January 5, 2014

In One Year And Out The Other

Good morning and greetings, New Year’s fans. Someone asked me last week if I had made any resolutions for the upcoming year. Up until that point, the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind, as New Year’s resolutions for me have always gone in one year and out the other. Or as Jay Leno once said, “New Year’s Eve, where auld acquaintance be forgot. Unless, of course, those tests come back positive.”

But I thought I would give it the old junior college try, as I usually look forward to the new year to get a fresh start on old habits. I wanted to do something significant to really challenge myself and prove that even at this advanced age, there were still some frontiers I could conquer besides walking more and watching less.

I was thinking about for some self improvement, and if that wasn’t possible, just doing something nice for people. There were so many directions I could go in, like eating healthier, exercising more or stop biting other people’s nails.

I could attempt to be a more positive person, to laugh more often at the news, to just enjoy life a little bit more. I could work on my career, or perform better at my job. But that would entail getting a job, and thus lied the problem. That would putting the cart light years ahead of the horse.

I could try to improve my inner and outer self by becoming more organized, as at this stage of my life, 98% of my time is spent looking for something I had in my hands just moments before. That might help reduce some stress. It’s not like I’m in a hurry, or as Mohandas K. Gandhi once tweeted, “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Personally, I’ve always ascribed to the Chinese proverb, “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. Chow fun is where you want to be.”

I could volunteer to help others, try new foods or stop procrastinating, but I think I’ll start on that one next month. None of these resolutions felt right. So I decided to just go with what felt natural and stop eating chocolate for a hour each day. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but over a year’s time the numbers add up. That’s a two week, all-expense saved vacation from chocolate.

I’m just following the theory that chocolate slows down the aging process. It may not be true, but who am I to argue with science? Or as French actress Brigette Bardot once remarked, “It’s sad to grow old, but it’s nice to ripen.’ I’m just worried about being left on the vine too long.

So the holiday season has come and gone, and it will be missed. I got to see two movies, ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ which I reviewed last week, and ‘American Hustle,’ which took us inside the world of a brilliant con man, a Congressional sting operation and Amy Adam’s cleavage. As she said, “You’re not nothing to me until you’re everything.” Everybody hustles to survive. I enjoyed this flick, although I was hoping for a little better.

So this being the first blog of the new year, I wanted to start it off in star spangled banner style. So we are heading back to the evening of December 17, when fire was burning in Big Sur and skies were torched with color. The previous evening’s sunset (which I posted back on December 22) was off the charts in beauty, or as my friend Bill Babcock described it, “the best sunset I can recall on the coast.”

So we were coming off a spectacular night, and this was to be the second half of a back-to-back, off the wall, plastic fantastic experience. For me as a sunset chaser, the only back-to-back evenings to surpass this experience came in January of 2008, when there were two nights of explosive color and light that set the bar. It was two nights of magical brilliance that I will never forget. But these December nights came awfully close to challenging for the gold.

I was shooting from Stockon Avenue along West Cliff Drive, and you can see early on that something big was underway. This night was a 360 degree viewing experience, as the entire sky was filled with glowing clouds. To the east it was pink city, to the west golden orange and ridiculous red. I was spinning like the Four Tops taking in this marvelous show.

If you look up world-class sunsets in the dictionary, you might see photos from this night. Moments like this is why I got into this business, being I’m a sunrise/sunset guy. It’s nice putting your arm around a memory.

So my resolution to my cyber audience is to bring you the best of what I see on land and in the skies above Monterey Bay, along with a little something to make you laugh and think. And not necessarily in that order.

Enjoy the NFL playoffs. We’ll catch you showing the basketball world why the Warriors are in a roll and you were an NBA all-star last season. Aloha, mahalo and later, David Lee fans.

November 10, 2013

Four Hundred, But Who’s Counting?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — geoff @ 10:24 am

Good morning and greetings, Veteran’s Day fans. Well, I have arrived at another benchmark along the long and winding cyber road. According to the folks at WordPress, where I purchase all my slacks, today’s posting is my 400th. Yes, the cryogenically frozen Ted Williams, the last man to hit over .400 in the major leagues, would be very proud. Or in his words, “God gets you to the plate, but once you’re there you’re on your own.”

So how did it all begin, this journey of over 400,000 words that has left me with a sense of peace, resentment and a thirst for more episodes of ‘Homeland?’ I’ve fallen in love with this show and now draw my inspiration from Clare Danes, as bi-polar CIA agent Carrie Matheson. In her words of the events of 9/11 ” I missed something once before. I won’t… I can’t let that happen again.” That’s the same way I feel about shooting sunrises.

Or as my wife said to me on the morning of our 25th wedding anniversary, ” You’re a disgrace to your nation, Sargeant Nicholas Brody. You’re a traitor and a terrorist, and now it’s time you pay for that.” Hey, I would have been happy with just a card.

I’ve always liked to write. I believed I may have penned my first sonnet on the walls of my mother’s womb. It started out, “There was a boy from Nantucket.” I had discovered my inner voice. However, after I exited my mother’s tomb, my voice was then labeled as colicky, which led to writer’s block as I suffered from postpartum depression.

I started my official writing career in junior high, when I had a poem published in the 7th/8th grade school magazine. I was a shy child who was interested in nature, and I believe it it was reflected in my literary prose. Here’s the third and final stanza from a poem very appropriately titled ‘Spring.’

“In the city the buses are clattering. In the forest the animals are chattering. The hustle and bustle is too much for me. I like to watch spring show up quietly.” Now I know why my teachers referred to me as Robert Frost Jr.

I continued to write in high school and had a couple of humorous pieces published in our high school literary magazine. Back then I had great ambitions, as I either wanted to be a investigative reporter, a marine biologist or a Playboy photographer. But writing was in my blood. And besides, it beat saying everything out loud.

After graduation from college, most of my writing over the next few decades was NBA basketball, top ten lists and checks. My first official blog was posted back in June of 2007, and after that, there was no turning back. I was on a mission, as I could finally do something creative with those voices playing in my head. The problem was, lots of time they were speaking in Hebrew, and I had no idea what they were talking about.

I created Sunrise Santa Cruz as a place to showcase the beauty of our cold water paradise, with the emphasis on the skies above it. But as I’ve learned over the years, being beautiful isn’t enough, and that’s why I added the text because what is better than laughter? I mean besides living in a world where everything is chocolate.

I’ve tried to amuse and confuse your hearts and minds with jokes from the best late night writers on the planet. Now throw in over 2,400 digital photo images and you’ve got over six years extracted from my mind’s eye that I’ll never get back. I’m just looking to make you laugh and think. After all, in the words of Will Rogers, “An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.” Unless you consider a cucumber funny.

So for today’s landmark photo lineup, we are returning to one of my favorite spots along West Cliff Drive, the cliffs above Stockton Avenue. For fourteen wonderous years, I lived 100 yards from this location, and rarely did I miss a sunset or a game involving Michael Jordan. This spot, like Ted’s Bakery on the North Shore of Oahu, is sacred, as I’ve always felt so powerful standing there overlooking the Pacific, thinking about the chicken katsu lunch plate.

On this evening, I didn’t need Phil Collins to tell me something was coming in the air that night. When I hit the cliff, the sky was glowing in a wonderful and magical way, and it proceeded to get better and better. The sky kept changing to different shades of red, while the reflection turned the ocean into something looking like cherry punch. These photos say it all. October fantastic.

On to some late night. “The new mayor of New York City is a progressive Democrat with an African-American wife who used to be a lesbian. Or as Fox News reported, the apocalypse is upon us. The new mayor is married to a woman who used to be a lesbian. His campaign slogan: ‘If I turned her around, imagine what I can do for New York City!’” –Conan O’Brien

“Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, keeps getting into trouble. They say he actually plagiarized an entire section of his 2012 book, ‘Government Bullies.’ When asked for comment, Paul said, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Forbes magazine has named evil Russian President Vladimir Putin as the most powerful person in the world. People magazine also named him the sexiest dictator alive.” –David Letterman

“New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is hoping to win re-election tomorrow, and polls show that he’s winning by a 19-point margin. Christie has really worked hard on the campaign. I heard he spent all weekend shaking hands and kissing bagels.” –Jimmy Fallon “Chris Christie won by such a wide margin that pundits say this will give him the impetus he needs to run for president. And he’s got a new slogan: ‘Put the oval in the Oval Office.’” –Jay Leno

So 400 posts are in the book. That’s lots of words, verbs and hor d’oeuvres. We’ll catch you putting up numbers no other player has ever posted through the first five games of the NBA season. Aloha, mahalo and later, Kevin Love fans.

October 13, 2013

I Just Met A Girl Named Sharia

Good morning and greetings, debt ceiling fans. What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on in Washington? When I wrote about the government shut down last week, I figured by this time, some blood had flowed into the brain of the Tea Party boys and that the orange tinted Johnny Boehner would have come to his senses and gotten his party in line to end this embarrassing and costly crisis. I believe it was Paul Revere’s brother who said “Instead of just wringing our hands, we should be wringing some Congressional necks.”

And then on Wednesday, when I thought it couldn’t get any nuttier, those fun-loving Taliban Islamist militants, who we are fighting in the 12th year in the war in Afghanistan, posted comments on their website, taunting Washington over the government shutdown and accusing US politicians of “sucking the blood of their own people.” A spokesman for the American Vampire Party immediately demanded an apology and a retraction of that statement.

Now I would not normally write about a group as evil as these misogynistic tribesman, but the totally lunacy of events in Washington has created an atmosphere of disbelief. As Jay Leno noted last week, “This is unbelievable. The government is shut down. Even Al Queda couldn’t do this.”

This merry band of Pashtun pranksters stated that US institutions were “paralyzed” and “The American people should realize that their politicians play with their destinies as well as the destinies of other oppressed nations for the sake of their personal vested interests.” This from an organization whose members would rather spend quality time with a goat rather than a woman.

These equal rights rebels then closed their statement with a flourish, stating “Instead of sucking the blood of their own people… this money should be utilized for the sake of peace.” And then to celebrate the release of their announcement, these fellows went out and arranged a public lashing of a woman for watching an episode of ‘The Ellen Show’ before courageously burning down a school for girls.

The US embassy press staff in Kabul had no comments on this verbal attack from the Taliban’s website. And I certainly do not like being a mouthpiece for this brutal group of fanatics, who are quite fond of Sharia law, which forbids everything fun except breathing.

Now I don’t want to say these guys are strict, but according to Wikipedia, (and if it’s written there, you know it’s true,) here are some previous lawful activities that the Taliban prohibited while they were in power in Afghanistan from 1996 through 2001.

Eating anything pork, so there go the barbecued spare ribs, wearing anything made from human hair and no wearing baseball hats backwards. No satellite dishes, so no NFL Sunday Ticket, movies, musical instruments, pool tables and the food courts at Costco. No alcohol, no beer at public executions, computers, television, frisbees or anything that promoted sex and music, except MTV, because Taliban leader Mullah Omar was a big fan of “Jersey Shore.”

Wine, lobster, shrimp scampi, nail polish, fireworks, egg rolls, Starbucks, jelly donuts, shaved ice, statues, pictures, Instagram, Snap Chat, Christmas cards and especially mistletoe. Basically, anything that could be characterized as a fun or frivolous activity that would bring a smile to the face of the long-suffering Afghan people.

In addition, under Sharia Law, not to be confused with Jude Law, these Talibaners got rid of employment, so no unemployment benefits, education, sports for all women including beach volleyball, dancing, surfing, clapping during sports events, the wave, kite flying, skate boarding and giggling. And finally, any symbols of living things, including drawings, paintings, photographs, etch-o-sketches, stuffed animals, dolls, hula hoops and especially anything Justin Beiber.

In June 2013, the Taliban opened an office in Doha, Qatar, where they sell posters, t-shirts, sweatshirts and calendars featuring freedom fighters of the month. Now I could drone on and on about what level of insanity we have reached in Washington, as the Tea Party has brought craziness in the nation’s capital to new heights. Bottom line, when a hardline Islamic movement can issue statements about our government that has a ring of truth to it, then something is very, very wrong with this picture.

Transitioning from hard line extremists to the soft pastel colors, today I’m featuring the second night of gorgeous back-to-back September sunsets. Two weeks ago, I showcased the Sunday night action from Labor Day weekend when the sky simply blew up. On a 1 to 10 scale that night, we were hitting close to the decade mark.

Today’s photos are from the following night, and although they didn’t quite blow the doors off my camera lens, the colors were spectacular. I was shooting from Stockton Avenue along West Cliff Drive, and the swirling clouds dipping down from the west gave this night an unusual look. With a warm breeze blowing, the sky proceeded to turn a passionate shade of orange. What a wonderful way to close out a holiday weekend.

On to the late night humor. “A new survey found that 9 percent of Americans have considered giving up their U.S. citizenship because of the constant arguing in Washington. Today, even Obama was like, ‘Are you SURE I wasn’t born in Kenya?’ This government shutdown has been such a big mess that Republicans are looking to Senator John McCain to negotiate a deal to end it. When asked if he could bring them together, McCain said, ‘Hey, I did it with the Pilgrims and the Indians.’” –Jimmy Fallon

Stephen Colbert explains the GOP strategy: “The rules are I go first, and I refuse to take my turn. And you can’t take yours until I’m done. I know you’re upset, but we’re both at fault here, so let’s negotiate. I agree to take my turn if you agree that I win.” “Winner: the Tea Party. It’s always nice to see a vocal minority get their way. You’re like the naked lunatic that gets his own subway car. So congrats on soiling yourself into power.” -Cecily Strong “Winner: Canada. Senator Ted Cruz was born in Canada, so while we were worried about Iran, China, and North Korea, a Canadian shut down the U.S. Government. Well played, Canada.” -Seth Meyers

“A mentally unstable woman tried to ram the barricades in front of the White House yesterday. Apparently she held the delusional belief that she was communicating with Obama, and that they were involved in some sort of back-and-forth. You know, like John Boehner. The Republican who summarized it best was Indiana Republican Marlin Stutzman, who said, ‘We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this, and I don’t even know that is.’ Say what you will about a toddler throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. At least he knows he wants Coco Puffs.” –Bill Maher

“Starbucks is offering something called the duffin. It’s a combination of a donut and a muffin. Who says America has lost its exceptionalism? The duffin is a combination of a donut and a muffin, and if you eat enough of them you get a combination of diabetes and heart disease. After four or five years of eating the duffin, they’ll put you in a cuffin. It’s day nine of the government shutdown. Are you like me? Are you beginning to miss the days when we were ruled by a mad English king?” –David Letterman

So another week of leaping dolphins, breaching whales and baseball playoffs is in the books. We’ll catch you showing people how with everything on the line last week you looked the best pitcher in baseball. Aloha, mahalo and later, Justin Verlander.

July 7, 2013

Here’s To The Red, White And Blue Whales

Good morning and greetings, marine life fans. Let’s face it, life is good if you live on Monterey Bay. When I walk along West Cliff Drive, I’m always fascinated by the waves, the changing skies and the people who pass by who don’t make eye contact. I see seals, dolphins, broncos, sea otters, sea lions, sea biscuits and the passing whales. I always stop in my tracks and watch them glide through the water, surface and then go back under as I await their next appearance. That’s the view you get from being a land bound creature. However, offshore is where the real action is, and that’s where we’re headed today.

You may have missed this story from back in mid June written by Jason Hoppin in the Santa Cruz Sentinel. The description of the events in our front yard called Monterey Bay blew what little is left of my mind, as it described a kind of excitement unseen by yours truly.

It seems on this late spring day the bay was teeming with a lunch special for a variety of whales. This brought about a sight seen by a few but missed by the masses. The action was so spectacular that I wanted to bring it back into the July light.

The date was June 15, and giants of the deep were putting on an unbelievable show. Boat captains and calamari lovers estimated that at least 30 blue whales, which, next to the cast of “Baywatch,” are some of the most spectacular creatures ever to grace the ocean’s water, were involved in a feeding frenzy seven miles off shore in a place called Soquel Canyon. I have extensively researched these so-called “frenzies” at various all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets. It’s a world where mu shu pancakes meets Animal Planet and anything can happen, especially if there’s any sweet and sour sauce lurking in the area.

Now on a good day, blue whales measure about 90 feet. If you are thinking in terms of sports, this is the length of a basketball court, or almost a third of a football field, which means you’d need three first downs to just go end to end with these giants. Their tails alone are as wide as a Greyhound bus. Just imagine the earth’s largest dinosaurs swimming in the ocean. Now imagine them all jacked up and feeding on krill like a Yom Kippur fast had just ended.

If you could find a scale big enough, these big boys and girls would weigh in between 100 and 150 tons. Don’t bother them with Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig as much like myself, they’re not interested. Their tongues are the size of a Buick and get better mileage. And I don’t want to say that whale calves are big, but after a year of formulating inside their mother’s womb, these cute little babies emerge weighing three tons and measuring 25 feet. Try fitting that into a car seat.

And if you think your baby was a big eater, listen to this. For the first year, a whale calf dines on nothing but mother’s milk and cookies and gains 200 pounds a day, which leads to body issues during the teenage years. And in case you were planning a vacation, you can fit about 100 people inside a blue whale’s mouth. And these mammals have no need for cell phones, as they can communicate with relatives and other whales over a thousand miles away.

So what happened on this day all came about because of the wind. The spring breezes shoved the warmer surface water aside, which allowed much cooler water, which was filled with more nutrients than a Jamba Juice Peach Pleasure smoothie, to come up from the ocean floor. This process is called upwelling, which is great for hungry whales but not so good for family members of the lower species like krill, squid or members of the NRA, because on this day, they were the “blue plate special,” with a pun definitely intended.

Let’s just say that blue whales have a large appetite. How large? At one meal they can down four tons of krill along with a dinner salad and small dessert. According to Ken Stagnaro of Stagnaro Charters, on this Saturday, the ruckus out at Soquel Canyon was put in play by the krill getting trapped against the canyon walls by the tides with no way out. This led to “side by side, dozens of blue and humpback whales continually surface lunging (which is also my favorite way of eating) at the massive schools of krill, sometimes swimming within yards of the boat. We sat nearly motionless for nearly 90 minutes as the largest animals in the world gorged on the sea surface for everyone to see.” And all meals include an 18% gratuity added to the total before any discounts.

What made this day even more remarkable was that the blues don’t usually make an appearance until the NFL preseason, making this open sea dining experience that much more remarkable. There are usually humpback whales in the bay, but the blues were an unexpected late spring treat. Also on display were the orcas, the killer whales who like to dine on seals, dolphins and baby gray whales, and who along with Japanese and Norwegian whalers and Sarah Palin are the only natural predators of the blues.

It was nature gone wild this June day on Monterey Bay, which was first discovered by the Spanish explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo back in 1542 while searching for a junior college. And it was all made possible by the wind, which brought to the surface more culinary riches than could be found at all the Red Lobsters, Long John Silvers and Bubba Gump Shrimp Companies in America. Monterey Bay, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Stop by, admission is free.

For today’s photo entree, we are going back to March 15. This day started on a fabulous note, as I photographed a beautiful sunrise down at Lighthouse Point. And then that evening, color returned to the sky, as I started my photographic trek at Stockton Avenue before moving up to Natural Bridges to complete the daily double sunrise/sunset experience. Any time you can get two for the price of one is a good day on the photography front.

There’s no late night action this week so I’ll throw in a joke. A woman stormed up to the front desk of the library and said, “I have a complaint.” “Yes, ma’am?” “I borrowed a book and it was horrible!” “What was wrong with it?” “It had too many characters and there was no plot whatsoever.” The librarian nodded and said, ‘Ah. So you must be the person who took our phone book.”

So that’s our first blast for July. Hope you enjoyed the holiday week as now the summer of 2013 is in full swing.

We’ll catch you surprising the NBA world by turning down more money and signing a free agent contract with the Golden State Warriors. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andre Iguadola fans.

January 8, 2012

You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — geoff @ 2:54 pm

Good morning and greetings, NFL playoff fans. For the lovers of pro football, January is prime-time, as this past weekend featured chop blocks, gang tackling and vicious helmet-to-helmet hits, and that was just fans tailgating in the parking lot. And let’s not forget enough scantily-clad cheerleaders and beer commercials to make my head explode. When you throw in college football’s Rose Bowl, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and my personal favorite, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl that came with sour cream and chives, it was quite a week on the pigskin front.

There was also some interesting moments in the skies above Monterey Bay. As I mentioned in my last post, my Canon Rebel EOS suffered a stroke and died on the morning of New Year’s Eve, leaving me digitally challenged. And for some unexplained reason, I don’t have a backup camera to get me through prime times like this, which leaves me and Dusty Springfield wishing and hoping and thinking and praying that the skies don’t light up on a spectacular level when I’m lensless. Well, it may not have been Murphy’s Law taking effect, but last Wednesday night was one for the ages on many levels.

Now in my own weakside defense, and I really have none, I had brought along my daughter’s camera just in case the sky blew up on this night. All afternoon it looked as if the sunset had more potential than the 2011 New York Jets, and I knew there would be a window between my son and daughter’s basketball games to take in the sights and sounds. So when I exited the gym at 4:30 and checked out the sky, I could see the motherlode was coming, so I took off for Stockton Avenue to take in this midweek wonder.

The sky was already blowing up with unusual colors and texture as I hit West Cliff Drive. I took out my daughter’s Kodak Easy Share camera and prepared to shoot away. The only problem was, NOW HER CAMERA WASN’T WORKING. I thought to myself, relax, take a deep breath and try to enjoy this upcoming incredible experience that you won’t be capturing. Enjoy the moment. Of course, if you know me, you know this really wasn’t totally possible.

Now people always say to me, “Geoff, can’t you just enjoy watching the sunset?” Well, I could if I wasn’t a photographer and didn’t have a photo blog where each week I attempt to showcase the best from the skies and byways of the central coast. And just my luck, my Etch A Sketch was in the shop so I was out there alone, just me and a sky that would turn into clouds of purple mountain majesties. This was way above the fruited plain on a night oh so beautiful with spacious skies and amber waves of greatness.

So I sucked it up and accepted my photographic fate like a real man by sobbing uncontrollably for about ten minutes. In reality, I know looking at the bigger picture, there are worse fates, like if my TiVO went down. It was just disappointing to know what was coming and that my cyber audience was not going to be part of the festivities. Okay, so I’m a giver. Just don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

My daughter’s game was now underway so I returned to the gym at Natural Bridges. I stood by the door and went to check the sunset every couple of minutes, as the skies were now a 360 degree canvas of unbelievable colors and designs.

To the east, the sky was as passionately pink as I’ ve ever seen it at sunset, while to the west there were riveting ribbons of orange and later red. My neighbor said it was like looking into a fire, a burning caldron of January color and pagentry. The reflection upon the ocean and sand was off the charts, although I didn’t have the emotional strength to go and look. Plus, my daughter was seeing some first-half minutes, and I didn’t want to miss any crossover action.

So the bottom line was, this was the most fantastic sunset that I’d ever seen but not photographed. So when I walked through the door at home after watching my son and daughter combine for two wins and 24 points, I wondered, what’s for dinner and what can I do to make up for this missed opportunity of greatness? At times like this, there’s only one place I can go. No, not to Disneyland, but to my photo archives.

We’re heading back to the evening of January 22, 2008, which was an epic night on the central coast. It was a most extreme low tide day (photo #3) as I was able to walk completely around the arch at Its Beach, something I’ve only done twice in my short but defense-oriented life.

I was shooting the exposed barnacles and sea stars when someone said, “Do you see the rainbow through the arch? (photo #4.) Then a snowy egret flew through and I shot it landing in the exposed kelp beds in front of the arch. I could just sense that this evening, much like my first chocolate milk shake, was going to be very special.

As you can see, the sky just went off from here, ending with a very colorful canvas (photo #6) that had friends and anemones buzzing. But here’s the kicker, and I don’t mean the guy that missed the three field goals for Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl.

The next night, I photographed my all-time favorite, Santa Cruz sunset up at Natural Bridges. We’re talking back-to-back, world-class nights in the skies above the central coast. To check it out, go the archives on the right, click on January 2011 and “Does This Sunset Make Me Look Fat?” will pop up like A-Rod with the bases loaded in a playoff game.

So the good news is that I’ve ordered a new camera and I should be back in business before Rick Perry exits the presidential race. I hope some of you caught the spectacle in the January 4th sky. In the words of my old pal Marc Techner, a West Cliff regular at sunset time, “It was magical. The colors, from the different shades of pink and purple and fuchsia just lit up the whole sky. It was totally incredible, one of the best ever.” Thank you and stay thirsty, my friends.

On to a little late night. “As I was coming out here, CBS News predicted the winner of the Iowa Republican caucuses: President Obama. So now that Michele O’Bachmann is out, that leaves Mitt Romney with best hairdo.” –David Letterman “Rick Santorum’s campaign is celebrating the Iowa caucuses with a pizza party. Here’s the embarrassing part: It was delivered by Herman Cain.” –Jay Leno

So that’s a wrap. Enjoy the warm winter weather, the ongoing NFL playoffs and we’ll catch you in the end zone. Aloha, mahalo and later, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Tim Tebow fans.

November 27, 2011

Turkeys Fly Over The Rainbow, Why Then Why Can’t Thighs?

Good morning and greetings, post holiday fans. Last week was different from others throughout the year, as many of us were able to deviate from our normal midweek routines and shift our focus to the festival of thanks, giving and gravy. It was a huge week for stuffing, as I personally made enough to feed a small Caribbean nation. After then roasting a 23 pound self-basting turkey along with some extra thighs to satisfy the dark meat side in all of us, it was on to leftover city as we all waited for the bell to sound for round two.

Ah, Thanksgiving. The holiday congers up many a pleasant thought in the hearts and minds of so many people. We’re talking a virtual plethora of food, family and football. I hadn’t been left with that warm a feeling since our thermostat got stuck on 85 degrees a couple of years ago.

We started our Thursday extravaganza with a variety of appetizers, continuing a tradition that would have made Trader Joe’s proud. Personally, I try to avoid much of the pregame meal, as in my role of George Washington Carver, after I’m done surgically performing my magic on the carcass crammed with moist, flavor-packed stuffing, I’m already half full. Or would that be half empty?

But this is not a great day for the turkeys or their relatives. And what do we really know about this main component of the Thanksgiving meal? Well, thanks to Sarah Ganly of Yahoo’s Associated Content, here are some fun facts about our recently exhumed holiday bird.

Turkeys have Jim roamed the planet for almost ten million years. Wild turkeys sleep in the low branches of trees at night, which means they can fly. They spend their days like Washington lobbyists, foraging for foods like acorns, seeds, berries, small insects, Congressional aides and gluten-free stuffing. A turkey can fly as fast as 55 miles per hour, sprint like Usain Bolt at 25 miles per hour, and do the hokey pokey, because that’s what it’s all about. Turkeys can glide without flapping their wings or gums for about a mile, which really impressed the Wright Brothers. Unfortunately, domestic turkeys can’t fly, except off the shelf at holiday time.

According to research by the Drumstick Institute, more than 45 million turkey are cooked and eaten in the U.S. and Puerto Rico at Thanksgiving. We’re talking enough gravy to fill Lake Michigan. Wild turkeys have a very different taste from farm-raised turkeys. Almost all of the meat is “dark,”, which drives Tea party members crazy. However, there is no documented evidence of any difference between wild and domesticated stuffing.

Turkeys have no external ears, but are experts at reading lips. These big birds can have heart attacks just like humans, and was proven when turkeys died from the shock of jet planes flying overheard and Herman Cain leading the Republican field of candidates. And sadly, if a turkey looks up when it’s raining, it can drown, which can also happen when smothering gravy on the white meat.

Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey, instead of the bald eagle, to be the national bird of the United States. He said the balding eagle had “bad moral character” and that in comparison, the turkey was “a much more respectable bird, a true original native of America and a bird of courage.” And all this time I thought Larry was the national bird.

So have you ever wondered why we celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November? Or why the eagle flies on Friday? Well, we can thank Sarah Josepha Hale, a writer who penned the nursery rhyme “Mary had little lamb with mint jelly.” She wrote to President Abraham Lincoln, encouraging him to set aside the last Thursday in November “as a day for national thanksgiving and prayer.” She said “we have too few holidays and that Thanksgiving, like the Fourth of July, should be considered a national festival and observed by all our people, especially those who like dark meat.”

Hale was a writer and a visionary, whose fleece was white as snow. She thought this holiday would be therapeutic for our country and a catalyst in preventing the outbreak of civil war. Unfortunately, insanity reigned, and as civil war waged throughout the nation, President Lincoln issued the proclamation creating this national holiday of green beans, cranberry sauce and pumpkin lies. I give Ms. Hale much credit for detesting war and bringing about this holiday that joins families and the nation together in watching the NFL Network. Like I told my draft board, I’m a pacifist and not even comfortable when the the North plays the South in college football’s Senior Bowl.

Since there’s no late night humor this week I’ll substitute my annual Thanksgiving joke. A turkey farmer was always experimenting with breeding to perfect a better turkey. His family was fond of the leg portion for dinner and there were never enough legs for everyone. After many frustrating attempts, the farmer was relating the results of his efforts to his friends at the general store. “Well I finally did it! I bred a turkey that has 6 legs!” They all asked the farmer how it tasted. “I don’t know” said the farmer. “I never could catch the darn thing!”

For today’s photo playbook we are returning to last weekend, as I shot back-to-back sunsets from Stockton Avenue along West Cliff Drive. I didn’t get those outstanding fall colors I was hoping for, but the clouds definitely caught my attention, and when I put the zoom lens on, that’s when things really got interesting. It reminded me of the bachelor party I never had.

So another Thanksgiving is in the books. Now it’s on to high school basketball and some Christmas Day NBA tripleheader madness. We’ll catch you breaking the school record for most career touchdown passes. Aloha, mahalo and later, Andrew Luck fans.

July 3, 2011

You Could Have Knocked Me Over With A Weather

Good morning and greetings, Independence Day fans. Now, I know the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plains, but I had no idea that the rain in
Santa Cruz fell merrily in June. This being the case, much like during the math section of the SAT’s, I was somewhat surprised and bewildered when torrents of moisture dropped down from the sky last Tuesday.

According to the National Weather Service in Monterey, where I go to get my international news and latest cricket scores, two inches of rain fell in the month in June. Now, I know this doesn’t seem like much compared to the world’s record rainfall, when 12 inches came down in just 42 minutes back in Missouri in 1947. That, my raindrop-loving friends, was precipitation gone wild.

Tuesday’s surprise rainfall amounted to about .03 inches, which is the
same amount I shrink height-wise each year. When the skies opened up that morning, shocking locals, tourists and sunblock salesman, it went on the books as the wettest June on record in Santa Cruz history, breaking the previous mark set back in 1929, before there was skype, twitter and the newest Republican nut on the block, Michele Bachman.

This storm came spinning down from the Gulf of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, as a result of a strong low pressure system. Or in the words of the great George Carlin, as hippy-dippy weatherman Al Sleet, “the weather was dominated by a large Canadian low, which is not to be confused
with a Mexican high.” The storm also brought snow to the Sierras, which meant smiles on the face of skiers, snowboarders and saint bernards as both the slopes and my sinuses are open today on the Fourth of July.

Although this weather didn’t stick around much longer than my plans of going to medical school, it got me thinking about wild weather around this geographically diverse nation of ours. So thanks to Dan Baker at
http://web2.airmail.net, here are some fun and amazing facts that you may not have known or cared about from the weather front.

On February 12, 2010, which I believe was a Thursday, 49 of our 50 states had snow on the ground, with the exception of Hawaii, where snow was banned by the State Board of Tourism and signed into law by Commander Steve McGarrett of the new Hawaii Five-O. This is not really true, as snow recently fell on the Big Island on the slopes of either Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea or some kind of macadamia nut.

On January 11th of this year, snow was on the ground in every state except Florida, which received an exemption due to voting fraud and
the impending free agency of Orlando center Dwight Howard. The reason I bring these snow stats up is that it is very unusual for many of the southern states to have the white-powered ground cover, as it would be if the Republicans supported any legislation by Michelle Obama.

If you like dry spells, but how about the the goings on in Bagdad, California, a ghost town located in the eastern Mojave Desert? They
did not see any rain for 767 days during a two-year period between 1912 and 1914. The only drier period of time in history was the Golden State Warriors just sniffing the playoffs once in the last two hundred years.

When one hears Seattle, we think of Gus Williams, Kurt Cobain and rain.
Well, believe it or not, umbrella fans, although the Emerald City is cloudy 227 days a year, it receives less rain than New York, Miami or Fort Lee, New Jersey. So there goes the joke that it rains only twice a year in Seattle: August through April and May through July.

We think of Chicago as the “Windy City” or the city that Michael
Jordan built with the help of Scottie Pippen. However, when it comes to wind speed, it’s not close to being wind central, as New York’s average wind speed is higher, but that could be from all the hot air that Rush Limbaugh is blowing out over the radio.

And finally, Cherrapunji in northeastern India is considered the wettest place on earth. I always thought it was a mountaintop in Kauai, but obviously I’m no Al Roker. Anyway, in the iron of ironies, these poor folks experience severe water shortages due to pollution and deforestation. As a result, they must walk miles to obtain drinkable water. Thus, they are walking in the rain, but I have a feeling
they’re not singing and don’t have that “glorious feelin’, I’m happy again.”

For today’s photo symphony, we start out with a late afternoon sky full of clouds at Stockton Avenue before heading up to Natural Bridges to take in the sunset. Photo #3 is my salute to Fourth of July as I caught this gull in full regalia. I call this shot “Flying Free,” which is my personal Declaration of independence from British rule and rock.

We then finish up with an image from the same night of the final arch at the Bridges and then the dancing clouds reflecting on the sand. These
peach-like colors were unusual to view at sunset, and their reflection
decorated the beach in just the right way on this enchanting evening.

And now a little late night. “Anthony Weiner is reportedly involved in
choosing his successor. The first question he asked his potential replacements is, ‘What’s the difference between ‘reply’ and ‘reply all?” –Conan O’Brien “Anthony Weiner is back in the private sector now.
When he was a congressman from New York, I think it was his private sector that got him in trouble.” –David Letterman “President Obama was in New York today. There was an awkward moment in Times
Square when he saw the Naked Cowboy and said, ‘Please tell me you’re not a Democratic Congressman.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“Michele Bachmann is kind of like Sarah Palin but without the charisma — or marksmanship. “You know, maybe we should stop telling kids that anyone can grow up to be president of the United States.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Michele Bachmann said her hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, is the birthplace of John Wayne, when it is actually the birthplace of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. She then said her favorite sitcom from the 80s is ‘Charles Manson in Charge.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Rod Blagojevich was found guilty of trying to sell President Obama’s Senate seat. As the verdict was read, Blagojevich’s face remained expressionless while his hair remained ridiculous.” –Conan O’Brien “Rod Blagojevich was charged with corruption — and unlawful imprisonment of a badger. Have you seen his hair?” –David Letterman “Rod Blagojevich was convicted of extortion, wire fraud, bribery, and
criminal abuse of styling mousse.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Speaking of Sarah Palin, this week, Palin tweeted that her daughter
Bristol’s new memoir is quote ‘shocking, refreshing, honest, inspiring, and perfect.’ Of course, she said the same thing about the movie ‘Cars
2.’” –Jimmy Fallon “Yesterday Sarah Palin said that she read Bristol
Palin’s new book and she found it ‘shocking.’ When asked what was shocking, Palin said ‘the fact I read a book.’” –Conan O’Brien

“Newt Gingrich says he does not support gay marriage. He says marriage is a sacred sacrament that should only be between a man and his first, second, and third wives.” –Conan O’Brien “Newt Gingrich said Republicans shouldn’t be afraid to go into black neighborhoods and tell them Obama failed them. To which every Republican replied ‘You first.’” –Bill Maher

So that’s my Independence Day blast. Birthday wishes go out today to my favorite high school Homecoming Queen, the fabulous Vicki Grimsland. So enjoy the NFL and the NBA lockouts and we’ll catch you at the negotiating table. Aloha, mahalo and later, Novak Djokovic fans.

March 28, 2011

March Comes In Like A Lion And Out Like A Glazed Ham

Good morning and greetings, Cinderella story fans. Is it just me, or has this early spring weather been wild and crazy? Torrential rains, howling winds, mud slides, water slides, downed trees, flash flooding, and that’s just in my driveway. So with springtime in the air, I just prance through the raindrops with a little extra hop in my step and a little more snap in my heels. Basically, I’m just river dancing through life, for which I thank my lucky charms.

On the eastern seaboard, where I grew up to be the shell of a man I am today, last week’s weather was also very springlike. Nothing says the baseball season is just around the corner like eight inches of heavy snow, or what Charlie Sheen calls “an appetizer.”

The midwest has been hit by an assault of killer tornadoes, wildfires were raging out of control and destroying homes in Oklahoma and heading back to this coast, a rare water funnel was sighted off of Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Personally, despite my love of condensed milk and water droplets, I have never photographed this rarity in nature, although I once got a good closeup shot of a funnel cake at a county fair.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the sunrise and sunset season ended a couple of months ago, as I have not wanted to shoot anything lately except for my computer. So for March, my expectations for drama in the sky, unlike my cholesterol, has been very low, as there has been little on the spectacular front to text home about in recent years.

The exception to this unwritten rule came on the evening of March 18, 2008. I was driving around aimlessly, hoping to spot a bobcat or leprechaun at dusk, when I glanced up at a somewhat dull sky and saw an opening at the horizon. Well, being the avid photog that I profess to be, I curtailed my hunt for baby chipmunks and eager beavers and parked myself along West Cliff Drive at Stockton Avenue, which is my favorite place to let my freak flag fly.

As you can see from today’s photo lineup, this night was indescribably delicious. The formation of the clouds gave thoughts to the heavens rising or the crown of creation. It was a canvas unlike anything I had ever seen. Throughout the experience, waves of pelicans flew overhead, adding to the festivities of the occasion. I remember standing alone/together out on the point, thinking how fortunate I was to be there at that moment. It wasn’t March Madness, it was pure March Magic.

Before we move on the hilarity of the late night pundits and our Commander-in Chief addresses the nation, I must say a few words about Libya. WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING? Or in the words of Jay Leno, “We’re fighting three wars now. Imagine how many we’d be fighting if President Obama hadn’t won the Nobel Peace Prize.”

As of last Wednesday, we had spent upwards of $1 BILLION dollars on the international assault to destroy Moammar Khaddafy’s air defenses and save the runnin’ rebels from likely defeat. My thought is, could that $1 BILLION have been better spent, like perhaps at home on the hungry, creating jobs or the Yankees’ starting rotation? I’m just stunned by his decision for the air strikes and picking Kansas to win it all. As my mother used tell me every day after packing my lunch box before I left for school, “Geoff, make love, not war.”

On to the late night. “No one can agree on how to spell Gadhafi’s name. He’s like the Hanukkah of dictators.” –Jimmy Kimmel “According to reports, Khadafy is surrounded by an elite corps of female bodyguards, all of whom are virgins. In a related story, today Charlie Sheen invaded Libya.” –Conan O’Brien “They’re using high-pressure water cannons and helicopters dropping seawater to try to cool down the reactor. And they say if that works, they’re going to try that here on Charlie Sheen.” –Bill Maher

“Sarah Palin visited Israel. As if the Jews have not suffered enough. She says she’s very excited to visit the Wailing Wall, because whaling is illegal in Alaska.”–Jay Leno “On a trip to Israel, Sarah Palin asked the Israelis why they’re apologizing all the time. They responded saying, ‘Because we told everyone Tina Fey was coming.’” –Conan O’Brien ”
Sarah Palin visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. There was an awkward moment when she said, ‘So this is what keeps the Mexicans out?’” –Conan O’Brien “Sarah Palin visited Israel. She says she likes all religions, ‘whether they celebrate Christmas or Jewish.’” –Jimmy Fallon

“President Obama has to cut his trip to Latin America short because of the situation in Libya — and to check on his NCAA brackets.” –Jimmy Kimmel “A man in Texas used his obituary to ask for donations to anyone running against Obama in 2012. And then his ghost was offered a nightly show on Fox News.” –Jimmy Fallon “Donald Trump says that if he’s elected, he won’t let the presidency interfere with the Miss Universe pageant. “How would Trump travel as president? Obviously, he’d use Hair Force One.” –David Letterman
“According to Newsweek, 73 percent of Americans can’t say why we fought the Cold War. This sounds bad until you consider that no one in the White House can tell us why we’re fighting the Libya war. We know more about President Obama’s basketball picks than his plans for Libya.” –Jay Leno

“A problem for our military in Libya is that they can’t tell the rebels from Gadhafi’s military. The U.N. has now declared that the war be fought as ‘shirts vs. skins.’” –Conan O’Brien “Obama said we will send economic aid to Libya to help the Libyan people reach their dreams. And if that works, they’ll try it here.” –Jay Leno

“A miniscule amount of radiation from Japan reached L.A. People panicked and ran out and bought gas masks and radiation suits. Then they went to the tanning salon. Rich people are buying Geiger counters. Poor people are putting bags of microwave popcorn on the windowsill. If it starts popping, get the hell out. “A South Carolina legislator introduced a bill to make it illegal for prisoners to use Facebook. They’re supposed to be doing time, not wasting it.” –Jay Leno

So that’s our last gasp for March. Hope you had a chance to catch some of the late winter storms live and in person. Last Friday, the light was spectacular on the cliff, as the sun’s rays filtered through the clouds and cast an incredible light upon the huge waves heading towards the coast. As the rain came down, a rainbow appeared in the sky and I just had to stop and take in the moment.
As usual, I didn’t have my camera with me because of a vendetta by my computer, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say, it was a moment along the edge of the continent as beautiful as a young Elizabeth Taylor, who like myself, never feared Virginia Woolf.

So once again, keep Japan in your thoughts. What a wacky year this has been, with the shootings in Tucson, the uprising in Eygpt, the tsunami and earthquake, the war in Libya and Duke losing in the semi-finals of western regionals. I’m not even going to mention the outbreak of cholera in Haiti.

So enjoy the return of warm, sunny days and we’ll catch you in Houston for the Final Four. Aloha, mahalo and later, Derrick Williams and Shelvin Mack fans.

November 28, 2010

A Weekend To November

Good morning and greetings, holiday season fans. That’s right, for many, this past week and the next five are their favorite times of the year. For me, it’s the NBA playoffs and anytime I get dial tone. If I listen closely, I can almost hear Andy Willams singing, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” or for my non-Amish friends, the most wonderful time for a beer.

I know I may be a little premature with this, but nothing else came across the radar scope this week, so bring on the holiday festivites. What red-blooded, white-celled American doesn’t love the endless TV commercials, holiday parties, and most importantly, buying gifts for people you don’t give a rat’s tush about? If I seem a bit cynical about the upcoming mistletoe invasion, I apologize to my cyber constituents. It’s just my stream of holiday unconciousness.

Now we just finished Thanksgiving, where I ate enough turkey to jump start my pilgrimage to the Mecca in Milwaukee. It was a great time to gather with family and reflect on some things that I’m grateful for. Here are a few random post holiday thoughts.

I’m grateful that it’s not 2012 and there isn’t real talk of Sarah Palin becoming the first female president. Besides my head literally exploding, I don’t think my family is ready to move to Canada, Cancun or the Canary Islands.

I’m grateful there is gravy. Without it, Thanksgiving for many would be like living in Kansas or the Sahara Desert. Very dry. Man cannot live on jellied cranberry sauce alone.

I’m extremely grateful that I have my health. Unlike a friend of mine, and I’m not going to mention Steve Margolin’s name, I’m not excited about getting older. Every time I feel a pain in my chest, I wonder, am I having a heart attack? At this poinsettia in my life, I’m just happy to play basketball and come home in the same clothes I left in. As I’ve said before, I’d like to strangle the guy who coined the phrase, “you’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” Listen, I may come off as “Mr. Positive,” but soon-to-be 58 is not the new 57. That’s Heinz.

I’m grateful for my wife, children and our golden retriever Summer. Without my lovely Allison, how else would I have ever known there is sometimes another way to look at situations? Without my children, every Saturday of my life would have been spent sitting in the dark at the movies digesting some form of chocolate, followed by Chinese cuisine. Wait a minute, that doesn’t sound too bad. And without Summer, and with my apologies to my daughter Aimee, who else would I look at 100 times a day and say, “you’re such a good girl.”

Of course I’m grateful for my brothers, my imaginary sister, extended family and special friends, and those reading it know who I’m talking about. I’m especially fortunate to have two parents who are still alive and have allowed me to open a catering service that provides them with home cooked meals that you won’t find being prepared on the food network. Hot and ready to go, gratuity already included.

I’m also damn grateful to be living on the central coast of California and not doing a tour of duty overseas in Afghanistan or Iraq. How difficult it must have been for the thousands of military families on Thanksgiving with a loved one so far away and playing hardball with the Taliban or Al Queda. For many of us, the war is a forgotten item on the news but for those families it’s the lead story every night.

There is so much more I am grateful for but I don’t want to get too mu shu or pen the sequel to “War and Peace.” Let me just say I’m so lucky to have this forum to be able to write about whatever sprints across my mind and share it with you readers. The fact that I can throw some world-class sunrises and sunsets from this cold water paradise only adds fuel to the fire of my mind. If I’ve made you think or laugh or say, “wow, that’s gorgeous,” well, in the words of my favorite Hanukah Bush, “mission accomplished.”

That brings us to today’s photo op. This was a Saturday night a couple of week’s back, where the clouds and sky brought many along the westside to their feet with almond joy and late afternoon delight. I was perched along West Cliff Drive at Stockton Avenue, and this sunset glowed for a long while after dusk, leaving me not only with the satisfaction of knowing that I would be sharing it with all of you, but that I could almost leave behind the thought of recent sunsets missed. As I said, almost.

On to some great late night. “TSA says they are going to crack down on the invasive pat-downs. In fact, one agent was transferred to another parish.” –David Letterman “This year marks the first Thanksgiving in which travelers will get molested before they get to their uncle’s house. You know, if I wanted somebody halfheartedly patting my groin without eye contact, I’d get married.” –Seth Meyers “The TSA has issued some special packing tips for travelers before Thanksgiving weekend. They say not to bring food, sharp tools, or any shred of dignity.” –Jimmy Fallon

David Letterman’s “Top Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Before Becoming a TSA Agent”
“Do I need a degree in groping?” “Am I only doing this for the sweet TSA uniform?”
“If I find explosive underpants, may I keep them?” “Should I practice by frisking people on the street?” “In five years, whose pants do I see my hands in?” “Do I really want to know what a fat guy’s thighs feel like?” “May I frisk myself?”

“Former President George W. Bush has published his memoirs, called ‘Decision Points.’ Bush was asked if he used a ghost writer and he said, ‘Nah, I stopped believing in those after I turned 12.’” –Jay Leno “At the dedication of his Presidential Library, George W. Bush said it’s long been his dream to build a building for teenagers to drink behind.” –Seth Meyers “Sarah Palin’s new book can be found right next to George W. Bush’s new book in the ‘Apparently Anyone Can Write One of These’ section.” –Jimmy Fallon

“That’s right, Palin has a brand new book. And you thought Thanksgiving dinner makes you drowsy.” –David Letterman “In her new book, Sarah Palin says she once gave up chocolate for an entire year just to prove she could do it. Still think she’s not qualified to be President?” –Jimmy Fallon “I’ll tell you how confident Sarah Palin is about the upcoming Presidential election. She’s already started writing her inaugural address on her hand.” –Jay Leno

Well, that’s our show and the last blast for November 2010. I hope the Thanksgiving holiday was a pleasant and a leftover-filled experience. And for those those menorah fans, let me wish you a Happy Hunakah, when I begin the always memorable apple sauce and sour cream-filled journey to latke city. For those of you keeping stats, it starts on Wednesday. We’ll catch you in punting formation. Aloha, mahalo and later, Blake Griffin fans.

August 1, 2010

The Baked Apple

Good morning and greetings, August fans. Well, July 2010 is now history, and it will not go down as the warmest month of my life. Officially, that would have been November of 1952, when I spent the month perfecting my back stroke in the amniotic fluid. Which reminds me of the old joke, “waiter, there’s a fly in my soup. Force of habit, sir. Our chef used to be a tailor.” Or “don’t worry, the spider on your bread will get him.”

Anyway, I was at my daughter’s championship softball game last Wednesday night, and I don’t want to say it was chilly, but my electric blanket was shivering. Now, while we’ve been experiencing frigid summer weather, folks on the east coast have been sweating like Levi Johnston alone with Sarah Palin on a moose hunting trip.

I bring up this meteorological data up because my wife, children and various nannies just left on a ten day trip to New York City. Now, my bride has spent some time back east enjoying the wonders of the heat and humidity, but my son and daughter have never enjoyed that special feeling of extreme discomfort one gets from being in an summer sauna. As the slogan says, I love New York, especially when the humidity is over 100 percent.

Back in the old country, on those days of stifling heat and unbearable humidity, we would just lock down the compound, turn on the air conditioning and wait for Yankee baseball. And of course, there would be runs to the sacred Pizza King for a slice or a chicken parmesan sandwich. As I used to tell our family psychiatrist, “a slice a day keeps the doctor away.”

Which brings us back to New York, New York, the insomniac city that never sleeps. So much to do and see and be afraid of. The Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street, the Museum of Unnatural History, Yankee Stadium, Hell’s Kitchen, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, Ground Zero, Little Italy, Big Italy and of course, Chinatown, featuring Hop Kee at 21 Mott Street, a true Cantonese experience that’s open till 4am on weekends. Reports are that the lo mein and wor shu gui chicken are still why God created chopsticks.

Throw in the Disunited Nations, Late Night with David Letterman, Rockefeller Front and Center and riding the New York City subways and you’ve had yourself quite a day. I would love to have gone on this trip and visited my ancestor’s sacred burial grounds, but Tommy Wolfe called to remind me that “you can’t go home again,” so I had to pass.

So for those of you who’ve never been to New York or who just love Derek Jeter, here are a few fun facts about the city they say is the greatest in the world. It was once said, if you stand at Times Square long enough, you’ll see the entire world walk or crawl by.

The Dutch purchased the island of Manhattan (really its southern tip) from the Algonquin tribe for trinkets, tools and some duct tape worth about $24. With that they built the Holland Tunnel. More than 60 percent of NYC’s residents do not own a car, a percentage higher than in any other city in the United States. Of the 60 percent who do own cars, 50 percent have had them stolen. The New York subway system is the largest mass transit system in the world with 468 stations and 842 miles of track that runs 24 hours a day. An average of 4.9 million people ride the New York City subway each weekday, with 3.9 million wishing the person next to them would move over a little bit.

New York City has 4,000 street food vendors selling hot dogs, pretzels, falafel, kebobs, and fake Rolexes. The first pizzeria in the United States was opened in NYC in 1895 by Gennaro Lombardi and his brother Pepperoni. Toilet paper was invented by NYC resident Joseph C. Gayetty in 1857, after enjoying a desert of plum pudding. America’s first vending machines were installed in the subways of New York City in 1888, and were broken into for the first time later that same day.

New York’s Yellow Cabs are yellow because John Hertz, the company’s founder, craved daffodils and learned from a study that yellow was the easiest color for the eye to spot. The “New York Post,” established in 1803 by Alexander Hamilton, is the oldest running newspaper in the United States and the place were my thoughts about the NBA could be consistently read by inquiring minds throughout the 1990′s. And finally, New York City is the most populated city in the USA with more than 8.2 million people. 37 percent of the city’s population is foreign-born, which makes this the U.S. city with people utterering obscenities in the most foreign languages at 170.

Moving on to our photo festivities, I like to start out each new month with some color and play-by play. Now, I shoot sunrises and sunsets in August about as often as I admire what the Republicans are doing in Washington, so it came as a bigger surprise than my SAT scores when this sunset hit the skies back on August 5, 2008.

I was shooting this parade of clouds from Stockton Avenue along West Cliff Drive. What added to the drama were the unending chains of pelicans flying thru this glowing festival of light, with some more than sixty strong, adding a Nature Channel bonus to this blessed event. And if that wasn’t enough, a rainbow appeared in the eastern sky, making this the most photographically spectacular August evening since Chelsea Clinton’s bachelorette party.

On to the late night. “Vice President Joe Biden has declared that the heavy lifting is over for the year, and it’s time to begin campaigning and talking about the White House’s accomplishments. The heavy lifting might be over, but it sounds like the heavy shoveling is just beginning.” –Jay Leno “WikiLeaks has posted over 90,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan. The Pentagon is outraged, the White House is furious, but British Petroleum is relieved: ‘Finally, a leak we had nothing to do with.’” –Jay Leno “Leaked documents show that Pakistan has been taking American money and using it to fund the Taliban. The Pakistanis are denying it, and they’re like, ‘The Taliban bought those iPods with their own money.’” –Craig Ferguson

“Congress’ approval rating has hit an all-time low of 11 percent. To give you an idea of how bad that is, the BP oil spill is at 12 percent.” –Jay Leno “BP is firing its CEO, Tony Hayward. They’re negotiating a settlement for $18 million. Boy, that’ll teach him.” –David Letterman “BP CEO Tony Hayward complained that he was unfairly ‘demonized’ in the U.S. over his handling of the Gulf oil spill. In response, demons complained that they were unfairly compared to BP CEO Tony Hayward.” –Jimmy Fallon

“Continental announced a new feature called ‘self boarding.’ There’s no ticket agent taking your boarding pass anymore, and you scan it yourself as you board the plane. It’s part of Continental’s ‘Terrorists Fly Hassel-free’ program.” –Jay Leno “A federal judge has blocked Arizona’s immigration law. Immigrants have been celebrating and throwing confetti. The governor of Arizona said, ‘Sure, now they’re showing us their papers.’” –Craig Ferguson Starbucks’ profits went up 37 percent in the third quarter of this year. They say they owe the increase to their new strategy of opening a Starbucks inside an existing Starbucks.” –Jimmy Fallon

So Jeb Bush is running for president. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but thank God, ladies and gentlemen, the comedy recession is over! “A lot of security at the Chelsea Clinton wedding, a huge security detail, and that’s just to keep Bill from the bridesmaids.” -David Letterman “Facebook now has 500 million users. The previous record holder was heroin.” –Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s our first blast for of the new month. Special birthday wishes on August 7 go out to my favorite daughter Aimee, who’s turning sweet 13 and growing more beautiful and entertaining every day. Celebrating on this same day is my old Hermosa Beach pal Bruce Meyers, who when he hears the word “strand,” doesn’t think hair. Also joining the parade this day is my old Syracuse partner in crime, Rhonda Starer, who first turned me on to the the wonders of Hop Kee and chow fun. Then on the 8th, my favorite microbiologist, Dr. Charlotte Borgeson, celebrates her special day with cake, ice cream and a lecture on the wonders of mozzarella cheese.

Reports from the Big Apple say the humidity is on hold, so my family got luckier than Heat fans in Miami. So enjoy the good moments of the day. And if you know someone who’s not doing so well on the health front, say a little prayer for them. We’ll catch you down the left field line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Lance Berkman fans.

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