Relentlessly Pursuing

What would happen if I relentlessly pursued all of my ideas and goals with without letting tiredness, discouragement, or distractions stop me?  I asked myself that question the other day, but I didn’t have an answer because I’ve never done it before.  
 
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had big ideas and in my mind I could do anything and accomplish everything.  But somehow the older that I got, the more that “reality” got in the way of dreaming big. So I’ve challenged myself to make November into a month of dreaming big, operating at my highest potential, and relentlessly pursuing my goals.
 
But first I had to update my stretch goals for the future.  Here they are, as of today:

Now it’s time to get the momentum started!

 
 

Newest Family Member: Society

 
On July 14th I thought that I was craving a steak, but it turns out that I was craving a guinea pig…not to eat, but to welcome into my home as a new family member.  Throughout the years, my family has had a collection of guinea pigs.  Wait, is it weird to refer to them as “a collection?”  Well, let’s just go with it…
 
First we had Groffy the Guinea Pig, then we had the unnamed guinea pig, then Tommy, then Sylvester.  Unfortunately, most guinea pigs have a life expectancy of 4-8 years so now all of the pigs have relocated to heaven.
 
 
Two weeks ago, I filled the guinea pig void in my life and brought home the tiniest little guinea pig that I’ve ever seen.  For the first week, she stared at me and didn’t make a sound so I thought that she was a mute.  But then I placed a new type of food in the dining room section of her cage and she hopped into the food bowl and SCREAMED with JOY.  That’s when I realized that she shared the same passion for food as me.  Like father, like daughter!
 
 
I built her a cardboard sleeping cave, bought her a home that’s basically a mansion for guinea pigs, and got her the best of everything.  Then I made her a logo because every child of mine must also have a logo.  Then I taught her tricks like how to play fetch and how to organize my tax deductible receipts.  She’s mediocre at fetch and terrible at organizing receipts since she always eats the paper.  Weird.
 
 
Of all the guinea pigs that I’ve ever owned, she’s the weirdest because she does some odd things.  For instance, she keeps her cage in immaculate condition by eating any stray food that made its way into the bedding—this is the guinea pig equivalent of vacuuming .  Also, she designated her plastic igloo house as her bathroom where she goes to…um…handle her business.  Also, she uses her nose to redistribute the cage bedding in a neat even pattern so it doesn’t have any “bald spots” along the cage floor.  She is the lowest maintenance pet/friend/thing that I’ve ever encountered and this is the beginning of a wonderful journey!
 
 
I would like to formally introduce to the world, “Society” (formerly known as Louise), my new guinea pig!!

Breaking Out of Prison (aka the Toilet)

When most of the preparation was done for the church makeover, I needed to change into clothes for the church service.  I took my outfit into one of the bathrooms to change, but as soon as I opened the door, a see-through lizard hung off the wall and looked at me as if I was the one who was standing there naked.  I said, “excuse me, I can see your spleen…have some decency and put on some skin,” but he didn’t budge.  If he didn’t care about his own skin, I knew that he wouldn’t have any respect for mine, so I went upstairs to change in another bathroom. 
 
The bathroom on the second floor had a toilet stall with a lock on it, which seemed like a perfect place for me to change my clothes.  After a thorough check for naked reptiles, I locked the main bathroom door and locked the stall as I began to change.  I put on my grey suit, purple shirt, and purple and grey socks (shoutout to color coordination) and then I went to exit the toilet stall. But the door had other plans.
 
I unlocked the door and turned the door handle, but the door handle decided that it wanted to spend the rest of its life with me.  I used my mighty strength to turn the handle as hard as I could, but it wouldn’t budge.  I thought to call someone to turn the handle from the outside and release me from this crappy situation (toilet stall humor), but then I remembered that the outer bathroom door was locked too!  Would I have to live here forever??
 
If El Chapo could use hydraulic bathtub lift to escape out of his safe house, I  was confident that I could use my smarts to break out of this bathroom stall.  I looked towards the ground and saw that the space under the stall was too small for me to squeeze through, so that wasn’t helpful. Then I looked up and saw that the space at the top of the stall was just barely large enough for me to climb over, but it was approximately 9 feet up.  The toilet seat cover appeared to be stable, so I devised a plan to step to climb on the seat and throw myself over the wall.  
 
 
I threw my things over the wall and then proceeded to throw my body over.  I barely placed my foot on the toilet seat cover when it shattered. What was this lid made out of—a Pringles chip??  I started to panic because it started to look like I was actually stuck there.  I started to climb the toilet tank, but it was as shaky and unreliable as the three frat boys assigned to my first group project in Freshman English class at Seton Hall.  I couldn’t live in that bathroom!  It didn’t even have WiFi in there!
 
I needed to transform myself from Mr. David Banner to The Incredible Hulk if I wanted any chance of survival.  I channeled my inner Indominus Rex and used my upper body strength to pull my body up onto the wall, then I flung myself onto the other side like a rag doll.  I was alive. I made it.  I survived.  
 
I spent the next few minutes dusting-off my clothes and searching for my dignity as I prepared to leave the bathroom.  As I walked out of the bathroom, I had to put on my best “I didn’t just spend 14 minutes fighting a bathroom stall and I almost lost” face.  
 
I should have just used the the Transparent Lizard’s bathroom downstairs because at least if I got stuck there, he could’ve used his transparent foot to open the door from the other side, or his transparent tail to pick the door lock. 
 
That’s what I get for judging a lizard by its skin…or the lack thereof!

Extreme Church Makeover

“You see this completey vacant space filled with nothingness?  We’ve got 27 days to make it into something!”  This was the gist of the challenge that my dad gave me last month as we stood in a brand new, uninhabited building in Trinidad.

Trinidad isn’t just the country responsible for my birth, me eating oysters that resemble pigs eyeballs, and a woman serenading me with Beyonce’s greatest hits at 6:13am, it’s also the country where my dad decided to start a church.  My dad is a pastor of a church in America and in January he started an international location in Trinidad.  After a few months of holding church services in a conference center, he decided to move the services into a better commercial space that would allow for more room for growth.  But this was easier said than done, since we had to mold this vacant void of nothingness into a church, and I was responsible for leading the charge.

In the beginning of April, my dad and I walked around the space and he shared his vision as we bounced ideas off each other about how to pull-off a trial run for the first service.  The goal was to use temporary walls as a test before building permanent walls, while still maintaining a pleasant appearance.  After 20 minutes of discussions, taking measurements and snapping pictures, I left and went directly to the airport to return to America and get to work.

I had just over three weeks to select a sound system and a dual LCD projection system, design print banners, produce marketing videos, produce radio broadcasts, order band instruments, make a plan for transporting everything into Trinidad without damaging it, and set everything up in the halls without any delays.  Since I wouldn’t be able to step foot into the space for another three weeks, it was important to use Photoshop to visualize what things would look like, and tweak it accordingly before returning to Trinidad. There was a lot of pressure, but as Martin Luther King Jr says, “the pressure’s on, but guess who ain’t gonna crack?”  Actually, it was Jay-Z…I always get MLK and Sean Carter confused.

I started by working on the layout of the 4,000 sqft room.  We decided on a heavy, suede-like fabric to separate three areas: the lobby, the sanctuary, and the office.  It was important to make the renderings as close to reality as possible so I could fix any issues before they arose.  This resulted in me making many tiny tweaks to the subtle details of the room to make sure that everything worked visually and technically.  Imagine spending five hours finding the perfect drop ceiling clamps that matched the color of the crossbars and could hold 35 lbs of weight without bringing down the ceiling in the process.  That was my super exciting job!

I rendered each design from multiple angles to make sure that everything looked good regardless of where you stood in the room.  Here are some examples of the renderings of the modifications.  Use the slider to see the before/after comparisons:

Before After
Before After
Before After
Before After

After everything looked fine visually, I sent the banners to be printed and moved onto the sound system.  My goal for the sound system was for it to be portable enough for traveling, yet powerful enough to be heard three countries away.  The result was four powerful speakers controlled by a mixing board that was controlled by an iPad via a wifi connection, along with four wireless microphones and over 1,000 feet of cable to connect everything together.

The same amount of detail was put into setting up two LCD projectors, a drum kit, a piano, a bass guitar, and an acoustic guitar.  There were a lot of moving parts to this operation and it was my job to make sure that everything went as flawlessly as possible.  This was incredibly challenging to manage, but as John F. Kennedy says, “difficult takes a day…impossible takes a week!”  Oh wait, no…that was Jay-Z again.

Then on Monday night I boarded a red-eye flight to Trinidad with equipment stuffed into two 90 pound suitcases and two 50 pound suitcases.  Thankfully, the people at the airport didn’t assume that I was trafficking drugs or fake Gucci handbags when I stumbled around with almost 300 lbs of stuff.  The next four days in Trinidad resulted in long hours of nonstop work as the space slowly evolved into a church.  I led a team of amazing people as the room was cleaned, equipment was set up, fixtures were mounted, and problems were resolved— all in Trinidad’s 700 degree hot sun.

All of the efforts paid-off when most things happened without incident during the night of the service.  The actual room matched the renders very closely, the sound system performed wonderfully, the LCD projectors showed clearly, and everything went well.  I had no energy remaining after the service, was slightly delirious from the lack of sleep, and was accidentally almost permanently locked in a bathroom stall, but besides these things,  the seemingly impossible task became possible when we pulled it off!

Five hours after the service, I checked out of the hotel and drove to the airport to return to the United States.  Despite being energy deprived, I was proud to see that one of the most intense undertakings of my life was successful and the only lasting casualties were these three annoying mosquito bites on my calves.


I Think I Rented a Stolen Car…

I just returned from a four day adventure in Los Angeles with my compadre Jordan and it started in the most riveting (bad) way.  

I travel a lot, so I’ve got the logistics planning down to a tee:  1) Book the flight using a deal from Secret Flying or Google Flights, 2) Reserve a place to stay from AirBnb or Trip Advisor, and 3) Book a rental car from CarRentalSavers or Costco Travel.  This model has worked perfectly for the hundreds of times that I’ve traveled, but this time I wanted to have a more riveting (good) experience, so I took a different route with the rental car.

I heard about a car rental service called Turo, which was described as “the AirBnb for cars.” I gave it a try because the traditional car rental companies at LAX airport charged upwards of $350 for an Isetta-sized car.  I browsed the listings on Turo and saw a beautiful Infiniti Q60 for just $30 a day, so I decided to go for it.  I should have known that I was in for a riveting (bad) experience when the vehicle’s owner didn’t have a chin in his profile photo.

The flight to LA went swimmingly, except for the part when the pilot wanted to create a more riveting (bad) experience, so he SLAMMED the jet onto the tarmac upon landing, but that okay.  The Uber ride to the car lot also went perfectly because the Uber driver didn’t try to sell us his mixtape or try to convert us to Scientology.  But then when we went to the pick up the car from the lot where it was held, the attendant seemed to be very confused about the car’s existence. 

I told the attendant that I was there for the white Infiniti Q60 and he said “what Q60?”  I showed him the confirmation screen, gave him the confirmation number and I even showed him the picture of the chin-less car owner.  He said “hmmm…. let me look around.”  This is when things got riveting (bad).  

Attendant: “We don’t have that car.”
Me: “Where’d it go?”  
Attendant: “I don’t know.  I’ve never seen it.”  

I immediately called the chin-less man and said “where can I find the Infiniti Q60 that I rented?”
Chin-less: “Someone stole my password?”  
Me: “I don’t know… where is the car?”  
Chin-less: “My password.”
Me: “Password to what?”  
Chin-less: “Let me speak to the Turo boy.”  

I assumed that he was talking about the parking lot attendant, so I handed my phone over and they spoke for about 3 minutes. Then the “turo boy” hung up and told me “someone stole his password.”  
Me: “What does his password have to do with the car?”  
Turo Boy: “I don’t know. Stolen?”
What does that even mean?!?!
 
Me: “Where’s the car?”
Turo Boy: “I don’t know, but [the chin-less man] said that he will find another car and bring it to you at 1:30.”  

No way…I don’t want him to find me another stolen car… I want him to find this car….and his chin.

Instead of causing a riveting (bad) situation for everyone around me, I gently took an Uber to the Budget Car Rental counter and gently rented a compact car for more than twice the price of the stolen car.  When we walked to the parking lot, we found a gentle, bright red VW Beetle with a smile on its little face, eager to join us on our journey.  To make this riveting (bad) situation better, I noticed that this little gentle Beetle had “Turbo” written on the back.  A gentle car with the punch of a turbo!!!  It reminded me of myself in 7th grade when I was known as the quiet kid but still “accidentally” punched Sharif in the mouth when he threw me on the ground and hurt my back.

I was annoyed at this riveting (bad) situation, but then we went to In-N-Out and had a riveting (good) burger that immediately dissolved any ounce of upsettedness in my body. That’s when I was able to put things into perspective and realize that God was probably saving me from another disastrous situation with the car since my last run-in with a white Infiniti Q60 ended with me abandoning the car.

I really enjoyed turbo-ing around the town with the Beetle, and I especially liked the fact that I didn’t have to worry about driving around a stolen Infiniti from a shady, chin-less man who can’t keep track of his passwords.

Note: The profile photo that the man used was a photoshopped photo of himself and he doesn’t actually lack a chin. However, I don’t know how I looked at his profile photo and thought “YES! That’s the trustworthy chin-less face that I’d like to rent a car from!”


Diet to the Extreme

When I was a teenager, I ate everything and didn’t gain a pound. When I was in my 20’s, I ate everything and gained a few pounds, but then I would play for 15 minutes all of the added weight would magically disappear.

But when I turned 30, I’d eat a slice of lettuce with a drop of French dressing and as soon as it made contact with my tastebuds, I would immediately gain 45 lbs. Even if I worked out every single day for the rest of the month, I’d lose two of the 45 pounds and then the remaining weight would stay with me forever in the weirdest places, like my elbows.  Turning 30 was a trap!  Don’t turn 30…skip it.

A few weeks ago, my sister suggested that we diet for a month and I agreed because I’m a supportive brother and I want her to share with me if she ever won the Mega Millions jackpot. So 14 days ago we started a strict eating plan based on the keto diet.  With the diet, you’re instructed to limit your carbs and calories so your body can destroy your fat like how Godzilla destroyed that train that one time.

I thought that I’d be so weak that I wouldn’t have energy to blink, but I was surprised when the opposite happened.  I find myself feeling full all day with 1/4 of the food that I usually eat and the best part is that a few wonderful people have volunteered to help me prepare meals.  One of those wonderful people is my mom who has apparently become an expert at making delicious keto meals.

During the last batch of meal prep, my mom created the meals (pictured above) which consist of cauliflower rice, salmon with peppers, spinach, zucchini, curry chicken, broccoli, curry shrimp, and mushrooms.  Do you remember the first time you played in snow?  Or do you remember receiving your first tax return check?  Her meals taste like that…like happiness!

A few months ago, my dad did the same diet and he lost so much weight that people thought that he was my older, more stately brother, but despite its results I remained a skeptic. Now that I’m 14 days into the process, I can’t believe that I didn’t try it earlier.  I’ve committed to remaining on the diet for another 10 days and then I’m going to spend a week binge-eating like a king. I am going to fly across the country to get the best cheeseburger and then I’m going to eat it and regret nothing. If I happen to gain 100 lbs from binge eating during that week, it’s fine because my friend Keto’s has my back!

If you want to track my eating adventures in 14 days, follow me on Instagram and watch my stories.  They’ll consist of lots and lots and lots [and lots] of food. 


I can’t Believe Judy’s Gone!

In 1969, I was negative sixteen years old and Eddy Howell released a hit song that began with the lyrics, “when you told me she was going, I couldn’t believe she was the one!  But I listened without knowing!  Oh yes, she’s already gone.  I can’t believe Judy’s Gone!”  Little did Eddy know, those lyrics would later reflect what happened to Big Booty/Bluety Judy, my [former] electric car known for her curves.

Judy and I started our car/human relationship when I picked her up a year ago on March 24th and I made sure to treat her like the special gal that she was. I got her new 22” AG Luxury Wheels so she can look pretty as she drove down the street, I tinted her windows so she could have some privacy, and I had new aluminum sport pedals installed so she would feel comfortable, but what did she do in return???  She failed me!  Time after time during our brief 10 month relationship, Judith showed me that she wasn’t in this for the long-haul and she continued to punish me.

Here’s the list of issues that I faced within the first two months of owning her: Doors wouldn’t close, displays froze, wouldn’t charge, rattle noises, broken camera, messed-up tires, broken air conditioner, loose body panels, rear windows and lights wouldn’t work, loud clunking noises when I raced people accelerated hard, and sometimes the motor would let out a high pitched noise that sounded like Mariah Carey when she sang “Emotions,” two minutes and forty six seconds into the song.  

I’ve owned Teslas since 2013 and had enough experience with their vehicles to know that this wasn’t typical.  This was an isolated case of Judith trying to repay my good deeds with not-so-good issues. She was playing with my emotions!  I give to charity!  I pay my taxes on time!  I floss regularly…not only before a dentist appointment! I didn’t deserve this!!  

Tesla repeatedly tried to fix the issues but could not come up with permanent fixes.  This left me with a problematic Judith who reminded me of one of those kids that you see on the show “Scared Straight” who came from a good family but made some bad decisions.  I couldn’t find an inmate named “Carlos the Killa” to scream into Judith’s grill to scare her into working right, so I had to take the next best option— I filed a case to have her classified as a lemon.  After a few weeks of negotiating, Tesla and I settled the case where Tesla gave me a full refund for the vehicle, and I had to return the car to them within three weeks.  

Now, Judy’s gone and I’m waiting to decide what my next car purchase will be.  I loved my Model S, but am not in love with the updated design.  I loved the Model X more than any car that I’ve ever owned, but I wouldn’t want to encounter the same issues again.  I want a 2009 Mercedes SL63, but a two seater convertible isn’t a great idea for me right now. So now we wait…

During the ten months of ownership, Judith was fun and I kinda miss her in the same way that you kinda miss your crazy ex who made your life a nightmare when you were together so you had to file a restraining order on them.

I miss you, Judith.  Come back.  Never mind.  Don’t.  You’re crazy.  Crazy in an exciting, “I hope you don’t kill me” kinda way.