Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Last week, thanks to a friend with a boat I was lucky enough to go whale watching. We've had a rare incursion of blue whales because an unusually large supply of krill, which the whales eat, is attracting them to the area. I met him through Shannon when we both worked a photobooth for the Concern Foundation benefit at Paramount Studios, which he was running. He was fun and gregarious, like a lot of the guys who work in the photo industry.

I'd learned about the rare abundance of whales, and even rarer, how close to shore they were while watching the news. I immediately wanted to go see them. It's something that I've never done. Well, as luck would have it, Brian posted photos of his venture out to see the whales and they were spectacular. He was also lucky enough to have a pod of dolphins ride his wake and got great pictures of them leaping into the air behind his boat.

Brian, Josh, Shannon and I went on a gray, cool Tuesday. We went slow through the Marina and past rock piers loaded with sea lions as pelicans, seagulls and cranes flew low overhead. Once we were out of Marina Del Rey Harbor and out into open sea, Brian went with throttle up and we raced across the ocean, bouncing over the waves, which answered our intrusion with a wall of sea spray. It was a very calm day on the ocean, calmer than Brian had ever seen, and what he said was perfect for whale watching. Still, we were on the Pacific, where calm means the waves were thick rolling swells that sent us airborne when we hit them on an up slope. Exhilarating.

Me Driving a Friend's Boat

Brian let me take the wheel and I drove the boat in open sea, bouncing across the waves, one which had Shannon catching air when he let go for a second to take a picture. We passed buoys that marked a path for freighter ships, all crowded with seals and sea lions taking a rest and unintentionally looking comical. They reminded me of a certain cat I know...

What a lush!

Brian took back at the helm and steered toward a cluster of four or five boats on the horizon. He said that where there's a gathering of boats, there are usually whales. And sure enough, as we got closer, we saw our first misty plume spew several feet high from the water. Everyone went nuts in excitement. We were going to see actual whales in the wild. And, rare blue whales at that. As we got closer, Brian slowed us down and edged toward where we had seen the plume. There were four or five boats around us, including a whale tour ship full of eager viewers who were standing on one side, cameras ready.

And that's when we saw one crest, its smooth blue gray skin emerging, spewing a misty plume before it submerged. It was just incredible to see in the wild! We could tell from its size that it was a younger whale, and it came up for several breaths before going on a deep dive. Soon, we spotted another plume and along with the other boats, got as close as we could while keeping a respectful distance. This is when a giant crested, and I heard its spout release and take a deep breath of air. Again, incredible. Shannon snapped this photo. We were only three miles off shore off Redondo Beach.

Whale Cresting off Redondo Beach

It crested about five times, as we, the tour boat another motor boat and two sailboats hovered around. In the span of an hour, we saw about five or six whales, and yes I'll say it, they were majestic. Here are two pictures I took. One shows the whale tour boat, and you can see the people standing to get a look. Click on them for a larger version:

Whale crestingBlue Whale cresting

It was a wonderful, fantastic time and something that I've wanted to do my whole life. Brian was a superb captain and great at steering the boat toward them without getting too close. Not to mention, a great host with an awesome boat!

The temperature outside @ 2pm todayIn other news, I made Flickr's blog with this photo of my dashboard reflecting the heat outside, and this wasn't even the hottest it got. I snapped the photo with my phone when I noticed the temperature, and Flickr decided to show it to the world. It's my second pleasant surprise from Flickr in the last month. So, thanks for the props Flickr.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I had a neat thing happen through Flickr a couple weeks ago. A man who lived in the San Francisco area found my picture that I took of my Calleen Cordero cuff and contacted me about it. He was looking for a cuff for his girlfriend, and did an image search on Flickr to get ideas for what he thought she would like. He also had a Flickr account, and emailed me through their mail system. I emailed him back and gave him the store information and website, which listed all the stores that carried her designs and how I came about mine. I added that the last time I was in the Calleen Cordero store on Beverly, that I'd heard chatter about Calleen retiring the cuff design and that perhaps if he told the story how he found it, they might be persuaded into making one more. Of course, I added that his girlfriend was very lucky to have a boyfriend that put so much thought into her gifts. And, that she was going to love the cuff. Every day that I wear mine, I get comments on it from people. The last being a cool, great-looking edgy couple that asked me about it at a gas station. They were filling up next to me, and were extremely complimentary. They also wanted to know where I got it. But back to the Flickr guy, who did manage to find one at a store who carried her line, and after they sent pictures of the two they had, planned on purchasing one. Well, imagine my surprise, when I get an email saying that the same man had extended my Flickr Pro account for an entire year. Turns out, he works for Flickr and as a token of his appreciation extended my account. Awesome! Of course, I sent him and email telling him how thrilled I was. And the greatest thing, is I was more than happy to help someone on their endeavor to give someone they loved an awesome gift.

It's the second time within a couple months that someone has given me something for free without my expecting it. First, there was the guy who fireproofed my burlap for free, and now this.

Speaking of projects, I've started another one. The crappy scrubby garden area outside my apartment door finally got on my last nerve. After asking the landlord to rip up the horrible thorn bushes for the last couple years and offering to plant it myself, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Let me just start with saying that they never ever prune the garden. So, it was left up to yours truly to cut back the awful bushes that would creep over the walkway toward my apartment. The plant in question is called Asparagus Fern. It's not only ugly, it's on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s list of invasive species as a Category II invasive and according to the ASPCA, is toxic to both dogs and cats. Other sites list it as a "noxious weed" which strangles the roots of other plants. Nice.

Anyway, I started tearing up these hideous bushes which have roots like something out of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Thick coarse roots with pods...yes, pods on the end of them, topped off by a stump-like root cluster. About half way through my endeavor, I had just yanked out a particularly nasty root cluster that left about a foot deep crater near the container wall. When I reached my hand in to dig out the remaining roots, I dunked my hand in water that was rising up through the ground. For weeks, the landlords had been looking for the source of an underground leak in the pool area. The health department was on them about it and they were just about to rip up a huge part of the pool patio area to locate it. Well, when I pulled out my hand and waterlogged glove, I realized I'd just found it, simply by ripping up a few ugly plants that the landlord didn't want to deal with. I told them about it the next morning and sure enough, when they investigated, found that the leak was from a pipe near where I was gardening. Exactly opposite from where they were going to jackhammer up the patio.

Um, yeah.

Either way, I've really enjoyed having a physically demanding creative project. That area was so ugly, and now it's almost ready to be prettied up. I also bought some solar accent lights that look really nice. Before I plant anything, I'm going to make sure all those horrid asparagus ferns are away for good.

Work tomorrow. Bed calls me.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm here at Starbucks on a pretty day, inside because it allows me a bit of privacy.

Right now I'm in one of four big chairs surrounding a table. A father and his two teenage daughters sit at the other three chairs. They are sharing the usual father and daughter banter, laughing and clearly enjoying each other's company. An elderly man walked by, bent over almost at a ninety degree angle, but however difficult it must be for him to get up and around, he still sported a suit and tie and walked on his own without the help of his two younger companions, who walked just enough ahead of him to appear as if they weren't keeping an eye on him. He paused and rested his hand on the first daughter's chair, caught his breath, then made his way to the next daughter's chair and rested on hers for a bit. I looked at the father and he smiled at me with kindness, sharing my sympathy for a man whose body was struggling to keep up with his spirit. I smiled back. The man and his daughters were a Middle Eastern family, and it struck me that here we were on 9/11, in a climate where so many people are spouting the reasons that we can't get along and threatening to burn Qur'ans while others burn American flags. And yet, here was a quiet moment shared between those very two cultures, who had a the same reaction of sympathy, understanding and compassion for another human being. Our moment won't make the news. It's just one of millions of quiet moments that happen every day between people of every culture who have so much more in common than the publicized differences of a few extremists.

I'm still at my job, though I'm not sure for how much longer. My contract was just extended until November 6th, I think. Right now, the department that I work in is going through a lot of changes and merging with another branch of the company. There is a full-time senior copywriter job available, but when I asked about it, I learned that it has management responsibilities, which I do not want. I'm just not management material, which is a trait I'm extremely at peace with. It isn't because I'm not capable, but because I can't stand the politics and what comes with it. Management has never been something I aspired to be. Ever. Whether contract or full-time, my salary is good for what I do and my lifestyle without the pressures of managing for some big company that would happily chew me up and spit me out.

Tomorrow is Shannon's birthday celebration at his sister's house. Should be a great time. He got me some really neat gifts for my birthday and I hope he likes what I got him. My mom had a big birthday on September 3rd, and I got her a gift certificate to a day spa in Baltimore, good for a European facial, and spa manicure and pedicure. Also included tip so she wouldn't have to worry about that. She's going to my step brother's wedding end of September and figured it might be a great way to kick off the celebration. I really wanted to go, and we tried to work it out, but the wedding is in Mystic, CT, and with my job possibly ending soon, I need to work every week that I can. I would have loved to see Dan and Jen get married, and of course really enjoyed seeing a true East Coast water town.

Lots of other things, but I'm finishing this post at night, and am about to slip into bed and snuggle down to listen to my audio book. Wonderful inventions, those things.