Monday, August 23, 2010

The FVC - Family Vacation Center

Back to work after a week’s vacation in Santa Barbara. I’m in an uncharacteristically-quiet mood; not sad, not happy, just. . .mellow, relaxed. Co-workers ask me about my vacation and I tell them it was fantastic, but without my usual enthusiasm. They see me as a tanned, perhaps a little thinner version of the Tom that left ten days ago. I’ll probably return in spirit tomorrow – need to recapture something that’s floating right in front of me, but is yet undefined. I’ll let you know what it is when I find it. 

I lost another five pounds this past eight days, but am feeling healthy – not weak. I’m proud of myself for that, and am encouraged to break past the point in time where most of my attempts at weight loss have failed – the dreaded three week mark. So far, so good – and I’m not going hungry. Sure, it was a challenge to bypass the pizza and desserts last week, but I think the movie popcorn was the hardest. I had ten kernels of popcorn. While it may be true for some snack foods that twice the amount does not equal twice the satisfaction – take, for instance, eating a Snickers bar. Very satisfying – right? Eating two doesn’t double the ecstasy. Well, at least it doesn’t to me. This theory falls apart dismally when applied to popcorn. One kernel is simply not enough. One handful? Not even close. I’m usually not satisfied until I can see the bottom of the container, and even then I’m chomping on the un-popped orphans hoping they’ll give up one last explosive burst of flavor during frenzied mastication. Ten kernels are a tease, a taunt – pure torture. I should have avoided the bag entirely.  So, the lesson here – stay away from popcorn – at least the fat-saturated movie variety, and the kind they sell at Target – same formula, I believe, but one-quarter the price. 

Reflecting on my mood one more time, it occurs to me that I watched a Lawrence Kasdan film last night, Grand Canyon. It’s on my short list of favorite movies, and always makes me a bit self-reflective. The writing in this movie is so delicately crafted that the movie, to me, comes alive and speaks to me on many levels. It’s not a barrel of laughs, and I can certainly see why some people simply don’t “get” the film. It fits me though, like an old, comfortable shirt. Wait – that’s such a mixed metaphor I don’t know where to begin. Perhaps I’ll just stop now instead.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Learning to ride

For months now, my dear daughter has been asking if I could teach her to ride a bike. Last week I finally relented, and told her that Sunday would be the day. Fate lent a gentle push, as Saturday evening we were offered a "like new" girls bicycle from some good friends. This really cemented the deal, as it meant I wouldn't have to don mining gear and crawl deep into our attic to find Nick's old BMX bike. Plus, this girls bike has pretty blue flowers on it! Charming.

I remember teaching Nick, and the long hours of spine-wrenching torture of leaning over and holding him while running. Try leaning at a 35 degree angle and running at full-gait. Yeah, see? Juliana, for whatever reason, was much easier. A couple of passes up and down our block while I held the handelbars and seat, then it was just a matter of supporting her under her arms as she learned the intricacies of steering. By the second day, I could feel her balance was improving to the point where I felt I could let go - with her permission, of course. We tried it, and sure as snuff, she rode for a second or two. A few more minutes of practice and she was riding for ten seconds at a stretch. Then, the inevitable happened. As my heart struggled to pump blood to my legs and my leaden lungs strained to expand, I dropped behind her at one point. Without me to spot her, she panicked, turned sharply to the right, and rode onto a lawn where she promptly laid the bike down with her under it. She was upset - rightfully so. The first crash on your bike is always the worst, regardless of the degree of injury. But beyond that, my repeated promises of "Daddy won't let you crash, so don't worry," came rushing back. Damn heart and lungs! What did I ever do to to you?!?  Oh yeah. . .nothing!

We went out again last night and I ran more than I have since high school. She rode for the longest stretch yet - over 20 seconds. This time I forced myself to keep pace, and this time it was me that collapsed on the lawn, after gliding her slowly to a stop. I recovered without any tears, and she decided to walk with me back to the house. I think she understood, probably better than I, when we'd both had enough for one evening.

(Per)Posterous - The strangeness just keeps coming.

HiFi Collector - Your one-stop gear geek stop

Facebook - They say this thing will really take off some day! 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


August 10th, and it's still cool. As we wait for summer's long, hot exhale, I can't help but worry that it will come with a vengence just as school begins in three weeks. Inevitably, the first week of school is tortuously-hot. I remember sitting in new, unfamiliar classrooms in early September, feeling a mix of meloncholy, remorse, and the kind of profound loss you only get when something dear, like your freedom, has been snatched from you. All this, of course, puntuated by a brutal heat wave that mocks your feeble resolve, and bludgeonds hope. But then, sudden promise. A new girl sitting to my left. Pony tails, green eyes. She too looks hot and miserable. The teacher drones on and I glance at the girl and she glances back, smiles. I hang onto that moment, nurture it, and make it last for days.

Had an encounter with a skunk this morning. I see them occasionally around the neighborhood, but have never gotten this close. I was on my pre-dawn fog walk, and fiddling with my iPod when I heard the sound of claws scratching pavement in front of me. There, not more than six feet away, was the most beautiful skunk I've ever seen. Tail raised high, claws quivering on asphault, alabaster white on licorice black fur -  magnificent! I spurted out six explatives in one breath and darted to the right toward the sidewalk. The skunk stayed put, watched me leave then holstered his tail and snuck under a pickup. I couldn't help but wonder - with a wide, empty road for us to share, why did he feel compelled to confront me? He's got to have better night vision than I, and there's no way he could have mistaken me for a parsnip, cockroach, or other delicacy. Then again. . . naw. Anyway, perfect specimen - I applaud his hygeine routine, whatever that may be.

Teaching my daughter to ride a bike. More on this tomorrow - much more.


Posterous - Went through a "depression era" photography phase last week, and I can't promise I'm over it, so be warned.

FaceBook - Daily trivia and now caption contests! It's as much fun as going to a bar for trivia night, except I only ask one question per day, don't serve drinks, and we don't give out any prizes. But hey, - NO COVER!

Breathe In Breathe Out - Ema's Cancer Recovery Journal - New entry! Be the first on your block to read it! Great news on the recovery action.

Monday, August 2, 2010

My kind of tea party

Splendiferous Sunday. Visited my mom in the morning and showed her the cruise pics on my iPhone. She enjoyed seeing the ship, and the family, then she started drifting off a little after I'd flicked through about 60 of them. I'd forgotten just how many photos I took with the iPhone, and realized that she's doing exactly what I'd WANT to do if I were in her shoes. Sixty pics is enough to make anyone's eyes glaze over. Those of you old enough to remember sitting in a living room watching slide shows can appreciate the true meaning of patience. Back during the age of naugahide and hi-low carpets, slide shows were often used as gentle cues to friends and relatives that you felt were visiting your home too often. From a kid's point of view, the shows were utter torture. The thick layer of smoke forced you to snatch a couch cushion and stay close to the floor. Uncle Carl spent half an hour fiddling with the Kodak Carousel, reloading the slides so at least one-third of them were right-side-up, then we'd wait as he took a break to refill his scotch and grab another deviled egg. Finally, when the rest of the adults in the room were sufficiently snockered, the show began. Prior to digital cameras, photography was an investment. You had to purchase a roll of film, and then pay for developing.  I can't think of any other phrase in the consumer world that so well defines the idiom "they get ya comin' and goin.'" These revolving expenses lead to keeping many photos that today would be deleted without hesitation. This also meant that slide shows sometimes lasted until dawn, including the drink breaks and the progressively-slurred narration. So mom - no problem if your gaze shifts from my iPhone to the Food Network in the background - I've been there too.

Sunday afternoon brought a blissful nap, then Juliana approached me, "“Dad I'm bored; I want to do something with you."” Touching, but I read the sub-text. “"Hmmmm… so you're looking for me to find something for us to do together so you're no longer bored?"” Pause. "“Yeah, I guess,”" she said. “"Want to clean your room? That's not boring,"” I said. "“C'mon dad."” We ended up having tea together on the front patio. I spread out a sheet and emptied a can of Diet Coke into her plastic tea pot. She did the honors of pouring, and then brought out the plastic cupcakes and cookies for us to enjoy. “Ummmm. . .” I said. “ Cracker Jack might hit the spot too - don't you think?” She ran inside and grabbed two boxes from the pantry, scampered back.

I told her about how there used to be little toys inside the boxes, rings, assorted plastic figurines, cars, planes. She opened her prize and read me the jokes; we agreed they were pretty lame. I Poured the rest of the “tea and then mentioned that I had to get the RoundUp out and spray the weeds that were peaking up between the patio stones. Explained to her how RoundUp isn't poison, and how it kills weeds by starving them from the inside out. She made a face that told me she understood, but didn't approve. We sprayed the weeds together, she pointing them out to me, and I blasted them. Then we noticed in the far corner a seven foot tall weed that had somehow escaped our radar. This one was in the rose garden, and was some sort of mutant rose shoot - a “sucker” I believe they're called. We sprayed it and decided this would be the true test of RoundUp. If it could kill a weed bigger than me in seven days, it deserves everything it claims.  To that end, we agreed another tea and weed-check should be scheduled for next week as well. Stay tuned for next Sunday's weed update.

Links Galore!

Posterous - Trying to see if there's a limit to how many pages they'll give me for free. Tons of new pics there
(almost) daily.

HiFiCollector - Your one-stop-shop for all your vintage stereo gawking.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Moonlight Madness and a Sad Realization

Yesterday's trip to Salvation Army was deemed successful. Not only did we accomplish our main objective: getting Nick a pair of jeans and a shirt that he can use for his paintball adventure this coming Tuesday (this instead of using clothes he might otherwise wear to school in a month - paintball stains and all), but we hit SA during their once-a-month "Moonlight Madness" sale in which everything in the store was 50% off! Oh joy.

For a thrifter like myself, this meant that I could collect even MORE discarded trinkets with which to fill my house and garage. Alas, we ended up only buying a few items. Aside from the clothes, a DVD/CD player (can never have enough of these), a cool metal latching box for Sam to keep his Nintendo DS and games in, and something else - can't remember. Anyway, the total bill was just shy of $19, or less than lunch for two at Applebees.

The Sad Realization
I recently re-read a few stories on TOYM that I wrote a few years ago, and was not impressed with nar one of them. They're not all bad, just heavy-handed and in need of polishing. Shame, really, as at the time I wrote them, I could have sworn they were at least blog-worthy. Many of these stories were inspired through the creation of 52Stories, which gained modest popularity until the buddy who helped create it and I realized the maintenance of the site was more than either of us could handle at the time. He was starting school again, and  my wife was battling cancer which meant my attention had to be refocused on the home instead of personal pursuits. Yes, as far as the quality of the stories goes, it's a bummer to be disappointed by something you put effort into. But isn't this the case with so many things? Given a little time, our perspective shifts and that painting we created looks odd, the song we sang sounds off-key, the story we wrote seems awry. The eternal optimist in me is trying to tell me that, by recognizing the shortcomings in these stories, I'm actualizing my own growth as a writer. Judgement shifts over time with wisdom. Current wisdom says these stories need work, and that, I guess, is okay. Subsequent stories have been a little bit better, but now will require revisiting as well to see what surprises lie for me there. Feel like checking out the questionable ones? You be the judge - but don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, and a visit to my mom in Long Beach. She's been in a home for Alzheimer patients for about 14 months now and is doing well. It's funny - she's still a rebel, refuses to follow "the crowd." While all the other ladies in the house (six in total) enjoy sitting in the front room watching television or at least listening to it, my mom prefers the solitude and quietness of her room. She's happier and less anxious in there, which is great. Everyone deserves to be happy and calm as often as possible. That's why I get up an hour before dawn each morning - solitude runs in the family, I guess. Sunday evening is also Movie Night! My dad comes over every Sunday and we have dinner while watching a movie in our family room. Tonight's film, Hopscotch, starring Walter Matthau. Saw this in the theater with my parents when it came out, and don't remember anything about it, but my dad requested it - so be it. :)


Posterous is getting freaky! - The Best Thrift Store Finds #5 just posted.

Nostalgia Lounge - More coming... I promise.

FaceBook - Ever heard of this site?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Coffee and a Glee-ful Morning

I'm using a Thermos for my morning coffee now. It can hold seven cups, easily, and keeps my morning elixir piping hot, gulp after searing gulp. For the longest time, I was able to honestly claim that I wasn't a "coffee" kind of guy. Just in the past couple of years though, coffee has become a trusted friend. I still don't feel much of a caffeine rush from it. Perhaps thats because at the age of 22, on a dare (double-dog, to be exact) I ingested 11 No-Doze in one sitting. Forty-six hours later I was still chattering like a prairie dog and unable to hold onto a single thought for more than a nanosecond. The same friend who presented the dare suggested the antidote: malt liquor and lots of it. The roller coaster than ensued was what I now look back upon as "my 20s."

Today, a couple of cups of coffee simply seem comforting to me - a morning ritual that I've come to enjoy and expect. Back in the day, my dad would sit with his coffee, a cigarette, and the morning paper, which he had worked on the day before as a copy editor. These days for me, it's just coffee and the billions of pages of interweb screaming to be explored. Or, as is the case this morning, a long-overdue blog post.

I've had the song, "Say a Little Prayer" stuck in my head since I rediscovered the Wes Montgomery version a couple weeks ago. Instead of purging the song from my mind though, I listen to his version as often as I find time. This reinforces its rotation frequency in my mental juke box playlist, and I end up humming the tune while driving, in elevators, at my desk at work, showering. I heard it again last week on a "Glee" rerun and now I have to buy their version. Turns out that the powers that Glee have licensed their songs to a number of other singing groups, who have in-turn produced their own "tribute" albums and versions of Glee hits. This is fine, but it makes it difficult when searching for the original.

I wonder if Celine Gentry chose her name because of that other artist. . .what's her name? Anyway, originality aside, the sheer number of choices forced me to abandon the idea of purchasing the song. Tragic, I know, and a sure sign that I'm getting old. Kids have unlimited patience for this type of thing. My clock is spinning like the one that flies by in the opening of the Twilight Zone, and I find no time to "preview" each selection of anything any more.

Saturday, which holds a fun shopping spree to the LARGEST Salvation Army in Orange County with the three kids. Wife is having lunch with friends today, so I get to take over all parental responsibilities, which usually means turning up all the stereos, yelling at each other above the din, and all of us eating like I did when my parents were out of town for the weekend. "Cheeto sandwich? Sure! Knock yourself out. What's that? Oh, the song? Dionne Warwick's version of Say a Little Prayer. What? The Glee version? No - but if you want to look for it, be my guest!"

Daily Links

  • Of course, LOTS of stuff going on with Posterous these days. Disturbing and getting worse by the moment. Posting more today so subscribe and keep updated - all your friends are!
  • HiFiCollector is breaking all-time attendance records - not sure why, maybe the new layout - but if you want to see for yourself, I won't hold ya back.
  • Do I know you? Do I want to? Ping me at Facebook and we'll see if we can be "friends."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Unreal OC

Welcome to Orange County, California and . . .The Unreal OC Podcast

Click HERE for The Unreal OC Blog, subscription info, and links to current shows

Click HERE for archived storytelling podcasts from The Unreal OC

Breathe In Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal

My name is Ema and August of 2007 I was diagnosed with a high-grade, malignant, nondifferential sarcoma in my left leg. This blog tells of my journey and my family's journey as we battle this cancer.

The Nostalgia Lounge

The Nostalgia Lounge is a place for us to share some of the unique, interesting, or just plain odd things we've collected over the years

HiFi Collector was started in March of 2009 to be a meeting ground for audio enthusiasts. We concentrate on the stories behind the gear rather than technical details, and encourage others to share stories, photos, and video links with our growing community.

Carl and Bob in Cyberspace


52 Stories

52 Stories was a site my buddy, Andy and I created a few years ago. It's still up and there's plenty of fiction to read on there, including several stories by yours truly.

Visit Me On Facebook

Friday, January 15, 2010


Just ate an entire box of Pocky. Familiar with Pocky? Labeled as “Chocolate Cream Covered Biscuit Sticks,” Pocky should be branded as “Crack-Coated Opium-laced Fun Twigs,” as their addictive quality ranks just slightly lower than nicotine Bubble Yum. Go ahead, try to eat just 300 hundred Pocky - I dare ya. And in the unlikely event you do decide to stop, you best taper off slowly to avoid catastrophic withdrawals.

A quick ingredient check on the back reveals a few potential clues to their unique, habit-forming appeal: Wheat flour, sugar, chocolate liquor, . . . ahh we pity the poor souls who are forced to drink their liquor. Then further on the list after way too many hydrogenated oils and shortenings: coffee powder! I’ve never heard of coffee powder, have you?!? Is this stuff snortable? Do I have to get off the couch and drive to score some or can I add this to my Amazon basket along with the Viagra and Pop Rocks and save on shipping? Jebus! Between the sugar, liquor, and coffee, there’s hardly any room for the polyglycerol polyricinoleate, which I assume is used as an emulsifier – at least that’s what I always use it for when baking my special biscuits for the rats that invade our attic every autumn. Sorry folks, but if you can think of a humane way of dealing with hordes of wayward rodents without yourself becoming a snack, please let me know.

Now, where was I? Ah yes, Pocky. I’ll betcha the rats would love this stuff – who wouldn’t? I can’t wait to score another box. As I write this my left leg is involuntarily twitching like the throttle handle on an outboard trawling motor with a bent prop. Sweating is undoubtedly next. Sweating is always next, not first for some reason. Yup – sweat. . .it started. Problem is I can only buy Pocky at Asian markets, and I just bought the last box at 99 Ranch! It’s made in Osaka Japan, in case I hadn’t mentioned that, by Ezaki Glico Co., LTD, the makers of Glico, Bisco, Papico, and something called Collon, which I’m going to go ahead and pray is a simple translation challenge, and not what first comes to mind. Yes, Ezaki Glico has been making fine, highly-addictive confections since 1929, the year that marks the beginning of our Great Depression. . . naw, couldn’t be. . .

Go find yourself some Pocky and watch your bank account shrink as your teeth and hair fall out faster than an irradiated meth addict. I’d love to chat more, but tremors are making it difficult to type. If anyone needs me, I’ll be at the nearest Asian market awaiting the next Pocky shipment, or possibly cashing in my kids’ college fund for a one way ticket to Osaka.