Archive for the ‘Memories’ Category

My B2B Story

When it comes to communicating with the people around me, I am fortunate to have a couple different options at our disposal.

There is the eye gaze for when I’m home and plugged in. I believe that we’re quite up to speed on that machine, so I’ll spare you the ins and outs of the Dynavox. Then there’s this device that we call Low Tech and it’s comprised of a giant board with letters and words on it and a laser pointer attached to a pair of lensless glasses. I use the laser to spell out words and sentences on the board and it does an excellent job at communicating my thoughts. We also have a small sized board that we take with us when we’re out and about.

But then there are times when it’s just not practical or even possible to employ any of the methods described above. That is when we go really old school:  I use my voice and everyone with whom I’m speaking gets to play 20 Questions in order to figure out what I am spelling.

This is challenging for all parties involved for several reasons. Since my tongue doesn’t work any more, a lot of my letters tend to sound the same. This makes guessing on the listeners end an exercise of extreme patience. But most of all, if you are acquainted with my personality in the slightest, you would know that I don’t think like a normal person. Sorry.  🙂

Now, a few weeks ago when I was being stretched by Robin and Lindsey at physical therapy, they were chatting about the upcoming Bay to Breakers foot race. They politely asked me if I’d ever run or walked in it and I grinned my best Yes-I-Have grin to indicate that why yes, I had walked in it one year.

I opened and closed my mouth to let the ladies know that I wanted to expand upon the subject further.

In order to keep the pace of this narrative flowing the way it is currently flowing, I will cut to the chase and eliminate the trial and error process that Robin, Lindsey, and I went through to spell those three little words that I chose to summarize and encapsulate my one and only B2B experience.

And they were (in order):




(No need to spell that last one out. That word remains intact in the old verbal arsenal still).

Anyway, it didn’t take them long to figure out that it had rained on me during the course of the race and that as a result of the subsequently soaked t-shirt I was wearing, my nipples ended up getting majorly chafed and, in turn, caused me a moderate amount of pain.

And that is my Bay to Breakers story.

And that we joined the race while it was already in progress so we could watch the elite runners climb the Hayes Street hill.

We’d still be playing 20 Questions if I wanted to include that piece of information.


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Free Parking

This photo was taken exactly seven years and seven days ago on my thirty-fifth birthday.

The reason for the semi-amused, semi-perturbed look on my semi-chunky face is because even though it is a little after 6:30 in the morning, someone has decided to park their car in the one space (of the roughly two dozen available in the lot) that I have parked in every day for the last three school years.

Funny, yes, annoying, hell yes.  And on my birthday, even!!

As I would come to find out later that day, the entire stunt was orchestrated by my boss and school principal, Dee Brummett, who witnessed my reaction to the unprecedented event of losing my beloved parking space from the relative safety behind a curtain-drawn window in her office.

Apparently Dee had borrowed her son’s car, arrived at o’dark thirty, parked the heap in “my” space, and hid out in her trailer awaiting my arrival.  (Recall at the time that the administration offices were in a portable due to campus-wide construction).

Although I didn’t realize it in the moment but I was forced to confront a serious issue of mine at the time.  Why was I so programmed to park in the same spot day after month after year when any other one would have sufficed?  If I couldn’t muster the intestinal fortitude to find a different space, what did that portend about the possibility of changing things in other areas of my life?

In retrospect I have learned — with a lot of help from those around me — to just let go of the seriously insignificant crap.  Stuff like getting to school early enough to make sure you get your favorite parking space or the order you put your shoes and socks on (left sock, left shoe followed by right sock, right shoe).

While I have by no stretch of the imagination mastered this vitally important life skill, I have made some serious strides in the right direction.  You will never again hear me lose my mind over a lost parking spot.

Granted, I no longer drive anymore, but still.

*Note to the curious:  The word WORD at the time was my personal catchphrase, hence its inclusion on the sign located on the rogue vehicle’s back end.

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In my nearly forty-two years (and counting) on this planet, I’ve accomplished many things.  Off the top of my head, they include:

  • Earned a degree from a four-year university in five years
  • Won two league championships for baseball (The Theissen Glass Braves in the Midget League and The Carpets International Eagles in the Teener League)
  • Managed to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show over three dozen times in the theater at midnight
  • Drank a pint of Guinness straight from the source at the Guinness Factory in St James Gate in Dublin, Ireland
  • Perfected my subway face as a passenger on a New York City Subway train on the way to Yankee Stadium even while some dude in a suit with a cardboard box full of noisy wind-up toys got his ass handed to him by about six prepubescent boys not even ten feet away from where I was sitting
  • Played a gig on the same stage where Rick “Rock n Roll Hootchie Koo” Derringer had rocked out on just one night before
  • Taught hundreds of middle school math students how to play a game called Fizz Buzz which utilized knowledge of multiples of threes and fours
  • Wondered if any of those same students realized that the game could also be used when they got bored with playing quarters at some point during their post-middle school years … like I did

However, that list would be even more complete if Lake Tahoe wasn’t so friggin cold and I’d been able to stand up during my (regretfully) only attempt at water skiing.

These two pictures accurately capture the essence of that experience in the late nineteen seventies.

Blame it on either frigid water or a not yet developed set of muscles, this was as vertical as I got.

There was no Thrill of Victory on this day, only a heaping helping of the Agony of Defeat.

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Thank you for your kind words of support in the comments section of my latest blog entry.  I appreciate the fact that people even come by here at all, much less take the time and effort to write such thoughtful sentiments, I can only express my gratitude by saying thanks.  So thanks.

In terms of the coughing, it is still annoying and fairly persistent but this morning I had the daughter of the mother of all sneezing episodes and once it passed, I had Lhito jam the suction machine down my throat and hoover up the excess phlegm that risen to the surface following the fast and furious flurry of sneezes.   The end result:  I am feeling a little bit better.

Quick announcement:  Due to unforeseen scheduling conflicts, this week’s Thursday Afternoon Movie Club meeting is cancelled.  We will return to the theater on Thursday, January 13, 2011.

Poll Question of the Day:  Which kind of person are you?

Scans of the Day:  Here are a couple of photos from my very own toddlerhood back in 1969.

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For Old Lang Zyne

As many of you prepare to ring in the New Year tonight, I can’t help but reflect back on some of the more memorable NYE celebrations I vaguely recollect attending.

There was that time in high school when I came down with the Taiwanese Flu for the entire winter break and I ended up watching the Beastie Boys perform live on MTV at midnight.

Then one time in college, a bunch of us planned a ski trip to South Lake Tahoe and we ended up at the casinos on New Year’s Eve.  Vehicular traffic was prohibited on Highway 50 at Stateline so the road between Harvey’s and Harrah’s was awash with a sea of parka-adorned, mitten-clad, half-drunken revelers eagerly awaiting the stroke of midnight.  Having had a decent evening playing blackjack, I still vividly recall the sleepless night I spent crashed on the floor of one of those motels on the strip with about ten people I hardly knew all the while worried that someone was going to roll me for the lousy C-note I won at the tables earlier that night.

And then there was the year I hung out with friends in a rented beach house in Santa Cruz.  It was that very evening when two of my co-workers bet me sixty bucks that I wouldn’t grow a goatee.  I grew it out and there it stayed — in one form or another — for at least half a decade.

I could never forget the time my band — the world renowned Bay Area Band — played our friends John and Traci’s wedding in downtown San Francisco.  There can be no excuse to forget your anniversary if it happens to fall on December 31st.

One year my friend and I went to see a Grateful Dead show at the Oakland Coliseum.  I couldn’t believe they opened with Hell in a Bucket and closed the show with Sugar Magnolia, before encoring with Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.  Ah man, who am I kidding?  It was a Dead show!  I’m surprised that I even remember going to the concert.

And then there was that time in the hazy crazy daze of my youth when a group of us wanted to be high rollers for New Year’s Eve and get a room at The St Francis Hotel.  Well, one person in our crew got a little too rowdy a little too early and we were shown the streets by hotel security before the sun went down.  We ended up part of the teeming masses crammed into Union Square at midnight.

As far as memorable NYE experiences go, nothing compares to the year Fehmeen and I spent the holiday at Disneyland.  The future Mrs Picetti was sicker than a dog but that didn’t prevent her from enjoying the Magic Kingdom with every ounce of her being.  She was annoyed that every single doll in It’s a Small World was singing American Christmas carols that I thought they were going to permanently ban us from ever floating through the ride again.  Besides feasting on our weight in yummy churros that night, I will never forget spinning round and round the Teacups with my beautiful girlfriend until midnight and watching the fireworks light up the Southern California sky.  I never wanted that ride to end.

So, Happy New Year’s to you all.  Maybe Fehmeen will let me have a syringe-full of champagne down the tube ’roundabout midnight — most likely Eastern time.  Cheers

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He entered his friend’s home carrying a six-pack of Mickey’s Big Mouths and fifty bucks burning a hole in the front pocket of his acid-wash jeans.

The place smelled of young men:  Barley and hops, cigar and cigarette smoke, three extra large assorted topping pizzas, and the unmistakable odor of frequent and freshly minted farts hung in the air like a cumulonimbus cloud above the room.

He masked his jangled nerves by making an unfunny joke as he sat down at the octagonally-shaped, felt-covered card table.  His money was quickly exchanged for blue, red, and white circular plastic gaming chips.

It wasn’t until the third or fourth hand that he noticed the music that filled the gaps of their conversations.  Knowing Me Knowing You, Take a Chance on Me, and Lay All Your Love on Me.

From a perceived place of safety behind a fanned out wild card created full house, he stole glances around the table.  Nobody found it at all unusual that the soundtrack for the evening’s poker night was being provided by Abba.  In fact, he could even make the case that most of the guys in the game were surreptitiously mouthing along with the lyrics.

And although he bid a hasty and rather unceremonious adieu to his fifty bucks, the night wasn’t a complete loss.  He spent the next three hours nursing the same beer he was drinking when he went all in and lost, grazing on several varieties of pizza and other random salty snack foods, and learning to love every track on Abba Gold, which played non-stop for the duration of the evening.

There were reports that the young subject of this tale drove to Tower Records the next day and purchased his own copy of the greatest hits package but he could not be reached to confirm or deny these allegations.

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If we lived in the days when pirates ruled the seas and were free to mete out their own form of walk-the-plank style justice, I would undoubtedly be sent to the briny depths for all eternity because of the things I have done in this lifetime.  Here are but a few recent examples.

For encouraging and allowing Emma to watch the Britney Spears episode of Glee on our DVR each night.  I mean, what two-and-a-half year old even watches Glee anyway?

For getting my church-going night nurse Mele addicted to the new television series The Walking Dead.

For actually purchasing William Hung’s debut cd when it came out.

For still owning it today.

For forcing everybody I know to watch my copy of Heavy Metal Parking Lot with me.  If you haven’t seen it, you really should.

For laughing so heartily at the one and only typo on La Entrada’s California Distinguished School application:  the charitable organization now forever known to me as One Warm Goat

For asking my former principal to bequeath to me upon her retirement the child-created poster advertising a community-wide book drive for impoverished Chilean school children that was hanging in her office that actually read Books for Chilly Children.

For proudly displaying that poster in my classroom upon receiving it.

And for dragging my retired school teacher friend Mary Lou — aka The Hen — to see The Last House on the Left in the theater.  Every time we hang out she reminds me of that experience;  especially the climactic exploding head in the microwave scene.

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You never forget your first…

…parent teacher conference.

I thought that I would lighten up the mood a little by leading with an amusing anecdote.  I explained to the sixth grader’s parents how their son would arrive early to my classroom each day and spend the ten minutes or so prior to the start of my math class socializing with me or whoever happened to walk through the door.  The instant the five minute warning bell rang the student would abruptly end any conversation he was having and hightail it to his desk and wait silently for class to begin four minutes and forty-five seconds later.

The moment I finished my story I expected to see smiles plastered on the faces of the couple seated across from me at the table but instead I was greeted with the most stern and dour looks I had ever seen.  For the remainder of our meeting I was able to transition to an all-business mode and I finished my first ever parent teacher conference on a more positive tip compared to how it started.

Throughout my eight years of biannual conferences, I think that I’ve almost seen it all.  Students crying because of their low grades in my math class, a parent crying because of the conference she had before mine, an enraged father who had just discovered that his son had forged his signature on a test, a mom who set me up on a date with her coworker, and the absolutely nicest Japanese couple in the world who didn’t understand a word of English but kept saying thank you after everything I said.

With the lone exception of that very first one, I can honestly say that I enjoyed every parent teacher conference that I conducted over the years.  I liked getting to know some of the parents year after year and I am still friends with some of them to this day.  I think the most interesting part for me was getting to see the personality of the children on display in the parental unit(s) for the brief fifteen minute duration of our meeting.  My teacher colleagues are going to say that I am crazy but I kind of miss conferences.

This past Saturday morning,  Fehmeen and I attended our first conference as parents.  Being on the other side of the table was even more interesting to me than I ever could have imagined.  Hearing about what your kid does and how she interacts with her peers and teachers was equally unnerving and insightful.  It was nerve-wracking because she is my little girl and in my eyes she is perfection personified and it was eye-opening for exactly the same reasons.

We were told that Emma needs to be in everybody’s business — courtesy of her mother and her nani — and that she has issues with cleaning up what she was working on before moving on to the next activity — a trait she no doubt inherited from yours truly.  We were assured that she is doing well considering her age and that this is her first experience with a non-adult peer group.

Fehmeen and I left the meeting happy and proud of our baby, excited about future conferences that will follow for the next eleven to twelve years, unless they have conferences in high school then we have to add four more years to that total.

But we will always remember our first.

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Goal Orientated

My goal as a kid growing up was to earn all A’s on my report cards so I could get into a good college.  Well, a 55 to 1 A/A- to B+ ratio at Parkside Junior High and a 4.13 AP-class adjusted GPA at Capuchino High School pretty much meant mission accomplished in that regard as I attended UCD in the Fall of 1987.  (College GPA withheld by the author for reasons of embarrassment and shame).

At the age of 25, my goals shifted towards my cardiovascular health as I attempted to kick a ten year cigarette smoking habit by going on the nicotine patch.  My lungs and I are happy to report that no tobacco has entered this body since April 15, 1994.

After quitting smoking, my body staged a rebellion of sorts by blowing up to the tune of 200 pounds.  My new goal became losing 35 el bees by walking every day and eating more sensibly.  Yo Adrian, I did it.

Then I wanted to become a middle school math teacher.  The only way I knew how to accomplish this particular goal was to put in the time to up my game.  I think it worked for the eight years I spent in Room 36 at La Entrada.

Then came the diagnosis of a terminal illness in February 2008.  When I was informed that most people with ALS survive between two to four years, I was forced to reevaluate my goals.  The Bucket List concept is good in theory but doesn’t make a lot of practical sense when my abilities to speak and move disintegrates on a monthly basis.

These days I focus on living to see April First each year in order to celebrate our shared birthday with my daughter Emma.  Then every October I make it my life’s goal to attend the annual Father Daughter Dance with Emma and Fehmeen (with music provided by my dad and the world famous Bay Area Band).

I have yet to miss either occasion and I don’t plan on starting any time in the near future.  Besides, I have a hundred more entries to write if I want to get to post #400 on this blog.

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Use Your Illusions

I guess you can trace my interest in these type of pictures back to freshman year at UC Davis when I happened upon a dude selling posters in front of the Coffee House early one day Fall quarter 1987.  I ended up purchasing my first Salvador Dali print.  At the time I fancied myself an open-minded adventurer who was eager to push the envelope and explore the infinite possibilities of normal human perception by any and all available means.  In other words,  I was eighteen years old and away from home for the first time in my life.  I proudly decorated my dorm room with that poster — among others which included Jessica Rabbitt and Brian Bosworth. It was the eighties and I had horrible taste, so sue me.

A few months later a friend of mine turned me on the works of MC Escher.  I couldn’t believe what I was supposed to be seeing.  Hours seemed to tick on by as my mind struggled mightily with what my eyes were telling it they saw.  Throwing more fuel on the fire in my brain was my collection of Where’s Waldo books and their innate ability to occupy chunks of my precious time.  (I would venture to guess that that was probably the first time that Escher has been mentioned in the same paragraph as Waldo).

Spring quarter later that school year brought with it my first ever Whole Earth Festival on campus.  The three day celebration of Mother Earth, natural foods, hippie music, Birkenstocks, patchouli oil, and sweat was so much fun for me and my friends that I almost dropped out of school so that I could follow the Grateful Dead around on tour.  No, not really, but I did buy this super-groovy tie-dyed t-shirt that had what looked like a skull on it but upon closer inspection was actually a drawing of a woman looking at her reflection in the mirror.  The picture is called Vanity and it’s posted above.  Pretty crazy, eh? (The Canadian in me couldn’t resist not saying eh).

Fast-forward to the current year of (practice with me) twenty ten and I discovered these three pieces of eyeball ingested brain candy while checking my mail on Yahoo.  I decided to post a few of my favorite illusions here for you to trip out on.  Enjoy.

Which arrows do you see first? The yellow ones or the green ones?

You realize that the fishies aren't moving, right?

Ahhh! The blue dots! Make them stop!

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