awesome


In the 12-plus years I’ve been a-blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than a week or two without posting SOMETHING. So you can imagine my shock when I saw I’d last been seen here basically more than three weeks ago.

The funny thing is, I’ve still been communicating, but mostly on Facebook, which for reasons known only to Mark Zuckerberg has been able to squirrel its way in to becoming something of my defacto mode of e-communication. I don’t even tweet much anymore.

But enough about that. Without any further preambling, here’s some of the stuff I’ve been doing of late:

1) Kayaking The Los Angeles River

As part of a pilot program this summer, a section of the long-lost Los Angeles River coursing through Elysian Valley was reopened to the public for use as a recreational resource, an opportunity angelenos have not had since the 1930s when the river’s channelization was begun to prevent flooding.

As a boy I accidentally discovered the river, and from that single experience I have never stopped being enamored with and zealously protective of what so many others have dismissed as our city’s woeful waterway — little more than a drainage ditch to the sea. Though I’ve been aware of its potential, I never imagined that one day I’d see such a sea change in perception so that  the river would made accessible and embraced not as a prohibited place but as public parkland to be explored and experienced and as something to connect with after so long a disconnect.

kayakroute

So for me, thanks to L.A. River Expeditions (Facebook), to be among the first wave during this historic first season and doing what you see in these clips at the top and after the jump: putting a kayak into its waters and putting my butt into that kayak and paddling — however awkwardly — downstream for a water-level perspective of my beloved river, it’s not a dream come true. Because I never dared to dream this could ever happen. Not in my lifetime.

No, it’s much more than that. To me it’s nothing short of a glorious miracle. And for that I’m thankful to everyone who has fought so tirelessly and valiantly over the years to get the city’s much-maligned and misbegotten river recreated in enough influential minds so that it can now be leisurely recreated upon.

Physically and soulfully these waters were very moving.

2) Unrocking The parkway in front of our house

I can’t remember if it was four or five years ago, but it all began when our next door neighbor contacted me to tell me he was redoing the section of parkway in front of his house with river rocks, and would I be interested in going in for half of the cost and doing mine as well to give the two parkways some continuity.

I figured why not. It would look better than the dirt and dead grass that had been there and it would be an opportunity to do something positive with the guy with whom, frankly, I’m not on the best of terms.

So a few weeks later he shows up with a metric ton of the palm-sized rocks and we pour them out, and the continuity lasted for all of as long as it took for the grasses and weeds to grow from between our rocks. See, he keeps his section of the parkway completely sterile, using gardeners he’s instructed to pluck pretty much even the slightest growth of green. Me? I’m my own gardener and I instructed myself not to give a hoot about what grows.

The only thing I’d been meticulous about is putting the rocks back that people for some stupid reason can’t resist kicking or tossing all over the place: the gutter, the street, the sidewalk, our front steps. And yes, I’ve even confronted people I’ve witnessed taking the rocks – literally picking up several and walking off as if there’s a “Free Rocks — All You Can Carry!” sign posted.

Fast forward to this week, and I’m finally done with these rocks. Agreeing to partner this design option for our parkways did nothing to improve things with the neighbor, and so I decided that it’s time to reclaim or refresh our decidedly seedy section of the parkway and remove the river rocks.

I started yesterday (August 12), and quickly discovered that it was something easier said than done. What I thought would take a couple hours of clearing the roughly 40′ x 4′ area, is going to take about eight or more… mostly because over the ensuing rainy seasons, what started as one layer of rocks on the surface of the soil is now in places two or three layers of rocks that have been buried by the flow of water and soil, hastened by those people who’ve tromped on them and pushed them deeper. It’s really quite remarkable how low some of these rocks have gone.

I found out during the first four/five foot long section I cleared from the driveway apron to the magnolia tree, which also involved digging up all the dead patches of grass. And there are a LOT of dead patches of grass.

Soooo, what you’re seeing here in this timelapse is roughly 45 minutes of me attacking with little more than a spade and begloved hands the second four/five foot section between the magnolia tree and the brick walkway. Ended up filling the bucket three times. That’s a lotta rocks. And I’ll do it again tomorrow. And the day after. Until it’s done.

Not sure yet what I plan to do once it’s all cleared. I may just leave it bare. I may plant something. Or I may supersaturate the soil and set the rocks back into the wet dirt side by side like so many tiles. At least that way if some idiot wants to take one or toss one  it’ll require a little more effort than just bending over and getting grabby.

Menial labor? Meaningful labor? Bit of both from where I’m toiling.

This behavior is not something Ranger ever learned, nor was she taught it. It was discovered quite by accident after the kids next door hit a soccer ball over the fence into our yard. When I found the ball, for whatever reason, I arc’d it over in Ranger’s general direction and holy wowzers she proceeded to use her muzzle to line drive it directly back to me.

soccerdawg

One time… two times… could happen to any dog, right? Well, we all know Ranger isn’t any dog. As if to prove it, she tossed it back to me practically every time I tossed it to her. We’ve had streaks of 20 or more, from as far as 10 feet between us.

Now, “toss” isn’t really what she’s doing. She isn’t even doing what trained seals do and bouncing it back off her nose soccer-style. What she’s trying to do is catch the ball in her mouth, but since it’s too big to fit in her jaws what happens instead is an uncannily precise return to sender.

The trick is, it’s all on me. Pretty much her rebound shot is entirely dependent upon how nice a lob I send her way. If it’s near perfect, the ball will most often come back through the air either directly to me or at least within my reach. And by the time I catch it, Ranger’s already poised and ready for me to send the next one here way.

The following link takes you to a snippet of crappy video from a lousy camera, but you get the idea — and you can bet I’ll be setting up a better cam to capture it next time we: Play Ball!

One of the reasons for the total lack of updates recently has been due to the fact that this month of June has been a very stressed and focused and culminating time of my ongoing public safety training , requiring pretty much most of my attention and relegating any communications on the internest to my Facebook page.

But now June is done. And while this past month has been the toughest most demanding part of my looooong 13-month journey, it’s the final segment of this latest phase in what initially began as a kernel of an idea four years ago. The idea to quit being the inevitable pawn in the various journalism chess games I’ve played this past 20 years and instead do something veeeeery different and far more fulfilling in becoming a humane law enforcement officer, aka, an “animal cop,” more than four years ago.

I know people at my advanced age aren’t supposed to chart such dramatic changes in course, but then I’ve rarely acted my age.  So it is with a sense of pride and accomplishment that I report the successful completion of all gradeable aspects of my training, and thus can now proceed through the final two weeks of scheduled instruction with my fellow cadets of Rio Hondo Police Academy Class 2012-1 to graduation, which will take place July 13 at 10 a.m. at Rio Hondo College.

I still have a ways to go in the process that I hope will conclude with me joining the Animal Protection Services Department within the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles (spcaLA), but I wouldn’t be able to proceed with that final step without achieving this one.

If you’re interested in attending the ceremony at the college in Whittier I would love to have you there. I’ve posted the event’s details here on Facebook.

While Ranger and Patchy look on in an attempt to ignore Pepper, I catch him doing this inexplicable goofy behavior he’s known for in which he tap dances/scratches with his front paws against a window pane and then vocalizes like the nut he is.

Forty-six seconds of Pumpkin enjoying breakfast specifically and life in general, this clip documents what has to be a serious contender for the title of Happiest Most Satisfied Sound Ever, and I’m lucky in that I get to hear it every morning.

In the brief clip below, you’ll need to go full screen and click on the highest resolution version for the best look since Buster (our Russian tortoise) is at the farthest point from the camera — which I set up the to see if I could capture the ever-industrious escape artist inevitably finding a way out of her new playpen that was the former backyard pumpkin patch.

Instead (unbeknownst to me until I viewed the timelapse), the camera captured something of a miracle of another kind, namely Buster doing what in many ways impossible for a tortoise to do: successfully flip herself back upright after falling over on her back while trying to climb out.

Our shepherd/border collie mix Ranger never ceases to amaze. A soccer ball that ended up in our yard courtesy the kids next door led to me tossing it in Ranger’s direction Saturday, which revealed her rather amazing and consistent inate ability to “toss” it back to me.

I say “inate” because how she immediately and repeatedly responded to a large ball being tossed directly  at her head isn’t something we taught her. Nor is it something dogs typically know. In fact, I’d wager that if I tossed a ball at 100 random dogs’ heads for the first time, a few larger breeds might try to catch it in their mouths, but the rest would shy away from the projectile and none would do what Ranger did.

So we’re not only at a complete jaw-dropped loss as to how she picked up such a behavior, but also how it’s so second nature for her.

Perhaps she’s part seal?

 

 

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