Monday, October 29, 2018

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

Waning Gibbous Moon

If you are looking for a spooky, possibly campy, Halloween movie with a different twist on the mummy theme, you could do worse than Blood from the Mummy's Tomb.

Released in October of 1971, this colorful, imaginatively shot horror classic features the magnificent cleavage of British actress Valerie Leon. You could say that Ms. Leon, who plays both of the lead characters  (the most unfortunately named Margaret Fuchs plus the Egyptian pharaoh temptress Queen Tara) puts the "boo!" in "boobies!"

During a brief break from the cleavage cam, there is a terrific asylum scene in which a crazed archaeologist played by George Coulouris goes completely ape when Margaret comes to see him to retrieve a very important/magical cobra statue. This scene does not rise to the frenzied level of Hitchcockian cinema-psychosis but it is close. It is straight-jacketed, bug-eyed, sweaty, shrieking stardom for old George in this one, asylum fans. Awesome! Here's a shot of George from Midnight on the Orient Express. When it comes to crazy, this guy can bring it.

This movie (let's just call it Blood for short) was shot ten years before Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the whole archaeologist garb thing was already set in stone. The bit characters, who do not have magnificent protruding boobies, gathered for this photo. George, pictured here before he was carted off to the loony bin and assassinated by a jackal, I think, is second from the left.

The gratuitous egghead science woman seen way back in the back was only in a few scenes and had no observable boobies whatsoever. Margaret's incomparable chest pretty much stole the show from beginning to end. That and the severed hand, which belonged to Margaret's ancient soul sister Queen Tara. It was stolen from the tomb and kept in a cigar box by that nut job on the far right. He was doomed by ambition, a soulless, amoral bastard.

Oh, and that biggo ring played a big role, too, given to Margaret by her archaeologist father to protect her during an uncomfortably tender, quasi-incestuous moment early on. Geez! I am not sure the amulet worked as intended. 

As a fun, scary, fast-paced, Halloween-season thriller, Blood from the Mummy's Tomb worked for me. Even with the obvious horn-dog Hollywood director skin exploitation, I liked it a lot better than the stuff that came out in the 80s and 90s and since then. 

Peace, Love, and Titillation,

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Mission Farm Spooky Potluck

Waning Gibbous Moon

Every year the best party in San Juan Bautista that nobody in town knows about happens on or near Halloween in the Mission Farm Campground barn. I love it, even though I happen to be the least social, most anhedonistic creature within a hundred miles. I can only stay long enough to take pictures, eat a big plate of delicious vittles, drink a bottle of water, and thank the gracious hosts, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate greatness when I see it.

Missing this year was Alan the DJ, whose choice in beats gets funkier and louder by the hour. But a pretty interesting mix tape jammed together by the lovely and talented duo of Yo and Susan was nearly as good and audible from anywhere on the Farm. I left  before the dancing began so I can't vouch for the hilarity of this year's staggering beauty of Boomers (and others) drunk off their ass on moonshine. If it was anything like last year, though, it will be an exceptional memory for the lucky few who retain functional brain cells haha.

I love the people here, but I go to the party to see and record the decorations. They are awesome. It takes a few weeks of preparation for Yo and Susan and the crew to get the barn ready.

Susan, the camp manager, is the ringleader of this operation.

People from outside of California actually reserve campsites for this weekend every year and bring their families to the Farm for this event. Some of the young ones are grandchildren of campers who have been showing up since before the wee ones were born.

Do I want you to plan ahead for next year and come to see for yourself? Hell, no. Be brave or nuts or creative or whatever it is that these folks are and throw a party wherever you live. I like the Mission Farm Halloween Potluck just the way it is.

Peace, Love, and the Barn Bash,

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Giant Forest Trip: Spugly Heal Thyself

Waxing Crescent Moon

Not content with just a little taste of the Giant Forest last month, I was compelled to return this week for a loop hike between Crescent Meadow and the General Sherman Tree. I read an account of one person's walk online and decided to do one of my own. I figured it was do it now or wait until next July when this winter's snow will finally melt. But first I had to get there, a drive of just less than two hundred miles, over the Diablo Range, across the Great Central Valley, and up into the Sierra Nevada.

Pacheco Pass in the Diablos is about 25 miles from my camp in San Juan Bautista. Usually, it is only a modest challenge for Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Palomino Transporter. On Tuesday morning, however, something was wrong. On the way up the grade, I had to downshift to 4th gear to get enough power to maintain a respectably swift velocity in the slow lane. That was weird. I can normally stay in 5th and still go 55 mph. Tuesday, I was barely going 45 and a little nervous. Shiny little SUVs were whizzing past in the fast lane, as were greasy old tractor trailers. The Check Engine light came on for the first time ever and shortly after that, Spugly started having convulsions, sputtering and losing power, shuddering its way to the top of the pass. The temperature gauge was fine. I had just paid for an oil change and the radiator was full. I flashed back to the cheapo gas station I used in Hollister to fill up the tank Monday. Was that the culprit? What was going on? Should I turn around?

I kept going past the pass and down the other side, under I-5, and into Los Banos. At a stoplight in town, Spugly was choking and vibrating violently. I pulled into the first automotive place I saw, a tire shop halfway through town. As I came to a stop, not only was the Check Engine light on, but so was the Battery light and the engine just died right there where I parked. Oh God, instead of hiking in the Giant Forest, I was going to be stuck in Los Banos. I popped the hood, did a cursory analysis of the two or three things I know about an internal combustion engine and went inside the shop to seek help.

Then is was hot potato time. Nobody now alive actually knows how to figure out what is wrong with a messed up car. They hook it up to a computer and "run the diagnostics" then they try to fix it doing what the computer says needs fixing. That is all fine as long as your particular car was made in the 21st century. But Spugly was made in 1987 when computer diagnostics was in its infancy. Nobody working in this tire shop was even alive then. They sent me to a series of nice, but similarly head-shaking mechanics on Mercey Springs Road, all of whom said the same thing.

Somewhere in this time frame, Spugly grew tired of getting passed around like a hot potato. It coughed its last cough and returned to the smooth-and-cool-running state which is its nature. I was perplexed, but pleased. After 45 minutes of talking to nice but similarly head-shaking mechanics, I blew town and headed for the Sierra. No Check Engine light, no Battery light, no full body palsy tremors, no problemo. How did Spugly, a thirty-one year old mini-truck of Japanese descent, manage to rid itself of whatever ailed it in such a reasonable time frame? Is Spugly actually an ancient Samurai warrior? A cleverly disguised Ninja?

I did a little research on the Weird Wild Web. Turns out both Samurai and Ninja legends stem from a single story featuring a character named Prince Yamato. To  summarize, the wily prince disguised himself as a woman to entice two bad guys into state, whereupon Prince Yamato hacked them to pieces with a really sharp sword. Dang! Could Spugly the Spectacularly Ugly Palomino Transporter be related to a cross-dressing swordsman/swordswoman from the 8th century A.D.? I guess that could explain the whole spectacularly ugly thing, if not the ability to heal itself from nasty, hacking, cough-spasms.

Regardless, I made it to the Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park just in time to pitch my tent, eat a Mountain House Teriyaki Chicken and Rice dinner, and bundle up for a fuh-reezing night on the ground at 6,700 feet above sea level. Early on Wednesday morning, my little plastic REI key-ring thermometer read somewhere between 20 and 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Fully clothed with a fleece jacket, inside a Cocoon sleeping bag liner, inside my usually pretty warm synthetic car-camping sleeping bag, under a wool blanket, on top of a Big Agnes air mattress, on top of a Thermarest Z-rest pad, inside my bomb-proof REI Half Dome tent, I was as cold as a fudgesicle in Fairbanks.

The Sun worked its magic, though, and soon I was full of caffeine and eggs and heading south on the road to Crescent Meadow and the Giant Forest. Spugly, unphased by the cold night, posed for a photo at the touristy Tunnel Log. Zen and the Art of Mini-Truck Maintenance.

I did not have a map of the internet-dude's Giant Forest Loop hike, mainly because I was too cheap to pop into the Giant Forest Museum to buy one. I had scribbled down the descriptions of his turns and twists and trails, but soon found them fairly useless. So I depended on my compass and seasoned trail senses to wind along through the Forest and have one fantastic time. There are probably easier ways to loop through the Giant Forest between Crescent Meadows and the General Sherman Tree parking area, but it just doesn't matter. In every direction there is such dynamic beauty at an overwhelming, humbling, sensational scale that you really cannot go wrong. I'm just going to post some pictures and leave it at that. This place rocks.

Just off the Crescent Meadow Loop Trail is Tharp's Log. Tharp's Log, or, as I like to call it, Thog's Larp, is a hollowed out old fallen sequoia tree in which some old guy named Tharp (or possibly Thog) fashioned himself a little in-log cabin, complete with a stone fireplace and all the comforts of a home inside a log. It is SO cool. I love the Giant Forest and I want to move to Thog's Larp for the rest of my dying days. I will consult Spugly for secret Ninja instructions on how to heal myself from pneumonia and all those weird tick bite diseases everyone seems to be worried about lately. 

Peace, Love, and Sayonara,

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sierra Loop - Wrap-Up - Thursday, September 13, 2018

Waxing Crescent Moon

The best part of my trip around the Sierra Nevada was not Yosemite, not Convict Lake, not Big Pine Creek, not Manzanar, not Lone Pine, not Walker Pass, not Paradise Creek, not even meeting the iconic Mr. Goldie. The best part by far was the chance to re-connect with Maria B., one of my favorite kids from my P.E. teacher/Coach days in Santa Barbara in the 1980s.

Now in her early forties with a college-age daughter and years of life experience, Maria is the same bright, sassy, gritty, hard-working prankster that I remember from her pre-teen days as a happy-go-lucky multi-sport star in SB. Now working temporary "adventure" jobs in the National Parks to see the country while still making money, she took time out of her busy schedule to spend a day with me hanging out and enjoying a perfect day in the Giant Forest.

The trail from the Lodgepole Campground to the General Sherman Tree.

The teaching profession is many things to many people. One thing most of us can agree on is that very often the rewards for all the crazy hours invested in our kids and the sometimes difficult personal interactions with stressed-out adults are either unseen or long-delayed. We keep moving forward, keep sending our messages of learn, strive, love, and play to the next set of minds and hearts. 

What happens to those little shining faces with the ambitious hair-sprayed bangs after they leave our classrooms and courts? Do they retain any of those life lessons we so carefully crafted late at night? What kind of people do they become? Are they healthy, are they okay? Did the world treat them right?

Once in a great while a retired teacher like me gets to catch a glimpse of a grown-up student/athlete like Maria, as strong and resilient as a Sequoia, and he can feel his heart swell with love and pride. A teenager will rarely tell you what he or she feels. It's too personal, too embarrassing, and a teacher understands that. When a grown woman lets you know you made a difference, though, you know it's for real and your spirit soars like a hawk. This was the very best part of my long loop around the Sierra - a reward reaped from work and play so long ago - a few sunny hours with a lifelong friend in the greatest of California forests. 

I think the psychologists call it closure. I don't know what to call it, personally, but I know I can't put a price on a moment like this one. I love "my kids" and I always will.

With Maria B. at the General Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park.

Peace, Love, and the Best Profession,
Coach Jim