festival festivities

Pacific Grove is having its annual spring celebration this weekend: multiple bands, local dance troupes, kids doing karate, dogs dressed in costumes, funnel cakes, crafts for sale, adults corralled in a beer garden (PG was dry until the mid-60s and evidently still frowns on people walking around with beers in their hands) and rides for the kids.

We attended last year’s event, which was just a couple of weeks after we moved into our house. I think we were still shell-shocked. This year was a lot more fun.

moonalice

Moonalice is the headlining act both days. They play psychedelic roots-rock, have amazing technical prowess (live streaming most shows free online) and are fond of marijuana.

Barry

This is Barry Sless. He is very talented.

John

John Molo (drummer) is the tallest member of the band and also seems to have the most fun.

funnelcake

James and I ate a funnel cake today because that’s kind of the rule of going to a festival like this. It was very windy, as it often is this time of year, and a huge amount of powdered sugar blew off the funnel cake and onto my face. And everything else. It looked like I’d taken a dive into a vat of cocaine. But it sho tasted good. Humiliation doesn’t really impact my taste buds. Hope the dude running the drone got some good footage.

hipsters

I thought this guy making a smoothie with pedal power was the most hipster thing I saw today, then I noticed the bike valet. Actually, it may be a tie.

froghopper

Pure joy.

balloon

I bet it’s illegal in California to set your orange balloon free.

Finally, there were a lot of guys who appeared to be doing a Michael McDonald impersonation. Perhaps it’s inevitable if you’re an older white man who still has thick hair and a beard.

We’re probably going to go again tomorrow. It’s not often there’s music and dancing in the streets around here.

 

 

Point Sur Lighthouse

Last night we went on a moonlight tour of Point Sur Lighthouse in Big Sur. They do the nighttime tours once a month or so, to coincide with full moons.

You can’t make a reservation. Instead, you park just off Highway 1 on the west (ocean) side of the road near the gated entrance, each car lining up after the one that arrived before it. Forty-five minutes before the tour starts, they open the gate and let in one car at a time to drive the narrow, rutted road to the base of the large volcanic rock where the lighthouse and other buildings sit. There’s little room for parking, so they limit the tour to 40 people. If you don’t make the cut off, that’s a sad drive back to wherever you came from.

We arrived 30 minutes before the gate was scheduled to open and an hour and 15 minutes before the tour was to start, and we were maybe the 10th car in line. When we saw there were five or six people in the vehicle ahead of us, we worried we might not make the cut. So you can imagine the expletives that flew when we saw a couple of cars zip past the line we’d been sitting in for 20 minutes to circle around and start their own line on the other side of the gate. Oh hell no! They aren’t even facing the right way on the road! This will not stand! If they get in and we don’t, Imma flip my shit! Etc.

Lucky for us, the dudes running the show are hip to that little trick. When they opened the gate, they let in those of us facing south first. Kudos to the lighthouse volunteers for getting it right.

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the drive in from the gate to the lighthouse

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the walk up is less than a mile with a 360 foot elevation gain – not too strenuous because the volunteers stop pretty regularly to share interesting information – be warned that the wind is eye-wateringly strong in a few places, so in addition to dressing in warm layers, a hat or scarf that covers your ears is highly recommended

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the first peek of the lighthouse (center of photo)

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the entire property is being lovingly restored by a group of volunteers –  tours and purchases in the gift shop help fund the process, though right now they need to raise about $3 million to restore the last building (the big one in this shot) – it’s a triplex that once housed three lighthouse-tending families (a ghost in a blue jacket with gold buttons hangs out there now – not sure what he thinks about the restoration)

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as with most of the coast around here, there’s a fairly steep drop-off and rocks waiting below

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the lighthouse

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going

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going

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gone

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James and a sunset captured twice

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inside the lighthouse, first floor

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second floor of lighthouse – prisms for light (and visual awesomeness)

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this all looked very astronomical

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sometimes tour groups get to go up and outside the light – not at night, though

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the light, after taking a long flight of stairs to the top of the rock

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a juvenile blue whale washed up on shore below the lighthouse – this is its jawbone (hard to see because we were down to a few flashlights at this point and the full moon was mostly hidden by clouds)

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nice touch in one of the renovated buildings – though James and I often fantasize about living in Big Sur, we agree we wouldn’t make it very long as lighthouse keepers – a cold, lonely and windy existence that might make one cray-cray (redrum)

 

this is what 45 is

[This post is in no way an invitation for the god of ridiculous blog coincidences to shoot a tragic foot situation my way.]

When I was a little kid, I heard a story about someone working in a factory who put their hand where they shouldn’t and all four fingers were chopped off. Only the person didn’t know right away because their brain hadn’t processed the information–instead, they saw four bloody, severed fingers and thought, “Huh. That’s weird. Where did those fing–HOLY FUCK!”

I used to think about that story a lot because, for years, I had a nagging fear I’d lose a finger or toe and be forever relegated to the freak show. When you’re still in your first decade, losing part of your physical being seems like the ultimate horror, followed closely by a boy seeing your panties during co-ed square dancing in the cafeteria, which they made you do whenever it rained and you couldn’t have recess outside. You’re too inexperienced with the world to know there are much, much worse things you can–and will–go through.

Let’s fast forward to today. I was doing a bit of yard work, trimming the hedges (not a euphemism) with freshly sharpened hedge trimmers. I cut the stuff down, it fell on the ground, I dragged it over to the yard waste can, then I chopped it into smaller pieces where it lay so I could fit the maximum amount possible in the can.

I was wearing flip flops, of course, and as I made fast work of the debris, it occurred to me that if I wasn’t careful, I might chop off a toe instead of cutting through a branch. And unlike the effect it would have had in my childhood, that thought wasn’t scary. Sure, it would hurt like hell and probably bleed a lot, but other than getting a great blog post out of it and maybe eating some sympathy ice cream, it wouldn’t have a major impact on my day-to-day, my foot modeling career never having taken off.

Tomorrow I turn 45. For most of us, by the time you reach that age you’ve seen some shit, man, and come out the other side. Battered, bruised, a bit gravity-ravaged–but still kicking. Those childhood fears are mostly inconsequential–except for the thing under the bed. That one is still quite healthy.

So I wonder–if I get to be an old lady–what will I think about the things I worry about today?

this duck says "just relax"

this bird says: just relax, baby, and ride with the tide–and maybe wear real shoes when gardening

recent goings on

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gazebo on the coastal trail in Pacific Grove

heading north

heading north

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Soberanes Point Trail, Garrapata State Park, Big Sur – the trail is narrow, with copious wildflowers and poison oak brushing against your legs – glad I was wearing jeans

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further down the trail – I also saw a dead dolphin that had washed up on the rocks and was being…taken care of by three birds

here's the Pacific Grove version of that same shot

here’s the Pacific Grove version of that same shot

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sunset in PG

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some friends rented a house on a vineyard in Sonoma County for the week, so we drove up north for a visit

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I love living on the coast, but there’s a lot to recommend the beauty of wine country – plus, I like the product

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standing next to the house, looking down at Lake Sonoma

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we saw Robert Cray at Golden State Theater in Monterey a few weeks ago – the great thing about seeing shows out here is it’s easy to get good seats if you’re on top of things – this is from my seat in the third row, and we’re in the same row for Drive-By Truckers in April

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the Golden State Theater lobby

when you can't go to the Tex-Mex, you bring the Tex-Mex to you - old school cheese enchiladas with chile gravy (not pictured)

when you can’t go to the Tex-Mex, you bring the Tex-Mex to you – old school cheese enchiladas with chili gravy (not pictured)

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this dog wants to appear grumpy, but his fashionable neckwear belies his whimsical side (also, it’s March and PG still hasn’t taken down the Christmas lights)

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PG chardonnay, now available at a Trader Joe’s near you (and only $5.99)

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if this guy hadn’t been buried in his hand computer, he might have noticed the incredibly large turkey vulture taking off right next to him

one year ago today

We rolled into Pacific Grove around 3:30PM. We didn’t have a place to live, and our worldly possessions were on a trailer somewhere between here and Texas. But we had each other and our dogs and it was good.

And it’s been good. An experience, as it was intended to be. After going home in December and then returning to this little house, it finally felt like we live here and aren’t on some weird vacation that includes jobs and our furniture.

And we’re in the place but still not of it. I knew this on Saturday as I stood in the checkout line at Safeway behind a nicely dressed old lady with a handful of coupons. The checker was either stoned or a monk because the last coupon wouldn’t scan and the line was backing up, but she wasn’t flustered or concerned. Or rushed. Over and over, the checker slowly punched something onto the tiny screen–perhaps she was writing in her blog–and over and over the coupon was denied. After finally consulting with another, less zen, checker, a solution was found.

And the old lady in the fancy clothes and expensive shoes asked, “Are you sure you got the one that was a dollar off Tide?” The checker wasn’t sure. She scrolled through the transaction. Back and forth. Slowly. I watched the line with the dollar off Tide move up and down the screen, unseen, as she and the old lady talked about how computers slow everything down these days. A year ago, I would have been tempted to point it out to them. Like an asshole. But this time I kept my mouth shut and tried to ride with the Tide. So, progress. And miles to go.

And still we rise.

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Inspiration Point | Palo Corona Regional Park | Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

 

turning the camera around

As of yesterday, we’re a month away from the one-year anniversary of our arrival in Pacific Grove. Since I haven’t really shown much of the town we live in beyond the bit that lies along the coast, I’m going to share some snaps I’ve taken recently. Pardon the image quality–most of these shots were taken from a moving car or while on a walk (and also moving) or through a window. One of these days I’ll take my real camera along and stand still whilst pressing the button.

we'll start at the ocean and work our way inland - this is the beach at Lover's Point - the water is usually upper 50s, but there are always a few brave souls who go in without wet suits

this is the beach at Lover’s Point – the water is usually upper 50s, but there are always a few brave souls who go in without wet suits – the mound of rocks in the background is the point, which used to be called Lovers of Jesus Point because this town was originally a Methodist retreat camp

the beach from a slightly different angle

the beach from a slightly different angle – Monterey Bay Aquarium is just around that point in the background – the very large yellow house on the right is now a bed and breakfast called Seven Gables Inn – in the morning, the smell of bacon can be enjoyed up to a block away from this place – since change isn’t allowed much around here (with all the good and bad that entails), most huge homes like this have become places to spend the night

moving inland a bit

beyond the stately old homes, regular houses run the gamut here, from 800 square foot adobes

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to 1,100 square foot bungalows (this one houses Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, a super cool organization that finds homes for senior dogs in shelters and dogs whose guardians can no longer take care of them)

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to places with multiple stories – some have dolphins hanging around on the porch

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others have dozens of teddy bears staring out the window…and their eyes appear to move with you when you pass by…either pleading for you to free them or calculating how big a leap they’d have to take to reach your throat with their teeth

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the abundant deer are hell on your flowers, but they add a nice touch to your yard

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there are cool, funky touches here and there – this place is currently for sale (see link below for more views of the property)

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most lots are just a tiny bit bigger than the houses that sit on them – we’re lucky to have a triple lot–one lot for the house, one lot for the garage (rare around here) and one lot for the dog poop – my office is in the back, so I’m less than 20 feet from the house behind us – it’s some kind of Air B&B  situation, with different people renting it each weekend – when they stand on the upstairs deck to gaze at the ocean, they leave a nice creepy shadow on our garage, which is a good reminder that I should close the curtain or put some pants on

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trees trees everywhere – also, even though this home is large and lovely, check out how tiny the lot is

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this is the widest street in Pacific Grove – look at all that traffic

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same shot, with fog rolling in –  it creeps up from the coast and circles you in a damp embrace – when it’s thick, it gives you an odd (and not entirely unwelcome) feeling of solitude – this is where the sidewalk ends

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downtown is a five-minute walk from our house – lots of places to eat, a movie theater, antique shops – the usual small town downtown suspects – the speed limit is 15 mph through here, unlike the rest of town which is a brisk 25 mph

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it’s shots like this that bring out the Amity Island aspect of this place – doesn’t that look like foreshadowing?

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there’s only one barbecue joint – they don’t really “do” BBQ out here – or queso – or kolaches – which is why James and I should open a food truck that serves BBQ, queso and kolaches – get some Texas fusion up in this B

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this is the Jacksons’ house – Mrs. Jackson has an eye disorder that is taking her ability to see everything but the brightest of colors, so Mr. Jackson went about decorating the house for her so she could always find her way home – we saw this place when we came out here on our scouting trip before we moved, and its existence made me think this town is alright – I’ll take some better pictures of this place soon and post them here (it’s much more vibrant than this photo would suggest)

the good thing about so much moisture in the air? rainbows - or, in this case, double rainbows

double rainbow, man

Links
The house with amazing stonework that’s for sale
Peace of Mind Dog Rescue
Wiki history of Pacific Grove

when the sun goes down, I think of Charles Bukowski

photo taken by Steve Jackson outside a coffee shop in Amsterdam

photo taken by Steve Jackson outside a coffee shop in Amsterdam

I like to imagine what he might think about the world today. Not that I knew the guy, it’s just an interesting exercise. I thought of him this morning for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.

I have a couple of CDs of his readings–Poems and Insults and Solid Citizen–recorded in what sound like dive bars. The audience is drunk, so’s he, and there’s a palpable danger in the room. Like he could set the place on fire or someone could run up to the stage and punch him in the face at any moment.

Maybe because he wrote about people who don’t always get to see themselves in poems and stories. Drunks, jailbirds, blue collar workers who aren’t living some academic’s version of the “stolid American working the land,” ugly women, uglier men, gamblers, fighters, poor people. That’s who his audience was. They came to see themselves and revel in all their glory and grotesqueness.

Though Bukowski wrote a few things about writing, he mostly wrote about the struggle of living. About working for the post office or begging money off some pock-marked woman he met in a dark bar on a sunny LA afternoon. He didn’t write about sitting at his typewriter, waiting for the words to come. When given the opportunity to meet “important” writers of his day, he generally said no thanks (only with a few expletives thrown in). I’ve quoted him here before: I disliked them all immediately, sitting around acting clever and superior. They nullified each other. The worst thing for a writer is to know another writer, and worse than that, to know a number of other writers. Like flies on the same turd.

I thought of him, and specifically that quote, today when I read a post in a playwriting forum about someone weeping when they killed off a character. “I cried for hours!” a commenter said in reference to their own experience. Another said, “That’s how you know you’ve written a great character!” It was a circle jerk of people smelling their own intellectual farts, and I wanted Buk to show up and tell them all to stop writing about writing (like flies on the same turd) and actually do some fucking writing.

This sort of thing goes on there all the time. “Does anyone else ever find when you’re writing a play that it just veers off in a direction you didn’t expect?” No, fancy writer, you’re the only person who’s ever experienced that. We’ll just go ahead and send the Tony to your house now.

I can’t even imagine Bukowski in the same room with some of these people. I’d wager his whiskey shits were more dramatic than their plays are. Mine, too. Plays, that is.

Writing is a solitary experience, so I understand the need some people have to reach out and talk about it. I need to stick to groups that discuss dogs or hamburgers or national parks. I’d happily read about someone shedding a tear after taking their new puppy to Yosemite and  grilling up some burgers. “Does anyone ever have that moment when the sun is just about to set and you’re a little buzzed and it feels like you’re connected somehow to the past but firmly in the present and you weep for the beauty of it all?” Yes, my friend. Yes.

Listen to Mr. Bukowski read his poem Style.

Palo Corona Regional Park

entrance

Palo Corona is a fairly new park just south of Carmel – until the state builds a parking lot for it, access is limited to 13 cars a day – you have to apply for a permit 48 hours in advance to get the magic code to open the door – and you just leave your car on the shoulder of the highway (there’s plenty of space for safe parking)

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Inspiration Point is at the top of this ridge – you can see the nicely paved trail cutting into the hill on the left

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there’s a porta potty behind the barn, but that’s it for facilities – unless you’re a cow – there’s lots of great facilities for cows throughout this park because it doubles as a working ranch – be ready to dodge fragrant cow patties

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we were surprised to see lots of bunnies, our first since we moved to this area

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and less surprised to see lots of squirrels

foothills

looking back toward the barn/highway/ocean from the foothills – you can see how nice the trail is (because it’s really a one-lane road for the people running the ranch)

storybook

the vibe is different once you reach the trees – I always enjoy entering a heavily treed area because it usually feels like a fairy tale – even Hansel and Gretel had fun for a little while – I think Hansel got to eat butter and bacon and shit while he was fattening up in that cage

uphill

though most of the hike is pretty easy, there are stretches with a bit of an incline

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near the top, looking toward Carmel Valley

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CAUTION: Drop Off

Inspiration Point

the view from Inspiration Point at the top – the bit of land sticking out into the ocean on the right is Pebble Beach – our town (Pacific Grove) is just past that but not visible

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here’s that drop off

hawk

juvenile hawk

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the only house under half a million between Carmel and Big Sur (apologies to Instagram people who already heard that joke)

dirty water

Palo Corona trail ends at Animas Pond, which supposedly houses a rare frog – we didn’t see frogs or any other life forms in the stagnant water

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a cow, enjoying the facilities

More information about Palo Corona Regional Park can be found here.

The takeaway: Our hike was 6.2 miles total, following the Palo Corona trail to its end at Animas Pond, plus a little bit of wandering around in between. We stopped for a picnic at Inspiration Point, sitting at the picnic table under the big tree. Other than one section with a heart-pumping incline, this is an easy uphill hike with great views of Carmel, Pebble Beach and Carmel Valley. When I applied for a permit, I received a response in less than an hour, though they say you should expect to wait a couple of days. A lot of the trail is exposed to the sun, so wear sunblock.

Oh, and it’s nice to be on a Big Sur-adjacent trail and see very few people.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

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happy the rainy December has been replaced with a sunny (and warmer)  January

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I know you’re supposed to avoid sun flares in photos, but I think these are cool–this one looks like a UFO

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this is Point Lobos–it’s the closest state park to our house (10 miles away) though we’ve neglected it since we moved out here-after a great 6-mile hike today, I think we’ll put this one in the regular rotation

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a white heron–still waiting to spot the elusive California condor

bench

okay, here’s what I want for the bench design–a bird in flight at the top and then a couple of sexy otters reclining at the bottom, only I want the otters to look like little fat polar bears, and I want them eating cookies–also, it should look like a sixth grader used a screwdriver to create the images

ridge

trees_trees_trees_trees

otter

otter

fartingsealion

hey, Murray, pull my flipper

comeon

yup

palmprint

someone left a handprint on the sky

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douchebag on the way to his weekend place in Big Sur OR crew searching for dumbass tourist who fell into the ocean (we saw a number of “special” people who hopped over the trail markers to climb out on rocks or down to the water–these are the people we hear about every couple of weeks who get swept out to the ocean because they don’t realize how strong and unpredictable the waves are out here)

whale

you have to look closely, but just to the right of center you’ll see the shadow and water spout of a whale

bird

bird

sparkles

I loved the way the silhouettes of this family looked against the blue water–thanks to the sparkles of sunshine, this turned into a much cooler photo

 

too early to start drankin’

So I guess I’ll do an end of the year post instead. Here’s some random shit I noticed this year.

When you see your people after a long time apart, it almost makes your heart explode for the first couple of moments, then it’s like no time has passed and you settle into a delightful groove. When it’s time to leave, the tears show up to say goodbye too. It’s hard, but maybe not as hard as the first time. Maybe.

In the nine months we’ve lived in Pacific Grove, I’ve heard only one driver honk their horn. That driver was me.

I’ve spent much more time walking and much less time in San Francisco than I expected.

There are almost no bugs here.

People are very comfortable openly smoking pot in California.

The first time I went hiking by myself in Big Sur, I alternated between worrying an animal would attack me or a person would knock me on the head and steal my shit. This is a change from living in Houston when I only worried about a person knocking me on the head. Eventually I’ll only worry about animal attacks or falling to my death off the side of a mountain. (Contrary to what Kerouac’s buddy says, you can fall off a mountain.)

When you see comedy outside of Texas, you find out that comedians make fun of Houston.

Recently we were drinking wine on the porch when we heard Taps being played (at the Defense Language Institute). A storm was coming in, a “Pineapple Express” from Hawaii, and the wind was blowing a different direction than usual. The next morning, I got up early to photograph the big waves and heard Reveille. Here’s an article about PG that mentions the different things you can hear, depending on the wind. When we got back from Houston a couple of nights ago, I heard the ocean in the darkness. A fitting welcome back.

This is my favorite paragraph from a post I didn’t publish this year. It was too bitchy, if you can imagine that.
This guy had spent the weekend in Big Sur, but he hadn’t really been there. This place of respite. This untamed wilderness. This edge of the world, west of the west, final frontier. I picture him standing at one of the many breathtaking vistas, one hand holding a pre-paid cellphone fruitlessly searching for a signal, the other holding a Coors Light while he desperately tries to connect with civilization to tell them what a wonderful time he’s having getting away from it all.

Here are some accomplishments from 2014 I’d like to remember: saw my first full-length play produced; puked four times off the side of a whale watching boat; started working from home and not wearing pants; moved across the country in a fit of middle-age crazies; fell on multiple hikes in multiple parks; saw otters, seals, dolphins, whales, pelicans, sea gulls, black squirrels, hawks, one bobcat and a dog parade; learned to make kick-ass cheese enchiladas; hung out with my family in California and Texas; packed our shit so well that literally not one thing broke on the trailer ride out here; didn’t hit any of the pedestrians that walked out in front of my car like baby deer; and, finally, nine months in, am happy to report that my heart still beats a little faster every time I look at the Pacific.

Here’s to a healthy and happy–and not too bitchy–2015 for us all. See you on the other side.

Stella is ready to party

gotta go – Stella is ready to party