February 28, 2010

Pedal To The Medals

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 9:46 pm

Good morning and greetings, ice dancing fans. Yes, February 2010, much like my keen eyesight, razor-sharp hearing and six pack abs, is now history. Our second month of the year is unique, as much like my status in my high school hoops days, it is the shortest month on the calendar and flies by faster than my son in the open court with his new driving permit.

February also brought us the Winter Olympics from Vancouver, Canada. For those of you who may have missed out on any news from north of the border, today we are featuring our gold medal coverage from our award-winning correspondent from north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now here, in his own words, is the guy who followed me out our mother’s birth canal, Paul Gilbert.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been a visitor in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Well, it’s been more of a virtual vacation, as I’ve been riveted to my TV set watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I didn’t think I’d be anywhere as interested in them as the Summer Games, but once the curling competition started, I was hooked. C’mon, name another sport where your team includes people sweeping brooms like they’ve just had 50 triple espressos? I wish they would come over and clean our house.

There was such a potpourri of athletic competition to choose from, it was like sifting through the menu at a Cheesecake Factory. To get things off on the right ski, I was curious to see if Lindsay Vonn would look as good in high def as she did in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Actually, I was hoping that Brooklyn Decker would qualify in the Super G-string and wear her cover outfit, which was the size of a large snowflake.

As it turns out, Vonn ended up riding a roller coaster on the slopes. Gold medal, crashes, disqualifications, and the media doing everything it could to provoke a cat fight with her teammate, Julie Mancuso, who clearly did not enjoy playing second fiddle, especially after getting the unintentional shaft in the slalom, when Vonn did a pinky swear with the snow fence. The fact is both are great athletes and male or female, it takes a lot of balls to compete in a sport where you’re hurdling down an ice-covered mountain at 90 MPH.

Loved those crazy, high-flying snowboarders working the half-pipe (which they used to smoke after each competition, until the Olympic drug-testers ruined the party). Shaun White was truly amazing, as evidenced by replays that compared his run with the second place finisher and White was about 20 feet higher (OK, insert joke here). We all know he created his best tricks on the private half-pipe his sponsor, Red Bull, built him in Colorado and the question is, does his famous Double McTwist 1260 come with fries?

I enjoyed some of the speed skating events, especially the short tracks where competitors jockeyed for position like New York City cab drivers. The South Koreans were amazing, I wonder when they became a speed skating superpower, id the North Koreans threatened a nuclear response? I think the Dutch coach might want to take a long vacation before heading home for his public execution and I’m now considering wearing a red headband, growing a little soul patch and changing my name to Apolo. Oh-yes.

In deference to my lovely wife, I also watched some of the ice dancing. There are moments of grace and artistry, but whoever designs those costumes must be the rejects from the first round of Project Runway. It’s hard to take a sport seriously where the athletes dress like Halloween on Acid on Ice.

The figure skating competition felt a little drawn out, but since I can barely stand on a pair of skates, I have to admire the skill of these athletes and their ability to perform under pressure. I was glad to see Evan Lysacek beat that sourpuss, sore loser Russian. That’s what you get for dressing like Lenin doing Liberace and having a bad shag haircut.

On the women’s side, Yu Na Kim of South Korea breathtaking and seemingly effortless performance was mesmerizing. And whose heart didn’t go out to Joannie Rochette, the Canadian skater whose mother died on her way to watch her compete? This reminded me of the many side stories that make up a whole other side of the Olympics, which is how an athlete’s parents sacrifice their time, energy and money to support their children and then, have to live vicariously through the both victories and the defeats. Truly, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

As usual, NBC decided to tape delay the most popular events and play them back in prime time. That meant I had to avoid reading the news online or watching SportsCenter before I tuned in for my nightly Olympics fix. And since the New York Times is my browser homepage, it’s hard not to notice when you see a headline like USA UPSETS CANADA!! Then again, haven’t the Canadians been upset with us for the last forty or fifty years?

The USA hockey team beating Canada in the first round was immensely satisfying. I don’t watch a lot of hockey, except for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are incredibly intense, but this was just as riveting. My adrenaline was pumping so hard that I was throwing crosschecks into my son and got called for high-sticking the dog.

The gold medal game was equally intense, a fitting end to the Olympic competition. Just when it looked like Canada had it in the bag, Team USA scores with twenty-four seconds left to send it into overtime, which put the entire population of Canada on suicide watch and sent our puppy into a frenzied “who let the dogs out, eh?” But in the end, hockey’s best player, Sidney Crosby, did what the great ones do. Will his way to victory. So as for as a repeat of “do you believe in miracles?” let’s see if the Knicks sign LeBron.

As for the TV coverage, there were so many commercial breaks that Bob Costas might as well have said “we’ll be right back after this brief glimpse of actual sports action to bring you more commercials from Vancouver.” I don’t quite understand how NBC can claim to have lost $200 million on these Games, when they ran 200 million commercials.

Got to give Costas his due, he’s the consummate pro. He switches seamlessly from sport to sport and brings out the best in his guests. NBC pulled out all the stops on the various commentators and expert analysts in each sport, but one person who received mixed scores in my book was Mary Carillo. Some of her up close and personal pieces were good, but when it comes to late night comedy, she ain’t exactly Wanda Sykes.

All kidding aside, the reason I enjoyed watching the Winter Games so much was to see great athletes competing at the highest level of their sports. They have put in thousands of hours of practice, endured injuries and hardship, and basically dedicated their entire lives to perfecting their performances. While some are multi-millionaire professionals, the majority are not making the big bucks. They’re doing it for the love of their sport, the honor of representing their country and the ultimate challenge of being the best in the entire world at what they do. No matter how bureaucratic and corporate the Olympics have become, in many ways, it’s still the purest and deepest experience in the sports universe.

So it was a great ride while it lasted and now, looking ahead to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, my daughter is immersed in her training for Olympic Gold in Downhill Texting. And knowing her, she’s already planning the photo shoot for Sports Illustrated.

Do me a favor, cancel your subscriptions, now.

Whew. Thank you, brother. Now, being a big fan of the lunar year, I’m always jacked up for the start of the new month and flipping to the new page of the calendar. It’s the same feeling I get when popping off the top of a Tropicana Orange Juice or ripping open a package of Pepperidge Farm Orange Milano cookies, a semi-religious experience without the jolt of sugar. I was going to blast out some fabulous winter color to welcome the Ides of March, but then Friday evening came so we shifted Disraeli gears.

Ominous-looking storm clouds and herbal tea had been brewing all morning, as the heavy rain started to fall in the early afternoon. Throughout the day, the sky was as gray as Richard Gere’s hair at a Free Tibet fundraiser. Towards early evening, I gazed into the western sky and spotted an opening in the horizon (photo #1.) At the same time, clouds were coming forward from the east and a small rainbow made an appearance (photo #2.) It paled in comparison to the rainbows I viewed on Saturday in San Jose, which were as fabulous as the dialogue in “The Hangover.”

The wind was whipping off the coast as the sun slowly dropped thru the cloud cover and cast a gorgeous shining light on the churning waves (photos #3-4-5) before disappearing and heading to China. Adding to my dusk delight, hundreds of gulls were cruising south as a full moon appeared from behind the clouds (photo #6). Bingo! A fantastic end to a day that had shown no potential for greatness just minutes earlier. Kind of like Conan O’Brien’s final “Tonight Show” appearance.

On to some late night humor. “The Winter Olympics is apparently a big thing for a lot of people, and America has won the most medals. The only sport I really get into is snowboarding because that’s the only sport where they perform a half pipe just after smoking a full pipe.” –Bill Maher Dick Cheney loves snowboarding. He thinks it’s waterboarding, but colder.” –David Letterman “Tiger Woods was adamant that his wife Elin never hit him with a golf club. I guess his Escalade fell down the stairs.” –Jimmy Kimmel

It’s a great day for former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was released from the hospital today. He’s doing well. Doctors say he’ll be up and shooting lawyers in no time.” –Craig Ferguson “Something weird happened in the hospital. When they were putting the electrodes on him for the EKG, he suddenly started screaming, ‘Stop! I’ll tell you everything you want to know! It was a fun day for the head of Toyota U.S.A. today. He had to appear in front of Congress. “I have to say, it was actually refreshing to see a car company C.E.O. appear before Congress and not ask for $10 billion.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our first blast for the month of March. Coming up next week, we’re going to continue the guest mode as we’ll feature nature photographer Judy Bingham on these cyber pages. This will be a photo display you will not want to miss. So I hope you enjoyed our Olympic coverage and we can now turn our full attention back to the NBA and SCCAL volleyball. We’ll catch you in the paint. Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

Pedal To The Medals

Good morning and greetings, ice dancing fans. Yes, February 2010, much like my keen eyesight, razor-sharp hearing and six pack abs, is now history. Our second month of the year is unique, as much like my status in my high school hoops days, it is the shortest month on the calendar and flies by faster than my son in the open court with his new driving permit.

February also brought us the Winter Olympics from Vancouver, Canada. For those of you who may have missed out any news from north of the border, today we are featuring complete gold medal coverage from our award-winning correspondent from north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Now here, in his own words, is the guy who followed me out our mother’s birth canal, Paul Gilbert.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been a visitor in the beautiful city of Vancouver, British Columbia. Well, it’s been more of a virtual vacation, as I’ve been riveted to my TV set watching the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. I didn’t think I’d be anywhere as interested in them as the Summer Games, but once the curling competition started, I was hooked. C’mon, name another sport where your team includes people sweeping brooms like they’ve just had 50 triple espressos? I wish they would come over and clean our house.

There was such a potpourri of athletic competition to choose from, it was like sifting through the menu at a Cheesecake Factory. To get things off on the right ski, I was curious to see if Lindsay Vonn would look as good in high def as she did in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue. Actually, I was hoping that Brooklyn Decker would qualify in the Super G-string and wear her cover outfit, which was the size of a large snowflake.

As it turns out, Vonn ended up riding a roller coaster on the slopes. Gold medal, crashes, disqualifications, and the media doing everything it could to provoke a cat fight with her teammate, Julie Mancuso, who clearly did not enjoy playing second fiddle, especially after getting the unintentional shaft in the slalom, when Vonn did a pinky swear with the snow fence. The fact is both are great athletes and male or female, it takes a lot of balls to compete in a sport where you’re hurdling down an ice-covered mountain at 90 MPH.

Loved those crazy, high-flying snowboarders working the half-pipe (which they used to smoke after each competition, until the Olympic drug-testers ruined the party). Shaun White was truly amazing, as evidenced by replays that compared his run with the second place finisher and White was about 20 feet higher (OK, insert joke here). We all know he created his best tricks on the private half-pipe his sponsor, Red Bull, built him in Colorado and the question is, does his famous Double McTwist 1260 come with fries?

I enjoyed some of the speed skating events, especially the short tracks where competitors jockeyed for position like New York City cab drivers. The South Koreans were amazing, I wonder when they became a speed skating superpower, id the North Koreans threatened a nuclear response? I think the Dutch coach might want to take a long vacation before heading home for his public execution and I’m now considering wearing a red headband, growing a little soul patch and changing my name to Apolo. Oh-yes.

In deference to my lovely wife, I also watched some of the ice dancing. There are moments of grace and artistry, but whoever designs those costumes must be the rejects from the first round of Project Runway. It’s hard to take a sport seriously where the athletes dress like Halloween on Acid on Ice.

The figure skating competition felt a little drawn out, but since I can barely stand on a pair of skates, I have to admire the skill of these athletes and their ability to perform under pressure. I was glad to see Evan Lysacek beat that sourpuss, sore loser Russian. That’s what you get for dressing like Lenin doing Liberace and having a bad shag haircut.

On the women’s side, Yu Na Kim of South Korea breathtaking and seemingly effortless performance was mesmerizing. And whose heart didn’t go out to Joannie Rochette, the Canadian skater whose mother died on her way to watch her compete? This reminded me of the many side stories that make up a whole other side of the Olympics, which is how an athlete’s parents sacrifice their time, energy and money to support their children and then, have to live vicariously through the both victories and the defeats. Truly, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

As usual, NBC decided to tape delay the most popular events and play them back in prime time. That meant I had to avoid reading the news online or watching SportsCenter before I tuned in for my nightly Olympics fix. And since the New York Times is my browser homepage, it’s hard not to notice when you see a headline like USA UPSETS CANADA!! Then again, haven’t the Canadians been upset with us for the last forty or fifty years?

The USA hockey team beating Canada in the first round was immensely satisfying. I don’t watch a lot of hockey, except for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which are incredibly intense, but this was just as riveting. My adrenaline was pumping so hard that I was throwing crosschecks into my son and got called for high-sticking the dog.

The gold medal game was equally intense, a fitting end to the Olympic competition. Just when it looked like Canada had it in the bag, Team USA scores with twenty-four seconds left to send it into overtime, which put the entire population of Canada on suicide watch and sent our puppy into a frenzied “who let the dogs out, eh?” But in the end, hockey’s best player, Sidney Crosby, did what the great ones do. Will his way to victory. So as for as a repeat of “do you believe in miracles?” let’s see if the Knicks sign LeBron.

As for the TV coverage, there were so many commercial breaks that Bob Costas might as well have said “we’ll be right back after this brief glimpse of actual sports action to bring you more commercials from Vancouver.” I don’t quite understand how NBC can claim to have lost $200 million on these Games, when they ran 200 million commercials.

Got to give Costas his due, he’s the consummate pro. He switches seamlessly from sport to sport and brings out the best in his guests. NBC pulled out all the stops on the various commentators and expert analysts in each sport, but one person who received mixed scores in my book was Mary Carillo. Some of her up close and personal pieces were good, but when it comes to late night comedy, she ain’t exactly Wanda Sykes.

All kidding aside, the reason I enjoyed watching the Winter Games so much was to see great athletes competing at the highest level of their sports. They have put in thousands of hours of practice, endured injuries and hardship, and basically dedicated their entire lives to perfecting their performances. While some are multi-millionaire professionals, the majority are not making the big bucks. They’re doing it for the love of their sport, the honor of representing their country and the ultimate challenge of being the best in the entire world at what they do. No matter how bureaucratic and corporate the Olympics have become, in many ways, it’s still the purest and deepest experience in the sports universe.

So it was a great ride while it lasted and now, looking ahead to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, my daughter is immersed in her training for Olympic Gold in Downhill Texting. And knowing her, she’s already planning the photo shoot for Sports Illustrated.

Do me a favor, cancel your subscriptions, now.

Whew. Thank you, brother. Now, being a big fan of the lunar year, I’m always jacked up for the start of the new month and flipping to a fresh page of the calendar. It’s the same feeling I get when popping off the top of a Tropicana Orange Juice or ripping open a package of Pepperidge Farm Orange Milano cookies, a semi-religious experience without the jolt of sugar. I was going to blast out some fabulous winter color to welcome the Ides of March, but then Friday evening came so we shifted Disraeli gears.

Ominous-looking storm clouds and herbal tea had been brewing all morning, as the heavy rain started to fall in the early afternoon. Throughout the day, the sky was as gray as Richard Gere’s hair at a Free Tibet fundraiser. Towards early evening, I gazed into the western sky and spotted an opening in the horizon (photo #1.) At the same time, clouds were coming forward from the east and a small rainbow made an appearance (photo #2.) It paled in comparison to the rainbows I viewed on Saturday in San Jose, which were as fabulous as the dialogue in “The Hangover.”

The wind was whipping off the coast as the sun slowly dropped thru the cloud cover and cast a gorgeous shining light on the churning waves (photos #3-4-5) before disappearing and heading to China. Adding to my dusk delight, hundreds of gulls were cruising south as a full moon appeared from behind the clouds (photo #6). Bingo! A fantastic end to a day that had shown no potential for greatness just minutes earlier. Kind of like Conan O’Brien’s final “Tonight Show” appearance.

On to some late night humor. “The Winter Olympics is apparently a big thing for a lot of people, and America has won the most medals. The only sport I really get into is snowboarding because that’s the only sport where they perform a half pipe just after smoking a full pipe.” –Bill Maher Dick Cheney loves snowboarding. He thinks it’s waterboarding, but colder.” –David Letterman “Tiger Woods was adamant that his wife Elin never hit him with a golf club. I guess his Escalade fell down the stairs.” –Jimmy Kimmel

It’s a great day for former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was released from the hospital today. He’s doing well. Doctors say he’ll be up and shooting lawyers in no time.” –Craig Ferguson “Something weird happened in the hospital. When they were putting the electrodes on him for the EKG, he suddenly started screaming, ‘Stop! I’ll tell you everything you want to know! It was a fun day for the head of Toyota U.S.A. today. He had to appear in front of Congress. “I have to say, it was actually refreshing to see a car company C.E.O. appear before Congress and not ask for $10 billion.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our first blast for the month of March. Coming up next week, we’re going to continue the guest mode as we’ll feature nature photographer Judy Bingham on these cyber pages. This will be a pick six pack of photos you will not want to miss. So I hope you enjoyed our Olympic coverage as we can now return our full attention to the NBA and SCCAL varsity volleyball. We’ll catch you in the paint. Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

February 21, 2010

Knowledge is Powder

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 8:36 pm

Good morning and greetings, avalanche fans. Earlier in the week, with some rare free time on my hands, I blasted out some photos taken by the San Francisco Chronicle of the recent Mavericks surf contest. This historical event took place in Half Moon Bay, which is forty-five minutes north of Santa Cruz and featured the most humongous waves ever for a paddle-in contest. I, unfortunately, did not attend this event as I’m highly allergic to rogue waves.

These fifty-foot faced monsters were ridden by 24 surfers, who were literally risking their lives to be part of surfing history. Witnesses to this carnage of white water described these angry, menacing waves as “bombs exploding,” as the wipeouts were has horrific as my math SAT scores. I can’t even begin to imagine the paralyzing and overwhelming fear one would feel dropping down on a nearly vertical 40-foot wave of water. Personally, I don a life jacket when body surfing in my hot tub at high tide.

On this day, big wave surfing was taken to another level. As for me, attempting to ride one of Mother Earth’s most violent walls of water on a colorfully decorated piece of polyurethane, with some fiberglass, a couple of fins and two Norweigans is not my idea of recreational fun. My motto is, “if it swells, run from it.”

The most amazing part is that these gentlemen (and ladies,) who ride these mountains called waves, generally don’t get paid for it. Unlike the golfer putting for a million bucks or the basketball player making $20 million for a couple of free throws, these folks are putting it all on the line for free a good part of the time. And this leads me into today’s guest posting.

My brother Brad doesn’t surf Pipeline, Waimea Bay or Sunset Beach, but instead likes to be dropped off by a helicopter on the top of a mountain. Myself, I prefer to be dropped off right in front of the restaurant. Or just get it to go. So, without any further ado, here in his own words is a guy who’s been like a youngest brother to me, Brad Gilbert.

As any long time reader of this blog is aware, it’s really all about the weather. Clouds make sunsets, rain makes rainbows, and snow makes Geoffrey’s younger brother a very happy boy. From sometime in October to late April, I spend an inordinate amount of time tracking weather and snow reports from around the US and Canada. My name is Brad and I am a powder addict.

My addiction leads me on a never ending quest for fresh tracks. In theory, if you spend enough time researching conditions and have a lot of flexibility in your work/travel plans you can always find powder. In reality, conditions can change in an instant and there really is no guarantee that your dreams of epic conditions will come true. That however, has never stopped me from chasing powder in the past and this year was no exception.

As usual, the closest thing to a sure thing can often be found in Canada. So like thousands of Olympic hopefuls, I headed north of the border this January to the beautiful province of British Columbia. This is where I and several long time compatriots take our annual heli trip. Unlike the Olympics venues though, we didn’t head to Whistler and the coastal ranges but further inland to what’s known as the “powder triangle” which thanks to its copious snow totals and relatively low mountains is a perfect spot for heli skiing (or in my case – heli boarding).

While I have had in general found tremendous conditions on my trips to BC, I have on occasion run into some weather snags and this years trip proved to be a bit problematic. If you’ve been following the Olympics, you’ve no doubt heard about the record breaking warmth and lack of snow in some venues. Well, while we certainly didn’t lack for snow, but the warm temperatures did cause us problems, most notably rain and even worse, fog.

Helicopters can not fly in fog, so no matter how much snow has fallen, if you can’t see, you can’t ski. This particular dilemma kept us in or near the lodge for the majority of our trip. It also severely limits your photo opportunities unless grey is your favorite color.

Photo 1 clearly shows the cloud ceiling above us and the fog banks below that kept wreaking havoc with our flying plans. Photos 2 thru 5 show why my oldest brother would actually have to take off his shorts and put on a pair of long pants as the snow was deeper than last year’s New York Yankee lineup. Photo number 6 shows why I spend countless time and dollars pursuing this sport as there is no place I’d rather be than on a beautiful untracked mountain out in the pristine wilderness.

We had one epic day in the Valhallas which basically made the whole trip worthwhile and if you’re actually interested in seeing photos of the skiing you can check out my blog at www.glutenfreesnowboarder.com for lots more photos and a day by day diary of the whole trip along with coverage of the rest of my riding season. Right now as I write this, Colorado is in a major snow cycle and once my editor approves this post, I will be heading to Aspen for what hopefully will be a powder filled experience. So yes, while knowledge may lead to powder, in this case I’d rather be lucky than smart. Till next year, see you on the slopes…

Thank you, Brad, and I hope it went well in the Rockies. Here’s the difference between me and my youngest sibling. For the weekend, he chose Aspen. For me, after playing hoops Saturday morning, I chose a bottle of aspirin.

On to the late night experience. “The Winter Olympics are under way in Canada. They showed the biathlon today, a combination of cross-country skiing and shooting rifles, which is known to Sarah Palin as ‘commuting.’ ” –Jimmy Kimmel “You know who was at the Daytona 500? Sarah Palin, former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin. She was at the finish line, and she waved her checkered past. Yesterday was Sarah Palin’s birthday. And Sarah celebrated the same way she does every year — got in a helicopter and was picking off wolf cubs.” –David Letterman

“Did you have a nice Valentine’s Day? Remember the underpants bomber? He bought his girlfriend some lovely exploding lingerie. There’s a bit of a scandal in men’s figure skating at the Olympics. Three skaters have tested positive for ‘fabulous. Spring training started. And the Phillies, look out for the Phillies. They get this guy, Roy Halladay, the best pitcher in all of baseball. But listen to this, the Mets, very competitive. You know who they signed? They signed that guy who threw the shoes at President Bush.” –David Letterman

Sly and the Family Stone said, “It’s a family affair” and today truly is, as birthday wishes go out to my Marin County-based brother Paul, who celebrates the big 55 today. Paul claims after the first time he beat me one-on-one in basketball, that I didn’t speak to him for days. I’m man enough to admit that it never happened, and if it did, I only did it to boost his self-esteem, because that’s the kind of loving brother I am. Paul and I played together and dominated for years at UCSC, and he never failed to hustle back on offense.

And belated February birthday wishes go out to my consigliere, Nancy Mager of Tucson, Arizona and to my non-breast feeding mother Lee, who said back then she had a headache. Or in the words of the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, ” My mother didn’t breast feed me. She said she liked me as a friend.”

One more snow note. Thanks to an unusual combination of weather patterns and fallout from the hot air rising from Tiger Woods’ press conference last week, 49 states were at least partially covered by snow. Hawaii was the sole exception, but they have their own problems with “ice.”

So I hoped you enjoyed our salute to johnny snowflake and we’ll return to the coast next week. For you Winter Olympic buffs, my favorite new color is Shaun White. We’ll catch you on the diamond run. Aloha, mahalo and later, Lindsey Vonn fans.

February 14, 2010

The Few, The Clouds, The Marines

Good morning and greetings, winter weather fans. Last week, the Atlantic seaboard was bombarded with two blizzards that led to record snowfall, so much so that it completely shut down Washington D.C. for three days, but not the lips of Sarah Palin. Her criticism of President Obama was somewhat puzzling for a woman who admits to not reading a newspaper. But give the former Lens Crafter model and governor of Alaska credit, she was able to read the crib notes written in her palm so that she wouldn’t forget what planet she was on.

Now perhaps I’m being a bit harsh towards the former Vice-Presidential candidate, and if that’s the case, I don’t apologize. How she is being touted as a presidential candidate for 2012 is more mind-blowing than the Warrior’s Monta Ellis not being selected to the western conference’s all-star team. But for now, let’s leave her politics back east and get back to the weather, which was as wild on the central coast this past Tuesday as the snow drifts around the George Jefferson Memorial.

Storm clouds were lined up across the sky and the air was chilly as I headed out onto West Cliff, but fortunately I had come prepared and put on a warmer pair of shorts. The sun was darting in and out from behind the clouds as the light was changing quicker than Peyton Manning’s status from Super Bowl hero to goat. A flock of 35 pelicans (yes, I counted them) flew by in a v-formation, and then all of a sudden turned around in mid-flight faster than you could say “Happy Valentine’s Day” and started heading north. Now, I’ve seen hundreds of squadrons of these prehistoric birds in action, but I had never seen this about-face manuever. There was some strange magic in the air as I really wanted to be pelican briefed.

As I continued my sentimental journey down the cliff, I was joined by an artist friend of mine, who brought up the poet Mary Oliver. Her work focuses on her intense observations of nature from her walks through the wetlands near her home in Massachusetts. She has been called a visionary as “her poetry combines dark interpretation with joyous release.” That would be in contrast to yours truly, who combines dark meat chicken with jellied cranberry sauce.
As the skies starten to darken, I told my friend that I knew where Ms. Oliver was coming from, as when patrolling the coastline, I am always looking for images to capture for my digital sonnets. Mary Oliver says that the self is only strengthened through an immersion with nature. Well, that and NBA basketball.

We continued skipping down the cliff when a rain squall hit while the sun peeked thru the clouds. This meant it was rainbow time. And sure enough, before I could click my feet, grab little Toto and head back to Kansas, a spectrum of light with beautiful colors appeared in the sky. Now, I should mention I wasn’t carrying my camera on this expedition, so I just had to take in the moment for what it was. And in the words of Richard Starkey, better known as Ringo Starr, “you know it don’t come easy”

It reminded me of a rainbow I saw early in the morning on the cliff some thirty years ago. I lived on West Cliff Drive from 1975-89 and it was the only rainbow I remember appearing in the western sky. All the others made appearances from the east or the south. And in case NASA, the weather channel or classmates.com is monitoring this report, yes, I do have photos of that multicolored beauty. Oh, and I also have pictures of the rainbow.

It was actually the second rainbow I had seen that morning, so I was already feeling my lucky charms. And as we all know, they’re magically delicious. My son had a basketball game in Monterey in the afternoon, so we headed south down Highway 1. The clouds were performing a matinee show and you could see the rain falling over the mountains in the distance. I then glanced into the rear view mirror and saw a rainbow as big as bus and brighter than Albert Einstein. My son asked me if he should make a wish and I replied, “No, just hit a few three-pointers and I’ll be happy.”

When we arrived at the gymnasium, all the talk from the parents was, “Did you see that rainbow? And did anyone bring water?” It was one of the all-time brightest, shining bows. Jason and I had seen one like that a few weeks earlier as we exited the Oracle Arena after an afternoon contest on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. It was beaming so intently into the Oakland hills that at the time I thought, these colors are just unbelievable. Actually, what was even more unbelievable was that fact the Warriors won that day.

So, you’re probably wondering, where are those rainbow shots and how the hell did they Warriors win? Due to election coverage, there were no photos that day. But to make up for the lack of images from Tuesday’s refracted, reflected and neglected light show, we’re going to dig into the 2010 archives and unearth another recent winter olympic classic.

The date was January 22, and it was late afternoon as I perused the thundercloud-filled sky. I started off by shooting the clouds over the wharf and Boardwalk, before heading down West Cliff and stopping at Woodrow Avenue to take in the sun hiding below the clouds. I then took in the clouds streaming from the north as the sets rolled in at Stockton Avenue. The last shot is from Natural Bridges, looking south back towards Lighthouse Point. All in all, a lot of drama in the sky on this rainbow-less night. Oh, and in case you missed the box score, Jason’s team won going away and clinched it’s first league title.

On to the Conan O’Brien-less late night humor. “Well, tomorrow in Nashville, Sarah Palin will speak at the Tea Party Convention. Tickets are $550 apiece. But Sarah Palin said she will not benefit from the speech. See, that way she’ll have something in common with the people in the audience.” –Jay Leno “I’ll tell you, you woke up this morning, and New York, a tremendous sight. I mean, it was whiter than a Tea Party rally. People are still talking about the Super Bowl. It was the most watched TV program of all time. The second most-watched event was the episode of ‘Dallas’ where J.R. gets shot in the face by Dick Cheney. This President Obama, I mean, give the guy credit. He keeps working and working and working. He’s going to invite a bunch of Republicans to have a televised debate on healthcare. It’s going to be a big, big event. As a matter of fact, at halftime The Who will be there doing a special song about Lipitor.” –David Letterman

“Sarah Palin’s also getting criticized because last week she demanded that Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, step down because he used the word retarded. But then, Rush Limbaugh did the same thing on his radio show and that, she said, was O.K. Unfortunately, she’s been unable to respond to the criticism because she’s wearing mittens. The federal government was shut down today, and they estimate it cost about $100 million in lost productivity. The House is literally stuck in the House, and they can’t do anything. I have to admit, it is nice to see lawmakers shoveling something else for a change, isn’t it?” –Jimmy Kimmel “Hey, be glad you’re not back East. Huge snowstorms. I don’t think Washington has seen a snow job like this since that last stimulus package.” –Jay Leno

“And with all this snow, President Obama told all nonessential White House employees they didn’t have to come in. Well, actually, just Joe Biden. It was so cold, Nancy Pelosi had to sit in her driveway for 10 minutes defrosting her eyeballs.
It was so cold, Sarah Palin had to cancel a speech because she didn’t want to take her gloves off to read.” –Jay Leno “Did everybody watch the Super Bowl? Everybody’s happy for New Orleans. In fact, FEMA announced plans to congratulate them in about two weeks.” –Jimmy Fallon “Osama bin Laden is very ecologically minded. Like, last year, it was documented by the C.I.A. that he switched to a hybrid camel.” –David Letterman

That’s our update from the winter games. Someone asked me last week if I learned anything from shooting clouds. In the words of Joni Mitchell, “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down and still somehow, it’s cloud illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all.” Coming up next week will be our first guest blog of the year. This is one you’ll need your snow shoes for. Hope you caught some footage of the epic waves from Saturday’s Mavericks surf contest in Half Moon Bay which was described “as the best day ever.” So enjoy the skies and keep your eye on the NBA trading deadline. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kelly Slater fans.

February 7, 2010

It’s Texture, Not Conjecture

Good morning and greetings, Super Bowl fans. That’s right, Super Sunday has come and gone, much like American families’ dreams of realistic health care costs. And congratulations to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. They pulled off a impressive comeback in beating the Peyton Manning and the Colts, 31-17. Games like this make me harken back to those incredible Super Bowl moments, like when the ring around Janet Jackson was revealed during that infamous “wardrobe malfunction.”

But let’s get down to those vital game statistics. No, I’m not referring to total passing yards, time of possession or who had the most talked about tv commercial, I’m referring to what makes this day a sacred holiday-Super Bowl snacking.

Now we know that Super Sunday is the number three day in terms of food consumption after Thanksgiving and Yom Kippur. $55 million was spent on snacks for this Woodstock of caloric consumption, along with ten million man (and women) hours of Super Bowl food preparation. And according to the Institute of Insane Food Intake, the IIFI, Americans devoured 15,000 tons of chips, 4,000 tons of popcorn and 200,000,000 hours of tv commercials. So if we lined up every chip, it would produce a trail of 293,000 miles, or what for me is a good week’s cardiac workout. A string consisting of all that popcorn would circle the earth almost 5 1/2 times, which would be equivilent to the same amount of time it will take the Republicans to pass anything proposed by the Obama administration.

But the winner of the big enchilada on Super food day in terms of sales is our friend the avocado. The California Avocado Commission, (or the CAC, not to confused with the ACC,) which is more believable than the Warren Commission, says that 12 million pounds of avocado were sold in preparation for the game. What this means is this nation’s party-loving, football-watching, gambling fanatics gorged themselves on an estimated 8 million pounds of gaucamole. Holy chips and salsa, Batman. And last but not least, according to Hallmark Cards Inc., the Super Bowl represents the number one at home party event of the year, bigger than New Year’s Eve, a Mary Kay event or the other Olsen twin.

For today’s starting photo lineup, we journey to the most Natural of Bridges State Beach, where I had gone to shoot the sunset. It had rained all day and the sun decided to make a late afternoon appearance. The action on the horizon was nothing special, but the color radiating from the cliffs was off the charts. We’re talking gleaming, golden chocolate, a color of which I’ve only seen once before at this location, and that was during an out of body experience. In the words of Stevie Wonder, “Golden lady, golden lady, I’d like to go there. Take me right away.” I was there.

We then move on to the sand, and while the iceplant-lined cliffs were bursting with color, the billions of granules of tiny rocks were experiencing the same visual gold rush, as the beach was lit up like Rockefeller Center at Christmas time. We then move on to another interesting sand pattern that caught my eye, much like the first time I glanced at an NBA stat sheet.

We then travel cross-town over to the eastside, where I shot the sunset from the cliff above the Rivermouth. This is where the San Lorenzo River meets the Pacific Ocean. I sent this shot to a dedicated blog reader from southern California whose comment was “it is hard to believe that is water. It almost looks like sand with plastic wrap on top.” And it also clings tight, is microwave-soft and helps keep food fresh.

We end our texture experience with my favorite shot from this genre. This photo was taken on January 23, 2008, on the night of one of the most fabulous sunsets I’ve ever experienced in men’s clothes. The image is the sunlight shining on the streams of water on the sand at Natural Bridges. I call this shot “Another Planet,” the place I wish I had been rather than watching the New York Giants play the second half of this past season.

Let’s move on to the late night experience. “The president won’t be at the Super Bowl either. In fact, in a show of some sort of spirit of cooperation, he’s invited a group of top Republicans to watch the game with him at the White House on Sunday. That should be a lot of fun. Going to need a two-thirds vote before they pass him the Doritos.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama is very shrewd about bringing the Republicans into the White House for the Super Bowl party, because he feels like if he can get them to pass the dip, maybe they’ll pass health care.” –David Letterman At the town hall event, President Obama also said jobs will be our No. 1 focus in 2010. He then added, ‘Specifically, mine and Biden’s jobs.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“You folks excited about the Super Bowl coming up Sunday? And the New Orleans Saints’ fans, I’m telling you, they have waited a long, long time for their team to get into the Super Bowl. Not as long as they waited for FEMA, but still, it’s been a very long, long time. “I think it was Bill Clinton who popularized the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. But don’t confuse that with another Clinton policy — ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Hillary.’ That was a whole different policy.” –David Letterman This is unfortunate. I heard that John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth have legally separated. Under the reasons for separation, Elizabeth Edwards just wrote ‘see news.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“They’re now coming out with the new, 75th edition of Monopoly, this time with a round board. And actually, they’ve updated the whole game. In the new version, the banker is a Wall Street CEO He overextends mortgages, he loses the bank, and when things go under, he uses his get-out-of-jail-for-free card. So it’s all very realistic. Here is a historical fact. It was on this day in 1690, the first paper money was printed up in the colony of Massachusetts. The pilgrims realized that when they ran out of money, they could just print more. Thus, the federal government was born. Toyota is recalling 2.3 million cars because of two problems — unintended acceleration and possible brake problems. Things are not looking good for Toyota. In fact, today, two crash test dummies refused to get in the car.” – Jay Leno

That’s our Super Bowl report. Now that NFL season is officially over, I can focus my attention on what’s really important in life, NBA baskeball. If you had a chance to pick up Saturday’s Santa Cruz Sentinel, you might have seen a shot of my son on the front page, playing the role of point guard for the PCS Pumas. His team is undefeated in league play and heading for it’s first league title. And all this without cheerleaders at the nation’s number one academically-rated charter school. So enjoy the record snow in Washington, D.C., the NBA all-star game and be ready for the onside kick. Aloha, mahalo and later, Sean Payton fans.


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