Remember to Never Forget

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Fifteen years ago today I woke up to the sound of the today show, sitting in bed drinking coffee with my then Fiancé Stephani. I remember watching them break away from their current story to lower Manhattan where a fire was reported at the World Trade Center, and minutes later we saw a second plane fly into the building.  We sat there in utter disbelief at what we were seeing.

All I wanted at that moment was to hug Stephani and keep the frightening World from coming into our home. Every day from that moment on would be a blessing for us. We have our lives, nobody can hurt us, can they? Could they hurt us? Why do they want to hurt us?  We did not understand.

I had lost my job a few months before this, laid off as the tech sector underwent a tumultuous time. Things were bad. I couldn’t find work, I was depressed, and now this. Whatever this is, I wasn’t sure. But I remember staying glued to the television for most of the day hypnotized by the footage of the twin towers burning. Our country was under attack, things would never be the same.

I remember the images of people hanging out of the windows in the building, some were starting to jump out and fall to the ground. I remember thinking what an awful death. The desperation. Those firemen and first responders running into the building not knowing it was about to come down on top of them. All of those families losing their loved ones all at the same time. The magnitude of the attack was incomprehensible.

In the afternoon I had an appointment to meet in Anaheim with a woman I did business with in my prior job. It was an interview to see if we could work together on a contractor basis from what I recall.  I remember getting dressed for the interview and not wanting to go, but forced myself to drive to Anaheim.  When I arrived for the interview, both of us were very preoccupied with the events taking place on on the east coast and decided to reschedule the meeting. I had this overwhelming desire to be at home in my condo watching what was happening.

I’ve never really understood why some people hate America so much. This country has given me a rich life of experiences and opportunities. Why would someone want to destroy that? I still can’t wrap my head around it. I know it had a lot to do with military bases in Saudi Arabia and politics. I just have never been able to understand why they hate us enough to take their own lives and the lives of innocent passengers.

About a month after September 11th Stephani and I got married. It was a wonderful day. Our friend Andy played the bagpipes for us. Andy passed away a few years ago. My Mother couldn’t make it to the wedding, we were so sad she missed it, and now she has gone too. We are all going to be gone some day. We must make the most of our lives, fill them with rich joyous experiences, because we only have so much time here. We should never live in fear because doing so would mean that those who wish to terrorize us have won. I am so lucky to live in a country where I can work and enjoy life.

Fifteen years later I have a better understanding of why the attacks happened. But the World is a sadder place. We are safer sure, but the fighting rages on around the World. On September 11, 2001 we were one country, one people, but I can’t say that today with the bitter political divisions as we head into election season, one candidate running on fear tactics and the other representing the status quo.   I can only hope for better days and peace as we remember those lost. I am sure they would want us to hope for peace.

 

What I would tell my 25 year old self

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Well it’s April 27th, my Birthday. I’m sitting in the kitchen having a coffee, flipping through Facebook smiling. It’s been a hectic few months at work, and there’s been health trouble for my Mum in Belfast. But other than that, life is great.

When I was 25 I was a very worried guy. I worried about everything. Whether I would be able to pay my bills, if I would find a good job, if I would become famous and if I would ever find love.  It was all one big ball of worry.  When I was in elementary school, one of my   Teachers noted on my report card “Gary is a worrier”.  He must have been in tune with what was bothering me, worry has been at the root of my being ever since I was a child.

As a grown man I can see the error of my ways. Worry will get you nowhere. At 25 I had been in the United States for 8 years. I had just got my green card, and my first “real” job as a van driver for Inacomp.  I was in a band and would write songs in my spare time. Listening to those songs today I cringe, because the worry came out in my writing. I was 25 in a new country with nothing but opportunity before me, yet my mind was preoccupied with worry.

If I could take a trip in time back to my 25 year old self I would look him in the eyes and promise him that life will turn out just fine.  To stop worrying about things. Stop taking everything so seriously. I would tell him to insist on better healthcare for that ear infection and save that hearing in the left ear.

At work I fumbled through life fueled by worry.  I’d tell my 25 year old self about the joy of sitting still, and the joy of taking a walk and looking after one’s self. I’d tell him that rejection will happen, some people will fall out of love with you, but there will be moments of clarity down the road when it will all make sense, and your best friend will be sitting on a park bench right next to you.

It’s a happy birthday indeed. I am a man who is finally becoming self aware. I know where this worry came from, it’s in my DNA, it’s how I was wired. But I am learning to accept it and live a life of purpose, seeking work that challenges me and new friends who understand me.

Face to Face with a Victim of Gun Violence

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Source: Bigpromoter, Pixabay

As we normally do on Sunday afternoon, Stephani and I stopped in to our local grocery store to pick up some food and supplies for the week. As we were checking out I could hear Stephani strike up a conversation with Maureen our checker. I’ve seen Maureen before, a quiet, kind woman. Today she seemed a little sad.

Not hearing everything they were conversing over above the background noise I moved the items from the shopping cart onto the moving conveyor, tossing our canvas bags on top and putting up the next divider for the person behind us.

Maureen was talking about an item the last customer bought. She mentioned “Seal Beach” and on today’s copy of the daily paper, the Orange County Register, the cover featured a courtroom image of Scott Dekraai. Scott was a former tug boat captain who in 2007 gunned down his ex-wife and seven other people at the Salon Meritage in Seal Beach. It was the worst mass shooting in Orange County history. Dekraai went to Salon Meritage looking for and targeting his ex-wife Michele Fornier, Maureen’s sister. Today, in addition to scanning cans of peas, pasta, fruit, bread, beer and whatever else Huntington Beach had on the shopping list, Maureen was scanning copies of the Orange County Register featuring the face of her sister’s killer.

I am not sure if she had any alternative to working today, but if I were her boss, I would have gladly given her the day off.

We told her we remembered that awful day as if it was yesterday. It was horrible. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have lived through that experience, losing your sister to a monster like that. Just terrible.

It made me remember that each one of us is fighting our own very personal sadness each and every day. For Maureen, it is trying to get over the loss of her sister, greeting customers with a smile as they wait in line, consumed with their own lives, thumbing their mobile phones, missing out on an opportunity to cheer up perhaps the saddest person in the room, the person right in front of them.

Crowdfunding Effort Draws Foo Fighters to Cesena, Italy

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rockin1000

Work ethic, passion and creativity creates the perfect viral storm for Italian rock fans.

To call Fabio Zaffagnini a fan of the Foo Fighters would be a huge understatement. I would say he’s their biggest fan because this week social media blew up over a video he created powered by a movement of Italian rockers and a crowdfunding campaign –Rockin 1000 with a goal of assembling 1000 musicians to play “Learn To Fly” and personally invite Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters to play a concert in Cesena, Italy.

In the video we can see a massive band consisting of drummers’ bass players’ guitarists’ and singers,  1000 in all who convened on an Italian field in May of 2014 with two goals, 1) break the Guinness World Record for the number of people on a single stage, and 2) make a personal plea to the Foo Fighters.

When I watched the video this morning I found it strangely moving. Being a musician myself and also a fan of the Foo Fighters I found myself becoming moved to tears by the conviction and passion displayed by the Italians. I can only imagine what Dave Grohl and the rest of his band thought of this creative achievement.

Work Ethic

Let’s talk about Dave Grohl’s work ethic for a second. A few months ago he fell off stage in Gothenburg, Sweden and broke his leg. He was temporarily hospitalized while the audience in the stadium waited for word on his condition. Rather than taking a powder, Grohl asked his roadies to set up a chair and support his leg which was by then in a cast so he could continue the show and finish the performance for the fans. What does that tell you about work ethic? It not only speaks volumes for his love of rock ‘n roll, but also his dedication to Foo Fighters fans, it also says a lot about his professionalism in finishing what he started. I’ve long admired Dave Grohl for his work ethic, he really does work hard at his craft, and he truly lives the dream.

But while we are talking about Dave Grohl’s work ethic we can’t ignore the tremendous commitment and organization it took to pull off this social media spectacle. The crowdfunding campaign raised over €44,000. It was filmed professionally and edited for maximum impact, every detail including crowd volume control was planned out, you’ll notice in the video at the end how Fabio Zaffagnini can speak while the crowd listens in perfect silence while he makes his appeal directly to the band. Try doing that with thousands of people in an open field. Not easy.

High Production Value

The logistics for this video were amazing. For one, how do 1000 musicians keep perfect time? In the video you can see the conductor but immediately below him on the riser you can see lights pulsing to the beat of the song so all could play in perfect time. Most of the musicians have microphones and real instruments plugged in, it must’ve sounded awesome. A drone took spectacular aerial footage, GoPro cameras were mounted in front of the conductor and in several vantage points. And the close-ups of the crowd having the time of their lives brought the whole thing to life. It was authentic and real, and it was AWESOME.

The Response and Pay Off

Word of the video spread fast. It was published two days ago on July 30th and has already received over 12 million views on YouTube alone. It wasn’t long before Dave Grohl himself sat down with his phone to record a short statement for Rockin 1000 and the people of Cesena, Italy.

 

Hello Cesena. It’s David. Hi.

I am sorry I don’t speak Italian, just a bit, a bit.

This video, was good! Super nice. Thank you so much.

We’re coming, I swear. We’ll see each other soon.

Thank you so much. I love you.

Ciao.

The world of crowdfunding is making amazing things happen around the world. New products are being developed, breakthroughs in science are happening, creative endeavors like this one are becoming a reality, dreams are coming true. Fabio Zaffagnini made his dream come true through crowdfunding and the Internet. These are amazing times my friends.

Testing something out

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I’ve been playing around with Slate, a new iPad app from Adobe.  Here we test to see whether I can take a story I created and published on their platform, and embed it into my blog.

My Story

Rainy Sunday Clouds

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So it has been raining here off and on, chilly too, and with the rain comes some big gray puffy clouds, so I headed to a spot nearby to capture some of this in a time lapse video.

I am using a Cinetics AXIS360 Pro glide track, which triggers a photograph every couple of seconds. I let it run for about 15 minutes to generate about 16 or 17 seconds of very puffy clouds. After I was done I simply imported the images to Adobe Premiere as a sequence and mixed the footage with some other clips shot on the iPhone.   The rain shut me down early unfortunately, so I retreated to a nearby cafe.

 

Random Woman Met Adele and Never Saw The Photo

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My wife and I were lucky enough to see Adele the first time she came to America, shortly after her first album “19” came out. The show was at the Roxy on May 21st, 2008, it was awesome. Adele wasn’t very well known at that time, but word was spreading fast.

Anyhow, we stayed after the show and met Adele, who was delightful and real. When I spoke to her I told her she would win a Grammy for “19”, to that she exclaimed “Oh stop!”  There was a girl there who had us take a photo with Adele. I suppose she never had a camera. Anyhow, I’ll post it here in the off chance she is still Googling the “Adele Show at the Roxy from May 21st 2008” looking for that image. Without further ado.

Adele with Fan at Roxy May, 2008

Adele with unknown fan at the Roxy May, 2008, Los Angeles, CA

 

Huntington Beach Time Lapse

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Some footage shot at Huntington Beach Pier using a Cinetics AXIS360 Pro glide track. This was my first successful shoot at the pier, the previous day I tried to get the scenes recorded, but the settings on the Canon camera were not correct.  I like the Cinetics AXIS360 kit, it breaks down and can be carried in a rucksack.

The video contains some other shots which were taken in black and white to contrast the colorful scene at the pier, where thousands of visitors strolled to pier’s end where Ruby’s Diner is located.

Love Thy Neighbor

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It’s been a peaceful Thanksgiving. We had dinner with the family. Festivities included arranging our nieces and nephews to recreate a famous family snapshot in the front of my in-laws house. As is normal with me lately I enjoyed things from afar, sneaking candid photos of the family while the rest of them conversed, keeping this otherwise quiet Southern California cul-de-sac buzzing with conversation about Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, college studies, church fund raising and even Cyber Monday. We all enjoyed a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, celebrated by millions of friends, neighbors and countrymen.

Later in the evening Steph and I were in bed watching a movie when the phone rang. It was Stephani’s Mom, Dottie. The conversation consisted of “no”, “for how long?” and “We’ll be right there”, at which point she put the phone down and told me her Dad was feeling ill and we needed to take him to the hospital. We threw on whatever outfit made sense in a panic and bolted out of the house.

When we arrived back at my in-laws and entered the house, I could see my Father in law, John, hunched over the kitchen table in obvious pain. I’ve never seen him grimace like that before, so we got him into the car and headed off to Hoag Hospital. He told us he had pain in his lower right side for the past five hours and had been vomiting, so the hospital recommended bringing him in as a precaution.

We got him checked in, Dottie went with him while Steph and I sat in the waiting room and watched the steady stream of patients come in over the next few hours. A woman who had been drinking wine came in with her right hand bandaged and held above her head, her fingers were purple. She had apparently fell and landed on glass. There were drops of blood on her orange shirt, or was that Cabernet? After the wine lover came “Tequila Sam”, a large man now positioned in a Hoag Hospital wheelchair. Tequila Sam had sprained his ankle earlier while drinking tequila. He looked a little bit like Bryant Gumble, was jovial, even disclosed to us in the first 60 seconds that he had been married four times. He was wearing expensive slacks that had been cut to length with scissors, which gave him a slightly homeless look. His companion wore expensive snowboarding pants and sat quietly across from Tequila Sam as stretch marks around his ankle grew larger while he was feeling no pain.

We sat in the waiting room gazing at our mobile phones until a slim man in dark jeans and hoodie stood in front of us pacing. He looked like a healthy Southern California surfer in his mid to late 50’s. I didn’t get his name, but he looked like a Sal. So let’s call him Southern California Sal. Sal had striking white cropped hair, was either very tanned or of Hawaiian descent. He had a magnificent white toothy smile, and white white eyes which peeked out from his silver rimmed glasses. He was nervous and jumpy. After a few seconds he sat in the chair in front of us and started to recount why he was at ER. He pointed out a young man on the far end of the waiting room who was sitting with his wife and a young teenager, and told us that he and the man had become friends over the past few months. The man had recently relocated his young family to Southern California from New Orleans. Sal said “He was like a breath of fresh air to the neighborhood.” A few days ago his new neighbor’s Father flew in from New Orleans to join them for Thanksgiving and while at the airport fell and broke his shoulder and injured other parts of his body. He was a man who had lived the hard life, had, as Sal put it “not taken care of his body”.  He wound up at Hoag Hospital for two days and had been checked out with a clean bill of health on Thanksgiving morning.

Sal was instantly likable and someone who I wished I could trade for one of my current neighbors. He was friendly without being pushy, and had a kindness about him. I started to sense that I was not giving him 100% of my attention given the gravity of the current situation, checking the screen of my phone. But then he told us why they were there tonight. He said they were all enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together when his neighbor’s Dad stopped breathing and went down. Sal had a firefighter background and knew CPR, while his neighbor called 911, Sal performed CPR until the ambulance arrived saying “I wasn’t going to let this guy get away from me.” Sal had our full attention at this point. Stephani and I sat there listening to him retell the past 30 harrowing minutes.

The door of the ER flew open and the doctor called the name of the son who was sitting in the far side of emergency. The two of them went around the corner and the two women who were with him went into the ward. After about 2 minutes the door of the ward opened and the two women slowly walked out. They were crying. Sal walked up to them and they said “He didn’t make it.”

We don’t know why the man died. All we know is these two neighbors were enjoying a Thanksgiving meal together. Sal’s 6 year old daughter had presented his neighbor’s Father with “Get well soon” paintings just a few hours earlier and Sal wondered how he was going to be able to explain to his little girl that the man had not survived. Sal called a cab, but before he left he shook our hands and said how nice it was to talk with us about it. I think in that moment he just wanted somebody, anybody to talk to.  Minutes later I thought to myself wow, I just touched the hand that within the past hour had been pressing on his neighbor’s family member’s chest, trying to keep him alive.

After a battery of tests John was released and Stephani took him home. It’s been one of the most memorable Thanksgivings ever, getting to see how my neighbors are helping each other. This morning I wonder where Sal lives and hope I run into him again at a Starbucks. The next time I will get his number and try to make a new friend. Sorry I didn’t seize the opportunity to do that this time Sal wherever you are.

Love thy neighbor as they say.