Saturday, April 30, 2005

Thirty years later and Vietnam still haunts

Chopper in Vietnam
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - I use the analogy all the time - that I feel like the last man to get on the helicopter leaving the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon in 1975.

Maybe it's because I didn't serve in the war and maybe it's because the news images of that day are burned in my brain. I searched for a photo of that - the Vietnamese clinging to the rails of the chopper hoping to escape as it pulled off the roof. But I couldn't find it.

I did get to review a lot of grisly photos of the war, and some almost artistic shots like this helicopter blasting people from the sky.

I knew a few people who died in the war, but my close friends all - like me - were able to avoid it either through joining the Navy, failing the physical or just dumb luck. I dropped out of college in 1968 and was 1A status for over a year and didn't get called. Some angel was sitting on my shoulder.

One amigo refused induction and won the legal argument.

Today the U.S. is full of Vietnamese restaurants, we buy shoes made in Hanoi and Vietnamese and Hmong children are so numerous in California schools that you can get a job teacher without a credential if you can speak the language.

I wonder if we will ever be able to say the same things about Iraq?

Friday, April 29, 2005

The new computer, an Ipod and oh my God...

SACRAMENTO - The old laptop, she ain't what she used to be, to paraphrase the song.

After visiting the Apple technowhizzes, I've ended up with a brand-new computer, which is certainly nice, but, of course, all of the old email and most of the settings that I spent three years installing are gone in a flash.

Mille fois merde! (Remember the language lesson?)

(But I threw in an Ipod, might as well have a few tunes to listen to while doing all this computer work.)

Sabbatical is probably 300 miles into its journey, making record time, though the bad boys on board haven't emailed this morning to let us know where they might be. We estimate Cabo San Lucas this afternoon and then out into the big water of the Pacific.

In the meantime, the sun has come out here in Sacramento and it feels like summer, almost.

When I got the university for a meeting in an hour or so (ugh) I will take the Miata with the top down. Not a bad way to go.

Look for photos with the next blog, if I can figure out how to make the X@%$!@%@#$$!@%$#@%@^@#^@ camera talk to the computer...

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Goodbye Mexico and Tenacatita Bay

LA MANZANILLA, Mexico - The photo with today's blog is from beautiful Tenacatita Bay, a place Sabbatical won't see again under this captain's ownership (at least we don't think so).

It was taken by Capt. Sanders Lamont last year on our visit as we moved Sabbatical north from Zihuatenejo to Puerto Vallarta.

Sabbatical is curretly somewhere between PV and Cabo San Lucas, on the first leg of an 1100-mile voyage to return the boat to San Diego.

Capt. (and son) Dustin Fox, Don Tiffin (who built Sabbatical) and Victor Deane are aboard making the trip. Don and Victor are from Canada and after spending four days with them getting the boat ready, I found myself saying 'eh' a lot.

And that could be a a problem, eh?

Before I left Puerto Vallarta I loaded the boat with food, drink and fuel (in case there is no wind). I also changed fuel filters and got the engine ready in case they need it - good insurance that they won't.

Back here in Sacramento, it is raining and kind of dreary, but in a very Northwest sort of way that is actually a relief after the humidity of Mexico.

The dinghy I'm pulling in the photo is called the "Captain's Gig," and is NOT being sold with Sabbatical. The little vessel holds almost as many memories as the mother ship and will reside at one of our many residences for smaller scale adventures. It has a nice sailing rig, too, and is a lot of fun for scooting around anyplace there's a little wind.

No bad, eh?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Surf is up and the jellyfish are gone

PARADISE VILLAGE BEACH, Nayarit, Mexico - The surf was up big time yesterday and my newest crew member, Victor from Victoria (no that is not a joke) tried his hand at boogie boarding for the first time.

Predictably, he had a blast.

Victor works for the water department in Victoria, Canada and was in Puerto Vallarta nearly 20 years ago.

We stayed out on the beach waaaay too long for Canadian skin. Mine nose is a nice shade of pink, too, but it was fun. Then there was a potluck at which 'The Queen of Banderas Bay' was shown. It got rave reviews and requests for copies. Watch out Michael Moore, I'm moving up.

It occured to me as I was watching the people watch the short film, that I might try a video of the Class of '66 reunion in the summer of 2006... The possibilities for drama, humor and ? are great.

Today was provisioning day for the trip north - about $300 worth of groceries for the voyage. In the U.S., the same stuff would have cost twice that. The boys are going to eat very, very, well.

Wednesday I expect to wave goodbye to the ship and then head straight for the airport and my flight back to Sacratomato.

It's been a great ride down here - and not just on the boogie boards.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Forget the heat - hit the ball, hit the ball

Taking his best shot
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, THE BEACH - The volleyball matches have been fierce this week in which bikini-clad women have been generally drilling the ball down the throats of the guys on the sand courts.

But most of the sporting action has been back out on the water where the boogie-boarding is good again, because the slimey jellyfish have left.

And the best news of all today - after Dustin's stuff got moved into his new casa in the Versailles district - was that the diesel tanks I thought were contaminated, in fact, are fine.

That means I will not have to dispose of a hundred gallons of bad fuel, just two or three.


Surf's up. What am I doing here blogging?

Technical difficulties with volleyball photos

PARADISE VILLAGE, The Beach in front of the Hotel - I'm having some difficulties this morning uploading the photos from the volleyball match I mentioned yesterday but it's likely I'll be able to display them later.
Right now it's 8:20 a.m., 82 degrees and 90 percent humidity.
Wind: Zero
Sweat factor: 10.
If this were a beach day, it would actually be perfect (sans the jellyfish), but today is move Dustin into his apartment (move?). And that will makes the sweat factor a lot higher.
Volleyball later today (the photos, not the game)... And maybe some pix of the new casa del Doostin.
It's on Hamburgo way. More on that later, too.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

When an ostrich blocks your path, what do you do?

PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, Nayarit, Mexico - Moments before I discovered that I could, in fact, use another wireless computer system at Puerto Vallarta, we met and confronted this giant avian who apparently didn't want us to come into the parking lot.
He (she?) was NOT afraid of the car, but a broom in the hands of the security guard sent her (him?) scurrying with fright. Ostriches are such chickens. (Does that make any sense at all?)
The day started out hot - not something for which I am seeking a lot of sympathy - but it was hot, humid-hot (90 percent humidity, temperature about 85 degrees) the kind of hot that leaves you dripping wet five minutes after setting out walking. And after getting out of the shower, you stay wet for, well, most of the day.
But in the mall, where air conditioning is king, the Internet cafe now has a wireless connection, a big plus because I can bring in my tiny Apple laptop and not have to rely on their computers or the vagaries of cables (which never seem to work as well as the wireless).
In the meantime, the Internet at the Vallarta Yacht Club is still in great disrepair, kind of like a Soviet-Union era collective that can never meet its quota. There is some hope that in the next week it might be up and running. If not, I will be scurrying myself to the cafe to upload blogs and download news stories.
The boat is coming together, albeit slowly, as we are also trying to get Dustin ensconced in an apartment and get his FM3 (a special visa for foreign workers).
In the meantime, our crew from Canada arrives this afternoon with their clocks already ticking - one has to be back in Canada in about three weeks. It will make them push the boat to make the deadline, I'm sure.
The surfing today would have been great, except I didn't take my surfboard to the beach! Yesterday the water was swarming with jellyfish and just swimming (without getting stung) was a test.
So today I watched volleyball from the side of the pool.
More on that - with a photo - tomorrow.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Offline for awhile - too many technical difficulties

PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, Nayarit, Mexico - The computer gods are frowning on the Vallarta Yacht Club and the internet service has been crashed for four days, making posting blogs (and photos) nearly impossible.
So this posting is being sent from an internet cafe with machines dating from the early 1990s and keyboards designed by a doctor who treates carpal tunel cases.
In short, mille fois merde! (French, but I bet you get the idea.)
As soon as the VYC gets back online, watch for a flood of comments about the jellyfish in the water here (ouch!), the heat (whew!) and the food (yum!).
Ciao for now, amigos...
My wrists are killing me.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

McDonald's and Wal-Mart and Big Oil, Oh my!

Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
SACRAMENTO, Calif., ALONG THE AMERICAN RIVER BIKE TRAIL - The bike trail is also the running path for a lot of people, myself included, as I struggle to knock off a few pounds so the clothes I need to wear for my latest consulting gig can be worn without holding my breath.
The progress is slow and my May 1 starting day looms like a high school principal waiting for you to open your locker - the one where you stashed your beer for the weekend.
Still, running for 35-40 minutes per day (depending on headwinds, the state of tired muscles and the previous evening's consumption of food and beverages) is helping. The muscles are coming back and even if the weight isn't that much difference, gaining a belt notch will help.
Which brings me to the photo, from an interesting website ( that if full of anti-McDonald's diatribes, but lots of interesting data, too. It reminds me of the excellent documentary 'Supersize Me,' which is enough to make you become a vegetarian.
I mention Wal-Mart in the headline because if you travel the aisles of any Wal-Mart, you see the incredible deals: 40 pounds of potato chips for just $5.99! A gallon of Coca-Cola for just 99 cents (and sometimes 2-1 at that price). Plus all the little stations of fast, fried food for you to try as you wind through the aisles.
No wonder we have trouble keeping fit.
Which brings me to Big Oil.
Even though prices have never been higher, the lines at the gas stations here in Sacramento look like the oil crisis of the 1970s.
People are keeping those SUVs filled up. Never know when you might have to torque up to the mountains and hit four-wheel drive!
Chevron just loves it.
My run today was better than average and now it's time for the protein breakfast followed by a short drive in the 33-mpg Miata.
The only downside is I have to wear a coat and tie today. I'm going to the Guvenator's office to get my picture taken for my press pass for my new consulting job.
But I'll be back.

Monday, April 18, 2005

The battle of the bulge continues in California

Lunch of chips
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Today's Sacramento Bee newspaper has headlines screaming about how bad the obesity epidemic is in California - a 21st century battle of the bulge so to speak.
Like most articles in this particular newspaper, the focus is on what the government can do to solve the problem, with a wail that there isn't any money to conduct an advertising campaign to convince people to eat more healthy and drop a LOT of weight.
On average, adults in California have put on about 11 pounds in the last decade. That's 11 pounds on top of being overweight anyway, probably.
I'm fighting that battle and slowly making ground, partly due to a mostly vegetable diet, partly due to running several miles every other day and partly due to being here and not in Mexico.
I can't resist the cold cervezas in the afternoon which are about 140 calories each.
As I trudge around the last turn on my run, I usually think about the extra weight and how much easier it would be if I could just drop about 10 pounds.
Exactly why we need the state government to spend $50 million to tell us we need to get on the treadmill and off the couch I'm not so sure, but that's for another day's musings.
The cheap soda (and tonic water!) that most people swill is the result of cheap sugar prices. Coca-Cola and Pepsi and all those candy bars are inexpensive because there is (and has been for years) a glut of sugar.
Boost the price of Coke and see what happens.
Enough of a rant. Time to hit the track and see if I can squeeze off another few ounces before coming back to a lo-cal, protein breakfast.
Remember: Rejoice, we conquer!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Latitude 38 and Dona de Mallora at the Boat Show

Dona de Mallorca
Originally uploaded by Brite Lights photos.
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland Boat show yesterday wasn't as much fun this year as usual.

When you are selling your boat, it's pretty hard to get revved up about spending a few thousand on a watermaker or solar panels. Still, there was lots of neat gear and it was fun to be around all the excited people.

I overheard one couple - looking at a $500,000 boat - saying that their current boat (paid for) is just a 'little too small' for them to cruise on. So they were thinking about going into debt and buying this new rig, postponing their travels for, say, 5 or 6 years.

Jaysus. For $500,000 they could do a lot to mitigate a boat that is a 'little too small.'

Hell, for $175,000 they can have Sabbatical!

In the photo with today's block is the Latitude 38 magazine booth with Dona de Mallorca, the captain of Latitude 38's vessel Profligate which I wrote about sometime last month when it left Puerto Vallarta to return to the U.S.

She's a charmer and most of the guys who walked up went away with a lot more T-shirts than their wives had sent them to buy.

But she has such a great smile...

Friday, April 15, 2005

'Animal House' spawned a generation of animals

CHICO, Calif. - Pity the president of Chico State University.
A student pledge at a fraternity died in a hazing incident, a group of frat brothers just performed in a porn flick, and the university has to have its annual spring break in conjunction with St. Patrick's Day to avoid riots downtown.
The students at Chico State are proud of their party image, conferred on them by Playboy magazine years ago. I went to school there (M.A. 1983) and taught for three years - and you bet I went to a few parties.
But the situation in 1986 when I left was dangerous but nearly under control. During what we called 'Pioneer Week,' students wandered around drunkenly for most of the time - including coming into classes so tanked they passed out.
I had a few incidents like that and had other students (the sober ones) haul the drunkard out. There was no use calling the university police - there were too many incidents.
That whole holiday has since been cancelled - the city police couldn't handle the crowds.
A lot of the culture is typical fraternity, but a lot of it also grew out of the famous movie, Animal House, which is a wonderful film.
But the problem is that the students at Chico State think it's a model and not a parody. Every male student who sees the movie wants to be a combination of Bluto Blutarsky (the late John Belushi) and Otter (Tim Matheson, now starring on West Wing as a politician!).
I would wager that in some of the unofficial frat houses off campuses, there are still many aging Animal House afficionados - long out of school and old enough to know better - still hanging around because of the ambiance, the booze, and maybe now the hope that some porn star might drop by.
There are some advantages to teaching at a college where students don't have Animal House fantasies.
At least the pledges here in Sacramento don't die in hazing incidents and we can have spring break when it best suits the academic calendar.
And not a porn star in sight.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Time for one more trip to Puerto Vallarta this year

MEZCALES, Nayarit, Mexico - You know you are close to our storage unit in San Vincente when you see the giant Modelo beer can atop a tiny tienda on the corner where the highway turns at Mezcales.
It being Mexico, it''s quite appropriate to stop and pick up a ''ballena'' or two of beer for the trip - and drink it in the car on the way. (Ballena actually means whale, but it also refers to the liter bottles of beer that are very popular.)
I'll be back in the land of bottle ballenas next week to get Sabbatical stocked and ready for her trip north to San Diego. Son Dustin is already on the ground, er, water there, making sure the new piece of rigging done by Rigworks in San Diego is sturdy enough for a major offshore passage from Puerto Vallarta north.
The weather will still be excellent there, just before the heat arrives in mid-May when people bail out of Puerto Vallarta just like the snowbirds leave the northeast to head to Florida each fall.
I don''t know when my next trip to Puerto Vallarta will be after this - not having a boat there will definitely cramp the style a little bit. But when you consider how much it cost to keep Sabbatical at the dock ($900+ per month), I''ll be happy to have the ship back in San Diego where I hope docks fees are lower.
Even if not, at least we''ll have better access.
But no more ''ballenas'' of beer. At least not while driving.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Say goodbye to Wal-Mart and a lot of other places

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The San Francisco Chronicle's web site ( had three inter-related stories today, though they might not seem connected.

The first (a MUST read) is a column by Mark Morford about how the environment has reached a watershed point (pardon the pun) and that we are on the brink of oil prices and supply getting so out of control that all the these cheap goods we are so addicted to (petroleum based clothes for example) will disappear sooner than you can swear WAL-MART.

It's a column and frantic, but it's enough to make you want to stock up on seeds and hope you can live on zucchini and heat your home with a wood stove.

The second piece is about gasoline prices and how they are escalating so fast that no one seems able to predict when -- of if -- the price will stablize. Commuters are already starting to freak out at the costs. People on the low end of the economic scale are having to choose between gasoline or a burrito. And mass transit companies (and the airlines) are saying they will have to raise fares, and soon, or go out of business.

The third story - about a bizarre as any I've run across in recently weeks - is about a site run by a young Norwegian couple that is all about protecting the environment, but features pornography as the hook to get people to sign up for the 'pay site.'

They are dedicated to saving the planet, and don't mind showing their butts (and a lot more, I suppose) to get people's attention and dollars.

Collectively, the stories are depressing (except for the third one, I suppose), because it all seems so out of control.

And people wonder why I read the comics last when I read a newspaper. I need to see the lighter side of all this, if there is one.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

How many captains does it take to deliver a boat?

PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, Nayarit, Mexico - The long slog from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego will begin in a couple of weeks - no buyers showed up at the dock waving cash to buy Sabbatical.

Son (and delivery captain) Dustin Fox will be commanding the vessel with good friend Don Tiffin (who built Sabbatical in Canada) and another amigo, Victor, along as crew. Captain Michael is opting out of the three-week voyage.

After pondering whether I should go along for the ride I realized that I wasn't really needed and just represented what we call 'squawking cargo,' and one more mouth to feed. (Not to mention, I would probably be designated as captain & cook.)

Just how many captains does it really take to deliver a sailboat?

And this is a delivery trip, no margarita sunsets (though the sun will set and there might be a margarita or two involved, I'll certainly have the boat stocked). No, this is an upwind sail, during which the ocean temperature will get progressively colder mile by mile until somewhere south and west of San Diego it will be long-john weather.

But I'll be anxiously awaiting Sabbatical's return to San Diego (our U.S. home port) and, we hope, a nice berth at the Silvergate Yacht Club where our friends our.

Our friend Terry Brothers is the port captain there and has said he'll do his best to squeeze our 48 foot, 15 foot wide vessel into at least some temporary dock space when the ship arrives.

Terry! Terry! Are you reading this?

Prepare for incoming!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Avoiding those long commutes for work

Kayak kommuter
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
SACRAMENTO, La Riviera Dr. - The newspaper this morning was full of laments from people who commute from Sacramento to the Bay Area to work - a two-hour grind of a trip (each way) that usually features lots of traffic, more than a few pileups and overheated tempers.

As I write this, I'm sitting at my desk in my consulting office, 18 feet from where I rest my head every night. Admiral Fox is in in her office, too, though she has a longer commute, probably 40 feet and has two traverse two doorways.

How much is your time worth? In the same four hours that people spend in their cars getting to San Francisco, I can usually get my writing quota for the entire day done.

The only real commute I ever did was when I first joined the newsroom in Petaluma, Calif. I had to drive about 35 minutes each way, not a bad drive certainly, but I resented the cost of gasoline (30 cents a gallon!) and the wear and tear on my aged VW bus. It was the same bus that had carried me and my family across country years before. The great gas shortage of the mid 1970s ended that commute when I was forced to leave Napa.

The commute to the university is hardly tough, too. If I walk, it's about 30 minutes, driving it takes 10 - and five of that is walking from the parking lot up into my faculty office.

The photo with today's blog is of a fellow in a kayak heading down the American River right behind our condo. I've heard tales of people who commute by boat and even considered if I could do that in the fall.

But given that the American River flows at about 3 knots towards the university, I'll probably stick to getting the exercise of walking.

Paddling home upstream would be a real bear.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The press of deadlines, the deadlines of press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After a delightful day of doing, well, not much Saturday, the deadlines for writing woke me up at 4 a.m., but instead of getting up and tapping on the keys for a few hours, I slipped back to sleep having three dreams in quick succession.

One had me working in a newspaper newsroom and I couldn't figure out how to get the computer to work to send my stories to the composing room. That was either a nightmare or a stray memory from so many years of having that happen.

The second I was in a boat with a friend and we were being chased by abnormally large crocodiles.

In the third, I needed to move from a house in the suburbs to the country - a house that had been spray-painted with graffitti by local teenage miscreants.

I should have gotten out of bed at 4 and would have been several thousand words to the good by now. But sometimes such early morning (late night?) exercises leave me so drained that the for entire day, I'm pretty worthless.

Hey! I heard that! (This blog has a special feature added to it by the new U.S. Atty. General that lets me read your mind when I say things like 'I'm pretty worthless.' Pretty neat, huh?)

The procrastination here has to end for now, just in time to shift over the new blog I created yesterday for the Class of '66.

More procrastination or simply part of my writing day?

Rejoice! We conquer!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Rejoice! We Conquer! But I'm still alive and kickin'

Rejoice! We Conquer
Originally uploaded by Brite light photos.
MARATHON, Greece - When the messenger Pheidippides ran from the plains of Marathon to Athens to announce a Greek victory over the Persian army, legend has it he shouted 'Rejoice! We conquer!' and then dropped dead on the spot. (Can we hope the same for a contemporary messenger - the Fox News Network?)

After running along the banks of the American River today, taking 41 minutes and 21 seconds to cover a distance I WILL NOT reveal, I wasn't sure if I was going to drop dead, but I did stand at the top of the levee behind my condo when I got home and shouted: REJOICE CITIZENS! WE CONQUER!

My neighbors all know I'm around the bend, so they just smiled at me from their decks and didn't even ask what-in-the-hell I was screaming about.

They know better and I've only lived here six months.

What finally got me motivated was the scale right by my bed - a practiced liar. No matter how many vegetables I eat in place of potatoes, hamburgers, cookies and all the wonderful foods I love to consume regularly, it would barely budge after 10 days of enough leafy green stuff to make me begin to sprout.

That called for the Fat Boy Program.

So every other day, and eventually every day, I will tie on the track shoes and walk/run (a helluva a lot more walk than run today, you probably guessed) until I can get the weight shifting down -- and I can get back into my normal clothes. (The loose fitting swim shorts of Mexico cover a lot of sins.)

And, unfortunately, it also means that I have to stick with the veggies, or the whole plan goes to hell quickly.



The beginning of a life of journalism and madness

JAMESTOWN, New York - This classic yearbook picture is of the staff of the weekly newspaper (The Trojan) of Southwestern Central High School.

At the far right, the skinny guy with glasses is me and in the foreground, in the dark sweater with the hairdo that looks like bell is Sandra Carlson, aka Sandy Carlson, for whom I have searched for years and been unable to locate.

The newspaper was the launch point for me for a life of writing, though at the time, the only reason I did it was because I needed to fill out my class schedule senior year and the only other academic option was Drama. Stage fright kept me from pursuing that, though I wonder where I would be had I headed down that route.

Instead, I wrote some sports, and with the another madman, John Rupp, wrote a column called "The Eavesdroppers," gossipy stuff in which we would say things like "Lee J. was having a great time at the drive-in with Dale A., until he got too hungry and left her sad and lonely in the car to go to the snack bar."

A tidbit like that prompted 'Lee J.' to chase me up a staircase and threatened to bash my skull into several pieces. He didn't but mostly I believe now, because he was worried that the school would toss his athletic butt out and he would get featured in another Eavesdropper column.

Rupp and I had a lot of fun and while I didn't really understand the power of the press at the time, I felt it.

There also was a high school journalism convention involved in being on the staff - a trip to Syracuse University where we spent a night in a fleabag hotel getting into all kinds of trouble, proving that two teacher chaperones are no match for a dozen hell-bent-for-fun high school seniors.

And while we were doing that, Hunter S. Thompson was just beginning his research on the book that launched him, 'Hells Angels.'


Friday, April 08, 2005

You're only paranoid if you think they're out to get you

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - We live in a pocket that faces a pastoral setting along the banks of the river, but the traquility of that is sometimes shattered by the realities of urban life.

Such as helicopters circling the American River Parkway, looking for bad guys. (Or during the summer, more likely looking for young women wearing bikinis, floating down the lazy river in inner tubes.)

Yesterday morning, before the weather front moved in to pound us with rain, the helicopters were circling madly just before we headed out for our morning walk. And, damn it if the helicopter I saw (and in the photo) wasn't black.

Remember the urban legends about the black helicopters?

I'm not paranoid, but it did look like the chopper was dipping low and that there was a cameraman shooting video. Couple that bit of surveillance with the latest Google feature that accesses satellite photos and you have a neat bit of invasion of privacy.

But were a sooooo much safer because of all this, right?


But on bright note on a dreary morning here in Sacramento (see I found my high school yearbook. Yes! Every photo brings back a memory (some quite painful) and in the next few days I will try to copy/scan some of the pictures, posting some if they are relevant.

Wait a minute, a relevant blog?

Isn't that an oxymoron, like 'military intelligence?'

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The stuff that dreams are made of - Part deux

SAN QUINTIN, south of Ensenada - An email yesterday said that our friends - and son - aboard Serendipty were going to go hide in a small, relatively safe anchorage many miles south of Ensenada to wait out some bad weather.

San Quintin is NOT a place you would normally go and hang for a few days.

But in one of those bizarre coincidences, both Admiral Fox and I dreamed about the Serendiptans and San Quintin. In both our dreams, we saw it as a snug, Canadian fjiord type of anchorage, not an open roadstead into which big waves can find their way.

Wishful thinking, or has there been some terraforming since I last passed it years ago?

San Quintin is protected from the north and west and so they should be safe. Some years ago friends on a sailboat heading south got caught in a big winter storm and ducked in there, but the wind was from the south.


But big mistakes go along with this boating business. In most cases it just makes for an uncomfortable time and a few hours of sheer terror.

I hope the Serendipty folks have had neither.

In the meantime, in Sacramento our springtime respite of beautiful weather has given way to the grayness of overcast and a barometer that fell so fast it gave me a headache.

More tea might solve that issue, and so would a second email from Serendipty that says they are safely anchored and enjoying a Pacifico on the beach.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The future of the world lies with the children, si?

SACRAMENTO - A few minutes ago a colleague at the university (and soon to be chair of our department) sent around a ranting email because the president of the U.S. apparently has declared that U.S. Treasury notes and the whole basis of the Social Security system is unsound.

It's the latest argument in the president's scheme for dismantling Social Security so we can invest money privately. (As if private accounts don't rely on the same trust factor.)

That the president is a nutjob is pretty obvious and has been since the day he took office. Next he might suggest that we go off paper money entirely and return to the gold standard. (Actually, he would be more likely to suggest that we use the coin of HIS realm, little plastic baggies of oil, gasoline or diesel as tokens of trade.)

But as I was pondering this (and getting depressed before I downed even my first cup of tea), I recalled my neighbor, Reed, who will be one year old on Friday and who is shown sitting unceremoniously in the driveway by my condo in the photo with today's blog. He doesn't get out much yet, being less than a year old, but he loves the outdoors, though he's not too hot on the hat his mom makes him wear.

Reed and his buddies in the one-year-old set will inherit the world in about 20 years, whether George W. has sabotaged Social Security or not, whether the polar ice caps melt so much that we have beachfront property here in Sacramento (We are not much above sea level now!), and whether the guvenator of California manages to destroy the most successful public employee pension system in the world.

Reed gets it all. And the best thing I can think of this morning is to make sure that Reed gets the best education he can and understands what all these white guys in ties have done to the world he and his buddies will take over.

He is the future, and represents hope, I suppose. George W. represents, well, I don't want to dwell on that anymore today.

Instead, I'll fast forward to Reed's 21st birthday and the better world he and his buddies (I hope!) are going to make.

And the way it's going, he'll probably have a beachhouse here next door to me.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Another great story to tell in my classes

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - For 10 years, besides cracking undergraduate heads at the university (trying to instill a little journalistic knowledge) I worked as a consultant at The Sacramento Bee newspaper, editing the Op-Ed pages and the Sunday Forum section when the editors of those respective parts of the newspaper took well-deserved vacations.

And in the course of those years, I had many conversations with Tom Philp, who Monday won the Pulitzer prize for a series of editorials.

Tom came up on the writing/reporting side of things. He didn't just jump into the editorial section, spewing opinions. The guy actually RESEARCHES, he actually REPORTS, and it makes his editorials ring true, something many newspaper editorials don't. (See USA Today, any day, on any topic...)

It's nice to see the good guys win in the Pulitizer contest, which has its own set of peculiar politics. Tom triumphed over them - plus he what he won for was excellent work.

And, like every other clinger-on, I'll grab a little of the glory myself, claiming that it was all my hallway conversations four or five years ago that help launched him. Well, ok, how about influenced? Swayed? Tipped?

Now I need to get cracking on my own writing this morning so I can win something, (or at least get some cash...).

Monday, April 04, 2005

Picture from the Queen contest in Banderas Bay

PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA - The photo with today's blog is of the two contestants in the Banderas Bay Queen contest (BBQ for short) about which I produced a small video that is guaranteed to offend many and make a few laugh.

How often do you get to include the Miss America Theme song, pictures of Queen Latifah, and even a photo of our guvenator?

Not often, nor should you often.

The www/ website was down for the entire day, but is back up now, just in time for this blog. In the meantime I signed up for two other photos services, neither of which is nearly as good as Flickr.

Tomorrow it's back to life at the University after a morning of writing. When will I ever get back to The Class of '66? Maybe when I find my yearbook, which I seem to have misplaced.

The Queen(s) of Banderas Bay - a movie

LA RIVIERA STUDIOS, Sacramento, Calif. - Sunday afternoon, watching the raindrops, instead of working on The Class of '66, I pulled out the video camera to review some of the videotape from my most recent Mexico foray and ran across some truly bizarre stuff.

But the most entertainingly bizarre was a four-minute segment from the opening party of the Banderas Bay Regatta which featured a beauty queen contest. And it was not your average contest or beauty queens.

Today, I'm sad to report, that my photo program ( is out of action until later today and so the still photos will not be posted - at least right now. That's probably just as good. But I did complete a director's cut of a video, complete with Travis Tritt's 'Girls Gone Wild,' as part of the soundtrack.

I'll take it back to Mexico with me in a few weeks to show at the Yacht Club which sponsored part of the BBQ (Banderas Bay Queen) contest.

The things we do for art.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Offices of Rev. Fitzgerald open for business

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - I have degrees in English (Sonoma State College, 1973), and Communication Studies (California State University, Chico, 1983) and now I have an ecclesiastical credential courtesy of the Universal Life Church of Modesto, California, where the church is headquartered only a few hours drive from here.

In many states, I can now marry people, legally, though as a ship's captain, I supposed I could have been marrying people if we simply sailed outside the three-mile national limit of the U.S. or the much expanded territorial waters of Mexico.

It would be a lot more lucrative to be able to perform divorces, but that would require enrolling in law school, a bar exam (not the bar exam I take most weekends), and, ugh, some actual work.

This document came after spending an embarrassingly small amount of time at A few keystokes later and 'voila' an ordained minister.

But the biggest question is can I now declare my condo on the American River a church, and exempt from taxes? We could call it The La Riviera Chapel of the Oaks & Assorted Ragweeds.


And just where to list it on my resume is a puzzle. Is it community service, consulting, professional development, or personal?

Or does it suggest a whole new category for my resume: Just Dumb Stuff.

Amen, y'all.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Greyhound buses disappearing in California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sixty-two cities have just been cut from the Greyhound bus company's routes, among them Petaluma and a score of other small towns in the state I've traveled through over the years.

This bit of news comes on the heels of the latest federal plan for Amtrak: pull the federal support and turn over the whole thing to the states. The States! As if states can effectively pay for (and manage) a national passenger rail line.

The message the public is getting, of course, is pretty clear: The only form of legitimate travel in the USSA is the private automobile. And given that gasoline prices are hitting the roof, legitimate profits for those holding oil stocks are also going through the roof. Lucky for oil stockholders, there's someone in Washington D.C. who things getting rid of Amtrak, high oil prices, and probably ditching Greyhound bus routes are all swell ideas. Swell for pocketbooks of Republican political donors anyway.

Contrast this latest blow to the mass transit system in Mexico, where you can take a bus to even the most remote villages (a scary trip, maybe, but at least you can get their without having to buy a car...).

Mexico has the bus thing figured out, just the same as Europe has bus and rail travel made easy, relatively cheap, and most of all convenient.

I'm glad I own a 33-miles-per-gallon Miata and live within walking distance of where I work.


Friday, April 01, 2005

A Bright Angel arrives in Paradise

PARADISE VILLAGE MARINA, Nayarit, Mexico - As I was packing to come back to the U.S., Jill and Michael Gottlieb cruised in on Bright Angel, their Ericson 35.

I met Jill and Mike in Zihuatenejo last year and then again in Mazatlan in the fall. Mike finished a novel while cruising (no, I don't hate him, I hate his work ethic). Jill is his editor and my favorite mental image is of her sitting on the bow of their boat in Ixtapa Marina, thumbing through pages of his first draft.

The Bright Angels, I thought, had run out of cruising money back around Jan. 1, but perhaps a book contract came through. (Now I do hate him!) Or maybe, like many cruisers, they just decided to figure out how to stretch those pesos a little farther.

I had to dash to the aeropuerto and didn't get a chance to talk with them before leaving Wednesday for the USSA. But maybe through the magic of email we'll talk.

And maybe Mike will give me the name of his book agent.