Health, Life, Vacation

Face Your Fears


6425b286c9f1ca14ba538f0e8d20ff45Next week is the start of our vacation in fabulous Las Vegas. It’s something that we had planned for months and saved up for, and we have a list of things to accomplish while we are there, some free and some not.

Either way it’s happening and nothing is going to stop us from enjoying some time away from home and office, and just be a family. Our list is long. It will be [mostly] conquered. You will see pictures on Instagram.

But the one thing I’m not looking forward to when we return is something that I really should have done sooner: visit the dentist. You see, I’ve got a few teeth – well, one is a partial tooth – that need some TLC or perhaps even an extraction. The last time I put off a dentist visit was years ago when I had a tooth literally rotting away and at one point, cold air entering my mouth (when I would inhale while speaking) would produce excruciating pain. I can’t even describe it but I know I couldn’t speak much. My coworkers secretly loved it I’m sure.

While one of the teeth in question has yet to reach that point, I don’t want it to. The other tooth is chipped and will need some care as well but nothing like the other.

Now you’re probably wondering why I just don’t go right-effing-now to get it done. There really isn’t a reason why I shouldn’t – I have dental insurance and plenty of sick days at work. But the answer is simple: I am afraid.

I fear dentist offices. Everything about them. The sound, the smell, the feeling. I will go to the doctor and have every exam possible done to me without hesitation. I will give blood without a second thought. But the dentist? I have to be forced.

In fact when I had to get that rotting tooth extracted, I paid the extra $300 to be put to sleep during the procedure. It was money well spent considering I didn’t have to expose myself to all that freaks me out. I remember counting to three and then waking up, asking the dentist if they had done anything at all. It was nice.

But the fear is still there, and with good reason.

Today, there are several kinds of people who work strictly on teeth. The dentist is for check-ups and cleanings. Your oral surgeon specializes in pulling teeth. Orthodontists straighten them out.

And when I was growing up, orthodontia was starting to take off. I mean, every freaking kid had braces and yours truly was no exception, in addition to wearing neck gear and a permanent retainer on my bottom teeth (later removed by Ann’s boss, an orthodontist).

Before I could have my braces put into place, I had to go to the dentist to get four teeth extracted. Yes, four. Two top, two bottom. And they were not in any condition to be extracted, meaning they had pretty much taken up residence and had no fear of ever being removed.

That all changed.

Remember, this was the time before oral surgeons and other kinds of specialists so my dentist was the one who had to do it. And when I think of that day, it’s pretty traumatic. There was blood all over gloved hands. Grinding and crunching sounds. Tools banded around the teeth to be extracted. Feeling the pressure of the teeth being pulled from my jaw (and I don’t handle physical pressure well). The dentist sitting what seemed to be literally on top of my while be tried with all his might to remove these four teeth. And of course, seeing the tooth in all its glory being held by a pair of pliers and seemingly six inches long. It all seemed cartoonish, but gone horribly awry.

I’ll be honest about this. That experience traumatized me for life. If not for this, I would have no problems happily skipping myself to a dentist for any kind of routine work. But as it stands now, that experience really messed me up and I won’t go until I’m at a point where things can’t wait any longer.

It’s stupid. It’s most likely not good for me. But then again, neither is drinking soda but I’ve already stopped doing that. (Seriously, stop drinking that garbage. It’s got no nutritional value and is a shit-storm of chemicals in a can. STOP. IT. NOW.)

So I’ve decided that upon our return from vacation, I need to face my fears and get this shit taken care of before it gets to the point my last extraction reached. I’m not sure how many people I will have to see or what, but I know that sucking it up and being a man about it is the only thing I can do.

Here’s hoping that nothing happens while on vacation or at the very least, I win $300 on the slots to pay for the twilight anesthesia.

Because I’m gonna need it.

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Family, Fatherhood

A Summer That Won’t Suck: Las Vegas 


Good morning from Las Vegas! In this continuing series, this weekend we find ourselves in Sin City where the high was a balmy 115 degrees yesterday. 

But you know, it’s a “dry heat” as the joke goes.

Not only that, but we also got a nice thunderstorm show.


This was a screencap from a video I shot from our room. It was definitely cool to relax and watch the show.

We made pretty good time this trip even with a few stops along the way for food and restroom breaks, which begs the question: how did we used to drive those 300 miles non-stop? And we did it all the time, too. I guess our old bladders just ain’t what they used to be because we just can’t do it anymore.

But hey, at least we saw these at the Gold Strike casino, one of our stops. Who knew? This was totally unexpected.



After arrival we rested for a bit, charged up our phones then went to The Mob Museum because, you know, Las Vegas.

An interesting place with interesting displays for sure. And the building itself is pretty amazing.


And look at these criminals.


That one-way we were behind glass was unbelievable. You really can’t see what’s on the other side so I didn’t know where to look as our picture was being taken. It’s mirrored on the inside so I just kept staring at my reflection. The world of crime is not one I want to be a part of if this alone blew my mind.

We have more plans for the day so keep watching my Instagram account for more. Fremont Street Experience will probably happen tonight…provided our old selves are up to the task…

Family, Fatherhood, Nikon D3100, Photography

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.

Family, Fatherhood, Shopping

A Summer That Won’t Suck, Outing 2


Happy Friday!

It was most definitely a happy one for me since I used one of my paid Summer Days to extend my Father’s Day/anniversary weekend by one day. And yes, it was worth it.

Today’s adventure took us someplace we had been just a month prior but because Ann wanted a pair of sandals she didn’t get then, we had to make another trip. Fortunately, traffic was extremely light on the way down to San Clemente – it’s about 40 miles from home – and we made incredible time. I was pretty shocked, actually.

Our first stop: the Rainbow Sandals outlet.

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Just look at that fancy, unintentional, not-made-with-an-app lens flare! And that gigantic flip-flop outside the store! In preparation for summer, we all got a new pair – even me, who has enough pairs to last the rest of my life. Plus I got a new wallet. I guess I have a problem.

Once our shopping here was done, we meandered our way up to the top of the hill to the outlet stores where we ate lunch. Granted, there aren’t many stores there but it’s still a nice place to walk around and waste the day. This would explain why we only left with one bag of stuff, all of it purchased at the Nike store. You know. I needed a new pair of running shoes. Or something.

I also checked out the Vans store and came across these that were, unfortunately, a size too big.

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And at $20, they were a freaking steal. Too bad they didn’t fit. I really wanted them.

Just as we decided there was nothing more we wanted to shop for, we made a stop for some frozen yogurt and pretzels. Anthony wanted the yogurt and while I would have gotten some, I was driving and already had my share of dairy product for the day with the pizza we ate for lunch. Lactose intolerance is a lovely thing.

As I was paying for our pretzel nuggets, I spotted a $1 bill on the ground near the register and asked the cashier if they had a tip jar. She said they didn’t so I stuck it in my pocket. I wasn’t going to argue and decided long ago that money found is worth keeping.

With that, we left the outlet from which you can see the ocean. It’s quite lovely.

And it’s where I was driving to next, unbeknownst to the family.

So with the help of Google Maps, we found our way down to Capistrano Beach (yes, it’s close to Mission San Juan Capistrano, also a beautiful place). We had never been there before and thought it would be nice to just have a stroll along the ocean.

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And that $1 bill? It paid for one hour of parking. Perfect! It was long enough for us to enjoy the sound of the crashing waves and take some pictures.

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Selfie stick? Nope. My long arms have been doing the trick since the late ‘90s. And yes, I need to shave.

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It’s scenes like this that make me hesitant to ever leave California, despite its faults. No earthquake puns intended, naturally. But I’ll take my chances with them over any other natural disaster – any day of the week – to call this my backyard.

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Going to the beach was also a great way to break in those sandals.

And yes, I will gather rocks when I go to the beach. I could take home buckets of them if I could since they are all different and appeal to me for different reasons. Today’s trip included these:

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This picture just does not to them justice. The colors are much more vibrant, even more so when glimmering in the sand after being washed over by the tide. You’re just going to have to take my word that they are pretty amazing and will look great on my desk at work.

Anthony swears the light one is quartz. It’s really milky and white, nothing like it looks here. I don’t care whether it is or it isn’t. It’s just cool and I’m okay with that.

After the beach, we stopped by and visited my high school buddy who owns a restaurant in the area. You know, the one I delivered pizza for on occasion? It’s always good to see him and we still have much to talk about even after leaving high school almost 30 years ago.

And that wraps up our Friday.

As for Saturday? It’s not as far but you’ll know when we get there. It’s someplace I haven’t been in years and a real hotspot for tourists. I usually avoid places like that but with this being A Summer That Won’t Suck, I’m pulling out all the stops.

Curious? Follow my Instagram feed and see for yourself. We’ll be there in the morning!

Family, Fatherhood, Life, Money

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!

California, Disneyland, Family, Life

The Disneyland VIP Experience


To paraphrase the Walt Disney quote, it was all started by a text.

On Friday afternoon, Ann received a text from longtime friend Colleen (pseudonym). She said she was in town for the week and had a question for her: would you and the family like to join us at Disneyland on Saturday?

We immediately thought, “With what money?” Ann got another text explaining that it was complimentary. Then another stating it would be 100% free. With every text, Ann asked if this would cost us anything.

The conversation ended with Colleen texting, “Ann, I don’t play.”

She also mentioned that it wasn’t just a trip to Disneyland. Colleen had booked a VIP Tour Guide for the duration of her family’s trip. For those who don’t know, a VIP Tour Guide is a Disneyland Cast Member – they wear a blue-and-red plaid vest – who escorts celebrities and other dignitaries around the Park so that they can get immediate access to all attractions.

Meals would also be included. We would pay nothing.

Our jaws dropped. In this, the third day of the new year, we’re getting some incredibly awesome news. This was bigger than getting my picture printed in the newspaper. Big, I tells ya.

Ann confirmed that we would go then asked about parking.

We would park in the valet of the Disneyland Hotel and charge it to Colleen’s room. Well, okay then…

Ann called Colleen ahead of our arrival so that she could meet us at the hotel. By the time the car was taken by the valet attendant, she was waiting for us.  She said that her family was still eating breakfast and asked if we could wait which is exactly what we did. Once finished, we met them outside the hotel and wandered over to Disneyland.

It was a horrible trip: maybe a quarter-mile walk through Downtown Disney. The Monorail, adjacent to the hotel, could have taken us but it was down for temporary maintenance. I wasn’t complaining.

Continue reading “The Disneyland VIP Experience”

Economy, Family, Life, Photography

Staycation


Let me start this post by stating that along with glamping, I despise the word staycation. I understand what it means but it just sounds ridiculously stupid.

Anyway, with money being a bit tight the last few weekends, taking mini staycations (*shudder*) is exactly what we’ve been doing lately. Living in southern California pretty much means there’s always something new and interesting to see and chances are it’s going to be pretty local, and it also gives us an opportunity to take in some of our more historical landmarks as well.

We started a few weekends ago by taking Anthony to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, a city near my old stomping grounds of Wilmington. The place is very small and can be walked through in about an hour or less but still has all sorts of interesting things to look at, even a few dorks inside an aquarium:

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A short drive from there is the Korean Bell of Friendship, a gift from Korea to celebrate America’s bicentennial in 1976. It’s huge, beautiful and extremely picturesque:

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That’s Anthony standing in front of it. Here’s another shot taken with my phone:

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The bell sits atop a hill in Angels Gate Park, formerly a part of Fort MacArthur. Adding to the bell’s ambiance is an unbelievable view of the coast that will take up your peripheral vision when you stand just right. This shot was taken just to the west of the bell (on a near-perfect day, I might add):

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It was so clear that Catalina Island looked to be within swimming distance. And if you look closely at the photo above (click to enlarge), you can see some military vehicles on the extreme right and in the parking lot – except they’re not real. They are props for a movie or TV show that was to begin shooting there the following day. Also, the gun range (wood structure) just above my watermark is a prop.

The park on the hill is just an amazing place to spend the day as many locals do. There’s always a good breeze up there so naturally, kite flying is a popular activity:

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To go along with the bell and the sense of peace and tranquility that the park brings are the remnants of Fort MacArthur. It’s a weird combination:

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All in all, it was a great way to spend a day on a budget, which is what we did just last weekend when we spent some time in my hometown of Wilmington. I know, you’re probably thinking that there isn’t a lot to do there and you’re probably right, but Wilmington has quite a few ties to the Civil War and maritime history. In fact, if not for Phineas Banning, the Port of Los Angeles probably wouldn’t be here today. The port was his idea and the city is named after his hometown in Delaware where he moved from in 1851. His home sits in the middle of Banning Park, a place I spent many days as a child, and was used in the movie Primary Colors.

Another historic site in Wilmington is the Drum Barracks, a place I shamefully admit I’d never set foot in until last weekend. Indoor photography is not allowed so I don’t have any shots from within the mansion but I do have this artsy-fartsy one: IMG_20120121_124443 - Agatha,Focal,Sloppy

I learned much from the tour and was glad we took it. I had no idea that the Drum Barracks is the last remaining building of the over 20 that once stood on the surrounding area, nor that it was once a schoolhouse. The things you learn in your own backyard…

Down the street from the Drum Barracks is yet another piece of history – a Civil War powder magazine:

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Yeah, I got a little carried away with Pixlr-o-matic app but it adds a little oomph. Although you can’t see it, the magazine is enclosed in a chain link fence.

Another piece of history in the area is the first Wienerschnitzel, a place that Dad took us to all the time.

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Yep, here’s where it all started. We also took a trip down to the docks where Dad used to work. Even though some may not find it much to look at, It still holds a place in my heart and I have a very strong emotional attachment to the area.

One of the things I remember about being near the docks are these fantastic pedestals which based on their style, appear to have been made during the Art Deco era:

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The end of Avalon Street is lined with them and man, if I could have one of these in replica, I would be eternally grateful. It may be hard to see on this picture but those huge fins actually have images of fish engraved into them but over the years, the weather and sea air have taken their toll. But I was happy to see that some of them have all new fins on top which is probably what they looked like when they were installed:

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They are a little rough around the edges but I applaud whomever is behind the restoration. Dad would have been proud.

Finally, on the way home, we pass Los Angeles County Fire Station 127, also known as Station 51 from the TV show Emergency!

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This station is actually down the street from my hometown in the city of Carson and as you can tell, not much as changed from the time it was used in the show:

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Seems like a lot to see in only a few weekends, no? Believe me, there’s much more.

Hope you like what I posted here. There will be more when we head to our next local destination – wherever that might be.