Monday, December 21, 2009

Jeff is cancer free!

This morning we received great news that Jeff is cancer free! It is an early Christmas gift to all of us and a constant reminder to always be thankful for our health. These past few weeks Jeff has been waiting to hear results from his biopsy and he finally got the news today. I took these photos today on my sunset walk and I hope we get another beautiful sunset tomorrow night. I want to commend Jeff for always staying positive during this stressful time. Thank God for the good news!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bandwagoning Redux

I came across a brilliant piece of sports writing on bandwagoning written by Bill Simmons. For those of you who do not follow ESPN, Bill Simmons is a Boston native who writes a column for ESPN magazine and has authored several books. He wrote this gem about bandwogoning in sports:

"There's nothing worse than a bandwagon jumper. If sports were a giant prison and fans were the convicts, bandwagoners would be like child molesters-the lowlifes who crossed the line and deserved to be ridiculed/tortured/humiliated/defiled by everyone else."

He goes on to say that all "real fans" abide by the following rules.

Rule #1
You select ONE team in each sport. You cannot root for two teams in the same sport.

Rule # 2
If your city has a professional team during your formative years, you support that team. Local teams are like family-you have to stick with them through thick and thin.

Rule # 3 (I think this is the best one, pay attention Dennis and Jeff)
You CAN'T root for a team, back off during a down cycle, then renew the relationship once the team starts winning again.

Rule # 4 (Also a good one that applies to recent SC fans)
Be honest! If you do pick a team, or a sport, that you were NEVER a fan of before they were good, be honest about it. Don't make stuff up. You like them because they are winning and you wanted to feel good about yourself. Just admit it.

Rule # 5
Never switch allegiances. Once you have a team, you are stuck with that them for the rest of your life.

I think all of these are very simple rules to follow.

P.S. Go Raiders!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"Evil Tiger"

At every Christmas party you go to this season people will talk about Tiger Woods. You walk in a room and people talk about Tiger, you go to the next room and it's more Tiger talk. Men will huddle in small groups and talk about Tiger Woods. Inevitably some woman will state that "if her man acted like Tiger she would bash out his windows too." This remark will be met with the sound of forced laughter. All seem to agree that Tiger will go on Oprah, claim he is a sex addict, have a good cry and go back to golf. America will forgive you of anything if you put the word "addict" in front of it. (Hello Rush, Brett Favre, Michael Jordan etc) This is why Mike Vick was in so much trouble, he could not claim he was "addicted" to fighting dogs. He just seemed cruel. At the Christmas party I was out last night we were discussing Tiger when an idea occurred to me: if you are Tiger Woods, why not become Evil Tiger? Think about it, he only has two options. He can go down the usual route and give half-hearted apologies that he does not really mean and live life like a whipped dog or he can become EVIL TIGER! What if he just embraced who he really is and stopped living the lie. He could just leave his wife and kids, move to Vegas, and leave a path of destruction in his wake. He could grow a vicious goatee, shave his head, show off his biceps, and be the baddest golfer that walked the planet. It would be so cool to watch him at tournaments when all the women boo him and the men (secretly) cheer him on. Tiger Woods would be the hero of all frat parties as he can fully live the dream in public. He can get new sponsors, host a show on E, and finally show the world how men really behave. This could be the best move of his life. But, sadly, I do not think that a man named Eldrick can really become "Evil Tiger." Oh well, I like the idea of "evil tiger," what do you think?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The 20 best movies of the decade

I love movies, you love movies, let's talk about the twenty best movies of the past ten years:

1. There will be blood
Daniel day Lewis just rips the heart out of his acting peers and drinks their milkshake. I have watched this movie over ten times and I am continually blown away at the portrayal of an ambitious man who can barely contain his disgust for.............."people." I love the way this movie is shot, the subplot with the preacher, and the long periods of quiet. The best movie of the past ten years.

2. The Departed
This movie is like I died and went to movie heaven. You have a Scorsese picture dealing with the Irish Mafia that stars my favorite actor, Jack Nicholson. I love the music, the pace and the performances of Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. I remember seeing this movie in the theaters and listening to Jack's opening lines........."twenty years after an Irishman couldn't get a job in this city, we had the Presidency. That's the thing nobody tells you, you can be anything you want to be. But if you want something, you have to take it, nobody gives it to you."

3. Grizzly Man
I am transfixed by this movie and watch it whenever it is on T.V. To see a man completely go off the rails and film himself patting bears on the head and talking to them is theater of the absurd. Timmothy Treadwell was a self-made reality star who achieved the fame he sought in his life with his brutal death. He shot really beautiful home movies of the wilds of Alaska. This is an incredible documentary that is really a meditation on one man's search for meaning in this world.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A great script about a great idea. Would you pay to have painful memories erased from your mind? What do we learn by living with pain? You have a film that comes close to showing the mind-bending emotional roller coaster of loving someone and than losing that someone you love. Kate Winslet is just naturally beautiful in this movie.

5. No Country for old Men
Good God I love this movie. The haunting final monologue from Tommy Lee Jones is off the charts. I have rewound the movie and watched the end of this flick countless times. If you don't like this movie it is hard for me to even talk to you! There is not a false moment in this film, so call it, frienddo

6. Lost in Translation
I remember exactly where I was when I fell in love with Scarlet Johanson. I was below deck, on a boat in Indonesian, watching a bootlegged copy of this movie. The opening shot of Scarlet is legendary and Bill Murray is just so real in this flick. This movie is like life, at times funny, sad, sweet and absurd. Bill Murray calling his wife to tell her that he was partying with Japanese surfers-enough said.

7. Into the Wild
No movie of the past decade has affected me more than this masterpiece. I cried all during this movie and it was hard for me talk at the end of it. Amina and I just sat and cried together through the credits and we were still crying when the house lights came up. I read this book in college and I have been profoundly moved by the life of Alexander Supertramp. My favorite scene in this movie is when Alex calmly turns around to watch a pack of wolves devour the moose he has just shot. Sean Penn just nails this movie.

8. Half Nelson
A film that portrays the small time frustration of being a teacher. Ryan Gosling knows the way teachers talk, they way they think, and the slow drip sadness of wasting time in the schoolhouse. He is a lost man teaching in a lost world.

9. Borat
This is the funniest and the most inventive movie of the past ten years. Sacha Baron Cohen is a genius and his creation and execution of Borat as he rambles through American is incredible. He is able to subvert racism, sexism, political correctness's, patriotism and W's America. When Borat goes for a ride with a bunch of drunk frat cats we are staring into the abyss of Americas dark soul.

10. Traffic
How do you stop America's insatiable appetite for drugs? This flicks is amazing for it's use of three different story lines as we watch a small time cop in Mexico all the way to the halls of power in DC. I love the scene where you have real Senators discussing the war on drugs at a cocktail party.

11. Man on a Wire
Another great documentary that shows you how one man was able to tightrope walk across the twin towers. The shots of him laying down on the rope as he was suspended over NYC are truly unbelievable. This is a fascinating film dealing with sneaking into the twin towers to create ultimate mischief.

12. Training Day
"King Kong don't have nothing on me" Denzel is just let off the chain as he completely owns this performance with his swagger and his smile. If only cops in real life were as cool as Denzel. "You're in the office baby"

13. Match Point
Does life really come down to a series of near misses? Does fate really exist or are we just stumbling blindly around this world. I love this movie for the natural feel of the relationships and of course for the stunning beauty of Scarlet.

14. High Fidelity
A classic film that is all about the mix tape. So much thought goes in to the perfect blend of songs. A funny movie that gets better the more you watch it.

15. Eastern Promises
A Russian mob movie that has Viggo going for broke. I love this move for his character and the look of the Russian mafia. The best scene in this movie is when Viggo looks at the guy and jabs two fingers into his neck.

16. Old School
A flick that I have watched maybe twenty times over the years. I love this movie and I still cry when Blue dies. "You were my boy blue"

17. Good Night and Good Luck
A brilliant black and white movie that makes me feel like I am living in the 1950's. A great score, great story and great acting equals a great movie. When I watch this movie I wish that I could hangout in these cool bars from the 50's.

18. Sideways
A great movie about friendship, drinking, and the fear of getting married. This movie exposed the Santa Ynez area to the masses but I will always remember it how it was during my days at UCSB.

19. Black Hawk Down
I think this was the best war movie of the past ten years. This movie was so violent that a fight broke out at the movie theater in the middle of this film. That is still the only movie I have ever been to where complete strangers ended up punching each other just as the helicopter crashed. I have watched this movie at home many times and love it.

20. Frost/Nixon
A great movie that shows two men matching wits in an effort to control the narrative. Filmed on location above Cottons at the Western White House.

So, there it is, my top twenty movies of the past ten years. When I look over my list I can see some patterns begin to emerge. I like mob movies, nature, politics and curvy blondes. But hey, that's just me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My it real?

I have spent years dreaming about a way to dry my wetsuits after surfing. Sometimes I would hang them in the shower, other times I would hang my suits off a fence or my balcony, and other times I would just put in on a hanger that was nailed to the wall. All of these options left me unsatisfied and I would put on a cold, wet, clammy wetsuit the next morning. So I had a dream, a dream of a way to hang my wetsuits in my garage and still get them dry (with a little shelf for my booties) and be able to put on a nice dry wetsuit for the early am surf. I am happy to announce that I am living my dream! I went to Lowe's hardware and bought all the stuff to make my own wetsuit rack. I had to cut the pipe (at J. R's man cave) and put the entire thing together in my garage. I drilled the holes and fixed the back with drywall hangers, put in two support pieces of metal, fixed the end caps on the pipe and attached the hanger. The thing that is cool about this is that all of these were separate pieces and I just made it up as I walked around Lowes. I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted and was able to build this thing for about $15 bucks in supplies. So now my 4/3, 3/2, spring-suit, vest and rash guards all have a place to dry in my garage. Just living the dream....

SC Shows it's true colors

People hate USC for it's constant displays of arrogance and the universities perpetual instinct to belittle the little guy. This is why you see SC kids proudly wearing T-shirts in public that say "My maid went to UCLA." On Saturday night the classless coaching of Pete Carroll continued as he decided to throw a bomb in the final seconds of a game that SC had already won. Predictably, the SC players acted as if they just won the Rose Bowl and taunted the UCLA players and generally acted like a bunch of buffoons. The children of the rich, who taunt UCLA kids by pulling out their wallets and waving them at them along with their BMW key rings, acted as if Pete Carroll had just abolished the death tax. But here is something that just might surprise you; even though I hate SC, I loved the call!

I love it when people get cocky in sports. I loved it when Lance Armstrong broke his main rival (Jan Ulrich) in the hills of France and pantomimed firing a gun at Jan with his hand as he passed him. I loved it when Ali would tell people he was the greatest as he pummeled them in the ring. I loved it when Gagne would throw it 100 mph over the middle and dare Bonds to catch up with it. I love Chad Ochocinco for making a list of all the cornerbacks he is going to take to school. Sports is all about matching your best guy against their best guy. If UCLA did not like the call than they should use that anger to get better next year. The thought of Pete Carroll smiling like a chimp in the zoo should keep Neuheisel up at night scheming of ways to beat SC. UCLA should have covered the wide-receiver. They let a guy get wide open and it is UCLA's responsibility to cover him. If UCLA has a problem with SC, they should do one thing, GET BETTER!

On a side note I spoke with two SC alumni yesterday and they both brought up the game. Joe, my Dad's partner had a problem with the call and said Carroll should have just run the ball. Mark, my friend, said he had no problem with the call but he had a problem with the SC players acting as if they just won the national title. It was interesting that two SC alumni were both critical of their school. At least they were not wearing the "I went to SC and my gardener went to UCLA" T-shirts.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunset Runs

One week of training for the L.A. marathon is in the books. I really enjoy running along the strand at sunset time watching the sky change colors. The above photo was taken from my balcony right before I went for a run. After spending the day inside it feels so good to be outdoors and to feel the breeze and watch the water. This upcoming week will be a little bit different in terms of training because Mike and I will be running in the turkey trot 10K on Thursday. Only 17 weeks to go!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Partner

It was just an ordinary day in Los Angeles: the sky was overcast, the surf was small, and the economy continued to crumble all around us. I was in my office going through my e-mail when I was hit like a bolt of lightning with an e-mail from a young lad in Colorado. He told me that he was seriously considering running the L.A. marathon with me! Mike and I talked for awhile about training programs, logistics, running in the snow, and the perils of training for a marathon while living in a frat house. I knew that Mike could do it, he knew that he could do it and he announced t me that it is on! I was beyond thrilled to have my partner join me in yet another adventure. If you think about what Mike and I have already done it is truly amazing. Together we have climbed Mt. Whitney, summited Mt. Rainier, surfed and camped in Mexico, snowboarded in Mammoth and backpacked over 40 miles through Kings Canyon! We have done all this together with a smile on our face and constant laughter. This picture of Mike, on a sailing trip to Catalina, really sums up all of our good times together. (notice he is wearing a Mammoth T-shirt) So now we have one more great adventure to go on together. We will be holding each other accountable with our training and doing updates on facebook. I am so happy to have Mike do this with me. Welcome partner, I will see you at the starting line!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

18 weeks till Glory!

Today begins week one of my eighteen week program to finish the 2010 L.A. Marathon. In week one you run 3 miles on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and do a long run of 6 miles on Saturday. Today was a beautiful sunset run on the strand and I took it easy as my body is still adjusting from a weekend in Oakland. Going to spend time in Oakland is like living in dog years compared to human years. It ages you quickly. So as I was on my run today I was very happy at the start to be on this program and to think about finishing this thing in March. I will just run my race, listen to my body and just cruise the 26 miles (hahahahah). But on a serious note (and this will be the last time I write about 09) I think that I had a severe panic attack in the 09 run. I panicked because I thought I would look weak in front of Nicole. It was not my day, I keep on trying, and speed my heart rate up and ultimately went down. Surprisingly this revelation came to me as I watched the Sopranos and witnessed Tony's condition and how he described his feelings and what he remembers. Anyways that is my best guess about what happened and to quote another line from the Sopranos it's time to MOVE THE F--- ON! I can't keep on thinking about it. It happened, time to move on. So I will let the seasoned vets like Tasha and Nicole run their race and I will run mine. But I am really excited to get it on and to train hard for March.
What is going to make this race really fun is that it starts at Dodger stadium and ends at the beach in Santa Monica! We have all decided to frolic like a bunch of crazed seals in the ocean after we finish the race. And I have one more BIG announcement about the race....................that I will write about tomorrow.

"Rising up, straight to the top, had the guts, got the glory-went the distance, now I'm not going to stop, just a man and his will to survive"
-The Eye of the Tiger

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Dark Cloud Hangs Over Raider Nation

"I am a Rider fan for life! Win, lose, or tie, I am a Raider fan till I die!" Dark days indeed have descended down upon the city of Oakland. As I was watching Jamarcus "play" quarterback I kept looking up to the heavens to see if frogs were about to come raining down on me. Nobody in the ancient Coliseum would have been surprised and no doubt some of the fans would have have promptly slapped a little sauce on those guys and bbq them. The football apocalypse has come to Oak, as we have been the worst football team in the NFL for the past seven years. I think John "Chucky" Gruden put on a curse on the franchise when we traded him away. But as bad as things are in Oakland, every dark cloud has a Silver lining. Sports, and being a real fan, is all about loyalty. You stick with your team through thick and thin, the peaks and valleys, the highs and lows. You do not abandon a team and suddenly become a "fan" of a good team just because you like to identify with a winning team. This is just a laughable substitute for being a real fan. This person, who lets say for example, never said a word about, oh, I don't know, USC or the Patriots for all the years they were horrible, suddenly becomes a "fan" when they become the number one team in the nation or when they win the super bowl. This is just pathetic. They did not earn the right to enjoy the victory because they did not have enough guts to stick it out with their team. A real fan suffers, and yes, I am suffering as a Raider fan, but I will be always be loyal to the Raiders. You know why I hate band-wagoners? I hate them because they don't want to defend their team in the bad times, they just want to share in the good times. These are spineless sports fans who are huge wimps and don't have any meaningful claim to a team. So, the Raiders are a bad team. But guess what? The Raiders WILL RETURN TO GLORY! WE WILL BE BACK! I will continue to travel to Oakland and attend games because win, lose, or tie, I am a Raider fan till I die!

P.S. That is my buddy Matt "freediddy" Freeland in the picture with the headset. ( A real fan who has been with us for every trip)

Monday, November 9, 2009

The cult of Death

I was raised in an evangelical church where we were constantly told that the end times are at hand. I was told that I would never marry, never have children, and never see my 20's. I was told by a pastor that Mikhail Gorbachev was the antichrist (the birthmark on his forehead was the give away) and that we would not live to see the 1990's. In the seventh grade (1988), I was on a church trip and we stopped off at Carl's Jr. to have lunch. Carl's had recently put in new machines which allowed the customer to use a credit/debit card to pay for your meal. Our youth pastor at the time explained to us how this was a sure sign of the end times because soon all monetary exchanges would be based on credit and cash would be a thing of the past. Instead of credit cards we would all have a computer chip placed under our skin (by the wrist) and this chip would track all of our banking. The antichrist would take over the worlds monetary system and if you refused to put the mark of the beast on your forehead, your access to money would evaporate and you would become a Christian refugee. We were all sternly warned to never allow anyone to put a computer chip in our body. I could barely eat my Western Bacon cheeseburger because I was so frightened of the end times. When Gorby left office the church quickly moved on (never acknowledging what they told us) and picked up on the Gulf War in 1991. This was the sign that the world was ending (the mother of all battles was at hand). We met at RHCC to pray and were told that we could have over 100,000 Americans killed in this battle and the end times were at hand. As the 90's progressed the church fixated on the year 1999 (666 backwards) and the Y2K scare. Of course, nothing happened and the world continued to spin. What interests me is why does Christianity have such dreams of an apocalyptic nightmare?
A brief history of the "prophets" predicting the end of the world:
-Donatus and Novatiian gathered followers with their "end-times" predictions in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
-When the Visigoths sacked Rome (A.D. 410) it was thought to be the end-times.
-In the sixth century, Pope Gregory said, "signs described by our Lord as presaging the end of the world were already accomplished."
-As the year 999 approached, thousands of people gathered at St. Peters Basilica in Rome weeping and trembling and awaiting the end of the world.
-The Inquisition, the Black Death, natural disasters, all were see as signs that the world is coming to an end.
-Hal Lindsay wrote, "The late great planet earth" in 1970 which became the best selling book in the nation that stated the world would end before 1980
-Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins has made millions for themselves with the "left behind" book series.

Why would anyone want the end times to come? Have you read the book of revelations? How could you ever tell children that their classmates and friends and parents would soon be thrown into a lake of fire and be tortured for eternity? Is this not a form of abuse? Why do pastors and religious leaders NEVER take accountability for their failed predictions? I can remember asking my pastor what would happen to Brandon Bernstien (I was in 7th grade) and I was told that my best friend (who is Jewish) would spend eternity in hell. What? Bernie is going to hell? Because he is Jewish? And than I was told that God is Love but the end-times are near. I have my own theories on why the church has a cult of death but would like to hear your thoughts. Perhaps I will write an addendum to his post. I look forward to all comments.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Susan!

As the sun sets in the west we would like to wish Susan a Happy Birthday. This past Sunday the family was able to gather to celebrate Susan's birthday at Dana Point. This photo sums up how nice it was to be outside on a beautiful warm day in November. The setting sun reflects the warmth of being with family, the ocean reminds us of God's gift, and the sailboat demonstrates the joy of returning home. Happy Birthday!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The balloon boy hoax

We are all just a bunch of rat junkies endlessly searching for our next fix of manufactured conflict and emotion. Reality television, or what old timers call "news" is just a series of endlessly trumped up mixtures of false scares and bogus triumphs. I have long been obsessed with how real events reverberate in popular culture (such as O.J. and politics) and how the television audience forms its opinions. In the case of the balloon boy hoax there will be much hand-wringing after the fact, many people will be angry, Wolf Blitzer might be forced to shave his beard, and people will say to themselves how terrible this Richard Henee is and he will become Americas newest villain. But Richard Henee gave us exactly what we wanted and what we deserve. We are a nation of slack-jawed rubberneckers who love us some reality T.V. We all pretend we do not know about octo-mom, john and Kate plus eight, watch hoarders (Garrett excluded) the hills, the bachelor, the bachelorette, flavor of love, rock of love, the list goes on and on. The fastest growing market in America, besides elastic waist pants, is reality television. In the words of a great author we "are amusing ourselves to death" as we shovel food in our mouths as we watch the biggest loser or celebrity fit club.

Just think about what it took for Richard Henee to pull this stunt off. Here is a man who wanted fame so badly that he made us think his kid was floating away on a balloon! This is a moder day Rupert Pumkin who knew that he would not get away with this nonsense but he was determined to entertain us in the way that we best love. Just picture him getting into character as he calls 911 and fakes the tragic/crying voice. When did he first tell his wife about this scheme and how did she agree to go along with it? Just listen to her call the sheriff! Give her the academy award!
The fame that this couple so desperately sought was ultimately betrayed by the innocent little actor who turned to his father and said, "you said we did it for the show." You cannot teach a six year old to be deceptive and his truth telling might just put his father behind bars. (where no doubt he will write his memoir and hit-up the talk shows upon his release)

So, if we really are so "angry" and so "outraged" at this stunt, what should we do? We can actually turn off the television, drown out the fake outrage with silence, go outdoors and take a walk. We can listen to music, write a friend a letter, or learn to play the guitar. Tonight, when I get home I am going to write a letter to an old friend thanking him for.................wait, hold-on, there is a car chase on T.V. with a child in the backseat. Sweet Lord in heaven! I must turn on the T.V. and watch this right now! What? A shark scare? A mom murders her own kids? More death, more anger, more yelling and screaming! Yes, give it to me! I must watch! I love it! I must watch television! I guess that letter will have to wait........

Monday, October 12, 2009

Frank McCourt- The Dodgers misunderstood genius

A few weeks ago on a beautiful fall evening I watched as the Dodgers clinched the National League West for the second consecutive time. I turned to high-five Stilts (who was with me for the epic Steve Finely game in 2004) and watched as Frank McCourt walked on to the field to congratulate his players and hug Joe Torre. Here was a man who in just six years as a baseball owner has had unprecedented success and has put the Dodgers in the post-season four times in six years! Yet, strangely, he has not been embraced by the City of Angles. I have always liked McCourt and had a brief conversation with him in 2004. I told him to take care of Beltre (thank God we let him go) and to never change the name of Dodger stadium. It turns out he did the right thing on both accounts. So why do some people refuse to give McCourt the credit he deserves? Did he try to do too much to soon? Is his wife just too skinny to be likeable? Did he read moneyball and believe every word? I have a few theories about why McCourt is not yet celebrated as the business genius that he is but I would like to cut through the nostalgia of the O'Malley years and explain why Frank McCourt is a far superior owner than the O'Malley family. It goes without saying that I don't need to address the anemic years under Fox and the corporate bloodsuckers who saw the Dodgers as a way to get cable rights.

In the six years that Frank has owned the Dodgers he has:

*gone to the post-season 4 out 6 years
*Built Camelback Ranch, a state-of-the art facility in Arizona and set the spring training attendance record
*Hired Joe Torre to manage the Dodgers
*Played a 50th anniversary game at the Coliseum to over 110,000 fans
*The Dodgers won a playoff game for the first time since 1988 and won a playoff series
*Created "under the lights" and allowed fans to take bp at the stadium
* Upgraded Dodger stadium with 140 million in improvements and plans a massive renovation to keep the Dodgers in the ravine for 50 more years
*Hired Ned Colleti
*Gave Manny the money to bring back a real superstar to L.A.
*Showed Tommy Lasorda the respect he deserves by sitting next to him at every game and hiring him as a consultant
* Rename the press box the "Vin Scully press box"
*Brings Fernando back into the fold

So, why do you think that McCourt has not yet been embraced by Los Angeles?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Who's the boss?

The following is a true story:

Sometimes life takes on a crazy dimension where you feel that you are living in a dream. Your brain seems to explode into tiny bits but your mouth keeps on working. Life is just plain crazy sometimes. Yesterday I attended the Dodger game with my brother, watched an amazing Dodger win, and than out of the blue I get invited to watch game two at the ravine today. As most of you know, the Dodgers win in dramatic fashion with two outs in the ninth and Chavez ravine goes nuts: OK, this is where the story gets really bizarre. One of the guys (a friend of a friend) says that he knows someone who works in the dugout club and we can go party there after the game. I (naturally) said no, I demanded to go home and rest up for work, but I was forced to go downstairs to the dugout club and continue to party. So I go the bar, order a Dos Equis, and noticed a diminutive brunette slide in next to me. She looks sort of familiar and I am trying to play it cool and sip my beverage. I get the bartenders attention for this pretty young lass and she thanks me. I say nothing, my brain turns to ice and she turns to me and asks me what I thought about the game, I tell her that it was great etc (dodgers yak yak yak)... and the entire time I am thinking in my head (this is Allyssa Milano!) my brother would die to be in my spot! It was clear to me that Alyssa just wanted to join in the celebration and be a fan and blend in and talk about baseball. We hung out for a bit just talking about the Dodgers and people left her alone. She also ordered a Dos Equis and I tried to treat her like a normal person and just shoot the breeze with her. She finished up her beer and said "nice to meet you, I got to go" and I'm thinking that I have to do this for Goot: I always tell him that there are no coincidences! I decide I will blow my cool non-chalant factor for my brother so I say, "Alyssa, my name is Matt and today is my brothers birthday and he was at the game today. I am sure you hear this all the time but he has a huge crush on you, I never do this, but can I get a picture with you?" She said, "of course you can Matt!" I handed my cell phone to Mike and he took the blurry picture you see above. I gave Alyssa my card and told her if she ever wanted to invest in real-estate she should call me (it was all I could think of). So, she hugged me goodbye, asked me if I would be at game 5, and walked out of the dugout club. I tried to hide my smile as I walked back to my buddy's table and they could not believe I had just been chatting with Alyssa. I spent ten minutes with an angel........only in L.A.!

-Who's the boss now St. Louis?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Manhattan Beach 10k

So here you have it, the yin and the yang: the two forces that will be controlling my non-work hours for the next six months. One is a tool for riding liquid energy, the other can be warn by a tool to commemorate his glory days. One is incredibly hard to master, one of them is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. So this was my weekend. On Friday I surfed (in my trunks) El Porto after work on my new 6.4. The water was 70 degrees, the surf babes were out and the waves were head high. I went to the Dodger game, saw them lose, than up early at 6 am to get ready for the 10K. It really is a beautiful run, with the last mile going along the strand and a nice finish at the Manhattan beach Pier. I was very proud of my time and felt good going up a few hills. I went home, took a nap, went surfing and than off to Dodger stadium with Stilts to watch them clinch the N.L. West! "Nice little Saturday"

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Today as I was running my three miles along the strand I kept on asking myself about my motivation for running the L.A. marathon. I found that my motivations were varied, complex, trivial, deep and meaningless at the same time. I can remember standing in line at a water-park (I think it was the one time we went to one in Palm Springs) and Garrett quoted Nietzsche: He said "he stared into the abyss and the abyss stared back." (Perhaps this should have tipped us off to his later day atheism) As I ran I was thinking about how I do not really enjoy running but yet I persist in doing it. I know that I will never be at peace until I complete a marathon, due to my unexplained failure last year. Now, I know in my heart that running 26 miles is about as meaningful as being elected mayor McCheese. Running does not change who you are as a person or change your character in any way. It just proves that you have a high tolerance for pain and boredom. (Kind of like paying to hear Sarah Palin speak) So why in the heck am I doing it when I could be surfing or sleeping in or just taking it easy? Here are my reasons in all of their complex forms. They are in no particular order, it is just what accrued to me as I ran.
-Redemption for failing ( I know that I will cry like a little girl when I finish)
-Clean living (It really tames down my wild nights when you have to get up and run 15 miles)
-Something to do (It is fun to have a goal and train for it)
-Impress people ( This would be Nicole and my Dad)
-Stress relief (I sleep really well after my runs)
-I always knew I would do it one day (Just like buying a motor-home)
--Running along the beach is beautiful (So many girls.....and the ocean is nice as well)
-Test myself (Part of me likes to see if I can handle the pain)
I know that I would almost rather do any other outdoor activity than run but running is what I must do.

On a side note I got a brand new 6.4 surfboard and will be dawn patrolling tomorrow. At least I know why I surf!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

10 Years with the Freedom Writers!

Has it really been ten years since I met Erin Gruwell? It is very hard for me to believe that ten years ago a wide-eyed 23 year-old teacher attended a class at Cal State Long Beach and met Erin. Little did I know on the first day of class how this relationship would shape my life for the next ten years! Erin and I became good friends during the semester that she taught my young adult literature class. I began as a volunteer for her inaugural political run and was soon put on the payroll and met people that I am still in contact with to this day. Of course, we lost that race, but soon regrouped to form the Freedom Writer Foundation. I have been working with Erin as a consultant for over nine years and have traveled with her to over twenty states! With the Freedom Writer Foundation I have been to Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Pennsylvania, Montana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Indiana, New York, Utah, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, North Carolina, Illinois, Minnesota New Jersey. We have spoken everywhere from juvenile halls to the Bacara resort in Santa Barbara. Along the way I have met Bruce Brown, Dan Rathar, Wing Lam (founder of Garrett's favorite restaurant: Wahoo's) Hillary Swank, Patrick Dempsy, Reene Firestone (Holocaust survivor) and the current Sec. of Ed. I was able to be on the set for five days of shooting the "Freedom Writers" movie and I am actually in the film! (for half a second) Amina and I attended the premiere in Westwood where she got to meet Patrick Dempsy. (one of the highlights of her life!) During this time the Freedom Writers Diary has sold over a million copies, I helped to ghost write and edit Erin's memoir and the Freedom Writers Teachers Guide, racked up over one hundred thousand frequent flier miles, and enjoyed the good life of free drinks in private airport lounges across the country. I now also have the honor of serving on the Freedom Writers Board of Directors. (But my Dad refuses to call me the Chairman of the Board at work) The above picture was taken yesterday at the Skirball center as Erin launched her fourth book: Teaching Hope! On Saturday we celebrated Erin's 40th birthday at the Hotel Maya in Long Beach. Next Friday I will be attending the premiere of the Freedom Writer Documentary, Voices Unbound, at the Lido theater in Newport Beach. Erin has been a great friend to me over the years and to think that I picked her class without having any idea of whom my professor would be. It's just like my main man Forrest said, "life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Stealing Life

"For it is the ultimate wisdom of the mountains that a man is never more a man than when he is striving for what is beyond his grasp, and that there is no conquest worth winning save that over his own weakness and fear."
-James Ullman

How many of our days are spent in an endless cycle where minutes seem to pass us by in seconds as we sit slack jawed in front of a television or computer screen? How many mornings do we wake up with no excitement in our lives? How many hours are spent in the office with the small drudgery of going from task to task all the while secretly knowing you are accomplishing nothing of importance? How often do we avoid challenges, steer clear from fear, and live our lives as if the sole purpose is to remain as comfortable as possible at all times?
On the morning before our Mt. Whitney ascent Nicole and I got up early to watch the sunrise over Crystal Lake. As we were hiking the trail in darkness we both were reflecting on all the people who were comfortably sleeping in their beds and would not be up for hours. As we watched the sunrise Nicole turned to me and said, "Matt, it's like we are stealing life."
On August 4th, 2009 the following six people decided to rise at 2 in the morning and steal a little bit from this life. Here are a few of the stories from this day as I salute this cast of characters:

Garrett Riley AKA "Billygoat" AKA "Big Goot"
This lean and mean version pushed his Nikes to the limit as he set a consistently fast pace and did not want to stop for breaks. He wore his socks as mittens, got the nickname "deuce-deuce" and made it to the top with no trouble at all. He was able to marvel at God's creation in his own special way as we stood atop trail crest and looked down at Kings Canyon. On the decent he was hurting but he did not complain once and just dealt with the pain.

Nicole Santiago AKA "White Lightning" AKA "Champ" AKA "Mini-punk"
What can I say about this amazing athlete? I think my brother said it best when he said Nicole could climb Whitney and than go run a 10K. She was always smiling, always encouraging people and setting a fast pace to the top. At trail camp it was bitterly cold and as we tried to eat Nicole looked at me in the freezing wind and said, "isn't this awesome?" Her smile was just as big after 22 miles as it was at the beginning of the hike. I can't wait for all of our adventures to come.

Tasha Riley AKA "Sweaty" AKA "Jabbermouth"
Tasha is really a great athlete, but she will never tell you about it, you have to join her on an adventure. Tasha took to the mountain with ease and kept me going on the way down with her constant jibber jabber. It is great to be able to run, hike and cross-country ski with my sister-in-law. She is in for Mt. Whitney next year and I look forward to it.

Denise Riley AKA "Squeakers" AKA "AARP"
Denise did a great job getting to the summit. She really trained hard, took every bit of advice very seriously, and was the first of our group to make the top. Denise seemed to almost be in a trance on top of Mt. Whitney but I think she was reflecting on her accomplishment. Denise and my Dad have set the bar very high as I will have to summit again in my late 50's. It was fun to go on training hikes with Denise and spend time in the mountains.

Tina AKA "little black bear"
Tina was an unknown to me but she did great. She kept a very cool head after some large rat dog chewed up her water bladder. We did not discover this until mile 4 of the hike but Tina played it cool. She was a great asset to the team and I hope she comes back with us next year.

Matt Riley AKA "Rolling Thunder" AKA "Moot"
This time around I enjoyed myself so much more on the hike. I was able to really focus on the views and scenery and I hope we can all do it again next year! I want to thank my great team for being such a positive and optimistic group. See you all next year!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Surf for Life

This morning, before work, my brother Mike and I were able to surf my local break, Dolphin Wall, for a few hours. It was a beautiful clear morning, sunny skies, surf babes on the beach, trunkable water and nice little peelers. I was able to ride my longboard and Mike got his first taste of "big red." As the tide came up, the waves got better, the wind died and Mike and I were smiling from ear to ear. What is it about surfing that makes it so addictive? I think that the amazing combination of nature and the innate athletic skill that it takes to catch and ride moving water make surfing not just a sport, but a lifestyle. I have been blessed in my life to travel to Baja, Hawaii (multiple times), Indonesia, Australia and Fiji (see above pictures) all in the pursuit of waves. If you think about the influence that surfing has had on my life it is mindbogoling:
1. All of my friends (except Shuford) surf
2. I have NEVER lived more than a few blocks from the ocean
3. My Mom let me take Mike to Mexico when he was 17 on a surf/camping trip!
4. I will never move away from the ocean
5. I have been surfing since I was in the 7th grade! What have you been doing consistently for 21 years?
6. I competed on my high-school surf team and coached a high-school surf team.
7. In Coach House's history class I wrote my term paper on the history of surfing and got a B-
8. My earliest memories of surfing were watching my Uncle Dennis catch and ride a long wave at San Onofre and our neighbor Ralph Moore who had surfboards in his garage.
9. I caught my first wave at Ratt beach on a piece of junk board that Jeff bought for Paul at a swap meet.
10. The first time I angled (went down the line, not straight) I was riding a Joe Bark in the 7th grade.
11. The morning after my high school graduation my entire crew went down to surf Ratt beach, than went home to sleep.
12. My first real tube ride was a burnout beach in Torrance
13. I have traveled the world with a surfboard under my arm and a smile on my face!
P.S. Is all of this just a shameless excuse to post pictures of myself surfing? In the words of our favorite VP candidate who is proving "she's not a quitter" by quitting her job, YOU BETCHA!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

One year ago today!

It was one year ago today that I stood on top of Glen Pass with John, Dennis and Mike. It was a beautiful day that I will always remember. I love backpacking for the memories and pictures (such as this one) that are made. The four of us formed a bond over those five days and long trail miles. We spent hours laughing at the contact between bubble one to bubble two, and talking over campfires. It is vital to for your soul to get out in the wild and live life to the fullest. I still laugh as I think about Mike talking in his sleep every night and telling me he is not going to shine his flashlight "at some big-ass bear." We were all so lucky to spend five days in God's country. I can only hope to be in as good as shape as Dennis is when I am 61 so I can hike the Rae Lakes loop at his age. I still think he should be on the cover of A.A.R.P. Thanks to a great crew for the laughter and memories!

Monday, June 29, 2009

We cannot control when we will die, but we can control how we will live

Thank you to my friends and family for their support during my recent round of hospital visits. This week was an emotional rollercoaster and I was happy to be back at work today. The routine of office life and property management was a pleasant way to spend my day. I especially want to thank my brudda from the islands, for sharing his story and kind words on my blog. Here is a rundown of my week:
Wednesday- Routine follow-up at the doctors office reveals I have a slight deformation in my heart. Stress test ordered immediately! Return to office in a confused and slightly spaced out frame of mind. The best boss in the world notes my condition and offers to buy me a beer. I refuse the offer and try to continue working.
Thursday-UCLA schedules my stress test for Friday which leaves one more day to contemplate my own mortality. I am on the way to class at UCLA and find out it is canceled because MJ died (see previous post as to how I spent my time). I have trouble sleeping and make alot of phone calls that night.
Friday- I awake at 6:00 am for my 9:00 stress test. I leave my house at 7:00 am and somehow make it to the hospital by 7:45. I am one hour and fifteen minutes early for my test but they take me in and prep me. My doctor is named Dr. Diaz, which I interpret as a good sign. Stress test is completed and all test results are positive. I walk out of the hospital feeling like a new man. I drive to the Raider Image and buy a new T-shirt to get ready for the upcoming season.
Saturday- I get up early, put my longboard on the racks, pick-up Mikey, meet Reed and am surfing San Onofre by 9:30 am. We celebrate Jeff's birthday at the beach and I can't help but look at his scar from open heart surgery. I drove home, drop my board off and head out to Dodger stadium.
Sunday- I drive to Palm Springs, hike 11 miles with my brother, come home and go to church. (I made it by 6 minutes) When I am taking a shower I feel really tired and consider skipping church but something tells me I should go. I walk in to church and the sermon for the evening is on death. The show a video of a young married father who has thyroid cancer and the pastor tells us a story about a 16 year-old girl who went to his church who died suddenly. He is in tears as he tells us this story and says "you cannot control when you will die, but you can control how you will live." I go to sleep at 8:45 determined to make the most of my time on this earth.
Postscript: Garrett kicked butt on the hike and I have now summited Mt. San Jacinto with Mike, Paul and Garrett. Check his blog for a great video

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it, or else they will lock you up"-Hunter S. Thomson

I was on my way to my real estate class at UCLA today and I found out that class was canceled because MJ died. They canceled class because the guy who invented the moonwalk died? I thought about turning around and heading home, but the thought of spending more time on the 405 parking lot just did not appeal to me. So I decided to walk over to UCLA medical center and mingle with the crazies, like the guy in this photo who brought flowers. I got some face-time on Fox News (check out Garrett's blog) got interviewed for a German newspaper, tried to get interviewed by a hot Spanish reporter and got kicked out of the press line by an fascist cop with a bullhorn. When this angry cop demanded my press credentials, I told him I wrote for a blog, he didn't buy it and he kicked me out of line. That was cool because I witnessed a group of people dancing to Thriller, Bille Jean and Beat-It. My only wish was that my brother Mike was with me to join in with the nutballs and enjoy the scene. I think I spotted an anguished Corey Fieldman holding hands with a distraught Malculy Culkin. No word on Webster. The funny part of this experience is how word spread through the crowd that Latoya was in the building. People spoke in hushed tones and breathlessly repeated the words, "Latoya is with us, she is here." So I will leave you with another quote by a true American genius: Hunter S. Thomson
"When the going gets weird, the weird go pro."
Now that is a man they should have canceled class for!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Holding pattern

Today I has my long awaited follow-up with my cardiologist and we got some good news and some bad news. The good news:
1. No plaque or blocked arteries
The bad news:
1. I need to have a stress test tomorrow or Friday
2. I have a small deformation that causes a few of my veins to be pushed out the wrong way and loop over and rest on my heart.
3. The big unknown: This could be serious, it could be mild, it could be nothing. They hope to know more after the stress test. So, my doc told me to put all running on hold until they get this thing figured out. So until I know more, I am in a holding pattern.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lovin life!

Today Mike, Tasha, Denise and I hiked to the top of Mt. Baden-Powell. It was a good training hike with an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet in just four miles. Denise and Tasha set a hard pace that left Mike and I gasping for breath. We all enjoyed the view from over 9,000 feet at the summit and looked out over the clouds. We took in the view of the Mojave desert and on the way up we spotted a deer and made it home in time to watch the Lakers win the finals! A great day indeed! I ran my long run yesterday, six miles, and am heading out for Montana at 6:OO a.m. Loving the life I'm living.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Birthday Grandma!

"May you always be blessed with walls for the wind,
a roof for the rain, a warm cup of tea by the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you
and all that your heart might desire."
-Irish House Blessing

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

And so it begins...........

"Nature has made neither sun nor air nor waves private property; they are public gifts."
Today was the first day of my new eighteen week training program. I am following a new program by running guru Hal Higdon that is both longer and tougher than my previous running program. I ran three miles today and concentrated on my breathing and enjoying the view of the ocean. My legs felt good, my breath was steady and a song kept playing in my head:
"He snaps back to reality, whoops there goes gravity
oh there goes rabbit, he choked
he's so mad but he won't give up that easy"
-Marshal Mather

Monday, June 8, 2009


"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."
-John Muir

This past Saturday my Dad and Denise decided to volunteer their time and do some trail maintenance on our beloved Mammoth Rock trail. This is a beautiful trail that we can walk to from our home in snowcreek. June 6th was National Trails Day, a day for all of us who use these trails to preserve, protect and maintain the trails we love.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gong to keep me down

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never going to keep me down.

My father had a heart attack in his mid-forties, my grandfather had a heart attack in his mid-thirties, at age 33, as I opened my eyes in the emergency room I was told I had a heart attack. My brain processed the word "heart attack" in an unfolding wave of confusion. I have not been this surprised since my uncle became a Trojan fan. How was this possible? I had been doing everything right. I had been eating healthy, running fourteen, sixteen, eighteen miles and I had even quit drinking! I followed my training book to the letter, I drank plenty of water, I stretched, I cooled down, I paced myself. I built up my running over a sixteen week period and tapered my running down for the last three weeks to store energy. I gave myself every advantage possible in an effort to complete my first marathon. Did I mention that I gave up drinking? So why did it happen? Why did I fail? Why did I pass out on mile twelve? How many more nights will I spend waking up at 3:00 a.m. to once more go over the race? I do not know the answers to these questions. All I know it that I got knocked down, I got up again, and you're never going to keep me down.