Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Most Memorable Character...

"I love the friends I've gathered together on this thin raft!" crows Jim
Morrison, leader singer of the legendary rock group, The Doors. I feel
this way about my friend, Jorge Ilario.
We surround ourselves with all types of friends in this life, and fortunately
for me, Ilario is the wild and crazy type - a "cool" kind of wild and crazy though.
He's unpredictable. A week ago, I pulled into my usual parking spot and made
my way to the back entrance of my building. I heard a soft, "Pssst!" followed
by a familiar whistle coming from a bush on the pathway. I looked over, and
there Ilario was, squatting, low to the ground, on his knees. "Open the door!"
he instructed. Once the door was open, he darted past me, running up the
stairs to my apartment door. He tried to quiet me down, an impossible task
as tears were nearly running down my face from laughing so hard.
"She's after me!" he explained, "She's chasing me all over the place!"
I knew what he was talking about. A cute little blonde was circling the parking lot,
going the wrong way on a one way driveway. She almost hit my truck
"head on" while trying to catch him and spoil any plans he had for the rest of the
evening. He sought refuge in the bushes, waiting until I arrived. It's a typical
scene too.
Jorge is from Honduras, coming from a small and very poor pueblo outside
the capital. Without romanticizing poverty, those humble circumstances
contribute greatly to his perspective on life today. He appreciates what he
has accumulated and accomplished today and this makes me appreciate things
that I would ordinarily take for granted. We communicate in "Spanglish", one
sentence in English, the next in Spanish, and the next two in English again. It
works well for us and confuses others. A "latino identity" brings with it a certain
unique view on life and a part of that is a happiness, a joy, or appreciation of life
living, and of being alive. It is mostly easily witnessed in the vibrant latin music
and dance. It transcends the music and manifests itself in an energetic,
enthused approach to life. Again, I benefit from exposure to this perspective.
During this life, we will make many acquaintances. We will make far fewer
friends. I am pleased to be able to call Jorge Ilario my friend and hope he will
be a part of my life for a long time to come.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I thought that my first "restaurant" post...

...would be about "memorable" clients I've served over the years, but it's not. If
I were to send a postcard into PostSecret today, the words would be (in a big, bold
font) "Someone's Gonna Get Canned !" I know who, and why.
The fact is, that being a server isn't the easy, blow off job many consider it to
be. And all the waiters and waitresses out there are not the "shining examples of
hospitality" that they consider themselves to be. There are a lot of bad servers out
there. And one of them is about to get fired.
One of our "part time" servers who only works a couple of night shifts every week,
decided to have lunch in the restaurant with her mom and another guest. recently.
Their server was a relatively recent hire who works only weekday lunches. The two
servers would never have had the chance to meet, much less work together. I work
with the "night server" often and know how good she really is. We close the
restaurant together and make a very good team. In a private conversation recently,
Night Server" confided in me that the service was "poor at best" and she told me what
was lacking. I have no reason to doubt her.
"Night Server" was more interested in a pleasant lunch with than anything else and
she ignored the poor service in favor of the conversation. "Day Server" had
no clue that she was a fellow employee. When the meal ended, "Night Server's" mom
paid the bill with a credit card, the tip was left on the table, in cash. It's a fact that
servers usually turn the philosophy of "karma" into the philosophy of "tip-ma" and are
more generous than the average patron. But when "Night Server's" mother checked the
monthly credit card statement, she noticed that an additional $10 tip was added when
the check was closed out. There seems to be an integrity issue here.
The whole dilemna is about to discretely go to the restaurant owner along with the
supporting evidence, paperwork, and witness statements. It's going to set off all sorts
of bells, whistles, and sirens inside the owner's mind. Among the core staff, those of
us who have been around for a long time, we've already started a "pool", betting a
few of our hard earned tips on "Day Server's" termination date.

Friday, October 28, 2005

My doorbell doesn't ring...

...on Halloween so I am working all weekend instead. In all the years that
I've lived here, I have yet to get any ghouls or goblins begging for sweets
at my door. It's a shame actually. Some of the best memories of my youth
are of selecting a scarey costume, finding an old pillowcase, going
door-to-door with my cohorts, and coming home with enough candy to
last until December.
There are plenty of kids in the neighborhood. The first year that I lived
here, I bought a couple of bags of the good miniature candybars . It
was the "real stuff" too, not the Dollar Store knock-offs that are "2 for $1.00".
I was ready, but, by the time the 11 o'clock news came on, there
was only half a bag left and a small mountain of crumpled wrappers on the
coffee table. I tried making sense of this "Mystery of the Missing Trick or
Treaters" and was about to write it off as a "cultural thing" but the fact that
Univision and Don Fransico had been promoting "Dia de Brujas" during
every "anuncio commercial" for an entire week, would not let me. It was
as closely linked to "Dia de los Muertos" as could it be and I know that the
little " hispanos" all knew the drill.
It was a "mom" who clued me in and solved the mystery. It seems that most
parents don't consider the apartments a "safe or appropriate place to trick
or treat". They think their kid is going to come home with a crack rock wrapped
up in a plastic bag if they come through "the hood". Furthermore, most kids
don't know how to yell "Trick or Treat" in Spanish. It's all nonsense. Nowadays,
the kids dress up and go to their school for a party. After bobbing
for apples and a small musical presentation, they go out as a group and
trick or treat in the "safe" neighborhoods surrounding the school. The whole thing
is chaperoned and supervised. The truth is that they go to the rich neighborhoods,
where they get the full size, name brand candy bars.
Since I'll be working, it really doesn't make any difference to me anyhow. Besides, my doorbell doesn't ring...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Something about seeing old friends...

... and being in familiar places from my younger years created an incredibley
strong, powerful, and absolutely undeniable urge to "go home". I needed to
see my hometown again. The beautiful little town that I was so fortunate to have
grown up in was calling out to me. I phoned my best friend, William, and asked
him to come along. He happily accepted my invitation and we arranged to leave
at 10 o'clock the next morning.
While I was getting ready to leave, I started to have second thoughts about
the idea, questioning the sanity and rationality of the trip. After all, I hadn't
been back to "Cucaracha" (as Willy had humorously nicknamed the place) in
over 10 years. But then again, I had never felt such a strong need to go back
either. When I heard Willy's car horn beeping from outside, I knew it was too
late to change my mind. Besides, it was the first time that Willy was on time for
anything since I met him. There were some sort of extraordinary
forces at play here. In a matter of minutes, we were zipping across the
metropolitan freeways and the hour and a half drive went by very quickly.
It was literally a trip down "Memory Lane" as we drove. I pointed out places
I worked in, schools I attended, bars I drank in when I was underage, and the
neighborhoods that I terrorized in my semi-deliquent years. We even stopped
in front of my old house for a few minutes.
Like I said, there were extraordinary forces at work here and when we got
hungry, a craving hit. It wasn't just any craving either. It was a craving for
something special, something unique, something uniquely "Cucaracha". We
walked into LIPUMA'S CONEY ISLAND just before the lunch crowd arrived.
When Bill Lipuma opened his restaurant 35 years ago, there weren't any of
those corporate giant fast food joints around. He perfected his recipes and
developed his menu with tender loving care. And when those fast food kings
and queens arrived, the real "townies" didn't even notice, they just kept eating
at Lipuma's. While my high school classmates raced off to the newly
erected Golden Arches, those of us with more refined tastes piled into my
Ford Galaxy 500 and sped down to the Coney Island. That car could comfortably
accomodate 8 people, and, it often did! I felt sort of nostalgic as I opened the front
door for Willy.
Hospitality that other places wish they could create was always the Lipuma
trademark. Warm and sincere, it's a rare commodity. We ordered, got the food,
and luckily, the best booth, in the back of the restaurant, was open. I looked up
from my taco and saw Bill Lipuma sitting at the "employee table", the one he
always sat at, with his son, Tony, hovering lovingly near his dad.
"You gotta add oregano and garlic to that soup!" Bill exclaimed. "That's the
I noticed that Bill wasn't dressed for work. He was retired, and Tony, whose grey
hair was filling in quite nicely, was obviously in charge. Bill just happened to have
stopped by that afternoon to tell Tony that he was heading up north on a "color tour".
He had the headset for his cell phone with him. He would leave his hearing aid
in his ear and turned on.
As William and I drove out of town, I felt as if a bridge between my past and
present had built, or rather, strengthened. Both my stomach and my heart were
filled. They were good tacos!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

It was Joseph Campbell and James Taylor ...

...who comforted me this week when my mom died after
a lengthy illness. She was about to turn 77 on October 25. Instead, Mom
was buried on the same day that she was born. Her passing was not a surprise
as family and friends watched her condition progressively worsen over a few
years. The emergency trips to the hospital were getting more frequent and the
time between the need for such trips grew shorter and shorter. A dramatic and
sudden change in both her appearance and demeanor signaled the serious nature
of her condition. Keenly aware of the circumstances, I visited her often, while
she was still alert, aware, and concious and I let her know that I loved her,
that she was a great mother. I thanked her for all that she had done for me, all
that she had given, and put up with, throughout the years.
... while no one can ever be prepared for such an event or fill the void that this sort
of loss creates, I found comfort in a James Taylor song, "Enough to be on your way",
off the Hourglass album. In this song, "sweet baby James" sings about losing
both of his parents and a brother within a year. All is addressed with the sensitivity,
the pureness of heart, and beautiful poetry that is James Taylor's god given gift.
On the night of the viewing,as we prepared to leave the funeral home, I pushed my
Dad's wheelchair up to the casket, said a silent prayer, and softly sang the last line
from the song " long old gal." Those few words were perfect for both my dad
and I.
...Joseph Campbell helped me get through the "ceremony" part of all this. In his
books and lectures, Campbell dealt with the necessity of ceremonies in all cultures
and societies to commemorate such milestones in life. Specifically, he spoke about
funerals and their role and importance for the family of the deceased. Mom's faith in
and committment to the Lutheran church and her Finnish heritage was lifelong and strong.
I had drifted away from the church long ago, developing my own concepts of religion, faith,
and spirituality. Understanding things from a broader view allowed me to accept the
Lutheran funerary traditions again and to deal with my own grief. I watched as the
"Ladies of Kaleva", my mom's lifelong friends and sorority sisters, performed their
traditional funeral ceremony to say goodbye to their friend and sister. Each placed a
fresh sprig of flat leaf cedar in the floral arrangements. Just prior to that, I had gone
outside to burn a small sprig of cedar and to "smudge" myself as I was taught my dear
Navajo friend, Wayne Wilson. I had never witnessed the "Kaleva" ceremony, but inside
my head, as I was feeling stressed and sad, I heard Wayne's voice tell me "Just keep
burning that cedar!" the funeral ended and the casket was loaded into the hearse, I held my father's
hand. We squeezed tight and felt a connection, both physically and spirtitually, that
neither time, distance, or death will ever be able to break. We will all see each other
and be together again.

So long old gal....

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Tree AGAIN

I am presenting all the pictures of the "changing tree" that I have taken to date.
Enjoy the color as much as I do.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

My First Animation

...after playing around with the idea for a long time, I completed my first animation and am publishing it on this blog. First, I filmed a motion study and analyzed the frames. Next I selected the key frames and isolated them as references for the next stage, drawing. I scanned the drawings into my PC and cleaned the drawings up, using a painting program to color them. The frames were "standardized" for use in an animation program and I created an AVI file. Check out the result by clicking on the icon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Instead of hitting "Next Blog"... "surf" and read tonight, I decided to click on the links of some of the blogs that I've bookmarked. It was such a good experience that I bookmarked some of the "new reads" so I can visit again.
Two of the links really caught my attention. They are "The Insane Waiter" and "Waiter Rant". I can relate to these blogs because I do the same job at night and know all to well what they are writing about. I live it too! Perhaps, in the near future, I will have to share some intereting service industry stories. God knows I have enough of them.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Sweetest Day Gifts...

...taken from an actual catalog! I chose 3 of the most disturbing gift suggestions to post here as horrible examples of what NOT to get your significant other for Sweetest Day. This advice can only be disgregarded if the item actually appears on their "wish list".

Remote Control Teddy Bear "Breaks Wind"! He may be cute and cuddly, but he also has a bad habit: he breaks wind when you press the remote. Then plush teddy's little cheeks turn red because he's so embarrassed! Uses 2 AA batteries (not included). Comes with cell battery in the remote. 17" H.

Breast Enhancers create a fuller, more beautiful bustline! Slip into your bra to support, lift and enhance your figure. Molds to your contours for a perfectly natural fit and look. Wear under any outfit, from sweaters to bathing suits. Safe, comfortable; won't irritate skin. Increases bustline 1-1/2 - 2 bra cup sizes.

Flying Pig Hat is perfect for those who like to ham it up! Simply tug on the string and the wings flap - who said that pigs can't fly! Whimsical topper is soft plush with shiny wings, feet and ears. One size fits all.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I just emptied

... all the ashtrays in my place, threw out the empty
packs that landed on the floor instead of in the garbage can, and
picked up the cellophane and foil seals from the new packs. Next,
I should wipe the ashes off my desk. Smoking is a messy, dirty thing.
I've vowed to make a concious effort to quit.
I've smoked for a long time and looking back on my habit, I see that
I started slowly and the amount I've smoked steadily increased. Maybe
that is the way I should quit too. I honestly fear the withdrawal
symptons and really think that weaning myself from the habit is the
best way to go right now.
My "concious effort" involves cutting back as the first step. The
smoking policy at my job changed recently. The "smoking area" was
moved and the permissable hours changed too. When it became an
inconvienence to smoke, I eliminated the two cigarettes I had grown
accustomed to smoking during a shift. It may seem like a small thing
but I prefer to look at it as 10 less cigarettes a week (half a pack) that
I am smoking. I'll go with that!!!
I ran some errands yesterday. Ordinarily, I would have smoked a
cigarette on the way there and another on the way back. Thanks to
my "concious effort", however, I left the cigarettes on the desk
instead of bringing them and I smoked two less cigarettes that day.
Now, I am rationing. I kept an empty pack and put a certain number of
cigarettes in it, depending on the activity. That's the allowance, I get
no more. There are five cigarettes in the ration pack right now, 1/4 of
a pack. We'll see how many are left when I get home tonight!

The tree again... is another picture of the tree outside my place. It's been about two weeks since I posted the first picture and it is changing color much quicker now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Aries Horoscope for week of October 13, 2005

"California's San Joaquin Valley has the worst air in the state, and as a result, 12 percent of the kids who live there have asthma. The terrible pollution stems largely from burned fossil fuels trapped between the mountain ranges that surround the valley. Ironically, the smog often hides the mountains from view. Some environmentalists have made that a symbol of what they hope to accomplish as they strive to purify the air. "Fifteen years from now," one activist told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I have faith that I'll see the mountains." Let this be a metaphor for the work you have ahead of you, Aries. Banish what's obscuring your sight of the big picture."

Ever get asked the question, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?", during a professional interview? Right now, I am approaching the end of one of those "planned" 5 year periods. And let me tell you, where I am is a different place than where I thought I would be. This has both good points and bad points. As we hit mid October (already), the "weight" on my shoulders lightens a little bit more. Sending my car payment off in the morning mail becomes a satisfied moment as I rest content in the knowledge that this is something I must
do only 4 more times. The fourth, and final payment, will be the least painful of all, thanks to the few extra dollars I tacked on to each prior payment.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I'm playing with animation...

...these days. It seems like such a natural way to use my art talents in combination with my love of computers, graphic design, and entertainment. Awhile ago, I bought that old Preston Blair book about animation from "Micheal's" and loved it. The trouble was that it just wasn't deep enough. The other day I was walking around and stopped into Borders, finding another book, " The Animator's Survival Kit" , by Richard Williams, and I had to have it! I've been studying it ever since.
I've always maintained that the most important thing that school taught me was how to learn, and that is exactly what I am doing in terms of animation. I subscribe to a file sharing service and I downloaded the Tex Avery classic cartoon "Red Hot Riding Hood" over the weekend. I took the cartoo to my favorite video editing programs so I could dissect it into smaller, studyable parts. These "parts" help me to understand principles and techniques used by this master of animation. Taking the selected clip to an animation program, I can study the chosen clip frame by frame and really understand how animation is made.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Nope, this blog isn't...

...about international politics, Hurricane Relief, or any of a million and one other relevant and pressing social issues with "depth". It's just the musings of an ordinary working stiff who tries to walk through life with a contented smile on his face. If you're looking for "Nightline", I strongly suggest turning on ABC at 11:30 p.m. On my last post, someone named Andrea Petersen, decided to sniff my fire hydrant and leave her mark. Clicking the link to her name, I see no blog of her own that I can go to for intellectual stimulation. I
do see 1240 profile views though. Perhaps leaving cynical comments, spamming, and blog surfing are Andrea's calling and purpose in this life. Well, Sketchy has a suggestion for Andrea Petersen that he will happily share. Just click on the link!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Wolverine gear...

...can come out of the closet and once again be proudly displayed on my back. After beating the Spartans in East Lansing in overtime, a certain level of confidence in Lloyd Carr's team has been restored and the decision to hang up the "M" for a month was overruled.
...besides, I was getting sick and tired of running around town in my work uniform for the past week!