Sunday, February 27, 2011

Winter Has Returned to Venice Beach - Part II

After my most recent post from February 24, Alma's back crapped out on her and we were holed up in our condo for 3 days while she recuperated. Two of those days saw storms, wind and unseasonably cold weather. (Alma thinks the weather may have contributed somewhat to the severity of her back problems.)

Winter really has returned to Venice Beach. I mean, we're talking snow in places like Glendale and La Crescenta for God's sake! They said there was even a chance that there would be snow for the first time in 50 years in downtown Los Angeles. That did not happen. But winter bit and we felt her bite over the past few days.

By yesterday, though, Alma's back had improved along with the weather, so we decided to try a walk at Venice Beach. Even though the rains and snow had gone, there were still scattered cumulous clouds in the sky. But what stood out yesterday was the strong and sustained winds. I would estimate those winds were blowing at 30-40 miles per hour steadily. The winds were not particularly gusty but they were strong and sustained out of the north-northwest.

The ocean made a dull roar of white noise, its volume louder because of the effects of the wind. The strong winds also blew across the sand, creating a thin suspended sheen of sand above the surface of the beach. And I swear there were times when I could hear the hissing of the sand as it blew across the surface of the beach.

As usual, Alma took some awesome photographs. The winds were so strong that they blew one of the garbage cans that punctuate the sand over onto its side.

The winds blew so sustained that they created windrows in the sand.

Because the winds blew out of the west-northwest, we had the wind somewhat at our backs during the first leg of our walk southward to the Villa Marina jetty. When we reached the jetty and turned to walk northward back to the Washington Blvd. pier, we were walking somewhat more directly into the winds. Such that, by the time we were halfway back to the pier, we decided to cut our walk short by a third and only walked two miles yesterday.

Today the skies are completely clear and the winds seem to have died down. So we shall take our full 3-mile walk today. I can't wait.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Winter Has Returned to Venice Beach

Alma and I have been able to walk our regular beach walk for the past few days. But winter has definitely returned. Brisk winds and colder temperatures make the walk each day a bit more of a trudge. Yesterday, the sky was punctuated with big grey cumulous clouds. With the wind blowing strongly off the ocean, each time a cloud blocked the sun, I could feel the temperature drop about 10 degrees. But, after awhile, the sun would come out from behind the clouds and I would feel the temperature go back up the same amount..

Still, anything beats walking at the soul-sucking mall. We have been fortunate this year in that we have not been caught in a rain during any walk. We always seem to go to the soul-sucking mall on days when it rains or threatens mightily to do so. The rain in winter tends toward the cold and stinging. When you are out on the beach, there is no place to hide from a sustained downpour. Sure, you can huddle under the lifeguard shacks, but it's not a very comfortable place to seek shelter. (Think King Lear on the heath and you've got an idea.)

But unless it is raining or threatening to rain, I vastly prefer walking on the beach to walking in the mall or even in our neighborhood. Yesterday I noticed that the volume of 'white noise' had grown noticeably louder, no doubt because the steady winds created stronger wave action. Between the steady onslaught of the wind and the constant shush of the white noise, I finished the walk feeling quite 'spacey'. Alma remarked that she felt the same.

The beaches appeared clean swept down at the surf yesterday, but there was a lot of nasty garbage up at the high-water mark. It was so chilly, though, that our fingers get cold reaching into the sand to pick up the garbage. So we kept our garbage removal yesterday to a minimum, just moving egregious stuff out of the hard pack and up onto the soft pack where the Beaches and Harbors crews presumably will get it when make their rounds.

The skies look somewhat ominous right now (at about 8:30 a.m.), so I am not sure if we will walk on the beach today. I hope we do.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Alma and the Photographs for this Blog

My regular readers know that my wife, Alma, is an accomplished visual artist. Historically, she has worked in the plastic arts (painting, sculpture and assemblage). But since I began this blog in November of 2010, Alma has taken over providing all photographs for it.

What is remarkable is that Alma currently uses a Samsung cellphone that is about 4 years old with a very modest camera and even more modest editing capabilities. Even though she has had no formal photography training, Alma's art training in composition and aesthetics has given her the foundation for what I think are exceptionally strong photographs.

We eventually plan to open a room in the gallery for her photography. And eventually you will be able to see a selection of her photographs at her website: But right now we are holding off on modifying the website to include a display of her photographs until we have resolved certain other crucial design questions that we currently face.

So to see a more complete collection of Alma's photography right now, you will find it best to locate her on FaceBook, where she goes by 'Evelyn Bryan'. Her current profile picture on FaceBook is a copy of our business card, of which I have included a facsimile below.

Thanks to Alma for the wonderful photographs that grace this blog.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day at Venice Beach

The weather turned colder and windier today but not so much as to prevent Alma and me from walking on our beach. Today is Valentine's Day and we had a nice day. This morning, I used the need to go to the post office as an excuse to get out to buy flowers and a card for Alma. The flowers were NOT ROSES, as Alma prefers Gerber daisies. Only problem is that there is no florist close by where we live and I thought there was. So I ended up having to buy flowers at our local grocers. Not so bad but the selection was limited to only ROSES and mixed bouquets. No Gerber daisies that I could see. So I bought one of the mixed bouquets. But Alma ended up really liking the flowers even though they were regular daisies and mums and not Gerber daisies.

Later I made Chicken Cacciatore and Alma made a great salad and we enjoyed lunch on our balcony. The weather where we live was very nice and the lunch was quite romantic. Speaking of romantic, someone was hard at work at the beach.

To all my readers, wherever you may find yourself today, Happy Valentine's Day. I hope you have spent the day with someone special to you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Ladybug Brigade

We have seen many strange but wonderful, bizarre but beautiful sights in our daily walks at the beach.  Just yesterday, Alma and I stumbled on a colony of ladybugs on the sand. I'm not sure why they were there. Probably for the water, the same reason the bees show up there every so often.

Ladybugs are so unassuming that you almost see them by accident. It seems you would never see one if you tried to find it and that, at least for me, I am always surprised (and quite pleasantly so) when I do see one. So to come across an entire legion, an entire brigade of them, really made my day.

While it may be a truism or cliche, when you see a creature as unassuming as a ladybug at the beach, it brings home the fact that it's not just 'our' beach. It's their beach too and we should consider ourselves eminently fortunate to serve as its custodians.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Disturbing the Peace

On our regular walks at the beach, Alma and I typically hear only the white noise of the waves, punctuated by the occasional squawk of a seagull or the distant cry of a child playing with his or her parents in the surf. It is not quiet or silence; there is sound. But the white noise is such a constant background that it might as well be silence.

Sure, the occasional sonic annoyance intrudes. Probably the most annoying is the frequent buzzing of helicopters heading north up the coast toward Malibu or south to Los Angeles International Airport. But these aural annoyances are usually short-lived. For the most part, Alma and I walk with a soothing background that allows us to gather our thoughts and commune with nature.

In the past couple days, however, noise pollution has struck our beach. On Saturday, we started out walking southward to the Villa Marina jetty. About 20 yards in front of us as we turned to walk southward, I could see a large tent\canopy fluttering above four posts. And I could hear coming from it the throbbing pulse of bass that one associates with living in an apartment building with tenants who have a loud stereo. As we drew parallel to the tent, I could see that whoever had erected it had also brought a microphone on a stand and a turntable and these humongous loudspeakers.

And they were playing this annoying variety of urban hip-hop, the kind that has no recognizable melody but has a lot of what sound like scratched records and males going 'Um-humh' to the throb of a bass guitar. In my opinion, if you can't whistle it, it doesn't count as music. But I'm an old fart, I guess. I don't begrudge today's youth its music, provided it doesn't intrude into my space.

I turned to Alma. "Instead of giving tickets to dog owners who bring their dogs onto the beach, the Los Angeles Police Department should be giving these people tickets for excessive noise." It really was a case of their music invading others' space, as even when we had walked 10 yards beyond it, we could still hear the thumping bass. We decided to walk down to the jetty and not to complain.

However, on our return trip, they were still going at it, as loud as ever. Alma had it and walked over to them. She told them she hoped they picked up their physical garbage, since they had created so much noise pollution. The people there were 'hipsters' in their early 20s, I would guess, and they just looked at Alma as if she were crazy.

Now I know that it has become almost cliche for older people to complain about the musical tastes of the young. Indeed, I well remember my parents constantly telling me to "turn it down" when I had cranked up the stereo to high.. And I am beginning to reach the age now (early 50s) of the cranky neighbors who tell you to 'get off their lawn.' But, really, we come down to the beach to get away from urban noise and hustle and bustle, not to see and hear it re-created before us. And while these youth have an absolute right to their music, they do not have an absolute right to play it so loudly that it invades others' space.

Yesterday, Alma and I were again walking the same stretch at about the same time. This time, from out on the waves, there came the sound of engines racing. Sure enough, when we looked out about 75 yards, we could see 3 of these cigarette speed boats racing one another northward. The three boats were so loud that it sounded like we were at the Indianapolis 500. They would reach the end of the circuit just about in line with the life guard headquarters building and its breakwater (north of the Washington Boulevard Pier) and then would turn around and race southward to the Villa Marina jetty. In other words, the 3 speedboats were tracing almost exactly the same route Alma and I walk each day.

And there was no escaping their racket. It was not going to be a simple matter of just moving further down the beach. Because these boats with their clatter were moving also. And so loud. About the time we reached the Villa Marina jetty, the 3 speedboats had retired into the causeway at the Marina. And about 30 mintues later, a LAPD helicopter made a leisurely pass over the water where they had been racing. I am sure the helicopter was there in response to some of the beach dwellers' complaints about excessive noise. But, while the LAPD knows no peers when it comes to ticketing dog owners and lovers at the beach, it just can't seem to get it together in a timely manner when it comes to noise polluters or any other type of polluter, as far as Alma and I know.

I'm not sure whom I was more pissed at yesterday, the people piloting the noisy speedboats that again interrupted our reveries or the LAPD for its lackluster response in stopping the nonsense. My anger was all the more pointed because of the futility of anything being done to put a stop to the noise pollution. Clearly, the LAPD feels it has far more important matters to pursue.

The moral of this story is that people pollute with their noise. Maybe not as much as with their physical garbage. Even at a wondrous location like Venice Beach, one can no longer escape the trappings of modernity. Instead, one must suffer and endure those trappings with little recourse. Of course, those same trappings of modernity allow Alma and me to reach the beach each day by automobile. And, in a larger sense, the trappings of modernity allow Alma and me to live close to the beach in what is actually a desert basin that only modernity has brought ample food and water to. So maybe I don't have much to complain about and should consider myself fortunate. I just know that it hurt my ears on both days.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Cycle of Life

In our daily walks on the beach, Alma and I see such a profusion of animal life forms -- marine, avian, canine and the occasional feline -- that it becomes easy to forget that there is a cycle of life. The visual reminders lie all around us though, from broken sea shells and dead seaweed to the occasional dead manta ray or sea gull.

I know that death forms part of the natural cycle of life and that all living things must eventually perish. But I also wonder whether the enormous amounts of garbage and waste that humans generate and that make their ways into our oceans don't contribute in significant fashion to an acceleration of the deaths that would occur naturally. When I come across a sea gull lieing dead on the sand as in the picture above, I do have to wonder whether it expired of truly natural causes or whether the causes were, shall we say, man made.

One peril of living in such a specialized, technocratic age is that, while I may suspect that man contributes to the death of marine species or a specific animal, I am not a marine scientist and have no way to ascertain whether my suspicions have merit. Oh sure, I could go on the internet and enter the Tower of Babel of conflicting voices as to man's effect upon nature (akin to the debate over global warming). But I would emerge from the babble more aware of the debate but with no surer sense of the truth. Likewise, I could go back to school to learn more about the topic of Marine Biology. But this subject is not my passion, more a passing fancy, an idle speculation.

But the questions these vistas inspire are neither idle nor insignificant: What sort of world do we want to leave for our children and grandchildren? What obligation do we owe the other species that we co-inhabit the earth with? Should we leave a small footprint and, if so, how do we leave the smallest footprint possible?  When one is alone with one's thoughts at the beach, these questions invariably come up, even if answers to them remain elusive.

One of the stranger vistas we see while walking on the beach is roses -- either singly or in bunches -- laid out on the sand. Often the roses appear in pristine condition as though they have come straight from the florist. And indeed they may have. It happens that some people choose to have their funerals at the beach and these roses remain from the ceremonies.

Just this week, we have come across a profusion of roses laid out on the sand. Alma took many pictures, a few of which I have included below.

I consider myself pretty much a through-and-through materialist and do not place much stock in the spiritual. But when I am at the beach, I find myself in the presence of the magisterial and it reminds me of my utter and complete insignificance in the cosmos. So when I die, I can think of no more fitting way to mark my brief time upon this planet than for my physical remains to be cremated, my ashes scattered among the waves and sand and a flower or two to be left on the sand to mark my passing. There are far worse ways to go. And I will be dead so it won't much matter to me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Computer Problems Persist

My laptop is dying, It is a Sony Vaio that I inherited from my prior place of employment. I got 3 solid months of service from it before it started crapping out. It runs Windows XP and what happens now is that most often it will not move from the opening screen to the initial log in screen and just stays frozen on the Sony Vaio intro screen with the pretty logo. The hard drive light goes off, so I know no one is home to quote the proverbial saying.

Right now I am posting this on Alma's Toshiba laptop. This past weekend, Alma and I went to Best Buy and priced a new device for her. She was quite smitten with the Apple IPad, especially when she learned that a simple little $20 kit will allow her to move photos from her phone right to the IPad. So I think we will be heading back to Best Buy later this week to do the deed.

So my posting for the next few days may be a little more sporadic than usual. But I will keep posting. We have been having a run of nice days and Alma shot some really tremendous photos just yesterday, so I plan to do a Dune Update here in the next couple days.

Thanks for your patience. And thanks for continuing to read this blog. It means the world to me.