Six chicks and a bad ass: Life on the farm

“Yeah, it is Matt Payne calling… again. Wanted to talk to somebody about your rescue donkeys so please call me back,” I said, hanging up the phone frustrated.

“How hard is it to talk to somebody about a donkey?” I mutter to myself as Meg and I exited I-40 just north of Edmond, leaving the last of the city lights for the small roads of the country. It was still hard to believe that sixty days earlier, I lived a mile from the beach and the concept of “cold weather” was about as foreign as the concept of donkey acquisition.

Opie the Donkey

Opie the Donkey

Since the purchase of a chicken coop a week earlier, getting a guard donkey to protect the future chickens from the resident coyotes had become paramount. Donkeys, as it turns out, have a keen hatred toward coyotes and while the sinister resident coyotes love to kill chickens, they fear the donkeys, who when threatened by the pesky canines, buck and scream bloody murder until the coyotes slink off to other poultry-lush pastures. “Donkeys save the chicken from the coyotes” had become a mantra in the weeks since we’d lived on the farm and while all these animals only existed in theory at this point, it was a vision that I hoped soon would manifest itself in the most docile, bucolic of ways.

While we were yet to get any chickens, we had preemptively named the chickens Drumstick, Wishbone, Batter, Biscuit, Tender, and Nugget. The KFC-inspired names came about partly because we thought they were adorable but more so because were coyotes to actually circumvent our future donkey and infiltrate the coop, there was something less heartbreaking and insidious about saying “last night, the coyotes snacked on a drumstick and a biscuit” as opposed to the far more gruesome “There are bloody Roger feathers everywhere and Louise is down a beak.”

Getting a donkey is hard but purchasing live chickens in the winter is equally so. Of the half dozen feed stores I called to inquire about getting a chicken coop, I’d been essentially hung up upon six times. Apparently, if you are “city-fied” enough to think you could actually get chickens in the winter, you had no business having chickens in the first place.

“You might be able to get some chickens at an auction,” said a guy with a wandering eyeball and a slur when I finally found a feed store that claimed to have a coop for sale. My cowboy boots were nowhere near enough to fool this guy into thinking that I knew the first thing about farm life.

“And why buy a coop when you could just build one?” he asked smug, as though he knew that even simple Legos had historically made me nervous.

“William Sonoma has chicken coops!” chimed in my mom, who had joined me on my adventure to Mustang, Oklahoma.

“William what?” said the spiteful man.

“William Sonoma!” said my mom, pleased that she’d solved a problem.

“Does he raise chickens?” asked the man curious as to the identity of this “William.”

“It’s not a ‘he,’” I said, feeling part embarrassed, but more so relieved not to be building it myself.

“It’s a store,” I said.

“At the mall,” my mom added.

“You’re buying a chicken coop at the mall?” asked the man.

“They can get it delivered by next week if you order it today,” said my mom, ready to leave. “And they have white glove delivery!”

The man shook his head.

“Perfect,” I said, hoping to get out before my mom said anything else urban.

“Hope you enjoy your chickens as much as them coyotes will,” said the man, ruefully.

“We’re going to get a donkey.” I retorted. “They protect the chickens from the coyotes.”

“They sell ass at the mall too?” he managed as we turned to leave.

A week later, as promised by William Sonoma, the chicken coop appeared though the white glove service had been a lie. I’d have to put it together myself which made me shudder. In the nights previous, coyotes had been crying from all sides of the property as though they were rallying one another for a chicken dinner. We were really going to need a donkey.

This time, it was Meg’s turn to call the donkey rescue and she got someone on the phone. An older lady had recently bought a baby donkey named “Opi” from auction after the little donkey’s mother had been sold to slaughter. So desperate this nice old lady was to save the little donkey from the same fate as her mother, she bid sixty dollars, more than ten times the donkey’s worth, to save it. Since, she’d bottle-fed the donkey until it was big enough to go to pasture and come to love it like a dog. Recently, the good-hearted grandmother learned she would have to sell her house and as a result, had to give up the donkey. Suddenly, the donkey we were about to get was far more than just a security system for cleverly named poultry. This was somebody’s “Opi.”

Years ago, I’d done a endangered sea turtle rescue volunteer program in Costa Rica and about two dozen young, altruistic teenagers had volunteered their time as well. Each claimed to have loved turtles their whole life, had stuffed turtles as children and had graduated to turtle tattoos in their late teens and early twenties. What they didn’t get is what went into rescuing turtles. They loved the image but not so much patrolling shorelines for hours at a time during in thunderstorms while being stalked by angry local poachers. What most of them had wanted initially was a picture with a sea turtle for their Facebook page and a stamp in the passport book. It took weeks of discomfort, hardship and sadness before they came to truly love the turtles for what they were.

As I considered the “Still in the box” William Sonoma Chicken Coop and the donkey named Opi that might one day protect said coop, I couldn’t help but think about that trip to Costa Rica. The Lazy-eyed fellow had been right about my prowess as a farm guy. I had to admit that I was just like those girls. I’d wanted chickens and a donkey because donkeys were cute, fresh eggs were delicious and the whole grand idea made for good cocktail time fodder. If I was gonna raise chickens and have a donkey to protect them, I had to get my hands dirty. The donkey would have to be more than an ass in a field, I would have to be more than an ass from the city living on a farm and the chickens would most certainly be a lot better than KFC.

Smash the Opossum: Life on the Farm, Night One

“Just smash it over the head…” reasoned my fiancé Meg as I stood over the writhing, miserable outline of an opossum wheezing under a trash bag. “Hurry!”

My gaze shifted from the opossum outline over to our dog Jasper, who watched curiously at a distance, his tail wagging madly with the tiniest hint of blood dabbed on the corner of his triumphant snout. Only an hour ago, I had made it to our new home on a farm just outside of Edmond, Oklahoma and already, I was seconds from my first mercy kill.

Smash the Opossum

Smash the Opossum


After fifteen years living in the competitive chaos of Los Angeles, life on a farm sounded wildly appealing. Each morning, I imagined waking up and sitting down to write. I’d look out over the bucolic rolling hills toward the little fishing hole where bass leaped after dragonflies. The dogs would play in the front yard and cardinals and chickadees would gather at the strategically placed bird feeders.  Perhaps a solitary deer might wander across my periphery, offering friendly wink and a smile as inspiration poured out from my soul and onto the page. Meg would bake pies while studying for her Masters and at sunrise each morning, we’d hop on our respective steeds and ride from pasture to pasture as bluebirds dipped and weaved to the cadence of Morning Mood.

In Los Angeles, we had lived in a tiny house on a busy street. Our landlord, a high strung, but cheerful man named Massoud who managed always to have at least one visible booger and never stopped wearing gloves, lived in a shed in the backyard with his friendly but terrifying pit bull Bo-bo. While Bo-bo was nice to humans, Bobo was rather territorial so our dogs, for the two years we lived in that house, were left with a tiny piece of fenced front yard to call their own. A great space for a Chihuahua but a far cry from enough space for a German Shepherd and Jasper the little brown dog to have any kind of life. Now though, life on the farm would not only be better for Meg and I but better for the dogs as well.

The night of our arrival to Oklahoma was enchanting. A skunk skittered away as we pulled into the long driveway for the first time and as we stepped outside the car after a fifteen hundred mile drive, the silence felt as infinite as the millions of stars twinkling overhead. While our house, spare a bed and a table, was completely empty, there was an undeniable magic about returning home with a woman you love after fifteen years of delaying adulthood in sunny southern California under the guise of chasing your dreams.

Once unloaded, we moved to the back porch to take in the night and celebrate the arrival to our new life. Sandy the German Shepherd disappeared to the fence line and Jasper found himself drawn to the woodpile.  Meg got up to go to the restroom and for a moment, I sat on the porch to consider how enormously my life, in the last few months had changed. I’d walked away from Hollywood and a city I’d called home for fifteen years. I’d traded in an ocean for horse pastures and for the first time in many years, had no idea what was going to happen in my life, but more so, for the first time in many years, I felt at peace. Life on a farm was going to be good.

Jasper and the woodpile

Jasper and the woodpile

For only a moment, I basked in this new sense of well being, when from behind the woodpile, was a horrific blend of bark, scuffle, a hiss and a half dozen thuds. I rushed around the corner to find Jasper the little brown dog now standing proudly over a not quite dead, rasping opossum. The fiendish looking critter’s beady eyes went from Jasper to me, back and forth as blood dripped from its fanged mouth, wheezing like a tea kettle. I pulled the dog back from the demon opossum. I did the only thing I knew to do…


She didn’t answer and now Jasper was lunging forward to play with his new and dying best friend.

“Meg!!!!!!!!!!!” I screamed again.

Meg came running out from the bathroom as I wrestled Jasper back into the house.  “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Jasper just tried to kill an opossum,” I said wide-eyed.


We stood over the opossum for a couple of minutes, dumbstruck. “Maybe it will just crawl away,” I reasoned as the opossum sputtered.

Meg examined the critter as it slowly inhaled and exhaled. “It’s in pain,” she said in a manner both clinical and compassionate. Now Jasper watched, tail wagging, from the living room window and Sandy licked her chops.

“I mean, they don’t call it playing ‘opossum’ for nothing,” I said hoping the situation would just end and I could go back to imagining bluebirds and sunrises. “Its probably fine. We should just leave it.”


Meg shook her head. “You have to kill it,” she said.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Me?!?”


“It’s going to die anyway!” I protested.

“But it is in pain,” she said now close to tears.

“Then you kill it!”

“No. You have to do these kinds of things.”

Another angry opossum

Another angry opossum

“I don’t kill things!”

She looked at me with grave concern. “It is the best for the opossum.”

“It’s not the best for me!” I said, thinking of the guilt I’d felt with the coot and the mockingbird. “How am I supposed to kill it anyway? It’s not like we have a gun.” Meg’s eye wandered to the woodpile the opossum once called home. I knew exactly what she was thinking.

“Please no.”

The log felt off balance in my hand as I stood above the opossum, now mercifully covered by a trash bag.  I try talk myself through it. “I wanted to live on a farm, so now I live on a farm… I’m a man, after all and I’m doing this thing a favor. Plus, opossums aren’t cute. They are devil things!”

“Make sure you hit it on the head,” Meg said, interrupting my internal pep talk. “Hard.”

“This was supposed to be a romantic, special night, you know!” I said, annoyed.

“Hard!” she reiterated.

“I know!” I said, trying to stay calm. “I got this.”

“It is for the good of the opossum,” she said.

“It’s for the good of the opossum!”

And with that, I lifted the log mightily above my head, said a small “opossum prayer” and brought down the mighty log with authority.

The once passive, feeble opossum fired to life. It hissed, casting us an evil glance and sprinted away from us as quickly as dying opossum could. While I had brought the log down with thunder, I had missed the opossum almost entirely, hitting it just enough to piss it off and send it running for safety.

“What did you do?” Meg screamed at me.

“I hit it over the head with a log!”

“You barely even dropped the log!” she fired back as the opossum moved toward the fence.

“I tried!”

The opossum took off into the black void of the yard as my heart raced.

“I Did the best I could,” I stated weakly.

“You barely hit its tail!”

“At least I hit it!”

“You were supposed to smash it until it was dead!”

Smash it!?!?! Like more than once?”

“Yes! Repeatedly! Until it is dead!”

Meg picked up the trash bag and took off toward the opossum now hiding in the corner of the yard.

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to take care of this,” she boldly said leaving me standing there trembling like the soft city boy I had always been.

“Do you want the log?” I asked.

Thirty minutes later, we walked to the edge of the woods, the opossum now squirming wildly in the trash bag. With a few sticks, a lot of swear words and some frayed nerves, we had managed to scoop the thing up into the trash bag and decided that instead of clubbing it repeatedly over the head, that perhaps it would be better to set it free into the woods. It had been wounded but neither of us were vets. Perhaps, in a couple of days, the opossum would recover and tell his friends about the time he outsmarted a dog and a dumbass with a log. That was, at least, what I would tell myself.

The Opossum sunrise

The Opossum sunrise

As the opossum’s bustling through the woods finally settled, we stood there for a moment staring into the darkness of the forest. With a two-day drive across the country my life had changed forever. Morning would come in a few short hours and I would wake up to the quiet and calm of the country, my childhood home only twenty-five miles away. A life I’d known for fifteen years a million miles away. The lights from our new house glowed behind us. I was far from a country boy but I was now, I was certainly in the country.

“We need to get a gun,” I said finally.

“A gun?” Meg asked incredulous.

“You know, in case something like that happens again.”

“You don’t know how to shoot a gun,” Meg fired back.

“I’ve shot a pellet gun before.”

Meg turned toward the house and began to walk.

“I killed a mockingbird… And once I killed a coot with a golf ball.”

When we got back to the house, the dogs were thrilled to see us. It was like we’d been gone a lifetime. The house was empty but already we’d piled on a memory. The empty house was becoming a home. It is amazing how quickly it happens. I stepped outside and once again, the yard was quiet.  Life was certainly different now. In the sky, a million stars. Meg came out beside me.

“You wouldn’t have smashed that thing either, you know,” I said, searching for some kind of validation.

“Of course not,” Meg said. “That’s why I have you.”  While I had failed to kill the opossum, something about her faith put me at ease for my shortcoming.

“You think it is going to be okay?” I asked.

“It’s all gonna be good,” she said. “Let’s go to bed.”

AuSable River, Michigan: A Father’s Day reflection

One night while my family vacationed in the Northern Michigan town of Harbor Springs, my father suggested that we go fishing. The nostalgia-filled, stop-sign-only resort town is located on Lake Michigan at the tip of the Lower Peninsula, just two hours north of the famed AuSable River.  That was where we were headed.

At just 17, I was well aware that the AuSable River is one of three Michigan rivers that inspired the coming-of-age tales of Ernest Hemingway’s famed character Nick Adams, who spent his youth pulling trout from these pristine waters.

An outdoor enthusiast, my father echoed Hemingway’s fascination with the river, offering that the AuSable is a fly fisherman’s dream. The relatively wide river, which cuts through one of Michigan’s many Jack Pine forests, is said to be abundant with both rainbow and brown trout. While there were more than a dozen other rivers between Harbor Springs and the AuSable, the river’s history and reputation made it well worth the drive, despite the potential for afternoon thunderstorms.

kirtlands warbler, birdwatching, grayling

Kirtland’s Warbler

My dad was, and still is, a birdwatcher. He and a friend had driven thousands of miles across the United States in search of birds they had yet to see. To this day he keeps a lifelong list of every species of bird he has seen. As an avid birder, he was not above stopping to “pish” (something between a whisper and a whistle) at a bush in order to coax out nesting birds. He always had binoculars and had even been known to slam on the brakes of his car to identify something that turned out to be as common as a wren on a fence post.

As we loaded up the car and hit the road, I learned that my father’s reason for choosing the AuSable extended beyond the river’s lore.  Sure he wanted to fish, but really he wanted to see the Kirtland’s Warbler. This small rare migratory bird spends its summers nesting beneath Michigan’s Jack Pines near Grayling.  Like most kids my age, I was impatient, eager to get going on this father/son trip that involved the thrill of pulling in a sixteen-ounce trout from the fast-moving river. With impending thunderstorms and limited time, looking for a bird, no matter how rare, was not part of my plan.

The Kirtland’s Warbler is an extremely endangered bird. The fewer-than-a-thousand birds left on earth spend the fall and winter months in the Bahamas, migrating in the late spring, by night, to just a few counties in Northern Michigan. Having been a birder for nearly twenty years and having seen hundreds of species in America, my father was thrilled by the chance to see such a rare bird as the Kirtland’s Warbler, an opportunity as rare as the bird itself.

The nesting area was a few miles off the exit to Grayling.  A barbed wire fence, suited for the perimeter of a prison, lined a dirt road. According to the yellow warning signs, this fence was there to protect the warbler’s fragile nesting areas.

Also lining the roads were RVs with bumper stickers that read things like “I brake for roadrunners” and license tags from all over the country and Canada. Outside the RVs, their owners sat in lawn chairs, binoculars in hand, eyes trained on the tree lines.

“We will recognize the Kirtland because of its yellow belly, bluish grey back, and, most important, the broken ring around its eyes,” my father instructed me.  “You have to see the broken ring for the sighting to count,” he re-emphasized.

As we waited, rain clouds looming, he and his fellow birders swapped stories like old war buddies, occasionally pausing to check out a bird in a pine only to dismiss it as a sparrow. He was in his element and happy. My attention remained only on my watch and the rain clouds that drew nearer.  My day on the river was getting away.

My face grew hot with frustration. Frustration at the clouds. The bird. My dad. This is my vacation, I thought to myself, and he’s ruining it.

And as that thought seared itself into my mind, a bird with a yellow breast landed on a stump.

“That’s it,” I exclaimed.

My dad and the thrilled birders drew their binoculars to their eyes to catch a glimpse, but only quickly enough to see a flash of yellow before the bird vanished into the woods. Birding is highly honorable. Going on my word would confirm for all of them that they had seen the warbler.

“Did you see the broken ring around its eye?” asked one of the birders, not aware of how little I cared.

“Of course,” I lied.

“Are you sure?” asked my dad. I scanned their faces, then the clouds.  Rain was coming.

“Yes. Let’s go!”

He looked at his fellow birders and then at me. They waited, hoping for the confirmation.

“I saw it,” I managed.

“Guess that was it then,” he said, though his confirmation sounded more like shame and resignation than confirmation or accomplishment.

The car ride was silent. The way he said “Guess that was it,” weighed on me. He had hoped for years to see this bird. Seeing it should have been a moment and I had taken that moment from him. I had to make it right.

I didn’t see the ring,” I confessed. “All I saw was the yellow.”

“It’s okay,” he said.

But it wasn’t okay at all. I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back more than I’d ever wanted anything.  The river was no longer important. All I wanted was for my father to see that bird, but it was too late.

“Please…” I managed.

“We’re going fishing,” he said, the light now gone from his blue eyes.

We arrived at the AuSable. Two muskrats played along the bank and a kingfisher snagged flies from a hatch. Within minutes, it began to rain. Before long it was pouring. There would be no fish pulled from the AuSable that day. At least not by us. It was time to go home.

My dad and I in 2012

My dad and I in 2012

As we drove back towards Harbor Springs, I thought of all the fishing trips he and I had been on over the years. And as I played those memories back, I couldn’t remember any of the fish we caught at all. Just that we’d been together and that while we fished he would show me the birds. He loved them and he loved sharing them with me. I had loved just being with him.

This day had been different. We had set out to see something that we may never see again. That someday no one may ever see again.  I had been a child when we had left earlier that day, and somehow in that dark, sad moment as we drove, felt I was no longer.

“Next time,” I managed to say as it began to pour and we headed back to Harbor Springs, “We’ll see it next time.”


Beautiful Insomnia: Nighttime in Nyungwe

It is too bad that it isn’t call “beauty awake.” If it was, I would be a sexy bitch. Right now, it is 3:15am. I have been awake for about 45 minutes, despite having taken some kind of sleep aid at 9:15 after a glass or two of South African red wine. At 4am the alarm on my phone is going to start carrying on at which point, I’ll make some coffee of the Rwandan sort and wait for the caffeine to emerge victorious over the fog of generic Ambien. In the meantime, I will sit here in a crisp room under a down comforter and enjoy one of the most pleasant bouts of insomnia I’ve ever had.

Because I am in a rain forest, the air is quite thick, though here, unlike other rain forests I’ve been in (annoying things travel writers say), because of the altitude, it is cold. The air hangs, damp and earthy but with a nip I associate with autumn despite the fact that I am pretty sure this equatorial nation doesn’t ever see the leaves change. The chill blends curiously with dense humidity making the low temperature feel somehow more penetrable.

Dancing at the gate of Nyungwe

Despite not having a screen and at the risk of a nocturnal monkey (those exist right?), bat, spider, snake or any other African monster entering my room, my french doors which lead directly into a rain forest are cracked. Having arrived  just after sunset to the Nyungwe Lodge, I haven’t the slightest idea what is in the chirping pool of darkness beyond the glass that makes up 1/4 of the wall space of my well-appointed room. What I know is that there are many living beings like myself, who are  awake and most them, like my friends and I on a weekend, spend nighttime hours buzzing, croaking and chirping the same things over and over while saying very little. On occasion, something rustles around in the foliage. I wish it would stop rustling or alternatively announce itself as a very small and adorable, non-threatening mammal that is NOT being hunted by something larger.

I can’t help but think, as I lay here listening to the Rwandan night now fifteen minutes before setting off on a chimpanzee trek about how I’ve always dreamed of coming to this continent. This nation has a rhythm to it. Despite the many horrors it has faced, it has a vitality and a feeling of timelessness, the smiles of the people and the cadence of the music are as electric as the the shrill nocturnal melodies of the mountain. And while a whole new  verdant world of hikes and primates, culture and cuisine waits at the end of this magically restless night, if I could lay here and listen to the buzz of the rain forest a little longer, I wouldn’t mind at all. Being awake, at least for one night Africa, is a beautiful thing.


“What was in those pancakes?” or “When a wall isn’t just a wall…”: The Little Swiss Cafe in Carmel, CA

I had anticipated that the secret ingredient to my pancakes at The Little Swiss House in downtown Carmel, California would be something exotic. Perhaps the vanilla extract came from a rare Tahitian orchid harvested only by Aries between the hours of 2am and 4am on clouded nights when the moon is waning.

Carmel, with its elf-like cottages and ancient cypress trees, is an enchanted beach town that conjures up images of elves and magical fairies. Perhaps the secret to these dreamy flapjacks arrived by way of hobbit from Middle Earth. There had to be something esoteric that made these airy, almost crepe-like cakes so special.

“The reason the pancakes are so good here is that we add extra water to the batter and keep the skillet really hot,” my waitress tells me.

I take another bite and consider what she has just revealed. Heat and a couple of lousy hydrogen molecules chained up to a molecule of oxygen are all that separate these ethereal cakes from the likes of bisquick? Clearly the secret to the pancakes at this quaint local breakfast joint isn’t one to be shared.

The Little Swiss Cafe, a family run restaurant since 1972, is a lunch and breakfast spot located on the corner of 6th Avenue and Dolores just off of Ocean Avenue and specializes not only in pancakes and the usual breakfast fare but also cheese blitzes, Swiss Sausage and liver and onions. No matter what you get here, it is good.

Just off of the Carmel’s main drag, The Little Swiss feels very much as though you have stepped into a tiny eatery somewhere in the Swiss Alps.  It is divided into two rooms. In the front room are a couple of small tables looking out onto the street. The back room is a small, square room with several tight, upright booths.

The walls of this snug room are painted with murals of the Swiss countryside, each wall reflecting a season. At a glance, the landscape seems benign, if not slightly cliché and in disrepair. Duct tape carelessly hangs in the sky above one of the landscapes and on another, a nail, once intended to hang a painting, protrudes from the wall. At least that is how it appears… In truth, there is much more going on.

But if one were to try to remove the duct tape, they would be quick to discover that the duct tape, stringy on the edges and muted silver, is actually painted on the wall. So is the nail. Caught off guard by this peculiar artistic ruse, my eye begins to wander across the European countryside and as it does, what was once a fairly straightforward mural becomes a joyful exercise in observation.

Duct tape… Or is it?

The wintery mural at a glance, features a frozen lake surrounded by some humble cabins and inns. One of the Inns, however has a tiny Motel 6 light on it. On one of the logs coming out of the water rests a parrot. A matador with a red cape antagonizes a bull in a field of cattle. Gollum hangs out in a tree. A seal’s head pops out of a crack in the lake. A penguin reads a sign on the water’s edge that says “No Diving.”

The wall representing spring features a river running through a field of beautiful flowers. In the river, a shirtless man, with his hat on backwards, flyfishes for trout. Puss and Boots sword fight over a log. Shriek and his girlfriend Fiona soak in the stream and the couple from the classic Grant Wood painting American Gothic hang out in one of the rows of flowers while a tennis net stretches across another row of flowers and on either side of the net, two people engaged in a match. In the distance, barely visible is the Eiffel Tower and just a hop, skip and a jump from there, the leaning tower of Pisa.

What all can you see here?

There are more than fifty images playfully hidden in the landscapes painted in 2005 by artist Andre Baylon. By reputation, a serious artist, Baylon, born and raised in The Netherlands, currently shows his more serious work down the road at Jones and Terwillinger Galleries. At The Little Swiss House, however, he let his imagination run wild, much to the delight of both locals who call this eatery their own as well as tourists from all over the world.

Under the watchful eye of the old couple from American Gothic, I finish my pancakes. As I leave, I notice on the mural a strange man in the bushes smoking a cigarette. Above him, a flock of birds heading straight to where I once thought was a nail protruding from the wall. One of the birds is upside down….

Like the pancakes, it is too good.

Full and inspired, I head into the day. I glance into the bushes outside, now half expecting to see a gargoyle stoically eyeing me. Above I notice the clouds. One seems to be shaped like a car. In another, perhaps I see the face of a lion.  A car whizzes by and for a second, I think it might the driver might just be Mickey Mouse. As I take a breath of the Carmel salty sea air, there seems to be more to the world than there was an hour ago and I can’t help but wonder… What was in those pancakes?

Look closer….