2010 started badly for me as my mother passed away January 15 at 76 at the Tarzana Medical Center. Although she had been in ill health (she started getting worse around Christmas 2009), her passing was unexpected. This threw me for a loop as The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan
"went live" on January 12 at ComiXpress. My mom was ambulanced to Tarzana Medical Center January 12. Exploratory surgery that night found a dead gall bladder and sixteen feet of dead intestine. The dead tissue was removed. Unfortunately, the toxins (sepsis) from the dead tissue were causing problems with my mom's kidneys and other organs. She died of total renal failure.
For weeks, my attention was diverted from getting on the promotion bandwagon by dealing with her death, making funeral arrangements, clearing out her apartment and dealing with her estate. Somehow, I muddled through. Thank God I have a tight-knit extended family who pitched in and helped. My mom's passing hit my daughter Amber hard as they were close and Amber would occasionally "kidnap" my mom for shopping at the mall. Amber and my cousin Lydia were at my mom's side when she died. I was down the block getting my car jump-started with Amber's boyfriend when the time came. I went back to my mom's room in ICU and the respirator was still on. Lydia led us in a prayer over my mom and we then departed. This was about 2:00 a.m.
Although exhausted by the ordeal, sleep was impossible. I made a few calls and blogged an announcement of my mom's passing. The first condolence message in response to the announcement was in an email from actress Christine Nguyen.
One would expect that going to a mortuary to make funeral arrangements would be a traumatic experience. For some people it is. For Amber and me, it was a hilarious experience. This happens to a lot of people. Quite often, levity is used as a shield during this task. We had the mortuary's representative in stitches. It was my mom's wish to be cremated and we were shown a number of urns. I had Amber there so she will know what to do when the need arises in the future. Amber (or me) asked if a particular one was big enough to contain my mother's cremated remains. The representative said it would be big enough for me. Amber then said, "But grandma had osteoporosis!" I said that "it wouldn't add any more mass. The only time it would if she had the "Elephant Man" syndrome." That caused the representative to burst out laughing (well, we all did). She was embarrassed as, she said, "I'm supposed to present a serious demeanor."
Her services took place at Riverside National Cemetery. Strangely, her services were held in the same cemetery shelter as my dad's in December 1999. She died exactly ten years and one month to the day after my dad's passing. It was surreal as recent storms left clear blue skies and snow on the nearby mountains. Her urn was buried at my dad's grave. (One thing I learned, although the body was cremated, the urn has to be placed in a urn-sized "vault" according to federal national cemetery regulations.)
I had to consult with a grief counselor as the effects of my mom's death affected me in ways I never experienced before. It caused judgement impairment, irritability, sleep disorders and other problems. It caused the loss of a job (I've heard this happens to a lot of people in such situations).
My mom's estate in California was easy as all she had were her personal belongings and furniture and bank accounts. For the farm in Nebraska, I had to hire a Nebraska estate attorney to handle the transfer of the property to me along with all the paperwork for the various farm programs of the U.S. Agriculture Dept. and Buffalo County. Luckily for me, I found a good estate attorney through the Nebraska Bar Association.
The estate matters were finalized in May, so that gave me more time to devote to the travel guide promotion, which became a third job. The other two jobs are my adjusting position with Crittenden Claim Services and my "parachute" job working in security patrol. The guide itself is doing well and has met with favorable reviews. Although J. D. Lees and I had a parting of ways back in December, much credit is due to him for the splendid job in laying it out and editing. Archie Waugh's talents as a graphic designer shone with his work on the cover based on an idea of mine utilizing photographs I took during my previous visits to Japan.
Two other passings of note occurred in March: Elizabeth "Bette" Shayne, widow of actor Robert "Inspector Henderson" Shayne of the Adventures of Superman
television show of the 1950s and mother of actress Stephanie Shayne, and Denise Geriminsky, wife of friend Mitchell Geriminsky. Bette Shayne's passing wasn't totally unexpected as she had been battling cancer for several years. I had the privilege in meeting her in 2001 found her to be a very nice lady with a great sense of humor. Her passing left Stephanie in the same boat as me: no living parents to enjoy. I attended her memorial service at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital. Stephanie and I commiserated over our losses and occasionally "compared notes." I had to return to Riverside National Cemetery for Denise's burial. Denise's passing from a blood clot following hip surgery was a shock as she was younger than me. Mitch was as shocked over her death as I was with my mom's. While at the cemetery, I visited my parents' grave for the first time and put flowers there. The new marker was in place. I was able to tell Mitch how a shocking death can affect survivors and what to expect from what I learned from my own experience.
I started a new job in late March and found myself in great surroundings in Malibu. A number of interesting things occurred while I was working there and they've been recounted on this blog in articles under "Tales of Adventure In Malibu." Who can complain about working at the beach surrounded by bikini-clad college girls? Funny thing, I made a friend in a Malibu Pavilion's market checker, Heather Johnson. She was transferred to a Von's market (Von's and Pavilion's are owned by the same company) in Reseda in September. Then, in November, I ended up working two nights doing patrol (in a golf cart) at a townhouse complex across the street from it. We were talking the other night noted that it was funny how we both ended up near each other again.
Things looked like they were brightening up in April when I was reunited with a gal I met in mid-2009. We seemed to be hitting it off but I discovered that appearances were deceiving. And I was deceived. Once that came to light, I ended the relationship. I had just come out of the shock of my mom's passing a few weeks before when all this transpired, and my "b.s. antenna" was still not working as it normally would. On the bright side, through all this I did have friends who had my back. For that, I am very grateful.
In May, my daughter Amber made us proud when she graduated from Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in biology. She's currently taking classes at Moorpark College before she decides on what graduate school to attend for the field of veterinary medicine.
The summer was mild by San Fernando Valley standards heat-wise. On those rare hot days, I would get relief at my job in Malibu.
One night, in late-August, I was heading home from work up Malibu Canyon Road when a deer decided to dart into my path. Fortunately, I was going slightly uphill at about 30-35 m.p.h. and hit the brakes before we impacted. The deer darted off and I haven't, to this date, heard from its attorney. The only damage to my car were some slight paint cracks to my front bumper.
My tenure in Malibu ended in November and I am working closer to home. It is almost like getting a raise as I am not spending so much money on fuel. The round-trip to Malibu and back was 52 miles. The furthest I have to drive is Burbank. Otherwise, I am working areas under 2 miles from home. Big difference in fuel costs!
The November elections turned out splendidly. The people rebelled against the excesses of the congress and White House of the past two years. Hopefully, most of the extreme legislation can be reversed by the new congress.
2010, at least, ended on a much happier note as I returned to Japan for the first time in 3 1/2 years for my 6th trip there. Thanks to the corn crop proceeds from the Nebraska farm I inherited, I was able to afford the trip. It was a mix of business and pleasure. I was able to meet with book dealers/buyers and media on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan
. An interview with Japan Today
has already made the rounds throughout the Internet (other sites picked up the feed) and that has led to another interview with Japan's number one English-language magazine, Metropolis
(circulation: 30,000). I also interviewed with Daily Yomiuri
in Hibiya. That interview is slated to be published/posted on Christmas Eve (December 24).
I managed to roam around Tokyo a bit. I visited Toho Studios and had some photos taken at the front gate with the Godzilla statue. I noticed a lot of changes there since I was last visited in 2001. I also visited the Tokyo sections of Nakano, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Asakusa. While in Asakusa, I photographed the new Tokyo Sky Tree Tower that is currently under construction and expected to open in 2012. I also saw the new movie Space Battleship Yamato
at the Toho Theaters in the Yurakucho Mullion Building in Tokyo. It is hoped that a distributor can be obtained by Toho to show it in the United States. I had lunch with former Toho-Los Angeles General Manager Masaharu Ina in Hibiya. We caught up on things and had an enjoyable visit. It was a real treat to see Ginza and Shibuya decked out in Christmas decorations, especially at night. I did some gift shopping in Asakusa's Nakamise Avenue. Early one morning, I visited the Tsukiji Central Wholesale Market (commonly known as the Tsukiji Fish Market) where the latest catches are bought and sold. It is Japan's most important fish market. I also had the best sushi ever at a restaurant near the fish market.
Whenever I go to Japan I try to visit places I hadn't been to before. This time, I wanted to see the Sea of Japan side of Honshu (the main island) and went for a few days to Niigata. It is much more laid-back than Tokyo. Astro Boy is prominently displayed at a bank's ATM machines throughout the city and at their branches. Niigata is known for its soba (noodles) and sake. I sampled some soba and sake while there and brought home a bottle of rice sake.
I had another reason to go to Japan in December. I anticipated a bit of gloom as this will be the first Christmas without any living parents. A trip to Japan, I figured, would be the right tonic to beat back the gloom. So far, I was right! The trip, plus the media coverage of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan
, has lifted my spirits.
I am writing this in the middle of the night with pouring rain outside. I am in the biggest guard "shack" I've ever seen. It is as big as a "McMansion." Literally! This place is huge! It also has a kitchen and an upstairs conference room. The restroom alone has more floor space than most guard shacks. Normally, I just work patrol in my "parachute" job (as claim assignments are sporadic), but they needed someone to cover for the regular guard. And, it is about a mile from home and has full cable television. So, what the heck? Here I am.
Hopefully, 2011 will turn out to be a much better year. We can only hope, right? If I were to make a New Year's wish, it would be for no funerals. I've had enough of them this year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!