November 17, 2013

Feedings, Nothing More Than Feedings

Good morning and greetings, sea bird fans. As the millions, er thousands, er hundreds, er dozens of readers to this site know, last week I posted my 400th blog. The director from the Office of Sponsored Programs from a unnamed university (Western Kentucky) had asked me earlier in the week what I was going to do celebrate this blessed event. I told her I wasn’t doing much and was just hoping for dial tone when I woke up.

But then I thought to myself and was reminded by the Hollywood press corps that 400 postings is quite an accomplishment, if for nothing else than the consistency that goes into the making of the experience. I’ve come to realize that no man is an island. I’m much more of a peninsula.

As Mark Twain once tweeted, “Grief can take care of itself, but to get the full value of joy you must have somebody to share it with.” Thus, that would be you, members of my cyber audience and NSA analysts. Or in the words of Albert Einstein, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is that nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Believe me, it’s an act of God that I’ve penned this many words without receiving one plugged nickel. lt can only mean one thing. Loneliness has no boundries.

Of course, I’m just kidding. Not everything in life has to have a price tag on it or be measured in dollars and cents. I’m getting something that’s much more valuable than money out this experience. And if someone could let me know what that is, I would really appreciate it.

So after launching four century marks worth of free flowing thoughts and photos into cyber space, I knew I had to do something special to mark the occasion. I thought, maybe purchase some new cologne, an expensive bottle of wine, preferably Manischewitz, or some fuzzy bedroom slippers. Or maybe just renew my AARP card.

Yes, I’m living large. Remember, it’s not about the breaths you take, it’s about the moments that take away your breath.

So I invited my birth mother, who I rarely have lunch with more than four or five times a week, to join me for a celebration down at our most visually favorite dining location, the Santa Cruz Wharf. I was in the mood for seafood, and just my luck, the panko breaded parmesan crusted chicken was featured as the catch of the day.

But food was not to be the highlight of this outing, as when we approached the entrance to the wharf, I could see swarms of pelicans and seabirds going wild, diving into the ocean after anchovies. The pelicans were coming up with a pouch fulls of fish while the gulls moved in screaming for leftovers. The action was non-stop, and as we ate lunch, I could barely concentrate on my meal, as the activity outside the window was dreamier than my double order of mashed potatoes.

Adding to the festivities, dozens and dozens of sea lions were herding the schools of anchovies so they could enjoy a meal on the go. They were swimming in battalions, and the activity was happening on both sides of the pier. These feeding frenzies went on all afternoon. The action was so outstanding that I passed on the praline chocolate mousse dessert with a dark chocolate cookie crumb base and just munched on some crispy kale chips, because that’s the way I roll.

It was an exhilarating experience, a celebration of nature for the ages. But then the day got a little better when I learned 19 killer whales had been spotted in Moss Landing at an all-you-can-eat sea lion buffet. This day was the culmination of perhaps the greatest two months in the history of Monterey Bay. We’re talking about miles long schools of anchovies, endless chains of pelicans, jacked up pods of sea lions, more humpbacks whales ever spotted in the bay, and for the grand finale, a large group of orcas going wild. This was the bay at its nature’s best.

I came back to the wharf on Thursday to check out the scene, and the gulls, pelicans and sea lions where still going anchovie wild. However, when I returned Friday, all the pelicans and flowers were gone, and the sea lions were sleeping on the pilings under the wharf, stuffed from the appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.

So for today’s photo menu I’m serving up a healthy portion of pelicans, sea gulls and sea lions. The bird action was from last week, and since size matters, I’m featuring the largest pod of sea lions I’ve ever observed from this spot. As interesting as these photos are, it doesn’t truly capture the outrageousness of the moment, which is more suited to video. But if you take a close look at the first two shots, you can see the pelicans were jammed in together like sardines, making these photos rich in vitamins, minerals and memories. It’s the magic at the edge.

On to some late night humor. “Yesterday at the White House, President Obama met with various leaders of the American Indian tribes. He promised them, ‘If you like your medicine man, you can keep your medicine man.’ A new record was set today in the 100 meters. It was set by Senate Democrats running away from Obamacare.” – Jay Leno

“As you may know, Thanksgiving began in 1621 when the Pilgrims feasted with the Indians and promised them, ‘If you like your land, you can keep your land.’” – Jay Leno “It turns out that a lot of children could lose their dental insurance under Obamacare. So kids might not be able to go to the dentist. Parents were really upset, while kids said, ‘Four more years! Four more years!’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Today a reporter asked Chris Christie, ‘What do you think of 2016?’ And Christie said, ‘I think it’s a good weight to get down to.’” –Jay Leno “In a new interview today, Sarah Palin refused to endorse Chris Christie. Afterward, Christie told Palin, ‘Thanks, I owe you one.’” –Conan O’Brien “’60 Minutes’ had a story that turned out not to be true about Benghazi. They had to apologize. And then today they were embarrassed again. It turns out the stopwatch on ’60 Minutes’ is not accurate.” –David Letterman

So that’s my pelican brief. We’ll catch you making the Warriors looking like early season title contenders with your all-around play. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andre Iguadola fans.

October 20, 2013

Things Don’t Always A Pier As They Seem To Be

Good morning and greetings, Obamacare fans. Or should I say hopefully Affordable HealthCare Act fans? In late September, I received notice from my current health care provider that the membership group I was part of was being disbanded. They further stated that if I didn’t join a new group by December 15 that the new rate for my insurance premium would be basically be double. Lucky I’m a skirt steak eating vegan or my blood pressure would have gone through the roof.

To say the least, I was not thrilled. Now I’m not going to give away the name of my carrier (Anthem Blue Cross) because that would be wrong, as all insurance companies have the same rights to gouge their customers. I’m just worried about the old double cross.

However, last week I spoke with a woman from ABC (Anthem Blue Cross,) and she assured me that as easy as one, two, three, if I went to their website and put in my information, they would offer me a rate that is not comparable with my monthly home mortgage. What a relief to know I still might be able to afford my NBA League Pass.

I’m going to their site this week in an attempt to obtain what those courageous conservative congressman fought so hard to deny me and the rest of the country, affordable health care. At this point I’m optimistic, as the Taliban have momentarily stopped laughing at us. As the saying goes in the heath insurance marketplace, “Hardly working to help you get covered.”

On a more pleasant note, the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf turned 100 years old on October 13. Now I dig the wharf. I love the fact that I can hear the sea lions barking from their home on the pilings from my abode, which according to the way Sheryl Crow used to fly, is over two and half miles away. Now if I could just hear my wife when she calls me from upstairs. It was the French philosopher Jean de la Bruyere who said, “The sweetest of all sounds is that of the voice of the woman we love.” Obviously, this guy was not a sports fan.

For a photographer, the wharf is a photo paradise, as there is always action up and down the longest wooden pier still standing in the U.S. Whether it’s gulls, pelicans, walruses, seals, sea lions, dolphins, whales or Russian submarines, all can be seen from this spot, where back in 1914 they plunged 2,000 70-foot-tall Douglas fir pilings 21 feet deep into the ocean floor. And I believe it was Jacque Cousteau’s cousin who tweeted, “We all know sponges grow in the ocean, but I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that wasn’t the case.”

Depending on who you ask, there have been five or six different wharves built along our shorelines. Our current wharf was built back in the day for steamships to haul goods and surfers in and out Santa Cruz. It’s where the commercial fishing boats brought in their daily hauls from the waters of Monterey Bay. Today there are displayed on ice in the fish markets along the wharf. It’s amazing to see what’s swimming around in the bay. Or to quote the late, great Rodney Dangerfield from the movie classic ‘Caddyshack,’ “The last time I saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it.”

It was in the 1960′s that the wharf started to change and became the tourist attraction that it is today, with restaurants, souvenir stores and more restaurants. Last week I had lunch at Gilda’s, which is owned and run by the original Stagnaro family, who have been serving Santa Cruz since 1879. Being the seafood lover that I am, I had the Wednesday special, the freshly caught prime rib, which comes with soup, bread, potato, vegetables and a view to die for. All for $8.95. And there’s always plenty of free parking and if you’re lucky, you’ll take home a souvenir on your windshield from one of the local gulls.

And speaking of dining, you might want to check out the $8.95 locals special at the Firefish Grill. There’s eight great selections to choose from. My favorite is the freshly caught parmesan crusted chicken, which is a parmesan cheese and parko breaded chicken breast topped with a savory sun dried tomato, wine and butter sauce served over a double portion of mashed potatoes, as my doctor told me to cut back on my ruffage intake. No soup but a tremendous view of the action at Steamer’s Lane.

So for today’s photo lineup, I’m featuring some of my favorite photos of this Santa Cruz landmark. The first two shots are from March of 2006. This multi-colored arc was lighting up the sky at various times throughout the day, and in the late afternoon, I finally timed it right and caught these magical moments of beauty.

The next shot was taken in the early evening, as I was on my way to see Eddie Money perform down at the Boardwalk bandshell. Some baitfish were running in the bay and the pelicans had gathered to take in dinner and a show. Eddie blew the crowd away that night with “Wanna Be A rock ‘N’ Roll Star.” Or as the Money Man told the crowd, and I paraphrase, “I love Santa Cruz. I’ve been coming here since 1970, back when I was snorting South American countries.”

When then move on to the biggest moon of the year rising over the Santa Cruz mountains, before checking out some fantastic thunder clouds. We close with my favorite picture taken from the wharf, of hundreds of sea lions ‘rafting’ alongside the pier. This was the largest group I’d ever seen, and they were just happy relaxing and doing a lot of heavy breathing, much like the detectives during Sharon Stone’s interrogation scene from “Basic Instinct.”

Bottom line, wharf fans, when you can drive out onto the water, park your car, walk 30 feet to a boat landing and sidle up alongside a giant sea lion basking in the morning sun, then life is good. Very, very good.

On to the late night humor. “The government will temporarily reopen until January 15 with the debt ceiling raised until February 7, and then we’ll do this over again. Why do we have a debt ceiling? Why can’t we get rid of the debt ceiling, have a convertible government, and feel the wind in our national hair? It’s day 15 of the government shutdown. President Obama said he was hopeful an agreement would be reached tonight. Part of the problem is that Republicans can’t even agree among themselves on what they want. Which means Obama doesn’t know what to tell them they can’t have.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Because of the government shutdown, the White House is under attack – by squirrels. They’ve invaded the White House garden because the gardeners were laid off. When I first heard the White House was under attack by freaky rodents, I thought, ‘What’s Ann Coulter done now?’ This kind of thing would never have happened under George W. Bush because Dick Cheney would have been on the White House lawn blasting the squirrels with a shotgun.” –Craig Ferguson

“Yesterday John Boehner led a group of 20 Republicans to see President Obama. Unfortunately when they got to the White House, the president was still black. There are these people they’re calling ‘debt ceiling deniers’ – Republicans who have decided that, unlike every economist on the entire planet, maybe defaulting on our debt would be a good thing. First they didn’t believe in evolution, then they didn’t believe in global warming, and now the debt ceiling; what I like to call the ‘moron trifecta.’” –Bill Maher

“President Obama said the day after the budget deal is made he’s going to concentrate on immigration. He says he’ll start by deporting Ted Cruz.” –Conan O’Brien “Nobody’s happy about the government shutdown. In fact, the Taliban just issued a statement where they criticized Congress for putting themselves before everyone else. You know things are bad when Americans are saying, ‘Yeah, gotta go with the Taliban on this one.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Talking to reporters today about the shutdown, John Boehner said, ‘If ands or buts were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.’ You know, if they’d get off our butts and quit squeezing our nuts, we could enjoy Christmas.” –Jay Leno

So here’s a thought. Take a moment this week to think about the sacrifice our troops and their families are making. We’re still fighting in a war, folks. And if you have another moment, think about the courage displayed by children and their families who are bravely fighting catastrophic illnesses. Maybe do something nice to make a difference in someone’s life.

We’ll catch you being called up in August and putting together two shutout performances on the mound in the national league playoffs. Aloha, mahalo and later, Mike Wacha fans.

August 4, 2013

Tune In, Turn On, Look Out

Good morning and greetings, August fans. There’s a special feeling to the start of a new month, as those not-so-distant memories of July are replaced by fresh images of August on calendars throughout my heavily fortified office. A few years back, there were 28 different calendars adorning my office walls, which meant the nature and landscape changed significantly from month to month. Still, I never knew what day it was.

Now I’ve mentioned on occasion that I’m a fan of the machine that transmits and receives moving images, known to some as the “boob tube.” Now this moniker has a couple of different meanings, of which I’ll let Gloria Steinem do the explaining. To some it’s known as the “idiot box.” I say you’d be an idiot not to own one.

The world is full of critics of this medium, which for too many folks becomes extra large over time. Ernie Kovaks called television a medium because, “It is neither rare or well done.” ‘Star Trek’ creator Gene Roddenberry fired back, with “they say ninety percent of TV is junk. But, ninety percent of everything is junk.” And you know what they say, one man’s junk is another man’s TiVo pleasure.

I would disagree with 90 percent, as I’m more comfortable with a solid eighty-five. But for me, that fifteen percent of the written word, translated into dialogue and action, is just heavenly. It’s an escape into a world that always welcomes me with a smile and a handshake, as we are very comfortable old friends. It’s one of the longest relationships I’ve ever had, dating back to the fifties when life wasn’t as nearly as colorful, and all things, including my future, was in black and white.

Television is not for everyone, as there are some major front and side effects. The real danger is its effect on children, teenagers and some family pets. The tube is locked and loaded with programs that present risky behaviors such as premarital sex, alcohol and drug use and not studying for the SATs as cool and exciting. The problem is, they rarely portray the dark side of the consequences that go along with these actions. If you don’t believe me, just watch sixty seconds of “The Jersey Shore.”

I’m not here to preach about the dangers of children watching televison. We all know that children who are glued to the tube have seen more acts of violence involving murder, mayhem and destruction they will see in real life in a thousand lifetimes. There is nothing beneficial in any of this programming. Children think the behavior they see on the tube is the norm and acceptable, and some will try to imitate it. I got caught up in it during my Don Johnson/Sonny Crockett faze with ‘Miami Vice.’ “You gotta know the rules before you break ‘em. Otherwise, it’s no fun.” Now that man had a sense of fashion.

Young children can’t distinguish televison programs from commercials, especially if their favorite character is pushing some sugary product. Television plays an enormous role in the lives of the citizens of this great nation. In the words of humorist Dave Barry, “If you surveyed a hundred typical middle-aged Americans, I bet you’d find that only two of them could tell you their blood types, but every last one one of them would know the theme song from ‘The Beverly Hillbillies.’

But there is another danger out there involving young children and television, which I wasn’t aware of until I ran across this story written by Andrew M. Seamen for Reuters. And it’s a shocker.

In a new study, a child is rushed to an emergency room in the U.S. every 45 minutes with an injury that’s related to a falling television. And all this time when I thought the sky was falling, it was actually flat screen TVs. Even Chicken Little is shaken.

From 1990 through 2011, researchers found that about 381,000 children and teenagers were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms for TV-related injuries. More than half were caused by falling TVs, another 38 percent by children running into the them. The majority of the injuries were to boys and about 64 percent of the injuries were to children less than five years old. Two-year olds were the age group most likely to be hurt. As I child, I remained unscathed, although I once suffered a paper cut while thumbing through TV Guide.

Here’s what’s happening. Flat-screen TVs are selling faster than hotcakes from the griddle. The older televison sets, which we used to adore but are bigger and bulkier, are being relocated to bedrooms, playrooms, top of dressers, tunnels, safehouses and underground bunkers. The problem is these dinosuars of yesteryear may tip over, because their new locations were never designed to support TVs. And that’s how the dinosaurs went extinct.

But there is a simple way to protect your children from the dangers of falling televisions. “If you have a TV at home, it doesn’t matter if it’s a flat screen or a tube model, that TV must be anchored to a wall,” says former Navy man Gary Smith, the President of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance who headed the study.

And all this time I thought it was the programs the kids were watching that was the enemy to be feared. I knew there were certain dangers in life for our youngest, but I always thought it was cars, MTV and going into the water too soon after eating. It’s our youngest of our youth who must beware of what’s falling from the skies and counters. As poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “As soon as there is life, there is danger? Who knew he was talking about TV?”

For today’s photo adventure, we go back to the evening of January 9, when I headed out to the end of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf and I shot this beautiful sunset. I don’t often get to include the Mark Abbott Memorial Lighthouse in my evening shots, as I like to shoot further north along West Cliff, but on this night, while shooting west across the water, it was a welcome addition.

I love the wharf, as there’s usually some photographic action that goes well with warm sour dough bread and creamy clam chowder. And if you’re out there, stop by Gilbert’s Gift Shop, and check out some images of my work that are available for purchase or just for your viewing pleasure.

On to some late night. “A new poll came out and says that most Democrats think Anthony Weiner has basically lost his mind. Weiner said, ‘The important thing is I haven’t lost my phone.’” –Conan O’Brien “Anthony Weiner has vowed to continue to fight. He said he is staying in the race because he cares deeply about the people of New York — except for the one he is married to.” –Jimmy Kimmel “It seems an audio sex tape that Monica Lewinksy recorded for Bill Clinton at the height of their affair back in the 1990s has now been leaked to the National Enquirer. With all these scandals involving Anthony Weiner and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, it’s nice to see an old pro come out of retirement and show these guys how it’s done.” –Jay Leno

“Edward Snowden, the guy who leaked all that information about the NSA, finally got to leave the Moscow airport this morning after being held there for five weeks. When asked what he wanted to eat, he said, ‘Anything but Cinnabon.’ Congress has a month-long vacation coming up, but House Republicans are being pressured to use their time off to reach out to women, young people, and minorities. So they all got together and decided to go to a Selena Gomez concert.” –Jimmy Fallon “In a new interview, Republican Senator John McCain implied that he might vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. McCain’s getting old. He also said he’d consider voting for oatmeal.” –Craig Ferguson

“Russian President Vladimir Putin was on vacation last week, and apparently he caught a giant 46-pound fish. Putin called it a crowning achievement, while the manager of the aquarium said, ‘What am I supposed to do? He’s president.’” –Jimmy Fallon “A high school in Arkansas is letting teachers carry concealed weapons. So now when students want to ask a question, they raise both hands.” –Conan O’Brien “It is not looking good for Alex Rodriguez. There’s a good chance he could be banned from baseball for life. How good? He got 2-to-1 odds from Pete Rose.” – Jay Leno

“More problems for America’s creepiest mayor, San Diego’s Bob Filner. An eighth woman has now come forward to say that she was sexually harassed by him. She said she would’ve come forward sooner but the line was too long. In what has to be the most outrageous defense ever – this is real – Filner’s lawyer said if there’s any liability, it’s the city liable for failing to give the mayor sexual harassment training. Oh, come on now. Just shut up!” –Jay Leno “Facebook has a new feature that allows you to see what you were posting a year ago. You just log on to Facebook and click on the “I’m wasting my life” button.” – Conan O’Brien

So that’s our first blast for August 2013. Sweet 16 birthday wishes go out on Wednesday to my lovely daughter Aimee, who pitched two shutout innnings and made the defensive play of the game on a line drive shot up in middle in her victorious GALS championship softball game last week. Got to love a lefty who can throw strikes all day.

We’ll catch you showing the world that great new shows appear on cable networks like FX in the summertime. Aloha, mahalo and later, “The Bridge” fans.

November 13, 2011

Those Sea Lion Eyes

Good morning and greetings, fall color fans. The wide variety of morning light was in full effect along the coast this past week, as I shot my first sunrise of the fall in true living color. The following day I awoke to dark clouds on the horizon, but an hour later the sun briefly broke through to cast out a glow that was simply brilliant. What makes it so special is that this light will shine for just a few magic moments, and then vanish faster than Herman Cain can say, “It simply did not happen.”

Santa Cruz once again made the national news last week, as NBC’s Brian Williams talked about the continuing whale activity in our area, although he led into the story with, “In the waters off of the Southern California coast…” We’ll given Brian a pass on that as he makes mistakes about as often as I leave my feet on defense. The story was in reference to paddlers, kayakers and Penn State alumni getting too close to the gigantic creatures. Much like myself at the Burning Man, they need their space for self-espression.

I had spent some time the previous week out on the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, checking out the humpback whales that were feeding offshore. I had hoped to score a few photos for the blog, but unfortunately they were too far out for me to capture the true essence of the moment, as they were breaching while lunge feeding in the midst of a frenzy of anchovies activity. Despite being a product of a breeched birth, my breaching photos weren’t quite what I was hoping for, or to paraphrase the words of Mandy Pepperidge from “Animal House, “Otter, don’t flatter yourself. They weren’t that great.”

But you can see in today’s first photo a couple of humpbacks spouting off through their blowholes, while the gulls were screaming and the onlookers so close that they could could scrape the barnacles off the whale’s ipads. Compared to what’s been featured in the local and national press, this photo wasn’t quite worthy of Whales Illustrated or Humpback Monthly.

However, there was some good news as when you venture out onto the wharf you never know what you’ll see besides the daily specials at Gilda’s. Had the freshly caught tri tip and scalloped potatoes on Tuesday and they were spectacular. This deal also includes white clam chowder, which always reminds me of the way my mother never made it back in the old country.

Anyway, as I approached the end of the wharf in search of photographic greatness, I could see from the humpback’s location that there were not going to be any Moby Dick moments. But instead, to my delight and amazement, appearing right below me in the chilly Pacific waters were a colony of sea lions, just relaxing and floating on top of the water. There were at least 100 of these beautiful marine mammals, so I took advantage the moment and shot away like Ansel Adams at a bar mitzvah, because as I’ve mentioned before, this is another one of those events that happens only at the edge of the continent. It’s the magic at the edge, like when Darryl Hannah came ashore in “Splash.”

One of the more amazing things about the sea lions is that no matter where I am on the west side, I can hear them barking. Being that my hearing is not quite that of a mature fruit bat, I spend a good part of the day asking the question “What?” Yet, the sea lions will be barking from over two miles away, and I can hear them as clearly as the doctor telling my parents, “it’s a boy and he’s a spitting image of Clark Gable.”

Finally, for Ano Nuevo fans, I included a shot (#2) of the elephant seal colony at Piedras Blancas. Much like the sea lions that hang out under the wharf, any intrepid photographer can just drive up, park the car and snap away at these sleeping pinnipeds. You would think that you’d have to motor up to some exotic locale out of National Geographic or the Animal Planet, but these elephant seals are lounging and texting right off the Pacific Coast Highway.

No one is quite sure why back in 1990 these lovable marine mammals took up residence in this central coast location, but it certainly a great way for visitors to top off a drive through Big Sur. Well, either that or playing hide-and-go-seek at Hearst Castle. I’ve always felt a certain kinship with the elephant seals, as I too, was nearly hunted to extinction for my oil-rich blubber.

On to the late night. “One of the Herman Cain women was paid $35,000 and another was paid $45,000, so he’s saying it just proves he can create high-paying jobs for women. I’d like to see the women and find out what the $10,000 difference was. Turns out 999 was just his rating system: she’s a 9, she’s a 9, she’s a 9. Of course, Cain still doesn’t get it. Like he said he will address all these charges at a press conference tomorrow at Hooters.” –Jay Leno

“There’s a fifth woman that claims to have had a problem with Herman Cain. If this keeps up, it seems very unlikely he will be president, although it seems more and more likely he will become governor of California.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Herman Cain held a press conference to address the sexual harassment accusations coming out of the woodwork. Incidentally, his woodwork coming out is one of the things he’s accused of.” –Stephen Colbert

“Last night the Occupy Oakland protest got out of hand. Demonstrators broke windows, hurled Molotov cocktails and chunks of concrete. Police said it was the worst riot in Oakland since every Raiders home game. “There was some trouble last night in Oakland after the Occupy Oakland protests. They had trouble breaking the crowd up because every time they fired bean bags at them, they started playing hackey sack with them.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“According to a new poll, 42 percent of Americans say they are uncomfortable with the idea of having a Mormon president. When asked why, the people said, ‘We’re still getting used to having a Muslim president.’” –Conan O’Brien “Herman Cain is also taking some flack for saying that China was developing nuclear weapons, but they’ve had them since the 60′s. I don’t think he’s that well versed on foreign affairs. Today a reporter asked him how he would handle Greece and he said he would put an extra layer of wax paper under the pizza before you put it in the box.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our mid-November report. The NBA lockout is still in effect, so I’m able to focus my attention on more important things like college hoops. And if you’re a waterfowl fan, 5 million ducks, geese, shorebirds and Philadelphia eagles have just arrived in the greater Bay Area and Sacramento Valley for their annual convention. It should be quite the visual treat in wetland marshes at Thanksgiving time, especially if you don’t mind seeing 500,000 snow geese lift off at once. We’ll catch you running the quarterback draw. Aloha, mahalo and later, Tim Tebow fans.

June 19, 2011

Summer Better Than Others

Good morning and greetings, summer solstice fans. This spring was a walk on the wild side on the weather front, as killer tornadoes, ravaging floods, raging wildfires, record-breaking heat, Anthony’s weiner
and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child all made national headlines. It was a very difficult time that many Americans and particularly Maria Shriver won’t soon forget.

But as Monday is the final day of our annual spring fling, I thought we
would look ahead to summer and all the fun that is Santa Cruz. When the words summer and fun are combined with free admission, all day-ride passes and a lost children’s center, we can only be talking about one place. That would be the only remaining major seaside amusement park on the West Coast, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Before there was the Boardwalk, there was just a beautiful,lifeguard-free, white sand beach. Back in 1865, before Safeway, Starbucks
and Panda Express splashed onto the scene, an enterprising gentlemen named John Leibrandt opened a public bathhouse near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Holy SPF 50 ultra sweatproof sunblock, Batman! Soon other bathhouses followed along with boogie board rental shops as tourists of every race, creed and color began visiting Santa Cruz.

They had heard of the Catalyst and of the healing properties of salt water, so they traveled by planes, trains and automobiles to immerse themselves in this highly-touted “natural medicine.” This was bigger than clam chowder in a bread bowl as soon more stores and businesses opened including Sears, Jamba Juice and Pizza My Heart as tourists flocked to the central coast to take the cold water plunge.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was founded in 1904 by local businessman and entrepreneur Fred Swanton, who wanted to create a Coney Island on the west coast. We’re talking Nathan Hot Dogs on a sour dough bun along with an amusement park full of fun, games and a variety of souvenirs to satisfy everyone from Grandma to the annoying friend who’s afraid to go on any ride. All this along an incredibly beautiful mile long stretch of the Pacific Ocean. It was just the way Spanish explorers envisioned this prime piece of oceanfront real estate
when they first sailed into Monterey Bay.

So Fred Swanton erected a domed casino on the beach along the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Unfortunately, less than two years later, the building, much like LeBron James and the Miami Heat in this year’s NBA Finals, went down in flames, along with a salt water taffy stand. But this Santa Cruz-based visionary would not be deterred, and he soon built a new casino, ballroom, boardwalk, pleasure pier, indoor swimming pool, ashram and meditation center.

The grand opening of the new boardwalk inspired an inaugural ball, with one band being directed by John Philip Sousa and the other by Mr. Eddie Money. There was also a congratulatory email message from President Theodore Roosevelt and a twitter from Sarah Palin, who claimed that she was just on a summer vacation with her family and that this road trip had nothing to do with her trying to sell more books.

The Boardwalk’s top attraction is the Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster built in 1924, when Al Davis bought the Oakland Raiders. Giant Dipper creator Arthur Looff once said the ride’s design was intended to evoke a “combination earthquake, balloon ascension and aeroplane drop,” or how Bin Laden might have felt when he realized it was not Domino’s Pizza but Navy Seals knocking down his door.

Now, I don’t want to say that that I’m not a big roller coaster fan,
but if I want to experience the highs and lows, thrills and excitement and gentle terror that is the Giant Dipper, I’ll just watch my stock portfolio play along with the Dow Jones average. And I don’t even
have to be buckled in.

The Giant Dip was built in just 47 days at the cost of $50,000, or what I spend each year on electroshock therapy and Chinese food. The Dipper and the Looff Carousel are both on the United States National Register of Historic Places along with the new “Burger” restaurant on Mission Street. The Boardwalk itself is a California State Historic Landmark. For summer seaside fun with an assortment of rides and attractions that make visitors wish they could afford to live here, the Boardwalk is the place to be.

For today’s photographic faceplate we are serving up six shots of the
Boardwalk that you won’t find in National Geographic or Popular Mechanics. The first photo was taken during a pelican feeding frenzy in the waters of Cowells Beach. We continue with a shot from later that evening followed by more photos from this prime piece of real estate that considers the Wharf, Steamers Lane and Lighthouse Point close and personal friends.

On to the late night festivities. “Congressman Weiner has entered a
treatment program. Amazingly, it’s the only thing he’s entered during the entire Weinergate scandal.” –Conan O’Brien “Congressman Anthony Weiner has just checked himself into a treatment center for people battling chronic sexual dysfunction. Checked in? He’s already
there, it’s called Congress. Congressman Anthony Weiner has announced that he’s not resigning in the wake of the scandal. One thing we know about Weiner is that he knows how to stand firm.” –Jay Leno

“The Chairman of the Republican Party Ed Cox said that he would use the incriminating pictures from Anthony Weiner to defeat him. So now we have Cox versus Weiner. This just doesn’t stop!” –Jay Leno “Anthony Weiner wants to be mayor of New York City. So we may go from a guy that looks like a jockey to a guy that likes how he looks in
Jockeys.” –David Letterman “After searching online for eight minutes for pictures of a congressman’s penis you have to start questioning yourself. And now we find out Weiner’s wife is pregnant. The only thing that could make this right is if it turns out she got pregnant by Arnold Schwarzenegger.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Arnold Schwarzenegger’s housekeeper says Maria Shriver became suspicious after noticing similarities between Arnold and her 13-year-old son. For instance, after serving as class president, he left the sixth grade with a $42 billion deficit. The housekeeper said the affair wasn’t all Arnold’s fault because “it takes two.” Then Anthony Weiner said, “Actually, it only takes one.”–Conan O’Brien

“President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have agreed to play a round of golf together. Imagine the two of them at the end of that golf game? Boehner will be crying over his score and Obama will be giving three explanations as to why his score is actually better than it appears. One of bin Laden’s wives said he was a sex machine. In fact, he was the only man who could find her jihad spot.” –Jay Leno

That’s our last blast for spring 2011. Congratulations go out to my Santa Cruz-based parents, Lee and Daniel Gilbert, who on Saturday celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary. Being their oldest has really been a treat. Or as my father likes to say, “Lee, why didn’t we have a daughter first?”

So get ready for summer and we’ll catch you running the break. Aloha,
mahalo and later, NBA draft fans.

May 1, 2011

From Sea To Shining Sea Lion

Good morning and greetings, Crimson Tide fans. I have been keeping my semi-loyal, subscription-free readers up-to-date about the tornadoes that have been ravaging the south and midwest. Now, you may be wondering, Geoff, (if I may call myself that), what is this obsession with tornadoes? Why not the Olds Toronado? With so much else going on in the world, why are you so interested in these twisters?

It’s a simple answer, my friends and compatriots. I love exotic weather. Much like the question and answer section of the Miss Universe Contest, severe weather conditions have always fascinated me. As I write this, it could be pounding snow in Lake Tahoe, pouring rain in Missouri, hot and humid in West Palm Beach and 82 degrees and perfect on the North Shore of Oahu. Or as my son Jason once said about island weather, “cloudy with a chance of paradise.”

So last week it was Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that felt the full brunt of the devastating effects of the most recent killer twisters. This has been the second deadliest tornado outbreak in history, as twisters a mile wide with 200 MPH winds wiped out neighborhoods in seconds on their killing path. These aren’t just your every day incredibly terrifying tornadoes, they’re super tornadoes that the boys and girls at the Weather Channel haven’t witnessed in years.

The atmosphere, much like Memphis Grizzly fans, have been in a frenzy as the jet stream keeps blasting along the country, as warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico keeps feeding these super cell thunderstorms that produce monster tornadoes. And here’s the kicker, sports fans. April is not the number one tornado month. The crown is held by Miss May.

What blows me away about tornadoes is the incredible quickness of its destructive powers. When a fire burns down your house, it’s a fairly slow process as the flames take their time in wreaking their havoc. With a tornado, it’s a couple of seconds and everything is gone. Your home, your memories, your sofa, gone before you could say “what happened to Katie Couric?” Tuscaloosa will not be the same for a long, long time as we’ve learned it’s not just the little towns that the twisters pick on.

Now let’s move on to today’s subject at hand. I’m a big fan of the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf. Now, it’s not because the “Locals Only” parmesan crusted chicken in a bed of garlic mashed potatoes at the Firefish Grill or Gilda’s $8.95 Prime Rib Special, which is one of the best bargains in town. It’s because of the pelicans, gulls, boys, eels, seals, tiger shrimp and sea lions that can be found along this pier. Well, that and the crispy french bread that kicks off the Gilda experience.

I had lunch their last week, and while I was enjoying my vegetarian tri-tip plate, a whale surfaced in the bay, less than 200 yards off shore. It was spectacular, much like the scalloped potatoes and clam chowder that come with this Tuesday $9.95 special. Seeing this magnificent creature rising up out of the water reminded me that only at the edge of the continent does this kind of magic happen. And at Sea World when Shamu is in the mood.

When visiting this local landmark, one can always check out sea lions languishing on the pilings, sleeping atop of one another on the boat landings or swimming in small groups off the pier. But on this day, as you can see in photos one and two, I caught a group hundreds of sea lions rafting just twenty to thirty yards off the wharf. It was a spectacular sight, as most were just relaxing after a fish and chips lunch. What made it more even more interesting was the sound of their heavy breathing, the kind I hadn’t heard since my early telemarketing days.

I had never experienced a gathering this large. I returned the next three days but there was no sight of this massive sea lion colony. So once again, it’s all about capturing the moment, as my venturing to Gilda’s for the freshly caught prime rib paid off big-time. It was a day that came along with a choice of potato or rice that I will truly never forget.

Now here are a few fun facts about our friends the sea lions. They don’t drink water, lemonade or ice tea as they get all the water from the food they eat. Thus, you will never see a baby sea lion with a sippy cup. Much like many of my older relatives back east, they do not chew their food and just swallow their fish whole, which is easy when it’s gefilte.

Sea lions love to dine on fish, squid, pro quo, octopus, pasta, shellfish, insensitive, crustaceans, and lemon grass spring rolls. They are among the most vocal mammals, as the bark, bite, growl, roar, snore, grunt, chant, whisper, honk and give the middle finger salute. Even though I live over two miles from the wharf, I can hear them barking in the morning. Now if I could just hear my wife when she calls me from upstairs, I could get rid of that damn baby monitor.

Sea lions get very nervous when they are in the same room with sharks, killer whales and IRS agents. They can sleep both in and out of the water, but hear better under water. Like I tend to do at pool parties, when sea lions deep dive, they slow down their heart rate to allow them to remain underwater for ten minutes before resurfacing. But unlike these sleek, exotic mammals, I always like to have a big beach towel and a cocktail waiting for me when I resurface.

On to the late night. “The White House Easter egg roll was held yesterday. It was a great opportunity for kids from all over the country to come to the White House and look for the president’s birth certificate.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama hosted the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. It was a little awkward though. Donald Trump showed up and demanded to see each egg’s birth certificate.” –Jimmy Fallon “The good news is, President Obama was born in America. The bad news is, so was Donald Trump.”–Jay Leno

“Donald Trump is now attacking President Obama’s grades, suggesting that he was a poor student. First it was the birth certificate, and now the grades. Trump won’t be happy until he proves that Obama doesn’t exist. Donald Trump says he’s glad the focus is off President Obama’s birth certificate, and now he’s demanding to see President Lincoln’s death certificate.’–Jimmy Kimmel “Trump was in New Hampshire, where they have the presidential primaries, and he was testing the waters to see if the country Is ready for a buffoon.”–David Letterman

“A study found Americans spend $1.2 trillion every year on stuff they don’t need. Or as Republicans call it, health care. New York just passed a law that allows same-sex conjugal visits for prisoners. Isn’t that pretty much what prison is?” –Jimmy Fallon “New Jersey had a governor, married, who decided he was a homosexual, and he was having so much fun being a homosexual that he didn’t want to be governor any more, and now he wants to become a Catholic priest. I’m just going to leave the punchline up to you.” –David Letterman

“It’s my birthday. Sadly, the celebration was marred when Letterman demanded to see my birth certificate.”–Jay Leno “One of Charlie Sheen’s “goddesses” broke up with him because she wants to live in a less dangerous environment. The same day that Charlie Sheen loses a goddess, all of a sudden, Katie Couric announces that she’s leaving CBS News. Coincidence?”–Jimmy Kimmel “A new study found that students who use Facebook while studying have 20 percent lower grades than students who focus. When kids who use Facebook heard that they were like, “20 percent? Big deal. What’s that, like 10 percent?”–Jimmy Fallon

So that’s our first verbal barrage for May. The first eight series of the NBA playoffs concluded on Friday, and it’s the best opening round I can remember since Woodstock. Round two, like the feel of the trade winds blowing on the North Shore, should be fantastic. So enjoy the May flowers and we’ll catch you screening on the baseline. Aloha, mahalo and later, Zach Randolph fans.

July 17, 2008

Things Go Better With Coca

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — geoff @ 9:43 pm

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Good morning, music lovers. Today we head over to the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf, the site of Sunday’s Art On The Wharf Festival. I shot this series of photos back in June, as I never ceased to be amazed by sea lions in their “rafting” formation. The up close and personal shots are from the boat landing where you can walk up and be within a few feet of those barking beauties. The one thing you can’t experience through these images are the sounds of snorting and breathing as the lions of the sea relax in the bay. And it’s one of those things that one, or perhaps two can only experience at the edge of the continent.

On Wednesday we spilled the mustard about a hot dog war that is raging in the U.S. On another battle front, the U.S. has been waging a “war on drugs” for decades and here’s a news flash, we aren’t winning. In a recent United Nations study, it was reported that Colombian peasants devoted 27 percent more land to growing coca last year. The U.N called the increase “a surprise and a shock” given the intense efforts to eradicate cocaine’s raw ingredient. When President Bush was asked for his reaction, he said it was more of “shock and awe.” The thirst for the cold, crisp taste of coca knows no season.

The good new is that the estimated cocaine production increased only slightly in Colombia and other Andean nations to about 994 metric tons in 2007 from 984 metric tons the year before as cultivation has shifted to smaller, less-productive plots in more remote locations. Coca is on the highway to anywhere and always good to the last drop. I’m just glad they reported in under 1,000 metric tons. And by the way, who is venturing deep into jungles of guerilla territory and counting all this tonnage? The accounting firm of Whitney Houston and Robert Downey Jr.?

The net increase in 7Up and coca farmland came despite record U.S.-backed eradication efforts that disrupted the growing cycle, says General Oscar Naranjo, the chief of Colombia’s police. “These young crops are less productive, both in the number of leaves and in terms of the potency of the leaf.” Coca farmers in remote locations can’t get chemicals needed to process the leaves as easily and complain that it is really difficult to get any decent food to go. Coca is that ice cold sunshine and pure as sunlight.

Still, coca farmers are aggressively tearing down forests to make way for crops and laboratories, and the young plants will eventually produce much more coca if eradication efforts don’t keep up. So what they’re saying is no matter how much money and poison we spray on this country there’s really no way to stop the coca. Coca is the pause that refreshes.

“The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation,” said Antonio Maria Costa, director of the U.N. Office on Drugs, Crime and Soft Drinks. Coca is around the corner from anywhere. You can’t beat the feeling.

In all, 382 square miles of coca cultivation were found in Colombia last year, up from 301 square miles in 2006. Total cultivation in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia – the world’s three principal sources of coca – grew 16 percent to 181,600 hectares, or 701 square miles. Coca adds life and what you want is a coca.

Costa noted in his statement that “just like in Afghanistan, where most opium is grown in provinces with a heavy Taliban presence, in Colombia most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents, Frito banditos and real estate agents.” It’s Red, White and Blue You and good till the last drop.

Farmers are quickly replanting and minimizing the damage from aerial spraying by planting herbicide-resistant hybrids and coating plants with cane juice, said Bruce Bagley, an international studies professor at the University of Miami. “Areas that have been sprayed have then been brought back into production,” Bagley said. “It’s time for aerial spraying to give way to other programs.” I say, have a coca and a smile.

Washington has spent more than $5 billion to help Colombia combat its long-running insurgency and the world’s largest cocaine industry. That’s because it’s the real thing. About 80 percent goes to the military and 20 percent to social efforts to wean farmers off coca. If I read Professor Bagley’s analysis, the eradication program in Colombia has been a complete failure. Opium production is at an all-time record high in Afghanistan. Coca is the best friend thirst ever had.

Let me sum up the situation with a slogan from 1939. Whoever you are, whatever you do, wherever you may be, when you think of refreshment, think of ice cold Coca Cola. I know I do. Enough said. Because of Art on the Wharf, no blog on Monday, but coming up on Wednesday, we’ll show you some colors you’re going to want to tell your friends about. So enjoy the sea lions, have a fabulous weekend and I hope to see you on Sunday. Aloha, cola fans.


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