Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sand and the City

Listen. Do you hear a xylophone?

(ROLL OPENING CREDITS.) So get this. I'm strutting down Orange Avenue in haute couture when suddenly I get drenched by the passing 904 bus as it barrels through an enormous puddle. Crap. My pink tulle skirt is ruined.

Now that I'm blogging, I'm feeling a little like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. After all, we're both writers. We're both named Carrie and we spell it the same way. We're both excitable, smile a lot and have frizzy hair (my profile photo is delightfully deceiving.) We both live in remarkable zip codes and have ultra cool friends. Shout out, ladies!


No. No. I'm not that cool.

I promise there will be a point, but first allow me to rip on myself. Here are a few differences between Carrie Bradshaw and Carrie Keyes, arranged in ascending order from tolerable to pathetic:

1. Carrie Bradshaw takes taxis. I take the water taxi.

2. Carrie Bradshaw wears Jimmy Choo stilettos. I wear Reef flip flops.
3. Carrie Bradshaw gets paid to write. I...don't. (Insert plea for literary agent here. Me write-a da fiction.)
4. Carrie Bradshaw is single and wears skimpy tops. I'm married with kids and I sport a muffin top. (Don't worry. No photo here.)

Before I do further damage to myself, I should give you my point...

Paradise is a state of mind. Carrie Bradshaw found paradise in the fast-paced urban sanctuary called New York City, where noise and concrete gave her hope and initiative. She embraced her city, squeezed it tight behind a velvet rope at a hot night club.

I have found paradise in an island setting where no one wears a wristwatch, let alone makeup. A place where water, sand and sun give me solace and keep me sated. I'll also embrace my city, but I'm gonna hug it out at the yacht club, not the night club. I prefer three-strand nylon dock lines over velvet ropes.
Carrie Bradshaw may want to "wake up in a city that doesn't sleep," but I want to wake up in a city that is yet asleep (also known as Nado Time).

The curious Carrie Bradshaw routinely poses a question in each column she writes, so I'll do the same...

If paradise is a state of mind, then I wonder...where's your paradise?

(ROLL CLOSING CREDITS: Awesomely ameteur iPhone photos: Carrie Keyes. DISCLAIMER: No muffin tops were harmed during the drafting of this post.)

*For Candace Bushnell's books (and to view the Sex and the City 2 movie trailer)
*For information on Michael Patrick King
*For Sex and the City HBO episodes and the first movie on DVD, rent from our public library at or purchase at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The "Refined" and the "Wild": A Tale of Two Flower Shows

Thank you for "penciling" me in last week. I'm grateful for the tremendous web traffic and comments!

And now for our mental vacay...

Are you "refined" or "wild?" C'mon. Let's find out.

It seems like the "best of times" here in paradise (deference to the great Charles Dickens). Last weekend, Coronado hosted its annual flower show in Spreckels Park under clean, white tents. Residents adorned their yards with snapdragons and roses and hung corresponding ribbons in their windows, rewards for their meticulous labor. A perfectly manicured show. Here is a photo of a winning village home. 
Refined, don't you think? Martha Stewart would be proud. So would Carolyn Burnham, the zealous character played by Annette Bening (a fine San Diegan) in American Beauty. I feel like good ole' Carolyn on occasion, snipping away and freaking out over silly things. Except my roses are far inferior to hers. I only got a red ribbon.

You've seen "refined." Now let's go "wild."

My family attended a spontaneous "wild" flower show at the Tijuana Estuary in nearby Imperial Beach last weekend. Take a look at the vivid color bursting along our international border.

My boys didn't give two you-know-whats about the wildflowers; they were looking in the brush for All Things Vicious as boys often do. We had a "wild" time, though, stopping to inspect the birds (of course), caterpillars, ladybugs, beetles and lizards. A real life Cabinet of Natural Curiosities.

 Martha and Carolyn Burnham wouldn't be able to resist the urge to prune these bad boys, rampant and carefree and tousled. The Thelma & Louise of flowers. Very Sunset Magazine, huh?

Go see the "wild" flower show. Ride a horse from a neighboring stable if you're feeling as adventurous as Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It. (Wow. I need a moment. Is it hot in here? Okay. I'm fine. Really. Now what were we talking about?) Or, if you are "wildly refined" like me, park at the Visitor Center and walk the kid-friendly McCoy Trail where a wooden bridge shadows the shallow river beneath.
Thanks for "penciling in" time for both flower shows: a "refined" show where effort blooms annually and a "wild" show where the river meets the sea.

Are you "wild" or "refined?" Drop me a comment and reveal your nature.

(Awesomely ameteur iPhone camera images by Carrie Keyes)

Note: The Tijuana Estuary is a protective rest stop for approximately 370 species of migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. A 2,500 acre refuge, it is the endpoint of the 1,735 square mile Tijuana River watershed. For more information, including the Junior Ranger program, visit

The estuary is not without its share of challenges. It is faced with unprecedented reductions in governmental funding, environmental and political issues. While I've included links on these topics, my goal was to highlight the flowers. After all, the flowers have certainly highlighted our fields.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Party" with the Peacocks?

Welcome to paradise. I’m glad you’re here. I’m a writer smack in the middle of it, nestled in a seaside cottage on Coronado Island (well, peninsula) across the bay from metropolitan San Diego. With each post, I’ll take you on a journey to experience what I believe makes this coastal setting idyllic and spirited. I hope my occasional messages send a rippling wave in your direction.

My inaugural journey will be “light” as a feather.

Welcome to paradise at the World Famous San Diego Zoo, where the peacocks (well, peafowl if you want to get technical) weave out of thickets of hibiscus and exotic ferns onto public walkways, casually navigating the bustle of people folding paper maps and crunching on popcorn. I snapped this photo as one of the regal birds meandered past my ankles, tame as a cat. (Try not to cringe. I have the photographic talent of a toddler.)

The feather train decorated my world for a fleeting moment. Bold, organic and textured. A downy work of art. I liked the way the peacock mingled amongst the crowd and transformed it, stunning us with its impactful essence. And I wonder how we can all learn to be peacocks among passersby. Iridescent and dimensional. Bold, yet docile. I bet they never worry if their feather trains make their butts look big.

According to National Geographic, a group of peacocks is called a “party.” It seems a fitting label for creatures that gather in the folds of paradise, pecking the earth in rhythm to the tranquil bells in Balboa Park and embellishing their setting with wispy fans and feathered “eyes.”

But hold it, people. According to the zoo, a group of peacocks is called an “ostentation” or a “pride.” In the breeding season, their sordid little group is sometimes called a “harem.” What? Who knew my first post would be so provocative? Either way--party or pride or harem--this sort of rocks. After all, a group of us humans is merely a “crowd,” unless you are a fan of the cinematic megahit The Hangover in which case a group of males has been relabeled a “wolfpack.” Speaking of wolves, (sort of) if you want to freak out your dog click here and look for “Listen to a peacock” to hear the peacock’s call. My dog jumped right out of his cozy blankie. I also might use this call the next time I need to summon my kids off the cozy cottage roof. May-awe! May-awe!

I could have chosen a beach vista, a city skyline or an iconic hotel for my first post about finding time to write in paradise. But (excuse the avian pun) I was sort of chicken. Sometimes a simple feather assists in flight (yes, they can fly). So please excuse me while I take off. Come along if you like. It’ll be like taking a vacay with a quirky, yet happy friend with a really bad camera. I know! Enticing!

I hope you’ll find time to “pencil in” paradise with me again. Now I need to get my big feather train in gear and start working on the next post. I’m aiming to publish on Fridays so I catch you in a good mood.

Oh, and drop me a “postcard” (comment) if you wish. Or subscribe! After all, I prefer to travel with a “party.”

(Photo: Carrie Keyes)

Friday, April 16, 2010


Welcome. I'll be using the pencil soon. I'm on island time, you know. (Photo by Carrie Keyes)