Jacaranda trees are native to tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Central America, Mexico and the Caribean. They’re also popular all over southern California. I love the redwoods and palm trees, but there’s something about the evanescence of the spectacular spring jacaranda blooms that never fails to make me happy. This magnificent tree is in Ocean Beach, just a few short blocks from the water. The detail shot below is from another tree about a mile inland from Torrey Pines Beach.
We went to Balboa Park to celebrate Mother’s Day last weekend. A group of Native American tribes were holding an outdoor gathering that was open to the public. It was fun and educational. We learned that in the days before the white man invaded, tranquil and peaceful indigenous people would sit together around the campfire, living in harmony with the natural environment and with one another, enjoying bacon wrapped hot dogs! It’s a good thing a few intrepid and courageous people were able to keep that tradition alive long enough to see it embraced by the masses.
Native American bacon wrapped hot dogs have special medical qualities – that’s one reason why it’s OK to eat them. That’s also how they justifiy the $35 price. Alexis thinks they use kosher hot dogs to wrap the bacon around, because irony tastes better. Exactly. Like I said, we have to take a little personal responsibility for our own health. Everybody knows kosher hot dogs are better for you.
The colorfully-dressed, feather-crowned guy who sold me this outdoor feast told me all about the history and about the powerful medicine in these hot dogs. He looked at me earnestly, like a brother might, as I held the two $20 bills.
“Do you know these medical hot dogs will take away gray hair?”
“How, by making it fall out?”
“No, by invigorating your body and making you young again. You’ll see.”
One of the most popular posts on these pages is a piece I wrote about being on-stage with Perfumes of Araby at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in 1972. That post has a nice photo of Diane that my dad took that year. Here is another photo I’ve found in the family archives. This is a picture of Diane I took at 1971 at the Faire in Agoura.
Every May I think back to the halcyon days of the Renaissance Faire, adrift on the mists of time. I expect to come up with super-8 movie film of one of Diane’s faire performances, captured on two cameras. I also expect to receive a unicorn for my next birthday.
These radios are essentially the same – except the one on the left is 35 years old and the one on the right is newly bought today. I still remember the day in the spring of 1975 that I first got the radio on the left (Sony TFM-3750W). I was 16, and I had my dad’s highly fashionable and powerful vehicle. I drove myself and my new radio to West Hollywood Park and listened to part of a Dodgers game before going for a swim. Back in the mid-1970’s, I spent quite a bit of time riding RTD buses in Los Angeles; it was a great relief to be able to listen to the radio with a tiny earphone. Back in the day, this old radio was tuned to KHJ and KMET a lot of the time, and in the late 1970’s I used to listen to tape-delay broadcasts of my coverage of Pacific University football on KUIK in Hillsboro, Oregon. The new radio receives stations from the same bands, through a slightly smaller and less resonant speaker. It receives more stations and is light and portable. This model (Sony ICF-S10) is quite similar to an even earlier model my folks had in the late 1960’s. I’ve always liked having a cheap little radio around…actually, I’ve always liked to have a dozen or more radios of various sizes and shapes and purposes.
That’s more than enough consumerism for now. No doubt you are well-pleased to have spent precious moments of your life thinking about transistor radios over the decades. That’s not something everybody gets to do every day, is it?
Spring is bringing some lovely little flowers. Some, like the nice tomato flowers to the far left, are going to end up on the dinner table. Others, such as the other tiny and treacherous flowers you see, are destined to be ‘eliminated.’
I still remember holding the big, heavy black camera in my small hands and trying to keep it steady while at the same time pressing down the steel button hard enough to take the picture. My dad was sitting still on a reclining lawn chair on the concrete patio of our old-fashioned 1920’s garden court apartment complex, in part of town now known as West Hollywood.
At the moment I took this picture I was positive it would be a masterpiece. When the pictures were developed this was the one I was most interested in – after all, it would prove to the world what a hugely artistic and gifted little boy Gerry and Joan had on their hands.
Imagine my chagrin when I discovered I failed to, as we say in modern corporate lingo, “meet or exceed expectations.” To make matters even worse, I could tell that my dad was actively disappointed with my first effort at photography.
Today is the seventh anniversary of his death.
This magnificent specimen is smaller across than the tip of an eraser at the end of a pencil. Too bad each of these tiny flowers can create thousands of deadly weeds, which threaten to choke the life out of ‘useful’ plants, such as this one, which I offer as proof of the majestic in common life:
Which is the useful life?
This creature is called Carausius Morosus, commonly known as the Indian Walking Stick because it’s from India and it looks like a walking stick. I’ve reported on these guys once before. Here is a close-up look at one of its little eyes.
Apparently these insects are voracious eaters. They come to America as pets, selling for around $10. The females lay thousands of eggs, and the resulting spawn enjoy munching on the local California gardens as much as we do. No doubt having more competition for our calories will result in our becoming leaner and more efficient.
Friends of the family thought this was a cute name for an essentially nice cat. What they did not know is that the animal you see in this 1973 photograph actually is Ming the Merciless of the planet Mongo. Here’s the story – back in the early-to-mid 1960’s, my dad was a writer for Bill Burrud, well-known for his syndicated travel shows on TV. One of the old-time hands from Hollywood who worked on the team was a guy named Barney A. Sarecky, famous for saying “All houses are haunted. All persons are haunted. Throngs of spirits follow us everywhere. We are never alone.”
Barney Sarecky was the man responsible for producing the Flash Gordon movie serials starring Buster Crabbe back in the 1930’s. It turned out that “Charlie Middleton” was a real alien who had been stranded in America around 1910. He was a shape shifter on his home planet, and enjoyed considerable success in vaudeville and the first couple decades of talking pictures. Barney hired him because it seemed a natural fit and because he didn’t have to pay more than scale. One night at a Hollywood party, for reasons that remain a mystery, Middleton changed into a cat and discovered that he was unable to change back into human form (his original life form did not breathe our air).
The cat lived with Barney until the old producer died. My dad agreed to take him in after that, and Ming the Merciless, Emperor of Mongo, otherwise known as Charlie Middleton, lived out the rest of his days on Rutherford Drive in the Hollywood Hills.
A number of talented artists were with me at Hollywood High School back in the 1970’s. Aprile Milo went on to enjoy the most success. Back in the day, she was known as April, but it was clear she was going to have a major career in opera. I was pleased to help lead the fund-raising efforts required to stage “Hello Dolly,” with April in the title role.
In 1975, the music scene in Hollywood was primed for the punk rock and heavy metal explosion that was only a few months away. Although the TV industry was busy marketing 50’s nostalgia, there was a little-remembered movement that looked back to the 1930’s and 40’s for its inspiration.
People liked to joke that 70’s teenage crooners were out of step with the times, but the truth had more to do with Money, the great purpose for which all of Hollywood owes its existence. It’s a lot cheaper to work with a four or five-member rock band than it is to take a full orchestra on the road!
Here is a picture of me from June 6, 1975, on stage in Hollywood, in the middle of a medley of songs that included “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” “White Christmas,” “Cold Turkey,” and “Accentuate the Positive.” Sadly, no audio exists from this notable event.
Ocean Beach has a colony of parrots, originally from northeast Mexico, who have decided to kick back and enjoy the Bohemian vibe and counterculture traditions of OB. I love these birds and how colorful and loud they are. When they finally showed up, I called Alexis on her cell phone. As a result of a bad connection and mutual senility, the conversation went something like this:
“Alex, the parrots are back!”
“What? Parents? Black?”
“The parrots are back!”
“The parents are black? Whose parents are black? Who cares?”
“No, not black, back.”
“Back? Whose parents?”
“Not parents, parrots. The parrots are back.”
It’s a good thing that my wife and I are so well educated. Who knows what our efforts at communication might look like otherwise? Anyhow, the cool birds have returned and here is some proof.
Winter sunsets at southern California beaches often are a lot more impressive than the ones that take place during the summer. They happen a couple of hours earlier, too. This is what it looked like at Ocean Beach at about 5:35 PM.