Good Boy


Warning: this may be a really long post with lots of pictures

When Anthony was about two years old, the topic of getting him a dog/puppy came about. Admittedly, as the father of a toddler, I was hesitant to go through with it because Anthony was still so little and vulnerable. We had decided that if we did get a dog, it would be after he turned three years old.

Shortly after his third birthday in 2007, I got a message from Ann – it was a picture message that cost me money since back then we weren’t yet on a unlimited data plan. So I flipped open my phone (dating myself, no doubt) to see a picture of a tiny black puppy at the shelter, sitting calmly behind bars. At least that’s what I could make of it since camera technology in phones was poor at the time.

I looked at it and sighed. My reply: “No.”

But the family had other plans. Anthony was so excited about this little guy that it was almost impossible to say no, so that weekend we went to the shelter so that I could look at him to see how he interacted with all of us.

He went by the name of Arliss and while I don’t remember the story of how he ended up there, it didn’t matter at this point. He was a delightful little pup that was full of piss and vinegar and who, despite being mixed with the often misunderstood pit bull, couldn’t have behaved better.

He had us where he wanted us. So I put our name on the list to reserve him and a week later, we brought Arliss to his new forever home where Anthony had already been preparing for his arrival by getting him a comfy bed and chew toys.

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This was, after all, his new best friend and if there’s anything a little boy needs, it’s a dog that they can grow up with and remember forever. After a long day of playing and running around with his boy, Arliss fell asleep in my arms that evening. Welcome to the family, little guy.

My trepidation was gone as Arliss was anything but aggressive. If anything, he was just a big, dopey goofball of a puppy that loved and protected all of us as he got older.

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He also loved all of Anthony’s friends and again, was never aggressive toward any of them. He knew that if they were friends of Anthony, he didn’t need to do anything but be that little rapscallion he always was.

And oh, was he ever a rapscallion. Whenever Ann planted flowers in the backyard, Arliss would dig them up – then sleep in the dirt. Sometimes he would bypass digging them up and just lay right on top of them. He destroyed a brand new bed a day after we bought it. We could never leave food around the house because his nose would find it and his mouth would follow and one year for Christmas, we made the mistake of leaving Anthony’s gingerbread house on the kitchen table and came home to this.

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He ate one wall and was working on the base (see that hole?). And to top it off, he failed obedience class.

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But none of that mattered. Arliss was family and we loved him no matter what.

And he loved us back, even when we made him do ridiculous things.

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Like when Anthony thought it would be funny to dress him in one of his old shirts.

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Or when he got a little too close to the action in the kitchen when we were making cookies.

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He made us laugh and smile but most importantly, he loved his boy more than anyone else.

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He was always there for him to brighten his day no matter what.

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Laurel and Hardy. Hall and Oates. Anthony and Arliss – all the same.

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As most dogs do, Arliss started to slow down as he got older but still had that twinkle in his eye as if he was ready to cause some trouble. He would still play for a little bit but nowhere near his old self.

Then just a few days ago, I had noticed that he really wasn’t himself. His eating habits changed dramatically and he was having trouble keeping his food down. He was also lethargic and having trouble getting up. Anthony tried to take him for a short walk in the hopes of boosting his appetite but it didn’t work.

I gathered the family and told them that he wasn’t doing well. I could feel his pain and it wasn’t going to get better. As much as it pained us to do it, I told them they need to talk to him and let him know we all love him very much and to possibly say goodbye. Anthony couldn’t find the words or quite understand that his buddy could be gone very soon.

We tried to walk him the next day. When he stumbled I knew something had to be done and unfortunately, I knew what that was going to be.

Anthony called his grandparents over to have them say goodbye because, like a good boy, he also loved when they visited. They came over right away and Anthony’s grandfather accompanied us to the vet.

Anthony took this picture on the way. It would be the last one any of us would take of Arliss.

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Upon examination, the vet told us of some of the options available. Scans, testing, blood work, the whole nine yards. In the end, it would have just prolonged his pain because he was in bad shape mostly because of his age. I left the decision with Anthony and he agreed: his best friend had to be put down.

The vet left us in the exam room while we said our final goodbyes. I can’t even tell you how difficult it was for me and Anthony to do this. While strong, Anthony chose not to be in the room when the euthanasia was administered and I’m glad he wasn’t. He didn’t need to see that.

Stumbling for one last time, Arliss was laid down and given the anesthesia. He slowly fell asleep as I stroked his hind leg and told him we all loved him. By the second dose, the vet checked his lungs and confirmed he has stopped breathing and offered her condolences.

I lost it. I couldn’t take it. I had put pets to sleep in the past but knowing the connection between Arliss and Anthony really made this one hurt like no other. The vet left me with Arliss once he was gone and I talked to and pet him, telling him he was always a good boy and we were never disappointed in him. I thanked him for being so good to Anthony and being by his side as he grew. I kissed his head, said goodbye for the last time, and left the room.

I immediately gave Anthony a hug and told him Arliss is no longer suffering or in pain. He’s free and happy and deserves to be. He sobbed as we hugged.

The family spent the night talking about everything that had just happened and by no means was it over.

For one, I had told Ann that Arliss had hung around long enough to see her fight cancer and be deemed cancer-free. During her recovery, he was always by her side except in the evening when he would want to sleep on the patio so as not to disturb us by having to go outside and relieve himself. Not really taking that into consideration, Ann started to sob and felt guilty in not thanking him for his help.

Then I felt something and froze. When this happens, I’m almost in a trance-like state and it kind of freaks out Ann. She asked what it was.

“He’s here,” I said. “Talk to him.”

She continued to talk about him in past tense.

“No. Tell him, Ann. He’s right there.” Arliss was beautiful, as shiny and new as he was when he was a puppy, and once again full of piss and vinegar. His stub – he had no tail – wagging uncontrollably.

She thanked him for everything.

Here he is cheering her up during her recovery. Once she was ready to return to work, he resumed sleeping inside.

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This has also affected the cats. The night we put Arliss down, Steve laid across from the spot where Arliss used to sleep and stared at it. And when I pick Steve up, I can almost see the sadness in his eyes – they are watery, as if he wants to cry.

Then there’s Monte who has not been in our bedroom for a few years and we have no idea why. We’ve tried to take him in there to sleep but he immediately runs out. But at about 2:30 am and with me having trouble sleeping, I heard Monte walk down the hall and stop at the doorway of the bedroom. He then meowed a few times, jumped on the bed, and laid on my chest and rubbed my chin with his, purring the whole time. I have been taking this especially hard, more so than the family, and Monte knew it. He purred and rubbed but got a bit too heavy for me, so I rolled over and held him in my arms until I fell asleep. It was about 4:30 am when I remember him leaving the room and went right back to sleep.

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There have been telltale signs that Arliss is still here. Feeling is presence is one thing but we’ve also heard things and last night while I bed discussing things with Ann, I had gotten a strong whiff of his dog food. We had already thrown all of it away and the windows were closed. Anthony has heard him scratching and while writing this, I heard him let out a deep breath as he often did while sleeping. He hasn’t left.

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Being an empath can really drain you.

In 12 short years, Arliss watched his little boy go from preschool to high school. We couldn’t have made a better choice for him and while the family is showing signs of recovering, I can’t quite get there just yet and still having a hard time coming to grips with all of this.

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To say that Arliss was a great dog would be an understatement. He was the best dog anyone could ever have and I sometimes wonder why we got so lucky to end up with him. He was fun, loyal, and loved all of us to the bittersweet end.

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From the time he came home to the moment he left us, his love was unconditional.

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(This is one my favorite pictures of Arliss. I caught him mid-sneeze on Christmas.)

Thank you for being Anthony’s best friend and dealing with all of his nonsense, even the time he put a pair of his underwear on you. He will miss you more than you will ever know.

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Us stupid humans are simply not worthy of having such love bestowed upon us. We are mongers of war, harborers of hate, worshipers of money and destroyers of the environment.

And all a dog wants is to be loved. It’s just so unfair.

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In many cases, people are often quick to fill the void of a lost pet by adopting another. That’s not going to be case with Arliss. Anthony has already told us there’s no point in any of that. Arliss was his dog and he did his job for all of us. There simply will never be another dog in his life. Arliss was the only one he ever needed.

Arliss will be cremated and I will be giving his ashes to Anthony. We plan on making a memorial for him once we get them because that’s the least we can do for someone who brought so much joy and happiness into our lives.

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And while he may be physically gone, I still feel his presence in the house and have told Ann that he doesn’t want to leave.

“He’s still watching us,” she said. “He doesn’t have to leave.”

She’s right, and I don’t want him to leave – ever.

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He always was, and always will be, a good boy.

Rest in peace, Arliss. You were the best and we love you.

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RIP Stephen Hillenburg


I named my blog Holographic Meatloaf when I couldn’t think of anything else and because I’m a fan of SpongeBob SquarePants. The domain was available and I went for it.

Years later, even if I don’t blog as much as I used to, I keep it named to honor the show that made me laugh from its inception.

And today, the world got news that the creator of the show, Stephen Hillenburg, passed away at 57 after a battle with ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

It’s a sad day for fans everywhere. While the show had to evolve with the times (HD and whatnot), the classic episodes will always be some of the funniest and craziest shit I’ve ever seen. Next to The Simpsons, SpongeBob SquarePants is the most quotable show that still has a daily impact on my life.

Ann and I started watching from the beginning in 1999 and when our son came along, he eventually began watching and still loves it — and the memes it has since spawned (he’s a teenager now).

And with a blog named after Plankton’s favorite (or not) meal, I would be remiss in not acknowledging the show’s creator.

Thank you, Stephen Hillenburg, for your gift to the world. You will be missed.

His Name Was Prince


And he was funky.

And rest assured that my Facebook friends are probably…well, most definitely tired of my posts about the man and his music which is why I’m here to expand my thoughts just a little bit more.

First off, I find it hard to believe that he’s gone. I was at work doing my thing when I got this text from Ann:

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No. Seriously. What was the punchline here? There had to be one because this had to be some kind of horrible, horrible joke.

The old joke when we were kids was, “Hey, did you hear Alan Hamel died?”

“Really?”

Yeah. Tell a friend.”

“And u think u got it bad?”

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This was Prince. Ain’t no way this was supposed to happen so soon, especially with so many other great musicians passing away in 2016 and late 2015.

But Ann’s not very good at telling jokes and I couldn’t really think of a punchline for this one, so I had to start my own investigating.

I immediately searched for more information on Twitter, my usual news source. Everyone was all reporting the same ongoing “death investigation” with no definite word on what had happened.

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But then the confirmations started. This was the very tweet that crushed my soul.

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Note that I got it via Roku. I don’t give TMZ any more attention than I wish to as they mostly report trash I’m not remotely interested in.

I’m a fan of all kinds of music and I know what I like, and I like Prince. That’s why it was so incredibly shocking to hear he had died. Music is a very important part of my life probably because I can’t play an instrument and appreciate those who can, and admire those who are masters.

Well, I try.

Upon reading this tweet, I sat at my desk and out a huge, disappointing sigh that sounded like more of an annoyed grunt. It could have been. My coworker laughed and asked if I was okay.

Then I showed her the tweet.

“No way,” she exclaimed. As the news spread across almost every person/business I follow on Twitter, it was apparent that there would be no punchline as it was no joke. We were both shocked.

At age 57, Prince Rogers Nelson was gone.

“We could all die any day”

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Granted, I’m not his biggest fan in that I don’t have many of his albums nor did I ever witness him live, something I most definitely regret now. But I do enjoy music — all kinds. And you don’t have to be a big Prince fan in order to appreciate his contribution to the music world – at least if you grew up in the time he was at the top of his game.

That year was 1984 when his quasi-biographical Purple Rain hit the theaters. While people were still singing his hits from 1999, the movie propelled him to a level of success and attention that was incredible to witness.

I can recall seeing Purple Rain shirts by the handful in high school with their proud owners bragging about his incredible concert at The Forum. Back then, you couldn’t turn on the radio or MTV without hearing/seeing Prince, most likely “When Doves Cry,” even though all of his singles from 1999 were still popular.

Prince had arrived only a few years after being booed off the stage while opening for the Rolling Stones, and he was still about pushing boundaries.

“Whenever my hopes and dreams
Are aimed in the wrong direction
She’s always there
Tellin’ me how much she cares”

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Distributing his album Planet Earth via Sunday newspaper in the UK. The Lord’s Prayer in “Controversy.” His name change to an unpronounceable symbol. The buttless chaps he wore on the MTV Music Awards. And, of course, his reluctance to be a part of the Internet by not having an official website, his videos on YouTube (and his threats to sue anyone who posted them), or his albums on streaming services.

Of course in 1999, the eponymous song became the anthem of the year. If you went to a New Year’s Eve party you know it was played allllll night.

But as fans continue to mourn, videos are starting to show up. Here’s one I remember seeing a ton of times on MTV and it’s one of the rate videos where you’ll see Prince sit behind the drums and madly pound out a solo.

While this entire performance is worthy of watching, the solo begins at 7:45.

And let’s not forget that his song “Darling Nikki” and not a rap song was responsible for this sticker:

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I can think of songs on the radio today that are even more explicit than that one but hey, it gives Tipper Gore something to be proud of I guess.

There was never a doubt that he was an incredible musician, songwriter, and performer and like the man himself, his music knew no boundaries. This is perhaps why so many musicians paid tribute to him on the day he passed away, most of them playing his somber “Purple Rain.”

Corey Taylor of metal band Slipknot:

A student choir at the Disney Concert Hall:

Adam Levine of Maroon 5:

The cast of The Color Purple:

Bruce Springsteen:

Jimmy Buffett:

As musicians paid homage to Prince, cities around the world did the same.

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The Eiffel Tower.

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Downtown Los Angeles, who may just win the prize for tributes.

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The Minnesota Twins. Ironically, it was raining the day he passed.

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New Yorker Magazine.

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The Forum in Inglewood, where Prince played 21 nights in 2011.

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Long Beach Transit.

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The local news during the Entertainment Report.

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A church in Tulsa, OK.

When applicable, people will flock to Hollywood leave flowers and mementos at the Walk of Fame star of a recently deceased star. Prince, of course, was not your average star and does not have a star on the Walk of Fame. As a result, a someone decided he needed one where fans could mourn.

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“Baby I’m a star”

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And of course, my own that I posted on Instagram.

The only thing I’ve seen that came close to this was when John Lennon was assassinated. It was a beautiful way to celebrate the life of a man who wore the most feminine outfits while shredding a guitar like no other – and prancing around on stage in his trademark high-heeled boots.

So guys, if you ever think you’re a badass, just forget it. Prince owns you even now.

He was taken away from us much too fast but we were lucky to walk this planet at the same time to experience his incredible gift.

“No one in the whole universe will ever compare”

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So thank you and goodnight, sweet Prince. Rest in Power.

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Goodnight, Mr. Padre


I’ve made it to this point in my life admiring only a handful of people from different walks of life. It’s worth noting that, for some reason or another, none of them are musicians and even fewer are athletes.

In fact, there’s really only one athlete that I can recall as being someone I looked up to while I was a young adult, so much so that when it came time to name my own son, it was with little hesitation (and input from Ann, of course) that Anthony was chosen.

The Anthony in question here is one Anthony Keith Gwynn, Sr., aka Tony Gwynn, aka Mr. Padre. And it was today that my heart sank just a little bit when I heard the news of Gwynn’s passing after battling salivary gland cancer, something probably caused by years of chewing tobacco. He was only 54.

And to just get it out of the way, Gwynn apparently made a long line of poor financial choices and ended up owing somewhere near $400k in back taxes. But then again, that was his personal business and not why I named my son after him. We’ve all made bad choices (financial or otherwise) and the Hall of Fame is not called the Hall of Morals and Ethics, otherwise the place would be a Hall of Nothing if we question what some of its current inductees did in their personal lives. Think about it.

Let’s move on.

Back in the days before I had cable TV, I would watch the Padres on San Diego’s Channel 39 over a regular broadcast signal just to see Gwynn play. It took some time to tune in with rabbit ears but I was able to do it more often than not, and especially on warmer days. I spent many summers watching the games from the comfort of my second-story bedroom some 80 miles away from San Diego and also drove to what was once called Jack Murphy Stadium to see him make a fool of pitchers.

Naturally, being a baseball fan, the most striking thing I found about Gwynn was his sweet swing. It was straight out of a Charley Lau textbook on the subject of hitting, books I read while I tried to perfect my swing at the local batting cages. I often watched Gwynn and eventually modeled my swing after his. Not only was he a great hitter but also one with an uncanny ability to hit anywhere on the field, especially holes in the infield. There was really nowhere that the opposing team could play the guy because they never knew where he would be spraying the ball.

There are also a few personal memories I have of Gwynn, ones that stand out more than any others.

The first one took place at Dodger Stadium. I was with a group of people I used to work with at Target watching the game. The game started and naturally, Gwynn was the lead-off hitter. I told one of my coworkers, “Watch him. He’s going after the first pitch.”

Tom Candiotti, a known knuckleballer, floated the first pitch of the game to Gwynn which he promptly smacked into right field for a hit. Keep in mind that the knuckleball is one of the toughest pitches to hit and Gwynn just went to town with the thing. It was amazing.

Then there was the time I got his autograph at Anaheim Stadium, where he signed for as many fans as he could. It’s difficult to find a ballplayer even of the lowest caliber doing that in this day and age.

Another time in San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium, I witnessed Gwynn and John Kruk throwing baseballs high into the stands during batting practice in an attempt to hit the giant video screen. Kruk came closer than Gwynn who was laughing too hard at what he and Kruk were up to.

Here’s an odd one. When Ann and I were shopping for a spa years ago, we visited a vendor at the Orange County Fair who was from San Diego. He saw me wearing my Tony Gwynn jersey and immediately started to criticize him for his tax problems. We immediately left his booth and went to another where we gladly dropped nearly $3,000 on a spa. Hope he was happy in expressing his opinion, an opinion that cost him a nice sale.

And just last year, I was finally able to make it to PETCO Park to watch the Dodgers battle the Padres. And although I’m smiling in this picture, I have to tell you that I was pretty emotional about standing there with Anthony, in front of a statue erected in honor of my favorite baseball player, the one I named my son after.

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Lastly, I was privileged to witness the greatness that was Tony Gwynn back in the early ‘90s when I had a Field Pass to Anaheim Stadium (when I had connections for such things). I rarely used it but didn’t pass up the opportunity to watch Gwynn during a few Spring Training exhibition games. Watching him up close doing his thing was absolutely incredible. Here are few shots from one of the games that I never posted anywhere up until today when I posted them to Instagram. These are all scans from 35mm film.

And of course, it helps that Gwynn’s family resided in Long Beach for many years and he attended Long Beach Poly, Ann’s high school, where their baseball field is named in the family’s honor.

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So many memories and all of them good. And that’s just from me. The baseball community is still churning out stories on what an incredible guy Gwynn was, not only as a player but as a person. He left an indelible mark on his fellow teammates, fans, and the game of baseball. And these are just my recollections of the man. His numbers and achievements speak for themselves.

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Rest in peace, Mr. Padre. Your legacy will never be forgotten.

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!

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