Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Patriot Act Stinks....

From Secrecy News:


An amendment offered on May 24 by Sen. Ron Wyden would have challenged the Administration's reliance on what he called "secret law" and required the Attorney General to explain the legal basis for its intelligence collection activities under the USA PATRIOT Act. But that and other proposed amendments to the PATRIOT Act have been blocked in the Senate.

"The public will be surprised... when they learn about some of the interpretations of the PATRIOT Act," Sen. Wyden said, based on his access to classified correspondence between the Justice Department and the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"U.S. Government officials should not secretly reinterpret public laws and statutes in a manner that is inconsistent with the public's understanding of these laws or describe the execution of these laws in a way that misinforms or misleads the public."

"We can have honest and legitimate disagreements about exactly how broad intelligence collection authorities ought to be, and members of the public do not expect to know all of the details about how those authorities are used," Sen. Wyden said. "But I hope each Senator would agree that the law itself should not be kept secret and that the government should always be open and honest with the American people about what the law means."

But the Senate moved toward cloture on reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act provisions and the Wyden amendment, which was co-sponsored by several Senate colleagues, was not permitted to be offered or to be voted upon.

The House Judiciary Committee issued a report last week on the reauthorization of surveillance provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act, with a lengthy dissent from the minority members of the Committee. See "FISA Sunsets Reauthorization Act of 2011," House Report 112-79, part 1, May 18, 2011.

In 2008, then-Sen. Russ Feingold chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government."


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Voting For Prez in 2012....

Tell you what...I'm having a hell of a frustrating time trying to figure out who, if anyone, I'm gonna vote for in 2012. And I'm not the only one. At least one of my writer friends says she may not vote at all, given the lousy choices. More...we're both Dems. Or at least, we always have been in the past.

So this set of choices just stinks. Wish there were a viable 3rd party. Wonder why the Greens aren't really publicizing their candidate. Or are they? I have no idea.

Just really don't like being in this situation.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Paul Krugman Tells All....

Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column on "Seniors, Guns, and Money", starts out:

"This has to be one of the funniest political stories of recent weeks: On Tuesday, 42 freshmen Republican members of Congress sent a letter urging President Obama to stop Democrats from engaging in “Mediscare” tactics — that is, to stop saying that the Republican budget plan released early last month, which would end Medicare as we know it, is a plan to end Medicare as we know it."

Read it at:


Missing Person Alert...

May 13, 2011 (Santa Ysabel)--The Sheriff's Search and Rescue (SAR) and deputies from the Pine Valley Substation are looking for a missing 63-year-old woman. Patricia McGinn was last seen walking away from her car in the 4800 block of Mountainbrook Road at 11:30 a.m.

The area is near the Inaja Memorial Park (Thomas Guide page 1135-C4) in Santa Ysabel. Patricia McGinn is a white female, 5 feet 8 inches tall, with gray hair. She was last seen wearing a light blue shirt and dark blue pants.

It's unclear at this time, why she wandered away from her car. If you've seen Patricia McGinn, please call (858) 565-5200.If you have photos or eye-witness info on a wildfire, please email or post in the comments section at the bottom of the article on our homepage.

Watch for updates at .

If you received this from a friend, sign up for free Viejas Wildfire & Emergency alerts, as well as a free weekly newsletter from East County Magazine, via email by clicking the link at the top right side of our homepage at
You can also follow ViejasAlerts at to receive alerts on your cell phone or mobile device.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Education...Begging For Mercy....

Reading,'Riting and Revenues

by Gail Collins

May 11, 2011
American education is going to be reformed until it rolls over and begs for mercy. Vouchers! Guns on campus! Just the other day, the Florida State Legislature took a giant step toward ending the scourge of droopy drawers in high school by upping the penalties for underwear-exposing pants.

Today, let’s take a look at the privatization craze and the conviction that there is nothing about molding young minds that can’t be improved by the profit motive.

Enrollment in for-profit colleges has ballooned to almost two million, propelled by more than $25 billion in federal student loans, many of which are apparently never going to be repaid. More than 700 public K-12 schools around the country are now managed by for-profit companies. Last week, in Ohio, the State House went for the whole hog and approved legislation that would allow for-profit businesses to open up their own taxpayer-financed charter schools.

“It takes the public out of public education,” complained Bill Sims of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

This exciting new plan, which seemed to have been inserted into the state budget bill by a magical invisible hand, would also reduce oversight. It got a rave review in The Columbus Dispatch from an op-ed contributor named Thomas Needles, who cheered legislators for trying to end the “drip-drop of wrongheaded regulation” of charter schools.

Needles is a consultant for White Hat Management, the largest company currently managing charter schools in Ohio — and with none too great a record, according to the National Education Policy Center, which said that only 2 percent of the schools White Hat runs have scored well on yearly progress tests. The owner of White Hat is a gynormous donor to the state Republican Party. Not that that would make any difference. Just saying.

So that’s the pathbreaking privatization news in Ohio. Now let’s take a look at Texas, which has been leading the way in putting for-profit companies in charge of certifying teachers.

“Very interesting and very disturbing,” said Linda Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at Stanford who studies teacher certification issues. Darling-Hammond says that when the federal government began demanding certified teachers in every classroom, Texas was among the states that responded by creating alternative certification programs, some of which have requirements slightly less rigorous than those for the trainers at neighborhood gyms. Most of the new teachers in Texas — particularly at schools in poor neighborhoods — come from alternative certification programs.

Then, the Legislature invited for-profit businesses into the game. “Ever since then, the innovation and competition has been phenomenal,” claimed Vernon Reaser, the president of Texas Teachers, the largest of the state’s alt-cert companies.

Here is one indicator of how innovative things are getting. Texas is currently considering — although not with any great intensity — a bill that would require that people who go through these programs spend a couple of days practice teaching before they are turned loose in their own classrooms.

The sponsor is Representative Mike Villarreal of San Antonio. Villarreal first came to my attention as the legislator who proposed requiring that the course content in public school sex education classes be medically accurate. The man has a positive genius for coming up with bills to make the Texas education system do something we really had assumed it had been doing all along. None of which make it out of committee.

At a public hearing on Villarreal’s bill, Reaser vigorously denounced the idea of requiring would-be teachers to actually get classroom experience as part of their training: “Practice teachers in front of kids that aren’t practice learning!”

To get an alternative teaching certificate in Texas you need to take coursework and have 30 hours of “field-based” experience, 15 of which can be spent watching videos. Villarreal says some programs fill up the other 15 with things like chaperoning field trips.

It’s not clear how many people get hired as full-time teachers without ever having stood in front of a classroom for a single hour. The $4,195 Texas Teachers program (its ubiquitous billboards read: “Want to Teach? When Can You Start?”) is a little opaque. For instance, Reaser assured me in a phone conversation that his students were required to have a variety of in-person interactions with their instructors even though the Web site says you can opt for “fully online instruction.”

“On our Web site, we intentionally don’t say everything,” Reaser explained. “It’s basically to get you to call us and ask us.”

When we all started clamoring for more investment in education, I don’t think we envisioned it going into corporate profits. We have seen the future, and the good news is that the kids in Florida will be wearing belts.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Asking & Telling...Navy Style....

Marching into Trouble


Keith Taylor

Late this month the graduating midshipmen will march into the Naval Academy's Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Their college days over, they will now start their education. The new ensigns will have a lot to learn from those who have "Been there. Done that." And they better pay attention.

Something's wrong afloat. You could get the admirals confused with reality talk show hosts the way they're firing their captains. So far ten skippers have been relieved for cause.

It's baffling to this old sailor. Starting in 1947, I served 22 years, nine months, and 11 days, more or less. They called it a man's navy in those days. Today, thirty percent of our sailors, officer and enlisted, are women. The women aren't meek, compliant ones either. One recently lost her job as skipper of a cruiser because she was a foul-mouthed martinet.

This un-meek lady punctuated her orders with the same cuss words I used in boot camp. She threw coffee cups. She threatened to throttle a junior officer, and demonstrated how it would be done by grasping his throat with her hands. She ran over a whale.

One would expect that most of the firings would be for mistakes in ship handling or for abuse of power. But no. Most were for the very human failure of personal misconduct, usually involving sex or liquor. That's not surprising because lots of guys sign on because of sex or liquor, usually both.

And they love going where it is. Ask any old salt to name his favorite liberty port. Don't be surprised to learn Adak isn't on the list.

Their alleged acts in several "good" ports in the Mediterranean included drunkenness, inappropriate dancing, fighting between chief petty officers, and fraternization up and down the pay grades -- Sounded about like what we called one helluva liberty. The commanding officer, command master chief, six other chiefs, one junior officer and one petty officer were removed from the ship as of March 1.

The commander of a aviation patrol squadron near Seattle, did what an officer is expected to do after he'd screwed up and got caught doing what he wasn't supposed to do. When a cop arrested him for driving drunk he was assured no report would be made to his superiors. Regulations stipulated that personnel arrested for DWI be reported to his command. He reported himself and got fired. Our Navy lost another good officer. Navy Times reported last year he was a finalist for the 2010 Vice Adm. James Stockdale leadership award. I hope his fitness report mentions his honesty and courage for doing what he was expected to do.

The executive officer, and presumptive captain of the USS Enterprise was rated by two of his former commanding officers as being perfect. From his fitness reports we would assume if there had been a category "better than perfect," he'd have been marked up to that status.

Perfect wasn't good enough, not when he did was what sailors of all ranks have done after their ships slip over the horizon and out of sight of land. He entertained his shipmates with bawdy jokes and by filming skits which crossed that ephemeral line of propriety.

Was he guilty? Sure. Was it offensive? Yeah, most skits of this sort are. Did he have permission? No. but others above him sat in on the skits and laughed along with the crew. He was fired.

But, is it as bad as all that? Yes. In spite of automatic responses about a small percent of a bad apples, it is a fetid mess when Navy Times blares "five firings in ten days" from the front page. Something is wrong here that cannot be cured by bromides. The command structure that has allowed the mess to grow was put together by nabobs who were once ensigns. Today's new ensigns will find themselves caught up in a frenzy to fix a broken system.

So is there a lesson in all this for those brand new ensigns? Yeah. the sailors down in the crew's quarters know what it is -- Cover your derriere. Some of the sailors might not use those exact words though.

Have a fair wind and a following sea maties.

//Keith Taylor retired from the navy as a junior officer some forty years ago. He can be reached at


Images of bin Laden...

Old Man With Clicker

There were differences.

She had a dead chimp. He had a live water buffalo. She had an Isotta Fraschini with leopard-skin upholstery. He had a Suzuki van. She used tuberoses.

He used Avena syrup, an herbal Viagra. She liked Champagne and caviar.

He liked Coca-Cola and Pepsi. She had a script. He had a Koran. She had a white telephone. He had no telephone.

But the similarities were striking. The faded murderous glamour queen and faded murderous terror king relied on drivers to negotiate their relations with the world. Married multiple times, they were both ensconced with lovers half their age in high-priced villas that shut out the world, vainly looking at old videos of themselves and primping, hoping for spectacular comebacks that would wow their fans.

Instead, Justice pounded up the stairs.

Maybe it’s because I watched the videos of Osama bin Laden released by the Obama administration while staying at the Sunset Tower Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. But seeing him holed up in his room, looking pathetic with white beard and blankie, gazing at himself on screen in his heyday, Osama was oh so Norma Desmond (with a dash of Woody Allen in “Bananas”).“I am big,” he might have sneered. “It’s the thumb drives that got small.”

The C.I.A. is playing mind games — both with Al Qaeda, trying to show its slain leader as a pitiable figure, and with Pakistan, sending a message that we may have even more information than we do, and that double-dealing Pakistanis had best cooperate because they could be embarrassed, too.

I don’t think we need to worry about inflaming Al Qaeda. They come pre-inflamed. But the C.I.A.’s propaganda message is a bit mixed. On the one hand, Osama seems risible, an old man with a clicker trapped in a dorm room. On the other, intelligence sources have said that the cloistered, swaddled Bin Laden was still a threat, plotting more transportation cataclysms here. Pitiable or potent? Make up your minds.

When American officials wanted to scare the world about the Soviet threat, they would show surveillance shots of missiles. But now, in the age of technology and terror, the dire threats come from much more homely adversaries. They can emanate from the nondescript third floor of a house in a picturesque hamlet in Pakistan.

Just because Bin Laden didn’t look like a Bond villain stalking around some elaborate lair didn’t make him less of a threat.

The monster’s myth-making and video-star turns are over. Now Hollywood will have its say. There’s probably someone right this minute pitching Bravo on “The Real Housewives of Abbottabad.”

The inside track goes to director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, the pair who won Oscars for “The Hurt Locker,” a movie about a bomb-defusing team of soldiers in Iraq that was so tense you thought your head would explode.

Boal, who lived in New York and went to ground zero on 9/11, has covered the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as a journalist. He and Bigelow began working on a movie about the hunt for Bin Laden in 2008 — at a time when President Bush and Hollywood suits had put the terrorist leader on the back burner.

“After the lack of appetite when we were raising money for ‘The Hurt Locker,’ Kathryn and I thought it was not a bad sign that we were doing something that people were not interested in,” Boal said dryly.

Studios shy away from making movies about unpopular wars we’re still stuck in, but Boal, who lives here now, disagrees. “Why wait?” he asked. “I might be retired by the time we get out of Afghanistan. Don’t you want to live in a world where artists mix it up in the culture in a timely way?”

He knows, however, that mixing it up about Osama can be dangerous, and is conscious of “the security ramifications.”

He and Bigelow optioned a book written anonymously by a Delta Force commander at Tora Bora, where Osama slipped away in 2001. And about a year ago, Boal learned that the hunt for Osama had intensified.

Then the Navy Seal Team 6 dropped from the Pakistan sky. And now the duo, planning for a 2012 release, have an exciting ending and excited financiers.

“We’ve certainly been getting more calls from studios,” Boal says wryly. “We were charging ahead with a movie that ended in Tora Bora with Bin Laden still alive. Now we have a definitive ending.”

He said he’s been surprised by some of the reaction on the left against the Navy Seal unit taking out Bin Laden, noting: “The debate about whether there should have been a trial feels a little bit like looking a gift horse in the mouth.”

Osama is ready for his close-up. But it’s going to be less flattering — and more final — than he intended.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

On This Mother's Day...a story...

excerpt from "Epiphany of an Atheist:

A Memory of Mom

by Keith Taylor

1 Mom went to every funeral she could get to in the Model A. One time she got word of a relative who had died over in Ohio, more than a hundred miles away. She got her old pal, Cindy, to go along and off they went. It was a long ways for the old car, and, as usual, she didn’t get started on time. But a fur’nal was waiting and if she was late, she could visit with folks afterwards.

Late she was. A couple wrong turns and then they had to find the church, but she made it just about the time the show got started. This funeral was larger than she’d expected for Joe, who hadn’t amounted to much in the first place. Somehow Mom and Cindy managed to find seats together in the middle of the church..

“Heck-a-daisies,” she later told us. “I looked around and didn’t recognize a soul. Folks was a’lookin’ right back like they didn’t know us either.

“I said, ‘Cindy, do you know any of these folks?’

“Well, Cindy didn’t, but you know her. She would forget her own brother sometimes. Well anyhow we couldn’t do much except just sit there. Pretty soon the preacher come out and gave the sermon. It was a good one I reckon, but that sure wasn’t Joe he was talkin’ about.

“By this time, Cindy and I had put two and two together and figured out what happened, but we had to stay put. Pretty soon the procession started past the casket. We went along; I knew it couldn’t be Joe, but I had to see for myself anyhow. Sure as heck it wasn’t. It was some big fat guy I never saw before.

“You know Cindy would say something. Loud enough for other folks to hear, she whispered, ‘Looks like Joe put on a little weight, but he looks pretty good all the same.’

“I started laughing and Cindy nearly peed herself. We looked around and some of the folks had figured out what happened and they started laughing right along with us.

“Afterwards we talked to some of the people and they asked us over to the house because they had more food than they could eat. They was the nicest folks you would ever want to meet too. We had a dandy time.”

Oh, I suppose a story reconstructed from memory might not be precise in its detail, but Mom did go to the wrong funeral in Ohio. And she did stay around for the food. She made a lot of new friends and she found she knew some of their relatives in Indiana too. If Icie Taylor didn’t know someone, she knew someone they knew. Unlike Will Rogers, Mom didn’t always like everybody she met, but she’d talk to them anyhow.

Funerals, including hers are some of my fondest memories of Mom. She died in 1978 and hers would have been one she liked -- even the squabble by my two elder sisters, Wanda and Roberta. It started over something years before I was born, and was part of every family get-together . Likely that wouldn’t have spoiled it for Mom though. Nobody was going to control a fifty year-old squabble. She generally got involved herself.

Otherwise, the funeral was about what one would expect in northern Indiana. Just about everybody who knew Icie came and said how nice she looked as she lay in the casket which she would have said cost too much money. Still, she would have though it was pretty, but there were way too many cut flowers. Mom always liked real flowers, not cut flowers from the florist. I thought both were real, but never pushed the point.

I sat in the church during Mom’s funeral, reflecting that all-in-all it had been a good one. Mom would surely have kept track of the folks who cried, and she would have liked the nice casket even if it did cost too much. She’d have delighted in all her old friends and all the laughter. Even the cut flowers would have been important. They were a way of keeping score, and she’d done well.

To my surprise, I’d found that throughout the days at the funeral home I had laughed just like Mom had all those times. It seemed appropriate too. By 1978 I had left religion out of the picture and didn't worry about whether Mom -- or Dad for that matter -- were in heaven.

I mourned her death of course, and have so many warm memories of my mother, but it's hard to be sad when you remember so many wonderful things about a wonderful person.

Despite the prediction of every evangelical preacher Mom's knee didn't bend. She simply met death stoically. Even during her last desperate months in the nursing home when she drifted into and out of rational thought, she refused to attend chapel services or do more than give a grudging hello to a visiting preacher. Still, there was one of them up there preaching. At least he wasn’t shouting; Mom hated that. Icie Taylor’s signature comment on religion was “poo shit.” She didn’t say it in front of some people of course, but she said it a lot otherwise. Somewhat redundant, the precise meaning is vague.

I am a sentimental guy and easily given to tears. They weren’t too far away by the time the preacher said was in the arms of Jesus.

I couldn’t help but think poo shit. After all, I was Icie’s boy. Afterwards, my niece said I had a half smile during the rest of the sermon. Someone later commented that they admired my faith in the lord. That would have made Icie Taylor laugh right out loud, maybe say poo shit.


Privacy...All Gone....


By every available measure, the level of domestic intelligence surveillance activity in 2010 increased from the year before, according to a new Justice Department report to Congress on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

"During calendar year 2010, the Government made 1,579 applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (hereinafter 'FISC') for authority to conduct electronic surveillance and/or physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes," according to the new report (pdf). This compares to a reported 1,376 applications in 2009. (In 2008, however, the reported figure -- 2,082 -- was quite a bit higher.)

In 2010, the government made 96 applications for access to business records (and "tangible things") for foreign intelligence purposes, up from 21 applications in 2009.

And in 2010, the FBI made 24,287 "national security letter" requests for information pertaining to 14,212 different U.S. persons, a substantial increase from the 2009 level of 14,788 NSL requests concerning 6,114 U.S. persons. (In 2008, the number of NSL requests was 24,744, pertaining to 7,225 persons.)

While the 2010 figures are below the record high levels of a few years ago, they are considerably higher than they were, say, a decade ago. There is no indication that intelligence oversight activity and capacity have grown at the same rate.

A copy of the latest report to Congress, dated April 29, was released under the Freedom of Information Act.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service addressed "Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Set to Expire May 27, 2011" (pdf). FISA Amendments in the USA Patriot Act were discussed at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Reauthorization of the Patriot Act" (pdf) on March 9, 2011, the record of which has just been published. Related issues were discussed in another House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Permanent Provisions of the Patriot Act" (pdf) on March 30, 2011.


Monday, May 02, 2011

Bodyboarding is...easy?

The Wave, a Metaphor


Keith Taylor

The old man and his bodyboard ducked under the last wave and popped up in the smooth, green water on the seaward side. He was now out where the big ones would break. The sun peeked between two high-rise apartments to greet him. It shot a beam of light across his little sliver of the Pacific. The dark water caught the sun’s rays and reflected back its own emerald hue, an iridescent emerald.

This was the best time of the day. The surface was smooth as glass, and the waves broke sharp and clean. According to the weather reports, a storm off New Zealand had kicked up some dandies; they were supposed to arrive this morning.

The kid was already out there. He rested easily on top of his bodyboard, as if his lithe body had been sculpted for it.

The old man greeted the youngster, “Hey kid, where’s your grandpa this morning?”

“He’s home chasing grandma around the bedroom, not farting around on a silly piece of plastic.” The kid always gave a smart-ass answer.

“Some day I’ll meet your parents, and I’ll tell them you’re a dirty-mouthed kid.” The old man was smiling, but he wished the youngster wouldn’t always include his little dig about his own sex life.

They had forged an unusual friendship over the past several months, alone on the early-morning waves. The old man was retired; time didn’t matter to him. The kid didn’t seem to have much of a schedule either. Kids nowadays didn’t.

Together they would kill time waiting on those big ones. They would just talk and wait. It was nice out there—no newspapers, radios or TV sets—not even a cell phone. Their early morning spot in the Pacific was a special sanctuary. Whatever happened ashore was left ashore. Neither the Middle East nor the president bothered him. Even that that damn hole in the ozone layer could be forgotten until he returned to the beach. He wondered if the kid worried about such things. Hell, did he even know about them? Some day he’d ask him, maybe.

Then, a nice wave came along and the kid caught it. He disappeared behind the crest and left the old man alone with his thoughts. He envied the kid’s youth. Some guys welcome old age. It means they no longer have to prove things. Others deny their age with facelifts, liposuction, Grecian Formula, young women, and sports cars.

The old man wasn’t quite sure where he fit in. The young women would be fun, but he realized that the smiles he was getting simply meant they now considered him harmless. “God,” he wondered, “was he?”

He remembered his own fourteenth year. He was helping win World War II by working for his uncle, raising potatoes and onions on his Indiana farm. It didn’t seem so long ago. As a kid he hoped they could keep the war going until he could get his licks in. At fourteen he knew exactly what war would be like. Heck, every week the theater in Warsaw had a new war movie and they were accurate. His uncles, home on leave from For Benjamin Harrison down in Indianapolis told him so.

It turned out he missed that war by a year or so, but as soon as he could he joined the Army where he stayed for 23 years. nearly more than seventy years and several other wars later, the old man had enough of them. Still he was sure he had been saddled with the responsibility of saving the world. Sometimes he forgot about that responsibility out there on the waves though.

The kid and the bodyboard provided a link with his own youth, even though he had plenty of reminders that it was gone and how reluctant he was to really let it go. His own children bought him a bicycle a while back. He “took a header,” as they called it, the first week and skinned both his arm and hip; his head was saved by a helmet. Helmets are mandatory for kids; they should be for geezers.

The previous April the old man and his son took three of his pre-teen granddaughters on a hiking expedition into the Grand Canyon. They eschewed the jackasses and hiked all the way to the bottom and back. A year or so back, he and a couple of his boys had hiked to the top of both Half Dome and Mount Whitney. He’d even struggled through a couple of marathons to celebrate both his 70th and 72nd birthdays..

Each adventure was a triumph, but each was a stark reminder that old age was moving toward him inexorably, just like those waves from New Zealand. Hills got higher; campsites got farther apart. On his runs, it took longer to reach the check points. One of his fingers hung askew; it had slammed into the bottom of the ocean on a bad ride a couple years ago, and a tendon had popped loose. His eldest grandson finally beat him in a tennis match. His back hurt more every year. The doctor had just put him on a strict, low fat diet because of a high blood-sugar count. Breakfast started with a handful of pills.

The doc explained, “That’s to be expected with old age.” That mantra was getting to be a pain in the ass.

Damn! As that kid might say, bad vibes followed him everywhere. Now they were intruding on his thoughts even out on the ocean. He didn’t even realize the kid had returned until he heard him shout, “Hey gramps, Here comes the one we been waiting on.”

Wow, was it ever! The really great waves sometimes sneak in among the two or three footers. It would be a job just to stay on top of this one. The old man jockeyed about, a few feet this way and a few feet that, trying to guess where the monster from down under would break. Position is everything for a bodyboarder, especially one who is a little too old and slow to make a last minute correction. A bit too far out and the wave will slide right on by, too far in and the damn thing will catch a guy in the curl and turn him upside down. Usually it’ll slam him right into the bottom. Broken necks go with the sport. Old, brittle bones snap easily.

The wave moved inexorably toward the old man and the kid. Then, things started to move. The kelp was sucked into the wave. The water became so shallow he could see the bottom. The crest loomed high above his head, so high he had to crane his neck to see the top. Out of the corner of his eye he saw his young friend turn to catch it. The kid didn’t hesitate; his young bones were not yet brittle. At any rate the young pip-squeak wouldn’t let one like this go by, not with the old man out there watching him. The kid was a natural showoff.

It was a monster; that was for sure. This was one the old man could tell his grandkids about—if he lived through it. He followed the young lad’s lead and pointed the nose of his board toward the shore.

He was ready for it, and in the right position. Now, it was simply kick ONE TWO THREE with the fins, push ahead of the foaming crest, and it would be his. Like the seaweed, he was drawn into the wave. It picked him up from the shallow water. He looked down the front, waaay down. Recently the old man had visited Yosemite where he peeked over a waterfall. The wave looked just like that. The drop would be tremendous. The push off had better be perfect.

The kid gave a yelp and went over first. He got the whole thing! The old man, down the wave a little bit, waited a split second for the exact moment. Then he kicked ONE TWO—and pulled back. The wave broke with a roar, headed toward the beach like a runaway freight train. It left him behind.


“Oh well.” He thought, “Old folks aren’t supposed to catch big waves anyhow. This is a sport for kids.

But, he didn’t mean it. He had chickened out.

The old man watched from behind for the first sign of the kid. The lad was good--damn good! He could do flips, turns, barrel-rolls, and disappear into the “green room” beneath the curl. He could even pop back over the top of the wave just like one of those characters in a video game.

Sure enough, the youngster came flying back over the top in a maneuver the old man could only admire, not match.

“Jesus, what a ride, kid, you’re good.” The compliment was unnecessary, like telling Tony Gwynn he could hit. Still, he had given that thing a heluva ride!

Even before he could accept the plaudits the kid saw the next one, “Hey gray-haired old fart, you got the balls to catch that one coming?”

My god. Another monster was on the way. This was the second one within a minute or so. The waves had traveled across two hemispheres just to crash on the sands of San Diego’s Pacific Beach, and to give a bodyboarder a heluva ride—if he did indeed have to balls to get in front of it.

With a bravado he didn’t really feel, the old man answered the kid, “Hell yes. They ain’t built a wave so big I can’t handle. I aim to take her straight in.”

What in the hell had he done? He’d backed off the first one, now he claimed dibs on another, even larger one. One thing for sure, that kid would be watching him. The old man realized he had his own audience to impress. Ya don’t get too old to be a showoff.

Again, he looked up at the crest, higher than before. Again, the wave pulled the seaweed, then him, into it. Again he had to make a decision. When he got to the top, he kicked ONE TWO THREE.

Every great wave brings its own special moment of terror. The bodyboarder has to make his own decision of what to do about it. This time the old man pushed the board forward and it caught.

It was like he’d gone from zero to 73-miles-per hour, one mile for each year of his life. The drop was so huge he felt like a parachutist in a free fall. Aerodynamic skills suddenly became as important as surfing skills. Another bodyboarder was on the way out. She saw him fly down the front of the wave right at her, and ducked under the water.

He went down into the foam, blinded. Cold water beat its way into his wet suit chilling the very balls the kid had questioned. Then, the old man realized he had won. The terror lasts just one moment, no more. If a guy wipes out, his concern becomes his neck, literally. If he stays on top of the board, and the board stays on top of the water the moment of terror passes.

When the old man opened his eyes, he was on top of the water. He had overtaken the foam and was simply flying along like a bird—a graceful, unfettered, gray-haired, sore-backed, ancient, bird. The danger was past and the ride was over. He could stop and go back to catch another.

“Nope,” He told himself, “This wave came all the way from New Zealand just for me. I’ll ride it right into the sand. I earned the right.”

From the distance he heard a voice call out: “Way to go you old fart."