August 30, 2009

Behold, His Majesty, The Dahlia Lama

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — geoff @ 8:57 pm

Good morning and greetings, Ted Kennedy fans. The Senator from Massachusetts passing was a sad day and the final note played by three incredible brothers.

On Wednesday morning, I was strolling along West Cliff Drive, wondering what to feature in this week’s photo funhouse. Pelicans were cruising by over the tops of the waves, causing me to pause in my tracks and gaze at the magnificence of these prehistoric looking creatures. I immediately thought, only along the edge of the continent do you see this kind of magic. Or on PBS, the Pelican Broadcasting System.

At the same time, the sky was a dull gray, unlike the exciting gray of my New York Giants sweatshirt. But soon this drabness turned to excitement, the same kind Alexander Graham Bell must have felt when he called for Watson to get the hell in there. I knew what I wanted to bring to the Sunrise Santa Cruz table. No, not the usual Chinese buffet with egg rolls, beef chow fun and sweet and sour chicken. It was serving up an entree of fabulous color for my cyber audience at early bird prices. And you don’t even need to bring a coupon.

Then on Thursday, the weather broke and we had deep blue skies and wild-looking clouds along the coast. And it was hot! How hot was it? A saw a dog walking after a cat. I thought this change may have signaled the start of our annual Indian Summer, which is not to be confused with Native American winter. But that was not the case as the following day the thermometer hit 99 degrees on the central coast, breaking the previous record of 97 set in 1962. All this heat was the result of a high-pressure system that had double parked along the coast, essentially shutting off the usual Pacific Ocean breeze. It was so hot that even my goldfish were sweating.

Friday morning we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise, as the sky glowed orange to the east and pink to the west. Unfortunately, I was still camera-less as I believe the parts required to fix my digital Rebel are coming to Santa Cruz by rowboat. It was the first color-coordinated morning of the summer and it was painful not to shoot it but as the Dalai Lama once told me, the sun will rise again. So I’ve got that going for me, which is good.

Let’s continue with Disney’s wonderful world of color. As I drive along the westside, I pass a front yard that explodes with pinks and reds-it is dahlia city. Ah, dahlias. They are spectacular summer and autumn flowering plants who are native to the mountains of Mexico, Central America and certain sections of the New Jersey shore. It is also the national flower of Mexico and goes quite well with any kind of quesadilla, be it cheese, chicken or my personal favorite, carne asada.

In the 16th century Spanish conquistadors, while busy pillaging and wiping out the Aztec Indian nation, took some time out from their conquering and listening to Charo CD’s to get in touch with their feminine side. In between their dividing and conquering they managed to do a little exploring and turned these little side trips into a collection of new world plant life, Spanish rice and the first Antonio Banderas film festival.

The dahlia is named after 18th century Swedish botanist Anders Dahl, who was a very attractive man. It was actually from him that the expression was coined, “Hey, dahlface.” But I digress. In 1872, a box of dahlia roots were sent by FedEx overnight from Mexico to the Netherlands. Only one of the plants and a Three Muskateers bar survived the long journey, but it produced brilliant red flowers with petals that were pointed, rolled back and were later big hits at Christopher Columbus book signing events.

Nurserymen, nursery school teachers and hair stylists from all over Europe bred from this one plant. These are the progenitors of the thousands of varieties of today’s modern day dahlias. Colors include orange, pink, purple, red, scarlet, yellow, white and apples, peaches and pumpkin pie, the last three courtesy of Jay and the Techniques.

I shot these photos on a foggy morning, thus the shots of dew on the petals are particularly prevalent in photos 3 & 4. Or as Jerry Garcia once said to Mountain Girl, “Walk me out in the morning dew, my honey.” Well, that’s it on the flower power front. Time for me to just kick back, pop some kettle corn and watch that Clint Eastwood classic, “A Fistful of Dahlias.”

Onto the some political humor. And it’s all from CBS’s late night king, David Letterman. “Congress has been agonizing over health care for months now. Squabbling, fighting, the town hall meetings going crazy. Meanwhile, while they’re arguing about health care, we’re stuck in two wars that were rubber-stamped in about 10 minutes. What? How does that make any sense when you think about it? The Obamas taking a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. When something like that happens, it’s like a big deal for the community. And people on Martha’s Vineyard are going crazy and they’re buying Obama T-shirts, they’re buying Obama mugs, they’re buying Obama caps. The only thing they’re not buying is Obama’s health-care plan.”

“You folks excited about the Afghanistan election? Well, don’t get too excited because there’s already reports of irregularities in Broward and Dade County. The current Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, is opposed by the Taliban. You know the Taliban? Over here, the Taliban, we call them healthcare protestors. But one of the guys on the ballot is a candidate named Abdullah Abdullah. He had what I thought was a great campaign slogan if you’re running for office in Afghanistan. You know the slogan? It’s ‘Is your goat better off today than it was four years ago?”

“But the Miss Universe pageant is fascinating. It’s judged on poise, judged on beauty, and also how you walk in high heels. What a coincidence, it’s also how the Republicans pick a vice presidential candidate. The same criteria. But you know, this is a great thing about the United States of America. We take any situation, make it something good. You know, we are a glass half full country. Mrs. Paul’s, the fish sticks people, they heard about the mercury in the fish and they’ve come out now with a tasty new fish stick which you can also use to take your temperature.” –David Letterman

So that’s it for our last blast of August, 2009. Coming up is September, which is the warmest temperature month of the year in Santa Cruz but more importantly, signals the start of NFL football. So enjoy the warm days and nights and we’ll catch you somewhere near the foul pole in right field. And be thankful for your good health. Aloha, mahalo and later, Don Mattingly fans.

August 23, 2009

Hawaii All The Long Faces?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 9:01 pm

Good morning and greetings, back to school fans. After last week’s chronicling of my papaya-filled North Shore adventure, I thought it was time to and take a look at some of the summer floral madness that colors the westside of Santa Cruz. But then I came across an article written by Mark Niesse of the Associated Press, and before you could say “Holy chocolate covered macadamia nuts,” I knew what direction this blog was heading. And that would be due west, back to the islands.

Hawaii turned 50 years old last Friday, but there were no parades, no fireworks, no displays of native culture, not even a damn luau. Organizers of the observation were not even willing to call it a party. It is simply a “commemoration,” one that is sensitive to a painful history of the Hawaiian monarchy’s overthrow and unresolved claims of Native Hawaiians. Or in the words of “The Honeymooners” Ed Norton, “That’s the surprise. There ain’t gonna be no party.”

Alaska, by contrast, which joined the union in January, 1959, embraced their 50th anniversary of statehood with concerts, fireworks, a prize-winning float in California’s Rose Parade and a dunk tank featuring Sarah Palin. Were residents excited to see the former Governor/Vice Presidential candidate turned Lens Craft model getting moist in a wet t-shirt? You betcha.

The main event of the island commemoration was a low-key, daylong conference reflecting on Hawaii’s place in the world. But behind the tourist-friendly tropical images of beaches, sunshine and teriyaki beef plate lunches, many natives, lifeguards and Tahitian dancers remain uncomfortable with the U.S. takeover of the islands and the idea that businesses have exploited Hawaiians’ culture.

“Instead of state government having huge parties and fireworks, we’re having a convention,” says Manu Boyd, cultural director for the Royal Hawaiian Center. “That shows the strength and spiritual power of the Hawaiian people, whose shattered world has not yet been addressed.” Or as Mick Jagger says, “Love and hope and sex and dreams, I’m shattered.” My main man Manu is not a happy camper.

Sovereignty groups advocating independence from the United States make up a minority, but many residents recognize the long-standing issues associated with the 1893 overthrow of the monarchy, the islands’ annexation and past harms to the Native Hawaiian people. Hawaii was admitted into the United States on Aug. 21, 1959. About 94 percent of island chain’s voters supported statehood. Opponents argue that the vote was tainted because the only choice on the ballot was to become a state or remain a territory — independence was not an option. I believe I saw this movie, it’s called “Shaft.”

The Hawaiian kingdom was overthrown in 1893 when a group of white businessmen, after a day of snorkeling off Molikini, forced Queen Liliuokalani to abdicate while U.S. Marines came ashore. This never would have happened if Queen Latifah had been manning the thrown. She would have kicked some royal butt.

“This newfangled idea of celebrating statehood shows that people don’t understand Hawaii’s history, or if they do understand, then they’re celebrating a lie, a theft, that essentially stole a people’s right of self-determination,” said Poka Laenui, a Hawaiian and attorney who has worked for independence for more than 30 years. The natives are pissed and I don’t blame them. Or as it stated in my rental car agreement, “Remember the Alamo.”

Along with statehood came striking changes to the islands, as the first commercial jetliner’s arrival in Honolulu just a few weeks earlier began the dawn of the tourism era. Today, Hawaii’s economy depends on tourism as its primary industry, with nearly 7 million visiting the islands in 2008 to snap photos of Pearl Harbor, swim in the warm tropical waters and purchase every possible concoction made from pineapple at the Dole Plantation store.

One way Hawaiians are moving toward having a voice in their self-determination is through legislation pending in Congress that would treat them similarly to Native American tribes and Alaskan natives. After a decade of efforts, the measure could pass into law as soon as this year with the support of Hawaii-born President Barack Obama. Or as the sticker says, “Lucky You Live Hawaii.” Well, we’ll see about that.

On to round two of our North Shore photo funfest. The first image is the lovely view from the deck of our Sunset Beach cottage, followed by a rainbow shot from the front yard. Then it’s on to our neighbor’s papaya tree and some coconuts that fortunately didn’t conk us on the head. We conclude with the sunrise from our first morning followed by the sunset that evening. These were taken the day before my camera went into early retirement and forced me to re-examine my life, liberty and the pursuit of tree-climbing geckos.

On to some late night humor. “I didn’t think this day would come. Squeaky Fromme tried to assassinate President General Ford. She’s been let out of prison. She was paroled. Is she going to get a job? If you think about it, there aren’t many jobs for unstable, gun-toting women, unless she wants to run for governor of Alaska.” How about this? Brett Favre is coming out of retirement and joining the Minnesota Vikings. He’s getting $12 million from Minnesota. Talk about cash for clunkers. Now, here is a statistic — 90% of all paper currency has traces of cocaine. Ninety percent of all paper money in this country, traces of cocaine. Had a $20 bill today. I thought Ben Franklin looked a little jumpy.” –David Letterman

“It’s been reported that former Vice President Cheney is hard at work on his memoirs. It’s called ‘The Five People You Meet in Hell.’” –Conan O’Brien “You remember John Edwards? He finally admitted he’s the father of his mistress’ baby after denying it for over a year. So it’s a pretty classic case of whoever denied it, supplied it. Fortunately, some good news came out of the whole thing, he agreed to join Bristol Palin on the abstinence tour.” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our report from the South Pacific. I’d once again like to thank all the firefighters that had a hand in putting out the Lockheed fire that raged last week along the north coast. This past Friday the air was choking with ashes-I hadn’t seen smoke that thick since my last Doobie Brothers concert.

But the skies above Monterey Bay are once again fresh and exciting, as we had some sunset action on Saturday night. So enjoy the summer breeze that makes you feel fine and the final days of August. Loved watching the Yankees beat up on the Red Sox this weekend. We’ll catch you in the deep center. Aloha, mahalo and later, Usain Bolt fans.

August 16, 2009

Hawaii Did My Camera Have To Break?

Good morning and greetings, national health care fans. After taking a week off to recharge my battery and replace a water pump, Sunrise Santa Cruz is back with our annual, “What I Wish I Had Done On My Summer Vacation.”

For the last five years, or half decade for you historians, the Gilbert Family Robinson has ventured to Sunset Beach, which sits on the North Shore on the island of Oahu. To get there, you fly into Honolulu, head north and before you can say, “Hurricane Felicia,” you hit Haliewa and Eddie Aikau country. Or as the locals would say, “Geoff Wouldn’t Go.”

Not much was happening here before 1899, as people didn’t know the North Shore from Dinah Shore. Then Oahu sugar baron Benjamin Dillingham built the Haliewa Hotel and introduced the very popular Teriyaki Tuesday. Then in the 1940′s, people from Honolulu began to head northward to check out the epic waves and the mahi mahi lunch specials that make this macadamia crusted shoreline world class famous.

But the place really starting pumping in 1966, when filmmaker Bruce Brown produced the classic “Endless Summer,” which opened the eyes of the world to the big wave action that is the North Shore. Starting in November, this seven mile stretch from Haliewa to Sunset Beach takes center stage for the best big wave surfers, dedicated surf groupies and flight attendants from Hawaiian Air.

The North Shore is still rural and remote, much like it was 50 years ago, when as a child I was riding the big waves in the pool at the Hackensack YMHA. There is only one grocery store, appropriately named Foodland, one hotel, the Turtle Bay Resort, or as the locals say, “Nuff Hotels,” and one real food spot, Ted’s Bakery, which is renowned for its plate lunches, chocolate haupia creme pie and free valet parking.

On the nature front, squadrons of brown and electric green geckos run as rampant as oil lobbyists did during the Bush administration. Throw in the extremely colorful parrot fish at Sharks Cove, the orange butterflies floating by in the warm breeze and the golden lemon chicken with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad and that’s island life. Lucky you eat Hawaii.

So here we are a Sunset Beach in the summertime, when the swell is as gentle as the hands of my on-call masseuse Helga. The water is a mind-blowing, crystal clear, kelp-free, aqua turquoise blue that clocks in at 80 degrees. And this, my vacation loving friends, is the number one reason for this annual trek. I need warm ocean water the same way Tom “Magnum P.I.” Selleck needs a mustache trimmer. As much as I adore this cold water paradise called Santa Cruz, the difference in the air and weather is dramatic. No layers, no sweatshirts, no fog hanging on the coast. This is what a sub-tropical paradise is, boys and girls, and unlike guests or brie cheese, it doesn’t get old.

So it was much to my dismay that on the second morning of our trip, my camera decided to take its own vacation. I already had a few shots in the can, but the Kelly Slater in me cried out for more. So when my Canon announced its early retirement I took it like a man and curled up in the fetal position and sobbed uncontrollably for few hours. I’m just kidding, it couldn’t have been more than 45 minutes.

Rather than question my vacation karma, God’s will or try and make sense of a digitless universe, I put on my newly ironed black Speedo, belted down a big gulp of sunblock and let the smell of the plumerias drift softly thru my brain. Or to paraphrase the words of Gerry and the Pacemakers, “Don’t let your son catch you crying.”

Our beach cottage overlooked the break at Sunset, which in the winter, along with Waimea Bay and Pipeline, play host to the Triple Crown of surfing. Come August, we pretty much have the beach to ourselves, although on one weekend day I saw more butts on the beach than you’d find in the Boardwalk sand after a Friday night Eddie Money concert. The Money Man has been to the islands as he’s got “two tickets to paradise.”

So in our photo lineup, we start with Sunset Beach and then move over to Waimea Bay. From there it’s a green sea turtle that came ashore for tourists along the Kamehameha Highway followed by a friendly neighborhood gecko. We close with a duo of the Hawaiian plumeria, whose scent is another reminder of paradise found. I had hoped to photograph the tradewinds, which is another key factor in the nirvana experience. Or in the words of the Association, “Everyone knows it’s windy.”

Now for just a taste of late night humor. “The two female journalists held captive in North Korea are saying they were shocked to walk into a room and see Bill Clinton there. That’s what they said. Then they said they were even more shocked to see him wearing nothing but a towel.” –Conan O’Brien “Meanwhile, this morning, Former President Bush rescued two purple stars from his Lucky Charms.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Hey, yesterday, did you hear this? Computer hackers managed to shut down Twitter and my favorite, Facebook, for several hours. In a related story, yesterday American productivity jumped by 159%.” –Conan O’Brien

So that concludes my 2009 North Shore chronicles. Another classic “Hawaii Five-0″ adventure, or as Jack Lord would say about interisland flights, “Book ‘em, Dano.” With a daily intake of fresh papaya and Maui gold pineapple, my memories of this trip are still as tasty as a pina coloda smoothie.

It would be wrong not to mention the over 2,000 heroic firefighters from throughout the state that are fighting the Lockheed fire raging in the Santa Cruz mountains. This latest blaze has already burned close to 7,000 acres and is not expected to be fully contained for another week. It’s burning hotter than New York Yankee bats. Another example of the power and fury of Mother Nature. So we’ll catch you down the right field line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Robinson Cano fans.

August 2, 2009

I Haven’t Seen You Four Mile

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 9:10 pm

Good morning and greetings, August fans. A few posts back, I wrote about the summer humidity on the east coast as compared to the summer frigidity that inhabits our central coast. This past week, on my early morning jaunts along West Cliff Drive, the ground and air were soaking wet. I hadn’t experienced that kind of moistness since I roasted a cornish game hen in honor of Anthony Randolph’s spectacular play in the Las Vegas summer league. I was thinking, here we are in the middle of fog season, while other parts of the nation are sweltering like Scotter Libby before the pardons board. Across the country, the weather has been wackier than Mark Sanford’s travel intinerary.

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles to the east, New York experienced it second coldest July on record. Fortunately, Mark Teixeira and New York Yankee bats were hot which counteracted the lack of summer sun for beachgoers and Met’s fans. Up and down the eastern seaboard it’s been cold and wet, as frustrated families ask themselves, “Where is summer?” I believe right next to thumbkin.

At the same time, last week in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle recorded the hottest temperature in its history at 103 while Portland topped out at 106, one shy of the all-time record. We are talking a major Martha and the Vandellas heat wave, my marine layer loving friends. Folks in these parts were flocking to the coast faster than Brandon Roy scorching up the floor on a Blazer fast break.

So as the moist air filled my delicate lungs, I was hit with my usual early morning revelations. I never ceased to be amazed by the 24/7 travelcade of birds as the flyways along the edge of the continent are always going full tilt. Prehistoric looking pelicans fly by in both directions, sometimes stopping to dive headfirst in search of some fish sticks, cormorants furiously flapping their wings in flight while their compatriots line the cliff walls. Throw in some screaming gulls, exotic pigeons and other various sea birds and I’ve painted your daily aerial display. It reminds me of the first time I visited Yankee Stadium. I was initially shocked by the foul language, drugs and alcohol, and those were just the security guards.

So once again, you may be thinking, what’s this bi-monthly obsession with byrds? The answer, my friends, is not blowing in the wind. There is a reason that I come out blasting with my Canon. And a time for every purpose under heaven. It’s my honest attempt to turn, turn, turn and try and churn out the best stream of conciousness this mind has to offer. And as we know, a mime is a terrible thing to waste.

Today’s photo lineup takes us back to the north coast, as we return to the sands of Four Mile Beach. When I’m looking for large quantities of gulls draped against the background of cumulating clouds, there’s no other place in this area I’d rather be. If you were to shoot these same shots without the birds in the sky, it’s an empty landscape. These gulls just wanting to have fun give the pictures life, liberty and in my case, the pursuit of semi-happiness. Here’s the bottom line. I love shooting birds and three-pointers. Just seeing them in motion and hearing the sound of the ball swishing thru the net, to paraphrase the Doobie Brothers, “it keeps me running.”

Let’s go to the late night. “Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin resigned yesterday, and during her speech, she was heckled. Apparently, it was just someone in Russia yelling, ‘Keep it down over there!’” –Conan O’Brien “Sarah Palin’s decision to resign has resulted in an 18-point drop in her approval rating among Americans and a 52-point drop among terrified moose. She says she’s going to divide her time between traveling to support conservative causes and learning to pronounce the ‘G’ at the end of words” –Jimmy Kimmel “Some people now are saying, this is true, that former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin wants to host her own TV show. The show is going to be called ‘Am I More Coherent Than a Fifth Grader?’” –Conan O’Brien

“This August, President Obama is renting a vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. It’s amazing. It has a basketball court, swimming pool, apple orchard and a driving range. The president says he can’t wait to shoot hoops, while Michelle looks forward to pulling apple trees out of the ground with her bare hands.” –Jimmy Fallon “President Obama held a Q & A session about healthcare reform with senior citizens over the Internet. Unfortunately, the senior citizens spent the entire hour typing questions into their microwave ovens. “President Obama is hosting a delegation of 150 Chinese officials in Washington. Among the questions the Chinese have for the U.S.: ‘What’s your military policy? What is your stance on global warming? And where’s our money?’” –Conan O’Brien

“Of course, President Obama has invited Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and the policeman who arrested him to the White House. Reportedly, Obama is going to serve them Budweiser. And in the spirit of racial harmony, Budweiser is changing its nickname from the ‘King of Beers’ to the ‘Martin Luther King of Beers.’” –Conan O’Brien “Now here’s the way President Obama likes to do stuff. They had this problem up there at Harvard. So President Obama says, ‘Here’s what we’ll do. Come to the White House. We’ll settle our differences. We’ll have a beer.’ And if it works for those guys he’s going to try it with Jon and Kate, and he is going it to try it with the Israelis and Hamas. “And then in the spirit of this, I thought it was nice today, Rush Limbaugh called up Professor Gates and Officer Crowley and he invited them over for some OxyContin.” –David Letterman

So that’s our first post for August 2009. I’ll be taking next week off, as the Gilbert family is heading to Sunset Beach on the fabled north shore of Oahu. In between body painting seminars and cooking with coconut classes, I’ll be studying the effects on the psyche of gentle trade winds, scented plumerias and most importantly, warm ocean water that doesn’t lead to shrinkage action. Of course, it will all be documented for those of you not making a trip to the South Pacific or the new Safeway on the westside this summer.

So enjoy the weeks before the back to school fever kicks in. And again, thanks to Aimee and Jason Gilbert for their guest blogs. Now if they would just stop asking me about royalties. We’ll catch you at Waimea Bay. Aloha, mahalo and later, Pipeline fans.

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