August 28, 2011

Today Special: Hibiscus and Gravy

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 2:42 pm

Good morning and greetings, hurricane season fans. Last week, we had some lovely weather here on the central coast. I’m guess I’m just a sucker for a blue sky. It’s like the song says, “gray skies are going to clear up, put on a happy face. Brush off the clouds and cheer up, and start spreading sunshine all over the place.” I’m all about sticking out my noble chin and slapping on a happy grin. Yup, that’s me in a nutshell.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve zeroed in on Hawaii and particularly the Garden Isle of Kauai. Today we’re going flower wild as Hawaii is a place that has a fragrance that smells like heaven. It is known as the “Island of Flowers” and holds the world record for having the highest numbers of gardens, rare species and for people exclaiming, “was that really Don Ho?”

As we know, this outstanding chain of islands was created by volcanoes and the early producers of Hawaii Five-0. The Four W’s, wind, waves, wings and the wiki wiki shuttle used to be the only way to make an appearance in this archipelago before the first Polynesians started bringing knick knacks with them in their carry-on luggage.

The Hawaiian islands are more isolated than the way I felt in the hours before my wedding, and because of that, it’s remoteness has acted as somewhat of a biological filter, since not a lot of species strolled up to the luscious spot in the South Pacific. But the ones that did should feel damn lucky, because this place, like my senior picture in my high school yearbook, is as beautiful as beautiful gets.

Hawaii is known world-wide for its tropical environment filled with exotically scented plants, stunning underwater marine life and the best prices on honey roasted macadamia nuts. There is a diversity of flowers that I haven’t seen since I was trapped under a float at the Rose Bowl parade. Because of weather patterns that are more consistent than my outside shooting, flowers grow on the island grow quicker than I can come up with metaphors for these posts.

These ornamental beauties are a huge part of Hawaiian culture, with the making of leis for ceremonial purposes and greeting tourists and agricultural inspectors arriving from the mainland. The tradition of giving leis is older that the phrase, “Book em’ Dano” and are used as a symbol of affection. They are given to someone to say hello, goodbye or make sure you wash that damn sand off your feet before entering my home.

My favorite flowers used in leis are plumerias, orchids and dandelions, which tell no lies. Photos three and four feature the fabulous plumeria, with has a fragrance to die for. There are usually white with centers of yellow, pink, purple, red and a creamy milk chocolate, but some feature different hues of exotic coloring. They grow like hot cakes in the Hawaii, but are not native to the islands, emerging instead from a exotic locales like the Amazon Basin in Brazil, the Congo Basin in West Africa and Kim Basinger’s back yard in Beverly Hills.

Photos one and two feature the plumeria’s friend, the hibiscus. A yellow hibiscus (photo #1) is the official state flower of Hawaii, and is called ma ma’o hau hele in Hawaiian, which translated means “this ain’t no California poppy.”

Studies have shown that the extract from the hibiscus flower lowers LDl cholesterol along with your risk of heart disease while keeping your hair looking shiny and manageable. There’s a tasty hibiscus juice and a shampoo, which is helpful in the natural treatment of dandruff, hair loss and tropical comb overs. The petals of this incredible flower are also used for the treatment of fever, curing coughs, helping kidney problems and raising SAT scores. All in all, this flower really packs a Hawaiian Punch, which are now available in new 10-ounce bottles, that are the perfect size to take with you, whenever you’re thirsting for a tropical drink that’s 5% juice.

And here’s one more interesting fact about tropical flowers. In Hawaiian culture, a flower placed in the hair behind woman’s left ear means a she is married. A flower behind the right ear means she is single. If she is wearing a flower behind both ears that means hold on, you could be in for an night of your life.

So for our foray in flora wonder, we start out with a couple of lovely hibiscus, then a couple of plumerias before heading back to the hibiscus front. The last shot was taken in the parking lot of Hilo Hatties in Lihue, which offers great deals on calendars and Hawaii Five-O t-shirts. Photo credits for shots two and three go to my daughter Aimee, who at age 14, has blossomed into quite a young, beautiful flower herself.

Not too much late night action this week. “The CEO of Starbucks said that President Obama shouldn’t be vacationing during a crisis, and that he should be getting Americans back to work — so they can afford a $9 cup of coffee. The White House is pointing out that all presidents take vacation. Teddy Roosevelt took trips to Long Island, Harry Truman would go to Key West, and George Bush would go to Legoland.” –Conan O’Brien

“There’s a fatwa on me. They say the guy that issued it is an Internet jihadist. “The State Department is investigating, but everyone knows it’s Leno. “President Obama is enjoying the fun and sun in Martha’s Vineyard. It’s really sad when your SPF factor is higher than your approval rating.” –David Letterman

“They felt the earthquake at Martha’s Vineyard. It was so bad, President Obama nearly missed a putt. “Today Mitt Romney announced he’s building a $12-million beach house in California. There’s a man who can read the mood of the country.” –David Letterman

So that’s our last blast for August. Still more photos to come from the Hawaiian side, so stay with me sub tropically. I’m glad Hurricane Irene didn’t blow away New York, although I may change my tune once the NFL season starts. We’ll catch you up in the press box. Aloha, mahalo and later, Derek Jeter fans.

August 21, 2011

Big Girls Don’t Kauai

Good morning and greetings, back-to-school fans. That’s right, last week it was mid-August, and my kids were happy as linguini and clams to back in the classroom. For me, it’s been two weeks since my return from vacationing in the South Pacific and I still have the aloha spirit sprinting daily through my mind. Kauai is a slice of paradise one doesn’t soon forget, and besides, I’m going to be milking these pictures from the Garden Isle longer than I reminded my parents I made the Dean’s List at Syracuse back before there was history.

So while I still have the island fever, let’s learn some more fun facts about our 50th state.

According to the early descendants of Steve McGarrett, the Hawaiian Islands were one of the last places on Earth discovered and occupied by humans. The first Polynesians landed in Hawaii after leaving their home in the Marquesas Islands some 2,500 miles away, in search of pineapples, papayas and plate lunches with two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad.

As I mentioned last week, modern contact was not made until Captain James Cook first anchored off Kauai in 1778. He named this sweeping archipelago the Sandwich Islands after his sponsor, the 4th Earl of Sandwich and his wife, the 1st Dutchess of Soup.

Hawaii is the most isolated population center on Earth. It is 2,390 miles from California, 3,850 miles from Japan, 4,900 miles from China and light years from Fort Lee, New Jersey. Much like my midsection, it is the only state whose land area is increasing as a result of lava flows from volcanic eruptions and the addition of Roseanne Barr to the Big Island.

Hawaii is the only state that is is not geographically located in North America, although some wonder if Arizona still belongs in the mix. It was one of only four independent countries before becoming a state, joining the Republic of Texas, the Vermont Republic, the California Republic and the Banana Republic, where new fall styles are now available for him and her.

Kauai offers seven distinct microclimates and breweries, from lush interior jungles to very dry areas on the west side. Mount Waialeale is at the center of the Garden Isle and is the rainiest spot in the world. Ancient Hawaiians recognized the importance of this location and built a temple on the summit along with a gift shop.

How it rains over 400 inches a year on the middle of the island while just 18 inches drop on the west side is a mystery to me and to the surviving members of Fleetwood Mac. Fortunately for the Tourism Bureau, much of the rain falls at night and the showers are brief, like my resolution to follow through on projects. But island rains bring rainbows, and that’s where dreams that you dare to dream really come true. Just ask any happy little bluebird.

Hawaii consists of eight larger, populated islands and 124 small, uninhabited islands, reefs, atolls b-tolls, and the Rolling Stones. It spans the distance of 1,524 miles, making Hawaii the longest island chain in the world. The islands are the subtropical tops of the biggest mountain range in the world. Hawaii’s tallest mountain, Mauna Kea, is higher than Mount Everest and Yao Ming when measured from its base, which is on the ground floor of the Pacific Ocean, from which there is no elevator, so you have to take the stairs up.

Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee and whose majority of people are non-white. Except for big wave surfers, It has the highest life expectancy in the United States. Aloha is a Hawaiian word that means hello, good-bye and slow down, this isn’t the mainland. The oldest newspaper found west of the Rocky Mountains is the Sandwich Island Gazette in Hawaii, which has a great sports and lava flow page. And finally, by law, no building on Kauai is allowed to be built taller than a palm tree. Suck on that for a while, Empire State Building fans.

For this week’s pictorial pleasure, we are going with a variety pack. We start out at the golden sand of Lumahai Beach, one of the most photographed beaches in the world where Mitzi Gaynor in “South Pacific,” washed that man right out of her hair” using a coconut conditioner. We then move on to the basketball court at the Hanalei Community Center. It’s always nice to be shooting jumpers with waterfalls cascading down the mountain in the background.

We then cruise over to Opaeka’a Falls, which flows year round off the north branch of the Wailua River. The names dates back to the day when shrimp swarmed the river and were seen frolicking in garlic sauce at the base of the falls. Next we head to the south shore and Poupi Beach, where the waves are smashing against the rocks in an area teeming with sea turtles and more crabs than you’ll see on Chinese New Year. Then about 100 yards from this spot, I snapped a shot of this highly endangered monk seal. The Hawaiians call them llio holo i ka uaua, which means “dog that runs in rough water.” (As a side note, back in Jersey, they used to call me, llio hoho i ka italiano, which means “boy that walks with thin crust pizza.”)

There are less than 1,000 monk seals left on the planet and is was a treat to take a quick snooze with this one. We close out the tour with a shot of the world’s largest snail that I shot cruising along the front lawn at our house in Hanalei. With a cornucopia of amazing colored birds, exotic fish and tanned locals, Kauai is truly a visual paradise.

We’ve still got more to come on the photo front, including island flowers, south shore sunrises and red clay waterfalls, so stay tuned, Magnum P.I fans.

On to the late night. “Obama said the housing market may not pick up again for another year or longer. On the bright side, President Obama now has nine people interested in his house.” –Conan O’Brien “Donald Trump may be running for president, and why not? He’s got that everyman quality that we can all relate to. Donald Trump told CNN he may consider getting back into the presidential race. He said he has to mull it over, comb it over, and he’ll go from there.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Michele Bachmann wished Elvis Presley a happy birthday even though it’s actually the anniversary of his death. When told about the mistake, Bachmann said, ‘My apologies to Elvis, and the entire Costello family. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll. She said she hasn’t been this excited since she won last year’s ‘Who’s Crazier Than Sarah Palin’ contest.’” –Conan O’Brien

“President Obama will begin a three-state bus tour. I believe the three states are confusion, delusion, and desperation. The Republicans had their big debate in Iowa. You know who the winner was? Anyone that didn’t watch.” –Jay Leno “Some political analysts are saying that President Obama is making many of the same mistakes that President Bush made. Obama said, ‘That’s ridiculous, and if you’ll excuse me, ‘Spongebob’ is on.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Finally some good news: the price of gas is going down. They say it could soon be under three dollars a gallon. Do you know what that means? You can now afford to drive by the house you used to live in, go by the job you used to have, and go see the bank where you used to have money. It’s the trifecta of the recession! According to the Mexican government, the number of people leaving Mexico for the United States is now practically zero. It’s true. The other day I was in downtown Los Angeles and I heard something down there I haven’t heard in years: English.” –Jay Leno

“Sarah Palin’s daughter-in-law just gave birth three months after getting married, and thus won the annual Palin Almost Abstinent Award.” –Jay Leno “Levi Johnston, who got Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol pregnant, has a sister Mercede, who just posed for ‘Playboy’ and said some very unflattering things about the Palins. She said Track Palin, who she dated, used cocaine and oxycodone, that Sarah Palin forced him to go into the military to protect herself, and that if Palin became President she’d have a mental breakdown. Then the photographer asked her to turn a little so he could get both nipples.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“There was a small fire today at President Obama’s vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard. Or as Obama told China, ‘Darn! That’s where I was keeping the $14 trillion I was about to give back! After all the rioting in London this week, officials are worried that it could mean security problems for the Olympics next year. On the bright side, the guy running with the torch will just blend right in.” –Jimmy Fallon “A study showed that every hour of TV you watch after the age of 25 shortens your life by 22 minutes. That doesn’t sound too bad to me. You’d probably watch TV with that 22 minutes anyway.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s it for our South Pacific fact finding tour. I was shocked last Monday when we had our first clear morning in over two months, before it went back to the usual dreary fog the next day. For me, sports fans, it’s a completely different feeling when the sky is Carolina blue and not Joel Grey.

Enjoy the NFL exhibition season and we’ll catch you going deep to right center. Aloha, mahalo and later, Jim Thome fans.

August 14, 2011

The Trade Wind Kauais Mary

Filed under: Uncategorized — geoff @ 9:18 am

Good morning and greetings, debt ceiling fans. I have returned from my South Pacific sabbatical, which left me with a feeling of calm and serenity that I haven’t experienced since I started daydreaming in high definition. So after a two week hiatus from the stream of unconsciousness that is Sunrise Santa Cruz, I am back in the saddle and medium raring to go.

Now let me state for the Bergen Record that I am quite fond of Santa Cruz. I have lived in this cold water paradise where the redwoods meet the sea and liberals for over a quarter of a century. I enjoy photographing the world class sunrises and sunsets, Gilda’s fabulous Wednesday $8.95 Prime Rib special and not having to wear three layers of clothing. But as much a I enjoy the Mediterranean climate here on the central coast, I LOVE the weather in Hawaii. Okay, shoot me with a coconut, I admit it, I’m an alohaholic. The first step is admitting it.

As Jasmine Guy once told me, the South Pacific is a different world, particularly on the weather front. You wake with the roosters crowing in the morning and the air and water temperature is a lovely 76 degrees. And then during the afternoon the air soars up to 85 degrees before the trade winds kick in and cool the air and Maui gold pineapples down. For someone who grew up in the Garden State of New Jersey and would be thrilled to never put on a jacket or sweatshirt ever again, this is paradise on American soil. How the U.S. managed to snatch these islands away from the native Hawaiians is a bigger miscarriage of justice then when a IRA terrorist kidnapped Jax Teller’s baby last season on ‘Sons of Anarchy.’

So it was with this mindset that the Gilbert families headed over to vacation on the Garden Isle of Kauai. We were comfortably situated on the incredibly lush north shore in Hanalei, which translated means “no delicatessens” in Hawaiian. With the daily rain showers, the landscape and flora is simply amazing, with more shades of green than a San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary. Any time you can sit back on your bed and see multiple waterfalls cascading down the mountains, life is good, especially with a firm and smooth-skinned strawberry papaya lying next to you.

So let’s talk a little history. According to noted Motown historian Aretha Franklin, the Hawaiian islands are the most isolated chain, chain, chain in the world. Back in 1778, British sea captain James Cook and Spock were on their way to Alaska to search for the northwest passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans when they dropped anchor off Waimea and discovered Kauai as well as valleys flowing with chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

Kauai emerged from the depths of the Pacific before Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and the first ABC stores. It is geologically, after John McCain, the oldest of all the islands. It lies 72 miles away across the Kauai Channel from Honolulu and Sunset Beach, gaining its reputation as the “Separate Kingdom.” Kauai’s beauty, much like my early modeling years, is legendary, as the natives used to chant to the kings, “Kauai Kilohana,” beautiful is Kauai beyond compare, which ironically is the same thing my agent used to tell me before open model shoots.

So we start today’s photo parade with a look at lovely Hanalei Bay before moving on to a shot of Tunnels Beach, which is a little further along towards the Na Pali coast. Then we find ourselves at the most conveniently located waterfall in the islands, Wailua Falls, before catching a double rainbow in Hanalei. We then stride forward to the geological wonder of the uninhabited Na Pali coast, which is accessible only by foot along the Kalalua Trail, by sea during days of low surf or by the way the first Hawaiians saw it, by helicopter.

Much like myself, the Na Pali coast is isolated from the outside world, although there is an 11 mile hike that gives you a nice slice of the tropical valleys and hidden waterfalls. And as my close friends and personal trainer knows, I live for rigorous hikes. I would have made the trek but it turns out I brought the wrong oxygen tanks with me.

We finish up our Polynesian with a shot of the place they call the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” Waimea Canyon. If you like exotic colors, make a reservation. As you can see from these photos, Kauai has some of the most spectacular scenery this side of the Strand in Hermosa Beach. These shots just give you a taste of the beauty of the Garden Isle, so in the next few weeks we’ll see photos of sunrises, sunsets, island flowers, marine wildlife and hot food items from the Foodland in Princeville . Plus lots more history and interesting facts about our 50th state, like my decision that if I have any more children, I’m going to name them Mauna and Loa.

On to some bonus late night coverage. “The NFL lockout is over. All the parties agreed and we have a compromise. It’s too bad then national debt isn’t as important as football. “Jeb Bush may run for President. Bush Presidencies are like ‘Caddyshack’ movies. They should have stopped with one. Happy birthday to Arnold Schwarzenegger. He celebrated quietly with half his money.” –David Letterman

“The debt ceiling debate is such a mess right now, Al Qaeda is desperately trying to find a way to take credit for it.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama urged the American people to call Congress and demand that both parties work together on a compromise. The calls are 99 cents for the first minute, and a trillion dollars for each additional minute.” –Jimmy Kimmel “We are $14 trillion in debt. To understand how much money that is, imagine grocery shopping at Whole Foods every day of the month.” –Jay Leno

“President Obama may have to cancel his 50th birthday party because of the debt limit crisis. The Republicans won’t even let Obama raise his age.” –Conan O’Brien “It’s so hot that people are standing next to Rupert Murdoch just to be near something shady.” –Jay Leno “President Obama’s motorcade was fined $16 for traffic it caused while in the United Kingdom. Typical for Obama, he said, ‘My grandkids will pay for it.’” –Jay Leno

“Amid the heat, health officials are telling Americans to stay home. Americans responded by saying, ‘We are home. We have no jobs.’” –Conan O’Brien “NASA says that without the space shuttle, we’ll have to pay the Russians $63 million to take one astronaut into space. And if the astronaut wants to check a bag, it’s an extra $15 million.” –Conan O’Brien “House Speaker John Boehner invited new congressmen over for pizza last night. Unfortunately, the delivery guy left when they spent 10 hours fighting over a plan to pay for it.” –Jimmy Fallon

“A new poll shows that disapproval of Congress is at an all-time high. Eighty-two percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing and the other 18 percent weren’t home when the question was asked.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Man, America’s credit rating took a real hit this weekend. On Friday night, the U.S. actually lost its AAA status. Or as Joe Biden put it, ‘What happens if I get a flat tire?’” –Jimmy Fallon “China has told us our days of squandering borrowed money are over. So maybe we shouldn’t tell them we just spent $76 million going to the Smurf movie.” –Conan O’Brien

“A new poll shows that President Obama is losing support among voters in Florida, which explains why this morning he sent SEAL Team 6 out to get Casey Anthony. A man jumped the White House fence, but after a brief chase, the Secret Service was able to talk President Obama into coming back and finishing his term.” –Conan O’Brien “Just 10 days until the big Iowa Republican presidential straw poll. How many think Mitt Romney will win the straw poll? How many think Michele Bachmann will win? How many would rather vote for the straw?” –Jay Leno

“Happy birthday to President Obama, who is turning 50, although Republicans in Congress are demanding he cut his age to 40. President Obama celebrated his 50th birthday in his hometown of Chicago. Oprah jumped out of the cake. Then she jumped back in. She loves cake.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama celebrated his 50th birthday in Chicago. Obama cut the cake, then Republicans cut everything else.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Some big election news. It’s rumored that Sarah Palin will announce her presidential campaign at a Labor Day rally in Iowa. Palin has a great speech planned — she’s like, ‘We have to do this as a team! Remember, there is no ‘I’ in Iowa!’” –Jimmy Fallon “According to a recent survey, kids are receiving an average of 40 cents less from the tooth fairy. That’s right, the economy is so bad that even make-believe people are feeling the pinch.” –Conan O’Brien “The world’s saddest tangerine.” –Jon Stewart on John Boehner

So that’s our first post from the islands. I hope some of you out there have been watching the final season of Tommy Gavin and ‘Rescue Me’ on FX, as it has been supremely entertaining and well-written. So enjoy the fog that is the summer on the central coast and we’ll catch you in the left field corner. Aloha, mahalo and later, Curtis Granderson fans.


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