Thursday, December 30, 2010

My So-Called American Life: First Entry & It's Based On An Email Forward

Image from HomeAway.com
* First published on:  http://sites.google.com/site/mhtmelgar/myfirstentryandit'sbasedonanemailforwrd
dated May 2007


After 5 weeks, my First Entry and it's based on an Email Forward! How disappointing is that? It is to me, partially.  Of course, I'd like to be original.  My first entry is inspired by a forwarded email that has been circulating the net for who-knows-how-long.  I have not been very successful locating my old journal entries to post in here; hence, the delay in the first issue. Meanwhile, an old friend forwarded an email to me 2 weeks ago and then, an "Aha! experience".  

I did write in my own comments so this is not entirely un-original, yes? Enjoy! 

YOU KNOW YOU'RE FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WHEN...

1. Your monthly house payments exceed your annual income (and you think it’s normal). This can be true.  In all of the US, California is known to have one of the highest real estate rates.  For instance, you can not buy a 3-bedroom house for less than $400K here but go move to Georgia, and you can buy a beautiful Victorian, two-storey, 5-bedroom for about that much.  The median home/condo rate in LA in 2005 is placed at $513,800 and in all of CA at $447,700.  Go to another state and it drops significantly. 


2. You drive next to a Rolls Royce and don't notice. Sa totoo lang, when I first got here, I noted the variety of cars. I would usually rubberneck when I see how numerous the BMWs, Benzes, Jaguars, limousines (stretch and super streeeetch, private and for hire), Bentleys, Hummers, Carreras, Porsches, Corvettes, Cadillacs, various models of MBs etc. were, apart from the higher end models of Japanese cars such as Lexus, Infiniti, etc. etc..  There they were on most roads and freeways coasting right beside my then truly old 82 Toyota Celica (at least, sportscar pa rin! LOL).  Not to mention the penchant of most Californians for convertibles and sunroofs at a more modest level.  Love of the sun, daw (but that's another story...). After a while, I did get immune. Siyempre there are moments when I still stare, but not as much as I used to. Oh heck, just to have a car here is good enough as the area is so vast, public commuting can hamper mobility.  

3. You don't know anyone's phone number unless you check your cellphone. Isn't this true everywhere these days?

4. You speak Spanish, but you're not Mexican. Hmmm...this can be true for all southern border states to Mexico (i.e., Arizona, New Mexico and Texas)...but we're really talking about California here, aren't we?

5. You begin to 'lie' to your friends about how close you are when you know darn well that it'll take you at least an hour to get there (see below).  
What's that song? "LA is a great big freeway..." for good reason.

6. Getting anywhere from point A to point B, no  matter what the distance, takes about 'twenty minutes'. Again, we're talking freeways here on a good day AND perhaps away from the dozens of business centers. 7. You drive to your neighborhood block party. Yeah, you have to drive, that's the way it is. Suburbs are just spacious in contrast with downtown LA and the crowded  city of New York where most people live in flats/apartments.  

8. In the 'winter', you can go to the beach and ski  at Big Bear on the  same day or mow your lawn in your shorts on New Years Day, and maybe sunburn.  
What's great about So Cal is it has both the beaches and snow if you drive up the mountains (Big Bear, Mt. Wilson up Pasadena, and a handful others more). Mostly it is warm, except during Fall and Winter, of course, but still comfortably warmer than any other US state and generally, the absence of snow.

9. You eat a different ethnic food for every meal. The irony is, despite the variety available (Mexican, fusion Chinese, Japanese (tons of sushi places), Greek, Filipino, Armenian, Italian, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, some Indonesian, Korean, American...I still get to the point where I don't know what to eat anymore, it's insane. Obviously, these are the predominant Ethnic groups here except American, d-uh.




10. If your destination is more than 5 minutes away on foot, you're definitely driving. True, true, especially at the height of summer and unless you are exercising. A lot of people find this really odd but I suppose you have to live here to understand why. My own uncle from Seattle, WA, found it crazy that I should get a car instead of continuing to use public transporation (the bus, that is). He thinks I just wanted to be "in", the poor thing. :-)

11. Calling your neighbors requires knowing their area code. Yes, really. I learned to memorize 10-digit phone nos., and of course the prefix 1-  if the no. does not have the same area code as mine. 

12. You know what 'In-'N-Out' is and feel bad for all the other states because they don't have any.  It's a drive through burger place native to So Cal. I'm singing the jingle in my head right now.."In-N-Out...In-N-Out...that's what a hamburger's...all about!" My payment, please. 

13. Stop signs stand for: Slow To Observe Police.  Of course, this is not the traffic light STOP but the 4-corner, 2-corner Stop signs that require you to really stop for 2 secs and not just slow down, whether there's people or none. Just like in Subic. All those who took the CA Dept of Motor Vehicles (DMV or LTO sa Pinas) driver's license test should know.  I took the actual driving test twice! and I've already been driving in the Philippines for a long time...but that's another edition :-D

14. You go to a tanning salon before going to the beach. Odd. There's the beach but people still want the glow from the salon.  I tried this myself using the UV-free magic tan.  See, I can't stay in the beaches here to sun myself; either too crowded, nice ones too far and exclusive, or water really is colder compared to Philippine beaches which are the best in the world, I daresay. 

15. You eat pineapple on pizza (or barbecue chicken!) - Never liked that CPK chicken bbq pizza or Canadian bacon with pineapple.  Give me the Pinoy Greenwich anytime with its ham and pineapple and the Quickmelt™ cheese. Yum! 
16. Your cell phone has left a permanent impression on the side of your head. 
Thank technology for Bluetooth ;-)
17. You think that Venice is a beach.  
For the less traveled, maybe, since it is a beach slightly south of LA (after Santa Monica) where Muscle Beach is.  You know those movies where hunks are working out on the beach? Yes, that one...that's where it is.

18. The waitress asks if you'd like 'carbs' in your meal.  Or a low fat, diet option to your sushi even. Enough said.

19. You know who the tinsel underwear dude in Venice Beach is.Muscle Beach again...but not me. Who is he??? 

20. You classify new people you meet by their Area Code. An '818' would never date a '562' and anyone from '323' or '213' is ghetto/second class. Best area code: '949/714.' (Orange County or OC).   
The area codes obviously denote how far away the person is from you and therefore, estimates the likelihood of you having a long distance relationship and in some cases, indicates the social status factor.  Hence, an OC resident may not want to date a VC (Ventura County) resident.  323 and 213 are for the city of  LA. and OC is of course, the rich.

21. You call 911 and they put you on hold.   This is NEVER true.  I’ve had a need to call 911 (I witnessed a car accident). The operators are always fast.  There are cases when you dial 911 by mistake if you’re using a PBX as you dial 9 first for an outside line, then the 1, before the area code. Punching digits too fast hits 911.  And if you get nervous and don't wait for the operator to admit your honest mistake, they always call you back.  Worse, if you don't answer, they send cops over to check on you.  So, it's wise to just wait for the operator and explain your mistake.  Remember, each call means you are tying them up from those who really need their response.  

22. You have a gym membership because it's mandatory.  Another exaggeration. Not mandatory but yes, common as part of the prevalent view towards a “healthy and fit” lifestyle. 

The gym is packed at 3 pm ...on a workday. Hmmm...not really packed but yes, busy and usually never empty. Why do you suppose there's a 24-hour fitness club?

23. You think you are better than the people who live 'Over the Hill'.  It does not matter which side of the hill you are currently residing, you are just better than they are, for whatever reason.'Over the Hill', I recently found out, means over the mountains up north.  Not sure about this but I suppose it has something to do with living on the hills as tantamount to being upper class. Well, I live in the Valley so what does that make me? Grrrr... 

24. You know that if you drive two miles in any direction you will find a McDonald's, Subway or a Starbucks….OR donut shops galore. In the city of LA, add Yoshinoya, El Pollo Loco, Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell! Go two miles for a Starbucks? Perhaps.  Personally, I prefer Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, native to California. Again...endorser's fee, pls.

25. You know what 'SigAlert', 'PCH', and the 'Five' mean. Visit www.sigalert.com and you will see it gives you real time traffic updates on the "1s" and "5" or freeways. Freeways usually end in 1 or 5 and then there's the 10, 67, etc. I used this sigalert service often when I worked 30 miles away and needed to drive a super busy 101 daily. I wish we had the EDSA, Roxas Blvd, Buendia, Pasong Tamo, Makati Ave alerts as well. But then, heavy traffic was a given in Manila when I was there so why bother? Oh, PCH is the Pacific Coast Highway.   Excerpt from wikipedia:  "In Southern California, the California Legislature has designated the segment between Interstate 5 in Dana Point and U.S. Route 101 near Oxnard Pacific Coast Highway (Commonly referred to asPCH for short)."

26. You know the meaning behind the name of the 405  freeway.... because  it takes 4 hours to get one way, and 5 hours to get  back. Moreover, it's called the 'San Diego Freeway', but it doesn't go anywhere near San  Diego ! The Santa Ana  Freeway does! (I-5 freeway) - Now this, is a joke on the origin of the 405 fway name but yes, the I-405 is actually one of the busiest freeways in the world. Ask my favorite Wikipedia why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Diego_Freeway
27. It's barely sprinkling rain and there's a report  on every news station: 'STORM WATCH'.  
Enough said. I dread driving surface streets and freeways even when it just drizzles. The drivers are just BAD.  It is commonly said: "Californians do not know how to drive in the rain" since (Sonny and Cher duet) "It never rains in California..." right?  Samantalang sa Pilipinas, I drive in two feet high flood, at stick shift (manual) pa ang kotse, say mo!  Viva, Pinoy drivers!
28. The Terminator is your governor. 
:-D  I feel so secure!


29. You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from California!  More than that, I posted it on my webpage. Hala. 

Special thanks to my HS friend, Pinky, who forwarded this to me and unknowingly provided me with the material I needed.

P.S.  Someone commented to me: "You've discovered blogging". Well, no and not yet.  First, I've known of blogging for quite some time now. This is obviously not it. I have yet to decide whether I'd like to blog these thoughts or just plaster them in this webpage then this act will organically stitch my pages together. In other words, this page will have content...quite difficult.  We will see. 
At the moment, I am working on a corporate blogging page for my work and all my energies are focused on that at the moment. My CEO just LOVES to write, I tell you.

My So-Called American Life: new England Part 2

*First published under Yahoo Pulse Blog, September 24, 2010


It's been roughly one month and my car has arrived over a week ago.  I daresay my car, PRTTYGF aka "Lightning McQueen" per my niece, has probably had a more interesting travel from Los Angeles' Long Beach port to E. Walpole, MA, compared to my 6-hour straight shot flight from LAX to BOS.  Nearly every three days I would track its location online, and the page would reveal a different city.  Last I checked, prior to arriving at E. Walpole depot, PRTTYGF stayed in New Jersey.  I was tempted to ask it if met any of the "Jersey Shore" cast.  But as usual, I digress. Having PRTTYGF with me has enabled me to see more, do more, know a bit more, and the adventure continues.

I have developed a new hobby:  State plate spotting.  Wherever I am, I intentionally look at the car plates for an indication of who travels through, if not, relocated to Rhode Island.  Psychoanalytically speaking, I am probably reassuring myself that it is not I alone, who has decided to try and make this place home.  I do this in obvious places as parking lots, freeways, roads and in less obvious settings as the neighborhood homes.  If I am not careful, I could probably be reported by nervous homeowners.  Well, I am happy to report that so far, in addition to New England states and New York plates, there were a few sighting of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Chicago and yes, California plates. Hooray! Needless to say, I got all excited on the latter plates -- right at the car depot lot.  Fancy cars, too.  MBs, BMWs, Cadillacs.

I know of a resident who is gracious enough to orient me on local trivia and customs.  However, I wish he wouldn't ask me about how things were in LA in exchange for each information.  Inevitably, the conversation sounds like we are comparing notes and that I, in stating matters of fact, am showing fierce loyalty. Or maybe I am being paranoid.  Nonetheless, it makes me feel uncomfortable in giving the 4-1-1 about a huge and diverse place as LA or California in general.  LA is arguably a glitter and glamor place as it is the home of Hollywood.  How do I explain that one who lives in LA is exposed daily to the fancy lifestyles of the rich and famous and the result is one either becomes immune to displays of splendor or would deeply aspire for it?  Take me, for instance.  It has become harder for me to get impressed with huge homes and flashy cars and beautiful people (men and women alike). They were all around me, eventhough I was only an observer and not a participant.
Sample conversation 1:
Resident:  Look at this area. This is where the upper class live. Note how big their homes are.  See the homes in the woods or by the water tucked behind tree-laden driveways?
Me:  (In genuine awe) Yes. Wow. Huge!
Resident:  Are the homes of the upper class in LA like that as well?
Me:  (hesitant) Almost, but not quite. Different.
Resident:  Different; how?
Me:  Well, they have huge homes that look really very modern.  They are located in several places -- the rich on the hills of Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, the like. There are those in Malibu, Westlake Village, etc., not to mention Orange County. There are also small spots in suburban areas -- like one long street where I lived -- had 2 to 3-level homes with grand driveways.   Yes, they do have impressive cars, tall, grand entrance gates.
Resident: (thinks for a moment) I see. But you see, the rich of New England are very different from the rich of the West.  Here, people are old rich and not noveau rich...
Me:  You know, I do notice that so far, the upper class homes here (not including the famous Mansions) can be described as "grand" whereas the ones in the younger West, particularly SoCal, are "ostentatious".  So, where are we going to eat dinner?

Sample conversation 2:
Resident: Do you have Cheesecake Factory there? Morton's Steakhouse? (other resto chains, insert here)
Me:  Uhm, yes.
Resident:  Are they as popular as here?
Me:  Sort of. The trendy ones are the ones not necessarily a part of a national franchise chain.  Uhm, when will we go to Newport?

Sample conversation 3:
Resident:  Homes here have a certain architectural style that is meant to preserve the culture and history.
Me:  (agreeing and impressed).  Yes. I see that. Beautiful.
Resident:  How about there?
Me:  Well, it all depends where you are.  Santa Barbara has strict guidelines on conservancy so homes are built to look  a certain way.  In different parts, not really but every place has a defining architectural look anyway.
Resident: Yeah?
Me:  (uncomfortable) Yes.  Where are we going on Sunday?

Sample conversation 4:
Resident (owns a fancy car):  See?  This car is amazing. It has this and that and I get a spot everytime (half jokingly). Have you ever driven this kind of car?
Me:  Yes.  Several of my friends (I swear!) have one.  Not me, obviously.
Resident:  Take a look at that car over there.  Do you have a lot of  fancy cars there, too?
Me:  Yes.  Name it, LA's freeways have it.
Resident: Like what?
Me:  (Reeled in) Uhm, let's see. I like fancy car spotting on the freeways -- Jaguar, Lotus, Masserati, Bentley, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and the like. Depending on the model of the MB or BMW, they are not really considered very impressive.  Audis, Cadillacs are just upper middle class, too. Wait! Let's go to an Asian store next week.

See?

To me, Rhode Island is very charming and hospitable.  I love the lobsters, of course, and the events around town.  I enjoyed the WaterFire festival.  I had a great time in Newport and have vowed to go back to tour the grand Mansions, Block Island, to smell more of the Atlantic Ocean breeze, to witness the original Jazz Festival.   I like the hustle and bustle of Providence; yet does not leave me with a weary feeling. I am having fun driving around woodsy areas and lakeside areas. I like conversations with friendly and like-minded people who are more than happy to provide you with information if you ask for it.

Having said the above, here are a few more first-hand observations --
1.  Highways.  True, the freeways are not as numerous as the ones in LA but there are a number of highways.   To get from one place to the other, don't count on side streets to avoid freeways but expect to land in one or more highways instead. Enjoy driving roads that are far from just straight.
Several times, I have missed exits or turns as roads seem to converge and head in different directions too close to one another.  As a result, I found myself driving through the woodsy Devil's Foot Road for 2.5 miles at 9PM -- all by myself after shopping at the closest TJ Maxx.

2. Toll booths. I haven't experienced these since my days in Manila except on traveling up north to New Hampshire.  Newport has tollbooths still and pricey, too.  $4.00 each way if you do not have an EZ Pass.

3.  Dog Breed Ban.  I have to correct that information about pit bulls. There is a selective ban but not the entire state.  I went to the Main Street Fair and saw several pit bulls with their owners, forcing me to lift my brave Chihuaha-Corgi several times, off the pavement. :) As a result, I read up on this discovered this link:   http://newsblog.projo.com/2010/04/warwick-weighing-mandatory-neu.html

(To be continued)




My So-Called American Life: New England Part 1


*First published in Yahoo Pulse Blog, August 31, 2010


It's now about a couple of weeks after I said goodbye to palm trees, daisy dukes and bikinis on top (with credit to "California Girls" by Katy Perry).
I miss Southern California! Rhode Island (New England area) is lovely but it isn't home to my heart yet  

Thanks to my car not having arrived yet and K driving back and forth to take me around the area and tag along when he's running errands, I have seen a bit of Barrington, Warren, Bristol, E. Greenwich, Providence, Warwick, N. Kingstown and boy, Boston, MA for dinner and a short drop off to Somersworth, New Hampshire. Truthfully, there is not that much to share as these were not "travel trips", more like pass through drives.


I am still hopeful that travel with 3 cats (1 on the plane beside a passenger who glared at me and exclaimed:  "I'm allergic to cats!" and using her inhaler 5 minutes later...but that's another story and I digress; 2 in cargo) will be worth it.
I landed in Boston, Ma on Aug. 16 and went straight to Rhode Island. 
As of this weekend,  I have just adjusted to the new time zone and have also moved in to our new place -- a cottage in the lovely, upscale woody area of E. Greenwich.  Let me just say, let the word "cottage" not fool you into visualizing some cutesy abode for me.


Okay, as it seems I have worn out my welcome to some camps even before it started, I now buckle down and start job hunting.  So far, no responses. I am thinking perhaps I should stop trying to "capitalize" being from big city LA in my Resumes; it might actually be having a converse effect.
I have been checking the area out -- it's a bit tough without my car.  I am sure I can do more when I am mobile. There's so much to discover and do. I hope I don't sound whiny!


It's a quite an adjustment over here vs. my life in California, to wit:
1.  The accent!   Yesterday, I called a Sheraton by the TF Green Airport asking for the Job Hotline. The FD agent who answered assumed I was applying for Housekeeping without even asking me. I figure, it's my non-New England accent :(  where "r" is not pronounced, eg., car - CAH or short "o" i.e., Warwick (Woh-wick) or KWO-fee (coffee).  
2.  It's not just the "Ocean State" but a Dunkin' Donut state!  Every other corner in here has a Dunkin Donuts shop. And no, it's not just for hot cofee but more for iced coffee and baked goods; even outnumbering the usually ubiquitous Starbucks presence.  I traveled to Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and it's the same.  The stadium in Providence is called the Dunkin Donuts Stadium.
3.  Recycling program is limited compared to LA (i.e., not all homes have the blue, green and black bins with styro counted as part of recyclables).  The program varies from county to county.  Trash collection is mostly privatized.
4.  Water - Well water is still an alternative to water refiltered by the city. My own home runs on well water (but not that I have to dunk a pail into the well with the image of "The Ring" girl in there -- horrors!)
5.  Traffic courtesy - not a lot of L turn lanes - so when the first car from the opposite lane signals a left turn -- you really wait for them to go and you do not insist on your right of way.  They also expect it (fine by me).
6.  Slower freeway speed limits. Posted fway speed limit is usually 55 MPH.  Well, I am from LA where posted 65 speed limit "means" you "can" run at 80 MPH on the fast lane -- enough said. 
7.  Since this appears to be a pass through state for Massachusetts and Connecticut, northwards to New Hampshire and Maine (even to NY), I enjoy spotting car plates bearing Massachusetts a lot. Oh, add some Vermont plates in there.
8.  In 2 hours without traffic, I am in New Hampshire. In LA, 2 hours without traffic, I am somewhere in the OC or up in Ventura, or Palmdale; you get the picture.
9.  Only 2 major interstate freeways -- the 95 and the 295. 
10.  No cellphone ban for motorists (grrr)
11.  Helmets and protective motorcyle gear are NOT mandatory -- craaaaaazy!
12.  Alcohol - limited availability.  It's a dry state.  I can't even buy wine from the supermarket.  I have to go to a liquor store -- few and far between -- and closes at 10 PM! I should've brought more wine from California LOL
13.  There is an awesome bargain chain called "Ocean's Job Lot" -- like a Big Lots! but more merchandise; extensive lawn and garden and pet products aisles. There are also a few Big Lots! but outnumbered.
14.  Petco -- has a lot of doggie outfits for fall and winter with paw boots (awwwwwwww -- gay!)
15.  Winner -  tax is only 7.00%
16. Ahem -- mostly Caucasian -- I am a sort of a novelty when I walk into stores and restos -- not that much but still...I have yet to meet a Filipino. Seen some Chinese, Laotians, Vietnamese and a few Thais.
17.  Restaurants/fastfood native to New England - Five Guys (like our Inn n' Out but better burgers, I think, where Pres. Obama had a burger in the DC location), Friendlys (a la Dennys), Papa Gino's...(oh, have I mentioned Dunkin Donuts? haha)
18.  There is a pit bull ban and I have yet to see a dog park.


Everyone I meet who learns I am from LA immediately starts being sarcastic by saying:  "You would LOOOOOOVE the winters here!"
Grrrrr. So encouraging.
I am optimistic that once I start working and getting in to the system, my adjustment will be smoother. Right now, I am a bit homesick.  I cannot even teach Turbo Kick Boxing -- there's hardly any here. Only 1 class in 1 gym within a 15-mile radius from me.  Les Mills' various workouts are in.  I tried his copycat Body Combat -- it gave me a workout as it should but it's not as fun and intense as TKB.  I have to step up my promotion of TKB!  I will get an AFAA certification and look forward to landing a gig on the side.
So there.  That's all for now.  I look forward to collecting more observations and writing anew. Until then, you all take care and make sure you are bold enough to try change if you want it. 


My doggie Ebi, using the dog run (something new to him), is bored. But oh, no longer limited to sidewalks and dog parks, he does seem to enjoy the abundance of green areas and the really nice 14-mile East bike path. 


:)