Saturday, November 26, 2016

Have You Ever Been to Amargosa?

Have you ever been to Amargosa?
Or Death Valley?

Have you even heard of Amargosa?

Amargosa is a little town in the Mojave Desert, at the junction of Highways SR 190 and SR 127,
 east of Death Valley National Park, and only about 30 minutes to Furnace Creek.
The town is home to less than a half dozen people.
And yes...that is really an opera house!
In early 1967, Marta Beckett and her husband were traveling through Death Valley and had a flat tire.
As luck would have it, they were in Death Valley Junction.  
While the tire was being repaired, Marta wandered through the nearly deserted town and found a theater.  She had been a dancer and artist in New York in her younger days and was 
mesmerized by the theater and the opportunity to have it as her own.
In 1967 the little theater opened  as Amargosa Opera House.
She performed for a small audience of 12 adults, kids, and grandkids.
The little theater continued to open it's doors every Friday, Saturday, and Monday night 
for many years.  
Locals and tourists made up the audiences, and sometimes the theater opened to no one in the audience, but the show went on.
In the early 70's Marta painted an audience on the walls of the theater so that there 
would always be an audience.
She retired in 2012, and still lives in Amargosa.

The Amargosa Hotel is still available for bookings... 
Trip Advisor gives it 3.5 of 5 stars!
Inside some of the rooms you'll find more of Marta's murals!

I doubt that this is Marta, but she certainly may be a relative sprucing up the 
Amargosa Cafe!

Rumor has it that Amargosa is being spruced up a bit to accommodate the start of an artists colony!

Once in Death Valley, most everyone heads to Badwater Basin, 
the lowest point in the continent of North America at 282 feet below sea level!

We were there in the very early Spring...
the desert wildflowers were just starting to come out.

Some think the desert is a wasteland...
but if you're ever in Death Valley, you'll know that just ain't so.

Death Valley is quite an amazing place.  Summer temperatures get pretty darned hot
so the best time to visit is in Fall, Winter or Spring.

We've stayed in both the Furnace Creek Ranch and the Furnace Creek Inn.
The Ranch is economical, but the Inn...ooh la, la!!!
The Inn has a lovely pool, tennis courts and golf and a beautiful, fine dining restaurant.
And not to be missed, no matter which place you stay, cocktails at sunset on the patio of the Inn.!!!

Sunsets at from the patio of the Furnace Creek Inn at Death Valley are spectacular!!!

To visit more little corners of the on the images below!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Knee Replacement Surgery Ain't for the Feint of Heart...

As of today it's been seven weeks since my knee replacement...

Those first three to four weeks I thought I was the stupidest human being ever to 
voluntarily have that done to me!!!

What the hell was I thinking???

Physical Therapy...other wise known as Pain and Torture...
drove me to tears during those first few weeks.
It felt like every cell in my knee was ripping apart every time the Physical Therapist
pushed me into just "that much more bend." seven weeks flexion is within a few degrees of my "good" knee...
my extension too!!!

Life is good again...though not back to normal quite yet~

Before!  Notice that my knee bends away from midline...
made going up stairs and stepping off curbs quite the challenge!

Immediately after...yuck!!!  Pretty darned gross!!!

After the 3 week mark...
shedding skin like a lizard!!!

Swellings down considerably...scar is healing nicely...movement is pretty darned good...
minimal limping, only use a cane when out around the public basically to let them know to 
be a bit more careful around me (and it works!)...
endurance improved...strength improved...
all in all, a pretty darned good outcome so far!

The nerves are still numb...which quite frankly I think is a good thing right now...
they'll come back...

Well...this is why I haven't posted for weeks on end!!!

Now for a moment of peace and beauty!!!

Lake Mary at sunset...
Mammoth Lakes, California in the Eastern Sierras

Have a great day!!!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mending Kids Hometown Clinic...

If you were visiting my blog last year, you might remember my post about 
Mending Kids Hometown Clinic...
Mending Kids is an International organization that operates in much the same way as 
Doctors Without Borders...except for the fact that they specialize in working with kids!
Mending Kids sends doctors and volunteers all over the world to countries where 
healthcare is tough to get, especially for children.
Once or twice a year they hold what's called a Hometown Clinic.
The Hometown Clinic is primarily for kids who have been turned down 
by their insurance or Obama Care, for various surgical procedures.
Generally the surgeries are considered cosmetic, but are really vital to the kids self esteem.
For instance, one lovely little girl was about to enter kindergarten, and she had what is called a 
Hairy Nevis...basically a mole with hair growing out of it.
This Hairy Nevis was on the little girl's face and was about the size of a dollar coin.
Can you imagine starting kindergarten with something like that?
These doctors, nurses and volunteers gave up their time and talent to help these beautiful kids!

The ages of these kids range from very young, to teenagers.

Waiting in pre-op can be pretty daunting...
even when Lambie Pie is sitting there with you!

I don't know about you, but I think it would pretty much suck if 
I had to have surgery on my birthday!
But the people at Mending Kids did what they could to make it a happy one for this young guy!!!

Every time I see my surgery shots I'm amazed that I have been fortunate enough
to have such an amazing experience.

Contrary to how the lighting looks in my close up of the surgical procedure, 
each surgical theater is lit up bright as day.
The reason the ambient light looks so dark is because I'm focusing in on the 
procedure and there are extremely bright lights focused on the procedure.
  Shooting this clinic is the hardest photography I've ever done simply because of the crazy lighting!

The anesthesiologist monitors the vitals.

The nurses shine during post-op care!

It's amazing to watch these surgeons work!

Pretty in pink even while in surgery!!!

There is a break room where volunteers, Docs and nurses can take a break and get a bite to eat...

Our birthday boy is happy to be going home!

A comforting hug comes in all colors!

You might recognize this volunteer...Luis Guzman!

Aimee Garcia trying to cheer up waking young girl...

Luis Guzman and Keltie Knight...

Keltie Knight, Aimee Garcia and Luis Guzman preparing to go in to observe surgeries!

China McClain is learning how to make balloon animals...

Nick Simmons and Aimee Garcia emulating dad Gene Simmons famous expression
for this young guy in pre-op!

Even Dad is getting into it!!!
This dad didn't speak any English, only Mandarin.  Thank goodness for smart phones!
Using various translation apps, doctors, nurses, and volunteers were able to communicate!


Sometimes it just helps for Mom to hold your hand when they're getting ready to start...

Lambie Pie and this little sweetheart made it through the surgery with flying colors!
Lambie Pie even got a bandage!

Just some of the dedicated docs, nurses, and volunteers hamming it up for the cameras!!!

This year was a little different for me as I'm due for surgery next week!
Being able to visit and photograph these surgeries was oddly comforting.
The focus of these surgeons is remarkable.
Throughout each of the surgeries, docs and staff moved about like
they were choreographed.

I'll be taking a break from posting for a bit...
I'm getting a new knee!!!

For more images from little corners all over the on the images below!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Our Little Corner of the World...The East End of Catalina Island!

Only 22 miles across the ocean from our LA ports and I'm ashamed to say 
I can count on only one hand, the number of times I've been there...
and never had I been anywhere but Avalon!

Sooo...a little arm twisting and TheChief and I took a tour of the East End interior of Catalina!

We met our tour guide in a parking lot in the center of town.
Imagine Indiana Jones in about a 5'2" young woman driving a giant Hummer!
Next...imagine Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland... you get the drift of how our tour began!!!  What a wild ride!
Cindy Lowe is her name...and she's a tour guide for the Santa Catalina Island Company.
Make sure you have your seat belts on!!!

We went through the gate to the Conservancy, and hit the dirt road running!!!
A few stops along the way for photo ops...
...and the adventure begins!
As you can see...Avalon is just a very small part of the Island.

On the back of the island, the fog was rolling in. 

Looking down on Avalon...

The island's topography is much the same as Southern California's wilderness areas...
dry (the drought is impacting the island too), low growing shrubs, cactus, and a lot of brown.

A couple of different points of view of the windward coast of the island...

Cindy really wanted to tackle the road on the right...

...but she took pity on us and stayed to the left!

As a tour guide extraordinaire...she's pretty darned good with the camera!

I'm not fond of graffiti, but I really like this one!  
Cindy said she never saw this while doing tours until she hiked the road.
Since then she makes a point of stopping. 

 I think we were basically zigzagging over the mountains of the island, back and forth from one vista point to another, on one side of the island to the other!

It's a stark beauty.

Eucalyptus trees aren't native to the island but were brought over there.
They're good along the road as they anchor the soil.

Looking toward Camp Fox...
Until 2006 Camp Fox was under lease to the Glendale YMCA and was the camp of choice
for all the guys I went to school with...including TheChief and all his buddies!!!

In 2006 the Catalina Conservancy required a huge financial outlay to upgrade the property
in order to renew the lease.  After having the lease for over 80 years,
the Glendale YMCA lost their negotiations with the Conservancy 
and the Conservancy set up an interim management of the camp.
The camp is still operating, but is not at full capacity.

One of the reasons I wanted to do an interior tour was to see the bison!!!
Well... a Bison...or two!!!
In the early days of Catalina's heyday there was a lot of filming done on the island.
It is said that in 1924 the Bison were brought over from the mainland for the silent film version of Zane Grey's Western, The Vanishing American, then left the Bison there. 
It was a very small herd at the time but grew to as many as 600 head.
Because of the environmental impact of the herd, the Conservancy now keeps the number 
to about 150.  When the number goes up, the conservancy removes the excess off the island!

The Bison are not natural to the area, and are not purebred!
They are about 45% domesticated cow!

Cindy took us on a little side trip to find the Bison.  This park used to be alongside
a man made lake, or watering hole for the Bison.
Of course it's now completely dry, because of the severe drought we're in on the Western coast.

Yep...this is the second one we saw!

A natural inhabitant of the island is the Catalina Grey Fox...
...this little guy was quite accommodating for picture taking!!!
TheChief took this one!

Most of you probably don't know about Zane Grey...
he was a American dentist in the early 1900's...who also happened to be an author!
His genre was primarily Westerns and adventure stories.
His novels and stories were adapted into numerous movies and TV shows.
He was an avid fisherman and when he lived in Altadena, California he 
bought a getaway home which became the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel after his death.
The Hotel is currently closed and under renovation.

A beautiful view of Avalon on our return to town!

Catalina Island and Hollywood have quite a long connection...

...Catalina Island has been the location for over 500 movies, documentaries, TV shows, 
and commercials over the years.

The Catalina Casino was the first theater made for "Talking Movies".

Hollywood stars frequented the island...including...Charlie Chaplin and his wife Paulette Goddard, 
Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Betty Grable, James Cagney, Johnny Weismuller and many more.

Norma Jean Mortenson...aka...Marilyn Monroe, at 16,  lived on the island for a year with her first husband James Dougherty who was a Merchant Marine, stationed on the island.

While there, we visited the new Catalina Island Museurm.
Photos from the early years and an excellent look at Catalina's history.

Of course I was particularly intrigued by the exhibit:

Bettie Page was a model in the '50s known as the Queen of Pinups.
She was one of the original Playboy Playmates of the Month and posed for dozens of 
photographers of the '50's.  She has become an iconic symbol of the pin up models of the '50's.
Her life is quite a story, and not one for the faint of heart.
 Bunny Yeager was a photographer starting in the '50's.
She was one of the early Playboy Photographers and was one of the first to use
natural light and "fill flash" in her outdoor shoots of models.
This exhibit featured her photography of Bettie ups and nudes...
 Her work is known for her sensitivity in how she worked with her female models.
The New York Times credited her with "helping turn the erotic pin up...into a high photographic art."

The exhibit closes October 16 so if you're interested, you'd better get on over to Catalina Island!

For more images from more little corners of the world, click on the images below!