2014: My Year In Review


I know it’s a few days late but I like to wait until the year is over because hey, you never know what can happen, right?

Anyhow I bid you a very Happy New Year. And in keeping with what seems to be a new tradition since I’m always taking pictures of even the most minor event in my life with my phone, I’m going to share with you my photographic year in review* as I did last year. I enjoy doing these posts because I throw in a lot of crazy little things that I saw along with the big things, plus add often sarcastic commentary to go along with all of it.

Will 2014 compare to 2013? Will it be better or worse? You be the judge. So grab your choice of beverage, sit back, and enjoy the (possibly bittersweet) ride.

January 2014

We were invited to go to Disneyland and took the first of what would be, quite honestly, too many trips to Walt’s Magic Kingdom.

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I found a wallet and tried to return it, which turned into one clusterfuck of an ordeal. (Note that the term “clusterfuck” may appear many, many more times in this post – you’ve been warned!) The coins were found in the parking lot next to the wallet but I kept them. Half-dollars are cool.

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We made another trip to Disneyland a few weeks after the last one. It’s already too much.

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I had two of my photos posted in the local newspaper which recently shut down after only 20 months.

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February 2014

I discovered that the local church has parking dedicated to corpulent parishioners.

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In an effort to cut costs due to unemployment, we cut the cable cord and bought Roku boxes and digital antennae.

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Speaking of unemployment, I got a job the day after my birthday at a local grocery store where I tend to take selfies in the freezer.

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And speaking of birthdays, I turned 45 without much fanfare as don’t have my birthdate visible on Facebook. (Those who know, know.) I’m not a big birthday person and only posted this cryptic image on Instagram for people to figure out. I think only one person did.

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I celebrated Chinese New Year the way I did last year, by riding in the Chinatown Firecracker 30-Mile Bike Ride. It’s one of my favorite events but sadly, due to my part-time status, all of my events for 2015 have been put on the back burner. I may not do any if I can’t get the money together for them.

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March 2014

I participated in my second Coaster Run but only the 5k. It rained for most of it and was probably the most fun I’ve had doing an event.

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I witnessed one of the most amazing sunrises in recent memory.

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We switched from MetroPCS to AT&T using my new Corporate Discount through work. That, of course, required getting new phones.

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I decorated (read: wrote on) my first cake while working in the Bakery.

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After around a week of building, I completed constructing The Simpsons LEGO house.

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We celebrated Anthony’s 10th birthday at a local pizza place where his grandfather showed him how to score a bunch of tickets playing the Blackjack game.

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April 2014

While out for a run, I saw the Amityville Horror house being built in a local park.

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You know. Korean Doritos.

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We took one of two trips to the tide pools, one of our most favorite local spots.

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Sadly, on my Mom’s birthday, my Aunt Mary (seated) passed away. This was taken a year earlier at Mom’s surprise 75th birthday.

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May 2014

We were invited to go to Disneyland’s 24 Hour event and I was the only person in our group to make it to sunrise on Saturday (after arriving around 4pm Friday). I didn’t blog about it; I only posted my pictures on Instagram.

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June 2014

We discovered that there’s a Hello Kitty wine, but we don’t like Chardonnay. I’m more of a Merlot person now that I occasionally drink wine.

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We took our final trip to Disneyland.

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July 2014

I got this really creepy lenticular Jesus picture sent to me from a church that was begging for money. I was on their mailing list for a while and got all kinds of weird stuff sent to me, including a communion wafer.

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The door of the baler at work came down and smashed my fingertips. They were numb for about a month or so but are fine now.

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In an effort to earn a few bucks since I was (and still am) only working part-time, we sold our extra refrigerator. And you know what? That turned out to be a big clusterfuck as well!

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Only 17 months into our lease, we had to say goodbye to the Kia Optima. Working a minimum-wage, part-time job just wasn’t enough to make the payments anymore. It felt like a kick in the gut but it has turned out to be fine in the end. It also gives me yet another opportunity to say that Kia financing is the worst on the planet. Read this post for more information.

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The day we got rid of the Optima also ushered in a new day of motoring for me: I bought my Yamaha Zuma scooter which I still love. Payments are 1/4 that of the Optima and it is ridiculous on gas (between 65-80 MPG), meaning I’ve never put more than $3 in it since I’ve owned it.

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I applied for a job at Disneyland. I had the interview and was shortlisted then later offered a position. I turned it down for many a good reason.

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I got a second job someplace near and dear to my heart, which I quit after only one day of training. I’ve never seen the paycheck. I quit for many reasons, the main one being their ultra-strict policy on personal items and phones. It pretty much granted them the right to search my locker, backpack, and phone any time they wanted with no reason or cause. I’m an honest guy but their policy was way overboard for me, so I left.

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After a month of studying, I took the written exam for my motorcycle license and got my permit.

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August 2014

Anthony got his parakeets.

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I hit 100 miles on the scooter.

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We took a trip to Mattel, across the street from where I used to work.

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We paid a visit to the Queen

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…and her neighbor, a Russian submarine.

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My friend commissioned us to refurbish the sign for his restaurant. Here is the Before shot.

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September 2014

My “promotion” at work became official. But I still take selfies in the freezer.

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I was reunited with some friends from my old Catholic school whom I hadn’t seen in over 30 years.

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Remember the sign we were working on? Here’s the finished project.

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How YOU doin’?

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October 2014

The job allowed us to root for our favorite local team in the MLB playoffs, so naturally I did.

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My mad art skillz came in handy at work once again when I was asked to conjure up a sign for a our seasonal caramel apples.

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Catastrophe. Just a few days before participating in another event, I dropped my phone and rendered it useless.

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That same day, my scooter was vandalized by local school kids who don’t understand what it’s like to have their property willingly broken.

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Anthony ran in his second Aquarium of the Pacific Kids Run

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..and I did my second duathlon the following day. I did it last year and rode the bike tour the previous four years.

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I replaced my broken phone with this, the Samsung Galaxy Skyrocket II. It was such a horrible phone that I returned it the next day.

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It was replaced with the HTC one M7, an absolutely amazing phone.

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November 2014

I got a new camera and started shooting quality photos again. My first trip was a Dia de los Muertos event.

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A few days later, we made another trip to the tide pools where I messed with the different settings on the camera.

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Anthony and I took the train to the L.A. Auto Show where the camera performed well in every lighting condition.

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December 2014

Well, outside of Christmas, there wasn’t much to speak of in December so I don’t have many pictures for that month. It looks like 2014 had its share of highs and lows but naturally, I took the good with the bad and moved on.

By the way, I’m still on Facebook Vacation and enjoying it. It’s amazing how much you can do with your time when you don’t give it so much attention.

Anyhow, there’s my second annual Year In Review post and I hoped you enjoyed it. Here’s hoping my 2015 is less phone-breaky, scooter-pushy, and wallet-findy and that yours is everything you wish it make it to be.

*Selected events, of course. You don’t need to know about my doctor’s visits.
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2012 Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour


CAM01752Under normal circumstances, getting me to wake up at any unreasonable hour of the morning usually requires tons of pestering by anything or anybody. That or it takes being cajoled with the promise of donut holes for breakfast.

But there is one day of the year when waking up at 3:30 am is not only easy, it’s a welcomed change.

And rising long before the sun is exactly what I did on Sunday morning when I participated in the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour, my third year in a row of doing so. Not only did I wake up before my alarm went off, I was ready to go even before then. That’s how much I enjoy this 26.2 mile ride around the city.

To give you an idea, here’s how my day was planned:

  • 3:30 am: Wake up and have some breakfast
  • 4:00 am: Strap bike to rack, drive to train station
  • 4:30 am: Take train to downtown Long Beach
  • 5:00 am: Arrive at last stop, walk/ride to venue
  • 6:00 am: Start of Bike Tour

With the exception of catching the train at 4:30 (it was later than that), that’s pretty much how it all went down. Well, and the delayed start of the tour which was around 6:20 am. No big deal.

After arriving and roaming around a bit I found my place at the starting line and at that point it was still pretty empty. This was one of the first shots I took with my phone, looking toward the starting gate.

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Here’s one I took in the same direction shortly before we started…

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…and looking behind me.

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From what I had heard, there were over 2,600 participants riding the streets this year and as you can tell, it sure seemed like it! Helmets and lights as far as the eye could see. It was amazing.

Long story short, the tour of the city was just how I remembered it the two previous years but I seem to be forgetting about those inclines. I believe that’s why my time was about 5 minutes slower than last year’s total. That or I’m just getting older and the muscles are telling me “NO!” But in the end, I did finish in one piece and earned yet another medal for the wall.

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This year’s tour, however, seemed to take on a new meaning than the previous years.

As you know, the main reasons I continue to do these events is to stay in shape, prove to myself I can, and remind myself to never be the way I used to be: 300 pounds and lazy.

And as some readers may know, my connection with Dad remains strong despite his passing in 1976. If anything, the one thing I remember about Dad is his constant need to keep me happy and smiling, something these events also do. As a result, at the end of each one when I get my medal, I give it a quick kiss and silently dedicate it to Dad because I know he would be proud to see me finish – and smiling.

This year really emphasized that.

At the Health Expo the day before the event, and for the first time that I can recall since doing the tour, the folks at JetBlue had a banner on which runners, family members, etc. could write their notes of encouragement or in some cases political messages (look closely for “OBAMA 2012”). The sign, reading “1 MORE MILE – You’re nonstoppable” was to be placed at, of course, Mile 25.2.

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My message was simple. I found one of the few places left on the banner and wrote what my heart told me to.

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And when I saw that banner at Mile 25.2 it was as if Dad was standing right there cheering for me. It was all I needed to push myself through the final mile since I seemed to have difficulty with the previous 5 or so (cramping mainly).

When I walked across the finish line – cyclists must dismount before doing so – and toward the volunteer who handed me my medal, my eyes were starting to well up. I knew Dad was there more than previous tours. I thanked the volunteer for my medal, glanced at it for a second, gave the medal a little peck then thrust it skyward and said, “For you, Dad.”

Somewhere I know he’s smiling back at me.

With the sentimental stuff out of the way, let’s move on to a few not-so-serious memories from the event and Health Expo.

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It’s not uncommon for people to wear costumes to these events but take a look at this guy dressed in a Robin costume. I saw him before the bike tour outside the Health Expo. I hope he finds Batman.

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The mural covering the Long Beach Convention Center was done by famed artist Robert Wyland in 1992.

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The VW display had these blank bibs in which you could write a message. I chose to inspire people and get some free advertising at the same time.

Also at the VW display was a photo booth that was powered by two stationary bikes connected to generators. Pretty cool. The problem was that when we entered the booth, I soon realized that Anthony was too short and couldn’t be seen by the camera. I had to lift him a little bit to get him in the picture.

Unfortunately that didn’t work, either.

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I wasn’t aware that there would be this giant ad at the bottom and the monitor inside the booth does not compensate for that so all you see is his forehead. Kind of reminds me of that scene from Sixteen Candles.

Fortunately, the booth was moved outside for the marathon and bike tour so I was able to get at least one good shot emailed to me.

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After that, I relaxed and cheered on the runners for a bit.

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All in all, another excellent day in Shoreline Village and beyond. So will I return for my fourth tour in 2013? You bet I will. And this time I will be coming home with two medals.

That’s right. For 2013’s event, I have decided to ride in the Bike Tour and run the Forrest Gump “Run Forrest Run” 5k which takes place at 8:30 am, just enough time to transition out of cycling mode and into running. It’ll be a kind of duathlon which is something I’ve been wanting to try. So watch out. Next year I will be wearing two bibs and ready for more action.

The 2012 Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour was once again memorable and continues to be one of the most organized events I’ve done. From registration to finish line it cannot be easier and before I forget, I have to take a moment to thank the volunteers. If not for them, this event would simply not take place. They do an amazing job and give up a lot of their personal time in the process so they need to be recognized, which I did plenty of along the way by pointing, clapping and thanking them as I passed them.

Thanks a million to all volunteers. You rocked!

Another special thanks to all of the spectators along the route who had their cowbells, signs and from what I heard, donut holes for runners. They are also some of the event’s unsung heroes because what they do is important if you are struggling mentally or physically.

As one sign read, “Pain is temporary. Pride is forever.”

Indeed it is. See you in 2013, Long Beach!

Doing It Again


It may not be until October but I’m getting the word out now.

Last year, I rode in the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour and raised about $300 for Special Olympics of Southern California. It was my first ride and I had a great time doing it and knowing that it was for a great cause.

I’ve already registered for this year’s event and I’m am also doing it for charity: Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, CA. As a father, if there is anything that makes me melt, it’s seeing the little ones in this hospital bravely battle whatever ails them–most with smiles on their faces. I wish I could be as strong as they.

But I can never be, which is why I’m doing the next best thing by raising money to help the hospital care for these courageous children. If you would like to support me, you can donate by going to this page.

Thanks in advance for your support. The kids will appreciate it.

Doing for Others


 

Long Beach, California at night

Image via Wikipedia

 

Let’s face it: things have been pretty crappy on the job front for a long time now.

And aside from doing the acting thing now and then, something I chose to do just to put a smile on my face (and the extra money helps) , there’s been little else to celebrate. It’s just been that kind of year.

So rather than sit and sulk about it even more, I’ve decided that if employers don’t want to do anything for me in order to help me out, I’m going to do something in October that will help bring a smile to the faces of others.

Riding my bike in the Long Beach Marathon was something I had planned on doing a long time ago but like my attempt to run the Disneyland 5k, it never came to fruition. The reason for not running was simple: unlike the treadmill and despite losing 100 pounds, concrete does not play well with my knees. It’s a lethal combination.

That leaves the Marathon which I have decided I will definitely participate in this time. I’ll be 26.2 miles riding around the street of Long Beach starting at 6 am and while I’m definitely ready for it, here’s what’ll be different. Continue reading