2017: My Year In Review


Happy New Year, all two of you! Glad you’re still around reading my infrequent posts.

I’ve decided to go ahead and keep my tradition of Year In Review posts going for yet another year with  pictures of the most memorable things that happened. Let’s go!

January 2017

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I rang in the New Year right by going for an early run/walk. Seeing the sunrise on January 1st was pretty metaphoric – highly recommended. Personally, I think sunsets are overrated. Sunrises are where it’s at.

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I bid a fond farewell to my Yamaha Zuma 125 which was damaged beyond repair in my accident of October 2016. Bummer.

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The family went to the Norton Simon Museum. Seeing actual brushstrokes on canvas by the likes of Picasso and Van Gogh is nothing short of mesmerizing.

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Took the kid to another Dodger Fan Fest where organist Dieter Ruehle played the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore Show since she had passed away a few days earlier. Very nice.

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I reminisced on the inauguration of Barack Obama (seen here at my employer at the time in 2009). Now we have to deal with daily shitstorms of tweets and a strange obsession with Hilary Clinton from our current “leader” as well as ending everything 44 did while in office. I’m not bitter. I’m pissed. And please remember to vote.

February 2017

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I celebrated one official year with my new employer! (The last list of anniversaries has me as being hired in August 2015, though.)

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The family had a group birthday outing to Benihana to celebrate all of our birthdays since they fall so close together. It’s a nice experience but I don’t think the prices justifies it – even with a $30 birthday voucher it was still over $100!

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I saw this couple wandering near the office and held one of the reptiles for a moment. Some people are freaked out by snakes but I find them amazing creatures, and it was cool to hold one this size.

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Speaking of the office, I didn’t realize how close I worked to some of the locations used in the classic movie It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Here are some then-and-now shots, literally walking distance from the job.

March 2017

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Ann’s real birthday!

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Anthony’s real birthday! I’m officially the father of a teenager (and yes, it’s everything you’ve heard it was).

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I took Anthony to a Breakfast Club Cruise-In at the Petersen Automotive Museum. So many great cars.

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We went to the beach in San Clemente after outlet shopping. Note the length of my hair. Ahem.

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In another non-blogged story, I found this little hummingbird outside the office lying on its back with feet in the air and wings spread out. Thinking it had died, I picked it up and looked for a place to put it. Then I noticed its eyes still moving so I stroked its little chest for a bit and it perked up, rolled over and stood in my hand as you see it here. I also removed the feather stuck it its eye. I then placed it in a planter outside the office. Hopefully the little guy (or gal) turned out okay.

April 2017

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Grand Prix time! The office is almost deserted on Free Friday for practice and qualifying.

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I participated in a local Beach Streets event, my first one ever. It was a lot of fun, plus the exercise didn’t hurt.

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In March, a twist of an ankle during a playground football revealed a fracture, but that didn’t stop Anthony from enjoying a Las Vegas vacation! We had a blast and visited quite a few places.

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The flower display at Bellagio was spectacular.

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Nelson Ghost Town is as picturesque as you want a place to be, but load up on gas before you go – there’s none for miles and it’s very remote.

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And because Anthony likes Tanked! we had to visit the place where it is filmed.

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Standing on the bridge overlooking Hoover Dam. Strangely, despite my acrophobia, I didn’t mind being up here. And that hair…

May 2017

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We visited JPL and just nerded out. Also, Anthony spotted Kevin Sussman, aka Stuart from Big Bang Theory, while we were there and took this selfie with him. He’s real good at that it seems.

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While riding my bike on lunch, I came across a nice VW van that looked familiar. Some quick research confirmed it belonged to comedian and Long Beach resident Gabriel Iglesias. So I sat and waited for him to return to it so I could get a picture with him, and hair…uh, here it is.

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I discovered a Friday farmers market near the office. It’s a happening place.

June 2017

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A coworker upgraded to the iPhone 7 Plus and wanted to know how Portrait mode worked so I willingly posed for them.

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The Dew Tour skateboarding event returned and I took tons of action shots. Parking wasn’t an issue – I walked from the office.

And Ann and I celebrated 24 years of wedded bliss!

July 2017

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I finally took the leap and got my long overdue dental work started. You can read about it here, here, and here.

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A new family member! The Kitten Formerly Known as Prince became Benny, or Bento as I call him. Notice Monte in the background not having any of it, although now they are best buddies.

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You just can’t prepare yourself for some things, and the passing of a friend is one of them. Ray was just 44 when he passed away in his sleep of a pulmonary embolism and it was a shock to all of us. I miss him dearly, especially our discussions about our beloved Dodgers. Vaya con Dios, amigo.

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Pow! Wow! Long Beach returned and I spent my lunch hour visiting the local murals and speaking to a few of the artist, including “Bryan” Blue seen here with his work in progress.

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Promo shot for my new album. Not. Hair level: near the shoulders.

August 2017

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The Great Partial Solar Eclipse! Hair official longer than Ann’s.

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My second biking event, CicLAvia ran from my hometown to San Pedro. Read about it here.

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Dodger game.

September 2017

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Look! Another Dodger game!

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Ray.

October 2017

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I took over Depeche Mode’s Facebook page for a day which included attending a taping of Jimmy Kimmel Live! You can read about it here.

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Year 8 of the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour and Year 3 of the combo 5k went in the books.

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Local wildfires made for an eerily beautiful backdrop but the air quality meant not going outside for an extended period of time.

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Our annual family picture at the local pumpkin patch! We started in 2004.

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Yeah so…Halloween at the office went a little something like this.

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My Dodgers made it to the World Series!

November 2017

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We went to a local event and saw some planes up close. That’s Anthony and his grandfather who, at age 80, will still run circles around you – even after a quadruple bypass years ago. The plane in the background is the Boeing C-17, one he helped build.

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Anthony wanted to see firsthand what the Black Friday fuss was about so we took him to Target. This was the line to get in.

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He wasn’t impressed.

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My Dodgers lost the World Series but stocking up on merchandise from their amazing season at deep discounts was fun. Wait ‘til this year…

December 2017

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I stood where Jim Morrison stood.

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I took a few vacation days and did a little photo essay of Los Angeles or the Theatre District at least. Going solo, I had all the time in the world to take well over 350 shots and not worry about driving (Go Metro!). Images sans descriptions can be seen here or feel free to scour my Instagram account for them. The highlight was getting kicked out of a theatre I wasn’t supposed to be in but hey, if you give me and open door…

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I bid a fond farewell to Pat DiNizio, singer/songwriter for The Smithereens, who passed away suddenly. While not a household name, this New Jersey band rocked with the best of them and put on one hell of a live show. We’ll miss you, Pat.

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I got to meet legendary DJ Richard Blade at a book signing for his autobiography World In My Eyes. This guy got Depeche Mode their big break in L.A. and has hung out with just about every mover and shaker of the ‘80s New Wave movement. If you love music from that era or interested how he got started then you must pick up this book. I’m the proud owner of a signed First Edition!

And that hair. Mine, not his.

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Last and most recently, I took Anthony with me on another photo excursion to Los Angeles while on Christmas vacation. This is a view from the observation deck of Los Angeles City Hall and it’s one of the coolest things you can do while visiting the city. Bonus: totally free. Just pass through a security checkpoint manned by LAPD’s finest and head up to the 26th floor.

That’s a wrap. What’s on the slate for 2018?

  • Surviving this joke of a presidency if we don’t get nuked first
  • Getting my rear back in shape, although running is getting more difficult (which I attribute to the added weight)
  • Not a lot of traveling, just staying local
  • Trying new things
  • Enjoying the last year of my 40s

Oh, the hair. Did I mention that at all? The reasons for letting it grow are simple:

  • Because I can. Most guys my age are either dyeing what’s left of theirs, bald, or shaved.
  • I don’t work for the Walt Disney Company where grooming standards are ridiculously strict (yeah yeah, it’s all for show). My employer is filled with creatives, most of whom are very much into individual expression via colored hair, tattoos, dress, art, etc. We’re free spirits so being different is part of our culture and perfectly acceptable.
  • I’ve never done this before so I thought I’d give it a shot.

And there you go. Happy 2018!

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The Way It Used to Be


It seems I need to get back into blogging.

Since I don’t watch much TV, I’ve been spending my nights in a fruitless effort to try to learn the Japanese language – and still getting nowhere. At least it feels that way. It’s doubtful I’ll make much progress anymore so it’s on the back burner for now. Disappointing, yes, but you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks, let alone those of a foreign language.

And on top of that, it’s kind of a way to hit the proverbial Reset button. I need to do this as much as I need to meditate, something else I haven’t done in a long time.

At any rate, this old dog spent last Saturday night with his son at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles to see one of his all-time favorite groups, Pet Shop Boys. In all my years of concert-going, this was only the second PSB show I have attended. Technically, it should have been the third but things happen. As expected, it was spectacular.

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The good thing about this venue is that like most of my favorite spots in Los Angeles, it’s close to a Metro station and that makes me happy. Rather than spend $20 on parking plus burning all that gas to get there, I spent $7 round-trip for the both of us.

The trip to the Pico Station was pretty uneventful save for the usual hustling from vendors selling food and cell phone accessories. Pretty much expected.

When we arrived at our exit, I saw a couple exit before us and the girl gave me a glance and said, “You going to the Pet Shop Boys concert?”

She had me pegged. It must have been my shirt from their 1991 Performance tour that gave me away.

“Oh yeah, I’ve been waiting a long time,” I told her. She then gave me a rundown of all PSB shows she’s attended then pointed to her boyfriend.

“He hasn’t seen them live yet.” I smiled.

“Oh, you will NOT be disappointed,” I told him as we made our way down the sidewalk. Anthony held the gate for them and they were surprised. Kids don’t do that these days.

We then split up and told them to enjoy the show as they made their way into a corner Mexican restaurant across the street. Anthony and I headed over to the venue.

And wow. Let me explain. In addition to the usual Saturday night crowd, there were also two other events happening: Stan Lee’s Comic-con at the L.A. Convention Center and the League of Legends Championship at Staples Center and outside Microsoft Theater. There were tons of young people there having a great time. Granted I don’t know much about either of those things – remember, Old Dog – but I’d be more inclined to attend the comic-con if I had a choice. There might be a slight chance I’d be able to recognize some of the cosplay outfits based on my limited knowledge of anime. In fact I’m sure I saw a young lady dressed as one of the Sailor characters. There are many and I can only identify Moon. Jupiter, Mars, Venus? Forget it. But one out of…many isn’t bad I guess.

And to their credit, most of them are handmade. Probably not the easiest thing to do.

As we made our way through the crowd, there was a guy pointing out and verbally identifying people by their wardrobe and giving a high-five gesture, then slapping them one if they held out their hand. So many smiles everywhere. Video screens flashing ads and music videos lit up our steps to the venue.

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Anthony then asked me, “Is this what Japan is like?” Hmm. Shibuya and Harajuku. Osaka’s dotonbori. I looked up and around.

“Yeah, pretty much,” I told him basing my opinion on sheer speculation and not fact. But they do look like places that would have a similar vibe, if not better.

“Okay, we need to go then,” he said with a smile. In time, my man. In time.

The show began a little after 9 pm and as previously stated, it was amazing. A lot of newer stuff mixed with classics like “West End Girls,” “Domino Dancing” and “Always On My Mind.” Then, of course, “It’s A Sin.” That song pretty much changed my life.

We left the venue satisfied, ears ringing, and walked the couple of blocks back to the train station for our ride home. That’s where I saw the couple from earlier that night. I saw the guy and asked, “Well?”

“It was outstanding,” he said with a smile. His girlfriend chimed in and agreed. I then asked which stop was theirs as the train approached. It was only one away from ours so Anthony and I sat next to them for the ride and introduced ourselves.

I discovered that the couple – we’ll call them Jack and Dianne – were big music fans and regular concert-goers. At 31, Jack was the oldest of the two and about 7 years Dianne’s senior. At one point Dianne mentioned that she had seen Depeche Mode a few times and was looking forward to seeing them this time around. I am too, and I told her about the DM shows I have attended.

“Oh, I first saw them in 1987 at The Forum. Music for the Masses Tour. Then I saw them at the Rose Bowl in 1988.”

“Really? And how much was it for that show?”

I replied without hesitation. “$22.50. And for four acts: Wire, Thomas Dolby, OMD, and Depeche Mode.”

Totally stunned. That concert is the stuff of legends. I then told her I was at the Jimmy Kimmel taping in the pit taking lo-res pictures with my old Verizon LG enV flip-phone.

We talked about how incredibly expensive concerts can be now, even for the cheap seats. I agreed then told them they have it easy these days. They didn’t remember a time before the Internet and apps when buying concert tickets was an event in itself.

How did you even get to see any shows back then?

“Two ways to buy them: camp out or call Ticketmaster and 213-480-3232. See? I still remember the phone number. And you had to keep calling if the line was busy and if you finally got through, it was a miracle. This was before the Redial button, you know. But even if you camped outside Music Plus or The Wherehouse, there was no guarantee you’d get them. Scalpers have always been around and they still are.”

And camping out usually meant sparking up conversation with the people around you, especially if the wait was expected to be long. And when it was over, you’d part ways with the knowledge you might just see them at the show. And if you didn’t, hey, you at least had a great chat to kill some time.

Then we went over shows we’ve been to. That lasted a while with me but it turns out that despite me being old enough to be Dianne’s father, we all had similar taste in music. I said the last show we attended was Perfume, a Japanese electro-pop group that rarely tours the U.S.

Not only were ticket prices discussed but physical tickets in general. We used to collect them and put them in scrap books or our wallets as a way of showing our friends we were there. Well, outside of buying a shirt. Now I’m not even sure if you can opt for a physical ticket or have to print them at home (and still get charged even though you’re using your own ink). But I do know that a virtual ticket is indeed pretty cool but nowhere as cool as a stub. And if you don’t screencap it, it’s lost.

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Speaking of Perfume, I told them that as I was waiting for them to tour the U.S., I wanted to find some videos on YouTube of their Japan tour. It was impossible and the reason is simple: I learned that in Japan, it’s not allowed. At all.

So it was only natural that the conversation took yet another turn. I said concerts were so much better in the days before smartphones. Why? Because we were in the moment enjoying the show. We knew we would have stories to tell the next day at school or at work. There seemed to be more of a personal connection between the music and the fan back then, rather than this “look at me” generation that cares more about taking selfies with the stage in the background or posting live videos on Facebook. Seeing a sea of screens in front of me the entire show is pretty annoying because I come from the cigarette-lighter-during-a-ballad generation. And it was waaaaay cooler.

To further prove my point about the disconnect between music and fan today, I told them the story of the mixtape I found and how making one back in the day was such a labor of love. It had to express how we were feeling and being caught up in the creation of it was part of our connection to the music because we knew how hard it was to get this tape just right.

And the act of buying music itself? Totally different. Click-to-buy is nothing like lining up for that new CD on New Music Tuesday.

We had a great chat that made the trip seem so much shorter. When Anthony and I arrived at our stop, we shook hands and exchanged pleasantries while they complimented me on Anthony’s politeness at the Pico Station where he held the gate open for them. We both thanked them.

And while I could have given them links to my social media accounts to stay in touch, it only seemed appropriate to end our talk and part ways with these kids like this.

Just like the way it used to be outside Music Plus, waiting for Phil Collins tickets to go on sale.

A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 3


Yesterday we logged just under 100 miles in our adventure down south to San Clemente. This is when we’re happy to have such a fuel-efficient little vehicle, even if Anthony is starting to have difficulty fitting in the back seat. He’s a tall kid.

Today, we headed the opposite direction and hit a few places we hadn’t been to in a long, long time.

First on the list: the historic Original Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles, which was and still is a place where Hollywood luminaries spend their day. It’s not like I would recognize any of today’s stars but it’s cool knowing that folks like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and The Beatles strolled through there.

And remember when I said we hadn’t been there in a long time? Here’s a shot of Anthony I took the last time we were there. I was testing out a film camera I had recently acquired.

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He doesn’t even remember being there. Honestly, I’m not quite sure it was even in 2009 but I do know it was a long, long time ago when you compare it to the picture I took today:

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A little difference, no?

At any rate, we had planned to arrive at their opening time of 9am. Amazingly, we did just that. If fact we were so early that we parked in the regular parking lot and not the structure at The Grove, a stretch of stores located next to Farmers Market. There aren’t many there that interest me and it’s nowhere nearly as interesting.

Farmers Market, on the other hand, is a photographer’s dream.

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There is color and interesting subject matter everywhere you look. In addition, it’s a place where the art of the hand-painted sign comes alive.

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I love typography and art, so seeing all of these signs is always a real treat. And if the sign wasn’t painted by hand, it looked like it was a remnant of a time when there was still a sense of pride in sign-making, even if machines were starting to have an impact.

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Look at that sign. Those letters look like something from the credits of Gilligan’s Island and they might just serve you drinks in a coconut with a straw. I absolutely love this stuff.

Then, of course, there’s the food.

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We bought a handful of meringue cookies from Normadie Bakery along with a fresh baguette. It was about the cheapest transaction we had while there because most of the other stores are pretty expensive. You know, tourism and all.

Pizza, seafood, Chinese…you name it, they have it. In the end, we opted for Mexican from a place called Loteria Grill. I almost had to – their booth is decorated with the likenesses of cards from the famous game, some of which I’d never seen.

And the food wasn’t too bad, either. Did someone say chicken tacos?

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We stayed just long enough to do a bit of shopping, take an abundance of photos (sorry, my fault), enjoy our lunch, and just be a part of what’s made Los Angeles famous since 1934. But it was getting hot so we decided to move on.

I had asked the family if there was anything in particular they wanted to see in the Hollywood area. They didn’t so with me being familiar with the area, I just went in whichever direction I thought would be interesting.

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Taken by Ann, this shot is of the Jim Henson Company lot. Before that, it was home to A&M Records which was co-founded by Herb Alpert. And while the list or artists who called A&M their label was impressive, this lot was also home to Charlie Chaplin Studios before that. If walls could talk, indeed. (Granted, Chaplin’s films were silent…)

As we meandered our way through Hollywood, the family caught a glimpse of the Hollywood sign and even though we were still way down the hill, they’d never seen it that close. I had to change that.

I kept driving and pointing out places such as Hollywood High School which has its share of famous alumni. Then I got to Beechwood Drive and made a left. That’s the main way to get up there.

And the streets are super-narrow and filled with tourists and people walking/hiking. That’s fine. I knew where I was going.

Once I got to Ledgewood, I made a right and took it as far as I could go which has been a dead end for years. You could once park and take pictures but residents put an end to that a long time ago, so I made a left and wound my way around to a decent vantage point.

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Taken from Lake Hollywood Park, this is about as close as anyone can get (legally at least). And what, you didn’t know there was a lake up in those hills? Silly you.

This was about it for the day. I still had to head over and help Mom move some stuff around her place since they are remodeling her apartment complex. So we hopped on the 101 and headed back home – but I made one more stop.

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Located in Downey, CA, this here is the oldest operating McDonald’s in the country. It was dangerously close to being demolished after the Northridge earthquake but fortunately, was saved. They have menu items most other locations don’t have and their food seems to be better. Must be that oh-too-cool retro vibe.

So by the time we got home, we had logged about another 90 miles in this, A Summer That Won’t Suck.

And so far, every single one has been worth the effort.

A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 1: Petersen Automotive Museum


Well, if there’s anything that will get me blogging with regular frequency, it’s going out and doing things. And that’s exactly what the kid and I did today.

He had heard about an event going on at the Petersen Automotive Museum months ago: a Lamborghini cruise-in. He’s really into said cars right now (to the point of my wishing to never hear the name again) but figured he would really enjoy seeing the cars roll in.

Oh, and the museum would be hosting the North American debut of the Lamborghini Centenario, a car so rare that all 40 of the planned models have been sold already – at $2 million each.

Must be nice, no?

Anyway, the cruise-in was scheduled to start at 8am which meant waking up at the crack of dawn to give us time to battle whatever L.A. traffic we happened to encounter along the way. Fortunately, none of the highways were backed up and we made pretty good time even if it was drizzling pretty heavily almost the entire trip.

I would hesitate to call it rain – even as a California native.

We arrived and parked the car then waited near the entrance to watch some of the cars pull in.

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Anthony has been using Ann’s old digital camera for his Photographic Journalism class in school and he brought it today to get some more practice.

Once it got closer to 8am, we walked upstairs to the 3rd level of the parking structure to view the parked cars. And wow, what a collection of old and new. Here’s a Lamborghini Mura (foreground) and Espada (background). Just beautiful cars.

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Granted the old ones sounded nothing like their newer siblings but they were still beautiful. And as we walked around, more started to arrive.

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This is the Batventador, or an Aventador with Batman logos all over it. Interesting to say the least and Anthony knew of it right off the bat because he’d seen it on Instagram. I later sat by the owner of the car, Debbie, at the debut of the Centenario. We had a little chat over the empty seat next to me and a few laughs about it (since the woman who was sitting there never returned). Turns out she’s super-nice and also ultra-cool to kids.

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These are all new models. I peeked at the window sticker of the white one: 12 MPG and a price of over $530k. The rest were more “reasonably” priced by comparison.

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Then there was this young man who was well-known by museum volunteers. He sat in his chair and rendered a Lamborghini 350GT. Quite a talent to say the least.

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I really could shoot car details all day long, no matter the model.

But all of this, of course, was only part of the reason we were there. The debut was scheduled for 10am so after getting an eyeful of these exotic cars, it was time to go into the museum and see yet another one.

And it was near chaos. Those who purchased tickets for the day got a sticker and also early entry to the debut. Everybody else had to wait, despite submitting my RSVP last week and having my confirmation.

Security had no idea. People were getting a bit angry and while it’s only a car, I can see their point. Why RSVP if you’re not going to let us in?

After about 10 minutes, those with RSVP emails/printouts were let in while those without had to wait even longer. Seemed fair.

Two people spoke at the event: one from Turn 10 Studios who produces the Forza Motorsport games for Xbox, and a representative for Lamborghini. Their speeches weren’t long as the crowd was big and pretty excited to see the Centenario.

Well, a replica of it at least. None have been made yet.

And after their speeches, the car was unveiled.

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With all the crowding, these were the best shots I could get and unlike the all of the previous images, I used my phone. It was just easier.

By now, the both of us were getting hungry and also needed some fresh air. Apparently the AC doesn’t work too well in the museum (my assessment at least) so we went outside and walked around. Of course, I still took pictures.

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I like how the building practically matches the shape of the museum’s architecture from this angle. Frames is perfectly.

And I had spotted this early on but didn’t get a good shot of it until after the event.

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Johnie’s Coffee Shop was temporarily turned into Bernie Sanders HQ and still has all the propaganda in place. It’s normally closed but has been used in a bunch of movies including The Big Lebowski and Reservoir Dogs.

At the end of the day, the kid was more than satisfied with the event and seeing his favorite brand of car up close and in ridiculous quantity.

And honestly, I could have done this on my grocery store salary since the event was free and parking only set me back $12. A fun day indeed.

And with that, A Summer That Won’t Suck has officially begun! Stay tuned for more.

Blogging 365, Day 72: Hugh Jaynis


I watch the KTLA Morning News daily so I can get a quick rundown on the day’s top stories as well as the current traffic report.

I know those guys love to have a good time while at work but today they had a little too much fun as this video will clearly show. When it aired this morning, I missed what Henry DiCarlo (the weatherman) had said and only caught up when everyone was laughing.

Then I saw the video a few hours later and it all made sense. Here it is.

By the way, Chris Schauble (the reporter who started laughing) is a funny guy and is one of my followers on Twitter. He replies to every tweet and is an Ironman triathlete.

But this morning…he was just a mess.

And honestly, if it was an inside job, Henry most likely deserved it…