May 10, 2015

There’s No Drought About That

Good morning and greetings, rainfall fans.  As we know, when dealing with important issues of the day, there are always differing opinions, two sides to every coin.  Someone is right, someone is wrong.  And in these pages, I sometimes poke fun at the conservative point of view, because to paraphrase the late Art Linkletter, “Conservatives say the funniest things.”

But one thing we can agree on these days is that the state of California has been going through a severe drought.  People are now showering in the sinks while folks are watching as their lawns go from green to red.   The state is in a crisis.

And, of course, this does not apply to the people of Beverly Hills, but that’s because they have immunity to floods, hurricanes and price increases of whitefish at Nate ‘n Al’s Deli on North Beverly Drive, where they honor one simple commitment.  To serve the finest deli favorites prepared with the best ingredients, featuring the finest corned beef, brisket, stuffed cabbage and short ribs.

Now a long time reader of this blog, who tends to lead to his right and drive to his left, wanted me to bring up the facts concerning this important issue.  In a story written by Malia Zimmerman for Fox News, the long-running California drought, which began back in 2102, could have been avoided if proper measures had been set in place.Now according to the critics ,the Golden State’s misguided environmental policies allowed much-needed rainwater to flow straight into the Pacific. In an average year, California gets enough snow and rain to put 200 million acres under a foot of water, but environmental opposition to dams over the last several decades has allowed the majority of the freshwater to flow into the ocean.

The current drought has left farmlands scorched and residents under strict water consumption orders.  According to Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research. “This is a man-made disaster.  Southern California is an arid part of the world where droughts are commonplace, and knowing this, you’d think the government of California would have included this mathematical certainty in its disaster preparedness planning, but the government has done nothing, not even store rain, as the population has continued to grow.”

It seems that Mr. Cohen is pointing the fickled finger of fate at the administration of Democratic Governor Jerry Brown, who back in April mandated the state’s residents cut water usage by as much as 35 percent, saying, “As Californians, we have to pull together and save water in every way we can.”  One drop at a time.  Three coins in a fountain.

To hear it from the Republican side, “Droughts are nothing new in California, but right now, 70 percent of California’s rainfall washes out to sea because liberals have prevented the construction of a single new reservoir or a single new water conveyance system over decades, during a period in which California’s population has doubled,” says Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and a 2016 GOP presidential candidate. “This is the classic case of liberals being willing to sacrifice other people’s lives and livelihoods at the altar of their ideology.”

Let’s forget she laid off 30,000 people at Hewlett-Packard.  Fiorina places the blame for the loss of agriculture on the  manuvering of those dreaded liberal environmentalists, as 400,000 acres of farmland went unplanted last year.

Face it, the farmers are having a tough go of it.  Critics point the fingers at wanting to divert the water to boost fish populations rather than it going to farmers.  Forget about the cashews, save the endangered Delta Smelt.

California produces more than 250 different crops, with $44 billion in sales.  It is the only state to produce 12 key crops such as almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, raisins, kiwi, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, walnuts and a host of great TV shows,like “Secrets and Lies” on ABC.

But my big concern is, what will be the fate of our friend, the avocado?   I ran across an interesting story written by Adam Sternbergh in the April 20, 2105 issue of New York Magazine, titled “Guacanomics, Have You Eaten Your Last Avocado.”  In it, he discusses our lust for this precious fruit, and it’s future on this planet.

Charley Wolk is 78 years old and an avocado farmer, living a half-hour drive north of San Diego in Fallbrook, CA.   Fallbrook is unofficially known as “the Avocado Capital of the World,” and Charley serves as the chairman of the California Avocado Commission, while writing a blog called Growing Avocados, on which he’s billed as “California’s foremost avocado expert.”

Charley says the global demand for avocados has never been higher. People are going crazy for this creamy, fat filled fruit. But there’s only thing that’s troubling Charley and the avocado farmers.  You guessed it.  WATER.  What to do about the drought?

This ongoing dry spell has lasted three years and will extend to a fourth.  California farmers pay dearly for the delivery of water, and it is getting very, very expensive.   “The avocado’s native environment is tropical, and we’re growing them in a desert,” Charley says. It takes 72 gallons of water to grow a pound of avocados, compared to, for instance, nine gallons to grow a pound of tomatoes. “The issue with water used to be cost. Now it’s availability.”

Now this is slightly off track, but here’s a scary scenario from Jan Eliassson, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, on the world wide scarcity of clean water. “We have a dramatically dangerous situation right now, a new dimension which is creeping into the water equation.  The fact that you have a finite situation, there’s competition about these resources.  There is a risk that water scarcity could be a threat to peace and security.”

“History if full of stories where you fight about resources.  Fighting about water is fighting about our survival.  If we don’t deal with the problem of responsibility in this stage, the problem will grow into a disastrous situation.  I think it’s time for us to wake up.”

Now back to the story.  Technically, the avocado is a berry. But it’s not like any other berry, because it’s not sweet to eat off the tree. The name avocado comes from the Aztec word ahuacatl, which means “testicle,” so named because avocados typically grow in pairs and hang heavy on the tree.

The avocado didn’t land in California until the 1850s, when a tree was imported from Nicaragua by a private citizen as a botanical curiosity.  I’m guessing she was a female admirer.

According to my sources, 44 percent of California is classified as being in “exceptional drought.”  California has missed out on a full year’s worth of precipitation over each of the last three years. Last year was also the warmest year in the state’s recorded history.   When Charley started farming avocados four decades ago, water cost about $72 per acre-foot of water.  Now in some areas it costs about $1,500 per acre-foot.  Holy guacamole.

So the avocado farmers in California are searching for new, more efficient ways to grow avocados, and looking to develop new, heartier, more drought-resistant strains of avocado to grow. So it all comes back to the drought, and the policy and politics involving the state of California.   The critics have pointed the fingers of blame.  Time has been wasted.  Now it’s time for action.  I just hope it’s not too late.

Moving from agriculture to photos, I thought I’d take a break from the landscapes and feature some animal, bird  and marine life I have photographed in the past months of May.

We start out with the an elegant pelican cruising the skies over Monterey Bay, and then onto a great blue heron in the tide pools off West Cliff Drive.  Then we head up the coast to Four Mile Beach, where three harbor seals are keeping a watchful eye on me.  Then we run across a bobcat I found making sand castles up at Four Mile, before returning to town to check out this baby elephant seal and this fully grown sea lion.

We then look in on my sleeping daughter, a monkey and Summer, our golden retriever who celebrated her 10th birthday on Saturday.  And for the grand finale, we check in on Aimee’s pet rabbits, Marvin and Scarlett, who will chew through anything she can get her teeth on.

On to some late night humor.  “Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from the show “19 Kids and Counting” say they are supporting Mike Huckabee for president because he has “common sense.” If there’s anyone who knows about common sense, it’s a family with 19 kids.” – Jimmy Fallon  “A woman held hostage by her boyfriend in Florida managed to escape this week after she convinced him to let her order a pizza using Pizza Hut’s app and wrote “911 hostage help” in the comment section. But really aren’t all Pizza Hut orders a cry for help?” – Seth Meyers

“Remember “deflate-gate”? After the Patriots beat the Colts, 11 of the 12 footballs were found to be deflated. I hope deflate-gate is a good lesson for kids. If you cheat and don’t play fair you will be the MVP of the Super Bowl and marry one of the most beautiful women on earth. Remember that.” – Jimmy Kimmel   “Happy Cinco de Mayo. Today is the day Americans celebrate Mexicans beating the French in the Battle of Puebla by getting blind drunk, listening to mariachi music, and then vomiting in a cab. Or as we call it in Britain — Tuesday.” – James Corden

“Welcome to the program. My name is Dave Letterman, and tonight I’m giving my two-week notice.  Don’t worry about me. I plan to continue to be in show business. I have already been booked to be in a production of “The Sunshine Boys” with Jay Leno.” – David Letterman

“You know what’s going to be big this summer is the new “Indiana Jones” movie. Now Indiana Jones is a little older. In this film he goes in search of a tomb for himself.  Now instead of outrunning a giant boulder, Indiana Jones has to pass an enormous kidney stone.” – David Letterman

“Happy Cinco de Mayo. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, mayor Bill de Blasio is filling all New York City potholes with guacamole.  Tomorrow is the Kentucky Derby.  The thing about the Kentucky Derby is that it’s usually won by the horse from Kenya.” – David Letterman

 So we’ll catch you lighting it up for 16 third quarter points and riding your team to a game three victory over the Rockets.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Austin Rivers 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 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.

January 25, 2015

The Balls Never Lie

 

 Good morning and greetings, football fans, and welcome to my fully inflated Super Bowl preview.   Coming up on Sunday, the nation will be consumed with food, alcohol, TV and football, as the New England Patriots battle the Seattle Seahawks for the bragging rights to see who is the baddest of the bad, with the NFL championship trophy on the line.
Last year, Super Bowl XLVIII became the most-watched American television program in history, barely beating out the “Sons of Anarchy” season finale. So if you didn’t catch the games last weekend, you missed out on an utterly fantastic, unbelievable finish that still has the Green Bay Packer nation in a severe depression.So let me give you a little recap of the action leading up to Super Sunday in Glendale, Arizona.

Representing the American Football Conference are the New England Patriots, led by quarterback Tom Brady, who I am often mistaken for.   He has led his team to three Super Bowl titles.  He also has a child with the most attractive assistant D.A. in America, actress Bridget Moynahan from the CBS series “Blue Bloods.”  This golden boy is married to Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bunchen, whom he met on a blind date.  Some guys have all the luck.

And speaking of luck, to get to the Super Bowl, the Patriots crushed quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game by a 44-7 score.  It was a total beatdown, as once again, the highway to the Super Bowl runs through the New England thruway.

There was not doubt about the outcome of this game.  But there was big hullabaloo afterwards, as it seems the Patriots used 11 footballs in the game that were deemed to be, much like my ego, deflated by the NFL’s standards.   When the balls are deflated, it makes them easier to grip when throwing a pass downfield.  This would give the Patriots a seemingly unfair advantage.
The footballs were questioned after the game and had no comments on advice of their attorneys.  When asked about the allegations of “DeflateGate,” Tom Brady called the accusations “ridiculous” and maintained his innocence. “I feel like I have always played within the rules,” Brady said. “I would never break the rules.”  Now bending them, that might be a different story.

New England Coach Bill Belichick, known in some circles as “The Hoodie” for his wearing of sweatshirts along the sidelines, says he was shocked to learn about the story and has never talked to anyone on his staff about football air pressure, the function of atmospheric conditions or his recipe for linguini with red clam sauce.

 

The Patriots say they will continue to cooperate with the investigation.  But this where the story gets interesting.

 

Back in 2007, the NFL determined that New England had violated league rules when a Patriots staff member videotaped signals by opposing coaches.  This undercover operation became known as Spygate.  The team was fined and stripped of their 2008 first-round draft pick.  The NFL then fined Belicheat, er Belichick, the maximum allowed $500,000 for this black ops affair, the largest fine ever imposed on a coach in the league’s 87 year history.

A report described the league office as “disappointed, giddy, angry, euphoric and distraught,” after learning of the ball alterations.   The Patriots could lose future draft picks, a couple of cheerleaders or one of Belichick’s favorite hoodies if the league confirms the balls were deflated.

 

Hey, if you don’t get caught, it’s not cheating.  And if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

Now for the Seattle Seahawks, the road to the Super Bowl was a bit tricker, as they found themselves trailing with four minutes to go,  19-7, to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game.  At this point, Packer fans, known as the cheeseheads, knew they were headed for the Super Bowl and were going wild, celebrating with swiss cheese fondue, melted brie inside puff pastry and my personal favorite, crab rangoon.  The game was in the bag.

 

But then, the greatness of sports finishes took over, as the Seahawks came back from the dead, and in a finish that you wouldn’t believe, went ahead and won in overtime, after taking the lead in final two minutes, only to have the Packers drive downfield in the final minute of regulation to tie the score.

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you call must-see TV.  The Packer nation was left in shambles, or as longtime Packer fan told me, ‘It’s the worst loss in my lifetime.”

 

The last four minutes of the game was surreal, as it was the largest comeback ever in a conference title game.  It was so unscripted.  You had to see it to believe it.  I saw it and I still didn’t believe it.

 

After the game, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who claims Jesus came to him in a dream when he was 14 years old, said,“That’s God setting it up, to make it so dramatic, so rewarding, so special. I’ve been through a lot in life, and had some ups and downs. It’s what’s led me to this day.”

Packer QB Aaron Rodgers had a slighty different take on the subject.  I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome. He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”  Amen, brother.

 

One more note on the game.  It seems the Las Vegas initially screwed up the point spread and made the Seahawks an early 3 point favorite.  Well, 80% of the bets in the first 24 hours were on the Patriots, which means the big gamblers thought the spread was wrong and put a ton of dough on New England.  So the big money is riding on New England, and if the Patriots win, Las Vegas is going to take it the shorts.  Big time.  Count on it.

 

Remember, it’s doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s whether or not you beat the spread.

 

For our Super Bowl viewing session, we are going to back to a series of photos I shot back on a Sunday night back in February 2006.  The place was Stockton Avenue along West Cliff Drive, and on this night the sky did not disappoint.  The cloud color went from soft tangerine to vivid orange orange before finishing up with the grand finale of a blood red.  Meanwhile, the waves were pumping and the crowds along the cliff were loving it, making it a perfect, super Sunday night.

On to some late night humor.  “Tonight President Obama gave the State of the Union address. The Obamas invited 22 guests to the speech, including a former Cuban prisoner, an astronaut, and a doctor. Either that or he was setting up the weirdest bar joke of all time.  The RNC released its first presidential debate schedule, which includes at least nine debates in different states across the country. As opposed to the Democratic debates, which will just be Hillary staring at her opponents until they burst into flames.” – JImmy Fallon
“Last night was the State of the Union address, and everyone’s excited about the huge special appearance by a guy we haven’t seen in a really long time: 2008 Barack Obama. That guy had swagger.” – Jimmy Fallon  “Last night President Obama gave the State of the Union address, and I just have to say that I don’t know what union he was describing. But I want to live there. I want to move. It sounds outstanding. There’s a middle class. They have small businesses. It sounds great.” – Seth Meyers 

“Vice President Joe Biden said he has privately met with 17 Republican senators at his home to try and connect on issues like tax reform. Biden asked what he can do to speed up negotiations, while Democrats asked, “Does this door lock from the outside?”   A new helicopter service called Gotham Air is now offering users cheap flights from Manhattan to JFK or Newark airports that start at just $99. If there’s two words I trust together in the same sentence, it’s “cheap” and “helicopter.” – Jimmy Fallon

“A new study revealed Vermont businesses could benefit financially by legalizing marijuana. And by Vermont businesses I mean specifically Ben & Jerry’s.  In Florida, a teenage boy was arrested for posing as a doctor. After hearing about it, Dr. Phil said, “Wait, it’s illegal to pose as a doctor?” – Conan O’Brien  “This fall Pope Francis will host Mass at Madison Square Garden. And unlike the New York Knicks, he will have a prayer.” – Seth Meyers
More on Super Sunday next week.  Enjoy the game and we’ll catch you putting on one of the all-time greatest shooting performances while setting an NBA record by scoring 37 points in the third quarter Friday night at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Klay Thompson fans.

December 21, 2014

It’s Not Weather You Winter Lose, But How You Play The Game

Good morning and greetings, Frankie Valli fans. I bring up the name of this great frontman for the group, The Four Seasons, because yesterday was the winter solstice, marking the change of seasons from fall to winter.

Yes, the skies have been greyer and the weather a bit damp and chillier, but being north of Big Sur, we take the good with the bad, the ying with the Yankees. After all, what good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?

On the other hand, as writer Robert Byrne once noted, “Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.”

Now back in the 60′s, before I turned to hip hop and rap, the first record album I ever owned was the Four Seasons Greatest Hits. Frankie Valli had a wild falsetto voice, hitting some notes that dogs couldn’t even hear, as he belting out top ten hit tunes like “Sherry”, “Rag Doll” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

Lyrics like,”Dawn, good away, I’m no good for you,” comprised the music of my early youth. I remember going on my first date with my future wife to Marianne’s Ice Cream and looking at her and thinking, “You’re just too good to be true, can’t take my eye off of you,” which I believe was the same way I felt about pralines and cream in a sugar cone. Or was two scoops of the Alice B. Toklas Chocolate Fudge Brownie in a cup?

Either way, Frankie and the rest of the Seasons made a strong impression upon me, but it was the second album that I purchased that had a bigger and more lasting impact for a young boy growing up along with Bruce Springsteen in the Garden State.

As The Boss recalls from his childhood, “When I was growing up, there were two things unpopular in my house. One was me, the other was my guitar.” Gee, and I thought I had it rough having to eat oatmeal for breakfast.

Anyway, the album was The Doors Greatest Hits, with their signature song, “Light My Fire,” that got me hooked up to the rock and roll bandwagon. Back in 2004, it was rated number 35 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of all time.

Number one on the hit list was “Like a Rolling Stone,” by Bob Dylan, followed by the Rolling Stones ‘Satisfaction” and “Imagine” by John Lennon. Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” was number 17, and my generation’s classic anthem, “Stairway to Heaven” came in at number 31. “And a new day will dawn for those who stand long, and the forests will echo with laughter. Does anybody remember laughter?”

But let’s get back to the winter solstice. This was no ordinary day. It is what meteorologists, vampires and wikipedia would classify as an astrological phenomenon, marking the shortest day and the longest night of the year. So according to the Farmer’s Almanac, what this means is the days are getting longer and the medical marijuana stronger.

So I celebrated the first day of winter like a man’s man, with the NFL, the NBA and my son, who returned on Saturday for a two week winter break. After weeks of studying and taking finals in biochemistry and human physiology, all he wants to do is sleep, eat, sleep and dance.

Oh, and watch his Golden State Warriors, whose mind boggling, franchise record 16-game winning streak was snapped last Tuesday in a loss at Memphis. But Steph Curry and the boys got back to their winning ways on Thursday, as their league leading record now stands at a very impressive 22-3. They’re rolling.

So last night, members of the tribe celebrated the sixth night of Hanukkah. During this holiday, we celebrate the miracle of the oil, which lasted eight days, by lighting candles on the menorah. We are then free to bandy about and do as we please, which most importantly involves the eating of potato latkes.

This is the highlight of the eight day festival of lights, as we fry up potato pancakes and then load on either apple sauce or sour cream, or in my case, both. They are delectably delicious and surprisingly, a low carb snack. I personally love to eat them under the mistletoe.

Now for a little holiday humor. It was Hanukkah and the tiny village outside Budapest in Hungary was frightened that they may not have any latkes because they had run out of flour

Rudi, the Rabbi, was called upon to help solve the problem. He said, ‘Don’t worry, you can substitute matzo meal for the flour, and the latkes will be just as delicious.’

Sarah looks to her husband and says, ‘Samuel, you think it’ll work?’

‘Of course,’ Samuel replies, ‘Everybody knows Rudolph the Rab knows grain, dear.’

So to highlight this occasion of shredded potatoes, grated onions and jelly donuts, I am showcasing my third favorite bridge after the George Washington and Golden Gate, Natural Bridges. It’s a tad older than the first two, formed millions of year ago, before the invention of the VCR.

There were originally three arches, but the outermost fell during the early 20th century, and the inner arch collapsed during a storm that I did not photograph in 1980. At that stage of my photography career, I was mostly shooting from Stockton Avenue and rarely ventured north up to the Bridges, so I missed shooting some landscape history. You snooze, you lose.

So these are some shots taken over the years, beginning in 2006. These days, the Bridges is the place to be when the sky blows up at sunset time, because the reflection of the clouds on the sand is always spectacular. And that is something I can live with. So enjoy the final arch.

On to some late night humor. “Sony has canceled the big Seth Rogen movie, “The Interview.” North Koreans hacked their email so Sony said, “Now we can’t show anybody the movie.” I’m disappointed. I think this is the wrong thing to do. And I hear in the film Meryl Streep is great as Kim Jong Un. Last year, my son gave me a delightful gift for Christmas. He took an egg carton, emptied it out, and made me a pill organizer.” – David Letterman

“This evening marks the beginning of Hanukkah. It’s that special tradition where people find out their friend is Jewish and think back on the number of times they’ve asked them what they were doing for Christmas.” – Jimmy Fallon “Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah. And who better to celebrate Hanukkah with than our guest tonight — Garth Brooks. Right?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“I’m so excited for my son. On Christmas morning I want to see his face, to be there when he opens the gifts. I want the see what my assistants got him for Christmas. The Giants and the Jets won their football games yesterday. Astronomers say this will not happen again until the year 2164.” – David Letterman

“Those North Korean hackers are at it again. Earlier today they leaked Santa’s naughty list. Happy birthday to Pope Francis. They had a big birthday party for the Pope at the Vatican City Olive Garden.” – David Letterman “A man was recently admitted to the hospital for surgery after doctors discovered he still had surgical scissors in his stomach from a procedure performed 12 years ago. Said his new doctor, “The surgery was a success. Now where are my keys?” – Seth Meyers

So birthday wishes go out today to my old Fort Lee pal Steve Margolin, who after decades of shoveling snow and ice in Connecticut has finally relocated to the Sunshine State of Florida, where he spends the day watching the sunrise and sunset, NBA League Pass and being seated before 5:00 pm to catch the early bird matinee dinner at Flakowitz Deli in Boynton Beach, home of the mile high deli sandwiches.

So that’s the holiday report. It was an unbelievable week for NBA overtime games. So we’ll catch you putting on an fantastic shooting performances in a triple overtime win over the Spurs last week. Aloha, mahalo and later, Damian Lillard fans.

November 23, 2014

Jolts And Quotes From The Gravy Boat

Good morning and greetings, turkey day fans. According to my Nicki Minaj desktop calendar, Thanksgiving is coming up on Thursday. For most, it is a week filled with joy, as families reunite and share in a bounty of food, drink and tryptophan. My favorite amino acid helps the body in making niacin, an important B vitamin, which works well as both a floor wax and a dessert topping.

So this week, the airports are packed and people take to the highways like lemmings. Or as the late, great Johnny Carson once observed, “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then they discover once a year is too often.” Hiyo.

Now when I look back into my blogging archives, it seems that I wax nostalgic about my favorite national holiday in the even years, as in 2010, 2012 and 1846.

So for today, I hope you’ll pardon me if I bring back some of the greatest celebrities quotes and a few new ones about this festival of turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and enough stuffing to fill the Grand Canyon.

So Thanksgiving is always a November to remember, as uncontrolled violence, er football, takes center stage on this holiday. Or as comedian John Caponera put it, ‘Who knew the Pilgrims liked football so much?”

It’s a time of bonding, when relatives and friends come together. Jon Stewart, coming off his directorial debut of his new movie, “Rosewater,” grew up in the Garden State of New Jersey and enjoys reminiscing about the holiday. “I celebrated in an old fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then killed them and took their land.”

It seems that the Indians got a raw deal in this whole Thanksgiving story. Or as Native American comedian Larry Omaha puts it, “My mother won’t celebrate Thanksgiving. She says it represents the white man stealing our land. But she’s not angry, she figures, what the hell, we’re taking it back one casino at a time.”

For the host family, a good part of the day is spent in the foxhole, better known as the kitchen, preparing for a feast that will be prepared by a few, eaten by many and cleaned up by less. Unfortunately, many people will go hungry on this day, and that is a sin. No one in America should go hungry.

Or as Mother Theresa once tweeted me from a Backstreet Boys concert, ‘If you can’t feed 100 people, feed one.”

There is something vaguely satisfying about putting together a meal that feeds so many. I just love cramming stuffing into the bird’s cavity, as the instructions always say to ‘lightly stuff” the bird.

Well, after I finish jackhammering the delightfully flavored mix of bread crumbs, celery, and unions into the self basting butterball, I place it in a plastic bag, and it does all the work. It’s like magic. There’s a great future in plastics.

Or as Roseanne Barr once described the filling of the crevice, “Here I am at five o’clock in the morning, stuffing bread crumbs up a dead bird’s butt.”

George Carlin had this take on the holiday. “We’re having something a little different this year for Thanksgiving. Instead of a turkey, we’re having a swan. You get more stuffing.” And it’s always so moist.

So it makes for a long day, but it only comes around once a year, and you have 365 days to recover from it. It can be a little stressful when the families reunite. Or as Stephen Colbert once noted, “Personally, I love Thanksgiving traditions: watching football, making pumpkin pie, and saying the magic phrase that sends your aunt storming out of the dining room to sit in her car.”

Thanksgiving is celebrated by most all in America, from the common working stiff to high profile celebrities in Hollywood. Former California governor Arnold Schwarzeneger, who is busy man due to the double family front on this occasion, made a keen observation when he quipped, “I love the Thanksgiving turkey…it’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.”

Now my favorite TV talk show host, David Letterman, is retiring from the late night wars sometime in 2015. He will be missed. Here’s his take on the holiday. “Thanksgiving is the day when you turn to another family member and say, ‘How long has Mom been drinking like this?’ My mom, after six Bloody Marys, looks at the turkey and says, ‘Here kitty, kitty.’”

As the world know, David Letterman is a huge admirer of the world’s most powerful woman, Oprah Winfrey. As I’ve said before, Oprah is a saint, a woman with a huge heart that overflows with love and generosity. She changes lives on a daily basis, and if you want to model yourself after someone, the Big O would be a good starting point.

This is her thought on the day. ‘Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.” Or as comedian Kevin James once spouted, “Thanksgiving. Not a good day to be my pants.”

Which leads me to the words of writer William A. Ward, who so eloquently once said, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”

Well, I believe I have. I am particularly thankful for my health and the health of my family and friends. But I would also like the give thanks to you, the readers of this blog, who take time out each week to decipher whatever humorous thoughts sprint across my mind. It’s all about the laughter. The photos are the icing on the cake.

So for my final thoughts on this day before we celebrate Black Friday, I will defer to one of the funniest and palest men in American, comedian Jim Gaffigan, to put the holiday in the proper prospective. “Thanksgiving. It’s like we didn’t even try to come up with a tradition. The tradition is, we overeat. ‘Hey, how about at Thanksgiving we just eat a lot?’ ‘But we do that every day!’ ‘Oh. What if we eat a lot with people that annoy the hell out of us?’”

So in honor of the turkey day, for our photo follies, we are featuring a cluster of their distant cousins, the pelican. The day was November 14th, and I had heard a rumor of a mass gathering at Natural Bridges State Beach. Sure enough, they were packed in on the rocks like sardines and with the gulls down on the sand.

We then return to November of last year, as we head down to the Municipal Wharf and take in a couple of outrageous feeding frenzy moments, as the birds were going anchovie crazy. There was non-stop action with the volume turned up.

We then move on to a big flock of pelicans in flight heading north before we finish up with a delightful shot along West Cliff Drive of these amazing birds moving through the sun as it dips into the horizon.

On to some late night humor. “There are reports that leaders from ISIS and al-Qaida met at a farm house in Syria last week, and agreed to work together against their common enemies. That story again: Two radical terrorist groups managed to do what two American political parties cannot. The Keystone XL pipeline would run from Canada to the Gulf Coast. It’ll be the biggest underground structure leading into the U.S. Then people in Mexico said, “Eh . . . second biggest.” – Jimmy Fallon

I don’t know if you know this but Hitler was a painter and one of his watercolor paintings is being auctioned off. It’s expected to sell for over $60,000. So if you’re looking for a wedding gift for Charles Manson.”- Conan O’Brien “Today is the anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. President Lincoln wrote it on his way to the site of the speech on the back of an envelope. One guy on the back of an envelope wrote the great Gettysburg Address — while every night it takes six guys to write this crap!” -David Letterman

“Germany has overtaken the United States as the world’s favorite country. The favorite country survey was based on more than 20,000 people in 20 countries. Isn’t it a little bit unfair that they did this before the McRib came back?” -Jimmy Kimmel “David Bowie’s new album is a greatest hits collection called “Nothing Has Changed.” On the cover he looks in the mirror and he says nothing has changed. When I look in the mirror I say, “Hello, grandpa.” – Craig Ferguson

“Scientists say the European space probe that landed on the comet has detected organic matter. This means there could be either life in space or a Whole Foods. We just don’t know. This week a group of activists, known as Anonymous, hacked the Twitter account of the KKK. The KKK is furious. They said Anonymous is just a bunch of cowards who don’t have the courage to show their faces.” – Conan O’Brien “A man in California was arrested after he stabbed his potential employer during a job interview. Well, at least now he knows where he sees himself in five years.” – Seth Meyer

So that’s my big holiday post. Enjoy this gathering for what it is and perhaps take a moment to think about the military families that are apart on Thanksgiving.

We’ll catch you slinging touchdown passes and putting up big numbers on the board week after week. Aloha, mahalo and later, Aaron Rogers fans.

November 16, 2014

Numb And Number To

Good morning and greetings, polar vortex fans. Now if I’m being perfectly honest, I really don’t like the feeling of being cold. Or for that matter, being imprisoned in a North Korean labor camp.

Nor do I like feeling hot, except when I’m raining down jumpers on the basketball court. I just get into a zone. Auto Zone.

So when I heard last week that the midwest and rockies were preparing for a blast of polar air that was to send temperatures and toilets plunging, I knew Snowvember was upon us. Pardon my french, but to quote either Elton or Tommy John, “The bitch is back.”

Holy guacamole. Meteorologists and Al Roker’s cousin were calling it the “Arctic Outbreak.” We’re once again talking about a huge mass of whirling and swirling cold air that sent thermometers soaring downward. It had been a hundred years since Denver had been this cold this early, as the thermometer dropped faster than the Dow Jones average did a month ago.

Last Wednesday, the thermometer didn’t rise above the six degree mark all day in Denver. How cold was it? Starbucks was serving coffee on a stick. The only thing colder was the Denver Nugget’s defense that night at Pepsi Center, as they gave up 84 points in the first half in the loss to Portland.

Denver set a new record with a recording of minus 14 below. So how cold was it outside the arena? Ladies of the night were charging twenty bucks just to blow on your hands.

So what in the wide, wide world of weather is this polar vortex? For those of you who have forgotten or don’t give a rat’s behind, it’s a large pocket of the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere that swoops down from the north, leading to bitter cold freezing conditions while making life miserable for the masses, unless you’re a badger or wolverine.

Residents of Chicago are still in a panic. That’s what 32 feet of snow last year will do to you. And just in case you were wondering where the coldest spot in the nation was on Wednesday, the honor went to Casper, Wyoming, where it was a bone chilling 26 below. Pickpockets were sticking their hands in stranger’s pockets just to keep them warm.

So I say, America, let’s band together and send this weather back to where in belongs, to a land with ten provinces, three territories and one escaped Bieber. Canada. America’s attic. Or as they like to say about themselves, “We’re not colder, we’re cooler.”

Now I have nothing against Canadians, although I have never made love in a canoe. I may have on occasion sampled some their bacon in eggs benedict. A Canadian is sort of like an American, but without the gun. Or as the gangster Al Capone once said, “I don’t even know what street Canada is on.”

So while it’s 81 degrees in Palm Beach County, Florida, there’s four feet of snowing dropping in Wisconsin. Meanwhile, California bathes in sunshine and the drought continues to rage on. Somehow, it doesn’t seem quite fair, but if we didn’t have the weather to talk about, what would we start our conversations with?

So to update a previous post, I have remained in touch with my old friend Dennis, who’s doing quite well, but for security purposes did want me to reveal his last name (Haggar). My old high school buddy celebrated his 62nd birthday on Thursday with cake, ice cream and animal balloons. We had been out of touch for 44 years, but now we are reunited, and it feels so good.

But under the category of, “Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear,” low and behold, last Wednesday, I received an email from my closest comrade from grammar school, who I also hadn’t been it touch for over four decades. He somehow ran across my blog and reached out to me.

It was a glorious reunion. But out of respect for his privacy, he wanted me to keep our conversation on the down low, so as not to reveal his profession, (attorney), relationship status (married), hobbies (jazz music) and most importantly, his Pacific Northwest location (Seattle.)

Turns out my old Fort Lee running buddy is a big NBA hoops fan, and has named all his sons after Shawn Kemp. I had been dreaming about his mother’s banana cake for years. It was a blast heading back to the past, and where we go from here is basically a jump ball.

But if these things happen in threes, I’m ready, because if something else is coming down the pike, I really hope it’s a pony.

So for today’s photosynthesis, we are returning to West Cliff Drive on the morning of October 26. I wanted to get a wider shot of the sunrise over the bay, so I set up shop at Fair Avenue. The sky was vivid red and orange before the sun rose, casting a painted canvas look at the heavens above Monterey Bay.

The sun then rose, the sky turned blue, and I packed up my stuff and drove home to confront the ghosts of my future. I’ve got a great past in front of me.

On to some late night humor “I’m so excited. Jay Leno is on the show tonight. He brought some really funny jokes and some great stories. Although I’m a little concerned he also brought his old desk and Kevin Eubanks.” – Jimmy Fallon “At the economic summit in China, Vladimir Putin is being accused of flirting with the first lady of China. Then again, Putin does have a history of not respecting boundaries.” – Conan O’Brien

“”Director Oliver Stone says he’s going to make a movie about Vladimir Putin. I can’t believe anyone would want to work with that insane communist. And Putin is a little crazy as well.” – Craig Ferguson ” Welcome to our special “Sons of Anarchy” show. I’m a huge fan. When I was a young man, I ran with a gang of redheaded punks. We were called the Ginger Snaps. Our biggest enemy was sunlight. “Sons of Anarchy” is the No. 1 show in its time slot. They were No. 2 but then they had the No. 1 show executed in an abandoned warehouse.” – Conan O’Brien

“Pepsi is testing a new drink flavor, which is a mix between Mountain Dew and Doritos. Or as stoners call it, “instant breakfast.” The October jobs report was released and it showed that unemployment has hit its lowest point in six years. Also hitting its lowest point: anyone who tried that new Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew.” – Jimmy Fallon “PepsiCo is developing a Doritos Mountain Dew called Dewitos. I think I’ll wait until they come out with Diet Dewitos.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“Pepsi has a new Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew. No, we don’t have an Ebola vaccine, but we do have the Doritos-flavored Mountain Dew. You know Kim Jong Un, the evil dictator of North Korea? Apparently, a guy in his inner circle used his ashtray while smoking and Kim Jong Un had him executed. I remember the same thing happened when a guy used Martha Stewart’s personal lemon zester.” – David Letterman

“The Secret Service said there have been 40 fence-jumping incidents at the White House in the past five years. Half of them were intruders trying to get in. The other half was President Obama trying to get out.” – Conan O’Brien “A tiger has been seen running around Paris. Citizens were told to stay indoors and do whatever’s necessary to protect the wine and cheese. They should leave home only to smoke and to judge others.” – Craig Ferguson

So full speed ahead, as clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. We’ll catch you making great comedy movies classics for American audiences. Aloha, mahalo and later, Bobby and Peter Farrelly fans.

November 9, 2014

The Warriors Are Butter Because They’re On A Roll

Good morning and greetings, central coast fans. If you looked up the definition of magnificent in the dictionary, and for you kids out there, it’s a book we used in the olden day with lots of fancy words, it would describe our weather last week here in Santa Cruz. As the polar vortex swoops down from Canada, bringing a deep freeze to the midwest and northeast, our weather remained warm and dry in our little cold water paradise where the redwoods meet the sea.

I have been a resident of this surf town for almost three decades. From the first moment that I set foot in this liberal city, I was fortunate enough to call West Cliff Drive my home, where I could stare for hours out my living room window and take in the view of the ocean, the landscape and roller skaters, and not necessarily in that order.

Having Monterey Bay as your front yard was a fantastic place to begin my wonder years, as life is magical along the edge of the continent. The sky and clouds put on a show every day and admission is free. To say I was blessed would be an understatement. It was simply an outstanding way to begin my Californication into the Golden State.

Now God didn’t skimp in the beauty department when he created this place, as nature never takes a vacation. Or as naturalist John Muir liked to say, “The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere.”

Now coming from an east coast state of mind, Santa Cruz was a different animal. People here were laid back, life was free and easy and there just wasn’t that high intensity mentality that I was used to. This was particularly true on the basketball courts, where the motto up at the UCSC fieldhouse was “Friendship through competition.”

At the time, I was coming from a different place, where crushing your opponent felt a lot more comfortable. Or as my power yoga instructor once told me, “The surgeon general says it’s okay to smoke the competition.” Remember, if you come in second, you’re just the first loser.”

Now Santa Cruz was not exactly a bastion of professional sports franchises. Back in the mid 70′s, there were the high school teams and Cabrillo College, and that was basically it. Sure, people rooted for the A’s, Giants, Grateful Dead, Raiders, 49ers, Santana and the Warriors, but there was no big time sports presence in town, unless you counted the Doobie Brother rocking out at the Catalyst.

Well, that all changed back in 2012, when the Golden State Warriors announced that they were relocating their D-League team from Bismark, North Dakota, which was just east of Siberia, to Santa Cruz. Upon hearing this news I was shocked, stunned, mystified and finally posterized.

Professional basketball in Santa Cruz. Who knew? There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in local hoops. Relocating over the hill In San Jose, where the population center was much greater, would have seemed a much better fit.

Well, unbelievably, the decision was approved by the Santa Cruz City Council in time for the start of the 2012-13 season. They renamed the team the Santa Cruz Warriors and received a $3.5 million loan from the city to build the Kaiser Permanente Arena. I was hoping for an Outback Steak House.

And just like that, we had the NBA logo, Jerry West, chowing down on some frled calamari strips down at the Crow’s Nest, and pro basketball in our little cold water hamlet.

The team has been in the D-League Finals the last two seasons, as the arena is sold out almost every night and the action has been outstanding. The city loves their Warriors and the Warriors have in turn supported the community. It’s been a good fit, a real success story.

Well, it seems not everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. In the October 29th issue of the Good Times, in the section of Local Talk, people are asked “What is Santa Cruz’s biggest eyesore? One man answered, “People smoking cigarettes downtown.” Another woman replied, “All the people that are homeless and the desperation in their eyes. It’s more like a heart sore.”

But my favorite answer was from a stay-at-home Mom, who was not exactly a big hoops supporter, when she said, “The basketball stadium downtown.” I guess you can’t please all the people all the time, as the money could have gone to other projects. But it’s here now, so let the games and incessant noise begin.

I attended Media Day last Thursday at the arena with my cohort Jerry Hoffman, and there’s a lot of fresh talent on this year’s squad. According to head coach Casey Hill, “We’re coming into a year where we don’t have as many guys returning. We’ll build a team, not necessarily from scratch, but pretty dang close to it. I’m actually looking forward to it, it will be a fun challenge. It’s the D-League experience.”

So opening night is November 14 against the LA Defenders. The league is all about the players developing their game so they can be called up to the big show, the NBA. If you’re a basketball fan, you’ve got to check it out. It’s the real deal, and it’s in our hometown.

It’s all about following the dream. Or as my rabbi once told me while running out on a fast break, “Reach for the sky or don’t even try.” Shalom.

So for today’s photo journey, we are returning to the evening skies of October 27. When I got down to Stockton Avenue, a distinct ribbon of clouds had formed in the western sky. Over the next half hour, the clouds went through some color changes, from standard white to tangerine orange and then finishing up with ruby red.

Meanwhile, turning back to the east, the clouds were wild and flooding the sky with a pinkish hue color. All in all, for early in the season, it was a good night on the digital front.

On to some late night humor. “For the first time in history, Congress has 100 women in it. Congratulations. Welcome to modern times, America. It’s great having 100 women in Congress. Unless you’re in line for the congressional bathroom.” – Craig Ferguson “On Tuesday, Utah Candidate Mia Love became the first black Republican woman elected to Congress. She’s also a Mormon. Yeah, a black female Republican Mormon. Even unicorns are saying, “Not buyin’ it.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Mary Keitany from Kenya won the women’s race at the New York City Marathon. Mary was fast. Experts say it’s one of the most impressive races they’ve seen a woman run. Then Hillary said, “Stay tuned.”-Jimmy Fallon “It’s been announced that a Union soldier who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama over 151 years after his death. Even better, he finally got an appointment at the VA hospital.” – Seth Meyers

“Daredevil Nik Wallenda broke a record when he walked blindfolded between two Chicago skyscrapers. Wallenda said he didn’t do it to set a record. He did it because that’s the safest way these days to walk through Chicago.”- Conan O’Brien “Discovery, formally the Discovery Channel — they changed it to make it more confusing — has a special on December 7 called “Eaten Alive” that will feature a man being eaten alive by an anaconda. So, if you were disappointed by the fact that Nik Wallenda didn’t fall off that tightrope, this is your show.” – Jimmy Kimmel

So birthday wishes go out on Tuesday to my old backcourt teammate, Doug MacKinnon, who sailed from Plymouth Rock back in the 70′s and landed on West Cliff Drive and saved me a space.

We’ll catch you running the point and bringing excitement to the arena every time you step on the floor. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kiwi Gardner 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.

June 22, 2014

Time Keeps On Slippin’ Into The Future

Good morning and greetings, World Cup fans. As I child growing up in the Garden State of Tony Soprano, I was in love with sports. Whether it was football, baseball, basketball, kickball, stickball, tether ball, bocci ball or Lucille Ball, I was totally on board.

Sun up to sun down on weekends and summer months, you could find me on a field or some asphalt, bonding with the neighborhood crew while not having a care in the world. I enjoyed the feeling of competing and winning, as it had the same taste as a chocolate shake. Or as another Jersey guy, Coach Vince Lombardi, once said, ‘If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”

So during my childhood wonder years, sports was my number one priority. But for some reason, the game of soccer never came across my radar. As a youth, I never recall playing this international game which is called football around the world. This led to later developing the theory that if God had wanted us to play soccer, he wouldn’t have given us arms.

Now I know that this is not the world view, as soccer fans are as passionate and crazy as mad dogs. I’ve seen very little of the World Cup play, as I am still coming to terms with the NBA having gone into summer hibernation.

But word on the street has people buzzing about the Cup. Last week, the USA beat a very tough team from Ghana, a country the size of Rhode Island on steroids. The soccer nation swelled with national pride, while I was still contemplating the championship proclaimed by the San Antonio Spurs and the mental state of LeBron James.

People around the planet take this sport very seriously, or in the words of English soccer manager Bill Shankly, “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.” I say, the more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle.

So one night last week, after my wife and I had finished watching an episode of “Halt and Catch Fire,” the new AMC series that replaced ‘Mad Men,” she remarked that time seems to be flying by. I thought to myself, when does it ever not?

Our son is now halfway through his undergraduate college career, with two years down and two to go. He did not follow in the footsteps of his father, who thought four years would be nice, but seven would be heaven. I was living the good life on West Cliff Drive, and was in no hurry to leave the academic world of the hardwood floors up at UCSC’s East Fieldhouse.

So I’m now in my seventh decade on the planet. Hitting the 60th birthday was fairly trumatic, as telling people I was that age was just nuts. 60! Now that I’m 61, all of a sudden I’m Roger Maris.

I don’t want to say I’m getting old, but in today’s mail I received a letter from the Trident Society, informing me that “cremation just makes sense,” as there would be no need for embalming, funeral homes, cemetary property, caskets, tiskets and taskets. And I would be helping the environment. Or in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift: that’s why the call it the present.”

So yeah, time is racing by. We’re more than halfway through June, and soon the July 4th holiday will be history. My daughter is going to be a senior in high school, but I’m not worried about any empty nest, as I believe she is determined to convert our house into a rabbit rescue haven.

Right now, she has two bunnies, Marvin and Scarlett, who are currently residing in her room. They’re pretty easy to take care of, as they only demand hay 24 hours a day. They are actually very cute, and if Aimee is lucky, one day within the next century she will actually be able to hold the grumpy Marvin.

So I’m hoping for a solution in Iraq and for them to stop pooping on Aimee’s floor. We all have our hopes and dream. As either Aimee or writer Jarod Kintz once remarked, “You know what I like most about people? Pets.
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We are all on our own paths. Time keeps rushing by faster than the speed of my DVR, and I’m just trying to hang on for the ride. It’s not always easy, as life is full of everyday challenges.

But remember, you know what they call the person who finishes last in their medical school class? Doctor.

All I know is “Life lives, life dies. Life laughs, life cries. Life gives up and life tries. But life looks different through everyone’s thighs.

So for today’s photo funnies you’re getting two January sunrises for the price of one. The first is from January 24, where I was shooting from Bird Rock along West Cliff Drive. There wasn’t any great color in the sky, but waves were pumping and the clouds were puffy enough, so it worked for me.

The second, which was from January 24, was kind of like a sunrise lite, with the muted red clouds briefly lighting up the sky above Lighthouse Point. The last two shots brought out shades of orange and yellow, and I enjoyed that, because in the words of Monty Python, “I’m always looking on the bright side of life.”

On to some good late night humor. “Congrats to the U.S. soccer team for beating Ghana in the opening round of the World Cup. Yeah, they did the impossible — getting Americans to watch soccer. “Alex Trebek has broken a world record for game-show hosts, after hosting 6,829 shows in his career. When asked how he’s made it through so many shows, Trebek said, “What is Scotch?” – Jimmy Fallon

“Yesterday, the Iranian president tweeted a picture of himself all alone watching a World Cup game on television. Yeah, then he watched his favorite show — “It’s Always Sunni in Philadelphia.” This morning the Pentagon announced that the United States has captured a leader responsible for the Benghazi attacks. Republicans were ecstatic and said, “So, they finally got Hillary?” – Conan O’Brien

“Match.com is charging $5,000 to set you up with someone who looks like your ex. You wouldn’t believe how many guys on Match.com once dated Kate Upton.” – Conan O’Brien “Rob Ford is running for re-election. He’s got a very catchy campaign slogan. You’ll see it on bumper stickers all over Canada: “The crack stops here.” – David Letterman “Kourtney Kardashian is reportedly pregnant. Just this morning I was thinking to myself, “There just aren’t enough Kardashians.” – Craig Ferguson

“Starbucks has teamed up with Arizona State University to create a program that will pay for Starbucks employees to get a college degree. Starbucks is doing this because without an educated workforce, nobody will be able to afford $10 for a cup of coffee.” – Jimmy Kimmel “Over the weekend Starbucks announced a new program that will pay employees to take online classes at Arizona State. Said Starbucks employees, “We already went there. That’s why we work at Starbucks.” – Seth Meyers

So that’s my report. Congratulations go out to my parents, and particularly my mother, as they are celebrating their 64nd wedding aniversary on Wednesday. I don’t want to say they rushed into it, but they were registering for gifts on their first date.

We’ll catch you leaving the announcing table at TNT and taking the head coaching job with the Golden State Warriors. Aloha, mahalo and later, Steve Kerr fans.

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