Category Archives: Castle Willett

Big Black Fred’s Friend

And by “friend,” I mean “potential dinner.”

(Typing up a little loose end, one of literally thousands on this site I’m afraid.)

About ten days ago I posted some pictures of one of our yard’s California Alligator Lizard friends, who I dubbed “Big Black Fred.” I also closed that post with a teaser – “Something besides the sun had his attention.” And then my muse went on her merry way and I completely forgot about the tease or where it was headed.

Until today.

This guy was fairly large, about three inches long.

One of the odd things was that he didn’t spook or jump away or fly up into my face – which would have made me scream and cry and possibly wet myself despite my intellectual knowledge that he’s 100% harmless.

I was still a couple feet away, shooting with a 300mm telephoto lens, but still you would think at some point that he would feel that I was invading his personal, insectoid space. Nope. He never moved.

Even when I got down on my belly on the concrete and was looking at him head on, he never took off or twitched. I was starting to think that he might be dead.

But when I stood back up he moved a few inches, so I knew that he was alive. He just wasn’t moving.

It was after I got back to my feet that I noticed Big Black Fred over by the trash cans, maybe eight or nine feet away. And I noted in those pictures that Fred didn’t seem too spooked by me, allowing me to get much closer than usual for the skittish lizards in this yard.

It occurred to me only later that I might have gone and lay down on the concrete in the middle of a classic reptile/insect version of a Mexican standoff. Fred didn’t want to move because he didn’t want to spook the grasshopper while he was sneaking up on it. The grasshopper didn’t want to move for fear that the motion would catch the eye of Fred. At some point Fred was going to hit the gas straight into fifth gear (unlike the new Corvette C8, apparently – sorry, couldn’t pass up that little bit of snark!) and go after the grasshopper before he could jump away.

Who was going to be faster? Who was going to be the victor with eating dinner or being dinner on the line?


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Plan C

In addition to yesterday’s adventures (from which I am sore AS HELL today) where I was able to turn what might have been a frustrating change in plans into a useful and productive time, today also saw a change some changed plans and minor accomplishments.

In the big scheme of things none of it’s curing cancer or solving that whole world peace thing, but it’s surprising to me how much of a difference it makes in my mood and outlook.

I’ve spoken in the past about how the disruptions to life following a major event go far beyond the event itself. I compare them to earthquake aftershocks. We survived the 1994 Northridge earthquake relatively unscathed, but the aftershock sequences for months and months afterward drove me crazy. Enduring the earthquake while it was happening was relatively easy (and you had no warning and no options) – enduring the aftershocks was (literally) like going thorough it again and again and again.

Similarly, after having our car broken into and my briefcase stolen, the initial damage was repaired and the initial losses tallied (credit cards cancelled, new checking account opened and checks ordered, and so on), but for months afterward I would go looking for something that I expected to be easy to locate, only to realize then that it had been in that stolen briefcase. It was like being robbed all over again. And again. And again.

This weekend made me realize how much of my current state is due to last year’s move. (Pretty much look at the entire month of May 2018 to see how frantic, panicked, and exhausting it was.) Too much of that entire experience was dealt with on an emergency basis, in terms of doing just enough to get by and damn the cost and damn everything else. Then when we were out of the old house and into the new, the “emergency priorities” continued as we tried to unpack, reorganize, and find the dishes and clothes and all of the things we needed to function on a daily basis.

With my work situation and priorities being what they were all of last year (and continuing on into this year) as well as our travels as well as my work load and crises at my volunteer CAF gig as well as the family health issues, there are dozens of major “loose ends” that are just flapping in the breeze.

For example, I have a couple dozen sweatshirts. When we travel I tend to pick them up as functional souvenirs. All this last fall and winter since we moved they’ve been “somewhere.” I’ve gone looking through the piles of stuff in storage and in the garage – no joy. I think I have one in the house, one in the van, and one at the hangar. The other fifteen or twenty or more? Might have well be at the bottom of that black hole they took a picture of last week. (BTW, wasn’t that just bitchin‘?!!)

Yesterday I found them in storage. I also found my collection of Hawaiian shirts, which is good because it’s heating up.

Another example – I write checks about once a month, so it’s just earlier this week (for our income taxes) that I used up the last two checks in my checkbook. I went looking for the next book of checks a couple days ago. And I couldn’t find it to save my life. I know EXACTLY where it was in my desk in the old house, but everything got pulled out of the desk for the move and while I’ve found most things, the checks weren’t on the list. I’ve been tearing through boxes for days.

I finally gave in to Murphy’s Law tonight and ordered the next set of checks, which will be here in about ten days. Of course, within fifteen minutes of that, my subconscious (no doubt laughing its ass off) coughed up the location of the old checks.


Finally, we were just starting to get caught up on “Game of Thrones” last year when the move and its attendant priority shifts hit us. With the final season starting tonight, we wanted to get back into the effort of getting caught up – but didn’t have a clue where we had left off. This was more a case of detective work, going through the discs and some of the episode summaries online to narrow down what we remember seeing and what sounded alien. Once we figured it out and confirmed it, then it was time to kick back and binge. (FWIW, we’re in the fifth season, watched episodes 1-7 today. Cersi just got thrown in a cell by the Sparrows, and I’ve decided I probably hate Rams1y Bolton more than I hated Joffrey Baratheon, and that’s saying something.)


So, if we force our way through these roadblocks, recognize the broken pieces of our daily routines and fix them, get back to “normal,” will the aftershocks stop?


Or that’s when we’ll have to move again and the whole cycle will start over again.

Just like with earthquakes.

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Plan B

Lemons —> Lemonade

I had work to do at the CAF hangar as I normally do on Saturday, but we were having an event there which had the entire location packed to the gills. I probably could have gotten in since I work there, but I had a new printer (weighing in at 50 pounds) and would have had to park blocks and blocks away, then walk while carrying the printer plus my briefcase and other stuff.

I had a Plan B.

Our storage unit is just on the other side of the runway (this is not an accident) and I’ve still got plenty of work to do to clean up following our move eleven months ago. Way too much of the last few days (looking back at it I still can’t quite believe we actually pulled it off) was spent simply stuffing boxes into storage as fast as possible because there were no other options or alternatives. So sorting stuff into order is still a work in progress.

Five hours later I was quite exhausted – I don’t get enough exercise these days, which has got to change. But for today there was more sweating, lifting, hauling, and flat-out grunt work than I’ve had in several months. So I locked up and went over to the hangar to see how quickly I could get the bare minimum “accounting stuff” done. (About three and a half hours.)

The good news is that my watch is thrilled with me. For the first time since I got it, I closed all three rings. (If you don’t have an Apple Watch, just go with “It’s a good thing!”)

What I find hilarious is the red graph – four to five hours where the activity readings are pegged, followed by a rapid decent to the rest of the day sitting at a desk and plotzing, watching repeats of yesterday’s SpaceX launch, watching the new Star Wars IX trailer, and generally being sore and stiff and waiting for the sweet, sweet release of the grave.

Tomorrow’s another day. Kick ass – take names!

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The Winds, She Are A-Howlin’

49 MPH?

Sounds about right! And here’s what it sounded like…

Those wind chimes will be working overtime. I guess it will be a stress test on the workmanship in the new nest out on the patio that those house finches built.

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By The Mailbox

On a day which featured a truly ugly and horrible thing along with all of the usual crap, it was a surprise and a small joy to find these next to the mailbox when I got home:

If they’ve ever been there before in the eleven months we’ve lived here, I’ve been blind to them.

Which may in fact be the biggest takeaway. It’s possible that they only bloom for a few minutes a day around sunset, or that they only bloom for a few days every year…

…but I’m going to go with the probability that they’ve been there before, but I was busy getting the mail and ignoring the flowers that were six inches from my feet.

I did not stop to smell them – one thing at a time. (Plus, they’re not roses. I don’t know what they are, but they’re not roses.)

Thinking tonight of those who are having much shittier days that I did.

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Big Black Fred

This guy was sunning himself next to the trash barrels when I went out this afternoon:

I’m actually surprised by what the photos show him to look like in detail. From where I was standing and taking the pictures (about ten to fifteen feet away with a big telephoto lens) he looked to be solid black.

As you can see, he’s got a much, much more detailed and not quite as dark scaling pattern.

He was also pretty calm about standing his ground – I’m guessing that he’s pretty comfortable with the environment around the trash bins and the ivy and bushes immediately behind them, so he knew that he could get to cover very quickly. Most of the other lizards I see in the “new” house sun themselves more out in the open and are pretty skittish. This guy let me step up to within about seven or eight feet on this picture before he boogied.

But he was back out quickly after I dropped off the trash – I saw him back out there just a couple of minutes later. Something besides the sun had his attention.

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Spring Returns – Day Fifteen

For the third Sunday in a row it was nice and warm and sunny today. Two weekends ago that warmth and wonderful weather inspired me to go out and shoot pictures of the back yard as it woke up to the warmer temps and  bloomed and budded. Last week it was the front yard. Today I was out listening to crows (and wondering if they’re actually ravens), investigating a big soggy spot in the back yard (broken irrigation pipe?), and trying desperately (and completely unsuccessfully) to photograph butterflies.

At the back end of the yard, where it goes down over the hill and you have that great view all the way to Griffith Observatory (which is where we started this sequence of posts two weeks ago), the neighbor’s ice plant has come through the fence and is taking over the steps down the hill.

The good news is that ice plant has the most brilliant, vibrant purple flowers. The bees and hummingbirds approve.

And with that I think I’ll let spring get on with its work on its own. All of the flowering plants shown over the past two weeks continue to fill out, and the other fruit trees that didn’t have spectacular flowers are now exploding with leaves. The lemon tree (which is green year around) has a handful of lemons ready to be picked and used in the kitchen. The succulents over by the BBQ have gone thermonuclear, while Lazarus hangs on still.

Tonight we had our first dinner out on the porch, which was lovely, if a bit breezy. The outdoor table is just a few feet away from where the new bird nest is, so for much of the meal we were being scolded by the house finches. They don’t understand that we’re mostly harmless. The mockingbirds were zooming from side to side across the yard, making sure that we knew that it’s THEIR yard, not ours. I love their songs, even in the middle of the night, but if they’re going to have that attitude they need to start paying some of the rent.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled nonsense and falderal!



Filed under Castle Willett, Flowers, Photography