October 26, 2014

He Shoots, He Scores

Good morning and greetings, World Series fans. Last week, I wrote about the change of seasons, as the warm days of Indian summer, along with my recognition memory seemed to be fading. It’s definitely chillier in the morning, as when I start out my walk, the sun and my wife are nowhere to be seen. Or to quote author Jarod Kintz about our relationship. “With my last breath, I’ll exhale my love for you. I hope it’s a cold day, so you can see what you meant to me.
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I’m not trying to get too mushy. Wednesday is our 26th wedding anniversary and I thought this shout out would go along well with the sugar free chocolate hearts and a bag of diamonds.

Now through the month of October, the fog, marine layer and any sort of joy from the Oakland Raiders have been absent from the area. The morning sky has been as clear as my conscience, with the sun popping up over the mountains of Monterey, delighting locals and green flash lovers.

But the lack of morning clouds is no more, as I recently shot back to back sunrises, one of which was featured in these pages last week. I had taken the last eight months off from the sunrise business, and I really hadn’t missed the action. I want this hobby to be, as Kool and the Gang says, “fresh, exciting, so inviting to me.” Nature never goes out of style.

For some folks, these moments of grandeur aren’t even a blip on the screen. I’ll never start taking these moments of dramatic glory for granted. Remember, everyone has a photographic memory, but not everyone has film.

Photographing at dawn is a noble and peaceful way to start the day, and like the Kardashian sisters, no two sunrises are exactly alike. Or as Kim once said, “I don’t understand why everyone is always going on about my butt. I’m Armenian. It’s normal.”

I don’t know about you, but this is one Kardashian I can never get enough of. Just goes to show, one day your sex tape gets leaked and next day people want your comments on the state of Dennis Rodman.

When I shoot sunrises, I’m looking for maximum reflection action from the clouds, so I usually position myself down on the sand at Its Beach, where the surf hits the turf. The wet sand provides a dramatic backdrop for capturing the amazing colors radiating from the sky. In the words of photographer Ansel Adams, “Sometimes I do get to places when God’s ready to have someone click the shutter.”

I have shot four impressive shows at dawn so far this season, which will all go on display in future posts. Last Thursday’s sunrise was epic, with orange ribbons of clouds flooding and lighting up the sky. Wednesday night’s sunset, which unfortunately I did not see in person due to a meeting with the Justice Department, was insane, as the sky turned an outrageous blood red. You snooze, you lose.

Moving along, the San Francisco Giants have been on a roll in the postseason, and are now playing in the World Series. You could call this team a mini-dynasty, with a possiblity of three championships in five years. However, I’m not really a big National League fan. I’m just in it for the AT & T Park garlic fries.

As exciting as it is for Bay Area baseball fans, hoop hysteria is set to get underway on Wednesday night, as your Golden State Warriors travel up to our state capital to take on the young and turnover prone Sacramento Kings.

Now as you may know, I have a slight interest in NBA hoops, as with NBA League Pass, I have access to every regular game for the next five months. It’s just really a part time hobby, as I’m only watching six to seven nights a week.

There are lots of reasons for high hopes for this Warrior squad, as point guard Stephen Curry is a highlight reel every night. He was recently named the league’s top pure shooter and when it comes to scoring, he’s a mini-LeBron James. Although the Western Division is tougher than a two dollar steak, Golden State, if they stay healthy, will be in title hunt.

Yes, I’ve hopped aboard the Warrior bandwagon. We are loud. Proud. The Warrior Girls.

And if that’s not enough, we have our D-League Santa Cruz Warriors starting up, with opening night on November 14th. And the D-League Showcase comes to town in January, when Santa Cruz will be at the center of the basketball universe.

Who knew Santa Cruz would be a hotbed of professional basketball? D-League action. It’s all about following the dream.

One more basketball note. My Western Kentucky Hilltopper friend Nancy Mager heard that I was running fullcourt, and told me, “You’re going to get hurt.” I reassured her I most certainly would not, as I tend to stay away from in the infighting and interaction around the hoop.

Well, two hours later, I was setting a screen and a guy’s head smacked into my eyelid and opened up a beautiful cut. It’s always a relaxing feeling when your blood is flowing like the River Jordan. I had to retire for the day and ended up with a periorbital hematoma, or black eye, which is caused by bleeding beneath the skin in and around the eye. It’s not very painful but a lovely whiter shade of purple.

But not to despair, as I was out playing the following day. Not very well of course, as it was difficult shooting with the eye patch, but those seventh graders aren’t really that tough.

So for today’s photo fastbreak, I am featuring a sunset from five years ago, on October 26 of 2009. The place was Natural Bridges State Beach, and the colors and clouds were wild and crazy. The clouds were in an unusual formation, and when the sky lit up, it was unlike any sunset that I had previously shot. Just another night in a cold water paradise.

On to some late night humor. “Whole Foods is introducing a new system that will label its produce “good, better, and best” depending on their supplier’s farming practices. Good means “no pesticides,” better means “environmentally friendly,” and “Best” means “still not worth five bucks for an apple.” – Jimmy Fallon “In pop culture news, Lady Gaga got married. And yes, she was wearing white meat.” – David Letterman

“Yesterday yet another person jumped the White House fence. It happened again. On the bright side, at least Michelle Obama is finally getting more Americans to exercise.” – Conan O’Brien “Last night, someone jumped the White House fence again. See, the problem is, if the pizza doesn’t get to Obama in 30 minutes, it’s free. And that comes out of their paycheck.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Kim Kardashian turned 34 years old. I hope she got the day off from work. Can you imagine trying to buy Kim Kardashian a gift. What do you get for the woman who has everything for no apparent reason? Kim Kardashian, by the way, shares a birthday with Benjamin Netanyahu and the scientist Alfred Nobel. Which just goes to show you: Horoscopes are crap.” – Jimmy Kimme

“As of today, Starbucks will allow their employees to display tattoos and ear gauges. Those are the round plugs that some people put in their ear lobe to let the world know their dads never played catch with them. Rock ‘n’ roll legend Tom Petty turned 64 years old today. He’s gone from the Heartbreakers to the Hipbreakers.” – Craig Ferguson

Caught the movie “Gone Girl” this weekend. What a lovely slice of evil.

So enjoy the festival of mini chocolate bars we call Halloween on Friday and we’ll catch you getting better with age and going down as the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. Aloha, mahalo and later, Peyton Manning fans.

October 19, 2014

You Snooze, You Lose

Good morning and greetings, fall foliage fans. Yes, the leaves are changing color and dropping off the trees, as we are going through some changes here on the central coast. I believe our lovely 90 degree October days, much like me sleeping peacefully through the night, are now history.

Or as author Anthony Burgess once said, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Snore and you sleep alone.”

As my body and what’s left of my mind continues to age, I don’t believe I’m getting the proper amount of sleep. Now according to researchers, if it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep, then you are very likely sleep deprived. The ideal amount of time is about ten minutes. I chime in at about ten seconds.

And to think, I used to be so good at sleeping that I could do it with my eyes closed

So some might say I am suffering from severe sleep deprivation. The problem is lately, I am now waking up every couple of hours for no reason at all. Even though I consume half of Lake Erie before I go to sleep, I never need to visit the men’s room. And I know it’s not my wife drop kicking me because of my snoring, because that is no longer a problem.

In the past, I would always fell asleep first, and that would drive her batty. But, problem solved, as she now has aids that render her safe and gentle sleep. She has offered to share, but I hesitate to take anything stronger than milk and cookies, as my body is a synagogue and I want to remain meditation and medication free for as long as possible, or at least until the opening of the NBA season.

I’ve always been an early riser, which works well in the sunrise business. But I am not in love with being awake in the four o’clock hour, and recently, that’s the time that my mind has decided it wants to go to work. Because when my brain goes on red alert, further sleep and dreaming is out of the question.

Oh, I try to go back to that unconcious state by thinking of pleasant experiences in my life, like my bar mitzvah party, being massaged like an eggplant and taking the SAT’s, but it rarely works. Once my concious mind gets ahold of the rolodex of thoughts that have been lingering from the previous day, it’s over, Johnny.

We all know that it’s torture not being able to sleep. Or being waterboarded by Dick Cheney. Many a night I have woken up and laid in bed like a mental patient, wishing for sleep to come back on, and always being denied. Listen, I love TV, but I don’t want to be watching the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” at 3 am.

Okay, maybe a little “Three Stooges, but my brain gets enough TV stimulation during normal business hours. And it better be an episode with Curly. “I’m a victim of soicumstance.”

In the middle of the night, I want my mind to be open only to dreams. When I dream during our REM (Rapid Eye Memory) Sleep, they are usually wild and crazy. But it’s the same dream during the non-REM phases that drives me nuts. I have dreamt it dozens of times over the last forty years. I’m at school and heading to a class that I’ve never attended and haven’t studied for the test. It’s always math. I have this uneasy feeling of not being prepared. Half the time I can’t even find the classroom.

Author James Baldwin, talking about dreams, once said, “The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened.”

Now I have always been a wild REM dreamer, as in my dreams I am frequently in company of celebrities, old high school friends and Miss Universe contestants. My subconcious life is much more exciting than my concious state, as the excitement has slowed down in my care giving years.

So by not getting enough sleep each night, I spend my day my day actively yawning. This act of inhalation and exhalation of of air is linked to exhaustion, stress, ISIS, overwork, lack of work, Ray Donovan, fatigue, boredom and watching the first eight innings of a baseball game. I’m taking drowsiness to a new level.

However, I know in paradise, everyone naps.

It seems like I’m always somewhat tired. I know I suffer from sleep apnea, but my doctor says if I’m not falling asleep while doing 65 on the freeway, then not to worry about it.

We spend a third of our lives sleeping. I have already slept twenty years. I not asking for much when it comes to sleep. As rocker Warron Zevon once quipped, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I just really want to pass that damn algebra test.

So for today’s photo library I am showcasing the first sunrise of the fall season. The day was last Thursday and the place Lighthouse Point. I hadn’t shot a sunrise since last February, and the view from the sand down at Its Beach and Steamer Lane was spectacular.

In the words of the Chicago Transit Authority, it’s “only the beginning.” And what a delightful and colorful entrance it was.

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On to some late night humor. “Right around the corner is the midterm elections. There’s an anti-incumbent mood in the country. People are sick and tired of people who have been in the job too long and are lazy and overpaid and out of ideas. Wait a minute. I’m sorry. That’s me. The administration now has a name for the war against ISIS. Every military operation has to have a name so people can get behind it, and they now have a name for the war against ISIS — Operation Hillary’s Problem.” – David Letterman

“I was very happy to see that our old friend Jay Leno is coming back to television. He’s coming back to CNBC and he’s got a brand-new show. Jay drives a variety of exotic vehicles, and each week he runs down a different NBC executive.” – David Letterman “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance yesterday in over 40 days. But since he saw his shadow, that now means 60 more years of nuclear winter.” – Jimmy Fallon

“On this day in 1912, President Teddy Roosevelt was shot, declined to go to the hospital, and gave a 90-minute speech with a bullet in his chest. Then on this day in 2012, I spent the whole day on WebMD because my eyelid wouldn’t stop twitching. Brad Pitt said in an interview this week that he doesn’t feel safe in his own home without a gun. Said Pitt, “I don’t even know half these kids.” – Seth Meyers

“For the last two months evil North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been missing. Well, apparently he is back in public. It turns out he was buried in the end zone at Giants Stadium. He claims he was kidnapped by Neil Patrick Harris.” – David Letterman “Today they announced the Nobel Prize winner for economics. It went to the guy who sold Derek Jeter’s socks for 400 bucks ” – Seth Meyers

So that’s another week. Be grateful for your health and think positive thoughts for others much less fortunate.

We’ll catch you hitting a three run walk off blast in the ninth inning and sending the Giants into the World Series. Aloha, mahalo and later, Travis Ishikawa fans.

October 12, 2014

Let’s Go, The Meder’s Running

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — geoff @ 8:54 am

Good morning and greetings, October lovers. What a great time to be alive and a sports fan on this planet. The baseball playoffs are in full swing, we’re one third into the NFL regular season, and the NBA preseason games are underway, which means the real deal is right around the corner. Ah, to be young and concussion free.

Now at the age of 61, I still have a heavy case of the Basketball Jones. For the last fifteen years, I have been playing half court pickup games on Saturdays out in Aptos. Fortunately this involves not a lot of running but a fair amount of sweating, which pleases my doctor to no end.

It’s a game of constant motion and jumping, although I only leave my feet if it’s an emergency. I’m a poster boy for playing at half speed.

So I look forward to hitting a few threes, making some no-look passes, and giving a lot of weakside help, which I think is one the reasons God put me on this great green earth. For you non-basketball folks, weakside help means basically leaving the man you’re guarding and creating a nuisance by double teaming opposing players.

It’s part of the old Magic Johnson philosophy, “Ask not what your teammates can do for you. Ask what you can do for your teammates.”
Now it’s not all that glamorous, but this giving gratifies me like taste of any flavor of Haagen Daz. I know I’ve lost a step or two or three, but my hands are still are still my calling card, as the quickness is still there. And according to my rabbi, I have a very high basketball IQ.

So why am I telling you this? Well, the games at Willowbrook Park have ended. It was a gradual slow and painful process, as the players became disillusioned and stopped showing up. So not only do I miss my weekly workout, but the male bonding with the boys from the south county. You can’t put you arm around a memory.

So what’s a fella to do? Well, I’ve started playing over on the westside at Meder Street Park, where I used to run back in the 80′s. It’s a beautiful location, as the court has a lovely view of the eucalyptus trees. And there’s action every day.

The problem is, I’m now mostly running full court, something I thought I had left in the past, along with dating, trick or treating and leaking out on the fast break. Yes, this game now involves actual running, not just sashaying around the half court making clever comments while picking and rolling.

So right after playing I’m usually sore, so I head to the hot tub, where I soak up before I head into the the oxygen tent. I’m usually in traction the next day, but it’s nothing that a ventilator can’t fix. There’s a fine line between exercise and a heart attack.

My son Jason recently said that if he could build his life around anything, it would be playing basketball. Or establishing world peace through beach volleyball. The macadamia nut didn’t fall far from the cherry tree.

But it’s sometimes awkward at the park when there are fifteen guys there and I’m the only one who’s ever seen an episode of Magnum, P.I.. So I explain that I’m prematurely silver and a graduate student in Buddhist philosophy. Or as former Laker Coach Phil Jackson said, “If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball.”

Sometimes before we run start running I get in a few games of half court. It feels so good to be moving and knocking down those open jumpers, bringing me back into the light.

It just goes to show that as one door closes, another back door play opens up. As the saying goes, some want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen. Refuse to lose, defend till the end.

It’s all about standing tall, talking small, playing ball Get a life. Play basketball.

So for today’s photo display, we’re moving into the light, as we are heading down to Lighthouse Point and the arch at Its Beach. All the shots were taken at the golden hour around sunset time, when the sun is low in the sky and the colors and reflection delight.

I’m fond of the last shot of the wave exploding through the arch. This was a magical moment, and my favorite photo from this location.

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On to some late night humor. “A group in Russia has nominated Vladimir Putin for the Nobel Peace Prize. When Putin heard this he said, “I’m all about achieving piece — piece of Ukraine, piece of Poland.” – Jimmy Fallon “Today is Vladimir Putin’s 62nd birthday. He celebrated the way he always does: having someone try his cake before him. It must be tough buying him a gift. What do you get for the man who has everywhere?” – Craig Ferguson

“The Obamas celebrated their 22nd wedding anniversary. It was a quiet late-night supper. It was just the Obamas and a couple of White House fence jumpers. They’re doing everything they can to tighten security at the White House. Today, on the roof of the White House, they added one of those fake owls. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned, and in her closing statement she said, “I’m leaving, not because of the breaches in security, but I don’t think I can take the pressure of the upcoming trick-or-treaters.” – David Letterman

“At the Eiffel Tower they’ve installed a new glass floor that lets tourists see what’s going on hundreds of feet below them. It celebrates France’s favorite pastime: looking down on people.” – Jimmy Fallon “The New York Post says that Oscar Wilde is responsible for Kim Kardashian’s rise to fame because he was the first person “famous for being famous.” When asked her thoughts about it, Kim said, “Is Oscar the one that lives in a trash can?” – Seth Meyers

“The speed limit here in New York City used to be 30 miles an hour. Now it is 25 miles an hour. I’ve gotten out of a cab moving 25 miles an hour. They’re now putting in speed bumps too. For years. it was just pedestrians. Nobody had seen North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un for a week, then a month, and now six weeks have gone by and nobody’s seen him. They really started to get worried when he didn’t show up at the Clooney wedding.” – David Letterman

So the games go on and I’m loving it. We’ll catch you creating a TV sitcom called “The Goldbergs” that highlights my Wednesday night. Aloha, mahalo and later, Adam Goldberg fans.

October 5, 2014

Birds Are People Too

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — geoff @ 9:07 am

Good morning and greetings, baseball playoff fans. There were highs and lows on our local national pastime front last week, as the A’s were losers and the Giants were winners in respective one game wild card playoffs. It was especially painful for A’s fans like my son Jason, as they seemingly had the game won three times before they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

But then again, he has the football Raiders, who with any luck, will put together a winning season before he’s eligible for Medicare.

Now at this point in my life, the regular baseball season is for the birds, as it’s a tad long and way too slow. But birds are very much a part of my so-called existence, and I’m not referring to the heaping portion of teriyaki chicken I devour for lunch down at I Love Sushi, which comes with miso soup, calamari strips, california rolls, rice and salad, all for the bargain price of $7.50.

Why such a great deal? Because that’s the way they roll.

Now here on the central coast, we are surrounded by a diverse bird population. People are a different story.

When I wake up in the darkness and feed my baby squirrels, the birds are always singing. And it’s always the males, who are looking to protect their turf while crooning for some female companionship, because that’s the way God programmed us. We just don’t want to be lonely.

When I stroll down West Cliff, there’s a group of small birds who live in the trees that are always serenading passerbyers. They are joined by a variety of gulls screaming out over the water, as opposed to the pelicans, who are much more of the strong, silent type. They fly softly, but carry a big beak.

Now according to my sources in the aviary world, which would be the Santa Cruz Sentinel and writers Terri Morgan and Donna Jones, the Monterey Bay area is a pit stop or permanent home for 250 species of birds, not including Costco’s rotisserie chicken, of which they sell 60 million a year at their 650 warehouse stores. Come for toilet paper, leave with an giant roasted bird for $4.99.

This is because the Central Coast is part of the Pacific Flyway, a bird migration flight pattern that runs from the Arctic to the tropical rain forests and dictatorships of South America. Right now, after they’ve gotten in some breeding time up north, and we all know how enjoyable that can be, the shorebirds are heading through Santa Cruz on the way to their winter feeding grounds. Come for the food, stay for the fun and surf.

Natural Bridges Beach is a happening place if you’re into birds, as you can see egrets, hawks, black crowes, woodpeckers, pelicans, penguins, blackbirds, songbirds, Larry Birds, owls, orioles, yankees and gulls of every race, creed and color. I frequently see great blue herons with their tremendous wing spans, along with a variety of red shouldered and redtailed hawks, including the great Dominique Wilkens.

So if you’re a birder, the central coast is one of the great places to be in the fall. We don’t have quite an exotic a selection of species as in the Amazon jungles, where loggers are burning down and destroying the vegetation as fast as possible, but we pack a wallop with the belted kingfisher and red breasted sapsucker crowd.

Back in 2012, birders from all over the country flocked here when a common cuckoo was spotted in the Watsonville Slough, which blended right in with the crazies we have walking the streets of our town. Which brings to mind an old Turkish proverb, “For the birds that cannot soar, God has provided low branches.”

Now over the years, I have documented a group of cormorants, who built their nests on the cliff right outside Natural Bridges. I started photographing them back in June of 2008, as they gathered their nests, lay their eggs, went shopping, and hatched babies before eventually flying off to the world tour.

So when I saw this story in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, I was naturally interested.

Caltrans is demolishing part of the Bay Bridge, which is home to a gang of double crested cormorants. They are going to spend $709,000 to build 2½-foot-wide nesting condos and studio apartments on the underside of the new bridge, in the hopes that the 800 or so state-protected cormorants would move off the old span and sign new leases.

An additional $1 million has been spent to try to lure the birds over to the new bridge, using bird decoys, cormorant recordings, the best of the Doobie Brothers CD and even nests made from discarded Christmas wreaths and Hanukah bushes.

But the birds love the view and location and have no plans to relocate, So Caltrans came up with a Plan B, speeding up demolition in the hopes of beating next spring’s nesting season, because once the birds start laying eggs, work comes to a halt.

Apparently, the cormorants have told their friends about this prime real estate spot, as consultants hired to monitor the bird population have found 533 cormorant nests on the bridge this year, which is double the amount counted during construction three years ago. According to the new estimates, this would bring the total spent on relocating these protected birds to more than $33 million, or what an invitation costs to go to George Clooney’s wedding.

The lovely Julia Roberts and Matt Damon were there for the nuptials. Afterwards, David Letterman said, “What was it, a wedding or a heist?”

In a statement, a spokesman for the cormorants said they’re sorry about the exorbitant costs of the relocation, but it’s just too foggy and cold to nest over at the Golden Gate Bridge, as the suicide attempts make them a little nervous about raising their children in that kind of an environment.

So today I am showcasing some photos from our local bird population.The first shots are the location where the cormorants built their nests on West Cliff, followed by a shot of the babies. We then move on to a red shouldered hawk, followed by a snowy egret, then a great egret and some golden godwits at sunset.

We then finish up with a great blue heron in flight, followed by a cluster of gulls just wanting to have fun at Four Mile Beach.

On to some late night humor. “The NFL recently hosted a football workshop in China. Unfortunately, most kids just ran when they heard the word “workshop.” Congratulations to Chelsea Clinton, who gave birth to a baby girl named Charlotte on Friday. Or as Hillary described the baby, “Third in line to the throne.” Chelsea Clinton gave birth to a baby girl. And get this, she’s already said her first word: “Iowa.” – Jimmy Fallon

“George Clooney is off the market. Clooney and his bride got married in Italy on Saturday, and two days later they are still married! The wedding was so beautiful, it already won six Oscars. My advice to Clooney is to remember that marriage is complicated. It starts out pretty good, but then there are long rough patches, times when you want to leave. Oh, no, wait. I was thinking of “Oceans 13.” – Craig Ferguson

“LeBron James’ childhood will be the subject of an episode of a new children’s TV series. Hopefully it’ll help teach kids a valuable lesson — that they can do anything they put their mind to as long as they’re amazing at basketball. Scientists in northern California and Oregon found that marijuana gardens are threatening the salmon population. I don’t see the problem, really. Everyone loves baked salmon.” – Seth Meyers

“After a photographer was accused of harassing the royal baby Prince George, lawyers for Prince William and Kate Middleton said that their son “must be permitted to lead as ordinary a life as possible.” They then added, “Now get away from our castle!” – Seth Meyers “Evil dictator Kim Jong Un has not been seen in three weeks. I hate it when a recluse disappears, don’t you?” – David Letterman

So enjoy this California heat wave and we’ll catch you and your CIA bipolar personality on the new season of “Homeland.” Aloha, mahalo and later, Claire Dane fans.


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