Save the Date


Judgment Day (a.k.a, The Rapture) is May 21, in case you’re interested. At least that’s what these billboards around the Bay Area (this one’s at 17th and Folsom in San Francisco), in English and Spanish, proclaim. Also of note: End of the world is October 21. Which renders the whole NFL labor situation sort of moot.

‘Lybian Women Have Guns’


San Francisco: Harrison Street between 17th and Mariposa. This is, or convincingly/insistently purports to be, the work of a muralist named Dan Plasma. An attention-getter for sure, especially the legend “Libyan women have guns.” Kind of makes you want to read the graphic novel that this could be the cover for.

Watched in Horror

KTVU’s increasingly loathsome (or maybe just pathetic and strange) “The Ten O’Clock News” offered these items back-to-back tonight:

“Take a look at this surveillance video, and you will understand why a motorcyclist is thankful to be alive. Twenty-five-year-old Zach Perez was rear-ended on a Dallas freeway last month, and he went flying, but managed to roll away from other cars despite being in intense pain. Perez broke two ribs, four vertebrae, and lost his spleen, but he is alive. “

Last month? You mean March? That’s news? Are you kidding me? Where’s his spleen? Well, it’s graphic video, and such an upbeat ending. Unlike our next story.

“A daredevil stunt at a county fair in England went wrong, and a man called ‘The Human Cannonball’ has died. Police in Kent say the 23-year-old man was fired out of the cannon 40 feet into the air, but the safety net failed to open properly and the man fell to earth as the crowd watched in horror. The stunt show has been canceled while authorities investigate.”

Me, too. Watched in horror. No need to investigate.

The Lighter Side of Getting Nailed to a Cross

On Friday night’s “10 O’Clock News” on KTVU, anchor Ken Wayne narrated video showing Christian penitents in Jerusalem bearing crosses through the streets amid throngs of faithful. What did the pictures show? Ken announced that people were re-enacting the “crucification of Jesus Christ.”

Road Blog: Southering


We’re back in Berkeley, Alameda County, middle third of the California coast. Spent a total of two nights near Mendocino, took a full-day’s field trip back down to the Anderson Valley, then spent a third night back north in Fort Bragg. Today, we headed south and spent two or three hours around Point Arena, in whose general vicinity there’s a beautiful old lighthouse, pupping seals, a KOA kampground with a sign admonishing kampers that “Life is not measure by the amount of breaths we take but by the people and places that take our breath away, a restored movie theater on the town’s main drag, and a tiny fishing harbor. On the road out to that last attraction, to which we were directed by a sign advertising a “chowder house and taproom,” we happened across the derelict above, perfectly gorgeous in its setting just beneath the dooryard of an equally robust-looking domicile. I call your attention to the cat, aft and portside. The paperwork on the outside of the wheelhouse suggests the boat might last have been in action, or at least permitted for fishing, in 1991.

From there we stayed south on Highway 1 through Gualala, past Sea Ranch (I honestly didn’t realize it goes on for eight or nine miles, but it does), made a detour to the greater Annapolis area to drop in on friends, then south again past Fort Ross, Jenner, Bodega Bay and Valley Ford before heading back to the metropolis along U.S. 101 in southern Sonoma County. Got back into town just in time to grab burritos to go, then home. South again.

Road Blog: The Great Whale

Well, I could recount a day spent mostly outside at some of the parks along the Mendocino Coast — Russian Gulch, Point Cabrillo, and Mackerricher. Or I could cut to the chase: the whale we saw just as we were getting to leave the last in the series of parks.

Mackerricher stretches for nearly 10 miles north of Fort Bragg. About three miles north of town there’s Laguna Point, with campgrounds, parking lots, and a long boardwalk out to an area where you can view seals during pupping season (that’s right now).

We got there late in the afternoon and walked out to the western end of the point, where we saw maybe eight seas–a half-dozen dozing on some rocks, a couple more that seemed to be playing. I had my audio recorder with me and and was getting some really vivid shore sounds from these thick-bodied dull-black birds that I’m only slightly embarrassed to say I can’t identify. Got a long piece from a little wren going nuts in some underbrush.

We were ready to find something to eat and were walking back to the car when we both saw a whale spout no more than a couple hundred yards off the north side of the point. We watched, and there were a couple more spouts, and the whale (a gray? a humpback?) seemed to arch its back and go under. We watched some more, and it came back up and repeated the performance, except for a finale it raised its tail — which I’d guess was at least six feet across — and go down again. It repeated the pattern about half a dozen times over half an hour or so.

At one point, we decided to go back out to the boardwalk to see if we could get a better look. On the way out, we passed a family coming in. You naturally assume that they’ve seen what you’ve seen, but I asked as we passed, “Did you see the whale goofing off out there?” No, they hadn’t; in fact, they’d never seen a whale, period. So the mom, dad, and two daughters followed us. It’s also natural to think that once you’ve alerted someone to some wonder of nature, it won’t recur. But within a couple minutes, the whale appeared again, did the tail trick, and dove. We saw it once or twice more before heading back to the car just as a squall blew in across the point.

Conclusion of whale reminiscence.

Road Blog: Little River


Up on the Mendocino County coast: We drove up yesterday by way of U.S. 101 and Highway 128, through the Anderson Valley to the mouth of the Navarro River, then a few miles north to a place called the Andiron Inn, just south of Little River. Two nights at the Andiron are a gift from our son Thom, who has visited and likes the place. It’s a collection of cottages in a meadow that opens onto a view of the Pacific–hard to go wrong with that. In keeping with sometimes cloying bed-and-breakfast trends on the coast and elsewhere in the Western World, each cottage here has a theme. Ours is named “Read”–there’s one named “Write,” too–and has a sort of library and wordsmith theme. It’s warm and comfortable and well, nice, with some vintage furniture, some vintage and probably long-unread volumes on the shelves (for instance: “Farm,” by Louis Bromfield, and “Magnificent Destiny”–a hard-cover that explains itself as “a novel about the great secret adventure of Andrew Jackson and Sam Houston”), and some vintage games. There’s also a Viewmaster with a nice little library of slides (three-dimensional pictures in full-color Kodachrome. Now showing: “Natural Bridge of Virginia,” one of the seven natural wonders of the world, and “Homes of Hollywood,” including the manse occupied by the late Wallace Beery).

One of the games: Anagrams, copyright 1934, Whitman Publishing Company, Racine, Wisconsin. We opened that up, read through the rules, which were only slightly more complex than your average Supreme Court decision, and played. The object: drawing letter tiles at random (and one at a time), make as many words as possible and be the first to make ten. You can hijack your opponents’ words to make new ones based on the single letter you have in your hand or the discards in the middle of the table. The pool of letters seemed to be oversupplied with vowels; all the better to make words like “zouave.” Like Scrabble, which somehow caught on where Anagrams did not, you can challenge words and resort to a dictionary to resolve contested entries; foreign words and proper nouns aren’t allowed (one player suspected the other–names will not be named here–of making up “zouave.” Thank goodness for the Random House dictionary that awaited on a desk nearby).

OK–four stars for the Andiron and for “Read.” Time to go out and actually experience a little Mendocino now.


Tax Night Drizzle


Just came in from The Dog’s nightly patrol. It’s been drizzling since late afternoon. I wondered what kind of picture you might get if you pointed a light–in this case, an LED headlight–up into the rain with the shutter open for 10 seconds. This is the answer. The orange hue suffusing everything is from the city lights; the blueish filaments are the drizzle coming down. I once saw a monster “flashlight” in a Restoration Hardware catalogue; it was actually a portable, battery-powered spotlight that you could probably use in an operating theater (although I think it could run on maximum power for only 20 minutes or so). I’ve fantasized about having one of those lights as an attention-getter. To light up some driver blowing through a stop sign at night, say. But I’d like to try the drizzle experiment with one, too.