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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2013: My Year In Review


Since this is a personal blog, I figured that instead of writing a year-end review about other things, it would be better suited for me to give a year-end review of things that actually happened in my life. It’s much easier to do something like this now since chances are I captured those moments with my phone, giving me photographic proof of the events.

With all of that out of the way, here’s a month-by-month photo essay of how things went with me and the family in 2013, some of which was never mentioned here on the blog. Take a virtual trip of the things we did, places we saw, events that brought us happiness, triumph, and even sadness.

Got your scrollin’ finger ready? Good! Here we go!

Continue reading

Smilin’ Jack


smilin_20jack_smallIf you grew up in the South Bay like I did (Wilmington in particular), your Halloween just wasn’t complete until you and your family paid a visit to Smilin’ Jack (see image).

It’s a tradition that has taken place for the last 60 years and the local residents love it. So what exactly happens when you go and visit what’s touted as the World’s Largest Jack-O’-Lantern?

It’s pretty simple. You head on down to the ConocoPhillips refinery, sit in what could become one heck of a long line of cars, and wait as they begin to roll into the refinery parking lot.

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Here’s when you have time to reminisce about your past visits to see Jack. Like all the times I recall Dad taking me during the short 7 years we had together, or the time me and Ann were the last car in line – they literally closed the gate behind us – and the volunteers threw what seemed to be a million bags of caramel corn into my car. Good times for sure.

Caramel corn? What? That’s right – everybody you see in front of me in the picture above is waiting in line for bags of caramel corn, the most delicious caramel corn I’ve had in my life. Maybe it’s just because it’s a long-standing tradition and my childhood memories come flowing back to me with each visit, maybe it’s because I always feel comfortable haunting my old hometown of Wilmington. Either way, it’s my opinion that this caramel corn is simply awesome.

As you continue to wait your turn, Smilin’ Jack becomes clearer until finally, you reach your destination and get your goodies with Jack overlooking the festivities.

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Costumed volunteers happily handed us bags of the delicious treat and I even scored a 76 antenna ball which was definitely a first. What shocked me was that the bags weren’t thrown in the car as they had been in the past, which was part of the fun of going. But I’ll settle for the memory of taking Anthony for the first time and look forward to many, many more visits. It’s a silly tradition yet very sentimental for me to take him and tell him stories about Dad, growing up in that area, showing him the hospital where I was born, etc.

And besides…

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…what kid would say NO to this? And if I don’t get a chance to say it tomorrow, I’ll do it now. I wish you all a very happy and safe Halloween. Watch out for the kids and drive safely! We’re looking forward to a fun, cool evening of trick-or-treating 🙂

We Survived Coffeegeddon!


thumbnailThere have been a few scenarios in my life that couldn’t have been predicted by a psychic.

The first scenario involved me being in a white Ford Econoline van with two practically complete strangers, driving up Highway 71 from Arkansas into Missouri looking for alcoholic beverages and girly magazines.

Sound outlandish? Believe it or not, it happened in December 1993 when I was working for Wal-Mart and spent two lovely weeks in Bentonville – a dry county in the middle of the Bible Belt. I’ll tell you about it sometime.

The second scenario was when I found myself jogging up Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood in the morning with a used coffee maker in my hands.

But that’s exactly what I did today.

Today is National Coffee Day and to celebrate, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf was offering consumers the opportunity to exchange their old coffee maker for one of their brand-new single-cup Kaldi machines (retail value of $179.95). The only stipulation was the your exchange had to have the cord still attached and there was a limit of one Kaldi per person.

When Ann saw this on Facebook she couldn’t decide if she wanted to go for a number of reasons. It wasn’t until late last night when she decided that it might be worth the risk of braving the heat and crowds to get close to $400 worth of coffee makers. And with a limit of 2,500 to give out between 11 am – 5 pm, we chose to leave the house about 8:45 this morning.

Driving through the Hollywood area is no big deal to me. I spent many days there as a teenager and know the place well enough to get anywhere. I knew exactly where the event was.

When we arrived in West Hollywood, we saw that the line was already curling about four blocks. To avoid the hassle of parking on the streets and putting money in a meter, we ended up paying $10 to park in the parking lot of The Viper Room. You know The Viper Room, right? Where River Phoenix OD’d? That’s the place.

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Once we parked, we had to lug both of Ann’s coffee makers up Sunset Boulevard and that’s when my surreal scenario took place. In order to get a new Kaldi, you had to get a wristband from one of the event organizers so Ann told me to go ahead of her and Anthony and reserve my place in line.

That’s when I left them behind and jogged up Sunset, fulfilling my surreal experience. I then crossed the street, got my wristband and held our place in line. This was the view looking west down Sunset Boulevard.

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There were still plenty of wristbands by the time I was in line so I called Ann and told her to take their time. They did. Ann got her wristband and we were both guaranteed a Kaldi machine.

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Then the wait began. And it was very hot with spots of shade but nothing we stayed in for an extended period of time. Also, for those who didn’t plan properly (like us), you had to stand or worse, sit on the sidewalks – not really recommended in Los Angeles. Fortunately, the woman in line behind us was nice enough to Ann borrow one of the two chairs she had packed. I stood the entire time. We chatted with her and her family the entire time in line and they were such great people.

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About the only things we brought with us were bottles of water and Gatorade and believe me, they came in handy in that heat. I later ran into a pizza place to grab a few slices to eat while we waited. It hit the spot but again, standing in the heat takes more out of you than what you can put into you. I kept the pizza box and used it to fan us down when we couldn’t find the shelter of shade. And when you can’t, you improvise.

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When the line finally started to move, we saw plenty of interesting things like Mel’s Drive-In

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…a heavily disguised Ford Escape test vehicle (the ovals gave it away)…

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…the KTLA news van since they were covering the event…

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…and then this, which happened right in front of us.

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A woman – sitting on the right in the light blue shirt – apparently had a case of heat exhaustion and needed the aid of Los Angeles’ finest. She was eventually taken away in an ambulance and the situation held up the line for about 15 minutes. The poor woman waited all that time and won’t have a thing to show for it. I hope the Coffee Bean folks can track her down and give her what she was waiting for.

After about three hours in line, we were inching closer to getting our Kaldi machines. Then we finally crossed the final street and saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

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We had finally made it. High-fives from the CBTL workers. Once we crossed the threshold we were directed to a table where we turned in our old coffee makers and were given a certificate for the new one.

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We then walked over to what looked like a wall of brand new Kaldi machines, gave our color preference (red, blue or silver), and turned in our certificate.

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And with that, we had our new machines and the wait was over. I tweeted when we got our machines and CBTL responded.

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Ann took the red one and we are saving the blue for a Christmas gift for some lucky person. Despite the heat, it was definitely worth the drive and wait to get something totally free – okay, in exchange for something old. The value of the machines also made it worth the trouble.

Whew, what a day! We’d like to thank The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for offering such a fantastic deal. You put a smile on Ann’s face and no doubt will make another coffee lover’s face light up on Christmas morning. And in this tough economy where there’d be no other way we could even dream of buying, let alone giving, one of these machines, your generosity is greatly appreciated. You have definitely earned our loyalty!

The Suite Life


200x200_LAD_DDS_logoAs my readers know, I started my weight loss blog when I was about 250 lbs. to chronicle my progress on my way to my goal of 200 lbs. By then, I had already lost 50 lbs. but wasn’t blogging yet. I did this not only for my own motivation but also as a way to inspire others to do the same thing.

And I have to admit that making such a commitment put a bit of pressure on me. I set my goal and so as not to look the fool, had to ensure myself that I would make it. Of course you know the results of my hard work and hopefully my readers have achieved their own success.

Most of you also know I’m also a Dodger fan and up until the All-Star break, was so happy to see them doing so well. As of today, well, things are sort of not going their way but that’s fine. There’s lots of baseball left.

While watching a game a few weeks ago, I saw a promo for their Dodger Digital Series which is touted as a “one-of-a-kind social media experience built to create a Dodger experience tailored to fans’ hobbies, interests, and / or passions.” I decided to give it a better look by visiting the website and that’s when I saw there was a category for Fitness Influencers.

So I thought I’d take a shot in the dark and see what it got me. I filled out the form, submitted it, and pretty much forgot about it.

That is until I got an email today from the Dodgers.

In the email, it stated that I was chosen to be part of a select group of 20 other fitness influencers to attend the Dodgers’ July 31st game which is also Kirk Gibson Bobblehead Night. As if that wasn’t enough, we get to watch the game from the Dodger Digital Suite, get free VIP parking, and watch the Dodgers take batting practice – a rarity indeed since they do it well before game time.

So not only has my weight loss scored me some free samples and an iPod nano (which I have since sold), I now get to see my Dodgers from a suite at baseball’s most beautiful stadium and watch them take batting practice on the field.

The suite life indeed!

Naturally, I will take lots of photos and post them when I get home or, as is the case these days, post them as they happen. Should you wish to see the events unfold as they happen, follow me on Twitter @aeromat since that is the one connected to my Instagram account (my username there is also aeromat). I’d like to keep the images on one account rather than spread them all over the place.

It’s going to be a good time!