A Summer That Won’t Suck: Las Vegas 


Good morning from Las Vegas! In this continuing series, this weekend we find ourselves in Sin City where the high was a balmy 115 degrees yesterday. 

But you, it’s a “dry heat” as the joke goes.

Not only that, but we also got a nice thunderstorm show.


This was a screencap from a video I shot from our room. It was definitely cool to relax and watch the show.

We made pretty good time this trip even with a few stops along the way for food and restroom breaks, which begs the question: how did we used to drive those 300 miles non-stop? And we did it all the time, too. I guess our old bladders just ain’t what they used to be because we just can’t do it anymore.

But hey, at least we saw these at the Gold Strike casino, one of our stops. Who knew? This was totally unexpected.



After arrival we rested for a bit, charged up our phones then went to The Mob Museum because, you know, Las Vegas.

An interesting place with interesting displays for sure. And the building itself is pretty amazing.


And look at these criminals.


That one-way we were behind glass was unbelievable. You really can’t see what’s on the other side so I didn’t know where to look as our picture was being taken. It’s mirrored on the inside so I just kept staring at my reflection. The world of crime is not one I want to be a part of if this alone blew my mind.

We have more plans for the day so keep watching my Instagram account for more. Fremont Street Experience will probably happen tonight…provided our old selves are up to the task…

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A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 3


Yesterday we logged just under 100 miles in our adventure down south to San Clemente. This is when we’re happy to have such a fuel-efficient little vehicle, even if Anthony is starting to have difficulty fitting in the back seat. He’s a tall kid.

Today, we headed the opposite direction and hit a few places we hadn’t been to in a long, long time.

First on the list: the historic Original Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, which was and still is a place where Hollywood luminaries spend their day. It’s not like I would recognize any of today’s stars but it’s cool knowing that folks like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and The Beatles strolled through there.

And remember when I said we hadn’t been there in a long time? Here’s a shot of Anthony I took the last time we were there. I was testing out a film camera I had recently acquired.

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He doesn’t even remember being there. Honestly, I’m not quite sure it was even in 2009 but I do know it was a long, long time ago when you compare it to the picture I took today:

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A little difference, no?

At any rate, we had planned to arrive at their opening time of 9am. Amazingly, we did just that. If fact we were so early that we parked in the regular parking lot and not the structure at The Grove, a stretch of stores located next to Farmers Market. There aren’t many there that interest me and it’s nowhere nearly as interesting.

Farmers Market, on the other hand, is a photographer’s dream.

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There is color and interesting subject matter everywhere you look. In addition, it’s a place where the art of the hand-painted sign comes alive.

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I love typography and art, so seeing all of these signs is always a real treat. And if the sign wasn’t painted by hand, it looked like it was a remnant of a time when there was still a sense of pride in sign-making, even if machines were starting to have an impact.

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Look at that sign. Those letters look like something from the credits of Gilligan’s Island and they might just serve you drinks in a coconut with a straw. I absolutely love this stuff.

Then, of course, there’s the food.

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We bought a handful of meringue cookies from Normadie Bakery along with a fresh baguette. It was about the cheapest transaction we had while there because most of the other stores are pretty expensive. You know, tourism and all.

Pizza, seafood, Chinese…you name it, they have it. In the end, we opted for Mexican from a place called Loteria Grill. I almost had to – their booth is decorated with the likenesses of cards from the famous game, some of which I’d never seen.

And the food wasn’t too bad, either. Did someone say chicken tacos?

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We stayed just long enough to do a bit of shopping, take an abundance of photos (sorry, my fault), enjoy our lunch, and just be a part of what’s made Los Angeles famous since 1934. But it was getting hot so we decided to move on.

I had asked the family if there was anything in particular they wanted to see in the Hollywood area. They didn’t so with me being familiar with the area, I just went in whichever direction I thought would be interesting.

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Taken by Ann, this shot is of the Jim Henson Company lot. Before that, it was home to A&M Records which was co-founded by Herb Alpert. And while the list or artists who called A&M their label was impressive, this lot was also home to Charlie Chaplin Studios before that. If walls could talk, indeed. (Granted, Chaplin’s films were silent…)

As we meandered our way through Hollywood, the family caught a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and even though we were still way down the hill, they’d never seen it that close. I had to change that.

I kept driving and pointing out places such as Hollywood High School which has its share of famous alumni. Then I got to Beechwood Drive and made a left. That’s the main way to get up there.

And the streets are super-narrow and filled with tourists and people walking/hiking. That’s fine. I knew where I was going.

Once I got to Ledgewood, I made a right and took it as far as I could go which has been a dead end for years. You could once park and take pictures but residents put an end to that a long time ago, so I made a left and wound my way around to a decent vantage point.

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Taken from Lake Hollywood Park, this is about as close as anyone can get (legally at least). And what, you didn’t know there was a lake up in those hills? Silly you.

This was about it for the day. I still had to head over and help Mom move some stuff around her place since they are remodeling her apartment complex. So we hopped on the 101 and headed back home – but I made one more stop.

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Located in Downey, CA, this here is the oldest operating McDonald’s in the country. It was dangerously close to being demolished after the Northridge earthquake but fortunately, was saved. They have menu items most other locations don’t have and their food seems to be better. Must be that oh-too-cool retro vibe.

So by the time we got home, we had logged about another 90 miles in this, A Summer That Won’t Suck.

And so far, every single one has been worth the effort.

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A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 2


Happy Friday!

It was most definitely a happy one for me since I used one of my paid Summer Days to extend my Father’s Day/anniversary weekend by one day. And yes, it was worth it.

Today’s adventure took us someplace we had been just a month prior but because Ann wanted a pair of sandals she didn’t get then, we had to make another trip. Fortunately, traffic was extremely light on the way down to San Clemente – it’s about 40 miles from home – and we made incredible time. I was pretty shocked, actually.

Our first stop: the Rainbow Sandals outlet.

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Just look at that fancy, unintentional, not-made-with-an-app lens flare! And that gigantic flip-flop outside the store! In preparation for summer, we all got a new pair – even me, who has enough pairs to last the rest of my life. Plus I got a new wallet. I guess I have a problem.

Once our shopping here was done, we meandered our way up to the top of the hill to the outlet stores where we ate lunch. Granted, there aren’t many stores there but it’s still a nice place to walk around and waste the day. This would explain why we only left with one bag of stuff, all of it purchased at the Nike store. You know. I needed a new pair of running shoes. Or something.

I also checked out the Vans store and came across these that were, unfortunately, a size too big.

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And at $20, they were a freaking steal. Too bad they didn’t fit. I really wanted them.

Just as we decided there was nothing more we wanted to shop for, we made a stop for some frozen yogurt and pretzels. Anthony wanted the yogurt and while I would have gotten some, I was driving and already had my share of dairy product for the day with the pizza we ate for lunch. Lactose intolerance is a lovely thing.

As I was paying for our pretzel nuggets, I spotted a $1 bill on the ground near the register and asked the cashier if they had a tip jar. She said they didn’t so I stuck it in my pocket. I wasn’t going to argue and decided long ago that money found is worth keeping.

With that, we left the outlet from which you can see the ocean. It’s quite lovely.

And it’s where I was driving to next, unbeknownst to the family.

So with the help of Google Maps, we found our way down to Capistrano Beach (yes, it’s close to Mission San Juan Capistrano, also a beautiful place). We had never been there before and thought it would be nice to just have a stroll along the ocean.

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And that $1 bill? It paid for one hour of parking. Perfect! It was long enough for us to enjoy the sound of the crashing waves and take some pictures.

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Selfie stick? Nope. My long arms have been doing the trick since the late ‘90s. And yes, I need to shave.

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It’s scenes like this that make me hesitant to ever leave California, despite its faults. No earthquake puns intended, naturally. But I’ll take my chances with them over any other natural disaster – any day of the week – to call this my backyard.

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Going to the beach was also a great way to break in those sandals.

And yes, I will gather rocks when I go to the beach. I could take home buckets of them if I could since they are all different and appeal to me for different reasons. Today’s trip included these:

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This picture just does not to them justice. The colors are much more vibrant, even more so when glimmering in the sand after being washed over by the tide. You’re just going to have to take my word that they are pretty amazing and will look great on my desk at work.

Anthony swears the light one is quartz. It’s really milky and white, nothing like it looks here. I don’t care whether it is or it isn’t. It’s just cool and I’m okay with that.

After the beach, we stopped by and visited my high school buddy who owns a restaurant in the area. You know, the one I delivered pizza for on occasion? It’s always good to see him and we still have much to talk about even after leaving high school almost 30 years ago.

And that wraps up our Friday.

As for Saturday? It’s not as far but you’ll know when we get there. It’s someplace I haven’t been in years and a real hotspot for tourists. I usually avoid places like that but with this being A Summer That Won’t Suck, I’m pulling out all the stops.

Curious? Follow my Instagram feed and see for yourself. We’ll be there in the morning!

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A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 1: Petersen Automotive Museum


Well, if there’s anything that will get me blogging with regular frequency, it’s going out and doing things. And that’s exactly what the kid and I did today.

He had heard about an event going on at the Petersen Automotive Museum months ago: a Lamborghini cruise-in. He’s really into said cars right now (to the point of my wishing to never hear the name again) but figured he would really enjoy seeing the cars roll in.

Oh, and the museum would be hosting the North American debut of the Lamborghini Centenario, a car so rare that all 40 of the planned models have been sold already – at $2 million each.

Must be nice, no?

Anyway, the cruise-in was scheduled to start at 8am which meant waking up at the crack of dawn to give us time to battle whatever L.A. traffic we happened to encounter along the way. Fortunately, none of the highways were backed up and we made pretty good time even if it was drizzling pretty heavily almost the entire trip.

I would hesitate to call it rain – even as a California native.

We arrived and parked the car then waited near the entrance to watch some of the cars pull in.

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Anthony has been using Ann’s old digital camera for his Photographic Journalism class in school and he brought it today to get some more practice.

Once it got closer to 8am, we walked upstairs to the 3rd level of the parking structure to view the parked cars. And wow, what a collection of old and new. Here’s a Lamborghini Mura (foreground) and Espada (background). Just beautiful cars.

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Granted the old ones sounded nothing like their newer siblings but they were still beautiful. And as we walked around, more started to arrive.

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This is the Batventador, or an Aventador with Batman logos all over it. Interesting to say the least and Anthony knew of it right off the bat because he’d seen it on Instagram. I later sat by the owner of the car, Debbie, at the debut of the Centenario. We had a little chat over the empty seat next to me and a few laughs about it (since the woman who was sitting there never returned). Turns out she’s super-nice and also ultra-cool to kids.

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These are all new models. I peeked at the window sticker of the white one: 12 MPG and a price of over $530k. The rest were more “reasonably” priced by comparison.

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Then there was this young man who was well-known by museum volunteers. He sat in his chair and rendered a Lamborghini 350GT. Quite a talent to say the least.

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I really could shoot car details all day long, no matter the model.

But all of this, of course, was only part of the reason we were there. The debut was scheduled for 10am so after getting an eyeful of these exotic cars, it was time to go into the museum and see yet another one.

And it was near chaos. Those who purchased tickets for the day got a sticker and also early entry to the debut. Everybody else had to wait, despite submitting my RSVP last week and having my confirmation.

Security had no idea. People were getting a bit angry and while it’s only a car, I can see their point. Why RSVP if you’re not going to let us in?

After about 10 minutes, those with RSVP emails/printouts were let in while those without had to wait even longer. Seemed fair.

Two people spoke at the event: one from Turn 10 Studios who produces the Forza Motorsport games for Xbox, and a representative for Lamborghini. Their speeches weren’t long as the crowd was big and pretty excited to see the Centenario.

Well, a replica of it at least. None have been made yet.

And after their speeches, the car was unveiled.

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With all the crowding, these were the best shots I could get and unlike the all of the previous images, I used my phone. It was just easier.

By now, the both of us were getting hungry and also needed some fresh air. Apparently the AC doesn’t work too well in the museum (my assessment at least) so we went outside and walked around. Of course, I still took pictures.

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I like how the building practically matches the shape of the museum’s architecture from this angle. Frames is perfectly.

And I had spotted this early on but didn’t get a good shot of it until after the event.

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Johnie’s Coffee Shop was temporarily turned into Bernie Sanders HQ and still has all the propaganda in place. It’s normally closed but has been used in a bunch of movies including The Big Lebowski and Reservoir Dogs.

At the end of the day, the kid was more than satisfied with the event and seeing his favorite brand of car up close and in ridiculous quantity.

And honestly, I could have done this on my grocery store salary since the event was free and parking only set me back $12. A fun day indeed.

And with that, A Summer That Won’t Suck has officially begun! Stay tuned for more.

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A Summer That Won’t Suck


When I was working at the grocery store, there were a few things I lacked.

First, dignity. There was a time when working such a job was a rather respectable thing to do with people spending a good portion of their lives there, making decent money and having plenty in their pension.

But it’s not like that anymore. New people get nowhere near the same benefits as those who were working before the big strike about a decade ago. It’s just cheap labor for little money, and it’s a completely miserable existence that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

That said, the other thing I lacked was an income that would allow us to do, well, anything. My paychecks were so microscopic that once the bills were paid, we couldn’t do much of anything besides sit at home. That also meant doing what we had to do in order to stay afloat. Again, a miserable experience.

But of course, things have changed since then.

My new job continues to be a rewarding experience and now that I’m a regular employee (since last February), I get a handful of extra benefits.

One of those benefits is three Summer Days every calendar year. They are paid days off – we still get personal and sick days – that we can use anywhere between the beginning of May to the end of September. It’s probably one of the coolest little perks I’ve had at any job.

So with my paychecks now being, oh, a little more than they used to be, I’ve decided that this will be the year I treat the family to A Summer That Won’t Suck.

I’ve been looking into a lot of different things for us to do this summer, most of which are road trips around the state: San Francisco, San Diego, or just a trip to Los Angeles to see things we might have missed. We’ll gas up the car and see where we end up and I’m sure it’ll be a good time.

Plus, we’re now AAA members!


For preparation, I’ve been searching for destinations on Google Maps and saving them for future reference.

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That way when we’re out somewhere, we can also see what else is in the area and get directions to it. Killing multiple birds with one stone.

I’ve also been doing this for my eventual trip to Japan. This is only Osaka but trust me, there’s much more I’ve saved.

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While a bunch of places are eateries we’ve been wanting to try, there are local attractions that I haven’t been to in decades like the Hollywood Forever Cemetery which is the final resting place of legends such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and even two of The Ramones.

And I’ve never really taken the family on a walk of Hollywood Boulevard to be tourists so that might be an option as well.

Either way, the fun begins in a few weeks when I’m using one of my Summer Days to extend the Father’s Day weekend, and this year Father’s Day just happens to fall on the same day as our 23rd anniversary. We’ll be heading down the 5 – we don’t say “Interstate 5” in California, just “The 5/405/605” etc. – to do some outlet shopping and lunch one day, hitting World Famous Farmer’s Market the next, then most likely going for lunch on Sunday for Father’s Day and our anniversary.

This is in addition to the the concerts we will be attending for which I’ve already bought tickets:

  • Strangelove, a Depeche Mode tribute band performing at the OC Fair in July
  • Perfume in August
  • Pet Shop Boys in October (not quite summer but oh well)

Oh yes, the OC Fair will definitely be visited as well. Concert tickets include admission to the fair.

And even if I don’t use a Summer Day, the weekends are still open for any adventure we might want to take on.

Plus with all the overtime I’ve been working lately, it’s practically guaranteed that this summer won’t suck.

I’m ready. We’re ready. Bring it on!

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