October 30, 2007

Old Rodoni Had A Farm

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 3:26 am

Welcome to our Halloween special and the grand finale for October 2007. Today we are heading four miles up the coast along Highway 1 to U Pick Em Pumpkins at Rodoni Farms. This palatial plot of pumpkins is located just north of Four Mile Beach and if you like colors, then U Pick Em is for U. The kids will go wild, the prices are outstanding and there are pumpkins of every race, creed and color.

I took the first shot of the farm from Four Mile Beach. It puts into perspective were this amazing place is located. The third shot shows the pumpkins right after they were picked and brought in from the fields. When it showed this picture to the lovely Donna, who runs the farm, she was amazed. “This is our place?” as she immediately focused her attention on the pumpkin’s green stems. She then added, “This isn’t just art, this is history.” I loved hearing those words. If you look closely at the second shot you can see the rock that juts up at Four Mile Beach in the right corner of the picture. The last shot shows the pumpkins in the fields on the ocean side of Highway 1. Nothing like growing up with a white water view.

The fourth photo shows the incredible variety of pumpkins that are available at Rodoni’s. The red pumpkins are La Rouge/Cinderella, which is a deep red French baking pumpkin. The ghastly white are Lumina with delicious green flesh, the green are Fairy Tales which taste like butterscotch and the gray are Jaradhale from Australia. Donna told me these are a staple in the Aussie’s diets and they eat these bright orange flesh beauties like potatoes. Ah, nothing like a cheeseburger with some pumpkin fries.

So how did the Rodini’s get into the brussels sprouts and vegetable business? In 1935, Dante Rodoni went into farming brussels sprouts with his brother-in-law. He proved to be one of the great innovators of the Brussels sprouts industry. Prior to the 1950′s sprouts were sorted by hand off a table. Mr. Rodoni was the first to see a need for and develop a system for sorting and grading sprouts mechanically. Rumor has it he graded on a curve.

In the early 1960′s the trend turned to mechanical harvesting of brussels sprouts. Mr. Rodoni developed the Rodoni Sprouts , which mechanically cuts the sprouts from the stalk. You can check out a picture of these babies in the fifth shot. Who knew that brussels sprouts were stalkers?

The Rodoni family continues to farm the North Coast by expanding crops to include peas, cauliflower, leeks and artichokes. The farm also features little Sugar Pie pumpkins, all kinds of exotic looking gourds and a flock of red-winged blackbirds.
It’s a paradise of pumpkins placed along the Pacific Coast Highway. As Donna told me yesterday, “We do it for the kids, the schools and the community.” And to think, before this I thought brussels sprouts were little kids growing up in Belgium.

So here are some pumpkin fun facts. The name pumpkin originated from “pepon”, the greek word for large melon. Pumpkins are 90% water. The largest pumpkin pie ever made was five feet in diameter and weighed 350 pounds. That included 80 pounds of pumpkin, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs and took 6 hours to bake. Oh, and a half a cube of butter. And just in case you were wondering, the world record pumpkin is a 1,689-pound giant squash grown this year by Joe Jutras of Rhode Island. Just think of how big it could have gotten if he had a larger state to grow it in.

So that will do it for our Halloween experience. Coming up on Friday we’ll take a look at the bizarre and yet fascinating Winchester Mystery House along with a sunset that will knock your sweat socks off. And by the way, the Rodoni Farms Pumpkin patch will remain open on the honor system thru Christmas. So if you’re looking to find that special someone a holiday gift, nothing says I love you like a spaghetti, banana or turban squash. Enjoy the festival of chocolate and we’ll catch you in November.

October 28, 2007

I Like My Mistake Medium Rare

Filed under: butterfly passion flower monarchs natural bridges — geoff @ 4:11 pm

A funny thing happened on to me on my way to the Photo Blog. First, my Tucson based editor, Nancy Mager, informed me there were a bunch of grammatical mistakes in Friday’s blog. So I checked it out and for some strange reason, what I wrote and what was posted were two different things. Lots of missing words that didn’t make it to the page. Then on Sunday morning, Valerie Lashley, who has been providing exceptional service to Safeway customers on the westside since 1976, told me she was reading the blog at 3:30 that morning and while laughing discovered some spelling mistakes. So I am here to apologize for previous errors and promise to proofread from now on with both eyes.

Fortunately, I haven’t made any mistakes with the pictures. I will continue to bring to you the best of what I see in the sky and on the landscape of life. Last week I was on the phone and as I looked out my office window I saw a painted lady butterfly land on a plant in my front yard. I grabbed my camera, hurried outside and while still talking on the phone shot these pictures. I believe this is called multi tasking. When this orange spotted beauty decided to check out the passion flower I knew I was in for something special. The painted lady is the most widely distributed butterfly in the world. They see more patterns, a wider range of colors and more shades of green than people do. Painted ladies are also available for release at special occasions like birthdays, weddings and toga parties. Seriously.

The last shot is a preview of what is to come as the monarchs have returned to Natural Bridges. I took a little trip down to the eucalyptus trees to see them last week. According to Dan Johnson, a park aide at Natural Bridges, about 1,000 monarchs have made their way back to the park. That number is expected to go up to 10,000 by late November. Fifteen years ago, the count peaked at 150,000. It was quite rewarding to see them floating and fluttering in the air. That and I got a great parking space on Delaware Avenue.

So we’re going to keep it a little shorter and sweeter today. I’ve been going kind of crazy text wise. I read so much interesting information that I want to pass along that I just can’t help but write about it. Plus, I’m hoping to be paid by the word one of these days.

For Golden State Warrior fans (like my son Jason), the spiritual journey to NBA heaven begins tomorrow as the NBA season opens up with a triple header on TV on Tuesday and Friday nights and doubleheaders on Wednesday and Thursday. Or if you are like me and my brother Brad and have the NBA League Pass every night is a potential NBA feast as we have access to every game on the schedule. Lots of Steve Nash and Phoenix Suns basketball in my future. As my brother Paul once told me, “NBA action is fantastic”-I just wish the season lasted longer.

It’s going to be a great week for the blog. Coming up on Wednesday is our Halloween special and on Friday I’ll show a sunrise that blew the doors off the sky last November. So have a great day and get ready for that chocolate onslaught. And enjoy the butterflies. By the way, they’ll be doing a “Thanksgiving count” the Saturday before the holiday, when they monarchs are at their peak. It should be outstanding. Later.

October 24, 2007

Too Many Captain Cooks Spoil The Stew

It amazes me how entire hillsides can be ablaze from Malibu to the Mexican border yet the skies here on the Central Coast seem oblivious to it. That all changed on Wednesday night when smoke started appearing in the horizon about an hour before sunset. Mother Nature is running wild-while the fires are burning out of control down south there is torrential flooding in New Orleans while Atlanta is suffering from drought conditions and is three months away from running out of drinking water. The weather in this country is incredibly diverse. As they say in Boulder, Colorado, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.”

Today’s photos were taken at a beautiful sunset last Monday night at Natural Bridges. It was cloudy all day but as the sun started to drop the skies opened up and the show began. The first shot is what’s left of what was once three arches. I love the golden color of the rocks along with the pelicans. I enjoyed taking these sunset shots and it is my pleasure to share it with the patrons of Sunrise Santa Cruz.

Today we are going to celebrate the birthday of Captain James Cook, who was born on October 27, 1728. He was a British explorer and navigator who was famous for his three voyages of exploration in the South Pacific and the coastal waters of North America. He sailed around the globe twice, was an innovator in the process of long distance sea travel and is ranked as an explorer with Vasco De Gama and Columbus. He is best known as the discoverer of the Hawaiian Islands and teriyaki sauce.

In the 18th century, the Pacific Ocean was still virtually uncharted, except for a few isolated Club Meds. Ever since Magellan made the first European crossing in 1520 there were rumors of a large southern continent called Terra Australis Nordum Cognita (the southern land not yet known.) French, Dutch and English sailors had hunted in vain for this mythical land. The British Royal Navy trusted that Captain Cook would find this southern continent if it existed.

On his first voyage while sailing around Australia his ship ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, which is 150 miles in length and the largest reef (according to Snoop Dog) in the world. While waiting for his ship to be repaired, Cook and his crew hung around for two months observing and kangaroos. He then headed back out to sea and after exploring the coastline of Australia, Cook concluded it was not the great southern continent he was seeking. He sailed back to England as kangaroos from all over down under applauded.

On his second voyage, which lasted 3 years and 18 days, Captain Cook sailed for Tahiti with a secret order from the British Royal Navy to once again seek out the fabled southern continent and claim it for England. He reached the Antarctic Circle in January 1777, having sailed further south than any other explorer. But too much floating pack ice blocked his way to find the continent of Antarctica and he headed for warmer water to the east. Two things of note occurred on this trip. The islander’s custom in Tahiti of decorating themselves by ing their skin and dyeing it led to the sailor’s fashioning themselves with their trademark sign of a tattoo on their upper arm. In return, the sailors turned the natives on to gang signs and hip-hop music. By circumnavigating the southern waters around Antarctica, Cook indisputably determined here was no habitable southern continent.

His final voyage began on July 12, 1776. His purpose was to find the fabled Northwest Passage, a mythical waterway which would allow sailing between Europe and Asia across the top of North America. Unlike other explorers who attempted to find this area of the world, Cook attempted a route from the Pacific side. He stopped at bed and breakfasts in Tahiti and New Zealand before he sighted the Hawaiian Islands on January 18, 1778. The natives rowed out to his ship and were very friendly as they pelted the crew with fresh pineapple, papayas and unsalted macadamia nuts. Cook named them the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron, John Montague, the fourth earl of Sandwich, who I believe is related to the first Earl of Monroe. After discovering so many islands in the Pacific where people had a common language and similar customs, Cook marveled at how the Polynesian people spread themselves from island to island. I should mention that on this third trip Cook suffered his first serious incident of when natives in New Zealand killed and ate a small group of his men. No comment needed after that. Okay, betcha can’t eat just one. I couldn’t resist.

The Hawaiians thought Cook was a God and his men were supernatural beings. After a laua-filled couple of weeks of surfing, snorkeling and boogie boarding, Cook and his ship departed and headed north where they reached the shores of what is now Oregon and followed the coast north to Alaska and west through the Bering Strait. By August, Cook concluded there was no Northwest Passage and returned to warm waters. He headed back to Hawaii where he was killed by angry natives. The honeymoon was definitely over.

The contributions of Captain James Cook were extraordinary. His achievements in mapping New Zealand and Australia changed the understanding of world geography. He charted much of the Pacific Ocean and used a chronometer to chart his exact location on the globe. He was the first sea captain to discover the cure for scurvy (fresh fruit and lot of sauerkraut.) He sailed further south than any other explorer before him and proved once and for all there was no Northwest Passage. He was unbeatable in Pictionary. He used science and mathematics to help him with cartography and produced accurate maps of areas that where unknown before his time. He occasionally cheated at cards. Cook’s mantra was, “To not only go further than any man had before, but as far as it is possible to go.” Touchdown.

So that’s our look at perhaps the greatest explorer of the 18th century. It is mindblowing to think about the lives of these men who spent years at sea discovering places that had never been visited before by western man. It took tremendous courage, extraordinary vision and a whole lot of dramamine. Myself, I’m just happy when I can find an address on the east side of town.

Congratulations go out to Makenna Rice Kerr of Santa Cruz who was the grand prize winner of a photo from Sunrise Santa Cruz. The contest was held during Open Studios and we had over 100 entri
es. So that’s our show for today . Enjoy the sunset, have a great sports weekend and be very grateful for what you have. And definitely not in that order. Aloha.

October 22, 2007

Excuse Me, Is That Sky Taken?

We are back and welcome to October’s Best. No, not Octoberfest, but to the best sunrise we’ve seen so far this fall. On Friday we’ll feature some slo-mo highlights of the number one sunset to hit the skies this autumn. It’s preview city today-we’re giving you a fall classic before the World Series.

This sunrise took place last Thursday morning down at Lighthouse Point. I woke up and looked out the window and saw these great clouds in the sky and knew something was brewing on the horizon. So I ripped off my Batman pajamas and raced down to West Cliff. When the clouds starting turning red I started like Kobe Bryant at crunch time and these were the results. A breathtaking dawn and a good workout for my Digital Rebel. And congratulations go out to my friend and web designer Kevin Deutsch, whose wife Hannah gave birth to Joshua Daniel that afternoon. On the day of my birth there was also an incredible sunrise-unfortunately, it was in Maui while I was being delivered in slightly little less tropical locale on the island of Manhattan, although my mother insists the trade winds were blowing in from the East River.

So once again, I want to welcome a whole new group of people to this photo blog. It is always a pleasure to bring new folks onto the list which continues to grow like the morning glory vine that is enveloping the outside of my home. The final weekend of Open Studios was just terrific and my doctor says I should be over the depression that comes with the closure in no time at all.

I always like to report on the interesting and unusual nature and weather news items that tickle my medulla oblongata. Here’s a few from the past couple of weeks.

Oxford University researchers have discovered that recorded sounds of angry bees can be used to deter elephants from raiding crops, thus protecting villages regularly pillaged by the hungry pachyderms. The researchers made recordings of angry local African bees and played them back from hidden speakers at a test site in northern Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve. A large majority of the elephants fled almost immediately after the buzzing sounds began playing, obviously remembering that bees can inflict stings inside their trunks. Either that, or they were having flashbacks from a Bee Gees reunion concert. Lead researcher Lucy King cautions that the elephants are likely to catch on quickly should this be the only deterrent used to keep them from the crops because as we know, an elephant never forgets. Also, local farmers don’t have the income to afford such a high-tech solution after having spent their meager earnings on iPhones. I love Lucy says that positioning hives of these notoriously aggressive bees around fields could be part of the long-term and non-lethal solution to the elephant menace in East Africa. Either that or just bring in a street gang of tough mice.

The next story brings us a little closer to Mother Earth. The owner of a Taiwan vineyard became so alarmed at the hundreds of thousands of earthworms that suddenly appeared on his property that he consulted experts to see if the crawlers were heralds of an impending earthquake. Worms and snakes are known to come to the surface when disturbed by seismic activity. Which reminds me of the joke “Where are the most snakes in the world located? In Hollywood, their television agents.” Anyway, Wu Ching-chaun (that’s #11 on the menu with fried rice) told the China Times that he had never seen such a massive invasion in the 40 years that he had owned the vineyard. Experts ordered something to go and then allayed his seismic fears when they said the recent flooding from passing Typhoon Krosa had driven the creatures to the surface by causing the groundwater level to rise too high for them to survive in the soil. Dean Wormer from “Animal House” contributed to this story.

For our final story we are going back to the continent of Africa. A tragic miscalculation appears to be responsible for an incident that killed about 10,000 migrating wildebeest attempting to cross Kenya’s Mara River in late September. The s occurred as the herd was beginning to swing eastward on its way back to the Serengeti. The wildebeests tried to cross the waterway at a particularly steep and treacherous point. After the first animals fell in the river and drowned, thousands more continued to stampede into the water on top of them. Wildlife authorities considered blocking off the lethal crossing point (a sign would have been nice) but decided to let nature take its course. Record flooding killed another 10,000 of these animals due the regions worst flooding in three decades. According to spokesman Sarisa Nkadaru, “They were swept by strong tides in the flooded river. It’s the first time in Mara’s history that so many gnus (wildebeests) drowned during their much-anticipated migration.”

So that’s the good gnus and the bad gnus. Once again, welcome to all the newcomers on the list. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s going to be an interesting ride so I’m glad you’re coming along. There’s lots to see and lots to learn and lots to laugh about. To quote Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin from the classic “Stairway To Heaven,” “Doesn’t anyone still remember laughter.” Fortunately, we do here at Sunrise Santa Cruz. Enjoy the sky and enjoy the day. And let’s hope the wind and the fires subside in Southern California. I prefer the sky to be on fire, not the terrain. Later.

October 18, 2007

The Lunar The Better

Welcome to our Friday edition of “As My Lens Turns.” In today’s episode we’re going to take a look at the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon nearest to the autumn equinox. People claim that the Harvest Moon seems to be somewhat bigger or brighter or yellower in color than the other full moons. This is an illusion, just like “Mission Accomplished.” When you see the moon low in the sky you are looking at it through a greater amount of atmosphere than when the moon is overhead. The atmosphere scatters the bluish component of white moonlight (which is really reflected sunlight) but allows the reddish component of the light to travel a straighter path to your eyes. Thus, all moons, stars, planets and Olympic high jumpers look reddish when low in the sky.

The first photo is from September 25, the day before the Harvest Moon. I shot it looking thru my favorite arch at Its Beach. The tide was coming up making the shot a little tricky but they’re just crashing waves-I can always replace my cell phone, wallet and the shots from my Bar Mitzvah. There was a beautiful glow painting the sand as the sun set thru the arch as the moon rose that night. The fourth photo is the sky just before the Harvest Moon made it’s appearance. It was an mystical night and when the Harvest Moon rose over the Monterey Bay Orson Welles immediately came to mind-it was that big.

The Harvest Moon behaves in a special way, much like my parents said I did as a child. (Well, they didn’t really say “special,” I believe the word they used was “colicy.”) Throughout the year the moon rises on an average about 50 minutes later each night. But around the autumn equinox the day to day difference is only 30 minutes, so this might be somehow sitcom related.

Before electric lights, farmers relied on moonlight to harvest autumn crops. With everything ripening at once, there was too much work to do to stop at sundown. A bright, full “Harvest Moon” allowed farmers to continue to work into the night before they came inside to watch Jack Paar and then Johnny Carson.

Moonlight steals color from whatever it touches. Consider a rose. In full moonlight, the flower is brightly lit and even casts a shadow, but the red is gone, replaced by shades of gray. The whole landscape is that way. It’s a bit like watching the world through an old black and white TV set. You know, like tuning in “Sergeant Bilko” or the “Three Stooges.” To quote Moe Howard, “Remind me to murder you later.” Love that Curley.

Moonlight won’t let you read. Try opening a book beneath the full moon. At first glance, the page seems bright enough. Yet when you try and make out the words you can’t and if you stare too long at a word it might fade away. Amazingly, this same thing happened to me on and off my first two years of college. Moonlight not only blurs your vision but also makes a blind spot. Of course there are exceptions-some people have “moonvision” which are extra sensitive cones or an extra helping of rods that allow them to read in the brightest moonlight. Either that or they’re cheating with flashlights.

If you are wondering why all of this is happening, the answer lies in the eye of the beholder. The human retina is responsible. And to its credit, the retina has taken total responsibility.

The retina is like an organic digital camera with two kinds of pixels-rods and cones. Cones allow us to see colors and fine details, but only works in bright light. After sunset, rods take over. Rods are marvelously sensitive (1000 times more than cones) and are responsible for our night vision. Bob Seger is responsible for our “Night Moves.” There’s only one drawback-they’re colorblind, thus the rose at night appears gray.

If rods are so sensitive, why can’t we use them to read by moonlight?
And for that matter, why are there no black M & M’s? Anyway, the problem is rods are almost completely absent from a central patch of retina called the fovea, which the brain uses for reading. The fovea is densely packed with cones, so we can read during the day, especially while we’re eating. At night, however, the fovea becomes a blind spot. The remaining peripheral vision isn’t sharp enough to make out individual words, letters or birth announcements.

So that’s our lesson on lunar opthamology. Next time we’ll look at what kind of cheese the moon is made of and if it could work as a fondue. A final reminder, we have one more weekend of Open Studios coming up and I would love to see some more people from this list. Doors open at 11 and close at 6 on Saturday and Sunday on the westside at my home/studio at 128 Echo Street. We have a tremendous selection of affordable photos and greeting cards. If you just want to come by and check out the colors that’s great too but after a while I’ll have to throw you out of here. I’m just kidding, I’ll have my people do it. So have a great sports weekend, enjoy the lunar action and we’ll catch you on the lighter side of the moon. And don’t be afraid to leave me a comment below or email me back. I love hearing feedback from my peeps. It makes me feel so young and alive.

This just in. We had a totally awesome sunrise here yesterday, the best so far this fall. It will be coming to you live and in color next Wednesday, so stay tuned, sports fans.

October 16, 2007

Gee, Isn’t That A Swell?

Greetings and welcome to Big Wave Wednesday. Last week Santa Cruz played host to the longest-running surf contest in Northern California, the 2007 O’Neill Cold Water Classic held down at Steamer Lane. Now in it’s 20th year, the action got underway last Tuesday with almost near-flat conditions, but the following day Steamer Lane rose up to prime form. To quote Leo Maxam in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “Head-high and well-overhead waves were breaking off the point and roping the Slot, were breaking out at Middle Peak, and the reeling lines were firing into Indicator’s.” I couldn’t have plagiarized it better myself. As you can see from the first shot, off-shore winds were blowing the spray off the tops of the emerald green waves. Unfortunately when I got down there the waves were all over the place but this first photo gives you a little taste of the contest action. Event director Darren Brilhart summed up the day’s conditions with one word-”Epic.”

So I then headed over to Its Beach to catch some more of the thrashing and crashing along the coast (shots #2 and #3.) Then it was on to Natural Bridges for sunset as the waves were still pumping all along West Cliff. When the swell is up in Santa Cruz the coast takes on a whole new level of energy and excitement. And having some of the best surfers in the world barreling down Steamer Lane was an added bonus for our little paradise by the sea. Speaking of the most Natural of Bridges, I shot a beautiful sunset there Monday night. I’m giving you a little look today (shot #6.) To sum up the words of sunset director Geoff Gilbert it was semi-epic, just a gorgeous display of sky and clouds and a preview of what is to come this winter.

So after seeing the waves on the cliff you’re probably wondering, what was the biggest wave ever measured? Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Mississippi say it goes back to September 15, 2004 when Hurricane Ivan kicked up the tallest, most extreme wave ever measured. At more than 90 feet from crest to trough and 600 feet long, this wave was measured during a Category Five storm with winds of 161 miles an hour that struck the Gulf Coast and resulted in 92 s. But compared to what I’m going to tell you about next this wave was as gentle as a lamp chop or lamb shank for you finer diners.

The biggest wave on record occurred in Lituya Bay on the southern coast of Alaska in 1958. An earthquake measuring 8.3 on the Richter scale shook loose an estimated 40 million cubic yards of dirt and glacier from a mountainside at the head of the bay. When the debris hit the water, a 1,720 foot wave was created and washed over the headland. The tsunami inundated approximately five square miles of land along the shores of Lituya Bay sending water as far as 3,600 feet inland and clearing millions of trees. This is probably not the biggest wave ever, just the biggest wave documented. Three fishing boats witnessed the Lituya Bay event. Unfortunately, one of the boats was close to shore and two people were killed. Incredibly, the other two boats rode the waves and the occupants survived but later insisted on wearing life vests whenever they showered.

So that’s our look at an el grande wave day along West Cliff Drive. Once again I would like to welcome a whole new bunch of people to Sunrise Santa Cruz. We had another great (or should I say epic?) weekend of Open Studios. I had the pleasure of seeing a few people on this list. One was the lovely Kathy Pearson who stopped by and said of this photo blog, “It’s like checking out eye candy while laughing and learning. Amazing photography. You’re making my day.” Kathy, your words warm my heart and a few other major organs. That is our goal here at sunrise headquarters. To show you the incredible beauty of Santa Cruz, teach you some things you might not know, provoke a few laughs and then throw in a couple of late scores. I hope it’s working for everyone out there because it’s just going to get better and better. Unless, of course, I’m delusional and I’ve already peaked and I’m in the twilight years. You know, like the Bush Administration. Either way, enjoy the big waves and as it said on a T-shirt I saw down at the contest, “If it swells, ride it.” Enough said.

October 11, 2007

Who’s The Ferris Wheel Of Them All?

To the chagrin of a few on this list I don’t do a whole lot of traveling. Besides the occasional trip to Hawaii, Palm Desert or Safeway I rarely stray far from the coast. As a matter of fact, I don’t often venture from the lovely confines of the westside of Santa Cruz. Anyway, on this day my son had a flag football game across town and on my ride to the east side I passed the rivermouth of the San Lorenzo River. It was a beautiful day and when I saw the birds lining the riverbanks I decided to sacrifice watching the pregame pageantry and stop and take a few shots. I returned later that night for round two at sunset and was not disappointed.

The first shot and third shots are where the San Lorenzo River empties into Monterey Bay. The headwaters originate in the Santa Cruz mountains at an elevation of 2,500 feet and flow approximately 30 miles through the San Lorenzo Valley before emptying out next to the Boardwalk. The river was discovered by Spanish Explorer Don Gaspar de Portola in 1769. He named the river San Lorenzo in honor of Saint Lawrence and called the rolling hills above the river Santa Cruz, which means holy cross. Years later they were rolling other things in those hills, but that’s another story for another time.

When the railroad reached Santa Cruz in 1876 it was the river as much as the beach that drew tourists. Santa Cruz promoted itself as a “sportsman’s paradise,” with most hotels only two blocks from the river. In 1905 the San Lorenzo became the number one fishing river in Northern California and remained so for half a century. But a 1955 flood destroyed the riverbanks that were lined with willows, maples, elms, live oaks, cedar, redwoods and lollipop trees. The river was then straightened by the Army Corps of Engineers. Unfortunately, town fathers at the time felt that tourism was the wrong image for Santa Cruz and the aesthetics of the river were never restored. The river had been reduced to a “drainage ditch” but is now being restored to its past beauty. It’s kind of like the Whitney Houston story with a current.

But let’s get back to the good stuff. According to surfline.com, when Santa Cruz gets a lot of rain, the San Lorenzo River roars out like the Amazon at flood tide and forms a sandbar at the east end of the Boardwalk beach. It becomes a little gift from God, a perfect right and left with no rocks or kelp. Locals harken back to the El Nino winter of 1982-83 when a mammoth sandbar was formed after torrential rains and made for an epic summer that will probably never be repeated. In 1960 it was estimated that there were more than 30,000 fish living in the river-a decade later the population was reduced to 1,000 because of lack of affordable housing and job opportunities.

Which leads me to my favorite part of the rivermouth story. Back in 1885, when it wasn’t illegal to surf this break, Queen Kapiolani of Hawaii sent her three nephews to a military academy in San Mateo, which is 45 miles north of Santa Cruz. (I know some of you have heard this before but I believe it is worth repeating.) During one school vacation, apparently missing their home break and willing to brave the chilly waters, the boys got themselves 15 foot long solid redwood planks and surfed the waves at the rivermouth. This was an historical event as it was the first demonstration of surfing on the U.S. mainland. The three Hawaiian princes, who were brothers but who all had different last names, liked the boards so much they took them back to the islands along with skateboards, Ugg boots and passes for free rounds of miniature golf at the Boardwalk.

That ends our boat ride down the San Lorenzo. Next time we’ll take a look at comedienne Joan Rivers, former New York Yankee center fielder Mickey Rivers and the answer to the song title that eluded Ralph Kramden on “The Honeymooners” episode of the $64,000 question, “Swanee River.” This included a classic piano performance by my favorite sanitation engineer, Ed Norton.

A reminder, another weekend of Open Studios coming up on both Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm at my home/studio at 128 Echo Street. Refreshments, a drawing to win a free picture and my thoughts on why the Golden State Warriors need better rebounding to contend with the big boys in the west will be discussed. We had a great time last weekend and I’m looking forward to another one coming up. Enjoy your Saturday and Sunday sports experience and we’ll catch you downstream.

October 9, 2007

The Nights of Columbus

Sunrise Santa Cruz is back after taking Monday off in honor of Columbus Day and that fact that I was physically and emotionally exhausted from eating some many cookies during Open Studios this past weekend. And on that chocolate note, I want to welcome a whole bunch of new people to this photo blog. I’ve been blasting out emails and now blogs for about 19 months and I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. If anyone wants to get off this train just let me know because we’re about to blow out of the station. If not, get on board, find your seat and wait for the conductor to punch your ticket. I think you’re going to enjoy the ride.

These photos are from this past Monday when we celebrated Columbus Day. The first three shots are from the sunrise at Steamer Lane. I have to admit, I got a little excited when I saw that pink reflection in the water next to Seal Rock. I then headed up to Four Mile Beach to see if there was any bird action and I hit the motherlode. Anytime I venture to Four Mile in the early morning and pull up and see I’m the only car in the parking lot it’s a great feeling. Kind of like my own private Idaho.

But let’s talk a little bit about the man who was being honored on Monday. Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean hoping to find a route to India in order to trade for spices and bootlegs DVD’s. At the time, most Spanish explorers were happy to play video games and sail along the European and African coast. They wanted no part of the Atlantic Ocean and what lay out there in the vast unknown. But not our boy Chris. He sailed for King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain, who is my favorite queen after Latifah.

Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492 from Palos, Spain and on October 11 spotted the Caribbean Islands. There on one of the islands in the Bahamas he and his crew were met by the peaceful and friendly Taino Indians. Columbus thought he had made it to Asia and called the area the Indies and it’s inhabitants Indians. Columbus wrote in his journal, “It appears to me that the people are ingenious and would be good servants.” Two days later he added, “I could conquer the whole of them with 50 men, and govern as I pleased.” Now I know why there was no mail and the banks were closed on Monday.

The red-haired (which later turned white) Columbus made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America. His greatest obstacle was his crew’s beliefs and superstitions. They believed that the earth was flat, that the sea was full of monsters, that there were places where the sea was at a boiling point and that Fox News reported stories fairly and accurately.

Christopher Columbus was not the first European mariner to sail to the New World-the Vikings and Packers led by Leif Ericsson set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland but his voyage marked the beginning of continuous European efforts to explore and colonize the Americas. Give the double C credit, he was unsurpassed in charting and finding his way about unknown seas. He was also unbeatable in Scrabble.

Christopher Columbus has been described in history as both a visionary genius and a ruthless and greedy son of a bitch (actually those are my words.) Traditional historians view his voyages as the opening of the New World to Western civilization and Christianity. Others say his voyages symbolize the more brutal aspects of European colonization and represent the beginning of the destruction of Native American peoples and cultures. I say it is a little of both as he took slaves, traveled the islands looking for gold to loot and I have a strong feeling that his men left the native women with gifts other than flowers and perfume, if you catch my drift. But one point everyone can agree upon is that his voyages were one of the turning points of history.

So that’s it for today. If the new people on this list have any comments please feel free to leave them below or just email me back. And for you people I haven’t heard from since the last time I saw Hailey’s comet I’d love to know you’re still out there. Either way, enjoy the sky, the gulls and the fact that the NBA preseason is upon us. And sorry Yankee fans, this was just not our year. But the New York Giants have won three game in a row so I’m almost back on the bandwagon. Have a great day and don’t let the clouds catch you smiling.

October 4, 2007

Gandhi With The Wind

Filed under: clouds,its beach,pelicans,reflection,sandstone,sunset,waves — geoff @ 10:23 pm

To end the first week of October let’s go back to the evening of September 16th down at Its Beach. It was a pleasant sunset that night and the formation of pelicans that flew overhead didn’t exactly hurt my feelings. I was down there the night before and had missed a couple of shots that I’m still kicking myself over because I left my camera in my car. In the words of the Jewish Defense League, “Never Again.” There was an interesting sunset down at Its two nights ago as the light thru the arch was just spectacular. It’s been orange delightful and lots of exotic arch shots coming in the future.

So let’s go back in history and take a look at some of the highlights of the first week of October. Back on October 1, 1908, Henry Ford’s T, a “universal car” designed for the masses, went on sale for the first time. It was generally regarded as the first affordable automobile, the car that “put America on wheels.” In the beginning the T sold for $850, not including cassette player, foam dice and air bags.

On October 1, 1949, the People’s Republic of China was founded with Mao Tse-Tung (or Mao Zedong) as Chairman. Mao was an unusual fellow who love to swim and in his youth advocated swimming as the way of strengthening the bodies of Chinese citizens. Mao was constantly swimming, whether in a large pool constructed for top party leaders, in the stormy ocean off of China’s north coast or the heavily polluted rivers of South China. His ruthless vision united a fractured people and inspired revolutions far beyond Chinese borders. And here’s a little known fact-Mao was also responsible for naming the sweet and sour chicken as China’s national bird.

On October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. He later added to that proclamation by designating the rest of the weekend as the Festival of Leftovers in accordance with National Cranberry Sauce week.

October 3, 1998, is the anniversary of one of the greatest travesties in American justice as O. J. Simpson’s double trial ended with an acquittal. Or as in the words of his now deceased lead attorney Johnnie Cochran, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” In this case Robert Shapiro, co-counsel for the Simpson defense, accused Cochran of dealing the “race card from the bottom of the deck.” Ah, brotherly love. Personally, I haven’t been impressed with any of O.J’s work since his appearance in the Zucker Brother’s comedy classic “The Gun.”

And finally, belated birthday wishes go out to Indian spiritual and political leader Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, who was born on October 2, 1869 in Probandar, India. He achieved worldwide fame for his devout lifestyle (which I my own after) and nonviolent resistance which ended the British rule over India. Gandhi, who married at the ripe old age of 13 to an even younger bride, was assassinated by a religious fanatic in the garden of his home in New Delhi on January 30, 1948. As stains appeared in his white woolen shawl, his hands still folded in a greeting, Gandhi blessed his assassin. He Ram! He Ram! Myself, I don’t think I would have been quite as forgiving.

So that finishes out the week. Remember, tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life but more importantly, the first Day of Open Studios. If you like a variety of local landscape and nature photography at affordable prices, my home/studio will be the place to be. Feel free to tell your friends, neighbors or any visiting dignitaries. So enjoy the baseball playoffs and the NFL this weekend and we’ll catch you at the same place, different time next week. Aloha.

October 2, 2007

Oh, Deer, What Can The Matter Be?

Filed under: butterfly,caterpillars,mule deer,sunrise,west cliff drive — geoff @ 10:40 pm

For our midweek edition of “As the Central Coast Turns” we are going to stay close to home. As I used to love hearing Mr. Rogers say, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.” When I came home yesterday after picking up my daughter from school, I looked across the street and saw two big bucks (no, one of them was not Bob Lanier) and a doe in my neighbor’s driveway. One of the bucks immediately took off and bounded over the fence but I managed to get off a few shots of the happy couple, which is reflected in photo number one.

This morning when I looked out my office window I saw that the John Deere family had returned. This time the group included the father, the mother and two fawns. They were casually munching on the leaves of a tree in the yard across the street. It was an awesome sight as I have lived here for nine years and the closest thing I’d seen before this was a family of rats dining on the insulation under my hot tub. By the time I got my camera out of the car they had dispersed to the backyard but it was great watching the two young fawns bound away like young kangaroos. Seems like have a special way of running where they land on all four feet. You can see one of the fawns (and no, it’s not Fawn Liebowitz from “Animal House”) in the third shot along with the doe. I didn’t manage to get a good shot of all four together as they seemed to have no interest in a family portrait.

I know people see Mule Deer in Santa Cruz all the time but this family coming back for an encore showing today was classic. Seeing those big antlers and then watching them gracefully jump over the fence was a thing of beauty. And the look on the faces was a cross between curiosity, bewilderment and “doesn’t he have enough shots of us already?” I wonder where they settle at night and do they sleep lying down or standing up? And do they make the young does look both ways before crossing Western Drive? Unfortunately, one was killed last week trying to cross this busy street. And in case you were wondering, the only female deer who have antlers are reindeer.

The next shot is a cocoon I spotted in a tree down the block.
When I saw it I flashed back to my childhood and days of fireflies lighting up the summer nights back in New Jersey. If my childhood memories are correct, and that is up for debate, caterpillars turn into butterflies and that is what we see in shot number five. This little lady landed on my front lawn a few weeks back. The final shot is Monday’s sunrise taken along West Cliff Drive.

Since we were talking animals let’s end today’s blog with a joke. A kangaroo kept getting out of his enclosure at the zoo. Knowing how high he could hop, zoo official put up a ten-foot fence. But he was out again the next morning. This time they put up a twenty-foot fence. Again he got out. When the fence was forty feet high, a giraffe in the next enclosure asked the kangaroo, “How high do you think they’ll go?” Replied the kangaroo, “About a thousand feet, unless somebody locks the gate at night!”

So that’s a look at my neighborhood. I forgot to mention on Monday that there will be a drawing at Open Studios to win a 13″ x 19″ photograph courtesy of Sunrise Santa Cruz. All you will need to do is sign in and enter and you could be a winner. So enjoy this great Indian Summer weather and bring on the baseball playoffs. Remember, it is the Chinese Year of the New York Yankees. Love those Bronx ers.

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