Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dr. Phil in the O.C.

Road trip!

Yep, this week I headed down for a trip to the O.C., otherwise known as Orange County.

I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and try some of those famous frozen bananas (more about them later). Secretly I hoped to see some of the pretty people who are pretty messed up.

For those peeps who are not cool enough to know, Orange County is just south of L.A. County. It is the home of such cities as Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Anaheim and Irvine. It was founded in March 11, 1889 and is 948 sq miles.

For more information, please refer to Wikipedia, like I just did.

Of course, there is lots of surfing.

And lots of boats.

And even some stupid looking tourists. Wait a second! That's me!

I have a big smile which sometimes makes me look like a monkey.

But don't you like those aviator sunglasses? I bet some people thought that I was a really cool local.

For added excitement, you can take a ferry with your own car over to Balboa Island.

And once you are over to the island, you can partake in the local speciality. FROZEN BANANAS!

If you are a fan of the tv show Arrested Development, you will remember that the Bluths had a frozen banana stand on Balboa pier.

I was reluctant to buy one because they really didn't sound appealing but in the end, I was FORCED to get one.

Coincidentally enough, mine tasted exactly like a frozen banana dipped in chocolate and covered with nuts.

Here is a picture of my frozen banana. I know it doesn't look that impressive but c'mon it was very cold.

I'm sure they taste a lot better in the summer.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Return to Vegas

Last week, I made a very quick trip back to sin city. I managed to find a great room at the Palace Station Hotel and Casino for about $20 a night.

And that $20, my friends, included the taxes. Thank you and their double the difference refund!

It was an amazing deal because the spacious room included a large screen tv, internet service and some pretty swanky toiletries. The hotel is not located on the famous strip but is only a minute away by car.

I lived in Las Vegas for twelve years and a lot has changed. For one thing, the Trump tower has been built and Terry Fator (the ventriloquist guy from the tv show America's Got Talent) has a new show at the Mirage.

I suppose one of the most disappointing changes (for me anyway) was the transition of the Aladdin into Planet Hollywood. I loved the Middle Eastern theme and that has mostly disappeared. Instead of the Desert Passage we now have the overly tacky Miracle Mile Shops.

Las Vegas tends to favor tacky over class so I suppose this change was inevitable.

Inside the Miracle Mile Shops is the WORST excuse for a "tourist attraction" in Vegas.

It is a rain storm. Yes, it is literally water falling from the ceiling into a pool. I am embarrassed to say that I have seen this "show" a couple of times and each time there have been crowds of people watching the drops fall.

I am more fascinated at watching the people than watching the spectacle. I wonder if they tell their relatives back home that they watched an indoor rainfall.

"They have EVERYTHING in Vegas, Auntie Mae! It was AMAZING."

But, I suppose it IS free and somewhat mesmerizing so I'll give it some credit.

Paris was looking pretty good from afar.

On closer inspection, things were looking a little weary. The once brightly colored "Risque" sign advertising their ultra-lounge (which may not even be open anymore) was faded, the fountain was turned off and they don't have a show to fill their main theater.


The colossal City Center Project seems to be moving along. I heard rumors that construction of the 9 to 11 BILLION dollar project had halted but it seems, from the look of things, that the work is progressing.

Why this city needs more hotel rooms, more luxurious condos, and more outrageously expensive shops is beyond me but obviously there is money in it for someone.

Bellagio still looks good, although I wasn't able to see the dancing fountains on this visit. Are they still working?

I hope so. They are worth checking out.

The atrium was filled with an Asian theme for the Chinese New Year. I have always felt that this room should have been bigger but it was well dressed up and worth a visit during any time of the year.

I'll be returning next month for the Western States Veterinary Conference so I'll be saving up my quarters for that time.

I figure I'll never be rich being a veterinarian so Megabucks is my only hope.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Camera To Cambodia

More exciting news!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to send an old (but still in very good shape) digital camera to Cambodia for my friend to use.

I went to UPS and they quoted me over $200 to send it. I thought this was a little expensive so I decided to drive on down to the regular post office. After all, $200 could build another water pump for a Cambodian family.

Thankfully the post office quoted me about $25 to send my package. I had serious doubts that it would get there, mostly because the address was literally "Village of ..." with no street address. I wondered how a postal worker would find someone in a remote village with no other details, but I figured that everyone probably knew each other and eventually it would get into the right hands.

I also wondered if someone would steal it so I put the contents as "recorder and charger". Something ambiguous. Something that didn't sound expensive.

They told me it would take about two weeks.

Well, guess what, it finally arrived. I have no idea how (and hopefully it still works) but I received the blessed news yesterday. Considering how corrupt Cambodia is, I consider this a minor miracle.

And some more good news ...

They are building the water pumps from the money I sent over there. There will be more updates later (with pics!) but so far, so good.

To all the people that made this happen, I am VERY grateful. And I'm sure the villagers are even more grateful. I can't imagine anything worse than getting your drinking water from a dirty, scummy water pit.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Dusty, my one eyed Pekingese, turned a whopping 16 years old today!

I'm not one to normally celebrate a dog's birthday but when you only have one eye, failing kidneys, an enlarged heart, a couple of bad teeth and a spine made of dust ...

Every day should be a cause for a celebration!

Dusty is the toughest dog I know. He can puke one moment and then want food the next. He can fall down a flight of stairs and get up and shake it off. He has survived big dog attacks, small dog attacks and has outlived two of his other brothers.

At 15 1/2 years of age, he crossed the entire United States twice by car (he wasn't the one driving but still) and flew up to Canada. He took every new experience in stride.

I hope that when I'm 110 years of age, I have enough energy to get out of bed.

To celebrate, Dusty enjoyed his birthday cake courtesy of Three Dog Bakery. It is well deserved, my friend.

Dusty says "Screw the Rainbow Bridge, I'm gonna stay down here for a while longer".

And for that, I am very thankful.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Diving bell and the butterfly

Now is the time of year that some of us drag ourselves to the theaters to see the movies which have been heaped with or will be heaped with lots of praise. These are the movies that tend to move slowly but have great acting or a great storyline, usually centered around an interesting character or characters. There are few, if any, special effects and although you can eat popcorn during their showings, wine and a little valium may be more appropriate.

Yep, now is the time of year to be educated by the movies. They want us to learn about the human condition and how painful it can be. They want us to suffer above and beyond the $12 ticket price.

Although I could review The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke and Milk with Sean Penn, I’ve decided to leave those movies for later and focus on the most depressing movie of last year, The Diving bell and the butterfly. This movie came out last year but you may have missed it because 1) it is utterly miserable 2) it is in French. These are not reasons why you should avoid it in the future but you just have to be prepared with some Kleenex nearby and a good ol’ dumb comedy to be played afterwards.

The Diving bell and the butterfly is the true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffered such a horrible stroke that he was in a coma for three weeks and when he woke up, he only had the use of his left eye. Apparently this is called “locked in syndrome” because the mind is a prisoner inside a useless body. This is obviously a tragic event for a person at any age but Monsieur Bauby was only 43 when it happened out of the blue. Only 43! For those people who are in their twenties or younger that may seem pretty old but let me assure you, early forties is a time when a lot of people are just getting started.

It’s hard to know what anyone would do under the circumstances but Monsieur Bauby did not seem to pity himself and he was able to communicate (albeit on a very limited basis) with the use of his eye. To form a word, his friends and aids had to run through the alphabet and when he wanted a letter, he blinked. Then it was on to the next letter. As you might imagine, even saying one word took some time but Jean-Dominique was able to blink out his autobiography which later became a bestseller. The movie is from the standpoint of Jean-Domique so (without any mercy) we are enclosed within his world and share his sealed off fate. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. If ever here is a reason to believe in humane euthanasia for humans, this was it.

While I was watching the movie, I was surprised to see Naomi Watts speaking fluent French. This was a little weird because, after all, she was raised in Australian which is a heck of long way from France. But I figured that they probably teach French in Australia so whatever. I guess she learned it pretty well. Then I checked the stars of the movie and her name wasn’t there. She wasn’t even in the movie. I can’t remember the character’s name (she was the woman who initially helped Jean-Dominique blink out words) but the actress is a dead ringer for Naomi. They could be sisters. Identical twins, actually.

Anyway, there wasn’t a happy ending. In fact, the ending is more depressing than the beginning if that is possible. I found it so sad that an obviously talented man was cut down in his life before he had reached his full potential. And he went from enjoying a day with his son to a living corpse …

In the blink of an eye.

After reading all of this, you are probably thinking that you want to stay the hell away from this tear-jerker but it is definitely worth seeing. Julian Schnabel won the Golden Globe for best directing and it was well deserved. But remember, be prepared. Have a way to get a good cheap laugh afterwards. You’ll need it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Children's Hospital

Here is my new favorite web show!

I tried to embed the show right into my blog but apparently there were some serious glitches so I've just posted the link below.

C'mon, don't be afraid. Click on it. Click on it, damnit. You won't regret it.

Or maybe you will. But at least you can tell me you tried.


Yes, I know this announcement is coming a little late but I've been busy.

And because this is L.A., I do some driving too.

As you can tell, this year is off to a great start!

But I'm ready to dig into 2009. I have made a list of my resolutions and hopefully (God willing), they will all come true.

Here they are:

1) stop biting my nails.

2) conquer parts of Asia and Africa.

Yes, I know they are both very difficult but I am determined this year to make these things happen.

I'm not getting any younger, you know.