May 29, 2011

Things Aren’t Always What They Museum

Good morning and greetings, Steamer Lane fans. Last Friday, the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society along with the Parks and Recreation Department and a dozen sea gulls invited the community to rendezvous over at Lighthouse Point to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first museum on the west coast solely dedicated to surfing and kelp beds.

Now I am very familiar with this location, as Lighthouse Point is my prime-time, number one, numero uno shooting spot when it comes to photographing world-class sunrises over Monterey Bay. I love using the lighthouse as a photographic point of reference, as it falls somewhere between the spectacular setting of Half Dome in Yosemite and the inner city quaintness of the old Yankee Stadium.

But today we are not referring to the outside of the lighthouse, but instead what lies within, which could be compared to my gruff exterior which belies a heart of gold. I wanted to know the inside word on how this sacred spot was deemed surf museum worthy.

I knew there was only one man who could answer these questions, and with any luck he wouldn’t block my call when I dialed him up. He is Howard “Boots” McGhee, who is a consider to be a friend, mentor and someone who I wouldn’t contact unless I had severe writer’s block.

Boots, who hails from the Seacliff side of the tracks, is a long-time surfer, much accomplished photographer and a mover and a shaker in this area, or at least that’s what he told me to write. He is also one of the gentlemen who is responsible for this Surfing Museum’s existence, so I went right to the source to find out how this history was made along West Cliff Drive.

Boots told me that back in 1985, before he and I started doing in the tow-in thing with Laird Hamilton, he was part of a small group that decided to turn this brick structure into the first surfing museum on the mainland. What a concept, a museum inside a lighthouse. It was like serving up a creamy bowl of Santa Cruz surfing history inside a sourdough bread bowl.

In the words of this man who’s a former body double for Bruce Willis, “it’s an interpretive museum. It’s a place where you learn things on the inside and then you step outside and you’re on top of the arena where it’s happening.”

How true, as once you exit this visual encyclopedia of Santa Cruz surfing lore, you’ve got Steamer Lane on one side and Its Beach on the other. This is not what surrounds the Museum of Natural History in New York, as when you exit onto 79th Street at Central Park West, very few dinosaurs are roaming the streets, unless you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Larry King.

Here’s one more thought. You might want to go check out the Surfing Museum sooner than later. Because of the sea caves and the erosion going on underneath this structure, this building will not be here forever. Boots gives the museum another ten years before it will have to be rebuilt across the street. Then again, years ago, he got smacked in the head with a longboard, and since then every time I see him he asks if I want to join him for lunch with Duke Kahanamoku.

So today I am featuring six shots of the lighthouse under different lighting conditions. I had dozens of shots to choose from, but these six give you a pretty good idea of what goes on in the sky at this incredible spot at the headlands of Monterey Bay. Santa Cruz, where the sky meets the sea.

Before we head into the late night, I wanted to make mention of the violent tornado that devastated the lives of the good folks of Joplin, Missouri. Turns out this last killer twister was something unique and not so special. Video evidence shows that it appears to be a rare “multivortex” tornado, which contain two or more small and intense subvortices that orbit the center of the larger tornado. That is why this twister was the deadliest tornado since the 1940′s and left the city of Joplin looking like it had been hit by a bomb.

To the late night we go. “The pastor who incorrectly predicted the Rapture said it was a very tough weekend. To make it worse, his friends keep calling him saying, “Hey, it’s not the end of the world!” –Conan O’Brien “The man that is predicting judgment day predicted the end of the world in 1994. He also predicted that Ashton Kutcher would never return to television.” –Craig Ferguson

“The preacher who predicted the apocalypse last weekend now predicts that the world will end in October. It’s the first time that someone’s end-of-the-world prediction was followed by ‘Have a great summer.’” –Conan O’Brien “Harold Camping, who predicted the end of the world, says the new date for the apocalypse is October 21. If it rains, it will be October 22.” –David Letterman “The Rapture-predicting preacher, Harold Camping, is really scaling back his predictions. He now predicts the end of the month will be May 31.” –Jay Leno

“President Obama visited the Irish village where his great-great-great-grandfather was born. Of course, that was always disputed by his great-great-great-grandfather’s archrival, Donny McTrump.” –Jimmy Fallon “That’s right, Obama was in Ireland. He thought about buying a four-leaf clover for good luck, and then he looked at the field of Republican candidates and decided it wasn’t necessary.” –Jimmy Fallon “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels emailed his supporters over the weekend to tell them he’s not running for president. In response, his supporters were like, ‘Dad, we live in the same house. Couldn’t you just tell us in person?” –Jimmy Fallon

“New video has surfaced of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1991 saying the housekeeper does a ‘great job.’ One clue might have been that he then added, ‘And she’s also a great housekeeper.’” –Conan O’Brien “There are rumors Arnold Schwarzenegger may have had a second child with another woman. I can’t believe Arnold would cheat on his mistress like that. “Turns out that Maria Shriver could end up with 100,000,000 dollars from her divorce from Arnold. She deserves it. She was a devoted wife and mother to at least 40 percent of his children.” –Jimmy Fallon

“A new Facebook app is coming out that will remind users exactly what they were doing a year ago from that day. Nine times out of 10, the answer will be ‘wasting your time on Facebook.’” –Conan O’Brien “Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, announced that he’s running for president. And this is cool — if his campaign isn’t over in 30 minutes or less, you get your pizza for free. “Subway sandwich shops are testing out several upscale restaurants called Subway Cafes. They feature wood paneling, lounge seating, and other things to distract you from the tuna fish being served with an ice-cream scoop.”–Jimmy Fallon

So that’s my Memorial Day weekend rant. I apologize for the fact that there were no NBA playoff games over the weekend, but that’s what happens when young teams Chicago and Oklahoma City implode down the stretch and ruin it for everyone. So enjoy the NBA Finals and we’ll catch you in June. Aloha, mahalo and later, LeBron James fans.

May 22, 2011

Okay, Who’s Nest?

Good morning and greetings, nature fans. State park officials recently announced that because of budget cuts, seventy state parks across California will close starting in September. Holy Rosa Parks, that’s a 25% slice and dice. We’re talking beaches, redwood forests and parks with historical and cultural significance with rest rooms that haven’t been thoroughly cleaned in years. You would think at a time when vacation money is tight that the parks would be a natural place that would stay open, but this is not the case.

Governor Jerry Brown had to slash the budget and state public services got carved up like a honey-baked ham. Personally, I blame Arnold Swarzenegger for not being able to keep it in his pants.

Fortunately, one California State Park that escaped unscathed was Natural Bridges State Beach. So this is where our journey begins today as we are featuring that sleek, black sea bird that swims like Michael Phelps, the cormorant. Last week I saw a couple of huge flocks flying low to the water, furiously flapping their wings in a v-formation, as they were either on their way to feeding grounds or late for birds-only retreat.

So every weekday morning, after summoning up the courage to get out of bed, I knock back a couple of organic Pop Tarts and drop my kids off at school. I then head over to West Cliff Drive before settling outside the entrance to Natural Bridges, where my wife and I start our four mile, er two miles, er mile and a half stroll along our favorite street in Santa Cruz.

I am always excited in April when the cormorants return to this nesting spot on the edge of the cliff (photo #1) to build their nests, lay their eggs and discuss their hopes and dreams. I’m not sure if this is where they’ll actually mate, but who wouldn’t feel love in the air in a spot where the tides flow in and out, waves crash below you 24 hours a day and you can double date with pelicans.

Last year, a colony of these colonial nesters showed up at the usual time, built their custom homes but then halfway through the party abandoned this prime shelf of real estate. Local birders informed me in hushed tones that word on the street was that there wasn’t enough food and they were starving and forced to move on. It was very disturbing to have them leave so suddenly, but it was nature’s way of telling me something was wrong.

So at this point in late May, the females are sitting on the nests while their mates gather fish n’ chips and talk sports. Actually, both parents take part in building the nest and incubating the eggs, but the males get credit as the general contractor. I shot photo #3 last week so you can see what stage we are at with these sea birds. But just in case we don’t make it to the birth announcement stage, I threw in photos 5 & 6 from a few years back so you could see what these spanking new toddlers look like at birth.

Much like my time at Woodstock, the newly hatched cormorants are blind for their first three days on earth as well as buck naked. For the next five to seven weeks their mothers will sit on them, protecting their newborns from the wind, rain and natural predators like the nature photographer. And like my daughter’s worst nightmare, the babies are fed through regurgitation until they grow big and strong enough to fly off to join larger flocks or enroll in the Peace Corps.

It’s a west side treat to watch this magical event along the edge of the continent, from the flying in of the grasses, seaweed and dry wall for the nests to the lamaze births of the babies, all done out in the open in Pacific Ocean time. If you want to check it out, just park in the upper lot at Natural Bridges and walk outside the entrance and voila, you’re at cormorant nesting central. If things go according to plans, the chicks will hatch and then they’ll hang around through the summer with day trips to the Boardwalk, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Phil’s Fish House. For us locals, it’s like watching Animal Planet on the big screen of life.

On to the late night. “They found so much porn at Bin Laden’s compound that they’re investigating whether the porn was used to send coded messages. So remember guys, from now on when your lady catches you, you’re not looking at porn, you’re analyzing coded messages. ‘Honey, I wasn’t looking at porn. I’m in Al Qaeda.’” –Conan O’Brien “They have found Osama bin Laden’s diary. Some entries: ‘Very unhappy with TV reception. Death to Time-Warner.’ ‘Three wives, one bathroom, you do the math.’ The final entry: ‘Dear Diary, can’t talk now. Someone’s at the door. Hope it’s the Domino’s guy.’” -David Letterman

“President Obama’s approval rating, which got a bump after killing bin Laden, has slipped again. Which is really bad news — not for the president, for Moammar Gadhafi. President Obama suggested that Israel should go back to the pre-1967 borders. Native Americans said, “Why stop there? Let’s go back to the pre-1492 borders.”–Jay Leno

“I’m Conan O’Brien, or as I can now publicly call myself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jr. Schwarzenegger secretly fathered a child outside of his marriage 10 years ago. He told his wife at the time but it took 10 years for her to figure out what he was saying.”—Conan O’Brien “There have been rumors going around for years now about a half Austrian, half Mexican baby who could bench-press a Ford Expedition.” -Jimmy Kimmel

“Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a lovechild back in 2003. He’s been taking care of the child financially, providing healthcare and education — the same stuff he took from every other child while he was governor of California. “I guess ‘love child’ is a nicer term than ‘OK-Maria’s-asleep child.’ The woman was an employee. I’m not sure what she did, but I think she worked on Arnold’s staff.” -Craig Ferguson “Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted that he fathered a child with a member of his household staff. He kept this secret for more than 10 years. You know how he did it? He moved the woman and child into an apartment right down the street from the Pakistani military academy.” -Jay Leno

“Mitt Romney raised over $10 million in eight hours. That’s a dollar for every position he’s had on healthcare.” -Jay Leno “Ron Paul announced that he will run for president, and he supports the legalization of prostitution and heroin. If he does win, it will be one heck of a victory party.” -Conan O’Brien “Al-Qaida has a new leader. It’s quite a success story. He worked his way up all the way from the mail bomb room.” -David Letterman

So that’s our pre-Memorial Day weekend blast. Birthday wishes go out on Wednesday to my life-partner, soul mate and sports-loving wife Allison, who as you can imagine, has put up with plenty from yours truly over the years. And on Saturday, it’s that special day for my Marin-based sister-in-law Wendi, a faithful reader of this blog who lives life like every day is summer camp. So enjoy the singing cicadas, NBA conference finals and we’ll catch you in overtime. Aloha, mahalo and later, Maria Shriver fans.

May 15, 2011

April Showers Bring May Flooding

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 4:46 pm

Good morning and greeting, crosstown traffic fans. The voodoo child himself, Jimmy Hendrix, once said, “rainy day, dream away.” At this stage of my life, which is far off Broadway, I’m more of a “rainy day, shoot away” fan, which means the sun can take a holiday.

So back on a gray, dreary morning in April, as a light rain fell, I grabbed my camera and a picnic basket full of freshly baked antioxidants and headed up to place full of color and enchantment, the Aboretum at UCSC.

I managed to stay awake during the five minute drive and by the
time I arrived at the front gate, the rain and my arches had stopped falling. I love shooting close ups of flowers after the rain, as the moisture just adds to the beauty of the moment. Which leads me into my favorite line about precipitation from the master Woody Allen. “I love the rain-it washes the memories off the sidewalk of life.”

The UCSC Aboretum is located on the campus of my alma mater, the University of California at Santa Cruz, where back in the late 70′s I received a degree as a double major in sociology and pick up basketball. It was originally part of the massive land holdings of pioneer settler Henry Cowell, who when he told people of his vast real estate empire, would often hear the reponse, “holy Cowell.” Rest assured, this is information you won’t find on Wikipedia.

The Arboretum and my journey into manhood began in 1964, with a gift of about 80 species of eucalyptus, a lemon pound cake and handful of magic beans. This piece of Santa Cruz unreal estate occupies one of the most highly favorable horticultural sites on the planet. The unique weather and topographic diversity are like few places in the world and the soil is as fertile as the Ocotmom.

The Arboretum then started importing plants from all over the southern hemisphere, and if you are a fan of exotic-looking flowers like the space-age South African protea, than there is no better place to come and feast your eyes. This is the main course for today’s photo six pack. Hundreds of species from down under were sent to this garden spot and grown for the first time in America, creating the largest collection of Australian plants outside of Crocodile Dundee’s back yard.

So what we’re talking about is acres and acres of gorgeous plants from all around the world living the good life overlooking Monterey Bay. I highly recommend checking it out as I always have a certain glow when I leave this place. Or maybe that’s just the radiation.

Unfortunately, April showers bring more than April flowers. The grand ol’ Mississippi River set a record for high water level last week at Natchez, Mississippi. This was not a mark farmers, casino owners or river boat captains were looking for Mother Nature to
break. Because of a huge snow melt and a very wet spring, the river is swamping towns, millions of acres of farmland while doing wonders for the sand bag business. This newest disaster is
causing billions of dollars in damage and the full extent won’t be known till the river crests, as four of five dentists recommend Crest for their patients whose houses are now submerged
by water.

So you may be wondering, how fast is the water really traveling? Well, according to Michelle Bryner of Life’s Little Mysteries on, the Mississippi River is currently flowing at 2 million cubic feet per second in Memphis, which is comparable to a football field of water at a height of 44 feet per second.
Another way to look at it: If you were to stand at one point in the river, it would be as though 2 million basketballs of water were moving past you every second. The NBA and Mississippi River, where amazing happens.

My favorite river to spell is about 2,350 miles long. It starts up in Minnesota and passes through of Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and Louisiana and Mississippi before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the flood conditions, animals have been forced to vacate their homes and condos, including a lovely little snake known as the water moccasin, which has headed for the trees and people’s homes.

Much like the East German Olympic team, they are strong swimmers, and their deadly fangs will put a crimp in your day, unless you’re not bothered by tissue damage. And it gets even better for wildlife fans, as the flood waters also contain alligators, spiders, rats, bats, gnats, cats, fire ants and uncles. So you might want to check with a lifeguard or exterminator before
entering the water.

On to the late night. “Al-Qaida has not yet picked a new leader to run their terrorist organization. Apparently, candidates keep losing interest after asking, ‘What happened to the last guy?’” –Conan O’Brien “Apparently Osama took a lot of Viagra. That’s why they thought he was armed.” –David Letterman “The White House announced that the $50 million reward for Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts won’t be going to anyone. Then China was like,
‘Wanna bet?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Osama Bin Laden’s supporters want to rename the Arabian Sea where his body was dumped Martyr Sea. Really? Martyr Sea? Hiding in your bedroom for six years? How about Chicken of the Sea? It seems the country of Packalies, I mean Pakistan, is threatening to end cooperation with the U.S. What are they
going to do, cut off our heroin?” –Jay Leno

“Sarah Palin said Obama should stop ‘pussyfooting around’ and release the photos. Yes, because the guy who ordered the SEALs into a sovereign country without permission and killed public enemy number one is a pussy, and the woman who quit her job as the governor of a state with no people after half a term and won’t do an interview with anyone but Greta Van Susteren is a bad-ass. Right.” –Bill Maher “In the wake of President Obama’s decision to
not release pictures of Osama bin Laden’s body, a number of new conspiracy theories are surfacing claiming that bin Laden is not really dead. Which means Barack Obama will go down in
history as the first black person ever to have to prove that he killed someone.” –Seth Meyers

“The unemployment rate went up last month for the first time since November. But on the bright side, I hear a senior management position just opened up at al-Qaida.” –Jimmy Fallon “The identity of the Navy Seals that killed Osama bin Laden is being kept secret. It’s for their own safety. It’s to keep them from being high-fived to death.” –Jimmy Kimmel “The CIA is going
through the stuff they found in Osama bin Laden’s compound, including a diary. They haven’t read it yet because they can’t find the little key to open it up.”– Craig Ferguson

David Letterman’s “Top Five Questions on the Application to Replace Osama bin Laden” 10. “How many threats per minute can you type?” 7. “How do your co-terrorists describe you?”
6. “What is the current bounty on your head?” 2. “Were you bar mitzvahed?” 1. “What are your long-term goals, besides not getting killed by Navy SEALs?”

“The safest delivery driver at UPS recently logged 4 million miles without an accident. He’s being awarded UPS’s highest honor: long pants.”–Jimmy Fallon “President Obama gave a speech about how great it is to have immigrants in our country. Maria Shriver may give the rebuttal.”–Jay Leno

“Oreo is planning to unveil a 3-cookie Double Stuff Oreo with an extra layer of cream called the “Triple Double.” The other name they considered was “Rocket Ship to Planet Diabetes.”–Conan O’Brien “A Dairy Queen in Canada broke a world record this week by creating a 10-ton ice cream dessert. Or as we call that in America, “a medium.”–Jimmy Fallon

So another week is now in the books. Enjoy the NBA conference finals and we’ll catch you in the low block. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kevin Durant fans.

May 9, 2011

Harbor Sealed With A Kiss

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 5:20 am

Good morning and greetings, North Coast fans. If you like marine mammals, then Sunrise Santa Cruz has filled your viewing needs the last couple of weeks, as we’ve featured elephant seals, sea lions and a couple of San Jose Sharks.

So this week, in honor of the Navy SEALs who took out Osama Bin Laden, we are shredding up the coast to check out some harbor seals, who all agreed that living in a custom built home in Pakistan would be much better than holing up in a sea cave, especially when it came to getting TV reception for their favorite shows on Animal Planet.

So it was on a lovely morning in May that I headed up to Four Mile Beach to check out the low tide action. The wild flowers were in full bloom, and any time I journey to this spot it’s a treat, as I never know what I’ll find, much like when emptying my pockets after a rave concert.

On this day the beach was loaded with gulls, who were chatting it up on the sea grass that normally would have been covered over by water. And then to my surprise and delight, I spotted some harbor seals resting on the shelves . They eyed me very suspiciously, like I was going to ask them to sign release forms. Fortunately, a few lingered long enough for me to get a few shots, as most of their cohorts hightailed it into the Pacific and refused to come out until I left the beach, even after offering them hot chocolate and fresh scones.

Since then, I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot these adorable-looking creatures. My daughter has always been a fan, as she is quite fond of their heart-shaped noses. I’m just happy that she still thinks I’m on an extended sabbatical from Harvard.

So for some bonus nature coverage, I went back to Four Mile a couple weeks later, and as I headed down the path to the beach, I spotted a bobcat ahead of me. This was going to be my lucky day. Like a undercover lover, I tracked him down to the sand, where I nailed a couple of shots of this beautiful juvenile. I then contacted Boy’s Life, National Geographic and Guns and Ammo, and they had no record of any photos of bobcats in the sand. Up next I’m going after Bigfoot and UFO’s at sunrise.

Things got a little dicey later when I followed the bobcat up into the brush and all of a sudden he turned and started coming at me. Fortunately, thanks to a year of Algebra 1, I’m an expert at playing dead, so I convinced to leave me intact, as I’ve found that jagged puncture wounds really can spoil your morning. Coincidentally, on this same day, a crazed bobcat attacked a couple of hikers in Arizona and tragically killed one of them. Fortunately, all I came away with was some big cat memories and a case of poison oak.

On to the late night. “There’s already been some trouble for Osama bin Laden in the afterlife. There was a mix up and he was greeted by 72 vegans.” ?David Letterman “Osama bin Laden is dead, which means the No. 1 threat to America is now the KFC Double Down.” “President Obama gave the order for Navy SEALs to kill bin Laden. When President Bush heard about it, he was really upset, saying, ‘I could have used seals?’” ?Conan O’Brien

“Bin Laden was living in a house with no Internet access, which explains why there were all those bin Laden sightings at the Islamabad Kinko’s.” ?Conan O’Brien “Apparently, members of al-Qaida are online slamming the U.S. I don’t understand why they’re so upset. Everyone in al-Qaida just got a promotion. Osama bin Laden’s death has been in the news all day. Leftish stations are going, ‘President Obama saves the world.’ Stations on the right are going, ‘Obama kills fellow Muslim.’” Craig Ferguson

“I would like us to kill bin Laden every Sunday night. It makes for a much brighter start to the week. And so, Osama Bin Laden got his first bath in almost ten years. This could the best shark week ever.” ?Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan. That’s right, bin Laden is dead, just like the Republicans’ chances in 2012.” ?Jimmy Fallon “Osama bin Laden was apparently shot twice in the face. It looks like Dick Cheney may have been involved.” David Letterman

For their honeymoon, the royal couple wants to go somewhere they can have complete privacy and no one in the country will give away their location. I think they’re going to Pakistan.” ?Jay Leno “Trump said that he hoped bin Laden suffered a lot. It looks like he got his wish, because the CIA said bin Laden spent his last hour watching Celebrity Apprentice.” Conan O’Brien “The CIA says Bin Laden’s last words were, ?Are you guys here about the dishwasher?” Jimmy Kimmel

“In the wake of bin Laden’s death, the NBA has announced that it will use metal detectors at all playoff games to screen for weapons. Or as the players put it, ?Uh oh.” Jimmy Fallon A 61-year-old bearded man went to the airport in New York, said his name was Osama bin Laden and he had a bomb in his bag. They knew it wasn’t real, because he wasn’t being protected by the Pakistani military.” They say Bin Laden lived this compound with nine women and 23 children. I’m surprised the guy didn’t shoot himself in the head.” Jay Leno

So another week is in the cyber books. We enjoyed some warm weather as of late, as on Wednesday, a mixture of high pressure, offshore winds and the second round of the NBA playoffs brought record breaking heat as Santa Cruz hit 86 degrees. So all in all, It was a pretty good week unless you were a Laker fan. We’ll catch you in the courtside seats. Aloha, mahalo and later, Rajon Rondo fans.

May 1, 2011

From Sea To Shining Sea Lion

Good morning and greetings, Crimson Tide fans. I have been keeping my semi-loyal, subscription-free readers up-to-date about the tornadoes that have been ravaging the south and midwest. Now, you may be wondering, Geoff, (if I may call myself that), what is this obsession with tornadoes? Why not the Olds Toronado? With so much else going on in the world, why are you so interested in these twisters?

It’s a simple answer, my friends and compatriots. I love exotic weather. Much like the question and answer section of the Miss Universe Contest, severe weather conditions have always fascinated me. As I write this, it could be pounding snow in Lake Tahoe, pouring rain in Missouri, hot and humid in West Palm Beach and 82 degrees and perfect on the North Shore of Oahu. Or as my son Jason once said about island weather, “cloudy with a chance of paradise.”

So last week it was Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that felt the full brunt of the devastating effects of the most recent killer twisters. This has been the second deadliest tornado outbreak in history, as twisters a mile wide with 200 MPH winds wiped out neighborhoods in seconds on their killing path. These aren’t just your every day incredibly terrifying tornadoes, they’re super tornadoes that the boys and girls at the Weather Channel haven’t witnessed in years.

The atmosphere, much like Memphis Grizzly fans, have been in a frenzy as the jet stream keeps blasting along the country, as warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico keeps feeding these super cell thunderstorms that produce monster tornadoes. And here’s the kicker, sports fans. April is not the number one tornado month. The crown is held by Miss May.

What blows me away about tornadoes is the incredible quickness of its destructive powers. When a fire burns down your house, it’s a fairly slow process as the flames take their time in wreaking their havoc. With a tornado, it’s a couple of seconds and everything is gone. Your home, your memories, your sofa, gone before you could say “what happened to Katie Couric?” Tuscaloosa will not be the same for a long, long time as we’ve learned it’s not just the little towns that the twisters pick on.

Now let’s move on to today’s subject at hand. I’m a big fan of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. Now, it’s not because the “Locals Only” parmesan crusted chicken in a bed of garlic mashed potatoes at the Firefish Grill or Gilda’s $8.95 Prime Rib Special, which is one of the best bargains in town. It’s because of the pelicans, gulls, boys, eels, seals, tiger shrimp and sea lions that can be found along this pier. Well, that and the crispy french bread that kicks off the Gilda experience.

I had lunch their last week, and while I was enjoying my vegetarian tri-tip plate, a whale surfaced in the bay, less than 200 yards off shore. It was spectacular, much like the scalloped potatoes and clam chowder that come with this Tuesday $9.95 special. Seeing this magnificent creature rising up out of the water reminded me that only at the edge of the continent does this kind of magic happen. And at Sea World when Shamu is in the mood.

When visiting this local landmark, one can always check out sea lions languishing on the pilings, sleeping atop of one another on the boat landings or swimming in small groups off the pier. But on this day, as you can see in photos one and two, I caught a group hundreds of sea lions rafting just twenty to thirty yards off the wharf. It was a spectacular sight, as most were just relaxing after a fish and chips lunch. What made it more even more interesting was the sound of their heavy breathing, the kind I hadn’t heard since my early telemarketing days.

I had never experienced a gathering this large. I returned the next three days but there was no sight of this massive sea lion colony. So once again, it’s all about capturing the moment, as my venturing to Gilda’s for the freshly caught prime rib paid off big-time. It was a day that came along with a choice of potato or rice that I will truly never forget.

Now here are a few fun facts about our friends the sea lions. They don’t drink water, lemonade or ice tea as they get all the water from the food they eat. Thus, you will never see a baby sea lion with a sippy cup. Much like many of my older relatives back east, they do not chew their food and just swallow their fish whole, which is easy when it’s gefilte.

Sea lions love to dine on fish, squid, pro quo, octopus, pasta, shellfish, insensitive, crustaceans, and lemon grass spring rolls. They are among the most vocal mammals, as the bark, bite, growl, roar, snore, grunt, chant, whisper, honk and give the middle finger salute. Even though I live over two miles from the wharf, I can hear them barking in the morning. Now if I could just hear my wife when she calls me from upstairs, I could get rid of that damn baby monitor.

Sea lions get very nervous when they are in the same room with sharks, killer whales and IRS agents. They can sleep both in and out of the water, but hear better under water. Like I tend to do at pool parties, when sea lions deep dive, they slow down their heart rate to allow them to remain underwater for ten minutes before resurfacing. But unlike these sleek, exotic mammals, I always like to have a big beach towel and a cocktail waiting for me when I resurface.

On to the late night. “The White House Easter egg roll was held yesterday. It was a great opportunity for kids from all over the country to come to the White House and look for the president’s birth certificate.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama hosted the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. It was a little awkward though. Donald Trump showed up and demanded to see each egg’s birth certificate.” –Jimmy Fallon “The good news is, President Obama was born in America. The bad news is, so was Donald Trump.”–Jay Leno

“Donald Trump is now attacking President Obama’s grades, suggesting that he was a poor student. First it was the birth certificate, and now the grades. Trump won’t be happy until he proves that Obama doesn’t exist. Donald Trump says he’s glad the focus is off President Obama’s birth certificate, and now he’s demanding to see President Lincoln’s death certificate.’–Jimmy Kimmel “Trump was in New Hampshire, where they have the presidential primaries, and he was testing the waters to see if the country Is ready for a buffoon.”–David Letterman

“A study found Americans spend $1.2 trillion every year on stuff they don’t need. Or as Republicans call it, health care. New York just passed a law that allows same-sex conjugal visits for prisoners. Isn’t that pretty much what prison is?” –Jimmy Fallon “New Jersey had a governor, married, who decided he was a homosexual, and he was having so much fun being a homosexual that he didn’t want to be governor any more, and now he wants to become a Catholic priest. I’m just going to leave the punchline up to you.” –David Letterman

“It’s my birthday. Sadly, the celebration was marred when Letterman demanded to see my birth certificate.”–Jay Leno “One of Charlie Sheen’s “goddesses” broke up with him because she wants to live in a less dangerous environment. The same day that Charlie Sheen loses a goddess, all of a sudden, Katie Couric announces that she’s leaving CBS News. Coincidence?”–Jimmy Kimmel “A new study found that students who use Facebook while studying have 20 percent lower grades than students who focus. When kids who use Facebook heard that they were like, “20 percent? Big deal. What’s that, like 10 percent?”–Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our first verbal barrage for May. The first eight series of the NBA playoffs concluded on Friday, and it’s the best opening round I can remember since Woodstock. Round two, like the feel of the trade winds blowing on the North Shore, should be fantastic. So enjoy the May flowers and we’ll catch you screening on the baseline. Aloha, mahalo and later, Zach Randolph fans.

Follow Sunrise Santa Cruz on Twitter
Sunrise Santa Cruz in the news!