The Last Trip Home

“This is going to be my last trip home,” he told us in 2003.

Ken, Ann’s grandfather, had been saying this for years before departing for his annual trip back home to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He had friends back there and would spend at least 5 months out of the year with them – when the weather was right, of course.

“No, I’m getting to old for this. This will be it.”

A few days later, he departed John Wayne Airport on an American Airlines jet and made his way to Pennsylvania. He preferred both the airport and airline because he despised LAX and Delta.

We doubted his proclamation because we knew that the following year when he would be 83, he would tell us the same thing.

He never had that chance.

Grandpa passed away of a massive heart-attack on Halloween of 2003 while he was packing for his return flight to California. True to his word, that trip would be his final trip to the city he was born in 82 years earlier. Kind of like he knew.

Sadly, Ann passed up one final chance to speak with him which she no doubt regrets to this day. The reason she did was because she wanted to tell him personally that she was pregnant with his first great-grandchild, Anthony.

But he went to his grave not knowing he was a great-grandfather. Nor did he ever receive Ann’s college graduation invitation which she was also going to give to him personally. It is still sealed and in our display case, right next to Ann’s BSIT which is dated October 31, 2003 – the day Grandpa died.

And ironically, he was returned to California for burial via – you guessed it – LAX and on Delta Airlines.

Funny how that works.

Rest in peace, Grandpa. We all miss you.

More Good News

imagesI write this, tonight’s post, for a few reasons.

First, it’s almost the end of the month and I’ve hardly written a thing. Something about being busy and all that sort of prevents me from doing so. And catching a nasty virus on my old computer didn’t help matters, either. So this is sort of a message to everybody out there to let them know that me and the blog are still alive, just a bit worse for wear.

Second, there’s much going on in terms of work. As I had mentioned in a previous post, I recently received a $2 raise after being on the job for a year. Granted I had to sort of make my voice heard on the matter but in the end, the staffing agency came through and I’m happy about that.

With the raise came my annual review which isn’t done by the company but the staffing agency, who will get input from my supervisors about my performance, attendance, work habits, etc. And from what I gathered at today’s review, I’m about as good as gold in all of the aforementioned categories.

In short, they like me and see me as a part of the company for the long run. No, this doesn’t necessarily mean job security but it’s a good indication that if the work starts to slow and choices need to be made, I may be less likely to get the axe. And that’s a good thing.

One of the other things discussed was my scheduled start time of 8 am which is turning out to be quite the challenge now that the 2nd Street exit from the 405 no longer exists. This means increased traffic and delays, and I don’t think I need to mention what I’ve seen on the freeway lately and how it has gotten worse since the closure of that exit. I was assured that the agency would speak to my supervisors about a possible earlier starting time, of which I have no problem with, that will help me avoid the mess I deal with every day. So all in all, my review was more than favorable.

Shortly after the review I was approached by my supervisor and told that overtime was being offered for the rest of the week including Saturday. I gladly accepted all days.

Then I get a text from Ann telling me that I just received a bonus/loyalty check for $130 for being on the job for over a year and working over 1900 hours. Needless to say, this will come in handy during the week at Christmas when the office is closed.

That’s just one job. My pizza delivery job still needs me to work Thursdays and Fridays which also means more cash in my wallet at the end of the week. I head to that job straight from my first on those days and more often than not, work until 8 pm or so.

So if you’re wondering about my lack of posts around here, I think that should sum things up perfectly. By the end of the week I’m a bit tired but damnit, I’m thankful for the opportunities and if this is what needs to be done, then I’m more than happy to do them.

A Busy Week

Well, this last week sure was a busy one.

As I had mentioned in this post, I rode my bike in the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour for the second year in a row. That means that it was another day of waking up at the crack of dawn (or 4am to be precise), preparing my stuff, eating breakfast and then making my way downtown to find my assigned parking lot, ride my bike to the starting line, then wait for the 6:30 start time. A lot of preparation but a lot of fun.

In the end, I trimmed my time down to 1:42:43 which is about 5 minutes less than my time last year. It was a beautiful day and it’s always humbling to be riding the bike trail along the beach to see the sun rise with the sound of the waves crashing in the background. I love this event and look forward to it in 2012.

Do I look exhausted?

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Nah, I was fine. I could have gone a bit longer but hey, 26.2 miles was cool. And in case you didn’t track me, here’s how it looked:

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Believe me, it’s not all that bad.

With that done, it was time for the rest of the week in which I worked overtime on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, the latter two days going in at 6:30 am. And oh, did I mention that I also worked my night job on Thursday and Friday from 5:15 to 8:30 or so? Told you I was busy.

But wait, there’s more! On Saturday, I participated in my first 5k mud run down at the Del Mar Fairground/Racetrack which is just within the San Diego city limits. While not as early as the morning of the bike tour, I woke up and pretty much did the same thing in terms of preparation, breakfast, etc. Then, of course, hit the highway for the 90-minute drive to beautiful San Diego.

I’ll admit that the mud run was about the toughest and most unsanitary thing I’d ever done in my life but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was also one of the most memorable and fun. It’s a party atmosphere at the event and all participants get a free beer at the end (although I ended up giving my ticket to someone since I don’t drink). My finish time was 46:47.5.

As far as the course goes, it’s crazy. There are obstacles such as tires, walls, hills and of course, mud pits. Most of those are not too bad to deal with but crawling through the mud pits proved to be tough for a few reasons.

First, there is netting above the pit so you have no choice but to crawl on your belly to get through. As the run continues, the netting gets lower so by the last one you are up to your chin in mud.

Second, the mud is more like infield clay from a baseball diamond so it will really do a number on your knees if you aren’t careful. I survived without much damage.

Also, it’s hard to wipe mud from your eyes when your hands and shirt are covered in the stuff. Next time: goggles. Another thing to remember is that regardless of how light an outfit you wear, it will still absorb liquid and that weighs you down like mad.

So how did I fare? Here’s how I went into it…

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…and here’s how I came out of it:

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Great event, great volunteers, great crowd. There’s just not much more you can ask for.

Well, except for maybe eating one of these afterward:

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This here is a 1/2 pound Steerburger which from Boll Weevil, a restaurant with locations only in the San Diego area. All my life, I’d been going to the original one on Midway but it was closed down years ago. Whether I was in town to visit relatives or go to a ballgame, I never made a trip to San Diego without going home with one of these babies in my belly, and Saturday was no exception.

I’ll work off the calories later. I was enjoying the day too much at this point.

Afterward, we decided to make a trip to the Rainbow Sandals store which has been producing handmade footwear since 1974. They closed at 4:30 and we made it there from San Diego by 4:25, just enough time to grab what I had already planned on getting: a new pair of single-layer fish strap flip-flops, the main material being hemp.

The quality of the product is nothing short of excellent even if they are a bit pricey and until you’ve worn a pair of Rainbow flip-flops, you’ll never justify spending more than $5 on a pair. You’ll never find a pair that fits better and lasts longer.

We justified ours to the tune of $55 for two pairs. Call us crazy but hey, they last. So long, in fact, that people often send their old ones back to the store with a  story about how long they had them, what they’ve gone through, etc. They are hung about the place.

So with that long Saturday behind us, we came home to contend with the mess that has started on Friday while I was at work:

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Yep, a virus wiped out our hard drive. We tried everything we possibly could and nothing would revive it. This, my friends is why you back up everything at least once a week. The good thing is that since I do exactly that to my 2TB external drive every Sunday, nothing was lost. I’m now using Ann’s computer since mine is the one you see in the image above.

I’m currently looking at other options. With my raise and working the second job, I may end up getting something sooner than I think. But in the end, yeah, it was indeed a busy week.

All I Wanted Was A Pepsi…

2austin3yrold.standaloneOkay, a Diet Pepsi to be precise.

It was one those mornings when I arrived at work and the only thing I wanted to drink was something carbonated. Not coffee, not water, not anything else. My body was craving a soda and that was the only thing that would satisfy it.

So up to the kitchen/dining area I went to deposit 75 cents into the machine and punch in Number 51, the slot reserved for my ice-cold, luscious and beloved Diet Pepsi.

The machine we have at work isn’t the standard soda-vending machine with the selection buttons and the dispensing hole that’s barely large enough to accommodate the can once it drops from an unfathomable height from within its mechanical bowels. Instead, it’s got a bar that raises from the bottom that is triggered the second you make your selection. Once the arm reaches the appropriate level, a mechanical hand extends from it to gently grab your beverage – it offers various types and not just soda – which then lowers to the right side of the machine. A door then opens and the robotic hand hand gently places your beverage into the door. It closes and a door in front of the machine opens and voila, satisfaction.

If only it were that easy today.

Getting back to my story. After I chose Number 51, the machine slid over the the slot, and the hand extended and attempted to grab the can. I say “attempted” because that’s exactly what it did.

For whatever reason, the hand could not grab the can so it tried again. Nope, it slipped through its fingers like so many grains of sand. A third time and still nothing.

The display prompted me to make another selection so I did just that: a Diet Coke on the same row.

Yeah, pretty much the same thing happened. It was like playing one of those damned claw machines that you never win shit with because the stuff inside is systematically designed to weigh more than the claw’s capacity. Again, it tried three times with this can and nothing.

So I try for the Diet Coke a few rows up and wouldn’t you know it, the same thing happened.

By now I was running out of choices. I don’t drink regular sodas because they are too sweet I didn’t want to put more money in the machine because, let’s face it, those things rob you blind with the mark-up on the items inside.

The only diet soda left in the machine: Diet Mountain Dew.

This was it. It had to work because I was like a smoker having a nic-fit. I entered the appropriate slot number, watched the bar rise to it, the hand extend and…

Nothing. Nope, it failed once again. But it continued to try and on the third attempt, the hand had succeeded and I was finally on my way to enjoying something carbonated, regardless of its flavor.

It was like watching something in slow motion. The anticipation. The overall joy. The elation of finally getting what I wanted was about to happen.

I watched the arm, hand lovingly holding the can of Diet Dew, slowly make its way to the bottom of the machine and oh, could I taste it.

And that’s when shit happened.

Within seconds, my sheer elation had turned to WTF? when I witnessed the hand suddenly and uncharacteristically squeeze the living shit out of the can, splitting it in half. All I heard was the PFFFFFZZZZKT of the spraying and then saw Diet Mountain Dew all over the inside of the machine and on the glass. The arm then tried to lower to the door to dispense the can but it was sideways in the hand, split open, oozing all over the place. The arm then rose about a foot and stopped.

The fucker didn’t even give me my change.

This moment was too good to pass up so I ran down to my desk to grab my phone so that I could take a picture of the carnage:

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Ka-poosh. Fuckin’ Diet Mountain Dew all over. I went back to my desk unsatisfied.

I then had to share the story with the boss since she needs to know about these kinds of things. She even requested the picture you see above. And in the end, I was able to recoup my loss when I saw the guys working on the machine during lunch, telling them that I was the unsuspecting and indirect cause of the machine’s malfunction.

Seriously…

pepsi

…and it wouldn’t give it to me.

The plus side? I posted the picture on picplz/Twitter and mentioned @mtn_dew. Feeling for my plight, they offered to send me stickers as a consolation gift.

Not bad, eh? The situation wasn’t a total loss, and those will look pretty sweet on my mountain bike.

Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour – Track Me Live!

I will be riding in the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour tomorrow morning at 6 am PST and this year, you will be able to track my progress live thanks to Endomondo.

If you really want to do this, check my weight loss Twitter feed at @200by40 for a post that says something like, “200by40 Just began a cycling workout using #Endomondo. Follow me live: http://bit.ly/otuxqp”. That link goes to last week’s ride but when you see the one for tomorrow at about 6 am PST, that will be the bike tour.

So go ahead and cheer me on in the manner people seem to do everything from having sex to engaging in political activism these days – online!

See you at the finish line 🙂