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There's Just No Place Like 'The Place'

People In VIEW

March 08, 1985|JOHN DREYFUSS | John Dreyfuss

Move over, Kareem. Your 16 seasons in the National Basketball Assn. are just a dribble beside Howard Elzer's 35 seasons in his league.

Elzer was a two-year basketball letterman at Beverly Hills High, where he played "mostly on the bench."

After high school he went to UCLA, where he didn't make the team, and to a Los Angeles City Recreation and Parks Department league, where he did. He spent four years at UCLA and more than a third of a century in the basketball league. He doesn't know when he'll quit. "Once I hit 40 I stopped asking myself that question," said the 52-year-old Beverly Hills businessman.

Elzer captains a team called The Place, on which the average athlete is between 35 and 40 years old. The average would be higher, "but we've got a couple of kids," Elzer said.

The old guys and the kids were city champs in 1980 and 1982, and "we've won 20 or 22 league titles. Since '59 we've won better than 70% of our games," said Elzer, a 5-foot-11-inch guard. "When we play a team for the first time, you can almost see 'em looking and figuring they've got a win. By the end of the game, they're kind of shaking their heads. We're a good ball club 'cause we play team ball."

Elzer doesn't practice much anymore. He used to have a hoop attached to his garage. "But we took down the garage when we remodeled 12 years ago," he said.

What keeps Elzer going? "Strictly the fun of it. I love the game, it's really that simple."

High Adventure

When Sally Vogel was 9 she dug a "fort" in a creek bank a quarter of a mile from her Santa Barbara home. "It went about three feet back," Vogel said. "I covered it with galvanized tin and dirt. It had a little niche for a candle. When my parents would leave me with a baby sitter I'd sometimes sneak over there and read, or just sit and watch the creek and the animals by moonlight. It was an adventure."

Today the junior high school teacher is drawn to adventure just as much as 40 years ago when she read Nancy Drew and watched owls and opossums from her creekside fort. But instead of keeping them secret as she did as a child, she's decided to share the adventures.

Three years ago she trekked to the ruins of Machu Picchu, the ancient Inca city built on a ridge top so high it is often surrounded by clouds. The trek was fascinating and fun, but too tame for Vogel, who decided the next year to enter the seldom-visited Manu National Park in the Amazon Basin of southeastern Peru.

"I went down there with the idea of going into Manu," the Claremont resident said. "But there is no public transportation going in. It's almost impossible for an individual to get in alone unless he or she is very rich." Vogel finally talked her way into the party of a British banker and his family. She went along as a naturalist guide.

After that trip, Vogel got to dreaming about the kinds of South American travel she enjoys. "I wanted an adventurous kind of trip," she said. "Two Christmases ago, I was sitting around home thinking about how I could take such a trip and I thought, 'Well, if it's good enough for me it ought to be good enough for other people like me, and let's give it a try.' "

That was the birth of "Peruvian Adventures," the schoolteacher's one-woman tour company and her answer to a lust for adventure. Last summer she led two 24-day tours trekking to Machu Picchu and traveling by dugout canoe through the Manu rain forest. This year she's adding a trip to the Galapagos Islands and a white-water rafting expedition through the Tambopata Wildlife Preserve in Peru.

"It's a new life for me," she said. "I love teaching, and I like living in Claremont, but you don't see the jungle, visit ruins, do white-water rafting, study archeology on the spot, talk with natives, trek or identify South American wildlife and flora in the classroom or in Claremont. I was ready for another challenge. I found it."

Grunion Grabbing

Imagine a romantic night at the beach. Gossamer clouds pass across the moon, changing the intensity of its reflection off waves breaking rhythmically a few yards from where you sit, cuddled with your sweetie.

Then, just at that most intimate moment, you hear the pounding of feet, maybe hundreds of feet, charging along the beach in your direction.

Pity the grunion, for that is their plight.

If you don't pity them, a pair of those pounding feet can be yours. All you have to do is take Cabrillo Marine Museum's Grunion Grabbing Course.

Saturday at 8 p.m, and at the same time on March 24, April 9 and 22, May 7 and 21, June 4 and 20 and July 3 and 19, staff members at the San Pedro museum will give free grunion catching lessons. Except in April and May, when the law protects grunions from being interrupted as they lay and fertilize eggs, the lessons will include a chance to try grabbing some of the skinny, slippery creatures that grow to be about eight inches long.

Susanne Lawrenz-Miller, co-director of the Cabrillo Marine Museum, knows the best time to pounce on a grunion.

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