#23 – Participate in Scientific Experiment

If you know me you know that I rarely talk about being diabetic. I’m not ashamed of my condition. I just don’t want it to define me, and I’ve never let it stop me from doing anything.

Over the past 14 years of living with the condition I’ve had more than a few days where I’ve hated the illness because I have to inflict pain with a needle every time I indulge in the pleasure of food.

Diabetes has rarely played to my advantage. Other than getting me a few TV credits and some bylines in some periodicals it has been a big financial, physical, and emotional burden.

Two months ago, however, I heard an advertisement on the radio that a diabetes research institute in San Diego was looking for healthy diabetics for multiple studies…and they paid for participation.

The first thought in my head was, “finally, a benefit to being diabetic.”

I immediately went to their website and applied. They contacted me within a couple weeks and told me about a couple of studies they were conducting. Both required two over night stays in their facility, but one paid more, so obviously I went with that one.

First they scheduled me to come in for a physical to see if I qualified. That went well minus me nearly blacking out while they drew my blood. I’ve got blood drawn every 3 months for the past 14 years and never experienced a near black out, so I was obviously nervous proceeding further. A week later, however, the institute notified me I passed my physical and was eligible for the study.

I won’t get into the particulars of what they are studying, because of a non-disclosure agreement I signed, but the study required two 30+ hour stays in their facility, with 28 of those hours attached to three IVs.

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I arrived at the facility at 6am on Wednesday for visit 1 and was surprised to find an empty room. I had the place to myself. I was really stoked on that because I’ve had to share a hospital room in the past, and it is not fun. I wondered why it was so empty, but then recalled their strict participation guidelines. Then the nurses punctured my arms and I remembered it’s not exactly fun being attached to machines for 24 hours. I still have the scars on my hands from my diagnosis 14 years ago.

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My desire to participate in the study was two fold. I have a project I’m trying to finance and every little bit of money helps. If it was good enough for Robert Rodriguez to be a lab rat to finance “El Mariachi” then it was good enough for me too. Also, I wanted to help future diabetics. The findings in my study could help improve future medications.

Once I was attached to the IVs I was told I wouldn’t be allowed to get off the bed until Thursday at 11am.

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I had my mac, iPad, and iPhone to go along with the DirecTV they provided. I actually needed to catch up on rest, because I rarely sleep well, so the doctor ordered bed rest was a much obliged command.

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The first few hours went agonizingly slow. A digital clock served as my nemesis until a nurse covered its view with the curtain around my bed. Boy did that curtain come in handy on more than one occasion.

That curtain served as my only sanctuary. I was under constant surveillance by doctors or nurses to make certain the study wasn’t tampered with by me taking medications or consuming food. They also drew blood from me every half hour and stabilized my glucose levels when needed. It was pretty nice not having to prick my fingers or use a syringe on myself for the first time in 14 years but I was not keen on the constant supervision.

I enjoy being alone, so it was a bit awkward having to ask a stranger for a container to piss in. At first I didn’t know how I was going to get that done without leaving the bed, but once the curtain surrounded me I maneuvered into a pissing position. It did require the equivalent focus and patience you witness of a dog pooping on a lawn.

12:30pm eventually came which brought with it the Padres game on TV, followed by the Heat vs Knicks at 4pm, and the Clippers vs Grizzlies at 6:30pm. Before I knew it, 9pm rolled on by.

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If it wasn’t for my stomach I probably wouldn’t have had a sense of time passing. I was told to begin fasting at 9pm on Tuesday. I had my last piece of food at 8pm, so by the time the Clippers game ended it had been 25 hours without food, with another 14 to go.

From about 10pm to midnight I flipped between movies. I didn’t want to go to sleep because I knew the battle that entails when in a hospital bed. But I had to try, because I had to be back in Los Angeles the next afternoon and didn’t expect to be sleeping again until 3am on Friday.

I had to sleep on my back, which I don’t normally do. I find it odd, like I should be in a coffin. That contributed to the stop-and-go 5 hours of sleep I got.

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I simply laid in bed from 6am to 9am to take advantage of the time to think. No one was there to bug me about everyday bullshit. When you aren’t allowed to get off a bed for 28 hours you do a lot of thinking. Mortality, career, and aspirations are just a few topics that crossed my mind. The last time I had that much uninterrupted time to think by myself was when I spent a week in the hospital when I was diagnosed 14 years ago.

Back then, that time to think motivated me and launched me in a positive direction in life. It made me realize life is short, which got me cracking on my writing career at a young age. I’m at a point now in life where I need to reach new levels and this study allowed me the time to formulate a game plan for my personal and professional life.

I was given a food menu at 9am and was somewhat disappointed with my options. I don’t know why I expected a four star meal, maybe because I hadn’t eaten in 39 hours, but nonetheless I chose the turkey sandwich and veggies, something light. I had to prove to the doctors that my glucose levels could be maintained off the IVs and I wanted some San Diego Mexican food before going back to the garbage they serve in Los Angeles, hence the lighter selection of a turkey sandwich.

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I have one more over night stay next Wednesday as part of this study and then a follow up visit the following Wednesday. I will most definitely participate in future studies they need me for, not only because the money is good, and because I’ll be helping future diabetics, but because I also learned a lot about my own body.

I’ve always known I’m healthy, but I discovered my heart is extremely efficient and primed for a long life. I also learned my body processes glucose efficiently, which is important for diabetics. Those are likely a result of my exercise habits. I had those assumptions about my heart and glucose levels but the doctors in the study were able to verify that information.

So, I hate to break it to any of my haters out there with voo doo dolls, but I’m not going anywhere any time soon, and I’m only more motivated now.

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#22 – Guest Speak at My Alma Mater

I’ve been front and center on numerous stages. I’ve been on a sound stage in front of cameras for a few TV shows. I’ve been on stage telling jokes. I’ve been a journalist asking questions at news conferences. Simply put, when I’m in front of a crowd I don’t frighten easily.

About a month ago Dr. Liliana Rossmann, a professor at my alma mater California State University San Marcos asked me to be a participant in a career fair where alumni would speak about their careers to students.

I immediately said I would participate, because Dr. Rossmann was one of my favorite professors at CSUSM and any opportunity I have to give back to my University I jump at.

I wasn’t nervous about the event, because I’m quite narcissistic when it comes to my writing career. I love to write and I love talking about it. Plus, if my experiences can help others than that is a pretty cool feeling to get in return.

Clearly I’m not just narcissistic about my writing.

I received the list of other guest speakers a couple days prior to the event, and then my insecurities kicked in. Among my fellow alumni were a Master Data Manager with Bumble Bee Foods, an HR Benefits Administrator with Valley View Casino, a Director with Pacific Life Insurance, and a Senior Marketing Manager with Taylor Made-Adidas Golf. I’m a clown who can write.

Despite having a Bachelor’s in Communication and a Master’s in English I always fear that when put in a room of professionals that I’m not taken as serious because I write dick and poop jokes for a living. That’s probably a contributing factor to why I am looking into pursuing my PhD.

When I arrived at the Arts 240 room I noticed that my name placard was on the far left of the panel setup. I thought that meant I would get to speak first. I thought that would give me a better chance to be taken seriously since I wouldn’t be compared to a litany of 9-5ers.

Photo courtesy of Antoinette Oesterlein, who you may remember as the person who taught me the beginning chords to guitar playing. She took the time to come see me speak, which is cooler than anything I’ve ever done for her.

Alas, when the moderator began the introductions she started on the right side and moved her way toward me. To relieve my anxiety I surmised she wanted to save the best for last. In actuality, the placement of name cards was probably just random.

Damn straight I jacked my name placard.

Perhaps my anxiety was also attributed to the fact I felt the need to prove my education hasn’t been a waste and that I can better deliver a fart joke via multiple platforms because of my degree in Communication. The panel discussion went really well. I think I contributed some helpful information to graduating students. I told a few stories like my 4am phone call from Suge Knight, and running into LAX during a bomb threat for the LA Times.

I was definitely the outlier, and didn’t know if the students were fascinated with what I had to say. Most people who go to school there are not looking to get involved in show business. Or at least that’s what I thought.

After the panel was over, there was a five-minute intermission before the next panel on graduate school commenced. Before I could get out of my chair I was approached by another former professor, Dr. Katherine Brown, who was happy to see I had done so much in my five years since I graduated.

Then I stood up, and students mobbed me. First, a girl approached saying she was looking to get involved in sports broadcasting. We chatted for a minute about my time working on Around the Horn for ESPN and covering sports for the San Diego Union-Tribune. I gave her my card and told her if she ever needed anything then to contact me. Then a guy approached and said he was looking to become a writer and told me how cool my stories were. He saw me give the girl my card and asked me for one too. Then I was approached by an older woman who wanted to become a writer and was frightened she was starting out too late in life. I assured her that if you can write well, people don’t care about your age. I gave her a card. Then a guy who said he was looking to become an actor approached me. He told me he came specifically to hear me talk, because none of the other people could help him in what he wanted to do. With that compliment, clearly he was my favorite too. I gave him some advice and my card. As I was approaching the back of the room to take a seat for the second panel I was approached by two girls who said they wanted to get involved in the entertainment industry in some way, but didn’t know in what capacity. I could tell they were a bit nervous, which is funny because five years ago in college I would’ve been the one who was nervous to talk to them. They asked for my card as well.

Those brief conversations really made me feel good, because I don’t really think my stories are that cool, but occasionally I am reminded of rare opportunities I’ve had and how lucky I’ve been. Those students also relieved my anxiety about being taken seriously in a room full of professionals.

I genuinely want to help those students, because it reminds me of when I was 18 and approached a journalist guest speaker at CSUSM who got me my first writing gig with the San Diego Union-Tribune. I hope all of those students contact me, even if it’s just for more advice or to edit and revise their work. Realistically, I only expect maybe two of them to contact me, because it requires a certain level of gumption to follow up, which not everyone has. Either way, I wish everyone I met during the panel discussion the best of luck, because I know I’ve had plenty of it.

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#16 – Smoke a Cigarette

The title is a bit misleading because I have smoked a cigarette before, but it was while drunk, so that doesn’t count since I don’t recall the effects of it.

Last week I stopped by my buddy Trevor’s house for a quick business discussion. Always the antagonist, Trevor greeted me with the idea of smoking a cigarette for the blog. I’ll allow Trevor to conduct the introduction.

Personally, I have no idea why people smoke cigarettes. They don’t appeal to me because they smell disgusting and make you hack. On one hand I can count the number of times I’ve smoked a cigarette. Each one of those times was because of a woman.

Back when I was first developing my “game” in Los Angeles it was quite easy to approach a woman who was smoking outside a bar and initiate a conversation over a cig. Trevor and I did it numerous times as newly turned 21 year olds living in the big city. Despite being drunk and not knowing which side to smoke out of, it worked every time. As my game progressed, I no longer needed that tactic.

I don’t know which cigarettes I’ve smoked in the past but Trevor options for American Spirit, which I found appropriate, given my Native American heritage.

I took to the first few puffs quite naturally. I felt like the cigarette was an extension of my hand. I wasn’t feeling any immediate physical or mental effects though. I wondered if maybe it was just like chewing gum, which served as an activity that simply takes up some time and breaks up the monotony of the day. Because chewing gum, and smoking provide absolutely no nutritional value or legitimately necessary purpose.

After a couple minutes, however, I realized what I was putting in my body.

The ironic thing is that in the past I have dated women who were habitual smokers. Clearly I didn’t like them enough to get them to quit, which explains why they are now exes.

In the following video you can see the effects of the cigarette. I start to hack, and my hands were tingling. I didn’t like the feeling.

Later that day my body felt numb, I developed a headache, and I was a bit nauseous. The cig had taken its tole.

The effects of my first sober cigarette reminded me of when I started drinking alcohol and didn’t like it the first time, but eventually grew accustomed to it because of the associated social aspect. I imagine that’s the same thing with cigarettes. Fortunately, I don’t hang around people who smoke with regularity, so I don’t think I’ll ever smoke again. Of course that outcome could change in the future with the involvement of a woman.

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#15 – Learn Beginning Guitar Chords

I don’t believe in absolutes, except one: all rock stars want to be comedians and all comedians want to be rock stars.

Unfortunately, I cringe with terror when someone walks on to a comedy stage with a guitar, because the resulting sound is intolerably unfunny and not musically satisfying.

I’ve often seen musicians like Dave Grohl, Dr. Dre, and John Legend hanging out at comedy clubs. I’ve also witnessed comedians like Sam Kinison, Bobcat Goldthwait, and George Lopez open for bands. The worlds often mix.

I am not one of those people in comedy who wants to be a rock star, because my ego isn’t big enough to think I am musically talented. I am barely capable of writing a one-liner and thinking it’s just passingly funny.

In fact, I have never picked up a musical instrument, unless you count a triangle in sixth grade music class. Last Friday, however, my friend Antoinette set out to teach me the beginning chords of guitar playing.

I have known Antoinette since my sophomore year of college when we worked on the student newspaper at Cal State San Marcos. As you can imagine, I ruffled some feathers with my writing, and she always defended me when she overheard shit talkers. She’s also one of three people from college I still talk to, and the only one I still see. Clearly I trust her, and I don’t trust many people, especially when it comes to a person teaching me something.

I learn best when teaching myself, but Antoinette is a college professor, so if anyone could teach me how to do something she would be the one.

Antoinette sat me down, busted out her guitar named “Simon” and then pulled out another guitar for me to learn on. She handed me a guitar pick and then pulled out a tuner. I explained that I wasn’t so clueless that I didn’t know what a pick was, but that I wasn’t informed enough to know how to use a tuner. She explained to me that guitars quickly get out of tune and you need to adjust them before playing. Apparently, the weather can also affect the tuning of a guitar. Who knew? Probably musicians, I guess.

I had no idea an adjustment needed to be made prior to playing. I just assumed you could pick up the wooden box with a strap and start strumming. After we tuned our guitars Antoinette showed me how to properly hold the guitar and instructed me where to place my left hand. From there she showed me which fingers go where to properly play the G chord.

Nailed it...I think.

I had some difficulty keeping my fingers steady at first. I felt like I was playing the board game Operation, because the slightest touching of a string I wasn’t supposed to touch caused an awful sound. I eventually got that chord down and we moved on to the D chord.

I effortlessly nailed the D chord and was starting to get more comfortable with the contraption in my hands. Antoinette assured me that I was adjusting quickly, given my lack of musical experience. The only issue I had was that my left hand started to cramp up. We had only been holding the guitars for a little less than a half hour and I was experiencing some discomfort. I half expected that issue to arise, because as I’ve stated before, my hands and fingers are pretty jacked up from being a diabetic and breaking them on multiple occasions.

We took a short break from the lesson so I could crack my knuckles, and Antoinette told me that if I got into guitar playing then I should consider a Hendrix guitar. Apparently Hendrix had his guitar strung in the opposite direction so he could play with his right hand. My right hand is my pimp hand so it would make sense that I too played with that hand. That is no doubt the only thing I will ever have in common with Hendrix, that is unless I die from choking on my own vomit or one day become a black man.

I think this is the D chord.

We then moved on to the C chord and I eventually got the hang of that one. Through a gradual and slow process I was able to figure out each chord, but I couldn’t possibly imagine stringing those chords together throughout a song with the addition of other chords. I imagine it would become easier through repetition and practice, but I don’t foresee having the energy to make that happen.

Don't take my word that this is the C chord.

Antoinette proved to be a great teacher, since that’s what she does for a living after all. I don’t think I will be pursuing guitar playing as a hobby, however, because my hands just don’t have the dexterity for the practice. I do have a newfound respect for musicians, however, because I didn’t realize the complexities associated with the art form. I guess when it comes down to it even crappy bands like Nickelback have some talent.

Antoinette's next guitar student is down there on the floor.

In my case, I’m glad my fingers won’t allow me to have musical talent, because the last thing the world needs is another guitar comedian.

I'm thinking about every hacky guitar comic I've ever seen. That's why I'm smiling.

To see Antoinette’s guitar playing skills, click here. To listen to her newly launched podcast, click here. To read her blog, click here.

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#14 – Live In My Sister’s Shadow

I rarely judge a book by its cover, but Graffiti Moon, which was released last Tuesday, is the greatest book in the history of literature. I haven’t read the book, but I make my evaluation based on the book cover.

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I should probably mention that my sister Jamaica Sandoval took the picture adorning the cover. And yes, my sister’s name is Jamaica.

In spring 2011 my sister got an e-mail from someone at Random House Publishing asking if she would be interested in selling the book publisher one of her photos for an upcoming release. Jamaica thought it was a joke, much like people think her name is when they hear it.

A lot of people in my family have artistic talents that we’ve been able to monetize. My Uncle Rene the comedian. My Grandmother Gloria the hairdresser. Me the writer. My sister just so happened to find an interest in photography.

Jamaica takes a camera with her everywhere, and not just the one installed in a phone. Interestingly, however, she rarely shows off her work, instead she usually just posts her photos to flckr.com.

One of the photos she took last year was of her friends inside some sort of large drainage pipe. It’s a wonderful photo, of which I can’t explain the intricacies in how it was created.

A representative from Random House was searching through flickr.com and came across my sister’s picture. The representative offered Jamaica a deal for the rights to the picture, which included monetary incentives for each form of the book. On Tuesday the book was published in hardcover and audio.

Now here’s how I tie in her accomplishment into something I’ve never done before. On Tuesday I lived in my sister’s shadow.

I am six years older than Jamaica, which means that I’ve had a head start in life. Pretty much every milestone she’s reached is one I did six years prior, like graduations and birthdays. Then I started my career when I was 18 years old and my name started to appear in bylines for news outlets and in the credits of TV shows. Those accomplishments casted a big shadow on her, because she witnessed my family put together binders of my article clippings and tune into my TV shows. She watched me receive a lot of praise and attention.

Tuesday was really the first opportunity for my sister’s aspirations to cast a huge shadow over me. So, I visited Barnes & Noble to purchase the book and fully embrace what it felt like not to be the beneficiary of my family’s attention resulting from my sister’s unique accomplishment.

Graffiti Moon is a teen fiction novel, so instead of looking like a weirdo perusing the teen fiction aisles I approached the customer service desk and asked an employee to help me find the book. The woman behind the counter told me the book had just come in and they hadn’t had time to put it on the shelves yet, so she went to the back and got me a copy.

When she returned with the book I felt the need to tell her that my sister did the cover photo for the book. When I did, she told me, “you must be very proud.”

I was proud of my sister, but her accomplishment also hurt me a bit. I’ve been trying to get in touch with publishers for about a year to talk to them about a book I’ve written. It’s been pretty hard to knock down their doors. I wasn’t mad that Random House contacted my sister, but she didn’t go knocking on their door like I had been for a while. For the past few months I had done everything I could to suppress those feelings of jealousy, because I just hoped that she appreciated the accomplishment, because only so many people can say their work is available in a bookstore.

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My work is actually available in a bookstore too, but it’s not nearly as impressive as my sister’s accomplishment. As a result of my time reviewing books for outlets like the Los Angeles Times, I am quoted several times in the second editions of books. More often than not, however, the publisher simply credits the media outlet and not the writer, so I know it’s my words but no one else does. My sister actually gets to see her name in a book.

This is an excerpt from the inside cover of The Chris Farley Show. This was the first book review I did for the LA Times.

My sister’s passion for photography is evident, witnessed by the various cameras and equipment she uses. She also does something that anyone with a particular area of expertise does. She gets frustrated whenever someone is taking a picture in her presence and is having struggles with the camera. I react the same way when someone is writing in my presence. She then can’t explain what the person should be doing, because it’s a talent that comes naturally to her. I call it the Wayne Gretzky syndrome. He was a horrible coach, because he had natural skills, which allowed him to become “The Great One.” When it came time to teaching how to play hockey, he couldn’t pass on a lot of knowledge, because he couldn’t relate to the average player.

I don’t know where my sister is going to take her photography skills. All I know is that the $60 dollars I earned for my first ever published article when I was 18 years old doesn’t compare to the significantly higher amount my sister received from Random House at age 19.

When I paid for the book I once again boasted about my sister, telling the cashier of her accomplishment. Once out the store I sent my sister a picture text message of me holding the book. She responded saying how she hadn’t even seen it yet. Then the other family members hit me up, asking if I had seen it. My sister was officially the talk of the family.

It felt good to live in my sister’s shadow for a day. I truly hope I get to experience that on a regular basis. Hell, maybe she’ll even do the cover photo for my first published book.

Or at the very least I hope she signs my copy of Graffiti Moon.

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#10 – Go Skydiving

I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life, but usually not intentionally.

I went skydiving last Sunday, and without question, it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Two thumbs up during pre-jump flight prep.

I generally don’t do crazy things unless I have a good reason to do it. My friend and colleague Trevor Wayne is quite the opposite of me. He very much does things just for an experience, so when he invited me to go skydiving for his 26th birthday it really didn’t surprise me even though I am well aware of his fear of heights.

Me and Trevor mean muggin’ in the face of death.

We were supposed to jump out of an airplane on January 8, but the skydiving school cancelled our dive due to poor weather conditions. I was quite happy, because I was not my normal self. Comedian friends had been passing away one after another due to illnesses and accidents they could not control. Here I was, choosing to participate in an activity that laughed directly in death’s face. It just didn’t seem right.

I spent that extra week conducting research to ease my mind. I asked friends who had skydived what it felt like. I also found out that only something like 1 in every 100,000 people die from skydiving. That extra week of research got me back to my normal self.

Trevor rescheduled the trip and I was psyched to go. My excitement was quickly shattered, because the forecast called for rain. By canceling our trip two times in a row I couldn’t help but feel that the universe was sending me a sign not to jump. Trevor then rescheduled the jump for January 29 and I knew I couldn’t back out. I had spent nearly a month telling everyone about my intentions to risk my life. I would have looked like a pussy if I backed out.

Ultimately, even though I prefer to be alone most of the time, I knew I would never skydive unless I did it with other people. And I knew it would have to be with Trevor, because it’s no coincidence that some of the craziest experiences of my life have been with him.

Trevor was at the dinner table when Suge Knight made me touch the bullet in his head. Trevor ran down Rodeo Drive with me to deliver life-sized cardboard cutouts of us to Ron Howard & Brian Grazer’s Imagine Entertainment to get a pitch meeting. And Trevor was with me when I talked our way out of being arrested in Hollywood.

Other people in Trevor’s life had the same feeling that skydiving required a commune, because six other people joined, five of whom had never done it before. It was certainly an interesting group of people since Trevor is a paparazzo for TMZ. Some of his co-workers joined, in addition to his roommate Brandon Holley, who is also a good friend of mine.

Brandon, aka “Branville” is a clothing designer and also happens to be the personal assistant to a very well known musical artist. He is by far the craziest person I know. He’s always the life of the party, and I guarantee you’ve never met anyone who rages harder than him.

Branville parties for a living.

Brandon has more lives than a cat, so I knew if he was going skydiving then I would survive, because he survives everything. I know that doesn’t make sense, but I was searching for something to grasp on to.

Branville didn’t see this notice until after the fact.

I wasn’t nervous in the hours before the jump. I was actually quite calm. I think I got rid of all the nerves in the prior weeks. I could tell that Trevor and Brandon had a lot of nervous energy though. Judge for yourself and take a look at the footage of our drive from North Hollywood to Perris.

Once we got to the skydiving school it suddenly became serious as we saw people parachuting downward. A lady met us and took us into a room where she pressed play on a video that was supposed to teach us about what we were about to experience. We paid attention for the first few seconds, then started making jokes, and the rest of the video was no longer audible.

Clearly we are taking our safety very serious.

From there, we were taken to another room where the lady made us fill out some paperwork, and give a testimonial on camera that we were jumping based on our own free will, so that if something did go wrong then our families couldn’t sue.

Trevor was quite passe about reading aloud his consent to die.

I had to lie on my paperwork because it asked if I had any illnesses that would prevent me from jumping. It listed diabetes as an example. I didn’t want to risk them not allowing me to jump, so I didn’t list it.

I’m ready to die.

After we signed our lives away, we paid up, took a bathroom break, checked out the premises, and our names were called over the loudspeaker.

Trevor tried to get some alone time in order to get in the right mindset. Our buddy Clayton, who wasn’t jumping, decided to get him pumped up instead.

We were taken to get geared up and introduced to the person we’d be attached to and in charge of our lives 12,5000 feet up in the sky. My jump instructor Brett introduced himself, and said that when it was our turn to exit the plane that I should get on my right knee, rock once to my left, then once to my right and then out the airplane door. That was it.

I thought we were going to have to go through a whole class, in a room fully equipped with a chalkboard or something. I simply prayed that there was nothing important on that video we joked our way through.

As we walked our way to the plane, Brett said I didn’t look nervous. Truthfully, I wasn’t worried at all. He said it would probably hit me once we were on the plane though. It didn’t.

The plane ride up to 12,500 feet lasted about 10 minutes. I was sitting in between Brandon & his jump instructor and Trevor & his jump instructor. As we reached the destined height, our instructors told us to sit in their lap. That’s not the first time another dude has made that request of me, but it’s certainly the first time I obliged.

Our instructors strapped us on to them. I gave a fist pound to Trevor, who looked more pale than milk and then I shot a look over to Brandon who looked like Trevor’s mirror image. It still hadn’t hit me, and I still wasn’t frightened. I told Trevor, “I’m scared that I’m not scared,” and then walked toward the open door. The strap over my left shoulder was somewhat loose, and slipped off for a second. I immediately put it right back on, and didn’t think about that until later.

I left my body at that point. Somehow I got on my right knee, rocked to my left, rocked to my right, and threw me and Brett out the open door. I was told that in the first few seconds before I hit maximum speed during the free fall that I’d get that pit in my stomach feeling you experience on a roller coaster. That feeling never came, which means I am more likely to skydive again then take a seat on a roller coaster.

I could stare at this for hours.

I was told that we freefell for a minute. That was by far the quickest minute of my life. It’s a feeling that is incomparable to any other feeling. I was not frightened at all. I didn’t even think once about the possibility that either of the parachutes wouldn’t open. I simply enjoyed the view of the Perris mountain range and the feeling of being weightless.

Before the flight, Brett told me how to pull the parachute cord, but I told him I’d leave that up to him and his 25 years of jump experience. If he needed a joke at the 5,000 feet level to save our lives then I told him to tap me on the shoulder.

Once he pulled open the parachute, the noise from the freefall stopped, and it was such a sudden shock that I felt like I died. Nothing was audible. Then Brett shouted, “The chute opened. It’s smooth sailing from here. Now try to find some words to describe that.”

What a view.

The parachuting part was fun, but it doesn’t compare to the adrenaline rush from the freefall. It’s a little awkward dangling there, even though the view is awesome. Other than needing that part of the process to live, I could do without it.

Once we got closer to the ground Brett told me to lift my legs because we were going to land on our ass. When my butt hit the grass I felt a sense of relief while holding on to the adrenaline of the experience. I got up off the ground, gave a hug to Brett, and walked over to Brandon and the other guys who landed before me. We then watched as Trevor came down.

Something didn’t look right as he was approaching. He wasn’t lifting his feet, and he looked really limp. Once he landed, he laid on his stomach for a minute, and his jump instructor checked on him. I approached and he lifted his head, so I knew he was OK. He told us that he nearly blacked out, almost threw up, and that the left side of his body went numb after the free fall.

Once he reached ground, he said he couldn’t wait to do it again. Brandon immediately said he wanted to try base-jumping. As for me, I think I’m good never doing it again.

It was a great experience, but I didn’t really feel the extreme rush that I was expecting, which seemed like everyone else experienced. I wasn’t afraid going into it. I wasn’t nervous during the process. I get more of a rush writing something under a tight deadline. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, because the way people talked about it going into it I was expecting a way more intense feeling, almost life changing, like some had described.

After a few minutes back on the ground, I texted friends and family that I landed safely. A few weeks prior to the initial jump I informed my Mom of my intent, and she told me not to tell her when I was doing it, and just to tell her when I landed. When I called her after the fact, she was fascinated by my details of the experience, knowing then that I was safe. The reaction that shocked me the most was when I told my Grandfather, and he responded by telling me that he did it over 60 years ago when he was in the military. He signed up to be a paratrooper in the Korean War before ending up as a machine gunner. I don’t think anyone else in the family knew about his daredevil intentions. Maybe war-like circumstances would’ve given me the rush I was looking for.

Regardless, skydiving is definitely something that I recommend, because despite my calm attitude it was a fun experience. The best part for me is that I am able to say this crazy statement: “I’ve jumped out of an airplane.”

I am afraid, however, to find out what experience will make me crap my pants.

Oh, and I got this piece of paper recognizing my stupidity.

Video of my skydive can be seen here. It starts shortly after the school’s promo. My favorite part is that I didn’t even realize what my face was doing, and that my chain kept nailing my instructor in the face.

Video of Trevor’s skydive can be seen here. My favorite part is when the instructor pulls the chute and Trevor asks his instructor if they’re OK. Also make sure to check out Trevor on Twitter here.

Video of Branville’s skydive can be seen here. My favorite part is when he plugs his Branville clothing line at the end. Also make sure to check out Branville on Twitter here.


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#8 – Drink Coffee

I quit caffeine on September 27, 2011.

That may not sound impressive to most of you, but I am extremely proud of that accomplishment.

Since the age of 12 I have guzzled diet sodas like they were the only thing keeping me alive. I drank more than a 2-liter of diet soda per day. My addiction to caffeine coincided with my diabetes diagnosis, because as a diabetic so many dietary restrictions are placed on you that you glam on to anything that won’t negatively affect blood sugars.

I didn’t quit caffeine for any particular reason, other than to see how it would affect my body. I easily noticed the positive effects. I fell asleep easier and I lost some water weight. There was only one negative effect, which was that at around 2:30pm everyday I felt lethargic. I wasn’t getting my daily energy boost. That feeling eventually wore off though.

Despite my prior addiction to caffeine, I never once in my life had a cup of coffee. Hot drinks don’t appeal to me, and I was already drinking plenty of cold beverages loaded with caffeine.

I’ve had plenty of opportunities to indulge in coffee, but never did. When I was younger, before my Mom dropped me off at school we stopped at Starbucks so she could get a morning coffee. My younger sister picked up the habit, as did everyone else in my family, but just like with the menudo, I was the odd one out. Maybe I’m adopted.

This past Christmas I received a Starbucks gift card from someone who clearly doesn’t know my tastes. I’ve been using it to buy an occasional $2 dollar water and $3 dollar muffin.

I could have gone the rest of my life without ever tasting coffee, but Last Tuesday I gave up my 26 years of coffee sobriety and bought a tall, iced, vanilla latte.

I was really low on energy because I had been putting in long hours on multiple projects. I needed a pick-me-up. I know nothing about coffee drinks, however, so I enlisted the help of regular coffee drinkers to see what they order.

I first asked my Mom. She told me she gets a Venti, Decaf, Soy Latte, no foam, with cinnamon. I then asked my buddy Trevor, who said he gets a Tall, iced coffee, half sweetened, soy milk with a little extra ice. Finally, I asked my friend Samia, who said she gets a Tall, soy, extra hot, sugar free, hazelnut latte or if it’s red cup season then she gets a Tall, soy, extra hot, peppermint mocha. But if it’s hot outside she gets a Tall, soy, twice-blended, mocha light, frappuccino, add coconut syrup if available, with whip.

With such specifics I think all three of them, especially Samia, thought I was going to bring them a drink. Instead of going with one of their suggestions, I checked out the Starbucks website and noticed their selections under 200 calories. One particular item on the list stuck out: Tall, iced, vanilla latte.

With my order set to go, I visited the closest Starbucks to my house, which is in a Vons. I feel bad for the employees who work there, because the Starbucks in grocery stores are kind of like the minor leagues for baristas. There are two sad little tables, and the smell of Panda Express taunts them all day long. The only positive is they don’t have to deal with hipsters writing screenplays on their Macbook Pro’s, since Vons isn’t conducive for loitering.

Working at grocery store Starbucks is like playing for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Yeah, you're part of the franchise, but not really.

I walked up to the barista behind the register, and ordered like I had been ordering coffee my whole life. She then relayed my order to the lady behind the coffee machines. The lady behind the machines asked her to repeat my order twice, as if she looked at me, looked at my order, looked at me, looked at my order, and she couldn’t believe I was ordering a Tall, iced, vanilla latte. I couldn’t help but feel a little self-conscious that I ordered something not befitting of what a man should order.

Don't look at me like that.

I waited two minutes, received my drink, looked it up and down, and proceeded to my car. Once in my car, I took my first ever drink of coffee…and magic ensued.

Where have you been all my life?

I was oblivious to everything else around me. I had never tasted anything so delicious. It could have been because I hadn’t had caffeine in nearly four months or it could have been that coffee is the best thing ever invented. I partially hated myself for waiting 26 years to indulge in the magical beans.

Once I slurped up every last ounce, I then disclosed to various people my experience with my first ever cup of coffee. To my dismay, many were adamant that iced coffee doesn’t count as coffee, and that I needed to try hot coffee. I was surprised to find out that such hard lines were drawn in the coffee world. I wonder if the bean pickers in Colombia are aware that their efforts aren’t fully appreciated if the beans they picked end up on ice.

About two hours after my last sip of coffee my stomach started churning, and gas tried to push out my bottom. I didn’t know why my insides were being ripped apart, and then I recalled that coffee is a laxative. It was quite the nightmare ending to what started out as a fairytale experience.

I don’t foresee indulging in a daily coffee, because I am enjoying remaining caffeine free. Plus, the deliciousness that I experienced was not worth the pain I suffered, which proves that anything that tastes good is bad for you.

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#7 – Eat Menudo

Craig Ferguson once told me through the television, “Talking about comedy is very tricky…It’s kind of like if you like hot dogs maybe you shouldn’t know what’s in them.”

For me, the reason I never had taken a bite of menudo is because I know what’s in it. As a child I grew up with the smell of pig feet and cow stomach in the house, because my family makes menudo from scratch for the Christmas holiday.

For those that don’t know what menudo is, it’s a Mexican soup that is relatively inexpensive to make since it’s made from the scrap body parts of farm animals that most people don’t want to eat. It’s also a meal that is quite communal for Mexicans because it takes hours to make and requires several steps, allowing time for laughs, chats, and sharing.

That smell of farm animal scrap, however, hindered me from ever wanting to put it in my stomach. I am definitely healthier than everyone else in my family for not having 26 years worth of farm animal fat lining my body. But by not partaking in the tradition of the Mexican meal it makes me an outsider within my own family once a year. I don’t help that fact, considering last Christmas I picked up a pastrami sandwich from a Jewish deli.

Year after year, members of my family try to get me to try a spoonful of menudo, but I always refuse because of that awful stench. With my yearly refusal, their chiding that I’m not a real Mexican ensues. Their joking is warranted, however, because I was judging something without actually partaking in it. So, last Saturday in an attempt to understand my family’s ways and perhaps to see if my taste buds and sense of smell are on the same page I set out to chow down on a big helping bowl of the soup.

I love when non-Latino's attempt to pronounce Vallarta.

Most restaurants don’t serve menudo unless it’s a weekend, because of the long process it takes to make it. But if you ever need a Mexican food item or want to feel like you’re in Mexico then just visit a Vallarta grocery store. It’s one of the few chain stores in Los Angeles where the employees speak to you in Spanish before they transition to English if you don’t understand. I love seeing the faces of non-Latino shoppers during the checkout process. It’s like the employees are running on one of those automated systems that make you press 1 if you want English.

I approached the restaurant section of the grocery store and checked out their selection of hand made Mexican food. At first glance, everything looked delicious, from their rice and beans to their carnitas and pollo. Then I got to the soups section of the display, and I was met by the posole, which looked delicious. Too bad I wasn’t there to indulge in that. Right next to the delectable looking posole was my arch nemesis menudo.

Sizes for the menudo came in either medium or large, which irked me, because if there’s no small then isn’t the medium size actually the small size? The medium size was also quite large and it could have pulled as the large size if it wanted to as well. Regardless, I asked for the smaller portioned container and watched as the woman behind the counter filled my fate with heart disease.

I could have eaten the soup in the Vallarta eatery, but chose against it, and took it home, because I didn’t need to subject a room full of strangers to a potential upchuck if my past 26 years of disdain for the smell hadn’t fully dissipated.

When I got home I unveiled the soup and wasn’t too thrown off by the smell. It actually wasn’t too scary just sitting in front of me. After all, it couldn’t bite me, but I could bite it.

I don't know how the spoon didn't disintegrate in that liquid.

I grabbed a nice chunk of tripe in my first bite. It wasn’t so bad for cow stomach. Minus the fact that I felt like I was chewing on bubble wrap I was able to keep it down. Score one for me. Rather than just being a probationary member, I was one step closer to becoming an official card carrying Mexican.

So, this is what a heart attack tastes like?

With the success of the first bite, I felt more adventurous, so I went for a piece of pig’s foot. I took a big juicy bite and was immediately struck with disgust. All the emotions of the past 26 years came rushing back. I’m not a vegetarian, by any means, but the texture of the meat just didn’t feel right. I stomached the piece in my mouth, however, and moved on to another bite of tripe, hoping that it would serve as a chaser.

That bite of tripe wasn’t as welcoming as the first bite, and I barely choked it down. I refused to give up after only three bites, so I took another bite out of something that was unrecognizable. It looked like some sort of alien mutation, but I choked it down and immediately felt queasy.

It looks like the chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear that Mike Tyson bit off.

I had to give up after four bites. I was not feeling well. My stomach was churning. I was sweating profusely. My heart was racing… OK, maybe my heart wasn’t racing, and I wasn’t sweating profusely, but I was definitely feeling a bit anxious that I couldn’t get over the menudo mental block I developed from childhood. I sincerely gave it an honest try, but taste buds want what the taste buds want, and my taste buds don’t want menudo.

Still hungry, I cooked some frozen chicken breast and decided I shouldn’t waste all of the food I purchased from Vallarta, so I grabbed the corn tortillas, onions, and cilantro that came with the menudo and made some chicken tacos.

I'm a resourceful Mexican.

Since menudo is made from all the leftover parts of animals, I figured the appetizing leftover parts of the meal wouldn’t mind being made into something else as well. Mexican’s are a resourceful people, so maybe I did earn my Mexican card after all.

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#6 – Use Public Transportation in LA For A Day

Last week when my car was playing games with me I asked the world to stop spinning. But that bitch ignored my request, so I had to do something I greatly feared since I’ve been in Los Angeles; I had to use the bus for transportation.

I look at public transportation as something only poor people use because they can’t afford a car. It’s the only time in my life that I think I’m above doing something. The only time public transportation is acceptable for me is if I’m in New York City or another city that has an efficient system. In Los Angeles, if you don’t have a car I don’t know what you’re doing here. Move away. There are too many people here with places to go.

But last week I had a tight schedule and needed to get some errands done while I was charging my car’s battery. First stop on my list was Target and then to my pharmacy. Since I’m a virgin bus rider I grabbed a handful of quarters even though I didn’t know the routes and times of public busses, but thankfully I have an iPhone, which basically does my breathing for me.

The iPhone has a Maps application in it, which has quite a functional option to choose directions based on if I plan on travelling by car, feet, or public transportation. I always leave the option of the three on the car selection, since Los Angelenos don’t walk anywhere either.

I typed Target’s address into the Maps app, and it told me to get walking to the nearest bus stop 0.4 miles away from my house. I started my destination on foot at 10:23am. Thankfully, I waited no less than 2 minutes for the bus to arrive, because a bus stop looks like the perfect place to hang out if you want to get raped.

So, this is where I'm going to die.

I paid $1.50 when I got on the bus, and sat down right in front. While everyone behind me got on the bus, I immediately felt out of place because they all had bus passes, signifying my rookie status compared to their routine.

While in the bus, I then noticed the majority of passengers were Latinos, which is a socio-economic statement that I couldn’t ignore. The bus ride started out quite anti-climatic. I didn’t really expect a party-bus-like atmosphere, but then I remembered the movie Speed started out anti-climatic too. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anyone on the bus who looked like Sandra Bullock.

Clearly this guy is so embarrassed he's riding the bus that he covered his face with a scarf.

The Maps app said it would take 7 minutes to go 2.4 miles to get to Target, and it was right on the dot. Tell me again, how did people figure out things before the iPhone was created?

I spent about 15 minutes in Target and picked up a new Mossimo sweater. I then entered in the directions via bus to my pharmacy. The Maps app told me it was going to be 23 minutes until the next bus arrived to take me 2.3 miles. How ridiculous is that? So, instead of waiting I walked along the same path that the bus was going to take me. I figured I would eventually pick it up on the route. I was at least being productive by burning some calories. I also wasn’t a sitting target to be kidnapped.

My chariot arrives

The bus eventually picked me up and I spent another $1.50 in quarters to drop me off 0.5 miles away from my pharmacy. That bus only had two people on it compared to the packed first trip. I began to feel more comfortable even though it had a slight aroma of urine wafting through the air. That bus also had upholstered seats for the urine to really get soaked in.

I think that grey stuff is fecal matter.

I picked up my prescription and returned to the previous bus stop, so that another $1.50 in quarters could take me 3.9 miles in 11 minutes and drop me off 1 mile away from my house, which I ended up walking the rest of the way. That final trip was way more interesting than the prior two, however, because a somewhat attractive woman got on the bus at the stop after I was picked up. I say “somewhat attractive,” because Speed built my expectations that Sandra Bullock’s are rampant on the LA Metro system.

Since the Speed scenario never occurred, I figured I’d create some action and try my game with no car attached to it. The woman sat next to me, and I initiated conversation. She was kind of shocked that someone was trying to talk to her on the bus, and I could tell she really wasn’t interested. Now that I think back to the prior bus rides, everyone was silent. I guess everyone is so unhappy they’re riding a bus that there’s an unspoken code not to commiserate. I eventually halted my attempt, but I wasn’t bummed because I have a car to return to, unlike her. Plus I’m going to blame my strike out on the fact that there was a seemingly homeless guy sitting next to us, which can make game spitting awkward.

Pretty smart advertising considering bus goers spend a lot of time hoofin' it.

By the time I got back to my house it was 12:38pm. It took me over 2 hours to complete two errands that would normally take me less than 40 minutes. I imagine I’d develop a greater sense of patience if I lost the freedom of my car and became dependent on public transportation. It’s not something, however, that I want to experience again.

I’m also glad I only had two errands that day, because I would’ve likely held off on any other things given the time factor. And through the bus riding experience I have an even greater respect for my car, because if I’m going to waste time it’s going to be in bumper to bumper traffic while I’m behind the wheel of my own vehicle that smells like urine.

I missed my car.

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#5 – Bake Cookies From Scratch

I am an excellent cook…if you count microwaving canned soup as fine cuisine.

What else would you expect from a 26-year-old bachelor?

I haven’t really tried to make too much food from scratch, because I don’t have patience. Plus, it’s so much easier to purchase food from people who are professionally trained to make it.

There are excellent cooks in my family, however, like my Mom who is extremely adept when it comes to baking. Every Christmas when I was younger, she used to make an assortment of different types of cookies, cakes, and desserts. People from around the neighborhood would visit to indulge in her artistry.

I never learned from her how to bake, simply just taking the time to slip into the kitchen to lick the leftover frosting on the spoons. Despite my rogue expeditions for frosting-laden spoons, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Last week, however, I felt a bit of a craving for chocolate chip cookies.

Because my car was having battery issues at the time, I walked to the grocery store with the gumption that I could bake cookies from scratch. I just as easily could have purchased the standard plastic wrapped Chips Ahoy, or the pre-made dough that you simply pop into the oven, but instead, I showed some patience and texted my Mom for her recipe with the necessary ingredients. She texted back saying chocolate chip bags usually have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies on the back. Who knew? Since I utilized all my patience in not buying already made cookies, I didn’t wait for her recipe.

Nestle is quite presumptuous that I will be using their chips in their recipe.

(On a side note, I’m still not used to my Mom utilizing text messages more than actual calls. I find it miraculous when the elder generation adapts to the times. It’s quite awkward, however, when I’m texting a chick and a message from my Mom pops on my iPhone. It’s like the technological equivalent of your Mom walking into your childhood room when you’re with a girl.)

Check out my unfinished countertops.

Upon my return home I realized I didn’t consider that I didn’t have a mixer. So, I grabbed a wooden spoon and by hand I mixed 2 sticks of butter, ¾ cup of granulated sugar, ¾ cup of brown sugar, and 1 tsp of vanilla extract until it was creamy. Since the butter was relatively hard my right arm got quite the workout. I then added two eggs, and mixed those in.

If you like cookies, you probably shouldn't know what goes into making them.

I then added 2 ¼ cups of flour, 1 tsp of baking soda, and 1 tsp of salt and mixed it with the appetizing image from before.

It's starting to take the form of dough...I think.

After that, I added a bag of chocolate chips, which equals 2 cups, and also 1 cup of chopped nuts.

I think I invented a new form of trail mix.

From there, I put chunks of the dough on the trays. The fat kid in me was very tempted to just stop and eat the dough out of the bowl.

This looks appetizing...No wonder I used to weigh 300 lbs.

10 minutes later…voila. About half of the cookies came out slightly burned on the bottom, but the ones that came out right, were absolutely delicious. I had no idea they only needed 10 minutes in the oven. For some reason I figured it would take longer to transform from larva into butterfly form, but it took longer to mix the ingredients.

Masterpieces.

I guess my Mom did pass her baking genes on to me. I’m now curious what else I can cook or bake from scratch and actually make it edible.

It actually does taste better when you make it yourself.

Before I started this experiment I expected a scene straight out of I Love Lucy, where flour would end up all over me and the kitchen, but that wasn’t the case. I don’t know how often I’ll bake in the future, considering I don’t see many circumstances which will call for it, but it’s good to know I have the capability to do so.

Cleaning is what will prevent me from baking in the future.

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