Cobwebs gathering on my board…and in my soul.

I haven’t touched my board in weeks, except to move it so I could vacuum. I know, the neglect is unacceptable. In between oral surgery, windy conditions and so very many important things to do, it just hasn’t happened. But I don’t want to let my baby blog gather cobwebs also, thereby letting down my very many loyal followers.

So what if I have no original content for you? There are so many things I can share. Like this gem of a poem I came across on, “The Pee on Me,” an ode to peeing in your wetsuit, by Bryan Knowles. The subject matter might seem juvenile and unrefined, but his rhyme and meter are anything but. I mean, who would have thought to rhyme “piss” with “bliss”? OK, so it’s no more sophisticated than the poem I wrote in 8th grade about jellyfish, but it’ll have you peeing in your wetsuit with laughter. Enjoy.

The Pee on Me

Friday, January 21st, 2011

An ode to peeing in your wetsuit.

Because we all do it. And we like it. An ode to peeing in your wetsuit.

The Pee on Me

The pee on me it feels so nice
Warming waters cold as ice.
It tinkles up and trickles down
My suit where it does slosh around.
For hours it may fester there
But then again I hardly care.
I actually enjoy the pee
Every time I set it free.
Sure it smells a little strange
When afterwards I towel change,
But that’s a wee small price to pay
To have the chance to let it spray
Once or twice a chilly session
I’m unashamed of this confession.
I always try to not make haste
As early pees just go to waste,
But now and then preemies must flow
To golden pools in sand below.
I know I’m not the only one
Who’s made those little rivers run.
So if you take a pee for granted
Be mindful of these rhymes I’ve ranted
Your pee is like a “special” friend
Hot and comforting in the end.
So when you need that shot of bliss
Just saddle up and take a piss.

A three hour tour from Ventura to Santa Cruz, the Island

Mysteriously, the Channel Islands–with the exception of Catalina–have remained an under-the-radar destination for outdoor adventurers, birders, naturalists, camping enthusiasts, snorkelers, spelunkers, divers, whale watchers, Island Fox chasers, cave explorers, anthropologists, dermatologists, street artists, baristas, barbers, accountants and Lady Gagas–as in, everyone who remains ignorant to the wonders that await them across the channel from the Central Coast. The “American Galapagos,” so called because of the concentration of endemic species, have something for all walks of life and levels of appreciation for stunning ocean views and the resilience of nature.

Supposedly, the Islands resemble what California looked like before it was settled.

So, instead of getting my mom another pair of turquoise earrings for Mother’s Day this year, I took her to Santa Cruz Island, the largest in the Channel Islands National Park. Granted, the trip was one of the perks of working at a PR agency and didn’t require a big investment, but it’s the thought that counts, as long as it’s accompanied by a huge balloon and mushy card.

This was actually taken on the way back, about two minutes from departure. You can almost see the other passengers shooting daggers from their eyes.

We drove an hour north to the Ventura Harbor for our noon departure with Island Packers, the go-to outfitters for channel crossings. The crew is chipper and friendly, the captain informative and full of jokes. We got on board the catamaran with a mixed crowd, including a group of guys with a few cases of beer, which for some people makes a great breakfast when camping. My mom and I joined my boss and the group of of writers we gathered together for a press trip showcasing Ventura’s many eco-friendly aspects, including tasting at an organic tequila ranch. We didn’t take part in the other activities, and if tequila wasn’t my enemy I would have been jealous.

The hour-long voyage usually comes with any number of marine life sightings, the holy grail being blue or gray whales, humpbacks, and even killer whales, depending on the season. If you get a kick out of frolicking pods of dolphins, sunning seals and sea lions, hunting killer whales, and the way pelicans dive in the water like badass ninjas to grab fish, you’ll probably enjoy the boat ride to the Channel Islands. Unless you’re susceptible to motion sickness because it can be a bumpy ride. The most action we saw though, aside from some sea lions chilling on a buoy, was a crew member retrieving a bunch of stray party balloons from the water, probably saving some leather backed sea turtles from an unnatural death.

Sea lions chilling on a buoy.

We arrived at Scorpion Bay harbor, and got ready for a mellow four-mile hike around the island led by Dave, a knowledgeable National Park Service employee. We stopped now and then to take pictures and to listen while our guide pointed out the various endemic and invasive species. While the terrain seems rather bare in places, Dave assured us that due to the gradual removal of all sheep, pigs and other critters brought over by ranchers in the latter half of the 19th century, native plants are making a comeback and the islands are becoming more and more lush. One plant in particular stands out as one that does not belong among the small shrubs and overall treeless geography: a huge eucalyptus tree dominating the campsite. Hard-core conservationists say it should be removed because historically it shouldn’t be there, but campers appreciate the shade it provides. I say, let it be so that any wayward koala bears that accidentally land on the island have a place to live. But I digress.

I had been to Santa Cruz Island before, also with a press trip, but we spent the day on a guided kayak trip along the cliff edge and through sea caves– like the one below–learning about kelp, sea urchins, geography of the islands and the like. Kayaking, when weather permits, is definitely the way to go if you want a more up-close and personal experience.

On a previous press trip, we had kayaked into this cave, where there is a hidden beach which seals use as a birthing ground.

We came to the end of the trail at Potato Harbor, named after the legendary Captain Albert “Potato” Dupé who had a thing for spuds. That’s one version. Dave said it’s because it just looks like a potato. Dubious.

Potato po-tah-to.

The Happiest Waves in America

This past Easter weekend, while most of my friends back in L.A. partook in the pastel-colored, sugar-laden pagan traditions of dying eggs and baking pastries, I got a taste of the SLO life in the Happiest Town in America. And a bit of cold seawater as well.

Ben and I decided to spend the long weekend in San Luis Obispo, whose acronym SLO suits the town pretty well. Past cozy Ventura and picturesque Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo is far enough to qualify as a road trip and a thousand miles away from the L.A. mentality. Recognized as the Happiest Town in America, SLO boasts wide sidewalks (apparently this is linked to a town’s happiness), stringent smoking laws, beautiful beaches, plenty of bike paths, and countless hiking trials. A utopia for anyone who’s not a sun-shunning goth, no?

Ah, happiness. Is it the fresh air? Hike-induced endorphins? Or just SLO's wide sidewalks?

SLO, being home to Cal Poly, is also the quintessential college town where Ben spent his undergrad glory days. He’s graduated and moved back to Long Beach, but some of his good friends are still in the area, and we stayed with the one and only Sir Avery Cromwell (whom I still owe $12 in refreshments–hope you’re reading this! And you have my hairbrush!) in Morro Bay, an easy 10 minutes north of Downtown SLO. Avery has this cool old two-story house a few blocks from the beach, with a guest room (no floor for us!), a crotchety old cat, a nice roommate and a well-stocked bar for entertaining. A good host he is.

After some jovial banter and reminiscing, we walked to join the rest of the Cromwell Clan for dinner at Hofbrau at the harbor, with lovely sunset views, for pitchers and German-style comfort food. Then we went to a bar nearby for pints of the ubiquitous Firestone DBA and games of pool and shuffleboard. Firestone, when combined with pure skill, makes me a fairly decent player of both.

We got up early enough on Saturday morning to go surfing at the Pit. The Pit is right next to the Rock. I don’t know why neither have better names but in any case, the Rock makes for an easily identifiable landmark and meet-up place as well as a great backdrop for surfing at the Pit. Which doesn’t look like a pit? What do I know.

What I do know now is what about 53 degree water feels like and I’m really glad I bought booties to keep my toes from going numb. After the initial iciness, I got used to it and warmed up pretty quickly. The waves seemed pretty small as we suited up, but there were frequent sets of growing waves and I decided against paddling through the breakwater to the line up. Ben started catching waves right away, as usual, and eventually Avery and his brother showed up, waded on past me with kind words of encouragement as I briefly stood up on some whitewater. Which was completely fine with me, even when Avery’s dad paddled on out to the real waves. Baby steps…

Ben and Avery, looking mighty pleased with themselves after their shred sesh.

After a while we took off for nearby Cayucos, where Ben’s friend Dane lives, and we had delicious smoked fish tacos and hung out in the backyard until we went surfing again. There’s a good spot about six seconds away from Dane’s place. This time the guys debated whether or not to bring longboards since we were expecting small surf, and they did. Once again, while the teasing baby waves sparked some optimism in me as I struggled to put on wet booties, they somehow grew to shoulder high by the time we paddled out past the break. This session for me turned out to be mostly a practice in turtle diving and paddling into shore. But the whitewash was too mushy to surf so I sat and watched. Needless to say, the others were more successful but still had to work to hold onto their longboards.

That night I had a glimpse into the nightlife in Downtown San Luis Obispo, through Peach & Frog Pub, Bubblegum Alley, and another bar with $2 cans of Tecate–score! There we met up with another surf buddy, Ross, whose mellow demeanor was at odds with the harrowing surf tales that he and Ben shared with me.

We started Easter Sunday morning by putting on cold wetsuits while it was drizzling, but I wasn’t complaining, in spite of the fact that my cold wet booties were putting up a staunch resistance to my feet. Maybe I whined a little. No one tells you that putting on the gear is half the battle.

Finally we paddled out into the “kiddie pool,” no big deal. The waves got a little bigger, but I was still assessing my options. A little bigger still, and it was back to turtle dive practice, which lead to a massive brain freeze and me trudging to the car, not entirely defeated but ready for a hot shower.

I kind of looked and felt like Ben's Wienerschnitzel antenna topper at one point.

Last on our itinerary was something more familiar: a hike at Bishop’s Peak, which is the highest in the chain of nine peaks between San Luis and Morro Bay. I’m pretty good at hiking. It’s like walking, but harder. The fog had lifted and it was no longer drizzling, so the hike afforded us a great view of SLO, the surrounding mountains, vineyards and fields, all the way out to the ocean. It was a great way to get some terra firma exercise, but Ben had to do something to make the activity a bit dangerous, namely the Leap of Death. It’s pretty self explanatory and I don’t want to give anyone ideas by going into detail.

I had to give Ben a piggy back ride half way up, but it was worth it.

And so, it was with fond memories and achy limbs we left the Happiest Town in America and its waves that happily taught me a lesson or two.