Time Keeps Flowing Like A River


Way back in June 2010, this little guy donned his handmade mortarboard and in a small ceremony in his school auditorium, he and all his other kindergarten schoolmates were officially bestowed the title of First Grader.

So little was he that in order for me to take this picture, I had to crouch down to his level.

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To give you a better idea, here’s a shot at my eye level. I may have even had to crouch down here as well.

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Look at that “Congrats, Graduate!” button! It’s almost as big as his head.

Flash-forward to last Thursday at the very same school, a day I would not miss for the world and one I thought would never arrive. Not because Anthony is a lousy student but in the world of parenthood, you see and go through a lot. You also think a lot, and my thinking back in 2010 was “Wow, he’s a first-grader. He’ll be graduating in what, 2018? My God, that’s so far away!”

Yet that day had arrived and all the grandparents and his only uncle were there to witness Anthony’s advancement to high school.

And I have to admit I held it together fairly well before the event. But let’s not talk about the slideshow during an award ceremony a few days before. A few months in advance, parents were asked to submit pictures of their students through the years at the school and I added my fair share. It’s when they were put together with music that both Ann and I lost it. It was great to see them over the years but also touching knowing these days were soon to be over.

At that award ceremony, Anthony was given the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award as part of the President’s Education Awards Program.

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I know whose signatures are on it. I don’t care. He would have earned this award regardless of who was running our country into the ground and fiddling like Nero while Rome burned in the Oval Office and if you knew how hard this kid worked this year to bring his grades up to excellent levels, you’d look past that too. It’s something the school believed he rightfully earned and I’m okay with that. It’s now hanging in his room.

Back to Thursday. We all take a seat in the quad and wait for things to begin. Music plays in the background. As the crowd continues to roll in, I stopped in my tracks as Fun.’s “We Are Young” started to play over the loudspeakers. I tried to hold back my tears but I’m human and just couldn’t. That song is one of Anthony’s favorites and I can’t tell you how many times we heard it coming from his bedroom. I realize the true meaning of the song but it’s more or less the hook that really stuck a nerve with me given the circumstances:

Tonight
We are young
So let’s set this world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun

It’s a pretty strong anthem as it is. Adding a personal connection made it so much more meaningful.

Song over. Music fades. Then the Star Wars theme starts and here we see all the kids filing in from the other side of the quad.

Personally, I would have gone with Throne Room myself – triumphant, and it’s the final scene of an epic story. But goddamnit, why is it so dusty out here?

Once seated and we all recited the Pledge of Allegiance and Star-Spangled Banner, it began. A few of the school’s top awards were given and a some students gave speeches. About 45 minutes later they started to call student names so that they could receive their Certificate of Promotion.

It looked like a concert with all those people holding up phones to capture the moment, but this was so much better than any concert we’ve ever attended or would ever attend. I even saw one person FaceTiming the event which I thought was really moving. Some things get to me and that was definitely one.

By then, parents were all over taking pictures and videos. I stood behind the podium on a flight of stairs to capture this shot of our soon-to-be former middle school student.

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I’ve taken thousands of pictures in my life but very few will be as meaningful as this one. A broken ankle, dislocated finger, violin recitals, plays, programs, a little bit of schoolyard heartbreak and the end-of-year picnic, everything he experienced at that school was all behind him now. I have never seen this kid have such a look of relief in his eyes with the smile to match. It absolutely melts me, and I’m sure Dad would have been the same way.

When his name was called, I didn’t clap. I yelled his name and cheered as I took a few more pictures as he was handed his certificate, shook hands with administrators, and made his way back to his seat.

Then, once all the names were called, they were officially declared high school students. We all gave them the applause they so rightfully deserved. I then stood next to where the students were filing out and ugh, I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was for a lot of them and as a parent you can’t help but feel the same way. One of the girls who gave a speech was absolutely broken as she hurriedly shuffled her way out of the quad. Some of the guys – the ones you would least suspect to be moved by this – looked like they had been crying since they got there. I saw Anthony approaching and he looked okay but definitely had red eyes.

I grabbed him, gave him a big hug, told him how proud I was, and took another picture. He then filed out with the rest of the students to the front of the school where things got even more emotional.

More tears. More hugging. Lots of pictures. Did I mention tears? Anthony made the rounds and found as many of his friends as he could and got pictures with them. Afterward, he wanted to go say goodbye to a few of his former teachers. It also gave him one last time to walk the hallways of the school.

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In speaking with them, they all agreed: this kid here was one of the most caring, compassionate, and giving students they’ve ever had. One of them even told him that what you learned here was important but what kind of human being you are is just as important. I can assure you they will miss each other equally.

Anthony is one of only a handful of students who attended Newcomb Academy – a name I’ve withheld from the blog since he started school – from kindergarten through 8th grade. This time includes being relocated to another campus as their school was literally razed and rebuilt from the ground up, which is why things look so different from the first picture.

And note the size of the button now. Not so small, is it? (I told him to look serious for this shot, by the way.) Yes, we still have it and yes, we will make him wear it in four years.

But let’s not get that far. I’ll be 54 by then and I don’t want to think about it. But I do want to say this.

Kid, you made it. You muddled through your share of academic challenges over the last 9 years and as expected, came out on top as you always have and as I always said you would. You’ve doubted yourself but I never did. And being that you inherited your stubbornness from me, I know that you’re much to critical of yourself on many things.

Don’t be. You’ll learn as you get older that it’s not worth it and it just frustrates you. Move on. Just think back on what all of your teachers told me about you on the last day and always carry that with you.

A big, new world awaits you in September and it will be much different from what you’re used to, but it will also be fun. Of course you’ll have some bad days scattered here and there but that’s to be expected no matter what. Hell, I still have them. But just keep this in mind.

Mom and Dad love you and are incredibly proud of the young man you’ve become. And although you’ll be glad when you’re all done with high school, let’s not talk about the Class of 2023 just yet. Let’s take it a day at a time.

Because if these last nine years were a blur to you…

First day of kindergarten

…just imagine how quickly four years will pass.

Last day of 8th grade

Congratulations, son. Set this world on fire. Burn brighter than the sun. A new chapter of your life has begun and we are looking forward to every second of it.

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Dem Bones, or Das Boot


Ann and I decided early on in our parenthood journey that we would be supportive of Anthony with everything he did. Whatever he wanted to try, we would let him have at least one stab at it and be behind him all the way.

And so we did: tae kwon do, t-ball, violin, trumpet, and even the drums which I use more than him even though I suck. He gave all of these a chance but never really went anywhere with any of them but does indeed spent a lot of time at my drawing table producing abstracts that I can’t even being to comprehend. He’s got an artist’s mind for sure. I have no idea where he got it.

We’ve even so gone far as to not brand him with any one religion and only act as a moral compass along the way. If he decides later in his life that one has the answers for him then that’s great. Adults can’t make sense of that stuff most of the time so why confuse a child?

There was, however, one exception to all of this: playing football, and this goes back to long before we were parents. The sport seems to lend itself to inflicting serious injury onto the other players and for kids, I think it’s over the top and way too much for them. They have enough trouble trying to understand and execute plays and I couldn’t stand to see him or any other kid get flat-blasted on the field and not get up.

Then there’s the whole sports parents thing. I guarantee I would have been in my fair share arguments. Football was definitely out.

We never played it as kids but did toss the old pigskin around during those long, warm summer evenings while listening to the AM transistor radio. None of us would he harmed by that. But as for some of the other things we did as kids, well, that’s up for debate.

I’m not willing to divulge any of the stupid, stupid things we did as kids but let me tell you that it was by some miracle that none of us ever got seriously hurt or maimed. The most painful injury I had as a kid was a sprained pinky finger that I got while catching a kickball at school during a play at home plate. I never hurt myself playing any sports with the guys on the block.

And despite all of that, I’ve made it to the ripe ol’ age of 48 without breaking a single bone, even after my scooter accident. I’m a tough old bird.

So what does my childhood devil-may-care attitude and Knievel-esque propensity for adventure have to do with my son?

First, I haven’t told him half of the things I did when I was his age or younger. He doesn’t need any inspiration for stupid things to do and post on YouTube. In fact, it’s safe to say that me and my friends were the original version of Jackass but without cameras rolling. We were that bad.

Second, he recently started expressing an interest in football. We watched the Super Bowl and for not being a football fan, Ann was amazed at just how much I knew about the game. (The rules are pretty basic; I just get bored sitting for hours on end seeing guys yelling into headsets and watching six-second plays unfold.)

He told me that they were playing flag football at school recently and that he really enjoyed playing. That’s fine because hey, rip the flag off the dude and the play stops. No contact, no injuries.

Then one day after playing at school, he came limping up to me and told me he hurt himself playing football – tackle football, something they weren’t supposed to be doing. So we RICEd it – rest, ice, compression and elevation – for a few days in the hopes it would get better.

A week later and it was still the same so we had to take him to the doctor. The diagnosis was a sprained ankle but they took x-rays anyhow to be sure. They gave us the same RICE recommendation, scheduled a follow-up visit and prescribed some crutches.

Later that day, Ann gets a call: they found something on the x-ray.

Yep. His ankle was fractured. And $300 later, the kid is now sporting a huge boot that he has to wear all the time except to bed for the next 4-6 weeks, a time that includes our vacation in Las Vegas.

The good thing is that he doesn’t have a cast and he can move along pretty well, even better than I expected.

Hopefully this experience was a wake-up call for him.

Then again, if he’s anything like I was as a kid, it probably wasn’t.

Manic Monday


Monday night was crazy.

Earlier in the day, Ann had sent me a picture of my wonderful neighbor — you already know I’m being fatuous — standing in the street next to his car. That is, his damaged car.

Turns out that another resident on our street came flying around the corner at their usual high rate of speed, lost control, and wiped out my neighbor’s car. They flipped their car twice after impact which shows you how ridiculously fast they were going, with a child in the back seat. All are fine and I’m sorry that kid has a mother that doesn’t take his safety into consideration when she gets behind the wheel. They are known for speeding on our street all the time.

Ann told me the sound of the accident was horrible as they usually are but being close to the scene made it sound worse. She was a bit shaken up by it all and I can’t say I blame her. Accidents are truly scary to hear, scarier to see, and even more scary to be in.

That’s when I enter the picture, about 7 miles away.

I was making my way home as usual, taking the same streets as I always do. Just another ho-hum ride home for me.

Then it happened.

Just as I passed an intersection, a car made a right turn into my lane on their red light. Contact was made and the impact threw my scooter out of control. Yes, I was on my scooter.

I went sideways for a moment before finally losing control and falling to the ground, rolling in the street maybe about four times at around 35 MPH. My helmet made contact with the asphalt and got scraped up pretty bad. The impact on the asphalt jammed my scooter’s center stand into the body and it is no longer usable. All of this happened within seconds.

And all I was thinking while I was rolling was “Hang on…hang on…just hang on…don’t let go.” The adrenaline was pumping anyhow and that’s probably what kept me going. The worst thing I could have done was panicked — and I didn’t. Macho man.

Once I stopped rolling and dusted myself off, then having a few choice words with the driver who hit me, I texted Ann the following: “I got hit. I’m fine. Exchanging information.” But with all the chaos happening outside our own house, she left her phone in the kitchen and didn’t get the message until much later.

Daylight was quickly fading into night.

In the midst of all of this, between police questioning and fire trucks and ambulances, I finally got a call from her to make sure I was okay. I assured her I was. Then I got one from Anthony and it was something I never want to hear again. He was absolutely hysterical but again, I was fine and I calmed him down.

My bodily damage? Minimal. I have a few spots of road rash on my left leg (DON’T EVER Google that if you’re not ready for it) and not much else. Thankfully, nothing is broken and I didn’t suffer a concussion with my head hitting the ground. The police made their report, the paramedics checked me out, and I refused to go to the hospital as I felt good enough to ride home, which is exactly what I did.

There are more details but that’s all I’m divulging. I don’t pay my insurance for nothing.

Since I started riding, I’ve always worn a video camera of some kind on my helmet. Not because I was doing stupid tricks to share on YouTube but for the one time I may need it. Plus it keeps my own self honest. And after two years of riding, I thought I was about as safe as they get: lane-splitting only at red lights, avoiding any kind of trouble, etc. I’d never had an accident; just a few close calls that were wiped clean from the memory card of my GoPro. Of course, I keep the clips of interesting things I’ve witnessed on the road.

The camera itself was an investment and a form of insurance provided anything ever happened. And so far I was certain that I’d never need any footage recorded with it.

That was until Monday night. The point of impact, me rolling several times in the street, my feet flying up in the air, my brand new Vans shoes being ruined.  It’s all on there and…well, remember what I said earlier about being in an accident? Try having yours recorded. It really makes you sit back and think.

But perhaps the most gut-wrenching feeling I had was when Anthony called me, crying like never before. There I was with flashing lights all around me trying to reassure him that everything was going to be okay. Easy for me to say.

But I’d heard that cry in the past, and it was from me in 1976 when Mom got the call that Dad had passed away at the hospital. It absolutely tore me up.

And that was it. That ride home on my scooter would be my last.

I took Tuesday off so that I could take care of business. First, I submitted my insurance claim to see if it would cover any damage to my scooter. As of this post, the other guy has yet to contact their insurance or make a claim. I get the feeling they won’t, but that’s when the GoPro footage will come in handy. My company already has a copy of it and all they have to do is send it over to the other insurance company.

Second, I cancelled the insurance on the motorcycle and it’s going to sit in the garage until I can find a buyer. Yes, I’m getting rid of it. I do, however, plan to keep the scooter only because I’m so deep into it with the credit card that was used to pay for it. I won’t get much for it anyhow, and even less now that it’s been in an accident. I don’t know the extent of any damage to the body of my scooter so I’ll have to have it checked.

Third, I went out and got myself a car. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was done riding. It’s a 2015 Nissan Versa Note and I have to admit that since Nissan pays me (although I don’t work for them directly), there’s a sense of pride being behind the wheel of their product. I already know everything about it and I just got it.

Granted the payments aren’t exactly what we negotiated but it’s a small price to pay for my own safety. There’s no doubt I’ll miss riding and all that goes with it, but when I got the scooter it was meant to be a temporary fix until we could find another solution. And it worked, until Monday night.

And I’m willing to hang it up and put all of it behind me.


Because I’m not putting my family through this kind of misery ever again.

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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 know, 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…

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.