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Happy Birthday Aria!

When she was brought home as a foster kitten from the shelter, she was one in a litter of six and definitely the most outspoken of the group. Trying to get her out of the carrier provoked hissing and growling. Once the group got settled in, she was a bit more friendly. She morphed into the first kitten at the door and the one most eager for food and also affection. She spent many evenings curled up on my legs as I sat with my iPad or laptop on the couch.

Aria is the one on the left. The Tabby with the Jaguar-like markings. Her nickname became “Jag”

That was Aria’s favorite spot to hang out.

Working from home, I would close my door during the day so that I could have privacy and not be distracted by kittens. But she would find her way to my door and cry. She wanted to be with me. And so I fashioned a sling out of an old scarf, a spot that became her favorite, the one where she spent most of her day cuddled against me.

When she and another runt-sized kitten were found to have eye goop, the shelter’s kitty coordinator, Kim, told me that they both might be too congested to give back. I looked at little Jag – her original name – and her tabby swirl markings, her adorable little face, and said to Kim, “I don’t care what happens to the black one, but Jag has got to be OK.” That was the moment I knew that this little kitty had worked her way into my life in the most unexpected way.

Her constant need to be near me and with me, the way she’d look up at me and stare at me, it was as if she was saying, “You’re my buddy. I choose you.”

That’s Aria’s “Hi, Mom!” look.

 My first task was to find a name that suited the little songstress and finally decided on Aria (Phoebe will be reserved for a future dog).  Her name has grown (literally) to represent her character and so her full name is now Aria, Jagalicious, Smarty McTarty, Rolly Polly, Spastastic Bright. The Smarty McTarty was originally Farty McTarty, as it took months to find the right food for her and her sensitive stomach. I never understood how a small creature could make such big smells. I can’t tell you enough how glad I am that the Farty McTarty phase is behind us!

Aria is pretty unaware that she is a cat, I believe. She spends her day only a few feet away from me. She’s so attached, she even sleeps at my feet. She absolutely loves hair ties and has learned to fetch them. Aria initiates these games throughout the day by picking one of the colorful hair ties out of her toy box and dropping it at my feet with a hearty, “MEOW,” and the touch of her paw on my shin.   Sometimes I find hair ties dropped on my pillow on weekend mornings when I just want to sleep a bit longer.

Here’s Aria, with one of her hair ties, ready to play.

She’s got a bit of huntress qualities, as she amazingly spots the smallest of moving objects. Any spider or insect who comes in the house doesn’t stand a chance. When she is on the hunt, she chirps. When she wakes up and wants breakfast, she also chirps. She chirps to get my attention and chirps when she’s fetching hair ties. Chirps usually turn into meows if you don’t take notice. Her chirps are a quick trill and very melodic. They can sound inquisitive, uncertain, disturbed or satisfied. If you speak to her, she usually answers back.

When I’m brewing my second cup of coffee in the morning, I take her outside and just sit for a few moments. She relaxes in my arms and watches birds fly over, chirps at ants on the ground, tries to keep up with the zoom of a humming bird and gazes at the bumble bees. She doesn’t lunge or wiggle or get set to pounce. We just sit there together and enjoy the moment. It’s a favorite of the day.

Aria’s black scarf/sling is now her small throw at the foot of my bed. After she fills her belly, she likes to jump on the bed and uses the scarf to kneed. She takes one little piece into her mouth and by the look on her face, goes into the zone of complete comfort and pleasure. She purrs and kneeds and eventually lays on the scarf with her nose deep in the material, relaxed and sleepy. She often exposes her belly when she sleeps. What a great belly of spots! She greets me by rolling on her back and from side to side, paws up, belly exposed. Complete trust.

There’s Aria with her frog and her scarf. Such a cuddle bug.

Of all of the things that I envisioned for my return to the US, a pet, and certainly a cat, was never in my mind. But I’m glad the outspoken little furball insisted on being a part of my life. It’s been several years since the family dog passed and I forgot how much joy and love a pet can bring into your life. I’m reminded every day how full of love these creatures are. She’s my constant little companion, my dog-cat, my Aria. I adore her and love her so very much.

According to the Vet’s calculations, today is her birthday. Happy first birthday, Aria. Thank you for choosing me.

True convenience

While on the phone today, I was speaking with my friend about utility bills and the process for payment. I was reminded that in Japan, you could take all of your utility bills to the local convenience store and pay them at the store.

In fact, on more than one occasion, I went on a vacation and came back to no house phone or no electricity. I simply took my bill over the the Family Mart near my house, paid the bill, and by the time I walked back to the house, my electricity would be on again.  That’s true convenience!

I don’t know why we can’t do something similar here in the U.S. I realize we can pay bills online, but if you are late, normally your services are not turned back on again immediately after payment.  Just a little something I loved from my Japanese life.  Woo hoo for paying bills at the “konbini!”

Experience

I posted this quote on the On The Bright Side Facebook Page earlier today. Since it received lots of likes and comments, I thought I would share this here too.

USE YOUR EXPERIENCE – In a world obsessed with youth, experience is often undervalued. But your unique experiences are priceless. They give you many advantages. Cherish them. Use them wisely: at work, with your family, in relationships, in planning ahead.

 

What’s been interesting for me is that since I have returned from an 8 year stint abroad, I find it increasingly difficult to actually talk about the experiences I cherish, the moments that have changed my life forever and made me the person I am today. All that international travel experience is unique and it is priceless… to me. Very few people in the US can relate to living overseas, and in such places like Japan and Vietnam. It’s a shame, really. It’s those experiences I value the most and have made my life full of value.

Driving in L.A.

Recently, I’ve made a few trips up to Los Angeles to meet with clients and prospects and do some Beaming Bohemian business.  You may remember that I lived in L.A. for five years before I moved to Japan in July of 2002. As apprehensive as I was at the time to move from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, those five years provided excellent career opportunities and cemented numerous friendship and business contacts that have remained even during my eight years overseas.

The downtown revitalization had just begun when I left in 2002. At that time, many folks still drove downtown to work, and went home to the Westside. The reverse is true now. It is difficult to travel East in the evening and West in the morning. Heck, it’s tougher to travel anywhere at anytime, the housing boom even affected my little neighborhood where side streets like Ohio and Sawtelle are no-go’s by 5pm. L.A. traffic has always been, but seems even more nuts than I ever remember.

Even with L.A. drivers being more rude than San Diegans, for example, there are some disturbing trends that would really give me pause if I ever needed to move back there.

1. No one behind you for miles and you get cut off… pulls out in front of you or on the freeway or where ever. The space in front of you is just way more enticing than all the free space behind you. So much so that some folks even speed up to cut you off.

2. The folks that speed up to cut you off when you have miles of free space behind you have a tendency to do so right before an intersection where they slam on their brakes to turn right.

3. At a stop sign when you are angled to turn right, a car will pull up on your left, in what seems an effort to turn left.  But the driver decides they don’t trust your judgement, nor do they want to wait for you and they turn right around and in front of you.

4. Also at a stop sign, and it seems particularly popular during the evening hours, the person behind you will pull up to the right of you and go through the intersection ahead of you instead of turn right.

5. There still seems to be no concern for crossing over five lanes on the freeway to narrowly make an exit that you know the driver takes probably everyday.

6. If a driver is in the wrong lane, it doesn’t matter where anyone else is, how it affects everyone else or how dangerous the maneuver is… it is clearly impossible to just go in the direction of traffic, out of the way for a block or so, make a u-turn somewhere and get back on track.  I saw a guy in the left-hand turn lane on Overland and Pico who decided that he needed to turn right on Pico instead and bolted across the traffic at the green light so that he could go the direction he wanted.

7. The second the light turns green, everyone celebrates by honking.

8. If you do not have a green arrow to turn left, it is still expected that you will turn into oncoming traffic to make your turn. At least that’s what all the honking in the back screams. Nevermind it’s not clear, just GO!

9. If you are forced to park on the street and unlucky enough to not be able to put your front or rear bumper right up to a driveway, you will find that the kind people who have also parked on the street have made it impossible for you to move even an inch.

10. Even when the traffic is not heavy on the freeway, it seems that the general rule is to drive rightnext to the person in the next lane. Match their speed and leave no room for error.

Ten is probably enough. Truth be told, I never use my horn expect when I am in L.A.  It is frustrating, it is stressful, and it makes me glad that I live in San Diego.

What L.A. driving habits have you seen develop over the last several years? Do they bother you or do you just let it roll off your shoulders?

Father’s Office means business

When I’m in L.A. for business, I do my best to squeeze in a few social visits. Last night, I enjoyed the chance to catch up with my friend Tony. We were both at a loss of where to go. We decided we could both stand a good burger. And so we agreed on  Father’s Office in Century City, out there by the old Helm’s Bakery. I had never been there and it had been a good long while for Tony.

For a Wednesday night, the place seemed overly packed, but we managed to get a seat at the bar and eager to eat, quickly got the bartender’s attention. There is only one burger on the menu and much to my dislike, it came with bacon. So I ordered, “The Father’s Office burger, but with no bacon please.”  The response was a little surprising, “I’m sorry, we don’t make any modifications to our menu items.”  I looked at the girl with confusion and said, “I’m sorry? What?”  And she repeated, “We make no modifications to our menu items.”

Was “no bacon” a modification? I would think that it was just a simple “leave off” request. I didn’t ask to change the recipe or use elk meat or something elaborate. So I kind of shook my head in disbelief that there was like, zero accommodation, and ordered the sweet potato fries with my burger.  Tony ordered the “No modifications Father’s Office Burger with unmodified fries.”

The sweet potato fries arrived as an appetizer with blue cheese aioli. And that was great. The aioli complimented the fries well. When our burgers came, I handed over my bacon to Tony and stole a few regular fries, which are served with garlic parsley aioli.  When the bartender asked us if we needed anything else, Tony asked for ketchup.  The bartender said, “I’m sorry sir, we don’t serve ketchup.”  We looked at each other, looked at the bartender (who must have this conversation often, I would suspect) before Tony leaned in and said, “You don’t serve ketchup? I can’t put some ketchup on my fries?”  The bartender said, “No, sir. We don’t serve ketchup.” Tony leaned in a little closer and said, “You don’t have any ketchup anywhere in this establishment?”  “No we don’t,” was the response.  Tony came back with, “Really. Dude, between you and me, is that reasonable? What kind of restaurant doesn’t serve ketchup with fries?”  All the bartender had to say was, “Sorry.”

As someone who works to build brands and positive, purposeful brand communications, this little episode really stuck with me. Tony and I laughed it off, but only after we made a few loud comments to each other, “What kind of restaurant doesn’t serve ketchup?” “Well, aren’t we all super strict here in Father’s Office? No modifications and no ketchup, gosh darn it!” I mean, really. How can any restaurant take themselves that seriously? Why do people in LA like to go to restaurants where they’re treated like crap? Because that’s what “no modifications” and “no ketchup” say to me.

I took a peek at their website. Not only is it one of the only restaurant’s I’ve seen that doesn’t have a menu on their website, but Father’s Office is for certain the only restaurant which has a “Menu Policy.”  It reads:

Please be aware of our menu policy.  We do not permit any substitutions or modifications to any of our menu items.  Outside food and beverages are not permitted.  Dessert items including birthday cakes are not permitted. 

Father’s Office may have a great beer menu, but this ridiculous Menu Policy spoils all the fun. I won’t be doing business at Father’s Office again. I’m not able to make any modifications to my schedule.

Name Your Restaurant!

It’s been just over a year since I’ve been back in San Diego.  I have to admit, I am still getting familiar with the lay of the land.  Just tonight, someone asked me about my favorite sushi place.  Rightly so… you would think that after spending five years in Japan that I would have staked out every sushi restaurant in the hood!  But the reality is… I’m still finding my way around my lovely hometown.

When I returned, I told myself I would treat San Diego like a new foreign city…that I would take the time to explore and discover and find my favorite spots. While I am discovering new places all the time, I recognize that San Diego is a pretty large city and at that a town I haven’t lived in since I was 19 years old. San Diego has changed a lot since then!

What’s funny to me is that all my memories of San Diego are childhood/young-adult memories. I’m a great tour guide for anyone who has never been here because hot spots like the zoo, Sea World and the Hotel Del Coronado never go out of style.  But my favorite dive bar or sushi place, a hot spot for Sunday brunch or the best craft beers? I’m at a loss.

So help me feel at home, dear friends. What places do I need to discover?  Where do you like to like to dine? What San Diego hot spots do I need to check out? Please leave your comments below or post on my Facebook Page On The Bright Side.

Thanks so much!

Tales from the Taxi

So another evening and another taxi ride home.  Traffic was horrible this evening.  And my taxi driver was certifiably crazy.  While I appreciated his interest in practicing English (the teacher in me is ever-present), I wasn’t really in the mood to speak in broken sentences, smile politely and uncomfortably and make nice.  It was a long day.  Yup – not really in the mood to talk to a crazy cab driver after my really “fun” 12+ hour day.

I am closer and closer to renting a motorbike because for ONCE I would just like to step into a taxi and…

  • not have it smell like super stinky sweaty something or rather (I am constantly reminded of the Seinfeld episode with the valet driver/car smell).  I also don’t love it when whatever the smell is in the car gets on my clothes and I can faintly smell that stench all day (I have a strong sense of smell).
  • have the driver actually, truly, really know where we are going
  • upon giving directions to a clueless driver, have them actually listen instead of argue with or ignore me
  • when pointing which direction to go, the driver doesn’t follow the line down my arm and finger to see the direction I’m pointing in
  • on excursions different from the home/work route, the driver doesn’t insist on taking the long way around, making that extra buck
  • the driver actually knows how to operate the vehicle – for example, understands that you cannot shift into 5th gear at 20MPH.  AND that you cannot take off from a red light in 3rd gear OR that the rumbling of the car means you are in too high a gear for 7MPH
  • the driver doesn’t answer his cell phone while driving, slowing down and nearly causing numerous accidents – driving in Hanoi requires your full attention.
  • the driver doesn’t madly beep his horn, flick his lights and tail the cars in front of him.  When this happens, all I can think is that he would be a casualty of road rage in Los Angeles. I have not yet gone numb to the horn honking.  Hope not to.
  • not wanting to use the passenger floor board as my imaginary brake pedal, and sometimes gas pedal too!
  • not quickly shut my eyes in fear that we are going to cream the lady and her kids on the motorbike
  • the driver doesn’t hit a motorbike and then get out, scream and yell at the woman, escaping blame for the incident simply because he’s yelling and she’s not because she probably slightly in shock and a bit banged up.
  • the driver “actually” has money in his wallet to make change.  I’m not that friggin’ generous to leave you double the fare.
  • step out of the taxi without getting dust, dirt or some sort of muck on my pants

And while we are on the topic of transportation, I just have to say here that the motorbike drivers here totally freak me out.  I feel like I’m being stalked when walking around.  It’s so creepy to be strolling down your street and hear from the shadows of darkness, “Moto?”  And this is all said in low voices with a boogey man in the voice.  Seriously – freaks me out.  I especially hate it when I am walking roadside and a motorbike driver approaches from behind and nearly whispers in my ear as he’s slowed his bike next to me, “Moto?”  We’re lucky I haven’t punched someone yet and instead have acquired the ability to give them the look of death which requires no words and they drive on.  Seriously.  Me no likey!!!

My buddy Pete has put me in touch with his friend who rents motorbikes.  So be prepared, my friends.  I may just take to the streets over the weekend.  The freedom of driving around whenever and wherever I want has become irresistible!

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