4/20 Graffiti Wisdom

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Highway 20 is a magnificent place to drive. You take the 101 into glamorous Willits, Gateway to Redwood Country, and turn left towards Fort Bragg. A series of remarkable events found me on this wonderful road on April 20, headed to Garberville in southern Humboldt County. The graffiti is from a rest area bathroom off Highway 20. Here’s a sample of the local color!

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Art Camp 2012

The San Diego Zoo is one of the great attractions in southern California. I still remember touching the Galapagos Tortoises at the SD Zoo during my first visit more than 50 years ago. When I was a kid, I spent most of my summers in various swimming pools, libraries and science fiction conventions. Not once did I attend a summer camp. Who needs camp in Hollywood if you’ve got good student discount movie passes and daily chances to swim? No, I never did go to summer camp and I can’t say I ever felt especially deprived.

The San Diego Zoo Art Camp actually is set up for all ages. I didn’t require any special dispensation to be able to attend. There’s a lot to be said for the experience; certainly it was a highlight of the summer for me. It is much different to go to the zoo for a day and spend an hour at a single exhibit compared to a typical visit where you’re trying to see as much as possible. It’s also cool to go to the zoo for several hours a day, five days in a row.

There is a lot to be said for hanging out with children, too. The kids ranged in age from 8 to 14. All of them were charming and most of them were accomplished young artists. It was a pleasure to spend the week with Elana, getting behind the scenes glimpses into the working of the zoo. We both enjoyed studying and practicing the art of drawing, too. The teacher was generous with her knowledge and patient with her students. Here is my elephant and Lana’s giraffes, to show you what we were up to.

 When we were at Art Camp back in 2010, Elana got a great photograph of an outraged and hungry tiger. Maybe it was a little risky for me to dangle her over the protective barrier just to get a really good picture, but I figured it was a good way for us to bond, plus it’s invaluable for young people to face death and live to tell the tale.

This year it was my turn to get a spectacular picture of a deadly predator without the presence of bars or glass barriers in the way to mess up the shot. Here’s the picture – a furious and ravenous crocodile!

Hungry, Angry Croc!

These animals are impressive killing machines, but they have a tender side too – they care for their babies with far more attention to detail than most reptiles. They have eyes as acute as owls and also superb hearing. Crocs can swim and run very fast, too. They tend to be ambush hunters, lying in wait for unsuspecting prey. This was my big advantage. Surprise was on my side. Most captive crocodiles are not used to guys with cameras making a hurried run-through in order to get a quick photograph!

As you can see, the picture was well worth any short-term danger. Sure, I know a lot of idiots get killed at zoos every year. They drop their camera into the tiger cage and try to retrieve it, or they want to pet the nice panda or polar bear. Those folks are Darwin Award candidates for sure. What the High Cabal doesn’t want you to know about are all the people who take less outrageous, more calculated risks for the sake of art.

OK, I understand that it is against the rules and generally accepted notions of common sense for an ordinary middle-aged clown to risk life and limb for a photograph. Still, nobody got hurt. It is true that the croc did go after me a split-second after I took the picture, but the fact that I’m writing this is proof that he didn’t get me. It’s also true that some of the zoo attendees were quite frightened by the sudden action in the crocodile enclosure. I admit that I didn’t expect to have quite such a close call, and it’s also true that I didn’t know that the croc would end up slamming into the glass so forcefully. I imagine a few of the folks were a little flustered by the experience. Well, I say that the picture was worth it. You be the judge.

Torito de la Virgen

It’s been too long since these pages featured a nice lizard.

Great Horned Lizard

Here is a fine example of Phrynosoma, the Great Horned Lizard. Native American cultures respected these creatures for being symbols of strength. You can find out more about ‘horny toads’ here and here.

In case you’re curious to trace my previous series of lizard-related material, you can try here, here, here, here and definitely here.

First Strawberry of ’12

Little pleasures can be captivating if you’re paying attention.

Yum

This strawberry is (was) a little smaller than the average commercial raspberry. 2012 is the third year in which this little plant has offered up a little magical taste of flavory goodness.

[Excuse me while I go copyright and trademark that phrase, “magical taste of flavory goodness.” Once Hostess brands gets out of bankruptcy, they’re probably going to line up with my other friends from Nestle chocolates to buy this brilliant bit of intellectual property. That’s a relief; if present trends continue, Ms. May is going to start college in the fall of 2016. It’ll be cool to have her expenses covered.]

Earlier this afternoon I went outside to tend my modest little garden. This beautiful tiny strawberry greeted me. I took this photograph right before I severed the berry and part of the stem from the plant. Inside, I washed off the brilliant bright red berry and gazed at it lovingly under the golden glow of the afternoon sun. After that I bit the berry off of the stem and savored each bit of the marvelous morsel.

I couldn’t help but do a nice little happy dance of joy as the divinity of the strawberry permeated my consciousness. I’m telling you, strawberries make a compelling case for the existence of a loving divine spirit in the universe.

Eclipse in San Diego

You don’t see this every day. Here is an annular solar eclipse.

This is how it looked from Carmel Valley, California at about 6:20 or so yesterday, May 20. Once I was present for a total solar eclipse. The changes in light were gradual until the moment of totality, and at that point it was almost as if a switch turned off the sun. What I remember most about it was how something that dramatic could also be completely silent.

Candy Comparison

Sometimes it is nice to follow one’s own decline – after all, it can be a fun trip! It’s a relief to know that the simpler things in life really are quite fulfilling, and as the years go by I find that this is increasingly true.

With regard to chocolate, I am blessed in many ways. Not only can I afford to buy all I want, that amount is not enough to do me any serious harm. It happens that I am particularly fond of the smallest snack sizes available. Now I am able to bring you yet another public service on these pages – a review of specialty items from Nestle Crunch.

In the above picture you can have a nice look at examples of Nestle Crunch Jingles, Eggs and Hearts. These are seasonal items, only available a few weeks out of the year. Now you might assume that these treats aren’t any good because they haven’t already been eaten. It’s also not entirely unreasonable to suspect that, seeing as how these are not exactly “high end” candies in the first place, it might make more sense to just eat them right away and try not to draw much attention to the whole deal.

Over the years I have come to associate Easter with the best holiday candy. Are the Nestle Crunch Eggs the best of these novelty seasonal items? I’ve always thought so, but this opinion never was put to the test – until now. It required both discipline and a bit of absent-mindedness to keep a few of the bell shaped Jingles on hand and to add a stash of Hearts to the pile that might last until the candy buildup towards Easter.

I can’t avoid making one religious point here, one aimed at any ordained clerics or laypeople on the boards of directors of houses of worship who may stumble onto these few paragraphs. Are you ready? Here goes: Chocolate makes everything better. Last fall I found myself at a Jewish High Holy Days break-the-fast service. They had a big chocolate fountain and a gigantic pile of fresh strawberries waiting to be dipped. Properly marketed, this practice can’t help but be good for membership, no matter which of God’s various franchises is serving up the fresh-dipped chocolate strawberries!

Right. Where was I? Oh yes, the Nestle Crunch novelty chocolate question. Well, I’ve had a chance to engage in some thoughtful empirical tests in addition to visually inspecting these items at close quarters. It turns out that the Jingles and the Eggs are made with the same basic technology. Two halves are fused together to make the whole product, which is then wrapped in foil as illustrated above. The Hearts, on the other hand, are only one piece thick. That leads to a certain physical integrity when the item is bitten. The Jingles and Eggs are likely to split along the seam when bitten, whereas the Hearts will break where bitten.

For what it’s worth, I guess I still think the Eggs are the most pleasing of the lot, all things being equal. I like carrying one or two around in my pocket long enough for them to become soft enough to chew without a lot of give but not so soft as to lose their physical integrity entirely.

There is a way to make the most of the Hearts, however, one that might make that item the best of these three treats. It takes a little work. Get a Heart. Unwrap it. Put the foil on top of a coffeemaker and put the heart on top of the foil. Make the coffee. By the time it’s brewed, the heat will melt the Heart without causing it to run. Lick the heart off the foil and get a delightful massive hit of Nestle Crunch goodness.

Agree or disagree? How do you know if you haven’t compared them yourself? Face it, you’ve got a lot of work to do. Maybe it’s time to get busy.

Incidentally, am I the only one old enough to remember the old jingle they used to use on TV a long time ago? Didn’t it go something like this? “N-e-s-t-l-e-s, Nestles makes the very best chocolate.” Isn’t that right? Sure it is. OK, somebody explain to me what happened to the “s.” Did they take it away at some point, or did the TV jingle contain a misspelling of the product’s name?

1965 Flashback to 2nd Grade

It’s odd to live in a world in which a 45 year-old photograph shows up suddenly, yet thanks to the modern miracle (or curse) of technology this picture arrives unexpectedly, and I get snatched up for a quick trip back in time. Time travel seems to be an increasingly common preoccupation on these pages. You might as well come along, so return with me to the fall of 1965.

My second grade classmates and I are in what is now called the Michael Jackson Auditorium at Gardner Street Elementary school. I am standing to the extreme right of the next-to-back row, an uncharacteristic position. My sister-in-law Debbie is in the center of the same row.

Just a couple of years ago, I stood in roughly the same place in that old auditorium. It looked exactly the same, except smaller.