"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 In Review

Above, the big purchase of the year, The Beast. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The year is almost over and, for the most part, I has been a great year. Here's my annual recap of the highlights of the year.

The year began with a major decision. It didn't come easy, but the economics were such that I had to make a move. I decided to sell the farm in Nebraska as property taxes have doubled since I inherited it five years ago. On top of that, corn prices have been mired around $3.00/bushel. The return for such low crop prices were such that paying the farm's property taxes didn't leave me with much left.

Once I made my decision, I did some research on farmland prices and contacted my tenant to let him know. Besides being the proper thing to do, it is also a requirement to notify tenants of the land being put up on the market.

His reaction was unexpected. He essentially said, "I'll buy it!" So we negotiated a very fair price and made the deal. I am glad that he has it now. It is in good hands!

Once the sale was completed, I made a second decision. I decided to buy an RV. Again, I did some research. I originally was going to buy a Class B (a campervan), but I found that the prices for those were much more than what I was willing to fork out.

Above, with my aunt Rose in Mission Viejo.
Then in February, I started looking at Class C motorhomes. I had a micro-mini Class C 25 years ago, so I am familiar with them. I checked out different makes and models and settled on Winnebago's Mini Winnie 22R. It is a 23 footer and is the right size for me and my parking space. Since I have a double parking space, I can park the motorhome and the car in it. There was just enough room. If I bought anything bigger, I would have had to find a RV storage facility to store it. Amber named it "The Beast" and the name stuck. Most of my friends and family now refer to it as The Beast. I bought it from La Mesa RV in San Diego. The local Winnebago dealers didn't have what I wanted and La Mesa had several models to choose from. We came to a great deal (it helps to pay cash) and I flew down to pick it up. La Mesa sent a representative to pick me up at the airport.

Once all transactions were completed, I drove The Beast home. Along the way, I stopped in Mission Viejo to visit my aunt Rose and cousins. I gave them a tour of The Beast.

Also in February, I bought myself a Canon Rebel camera. I am very pleased with it. I later bought a telephoto lens.

In April, I flew to San Francisco (photo, left) to give a presentation before the Japan Society of Northern California at the Roxie Theater, "In The Footsteps of Godzilla". My presentation was on Godzilla and other kaiju movie locations. The event included a screening of the original Japanese version of Godzilla (1954).

April saw some changes in my personal life. My longtime roommate, Jessica, announced that her father sold his Orange County condo and moved to Canoga Park and that she would be moving in with him. This came as a surprise, but her father would be able to provide for her care better when she receives a liver transplant. She moved out that month. We are still friends and we get together generally every week and I am her back-up for getting her to her doctor appointments. A few days after Jes moved out, I met Denise Santos. We seem to click together, despite our age difference. We've been hanging out together quite a bit since meeting.

Since I bought The Beast in February, I spent the next several weeks equipping it.

Above, Amber and Armand at
 The Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas.
Also in April, Amber and I took The Beast for its "shake-out cruise" to Las Vegas for her to interview and take a swimming test for The Mirage Hotel's dolphin show as an intern. She didn't make it, but it was a fun trek and we visited with Barb and Jerry Weiler and my cousin Antoinette.

Memorial Day was a mixed bag of good and bad. The bad was that Amber was in a traffic collision in Santa Monica, which totaled her 2000 Mustang. (We later got her a newer Mustang. A convertible.) After picking up Amber from Santa Monica at the wrecking yard, I headed home. But, luckily, the day was salvaged (the good) when Denise called and asked me to join her, son Aiden and her cousin at Universal Studios Hollywood. We had a great time. I still marvel that she managed to talk me into going on "The Revenge of the Mummy" ride, a roller-coaster. I haven't been on a roller-coaster since I was a kid. It actually was fun, surprisingly.

In June, Amber and I took The Beast to Yellowstone National Park. It was her first vacation in ages and she was last there at age three, so she remembered nothing about it. We had a wonderful time. We stopped along the way in Beaver, Utah and spent one night at the KOA Kampground there. We also stopped at a roadside attraction, Yellowstone Bear World in Idaho. That was fun.

We stayed at the KOA in West Yellowstone and took two days of tours into the park with Yellowstone Buffalo Tours. Instead of fighting traffic in the park and trying to find parking, we let someone else do the driving and we concentrated on the wonders of Yellowstone. One the first day (on the Upper Loop Tour), we managed to see some bears.

After leaving Yellowstone for home, we took the route that goes through Grand Teton National Park. From there, we headed into Utah and spent one night at the Richfield KOA. After leaving Richfield, we drove through Zion National Park for the last leg of our return home. It was a great trip.

In July, I went to Lake Havasu with Denise and Aiden, Arizona to do some jet-skiing. I always wanted to try a jet ski (it was on my "bucket list"). We camped at the Lake and on the first day, we rented a pontoon boat for a couple of hours and rented a jet ski the next day. It was a great little trip and we plan on doing it again next year.

In August, my cat Siren became ill and very frail. We took her to the vet and he thought it was something that could be cured. For the next month, Amber and I administered medications to Siren. At first, she seemed to show improvement, but towards the end of September, she began to decline again. She passed away on September 29. Amber and I took her loss very hard. She was 18 years old. One could not have asked for a better cat for a companion.

Also in August, my great-uncle Alexander Charleston passed away from cancer in Alabama. He was a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.

Shocking news came in September. Actor Jack Larson suddenly passed away at home. Even though he was 86, he seemed in robust health and we last saw him the year before at the Superman Celebration. Many of us attended his memorial service at the James Bridges Theater at UCLA in December. He was always there for us at different events, so we were there for him.

In October, I needed to go to Japan for more material for my planned updated edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. So Denise, Aiden and I headed off. We spent time in Tokyo, Atami, Osaka and Kyoto. While in Tokyo, I hosted a dinner at the Imperial Hotel for friends from Toho. We had a great time.

Above, Amber and Armand at Gibbon Falls in Yellowstone National Park.

In November, Amber and I went to my cousin Julianne's in Lake Forest for Thanksgiving dinner.
Also in November, I retired from my "parachute" job at Lakeside Golf Club. So now, my time belongs to me. Good thing too. The calendar was against me again this year as I would have had to work during Christmas had I not retired. Since I did, we spent Christmas at my cousin Maria's in Wildomar.
Above, Sierra.

After Siren died, I was debating on whether or not I would get another cat. But, that decision was made easier as Amber spotted a kitten named Claire at the South Bay Adoption Center's posting on Facebook. She passed it on to me. After repeated looks at the posting, I took a chance and called the Adoption Center to see if she was still available. She was. I went down to the center in Hawthorne and adopted her. She has been renamed Sierra Claire. Her personality is like Siren's.

In late November, I went on a weekend jaunt to the Gen. Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit to locate my dad's brick (found it, with some help) and to Joshua Tree National Park. I went solo this time as everyone else had to work or had other things to do. I still had a good time camping at Joshua Tree, although it was very cold.

Already, plans are being made for 2016, including a trek to Yosemite National Park. Stay tuned!

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