31 July 2009
Today is Positive Day. Which is a strange concept for me simply because every day is Positive Day. Still with all the troubles, anger, harsh words, and sad events out in the great wide world, it doesn't hurt to have a day dedicated to the proposition of "Think Positive".
A long time ago I learned that none of us are going to get out of life alive. What's more unless you are incredibly lucky, marvelously blessed, or have one very over achieving guardian angel, sometime someplace something absolutely horrid is going to happen to you. It just will and you are going to cry, probably a lot. So how is this positive? When the absolutely horrid thing happens that makes you cry remember to smile.
All of the days before the horrid thing happened, you were there when others were in a bad place. You were there to lend a hand. You were there with the soft word to stop anger or the handkerchief to dry eyes. Maybe it was a casserole following a funeral, contributions to shelters, an injured stray taken to the vet. If the horrid thing happens when you are young, then you learned lessons to carry you through life. Whatever the circumstances, all the days of all the smiles are your deposits on account when you need to collect. The really strange part is that even if you face the horrid thing all by yourself, you can still collect on all those truly good days with the memories that far outweigh the bad and draw strength from them. So never ever forget to wake up and just smile.
For more "Positive Day" posts got to Dust Bunny Hostage
P.S. A reminder, the first Take This Tune has posted. I'm postive, you will enjoy it. :-)
30 July 2009
Diva Daughter, the fantastic offspring of the Dust Bunny Hostage had a wonderful "some day" idea. With a little encouragement, this became a "Do It Now" idea. So a movement has begun. Tomorrow is the first blogosphere, "Positive Day" to be henceforth held annually on July 31. Read all about it, and then join in with a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
A lovely blogger, Hey Harriet has put up and "up for grabs" meme. It is very simple. Just list five things that make you happy in any way that pleases you.
If it makes you happy, go visit Harriet to say hello, and then if you feel like it, think of five happy things. Here are mine.
1. Time To Read
2. A pool for swimming preferably nude.
3. A Chalet at Bass Lake
28 July 2009
If you have never held a chinchilla, try to acquire the experience. They are rodents about the size of a small rabbit when fully grown and so unbelievably soft that you have simply never felt anything like it. I suppose this is why they have been turned into coats, but once you have held a living, breathing, heart beating against your hand, tame chinchilla, there is no way you would want to see it's fur on a woman.
Back in the 1950s, it was still common for women to wear furs and our neighbors had tried a chinchilla raising business. Unfortunately having a young girl with a soft heart in the family doesn't mesh well with such a capitalistic enterprise even if the father hadn't decided the upkeep wasn't worth the cost vs. profit margin. The end result, there was one chinchilla left and he belonged to Sandy and Sandy had named him Elvis.
Now in 1958 there was actually a war going on for teenage hearts. Looking back now, you wonder how that could be possible, but you were either adoring of Elvis with "Gotta A Lotta Living To Do" on the 45 player or you obsessively listened to "Teenage Crush" by Tommy Sands. Sandy and I were on the Elvis team. We also operated under that previously mentioned "California Code" ... In private, insane... In public, too cool. So we would sit after school with Elvis the Chinchilla in our laps discussing Elvis the idol.
Now Sandy had something else, an elder sister who had moved away from home and just happened to be a hair dresser. This made it possible for her to look through the shop window to the comings and goings at the coffee shop across the street. I told you that this was a thoroughfare of the stars. Not so much because it was anything more than a suburb, but because it was on the way to somewhere else. Sandy's sister could call home with a who's who of who was dining, most of the time without any rise in temperature other than a "that's interesting". Then there was the day, she called ... ELVIS IS ACROSS THE STREET.
Never have two girls moved the distance of one mile at a full run in order to skid to a stop and nonchalantly walk in (NOTICE: We are nonchalant!!!) to sit at a coffee shop counter and order hamburgers and cokes. Now if there were (Don't Look!) glances at the booth in our, if you strained a bit, diagonal view, we didn't giggle. I swear, WE DID NOT GIGGLE. We smiled and chatted and ate our hamburgers, and then one of the men in the group stood up and came over. He picked up our check and said, "Elvis will take care of this". This gave us permission to really, really LOOOOOOK. We smiled. He smiled (OH MY GOD!! HE SMILED!!!). They left and we went home and petted the chinchilla named Elvis ... A LOT!
As many of you know, Manic Monday has come to an end. This was a wonderful weekly meme and our buddy Mo of It's A Blog Eat Blog World was a gracious and generous host. I am going to start a meme to act as a writing prompt to fill the void of something so many of us enjoyed.
The idea is simple. I will post a video and the lyrics that go with it. Take the title or any part of the lyrics to tell a story. There are no limits, just go with wherever the idea takes you. Are you reminded of a first love, did your child say something adorable (If your name is Janna do you create something completely wacky and hilarious?).
These prompts will be posted each Friday at Take This Tune for you to post the following Monday. I will then attempt to make the rounds to visit everyone who decides to play. There is a Mr Linky already set up for those who like to gather the blogsites of people participating (Example below)
Please sign up so I can get an idea of who might be interested in participating.
26 July 2009
I sincerely wish that Mo had not decided to end Manic Monday rather than hand it off to assistants, but it was his creation and his decision. Therefore, lets end on beauty with a lovely song about when the time finally comes to let go and say goodbye to something wonderful.
22 July 2009
In today's world where paparazzi surround very minor starlets and major ones are hounded to the point of high walls and intense security, it is probably hard to believe that there was a time when just bumping into the famous on a Los Angeles street wasn't cause for any excitement. A short while back I heard some notable saying that they liked New York, because "New Yorkers have seen everything and don't bother you."
Los Angeles of the 1950s and early '60s had a certain code. If the performer was at a public appearance such as a premier, then asking for an autograph was acceptable as long as you didn't make a nuisance of yourself. These people were studio trained and considered it part of their job. If they were going about doing normal activities, then you smiled in recognition - it would have been cruel to make them think they had become a has been - but unless spoken to, you went about your business. Disturbing them was rude and left to the tourists. Their homes weren't behind high, gated walls. They had lawns fronting on the streets of Beverly Hills and some were known to wave at the "See The Homes of the Stars" tour buses.
A word about "premiers". Under the studio systems, except for major releases, these were rarely the huge events you can still see in some motion pictures, but rather were held at local theaters with review cards passed out to the audience. This could result in complete re-cutting of a movie or control the advertising program. During high school at my part time job as a cashier at the Paradise Theater in Westchester, these premiers were frequent. The fact that Rock Hudson just walked by for a screening of "Come September" was a normal occurrence. The theater did reserve a row for the star and studio entourage, but that was about it for excitement.
Paradise Theater then and office building now
Even up to the early 1980s when I left Los Angeles, no one thought it strange to run into motion pictures and TV series being shot other than to gripe if they were blocking the street. Then there was my griping when I couldn't find my son who entertained himself by trying to get into background shots. His favorite after school bit was taking a bus up to the studios, faking that he knew where he was going and having the guards so used to him that they didn't even blink. End result, he helped out with the drudge work and ended up as an extra in several movies. The one where you can almost identify him if he is there to point out the fast passing dot, is a crowd scene in one of the Star Trek films. That and walking by in several Starsky and Hutch episodes were the extent of his film career. Our apartment was two blocks from the famous scene above. That is Palisades Park in Santa Monica and a favorite of camera operators and directors as a background for movies and TV series set in the area along with the Santa Monica pier and the bike path into Venice.
This story is about Donald O'Connor . I was really racking my brain to figure out when it happened. One of the disadvantages of moving constantly is that you sometimes lose track of where you were when without a whole lot of head scratching and trying to figure out where the people in your life were located so that you can place yourself among them. So, I was living in Westchester with my Aunt and Uncle which makes it sometime before 1957. It was after Singing In The Rain was in the theaters which makes it after March 1952. Mom was temporarily unmarried. That really narrows it down to before 1954, and about the time of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II which was June 1953. See what I go through to tell a story?
So what some people have called the greatest musical ever made had been released and Donald O'Connor who had been well known thanks to a career from youth on and the post war Francis the Talking Mule movies was now very, very famous. My mother was waitressing at a nice coffee shop/family diner up on Sepulveda or Manchester (I hope no one wants addresses) next to a service station. Anybody still remember full serve gas stations? Now these particular thoroughfares just happened to be the connecting points between studios, the beach, and places often used for film locations. End result: The natives were pretty jaded when a famous face put in an appearance for a hamburger. Now if one showed up at the Currie's Mile High, the teens might have dithered a bit, but not at dinner out (heaven help the 1950s child who misbehaved after being allowed the privilege of eating away from home with their parents). On this particular day, it was really unusual that the natives lost it when Donald O'Connor had car trouble and strolled in to wait for repairs.
By the above sentence you know that it was a truly different world. No limo, no darkened windows, no entourage, no screaming to be rescued from photographers, just a guy inconvenienced by a vehicle walking into a restaurant and being stunned when almost as one, everyone stood up to applaud. This just DID NOT HAPPEN in Westchester. No one rushed him, they just clapped and kept clapping. So what does an accomplished dancer do when applauded, why he starts dancing to the background music and if you just happen to see an empty table and can do a leap from the ground to the top of same, why you make the leap and keep dancing. Then because it is Westchester, you leap down, stroll to the counter, sit down and place your order as everyone else sits down and goes back to eating.
Once his meal was finished and he was on his way out to pick up his car, a few autographs were requested and signed, but for the most part the only thing left was a great memory and lots of smiles.
21 July 2009
In Russia I've noticed that streets are often named for the businesses and trades practiced on those streets at one time if not in the present. For instance the wonderful documentary, "The Children of Theater Street" about the young people studying ballet at the Kirov.
The 1950s Los Angeles address where I live would have been called "Engineers Street". All the men in their white shirts and narrow ties had slide rules in their pockets and each day they headed for the aircraft plants or the studios ... whadda ya mean the studios? Yep. All those glamorous types didn't get on the screen without a whole lot of equipment making them look good, putting them on film, editing and printing that film. Those skills were so valuable that they actually gave Oscars for developments that made the films better. They still do to this day if only on the day before the Oscar broadcast.
We have already established that I was decidedly old for my age and by the time I was 12, all of the parents on "Engineer Street" trusted me to watch their children, some of whom were only a couple of years younger than me and the parents walked out knowing they were in safe hands even if it included singing "Tom Dooley" to a couple of brats that I had just dived into the swimming pool while fully dressed to haul out (well they dared me! and it's another story). As a result I held my first Oscar in 1959 when I was 15 courtesy of a refuge from Hungary and the fact that Mrs. Wargo (pronounced Vargo) was having a baby.
The Wargos had a young child and Mrs Wargo was on her way to the hospital for child number two when they called me in. Parents gone ... check. Child in bed .... check. Oscar on top of television ... whaaaaaaaaaaaaa? There it was, all shiny and gold and really real. I asked him about it later and he answered, "High Speed Printer". Years later, I looked it up to see just why Mr. Wargo had an Oscar on his television and to read the citation.
Here is the quote from Oscar Guy 1957 To LORAND WARGO and the UNICORN ENGINEERING CORP. for the development of an Automatic Printer Light Selector.
Once Mrs. Wargo returned home from the hospital after three days (women got to do that for new babies then), I stuck around to help out with the eldest child while she attended to the new baby. As a result I learned how to make Hungarian Love Letters. The recipe is below.
Hungarian Love Letters
2 c Flour
5 tb Butter
5 tb Sugar
7 Egg yolks
2 c Milk
2 tb Sugar
2 tb Vanilla sugar
2 tb Flour
3 tb Ground nuts
1 tb Rum
Knead a smooth dough - using enough cream to be smooth.
Refrigerate for 1 hour to become quite cold.
To make filling - boil milk, sugar, vanilla sugar, and flour, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened.
Mix with ground nuts and rum.
Roll out cold dough very thin and cut into 3-inch squares.
Place 1 teaspoon of the filling on each square and fold like an envelope or turnover.
Place on a well-greased and floured pan and bake in 325 oven for 30 to 40 minutes.
Makes 35 - 40 envelopes.
Alternate fillings include jams and nuts, whipped egg whites with raisins and nuts. Anything sweet that suits your fancy.
19 July 2009
Round about the caldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot!
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and owlet's wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches' mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg'd i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver'd in the moon's eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Supposedly because Shakespeare included real curses used by witches during his time, the witches placed a curse on "The Scottish Play" that exists to this day and requires specific actions to ward off disaster should you be foolish enough to utter the name of the play while inside a theater. The story of all the different disaster that have beset the producers and actors since 1604 can be found at
The Curse of Macbeth
For pure fun or just to find some curses other than the rather boring ones we use these days, there is the Elizbethan Curse Generator. Have fun being insulting or running up a few choice insults for your friends and acquaintances who have wronged you in some fashion.
For the Appropriate video: Witchy Woman by the Eagles
17 July 2009
The continuation ... What no one told me
By the time I met him, Robert Coogan weighed in at well over 300 pounds which I'm sure contributed to his early death. His looks were very similar to his brother Jackie as Uncle Fester. This man did not go for long periods of time (anything over an hour) without eating. In addition, he seriously believed in "wine, women and song" as a way of life. The ride back to Los Angeles was notable simply for the number of stops at favorite restaurants and the amount of food and drink placed on the table.
The first stop was the wonderful restaurant of the Rosarita Beach Hotel where he had been coming since his youth. The history of the hotel is fascinating if you click on the link above. Since it was early in the afternoon, the place was virtually empty, but they knew Mr. Coogan as well as they knew all the other stars that had dined there. The chef came out, the waiters surrounded, the musicians gathered ... all ready for a flood of stories, music, and the order of mountains of food so that he could taste everything.
As the fresh steamed mussels and a light wine arrived, he ordered up "La Negra" with an expansive wave of his hand. This started my love affair with a beautiful type of Spanish music: The Boleros. The video below is the song that was sung and played for me that day before they launched into the more joyful Ranchero style. A friend was kind enough to provide an English translation.
There were several stops following this "lunch" and I have to admit I don't remember the last half hour except for a drive through place to pick up chocolate malts. Needless to say once I waved goodby to a truly delightful and kind man and poured myself inside my apartment, Montezuma was decidedly revenged. At least I got home safely with a wonderful song to remember.
The black night extended it's reach
assuring darkness, the light (of day) died,
and in the darkness of my sad soul
you burst like a star.
Have I illuminated the deep wound
from where this crazy illusion, comes.
Give me just one hope,
because of you my heart follows.
When in the night
the dawn is born,
and in the gardens
the flower is born
like that my adored child
my love was born.
I see that behind the window,
you assume the body of
an engaging angel
I feel the myth.
inside of my soul,
there is no darkness
there is no darkness anymore,
the light has come out.
16 July 2009
An old friend is having a birthday this week and even the Los Angeles Times article above celebrated the event. The Farmers Market in Los Angeles is turning 75 this week. I had just turned four when my aunt and uncle took me there for the first time as a birthday present. The signal lights still had flags that popped up and down with the red and green lights and gave me a chance to say, "Yellow means hurry up and stop". The Red Car trolley line still ran with its tracks down the middle of road. The first Freeway was only three years old and was still little used compare to major thoroughfares such as Wilshire Boulevard and Sepulveda were the main overland routes. Angels Flight was still more than 20 years from its decades long closure.
So why does this one little outing still stand out more than sixty years after the fact. I would be taken many places to see many things in a topsy turvy childhood, but this one trip stands out. I'm sure I liked the now famous clock tower above, but it was the Howdy Doody puppets from a very new TV show in the doll store window that really stood out. I didn't particularly like dolls, but those puppets really made an impression. As we headed into the courtyard and the white tables and chairs to sit for lunch, my newly acquired reading abilities got to show off in public for the first time, "We can't sit here. This table is reserved." By this time the aunt and uncle were used to me reading everything that looked like print because they had been living with it for a year, but the surrounding people looked more than a little bemused.
My two favorite places from that first outing are still there. The candy maker with a window so that you could watch the wonderful fillings rolled over marble covered with melted chocolate and each candy given its signature swirl to indicate the filling within. The other bit of insanity since I didn't understand the joke, was watching a decorator create one of the famous "Pink Elephant" cakes with elephants all over hanging from the bottle of champagne, burrowing into the cake with their fat bottoms sticking out, passing out over the edge. I loved those elephants.
The day was topped off by a visit to the many stands holding all sorts of fresh produce, much of it brought in from the San Fernando Valley that was still all farm land. My aunt who was a phenomenal cook bought cherries for the wonderful pie that would appear the next day.
If you have never been to the quirky, delightful Farmers Market in Los Angeles, do make the attempt as despite many changes it is still going strong and there is sure to be something you will want to eat or buy.
13 July 2009
2. Your blog just became a best-selling book .What is the title of the book?
3. It is midnight. The phone rings. It is Michael Jackson calling from the Great Beyond. What would you like to ask him?
Annie are you Okay?
4. You are having your future told. The fortune teller looks in the crystal ball, screams and leaves the room in fright.
What did she see?
5. You're blogging along minding your own blusiness (that's blog + oh...you know) when Google unexpectedly puts a Objectionable Content Warning on your blog. Your own mother is afraid to enter! What, pray tell, did you do to warrant it? How did this happen?Just how objectionable can you be? Do tell.
Said "Truth" instead of "Dare"
6. You suddenly become God Of The Universe. What would your first Commandment be?
Try to treat everyone as if they were one of your pets.
7. And finally, what secret would you like to tell the Queen?
Not to worry. What happens in Bloggingham, stays in Bloggingham.
You asked too late. I don't think I have any left. Well there was the nude on the diving board and the police helicopter ... send me an email.
11 July 2009
Anyone looking for me on Sunday, can find me at Emerald Downs racetrack watching horsies run around in circles and hoping the one I like gets to the line first. In the meantime, enjoy lots and lots of information about both the old and new (by Roman standards) Trevi Fountain.
And the Oscar winning song from the 1954 movie
I have mentioned that it wasn't a good idea to go into Hussongs on the weekend. On Friday and Saturday nights, this old beautiful bar is turned over to Los Animales from the states with Federales stationed at the doors to catch the bodies wearing "Hecho in Mexico" T-shirts as they fall out into the street. Peaceful ones transported to the beach to allow the sun to burn the alcohol out of their systems. You don't want a description of the bathrooms. In reading the linked article above, I noted an accurate description of Hussongs in the 1970s and that it has changed for the better and more like the weekdays of my memory.
During the week it was wonderful with all the expats from small apartments and the harbor gathering to play board games, read and chat while young boys made the rounds shining shoes or drawing pictures to be hung on the walls. I doubt it is still there after more than 30 years, but one of the caricatures on the wall was me. This was a time to head down by the sea for fish tacos. What do you mean "fish in a taco?". The fish gets thrown from a boat to a lady on the pier who immediately goes to work. The classic is breaded with a beer batter, but the linked video here is healthier. Once you have had one, you may become a lifelong addict.
So we were hitting El Lemon for general groceries, off to the harbor for fish tacos and laying plans for a lunch at the Chinese restaurant before hitting the Carniceria for the Palomino. Who goes to Ensenada for Chinese food? Why everyone who knows that one of the best has been there since the rails were being laid in the mid 1800s. On this particular trip, the lunch plans got waylaid by Robert Coogan and an invitation to his boat. I don't know all the details but Robert seemed to live almost full time on his boat outside of trips to LA for work or family business. An invitation to have him cook for you, was not one any sane person would refuse since he supplemented his income by writing articles on gourmet cooking in a boat's galley. So there I was on the deck of a beautiful boat, basking in the sunshine, looking out on the Pacific, and being regaled by a great talker with stories of old Hollywood by someone who had been there and managed to survive ... not undamaged, but seemingly pretty pleased with life.
Robert was ten years younger than his brother Jackie and just about the time Jackie was entering the gawky teen years, mama put Robert to work in the movies with his first roles in the movie "Skippy" and its sequel "Sooky" in 1931 at the age of six. To give you an idea of the importance of these early child stars, Skippy was nominated for the Best Picture and the director, Norman Taurog, won the oscar that year. While he did work regularly in films until 1950, Robert never attained the fame of his older brother. The death of his father in 1935 when he was only 11, his mother's remarriage, and the rift in the family caused by Jackie's suit to reclaim his earnings made for a very unsettled childhood.
From his conversation, I gathered Robert may have remained closer to their mother, but she was a very difficult woman. Even in the mid 1970s, he wasn't relishing the idea of the drive to LA to handle some family finances. Which brings us to the knight in shining armor part ... or at least pickup of a willing hitchhiker. Robert got an invite to that night's BBQ, and I got a ride back to Los Angeles. What I didn't know was that accepting a ride from Robert Coogan was an invitation to another adventure....to be continued.
09 July 2009
I'll get to the story about Robert Coogan shortly, but so many had trouble guessing Jackie Coogan, that I thought a refresher course on America's first child star might be in order.
As a child actor, Jackie Coogan is best remembered for his role as Charlie Chaplin's sidekick in The Kid (1921) and for the role of Oliver Twist. The scene below where a social worker takes him away from Chaplin is one of the most famous scenes in cinema. These early roles made him a millionaire, on paper at least, while still a child.
In 1935, at age 21, Coogan lost his father and best friend in an auto accident which he survived. When he went to lay claim to his earnings from his mother and stepfather, he found that they had taken the money for their lifestyle of houses, furs, and autos. He sued successfully, but despite having earned more than four million dollars as a child star, after legal expenses and accounting was only able to recapture a little over a hundred thousand dollars.
The legal battle did, however, bring attention to child actors and resulted in the state of California enacting the the Coogan Bill. This requires that 15% of the child's earnings be placed in trust. Although there was an eventual reconcilliation with his mother and stepfather, his advice to future child stars was "stay away from mothers."
In 1972 after 20 years abroad, Chaplin Chaplin returned to the United States to receive a special lifetime achievement Oscar in Hollywood. Coogan was on hand to greet Chaplin when he arrived. Chaplin, recognized Coogan (whom he hadn't seen in decades), warmly embraced him, saying, "You know, I think I would rather see you than anybody else."
When he was cast as Uncle Fester on The Addams Family" (1964), Coogan was fifty years old and nearly broke. After the show ended in 1966, he never lacked work again, with numerous TV and film appearances.
07 July 2009
06 July 2009
Everybody seems to be enjoying the Baja stories, so this is a lead in to another once upon a time. Virtually everything that has ever happened to me is because someone else DID something. I just happened to be standing close to the blast area when it happened.
The two children above are famous. I met one of them when he was an adult and cooking brunch for me aboard his yacht. The story of that day and a beautiful piece of music is what you get in exchange for the guessing game.
03 July 2009
I could do one of the almost requisite Fourth of July posts, but the Manic Monday subject makes it possible to combine the two ideas and take the weekend off. The word country just happens to fit in with my current reading list as I'm about half way through "The Garth Factor" by Patsi Bale Cox. Patsi and I hang out on a political web site, so I consider her a friend as well as a very good writer. She knows country music about as well as any human being can, and it shows in all of the books she has written about some of the major stars of the business.
Having worked at a Country music station for five years while listening to the music a minimum of nine hours a day, five days a week, not to mention weekend remotes, I developed an appreciation for the range of styles and voices that I hadn't had before. This time at KNAX happened to closely coincide with the Garth phenomenon and the whole explosion of country music as a major genre. One thing you come to appreciate is the underlying themes of home, family, love, and really great lyrics that actually say something. What made Garth so remarkable was that while paying tribute to all of those values, he wasn't afraid to take on new issues.
In one of my favorite Brooks songs he is brave enough to say that there is always room for improvement. Even a country as great as ours still has a lot to do to bring the rights we herald to all of our citizens and with a lot of hard work, love and acceptance to the rest of the world. So as we celebrate our historical Independence, let us look forward to a time when "We Shall Be Free".
02 July 2009
The above picture is a puma, mountain lion, cougar ... take your pick for the name used in your neck of the woods. It is a hunter and a killer. It is the top of the food chain in virtually every environment and its habitat runs from Canada to South America. For the most part, it hunts in the early hours or after the sun goes down. It can leap upwards over 15 feet and it can pounce laterally over 30. This is not an animal you mess with. For the most part, it wants nothing to do with human beings unless it is very, very hungry, has it's habitat threatened, or is a mother protecting kits. It's awful of me, but every time I hear of some jogger being taken out by a mountain lion, I root for the cat. Stupid human imitating natural prey by running in puma territory without wearing bells. For the record: Always make noise in puma land.
Now what does this have to do with me? Well whoopie folks, it's back to the Baja. When you cross the border there are two possible ways to go south: The toll road and the free road. The toll road is a lovely freeway that has off ramps to Rosarita Beach and all tourist enclaves down to Ensenada. Easy drive with beautiful Ocean views on your right that will cost you in several places.
Then there is the "free road". This is the one the residents use. All of the farms front on the free road. It leads to tiny roads that go to tiny enclaves of people and orphanages and ranches ... all the way to the tip at Cabo San Lucas. If you want to know the Baja, you take the free road. Fair warning. If you see a sign that says "Cuervo Peligroso", please slow down if only because the road ahead will kill you.
Most of the time when going south, I drove my car, hit the free road, and turned off at the ranch just past El Tigre (The Tiger). Now why would they name a town "El Tigre"? Why they did it because there was a very, very big cat that had always been there. For the most part it was content with rabbits and vermin or an occasional pet. Very very rarely a domestic animal such as a goat. The cows were big and a lone cat rarely tackled one. The humans and the cat recognized the natural balance. We all have to eat and if you stay out of my way, I'll stay out of yours.
Then came the weekend when my car was in the shop and the trip south had to be made. My life has one motto: "Deal With It". Take a greyhound down to edge of Mexico. Walk across the border. Go find the Tijuana bus station in the dark. Step over the passed out drunk to get inside. Buy Ticket and get on board. There we are in the midst of crowds, chatter you can't understand, various small infants and animals knowing only that you have to holler "ALTO" when you want the bus to stop.
Now it is very, very dark. You look out the window in a semi state of panic, looking for land marks ... okay passed the major peligroso curve ... orphanage on left ... OMG, that was the rancho... alto alto alto. and about a mile past where you needed to be, there you are in the dark (they don't do street lights in this part of the world) walking back to find a road in the middle of nowhere. You know there is a puma in the neighborhood, you can hear if "huffing". You know this sound from outside your bedroom window because you have been told not to leave the house once the lights are out unless you turn them back on and make a lot of noise.
Keep walking, move slowly, straight ahead and then the lights of a truck come from behind and some lovely people who can't understand a word you are saying except that you shouldn't be where you are, offer you a ride. Climb in because ax murderers, for the most part, only happen in movies and they rarely have a wife and two children to shift around to make room. Safe and almost where you need to be. Let out at the rancho gate and you only have a hundred yards or so ... huff huff huff ... oops. Walk quietly and steadily towards the house, pray the door is open ... YES!! Fall into bed SAFE.
Now the next day you get to regale all and sundry about your bravery in the face of almost overwhelming danger that would have paniced a lesser being than your wonderful self only to have everyone start giggling. But I was alone. I was out in the dark. There was a very big cat out there. I heard it, I tell you I heard it...
Honey, it was making the rounds of the BBQ pits. Huh? Say What? It seems everybody in the areas considered this particular beast as "their kitty".... Well I don't know about you, but any "kitty" that weighs in at 150 pounds that can kill you with one pounce .... Anyway, they would dump garbage in the BBQ pits and the puma would make the rounds. The next day, whatever the cat hadn't taken was burned. It was a sharing deal. You leave the pets and livestock alone and we will make sure you are fed. The ranchers knew it. The big cat knew it. I didn't know it. And there is another lesson from one of my favorite songs: The world Goes Round