"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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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Brain Exam

On January 5, I took my mom to her oncologist appointment. It was thought she may have beginning stages of myeloma. It appears now, in hindsight, that she may not have. The doctors were barking up the wrong tree.

While we were waiting for the doctor to see my mom, I was getting bored. Inside, were plastic models of the human brain (that one can pull apart to see the insides) and breast.

I thought I'd have some fun with the plastic brain, so I took it and set it on the examination table and took this photo with my cell phone:

Seeing what I was doing, my mom was amused.

Feeling One's Age

Moving furniture, major appliances and boxes can make one really feel their age.

More stuff was moved out of my mom's apartment (this is basically a solo operation) today. The bookcase was easy. It comes apart into three sections. Getting my mom's refrigerator over to my apartment was easy. My refrigerator was falling apart (it is over 20 years old) and my mom's is only about a couple of years old. Getting mine out was a major undertaking.

It is one of the largest models Westinghouse made around 1986. When I moved into my apartment 12 years ago, we had to cut a little off the bottom of the cabinet overhead to fit it in. Even then, it was a tight fit. Getting it out took three of us. Once we got it out, Mom's fit in easily.

After getting it set into its space, I had some floor cleaning and putting my other furniture back into place. Whew! All this physical work over the past several days has made every muscle in my body ache. I feel my age now. A hot shower was a welcome relief. No wonder I detest moving.

But, I am not quite done yet.

I have about 10 large boxes to be moved to our storage room. Once that's completed, I can say I am done moving my mom's items out of her apartment. All I need is a pick-up truck. That's a whole other story.

Who Swiped Superman's Mattress?

"Hey! Put that mattress back! These wires might break!"

Superman's Hangover

After a wild night at the Fortress of Solitude, Superman limps home with a nasty hangover.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Muriel Mumy, Mother of Bill Mumy, Passes Away

Condolences to actor Bill Mumy (Will Robinson of the Lost In Space television show of the 1960s) for the passing of his mother, Muriel Mumy, just a few hours ago. She was 97.

It is uncanny that Bill and I should lose our moms with both of our birthdays within days from now (and we're the same age).

I've sent him my condolences at Facebook.

A Grandmother and Her Granddaughter

Above, cousin Maria, Grandma Mary and Amber, August 15, 2009.

Today was spent packing more of my mom's belongings and moving some furniture items to my apartment.

This evening, I was perusing some of my mom's photo albums and I found some photos of my mom with my daughter Amber from the late 1980s. So I scanned a few and posted them below.

Amber and her grandmother were very close. Amber was with her in the ICU when she died. When my mom's heart rate would drop, Amber would tell her to "knock it off" and her heart rate would rise. You couldn't find a more devoted grandmother to her granddaughter or a granddaughter to her grandmother. Those two had a special bond.

Amber took my mom's passing very hard, which is understandable.

My mom was looking forward to attending Amber's graduation ceremony in May. She earned her B.S. degree in biology in December. Mom was so proud of her.

Above, at home in Hawthorne is my mom, Amber and Gabby, the family cat.

Above, an outing to Ports O'Call Village in San Pedro, California.

Above, three generations: Grandma, Dad and Amber. Amber doesn't look too happy for some reason.

Above, Amber and her grandma could play for hours. They often did.

Above, reading time.

"Bikini Frankenstein," "Twilight Vamps" Reviewed

Two Fred Olen Ray flicks, Bikini Frankenstein and Twilight Vamps: Lust At First Bite, have been released on DVD and are reviewed at HK and Cult Films News blog.

Both movies features a friend of mine: Christine Nguyen (above, from Twilight Vamps). (She was the first to send me a condolence message after the passing of my mom. Very sweet gal!)

To read the reviews, go here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Today, my mom was laid to rest.

It has been an incredible six weeks. It all started around Christmas when my mom's final illness began (although, at the time, we had no idea that it would be so final). The days were like an out-of-control roller-coaster.

I couldn't have made it through these past weeks without the help and support of family and friends. Despite being scattered all over Southern California, they all came together in crisis. I am forever grateful.

I have to thank my cousin Maria for putting together the reception at her home in Wildomar, California (near Lake Elsinore). She has been my guiding hand these past weeks. (If anyone has photos of today's activities, please send me copies so I can post them here.) To all who brought the refreshments, another big thank-you!

My cousin Rosemarie gave a beautiful eulogy at the services. A big thank you to her! Coincidentally, the service shelter at Riverside National Cemetery was the same one we had my dad's services ten years ago.

I couldn't be any more pleased with the job Lorenzen Mortuary of Reseda, California did for my family. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them if anyone in the San Fernando Valley is in need of their services.

It has been an exhausting day. Although exhausted, I needed to unwind. When I got home this evening, I found in my mailbox a DVD of Adventures of Superman/George Reeves rarities from Michael J. Hayde, author of Flights of Fantasy. That was just what the doctor ordered. Great stuff! Thanks, Mike!

Above, extended stock flying scenes of George Reeves, including this one, were in the DVD in today's mail.

I still have some items that need to be removed from my mom's apartment. I hope to have this completed this weekend.

Thanks to everyone who made this difficult day a much easier one!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Funeral Tomorrow

Funeral Tomorrow

As a reminder, Mom's funeral tomorrow will start at 1:15 PM at Riverside National Cemetery.

First, we will assemble at a staging area designated by the cemetery (you will get the information on the staging area at the guard shack at the cemetery's entrance). From there, we will be led to either the gravesite (where my dad is already buried) or a services kiosk. It is unclear at present where the services will be held.

You can reach the cemetery from either the 91 Freeway (go east after exiting) or Interstate 215 (go west after exiting) at the Van Buren Ave. exit in Riverside.

I will be getting to the cemetery at least an hour early so I can discuss the grave marker inscription with cemetery officials. It should be a beautiful day tomorrow with fresh snow on the mountains. Mom would've liked that!

Anyone who wishes to speak during the services are welcome to do so.

Following the services, we will proceed to Maria and Fred Malone's in Wildomar (Lake Elsinore area) for a get-together. All attendees are invited. Fliers will be handed out at the services on how to get there (we will caravan there anyway). From what Maria tells me, it is only about 20 minutes away from the cemetery. They know a shortcut via Scott Road.

We'll see you tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Acknowledgments

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan became a reality on January 13. It is now available at ComiXpress.com. I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge a few people.

Following my job lay-off in November 2007, I was collecting unemployment and looking for work. Due to the economic conditions then, and now, positions as an insurance claims examiner weren't available. Since I had some idle time, I had to do something.

Above, Armand Vaquer.

So, I had the idea to put together a travel guide for kaiju movie locations in Japan. This would be a handy guide for people traveling to Japan to see the locations depicted in the movies over the past 55 years.

Beginning in February 2008, I began work on the guide. Compiling the information and writing it up took nearly four months. I approached it by going north to south. I started with the island of Hokkaido and then the main island of Honshu and finished up with the island of Kyushu, and included points in-between.

I obtained the assistance of G-FAN magazine editor and publisher J. D. Lees (above) to edit and do the lay-outs. The guide was originally conceived as a special, but separate, edition of G-FAN. The original title conception was The G-FAN Guide To Kaiju Japan. But it was decided by J. D. and I that it would be better if it stood on its own merits and it then became The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. The average person would have no idea what "kaiju" means (although fans would). I wanted the guide targeted to people outside of giant monster fandom. Replacing "kaiju" with "monster" would immediately tell the average person that Japanese monsters would be the focus of the Guide.

Above, Mr. & Mrs. Martin Arlt.

This is my first venture into the publishing world. And, boy, did I get an education on it! The work involved was a lot more complicated than I expected. I can truly appreciate the time it consumes publishers like J. D. or Martin Arlt of Mad Scientist magazine who have to crank out issues on a monthly, or even quarterly schedule. Then again, they have several years of publishing under their belts. So it pays to have experience.

I found that going to the printer that J. D. uses would be cost-prohibitive. Then Martin Arlt steered me to ComiXpress. ComiXpress is a company created by comic book veterans to provide a means for the budding creator to publish their own comic book or magazine. I liked their approach and their terms. So I decided to go through ComiXpress.

In the fall of 2009, J. D. completed the layouts and got them over to me. I am pleased with the results. I then solicited for some advertising and got some.

Above, Archie Waugh, who did the cover.

I then came up with a cover idea, using a photo of the Godzilla statue in Hibiya that I took in 2007. It was perfect for a cover. I came up with a concept and posted it over on Facebook. Archie Waugh, a 20-year graphics artist, then volunteered to compose the cover using my idea. The resulting cover is very impressive. Archie has also found himself a victim of the current economic conditions, so he had the time to create the cover. (He's still available for a job, so if anyone needs a graphic artist, he would be a great addition to your firm!)

Above, the cover by Archie Waugh.

With the cover done, the layouts done and the ads in, the Guide was ready to go to ComiXpress in the beginning of December. Originally, it was slated to be available on January 4, but due to equipment malfunctions and the Christmas holidays, it was delayed a week.

I composed a news release on its availability weeks before, so all I had to do was to add in a couple of details and it was ready to go. It is fortunate that I did this, as my mom had been ailing for several weeks and we had to ambulance her to the hospital on January 13, the day the Guide "went live." She had to undergo exploratory surgery that night, and the doctors's findings were not good. In fact, they did not expect her to survive the night. Sadly, although she lived through the next day and most of the next night, she passed away around 2:00 am January 15.

Her passing, funeral planning (the funeral will be held in Riverside this coming Thursday) and liquidation of her belongings have taken up most of my time. Once things settle down again, I will be able to concentrate on promoting the Guide. Although she won't be able to hold a copy of the Guide in her hands, she did see the layouts and cover and was aware it became available. She was very pleased!

But I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank those who were instrumental in getting the Guide off the ground.

To order The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan, go here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kachidoki Bridge

Kachidoki Bridge

by Armand Vaquer

The Sumida River is one of Tokyo's major rivers that flows through the Shitamachi area (old downtown). The river is crossed by 27 bridges for use by pedestrians and cars, including expressways, and 24 bridges can be crossed by pedestrians.

Among those, the Kachidoki Bridge is especially unique. In Godzilla (1954), the Kachidoki Bridge was toppled over by Godzilla during his nighttime raid on Tokyo.

It is the closest bridge to Tokyo Bay in the lower Sumida River. The Kachidoki Bridge was erected in 1940 to commemorate the victory of the former Japanese army in the battle of Lushun during the Russo-Japanese War (kachidoki means "a shout of victory" in Japanese). The bridge is 246-meters long, 22-meters wide and is the only double-leaf bascule bridge over the Sumida, which is designed to open from the center by raising each leaf about 70 degrees. Powered by electricity, each opening/closing operation took about 70 seconds. The bridge was opened five times a day for about 20 minutes each and gathered visitors who watched the operation.

Until motorization began and highways were built, the rivers had been the major route for Tokyo's urban transportation. The area where the Kachidoki Bridge is located was formerly lined by a number of warehouses and was busy with large freighters.

As the overland traffic increased during the postwar high-growth period and the number of freighters diminished, the bridge stopped its operation in 1970 and has been closed since then. Former control rooms are still found and old traffic lights on top of the rooms remind us of the days when cars were stopped every time the bridge opened.

Along the Sumida River today, a new riverside walkway named Sumidagawa Terrace has been installed and attracts people who enjoy walking while admiring the riverfront view of high-rise buildings and bridges. A tour via water bus through the Shitamachi area is also popular for tourists. I took this tour in 2005.

Water Bus stops on the Sumida are available in Asakusa, Hama-rikyu Gardens, and Hinode Pier. While on the boat cruise down the Sumida River, I got a shot (above) of the Kachidoki Bridge from Tokyo Bay as the boat approached the Hama-riku Gardens boat dock.

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan will direct you on how to get to the bridge if you elect not to take a Sumida River cruise. The cruise is worth it as the boat will go underneath the Kachidoki Bridge.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Remembering The Late, Great Bandai Museum

Above, Godzilla prop from "Godzilla x Megaguirus."

Remembering The Late, Great Bandai Museum

Photos and text by Armand Vaquer

G-FAN #75 (Spring 2006 issue) contained my article, “A Japan Mini-Vacation” which featured a visit to the Bandai Museum, five years ago this coming October.

The Bandai Museum had a huge collection of Godzilla, Ultraman, Gundam and other Japanese super-hero exhibits, toys and numerous shops for the traveling fan to part with his/her money at. The museum’s moniker was, “Character's Hall of Fame and their History With Bandai Since 1950” (a mild case of “Engrish” here).

Unfortunately, the Bandai Museum was closed down on August 31, 2006. [The following year, on April 28, 2007, "Omocha no Machi Bandai Museum" opened for business in Mibu, Tochigi.]

It is easy to see why. Their opening schedule was confusing. One day it would be open, then closed for two days, and then it would be open again. Its location was what we would call “out in the boonies” of Tokyo. Although it sat right next to the Matsuda Station on the Joban Line (there were plenty of signs in the station pointing the way to the museum, so a visitor couldn’t possibly get lost), it was not access-friendly to visitors who didn’t have a good working grasp of the Tokyo train system.

Still, if one made the effort to go to the Bandai Museum on an open day, it was well-worth the excursion.

As it now has been over three years since the Bandai Museum permanently shut down its doors, here is a look back at the museum and what it contained.

The exhibit areas of the museum consisted of two parts, Character World and Gundam Museum, with the remaining areas of floors (5 through 8) were for shops, event space, and visitor amenities.

If one should get hungry, the Gundam Café was located on the top floor (8th floor) of the museum.

G-Base (above) was a store located at the exit of the Gundam Museum and it sold premium Gundam items such as collectables and figures, but it also had limited and exclusive items that were only available at the museum store.

Above, Godzilla dioramas on display.

Capsule toys were sold at Gashapon World. Godzilla toys were sold on the fifth floor. The store contained Bandai Godzilla toys, including the museum exclusives. I picked up the King Goji museum exclusive (it cost around $60 US). The Godzilla exhibit contained the full line of Godzilla toys including movie props from Godzilla x Megaguirus and GMK.

The Gundam Lift was located on the Gundam floor (7th floor) where visitors could don a Gundam costume (photo, above), provided they could fit in one, and pose for photos on the Gundam Lift for a fee. Luckily, I was able to fit into one.

The Ultraman exhibit contained helmets (photo, above) from the various Ultraman series along with a big collection of Bandai’s Ultraman toys and full-size dioramas.

Above, Ultraman toys on display.

Perhaps had the Bandai Museum been in a better location (Odaiba or Shibuya immediately come to mind) and a sensible business schedule, it could have survived.

It is too bad that the Bandai Museum closed down. But it will live on in visitors’ memories and photo collections.

"Where Did All This Stuff Come From?"

The packing up of my mom's belongings yesterday went well. We had plenty of help and it made the task easier. My thanks to everyone who pitched in!

My cousin Julie pretty much organized things. I found myself too scatter-brained to do it. I feel like an overloaded circuit. I am still numb from my mom's sudden passing, although the shock is gone.

Now I have to figure out what to keep and what to donate. I think the clothing will be donated. Amber inquired about Haitian earthquake relief, but she found that all they are interested in are cash donations, not clothing. The clothing items will most likely go to either Goodwill or A.I.D.S. research (through their "Out of the Closet" thrift stores).

The remaining items will be put into the storage unit my mom and I already have. It is pretty much full now. What I'll end up doing is to take everything that's in it out and then re-pack it in with the new additions.

It is amazing at how much stuff my mom had. When one walked into her apartment, it didn't seem like she had too much stuff, but once things came out of cupboards, closets, drawers, etc., that's when the size of the job hits you. It kind of makes you scratch your head wondering, "Where did all this stuff come from?"

One funny thing, my mom always razzed my dad and me for being packrats (my dad especially, with his garages being legendary). In going through her stuff, I found that she wasn't immune to packratitus either.

One thing is for certain, you're born with no worldly goods and you die with no worldly goods. You leave this earth with everything you came into it with. The old saying is true: You Can't Take It With You!

Friday, January 22, 2010

In Lieu of Flowers...

Above, Kelsey Smith.

If you are unable to attend the funeral services for my mom next Thursday, but would like to do something in her memory, please contribute to the Kelsey Smith Foundation in my mom's name (Mary K. Vaquer).

The Greg Smith Family started the foundation following the kidnap and murder of daughter Kelsey, 18, of Overland Park, Kansas. This gained nationwide attention, including my mom's and myself.

The Kelsey Smith Foundation is doing excellent work in educating young women on personal safety.

To make a contribution in my mom's name, go to www.kelseysarmy.org.

L.A. Light Show

Los Angeles, last night, saw a free "light show" courtesy of Mother Nature.

I was heading into downtown Los Angeles from East L.A. last evening when the heavens opened up and put on a spectacular lightning display. Lightning storms are not too frequent in L.A., but they do happen if atmospheric conditions allow.

Perhaps it was a salute to my mom, who, like me, loved to sit and watch lightning storms (we saw some beauts at Zion National Park in Utah).

The lightning display was accompanied by downpours and, for a while, hail.

While spectacular, the display was not up to Chicago standards. One year at G-FEST, we were treated to a display that made it seem as if King Ghidorah were just outside of the hotel. But for L.A. standards, the display was top-notch.

Right now, the skies are clear with a few clouds. I hope this keeps up through tomorrow as we have to move Mom's belongings out of her apartment.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Went To The Mortuary Today...Part 2

No, I didn't go back to the mortuary again today, I just remembered something that broke everyone up at our meeting on Tuesday, but forgot to put it in.

The question on urns came up. My mom's wish was to be cremated. The mortuary's chief of staff showed us several of varying sizes. She also had a form that I had to check-off on what to do with any extra cremains (their term for the "ashes"). I checked-off "return to family." This is in case all the cremains can't fit into one container.

After this, I asked if this one metal box would be big enough to hold all. She replied, "Yes, this is even big enough for someone your (meaning me) size." My daughter then mentioned, "But Grandma had osteoporosis!" I replied, "That wouldn't add significantly (if at all) to the volume of the cremains. The only thing that would add volume would be if Grandma were "The Elephant Man.""

That did it! She and Amber burst out in laughter.

I called Amber later and wondered if the Chief of Staff got through her handling the next family (who were waiting for us to finish) without thinking about our meeting and start laughing. That family was very much in emotional distress.

UPDATE (1/23/10):

A friend read my stories of our visit to the mortuary and sent this along:

Enjoyed your posting about your trip to the mortuary. My wife and I had a little fun (gallows's humor?) when I had to make arrangements for my mom. But in our case the mortician/salesman maintained a even, somber demeanor through the whole thing. The Mrs. and I were cracking jokes, while he was trying his level best not to smile. There was another family in the casket "showroom" who were really broken up and crying, so maybe our behavior wasn't appropriate, but we were quiet and sometimes a little levity is good. I remember asking the guy if the caskets came equipped with a phone.

It's good, you're taking Amber along through this. While no one can be prepared for this sort of thing, having gone through it before makes things easier.

Sometimes humor comes along at inappropriate and embarrassing times. At a funeral I attended, something happened that caused me to break out in unstoppable laughter. I couldn't stop even if my life depended on it. I had to think fast, so it got down low to pretend that I was crying. I don't know if it worked or not, but nobody said anything to me about it.

I remember going into one of those "casket showrooms" when I was twelve. We had to pick out a casket for my grandfather. While my parents were talking to the mortuary representative, I just wandered around looking at all the caskets in complete fascination.

Moving Right Along...

Above, the last photo of my mom (with my Aunt Rose), which was taken on Christmas Day 2009. Unfortunately, the settings on my camera were knocked askew, that's why it came out so messed up. I don't remember if I took it or a cousin did.

Progress has been made on dealing with Mom's estate matters. I fully know what to do concerning her bank accounts and I think I may have found a good probate attorney in Nebraska to deal with matters concerning the farm.

It is surreal to think that she'll have been gone a week as of tomorrow morning. The initial shock has worn off and I am a lot more functional and can focus on important matters. Even my sense of humor has roared back (read my post on the meeting at the mortuary for some details).

The gang at work presented me with two sympathy cards and took up a collection. That was really nice of them! That will really be a big help when rent is due as I lost some work time and the company has no bereavement benefits.

The latest issue of G-FAN arrived the other day. At present, I will refrain from reviewing it here as the lingering effects of "The Christmas Day Massacre" are still present. I will say the cover by Chris Scalf is very striking. One of his best ever! I will acknowledge that I received a very nice note of condolence from J. D. Lees a few days ago. Where this will eventually lead to is anyone's guess, but it was very thoughtful of him to do so.

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan has been selling. As soon as the dust clears in relation to my mom's passing, funeral and liquidation of her personal effects, I will concentrate my attention to it. I am starting to think ahead to a possible trip to Japan at the end of the year. I asked Amber to come along if I go, but she doesn't like to fly. We'll see what transpires between now and then. This also reminds me: I'll have to renew my U.S. Passport in 2011. It is hard to believe that nine years have passed since I first got it.

I've competed the memorial card last night that will be handed out at Mom's funeral services. I did a similar one for my dad ten years ago and, like it, will include a photograph.

Los Angeles, as you've heard, is saturated by the several storms that have passed through. I wished I had my camera the other day when the clouds broke and there was a spectacular view of Mt. Wilson with a dusting of snow shining in the light from the setting sun. I've had no problems with the rain, although my apartment's parking lot tends to turn into a lake during heavy rains.

I have to start preparing for the move-out party at my mom's apartment set for this Saturday. My family will be gathering to assist and a pot-luck will be included. From what I hear, some fine goodies are in store!

The election results in Massachusetts on Tuesday would have pleased my mom greatly. Maybe now some sanity will return to Capitol Hill.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men Interview

Author Peter H. Brothers is interviewed in a YouTube video on his new book, "Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda."

This is part one:

You may want to switch off the music on this blog by going to the control panel at the bottom of this page so you can better hear the interview. The interview comes in two parts.

The Boston Tea Party: Part Two

The stunning upset victory tonight in Massachusetts by Scott Brown over Martha Coakley for the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by Ted Kennedy should be a message loud and clear to the Democrats: You've overreached and we're not taking it anymore!

The vote totals thus far (source: The Drudge Report):

52% SCOTT BROWN (R): 1,153,808
47% MARTHA COAKLEY (D): 1,052,391

Some Democrats have made noises that they'd want to delay Brown's certification and swearing-in so that they can ram through Obamacare/Pelosicare. This is playing with fire if they should attempt some shenanigans. People are already ticked off, and this would be tantamount to defying the will of the people and the Constitution.

Some Democrats are calling a halt to any votes on health care until Brown is sworn in.

It'll be interesting to see what happens now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Funeral Services

Funeral Services

The funeral services for my mom will be held Thursday, January 28 at 1:15 PM at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.

We will assemble at a roadside staging area (ask at the guard shack at the entrance) and then caravan to either a service kiosk or to the gravesite (it is not certain if it will be held at the grave or at a kiosk).

Here's a map to Riverside National Cemetery.

Went To The Mortuary Today...

Above, John Carradine as the mortician in "The Shootist" (1976). His best line was, "The early worm gets the bird."

Went To The Mortuary Today...

Well, Amber and I went to the mortuary to make the arrangements for my mom this morning.

Our meeting was painless. Actually, the mortuary's chief of staff (a pretty young gal who bore no resemblance to John Carradine as a mortician in "The Shootist" with John Wayne) couldn't keep a straight face. She said she is supposed to have a serious demeanor, but Amber and I kept cracking her up. We were laughing about everything (Mom would have loved that, we had the same brand of humor). I have to see "Meet The Parents." There's a scene involving a spilled urn and a cat doing his business in it. She and Amber were roaring over that.

I forgot to tell her of the joke I pulled on the mortuary lady that handled my dad's funeral arrangements. A day or so after his funeral, we had to go to the mortuary to pick up the memorial book and other things and she asked if we liked their services. I said, "Yes, they were fine except for one thing." She looked at me puzzled and asked, "What was wrong?" I said, "Some family members wanted to see my dad for the last time and the casket was opened and there was a woman in it." Her jaw dropped!

Maybe later...

This was cheaper than I expected. I was expecting somewhere around $5,000 (yes, even for cremations). We don't have a funeral date yet as the doctor hasn't put down a cause of death for the death certificate yet. That's the hold-up. They hope to get this done by the end of today. Once that's done, we can get a funeral date. We are hoping for either Tuesday or Thursday of next week, possibly around 1:00. I'd rather it be Tuesday to get it all over with. We may have the service at the grave as it is already there and they'd have to open the grave for an urn-sized vault (gov't. regulations). The mortuary has to talk to Riverside National on that. So it may either take place at the grave or in one of service kiosks.

There will be no pre-cremation viewings. Mom would not want that and the family also preferred not to have one.

As soon as we have a date and time, I'll let everyone know here and by phone.

A Crash Course

Taking care of business since my mom's passing last Friday morning has been basically a crash course for me.

My mom owned farm property in Nebraska and I have to deal with a tenant farmer, county assessor, county treasurer, grain/corn processors, etc. Unfortunately, my mom and I never discussed the farm or the business end of it. I was uncomfortable enough to not want to raise the subject.

Fortunately, I've a cousin in Oregon who has adjoining property and she's been giving me pointers on what to do.

So far, my dealings with the county's treasurer office and office of deeds have been productive ones and they have been nice and helpful. It must be those mid-western manners!

I've been to the farm once. It was back in 1977 and in the middle of winter. I got to see the property and meet many of the locals. Nice people!

Thus far, the only problems I've been having has been with my mom's bank and trying to obtain a good (and reasonable) probate attorney. A lot of problems may be resolved once I have copies of the death certificate. If you should have elderly parents (or parents of any age), you should make sure they have beneficiaries listed on the bank accounts and, a will. Those will save you a lot of headaches down the road. Fortunately, my folks had the foresight to leave me with copies of their wills.

In little over an hour from now, I have to go to the mortuary to make my mom's funeral arrangements. This will be easy as I was with her when she made my dad's funeral arrangements ten years ago. I am having Amber sit in so she knows what to expect and do, should the need arise (sooner or later, it will).

I'll announce the final funeral arrangements on this blog.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Is Selling

With everything happening in relation to my mom's passing last week, one thing had to be put on the back burner: The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

The Guide became available the day my mom was ambulanced to the hospital. I managed to get some notices out (I had a press release already prepared, so all I had to do was to add in a couple of things to it) that day.

With that said, I checked my ComiXpress account and found that the Guide is selling. So I am grateful for that! It's doing well enough on its own.

I have already installed a click-on link to ComiXpress (on the upper right side of this page). All you have to do is just click on the image of the Guide and the link will take you to it.

My mom was pleased that the Guide was coming out last week. Her comment last weekend was, "Finally, you're getting paid for all the work you do!" Moms. You just gotta love 'em!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Therapy After A Bad Week

Above, daughter Amber and cousin Maria.

I am suddenly in a writing mood. I hope it's therapeutic!

Amber and I started cleaning out my mom's apartment today. Admittedly, while there I feel that Mom would still walk in from another room.

In a perfect world, I would be a millionaire and keep renting the apartment and keep all of her belongings where they are as she left them. I could use it as a "guest house" or a refuge. But this is not a perfect world and I am not a millionaire. So there goes that idea.

Amber and I had our occasional cry while there, that is to be expected. We also had some good laughs over things my mom said or did. My mom was very close to Amber. A few weeks ago, Amber "kidnapped" my mom and took her to the mall for some shopping. They had to cut it a little bit short as my mom wore out. Generally, they'd go to the mall to shop and have a nice lunch somewhere.

Since my mom was an Elvis fan, I put on some of her Elvis records while we were there. Mom's parakeet enjoyed the company and the music. The poor thing has been alone there since Wednesday. We need to find him a good home. My mom cherished that bird. He is quite an entertainer! He's only a couple of years old. I'd take him, but I have 2 cats. Need I say more?

While cleaning out Mom's kitchen, I found some opened packages of spaghetti noodles. Then it hit me that I'll never have her spaghetti dinners again with her fantastic spaghetti sauce. I'm really going to miss those. Fortunately, I have her recipe books and can make the Wyoming Hash she made so well. Many of her recipe books I bought for her in my travels.

Amber has to figure out what to keep and what to let relatives have. One thing my mom made "perfectly clear" to me, Amber's to have the doll case and doll collection.

One of the most difficult things for survivors of a departed family member is to clean out their home and dispose of their belongings. It almost makes one feel like a vulture. We're to have a family gathering this next Saturday to clear out the apartment. What is left (hopefully nothing will be) will either be donated or sold (depending upon what it is) in an estate sale. Maybe some clothing articles can be donated to Haiti earthquake relief. I'll have Amber look into it. (This reminds me, I have been so "out of it" because of my mom's passing that I have not really followed the news.)

After working in the apartment, Amber and I went to Crazy Tokyo Sushi for dinner. We had a good meal and this was the first time in a while we have been able to unwind and relax. It did us a lot of good. As a biology major (she wants to be a vet), she understood far better than I what the hospital told us of my mom's condition and prognosis. She was able to explain it to me.

Tomorrow, I am going back to work. I still have my own rent to pay for next month. At least that will keep me occupied and diverted. My supervisor has been wonderful this past week and very supportive.

Tuesday morning, final funeral arrangements at the mortuary will be made. I want Amber to be there on the planning so she knows what to do should the need arise. My cousin Maria will also be joining us there. She's like a sister to me. We're almost twins! She was born just three days after me and in the same hospital.

I guess this is enough prattling for now. It must be doing some good as I haven't had a single pang of choking up.

A word of thanks...

My family and I would like to thank you for all of the kind thoughts over the passing of my mom. This came as a complete shock to us. My daughter and I have been devastated beyond words.

It has been though your many messages that we have been able to get strength to carry on. There's been so many messages, that it would be very difficult to respond to each.

As you can imagine, much needs to be done. I am the only "kid" in the family, so everything falls to me. Fortunately, my cousins have been a big help to see this ordeal through.

For the first time in days, I got a full night's sleep last night. That was a big help.

Again, my thanks to all of you for the kind messages we received. - A.



This and the next two pictures my mom carried in her wallet. Mom and my grandparents, 1940s.

My dad carried this photo of my mom with him in Korea.

My mom with my grandmother, early-1970s.

Mom, Uncle Ralph, Aunt Rose and Dad at my cousin Annette's wedding reception, 1967. My dad wore "shades" indoors and outdoors during this period.

Mom and our parakeet, 1967. She never did like this picture.

Mom and Dad at home in Hawthorne, 1967.

Huntsville, Alabama space center, 2001.

At Weeping Rock, Zion National Park, 2003.

Amber's high school graduation, 2005.

Alaska Cruise, 2000. With the ship's captain.

Graceland, 2001. Mom was forever the Elvis fan.

At a family gathering.

Christmas in Apple Valley, 2007.

Mom's weight loss just started last summer. There was never a more devoted grandmother to her granddaughter.

At a family party last year with cousin Lydia.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mary Kathryn Charleston Vaquer

Above, Mary Vaquer with granddaughter Amber and son Armand a one of her favorite places, Zion National Park in Utah, September 2003.

Mary Kathryn Charleston Vaquer

March 11, 1933 - January 15, 2010

My mom, Mary Kathryn Charleston Vaquer, passed away peacefully tonight at 2:00 a.m. at Tarzana Providence Medical Center. She was 76.

After a valiant fight, she passed away surrounded by the love of granddaughter Amber, niece Lydia and myself. Before the ventilator was turned off, a prayer over her was led by Lydia.

She was a beloved mother, grandmother, aunt and friend. She was active in the PTA, Cub Scouts and encouraged my interest in science-fiction and horror movies (I took her to G-FEST 2000). She loved to travel and was a avid Elvis Presley fan. She also attended Ronald Reagan's victory party in 1980 at the Century Plaza Hotel. She outlived my dad by ten years and one month.

Funeral arrangements are pending but, per her wishes, she will be cremated and will be laid to rest with my father at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.

Arrangements will be carried out through Lorenzen Mortuary, 19300 Sherman Way, Reseda, California 91335.

My family and I would like to thank everyone who prayed for my mom's recovery and who sent their best wishes. They are deeply appreciated.

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