May 3, 2015

We Are Only Young Once

Good morning and greetings, May Day fans.  The magnificent month of April is now just dust in the wind, but it went out with a wonderous bang.  On a scale on one to ten, last week was a pretty good one by NBA standards, with the San Antonio Spurs and the L.A. Clippers playoff series turning out to the a, legendary must see TV event.   For pro hoops fans, this was true, unscripted NBA drama, setting the stage to see if the new kids on the block could dethrone the aging champions.

With Kobe Bryant and the Lakers being a non factor in the basketball world, the once dreadful Clips team have become the milk toast of Hollywood.  The Clippers Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have been as dominating on the court as in their ridiculous TV commercials.  The red carpet had been rolled out for the Clippers to make some noise in the playoffs.  But was it to be their time?
They had narrowly beaten our beloved Warriors in last year’s opening round, but lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder in round two.  But ballsy new owner Steve Ballmer blew up the town by plunking down a record $2 billion to purchase the franchise last year from disgraced owner Donald Sterling, so things were looking up.  It was now their time, their town.  Own the playoffs.
But a funny thing happened on the last day of the season, as the seedings went haywire and the Clipper’s opponent in the opening round were the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.  This was a true heavyweight matchup, as both teams were more than worthy of moving on to the next round.  Would this once laughingstock of a franchise unload all their previous baggage and make some history?
Well, Saturday night there was a changing of the guard, as Chris Paul, playing with a painful hamstring injury, refused to lose and put the team on his back as they prevailed over the Spurs in game seven, 111-109.  It was a legendary contest for the ages, as the up and coming Clips kept on coming back and hitting big shots to take down last year’s NBA champions.
Paul hit a spectacular shot with one second left that provided the winning margin, leaving the Spurs and their fans stunned.  It was a shame one team had to lose.  The Clippers now move on to the western conference semi finals, where they face the bearded James Harden and the Houston Rockets.
This is setting up a Western Conference showdown with the Golden State Warriors, who swept the young New Orleans Pelicans in the opening round by a 4-0 margin to move on, where they will take on the depleted Memphis Grizzlies.  The young Warriors crushed the Grizzlies in their two previous meetings, and as former coach Mark Jackson would say, “This team is on a mission from God.”  The Warriors easily handled Memphis in the opening game on Sunday in Oakland, with game two coming up on Tuesday.

So the other highlight of last week was spending some quality time in the emergency room at Dominican Hospital.  Last Monday, at approximately 10:20 am, my 89-year-old mother decided to take a swan dive onto her linoleum kitchen floor.  When my father’s caregiver discovered her, she was down for the count, a very scary situation.

I immediately got a call and hurried down there, following behind the ambulance the mile or so to my parent’s abode.  The Fire Department’s paramedic were already on the scene and checking her vitals. My mother was still on the floor when I arrived and out of it, having no idea what had happened.By some miracle, there was no blood, no bruising, no broken bones.  She did say that her neck hurt, so they put her in a soft collar, placed her in a sheet and carried her outside to the gurney, where she was loaded into the ambulance.   Still having no idea of where she was or who was playing that night, and it was off the the ER at Dominican.
Well, it seemed that it was welcome wagon Monday, as at 11 am, five ambulances arrived at one time.  Inside the waiting room, the place filling up like Grand Central Station.  Scattered about were pregnant women, crying babies, wrenched knees, dog bite victims, criminals in handcuffs, heroin addicts and TV agents, a virtual potpourri of open wounds and injuries.
Since my mother had to be wheeled in, she got a room at the end of the corridor, which unfortunately for me, was away from the control center, the heartbeat of the ER, where all the action is.  Things in here move slowly, so you have a lot of time to hurry up and wait.  The doctor arrived and found her being dehydrated, so they hooked to her up to a saline drip, ordered some tests and told her to relax.
In the meantime, I was in the midst of the worst cold I had in years, a real doozy.  And I had to attend to needs of my 98-year-old father at home, who knew nothing of the situation.  Fortunately, he still doesn’t.
My mother stayed at Dominican for two nights, which I was hoping would be like a vacation from my father, but she had little to eat and not much sleep.  After two nights and a new prescription for an infection, we checked her out and headed back home.  I knew the stress from my lack of sleep and good looks would catch up with me somehow, and I was hit with the mother lode.
But my mother and father survived the ordeal, and my sister-in-law Wendi came down from Marin last Wednesday to help out. My mother got awfully lucky, because she was a concussion or broken hip waiting to happen.  As for me, I have my own issues to deal with, but I’m just happy to be done with this latest crisis.  On to the second round, Warrior fans.

For today’s photo series, we are heading down to Its Beach on the morning of March 13th. I started off shooting the reflection from the clouds down on the sand, and the headed over to Steamer Lane.  The sky was full of beautiful red clouds which changed to orange as it got closer to sunrise.  Then sun the arose and cast a wonderful light across the water.  For my final shot, I got the sun trying to disappear into the clouds.  All in a day’s work.

On to some late night humor.  “Floyd Mayweather said he will make around $200 million for his fight on Saturday against Manny Pacquiao. Meanwhile, the horse that wins the Kentucky Derby will get an extra carrot.  Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen attended a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in New York City this week. Hillary told them, “Good luck with the reboot of your ’90s show.” And they said, “Thanks. Good luck with yours.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to announce tomorrow that he is running for president, making him Hillary Clinton’s only Democratic challenger so far. Or as Hillary put it, “Oooo, appetizers!”According to a survey from the Physical Activity Council, Americans are the least active they’ve been since 2007.   To which Netflix said, “You’re welcome.” – JImmy Fallon

“In Oregon, a number of brewers are competing to turn sewer water into beer. The brewer said, “Hey, if Bud Light can do it, we can do it.”  In Baltimore, the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox played a game today in a completely empty stadium. It was the first major sporting event to be played in an empty stadium, unless you count every professional soccer game in America.” – Conan O’Brien

“Nicki Minaj made a 13-year-old boy’s dream come true when she performed at his bar mitzvah over the weekend.  Imagine being the kid at that school who’s having the next bar mitzvah. How do you compete with that? His friends will say, “What, you’re having a magician? He’d better reach into his hat and pull out Beyoncé.” – James Corden  “There’s a new dating app that pairs attractive females with generous males who will fly them to foreign countries for first dates. If you’d like to know more, tune in to next week’s “Dateline.” -Seth Meyers

So we’ll catch you playing in pain, while hitting impossible shots and willing your team to victory to advance on in the playoffs.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Chris Paul 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.

March 29, 2015

No Need To Worry, We’ve Got Steph Curry

Good morning and greetings, early spring fans.  The insanity of March Madness continues to carry on, as we are now down to the Final Four teams.  Two weeks ago, I wrote that the finale was going to be a little anticlimatic, as the highly favored University of Kentucky team, who entered tournament undefeated, has just continued to roll on, compiling an very impressive 38-0 mark.
Or as former Butler head coach Joe Sexson once said, “Kentucky players put their pants on the same way our players do. It just takes them a little longer to pull them up.”
 Of course, as Ashley Judd, Kentucky’s most notorious fan reminded me, their starting front line is bigger than most NBA teams.  Gigantic doesn’t begin to describe them.  This vaunted college basketball program continues to find a way to win, as the Wildcats inch closer to a possible NCAA title, which will be decided next Monday night in Indianapolis.
As Kentucky’s vanquished opponents have proclaimed, “Coach John Calipari, tear down this wall.”
But truth be told, I’m not caught up in the hysteria of the college tournament, as there is something even bigger brewing in the Bay Area.  And that, my friends, are your Golden State Warriors.
And if you haven’t heard, there’s still time to jump aboard the Warriors bandwagon.  But don’t make any plans on hopping off until the middle of June, when the NBA championships will be decided.
 It has been a dream season for Warrior fans, something that is so magically delicious that you can’t take your eyes off the screen.  With nine games remaining in the regular season, Golden State has clinched their first Pacific Division title since the 1975-76 season, or when Rick Barry still had some natural hair on his head.
As point guard Steph Curry said last Tuesday night after clinching the title, “It feels great.  It’s my sixth year and we haven’t done it before.  It’s a big accomplishment, but obviously, we have a lot more to accomplish this year with goals in mind.  But this is a good stepping stone for us to win the division and keep it moving.”The blue and gold  have also shattered their all-time franchise record for wins in a season by securing their 60th on Saturday night, while at the same time breaking the mark for wins (26) on the road.  As they say, there’s no place like away.
Rookie head coach Steve Kerr’s squad has been blowing away opponents at home at the Oracle Arena, compiling a very impressive 34-2 mark.  The Warriors have a high octane offense, that involves a lot of ball movement and three point shooting, which really gets the crowds roaring.
The Warrior’s offense is predicated on moving the ball side to side, getting the best shots on every possession.   Everyone is involved in touching the basketball, and this unselfishness leads to good things happening.A longtime observer of the east bay sports scene, Bruce Meyers, says it best. “It’s magical.  It’s poetry in motion.”
But what really revs up the fan base at Oracle is the way the Warriors play defense.  Led by undersized power forward Draymond Green, the Warriors’ defense is a testament to tenacity, as the Warrior defenders have been stifling the opposition like never before.  Inevitably, at some point in the game, lately the third quarter, the Warriors play shut down defense and take their opponents out of the game, and then the rout is on.
Golden State has been magnificent at home, as it has been a party every night.  They are led by all-star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who have been touted as the best outside shooting tandem of all-time. But what makes this squad so effective is their depth, as they have twelve players they can run in and out of the lineup.  The team is hungry and focused, and has played at an extraordinary level all season long.Steve Kerr, with the input from veteran assistant coaches Ron Adams and Alvin Gentry, has transformed the Warriors into a title contender in his first season as head coach.

As owner Joe Lacob said at the time of his hiring, “Steve Kerr was incredibly prepared.   He covered every detail you could imagine.  He knew our roster in and out. He had assistant coaches he wanted to go after. It was like a tour de force. At the end of the day, I know he knows a lot about basketball.”
Golden State, unlike many other franchises, has remained relatively injury free, which is an immense blessing.  Teams like Oklahoma City, Portland and Chicago have been decimated by injuries, with players like the Bull’s Derrick Rose and last year’s MVP Kevin Durant’s futures in doubt.
The key to the excitement at the arena is the team play and it’s orchestrator, Stephen Curry.  Having just celebrated his 27th birthday, he is generally considered, with no disrespect to Russell Westbrook or LeBron James, the most exciting performer in the league.
He is a magician with the ball, and an amazing no look passer.  But what brings the crowds to their feet is his variety of dipsy doo moves to the hoop and his incredible three point shooting.  No one shoots threes better than Steph, and when he launches, it’s nothing but net.
And being 6’3″ and not bulked up, he’s easy to relate to, as a relatively small figure in a big man’s game.  He’s the best player on the best team, and a prime candidate for Most Valuable Player.
But he’s not after that award.  The Warriors are eyes are on a bigger prize, and that is an NBA championship.  It’s going to be tough, but they have they home court advantage, where they have been virtually unbeatable.
So it’s two weeks and counting till the end of the regular season.  And then the big show hits the stage, the NBA playoffs, which will be delectably brutal.  But the Warriors have what it takes, and they are confident that this could very well be their year. So keep the faith and stay tuned.
For our photo study this week, we are returning to the Natural Bridges State Beach on the evening of January 9.  I sensed early on that there would be some fireworks in the sky, and this night did not disappoint.I started shooting from the upper parking lot, and then headed down to the sand, where I caught the reflection of the clouds in the large pond of water.  It was a beautiful sight, as the sky and water were aglow with vivid color.  Game on.
On to some late night humor. “Ted Cruz released a presidential campaign video in Spanish. Cruz explained, “It’s important for me to reach out to the people I’m trying to deport.”  People are questioning if Ted Cruz can legally run for president because he was born in Canada. And the last thing we want to do is pave the way for a President Bieber.” – Conan O’Brien
“Senator Ted Cruz has officially announced that he is running for president. But if you see a T-shirt that says “Ted Cruz 2016,” those aren’t election shirts. That’s just how old he thinks the Earth is.” – Seth Meyers  “Republican candidate Ted Cruz said recently that in the 36 hours after he announced that he’s running for president, he’s raised over a million dollars. And Hillary Clinton closed her checkbook and said, “Happy to help. Can’t wait.” – Jimmy Fallon

“McDonald’s is introducing a Big Mac clothing line. Of course there already is a clothing line for Big Mac lovers. It’s called a hospital gown.  According to a new study, human waste contains gold and other special minerals. In the future this could make things awkward when a cashier asks, “How would you like to pay for this?” -Conan O’Brien

“Kraft Foods and Heinz will merge to create the fifth largest food and beverage company in the world. The merger will combine brands like Kraft Mac & Cheese, Heinz ketchup, Oscar Mayer wieners, and Philadelphia cream cheese. Or as stoners put it, “Already did that, bro.” – Jimmy Fallon”Today is the 20th birthday of the Starbucks Frappuccino. The CEO of Starbucks wrote in his book about the story of the Frappuccino: “It’s experimental, it’s adventurous, it fires people up and engages their imagination.” Does it, though? Seems like a coffee milkshake to me. ” – Jimmy Kimmel
So that our last blast for March.  We’ll catch you scoring 23 points in a win over North Carolina, and then going for a season-high 27 in the win over Arizona Saturday night to get to your Wisconsin team into the Final Four.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Sam Dekker fans.

June 1, 2014

The Daze Of May

Good morning and greetings, sports fans. April showers and May flowers, like my once perfect eyesight, are now history. I can still remember the day I realized I needed some cheater glasses. I blame it on the lemon chicken.

I was sitting inside a darkened room at O’mei, a restaurant on the westside of Santa Cruz that has been serving Chinese provincial cuisine with an understated elegance since 1979. For people in the know, it’s the best Chinese food in town. The only problem was that every time I walked out of the place, I was left wanting more.

But why point fingers? As my favorite Swami Tejomayananda once said, “If your heart is full, you don’t feel that hungry.”

Now I could have ordered more food and come away with a fuller belly, but at the time, my digestive tract was more suited for the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, where I rarely left not totally satiated.

Back in the 80′s, these noon time feasts were always a Friday tradition, as we would roll out to the Mandarin Palace on a search and destroy mission, intent on devouring anything and everything that came down the pike. Egg rolls, pot stickers, fried rice, Condoleezza rice, beef and broccoli, cashew chicken, shrimp toast, french toast, chow fun, spare ribs, mu shu and grits, along with enough sweet and sour sauce to fill Lake Tahoe.

Back in those crab rangoon days, I was counting cream cheese filled won tons rather than carbs. The cooks would come out and fill the display trays. We would immediately empty them and eagerly anticipate the next round. It was the circle of life.

Or as the old Chinese proverb goes, “A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in.”

Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I was trying to read the menu but I couldn’t tell if it was beef with baby corn or corn beef. One of the gentlemen at the table pulled out of pair of cheater glasses and before you could say, “red chili dumplings,” it all became clear. I had seen the light. Help was on the way.

Anyway, April started out in fine fashion, as the first round of the NBA playoffs got underway and were beyond fantastic. Everybody talks about the greatness of March Madness and college hoops, but this was full blown April insanity.

The opening round were all best-of-7 series, which means you have to win four times to advance. That leaves lots of time to sit around recapping the action and anticipating the what happens next.

The first round matchups featured San Antonio-Dallas, Oklahoma City-Memphis, LA Clippers-Golden State and Houston-Portland. Eight solid, exciting NBA teams. All wanted to move on in their quest for an NBA championship.

Turned out, three of the four series went the full seven games, while the fourth went six. Every night there was a game going down to the wire, and better yet, eight overtime contests, which is just a hoop dream. This was a two week stretch of wall-to-wall excitement, with fantastic finishes as the excitement kept building as the series moved along.

It was basketball heaven, as the first weekend in May brought us to the deciding game seven action. Then it was on to the semi-finals and then the conference finals. Now we are back to a rematch of last year’s finalists, which features the Miami Heat, led by the best player on the planet, LeBron James, who are gunning for their third straight championship and the San Antonio Spurs, who are seeking redemption for a title they had within their grasp last season but let slip away.

But as May brought joy, it also drew pain, as tragedy struck when a crazed madman slaughtered six students in a rampage in Isle Vista, which borders the UC Santa Barbara campus. The six killed were all UCSB students. None needed to die.

My son, a sophomore at UCSB, was there that night in the area where the shootings took place. For not some sort of fate, he could easily have been out on the street when the bullets were flying and never would have known what hit him.

Turns out, he knew three of the students who were slain, which is three more than needed in anyone’s lifetime. Jason has seen other friends and classmates die. It seems strange, as when I was growing up, I can’t remember anyone dying, except my dreams of playing in the NBA.

The shootings hit a little too close to home. When I saw the video of Richard Martinez, the father of Chris Martinez, who was shot and killed as he walked into a deli, his pain, grief and anger was heartbreaking. If Jason had decided to go out for some dessert, that easily could have been me being the new poster Dad for our latest national tragedy.

So this Memorial Day weekend was memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. Jason’s life is now back to semi-normal, as as he is studying like a maniac for finals. The Isle Vista shooting are fading out of the national news cyle, replaced by other disasters around the globe.

But will this insanity ever end? We have gun and mental health issues that are out of control. Parents should not have to bury their children.

On today’s photo front, we are returning to Lighthouse Point on the evening of January 21. There was a lovely sunrise that morning, so this was a day that I took a double dip on the digital frontier. As you can see, the swell was up, as the waves had been pumping since dawn’s first light. They continued to roll in at Its Beach as the sun set, which delighted everyone who had gathered along the edge to take in the evening’s hazy festivities.

No late night humor this week so I’ll go with a couple of jokes.

A woman has twins, and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named ‘Amal.’ The other goes to a family in Spain, they name him Juan’. Years later; Juan sends a picture of himself to his mum. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wished she also had a picture of Amal. Her husband responds, ”But they are twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Amal.”

A turtle was walking down a street in New York and suddenly got mugged by few snails. A policeman arrives to investigate the matter and asks the turtle, “Could you please explain to us about the incident.” The turtle not knowing what to say, replies, “I don’t remember. It happened so fast.”

So that’s our first blast for June. We’ll catch you coming up big down the stretch and leading your team in the quest of another championship. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tim Duncan fans.

April 29, 2012

Crust Never Sleeps

Good morning and greetings, NBA playoff fans. That’s right, after a regular season schedule that was more compacted than my daughter’s makeup case, we have now entered the postseason. I don’t want to say that I’m excited, but I already have my clothes picked out for the “40 games in 40 nights.” And if you know me, you know that I dress for success. For NBA fans, the next six weeks are a stairway to hoops heaven. Or as Mark Twain once told me, “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.”

So when watching basketball, snacks invariably enter the playoff picture. And that leads me to today’s subject and predicate. In a story by today.com’s Jillian Eugenios, Pizza Hut’s Middle Eastern arm has taken crust-stuffing soaring to a new junk food height by adding cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets to their pizza crusts. I know what you’re thinking, “What, no fries or chocolate shakes?”

They’re called the “Crown Crust Cheese Burger” pizza and the “Crown Crust Chicken Filet” pizzas because of their shape, royalty and just pure audacity. Fortunately for Americans and their cardiologists, these cholesterol busters are only available in the Middle East and selected desert oasis.

This gorging, ground breaking event is similar to another pizza the company recently launched in England, which features a giant hot dog threaded through the crust along with tiny bits of the Beatle’s “Abbey Road” album. My thought is, who’s thinking up these concepts, what did his or her parents do to them as a child that sent them down this long and winding caloric road?

The Crown Crust, which is not to be confused with the Ford Crown Victoria, comes with either cheesburgers or chicken “gems” set outside the outside of the pie, which is in line with the separation of church and steak.

Pizza Hut Middle East announced the promotion last week on their Facebook page and in Mad magazine. Now here comes the best part. Their slogans were “Can’t decide on burger or pizza? Believe it or not you can have both!” A slice and a coronary. They referred to their pizza creations as the “gem of all pizzas,” and suggested that their customers can now “taste royalty.” Maybe you can’t be a king but you can have the cholesterol and clogged arteries of one.

This isn’t the first time that Pizza Hut Middle East has dabbled in unique culinary territory. The Crown Crust joins a pizza called the Cheesy Bites Remix on Pizza Hut Middle East menus, which is a regular pizza with cheesy pockets around the outside. What, just cheese? Forget about it. Now, if you fill those pockets with beef stroganoff, chicken pot pie or sweet and sour shrimp, now you’ve got me interested.

The Cheesy Bites Remix pockets were once only filled with mozzarella, cream cheese and miracles, but the remix variety offers “three times the fun,” which includes spicy Mexican seasoning, cream cheese and sesame, and mozzarella and parmesan. Who knew pizza could be this entertaining?

Well, Americans do, as business is booming, with 41% of Americans saying they eat pizza once a week compared to just 26% two years ago. I guess it’s all about eating, laughing and sharing a slice of life.

Fortunately for bedouins and their camels, the Crown Crust Pizza is just a limited time offering, and will come off the market as soon as there’s peace in the middle east. But the super chefs at Pizza Hut have been busy, offering cheese-stuffed crusts with cornflakes in Malaysia and a Fish Prawn King pizza, which comes topped with Alaskan Pollock fish fingers, King Prawns, Queen Latifah, mozzarella cheese, pineapple with a lime mayo sauce and a free goldfish.

But America is also doing its part in the world of bizarre fast food concoctions, with with Doritos Locos Tacos, Burger King’s bacon sundae and the infamous KFC Double Down, where the Colonel uses two pieces of juicy, boneless white meat chicken filets as bread. Throw in two slices of bacon, two slices of cheese and the Colonel’s Sauce and you’ve got something that’s finger lickin’ unbelievable. This baby is so meaty, there’s no room for a bun, paramedic or vegan healer.

Burger King has also rolled out a bacon ice cream sundae that is not quite what Michelle Obama had up her sleeves. That’s right, we’re talking an actual slice of kosher bacon on top of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and caramel. That sound you hear is my arteries crying.

And not to be left out of the party, last year Denny’s rolled out a bacon maple sundae, while more recently, Jack in the Box added a bacon-flavored milkshake. The last sound you heard was my rabbi screaming.

Now let’s finish up by thinking outside the bun. Taco Bell’s newest item, Doritos Locos Tacos, which the company launched nationwide last Wednesday, has taco shells made out of Nacho Cheese Doritos. Yes, you read correctly. This could be the cure for the common meal and insanity.

This is Taco Bell’s biggest product launch in its 50-year history, as they plan to spend up to $75 million to advertise the new tacos, about three times more than it usually spends to promote new health food items. But hold on to your pacemakers, as there’s even more good news, as they will be introducing a Doritos Cool Ranch taco shell this fall. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to make a mad dash to the border right now.

For today’s photo escalade, we are featuring my favorite sunrise from the month of April. The year was 2009, the place was Steamer’s Lane, and as you can see from photo #1, this sunrise started strong. What made this morning even more interesting was that it was my brother Brad’s 50th birthday and the 15th for my Regents Scholar winning, UC Santa Barbara Honors Program bound son Jason. The early clouds were just fantabulous, and this sunrise, much like candidate Obama in 2008, came out of nowhere, as there hadn’t been any color or diamonds in the sky for months.

Let’s move on to some late night humor. “Today is 4/20. This is like national pot day. And people celebrate all over the world. Although, I must say, the Senate did not celebrate this by smoking joints, for two reasons. One, it would be against protocol. And two, it would mean passing something. “Newt Gingrich was campaigning at a zoo this week and he was bitten by a penguin. Newt Gingrich is always campaigning at zoos. Mitt Romney once did a photo op at a zoo. That was a big mistake, because he stood next to the chameleon, and he changed colors.” –Bill Maher

“One of the agents involved in the scandal was on Sarah Palin’s detail in 2008 when he was running for vice president. And he posted a picture on his Facebook — apparently he had a little crush on her — of him standing behind her kind of smirking and saying, ‘I’m checking her out.’ Which is more than you can say for the McCain campaign. “Of course Sarah Palin has to answer this. Today she said, you know what, people are always checking me out. She said, ‘I can’t count the number of times when I’m walking away, and I hear someone say, ‘What an ass.’” –Bill Maher

“One of the Secret Service agents had this woman, and the deal was $300 and he gave her $30. I’m thinking, now wait a minute. I’ve got no problem with a guy trying to save taxpayer dollars. These are jobs that should’ve gone to American hookers.” –David Letterman “Congress is expanding its probe into the Secret Service scandal. Congressmen want to know how this could happen, who was responsible, and do those ladies take Discover cards.” –Conan O’Brien

“Newt Gingrich’s campaign is something like $5 million in debt. He is now so broke he’s no longer attacking the poor because he is one.” –Jay Leno “Newt Gingrich still receiving Secret Service protection. What are they protecting him from? Reality?” –Bill Maher

“Yesterday Mitt Romney won all five of the primaries. Apparently when you buy four primaries, you get the fifth for free. Yesterday the Dalai Lama said he likes George W. Bush as a person, but not as a president. When asked for comment, Bush said, ‘I love him as a Dalai, but not as a Lama.’” –Conan O’Brien

So that’s our last gasp for April. Despite the devastating loss of Chicago’s Derrick Rose, enjoy the first round of the NBA playoffs and we’ll catch you being the top sixth man in the league. Aloha, mahalo and later, James Harden fans.


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