Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Once again, into the blue...

So the results on last week's dives were mixed, to say the least. I was sidelined by sinus congestion, so I missed it all. I did go down to the beach Saturday morning to watch and lend a hand with gear, etc. Ric made the dives on Saturday, as did Greg, and they both said that it was a lot more work kicking out and diving near the shore than they expected. On Sunday, Greg and Ric headed out to the kelp beds. Ric made it to 60 feet, but his sinuses were blocked and he had to surface immediately. Greg was the only one of us to make it through all the training and the dives on time. Congrats, Greg, on the PADI certification!

Me, I have to go back to the pool this Thursday afternoon to finish my pool qualification. Then, if luck holds, we are trying again this coming weekend. Bridgette and Nate are coming in from Phoenix, and they will join me Saturday at the beach. Hopefully, we will all complete our first round of dives. And Sunday, Greg and Ric will join the three of us, and we will all be heading out to the Coronado Islands for three deeper water dives. Wish us all luck!

Last minute instructions


Greg and Ric, with instructor Chris and fellow student Daniel, getting last minute direction before entering the water.

Thumbs up... so far.


Here's Greg, swimming out from the beach at La Jolla Shores.

Into the blue... or is that green?


This is Ric, diving at La Jolla Shores.

Friday, January 27, 2006

No means no.

Back to the pool I went this afternoon, and once again the sinuses refused to play nice. I am still congested, which means no way to clear during the diving. No clearing means no pool qualification today, and no pool qual today means no ocean diving this Sunday. It sucks to be me right now.

I will take care of myself this weekend early nights to bed, eat right, lots of vitamins and fresh fruit and hopefully I can get to the pool one night next week to finish the qualification. If so, we can plan an ocean dive for the next weekend, Feb 4th and 5th. It is no real big deal to put it off, and a head cold is what it is. Its frustrating to fall behind, but Ric and Greg will be able to come out with me again next weekend for my dives, so that will be cool. In the grand scheme of things, this is nothing to worry about. I will be PADI certified soon enough.

Cross fingers for a full recovery from this cold this week!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Not such a good night...

So off we went to SCUBA class, suited up in our new wetsuits and ready to dive. Unfortunately, as soon as I dropped under the water, I felt my sinuses constrict and I had to surface immediately. Sinus squeeze. If it happens, that's it. No diving. So I spent the evening watching the rest of my class go through their skills testing. I am going to take Sudafed tomorrow morning and try to dive again tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully, I will be fine, and with one-on-one instruction can move through the skills testing quickly. Wish me luck, because without the qualifying pool dives tomorrow I cannot dive in the ocean Saturday and Sunday.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Long lost friends, lost no more

Back in August 2005, my old Marine Corps buddy Timmy Tighe tracked me down. He and I were both searching for each other, and we had been for years. But Tim was more persistent, and he found a presentation of mine posted on the web that included my contact information. A couple of emails and phone calls later, and we are once again an important part of each others' lives.

Besides Tim, I have spent years searching for Chris Brandt. I knew enough about him to start a search, but not enough current information to find him. It had been a very frustrating experience. Enter Timmy again. Yesterday he tracked down Chris' Mom in Sharon, Wisconsin. I called and spoke to her for a while, and she gave me Chris' cell phone number. Of course, it turns out that he lives in Vista, not 45 minutes from my house. And he works in downtown San Diego, not two miles from my office.

I caught up with Chris on the phone today, and it was so incredibly cool. I could write screen after screen about Chris as a friend, but I will sum it up this way: Chris Brandt was a true friend to me when I was most in need of one. He set a benchmark for friendship, and to this day I try to be the friend to others that he was to me. Yes, he was that important, and yes, he is that good of a person and a friend.

Alright. Enough of the emotional and maudlin. The point of this post is that I have found my friend, Chris. We are meeting Monday for lunch, and I have a strong feeling that I will be out of the office the rest of the afternoon. After all, we have fifteen years to catch up on. And the best part? Like Timmy, Chris is going to be back in my life to stay. And I believe Chris feels the same. It's funny, but today on the phone, he said, "I always knew we would cross paths again. It was just a matter of time."

Well, my friend, the time is now, and the times are good.

My friend Chris and I, in Korea


Chris and I with his friend Susan, outside of a train station in Korea.

Chris and I again in Korea


This is me with my friends Juliet and Chris, somewhere around my 21st birthday in Korea.

More SCUBA...

So last night was the written exam for the SCUBA class, and I am definitely glad that part is over. There were 50 questions, and it was comprehensive. It covered everything from hand signals to depth planning, decompression sickness to dive equipment, and buoyancy to ascending and descending procedures. Ric, Greg and I passed with no problem, and it is good to have that behind us. Now, I can focus on the two diving days this weekend.

Saturday, we are doing beach dives from La Jolla shores and Sunday we will be diving from the boat into the kelp beds. I am more worried about Saturday, since those are the skills qualification dives. Yikes. I just want to be through this part and on to the fun, completely recreational dives.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

And the cold continues...

It's Tuesday morning, and I woke up still feeling the effects of this stupid cold. If I can't shake it by Thursday evening, then I cannot get into the pool and complete the rest of my dive skills. And if that happens, then I am not going on my certification dives this weekend. Argh.
 
Time to overdose on the orange juice, zinc, and anything else I can think of to get better. I do not want to put this diving qual off. I want to finish with Ric and Greg, and be ready to start my recreational diving right away.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Time for the winter cold

Here I sit on a Sunday evening, trying to study my SCUBA class material and failing miserably. I am fighting a cold, and all I want to do is drink more Nyquil and go back to bed. I have to get better quickly, because I cannot dive if I am sick. And the last thing I want to do is put this certification off. I want to get to it and get it done. Argh. I hate being sick, and the timing is terrible.

Friday, January 20, 2006

SCUBA Classes - Back to the pool

Last night was the second night of our SCUBA class, and it was all pool time. We learned how to load our gear - tanks, buoyancy compensator device, weights, and regulator. Then it was into the pool to get used to wearing everything and being underwater. Wow. It really is such an unusual feeling. I know I am underwater, but I am still breathing. Definitely takes some getting used to. The weirdest part for me was taking my mask off underwater while continuing to breath through the regulator. The air bubbles kept going up my nose, and it took me a moment to relax and continue to breath. No big worry, but I will have to demonstrate that skill while in the ocean next weekend. Yikes.

We are back in the classroom next Tuesday, and in the pool Thursday. Not sure what other skills we will have to master, but it will definitely be interesting. Whatever it takes to get that PADI certification, so I can dive in Hawaii in May! Whoo-hoo!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

And on to something new...

After riding quads, off-roading in the jeep, rock climbing, white water rafting, and skydiving, what else can a guy do for fun? How about plunging into the ocean and exploring the depths? Yep, we are off on our new adventure. Tonight, Ric, Greg and I went to our first class for SCUBA certification. The classroom work I was ready for - mostly - but the pool swim qualifying was a surprise. We did ten laps in the pool, then floated for ten minutes. Not too bad, either one, but back-to-back and a surprise like that? Well, we all met the requirements, but I can see that there will need to be a LOT more aerobics and gym-time for me if I am going to pursue SCUBA. The last thing I want to do is spend the time and expend the effort to get out somewhere, only to crawl back into the boat early because I am worn out.
 
We go back on Thursday for a night of pool time - learning to work with the gear, adjust buoyancy, become comfortable with being and breathing underwater, etc. It should be fun, but the really cool part comes up on the 28th and 29th, when we go for our certification dives. Whoo-hoo!

The birthday weekend

As expected, the birthday weekend was fantastic! I can't imagine that anyone could possibly have a better set of friends. Andrea flew in from Atlanta, Tim and Nate were in from Phoenix, and my Mom flew in from Vidor, Texas. All of that is a lot of travel for a birthday celebration. Locally, friends joined me every day and night for the entire weekend. How great is that?
 
I could write pages and pages of stories from the weekend, but I do believe that a picture is worth a 1000 words. Check out the photos and see what I mean.

The Top of The Park, Friday evening


Mom, Tim and John are always ready for a photo, while Nate wonders why everyone else is so short.

Donna, Suz, Kitty and Mom, enjoying drinks on the rooftop.

Pictures from the Gulls' game Friday night


Mom and I posing with one serious Gulls' fan!

It's fun to sit so close you can look players right in the eyes when they smash into the glass!

Photos from Bowling on Saturday


Russ, Tim, Nate and Brooks

Ric, Trevor, John, Mom and Megan

Photos from Sunday's Gospel Drag Brunch


My table of background dancers were too much fun... as long as the mimosas kept coming!

After enough mimosas, everyone has a big smile.

Kitty was a trooper, joining me for almost every birthday event. Nancy and Millie were only there for the brunch, but we packed a lot of fun into those few hours!

Some people just really know how to wear silver.

Many of my friends had to travel to get to this party - Kenny from San Marcos, Julie from Point Loma, Nate from Phoenix, and Andrea from Atlanta.

If all else fails, you can always count on a cheesy smile!

How many women from Vidor, Texas, have been photographed with a draq queen named Cashmere? My guess... just my Mom.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Happy Birthday To Me!

It's 5:45am, and I am wide awake. It's my birthday, and I don't want to miss a single minute of it!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Birthday plans

The countdown continues... only one more day until my birthday. And since this birthday is on a Friday, I have planned an entire weekend of events:
  • Friday at 11am, birthday kickoff lunch at The Local
  • Friday at 2pm, Mom flies in from Houston
  • Friday at 2:30pm, cake at the office
  • Friday at 3pm, Nate and Tim fly in from Phoenix
  • Friday... sometime, Andrea flies in from Atlanta
  • Friday at 5pm, cocktails at Top of the Park
  • Friday at 7:30pm, ice hockey with the San Diego Gulls
  • Friday at 10:30pm, drinks and dancing at The Flame
  • Saturday at 9am, breakfast with Mom
  • Saturday at 12:30pm, bowling
  • Saturday at 5:30pm, Karaoke/Game Night at home
  • Sunday at 11am, Drag Gospel Brunch at Lips
  • Sunday at 2pm, barbeque at The Hole

I know that is a lot to do for one weekend, but why the heck not? if my friends are up to it, and want to help me spend the weekend celebrating, who am I to say no?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Saying Goodbye to Thirty-Eight

"Maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had, and what you've learned from them, and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated."

I don't know the author of this quote, but I certainly believe they were right. As I prepare to say goodbye to 38 and hello to 39, I look back on an incredible year of experiences. Over the past 12 months, I have seen and done so many things:

• dragged friends across state lines to celebrate my birthday
• brought 20 friends on a Temecu-Luau wine tour
• made my first trip to Glamis for quad riding
• saw the flowers bloom in Death Valley
• broke my first bone (my wrist... ouch!)
• graduated from college
• gave commencement speech to 10,000 people at Convention Center
• went skydiving (twice!)
• rafted the Kern River
• celebrated my 20th high school reunion
• been "found" by a long-lost favorite Marine buddy
• enjoyed San Diego harbor cruises
• rediscovered the joy of riding a bike
• reclaimed our backyard with a huge landscaping project
• discovered Eric Himan, an incredible singer/songwriter
• started blogging
• watched my Mother lose her home to a hurricane
• felt the strength of my friends as they rallied to support her
• started running 5k races
• spent Thanksgiving surrounded by family in Austin
• celebrated Ric's birthday in Vegas
• saw "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" (finally!)
• ice skated (twice!)
• attended my first professional football game
• bid farewell to new Marine buddies on their way to Iraq

It has been a very good year, indeed, and I thank all of my friends - old and new - that have made it what it was. I love you all, and I look forward to all that this next year has to hold.

Monday, January 9, 2006

A busy week, indeed

With the holidays now completely behind us, work is gearing back up. I am still woefully behind on two major projects, which means that this week will be incredibly busy for me and Ric. I am trying to do everything without putting in overtime, but it seems that my phone rings all day long. I end up putting out lots of fires, but not actually accomplishing any of my larger tasks. Ugh. Well, all I can do is try to stay focused today, delegate the nuisance tasks to Ric, and do what I can to get caught up. If nothing else, being busy will make the week fly by, right?

Saturday, January 7, 2006

Priorities

Each day I watch the news on television or read it on the internet, and each day I am more and more disappointed. No, that isn't enough. I am actually sickened by what I see... and what I don't see. This morning, for example, I can go to the CNN website and read about Ariel Sharon. That makes sense, because the man was a world leader and his illness will have world consequences. Additional news on the site, though, tells me that a shark killed a woman, Lindsay Lohan admits to drug use, and some unknown hip-hop artist assaulted a cop.

So what is missing? A flashy red banner that says "AP reports 38,000 people killed each month in Congo." If you know to look for the article, or you go to an international site like the London Free Press, you can find the details. Apparently, civil war in the country rages on, and these people are killed as a direct result of the fighting or, more commonly, dying from simple preventable diseases. There is no infrastructure in the country, so there is no healthcare. Nothing. If you cut yourself and it becomes infected, you are going to die. There are no doctors, no hospitals, and no medicine.

This is just the latest example of our news in this country turning itself into entertainment, instead of providing real-time, important information. While I feel for the families of the coal miners in West Virginia, I think the media completely turned that story into a spectacle. (Actually, I think the miners' families would agree.) Did we really need continual coverage, with reporters sticking microphones into every face that walked by asking, "how does it feel?" How the hell do you think it feels? Just tell me what is happening, without 24/7 coverage of breathy reporters trying to milk a tragic situation for everything they can.

And while the media's attention was focused exclusively on the coal miners, turning the lives of every worried and grieving family member and friend into a media circus, thousands more people died in the Congo. Remember? 38,000 people EVERY MONTH! But what do we care? They are "over there," wherever that may be. They are all black, poor, and indistinguishable from one another. They don't make good TV, and people won't sit and watch for hours if we keep showing them. Culture of Life? Yeah, right. Where are all the churches and pro-lifers when these people are dying? I'll tell you where they are. Too busy protesting an abortion clinic, fighting to keep gays from getting married, or worried about The Book of Daniel airing on NBC.

Should there be an afterlife, you can bet I will have plenty to answer for to God about the way I have lived my life. But I cannot imagine standing before God as a self-proclaimed born again Christian who ignored the suffering of the poor and imperiled among us. May God show them more mercy than they have shown their fellow human beings.

CNN's top stories

And the story that goes unnoticed

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Friends and Other Difficulties

As anyone who knows me will attest, I have become the King of Evites. If there is something fun going on in this town, everyone counts on me to organize a group to go and do it. Currently, I have Evites out for seven different events for my birthday, the play Beautiful Thing, a 5k at Sea World, a wine tour in Temecula, a Roman fresco exhibit at the Museum of Art, a road trip to Phoenix for Gay Pride, a 50 mile bike ride in Mexico, a Spring Fling barbeque, and the musical Wicked coming to San Diego in August. Whew. So, I have all of these events planned, and it really is a great deal of coordinating to make them happen successfully. So why this blog entry? What do I mean by Friends and Other Difficulties?

Because with any large group of friends, there is going to be conflict. Specifically, I have two friends who were married and are now divorced, both with new partners. They are both mature adults who do not seek each other out but are not awkward when they are in the same place like at my college graduation last summer. But they have partners who have their own issues with the ex-spouses, so I always have to balance my invitations. If I invite her, I dont invite him, and vice-versa.

Another set of friends are now definitely NOT friends, after one betrayed the other. I understand that one friend made a huge mistake and really hurt the other one, but I also realize it is not about me. It is between them, and I am trying to stay out of it. But the same conflict arises when I am planning events. I would like both friends to be there, but they wont go for it.

The Dear Abby solution, of course, is to just invite everyone I want and leave it to each person to decide to come or not. And while that sounds good in theory, the reality is that both sides of any conflict would opt to not come, leaving me without any of them at the gatherings and events I organize.

This is a constant source of frustration for me, in that I cannot find a way to resolve the issues between my friends and I constantly feel like I am in the middle. To be fair, my friends do not actively make me choose or mediate, but I am stuck, nonetheless. Harumph.

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Ringing in the New Year

So it's now Tuesday morning, nearly 5:00am, and I am wide awake. It's been a long weekend with very little sleep, so it was good to be in bed last night at a decent hour. Friends from Arizona came over this weekend to help ring in the New Year, and I think we did it all up right. Friday night we started at The Flame, where Buck made sure we were all having a great time. So great, in fact, that Kurt overslept and ended up missing his plane to Hawaii. (Not that I didn't try to get him there on time... but my little car could only go so fast!)
 
Saturday, we headed down to the stadium for the Charger/Broncos game. The Chargers lost, and it rained like crazy the second half, but we didn't care. The food was yummy, there was plenty to snack on, and it was fun just hanging out in a parking lot jammed with other fans. AJ remarked that it was totally an American thing, because in Britain the opposing team fans could never be allowed to party so close to each other. I guess soccer hooligans can only sit with their own team fans, or they end up beating each other up. Go figure.
 
New Year's Eve was fairly uneventful. Everyone stayed home and watched The Interpreter, while Ric, Grant and Kurt went to The Eagle. I drove back down to ring in midnight with a champagne toast, but that was enough for me. Sunday, though, was a different story. I did make it to Balboa Park to run a 5k, then joined everyone at Hamburger Mary's for brunch. The champagne kept on coming, and we didn't leave until after 1:00pm. Believe me, three hours of a champagne brunch is plenty. From there, it was off to the Hotel Del Coronado for ice skating. The rink was wet and slippery - much more so than our skating earlier at Horton Plaza - but it was an adventure and we had a great time. From there, we went to Little Club, Ye Ould Sod, and Lou Jones Inn. (Yep, nothing but the classiest places for my friends.)
 
Monday morning we headed to Brians' for breakfast, then to Best Buy for some post-Christmas shopping. I finally got a new car stereo (whoo-hoo!), so no more crappy stock model for me. After that, we came home and lounged around, watching TV and enjoying the fire. I took everyone to the airport around 6:30, then Brooks came by for a bit after that. Once again, we managed to cram way more into a single weekend than should be humanly possible.
 
Here's to a great 2006!

Ice Skating... Again!


Ice skating? On the beach? You bet. Here we are outside the Hotel Del Coronado, ice skating along the sand and the surf. Only in San Diego...

At the Chargers game, New Year's Eve


The always spirited Sonya, trying to rally her Chargers to victory. Alas, the Broncos beat San Diego. It was great fun going to the game, though.

As always, Ric is a good sport willing to do anything for a great picture. And notice how high we are sitting? I think we all had vertigo from the altitude!

Toasting at The Flame


The night before New Year's Eve, and we are already enjoying a champagne toast.