Monday, December 31, 2012

Pupping Beach

A good number of the elephant seals have arrive on the beaches north of Cambria for the birth of their pups.  There were huge crowds of people the day I was there, but not a lot of pups had yet been born. 

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This little guy was pretty young and still in his rumpled velvet fur.

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There’s a lot of jostling and loud complaints whenever the females get to close to their neighbor.

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While most of the elephant seals are a dun brown, this lovely lady decided to go blond and was a gleaming presence in all that tan.

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And always time for lunch.

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Or a good scratch.  Or the need to keep an eye on the lurking seagull who was clearly up to no good.

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There seemed to be several sets of twins on the beach this year.  Don’t think that’s typical .  And as with all twins in the wild, one usually doesn’t make it since the mother only has resources to fully nourish one pup.

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And, of course, this being elephant seal beach, here come the guys, lurching sneakily onto the beach, looking for a chance at a stray female who might escape from the various harems.

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Heading home.  Can there be a lovelier place to live? Or a more spectacular place to greet the New Year, a year I hope will be a good one for all. 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Jane Hirshfield from her book, "After."

I Imagine Myself in Time

I imagine myself in time looking back on myself--
this self, this morning,
drinking her coffee on the first day of a new year
and once again almost unable to move her pen through the iron air.
Perplexed by my life as Midas was in his world of sudden metal,
surprised that it was not as he'd expected, what he had asked.
And that other self, who watches me from the distance of decades,
what will she say?  Will she look at me with hatred or with compassion,
I whose choices made her what she will be?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bottoms Up!

Calhoun’s Cannons for Dec 28  2012

Twenty little kids were killed in Newtown, Connecticut and Americans were asked to give up their military style assault weapons.  America said, “No.”

That’s addiction.

Twenty children were slaughtered in Newton, and Americans feared that maybe assault weapons would be banned, so they rushed out and bought more assault weapons.

That’s not the Second Amendment, that’s addiction.

Wayne LaPierre, head of the N.R.A and chief lobbyist for the gun industry said the reason twenty children were murdered in their school by a young man with assault weapons was because Hollywood made violent movies.  He then declared that the solution to gun violence in America is MORE guns everywhere in the hands of everybody, and America said, “Sounds good to me!” and ran out to buy more guns.  

That’s not a sane gun policy, that’s addiction.

Last year firearm sales jumped up 14 percent.  In a depressed economy with massive numbers of people out of work, gun shops and gun manufacturers were thriving, business was booming and very expensive weapons were flying off the shelves.  Baby needs a new pair of shoes?  Sorry, not when I need to buy another gun.  

That’s not a well regulated militia, that’s addiction.

A Congresswoman was gunned down in Arizona and nationwide, gun sales immediately spiked.  Moviegoers were slaughtered in Colorado and gun sales jumped even higher. Twenty kids died in a hail of bullets and gun sales again went through the roof. Clearly, in gun addicted America, dead kids equal increased sales and profits. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I’d suspect that Wayne LaPierre was hiring shooters himself to get and keep those fourth-quarter sales numbers up. 

Now, that’s great marketing (Dead kids = higher profits) and  addiction.

Fortress America.  This is what we’ve become.  Frightened hoarders irrationally buying more and more guns, hunkered down in our basements with boxes of ammo all around us waiting for the invading armies of those scary Russian/Chinese/Negro/Women/Mexican/Muslims to come thundering down Elm Street.  We have militarized our cities and homes and streets.  We have militarized our culture, our children, our lives. We have sanctified the Second Amendment above life and liberty itself.  Instead of the New Jerusalem, we have become a paranoid, weaponized comic-opera  Sparta – a mentally unstable, untrained gang that can’t shoot straight, a nation that’s become a danger to itself and others, a nation that routinely accepts the constant slaughter of its citizenry as normal, and before the bodies are even cold goes out and buys more guns. Then says there’s no problem here.

That’s addiction and denial of addiction.

Now we have twenty dead kids and a few people are asking:  Will Newtown finally spark an intervention?  If so, who is left to do it?  

Congress?  Too many of them are wholly owned by the N. R.A. and the N.R.A’s job is to sell more guns.  We, the People?  That’s impossible since addicts in denial cannot see the problem. And if you cannot see the problem, you cannot solve the problem. And to America, twenty dead kids clearly isn’t a problem. 

So we greet a new year and wait for the next slaughter and wonder, “If twenty doesn’t do the trick, is there a number that will?” And to our everlasting shame, I suspect the answer will be, “No.”   

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays

Monday, December 24, 2012

I Shudda Never Left The Shire

Peter Jackson’s new film, “The Hobbit, Part I,” is another perfect example of why you should never give a successful filmmaker unlimited money and hand him a project that’s “dear to his heart” without having a gimlet-eyed, ruthless Editor with the unlimited Power of the Scissors standing nearby.

Successful filmmakers with unlimited money almost always succumb to the dreaded malady of Rococoization: the mistaken belief that if one is good, twenty-five will be better. No.  It’s not. But turning everything Rococo is a common affliction. Even George Lucas was not immune.

The first problem with the Hobbit, Part I is the fact that it is a Part I.  “Lord of the Rings, the book, was a complex story told in three volumes.  “Lord of the Rings,” the movie, was a complex story told in three films.  “The Hobbit,” the book, was a modest quest adventure story told in one volume.  “The Hobbit,” the movie, is three, three-hour films.  You see the problem?  Yes.  How do you spell, P A D D I N G.

Even stranger for a filmmaker as skilled as Jackson, whole chunks of “The Hobbit” are told with endless scenes of yak-yakking, blah-blah-blah, exposition and ‘splaining, with actors sounding like they’re reading off huge descriptive chunks from the book. In a film, you don’t ‘splain, you show.  And you hold the unnecessary details to the minimum needed for coherence. The audience doesn’t  need to know the endless begats and begins and backstory; you only need to babble a bit about the Great Knights of the Nodding Trees, then get on with it. You’re not reading a book to the audience, you’re making a moving picture with the key word here being . . . moving. (To see how it’s done, go watch the original “Star Wars.”)  

As for the movie being suitable for kids?  No.  Instead of a clean, exciting quest adventure with exciting-scary orcs and trolls, a movie that would be suitable for kids (which is who Tolkein was writing “The Hobbit” for in the first place – his children ), Jackson, typical of modern fantasy filmmakers, has loaded up the screen with head-ripping violence, drooling, snot-dripping grotesqueries with every wart and wattle rendered in greatest detail, with camera-focus zeroing in on every dripping tongue, salvia-drenched tooth, and, of course, overwrought battle scenes that simply turn into visual chaos – can’t tell the dwarves from the orcs and after a few minutes, who cares?  Which is another result of Rococoization – when you fill every square inch of the screen with squirming images, instead of exciting action, you end up with a visually static frieze. 

Oddly, the use of 3-D did force Jackson to create one visually exciting scene that was a duplication of the ore car, roller-coaster ride in one of the Indiana Jones films – our heroes running and leaping and zooming through the orc’s huge caverns.  The necessity to take advantage of the 3-D effects forced Jackson to zero in on focused movement to track the characters, all of which helped create a hierarchy of movement and point of view.

In short, the movie was a bloated mess.  And instead of using pruning shears – Edit! Edit! Edit!—Jackson just kept adding endless scenes that looked like outtakes from the “Lord” trilogy – repeated infill shot from a zooming helicopter of  our hearty little troop of heroes scampering over hill and dale, utterly dwarfed by the rugged New Zeeland landscape.  Up loud heroic music.  Oy!

But all was not completely lost.  The price of admission was partially redeemed by the scene where Bilbo meets Gollum (and his “precioussss” ring of power).  It’s brilliantly realized, thanks to Andy Serkis and his extraordinary acting abilities.  Andy, wearing his motion-capture suit and face camera, has managed to create an extraordinary character and deliver an amazingly moving performance.  Gollum, pitiable, dangerous, heartbreaking, funny is one of the few characters in the film worth caring about.  Thanks to Serkis, he’s the most real fake character on the screen. That kind of extraordinary performance was first delivered by Serkis  in the “Lord” trilogy, as well as his astonishing turn as the lead ape in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and now “The Hobbit.”  Reason enough to hope that the stodgy Academy will finally understand that those performances weren’t “animation,” they were acting, and will give Serkis his much deserved Academy Award for best supporting actor.

Like another waterboarding session, parts II and III will lumber into town for the next two years to inflict their torture on the returning fans (and extract every last precioussss nickel from their pocketsessss.)  I suspect I may reluctantly drag myself to the theatre if only to see what Jackson has done with Smaug, the dragon. Knowing the wretched excesses he’s ladled on the orcs, I’m not heartened.  But Gollum will surely creep back into the remaining films and those scenes will be worth sitting through all the rest.       

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Laurie Lamon,  from "180 More, Extraordinary Poems for Every Day," an anthology of contemporary poetry selected and edited by Billy Collins.


I heard the dogs before
I opened the door late, after work --
first Maude who was dancing
in praise of my arrival for all she knew
it was; presence without end,
the end of waiting, the end
of boredom --

    and then Li Po,
who, in the middle of his life,
learning to make his feelings known
as one who has carried breath
and heart close to the earth seven
times seven years, in praise
of silence and loneliness, climbed
howling, howling from his bed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Winter's Time

Calhoun’s Cannons for Dec 18, 2012

The winter storm was warm and tropical.  In the yard the grapevine finally turned red and started to settle into its long winter’s nap only to have a sudden burst of summer heat arrive.  It’s now pushed out new green leaves thinking it is spring again, a dangerous mistake when the winter frosts finally arrive.

If they ever do. After all, a whole lot of people believe the world will end promptly at midnight Friday, which has got to have the gentle Maya wandering around their Yucatan corn fields snickering. “Silly Gringos.  Too many Apocalypses.  They must be in love with death.”

Well, grapevines and world endings, it has been another season out of sorts.  The country, too, has spent a few years upended and in the confusion failed to look around to see what it had become  -- a brave new world filled with women, Hispanics, African Americans, a whole lot of ticked off  newly un-prosperous working 47%ers and a new cohort of  the young, all of whom now form a glorious new rainbow majority of World Class Moochers.  Their political ascendancy was aided by a grand old party that also failed to look around and so descended into comic and massively funded irrelevancy.  Like the grapevine, the GOP mistook a permanent change for an anomaly.

Time is out of sorts for me, too.  I’m beginning to lose all sense of it.  Recently, a friend and I were discussing a project we had started together and I was shocked into silence to realize that we had been on that journey for six years.  Six?  I had absolutely lost all connection with the usual signposts of continuity and progression – this happened, then that happened, then this.  Instead, I no longer had a sense of when we had started and so had no real feeling for where we were now.  Six.  One.  Three.  It was all the same size.  She might have well reminded me we had been working together 40 years for all the difference it would have made.

It’s that same time compression I see when I look into the face of The Mighty Finn McCool. In my mind, he’s a gangly greyhound puppy, so it always brings me up short to see his face getting whiter, his step slower, the gimpy lurch of joints getting stiff and old. The same shock occurs when I look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is that woman and how did she get into my house?” As for the rest, my life has become a blur interrupted by a flash of illuminations, all of them disconnected from any sense of linear time -- a life turned into a snapshot album.

The normal process of aging, I suppose.  All the boring stuff falls away and what remains are sharp, out-of-time tableaux.  I suspect this transformation explains why it was so easy to erase my life this summer when I gleefully cleaned out closets, purged file cabinets, dumped old photos, childhood mementos, souvenirs, slides, letters and paintings.  Out!  Out! They were no longer precious, sentimental items, things vitally connected to me, a part of my history.  Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, they had become dust-catchers and fodder for the silverfish. Out!

Far from being a depressing activity, this broom-sweeping effort was liberating and when I was done, I immediately thought of that lovely scene in “Harold and Maude,” when Harold gives Maude a sweet token of his affection and she promptly tosses it into the ocean.  Outraged, he asks why she did that and she calmly replies, “That’s so I’ll always know where it is.” 

And so it is with me.  The mementos and memories I want to save are already inside my head.  No need for so many hard copies. And when I can no longer remember even the few I have nestled in my brain, then it really will be time to go.

And so time slips by while we aren’t looking.  The darkness arrives and the winter stars wheel again into view.  We have made a hash of the natural world and it will exact its revenge on us.  Best to take our medicine stoically as we try to heal its wounds, for our children’s sake.

And for our own sakes as well, to keep living the message of love from a small child born in a stable.  Or the command of peace from a merchant who spoke to God in a cave. Or a young prince who sat under a Bodhi tree. Or to all the sages and wisdom-givers who remind us, if only once a year, that we are full of possibilities and light.  We only have to pay attention to see it gleaming, even on the darkest nights at the end of the world.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

Before he recently died,  Jack Gilbert's  "Collected Poems," was published, more than fifty years of his work in one volume. It's a wonderful collection, in case you're looking for a fine Christmas gift. Here's a fine from the volume:

The Manager of Incidentals 

We are surrounded by the absurd excess of the universe.
By meaningless bulk, vastness without size,
power without consequence.  The stubborn iteration
that is present without being felt.
Nothing the spirit can marry.  Merely phenomenon
and its physics.  An endless, endless of going on.
No habitat where the brain can recognize itself.
No pertinence for the heart.  Helpless duplication.
The horror of none of it being alive.
No red squirrels, no flowers, not even weed.
Nothing that knows what season it is.
The starts uninflected by awareness.
Miming without implication.  We alone see the iris
in front of the cabin reach its perfection
and quickly perish.  The lamb is born into happiness
and is eaten for Easter.  We are blessed
with powerful love and it goes away.  We can mourn.
We live the strangeness of being momentary,
and still we are exalted by being temporary.
The grand Italy of meanwhile.  It is the fact of being brief,
being small and slight that is the source of our beauty.
We are a singularity that makes music out of noise
because we must hurry.  We make a harvest of loneliness
and desiring in the blank wasteland of the cosmos.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Move Along, Nothing To See Here

Twenty-six people are now dead in Newton, Conn, 20 of them little children in the Sandy Hook Grade School.  Shot dead by a 20-year-old man armed with high-load magazine pistols, those handy rapid-fire guns with their quick-load clips --such a useful weapon when you need to mow down little kids in huge numbers.

The President wiped away a small tear and called for a national dialogue.  Congressmen called for a "conversation" about guns.  The NRA placed a few leash-jerking calls to their wholly owned Congresspeople, making sure they're locked down tight.  A few people even called for placing more guns in the schools, arming teachers and principles.  Heck, why not carry permits for the kids. 

Gun registrations upped as Santa's Wish List spiked to include the buying MORE guns for Christmas. (The perfect gift!  Be sure to include lots of high-load magazines.) Pundits went on the air to ask, "How many kids must die before America comes to her senses?" ignoring the fact that Americans love their guns more than they do their children, so the number of kids dying is limitless.  Twenty? Forty? One hundred?  Not a problem.  Plus, America's highly competitive and right now, this killer failed to top the number killed at Virginia Tech rampage, so that record still needs to be beaten.  Twenty kids murdered only made it the second highest deadly rampage.  Not good enough.

All the boo-hooing will go on for a few days, our fake "national mourning," that makes us feel good while doing nothing to solve the problem.  Then it will be back to the same-old.

Except for the families in Newton.  And they don't count. 

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Dark Coda, Part II

After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
                          T.S. Eliot

The death of 81-year-old Gewynn Taylor and the arrest of her husband, George, 86, which started as a mystery, is now unfolding as a tragically familiar horror show.  According to today's Tribune, George and his wife decided to commit suicide because George was feeling depressed.

It gets worse:  As the Tribune reports, the park ranger stopped George in Montana de Oro State Park at 11:30 p.m.  Gewynn's body was in the back seat, a plastic bag tightly fastened around her head.  George told the ranger that she "has been dead since sunset," that they had a suicide pact and that George had tried to cut his wrists and neck and suffocate himself, but it didn't work.

And when the ranger asked if "he or his wife had been ill, Taylor said they were both healthy," but that he had been depressed.

And there it was.

A. Alvarez, who wrote a book about suicide called "The Savage God," noted that "When anyone dies, they leave skeletons in their closets.  When a suicide dies, he leaves his skeleton in your closet." 
And so it has now unfolded in this case: A deadly folly a deux.  Age related physical deterioration. Mental illness in the form of depression.  A couple somehow locked into a false  paradigm that becomes a fearsome trap. Choices not made.  Chances missed. Desperate derangement. No way out. The line between romantic fantasy and reality slipping away down that dark slope of misperception and temporary insanity.  A terrible act done "while the balance of the mind is disturbed."

And then, the awful consequences.  George's wife died.  He didn't.  The love of his life is gone because he was depressed and now he remains behind with the self-inflicted consequences. And friends and family are left to ask, "What did we miss?  What clues were there that we didn't see?  Could we have somehow intervened?  How did we miss this? Surely, this didn't have to happen. Surely, surely, this couldn't possibly have been what the Taylor's wanted. Not this horrorshow.

But there it is.  And that sound you hear?  That is The Savage God, snickering.  He knows well, we've been watching too many romantic movies.  Romeo and Juliet is fiction.  Real suicide is brutal, ugly, desperate, savage, messy.  It's full of fury and rage and fear and sadness.  It's also very hard to do because it's so unpredictable. Knives hurt. Guns misfire. Pills get vomited up. Cars crash wrong.  Wreckage everywhere and still we live.  Yet this God's pound of agony will be exacted.  His nightmare penalties will be paid.  By everyone.  There is no good ending when the mind and spirit breaks and clouded brains mistake a fake scenario for reality.  No good ending.

In one of his books, satirist Kurt Vonnegut has a character dealing with a disaster beyond comprehension and the only solace to be offered is a pat on the shoulder and a murmured, "There, there."

Two pointless words for a pointless deed that is beyond redemption, beyond explanation, beyond expiation, and the only thing left is a simple human touch, a point of contact, a wordless pat for all our fragile fellow creatures.

There, there. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Dark Coda

I was heading towards Trader Joe's to buy groceries for a friend who was coming home from the rehab hospital with a busted knee-cap, listening to the radio, when Bill Benica read the snippet of the news that a George Taylor had been arrested.  I rather dumbly thought, "Hmm, that's odd.  Must be another guy named George Taylor in the county," until Bill also noted that Gewynn Taylor, his wife, had been found dead out at Montana de Oro and George had been arrested and taken to jail. 

At that, my only response was a stunned, blank, "Whaaattt?"

I had known the Taylors almost from the first day I moved here in 1984 and, like all Los Ososians, got involved in the many Sewer Wars.  Right in the midst of almost anything having to do with Los Osos and/or any and all water, land, open space, good governance issues large and and small, there were the Taylors. They became a fixture at CSD meetings and BOS meetings, as well as being involved in many local community projects.  To some they were "community activists," to others, "gadflies." Either way, they were fierce "Civic Warriors," a constant presence in public matters, a pair of citizens who were always present and involved and speaking out for years and  years.

And, like all of us, while they were not getting any younger, they were still out and about.  Indeed, I remember seeing them at the Christmas Vocal Arts performance only a week ago.  While George was looking very frail (at 86, to be expected), both of them were smiling and looked like they were enjoying the evening. 

And now Gewynn is dead and George is in jail, engulfed in a world of unimaginable pain, a nightmare of horror that I would never wish on anyone, accused of some sort of murder/suicide pact.  The police are investigating, the neighbor's are puzzled, the community is filled with shock and speculation, and friends and family are stunned and confused and left to untangle this mystery.

And of this mystery, I can tell you that when the investigation is completed and a more comprehensive narrative unfolds, when this sad drama finally plays out, with no possible good ending in sight, when all will be said and done, those friends and family will be left with a permanent sorrow because, ultimately, there will be no good explanations.  There will be understanding, perhaps, there may even be forgiveness and peace, but there will never be any real answers to a mystery that goes to the dark, irrational tangle of the human heart.


Monday, December 10, 2012

It's A Wonderful Life

If you're looking for a great way to start the holiday season, head over to the San Luis Little Theatre ( . Box office: 786-2440, Box office hours: Tues - Fri 11-2pm, Sat. 2-4 pm. ) for a wonderful performance of "It's a Wonderful Life." 

Director Lisa Woske has designed a very clever re-staging of this holiday movie classic so that it's a cross between a "reading" and stage play, using a variety of steps and platforms for staging different scenes. If you've ever seen minimalist stagings of "Our Town," with chairs on the stage as the only props, you'll get the idea.  It works beautifully in this production since this script is so well known that there's little need for anything elaborate in order to tell the story.

All the actors are wonderful, with Chad Stevens doing a great job as George Bailey and Michael Siebrass having a glorious time playing the evil, conniving Mr. Potter . It's a grand cast, a wonderful story and a great way to start your holiday.  Don't miss it.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

This by Judith Kerman, from "Poetry 180," edited by Billy Collins and part of the poetry 180 project.

In Tornado Weather

wet-ash light
blows across the road
I'm driving with my foot to the floor
sixty miles over flat midwestern highway
driving to hear poetry
the sky ready
to boil over, a lid clamped on
the pressure drops
flattens the landscape further
I watch the horizon for state troopers
think of the wind:
one hundred miles to the west it has
sliced the top off a hospital
smashed two miles of Kalamazoo
nothing anyone will read tonight
is wild enough

Friday, December 07, 2012

Oh, now Rita.

The latest County scandal du jour involving Supervisor Gibson has turned into a slow Death By Muddlement, drip, drip, drip.  First came the announcement that he had been sleeping with his aide, but that was nobody's business, so move along.  Then the County twisted itself into a pretzel to cover it's behind and announce, "nothing to see here, move along."  The lapdog Tribune, a paper that never passed up a chance to curry favor with the powers that be, fell all over itself in failing to ask the necessary questions and settled, instead, for expressing editorial  "disappointment" in Gibson's behavior, while dribbling out bits of story that contained delightful, contradictory nonsense.

Case in point was December 5th story by Bob Cuddy who wrote that County Counsel Rita Neal said that "Bruce Gibson violated no policy, misused no money and did not expose the county to any significant legal liability."

Misused no money?  Really?

The money allocated for legislative aides is to pay aides to, well, do "legislative aide" work for the Supervisors.  The job is a direct hire, at-will position, under the direct control of the Supervisor.  It is not an interchangeable county job, with the County being the "employer."  So, that budget item wasn't allocated to pay Aides to go work in another office doing entirely different duties.  Yet Mr. Cuddy's story makes clear that Ms. Aspiro, Gibson's love interest and former aide, "is still an employee of Gibson's, on temporary assigment, earning $68,890, which is paid from the Board of Supervisor's budget."  And that "Gibson is functioning without a legislative aide and has not been interviewing prospective replacements . . ." And "It is not clear who is doing that position's work -- the aides of other supervisors, or Gibson himself."

So, let's recap here:

1) Ms. Aspiro is still getting paid from the Supervisor's budget, which was specifically allocated for legislative aides
2) but she is not doing the work she was specifically hired and paid to do
3) and she is still an employee of Gibson's.

Isn't this where we came into this story? Gibson sleeping with his employee who's still his employee? But now it's suddenly O.K because she moved to another office and continues to not do the work she was hired to do?

Yet County Counsel Rita Neal states that Gibson "misused no money?"  Really?  And Cuddy doesn't ask the obvious followup questions his own article raised, while the Tribune's editorial the next day overlooked those same questions (doesn't anybody at the Tribune read their own paper?) and wrote one of their infamous editorials, known as The Bland Dismissives:  Yes, Yes, very disappointing, but it's time to move along now, so shut up and stop asking questions, case closed.

In other words, pure SLOTOWN! at its finest.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

When You Want It Done Right, Call the CCC’s

Rain.  All day.  Rain.  And in the off-leash dog park at El Chorro Park, piles of mulch and wood chips. all generously donated by Davey Tree Service, Greenvale Tree Company, Coastal Tree Experts and the County tree crews.  Piles and piles.  Huge behemoths, mountain high piles as far as the eye can see.  All of which had to be spread over the ground of the dog park.

And standing there with a few pitchforks were a handful of dog park volunteers.  Dismayed.  Overwhelmed by the mountains of mulch when, suddenly, the white CCC van pulled into the parking lot.  And out piled 15 young professionals, dressed in bright rain slickers, who unpacked their equipment, and with nary a word started in to work.

CCC at dog park 007


CCC at dog park 008

Modeled after the original federal Conservation Corps in 1933, the California Conservation Corps was signed into law in 1976 by then-Governor Brown who envisioned the Corps as “a combination Jesuit Seminary, Israeli kibbutz and Marine Corps boot camp.”

CCC at dog park 009

The Corps became a permanent state department in 1983 and the young men and women have been living up to its motto ever since: "Hard work, low pay, and miserable conditions.”

CCC at dog park 006

Which, of course, results in fabulous conservation work all over the state.  Our local Los Padres Corps, with Meggan Gehring as the team leader, is located at Camp San Luis and is constantly involved throughout the county in trail rehabilitation and construction, fire hazard reduction, tree and  native plant restoration, park development and watershed work at the Morro Bay Estuary. So, when you see the C’s at work, honk and wave, or stop and say Thank You.  They’re making your public places beautiful.

CCC at dog park 010

By the end of the afternoon, the results were in: 130++ cubic yards of wood chips spread and a total of 110 hours of volunteer time put in to keep the dog park up and running and ready public use for another year.

El Chorro Dog Park was built 11 years ago and is maintained by SLO-4-PUPs and all the wonderful volunteers who do the hard work involved in keeping it so beautiful.  And this workday was no exception, except everyone went above and beyond duty, including Karyn, who replaced some of the damaged boards on the picnic tables, a tricky job even in dry weather.  And our wonderful volunteer mulch hurlers:

CCC at dog park 017Addie

CCC at dog park 018Wes and Valerie
CCC at dog park 019Trevor

And one Inspector General reviewing the work.  The ever loyal  . . . and very wet . . . Lucky

CCC at dog park 013

A big thank you to everyone.  And if you haven’t visited the El Chorro Do Park, stop by.  You’ll see what wonderful things can be accomplished with a whole lot of helping hands.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Your Sunday Poem

Shortly after being appointed United States Poet Laureate in 2001, Billy Collins created a website,   to give young people "the notion that poetry can be a part of everyday life as well as a subject to be studied in the classroom.  On the website, I ask high school teachers and administrators to adopt the program by having a new poem read every day -- one for each of the roughly 180 days of the school year -- as part of the public announcements," either read over a PA system or in school assembly or in each class.  The idea was that students could hear poetry daily without feeling it was something to be "studied," just enjoyed for the pleasure it brought.

Those poem have been collected into two wonderful paperbacks edited by Collins, called, "Poetry 180" and "180 More." They feature a wide variety of new voices, all brought together in two volumes, so you too can have a poem a day. This one is from "180 More" and is by David Graham.

The Dogs in Dutch Paintings

How shall I not love them, snoozing
right through the Annunciation?  They inhabit
the outskirts of every importance, sprawl
dead center in each oblivious household.

They're digging at fleas or snapping at scraps,
dozing with nobel abandon while a boy
bells their tails.  Often they present their rumps
in the foreground of some martyrdom.

What Christ could lean so unconcernedly
against a table leg, the feast above continuing?
Could the Virgin in her joy match this grace
as a hound sagely ponders an upturned turtle?

No scholar at his huge book will capture
my eye so well as the skinny haunches,
the frazzled tails and serene optimism
of the least of these mutts, curled

in the corners of the world's dazzlement.