7 July 2002
The pelican was the hit of the party.
We had been at the beach since noon. It was the day of Tom's annual barbecue, this year in honor of his 32nd birthday. Each year Tom invites everyone he knows to join him on the beach in Goleta, under the cliffs of UC Santa Barbara, where he reserves one of the huge barbecue pits and a lot of tables and sets up three sun shade tents.
Tom and his friend Joe (Walt's sister's boyfriend) provide all the food and "groaning board" is putting it mildly. This year the main course was: 5 marinated tri-tip roasts, two huge salmons (stuffed), a ton of chicken legs, uncountable numbers of all sorts of sausages, huge portobello mushroom caps, roasted onions, grilled vegetables. Others filled in with various salads, hors d'oeuvres, etc. (No, I did not stick with my eating plan; do not look for a weight loss this week.) (My description of this event last year is just as appropriate this year!)
People began arriving around 1 p.m. and at its height, I guess there must have been something like 50 people there, representing all phases of Tom's and Joe's life, from co-workers, to college cronies, relatives, and neighbors.
Our friend Dick, whom we have known since college (and who is Ned's godfather) showed up for a visit--the only time we see him seems to be at these barbecues.
Cousin Stacey brought her new fiance, showed off a gorgeous sapphire and diamond engagement ring, and talked about their plans to be married at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion (where they used to hold the Academy Awards) in October.
Joe brought his new adolescent dog, Harley, who met Joe's brother's puppy and the two of them played each other into exhaustion, while at a nearby table my mother and Joe's mother started a marathon game of gin rummy, which went on most of the afternoon.
Tom and Joe have perfected this event after all these years. This year was a little more disorganized than in the past, but still as they started opening bags and containers and tossing hunks of meat on the BBQ, you knew you were in the presence of master chefs.
What was amazing was that all the food disappeared. I'm sure there is a Murphy's law in there somewhere--about the amount of food a crowd will eat expanding to suit a smaller crowd or something. I'll work on it and get back to you.
But, as I said at the outset, the star of the day was the pelican. It looked like it might have been a youngster, just leaving the nest and not yet quite sure what he was supposed to do. He started diving for frisbees and may have been hit by one.
I first noticed him when I thought it was a metal statue of a pelican. I was going to investigate, when the "statue" moved. As I started walking up to take a better picture, it started running in my direction--I was in the take-off path--and he very nearly ran into me trying to get airborne.
He didn't actually fly off for some time. He wandered around the grass, let people hand feed him, tried to make friends with a barking dog (who was going nuts trying to get to the bird) and just seemed to be taking his sweet time getting off the ground. We wondered if he were perhaps injured, but there was nothing obviously wrong with him except that he just didn't seem to want to leave our company.
He spent so much time that the novelty began to wear off and the circle of people around him gradually walked away and went back to their respective picnics.
A few flocks of pelicans, in larger numbers, flew over and "our" pelican would flap his wings and fly a bit into the air, each time a little farther and a little higher, but still not quite ready to fly overhead.
When I last spotted him he had made his longest (and highest) circle yet and disappeared over the edge of the lawn and down on the sand. I don't know what happened to him after that.
But it certainly did liven up the afternoon and I have great pictures to share.
My mother and I are leaving early in the morning to drive home, and I suspect that tomorrow night's entry is going to be all photo highlights of the weekend. I can hardly wait to see, on a full screen, what I really have.
The one downer of the day is that I've developed a terrible sore throat and ended up spending the last hour of the picnic in the car because I was getting chilled and I figured adding cold to the equation couldn't be doing good things for the already sore throat. But I'm hoping it will be better in the morning.
Fortunately, you don't need a non-sore throat just to sit in a car and drive all day!