Over the years I’ve taken part in a few projects that’ve won awards and recognition. I’m hardly ever credited, but I don’t really care to be honest.
This award will always be my favorite and the only one I’ve ever cared about. Grades wise, I never did too well in school. A good kid but a bad student. This little award was confirmation that I was doing something right though. It certainly seemed more important to me than any report card I’d ever gotten. What can I say, it’s a major award.
In the spring over the span of nearly two weeks, I ventured through Bangkok, Maldives, and Hong Kong with my wife Alexis, and our friends Drew, Kelsie, Tyler, Kara, Andrew, and Kirsten.
Our adventure started in Bangkok and our time there was short. We toured temples, experienced traditions, and after all these years, had Thai food in Thailand. We were lucky enough to witness the Thai New Year too. A celebration where the people flood the streets, literally and figuratively, and drench each other with water from head to toe for three straight days. You’d think dumping a bucket of water on a complete stranger in the street might be a little risky, but there wasn’t a person young or old who wasn’t laughing. We got soaked. Kara has family in Thailand, and they were kind enough to invite us all to their home. We ate new foods, sang karaoke and visited a temple in their community. We had a blast, and in all my travels it stands as one of the more truly authentic experiences I’ve had yet.
Most of our trip was spent in the Maldives on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean. Our days were spent both swimming and drinking like fish. We lounged, laughed, and lounged some more. We chartered a boat and jetted across the water searching for whale sharks and mantas. Diving off in a moments notice to catch a glimpse. We were like a poorly trained, clumsy group of Navy Seals. We swam ashore a deserted island and brought our vodka along. We found a turtle who didn’t seem to mind company. And by our last day it was hard to confidently say what day or time it was anymore. To go out with a bang, a looming storm forced us to meet our seaplane a ways away from our island on a floating dock no bigger than a modest area rug.
Our time In Hong Kong was short, but we marveled at the countless skyscrapers in every peak and valley of the lush and rugged land. A skyline that seemed impossible to have been built. We visited shrines and practiced traditions. Easter was celebrated sipping cocktails in the worlds highest bar and we wandered the city streets with little direction, but still found drinks, dumplings, and a tiki bar along the way.
It was a whirlwind two weeks of adventure, and just might’ve been too much if we hadn’t spent most of it floating mindlessly in the bluest waters I’d ever seen.
My Mom turned 60 years old today, but really I should be saying 60 years young! She looks great for her age and believe me, she knows it. She’ll never miss the chance to tell you one of her many stories about her customers at the bank who are left in total disbelief after they learn her age. Just last month when we were in Florida together someone thought I was her husband! Surely I’ll never hear the end of that one.
All kidding aside though, the fact is my Mom is just as beautiful today as I’ve always known her to be. Inside and out. Maybe even more so now that I’m grown and able to understand just how selfless a person she’s always been for us.
Happy sixty Mom, we love you. Don’t worry, it’s just a number, you don’t look a day over 30!
I’ve known Jason maybe nine years now. First met him as just the brother of someone I was becoming fast friends with, but it wasn’t long till I called Jason a friend myself. We’ve done a lot together over the years. From stumbling around Los Angeles blind-drunk, exploring the streets of Barcelona and Madrid, to somehow jumping out of a perfectly good airplane together. I’d say I’m not sure how he got me into that last one, but Confidence is his middle name, and he can be very convincing.
Jason is getting married soon, and to show him just how much we all love him, a few of us hopped on planes and rented some cars for his bachelor party. By “a few of us,” I meant 23 grown men. Most of whom I’d never met. At face value, all the ingredients of this turning into a mess were there. Two things were certain going in though. First, was that Jason was all our common ground. Second, was his brother Drew was organizing the whole thing. In another life, Drew might’ve been a master clockmaker. What I mean is, he’s very good at taking a lot of moving parts, and making them all work together. So about a month ago, we flew in from almost every corner of the country to set out on an adventure together that started in Salt Lake City.
We spent our first day getting acquainted over some food, beers, and disc golf. If you’re unfamiliar with that last bit, it’s just how it sounds. Golf with discs. We even had the discs custom made for the occasion. Jason loved the discs and the game. As for me, I may’ve come close to causing an car accident when a rogue disc escaped me on my first throw. Predictably, Jason destroyed everyone and took great pleasure in that.
Our first night we stayed in what I’d a call mansion, but I’m no expert. An indoor hot tub, in-ground trampoline, and sleeps over twenty seems like it qualifies to me. We drank, ate, laughed and narrowly escaped brawling over a few hands of poker. I may have also beaten my personal record for consecutive time spent in a 104° hot tub, which I generally measure in hours.
As much fun as Salt Lake was, we were already moving on by morning. Our plans had us on the road bright and early, heading a few hours south to Bryce Canyon National Park. My body was in disagreeance, but it was hard to be sore about it when every color of the rainbow was passing by my window in the form of rock, flowers, trees and skies
Wasn’t sure what to expect once we got there. Hadn’t read up on the park before hand, and was glad I didn’t. I’d never seen land sculpted in such a way. Certainly not with my own eyes. We could’ve been standing on another planet by the looks of it. They really are pretty pictures, but truly, you just had to be there.
Some of us ventured down into the canyon depths. The deeper we went, the richer the colors. It seemed bottomless for a minute, but the bottom did come, and so did the start of our hike back up. It was a little rougher than I think anyone thought it’d be. The group took their time, by necessity and through common sense, but I unfortunately had already committed mentally not to stop. There’s that saying, “no man left behind,” but there’s also that other one too, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” I was half expecting a medal when I reached the top.
It’d already been a long day and the next was planned to be an even longer one. Our lodging that night was another mansion as far as I was concerned. Equipped with a game room, home theater, gym, and honestly I lost count of how many bedrooms. Before we wound down for the night, we feasted on a Chili’s catering spread fit for royalty, and Jason’s brother and best man Drew, gave a toast. It was well delivered and one for the books. Not solely for it’s words though, but also for what was in our glasses. By the grace of God, Drew managed to commandeer two bottles of a particularly rare bourbon. If you’re familiar with it, you understand no matter how green your money is, the stuff is just hard to come by. It was the first and probably last time I’ll ever come to have it. Even the glasses themselves were special, branded with the logo of Jason’s yacht servicing business he operates in South Florida.
I couldn’t believe it when my alarm went off the next morning around 6am. I shared a room with Jon and Duncan. Between their snoring, it sounded like I was in the middle of bustling lumber mill. A few hours into that, I got the brilliant idea to seek refuge in the closet. I managed to get maybe a collective two hours of sleep there. Like I said, I couldn’t believe it when my alarm went off. But the road was calling, and we had about an hour drive to Zion National Park.
Yes, I was exhausted, delirious, and maybe as cold as I’d ever been, but that was all fine once we started walking through the park. It’d be hard to fix your mind on anything else other than the natural splendor you’re entirely surrounded by. We hiked in the shadows of towering cliff walls, walked under falling water, spotted a few deer, and explored long enough to see a frozen day turn warm. With that, meant it was time to be hitting the road and moving on to our next stay.
Every day we’d spent on the road traveling to these parks, we were also working our way towards our final destination. Somewhere to cut loose, throw caution to the wind, and wake up whenever the hell we wanted. Had to be no where other than Las Vegas. It was a bachelor party after all.
We pulled into the Cosmopolitan on the strip by late afternoon, showered, and got to business. Jason and his groomsmen stayed in a huge suite, large enough that it had its own network of hallways in it. We all got together there and kicked things off right. Jason gave a speech from the heart, and we raised our glasses to him. We surprised him with some shirts we had made to walk around and look like fools in. He has his Captain’s License so it seemed right to superimpose his face on Cap’n Crunch’s body.
Our first night in Vegas, I told myself I’d be in bed by before midnight, hoping to pay back some of the debt I was starting to owe my body. It was a nice thought, but I ended up being out till 8:30am. Drinks were flowing, dice were rolling, and cards were turning. I got to teach Jason how to play craps, and he fell in love with the game. The sleep depravation was really a small price to pay considering Jason is usually the guy teaching me something.
I paid the price the next morning of course, or more accurately the next afternoon. It was our last night though, and the dice weren’t going to roll themselves. Everyone spent the day scattered to their games and vices of choice but we all regrouped in the suite for a drink and a surprise I didn’t even see coming. Drew got a legitimate magician to come up to our suite and perform. I’m a logical person, but I just can’t explain some the things I witnessed that man do there. We were all just shy of losing our minds watching it all. Someone actually left the room because it was too much for him. Funny, but really gives you an idea of just how damn good this guy was.
With us all on the verge of a mental meltdown after witnessing what seemed to be actual magic, we headed down to Momofuku for our last dinner together. It was here that Jason’s dad Andy gave a speech that had a rowdy group of mostly drunk men, silent and hanging on every word he spoke. Jason also took the time here to walk around the table and personally thank each and every one of us for being there and for being in his life. All the while we were moving through a full course dinner, and an open bar of specialty cocktails. Everything was insanely delicious, and served as one hell of a base for the rest of a night which we spent doing all the things one does in Las Vegas.
After 4 nights, our adventure came to a close. One by one, we each headed back to our own cities, scattered across the country. Tired, hungover, and smiling.
I don’t think anyone could have guessed such an ambitious trip, with such a limited time-frame, and so many guys of diverse backgrounds who really didn’t know each other, would go off without a hitch. This is largely because the best man knocked it out the park meticulously coordinating the entire thing. But there’s something else to it too. Everyone wanted to be helpful. Everyone wanted to make it work in anyway they could. Of course we all had a blast, but I promise you, each of our top priority was to see Jason have the best bachelor party he could. No one blinked at the vacation days, the travel, the spending, or the 5am deathly hungover wakeup calls. This was for our friend, and there really isn’t much that any of us would let get in the way of that. It speaks volumes about Jason, and it’s because the kind of guy he is that made the whole thing work.
It was an adventure I was lucky to be a part of, and one that I won’t forget. Thanks for having me Captain.
Mike explaining a few components he’s been working on for the Mars 2020 rover. It really is something to see and understand what he works on. Certainly puts into perspective how silly by comparison much of the work I do for a living is. Anyhow, my main takeaway is how under qualified I am to be in the company he keeps. I’m not asking any questions though.
A quick weekend trip to hang with Drew, George, Duncan, and Jon in Seattle. My friend Jesse was in town by happenstance too. We got into all sorts of fun but there was an obvious standout from the trip.
Over the years, our friend Drew has mastered the art of surprise, and frankly, generosity. He’d planned something specific for us all to do together for Saturday, but kept it under wraps. When it was go-time, he announced our ride was out front and we headed out the door to find… a stretch limo waiting for us. A classy move if I’d ever seen one. Still none of us knew where we were going or what we were getting into, but drinks were flowing and we were cruising in a limo. Morale was through the roof and I would’ve been set if that was the extent of our night. It wasn’t.
By now, we’d been driving a while, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Tractors, corn, and cows were the only things flying by our jet black windows. Traffic eventually stacked up and came to a crawl. Wherever we were, we had arrived. Didn’t take us too long to realize, we were at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert. Yep, and Bad Company was opening. The confederate flags, were the giveaway. I’m not sure I could’ve imagined a more ridiculous thing for us to do with our night. Needless to say, we were the only stretch-limo in sight. Just about everyone we passed in the lot squinted and smiled at our impenetrable tinted windows. Pretty sure they thought we were the band.
I was big Skynyrd fan back in high school, around the time I was learning to play guitar, obviously. Turns out I still know all the words. Anyone who was standing within 100 feet of me can attest to that. Don’t think the guys particularly cared much for the them, but that’s not really the point though, is it. Fun was had and memories were made.
With my wife Alexis and our good friends Drew and Kelsie, we ventured to the island of Japan for the better part of two weeks around Christmas and New Years. We spent our days taking in both the man-made and natural wonders. From the shrines of Kyoto, to the endless urban sprawl of Tokyo.
We sipped beers traveling 200 miles an hour on rail, watching the country crawl across our window. Amazed and terrified that just a few feet away, trains traveling in the opposite direction blinked by at the same breakneck speed. We took part in traditions. Ate strange foods. Walked through shrines and structures that’ve stood hundreds of years. We watched snow fall to the ground while we floated in a heated pool. We celebrated Christmas in the most bizarre way any of us ever will. It involved animatronic dinosaurs. We wandered and drank and wandered some more. We brought in a new year, in a new place. And we saw Mickey Mouse in a seemingly alternate universe.
It’s a place of a very different culture than my own, and I was only able to experience and capture just a fraction of it, but it’s made for one of the more humbling and memorable experiences I’ve had yet.
Second trip to Hawaii in six month. Could get used to it. We have Kirstin and Nick’s wedding to thank for it this time around. Some rain clouds kept us all on our toes up until the moment of the ceremony but it turned out to be a beautiful day and night. Thankful to have been invited along for the ride.
A month ago George and I had our show. I’d been holding off sharing the experience until I had the time to cut together an edit from the footage Alexis shot. To just get right to it, the night went as good as it possibly could’ve.
Family, friends, friends of friends, and strangers poured in all night. Some traveled a few blocks to be there, some a few thousand miles. The rest coming from everywhere in between. Everywhere you looked there was laughing, drinking, donuts, and of course the art. It was one of the most fun and memorable nights of my life. George would tell you the same. Couldn’t have asked for a thing more, but even more is what we got.
We were honestly shocked at the amount of enthusiasm we received for everything we’d done. The look on George’s face up top really says it all. He showed 9 pieces and sold 7. I showed 36 and sold 31. We raised several thousand dollars for a charity we decided on together, called P.S. Arts. They’re a nonprofit that works to keep art programs alive and thriving in underserved public schools and communities across California. Growing up, art was obviously always my favorite subject. Can’t imagine having gone through all those years without it. Who knows where or who I’d be, if that fire was never stoked. Guess I’m just trying to say it was an easy cause to stand behind.
In the end, It was all a lot of work, but was all entirely worth it. Sure, the months and weeks leading up had their stresses and snags along the way. Some literally up until the hour before the doors opened. The thing is, you can make short work of just about anything with the kind of friends we’ve got. From day one, they just wanted to know how to help. And each in their own way, they did exactly that. Truly grateful to call these people friends.
Thank you to everyone who shared their support, regardless if you made it out or not. Really, truly, means the world to us.
Happy 40 George, we did it.
A.A. Bondy at the Zebulon in Los Angeles with Alexis. He doesn’t play often, but I see him any chance I get. He hung around after the set, which I’d never seen him do. Walked straight over to meet him. I had to. Said I’d been to every show he’s played in LA since 2010, and that I really appreciated him. He thanked me, said that he appreciates that, and shook my hand. Fun to think that after 9 years of listening to him, he’s listened back.
Oh The Vampyre by A.A. Bondy.
Impromptu trip to Hawaii thanks to our MVP status friend Drew. It a was time for slowing down, and connecting in ways you’re just not able to when you’re a gang of ten plus. Thankful for the laughs, the drinks, and the ears. Thankful for friends like these.
Uncovered an old note given to me by an intern I worked with a few years back. Made me smile. Her name is Kelly. Sure did capture me well in her illustration. It’s a nice thing knowing you were able to help someone on their journey, even if in the smallest way. I can’t count how many have helped me on mine. Nobody does it on their own.
Watched the lunar eclipse through my telescope in our living room. Holding an iPhone steadily against a telescope’s tiny eye piece, hoping for even a split second of focus, and being fast enough to capture it, may’ve been almost as hard as getting footprints up there.
Few of us got together on The Oregon Coast for a weekend getaway a few months back. Twelve friends, two dogs, a pool table, a jukebox, a hot tub, and plenty to drink. We trekked the windswept shoreline, hiked the forest trails, and wandered the sleepy town of Lincoln City. It sure is a pretty place.
It was the last time a lot of us saw Hunter. He was a dog that above all else, loved food. Any food. Never had a dog, and never quite knew what you could and couldn’t feed them. I try to stay out of it when the begging starts. But the way he looked into your soul as you were about to take your last bite, of literally anything, defeated me every time. Godspeed Hunter.
My Dad turned 60 today. You wouldn’t guess looking at his lifestyle.
He still rides his motorcycle like a reckless kid. Still cranks the volume. Still climbs ladders, chops trees, and pumps iron. Still yells at the TV as if the players can hear him. Still as hard headed as they get and still as tough as nails. Still my Dad.
Sixty’s a big one, but it’s no match for you. Happy 60 Dad.
Off the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast there’s a place called Estero Island. On that island there’s a seven-story condo called Sea Watch. On the 7th floor of that condo, there’s a unit that’s been in my family since before my time. I was just five months old my first visit. The Smith’s are still making memories there to this day.
My parents hold the keys to it now, and Alexis and I tagged along this year. It was her first time and I hadn’t been back in eleven years. It’s a special place, with a lot of history. It’s a place I’m very thankful for.
Drew turned 35, so we hit the Vegas strip for Halloween weekend. The bravest, or maybe the dumbest among us, were up till 7am draining glasses, spinning wheels and shooting dice. I love that town, but hell, anything more than 48 hours just might kill me. Not in our 20’s anymore, but we can still pretend.
Got to see Blink-182 play while we were there, and oddly enough, Ludacris too. Some fun ones from those coming of age years.
Damn It by Blink-182. Used to play this one on loop as a kid.