2014 – It Was a Very Good Year.

Old Blue eyes sang a song called “It Was A Very Good Year”. The song is a reflection on his life, and how his tastes and life had changed, perhaps matured over time. I suppose that’s why I scribble away on this thing, so I can reflect later, and see how things have changed. My, how things have changed.

Of course, Sinatra didn’t write that song. Hell, he barely wrote anything. For a guy who sang about how he did things his way, he really did things the way they were written, by someone else.

That’s sort of a liberating thought, that at least what I have created, I’ve done with my own mind, my own two hands. Of course, I don’t have legions of followers, and girls framing pics of me to swoon over. That’s okay though. I can still take some solace in the knowledge that nobody is immune to the sands of time. Time changes us all, waits for no man, and this last year was no exception.

For me it was a bunch of personal stuff that is completely ordinary in the grand scheme of things, but to me life changing. I have a girlfriend as of May 2014, and with that my life changed in all the obvious ways. I deleted all the girls from my phone, blocked some completely, and just left it all behind. I made a real effort to continue living my life the same way I had, not be that guy who disappeared because of a relationship, and have done well to keep things that way since. Some people didn’t like that I became involved, but that’s their problem. I don’t work that hard on other people.

I’ve done SO MUCH with her that I used to daydream about. All the times I was out third wheeling with people, sort of wishing I had someone to share the good times with, well, now I do. All the times I wanted to share something special with somebody, now I have someone to do that with. All my weird little quirks that nobody ever seemed to relate to, are now completely understandable to her. Validating perhaps, but totally enjoyable either way.

This all sounds very corny, believe me, it’s not lost on me.  I don’t care. It’s my life, right? “I Did it My Way” right?

Then there’s the additional motivation, the enthusiasm.  I’m going back to school. As much as I love my job, I want more. Better still, I’m doing something about that “want”. Action. Movement. That fire under my ass that has been missing for a little while. Ever since the band I was in broke up, and the stage left me behind, I’ve felt a little listless. A bit like a boat without a sail.

Well, now the wind is back in the sail, and the momentum is picking back up. That’s exactly how I feel. I’m not sure where it’s going, but my hand is back on the rudder, and I can provide some direction again.

More than that though, I feel like I’ve been reinvigorated. My house looks better, completely different from what it was a year ago. My cars are all getting attention, I’ve lost one dog and gained another. I’ve actually installed a new fridge and stove in my kitchen, which used to be the ultimate bachelor kitchen. I mean, I didn’t even have a stove! Now I can cook full meals, even make beer inside. Awesomeness.

What a year though.

Seattle, Mammoth twice, San Diego a bunch of times, back to Tijuana, San Francisco three times, about 30 fishing trips, about ten camping trips, back on a snowboard, about 20 batches of beer, a triathlon (biking portion of a relay)  probably 20 loaves of bread, so many concerts and Dodger games, a freaking chicken farm, some legitimate theater, it was a very good year. I checked my horse racing account, and I’m up a total of $28 on the whole year. That’s a pretty damned good year. I’m sure I’m leaving out a ton, but it really just feels like I’ve got a renewed vigor, a renewed lust for life.

The crazy thing is I’ve only played one show, for a friend’s birthday. It was a little show out in the valley, and it felt crazy to perform in front of somebody I loved. I can’t say that I’ve ever done that before, which is insane. Maybe once or twice, with my first real girlfriend about 20 years ago. So long ago, such a different person, a completely different life.

Usually when I write out these types of retrospectives, it’s a somber feeling. Like another handful of sand out of the hourglass of my life. Like maybe the best is behind me. I don’t feel that way this year. I feel like maybe I’m right at the middle of it, and that’s okay. I have the wisdom of my years, and still have my health and strength, what more could I ask for? I can play a wicked bass, and intend to put that to some use this year. More than that though, I’m inspired to do so. It’s no longer just something I’m continuing. It feels like something new I want to do because I am motivated and really moved to express myself.

Today I heard someone say “History forgets people who don’t finish things”. It’s never felt more obvious or true. And while I don’t expect my life to be some great mile marker in the annals of time, I do expect myself to finish some things this year, whether anybody cares or not.

So happy new year everybody, and thanks for your continued support. It means very much to me that I see people reading this little blog every day. I wonder who you all are? Drop me a line sometime.

– Fred.

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The One That Got Away

It’s always the big one. The monster. The one you’ve been searching for all weekend, the one that really fought and gave you the biggest thrill. That’s the fish that snaps your line. Why?

In this video, I know what it was for me. One word. . .  Panic.

I was out on Lake Mary, in Mammoth Lakes, CA. I had caught a trout about the size I expected. A youngster, about 11 inches, lucky if it was a pound.

When the fish in the video started to take me deeper underwater, I knew I had something special on the line. The video starts about a minute into the video. I actually had time to grab my phone, hand it to my girlfriend (your humble cameraperson) and put it into video mode.

The fish, the whole time, was headed up toward the boat, so I didn’t really know how hooked he was, or how big he was.

Once he put up resistance, the fight was great, my heart was pumping in the thin air.  Surprised by the weight on my line but still in fishing mode, I calmly played him and tried to keep him away from the boat. I put my beer in a safe place, and really started to fight him. Then the video starts.

You can see me play him decently, for a reel with too tight of a drag on. I let him take the rod, went with him, but kept the pressure on so he wouldn’t come loose. Then I saw him.

When I saw him, a huge shot of adrenaline hit me like a bomb. He was huge, especially for this lake.  Big green back, beautiful Rainbow trout colors gleaming. Something inside of me spazzed out in pure admiration of this fish, and the luck and awesomeness of me being able to hook him on my own. It was like years of fishing experience were all culminating right there, at that very moment.  All the times my uncles had yelled at me for making mistakes, until I no longer made them, had finally sunk in and I was now doing awesome stuff on my own.

That was when I realized I hadn’t brought a net. I pictured my beautiful big net sitting back at home in my studio. Damnit. I was using light line. I knew that. It was also old. Quadruple damnit!

So in my panic, I considered using a canvas bag I had on the boat as a net, but didn’t move on that thought fast enough. The fish came up, broke the surface with a big splash, and I panicked some more. I went to grab the line, sort of realized what I was doing, and just heard the line SNAP. I’m not sure if it was from when I touched it, or from the fish hitting the side of the boat, but it snapped.

I wasn’t disappointed. I had already had a blast fly fishing in Lake Crowley the day before, and watching my buddy Doug catch this beautiful brown trout. 

That was enough. I always look at any time on the water, as an increase in your odds of catching a dream fish. The couple of fish I hooked were right at the very last 15 minutes of my 4 day stay up around Mammoth. Hooking this monster at the end of my trip truly felt like a reward for my persistence, and patient application of all the things I’ve learned.

In the end, I learned a couple of things. Rather, I had some things instilled in me, that I was already aware of, but never lost a fish to.

1. Never touch the line on a fish like that. I’d heard it a zillion times. I’ll never forget it now though.

2.  Never be caught on any lake anywhere EVER, without a good sturdy net.

2. Don’t panic. A fish will only stay on your line so long. Panicking wastes the one resource you can;t get back. Time. It’s only a matter of time before the fish shakes loose or snaps your line against your boat. I should have grabbed my canvas bag and calmly guided the fish into it. Then I would have had him on a plate, rather than swimming around with a hook rusting in his mouth.

The fish learned a couple of things too, it’s likely. Maybe he’ll grow up to be that bi wiley bastard of Lake Mary that fishermen claim sightings of, but never catch. Maybe I’ll get that punk next year, net in hand. . . We shall see.

RIP Article # 2 in a row. This time, it is the mighty “El Burrito”

My last post was a total bummer. It was about how my beloved Chihuahua had passed away. Nobody wants to write or read about that. Stiff upper lip, steady as she goes, onward, etc. . .

Then Tuesday on the way to work, I had to hit my brakes.  A big old Ford slammed into me. He rammed me into a full sized Chevy truck, a Cal Trans, tank behemoth of a truck. I hit him hard enough to slam him into a little Volvo.

The airbag popped in my face in that slow motion stereotypical shock and awareness of a big auto accident, and I knew I had been rear ended. Hard. 

I turned around, because I thought, in shock, “I’ve been rear ended, I wonder how bad my truck is?” I saw the Ford, grill split and radiator steaming on the freeway, smashed up behind me. It hadn’t occurred to look toward the front of my truck, but when I did, I saw the hood crumpled up way too close to the windshield, like a piece of painted foil all twisted and mangled like a crunchy dry leaf.

This whole time I was in real shock. I was trying to figure out what the airbag was, as it had apparently appeared out of nowhere and did not make any sense to me. My phone had fallen down to the passenger foot area, and I picked it up. There were weird gasses in the cab because of the airbag, and possibly some steam from the radiator. Not sure. It was all so sudden and so instant. My  whole world just came crashing to a screeching halt for a second.

I was in shock. I tied to gather my thoughts, and so I looked at my phone and snapped a pic to record the time and GPS coordinates, a trick I learned in CERT training. All this was coming back to me. I dialed 9-1-1 carefully and pressed send, head in a fog, and spoke with a man on the other end. While I was talking, I wiggled my toes and fingers to make sure everything worked. I felt every big bone, and twisted my ankles around. Everything was working. The guy on the other end of the phone asked what happened.

“I was just in a big accident on the 134 westbound at Cahuenga, my name is Alfred Montez.”The guy at the other end said that help was on its way, and by that time, the Metro Patrol was behind me, lights blaring. I hung up the phone, as I figured this guy would get CHP There. All this was going through my mind, and so my mind went to some interesting places. One thought was “What if I’m really in shock, like I’ve heard about, and there’s a big piece of metal in my head?”

So I looked in the mirror, almost expecting a rod going through my eye, or some other gnarly gore. My whole body was still buzzing from the accident. . . . The lumbar area of my seat felt like a mule kicking me in the lower back, I felt like my back was vibrating, but not anything worse than taking a good tackle and falling wrong, or just taking a bad suplex. You know, guy shit. I kid. I started filming with my cell phone for documentation purposes, but here is some of it edited a bit, with some awesome sappy sad music because this was a HUGE bummer for me. You can also see the Ford that killed my Burrito in there. I will never, ever, in my whole life, own a Ford truck.

It was a nasty wreck worthy of a sigalert, a tow off the freeway, and a total loss of my beloved “Burrito”, my 2006 Tacoma, and the first vehicle I ever bought new.  My friend who lived nearby was listening to the morning traffic report and heard about a “4 car pile up”. That was me! So I was in the news, got that going for me.

My truck was mashed. I was hit by a big old truck, who for some reason was fine. A full sized Ford. Colorado plates nailed me going REALLY fast. I can’t tell you how fast, but the forces involved made a mess of my truck.

Enough. Enough madness and bad luck, I’ve had it. I’m fine, but I don’t have a daily driver for the first time in about 12 years. I work really far from home. I need a car. I’m also have a Vegas trip planned for the Kentucky Derby in four days. What the hell am I supposed to do?

A few weeks ago I uncharacteristically dropped and broke a growler of Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin IPA trying to pour myself a beer. A full gallon growler, bigger than usual. I didn’t even get a taste of it. Well, actually I did at the brewery, just enough to know what I was missing, and hate the situation even more.

All my life, I’ve thought the following about country music:

All you need to lose to write a great country song, is a truck, a dog and a six pack.

Well, I’ve got material. I’ve got so much material right now. I’ve got challenges, failures and successes that I can’t even write about, at least not here. Shit has been tough and good in other ways at the same time lately. I feel due for some good luck, people tell me the same. I try to be good. . . People tell me I am due for a good run, I should have some built up Karma. . . others tell me don’t push it, or take it easy. . . people who don’t know me that well.  My buddy Ian told me to let it blow over, take it easy in Vegas and get some R&R in.

“Fuck it all” I tell myself. Fuck all the bad shit. . . I should just go to Vegas as scheduled. I borrow my buddies car, use it to go to work and Ian rides home with me that Thursday night. Then straight off to Vegas a full night early.

The Vegas trip will get its own entry, it deserves it.

The silver lining in the car situation, I suppose is my new friend Peggy. So much to tell. In a nutshell, after a bureaucratic mess of running around printing this, scanning that, mailing this and paying for that, moving imaginary money that I worked for across electronic banks and smiling for the nice lady and signing on the dotted line. . . . after all that . . .and without further ado I give you my new ship;

Peggy Subaru.

 

Work Faux Pas yesterday.

I’ve been collecting LP’s. Vinyl. I love the way it sounds, I love the analog sound and the warmth, and space of the audio. I think it’s a million times better than any mp3, and a couple hundred better than most cd’s.

Anyway, the other day, a buddy (whom I work with) and I learned “(Just Like) Starting Over” by John Lennon. I decided I needed the album, since I loved the song so much. I scored myself a nice $5 copy from 1980 on vinyl, via ebay. Sweet! Starting over, and “Woman” are both on this record, and are to me, two of the best love songs of all time.

The LP arrived yesterday, at work. I grabbed my buddy, and we closed to the door to my office to put it on the record player (one of the nicer perks of working at a big record label) and CRANKED it. We talked and listened, and it was awesome. We took a break and listened to “Starting Over”, “Watching the Wheels”, and “Woman”. I wasn’t familiar with the rest of the album, so after my buddy left, I spun the rest of it.

Well about halfway through side B on this thing, John gave Yoko free reign. I walked out of my office during “Watching the Wheels” and came back horrified to find that Yoko was BLARING out of my office. nobody really said anything, we’re all pretty open to each other’s weirdness here, but this was a bit much. I had to apologize for my music, which is something I’ve refused to do forever.

This was Yoko though, and I was sorry. Truly, terribly sorry.

Reminded me of this. Exactly at the moment Chuck Berry glares at John, that’s how I glared at my record player. The performance on the record wasn’t quite as bad as this. If it were, I’d probably be fired.

Got my coronet home, and cleaned her out a little bit. Taking a look around.

Finally got to clean up the interior a little

Tore out most of the rotting carpet, put in the extra seat I had. Can’t really upholster them till the paint gets done, so for now this is it.

before

http://i.imgur.com/3Uv41c1.jpg

after

http://i.imgur.com/GtcTnhk.jpg

Engine bay, I didn’t really get to get all that much into it, but here’s a little sample before and after to give you an idea what I’m gonna end up with.

Cleaned up the fender a tiny bit just to see what I’m working with. Lots of potential. Really clean. Proud of my engine bay paint job too!

before

http://i.imgur.com/kvn1CFG.jpg

after

http://i.imgur.com/xiswsbV.jpg

finally, just wiped down the engine a bit.

From this:

http://i.imgur.com/Pjrj2xJ.jpg?1

to this:

http://i.imgur.com/B185rjB.jpg

 

Shifter knob button was busted for about ten years, FINALLY fixed that, thanks to some members of the forum FBBO (For B Bodies only) the absolute best source for info on my car.

Before:

http://i.imgur.com/6pKAZdi.jpg

after:

http://i.imgur.com/do1Wm02.jpg

Cool assortment of random junk I found in the car while cleaning her out:

http://i.imgur.com/tPcwPzU.jpg

That’s a Tiffany Belt Buckle for Coca Cola! Where, or when the hell that got in the car, I’ll likely never know! The shoe bears my ex gf’s name, and the led zeppelin Houses Of The Holy was a regular in the tape deck. Old School for sure. The thumb wrap thing is from my days in a mailroom, from about 1998 in Arizona. Total nostalgia blast.

Here’s the incredible amount of junk I found in the car, this is what 10 years in storage, and collecting parts will do.

http://i.imgur.com/oUqBalF.jpg

Emptied out the car except for a spare fan belt, some tools, assorted fluids and a terrible looking spare tire. Realize I need a fire extinguisher, a jack for my car, and to tighten up my rear view mirror if I’m going to be driving her around. Car feels SO Much faster with all the junk out of it, much more responsive. Still haven’t broken it all the way, so I haven’t been able to hit the gas, but it feels great.

I do hear an exhaust leak developing, and that’s a bummer, as the shop should have caught that, but I’ll deal with it. Just happy to have her home and start wrenching in earnest

Bonus find, one of the absolute heaviest nostalgia blasts, and coolest items found in my car, was this completely blown out t shirt that a 19 year old Fred put in the car as a seat cover for the passenger. I found it all in the springs of the seat, completely torn up. Only the front survived. hahah

Awesome. http://i.imgur.com/lxxCDH7.jpg

Puerto Rico trip Part 4 – Morning in vieques.

This morning I’m in Vieques, a tiny island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. I can’t believe my luck at having found this place. After 3 days of walking, hustling, busses, and the grimy streets of Puerto Rico, this little island is the tropical paradise that I thought didn’t exist anymore. Yet here it is, full of vibrant colors, sounds, plants, people and animals.

This morning for example, when the sun woke me up, I opened the window to let the sea breeze in and found a little lizard staring back at me. In L.A. when the sun wakes me up, it’s a terrible nuisance, but out here, it was like some awesome force telling me to get out of bed and enjoy the time I have in the island.

I went down to the office for coffee and had a slice of papaya with some yogurt, and a boiled egg for breakfast. I’m staying at the Seagate, which is a working horse and chicken farm. Right now I’m sitting on the balcony outside my room, enjoying the breeze and thinking that this is probably the best setting I’ve ever had to sit down and write.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with this fine day, but it won’t be wasted. Right now the idea is to go fishing, but depending on the cost, I may just go wandering around the island.

I met a fellow yesterday on the ferry over to the island. At first I was a little put off by how he just came and sat at my table, but after talking for a while, I found out his brother is a very very famous baseball player….somebody I’ve arched round the bases many times. He also treated me to some drinks and even got me a ride up to my hotel after arriving on dry land. Then after I checked in, got my bags stowed and was ready to go out for the night, he came and picked us up.

Driving entirely too fast on dark, winding jungle roads, blasting salsa music and talking about fishing, drinking, girls, wives and all the troubles that come with them, we finally arrived at our destination. It was another side of this tiny island, really quiet compared to the ferry landing and completely charming. A small dusty road, lined. I either side with the types of little beach bars and shacks I dreamed of. Music blasting on every corner, and people dancing heartily, natives mixing with tourists and rum mixing with lime and ice for refreshment.

I even had a fat Puerto Rican cigar, dark brown and thick as two of my fingers. Took about 45 minutes to get through it, but it was wonderful. I had it while sitting sipping drinks on a wooden bench,(Thats Jonesy over there too)  to my left was the sea, and to my right was a group of beautiful Puerto Rican women who would pay a tourist no mind. They were there to dance, and while my pocho salsa dance moves would suffice for a family wedding, or dancing with friends, here I was out of my league. My new friend however, had all the moves. It was awesome to see him dancing the night away with just about every girl in the place, while I had Medalla beers and more rum mixed with whatever. At one point, I turned to my left and glanced at the water, to see three devil fish (manta ray) cruising slowly along in the shallow surf.

The bar had an interesting nationalist feel to it. This island has suffered much at the hands of the US Navy, setting up shop in her natural bays and the locals carry that history around with them. Behind the bar you saw drawings made with slogans or messages about kicking the US out of their waters. There has been a lot of testing on the island, and a bomb was even dropped on a local once, sparking the ire of the whole community, and making fishermen charge destroyers in tiny little fishing boats. Incredible story that deserves a lot more than a blog post, really incredible art and rebellious nature to this whole affair.

I’ve made up my mind about one thing though, next time I come down here, and I will, I will come straight to Vieques. Puerto Rico is not without its charm, but this island really did deliver something I thought was out of reach for me. I thought I’d have to be surrounded by tourists to see beaches this beautiful. I thought I would have to pay too much, and feel bad for having spent all the money, but this place is completely affordable and in some cases mind blowingly inexpensive.

To top it all off, on the ferry over, we noticed a whole bunch of people carrying instruments of all shapes and sizes. Big cases for horns, keyboards, drums, almost anything you could think of. In line for the ferry I asked a lady what it was they were all going to, and she let me know about the Vieques cultural festival.   By some stroke of beautiful luck, it happens to be going down this weekend, not even 200 yards from the farm where we’re staying.

Tonight, I just had to sit down and write here, because I don’t know when I’ll ever feel is inspired by my surroundings alone, again. Looking out at the bay, sailboats cruising along, sun glistening off the bright azure waters, and now that I’ve got a little writing out of the way I can hear some music firing up at the fort down the road. I think I’ll wander down there and have a chichaito from my bottle to get started.

At a loss in the supermarket

Today I saw somebody I hadn’t seen in a long time, an old girlfriend I used to see a few years back. We had a very short, but interesting conversation, and when she went to leave, she gave me a hug and the squeeze was pretty tight. I didn’t know what to make of that, but it felt good anyway, and I said “Have a good night” afterward. I was at the Smart and Final down the street, perusing the veggies on the way home when I saw her. I didn’t even expect the hug, but it was like a weird reflex when she went for it, so I hugged her. I didn’t squeeze like she did, and I’m sure she felt that. This girl knew me well.
Not sure if she reads here. She would know that if I wrote about her I wouldn’t use her name nor divulge her identity anyway. I think about these things. I wonder why. All this paranoia, who really cares? Who really cares what someone thinks they know, or have seen? Still, no names out of respect, and if this needs to be taken down for any reason, I’d be happy to.
So anyway, once again, I saw somebody I used to date at the market earlier today. I honestly felt like she missed me when she told me she did, but she also told me that I should come out, and that there were people who would like to see me, and right away she named a lot of the people she knows I don’t want to see.
Clever girl.
Like I say, I knew her very well. Inevitably, she came to know me very well. She knew right away that this part of the conversation was over, and that I recognized she was being a little snoopy. I let her know I’d rather not talk about it, said it was nice seeing her in the most convincing tone I could muster, and got in line.
I was a it dumbfounded when I got home, steamed some Brussels sprouts with some little red potatoes, and some corn on the cob. Looked awesome. When it was done, I sat down to eat, but then pushed my dinner aside, and just had to type this out. Now about half an hour later, my dinner looks cold, but I’m going to eat it, go to sleep, go to work in the morning, and forget all about my trip to the supermarket today…..