Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Amazing Orb Weaver

I don't go looking for spiders, but occasionally I do run into them.   I've posted before about these orb weavers who hang out in the center of huge wheel shaped webs they build.  They really are amazing.   Last night this rather large orb weaver seemed to be descending down to some palm trees.  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Deacon Jones, LA Rams and the Fearsome Foursome

As a kid growing up in the 1960's and 70's, I followed all the local pro teams.  I was a Laker and Dodger fan.  And, I was a fan of the Los Angeles Rams.     

The Rams of that era weren't much on offense, but they had possibly the best defensive line of all time.

That line, with Lamar Lundy (#85), Rosey Grier (76), Merlin Olson (74) and Deacon Jones (75), was known as the Fearsome Foursome.   Individually, each of the Foursome were great football players.  Together, as LA Times' writer Jim Murray put it, they could stop Hitler's tanks.

But, the Foursome were more, much more, than football players.  The Foursome were extraordinary --  on the field and off.   Undoubtedly, they are one of the most impressive groups ever assembled on any sports team.

With the recent death of Deacon Jones, I want to spend a moment looking back at the Fearsome Foursome.

Deacon Jones.   David Deacon Jones was the best Ram of all time and one of the best football players ever.   In a 2010 survey of players, coaches and writers, Jones ranked as the 15th best NFL player of all time.    He was named defensive end on the NFL's 75th anniversary team.  

Jones revolutionized defensive line play.   At 6 foot 5 inches and 270 pounds, he was strong enough to manhandle offensive linemen and fast enough to chase down ball carriers.   He was a bit of a character and gave  himself the nickname "Deacon" because of its religious tone and to separate himself from other David Joneses.   He is also credited with coining term "sack," which is quite descriptive if you envision a large guy slinging around the opposing quarterback. 

Deacon Jones brought more than just great athleticism.   He exuded confidence and overcame repeated obstacles.  After his freshman year in 1957, he was kicked out of South Carolina State for participating in a lunch counter demonstration.   Undeterred, he enrolled in Mississippi Vocational College where he continued to play.  In 1961, the Rams drafted him in one of the final rounds.  Despite being a late round pick, he quickly distinguished himself and dominated the NFL.   In 1965, super conservative Rams' coach, George Allen, named him  the Rams' captain.

After football, Jones went into show business.  He sang with the likes of Ray Charles and was part of a band which was the precursor to the group WAR.    Jones appeared in many movies and TV shows.  He founded a nonprofit to help inner city youth and traveled overseas to encourage American soldiers.   .And there's one more thing.  That coach who named Jones the Rams captain back in '65, had a daughter named Jennifer Allen, who grew up watching the Rams and hearing her father talk about his players.   She named one of her sons Deacon.  That's a pretty good testament to character.   

Merlin Olsen.     Olsen was agile and strong at 6 foot 5 and 270 pounds.  On the field, he was one of the best ever.   The 2010 survey that I mentioned above ranked Olsen the 27th best NFL player of all time.  Along with Jones, Olsen was also named to the 75th anniversary all-NFL team.

Olsen did not miss a game in his 15 year career.  He was so fierce  Jim Murray wrote that Olsen once went swimming in Loch Ness and the monster got out of the water.

Off the field, he was no less successful.  He went on to a television and movie career that included memorable roles in Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy.

There's more.  His Alma Mater, Utah State, has a statue of him on campus.  You might expect the statute to extol Olson's fame in some way or another.  Nope.  On the statue is something far more insightful and inspiring: his personal mission statement:

 “The focus of my life begins at home with family, loved ones and friends. I want to use my resources to create a secure environment that fosters love, learning, laughter and mutual success. I will protect and value integrity. I will admit and quickly correct my mistakes. I will be a self-starter. I will be a caring person. I will be a good listener with an open mind. I will continue to grow and learn. I will facilitate and celebrate the success of others.”   

Good stuff.   Merlin Olsen died in 2010 at the age of 69.

Roosevelt (Rosey) Grier.   Named after FDR, at 6 foot 5 inches and 280 pounds, Grier was the oldest and biggest of the Foursome and is its only surviving member.  Incredibly gifted, Grier distinguished himself in many fields.

For starters, Grier was recognized as one of the best defensive tackles in football and was named to the All-Pro and Pro Bowl teams multiple times.   But, as good as he was in football, he is better known for his off the field exploits.

Most notable is Grier's heroism at the Ambassador Hotel the day presidential candidate Robert F.Kennedy was assassinated.  After Kennedy was shot and while the shooter, Sirhan Sirhan, was still firing, Grier pinned Sirhan against a table and took away his gun.   Grier served as a pall bearer at Kennedy's funeral and was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic Convention.       

Grier's off the field resume is incredible.    He is a talented guitar player and singer who was writing and recording music while he was still playing football.    He recorded for many top studios and played Carnegie Hall.   In 1969-70, he hosted his own variety and talk show on KABC television.   As an actor, he appeared in more than 70 television shows and movies.  Grier traveled with Bob Hope to entertain American troops.   He has written six books, including his autobiography, a book on needlepoint and a novel.   He founded nonprofits to help inner city families and youth.  He's an ordained minister and inspirational speaker.

And, he's just one guy.  What an amazing life. 

 Lamar Lundy.   Though the least renowned of the Fearsome Foursome, Lundy was a formidable and versatile athlete.  In any other company, his individual prowess would have been more celebrated.  At 6 foot 7 inches and 250 pounds, he was a college basketball and football star and was selected in both the professional basketball and football drafts.  He chose football and played for the Rams for 13 years.  He was named to the Pro Bowl in 1959 and was named All Pro in 1967, both signifying he was among the league's best at his position.   The Rams also occasionally used Lundy as a receiver on offense.   

Off the field, Lundy was less visible than his running mates.  His biggest film credit was a recurring role as a giant cyclops who threw boulders at the Robinson family in Lost In Space.  

Lundy died in 2006 at the age of 71.


Of course, the once eminent Los Angeles Rams football franchise is no more.  In 1980, the teams' disgraceful ownership moved the team to Anaheim.  From there, in 1995, they moved the team to St. Louis.   I will save the LA Rams' sad story for another day.   For now, it has been fun to look back on the Fearsome Foursome, who dominated their sport and, in so many ways, were bigger than the sport itself.    

Sunday, June 23, 2013


I saw this raccoon about twilight last night.  He was walking the top of our neighbor's wall.    

Prior to this year, I had not seen a raccoon in Pasadena.  I know they live here, I just had not seen one.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Doormats and Diapers on the Trail to Eaton Canyon Falls

We're on the trail to Eaton Canyon Falls with a group of third graders.   In route, we pass these painters dabbling in the cool of an old oak.  They've got a vista to the canyon walls and a palate of color.   If they want, they can drop in some school kids.

The kids are on their way to the falls.   And they have an assignment -- to pick up trash along the way.       

We leave the artists and break into sunlight.   The trail swings back and forth across a winding stream and soon the whoosh of falling water is in the air.  Cooled by a misty breeze we come face to face with 40 feet of falling water.  Described by John Muir as "a charming little thing with a low sweet voice," this is Eaton Canyon Falls.


Over the years, we've been to Eaton Canyon a lot.   I can't step foot in the place without thinking of some past event, whether its carrying a kid on a trail, playing in the stream, watching frogs or just hanging out at the nature center.           

A few years ago, I did a pretty good post on a Hike to Eaton Canyon Falls.   If you can't go on the trail, the post gives you a good idea of what you would see and hear.   


Back to the third graders.   The kids had a great time.   They scrambled over boulders, played in the stream and experienced nature's beauty in a hands on, soaking clothes kind of way.  

And they carried out their assignment.   They were studying the environment and the effects of pollution.    

So, they picked up trash.  

What they found was amazing.   Beer bottles, soda cans, plastic forks, plastic bags, potato chip bags and wrappers of all sorts.   There was a full diaper someone left just off the trail.   And door mats.   Yeah, my daughter found two door mats lying in the stream.

 The kids filled three large trash bags, which we carried out.

Mountains, water falls, doormats and diapers.   It was a good lesson on nature's beauty, the truly stupid things people do to the environment, and the importance of protecting our forests and parks.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

On the Passing of Victor McClinton

I want to join the many who are honoring the life and memory of Victor McClinton.

Near the end of 2012, it was front page on the Pasadena Star News and the most viewed article for days -- Pasadena Comes Together to Remember Victor McClinton.   McClinton was director of the Brotherhood Community Sports League.    At the age of 49, he was tragically killed on Christmas Day.

A recent Pasadena Weekly article aptly titled "One Very Good Man,"  again brought Victor to mind. 

I knew Victor only for a season - a football season.   Like thousands of area kids, my son participated in Brotherhood Crusade sports.   One year, he had the privilege of playing on a football team Victor coached.   So, I knew Victor as a dad knows a coach -- mostly from the sidelines.  But, I saw and  heard enough to know my son was fortunate to cross paths with this man.  

Though I did not know Victor well, I have known men like him -- men who are there for the kids month after month, year after year, consistent, resilient.   They get the keys to the gym or the field and they make sure the kids play.   They are more important than we realize.  

Well worth reading is a moving tribute to Victor written by his longtime friend, Danny Bakewell.    Over the years he led Brotherhood Crusade Sports and coached, Victor touched the lives of 20,000 area kids.  Few can say as much.   His was a monumental life.  "One very good man" who will be remembered by thousands for years to come..  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

In Search of the Perfect Date Shake at Sierra Madre's Mother Moo

Yesterday at Mother Moo's, I enjoyed probably the best date shake I've ever had.   That's saying alot because, as I've posted before, I've had date shakes all over southern California.   If you are a date shake fan or ever wanted to try one, then get on over to Mother Moo in Sierra Madre.

Fresh from the desert, Mother Moo has a raft of organic dates and she's offering her own take on southern California's iconic date shake.   The dates are chunky and the ice cream is different than I've had in other date shakes.  Mother Moo's date shake is based in what they call "triple milk" ice cream and it is sans the usual vanilla.   It works and what you get a creamy thick date shake with plenty of date chunks.    

Mother Moo will make this shake to your order.   So, if you want to take this experience to the next level, I recommend asking them to add cinnamon and nutmeg.   The basic shake is good, but the spices put the Mother Moo Date Shake in my Date Shake Hall of Fame.       


Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Years 2013

In Pasadena, all our New Year's rituals revolve around the Rose Parade.  In Seattle, it was about staying warm and getting a good view of the Space Needle.

I think this was the first Rose Parade I've missed in more than two decades.   I'm not a big parade fan.  But the Rose Parade is different.   I like the whole build up to the parade and game -- the street decorations, bleachers, visitors from the Midwest, RVs, float building, driving the parade route and then walking to the parade on New Years Day.   We were called to the great Pacific Northwest for a wedding and missed the home festivities this year.    Seattle was fun and spectacular in its own right.   Just quite a bit different around New Years.