Family isn’t always about blood or DNA (as my own life has continued to illustrate.) That said, relatives can be a hell of a lot of fun. Nine years ago, I posted a photo that I took on a trip to New Jersey to visit the Polish half of my family.
For those of you that didn’t know: yes, I’m half Polish. Now, I’ll sit here for a moment while you think to yourself “oh, THAT explains it” or some other related anecdotal joke about the intelligence of folks from Poland. Go ahead. It’s fine. I’m used to it.
[pause for effect.]
ANYWAY – I took this photo of my grandparents, my mother, and my aunts:
Today, we gathered in South Florida for the purpose of surprising my (widowed) Grandmother by getting together her surviving daughters, her grandchildren, and her great grandchildren. It’s quite an impressive brood for two immigrants that escaped Europe back in the fifties.
We met up at my cousin Craig’s house in Pompano Beach and got to see some older, but familiar, faces. Here is my grandmother and her surviving daughters (my aunt Mary passed a few years back.)
Yes, my aunt Wanda was THRILLED to learn we were taking the photo right after she decided to jump in the pool.
The other amazing photo we took while I was there was that of the grandchildren. There’s a LOT of us. My grandparents had five daughters and those five blessed/cursed the world with nine children. An interesting genetics note, here, is the fact that my grandfather had five (FIVE!) daughters, but never a son. All of the first born children of these women (myself included) were ALL MALE. Interesting, aye?
Anyway, here’s the photo of all of us at the same place at the same time. It might be a sign of the Polish Apocalypse.
Last month, I posted a blog post boasting that I have been ranting and raving via web logs (aka blogging) on “teh Interwebz” for over ten years now.
Ten… long… years.
The problem with an accomplishment like that is that it involves math. Once math gets involved, people starting asking question. Once people start asking questions, information becomes public and then, before you know it, we all find out that Rock Hudson was gay.
No, I’m not gay.
The math in my life is finally adding up to the point that I am on the verge of crossing the mid-life crisis milestone of turning forty years old in December. That’s right, I’m going to be forty years old and I still watch cartoons and play video games. I was recently told that I am the “Dick Clark of anime fandom” since I’m now an elder statesmen, yet I still manage to pull off seeming like the young guy.
I like that.
Thus: forty. I’ve started looking at things I should do for the alleged mid-life crisis. The first, and most obvious, is going out a buying a sports car. Well, I already got me one of those:
I have a house, younger wife, sports car, and (if you believe the Internet) a boat. So what do I do for my fortieth?
I know – I’ll try to get myself killed.
Shannon and a number of our friends have been dabbling into the whole marathon running thing. You know, this:
Well, it seems that she and some of our friends have signed up to run a Marathon (or Half – they are at the same time) on December 1, 2013 in Florida. So I figured, why not? So I have signed up.
In short: I’m going to run (and by “run” I mean “trot or walk at a brisk pace”) my first Marathon on my 40th Birthday.
Expect future blog posts that involve me bitching about soreness, joints, and chaffing as I begin preparations for doing this. You have been warned.
(Have a nice day.)
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we rented a Nissan Cube with the intention of leaving the city and checking out other parts of Japan… mainly Mount Fuji. The appeal of doing this rests solely on mine and Shannon’s fondness of road trips. We LOVE driving large distances and seeing sights along the way. Hell, that’s exactly what we did on our honeymoon five years ago. We are the tourist stereotype.
We are the Griswolds incarnate.
Now, to give credit where credit is due: renting a car in Japan was INFINITELY easier than I expected. Kudos to Japan Experience and Nissan for making the process simple, painless, and so easy that an anime geek could do it. Here’s the website I used if you ever decide to rent a car in Japan: www.japan-experience.com/car-rental-japan
One more note: BEFORE YOU RENT A CAR IN JAPAN, you will need to get your International Driver Permit. This is also pretty simple (especially if you have a AAA office near you.) Details: www.dmv.org/international-driver-permits.php
So, for the first time in my life, I drove on the opposite side of the road. It looked like this:
Of COURSE it was raining that morning, you know? Notice the speedometer in the photo. OTHER COUNTRIES DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT MPH. We list miles AND kilometers on our vehicle readouts, but no other countries use our measurement system – none of them.
[Insert rant about the U.S. not adopting the metric system here.]
The GPS was fun to watch, but useless since it did not have a Romanji keyboard on the touch screen. Instead, we listened to a lot of J-Pop radio stations which played the occasional Justin Timberlake and One Direction song. Also interesting was the fact that radio drops between commercials and songs were in English – because (I assume) it’s cool(?)
Anyway, the GPS did us no good, but my magical international iPhone worked wonders. While at the stop light, I actually tapped the button on the phone and said, “Siri, how do I get to Mount Fuji” and – guess what – IT WORKED. Siri instantly pulled up that map and got us heading in the right direction using (gasp!) Apple Maps.
Here’s Shannon watching the GPS as we leave the city:
Notice the look of confusion on her face since she’s in the American driver’s seat. It was strange, but good for her (so she claims) since it seemed to help her avoid feeling car sick – something that tends to occasionally happen to her as a result of my somewhat FAST AND FURIOUS (sarcasm) driving style.
Also look in her lap and you’ll see how well she planned in advance. Those are printouts of Japanese road signs in case we came across ones that we couldn’t immediately deduce. (For the record, most of them turned out to be pretty easy to figure out.)
Our first FREAK OUT moment on the road came when the GPS in the car started beeping a loud alarm and saying something in Japanese that, of course, we didn’t understand. My heart raced as I tried to figure out what the hell was going on – and then I saw it in front of me: a toll plaza.
If you thought the Florida Turnpike cost a pretty penny, it’s got NOTHING on Japanese toll roads. I didn’t keep track as closely as I should have, but I’m pretty sure we dropped between 2500 and 3000 yen (roughly $30 American) in tolls ONE WAY. Between gas and tolls, getting to Mount Fuji probably… wait. Never mind. I don’t want to do the math.
Once we got outside the city (which took some time thanks to traffic) we began to see an entirely different side of Japan. It was breathtaking. It all seemed like home here in the states, but just slightly different enough.
Shannon kept pointing out the trees and mountains, while slightly similar, didn’t compare directly to anywhere we had been in the States. To me, though, the roads and tunnels seemed vaguely familiar and after driving for a while it hit me: racing video games. The style of roads and the look of the tunnels reminded me of tracks I have played in games like Burnout and Need for Speed on my XBox and Playstation back home. It was pretty cool.
Part of the fun driving through Japan was trying to translate road signs not found in Shannon’s folder. At one point, we saw a sign with a large letter “P” and the picture of a tea cup. We assumed (and pulled off to confirm) that it was a rest area with food available. Thus we checked out a Japanese highway rest stop which resulted in Shannon buying MORE JAPANESE SNACKS!
From there, we continued driving towards Fuji…
I made my first “blog” post on March 29, 2003… ten years ago last Friday: http://www.tomcroom.com/archives/4620
Since then, I’ve written about travel, life, anime fandom, movies, and a myriad of semi-interesting things that I always figured that only my family and close friends were reading about. (Google Analytics has since informed me otherwise.)
So to those of you still paying attention to this young old man’s ranting on the Interwebz – thank you. It’s fun and will continue to be so as I catch up on my writing over the next month.
For now, know that on the day that marked “ten years” I was at a in Tokyo, Japan meeting Shinichi Watanabe at a party.
Not too shabby for a nerd with a “hobby gone horribly wrong.”
And miles to go before I sleep.
A friend of mine posted something on Twitter today that kind of bothered me. It seems that her office is doing a “save the dogs” campaign and she’s made it known that she is actively NOT going to participate since it excludes cats.
This has me a bit confused.
I randomly donate money and time to causes that present the chance to do good in the world. I remember donating to help alligators once. Alligators. Seriously.
If I choose to NOT support something, it’s not due to the lack of inclusion of another element directly relevant to the idealism. I do it by choice. I didn’t choose to NOT donate to alligators because it doesn’t include OTHER animals… like crocodiles. Doing good is just that: doing good. Finding the negative in doing good based on exclusion’s sake is, well, negative.
The immediately analogy I came up with was this: do people who support research into breast cancer not support research to into OTHER cancers? What about starving children? Should I not donate to a local food shelter because it doesn’t include children from OTHER countries?
It just seems odd to me, I guess. That said, I’d support kitty cats (and have in the past) even thought I’m a dog person. Helping others is just good Karma. (Double joke here for outsiders… my dog’s name is Karma.)
What is it with small towns and franchise businesses? I just don’t get it. Maybe living in Orlando for years has me spoiled as to what to expect as far as service is concerned. Whatever the reason, last night was the LAST NIGHT I’ll be ordering from Firehouse Subs in Vero Beach, Florida (and, most likely, any Firehouse Subs.)
Here’s what happened:
My wife is a finicky eater. You think going out to dinner with “your friend the vegan” can be a challenge? That’s nothing compared to Shannon. Because of this, she and I have become very adept at placing custom orders clearly and repeating orders to make sure they are done correctly.
Last night, I was neck deep in coding websites for Green Mustard Entertainment, and I didn’t feel like stopping for food. Shannon suggested ordering something for takeout and she’d run to get it while I kept working. We opted to order from this Firehouse Subs:
Your standard, small town franchise in a strip mall.
Here’s where things get interesting… Shannon wanted me to call ahead to order the subs. Knowing that she orders off menu, I tend to suggest she order it when she gets there instead (so she can watch them make it.) Time was a concern overall, though, so I made the call.
If you know me in real life, you know I have one of those deep, clear, radio style voices when I enunciate. I made the call to place an order. I spelled out exactly what SHOULD and SHOULDN’T be on Shannon’s sub. (It’s really simple, actually: pepperoni, onions, provolone, and oregano… that’s it! Nothing else.) I repeated it back to the guy on the phone and he informed me that he had it – and Shannon left to get it as I continued work.
She got home about half an hour later and I stopped work to take a break, watch TV, and eat dinner. She opened her sub and saw that they got it completely wrong. There was ham and lettuce and tomatoes and…
Well. I was pissed.
I was REALLY pissed because I walked the person through the order twice on the phone. Clearly. It would take a special act of not paying attention to mess this up. I was pissed because now this Firehouse Subs was about to waste the one thing I hold most valuable: time.
I got in the car and drove (with Shannon) back to the Firehouse Subs. I asked to speak to a manager, and the guy behind the counter told me that there wasn’t one there. Let me repeat: there was no manager on duty.
I then told him how upset I was and that I wanted a refund for the whole order. I explained that the purpose of calling in an order ahead of time was to save time – not waste it like I was doing having to come in. He gave the usual talk off – “I understand” – and started going through the order.
“You don’t want the other sandwich?” he asked, referring to mine.
“Why? So I can eat it in front of my wife who’s order you got wrong?”
“You don’t want these cookies either?” he then asked. He was going through item by item – shocked that I wanted a refund for all the untouched food.
It was ludicrous.
I then pointed out that either he or someone else had to have taken the order. Another guy showed up and said he was the one who did it. Ignoring the fact that there was lettuce and tomato on it (which wasn’t supposed to be there) he went straight for “you know it normally comes with ham, too.”
“I know,” I responded. ”I told you NO ham. No ham. No salami. Nothing else except the pepperoni, cheese, onions, and oregano. I was on your website reading the ingredients off the menu when I was ordering, hence making sure to mention everything to remove from the order.”
“I guess I didn’t hear your. Sorry,” he said back.
Since no manager was available, I asked for the franchise owner’s card. They got it for me and, luckily, it included the guy’s cell phone.
After getting our money back, we walked out and started deciding on where to get dinner. Before doing so, though, I took Shannon’s cell (mine was at home) and called the number on the business card. After a few rings, a man picked up.
“Hello,” I asked. ”Is Doug Hummel there?”
“This is him, who’s this?” the guy replied.
I proceeded to tell Doug the entire circumstance and let him know that I was standing out front of his Firehouse Subs while calling. After listening to my rant – Doug replied with these few words: “Okay. Well, I’ll let the manager know” and then ended the call.
Wow. Thanks, man.
So should the folks from that Firehouse ever read this, here’s the simple answer to the problem that NO ONE on your team – all the way to the Franchise Owner – never did.
NO ONE OFFERED TO MAKE THE CORRECT SUB. No one. I got excuses from the counter guy…
“The manager isn’t here.”
I got excuses from the order taker…
“I didn’t hear you say no ham.”
I even got a talk off from the owner…
“I’ll let the manager know.”
NO ONE OFFERED TO FIX THE PROBLEM. NO ONE. That, boy and girls, is what is called “service.” It’s how a company thrives in a recessive market. It’s also something that, when lacking, loses business.
And as of now, I have no plans to ever return to a Firehouse Subs.
This is that time of year when folks begin posting about how this year they’re planning on changing a zillion things and making thinks different somehow. For me, though, I’m not looking forward to changing… I’m looking forward to continuing.
2012 was a hard year, but that’s not a bad thing. As friends and colleagues will tell you – I tend to be a workaholic. I love it. I love the feeling to things getting done and the creative process attached to it in my little geek universe. My friends (my team) and I put in a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into a number of projects that are now continuing into 2013.
Hell. We’re already in production for two unannounced things in 2014.
The best way to look forward, though, is to remember where you’ve been. SO, here’s my recap of one of the craziest years of my life. Enjoy.
- Reflected on a pretty exciting life thus far in this blog post. No clue what the year was about to bring.
- We were in the thick of planning InvaderCON II: DOOMCON that month, too.
- Took the first of what would be many trips to Los Angeles to work on Anime Expo and Project Anime.
- Randomly took an air boat ride in the Florida swamp because, you know, I’m random that way.
- Took another trip to Los Angeles for work on PA/AX some more.
- Took another trip to Los Angeles two weeks later… on my way to Japan for the first time. I spent eight days being the tallest person in the room.
- I went to Tokyo Disney SEA.
- I went to Disneyland (in Los Angeles) with the voice of Gir.
- I won a $500 Apple gift card for telling a goofy story online about my old IIc.
- Took a quick trip to Atlanta to look a party spots for some adult website.
- Was the best man in my best friend’s wedding… on a Disney Cruise to the Bahamas.
- Saw Tom Petty in concert! I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.
- Went to Los Angeles again.
- Dealt with loss as my father’s wife passed away.
- Survived Year Two of Florida Anime Experience with the first ever appearance of Terri Hawkes (the voice of Sailor Moon!)
- Back in Los Angeles again… this time to visit E3!
- Return to Los Angeles at the end of the month to set up for Anime Expo and Project Anime.
- Survived the hell, horror, and amazement of Anime Expo 2012. My eyes were open to a lot of things that one week in Los Angeles.
- Found out a cheesy horror film I did in 1991 was finally coming out on DVD.
- Read the Steve Jobs book. I’ve revisited a lot in that book since then (after years of being told that I am “an asshole just like Steve Jobs.”)
- Returned to Los Angeles for Anime Expo follow up meetings… and new perspective.
- Ran, successfully, InvaderCON II: DOOMCON in Los Angeles. Amazing things happened.
- Finished laying the groundwork (after months of set up) for what has since become Talent For Cons by booking voice actors in Anime Expo and Florida Supercon.
- Announced a new show for the Jacksonville market called WasabiCon (since EXPcon had fallen completely off the radar.)
- Ran events at Gen Con in Indianapolis again. Good times!
- I spent a lot of this month recovering from the Anime Expo/InvaderCON/Project Anime stuff in July.
- Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia. I helped some Edgar guy host events at a party at the Hard Rock Cafe there. While there, I saw a sci-fi celebrities drunk daughter dance on a stripper pole. (I love my life.)
- Lots and lots of catch up work that month…
- Wound up visiting EPCOT on the 30th anniversary of the park’s opening. Turned out it was a clever day to take my friend Marc Perez there for his first time.
- Launched the very first PinUpalooza. It was a lukewarm event (after getting dates bounced around and whatnot) but we proved the event was a solid concept. Already planning Year Two.
- Because one con just wasn’t enough, we ran WasabiCon that same month, too. One of the best cons assembled in two months EVER.
- Took another cruise for my five year wedding anniversary with one of the most patient women on the planet. This time we found ourselves in Belize and Cozumel, Mexico. (It seems that I still need to write a blog post about this since I didn’t see one while writing this.)
- Spent Thanksgiving with my dad… because that’s what family does.
- Got blind sided (for the first time in my life) by a surprise birthday party. I have some amazing fucking friends.
- Launched ANOTHER new event in 2012 – Cosplay Christmas. It was holiday goodness that will return in 2013.
- Went to Busch Gardens for the first time in yeaaars.
- Was a groomsman in the AMAZING wedding of Troy and Kim Doerner.
- Returned to Los Angeles for the first time since July to start work on Project Anime 2013 again. Saw some geeky stuff.
- Spent the first Christmas in 13 years without my wife… but got to spend it with my dad. My heart was happy, but my lungs were in pain. (Long story.)
SO – cities I found myself in during 2012:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
And now for that part we all do during a perceived time of renewal – plan for the future. So what are my goals in 2013? I have a couple of things to work on, sure, like anyone else. I like keeping things simple, though, so here are the three things that I will concentrate on in this new year.
- Lose weight. (Cliche, yes, but truly needed at this point.)
- Blog more. (In reading about my past year, I realize that I didn’t write as much about most of it that I should have.)
- Continue onward. (I created a lot in 2012; now I have to build it up even more.)
So here we go…