Category Archives: Journal

Memories for my Daughter: 9/11

I’ve decided to write down specific memories of certain times for posterity, as well to have some memories for my daughter to look over, my main fear being that when I get older I may start to lose my memory, and I would like to have things written down for her and others to know what it was like at the time. I’m going to start with my memory of September 11, 2001. I was luckier than many. I had never been to New York at the time, so I had no personal memories, nor did I know anyone who was there or lose anyone I knew in the attacks.

I’ve decided to write down specific memories of certain times for posterity, as well to have some memories for my daughter to look over, my main fear being that when I get older I may start to lose my memory, and I would like to have things written down for her and others to know what it was like at the time. I’m going to start with my memory of September 11, 2001. I was luckier than many. I had never been to New York at the time, so I had no personal memories, nor did I know anyone who was there or lose anyone I knew in the attacks.

I remember the morning very clearly. I was woken up by my clock radio next to the bed. Usually, I had it tuned to a music station, but there was a breaking news alert that a plane had collided with the World Trade Center. That was the only information available at the time and they would have more information later.

Of course, there had been stories of small passenger planes hitting buildings before, so that was where my mind immediately went. Tragic, but I didn’t think much more of it at the time. That was the morning that midterms were supposed to start, and being my senior year in college, I obviously had other things on my mind. I didn’t turn the TV on. I just ate a quick breakfast, got dressed, made myself presentable, and got in the car to head to campus.

On the car radio, they were saying that there were reports of a second plane hitting the World Trade Center. Flipping through the channels, where there was usually music or morning shows, they were all either on the news or the morning shows were warning people that there was going to be no comedy that morning. They began reporting that one of the towers had completely collapsed, and now they started saying the other one had collapsed. Partway through my drive to campus, they started saying that there were unconfirmed reports about a plane crashing into the Pentagon.

At this point it was clear what was going on, but the extent was still a big unknown. There were no reports about what happened to United 93 and there wouldn’t be for a while. I got to campus and no one was really saying anything. When I got to class, the professor was already talking to everyone about what happened. There would be no midterm today. People could talk if they needed to or just go. Class ended up being cut short anyway.

So I wandered for a bit and bumped into a couple of friends. We talked about it for a bit, but then we each went to our next classes. This class was in a new building that still didn’t have all the wiring together yet. But it was about video technology, so we managed to jury-rig a projector to carry a live broadcast of the news, and we talked about what happened. This was the first time I finally got to see the news footage of the planes hitting the towers. The professor said that we could all leave our cell phones and pagers on today (remember, this was 2001) in the event that we needed to get a hold of our families. About half way through this class, an administrator stuck her head in the door and said that classes were cancelled for the rest of the day (remember, there was really only electricity going to this building at this point, so there was no easier way to communicate). So that was it for the school day.

The rest of the day was kind of a blur. I remember heading back home and pretty much just watching the TV the rest of day as more news trickled in, at least from the corner of my eye while browsing the internet on the computer. Weird that I feel like I need to point out these specifics because the world has changed so much. It became clear very shortly that Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda were behind it. I remember Tom Clancy being interviewed on CNN and he practically started the interview by saying how the US needs to look at itself and how it had treated the Muslim world, that the US may have brought this down on itself, and CNN very quickly ending the interview then and there. I don’t think the interview lasted for even a minute. I remember eyes were already pointing towards Afghanistan since that was the last known location of Osama bin Laden, and reports with live video of fighting occurring with assumptions that we had already invaded (it was later revealed that this fighting was actually part of the ongoing conflict between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance).

Over the next few days and weeks, the new normal set in. Another World Trade Center building collapsed (many forget that it wasn’t just the twin towers that came down). There were more reports of injuries and deaths, but also of people being rescued. Despite what may be thought of now, while people did talk about what had happened, people also made a genuine effort to carry on with their lives with some normalcy. People were not walking around with gas masks everywhere and jumping at shadows. People were far more resilient at the time than some portrayals now seem to indicate. Although 9/11 was always a constant background buzz in everyone’s life. I think this was when the 24-hour news cycle really came to the forefront, and it was always talked about every day for years.

So, those are my basic memories of that day. Do you have any personal memories to share about this day? Let me know in the comments.

Pardon My Politics: State of What Union?

WritingI didn’t watch the State of the Union address to Congress. At this point, I don’t think there’s enough money that could get me to watch that bloated orange baboon anus spewing his crap anymore. In the interest of sanity, I avoided it. However, I’m also a news junkie, so I did look at the highlights of the event. Here’s my takeaway:

Trump snubbing Pelosi’s handshake wasn’t surprising. If nothing else, and about the only thing, is that Trump is a showman. He understand optics, especially television optics, and he knows that his core audience isn’t for playing nice. It’s bad form for those of us with a more reasonable mentality that want to heal the divide, but Trump is about Trump. He’ll do what plays to his advantage and screw any unity. Pelosi tearing up his speech at the end was optics as well. While it’s viewed by some as rude, I think waiting until he was actually done was showing incredible politeness given the circumstances. Frankly, I wouldn’t have minded if the Democrats had been throwing rotten vegetables at Trump during the speech. It’s all the dignity he deserves.

Most of the address was about theatrics. The soldier’s reunion with his family, the scholarship moment, all done for the sake of television. I’ll let others go into more depth on the facts, or lack thereof, in Trump’s statements. I don’t really have the time to go over all of that here. Suffice to say that, yes, the market is doing well, but the market is not the economy. And yes, unemployment is low, but also keep in mind how unemployment is calculated, namely that the underemployed and or those who have given up looking for work are not counted. So there’s a big disconnect in the numbers and practical reality.

The big disgusting moment came with the awarding of the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh. Let’s first address the elephant in the room. Limbaugh announced that he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer on Monday. Now, I try not to engage in genuine Schadenfreude. There’s finding humor in someone getting hit on the head for comedic purposes, as in the Three Stooges. Then there’s watching someone die slowly and painfully from a hideous illness, even if they’re your worst enemy. There’s a big difference. I’ve been lucky enough to not personally have known anyone who’s had to suffer through that, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have empathy. So while I don’t take joy or even wish this on Limbaugh, admittedly his track record does make it difficult to truly wish him well.

So when Trump announced that he was giving Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom, it didn’t go over too well. This is a man who has made a career out of dividing America. A man who’s been trying to Jerry-Springer things on the streets, not just for a studio audience for entertainment purposes. This is a man who said that he would abandon the US to what he considered its fate if the Affordable Care Act was ever passed into law and run away to Costa Rica (still waiting on that one, by the way). And now the orange shitstain is blatantly politicizing the Medal of Freedom by giving it to a conservative mouthpiece? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some previous winners throwing their medals away in disgust. The award is now permanently stained and will never be the same.

With the politics of divisiveness on full display and being used just to win elections, the question becomes “What Union?” We are not united in anything. There is no unity, and thus, if there is a “Union” it’s holding together by a thread. Anyway, these are just some quick thoughts and I don’t want to go into anymore detail on the speech, but I had to get this out there.

I Get It Now!

Thumbnail“Sheldon, I’m pregnant!”

“What?” I must have been dreaming. I started to groggily wake myself up.

“I’m pregnant!”

Wait, what? I must have still been half-asleep. I turned over and see my wife standing in the bedroom doorway. “What?”

“I’m pregnant!”

Okay, now I knew I was awake and it’s not a dream. The realization began to dawn on me: We’re going to be parents. Without saying a word, I stretched out my arms to my wife, the universal sign for “come here and give me a big hug that neither of us wants to end.”

We had actually been trying for a while. It had been around a year and a half since we had seriously started to try. Granted, certain circumstances that I won’t go into likely made it more difficult, but those had for the most part been cleared up six months before.

Thus began our journey to being parents. We went through a lot of the usual trials and some unsusual ones. We, or rather I should say I, found out the sex of the baby through a genetic test and had to keep it secret from my wife so she could be surprised at the gender reveal. That reveal was one year ago today, Father’s Day 2018, when we revealed to the family not only that we were having a baby, but we were having a girl.

It was a difficult journey. Unfortunately, my wife developed gestational diabetes and had to be extremely careful about what she ate, as well as take insulin three times a day. I don’t envy what she had to go through, but I will say and will never stop saying how much I admire her commitment to bringing a healthy baby into the world.

We went through our usual milestones. I still remember the first time that I felt the baby kick in her tummy. And I made sure to talk to the baby all the time, which will play into the story in a bit.

When the big day came (induced one week early, because she was considered to be a high-risk pregnancy, so they wanted to be sure that it was controlled), I dropped my wife off at the hospital and went into work. They said that it would take a minimum of 12 hours, so I had some time. I felt guilty leaving her there, but she knew that I needed to work. And the long weekend commenced. Hours stretched into days. Unfortunately, it appeared that our daughter was reluctant to make her big debut.

That Sunday evening, I had gone up to my shop to put a sign in the door that we would be closed the next day due to “family” reasons, since by then it was apparent that I would not be going in. While I was there, I received a call from my sister-in-law that there was something wrong and I needed to get back there. Of course, I ended up hitting traffic on my way and it took forever for me to get back to the hospital. I literally ran to her hospital room and told the doctor to give me the thirty second rundown. In short, she had started to spike a fever and the baby’s heart rate had begun to drop, meaning she was in distress, so they had to prep my wife for an emergency C-section.

At this point, we were both getting very scared, although I had to suppress my own emotions to be as stable for my wife as possible, because whatever I was going through, she had it a hundred times worse. I got into surgery garb and waited for them to tell me to come into the OR.

I remember it feeling very warm in there, much warmer than I would have expected. I sat down on a stool next to my wife, who I could tell was trying to hold it together. I knew she was upset by this turn of events, but she was doing what needed to be done. They had a sheet raised over her midsection so we couldn’t see what they were doing. I honestly had thought about taking a peek over the sheet out of curiosity since I’m not squeamish, but I knew that my number one job was to comfort my wife (that and, as they say, if you like sausage, never watch how it’s made). So I sat there holding my wife’s hand as she squeezed mine, almost to the point of breaking. They actually told her to loosen her grip on my hand because the sensor attached to her finger was losing the reading.

The actual surgery was pretty quick, but we didn’t know it. Time felt weird in there, and we weren’t sure if we were in there for an hour or for five minutes. Then they announced that the baby was out, along with “Come on, baby! Come on, baby!” And time stood still as my wife quietly said, “Why aren’t I hearing her cry?” Later, we found out that she was born limp because at this point labor had been going on for three days, and not only was my wife exhausted, but the baby was exhausted as well. Then, to our relief, we finally heard her start crying. They brought her over to the table where I cut the umbilical cord, something I was not sure about doing, but I figured that I’ll probably not get another chance to do that, and I saw her clearly for the first time.

And it still hadn’t hit me yet. You know what I mean. That moment when they say you become a father. I’ve heard it said that a woman becomes a mother when she becomes pregnant, but a man becomes a father when he sees the baby. It didn’t happen that way. I had seen her in the ultrasounds. I had felt her kick in my wife’s belly. I had now seen her in the flesh. Each of these had slowly helped solidify the concept that I was a father, but I wasn’t quite there.

They cleaned our daughter up, swaddled her, and handed her to me since they were still working on my wife. She was small and her eyes were closed peacefully, resting after the long labor. This was actually the first time in my life I had ever held a baby, but I was still not having that magical moment. So, I did the first thing I could think of.

“Hi, Vivy. I’m your daddy.”

With that, she opened her eyes with a look of recognition, like she was saying, “I’ve heard that voice before,” and studied my face.

And that was the moment. With an explosion inside my head, I was a father. In that moment, I knew that my life had led to this little baby and that I would do anything for her.

Today not only marks six months since she was born, but also my first Father’s Day as a father. I’ve had a crash course in baby care and now have some time to reflect. I would say that, even as difficult as it can be at times, based on some stories we’ve heard, we’ve actually been pretty lucky, and have a very healthy, happy baby who continues to develop and amaze us.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone!

PSX_20190616_230250

Twenty Years Ago

ThumbnailIt’s hard to believe that this marks twenty years (and twelve hours) since the nearly 7.0 1994 Northridge earthquake (I say nearly because there’s been some dispute as to how strong it really was, with some official records showing 6.7 to 6.8, while some other countries registered it as a 7.2). It’s strange to think that was twenty years ago because I remember it so vividly, but I guess traumatic events can do that.

At the time, I lived in the San Fernando Valley approximately 9 miles driving distance from the epicenter. So, yeah, pretty close. It’s odd how you can remember certain things about your life during that time. I remember I was in 10th grade, and I was in the middle of reading The Mote in God’s Eye at the time. I’m not sure why I remember that last detail so well, but I do. Anyway, I had taken some Actifed the night before because I’d been having some allergy issues, which can happen year-round in Los Angeles. One of the things I hate about this place.

I was in a deep sleep when things got moving at 4:31 A.M., so my memory of the earthquake itself is slightly hazy. I remember feeling things shaking really heavily. Now, for those who have experienced earthquakes, you may be familiar with the rolling motion that characterizes most them. This was not the case here. My father described it as someone underneath the house punching upwards. Things were bouncing pretty badly. I wasn’t sure what was happening at the time and thought I must be dreaming, then after about ten to fifteen seconds realized that I wasn’t.

Once the shaking stopped, all the power was out, so it was pitch black, and I didn’t have Riddick eyes. I remember my first thought was to put my shoes on, which I remembered were next to the bed, and they hadn’t moved much. I got them on and started to move towards my bedroom door, and immediately fell over. I wasn’t sure what I had fallen on because, again, it was completely dark and I’ve never had great night vision. So I started calling for help because I knew my parents were up after this major quake. But they couldn’t hear me because my mother was screaming.

My father got to the bedroom with a flashlight, and that’s when I saw that my bookcase had fallen over across the room, which was what I had fallen over. No, at the time we didn’t have things bolted to the walls, but over the following week everything was. It wasn’t until the daytime when we started going around the house to assess the damage that I saw what had actually happened. My bed was against the opposite wall of my room from the bookcase. When the bookcase fell, it missed my bed by only a couple of inches. I was already fairly tall for my bed, so I easily stretched its length. If that case had come down just a few inches over, I could have lost my foot.

In the dark with flashlights, we took a quick look around, and went to the side door to the yard to check on our dog (she was kept in the backyard; not an inside dog despite her calm and gentle nature). The second we opened the door, she bolted into the house, crying loudly, which was unusual because she was not a very vocal dog. She made it through the service porch and the kitchen to the entrance to the living room before we grabbed her and escorted her back outside. We went out with her to check on the yard, so she didn’t protest that much about going back out, staying close to us. A quick look showed that the brick walls which bordered the yard were still there, albeit shorter. Fine. Our dog wasn’t a jumper. We went out the front gate and shone the flashlight on the street, and it looked like it was completely rippled like waves in water. In the daylight, it looked fine. It was probably the effect of the only light source coming from the side rather than above.

After checking on our neighbors to see that they were okay, we went back into our house and got dressed, having all been in pajamas and robes at the time. It was still dark. We made sure we each had a flashlight. My dad grabbed a portable radio and we made sure our dog had food and water to comfort her. Then we huddled together in the doorway to our den for the rest of the night until the sun came up. We couldn’t really do much else since it was so dark, and with this earthquake, the ground never really stopped shaking. Aftershocks kept coming every couple of minutes, some stronger than others, which made it impossible to sleep, even if the adrenaline wasn’t already pumping. So, there we were, my parents and I huddled in a doorway, listening to the radio broadcast, as the ground continued to shake.

After the sun was up, and the aftershocks weren’t happening every minute (now they were five to ten minutes apart), we started looking at the damage. The top half of a two-part china hutch had fallen over on the dining table, left a tiny dent in the wood, then fallen over on the ground, break several item inside, although the hutch itself remained mostly intact. A large mirror hanging over the fireplace had fallen face-down on the bricks, but didn’t break, although there was a nice large crack in the wooden frame. Books had come off shelves, a book case in my dad’s home office had fallen over and broken. The brick walls outside had come half-way down. A brick was loose from the chimney. Some cracks were in the plaster outside. Luckily, we had no broken windows and little in the way of broken dishes. We still had no power and it was hard to use the phone as all the phone lines were jammed, but we got a hold of some family members and checked that they were alright. Luckily we didn’t have any ruptured gas or water lines. We got some pictures of the damage which I don’t have in my possession, but if I find them I might add them to this post later.

We went for a walk around the neighborhood, and saw that we got off relatively light. Chimneys and wall were down everywhere. Water mains were broken. A couple of main streets were flooding. Streets were being closed off for emergency repairs to those mains. On the radio we heard that some freeway overpasses had come down.

The portable radio was our only means of finding out what was going on. We had no power and couldn’t use the water. That night, my parents and I slept in the living room as the aftershocks were still going every few minutes. None of use slept well that night. At around midnight, the power came back on, so we checked the television for any more news (this was before the Internet was a big thing). We could use the water but not drink it, and we couldn’t drink our water for a couple of weeks. Again, we had it relatively easy compared to some. We also didn’t see our cat for a week. We have no idea where she was or what she was doing.

At the time, I attended El Camino Real High School, which was the second hardest hit school in the Valley. The school wound up being closed for about a month, although my AP Biology class still met a couple days per week so we could keep preparing for the exam. When the school did reopen, it wasn’t in great shape. Bungalows had to be brought in as the main building remained mostly closed while repairs continued and it took a while for everything to be reopened. The school days had to be extended to make up for the lost time.

Aftershocks continued for about a year, although less and less frequently. The damage from the earthquake lasted for a long time. We had to get our chimney replaced as a precaution. The walls around our backyard needed to be repaired. When I eventually went to Cal State Northridge years later, they were still repairing the damages. The wings of the library had come down and they finally reopened them while I was there. New buildings and facilities were being built, even after I left there, and that was eight years after the earthquake. Their parking structure had come down in the earthquake and a new one wasn’t built until approximately ten years later.

csun_parking2

I saw this all the time because my grandparents lived near CSUN, so I saw the collapsed structure every time we drove by to visit them.

Needless to say, it was one of the more traumatic and memorable experiences. I don’t think I’ve really written about it until now. I wanted to write this because it’s easy to find data about it online, but I wanted to share a personal experience and say what it was like to actually be there. You know, for the kids.

Oscar Project 2014

By my black hand, the dead shall rise!Yeah, I’m not that great at coming up with project titles…

 Anyway, last year, I had a fun little project. When the 2013 Oscar nominations were announced, I decided to try and see every nominated movie in every category before the actual awards ceremony, including documentaries and foreign films. In fact, I only missed one film, “The Gatekeepers,” which was one of the documentaries and didn’t win anyway (that honor went to “Searching for Sugar Man”). The Academy Awards are an interesting animal. It’s often considered “the big one” in terms of film awards and has some semblance of dignity.

The Academy Award nominations for 2014 have been announced. Last year, I posted quick one paragraph reviews of each movie to my Facebook and Google Plus pages, then summed up my opinions for each category in a blog post. This year, I will do the whole thing but on this blog with longer reviews, although even if I only have one paragraph of material to post, I’ll still post it. They will likely not be in a particular order, but simply as I watch them. I mean, I’ll do my best to group them, but given the criss-crossing between categories, trying to put reviews of movies in the main categories in any order would be somewhat meaningless.

Well, there’s a lot to watch, so I better get cracking.

Update Jan. 25: I’m making such good progress on my Oscar project (sans posting reviews which I’ll start doing in groups within the next couple of days) that I’m thinking of deliberately exposing myself to some of the worst films of 2013 for your amusement. That’s right. I’m going to watch and review every movie nominated for a Razzie. Stay tuned.

Update Feb. 19: I spoke too soon. I’m trying to do too much other stuff right now, and if I try to review all these Razzie nominees, I’ll drive myself nuts for more reasons than just the bad movies. So I’m dropping the Razzie addition. However, I’m making fantastic progress on the Oscar movies and am almost done watching them. The reviews have been trickling out, but the flood gates will open a little wider shortly. I might even finish this weekend.