Thursday, December 28, 2006

5 Things

I received a cyber challenge from Mr. Middlebrow in a sort of chain mail blog kinda way.
So since the gauntlet was thrown here are 5 things you may not know about me.

I Was Prominently Featured on a Movie Poster

But I’m not actually in the movie. I was actually on the cover of several straight to video, really bad B movies that featured washed up Playmates or has been TV stars. If you squint hard enough you might even recognize me.

I’m a Ham Radio Operator

That’s right up there with admitting that I can play the accordion, it’s a real chick-magnet skill that attracts the babes. I carry a small three band radio/scanner everywhere I go. I listen to radio, TV, fire and police and on occasion a stray baby monitor.

I am Always prepared for Nuclear War or a Zombie Uprising

Befitting of my terminal case of angst I carry arould a portable 3-day survival kit that would make even John Jay Rambo proud. I keep it in the manbag.

I’ve Had Surgery Awake

It was the second surgery in a year and I was having some fears about coming out of the anesthesia. I opted for a spinal anesthetic instead and was able to provide the surgical team with a procedure (that was out of date) that helped them in locating the issue. Demerol and Versed combined feels like 6 shots of vodka…now, if they could only come up with something that was like nicotine.

I Paint on Occasion

I carry a small field watercolor kit and paper for those moments far and few in-between where I can escape and paint. I’m not very good so you won’t see my work on the 3 cent stamp any time soon, I do it for the therapeutic value.

- End Chain -

You got your 5 proverbial dish towels ouf of me. I won't impose the curse on anyone else :-)

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Like a Hole in the Head

I tried to sit there calmly in the Neurologists office as he placed the films from the MRI up on the x-ray light board. At first the scans looked normal. Salami-like slices from the top of my head down to the base of my neck filled each page of the films, then just below my left eye it began to appear. The foreign invader came clearly in to view and upon it’s zenith on the scans appeared to be as large as my left eye.

I didn’t have any thoughts and the only sound that I could hear was the sound of my heartbeat in my ears.

“Do you have any problems with your sinuses,” Dr. Patel asked in a thick Hindi accent.

“I guess I do now,” I replied.

He went on to say that he did not think that the growth that was completely blocking my sinus cavity was cancerous and that in his experience that he thought that it was a cyst.

“Very common,” according to the doctor.

I knew something was wrong several months ago when I started to develop vision problems in my left eye. I can now clearly see why.

No need to fear. All should be okay. A simple outpatient surgery should do the trick. The surgeons should be able to remove the growth through the nose or by breaking a hole in the palette of my mouth. At this point it’s more of an inconvenience than anything.

I’m just annoyed that it could interrupt with my school and marathon training schedule.

I’m alive, fine and know that everything is going to be okay. I've got a lot to be thankful for.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tokyo Rumble

Part WWF, part Lucha Libre but 40 stories taller and 250 tons heavier
Kaiju is monster wrestling, literally.

Kaiju is the art of giant monsters wrestling in a city like format. Kind of like going to watch Godzilla versus Mothra; it’s Rage in the Cage except with bridges, buildings and toy tanks instead of folding chairs and ladders.

Contestants with names like The Silver Potato, Eargermon, Multimoog, Call-Me-Kevin, and Kung Fu Chicken Noodle don monster outfits and fight in cages on tour throughout the US.

It’s the ultimate battle between good an evil on an epic scale.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Going for the Gold

A friend of mine at work has a brother in the Maricopa Sheriff’s Department. For some reason we were talking about drug arrests and how on occasion his brother will occasionally find a homeless person sprawled out on a grassy median face up to the sky with a gold smile.

It turns out that huffing paint is back and that the authorities are seeing more and more people abusing chemical inhalants. After all, it’s cheap and relatively easy to get. Unless you try to go back into the hardware store immediately after you huff a can of Krylon.

The process is simple; the user sprays the paint into a plastic bag, cups the bag around their mouth and breathes in the sprayed mist that is in the bag.
No roach clip, lighter, spoons, elastic band or other accoutrements needed.

The difference here is when someone is abusing chemicals through huffing there are some tell tale signs:

• Drunk or disoriented appearance

• Paint or other stains on face, hands, or clothing

• Hidden empty spray paint or solvent containers and chemical-soaked rags or clothing

• Slurred speech

• Strong chemical odors on breath or clothing

• Nausea or loss of appetite

• Red or runny nose

• Sores or rash around the nose or mouth

It turns out that Gold and Silver paint contains a higher amount of toluene in the mix that yields a maximum high. Unfortunately the user ends up with the telltale signature gold circle imprint from where they had the bag around their mouths.

Whereas an alcoholic or smoker may be able to temporarily hide their addiction with a box of Altoids a huffer would need a can of acetone. “Honey, you smell like acetone. Have you been huffing again?”

I’ll stick to beer.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Tale of Two iPods

As soon as I opened my birthday present two years ago Aimee had commandeered my iPod mini no sooner than I had uploaded all of the songs from iTunes onto it. About a week after that she began to pine for her very own iPod.

Should a kid, age 7 mind you have their very own iPod?

“I have the money!” Aimee exclaimed.

“How do you figure?” I asked.

It turned out that after many years of birthdays and various holidays that the multiple relatives and the tooth fairy had managed to give bits of money here and there. Aimee as it turned out had amassed quite a bit of cash. The wood barrel bank that was once mine as a child was stuffed with one’s and five’s, there was even a twenty, enough to buy her own iPod shuffle.

In a way I was glad to let Aimee have her own iPod in that I am able to see what she is listening to. I know that everything is rated G on her play list

Because I am the keeper of the music I have both the entire library of music and Aimee’s music on my computer and on my iPod.

So on any given trip that we take Aimee can be seen ditty bopping to the sounds of the Cheetah Girls or Britney Spears in the car or on the plane.

Even before we got the iPods, I had amassed quite a bit of music not only from the pre-band of illegal music that I had acquired, but from ripping existing CD’s and “storing” music for friends.

The great thing about the iPod is that it serves as a jukebox of sorts. It enables the user to have whatever they want on it. The music that they want is always with them whether they are driving, working out or just hanging out at home.

On occasion when my team is performing well, I’ll bring in the iPod and mini speakers to play Rock n Roll Part 2 or We Are the Champions in the background as I read off the week’s performance statistics. I once made everyone cringe by letting The Hampster Dance Song (the dance mix) blaze as everyone returned to their daily tasks. I was asked to not bring the iPod back.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Joy of Shooting with a Toy

A toy camera that is.

I had seen many images made with it before I had even realized that they were all made with the same type of camera.

About eleven years ago I worked at a camera rental facility that did a majority of business with the students from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.

Photography students can sometimes pay up to $250,000 in tuition, equipment and supplies during a three-year stint at the school.

One day a student, Stephen Schauer the now director of the Getty Center Images came in and asked to use the shutter tester in the shop. He opened his bag and I noticed that he had about a dozen or so Holgas packed away.

He explained that because the cameras are so inconsistent in their functions that he decided to test the shutters then rate them according to speed.

In this day and age where cameras automatically focus based on what your retina sees and where images are auto exposed off of the light that is bounced off of the CCD chip

Enter the Holga All plastic except the metal spring that powers the shutter and the hot shoe.

The Holga out of the box is plagued with challenges that would drive a perfectionist to the brink of madness.

A simple small 2 by 3 piece of paper has the camera specifications on it. The camera comes with a single accessory, a nylon strap with clips that must be either wired or taped as to not lose the camera back.

There are two apertures to choose from f8 and f11 ( denoted on that camera by icons, a cloud and a bright sun respectivley), and there is only one choice of shutter speed at 1/100th of a second.

The camera shoots 120 format film, the same film that professionals use when shooting their $2000 Hasselblads.

Once the film is loaded the camera must be taped up so that light will not leak and expose the film and so that the back of the camera will not fall off while you are shooting.

The makers describe the lens as optical, but upon shooting you first roll of film you will realize that the lens is not color corrected, has flat spots and distorts perspective.

Care must be taken as to not expose the camera to high temperature, Holgas have been known to melt in the back seats of cars. Not a tragedy though, a new on can be had for a mere $14.99.

The camera is primitive and its components are just substantial enough to make an image this making the next evolutional link of the camera just one primordial step above a pinhole camera.

Despite all of the pitfalls of the Holga it is the images that the camera is able to create that makes the camera so special.

The images seem distant and surreal. The have a warmth and a depth to them that other cameras just seem to lack with their cold technological output.

The Holga is the descendant of another toy camera the Diana that came out in the mid ‘60s. The Diana was very similar to the Holga but it was a lot sturdier in its construction.

Just like the Holga the Diana create the same type of image that lacks sharpness.

If you look hard enough a Diana can be had through the classifieds in a photo publication or if you are lucky enough you can find one, but watch out the current market they can run around $60 to $100 dollars.

Swimming with Dolphins

Like anybody else I’ve seen dolphins from a distance swimming in their respective tanks at places like Sea World and Marine Land. Each time I’ve paid money to buy little paper plates of dead fish and elbow my way to the edge of the tank only to get about 1.5 seconds of interaction with the dolphin as the fish slid unceremoniously down his throat into his gillet. Up to this point I’ve had more interaction and seen more reciprocation from the neighbors dog whenever I have given him an extra dog biscuit.

We were lucky enough to stay at the Interconnental Beachcomber Resort in Moorea. Out towards the over-water bungalows the Dolphin Experience Center is nestled in between the bungalows.

As we would walk past the dolphin tanks at night we would hear the occasional thrashing in the water or hear their punctuated breathing out their blowholes. Then silently, swiftly we could see one of them glide through the water in the darkness as a shadow under the water.

The Dolphin Experience is located near the over water bungalows in the hotel. All of the pens that the dolphins are contained in are actually part of the ocean. The only thing that separates them from the big blue briny is a series of nets. This nets still allow the fish from the area such as puffers, triggerfish and zebra fish to still come in. They live among the dolphins in a natural habitat with the occasional smattering of a dropped sardine or bread from the local tourist. It’s the most natural setting for marine life that I have seen, compared to the sterile environment of Sea World

Because they are somewhat elusive and would not always show themselves at night we found ourselves more fascinated with the sea life in the tank than the dolphins themselves. On the walk back to the room after dinner one night Jill discovered a rather large octopus on a coral reef just below the walkway that we were standing on. He was perched on a rock lashing out at fish with his tentacle that would pass by in hopes of a meal. Eventually he took a disliking to my flashlight shining on him and he attempted to change colors a couple of times, squirted some ink in anger, then shot off into the darkness to find a more private place to hunt.

When our appointment time came to meet with a dolphin we were introduced to Kuba Koa, a retired US Navy dolphin that had completed his career with the Navy as a sonar dolphin at the training center in San Diego.

With all three of us in the shallow tank for the family dolphin encounter the most amazing thing to me was how quickly, silently and with the greatest agility the animal was able to power slide under the water just inches from us without us seeing or hearing him. It was startling to say the least.

We were allowed to stay about a half an hour with the animal. We touched, petted and were shown all the parts of the creature and all the while he was patient and calm. While he was resting in the water I had my hand over his chest and I was able to feel his heartbeat.

The visit with the dolphin was very structured; the instructor narrated the entire time guiding us through some simple routines with the dolphin. The instructor wore a waist pack in to the water but instead of the regular wallet, keys and such, his was filled with sardines. He was surrounded by a plethora of fish attracted to the scent of the dead fish that he carried as positive reinforcement for the dolphin. There were so many I could run my hands through the school and feel their fins and scales.

Aside from petting and inspecting the dolphin up close we got to give the dolphin command for away and he would then swim off 20 feet or so then leap straight up out of the water some 15 feet or more. We did this three times, each time a spectacular site.

Despite spending so much time with the creature I never really felt like I got to know it. It is not like a dog or a horse. The dolphin despite its clear intelligence, agility and strength seemed elusive and flighty. Perhaps during the experience the dolphin was able to read more about me than could I from it.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ed as Muse

Original Artwork, Portrait of Ed Flores
Artist: Unknown
Felt tip marker on 2-ply facial tissue

Absorbent & Strong

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Second Kill of the Year

It was just four seconds after I told the girls, "either put something on your feet or turn the lights on cause it's bug season," I saw it. Right next to the dog's dish and near Aimee's bedroom door. "I got one," I shouted as I went to the kitchen to get Excalibur.

With a lightning quick swoosh and whaaaaading! It lay dead in pieces from a sound strike.

"Look at you now," I mutter.

"Ewwww, you killed it with the spatula?" cried Aimee. "I'm never eating anything cooked with that thing again."

Little does she know that I have already slain a good half dozen of the monsters with it already. Washing it thouroughly with antibacterial soap of course.

The steel from Excalibur rings true.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Swimming With Sharks

I had to admit I was scared. Two days earlier Jill had signed us up for an excursion on a boat trip to feed sharks and rays.

As we got on the boat the weather went from slightly overcast to clear and beautiful. The boat took us from Cook’s bay (named after Captain Cook) back to Opanahu Point just in front of our hotel but about 200 yards offshore.

The captain, a indegneous man originally from the Marquesas Islands slowed the boat down and anchored. Everybody on the boat began to suit up. “Good, they’re already here,” he said as he threw a bucket of chum into the water.

I looked over the side of the boat at the wrong moment. As soon as the fish guts hit the drink the water began to boil with the trashing of dorsal and tail fins, which could only mean sharks.

Major anxiety and the butt pucker factor kicked in. I mean it’s only natural to be fearful of sharks, to fear getting into the same water with a creature that was meant to consume you.

Before I jumped in I noticed that one of the deck-hands was throwing out about 20 feet of rope attached to a large buoy. “Stay to the left side of the rope an you’ll be safe, “ yelled the captain. Ah the rope rule. All sharks know the rope rule. You stay on that side and I’ll stay on this side. Right. Just like on the Discovery channel.

“Get into zee water!” the Cameraman yelled.

“Not so fast Frenchy,” I thought to myself.

Not wanting to be showed up by the Frenchman, the Japanese tourists and everybody else on the boat I jumped in. I could hear a loud repetitive, deep rasping sound along with my heartbeat. It was my panicked breathing through my snorkel. I wanted to just get a bearing as to where I was. I wanted to see where they were at relevant to where I was.

Once I saw the sharks, albeit many of them I was okay. Nobody was immediately consumed upon hitting the water. The sharks did not zero in on anyone and feast. Life was going to be okay.

I’m not sure how the current was running that day but the eau de chum must have wafted our way. Several of the sharks swam at eye level right towards us, but upon seeing us darted away. Mutual respect in nature is a good thing.

Then, one of the sharks disobeyed the rope rule and swam 4 feet directly below me. Once again I puckered, but despite my fear I managed to squeeze off a couple of shots.

We were in the water with the black tip reef sharks for about a half hour. Both Aimee and Jill had jumped in behind me without so much a moment’s fear or hesitation. Jill stayed with Aimee hanging onto the rope, Jill pointing out the different sharks and minions of fish that abounded. Both got back on the boat as soon as they got tired of treading water and had their fill of viewing the man-killers up close.

Shortly after that we headed a short distance to shallower waters and were greeted by a school of rays. Unlike the skiddish sharks the rays were friendly and downright social. They swam directly up to all of us and let us touch and pet them. Aimee had a harder time with the rays because she was not use to them and she thought they looked “freaky.”

Even though we were able to stand waist deep I dove down under to get on the same level as the rays. The rays glided up to and right past me. About 10 feet in the distance I could see 6 sharks, it was time to get back on the boat.

More than just an excursion on a vacation, the trip was life changing for me. Much like my days as a paratrooper I had a fear and without showing it faced it directly. I was able to share part of the experience with my wife and daughter.

It was an incredible day.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Under the Tahitian Sky

Of earth, of sky and of water, Tahiti is a true paradise. Its sights are breathtaking, vibrant colors, vivid hues in every color of the spectrum.

Mists surround green spires that shoot toward the sky, the sides of the islands weep pure spring waters from fern grottos.

Crystal clear waters gently lap the shores as huge rays glide through the waters and swim up to you as if to welcome you to paradise. In the not too far distance waves break on the motu.

Fish greet you as you swim through azure waters. Sharks swim freely around and under you.

Everywhere you look life abounds. Tahiti is truly an amazing place.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Too Much Moleskine?

I’ve been writing in journals for the last 22 years but for the last 6 years I’ve been addicted to the little black book. I started out with the sketchbook as a second journal to keep sketches and drawings. One day in a pinch I switched to using it as a journal and have never looked back. With the exception of trying out the Miquelrius for a short period of time I have been a true user since. The only other deviations I have made have been trying the various sizes of the Moleskine plain sketchbook and un-ruled book. Prior to that I used the standard Canson sketchbooks in the 5x7 and 4x5 formats. No sketchbook or notebook that I have used so far is as good as any of the Moleskines. the quality of the paper, the thickness and tooth are perfect and just work for me.

A new Moleskine watercolor book arrived in the mail today. I now have three different versions in my briefcase, a blank pocket notebook, a blank reporter’s notebook, and now the watercolor book.

So you ask, why would you need three?

I’m going to Tahiti at the end of June so here are my reasons:

Blank Pocket Journal
I normally use the Blank Pocket journal, I have just filled up my last journal and I was in need of another one.

Reporter’s Notebook
Whenever I have covered a story I have used the standard issue J-school, spiral bound, blue-ruled, 4x8 Sparco reporter’s notebook. On my next trip that we are taking I would like to take a few notes about some local industries there in Tahiti and write an article or two for submission. I like to keep my reporter’s notes separate from my personal notes and observations. After an article has been submitted for publication I like to they keep the notes filed with the story for later reference.

Watercolor Notebook
When traveling or just out and about I take my Windsor & Newton pocket watercolor set with me. Finding a watercolor book equally as small has not been easy. As others have already observed the sketchbooks is not suited for watercolor work. The current book that Arches 8x16 book that I have is too large. The new Moleskine looks just right. Plus you can tear out the pages after making a sketch, slap a stamp on the back and presto…instant post card. I know that there will be a moment out there in the beach or on the deck of the over-water bungalow where I can capture the moment in watercolor.

Yes, my Moleskine(s) is my obsession, but they now make a different one for each of my needs.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Death of Common Sense

“The scone must go on the conveyor belt or it doesn’t go onto the plane!” the TSA agent shouted. I had just placed all of my carry-on items into the x-ray machine and was about to go through the metal detector. “What about the coffee? Is it too a possible weapon of mass destruction and a threat to the passenger and crew? It’s only decaf.” I reply.

This only seemed to agitate the minimum wage federal agent even more. “Just put the scone on the belt!” he shouted.

As I turn I mumble some more acidic comments. “Is this a new plot from al Qaeda? Have the terrorists infiltrated Starbucks and replaced my regular chocolate-chip scone with a Symtex explodie scone?” I could tell that what I had just said was heard by the second agent located next to the metal detector from the look on his face. He shouts at me, “who has the boarding passes!?” “I do and you should consider switching to Sanka, you guys really need to calm down,” I reply. “Just step through the metal sir and hand me your passes.” As I walk through the metal detector I raise my hands above my head and say “I’m an American, hold your fire.” This really sets them off. A supervisor walks over and tells me to put down my arms. I then ask them if my papers are in order. Realizing that their aggression will not get me to act submissive they just give up with their border guard act and send me on my way. For the moment I had won.

“You were in a testy mood,” Jill remarked. Up to the point where the guard had started to shout at me I was in a pretty mellow mood. It was the total lack of logic, the lack of respect and lack of common sense that set me off. Just looking into their sullen, sunken eyes you could see a lack of intelligence, a lack of soul or self.

This leads to the question; Do we have the right people in place doing this? Are they merely a rubber stamp place-holder of a federalized minimum wage rent-a-cop?

...all the TSA really does is serve as a deterrent & take away items from the public...

To be honest we never got it right the moment that the 4th plane hit the ground. We panicked and federalized the airports with the military who were untrained and unable to deal with the public. Problems with complaints began early on about the military and the new security force in place ranging from harassment to inappropriate searches on females.

For the most part all the TSA really does is serve as a deterrent & take away items from the public that are verboten on planes. Most of the time these items that were about to be carried on were forgotten about in the bottom of the bag. The TSA agent merely reminds the passenger that they were there. Many times items make it past the guards and scissors, razor blades and needles make the journey without incident.

What does the TSA do with all of their sharp and pointy booty that they have acquired over the years? Even by modest estimates they should have amassed several metric tons of nail clippers, scissors, and Swiss Army knives by now. According to the TSA website all of the items that are detained or “abandoned” are held for 30 days then turned over to a government surplus outlet.

America for the most part has is in the process of becoming a zero tolerance state. Why is that? A child is suspended for a year for having a bottle of Tylenol at school, another is expelled for having a steak knife packed in his lunch by his mother so that he could cut his food.

I met a salesman some years back, an elder gentleman. Very laid back and easy going compared to the harried mentality of Los Angeles. “Life on the range,” is what he would say about his Wyoming upbringing. He said that his son had recently moved out to LA and just as quickly had moved back. The first time that he got out of his pickup truck with his dog he got a $250 ticket for not having a leash. That’s all it took. “What kind of a place is LA where you can’t even walk around with a dog,” he thought.

What it comes down to is the more people you have the more rules you must have. Think about it. Where that kid came from they probably didn’t have a stoplight in his town. He moves to a town of 10 million or so and sees that just about every move that you make is cover by a law of some sort, including his dog.

I’m not going to discount that the TSA is there to make sure that we are all safe and their ultimate responsibility is to get us home safely. I will not forget the fact that 3000 people vaporized in just a few moments because we lacked the follow through in while pretending to be vigilant. All of these laws, rules and regulation are put in place to protect us. But does that have to come with the price of trust and human respect?
Must regulating ourselves as a society result in the death of common sense?

Once on board I ate my scone after spilling my cup of coffee. I ordered a second cup from the stewardess who was kind enough to show me all of the freedom badges on her apron that she had collected from various military, police, fire and governmental agents since 9/11. I thanked her for the coffee and for sharing her story.

The scone was plain, dry and not very good. Sometimes you have to pick your battles. In retrospect this one was not really worth it. I should have given it to the angry TSA agent. Maybe he would have had a better day.

It’s ironic that they don’t serve food on the plane yet you are subject to an inquisition if you try to bring something onboard.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Suit of the Future

Back in 1978 I wanted a suit for my 8th grade graduation that was coming up. Even back then I had a sense of style.

My father and I searched extensively but we couldn’t find the traditional style suit.

He tried to make me feel better about not being able to find it.
He announced, “Son, wool, silk, cotton, those things are a thing of the past.

THIS is the suit of the future.”

I am so glad that he was wrong.

But even then I had to succumb to the fashion of the times

I am so glad that the ‘70s and subsequent comeback are now dead.

Burnt Out in Spanish Hell While Dreaming of Tahiti

For some reason I’ve been feeling burned out. Perhaps it's my schedule of work, school, working out for the marathons, and family. I may be on overload. Another issue is that I am not exactly happy at school. For the last 10 years I'’ve been going to school trying to get a bachelors degree, I a’m almost halfway there. Because of all that goes into my life I'’m pretty much limited to one class, two max per semester. For the last two years I have been stuck in Spanish hell. I am in the third semester with one left to go for the two- year language requirement for the university. Because I am graduating on the Arts side of the fence I needed the foreign language to graduate from the Arizona college system. I already acquired an AA from a community college in Northern California, it'’s just that the Arizona system requires more. If I can get through this and one math class I can graduate from the community college and get another AA degree. I'’ll still need some more base requirements to transfer over to Arizona State University (again) but if I can I can enter as a junior. I would just need to reapply to the University and the school of journalism for entrance at the professional level.

Spanish Hell
I picked Spanish not because it would be easier or that I already knew quite a bit of it. I just thought that it would be infinitely more usable than any of the axis languages that I had contemplated studying like Japanese, German or Italian. Despite having knowledge of a great deal of the vocabulary already at the level of Spanish that I am working at there is a plethora of verb conjugations which has stopped me dead in my tracks. I hit the end of my Spanish knowledge somewhere mid-semester during Spanish 102.

Plethora? What’s a plethora?

With English you change the sentence around the verb. In Spanish it's all about the verb. Instead of saying and would go or I went, the suffix of the verb changes, this is not even getting into the list of irregular verbs or the reflexive. With around 500 common use verbs that one has to memorize you have to understand that there are 15 conjugations each. That's a lot of memorizing. Needless to say, I am having a challenging time beyond the present tense getting into subjunctive, future, past, past perfect, past subjunctive, mandate and so on.

I guess what I miss are all of the journalism and writing classes that I took at the beginning of my studies. I miss writing for the paper and having my own column. Someday if and when I get to the university and the college of journalism I can write again Until then I'’ll just blog. Scorpion Sandwich has provided me an outlet and a means of sanity and keeps me off the ivory tower despite being a better shot than Lee Harvey Oswald or Clarence Whitman combined. At least it keeps me sane, if only for the moment.

Dreams of Tahiti

Over the years we have taken many of a vacation, during some of the trips I have managed to achieve some level of decompression from the stresses of life. But for the most part because of my a type-a personality, years of built up angst and anxiety I often find it hard to find the triggers that allow me to decompress psychologically while the triggers to only make it worse only abound in my life. Of all of the times that I have taken off of work I can only remember a handful of them where I can say that I was able to fully relax. I now know what it takes to get there at the very least it'’s just getting there and allowing myself to relax.

I have a friend that I use to work with when I worked as a supervisor at the Pasadena Production Studios/Pasadena Camera Rental. At the time Danee Hazama was shooting as a freelance photographer and also worked part time at the rental house.

Danee would come up to me on occasion and say
"Hey, I have to go because the President of Tahiti is here along with the Ambassador to France." Usually when an employee has a head of state in town to see them I thought it best to let them go for the day. About a month after that Danee asked me if I could do a favor for him. As a photographer he would usually shoot for the French and Tahitian governments when they needed him to. But in this particular case he needed someone else to take pictures for him so that he could attend to other duties, so he asked me. The event was a US/Tahitian friendship dinner. The evening consisted of dinner, Tahitian entertainers and dancers, raffle and door prizes and dancing afterwards. Little did I realize that at one of the table was seated the president of Air France and several high ranking Tahitian and French Government officials. It was nice that Danee trusted me with my photography skills and let me work the event. I had so much fun that it wasn'’t like work at all. Seeing all of the culture and hearing about the island, I was hooked. I'’ve wanted to visit Tahiti since.

Shortly after leaving EarthLink I was in a bad place in my life. I had lost my call center, my dog had recently died, my life was starting to sound like a country western song. With the new job things only got worse. I was doing 17 hour days, working through the weekends and under constant high pressure from the job, just over all miserable.

One day in the middle of the fray I had to take a moment and take my wife and kid to the airport. They were flying out of town to see her mom in Reno. I had just dropped them off and as I made my way back to the car I passed by the AmericaWest counter. A man was putting up a new sign. "Now Flights Daily to Zihuatanejo." The gate was open, the first passengers were embarking and I had just remembered that I held silver certificate frequent flyer status with AmericaWest, possibly the shittiest airline in existence. I had spent the last three years flying to Sacramento, Seattle, Pasadena, San Antonio, Atlanta, Omaha, St John Newbrunswick, and Yakima. After all those late flights and crappy meals I had earned one free flight to anyplace that they flew. I had a vision at that moment of me standing on the beach in my business clothes with my slacks rolled up and I was standing in the surf as the waves rolled in. Upon seeing the sign I remembered a scene from The Shawshank Redemption.

ANDY: Tell you where I'd go. Zihuatanejo.

RED: Zihuatanejo?

ANDY: Mexico. Little place right on the Pacific. You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific? They say it has no memory. That's where I'd like to finish out my life, Red. A warm place with no memory. Open a little hotel right on the beach. Buy some worthless old boat and fix it up like new. Take my guests out charter fishing.

I wanted to just get on that plane and leave. I just wanted to get on the plane, land in Mexico, catch a cab and head straight for the beach just long enough to walk in the surf, just long enough to decompress. I didn'’t want to quit or give notice, just be gone until somebody noticed. But I couldn't. My sense of responsibility, duty and dedication that had been brainwashed into my psyche did not allow me to do the spontaneous thing and just run away. I just sighed, dropped my chin into my chest and shuffled to the parking lot to get into my car and go to work.

Jill's life and schedule are no better, She is driven every moment of the day. Somedays she only gets three hours of sleep yet manages to get herself up to exercise, get Aimee and herself ready for school, work an entire day at school as an aide, take Aimee to either piano lesions, Aikido or a Girl Scout meeting,, only to then come home make dinner for the kid, read stories and put Aimee to bed, then have to start work on either the magazines or one of the books that she is working on at any time. She lives by the way of the shark; swim or die. There have been times where she has dropped off to sleep at work and school, once falling asleep while she was standing up.

With all of the madness going on in our lives we decided to take a vacation. Not just a vacation involving seeing family, but a vacation that was just all about relaxing, doing nothing at all. After looking at all of the places in the world to possibly visit Jill finally succumbed to my recommendation and said
'The hell with it, let'’s go to Tahiti."”

Last year was a good year for many different reasons, which is why we are able to go to French Polynesia. But I can honestly say that this is a vacation of a lifetime.

All I can say is the excitement of such a journey was summed up by Morgan Freeman'’s monologue from the last line of The Shawshank Redemption:

RED: I find I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain... I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.

Tahiti photos used with the permission of Danee Hazama Photography.