Archive for April, 2011


Sunday, April 24th, 2011

[IMAGE] Roche sunset

…click to listen:

…about the music


Ahhhhhh. Over time, I’ve posted quite a number of sunsets here from my living space, so I thought I’d share a lovely one from a couple of days ago, taken with my iPhone as I sipped a little wine at a friend’s place about five minutes up the road.

This summer will, as always, be bringing more San Juan Island Certified kelp to these pages. And possibly, more sunrises rather than sunsets, as well. I’m off tomorrow on another 10-day jaunt to a couple of cities in this great music-loving nation of ours, and when I return, fire-orb orientation-related details will be forthcoming. Ahhhhhh…

[IMAGE] Roche sunset
Same glowing orb, framed by different, glowing trees.

Alex’s restaurant

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

[IMAGE] Sushi lunch

[IMAGE] Yum!

…click to listen:

…about the music

Action adventure sushi.

I had posted these [uh, fascinating!] pix on my Facebook page less than a month back; I shot them on the fly from my desk, where a camera is always at the ready for ew-inspiring moments like this one. Yup, another day at the office here at Shapiro Seafaring Notes Worldwide. Just a moment ago, an almost identical scene took place a few yards from where I type this, only instead of watching a harbor seal eat lunch, today’s drama was played out when another unfortunate local octopus landed in the jaws of an enormous Steller Sea Lion, easily more than twice the size of the mammal pictured here. Thrashing! Diving! Sudden resurfacing! Attack gulls shrieking with joy, scavenging what they can! Tentacles, suction cups and flippers akimbo! Water everywhere! Razor sharp sea mammal teeth! Ouch! It’s completely riveting to watch these life and death struggles, loud and messy. My desire to remain in the voyeuristic moment often overrides my urge to grab the camera. And usually overrides my ability to shoot clearly even if I have it. It’s all just too damn exciting. I’d make a terrible photo journalist.

[IMAGE] octopus sushi
New from Apple: The cephaloPod.

I’m stunned by the feeding frenzies that take place every day in front of me. Freelance musicians at an industry reception hors d’oeuvres table have nothing on this. I’ve seen large, whole, live orange Dungeness crabs haplessly carried through the air by a single tad-too-slow crustacean leg clamped in the beak of a lucky seagull, as both creatures in turn were closely chased by a multitude of frantic, ravenous sea birds and hawks.

I’ve watch countless Great Blue Herons, Kingfishers and cormorants standing in the tide pools, quickly ducking their heads and coming up time and time again with wriggling, eel-like gunnel fish whose slimy green curling smoothness still can’t elude their predator’s hunger. Gulls and eagles do their best to snatch anything they can the moment the diner’s guard is lowered. Ya snooze, ya lose.

And a most indelible moment just a few weeks ago: the sight of a bald eagle flying low and straight-on toward my desk, with a thick, pink, three-foot long octopus tentacle dangling down from its massive yellow talons, limply gliding through the air, looking something like a mid-air refueling effort gone terribly wrong. A flock of gulls screamed as they raced to snatch stretchy bites of this fly-through fast food offering, but the eagle out paced them. This time.

I have no photos of these sudden, extreme moments. You can understand why.

[IMAGE] octopus sushi
Can I get some hot sake to go with this?

One creature dies so that another may live. Yeah, it’s the natural order of things, and yet it’s still gut-wrenching to watch, as I root for both animals simultaneously, knowing that only one will survive. I rarely go to the movies.

The other day I was pushing my cart through the aisle of our market here in Friday Harbor, calmly selecting items of my liking off the shelves and blithely placing them into my basket. Somewhere between the crab legs and the Ben and Jerry’s, I stopped and watched other shoppers pass me, smiling at me, completely uninterested in the booty I’d hoarded for my meal. No threat. No competition. No need to desperately fling my entire body across the top of my metal cart to protect its treasured contents from the onslaught of other hungry, scavenging, violent humans, lest I go without eating that night. No one was going to try to steal my food. Imagine that. I had the luxury of sauntering through the market with other primal, needy humans, without fear of being attacked. What a contrast to the way most other creatures (and yes, some unfortunate humans) exist. I went home, unpacked my groceries, and marveled at the ease with which I could continue to live for another day.

[IMAGE] octopus sushi
Just who is eating whom?

It’s not all death, gore and struggle that I see, though. Two afternoons ago, on April 10th, I raised my head just as two adult bald eagles alighted in the tree to my right, its high, exposed limb bouncing from their combined weight. Moments later, the male hopped on top of the female, and I witnessed roughly seven seconds of excited, flapping hawk porn as the next generation of eaglets began. Magical. I’d like to think that it was something about my music that set the inspiring tone for these romantically-inclined love birds, but I was only emptying the garbage at the time. Sigh.

I have no photos of that sudden, wonderful moment. You can understand why.

[IMAGE] sushi for a kingfisher
Ok, I’m done playing my scales and now I’m hard of herring!

Docking procedures

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

[IMAGE] Dock

…click to listen:

…about the music

Rock the dock!

When I gaze up from my note alignment duties and stare out across the deck railing, I never know what will greet my eyes. Every day is different. In addition to all the wildlife I catalog both here and on my Facebook page, there are plenty of man-made objects that float by. Most of them are commonly known as boats. But today was a first: not just a boat, but a dock and a ramp, sauntering past me just as I rose my head to think about the next note to be aligned.

[IMAGE] Dock
Yup, it’s a dock, for sure.

[IMAGE] Dock
This sloop is missing a golden opportunity to throw out a line and come to shore. Sort of like a mid-air refueling maneuver.

[IMAGE] Dock
Here they are, coming in for a landing, at the Lonesome Cove landing.

[IMAGE] Dock
See that miniature guy, motioning at the end of the ramp? He’s probably saying, “Steady… straight back… don’t hit the damn poles… someone’s probably watching and it could be really embarrassing.”

[IMAGE] Dock
Made it! Where’s the beer?

[IMAGE] Dock
Voila. Instant ramp and dock. Hooray: summer must be near!

Travel blog of an April fool

Friday, April 1st, 2011

[IMAGE] nose view

…click to listen:

…about the music

In motion. Sometimes not.

Although I travel almost constantly, I almost never make mention on these kelpy pages of transport and its inherent issues. As long as I get from Point A to Point B in one piece, I’m rather pleased. But it’s April 1st, and I’m compelled to file a report here about the entire day’s oddities of mobility or lack thereof. It began with the shortest distance I’ve ever traveled leaving from JFK: the flight early this morning that left at 7:30 a.m. from Gate 29, and arrived a record-setting three hours later at Gate 10. Yes, the Gate 10 at JFK. It was an un-flight, actually, since the wheels never left the ground.

This prize-worthy accomplishment in the art of going nowhere fast included a brief tour of the rainy/snowy taxiing tarmac and active runway as the pilot discovered, upon revving the engines full throttle as he was about to hurl us into the blue, that something about this big bird wouldn’t fly. This is the kind of information that’s useful to have at precisely the moment we had it, rather than, say, a few zippy seconds later when we’d have been staring down at Queens just long enough to realize that we were about to become one with the boardwalk at Coney Island.

So upon aborting takeoff, we scooted to the shoulder of the runway, and watched all the other healthy, grown-up planes pass us and lift gracefully into the sky. Our pilot tested out the engines in a stationary spot that guaranteed a less perilous outcome than any which might have included the descriptive term “sudden plunge,” and determined that indeed, it was necessary to head back to the gate and call in the mechanics for a look-see.

We headed back. We waited. The aero fix-it fellas showed up and did their thing. And we waited some more. A lot more, in fact. Finally, we were told that we’d need to change equipment. Further waiting was in store for us after we de-planed and finally re-planed.

But heck, I’m Mz. Mellow: as long as I’ve got my laptop and my iPhone, I’m a happy camper (and camping out is what this started to feel like). Also helpful is that since I’m in the air nearly as much as I am on the ground, I’ve racked up enough miles to launch the next mission to Mars and thus usually find myself upgraded and catapulted through the sky from the very front of the plane on most trips. And ya know what the biggest perk to this is (ok, after the free booze, which the peripatetic and sometimes tired Mz. Mellow deeply appreciates because it further morphs her into Mz. Ultra Mellow)? The electrical outlets that are thoughtfully placed next to each seat, offering the promise of endless work, once I tire of mindlessly playing gin rummy on my [always cheating] iPhone and watching HGTV house renovations on the little screen on the seat-back facing me.

Snuggled into my comfy window seat surrounded by my juiced up techy gizmos, a banana, a Reese’s peanut butter cup and a Bloody Mary (each decidedly less techy, with the latter threatening to juice me up as efficiently as my gear), I declined the offer to venture off the plane in search of a better place to kill time. I was deeply content in my bleary-eyed que sera sera-ness. But here’s the FAIL part: in-air internet WiFi only works above 10,000 feet. As in, “in-air.” So even though I was plugged in, I remained unplugged. I guess this was like camping, after all.

Eventually, the consolation prize replacement plane became air-bound, and actually made it across the country to Seattle by mid afternoon. Then additional commuter fun ensued. It was raining heavily in Seattle (like, gee, that’s never happened before). One of Seattle’s few weaknesses is its utterly frustrating dependence on an I-5 freeway corridor that becomes thoroughly clogged when more than, say, three cars are on the road. Especially when all three have careened into each other because the drivers were probably too busy playing gin rummy on their iPhones to watch in front of them. With no other north/south options, the traffic jams can be legendary. And this was one of those marvelously legendary days. Heavy rain, heavy traffic, and increasingly heavy hunger pangs were my accompaniment track. It had been 13 hours since I left my hotel room on the upper west side, and I was still many hours from my front porch on the upper west rock.

[IMAGE] Bridge to somewhere
By my feet at the studio: a bridge to somewhere.

Three hours later, we made it to the ferry terminal in Anacortes, hoping to catch the 6pm boat to San Juan Island. Problem was, although I’d dutifully checked not one but both online iPhone ferry apps for updates, info and any pithy alerts, we were unaware that in fact there was no 6pm sailing today because, like the plane at JFK, the vessel had mechanical problems and was pulled from service. Was it something I said? Should I have applied more deodorant? Tried a different color lipstick? What was it about me today that caused enormous hunks of metal on both edges of the continent– aircraft, trucks, and car ferry– to freeze up and cease working? Apparently, I had heretofore been unaware of my super powers and now must learn to use them for good, not for evil. At the very least, my fellow travelers– clearly all victims of my proximity– will benefit.

So I now type this tale of travel tribulations sitting in a dinky little ferry depot with other islander diaspora who, like me, await the 8:25 p.m. sailing to paradise. I’ve inhaled a slightly stale and oddly soggy cellophane-mummified tuna sandwich, in lieu of the nice dinner I thought I’d enjoy at home. And oh-by-the-way adding-to-my-slight-crankiness, this place doesn’t sell wine or beer (I guess they don’t want anyone to drink and dive). Nonetheless, if this is the price I very occasionally pay to live in this paradise, I’m willing to ante up. In fact, I’m quite, quite lucky.