Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trouble the Water: A flood of emotions three years after Katrina

On August 29, 2005, hurricane Katrina passed close to New Orleans and the subsequent failure of the city's levies and failure of the city, state and federal government to aid those in need is a modern American tragedy. Filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal chronicle one family's experience in "Trouble the Water" currently in theaters in LA, with a scheduled roll out nationally. The film screens as part the Impact Film Festival at the Democratic (on Wednesday 8/27) and Republican conventions as well. Let's hope some politicians and citizens are moved to action by the documentary. At a recent LA screening, the film's Kimberly Roberts (shown above with husband Scott) explained how she "caught history" and is proud to represent New Orleans' disenfranchised. She also touched on some of the many problems facing New Orleans particularly the city's dismal public school system that was recently dissected by Paul Tough as "A Teachable Moment" in the New York Times.
I sent James and Heather to a screening of the film in New Orleans. Read Heather's account of the emotional impact of the film and you'll know the power of this story.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chris Rubin: An appreciation

After a two-year battle with cancer, my friend Chris Rubin died a week ago today. Chris was my mentor in the business of travel writing--he could be counted on to share resources and information, edged with a dry wit and remarkable sense of professionalism. We shared many a dinner together and visited sites from Monterey to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He had a true appreciation and great knowledge of wine, spirits, music and the finer things in life. On a trip to Las Vegas (above) we toured the Strip in a Mercedes-Benz Maybach--sweet! My condolences go out to his wife Deborah Calla, his family and his many friends.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Big Sur after the fire

Just back from five days and nights camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Above is a picture of burnt Mt. Manuel one of the many hillsides hit hard by the Basin Complex Fire which burned more than 162,000 acres. Although the campground re-opened in late July, many trails and camp sites were closed.  Behind ropes were some below burnt out hillsides and my favorite site (#218), the site closest to the entrance to the Gorge trail, which was also sadly closed. I now understand the meaning of fire road as they helped save the campground: the fire burned down to the very edge of the campground, destroying the lovely Oak Grove in the process.
I've taken my kids there for the last eight years--it's our summer tradition and while many spots were the same-- the towering groves of redwoods, the black gorge swimming hole-- the feeling of mortality and disaster just beyond the trees, couldn't be shaken.  One great addition to the experience was Corey Costanzo, an Esalen trained  massage therapist who gave healing massages under a redwood canopy, capping the treatment with didgeridoo and Tibetan healing bowl vibes. If only it could work as well for the scarred hillsides as it did for me. 
Expect winter rains to deal a heavy blow to the area where underbrush is gone. Hopefully the river won't be completely ruined. Fingers crossed for Highway 1, which will be subject to land and mudslides.  On the ride home we had the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing a wild-born California condor soaring directly above us (my son thought it looked like a pterodactyl).  According to the two rangers tracking the bird, she and her four feathery pals had been feasting on a dead sea lion on the beach below.  Our campground meals were just as delectable; we ate out once at the Big Sur Bakery on the way back to Los Angeles that coincidentally was profiled in the New York Times that day. I had the yummy mocha chip cookie, Tibetan barley bread and several other pastries.  The cappuccino machine was broken---too bad because it's definitely a highlight of one's visit.