Day 18: 30 for 30

Post 30 facts about yourself.

Even though I engage regularly on social media, when asked to straight up list 30 things about myself, I suddenly get weary of sharing? Well, yes. Instead of just listing 30 things, I’ll tell a story, and in that story there will be roughly 30 things about me. I’m not just going to give it up like some man whore. You’re going to have to earn it. Deal? Deal.

I was talking with my mom the other day (I have a mom! Fact #1) and she mentioned that a restaurant my dad used to work at, Tokyo Hibachi, was closing. I was pretty surprised because that restaurant was such a fixture in my life and I just assumed it would be around forever. My dad had been in the hospitality industry for most of his life – he was a bartender for many years in LA (he told me more than a few times of the story where Frank Sinatra tipped him $100) and one of his best friends wanted my dad to help him open a new japanese restaurant. I only learned recently (like when my mom told me the place was closing) that my dad helped out a lot in getting the business proposal together and figuring out the look of the restaurant. When it finally opened in 1986, my dad managed the front of the house and suddenly my dad worked at a japanese restaurant in Lakewood. To me, it made sense. I’m japanese, and my dad works at a japanese restaurant. That’s how it works, right?

The owner, Uncle George and my dad were really good friends (we just called all of my parents’ friends “uncle” and “aunty”) , and we would always get the hookups when we were there. A free sushi plate here, a discounted dinner there. One time for my dad’s birthday, they made him a special multi course dinner where course was made with saba (mackerel), one of my dad’s favorites. Another time for Thanksgiving the restaurant was closed and they had a special Thanksgiving dinner with just the staff. Even after my dad stopped working there, we were still invited because he had been such a big part of the restaurant in its early days.

Tokyo Hibachi was your pretty standard japanese fare, but like with anything that you experience during your childhood, it automatically becomes sentimental and you become super biased towards it. Whenever we would go there, the owner would always greet me with a big handshake and a “wow, you’re getting big!” spiel, say a bunch of things in japanese to my dad that I never really understood, and walk us to our table where I would always get the dinner combo with tempura, because fried food. Every year for Christmas we would stop by to pick up a sushi platter to take for an uncle’s Christmas Eve dinner. When we got there, Uncle George would always go into a broom closet sized room in the front and emerge with presents for me and my sister.

Family photo at Tokyo Hibachi, circa 2001.
Family photo at Tokyo Hibachi, circa 2001.

As the years went by, the restaurant started to look old and dated and just became another japanese restaurant in a sea of japanese restaurants in southern California. Eventually the lease was up on the property and the landlord didn’t want to extend the lease more than five years. Uncle George wanted to do some renovations, but saw no point if he couldn’t stay there for more than five years, so he just decided to retire and hang it up.

I don’t know if it’s the aging thing, but I’ve been thinking a lot about moving on, getting older, and seeing things that were once fixtures of your life disappear into memories. A couple of years ago, my mom sold the only home I ever knew in Torrance to live a smaller, more manageable place. Even the Manhattan Beach restaurant my dad went to work at is no more, replaced by an izakaya called “The Izaka-ya by Katsu-ya” which is funny because my dad’s name was Katsuyoshi.

Even after reading some of the 1 and 2 star Yelp reviews of Tokyo Hibachi (and feeling a “YOU DON’T KNOW NOTHIN” rage inside), it will always be a special memory that takes its place among the things in my life that are no more.

I don’t think that was 30 facts, but whatever.

 

Day 17: Who Are You?

Post about your zodiac sign and whether or not it fits you.

Even if you don’t believe in all that astrology mumbo jumbo, it’s always at least entertaining to read. When I was at an impressionable age I was reading the comic strip section of the paper (what “web comics” are to the kids these days) and I happened to read the daily horoscope for my sign. It said “Expect a surprise visitor today,” among other things. I brushed it off until my friend dropped by unannounced to drop off something at my house, which he never did. Even though I never went full “OMG THESE ARE SO TRUE” on horoscopes, you never really know what forces govern the universe and it did leave an impression on me (because of the aforementioned impressionable age). Whether you are religious, agnostic, spiritual, or atheist, everyone must admit that there are unexplainable things happening in our universe because we can’t possibly know the answers to everything that’s happening. Whether those unexplainable things are gods, spirits, metaphysical thingamajigs, or just more advanced science, we may never know.

There are a bajillion astrology sites, so after randomly picking one, here’s what a site said about Leos:

“Lions are powerful creatures and so are the Leos. They exert power at every state of life. Being a Fire sign they are also great source of energy and can be the motivating force to others. Leos are also great friends. They are kind hearted and will normally go to any extent to help their friends. They also spend lavishly on their friends and throw great parties. However, their desire to be praised and recognized for whatever they do lead them to gather people around them who are opportunists. Leos also befriend with people who are useful or potentially useful to them.

Leos love to rule. They simply can’t take orders from anyone. They will remain the only ruler in their domain, which can be office, home or partner. Leos are possessive and dominate in a relationship. Romantic relation with Leo can be exciting and their ideal partners are people who would accept their dominance. They strive to build an image larger than life. They crave for social acceptance and are often found to roam the higher social circle.Leos don’t like to be crossed. They would strike with a great force when criticized but will also easily forget and forgive.”

Let’s break this one down:

“Lions are powerful creatures and so are the Leos. They exert power at every state of life. Being a Fire sign they are also great source of energy and can be the motivating force to others”
If I’ve motivated people, great! But I haven’t really seen much evidence of that.

“Leos are also great friends. They are kind hearted and will normally go to any extent to help their friends. They also spend lavishly on their friends and throw great parties.”
I don’t think I have ever thrown a party in my life. Also, ask any of my friends the last time I bought something for them.

“However, their desire to be praised and recognized for whatever they do lead them to gather people around them who are opportunists. Leos also befriend with people who are useful or potentially useful to them.”
This isn’t looking good. I’m not even sure if I would want to be my friend.

“Leos love to rule. They simply can’t take orders from anyone. They will remain the only ruler in their domain, which can be office, home or partner. Leos are possessive and dominate in a relationship. Romantic relation with Leo can be exciting and their ideal partners are people who would accept their dominance.”
This just sounds weird. Dominate! Domination! Possessive! Rule! I am probably the least dominating anything in any of the environments I exist in. Just ask my wife. Heyyooooooo!

“They strive to build an image larger than life. They crave for social acceptance and are often found to roam the higher social circle. Leos don’t like to be crossed. They would strike with a great force when criticized but will also easily forget and forgive.”
It is true that I like to dream big and I don’t like to be crossed, but who does like to be crossed? However, I will strike with a great force when criticized, with that “great force” being the unfriend button. But then I’ll re-add you because hey, life’s too short to hold a grudge.

It’s always fun to read these things, especially with loved ones and friends and others who actually know you. Sometimes things match up, sometimes they don’t. Just remember that correlation does not equal causation.

 

Day 16: Let’s Go to the Mall!

Something that you miss

For good or for bad, your hometown always has a special place in your heart. The sights, sounds, and smells you remember combine to create fully formed memories of growing up.  Even though I was never a beach bum, living near the ocean was always a big part of my life. I don’t think I will ever able to move more than 20 miles inland. The Pacific Ocean may be a vast and scary unknown covering half the earth’s surface, but it’s my gigantic security blanket.

Another security blanket that I had to part with long ago was a behemoth of capitalism known as Del Amo Fashion Center. In 1981, it became the largest indoor shopping center in America (a title it has long since given up). Before the Internet eroded the retail dominance of giant malls, you had to physically walk/bus/drive to an actual place to waste time. If you broke down my youth in terms of time spent anywhere, it would be evenly divided between home, school, and Del Amo Mall.

20 years ago, it required an Avengers-like assembly of mall stores to satisfy the retail needs that amazon.com can provide today. Stores like KB Toys would always be there for me to gawk at the wall of Super NES games that I would never be able to buy. At Suncoast Motion Picture Company I would peruse its racks of unapologetically retail priced DVDs as they played movies on the TV screens throughout the store. Sam Goody let me listen to whatever CDs happened to be featured in their bolted-down CD Walkman-cum-music sampling devices. Nirvana’s Nevermind was the sole representative of the entire “Rock” section of CDs.

Del Amo even used to be high tech! Suddenly, during one visit, electronic mall directories were a thing. You could tap through the mall directory on a touchscreen and it would tell you how to get to every store from where you were standing using little isometric maps and an animated footprint trail leading to the store you didn’t need to go to so you could buy the thing you didn’t really need. It was amazing. I thought this certainly was the height of human achievement and that we were downfall of civilization was coming at any time.

Before any of us had a car, my friends and I would bike or take the bus to Del Amo and do one, some, or all of the following:

  • Go to Aladdin’s Castle and spend my last five bucks on arcade games back when the hardware in arcade machines was still vastly superior to our home gaming systems (if you are reading this, you probably remember putting a quarter down on the Street Fighter II/Tekken II machine and patiently waited your turn).
  • Thumb through the latest Calvin and Hobbes compilation at a Waldenbooks
  • Eat horrible chinese food at Wok Inn in the famed “International Food Court”
  • Watch a movie at Mann 9 Theaters (OMG 9 SCREENS). I remember watching Independence Day there and almost peeing my pants because I was so excited.
  • Play with every useless gadget at Sharper Image
  • Walk by Wet Seal and not understand why anyone would want to step foot in that store
  • Spend time in Aahs! looking at all the gag gifts and snarky t-shirts I was not cool enough to wear

Del Amo’s last hurrah was probably its appearance in Jackie Brown, where it played a pivotal role and where everyone at school spent even MORE time at Del Amo trying to be an extra in the movie so they could brag about it to everyone. Even by then, in the late 90s, it was in decline and by the time I went off to college, it was in freefall. I have only been there a few times since then, mostly to watch a movie in the new outdoor mall area, which is kind of like a facelift on an aging O.C. housewife, but Simon Malls is throwing down $200 million to renovate the entire complex, so maybe from the ashes a new generation of mallrats will rise. Even if it ends up being $200 million well spent, it will never recapture the pre-Internet magic I experienced in my youth.

Day 15: Ugh

Bullet point your whole day.

It’s apropos that I write about this today because yesterday I thought I had lost my wallet. Even though I can think back to specific points in time throughout the day, I certainly can’t account for all of them. As my wife was trying to help me walk through every single thing I did that day, there were just some things I couldn’t account for. Luckily I found my wallet, but it made me think about exactly what I think about and retain throughout the day.

  • Woken up by Dylan
  • Walked Dylan downstairs
  • Made myself a glass of water
  • Gave Dylan water to drink
  • Made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Took medicine for a headache I felt coming on
  • Ate the peanut butter and jelly sandwich
  • Made toast for my wife and Dylan
  • Spread jelly on toast for Dylan and gave it to him
  • Changed Dylan’s clothes
  • Kissed wife goodbye as she went to work
  • Changed clothes for work
  • Let Dylan watch videos for 20 minutes while I did this
  • Brushed my teeth
  • Brushed Dylan’s teeth
  • Put Dylan in the car
  • Drove to daycare
  • Dropped Dylan off
  • Drove to gas station
  • Filled car with gas
  • Drove to work
  • Worked
  • Ping pong break
  • Worked some more
  • Walked to coworker’s desk asking what he was doing for lunch
  • Walked to Tom’s to get lunch with coworker
  • Ordered and paid for food
  • Sat and waited for food
  • Picked up food
  • Walked back to work with said food
  • Ate food at upstairs lunch area with other coworkers
  • Walked back to my desk and continued working
  • Ping pong break #2
  • More work
  • Drove to pick up dinner
  • Ordered and paid for food
  • Sat and waited for food
  • Picked up food
  • Drove home to grateful wife who was starving
  • Ate dinner
  • Took Dylan outside to play in the backyard
  • Got tricked by Dylan into coming close to him before getting splashed with water
  • Gave Dylan a bath
  • Walked downstairs and cleaned up as Dylan was put to bed
  • Cleaned up downstairs
  • Talked with wife
  • Writing this entry

Fin.

Day 14: “‘PC Load Letter?’ What the f**k does that mean?”

Post your favorite movies that you never get tired of watching.

Watching movies is one of the best things ever in life. You get magically transported to another world for a couple of hours and you don’t even have to stand up.

1. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
This movie really is the best. This movie hits from the very beginning and never lets up. The pacing keeps you from even noticing the passage of time like the inside of a Vegas casino while seamlessly intertwining comedy, suspense, and action. Every part, no matter how small is masterfully played. It’s like watching the 1992 Dream Team straight murder every team by 40 points every five minutes.

 

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
This is one of those movies where if you come across it on TV, no matter how far in it is, you just start watching it. I remember the first time seeing and marveling at the fact that I sat through the entire thing. It’s probably the most serene and peaceful movie about prison, ever.

 

3. Office Space (1999)
I graduated from college right after the first dot-com bust so I was very fortunate that the company I was interning at offered me a full-time position – others were not so lucky. It was at this company that I was introduced to the world that Office Space would portray with such chilling accuracy. I understand that this is a movie not everyone will understand. However, those that do have an undying, almost religious devotion towards it. My friends and I would constantly quote this movie during lunch or over AIM as we sat in our soft-wall office or cubicle or shared office. It was kind of a cynical introduction to the real world, but it really makes me appreciate where I work now.

 

4. Superbad (2007)
This movie will never get old for me. I can’t really point to just any one scene, but the overall tone and the dialog just reminds me of how I would joke around with my friends and just riff of of stupid things that come up. I was so uncool in high school that I wasn’t even trying to unsuccessfully score beer and get with girls, so maybe I’m just trying to live vicariously through this movie. Also, I can’t believe Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote this movie in high school. High school! What the hell was I doing in high school? Maybe I should’ve written a movie.

 

5. Heat (1994)
When I was in middle school I had to do some research for a report, so my mom took me to the public library in downtown L.A. (yes, there was a time where you had to physically seek out information). Right outside the library there was a shoot going on for some movie and I always wanted to stay and watch and be as close as they would let us be. I asked around and found out it was for some movie called Heat. I had to go back to the library a couple weekends in a row and every weekend they were shooting that same scene, so I got to see them shoot that scene a few times, whatever scene that was. Of course, because it was an R-rated movie, it would be years before I would even get to see it. I eventually forgot about it.

It turns out that they were shooting was one of the greatest shootout scenes ever for a movie that would end up being one of my favorite movies ever. Even before I made that connection years later, I thought this movie was awesome, but that just made it even more so. Michael Mann is able to capture that ethereal mood of LA in the evenings and night that I remember when I was younger, so whenever I watch this movie, it strangely evokes old feelings and memories (fortunately none of which include shootouts, gangsters, or murder).

I could probably make this list twice as long, but I’m tired and it’s late. Maybe I can make a Part 2.

Day 13: The Irresistible Lure of the Disney Empire

What are you excited about?

This past weekend, thanks to a hook up from a friend we got to take Dylan to California Adventure and he had the best day of his life. He has been to Disneyland before, but he was too young to truly understand the irresistible lure of the Disney empire. This time he got to eat ice cream, churros, actually go on rides, experience the joy that is Toy Story Midway Mania, and met his idol, Buzz Lightyear.

Trust me, he's freaking out on the inside.
Trust me, he’s freaking out on the inside.

While we were walking around Paradise Pier, he was walking around with an extra spring in his step and I’ve never seen him so happy in my life. There are so many more moments in his life that I’m looking forward to see him experience and I think that is what I’m most excited about right now. Also, with another boy on the way, I’m really excited to see Dylan become a big brother and watch both of them grow and be there for each other.

Also, I just rented Ex Machina on iTunes, so I’m pretty excited about that.

Day 12: #blessed

Write about five blessings in your life.

There are many times that I forget how lucky I am to have first world problems – usually when I’m raging from being cut off in traffic or standing in a really long line for something I don’t even really need. There are blessings that I obviously cherish – a smart, caring, funny, beautiful, loving wife, a rambunctious and hilarious but equally loving son, family that still talks to me, great friends, and my relatively good health…but no one wants to hear mushy stuff, so here are five other things in my life that are totally not as important as the aforementioned blessings, but are blessings nonetheless.

1. Living in an age where being a nerd is not a bad thing
When I was growing up, it was definitely not cool to be a fan of the following:

  • Science
  • Star Trek
  • Comic books
  • Geography
  • Thumbing through almanacs just because
  • Reading Tom Clancy novels
  • Watching stand-up comedy

Thanks to the Internet and a more accepting society, people realize that it’s okay to have all kinds of interests because it’s highly likely that a lot of people have those interests too. It’s not just “Go sports team!” or bust anymore*.

2. Health insurance
Seriously though, you’ll never appreciate health insurance until you look at an insurance bill and see how much you would’ve paid if you didn’t have any coverage. You need some COVERAGE.

3. Having no excuse to not know something anymore
Whenever I see people arguing about things like whether or not Flight of the Navigator came out in 1986 or 1987 (it came out in 1986) I think, “Just look it up online!” No one really gets credit anymore for just remembering things now that an interconnected virtual world that is on the verge of sentience contains the answers to any question you could possibly have. The burden of actually having to remember things has been lifted and it feels so good!…until the Internet goes out.

4. Being able to order almost anything and having it arrive at your doorstep in two days
I use Amazon Prime so much that it should count as a public utility. This blessing has been especially helpful since having kids. I once checked my Amazon order history going back to the first thing I ever bought (which was 12 years ago), and half of the things I have ever bought have been bought in the past two years. Not coincidentally, my son is two years old.

5. Having a smart, caring, funny, beautiful, loving wife,  a rambunctious and hilarious but equally loving son, family that still talks to me, great friends, and relatively good health
Ok, so I lied. Like everyone else, every day I am bombarded by messages that remind me of what I don’t have and not bombarded by enough messages that remind me of what I do have. So this is my message to myself to remind myself that if I receive nothing else in life from this moment forward, I have more than enough to last me the rest of my life.

#BLESSED

Day 11: What If…

Something you always think “What if…” about.

When I was a kid, I would spend copious amounts of birthday and Christmas money on comic books, comic book cards, and sports cards. My mom was nice enough to encourage my habit by taking me to card shows, usually held at hotel conference halls by the airport. At one of these shows, they were giving away one-of-a-kind original sketches by Jim Lee, a famous comic book artist. Original as in he was actually there creating the sketches and then giving them away to people who could answer comic book trivia. To get the chance to win, your raffle ticket had to be called first, and my number actually got called! I was kind of freaking out because it’s a lot of pressure to get any nerd-related trivia correct in front of a bunch of other nerds. That’s probably the worst thing that can happen to a nerd. They drew another number so that two of us would have a chance to answer. The first person to get the right answer would get the sketch. The emcee lined us up in front of everyone, and asked the question:

“In 1963, which Marvel superhero made his first appearance in “Amazing Fantasy #15”?

I had no idea. I really didn’t know that much about comic books, which made me feel like even more of a poser. I was just here to have fun and now I’m being put under this nerd microscope at some random hotel ballroom. The only thing that came into my head was “Spider-Man” because that’s really one of the only names I knew.

Spider-Man.
Spider-Man.
Spider-Man.

I should’ve just blurted out “Spider-Man!”, but I was too scared. To get it wrong and feel the scorn of all those of people at the same time? No way. Just say nothing, let the other guy get it wrong, and I can just get out of here and go about my day.

Spider-Man.

I was waiting for the other guy to answer when I realized he didn’t know the answer either (or was just as scared of getting it wrong as I did)! He eventually did answer and he got it wrong.

The emcee feigned pity on us as he said, “Aw, I’m sorry.” He turned to the crowd for the answer and I heard a chorus of “SPIDERRRR-MAAANNN!” echo through the ballroom. If I had just said my dumb guess I would’ve been right, but I was too afraid to speak up.

What if I had gotten it right? What if I actually said my dumb guess and gotten that original sketch and got to hang it in my room? It wouldn’t have been a defining moment in my life, but I’m sure it would’ve been a tiny step to building more confidence in myself at a time when I desperately needed it (i.e. adolescence) which could have butterfly-effected itself into some totally different life path. Who knows? I’ll never know.

Now when I am faced with a similar situation, I default to no-shame-answering because the worst you can be is wrong, and being wrong is when you usually learn the most.