Friday, September 30, 2011

Mission San Diego, Labor Day Weekend 2011

In San Diego, I stayed near Old Town, the most famous part of which is probably the Spanish mission, the first of its kind in California. Here's a quick peek.

I got there just as a later service was starting. Whoopsie.

The exhibits are similar to those at other missions.

There was an archaeological dig just behind the mission.

This mission was (I believe) the only one to see Native American rebellion against the Spanish priests. The priest depicted here is remembered in the Roman Catholic church as a martyr.

The man who started it all, for better or for worse.

Later that afternoon = the San Diego Zoo. To be continued...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mission San Juan Capistrano, Labor Day Weekend 2011

After leaving Los Angeles, I headed down to San Diego on I-5. Along the way I wanted to stop at the "Jewel of the Missions," Mission San Juan Capistrano, in Orange County.

I had been to all but 3 of the 21 Spanish missions in California before coming here, and right away I felt that this was the top contender for "Most Beautiful Mission."

Because it receives so much tourist money compared to the other missions, the exhibits are extremely well done.

Of course, the swallows are the big reason for the mission's fame (September isn't their season, though).

I found it interesting that wine in California began here.

You just need a little imagination to picture it.

One of the temporary exhibits had a document signed by Abraham Lincoln that transferred ownership of the mission land.

Some parts of the mission property reminded me of South America.

St. Peregrine's chapel

The main altar (I think Fr. Serra served here but it could have been elsewhere in the complex).

Every mission has its bells and whistles... groan.

One thing that sets this mission apart from the others is the complex of church ruins dating from the early 1800s, when an earthquake hit mid-service. Forty-some people were killed, and the church was never rebuilt.

After the mission, I drove inland down I-15 to go to Stone Brewery, in Escondido. This is their 15th anniversary Black IPA. Delicious.

I was looking forward to a fun and relaxing next two days in San Diego. To be continued...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Los Angeles en route to San Diego, Labor Day Weekend 2011

Truth be told, I venture outside of the state and country more often than I go to Southern California. I think it's the smell... kidding. Here's Part One of my Labor Day Weekend fun.

First, I made it down Friday night to a buddy's place in Glendale. Not a bad part of Los Angeles County.

A major highlight of Glendale is Porto's Cuban Bakery.

Their sandwiches and savory pastries are incredible.

I had never been to Griffith Observatory, so my buddy Rob took me up there. Surprise surprise, LA has smog.

The James Lick Observatory in San Jose isn't as easy to visit as the Griffith, which gets tons of tourists, especially on weekends.

Rebel Without a Cause was partly filmed up here... ah, Hollywood.

The observatory is a major complex.

The observatory's first exhibit, the Foucault pendulum (1935).

The observatory has great views over (smoggy) Los Angeles.

I have no idea what type of telescope this is, but it looked easy to operate... (cough).

The architecture of the place is very fetching.

This pillar honors various astronomers throughout history.

Next stop, Orange County to see Mission San Juan Capistrano, before venturing onward to San Diego County. To be continued...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Step in the Right Direction

To the average 5 foot 7 inch American, 199.6 lbs. is heavy. Actually, it's obese.

So why celebrate such a gordo weight?

I started the summer at just about 220 lbs., the heaviest I've ever (knowingly) been. I finally got sick of it, and started exercising and cutting calories religiously.

My hard work has finally paid off. By losing those twenty pounds, I'm now actually under 200 lbs. (albeit it ever so slightly) for the first time in over 2 years. I still have about 25 lbs. to go before I reach my old, normal weight, but this most recent weigh in represents a step in the right direction.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lokomotiv, Memory Eternal

Last Wednesday I got to work a few minutes earlier than normal, and decided to catch a glimpse of the news before my daily 7:30am meeting.

I wish I hadn't.

Forty-five people had been in a plane crash in Russia, including the entire Russian KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Details were sketchy, but it appeared (correctly) that virtually the entire team was lost. There would mercifully be two survivors, both of whom are currently in medically-induced comas with severe burns.

No life should be valued more than others, but some of the names of the dead were instantly recognizable to me.

Pavol Demitra. Ruslan Salei. Karlis Skrastins. Josef Vasicek. Daniil Sobchenko, who was drafted this year by the San Jose Sharks.

It was all I could muster to keep myself from losing it in front of my students that morning.

Karlis Skrastins, #37, playing in Dallas against San Jose in Dec. 2009

It didn't matter to me that the former three once played for some of the teams I hate most in the NHL. These weren't exactly my heroes, but neither were they absolute strangers or (worse) absolute villains.

They were family men, playing for a sport that we mutually adored. The oldest of the players was two years shy of 40. Four of them, including Sobchenko, weren't old enough to drink legally in the United States.

Ruslan Salei (#24), playing in Detroit against the San Jose Sharks in February 2011.

Coming right on the heels of the back-to-back suicides of two NHL pugilists (Rick Rypien on August 15, and Wade Belak on August 31), and less than four months after the accidental overdose of Derek Boogaard, the Lokomotiv tragedy took our hockey off-season to another level of despair.

Wade Belak in Nashville, vs. San Jose in February 2010

But in that despair, there was something hauntingly beautiful = the hockey world coming together, putting aside national differences and team rivalries, and consoling one another in our collective loss. USA vs. Russia, Sharks vs. Red Wings - it didn't matter any more. A loss for one is a loss for all.

Hockey is the brotherhood that binds.

Requiescat in pace, Lokomotiv and B-R-B. You are gone but not forgotten. As is said in Russia and the Orthodox lands, MEMORY ETERNAL.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

End of Summer Serenity

Summer doesn't end for a couple more weeks, but the Labor Day weekend marks the emotional end of summer for me, and presumably others. Carefree days are replaced by ones with greater concern for our work at hand, our obligations and deadlines, and potential *zingers* lying unbeknownst in the weeks ahead as we march into the colder months.

So why do I feel so serene?

It has nothing to do with my personal preference for fall, or the start of the hockey season (sorry fellow Sharks fans), or even that I'm away on a brief vacation in San Diego as I type this. It has to do with how I'm choosing to interpret the reality that this is the last summer of my twenties. Turning thirty hardly marks the death of youth, but it's a psychological paradigm shift for many like myself, who are obsessed with nice round numbers that we associate with transitions.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The mental echo of my childhood self boldly predicting, "When I grow up..." hovers like a murky fog over the awareness of who I've become as an adult. What would that child say to me now? Would he be content with what he sees? Would his disappointment be visible on his face? Or would he start hyperventilating with excitement, knowing that he's going to *make it* after all?

And what does it mean to *make it*?

The adult in me, despite my vain concerns over career, money, weight, and eventual progeny, feels content and serene knowing that many of my childhood ambitions have been accomplished, even if some of them (a Porsche in the driveway of my Hawaiian mansion, ha!) remain dramatically unfulfilled.

I'm content knowing that I spent my *youth* doing what youth was meant for = taking risks, learning from mistakes, and building a modicum of character that will serve me in true *maturity*. All the travel didn't hurt, either... bank account excepted.

I'm content because I finally feel ready to turn 30, to finally leave my wanton years behind while still retaining the essence of who I am. I'm still going to take risks, but they'll be more calculated. I'm still going to have to learn from my mistakes, but (fingers crossed) the errors won't be as severe, even if the lessons are.

I'm content because I have even greater things to look forward to in this coming decade than my 19 year old self had to look forward to a decade ago.

I'm content because my childhood self grew up.

(Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, June 2008 - the most serene photo in my personal collection)