November 24, 2013

Why Do Birds Fly North?

Good morning and greetings, college basketball fans. If you’re someone like me who thinks the NBA season is too short (eight months,) then you can always double your hoops pleasure and double your fun by tuning in to the college game. This year’s crop of incoming freshmen are an exceptional group, as NBA general managers are salivating at the thought of adding a piece of this young talent to their squads. In the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “One person can make a difference.” I think Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan’s agent would back him up on that.

Now normally, I’m too busy to take in the college game, as being a life long learner and a gold card member of the NBA League Pass Club doesn’t leave me much time to watch these collegians toil away in the college ranks before being allowed to apply for NBA membership. And if I’ve learned anything from the folks at American Express, it’s that membership has its privileges.

So these highly-sought-after prospects attend universities of higher learning for a year and then before you can say, “one and done,” they’re are out the door and on their way to million dollar paydays. Not all are ready to go, but when you’re offered the opportunity to earn more money than you can spend in a thousand lifetimes, it’s tough to say no.

But they’re not all happy endings. Some of these players should have stayed in school, as an education might have been more helpful than being planted at the end of the bench or playing in the NBA’s Developmental League. In the words of NBA legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar, “I’m not comfortable being preachy, but more people need to start spending as much time in the library as they do on the basketball court.” And he should know, because the Kareem always rises to the top.

Speaking of the NBA D-League, the 2013-14 season opened up on Friday night at the downtown Kaiser Permanente Arena, and the Santa Cruz came away with a 121-102 win. The building was sold out and the crowd was rocking, as the Warriors have an exciting young team that is well worth the price of admissions for fans who don’t want to make the drive to Oakland but want to see NBA caliber basketball. As the saying goes in the D-League, “The dream starts here,” which is the same thing that happens every night when my head hits the pillow.

For my preview of the upcoming Santa Cruz Warrior season, go to http://www.santacruz.com/news/2013/11/19/previewing_the_santa_cruz_warriors_season or check last week’s edition of the Santa Cruz Weekly.

So my morning strolls along West Cliff were once again wonderful last week, as the rush hour traffic of gulls, cormorants and pelicans was bumper to bumper. Now I realize that I’ve been writing about this aviary activity for months, but the action is still hot and heavy. Each morning, I see thousands of birds in flight, and the same thoughts always come to mind. Where are they going, how do they decide on who is the leader, and are they having trouble signing up for Obamacare?

During the morning commute, most of these frequent fliers are headed south towards Macy’s and the Capitola Mall. The number of cormorants flying by last week was off the charts, as these sleek sea birds flap their wings at a furious pace and always seem to be in a hurry. But I have no idea where they’re headed, and I always get the feeling that they’re late for an appointment, as they never have time to chat or share a scone. I just stand along the coast and stare in amazement, as people pass by and wonder, “Doesn’t he ever wear long pants?”

So for today’s photo society, we are harkening back to the evening of November 2. There was a pleasant gathering of clouds in the western sky, and I knew there was action heading in my direction. But the bonus on this night was the unending chains of pelicans flying north. We’re talking about thousands of birds flying by in single file, in flocks that were longer than the lines on Thanksgiving Day that are going to form outside Walmart, Kmart and Get Smart. Sorry about that, chief. Missed it by that much.

I was lucky enough to capture a group of silhouetted pelicans as the passed by the sun on the horizon. After the sun set, this harmonic convergence of flight continued as the sky turned into a magical array of colors. Then as darkness came, they kept on coming, cradling little flashlights in their beaks. It was ever so lovely. It brought to mind an old Chinese proverb, “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” And the glow from that night is still alive, warming my heart and a few other organs.

On to some late night humor. “Here we go again. Freshman Congressman Trey Radel of Florida has been arrested for possession of cocaine in Washington, D.C. He admitted he is an alcoholic and pled guilty to possession of cocaine. The judge sentenced him to four years as mayor of Toronto.” –Jay Leno “Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says he’s not going anywhere, even after his recent crack scandal. He said he hopes to run for prime minister of Canada one day. When asked what party he’d choose, he said, ‘Why choose one? I usually hit, like, five parties a night.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Former President George W. Bush is on the show tonight. We’re very excited about that. As you know, his nickname is 43 because he was the 43rd president. President Obama is nicknamed 44 because that’s how many people have signed up for Obamacare.” –Jay Leno “Obama and other Democrats have even stopped using the term ‘Obamacare,’ when referring to the new healthcare law. Yeah, now they’re calling it ‘The Affordable Care Act.’ Americans were like, ‘Just let us know when you can call it ‘fixed.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“The New York Times is calling this Obama’s Katrina. Which of course is great for George Bush. He loves this. He called up Obama today and said, ‘You’re doing a heck of a job, brownie.’” –Bill Maher “So far, only 106,000 people have signed up for Obamacare. Even more disappointing is that it turned out to be one man who accidentally signed up 106,000 times.” –David Letterman

“Obama is wrestling with the healthcare rollout debacle. He urged Americans not to be put off by the Obamacare website and offered alternative ways to enroll, such as using the mail. Then the president got on his horse and rode off to spread the news to the next town.” –Conan O’Brien “A growing number of women are joining the CIA. The CIA is now 46 percent women. Which explains that new method of torture: the silent treatment.” –Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our pre holiday report. Enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration with friends and family, and remember, the best attitude is gratitude. With lots of stuffing.

We’ll catch you setting a Santa Cruz single game scoring record with 36 points in your first game of D-League action. Aloha, mahalo and later, Seth Curry fans.

November 17, 2013

Feedings, Nothing More Than Feedings

Good morning and greetings, sea bird fans. As the millions, er thousands, er hundreds, er dozens of readers to this site know, last week I posted my 400th blog. The director from the Office of Sponsored Programs from a unnamed university (Western Kentucky) had asked me earlier in the week what I was going to do celebrate this blessed event. I told her I wasn’t doing much and was just hoping for dial tone when I woke up.

But then I thought to myself and was reminded by the Hollywood press corps that 400 postings is quite an accomplishment, if for nothing else than the consistency that goes into the making of the experience. I’ve come to realize that no man is an island. I’m much more of a peninsula.

As Mark Twain once tweeted, “Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to share it with.” Thus, that would be you, members of my cyber audience and NSA analysts. Or in the words of Albert Einstein, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is that nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Believe me, it’s an act of God that I’ve penned this many words without receiving one plugged nickel. lt can only mean one thing. Loneliness has no boundries.

Of course, I’m just kidding. Not everything in life has to have a price tag on it or be measured in dollars and cents. I’m getting something that’s much more valuable than money out this experience. And if someone could let me know what that is, I would really appreciate it.

So after launching four century marks worth of free flowing thoughts and photos into cyber space, I knew I had to do something special to mark the occasion. I thought, maybe purchase some new cologne, an expensive bottle of wine, preferably Manischewitz, or some fuzzy bedroom slippers. Or maybe just renew my AARP card.

Yes, I’m living large. Remember, it’s not about the breaths you take, it’s about the moments that take away your breath.

So I invited my birth mother, who I rarely have lunch with more than four or five times a week, to join me for a celebration down at our most visually favorite dining location, the Santa Cruz Wharf. I was in the mood for seafood, and just my luck, the panko breaded parmesan crusted chicken was featured as the catch of the day.

But food was not to be the highlight of this outing, as when we approached the entrance to the wharf, I could see swarms of pelicans and seabirds going wild, diving into the ocean after anchovies. The pelicans were coming up with a pouch fulls of fish while the gulls moved in screaming for leftovers. The action was non-stop, and as we ate lunch, I could barely concentrate on my meal, as the activity outside the window was dreamier than my double order of mashed potatoes.

Adding to the festivities, dozens and dozens of sea lions were herding the schools of anchovies so they could enjoy a meal on the go. They were swimming in battalions, and the activity was happening on both sides of the pier. These feeding frenzies went on all afternoon. The action was so outstanding that I passed on the praline chocolate mousse dessert with a dark chocolate cookie crumb base and just munched on some crispy kale chips, because that’s the way I roll.

It was an exhilarating experience, a celebration of nature for the ages. But then the day got a little better when I learned 19 killer whales had been spotted in Moss Landing at an all-you-can-eat sea lion buffet. This day was the culmination of perhaps the greatest two months in the history of Monterey Bay. We’re talking about miles long schools of anchovies, endless chains of pelicans, jacked up pods of sea lions, more humpbacks whales ever spotted in the bay, and for the grand finale, a large group of orcas going wild. This was the bay at its nature’s best.

I came back to the wharf on Thursday to check out the scene, and the gulls, pelicans and sea lions where still going anchovie wild. However, when I returned Friday, all the pelicans and flowers were gone, and the sea lions were sleeping on the pilings under the wharf, stuffed from the appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.

So for today’s photo menu I’m serving up a healthy portion of pelicans, sea gulls and sea lions. The bird action was from last week, and since size matters, I’m featuring the largest pod of sea lions I’ve ever observed from this spot. As interesting as these photos are, it doesn’t truly capture the outrageousness of the moment, which is more suited to video. But if you take a close look at the first two shots, you can see the pelicans were jammed in together like sardines, making these photos rich in vitamins, minerals and memories. It’s the magic at the edge.

On to some late night humor. “Yesterday at the White House, President Obama met with various leaders of the American Indian tribes. He promised them, ‘If you like your medicine man, you can keep your medicine man.’ A new record was set today in the 100 meters. It was set by Senate Democrats running away from Obamacare.” – Jay Leno

“As you may know, Thanksgiving began in 1621 when the Pilgrims feasted with the Indians and promised them, ‘If you like your land, you can keep your land.’” – Jay Leno “It turns out that a lot of children could lose their dental insurance under Obamacare. So kids might not be able to go to the dentist. Parents were really upset, while kids said, ‘Four more years! Four more years!’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Today a reporter asked Chris Christie, ‘What do you think of 2016?’ And Christie said, ‘I think it’s a good weight to get down to.’” –Jay Leno “In a new interview today, Sarah Palin refused to endorse Chris Christie. Afterward, Christie told Palin, ‘Thanks, I owe you one.’” –Conan O’Brien “’60 Minutes’ had a story that turned out not to be true about Benghazi. They had to apologize. And then today they were embarrassed again. It turns out the stopwatch on ’60 Minutes’ is not accurate.” –David Letterman

So that’s my pelican brief. We’ll catch you making the Warriors looking like early season title contenders with your all-around play. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andre Iguadola fans.

November 10, 2013

Four Hundred, But Who’s Counting?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 10:24 am

Good morning and greetings, Veteran’s Day fans. Well, I have arrived at another benchmark along the long and winding cyber road. According to the folks at WordPress, where I purchase all my slacks, today’s posting is my 400th. Yes, the cryogenically frozen Ted Williams, the last man to hit over .400 in the major leagues, would be very proud. Or in his words, “God gets you to the plate, but once you’re there you’re on your own.”

So how did it all begin, this journey of over 400,000 words that has left me with a sense of peace, resentment and a thirst for more episodes of ‘Homeland?’ I’ve fallen in love with this show and now draw my inspiration from Clare Danes, as bi-polar CIA agent Carrie Matheson. In her words of the events of 9/11 ” I missed something once before. I won’t… I can’t let that happen again.” That’s the same way I feel about shooting sunrises.

Or as my wife said to me on the morning of our 25th wedding anniversary, ” You’re a disgrace to your nation, Sargeant Nicholas Brody. You’re a traitor and a terrorist, and now it’s time you pay for that.” Hey, I would have been happy with just a card.

I’ve always liked to write. I believed I may have penned my first sonnet on the walls of my mother’s womb. It started out, “There was a boy from Nantucket.” I had discovered my inner voice. However, after I exited my mother’s tomb, my voice was then labeled as colicky, which led to writer’s block as I suffered from postpartum depression.

I started my official writing career in junior high, when I had a poem published in the 7th/8th grade school magazine. I was a shy child who was interested in nature, and I believe it it was reflected in my literary prose. Here’s the third and final stanza from a poem very appropriately titled ‘Spring.’

“In the city the buses are clattering. In the forest the animals are chattering. The hustle and bustle is too much for me. I like to watch spring show up quietly.” Now I know why my teachers referred to me as Robert Frost Jr.

I continued to write in high school and had a couple of humorous pieces published in our high school literary magazine. Back then I had great ambitions, as I either wanted to be a investigative reporter, a marine biologist or a Playboy photographer. But writing was in my blood. And besides, it beat saying everything out loud.

After graduation from college, most of my writing over the next few decades was NBA basketball, top ten lists and checks. My first official blog was posted back in June of 2007, and after that, there was no turning back. I was on a mission, as I could finally do something creative with those voices playing in my head. The problem was, lots of time they were speaking in Hebrew, and I had no idea what they were talking about.

I created Sunrise Santa Cruz as a place to showcase the beauty of our cold water paradise, with the emphasis on the skies above it. But as I’ve learned over the years, being beautiful isn’t enough, and that’s why I added the text because what is better than laughter? I mean besides living in a world where everything is chocolate.

I’ve tried to amuse and confuse your hearts and minds with jokes from the best late night writers on the planet. Now throw in over 2,400 digital photo images and you’ve got over six years extracted from my mind’s eye that I’ll never get back. I’m just looking to make you laugh and think. After all, in the words of Will Rogers, “An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.” Unless you consider a cucumber funny.

So for today’s landmark photo lineup, we are returning to one of my favorite spots along West Cliff Drive, the cliffs above Stockton Avenue. For fourteen wonderous years, I lived 100 yards from this location, and rarely did I miss a sunset or a game involving Michael Jordan. This spot, like Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore of Oahu, is sacred, as I’ve always felt so powerful standing there overlooking the Pacific, thinking about the chicken katsu lunch plate.

On this evening, I didn’t need Phil Collins to tell me something was coming in the air that night. When I hit the cliff, the sky was glowing in a wonderful and magical way, and it proceeded to get better and better. The sky kept changing to different shades of red, while the reflection turned the ocean into something looking like cherry punch. These photos say it all. October fantastic.

On to some late night. “The new mayor of New York City is a progressive Democrat with an African-American wife who used to be a lesbian. Or as Fox News reported, the apocalypse is upon us. The new mayor is married to a woman who used to be a lesbian. His campaign slogan: ‘If I turned her around, imagine what I can do for New York City!’” –Conan O’Brien

“Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, keeps getting into trouble. They say he actually plagiarized an entire section of his 2012 book, ‘Government Bullies.’ When asked for comment, Paul said, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Forbes magazine has named evil Russian President Vladimir Putin as the most powerful person in the world. People magazine also named him the sexiest dictator alive.” –David Letterman

“New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is hoping to win re-election tomorrow, and polls show that he’s winning by a 19-point margin. Christie has really worked hard on the campaign. I heard he spent all weekend shaking hands and kissing bagels.” –Jimmy Fallon “Chris Christie won by such a wide margin that pundits say this will give him the impetus he needs to run for president. And he’s got a new slogan: ‘Put the oval in the Oval Office.’” –Jay Leno

So 400 posts are in the book. That’s lots of words, verbs and hor d’oeuvres. We’ll catch you putting up numbers no other player has ever posted through the first five games of the NBA season. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kevin Love fans.

November 3, 2013

I Haven’t Got Time For The Chains

Good morning and greetings, NBA fans. Well, the baseball season is finally over, as a bunch of guys with beards from the New England area took home the World Series crown. Now being a New York Yankee fan, this series between the Cardinals and the Red Sox did not hold a lot of interest for me, as I am more fascinated by Alex Rodriquez’s lawsuit against Major League Baseball, where he alleges he was forced to take steroids in order to compete with the caliber of Derek Jeter’s girlfriends.

If anything, I think A-Rod should be charged with impersonating a major league hitter after going 3-for-25 in the 2012 playoffs. This was before he was eventually benched for running out of the basepath to date Madonna.

The end of the baseball season signaled the start of the NBA season, which kicked off last Tuesday night with two games but really swung into full gear on Wednesday, with 14 games on the slate. This brings out the beauty of Direct TV’s NBA League Pass, which allows the casual fan to watch every game from the comfort of their home. For the NBA faithful, this is the gift that keeps on giving, as much like the NSA surveillance programs, there is action every night.

Now I don’t want to get too excited, but expectations this season for the Golden State Warriors, like the Dow Jones, are at an all-time high. And judging by the way they blew the Kobe-less LA Lakers off the floor on opening night, there may be good reason for the Warrior faithful to get aboard the love train and ride this wave of love and unselfish play into the month of June, when teams and my teeth get crowned.

If you took in any action from last week, you saw fabulous plays, big upsets, buzzer beaters, an unconscious mascot and enough heartbreak and disappointment to make you want to go right back at it the next night. The NBA journey for the ring begins in late October and doesn’t take a breather until June. That’s a good eight months of wall-to-wall NBA action, which is available to me without ever having to leave my fallout shelter. It all goes back to what I learned in Hebrew school. NBA is life, the rest is just details and Kabbalah.

Moving from courtside to the upper promenade, over the last seven days, I’ve witnessed the sight of thousands of brown pelicans migrating along the coast. We’re talking morning, noon and night. On Saturday evening, they flew by in long chains, amidst a backdrop of colorfully changing clouds. It was a real post Halloween treat, but without the sugar, calories or chocolate guilt.

These chains, like the need for my rabbi’s approval, are endless. It’s an Aretha Franklin festival as they fly high and low over the water, usually in some sort of V-formation or in single, double or x-file, which I call the Fox Mulder special.

Now my memory isn’t what it never was, but I never remember ever seeing this many pelicans doing fly bys along the coast. You can just park yourself along West Cliff Drive at seemingly any time of the day, and witness these never-ending flight patterns of this wonderful species, who go back around 30 million years, or around the birth of John McCain’s grandparents.

Adding to the festivities, last Monday I was treated to a fantastic light show as I strolled along the cliff. The sun was shooting through a mass of morning clouds, and the light kept changing faster than the number of shirts I tried on before selecting the one I wore to dinner for my 25th wedding anniversary celebration at the Shadowbrook the following night. The morning was quite delicious, and the same could be said of the baked brie appetizer and miso-marinated Hawaiian butterfish. And to think, Jack Bauer said we’d never make it past 24.

That Monday afternoon, my mother and I witnessed a pelican feeding frenzy. I knew she was excited to see the action first hand, as the sight of hundreds of pelicans diving into the water while the gulls screamed was simply amazing. Or in her words, “I’m not getting out of the car. I can see them from here.”

So today’s photo gallery are shots from a day long feeding frenzy along West Cliff. I never tire of viewing these moments as nature’s volume is always turned way up. It’s quite a show and admission is always free.

On to the late night humor. “According to a new report, more than 700 fake Obamacare websites have been created. Security experts say it’s simple to identify the phony sites because they are easy to log on to. I tried to log on to the Obamacare website today. I don’t think I’m doing it right. I lost 300 bucks playing Texas Hold ‘Em. People have been speculating lately about what President Obama will do when he leaves office in 2016. The one thing I think we can safely rule out – website designer.” –Jay Leno

“Saudi Arabia is now threatening to sever diplomatic ties with the United States over Syria. I hope that doesn’t cause them to do something drastic, you know, like overcharge us for oil.” –Jay Leno “Today Obama was in so much trouble he called Hillary Clinton and he said, ‘Could you start early?’” –David Letterman

“The U.S. has been spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel for more than 10 years. Merkel actually called Obama to say that eavesdropping on allies ‘is not acceptable.’ Then Obama said, ‘Yeah, well that’s not what you said to England.’” –Jimmy Fallon “If the NSA agents are like most men they were probably only pretending to listen to what she was saying anyway.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“A new study found that 30 percent of Americans admit to getting most of their news on Facebook. You can tell news anchors are trying to compete with Facebook because tonight Brian Williams’ top story was just a picture of his cat.” –Jimmy Fallon

I had the pleasure of seeing lots humpback whales heading north up the coast last week. This is always a thrill. As I like to say, “You breach, I teach.”

We’ll catch you showing the baseball world that you still had something left in your bat as you helped your team capture the 2013 World Series. Aloha, mahalo and later, David Ortiz fans.


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