Sunday, December 18, 2005

Ho, Ho, Go!

Aimee, Jill and I were just in a holiday 5k fun run today. Aimee has accompanied me on long walks before and one time was able to jog about two miles.

This morning she ran about a mile and walked pretty much the rest of it. Jill took off and continued to run just after a mile. She then reappeared at the two-mile marker after backtracking a bit.

She told me to take off and go run the rest of the course. But I told her that I wanted to stay with Aimee and that I wanted to see her cross the finish line. As a family we walked and ran the last mile and ran through the finish line together.

Aimee finished at 53:45 for her first 5k…it was a great moment.

Margaret & Me

Back in 1968 I attended the Head Start education program in Hollywood (and yes, I’m old). My mother was interested in childhood education; my mom brought me along and put me into the program so that she did not have to pay for a babysitter and so that I could learn along with the rest of the kids. One of the kids at the center and whom I was friends with was routinely picked up by his grandmother. My mother would make small talk with her and talk about the kids and education. One of the things that my mom was able to get from her was that she was still in pain from an injury that she sustained on the set some thirty years earlier. That the 3rd degree burns that she received from the scene where she was departing angrily from Oz without the ruby slippers still caused her chronic pain. I remember seeing her quite a few times and a couple of times we exchanged smiles.

I didn’t make the connection that she was the one with the castle, broomstick, full contingent of guards (that went oh-wee-oh, eee-yoah-aaah) and flying monkeys.

Even if I did I was more scared of the actual Wizard himself, for he was loud, angry and could summon fire.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Dog

It’s been almost three years since our Alaskan Malamute Sterling died.

He was a fantastic animal, strikingly beautiful, noble, dignified. He would stop traffic (literally)

But most important, he was a family member and friend.

His loss left a large hole.

We tried to get another Malamute but that failed miserably. The dog was more monster than animal, more beast than pet, destroyer of all things. Upon biting the kid it was over. He was sent packing.

We knew that without a dog that something was missing, that something was not right. People started saying that it was time for us to get another dog.

Jill and I were just walking out of Paradise Bakery and we saw a dog, a puppy. The puppy was just sitting there staring at the door waiting for the owner to come out. The dog would not make eye contact with us; it was intent at keeping its focus on the door to await its parents. We stooped to pet it and we instantly fell in love with it.

Just then the owner of the puppy came out. We found out that the puppy was an Australian Shepherd and that there was one more female left from the same litter. Immediately we contacted the breeder and took the last of the litter.

Ruby is now a year old. She’s high spirited, sensitive and intelligent. She tries to fit in as a member of the family. She even gets along with the cat.

We’ve had a few minor mishaps. Ruby hacked a hole on the backside of the bedspread. Jill lost three pairs of shoes, my iPod armband was destroyed, but other than that just tissues, paper towels and napkins are found shredded about the house. So far so good.

Ruby likes to run. A dog was chasing her in the park. As soon as the dog got even close Ruby looked back once, then hit the hyperspace button. She was gone. The pursuing dog saw this, lowered it’s head and just slowed to a trot and turned around.

With Ruby in our lives the family is once again complete. We have a dog and for some reason that fills a need in our life.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

A Relationship on the Rocks

It started about 2 years ago when Aimee was 5. We were at a local park and she wanted to play on the jungle gym. Instead of having a ladder or net to get to the top of the slide the gym had a mini rock wall with beginner handholds. Aimee was fascinated with this and I noticed that she was compelled to climb it over and over again. The slide was just a means to get back to the rock wall quicker; the fun part for her was the climb.

One weekend I had to watch the kid while my wife worked so I took her to the
Phoenix Rock Gym
in Tempe.

The place is cavernous. All of the walls are 30 to 40 feet high, most are rated climbs, many with over vertical ascents. Aimee looked teeny in comparison. Excitedly she donned climbing shoes, a chalk bag and a climbing harness. After watching a short training video we were ready to go. It was amazing. Aimee was fearless. She was able to scale a 30-foot vertical wall in about two minutes. Some of the more experienced climbers are amazed to see how well she was doing at such a young age. About a year ago there was a group of men climbing right next to us. The man on the wall saw that he was just about to get passed up by a little girl. One of the guys down below shouted, “ Hey you are about to get your but kicked by a little girl.” By that time Aimee was level with the man. Both looked at each other for a second then raced the last 20 feet to the top. The man made a critical mistake with his footing slipped and fell. Aimee never looked back and easily made it to the top. The group of men slinked away in embarrassment. Since then we have been back about two dozen times and she continues to get better.

Today she tried something that she had never attempted to do before, cracking and jamming. It’s a technique where the climber jams their hand or foot into a crevice to gain a hold to climb. In doing so she injured herself and sprained her wrist. Rather than crying and giving up she asked what I could do so that she could continue to climb. I found some athletic tape at the front counter and wrapped her wrist. We got another 4 climbs out of it.

Jill has gone with us on occasion but for the most part going to the gym to climb has been our thing and has helped build our quality time together.

Beat the Clock

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.
J.R.R. Tolkien

One of the most important things that my father said to me is to not waste time. He said that between time and money it is better to waste money. You could always earn the money back; once time is gone you can’t get it back. He was always on me about playing video games or working on something that in his mind would never make any money…like writing.

On a daily basis I use a schedule to keep track of my time and task management. Because my job is time and task oriented it is imperative that I have a solid handle on my day.

Between work, school and family every second counts. Some time I have days that are just non-stop from 7am to 2am. Many days I get only a couple of hours of sleep.

I tell myself that something, someday will eventual come of all this nose to the grindstone bull$#!t. Until then I just continue to buzz on like a hummingbird wishing that I was more like a starfish.

There are moments that I feel like the need for total time efficiency is a myth, that I shouldn’t have to plan when I am going to use the bathroom and that there is something to be said for decompression. To have the ability to relax and just do nothing.

Sometimes even our vacations seem manic. That we have every minute of that day planned out driving to see one family member then drive on to the next, then on to an amusement park. Sometimes I think that I just don’t know how to have fun, that maybe my father got the best of me and sent me on this path of self-implosion. Now that I can do what I want I can't. That little voice inside of me tells me to keep moving and to do something with my life. Another irony on top of all this is that I can’t play video games even if I wanted to. I tried and got nauseous on a first person player type game.

There was one vacation where we rented a cabin in the woods. We did absolutely nothing and it was great. We had a fire in the fireplace and we played board games. At night I would go out on the patio and watch the Milky Way drift overhead in the night sky as the wind blew through the pines. One morning Aimee and I sat on the porch in our raingear and watched a storm as it passed overhead. As the rain hit the roof I could hear Aimee’s breathing change as she fell asleep. It was a perfect moment. I was doing nothing and was the better for it. When I got back to work people said that I was a changed man. I need to do that again

For as important as it is to organize and control your time, it is as important to not control it, is equally important to do nothing, to decompress psychologically, to have a quite moment to rest and relax: Because one’s sanity is a terrible thing to waste.

Hi, My Name is Ed and I’m Fat

I’m addicted to sugar.

You name it. Every kind of desert, chocolate, cookies, cake, I just inhale it.

I weighed a whopping two hundred and forty four pounds.

I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to do something.

I joined Weight Watchers.

Jill wanted to join so I asked if I could go with her.

I was already exercising; it just didn’t matter because I ate like a pig. I was a fat man on the treadmill, like a fat hamster on a Habitrail wheel.

As a man going to a Weight Watchers meeting it is a strange experience. I am the only male in the meeting. The whole experience and communication to the members seems to be geared for women. There are butterflies and rainbows on all of the pamphlets and handout materials. There is a total lack of machismo to the program.

The first couple of weekends were easy. I lost 6 pounds the first week, 3 the second and 1 and change for the third. I got my 10-pound ribbon this week. So despite the lack of manliness about the program it does seem to be working.

I still have a long way to go. I want to lose 50 pounds total and be back at around 195. That seemed to be about right I had been thiner back in my running days and got down to 180 with a 6% body fat content…it just didn’t look right.

There are still days that I do not count points. I am still losing weight…just not as much. I’ll get there soon. The good thing is that I continue to run and that I am getting better at it everyday.

I have signed up for the PF Chang’s half marathon.

I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Christmas Don't be Late

The shopping has started and the season has begun but there are three songs that I have to hear before I feel that the holiday season has really started.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year – Andy Williams
Holly Jolly Christmas – Burl Ives
Christmas Don’t Be Late – The Chipmunks

Please let me know if you hear any of them.

Happy Holidays

A page turns
1996- 2005

I am sad to say that I canceled my Earthlink email account.

At first I didn’t think that it was such a big deal. But then I realized how much that address was a part of my self-image and identity.

I got the address as a result of getting my first job at an Internet company. I was at Earthlink for close to 7 years.

It just seems like the last page has turned on what was a very large chapter in my life.

I can now be contacted at

Monday, November 07, 2005


She finally got them after four extractions and five months of lower and upper jaw expansion to adjust for an over-bite.

She is dealing with the pain well, but knows that after it all she'll have straight teeth.

She has gone through more in the last year that I went through in three years of orthodontia and she's only seven.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Mile in a Monkey’s Shoes

On Halloween my boss let me take a long lunch so that I could see my kid go trick-or-treating. Just before I walked out the door I noticed that one of the supervisors had taken off his gorilla costume that he wore to work. He said that it was too hot to wear for an extended period of time – so I asked him if it was okay if I could borrow it for a couple of hours to show my kid. Two minutes later I was fully decked out from head to toe in a gorilla suit, cruising down the street in the Mini. While waiting at the light I heard someone say, “Look a Mini, cool…. holy s#%t that’s a monkey driving the mini.”

I was amazed to see how many people noticed.

I was really amazed to see how many people didn’t notice. Even when I waved people were still oblivious to the fact that there was a simian driving a Mini right next to them.

Prior to me coming home Jill asked me to get dinner. I went to Taco Bell. People freaked. People in the restaurant would look away and avoid eye contact, they were clearly uncomfortable, some were just plain fearful. “Ten tacos for 5.99 please…hang on I have to unzip my suit to get to my wallet.” Real monkeys do not have this problem; they merely pester you for food then crap in their hands and throw it at you if you don’t comply. I knew that paying via ATM would have a better result.

Then as I walked away with my bag of Tacos in hand the people in the restaurant stared and the entire kitchen staff stopped what they were doing and watched me walk away. A few followed me out to the parking lot.

I turned and looked at them as I walked away, much like that grainy 8mm film footage of Bigfoot that was taken in 1967 as he walked back into the forest.

The whole thing was a strange and surreal experience.

Thanks Larry for loaning me the costume. Next year I’ll try the Elvis during the “eating years” costume.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The King and I

When I was younger I never liked Elvis.

I thought that you had to live in a trailer park to be a fan.

Then one day the King came to me in a dream.

I run in to him and his bodyguards in the back hallways of a crowded mall. He was escaping the mob that had spotted him and he was fearful that they had just made a confirmed Elvis sighting. He was supposed to be dead. He was fat and he was old. His hair was mostly gray. He spotted me and told his guards to kill me because I recognize him. The guard walks over to me with his .45 leveled at my forehead. I wake up to the sound of my heartbeat in my head.

When I was attending the Non-Commissioned Officers academy I used the name of Elvis as a radio call sign designator. It was funny to hear the traffic over the wire report that Elvis is alive and coming back in and to hold fire.

My hair is naturally very Elvis-like.

The kids at my daughter’s school shout, “Hey look! It’s Elvis!”

I tell them that I am not really Elvis, but that I am Elvis’ helper.

The above photo is me standing in front of Elvis’ cape that belonged to the famed Aloha outfit. The cape and belt was given to Ed Parker who was Elvis’ martial arts instructor. His wife was gracious enough to invite us to the house to tell us a couple of stories about Ed Parker, Bruce Lee and the King himself.

Friday, October 21, 2005


I was minding my own business.
I was just trying to get home.
I even put on some jazz to help me relax. Windows down, windbreaker on I was enjoying the evening and the ride home as I drove down the street toward the onramp.
A primered Toyota pick up pulls up next to me.
He guns his engine several times both passengers are screaming at me.
The light changes, I let him go, then floor it. The Mini easily catches up and passes the truck. We stop at the next light. They are screaming profanities as they hang out of the windows of the truck. It's obvious that they're drunk. The light turns green and I put it into hyperspace.

I never see them again.

Viva Mini

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The iPod Lives

It was really quite simple. The guy from the Geek Squad just held down the menu and center buttons at the same time for a couple of seconds and the iPod came back to life. “A soft reset was all that was needed,” creaked the geek. After some Q & A banter between the two of us determined that the connector in the Mini Cooper may have been the culprit. I was taking the iPod off of the adaptor without turning the stereo off first. Sure enough yesterday I did it again and the same problem happened. My newly acquired skills that I received from the geek did the trick.

So no, it was not all of the real bad music on my iPod that led it to rebel and shut down.
So now Hooked on a Feeling (the ooga chaga version), Kung Fu Fighting, One Tin Soilder andThe Happy Organ will blaze one the Mini iPod and in the Mini Cooper just a loud as ever.

Thank God for geeks.

The Trip in the Mini

Tire Problems?

Dave checks the tires

Right around 100 miles into the trip the flat tire warning indicator light came on, right in the middle of the desert. The Mini being so small does not have room for a spare tire. So all of the Mini's must utilize run-flat tires. I had to call Mini roadside assistance whose only answer was “we can tow you to the closest Mini dealer (which meant either Scottsdale or Burbank, Ca) or limp you way to the closest tire store and get a new tire. I hung up disgruntled. I limped my way into Quartzite where the clerk at the local gas-n-go recommended a tire place that “was up the road a holler.”
We drove in to Quartzite Tire and discovered that they had never seen nor heard of a Mini. “What the hell is that?” asked one of the customers as he was moving a tire that was larger than our car (really). One of the kid’s there really took the time to check the tires out on the car. David Phoenix (yes, that was the kid’s real name) put the car up on a jack, checked every tire, filled up the car and gave us his card and told us to call him to let him know that we made it okay. When I offered to pay he refused. Talk about customer service. People these days just don’t take care of or care about customers like David did. Thanks to him we made it there and back.

Packing for the Trip Home
Everything fit, barely. Jill’s dad gave me a couple of hardback Tom Clancy novels and it put us over the top, literally. There was no more room in the trunk. The reality of it is that every time we go on a trip we end up bring more stuff back with us. Aimee usually rakes it in with souvenirs and gifts from family. When it comes down to it the Mini is a great car for zipping around and probably a great road trip for car for one, maybe two people. But I have come to the conclusion that it is not a road trip family car.

The Ride Back
David’s solution to our challenge was to inflate the tires on the Mini to the maximum tire pressure recommended by the tire manufacturer. Mini however recommends that the pressure remain at 30 PSI as opposed to 50 PSI. We could feel every single bump and crack in the road. It felt like my teeth were going to be rattled out of my head. On Sunday I was dreading the ride home so I rushed off to Pep Boys, got a pressure gage, deflated each of the tires to 35lbs and began the journey home. The difference was instantaneous and a relief to all. Aimee watched The Incredibles and slept on the way home, Jill read and cat napped until we stopped for dinner at the Spaghetti Factory in Phoenix.

Jill’s comment afterward was “honey, enjoy the car cause I am over it.” And with that Jill’s honeymoon with the Mini was over.

Seeking a Sense of Permanence

If there was one recurring theme to this vacation is that there were constant signs of the wanting to have a sense of permanence in my life. From Los Angeles to Disneyland to Orange County I kept seeing things that reminded me that you can never really go home again. Yet other times I saw reminders that some things never change.

While we were there we ran into a guy that was born and raised in Chinatown. He had been there all of his life and had attended many of the same schools that my mother and my uncle had attended in their youth. It was great to watch my mom and him talk about the area back in the ‘30s ‘40s and ‘50s. So much had changed yet so much was the same. It turns out that the Morgan Laundry closed some 20 years ago. It was the place where my grandfather had worked from when he was 17 to when he was 65.

The park was celebrating its 50-year anniversary. The fireworks show at the end of the day was spectacular to say the least. Disney can't do anything without it being first-rate entertainment and this show really encapsulated the park’s history. The fireworks in the sky and on the ground went off as the sounds and narration from each of the many rides from the park was played along with the narration of Julie Andrews and voice of Walt Disney.

We also got to have a special audience with Mickey. I told him that we drive a Mini, he laughed.

It was nice to see several members from both of our families. Jill got to see her sister, nephew and most importantly her dad. I got to see my mom and my cousins. A great trip overall despite having to drive all over the place to see everyone.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Death of the Mini (iPod)

It is with great sadness that I announce that the iPod Mini has unexpectedly died. It happened sometime during the trip to LA. No worries, with receipt and dead Mini in hand I'll be off to the Apple store to get it fixed or replaced. Oh please, oh please say you can't fix it and I have to get a new Nano instead.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Packing in Spite of my Car

Because we want to save gas, have fun driving and show off the car we have decided to take the Mini to California.

This may not be a wise move.

The Mini is a small car.

While I state the obvious you need to realize that the trunk has 5.8 cubic feet of space.

When I go to school only my brief case and rolling book bag fit in the “boot” of the car. If I want to take a lunch I have to keep it in the back seat.

With Jill’s proclamation to take the Mini in the same breath she stated that we were to go on ration as to how much we could pack.

“One duffle bag per person,” she announced.

I knew that packing clothes would be easy. It was all of the fun stuff that I pack on vacation that I was concerned about.

When on vacation I like to write, use my ham radio and in general be prepared for anything that may come along. All of this yet has to fit in my 1/3 of 5.8 cubic space That I am allotted.

Each day’s clothing is accounted for so there is no extra anything.

We leave on a Thursday and return on a Sunday so both of those days are easy because they are drive days and I can be as relaxed as possible for the long drive.

So here is the packing inventory:

Thursday – I’ll wear my running suit comprised of pants, coolmax t-shirt Pear Izumi runners jacket and of course shoes, socks and underwear.

Friday – we’re going to lunch with Jill’s dad and then Chinatown with my mom for dinner. I am going to wear microfiber slacks a short sleeve dress shirt, a pair of oxfords, maybe a leather jacket if I can squeeze it in.

Saturday – We’re going to Disneyland! Shorts, running shoes, polo shirt and a sweat shirt for the evening (Jill wants to stay for the fireworks).

Sunday – Drive home. Again the running suit, it’s nice to not care what I where when I am off work.

All of the extra things that I have are questionable in nature. Part paranoia part real world experience I always prepare for the worst. Thank god that the worst has never happened.

I pack two separate kits for survival, a first aid kit and an actual survival kit. Both are small enough to fit in an Altoid’s tin.

For the last three years I have been a licensed ham radio operator with a basic technicians license. I like ham radio because it is a neat hobby and I again want to be prepared for anything if the big stupid* ever goes down.

As you can see there is a fair amount that goes into the fun/survival kit

Starting at the top going from left to right in a zigzag:
Sunglasses, prescription glasses, hi-gain 2 band antenna, Kenwood 3 band ham radio Transceiver, Apple iPod mini w/earphones, survival kit in tin, Silva compass, Pelican flashlight (same flashlight used my SPECNAV Warfare), mini Maglite with bite plate, First aid kit in waterproof Aloksak bag, repeater directory, Moleskine journal and Fisher space pen.

All of these items fit in the outer pockets of the Eddie Bauer messenger bag.

I know that my bag will fit and I will not exceed my allocated space.

I’ll let you know how the trip goes driving the Mini.

*The Big Stupid being fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or any other calamitous event of apocalyptic size.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Smiles Per Gallon

Over the course of my life cars have just been cars. Sure I have been excited about some of the car purchases, like the ’85 Mustang and the 2000 & 2003 Tahoes.

But today’s purchase surpassed them all.

The Mini has been a hoot the entire way home. Even just driving to the store was a blast.

Aimee has been squealing like a…well, like a little girl and has been asking me to go for a ride just for the sake of driving.

I got the iPod attachment for the car and the iPod mini works seamlessly with the car.

On a twisty road near the house I blared Blur’s Track #2 over the speakers and both Aimee and Jill screamed WooHoo!!! along with the song.

We are nothing short of ecstatic about the new car.

The heck with the fact that it gets 32 miles per gallon, we’re just overjoyed to drive it.

Ding Dong

In our part of town a house will not drop on you.

Nor shall you be felled with a bucket of water.

The Wicked Witch of the South was killed by two loads of dirty laundry.

If the weight didn’t get her, the smell did.

Happy Halloween

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Gun

Jill is abhorrent to guns.

She can’t even say the word gun.

She refers to the gun as “your thing.”

“Your thing is showing” she says. “It’s sticking out from underneath the bed.”

At least Thelma (from Thelma & Louise) would pick up the gun like a dead rat by the tail.

Jill cannot even bring herself to be in the same room if it is unsheathed.

When Jill was a child she had a neighborhood friend that was killed while playing with a gun. It made a lasting impact with her.

When we first got married I had purchased a .45 for home defense. Over the years it sat in storage, shot only on rare occasions.

As soon as Aimee was born I field stripped it and locked it up. There was no chance of an accident. Even if the child was able to reassemble the weapon back to firing condition I kept the ammo locked up in a separate place. Although a daughter of an ex paratrooper she lacked the dexterity, knowledge or height to get herself into trouble.

When we moved to Sacramento I was fortunate to meet a world-class skeet shooter and trainer. On my first day of shooting I found out that I was pretty good…better than average. I asked the trainer who stated that I was the third best person that he had ever seen shoot on the fist time out. So I ask who was number one and number two.

Number two was the National Skeet Shooters Association 12 gauge champion back in the mid ‘80s

Number one was a member of the Olympic team.

Immediately I began to have Olympic size daydreams.

The reality of it was that I was an incredibly good shooter with some raw talent, but not really world class. I’ve had a year of informal training and my ability runs from incredibly average to spot on. On average I shoot a 23, but when I get tired or my timing is off I can often watch my scores plummet.

Last June after a long stint of not shooting I shot a perfect 25 on my birthday. I shoot infrequently. Between school, work, the family and the cost of crates of ammo I do not get to get out as often as I would like.

When I am out there on the field I try to shoot with the pros. I can usually spot them and I try to fit my way on the line up.

A couple of weeks ago I was out there with the 2003 Georgia State .410 gauge champion. He shot a perfect 25 I shot a 23.
I made the comment that “ I try to make it a point to shoot with professionals so that I can get better.” Secretly inside I want to know that I rate, that I can hang with them. Most times I do. Billy then told me, “hang on, let me get you a real champion.” From around the cinderblock wall he returned with a teenager – a kid in his mid-teens. But on his vest was a patch that read, “USA NSSA All-American Team.”

At that point we all lined up and started the counter-clockwise movement on the field. I wasn’t nervous, I just didn’t want to be out there with a miserable performance amongst the best. At the end of it all the All-American kid shot 25, Billy 24 and I came in with 23…not too bad.

Now if I could only get out there with the Olympic team to see how I would fair.

I sold the .45 back in 2002 and used the money to get a custom case for the shotgun. Both the case and gun are a site to behold.

A special thanks to Harv Holcomb for working with me for over a year and showing me how to shoot and a great big thanks to Kenn Salmon for believing in me and helping me get a competition-worthy gun.

Skeet shooting is something I know that I will do for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

One down, one more to go

This year should be aptly named “The Year of The Car” for our family.

This year, specifically this summer we needed to get two cars.

The lease on the Tahoe expires in a month.

Jill’s Pontiac Grand Am was dying a slow and painful death.

As far as function and purpose was concerned we need to get one car and an SUV or mini-van. With gas prices anticipated to hit the three dollar mark and predicted to be at 5 dollars by the end of next year we decided to not keep the Tahoe. It costs us about sixty dollars a week to keep the beast going. Don’t get me wrong, the Tahoe is a spectacular vehicle. A true joy to drive and thing of pride and joy for me. For many years I had wanted a Tahoe and for the last six years I’ve had two of them, so in some way I am sated.

Last month brought the swift demise of Jill’s car. Because of the multiple trips that I take to school and work I was the one that got stuck with it. We were trying to save the mileage on the Tahoe. The Grand Am then began to overheat, daily. Then the air conditioner would die as soon as the car over heated. We knew that the car would not last. With the little bit of money that we had for a down payment we headed into the Honda dealership and got a 2005 Pilot. I know, at the moment we have 2 SUVs. As soon as October rolls around we’ll turn the Tahoe back in. Around that time arriving on a boat from England and across the country by truck our new Mini Cooper S should be in.

With a curb weight of 2200 pounds and 160 horses under the hood the Cooper S is quite a vehicle. The fun factor alone is worth the 36 smiles to the gallon. The little rat of a car zips around corners and can pass a semi on the freeway with great ease.

Jill did not want the manual version, she glugged and stalled it too much on the test drive. As a compromise we got the automatic transmission with the tripronic paddle shifters on the steering wheel. The right paddle shifts up, the left shifts down, just like on the formula one cars.

Yes I fit, no it’s not a clown car.

We’ll keep you posted when the new “baby” arrives.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Confessions of a Non-Running F@#%

Running here in Arizona is challenging if not impossible at certain times of the year. With the temperatures over 100 degrees there is a serious risk of heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.

I am historically a vampire runner. I like to run in the dark.

1. I overheat easily
2. I am self conscious of myself and don’t want people to see me running

I have a treadmill in my house that basically solves both of those problems, but like many have gravitated away from working out for various reasons. I went 5 months without working out earlier this year. At one point the treadmill served as a valet and was covered with my work shirts and slacks.

My first impression of running as a hobby or past time was that it was inane, boring yet at the same time painful and meaningless experience. Once I managed to get past the third block on the run my opinion changed, but not very much.

I was made to run, it was not a choice but rather a conspiracy between my grandmother and mother who had decided that I was too fat for my own good and that the only way to get rid of the 35 extra pounds that I was carrying as a 7th grader was to run it off.

In high school I ran so slow that the gym teacher did not even stay to record my time for the 2-mile run. The entire class had left me out on the field

On the first day of basic training a drill sergeant, Sergeant Kolonie had me run up and down the street in what seemed like a meaningless exercise. After several short sprints he declared, “Flores, you are one non-running f#@%.” Later that year he would be involved in the death of a young recruit as a result of heat exhaustion on a forced march.

When I was in the 82nd Airborne Division I was constantly having challenges and was often falling behind on PT runs. No matter what I did I was just never fast enough.

My lack of running talent is highly apparent even on film. I starred as a police detective in a student film at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. As the part of an officer chasing a younger subject I in comparison look as if I am running in slow motion. It was laughable. Running in a suit, trench coat and weapon holster is no easy thing mind you.

Over the years I have picked up running now and again. It’s been more on than off and for the most part I still suck at it.

But there have been some fleeting moments, when I was in shape and able to run a long distance. I felt that I was flying, that I was not moving and that the road beneath me was. It was a Zen experience. I hope to feel that way again soon.

The human resources manager at my work started on a running program recently. She signed up with Team in Training, a program that benefits Leukemia and Lymphoma victims. She has no running experience but was brave enough to sign up for a 13.1 mile half-marathon. With all of my years of experience as a beginning runner starting over and over again I decided to impart my little wisdom and training tips to her. In doing this she in turn inspired me to start running again. All of the dress shirts and slacks have come off of the treadmill. I run 3 to 5 times a week and I’ve been at it for over two months now. Like a little hamster on a wheel I get on and plod away daily as the fake asphalt moves beneath my feet at the desired rate of speed (which is usually slow) with a comforting whirr. I wear my iPod mini and crank rock, rap and techno to help kill the strains, stitches and lung burning. Despite the runner’s pains I get better every day. So far I can run a mile and a half without stopping. My goal is to get to five miles, that’s when the real progress will kick in.

I still eat like a pig and have not lost a single pound, but I enjoy the call of the road (albeit a fake one).

I like how I feel after a good workout, and that alone is a good enough reason to do it.

I have to salute someone like Alice to rise to such a challenge. Having never run a single mile she has volunteered to run 13. It takes a lot to get out there to try and conquer the road. The road doesn’t care what you are doing and why you are doing it, nor will you receive any help from it. Yet Alice is running to help others that are much less fortunate than us. This is truly noble.

About 12 years ago my mother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia. She was given 10 years or less to live. I know that some of the treatments that she has received (and have probably extended her life as a result) are because of the donations received from the foundation. Everyday that she is here is a blessing and we are thankful.

Please donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation and assist Alice on her run:

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


The Monsoon season is upon us. Tonight we were hit with a severe thunderstorm that produced hail and severe lightning and wind.

Up until this point Jill had always thought that I was chicken to go out in the rain.

Then at dinner Aimee asked me if I had ever seen lightning strike before.

“Well sweetheart, I’ve seen it twice”

“How close were you?” she asked.

I pointed up to the ceiling where it met the wall about 9 feet away.

About 20 years ago I was at the US Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

I was just getting out of a taxi cab and walking next to a cyclone fence that secured the school’s generator.

I felt the hair on my arms and on the back of my neck stand up (I had my head shaved at the time).


My left leg and arm went numb.

About a dozen people ran up to me screaming at me, asking if I was okay.

“Yeah….I guess, why?”


I looked up to see that top of the cyclone fence pole was freshly sheared and blackened and was glowing cherry red with heat.

I gained a new respect for the sky that day.

A look of quiet discovery came over my wife’s face. “Now I know why you hesitate to go outside when it thunders”

I didn’t realize that after 13 years of marirage I had never told her that story.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Extreme Heat

I know that I have been complaining about the heat and trying to make light of it through humor. But with the recent events in Phoenix I just didn’t have the heart to see the humor in it.

18 people have died so far as a result of the extreme temperatures. Most of them died outside, alone, homeless. They lived and died nameless, faceless victims in society. It’s a shame that when the weather turns inclement that the homeless suffer the most. The summer storms are now upon us and hopefully that will bring the temperature down low enough for those living under the freeway overpasses, under the bushes and near the canals to have some relief.

I am thankful that I have a good job, a home for my family (with air conditioning) and overall a good life.

About two years ago Jill and I decided that we would involve Aimee in some sort of martial art. I was going to take her on a grand tour of all of the various dojo’s in Phoenix to show her all of the various styles of martial arts that she could practice. Secretly in my heart I was hoping that she would choose Aikido. I had studied Aikido for a year or so in my youth and thought that it was really a great art in that it focused on both the physical and spiritual side of the art. We didn’t make it past the first school. She saw the kid’s Aikido program at the Chandler Dojo and immediately fell in love with it. I could not get her to budge. She didn’t even want to look at another school or style of martial art. Since then she has progressed through three belts (which is fast considering that it takes 10 to 15 years of mastery in the traditional Japanese system) and is planning to stay through her black belt.

Last summer when the temperatures soared, we were waiting at a stop light at a freeway off ramp. I did my normal anti social behavior of avoiding eye contact with the homeless man flashing his “Please help, God bless” sign as he aimed it at all of the drivers waiting to go about their lives. Aimee saw this and shouted “Dad, roll down the window and give him something!” “Aimee, I don’t have any cash on me” I replied. She then asked me to reach in the center console between the driver’s and passenger’s seat. I was surprised to see that there was a large ziplock bag with a bottle of water, a granola bar, some handi-wipes and various sundries. "We made a kit to give out to homeless people in Aikido class" Aimee proudly stated. In a daze I flagged the man over and handed him the bag. He appreciatively took it. A great feeling of satisfaction washed over me. For the first time in a long time I felt good about helping someone. I was not bitter or angry about saying no because I had the preconceived notion that the homeless person was going to buy alcohol or drugs with what handout that I gave him.

We gave him what he needed and for that he was thankful.

I felt a little verklempt at that moment knowing that my daughter turned out to be a caring person. That a I had involved her in something that was not only beneficial for herself but that taught her to think about and care for others.

We the fortunate should all be so selfless and caring of others.

How you can help:

The Phoenix Rescue Mission provides water, shelter and food to the homeless and is in need of donations of bottled water this summer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Cicada's Song

The scorpion has long chased the hunter and his dog from the night sky

As the temperatures soar the cicadas “sing” and the hot air resonates both day and night with their intense buzzing.

The cicadas have long been a mystery for me. I had first heard them as a boy when visiting my family in Mexicali and on trips to San Felipe, Mexico.

To hear the cicadas is an amazing experience. It seems as if they are in every tree and bush yet go unseen. The Mesquite, Palo Verde and Palms are filled with them. All is quiet at first, then like some unwritten agreement all start up in harmony all at once. BBBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZ! Like a frayed power line they buzz until a loud noise startles them, then they silence upon the impending danger.

Once I drove through the summer night enjoying the coolness of the air as an impending thunderstorm neared. My headlights flared as they caught the flurry of something ahead.

WHACK! I am hit in the head by something hard and solid. I swerve the Tahoe off the road and turn on the dome light inside the truck. I look on the floorboard to see a gigantic green “fly” buzzing at my feet. A cicada had just hit me in the temple. I rush home to show Aimee, but she is already asleep. When we both wake the cicada is dead, probably as result of the impact to my skull. She is unimpressed and asks me to throw it out.

Native American legend has it that 2 weeks after the cicadas sing that the rains will come.

The humidity is beginning to rise – the dark clouds build on the horizon.

Once again the cicadas have let us know that the monsoons approach.

Friday, July 15, 2005


With the temperatures hitting record highs in the valley soaring around the 115° mark very little escapes the wrath of the heat.

If the temperatures are over 100° out side the temps inside a car can easily reach 160° + (this is not a joke)

Consequently any living being left in a car will perish within minutes (seriously, there are multiple deaths of children and pets every year in Phoenix)

Anything not made out of pig iron will melt.

Over the years we have seen crayons turn into rainbow puddles of wax, audio CDs will bake and shrinky-dink down to the size of a silver dollar.

Aimee made the mistake of leaving a plastic pen in the car yesterday