Leap Back

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It’s crazy that I am about to write my third blog post in a week, after nearly drying up for the last two months, right?  Well, when you are bugged by something, sometimes you got to get it down on paper (erm … computer screen).

Facebook does this thing where they show you posts you made on that same day in years past.  It’s usually pretty fun to look through, with all sorts of pictures, curling updates, and musings I posted while drunk.  Today was different.

Today is February 29th – that funhouse mirror date on the calendar, when things just don’t feel right except if you have a monthly goal that somehow you can procrastinate on one more day.  As we all know, this date only comes around once every four years, and we are punished for having the extra day with way too early talk about presidential elections.  Therefore, if this date only comes around every four years – then the Facebook Memories only show what you posted four years ago (unless for some reason you were posting cat photos back in 2008).

My posts on February 29th, 2012 were about one event and activity — Geocaching.  Back then, it was my main hobby.  For those of you unfamiliar, it is a GPS based scavenger hunt where people use multi-million dollar satellites to find Tupperware.  You basically pick-up a hiding place from a website, chase your GPS to that hiding place, and if you find the ‘cache’ you get the satisfaction that you ‘found a cache’ … and nothing else.  It’s actually quite fun, and a great way to get out and enjoy the world around us.  It’s also something to go all-in-OCD on, including if you want to find a cache on every day in the year; and because February 29th only comes around every 4 years you have to jump on it.  In 2012, I was a part of a group who were attending events and finding geocaches all over Wichita, Kansas. It would be like a pub crawl – but family friendly … with GPS … without booze … and by car … and there were no pubs … or crawls.  Still, I remember that day like it was yesterday.

But it wasn’t yesterday, it was 4 years ago, and a lot has changed since then.

At the time, I was living in Wichita working at Cessna Aircraft.  I was generally satisfied with my job, but had dreams of what I could do if I took other chances outside of Cessna and Wichita.  I was interviewing for jobs, but had no offers or good prospects.  Actually, I was only about three weeks removed from getting word that I was turned down for a job in Alaska (the same job I was offered a few months later) – so really Alaska wasn’t even a possibility to me.  At the time, I was maintaining on my original major weight loss program pretty well, and usually spent my free time in and out of gyms and program meetings.  My life at the time felt stymied, but simple & easy to manage.  On that day back in February 29, 2012 – I didn’t know what was going to happen in the years that followed.  I didn’t think I could ever take up curling, I didn’t know what Driveway Money was (yes Laura, I am checking to see if you actually read these things), I wasn’t sure where Dorchester was, and I was pretty sure I would never own a dog.

So much has happened since that day four years ago, I couldn’t even begin to start listing them in any kind of fair way.  I have gone so far from one point to the next, broken through so many of my old boundaries, and taken so many roads to reach where I am.

Yet in all fairness, I wished I could leap back there to that day, sit down with that geocaching idiot, and lay out a few things to be aware of.  That was the first reaction I had to seeing those memories.  There are so many things that have gone wrong, so many decisions that have bit me.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I would want to change everything of the past four years, quite the contrary.  Think of it as wishing I had the ear of Icarus as he sailed through the sky with his wax wings, and I could just say “alright, buddy, you’re a little too close to the sun there, bring it down a few feet”.

Maybe that’s what memories are about in general.  We think back to those times we were happy and are bolstered by that memory.  Yet we try to look at those things we would have different, and have that false hope we could have made something better out of the same decisions.

Yet I do realize that memories only go one direction.  Just sitting here thinking about it, I realized that I didn’t once want to know what Mitch 4 years from now wants to tell me.  But I am sure that come that next Leap Day he will want to leap back to choke me or knock some sense into me.  Maybe that Mitch from 4 years ago wouldn’t care what I would want to say either.

Either way, come four years from now, I will have this blog to tell me what an idiot I was, am, and will be.  So at least I have that.

 

Hotel Breakfast Dynamic

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I am finishing up my second of three months at a hotel in Orange County, CA and at this point I am well past that ‘in a routine’ mode to be ‘that’s just what I do’.  Part of what I am in the habit of doing is heading down for breakfast Saturday and Sunday mornings (when I am not getting drunk in wine country that is).  It used to be that it was a way to fill my tiny tumtum for a couple hours.  Then it used to be something to do to kill time on a weekend morning.  Now, it’s a part of my ‘people watching’ curiosity.  The whole of the dynamics in the hotel breakfast area has reached a point where it’s more the reason I go down there on the weekends.  In fact, its enough that, I have to say, makes it blog worthy on this quiet morning (or blog worthy enough as an excuse to avoid studying for a professional exam I am taking next week).

Before I jump in too far into this ‘dynamic’, a little framework on the hotel itself – because it’s not your typical situation.  I am staying at a Marriott Residence Inn in Placentia, CA.  This chain is created specifically as a comfort for long-term stays.  The rooms are more suites than ‘rooms’; though mine is more of a studio.  There is a King bed, a pull-out couch, separate bathroom and vanity areas,  a desk, Large closets (plural, cause there are four), and a nearly full kitchen (stove, oven, microwave, full fridge, dishware, etc) that is bigger than I had in some apartments in my younger days.  Other rooms in the hotel come with a loft acting as a second bedroom.  While the set-up is comfortable for long-term working stayers like me, and like people who are transitioning between permanent homes (like those with a new job in a new area); the set-up is conducive to families too.  With the ‘loft’ suites capable of sleeping up to six or seven people with the pull-outs; it becomes a cheaper choice for those who maybe in the area for that kind of activities (activities like … I don’t know … maybe … Disneyland).  Last year I stayed at this same hotel, and at the time it was a bit more depressing – there were many more people who were staying at this location because it was convenient to a major cancer treatment center – so a good number of people there were in the midst of chemotherapy or radiation treatment.  For some reason, and it maybe because ATT is doing a major upgrade here so half the ‘long termers’ wear the blue, there isn’t the obvious presence of people here for medical reasons.

So what does this mean for breakfast.  Well, if you ever stayed in a hotel that serves free breakfast, chances are you had the free breakfast.  Granted, it’s not an outstanding one, but it’s not bad (and did I mention free? ).  It’s not big either, seating for about 30, but there is a steady rotation all morning long.   I don’t stay down there during the week, just grab some yogurt and hit the traffic, besides during the week it’s pretty business traveler heavy.  During the couple of hours over the breakfast service on the weekend, nearly every person staying here comes down for breakfast.  Most, like me, aren’t ready to start their day – just ready to have a waffle.  It’s a pajama heavy, or yesterday’s clothes, or comfy clothes, environment.  Only those with somewhere to be before 10AM are dressed ready for the day.

What’s always funny to me in this place is the prevalence of Disney wear.  Kids are wearing ears or princess dresses.  Adults are wearing shirts and sweaters from Mickey Land.  As many times I have heard people who don’t like sports making fun of the rest of us wearing sports jerseys as if we played on the team – I just need to point out that nearly everyone who has been to Disney seems to need to wear the costumes and logos of the place.

Ironically, that is only half the families in the breakfast area in the Disney stuff.  Because, simply put, some haven’t been there yet; its still morning.  That’s a pretty obvious separation in this place.  The kids that were at Disney yesterday are happy, covered in gear, and for the most part quiet — or to be more blunt, worn out from the happiest place on earth.  Those who are going today, are tipping up the scales of excitement.  Shoveling bowls of cereal and waffle syrup down their tummies just makes it more so.   The parents are the ones to watch though, because they make a wild transition as well — from the day before doing everything they can to wrangle in sugar loaded excited kiddies; to the relaxed, satisfied, ‘greatest parents in the world for taking me here’ parents that only have to pour the kids in the mini-van for the drive home.  They go through a lot to get there, of course.  I am marvel of the patience of the breakfast staff, who spend half the morning filling up the hit plates of food, and the other half cleaning up the random spills of milk, orange juice, and ‘everything’ left by an unsuspecting ankle biter.  You can see the strain on the parents as they try to play ‘zone defense’ on their multiple multiple age-levels running around the place.  And then you get the random eye-rollers, like the time a few weeks ago when a cute little girl in a nice summer dress was singing a song, causing everyone to look at her and go ‘awww’ – and as they did the girl asked “Mommy?  Where’s my pants?” and up shot her dress to show nothing underneath sending the parents in an crushingly embarrassed run to cover her up, and left us with the understanding humor.

There’s a lot of isolated stories there too – from the families getting ready for a wedding, the older couples having a nice quiet time together, to the Japanese tourists that see ‘buffet styled’ breakfasts as a dare, to the guys like me – here because of a job, plugging away to get through it, and just happy when you can make a waffle and not have to worry about things for a little bit.

There’s a month left at least to this run, and I won’t lie to you – I’m not going to miss Hotel Breakfast Dynamics.  But at least it is something to look forward to in this life.

 

The ‘And By’ Update

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Not only have I been slacking in my blogging duties, I realized my blogging hasn’t really updated on the hot topic people who know me keep asking me about.

I past three months since my mini-gastric bypass surgery this week.  Generally speaking, things have gone really well.  To date, I have lost just over 70lbs.  While I continue to lose wait week over week, the rate slowed significantly over the last couple weeks to a snails pace.  But there is good reason for that.

And by ‘good reason’ I mean ‘I have a good excuse for that’.

And by ‘good excuse’ I mean ‘bad excuse’.

To date, I haven’t started a good exercise routine.  In part my knees suck.  In part because I don’t have a real good routine of anything right now.  Lots on my plate for work, still living out of a hotel, and some big time soaking issues I am dealing with.  Which means, there isn’t a lot of time left over for the crappy hotel gym.  Plus … did I mention my knees suck?  Oh, and the dog always seems to take up my free time.  And … I don’t know … this election business.  Yeah, stupid other guy and his/her party politics that he/she keeps talking about and stuff.   Did I mention my knees?

Eating is less of an adventure these days as it was early on.

And by ‘less of an adventure’ I mean I am having a lot more fun these days.

My digestive system is slowly heading back to being able to handle what it did before – not meaning in quantity, but in context.  The thing about food after a surgery like that is that it is easy to confuse people on what you can eat.  Like when you are on a diet you say “I can eat this, I can’t eat that”.  Truth is, yes you can eat any of it, you are choosing not to in order to eat healthy.  With this, I literally can’t eat certain things.  Early on, I struggled with anything that wasn’t soft and easy to settle in my belly.  Heavy fats tasted like metal.  Heavy sugars made me sick.   Breads and starches lump up and feel like it is tearing me to bits.  In theory, some of this will never change; but some of it will come back.

Of course, my big concern is the stuff that I like.  Wine for instance – since I have been enjoying weekends with friends down in the Temecula wine country.  Because wines, especially red wines, are more acidic (or as wine snobs called it, filled with tannins)  the whole of that tannin flavor dominates my pallet when I have a drink.  There are softer and sweeter wines out there; I can handle those.  The big problem with them are they are usually more ‘pink’ … not exactly the drink in your hand when you are chatting up women in wine country.

In essence, I am really reaching a portion of the program where I am more opening up my abilities and pallets.  I am trying those things I loved before, but the size of my new gullet is forcing portion control.  Add to my lack of a good exercise program, you can really say I am not putting much effort in, but am still losing weight.  Or more bluntly: “I am half-assing my way to a half of an ass”.

So, consider this your update.

And by ‘update’ I mean the one time in the next few weeks I am remembering y’all want an update.

Turning the Corner

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Since I haven’t updated in a while, it would be good to start off by saying I am continuing my long term support of plants in the Los Angeles area – starting just about New Years, and I am set to continue to be here until the end of March.

I am staying in a long term hotel in Placentia, CA (basically between Fullerton and Anaheim – or as the people out here can better understand, near where the 57 meets the 91).  Generally speaking, the area is a mix of commercial and manufacturing.  Other than the one smaller hotel chain next door, the immediate area are a series of office complexes, gas stations, larger manufacturing plants, smaller manufacturing plants, and business store fronts.  With no residential properties, this area is simply a place where things get made or sold.  The area produces foam products, aerospace fasteners, hardware for instruments, mass produced food items, and products & services for every desire need.

… and of course there is an orange orchard in the middle of it …

One captivating thing about the Los Angeles metro area is that it never ceases to surprise me.  The LA Metro Area is Huge!  The eastern edges of it around Corona and Riverside are nearly sixty miles from downtown; and downtown is only two-thirds the way to edges to the west and north.  Arguably, there are four counties that play in the LA Metro area – and they are HUGE counties.  While a city that big doesn’t get that way overnight, compared to the other great cities of the world … it kinda did.  In the 60s, housing areas were still popping up as new in places that are so ‘inner city’ that you couldn’t fathom they were anything but ‘inner city’.  Resort places like Disney and Knotts Berry Farms were built up on cheap land far away from residents, and now they are engulfed and surrounded so that they can never expand again.

When things build up that fast, things get engulfed in the wake.  So, what you find is that there are things inside of LA that just didn’t get out of the way.

Like that Orange Orchard.

Maybe a manufacturing area isn’t the best place to plant a lot of orange trees.  But they sit there like saying “Hey buddy, we were here first.”  The Hookah Lounges and Juice Bars may come and go, but those trees are going to stand for a while if they can help it.

And you get that throughout the city.  Turn a corner and you are in the middle of an oil field.  Turn the corner and there is a roller coaster.  Turn a corner and there is a vegetable farm (saw one this morning, at least an acre, and the farmer was working the field with a handheld hoe).

Sometimes I feel like the only one seeing it.  Visiting one plant I was talking to a guy who worked there for 10 years.  I asked about the horse farm three blocks away.  He thought I was crazy, so I literally took him over there to see it.  Smack dab in the most industrious, residential part of the city where there would be nowhere to take a horse for a ride … there was a farm with about five horses on it.

But that’s LA for you.  Every time you turn a corner, there is something there to surprise you.

Nobody Drives, There’s Too Much Traffic

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On the questions I get about life in Los Angeles, people always seem to want to know about the traffic out here.

Well .. it sucks.  It’s traffic, that’s what traffic is.

In the world of being fair and honest (I know, an oxymoron for an election season), when I compare the traffic in LA to that of other places I have been/lived – it’s not so bad.  Seriously.

To me, Chicago is the worst because of self-fulfilling pains in the backside.  For one thing, the drivers tend to be pretty rotten to each other.  When traffic is moving, someone is bound to tailgate you or cut you off.  When lanes are merging, you can bet that someone will want to get that extra two or three cars ahead, even if it jams up everyone else behind.  Add the toll booths in, and it just drains the life out of you going through that city during a rush hour.  The traffic reports sucked too.  If you haven’t been, they came up with their own names for interstates – instead of the 90 or the 55 or the 294, they call them the Dan Ryan and the Kennedy and the WeHaventWonASuperBowlin30Years.  And those names can change depending on where you are at.  THEN they say ‘It’s 35 minutes on the Stevenson to Addison’ … and you don’t know how far Addison is until you pass a road 35 minutes later that says ‘Addison’.  It sucks … It really really sucks.

The problem with trying to get around the LA metro area – including Los Angeles County, Orange County, and the parts of Riverside County that are inhabited – isn’t that the roads are filled with cars filled with jerks, or that you don’t know where you are going or what you are on.  It’s how far you have to go to get to anywhere.  It’s a big city.  The metro area is nearly 70 miles long and 30 miles wide.

LA is a diverse, long-reaching city.  While everyone knows about the entertainment business, it is actually filled with heavy industrial sections, heavy commerce, and all types of businesses built up to support the massive community.  All of which are in buildings for the most part only a couple stories high.  This means, it is very rare that people live and work in the same location; and because of the extensive diversity, it is just as rare that a group of people in a community are heading to the same place.  So nearly everyone drives – by them selves – with no car pool.  That’s why there are so many people on the road, and when you have a lot of people on the road they slow each other down.

That being said, the traffic is always moving.  Not always moving well, but it is always moving.  There is rarely idiots, and if you signal to move over, you are bound to get let in.  There is a general understanding here that everyone is in this hell together.

But it still sucks.

My hotel is about 25 miles away from where I work.  Even with using Waze (a great GPS router and traffic app), it can take between 45 minutes and 1-1/4 hours to get there or back.  Part of that, I am driving into the Belly of the Beast:  CA-91 to I-605 to I-5 to I-710, sometimes skipping I-605, sometimes skipping the I-710, sometimes city street routes.  Except for the 405 along the southern part of town, these roads and where I am on them are the notoriously bad slow spots.  They get so much traffic that when the I-5 shut down for a week just in the evenings they called it Carmageddon – businesses shut down because employees weren’t guaranteed to get there.

Still – it’s one thing to say it takes me an hour to go 25 miles.  Boston, it can take me an hour to go 7 miles (and it has, regularly).

Not just that, there is the LA experience.  When making the shift from the 710 to the 5 this morning, the high rise ramp lifted me up so I could see the whole of the downtown, and even a glimpse of the Hollywood sign.

And you can’t ever see that at a Chicago tool booth.