Tuesday, May 31, 2011


It seems that life is about many things, but mostly it is about changes and changing. Life throws curves at you and you have to adapt your life to fit what comes. Due to some of those curves, I did things differently than the norm, and I took the road less traveled.

In the three phases of school, I seem to change and develop in different ways. In Elementary school, I was the skinny, quiet, timid, non-athletic kid. But even though I was timid, I still was one to jump in between two friends who were fighting, to stop them. I think most of my friends will say my best trait was that I was friendly. I was one of those, “last person to be picked onto teams” type. Because of that, I got C’s or D’s in Physical Education. It had nothing to do with how well I performed in games, but how much I participated. This grade also lowered my average and kept me out of the “Gifted” program, so I was not given a chance to get in advanced programs.

Junior High was a new experience, a different way of learning, and meeting new people. I felt awkward. Still, I adapted and made new friends, some that I still see to this day. This is where I started trying to be more athletic than academic. I guess I felt that that was where I was lacking, and wanted to develop more. I let my academic side lapse and I lost interest in some subjects like English and History. Math and Sciences were the only subjects that kept my interest. Yet I was still not very good at sports. But I tried. Trying is better than not trying at all. You can’t win the Lottery unless you buy a ticket. This was also when I learned how to play the French Horn, and played in both a Marching Band and the School’s Orchestra. I heard I was good at it, but no one told me that at the time. It seems I rarely got encouragement from anyone. I just did what I did, and I only heard about things if I did wrong.

In High school, I became rebellious. I wanted to do my own thing and I didn’t really want to be there. Being in the LAUSD system, I seemed to recognize that in most classes, you were just there to be baby-sat. Learning seemed to be secondary, unless you were in advanced classes. Though I was in some advanced classes, I only tried to do well in Math and Sciences. I dropped out of High School during my Senior year. Yeah, that’s right, I was a juvenile delinquent. I took and passed the GED test, and didn’t look back. That was the second best thing I did in High School. The best thing I did in High School, was to try out for the “B” Football team. I never played in a game, but I was a part of every practice, and did everything that they made us do. I wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, but I wasn’t the weakest or the slowest. This is where I got a little tougher both mentally and physically. I was pushed to where I didn’t know I could go before, and I took a lot of punishment.

After dropping out, I should have continued my education at a Community college, but I didn’t. That would have been the smart thing to do. Instead, I went to work. My best friend’s mother had a boyfriend who was a plumber. We both worked for him and learned a trade. We did new and remodel plumbing, and I got to see how homes were built. I watched and learned.

During this time, my friend found out that the LA City Fire Department was recruiting minorities. This is when I first got the idea to become a Firefighter. Most of my friends will say they saw a light in my eyes early on, when I watched the LAFD in action. I took the written test and passed. I did not continue on because I knew that the job required a lot of physical strength, and I felt I was lacking. So I set out to get in better shape. When my father learned of my desire to become a Firefighter, he told my mother he thought it was too dangerous for me. Still, I think he would have been proud of me upon my graduation from the Fire Academy at 31 years old. Remember that number.

When I was 25 years old, my father died from throat cancer. I can still hear him tell my sister, "Don't worry, I'll be alright." Then my sister calling me, saying, "Daddy's dead!" I ran to his room and it was the first time I did CPR. His death hit me hard. All the guilt from arguing with him when I was rebellious, haunted me. I learned that being “right” is not as important as you think it is, and some things, a lot of things in fact are not worth arguing about. His death changed me in many ways. I grew up right then.

I got out of my then dead-end job, and found another that allowed time to go back to school. I started taking Fire Science classes from East Los Angeles College at night and got my EMT license. I also took some regular classes during the day, Chemistry, Algebra, some others….. and I got all A’s. I even made the Dean’s list. Damn. I think I still have that certificate somewhere. I didn’t get a degree though.

I tested for many Fire Departments, from Santa Rosa, California to San Diego. At my last interview with LA City, they had announced a City-wide hiring freeze. Things looked dim, but I had a good attitude, I wasn’t afraid. I knew I would get hired, but it had to happen at the right time. I just needed to be patient.

The 1992 Riots happened and the hiring freeze ended. Back then, there was an age limit, 31 years old. Remember I told you to remember that number? I just made it. I was in the first class of Firefighters to get hired in over 2 years. I did well during my probation, though there were some hiccups. I did get hired at the right time as everything seem to fall in place, and I had the best ”teachers” from the Training Academy and all through my Field assignments. Little did I know that all those things I learned early on would help me become a Firefighter, even stuff I learned as a Boy Scout. I earned a good reputation as a Firefighter, and after 5 years as one, I signed up to become a Paramedic. That is my main duty for the LAFD now, but I am both a Firefighter and Paramedic.

I never got married or had children. Not that I didn’t want to, but it just never happened. I still wonder if it will happen. My father got married in his 50’s, but I saw how hard it was for him and I don’t know if I want that for me. But, if it’s right, then it will happen, as things seem to happen to me when it’s the right time. Yes, I feel like I’m blessed. “And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, let it be……” Oh sorry…….

180 days. I wrote that on my Facebook page. I didn’t say what it was about, though some guessed that my birthday was in 180 days. Though that was true, it was not exactly what I had in mind. 180 days meant a countdown to my birthday, the day I turn 50. So here I am, near the end of my second 25 years of life, and reflecting on it, 152 days left as of this writing. I had been reflecting on my life since the year started, and decided I needed to do some things differently, and to make some changes before I was 50. No, I won’t change like flipping a light switch, but I hope to evolve and improve.

My first 25 years was about learning about life, developing mentally and physically, gaining skills, and rebelling. Those were the best years when I had the most fun. I learned many things from many people. My father taught me to work hard, and instilled in me my moral values. He also taught me how to drive a stick at 12-13 years old. My mother taught me devotion and perseverance. From my friends, I learned about life, loyalty, mischief making, and “ragging” on each other. Work and hobby experiences gave me some skills in automotive mechanics, plumbing, electrical, and construction work.

My second 25 years was about education, career, priorities, and responsibility. I started looking at the “big picture.” I no longer just lived for today, I also lived for tomorrow. These are the years that were most fulfilling. I feel I helped so many people during this time. I definitely feel that I was a late-bloomer, and I blossomed between the ages of 25-40. Do real men blossom? I don’t think so, but real men don’t care what you think.

My third 25 years should be about something else. I don’t know what it will be, but I know what I want it to be. Sometimes your future is in your hands, sometimes it depends on other things that happen or don’t happen. Sometimes your life has already been planned for you, and you just don’t know it until after it happens.

Life is a mystery; I’ll tell you how this third 25 year mystery ends, 25 years from now. I hope this mystery has a happy ending, and not “the butler did it” kind of ending. Then I’ll write about my fourth and final 25 years. Yes, I plan to live a long and happy rest of my life. Will you be there with me?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Parking Tickets

About a year ago, my co-worker received a parking ticket from the City of Los Angeles. Or at least, he thought he did. There was a red parking ticket envelope under the windshield wiper of his truck, but nothing was inside, it was just an envelope.

Later on, he called the agency in charge, and they told him they could not verify or deny that he had received a parking ticket. They said it was possible that it was not "put into the system" just yet.

Eventually he forgot about it, until he received a "Notice of Delinquent Parking Violation" letter from the Parking Violations Bureau. Not only did he owe a fine for the ticket that he did not receive, he was now responsible for a "Late Fee."

After calling the Parking Violations Bureau, he was given no sympathy and told right then that he had to pay, or face more fines. He decided it was not worth the fight and paid the total fine of over $100.

Recently, I also received a parking ticket, but my circumstances were different. I parked in a "Yellow Loading Only" zone, and went into the store right in front of the space. I was not in the store for 2 minutes when I saw the Parking Enforcement Officer writing a ticket for my car. Being more "in-the-know" about where a person can park legally than most, I decided that I would just let it go, and fight this ticket in Court.

You see, once an Officer starts writing a ticket, it is too late to do anything about it, and it must go through it's paces before it can be dismissed.

However, the business owner was not happy. It's bad enough that the Economy has hit all businesses hard, he did not want his customers to be deterred from shopping in the area by being in fear of getting a parking ticket.

The business owner went outside and told the Officer that I should not get a ticket. The officer explained, rightly, that I did not have Commercial license plates, so I was not legally parked in the Yellow zone.

The business owner reminded the Officer that everyone has 5 minutes to park in a Yellow zone. The Officer agreed, but stated that I was parked there for more than 5 minutes.

The Officer was told again, that I just entered the store, placed my order, and was paying for my goods when I noticed I was getting a ticket, so it was less than 5 minutes.

The Officer left the scene, and the business owner came back into the shop looking disgusted. I told the business owner that it would be okay, and that I would fight the ticket. When I went to my car, I did not find a ticket. The Officer had left without leaving one. The business owner was relieved, and I thanked him for saving me from getting a ticket and the hassle of fighting the ticket.

I received a "Notice of Delinquent Parking Violation" letter from the Parking Violations Bureau on the very day my fine was due, Thursday, May 12. It was too late to do anything about it, and I worked the next day, Friday. I was off on Monday the 16th and went to protest this ticket. I was told to fill out a protest form, and wait for a reply in 10-14 days.

Just 4 days later, my protest was denied. They stated that I waited too long to fight the ticket, and forfeited all of my rights to fight the ticket.

I was now responsible to pay the fine plus the late fee.

Oh, I'm going to fight this one for sure. I may not win, but I sure will make them work for it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Love Affairs - My Weakness

I've been in love on different levels, from infatuation to head-over-heels in love, many times in my life. But it would never work out. For one reason or another my love would disappoint me, and I would have to find a replacement. If it wasn't for this, I think I would have much more money than I have now. Being in love costs a lot of money, especially when you get a new love. When you get a new love, it starts out very expensive. But when you decide it's not working out, it depreciates so much, that you never recover what you invested.

Yes, I've owned so many cars and trucks, I could have started a used car lot. And each one I bought brand new, I rarely kept for more than 2 years. There was always something "wrong" with it.

As I wrote in a recent post, I had a 4 wheel drive truck that was hit by another truck and totaled. I loved that truck, but it got terrible gas mileage. 10 miles to the gallon. With gas costing over $4.00 per gallon now, it would have cost me $400 per month to fill up my tank. That's a car payment!

And I wrote in that same post, that I test drove a Prius, and it just did nothing for me. It had almost no personality. The only thing it had going for it was great gas mileage. At 50 mpg, it would only cost me $80 per month for gasoline. I said it was not for me, and I was not going to buy a Prius.

I bought a Prius. And just in time too. It was before the Earthquake and resulting Tsunami in Japan, which caused a shortage of some cars and car parts from Japan. And it was also before gas prices sky-rocketed to over $4.00 per gallon. I got a great price on the car, and in total, the monthly payments for the Prius plus the monthly cost of gas for the Prius, is about the same monthly cost for gasoline for my truck.

This economic situation has also raised the value of my car. This is a first for me. None of my cars were ever worth more money than I put into it. Oh, I've had my chances, especially if I kept a couple of my cars for a few years longer than I did. Yes, that 1966 Mustang Fastback would be worth at least 5 times what I paid for it, if I sold it today.

So, although my Prius is not sporty, luxurious, manly, or tough, I think I'll have her for a long time. It isn't flashy, pretentious, loud, or needy. Who would have thought that the humble, indistinct, modest, inconspicuous, and dependable one is the right one for me.

Still, I do feel it's missing something.

There's a lesson in here somewhere.......

Friday, May 13, 2011

Anti-Social Network Break

If you've read my earlier Blog posts, you know that my first Social network experience was with Yelp. I was Goggling for a restaurant, and came across Yelp. Being bored, I really got into it, and started participating in the "Talk" section. Because of my irreverent humor, be it witty, sarcastic, obnoxious, or down right not funny, people liked me. It wasn't until some stalking issues came up that I decided that enough was enough, so I deleted my account and eventually joined Facebook. I never did find the restaurant I was looking for.

On Facebook, most of my immediate friends were from Yelp. Eventually, IRL (In Real Life) friends started finding me. Some of my friends have never seen this side of me. Only my really close friends and co-workers have been subjected to my brand of "humor." No, I am not unique in this, as many others have similar tastes as I do. But, most people thought of me as the quiet, serious guy, who exhibited maybe a little bit too much self-control. A nurse friend told me, "You're really funny. I never knew that about you."

I blame my humor on many things. My upbringing amongst many different cultures, my best friend Ernest, and being a Firefighter. Firefighters, Police Officers, as well as people in the Medical industry, develop a different type of humor. Usually referred to as "Gallows" humor, gallows humor can be thought of as extremely insensitive to the average person. But it is used as a coping mechanism, to not let the drama of real life "get" to people who are always in stressful situations.

Yelp helped me learn to express myself, and vent any feelings I had in a way that was more articulate. Most of the time I kept everything to myself, letting it build up inside of me. I'm thankful that I did have this experience to exercise my mind, and to learn how to express myself in a more positive way. I probably wouldn't be writing a Blog if I hadn't found Yelp.

After joining Facebook, I kept up my brand of humor, making salacious comments on people's pages. I even used self-deprecating humor. Really, you shouldn't make fun of anyone if you can't make fun of yourself.

However, being online, you can never judge another person's reaction to what you write, or show what emotion you yourself are expressing. Body language is what's missing from ALL online communications. Eventually, I was blocked and/or de-friended by some people. Oh well, I guess that's life.

One downside to this, was that I was speaking almost anything that was on my mind. Things that I should have kept to myself. Not things that were "TMI," just those thoughts that you think about when you're over analyzing the world and everything that goes with it. You know, when you're writing messages to other people, and you just read too much into something and then go off into your own world, and then people think you're crazy? No? It's never happened to you? Um, er, me neither.... *embarrassed* Well, at least I was truthful....

Anyway, one of my last Facebook posts was "180 days." I won't go into it too much, but one of the pieces to this puzzle of "180 days," is self-improvement. And one way that I must improve is to be better in my real life relationships. In my opinion, I have been closing myself off to my co-workers and some friends by burying myself in this computer. I have had some issues with my new co-workers and had decided to ignore these people and I spent more time online. I have even neglected my close friends by not calling them or trying to set up things to do.

I have also had a lot of work that has been piling up for the last two years. Projects around my rental unit, and my own home. I even promised to repair and repaint parts of a ceiling at a friend's house. But, instead, I spent my extra minutes on Facebook.

The projects at my rental unit and friend's house have not been interrupted by my Facebook addiction, but it has interfered with the projects that needed to be done around my own house.

So my last Facebook post was about how I would take care of these projects and be back in a month or two. I asked that any communication with me be made through E-mail or by telephone. A friend asked that since I would check my E-mails at night, why couldn't I just log on to Facebook only at night?

I guess I made up my mind by then. There was a certain situation where I was not getting "positive feedback," and it seemed that I was just going in circles, again. So with that, nothing was holding me there.

I asked a friend to take over my Facebook account. This way, there would be no way I could access my account. Due to the Privacy settings I have for my Facebook, I can't even see my page. I've been off Facebook for 4 days, and I have absolutely NO clue what's going on in that "world."

I do get bored at night, during that period after dinner and before I go to sleep, as I no longer watch much television. But even before I left Facebook, I started jogging again. So that's what I'm doing now, after dinner. That's another piece of "180 days," getting in better shape.

Now, I hope to be more involved with real people, my friends and co-workers. And if one or more of my Facebook friends wants to meet and do something, then that would be great. It's no longer about Facebook time, it's about face-to-face time.

As of now, I don't want to go back to my old ways on Facebook. I'm hoping that the time off will help me break my addiction. I'll leave the account "active," but I don't want to be as active as I was. For those of you on my Facebook that may read this, Yes, I CAN do it. I can be stubborn at times when it's something important, and I have a little bit too much self-control.

No, this isn't goodbye. It's just a way of forcing me to be more involved in the real world, instead of just in cyberspace.

Anyway, I hope I see you soon, because I'll miss your face, but not your Facebook.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Emergency Interuptus

This one will be difficult to explain.

Have you seen a movie or TV show where someone is being taken to an Ambulance and another person runs up to the gurney and asks the person on it, "What happened? Are you okay?"

Well, things like this happen a lot in real life. Sometimes they are concerned neighbors, or coworkers. Sometimes it's a family member who arrives just as we're leaving to go to the hospital.

"So what?" you say"? Well, if the person is being taken to an Ambulance AND they are very sick and/or dying, this act of concern is only preventing the transport of your sick and/or dying loved one to the Hospital where their life can be saved.

Make sense? If they need to go now, they need to go NOW! And you are preventing this from happening.

This happened recently, though it did NOT change the outcome for the patient. Whatever happened would have happened anyway.

We responded to a shooting victim just a few blocks from our Station. When we arrived, the patient was lying in the street, his head being cradled in the lap of a woman. We did a quick assessment, and also found out at the same time, that the woman was just a passer-by, a good Samaritan who stopped to comfort the patient. Because she was in the way, I asked her to leave. Twice. The third time I had to tell her to leave NOW!

What was she doing? well, she was comforting the patient telling him how everything would be okay, and that she was going to leave, and that the "Paramedics" were going to help him.

Well, this patient was shot in the chest. The only way he was going to have a chance to live, was if he got to a hospital to have his wounds taken care of by surgeon. No kind words of comfort would do anything for this patient, or save his life.

Harsh? Yes, but the harsh truth. Did it matter in this case? Did that woman help cause the demise of this patient because she was in the way, and we could not load him into our gurney until she moved out of the way? I don't think so. I think he would have died anyway, just from where the bullet entered his body.

But who knows about the next time? Are you one of those "What happened?" stop the gurney type of person? Are you the kind of person who does not get out of the way once the proper authorities arrive to take over?

For the sake of the patient, I hope not.