Skip’s the Man

Skip Frye is an icon in the surf world and a world-class boardmaker (“I Finally Got Skip Frye to Make Me a Surfboard,” Cover Story, October 14). He keeps his own schedule and chooses his projects. He is gracious to his friends; however, when I asked him to make boards for first my grandson and later my granddaughter, he obliged without reservation. I am so pleased to say that I know a man like Skip, who values friendship (even childhood friendships like my husband’s and his) and makes himself and his talent available to those friends. He is a remarkable craftsman and, more importantly, an amazing friend. Time is irrelevant when it comes to Skip’s work. I’d wait forever for his combination of talent and mindfulness. It shows in his work, his relationships, and the very spirit of the man in the water or the workshop.

Name Withheld by Request
via email

Bravo For The Birds

Cool essay on our feathered friends in Lakeside (“Wild Birds of Lakeside,” Feature Story, October 14), and worthy of a prize! Kudos to the author(ess), even if she did use a field guide. The essay was educational, yet naturally refreshing to read.

Most San Diegans can readily identify a snowy egret or a red-tailed hawk, but many of the smaller species go unrecognized, although they do humankind a great favor by reducing the insect population.

Reading this essay brought back vivid memories of sitting on the beautiful second-story deck of my brother’s house in Taos, Missouri, field guide in one hand and cup of coffee or cold beer in the other, marveling at the number of wild birds visible along the Central Flyway. My brother kept three large seed feeders and three hummingbird feeders stocked, and the number of avian visitors to his yard was astronomical. Wild birds of all shapes, sizes, and colors, let alone amusing habits, would drop in to hit the feeders.

I’ve always been a hummingbird man, but the colorful cardinals and comical blue jays were my welcome companions at coffee time or beer-thirty. Every so often, a new arrival sporting a “trick paint job” (vibrant plumage) would lead me to consult the guide in an effort to identify the newcomer.

The backyard sloped downward toward a woodline 100 feet away, and it was there in that woodline that I first glimpsed the majestic pileated woodpecker, cousin to the fabled ivory-billed woodpecker, the presumed-to-be-extinct-but-quite-possibly-still-living Holy Grail of all birdwatchers. When the pileated woodpecker hammers away at a tree in the forest, it sounds like a machine gun firing in the distance — an awesome bird, much larger than woodpeckers found in this area. Just hearing a pileated woodpecker was enough to remind me of my infantry days, and I was fortunate to spy two in the woodline during my stay.

Of course, hummingbirds have always been my favorite birds, and there was no shortage of them along the Central Flyway. I keep a broad HummZinger feeder here in our yard in Coronado, and it brings in the birds, but nowhere near as many as I saw in Taos, Missouri. Mornings, when I stepped out on the deck to have a cup of coffee, each hummingbird feeder was literally surrounded by eight or ten birds, all gracefully swirling around in an aerial ballet — an aerial ballet in triplicate, since there were three feeders evenly spaced amid the seed feeders. An unreal sight, those hummingbirds, mere feet away at eye level, since all the feeders were suspended from a long tree limb that ran above and roughly parallel to the handrail of the deck. Many times my spirits were lifted by stepping out to greet my little feathered friends in that beautiful environment, not counting the extensive woods below.

My brother had an oak, a cedar, and a hickory in his yard, so every songbird had a refuge nearby in case a predator (i.e., raptor) appeared on the scene. I once looked out the sliding glass doors leading to the deck and saw various songbirds cowering inside the wooden handrail, gripping its posts and looking skyward. Stepping out, I saw a small but fierce pigeon hawk (falcon) perched above in the hickory tree, eyeing the cowering birds below with a baleful glare. I like raptors, but I didn’t feel like watching winged death swoop down on that glorious morning, so I hollered and tossed a pebble or two in his general direction until he flew away. Then I looked him up in the field guide, which was always near at hand. A smaller raptor, but nevertheless an efficient killing machine. The cowering songbirds breathed a collective sigh of relief as their unwelcome visitor moved on, and I returned to whatever I was doing before I was distracted by the commotion.

Yes, one can learn much by observing wild birds, and ever since my visit to Taos, I’ve been keenly interested in this pastime. I have a thin folding laminated field guide (Local Birds, Inc.) depicting wild birds of San Diego County — songbirds, raptors, seabirds, the entire lot. The guide weighs about two ounces and is easy to carry by hand or in a backpack, and I often take it with me while hiking or camping. Every now and then, when I see a wild bird that I don’t recognize, I’ll break out the guide and search for my latest feathered friend and visitor.

My thanks again to your contest winner for a very enjoyable essay. At the end, I found myself wishing the piece were longer, which is not always the case with some of your featured writers.

P.N. Gwynne
via email

Perfect Pie

Nice butter roundup (“Best Buys,” October 14). How ’bout you send Eve and Patrick (and me) on a mission to find the best cherry pie in town?

Bill Conway
via email

Birthday Bash

I read with interest your “T.G.I.F.” about Halloween, written by John Brizzolara (October 14), and I wanted to commend him for his research on the subject. In his article, he mentioned that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not observe Halloween celebrations, and his research confirms their scriptural reasons for so doing. He mentioned also that they do not celebrate birthdays; he might enjoy reading the following information.

The Encyclopedia Americana (1991 edition) states, “The ancient world of Egypt, Greece, Rome, and Persia celebrated the birthdays of gods, kings, and nobles.” Authors Ralph and Adelin Linton reveal the underlying reason for this. In their book The Lore of Birthdays, they write: “Mesopotamia and Egypt, the cradles of civilization, were also the first lands in which men remembered and honoured their birthdays. The keeping of birthday records was important in ancient times principally because a birth date was essential for the casting of a horoscope.” This direct connection with astrology is a cause of great concern to any who avoid astrology because of what the Bible says about it (Isaiah 47:13-15).

Not surprisingly then, we read in the World Book Encyclopedia (volume 3, page 416): “The early Christians did not celebrate His [Christ’s] birth because they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.” With the foregoing in mind, Jehovah’s Witnesses choose not to share in birthday festivities.

P.E. McMurrain
Greenfield, Ohio

No Harm, No Foul

Re “You Want Silver or Lead?” (Cover Story, September 23). This was an exceptional article. I read it weeks ago, and yet it still moves me when I think about it. I felt for the first time I understood the real cost of recreational drugs. It’s not about people in the U.S. spending some time in jail; it’s really about the people losing their lives and being forced to do things against their will. I believe those people who say, “I am not hurting anybody by doing drugs” need to read this article.

Natalie Mann
via email

So Very Sorry, Ralph

What’s with “Young Men Cause Aggravation” (“City Lights,” October 7)? Got to be the worst title ever. Yeah, I know — YMCA. But it’s just a piece of flippant silliness. Why would a writer ask us to hear about some people’s woes and then make a joke about it in the title?

Ralph Werner
via email

The story’s author did not write the title. — Editor

Help For The Helper

I was gratified to see your story on Thomas Weller, “Breakdown Buster” (“Stringers,” October 7; online title: “San Diego’s Highwayman,” October 2), which revealed his problem with cataracts. Thomas has told me that he has received no tangible assistance as a result, unfortunately; however, I have organized a funding drive among my friends, and I have been working with the San Diego Lasik Institute (which also does cataract surgery) to explore getting him examined and treated.

Now, compounding his problems, the engine on his recovery rig (which he calls Ghostbusters) apparently has failed and needs replacement. I plan to contact San Diego Ford dealers and Ford Motor Company to solicit interest in providing Thomas a replacement engine.

Thomas is too proud to ask others for help, but I feel perfectly at ease doing that for him, considering all that he has done for so many others; his only reward has been the love, respect, and admiration of those whom he has helped and others who know about him. He is a friend of mine. My hobby is the same as his, but he has taken it to a much higher level. I met him in July 2009, after Googling him and calling to arrange a visit when I was traveling from Texas to see my son in Monterey, California.

Walt Brinker
North Carolina

Personal And Short(ish)

Jim Crooks has presented me with a considerable challenge in his letter of October 14. Answering all of his objections point by point accurately and thoroughly would require a detailed exegesis and contextual exposition of each passage he cited. Space does not permit me to do that, so I will just keep it personal.

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have eternal life solely because I have put my trust in Jesus. I have not done anything to deserve, earn, or merit eternal life. My personal possession of eternal life is entirely the free gift of God. I believe this is true because the New Testament bears witness that it is true, and I believe the testimony of the New Testament. I also believe that the eternal life I possess is irrevocable, and this belief is also based on the testimony of the New Testament. As I study the New Testament daily in the Greek, my convictions concerning the terms and irrevocability of eternal salvation are strengthened all the more.

I have studied all the passages that Jim Crooks claims are contrary to my beliefs. I have studied all of them in the Greek New Testament at various times over the past couple of years. As far as I am able to discern, not one of those passages teaches that a believer can lose possession of eternal life. Neither does any passage teach that one must do more than believe in Jesus Christ in order to receive eternal life.

The New Testament is filled with commandments. I know this because the present imperative second person plural practically jumps off the page. In the vast majority of instances, these commandments are directed exclusively toward Christians. If you think there’s only ten commandments, you’d be shocked to learn that from Romans to Revelation 3 there are hundreds of commandments.

Much confusion has resulted because people mistake what God requires from Christians for the way of eternal life and vice versa. An unbeliever cannot be saved by obeying commandments directed toward Christians, nor can a Christian be obedient to God simply by believing in Christ. As a Christian, when I obey God’s New Testament commandments, I benefit from it. When I am disobedient to God’s New Testament commandments, it’s all bad. However, I am never motivated to obey God out of a fear of losing my salvation or in order to get saved again. God knows what’s best for me better than me or anyone else, so it only makes sense to obey Him for my benefit, for His purpose, and for the glory of Jesus Christ.

If you have never believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, here’s your opportunity. Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, the only one of His kind. As God, He holds the universe together. As a human being, He came into the world to provide eternal salvation. He did this by bearing everybody’s sins while He was hanging on the cross, receiving the penalty for everyone’s sins. As a human being, He died and was buried. After three days He rose from the dead. He is alive eternally and provides eternal life to everyone who believes in Him. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

John Pertle

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