Playing docent for friends at the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo logo

Remember that if you come to San Diego for any reason and need a personal docent for the day, I’m always up for it. I often have free tickets to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. They can be YOURS, free, just like I got them!

Yesterday I played docent for two old friends that I had not seen since 1983, other than Facebook, of course. Here are some pictures from our trip to the Zoo:

Grizzly BearGrizzly bear

Panda. Remember that these are not bears. Just pandas.
Panda

Baby monkey, although I don’t know what species.
Baby monkey

A female gazelle, looking very pregnant
and being checked on by her previous child.
Pregnant momma

Polar Bear enjoying the San Diego sunshine.
Polar Bear

Reindeer, but not Rudolph, obviously.
Reindeer

Arctic fox. There were two of them yesterday. In 23 years of going to the San Diego Zoo at least once a month, and usually once a week, this is only the second and third pictures I have gotten of the arctic fox.
Arctic fox

Arctic fox

Got a group photo of some well-known people.
Group photo

California Condor. Extinct in the wild as recently as 1987 with only 22 birds still living, all in captivity. The San Diego Zoo’s breeding program has resulted in the re-introduction into the wild. It still is one of the world’s rarest birds, with 446 now living both in the wild and in captivity.
Ccalifornia condor

Hyrax. I got up close and personal with my 150-600 mm lens.
Hyrax

Meerkat. One of my favorite animals. They are so much fun to watch.
Meerkat

Hyrax momma and her two young ones. The look on her face! Is she thinking that some sort of pervert is taking pictures of her young ones sucking on her teats and is going to put them on the Internet?
Hyrax

Squirrel. This is a “local animal” according to the Zoo,
meaning that it is free to come and go at will. Of course, it knows
where the best food is, not to mention lots of friends!
Squirrel

Kookaburra. It’s difficult to get a good picture of these birds because of the tiny mesh surrounding their enclosure. They have to be at just the right distance from the mesh for my 150-600 mm lens to get through the mesh.
Kookaburra

Silverback Gorilla, pondering.
Lowland gorilla

Orangutan, also pondering.
Orangutan

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Music on Mondays (10-16-2017)—My “Lost on a desert island” music from 1965

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

My Lost On A Desert Island music collection would have 18 songs from 1965 on it, eight of them by The Beatles.

My wise old grandmother adopted me in November 1965, and I arrived at her home on December 18, 1965. My mom’s oldest brother and his family drove me from Brigham City, Utah, where I lived, to Kingsville, Texas—1,524 miles—where my wise old grandmother lived. Four years after my dad’s suicide and the two sides of the family still were at war with each other, so even though my uncle was driving to Kingsville anyway to see his dad, in retrospect I wonder what was going through his mind as he delivered his sister’s child to her dead husband’s mother….

Nonetheless, I have lots of pleasant memories of the music from 1965. Following are all 18. Hope you find one to enjoy or one that brings back some pleasant memories for you this Monday, October 16. Note that there are not any videos on Youtube of original music by The Beatles. They all have been taken down, so even though I might have found a couple for my blog post here, by the time you try to listen to them, they might be gone. You can find various versions for karaoke, live versions, cover versions, etc., if you care to go look for them. I find it odd that every music publishing entity in the world is now providing music videos directly to YouTube under the moniker “Topic” (such as Herman’s Hermits – Topic)…. except Capitol, EMI, Apple Corps, or anyone else holding copyrights to music by The Beatles.

“Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” by Herman’s Hermits

“Down In The Boondocks” by Billie Joe Royal
I didn’t learn until a couple of decades later that
where my wise old grandmother lived in Kingsville
was considered the “wrong side of the tracks.”

“Eve Of Destrution” by Barry McGuire

“Get Off Of My Cloud” by The Rolling Stones
Not until 1978 when I started collecting all the #1 albums
and #1 singles from 1955, the start of the rock ‘n’ roll era,
did I give The Rolling Stones a shot. I was a Beatles fan.

“Girl” by The Beatles

“Help” by The Beatles
This was the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100
while I was at the Thomas D. Dee Memorial Hospital
in Ogden, Utah, in the “Troubled Youth” ward.
This is the song that inspired me to reach out
to my wise old grandmother for help.

“I Got You Babe” by Sonny & Cher

“I’m Henry VIII, I Am” by Herman’s Hermits

“In My Life” by The Beatles
I sang this song in Student Government on Valentine’s Day in 1971
to my girlfriend at the time, Lynda Young.

“It Ain’t Me Babe” by The Turtles

“Michelle” by The Beatles
NO VIDEO FOUND

“Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits

“Nowhere Man” by The Beatles
It wasn’t until April 1993 when I “came out” after moving
from College Station, Texas, to San Diego, California,
that I didn’t feel like a Nowhere Man anymore.

“Run For Your Life” by The Beatles
NO VIDEO FOUND

“This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys

“Ticket To Ride” by The Beatles

“You Were On My Mind” by We Five

“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” by The Beatles
This was my favorite song from the movie and album.
In retrospect, I wonder if I knew I was gay
long before I accepted myself being gay.
NO VIDEO FOUND

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Picture of the Moment—Thar she blooms!

Picture of the Moment

For last Friday’s Friday Flower Fiesta, I featured a new plant that now is in my garden, the Stapelia gigantea. It is called the “carrion plant” because its flowers smell like rotting flesh, which is important because this plant needs flies to pollinate it. And we all know how much flies like stuff that we humans find pretty much disgusting. Flies are the only creatures that can pollinate these flowers, notwithstanding how large the flowers are.

My plant had three huge flower buds on it when I bought it. This morning two of them decided to open up and show the world how beautiful they are, notwithstanding their smell. Of course, it was only minutes until the first fly showed up, appropriately a huge fly!

Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia gigantea with fly

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Friday Flower Fiesta (10-13-17)—Stapelia gigantea

Friday Flower Fiesta

Happy Friday the Thirteenth!Master Gardener

When my wise old grandmother adopted me in December 1965, I found that I was moving in with a Master Gardener eight years before there was such a thing as a Master Gardener.

In September 1968, when I came home from my eighth grade plant biology class with Mrs. Bajza, I asked my wise old grandmother if I could have a small area in her yard to create my own little garden.

Earlier that year, my granddad, two uncles, and I had installed central heating and air conditioning in our South Texas home. Such a system comes with a cooling condenser which sits outside and blows hot air around at hurricane force. The wind and heat kills anything near it. So, of course, the area around the cooling condenser is what my wise old grandmother gave me. I was so sad but I didn’t let her see my sadness.

While I was over at a friend’s house—Richard Schmidt—his parents heard me talking about my useless garden. They offered to take me 70 miles down to the Rio Grande Valley and show me just how useless my garden was not. They introduced me to cactus and succulents, and I bought many on that trip.

I created a rock wall around the cooling condenser to force the hot wind upwards and protect the rest of the little area. Then I created little dry stream beds and a cactus/succulent rock garden. The area I was working with was on the south side of the house, so it got a lot of South Texas sunshine and heat to begin with.

Well, the cactus and succulents absolutely loved it there, and one day they all decided to reward me simultaneously with a magnificent display of flowers. I was so excited that I went running in yelling and screaming for my wise old grandmother to come look. She was impressed, and happy, which made me happy, too.

One of the succulents that I had planted was a Stapelia. They look kind of awkward, like me, so I could identify with them. When it bloomed, it was the most magnificent flower I had ever seen, similar to this one from Wikipedia:

Stapelia gigantea

I now know that what I had was a Stapelia gigantea, the largest flower of the Stapelia species. Sadly, I never took a cutting from that plant when I left home for college at Texas A&M University. And I had never seen another Stapelia gigantea…..

….Until yesterday….

I was wandering around a newly discovered nursery out here in the boondocks, Wally’s World Nursery. Wally’s had five of them, one blooming and two fixin’ to bloom. I brought one home with me:

Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia gigantea is known as the “carrion plant” because its flowers smell like rotting flesh, important to the plant since it needs common flies to pollinate it. Have no fear if you want one of these, though, because you kind of have to rub the flower all over your nose in order to smell it. Flies, on the other hand, can smell rotting flesh from half way around the world….

The flowers get up to ten inches in diameter and are fringed with hairs that can be up to three-tenths of an inch long. The flowers of all Stapelia species are star shaped, some having more than one star in them, and many of them are fringed with little hairs.

I have had other Stapelia species over the years but never Stapelia gigantea. I have had the Stapelia grandiflora, which has the second-largest flower (see second picture below), but I have always wanted  another Stapelia gigantea. Now I have one.

Here are some pictures of Stapelia flowers from my gardens over the years:

Stapelia

Stapelia

Stapelia from the garden of Russel Ray

Stapelia

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Out & About—The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Out & About

I went to Julian, California, for their Apple Days the weekend of September 24 and discovered three cool stores. The Warm Hearth is in my blog post here. The second one I want to talk about is The Birdwatcher. How can anyone resist going into a store called The Birdwatcher?

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The first home that I remember was where we lived when I was 5 in 1960. It had a row of windows under the eaves to let light into the living room. Sadly, birds would fly into the windows and knock themselves out, dying an agonizing death on the ground below. I was picking up dead birds every morning. I resolved to never have windows that would kill birds. Of course, now that I’m a little older, I realize that all windows have the potential to kill birds. You can help our feathered friends by using WindowAlert. Pretty neat.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Rick & Brenda Campbell own The Birdwatcher, and Brenda kindly gave me permission to take interior photos for my blog post here. Thank you, Brenda!

A beautiful selection of wind chimes just in case you don’t have any songbirds at your place.

Birds like taking baths. I mean, who doesn’t?

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Bird cards to send your family and friends.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Real honest-to-goodness books about birds for your own personal library.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Cute hangings for your yard.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

They have a special wall in the store where they display bird pictures taken by anyone and everyone. All you have to do is send them a picture!

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Bird houses and bird feeders of all shapes and sizes to help us care for our feathered friends.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Proof outside that their bird feeders work:

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Hot pads, coffee cups, and hand towels.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Birds, nests, and eggs for inside, without the resulting mess to clean up.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Shirts and socks. No pants? No underwear? Sad.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Beautiful and whimsy wall art.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Dishes.

The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Of course, I came home with something. I could have come home with a lot more but I was in the Corolla instead of the 18-wheeler.

Barn owl from The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

And if there are birds around, well, you know there has to be a cat around, too. Here’s The Birdwatchers indoor kitty:

Indoor kitty at The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

Indoor kitty at The Birdwatcher in Julian, California

As soon as I told her that I was going to make her an Internet star, she gave me that look in the first photo and then curled up and pretended she was asleep. Yeah, right.

I was carrying my new video recorder around with me and got a short video of the many hummingbirds hanging out. I think The Birdwatcher even has more hummingbirds than the San Diego Zoo!

If you need anything at all relating to birds, stop by The Birdwatcher in Julian, California.

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Music on Mondays (10-9-17)—Cathy’s Clown is Downtown at the House of the Rising Sun

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

My favorite songs list is coming along nicely. I think this list also might tell me what my favorite albums are. For example, four songs off of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel made the last. However, eight songs off of “Let It Be” by The Beatles made the list. I like both albums but after listening to them one right after the other, yeah, I like “Let It Be” more. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that I already know that The Beatles are my top group of all time….

One of my commenters last week said that he detected a theme, something about death and war. Hmmmm. It was the 1950s with an undeclared war called the “Korean Conflict,” as opposed to World War I, World War II, Civil War, Revolutionary War, Vietnam War, War of 1812. But out of the five songs last week, only two had anything to do with war. Nonetheless, considering that the United States and its immediate predecessor, thirteen colonies, have been in existence for 241 years and at war for 224 of those 241 years, it shouldn’t be any surprise that there are some good war songs and anti-war songs.

Today’s post will be the last time that I group several years together, 1960-1964. My music collecting started in 1965, and my favorites list definitely shows that. So without further ado, let’s start 1960-1964 with, uh, two war songs:

“Ballad of the Alamo” by Marty Robbins, 1960—My youngest uncle who introduced me to Gogi Grant on last week’s list also introduced me to Marty Robbins via his “More Greatest Hits” album of 1961. I can tell you that Marty definitely is my favorite country singer.

“Sink The Bismarck” by Johnny Horton, 1960—Johnny made last week’s list with “The Battle Of New Orleans.” I might have to see if there is something in Johnny’s background that made him sing about specific incidents in war or if he just had a general interest like me.

“Cathy’s Clown” by The Everly Brothers, 1960—The Everly Brothers will have quite a few songs on my favorites list. This probably is my favorite of theirs. I have been singing this since I first heard it many decades ago.

“Downtown” by Petula Clark, 1964—We didn’t have country music in northern Utah where I lived from 1961-1965 so I didn’t hear this song, or anything by Petula, until I went to live with my wise old grandmother in deep South Texas in December 1965. Another one from my youngest uncle.

“House Of The Rising Sun” by The Animals, 1964—I first heard this song on KLOL FM out of Corpus Christ, Texas, in March 1973. Some friends and I were driving from Kingsville to Alice to buy booze for our senior prom. The drinking age was 18 but Kingsville and Kleberg Country were dry, so it was a 20-mile drive to get real booze. I was 18, so I had the privilege of buying a lot of booze for friends. The rights of passage and the price of admission to the In Crowd.

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Video—Their water fountain is now MY water fountain

On September 30, 2017, I went to Julian, California, a historic gold-mining town in the mountains, for Apple Days. While I was there, I discovered all sorts of cool stuff and cool places. One of the cool places was The Warm Hearth, a huge store full of goodies to make your house into a home.

One of the items they had, which I fell in love with—and it’s difficult to fall in love with inanimate objects, but I did—was a water fountain. Jim and I had been looking for a fine fine fine water fountain at a reasonable cost, and this one was only $379. We headed to Julian yesterday for the sole purpose of getting the fountain.

Here it is in all its glory—flowing water, sound, and lights— on our deck. It will only stay on the deck for a few weeks until I get the landscaping in. It sounds a lot better than it did in The Warm Hearth because there aren’t a billion people walking around talking….

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