April 26, 2015

The Father The Son And The Holy Coast

Good morning and greetings, cyber readers.  As you know, my son Jason is a junior at UC Santa Barbara.  During this past spring break, instead of coming home for the week and be surrounded by family, rabbits and mounds of chicken parmesan, he decided to take up a long standing offer and headed off to Mexico with his friend’s family to relax and experience the culture of our neighbors to the south.

Now, I’m not exactly sure where he went, but I’m thinking Baja, somewhere along the coast.  Now when the Gilbert family goes on vacation, we are happy to do nothing besides eat, read, swim and relax.  After returning from his Mexican vacation, Jason informed me that their family did even less, which is quite an accomplishment.

His days were filled with meals of fabulous Mexican cuisine, taking naps in the hammock and vigorous games of Scrabble at night.  The ocean was too rough for him to learn how to surf, so he spent the days happily reading and discovering new recipes for salsa.

So being that I hadn’t seen my first born in three and half months, I decided it was time for my annual road trip down the coast to Goleta, which is where the UC Santa Barbara campus is located.  My plan was to drive down early Saturday morning and spend the day with Jason before heading back early Sunday, so to be back in time for the tip off of the first of the four playoff games on the day.

Now I am an early riser, as I haven’t woken up after 6 am since Woodstock.  There is really no rhyme or reason to why I have to be up at around 5 am, but once I awake my mind is on full alert and at that point, there is no turning back.  Occasionally, I can fall back to sleep, but it’s never for long.

They say life is something that happens when you can’t get to sleep, but I’m not buying it.  I know I’m sleep deprived and suffer from a little sleep apnea, but then again, who doesn’t?  So I spend the day yawning and go about my business.

I was a little anxious about getting up early, so I hopped into bed a little after 10 pm.  I was definitely tired from playing basketball in the afternoon, and so I thought I could perhaps drift off to dreamland before hitting the road in the early morning hours, before dawn’s early light.

Well, I finally fell asleep at 11:30, and then slept in till 12:30, and when I awoke and saw the time, I realized in was in trouble.  I tried switching beds, watching TV, but I knew that by 2 am the sleep train had pulled out of the station.

So I just waited till 4 am, and then hit the road. For my four hour plus ride, I had brought along some select Howard Stern cassette tapes that I recorded back in the 80′s.  They included interviews with Jerry Seinfeld, David Lee Roth, Sam Kinison, Gary Shandling, Joe Piscopo and more.  Even though I have heard them numerous times, they are always entertaining and make the time go by much more pleasantly.

So I popped the first cassette tape it and before I could say “Jessica Hahn,” it popped out.  Put the next one in the same thing happened.  Yes, the cassette player was no longer working, so it was on to plan B.
Fortunately, my CD player was still working,  so I stuck in a live Doobie Brothers concert recorded in Milan, Italy, back in 2010.  I was listening to the music while rolling down the highway, and Jesus was just alright with me.
So I arrived at 8:30, and Jason greeted me, fresh from a shower.  He proceeded to make me a wonderful breakfast of rice, zucchini and chicken, when all I wanted was a pop tart.
We then headed over to the admissions building where Jason is employed as a campus tour guide, and gave a 10:30 tour to 30 prospective students and their families.  After a mile and a half trot around the campus, we then headed back to his apartment to catch the tip off of the Golden State game, and then at halftime headed over to Gio’s Pizza in Isla Vista, where I proceeded to consume the biggest slice of pizza in my life.
The slice was tremendously good, as I was surrounded by a sea of college aged males and coeds drinking Bud Lite.  At that point, I felt like I was part of the Gaucho nation, and it felt good.
After the pizza, we split a chocolate milk shake before going back and catching the Pelicans fourth quarter comeback at his place.  But the Warriors came out on top in the end and so things were falling nicely into place.
Jason had to study and I was a bit tired, so we passed up a baseball game against Cal Poly, before heading out to do a little shopping at Trader Joe’s and Vons.
We then headed over to check out my illustrious accommodations at the Motel 6, where at $146.00 per night, they don’t supply you with any shampoo.  But fortunately, when we picked some take out chicken katsu at the L & L Barbecue, I picked up a couple of containers which my son graciously filled with shampoo.
We proceeded to eat and watch the Dallas-Houston game, and I knew my day with my son was coming to a close.  We spent some time talking after the game, and I listened to him talking about his life, his future options and where he might be headed.  It was great  just to listen and hear about how his life plans might be unfolding.
I said my goodbye, headed to the motel, watched a little bit of “The Closer” and fell right asleep.  In the morning, they served no breakfast, and I was on the road and in the early morning fog before 7 am, heading back to Santa Cruz.
It was a lot of driving but well worth the trip.  Jason will graduate next year and who knows what continent he may be heading to.  His life is going by so quickly, and I savored the time spent with my oldest child.  I look at him and he is so familiar.  He is, after all, the best of me.
For today’s photo entree, we are heading back to the evening of January 28th.  The place was Natural Bridges State Beach, and as the sun set into the Pacific, some nicely colored tangerine clouds appeared in the sky.  Then I headed down to the sand, where pink and white clouds were swirling in the backdrop of the remaining final arch.  The clouds then turned from orange to red, and all was good.

On to some late night humor.  “An intruder was arrested at the White House last night after trying to jump the fence. Authorities aren’t releasing the fence jumper’s identity, but they did say that she tore her pantsuit.  A company has come out with a line of medical marijuana dog treats. Finally a medicine that will help my dog lie on the couch all day.” – Seth Meyers

“Teenagers across the country have been participating in something called the Kylie Jenner Lips Challenge, in which they place a jar around their lips and suck in air in order to make their lips swell. While teenagers in China have been participating in “school.”  Arnold Schwarzenegger has a new movie that focuses on a zombie apocalypse. It takes place in an empty wasteland with no living beings. Just like the movie theater where it’s playing.” – Seth Meyers
“Today is Earth Day. The way I see it, as humans the very least we can do is recycle. A lot of recycling is going on this year. For example, Bushes and Clintons.  The New York Mets have won eight games in a row. Astronomers say this won’t happen again for another 10,000 years.” – David Letterman
“There are reports that Kim Jong Un climbed North Korea’s highest mountain. Kim Jong Un said all it took to climb that mountain was hard work, determination, and lying about climbing that mountain.  At the White House yesterday, a little girl actually asked first lady Michelle Obama how old she is. Michelle answered, “Old enough to put you on the No Fly List, sweetheart.” – Jimmy Fallon
So that’s my last blast for April.  We’ll catch you scoring 40 points and hitting a spectacular, game-tying three pointer in the final seconds to force overtime in game three.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Stephen Curry fans.

April 19, 2015

They Don’t Give Out Trophies For Regular Season Champions

Good morning and greetings, NBA playoff fans.  Yes, in the words of the Chambers Brothers, “The time has come today,” as it is wonderful to be alive and a pro basketball fan.  The fabulously entertaining NBA regular season came to a stunning conclusion Wednesday night, and now it is on to the postseason, when the big boys lace up their sneakers and go for the gold-the NBA championship.

Last year’s first round of the playoffs were utterly fantastic, in which three out of the four western conference matchups went down to the final game of the series.  In the other, a miraculous, last second, buzzer beating shot by Portland’s Damian Lillard stunned the Houston Rockets in the game six finale.  My head was about to explode, but that’s what two frenzied weeks of wild finishes and  wall to wall action will do to you.

Now for the long standing Warrior nation, this is your time to rise and shine.   Golden State has been hands down, from start to finish, the best team in the NBA this season.    It has been a miraculous run, as no one, including Stephen Curry’s barber, expected the Warriors to win 67 regular season games.

But there was some doubt heading into the new campaign.  Former coach Mark Jackson, who had led the Warriors to a 51 win season the year before, was thrown out the door last May and replaced by TNT’s Stevie Kerr, who had as much NBA head coaching experience as my mother-in-law.  This was a big gamble, as the team thrived under Jackson and were headed down the road to playoff prosperity.

So they awarded Steve Kerr with a 5 year, $25 million contract.  Would this former reserve shooting guard, who once traded punches and received a black eye from then teammate Michael Jordan, be the man to lead the Warriors to the promised land?

Well, it appears that owner Joe Lacob got it right in replacing Jackson, who always said that the hand of God was guiding the Warrior team.  Golden State got off to a tremendous start, stunning everyone around the league by winning 20 out of their first 22 games  The dream was in motion and the fans were going wild.
But first let’s give credit to Mark Jackson for getting the ball rolling.  As he said a few months back on his first return to Oracle Arena an ESPN commentator, “Steve Kerr’s done an outstanding job. He deserves a lot of credit. I think while giving him credit, there’s no need to take away credit from the past. You can’t disrespect the caterpillar and rave about the butterfly.”
Throughout the season, there were miraculous nightly performances by all-star guard Stephen Curry, with this ball handling, drives to the hoop and extraordinary clutch three point shooting, making him arguably the most exciting performer in the NBA today.

As he said after Wednesday night’s regular season finale, “We’re a resilient group, and we’re hungry to achieve the next level.  Our record is great.  I don’t think anyone could imagine 67 wins going into the season.  We wanted to finish strong, look forward to the playoffs and bottle up all that mojo we established over these 82 games.”

It’s been a season beyond expectations.  Curry’s partner in the backcourt, all-star Klay Thompson, scored 37, yes 37, points in one quarter earlier in the season, an unbelievable scoring performance.  When he squares his shoulders to the basket when shooting, he’s an artist in motion.
Pastor Jackson said a while back that the combination of Curry and Thompson were “the best shooting backcourt ever, it’s not even close.” I almost choked on my Frosted Flakes when I heard this, but I have come around to the fact that it is true.  They are the best, and the league logo, Jerry West, would agree.
They are joined in the starting lineup with my NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, power forward  Draymond Green.  Now every team had a shot to select Green, who was picked in the second round of the draft, so he came in having a little something to prove, with a chip on his shoulder.  As Jackson remarked, “What he does, you cannot put on paper.”
The other component in the mix is center Andrew Bogut, the 7 footer out of Australia, who’s a shot blocker and rim protector and a key part of the passing game and defensive scheme.  Bogut missed the playoffs last year with a rib injury, but he is now smiling, healthy and ready to do battle.Now the second season is underway, and the number to focus on is 16, in that you have to beat four teams, four times to call yourself champions.  The Warriors have what it takes to go all the way.  Luck has been on their side, as they have been relatively healthy all year, while other teams have been decimated by injuries.

Of course, there are other obstacles looming in their path, but they caught a break when the defending NBA champs, the San Antonio Spurs, dropped from the # 2 seed to #6 on the last night of the season, meaning they’ll have to win out on the road.  They take on Chris Paul and the L.A. Clippers, which are the two teams that have eliminated the Warriors from their last two playoff series.

The Warriors opened up on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans, and now have a 1-0 lead in the best of seven series, with game two on tap for tonight.  The Pelicans are young and shouldn’t be much of a challenge.It’s the Warrior’s time.  Everything is falling nicely into place.  They know what their task is and the challenges that lie ahead

In the words of Coach Kerr, “The best thing the Warriors franchise did over the last few years was build a defensive unit. Everything that ‘s happened has prepared this team to play well in the postseason, because it’s all about defensive intensity, being able to string together four or five stops.  Those are the teams that ultimately go deep and maybe win the whole thing,  You got to be able to defend and we can count on our defense.”
It may not be raining in the Bay Area, but the championship drought may soon be over.  We’ve got Curry and no worries.  Let’s keep that mojo rolling.
So I heard through the grapevine that the last week’s flowers in the rain were a nice break from the morning sunrises.  So I thought I would continue the theme of color by showcasing a parade of phalaenopsis orchids I had shot at various nurseries and farmers markets throughout the county.I have hundreds of beautiful orchid photos resting peacefully in my archives, as I went a little orchid crazy a while back.  They are such an exotic and as my cousin Gina says, “erotic” looking flower, and their colors just drive my photographic eyes wild.  So sit back and click on the photos to make them larger.

On to some late night humor.  “Governor Chris Christie says if he’s president, he will crack down on the sale of marijuana. However, that was before he was told it also comes in a brownie. Hillary Clinton announced she’s running for president. Yesterday in Ohio, Hillary popped into a Chipotle and she ordered a burrito bowl with chips and salsa. And on her way out she said, “That locks down the Hispanic vote.” – Conan O’Brien

“Hillary Clinton is now in Iowa. She’s spending every waking minute of her day meeting ordinary people, and it’s to prepare her for a job in which she will never again meet an ordinary person.  Hillary’s trying to appear downhome. Earlier today she was sitting on the front porch of a general store whittling a pantsuit.” – David Letterman

“Hillary Clinton is not the first woman to run for president. That title belongs to Victoria Woodhull, who ran for president in 1872. Her running mate was a young, scrappy John McCain.   Jeb Bush welcomed his fourth grandchild. The new Bush grandchild is happy, healthy, and will be running for president in 2048.” – Conan O’Brien

So we’ll catch you have a record setting season and being the best player in the NBA not in the playoffs.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Russell Westbrook fans.

April 12, 2015

It Takes A Long Time To Grow Old

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Good morning and greetings, baby boomer fans.  In my last posting, I wrote about the impending birthdays of my son and brother.  I am happy to report they both enjoyed their birthday celebrations, although Brad mentioned at his age (56), he couldn’t remember turning 21.  Or as Mark Twain once tweeted, “When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not.”
But there was still one other birthday to celebrate in the Gilbert family, as yesterday, April 12, my father, Daniel Gilbert, turned 98 years old.  Yes, 98 years old, sports fans.  If you’re keeping a scorecard at home, that’s approximately 35,770 days on the planet.
Now you would think we would be having a grand celebration in honor of such an auspicious occasion, but it was not to be. Unfortunately, my father did not know it was his birthday.  The last time I asked him how old he was, he said 56.  He does not know what day it is, what time it is or who is the president.
That is because he has been diagnosed with advanced dementia, and there is very little left of his short term memory.  His mind started to go south in the his late 80′s, as I can’t remember the exact year.  The decline was gradual, but definitely noticeable.
Back when my father was in his 80′s, I used to take him out to lunch to give my mother some free time for herself.  The conversation was good and the dining always pleasant, with juicy hamburgers at The Hindquarter, prime rib out on the wharf at Gilda’s and shrimp and lobster sauce, his favorite Chinese dish at Tam’s, where he always had eyes on my soup.
But then walking became tricky and other things came into play, so I figured after 85 plus years of going out to eat, he’d just have to settle for home cooked meals. I wanted him to be safe, and not fall and break a hip, which is the beginning of the end for many elderly people.  So he began his indoor existence, where he is now still today.
For his 90th birthday, we threw him a party at the Peachwoods Grill over in Pasatiempo.  It was an amazing experience because the dementia had set in, but on this day he miraculously rose to the occasion as the honored guest.  He graciously handled himself and no one really noticed anything out of place.But on the way out, while walking with my brother, the demons returned as I heard him saying, “Where are we, where are we going.”  The fog had returned.
And that was basically the last time we celebrated an occasion that he was somewhat conscious of.  Over the years the dementia has taken over and has robbed him of the most of the joy in his life.  He know longer follows his New York Giants and Knicks, as he watches the screen but the rooting interest has been gone for years.
Unfortunately, the dementia has taken a toll on my 89 year old mother, who after 65 years of being married to this man and dealing with his manic depression, is just exhausted, after putting his needs in front of hers.  At her tender age, she has been a caregiver too long, and she is plain worn out.
We want my father to stay at home as long as possible, as my mother does not want to spend her free time visiting him in a nursing facility.  I agree with her, but the task of taking care of him has taken a toll on both of us.
We now have caregivers during the day and overnights.  But the stress of the situation led to my mother contracting shingles last July, which were incredibly painful and threw her for a loop.  She is now in some sort of pain every day, and as she often says to me these days, ‘I’m not whistling Dixie.”
So I take her out to lunch, to doctor’s appointments and make sure they get a good, home cooked meal every night. My father’s world has become very small, as he has outlived everyone in his family, just has his body has outlived his mind.  No one comes to visit except the caregivers, and he rarely goes outside, as he spends his days sleeping and watching television.  It’s not a pretty picture, and every day is like basically the same.  These are not the golden years.
But his heart is strong, and he continues to live on, though I doubt that he is enjoying his existence.  It is difficult to imagine being 98 years old, as I know how my body feels at age 62.  Tired doesn’t begin to describe it.
So he continues on.  He take very little medication and rarely visits the doctor.  When we did, the doctor would ask, “Is he walking okay?”  “Yes.”  “Is he eating well?”  “Yes.”  Does he get agitated or belligerent?”  ‘No.”  “Well,” says the doctor, “Five more years and he’ll be 100.”
And that about says it all.  He just keeps on ticking.  Happy birthday, Dad.
For our photo concession this week, we are heading up to the Arboretum at UCSC.  I awoke last Tuesday to the sound of rain, and wanted to shoot the flowers with the precipitation intact.  When I arrived at the Arboretum, the sky was changing from blue to gray, as rabbits scurried around in the underbrush.  There were lots of flowers in bloom, and I captured the color and droplets of moistness I was looking for.
On to some late night humor.  “John McCain addressed critics who believe he will be too old to run for a sixth term in the Senate, saying that he’s still healthy and ready to go. Then people around McCain said, “Why is he talking to that mannequin?” – Jimmy Fallon   “The campaign to put a woman on the $20 bill has narrowed the choices down to four finalists. The four finalists are Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Flo from the Progressive Insurance.” – Conan O’Brien

“President Obama just made his first presidential trip to the state of Utah. Obama spent his time in Utah just like you’d expect — telling people, “Uh, no, I don’t play for the Jazz.”  Jeb Bush is facing criticism after it was just revealed that he checked off his race as “Hispanic” on a voter registration form back in 2009. When asked if he regrets it now, Bush said, “Si.” – Jimmy Fallon

“California may force the city of Beverly Hills to cut its water use by up to 35 percent. So yet another tough break for Beverly Hills farmers.  McDonald’s has announced plans to unveil even larger hamburgers. They also announced plans to widen their doors and reinforce the floors.” – Conan O’Brien

So we’ll catch you being the go-to guy on the defending NBA champions and leading the Spurs into the playoffs.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Kawhi Leonard fans.

April 5, 2015

The Golden State Of Birth

Good morning and greetings, Final Four fans.  Yes, in just a few short hours, a new college basketball champion will be crowned, which brings to a close  three weeks of March Madness.  In the end, only one team will be left standing, and as the victors cut down the nets and CBS plays “One Shining Moment” to a backdrop of fabulous plays and cheerleaders in tears, one thing stands out at this moment.

People love to gamble.  That is the secret to the madness, as the tournament has drawn its best ratings in more than two decades.  Seems college hoops fans were checking their brackets like lemmings marching to the sea.
And for you who were not watching Saturday night, the Wisconsin Badgers

knocked off the previously undefeated Kentucky Wildcats to advance to the championship game, where they will face the Duke Blue Devils.  The king is dead.  Who knew?

And with the college basketball season coming to a close, this means the NBA once again takes center stage. With just over one week left in the regular season, the Golden State Warriors continue to lead the NBA in excitement and execution, and have elevated their game to a very high level.
Now this does not guarantee a championship, but it’s a good place to start.
So mark your calendars for April 18, when the the postseason journey begins to determine who will be  coming home with the Larry O’Brien championship trophy.  The Warriors have been the best team all season, but when the playoffs start, everyone’s record is 0-0, as the slates have been wiped clean.
The Warriors have set a record for franchise wins and have locked up the number one seed.  In the words of all-star point guard Stephen Curry, ” It’s a testament to how focused we’ve been over the course of the season. We’ve had a big lead in the standings, but we understood the big goal in mind. We kept our focus and we kept our commitment to what we are doing on the floor.”
But before the playoffs get underway, there is an important day in the lives of my family.  Coming up on Tuesday, April 7, my son Jason turns 21 years old.  This is a special occasion, as this means four years from now, he will be able to drive the rental car on our Hawaiian vacations.  That is the true aloha spirit.
Jason is a junior and majoring in biochemistry at UC Santa Barbara.  He is on the premed track and hopes to attend medical school somewhere in the western hemisphere.  He’s always wanted to be a doctor, and God knows, we’re going to need someone in the family who knows about the aging mind.
I’m very proud of him and what he’s accomplished so far.  I had a ringside seat to see him grow from a tiny infant to the young man he is today.   We were connecting basically every day until he went off the college.  We played basketball, we talked basketball and we watched basketball.  It was a bonding element.
I always knew where I could find him, up in his room watching “The Office” or writing some sort of essay to get into some kind of program when he wasn’t playing beach volleyball.  And he has followed in my path in the culinary department, as he marinates his chicken and makes mango salsa like a young Wolfgang Puck.If I had any complaints, it would be that now he has his own life to live.  He’s become a man, and after graduation from college, will soon be off on another adventure, adding new chapters to his life.  I won’t be going along on his journeys, but my heart will be with him.  But how I miss the day to day contact.
And I always say, laugh and the world laughs with you.  Skype, and you skype alone.
But his isn’t the only birth that occurred on this day.  That’s right, as my brother Brad also celebrates his trip down the birth canal.  And we are lucky to have him around, because back in the early spring 2014, while on a heli snowboarding trip to Alaska, Brad was sitting on top of a glacier when the cornice collapsed under him, sending him tumbling down the mountain.
When he finally finished his free fall, he was buried in the snow and dazed and confused.  He was alive and but unfortunately, on the way down the slope, a bomb had gone off and destroyed his left knee.  All the ligaments, attachments and things you need to function were kaput.
So began a very painful chapter in my brother’s life.  My brother Paul flew up to Colorado to survey the damage, and the carnage was something neither would want to see or go through again.  My youngest brother was a wreck and there was nothing we could do.
When the swelling finally went down and the heavy narcotics began to wear off, Brad had major reconstructive surgery on the knee in Colorado.  This led to gut wrenching days and the agony of sleepless nights.  We were all helpless in his fight against pain.Then began the second act of physical therapy, which turned out to be more painful than his injury. Now Brad could have given up and not gone headlong into the PT, but this boy wants to get back on the slopes. I admire him for that, because for me, I’d be at the lodge snorkeling in the hot tub while sipping hot chocolate and downing some scones.

His doctor says his knee has progressed well.  He’s not done with physical therapy, but I admire his attitude and never give up spirit.  In the mornings, he takes a long hike with his golden retriever up into the foothills, and as he looks down the slope, realizes he’s a lucky man.  And so are we who know him.

So happy birthday, boys.  And rest up, as the playoffs are approaching.
So for our photo viewing this week, we are heading back to the morning of January 16.  The clouds put on a nice orange glow early on, as I was shooting from along various locations on West Cliff Drive.  As the sun started to rise, soft pastel colors appeared and the sky came to life and all was good.
On to some late night humor,  “According to a new study, the marijuana in Colorado is almost twice as strong as it was 20 years ago. Of course, people had some questions for the scientists, like “How can I get your job?”  Taco Bell is replacing the “Waffle Taco” with its new “Biscuit Taco,” which is a taco-shaped biscuit filled with eggs, sausage, or chicken. That story again: Weed is twice as strong as it used to be.” – Jimmy Fallon
“For the first time, a vegan gluten-free bakery has opened at Disney World. The place is called “It’s a Sad World After All.”  Nigeria just held their election and their incumbent president, whose actual name is Goodluck Jonathan, lost the race. He was beaten by his rival, Betterluck Jonathan.” – Conan O’Brien”McDonald’s is going to test all-day breakfast at their restaurants in San Diego. Which means stoners now have absolutely no motivation to get up before 10:30.  All-day breakfast is good for McDonald’s customers, but I think it’s sad for the workers. It seems to me the most fun part of their job was telling people that breakfast is over.” -Jimmy Kimmel
So we’ll catch you having an MVP type season while putting up 51 points on the Kings last week and  leading the league in scoring.  Aloha, mahalo and later, James Harden fans.

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