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The Laysan Albatross & The Surfers of Point Arena

For the past 14 years, a solitary albatross has flown into the small bay in Point Arena, Calif. (about 3 hours north of San Francisco) to spend the winter. An albatross is a king-sized version of a seagull, with a 6-7 foot wingspan. This one is a Laysan Albatross (Phoebastria immutabilis) and it has made friends with the surfers of Point Arena. If a surfer splashes a little, the albatross will swim over and touch him with his beak, and allow his chest feathers to be stroked. Townspeople have put up a plaque on the pier designating him Al B. Tross. Paul McHugh, the San Francisco Chronicle's outdoor adventurer/writer, wrote a column on the albatross in February: Vagrant Albatross Returns
When my friend Michael Jeneid read the story, he went up to Pt. Arena and shot this photo with a 500 mm lens:

Al B. Tross chats it up with surfer Noah Moutan in Point Arena. Photo (c) 2007 Michael Jeneid

Moving and Music

Running, Paddling


Been down so long,
Up seems like heaven.

OR
It don't mean a thing
If you ain't got that swing.


I'm back in perambulatory gear for the first time in about a year. I had my mid-life crisis at age 71. For the first time in my life I couldn't run and I couldn't paddle. There's still life beyond running, I kept telling people. Well, for some of us, there ain't. Or more precisely, running (at least on these trails and beaches) brings such joy and sense of well-being to me that life is richer in all directions when I'm in gear. My knee is about 90% healed (thank you, Stone Clinic!) and I'm just now starting to do some accelerations on the trails. I ran an hour and a half this morning on some beautiful trails going past waterfalls and through giant redwoods. I'm training for the Dipsea Race in June.

With my shoulder (rotator cuff damage — skateboard crash — yeah I know, I know — el stupido!), I'm making progress on my own and think I can heal it. Starting to paddle again. I have a 12' racing paddleboard from Southern California, looks funky, but it glides along in the lagoon and its channels like a water skeeter. I come gliding up on a great variety of birds, get a great workout while moving through a beautiful waterscape. Upper body getting energised again.

All systems are now go, yahoo! Now I have to just not do anything stupid.

Bankruptcy Bummer, Followed By Good Solution


I'm just not good at business stuff. It's all I can do to publish one or two books a year. So the last two months have been living hell, not knowing what would happen to us. 160 publishers were in the same boat. These same publishers quickly formed an intelligent and effective ad hoc committee in dealing with the bankruptcy court and their (our) fates. An amazing dance took place, as we publishers were courted by two competing groups for rights to distribute our books, conducted almost wholly on the internet. In my "AMS Bankruptcy" email box I now have 361 messages. That's what kind of a two-months it's been.

But it ended up working out the best way possible for us,. Our new distributor is The Perseus Book Group, of NYC, which is what I wanted to happen. I get to have a new York connection again, and it's a place I love. Random House was my distributor for 30 years, and I'd go to NYC once or twice a year and roam around seeing various people in the RH building. There were no security checks in those days, I'd just get in the elevator and go see Charlotte Mayerson and later Bruce Harris and Bridget Marmion. I'd wander through the building, talking to people in international sales, printing, publicity, the sales managers. It was very loose. And of course all that evaporated when Bertlesman came along.

Builders of the Pacific Coast


O wow is this looking good. Putting the rough layouts together is like going back to British Columbia. As I go through my 4 binders of thumbnails (for 4 trips over the course of a year), I'm remembering these wonderful people, these homesteaders and carpenters and artists in that part of the world. I have maybe 50 pages roughed out (of a maybe 250-page book).

Jan Janzen's remarkable driftwood gazebo on the beach in British Columbia



Music: Tom Waites, The Seismic Bohemians, The Mills Brothers


Orphans is a 3-record set by Tom Waites. How did I ever miss this guy? The 2nd tune on the "Brawlers" CD, Low Down is worth the price of admission— rock and roll at its rock-bottom grittiest, this one reaches right down and grabs you. This is an amazing compilation. If you were to ask me my favorite type music I'd say "blues," but there's something about rock and roll that's thrilling when it's good. it just gets to me. It plus weed were the Great Liberators of the '60s.

The last few months I've taken to dropping in at The Fourth Street Tavern in San Rafael when I'm heading home at night, and almost always hear good music. local bands. Rockabilly, rock and roll, bluegrass, a number of young bands doing old stuff. A little neighborhood bar. Cori Lee and the Saddle-Ites, a cute brassy blond straight out of the 40s and her husband Steve Merritt playing swinging guitar, at times a la Django Reinhart; The Royal Dueces: and last Thursday I walked in on the opening band, The Seismic Bohemians, a couple of grey haired rockers and band doing a rockin version of 6 Days On The Road and I'm Gonna Make It Home Tonight. A few hours earlier there had been a 4.5 Richter scale earthquake in nearby Hayward, so it's of course cosmic to walk in some old rock 'n rollers called The Seismic Bohemians. There's nothing better than good music in a small bar.

The Seismic Bohemians



Then this morning in my truck coming along the lagoon, I listened to The Mills Brothers, Chronological Volume 2. This is a 5-CD set of this remarkable family band that not only sang beautiful 3-part harmony, but imitated trumpets and a bass so well they sounded exactly like a little band. On this CD from the '30s they perform with Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby and Alice Faye. With the big bands, the band would perform the song first, then the Mills Brothers would come in with their rockin little band, 3 trumpets and bass done with mouths. They do a beautiful version of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby;" the bass is hard to believe. Bing Crosby had a lovely voice, rich and buoyant, with the MB's little band accompanying him.