Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Calling All Whale Watchers!

Whales —blue whales, humpback whales, gray whales and orcas, all in one place! Yep, I’ve seen all those (and more) while aboard whale-watch boats, but this particular sighting was in the new guide “Whale-Watching on the Pacific Coast: Easily Identify Whales, Dolphins, and Other Marine Mammals.” 

Packed with useful information on different species of whales, dolphins and porpoises, the guide also reveals the best spots from Alaska to Southern California to board whale-watch boats and where to spot the animals from land. 

Here too are an informed discussion on whale conservation, terrific photos of whales and their typical behaviors and tips on what to wear at sea. Plus, this handy, spiral-bound guide is the perfect size for your backpack.

If you are assuming I wrote the guide, you are wrong.

Stan Minasian is the author. He is the founder of Whaleopedia, a free educational website that is a project of Bluecology, a marine conservation organization. (I am privileged to manage the weekly Facebook posts for each — look ‘em up.) We share a deep love for whales, and I’m proud to know him.

I first learned about Stan in 1984, when I bought "The World's Whales: The Complete Illustrated Guide," which he wrote with whale biologist Kenneth Balcomb for Smithsonian Books. Since then, Stan has written, edited and produced 16 documentaries on marine mammals and natural history for all the top television nature channels, here and abroad.   

When my copy of the new guide arrived, I read every word and then settled in to relish memories of my past whale-watch trips. They date back to 1982, when I took my first trip, out of Barnstable Harbor, Massachusetts. Since then, watching whales from boats large and small has been my passion. I’m sharing photos from some of the trips in this post.  

I’ve boarded boats in numerous coastal cities in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Massachusetts and Maine, as well as Argentina, British Columbia, Mexico and Newfoundland. Sometimes, I was out on the water just for the afternoon. On other trips, I stayed a week and went out at least once every day; sometimes twice. 

Over the years, I’ve written about almost all these trips for dozens of newspapers and magazines (including USA Today, Disney Adventures Magazine, Cruise Travel and United Press International, a syndicate) and penned online features for Next Avenue (the PBS-sponsored site for readers 50 and older), and for Enterprise’s Pursuits, an online travel magazine. I also wrote a whale-watch guide (two editions), a nature book for kids about dolphins (with amazing photos by National Geographic photographer Flip Nicklin!) and another kids' book on whales. (The books all are out of print now, but some are available used online, so I have a few copies stored away.)  

Reading Stan’s guide helped me recall my many interviews with whale scientists, marine conservationists and boat captains about the different whale species and the threats they face. When I first started writing about whales, I got lots of encouragement from Erich Hoyt, a book author and whale and dolphin researcher, and from Roger Payne, the biologist and environmentalist famous for discovering with Scott McVay in 1967 that humpback whales sing haunting songs. (Roger, who died last summer, wrote the foreword in 1990 for my guidebook, and remained my friend for decades.)   

Almost a dozen other whale experts have shared their experiences and their expertise with me, and I especially enjoyed boat trips with Hal Whitehead, an expert on sperm whales; the late Stephen Leatherwood, an expert on gray whales; and the late Izzy Szczepaniak, a naturalist with Oceanic Society. A shout-out also is due here to boat captains Jared Davis and the late Roger Thomas in San Francisco and Peke Sosa in Argentina. 

All whale watchers (and wanna-be whale watchers) and marine conservationists will be happy to learn about Stan’s latest project, one that once again reminds us all to always honor whales. I’m so happy to help spread the word. So soak up all the wisdom in Stan's new guide and book a whale-watch trip this summer. This could be your passion too! 

(Caption info for my whale photos, from top: Me, meeting a gray whale up close and personal in San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California, Mexico; three orcas in Haro Strait off British Columbia; a teenage humpback whale in Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, that slapped our little rubber boat with its 15-foot-wide tail; the biggest female Southern right whale in the bay off Peninsula Valdes in Argentina (so said Captain Peke Sosa) and the Very Best Whale Photo I've ever taken); a Southern right whale calf indulging in people-watching off Peninsula Valdes; that same calf and mom heading off at sunset.)  

Thursday, May 2, 2024

Hop On and Have Fun!

How windy was it as we crossed the glorious Golden Gate Bridge seated on the top deck of the San Francisco Deluxe Tours bus? 

It was so windy that I had to sit on my tote bag to keep it from blowing into the Golden Gate Strait, that mighty body of water where the Pacific Ocean rushes into San Francisco Bay even as California rivers, creeks and streams rush out to sea. 

It was so windy that I had to keep hold of the chin strap clasp on my hat, so I removed the hat and stuffed it in my bag. It was so windy that once the hat was off, my glasses started to bounce around on my face! Unlike the tote or the hat, prescription glasses are expensive — so I took off my glasses and hung onto them with both hands. 

The whole time, I was laughing for the pure joy of it all. The sky was blue, sunlight shimmered in the 64-degree weather and we had wind gusts over forty-twelve mph (okay, upwards of 30 mph at least) — and it was glorious! 

This was my second afternoon playing tourist on a bus in the city where I live. A decade ago, my friend Carol and I rode the downtown loop so she could photograph the towering buildings from the top deck. Then, on the very last day of April this year, my friend Julia and I signed up for the 21-stop tour that offers live commentary. 

Riders are welcome to hop on or hop off at any stop, including those that follow — in no particular order — plus stops at the edge of Golden Gate Park (home to amazing museums), Pier 39 (say hi to hundreds of sea lions) and Ghiradelli Square (grab a sundae or catch a cable car) — and more. We opted to stay put for most of the full loop. 

So what did we see? 

I will never tire of admiring the Golden Gate Bridge. I even carry a tiny piece of it on a key ring, purchased from Golden Gate Furniture Co. (Read my Next Avenue article about how that company got started.) Here is a lovely photo of part of the bridge's support structure, which was as high up as I dared raise my phone to take the photo because of wind shear. 

Below is a look back from the popular "vista point" in the Marin Headlands, just north of the bridge — a fetching skyline photo of the City by the Bay, which measures only about 7 miles wide and 7 miles long and yet is home to about 809,000 people. (And at least that many stop signs.)   

Another stop on the tour is at the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District, originally built for the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition to exhibit works of art. It's the only structure from the exposition that survives on the site.

Here's what's under that brilliant white dome, should you hop off to see more. (I took this shot a long time ago.)

City Hall, which boasts a dome larger than that of the U.S. Capitol and features  gold leaf up top and elsewhere on the building, was looking good. The massive 500,000-square-foot-building was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, when the dome was "twisted like a corkscrew." The quake measured 7.1 on the Richter scale.   

Of course any good bus tour in San Francisco is going to cruise through Haight-Ashbury, where our driver pointed out one of my favorite local stores: Sockshop Haight Street. The driver also made sure everyone aboard paid tribute to the Jimi Hendrix mural, Amoeba Music and this fun-loving woman: 

Palm trees are not native to San Francisco, and yet they are all over the place — and I love them. This one is standing tall at Union Square. (Fun fact: There are 2,600 species of palm trees in the world.)

Even taller, of course, is the Transamerica Pyramid, a 48-story, 853-foot-tall skyscraper in the Financial District. (Photo by Julia) Of course it was controversial when being built — but then, everything in San Francisco is controversial. This is a city of People With Opinions. (I fit right in.) 

Francis Ford Coppola's office is in the Sentinel Building, which he owns. Because the wedge-shaped building was under construction at the time of the 1906 earthquake — just a skeleton, reports say — it survived. Cafe Zoetrope, on the ground floor, features mementos from Coppola's career.

We hopped off at the next stop in North Beach, just a handful short of the full loop, to have dinner at Flour + Water Pizzeria. Because the day seemed so celebratory already (and because lots of fresh air makes people hungry) we even ordered appetizers. And someone ordered a Negroni! (That's equal parts gin, vermouth and Campari.) 

Full disclosure: That was me. And it was delicious! 

Thursday, February 29, 2024

From Socks to Pilates to Pilates Socks

Stretching, twisting, raising my left leg while others in the exercise class raise the right, I notice my rowdy tie-dye socks complement perfectly the shirt worn by the instructor. 

That would be one Abigail Munn, the "high-flying" founder and director of the splendid Circus Bella. She kindly offers a free exercise class once a week at my building, home to independent seniors 62 and older. 

At an appropriate moment, I draw Abigail’s attention to my socks, which are mostly orange with some peachy pink and yellow highlights. 

"They’re great!” she enthuses, “and this shirt is my favorite color. I call it ‘porange.’” I immediately promise to wash the socks and give them to her next week. I'm unsure whether Abigail believes me, but she giggles.  

Friends were relieved when, almost 14 years ago, I packed up my tie-dye shirts, socks and scarves and moved from St. Louis to San Francisco. “Finally,” they said, “you’re going to live somewhere that appreciates tie-dye!” (Have to add that Hawaii is a fan, as well — see below.) 

Soon after I moved, my tie-dye wardrobe grew. I bought a vintage shirt or two off the tie-dye rack at Goodwill (true fact) and discovered great socks at the SockShop on Haight Street. They were hand-fashioned by a couple in Fort Bragg (164 miles north of San Francisco), and many people reading this own a pair, because I gave the socks as gifts for DECADES. Sadly, that vendor went out of business a couple of years ago. 

While researching an article for Next Avenue on communities that support the arts in the Carolinas, I found a new source for beautiful tie-dye socks when I interviewed owner Jessica Kaufman at WAXON Batik and Dye Studio in Asheville. (Click on the Etsy shop.) We just reconnected, and I ordered two new pairs to expand my stash. 

As it happens, water shoes, not socks, are in order for my favorite form of exercise — water aerobics, which I started more than 50 years ago. Since 1980, I’ve also worked out on many a fitness machine, mastered at least two poses (legs up the wall and corpse pose) in yoga, tried (and failed, though no one cared) to stay in step at assorted Zumba and Jazzercise classes and wrestled repeatedly with the elegant Swimming Dragon exercise in Qigong class. 

(What — you didn't realize I was a bit of a jock?)

More recently (sigh), I’ve relied primarily on physical therapy — in and out of the water — and assorted stretching classes (thanks, Abigail!) to help alleviate lower back pain. Now I'm ready for something new! Last October, my friend Lison raved about the benefits of Pilates, and she convinced me to try it. 

After a series of scheduling conflicts (mine and the instructor’s), 10 days ago I finally attended a demonstration on a Pilates reformer. Wait — did I say “demonstration?” That's what it was called, but I’m the one who was asked to hop on the table and try 50 minutes of exercises! I did it, though not always correctly or gracefully, but I liked it a lot! 

Now I’m enrolling in three private lessons so I can then sign up for a beginner-level class by the end of March. I look forward to improved core strength, better mobility and stamina. Maybe I'll even get taller! This new endeavor has called for new socks, because my beloved tie-dye socks aren’t grippy enough. But as of this morning, I am prepared. 

Saturday, January 27, 2024

How I Spent My Covid Vacation

Napping. Coughing. Napping. Sneezing. Napping.


As I opened my fourth box of tissues today after three full weeks of testing positive — the initial infection rebounded 11 days after it was Almost Gone — I decided to assess my time away from the larger world.

As symptoms waned during Week Three, I live-streamed a Jerry Orbach tribute show from 54 Below, a supper club in New York City. I’ve been a fan of his since the mid-‘60s, when I bought the original cast album for “The Fantasticks.” After Orbach ended his memorable Broadway career, his acting lured me to “Law and Order.” He's gone; I'm still watching. 

Also this week, I whined at a nurse on Kaiser’s Advice Line about how long it’s taking to recover. He informed me that it may be two or three more weeks; not to fret just yet. Heartened somewhat, I streamed a show from SFJazz, which offers a “Jazz at Home” show every Friday night for just $50 a year. 

I composed and shot “Still Life with Bananas and Fingertip Pulse Oximeter.” As Birthday Card Manager for my building’s Residents’ Association, I addressed cards to the 10 people here born in February.  I sent out my laundry, ordered in groceries and occasionally had food delivered. For the most part, I’ve kept up with my physical therapy exercises, and at 9:30 one evening, I vigorously vacuumed the ceiling vent in the bathroom. 

One afternoon I listened to dynamic tenor Jonathan Tetelman’s new album “The Great Puccini” and then boldly bought a ticket to The Met’s production of “Madama Butterfly” in May, when the opera will stream to a local theater. (Tetelman is Pinkerton.) Plus, I made future plans for drinks with one friend and dinner with another. (That ticket and the two dates are my Faith in the Future ploys — eventually I WILL test negative and go out again.)

An unexpected freelance opportunity came my way with no hard deadline, and I turned in a big piece for Next Avenue on a new exhibit that opens in April at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. That article required several phone interviews, which I was able to complete during Week Two in between coughing spells. Full Disclosure: I’m so excited to be working again that I splurged on four new fancy bath towels, on sale online for half price! 

Week Two also brought a flurry of Apartment Therapy, which is how I view spring cleaning and decluttering as long as it does not require the elaborate folding of underwear. Randomly, slowly and only when in the mood, I cleaned out the pantry, tidied up desk cabinet drawers and culled some raggedy cloth napkins. I replenished the barren freezer with new options: fig and walnut bread, grilled salmon fillets and currant scones! I shredded December's paper receipts. I even sewed up a tiny hole in a baggy sweater that serves as a warm layer over my pajama top.  

One friend insisted Pringles had eased her path through COVID, so I experimented with that. She later delivered a wonderful meal to complement my snacking. When another friend picked up and delivered a needed birthday gift, she also brought me delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. Neighbors fetched my mail and delivered packages to my door, bags and boxes that held new face masks, extra COVID tests and more Kleenex. On chatty phone calls, I learned about friends’ bouts with the virus, which I caught after three years and 10 months of avoiding it. Eventually, I’ll even forgive the one who told me after a positive test result, her nose ran for two days — and then she tested negative. 

Week One was the hardest. Fatigue was the worst side effect for me, and I slept — a lot. “Obey The Body,” I always say, a lesson learned a long time ago while navigating an entirely different disease. The fatigue wiped me out completely for about four days and then demanded multiple naps in the days to come. When awake, I read. I also watched TV (some good, such as "The Holdovers" and "Maestro;" some silly, such as "House Hunters International," where people moving to exotic locales expect American-style amenities with authentic local "charm"). 

Now and then I pondered how I may have caught COVID. My Best Guess is in the hot tub at my gym. The virus may have been lurking in the vapor I inhaled as I relaxed in the glorious bubbly water — and then it invaded, in spite of the seven COVID shots I've had and my judicious masking all this time. One friend reminded me her doctor had predicted every one of us eventually will get the illness. 

What have I missed since embarking on this unwanted “staycation?” Plenty.

Seeing a play put on by The Boy’s class, exercising in the pool, enjoying a facial, attending a Pilates demo to determine if it's for me, spending time with the family and settling in on the table for a weekly therapeutic massage. I also had to miss a long-awaited group outing for monologist Josh Kornbluth's performance at Club Fugazi, a birthday party in my building, a dentist appointment, a haircut and a residents' meeting. (Hard to feel too bad about missing a meeting…) 

Through it all, I’ve had to enlighten concerned friends who worry that after so much time at home, I am climbing the walls. I’m not. I love my nest. I love my routine of playing complex word games each morning. I love sitting on my 13th floor balcony, where I talk to the hummingbirds and my ginkgo tree, tune in to the sounds of the city and try to sort out whether the cactus plants on the table are dying or are already dead.  

A little perspective is in order here. Six months ago, the Centers for Disease Control told U.S. News and World Report that “while a little more than half of American adults think they've had COVID-19," the reality, according to new government data, is that "about 77.5 percent have been infected at least once.”

More recently, the World Health Organization reports that from Dec. 11, 2023 through Jan. 7 of this year, new hospitalizations and admissions to an intensive care unit both recorded an overall increase of 40 percent and 13 percent with over 173,000 and 1,900 admissions, respectively. 

Hey, at least I’m not one of them, so I will endeavor to be a patient patient. You — stay well! 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Making Holiday Plans Is a Must

Most large hairy mammals, my friend Sue always says, hibernate in the winter months. “But not people," she adds. "They go crazy in December.” 

For some of us, going crazy is a way to avoid the “red and green blues,” a phrase I came up with some years ago. (See my blog post from Dec. 17, 2019.) Individual pressures we put on ourselves may vary, but sky-high expectations for the holidays — so often unmet — can interfere mightily with holiday cheer. 

“Don’t have expectations,” my friend Ross always said. “Then you won’t be disappointed.” I often countered that with arguments in favor of gleeful anticipation, but he would not be moved. Even knowing, at this age, that taking responsibility for your reaction to anything that occurs is one of the few things we can control does not remove my sense every December that somehow, the holidays could be brighter, shinier, maybe overlaid with a touch of Norman Rockwell.

Then I remember reading decades ago that Rockwell painted what he wished life — his own life and our collective lives — looked like, aspirations on canvas. 

Another friend, the first long-term breast cancer survivor I met, said her secret to joy year 'round was this: “Cast your anchor into the future.” In other words, make plans, plans that may even live up to any expectations (ill-advised or otherwise) you may have.

Come December, I make plans, many plans. 

At some point, the family will fill me in on the schedule for Christmas Day, but I take responsibility for filling the rest of the month. For example, I buy tickets. This year, I’m taking The Boy to see the national tour of  “The Lion King,” and as I shopped the first date that tickets were available, I scored him an aisle seat! Another day (so grateful for matinees in my dotage), I’ll see “Guys and Dolls” at a local theater with a neighbor. 

I bought a ticket to the Smuin Ballet’s holiday show, billed as “a little ballet, a little Broadway, and a whole lot of Smuin,” which sounds festive. I’ve already seen the San Francisco Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker,” and because I love the score, I make a point of playing it each year on the evening that I wrap gifts. Because I also am a huge fan of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” I am considering springing for a ticket to the Adam Shulman Trio’s performance of Vince Guaraldi’s memorable score at SF Jazz. But Snoopy won’t be there…

A friend has invited me to a gala showcase at The Circus Center, to watch people who still fully trust their bodies execute astonishing moves. I’ll attend a posh Hanukkah party with lively newspaper people. My Full Moon Cocktail group has  lunch reservations at a nice Italian place. My apartment building, aka the Senior Dorm, has numerous events planned: a holiday decorating party, a piano concert by a gifted resident, a casual residents’ gathering, Christmas movie showings and also a lovely catered meal. Plus, I’ve got Something Fun to Do on New Year’s Day.    

In the past, when my living space was a generous 1,700 square feet, I routinely invited 75 close friends to a Winter Solstice party. After losing 1,000 square feet in the move to San Francisco, in many a December I invited The Boy, his cousins and the other local grandma over to help me decorate my apartment. Now, the kids are much older and much busier, and my box of decorations are high up on a closet shelf. 

“Used-to-bes” don’t count anymore, so I’m making plans. Next up: I’ll ask someone in the office to get that box down for me. December is here, so it’s time to manage expectations — but also to spruce up the place with some red and green!  

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

I Brake for Fresh Fruit

All this time, I thought I was the Fruit Queen, as I've been obsessed with fresh fruit flavors, varieties and origin stories for well over three decades. Yet now a company called fruitqueen wants to bring me a box of farm-fresh fruit once a week. 

Joyce Zhang, Ben Hartman and Brian Carroll — all veterans of the food industry — seek out seasonal fruits from San Francisco Bay Area farmers and growers, box it up and make it available through pick-up or delivery. 

As they told a reporter at Eater SF, “The goal for us is to focus on things that are really delicious and height of season, but also maybe a little off the beaten track, like a special varietal that’s being grown that we really want to highlight, or a farmer or grower that’s doing something remarkable with their practices and that we think is really cool and want to shout about.”

Put me down as a yes — for some weeks, anyway — even though they've run off with my title.

While working as a food writer at a daily newspaper some years ago, I read a syndicated column from the Los Angeles Times by David Karp about the more than 50 types of kiwi in the world. 50! Mind officially blown — I knew of only one at the time, the fuzzy kiwi brown on the outside and green within. I contacted Karp and interviewed him, and he elevated considerably my interest in fruit. 

(To this day, if anyone is selling fresh fruit by the roadside, I am stopping to shop.) 

Karp called himself a pomologist, one who studies and cultivates fruit and often works in the horticulture industry "in research, teaching, and extension positions, developing, breeding, and evaluating new varieties of fruits and nuts." Currently, Karp is a citrus scientist, working as an associate in the Agricultural Experiment Station of the Botany and Plant Sciences Department at the University of California at Riverside.

I, the recently deposed Fruit Queen, am merely a consumer and more than a bit of a snob when it comes to mangos (California-grown Keitt are superior to all others), the Honeycrisp apples (thank you, Minnesota) that lured me away forever from my beloved Granny Smiths and Pippins and strawberries (nothing but Chandlers will do, true for me for the past 30 years or so).  

About those Chandlers — to my mind, the best ones grown locally come from Swanton Berry Farm, located in Santa Cruz County about 65 miles south of San Francisco. I stock up in late May and every week all through June, blowing the food budget on these perfect ruby gems, and freezing most of them to support my daily fruit smoothie habit well into October. I've bought them from four different local groceries, from a seasonal food delivery service and yes, from fruitqueen. 

I've also been to the actual farm, where I loaded berries picked by professionals into the car, bought a piece of Swanton's strawberry cheesecake and then sat with my friend Julia at a picnic table positioned across the road from the magnificent Pacific Ocean. A sublime afternoon! 

Tomatoes command some of my attention, and have for decades. When a restaurant owner near my home in St. Louis County first started serving Real Summer Tomatoes in place of the polyester orange varieties present on so many plates there (and, surprisingly, here in California) year 'round, I asked him why he made the switch. "All summer long, my wife and I eat ripe, juicy tomatoes at home, and we decided one day to serve them at the restaurant too," he told me. 

What happened next? For much of July, all of August and even a wee part of September some years, his menu included special dishes featuring the best tomatoes available from local farmers. My friend Edward and I made regular forays to the restaurant during that time for what we called "Tomato Orgies." 

Today, I hold out for heirloom tomatoes. Or I did, until this summer when a single lop-sided specimen cost $10 at a posh local grocery. A friend kindly clued me in on dry-farmed Early Girls, and another friend introduced me to Campari tomatoes. Sometimes, tomatoes with a bit of salt and plenty of pepper are what's for supper. 

Often, Warren pears (so sweet, with no grittiness), Medjool dates, fancy figs of several varieties and fresh berries of all sorts are found in my home. Stone fruits are a favorite, but they were kind of a bummer this summer, and in truth, the best peak-season peach I ever had was from Southern Illinois. (There you are, Gail!)  Bing and Rainier cherries are my favorites. Regarding citrus, I am a fan of pretty Cara Cara oranges and the mighty Sumos, Japanese mandarina available from January through April. 

Seasonal fruits are always the best, even if you're pining for next summer's bounty in the middle of winter! A fall favorite is pumpkin — if it's in a pie, of course. As it happens, this very day a delicious pumpkin pie arrived at my door, made by a friend of a friend, an experienced professional baker who grinds his own spices and thus produces a zippier pumpkin pie than most. I ate a small wedge for breakfast and set aside a piece for later. 

Then I took the rest of that pie and most of an equally outstanding dark, dense chocolate pie decorated for Halloween to the lounge here in my senior apartment building. I managed to get out and back upstairs before the crowd moved in and the fist fights began!    

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Curated Conversations Worth 1,000 Words

When my friend posted this photo on her Facebook page, I immediately imagined how her conversation with Mr. Rogers had gone. I'm certain that he told her that he likes her just the way she is! 

The picture made me think about several conversations I've had through the years that also may have appeared to be one-sided — yet the sense of communication was solid. 

Here I am chatting up a gremlin, on tour promoting its movie. He was a kind of a big deal!  

Alfred Hitchcock and I met in Bodega Bay. I could swear we hummed the theme from his TV show, Gounod's "March of a Marionette" — bet you're humming it now! 

In the Bear Valley Visitor Center at the Point Reyes National Seashore (a treasure beyond compare),  I  spent some time with this elephant seal. I recalled that I'd once clamored down a rocky cliff to see a herd of the magnificent critters on a Peninsula Valdes beach in Argentina. Dr. Roger Payne, the esteemed whale scientist I was visiting, helped me back up the cliff — hey, I'm a mermaid, not a mountain goat!

Look who I met on a visit to an exhibit on the brilliant Jim Henson at the Contemporary Jewish Museum! (No mask required that day for Muppets.)  

At the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, I hung out with Woodstock, who never says much but is a righteous soul. Later, I visited with his best friend Snoopy for a while.   

In San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja California, Mexico, my memorable encounter with a gray whale bigger than our boat "spoke" volumes: 

And on one remarkable day, this nonverbable bond was forged.  

  Talk, talk, talk — sometimes it's overrated!