Mo No Gro No Mo

So here’s how my hairy upper lip looked just prior to its execution on the morning of December 1:


The above moodily lighted moustache was cultivated throughout the previous month as I participated in the annual Movember movement to raise awareness of men’s health issues and funds for cancer research.

I had an easier time growing the thing than I did growing donations, and want to thank my beloved wife Susan and my fantastic friend Michael Baffico for answering my calls to contribute. All told my relatively weak collection efforts consisting of this previous post here and a couple tweets on Twitter yielded a total of $195 — $20 of which was mine. Overall efforts of my Movember team, dubbed The Hair Force and led by my coworker Chris, topped out at $1,775. Way to go, team!

It was fun watching the thing take shape, but I won’t lie: I was happy to see it go and get my upper lip back to normal. I’d done the moustache/goatee thing in the past, but never just the ‘stache, and I learned I’m just not much for it. That said, I would probably have kept the ‘stache until December 4 if it and I had been available to attend the Movember celebration party scheduled that evening at The Avalon in Hollywood, but since I’ll be enjoying Susan’s office holiday dinner instead, out came the razor Tuesday morning and down the drain all them hairsesses went.

Perhaps until next year.

Pit Stop

I stopped on my bike ride in to work this morning and and gave a most awesome  pit bull a baggy full of kibble and some lovin’. She’s was both receptive and appreciative.

I wrote about it with other pix and a timelapse vid here on Metblogs.

Sometimes They Come Back

An L.A. Times article today on the excellent success of the island fox captive breeding program on Santa Rosa Island reminded me that in a few days it will be the fourth anniversary of my trip to Santa Rosa’s neighbor Santa Cruz Island with a team of fellow Los Angeles Zoo docents.

Invited by The Nature Conservancy to help build pens there for the expansion of its captive breeding program, we spent the better part of four days in the island’s interior (normally off-limits to outsiders) working on the slopes of a small valley near the historic and ridiculously picturesque Stanton Ranch erecting four 600-square-foot pens where the remaining housecat-sized wild foxes would be caught up and installed to better ensure their safety, increase their drastically low numbers, and ultimately enable their survival.

Historical nutshell time! The foxes lived perfectly on the Channel Islands with bald eagles and mice and blue jays and bugs and native human inhabitants for as much as 16,000 years, but that all began to change when between 1947 and 1971 some 1,800 tons of DDT and an unknown amount of PCBs were dumped in Torrance, making its way through sewer lines into the bay near Palos Verdes where it spread. Bald eagles on the islands eventually ate fish tainted with the pesticide and died off, and in their place came opportunistic golden eagles from the mainland, with a far greater taste for flesh than fish. With no baldies to harrass them, the golden eagle couldn’t help but thrive by exploiting unchecked a virtually endless food supply in the expanding populations of feral pigs–  an ecologically disastrous byproduct of the farming and ranching that took place on Santa Cruz for more than 150 years. The golden eagle wasn’t picky and would gladly eat island foxes, too. And as if the eagles weren’t enough of a threat, the pigs contributed by basically rooting up much of the native vegetation, thereby both reducing the food available to the fox and also leaving them few places to hide and escape the eagles. Seriously, by 1994 when the animal was listed as an endangered spicies there were populations of foxes on some islands that barely numbered in the double digits. In the course of the recovery effort that began in the late 1990s, the golden eagles have been trapped and relocated, bald eagles have been successfully reintroduced, and the pigs — some 5,000 of them — have been killed off.

With my departure from the zoo a year after my visit to Santa Cruz Island, I confess I haven’t been keeping as abreast of the island fox recovery efforts these past few years. So it came as a surprise to learn that the captive breeding program has been so successful that the pens we built have actually been closed since last year – and for good reason: they’re just no longer needed.

In 2004,  there were less than 60 foxes on Santa Cruz island. Now it’s estimated that there are more than 400 — and growing. Populations on Santa Rosa, San Miguel and other islands in the Channel chain are also on the rise.

Though the part that I didn’t hesitate to play in that complex and successful process was infinitesimally small, the amount of pride I take in it is huge.

A photobook I made of images from the excursion can be viewed here on Shutterfly.  Or the full photo album can be seen here.



The Hollywood Burrito Project made, packed, carried and delivered fresh and hot burritos to 30 homeless people on the streets of Hollywood.

About The Burrito Incident With Buddy Ebsen At The Vine Street Big Lots!

And so it was that a crew of five of us set out with about 40 fresh and piping hot burritos on last night’s revitalization of the dormant Hollywood Burrito Project ride and we learned that no good deed goes unpunished. We headed up Western Avenue where first I flatted my rear tire after nailing the sharp lip of a deep pothole between Melrose and Santa Monica. After innertubes were swapped and the new one inflated we found our next obstacle in the form of haggard, wild-eyed antagonistic Buddy Ebsen-looking transient bastard who arrived from across the street as we were passing out food to the six or seven homeless encamped at the Big Lots! store on Vine Street a couple blocks south of Sunset.

“What are you doing?” he demanded to know. “Are you bothering these people?” As if he was their guardian or some such shit.

“No,” I told him, “we’re just giving them something to eat.”

“Something to eat?” He inquired sarcastically.

“Yeah, burritos.” I held one out to him. “Would you like one?” He took it from me, but instead of it having any sort of calming effect on him, instead it set him off.

“A burrito?” he said it like I’d just handed him a used tissue. “Is that it?” Taken aback that someone would be so willing to bite the hand that literally feeds them, none of us said anything.

“Really? A burrito? That’s all you’ve got?” He looked at the people laying on the cement against the storefront bundled as best they could against the chill of the night — all of whom were appreciative of what we offered them. “These people probably eat better than all of you and all you give them is a burrito?”

Let me preface the short remainder of the post with the point that it was obvious to me that there would be no winning the argument this idiot was making — and a hypocritical idiot at that given that he accepted the burrito I gave him and when I indignantly asked for it back from the ingrate he refused to give it. Instead with an abject lack of regard of the good — however little — we were doing and the efforts we were making, he insisted that we “sell our bikes” and give the money to the poor.

At some point I finally ramped my own sarcasm and stepped up to thank him for the insulting buzzkill he was providing, and immediately after came a chorus of voices from the people prone before us who clearly did not share his warped point of view and instead thanked and blessed us profusely for our kindness.

Heading away from the jerk I pointed out that we’d be back next Wednesday if he wanted another burrito and to bitch at us some more, then I suggested to the crew that it might be high time to introduce the Knuckle Sandwich Project to the area.

Hollywood Burrito Project – 02.13.08

On Gower under the Hollywood Freeway this was one of our last stops and certainly the location of the highest concentration of homeless. Overall we gave away 40 burritos last night. Here we fed seven  people as indicated by the notes in the snap at right posted to Flickr plus one more not pictured on the sidewalk behind me(click image to check it out).

It can be argued that feeding the homeless with no greater purpose leaves them dependent and does nothing to enable their escape from the streets. While that may be true, what is truer for me is that moment of transition when the food goes from my hands to theirs with no agenda and no judgment. In that brief interval of giving and receiving I stand apart from a society that shuns and instead acknowledges them as humans who matter, who count, who deserve. For that short span we are brothers and sisters helping each other.