Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I remember 'That Stinky Summer'

It was a foggy morning as I prepared to leave Monterey.  I enjoy this area so much, I hope it is not another 12 years before I come back.

It was time for one last walk down the Coast Guard pier that sits midway between Cannery Row and the downtown fisherman's wharf.  I wanted to absorb as much of the peace and tranquility of the area as possible to last me for a while.

And while I strolled along enveloped in the early morning ocean air I remembered a less tranquil past summer when Monterey experienced a monumental assault by Mother Nature.  It happened in the mid-90's and, from that day forward we referred to it, unimaginatively,  as 'That Stinky Summer'...

It started with the sea lions.  Not one or two or three--but hundreds and hundreds...

They filled the bay and covered the Coast Guard pier from end to end.  They climbed on the boats.  They occupied the public restrooms.  And they even ventured across the parking lots and onto the bike trails.

And they were not the more peaceful females or the playful pups--they were the huge aggressive males who were just itching for a fight. I am not sure why they came in such numbers but one newspaper article suggested they were following an unusually plentiful supply of sardines that had moved into our area.
  Volunteers were enlisted to man fire hoses all along the bike trails to keep the huge smelly critters away from the tourists.  But the barking was deafening and complaints started coming from the guests in the hotels along the waterfront. Those hotel rooms were not air conditioned--Monterey seldom gets warm enough to warrant anything more than a small fan.  But that summer the temperature started to climb into the uncomfortable range so windows were opened-- and then things really got interesting...

One very hot and steamy morning in the midst of the sea lion invasion, the city woke to find the bay had turned emerald green!  It's called Algal Bloom and the sea plant growth is highly poisonous to the fish.  When Algae begin to grow uncontrollably it sucks up all the oxygen out of the water--leaving the fish gasping for air just before they turn belly up and die--and sardines were dying by the gazillions!

The beaches soon were covered with dead and rotting fish while the sea lions kept coming and the temperature continued to rise.

Next came the birds--hundreds of sea gulls, herons and pelicans began arriving to feast on the plentiful bounty deposited on the shores.  But somehow those birds were so gluttonous they didn't know when to stop.  The pelicans especially would consume so many fish that, when they decided to fly, their distended bellies prevented them from getting more than a few feet off the ground.  The streets that ran right next to the beaches became obstacle courses as cars swerved to avoid injured and bloated pelicans. Bird bodies littered the streets--and the temperature continued to rise.

The really good thing about that summer--you could get an ocean view room at the very best hotel for pennies on the dollar.  Monterey was never declared a disaster area that summer--but it surely was.

And the newspaper assured us that it was a 'once in a lifetime combination of events.'
I hope so.  But this particular morning it was pure paradise.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Special people I Love very much.....

Ms Jasmine has the softest voice.  There is not a prickly note in any of her conversations, even as she described to me how she tripped on a rug, broke her leg and is now confined to her bed until it mends.

Her daughter, Irma, (photo below) was caregiver for my mother for a number of years and Ms Jasmine's granddaughter, Joanne, worked in the reservation's department at the hotel for a while.  (It's a small town)

It was always a special occasion when I had a chance to visit Irma and Ms Jasmine.  We would sit for a time working jigsaw puzzles while we discussed our kids, grandkids, my mother and life in general.

Great Grand Kids!

It was wonderful to see them both again and, after an hour of listening to that wonderful voice, I left feeling as relaxed as that cat laying on Ms Jasmine's bed.

Before leaving Monterey, Stacy (on right above), organized a reunion of the reservationists from our department at the Inns of Monterey.

What a wonderful gift of friendship to have them take time from family and busy schedules to spend a Saturday afternoon reminiscing about our good times--and bad.
 Above (left to right);  Marie, Kui, Stacy, Savannah, Mickayla, Jeannette, Lily, Caitlin, Paige, Duane and Fatima (family members in italics)

Shane took a few minutes from his job to run over and say 'hello'. Stacy and Shane were a romance that started in our 'Rez Dept' and Savannah is the result.
(This picture just makes me smile.)

We were sitting on the restaurant patio and the wind was blowing hard so the manager dropped a few screens to keep us from blowing away--that is why all these photos have a strange yellow hue to them.

Fatima, me, and Kui

Missing from these pictures are a couple of others that I hope to see along the way--April and Steve you have been alerted.

And missing forever but surely never forgotten are Nick, David and Warren.

  Warren Jones
(See December 4, 2011 posting in the blog)  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Pacific Grove

It sits on the most spectacular part of the Peninsula coast, sandwiched neatly between the overly pretentious Pebble Beach and the more sought after tourist destination of Monterey.  Pacific Grove gets very little notice but it is just as fun and interesting as any of the other towns found around the bay.  

It was founded in 1875 by a group of Methodists who thought the area would be perfect for a meditative center and retreat.  That spit of land seen in the above photo is known today as 'Lover's Point'  but the legend has it that it was first named,  'Lover's of Jesus Point'.

In those early days and well into the 20th century, any swimming done along this beach was done in full attire.

 I have seen old pictures of women wading in the water wearing ankle length dresses and great plumed hats while carrying parasols in one hand and a baby in the other.

Additionally, the town was gated (to keep out the heathens?), no liquor was allowed within the city limits (until very recently), no smoking, and no dancing.   I cannot be sure if it is true or not but the town supposedly had an ordinance forbidding the closing of curtains on all front windows until after 9 pm--the assumption being that you were hiding something if you closed them too early.

So, with a history like that, you can be sure the town is quieter than most.  But it also prides itself on having more Victorian homes, per capita, than any other town in the US.   It was also the set for the Tom Hanks movie, 'Turner and Hooch'

It is now the home of many artists, writers and naturalists--and the Monarch Butterfly.

Each winter the beautiful Monarch returns to a small grove of trees in the heart of Pacific Grove, by the thousands, to find a mate and perform the eternal dance of procreation.

Pacific Grove's shoreline is spectacular and easily accessible.  There are no barricades, fences or houses on the beach to keep you away.  Parking is plentiful and driving along the waterfront is slow and relaxing--no one seems to be in a hurry on this part of the peninsula.

 Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.
Dec 31, 1943 --Oct. 12, 1997

His plane crashed into the water just off this coast.  


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A day trip with Sharleen

Wow!  I am finally back on line with the computer but weeks behind with my postings.  Thank you, one and all, for hanging with me and not giving up.  Presently, I am lost somewhere in the redwoods of northern California but I am getting some great pictures of BigFoot--so stay tuned.

Back in Monterey--Before leaving the area my friend, Sharleen, and I took a fun side trip to the Santa Cruz area for lunch and some lazy wandering.

First stop was to the Correlitas Market where they produce some of the best sausages I have ever sunk my teeth into.
This smoky shrine sits far out on a country road, surrounded by miles of apple orchards and strawberry fields.  A testament to this little market's sausage genius was evident in all the cars filling the parking spaces in front,  and in all the awards hanging on the walls of the store.  I was determined to pay my homage and fill my tiny freezer with as many of Correlitas' smoky sausage as it would hold.

We added two smoked sausage sandwiches to the order....

Then dashed outside to devour them in no short order.  Sorry, Sharleen.

Further down this country road we found a place that has been there for years and years..

'Roses of Yesterday and Tomorrow'

No one was around.  We found only little walking trails lined with jasmine bushes,

lots of daffodils....

 And pots and pots of roses...

...plus this note tacked to the fence.  I wished only that the owner had been around so I could find out how well it worked for him.  I suppose it does work okay--otherwise he would have gone out of business years ago.    

We drove on over to the coast and explored some of the beach towns--Capitola,  Aptos,  Santa Cruz....

  Found a farmer's market and I got a dozen avocados for a dollar!  Artichokes and oranges were almost as cheap....
   and the views were exemplary.  
I particularly like the way the residents paint their little beach houses.  

All in all it was a very good day.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Off the grid in NorCal

Ron here.

Mom called me and asked that I post a note telling everyone that she is out of range of mobile and internet and will be for a a couple more days. All is good. She will post as update as soon as she is able get a connection.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Working just blocks from the Aquarium for 12 years was a treat like no other.  The last few years in Monterey I acquired an annual pass.  Thereafter, two or three days each week I brought my lunch and walked over to the Aquarium to meditate with the jelly fish or sit on these very steps and gaze out at the ocean.  Often I could watch one of the trainers working in the water with a baby sea otter, teaching him to fish and swim so that the otter could be returned to the sea.

After lunch I would play tourist for a few minutes in front of one of the stunning exhibits then meander my way back to work.  I admit, it was all I could do to keep my eyes open the rest of the afternoon.

Visiting the Aquarium again after so many years was a real treat--except it was Easter week and the crowds were enormous.

But the view was still wonderful.  It was disappointing to learn that baby sea otters are no longer being trained by humans in the shallows of the bay.  The otter program began sometime after the Aquarium was built when people, while walking on the beach, would discover a baby otter, abandoned by its mother.  It seems that mother otters can only care for one baby at a time so, if an otter happened to have twins, then one of the babies would have to be deposited on the beach to starve.  But the Aquarium came to the rescue.

The program was hugely popular. Docents were chosen to live day and night with the foundling otters and, as the training commenced, we all watched enthralled at the babies' progress.  Except it was soon discovered that the grown up otters, once reintroduced into the wild,  preferred human companionship.  They tried to play with the children on the beach or climb aboard the kayaks in the bay.  When does a cute, cuddly sea otter become a nuisance and a danger?

Now the babies are trained only by other otters, while separation from humans is rigidly maintained. And, sadly enough--no otters were around for me to get their picture.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is so large and engrossing that it can take hours--even a full day--to cover all the exhibits.

(Italics are copies from placards near the displays.)

David and Lucile Packard
Their generosity and vision brought the aquarium to life.
The Packards paid for the original building in its entirely.  When the aquarium opened on October 20, 1984, it quickly became the new model for aquariums worldwide.

One huge tank is overhead in a round room and houses an enormous school of sardines that swim perpetually around and around in a circle.

A couple of times during the year season pass holders are invited to bring their sleeping bags and spend the night.  My aspiration was to sleep on the floor under this school of sardines.  But, alas, I think I might be able to get down on the floor but I don't think I could get up again.  (Just a reminder not to wait too long before doing those special things--you may be willing but the bones may not.)

On this particular day it was hard to get close to the windows to see the exhibits--notice the flashes of cameras in the glass--but I managed a few.

Fish come in stunning colors and designs, as do most flowers, butterflies and birds.  If I could choose the evolutionary grand finale of my outer covering I think I would select a deep royal blue skin color with aquamarine freckles.

The most charming of all undersea life has to be the seahorse.

Many years ago, my husband, Roger and I were snorkeling on a reef in the Florida Keys when one of these amazing creatures appeared right in front of my goggles. He seemed captivated by something, perhaps his reflection in my goggles. After a minute I slowly stretched out my hand and watched in amazement as his tail wrapped tightly around my little finger.  We traveled together for a few feet before he slipped from my finger and moved away into the grass. I would not have been surprised if a unicorn had been waiting on the beach when we emerged from the water.

This little guy is truly invisible until he moves.

Do you see a drifting clump of tangled seaweed? Welcome to the strange and beautiful world of sea dragons, where things aren't always as they appear.

And just as I was certain that the camouflage could not get any better I came across this guy....

Animal? Vegetable? Mardi Gras costume?

These dragons disappear in the weeds.  This astonishing animal defies imagination.  You might never guess it's related to seahorses, with that strange shape and cloak of iridescent colors.

I think he was designed by Doctor Seuss.

Each year, people buy millions of key chains, mirrors and other souvenirs made from dried seashorses.  These products spell serious trouble for declining seahorse populations.  The Aquarium urges everyone to protect seahorses by refusing to buy or collect these souvenirs.

The deep water tank with its resident hammerhead is always popular.  

A sea nettle hunts by trailing those long tentacles, covered with stinging cells.  When the tentacles touch tiny plankton, the stinging cells stick tight and paralyze prey.  From there, the prey is moved to the frilly mouth-arms and finally to the mouth, where the jelly eats its meal.

Those years ago when I wasn't eating lunch outside by the ocean I would sit in this room of the Aquarium meditating to these swaying, pulsing jelly fish.

This little girl was a pleasure to watch--she was totally engrossed.
I wish I had learned her name--I bet her mother would have liked this picture.


While it may seem that there are plenty of fish in the sea, it's a different story under the surface.  Around the world, many fisheries are in trouble.  We're taking so many fish that some  populations can't keep up.