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Reign In Poop

A hunka, hunka, burnin' shite[Ed. Note: Apologies to Slayer for the title] Oh dear. It was one of those days you can’t even dream about let alone ever imagine happening, but yesterday, Wife, myself & Gremlin were out for a walk when Gremlin wanted to walk through the Arboretum. Being good parents we decided to let her engage herself in a communing with nature and all things botanical. Unbeknownst to us there was a horror lurking every step of the way as we entered the Arboretum. The entire San Francisco Botanical Gardens was covered in poop!

Gremlin wanted to walk across the grass which is where we discovered said poop. We aren’t talking a little pile here or there, but it literally covered the grassy area looking like someone had taken a giant lawn aerator and poked it all over the lawn leaving cylinders of dirt on top only bigger [you all know what I’m talking about right?]

One thing that I’ve learned in life is that when you study botanical sciences growing up you inevitably have to study poop for a bit. There’s a lot you can learn from it so the teachers tell you and you might even find the odd teacher that picks up and dissects a piece in his/her hand to show you what the animal ate and therefore what animal it came from.

I am not a scatologicaly aligned bio-scientist so I could merely peer at the stuff while trying to avoid stepping in it, which was difficult because it was as I said before everywhere. As Wife and Gremlin aren’t very fond of the game, guess that poop! I decided to ask on the way out to whom did said poop belong [for some reason when asking questions about poop I find it hard not to use a rather affected British accent.] I have to thank the lady working the front where we showed our ID’s to prove that we lived in San Francisco to allow us free entrance to said botanical gardens.

As it turns out all of the poop drowning the grasses of the Arboretum came from a flock of Canadian Geese which call the Arboretum home. Needless to say that it was rather surprising to discover that it was bird poop all over the gardens which left me to think that I am glad Canadian Geese aren’t low flyers when I’m driving. Although when calculating the terminal velocity of poop from a Canadian Goose unladening itself there might be problems with any cars driving in the path. The bird poop is phenomenally huge to say the least and as it turns out upon further research [from a distance of course] I discovered that there are health risks associated with, well, interaction between the geese and said poop. I found the following information:

Canada geese feces can be hazardous to people’s health, but usually only when inhaled or ingested. Walking past geese feces, or even lounging near them on the beach is likely safe for healthy people. However, the elderly, children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women are particularly susceptible to health risks posed by parasites that inhabit Canada geese feces. At even higher risk are those with weak immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy recipients, and recent organ donors and recipients. Similarly, people with gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as ulcers and irritable bowel disease, are also at increased risk, since they, too, cannot easily combat parasites from Canada geese feces.

Well good thing none of us thought about inhaling or ingesting bird poop seeing as it’s on none of our bucket lists, but still it does cause a few health risks and to that end I have to wonder what the staff [or staph?] of the Arboretum is going to do about it. I’ll have to contact them now and see what they say, but I just wanted you all to be aware of the problem if you were wondering what all the poop was about there.

For your utter horror and amusement I offer the following video:

Time To Change A Few Things

I’m not as active as I used to be because I spend most of my day at my computer either looking for a job or doing freelance work for others. This is caused a little problem. I’ve passed 200 lbs. I’m just shy of six feet so it’s kind of hard to tell when I’m standing, but when I sit down I definitely have a big belly now.

Most of this is probably due to a lack of exercise and the fact that my morning breakfast consisted of two pieces of toast drowned in butter. That has changed as of today. I’m back to cold cereal and fat free milk. I’ve also started walking more in an effort to help burn off some calories.

Obesity is something that’s on a lot of peoples minds [except in the Marina were everyone is thin and beautiful all the time]. I started to wonder one day why my Dad got skinny as he got older yet everyone else around him was getting fat. Then I did the math. The normal intake for an active person is between 2000-2500 calories a day depending on who you ask. Say you eat a bag of those 100 calories snack whatever past that and don’t burn it off and you do that every day. In a month you’ll have gained a pound, which leads to twelve pounds in a year and if you keep it up five years from now you will have  gain 60 pounds. Keep it up for ten years and you have an extra 120 pounds.

It’s that easy to get fat. My Dad was active well into his seventies, drank lots of beer and smoked like a chimney. Heart disease finally did him in at 83, but it happened pretty quick. My Mom on the other hand got less active after I was born and was probably over 350lbs when she died at 80. Also from heart disease, but because she was so overweight. The funeral home actually told me that I better put my hand underneath the bag they gave me that had the box that contained her ashes. It was so heavy that I had to weigh it when I got home. Her ashes weighed in at 10 lbs. My Dad and Grandmother were hardly a pound.

I don’t want to be like that. I like having mobility and the best way to keep that up with with a little bit of exercise. I don’t need to jog. I can just walk and mow my lawn and pull weeds like my Dad did. When I used to do that I was down to 178 lbs. So today I’m making a change because I want to see my daughter grow up and not be a faint memory to her.

Remembering Playland

I got a surprise the other day when someone told me that the documentary Remembering Playland At The Beach was available on DVD and at the library. I thought I really didn’t have much to remember about Playland because the only time I got to go was the day it closed, September 7, 1972, which means it was a probably my parents giving in to me wanting to go that they finally agreed that I could go as a birthday present since my birthday was the day before.

Well, it turns out there was a lot to remember that I had forgotten. While I only got to go on the last day and most of the rides were closed by then, I did remember the Funhouse the most, but seeing actual video footage of it made it even more memorable. I loved the slide in there, but never realized that it was actually five stories high. Running through the spinning barrel was a piece of cake and the turntable my Dad and I did a few times just because the idea of sitting on a well polished spinning wooden disc and being flung at the padded wall at high speed just sounded like a lot of fun to a 10 year old kid. One of the people they interview mentioned that OSHA would  even let a place like that be built today which is probably true when you see the footage. The trick on the turntable was for everyone to lock arms so it would spin faster before you got thrown.

There were the dodger cars which would give you whiplash when the large metal cars would smash into each other while sparks from the pole leading up to the ceiling to power the car dropped down on your head. Yep, another OSHA cringe moment. It was so large that they could have 80 cars running at once.

I didn’t get to go on the Diving Bell which is what I had always wanted to do, but after seeing the footage and some pictures it probably was a good thing I didn’t. One of the people said that when the bell was yanked back up out of the water everyone felt like they were going to die and from the looks of it, I’m surprised no one did.

The Big Dipper was gone by then, but replaced by the Alpine Racer which was closed down by then. The urban legend that a sailor stood up on the Big Dipper to show off to the girl he was with and got hit by a cross beam getting his head torn off is actually kind of true. He did get hit in the head, but landed in the lap of his girlfriend dead with a crushed skull. Oh and there were no seat belts of any kind back then. Not on most of the rides. I can kind of see why my Mom never wanted me to go there.

Dark Mystery was the only other ride I got to go on that day and I jumped a few times with things popped up and the screams played. I do remember there was one box we passed where cheap aluminum figures of a boy and naked girl popped up which didn’t make me jump, but point and yell to my Dad, Did you see that! I told my Mother all about that when we got home and I can remember a glaring eye shot in my Dad’s direction.

What I had forgotten about were all the concession stands out front. As a kid I always remember stopping for It’s-its, but I had forgotten about the Hot House that sold enchiladas and tamales. I remembered that my Mom would send me and Dad out there on the weekends for enchiladas so she didn’t have to cook for one day.

The history of the place was what I found to be amazing. When you think of amusement parks you think of kids, but Playland at the Beach was different. It was mostly adults going on the rides then and there were plenty of pictures and footage of men in suits and fedoras with their women in dresses and white gloves. Something I never expected to see. There was also a place next to it called Fun Tier Town which was for the kids which had some pretty timid rides. It was a big spot for kids to have birthday parties, but I believe it closed down earlier because there was one birthday party I was supposed to go to there and they were already closed  and that was before Playland shut down.

It was the Whitney Bros who made the place the most popular, but after George Whitney died and his son George Whitney, Jr. took his place that there started to be family troubles and Playland was sold to it’s final owner in 1970. This person unfortunately didn’t really know how to run an amusement park, especially one that was fogged in with salt air constantly so the whole place fell apart quickly leading to it’s closure in 1972.

What amazed me in the footage was that they had footage from the early 60’s before the civil rights era started and yet you saw white kids, asian kids and black kids all playing together without a care. It really was just a little bizarre to see.

During it’s heyday Walt Disney was traveling around to all the amusement parks and talking to the owners to see what worked and what didn’t. Walt really liked a lot of what Playland was doing. So much so that Walt hired George Whitney, Jr. to help him build Disneyland. Several of the attractions at Playland were the inspiration for Disneyland rides.

Today, Playland at the Beach is no more, but luckily there were some fools who went in after the closure and stole as much as they could and put together Playland not at the Beach Museum in El Cerrito. Several of the people interviewed run the museum and from what I’ve seen they’ve saved a lot of the old arcade games and maybe added to them as well. I’ll have to put that on my list of places to visit now. The Carousel has been refurbished and is now at Zeum at Yerba Buena Gardens. One Laffing Sal is at the Musee Mecanique at Pier 41, the other is at Playland not at the Beach in El Cerrito.

If you remember Playland, you definitely need to see this video. If you have a love of amusement parks you should see this as well. It wasn’t like Disneyland, but it was definitely a San Francisco landmark.