A page a day

A professional writer's private thoughts

Archive for July, 2012

Runners who stare at goats

OK, so sometimes I get distracted when I’m running. It doesn’t take much. Home remodeling projects, cool gardens, cute dogs, nice plants, Airstream camper trailers, bad landscaping, piles of trash.. I will stop for all of the above. The kissing goats of Vereda del Ciervo got my attention on Saturday with their frantic antics. I’ll let them tell you about it.

Goleta goats

Me: “Hey! There’s a goat on that shed! I’m going to take a picture of it.”


Goleta goats II

Goat: “What do you want, crazy lady? Do you have a treat for me or are you just a stupid tourist?”


Goleta goat two

Goat one: “Do you think she has raisins?” Goat two: “I am hoping for corn chips.”


Goats 3

Goat two (whispers): “I think she might be lonely. Maybe she needs a friend.”


Goats three

Thanks for the fun visit, VDC goats! See you soon.


By the way, these goats have it good. They don’t have to work for a living like the brush clearning goats, and they have a nice clean pen and are obviously well fed. Of course, they might rather be wandering the roads of Banff in Alberta, Canada, but then you really have to pose for photos all the darn day.





Kayaking Lake Cachuma


Liz and I kayaking. Photo by Boris.

It’s been over a year since the County Parks Department relaxed its rules on water activities at Cachuma Lake County Park, meaning that you can now kayak on the lake. Unfortunately, their allowance of stand up paddleboarding didn’t last, and that’s now prohibited. Swimming is still not allowed (because the lake is a source of drinking water), so it probably became apparent that inexperienced paddlboarders become swimmers pretty quickly.

But you can rent a kayak at the boat dock for just $10 an hour, so on Sunday Liz, Boris and I hit the water for some paddling. The weather was hot and perfect. We couldn’t have asked for a better summer day. Cruised up to the rental kiosk, threw down a deposit and minutes later we were on the water. No safety instructions, they just told us not to land the kayaks under any circumstances. Oh, and to watch out for motorboats.

It brought back memories of taking the lake’s Eagle Cruise with my grandmother, taking a motorboat out with my Dad and brother, and stopping by for various newspaper assignments. I’ve never camped at the lake and wouldn’t count it as one of my favorite local spots, but kayaking is always fun.

We cruised along the shore, had some bumper boat moments, took a bunch of photos, and then hit windy waters as we turned a corner toward Bradbury Dam. It was actually windy enough that there was decent swell in the water. We got a little wet! Paddled about halfway across and then decided to head back to the dock.

Then we cruised to Los Olivos for coffee and cupcakes. (No wine, although Liz did pick up her wine club shipment.) If you’re looking for a fun, inexpensive afternoon in beauteous Santa Barbara County, put kayaking on the lake on your list.

Now with more sand

DoritosEvery day I try to pick up some trash from the beach at the end of my run. Today it was a water-logged bag of Doritos. “Now with more salt and sand..”

Stupid thing to take a picture of, but I just liked the color of the red bag against the dark beach.

After UCSB graduation in June there were mylar ballons on the beach every day for a week. I guess people let them go after their parties and they drifted away. Picking up all those balloons really made me mad. Cleaning up bottle rocket detritus after the Fourth of July didn’t bother me as much.

You’d be surprised how many people leave unopened beers behind on the beach. I see at least one a week. (No, I never pick them up and run home with them. Or drink them. But I’ve thought about it.)

That’s all I’ve got for today. I hope your weekend is beach trash free and that you find some unopened beer.

This Prius is making me nervous

The aftermath of last week’s accident has been relatively pain free. On Monday the insurance company for the driver who caused the crash accepted full liability, so my car is in the shop and I’m driving around in a rented Prius. Thanks, State Farm!

Both my mother and brother drive these optimized efficiency vehicles, and they’ve both tried to talk me into getting one. I’ve rejected the idea based solely on aesthetics, because I do not like the way the Prius looks. I like cars that look stylish and feel comfortable, both to drive and ride in, and the Prius doesn’t hold that appeal. I’ve always thought of them as little takeout boxes driven around by our space-traveling future selves.

So I laughed really hard when the rental car lady brought the Prius out as a “compatible” match for my Volvo. She looked at me strangely and handed me the keys. Then I had to figure out how to drive it. All that button pushing! Maybe the new marketing slogan should be “Prius: We just want to push your buttons.” (Especially since everyone seems to have an opinion about these cars, pro or con.)

On the con side of things, I am decidedly anti-Prius as a runner because you cannot hear them coming. Yes, I understand that they are running quietly and efficiently. That’s awesome. I am trying to do the same, and I do not want to get hit by a car I cannot hear.

Counterpoint – the limited gas usage is amazing. I have a very short drive to work. I shouldn’t drive at all – I should ride my bike every day, and I hope to make that transition soon. The three miles between office and home apparently end up using zero gas in the Prius, according to the little usage metric chart it displays when you conclude your trip. That’s pretty cool. And I love the roomy back area, which is big enough throw a bike in there, no problem at all.

(Here’s Snickers riding in the back of Will’s Prius last year.)


Happy dog.

I wouldn’t definite the Prius as fun to drive (it feels boxy and not sleek at all, but it still goes fast without feeling like it goes fast, so that’s probably why people get speeding tickets in these things).  It makes me nervous because I feel like I’m driving my Mom’s car without her permission and without a parking brake in sight I really do feel like it’s going to just roll away when I stop.

Minor gripes aside, it’s a fun alternative to my car and I’m enjoying checking it out. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a convert by the time the repairs are done. But I doubt it.

Date pie is delicious

Date pie

If you like pecan pie, you will also like date and pecan pie, which tastes of yummy Southern gooeyness. I ate a piece of this warm out of the oven last night and despite my apprehension about the dates, it was truly delectable. It would definitely be best served warm with some fresh whipped cream. A great Thanksgiving menu addendum.

A fortune made of sand

Sand dollar.

Saturday morning I went for a very long beach run all the way from Isla Vista to past the Naples surf break, which is about five miles up the coast from I.V. The tide is out far enough now to go all that way on the sand, and it was a beautiful summer morning to be out in the sun, running, thinking about things, and listening to good music.

On my way past the beach at Ellwood I noticed that there were lots of whole sand dollars in the surfline. I will often pick up a perfect whole sand dollar, because they feel lucky to me. I’d put them in the same category with pennies found in the road or silver dollar pancakes. You don’t see them very often, and they inspire this perfect little feeling of happiness that is entirely real and pleasant. They’re not always common on the beach here, but maybe this is summer sand dollar season. Lots of luck to go around.

There was no surf to speak of, but there were pelicans, starfish, nice dogs and walkers and plenty of other sights to see. The Bacara looked like a sleepy Meditteranean village perched on a hill. It’s less offensive to me than it used to be, but I really hope the new owners decide to abandon the proposed condominiums that would have major impacts on Haskell’s Beach. The more wild this stretch of coastline stays, the luckier we all are.

By the way, did you know that sand dollars are also called sand cakes, sea biscuits and cake urchins? Baking and the beach – the perfect combo!


Orange starfish.

Pelican perch.

Pelican perch. This guy let me get really close to him without blinking. But he was watching me out of the corner of his eye.

Page One

If you haven’t seen “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” jump on your Netflix queue and add this documentary to your viewing list. The brilliantly reported 2011 film from Andrew Rossi takes a broad view of the future of journalism, and specifically of that old Gray Lady of the reported word, our national standard for the daily print experience. I continue to rely on the Times for most of my daily news, and so do hundreds of thousands of other intelligent folks out there in America.

My only gripe – I’d take a less aggressive stance on the Jayson Blair plagiarism incident, reasoning that most mainstream readers didn’t pay as much attention to the gravity of this offense as us media types did. If you polled even educated readers today on who Jayson Blair might be, I doubt he’d get name recognition above 4-5 percent, if that.

Outspoken NYT  (“fair-minded, diligent”) reporter David Carr, featured prominently in the film, is one of the most up-front journalists bouncing around today, and viewers get to see him in rapid action in this film. He’s the type of firey journo that is rarely seen these days, and I confess that his simple remarks while driving to a conference at the close of the film “it’s sort of lonely and scary out there. It’s a way of gathering around a campfire and saying ‘we’re all right, aren’t we? Are we OK?’ ‘We’re fine. We must be. We’ve got badges on.'” pretty much summed it all up for me.

To close, I’d just give a nod to my entry in the Poynter six word journalism motto challenge from a few years back (it was awarded an honorable mention): “No news is not good news.” That’s an a-ha aphorism we can all agree with. As one reporter put it in the documentary: “It just doesn’t work if people don’t know.”

Papers in DC during my May 2012 trip.

Silence from the side of the car

Was a third party in a San Marcos smash-up on Sunday. Car stopped ahead of me, I stopped, car behind me stopped, car behind them didn’t stop, Car behind me (Mercedes Kompressor) got hit hard, they hit me hard, I ended up on the shoulder and luckily no one was seriously hurt. Driver and passenger in the second vehicle took the full impact of the collision and were transported to Cottage Hospital via American Medical Response ambulance.

Feeling a bit unsettled and unwell tonight. Shoulder pain from getting slammed forward into my seatbelt and a lot of generalized anxiety. Sleep elusive. A strange way to look forward to Monday.

Dad has a good piece about the dangers of deer on the pass in his book, Sideways in Neverland Unforunately the impetus for this wasn’t blameless Bambi, but delinquent attention by other drivers.

Extremely professional and compassionate response from 911 dispatch, Santa Barbara County Fire first responders, American Medical Response ambulance crew, and California Highway Patrol personnel on scene. Many thanks to all.

Don’t drive that road if you don’t have to. I know better and only went that way today due to the ongoing construction project on Highway 101 at Gaviota. Big apologies to my grandfather for missing our weekly Scrabble bout.

Kompressor that hit me 7-22


This little guy was enjoying his afternoon nap at the harbor on Friday evening. He sure looked comfy, perched on the edge of a barge also used as a hangout by many pelicans.

Harbor seal

A sunny spot to catch some sea dreams.

harbor seal and pelican

A watchful pelican babysitter keeps a close eye.

Summer of pie

Peach pie with lattice crust

Peach Pie!

I’ve been on a baking streak lately, and not for any particular reason. But I realized not too long ago that the great thing about pie is that even if you don’t want to eat it yourself, there is always bound to be someone in the vicinity who will.

Something that always confused me as a kid was how my Mom, a prolific baker, could turn out all these amazing baked goods (cookies, brownies, pies, cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes – you name it, she baked it) and not eat much if any of them. Well, I figured out her secret a couple of years ago. After I turned 30, I lost my sweet tooth.

Save your shocks of horror and amazement at my incredible restraint. I used to be very pro-dessert. Now I could care less. Granted, that doesn’t apply to the chocolate that my coworkers bring to the office – that I eat because I’m bored. These days I’ll make a pie and let it sit on the stove for 24 hours before I decide that somebody better eat it, and it’s not going to be me, and give it away.

So you might be wondering, “why bother?”, and it’s a valid question. But there’s something about the baking process that’s extremely therapeutic for me. Even when the crust doesn’t roll quite right or the edges aren’t perfectly scalloped, pie baking is a finite process that doesn’t take too long and produces a very desirable result. I’ve never met anybody who said “Pie? I hate pie!” If you are that person, fess up. You’re surely a specimen of tragic disorder.

I tend to keep making the same pies repeatedly because people like them. Berry, peach, apple, strawberry-rhubarb, rhubarb are all on that list. But there’s been a request for something unusual – a date pie – so that’s on my list for this weekend. I’ll let you know how it turns out.


Rhubarb pie pre-crust


Mixed Berry

Mixed Berry pie