Tuesday, March 27, 2007

By Popular Demand

Bad Dad. I only shot this one video - and this was his last race. He'd won the two previous but this one got him booted. He's the yellow car in the No. 1 lane, the one to the far right. Right before the cars cross the finish line, some kid walks in front of me. And watch your volume. It's loud - like a lot of kids noisy on a video shot with a phone camcorder kind of loud.

Other than that...

He Got A Trophy

OK. Everyone who participated got a trophy.

But the Sam-and-Zack Pinewood Derby car held its own at the event last night, which I gotta say was actually a lot of fun. There was this whole bracket organization to it that involved heats and rankings and runoff races. I don't pretend to understand HOW they did it - all I know is my kid's car hit that track a good 9 or 10 times and, of those, his car WON five times.

It was an elimination tournament so, as much as those wins were great, the losses also took him out of the running for the championship. But whatever, we yelled and screamed as the cars jumped out of the gate. We cheered and high-fived when his car crossed the finish line first.

I was late for the event - text-messaging Stacy as I was on the subway heading home. But I got there just in time for his races - and he'd been on the lookout for me. He spotted me the second I walked in the door... and his face lit up.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

It's A Father-Son Thing

It's time for the Cub Scout's annual Pinewood Derby Race - only Zack and I are totally rookies at this. His scoutleader gave him the starter kit - basically a rectangular piece of pinewood with some grooves cut out for the wheel axles. From there on, we're on our own.

OK. So maybe I didn't do the best job at carving out this thing. The yellow paint and our "lightning bolts" hide some of the gashes I created with the power saw. And yeah, I know you're not supposed to use power tools - but I'm sure there were plenty of dads out there taking modern-day shortcuts to make sure these little cars go flying down the track.

Whatever. This was hardly about the car or the race. This was about dad and son spending the day together, going to the hobby shop to pick out cool stickers (that say "Turbo") and paint for the finished product. Zack chose Yellow with Red and Black for the lightning bolts, stripe down the hood and the Red "Z" painted in the back seat.

The way I see it - maybe he'll win some sort of trophy. Maybe he won't. But either way, it was really nice spending the day with my boy - enjoying his childhood innocence and imagination as we worked hand-in-hand, carving and sanding and painting. No matter how the race turns out, I was the biggest winner for getting to spend my day with him...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


It was a small one - but we did have one, in the house on Saturday. Stacy simply plugged the vacuum into an outlet in the dining rooms when suddenly... SPARK! And within seconds, it was FLAMES shooting out of the wall. The damage was minimal - some black soot around the outlet (since replaced). And I had to cut out drywall around the outlet to make sure there wasn't deeper damage inside the wall.

An electrician determined that the outlet was bad - old, worn out and the victim of a 1960s way of connecting electrical outlets. The wiring is fine. His recommendation is that EVERY outlet and switch in the house be replaced. They also suggested that we increase the amperage and circuit breaker panel - a process they called a "heavy up."

We opened a claim with our home warranty company and are waiting on an estimate from the electrician to do the work. Then we have to see if the warranty company will approve it.

Remember the furnace? Now, the electrical system... Sheesh. I don't know how much more money I can put into this house this year - and it's only March...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Getting Home on Wednesday Night

The Wednesday night commute was horrible - and I blame myself. When I shot this picture, I actually kinda laughed at the poor schmuck who parked this car. Now, he was going to have to deal with the city and a boot removal company (one would think). Unless he was home already, his commute home was about to go through a major disruption.

Bad Karma. I jinxed myself.

I was walking to see Eric the Barber, this Latino dude who has his own shop over on 14th between N & Rhode Island. He's a cool guy and I like the way he cuts my hair. Anyway, after I left Eric's, I walked to the Dupont Metro Station. It's a little bit of a haul, probably about 6-7 big city blocks. But it was a nice night in the city, people were out and I was wearing my iPod. Just as I was coming up on the circle, I could see a lot of flashing lights - fire trucks and cops at both entrances to the Metro, on the north and south ends of the traffic circle. Crap.

Over at the south entrance, the escalators were running and the fire guys didn't seem to be moving around as if it were an emergency. Whatever happened was probably over. by now. And there were still a few people coming up and going down the escalators. So I went down the escalator, past the ticket booths and swiped my card at the gate. From there, I could see a train at the platform on the Shady Grove side and started double-timing it, trying to catch it before it pulled out of the station.

Every car of that train was JAM PACKED with people but I found a spot near the door and squeezed in. I already had my iPod on so I quickly zoned out and got lost in my Treo, hammering out some emails that I didn't get to earlier in the day (I do that a lot on the train...) Several minutes passed before I realized that the doors had never closed and that we were still on the platform at Dupont. I turned off my iPod and listened as the station agent apologized for the delay, said there was a track issue and that we would be single tracking up to Woodley Park, which was the next station. That's cool. It's slow because you've got to wait for the oncoming train to get into the station before your train can go. But it was only one stop so I threw back on the iPod and waited, crammed in that train with wayyyyy too many people all crowded up in my face and back and side. But I waited.

For the next 15 minutes, that train didn't move and people started losing patience. They started getting off the train, talking about cabs on the street and how much it would cost to get to Friendship Heights, Bethesda, Rockville... Then someone came back and said there were a lot of people lining the curbs, trying to hail cabs but few were coming by. Around that time, two firemen walked by on the platform and said something about one of the other firemen just going into the tunnel now. "This train ain't going anywhere anytime soon," one of them said. UGH!

Then came the announcement for everyone to get off the train and move to the platform that serves Glenmont-bound trains, the ones that head into the opposite direction. Dupont is one of those stations where the tracks run in the center of the station, with platforms on both sides. Others have the platform in the middle and the tracks on the outside. This is important to know because when they say for everyone to move to the other platform, that involves, getting off the train, cramming on to the escalators back to where the ticket booths are, walking over the bridge to the other side of the station and back down the escalators to the other platform.

So everyone starts moving - except for a handful of people who stayed on the train. Now, we're all crammed on the other platform - easily 400-500 people. No kidding. There we are waiting when suddenly, the train that we all just got off of... LEAVES. With passengers. Practically empty. Boy, people were pissed.

Then came the next announcement... Go back to the other platform again. Shady Grove trains will be using their own track, after all... ARGH!!!!! So there we go again - up the escalator, over the bridge and back down the escalator. Three trains came and went before I was finally able to work my way back to the platform and get on a train.

My adventure started about 7:15 p.m. and I got home just after 9. Sure, that sucks. And it's comforting to know that Metro regrets any inconvenience (though they still made me pay my fare.) But my bigger concern is that this publicly-funded mass transit system that moves hundreds of thousands of people between Maryland, Virginia and DC every day is so not ready to handle any sort of emergency situation. Communications broke down. Questions couldn't get answered. Agents and other Metro officials were rude and abrupt. That is no way to handle a situation that involves moving a lot of people.

And this is Washington DC, where bad things can potentially happen on any given day. Had Wednesday night's chaos been the result of a national emergency, who knows how Metro would have responded. I know how I would have responded - I would walked and walked and walked until I could hail a cab to get me back to Maryland. There's no way I would have waited for Metro to get its act together.

And yet... I'll be back on the train tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

They're Baaaack

I'm not sure if it was the fanny packs or the bermuda shorts with flip-flops (like anyone can walk all day in those) or the blinding surprise of camera flash in the Metro stations. But the tourists are back. They're on the trains again, looking for Dupont Circle or Georgetown or The Mall. They're stopping in the crosswalks again, pointing to and taking pictures of the White House up 16th Street or the Washington Monument from 15th NW. They're riding the escalators up to Connecticut Avenue and spinning on the street corners, trying to figure out which was is which.

Welcome Back!

Tourism is one of the greatest things about Washington DC. I'm constantly encouraging family members and friends to come out here and see the nation's capital, the monuments, memorials and museums. Feel free to whip out a pocket map or ask a local (you can tell which ones are tourists and which ones are local. It's very obvious). And yeah, I'll take your picture in the Metro station.

When tourists start landing in DC again, it heals one more wound left over from 9/11. Yes, the city is a target. But it's also a magnet. And it's ours. Our country. Our capital. Our city.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hey Dad! Tio Tony wants you on the phone.

My Tio Tony called me the other day. Actually, it was a couple of weeks ago, when it snowed. My Tio Tony is the oldest of the family - the Diaz family, my dad's side. He just turned 80 last summer and there was a big bash for him in Vegas. He's a pretty sharp guy for being 80 - so much so that I forget that he's getting up there. He and my Tia Veva have grandkids my age.

That's him in the picture above, seated in the center. His son, my cousin Andy, is standing above him. Seated, my dad, Charlie, is on the left. (I'm standing above him.) On the right is my Tio Angel. My cousin Vince (we call him Chente) is standing above him. This is from the big party last summer in Vegas.

Anyway, he called a couple of weeks ago because he'd heard about the weather out here. That's very typical of my Tio Tony. A lot of people will see something on the news that's happening where a loved one is but won't think to call or send an email to see if things are OK. I'm just as guilty. My Tio Tony calls...

So we talked for a while - and it was great because he was just shooting the breeze. He asked about the move and the adjustment out here. How were the kids? Stacy? How was she adjusting? The whole bit... And then he asked me about me. Of course, I told him I was fine and even joked that I work too many hours and practically have two lives - one in a downtown building during the weekdays and one in the burbs on nights and weekends.

And then there was a "mijo moment". He kind of scolded me about working so much that I don't get to enjoy my family. The kids will grow up fast, he said.

"Take time to enjoy your family, mijo."

I take that as sound advice from a guy who has held the "Head of the Family" title since my Grandma died in 1984 - almost 23 years ago. Despite all of our differences and the drama that goes on sometimes (I've been in plenty of it, so I have no business talking about anyone.), family is still family is still family.

Thanks for the call, Tio Tony. It's always great to hear from family.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Fill 'Er Up

I swear this only happens when I'm late. DING DING DING and the yellow light comes on. Ya know, I rarely put gas in my truck anymore. I only really drive between home and the Twinbrook Metro station , which is only about 7 or 8 minutes away. And at $2.49 these days, why fill up? I'm cool with only dropping $25 in every 2 weeks or so.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Welcome Back, Sammy...

Sheesh... It's been like two weeks since my last entry.

OK. What can I tell you?

1) I have a new job - kind of. I have swapped jobs with one of my reporters. She'll edit for three months; I'll write for three months. This is something I had asked for at the end of last year, hoping that it would finally help me realize the way things work at this place. It truly is like no where else I've ever worked.

2) I took a trek up to NY for NAHJ's annual scholarship banquet and two intense days of board meetings. I wore a tux to the banquet and delivered a speech about NAHJ and the importance of giving to the cause. It was a nice event at a place called Bridgewaters at South Street Seaport. The even was held in a banquet room surrounded by windows. The view of the Brooklyn Bridge at night was amazing... Nick took a trek up on my second night there so he could hang out (he heard FREE HOTEL ROOM IN NEW YORK and jumped all over it.) It was cool having him around until he got all whiny crybaby about being cold and being tired from walking. Is it my fault he didn't pack good shoes? I also got a chance to spend some time with my NAHJ board buddies - Liz, Elizabeth, Regina, Raf and the others.

3) Stacy downloaded "The Secret," some book that Oprah talked about on her show. I don't completely get it but the bigger idea behind it is positive energy. If you believe good things will happen to you, then they will. But if you're constantly negative about things happening in your life, then the negative energy will keep things the way they are... OK, I think I'm over simplifying it - but you get what I mean, right? Anyway... Stacy is living by this way of life and I think it's a good thing for all of us.

4) My dad is shopping for a new TV. That's pretty exciting because I think he's finally gonna take the plunge into something cool and cutting-edge. I think I may be close to talking him into Plasma --- but we'll see. He's still in research mode, which usually ends us lasting for weeks. (You should see when he decides that it's time for a new car.)

5) The neighborhood is putting together a neighborhood watch. I know. It's kinda suburbia hokey but, hey, we all want to live in a safe place, right? The first meeting is this week. I wonder if this means I'll have to cruise through the neighborhood at 3 a.m. with a good flashlight...

OK. Clearly, there is more happening in my life than this. Blogging is really an interesting hobby, or form of self-expression. I want to write more. I want to think deep. I want to vent my feelings and frustrations about all of the things that are spinning through my head - money, kids, job, etc. - but the last thing I think about when I'm stressed is logging into the blog and hammering out my thoughts. I'm envious of my pal Liz, who has posted some really good entries - nothing as boring and uneventful as what I've been writing about.

That's it. Here comes my commitment again. I pledge to file some blog entries regularly and to offer something more than just these. I'm back on a roll.. Watch out.