Californians Hate Seals


These are the seals at Children’s Beach in La Jolla, Calif.

Pretty neat, huh?

I thought so, too, when I recently stumbled upon them while strolling the oceanfront with my husband on a visit to SoCal. “Seals!” I shouted, having spotted them about five seconds after he did, since he’s a foot taller and can see things sooner than me. “I know,” he said, rolling his eyes. I’m pretty sure he also was thinking, “You’re such a tourist sometimes.”

(The moment brought to mind one of my favorite stories from one of my favorite storytellers, my friend Dan. Dan, a coastal Texas resident accustomed to the occasional dolphin in the surf, but that’s it, once went surfing in California. He saw a seal surfing the waves, too. “A SEAL!!!” he exclaimed loud enough so the other surfers could hear. He looked around, thrilled to be sharing the waves with a seal, and he wanted the other surfers to see the seal, too. But the bored looks from the other surfers only made him feel like quite the lame, sheepish Texas tourist.)

So anyway, I soon realized it was us and about a thousand other tourists watching the seals. We’d coo with delight whenever one of the babies flopped about, or chuckle when one hauled itself awkwardly out from the water.

They are harbor seals and they are protected under the Marine Mammal Act. As they should be.

But, after I had put the camera away, some a-hole, with his baby daughter in tow, crossed the rope barrier meant to keep humans away from the seals. The man threw down a beach blanket and sat down, sending every single seal scurrying into the water, where they all poked their heads out to watch the offending invaders. Me and a thousand other tourists audibly gasped.

Turns out that this was a local, who feels entitled to bring his child to the beach, seals or no seals. This has been an ongoing issue between animal haters and animal lovers in La Jolla.

It’s probably quite clear what side I’m on: As if California doesn’t have enough beaches overrun with humans, now some residents want this tiny spit of beach all to their own.

Jesus H., people.


Oh, the Opulence: Radio City Music Hall

After a couple of stiff drinks on a Friday night, I guess anything can seem lovely. But Radio City Music Hall is a sight to behold.

I walked in there for a concert unaware of the opulence. In a word, it’s majestic. In a few more words, it’s art-deco majestic. It’s far better than any other pretty nice venue I’ve been to in New York, like the Beacon Theatre, Webster Hall, the Roseland Ballroom and Carnegie Hall.

To get to our seats, I took a carpeted, gold paneled elevator.

People see musicians at Radio City to hear some of the best live sound in the world. Unfortunately, this means there are audio nerds present. One man behind us kept trying to personally converse with the sound engineers by shouting “TURN DOWN THE UPPER MID-RANGE.”

There was also the seemingly unavoidable “bridge-and-tunnel” crowd in the row behind us, who kept shouting at Lucinda to play “Car Wheels,” one of her better known songs, although by now it is several years old. “Cah Wheels! Come on, PLAY CAH WHEELS,” they’d shout with their thick New York accents.

I fought the urge to turn around and shout “FREEBIRD” in their faces.

It’s a Weird Place. In a Good Way.

Now that I’ve been back from California for a few days, I’ve decided that my favorite thing, besides the dramatic landscapes, is the weird vibe. Perhaps it’s created by being around an assortment of crazy plants (see previous post), or the intense sunshine, or living on ground that’s prone to shaking without warning. That would make me wacky.

So here’s a photo show of good old California wackiness. Continue reading

In God’s Country

Before U2 wrote their massive hit album, The Joshua Tree, they read Raymond Carver’s short stories. Then they holed themselves up in a motel in the California desert and wrote their masterpiece about life in America.

I, too, have just finished a book of short stories by Carver, just visited the desert, and recently spotted Bono and The Edge eating at a restaurant in New York. Meaning: I am now awaiting divine inspiration to start my award winning novel. In the meantime, some photos of Joshua Tree National Park:


Continue reading

Go West, Young Man

You know when a stomach flu starts going around your office? And how, at the first sign of gastric trouble, you start catastrophizing? That’s where I’m at right now. Wondering if this slightly queasy feeling is an early warning sign that I have caught the virus. That, at any moment, I’ll turn green and then vomit.

TMI, Joy. Oh yeah. Sorry.


On Friday I fly to San Diego. I’ll be doing a grand tour of SoCal, visiting Joshua Tree National Park and Los Angeles before flying back.

I’ve been to California three times. The most recent trip was when I was 13. I flew out one summer to stay with my aunt. I had a boyfriend at the time, and didn’t realize that my parents had flown me out there as a ploy to keep me from getting too serious with him. Ah, teen love: so tenacious.

Prior to that, I visited California around 8 or 9 years old, with the entire nuclear family. We first visited my aunt, who was taking care of my grandmother, who was dying of colon cancer. I was unfortunately too young to fully grasp the situation. Or fortunately, depending on how you look at it.

After spending time with them, we drove south, along Highway 1, a breathtaking road that overlooks massive sea cliffs. Or so they say: All I remember is being car sick, and vomiting (see first few sentences of this post). We eventually ended up in L.A, and went to Disneyland — allegedly. I have no memory of that, either. Odd how memories are formed. I’m sure my parents wanted to provide me with a memorable childhood experience like visiting the home of Mickey Mouse, and I can’t recall being there.

And going even farther back, I first visited California when I was 5. I actually have more memories from that trip, like visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown, and walking around my aunt’s backyard and listening to her talk about the deer who ate the apricots from her trees. I remember feeding a carrot to someone’s pet horse nearby. I remember my aunt’s cool goldfish pond, and that she had a pool table and she taught me to play pool.

I’m Gonna Step into My Freezer — to Warm Up

The temperature right now is 12 degrees. The sustained winds are between 20-30 mph, with gusts around 40 mph.

I have never, ever been so cold in my life as I was waiting for the bus this morning. The wind blew my purse off my shoulder — twice, in less than two minutes.

It stops mattering after all you feel is pain. The pain of your skin fighting the urge to freeze.

Note that even your frig’s freezer is warmer than the ambient air in NYC right now.

The good news? The very very good news? I’m flying to San Diego on Friday.