shooting, he’s an artist in motion.
Pastor Jackson said a while back that the combination of Curry and Thompson were “the best shooting backcourt ever, it’s not even close.” I almost choked on my Frosted Flakes when I heard this, but I have come around to the fact that it is true.  They are the best, and the league logo, Jerry West, would agree.
They are joined in the starting lineup with my NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, power forward  Draymond Green.  Now every team had a shot to select Green, who was picked in the second round of the draft, so he came in having a little something to prove, with a chip on his shoulder.  As Jackson remarked, “What he does, you cannot put on paper.”
The other component in the mix is center Andrew Bogut, the 7 footer out of Australia, who’s a shot blocker and rim protector and a key part of the passing game and defensive scheme.  Bogut missed the playoffs last year with a rib injury, but he is now smiling, healthy and ready to do battle.Now the second season is underway, and the number to focus on is 16, in that you have to beat four teams, four times to call yourself champions.  The Warriors have what it takes to go all the way.  Luck has been on their side, as they have been relatively healthy all year, while other teams have been decimated by injuries.

Of course, there are other obstacles looming in their path, but they caught a break when the defending NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs, dropped from the # 2 seed to #6 on the last night of the season, meaning they’ll have to win out on the road.  They take on Chris Paul and the L.A. Clippers, which are the two teams that have eliminated the Warriors from their last two playoff series.

The Warriors opened up on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans, and now have a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series, with game two on tap for tonight.  The Pelicans are young and shouldn’t be much of a challenge.It’s the Warrior’s time.  Everything is falling nicely into place.  They know what their task is and the challenges that lie ahead

In the words of Coach Kerr, “The best thing the Warriors franchise did over the last few years was build a defensive unit. Everything that ‘s happened has prepared this team to play well in the postseason, because it’s all about defensive intensity, being able to string together four or five stops.  Those are the teams that ultimately go deep and maybe win the whole thing,  You got to be able to defend and we can count on our defense.”
It may not be raining in the Bay Area, but the championship drought may soon be over.  We’ve got Curry and no worries.  Let’s keep that mojo rolling.
So I heard through the grapevine that the last week’s flowers in the rain were a nice break from the morning sunrises.  So I thought I would continue the theme of color by showcasing a parade of phalaenopsis orchids I had shot at various nurseries and farmers markets throughout the county.I have hundreds of beautiful orchid photos resting peacefully in my archives, as I went a little orchid crazy a while back.  They are such an exotic and as my cousin Gina says, “erotic” looking flower, and their colors just drive my photographic eyes wild.  So sit back and click on the photos to make them larger.

On to some late night humor.  “Governor Chris Christie says if he’s president, he will crack down on the sale of marijuana. However, that was before he was told it also comes in a brownie. Hillary Clinton announced she’s running for president. Yesterday in Ohio, Hillary popped into a Chipotle and she ordered a burrito bowl with chips and salsa. And on her way out she said, “That locks down the Hispanic vote.” – Conan O’Brien

“Hillary Clinton is now in Iowa. She’s spending every waking minute of her day meeting ordinary people, and it’s to prepare her for a job in which she will never again meet an ordinary person.  Hillary’s trying to appear downhome. Earlier today she was sitting on the front porch of a general store whittling a pantsuit.” – David Letterman

“Hillary Clinton is not the first woman to run for president. That title belongs to Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872. Her running mate was a young, scrappy John McCain.   Jeb Bush welcomed his fourth grandchild. The new Bush grandchild is happy, healthy, and will be running for president in 2048.” – Conan O’Brien

So we’ll catch you have a record setting season and being the best player in the NBA not in the playoffs.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Russell Westbrook fans.

April 12, 2015

It Takes A Long Time To Grow Old

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Good morning and greetings, baby boomer fans.  In my last posting, I wrote about the impending birthdays of my son and brother.  I am happy to report they both enjoyed their birthday celebrations, although Brad mentioned at his age (56), he couldn’t remember turning 21.  Or as Mark Twain once tweeted, “When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.”
But there was still one other birthday to celebrate in the Gilbert family, as yesterday, April 12, my father, Daniel Gilbert, turned 98 years old.  Yes, 98 years old, sports fans.  If you’re keeping a scorecard at home, that’s approximately 35,770 days on the planet.
Now you would think we would be having a grand celebration in honor of such an auspicious occasion, but it was not to be. Unfortunately, my father did not know it was his birthday.  The last time I asked him how old he was, he said 56.  He does not know what day it is, what time it is or who is the president.
That is because he has been diagnosed with advanced dementia, and there is very little left of his short term memory.  His mind started to go south in the his late 80′s, as I can’t remember the exact year.  The decline was gradual, but definitely noticeable.
Back when my father was in his 80′s, I used to take him out to lunch to give my mother some free time for herself.  The conversation was good and the dining always pleasant, with juicy hamburgers at The Hindquarter, prime rib out on the wharf at Gilda’s and shrimp and lobster sauce, his favorite Chinese dish at Tam’s, where he always had eyes on my soup.
But then walking became tricky and other things came into play, so I figured after 85 plus years of going out to eat, he’d just have to settle for home cooked meals. I wanted him to be safe, and not fall and break a hip, which is the beginning of the end for many elderly people.  So he began his indoor existence, where he is now still today.
For his 90th birthday, we threw him a party at the Peachwoods Grill over in Pasatiempo.  It was an amazing experience because the dementia had set in, but on this day he miraculously rose to the occasion as the honored guest.  He graciously handled himself and no one really noticed anything out of place.But on the way out, while walking with my brother, the demons returned as I heard him saying, “Where are we, where are we going.”  The fog had returned.
And that was basically the last time we celebrated an occasion that he was somewhat conscious of.  Over the years the dementia has taken over and has robbed him of the most of the joy in his life.  He know longer follows his New York Giants and Knicks, as he watches the screen but the rooting interest has been gone for years.
Unfortunately, the dementia has taken a toll on my 89 year old mother, who after 65 years of being married to this man and dealing with his manic depression, is just exhausted, after putting his needs in front of hers.  At her tender age, she has been a caregiver too long, and she is plain worn out.
We want my father to stay at home as long as possible, as my mother does not want to spend her free time visiting him in a nursing facility.  I agree with her, but the task of taking care of him has taken a toll on both of us.
We now have caregivers during the day and overnights.  But the stress of the situation led to my mother contracting shingles last July, which were incredibly painful and threw her for a loop.  She is now in some sort of pain every day, and as she often says to me these days, ‘I’m not whistling Dixie.”
So I take her out to lunch, to doctor’s appointments and make sure they get a good, home cooked meal every night. My father’s world has become very small, as he has outlived everyone in his family, just has his body has outlived his mind.  No one comes to visit except the caregivers, and he rarely goes outside, as he spends his days sleeping and watching television.  It’s not a pretty picture, and every day is like basically the same.  These are not the golden years.
But his heart is strong, and he continues to live on, though I doubt that he is enjoying his existence.  It is difficult to imagine being 98 years old, as I know how my body feels at age 62.  Tired doesn’t begin to describe it.
So he continues on.  He take very little medication and rarely visits the doctor.  When we did, the doctor would ask, “Is he walking okay?”  “Yes.”  “Is he eating well?”  “Yes.”  Does he get agitated or belligerent?”  ‘No.”  “Well,” says the doctor, “Five more years and he’ll be 100.”
And that about says it all.  He just keeps on ticking.  Happy birthday, Dad.
For our photo concession this week, we are heading up to the Arboretum at UCSC.  I awoke last Tuesday to the sound of rain, and wanted to shoot the flowers with the precipitation intact.  When I arrived at the Arboretum, the sky was changing from blue to gray, as rabbits scurried around in the underbrush.  There were lots of flowers in bloom, and I captured the color and droplets of moistness I was looking for.
On to some late night humor.  “John McCain addressed critics who believe he will be too old to run for a sixth term in the Senate, saying that he’s still healthy and ready to go. Then people around McCain said, “Why is he talking to that mannequin?” – Jimmy Fallon   “The campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill has narrowed the choices down to four finalists. The four finalists are Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Flo from the Progressive Insurance.” – Conan O’Brien

“President Obama just made his first presidential trip to the state of Utah. Obama spent his time in Utah just like you’d expect — telling people, “Uh, no, I don’t play for the Jazz.”  Jeb Bush is facing criticism after it was just revealed that he checked off his race as “Hispanic” on a voter registration form back in 2009. When asked if he regrets it now, Bush said, “Si.” – Jimmy Fallon

“California may force the city of Beverly Hills to cut its water use by up to 35 percent. So yet another tough break for Beverly Hills farmers.  McDonald’s has announced plans to unveil even larger hamburgers. They also announced plans to widen their doors and reinforce the floors.” – Conan O’Brien

So we’ll catch you being the go-to guy on the defending NBA champions and leading the Spurs into the playoffs.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Kawhi Leonard fans.

April 5, 2015

The Golden State Of Birth

Good morning and greetings, Final Four fans.  Yes, in just a few short hours, a new college basketball champion will be crowned, which brings to a close  three weeks of March Madness.  In the end, only one team will be left standing, and as the victors cut down the nets and CBS plays “One Shining Moment” to a backdrop of fabulous plays and cheerleaders in tears, one thing stands out at this moment.

People love to gamble.  That is the secret to the madness, as the tournament has drawn its best ratings in more than two decades.  Seems college hoops fans were checking their brackets like lemmings marching to the sea.
And for you who were not watching Saturday night, the Wisconsin Badgers

knocked off the previously undefeated Kentucky Wildcats to advance to the championship game, where they will face the Duke Blue Devils.  The king is dead.  Who knew?

And with the college basketball season coming to a close, this means the NBA once again takes center stage. With just over one week left in the regular season, the Golden State Warriors continue to lead the NBA in excitement and execution, and have elevated their game to a very high level.
Now this does not guarantee a championship, but it’s a good place to start.
So mark your calendars for April 18, when the the postseason journey begins to determine who will be  coming home with the Larry O’Brien championship trophy.  The Warriors have been the best team all season, but when the playoffs start, everyone’s record is 0-0, as the slates have been wiped clean.
The Warriors have set a record for franchise wins and have locked up the number one seed.  In the words of all-star point guard Stephen Curry, ” It’s a testament to how focused we’ve been over the course of the season. We’ve had a big lead in the standings, but we understood the big goal in mind. We kept our focus and we kept our commitment to what we are doing on the floor.”
But before the playoffs get underway, there is an important day in the lives of my family.  Coming up on Tuesday, April 7, my son Jason turns 21 years old.  This is a special occasion, as this means four years from now, he will be able to drive the rental car on our Hawaiian vacations.  That is the true aloha spirit.
Jason is a junior and majoring in biochemistry at UC Santa Barbara.  He is on the premed track and hopes to attend medical school somewhere in the western hemisphere.  He’s always wanted to be a doctor, and God knows, we’re going to need someone in the family who knows about the aging mind.
I’m very proud of him and what he’s accomplished so far.  I had a ringside seat to see him grow from a tiny infant to the young man he is today.   We were connecting basically every day until he went off the college.  We played basketball, we talked basketball and we watched basketball.  It was a bonding element.
I always knew where I could find him, up in his room watching “The Office” or writing some sort of essay to get into some kind of program when he wasn’t playing beach volleyball.  And he has followed in my path in the culinary department, as he marinates his chicken and makes mango salsa like a young Wolfgang Puck.If I had any complaints, it would be that now he has his own life to live.  He’s become a man, and after graduation from college, will soon be off on another adventure, adding new chapters to his life.  I won’t be going along on his journeys, but my heart will be with him.  But how I miss the day to day contact.
And I always say, laugh and the world laughs with you.  Skype, and you skype alone.
But his isn’t the only birth that occurred on this day.  That’s right, as my brother Brad also celebrates his trip down the birth canal.  And we are lucky to have him around, because back in the early spring 2014, while on a heli snowboarding trip to Alaska, Brad was sitting on top of a glacier when the cornice collapsed under him, sending him tumbling down the mountain.
When he finally finished his free fall, he was buried in the snow and dazed and confused.  He was alive and but unfortunately, on the way down the slope, a bomb had gone off and destroyed his left knee.  All the ligaments, attachments and things you need to function were kaput.
So began a very painful chapter in my brother’s life.  My brother Paul flew up to Colorado to survey the damage, and the carnage was something neither would want to see or go through again.  My youngest brother was a wreck and there was nothing we could do.
When the swelling finally went down and the heavy narcotics began to wear off, Brad had major reconstructive surgery on the knee in Colorado.  This led to gut wrenching days and the agony of sleepless nights.  We were all helpless in his fight against pain.Then began the second act of physical therapy, which turned out to be more painful than his injury. Now Brad could have given up and not gone headlong into the PT, but this boy wants to get back on the slopes. I admire him for that, because for me, I’d be at the lodge snorkeling in the hot tub while sipping hot chocolate and downing some scones.

His doctor says his knee has progressed well.  He’s not done with physical therapy, but I admire his attitude and never give up spirit.  In the mornings, he takes a long hike with his golden retriever up into the foothills, and as he looks down the slope, realizes he’s a lucky man.  And so are we who know him.

So happy birthday, boys.  And rest up, as the playoffs are approaching.
So for our photo viewing this week, we are heading back to the morning of January 16.  The clouds put on a nice orange glow early on, as I was shooting from along various locations on West Cliff Drive.  As the sun started to rise, soft pastel colors appeared and the sky came to life and all was good.
On to some late night humor,  “According to a new study, the marijuana in Colorado is almost twice as strong as it was 20 years ago. Of course, people had some questions for the scientists, like “How can I get your job?”  Taco Bell is replacing the “Waffle Taco” with its new “Biscuit Taco,” which is a taco-shaped biscuit filled with eggs, sausage, or chicken. That story again: Weed is twice as strong as it used to be.” – Jimmy Fallon
“For the first time, a vegan gluten-free bakery has opened at Disney World. The place is called “It’s a Sad World After All.”  Nigeria just held their election and their incumbent president, whose actual name is Goodluck Jonathan, lost the race. He was beaten by his rival, Betterluck Jonathan.” – Conan O’Brien”McDonald’s is going to test all-day breakfast at their restaurants in San Diego. Which means stoners now have absolutely no motivation to get up before 10:30.  All-day breakfast is good for McDonald’s customers, but I think it’s sad for the workers. It seems to me the most fun part of their job was telling people that breakfast is over.” -Jimmy Kimmel
So we’ll catch you having an MVP type season while putting up 51 points on the Kings last week and  leading the league in scoring.  Aloha, mahalo and later, James Harden fans.

March 29, 2015

No Need To Worry, We’ve Got Steph Curry

Good morning and greetings, early spring fans.  The insanity of March Madness continues to carry on, as we are now down to the Final Four teams.  Two weeks ago, I wrote that the finale was going to be a little anticlimatic, as the highly favored University of Kentucky team, who entered tournament undefeated, has just continued to roll on, compiling an very impressive 38-0 mark.
Or as former Butler head coach Joe Sexson once said, “Kentucky players put their pants on the same way our players do. It just takes them a little longer to pull them up.”
 Of course, as Ashley Judd, Kentucky’s most notorious fan reminded me, their starting front line is bigger than most NBA teams.  Gigantic doesn’t begin to describe them.  This vaunted college basketball program continues to find a way to win, as the Wildcats inch closer to a possible NCAA title, which will be decided next Monday night in Indianapolis.
As Kentucky’s vanquished opponents have proclaimed, “Coach John Calipari, tear down this wall.”
But truth be told, I’m not caught up in the hysteria of the college tournament, as there is something even bigger brewing in the Bay Area.  And that, my friends, are your Golden State Warriors.
And if you haven’t heard, there’s still time to jump aboard the Warriors bandwagon.  But don’t make any plans on hopping off until the middle of June, when the NBA championships will be decided.
 It has been a dream season for Warrior fans, something that is so magically delicious that you can’t take your eyes off the screen.  With nine games remaining in the regular season, Golden State has clinched their first Pacific Division title since the 1975-76 season, or when Rick Barry still had some natural hair on his head.
As point guard Steph Curry said last Tuesday night after clinching the title, “It feels great.  It’s my sixth year and we haven’t done it before.  It’s a big accomplishment, but obviously, we have a lot more to accomplish this year with goals in mind.  But this is a good stepping stone for us to win the division and keep it moving.”The blue and gold  have also shattered their all-time franchise record for wins in a season by securing their 60th on Saturday night, while at the same time breaking the mark for wins (26) on the road.  As they say, there’s no place like away.
Rookie head coach Steve Kerr’s squad has been blowing away opponents at home at the Oracle Arena, compiling a very impressive 34-2 mark.  The Warriors have a high octane offense, that involves a lot of ball movement and three point shooting, which really gets the crowds roaring.
The Warrior’s offense is predicated on moving the ball side to side, getting the best shots on every possession.   Everyone is involved in touching the basketball, and this unselfishness leads to good things happening.A longtime observer of the east bay sports scene, Bruce Meyers, says it best. “It’s magical.  It’s poetry in motion.”
But what really revs up the fan base at Oracle is the way the Warriors play defense.  Led by undersized power forward Draymond Green, the Warriors’ defense is a testament to tenacity, as the Warrior defenders have been stifling the opposition like never before.  Inevitably, at some point in the game, lately the third quarter, the Warriors play shut down defense and take their opponents out of the game, and then the rout is on.
Golden State has been magnificent at home, as it has been a party every night.  They are led by all-star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who have been touted as the best outside shooting tandem of all-time. But what makes this squad so effective is their depth, as they have twelve players they can run in and out of the lineup.  The team is hungry and focused, and has played at an extraordinary level all season long.Steve Kerr, with the input from veteran assistant coaches Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry, has transformed the Warriors into a title contender in his first season as head coach.

As owner Joe Lacob said at the time of his hiring, “Steve Kerr was incredibly prepared.   He covered every detail you could imagine.  He knew our roster in and out. He had assistant coaches he wanted to go after. It was like a tour de force. At the end of the day, I know he knows a lot about basketball.”
Golden State, unlike many other franchises, has remained relatively injury free, which is an immense blessing.  Teams like Oklahoma City, Portland and Chicago have been decimated by injuries, with players like the Bull’s Derrick Rose and last year’s MVP Kevin Durant’s futures in doubt.
The key to the excitement at the arena is the team play and it’s orchestrator, Stephen Curry.  Having just celebrated his 27th birthday, he is generally considered, with no disrespect to Russell Westbrook or LeBron James, the most exciting performer in the league.
He is a magician with the ball, and an amazing no look passer.  But what brings the crowds to their feet is his variety of dipsy doo moves to the hoop and his incredible three point shooting.  No one shoots threes better than Steph, and when he launches, it’s nothing but net.
And being 6’3″ and not bulked up, he’s easy to relate to, as a relatively small figure in a big man’s game.  He’s the best player on the best team, and a prime candidate for Most Valuable Player.
But he’s not after that award.  The Warriors are eyes are on a bigger prize, and that is an NBA championship.  It’s going to be tough, but they have they home court advantage, where they have been virtually unbeatable.
So it’s two weeks and counting till the end of the regular season.  And then the big show hits the stage, the NBA playoffs, which will be delectably brutal.  But the Warriors have what it takes, and they are confident that this could very well be their year. So keep the faith and stay tuned.
For our photo study this week, we are returning to the Natural Bridges State Beach on the evening of January 9.  I sensed early on that there would be some fireworks in the sky, and this night did not disappoint.I started shooting from the upper parking lot, and then headed down to the sand, where I caught the reflection of the clouds in the large pond of water.  It was a beautiful sight, as the sky and water were aglow with vivid color.  Game on.
On to some late night humor. “Ted Cruz released a presidential campaign video in Spanish. Cruz explained, “It’s important for me to reach out to the people I’m trying to deport.”  People are questioning if Ted Cruz can legally run for president because he was born in Canada. And the last thing we want to do is pave the way for a President Bieber.” – Conan O’Brien
“Senator Ted Cruz has officially announced that he is running for president. But if you see a T-shirt that says “Ted Cruz 2016,” those aren’t election shirts. That’s just how old he thinks the Earth is.” – Seth Meyers  “Republican candidate Ted Cruz said recently that in the 36 hours after he announced that he’s running for president, he’s raised over a million dollars. And Hillary Clinton closed her checkbook and said, “Happy to help. Can’t wait.” – Jimmy Fallon

“McDonald’s is introducing a Big Mac clothing line. Of course there already is a clothing line for Big Mac lovers. It’s called a hospital gown.  According to a new study, human waste contains gold and other special minerals. In the future this could make things awkward when a cashier asks, “How would you like to pay for this?” -Conan O’Brien

“Kraft Foods and Heinz will merge to create the fifth largest food and beverage company in the world. The merger will combine brands like Kraft Mac & Cheese, Heinz ketchup, Oscar Mayer wieners, and Philadelphia cream cheese. Or as stoners put it, “Already did that, bro.” – Jimmy Fallon”Today is the 20th birthday of the Starbucks Frappuccino. The CEO of Starbucks wrote in his book about the story of the Frappuccino: “It’s experimental, it’s adventurous, it fires people up and engages their imagination.” Does it, though? Seems like a coffee milkshake to me. ” – Jimmy Kimmel
So that our last blast for March.  We’ll catch you scoring 23 points in a win over North Carolina, and then going for a season-high 27 in the win over Arizona Saturday night to get to your Wisconsin team into the Final Four.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Sam Dekker fans.

March 22, 2015

It’s Spring And Taxes Are In The Air

Good morning and greetings, springtime fans.  After a week of game-winning, buzzer-beating March Madness, there are now the Sweet 16 teams alive in their quest for the magical,mystical national college championship.

Well, let’s just say 15 contenders and the University of Kentucky.  The Kareem always rises to the top.

But in the midst of all this hoop hysteria, there is something else brewing that puts even the biggest gamblers on edge.  Yes, boys and girls, it’s that time of year to let the feds in on if you’ve been naughty or nice.  So open up those W-2′s and 1099′s and let the sunshine in.  It’s tax season.

The Beatles once crooned, “Everybody’s got something to hide except for me and my monkey.” As for myself, I am an open book when it comes to paying the piper.  And this year, I am doing more than my share to help fund federal giveaway programs, like national health care, rebuilding the infrastructure of Afghanistan and support for Yemeni rebels.  Despite what they say, when in Yemen, you make yemenade.

So how did we end up with this tax system?  How did this whole federal income tax program come around, and why in the wide, wide world of sports was it needed?  Inquiring minds want to know.I ran across a site called randomhistory.com, which provided some answers to the tax situation along with some comic relief on this not so thrilling topic .  Or as they say at Morgan Stanley, “You must pay taxes.  But there’s no law that says you gotta leave a tip.”

Let’s face it.  It feels good paying taxes, supporting our government. It’s the ultimate economic cleansing.  According to my sources, which are always sketchy, Americans starting paying income tax to support the American Civil War.  The Revenue Act of 1861 paid for this four year conflict, at a cost of $2.5 million a day, or what Oracle Arena collects in parking revenue on Warrior game nights.

However, the act was repealed and replaced the following year with the tiered income tax, which lead many people to start shedding tears. The current income tax system was made into law in 1913, before the start of World War II.  This came about as the feds needed more coin from the populace to fund our foreign conflicts, so they started withholding taxes from people’s paycheck.

In 1913, the kid friendly federal form 1040 was introduced.  This required all citizens, legal permanent residents and criminals with a net income of $3,000 or more to file their tax returns.  It was simple, as it only consisted of three, fun-filled pages, something that even Ted Cruz could understand.

WW II led to the creation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which became the IRS.  The Internal Revenue Service is responsible for collecting taxes, enforcing revenue laws and messing with people’s heads as part of the U.S. Department of Treasury, which is the world’s largest accounting and tax-collection organization.  I tried to have my name removed from their mailing list, but they refused to cancel my subscription.

Did you ever notice that when you put the words “The” and “IRS” together, it spells “THEIRS?”

Filling out the tax form and taking the proper deductions can be a tricky proposition.  I leave it up to my trustworthy accountant to do my bidding for me.  Let’s just say he knows what’s in and what’s out, where to slice and dice.  This year he’s counting my weight loss as a non-capital gain.

Or as author Herman Wouk once wrote, “Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today.”  And Albert Einstein, who was no slouch, professed that “The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.”  I wonder who did his taxes?  H & R Block?

But hey, if you’re looking to make a little coin around tax time, you can make big bucks by reporting a company for tax evasion.  The IRS Whistleblower Office will pay money to people who blow the whistle on persons who fail to pay the tax that they owe. If the IRS uses information provided by the whistleblower, they can collect up to 30 percent of the additional tax and penalties, tax free.  If you snitch, you can become rich.

Sounds like easy money.  Now some companies get away with murder.  In 2009, Bank of America had an income of $4.4 billion. They paid $0 in taxes.  In 2010, General Electric made $4 billion in U.S. profits. It paid $0 in taxes.  Now that’s imagination at work.Now why I am paying to build roads, bridges and Starbucks in Taliban country, when G.E., an American multinational conglomerate corporation, pays zilch.  Is it because they bring good things to life?

So finally, here’s my favorite fact about taxes.  According to the website historic-UK.com, Lady Godiva, not to be confused with Lady Gaga, was a rich landowner in England.  Her husband was an evil son of bitch and he demanded from the people of Coventry to pay oppressive taxes.

Lady Godiva pleaded with him to stop this hated tax and he is reputed to have said, “You will have to ride naked through Coventry before I will change my ways.”

This jackass was sure that his modest wife would never strip down.  But Lady Godiva took him at his word, and on Market Day in Coventry she rode naked, covered only by her long golden hair, which covered her entire body so that only her face and legs could be seen.

This son of a bitch was so stunned by the whole incident that he believed it was a miracle that no one had seen his wife’s naked body, and he immediately freed the town from paying the hated tax.

And this led to the publishing of the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.

So let me end with a little ditty by poet Ogden Nash that sums up my feelings.  “Indoors or out, no one relaxes in March, that month of wind and taxes.  The wind will presently disappear, but the taxes last us all the year.”

For our non-taxable photos series, we are heading down to Lighthouse Point along West Cliff Drive on the morning of January 4.  The sky lit up early with vivid red and orange colors, and cast a beautiful reflection down on the sand at Its Beach.  It was my first sunrise of 2015, and it was magnificent, as the sky was a nicely painted canvas of colors.  Then the sun rose over the bay and my work for the day was done.

On to some late night humor.  “In an interview with Playboy magazine, Dick Cheney criticized President Obama and said he’s quote, “the worst president of my lifetime, without question.” Then Cheney said, “But enough talk. When do I take my clothes off?  During his weekly address to the nation, President Obama discussed higher education and said, “The most important skill you can sell is your knowledge.” Or as English majors working at Starbucks put it, “No it’s not.” – Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama filled out his March Madness bracket. You can tell Obama’s mind is elsewhere because his top two picks were Israel and Iran.  President Obama has decided that he wants his presidential library to be in Chicago, not Hawaii. Today Hawaii’s governor said, “Great, who’s going to want to come to Hawaii now?”” – Conan O’Brien

“A new study has shown that women who get more sleep have better sex. Unfortunately, the study was conducted by Bill  Cosby.Officials in Indiana have discovered a working meth lab inside a Walmart. They became suspicious when they noticed a Walmart employee making a decent living.” -Conan O’Brien

“Yesterday was the L.A. Marathon. It’s the only time of year you see someone running in the streets of Los Angeles when it’s not the end of a car chase.  Some people are still angry about the letter written by Republicans to Iran. It’s also not helping that they said, “Dear Iran or Iraq, we can never keep you two straight.” – Conan O’Brien  “A grandmother in South Africa celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday by going skydiving. It’s pretty impressive — most people turning 100 usually go the other direction in the sky. – Jimmy Fallon

So we’ll catch you making your father’s day by hitting the game-winning shot for your Georgia State squad that upset Baylor in the first round of the NCAA’s.  Aloha, mahalo and later, R. J. Hunter fans.

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