The Lost Art of the Mixtape


I never know why I mention this or what kind of importance it has but I’d like to say that I’m composing this post from my phone via the WordPress app. I think it’s because there are photos on my phone I want to use and reclining in the lounge chair is much more comfortable than sitting at the computer.

Anyway.

Now that I’m feeling better, I decided that I would be up at the crack of dawn to go for a nice run/walk. These days I’m not even concerned with my pace anymore; a reasonable distance makes me happy. (My goal was 9 miles but I ended up at 7.25 miles. Meh. Close enough.)

My usual route takes me down the block and around to the street that leads me to the park. Today was no exception. This route is my there’s-no-turning-back route; once I turn that corner I’ve committed to at least 6 miles.

But before I reached the Point of No Return, I came across a box of stuff that read “FREE” on the side. I gave it a quick gander and discovered it had some good stuff inside.

Hey, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We’ve scored some major goods that people were getting rid of: furniture, home decor, etc. And on the top of the box was a set of DaKine rack pads that are used for a car’s surfboard rack. A great find but I gave them to my neighbor down the street who is an avid surfer.

Once I saw there were more goodies inside, I sent a text to Ann to come pick it up. I had already started my run and was in the groove.

When I got home I had a chance to look in the box. There were some nice items but I, being the music lover, was more delighted by this:

  

A whole bunch of cassette tapes from a bygone era, some of them actually good. 

Come on. You know you love “Rush, Rush” by Paula Abdul. I didn’t care about her opinions regarding cold-hearted snakes or how opposites attracted but this song…this one I like. It took me back to the days when MTV still played music videos, and the one for this song featured a very young Keanu Reeves.

Funny thing about “My Heart Will Go On.” I told Ann yesterday that I wanted to take her to the local Titanic exhibit before it closes sometime next month. Talk about timing.

(The exhibit was really interesting but not as good as the one we saw at the Queen Mary years ago.)

Anyway, mixed in with those tapes was this one:

  
A TDK normal bias tape. Not even chrome. Oh man. If you grew up in the era of cassettes, you know your Case Logic cassette case was about 50% purchased music and 50% “Various” or mixtapes. Mine was more like 75% mixtape.

Being that I still often find myself stuck in the ’80s, I still have two functioning Sony Walkman players. Once I saw this tape I knew what I had to do: listen to it.

And while it wasn’t really much of a mix, I enjoyed just the same.

Most of the songs were Janet Jackson tracks like “Control,” “Nasty Boys,” “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” and “Let’s Wait Awhile.”

But interspersed with Ms. Jackson’s* songs were some by The Jets, everybody’s favorite pop band from Minnesota.

Boy, did those take me back. This song in particular which I listened to in its entirety and, yes, sang along with — loudly.

Ugh. My awkward teenage years. The outfits, the music, the prom, the fun we had without smartphones. You kids these days have absolutely no idea.

In listening to the tape I discovered a few things.

First, kids today will never know the joy of throwing together a mixtape. Making a playlist on your iPhone pales in comparison because there’s no work involved, just dragging and dropping. Plus your music is already on your device.

When we made tapes, we had to take into consideration the total time we had to work with. A 90-minute Maxell? That’s 45 minutes per side. Better make it good.  Then we had to collect which songs wanted on the tape, whether LP or CD (or in some cases, dubbed from the cassette single). Sure, we had that stupid three-digit counter on the cassette deck but it never gave us much help. We had to stare at the tape as it was recording the music and hope it didn’t run out.

Sometimes it did, and your tape was ruined. You had to go without that last song, the one that really tied the theme together. Madness, I tell you.

All of this, by the way, in real time. And if the song skipped? Gotta start it over again at the end of the previous song.

Also while listening to this stranger’s hard work, I heard hisses and pops. This mixtape was recorded from vinyl sources and I have to tell you that it sounded absolutely beautiful on a normal-bias cassette. 

Mixtapes were a lot of work. They were a test of patience but based on the sheer number of tapes we bought back then, it made no difference because they were more of a labor of love. I never found myself without blank tapes, usually 90-minute Maxell XL II, because I never knew when the urge to throw together a tape would hit me.

But when it did, it was pure magic.

*Does this mean I’m a nasty boy?

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The Sky Is Falling


JobuEvery now and then, life throws a really nasty curve at you, and there’s no amount of rum or fried chicken you can offer Jobu that will help you hit that curveball.

And last week, I had my curve.

For those who don’t know, my main mode of transportation only has two wheels – either scooter or recently acquired Yamaha R3 motorcycle. And any rider will tell you that the main thing to keep in mind is that when you’re riding, consider yourself invisible.

I do – all the time. As far as I’m concerned, cagers* are completely oblivious to my presence and with the number of them texting and on their phone in general, it’s absolutely true. Chances are they’re even oblivious to fellow drivers, too.

So when friends and relatives find out that you’ve given up driving in favor of something more inherently dangerous (yet much more economical and practical in terms of traffic), naturally they are concerned for your well-being.

And I’m okay with that.

It’s been nearly two years since I started riding and up until last week, it’s been an enjoyable experience. Granted, there have been times when distracted drivers (read: on their phone) slowly drifted into my lane, prompting me to yell and honk at them. No harm, no foul; just a slight annoyance and I carry on – or a severe tongue-lashing at the next red light. (I despise the act of texting while driving even more these days.)

Then there’s lane-splitting which I do, but it’s not like I’m lane-splitting at ridiculous speeds. I’m not. Doing so is just crazy. I do, however, take advantage of it at red lights to get away from traffic because distancing yourself from it is safer.

By the way, whether you like it or not, lane-splitting is legal in California.

But last week. Wow, last week. Nothing could have prepared me for it.

It seems I had an accident on my scooter but here’s the strange thing about it: there were no witnesses and I was the only one involved. Try and wrap your head around that one if you can. And if you can’t, the video will prove it.

Basically, here’s what happened.

I park at a lot a few blocks away from the office. It’s been where I’ve parked since I started my freelance gig in August 2015. At the entrance and exit, there is an arm that raises when you either a) pay your fee or b) wave your parking pass at the sensor.

And just like that, once you pass under the arm, you’re in the underground lot.

Last Thursday, something strange happened at the exit.

I packed up all of my stuff in my scooter and got ready for my ride home. Then, as I always do, started my GoPro camera to document my ride in case anything happened. There’s a good chance that any incident wouldn’t be may fault so documentation is important.

I rode up the ramp toward the exit and waited for the sensor to recognize the presence of my scooter at the arm. Knowing exactly when it raises and how quickly it does, I approached it at my normal rate of speed.

Aaaand that’s when it happened.

Just as I was approaching the exit, the arm decided it wasn’t going to stay up. So here I am accelerating toward the raised arm thinking everything was all hunky-dory – then it almost decapitates me.

In the process, I fell hard on my right side with the scooter landing on my right leg.

What you see here is me not reacting in time to this. I just couldn’t do it. I kept my hand on the throttle and I rode through the arm as it lowered, bending the holy hell out of it in the process – and thrashing my neck a bit, too. This was taken shortly after my coworker informed me of it.

Photo Feb 18, 6 20 54 PM

I didn’t even notice the damage to my neck until a coworker came by and pointed it out as I was shooting videos of me describing what just happened. I was more concerned with my scooter not starting immediately after the incident and how I was going to get home. (When you ride, you’ll understand.)

Fortunately, it decided to start after a call to Ann in which she told me to summon our insurance’s roadside assistance service. We’ve since joined AAA not because the gecko didn’t help, but we just felt that having an extra lay of security is the right thing to do.

But the scratch on my neck was just one thing. I assessed the damage to my scooter and it looks pretty scratchy now, and the reflector on the right side is now broken. Other than that, it’s fine and still runs.

As for the rest of me, I hurt. I had pain in my right shoulder, right knee, and right side of my neck. After all, I just turned 47 and am edging ever-so-closer to Senior Citizen discounts at Denny’s.

I didn’t seek immediate help nor did I talk to anyone at the condo complex where we sublet parking spaces. When I got home, I immediately emailed our HR department to let them know what happened so they would have the info FTITM.

They did, and got the paperwork rolling. It was to be a workman’s comp incident since it happened at a place that they sublet.

After giving them the details and showing them the video (to which everyone reacted the same way: “OH SH**!”), I was sent to the local urgent care to get checked out. Based on my pain, they recommended no less than six sessions of physical therapy.

Now keep in mind that I’d already used some of my sick pay to combat a bug I was just getting over. The thought of using more for this wasn’t really cool with me.

In addition to physical therapy, I was given a care package consisting of a reusable cold pack, an electric heat pack, anti-inflammatory pills and Tylenol. Not exactly a Halloween bag.

They then scheduled my physical therapy session for the following Monday, followed by a doctor’s check-up immediately after.

During the session, I was bent in all kinds of ways that would probably make any professional contortionist blush. But the good thing was that I wasn’t experiencing pain at any of the targeted areas. I may be getting older but it seems my body is still like a Timex watch.

Seeing no need for further sessions, the therapist signed me off. I then went to see the doctor and he released me for work duty, as if I work hard sitting at a desk all day.

Now if this had happened with my shiny new motorcycle, I would have been slightly more annoyed even if it was an accident. I probably would have endured more damage to my body as it is considerably heavier than my scooter with metal pegs protruding from the sides. That could hurt. But that wasn’t the case so it’s cool with me.

After all this, I’m over it. I had to endure a few days of pain so big deal. The company has since moved my parking privilege across the street to the lot under the office where there are no arms to deal with. Additionally, my employer saw to it that was given the best of care. I have absolutely no complaints.

There will be no lawsuits, no claims, no nothing. In fact, I’m feeling so normal I’m going running in the morning. I can just chalk this up to being a freak accident which is exactly what it was. The company is going to have a chat with the condo management to see what can be done about the arm sensitivity, and chances are they’ll have to replace the arm since my neck really jacked it up.

Photo Feb 18, 6 22 58 PM

And everybody thought that a driver was going to take me out?

Wrong!

*A cager is rider-speak for anybody in a car. Hey, don’t take offense. I’m still one whenever the family goes anywhere.

Vin Scully Avenue on Google Maps


Vin Scully.

The Los Angeles Dodgers.

Pretty much one in the same.

Scully has been the voice of the Dodgers since 1950 or, if you’re keeping score at home, a whopping 66 years.* He’s been graced with just about every broadcasting award you can think of and is a member of the Hall of Fame—deservedly so, as nobody calls a game quite like him.

The accolades are endless. And now, thanks to a Los Angeles City council vote of 12-0 on January 29, Scully’s name will become a permanent part Los Angeles as his name will be emblazoned in white across a street sign’s blue background—a most appropriate color scheme—as what is now Elysian Park Avenue will be renamed Vin Scully Avenue in his honor.

Ever humble, Scully had always waved off the notion of such honors in the past. But with his announcement that 2016 will be his final year behind the microphone, his reluctance had to give in to the harsh reality that Dodger fans will indeed miss him once this season is over.

Sorry, Vin. You truly deserve it.

And while no official date has been planned for the name change, you can rest assured that it will not be without the usual pomp and circumstance* that accompanies such an event.

But it seems that the people at Google Maps are on top of things.

I discovered this a few days after the City Council vote. For reasons I can’t particularly recall, I was scrolling around Google Maps and came across Dodger Stadium. In the process I noticed that the street that is still, for the moment, Elysian Park Avenue had already been changed (click to enlarge).

scully

Perhaps it’s just Google’s way of being ahead of the game, knowing that this street name will indeed be changed in the near future. Or maybe, just maybe, they are big Dodger fans—or Scully fans at the very least.

Bing? Nope. Yahoo!? Bzzt. Only Google has changed the name.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to react when I hear Scully call his last game, but I can almost assure you that there will be tears involved. As a fan who has heard announcers come and go, the one constant in Los Angeles was the smooth voice of our beloved Vin Scully. We’ve been lucky beyond measure to have him stick around for as long has he has but like all good things, they’ve got to end sometime.

But soon, Los Angeles will forever have a small part of the town named after our Vinny and naturally, it’s the street leading into Chavez Ravine.

And we wouldn’t want it any other way.

DSC_1434

Sunset. Echo Park. Grand.

Vin Scully.

Fits right in there, doesn’t it? 

*That’s Scully talking right there.

At Last


In my Year in Review post, I had mentioned that (among other things) there was a good chance that my current freelance assignment was going to turn into a permanent, full-time affair.

I had been freelancing there since August and only had maybe three weeks off between then and today. They called me back when one of the other proofreaders—that’s what I’m doing yet again—went on vacation in September. I’ve been there ever since.

Then things got interesting. The word was that we had just landed a huge project with a current client and they were going to be in need of help. Naturally, the company started to search for potential candidates so that they could be in place once the work started to materialize. That said, they let all employees know that this was also an opportunity for them to move up and into one of the new vacant positions.

One of them was Proofreader*. Naturally, I applied.

And although I’d been there since August, I was still a bit nervous about how I would measure up against others who might have applied—and if they would even consider me at that point.

But my worries were all for naught. For some reason, they like me but I guess the feeling is mutual: I really enjoy working there, especially someplace that is not Ralphs. (In fact, I’ll refer to the new place as Not Ralphs or NR for this post.)

About two weeks after submitting my name, I was informed that my freelance gig was extended until January 31 and, as of February 1, I was officially hired. No more freelance; I was now an official NR employee.

And I can’t begin to tell you how happy I was.

No more waiting until Thursday or Friday to find out if I was returning on Monday. That was probably the worst part of freelancing: figuring out the bills when nothing was guaranteed the following week, and how to split what could have been my last paycheck into little chunks in order to pay everybody. That game was finally over.

No more going home after 3 or 4 hours when there was little work. Granted, I’m paid well enough to where even working 20 hours a week at NR was significantly more than what I made for 40 hours at Ralphs (not that I ever got more than 30 hours while there but you get the idea). Now that we’re starting to get the work for the new project, it’s full-time hours. There’s going to be plenty of stuff for us to do.

I no longer have to travel light. I’ve started to decorate my cubicle with personal items, something I refused to do while freelancing. In fact, my old Ralphs name badge is now one of the items on my desk—just because.

It’s Monday—Friday, 9 to 6. Bank holidays are paid days off and we get so many freaking perks as far as days off go that it’s insane, but NR knows that happy employees are good employees. Some of those days off include three Summer Days that we can use during the summer months in case we want to do something with the family. Then there’s floating holidays and personal days, not to mention two weeks of vacation that accrue each calendar year. I can finally take a vacation with the family and have money to do things. That will be nice when the time comes.

Speaking of money, we spent last Saturday at a local outlet and did some serious shopping. I can’t tell you the last time we did that but I can say with certainty that it wasn’t during my 18 months at Ralphs. We could barely pay the bills, let alone treat ourselves to much of anything.

Then there’s the commute which is about 20 minutes from home. It’s an easy ride on my trusty scooter that is easily filled with gas on less than $3 a week in most cases.

And the views downtown are spectacular, as is walking down to the marina during lunch.

My Chinese zodiac sign is the monkey and in this, the Year of the Monkey, it seems my luck as finally changed. As I’ve mentioned to HR and the boss, NR is exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

NR is everything my last place wasn’t and I am so freaking grateful for the opportunity they have given me. I look forward to being there for a long time.

*I’m a much better proofreader when I’m being paid to do it. Considering the time I write these posts, I can’t much guarantee ye olde blogge will be 100% free of errors so don’t bother to point any out Smile