My work-cation comes to an end and my top five vacation moments

The good news: Monday’s return to work won’t be quite the shock it normally is after a vacation because I worked most of the time I was on vacation. (This is my “glass is half full” attitude, which is kind of working for me right now.)

The bad news: I have to go back to work on Monday and I won’t be in Ventura CA doing it. And the next few weeks of work will be brutal.

One of the highlights of the trip was watching my daughter learn to boogie board. When my advice failed, she got angry. When it worked, she caught a wave and yelled, "Did you see that one, Daddy?" Yes, yes, I did. And it was great.

One of the highlights of the trip was watching my daughter learn to boogie board. When my advice failed, she got angry. When it worked, she caught a wave and yelled, “Did you see that one, Daddy?” Yes, yes, I did. And it was great.

I heart Ventura CA. And if it weren’t for our friends and my daughter’s school, I’d move the family. My wife, however, says my love affair with Ventura and the ocean is vacation-related and living there would be something different. And though my wife is right more times than I care to admit in writing, she’s wrong on this one (I think). I could live there in a heartbeat, even if we were miles from the ocean, which might be warmer and a better choice.

The house we stayed in was around 900 sq. ft. So, coming home to over 1,800 sq. ft makes our house feel almost McMansion-like. In fact, it makes me feel better that we didn’t do two things:

  1. Add on to our house during the real estate boom, which we thought about and would be still be paying for right now if we had.
  2. We didn’t move into a larger house, as it would mean more to clean, to heat, to cool.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t like more space around the outside of the house and a workshop for my tools, but the physical space we need to live in might not be as much as I thought. I just need to be more clever with the space we have.

Since returning mid-day yesterday, Saturday, I haven’t done much at all. I returned to my Treadmill Desk (over 8 miles walked) and escaped into a novel (The Cuckoo’s Calling) while doing it. I have a dozen projects around the house to complete, but haven’t worked up the energy to tackle one of them, owing my laziness to having a lot on my mind, like how to get rich and buy a vacation house in Ventura. Simple thoughts like that.

My top five Ventura moments:

  1. Standing deep in the water and watching my daughter boogie board and catch a huge wave. Her eyes got really big and I could tell she wasn’t too sure about it (a fear/excitement cocktail). But she held on and I was there to see it. I am lucky.
  2. My wife’s crazy lip-sync dance to a reggae song, and the fact I videotaped it for embarrassing her at a party one day. Priceless. Gold.
  3. Dinner with our good friends, outdoors, at the Sushi House on a perfect night. Great food, laughs, and excellent sushi a block from the beach. What more is there to want in life?
  4. Go-kart racing with my 12-year-old nephew and literally driving him into the rail/wall when he tried to pass me. Gotta teach the young ones to respect their elders now, don’t we?
  5. Dinner at Rice Thai with my wife, daughter and 10-year-old niece, who stayed with us for three days and came up with the idea she wanted to own the sun and sell sunlight to everyone. It’s good to think big before the reality of life crushes your dreams (hey, what happened to my “glass is half-full” spirit? That didn’t last long).

That’s it for now. Back to the chain gain and breaking rocks.

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Breaking up with people who probably already broke up with you

Last weekend, on the beach, we met a very nice older couple. Our dogs met first, as their rare breed, 80 pounds, black and white with a patch over one eye, had a crush on our common black lab and couldn’t help but go Hugh Hefner on her every five minutes, until the leash came out and took the spark out of the stud.

Details about the couple: husband with salty gray, wavy, windblown hair, a deep tan, Ray-Bans, quiet; she of proper upbringing, talkative and charming, warm. They live in Santa Monica and have a house up here in Ventura they visit on weekends. They’re intelligent, articulate and the husband worked in Hollywood for a long time, making them successful. They have a son who is an engineer and working with a racing team back east.

Oh, and they’re in a class above us – the one I’ve always wanted to be in.

This is my calming ocean photo. I look at it and relax and forget about people that drive me nuts.

This is my calming ocean photo. I look at it and relax and forget about people that drive me nuts.

So, right off the bat, I’m depressed and jealous, a bad combo.

Why are they speaking to me? What do they want? 

My wife tells the woman, Joan, a name I just gave her, that I know and write about automotive technology and luxury cars. And Joan, it turns out, is in the market for a luxury car I know a lot about. We have a great talk about it on the beach, as I keep one eye on the dogs to make sure Cali doesn’t run up and steal someone’s food, which she likes to do.

And Joan and I continue what I like to call, “rich people speak.” I can’t explain it. The tone of the conversation is unique, and uncomfortable. Name-dropping, lots of questions about what you do. A sizing up of the other person. Networking for one’s personal benefit? (Is there any other kind?)

We hang out with them for about 20 minutes or so, and Joan asks us if we’ll be around next weekend (yes), and if we’d like to come over for a glass of wine (yes). Great, she and her husband will stop by later with their contact info.

Two hours later, they show up. I’m standing on the front patio when they pull up. Joan gets out of the SUV and gives me a piece of paper with their names, phone number and address. Again, they’re super nice, which makes me wonder again why they’d want to hang out with me. My wife, I understand. She’s the nicest person in the world. But me? It’s all about the cars, which I’m okay with, and used to. People love to talk about cars, but it’s usually men.

The week goes by. I ask my wife to send Joan a text on Friday. She does. We don’t hear back, but then Joan and her husband show up at our door later that day. She has information on tomorrow’s Artwalk (Did you know about it? Yes. Are you going? Yes. Would you like to hang out and have fish tacos? Yes.)

We talk for 10 minutes and I probably say a bunch of stupid things (to be discussed later in this post). And she tells me she didn’t see the text from my wife.

The next morning rolls around. I send a text to Joan on my wife’s iPhone because my Blackberry is drying out after its swim. But I don’t hear back.

We arrive at the Artwalk with a couple of our friends and I call Joan. It rings but she doesn’t answer and I leave one of those messages where I didn’t plan on leaving a message and sound like a complete idiot. These calls come easily to me.

We attend the Ventura Artwalk, which is a bit of a disappointment, as it’s more “walk” than “art.” I don’t hear back from Joan. And it drives my OCD mind crazy: Why did they come by twice and then stand us up?

I re-think their second visit to our house and analyze everything I said. What did I say wrong? I was nervous for some reason – stretching to be cool? More name dropping? Was it the point I made of how similar Google employees seem to Hollywood people, that they’re special and in the in-crowd? Arrogant? Did I piss off her husband?

I can’t figure it out and my wife doesn’t understand why I’m concerned. She doesn’t care. And it’s not that I cared, as much as, I was curious what went wrong.

We went to the beach at the end of the day with the dogs, and who do I see down the beach? Joan, her husband, and their horny exotic dog. They’re leaving. (Did they see us and leave?) I have a business card for them. So, I follow them home. (Yes, I’m aware that sounds very stalker like, but it was to give them the card, not peer in their windows.)

I catch up to them at their house, as 50% lung function does not make for moving quickly through deep sand.

Again, they were super nice and offer water, which I thought was for me, but was for my yellow lab, though I did think about getting down on all fours to share it.

We talked about the Artwalk. Joan forgot her phone, and they too were disappointed in the lack of artwork. I complimented her husband on an amazing career in Hollywood – I looked it up on the Internet. And I told him he should write a book about the experiences on the different movies. At some point, I slipped in a stupid comment about wanting to make sure everything was good, as I’m prone to saying stupid things. It’s a blur how I threw that comment in. (Come on, I’m insane. I’ll never know where the stuff that comes out of my mouth comes from or why.)

(Now here is the “breaking up with people who probably already broke up with you” part of the story.)

So, Joan asks how long we’ll be in town, as if to hook up with us again. (In a Bronx accent in my head: Oh, no you didn’t. Oh, no you didn’t just say that.) I’m having none of it. No way. She’s just being polite. How many unreturned messages will it lead to? I can read the signs, babe.

“That’s okay,” I say. “We don’t want to bother you. I just stopped by to give you my card in case I can answer any questions about the car. That’s it. “

“Well, we know how to get in touch with you then,” she said.

We say goodbye.

Back to the beach, I went, Luna, hydrated, at my side.

Was it the orange Cheetos stain on my shorts? My week-old, bristly beard and the four long hairs sticking out of my left cheek that I was too lazy to shave or pluck? How stupid did I sound? What mistake did I make?

I’m sure they were relived after I left and looked at each other in agreement that meeting strangers on the beach would be something they would never do again.

BUT THEY CAME TO OUR RENTAL HOUSE TWICE! Twice. I don’t get it.

I’ll never know what happened. And that’s the part that will drive me crazy – for frickin’ ever and a day.

ARGGGGGHHHHH. Damn dogs. Next time, I’m getting two pit bulls, not cute, friendly Labradors.

The ocean never disappoints

Our yellow lab loves the water. And she gives her endorsement of this blog post.

Our yellow lab loves the water. And she gives her endorsement of this blog post.

I’m on a work-cation with my family this week. Ventura, 8 houses from the beach, with a clean view of the ocean from the upper deck.

And it’s great, as always. I would live here if I could solve the puzzle of how to make it happen. My lotto-ticket strategy has been a wash-out of an idea.

This was a supposed to be two weeks of vacation for me, but work killed the “cation” part, though I had most of Friday off. At least I’ve been able to work 8 or 9-hour days and get to the beach in the late afternoons. That is the best part because, as I said in the title of this post, the ocean never disappoints.

I’d make a mess trying to explain what that means, but it’s what I think every time I stand there and look at the water. And maybe it comes from my new way of living in the moment – treating it like my last – noticing more, and staying off my Blackberry, which fizzled out yesterday in a Ziploc bag that was supposed to keep the salt water out – but didn’t. Now the phone lives in white rice. Fingers crossed it comes back to life.

The dogs enjoy the beach like my daughter at age 5 enjoyed Disneyland, when Princess-chasing was a sport. The dogs chase the tennis ball until they can’t. I had to check to see if Cali was still alive the other night. I jabbed at her with my feet to move off the end of the bed and she didn’t respond. I put my hand on her chest to check her breathing. Out like a light, but alive.

That’s it for today. A simple post. No faux heart or panic attacks to write about. No stress. Just more good fortune of having everything I need today.

Bronchospasms, tiny pills, and the 65-hour work week

It’s a skill to open a box and bottle of baby aspirin in Rite Aid while you’re having a panic attack,  can’t breathe, are bloated from eating 11 plates, or over 22 pieces, of $2 sushi for dinner followed by Baskin-Robbins Watermelon sorbet on a sugar cone, sport an irregular heartbeat, have a blood pressure reading of 150/99 measured on Rite Aid’s free blood-pressure measurement device, and have the strong feeling you’re going to fall into the pharmacy shelves dead, shitting your pants right next to the boxed enemas.

Ironic, it’s the best way to die.

I chewed one pill, then another, and one more for good measure, making sure I didn’t take too many and cause other problems, like coughing up blood, or a another nosebleed from hell.

I walked in measured steps to the Rite Aid cashier and presented her with a mangled box of generic baby aspirin. She didn’t skip a beat scanning the bar code, and I wondered if I was the only one to ever hand her medicine that looked like a bear had opened it.

“Would you like your receipt?”

“Sure. Thanks,” I said, suppressing the urge to ask, in my calmest and most relaxed, “hey, life is grand, and sorry to bother you with this,” voice, “but can you tell me where the nearest hospital is?”

I left with aspirin and receipt in hand and climbed the sloped parking lot, careful not to raise my heart rate and feel more out of breath. At the car, I opened the cap of my personal pill bottle and removed an anti-anxiety pill, Ativan, which is the smallest pill I’ve ever seen, and exactly the opposite size you want to be finger-wrestling with when your hands are shaking. Could the makers add some bulk to it, please? Handlebars? Make it stick to the skin? Something to reduce the stress of thinking you’re going to drop it and watch it roll down the slope of the Rite Aid parking lot, under a car, and into a tar pit of oil slime.

And what choice would there be but to go face-down on the black top, stretch for it, and flick it out, hoping the owner of the car didn’t show up and run you over, or wasn’t a card-carrying member of the Rancho Cucamonga mafia with a fear of people planting a bomb under his car.

But that didn’t happen.

I held onto the pill and swallowed it with a bottle of water that had been rolling around my car for a couple of months, as I forgot to buy one in Rite Aid and didn’t want to walk back. And who knows what I put in my body from drinking hot water filled with leaching plastic chemicals. I’m thinking it will be years before it catches up with me, and odds are that something else will take me out sooner anyway.

While waiting for the tiny pill of happiness and good times to kick in, and hoping my heartbeat didn’t go into A Fib, which I hate, I had the usual internal debate that comes with my panic attacks: To E.R. it or not?

That is always the question, and the answer is always a trip to the E.R., where I calm down and leave with instructions to follow up with my personal physician. But this episode was different, as the CF team had prescribed two weeks of my arch nemesis: Prednisone.

No drug hurts me like this tiny little fucker. It’s the wicked witch to the anxiety med’s tinier good witch. It raises my blood pressure, makes me nervous, delivers hallucinations, and, during tapering, makes me angry like the Hulk, but red, not green.

I waited in the car, then out of the car, then in the car, out, in, out, for the anxiety med to switch on.

Should I try to drive the 70+ miles home? What if I am having a heart attack? Would I die driving?

I practiced my relaxation exercise of taking a deep breath in through my nose while pushing out my already bloated-stomach filled with $2 fish and rice, lots of $2 fish and rice, and blowing out slowly by pulling my stomach in, not the most comfortable process.

And I repeated my usual mantra: I am such an idiot. I hate cystic fibrosis. Breathe. I am such an idiot. I hate cystic fibrosis. Breathe.

And I waited.

*****

My work week started at 7:00 a.m. Monday morning and didn’t end until late Friday night, which I don’t think gives away the ending that I lived. At most I found time to eat and sleep during the week, but the rest was work or thinking about the time-sensitive, large-budget “so everyone has an opinion” project at work. And the pace was intense and filled with barbed wire to climb over.

And then I took a crash course in Bronchospasms 101 and wished that I had purchased my new FEV1/FEV6 meter years ago. At least I had it now and was able to track the TOBI Podhaler shooting down my lung function and oxygen saturation days before a meeting in Rancho.

Ah, more CF cruelty: new med, lower lung function. Are you kidding me? Really? 

After numerous emails and conversations with the CF Team (a great group of caring people), I killed the Podhaler and replaced it with the drug created by the devil himself, Prednisone.

For the first time in seven or eight years, I dropped all antibiotics – nothing or nada in my mouth or veins with “mycin” in the name.

Cold turkey, baby. Where’s my one hour chip?

So, with my FEV1/FEV6 way down, I replaced antibiotics with steroids. Again, are you kidding me? Who thought up this cruel joke?

But once again life proves why a valid medical degree trumps an Internet research certificate: my doctor was right and my lung function started going up once I dropped the Podhaler and swallowed the steroid. But that didn’t keep me out of the Rite Aid Parking lot.

****

I took a risk sitting there in that parking lot and drove home with my pants unbuckled to make room for my whale belly and my “on the go” breathing exercises.  I didn’t care if I lived or died. I just didn’t want to go to ER again. Couldn’t do it. No way. I hate the process too much to endure it. The hours of waiting. The questions. The strange looks. The “you have CF?” comments, followed by something like, “but you look healthy.”

When I got home, I didn’t tell my wife what had happened. I stripped off my office work clothes and put on my work-from-home work clothes. I gathered my breathing treatments, stepped on my treadmill desk , fired it up, and went back to work.

And tomorrow came, again.

 

Just be yourself: My daughter and I attend Anime Expo 2013 (photos included)

Thousands sandwiched together . . .  costumes everywhere  . . . unusual odors . . . loud, dull hum of crowd . . . more shuffling than walking . . . mooooooo, says the cow . . . paper mache swords, knives, guns, sticks, and axes . . . short skirts and garter belts – lots of garter belts . . . a baker’s dozen of Spiderman costumes . . . Zelda and lots of her friends with elf ears . . . characters in action poses having their pictures taken . . . I’m in germ hell . . . some wear surgical masks, smart, should have worn my construction mask . . . men without shirts, men in maid costumes, men in dresses . . . woman wearing Lulumon yoga pants who didn’t hear about the recall, or chose to ignore  it . . . the old X-Men posing together . . . “Must be 18 with ID to enter” sign . . .  the Village People wearing costumes? ironic? . . . lots of wigs, lace and leather . . . more Marvel superheroes (Are they at the right convention?) . . . food truck heaven outside, all with long lines . . . fast-food loving male and female superheroes with muffin tops who should have worn Spanx under their spandex . . . Tip: Never wear wings to a crowded event if you don’t want to walk sideways all day – bad costume choice . . . hundreds of cartoon characters I’ve never seen before . . . more soft core porn . . . drawings of females with large breasts, tiny waists and big eyes (Japanese Barbie dolls?) . . . more weapons with red plastic ties to prove they were inspected upon entry and cannot shoot real bullets, rays, sunbeams or potatoes . . . creepy guy not attending expo talking to two young girls at lunch, started coming toward my daughter and her friend until I caught his eyes and he turned around . . . piles and racks of anime stuffed animals . . . skinny man in Wonder Woman costume looks out-of-place – how is that possible here? . . . attractive woman dressed as Electra with two spandex femme fatales, heads down, race quickly through the crowd – to avoid men asking to take their picture? . . . a lot of superheroes need smartphones to communicate . . . I should have worn a paper bag on my head, or at the very least a surgical mask, which makes me tell my daughter that I’m going as a surgeon next year . . . if this is what the expo looks like at 3 in the afternoon, what will it look like later tonight?

Whew, that was a mindful. Faulkner is turning over in his grave right now.

Little did I know what was coming my way when my daughter asked me to take her to Anime Expo 2013 in downtown Los Angeles.

And though the experience may have started with a shock to the system, surrounded by a convention hall full of costumed characters, it bloomed into a cool, hip experience at the second happiest place on Earth. We soon discovered, after we got our credentials, that we were surrounded by people being themselves and having a great time. Not a bad place to be on a Friday afternoon in Los Angeles.

Here are my three favorite moments from the day:

  1. When I had to use the bathroom upon arrival at the Expo, my daughter said: “You’re not going to leave me alone out here, are you?”
  2. Standing in the middle of the food court, my daughter sitting on the floor eating an ice cream cone, and surrounded by 100s of costumed individuals, my exact thought was this: it’s a great time for my daughter to grow up, as she can be anyone she wants to be. Anyone at all. This could not have happened when I was growing up.
  3. See the picture below of the characters posing on the stairs. I can’t explain it.

Here are some photos from our adventure (click to enlarge). We’re already planning our costumes for next year’s event. I may go as a surgeon or Plywood Man, with a costume made entirely from wood. It could happen.

Enjoy.

Cactus Man? Odd cucumber dude? Clearly, I'm not up to date on the latest characters.

Cactus Man? Odd cucumber dude? Clearly, I’m not up to date on the latest characters.

I'm thinking that after three or four Cokes and a large burrito from a food truck, this gentleman may rethink his costume choice for next year's event.

I’m thinking that after three or four Cokes and a large burrito from a food truck, this gentleman may regret his costume choice.

This was one of my favorite superheroes. He's spinning records - DJ Man? This could be the secret identity of my friend @onlyz.

This was one of my favorite superheroes. He’s spinning records – DJ Man? This could be the secret identity of my friend @onlyz.

So, I appreciated this one, but my daughter didn't. It shows what you can do with an old pair of shower shoes, some black stockings and a dress. However, as my wife pointed out, even Death needs a convention goodie bag.

So, I appreciated this one, but my daughter didn’t. It shows what you can do with an old pair of shower shoes, black stockings and a dress. However, as my wife pointed out, even Death needs a convention goodie bag.

"What a blockhead," I said as I spotted this guy before my daughter did. She just looked at me the way 11-year-olds do.

“What a blockhead,” I said as I spotted this guy before my daughter did. She just looked at me the way 11-year-olds do.

There's a pause in the action as Wreck It Ralph takes a phone call.

There was a pause in the action as Wreck It Ralph took a phone call.

There's something I really like about this photo. All of a sudden the sea of humanity parted and this couple was standing there. I can only guess what they were thinking and that's why I like it so much.

There’s something I really like about this photo. All of a sudden the sea of humanity parted and this couple was standing there. I can only guess what they were thinking and that’s why I like it so much.

This was my daughter's favorite photograph, which impressed me when she told me why: it looks like an every day photo of someone getting lunch in LA. Hard to argue with that.

This was my daughter’s favorite photograph, which impressed me when she told me why: it looks like an every-day photo of someone getting lunch in LA, but not. Hard to argue with that.

We think the guy on the left wormed his way into the photo. He seems out of place, if that's possible.

We think the guy on the left wormed his way into the photo. He seems out of place, if that’s possible.

Here's what an action pose looks like and the photographers taking pictures. If I had to bet one character winning this fight, I wouldn't bet on the woman in 14-inch plexiglass high heels.

Here’s what an action pose looks like with photographers taking pictures. If I had to bet on one character winning this fight, I wouldn’t bet on the woman in 14-inch plexiglass high heels.

I was tempted.

I was tempted.

Action pose by the X-Men. What you can't see here is that Wolverine is wearing a Wolverine back-pack.

Action pose by the X-Men. What you can’t see here is that Wolverine is wearing a Wolverine backpack.

Have wings and a wheelie travel bag and you're set for adventure.

Have wings and a wheelie travel bag and you’re set for adventure.

This was my favorite moment of the day. The characters below are photographing the characters on the stairs.

This was my favorite moment of the day. The characters below are photographing the characters on the stairs.

As we were leaving, we saw this beauty, which made me think that leaving before the sun went down was a good idea.

As we were leaving, we saw this beauty, which made me think that leaving before the sun went down was a good idea.