July 25, 2010

The Checks In The Whale

Good morning and greetings, Moby Dick fans. Last week, I wrote of a massive convergence of blue whales in Monterey Bay. My ever-curious, gluten-free, snowboard blogging brother Brad, who himself just returned from the Galapagos Islands on a sales call, wondered if we’d ever see any of these whales. My immediate reaction was probably not, as I haven’t been down to the Point Lobos area since my runway modeling days were cut short because of a growth spurt.

But then, before you could say the Humpback of Notre Dame, I received an email from one of the top basketball stats keepers in the county, who reminded me that her pal Bruce had taken some amazing whale shots out on the bay. Actually, Bruce had told me he’d been out on the water shooting, but due my to undercover work for the EPA and the fact that my dendrites are vanishing faster than the two-toed sloth and the blue-tongued skink, I failed to put two and two together. But all was not lost, as although we are not singing the blues ,it’s humpback Monday here at Sunrise Santa Cruz.

So what do we know about humpback whales? Well, thanks to www.acsonline.org and sailhawaii.com, here are some fun facts. Much like myself before I discovered TiVo, humpbacks are active, acrobatic creatures who can throw themselves completely out of the water (breaching) and swim on their backs with both flippers in the air. They also engage in “tail lobbing” (raising their huge flukes out of the water and then slapping it on the surface,) “flipper slapping” (using their flippers to slap the water) and “whippersnapping”, which is when the young calves act really presumptuous .

Perhaps the most interesting behavior of humpback whales is their singing and guitar playing. Scientists have discovered that humpback whales sing long, complex, seductive ballads, much like Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Whales in the North American Atlantic population sing the same song (“Free Bird”), while all the whales in the North American Pacific population sing the same song (“Highway to Hell.”)

A typical song lasts from 10-20 minutes, and is repeated continuously for hours at a time, much the same way I play Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Can’t Find The Time To Tell You,” on the CD player in my car. The songs, like my hair color and basketball stats from my playing days, change gradually from year to year. Singing whales are males and mostly baritones, as the songs may be a part of mating behavior or just a way to attract really hot-looking dolphins.

To Hawaiians and a couple of guys from Jersey, the whale is a representation of the Hawaiian god, Kanaloa, the god of animals in the ocean. A large percentage of the North Pacific humpbacks, big wave surfers, and t-shirt vendors migrate to the Hawaiian islands during the winter months each year. During their stay they do not feed, but rely upon stored energy and take out plate lunches. The whales devote most of their time to mating, giving birth to their calves and working as extras in the new CBS series “Hawaii Five-O.”

So it was back on July 9th that artist, photographer and zone trap designer Bruce Stahl boarded the Stagnaro family boat “Velocity” for some whale watching on Monterey Bay. The Stagnaros, who’ve been serving fish n’ ships since 1879, proclaim that here you can see seven different species of whales, seven different species of dolphin and porpoises and seven different species of mankind experiencing seasickness on these trips.

But Bruce was out there to shoot jumpers and the humpbacks, which is not an easy task. The first shot shows that massive size and girth of these incredible creatures. Shot number two is what the humpback experience is all about. With just a head fake and a few pumps of its tail, the humpback can propel its entire body into the air, landing back onto the surface with a resounding splash that can soak half of Moss Landing.

Much like my drives to the hoop, breaching is a true leap where a whale generates enough upward force with its powerful flukes to lift approximately two-thirds of its body out of the water. Researchers and four out of five dentists are not certain why whales breach, but believe that it may be related to courtship, play activity or their recommendation of sugarless gum.

Shots five and six showcase the tail slap, not to be confused with the NFL head slap, which consists of a whale raising its tail flukes out of water and slapping them forcefully on the surface of the water. When the flukes hit the water, a loud resonant noise can be heard from Phil’s Fish House to the Crow’s Nest, where I recommend the calamari appetizer. Humpback whales are known to repeat this behavior over and over, the same way I like tapping people on the opposite shoulder when approaching them from behind.

Of the experience, Bruce, who is also my son Jason’s basketball coach, said, “it was pretty amazing out there. It was tough to anticipate where they were going to surface so that made it challenging. The whales are so huge and the splashes and water displacement were stunning. I’ve never seen anything like it, except for the time you showed up to run with us at open gym.”

One final whale note. Last week, a South African couple was out sailing off the coast of Captetown when a 40-ton whale breached and crash-landed on their yacht. I can relate, as I’m pissed off when a bug lands on my windshield. No one was hurt although bits of black whale blubber, barnacles and a Shamu sweatshirt were strewn on the boat deck. So all’s whale that ends whale.

On to the late night. “We have some wonderful news. BP announced it successfully capped the oil leak. The oil leak has stopped. I am so glad they were able to nip this thing in the bud. Before they capped it, BP had to test the integrity of the well, which I believe is the first time BP and integrity have ever been used in the same sentence.” –Jay Leno “Apparently BP’s containment cap is leaking. When asked if the rumors are true, a BP spokesman said, ‘Aren’t there any more Mel Gibson tapes?’” –Craig Ferguson “The CEO of British Petroleum is leaving his job. It’s not official, it just leaked out.” –David Letterman

“Well, this week, Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston revealed exclusively to Us Weekly, my bible, that they are getting married. Sarah Palin allegedly not happy about this, because she feels they barely know each other and they are making a big commitment. You know, kind of like when John McCain picked her for vice president.” –Jay Leno Bristol Palin is getting married to Levi Johnston. Sarah Palin is so excited that she can’t even make up words to express how thrilled she is.” –David Letterman Bristol Palin wants Levi Johnston to wear a camouflage vest at their wedding next month. When she heard that, Sarah Palin was like, ‘That’s fine, I wasn’t planning on aiming that high anyway.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“According to a study by the Brookings institution, Washington D.C. has the highest concentration of smart people in the United States. Lets see; we have a mess in the Gulf, we have a dysfunctional Homeland Security, and we are $13 trillion in debt. Imagine how bad it would be if these people weren’t geniuses. Dick Cheney is recovering from heart surgery in the hospital. I understand Fox sent flowers, and MSNBC sent a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese. Newspaper circulation has fallen to a new low and they say they are becoming obsolete. To give you an idea of how bad it is, today I saw a guy sleeping on a park bench with an iPad on his face.” –Jay Leno

“You remember Bill Clinton? Bill and Hillary went out and bought a brand-new house in upstate New York. It’s one of those houses that has a name. I believe it’s called Rancho Impeacho. It’s so hot in New York City that conservatives have started the ‘Iced Tea Party.’ David Letterman’s Top Ten Things Overheard on President Obama’s Vacation 10. “Please, Mr. President, don’t throw your butts in the pool” 5. “Any interest in pardoning Lindsay Lohan?” 1. “A 48-hour vacation? Bush took naps longer than that”

So that’s it for our last blast for July 2010. I don’t want to say the summer is flying by, but I already have my clothes picked out for the first day of school. So enjoy those summer picnics and be ever grateful for the plentiful food around us because believe me, it’s not that way for everyone, including too many families across this country. We’ll catch you down the third base line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Jorge Posada fans.

July 18, 2010

Roses Are Red, Whales Are Blue

Good morning and greetings, capped oil well fans. Well, the weather, much like my love for skinny jeans, has turned here on the central coast, as the fog, chill and gloom have been temporarily replaced by clear, sunny skies. But the blue sky, warm breezes and clam chowder in a bread bowl are not the only things that have returned, and as an incredible number of blue whales came to party in Monterey Bay about two weeks ago. Combine that with the reaper fans who swam here to see Blue Oyster Cult at the Boardwalk on June 25, and the bay’s burnin’ for you.

In a story, or “In-A-Gadda-Vida” for you Iron Butterfly fans, written by Laith Agha for the Monterey Herald, July 7 was once of the most extraordinary whale watching days ever here on Monterey Bay. Nancy Black, a marine biologist and owner of the Monterey Bay Whale Watch, says this is the first time since 2003 that blue whales or Dodger fans had been seen in any sizable numbers in the Monterey Bay.

At the time, including humpback whales and Miami Dolphins, 140 baleen whales were feeding in local waters. They flocked to Monterey’s waters to visit the acquarium and to feed on the abundance of krill, a favorite food of baleen whales. Instead of teeth, blue and humpback whales trap their food with baleen, a flexible bone structure that looks like a gigantic comb and acts as a filtering system that sieves small animals from ocean water, which is the same process I used to filter thru the sweet and sour shrimp at the Mandarin Garden’s all-you-can-eat buffet.

Because of the ecotourism, Northern Pacific blue whales typically breed and vacation 400 miles west of Costa Rica, then head north and toward the coast to feed. Though they often are spotted around the central coast from July to October, they have been spending the past few feeding seasons fattening up near Santa Barbara and farther south. This is because that is where the most krill has been and many are Laker fans, says local blue whale expert Tony Lorenz.

The prevalence of krill in local waters depends largely on oceanic upwelling, a wind-driven process that causes nutrient-rich water from the ocean depths to move toward the surface. So it’s not just the Kareem that rises to the top. Conditions have not been right in recent years to support large krill populations in the waters around Monterey, Lorenz says. Because blue whales primarily feed on krill and the fact that the Warriors only have made the playoff once over the last 16 years, they have not come around much.

At 75 to 100 feet long and upward of 100 tons, blue whales are the largest animals on Earth. They are larger than any dinosaur or anyone in Yao Ming’s family. To satisfy their appetites, they eat 4 tons of krill and a sandwich each day. There are about 10 million krill and a kosher pickle in each ton. Krill and avocado salad are the only things blue whales eat. The tiny shrimp-like creatures cluster together and whales ingest hundreds of thousand of them on at a time along with cocktail sauce and a few Ritz crackers.

Because of unregulated whaling in the first half of the 20th century, the blue whale was nearly hunted to extinction. That’s why I’m not crazy about harpoons or anyone mentioning my blubber. About 360,000 were killed from 1900 to 1966, when the International Whaling Commission banned hunting of blue whales. The global blue whale population is estimated at 10,000, with about 2,200 believed to live in the Pacific Ocean off North America or in Capitola.

Because of their size and oil inside them, blue whales were one of the most hunted whales for centuries. By the early 1900s they were almost extinct and rebuilding the species or a franchise is not easy, just ask Golden State Warriors fans.

The whales seem to be using long range communication or Facebook, as they can hear each other from a couple miles away to try and get the word out about the krill a minute. When blue whales have shown up in the past, they have been known to stay through summer and fall, then some head south as late as Christmas while the Jewish whales stayed thru Hanukah.

But how long they stay this time will depend on the food supply. “They could be here for a few days or a few months,” Black says. “We hope they’ll stay around here for a while.” Most likely they’ll stick around until, in the words of BB King. “the krill is gone.”

Let’s move onto this week’s photo entry. It was exactly three years ago today that I was heading down to the Boardwalk the see the fabulous Eddie Money in action. As I walked along West Cliff Drive, I spotted a pelican feeding frenzy in progress and hustled back to my car, grabbed my camera and proceeded to take more shots than Cav’s owner Dan Gilbert did at LeBron James after he announced he was joining Dywane Wade in South Beach.

Some kind of bait fish was running in the bay as the pelicans were dive bombing into the water like baseball fans going after a Derek Jeter home run ball at Yankee Stadium. It was a warm, beautiful night as I joined the pelicans to soak in the Money Man’s medly, including my personal favorite, “Wanna be a rocker, wanna be a rocker, wanna be a rock n’ roll star.” Eddie, who’s been performing here for years, was in classic form that evening. In his words, “I remember coming here in the 70′s when I was snorting South American countries.” All his greatest hits and a geography lesson.

I took the last couple of shots of the gulls and the coastline after the show. Just a classic combo of nature and rock, as there was a whole lot of shakin’ going on along the edge of the continent. The Money Man hits the Boardwalk this summer on July 30, with two shows at 6:30 and 8:30. And the best part is, the sand, sea, and sounds are free. As they say at Fort Knox, rich or poor, it’s nice to have Eddie Money.

And here’s the late night. “Rush Limbaugh had an apartment here in New York City. He sold the apartment for $11.5 million. That is $2.5 million for the apartment and $9 million for what they found in the medicine cabinet. But it was a huge apartment — 4,000 square feet of space. No, wait a minute, that’s Rush. Sold it for $11.5 million. It has a very narrow view. It overlooks the flaws of the Republican Party.” –David Letterman

“Let me say congratulations to Spain. They won the World Cup yesterday. Spanish people all over the world celebrated in the streets, except of course, in Arizona.” –Jay Leno “South Korea has new robots along its border with North Korea that can detect and kill intruders. Meanwhile they’re installing robots along the U.S. border that say ‘Hola.’” –Jimmy Fallon BP is putting a new cap on the leaking oil well. It could capture up to 90 percent of the disgusting filth that’s spewing from there. And if it works, they’re going to try the same thing on Mel Gibson.” –Craig Ferguson

“A lot of people continue to be very upset by the fact that we can’t get Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden? We can’t even get Roman Polanski. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner passed away. He was a tough guy. Within five minutes in heaven, he fired God and told Jesus to lose the beard.” –Jay Leno “If you know anything about the big spy swap here in New York City, there were 10 spies and they were running around New York City stealing secrets. They arranged a big spy swap. It was very exciting. We sent them 10 spies, and they sent us four spies, plus a Cuban pitcher.” –David Letterman

So that’s it for this week’s entertainment. Last Wednesday, a gopher came out of a hole in my front yard and saw his shadow, which means at least six more weeks of saying, “what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan?” On a more positive note, congratulations go out to my cousin Gina, who’s softball pitching daughter Julie gave birth the same day to a 8 pound, 11 ounce boy. Reports are both mother and son Landon are doing well while Gina is warming up in the bullpen.

So enjoy the super selection of summer fruits and let’s all look forward to the day when we start to rebuild the Warriors and this country. We’ll catch you on the warning track. Aloha, mahalo and greetings, Joe Lacob fans.

July 11, 2010

Birds Fly Over the Oil Spill, Why Then, Oh Why Can’t I?

Good morning and greetings, heat wave fans. While the east coast was suffering under scorching, brutal, record breaking heat and humidity last week, the central coast was cooler than the other side of my pillow. If you like cold and foggy weather in the July, then Santa Cruz was the place to be. What tourist doesn’t love wearing mittens and a down jacket at the beach? Or to paraphrase my old pal Mark Twain, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer riding the Big Dipper.”

The temperatures have been sweltering inland, but the chilly, gray sky mornings are normal weather for the coast. According to meteorlogist Diana Henderson of the National Weather Service in Monterey, “it’s not unusual. This happens every year at this time. That’s why they film ‘Baywatch’ in Hawaii.” It’s understandable, because we wouldn’t want to see Pamela Anderson wrapped in a blanket as she tries to save a school of baby dolphins from getting caught in a riptide. That would defeat the porpoise.

The central coast’s frigid summer conditions comes mostly from the chilly Pacific Ocean, which acts as an air conditioner and minty air freshener, according to Henderson. “Without it, we’d be Nevada.” That’s right, blackjack, showgirls and the illusions of Siegfried & Roy, right here, where the redwoods meet the sea and anarchy.

My thanks to Shanna McCord of the Santa Cruz Sentinel for the weather service updates. When I woke up Tuesday morning, the ground was soaked like my tank top after a ten mile run up the coast. It looked like rain, but it was actually the drizzle from the heavy fog. I hadn’t seen that much condensation on the ground since Jennifer Beals took the stage in ‘Flashdance.’

That brings us to our top news story of the week. As reported by Andrew Zajac in the Los Angeles Times, the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service said it would begin paying some gulf region farmers, ranchers and football coaches to flood their fields so that migratory birds can find alternative rest and nesting grounds to oil-fouled habitats.

The Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative will pay to use up to 150,000 acres of land “to provide feeding, resting and reading areas for migratory birds.” The program applies mainly to former wetlands, low-lying land and skateboard parks in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas and France. Conservation officials are hoping to attract birds who don’t have internet access to safe areas before they land on shores and wetlands contaminated by the massive oil spill.

Landowners would be expected to flood fields and promote the growth of vegetation and snacks favored by migratory birds, or to enhance existing wetlands on their properties, as rice fields, fish farms and Long John Silver restaurants are particularly suited to the initiative.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has fouled off numerous pitches along with marshes and coastal areas relied on by birds and other wildlife. The gulf region sits beneath one of the world’s major migratory flyways, with about 1 billion birds from more than 300 species passing through annually, says Greg Butcher, a vegetarian and director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society. “None of this is guaranteed to work,” Butcher says. “We’re expecting that this will work at least a little bit. We’re hoping that it’ll help a lot. What I’m really trying to say is these birds are screwed”

On that positive note, in a story reported by Michael Kunzleman for the Associated Press, less than three years before New Orlean Saints won the Super Bowl and the Gulf oil spill erupted, federal regulators and a couple of fortune tellers concluded several offshore drilling projects posed a low risk to endangered wildlife – a determination that contrasts sharply with recent scenes of birds and vacationers struggling to survive the slick.

A September 2007 memo from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said large oil spills from the proposed Gulf drilling projects under review were “low-probability events” that weren’t likely to affect brown pelicans, sea turtles, other animals or the economic futures of fisherman, shrimpers and oyster lovers with Gulf Coast habitats.

The memo concluded that the chance of oil from an offshore spill of at least 1,000 barrels reaching endangered species or their habitats was no greater than 26 percent. Now, I’m no math whiz, but I’d calculate their estimates were off by, approximately, let’s say, a million percent.

Less than three months before the Fish and Wildlife Service issued its memo, the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that the same Gulf leases, including BP’s for Deepwater Horizon, were “not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of threatened or endangered species.” Well, I’m sure that comes as a relief to all the migrating birds and their families. Because as we all know, a bird in the hand is worth two gallons in the Bush administration.

So in honor of Larry Bird and friends, I thought we would take a look at some winged creatures who reside here on the central coast. We start with a great blue heron, who I photographed right outside the arch early one morning at Its Beach. I shot the snowy egret in the landing mode right after it had flown through the same arch on an extreme low tide afternoon. This was the same day I photographed a rainbow through the arch and decided that I wanted to be Mikhail Baryshnikov when I grow up.

Then it’s onto four snowy egrets in a marshland up in Richardson Bay in Mill Valley, followed by some pink flamingos vacationing in Palm Desert and a snowy egret reflecting in the pond at Natural Bridges. Flamingos don’t actually live here on the central coast but sometimes journey to Monterey Bay for a spa weekend and to have their legs shaved. Much like myself, they enjoy standing on one leg with the other tucked beneath their body. It’s both relaxing and a way to save on the wear and tear of our shoes.

The final image is a red shouldered hawk, who I photographed at Antonelli’s Pond, which is less than a mile by the way the crow flies from my compound here on the westside. It was early in the afternoon when I spotted this beauty. With my zoom, I was able to get close enough to get a shot of those incredible talons wrapped around the branch. And the best part is, this is the only hawk, besides Dominique Wilkins, that I’ve seen in this spot over the past eleven years. There’s something about capturing the flag or the moment.

Here’s a taste of the late night. “The East Coast is suffering from a terrible heat wave. Wall Street bankers are jumping out of windows just for the cool breeze on the way down. You people are so lucky you live in California. This heat wave back east is just unbelievable. … It was so hot in Washington, Nancy Pelosi skipped the Botox, had her face injected with frozen yogurt. Back in 1776, Americans were fighting to escape British rule, these days we’re fighting to escape British oil. They say traces of BP’s oil has started turning up in disturbing places, like congressmen’s pockets.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our show, petroleum lovers. Here’s a few quick petro facts before I cruise off into the fog bank. Americans drivers consume 19-20 million barrels of oil every 24 hours. That’s 10,000 gallons a second. If we all drove 30 miles less per week, oil consumption would drop 20%. Then again, if my aunt had,er, spheres, she’d be my uncle. Just a few things to think about the next time you fill up the old Hummer.

So in honor of the uniting of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, I’m taking my Sonny Crockett jacket out of mothballs. Sorry Knick fans, but your suffering will continue.

So enjoy the long days of summer and let’s hope someday that we leave Afghanistan. And if you have moment, say a little prayer for the displaced and homeless. We’ll catch you in the American Airlines Arena. Aloha, mahalo and later, David Lee fans.

July 4, 2010

Beauty Is In The July Of The Beholder

Good morning and greetings, fireworks fans. I know many of you are enjoying the holiday but perhaps wondering, how come most of us are not working today? So as part of my patriotic duty and for the fact that I love singing “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,” with the help of Wikipedia, answers.com and my unending stream of semi-conciousness, here’s a quick refresher course on why kids blowing off their fingers and firecrackers on the Fourth of July has become part of the American landscape.

In the United States, Alaska and Hawaii , Independence Day is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence which declared our independence from the Great Britain, which except for their language, wasn’t really all that great. The Fourth of July is commonly associated with fireworks, parades, barbecues, fist fights, carnivals, fairs, picnics, drunken driving arrests, concerts, baseball games, domestic violence and political speeches that help celebrate one of America’s great three-day weekends.

The trial separation of the American colonies from Great Britain occurred on July 2, 1776, when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve a resolution of independence along with an internship for Monica Lewinsky. Congress then turned its attention to the Declaration of Independence, which had been prepared by a Committee of Five and the Five Stairsteps, with Thomas Jefferson as its principal author. Congress debated and revised the Declaration, finally approving it on July 4. A day earlier, John Adams texted to his wife Abigail:

“The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America, and not just because most Americans will be home from work. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival and blowout mattress sale day. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty and Major League Baseball. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more, or at least until we restore our economy, exit Iraq and Afghanistan, and clean up that damn oil spill.”

Adams’ prediction and my birth were off by two days. In a remarkable coincidence, both Adams and Thomas Jefferson, two founding fathers of the United States and the only two men who signed the Declaration of Independence to later become president, died within hours of each other on the same day: July 4, 1826, which was the United States’ 50th anniversary, and the same day of birth as my high school homecoming queen, Vicki Grimsland, the Michelle Pfeiffer of Fort Lee High. Happy birthday, Vicki, and will you please sign my yearbook.

The Declaration of Independence declared. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,
that all men (with the exception of Michael Jordan) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Coincedentally, this is the same oath I had take from Direct TV when I ordered by NBA League Pass.

With these memorable words, Thomas Jefferson, at the age of 33, laid the cornerstone for the United States of America and later his late wife’s half sister, Sally Hemings. The Declaration of Independence invokes the principle of natural rights and lefts. These are the basic rights of which each individual is possessed, and of which he cannot be stripped by society or government except during the George W. Bush administration.

The adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the opening of the first Circuit City took place against the backdrop of ongoing Revolutionary War hostilities. When the signers affixed their John Hancocks and signatures upon the document they were, in the words of the group Triumph, “laying it on the line,” since there was a bounty on the revolutionaries’ heads. Who knew this kind of trouble could come from absorbent paper towels that clean up the smallest spills and biggest messes.

When Benjamin Franklin said, upon signing the Declaration of Independence, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately,” it was no less than the literal truth. Just ask Saddam Hussein. Fifty-six men and a notary public signed the first copy of the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock, as president of Congress, was first, and he famously wrote his name front, center and large, right before cutting the ribbon on opening of his first insurance company. Remember, for all your financial needs, we have the solution. We’re John Hancock.

Let’s move on to this week’s photo sunspots. Traditionally, July is not a big month for sunrises or the cleanup of the biggest environmental disaster in world history. Looking back into the archives, I have only photographed one July morning sky blowing up over Monterey Bay in the past five years. This is due to coastal fog, lack of clouds and the fact that my contract with National Geographic allows me to sleep in past 5:30 am in the summer.

This central coast beauty graced our skies in July of 2006. It was a warm summer morning, a day that Michelle Obama probably went sleeveless. I woke up from my usual dream of not having studied for my test after not being able to find my car keys while being buck naked. So with that fine start to the day, I grabbed my Miley Cyrus mug, filled it with Red Bull and headed down to the coast.

As you know, when it comes to sunrises, I don’t stray far from Lighthouse Point. But at this time of the year, the sun rises further to the east, so I headed to Cowell’s Beach for the low tide equinox. Surfers were out in full force, as the offshore winds had me swaying as gently as a dancer at a Taliban bachelor party. As you can see, it was a fantastic start to the day, as the clouds, the reflection on the sand and the voices in my head all came together for this convergence of morning light.

On to the late night. “Sunday is July 4, when America combines our two favorite pastimes: alcohol and explosives. The fireworks are beautiful to look at, but more importantly, they drown out the gunfire.” –David Letterman “July 4 is my favorite holiday. No presents, no church, just a lighter and a trunk full of explosives.
Here’s a fireworks safety tip. Don’t get drunk and leave bottle rockets on the grill unless you want to see your hot dogs fly, which is fun too. For the second day, there were no World Cup games. I missed the sound of vuvuzelas so much that I taped a beehive to my head.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“BP’s company newsletter has an article that says most gulf residents aren’t upset with BP because their cleanup crews have boosted the local economy. BP taking credit for boosting the economy in the gulf is like al Qaeda taking credit for creating jobs in airport security.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Here’s something great. Russian spy ring here in New York City. They were busted in New York City. Once again, they were spotted by an alert T-shirt vendor. The Russian spies tried to blend in. They were acting like Americans. As a matter of fact, for two weeks, they were pretending they loved soccer.” –David Letterman

So that’s our first blast for July 2010. Yesterday, I drove by a cemetery, where hundreds of American flags were blowing in the wind. And then it hit me like a ton of emotional bricks, this is what this holiday is all about. For all our faults, God Bless America, home of the brave, land of the free. Or as they say in the NBA, “my country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of free agency.” LeBron James, of thee I sing.

Anyway, take a moment to remember how fortunate you are to be an American. Or a National Leaguer. We’ll catch you in the bullpen. Aloha, mahalo and later, Larry King fans.

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