Thursday, December 28, 2006

Block Print.

Last month, Jules and I walked along the Embarcadero, when we stopped in one of my favorite San Diego bookstores. I pulled out a book on German woodcut prints and showed it to her, saying how much I'd like to try making my own prints sometime.

For the first time since I've lived in California -- almost eleven years -- I have a Christmas tree.



Presents sat anxiously at its base. Being each others' greatest enabler, we had the following conversation:

"Do you want to open presents now?"

"Yes."

Five days before Christmas, wrapping paper exploded across the living room.

The best presents are those that reveal the other person was listening when you felt you were just blathering, and support endeavors that are important to you, even when you felt you were being idealistic or fanciful.

Jules had bought me a woodcut block printing kit. It was perfect.

(She also got me the most amazing alarm clock ever, but that deserves its own entry.)

For woodcut block printing, you are -- in essence -- making a large ink stamp. You carve a design into a wood block, apply a layer of ink, and stamp it onto paper.

This medium forced me to thinking differently about the image and process. Planning was important. There was no such thing as an eraser. The technique of carving and process of stamping reduced the amount of detail that could be given. How would I render an image using scratches? Simple often worked best. For my first prints, I would use only black ink. Therefore the image would have to work in two tones (black ink and the color of the paper). When you wrote in pen, the mark you made was black. However, in block printing, the line you cut would be light -- it is the uncut sections that were black (ink). I had to think in terms of negative space. In addition, the image was reversed left to right (like a mirror). I had to figure a way to transfer my sketch to the block so that it would be flipped vertically during carving, and therefore appear correct when stamped onto the paper.

Conceptually, making a block print was simple, but there were some steps involved.

As the gift meant a great deal to me, I wanted the subject matter for my first block print to be special as well (the kit contained one 4x5" block). I chose the Flatirons located in my beloved Boulder, Colorado.



This has been my subject matter for a few pieces (an oil painting, pen sketch, and a watercolor -- all done while sitting before the Flatirons).

I took this black and white photo four years ago.



I drew the image in my sketchbook to the same dimensions as the wood block (5x4").



I traced the design onto wax paper and transferred it onto the linoleum layered block by flipping the wax paper over and retracing the outline again.



After the image had been drawn in pen on the block with the image reversed left to right, I started carving.



It turned out that inking the block was almost an art form in itself. I thinned the sticky ink with a few drops of water so that it laid on the block correctly. The type of paper also made a considerable difference. But after some experimenting, I created my first official print.



I produced 14 total prints for this series -- each hand inked and pressed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Walk #3.

Juliana and I have begun a routine of going on weekend walks throughout the city.

Walk #1 found us at Cabrillo National Park. The lighthouse, subject matter for my eponymously titled painting, sat perched atop the hillside. At the shoreline, we enjoyed the tidepools...



and searching for crabs in the cliffs.





...

Walk #2 led us along the Embarcadero.

...

Undecided on a destination for our next walk, we consulted the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego. I purchased it with ambitious intentions upon moving to San Diego. I had romantic notions of traversing the county, accompanied by a walking stick, fedora, and whip (to rescue myself during a possible rope bridge collapse, of course). But outside of book marking an urban curiosity that intrigued me, it sat neglected on my shelf, and had not spawned a single journey.

I showed Juliana the bookmarked page.

"Where the hell is this?" she asked. "I worked downtown and have passed this place a hundred times. I never knew this existed."

And thus began Walk #3.

...

Our journey started in Banker's Hill at the corner of 2nd and Spruce, located sheer minutes from downtown, the airport, and Balboa Park.



We first encountered the Quince Street Footbridge, with views of the airport and the bay in the background.





Quickly and conveniently, Juliana found a condo she wanted me to buy her.

After crossing the bridge, we descended into the canyon below. It was amazing how one could be located in the middle of an urban setting, yet feel completely removed from it. I hoped that the thick brush and overhanging trees provided enough wilderness for me to wear my adventure hat without fear of ridicule. I had bought it in Colorado four months back, and was looking for any excuse to wear it.



I have an inkling that I may have looked dead-sexy in it.

We continued along the canyon floor and talked about how wonderful it was to find this hidden gem.



"I keep expecting a dinosaur to run out of the bushes," Jules said.

"What would you do if you saw a dinosaur?" I asked.

"Crap my pants."

"That would definitely hamper my desire to rescue you."

...

Maple Canyon dead-ended on Dove Street. We followed it to Curlew Street, passing by beautiful and charismatic houses -- the type that make you wonder what your life would be like if you lived in them -- and found ourselves at the Spruce Street Suspension Footbridge. It hovered seventy feet above the canyon floor and swayed with each step.



The bridge was built in 1912. The suspension cable was anchored by an assembly that did not spark overwhelming confidence.



The whole walk seemed like an amazing discovery.

...

We ventured over to Mission Trails for Walk #4. We started at the visitor's center...



walked two miles to the plains area....



and meandered over to the Old Mission Dam.



We were tired and our feet sore after walking four miles and we still had a half-mile uphill climb remaining.

I turned to Juliana and said, "I wish that I was the Beastmaster so that I could conjure animals for help."

"Who the hell is the Beastmaster?" Jules asked.

I was stunned, unable to fathom a life without knowledge of the Beastmaster. They really need to teach this stuff in schools.

"You haven't seen The Beastmaster? He was a barbarian who could communicate with animals and get them to do things. He could see through the eyes of a hawk and get a panther to fight people. Plus he got to see Tanya Roberts naked."

"Why would you want to see through the eyes of a hawk?" she asked.

Obviously she was having problems seeing the incredible benefit of hawk eyes.

"Well if you had enemies approaching and you wanted to know where they were you would call for the hawk and have it fly above them."

I erupted with a loud and bellowing, "CA-CAW," simulating how I would call for my hawk.

Juliana laughed. I disarmed other hikers who passed. They should just consider themselves lucky that I didn't send my panther after them.

"How would that help us get back to the car?" she inquired.

"Well, I could get a large bird to carry my backpack...."

I then stalled upon realizing that there weren't any large animals like deer or bears in the area that we could ride back to the car. Could you round up enough squirrels to carry you? Probably not. It was then that I realized my Beastmaster folly. It wouldn't have been very helpful (outside of the seeing through a hawk's eyes -- that would rock). It was also chilly and if I was the Beastmaster, I would be wearing a leather loin cloth.

And on a long hike like this, the leather would probably cause chafing.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Art: Steph Sitting.

Steph Sitting (pen and gouache on paper, 4 x 6").

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

And the Rain Washed the Chalk Away.

I've been visiting Little Italy's, Chalk La Strada festival, every year since I moved to San Diego in 2001. For one weekend in October, tens of thousands of people descend on San Diego's Italian district to see artists cover the street with large murals painted in chalk.



At least that's how it used to be. While the festival's attendance has grown each year, the number of artists and their prominence has decreased. Before, several central streets were covered with incredibly talented artists. But with each passing year the number of artists and talent has sadly decreased and the locations of the chalk drawings have been pushed to obscure side streets. I'm not sure why this trend has occurred, but hopefully it gets reversed. Perhaps it is indifference on the organizers part since even their website doesn't mention this year's event.

Juliana and I drove down to Little Italy Sunday afternoon to peruse the ever shrinking namesake attraction. Due to the event's popularity, we walked a marathon distance from parked car to India Street, but we were more than rewarded when a tall string cheese mascot handed me some string cheese. I could happily subsist on a diet consisting solely of cheese.

We walked the event's circuit…exploring booths along the route…culminating in some tasty gelato at Caffe Italia. Jules said that there was an interesting art display placed along the Embarcadero so we ventured down to the water, passing by the city building along the way (I'm a big fan of the architecture).



Seemingly overnight, the San Diego weather has slipped to its evening winter chill, with the only visual indication of seasonal change being newly formed moody skies.



The Port of San Diego has sponsored an amazing public art project called Urban Trees. It features thirty art sculptures lining the Embarcadero. Jules and I had a wonderful time sauntering along the bay, stopping periodically to investigate the inventive structures.











Monday, September 25, 2006

Gun Turret.

As you all know, I'm a genius. I mean -- after all -- I do have a patent.

With that fact established, I really think that I am entitled to create sovereign laws to protect me from the nuisances of others. I have two laws that I'm considering related to noise.

Law #1: If your car alarm goes off and your car is not being stolen, I am entitled to take a baseball bat to it without retribution.

Law #2: There are numerous "entrepreneurs" that enjoy pushing their shopping carts down my alley in search of recyclables in trash bins. The practice is so prevalent, that most trashcan bins have locks on them.

At 6:30am, an "entrepreneur" decided to move all of his collectables from his cart to an abandoned shopping cart located beneath my window. This transfer was done without finesse, and was unbelievably noisy. It woke me up.

So here is my law…. I would like to install an unmanned tranquilizer gun turret on my roof. It would operate between the hours of 10pm to 10am. If you were pushing a cart through my alley way, it would recognize you by either the visual silhouette of person pushing car or by smell, and you'd be shot with a dart that made you sleep until normal operating hours.

I know this sounds harsh, but how am I expected to save the world with these constant distractions? So let it be written. So let it be done.



I went to see Cold War Kids at the Casbah. Fantastic show. One of my musical highlights of the year was seeing Hospital Beds performed live.



Juliana and I drove over to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park to catch the last day of the Warhol exhibit. At the same time, an exhibit by the abstract artists, the Matta's (father and son), had opened up. I have developed a bad habit of simply skipping past abstract art or any piece whose visual aesthetics differ from my own. Juliana is a huge fan of abstract art and connects to it, so I had an engaging time dialoguing with her about different pieces, and seeing the artwork through her eyes. I learned a lot.

We had eaten very little all day, and as we were starving, we decided to stop by the taqueria to grab some food on the way home. I pulled up to the drive-through. The cashier gave me my total and I reached into my pocket to retrieve the money.

I'm not sure the reason. Maybe my foot just slipped. Maybe I was overly excited about the carne asada. Maybe I wasn't thinking. But whatever the cause, my foot fell off the clutch, causing the engine to stall. I haven't stalled a manual transmission since I was seventeen. I went to start the car and it wouldn't turn over. Damn. I tried three more times to no avail, with each time draining the battery further. The starter turned, but the engine wouldn't catch. I couldn't figure out what had happened. It had always been a reliable car.

I needed to get the car out of the way. There was a parking spot available off to the side, in a space approaching the exit onto El Cajon Blvd. I asked Juliana if she could drive while I pushed the car over to the space. I expected her to get out and walk over to the driver's side. Instead she effortlessly hopped over the daunting center console and gear shift, right into the driver's seat. It was like we were in a car chase and I needed her to drive so that I could shoot bad guys out of the car window. Needless to say, I was very impressed. (I was also embarrassed that I had stalled the engine in the first place, but Juliana couldn't have been sweeter or more understanding.)

With me pushing and her steering (without power steering no less), we were able to get the car out of the way. We positioned the car in a space where a five foot slight decline led to El Cajon Blvd.

Juliana and I were still starving. As I was worried that I may have flooded the car, I thought that we should just walk to my condo across the street and eat. Time may do my car some good.

After I ate, I accumulated some tools and returned across the street. I tried starting my car again and the engine still wouldn't catch. I made a few more attempts and my battery was barely alive. I figured I had one last chance.

Growing up, I feel fortunate that I was able to collect some practical experiences along the way. Being around my dad, I learned how to change a tire, gut an elk, and a little trick that would prove helpful now -- jumpstart a car.

To jumpstart a manual transmission car, you get it rolling while in neutral, throw it in second gear, and then drop the clutch. Hopefully it starts. I faced a few challenges in doing this. First, it was just me, so I would have to get the car moving and then quickly jump into it and do all of the fancy clutch work. Secondly, I only had a slight downward slope to work with and five feet until I would encounter oncoming traffic on busy El Cajon Blvd. And if I didn't get it started, I could possibly be sitting in said traffic.

I got out and pushed the car. Once I got it moving I jumped in… threw the car in second gear… dropped the clutch… it didn't work. I quickly hit the brake. I was almost on top of the street. I had one last shot. I repeated the process and dropped the clutch. The engine stuttered and sputtered and then started. I drove away triumphant. I took the car onto the highway so that the alternator could charge the battery.



Juliana was coming over one evening, so I decided to wait for her outside, on my small and quaint, yet busy street corner.

While standing there I saw a bicyclist cross the street as a car hovered at the stop sign. I saw the driver's face and yelled out as I knew what was about to unfold. But it was too late. The driver didn't see the bicyclist and at the worst possible time, the driver hit the gas, as the bicyclist was located squarely in front of the car. The bicyclist was thrown up onto the car's hood and the bicycle launched into the middle of the street. The car stopped and the bicyclist fell to the ground.

It's odd seeing something about to unfold and being helpless to stop it.

The bicyclist was upset but okay. The driver was apologetic but trying to deflect fault by saying that he didn't see the bicyclist (obviously) and that he had come to a complete stop. They both started to discuss who had come to a stop first. They went back and forth without either conceding or coming to a conclusion.

They both then turned to me and asked.

I had seen the entire thing happen in front of me. My engineering side wanted to say that the bicyclist had stopped first since he was in front of the car when struck. For that to happen he would have had to have started first which by association, meant that he had stopped first. But when I thought back, I simply couldn't remember. So I had to be honest.

"I don't know," I replied.

This made me think of eye witnesses in trials. How do they observe and remember stuff that happened so quickly or briefly? How do they recall it a year and a half after the fact when called to testify? After my experience, I'm skeptical to put much faith in the process.

I've never been accused of being the most astute person, but still.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

How To Create a Bookmark for $6.

I was excited to see my friend's Denver-based band, Devotchka, play the Casbah Saturday night. I've known Tom for almost twenty years. I had last seen the band play in Denver on New Year's Eve, when they sold out the 600-seat Oriental Theater.

I'm perpetually early to everything. This time I planned on casually strolling over to the Casbah around 9:30pm. Around 8:30pm I got a call from Amber. She had inside information that only 40 tickets remained, and they were going fast. I hustled down there. Standing in line, the doorman said that the tickets would be gone in a few minutes. I just made it.

The opener was local band, Bunky. It was the first time I had seen them perform. Absolutely amazing. They're my new favorite band. Their song, Heartbunk, may be one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs I've ever heard. But beyond their great songwriting and hooks… beyond Emily's amazing voice… one of the most engaging aspects of the show was the fact that the band was having a great time on stage. Emily's smile and sense-of-humor were infectious… the band's banter entertaining. For me, my enjoyment of a show increases exponentially when I see that the band is enjoying themselves up there. You accompany that with great music and I always leave with a warm fuzzy feeling.

Their CD has been permanently cemented into my car's CD player since Saturday night (FYI… their music is available on iTunes). Personal favorites include the aforementioned Heartbunk, Chuy, Boy/Girl, and Baba. I even have a special fondness for the noisy dissonance of Gotta Pee.

I saw the Cure play in Mountain View five years ago. They sounded great, but there wasn't a smile to be found on stage. I mean, it is the Cure, so this isn't surprising, but I remember leaving the venue feeling largely indifferent.

American Idol gets lots of viewers and attention, but here's what surprises me… it casts its net far and wide, yet it still seems to largely pull in crap. While I'm a random viewer, I'm rarely impressed with any of the talent. However, I can go out to any venue in town, on any night, and always find one band that blows me away. And I'm not just talking about people who have impressed me, but people whose music I would take with me if I was marooned on a desert island. In the last few months I've seen two dozen bands perform and I've encountered many incredibly talented people (Heather Duby, The Hot Toddies, The World/Inferno Friendship Society, Bunky… to name a few). And even better… not only do they sing, but they also play their own instruments and write their own songs. How novel.

I guess the point of this little tangent is that I'd love it if people went out and supported local music. Don't trust MTV or radio to define the contents of your jukebox. Get out and see people play. I think that you'll be surprised and impressed, and you're bound to find your own personal gem.

I got a chance to catch up with Tom before he went on stage. I picked his brain about life on the road and we talked about past, current, and future endeavors. Devotchka provided the soundtrack to the film, Little Miss Sunshine. I'm eager to see the movie.

As usual, Devotchka destroyed the place. They always put on the best live show. You won't find a better group of musicians anywhere.

Now… time for another one of my tangents….

I know that murder is wrong. But there really need to be exceptions. The last couple of shows I've attended there's been that one asshole that thinks the show is about him. I'm fine with people getting into the music and feeling passionate about the experience. But it's another thing when you're just being a distracting attention whore. There was one guy that would randomly appear in front of the stage, only to flail about, acting like he was having an epileptic seizure. He was completely disconnected from the music. I think that it should be legal to put him down. Another guy just kept obnoxiously yelling random stuff like an unfunny class clown. I just wanted to tap him on the shoulder and say, "It's not about you. Fade into the background." Then I would cap his ass.

The second thing… if you're there, please pay relative attention to the band and the music. There is a reason you paid twelve dollars -- to see the band. A couple was basically humping eighteen inches away from me with neither person interested in the music. It was distracting, and not in a sexy way. They thought they were alone in a hotel room with the clock radio turned on. It's one thing to grind in rhythm to the music. It's another to look like you're shooting a late night Cinemax movie. Although I will admit, there are two caveats to this rule… Caveat number one -- the lesbians making out in front of me… kind of hot. It would have been hotter if one of them hadn't been wearing a spiked dog collar and had hair shorter than mine. Caveat number two… if I'm with a woman, I'm free to hump away. It doesn't sound fair, but these are my rules.

Okay, enough talk about humping. My grandma reads this journal for Christ sakes.

Seriously. My grandma reads this journal.



On Sunday I ventured to the Del Mar Racetrack to lay some money down on the ponies.





It was a college alumni event and we were located on the infield. While it was a great place to socialize, it wasn't a good place to see horse racing. At most, only about a quarter of the track was visible. Although the ground level view did provide an interesting perspective. I realized how fast those horses traveled. They blazed around that track.



I've only been to the horse track four times in my life, and the periods are spaced far enough apart that I forgot everything I learned previously. For my first bet, I went with a trifecta box because it's cool to say trifecta. I did no research. I just picked three horses and gave the guy six dollars.



I understandably lost.

I learned the lingo. For the remaining races I picked a horse to show (finish in the top three) and won about a quarter of the time. It's a universal fact that gambling makes everything more interesting. Even though I only laid down $2 for each bet, I found myself riveted to each race. If you ever find yourself restless or bored, just start wagering on stuff. It's like an adrenalin shot to the heart.

My triumph… for the sixth race I picked one horse to place (2nd place or higher) and another to show and both horses cooperated and finished in that order. I collected my massive seven dollars in winnings and plotted the extravagant purchases that would follow. It was a good day.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Art: Jill Laying Down.

Jill Laying Down (ink and colored pencils on paper sketch, 8 x 5").



A close up....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Laguna.

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I used to take day trips all the time… Santa Cruz, Monterey, Napa Valley, Tahoe, Redwood forest…. For me, the ultimate expression of freedom is getting in the car and driving with the windows down. And while I stay active in San Diego, I rarely drive outside the city limits. It's not because I don't have the desire, it's quite simply because I don't know where to go. In the Bay Area, you could drive an hour in any direction and be in a completely different world to collect new adventures. In San Diego, day trip destinations are not as obvious to me. You have ocean immediately to the west. Mexico immediately to the south. Extensive desert to the east. And the continuous metropolitan entity of Los Angeles to the north.

Aching for a day-trip on Sunday, I chose Laguna Beach for my destination. It's an hour north of San Diego.

Laguna began loosely as an artists' commune, and for this reason I have a desire to connect with it. But I have problems making this connection. The town always seems continuously fleeting, aloof, and evasive to me.

I blame one thing: parking.

However, the town is not completely at fault. Mostly it is, but I will take part of the blame. Now I am willing to throw money at a problem if I can make it go away. With that being said, I'm not sure why this is, but I absolutely hate paying for parking when I don't think that I should have to. As a person, I'm rather lax and laid back. I accept things at face value and don't take an opinion of them either way. But the one thing that affects me adversely is if I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. Paying for parking can sometimes hit that singular nerve.

Now my paying for parking issue is purely contextual. When I go downtown, I am content to pay. That is expected. When I lived in San Jose and drove up to San Francisco every three weeks for fun, I was perfectly resigned to park in the Fisherman's Wharf parking garage for twenty bucks. There is a Stoic saying that goes, "Is a little oil spilled or a little wine stolen? Then this is the price to be paid for happiness and nothing is to be had for free." The cashier at the pay booth drank some of my wine and I was fine with that.

But let me tell you why parking in Laguna is evil. There are parking meters absolutely everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Along the beach. On sides-streets and alleys. On thoroughfares from the beginning of town to the end. Along the narrowest of streets to the widest. Like plastic cups at a frat party, they are absolutely everywhere. Well, why don't you park in a neighborhood and walk a ways, you ask? Nope. All residential parking requires a special permit.

I went up on a Sunday so of course the next logical thought is that the meters must be free on Sunday. Nope. Not true in Laguna. And not only are they not free on Sunday like they are in every known corner of the world, but they operate from 8am to 7pm. Everyday.

Now you're saying, just shut up, Bryan, and put your money in the meter you cheap-ass. Well here's the next problem. I have issues for sure. But let me highlight one of them. I am always conscious of time. It doesn't matter where I am or what I am doing or what I have to do, but I am constantly aware of the ticking of the clock. Here's where this becomes a serious detriment in Laguna: all of the meters have limits on how long you can park there. And not only that, but the parking officers patrol the area with ubiquitous aggression. I parked my car in a space, and before I even got out of it, a parking Mafioso has marked my tire with chalk to ensure that I moved my vehicle before my time expired.

So as soon as I maxed out the meter at three hours, the countdown began in my head.

If you think that oil companies have a racket, they don't hold a candle to Laguna's parking mafia. It is unreal. And during the entire day I didn't see an entire cop, but I did see loads of parking enforcers. I'm convinced that you could commit any crime you wanted in Laguna and as long as it didn't involve parking, you would easily get away with it.

So here is what I did over my three hours in Laguna. I ate lunch at a good French restaurant called C'est La Vie where I ordered a mighty tasty ahi tuna sandwich. The waiters and waitresses were all French which added to the ambience.

I dashed in some art galleries – a thing that Laguna is famous for. I found a few things that caught my eye but nothing that impressed me greatly. I must rant a bit – please skip this paragraph if you're tired of my art expositions. There is an art reproduction printing method known as Giclee (pronounced gee-clay). Back in the day, if you bought a Giclee print it meant that it was produced using a special technique, equipment, and process. It had some weight. The problem is that the term has now been diluted to nothingness now. It is abused by artists who use the term to describe anything that they turn out of their ninety-nine dollar printer at home, and this abuse has filtered up to galleries and printmakers. This leads casually to this observation. I was absolutely amazed by how many galleries I walked into that sold prints for a very high amount of money (some ranged in value from $2500 to $10,000 for what amounted to a poster). I saw very few originals hanging up on the walls. Now prints are good economically for artists. If you can paint one thing and sell it an unlimited amount of times, that's good financially. It's like printing money. If you only sold originals then you got paid once and it disappeared. But I can't understand why someone would walk into a gallery and buy a poster for $5,000 instead of an original. It makes no sense to me. And everything now is Giclee this and Giclee that. It seems like it is 95% of the market and I find this unfortunate.

After perusing a few galleries I walked along the beautiful path that lines the beach.







If you ever see a painting of Laguna, there is a 90% chance that it is of this view:



At one point along the cliff-side boardwalk, I descended stairs to get close to the rocks.



Waves crashed.



This image always conjures up a story that I find terribly haunting.

The waves in Northern California get big. Halfway between San Francisco and Santa Cruz sits the town of Half Moon Bay. Just a short distance out, when the winter storms come down from Alaska, waves reliably reach heights from twenty five to fifty feet tall. Waves pack unbelievable power and they crash against the rocky coast in dramatic fashion.

When I lived in the Bay area there was a story on the news about a newlywed couple who were exploring the Northern California coast, near Monterey, on their honeymoon. They had driven down the coast and got out of their car to take pictures of the incredible ocean view. The man wanted to take a photo of his love set against the scenic backdrop. She perched herself on the rocks. Suddenly a wave crashed against the rocks with mighty force and swept her into the sea. The man instinctively, yet dangerously, dove into the frigid water after her. His attempt was futile. She had drowned. Again, I find this story to be so hauntingly sad, and I'm reminded of it whenever I see waves crash forcefully onto the rocks. (I had originally seen this story on the local nightly news, but have been able to locate the article on sfgate.com.)

The cliff-side boardwalk casually winds about the coastline. It was warm and humid outside. To obtain temporary solace from the weather, I dipped inside the Laguna Art Museum which had a nice display of artwork by early Monterey artists. I found myself frequently glancing down at my watch, trying to determine the latest time I could leave the museum and still make my car in time. As usual, I arrived at the car much earlier than I needed to, so I zipped into some additional art galleries before departing.

I don't know how many times I've driven south on the 5 from Los Angeles. But whenever I do, I'm always anxious to get home. This is unfortunate, because there is a scenic rest area right after San Onofre that I want to stop at but either miss because I'm not paying attention or am too eager to get home. This time I took the exit.



I then continued home.



(The odd thing about this journal entry and many like it is that I just wanted to say that I drove up to Laguna in three sentences and include a few pictures. I'm always amazed how these entries grow and evolve as I'm writing them. This is good for me as a writer… I'm not sure how it is for you the reader.)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

No Pandas Since Everyone Knows They're Bitches

I have a season pass to the San Diego Zoo. I really enjoy my time there. I ventured to the zoo this morning as I hadn't been in a while. Even beyond the animals, the extensive grounds and steep hills make for a nice walk.

It was so crowded at the zoo that I found it difficult to approach the exhibits, so as I walked around I spent a lot of time in my own head, as I often do. And a particular question popped into my head… let's say that the clock strikes midnight and the zoo is void of all people. All of the cages open and the animals are free to wander and mingle. But they're all cool. No animal tries to eat another. It's a good vibe. Which leads to the question… if you're an animal and you want to have a poker game, which animals do you invite to the table?

People who know me well can predict this guest list exclusion: absolutely no birds are invited. I hate birds. Sorry flamingos.

I'd certainly invite the brown bear because he would have good stories to tell. If you're ever camping and you encounter a brown bear, sit down on a stump and listen to him because you're going to hear some great tales.



Not only that, but during the game you could always have this exchange:
Brown bear: Your turn, Bry. Are you in?
Me: Does a bear shit in the woods?

I'd definitely invite a camel. If for no other reason than he wouldn't drink too much beer. I mean, c'mon, he's a fucking camel. He travels thousands of miles in the desert without tasting a drop of water. He's not going to be doing keg stands in the kitchen.



I like turtles, but since they can reach a hundred years old, you'd have to hear a lot of stories about when gas was a nickel. Sorry, but no turtle.

Now here's the kicker: what animal would you invite to get the party started? Which animal would be the one to make the jokes? The clich├ęd answer would be the hyena. But this would be a horrible choice. This would be like inviting Robin Williams. It sounds good on paper, but after five minutes of his hyperactive routine, you'd want to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart. A hyena would be obnoxious. If you really want to invite a cool animal, here's where you go… invite an otter. You've never laughed so hard until you've hung out with an otter. They're the life of the party.



Have you ever seen a sad otter?



You most certainly couldn't invite a panda bear. They get all of the attention and special treatment at the zoo. The zoo always advertises the pandas. They get shown panda porn on TVs in their exhibit. Two pandas hump and it makes national news. In order to even see the pandas, you have to get into a special line while people constantly tell you to be quiet. Pandas would be snobby and want you to open a bottle of wine. We don't need that kind of attitude.

I posed my zoo poker question to Amber tonight and she brought up two terrific points. You couldn't invite a giraffe because its long neck would help him catch peeks of other player's cards. In the same vein, you couldn't invite a kangaroo because it could hide cards in its pouch. While I think playing cards with a kangaroo would be a pure delight, the risk of cheating is just too great.

The idea that koalas get stoned off eucalyptus is a myth, but they still don't seem to be too cognizant. It sounds bad, but I think that it would be easy to score some easy chips from a lackadaisical koala. The koala is in.

With all this being said, for a table of six, me included, here are the other five animals I would invite to my poker game:
1.) Brown bear
2.) Otter
3.) Camel
4.) Koala
5.) Zebra (because it's a hip animal)



My HOA rules allow me to have a pet, but it cannot weigh more than twenty five pounds. This is limiting. I loathe tiny dogs and am not a fan of cats. I'm not looking for a pet, but if I were, I'd want a Fennec fox. I saw one at the zoo today and it’s a cool animal. It's too small to fetch a beer but it does eat insects. And while it's not manly to say, it's pretty damn cute.



One of the zoo handlers had the fox outside of its cage and talked about it. Because I'm a nerd, I asked lots of questions. It was an interesting discussion. Animals are fascinating critters.