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22 years ago John Elway sent me to the Pro Bowl armed with many Sony Watchman TV's...
(The National Football League today plays its Pro Bowl all-star game in Hawai'i. This marks the 22nd anniversary of my one, and only, appearance with the NFL all-stars at Aloha Stadium. I'm DVR'ing the BIG GAME, so don't tell me no stinkin' scores. This is MY Super Bowl in some respects, and I can thank John Elway for the honor.)
John Elway sent me to the Pro Bowl. Guess who is my favorite all-time NFL player.
The Pro Bowl generally is a laid-back affair, past and future, at Aloha Stadium. It features special rules such as no blitzing, no zone defenses, no trick offensive formations.
The games are low-key for a while, that is until the second half when the all-star competitive juices -- not, those kind, lighten up -- kick in and some rules are better honored in their breach than their observance.
But the Pro Bowl is an afterthought as yet, the week before the Super Bowl this year, and in past years the week following the Super Bowl when most everybody has gone football home.
Not for me. The Pro Bowl is mine, baby, all mine, thanks to Elway.
ESPN, 22 years ago, staged a "You Pick the Play -- Quarterback Challenge" contest. For four Sundays in November, viewers of the ESPN game of the week could call a 1-900 number at $5.95 a pop, limited to one call per quarter with the objective of picking the next play a team would run.
ESPN divided the field into sections by yard markers and hash-marks. Plays were assigned point totals. A running play to the right side was one point. A 10-yard pass to the left side was three points. A completed pass of more than 25 yards between the hash marks of the middle of the field had the highest point total. It was five freakin' points.
Under the very fine print section of the rules, ESPN deigned to disclose a toll-free number would be provided if requested. I believe there was some kind of law requiring this. I requested, baby, and I got to work. I studied the offenses of the teams that would appear in the four contest games.
Elway's Broncos de Denver was one of the teams, and even played in two of the games. It soon became apparent Elway was the guy who was going to punch my golden ticket to Diamond-head. This was the one guy with the arm, desire and ability to max out my point total with long bombs down the middle of the field. I figured he was good for at least one per quarter of any game he played.
So it went and so I went. I missed one the four games for some reason. Guess I had a life beyond football then, can't remember. But basically, I won every quarter of the three games -- two by Elway -- I played. It all came down to that toll-free number and Elway's brain. People didn't much hanker to the $5.95 per call price tag. As an Elway expert, I rode his arm all the way to paradise.
I ended up with eight Sony mini-TV's, a sports video collection, and an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii, and cash, for the Pro Bowl.
I won two more Sony watchman TV's, too.
However, I was watching one of the Sunday night games with -- believe it or not, one of my 89 Facebook Friends today for random reasons -- Also Aswell. We had just finished watching that darn new show at the time, "Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire" starring Will Smith.
I told him about the contest. Being a highly intuitive artist, Also also known as Chuck said if I won a TV during the next quarter, I should give it to him for the sake of karma. So, he got one TV.
Another TV was lost when Bruce, the curator of the Tulane Jazz Archive, and my supervisor, answered the archive phone. (I used several phone numbers as I recall as a safety measure.) He said, no, Dan would never enter a contest like that. As I tried to yell from the back of the library to give me the damn phone, he hung it up with a grand flourish. Frenemy to the end, me bad, he said with a wry smile.
I kept two TVs and sold the rest, mainly to Asian immigrants, although to an Iranian native as well. No matter what price I set, or how we negotiated, the final price always seemed to be $150. Guess that was market value.
One time, a scraggy-looking semi-street guy came around with several small kids and his wife in some ragged kind of jalopy. He said they were living in the car and wanted the mini-TV for entertainment. Was it true? Dunno, but I just gave him the TV. What the heck, they worked like s*** anyway. Sony only sold the model a few years.)
The trip was awesome, of course. I hung out with Japanese girl tourists who gave me strange tasting candy and a...well, PG-rated here. I sat behind the Miami Dolphins offensive line in the stands, amazing them with my play calling expertise as I shouted out each play before it happened.
Saint Morten Andersen, a favorite of mine, one of the top kickers in all-time accuracy, shanked the game-winning field goal attempt. A Dolphin turned around, laughed and advised how he saw Morton partying his arse away the night before at Waikiki.
Ah, good times. ESPN discontinued the contest after that. However, whatever, Elway earned a fan for life.
GOOD GRIEF: (Voice of) "Peanuts" Charlie Brown in a San Diego jail, accused of stalking and terroristic threats
Maybe Lucy jerked away one too many faux footballs. Perhaps Peppermint Patty piddled away too many brain cells. Or Linus, Snoopy and the gang got snared in a web tangled by 50 years of arrested development.
For GOOD GRIEF, the voice of Charlie Brown on several "Peanuts" television specials, now languishes in a San Diego jail, after authorities arrested him 8 p.m. Sunday at the San Ysidro Port of Entry as he returned from Tijuana. A background check revealed a San Diego County Sheriff's Department warrant for his arrest.
Peter Robbins (right) — aka the voice of Charlie Brown — poses more than a decade after the mid-60s “Peanuts” classics with creator Charles Schulz and Sally Dryer, who voiced Lucy Van Pelt. (courtesy of PETER ROBBINS )
Peter Robbins, the 56-year-old voice actor best known as the voice of Charlie Brown in the 1965 classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the 1966 sequel "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" is accused of stalking and threatening a former girlfriend as well as the plastic surgeon he paid to give her a boob job.
Robbins officially was charged Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court with two counts of stalking and 10 counts of making criminal threats. He pleaded not guilty and remained incarcerated on Friday, unable to make bail set at $550,000 by San Diego Superior Court Judge David M. Szumowski. A conviction could translate into a maximum sentence of nine years in prison, attorneys said.
What's more, the longtime Oceanside, Calif. resident and former voice of Charlie Brown, reportedly has terminal pancreatic cancer. The arrest warrant cited his "increasingly erratic behavior," adding, "he told others he has nothing to lose."
Charlie Brown may have been a bit of a slacker, to say the least, but the voice of Charlie Brown, now all growed up and out on his own, was nothing if not persistent when it came to the alleged pursuit of love. He is accused of threatening his former girlfriend with up to 37 calls to her cell phone in a 24-hour period demanding repayment for the breast augmentation surgery.
Robbins also said he would kill the ex-girlfriend, and her son, if she did not give back his dog and car. In a twist sure to pluck the heartstrings of devoted Peanuts fans, Robbins named his dog, what else, Snoopy.
The voice of Charlie Brown continued to be a clown, according to authorities, by continuing his threats during a confrontation New Year's Eve at a San Diego hotel room. In this case, he demanded, in person, a full refund for the breast augmentation surgery his former girlfriend had when they were together.
Robbins allegedly beat Snoopy, his dog, in front of her on New Year's Eve, saying he would continue beating the dog and kill her if she didn't get his money back. Prosecutors said Robbins grabbed his ex-girlfriend by the neck and shoved her to the floor before fleeing the scene.
Robbins also is accused of threatening the plastic surgeon, harassing her office with so many phone calls, she hired an armed guard for the La Jolla clinic. Prosecutors said Robbins recently bought a gun and started practicing at a shooting range.
During a jailhouse interview Friday with KFMB-TV, Channel 8 in San Diego, Robbins said he needed a mental evaluation to make sure he was OK and not a threat to himself or others. It may have been a more effective plea if the jailed former child voice actor hadn't a bunch of snot dripping down his nose throughout the interview.
And it may be a while before he gets back to his folowers on Facebook, where his page is dedicated to Peter "Charlie Brown" Robbins and recently featured a series of posts about Lance Armstrong's Oprah interview and solicitations for recipe ideas from "fans."
The Lemon Twist also rises: From the ashes to fresh strawberries and more...
Once a lonely spot on the wide open road from nowhere to far away, the Lemon Twist Fruit Stand has weathered fires, frost and floods over the last 30-plus years, only to emerge in 2013 with fresh local strawberries and much, much more.
The legend that is the Del Dios Highway farm stand began in 1981 with two recent college graduates, best friends Katie Shull and Trudy Tunstall. They figured the scenic two-lane road from Escondido to Rancho Santa Fe would be the perfect spot for local fruit and fresh produce.
The surrounding area featured significant citrus production, including world class lemons and oranges. The Shull family, as well as the McKrinks on the maternal side, ran significant citrus acreage, later opening packing and growing operations still in business at nearby Vista.
The San Dieguito River Valley that runs alongside the stand has flooded several times. Cold weather, on occasion, has hurt the nearby citrus farms. All that was trivial, however, compared to the 2007 Witch Creek Fire that raced down Del Dios Gorge to Lusardi Preserve utterly devastating the small wood farm stand structure along with anything that stood in its path.
With only a small, fragmented outer gate still standing, Robin Shull, the 30 year old co-owner and manager, and family, set out to rebuild the Lemon Twist, going bigger and better, to the delight of an ever-growing number of highway travelers. The reconstructed stand is several times larger, featuring expanded facilities and offerings.
Since it's strawberry season in North County, dammit, the fresh crop of locally grown berries are going into everything from chocolate confections made with fresh daily fruit to salads, desserts and kitchen tables from hither to yon. The Lemon Twist has created a national name for itself in this regard with chocolate-dipped strawberries, and other fruits and gourmet products shipped from its online store.
Also available: Seasonal organic produce an citrus; gifts, local gourmet items, fruit and gift baskets; flowers, orchid, plans and succulent gardens; local, raw, organic Rancho Santa Fe honey, Talavera pottery, garden art, fountains and statuary.
The Lemon Twist is at 8175 Del Dios Highway. It's open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. The website features additional information and online orders visit http://lemontwistfruitstand.com/ . The stand can be reached by phone at (858) 756-0826.
it's not all champagne and roses in the skies above Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
With the second downed hot air balloon in 10 days just after 5 p.m. Thursday, this time at Rancho Diegueno Road, not far from San Dieguito Road at Fairbanks Ranch, it's not all champagne and roses in the skies above Rancho Santa Fe.
This was the scene on Jan. 8 at Rancho Penasquitos where, according to San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Maurice Luque, a hot air balloon landed in the back of a home on Calle de los Ninos at Avenida De La Cantina shortly after 4:45 p.m.
The balloon operator who emergency landed Thursday scoured the brush topped hills for a landing space before touching down in a rural residential area near Fairbanks Village Plaza shopping center, according to San Diego County sheriff’s Lt. Mario Zermeno who shied away from saying the balloon crashed. No one was injured, Zemeno said. The "landing" site was within shouting distance of Rancho Santa Fe's newest fire station as well as the Helen C. Woodward Animal Center.
The forced landing followed a more eventful tilt at disaster's windmill on Jan. 8 when one person was slightly injured during a forced landing of a balloon carrying a 14-person wedding party at Rancho Penasquitos, about 10 miles southeast of Thursday's crash. The balloon crashed into a suburban home's yard.
Residents have cited numerous instances of balloon companies abusing landing rules, cutting gate locks, trashing areas including damaging environmentally sensitive landscapes, lying about emergency landings and generally disrespecting community norms.
"We have had confrontations with the balloon people calling us all sorts of names when they land on our properties," said Lynn Diamond, a Rancho Santa Fe Covenant resident who retired in 2010 as Carlsbad Police Department spokeswoman.
"They have put up chains, cut locks and put up their own locks on people's property," Diamond said. "Then, they claim they are landing due to an FAA emergency. Homeowners who try to ask them to leave private property are subject to verbal abuse, threats, lies and profanity.
"They are driving around with their trucks dragging equipment and trashing away," Diamond said. "They are also abusing open spaces and endangered habitat. They land wherever they want. It's definitely not what it is portrayed to be. They are a constant problem."
Likewise, Annie Fonte, a property owner and resident in the covenant area just beyond the Zumaque Gate, along the environmentally sensitive San Dieguito Riverbed, said balloon companies on several occasions had trespassed, scared her animals and generally ravaged the landscape.
"I'll be walking with my dogs and horses," Fonte said, "and often see the champagne corks, napkins and clues as to where they landed. You ask these folks who they are and they are elusive. They won't answer questions. It can be dark and you don't know who these people are.
The end result, God forbid, is they crash into somebody's home. It would be a tragedy."
(Photo: A pumpkin patch in October, this area by Rancho Santa Fe Village shoppng center serves as a take-off and landing spot for hot air balloon operators although it is unclear if they have the property owner's permission)
Balloonists for hire have landed on her property without authorization three times in the last year, according to Fonte, who also has traced balloon skid marks along several parts of the nearby, and environmentally protected, Lusardi Creek Preserve.
Furthermore, balloon companies said a root cause of local communication problems and complaints stemmed from development in the area depriving them of once available open space landing areas.
Due to the fly-by-sunset nature of the commercial balloon ride for profit industry, it was impossible to determine how many companies offer such services locally. However, those involved in the industry put the number of operators at around nine. About four, or five, operate from San Diego County with the remainder based in the Temecula area
Generally, they offer flights along the Pacific Coast through Carmel Valley and into the Rancho Santa Fe area, starting around dusk and taking place on weekends.
Rides offer champagne or cider, photo opportunities and tours, generally lasting from 30 minutes to several hours. Costs vary but generally are around $80 per person for a half-hour ride to $200, or more, for an hour. A private charter may cost around $650 to $800 for one to two hours.
These businesses typically operate out of homes and meet customers at pre-designated open field areas. Currently, many meet customers near Flower Hill Mall off Via de la Valle or near MiraCosta College off Manchester Road in Olivenhain.
Local operators included Rancho Santa Fe resident Frank Reed and Sunballoon, Connie Von Zweck of Skysurfer from Del Mar, David Bradley of Temecula-based California Dreamin', Panorama Balloon Tours with a Del Mar post office box and apparent home-based location in Carlsbad, Sky's the Limit operated by James Lawson out of Encinitas and Balloon Addicts, location unknown.
Only Reed and Von Zweck agreed to speak on the record about the industry and their activities.
"The balloon companies have not done a good job of promoting themselves," Von Zweck said. "You only hear from people who don't like something. You don't always hear the positive. We need to communicate with the public to educate people and raise public awareness of ballooning."
Reed said, "For the most part, the people in the Rancho Santa Fe area have worked exceptionally well with us. Some people, who have been vocal about us, don't even own the properties. We don't trespass on properly posted property. But landing is an imperfect science."
The Balloon Federation of America is considered the leading voluntary, balloonist membership organization with 3,000 members.
The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, regulates hot air balloonists, according to Ian Gregory, the FAA Western-Pacific Region communications manager. Balloon pilots must pass a variety of written and hands-on flight tests to be commercially rated and allowed to charge people for rides, he said.
The FAA requires any emergency landings to be reported to the agency within 48 hours, but had no record of any in San Diego County from 2002 to 2008, according to the last available sources. There were eight reported balloon accidents in the state and 97 nationwide during that period, Gregor said.
As for liability to property owners would a balloon crash, "Balloonists in such circumstances are trespassers," Gregor said. "When they enter they have no right or privilege, the responsibility is theirs, and they must assume the risk of what they may encounter."
Holy Cow! Harry Caray's ghost, The Pantry sold and Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Famed Chicago restauranteurs, the Jahanguiri family have purchased The Pantry at Rancho Santa Fe. A soft opening is expected later this month with classic touches and continuing commitment to classy, elegant new American comfort cuisines.
(6024C Paseo Delicias, PO Box 1297, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067)
However, we digress.
Hall-of-Fame baseball broadcaster Harry Caray was a legend of the brightest sort, known as much for his effervescent personality and reputation as the bon vivant of all bon vivants, as for his knowledge and love of baseball, which was immense.
During Caray's picaresque journeys through life including stints with the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, Oakland A's and, of course the woebegone Chicago Cubs, he not only led the second line, but took over the band when it came to haunting bars and restaurants throughout the land.
Two of Caray's FAVORITE places: Toulouse on Rush Street and Yvette, also in the Chicago entertainment hub known as the Gold Coast.
The Jahanguiri family were the folks behind Toulouse and Yvette, famously known for dark and mysterious, intimate and romantic ambiance punctuated by terrific jazz stylings and classy classic French cuisine.
Bob Jahanguiri (photo, left) was the man behind Caray's prime haunts and a longtime friend and confidante. He was at The Pantry on Monday helping brother Mozy Jahanguiri, a Plano, Texas business and mediation consultant who also -- it's all in the family -- has a Dallas restaurant, remodel and get ready for a soft opening expected later this month.
Mozy Jahanguiri will own and operate The Pantry, which retains the name and much of the menu, supplemented by the magic Jahanguiri touch. The Jahanguiri's declined to disclose the purchase price. Dan and Michiro Bohlen, The Pantry proprietors, will continue with their Encinitas restaurants, notably East Village Asian Diner, as they continue to develop local restaurant properties.
As Rancho Santa Fe residents know well, the very popular The Pantry on Paseo Delicias featured a casual neighborhood atmosphere, delicious made from scratch new American comfort food and remarkable wine list at reasonable prices.
And as Ranch residents also know, one of America's 10 wealthiest communities features its unfair share of professional athletes and baseball players, including Padres manager Bud Black, Trevor Hoffman, Mike Sweeney, Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, Steve Finley, Rick Aguilera, Kirk McCaskill, Jack McDowell to name but a few. Not to mention fellow A-list sports broadcasters Dick Enberg and Jim Lampley and former Padres owner John Moores.
Add to this mix of cuisine, baseball and fun, the ghost of Harry Caray, now at The Pantry plate as Bob Jahanguiri spun a few (tall) tales of Harry Caray gone wild.
Caray used to sing 'Take me out to the Ballgame' to the crowd during the traditional 7th inning stretch. It became so popular, Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck, as-in-Wreck, Jr., turned on the mic at the ballpark so people could hear the -- shall we say -- definitive rendition. Caray, and company, transferred the tradition to the tonier climes of Chicago's North Side and Wrigley Field where he ruled, and waved somewhat unsteadily at the crowd due to alleged Budweiser consumption for nearly 20 years.
Jahanguiri often visited Caray in his WGN-TV and radio booth, although not as often as Caray visited Toulouse, one of his favorite haunts. On one fine Cubs off-day, Caray, Jahanguiri and the portable party people went back to the South Side, Comiskey Field, sitting, of course, in the press area. As 'Take me out to the Ballgame' began on the stadium organ, Caray grabbed the hot mic and started bellowing out the song to the crowd's utter delight.
Ah, the only problem with this fine act was the fact the Veeck regime had long since wrecked. Current Sox ownership didn't take kindly to their former announcer, now with the arch-rival Cubs, taking over the crowd's beer and booze-soaked vibes. The powers that were abruptly killed Caray's mic.
Caray didn't care. He kept singing anyway, even louder if that were possible, and you know what, so did the fans, who Jahanguiri swore, sounded louder than ever, their enthusiasm trumping good sense and tired lungs.
Another time, Caray kept saying he was going to Toulouse throughout the broadcast, maybe a dozen times, or more, during a Cubs game. "I'll meet you at Toulouse after the game," he kept saying. "After the game, Toulouse, Rush Street."
Not that Jahanguiri minded the publicity, what restaurateur doesn't; only problem was Toulouse was not scheduled to Lautrec after the night game, i.e. it was supposed to be dark.
As they say somewhere, oy vey, Jahanguiri rushed to Rush Street and kept the jazz club eatery open after the game. Sure enough, Caray, and entourage, showed up late, way late as was his wont, keeping the joint jumping through dawn.
Yet, as the Sphinx held its mysteries, Caray unlocked one of his.
"Why did you keep telling people, Toulouse was going to be open?" a confused Jahanguiri said. Caray looked at him and laughed. "I was supposed to meet a bunch of people with (the) Kansas City (Royals) for dinner tonight," he said, "but forgot to tell them where to go. I wanted to make sure they knew where to go."
Another time during a national broadcast of the Cubs game, when Caray went radio-only for Chicagoland, he insisted Jahanguiri sit next to him in the booth. But again, why? As Caray said, he knew the national cameras would shoot him during the game and wanted to get Jahanguiri some air time, just or fun. "Harry was the greatest," Jahanguiri said.
Good times on The Pantry patio, then. With remodeling soon to be complete and a brand new downtown bistro's time to shine soon at hand, expect more sweet sounds, fine food, and if you're lucky, the ghost of Harry Caray just this side of Wrigleyville, Chicago or Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe.
(Photo: Mozy Jahanguiri supervises remodeling at The Pantry, 6024C Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067)
Brian Bilbray's last hurrah: Appropriate last speaker at the 112th 'Do-Nothing' Congress
(Photo: Brian Bilbray at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, 2007.)
The 112th "Do-Nothing Tea Party" Congress ended just before midnight eastern time, Wednesday with a bang of the gavel that followed the last disjointed one-minute whimper from our favorite retiring congressman, Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad.
Representing Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. and the 50th Congressional District following the imprisonment on federal corruption charges of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Bilbray was known as the congressional cigar club proprietor as well as leader of the anti-immigrant caucus, obviously a pressing issue at Rancho Santa Fe, one of the top 10 wealthiest communities in America.
Or: Say goodnight, Gracie.
It was a busy day of doing nothing but arguing over nonsense for the GOP Tea Party and its House leadership throughout New Year's Day, but finally, at long last, a two-month stop gap fiscal cliff measure passed the House in painfully bipartisan fashion, just before midnight.
As the GOP House leadership refused to consider a $60 billion funding request passed by the Senate to provide Hurricane Sandy relief, Republican and Democratic congressmen representing Sandy-affected districts spoke in shock and disbelief on the House floor. They passionately assailed the GOP House leadership for adjourning the session before taking action.
Just before the 112th House adjourned for all time, one last speaker strode to the podium, asking for a minute of the House's precious time before dissolving in the mists of history, and not in the good way.
Was it Henry Clay or John C. Calhoun, Sam Rayburn or the second coming of...nah. As Gilda Radner's Emily Litella used to say on "Saturday Night Live," NEVER MIND.
It was the esteemed Imperial Beach native, lifeguard-turned-Washington lobbyist-turned Rancho Santa Fe congressman Bilbray. And he wasn't talking about the fiscal cliff compromise or hurricane relief, he was talking about, d'uh, immigration. IMM-I-F'IN-GRATION.
"In leaving, I just want to say one thing," Bilbray said. "I hear one of the new, major issues you're going to address when this new congress comes is the issue of immigration and those of us in California understand that.
"I'd ask the one place Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on this, especially with the budget crisis is when are we going to stop the practice of people who are committing a crime by employing illegal immigrants.
"Take the tax deduction away and require that if a business wants to claim a business deduction for employing somebody that we make sure those employees are legal just by requiring e-verify.
"Again Mr. Speaker, I'm going to miss a lot of these faces around here in Washington but as a San Diegan let me assure you, I will not miss the weather. God bless and thank you."
Say goodnight Gracie, I mean Brian. And for the rest of us, see ya at the next fiscal cliff next month. Immigration issues will have to wait.
Journey to the top of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. (from the lemon twist to artesian road)
Tackling the three hills from the Lemon Twist Farm Stand to Artesian Road, a hearty journey to the very top of the world at Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., Dec. 28,2012.
Me, and tired at top of Hill#2
Heading up the road feeling glad...
Anonymous secret lake
Gravel rock trail
Crosby Estate featuring golfing opportunities for the .1 percent.
Trail on top of Hill#1, Hill#2 in the background
High fallutin' stables
Going up Hill#3
Cutting through the haze towards home...
Actually, needed to jump this due to page break glitch, really, sorry...
Scenes from a region: Cardiff to Rancho Santa Fe to Campo Del Dios, Calif.
Welcome to our world. ...
Cardiff State Beach where the surf meets the parking lot.
The Cardiff Plein-Air Playas.
Tom Chino, Tom Chino, where are you???
Water, water everywhere at Bheau View Ranch's Awe Center.
The guys who used to be IndyMac. The failure of IndyMac cost US taxpayers almost $8 billion. Then, the IndyMac leaders got money from the US Treasury at 10 cents on the dollar and opened OneWest Bank. This is its office at the historic downtown plaza on Paseo Delicias, Rancho Santa Fe. Note the sign, middle right, warning people about bank burglaries. Anyone find this to be financial pornography?
Hanukkah Harry visits Rancho Santo Fe Community Center, Dec. 10, 2012.
HMMMMM...LATKES, otherwise knows as potato pancakes, with apple sauce for good measure.
Campo Del Dios...
Buddha or somethin'
A cautionary tale In honor of 'How To Not Write Bad'
I worked at the Suncoast News at Port Richey, Fl. It is owned by the Tampa Tribune and covers Pasco and North Pinellas counties. It also had the distinction of being a free twice-weekly newspaper with a huge circulation of like 150,000 copies.
This one guy who had been there forever was the worst writer I have seen -- EVER. His stories made absolutely no sense. However, the editor above us was extremely lazy and also couldn't write a lick. Issue after issues the abomination blighted actual journalistic efforts.
It pissed me off that I was working my ass off writing great stories that nobody at the paper cared about, and this guy was walking around like he was dong an equivalent job. I decided to take some action.
Silly me, as a joke, I decided to mimic his style and see if anybody noticed the difference or if they would say anything. I was inspired by the example of John Robert Starr, my editor at the Arkansas Democrat who incidentally gave Bill Clinton the nickname "Slick Willy."
One day Starr shaved off half his mustache and walked around the newsroom all day waiting for somebody to say something. Nobody did. Either they figured it was just another day of weird or were too afraid he would fire them if they said anything.
So inspired, I set out to write like this fool. First lesson: It was REALLY difficult writing like him because it was so screwy. The closest I can think of was it was kind of like writing like Yoda speaks, but not nearly as "wise."
Despite the degree of difficulty -- stories took longer to write in this convoluted way and I was laughing so hard it hurt -- I approximated this guy's style for three issues. Grammar, basically, was free-form and words askew left and right. The stories were horrible bad full of sound and meaningless fury, signifying what.
Nobody said anything. Finally, I ended the experiment because, well, it was ridiculous and embarrassing to boot.
That wasn't the end of it though. When I tried to write back in my usual style, I flat-out COULDN'T. Writing like this freak totally threw my actual writing out of whack. It took like two weeks to unlearn that guy's style and get back to writing semi-well.
The lesson I learned: Writing bad is not as simple as it seems, so some reverse respect for people that take it to the limit (of bad taste etc.) And, writers, don't try this at (your) home (page).
Ed, the Escondido, Calif. cabby, piqued our interest. As he waited for a fare outside a local Albertson's, we asked Ed a few questions about those who also drive ---- for hire.
Let's put it this way: In New York, Chicago, San Francisco, even Orange County and Orleans Parish, Louisiana, cabbies are more than useful. But Escondido, Fallbrook, and even Solana Beach in suburban San Diego County... taxi cabs? What's the deal? Where are they all hiding?
North County San Diego cabs are expensive to take, for one thing. Plus cab companies come and go, literally. They merge, split, reform and change names constantly. And the bottom line: It's very, very hard to get a cab in North County, and good luck getting one if you are in a hurry.
Now, back to Ed. He was laid off from a computer manufacturer's job and lived near the Escondido Yellow Cab office. Plus, he didn't have a car of his own. So hey, what the heck, he walked on over and started driving passengers for a living.
Apparently, the job has its moments. Ed said fares have run away without paying several times. He has had people pop into his taxi for $160 rides to LAX. Most of his fares are locals, such as the one that found him waiting outside Albertson's for a lady to emerge with groceries. Her car was broken and she needed to stock up. A seemingly short round-trip like that, though, can cost $20 to $30.
Ed had a lot more to say but to make a long story short, I let my fingers do the walking after that. I took to the telephone book and called. And called and called and called.
We called North County Cab. They advertise as "Anytime Anywhere On Time." Good luck with that one. "We're too busy to talk," said the dispatcher who wouldn't even say where they were located. It's 4986 Voltaire St. in Pacific Beach by the way. Not even North County.
Then, we swept through the "color" cab companies. Orange Cab, White Cab, Yellow Cab and something called Pinky Transportation. Then there was Taxi Fiesta, which isn't a color but still a pretty good name.
(Below is a special Ah-Ha Solana Beach taxicab confessional...)
And Courtesy Cab of Vista. At last, a North County cab company worth something.
Courtesy owner John Gazdayka was the only manager of a local cab company to give me the courtesy of some insight into the state of the state of North County taxi cabs. He is a longtime cab company employee and owner in several different taxi-cabal incarnations. He has owned Vista-based Courtesy Cab since 1997, running 11 vehicles that his drivers lease.
"You license with communities to pick up people there," Gazdayka said. "The fees vary. Some places have a flat fee plus a per-passenger. It usually comes out to a couple of hundred dollars for each place.
"A lot of guys who drive cabs operate on their own," Gazdayka said. "They get a (taxi driver) license and the better the company, the more drivers you can attract. The drivers got to make money. If they can't make money, I can't make money."
Cab companies set their own fares which generally are about $2 per mile. However, some smaller, or even solo, operators may charge more and some companies may charge less depending on the competition.
Gazdayka said it was hard to know how many taxi companies operate in North County but three, or four, probably handle the bulk of the traffic.
As for what it takes to succeed in the business: "It's not overly hard," Gazdayka said. "You have to have a certain amount of people skills, take directions well, read a map. But there are some people driving who are over-educated for what they do."
Local taxi traffic consists of business travelers to airports and hotels, local trips and a lot of contract work with school districts, hospitals, senior groups and even the North County Transit District for passengers who can't ride buses, Gazdayka said.
Passengers, by the way, leave all sorts of items behind in cabs.
"Cell phones, wallets, you name it," Gazdayka said. "Cell phones, the most by far. Wild stuff, too. Clothing. You name it."
Hmmm. And what about "Taxicab Confessions" on HBO: Fake or real?
"I think anything is possible in a cab," Gazdayka said with a laugh. "Use your imagination and it happens."
Any North County taxicab confessions?
Gazdayka won't go there from here today.