June 7, 2015

Don’t Let The Egg Fool The Young

Good morning and greetings, Asian Fusion fans.  With the Golden State Warriors tied up one game apiece with Cleveland  in the NBA championship series, I thought I would shift gears and head back into the culinary lane of  life.  As the poet Yuan Mei of the Qing Dynasty once said,“There is a difference between dining and eating. Dining is an art. When you eat to get most out of your meal, to please the palate, just as well as to satiate the appetite, that, my friend, is dining.”

I recently ran across an article by Dan Gentile on yahoo.com, entitled, “19 Ways To Spot a Fake Chinese Restaurant.”  The author starts out by saying, “There are plenty of ethnic cuisines that America has doused in the thick, sweet sauce of appropriation, but perhaps none more so than Chinese food. There’s a time and place for things like sweet and sour chicken and crab rangoon, but it never feels good to be expecting a plate of mapo tofu only to get your food and realize you’ve walked into a trap set by General Tso.”
Now let me say, first off, that I am on the sweet and sour bandwagon.  I know this to be politically incorrect, as years ago, I was dining with a Chinese friend at the Yank SIng restaurant in San Francisco, home of the overpriced traditional and contemporary dim sum.
We sat down, and soon the parade of shrimp siu mye, Shanghai dumplings and a variety of steamed buns were stopping at our table.  As soon as they hit my plate, I went right for the sweet and sour sauce.  After a few rounds of watching me drown these delicate food items in the sauce, she couldn’t take it any more and said, “If you dip anything else in that sauce, I’m going to have to kill you.”
From there it went downhill.  Later on, I passed on eating a dish called chicken feet.   I didn’t care that they were first fried, then marinated and then steamed.  I just didn’t want to digest anything where you have to chop off the toenails.
So getting back to the story, the author went and met with the owner of a recently closed but very popular Asian fusion restaurant in Los Angeles named Starry Kitchen.  If you are wondering what this Asian confusion, er fusion, might be, it is defined as the blending of various Asian styles of cooking to create new, imaginative dishes, like Chinese Bourbon Chicken with Soy Sauce and Ginger, Spicy Smokin’ Asian Salmon Cakes and Black Sesame Ice Cream, topped off with some jello mixed in with tiny pieces of fruit.
The author spoke with the co-owner Nguyen Tran, who also shared some thoughts from his chef/wife Thi Tran, about how to tell an authentic Chinese restaurant from an Americanized one.  As he says, “If you see more than a few of these red flags, you might want to rethink what you’re putting between your chopsticks.  Or in my case, a fork.

Sweet and sour sauce that’s starchy or sugary

“Sweet and sour is also an authentic Chinese preparation.   If it’s saccharine and sweet, it’s definitely an Americanized Chinese place. It shouldn’t overpower the other flavors. It’s lightly salty and lightly sweet, but if it looks thick like molasses, then it’s probably Americanized. It can be made on the fly too, it’s usually just sugar, vinegar, and other ingredients poured onto the chicken.  You shouldn’t need a machete to cut through it.”

I say, come one, come all, the sweet and sour sauce livens up any Chinese dish.  I would love to bathe in the Sweet and Sour Sea of life.

Egg foo young is on the menu

“Sometimes authentic places will have this on the menu, but it’s really an American invention, and it can be disgusting. It’s like a savory pancake that’s an amalgamation of vegetables, batter, and shrimp that’s deep-fried and topped with gravy. It loses all the texture when you put gravy on it, and it just becomes mush on mush.”

This is my father’s favorite dish, along with shrimp and lobster sauce. Enough said.

Kung pao chicken is front and center

“This is actually a Chinese dish, so it kind of depends. It could be a gateway dish, but if they showcase it, more than likely it’s an Americanized Chinese place.”

I’m not really a kung pao man, as I was never crazy about the peanuts.  But I could adapt.

You must select the protein for the fried rice

“In Americanized places there’s a generic fried rice formula. Fried rice equals choice of protein plus fried rice. You’re ordering by protein. But with more authentic places it’s more about marrying a specific protein to a specific profile; that’s what’s unique about stir-fry. So instead of shrimp fried rice, you’d be looking for something like yeung chow fried rice.”

I don’t know much about yeung chow fried rice, but I know it goes great served with thousand fish soup.

The use of the term potstickers

“I don’t even know where that word comes from. I couldn’t understand for years what my American friends were talking about.”

Who knew?  My daughter and I love potstickers.  We buy them in Traders Joe’s, where you get 24 pieces for $3.99, which is quite the deal.

Mu shu pork

“This is another that’s actually a real Chinese dish, but it’s one that I think no Asian has ever eaten in their life.”

My wife loves mu shu chicken, all wrapped up in a thin pancake with the tangy plum sauce.

Crab rangoon

“You’re not going to see that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen sour cream in any dish in a real Chinese restaurant.”

Love the crab rangoon at the Golden Palace on Ocean Street, dipped in the sweet and sour sauce.  And it’s cream cheese, not sour cream.

Egg roll and soup lunch special

“This is a sweeping generalization, but many authentic Chinese restaurants don’t even have egg rolls on the menu. This is my bias, but Chinese egg rolls are some of the worst egg rolls I’ve ever had in my life. These are the Americanized ones. It’s all cabbage, wrapped in a really crappy wrapper, it’s fat, and you’re dipping it in sweet and sour.”

I hate to say it, but the soup and the egg roll are my mother’s favorite Chinese dishes.  She likes dipping the egg roll in the Chinese mustard, and then adding on the sweet and sour sauce.  And she’s nuts about the soup.

A giant container of soy sauce on the table

“A lot of people just add soy sauce to everything they eat. You should try the food first; soy sauce is the equivalent of salt. That’s the exact reason it’s there. If there’s a huge bottle or it looks like it’s replenished a lot, that might be a sign. You might not even see it that often at an authentic restaurant.”

I never touch the soy sauce.  Don’t want to hurt the sweet and sour feelings.

Metal American spoons

“If they have metal Western spoons versus Asian soup spoons, it’s more than likely an Americanized Chinese restaurant. Most real Asian places don’t see the need for both. It’s subtle, and people might argue this to death, but if you ask for a spoon, I’ll hand you a soup spoon.”

I never ask for a spoon.  Just a fork and and keep the water coming.

Everything comes with an individual side of rice

“Asian food is usually eaten family style, but at Americanized places the rice is more likely to be individually portioned. So if it’s served individually right in front of you versus in the middle of the table, that’s a tell.”

At Golden City on Mission Street, they serve enough white rice to feed a small African nation, so I order the egg fried rice.  But I prefer the out chow fun noodles, because that’s the way I roll.

American desserts

“If there’s an American dessert or a fried wonton with honey and powdered sugar, that’s not an authentic Chinese restaurant at all.”

I don’t want a fortune cookie or sesame ball for dessert, just give me an old-fashioned almond cookie.  Or a dish of coconut ice cream.

There aren’t any Asian people eating there

“If the only Asian people in the restaurant are working there, that’s always a sign of it not being an authentic Chinese restaurant.”

There are usually Asian people eating in while I’m eating, but I have no idea what they’re ordering.  It’s like we’re in separate universes.

The tri-fold door menu

“If it looks like something that could be a mailer, or be put on your door, then it’s more than likely a totally Americanized place.”

Guilty.  But the take out menu is convenient.

Pictures of Americanized items on the menu

“This has moved into Asian culture, but if you see a picture of kung pao chicken at the front, it’s definitely a fake place.”

I prefer a video.

The sign/menu uses a stereotypically Asian font

“That font can get people riled up. It’s so embedded in our culture from the early days of America, with the Chinese working on the railroads and stuff. It instills in someone who’s not Asian that, ‘wow, this must be Asian food.’ Visually it does trigger that. It’s funny because in Santa Barbara the street signs have this font. My wife gets worked up about it!”

Interesting.  There’s an old Cantonese saying.  “Anything that walks, swims, crawls or flies with its back to heaven is edible.”  But Confusious say,  “The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live life.”

Bags filled with stacks of to-go orders

“If there’s a side table with all these bags tied up at the top with containers, or with the Chinese folding box with the handles… if you see that ready to go, it’s more than likely to be fake. What’s more Americanized than Chinese takeout?

Apple pie? Baseball?  The first season of “True Detective?”

Empty fish tanks

“If they have big fish tanks that are empty, it might be an Americanized restaurant. Live seafood is a big part of authentic Chinese food, so an empty fish tank shows that they might’ve evolved into being more Americanized over time because the seafood was too expensive.”

I always felt sorry for the fish and the lobsters in the tanks.  Those lobsters screams haunt me.

There are dragons everywhere

“It’s not offensive at all, but it’s probably an Americanized place. It goes with things like latticework and a big circular doorway. Current Chinese culture is pretty modernized, so it’s weird if you’re literally entering the dragon.”

I was born in the Year of the Dragon, which occupies the 5th position in the Chinese Zodiac.  The Dragon is the mightiest of the signs.  We are colorful personalities who are driven, unafraid of challenges, willing to take risks and passionate in all they do.  Yup, that describes me in a nutshell.

It’s the beginning of the summer fire season in California, and for our photo feature, we are returning to June of 2008, when a fire was raging on the central coast.  I grabbed my camera and headed down to Lighthouse Point, and started shooting the billowing clouds of smoke over Steamer Lane.  I then moved north along West Cliff Drive to capture landscape of the waves and the sky on this very unusual day.

On to some late night humor.  “In a recent interview, George Clooney said that he doesn’t believe in plastic surgery and thinks people should just try to look the best that they can at their age. Then the interviewer said, “Great. Do you have any advice for people who aren’t George Clooney?” – Jimmy Fallon  “Senator Ted Cruz said he thinks John F. Kennedy would be a Republican if he were alive today. Well, of course he would be Republican. He’d be 98 years old.” – Seth Meyers

For the second year in a row, the Scripps National Spelling Bee ended in a tie with two winners. Or as each of their parents put it to their kids, “I told you that you shouldn’t have gone outside to play that one time.” – Jimmy Fallon  “The spelling bee co-champions are Vanya Shivashankar and Gokul Venkatachalam. They won the competition by spelling each other’s names correctly.  Winning the spelling bee is a big deal. You get to hear your name mispronounced by every newscaster in America.” – Jimmy Kimmel

“A lawyer from Africa wants to marry Malia Obama in exchange for goats, sheep, and cows. In response, President Obama said, “Don’t be ridiculous. My daughter isn’t marrying a lawyer.” The Christmas-themed town of North Pole, Alaska, has officially approved marijuana dispensaries. So don’t expect your presents from Santa until next April. Santa will be showing up with Rudolph the Red-Eyed Reindeer.” – Conan O’Brien
We’ll catch you coming off the bench and being MVP of game one of the Finals.  Aloha, mahalo and later, Andre Iguadola fans.

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.

October 19, 2014

You Snooze, You Lose

Good morning and greetings, fall foliage fans. Yes, the leaves are changing color and dropping off the trees, as we are going through some changes here on the central coast. I believe our lovely 90 degree October days, much like me sleeping peacefully through the night, are now history.

Or as author Anthony Burgess once said, “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Snore and you sleep alone.”

As my body and what’s left of my mind continues to age, I don’t believe I’m getting the proper amount of sleep. Now according to researchers, if it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep, then you are very likely sleep deprived. The ideal amount of time is about ten minutes. I chime in at about ten seconds.

And to think, I used to be so good at sleeping that I could do it with my eyes closed

So some might say I am suffering from severe sleep deprivation. The problem is lately, I am now waking up every couple of hours for no reason at all. Even though I consume half of Lake Erie before I go to sleep, I never need to visit the men’s room. And I know it’s not my wife drop kicking me because of my snoring, because that is no longer a problem.

In the past, I would always fell asleep first, and that would drive her batty. But, problem solved, as she now has aids that render her safe and gentle sleep. She has offered to share, but I hesitate to take anything stronger than milk and cookies, as my body is a synagogue and I want to remain meditation and medication free for as long as possible, or at least until the opening of the NBA season.

I’ve always been an early riser, which works well in the sunrise business. But I am not in love with being awake in the four o’clock hour, and recently, that’s the time that my mind has decided it wants to go to work. Because when my brain goes on red alert, further sleep and dreaming is out of the question.

Oh, I try to go back to that unconcious state by thinking of pleasant experiences in my life, like my bar mitzvah party, being massaged like an eggplant and taking the SAT’s, but it rarely works. Once my concious mind gets ahold of the rolodex of thoughts that have been lingering from the previous day, it’s over, Johnny.

We all know that it’s torture not being able to sleep. Or being waterboarded by Dick Cheney. Many a night I have woken up and laid in bed like a mental patient, wishing for sleep to come back on, and always being denied. Listen, I love TV, but I don’t want to be watching the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” at 3 am.

Okay, maybe a little “Three Stooges, but my brain gets enough TV stimulation during normal business hours. And it better be an episode with Curly. “I’m a victim of soicumstance.”

In the middle of the night, I want my mind to be open only to dreams. When I dream during our REM (Rapid Eye Memory) Sleep, they are usually wild and crazy. But it’s the same dream during the non-REM phases that drives me nuts. I have dreamt it dozens of times over the last forty years. I’m at school and heading to a class that I’ve never attended and haven’t studied for the test. It’s always math. I have this uneasy feeling of not being prepared. Half the time I can’t even find the classroom.

Author James Baldwin, talking about dreams, once said, “The best thing about dreams is that fleeting moment, when you are between asleep and awake, when you don’t know the difference between reality and fantasy, when for just that one moment you feel with your entire soul that the dream is reality, and it really happened.”

Now I have always been a wild REM dreamer, as in my dreams I am frequently in company of celebrities, old high school friends and Miss Universe contestants. My subconcious life is much more exciting than my concious state, as the excitement has slowed down in my care giving years.

So by not getting enough sleep each night, I spend my day my day actively yawning. This act of inhalation and exhalation of of air is linked to exhaustion, stress, ISIS, overwork, lack of work, Ray Donovan, fatigue, boredom and watching the first eight innings of a baseball game. I’m taking drowsiness to a new level.

However, I know in paradise, everyone naps.

It seems like I’m always somewhat tired. I know I suffer from sleep apnea, but my doctor says if I’m not falling asleep while doing 65 on the freeway, then not to worry about it.

We spend a third of our lives sleeping. I have already slept twenty years. I not asking for much when it comes to sleep. As rocker Warron Zevon once quipped, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” I just really want to pass that damn algebra test.

So for today’s photo library I am showcasing the first sunrise of the fall season. The day was last Thursday and the place Lighthouse Point. I hadn’t shot a sunrise since last February, and the view from the sand down at Its Beach and Steamer Lane was spectacular.

In the words of the Chicago Transit Authority, it’s “only the beginning.” And what a delightful and colorful entrance it was.

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On to some late night humor. “Right around the corner is the midterm elections. There’s an anti-incumbent mood in the country. People are sick and tired of people who have been in the job too long and are lazy and overpaid and out of ideas. Wait a minute. I’m sorry. That’s me. The administration now has a name for the war against ISIS. Every military operation has to have a name so people can get behind it, and they now have a name for the war against ISIS — Operation Hillary’s Problem.” – David Letterman

“I was very happy to see that our old friend Jay Leno is coming back to television. He’s coming back to CNBC and he’s got a brand-new show. Jay drives a variety of exotic vehicles, and each week he runs down a different NBC executive.” – David Letterman “North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance yesterday in over 40 days. But since he saw his shadow, that now means 60 more years of nuclear winter.” – Jimmy Fallon

“On this day in 1912, President Teddy Roosevelt was shot, declined to go to the hospital, and gave a 90-minute speech with a bullet in his chest. Then on this day in 2012, I spent the whole day on WebMD because my eyelid wouldn’t stop twitching. Brad Pitt said in an interview this week that he doesn’t feel safe in his own home without a gun. Said Pitt, “I don’t even know half these kids.” – Seth Meyers

“For the last two months evil North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been missing. Well, apparently he is back in public. It turns out he was buried in the end zone at Giants Stadium. He claims he was kidnapped by Neil Patrick Harris.” – David Letterman “Today they announced the Nobel Prize winner for economics. It went to the guy who sold Derek Jeter’s socks for 400 bucks ” – Seth Meyers

So that’s another week. Be grateful for your health and think positive thoughts for others much less fortunate.

We’ll catch you hitting a three run walk off blast in the ninth inning and sending the Giants into the World Series. Aloha, mahalo and later, Travis Ishikawa fans.

December 29, 2013

The Wolf Of West Cliff

Good morning and greetings, 2013 fans. Well, we’ve come to the end of the year, and what a year it’s been. We survived the idiocy of the debt crisis, hopped on the love train called Obamacare, and saw Kim Kardashian have a baby with Jerry West. And God willing, by the end of 2014 or the time my children are grandparents, we won’t have any more troops dying in Afghanistan.

Of course, I could drone on about other major news stories, like the Jonas Brothers’ feud, Justin Beiber’s monkey retiring or Miley Cyrus getting more ink than Michelle Obama, but that’s just the way of the world these days. It seems the more skin you show, the more the media pays attention. I can relate. I’m naked under my clothes every day.

So the Christmas holiday has come and gone, and this year my family celebrated it in the traditional way. Being Jewish, we don’t have a Christmas tree, but to get into the holiday spirit I always hang a sprig of mistletoe from my rear view mirror.

So on Christmas Eve, with my in-laws in town, we followed in the foot steps of our ancestors and went out to dine on some Chinese cuisine. We cruised over to Golden City, where we enjoyed some beef chow fun, chicken and eggplant in garlic sauce, and Mao’s personal favorite, sweet and sour chicken. The place was packed, and rest assured we had more than enough for a minyan.

The food was delicious, made even better as we played Pat Sajack by spinning the Lazy Susan that rotated the garlic chicken chow mein and the chicken fried rice. When the check was brought out, it was accompanied by fortune cookies and fried sesame balls. I quietly remarked to my daughter, “I wish we had some almond cookies,” as I’m trying to lower my cholesterol.

Well, before I could say, “Are there any more egg rolls?,” the restaurant’s owner walked over and handed me a container of Bakery Street Gourmet Almond Cookies wrapped in a red bow. I was momentarily taken back and canceled the order of pot stickers to go. I knew at that moment that it was going to be a White Christmas, as it was going to take lots of milk to down these little cakes of almond joy.

I bowed and thanked her, as we were amazed by the synchronicity of the moment. We paid the bill and left with 49 take out boxes of food. The only down moment came when I opened my fortune cookie and it read, “The fortune you seek is in another cookie.” Slightly dismayed, I cracked open another cookie that read, “That wasn’t chicken.” Still wanting to leave on a positive note, I went for a third try. “Confuscious say, if you think we’re going to sum up your whole life on this little piece of paper, you’re crazy.” I almost spit up the crab rangoon.

Then it was on to Christmas Day, or should I say NBA Wednesday. The league had scheduled five highly anticipated matchups, but due to player injuries and the Dow Jones hitting a new high, I was not prepared to sit inside on a gorgeous winter day and watch 13 straight hours of basketball. So instead, I taped the first two games and decided to go to the movies. I had no idea what an emotional commitment I was in for.

My son wanted to see “The Wolf of Wall Street,” so with my father-in-law in tow we headed downtown. Now, I hadn’t heard much about the movie, but it came highly recommended, a “must see” by Grantland’s Bill Simmons. Well, let me say this. This three hour spectacle of the rise and fall of Leonardo DiCaprio is still seared in my mind like a filet of ahi tuna
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I hadn’t seen that many naked women since I accidentally wandered into a Rainbow Family’s tea party at Woodstock. There were more hookers than you’d find in the lobby at happy hour at the Hotel Del Ray in San Jose, Costa Rica. The movie made Sharon Stone and “Basic Instinct” seem like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

And I don’t want to say that the drug use by Leonardo and this buddies was over the top, but there hadn’t been that much snow blown since the blizzard of Buffalo back in 1977. They also took quaalude use to a new high or new low. And let’s just say we saw a lot more of Australian actress Margot Robbie then we had ever bargained for. I think we saw the first and second Noel, if you catch my drift.

We then returned home and finished up the day with three good NBA games, with the Warrior win in the finale being the best of all. Now that’s what I call a merry Christmas. God bless the Father, the Son and the Holy DVR.

Moving along, last week I posted a beautiful, smoke enhanced sunset from back on December 16. For today’s photo follies we’re are going back to the early morning hours of this same day, when the waves were munching and crunching the shore along West Cliff Drive.

The sky lit up early and red was the color. The volume of the morning was turned up high as the wave action at Lighthouse Point and Steamer Lane was going at full tilt. Surfers were rushing like lemmings to the sea. It was a fabulous morning. I say that any time I can capture a gorgeous sunrise and a spectacular sunset on same day, my work is done.

A guy tells his psychiatrist: ‘It was terrible. I was away on business, and I emailed my wife that I’d be back a day early. I rushed home from the airport and found her in bed with my best friend. I don’t get it. How could she do this to me?” “Well,” says the psychiatrist. “Maybe she didn’t see the email.”

So that’s our last post for 2013. We’ll catch you in the new year showing NBA fans that you’re more than a prime time dunker. Aloha, mahalo and later, Blake Griffin fans.

November 25, 2012

Open the Window, It’s A Little Stuffing In Here

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — geoff @ 10:13 am

Good morning and greetings, post holiday fans. Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone as the turkey, along with mounds of stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce is just a happy caloric memory. It’s a holiday I always look forward to as it involves food, family and football, and not necessarily in that order. Or in the words of the late Johnny Carson, “Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday, People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often. Hiyo.

It’s a November gathering that brings families together to kick back, enjoy a fabulous meal and reminisce. No pressure, no presents, no Pilgrims, just being around people who we are closest to and the baggage they bring with them. It’s a simple way to celebrate a day that fills the memory books. Jon Stewart remembers this holiday well. “I celebrated in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”

For the home team, a good part of the day is spent in the kitchen, preparing for a feast while many around the world go hungry. As Mother Theresa once told me at a Bon Jovi concert, “If you can’t feed one hundred people, feed one.” For a home cooked Thanksgiving dinner, much needs to be done in preparation. But this work can be rewarding. As the queen of macadamia nuts Roseanne Barr once crooned, ‘Here I am at five o’clock in the morning stuffing bread crumbs up a dead bird’s butt.”

It’s a long day in the kitchen, but then again, this holiday occurs only once a year, giving you 365 days of rest in-between. Myself, I don’t mind the work, as the TV is on and football makes a pleasant backdrop for this late November surge. Columnist Erma Bombeck was an interested observer of the all-consuming pigskin experience. As she once wrote, “Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Halftimes take twelve minutes. This is not a coincidence.” Or as my rabbi once noted, “On Thanksgiving Day, all over America, families sit down at the same time-halftime.”

It’s a fun day, as we reunite with family we sometimes see just a few times throughout the year. For the simple man or a big-time celebrity like Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s a special day on the culinary front. In the words of the Terminator, “I love the Thanksgiving turkey…it’s the only time in Los Angeles that you see natural breasts.” And as David Letterman once chimed in, “Thanksgiving is the day when you turn to another family member and say,’ How long has Mom been drinking like this?’ My mom, after six Bloody Marys looks at the turkey and says, Here kitty, kitty.”

And we know that Dave Letterman is a big fan of Oprah. Oprah is a saint, a woman with a huge heart that overflows with love and generosity. She changes people’s lives on a daily basis, and if you want to admire someone in life, you might want to start with the Big O. This is her thought on the day. “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never ever have enough. Or in the words of inspirational writer William A. Ward, “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say “thank you?”

Well, damn it, I have, and I’m thankful for all I’m blessed with including family, friends, health and a new 51″ HD Plasma TV to watch the Food Channel on. But to put the holiday in proper perspective, I’ll let the final words flow from the pale face of comedian Jim Gaffigan, an expert on bacon who came up with this riff. “Thanksgiving. It’s like we didn’t even try to come up with a tradition. The tradition is, we overeat. ‘Hey, how about at Thanksgiving we just eat a lot?’ ‘But we do that every day!’ ‘Oh. What if we eat a lot with people that annoy the hell out of us?’” Thank you and good night.

For today’s photo entree we are featuring the first half of the November 14th double dip, when both the sunrise and sunset shined from sea to sea. In my last post we featured the dusk experience, where the texture of the clouds seemed unreal. For this sunrise, I misjudged where the prime action was and set up way down at the end of Its Beach (photo #1) to try and capture the red reflection on the water. But the real deal were the clouds above Steamers Lane, which I caught in photo #2 when they had turned mandarin orange, creating a citrus sunrise effect.

Then the heavy clouds rolled in and I moved along to take in some silhouette action from Lighthouse Field. All in all, it was a day of double delights, with folks along the central coast getting two spectacular sights for the price of one. For me, it was just another chapter in the life of a photo blogger with his trusty digital camera and a golden retriever that will never leave him.

On to the late night. “Facebook just launched a new app. They teamed up with the Department of Labor to create what they call the social jobs app. You can browse through 2 million job listings. You know it’s bad when even Facebook thinks it’s time for you to get a job.” –Jimmy Kimmel “During his final speech on the House floor yesterday, Congressman Ron Paul said the Constitution has failed. Which must be a bummer because he’s actually one of the guys who signed it.” –Jimmy Fallon

“A decorated war hero has an affair with his own sexy biographer, who thinks the spy master is stepping out on her with a second girlfriend. So she sends an email from a secret account saying ‘step off or I will cut a bi-atch.’ And the second hottie freaks out and contacts her friends, FBI agents, who launch an investigation, but gets pulled off the case because he sexed her a shirtless photo. The spy master protege, also a general, has sent thousands of e-mails to the second woman. This isn’t just a love triangle, folks. It’s a love pentagon.” -Stephen Colbert

“It was announced today that former General Petraeus has agreed to testify before Congress. I guess he figured, ‘Why not?’ Those questions can’t be any tougher than the ones he’s getting at home right now. See, when a general tells his wife, ‘I was pitching a tent in Afghanistan,” technically he’s not lying.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our last blast for November 2012. We’ll catch you showing NFL fans that despite suffering a devastating knee injury last year, you’ve amazingly come back better than ever this season while leading the league in rushing yards. Aloha, mahalo and later, Adrian Peterson fans.

June 10, 2012

Swing Low Tide, Sweet Chariot

Good morning and greetings, French Open fans. The weather on the central coast recently, much like LeBron James 45 point outburst against the Celtics in game six, has been NBA fantastic. If you like thunder and lightning up the scoreboard, it’s a great time to be an NBA fan.

Last week on my morning strolls along West Cliff Drive, I noticed the tide was lower than my expectations of the Warriors making a good lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Low tide is always a treat, as it uncovers a plethora of the coastline’s hidden treasures. So last Tuesday, before you could say, “Sofia Vergara,” I headed down to Lighthouse Point to take in the green grass and low tide action. Forever.

As you can see in photo #1, the tide down at Its Beach was lower than my score on my math SAT’s. I was hoping to be able to walk through my favorite arch to photograph this classic structure from both sides, but I hadn’t brought along my snorkeling gear, so Samuel Gompers and I had to settle for the lovely view looking west. But if I had been able to Dwyane wade through, the view would have looked very much like photo #2.

I then headed back up the steps to catch the marine mammeled flavor of Seal Rock (photo #3.) There were a couple of pods of sea lions lounging in the water nearby, but my zoom wasn’t more powerful than a locomotive or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, so I wasn’t able to get a good shot.

But the swell was up and Steamer Lane was full of surfers trying to catch some wave action. Some nice sets were rolling in (photo #4) and at that moment, I reflected back on the words of The Rascals, “It’s a beautiful mornin’. I think I’ll go outside for a while. An jus’ smile. Just take in some clean fresh air boy. Ain’t no sense in stayin’ inside. If the weather’s fine an’ you got the time.” And boys and squirrels, luckily, one thing I do have, besides an almost clean driving record, is time.

By the way, not to date myself, but I saw The Rascals in concert iin New Jersey at Palisades Amusement Park in back in the mid 1960′s. I don’t want to say I’m getting old, but at the breakfast table I hear snap, crackle and pop, and I’m not eating cereal.

Anyway, today’s six pack of photos was brought on by the advent of low tide. And as we know, Tide gets out the stains that others leave behind. Dirt can’t hide from Tide.

So now you’re probably thinking to yourselves, I wonder what causes the tides to change? I thought you’d never ask. And remember, if it’s got to be clean, it’s got to be Tide.

According to Jeff Spicoli and surfingsantacruz.com, tides are created because the Earth and the moon are attracted to each other, just like magnets are attracted to each other. These are known as lunar tides. The moon tries to pull at anything (except Rush Limbaugh) on the Earth to bring it closer. But, the Earth is able to hold onto everything except the water and sometimes Oprah.

Since the water is always moving, the Earth cannot hold onto it, and the moon is able to pull at it The moon is pulling upwards on the water while the earth is pulling downward. Slight advantage to the moon and thus we have tides. And as we know, tides go to the runner.

Each day, there are two high tides and two low tides. The ocean is constantly moving from high tide to low tide, and then back to high tide. There is about 12 hours and 25 minutes between the two high tides, or about the same amount of time it will take me to catch up on the episodes I missed of the first three seaons of “Justified.”

When the sun and moon are aligned, there are exceptionally strong gravitational forces, causing very high and very low tides which are called spring tides, though they have nothing to do with the season. The gravitational force of the moon is one ten-millionth that of earth, or the same odds that I will one day be paid for writing this blog. But when you combine other forces such as the earth’s centrifugal force created by its spin, you get tides. Or as the Spin Doctor say, “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”

The sun’s gravitational force on the earth is only 46 percent that of the moon. This makes the the moon the single most important factor for the creation of tides. And Tide knows fabric best. Since the moon moves around the Earth, it is not always in the same place at the same time each day. So, each day, the times for high and low tides change by 50 minutes. I believe it was either George Carlin or author Robert C. Gallagher who said, “Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.”

So to then complete my tidal wonderings, I kayaked over to the wharf to photograph some sea lions up on one of the boat landings. But Instead, much to my delight, there was a pod of around 60 lions lounging right off the pier. Rumor has it that earlier in the morning the crowd numbered 300, but I was happy to catch this group of rafting revelers.

So being that it was low tide city in the morning all of last week, after Tuesday’s outing I headed up to Four Mile Beach on Wednesday and Natural Bridges on Thursday. Both trips, much like the NBA conference finals, had their magic moments, and I’ll blast out these photos along with my thoughts on Larry Bird in the upcoming weeks.

On to some late night. “According to a new book coming out by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, apparently when he was in high school, President Obama smoked large amounts of marijuana. You know what that means? He could be our first green president. Unemployment is still looking pretty bad. In fact, the White House has a new slogan on job creation: ‘Hope and change the subject.’ The unemployment numbers are higher than President Obama was in high school.” –Jay Leno

“On Friday, President Obama spent the night at his home in Chicago for the first time in over a year. It was nice – he even went down to the basement and dusted off some old campaign promises. Mitt Romney has been giving his volunteers a free sweatshirt for making phone calls on his behalf. The sweatshirts are just like Romney, 100 percent reversible.” –Jimmy Fallon

“A new survey found that Mitt Romney is ahead of Obama among those who make $36,000-$90,000. Or as Romney put it, ‘And they said I can’t
connect with the poor.’ Obama gave Bon Jovi a ride to New York City on Air Force One. Makes sense – Bon Jovi’s living on a prayer, while Obama’s campaigning on one.” –Jimmy Fallon “There’s a rumor that President Obama will stop by today’s L.A. Kings hockey game. He doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. He just wants to blend in with all the other black, Hawaiian hockey fans.” –Conan O’Brien

So that’s all I’m giving of myself this week. Try and take a moment to be grateful for all you have. We’ll catch you blowing the minds of NBA fans and reminding people why you’re the king. Aloha, mahalo and later, LeBron James 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.

June 12, 2011

Everybody Loves A Weiner

Good morning and greetings, twitter fans. Normally I try to stay away from the sordid world of politics, but after following the twists, turns and new day-to-day revelations of this story, much like the man swirling in the center of the controversy, I couldn’t resist.

New York Congressman Anthony Weiner has gotten himself into quite a pickle. Last week, he was all over the news, after first denying then admitting that he tweeted, texted, sexted and carrier pigeoned photos of one of his favorite organs to women he claimed to have never met in person. We know that organ couldn’t have been his brain because it was obviously not in use.

So we’re talking your basic on-line sexual hanky panky, like, hey I’m a Congresssman, want to see the emancipation of my proclamation. It’s hard to believe that after the recent embarrassing escapades of Schwarzenegger, Edwards, Spitzer, Sanford, Vitter, Craig, Lee, Ensign and others, that the
Weiner-meister didn’t know better than to keep his politics in his pants. I think it is safe to say this will not help him in his effort to get elected mayor of New York as Oscar Meyer Weiner has a better shot at this point.

And then to top it all off, we then find out that his wife, who is an aide to Hillary Clinton, herself an expert witness to knowing what it feels like to be cheated on, is pregnant. I’m not asking the Congressman to resign, just quietly go off to a treatment program, pray for your wife’s forgiveness and close down the damn
Facebook account.

So in honor of this sad and bizarre story of cyber lust, I thought in the interest in truth, injustice and very much the recent political way, we’d take a look at a even bigger weiner, the All-American hot dog.

Hot dogs are known by many names. We’re talking frankfurters, franks, you’re welcome, weiners, weinies, dogs, puppies, schnauzers and my personal favorite, meat byproducts in a warm bun.

Hot dogs and franks are staples of the American diet, but despite their production being regulated by the FDA, NBA and CIA, they sometimes get rapped for being made of, let’s say, not the highest quality ingredients. But when I’m looking for some meat scraps of liver, spleen, kidneys or pancreas on a toasted roll, nothing works better than a good old hot dog.

Now here are a few fun facts about my favorite dogs that aren’t golden retrievers. Every second of every day except Jewish holidays, 450 hot dogs are consumed in the United States. All I can say is “wow” and what is the waiting period before you
can become a vegan. The world’s biggest hot dog, not including Donald Trump, was 1,996 feet long, created by Sara Lee Corporation in honor of the 1996 Olympics. For you health nuts and Stanley Cup fans, a 2,377-foot chicken dog was made in 1985 in Canada, although as a gourmet chef I’m still not sure if chicken and dog should be used in the same sentence.

Hot dogs or frankfurters are said to have originated in Frankfurt,
Germany around 1484, right before the discovery of hamburgers, french fries and milk shakes. In 1904, the hot dog was introduced to America at the St. Louis World’s Fair, along with mustard, relish and Zout Stain Remover. And for you die hard romantics, Bruce Willis proposed to Demi Moore at Pink’s Hot Dog stand in Hollywood.

Americans now eat, inhale or exhume more than 16 billion hot dogs each year, including about 150 million hot dogs on July 4th. Personally, I’m a Hebrew National all beef-frank kind of guy, made with 100% pure kosher beef. As was written either in the Torah or
Bon Appetit, these dogs provide premium taste and high quality every time. Whether at a backyard picnic, bar mitzvah party
or bris ceremony, this is the frank you can depend on.

Back in 1957, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce officially designated July as National Hot Dog Month, so remember next month to grill up and do your part. And when you’re chowing down on that frank, which typically takes about six bites to eat, remember to thank Anthony Weiner and his contribution to this post and the American way of life that we relish.

So because of the reception this Friday honoring yours truly at
Assemblymember Monning’s office, I thought we would photographically go back to my roots and feature a daybreak experience that shows why I got into this cutthroat business.

This was a sunrise at Lighthouse Point that was just off the charts in terms of spectacular beauty. And it was also very unusual in that although it was low tide, because of a giant swell the day before, there was a huge pool of water encompassing Its Beach.

Because of this golden pond, I was able to grab the incredible colors in the sky and the reflection of the lighthouse in the water (photo # 3.) We finish off with the the sun greeting the day at
Steamers Lane. For a dedicated and unmedicated sunrise photographer like myself, mornings don’t get much better than this.

On to the late night. “It’s official. It turns out it was
Weiner’s weiner. At a press conference this afternoon, Congressman Anthony Weiner admitted that he tweeted out that
photo of his crotch. During the press conference, Congressman Weiner was choked up and got a lump in this throat – not as big as the lump in his underwear, but still, very emotional! It’s been a crazy few days. First, Anthony Weiner admitted tweeting that
photo of his crotch and John Edwards was indicted for covering up an affair. Or as Arnold Schwarzenegger put it, ‘Thank you God! This is the best week ever!’” –Jimmy Fallon

“The Anthony Weiner scandal shows that despite the wars and the economy, we’re all really still in 9th grade. Of course, Weiner is now desperately trying to make things better with his
wife. You can tell he’s sorry. Like today he sent her a picture of his penis with a little sad face on it.” –Jay Leno “I mean, call me old fashioned. But I long for simpler times and common
sense values. I want to leave our grandchildren an America where Congressmen bang their secretaries. Sorry if there’s no app for that.” –Stephen Colbert

“Despite the scandal, Weiner will not resign, saying he hasn’t done anything illegal and this is not the most embarrassing photo of him that has ever surfaced. That would be his senior portrait from high school. Weiner’s high school portrait was taken at one of the rare moments when he wasn’t being stuffed into the garbage can.” –Jimmy Kimmel “It turns out that one of the women Congressman Anthony Weiner was communicating with was a porn star. When asked how it was possible to get involved with someone in such a sleazy business, the porn star said, ‘I don’t know.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Sarah Palin’s cross country road trip is not a political event, she says, but just a summer vacation with her family, just like the ones you have. Except my summer vacations generally don’t have a title…Despite the news this week that our cell phones are giving us cancer, users are NOT giving up. They’re like, okay, my cell phone could give me cancer, but actually interacting with people in person is what leads to Chlamydia.” –NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!”

“That’s right, Michelle Obama is taking Sasha and Malia to South Africa and Botswana and Sarah Palin was like, ‘Wow, they’re going to all the places Paul Revere went.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Donald Trump and Sarah Palin met and had pizza together in New York City last week. There was one embarrassing moment — when the waitress asked Donald if he wanted extra topping and he said, ‘No, my hair is fine.’” –Jay Leno

So that’s our look at Capitol Hill. As we close out this spring of wild weather, massive wildfires continue to rage in Arizona while record-breaking temperatures scorched the east coast last week. So be grateful for the cool weather on the central coast. We’ll catch you on a backdoor cut. Aloha, mahalo and later, J.J. Barea fans.

May 29, 2011

Things Aren’t Always What They Museum

Good morning and greetings, Steamer Lane fans. Last Friday, the Santa Cruz Surfing Club Preservation Society along with the Parks and Recreation Department and a dozen sea gulls invited the community to rendezvous over at Lighthouse Point to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first museum on the west coast solely dedicated to surfing and kelp beds.

Now I am very familiar with this location, as Lighthouse Point is my prime-time, number one, numero uno shooting spot when it comes to photographing world-class sunrises over Monterey Bay. I love using the lighthouse as a photographic point of reference, as it falls somewhere between the spectacular setting of Half Dome in Yosemite and the inner city quaintness of the old Yankee Stadium.

But today we are not referring to the outside of the lighthouse, but instead what lies within, which could be compared to my gruff exterior which belies a heart of gold. I wanted to know the inside word on how this sacred spot was deemed surf museum worthy.

I knew there was only one man who could answer these questions, and with any luck he wouldn’t block my call when I dialed him up. He is Howard “Boots” McGhee, who is a consider to be a friend, mentor and someone who I wouldn’t contact unless I had severe writer’s block.

Boots, who hails from the Seacliff side of the tracks, is a long-time surfer, much accomplished photographer and a mover and a shaker in this area, or at least that’s what he told me to write. He is also one of the gentlemen who is responsible for this Surfing Museum’s existence, so I went right to the source to find out how this history was made along West Cliff Drive.

Boots told me that back in 1985, before he and I started doing in the tow-in thing with Laird Hamilton, he was part of a small group that decided to turn this brick structure into the first surfing museum on the mainland. What a concept, a museum inside a lighthouse. It was like serving up a creamy bowl of Santa Cruz surfing history inside a sourdough bread bowl.

In the words of this man who’s a former body double for Bruce Willis, “it’s an interpretive museum. It’s a place where you learn things on the inside and then you step outside and you’re on top of the arena where it’s happening.”

How true, as once you exit this visual encyclopedia of Santa Cruz surfing lore, you’ve got Steamer Lane on one side and Its Beach on the other. This is not what surrounds the Museum of Natural History in New York, as when you exit onto 79th Street at Central Park West, very few dinosaurs are roaming the streets, unless you are lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Larry King.

Here’s one more thought. You might want to go check out the Surfing Museum sooner than later. Because of the sea caves and the erosion going on underneath this structure, this building will not be here forever. Boots gives the museum another ten years before it will have to be rebuilt across the street. Then again, years ago, he got smacked in the head with a longboard, and since then every time I see him he asks if I want to join him for lunch with Duke Kahanamoku.

So today I am featuring six shots of the lighthouse under different lighting conditions. I had dozens of shots to choose from, but these six give you a pretty good idea of what goes on in the sky at this incredible spot at the headlands of Monterey Bay. Santa Cruz, where the sky meets the sea.

Before we head into the late night, I wanted to make mention of the violent tornado that devastated the lives of the good folks of Joplin, Missouri. Turns out this last killer twister was something unique and not so special. Video evidence shows that it appears to be a rare “multivortex” tornado, which contain two or more small and intense subvortices that orbit the center of the larger tornado. That is why this twister was the deadliest tornado since the 1940′s and left the city of Joplin looking like it had been hit by a bomb.

To the late night we go. “The pastor who incorrectly predicted the Rapture said it was a very tough weekend. To make it worse, his friends keep calling him saying, “Hey, it’s not the end of the world!” –Conan O’Brien “The man that is predicting judgment day predicted the end of the world in 1994. He also predicted that Ashton Kutcher would never return to television.” –Craig Ferguson

“The preacher who predicted the apocalypse last weekend now predicts that the world will end in October. It’s the first time that someone’s end-of-the-world prediction was followed by ‘Have a great summer.’” –Conan O’Brien “Harold Camping, who predicted the end of the world, says the new date for the apocalypse is October 21. If it rains, it will be October 22.” –David Letterman “The Rapture-predicting preacher, Harold Camping, is really scaling back his predictions. He now predicts the end of the month will be May 31.” –Jay Leno

“President Obama visited the Irish village where his great-great-great-grandfather was born. Of course, that was always disputed by his great-great-great-grandfather’s archrival, Donny McTrump.” –Jimmy Fallon “That’s right, Obama was in Ireland. He thought about buying a four-leaf clover for good luck, and then he looked at the field of Republican candidates and decided it wasn’t necessary.” –Jimmy Fallon “Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels emailed his supporters over the weekend to tell them he’s not running for president. In response, his supporters were like, ‘Dad, we live in the same house. Couldn’t you just tell us in person?” –Jimmy Fallon

“New video has surfaced of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1991 saying the housekeeper does a ‘great job.’ One clue might have been that he then added, ‘And she’s also a great housekeeper.’” –Conan O’Brien “There are rumors Arnold Schwarzenegger may have had a second child with another woman. I can’t believe Arnold would cheat on his mistress like that. “Turns out that Maria Shriver could end up with 100,000,000 dollars from her divorce from Arnold. She deserves it. She was a devoted wife and mother to at least 40 percent of his children.” –Jimmy Fallon

“A new Facebook app is coming out that will remind users exactly what they were doing a year ago from that day. Nine times out of 10, the answer will be ‘wasting your time on Facebook.’” –Conan O’Brien “Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, announced that he’s running for president. And this is cool — if his campaign isn’t over in 30 minutes or less, you get your pizza for free. “Subway sandwich shops are testing out several upscale restaurants called Subway Cafes. They feature wood paneling, lounge seating, and other things to distract you from the tuna fish being served with an ice-cream scoop.”–Jimmy Fallon

So that’s my Memorial Day weekend rant. I apologize for the fact that there were no NBA playoff games over the weekend, but that’s what happens when young teams Chicago and Oklahoma City implode down the stretch and ruin it for everyone. So enjoy the NBA Finals and we’ll catch you in June. Aloha, mahalo and later, LeBron James fans.

September 19, 2010

I Hear You Equinoxing, But You Can’t Come In

Good morning and greetings, solstice fans. For change of seasons lovers, there are only three times during the year that the hours of daylight and of darkness are equal – at the spring and fall equinoxes and during halftime of Super Bowl Sunday. During the fall equinox, which arrives this Wednesday, the sun crosses the equator, passes Go and collects $200. This provides the earth with 12 hours of sunlight, a get out of jail free card and a hotel on Park Place.

Thus begins the change that results in winter for the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern. When asked about this flip flopping of seasons, the Beach Boys commented, “the southern hemisphere girls with they walk they talk, they knock me out when I’m down there. The midwest farmer’s daughter’s really make you feel alright, and the northern hemisphere girls with the way they kiss the keep their boyfriends warm at night.”

After the fall equinox and the new TV shows hit the networks, the northern hemisphere of the earth begins to tilt ever so slightly away from the sun, which drives my daughter crazy, thus slowly decreasing the amount of sunshine received until winter solstice, after which the days begin to lengthen again. Or in the words of the group America, “Ventura Highway in the sunshine, where the days are longer, the nights are stronger than moonshine.” Yes, music is my mistress.

So when the fall equinox enters our lives on Wednesday, the northern hemisphere moves away from Donna summer, which we had for about an hour here in Santa Cruz, and results in the beginning of autumn. And if you know Donna, you know, “she works hard for her money, so hard for it honey, she works hard for the money so you better treat her right.” The hits just keep coming.

In New Orleans they celebrate Drew Brees and Fat Tuesday, which is also known as Mardi Gras. As we approach Chubby Wednesday on the seasonal calendar, inquiring minds might wonder, are there any other names for the Fall Equinox? Well, how’s about Autumn Equinox, Cornucopia, Corn on the Cob, Feast of Avilon, Festival of Dionysus, Woodstock II, Harvest Tide, Night of the Hunter, Day of the Jackal, Wine Harvest, Witch’s Thanksgiving, Witchy Woman and my personal favorite, Hotel California.

Now if you’re spiritual-minded like me, and live to meditate and breathe chocolate air, here’s an interesting perspective on the day from Tammy Burnsed of Associated Content from Yahoo Press. By the time of the fall equinox, most of the autumn vegetables, fruits, grains and medicinal herbs have been collected. Mother Earth, when not being pestered by Father Time, has once again provided an abundance of food for her children. The busy time of tending fields, harvesting and living without NBA basketball is almost done and though the work of storing and preserving foods and collecting nuts with the squirrels for the winter still lies ahead, it is time to take a moment of rest and give thanks for all that has been received.

As Diane Stein writes in Casting the Circle, “…with the death of the plants is the birth and the mystery of the seeds. All growth is held in suspension and silence within.” And as we know, coming into the new NBA season, the Miami Heat will be the top seed in the east, with the reigning champions LA Lakers the top seed in the west.

So with autumn slowly working its way into our starting lineup, for today’s photo fondue, we are going back to our beginning, or as Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina say, “maybe I’ll walk on back to Georgia, back this morning, back where I come from.” That would be to the wonderful world of sunrises, where I have found a niche and am very comfortable in this arena, although not as relaxed as I was at the Fabulous Forum during the Magic Johnson “Showtime” years.

The first four images are from one of only two sunrises I’ve shot during my digital days in the month of September. The first three were taken at Steamer Lane and as you can see, the sun reflecting off the water was an attraction I could live with. As the sun climbed upward, clouds continued to gather in the sky and I later returned to the cliff to shoot the rays filtering down onto Monterey Bay (photo #4.) Turns out the clouds were having a convention and I was one of the guest speakers.

The last two images are from a fabulous sunrise from late September of 2007. The final shot was taken in front of my favorite cypress tree along West Cliff Drive. I’m extremely fond of the silhouette action that this sapling brings to the digital table, as I am of the parmesan cheese and panko breaded chicken breast topped with a wine, garlic and butter sauce with sun dried tomatoes over mashed potatoes at Gilbert’s (no relation) Firefish Grill on the Santa Cruz Wharf. It’s the new Locals Only special and it is scrumptiously delicious.

On to the late night. “According to government auditors, the stimulus money is being held up because there aren’t enough government workers to oversee the spending. So follow me, in other words, government workers who aren’t there are needed to spend money we don’t have to create jobs that don’t exist. The Atlantic had a big article on the inevitability of Israel going to war with Iran over building nuclear weapons. But the White House thinks that strong economic sanctions will bring them to their knees, raise unemployment, and cause their factories to close – the same way those economic sanctions worked right here. This whole thing with Iran, it’s amazing how different our cultures are. In Iran a woman can get stoned for committing adultery. See, here in America, women commit adultery while getting stoned.” –Jay Leno

“Here’s a weather update from Florida. This week’s Koran smoke advisory has been lifted. That crazy pastor, remember he was going to burn the Koran, he’s now suspended it. … He said he’s now looking for directions from God on where to go. You know, I can’t speak for God, but I think if he grabs a shovel and starts digging, he’s heading in the right direction. “In the Delaware Republican U.S. Senate primary, Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell won a huge upset. Interesting woman, very conservative. She has come out against masturbation. So not only is she against politicians putting their hands in our pockets, she’s against you putting your hands in your own pockets as well.” –Jay Leno “New FBI statistics say that crime in the United States fell 5 percent from last year. Experts say the decrease in crime could be due to the aging of the population, increased incarceration, and many criminals finding jobs in the banking industry and on Wall Street.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s it for our final post for the summer of 2010. I don’t know about you, but after this summer that would have left Mark Twain shivering, I’m going to get myself a warmer bathing suit. And if you have a spare moment, be extremely grateful for your good health. Unlike Jason’s free throw shooting at crunch time, it’s not automatic. We’ll catch you in the double coverage. Aloha, mahalo and later, Red Zone Channel fans.

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