Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bears, Burning pigs, and other wild-life

We had a most interesting dinner tonight, inviting Oskar the Spanish scientist who is studying the coexistence (or not) of indigenous and non-native plants in the wild hills of the Santa Ynez, to join us for chicken, ratatouille, and salad (served European-style, post-dinner). The rambling halls of the ranch were chilly, but warmed nicely as this charming (and handsome) young Madrilenian spoke of his work (in near perfect English) and we lay persons tried to comprehend his postdoctoral efforts.

Susan and I are celebrities of sorts here, having seen a bear on our early morning walk – an exceedingly large black bear (actually deep brown & shaggy, but black bear species) ambling through the valley. The workers and volunteers at the reserve are flabbergasted and in fact quite jealous: more than one said, ‘I can’t believe I’ve been here x-many years and have never seen a bear and you see one the first day.”

But we did, and as we finished dinner Eric, our house-mate and maintenance man, came home and joined us, and we found out he’d seen the same bear the prior weekend. Impressively huge and lumbering, the bear has been coming increasingly close to the house. Because he can. He is absolutely HUGE, with an acorn-stuffed belly that brushes the ground as he strolls across the valley.

A bigger concern is mountain lions and Eric said he’d seen two green eyes gleaming at him in the pre-dawn hours yesterday. And the pigs. Yes, feral pigs that terrorize the reserve in packs. It’s illegal to fire a gun on site so hunting is forbidden, but they can glean the passel (learn what you call various groups of critters here) with bow & arrow. A couple of 250-lb angry pigs tearing up the turf in your direction can be mighty scary though, Eric confided, and during his last encounter his arrow only grazed its mark. With nowhere to flee (up a tree being the escape of choice when surly swine are charging) he was relieved when they retreated (telling us his alternative was to do a jumping jack over the pig if it continued, which had me – fairly clumsy – fantasizing about landing on a bristling bristly hog, backwards, like a mutton buster ...). Our conversation led to other methods of culling pigs, which is how we conjured up the image of tasering one of the feral creatures, and potentially having a burning pig scurry through the dry chaparral, trail blazing (most literally) -- the first annual ‘burning pig festival’ and probably setting all of Santa Ynez on fire.

So goes our thought process. And we’d only had a wee sip of gin.

Now it’s pitch black; just our few bedroom lights burning. With its antique build and drafty windows the house is cold: I’d planned to shower but ... may just crawl into my sleeping bag, pull the extra blanket over my head, and fall asleep ‘til the coyotes start scampering and howling outside.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Not your typical mother-daughter outing

Yesterday was a layday ... it seems to work out better when we girls plan. We went to the zoo (very tired and dodgy, with pocked walkways and itty bitty cages. they house native rescue animals for the most part: we were taken by a three-legged bear, and a couple of raccoons who tumbled in a kiddie pool, while a porcupine watched enviously from another cage), did a little shopping and then embarked on a mother-daughter triathlon: Coco won in all three events – horseshoes, ping pong, and swimming.


Today resumed with an exciting zipline excursion. Coco – surprisingly – was quite nervous. Right off the bat the guys singled her out:  calling her Pinky (for her pink zebra print shirt) and also point out that she, being so short, would be on tippy toes all day; as they clip you on and off the cables. I’ll admit even I (a three-time zipliner) had a racing heart and case of the willies, but all told it was exciting and a nice feather to have in your cap.


We threatened to go kayaking but were too lazy ... instead we hung at the hotel, swam, and I captured the ping pong title after a lengthy (really lengthy) game. Then we walked to Murray’s Saloon in the village. We couldn’t discern where to go, and Murray’s had good YELP reviews, so we strolled the dark and empty streets to the pub. It was really noisy and raw; we grabbed menus from the bartender and took a seat in the corner, and for a while, debated leaving ... but the bartender (Jenny) was friendly; the reviews had been good; and they had Delirium Tremens on tap. ‘Glad we stayed. Within about 20 minutes the vibe improved: Jenny stayed on top of the tables despite the busy bar; the karaoke singers began (some great, some truly tragic – like the guy flatly singing Donna Summer’s “LET’S DANCE” ... ) and the food – especially the $10 seared ahi with grilled veggies - was outrageously good. We chatted with some locals until finally, reluctantly, we left. Tomorrow is a busy day: checking out early and heading toRedlands where we’re going to shoot some clays, then go to Newport Beach and enjoy a duffy ride with friends. Maybe not your typical mother-daughter outing, but a good one for us. 


Bedtime now, over & out!   

Monday, August 19, 2013

Road Trip!

Our Coco-cation was delayed by six hours and several hundred $ however finally, at 5:38PM, we pulled onto the freeway; Coco ceremoniously put in the Official Road Trip CD (first selection: Icona Pop’s song I LOVE IT -  “...I crashed my car into the bridge. I watched, I let it burn ...”  ominous choice?)  and we were underway. We and our four spanking new tires and alignment (I went in for an oil change – prudent I thought, before a road trip – and was advised I urgently needed new tires and alignment. Is this because I’m a woman? Blond? Both?), drove many smooth hours on broad, overly populated freeways until we finally climbed the 330N, and just as the setting sun was painting the sky candy-colored blue and pink, with a plump, very howling-worthy moon rising, and the LA basin fading into a blue-gray mist, we arrived at Big Bear Lake.

At a late hour we dined on El Pollo Loco and brownies, and sipped pink wine as we dangled our polished toes in the hot tub, letting the altitude help us along. Here at 6,800 ft the rosé is a wee bit more potent (even our bags of potato chips are voluminous) and we are now chilling and looking forward to our coming adventures.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

“Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where, we don’t know where.”

Simon & Garfunkel’s “Only Living Boy is New York” is playing softly on the stereo. We’re reaching under the small kite, in a pleasant 12k breeze, making sweet time beneath a bluebird sky. Sated with full bellies, delighting in the magnificent weather, mellow, lost in our private thoughts and memories.

 “Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where, we don’t know where ...”

Don’t think I don’t think of you out here on this ocean, my ocean, that you trespassed last spring. Traversing my water. Doing my thing. Why? What did you hope to accomplish? Pissing on my playground? As if I need your scent to remind me.
But now I have reclaimed it. Recorded her sunrises, and sets; counted the stars, fished her seas. The Pacific is mine again.
Don’t think I don’t think of you, as I cross this latitude. You were here once. Once.
Now gone.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Glam life

Here I am doing the shower dance again. Sort of a rain dance ... but instead of boundless precipitation from the sky, it’s begging for a shower: with steamy hot water and decent pressure; typically in the sterile, tiled confines of a marina or yacht club locker room which is either a) unheated in the frosty winter or b) dank and steamy in a tropical summer clime or even c) both of the above; done naked, jiggling alongside a vinyl shower curtain of questionable cleanliness; and right about the time you realize you forget shampoo. (But not to worry, I dug up some dish soap). Nothing is worse than standing naked in a locker room, staring at a spigot of cold water gurgling from the showerhead or needle-fine shards of water stingily misting out, when what you need is a really good, hot soaking.


Today’s gig was busy but a fun one: about five hours on the water, preceded and followed by several-many hours downloading, editing and FTP’ing pix; sending specific pix of specific teams to specific media; taking more pix of other competitors – in this case with JJ Fetter, the Olympic medalist who came to give a fun and sometimes irreverent talk on “Path to the Podium”  (“telephone-pole sized masts” and “Finn sailors are only good for helping take a boat off the roof of your van”) plus all the other work I am supposed to be doing at this time.


My duties went on and on, until one of the guys at the club chased me out of the back office to my boat (mi casa for the week, a very nice Tartan 35 which is super-roomy as far as camping out on someone’s boat goes) with a bribe of two plastic cups of wine.  I worked on deck as the sun painted Newport Harbor angelic colors, then dragged my work (and two cups of wine) below. It was then I decided a blistering potent shower was due, before it got too dark and I’d have to grope my way back onto the boat. And it was lovely. Steaming hot from the get-go, good water pressure, and yes I even found some sort of soap to use.


Now, after a long and head-banging-inducing teleconf and now I’m going to bed, and will climb into my sleeping bag in the forepeak of the boat, with the companionway and a few other hatches open which keeps it cool, but airy  – still shy of allllll my work, stories, deadlines, press releases, photo edits. Oh but how glamorous it is!



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Still fighting the same damned (sea) monster

I don’t know when the ocean seeped into my blood.

When the salt became my oxygen.

How the shrill of seagulls became my morning aubade; the slapping of halyards my soothing lullaby.

My spirit lifts at the rush of the surf. The spray fills me with desire.

Earth is a stranger. Land holds me no charms ... but a few points to navigate by, and then I go on.

I am a woman mis-cast. In the grip of a (sea) monster.

The siren has sung. Conventional life cast upon the rocks.

All else seemly is surrendered – sacrificed – for the whisper of the sea.

When did the sunset become my Cinemax? The nomadic moon, my beacon?


FLASHBACK Dec. 29, 2002

I went out back to dump the trash and heard the waves banging so furiously against the beach I had to go down and see. I put on a heavy jacket. The worst of the wind was blocked by the high berm built to keep the sea and houses from meeting, but when I climbed clumsily to the top of the rock-strewn sand dune. the wind whipped my ears. For a moment I was envious of the only other person I saw, standing a few yards away in a big hooded parka.

The ocean called.

Enormous swells barreled toward the beach, curling high and majestic, tauntingly. They crested prematurely in the shallows, filling the air with a briny vapor and spreading a frothy lawn at the foot of the berm.

The wind drove hard from the west, where the sea ended in a crisp, black swipe, and a jumble of lavender clouds teased of exotic places in the distance.

My ears hurt from the blustery cold. I could hear it accelerate with each gust, pitching up and up in a frenzy.

The ocean called.

Oh how I want to get back to sea -- but me? Broken*, broke.

I stumbled along the top of the berm to the lifeguard shack, and went home.


* this was just a year after I’d been Humpty-Dumptied and put back together, and had just learned how to walk again.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Adios Mexico

 * please pardon the delayed posts, I had limited internet while down south *
Sunrise over El Salvador


Our sail from Huatulco to Chiapas was everything a night sail should be ... alas our exit was not.

We left Marina Chiapas uneventfully enough, and were greeted by big seas and a fresh breeze as we left the jetty. Sails set, we cruised blissfully south toward Guatemala in refreshing conditions ... But within a few hours the sun had set, the wind had died; we were threading our way through a minefield of long lines and pangas, some marked with strobes, some not :(  ... ; not sure which lights belonged together... no sooner had we escaped that mire, than the fog rolled in. It was a tedious watch, the deck growing wet from the fog, me straining with binoculars in search of anything.

Just past midnight: Paul took the next watch, then Pamela, and I’m not back on til 6AM! Heavenly! That is, unless I get awakened to help set sails ... or for moral support, once the moon sets and the blackest curtain of night falls.


the welcoming committee
The next morning was like waking up in a bowl of milk.
The creamy dawn was dead still. The only difference between the sky and water was the heaving of the glassy sea, which reflected the rising sun in a fiery squiggle of gold.

By 8 am it is starting to burn off ...Already Pamela has caught and released a bonito, and gone to bed; after a tortuous evening watches, dodging pangas and cargo ships and goblins in the misty night. I walk the deck – to check the rigging, jiggle the fishing lines, out of boredom. It is filthy, with bits of dirt and ash that have floated on deck. The surface of the water ahead is faintly prickled and as I look down, I see a chowder of millions of scrawny red jellyfish -- dispelling any notion of going for dip in what is sure to be a still and steamy day.
A few languid dolphins break the surface of the water. A shark skims the glassy veneer; a ray floats dreamily below. Paul is napping in the cockpit. Even the fish are not biting. Everyone, everything, is lazy today. But the radar & AIS show me several boats leaving Chiquimulilla, heading our way. Despite the desire to be veg, it is time to be vigilant.

hitching a ride on sea turtle


El Salvador provides a different experience. The sky was clear; the volcanos silhouetted against the dawn, spectacular. During the night we had a ghost ship (not on AIS, presumably military) that shadowed us just a mile abeam, with no lights on. DOH! Wind that built from 0 to 25 in minutes, then no sooner had we reefed; crapped out entirely. Wind from the east, west; south, north ... opposing swells, wind chop. Mountains ablaze, dusting our deck with ash.
By day we had utter calm, and a visit from a rambunctious pod of spotted dolphin. We caught and released another bonito – fish snobs that we are. 'Were under siege by shearwaters: one of these black and white seabirds hitched a ride for quite a while; with his webbed feet and the lurching deck of the boat, he stumbled awkwardly like a drunk between patches of shade – then his friends came squawking over, chastising him to return to the flock (or so we think ...) 'Saw many turtles afloat, glimmering in the sun: some with birds perched on their shiny bulbous backs.

All day and night we’d heard the thundering surf along the El Salvador coast; still – as we approached the coordinates, where we would linger until the appropriate tide to enter the sand bar – the sound and spume was awesome (and frightening). We drifted, two miles offshore; swimming in the crystal clear calm water, scrubbing the deck, making pasta salad and grilling hotdogs for lunch; until at the appropriate time the pilot boat called & came out; leading us first through a break to the west, then through rollicking waves – breaking just abeam - into the estuary...
(Why can't I get this image oriented right?)
"Which is more ominous? The stormy cloud cover lurking overhead,
or the bar we have to cross, to enter the port?"

After some paperwork cha-cha and official stuff, we readied for dinner. I am, after a couple of weeks of this, a completely feral woman. My hair is like straw, with a distinct ponytail bump; I have wifi codes inked on my hand. I sprayed my armpits and blue tank top with perfume – the same mismatched shirt and shorts I’ve had on for days (in fact the outfit I went swimming in earlier) and like the rest of my clothes, have a distinctive locker-room funk; strapped on my ugly Tevas – glancing at my feet, desperate for a pedicure, snacked on the guacamole (this and tortilla chips are a staple of the boat) then shuffled down the dock for a hamburger, French fries, and free wifi.

Our mission is accomplished – the boat will stay put through the stormy summer season. I am exhausted, tan, happy, and heading home after a day of exploration in the mangroves.