The sea has not changed

Today a sailboat hit the rocks of the Newport Jetty and sank. If there was anyone on board they’re dead; no survivors found.

This comes a week after a couple were swept to their deaths off the same jetty.

Pleasure boating and jetty fishing aren’t North Sea fishing, but they’re deadly serious business.

Winds to 45 mph and a storm-surge sea? I’ll stay on land. All the way on land, in fact.

When I was a child, we were anchored in our little boat off Catalina Island in a cove, and we lost the dinghy off the back of the boat at night. We couldn’t be without that dinghy, so my father swam out into the black water with a flashlight in his teeth to get it. It was a long, long time before he came back. I think that was our family’s most frightening moment.

Bird Attack.

The heron in the empty bath

Edit: It seems unlikely that this was a heron due to the rarity of white herons in this area. The editors egret the error.

A heron dived into my back yard this morning, ate both goldfish and a few of the mosquito-eater fish out of the pond, tried without success to walk out the back gate due to insufficient runway length, mesmerized the cat, and finally hopped on the roof and left. The rest of the photos are in the Heron Visit Flickr set

late nights and freeway flying always makes me sing

I got an In-N-Out double-double last night and ate it in my car. I had the seat kicked back and the sunroof open, and I was looking straight at the full moon. Mars is still very close, so I could see the Red Planet with an unaided eye right there too.

It doesn’t take much to send me into an astronomical trance. I think about the fact that I’m looking at another planet, and how far away and huge it has to be, just looking up at the moon. When it’s full and looks oversized on a clear night, the moon is just hypnotizing. Mars even more so, since I can look directly at and see an impossibly remote place that maybe, just maybe people might visit someday. I was pleasantly dragged back into sophomoric “oh wow the universe” mode that way and spent a while there.

Years ago I noticed that living in suburban Southern California has a particular depressive effect. When you’re surrounded entirely by man-made things — signs, stores, roads, parks, airplanes, houses, gas stations — the world starts to feel like an extension of the people around you and their attitudes. And here, the man-made world around us is new and cheap and tawdry and already falling apart. It’s a mess of convenience stores sprinkled over beige bedroom communities, strip malls, sterile little parks, drive throughs. The scenery does not inspire. Eventually I get bad theology in my head: the world was built by money-grubbing assholes who didn’t care about their work, and it’s falling apart.

The cure for this is nature. I am a city boy at heart. I don’t much enjoy camping, small-town rural life terrifies me, and I feel naked without a used bookstore and some good coffee down the street. But I like to visit nature. Even an hour staring out into the Pacific Ocean is a decent recharge. But really I need a day in the desert here every few months. When you’re out past 29 Palms with nothing between you and some craggy mountains 30 miles away, and it’s perfectly silent except for creatures you can’t see, there’s no 7-11 to get you down. For me it’s a reminder that the world has its own vastness, its own power, its own logic and function, and that my little world of stoplights and shoe discounters and empty greasy parking lots is small and not representative.

Slumped back in my car seat staring at the moon and Mars last night, I thought “Yeah. It’s time to go there.” Not Mars or the moon (which would be cool also), but the desert. It would be good to shed a layer of suburban grime and doom again.

Then I sat up to get going and fries fell down my pants.

Japanese Maple

Years ago my mother bought this tree, knowing that it would be a gamble. Japanese maple trees are beautiful and unusual, but they often fail in our climate. She lost her gamble, but the tree is beautiful even as it withers. Prompted by hexennacht asking about its color, here are a couple of shots:

Japanese Maple Leaf

Japanese Maple Tree #2

Childhood Tales: The Plants I Hated

  1. Algerian Ivy:

    The back of the house and half the front were covered with ivy in about a three foot thickness. It grew at about an inch a day. Dark chambers inside the ivy contained black widow spiders, rats, ants, grass fleas, worms, and probably gigantic poisonous snakes. The ivy secreted ichor that melted paint and stuck to everything. Stuff rolled into the ivy caves and didn’t come back, especially toys. Anything that spent time in the ivy turned into a damp, foul-smelling version of itself. My earliest garden chore was trimming back the ivy and prying the more tenacious bits off the stucco and concrete with a dull table knife. When my father finally decided that the ivy had to go, an army of landscaping guys with power tools, chemicals, and fire spent a week fighting it. To this day the smell of Algerian ivy makes me slightly ill. I noticed last week that our neighbor’s ivy is crawling over our garden shed towards the house. It’s time for chemicals, fire, and power tools.

  2. Bottlebrush:

    At one side of the house, looming over the carport driveway, was a gigantic bottlebrush plant. Beautiful red cone-shaped flowers made of a million little hairs stretched out. And oozed some kind of sticky goo that instantly stained any object. When skating into the carport, if I cut it just a little too close I’d sideswipe a bit of bottlebrush and suddenly be coated with Nature’s Pigmented Airplane Glue. It was my job to cut this thing back, and when I did I always got a nice raised rash on my skin everywhere it touched.

  3. Bird of Paradise:

    At the corner of the house seven or eight of these tropical jungle plants lived. Their “flowers” looked like the Toucan Sam of the vegetable kingdom, or like an early prototype for the banana: long pelican beak-like boats of leaves with colorful petals protruding. They slowly produced a stinking greasy liquid which dripped down the plant. As the goo dripped, the “flower” rotted from the inside. Flies and ants gathered, and a miasma of South Sea decay rose into the air. I was assigned to hack off these diseased protuberances and heave them into the trash, in the process covering myself with insects and plant spooge.

  4. Bougainvillea:

    This is an awfully pretty bush, with shiny spiky leaves. We had several in the back yard and one in front next to the bottlebrush. Bougainvillea has very long, sharp thorns. As the plant grows older, the thorns get longer, and wider, and stronger. Its blooms and leaves obscure the thorns pretty well, so that when you’re in the process of wiping out on a skateboard you can easily forget, in the heat of the moment, which plant you’re about to belly-flop into. It hurts so, so very much to slam into a bougainvillea, or to be heaved into one by another kid. Hey, guess what one of my other tasks was? I learned very early on to borrow Dad’s gloves when I was told to clip this one.

I liked the cherry tomatoes and the basil and mint I grew. I liked the calla lilies and the tangerine trees and the big pine, and the palm that was a bitch to cut back but big and beautiful. And I even liked the cactus, which was spiky and dangerous but honest about it; you couldn’t fault a cactus for stabbing you, it was your own damned fault. But I still hold grudges about those others.

I’m a village explainer, which is fine if you’re a village.

The dunes are on the move.

In the market tonight a sixtyish man in one of those store-provided handicap carts was buzzing around the aisles, followed by a clerk who was helping him. (They’re really nice there.) At one point he lurched suddenly around a corner at me and I saw that the entire front basket on the cart was full of the largest possible containers of skin lotion. “You want all of these, really?” asked the clerk as she dropped a couple more in. Looking and sounding exactly like Jack Nance in Twin Peaks, he half-yelled “Yeah! I use them to PUT MY ARTIFICIAL LEG ON.” The bro dudes next to me, who were buying protein bars and vodka, looked stunned. I bet he has a fish in his percolator, too.

I think too much, I talk too much, I write too much. At least I don’t smoke, drink, or eat too much, so it’s more a problem for others than it is for me. Something I inherited from my father is the tendency to take over a conversation and deliver paragraphs, speeches, stories. Like him I have a compulsion, and like him I always feel later that I’ve overdone it. It’s like a miniature bipolar cycle in which I have the most! important! thing! to say! and then later on I bottom out and think “What the hell was I babbling about, and why were they so patient?” Stupid brain, can’t find a happy medium.

The new girl at Diedrich has a really forced-sounding Irish accent. I wonder what that’s all about?