July 21, 2013

Welcome Back, Hotter

Good morning and greetings, midsummer fans. Growing up in the Garden State of New Jersey, we always looked forward to some brutal stretches of summer weather, when the days were blisteringly hot and the nights swelteringly warm. And when these uncomfortable conditions hit, we resorted to what the early cavemen and pioneers that settled across this great land of ours did, fleeing into the air conditioning and not exiting this cool space until the coast was more than clear. Without this game-saving process of altering the temperature and humidity in the air, we never would have survived. It was either that or spend a week in the refrigerator.

The reason I harken back to these extreme weather conditions is because last week, the northeast corridor was virtually a giant sauna, with no wind and no rain to go along hot, sticky air. And then added to this mess was Yankee captain Derek Jeter being placed back on the disabled list because of too many beautiful ex-girlfriends.

A heat wave is officially defined as three days or more of temperatures of 90 degrees or more, or what the locals call winter in the Sahara Desert. Early in the week, heat advisories for temperatures over 100 degrees of Kevin Bacon were issued for Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and West Maui. Last Monday, Burlington, Vermont hit 93 degrees. Even the maple syrup was sweating. It hadn’t been that hot on that date since 1955. Last Thursday, a record was set at JFK Airport in New York when the temperature hit an all-time high for the day at the century mark. Cabbies were perspiring like IRS executives appearing before Congress.

The National Weather Service likes to warn people when it gets hot enough bake lasagna on the sidewalk. They warned people of the dangers of heat-related illnesses, like fatigue, sunstroke, muscle cramps, heat exhaustion and being forced to stay inside and watch the idiotic reality shows the networks include in their summer programming.

Thankfully, a cold front finally blew in late Saturday, which shoved the hot, humid air mass southward so those Confederate states could get a taste of this July magic. This cold front also triggered severe thunderstorms, of which I have fond memories of. All of a sudden, the sky would suddenly darken, and the warm rain would start pelting down while the thunder blasted away. I always liked being outside when the heat wave snapped as the air turned cooler than, in the words of ESPN’s Stuart Scott, “the other side of my pillow.”

Elsewhere around the nation last Monday, while the east coast was frying like my parmesan crusted chicken, Texas and Oklahoma recorded their all-time lowest temperatures for July 15. And to make it even macadamia nuttier, parts of Alaska’s eastern interior were warmer than the Great Plains of Texas. The surprisingly cooler temperatures in Lone Star state were due to clouds, rain and Houston’s signing of much-sought-after center Dwight Howard. So Superman now becomes Rocket Man. Can’t wait to see what Elton John has to say about that.

The southwest felt the extreme heat in June, as the temperature at Death Valley National Park tied the record for the hottest June day at 128 degrees. How hot was it? Squirrels were handling their nuts with potholders. Lance Armstrong tested positive for Snapple. In Palm Springs, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was spotted drinking a Big Gulp.

And speaking of Palm Springs, a raging wildfire was burning six miles outside the home of Sherman’s Deli, where hot corned beef piled high on rye bread is king. There were 17 major wildfires burning 17 western states last week, making this a dangerous time for fire fighters and homeowners in these regions. Or in the words of author Robert Fulghum, “If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire, then you got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience.”

When it comes to scorching summers, not to be confused with the lovely Suzanne Somers, the hottest occurred during the Dust Bowl of 1936, when the average temperature was over 73 degrees. And believe it or not, popsicle fans, the past two summers have come Glenn Close to breaking that mark, as the summers of 2011 and 2012 tied for the second-hottest with an average temperature only one-tenth of a degree off the record. Only 20 times in the past 150 summers has the east coast felt a heat wave like this, or about as often as I leave my feet on the basketball court when bringing down a rebound.

So while the scorching heat was baking the east coast, folks in Santa Cruz woke up on Monday to heavy fog, followed by a light rain falling the next day. I thought to myself, folks are sweating back east like Eddie Snowden waiting in line at the Cinnabon at the Moscow Airport, while I’m standing in the rain in 50 degree temps here on the central coast. What a country. And speaking of Eddie, heard a great line on Letterman when he asked Bill Maher about the Snowden affair. “All I know is I’m glad I’m not the guy circling the airport waiting to pick him up.”

So for today’s photo launch, while the precipitation was falling on Tuesday, I took out my camera and recorded some of the effects on the plants and flowers in my front yard. The rain really brings out a spark in nature, as the plants are overjoyed to be receiving showers of love from the sky. The last two shots are from the Arboretum at UCSC, the place I journey to when moisture fills my heart and windshield.

Rain is a joyous event for so many living things and often leaves me in tears. “The Little Tramp,” Charlie Chaplan put it this way,” I always like walking in the rain so no one can tell I’m crying.” Between sobs I couldn’t have said it better myself. Or as singer Johnny Nash once crooned, “I can see clearly now the rain is gone.” At this stage in life, it’s nice to see all the obstacles that are in my way.

On to some late night humor. “Al-Qaida’s No. 2 man in Yemen was killed this week by a drone strike. He was doing a cover shoot for Rolling Stone and they were able to pinpoint him. Joe Biden said this week that he still dreams of being president. To which Hillary said, “Keep dreaming.” A key prosecution witness in the racketeering and murder trial of Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger was found dead this week. Who could have seen that coming? What, a witness in a mob trial dead? Turned out the guy suffered an allergic reaction to a baseball bat. Taxi companies in St. Louis are considering an additional charge for passengers who throw up in the car. If you vomit in the cab, it is going to cost you more. I have a better idea. How about a discount for the next guy who gets in the cab?” – Jay Leno

“Rush Limbaugh claims he is now allowed to say the N-word. After hearing this, Paula Deen said, ‘Let me know how that works out for you.’ It’s been revealed that the iPhone will not autocorrect the word “marijuana.” Yeah, that explains why the other night Snoop Dogg was delivered a package of marinara. McDonald’s plans to open its first restaurant in Vietnam. So it looks like we might win that war after all.” – Conan O’Brien

Here’s some big news out of England. Today, Queen Elizabeth officially legalized gay marriage in Britain. Or as she put it, ‘You know, it doesn’t always have to be tea and crumpets. Sometimes it can just be two crumpets.’” –Jimmy Fallon “The royal baby is due today. Kate Middleton and Prince William are expecting the baby any minute now. The royals say they don’t care what gender it is as long as it’s healthy enough to never work a day in its life.” –Conan O’Brien

NSA leaker Edward Snowden has filed for asylum in Russia, but Vladimir Putin is against it. You know, if Snowden really wants to stay in Russia he should just speak out against Putin. He’ll get to stay in Russia the rest of his life.” –Jay Leno “Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker, wants asylum in Venezuela. He also wants to be able to have summer asylum in the Hamptons. It’s crazy hot outside. I’ll give you an example. Remember Joey Chestnut, the competitive eating champion who recently ate 106 hot dogs in a minute? It was so hot today that he ate 68 Dove bars.” David Letterman

“Jay-Z says that he and President Obama text each other regularly. In one text, Jay-Z was like, ‘What’s it like being the most powerful person in the world?’ And Obama was like, ‘I dunno. Ask Beyonce.’ “Pope Francis is on summer vacation right now and apparently he’s been spotted driving around in a Ford Focus. So I guess he takes that vow of celibacy very seriously.” –Jimmy Fallon “People in Florida are pretty worried about the Zimmerman acquittal. They’re trying so hard to get black people to stay in their homes, it looks like election day down there.” –Bill Maher

So that’s our July weather update. We’ll catch you trying to save rare turtles and golden-shelled plowshare tortoise from extinction in places like Madagascar and beyond. Aloha, mahalo and later, Eric Goode fans.

June 30, 2013

The Jet Stream of Consciousness

Good morning and greetings, super moon fans. Well, the weather last week was nuttier than a holiday fruitcake, as it went from two days of rain to picture perfect weather a couple of days later. One day I was strolling through the fog and early morning drizzle, feeling for vacationers who had hoped for a couple of beach days along our kelp-lined shores. But then, before I could say, “Where’s Eddie Snowden?,” the temperature was warmer than my feelings for actress Thandie Newton, the star of DirectTV’s Audience Network drama “Rogue.”

And my admiration for this morally compromised undercover detective continues to grow like the morning glory surrounding my home since I’ve learned the series has been picked up for a second season. I believe the late Andy Warhol was on to something when he said, “When I got my first televison set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships.” Tune in, turn on, drop out with no commercials.

Yes, I have many friends from the TV world. And I’ve learned so much from watching. Just like Groucho Marx. “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

And I’m excited about my summer reading list, as I’ve got a couple of books lined up that I am chomping at the bit to read. But I’ve learned that man cannot live by TV alone, although God knows I’ve tried. Or as comedian George Gobal once said, ‘If it weren’t for electricity we’d be watching television by candlelight.”

Let’s get back to the weather. In a story written by Seth Borenstein for the Associated Press, scientists say the jet stream, that river of air high above Earth that dictates much of the weather and reality television programming for the Northern Hemisphere, has been, like this post, unusually erratic over the past few years. The polar jet stream dips down from Alaska, goes across the United States or Canada, and then across the Atlantic and over Europe, It is fiscally responsible for most everything we experience on the weather front and on “The Housewives of Tahrir Square.”

Two weeks ago, the jet stream was responsible for record downpours that led to historic flooding in Canada and the Chicago Blackhawks winning the NHL Stanley Cup. Then there was the record-breaking heat in Alaska, where temperatures fluctuated between 94 and 15 degrees in a three week period and led to this joke.

An Eskimo was tapping on some ice looking for some fish when a voice said, “You won’t find any fish under there.” The Eskimo just ignored it and carried on tapping. Again, the voice echoed saying, ‘You won’t find any fish under there.” The Eskimo shouted, “Who are you, God?” and the voice replied. ‘No, the ice rink manager.”

The jet stream usually rushes rapidly from west to east in a mostly straight direction. But lately it’s been wobbling and weaving like Mel Gibson behind the wheel, wreaking havoc as it goes. The more the jet stream moves north and south, the more changeable and extreme the weather, thus giving Weather Channel personnel a reason to grow and smile.

The extreme weather continued in May, as early California wildfires fueled by the Miami Heat contrasted with more than a foot of snow in Minnesota. One day Seattle was the hottest spot in the country, while Maine and Edmonton, Canada, were warmer than Miami and Phoenix. This is what we refer to in the business to as thermometers gone wild. And speaking of which, if you were in Death Valley over the weekend, where temperatures hovered around 130, give me a call.

The fun and games continue as the winter of 2011-12 produced little snow while 2012-13 was chocolate blizzard city. A French dip in the jet stream and high pressure caused Superstorm Sandy to left turn and smack into New Jersey, a maneuver so rare and unusual as that happens once every 714 years, depending on traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

But when it comes to weather extremes, tornadoes take the cake and the ice cream. Over a recent 12-month period, the nation experienced a record 1,050 tornadoes. That was followed by a 12 month period where there was a record low for these killer twisters. But there’s no need to panic. It’s just the jet stream playing mind games. Or in the words of Mark Twain, “Everybody talks about the weather but no one does anything about it.”

Moving along, last Sunday the biggest moon of the year rose over Monterey Bay. But unless you were a pilot or wearing infrared night googles, you wouldn’t have been able to see this supermoon from the westside because of cloud cover. So today I’m showcasing my favorite harvest moon rising. This blessed event took place back in January of 2009. I was shooting from the cliffs at Cowells Beach across from the Municipal Wharf. Surfers were out in force as the late sun was lighting up the water. When that glowing orange sphere peaked up over the mountain, it was quite a rush. Just another fantastic night on Monterey Bay.

I’ll end our lunar discussion with this. Two guys were walking home from a bar. One says to the other, “What a beautiful night, look at the moon.” The other replied, “You’re wrong, that’s not the moon, that’s the sun.” They start arguing until they come upon a drunk walking in the other direction. They stop him and said, “Sir, could you please settle an argument? Tell us what that is up in the sky that’s shining, is it the moon or the sun?” The drunk look at the sky and then looked at them at said, ‘Sorry, I don’t live around here.”

On to some late night humor. “NSA leaker Edward Snowden somehow managed to get out of the U.S. with all their information. Now where is he? He’s in Russia now, going to be in Ecuador or wherever. He remains at large. Now what are the odds out of 350 million Americans, the only one the government wasn’t watching was him? In the middle of all these scandals, President Obama got some good news today. The IRS ruled that he can write off the first half of his second term as a total loss.

“President Obama gave a big speech on climate change. He believes global warming is getting worse because apparently he’s sweating a lot more during his second term. Yesterday, the Supreme Court opened the door for same-sex marriage to resume in California. Apparently, the judges were really swayed by that Liberace movie. Tourism officials in Paris have launched a campaign to make Paris friendlier to tourists. First step? Kick out the French.” – Jay Leno

“You folks know anything about climate change? I used to know a little bit about it but I don’t care anymore. There’s nothing we can do about it. But on the bright side, I’ve got a closet full of short-sleeved shirts I don’t otherwise get to wear.” – David Letterman “Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have named their newborn girl North West. The baby was named after the direction in which it will try to escape.” -Conan O’Brien “It was just announced that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have named their daughter North West. Or as Southwest Airlines put it, “Please don’t have a second child.” – Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our final blast for June 2013. Time continues to go by faster than I can change channels. We’ll catch you showing basketball fans what good TV theatre was all about on the night of NBA draft. Aloha, mahalo and later, David Stern fans.

April 14, 2013

You’re Cicading On Thin Ice

Good morning and greetings, severe weather fans. As many of you and my hairdresser know, I’m fascinated by the diversity of weather throughout the United States. Last Wednesday was a perfect example of the weather map going wild and crazy, as the nation experienced the good, the bad and the ugly, which put me under a lot of barometric pressure. Or in the words of Clint Eastwood, “I tried being reasonable, but I didn’t like it.”

Now Clint Eastwood is a true American classic. And never more so as Inspector Harry Callahan in the movie “Dirty Harry.” As he said to a serial killer, in one of the classic movie lines of all time, “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?”

Now there’s a man who had little regard for rules but always got results, which is not what we’re getting in the battle for gun control. The former mayor of Carmel also had a few words to say on this highly controversial issue. “I have a strict gun control policy. If there’s a gun around, I want to be in control of it.”

Getting back to the good, bad and not very pretty from last week’s meteorological front, Wednesday was a doozy. In Santa Cruz, the day was as lovely as California Attorney General Kamala Harris, with warm breezes softly kissing my cheeks as the thermometer reaching 83 degrees. However, in the midwest, it was a different story, as blinding snow and driving winds left thousands without power. The governor of Missouri declared a state of emergency, even though the Cardinals shut out the Reds Wednesday night. As author Margaret Atwood once said, “In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Or at the very least, not have to deal with a powerful spring storm spiraling in your back yard.

For those of you planning a trip to the midwest, let me give you a little Ohio Valley perspective. Here they were, ten weeks away from the summer solstice, in the middle of what is referred to as “Black Swan” extreme weather conditions, which is not to be confused with an Amanda Knox extradition. We’re talking ice, sleet, plagues, flooding, locusts, hail and heavy snow, creating treacherous driving conditions. They only time I want to notified about a severe ice warning is when it’s in my drink. Throw in a few killer tornadoes into the picture and they’re at a spring breaking point.

But the early days of last week were some kind of wonderful here on the central coast, as the birds were singing, the butterflies were floating and the bees were humming. And that leads us into today’s topic du jour.

According to wiki.answers.com, where I usually shop for pants, there are about one million species of insects in the world, half of which have somehow taken up residence in my house. Scientists and census takers estimate that there are 200 million insects for every human in the world, while less than one hundred supermodels have graced the cover of the Sports Illustrated bathing suit issue. So it stands to reason if we’re talking insects, we’re talking billions and billions and billions and billions. And billions.

Well, if you like to hear insects screaming, and you know I do, the place to be in the next few weeks is the east coast. In a story written by Daniel Stone for National Geographic News, cicadas, the cousins of katydids, katydidn’ts and crickets, are preparing to overrun the landscape from North Carolina to Connecticut after living underground like Weathermen fugitives for the last 17 years.

Much like the female black widow spider, who sometimes washes down the male with a glass of milk after mating, the are some quirks that go along with cicadas and breeding. They spend their lives, like a Chilean miner, in complete darkness underground, sucking the fluid out of the roots of trees, shrubs and unmanned jacuzzis. They don’t bite or sting, and help the earth by moving around nutrients, recycling, planting trees and buying local. The periodic cicadas will not come popping out of their burrows until the ground is 64 degrees or the NBA playoffs begin.

At the end of their lives, they emerge to shed their exoskeletons, mate, watch a little TV and die almost instantly. This completes a lifecycle that humans and the Neilson family have studied for centuries. We’re talking about a four to six week period, or the time it takes for a Haagen-Daz bar to leave my bloodstream. That is, if they can avoid predators like birds, raccoons, foxes, skunks and reality show producers. The next generation will emerge in 2030 to repeat the cycle, probably around the same time “Mad Men” returns for its seventh season.

Now we’re talking several million cicadas per acre, which will bring the noise level up to slightly above a Dixie Chicks concert. The noise is the mating call of the male, which is similar in tone to the begging sound of the American male. To make themselves look appealing to the females, male cicadas resort to popping a set of muscles on their abdomen in and out, which can also be seen poolside at spring break locations around the country. But here’s the kicker. These 17 year cicadas are affected by the massosporan fungus, an infection that is the equivalent of Cicada STD. It is spread through mating and causes the abdomen of adult cicadas to fall off! And you thought herpes was annoying.

I was back there when they emerged one spring in the Garden State of New Jersey. The year was 1962, and I was nine years old and studying for my driver’s license. All of a sudden, they were everywhere, like tourists from New York trying to find their way to Palisades Amusement Park. I remember my friends and I collecting them in paper grocery bags. I will not say what we did with them, because the statue of limitations concerning the laws of insect genocide may still be in effect.

For today’s photo engagement, we are heading back to wacky weather Wednesday. This was to be the first April sunset I had photographed in years. After checking out the dinner time sky, the clouds and my basal body temperature, I grabbed my Serena Williams windbreaker and quickly headed up the north coast to Davenport.

When I arrived at my usual spot on the cliffs, I noticed new signs had been posted on the Monterey Cypress trees, stating that trespassers would either be prosecuted or persecuted. Well, God knows my people have been persecuted enough, so I took at quick shot of the cliffs and then bolted out of their faster than Carlos Quentin leaving Dodger Stadium Thursday night.

The wind was blowing harder than my son’s Abnormal Psychology final at UC Santa Barbara as I approached the bluff overlooking the Pacific. Then the sun, clouds and light proceeded to do their thing, creating beauty and awe on a night when little was expected. I believe it was Oprah’s pilates coach who once said, “Surprises are beautiful because they come without waiting.” And as they say in the restaurant business, good things come to those who are waiters.”

On to the late night. “After withdrawing from public life Anthony Weiner is ready to stick it back in. Folks, that takes balls. Sadly, we know he has them. Weiner’s brother pointed out, ‘No one has been harder on him than he has been on him than he has been on himself.’ And we all know how hard he can be on himself.” –Stephen Colbert “Former Congressman Anthony Weiner said that he’s considering running for mayor of New York City. If nothing else I’m sure that he’ll provide some stiff competition. Come on, he’s the total package. I don’t want to be too hard on him. I don’t have a bone to pick with that guy.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Little is known about North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un other than the fact that he is ruthless, he supports torture, and he is a huge basketball fan. I’m sorry, that’s not Kim Jong Un. That’s Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice. I had them confused.” –Jay Leno “In high school Kim Jong Un starred in a production of the musical ‘Grease.’ That’s also where Kim met his first wife, Olivia Newton Jong.” –Conan O’Brien “Dealing with the North Koreans is very difficult. They have a history of making irrational decisions to divert the world’s attention from the fact their system has totally collapsed. No wait, sorry. I was thinking of NBC.” –Craig Ferguson

“This week on the ‘Today’ show, Chelsea Clinton said she’s open to running for political office one day. When she heard that, Sasha Obama was like, ‘Cool. How does secretary of state sound?’” –Jimmy Fallon “It was this day in 1967 that Russia sold Alaska to the United States for 2 cents an acre. You know why they sold us so cheaply? Just to get rid of the Palins.” –Jay Leno

“President Obama is in trouble for saying that California Attorney General Kamala Harris is good looking. When asked for comment, Bill Clinton said, ‘That guy is out of control.’” –Conan O’Brien “Because Obama said California Attorney General Kamala Harris was attractive, people are calling his remark sexist. Now the President is overcompensating and trying to balance it out. Today he said Attorney General Eric Holder has a great ass.” –Jay Leno “During a fundraiser, President Obama raised some eyebrows when he called California’s Kamala Harris, quote, ‘the best-looking attorney general in the country.’ Of course he said it was just a joke. Then Michelle was like, ‘Well, here’s another one: What’s black and white and sleeps on the couch?’” –Jimmy Fallon

So enjoy the last few days of the NBA regular season and nows it’s on to the playoffs. And here’s a shout out to my father, Daniel Gilbert, who celebrated his 96th birthday last Friday with a haircut, a Chinese feast and disbelief. As we chanted at dinner, ‘Four more years, four more years.”

We’ll catch you trying to will your team into the playoffs before suffering a devastating injury that left Laker and all NBA fans reeling. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kobe Bryant fans

February 3, 2013

Beauty Is In The Sunrise Of The Beholder

Good morning and greetings, February fans. Well, last week brought violent weather to parts of the nation, as wild temperature extremes set off deadly thunderstorms and tornadoes, causing major damage and severe power outages. At the same time, Floridians were enjoying picture perfect weather, but it was not rosy for all in the Sunshine State, as Miami’s Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino admitted on his 28th wedding anniversary that he had fathered a secret love child and paid millions to keep it quiet. And all this time I thought not winning a Super Bowl was his biggest problem.

It brought to mind the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “I’ll tell ya, I’m alright now but last week I was in rough shape. I mean, last week I looked up my family tree – I found out I’m the sap. My wife said she was afraid of the dark. Then she saw me naked and now she’s afraid of the light. She made me join a bridge club. I jump off next Tuesday.”

So all the talk last week was of Super Sunday, as I was peppered with questions like Lindsay Lohan at her latest bail hearing. Where are you going to watch the game? Are you rooting for the 49ers or will you be rooting against them because you’re still bitter from the Giants blowing a three-game lead and not making the playoffs? Do I care if Joe Montana’s hair is going to be straight or curly? What color Gatorade will be dumped on Beyonce? And most importantly, what will the Dow Jones and my stomach be doing the next day?

With all this football talk filling the atmosphere, that according to Al Gore, “We put an extra 90 million tons of heat-trapping pollution into every day, as if it’s an open sewer,” the sun still managed to rise and set. Last Monday and Tuesday were a digital pleasure, as on both days I went for the photo daily double, shooting both the sunrise and sunset. Monday’s sunrise was beautiful and the sunset was pleasingly pleasant, but then on Tuesday morning all bells and sirens went off because as soon as I woke up, I was on red alert. I’ll get back to discussing Al Gore’s views on why the oceans are warming, the Arctic caps are melting, along with his sale of his television network to some guy named Al Jazerra as soon as Tipper tweets me back.

I had slept a little later than usual on Tuesday, as I had to finish off another disconcerting dream of being in school but not having gone to class with exams coming up. But it was still a solid week on the dream front, as in one of the more interesting ones, I was a cop and my partner was Rob Lowe. Over the years I’ve had conversations and adventures during my subconcious atoning with Howard Stern, Mel Brooks, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Lola Falana and a cast of thousands, along with half my high school class.

But that’s another story for another time, but suffice to say that I’m doing a lot more partying on my subconcious time card than during my waking hours. But I always dress impeccably for bedtime, for as my wardrobe consultant once told me, “Be careful what you wear to bed at night, because you never know who you’ll meet in your dreams.”

I believe it was either Larry Bird, Magic Johnson or Jason Gilbert who said they were always out there practicing because they knew there was someone else out there working just as hard to be the best. I’m putting in the time when I’m asleep. If just wish I had a DVD to record these middle of the night cranial wanderings because I’d be up for an subconcious Emmy.

Anyway, back to Super Tuesday. I woke to a red sky over Monterey Bay, so I put on my Kool and the Gang poncho and headed for the coast. I wanted to capture the crimson reflection on the sand at Its Beach, but time wouldn’t let me, so I stopped at Fair Avenue to photograph the initial colors of the morning’s brilliance on the bay.

Next I went into silhouette mode, as I shot my favorite cypress tree with the sky blowing up behind it. Then, as the sky moved into a mandarin orange mode, I cruised down to Lighthouse Point to take in the full on magnificence of the morning experience. At the same time, the moon was setting as the sky cast about a pink carnation of color along the sand at Its Beach.

I then completed my photographic journey with a shot taken at Steamers Lane just before the sun made an appearance. It was a spectacular, world-class sunrise over the Pacific that I was thrilled to be a part of. And as a bonus, that night the sky caught on fire at sunset, which made my dinner of vegan veal parmesan and honey cake that much more festive.

On to the late night. “Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino has admitted he fathered a child while having an extramarital affair with a CBS production assistant. And today Manti Te’o said, “See, that’s why you have imaginary girlfriends.” Zimbabwe’s finance minister revealed yesterday that his country has only $217 left in the government Treasury. Today President Obama said, “Stop bragging!” – Jay Leno “A new show premiered tonight on the FX network called “The Americans.” It’s about Russian spies embedded in Washington, D.C., during the Cold War.The first episode was great. Their mission was to fake a drivers license for a young socialist Kenyan boy living in Hawaii.” – Craig Ferguson

“Former NFL quarterback Dan Marino has admitted to fathering a secret child back in 2005. I don’t know why people are surprised — the Dolphins never gave him good protection. A bipartisan group of senators has unveiled a plan that would create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Or as immigrants call that, “a tunnel.” An employee of the U.S. Postal Service is retiring after 44 years without using any of her sick days. Friends describe her as “dedicated,” while co-workers describe her as “that lady who gave me the flu.” Last week Iran launched a monkey into space, and it actually returned to Earth alive. It was great news for the space program and terrible news for the monkey who thought he’d finally gotten out of Iran. – Jimmy Fallon

“The Boy Scouts of America is now considering an end to its longstanding policy of banning gay scouts. How about that? And the girl scouts have a new policy during cookie season. It’s called “Don’t ask, just sell.” In a big meeting of the Republican National Committee, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal told the GOP to “stop being the stupid party.” Then Texas Governor Rick Perry gave the rebuttal. Women can now serve on the front lines in combat. I believe up until now, the only woman who had ever seen action under a general was Paula Broadwell.” –Jay Leno “Women serving in the United States military will now be serving in combat. Finally there will be somebody in the tank who will stop and ask for directions.” – David Letterman

So that’s our first blast for the shortest month of the year. We’ll catch you showing NFL fans how you led your team to a stunning Super Bowl win. Aloha, mahao and later, Joe Flacco fans.

January 20, 2013

Well My Mind Is Goin’ Through Them Climate Changes

Good morning and greetings, presidential inauguration fans. Well, it finally warmed up, after a stretch of frigid weather last week that had me wondering if I was living on the central coast of California or in northern Siberia. I don’t want to say it was cold, but at one point I actually considered listening to Rush Limbaugh. That’s how desperate I was for some hot air.

So we all know that 2012 was a wacky year on the weather front in the U.S., with the severe drought in the midwest and Hurricane Sandy ranking one-two on the hit list. The weather so far in 2013 has been pretty unusual, with record highs and lows in all the wrong places. We’ve had blizzards, tornadoes, flooding and Peyton Manning once again coming up short in the postseason. Or as the Cowardly Lion said to Dorothy and the Scarecrow when they woke up and saw it was snowing in the field of poppies,”Unusual weather we’re having, ain’t it?”

Well, this strange magic is not confined to just our section of the globe. In a story by Peter Miller for National Geographic News, he reports that the weather in 2013 is going to extremes worldwide, with a snowstorm in Jerusalem, wildfires in Australia, a cold snap in China, and heat wave in Brazil. Based on my science background, ouija board and my personal psychic’s annual newsletter, it looks like 2013 is going to be as wild meteorologically as 2012.

Those worldwide weather events reminded me of the theme song from the 1961 sitcom, “Car 54, Where Are You?”, starring Fred Gwynne and Joe E. Ross.
“There’s a hold up in the Bronx, Brooklyn’s broken out in fights. There’s a traffic jam in Harlem that’s backed up to Jackson Heights. There’s a scout troop short a child, Kruschev’s due at Idlewild Car 54, Where Are You?”

That song was written by Nat Hiken, the comic genuis who also created the the “Phil Silvers Show,” starring one of my childhood heroes, Master Sergeant Earnest Bilko. Larry David, the guy who wrote the classic Emmy award winning Seinfeld script, “The Contest,” says that his all-time favorite show is “Sgt. Bilko.” I’m right there with him, along with many “Honeymooners” fans. And yes, I’m still a master of my domain.

Anyway, pardon my digression, as sometimes my mind moves quicker than members of Michael Jackson’s family did after his death, in getting to his home in search of cash. I’m soothed by the words of American literary academic Mason Cooley, who said “The more learned a writer, the more digression beckons him.” And as either Ralph Kramden or writer Ralph Caplan once said, “Nothing is more to the point than good digression.”

Now back to the nutty weather. Eight inches of snow fell in Jerusalem last week, closing roads and Chinese restaurants all across the city. It was the biggest winter storm there in 20 years and caused more havoc than when Mel Gibson tried davening at the Wailing Wall. But the storm brought fun and joy, as children celebrated the occasion by making snowballs the shape of matzo balls and potato knishes.

In Australia, a heat wave smashed records across the country, as the national weather agency added two new colors to its weather maps to handle the possibility of unprecedented temperatures: deep purple for for above 122°F and hot pink for above 125.5°F . The first eight days of the year were among the warmest on record or CD, with January 7 ranking as Australia’s hottest day ever. How hot was it? Aborigines were seen buying air conditioners while at the beach, swimmers couldn’t walk to the water without burning their feet on the sand. But don’t sweat it, because in the words of cartoonist Charles Schultz, ” Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.”

Elsewhere around the global wide world of sports, the weather has been equally extreme. Residents in the eastern U.S. and northern Europe were shocked with springlike weather conditions and the early season play of the New York Knicks. Tokoyo saw three inches of snow fall last weekend, which according to the sushi chefs at Benihaba, is nearly half of its typical total for a full year.

In China, the average temperature fell to 25°F in early January, the lowest in nearly three decades. More than a thousand ships in China’s Laizhou Bay loaded with spring rolls, barbecued spare ribs and shrimp wonton soup destined for the free world have been frozen into the ice. There’s an old Cantonese saying “Anything that walks, swims, crawls or flies with its back to heaven is edible”. However, if it once barked, purred, buzzed, snarled, growled or whistled, that’s where I draw my sweet and sour line, if you catch my drift.

Finally, in northeast Brazil, a drought and heat wave prompted officials to consider rationing electricity for the first time in a decade, as the temperatures in Rio de Janeiro reached a record 109.8°F. I guess this would be a good time to mention my favorite Michael Caine movie is the romantic comedy “Blame it on Rio,” co-starring Joseph Bologna, a very young Demi Moore and the lovely Michelle Johnson. “Last night didn’t happen. I know. I was there when it didn’t happen.”

These extreme conditions are becoming the norm. In a report released last Friday, a team of U.S. scientists reported that the frequency and duration of extreme conditions are clear signs of a changing climate. 2012 ranked as the warmest year on record for the lower 48 states, as the average temperature was more than three degrees higher than the average for the 20th century. At the same time, the amount of ice covering the Arctic Ocean shrank to its lowest level ever in late 2012. The great drought of 2012 could turn into a two-year drought, costing the nation tens of billions of dollars in crop loss again. But the good news is that “American Idol” is back with its dueling divas, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. Others dream, Idol delivers.

The skies, for the most part last week, were clearer than my judgement, so for today’s photo arcade we are going back the final night of 2012. That would be New Year’s Eve, December 31, the final sunset of the year. I located myself at Stockton Avenue along West Cliff Drive, and it was the culmination that brought closure to another fabulous year of sunrises, sunsets and sunrises. When I channeled my old pal Jim Morrison about the occasion, he said, “This is the end, my only friend, the end.”

On to some late night humor. “President Obama’s inaugural parade will feature eight floats, including a Hawaii float to honor his birthplace, an Illinois float to honor the first lady’s home state, and a Kenyan float just to mess with Republicans. On Sunday the White House will hold a private swearing-in ceremony for President Obama. Not to be outdone, on Sunday Republicans will hold a private swearing-at ceremony for President Obama. Republicans and Democrats are working on a new bill to streamline the healthcare system. It will reduce the cost of mammograms and prostate exams. But don’t worry. They’ll still be free at the airport.” –Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama told Congress it must raise our debt limit because the U.S. ‘is not a deadbeat nation.” Then the president added, ‘By the way, if China calls, I’m not here.’ Yesterday Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas spoke during a court session for the first time in seven years. He never speaks and he finally spoke. It’s already being called the best ‘that’s what she said’ joke ever. Wal-Mart made plans to hire 100,000 U.S. Veterans. Which can only mean one thing: Wal-Mart is going to invade Costco.” –Conan O’Brien

“President Obama’s half-brother is running for political office in Kenya. Donald Trump has already accused him of being born in the United States. President Obama is coming under criticism that his new administration has less diversity than his first one. Which is why this morning Obama said, ‘All right, fine, I am a Muslim.” –Conan O’Brien “President Obama recently came under fire over the lack of diversity in his cabinet. Then Obama said, ‘You guys know I’ll be there, too, right?’” –Jimmy Fallon

“The Golden Globes last night had a lot of great moments. During Jodie Foster’s emotional speech she said she was gay, 50, and friends with Mel Gibson. Afterwards, her publicist told Jodie, ‘I’m going to need a raise.’” –Conan O’Brien “Prostitutes in Brazil have started learning English so they can communicate with out-of-town clients during the World Cup. They are learning key phrases like, ‘You are very handsome’ and ‘Nice to meet you, Mr. Sheen.’” –Jimmy Fallon
“Thousands of dead fish have now washed up on shore along the coast of South Carolina. Today the NRA said that this wouldn’t have happened if those fish had guns.” –Jay Leno

So that’s news and weather. We’ll catch you showing everyone on a nightly basis why you’re the best player on the planet. Aloha, mahalo and later, LeBron James fans.

January 13, 2013

I Wish They All Could Be California Gulls

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 10:39 am

Good morning and greetings, NFL playoff fans. Well, since the start of the new year, I’ve been busy as a beaver, building dams and shooting away with my new Canon T3i. And right now we’re in the midst of the classic sunrise and sunset season here on the central coast, which lasts about as long as this year’s NHL regular season. Or as Chris Rock noted about this form of Canadian disorderly conduct, “Black people dominate sports in the United States – 20 percent of the population and 90 percent of the Final Four. We own this sh**. Basketball, baseball, football, golf, tennis, and as soon as they make a heated hockey rink we’ll take that sh** too.” Hey, we all have to have goals.

So the the mornings have been a bit chilly, with the air cold and rice crispy, as the clouds have been lighting up on a regular basis like fans at a Snoop Dogg concert.

Last week was a particularly good one on the sunrise front, as Monday through Thursday mornings brought great color and pageantry to the skies above Monterey Bay. Friday was a clear as my sinuses. I’ll be showcasing a couple of those in later posts. I would feature all of them, but even at this advanced stage of digital servitude, I still manage to miscalculate these mornings of glory for reasons unknown to this photographer and his therapist.

But despite my whirlwind schedule, I still manage to set aside some time during the day (every half hour) to reflect upon missed photo ops that I would have shared because I’m a serial giver. And even though I’m younger today than I’ll ever be, as I wait for my ship to come in, I somehow keep missing a few of the cabin cruisers.

Right now, I know you might be thinking, “Geoff, we’ve heard this all before. Just breathe and let it go.” Hey, that’s easy for you to say. I’ve got a destiny and paragraphs to fulfill.

But that’s the beauty of life. You pick out your clothes and then wait nine months for the sunrise season, and then because you didn’t see where algebra would fit into your life, you suffer disappointments. I’ve already photographed enough spectacular sunrises to qualify for the senior tour. But there were some hot pink clouds that filled the sky last week that I would like to have added to the scrapbook. So that’s why I reflect back to what coach Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights” fame told his team. “Opportunity does not knock, it presents itself when you beat down the door.” I heard fame knocking, but I wouldn’t let it in.

Now I realize that what I’m reflecting on is not earth shaking news, like the Berlin Wall coming down, reports of global warming or Justin Beiber’s getting a new tattoo. However, the current Mrs. Gilbert says she likes it when I write about myself, and besides the fact that I lost a half pound this week, this was the biggest news flash floating around my cranium. I just hate missing anything on the photography front, because sunrises are like fingerprints, snowflakes and the Kardashian sisters. No two are alike. And remember, we’re all individuals. Or in the words of Jon Bon Jovi, “Each one of us has something no one else has, or has ever had: your fingerprints, your brain, your heart. Be an individual. Be unique. Stand out. Make noise. Make someone notice. That’s the power of individuals.” For me, it would be my social security number.

So brace yourself, because for today’s photo appetizer, we are switching gears and not going the usual sunrise/sunset route, but instead heading up the coast to Four Mile Beach. It was late December and the post sunrise sky was filling up with with love, peace and cloudiness, so I hopped onto my Harley and rode up to an old reliable spot, where my camera and I could have some fun, fun, fun till my daddy takes me t-bird away.

Four Mile never lets me down. As I skipped down to the beach, rabbits hopped into the bushes as I saw that the sand was loaded with gulls. Bingo. This did not upset me, as the thought of hundreds of gulls lifting off into the the air with a backdrop of big waves, crashing surf and bands of gypsys always makes for great North Coast action. As you can see from the photos, the gulls were out in full force, as this is a place where they come to for peace, solitude and have their patience tested by a boy and his new camera.

When I go to a beautiful nature spot like this, I try not to leave a carbon footprint. But what I do take away are some images that capture the solitude and beauty of the North Coast. These photos are a labor of love. Or as my mother’s cardiologist once told me, “Once someone touches your heart, the fingerprints last forever.” So will these images, which are now in cyber space for eternity, or at least till “Parenthood” runs of out storylines on NBC.

On to the late night. “A political opponent is accusing Governor Chris Christie of praying for Hurricane Sandy. In response, Christie said the only weather-related thing he’s ever prayed for is a Dairy Queen Blizzard. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton returned to work today and as a joke, her staff gave her a helmet. This is the second time a Clinton in government has been asked to wear protection.” –Conan O’Brien

“The mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, was seen partying in Mexico with Charlie Sheen. I believe that celebration is called ‘Cinco de Career-o.’” –Jay Leno “Well, Al-Jazeera has purchased Al Gore’s old TV network, Current TV. It has some fabulous programming lined up. They’ve got a new show called ‘Storage Jihad.’ They have ‘Project Burka.’ And a show called ‘Real Virgins of Fallujah.’” –David Letterman

“What do you put on a trillion dollar coin? On the tail side obviously a bald eagle breathing fire while making love to the American flag. What is on the heads? Obama? Boehner? I’ll tell what you it should be, those Charmin bears – because when you pull an idea like this out of your ass, you’re going to need something soft.” –Stephen Colbert. Jon Stewart to congressional Republicans who voted against Hurricane Sandy aid: “If you guys can’t vote for this, then we’re f**ked for the next few years. And I’m not saying you’re responsible for all the problems facing our country, but you sure are making them a lot harder to fix.”

So that’s my report. I would be remiss as a meteorologist not to mention the extreme weather we had around the nation last Friday. It was 20 degrees colder in San Diego (a chilly 35) than it was in Chicago. Utah and the Dakotas was bombarded with whiteout blizzard conditions, the Grapevine (Interstate 5) in Southern California was closed because of ice and snow for 16 hours while Louisiana had a foot of rain and tornadoes. Meanwhile, in Florida, they experienced record highs of close to 90 degrees. And I don’t want to say it was a cold here in Santa Cruz, but last week I baked a cake and then set it out to cool. Ten minutes later it was frosted.

So birthday wishes and good thoughts go out to my favorite American novelist, Natalie Serber, who celebrates her big day on Thursday. Hope you caught that Ravens-Broncos game over the weekend. It was one for the ages. We’ll catch you running wild and leading your team to a huge win in Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game. Aloha, mahalo and later, Colin Kaepernick fans.

March 25, 2012

The Jet Stream of Consciousness

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — geoff @ 4:16 pm

Good morning and greetings, global warming fans. Growing up as a child of the 60′s, one of my favorite albums was ‘The Chicago Transit Authority,’ which featured the classic hit, ‘Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?’ Well, recently in the Windy City, people have been asking the question, “Does anybody know how hot it is?” as they’ve been breaking temperature records faster than I can come up with clever metaphors.

For eight straight days, President Obama’s old stomping grounds recorded record high temperature marks going back to 1872, right around the birth of John McCain’s babysitter. This heat wave was as historic and unprecendented as the first time Michelle went sleeveless in public, as the mercury topped 80 degrees each day.

The National Weather Service said these conditions were extraordinarily rare, which is the way I like my cheeseburgers, for climate locations to break records like this day after day after day. But as the lead vocalist from Chicago remarked when asked about this phenomena, this was “Only the beginning, only just the start.” When Bachman-Turmer Overdrive was later asked to comment, they said “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

So what in the wide, wide, world of sports is going on with the atmosphere? Why were the east, south and midwest having summer weather in March? What is this unprecedented event involving the earth saying to us? And most importantly, will “Southland” be picked up for another season by TNT and why wasn’t anyone watching the recently cancelled horse-racing drama ‘Luck’ on HBO? On that sad note, 26 horses die each week at racetracks around America.

This heat wave, which has been burning in my heart and tearing me apart, has blown the minds and clothing selections of many Americans who are still usually digging out of the snow at this time of year. We’re talking about one of the most extreme heat events since LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh teamed up for the big decision in Miami.

Looking at the weather map, it’s been the warmest March on record in seven states. International Falls, Minnesota, which is fondly known as the ‘Ice Box of the Nation,’ topped out at 79 degrees last week, shattering their warmest temperature record in March by 42 degrees. At the same time Minneapolis and Boston set more records than early Celtic championship teams. It’s not supposed to be warmer in Bismark, North Dakota than in Yuma, Arizona. Much like us still being in Afghanistan for more than a decade, you’ve just got to shake your head and wonder why we’re in this warming pattern.

So why the summer-like conditions? According to Weather Channel meterologists and Tipper Gore, a stubborn high pressure system had been stuck over the eastern two-thirds of the nation, forming a blocking pattern that brought more heat than a Mexican drug cartel barbecue.

While natural factors contributed to this stretch of high temperatures, if you think about the extreme weather events of recent years, there is a high probability that global warming is having an influence upon these events. Just don’t tell Ricky Santorum. Now until we reduce the emissions of industrial carbon pollution or the Golden State Warriors make the playoffs, these extreme weather conditions and the fan’s booing are only going to get worse.

Moving along, for our final photo foray for the month, we are heading back to the morning of February 2, where I took in the early sights and sounds at Lighthouse Point and various locations along West Cliff Drive. I later fulfilled my manifest destiny by shooting the glorious sunset that night, which would then give this day daily double status, a place that holds a certain fondness in my digital heart and colon.

On to a little late night. “Yesterday the prime minister of Ireland made President Obama an honorary Irishman. As a result, President Obama awoke this morning with a hangover and a job at the fire department.” –Conan O’Brien “John McCain’s daughter Megan is going to be in the April issue of Playboy. I’m just glad John’s not alive to see this.” –David Letterman
“This weekend President Obama will visit the border that separates North and South Korea. Not to be outdone, Newt Gingrich will visit the border that separates the KFC from the Taco Bell.” –Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama is calling on Iran to give its citizens better access to the Internet. Right now they only have one social networking site: ‘Cover-Your-Face Book.’ “Last week a tourist in Puerto Rico took a picture of Rick Santorum shirtless on the beach. He would have worn sunscreen, but he’s not really into protection. Donald Trump’s sons shot and killed endangered animals on a safari. They got an elephant, a crocodile, and that thing on their dad’s head.” –Jimmy Fallon

So although it says spring on the calendar it was definitely chilly and even a little Peru on the morning walks on West Cliff. And as a followup up to last week’s post about bald eagles in Santa Cruz, another pair were spotted nesting on the San Francisco Peninsula for the first time in nearly a century.

Then a report came in from field scout Kevin Deutsch, who spotted a golden eagle tearing apart a small rodent last week up at UCSC. Ironically, as a golden eagle was spotted in Santa Cruz, the Marquette Golden Eagles were being knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Florida. Ponder that for a moment, Kentucky fans.

So enjoy next weekend’s Final Four action and we’ll catch you tear dropping in the lane and having your best season ever. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tony Parker fans.

January 1, 2012

I’ve Got A Great Past In My Future

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 2:41 pm

Good morning and greetings, New Year’s fans. Well, 2011, much like the hopes of my camera not breaking down on me while I was about to shoot Saturday morning’s New Year’s Eve sunrise, is now history. Ah, karma.

It reminds me of the old joke, “What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence? Time to get a new camera.” I could sum up the missed morning experience by paraphrasing the lovely Teri Hatcher from a classic Seinfeld episode, “it was real and it was spectacular.”

This missed morning magnificence then led into Saturday night’s sunset, which had fans lining the coast to check out the super sky along West Cliff Drive. I was in possession of my daughter’s Kodak pocket camera to capture this magic moment, but it just wasn’t quite the same without that Canon in my hand. Yes, size does matter. But with any luck, I’ll display some memorable images from this night before breaking my New Year’s resolution.

When I think about the 365 days that I just crossed off my Justin Bieber calendar, I’m left with the thought of what a wild and wacky year it was. So in honor days of future passed and a Canon trashed, let’s take a quiet stroll down Lois Lane and see what washes up on the memory banks of what’s left of my mind.

The first thing that jumps out is the state of our nation. God bless America, land that I love, where last year President Obama and Congress couldn’t even agree on anything, including whether Michelle should have gone sleeveless on New Year’s Eve. Is it just me, or is something wrong when the approval rating for our elected officials hovers at 1%? As amazing as it was that Barack Obama was elected President, I have to wonder if he and the kids are enjoying the experience? But then again, despite his difficulties in making progress with our economy, I guess he had a better year than Osama Bin Laden or that wacky Khadaffy.

Late night political comedy was off the charts last year, as the Republican presidential candidates provided more material than an Orson Welles’ bathrobe. There were so many statements and foot-in-the-mouth moments to choose from, but I believe the top spot must go to the lovable Herman Cain, who it seems was rolling around in more than dough in his days as the Godfather of pizza.

Just the fact that he could run for the top job in our country with an expertise in mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce is one thing. But to have, for lack of a better term, the basketballs to run for the top office with those skeletons in his closet was just simply amazing. He was definitely Cain but certainly not able.

For us folks here on the central coast, the weather, like my blood pressure when not watching the New York Giants, was relatively stable. But for the rest of the country, it was simply bonkers. Never has there been 365 days of such extreme weather conditions. Texas was brutalized with severe drought conditions, raging wild fires and Rick
Perry. Oklahoma saw massive heat waves and the Oklahoma State football team get screwed out of playing for the BCS national championship. We had killer tornadoes in Missouri and Alabama and massive flooding in Tennesseee. And then Hurricane Irene hit New Jersey, Connecticutt and Vermont, leaving these states in worse shape than the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning.

This weather was more extreme in 2011 than some statements made during the NFL and NBA lockouts, and one has to wonder if this will be the norm from now on or just a one-year cool hand fluke? It made for riveting watching on the nightly news, as I have always been amazed at how diverse the weather is around the fifty states. I mean, an earthquake in New Jersey? This would never have happened if Tony Soprano still had a back office at the Bada Bing club.

And speaking of our 50th state, when the reporters covering President Obama’s Hawaiian vacation were doing their standups, we could see dozens of people swimming in the warm tropical water in the backgound. This is while a good part of the country is shivering. God bless Hawaii. Anywhere you can wake up where the temperature is 72 degrees, the birds and papayas are singing and Steve McGarrett is on patrol is truly a plumeria paradise.

There was much evil and suffering in the world in 2011 and it continues to reign in 2012. What some people continue to do to others on this planet is unspeakable. That is why every day that you wake up with a healthy mind and body is a blessing that should never be taken for granted. Why bad things happen to good people will never be fully answered for me, so I take life one game at a time and always remember to re-up my TiVo programming every 12 days.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that after all the painful and difficult situations people have gone through over the past year, I came out relatively unscathed. Sure there have been moments of me not whistling Dixie (like New Year’s Eve morning,) but the overall picture still looks relatively bright, even if I’m not watching in HD. Both my parents (94 and 85) are still roaming the planet, everyone in my family is healthy, and our golden retriever just got accepted into law school. There’s always plenty of food on the table, so it seems I’m just one lucky boy who has a forum to make a small cyber contribution while displaying a little beauty from life when my camera isn’t on the injured list.

So although the holidays have passed, it’s still looking a lot like Christmas here at Sunrise Santa Cruz, as for our photo replay, we are venturing back to the night of December 25. It was a very spiritual day, as the NBA kicked off its shortened season with five back-to-back games on the inner tube.

But while these millionaires in shorts were jamming and slamming, the evening sky was lighting up like Ray Allen from the three-point stripe, treating holiday beachgoers to this exciting show. I decided to observe the festivities from the sands of Natural Bridges State Beach. It was an entertaining low tide experience, and one that I was excited to share with my mistletoe and menorah fans.

And as a bonus, the final shot is from local photographer Judy Bingman, who made the trek on Christmas Day down to Pfieffer State Beach in Big Sur to capture this spectacular sunset. She had hoped to shoot the light coming through the arch at sunset, but instead had to settle for the panaromic moment of holiday reflection.

So that’s a brief look back at 2011, as we move on to the new year of hope, dreams and NFL and NBA playoffs . And this one is a biggie, as my friends and compatriots from the Fort Lee high school class of 1970 all will be turning the big 60. That’s a frightening number to write, no less say.

So I’m hoping it was a good holiday season. With the latkes and jelly donuts behind me, I can now get back to focusing on the important things in life, like keeping Jason’s high school basketball stats. We’ll catch you making amazing plays from the slot back position. Aloha, mahalo and later, Victor Cruz fans.

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