Found a copy of the China Post lying around somewhere. It had one of those features that newspapers run once a week, a "News Quiz" designed to test how closely you have read the news.
One question was:
- Why should we eat oysters for Christmas, according to the article?
- Oysters are vermin of the sea.
- Why not stuff our stockings with high-tech gadgets?
- Such behaviour is religiously unrighteous.
On the highway somewhere south of Santa Cruz, California, signs warn drivers: "Speed enforced by aircraft". Soon after I see one of those, I also see a small plane taking off from a local airport, climbing sharply. Is it on speed-enforcement duty?
But then there's the sign saying "Seat Belt Law Enforced." Is the plane on seat belt-enforcement duty? If I unbuckle my belt, am I likely to see it suddenly flying alongside my speeding Kia, pilot gesturing sternly at me?
Seventeen Mile Drive, north of Carmel, is a spectacular ride along the coast, and past some obviously very pricey real estate. Just for fun, I note down the realtor's number at one of the for-sale houses. I really want to call him, ask the price, and say: "Cool. I'll take it. Would you prefer cash or a credit card?"
One of these days.
Then again, it may be one of those things: if you want to know the price, it ain't for you.
I did this Drive twice in the '80s, with friends. I remember that each time we stopped at a vista point, we were the only Indians. This time, there are at least three or four other cars with Indians at each stop. One has a young couple. At one scenic spot, she grabs the camera and he poses for a picture. Not, as I might have imagined, with his back to the sea, or the scenery. He stands next to the large cans that say "Litter".
Say cheese, somebody.
A morning walk in cold but lovely Ojai ends with a descent through thick bushes. We've been warned about poison oak in these parts, so I hold my hands -- apart from my face, my only patches of bare skin -- high as I push through the vegetation. Right at the bottom of the slope, stuck in the bushes, there lies ... of all things, a large headless dog made out of yellow foam. His head is on the ground a few feet away. (That's why he's headless).
When we realize what the flat, partly tarred space in front is, that's when we understand. It's a trap-shooting range. Belongs to a local school. The dog was a target, I suppose until it lost its head.
On the bulletin board are some fading photographs of proud teenagers holding rifles, or aiming them at targets. One sheet of paper lists scores: Sondra Oxley got 10, Hector Villanueva 19, Sarah Boneysteele 3, Sarina Patel 4, Emmo Gates 21. In trap shooting, is a higher score better, or a lower one?
I don't know, but I'm delighted to read the adjacent sheet, titled "Personal Ear Plugs". "Sign up for personally fitted earplugs," it says. "Ms Linda Louder, of Ear Plugs USA, will visit ... and provide this valuable service."
I'm delighted because it's good the notice is up there on the board. If it had been read out to the students, they may not have heard.
The space behind the platform where the targets are placed is also overrun with bushes. And unidentifiable litter on the ground. Then I look at it more closely. It's the debris from shooting: bits of clay, bits of plastic, and several large cylindrical cartridge cases.
Days later, I find another discarded cartridge case on the ground, this one a small copper-coloured thing. It's lying on the ground outside a gas station where I stop to fill up. I don't want to know what it's doing there.