Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 New Years Resolutions

First let's start off with how I did with last years resolutions:

Resolutions for 2010:

Play in the COHS alumni waterpolo game. Failed. We did not know when it was. Need to set up communication with the coach.

Seeing more COHS friends. Yes, and it was wonderful!

Keep another 5-10 pounds off. Nope, I think I am the same.

Get more active: Hiking or swimming. Nope.

Get more active: Helping other people. About the same.

Improve our financial situation (reduce debt). Significant improvements, but still have a ways to go.

Canning: Trade with more people that can; add to what I make: salsa, speghetti sauce, soup. Add to methods of canning such as freezing and using wax. Did salsa, relish and Chinese pickles and two types of pickled peppers in addition the the normal canning of pears and jams. Did not do spaghetti sauce, soup or anything like that. Also did not freeze or can using wax.

Be More Green - this is way to general so I want to accomplish some of the following: Did a few more things, such as hook up a 205 gallon water cistern to collect rain water.

Plant a tree - No

Plant more vegetables: tomatoes, onions and garlic, ginger, herbs - Did tomatoes, onions, garlic, but ginger. Herbs did not work out well.

Increase the number of LED lights in use. Yes, several.

Better composting. Yes

Let fruit we grow not go to waste. About the same.

Resolutions for 2011

Get an AARP card and use it.

Read a book that is not related to work.

Play in the COHS alumni waterpolo game.

Seeing more COHS friends.

Get more active: Hiking or swimming.

Improve our financial situation (reduce debt)

Canning: Trade with more people that can; make: speghetti sauce, soup. Add to methods of canning such as freezing and using wax

Be More Green:

Plant more ginger, herbs and lettuce.

Increase the number of LED lights in use.

Better composting

Let fruit we grow not go to waste.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bucket List

December 28, 2010 I turn 50 years old. Inspired by the movie with Jack Nicholson, I have decided to write my "Bucket List".

Eat lunch with Laura (Tamura) Harris and Kim (Charles) Byrnes.

Travel - Take the trans-Siberian railway. Visit Australia and Africa. In Africa visit Egypt and Kenya and go on Safari (shoot animals with camera).

Take a train to Chicago and back.

Go to the Grand Canyon with my dad.

Get my picture taken crossing Abby Lane.

Take a cruise to Alaska

Swim with dolphins

Travel the Amazon

Live off of the electrical grid.

Have my own well in the back yard.

Have an electric car.

Have a waterless urinal installed at my house.

Have a composting toilet in the Back Yard.

Pay off my house and owe no money.

Be an extra in a film.

Harvest a bison.

Grow Bananas at home.

Write a book, that is not a manual.

Perform with a band (not just singing)

Perform Standup in a Comedy Club

Buy nothing for one week and eat from the food that is stored at home.

Buy nothing for one month and eat from the food that is stored at home.

Make a significant difference in the life of a total stranger.

Monday, December 13, 2010

But I'm Not 50 Yet!

After attending a a biker wedding, I got back just in time to get cleaned up and go to the Roundtable in Ontario, California. I was in Las Vegas the prior week and instead of flying home, I decided to visit my high school friends in Southern California.

The idea is that I post that I am going to be at some pizza place and about 15 people show up and we eat pizza and have a good time going down memory lane. Each time there is some sort of surprise. This time would be no exception.

Debbie Watanabe is someone I never knew. Debbie is David Watanabe's little sister. I never knew he had a sister. Turns out that my little brother David and her were very good friends. In fact they found each other via me on Facebook. So, Debbie says that she is going to come to have pizza with us and that she is going to bring Donald Hoffman!

The Hoffman family lived 4 doors down on the corner. Each of the kids names started with the letter "D". There was Deann, Dell, Duane, Donald and Danielle. Donald, now Don and I did everything. We played, fought, laughed, cried, built forts, flew kites, rode bikes and got into trouble whenever possible.

Donald did now know that I knew that we was going to be joining us. I had also looked at his picture on Facebook, so when he popped in, smiled at me and extended his hand for a handshake, I looked in his eyes and said ""Donald Hoffman". He could not believe that I recognized him. I could see "Donald Hoffman" in his eyes, but I confessed that I had been tipped off.

One of the coolest things I remember about Donald, Duane and Dell is that one day, their dad bought Navy surplus bunk beds, that were bolted to the wall. They were three high. When you are a boy, there is nothing cooler!

Back to Debbie, she is as wonderful as she is beautiful. It is hard to imagine her brother David sitting on her so she would not change the channel on the TV. In fact, if we had known how pretty she was, David would have been treated like a king in high school.

Deann Call Lent arrived with her two youngest sons, her husband Tom and her mom! Her mom was so cool, I really enjoy meeting the parents after all these years. It is always special when Deann can attend. She lives so far away and has such a large family, it is amazing that she can fit us in. We are all grateful to the reunions that she does so much work on. Deann has been married three times, but I must say that the in her case, the third time was the charm. Tom is great, and really should be an honorary Lancer. Tom does not get just the customary handshake, Tom gets a great big bear hug.

My brother Dave, who had not responded to my message asking if he would be able to attend showed up about 30 minutes later. That was a great surprise and he and Debbie and Don had a lot to chat about.

Two of my closest friends are Cobos and Judy Zeiter. They were both there. In fact, I can't remember a pizza event they have not attended. Cobos brought Logan, her grandson. I have known him since he was a bulge in his mommy's tummy. He is such a good kid and always manages to steal all the attention.

This evening, Cobos and Judy were up to no good! To my surprise, they came ready to celebrate my birthday. What a surprise that was. Gifts, Cake, Cards and all. I keep thinking about Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The old man kept exclaiming "...but I'm not dead yet!". John Cleese would respond, "You aren't fooling anyone!". I wasn't 50 yet, but apparently I wasn't fooling anyone, especially my friends...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Biker Wedding

David Miller was in the same boy scout troop that I was in. Troop 477, the "Eagle Machine". All of our families were close. Dave was several years younger than I was. Our family moved away the day after I graduated high school. At that time, Dave was shorter than I and was a clean cut kid just like his parents.

When we had the Boy Scout reunion, the Miller's were on the road and were unable to attend. It was a case of next time you are down here, let us know. So I did, only to find out that David was getting married on that day. I had dinner plans and had started some lunch plans, so I thought perhaps we could get together for breakfast, but honestly, the day of a wedding is so hectic.

I just let the lunch thing die, but I didn't tell anyone. I decided it would be a surprise. I could not get anyone to go to the wedding with me, but a good friend (Cyndi Riggle) loaned me her car. The wedding was scheduled to start at 1pm, but they were going to wait for David's nephew who had to take the SAT test that morning, so I decided to show up just before 1pm.

As much as I did surprise them, attending a biker wedding was an even bigger surprise to me. You see, David had become a biker. He was now taller than I, with long hair and a long beard. He had taken the nick name of "Bear", which I thought was an excellent choice!

I was old not to wear a suit, so I wore a dark blue polo shirt and blue jeans. The wedding party was dressed in black shirts with their biker club emblems and patches. They wore jeans, chaps, leather vests and knives in some cases. There were a lot of tattoos and some piercings. Despite the picture you might paint in your mind, everyone was happy, polite and respectful.

I was there for the wedding ceremony, photos, dinner and the cutting of the cake. Like all weddings it started late.

I really enjoyed seeing my friends from childhood. David and his parents Eleanor and Charlie. When it was time to go, there were hugs and kisses just like any other wedding, but the most important part .... David is truly in love and is a very happy man.

I wish him and his bride a long and happy life.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bill & Elaine Van Horn

Some of my earliest memories are of Bill and Elaine. When I first knew them, they were not married. Bill was my dad's childhood friend. He had known him since 3rd grade. Both Bill and Elaine lived in the apartment complex that my folks managed. Elaine shared an apartment with Ellie, who often baby sat me. I had a habit of throwing their cigarettes in the trash can.

Bill and Elaine would eventually get married and were always very special friends of our family. They bought a house in Daly City and later in San Francisco. They raised two children Noel and Tish. My mom and Elaine would become very close. I know they miss each other.

Bill is a cartoon artist and Elaine is a retired nurse. Noel is also a cartoon artist. They did work on Duck Tales and Mickey Mouse. Today they write and draw comic books of Donald Duck under the Disney label for a company based in Denmark.

Sometime in the 1980's, they moved to North Vancouver in British Columbia Canada. I recently was in BC while attending the annual Best Western conference. I took the time to visit Bill and Elaine. They really look the same except for a bit of gray hair, but who am I to talk? It was really wonderful and they could not have been nicer. I got to hear some great stories. It would be great if they and my folks could hook up, but Bill does not fly. The border between the USA and Canada has become a real pain, but still you never know.

I am really glad that I got to visit them. It had been over 25 years since I last saw them. I hope I don't wait that long next time.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Green Festival November 2011 - San Francisco

I don't know how man Green Festivals I have attended, but I have been going to them for quite some years and I always enjoy them. This year was no exception. This year I took my wife, my mom and Cindy Riggle President of Sunshine Hospitality. This was my mom and Cyndi's first time attending the Green Festival. The Green Festival is family friendly.

(Family Friendly most of the time)

Starting 2010, the Green Festival takes place twice a year in San Francisco. Once in Spring and once in Fall. Each time the Festival is the same yet different. I keep telling myself that I want to attend some of the educational seminars and each time, I don't. I just don't have enough time and I get so tired. There are so many booths and that is often times where the real education takes place.

The Festival offers a number of ways to get passes. You can pay for them, you can get a membership with Green America, you can donate canned foood. This time you could also recycle a cell phone or get passes from your local Nissan dealer.

The Nissan Leaf was on display. We are currently in the market for a new car and the Nissan Leaf is one of the cars we are considering. We are also looking Ford Fusion Hybrid and the Chevy Volt. The problem with the Leaf and the Volt is that even the dealerships don't yet have them on display. They had one on display at the Green Festival. We got to see it, touch it, smell it and sit in it. I am impressed. Apparently the Federal Government is offering $7.500.00 tax rebates and California is offering a $5,000.00 tax rebate. That makes a total of $12,500.00 which is a lot of money.

One Company makes paper products, including business cards out of Elephant Poop. This is by far one of my favorite booths. It is hard not to smile when you look at it. Recycling Elephant Poop is a wonderful idea, but as Cynidi Riggle points out, shipping it all the way from Africa to the USA is not green. Think local! They should be using these products in Africa and we should be recycling horse and donkey manure. Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for these folks. The idea of giving someone my business card and knowing that I am handing them a pile of Elephant Poop is enough to make anyone smile.

Cyndi was looking over products and services that she could add to her company's line of environmentally friendly products and services. She came across one in particular. A Water Bottle designed for those of use who travel on airplanes. The water bottle has a filter fitted to the top of the bottle and filters water faster than any filter I have ever seen. When you go through security, you are not allowed to bring liquids, including water; The TSA confiscates them, but once you are through security, there are plenty of shops willing to sell you a small bottle of water for $4.00 or higher. With these filter included bottles, you can go through security with an empty water bottle, then fill it up at the water fountain or the sink in the bath room and enough clean filtered water with the taste of that nasty chlorine. This will be a great addition to the Sunshine Hospitality product line.

There was an interesting Hands Free Faucet. As Cyndi pointed out, the problem is you are trading water savings for electricity. That is often a difficult decision. Which is the lesser of two evils. Wasting water or wasting electricity? Is there another option? Sill, with water becoming scarcer and scarcer, we must consider all options.

One thing about Green Festival, is that it is more than just business setup with booths selling there wares. It is a true festival, and the arts and music portion is not to be ignored. One of my favorites was this hand made Alphorn, native to Switzerland.

Most importantly, the festival helps us to stay focused, get back to basics and use our imaginations. I look forward to the next one.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Church re-Dedication

I tend not to be very public about my religious feelings. I'm catholic and we tend to be quite like that. One of my favorite Bible passages is Mathew 6:6.

We belong to St. Callistus. The church had fallen into bad repair, and it was becoming out right dangerous. Our Pastor Jimmy rallied the parishioners. During a time when many people are trying to keep from loosing their homes, they came up with the all the money needed. That meant that we did not need go get a loan from the Diocese of Oakland.

Today was the re-dedication of our church. While we have had more than our fair share of issues; one area that Catholics excel is tradition and ceremony. Today was truly inspirational. When I entered the church, it had that "New Church" smell. This would soon be cured by a lot of incense.

The ceremony started with a procession of flags. There was a flag from 38 different countries, including Peru (my wife's family) and Germany (the place of my birth). After the flag procession completely left the church, the was a knock on the door at the rear of the church. The door was opened, and in entered a procession of alter servers, priests from all over and our bishop.

There was not an empty seat in the church. The church is large. There are four masses every Sunday weekend. A Saturday evening mass, and three on Sunday. We always have a very good turnout. One thing I have always been very proud of is how diverse we are. At one point in the mass a small prayer was said in a number of different languages including: English, Chinese, Tagalog, German, Spanish, Nigerian and more.

Lila sings in the choir. They did a fantastic job. The church looks beautiful. I remember talking to a priest one time when I was working at the Marriott hotel. He was there on a conference about church designs. He told me that it is important that a church is inspiring. Well, ours certainly is and this mass was amazing. I said a prayer about someone very special to me.

At the very end of the mass they recognized the "Pioneer" parishioners that were part of the parish when the original church was built back in the 1950's They were each presented with a special present by the bishop. Some special recognition was given to those who had gone above and beyond to make this happen. One very special thanks was to Father Larry Burns. He had said mass at our church for over 30 years. Today he is retired and in a rest home, but Father Nick was good enough to bring him. Our parish gave him a standing ovation that lasted quite a while. Afterwards there was a long line of parishioners to wait their turn to thank him, and wish him well. Both Lila and Ceci had served as alter servers for Father Larry.

Thank you Father Jimmy, you really hit a home run. A Grand Slam Home Run!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


My first memories of being in a car were when I was 2 years old. My parents had a Volkswagen bug from the late 50's. I am assuming that it ran on 6 volts. What I remember most is that it had a reserve gas tank, so that when you were out of gas in one tank, you could turn a lever and it would switch over to the reserve tank. I thought that was so cool. The other thing I remember is that it was a rag top. My dad loved to drive with the top down. I was not so fond of it. You see we lived in an apartment off of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. When they drove around, I was often in the back seat freezing. Having the rag top down, was probably very comfortable in the front seat, but a blast of cold air was hitting this little kid who frequently wore short pants in those days.

My brother Dave was born in San Francisco. My folks saved up and bought a home in Hayward, where my sister Susan was born. By this time, we had a second car. I believe it was a Ford Galaxy 500 provided by the company my dad worked for. My dad was transfered to Glendora, California, where my brother Bob was born.

My mom drove the VW and we all piled in. No seat belts, no laws. By this time the heater was permanently stuck in the on position. Mom would go shopping with all of us. There were kids and groceries everywhere. Sometimes I would sit on the floor in front of the front passenger seat. Was I really ever that small?

Our family grew, and my grandmother bought us a brand new 1970 VW van. It was fire engine red. The VW Bug went to my cousin Nancy. Our family went all over in that VW van. One summer we went all the way across country and visited family in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York and Oklahoma. I will never forget that trip.

My sister Becky was born. She never knew the original VW bug, but she sure new the VW bus. I graduated high school and the day after we moved to Pleasant Hill, in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was my 18th birthday and my present was a 1966 VW bug. This one used to be my cousin Nancy's, but it was not our original bug. I was so excited to have my own car. It was six volts and it was mine.

It was time to retire the VW bus. Our family bought a new blue VW Vanogon. I moved out on my own. I saved my money and bought a 1974 light blue Super Beetle. I loved that car. I got married and bought a white 1968 VW Bus. Carmen camped in that VW Bus in Reno and Las Vegas. With the arrival of our first born Lila, we decided that we wanted a new car. A car that we would not have to worry about breaking down, so we bought a brand new white VW Jetta.

The 1968 VW bus was at it's end. My mom wanted a new car and sold us her Vanogon. We got a lot of mileage out of that Vanogon before it was retired for a Van Conversion. The Jetta was replaced by another Jetta with air conditioning.

I have this friend named Josh. He drove around a blue VW bug that he bought from his dad. Josh's dad had bought the car new. When my sister Susan needed a car, I arranged for her to buy his 1968 blue VW Bug. My sister drove it for years. Eventually, she was ready for a new car and I bought the 1968 VW Bug. Ceci was born. My mother-in-law drove it the Bug. She took the kids to school, went shopping, but eventually it became time to buy a new car, a Saturn. The deal was, I would pay for the car as long as we could keep the Bug.

In the meantime, had a sever sprained ankle. I was in a brace for months. It was not able to drive a manual transmission, which the Jetta was. I traded it in for a Ford Taurus, which we still drive to this day.

The VW Bug sat in the garage for years. One day when Lila was in high school, she decided to take an Auto-body class. She asked if she could use the VW Bug for school and I agreed. School was over and it was time to pick up the Bug. They had done a lot of work on it, but there was a lot of work still to do. It only had primer on it. Almost no breaks, the back window was out, no signals. It was dangerous!

At this point, Ceci was now driving and I needed another car, so instead of buying another one, we decided to restore this one. I drove it to Miracle Paint and then to La Vere's. La Vere's restored VW's. First was safety, breaks, lights ...etc. Then was the engine, upholstery, windows, bumper, a new stereo. It was nice. The front license plate had rusted and broken into pieces. It was the old Black and Gold License plates. I found a place on the Internet that made fake plates and had a replacement made. I drove that bug to and from work for years.

Like many we have fallen on difficult economic times. Money is tight. After we returned from vacation, I went to take the Bug in for a valve adjustment, tune up, oil change ...etc. When I went to drive the car, the only brakes that worked was the hand brake. It was a dangerous journey to La Vere's. With the brakes, I knew the bill would be a lot, but when they called me, the estimate was very high. Too high. There was much more than brakes that needed replacing. Most of the car was over 40 years old.

Sadly, I called my wife and we accepted that we could no longer afford this car. I sold it to the mechanic for much less that I care to admit to. We are not replacing this car. We are simply learning to live without and work with each others schedules. Times are not what they once were, but we all miss that Bug. That car had only known two families.

A friend told me I would regret it. I did immediately, but I had not choice.

So long Buggie...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Venezuela Vacation 2010

Back in 1981, I was working at the Hotel Durant as a front desk clerk. Two ladies from Venezuela checked in. Olga, was in 40's and her daughter Otibel was 21, same age as I was. In fact they had checked in on my birthday.

Olga had come to Berkeley to study at the University. Otibel was sent by her father to keep company and take care of her mother, as well as study English at the University. Eventually they moved into an apartment. During their one year stay, we all became very close.

After they returned to Venezuela, I visited them two years in a row. Once for one month, the second time for two weeks. Otibel's family was very nice to me. They treated me as a part of their family. On the last trip it was clear to me that things between Otibel and me were not to be.

After a time I met Carmen. We got married. I thought the right thing to do was to stop all communication between myself, Otibel and her family. After 26 years past, I got a request from Otibel to be her friend on Facebook. WOW, after so many years.

I accepted her as my Facebook friend. Months pass, and Otibel announces that she is getting married. She invited Carmen and myself to the wedding and even asked me to perform their wedding ceremony.

So off to Venezuela we went. Carmen admitted afterwards that she was very nervous, but as soon as we arrived Carmen and Otibel became fast friends. We spent much of the time preparing for the wedding. It was really a lot of fun. We stayed with Otibel and her fiancée in their apartment. Even though they were so busy, they always managed to do something for us. Whether it was to visit Hatillo, an old colonial town or visit their beach house. They took such good care of us.

One of the first things they did was take us to the house of Otibel's parents. I regretted not having staying in touch all these years. Earlier in the year, Olga almost left us. She is now permanently on oxygen. The hugs were long and intense. Her husband Paco had suffered a stroke some years ago and he was very emotional at seeing me after so many years.

As I said earlier, they had always treated me as family. I always thought it was because we were friends and that they were just kind because I was so young, but Paco explained it to me. His wife and only daughter were away in a foreign country thousands of miles away. I had taken care of them, protected them. I had never thought of it like that. His eyes were full of tears as he hugged me. For the first time, I understood really why I was part of their family. It took 26 years for me to understand this. Now it was all clear. I will filled with a wave of emotion. It was all I could do to keep control.

That day at Olga and Paco's house was fantastic. I had so many wonderful memories in that house. Otibel's brother Felix, his wife and two daughters were there. It was great to see Felix after all these years. He is like a brother. I feel sorry for Felix, because his daughters are too pretty! I think he needs a shot gun.

Felix was the master chef that evening and he prepared a wonderful dinner.

All the days we were in Venezuela were a lot of fun. We tried different foods such as the tropical fruits Lachosa (papaya), nispero, guava, guanabana, guayaba, rinon (chirimoya), parchita (maracuya) and even a banana native to Venezuela. We tried different foods from Venezuela such as arepas, cachapas and hallacas.

I was to perform the wedding ceremony in Spanish. I had done this once, years ago. It is not easy. It you studied Spanish in school, take a lot at the text below:

Familiares y amigos
Les doy la bienvenida hoy a presenciar el matrimonio de Guillermo y Olga.

Han compartido y han contribuido con sus vidas en el pasado, y al presenciar la ceremonia de su matrimonio hoy , Guillermo y Olga Otibel piden que compartan su futuro.

El matrimonio es una promesa que han hecho en los corazones de dos personas que se aman y que lleva a toda una vida de compromiso. Dentro del círculo de su amor, el matrimonio abarca todas las relaciones más importantes de la vida. La esposa y el marido son amantes, maestros, oyentes, críticos, y los mejores amigos.

En la cuidad (see eww dad) de Caracas, en el cual Guillermo y Olga Otibel desean contraer matrimonio.

Si alguno de los presentes puede mostrar alguna causa (cow saw) justa de por qué esta pareja no puede estar legalmente unidos, ahora debería declararlo, o en el futuro, guardar silencio. (Pause)

Guillermo y Olga Otibel por favor, frente a frente se dan la mano y se miran mutuamente:

Guillermo aceptas a Olga Otibel como tu esposa para amarla, honrarla, y cuidarla, en las buenas y en las malas, y serle fiel hasta que la muerte los separe?

Guillermo repeta conmigo por favor:
Yo Guillermo acepto a Olga Otibel como esposa * y prometo amarla, honrarla, y cuidarla * en las buenas y en las malas * y serle fiel (Fee El) hasta que la muerte nos separe.

Olga Otibel aceptas a Guillermo como tu esposo para amarlo, honrarlo, y cuidarlo, en las buenas y en las malas, y serle fiel hasta que la muerte los separe?

Olga Otibel repeta conmigo por favor:
Yo Olga Otibel acepto a Guillermo como esposo * y prometo amarlo, honrarlo, y cuidarlo * en las buenas y en las malas * y serle fiel hasta que la muerte nos separe.

Guillermo y Olga Otibel se han prometido el uno al otro ser buenos amigos y socios en el matrimonio. Para hablar y escuchar, confiar y cuidarse unos a los otros, y apoyarse en la comodidad, y la pobreza , que se refuerzan mutuamente a través de alegrías y tristezas de la vida. Que la promesa de compartir sus vidas juntas con esperanzas, pensamientos y sueños esten siempre entrelazadas entre el amor que los mantendra juntos. Este Nuevo hogar que se construye este lleno de respeto y honor, paz, felicidad y amor.

El anillo es un símbolo de la unidad en la que sus dos vidas están ahora unidos en un círculo intacto; en la que, donde quiera que vaya, va a volver el uno al otro.

Guillermo repeta conmigo por favor:
Olga Otibel, te ofrezco este anillo como símbolo de mi amor y devoción

Olga Otibel repeta conmigo por favor:
Guillermo, te ofrezco este anillo como símbolo de mi amor y devoción.


Y ahora, que han hecho sus votos, cada uno con el otro, y han declarado los mismos por dar y recibir sus anillos

By the power invested in me by your friends from the state of California; and your friends and family here, I now pronounce you man and wife.

Yo los declaro marido y mujer.

Guillermo y Olga Otibel, se han besado una y mil veces, Pero hoy la sensación es nueva. se han convertido en marido y mujer, y hoy sus besos son una promesa.

Ahora pueden sellar su acuerdo con un beso.

Permítanme ahora presentar a ustedes la feliz pareja. La nueva familia Raven Ojeda

I studied night and day. Anytime we went somewhere, I took the print out with me and practiced the pronunciation.

We got to meet Guillermo's family. They could not have been nicer. We all became friends right away.

The day of the wedding arrives. The wedding was perfect. Otibel had worked so hard to make sure everything was just right. Otibel was a beautiful bride. Carmen was helping right down to the last minute. Otibel told Carmen that she had never had a sister... it was very emotional for both of them.

Otibel's aunt and uncle where there. I had fond memories of them and remembered their baby girl. Guillermo asked if I wanted to see the baby. I said sure and he introduced me to a beautiful 29 year old lady. It was so good to see them.

The reception was amazing. I have never heard of anything called the "Crazy Hour", but what an experience. I have never been to such a wonderful party. It was finally time to say goodbye. Otibel broke down in tears as she hugged Carmen. Carmen was fighting off her own tears and said "Don't do this to me".

Everyone was so wonderful to us, we can not thank them enough. I have to admit that I regret not having stayed in touch. Carmen and I have our Venezuelan family. We hope they can visit us sometime.

After the wedding we checked into a hotel. After all they were now honeymooners. The next day we all got together at Olga and Paco's. The last day in Venezuela, Felix picked us up at the hotel and took us to an amazing restaurant for lunch. It included four cocktails and a lot of meat, cheese and arepas. I get full just thinking about it.

The flight home was long. The memories will last a lifetime. I got back the family I had lost and Carmen gained a family. Both Carmen and I hope that the Raven Ojeda family will visit us in the USA and we look forward to seeing them again soon. Thank you so much. We love you!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jimmy Vanessa - Hero!

That is right! I'm talking about Jimmy Vanessa, Class Clown of Charter Oak High School class of 1978. I went to school with Jimmy Vanessa from first grade all the way through high school. There are times when I think the reason we graduated was because they needed our desk for someone else.

Jimmy and I were in Little League Baseball together. His dad was our coach. The first year was the Delaplane Truckers. Worst team ever. The following year was as Savage Mazada where somehow be became a much better team. Jimmy would go on to eventually play AAA ball.

So how does any of this make Jimmy a Super Hero? It doesn't. Fast forward 30 plus years. My wife and I are having breakfast with Jimmy and his dad. Interesting that Jimmy doesn't have to work on a Wednesday morning. Why? Because he is on Holiday. Turns out that Jimmy has been suspended by his employer "Stater Brothers". Why? No official word has been given.

On the day that Jimmy was suspended he was driving his rig when there was a terrible accident. He used his rig to keep people from driving into the accident and as requested by the Highway Patrol he helped direct traffic.

I'm thinking to myself, Stater Brothers would naturally want to take pride in their employee of 18 years. They would want to brag about him, give him a plaque, donate $50,000.00 to his favorite charity, but no. As the old saying goes "No Good Deed Will Go Unpunished". Jimmy made the newspapers, CNN, ABC ...etc. Instead of good press for Stater Brothers, they are getting just the opposite. Jimmy has been suspended and as a loyal friend, you won't see my shopping at Stater Brothers while Jimmy is suspended. How about you?

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Week on the Road

I travel a lot for my work. Some travel more than I do, but most don't. When you travel as much as I do you miss your family and your home. That is why it is always so much nicer when a member of my family is able to accompany me. This past week, my wife Carmen took vacation time off from her work so that she could be with me.

Monday night. I'm back from work and spend the rest of the evening packing. Carmen has packed her own suitcase, a bag of food and our plug in cooler. I have packed my suitcase, computer bag, the company booth, brochure rack and spare laptop.

Tuesday morning comes way too early. We get up, shower, dress and hit the road by 6:00am. We will be traveling down to Anaheim. It will take us 13 hours to reach our destination for dinner. We travel down 101 South and stop at eleven of our customers hotels. We eat both breakfast and lunch in the car as I am driving. We make good time until we head to the last hotel of the day in Hermosa Beach. Traffic comes to a crawl. Turns out there was an accident. Once we get clear It of it, we get to the hotel minutes after the GM left for the day. That means I will be returning to Hermosa beach tomorrow.

We arrive just before 7pm at the house of my childhood friend from school, Dean (Call) Lent. This is one amazing woman. Not only is she instrumental in putting on our high school reunions, but she has a family (village) of 8. That's right, her and her wonderful husband Tom have six children and they all live at home. They have a beautiful family and being a mom is more than a full time job. We enjoy a delicious dinner and great conversation, but now it is time to head to the hotel. We have had a long day.

We pull into the hotel where I made our reservations only to find that they oversold the hotel and have walked us to a hotel all the way in Long Beach. Did I mention that my meetings and conference are in Anaheim? We get there and even though the General Manager had assured us that the first night would be complimentary because of his mistake, the hotel in Long Beach knows nothing about this. Doesn't matter, I give them my credit card and we finally get into our room. When you travel as much as I do, you learn to roll with the punches. It is 10pm and we pass out.

Next morning waits for no one. It is bright and early. I get a call from another childhood classmate. It is Jimmy Vanessa. He thought it he could not get to the restaurant in Anaheim for breakfast until perhaps as late as 8:30, but he was wrong. There was no traffic and it is 7:30am and he is waiting for us. We quickly get ready, hop into the card and meet him at Marie Calendars. I never really had many if any classes with Jimmy in school. What we had in common was little league baseball. I was in little league for the first two years. Later I would discover that swimming was my sport. What was special about this breakfast was that Jimmy brought his dad. His name is Coach. I'm pretty sure this last name is Vanessa, but I don't think I actually ever knew his first name.

The first year we were on a team named Delaplane Truckers. Worst team in the history of Little League. We didn't win even one game. Besides Jimmy and myself, there was Craig Schaeffer, Danny Hancock. Richard Mendez was our catcher. Side note about Richard, he had the coolest hair cut ever. It was short on the top and long on the sides, just like the guy that rode the motor cycle in the movie Animal House. I can't remember the other members of the team. My best memory is of the last game. Coach took the worst players on the team, like me and asked us what position would we like to play. I got to play 3rd base. Usually I played center field where I would drop ever ball hit to me while I tried to use the basket catch cause I wanted to be like Willie Mays. So, I'm playing 3rd base and a line drive is hit right too me. I have never seen a ball travel this fast. I raise my glove and to my amazement, I actually catch it and try to run down the runner from 2nd base, but the short stop and 2nd basemen forgot to cover 2nd. I get back to my position and the 3rd base coach from the other team looks at me and says "Nice catch son". It is the best play I will ever do in baseball, and I will never forget it.

Following year, we will be on a team called Savage Mazda. We were not that bad. Jimmy was starting to become a real pitcher. He would eventually play AAA ball. There will be more on Jimmy in another blog entry. Did you know that Jimmy is a hero? It is true!

So we are all having breakfast, and it was so good seeing coach. He used to be taller. I learn for the first time that he was in the Marines. He arrived in Korea the day the war ended. We chat like there is no tomorrow and next thing you know, it is time to go. I have to visit the hotel in Hermosa Beach and then get to a board meeting in Anaheim.

There is a reason they are called "Board Meetings", but it should be spelled differently. We wrap up the meeting late and get over to the "Women in Hotels" reception. It is a small gathering. It is our first time doing this. We will improve it over time. Recognizing women in the Hotel Industry is very important to me.

Carmen and I go out to dinner with a friend of ours, then it is back to the hotel and to bed. The next day is the conference with educational seminars a lunch, trade-show, meeting, followed by a town-hall meeting and dinner. The town-hall and dinner was put on by AAHOA. Asian American Hotel Owners Association. The Indian hotel community. They have hired a comedian from their region (Gujarati) of India. He sat next to me until it was time for him to perform.

Tired and exhausted, we return to our hotel. Tomorrow we checkout and drive north to San Luis Obispo. On the way, just before Santa Maria, we stop and pick blue berries. They give us a small bucket. After we start picking, we realize just how huge that bucket really is. It takes a long time to pick blue berries, but we really enjoyed picking them.

We arrive in San Luis Obispo and checkin to the La Cuesta Inn. We are meeting the owner and a good friend, Cynthia Woods for lunch along with her husband and her long time friend Terri Raey. Lunch was fantastic. Not only was the food good, but I had not seen Cynthia and Terri for about 10 years. It was so good to see them again.

We get back to the hotel and enjoy the Jacuzzi. I want Carmen to relax. That is the point of her coming with me. We head back to the room and both of us fall asleep, but just for an hour. It is time to head up to Jennifer and Miles house. Jennifer used to work for me and I consider her a dear friend. She showed us her toes.

She is married and has 5 year old twin girls. They are so cute. They also have a son 12 and a daughter who is a teenager. Enough said. We enjoyed their house, garden, food, wine and conversation. Miles is a techie like me and so we got to chat about our Google phones. We are such nerds. It is 10:00pm. Where did the time go. We get back to our room and fall asleep.

Why does morning start so early? We race to shower, get dressed and over to McClintocks in San Luis Obispo. We are having breakfast with one of my long time great friends, Susie Norris and her family. Susie amazes me. She is such a fine human being. She started being a foster parent while she was still single. She takes children who have parents with serious drug addictions and has the patients of an angel. She takes such great care of those kids and so loving. She has adopted two of these children and today she and her husband are fostering a little girl. I love this woman dearly and consider myself lucky to have her as a friend. Time to take the kids to dance class and Carmen and I head back to the hotel to enjoy the jacuzzi and take a nap.

Next thing we know, it is time to head to my brother Bob's house. He lives with his long time girl friend and the house really looks wonderful. I wish we could visit more often. We should have brought our swim suites has they have installed a hot tub. They take us to dinner. The time flies by so quickly and it is time to return to the hotel. By the way, they are camera shy.

It is Sunday. We hit the road by 8:30 and drive home. We eat in the car. While we enjoyed spending time with our friends and family, it is so good to be back home with the rest of our family. Now you know what a week on the road is like for me. I will be at work the next day at 9am.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Boy Scout Reunion

For my dad's birthday, I gave him a trip to Southern California to attend a Boy Scout reunion. I was in Las Vegas for a conference committee meeting. I drove down to Ontario and met with my friend Cyndi Riggle who is starting a Company called Sunshine Hospitality. Did I mention that I hate country music?

I was scheduled to pick up Cobos at 3:15, but her son Ben called to offer to pick her up. Next thing you know, Ben is in a meeting, so I went to pick up Cobos, her daughter and grandson. To my surprise, I picked up a Hillbilly!

Yes, that is right she lost her front tooth. This is the second time I have had a close friend lose their tooth. Cobos insisted I mention this.

My dad flew in at 6:30 and we headed over to Pinnacle Peaks to have dinner with a few friends.

Imagine the shock and surprise when the evil Judy Dahle came over and cut off the brand new ties that my dad and I were wearing and then hung them up on the wall for all to see our shame!

The next day we headed over to the Fisher's house for a reunion of the families that were in Boy Scout Troop 477. Our troop was called the "Eagle Machine". It isn't that us kids were anything special, it was that we had so many parents that cared and got involved. It really made a great difference in our lives.

The Fishers are such wonderful hosts. Besides the Fishers, there was their son Gerry and his kids, Mrs Johnson and her friend, the Browers, Tom Sargent, Tom Creasy my dad and myself. It had been over 33 years since we had been together. These are some pretty special people.

Later that night, some of us from COHS got together at the Black Watch Pub in Upland. It was great until the music started. Next time we meet at the pizza parlor! I don't actually have any pictures of this event, so consider the following a reenactment. Oh look, there is Melinda and Gary! You see a reenactment is just like the real thing.

The next morning we drove out to have breakfast with my brother Dave at Jerry's in Studio City. Breakfast was great, but my brother's radiator hose wore out and my dad lost his credit card. Other than that it was perfect!

It was a great trip, but I am really glad to be home!

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Chicago Bears

June has been a month of travel. Ceci went on a road trip with her friend to Disneyland. She got a very good deal where she could stay for five days at the cost of three. I told her to go ahead. I remember how special Disneyland is when you are young. Unfortunately this meant that she would arrive home in the evening on the same day that I flew out for Chicago and then Orlando. It is the first time that I have been away from Ceci for that long (three weeks).

Carmen and I headed to Chicago via Southwest airlines. I think it is the first direct flight I have had this year and I was glad to have it. We flew out with Scott and Erika Williford. Our flight left very early, but it arrived early in Chicago, so after we checked in, we all headed over to Hot Doug's for Chicago's best hot dogs. Bon Appetite magazine rated Hot Doug's as one of the top 50 restaurants on the planet. Anthony Bourdain admitted that it was better than any hot dog he had eaten in New York.

We were lucky, when we arrived there was no line. They played only Beatles music while there and we had the classic Chicago Red Hot for less than $2.00 each. Scott had the polish sausage and o one went for the rattle snake sausage. These hot dogs are amazing.

Later that evening, Scott and I attended a reception for AAHOA. After all, we were there to work and our families were there to vacation. The next morning was work for us, but Lila flew out on her own to join us. She had to stay one more day for school. That evening we visited a Chicago Classic, Gino's East. The line went around the building, but it was worth it. Chicago deep dish pizza was so filling we could only eat one piece each. We did save room for the cannelloni which we shared. Such great food!

That day was Scott and Erika's anniversary, and they took off to the Hancock building and a romantic dinner and from all accounts it was a perfect evening for them.

The ladies enjoyed Chicago, and the men worked. There was a terrible storm and when we all arrived at the Silver Palm, another Anthony Bourdain suggestion, we found they had no electricity.

Next day after work, we went to the Silver Palm where I had a Schlitz Beer and Carmen and I split the "Three Little Pigs" sandwich, this sandwich contains bacon, egg, ham and a deep fried pork loin. The dining room was a converted 1941 railroad dining car.

We all hooked up with some friends at the Second City Comedy Club, which has been open for over fifty years and has an amazing list of alumni including the original Saturday Night Live - Not Ready for Prime Time Players. Scott had been good enough to book the reservations and it was probably the highlight of the trip.

The final day before departure, Lila and I went to see the Chicago Cubs play the Anaheim (ok Los Angeles) Angels. This is true living history. It is very cool that some of the buildings next to the stadium have their own stands.

Since Lila had arrived after Hot Dougs, we went and got some hot dogs from here as well as their famous french fries, fried in duck fat which are only served on Friday and Saturday.

The next day, we all headed to the airport. Lila got up extra early to make her flight. Carmen, Scott and Erika headed back to Oakland while I headed to Orlando for the Hitec show. I am very happy to be home.