Monday, April 24, 2017

Earth Day March for Science

Waning Crescent Moon

My favorite international celebration day every year is April 22, Earth Day. We used to hold a "Party for the Planet" at lunchtime on the Friday closest to Earth Day at the last school where I taught before I retired. The kids made up races and games to play with recycled materials, we had music blaring, and anybody, including faculty and staff, could just show up and play. Afterwards, we would plant a tree on campus and dedicate it to that year's Senior class. I have no idea whether any of the participants remembers these things or if they learned anything from the "parties" but I know I had fun.

For Earth Day this year, I joined up with my friends Robin and Dave to scoot over to Santa Cruz for the combination March for Science and Earth Day celebration. The march, which was super-mellow and well attended, went from City Hall to Lorenzo Park next to the Lorenzo River.

My favorite sign read "Mr. President: if it wasn't for science, there would be no spray tan." Hahahaha.

This guy had a strong opinion shared by many. It could be applied to just about anyone in Washington D.C. who is trying to slash funding for environmental safety and scientific research/education. When you're in a hole, you should stop digging, duh. And figure out a sane way to climb out. Scientists and a better-educated public can help.

We walked through town in a very orderly procession. There was hardly any chanting in this march - it was mostly quiet except for:  "What do we want? Evidence based science. When do we want it? After peer review." Hahahahahaha. Nerds. Gotta love 'em.

After a while we crossed a bridge over the river and we could see the long line of folks behind us - a very good turnout in a relatively small town. There were lots of families with kids, college students and professors from U.C. Santa Cruz, and the usual boomer-age, peaceful, hairy, Earth-loving, Birkenstock-and-patchouli-oil wearing, eternal-smile-smiling Santa Cruz hippies.

The march ended in Lorenzo Park where there were tens of booths set up with cool soap and candle stuff in shapes and scents you never dreamed of and really practical futuristic items as well. There was one booth where a rather handsome forty something year old Earth princess was giving away free hugs. Nothing for sale. Just free hugs. I thought she was beautiful, probably for all the wrong reasons. Men. We are such pigs.

Dave was really into the Tesla electric cars. Robin (superstar yoga instructor) pointed out a yoga swing where one of the giant butterfly princesses on stilts was hanging upside down.  Sorry, folks, I was too enchanted by the suspended butterfly beauty to take a picture. Men. We are such pigs.

I did capture the colorful butterfly made from recycled plastic bottle caps, though. Good idea!

A group of school kids made a sort of quilt with their Earth Day slogans and sentiments. I love stuff like this and I am always stoked when teachers go to the trouble of creating projects for students to make something positive together. Kudos to all.

I also liked the grown-up environmental art work on display, like these waves created from old bicycle chains. That combines practically all my favorite things! Thanks, Santa Cruz! Great day!

Love your Mother.

Peace, Love, and the Whole Dang Earth Catalog,

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Very Good Friday

Waning Crescent Moon

I have probably passed by Brigantino Park several thousand times coming into Hollister from San Juan Bautista. The park is located just west of the 4th Street Bridge off the Highway 156 Business route leading into town, but until last Friday, I had never stopped to check it out. Guess what, folks? It’s a jewel!

I had about thirty minutes to kill in between appointments in town and I really felt like stretching my legs, so I pulled into the parking area to see what the park had to offer. From the road, it appears to be just a large, undeveloped green space. I was looking for a walking path, hopefully with some nice views. Brigantino Park did not disappoint.

Looping around multiple acres of thick, freshly mown green grass atop an elevated, level river terrace, is a wide, crushed-gravel trail about a mile in length. It offers long views of the Diablo Range to the east and a glimpse of the San Benito River between town and the park. The trail steps up to another elevated river terrace on the west side of the park, flanking the base of the oak-covered Flint Hills. On a brilliant, sunny Good Friday afternoon, I saw just three other small groups of walkers enjoying the scenery and getting in their exercise. This was exactly what the doctor ordered, a chance to walk and breathe and soak in the quiet, peaceful beauty of a perfect San Benito County Spring day.

Brigantino Park, which opened just in the last decade, is in the early stages of development by the City of Hollister. Currently, there are clean porta-cans and picnic tables spaced evenly around the perimeter, a large, fenced parking area, benches and shade trees along the path, and adequate signage to let you know where your boundaries are and what you need to be aware of. Future plans call for construction of soccer and softball fields in the park.

This is a perfect place to go for a walk or a run on your lunch hour or to take the family for a picnic and playtime. The benefits of unscheduled, uncrowded free play for children have been well documented. Bring a soccer ball or a Frisbee for instant fresh-air fun, romping in the lush, green grass. Let them organize themselves and see what happens or get in there yourself to mix it up with them. The point of having a park is to recreate. Go get some sunshine. Run out of breath. Fall down, get up, laugh, and shout for joy, get some grass stains on your britches. That’s what parks are for.

Brigantino Park, at 2037 San Juan Road in Hollister, is open from 8 a.m. to sundown every day. The fenced-in parking lot is locked at night and overnight camping is not permitted. Pets should be leashed in the park. Waste bags for pets are provided at the parking lot. Currently, the water in the park is not potable, so bring your own drinking water. And please my friends, do not litter.

Peace, Love, and Pocket Parks,

Location Map:

Monday, April 10, 2017

Activity vs Achievement

Full Moon

You can blog about it. You can tweet about it. You can post all kinds of moody memes on Facebook about it. You can sign righteous online petitions and "like" your "friend's" rants until the fattest cows come moseying home. But unless you step out your door and do something about it, something concrete and measurable, something pure and real and decisive, you haven't really accomplished anything. 

What is "it" you might ask? "It" can be just about anything that concerns you, but in this case, for me,"it" is litter. I hate litter and, even more, I passionately hate litterbugs. People who leave trash on the ground to blow all over creation and get into rivers and streams or, worst of all, into the ocean, are the scum of the Earth. I'd like to spray them with industrial strength Round-Up and watch them squirm.

Is there really a place called Hell? Clearly I don't know, but if there is, litterbugs deserve an especially hot seat down there. Searing. Blazing. Roasting. Thermonuclearly blistering hot.

I am a Caltrans Adopt-a-Highway volunteer. Once every month I tackle a monumental cleanup of my local highways, about ten miles of rolling, grass-covered hills that lead to my home in San Juan Bautista. I like the process, actually. I get some great exercise and I normally run into something unusual that either makes me laugh (an abandoned bag of adult sex toys) or brings me some kind of natural joy (blackbirds, lizards, snakes, snails). I think of my county as my own huge beautiful park and keeping it clean gives me a sense of pride. 

Today I collected twenty-one bags of icky, sticky, yucky, mucky garbage and left them on the side of the road for the Caltrans crew to pick up and haul to the landfill. The stretch of highway I worked looks much, much better. Now I am pleasantly and thoroughly exhausted, but by tomorrow morning, I will be recovered and ready to get back out to do it again.  I won't be finished until some time on Wednesday. I won't quit until it's done.

Every month, I renew my determination to win this game, even though I know I never will, because there are many more litterbugs than there are highway volunteers. It's the same everywhere, which is really too bad for the planet - particularly bad for the people who live on it, eat food that is grown here, and drink water that circulates here. I have thought about this a lot and I see no acceptable reason for people who litter to behave this way. There is no justification other than sheer stupidity, laziness, and/or evilheartedness. Litterbugs simply suck at being human beings. In my opinion, they should go to Hell, the sooner the better.

So there. I have blogged about "it." Big damn deal. That's activity. Those twenty-one bags on the side of the road? That's achievement.

Peace, Love, and the Anti-Trash,

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Easter Parade

Waxing Gibbous Moon

Maybe the best thing about living in San Juan Bautista, a town with less than 1,800 inhabitants, is the annual Easter parade. It's a special kind of no-frills, laid back fun that lasts about three minutes and requires very little commitment or concentration. Just show up and smile. Cheer and wave. Then go eat.

There was some doubt as to whether this year's parade was even going to happen. At 11:00 this morning, two hours before the parade's scheduled start, the sky turned a deep charcoal gray and cut loose with about thirty minutes of intense rainfall, accompanied by a cold, bullish wind.

I wasn't too optimistic to tell the truth. I seriously considered staying home and burying my nose in a book. But around 12:15, the Sun started to emerge, the wind died down, and by 1:00, everything was bunny ears perfect. Let the three minutes begin!

Around here, you can pretty much do whatever you want in terms of costume design. 

You can even go full on ranch-house pink-saddle-blanket Tournament of Roses equine style, sort of, kind of.

Or you can show off your Gigundo Fido. I suppose it is possible that this young lady was just walking the beast, saw the parade, and cut in line. Either way, Fido was digging it.

What Easter parade is complete without a royal blue custom dune buggie? Hey! Over here!

It's also okay to go rogue. This gal is proudly doing her own Easter bouquet-on-a-turquoise-scooter-float thing. Why not?

And, you know, there will always be guys with classic cars.

And guys with retro trucks.

And a guy with a classy Corvette.

And guys with funky old Fords.

But this bad ass girl was the best of show, hands down. 
Just her and her pygmy pony...and her Mom...and her Auntie.

It's not even Easter yet as far as I know. Not even that close, I don't think. I know it's not tomorrow and that's about as far ahead as I can imagine these days. If you asked the other seventy-odd spectators (or, more accurately, the other seventy odd spectators) when Easter is, you might not get one right answer from those blasphemous, distracted heathens either. Nonetheless, once again,  the San Juan Bautista Easter Parade was an enjoyable, uplifting, whimsically short, slapped-together community spectacle. Whenever Easter Sunday turns out to be, I'm sure someone will let us know. 

Personally, for three grinning minutes, I felt resurrected.

Peace, Love, Cheers, Waves, and Jellybeans,

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Byrne-Milliron Forest

Waxing Crescent Moon

Tucked back into the folded, twisted, faulted, redwood-covered Santa Cruz Mountains near Corralitos CA stands the Byrne-Milliron Forest, 402 acres of public land managed by the Land trust of Santa Cruz County. It's not easy to find. You have to pass through a gate to a nursery of some sort before you wind up at the entrance. But the sign there lets you know right away it's not your every day county park. But of course! This is Santa Cruz!

A matriarch stands guard, so you better behave.

There are more than 20 miles of hiking trails (no bikes or horses here, please), with a good bit of elevation gain and loss to work your heart, quads, and knees. The trails are laid out in a quasi-concentric manner, so if you want to go all day you can, but you can also loop back to the parking area at several points if you wish.

One steepish but beautiful trail leads to the "Great White Redwood Tree" over 600 years old and 233 feet tall. In the morning light, the redwood bark appears light-colored. Hence the name, I suppose. The tree is awe-inspiring and huggable and there is a wood-hewn little table and bench there where you can snack and rest.

Perhaps the most interesting features in this park, aside from the quiet natural setting, are the fascinating wood carvings found at intervals along the trail. The best place to see a bunch of them at once is at AJ's Point of View, an overlook stocked with drinking water and trinkets at the approximate center of the park.

From AJ's, you have a nice view towards Watsonville and Monterey Bay. I am partial to the howling coyote, but there is much to see here.

There are also journals with amusing, creative, and sometimes bizarre entries written by visitors over the years. Don't miss AJ's Point of View, with the dedication plaque for Jeff Helmer, a longtime caretaker of the forest.

If you haven't visited this park, do it, you will be glad you went and I know you'll be back for more.

Peace, Love, and Hard to Find Getaways,

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Arts and Crafts

Waning Crescent Moon

The annual San Juan Bautista Arts and Crafts Fair is gracing Third Street today and tomorrow. The weather is trying its best to cooperate, so come on over and check it out. I bought a nifty bolo tie from SJB's own Artsy Chica and a scrumptious tri-tip sandwich from the Mansmith booth. I suppose I can now look fairly respectable with fire sauce dripping from my chin.

I don't have any room to hang art in my tiny home, but I like to look at art and to analyze, however briefly and amateurishly, the vibe coming from the art maker. Every artist is special in her or his own way - sometimes brash, sometimes subtle - always interesting, I think.

Things were just getting underway when I passed through, but already folks had begun to show up.

This little pony ride would have appealed to me when I was a pup.

If you're close to town this weekend, stop by. Lots of good food, some cool iconic crafts, and mostly it's a relaxing way to spend your time in the City of History.

Peace, Love, and Ponies-Go-Round,

Monday, March 20, 2017

March Madness

Third Quarter Moon

The men's and women's NCAA tournaments are getting most of the nation's basketball fan attention right now, but there is more hoop madness going on in America's smaller gyms and arenas. I'm talking about high school basketball playoffs. They are just as physically and emotionally intense as the big-stage versions and a whole cheaper to attend. If your local high school is still in the hunt, go. Cheer. Witness the show. Support their commitment.

Forty-seven years ago I played on a high school team with my friends. I wasn't the star, but I was a starter and captain and point guard on a team that went 32-6 for the season. We won our final 23 consecutive games and eeked out a one-point victory for the 3-A Texas Catholic Interscholastic League championship.

That probably sounds stupid or boring to you if you aren't a jock. Who remembers high school? How important is it in the grand scheme of your life? Okay, I'll grant you all of those points. Then I'll tell you that I can recall details of that year better than I remember just about anything else from my childhood. Sounds, smells, the name of the hot cheerleader from Lancaster High School (Johnnie Ginger!!), the pulsing roar at the championship game in the St. Mary's University gym in San Antonio, filled with people, more of them for San Antonio Central Catholic than for my team. The mad rush of our fans and my family onto the floor after we won. Being scooped up onto friends' shoulders at center court and paraded around amidst mayhem and screaming and sweaty, steaming, joyful teammates. We worked our asses off for that trophy, that moment, that odd and crazy high school round-ball ecstasy. That kind of fun burns itself into your memory. I loved it.

This past Saturday night, I watched one of our local high school boys' teams win a tight battle for the NorCal Division V championship in a packed gym against a gritty squad from Lodi. Watsonville's St. Francis Sharks won their 23rd consecutive game with a strong team performance, pulling it out in the last two minutes after a close, intense contest. They earned the right to travel to Sacramento this Friday to play the SoCal champs for their division's California state title. It will be a chance to win their final game of the season. Only one team gets to do that this time of year. Only one team gets the crown. Good luck. Go Sharks!

The reason I attended the game was because one of my ex-students is on the team. His name is Riley. He doesn't have the varsity experience that some of the other kids have and he doesn't get to play a lot. He is a brilliant student and a lead actor in school and community plays, quite used to pressure situations and acquiring honors. I think it is hard for him to sit on the bench and watch, but he is always into the game mentally and cheers hard for his friends and teammates.

On Friday, Riley replaced a starter who was in foul trouble for a few minutes of tight action. He found himself open from the three-point line and sank it. You could feel his personal joy as he clenched his fists with a brief "YES!" celebration before sprinting back on defense. There he held his own, boxing out his man diligently on the boards. On the other end, Lodi pressed and trapped most of the game, so receiving the ball, he immediately a drew double team a few times, a crazy place to be if you are not used to it. But Riley held up under the pressure quite well, only making one error, arguably not his fault, when a tired teammate failed to present him with a clear passing lane. Overall, in his brief appearance in a highly contested game, he made a valuable, positive contribution to the win. In a team sport, as a bench player, knowing your role, and being ready to respond, is just as important as being a star.

Result? A NorCal championship and a chance at the big prize: forever memories of high school glory.

Hey! Don't forget your biggest cheerleaders. They are important, too :-)

Peace, Love, and Take State!