Face Your Fears, Part Deux


About two months ago, I had mentioned in a post that it was time to get over my somewhat rational fear of dentists – or at least they work they do – and get the ball rolling with an exam and whatever else the dentist may recommend.

Today was that day. And the results of my visit were anything but favorable.

I went to a local office that has a sparkling reputation on Yelp! and is also where Anthony and my mother-in-law go for cleanings (she usually takes him so they get it done at the same time).

After filling out what seemed like an endless questionnaire regarding my personal health and dental visits, I was called into the back where I took a seat and had a series of 18 x-rays taken.

Things are definitely different now – they are digital. The last time I had them done, you still had to bite down on a small piece of plastic or cardboard whose corners felt pointy when the nurse stuck them in under your tongue. Then they had to develop them. Now you bite down on a device that transmits the image to a computer. So far, so good.

Then the dentist sat down next to me, introduced himself, went over the x-rays and pointed out everything that was wrong in my mouth (aside from the occasional profane language that slips out of it). Next, he let me know what he thought should be done first based on the severity of each condition.

Yeah. There’s that much. Fuuuuu…

It was during this consultation when I explained my fear and he told me that, of course, it wasn’t uncommon. He also told me how some of his patients were actually worse than me. (For privacy, I won’t go into details.) But the fact that I was sitting there speaking to him and preparing myself for whatever treatment he thought necessary put me way ahead of those he mentioned. I was already on the field ready to play; they hadn’t even shown up to the clubhouse.

His first recommendation was simple: bonding my two front teeth, both of which were a bit jagged at the bottom and could possibly chip at any moment. He also explained that this would be a great way to ease myself back into the patient’s chair and dental care as a whole.

And that’s where we started. I asked if I could listen to music during the procedure and he had no objections. In fact they supply their own if you need them but I’m not sure what kind of music I’d be listening to and I’m pretty picky with my headphones, so I used my own earbuds and thank goodness for Spotify Premium and my iPhone.

He told me to raise my left hand if I felt any discomfort during the procedure and amazingly, I didn’t. As he and his assistant blazed through the process of bonding my teeth, Avenged Sevenfold’s City of Evil kept my mind off of what was doing on inside my mouth. About the only thing that got to me, despite the volume level being somewhat high, was the scraping of the bonding material from the teeth. I feel myself cringing just typing about it.

(Listen to the album here)

And that was it. I had gotten this far and with only a few beads of sweat on my forehead and maybe a slightly left watery eye. And naturally, a sore jaw that is still sore. He told me that if I can survive this procedure with no anesthetic then the next one – a pretty big one – shouldn’t be an issue. He also referred me to an oral surgeon who will be handling the extraction. I’ve seen him before and he’s good, at least from what I can remember with the twilight sedation I was under.

Even so, I’m still worried about the next thing since I’ve never had it done. And after that I’ve got a laundry list of other things that needs to be checked off. Strangely, the tooth with missing parts wasn’t the worst one. Sure, it will still have to get extracted but the x-rays showed that another one that I knew was slightly chipped had worse damage to it, and that’s the next thing to be taken care of in a few weeks.

We had planned on taking a road trip to San Francisco this year but unfortunately, it looks like the summer will be have to be scheduled around all of my procedures. Additionally, the job gives us three paid Summer Days that we can take for three-day weekends if we wish. Those plus my remaining sick hours and possibly some vacation days will most likely used for days I need to have work done.

Then there’s paying for all of this. Even with insurance, it’s goodbye, Vacation Fund!

But at least I’ve taken the first step toward having better dental hygiene. It will take some time and money to get it all right but I know it will definitely be for the best.

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Baby, You’re A Star


Sunday was a nice, blustery day so we decided to get out of the house and do a little bit of shopping – mostly window-wishing – at the local outlet.

As is the case with most outlets these days, the walkways are riddled with independent vendors trying to push their wares to anybody that passes. I had heard it said that these guys are the modern-day equivalent of pop-up ads and it’s true: they just keep pestering you.

But one booth wasn’t selling tennis shoe polish, laser-etched iPhone cases or fidget spinners (and I swear if I hear my kid say that one more time, I’ll scream). And unlike most of the booths, it was unmanned when we passed it.

What they were selling was a Hollywood dream to make it big in television and movies. It was a casting agency that specialized in recruiting children and teens for studios like Nickelodeon, Disney, etc. or so they say.

And it wasn’t until we were ready to leave when we were approached by the person who was running the booth. Apparently she thought we looked like a bunch of pigeons as she walked up to us, taking particular interest in Anthony.

She first asked if we were local. I confirmed her suspicion. Then the spiel began about how she was looking for teens age whatever-to-whatever to cast for shows on the aforementioned networks. That’s when I started to grin and then dropped the mic on her.

“Nah, that’s okay. I used to do background acting and…”

At the mention of “background acting” I swear that woman left a puff of smoke behind her and disappeared faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m dash.

Why is that?

There are a few reasons for her to not take interest in me or Anthony.

First, casting agencies in general. When you’re selling Hollywood to some slack-jawed yokel that doesn’t know any better, they will of course shovel out whatever it takes to make their kid a star. And that’s the problem: legit agencies will NEVER ask for money up front, and you can bet that this one was going to ask me for my wallet in order to get Anthony a few headshots that would be stuffed into an album of hundreds of others that already got bilked and still haven’t been cast for anything. For my casting file, my headshot was taken with a digital camera at the agency. That’s all they need especially if it’s only non-union background work. Speaking parts require SAG-AFTRA union membership and that costs money, something that you pay directly to the union and not the agency. Only then will you make decent money. Until then it’s minimum wage, baby. Except may for the monetary bumps for exposure to smoke, water, or the studio using your car in the background as well. Living the Hollywood dream? Hardly.

Second, I’ve seen what kids have to go through in this industry. For adults, it’s no big deal other than hustling for more jobs during your downtime between shots and there is a lot of downtime. For kids, however, it means having their parents on location with them, going to the on-set “school” between shots, and just long days that nobody that young should be put through. There’s never guarantee of when the production will wrap and if they have another shoot the next morning or get a callback for the current one, it’s a lot of stress for parents and kids. Kids also get hungry and antsy. This is why they are so hard to work with. It’s a miserable existence and a life I would never wish on any child. Believe me, it’s nothing like what you see on the screen or social media.

I can say quite confidently that those last two paragraphs are exactly what went through the mind of this woman as she ran away from me. She knew I had an inside track about the industry and didn’t even want to mess with me.

So sorry, kid. You’re not going to be the next big thing.

But you’ll always be our star.

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The Penny Pincher


mr-krabs-tips-9First, I’m pleased to say that I’m once again taking a break from that time pit called Facebook. I do that occasionally in order to clear my head from everything that Facebook has crammed into it.

And honestly, with the way things are going right now, I sort of want to escape from the bad news which seems to be unfolding at an exponential rate. I keep away in order to plant some peace deep in my soul – what little soul there is in me.

At any rate, here’s an interesting little story. Or strange or ridiculously stupid depending on how you see it.

Anthony and I headed out to the Grocery Outlet with a very short list of things to buy. I had a $3 off coupon and wanted to buy myself another Bubba tumbler, quite possible the best freaking thing I’ve bought since I started drinking more water. Seriously, ice does not melt in this thing. It’s pretty incredible.

But because of their low, low prices, Grocery Outlet is one of those places where it’s impossible to stick to a short list.

Four bags of marshmallows for 50 cents? I’M STOCKING UP RIGHT NOW. That’s until you realize that you’ve never eaten close to four bags of marshmallows in your entire life and chances are they’ll get stale before you open the second bag. It’s like that.

Thankfully, I didn’t see the need to do that but along with my tumbler I did end up with some other bargain I couldn’t pass up and we made our way to checkout.

The total for my transaction with the coupon was $9.22 and since this was one of those rare occasions when I had cash on me (read: my leftover Las Vegas winnings), I happily handed over $10. The cashier then asked if I had the 22 cents. It’s usually what they do when they are low on coin so they can give back dollars for change. I’ve been there, trust me.

I checked my pockets and came up empty. I then asked Anthony if he had any change – yes, I felt bad about it – so that we could help the cashier with her predicament. He dug deep in his wallet and came up a penny short at 21 cents.

No biggie. Pennies are a dime a dozen (if that makes sense) and no doubt the cashier would end up finding one somewhere in the store, on the parking lot, in the breakroom, etc. And if she was a penny short at the end of the day, seriously, nobody would freaking care.

It was just a penny. A single, solitary penny.

So I handed our $10.21 over to her and she placed it on the register. This is where it gets weird.

Now remember, we gave her the 21 cents to not only get a dollar back but help her out a bit if she was short on change. But it was obvious she wasn’t.

She then put the paper and coin in the register, sorting it all out by denomination. Thinking she was going to give me a $1 bill and my receipt, she then starts to crack open the roll of quarters and nickels.

I gave Anthony a strange look. He returned it.

She then began scooping change out of the drawer, counted out 99 cents and along with the receipt, handed it all over to me. Essentially, she gave back the 21 cents we had given her plus more.

As I grabbed my bag and walked away, I was trying to figure out exactly what just happened by mumbling to myself, throwing up hand gestures and drawing air numbers ala Vera from Alice complete with the confused look.

I just couldn’t figure out why she didn’t give me that $1 in change. It would have been that much easier for everybody. As a way of  thanking Anthony for helping me out (or at least trying to), I handed over the 99 cents to him. He was happy with that.

So if you ever go to Grocery Outlet, don’t be swayed by their great sales on marshmallows. And for God’s sake, have the correct change.

Lyft Lyfe


CLICK ME IF YOU USE LYFTI had been silent about this since the moment I considered it. Why, I don’t know. Maybe I was being too critical about all of the negative aspects that may come with being a driver for one of the many ridesharing services which, in this case, is Lyft.

But I guess the only way to find out was to get involved. So back in October, shortly after my scooter accident and the purchase of my car, I signed up to be a Lyft driver. And I’m not gonna lie – I also applied for Uber. I figured now that I was driving again I might as well see what this was all about.

I ended up with Lyft for many reasons. Their vetting process, vehicle inspection locations, and customer service (for drivers) were all superior to Uber. I have yet to have my car inspected for Uber because their nearest location isn’t really convenient and frankly, I’m not doing this as a full-time gig. If it were then I wouldn’t have a problem with finding the time to get it done.

(Side note: I was also a vetted driver for the short-lived Sidecar service.)

Anyway, I was approved to hit the road way back in December but never bothered to go out to try to make some money. But that changed today.

Shortly before the start of the Super Bowl, I decided to give it a shot. I ended up parking for a little bit by our local airport – it’s about 5 minutes from home – to see what was going down. I figured having an airport in close proximity would prove to be a goldmine, but it depends on many factors.

Not a single ride request showed up on the app. Besides, this airport currently only allows drop-offs for ridesharing services but I see people waiting all the time across the street. It’s a way to skirt around the rule since you aren’t on airport property to pick up your ride.

After waiting about 15 minutes, I decided to drive down to the gas station then go home since it didn’t seem like a lot was happening. But on my way to the gas station, I got an alert for a pick-up which was only a mile away. I had been so hesitant to try this whole thing out and like new every job, there’s a bit of nervousness when you start.

Long story short for my first rider, it went well. They were on their way to a Super Bowl party and had a bag of goodies they were taking. The destination was 8 miles way so we had a good chat on the way. I dropped them off and thanked them, rated them, and drove away.

Simple, painless, and paid. I could probably get used to this.

Still in Online mode while driving away, I got another alert for a rider that was close by. And here’s the thing: although I was a little bit farther than I had preferred to go, Lyft requires that drivers be at a 90% acceptance rate or they are penalized or something. It’s all new to me. I had completed one ride with another waiting. If I had turned this one down, 50% acceptance. Why mess with things?

Lesson 1: Always accept new rides when you’re starting out. It’s just smart.

So I accepted the ride and picked them up. The difference here was that they weren’t sure of the physical address; just a general area. I can see why: it was condo complex and having delivered pizzas in the past, they can get confusing. Another easy pick-up and drop-off.

By now, I was out for about 2 hours (1.25 of actual Lyft-ing) and had completed two rides, the second one with my fuel warning light flashing. Remember? Low on gas? Fortunately, my car is an econobox that gets great mileage so it wasn’t a major concern but I stopped and got some nonetheless.

Afterward I figured I had put in enough time for the day and headed home to have dinner with the family. Shortly after I arrived, I got a text from Lyft stating that my first rider may have left something in my car. I checked the back seat and sure enough, they did.

Lesson 2: Make sure your ride has all their personal belongings at drop-off, checking either visually or by asking.

So I called them and verified that their items were in my car and I would drive back to deliver them. But rather than drop them off at their destination, they told me it would be fine to leave them at their house which I thought was a nice thing to do. They could have been mean about it being Super Bowl Sunday and all but they weren’t. I appreciated that.

So let’s get to it. Is driving for one of these rideshare companies worth the effort?

Lesson 3: This will not make you rich.

There are so many variables involved that can make or break you: time of day, time of year, local events, weather, etc. all have an impact on what you are paid. If you rely on this as your sole source of income, you’d best hustle and alternate between Uber and Lyft apps when the other isn’t busy. I don’t plan on doing this full-time but it’s nice to know that should I need it, it’s there.

In the end, before Lyft’s fees, I ended up with about $20 after 1.25 hours of driving. By comparison, I make more at the office but I’m sure others probably don’t. Once Lyft deducted their fees it dropped to about $16. Then, of course, factor in the daily wear-and-tear on your car, gas, and everything else and chances are I made much less.

But I suppose there’s more to it than that.

It’s the freedom to go online when you please to make a few [extra] bucks. It’s meeting new people and helping them get where they need to be, especially on a day when many probably shouldn’t be driving. And while I don’t deal with the public at the office, it was a welcome change to do it again and have conversations about whatever came to mind.

Would I give up my job for this? Perhaps if I was making much less money at, say, a grocery store I probably would. This freedom is so much the opposite of the shackles of retail but if you’re working there part-time to keep your affordable health insurance, this is a great way to earn a few more bucks.

Do I plan on doing it again for extra money? Sure. It’s easy and pretty fun, and Lyft no longer requires that unsightly fuzzy pink mustache on the front of your car.

And I’m sure there’s more I will learn along the way but for now, it’s not all that bad.

 (Note: Already use Lyft? Click the logo at the top!)

A Summer That Won’t Suck


When I was working at the grocery store, there were a few things I lacked.

First, dignity. There was a time when working such a job was a rather respectable thing to do with people spending a good portion of their lives there, making decent money and having plenty in their pension.

But it’s not like that anymore. New people get nowhere near the same benefits as those who were working before the big strike about a decade ago. It’s just cheap labor for little money, and it’s a completely miserable existence that I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

That said, the other thing I lacked was an income that would allow us to do, well, anything. My paychecks were so microscopic that once the bills were paid, we couldn’t do much of anything besides sit at home. That also meant doing what we had to do in order to stay afloat. Again, a miserable experience.

But of course, things have changed since then.

My new job continues to be a rewarding experience and now that I’m a regular employee (since last February), I get a handful of extra benefits.

One of those benefits is three Summer Days every calendar year. They are paid days off – we still get personal and sick days – that we can use anywhere between the beginning of May to the end of September. It’s probably one of the coolest little perks I’ve had at any job.

So with my paychecks now being, oh, a little more than they used to be, I’ve decided that this will be the year I treat the family to A Summer That Won’t Suck.

I’ve been looking into a lot of different things for us to do this summer, most of which are road trips around the state: San Francisco, San Diego, or just a trip to Los Angeles to see things we might have missed. We’ll gas up the car and see where we end up and I’m sure it’ll be a good time.

Plus, we’re now AAA members!


For preparation, I’ve been searching for destinations on Google Maps and saving them for future reference.

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That way when we’re out somewhere, we can also see what else is in the area and get directions to it. Killing multiple birds with one stone.

I’ve also been doing this for my eventual trip to Japan. This is only Osaka but trust me, there’s much more I’ve saved.

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While a bunch of places are eateries we’ve been wanting to try, there are local attractions that I haven’t been to in decades like the Hollywood Forever Cemetery which is the final resting place of legends such as Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks, and even two of The Ramones.

And I’ve never really taken the family on a walk of Hollywood Boulevard to be tourists so that might be an option as well.

Either way, the fun begins in a few weeks when I’m using one of my Summer Days to extend the Father’s Day weekend, and this year Father’s Day just happens to fall on the same day as our 23rd anniversary. We’ll be heading down the 5 – we don’t say “Interstate 5” in California, just “The 5/405/605” etc. – to do some outlet shopping and lunch one day, hitting World Famous Farmer’s Market the next, then most likely going for lunch on Sunday for Father’s Day and our anniversary.

This is in addition to the the concerts we will be attending for which I’ve already bought tickets:

  • Strangelove, a Depeche Mode tribute band performing at the OC Fair in July
  • Perfume in August
  • Pet Shop Boys in October (not quite summer but oh well)

Oh yes, the OC Fair will definitely be visited as well. Concert tickets include admission to the fair.

And even if I don’t use a Summer Day, the weekends are still open for any adventure we might want to take on.

Plus with all the overtime I’ve been working lately, it’s practically guaranteed that this summer won’t suck.

I’m ready. We’re ready. Bring it on!