Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Train I Ride

Shane and Tram Tracks_20060924_0006This is the N Judah, as it heads overground at Cole Valley. On Sunday, we were en famille at the Cole Valley Fair, one of the many neighborhood fairs that happen in September. Shane is fascinated with the trams and trains, and even more fascinated when they go underground. He insisted we go to the mouth of the tunnel and wait for the tram to go through.
As I have mentioned before, many weekend nights can find me on the N, heading to some of my favorite hostileries. One of my favorite things is sitting on the N, listening to music while observing everyone observing everyone. It being San Francisco, there is always the requisite freak on the train. On Saturday it was an overweight black guy, rapping along at volume to whatever was on his iPod. He was so excited by the music he insisted on removing his shirt. However, my favorite is the Wet Swimsuit Guy. He is youngish, extremely tanned, always dressed in sneakers, jeans, and a dirty denim shirt unbuttoned to the navel, with lank shoulder length, sun-bleached hair. He is always swinging a swimsuit in circles over his head, and depending on whether the tram is leaving Ocean Beach or heading towards it, the swimsuit is either wet or dry. I can only conclude that he regularly swims at Ocean Beach. I surf at Ocean Beach, (or at least I did until my kids arrived), so the mind boggles. Here's Surflines description of OB, (as it is known locally).

On a lot of days at Ocean Beach, just getting out can be a major accomplishment. Depending on swell and tide and sandbar, on many days there is a 200-yard "zone of death" in between the beach and the lineup. It can be as hard to get off the beach and out to sea for a surfer as it was for a marine to get from sea to shore on the beaches of Normandy. It takes knowledge, skill, strength and courage, but the deciding factor on a lot of days is still dumb luck.

A University Of California Berkeley study stated:

"Ocean Beach is the most hazardous and dangerous piece of shoreline associated with an urban environment in the whole United States."

Apparently over 10 people a year had drowed at OB before the Beach Patrol started. I can see why, and as such, I have a healthy respect for OB. If I haven’t surfed there for a while, I spend a few days at surfing other beaches until my skills are sharpened. Being caught on the wrong side of a large wave on OB was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. To get out to the swell, you paddle out to just beyond the point where waves are breaking; this is often incredibly physically challenging, sometimes more than surfing the damn wave. When you get out, you need to keep an eye on the horizon, mostly to make sure you are in the right position to catch some sweet surf, but also to save yourself a turn through the washing machine. Every so often, a wave can break further out from the shore, and if you are between it and the shore when it breaks, it can pick you up and toss you around like driftwood. In smaller surf this is disconcerting; in big surf it can be dangerous, especially if you get thrashed by a string of large waves. It happens to every surfer occasionally, and it is always terrifying. The waves are a lot more dangerous than the sharks...

Wet Swimsuit Guy is obviously a little touched, he mutters to himself as he swings his wet swimsuit around on the tram. This might explain why he chooses to brave the icy waters at OB.

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Monday, September 25, 2006


Friday, September 22, 2006

Dolphin watching

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Shane Cian Conor Kites_20060910_0041

This is another photo from my trip back to Ireland the week before last. It was primarily a business trip to London, but one of the perks is getting to bookend the week in England with weekends in Ireland. I took a few days off, and made the second weekend a very long one at our usual spot near Castlegregory. It was only perfect, warm September weather, enough tourists to create a buzz, but only in Dingle, (on our side of the Dingle peninsula it was pretty quiet) and everything still in bloom. My college roommate Richie and his wife and two kids spent a day and a night with us. On the afternoon they arrived, we brought all the kids to the local beach, which is only a short walk away. I bought buckets and shovels for sandcastle building, and a kite. They had a ball with the kite; in fact they fought over whose turn it was to fly it.

I love Ireland in September. When American friends ask when is the best time to go, I always advocate for September or May. They seem to have the optimal combination of weather, fun, and lack of crowds. Dingle was still busy, but manageable. We went out to see Fungi the Dolphin, which was much more fun than expected. The boat trip alone was worth the price. Shane, of course loved it, although it’s debatable which he loved more, being on a boat, (his first time), or seeing the dolphin.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Keep on rocking me baby

Monday, September 04, 2006

Swans and Ugly Ducklings

Swans in the Creek and others_20060903_0004

I don't know what the real name of this river is, but locally it's known as "The Creek," and it divides Limerick City from County Limerick. Its days as a border may be numbered. There is an ongoing debate about extending the city boundaries, which haven't budged since the forties. Many of the people who consider themselves from Limerick City actually live in the county. Me included. The boundaries were set long before Limerick had any real suburbs, and as a result, the City Council is coveting the affluent suburbs but the County Council is loath to surrender them. Anyhow, seriously jet lagged (stopping by on my way to London for work), I went a-wandering to clear my head, and as I passed over the creek, a pair of swans swam by, followed by three cygnets. I didn't notice the shopping trolleys until I leaned over to get a better shot.

Ireland can still be a dirty little country, and I noticed in one of the national dailies, that tourists rated litter as their biggest turnoff. That said, to my eyes street litter is much diminished, but if you take a walk along the banks of the Shannon , you'll find plenty of dumped litter, particularly beer cans. The latter are the remnants of what was known as "bush drinking" when I was a teenager. This was a simple pursuit, entailing the purchase of alcohol to be drank at night in an outdoor location unlikely to be frequented by adults.

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