January 30, 2011

Does This Sunset Make Me Look Fat?

Good morning and greetings, Indian winter fans. I don’t want to say the weather has been pleasant recently, but last week I felt a warm breeze brush up against my cheek and thought, is this really Santa Cruz? It felt more like Hawaii or downtown Fiji. But after this luau of tropical thoughts cleared my mind, I knew this feeling of winter warmth was just temporary, like the crown on my upper right back molar.

But who am I to complain, as the temperatures across the country have been colder than the center of the petite filet I ordered last week at the Sizzler. I have been receiving satellite photos from back east of the snowfall and I am astounded at how much white powder has fallen out of the sky this winter. It’s like the Mexican cartels have taken over the Weather Channel.

Let me pass along a few facts about the fluttering flakes. This January is on record as the snowiest in history. The northeast has had six major snowstorms (we’re talking heavy, wet snow) since Hanukah. Cities like New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Boston, Syracuse and Beaver Falls have set new record snowfall totals. Unbelievable! I wish I could be back there to enjoy the blinding snow, black ice and heavy shoveling, but that would require wearing boots, gloves and a jacket, which would be in violation of my eleventh commandment, thou shall always wear shorts and not freeze like a popsicle.

But here it is late January, and the skies have been clearer than my complexion at my senior prom. Last week, the plum trees blossomed at the field where I run my golden retriever, producing thousands of pink flowers that decorated the trees and covered the ground with a layer of color of a pink, creme-filled Hostess Sno Ball. For a Ring Ding Jr. man like myself, this cornucopia of spring colors in the middle of the winter was a visual treat, like any episode featuring the lovely Sofia Vergara on “Modern Family.”

Moving along, much like the Rodney Dangerfield movie classic from 1986, last week I went back to school. I’ve always valued the importance of knowledge and have tried to further my education as much as possible. I want to keep my mind sharp as I battle the middle ages, so I made sure I had my notebook in place and pencils sharpened when I signed in for Traffic School.

Now the reason for this back-to-school moment was, I was traveling a tad above the speed limit on my way to San Francisco in December. Thank God that officer got me on his radar, and when he U-turned around and put on his flashers, a feeling of calm came over me, like angels dusting my face with baby powder. Ever since receiving this ticket to the CHP’s Ball, I have slowed down on the road. It was a valuable lesson that will stick with me for the rest of my life, or at least the next 18 months.

There were so many schools to choose from in the online classroom. There was the Too Lazy For Traffic School, the Not Guilty Traffic School, The Speeders Network and The Comedy School for Less, among others. Being someone who’d like to be in the islands, I chose the Aloha Traffic School. All in all, it was a valuable learning experience about rules and safety on the roadway, as I can’t remember the last time I had that much fun without laughing. I will carry that certificate of completion near to my heart as this is as close as I’m going to get to receiving a master’s degree.

For our photo runway, I was going to blast out a gorgeous winter sunrise, but instead I am upping the ante and bringing out the big guns. This my favorite sunrise from our first month, taken back in January of 2008. Everything came together this night at Natural Bridges as the sky, the clouds, the sand, colors and reflection action were just off the charts. I remembered standing on the beach during the final shots and thinking about how lucky I was to be experiencing this moment of incredible beauty while wondering if I had locked my keys in the car. God gives and I take.

On to the late night. “In the State of the Union address tonight, President Obama focused his speech on how to bring prosperity back to America. It basically involves all of us convincing Oprah we’re her half sister. That’s the plan.” –Conan O’Brien “The Republican response to the President’s State of the Union speech was fairly gracious. They said it was a pretty good speech for a foreigner.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Three Supreme Court justices — Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas — did not attend the State of the Union address. Taking their place was Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson.” –Conan O’Brien

“The White House held a state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao. The cellist Yo-Yo Ma was there. It’s the first yoyo we’ve had in the White House since George W. Bush.” –David Letterman “There was one really awkward moment when Hu found out that Obama was a Nobel Peace Prize winner and, out of force of habit, tried to have him arrested.” –Jay Leno “At the state dinner, Hu opened a fortune cookie that said, ‘You will lend us another trillion dollars.’” –Conan O’Brien

“John Boehner was subject to some controversy because the President hosted President Hu of China this week, and Boehner was invited to the State Dinner and did not come. President Hu was very disappointed. He promised his friends back home that he would get a picture with ‘orange man who leaks.” –Bill Maher “A Washington Post columnist is proposing a ‘Sarah-Palin-Free February,’ a whole month in which she’s not mentioned. This is stupid. Don’t pick February, the shortest month.” –Jay Leno “Egypt is in the second day of angry street protests. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling for calm. Because nothing calms an enraged Arab country like a powerful woman ordering it around.” –Conan O’Brien

“A social networking revolution has started in Saudi Arabia. Over 10 million Saudis are now online. In fact, the most popular social networking site for women in Saudi Arabia: ‘Cover-Your-Facebook.’” –Jay Leno “The U.S. Postal Service announced plans to close an additional 2,000 branches after losing $8.5 billion. Maybe in retrospect, making people wait in line while you slowly finish your bag of fiery hot Cheetos isn’t such a good idea.” Taco Bell pulled its ads during MTV’s new show “Skins” because of its inappropriate content. MTV was like, “Really, Taco Bell? We have inappropriate content? Have you seen what’s inside a chalupa?”–Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our last blast for January. Birthday wishes go out this Saturday to my friend, confidant and translator for these blogs, Nancy Mager. Nancy is from back in the old country and although she would be too modest to mention it, developed the first recipe for baked ziti. She herself, is quite the Italian dish. When you have a Yankee fan like this in your life, you are very fortunate indeed.

So enjoy the national food and beverage holiday we call Super Bowl Sunday we’ll catch you at the championship trophy presentation. And remember to try and appreciate every day for what it is. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kevin Durant fans.

January 23, 2011

The Farmer In Waddell

Good morning and greetings, North Coast fans. It was a true delight walking on West Cliff last week, as the swell was big and the light outstanding. When the mornings and my mind are clear, the colors and waves are, in the word of a fellow westside traveler, “just exhilarating.” The sun’s reflection on the cliffs creates a shiny, dark-gold, turkish taffyish look. Colors like this reinforce me of how I’m lucky to be on the edge of the continent instead of in an office at eight a.m.. As the Duck and Cover boys say, “you never forget your first cubicle.”

So what shall I bless my captive audience with this week? My textile-loving friend Kristal suggested a while back that I do a culinary blog, informing my cyber guests of the vodoo that I do each week in the kitchen. I told her that I don’t think people will be all that fascinated hearing about my adventures with beef stroganoff, eggplant parmesan, or my savory and succulent chicken that falls off the bone faster than Charlie Sheen did off the wagon.

I know I’m only human, and even though I’m 99% vegan, every once in a while I succumb to the lure of a chocolate bar. I just happen to be a vegan who loves a good baby back rib. What people might be interested in is the inordinate amount of cranberry sauce I consume during the year, but that’s just for religious purposes.

Let’s just say when I buy my Ocean Spray around Thanksgiving time, I don’t purchase by the can, I haul it away by the flat, 24 Cannes at a shot. It’s a jellied film festival of cranberry delight all-year round with no sugar added. Along with Mott’s applesauce, in the words of the Doobie Brothers, when it comes to my consumption, “what were once vices are now habits.”

Now as fascinating as this is, let’s move on to today’s photo vortex. Waddell Creek Beach is 20 miles north of Santa Cruz up Highway 1. It is known worldwide for its steady, strong northwest winds and good surf. Although I don’t surf, kite surf, free dive, free bird, water ski, jet ski, skim board, boogie board or even take my jacket off, what I always love about this place is the collection of birds scattered along the beach.

This area is home to 250 species of birds. This is a spot where the pelicans stop to clean their wings in the creek and go for a spa treatment. I never know what I’m going to find when journeying up the North Coast and Waddell comes into sight. Rest assured I am rarely disappointed, which is more than I can say about being rejected at feeding time by my own mother soon after birth. In the words of the great Rodney Dangerfield, she said she just liked me as a friend.

So let me give you a little history of this glorious swatch of coastline. Charo and Spanish sea expeditions visited the Waddell Valley as early as 1543. In 1769, Antonio Banderas and the Portola expedition discovered the redwoods. They had been exploring on the coast of California, and first spotted the redwoods or “Palo Colorados” along with a Baja Express about forty miles south of Big Basin. The Spaniards declared them to be the “thickest, tallest, and straightest trees they had ever seen since Pau Gasol and his brother Marc hit the NBA.”

They camped at the mouth of the present-day Waddell Creek. Many members of the expedition were ill and dying of malnutrition when they first arrived in the valley. However, the berries, wild game and the Jamba Juice quickly restored their health, inspiring them to name it “La Canada de Salud” (The Valley of Health), which is no relation to the Valley of the Dolls.

A number of farming families and wind surfers settled in the lower part of the Valley in the early 1800s. In the mid 1860s, William Waddell conducted an extensive timber harvesting operation in the area. The lumber was used extensively in the post gold-rush building boom of Chinese restaurants and Starbucks in San Francisco.

On October 1, 1875, Waddell was hunting deer on the land above his homestead. At that time, California’s coastal mountain ranges were still home to many bears and packers, and as Waddell started up a ravine, he was attacked by a large Grizzly and severely mauled. He lived just long enough to tell the story to his closest friends and family and then died five days later. His timber operations were soon discontinued because the family’s pain was too much to bear.

So the first two shots give an overview to the beauty of this wind-swept wonderland. I photographed the next set from the same spot on my way down the coast in December. The gulls were dominating the action on this gray day. You can see the mouth of Waddell Creek flowing into the Pacific in photo #4. We finish with some reflection action on a gorgeous fall afternoon, as these gulls just wanted to have fun.

This is the spot I headed for when I took my first digital camera on a test drive back in 2005. I snapped about 75 shots in five minutes without film hesitation and thought, yeah, this will work. There was a pretty sunset that night and the rest is film free history. The beautiful thing is, little did I know then and now I know even less.

Let’s head to the late night. “We had a national tragedy this week, and the President of the United States and Sarah Palin both made speeches on the same day. Obama came out against lunatics with guns, she gave the rebuttal.” –Bill Maher “President Obama says he’ll go to the Super Bowl if the Chicago Bears are playing in it. Sarah Palin says she’ll go to the Super Bowl if actual bears are playing in it.” –Jimmy Fallon “The debate over repealing healthcare began in the House today. The Republicans have their own plan: “Don’t ask, don’t get sick.”–Jay Leno

“President Hu Jintao from China is visiting the United States. Ahead of the big state dinner, President Obama went to Hu’s hotel and slipped a menu under the door. If President Hu likes what he sees, he may put down a deposit. There was a big dinner for the President. General Tso brought his famous chicken.” –David Letterman

“Chinese President Hu Jintao made his first official state visit to the Unites States. Vice President Joe Biden has been asked not to do his “Hu’s on first” routine.”–Jimmy Kimmel “There was a really awkward moment when the Chinese president met President Obama’s daughters and asked them, “So what factories do you kids work at?”–Jay Leno “New Speaker of the House John Boehner chose not to attend the dinner for Chinese President Hu. In China, they’re calling him an orange chicken.” –Jimmy Fallon

“According to TMZ, Charlie Sheen was partying in Las Vegas again on Monday. But to be fair, everybody celebrates the legacy of Dr. King differently. Congratulations to the new Miss America, 17-year-old Teresa Scanlan. You can tell she’s still a teenager by her talent — texting while driving.”–Jay Leno ” Despite cutting half of the city’s police force, the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, says the city’s crime statistics will not be affected. When asked how that’s possible, he cited the new law that makes stabbing a misdemeanor.–Conan O’Brien

So that’s our NFL playoff report. There are many beautiful beaches north of Santa Cruz, and we’ll be doing more cyber sightseeing as the year flows along. So enjoy the clear skies, the warm January weather and we’ll catch you in the right flat. Aloha, mahalo and later, Blake Griffin fans.

January 16, 2011

Have Gun, Will Unravel

Good morning and greetings, NFL playoff fans. Well, the world-wide weather picture has gotten off to a flying start in 2011, as there was horrific flooding in Australia, torrential rain and killer mudslides in Brazil and enough snowfall back east as to waltz into a winter wonderland. Gone away is the bluebird, here to stay is Lobster Newburg.

The big news this week continues to come out of the desert in Tucson, Arizona, where the nation tried to make sense of the tragedy that left six dead and 13 wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This shooting by a deranged gunman played out all over the world and led my daughter to ask, “Dad, do you own a gun?”

Now the Beatles said “happiness is a warm gun” but I’ve always been more of a Guns N’ Roses, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” kind of guy. My first thought was to tell her, yeah, it’s in my bottom drawer, next to the hand grenades and my missle launcher. But that would have been wrong. Let me state for the record that I do not own a gun, water pistol, pea shooter, rifle, shotgun, sling shot, bazooka, machine gun or sherman tank.

The only time I’ve fired a weapon was during riflery at summer camp, and I will admit I enjoyed checking the target to see my marksmanship. However, that was the only time I was packing any heat, although a couple of times I’ve left my house concealing my garage door opener on my belt.

Since I’m not a policeman, prison guard or currently in the military, I really have no interest in drawing my weapon and firing at anyone. I do my shooting with a camera, and all my aiming is to please. The concept of shooting someone, with the exception of any Taliban, Al Queda or the boogie man does not really appeal to me.

It’s not so much that I’m a pacifist, it’s just that I’m allergic to bullets. Or as Woody Allen once told me, “years ago, my mother gave me a bullet and I put it in my breast pocket. Two years after that, I was walking down the street, when a berserk evangelist heaved a Gideon bible out of a hotel room window, hitting me in the chest. Bible would have gone through my heart if it wasn’t for the bullet.”

Now I normally don’t quote the President of the United States or the American League in these pages, but in case you missed the Obama eulogy in Tucson, I thought I’d pass on a few words. Barack Obama said he wanted to “make sense out of that which seems senseless. When a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos. But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

He added these words when speaking of nine-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, who was gunned down while meeting her congresswoman at the local Safeway. “I want us to live up to her expectations. I want her democracy to be as good as she imagined it. All of us – we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children’s expectations.”

These are the kind of words I enjoy hearing coming out of the mouth of our elected leader rather than “mission accomplished.” They were written by the President, chief speechwriter Jon Favreau, senior adviser David Axelrod and Cody Keenan, a former writer for late Senator Edward Kennedy. The reason I mention this is because unlike the President, I wrote this post alone, with an assist from my spellchecker/senior grant writer Nancy Mager of Tucson, who drove by the shooting site twenty minutes before it happened and was horrified that this tragedy happened in her wacky, gun-loving state.

Let’s move from lack of gun control to something a little more colorful and relaxing. Today’s photosynthesis brings us back to the lovely sands of Natural Bridges State Beach on the evening of January 6. It was a night of intense color and big waves, as the swell was pumping and surfers were out in droves. And if you check out photos two and five, I actually caught a couple of wet-suited boys in action with my tow-in photography. It’s like I always said, if it swells, write it.

As you can see, the heavens turned some lovely shades of orange, red and purple, just another winter sky on Santa Cruz’s north shore. Colors like this always pump me up, which is the same feeling I got watching the world’s most dangerous closer, Kobe Bryant, going up against the Warriors on Wednesday night. Both the sunset that night and Kobe’s late game heroics were performances you see once in a lifetime. No two are the same and then they are gone in a flash, not to be repeated because last time I checked, nobody was TiVoing sunsets.

Let’s head to the late nite. “Sarah Palin’s reality show will not be returning as she contemplates a possible run for president in 2012. When a candidate walks away from a reality show, that’s when you know they’re serious about being president of the United States. A new study shows that a woman’s tears can chemically lower the level of testosterone in a man. When that happens, the man will also start to cry and then eventually be elected speaker of the House.” –Jay Leno “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a speech urging Arab leaders to enact real reforms. Halfway through the speech, Arab leaders looked at each other and asked, “Why is a woman talking?” –Conan O’Brien

“The two biggest websites right now are Wikipedia, where you go to learn about things you care about, and Facebook, where you go to learn about people you stopped caring about years ago.” –Craig Ferguson “There’s a new website that allows you to use Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, surf the web, and read all the news in one place. That one place is called “work.” –Conan O’Brien

“So far this winter, it has snowed in 49 out of 50 states, but not Florida. So now, your grandparents can complain that the snow doesn’t visit them either.”–Jimmy Kimmel “Astronomers discovered the smallest star in a far-away galaxy, called a dwarf star. I had about 50 jokes about the dwarf star and, what a coincidence. They all ended with Tom Cruise.”–David Letterman

So in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday, Jason and I are headed up to the Oracle Arena today to see the Warriors take on the Carmelo Anthony-less Nets. Last year when we went my growing boy brought a sign, “I also have a dream-the Warriors in the playoffs.” I couldn’t have been any prouder. Like son, like father.

So let me leave you with the most famous of quotes from Dr. King from 1963. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’” That is, everyone except Michael Jordan in his prime.

And Warrior fans all over the bay area share in his dream, as despite years of ineptness ny management, they have risen up in their seats and shouted in unison, “oh, deep in my heart, we do believe, we shall overcome and make the playoffs some day.”

A final thought. I took my all-time favorite sunrise shot back on Dr. King’s birthday back in 2005, so this day is special in many ways. So enjoy what’s left of the three-day weekend and we’ll catch you running a cross pattern. Aloha, mahalo and later, Dorell Wright fans.

January 9, 2011

Swing Low Tide, Sweet Chariot

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 5:04 pm

Good morning and greetings, January Jones fans. Well, it’s the first month of the new year, which has a much different feeling than the final month of last year. You say tomato, I say Himalaya. It’s almost like December could be divided into two months, Dee and Cember, which coincidentally, are the names I gave the two baby squirrels that I raised from infancy. Those two really drove me nuts.

The first part of December was spent being visually assaulted by commercials and advertisements brimming with the holiday theme. Fortunately, Hanukah came early this year, I believe right after July 4th, so I didn’t get caught up in the gift buying, gift giving and gift returning action. I’m still in the dark about Black Friday.

I always felt somewhat disappointed when receiving a gift that either didn’t fit, I wouldn’t wear on death row or was just so worthless that it could never be regifted. To be honest, I’m not real big on the whole gift giving deal. I prefer to give on a more year round basis and what I try to package most is laughter, which is not what anything I have written so far might necessarily evoke.

The second part of December was a different story as after Santa shimmied down the chimney, order was restored to earth and then it was on to the question, so what are you doing for New Year’s Eve? Are you going to stay up until midnight? I certainly did, if you’re counting New York time.

Once the ball drops in Times Square, that’s it for me. Having grown up on the least coast, I still pretty much celebrate New Year’s Eve on eastern daylight time. I was once at Times Square for this blessed event, and it was so cold that pickpockets were putting their hands in their own pockets. Well, one trip to Dick Clark country was enough for me. I’m much more of an American Bandstand fan anyway. If I’m not dancing, I’m not living.

So since the new year is still as fresh as my memories of my high school prom, for the sake of God and country and my mother who’s reading this, I want to reiterate what I hope to accomplish with this non-prize winning site called Sunrise Santa Cruz.

America is still a wacky place. Just look at the insanity that occurred in Tucson on Saturday. The Republicans have taken over the House and the very tan, (bordering on orange) John Boehner is now the new Speaker of the House. For him to have risen to this Congressional position, to quote Woody Allen, “is a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.” Or in the words of my favorite political writer Matt Taibbi, Boehner is” a five-tool insider who can lie, cheat, steal, change his mind on command and do anything else his lobbyist buddies and campaign contributors require of him to get the job done.” How refreshing.

So my goal, my mission, my sharona is on every Monday morning, I want you to be able to journey to a place that is warm and sunny, where the sky is always blue and the birds are always singing. A destination where you can relax and laugh and enjoy the simple moments in life. Kind of a micro mini-mental vacation. Or you can just hit the delete button and live your life without me and my dendrite nation.

For our photo entourage, I was going to showcase a beautiful sunrise that greeted me on my return to this cold water paradise. Instead we’re journeying to the same location but at a different time of the day. Or in the words of Dr. John, “I been in the right place but it must have been the wrong time.” It’s as if I don’t know where I’m going but I know where I’ve been. Or perhaps I don’t know where I’m going but I know I want to be there.

I had a vision that there was going to be an extreme low tide last Tuesday, so I grabbed my camera and Etch A Sketch pad and headed down to Its Beach. The tide was so low that not only was I able to walk through the arch but I was able to walk around it, which I had only done once before. And keep in mind, sports fans, that due to wind, waves and erosion, the arch and this blog will not last forever as the look of the coast and my hairline is always changing.

The sand, which comes and goes with the winter storms, was in full force and had covered over much of the rocks, making the beach as smooth as the silk kimomo I wear when practicing my tai chi. The low tide exposes the wonders of sea life that are normally covered by water, including sea stars, sea anenomes and little mermaids. It was a wonderful day to return to my roots and shoot my favorite arc de triomphe without having to take a trip to Paris.

In the first two shots you can see the view thru the arch looking east to the lighthouse, while the next two point west towards the setting sun. Throw in a couple of starfish and then we finish off with an overview of Its Beach as the sun floods the golden Pacific waters. As much as I love lo mein, I’ll always go with low tide for my main course.

On to the new late night. “Republicans took control of the House for the first time in four years. They say they’re going to stick to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. I hope you didn’t like voting, women and non-whites.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Now that the Republicans have taken over the House, they’re going to undo everything President Obama has done. John Boehner even told the Obama kids that the dog has to go back.” –David Letterman

“John Boehner chose a huge gavel. I think somebody’s compensating for his small government.” –Stephen Colbert “How about the new Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Have you seen this guy’s enormous gavel. I’m telling you, if in four hours, that gavel is still that size, he’s got to call a doctor. “Doesn’t he look like every guy you’ve ever seen at a hotel bar? He looks like the kind of guy who licks his thumb when he counts his money.” –David Letterman

David Letterman’s “Top Three Things Overheard During The Republicans’ First Day In Charge Of The House”
3. “No, Sen. McCain, Woodrow Wilson doesn’t work here anymore”
2. “When do we get to sleep with the pages?”
1. “How soon can we go back to invading countries for oil?”

“President Obama says he read three books while he was on vacation. Or as Sarah Palin put it, ‘showoff.’” –Jimmy Fallon “One man claims President Obama wants to give the entire U.S. back to the Indians. That’s terrible. They might build burial mounds on top of our sacred malls.” –Stephen Colbert “Borders bookstores are struggling to stay in business. This could be the first time in our country that borders are actually closed.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our report. I hope all you NFL fans enjoyed the football weekend, as Saturday was Wild Card madness at its best. So let’s pray for sanity and we’ll catch you under the goal post. Aloha, mahalo and later, Jrue Holiday fans.

January 2, 2011

Everyone Stay Palm Desert And Don’t Panic

Good morning and greetings, New Year’s fans. Well, 2010, much like the resolutions I made 48 hours ago to lose weight, exercise more and watch less TV, is now history, so hello 2011. But I must confess that I’m always more excited about the even numbered years. Yes, I know, that seems odd.

I spent a week over the winter holidays in lovely Palm Desert, which is located directly east of Palm Springs for those of you who have never visited this desert oasis. It is a winter haven filled with swaying palm trees, sparkling green fairways and luxurious accomodations for those seeking a Sunday brunch with ice sculptures shaped like a young Dinah Shore.

So while much of the country was as frozen as the gluten-free french toast sticks in my freezer, the desert was as warm as the holiday greeting card I received from Kim Jong II. And rumor has it while I was desert storming a little bit of snow fell in the New York Metropolitan area. It conjures up the words of my old pal Irving Berlin, “I’m dreaming of a whiteout Christmas.”

On our first few days in the southland a little moisture dropped down on the sand traps and putting greens. I’m lucky I brought along my “Sons of Anarchy” poncho, because on December 22, more rain fell in the Coachella Valley than in all of 2009. Because of the constant downpour, you wouldn’t have known this was a desert wonderland of golf, tennis and Indian casinos. It was like the old joke, what happens when the fog lifts in California? UCLA.

The following day, Noah hauled away his ark and the skies returned to their crystal blue persuasion. The snow-capped San Jacinto mountains went back to changing color throughout the day rather than being shrouded by low lying clouds. I’m not sure Moses would have recognized this place, as the palm trees, waterfalls and endless lakes might have confused the guy who parted a fool and his money right after the Red Sea.

But it might have inspired the eleventh commandmant, thou shalt build condos on the golf course with a pool and hot tub within 100 yards surrounded by fruit trees that bloom throughout the winter. Growing up in New Jersey, I was not aware that this warm weather paradise existed. I was happy just watching the traffic flow smoothly on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge.

So normally when I’m in the desert mode I’m shooting photos every day. Sunrises, sunsets, masseuses-in-training, flowers, road runners, gun runners, flocks of airborne Canadian geese and Canadian bacon. But due to sports, weather and traffic and still being in shock from the New York Giants’ collapse against Michael Vick and the Eagles, I was happy just connecting the dots in my coloring book.

Well, that’s not completely true, as I did shoot one lovely sunrise, which I have featured in photos five and six. But since this is the first post of the year, I wanted to bring to you, in the words of author David Halberstam, “The Best and the Brightest,” and let you see for yourself how spectacular the desert skies can be. I didn’t journey out there on a horse with no name, but let me tell you, it was good to get out of the rain.

Photos one and two are my favorite sunrise shots from along the back nine of the golf course at the Palm Valley Country Club. Over the years, people have asked of the second shot, was this taken in Bali, Cambodia, or Staten Island? No, it’s early morning action in the Southern Californian desert, which is great way to start the day before snorkeling in the hot tub.

Photos three and four are a couple of epic sunset shots from the land of the Bob Hope Classic. On the first, the sky turned as crimson red as any Alabama moment that I’ve ever witnessed here on planet earth. The next shot was just off the charts, as I could see from the way the clouds were lining up that the mother lode of sunsets was approaching. It turned out to be better than I had hoped, much like the matzo ball soup at my bar mitzvah party.

I should mention that on our ride up the coast to fly out of SFO the sights were also spectacular, as the storm was in full flow and thousands of gulls flooded the beaches. These were as beautiful gull shots as I had ever seen and would have made for a fantastic storm blog, but we wanted to get to the airport as quickly as possible so we could wait for a few hours as our flight was delayed, which is not the same as CANCELLED, which we experienced on our attempted return home.

And just in case you were were wondering how long it takes to drive from Palm Springs to Santa Cruz, go with 8.5 to 9 hours, just to be safe. And in the parting words of one of my newest best friends, an unnamed California Highway Patrol officer who I met early Wednesday morning just outside of Pescadero, “watch your speedometer.” A simple “Mele Kalikimaka” would have been sufficient.

Here’s a little taste of the late night. “This morning President Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ into law. He would have signed it last night, but supporters of the bill didn’t want to miss last night’s episode of ‘Glee.’” –Conan O’Brien “President Obama signed into law the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ What does it say about us that we think gay men can handle armed combat, but can’t handle marriage? The census shows there are more than 308 million people living in America. The amazing part is: More than half of those people are Americans.” –Jay Leno “Sarah Palin is getting into the Christmas spirit. Today, she shot a partridge in a pear tree.” –David Letterman

So that’s our first blast of 2011. Hopefully, the new year will be filled with joy, good health and hope that things will be better for so many Americans. And if not, maybe they’ll be more garlic shrimp in my next takeout order. It’s great to be back in the saddle with my cyber audience. We’ll catch you running a deep fly pattern. Aloha, mahalo and later once again, Dwyane Wade fans.

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