Thursday, November 29, 2007

Searching for the NFL in all the wrong places

I wouldn’t call myself a sports fanatic, but the enthusiasm my husband holds for football and baseball leaks out and infects me. So I pay more attention to the NFL than I might otherwise.

Tonight’s game is being touted as one of the premiere match ups of the season with old man Favre against the youngster Romo. Both teams are 10-1 and it’s likely they’ll also meet in the post season.

Of particular interest is that the game is being broadcast on the NFL network, a for-pay offering that may or may not be something you get in your house. (We actually have a 30-day trial subscription that we opted for on Thanksgiving.)

If you don’t get the NFL network, you might try going to your favorite Sports Bar. On the road in Virginia, Paul did some pre-game sleuthing yesterday to find an appropriate viewing venue. (Reminiscent, perhaps, of our NFL-playoff-sports-bar search last January in London.)

Sports Bar #1
Paul: “Hey, will you be showing the Packers/Cowboy game tomorrow night?”
Sports Bar #1 Greeter: “Sure, look at all our TVs.” (Waves hands around.) “Of course.”
Paul: “So you guys get the NFL network?”
Sports Bar #1 Greeter: “The NFL what? What’s that?”
Paul: “Can I talk to the manager?”
Sports Bar #1 Manager: “The NFL what? What’s that?”

Sports Bar #2
Paul: “Hey, will you be showing the Packers/Cowboy game tomorrow night?”
Sports Bar #2 Manager (by-passing the Greeter): “Absolutely. I’m a Cowboy fan. I’m going to be watching it myself.” (Proudly.)
Paul: “Great, I’ll see you tomorrow then.”
Sports Bar #2 Manager: “Just to let you know. Karaoke starts at 9:00.”
Paul: “But the game starts at 8:15—wha?”
Sports Bar #2 Manager (shrugs): “Our customers expect karaoke on Thursday nights.”

Sports Bar #3
Paul: “Hey will you be showing the Packers/Cowboy game tomorrow night?”
Sports Bar #3 [ . . . and the search goes on . . . ]

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sometimes you can jes' pick 'em

Sunset at Beacon's in LeucadiaNo, not the weekly football pool.

No, not your guitar.

Then, what? Why, a particularly spectacular sunset!

No, you can’t always tell ahead of time, but when clouds are whisping about, throwing threads of fancy in the sky, you’ve got a shot (or two). These were all taken the same evening (Tuesday).

Above we see the glorious globe stealing the show at Beacon’s in Leucadia.

Sunset at Beacon's in Leucadia

But when the sun is gone, the clouds take over and illuminate the sky. The water provides the reflection. The mix provides the magic.

Sunset at Beacon's in Leucadia Skies like this must have inspired Monet. I can see why he spent weeks studying light at sunset and at sunrise. Here's a few more of the same in my flickr set.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Intertidal Zone

Tidal action created waves of sand and curves of sea water.Today's full moon and low tide produced yards and yards of normally submerged beach, giving dozens of Thanksgiving weekend beachcombers plenty of sand between their toes.
Sandpipers scavenge for their meal in the low tide sandSandpipers scavenge for their meal in the low tide sand.
Rocks form tidal pools in the intertidal zoneTan-colored cliffs reflect in tidal pools formed by strips of rock in the intertidal zone.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bitter Sweet

The child was not yet three. Her Daddy put her in one of those child pack carrier contraptions. He picked her up and put her on his back. The dog was an unusual mix, maybe shepherd and terrier, maybe something else as well. This little menagerie went for a walk to the beach on that hot July day.

“No!” cried the Daddy in dismay as he saw the train approaching. The dog could not hear.

Only two returned to the house.

“What’s wrong?” cried the Mommy. “Where’s the dog?”

The little girl answered, “The dog hit the train.”

In sadness, the Mommy and Daddy buried the dog in the soft sand near the lagoon. They gave her the special bandana that she sometimes wore, her collar and tags, placing them gently by her side, and her tennis ball, her lovely, favorite tennis ball. They cried and said goodbye.

Less than a week later, the phone rang. It was the lab.

“I’m pregnant,” said the Mommy and she cried softly with joy for the new life, with regret for the recent loss.

Does it make it hurt less when you’ve lost a friend to gain a new life? They call it bitter sweet.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Cabo San Lucas

Lover's Beach at Cabo San LucasAt the very tip of the Baja Peninsula lies lovely Cabo San Lucas and Lands End, the famous rock formations that divide the Pacific Ocean from the Sea of Cort├ęs (also known as the Gulf of California). We come here every other year, a short two-hour flight that whisks us away from the fog and the cold of San Diego in November to the summer-like temperatures of Cabo.

Sunny though it may be, we work really hard at staying out of the sun with hats, shade umbrellas, and cool but covering-up clothing.

The best part is taking someone who has never seen the charms of this locale; the worst part is noticing all of the unbridled building and construction that takes away the pueblo and puts in the resort.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Places In Between

The Places In Between by Rory Stewartby Rory Stewart

Sometimes a book is a good read because the author has an incredible imagination and spins a story that draws you in and keeps you captive. Other times, a book is a good read because the story it tells is true. It opens your eyes to a new and different world. The Places In Between is such a book.

Imagine walking in the dead of winter from Herat to Kabul in Afghanistan. As it turns out, there’s more than one route. One is longer and circumvents the mountains. The second is more direct, but requires traversing the mountains, climbing over passes that reach 13,000 feet elevation.

Imagine taking this trek and surviving and not getting frostbite. Advice from the Security Service (a scary duo who interviewed the author at the onset) is simply put:

You are the first tourist in Afghanistan. It is mid-winter—there are three meters of snow on the high passes, there are wolves, and this is a war. You will die, I can guarantee. Do you want to die?
Aah, but Rory Stewart is not your run-of-the-mill Scotsman. Indeed, he is used to living and traveling all over the world, working in diplomatic positions for the British Empire for much of his career. He is an Eton and Oxford-educated prodigal son, a historian in the most all-encompassing sense of the word. So, it is like a treasure find to read Rory Stewart’s account.

Not only does he describe what he is seeing, putting the people he meets in context of the land and the culture, but in an historical context as well. And sometimes, we discover, that not much as changed in a thousand years. The places that Rory Stewart visits—the places in between—are hidden from the world. No one covers them in the mainstream media, the newspapers, or journals. If not for Mr. Stewart, these places would not exist to us.

In addition to surviving the elements, Rory Stewart must also deal with a shifting political climate, where even the locals are not sure who their friends and enemies really are.

It is January, 2002, and the “coalition invasion” has just unseated the Taliban. Mr. Stewart gets unasked-for armed escorts and letters of introduction. The escorts are sometimes helpful and sometimes a hindrance. The letters work mostly for the next village alone, and from each village he must obtain letters or escorts anew. Many village leaders are wealthy within their own culture, but not all are literate. Rory Stewart’s language skills, people skills, and raw confidence see him through some tense situations.

Along the way, he acquires and then befriends a worn-out Mastiff dog who becomes his traveling companion and probably saves Rory’s life in a Jack London-type survival vignette.

And through this whole saga, Rory Stewart is carefully neutral on politics, carefully pragmatic I would say. His most political observation is

Most people in this area had not heard of Britain, though they had heard of America. Some had even heard of the World Trade Center, but they had no real concept of what it had been or why the coalition had bombed Afghanistan.
His agenda is historical from the beginning and he continues that work even today, heading a foundation that helps save traditional Afghan arts and architecture, buildings, artifacts, and crafts in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan. The Turquoise Mountain area, one of the place-gems he happened upon in his trek, is the source of his foundation’s name. Rory Stewart currently lives in Kabul.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Have Become One of the Paparazzi

Adam Sandler filming 'You Don't Mess with the Zohan' on location in Cabo San Lucas (Playa Medano)The story: while strolling the beach (Playa Medano) in Cabo San Lucas just to the left of Pueblo Bonito Rose, we stumbled upon the active filming of You Don't Mess With the Zohan, a 2008 Adam Sandler film. He is a Mossad agent who fakes his death so he can re-emerge in New York City as a hair stylist. Here is the video of one small shoot: Adam Sandler doing a push-up on the beach and then, his work finished for the time being, walking off the set.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Shining Through

Original artwork by Joop VeldhuisJoop (pronounced ‘Yoop’, rhymes with ‘soap’) is my uncle. He’s from the Netherlands. He’s opinionated, stubborn, smart, musical, and artistic. He has created lovely oil paintings—works with abstract shapes and colors that tell a story.

His classical music recording collection fills shelves and shelves with CDs and VHS tapes of public television performances. Joop is kind and generous with people he knows and stingy and critical with authoritative figures. That could be left-over from the war. He joined the Dutch underground resistance as a teenager and was captured by the Germans. He escaped, but he was recaptured. Somewhere along the way, they broke his back (literally).

Miraculously, he survived. He emigrated to America. He taught art and art history in high school and met and married my aunt. They retired to the beautiful hills of North Carolina. I was visiting them—well, actually, I was taking care of Joop while my aunt went on a trip to visit her son.

Joop is a big man, but he has become a bit frail. He has a heart condition and diabetes that is controlled through a careful diet. He’s actually doing pretty well, considering all of his health conditions, but he can’t travel. This morning I fix his breakfast and we finish our coffee in preparation for the day.

Joop is a most gracious host and asks me, “Did you sleep well?” His Dutch accent has faded only slightly over the years.

“Wonderful, yes.”

“So, what would you like to do today?” he asks. Joop is the host and I am the guest. He wants to make sure my visit is pleasant.

“Oh,” I said, “I thought we’d drive into Marion, go shopping for some groceries. Later we can drive to the National Park’s Visitor’s center and look at the crafts if you like.”

“Yes, good. They have some wonderful ceramics there. Wonderful. But expensive. It’s really outrageous what they charge.” A pause. “Where’s Laura?”

“She’s visiting Randy. She’ll be home on Friday.” I smile in hopes that my smile will make it okay.

“Oh. That’s a long time.” (He misses her.) He thinks about it for a minute. “Would you like some breakfast?” Always the host.

“No, Joop. I’m fine. I already ate, thanks.” He looks down at his own spent meal and contemplates his breakfast. I get up and clear the plates. We eat in the living room on trays. The TV is on (always PBS), but it’s low. It’s really just background noise. The cat comes in and takes her place next to Joop. The dog growls a warning at me when I move close to take his tray.

Joop watches the television for a few minutes. I return and take my place on the sofa. He’s watching a program about ice skating.

“You know,” he says, “we used to go ice skating on the canals in winter. We would go out for hours. It was so cold. We would have races. I was pretty good. Then my mother would make us hot tea. I loved ice skating.”

His discourse about ice skating morphs into his father’s garden, his mother’s love for tea, and the camaraderie he had with his brothers and sisters. He doesn’t talk about the war and imprisonment, but he has in the past. I want to sit down with him and ask him all about that, but Laura doesn’t approve. She doesn’t want him to relive something that was so painful. So I respect her wishes and never ask him about it. His memory of his childhood is pretty good, though. Somehow, it shines through and becomes alive in his words.

The phone rings and I answer it. Laura is checking in.

“Yes,” I say, “we’re fine. We’ve just finished breakfast. . . Yes, we’re going out for a bit today. . . Okay, we’ll see you Friday.”

I hang up. “That was Laura. She says she’s doing fine with Randy and sends her love.”

“When is she coming back?”

“Friday. We’ll drive to the airport to pick her up.”

“Oh, that’s a long time.” He pauses. “So, what would you like to do today? Do you want some breakfast?”

And after a bit he adds, “Did you sleep well?”

A few years passed and surprisingly, vibrant, bright-eyed Laura succumbed to cancer just two months before Alzheimer's disease took Joop. I miss them both.