My New On-Site Playmate

I was worried about tiring him out. Maybe that worry is misplaced? I’m bushed.

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My dad is here. I’ve gained an on-site father and a playmate! Good for me.

I was worried about tiring him out. Maybe that worry is misplaced? I’m bushed.

We’ve walked multiple times per day. Yesterday, one of his jaunts was a quarter mile.

I didn’t measure today’s, but it was farther. A step at a time. More importantly, he is enthused.

There was a package to be picked at NBC yesterday. He rode shotgun as we headed to Universal City and back. Good company.

This afternoon my dad met the neighbors. I volunteered to take their Christmas card family photo. He likes little kids and John and Veronica’s three are amazing.

The photo shoot itself took a few minutes. Then we schmoozed.

This evening my dad and I headed to Laguna Beach for sunset. It was cloudy, but there’s always natural beauty at the beach. We both agreed my mom would have enjoyed the artsy feel and beautiful setting that’s Laguna Beach.

He has been cooped up too much. He really needs to get out. This is good.

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Sunset At Laguna Beach

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It was a pretty good night for photography at Laguna Beach. I packed my gear and arrived around an hour before sunset. Heisler Park was crowded. There were three others with sophisticated cameras. It’s easy to understand why.

I’m starting to think more about very slow shutter speeds for shots like these. Having the iris open a long time smooths the water surface. It also means using a tripod. Neutral density filters arrive tomorrow to allow these shots in full sun.

There are still some HDR shots to process. A few more timelapse movies too.

The first photo is going over our bed.

Where I Take Visiting Friends

I like Thalia Street Beach in Laguna Beach because there’s not much of it. Twisting stairs lead down from the street. The walk to the high water line can’t be more than thirty feet. I wade in to my calfs. Well, that’s my intent.

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Jon and Mary Lyn Wolfert slipped in for a few days. They’re passing through from Alaska.

Tonight they’re Dallas bound. They were on-the-ground making a fuel stop at Cavern City Air Terminal in Carlsbad, NM a few minutes ago.

Their Mooney has been dodging storms, but should be good the rest of the way. The sky will be getting brighter when they land after 5:00 AM local time.

SoCal is a pretty area. Out-of-town guests get taken to see the sights.

I like Thalia Street Beach in Laguna Beach because there’s not much of it. Twisting stairs lead down from the street. The walk to the high water line can’t be more than thirty feet. I wade in to my calfs. Well, that’s my intent.

Perfect weather. Beach jammed. Lifeguard stands, not evident a few months ago, out of storage and in the sand.

Everything about this beach says Southern California!

We left and drove past homes somehow fastened to hillsides. We were heading up. Prices were going up. Views too. Up high you see a lot.

Civilization ended at the top of the hill. We walked into the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. One side faces the Pacific, the other the basin that holds much of Orange County and the mountains that define its border.

More people stop by now that we’re in California. People like coming here. I understand why.

Where We Live

I walked in the door and sighed. Helaine asked what was wrong. I said we’d found the house. Three bedrooms, two and a half baths, on two floors with around 1,900 square feet of living space.

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This week marks a year since our hectic first week in Irvine. This is a totally different world. Nothing’s the same, right down to the side of the street that borders the ocean!

As the wheels began to turn and moving became more-and-more certain, we made a few house hunting trips to Orange County. Our cousins are nearby. That was a huge draw. Stef is close, but not too close. No winter.

Helaine likes new. For us that’s the right call. There’s lots new here.

Irvine is a rapidly growing suburb in Southern Orange County. We are inland from Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. To our north and east are foothills, then the Santa Ana Mountains, mainly wilderness.

This is unlike our former New England home in nearly every way. We lived in a town that grew organically. Our property line was not a rectangle.

Here, everything is by design. Each house is different, but in the same sense identical twins have differences. Irvine is a medley of your favorites in the beige family.

Housing developments pack the homes in then leave lots of common space with parks, pools and trails. That’s part of the deal for being allowed to build here. We have a city block sized common area with pool, basketball and tennis courts and large dog friendly lawn. It’s a minute’s walk away. There are kid playgrounds within a few blocks in every direction.

We saw a model and bought a house to-be-built. I walked in the door and sighed. Helaine asked what was wrong. I said we’d found the house. We were looking for this layout. Three bedrooms, two and a half baths, on two floors with around 1,900 square feet of living space.

We knew most, not all of what we were getting. Houses are different when they’re alongside their neighbors. As it turns out we chose well and got lucky. We’re very happy the way things turned out.

Our goal was a great kitchen for Helaine and great office for me. She is amazing in the kitchen, especially baking, and deserves to have a suitable space. My office is more about what’s in it than what it is. It began life as a third bedroom. It’s currently messy, but otherwise perfect.

We are very surprised by our utility bills. Because we have neighbors north and south we get morning and afternoon sun, but are shaded during the day. Our electric bill averages in the low $50 range. There’s also $15 for gas and $30 for water. All seem constant year round.

We seldom use the air conditioner. Low humidity is a big deal. We sleep with windows open 350 nights a year–maybe more. I leave a laptop on the patio and sit out there every night.

This is a community with lots of immigrants, most from Asia. Not all speak English. I often say hello and am met with a pleasant, but perplexed, smile.

I have a Chinese family on one side and a California raised Korean family on the other. I know one family well, the other not at all.

The Chinese family is multi-generational, living together. Some housing developments sell models specifically designed for that.

At Halloween one neighborhood father explained his young daughter didn’t speak English. She’d only been here a week. Welcome to America. Let’s go door-to-door and beg for candy.

I love this neighborhood because of the vitality I see. Young families on the move. If the American dream has disappeared, word hasn’t gotten to the people living here.

We got very lucky.

Father’s Day SoCal Style

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It’s my first Father’s Day in the Southland. Another beautiful day!

I opened cards, called my dad and then got to my gifts, an EcoSphere and a Hubsan X4 H107C micro quadcopter. Sweet. Just when I though I’d run out of toys I needed.

Next, Helaine took me out to lunch outside at Las Brisas in Laguna Beach. It’s atop the palisades with a panoramic view of Laguna and the Pacific.

Fish tacos. First time. Very tasty.

Stef couldn’t join us, but it’s totally OK. Today was the final taping day for her show. Lorenzo Lamas, a celebrity guest on the show (and my body double) was her substitute father figure.

Today could not have gone better!

A Drive Through Laguna Beach

Total fail. Nothing I wanted to do worked.

On the way back I held my cellphone at the top of the windshield to shoot a little trip through Laguna Beach. This you’ll enjoy.

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The beauty of SoCal is very different than Connecticut’s. Connecticut is verdant. California is stark. Here the hills are sharp and individual with deeply chiseled canyons.

I read about a nearby place with good photo opportunities. It’s called “Top of the World.” Officially it’s Alta Laguna Park. In any event, it’s high above Laguna Beach with commanding views.

I didn’t bring the memory for my camera!

Seriously. What a doof. I’ve never done that before.

I tried to shoot something with my tablet, but it didn’t keep focus.

Total fail. Nothing I wanted to do worked.

On the way back I held my cellphone at the top of the windshield to shoot a little trip through Laguna Beach. This you’ll enjoy.

The Relapse

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A few days ago I posted how my ill health had abated and how surprised I was at that.

Surprise.

It had only gone underground temporarily. My blogging radio silence is testament to its tenacity.

Please don’t misunderstand–I’ve been sicker. But this was the total package. How can every bone, joint and muscle in your body ache all at once? How can you weaken so much in just a day or two?

This came at a terrible time. My friend Peter and his girlfriend Nancy were visiting. I saw them yesterday and today, but for a limited period of time.

We went to Thalia Street Beach in Laguna this afternoon. I walked the stairs up and down to the beach and was done! We said goodbye. I went back to bed.

This early evening I’m feeling better. Hopefully it lasts into tomorrow when a few friends come by.

I think curing the common cold would make for a great Kickstarter project. I’d pledge to make it happen.

Sunday With the Family

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This is my sister and brother-in-law’s last full day in SoCal. We didn’t want to waste it!

family-at-breakfastStef was driving down from Hollywood, so we made reservations for a noon brunch. Traffic didn’t cooperate!

When she called, Stef was crawling through the City of Commerce on the 5. I pushed the reservation back to 12:30.

Brunch was at the Back Bay Bistro in Newport Beach. Like many places out here, Doppler is welcome if we’re eating outside.

g-h-and-dopplerWe sat on the patio, directly on the bay. A boat, just large enough to arguably be called a yacht, was moored around 20 feet away. Brunch was delicious and filling!

We turned south down PCH for Laguna Beach. Laguna was the setting for a few MTV shows, but it’s mainly an arty town with beautiful homes precariously placed atop one another on steep hillsides. Downtown is perfect for window shopping.

laguna-hillsWe found a meter at the beach. I swiped in two hours worth of parking. Laguna’s business district runs right to the water. There are shops and restaurants on the tree lined streets.

I think Trudi and Jeff have enjoyed visiting California. It’s very different from Wisconsin, especially this time of year. We will miss them. They’ll be back.

Surf’s Up In Laguna Beach

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Good surf conditions seemed likely today, so I threw on a pair of shorts and sweatshirt, packed my camera and lenses and headed to Laguna Beach. Laguna was a call of convenience. I was looking for a surf spot as close to home as possible. Google suggested Thalia Street Beach.

Thalia Street is a locals spot. The surfing is OK. No one goes out of their way to come here. The waves crest beautifully, but break quickly. Short rides.

Thalia Street itself is a dead end stub west of CA-1. Stairs built into the palisades take you about fifteen feet down to the beach. A parking spot opened up and I pulled in.

For a photographer, Thalia Street Beach is great. The surfers aren’t very far out. My 300mm lens was marginally too long! The beach is smooth sand.

Overcast skies. Temperatures in the upper 60s. With my sweatshirt on and shoes off, I waded in. The water was cool, but not enough to be a problem.

Just going calf deep in water got me fifteen feet closer to the action. Then one big waved ran up my thighs. I pulled the keys and cellphone from my pocket before they were injured and became a little less aggressive.

There were 15 to 20 surfers and an equal number of spectators on the beach this afternoon. The vibe is very casual. People don’t stumble onto this beach. It’s well hidden.

Now it’s my spot too.

All the photos are clickable for a larger view.

We Went To Laguna Beach

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Helaine and I spent Monday afternoon/evening in Laguna Beach. It’s only 20 minutes away, but a world apart as far as cost of living is concerned!

Part of what gives the town its charm and distinctive look is the proximity of the Laguna Hills (“The Hills”) where houses look like they’re stacked on top of each other. And, of course, there’s that beautiful beach.

I figured something was wrong when we got a parking spot at a meter right at the beach. There’s a three hour limit which brought us past 7:00 PM, the end of parking restrictions. I’m never that lucky!

IMG_7090 laguna beachThere’s a new activity at the water’s edge: tightrope walking. Sure, it’s a short line, but it’s really difficult (I’m told… I’d never do it). Next time I’ll shoot video so you can see the contortions necessary to stay on the line.

It’s a fun place. We did some window shopping then caught dinner outside in a little bistro.

By the way, the priciest home on the real estate agent’s wall was a little south of $20 million! One can dream.

Laguna Beach In The Gloom

Long before LC, Heidi and Spencer Helaine and I fell in love with Laguna Beach. Depending on traffic it’s anywhere from an hour to a week’s drive down the coast.

Long before LC, Heidi and Spencer Helaine and I fell in love with Laguna Beach. Depending on traffic it’s anywhere from an hour to a week’s drive down the coast. Before reality TV set in Laguna Beach had been known for its artist’s colony and yearly Pageant of the Masters.

Ninety minutes of “living pictures” – incredibly faithful art re-creations of classical and contemporary works with real people posing to look exactly like their counterparts in the original pieces.

Laguna’s crescent shaped beach is across the street from downtown. The beach is flanked by volleyball and basketball courts. It’s very family friendly.

A few hundred yards up the beach, atop a cliff overlooking the water, is Las Brisas. We went there first for lunch and to take advantage of their (not free) parking.

Helaine, Stef and her friend Jenna set out to walk the little shops of downtown while I went searching for photos. It would have been nicer bathed in sun, but this is the California period of “June Gloom,” low hanging clouds courtesy of a moist layer a thousand or so feet off the ground. Often we could look inland and see the sun was shining–just not at the beach!

As with much of Southern California this is a VERY dog friendly community which explains Shamus (restaurant) and Sonny (pickup truck).

Hello I Must Be Going


Sunny Los Angeles. It looks like it’s about to spend an extended period getting drenched. That can mean only one thing. I’m heading to L.A. I leave Saturday.

Why am I going? No real clue. It’s just away. It’s a place I enjoy.

I have some friends I want to see. Probably some photos to take too, if the weather cooperates.

One friend, who I’ll be staying with for a few days, has grown a beard and then removed it since the last time I saw him. He has asked for anonymity on the blog – which will be respected.

I’ll also be spending some time with my cousins in Orange County. I’ve never seen their house, near the retired El Toro Air Station, just inland from Laguna Beach.

Two more stops are planned, both with people I haven’t seen in decades.

Joel lives and works in Malibu. I knew him when we were both disk jockeys in Charlotte and Philadelphia. I have known him under three different names!

Dave, who I first met as I turned 18, is from Marin County, near San Francisco. He runs a business designing, installing and repairing recording studios. He has lived an interesting and exotic life, including lots of time exploring Asia. He and I were ticketed for jaywalking across from the Roosevelt Hotel.

Today, I was trying to think of how many times I’ve been to Los Angeles. Certainly a dozen. Probably closer to twenty. Though I once got lost and ended up driving Helaine and myself through some pretty sketchy neighborhoods, I know my ‘home turf’ of the Valley and West Side reasonably well.

I will be taking Clicky and enough electronic accouterments to choke a TSA agent.

No changing planes, but we are stopping in Chicago (MDW). January and Chicago. Wish me luck!

Jessie Gets Married

Jessie is the daughter of my sister Trudi and her husband, Jeff. She was my parent’s first grandchild. She was Jeff’s parents first grandchild. Today, she was the first of her generation to get married.

We came to Milwaukee early, because the festivities began early. Last night we headed to the Volleydome!

Evan’s parents (he being the boy Jessie’s marrying) threw a little bash with food and volleyball. It started at 6:00 PM.

If you’ve never been to a Volleydome, it’s a large prefab building with a floor covered in sand. It is the best way for Wisconsoners (is it Wisconsinites – who knows?) to play beach volleyball without moving to Laguna Beach.

Neither Helaine nor Stef wanted to play. I entertained the idea, but just thinking about it was enough for me to pull something. I passed.

Everyone had a good time. Beyond that, I got to meet Uncle Murray’s girlfriend, Lilly.

The idea of my nearly 80 year old uncle having a girlfriend was a little foreign at first. We just don’t grow up think of seniors dating. But why not? And, she’s very nice and, obviously, very good for Murray.

Since I wasn’t playing volleyball, I brought along my camera, and clicked away. If it moved… and quite possibly if it didn’t, I clicked the shutter to capture what I saw.

A few months ago I bid and bought a monopod on EBay. This was my first opportunity to try it out. Unlike a tripod, a monopod easily goes from place-to-place. Of course, just one leg doesn’t provide the same stability, but it definitely allows you to shoot usable photos with slower shutter speeds. In a poorly lit Volleydome, that meant getting shots which would have been otherwise unobtainable.

The wedding was early Sunday afternoon. My sister had asked if I’d be an usher (well established as the pivotal wedding position), so I was in my tuxedo and at the Synagogue by 10:30 AM.

All brides are beautiful and Jessie was no exception. Her gown had a very long train. Jessie cried through much of the ceremony, as did Helaine, sitting to my right.

Helaine and I are easy touches when it comes to crying. Both of us have cried at particularly poignant commercials.

You’ll notice I’m not mentioning Evan much. Groom’s are necessary, though on the wedding day, they’re more ceremonial than important. This is the bride’s day, plain and simple.

Later, Evan will learn a ‘gift for the two of you’ is actually for her. Marriage has lots of guy benefits, so we let this small stuff slide.

We retreated to the Mequon Country Club for the reception. Very nice, again, and I was shooting up a storm. By the end of the day, I’d taken nearly 300 additional photos – a full 2 Gigabyte Flash Card! What’s gotten into me?

During the reception, my dad told me he didn’t remember his wedding reception at all. I remember Helaine and mine. It was a great party.

We had French service, which drove us both a little crazy. Every time you stood up, someone would come and refold your napkin. If your drink was down a smidge, a waiter would get you a new one. I don’t want anyone concentrating on me quite that much.

We hardly saw each that night. That made this wedding reception a whole lot better in the ‘company you keep’ department.

Amazing Clothing Idea

Since Steffie’s left home, there’s not much MTV watching going on.

Sometimes, I’d walk by as she was watching Laguna Beach, Real World or some other ‘reality show.’ I was struck by how often video was fuzzed out.

It can’t be privacy concerns, because I don’t believe there’s a legal expectation of privacy while on the street. MTV must have their reasons. I just don’t know them.

Often the fuzzing was to obscure something shown or written on clothing… which is where this website comes in.

Ironicsans.com sells pre-pixelated clothing! Why wait for MTV to obscure what you’re wearing when you can do it yourself.

Here is one of those ‘pet rock’ type ideas than can make someone a lot of money, just for having a clever thought and then following through.

Gotta Love Cabo

Aboard the Norwegian Star

I’m on the balcony. It’s around 1:00 PM. The breeze is gentle, the air is warm and moderately dry. We are at anchor in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

If you’d like to find me on a map, it’s easy. Find Los Angeles, then trace the coast south with your finger. Pass San Diego and Tijuana. Keep tracing until you run out of land. I’m there. Simple!

Before I get to more specifics about today, let me wrap up yesterday.

We did decide to see Dave Heenan, the comedian, again. This time he was in the Spinnaker Lounge on Deck 12. It’s a nightclub style venue. I’m guessing it seats 400 or so. The chairs are comfy. The service is excellent.

There’s no doubt, Norwegian Cruise Lines is making money on booze! It’s tough to sit anywhere for any length of time without a waiter or waitress approaching to ask if you’d like a drink. They are everywhere taking orders and delivering drinks.

Dave Heenan’s show was totally different than the one we had seen earlier in the week. He says, and I believe him, that he ad libs everything. He knows enough jokes to keep a stream of consciousness running for 45 minutes at a clip.

Best line of the night. Speaking about the cleanliness of the southern restaurant chain, “Waffle House”: “I saw a cockroach there throwing up.”

When the show ended, we walked downstairs to Aqua. That’s deck 12 to Deck 6 for those counting. It was nearly closing time and the restaurant was emptying out. Once again the meal was great and once again I had a light cooking meal that couldn’t have been light. It was Chicken Parmesan with pasta. The dessert was a souffle.

I could get used to this life, if my arteries would allow it.

We finished dinner and headed back up the six flights of stairs to Deck 12. Steffie wanted to see Dave Heenan again – and he was funny enough that it made sense.

Another 45 minutes with hardly a repeat… and when he did repeat, he’d acknowledge it was something he said earlier.

Our night was done before midnight. We were all tired. There’s just so long you can lead this kind of life without a recharge. Anyway, today’s port call would be very early and with much less time than any of the others.

I’m not really sure whether it was the captain’s announcement or Helaine in the shower that woke me this morning. They happened pretty much simultaneously. We were anchored near the harbor at Cabo.

Everything I know about Cabo, I learned on Love Boat. Everything she knows about Cabo, Steffie learned on MTV. Who has the more liberal knowledge? Captain Stuebing – you’ve let me down!

From the balcony, I immediately made up my mind. This was the most beautiful of the ports we’d seen.

Looking out I could see miles of white beach flanked by five and six story hotel (maybe condo) buildings. Between us and the shore was a huge yacht. Whatever you’re thinking of, it’s bigger. A helicopter sat on an upper deck in the rear of the ship. Attached by lines were a few jet skis and other small boats.

I can’t see the name, but I do have the tail number of the copter. The ship is registered in some British Commonwealth country (based on the flag, which has a Union Jack). The chopper is from the United States (the tail number starts with “N”).

Helaine and I went up to Deck 12 for breakfast while Stef showered. As soon as we had a vantage from the port side of the ship, I saw the rocky outcropping that makes Cabo San Lucas so famous.

There is no harbor here large enough for the Norwegian Star, so we walked down to Deck 4 and got on a tender.

I’ve seen this on cruise ships before. There is actually a dock that swings out from the ship’s hull which is used for boarding.

A few of the lifeboats had been lowered down to the water. They would be used for tendering.

Again, with so much else on this ship, these lifeboats are super sized. I believe they can sit 125 or so in case of emergency! This is not some little dinghy.

The trip to Cabo took five minutes – no more. We landed at a marina full of moderate to large sized fishing boats – most from the states. There was an amazing amount of activity in the harbor and the marina.

When you looked to the water, you saw boats and you saw pelicans. Lots of pelicans.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen Pelicans up close like this. They are not pretty birds. They are substantial. We saw more than one down a fish whole in his beak!

Like I said, Steffie knew this place from MTV – specifically Laguna Beach. She knew where she wanted to go and Helaine already had directions to “Cabo Wabo.”

“Cabo Wabo” is owned by rocker Sammy Hagar. It’s a few blocks off the main drag, up a hill and across the way from a strip club. Inside was set up for small concerts with bar service. My guess is the real money maker is the merchandise stand near the front door.

Steffie now has a t-shirt and I have a hat. Sammy can taste some more Tequila on us.

Cabo is loaded with little shops selling silver and crafts. We went into a store where Helaine got a bracelet and another where I got a silver bookmark (now in Thomas Friedman’s “The World Is Flat,” which I should finish before Ls Angeles).

We headed back to the ship, through the marina area. Every few feet someone wanted to sell you something. There were hats and serapes and little carved toys. If it could be sold… If Heche en Mexico could be stamped on it… it was here!

We didn’t buy anything from these vendors, but we did make one more stop. At a bend in the marina, a Mexican man stood, holding two iguanas. One was wearing a sombrero. Neither seemed particularly mindful that they were the main attraction in this man’s business.

For $2 US, I could have my picture taken with the iguana – and I did! Actually, nimble fingered Stef shot of a half dozen – maybe more.

The mere fact that Stef got this photo is amazing, considering she was laughing herself silly at the time.

We tendered in and were back on the ship by 12:30. Right now, as I type, the last of the tenders are bringing passengers back. A few of the tenders have already been hoisted on their davits and stowed for their real job. We should get underway within 10 – 15 minutes.

This is our last port before returning to San Pedro/Los Angeles. We’ll be at sea all night tonight and all day tomorrow. We dock early Thursday. Los Angeles is the better part of 1,000 miles from here.

With a few blasts of the ship’s horn, we’re underway. Though we’ll be doing 21 knots on the trip north, it takes a long time to accelerate to that point.

We headed south first, then a sharp u-turn around the tip of Baja.

I am surprised, 45 minutes after leaving Cabo, a Mexican Navy patrol boat is keeping pace between the Norwegian Star and the coast. Finally, at 2:48, it makes a clockwise turn and heads home.

We’re all alone in the Pacific.

There is no doubt this was our most beautiful Mexican stop.