October 30, 2011

Will Blog For Chocolate

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 4:47 pm

Good morning and greetings, migration fans. It was an interesting week on West Cliff, as my morning walks were highlighted by hundreds of pelicans flying in formations both high and low above the water. Often I just stop in my tracks to view their magnificence. Throw in the usual gaggle of whales, dolphins, chargers, sea lions, harbor seals and Navy Seals, and this stroll along the edge of the continent was well worth the price of college admission.

But today being Halloween, we are going to delve into a subject that is both near and clear to my heart, pancreas and stomach. Now unlike Valentine’s Day, the mid-winter festival of chocolate, Halloween is the holiday that just
keeps on giving. Although just a few trick-o-treaters canvass our neighborhood, I find it necessary to have at least 500 mini versions of Hershey’s Chocolate bars, Nestle Crunch, Kit Kat, Almond Joys and Twix bars on hand, just in case there’s a late rush of skeletons or Kardashians at the end of the night.

Invariably, there’s a always a few bars left, and when I add my children’s donation to this bountiful fund of chocolate delights, I’ll be set through next week, er month, er until at my son starts packing for college next summer.

So what is it about chocolate? Why is it that I can come downstairs and pop a piece of chocolate cake in my mouth at 6 am and feel less guilt than OJ? So thanks to Kassidy Emmerson and Holly Bentz from Yahoo’s Associated Content, let’s take a look at the fascinating world of chocolate and why it’s just so damn good and emotionally satisfying.

The “Theobroma cacao” is the Willy Wonka of trees that produces pods, beans and truffles that are turned into chocolate. It was discovered along with Pez candy in the Amazon Basin of South America about 40 trillion Nestle Crunches ago. The earliest written account of
chocolate use is attributed to the Olmecs tribes of Southern Mexico, when they turned it into a chocolate drink called Yoo-Hoo. Chocolate was first made
into a solid, edible food in Mexico in the 1700′s, after which the drug cartels started smuggling it across the border and flooding the US with cheap, addictive, pure chocolate.

The word “chocolate” comes from the Aztec word “xocolatl”, which translated means “oh my God, I can’t believe how good this tastes”. According to researchers from the Cadbury Institute of Raisins & Almonds, the
best-tasting chocolate bar looks shiny and even, like my face after a smooth, close shave. A piece should snap off as cleanly as I enter the water after a half gainer off the high board. It should feel rich and and melt in your mind, not in your hands.

Four out of five scientists who recommend milk chocolate for their patients who chew sugarless gum, proclaim that the shelf life of a chocolate bar is approximately one year. I can say from my vast experience that this
statement is true. However, if you’re a survivalist like me, you can place a chocolate bar in the freezer and it will keep forever, or at least until the return of Don Draper, January Jones and “Mad Men.”

Dr. Henry Stubbe (1632-1676), was a physician who considered drinking chocolate once or twice a day an
excellent cure for fatigue caused by hard work. The man was a genius. He also believed that chocolate helped benefit the heart, increased breast milk production in
women and was a major distraction for men.

Chocolate contains healthy antioxidants that can lower the incidence of cancer, heart disease and your LDL cholesterol, while adding iron and magnesium to your body and paying for your dentist’s vacation in Cancun. Chocolate also contains a chemical known as phenylethylamine, which has been shown to release serotonin, endorphins and porpoises, the first two known chemicals that make us feel happy and a third a marine
mammal that is much less acrobatic than dolphins.

The Aztecs believed chocolate to be the Spanish fly of the candy counter. The phenylethylamine creates a chemical reaction in the brain similar to that of falling in love or saving money on your car insurance. Chocolate also contains the stimulants theo bromine and caffeine,
which can reduce stress, give you a sense of mild euphoria and make you forget about the field of Republican presidential candidates.

Research has shown that allowing chocolate to melt in your mouth produced brain and heart rate activity that was simliar to and even stronger than that produced with passionate kissing. That explains my wedding night.
And a two and a half year study conducted by Charlie Sheen concluded that similar activity occurs in the brain with the consumption of chocolate as seen with drugs like cocaine.

Life got just a little bit better when the first Hershey’s hugs and kisses were first produced in 1907. In 1938, new ground was broken when Nestle Crunch was introduced. It was the first chocolate bar to combine milk chocolate and crunchy crisps to create a sensory eating
experience that blended taste, texture and sound along with tucking you in at night. Then in 1939, Nestle introduced Chocolate Chips and the earth starting spinning faster on its axis while dairy farmers rejoiced.

In summation, much has been written about chocolate, my favorite being “Forget love, I’d rather fall in chocolate.” Yes, chocolate is a many-splendored thing.

So in honor of Halloween, we sent our photo department up the coast for our annual visit to Rodoni Farms U Pick Em’ Pumpkin Patch. This field of pumpkin dreams is right across the road from Four Mile Beach, and features pumpkins of every race, creed and especially color. We’re talking shades of orange, red, gray, pink, white and green. There’s something very soothing about roaming around a field of pumpkins with a white water view. It’s all part of the experience that is the north coast.

Here’s a little Bill Maher. “Out badass ninja black president did it again. Don’t f**k with this guy. So
far this year he’s killed Somali pirates, he killed bin Laden, he killed al-Awlaki,, now he’s killed Gaddafi. The only threat to our way now is from Bank of America. Today Obama was seen leaving the White House in a nurse’s
uniform on a flight to Cuba to smother Castro with a pillow. “And you know what, if he did smother Castro with a pillow in a nurse’s uniform, Rush Limbaugh would say, ‘See, socialized medicine.’” –Bill Maher

“They found Gaddafi in a hole with a gun and luggage, or as it’s known here, the middle class. These Republicans, they will not give credit. They gave credit to the rebels, to the British, and to the French. But they would not
mention the president. In their world, Gaddafi died of natural causes, Bin Laden was shot in the face by the free market. You should’ve heard them, we went in too strong, everything they could’ve said that he did wrong. It’s like there’s some kind of hidden Republican clitoris, that they won’t let Obama find, and whenever he tries, they’re like ‘that’s not it!’” –Bill Maher

“I’m guessing our soldiers are happy to be leaving Iraq. It is no fun being in a country where there’s crumbling infrastructure and an ignorant population, but they said they’re happy to come home anyway.” –Bill Maher

So after today, October 2011, much like my quickness on the basketball court, will be history. I hope you caught game six of the Fall Classic, as it was perhaps the greatest World Series game of all time that I didn’t see all of. You’ve got to love those St. Louis and Stanford Cardinals. We’ll catch you hitting the game-winning home run. Aloha, mahalo and later, David Freese fans.

October 23, 2011

Cry Of The Tiger

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 2:26 pm

Good morning and greetings, wildlife lovers. Last week was a horrific one on the wild animal front, as 49 animals that had been set free from their cages in a compound in Zanesville, Ohio had be slaughtered to protect the public’s safety. This included 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, two wolves and a baboon not named George Bush.

Wildlife expert ‘Jungle’ Jack Hanna, the Director of the Columbus Zoo and frequent guest on Late Night with David Letterman, said it was especially heartbreaking to see so many Bengal tigers killed when they are on the verge of extinction. He says the actions by the police saved a catastrophe. The pictures of the carnage were beyond heartbreaking. “It’s like Noah’s Ark wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio,” Hanna said.

Three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkey were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo. Ohio has some of the most lax regulations of exotic animals in the country. Now here’s the kicker. Ohio requires permits for bears but doesn’t regulate the ownership of non-native animals, such as lions, tigers and Carolina Panthers. “There is an epidemic of private ownership of dangerous exotic animals in the United States,” says Wayne Pacelle, head of The Humane Society of the United States. “It’s a bit of a free-for-all in states like Ohio.” Just ask anyone involved with the football program at Ohio State.

This leads me to a story written by Carolyn Jones in last week’s San Francisco Chronicle. The Oakland Zoo, which is not Raider fans residing in the end zones of the Oakland Coliseum, now has four new tigers that were brought in from in zoo in Brownsville, Texas. Zookeeper Erica Calcagno had only planned on bringing home only one of these six-year-olds, who are all sisters, but in her words, “”There’s no way we could take just one. They’re gorgeous. Even when they’re sleeping they’re gorgeous.” I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard those words uttered about me.

The zoo staff hopes the tigers serve a broader purpose beyond entertaining visitors and locked out NBA players: to educate the public about tiger mills. As Tony the Tiger once told me, “They’re not Grrrrrreat!”

Owning tigers is legal in 21 states, including California. More than 8,000 tigers live or rent in the U.S., far more than live in the wild globally. Of the 8,000, only a few hundred live in accredited zoos. The rest live in backyards, condos or studio apartments.

“People get tigers because they’re cute and cuddly when they’re cubs. But then suddenly you’ve got this 200-pound thing that ate your dog,” said Jerry Stones, facilities director at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, where Oakland’s newest big cats came from. That would create a problem when you want to play fetch with Rover.

Much of the backyard tiger action is in Texas. These big cats are not in great demand at zoos because most of the tigers are mutts — neither Bengal, Princeton, Siberian, Auburn, Sumatran, LSU nor other endangered sub-species, and therefore not suitable for breeding. They’re simply called generic tigers or by their Latin name, Detroit Tigers.

These four striped sisters were part of a roadside freak show, where visitors could pay $20 to have pictures taken with them, along with a couple of two-headed turtles and a 100-pound critter billed as the largest rodent in the world. I know the US government considers the biggest rat to be Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange.

Then the tiger’s owners divorced and the new wife wasn’t crazy him about spending more money on raw chicken than chicken cordon bleu. The husband then told his ex-wife he was going to shoot the tigers, and the ex-wife called the authorities. Within a few hours, Stones was at the man’s house for a quick snack before herding the tigers onto a truck and bringing them to the Brownsville zoo. Then six more tigers came in from a similar rescue situation and the call went out to the Oakland Zoo and the Cincinnati Bengals.

This big cat dilemma is a critical issue for zoos, as many of the animals in Oakland were rescued from some less-than-ideal situations. It’s something to think about next time you visit your local zoo and wonder, how did these exotic animals end up here? And though it’s off the subject, how does that polar bear, who feels at home on ice flows, feel about his forced residence in the Bay Area?

So good ol’ Texas, home to the Alamo, the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks and hair model Rick Perry, is the centerpiece in the billion-dollar exotic animal trade industry. Owning and breeding tigers is legal in Texas and 11 other states, including California. There are almost no regulations of exotic animals, so breeding, smuggling and snuggling with these giant cats, much like my second serve, is booming in the Lone Star State.

Because no state or federal agency tracks the number of animals that are privately owned, no one knows how many tigers or other exotic animals pay taxes in Texas, which has the highest tiger-to-people ratio in the world. Estimates are that at least 4,000 are legally owned as pets by private citizens, which means more tigers are homeowners in Texas than roaming around the Taj Mahal in India.

According to Silva Hayes from hubpages.com, there are over 12,000 tigers owned as pets in the US. A federal law prohibits businesses from displaying tigers older than six months with humans because the cats have become too big and dangerous. So then what do with all of these big boys and girls? I don’t even think Wayne Newton or Sigfried and Roy have the answer. When I asked when Mr. Las Vegas about this problem, he replied, “Danke Schoen, darling, Danke Schoen.”

Tigers are not difficult to breed in captivity, as the female just expects to be taken out to dinner first. And they can be had for free. A recent ad in Animal Finders, a subscription-only newspaper that advertises exotic animals for sale read “Tiger, free to a good home. Good with children and snapping the necks of antelope, rhinos and wild boars.”

Tigers love to swim, can long jump 14 feet and much like some kids I went to sleep away camp with, will spray bucket loads of urine all over everything they wish to claim as theirs because this is how nature has taught them to guard territory.

Once tigers are mature they no longer feel any love for their mother and if they run into her in the wild will kill her. Instinct and the internet tells them that they are competition and that their survival depends on being solitary. I admit to at times being perturbed with my mother but rarely wanted to administer a lethal bite to the nape of her neck.

Most tigers weigh on average 650 pounds and like my therapist, possess phenomenal strength. Their bite can easily crush your femur or sever your vertebrae, killing you instantly, which would really spoil the weekend. Tigers are unpredictable and can kill you even when they are playing, which for me, would take a lot of fun out of the game.

But fear not, as the good news is that when tigers do attack people, they rarely eat them. The bad news is that if you’re a honey-collector, woodcutter or fisherman in Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in India and Bangladesh, you might want to stay out of the mangrove jungle area. Between 1975 and 1989, 521 people were classified as dinner.

Silva Hayes says the only way to save tigers from being overbred and abandoned is to make it unlawful to breed or possess a tiger. Tigers deserve to be free in the wild, where they can hunt and monitor their territory instead of stalking prey at Dallas Cowboy cheerleader auditions.

For today’s photo foray, we are taking in the beauty of a couple of early October sunsets from the cliffs above Natural Bridges State Beach. The sunset season is just getting underway, as the really good stuff doesn’t usually hit until November, and then we party through till the end of January. Of course, there are exceptions to this color chart, but these are the three keys months in my sunrise/sunset calendar, so stay tuned.

On to the late night. “Bronco Rick Perry is the first candidate I’ve ever heard say he’s not doing well because he’s sleepy. You know, we criticized George W. Bush a lot, but there was one thing he was very disciplined about, and that was getting his full eight years of sleep.” –David Letterman “Rick Perry said America’s revolutionary war was fought in the 16th century. When told it was actually the 18th century, Perry apologized and said, ‘I never said I was a geology major.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Herman Cain said, starting today, if you buy into his 9-9-9 plan, he’ll throw in a free 32-ounce soda.” –David Letterman “Herman Cain is surging in the polls. Many polls have him ahead of Mitt Romney. He hasn’t said who he would choose as his running mate yet, but according to a report, he’s had several meetings with Papa John.” –Jay Leno “Herman Cain has moved ahead of Mitt Romney. Can you believe that? Political analysts say this is because Americans don’t understand Mormonism but they do understand pizza.” –Conan O’Brien

“President Obama had beer with four unemployed construction workers. When the check came, Obama was like, ‘Do you guys want to split this five ways?’” –Jimmy Fallon “Brian Williams said if he ever left his wife for a man, that man would be Bruce Springsteen. Which is a really weird way to begin the nightly news.” –Conan O’Brien

“The protests are getting pretty rowdy. This morning, they overturned Donald Trump’s hair and set it on fire.” –Craig Ferguson “The Saudi government is upset about this plot to assassinate their ambassador. As you know, Saudi Arabia condemns all acts of terrorism unless, of course, they’re sponsoring them.” –Jay Leno

David Letterman’s “Top Five Reasons Chris Christie Endorsed Mitt Romney” 5. Romney sounds like pastrami 4. Perry wouldn’t let him fry eggs on the Texas electric chair 3. Acting on direct orders from Colonel Sanders 2. Mistook Mitt’s repeated ‘bi-partisan’ references to mean two kinds of cheese 1. Only other options were the nutjob, the crackpot, the pizza dude and Newt

So there’s that’s our report from the Animal Planet. Not a good week for Muammar Quaddafi fans, but hopefully a better week for the families of the Pan Am Flight 10 Lockerbie bombing victims. We’ll catch you going deep in October. Aloha, mahalo and later, Albert Pujols fans.

October 16, 2011

The Wreck’s In The Mail

Good morning and greetings, NBA lockout fans. Well, last week, NBA
Commissioner David Stern canceled the first two weeks of the regular season, which means basketball fans won’t have the chance to see billionaire owners overpaying millionaire players to play a game that I would play for just a jersey with my name on it and
a kosher pre-game buffet.

So now we can focus on other important issues, like the NFL and new fall TV season, and try to answer the question that has been asked of philosophers and theologians over the centuries, why did “The Playboy Club” get cancelled after just three episodes?”

But today, we are not talking TV, but a much more mundane experience. In my younger days, I used to be excited when I skipped to the mail box. Who knew what delights awaited me. Postcards, letters from old friends, the new Victoria Secret catalogue, it was a cornucopia of delights. Today, times
have changed, as the mail is dominated by one thing. Junk.

Let’s start by taking a look at our very profitable United States Postal Service, which came up $8.5 billion short last year. This means that the USPS will be cutting Saturday delivery, which I can live with, and 220,000 jobs, which is not so good. We’ve come a long way from the Pony Express’ “The Mail Must Go Through” to today’s USPS motto, “We May Be Through.”

Last year, our mail and female carriers delivered through snow, sleet and purple rain over 82 million pieces of junk mail. This total was up 3% from the year before, as advertising mail now makes up one half of all our mail. As the Black Eyed Peas asked, “what are you gonna do with all that junk inside your trunk?”

In comparison, first class mail dropped 7% last year and 26% over the last four years. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been receiving those “Dear Geoff, I met you nine months ago” letters. And the even better news for our faithful letter carriers is that first class is expected to drop over 50% over the next ten years. Why waste the ink when one can send an e-card, Facebook, Twitter, carrier
pigeon, email, skype, gripe, hype or message in a bottle?

So the postal service is now running a series of TV ads, urging and Menachem begging businesses to send more junk mail, with the reminder that mail rarely gets spammed. They are encouraging this barrage of pulp fiction because a catalogue is a lot harder to delete than an email and chances are, although Amarillo slim, that you’ll sit at home and Flip Wilson through it. Personally, I live for the words of Ed McMahon, “you may already be a winner.” Thanks, Ed and “H e-e-e-e-re’s Johnny.”

So you may be wondering, does anyone still order from a catalogue they didn’t request that came in the mail? Well, according to my anonymous sources at NBC News, only 1.5% of households buy after receiving a mailed ad, and even fewer, .05%, buy from an email ad. And although those numbers don’t make the Postmaster General do cartwheels, they do get in on a little of the package mailing action. Yup, there’s nothing more exciting then when that smoked turkey arrives, loaded with enough preservatives to take down a water buffalo.

And I don’t know about you, but my day isn’t made until I check my mail to make sure that Chase, Capitol One or some other outstanding company is offering me the opportunity of being pre-approved with no annual fee for the priviledge to pay 0% on purchases and balance transfers until 2031.

Now, thanks to Chris Moran from the pages of the quarterly newsletter of the Santa Cruz Public Works Department, here are some fun facts about the our friend, the junk mail. Or in the words of the late, great Johnny Carson (or was it Dana Carvey), “I did not know that.”

For starters, and I usually like the stuffed mushrooms and calamari strips, every adult in the U.S. receives about 40 pounds of junk mail a year. 59% of that is discarded without ever being opened. According to Forest Ethics, which is not be be confused with Forest Gump, Forest Lawn or Wake Forest, “100 millon trees and a mulberry bush are logged each year to produce the unending stream of junk mail that ends up in your mailbox.” Myself, I could never see the Sherwood forest through the trees.

Each week, on the average, we receive 16 pieces of junk mail, 1.5 personal letters and 1 envelope addressed to someone who moved out a decade ago. So we’re talking about 104 billion pieces of junk mail that are delivered each year, which in their creation and shipping produces more greenhouse gas emissions than 9 million cars and a Dodge Ram Truck. Throw in the 28 billion gallons of water that are wasted to produce and recycle junk mail each year, which coincidentally, is the amount I use when showering yearly, and in
the words of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, “You’ve Got Mail.” So that’s just a little something to think about next time you wonder how many calories you’re consuming when you lick a stamp.

For today’s photo road trip, we are heading down to lovely Big Sur, that 90-mile stretch of spectacular coastline between Carmel and San Simeon. We are cruising on Highway One, which is flanked steak on one side by the Santa Lucia Mountains and on the other by the rocky Pacific Coast. The Gilbert family was riding the Marrakesh Express on our way to Shell (Pismo) Beach, so we decided to take the coast and go through the Foghat, as it was a “slow ride,” so we “took it easy.”

Highway One was completed after eighteen years of construction, and who doesn’t savor a byway that was built with convict’s labor and love. It was declared California’s first scenic Highway, and is as visual a journey as one gets treated to along the Pacific Coast. In the words of landscape artist Francis McComas, the Big Sur Coast “is the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world.” It’s one of those intense driving experiences, with majestic beauty, dramatic scenery and very few red lights.

As you can see in photo number four of the Big Creek Bridge, this crown jewel of highways hugs the coastline the same way I hugged my mother at my nursery school graduation. After driving through more twists and turns than a Agatha Christie novel, we ended up at Piedras Blancas Beach, home to an elephant seal colony. Since it was early fall, the beach was as sparsely as populated as a Florida Marlins game, with mostly juveniles and other delinquents sleeping in the sand. Some of these youngsters were among the 4,000 born here back in December and January, just in time to catch the Packers winning the Super Bowl.

At this time of year, the adult males and females are at sea, bulking up for the birthing and breeding season, when they will not snack or eat. The males have to put on enough blubber to fast for three months, while the females have to nourish their bodies for
the stresses of giving birth, nursing and playing canasta. And like what I go through on a yearly basis so that my pants fit right, both males and females lose up to a third of their body weight during these months of fasting. For more info on these incredible creatures, just head up to Ano Nuevo and tell the first male elephant seal you see that you’re lonely.

On to the late night. “Sarah Palin gave a speech in South Korea. Just what the Koreans needed: Two crazy dictators in fashionable lady’s glasses.” –Conan O’Brien “Today New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that he’s endorsing Mitt Romney for president. It’s good news for Romney. I mean, you always want Chris Christie on your side. Unless you’re in a canoe.” –Jimmy Fallon “Herman Cain was in 2nd place in most of the national polls, behind Mitt Romney. Apparently his message of ‘less government, more toppings’ has been well received.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Here’s why Sarah Palin says she won’t be running for president. She says she can be more effective at getting others elected by not running. And I thought, well, that’s true, because in 2008 she got Obama elected.” –David Letterman “Palin said she could help the country more by not running for president. Today, John McCain said, ‘Why didn’t you tell me that three years ago?’ Sarah Palin announced she’s not running. Finally, a Palin who pulls out before it’s too late.” –Jay Leno

“Some protesters brought their kids to the demonstrations of Occupy Wall Street. Some of the kids got bored and decided to occupy Sesame Street instead. There’s a bill in Florida to repeal the state ban on dwarf tossing. Is this what Republicans mean when they say they want smaller government?” –Jimmy Kimmel “Hey, Congratulations to Donald Trump, who just welcomed his fourth
grandchild! You could tell it was Trump’s grandchild because as soon as it came out, it demanded to see its own birth certificate.” –Jimmy Fallon

So another week is in the books. Color is returning to the western skies, as I shot a couple of pretty sunsets last week. So you’ve been warned. We’ll catch you going deep to left. Aloha, mahalo and later, Nelson Cruz fans.

October 8, 2011

You Never Regret Your First

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — geoff @ 8:51 pm

Good morning and greetings, Columbus Day fans. For this week’s photo roundup, we are featuring the first sunset that made the headlines this fall. After closing out a sweet September with apples and honey to welcome in Rosh Hashanah, it was a fitting start to the new month. Throw in the Yankees beating the Tigers in the first game of their American League divisional series and a good time was had by all that night, that is, until the Yankee’s bats fell as silent as Marcel Marceau in the deciding game five.

Since the sun was not yet dipping into the Pacific from my usual vantage point at Natural Bridges State Beach, I decided to head up to the cliffs at Davenport for this Saturday night live experience. Accompanying me on drums was my old Syracuse friend Amy Zimmerman, who I had not seen since my wedding in Long Beach in 1988. It was a classic reunion, although it turns out she was still waiting for the thank you note for the lovely vase that she gave us for our nuptials.

Now I wouldn’t rate this as a “world class” sunset, but I thought I was good enough to make the pages of this cyber tabloid. I would have preferred a little more red, orange or purple at the climax, but was once again reminded of the words of Mick Jagger, “You can’t always get want you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.” And he was right, as wild horses or a “Sons of Anarchy” marathon couldn’t have dragged me away from the cliffs that night.

So this first twilight show of clouds and color got me to thinking about firsts in life. So today I thought I would take a stroll down memory lane and look back upon some classic firsts.

Now I don’t remember my first breath when I entered the earth’s atmosphere, but I do remembered what I was looking for. Unfortunately, my mother said she had a headache and later that she just liked me as a friend. I don’t remember the first time I ever tasted chocolate, but I know it has had a everlasting lifetime effect upon me. Nor do I remember the first time I ever tasted pizza, but I am now aware that when I stepped into Pizza King in Fort Lee, New Jersey, that I stumbled upon the holy grail of mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.

The same holds true for my first venture to the land of tasty Cantonese cuisine at Hop Kee on Mott Street in New York’s Chinatown. Just one taste of the soft noodles of lo mein, the wider-noodled chow fun and the delicate and succulent sweet and sour chicken and I was hooked. I could do the backstroke in that sauce. Plus, any place that’s open till 4 in the morning on a Saturday night works for me. Nothing works up an appetite like flying down the FDR Drive at midnight in search of pan fried flounder in black bean sauce.

I don’t remember my first day of nursery school, grammar school or high school, but I do remember my first day of college at Syracuse University. My parents and I were the first on line at the bottom of the hill. When they gave us the okay to go, we drove up to the Flint Hall, where we were greeted by three lovely coeds wearing skirts that were shorter than the light at winter solstice. Much to my surprise and delight, they proceeded to carry my heavy trunk to my room. I thought, wow, if this is what college is like, I’m definitely going for my masters.

Now there are many things I don’t remember, like the first rain, the first winter snowstorm and the first time I heard the Doobie Brothers. I don’t remember my first dream, the first time I cried or the first program I recorded on TiVo. I don’t recall the first time I hit a jumper, threw a baseball or caught a pass for a touchdown in football. Unfortunately, I do remember tamale pie, the SAT’s and saying to my parents, “I hate algebra. I’ll never use it for the rest of my life.”

And much to my chagrin, I don’t remember the first time I read a “Hardy Boys” book or watched Ralph and Norton in “The Honeymooners,” or Phil Silvers as “Sargent Bilko.” Nor do I recall my first New York Giant football game, Knick basketball game or Yankee baseball game. However, I do remember getting hit in the head by the first pitch that was thrown to me in my little league career, outpitching my good friend Steve Margolin in the championship game and my father taking me out for a chocolate milkshake to celebrate the victory. That I do remember!

But here are a couple of more of things that I have on instant recall. I do remember the first time my father telling me how proud he was of me, even when I wasn’t setting the world on fire. I do remember my mother telling me how clever my blog is and wondering how I come up with these unpaid pearls of wisdom. And what I really remember is back in the 80′s, the first time I realized that a young woman who I was cohabitating with was really something special and different from all the others. It was at that moment that I realized that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. And that is why I impulsively rushed into marriage after a nine year courtship.

What I remember like it was the day before yesterday was the birth of my first child, Jason. I remember just staring at him like a mental patient in his first hour out of Allison’s womb. I couldn’t believe this little person was actually ours. Then he threw a no-look pass with his rattle and I knew he was my son. In my nearly six decades, I don’t remember ever a feeling higher, except for maybe a couple of New York Giant playoff wins or after my daily tantra meditation. I’m into keeping my chakras strong.

I do not remember the first time I realized I’ve been blessed with good health, but have never taken it for granted. I don’t remember the first day I realized how great it is to have friends, but not a day goes by that I don’t cherish that thought. And cherish is a word that I use to describe all the feelings that I have for you hiding here inside. I don’t recall ever wondering what I would be like being the father of a teenage girl, but now I get to play one every day at home. Let me say that it was a whole lot easier learning how to hit a curveball, but the ball never smiled back at me and warmed the chat rooms of my heart.

So to summarize, I may not remember my first double date, double rainbow or double stuffed Oreo. but fortunately, I do recall some of the important firsts of my life. I may not have instant recall of my first laugh, Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar or my realization of how great sports are. Oh, well. I guess I’ll just have to go on remembering the first time I realized what a lucky boy I’ve been and keep my fingers crossed that my future of firsts is ahead of me.

Let’s hit the late night. “Mitt Romney speaks French and John Huntsman speaks Chinese. “When Michele Bachmann heard they were bilingual, she said it’s OK, as long as they don’t get married. Rick Perry is pretty serious about running for President. Today he freed all of the slaves on his ranch.” –Jay Leno “Herman Cain said that as president, he will bring Republicans and Democrats together. He was the guy that brought pineapple and ham together on a pizza, so it wouldn’t be surprising.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Gov. Chris Christie keeps saying he’s not running for president. On the other hand, he would consider running for Santa. If he does run and he is elected, say good bye to the White House garden and say hello to the White House Olive Garden. Perfect fit: Oval Office, oval president.” –David Letterman

“Happy anniversary to President Obama and the first lady. They had a nice private dinner to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the last time someone said ‘yes’ to an Obama proposal.” –Craig Ferguson. “President Obama was heckled by a protestor who called him ‘the Antichrist.’ The protestor was detained, but released without being charged, and then later he was offered his own show on Fox News. President Obama was in San Diego and traffic was a huge mess. There was even a three-hour backup tunneling in from Mexico.” –Jay Leno

“First Lady Michelle Obama was spotted shopping at Target yesterday. Yeah, she told the Secret Service to keep their eyes peeled – not for threats, just for a person that actually works at Target.” –Jimmy Fallon “More than 700 protestors were arrested over the weekend for blocking traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. They say the best way to fight corporate greed is to make random people sit in traffic while they’re trying to visit their aunt in Brooklyn.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s news, weather and retorts. Happy birthday wishes go out to the Dwyane Wade of anesthesiology, Dr. Michael Schur, who claims that no amount of prayer can atone for Alex Rodriquez’s latest sins at the plate. Just ask Carmen Diaz. We’ll catch you shutting out the Phillies. Aloha, mahalo and later, Chris Carpenter fans.

October 2, 2011

Gourd Of The Rings

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — geoff @ 4:08 pm

Good morning and greetings, baseball playoff fans. Well, last week’s
weather picture on the central coast was wackier and more surprising than the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, Herman Cain, winning the Florida GOP presidential straw poll. Despite the fact that I’m a big fan of his mutiny, I would have opted for the straw.

Anyway, last Wednesday was simply the ideal Santa Cruz weather experience, as we had a perfect day with sunny skies, a warm offshore breeze and no fog in sight. I thought, well, Indian Summer has finally arrived here in the last week of September. Better late than neverland.

Then before I could say “God bless Robinson Cano,” I woke up on Thursday and the blue sky was solid gone, replaced by a light rain and misting fog. This was to the bewilderment of the locals, who were expecting to see either the father, the sun or the holy coast. It was quite a radical turnabout, but my heart was still globally warmed by this reminder to expect the unexpected.

So what to do as the rain fell upon the plains, trains and automobiles? My brother Brad had complained, er commented that he wanted to see some fresh images in the blog. So not wanting to leave a carbon footprint, I put my Lady Gaga poncho and headed out the front door to
shoot photos of the wonderful world of color in my moist front yard. You can see the results of my foray into nature in today’s six pack of pictorial pleasure. I was dew to take some new pictures, and here
they are, front and slightly off center. Speaking of which, on Saturday, I shot my first sunset of the fall up in Davenport which I’ll be showcasing next week on this blog-o-rama.

But we here on the central coast shouldn’t complain about the rain, which has caused major problems of all kinds back east. Now a
good portion of the eastern United States is facing a major shortage of
pumpkins. As a result of disease, severe weather and Red Sox karma, this will not be a banner year for pumpkin-picking.

The problem began with the heavy rains in spring and early summer, which led to flooding and a huge spike in umbrellas sales. This delayed the planting season for pumpkin farmers and caused an outbreak of a fungus called phytophthora that thrives in wet conditions and spelling bees. This fungus that was among us wiped out pumpkin patches put did wonders for local fungus fairs.

And if that wasn’t enough, Hurricane Irene devastated pumpkin growers with torrents of rain that overflowed rivers, flooded fields and washed up celebrities. Some growers had to rent mules to harvest their farms as the ground was too wet for tractors. One farmer in upstate New York saw his entire crop of about 15,000 to 20,000 pumpkins washed into Lake Champlain. It’s like the old nursery rhyme, where is pumpkin, where is pumpkin, in Lake Champlain, in Lake Champlain.

This is not to say the whole country will be suffering from the pumpkin
shortage, but it doesn’t sound like it will be the usual jack-o-lantern city back along the Atlantic seaboard. Can anyone say watermelon-o-lantern? There was a pumpkin shortage back in 2009, which turned into the great pumpkin hoarding of 2010, and now has bakers and Quakers asking everywhere if there is going to be a pumpkin shortage 2011.

Well, the good news for canned gourd lovers is that thanks to pumpkin
growers in the midwest, consumers, bakers and candlestick makers will be able to find canned pumpkin in mass quantities on the grocer’s shelves in plenty of time for the 2011 holiday season. A grateful nation breathes a collective sigh of relief.

This is a result of the pumpkin’s growing popularity that has boomed in
kitchens across the country. We’re talking pumpkin pies, breads, donuts, rolls, brownies, cub scouts, cookies and steaks. Because of its richness in nutrients, it has been designated a “super-food,” by the Betty Crocker Hall of Fame, as people are devouring this multi-colored gourd all-year round. Some even feed it to their dogs and cats as a digestive aid. My golden retriever prefers it as a side dish with some lightly grilled red snapper over a bed of angel hair pasta.

To most people and TV critics, pumpkins mean that fall is in the air.
However, I take my cue from NFL football and the new TV season.
So far I like Poppy Montgomery in “Unforgettable”, Maria Bello in “Prime Suspect” and Michael Emerson and James Caviezel in “Person of Interest.” In the words of his character John Reese, “I don’t like to kill, but it’s something I’m good at.” That’s solid Thursday night family
entertainment. And don’t get me started with the boys from Sons of Anarchy hooking up with the Galinda cartel. Throw in returning favorites “Parenthood, The Good Wife, Blue Bloods and the new Hawaii Five-0″ and it’s shaping up to be one very active fall on the TiVo frontier. On the advice from my attorney, I’m not even going to mention “60 Minutes, 48 Hours Dateline, The Daily Show or any celebrity roasts on C-SPAN.”

On to the late night. “If you’re keeping score at home, they have now
applauded executions at the Republican debate, they have cheered letting an uninsured man die, and they booed an active duty U.S. serviceman for being gay. I don’t know how you get to the right with this crowd but Ron Paul’s new campaign ad is just the Rodney King beating to the sound of children laughing. Larry Flynt is offering $1 million if someone came up with proof that Rick Perry had an illicit sexual liaison. But I say, Larry, really we don’t have to do that. We already came up with a way to embarrass Rick Perry. It’s called debates.” –Bill Maher

“We have a pumpkin shortage in the United States. Thanks a lot,
Obama. The stock market dropped 400 points yesterday. I saw a bunch of guys running out of Goldman Sachs with squeegees. They had another of those Republican debates. The field seems a little anemic. President Obama was watching with his wife, and halfway through he said, ‘Honey, you can stop packing.’” –David Letterman

“Someone smashed the windows in President Obama’s L.A. campaign office. And today, Joe Biden said it was likely the work of vandals, and definitely not someone who forgot their key and had to go to the bathroom. Mitt Romney says he wants Sarah Palin to run for president to make the race ‘more exciting.’ Although with Mitt Romney running, even Al Gore on Ambien would make the race more exciting.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Sarah Palin’s website sent out an email to her supporters hinting that if
they send her enough money, she’ll run for president. I need this woman to run. This kind of material doesn’t just show up every day.” –Craig Ferguson “Bad day for the stock market. It’s down nearly 400 points. They’re calling it the worst September meltdown since the Red Sox.” –Jay Leno “Today President Obama is visiting the hometown of House Speaker John Boehner. Obama plans to give a speech and then visit the tanning bed that Boehner grew up in.” –Conan O’Brien

So that’s our first blast for October. With the exception of baseball
fans in Boston and Atlanta, last Wednesday night was as good as it gets for excitement on the national pastime front. That’s the beauty of sports and my past lives, they’re totally unscripted. We’ll catch you when you’re down to your last strike. Aloha, mahalo and later, Evan Longoria fans.


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