“We’re meant to lose the people and things we love.
How else would we know how important they are to us?”
-Eric Roth

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It is because we never know precisely when life will be taken away from us, that I feel that we are all on borrowed time. Every once in awhile, we should learn to take a step back from the insanity of work, and truly appreciate the gift of time.

 

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We should stop and take in beautiful colors of the sunset.

 

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Kiss our loved ones a little bit longer.

 

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Hold them a little bit tighter.

 

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Howl and bark at the moon as if every day is your last.

 

A buddy of mine in Portland found out that Bear, his beloved dog, has cancer. The prognosis was bleak and I did not even know if I was even going to make it up in time to capture some photos. As luck –or fate– would have it, Bear is still fighting the good fight. Some days are better than others, but the good news is, he’s still walking, eating, drinking, and sniffing other dog’s tush’s.

I had the honor of hanging out with them for a short while. I do not have a pet myself, but I have dealt with love and loss by this awful disease, and there are lot of parallels. So I can truly empathize. We do not want your loved ones to suffer, but the selfish side of us wishes they could be here forever. The reality of it is:

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Some days, your body is just so tired you just want to do nothing.

 

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Some days are filled with sadness.

 

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And some just full of love, hope, and smiles.

 

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I look into Bears eyes, and he seems a little tired. He doesn’t quite know what is going on with his body, but he knows something is very wrong. The medicine and the drugs probably hurt or make him feel very ill at times. But he wants to hang around to play with his friend Henry just for a a bit longer.

 

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Bear still smiles, hangs around, eats normally and goes about his routine. But I do get the sense that there is an implicit understanding between the two of them. It is as if they know the bond they share will be for an eternity, but Henry knows Bear’s health is giving out and he can’t be there with his friend forever. I think to some degree, Bear knows it too.

Having a pet seems a lot like raising a child. You train them, they grow up with you. They are there for you through good days and bad. You clean after them and feed them, but in return, they provide you with unconditional love, and provide comfort and affection. They don’t care if you are rich or poor. They don’t care what car you drive, they won’t argue with you or leave you.

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I got to experience Bear’s warmth and innocence. Watching the two of them interact with one another, I witnessed that unbreakable bond between dog and man.

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We went for a stroll around the neighborhood. Bear loves to sniff the flowers, the rocks, the trees. In true Portland fashion, he loves nature.

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I felt a bit sad as I pet Bear’s head one final time before leaving. I knew it was probably the last time I would see him. He probably just thinks I’m the strange little Asian guy that followed him on his walk today and wonders why I keep on pointing this odd black clicking device at him.

 

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Bear, I don’t know how many walks you have left in you. How many more times you will feel the pitter patter of rain splashing around your paws. How many other interesting butts you will smell,

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or rocks you would uncover. But I do know that Henry will walk with you until the very end of him. And until the very end of you.

And when you are gone, and my memories begin to fade, these photographs will be here to help me remember this walk we had in the rain. And in the 30 minutes I have spent with you Bear, you have reminded me to love life:

 

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To not take things too seriously sometimes.

 

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To smile more often.

 

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To be aggressive and fight for the things I believe in.

 

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To always lend a hand to helpless old Jewish ladies crossing the street.

 

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Hang in there buddy. Both of you.

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When my wife first informed me that I was attending this event, I was intrigued. There are just a handful of fried chicken establishments in Southern California. The most notable ones are: the ubiquitous KFC, and the more delicious (In my opinion) albeit found only in gentrified neighborhoods, “Popeyes Chicken”. Church’s chicken is also available to us, though I see less and less of them these days. I don’t think I can leave out Roscoe’s Chicken Waffles, but I have not been there for 15 years, so I can’t even use that as a basis of comparison.

With that said, the event is $55 dollars a person. A portion of the proceeds (Yes, I love it when they never specify and only state portion) goes to My Friend’s place, a charitable organization helping the youths of Los Angeles.

We began at “Handsom Coffee Roasters” nearby and had some tasty expresso while we waited for the event to begin. I noticed there was Dr. Doom graffiti art across the street and insisted I had my photo taken there. It was quite apropos, considering we are about to embark on a journey that has doomed many a chicken. Bruhahahha!
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We lined up for the event, which opened their doors to non VIP Ticket holders at 16:00PST. Food was all inclusive, including alcohol. As such, they did prerequisite ID checks.

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Note for $90 USD you can get the V.I.P tickets which allow you to get in an hour earlier, have a special area to sit in, and get the nationally renowned bartender Matthew Biancaniello to serve you this concotion: (Yes that is a chicken’s foot)

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Now onto the food!

Ricardo Zarate: Mo-chica, Paiche + Picca
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This glorified fried chicken ball over a bed of cabbage can be broken down to two distinct areas. The green sauce, and everything else. The sauce was very flavorful, it was a bit tangy with hints of spices that went very well with the chicken ball. However, the chicken ball itself was soft, but not very flavorful at all. Without the sauce, it tastes a little bit like the soft meatballs you get at IKEA. Bland, soft and squishy in texture. The sauce is ultimately what saved it, but in general, sauce should augment a dish. Not carry it. Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? YES



Matt Poley Heirloom LA
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The chicken pieces here were a bit dry. The skin, though fried did not have much flavor. The accompanying potato salad I thought was pretty decent, however overall, it was very forgettable.
Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? YES



Daniel Mattern & Roxana Jullapat Cooks County
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We were initially very excited when we saw this. What would best be described as petite, fried chicken sliders with a pickle on top. It looked delicious! However, once we bit into them, our enthusiasm faded, along with taste of the sliders. What was destined to be a cornucopia of flavors, bursting in our mouths with every bite, ended up being a dry, bland experience. The good news is, it is definitely not forgettable. Chrissie wanted to take the bread off and go for the chicken, then eventually tossed it. I find it hard to waste food so I forced myself to finish it. There were two issues with this one. The bread that was used was very dry, and not soft. Take away the bread and you are left with flavorless fried chicken.
Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? Heck Yes!



David LeFevre: Fishing With Dynamite + M.B. Post
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This Truffle Honey Laced Fried Chicken with Lime Cilantro dish was quite delicious. They were the only ones there that gave us a combination of dark and white meets, fried and splattered with a delicious honey sauce. The meat was soft, and flavorful. The problem with the sweet chicken is they can’t be consumed en mass. Generally, after 2 to three pieces, you start to get tired of it. So far this one was quite decent.
Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? Maybe



Break!
We decided to go inside to take a break, and to cleanse our palates with refreshments. These guys at Bierkast had two drinks: Ketsara (Thai Tea Soda), and Ginger Citrus Soda. The Ginger was ok, but the Thai Tea Soda, was fantastic and amazing, all rolled into one. It was refreshing, not too sweet, and overall just brilliantly brewed. Unfortunately they are currently looking for a distributor, so it is somewhat of a Unicorn drink. Meaning, we spotted it once, and it is highly improbable that we will find it again. However, the discovery was quite worth the hour drive up to L.A. Yes, it was that good.

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We moved on to beer! It must be noted that I am very upset with these people. They made me commit a cardinal sin, “Thou shalt not waste alcohol”. Despite being very cold beer, the temperature did not save us from the assault on our senses. Going down, there was this bitter, unpleasing taste. Then two seconds later, the after taste hits you like a freight train. We both agreed, that this beer had to disappear, and we had to do it to not offend anyone. So we walked outside and I quietly buried it in the trash bins. Firestone, we thank you for your efforts and donation to the community.

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After the awful beer experience, we wandered outside for round two of the Chicken Feast.



Susan Feniger: Street : chicken, Bacon & Waffle Croquette With a Spicy Maple Sauce
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I’m going to ignore the fact that Susan Feniger is a TV personality. After all, in my opinion, art, much like food, should be judged based on what you do, and not who you are. That aside, I was very pleased that she was serving food and just being out there with us lowly lumpenproletariats.

The dish was very good. It hinted of waffles, and the cucumber and hikama salad went very well with the main dish. The skin was crispy and the contents within were moist and flavorful. It was one of Chrissie’s favorite dishes at the event.
Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? No



Jason Neroni: Superba Snack Bar
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This Fried Chicken with Red Wine Glaze, Pickled Chilies, and parmesan with Kentucky style Bacon Slaw looks quite wonderful on paper. The presentation is wonderful and appetizing. Here’s what I think is wrong with it. When you first bite into it, you think you just got robbed. Where are the spices that was promised? Were they just there for decoration?! What does this taste so bland? After a few bites, you start to get a little annoyed. Then, just as you are about to give up, a hint of spices start to trickle, then stream into your mouth. But by then, I fear it may be too late. Mentally, I had already given up on it. I think however, this is one dish I wouldn’t mind giving a second chance.
Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? Maybe



Chris Oh: Seoul Sausage
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This boils down to sweet and sour chicken wings. The sweetness over powers the wing and ensures you would only want to eat just one wing before moving on to the next booth. I think this would taste decent if it had a lot of rice, to offset the flavors. But I think that would undermine the spirit of chicken wings, which is to consume as much as possible in one sitting while sipping on beer and watching a game. That should be the mission statement of all chicken wings out there, and sadly, this one fails masterfully at it. It would be closer to home in a restaurant, eaten slowly during dinnertime, along with Orange Chicken, because that is pretty much what it tastes like. Just one notch above Orange chicken except pesky bones to slow you down.

Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? Yes



Bryant Ng: The Spice Table
Prawn Paste Fried Chicken Chinese Honey Mustard with Spicy Baked Beans

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This was a decent entry, it tasted like curry chicken. The beans did not pair well with the chicken at all, but over all if you had a hankering for flavored chicken, this may hit the spot. This is an average dish, with just enough flavor and spices to keep you interested, but not enough to have anything much to write about it.
Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? Yes



Eduardo Ruiz Corazon y Miel
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This is a dry rubbed fried chicken with chorizo, preserved mushrooms, barley, lemon creme fraiche. Sounds very fancy, but I will have to put this as the worst chicken item there. Next to the mini chicken sliders, except the sliders, given plenty of beer, I would eat again. The creamy/mushroom flavor does not go well at all. When I first bit into it, I thought I accidentally bit into a large chunk of fat. It left a very discernible awful taste in my mouth. Going with my life’s motto of “You gotta try everything once, maybe twice”, I mustered up the courage to take another few more bites. It was not better the second time around, in fact I think it made it worse. I can best describe it as biting into sludgy lard.
Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? Very much Yes



Ernesto Uchimura: Plan Check Bar
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This is one of the best dishes during the festival. Spicy and smokey fried chicken, a hint of jalepenos with sweet corn pudding. The chicken was soft, moist, had an explosion of flavors and spices, and the sauce helped it along and worked with the chicken. It was one of the best pairings there. The corn pudding helped balance out the spice, and it was one of the few chickens we scarfed down to the bone with no remorse.
Would I rather go to Popeyes Chicken? No



Inside the second tent, we stumbled upon much Better Alcohol! I’m the first to admit I’m not a huge tequila fan, but this stuff was not bad!
This mixed drink,dubbed ‘Zapatos Nuevos’ was pretty tasty. It comprised of Milagro, with watermelon, lime and basil. They were very generous with the amount of tequila and I think we will definitely be buying from them in the future.
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The second most notable item for this event was the fabulous McConnell’s Ice Cream. I had never heard of them until today. The ice cream tasted home made, and very delicious. It wasn’t too sweet, but it was very creamy, and you could just tell the ingredients used were top notch. I can say, hands down, this stuff is way better than any hagaan daas, or other ice creams out there. The closest thing that can touch them was this old ice cream shop that used to be in my neighborhood back in the day called Haans Homemade ice cream on Bristol Street in Santa Ana, which essentially made hand made ice cream right there.

I watched this documentary, and I thought it would be interesting, but what was just a peek into the rabbit hole ended up being a roller coaster of emotions. The basic premise is these inmates, some doing various crimes, regardless of the circumstances, are all serving life or very long sentences. The warden started a program where volunteers who qualify can help care for other inmates serving life in the prison hospice. So in serving them, they find redemption, and change, in themselves, and it was very touching. It made everyone realize that family, and those bonds are very important, and if they had the care that they had and the love that they had in their last days on Earth, as they did growing up, maybe half of the people in prison wouldn’t have committed their crimes.

The volunteers do not know what the people they are taken care of are in for. It isn’t for people to judge. When you meet your maker, or make you lonely journey into the void, you make it alone. Doesn’t matter who you are or what you did, we all have to go sometime. The most touching I think was the two brothers. The younger brother following the older one always, and they each got into trouble, both doing time. The younger one, who know’s he is dying implores his older one to make a change. Just open up his heart and make a change, and it’s tough to see these large grown men break down and cry. But I watched these people take care of each other, and I was reminded of when we were taking care of my dad. The water swabs to keep the mouth dry, the potential bed sores. It all brought back a lot of memories, and I think three years after his passing, I thought I could handle it. Turns out, I was partially right. It did make me want to volunteer more though and give back. I remember the mantra growing up in high school during our volunteer days. “Make a Difference”. I think back then we did it to earn credit and get recognition to pad our resumes to get into college. It is not until later that you really want to do it for altruistic reasons. And as it turns out, regardless of who you are or what you’ve done, it’s never to late to help others, and make a change.

It is a good documentary, and if you are up for some good old fashioned depressing, yet hopeful exploration of the human spirit, then it would be something I recommend.

So we buried my grandfather in law Miguel Solis today. It was a beautiful ceremony, and I was a pal bearer for one section, and was also the photographer.  It is definitely not the first funeral I’ve photographed.  Sadly it is one of a few, but this one I think because in some respects, I emphasized  greatly with losing a father.   And during the course of the day, watching people break down in tears almost had breaking down as well.

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During the course of this shoot, I’ve wondered how photographers during war can distance themselves from the events they see before them.  Sometimes, I think having a camera in front of me at all times helps shield and distances me from what is going on, but clearly that is just a false sense of security.   The most touching thing I saw was one of Miguel’s best bud.  He is an older gentleman, and can barely stand up straight.  I know today, I’m sure he struggled to put on his best clothes, and went to say good by to his good friend.   I’ve captured his friend below, pushing the casket out of the church.

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It made me so happy and sad, as I hope my friends would do the same for me one day.  And how lucky they were to be best buds.  It’ s not often you find them, and at their ages, I’m sure they lose a lot of friends and it just gets harder, and more lonesome as the years go on.  That was the first moment I nearly lost my composure.

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Another instance was when one of the members of the band held on the the casket. I did not know that they knew each other, but the loving expression on his face told me otherwise. My photographer’s instinct kicked in, and I knew there was a moment that needed to be captured. Another random thought crept in my head. I’m actually actively scanning and seeking powerful, emotional, or poignant moments to capture. And I felt a little exploitive.

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Again, my thoughts went back to what it must be like to be a journalist or a photographer in third world countries or extreme places. You just can’t help but be attached somehow emotionally, and the moment you stop. What then? What would it mean? Just another job? Carry on?

Another moment I thought was touching were these two brothers. I know I have my disagreements with my own brother and no family is perfect. So when I see two brothers hanging out or doing things together, I would be remiss if I didn’t think of my own brother, and how cool it would be to have such a relationship.

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I’ve spoken and hung out with Grandpa Miguel every Christmas Eve for the past 5 years now, and I think it is a tradition that I will be sad to see go. Rest in peace Miguel. Until we meet again.

I don’t think I’ve been this excited about a camera since I bought the 1D Mark III a few years back. At the time it was pretty revolutionary, 10FPS, dual processors, the whole works. Up to that point the 1Ds Mark II’s and III’s were way out of my price range. At about $6,000.00 to $8,000.00 (for the 1DsIII) it was way out of my price range.
Finally about 2 years ago, the 1DsII’s price dropped to the point where mere mortals like myself could afford one, so I’ve been shooting with dual combo of 1DIII for speed and high ISO, and 1DsII for slower, more portrait type shots.

The big problem with the 1DsII was the battery system. It still used NiMH and battery accuracy was pretty weak, so I would always carry 3 or more expensive battery packs to a shoot. That gets old pretty fast if you’re doing larger events and have to lug around more heavy equipment.

Also, the safe ISO range I would feel comfortable shooting with the 1DsII was about 800-1000, and if I felt lucky..I would go 1200.

With the 1DsIII, I can now go higher without much fear, and the battery systems are now in sync. I know, at the cost of a 1DsIII, one could easily pick up a 5Dii or even a 5DIII. But I think I’m accustomed to the size, build, and quality of the EOS bodies. I used to own two 5D classics, and they were good, but it wasn’t the same. Yes, the newer 5D’s now can have ridiculous ISO’s and do video, and have faster UDMA card speeds, but I think the 1Ds was just still always the dream camera that I had always wanted but was never able to afford. Now that I have one, I guess one could say I somewhat feel accomplished. I’m glad I’m in a position to even be able to afford it now, despite being 5 year old tech. It’s still ground breaking tech. Heck, even my old 8.2MP 1DII can hang with the best of them today, so I have no problem using older tech. It’s not the tools, it’s the carpenter =)

Been awhile since I got out and did a photoshoot with adults. Figured I’d get back into the game, and make sure I still can pull it off. It’s a slightly different ballgame, and I think I need to work on working in groups of 2 and three people. They’re still a bit difficult coming up with poses, etc. I still am not a big fan of strobe lighting, so all these were done with natural light. I brought a flash to mitigate shadows, but ended up getting flustered and it hindered me more than it helped, so I ditched it pretty quickly.

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Wife made me cook so I thought it would be fun to make a video on using the Vitamix to make fried Cauliflower Tater Tots. Yes, I was a skeptic too, but once the rich, creamy fried goodness entered my mouth (Sprinkled with salt of course), I have been converted. Do not get me wrong, nothing can replace the yummy original tater tots, but I never really liked cauliflower to begin with, so this was a good opportunity to try something new!

The video was done with a slider, a 35mm lens, and a tripod, but I found hand held gave me more versatility. It was just a pain to mitigate shake. It was also good practice for me because I think for close up subjects, I’m getting a little better at pulling focus. It also took about 5hrs to go from trimming, editing, and the final product, which is waay too long. (Most of the time was finding a suitable creative commons video track), but if I am to make this a viable hobby that tries to make a little cash here and there, I need to be more efficient at it.

It’s been a long while since I posted here. Figured I now have something worthy to post.

Behind the scene footage of a photoshoot I did today. warning slightly NSFW.

This took an obscene amount of time to post process. I’ve decided the two most overlooked, complicated, and under-appreciated tasks when making any short movie (or real film for that matter) are: color grading, and text/credits. They took a long while to do and to sync up. Don’t even get me started on syncing up the music! All in all, it was a great learning experience. Next time, I will try to avoid hand held if at all possible. It just ruins a lot of shots for me being so shaky. As for color grading, depending on the lighting and scene, it was hard to get everything uniform. Which makes it difficult so I had to adjust exposure during post process. Now I know why there are giant budgets to shield against light during shoots. As far as the camera is concerned, I’m allowed to only shoot at 1/30 of a second for a 30fps video. At 60FPS, I can go 1/60. If anyone one is familiar with photography, you’ll know during the daylight, that’s pretty much instant overexposure, so I shoot with a lot of ND filters (sunglasses for my lenses) to make things darker.

That limits my post processing options. I don’t have the skills to do all that movie magic and edit/composite things, so all I have during post are color grading and cropping. Which makes it essentially to nail real exposure and focus during the shoot. Since everything is so compressed, you don’t have much latitude in terms of exposure. Don’t even get me started on focusing. I still have a hard time determining which direction to move the focus when the subject is near or far. Though I’d reckon over time it will become second nature. But that’s why I like it. It’s new, and I find it a bit more challenging than photography.

Another thing I need to improve is during sliding sequences, I need to go much slower if possible. And this is the easy stuff! There was no actual speaking/audio parts in this behind the scenes short! i can only imagine how painful that is to sync up. But I’m glad I went out and did it. Got to meet talented local people around my area who love what they do, and do it for the joy of it.

I have a few future video projects I have in mind. But all in all, I’m still a complete beginner at this. Making things up as I go along basically. There was no planning to any of these shots. It was all rather spontaneous, and I just looked through all the footage to see what was usable, and slowly chiseled it down to it’s current form. Even that took a ridiculous amount of time, and after the first cut I made one more edit to tighten it up and clean it some. I think it was a good attempt, since it’s been so long since I’ve done any video work.

So far, I think I should stick to what I do best, which is photography! But I shall not be deterred, video is merely an extension of photography.

The bank finally sent me papers, so I’m looking at approximately 100 days left at my current residence.  I think it was a wake up call, so I started to purge, throwing away non essentials.  I discovered a loot of interesting things, fossils by today’s standards.  Old Iomega zip drives, floppy and 3.5 inch disks.  cassette tapes!  It was awesome, and I went through boxes of letters from people that used to be really important in my life.  I wasn’t able to let go then, but I realize now, there are things that I hold so dear to me, I simply can’t let go…refuse to let go.  I ran across my dad’s signature, photos of high school friends, tons of letters and notes.  They all made me smile.  And After I sifted through the items, I packed them carefully back into a box, and hope to take my journey again in another 10 years.  

It’s just so interesting that things that used to hurt, and tear me up inside not don’t even hurt at all.  I guess it is true, time does heal all wounds.  I’m still waiting for it to heal the big hole in me when my dad passed, as I did sob like a little boy in my office during his birthday.  Maybe in 5 to 10 years, I’ll be all better.

My wife got me KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) today for dinner, and I was munching on it alone in the kitchen and just had a random thought of my dad that totally brought a smile to my face. We grew up pretty poor, and I remember I liked KFC back as a kid, so as treats sometimes, my dad would drive me there, and we would share a three piece dinner meal. We’d just sit in the car, and he would watch me much away on my cole slaw, mashed potatoes, and yummy three pieces of chicken (This was back in the day when a three piece meal was actually large vs the pitiful portions they give now). But I just realized now as an adult, he didn’t share it with my brother, we didn’t bring any home….he used what money he had and got me the KFC. And that brought a smile to my face.

Le family Redux 1980

As you rocket towards life, you sometimes don’t spot the little details along the way that shape and build up the character, and the person you are now.

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