June 7, 2015

Don’t Let The Egg Fool The Young

Good morning and greetings, Asian Fusion fans.  With the Golden State Warriors tied up one game apiece with Cleveland  in the NBA championship series, I thought I would shift gears and head back into the culinary lane of  life.  As the poet Yuan Mei of the Qing Dynasty once said,“There is a difference between dining and eating. Dining is an art. When you eat to get most out of your meal, to please the palate, just as well as to satiate the appetite, that, my friend, is dining.”

I recently ran across an article by Dan Gentile on yahoo.com, entitled, “19 Ways To Spot a Fake Chinese Restaurant.”  The author starts out by saying, “There are plenty of ethnic cuisines that America has doused in the thick, sweet sauce of appropriation, but perhaps none more so than Chinese food. There’s a time and place for things like sweet and sour chicken and crab rangoon, but it never feels good to be expecting a plate of mapo tofu only to get your food and realize you’ve walked into a trap set by General Tso.”
Now let me say, first off, that I am on the sweet and sour bandwagon.  I know this to be politically incorrect, as years ago, I was dining with a Chinese friend at the Yank SIng restaurant in San Francisco, home of the overpriced traditional and contemporary dim sum.
We sat down, and soon the parade of shrimp siu mye, Shanghai dumplings and a variety of steamed buns were stopping at our table.  As soon as they hit my plate, I went right for the sweet and sour sauce.  After a few rounds of watching me drown these delicate food items in the sauce, she couldn’t take it any more and said, “If you dip anything else in that sauce, I’m going to have to kill you.”
From there it went downhill.  Later on, I passed on eating a dish called chicken feet.   I didn’t care that they were first fried, then marinated and then steamed.  I just didn’t want to digest anything where you have to chop off the toenails.
So getting back to the story, the author went and met with the owner of a recently closed but very popular Asian fusion restaurant in Los Angeles named Starry Kitchen.  If you are wondering what this Asian confusion, er fusion, might be, it is defined as the blending of various Asian styles of cooking to create new, imaginative dishes, like Chinese Bourbon Chicken with Soy Sauce and Ginger, Spicy Smokin’ Asian Salmon Cakes and Black Sesame Ice Cream, topped off with some jello mixed in with tiny pieces of fruit.
The author spoke with the co-owner Nguyen Tran, who also shared some thoughts from his chef/wife Thi Tran, about how to tell an authentic Chinese restaurant from an Americanized one.  As he says, “If you see more than a few of these red flags, you might want to rethink what you’re putting between your chopsticks.  Or in my case, a fork.

Sweet and sour sauce that’s starchy or sugary

“Sweet and sour is also an authentic Chinese preparation.   If it’s saccharine and sweet, it’s definitely an Americanized Chinese place. It shouldn’t overpower the other flavors. It’s lightly salty and lightly sweet, but if it looks thick like molasses, then it’s probably Americanized. It can be made on the fly too, it’s usually just sugar, vinegar, and other ingredients poured onto the chicken.  You shouldn’t need a machete to cut through it.”

I say, come one, come all, the sweet and sour sauce livens up any Chinese dish.  I would love to bathe in the Sweet and Sour Sea of life.

Egg foo young is on the menu

“Sometimes authentic places will have this on the menu, but it’s really an American invention, and it can be disgusting. It’s like a savory pancake that’s an amalgamation of vegetables, batter, and shrimp that’s deep-fried and topped with gravy. It loses all the texture when you put gravy on it, and it just becomes mush on mush.”

This is my father’s favorite dish, along with shrimp and lobster sauce. Enough said.

Kung pao chicken is front and center

“This is actually a Chinese dish, so it kind of depends. It could be a gateway dish, but if they showcase it, more than likely it’s an Americanized Chinese place.”

I’m not really a kung pao man, as I was never crazy about the peanuts.  But I could adapt.

You must select the protein for the fried rice

“In Americanized places there’s a generic fried rice formula. Fried rice equals choice of protein plus fried rice. You’re ordering by protein. But with more authentic places it’s more about marrying a specific protein to a specific profile; that’s what’s unique about stir-fry. So instead of shrimp fried rice, you’d be looking for something like yeung chow fried rice.”

I don’t know much about yeung chow fried rice, but I know it goes great served with thousand fish soup.

The use of the term potstickers

“I don’t even know where that word comes from. I couldn’t understand for years what my American friends were talking about.”

Who knew?  My daughter and I love potstickers.  We buy them in Traders Joe’s, where you get 24 pieces for $3.99, which is quite the deal.

Mu shu pork

“This is another that’s actually a real Chinese dish, but it’s one that I think no Asian has ever eaten in their life.”

My wife loves mu shu chicken, all wrapped up in a thin pancake with the tangy plum sauce.

Crab rangoon

“You’re not going to see that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen sour cream in any dish in a real Chinese restaurant.”

Love the crab rangoon at the Golden Palace on Ocean Street, dipped in the sweet and sour sauce.  And it’s cream cheese, not sour cream.

Egg roll and soup lunch special

“This is a sweeping generalization, but many authentic Chinese restaurants don’t even have egg rolls on the menu. This is my bias, but Chinese egg rolls are some of the worst egg rolls I’ve ever had in my life. These are the Americanized ones. It’s all cabbage, wrapped in a really crappy wrapper, it’s fat, and you’re dipping it in sweet and sour.”

I hate to say it, but the soup and the egg roll are my mother’s favorite Chinese dishes.  She likes dipping the egg roll in the Chinese mustard, and then adding on the sweet and sour sauce.  And she’s nuts about the soup.

A giant container of soy sauce on the table

“A lot of people just add soy sauce to everything they eat. You should try the food first; soy sauce is the equivalent of salt. That’s the exact reason it’s there. If there’s a huge bottle or it looks like it’s replenished a lot, that might be a sign. You might not even see it that often at an authentic restaurant.”

I never touch the soy sauce.  Don’t want to hurt the sweet and sour feelings.

Metal American spoons

“If they have metal Western spoons versus Asian soup spoons, it’s more than likely an Americanized Chinese restaurant. Most real Asian places don’t see the need for both. It’s subtle, and people might argue this to death, but if you ask for a spoon, I’ll hand you a soup spoon.”

I never ask for a spoon.  Just a fork and and keep the water coming.

Everything comes with an individual side of rice

“Asian food is usually eaten family style, but at Americanized places the rice is more likely to be individually portioned. So if it’s served individually right in front of you versus in the middle of the table, that’s a tell.”

At Golden City on Mission Street, they serve enough white rice to feed a small African nation, so I order the egg fried rice.  But I prefer the out chow fun noodles, because that’s the way I roll.

American desserts

“If there’s an American dessert or a fried wonton with honey and powdered sugar, that’s not an authentic Chinese restaurant at all.”

I don’t want a fortune cookie or sesame ball for dessert, just give me an old-fashioned almond cookie.  Or a dish of coconut ice cream.

There aren’t any Asian people eating there

“If the only Asian people in the restaurant are working there, that’s always a sign of it not being an authentic Chinese restaurant.”

There are usually Asian people eating in while I’m eating, but I have no idea what they’re ordering.  It’s like we’re in separate universes.

The tri-fold door menu

“If it looks like something that could be a mailer, or be put on your door, then it’s more than likely a totally Americanized place.”

Guilty.  But the take out menu is convenient.

Pictures of Americanized items on the menu

“This has moved into Asian culture, but if you see a picture of kung pao chicken at the front, it’s definitely a fake place.”

I prefer a video.

The sign/menu uses a stereotypically Asian font

“That font can get people riled up. It’s so embedded in our culture from the early days of America, with the Chinese working on the railroads and stuff. It instills in someone who’s not Asian that, ‘wow, this must be Asian food.’ Visually it does trigger that. It’s funny because in Santa Barbara the street signs have this font. My wife gets worked up about it!”

Interesting.  There’s an old Cantonese saying.  “Anything that walks, swims, crawls or flies with its back to heaven is edible.”  But Confusious say,  “The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live life.”

Bags filled with stacks of to-go orders

“If there’s a side table with all these bags tied up at the top with containers, or with the Chinese folding box with the handles… if you see that ready to go, it’s more than likely to be fake. What’s more Americanized than Chinese takeout?

Apple pie? Baseball?  The first season of “True Detective?”

Empty fish tanks

“If they have big fish tanks that are empty, it might be an Americanized restaurant. Live seafood is a big part of authentic Chinese food, so an empty fish tank shows that they might’ve evolved into being more Americanized over time because the seafood was too expensive.”

I always felt sorry for the fish and the lobsters in the tanks.  Those lobsters screams haunt me.

There are dragons everywhere

“It’s not offensive at all, but it’s probably an Americanized place. It goes with things like latticework and a big circular doorway. Current Chinese culture is pretty modernized, so it’s weird if you’re literally entering the dragon.”

I was born in the Year of the Dragon, which occupies the 5th position in the Chinese Zodiac.  The Dragon is the mightiest of the signs.  We are colorful personalities who are driven, unafraid of challenges, willing to take risks and passionate in all they do.  Yup, that describes me in a nutshell.

It’s the beginning of the summer fire season in California, and for our photo feature, we are returning to June of 2008, when a fire was raging on the central coast.  I grabbed my camera and headed down to Lighthouse Point, and started shooting the billowing clouds of smoke over Steamer Lane.  I then moved north along West Cliff Drive to capture landscape of the waves and the sky on this very unusual day.

On to some late night humor.  “In a recent interview, George Clooney said that he doesn’t believe in plastic surgery and thinks people should just try to look the best that they can at their age. Then the interviewer said, “Great. Do you have any advice for people who aren’t George Clooney?” – Jimmy Fallon  “Senator Ted Cruz said he thinks John F. Kennedy would be a Republican if he were alive today. Well, of course he would be Republican. He’d be 98 years old.” – Seth Meyers

For the second year in a row, the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie with two winners. Or as each of their parents put it to their kids, “I told you that you shouldn’t have gone outside to play that one time.” – Jimmy Fallon  “The spelling bee co-champions are Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam. They won the competition by spelling each other’s names correctly.  Winning the spelling bee is a big deal. You get to hear your name mispronounced by every newscaster in America.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“A lawyer from Africa wants to marry Malia Obama in exchange for goats, sheep, and cows. In response, President Obama said, “Don’t be ridiculous. My daughter isn’t marrying a lawyer.” The Christmas-themed town of North Pole, Alaska, has officially approved marijuana dispensaries. So don’t expect your presents from Santa until next April. Santa will be showing up with Rudolph the Red-Eyed Reindeer.” – Conan O’Brien
We’ll catch you coming off the bench and being MVP of game one of the Finals.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Andre Iguadola fans.

May 31, 2015

The King The Ring And The Bling

Good morning and greetings, NBA Final Fans.   It’s now June, and there are only two teams left standing on the NBA horizon.  One is the Golden State Warriors, who have been the talk of the league all season, as Steph Curry and teammates have been dazzling on the court, compiling a league high 67 wins during the regular season and a playoff mark of 12-3, which nobody, including Draymond Green’s fashion consultant, saw coming.
The Warriors have blown through the playoffs, as they swept the New Orleans Pelicans, took care of the Memphis Grizzlies, and knocked off James Harden and the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference finals.  They had a little scare, when in game four,  Stephen Curry did a cartwheel in the air and landed on his head, but he was cleared by the doctors and came back an hour later and reentered the game.
At the time, with the Warriors leading in the series 3-0, one had to wonder, why in the wide, wide world of sports would they risk playing Curry, who had just been cracked on the noggin and had his brain scrambled.  To quote the great Woody Allen, putting him back in the game was a “Travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”
Sunrise Santa Cruz medical consultant, Dr. Michael Schur, agrees, saying it was the worst medical decision he’s seen made in the history of sports injuries.
The Warriors path to the finals was made a little easier, in not having to face the San Antonio Spurs or the LA Clippers.   But Golden State took care of business in Oakland and were crowned the best in the west, and are now heading for the final challenge.  Their opponents will be the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by fastest gun in the east and the face of the NBA, the self-annointed chosen one, King James.
LeBron James is known as the best player in the world of basketball.  At 6’8″ and 250 pounds, this is a cat that the NBA has never seen, combining strength and quickness to make himself unstoppable.  He is the superstar amongst superstars,  a once in a lifetime athletic specimen.
Or as former NBA center Bill Cartwright describes him, “This guy is really unguardable.  He’s too darn big and too darn strong. Put a big guy on him and he goes around them. Put a small guy on him and he beats him up. He’s a nightmare of a match-up.”
He’s come a long way from a difficult childhood in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, where he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a junior in high school.  LeBron was drafted straight out of high school into the NBA by his hometown Cavaliers in 2003.  He played seven seasons in the Mistake by the Lake, before becoming a free agent in 2010.
In July 2010, he announced in a live ESPN program special titled “The Decision” that he was taking his talents down to South Beach to team up with Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh and play for the Miami Heat.  He said he came down to win five or six titles with the Heat, which unfortunately for him, never came to fruition, which led some to ridicule in the press about his decision making and not wanting to be “the Man”.
He stayed four years in Miami and won two titles, before deciding it was time to pack up go back home to Cleveland.  Like him or hate him, he is a highly influential and  very prominent figure in the sportsworld today.
After winning the eastern conference final game last Tuesday, LeBron James sat down and spoke to Joe Noga and the Northeast Ohio Media Group about where he is at with himself and his team.
Talk about your emotions and what it’s like to be in this position after your decision to return.”It’s very emotional to be back in this city. When I made my decision to come back here, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It was going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of dedication. It was going to be the toughest task for me to try to get this team back to the Finals.”
“I knew I’d have to step up my leadership. I had to be very patient. Which, I’m not a very patient guy.  For us to be sitting at this point today, being able to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals is special. It’s very special.”
Did you think you could do it this quickly?
“I understood we were young and inexperienced.  Things happen throughout the season and offseason that allowed us to acquire Kevin Love. And as the season started, Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert were acquired. It brought our team to a place where I felt we could compete.”Where does the accomplishment of reaching the Finals five straight times rank?”It’s special to know how far we’ve come as a group.  No matter what happens from here on out, to see what we’ve accomplished, being a first-year team together that’s had different changes throughout the course of the season, and faced so many obstacles throughout the season. Injuries here, transactions there, lineups here. It’s something we can be very proud of to this point.”
How much did Cleveland’s 51-year departure from a championship come to mind?  Do you think about that much, and perhaps being the guy who finally gets that for the city?

“I’m a guy who believes in unfinished business. I understood what these people are going through. The people here, not only in Cleveland, but in Northeast Ohio and all over the world who love and bleed wine and gold. To be at this point tonight, sitting here talking to you guys, is very emotional.”

Could I have foreseen this at the beginning of the season?

“I couldn’t. I couldn’t foresee us being in the finals at the beginning of the season. I just knew we had to get better and just seeing how young we were at that point in time. But I knew I had to lead these guys. And if they just followed my leadership, I knew I could get them to a place that they’ve never been before.”

How did the journey of the season get you here?  How has it steeled you for the finals?
“I don’t know how many chapters we have to this season. From the start of the season to making the transactions to acquire these guys. To us having injuries, to us getting to the postseason. To Kevin Love being out for the season. To Kyrie being out and banged up. We’ve had so many chapters that defined who we are.”
“We haven’t got caught up in feeling sorry for ourselves. it doesn’t matter. As soon as you’re out, next man up. When someone is not 100 percent, as a brother you pick that guy up. That’s what teamwork and trying to accomplish a dream is all about. Being able to sacrifice yourself and what you can do for the better of the team.”
Earlier in his career,LeBron was asked if it bothered him to have people root against him.”Absolutely not. Because at the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today.”
“I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They have to get back to the real world at some point.”
So there you have it.  Lots of story lines.  LeBron chasing his third ring.  The reigning MVP Curry going up against the four time MVP.  The Warriors back in the finals after a 40 year drought.  This matchup should be a doozy.So tune in on Thursday and check out LeBron taking on the Warriors, a dream matchup for the Finals. This is what Warrior fans have been waiting for all year, a chance to hoist that championship banner, proclaiming the title of the NBA’s best .

And if you ask me, I’m picking the Warriors.  The Cavs have to be happy to get  to the finals.  The Warriors are chasing a championship.  Warriors in seven.  Or maybe six.  I like the even numbers.

For today’s photo journey, we are taking a June visit up along the North Coast.  We start with a shot of the cliffs and the beach above Davenport Landing.  Then we drive two miles north to see a couple of photos of the sweeping coastline of Scott Creek.  All the while, pelicans are flying up the coast, and along the way I spotted a red shouldered hawk.
We end the journey a few miles up the road at Waddell Creek, famous for it’s windy conditions and great kite board riding.  This is the place I came to shoot after purchasing my first SLR camera.  The rest is digital history.
No late night humor this week.  We’ll catch you soaring like the Black Falcon and carrying the scoring load in the series clincher against the Rockets.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Harrison Barnes fans.

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.
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