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.

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.

June 23, 2013

Once LeBron A Time

Good morning and greetings, change of season fans. Last Friday in North America, where I like to do most of my shopping, the summer solstice began at 10:04 am, as we moved from spring to the late Donna Summer. At that exact moment, Miami Heat fans were still dancing in the streets of South Beach, as LeBron James and company captured their second straight NBA title. It was the end of a glorious Estefan season, as this roller coaster ride of a series had incredible drama, with end to end non-stop action, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and that was just during the TV timeouts.

They say champions are made, not born or bought. And that it is better to give than to receive. How true this was in this series, as without some very timely help from the San Antonio Spurs, there would have been no joy in little Havana. As Mother Theresa once said, “If you can’t feed one hundred people, feed just one.” And that would also describe the play of the Miami Heat in the crucial fourth quarter of game seven, with the one being fed, Finals MVP LeBron James.

In an act of incredible generosity that would have buckled Mother Theresa knees, the Spurs gave game six of this best of seven series away to the Heat on a silver platter. This was with less than a minute to go in the final quarter, with the MVP ballots counted and the championship trophy literally waiting courtside to be handed to the Spurs. But they somehow let this golden opportunity get away, as the victory that would have annointed them as a dynasty slipped away because of a couple of missed free throws and rebounds.

Confucius said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Well, after the Spurs tanked a couple of crucial free throws and didn’t grab a couple of rebounds, legacies from both franchises were changed forever, as history was changed in an instant. It was so amazing that I could barely believe it was happening, as the Heat overcame a five point deficit to tie the game in regulation before going on to win in overtime.

After watching thousand off games, I had never witnessed a turnaround like this, in one of the most crucial games in NBA history, and I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see it coming. And that is the beauty of sports. It is totally unscripted, and if you watch long enough, you’ll be an insider to an experience that fans will be talking about for decades. And this was one of these nights, one of those crazy, crazy old nights.

Unfortunately, a segment of the hometown crowd in Miami missed out on this experience as they left the arena in the final minute, thinking that they were at a Dodger game. Seems wanted to beat the traffic back to Fort Lauderdale. When they heard the announcement of the comeback from speakers outside American Airlines Arena, they tried to reenter the arena, only to be turned back at the doors. And what an overtime period they missed, as the defending NBA champions turned on the after burners and forced a final and deciding game seven of this epic championship series.

Fans were in a state of shock back in Texas, as this stunning turn of events made the Alamo almost looked like a win. The great Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” And the Spurs climbed to the top of the Unfortunate 500 Club charts as they gave away a championship. It was a shocking turn of events in a game that will go down as one of the best in NBA history.

Tim Duncan and the Spurs will be haunted by this untimely event for years to come. It was the championship that got away, and was so close they could have more than tasted it.

The following day, with my voice sounding like a young Demi Moore because of my incessant ranting and raging during this unbelievable overtime contest, I was able to recount the highs and lows, the twists and turns, the incredible ups and downs on the radio as the “NBA Insider,” which is what my mother used to call me when I was still camped out in her womb. She claims I was collicky as a fetus, but I was just preparing for life on the outside. I believe it was either Karl Marx or Carl Jung who said, “He who looks outside dreams. He who looks inside awakes.” I prefer the former, as I’m not a big fan of fracking for natural gas or deep understanding of myself.

And here’s the most amazing thing. Game seven ended over 72 hours ago, and I’m still buzzing with excitement from the events that unfolded that night and over the last two months. NBA action, it really is fantastic.

So the NBA season and spring 2013, like trying to figure out what’s happening with Don Draper on “Mad Men,” is now history. But summer is in the air, and the weather last week, like LeBron James’ performance in game 7, was outstanding. The mornings were warm, as I’m always surprised when I don’t need to be wearing my full metal jacket when parading down West Cliff.

The nature highlight of the week came last Tuesday, as my wife and I were strolling along the coast when a long chain of pelicans appeared off shore. I stopped in my tracks to count their number, as my wife was regaling me with a story about the Kabbalah and the late Tony Soprano. The count was over 80 birds, and their flight was truly one of those Animal Planet moments. It’s the magic at the edge.

But I know that despite this teasing of warm summer days and nights, the fog was hovering somewhere off the coast, waiting to invade and spoil the weekend plans of visitors from the inland empire. We on the central coast are so lucky to be living in this Mediterranean climate, where the temperature is never too hot or cold and the ocean water is chillier than my reception back in 1970 at the Selective Service office. America, change it or lose it.

So last Friday was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. On this morning, thousands gather around the world to greet the sunrise and pay their utility bills. And that leads us into our photo segment of today’s program, a lovely sunrise from the morning of January 19. The sky did its usual winter dance at Lighthouse Point and on the sand at Its Beach, and I was lucky enough to be invited to the recital. Seeing the sunrise over Monterey Bay is never a bad way to start the day.

On to some late night humor. “President Obama is in Ireland for the big G-8 summit. Security for the overseas presidential trip is unbelievable. He has 14 limousines, trucks loaded with sheets of bullet proof glass to cover the hotel windows, and fighter jets flying in shifts. That’s to protect the president. Joe Biden gets a pair of running shoes and a can of pepper spray. The Taliban is now recruiting women to become suicide bombers. And it’s not easy to qualify. The women must be able to push a car loaded with explosives because, as you know, they’re not allowed to drive over there.” –Jay Leno

“Germany is mad at the United States for the NSA eavesdropping. This, ladies and gentlemen, from the country that gave us the Gestapo. This story comes up about twice a year. They think they have located the body of Jimmy Hoffa, the former Teamsters union leader, after 40 years of being dead. Nothing on the NSA whistle-blower, but we think we know where Jimmy Hoffa is.” –David Letterman

“NASA is challenging Americans to help them figure out a better way to find threatening asteroids. Americans said, ‘What do we get if you pick our idea?’ And NASA said, ‘To live.’ “The Senate’s new immigration bill is apparently more than a thousand pages long and weighs 24 pounds. That doesn’t sound like an immigration bill. That sounds like a menu at The Cheesecake Factory.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Obama decided we’re going to arm the rebels in Syria. Yes! This is why I voted for Obama in the first place, so he could carry out McCain’s bad ideas.
The great news about getting into another war in the Middle East is that the next one’s free. Syrian President Assad crossed a red line. He used chemicals weapons. Using harmful chemicals to hurt your own people – who does he think he is, Monsanto?” –Bill Maher

Now for a joke. A couple is lying in bed, on their 20th wedding anniversary. The woman suddenly feels her husband touching her in ways that he hadn’t done in years. He started at her neck, and slowly traced a line downward, past the small of her back. He caressed one shoulder, then the other, and continued down across her breasts, stopping just below her navel. Next, he placed his hand on her left inner arm, and caressed down her side, stopping at her hip. He started over again on her right side, then brushed gently across her buttocks, and down her leg. As his hand was making its way up the inside of her left leg, he abruptly stopped and rolled over. She had become very aroused by all of this attention, and asked in a loving voice, “That was amazing, darling. Why did you stop?” He cleared his throat, looked at her and said “Found the remote.”

So that’s our NBA report. We’ll catch you showing the world why, despite just falling short of a championship this season, you’re a class act and one of the greatest power forwards of all times. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tim Duncan fans.


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