Break Time


As I do occasionally, I’ve been on a self-mandated Facebook break for about a month. And while I’ve posted a total of maybe seven pictures during that time, that’s all I’ve really done.

Quite frankly, if I didn’t have my account linked to so many external apps or services, I would just close the damn thing and not look back. But since that’s not the case I’m doing the next best thing for my purpose which is simply avoiding it. The app is hidden in a folder on my phone’s Home page (still installed for the aforementioned external services) so that I don’t see or use it.

What prompted this move was the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It was simply awful and being a parent, I can’t even imagine having to deal with something so incredibly tragic yet seemingly avoidable. And of course, after any event like this, the arguments and conspiracy theories begin and they were out in full force on Facebook.

But this one seemed to really have people divided more than ever.

In the end, I deleted and blocked two people, one of whom is a real gun nut and tried to justify owning a cache of killing machines because it’s in the Constitution. Sorry, *poof* you’re gone. Another was an on-again, off-again friend who thought arming teachers was the solution. We’re now permanently in “off-again” status and I really don’t care to speak to them ever again (we’ve grown apart over the years). I’m a little shocked I only deleted two people after all this.

Then there’s the daily clusterfuck of a soap opera called The Trump Presidency that is saturated in lies and eaten up by his minions. And even though I follow some of his so-called “fake news” outlets, my Feed became a Trump ticker-tape parade and I don’t need to give that idiot any more of my time. I try to avoid the news these days but still visit websites or watch broadcasts at my leisure and not Facebook’s timeline.

But mark my words: Trump will burn out real soon and it’s going to be the most spectacular meltdown in the history of humankind. It’s been my theory that he wanted the power and position of President, but not the responsibility. And so far I seem to be right with that assessment.

There’s other random things that drove me away from Facebook, not to mention their recent privacy issues. Not to get into details but uh, yeah. Not everything needs to be posted on social media, whether it’s your lunch or checking in at the doctor’s office for your [insert procedure/examination of your choice]. Oh, don’t look surprised. People really do post this stuff and I’m not sure why. I have done it in the past but I’ve grown older and wiser.

So I’m content to keep this streak alive. But you may be wondering what I’ve been doing in lieu of wasting time on Facebook.

First, I’ve been a little more active posting photos on Instagram. Photography is one of my passions and I’d rather dedicate my time to sharing my vision – dare I say, talent – with the world (or at least my sub-500 followers) than read about someone’s dinner. In fact, I was recently contacted by Apple (yes, that Apple!) about the possibility of them using one of my shots for their Instagram account (see comments).

I’ve submitted my shot and waiting to hear back. Either way, praise from Caesar is praise, indeed.

Second, I’ve been doing some thinking about my weight lately and decided to once again take charge of it and set a lofty goal for myself by my 50th birthday next February. If you recall, my weight loss blog is called 200by40, implying that I’d reach my goal of 200 pounds by my 40th birthday in 2009 which I did. With 50 around the corner, I’m sure you can use your imagination and figure out the goal I’ve set for myself. Either way, there will be no Facebook posts about it except maybe when I reach my goal. Maybe.

And I’m not saying it’s serious but I’ve given up having cereal for breakfast and replaced it with an egg and almond milk. No more Lucky Charms; I’m eating like a real adult in the morning!

To that end, I’ve been sleeping more because old people need their sleep. Actually, it’s known to help with weight loss.

And with the free time Facebook has given me, I suppose I should blog more as well. I’ll try to be better at that.

Anyway, that’s my story. Hope everybody stuck in Zuckerbergland is doing well.

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Gone


Our office has a bikeshare program that allows us to check out a bike whenever we desire. When the program started, I was the first one to submit my name for approval and, quite possibly, the first to take advantage of it.

The problem is the bikes aren’t the best. They serve their purpose but are marginal for riding longer distances, something I rather like doing. I had considered buying a bike and leaving it at the office so I could use that during lunch but Ann suggested I take her old 2008 Trek 7100 hybrid bike since she wasn’t using it at home.

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Not only a beautiful bike, it’s a solid bike – and cost $350 new. In fact the only difference between this and my bike, which as served me well since 2006, is that it’s a women’s model. I don’t care; it makes it that much easier to mount and dismount without that high bar in the middle.

And somewhere between the time I left the office on Monday 2/26/18 and my lunch on Tuesday 2/27/18, it was stolen. From inside the office.

I discovered it was missing right after I finished eating, when I walked to the bike rack on the second floor stairway where I park it along with a few others. And apparently I forgot to lock it up after my ride on Monday because this is what greeted me on Tuesday.

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I wedge it between that green bike and the black one to the right of it. When I saw this, I panicked and – talk about timing – ran into one of the porters as I exited the stairway.

The building is currently going through a remodel and things are in a state of flux. In fact this is not where the bike rack is normally located, a place with public access. The rack is normally inside the office where the bikes are clearly visible.

With this in mind, I asked the porter if he knew about any of the bikes being moved since, well, mine was missing. He said he didn’t and that’s when my panic turned into disbelief and anger.

I had to take a moment to process things. Then when I realized that it was truly gone, that’s when I got really pissed. I would have really loved to know what my blood pressure was at that point.

My bike was stolen. My fucking bike was stolen. It’s easy to dismiss it as “just a bike” but when you ride it daily and rely on it, finding out someone took it for no other reason but to take it is like a kick in the gut, especially when its sentimental value is far beyond any money they will get for it. It’s like my 5th-generation iPod: not worth much on the market but absolute gold to me as a still-functioning music player.

I walked down the stairway and sent Ann a text about it. She wasn’t nearly as upset as I was but you know, Venus and Mars. Then I stepped outside the building a little lost, but then like George Kennedy swinging his baton on foot beat in The Blue Knight, decided to take a look around the complex.

Long Beach is known for lots of things but one thing it is notorious for is bike theft. There are chop shops all over the town and it’s not uncommon to see a bike locked to a bike rack one day and have it stripped of everything from its frame by the next. The buzzards will pick at it until there’s only a skeleton and then eventually, the skeleton is taken.

It’s also not uncommon to see people riding bikes and carrying other bikes or parts, sometimes at breakneck speed and against red lights. And chances are those parts will get sold to buy drugs – like the crack I saw people smoking outside the building today. I may show you the beautiful parts of town on Instagram but oh, it can be so so ugly, too.

So I walked around in a haze but kept my eyes out for any person riding a bike. No dice, like I expected they’d come running back anyway.

When I came back to my desk I sent an email to the office manager and HR letting them know what had happened. I also sent Ann a message asking her to look for the paperwork for the bike since I thought we had it in our computer desk. She looked and only found one for my bike, purchased in 2007. I needed it for the serial number, not a requirement when filing a report but a big plus because if it’s sold and the number scanned, it will immediately show up as stolen and the ball will get rolling.

But I thought I had taken a picture of it for this purpose. The problem now was looking for it in all of those “Phone Pix” folders on my external drive, filed by month and year. I thought the easier way to find the number would be to call the shop where I purchased the bike so when I got home, I gave them a call.

It turns out they upgraded their POS system in 2013 and have no records of sales before that. My receipt is in triplicate so that gives you an idea of when I bought the bike.

Not giving up hope just yet, I turned on the computer and started looking for that one picture – and I found it in the first “Phone Pix” folder I looked in.

Now that I had it, I filed a police report and also reported it as stolen on 529 Garage/National Bike Registry as well as BikeIndex.org. Aside from checking online classifieds and apps like OfferUp and LetGo, this is pretty much all I can do for the moment.

But I wasn’t done.

On Wednesday, with the theft of my bike still oh-so-fresh in my mind, I checked out one of the company bikeshare bikes and hit the town. Normally, I follow a pretty organized route and end up riding between 3-5 miles in an hour but on this day, I managed to cover over 8 miles in that same time on a cheap bike. Adrenaline is an amazing thing.

I rode to some areas I knew were a hotbed for illegal activity, including chop shops and outside public restrooms along the beach. I kept an eye out for anyone riding a bike and gave them a good look as they passed. I even followed one of those shady characters riding a bike with parts for about a mile before I had to make my way back to the office.

And I’ve decided that should I see someone riding my bike, they are getting chased if I’m riding (remember our friend adrenaline?) or standing in their way if I’m on foot. I’m taking it back, no questions asked.

But there’s a very good chance that I’ll never see it around the office. As I had mentioned, the stairway is public access and anyone from any of the businesses can use it. But considering that most of the businesses there close up at 6 pm and there are construction and after-hours cleaning crews roaming around, there’s a possibility that someone outside of the company took it and doesn’t live locally. Think about it: the one time I don’t lock my bike it gets stolen, which leads me to believe that someone had their eye on it for a long time and they saw the opportunity to take it.

With that in mind, I posted this sign on the wall near the bike rack. Hopefully dangling the carrot of a reward will get them thinking.

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And that’s all I can do for now. While I’m better, I’m still pissed that someone thought it was hunky dory to steal my bike. I’ve been checking the bike rack since the company email blast went out and I posted this hoping just maybe the cocksu…thief had a change of heart.

I recall back in the day when I had a Schwinn beach cruiser stolen from me outside a liquor store where I was playing Asteroids. Luckily, it had a bike license and was somehow recovered and returned to me.

Today, with the world so connected, I’m hopeful that this bike will be recovered in a timely manner.

But until then…I wait.

As for the thief, fuck you. To the moon and back.

Hiking to the Hollywood Sign


It’s become a thing with me to not make a big deal about my birthday – I just don’t. In fact up until a few years ago, I worked on my birthday because I felt like it.

But with this job giving me Personal Days and whatnot, I decided last year to take the day off and hit all the local eateries that were offering free birthday foods (I started signing up in November 2016 for every one I could find). It was fun but still just…meh.

So about a month before The Big 49, I had decided to do something different and something I had always wanted to do: hike to the Hollywood sign. It used to be pretty easy to access but over the years, the locals got tired of tourists and adventurers parking on the street and the sign was an easy target for vandals as well.

That’s no longer the case. It’s clean, guarded 24/7, and there is no longer parking on Beechwood Drive. Things have definitely changed.

Knowing this, I had to figure out a few things before I made my way up there, like parking and, you know, which trails to take. But once I did I was pretty excited to start my local adventure.

It took about an hour – typical drive time – to get to Canyon Drive, the place where the trails begin. And because it was the middle of the week I had no trouble finding a parking spot. On the weekend? Forget it.

So with my backpack strapped on my back, GoPro* mounted to a stick in hand, I locked up the car and made my way.

Before you venture in, there’s a map of all of the trails you can take in the area. It’s hard to believe this is in Los Angeles, right?

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The fire danger is always high around here

As part of my pre-hike preparation I had already looked up all the trails and marked my intended route on my Endomondo fitness tracking app so I wouldn’t get lost. Naturally, I took the longest route which is a little over 5k (3.22 miles). Because I’m a fool.

Need proof? Look at the picture below. This is near the start of the trail and you can barely see the sign or the radio/TV towers on top of Mt. Lee.

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I would get there eventually but oh, there are hills to climb. This was maybe just under a mile into the hike.

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It was about here when I learned something: hiking is not walking. I normally walk at a brisk pace and I started out that way but it sure didn’t last. I toned it down a bit for the rest of my trek.

The trails are clearly marked and that’s a good thing. A bunch of hills and valleys later, I came across this sign and took a little break for air and water. Just under a mile to go!

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While on the way up, I passed a few groups of tourists riding horseback on the trail. From what I could gather, they only stay on the dirt trails and don’t ride up to the sign – it’s much to steep for them. But wow, they are such majestic creatures, aren’t they?

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Here’s a little something you may not know. From a distance, the Hollywood sign looks all nice and straight but if you look closer at the image below, you’ll see just how misaligned it really it. In fact, the first O looks to be the farthest out of them all.

And hey, I’m getting closer!

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This is the final trail: Mt. Lee Drive. This wraps around and ends at the Hollywood sign.

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If you look to the right, you get a spectacular view of the valley. In the dead center of this image are a few studios including Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Animation, Warner Bros. Studios, etc.

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This plaque is sitting just before you turn the corner and reach the sign. The donor list includes Hugh Hefner and a handful of studios.

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Finally, just over an hour from when I started, I had reached my destination. And was it ever worth it.

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And did you know there was a lake up here? That would be Lake Hollywood (duh) and the Hollywood Reservoir.

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Here’s what all those towers look like up close.

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Life’s little moments are worth celebrating.

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Just after this picture was taken, I decided to have a seat and snack on the banana and protein bar I had packed. That’s when my phone rang. It was Mom calling to wish me a happy birthday.

“Are you at work?”

“Um. No. But you’ll never guess where I am,” I told her.

“Oh no. Where are you,” she asked, slightly concerned.

“I’m on top of Mt. Lee. I just hiked up to the Hollywood sign.” There was a moment of silence.

“Oh my…the Hollywood sign?” Her concern turned into a little bit of excitement once she realized I had made it and everything was fine. We talked for a little bit – definitely a surreal moment – before she let me go so that she could tell my brother to call me.

I finished my conversations and noshing on whatever snacks I had and made my way back down the trail. But if you think that’s it, you’re wrong! There was one more stop: to the Batcave (aka Bronson Canyon)!

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This is it, the one that Batmobile drove out of in the original Batman TV series. You can see a then-and-now on this Instagram post. The cave is manmade and aside from Batman, has been used in a slew of TV shows and movies.

Me, unkempt, in a cave. Because why not.

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But just because it’s manmade doesn’t mean you won’t find anything interesting in there. While I was walking through, a couple was pointing a flashlight into a small hole – there was a baby bat inside.

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The video I shot gives you a better idea of what we were looking at. I maxed out my zoom since I didn’t want to frighten the little guy.

So with that being my final stop, I was done. And in case you’re wondering what all the meandering looks like, here you go:

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The green line is speed; the gray line indicates elevation which started out at 646 ft. and ended at 1,696 ft. for a gain of 1,050 ft.

Here are the stats Apple Health gave me for the entire day:

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94 floors? Holy moly. No wonder I was sore the rest of the week.

If you’re ever in the area, by all means take some time and do this. The trails to the sign aren’t terribly rugged but I wouldn’t recommend wearing flimsy shoes, either. A good pair of running shoes ought to do the trick as would a few bottles of water and some snacks.

Oh, and definitely bring your phone for pictures (and a portable charger). The view from the top is worth every step you take.

All in all, it was a good time and something I would definitely do again. Next time I’d like to take a trail in to Griffith Park or Griffith Observatory, one of my favorite places in L.A.

The question is: what will I do next year for my 50th?

I have no idea, but there’s time to start planning.

—-

*I’m still in the process of editing the video on my phone. Steven Spielberg I ain’t.

Fifty Shades of Dave


Photo Jan 29, 3 06 29 PMI don’t know what things are like in your state but in California, a trip to the DMV – Department of Motor Vehicles – is always an adventure.

And after taking my motorcycle exam a few times over the last few years, I thought I was through with my DMV visits. How wrong I was.

Here’s what happened. Ann’s birthday is in March and she got her driver’s license renewal letter in the mail well in advance. With my birthday only weeks away, I had yet to receive anything and time was running out so a call to the DMV was in order. And if you’ve ever tried calling the California DMV you know it’s a real pain to get anywhere. So what did I do?

Got on the Tweeter and asked @CA_DMV my question, naturally. I had an answer and phone number in a matter of hours. Ain’t technology grand?

I called and got through right away – this was their main office in Sacramento, I believe. I told the clerk my situation and she asked for my information so she could see what was going on.

It turns out that there was a hold on my regular Class C license after I failed to convert my motorcycle permit into a full-blown endorsement, meaning I didn’t renew or take the skills exam. And because of that hold, the renewal forms weren’t sent to me.

I told the clerk I wasn’t riding anymore and I wasn’t interested in the endorsement. She then cancelled the hold so that I could go to the DMV and fill out the forms to renew my license.

The problem there: getting an appointment. Ann tried for days to get one at our local office in Long Beach and couldn’t. She’s going to one in Orange County later in the month. She has time still. Me? Not so much.

After the call, I headed back to my work desk and immediately went to the DMV website in the hopes of snagging an appointment before my birthday/expiration date. No chance, I figured.

I ended up getting one a few days later – in Long Beach, no less. I had to text Ann and gloat about it. She replied with nasty Bitmojis.

Monday comes around and I leave work for a bit to take care of this business. I managed to find a parking spot no problem and since I had an appointment, didn’t have to wait with the garlic-eating masses outside who didn’t have an appointment.

When I was called I told the clerk the nature of my business. She gave me the form and I filled it out with only one notable change: my weight. I added a few pounds to it. Hell, I’m honest.

I went back and she double-checked it, then issued me a number to see another clerk. I waited maybe 10 minutes before I was called to another booth.

The clerk who helped me was a younger guy and rather affable, more than most others at the DMV. We chit-chatted as he went over my renewal form. All was going well until he spoke up about one detail.

“Hmm. On the computer, it has your hair listed as gray,” he said, pointing at his monitor with a black Paper Mate pen.

Strange. My current license has my hair as black. Then again when I renewed it I still had black hair. Then it occurred to me that when I went for my motorcycle permit, I must have written in “gray” for my hair color. He continued.

“So which one do you want me to use?” I was writing out a check for the renewal fee at the time. I put the pen down.

“Well, being I plan on letting nature take its course, let’s go with gray. I’m not bald and I’ve no plans to dye it. In fact I just had an inch-and-a-half trimmed off. Shit was past my shoulders.”

He was cool. Casual profanity didn’t phase him.

“Really? No way!”

We then chatted a bit more, mostly about aging, as he continued to process my information. He had to be in his early 30s and I gave him a little advice (as if my being nearly 49 qualifies me to be an expert on growing old).

“Man, just enjoy yourself. Stay young at heart. That alone will keep you going. And when your hair starts turning gray, embrace it and be glad you have it.”

And with that, he thanked me and sent me to the photo booth for my picture. Oh, and I had to take the written exam – again – and then wait about 10 days for my new license.

It arrived a few days ago. And although I’m thinner than I was in my previous license photo, the adjusted weight is definitely closer to reality.

And the hair? Proudly abbreviated as GRY.

Because this head will never see a drop of Just For Men.

All In Vein


American-Red-Cross-Logo-VerticalA few posts ago I had mentioned how humble bragging is a pet peeve of mine. But for the sake of writing a blog post and telling a story, there’s really no other way to talk about it without saying what I’ve been doing so let’s get to it.

Since last year, I’ve been making regular blood donations to my local chapter of the American Red Cross. It started at a time of need and but decided to make it a regular part of my life shortly afterward. Plus, you get unlimited chocolate chip cookies and orange juice – the only time it’s acceptable to consume such a combination – when you’re done.

The process is relatively simple and expedited if you fill out the questionnaire online prior to your visit, otherwise you’ll be sitting at a computer in an exam room doing it. The questions range from recent places traveled to medications taken to sexual activity – mostly revolving around prostitution and homosexual experiences, an immediate disqualification if any answers are “yes.” The latter has been a controversial practice for some time.

In the exam room, you’re verbally asked even more questions – name, address, etc. – to ensure that you’re in the right state of mind. They also check blood pressure, heart rate, and poke your finger for a sample to test for iron content. Once that’s done, you sign the form and off you go to the chair where they ask you one last time your name and address.

And that’s when my problems started.

Before they begin, naturally the nurses have to find a vein. I usually stick with my right arm since it’s my dominant and can squeeze the heck out of that little foam-rubber propane can they make you squeeze every 10 seconds after the needle is in your arm.

But there was a problem last night.

When the nurse started to check for a vein, they couldn’t quite pinpoint its location. Veins will move and it seemed my was dancing like The O’Jays during this exam. It was that difficult to locate. But after a few more tries the vein was found, site marked with a pen, area prepped with iodine, sphygmomanometer tightened, propane can squeezed three times, and needle inserted.

I’ve never looked at the needle. I don’t want to see it.

There’s a little discomfort when it’s inserted but it goes away once it’s in the right place. They’ll know this because the blood will immediately start flowing down the tube and into the bag. But there was no blood last night.

The nurse asked if they could move the needle around a little bit and see what was going on. I agreed since they had a little difficulty finding it last time. After a few minutes of trying, a second nurse noticed and asked the first one if she could help. He agreed and asked if she could try, to which I said yes.

She couldn’t find it either, and my arm was getting a little tender with all the poking and prodding.

Enter the third nurse. She came by and asked if she could try. By now with all the previous insertions and relocating of the needle, things were becoming much more uncomfortable. Then she moved the needle a little too deep there was so much pain.

I winced and said that it hurt – there’s only so many ways I can pretend to hide my discomfort and I had had enough.

“Do you want me to keep trying or pull it,” she asked. I answered without hesitation.

“Pull it.” It was then that, for the first time, I saw the needle and it’s a pretty good size. I’m not sure why I looked, maybe just because I getting a little anxious and wanted this to be over.

And so it was. The needle was pulled and all the nurses who tried to get blood from me apologized for not being able to get the job done. The site was cleaned, bandaged, and I was on my way.

I was truly disappointed. According to Red Cross literature, one donation can help save up to three lives and last night I wasn’t able to do that.

I’ll be back to try again but much like my dental appointments, of which I still have a few left to fulfill, I need a break for the time being.

Hopefully then we will have success and my efforts will not have been in vein.

Yeah. I went there.

 


 

Just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t for you. Disaster or not, the American Red Cross is always in need of donors and blood of every type. If you’re a regular donor, thank you. If it’s been a while since your last donation, schedule an appointment online or through their app. And if you’ve never done it before, see if you meet the criteria and if you do, schedule an appointment to get the ball rolling. Thanks.