Ryan's Journal

"My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?" — David Mitchell

November Recap

Posted from San Antonio, Texas at 7:57 pm, December 5th, 2017

In an effort to make sure I have a record of events so that it’s possible to relive good times when I eventually become senile, here’s a recap of November:

  • Given my engineering background I am not so savvy when it comes to the arts, but Audrey and her friends are doing their best to get me up to speed. Just before Thanksgiving Audrey and her band played a set at Trip in Santa Monica, and Jocelyn opened for them with a rare live show; I know talented people.
  • Following the night of much music I took a few vacation days prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, joining Aaron at his new place in Truckee where we threw hatchets at a pumpkin (we’ve clearly matured greatly over the years). Following that visit I made a detour to Muir Woods before picking up Audrey at the airport and heading to Ma & Pa’s for Thanksgiving. The annual family gathering saw much delicious food consumed, much laughter, and a display of amazing skills in playing Uno.
  • The month ended with Audrey’s birthday, which she celebrated with her tradition of roller skating and a visit to the library, after which I took her out for a fancy steak dinner before we joined her choir friends for celebratory beverages.
Barred owl in Muir Woods
Barred owl posing for tourists in Muir Woods.
Muir Woods Redwoods
Muir Woods Redwoods and a cloudy sky.

Hatchet throwing 101 #killthepumpkin #manactivities #hatchets

A post shared by Aaron Holliday (@bigholliday) on

30 Days in the Hole

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:29 pm, October 30th, 2017

2017 is not shaping up as a great year for hitting the three-journal-entries-a-month goal, either because not a lot is happening or because I’m lazier than normal; it’s probably both. Anyhow, here’s a recap of the past month:

  • October started with a visit from Ma & Pa. They had just returned from one of those cruises where someone comes aboard with a horrible virus and turns the boat into a vomitorium, and they weren’t yet fully recovered, so activities were kept to a minimum. Dad had wanted to see the Spaceship Endeavour since it is awesome, and afterwards we took my mom to Casa Sanchez to celebrate her birthday since you can’t go wrong with a kickass mariachi show.
  • In home news, I put up a mealworm feeder to see what birds it might attract, and it turns out that the answer is “crows”. While they may not be exotic, crows have tons of personality, and they have clearly decided that the new feeder is the greatest thing that has ever happened in the avian world. We now have anywhere from 3-12 crows in the yard each morning, and we’re slowly training them to be less scared of us, although for such smart birds they’re either poor learners or else we’re bad teachers.
  • Finally, last week I made the month’s only work trip to San Antonio, returning for the first time since the hurricane. Luckily Mother Nature decided not to send any natural disasters my way this time, and insomnia was the only battle I had to fight – the fact that the client greeted me in the morning with “what happened?” is probably a sign that I need to start considering sleeping aids.

I’ll do my best to get a couple of additional entries up in the coming days – at a minimum Halloween is tomorrow, so there will be stories to share from this year’s incarnation of Scare the Children.

May Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:26 pm, May 30th, 2017

Another month, another recap of that month…

  • In house news, after floors and walls were ripped apart, our home improvements for 2017 are now (probably) complete. The month started with installation of new windows and doors, an event that provided the opportunity to spend a day working in a house with massive holes in all of the walls were doors and windows once lived. The end result of all of that chaos is well worth it – the house is quiet, the drafts have stopped, you no longer get sunburned sitting near the glass, and the dog in the yard behind us is now almost hard to hear. The month ended with new bedroom carpets, because once you’ve shelled out the money for windows, carpet seems cheap by comparison.
  • In Audrey news, we made an excursion across the LA basin to Chino Hills a week ago to pick up a cabinet she wanted, and on the way home somehow ended up barefoot while touring the grounds of an amazing Hindu Temple that we had seen from the highway – LA is capable of an infinite number of surprises. Later in the month her new band – either called “Soulful Rick” or “Funk Shui”, depending on which band member you ask – was playing its first show at the Venice Art Walk, but since I was going to miss the show due to work travel I got to sit in on rehearsal; I feel strongly that the insightful tips I offered (“play good”, “dress cool”) are what made their show so successful.
  • In family news, my dad’s side of the family all decided to get together and bring the Holliday craziness to San Antonio for a few days, and I managed to align my work schedule so that I could hang out with two parents, two aunts, and a pair of uncles for three nights. While I spent my days working in a dark basement within the depths of the HEB headquarters they went out and explored San Antonio, but we then got together each evening to watch my mom yell, bang on tables, and otherwise lose her mind during the Cavs vs Celtics playoff series.
  • Finally, in rodent news, there hasn’t been a rat in the attic for four weeks, although it is my understanding that 2-3 years must pass without any sign of rodents for an area to be officially declared rat-free.
Window Replacement in Progress
Something is missing. The eight hours it took to rip out all of our windows and doors and replace them with non-antiques was not my most productive work-from-home day.

December Recap

Posted from Merced, California at 8:32 pm, December 27th, 2016

December was one of those months that both flew by and at the same time seemed to go on forever. Here’s the recap:

  • A trip to San Antonio at the beginning of the month got things started, followed by a trip to Spokane the following week for the Commerce Architects Christmas party. The party coincided with a polar vortex hitting the northern states, which for non-meteorologists means SO COLD NO WARMTH CAN’T FEEL FINGERS. We celebrated on the top floor of a 17 story office building with temperatures outside hovering right around zero; at one point I looked out and wondered where smoke was coming from, but apparently when it’s super cold water just magically condenses out of the air into smoke. I very much appreciated living in LA when I returned home.
  • Life in LA continues more-or-less as usual, although Audrey and I did share much excitement over a new garage door and opener; being a homeowner makes you get excited about really, really dull things.
  • Christmas was again spent with Ma & Pa in the Bay Area, meaning I got to take the new car on his first road trip; among many other reasons why this car rules, adaptive cruise control is all sorts of awesome when you’re spending many hours on the Interstate. Christmas went according to plan, with Ma pulling off another amazing turkey dinner, Aaron stalking me with a semi-automatic Nerf gun, and the Skipper all kinds of happy when I showed him how to watch nature documentaries in HD on his new Amazon Fire TV.
  • Following Christmas the annual man-trip began, but for the first night I stayed with Aaron in Sacramento and we went to see Rogue One, since both of our significant others would be unable to tell the difference between a Stormtrooper and a storm cloud. It’s not a high bar to clear to be the best Star Wars movie since the Empire Strikes Back, but this movie cleared that bar with tons of room to spare; it not only looked and felt exactly like it belonged with the original movies, but the story filled in some plot points that made Star Wars an even better movie – to cite the biggest example, George Lucas needs to send the writers a huge “thank you” for freeing him from hordes of nerds who have mocked the original movie for having a moon-sized based that could be blown up with a single missile. Now? Totally plausible.

November Recap

Posted from San Antonio, Texas at 5:36 pm, December 7th, 2016

Here’s a recap of what the second-to-last month of 2016 brought:

  • Work continues at HEB in San Antonio, and November saw back-to-back weeks spent in the Lone Star state. While devoting 8-12 hours to travel during the week might not be the preferred way to maximize time on this earth, I’ve been at it enough this year that I’m now getting free upgrades on United and checkin gifts from Marriott, so while I may be tired, I’m tired in comfortable airplane seats. In addition, the amount of travel made one of those fancy credit cards worth the annual fee, and the number of points now queued up towards the next vacation is borderline ludicrous.
  • The Browns are 0-12. That’s sad but also exciting if you’re a fan of Moneyball, and I may not be able to resist writing a future post about the shenanigans I hope to see pulled off during the next draft.
  • Our monthly cable bill was stupid expensive, and included a bunch of required “extras” like $15 for “regional sports” (since every Cleveland fan wants to pay for LA sports), $13 for a set-top box that probably cost the cable company $75 to build, and another $25 for taxes and fees. Having finally had enough, we got rid of cable. So far Fire TV and an HD antenna is actually better than the super-premium cable package we used to have; Amazon Prime streams a zillion shows without commercials, so we can now enjoy epic nights of entertainment such as the episode of the Twilight Zone where the guy at the diner has three eyes, followed by MacGyver disarming a bomb with chewing gum. After years of horrible customer service and mandatory fees, the cable companies will only have themselves to blame when most of their customers realize that cutting the cord is a much, much better way to get home entertainment.
  • For Thanksgiving Audrey and I tried to avoid LA traffic by departing on Tuesday night and staying in a hotel in Visalia, a town that had hidden charms and an unmistakable odor of manure. After working a half day from the hotel on Wednesday we avoided the worst of the holiday traffic on our way up to Ma & Pa’s place in the Bay Area, where Aaron later arrived bearing Star Wars pajamas and a ring toss game that involved inflatable reindeer antlers (yes, I’m 41). Thanksgiving morning included a hike on Mount Diablo that was inexplicably devoid of wild turkeys, followed by another one of Ma Holliday’s amazing Thanksgiving dinners.
  • The Friday after Thanksgiving we forced the folks to join us for a walk around the Lafayette Reservoir, where the wild turkeys finally made an appearance. After a family lunch Audrey and I departed for the long drive home, stopping at the Merced NWR for sunset. The was Audrey’s first visit to a spot that I head to annually during the man trips, and as the sun set she got to enjoy geese in abundance, hundreds of sandhill cranes trickling in from the surrounding fields, the sun turning the waters red, and two owls who kept up a running commentary – not a bad first visit.

I’m not quite sure what the schedule for December is going to be yet, but with any luck there may be some excitement to share from a post-holiday excursion.

Audrey, Ryan and Aaaron

Star Wars pajamas for the win.

July Happened

Posted from United Airlines Flight 6009 at 4:55 pm, July 27th, 2016

For those wondering what’s new since last time:

  • Earlier this month Audrey & I spent a weekend in San Francisco to celebrate her friend’s wedding. The night before the wedding we went to an incredibly fancy dim sum place and were joined by Aaron, who had been at Lake Tahoe earlier and nonchalantly enjoyed the posh surroundings while wearing a swimsuit and flip-flops. The following day we attended the first combination wedding / improv comedy show that I’ve ever been to, an event which included musical numbers, vows that made everyone cry, and comedy skits; rarely is San Francisco boring. On our last day the Skipper met us for a trip to see the bugs & fishes at the California Academy of Sciences, after which we blew his mind by showing him how Uber works (in fairness, I used Uber for the first time on the same trip, and it is magical).
  • After many years of incredibly solid management, Commerce Architects made the first truly questionable decision that I’ve seen them make when they offered me the opportunity to join them as a junior partner. My career continues to mirror that of Forrest Gump, as I have been successful primarily by blankly staring at someone and then saying “OK”; also, like Forrest, I’ve been lucky with occasional investments in fruit companies.
  • The rats in the attic are still winning. I’m confident we’re going to eventually prevail and will then get to enjoy a rat-free attic, but like many epic conflicts throughout history, I have vastly underestimated my opponent and my resolve has been tested to the point where I’m fairly certain that the enemy is mostly just continuing the fight in order to mock me.
  • While I am battling rats and spending my hours building grocery store websites, Audrey is spending some of her time with the Threshold Choir and will be helping ease the pain of dying people by singing to them; clearly any good karma I experience in this life is merely bits that were directed at her but instead hit the bald guy by her side.

Holliday Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 5:41 pm, December 30th, 2015

Here’s the final recap of 2015:

  • Audrey celebrated her birthday at the end of November, and in addition to a birthday dinner at Ruth Chris I took her to a ghost tour aboard the Queen Mary. After a fancy dinner at the ship’s nicest restaurant we were led on a tour to every haunted spot from bow to stern, including the lower decks where POWs were held during WWII, the now off-limits and very fancy swimming pool, and the huge engine room, hearing stories of all manner of unfortunate events, past hauntings, and ghost cats. Audrey enjoyed the creepiness, and I liked seeing the inner workings of one of the largest ships ever to ply the Atlantic.
  • In between back-to-back work trips to San Antonio I co-hosted a caroling party, thus combining one of Audrey’s biggest joys in life (singing) with one of my biggest fears (singing). Audrey’s professional singer-friends impressed the neighbors with their voices, and her mom brought a giant bowl of delicious meatballs so I got to impress everyone by consuming massive quantities of meatballs.
  • SpaceX landed a rocket!!! I’m still pretty excited about that one.
  • Prior to Christmas I got a text from Aaron saying that he “just broke all of the bones in my ankle”. He later clarified that he is “still learning how to avoid trees when snowboarding” and that he didn’t hurt himself, instead “a tree hurt me”. Upon arriving home for Christmas I found him with his leg in a cast propped up on the couch looking about as stir crazy as a person can be. Despite his lack of mobility Christmas was still fun – there were shenanigans on Aaron’s knee scooter, and Ma delivered a holiday turkey that again let me show off my food-devouring skills.

2015 was another good year in what has so far been a great life, and with 2016 starting with a scuba diving trip the crystal ball predicts that the undeserved good fortune just might continue on a bit longer. Hopefully everyone reading had equally good years – best wishes for 2016!

Holliday Family Christmas

The Skipper is much, much better than he used to be at taking pictures.

Thanksgiving Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 7:55 pm, November 28th, 2015

Thanksgiving has always been a big deal for the Holliday family – in 2000 I was working in Singapore, but embarked on the 17 hour one-way flight just to be home for two days during the holiday. Since then the Thanksgiving travel has been less extreme, but no matter what it takes everyone still sits down in front of a giant turkey that my mom will inevitably say will be too dry or too overdone – this year’s bird somehow ended up cooking upside-down, which my mom was convinced would ruin it; it was delicious, as always.

The 2015 Thanksgiving odyssey started out Wednesday before noon when I finished up a half day of work and Audrey and I attempted to beat LA traffic. “Beating” LA traffic is an impossibility, but it wasn’t quite the nightmare that it could have been and we only sat in traffic jams for about thirty minutes before we were out of the city’s boundaries. Our lunch stop in the Central Valley was crowded beyond belief – the line was around the counter, past the door, and through the eating area – so plan B ended up being Subway and a few bags of trail mix from the gas station convenience store. Many more miles of driving took us to Harris Ranch, site of the “salt pie” of Thanksgiving 2011 fame. After seven-and-a-half total hours of driving, including a detour along a curvy road in the hills above Livermore, our journey finally ended in Concord with Audrey slightly carsick but otherwise unharmed.

The following day on Thanksgiving morning, Aaron and I headed off for a hike on Mount Diablo, and he won the animal-spotting contest by finding a very seasonal flock of wild turkeys eating someone’s yard near our trailhead. The jaunt through the woods was followed by a day of much lounging, a delicious meal of much gluttony, and finally a card game that involved much losing on my part. Post-Thanksgiving we joined Ma & Pa for breakfast, made a brief visit to the Cosumnes River Preserve, and then visited Aaron’s new place in Sacramento before spending an evening out in downtown Sacramento and a night in a downtown hotel. Today we braved traffic back home – the seven hour return trip was long, but nothing compared to a flight from halfway around the world. With any luck next year will be much the same, and the Holliday family Thanksgiving tradition will continue.

Child Scaring

Posted from Culver City, California at 11:02 am, November 22nd, 2015

Our fourth Halloween child scaring event at the new house saw Ma & Pa Holliday make the trek down to Los Angeles to join in the frightening. Audrey’s mom also showed up, and she unveiled a wicked cackle during the evening’s festivities. Before the night ended my dad, dressed as an insane clown, was telling stories of how he ran out of the fog on all fours at a group kids, barking like a dog, “scaring the bejesus out of them”, so all was well.

For those who want to know more, Audrey has a Scare the Children Facebook page with a more complete description of the evening’s shenanigans, as well as an account of how many children actually crossed the street to avoid being within 100 feet of our house.

Scare the Children 2015

Scare the Children 2015, before it got dark and we turned on the fog machines and lights.

Scary Clown, Scare the Children 2015

For some reason everyone seems to remember the clown.

Holliday Family, Scare the Children 2015

Pa didn’t seem enthusiastic about Scare the Children until we told him we were going to dress him up as a scary clown and give him chains that he could bang into gates, to which he replied “Really? That sounds kind of cool”. Ma gets excited about everything and enthusiastically donned a purple mask and took on the job of giving out candy.

Jocelyn, Scare the Children 2015

For 364 days each year Jocelyn is an incredibly kind-hearted musician and children’s author, but every Halloween we paint her white and put her in a coffin.

Working Boy

Posted from San Antonio, Texas at 9:09 pm, June 18th, 2015

After a relaxing month off, I’m back to work and spending a lot of time in airports – you wouldn’t think the smell of one person’s refunded lunch could permeate an entire terminal at LAX, but you would be very wrong. Vomit aside, with Audrey out of town I kind of like the travel since it forces me out of the house and off to new adventures, even if adventures in the extreme heat of San Antonio tend to be limited after a long day of work. Anyhow, here’s the update since last time:

  • After the road trip I visited Audrey and the family in the Bay Area, then returned to LA for some lounging about. The last week of May, and my last work-free week, I made another trip up to the Bay as a way to force myself to shower, shave, leave the house, and take a break from writing manifestos.
  • Aaron sold his place in Livermore and bought a place in East Sacramento, so I went up to see him, sit around his backyard firepit, eat fancy breakfasts, and ride beach cruisers. All told we covered about twenty miles on bike through Sacramento, hitting the Capitol, stopping for the famous banana cream pie at the city’s finest Chinese restaurant, enjoying floating beverages at the Virgin Sturgeon, and generally behaving like two mature gentlemen in their late-thirties should.
  • After leaving Aaron I spent an hour trying to cross the Bay Bridge to meet Audrey after work for drinks, and then the following day took her to Bodega Bay and Muir Woods. Shockingly I’d never been to Muir Woods, and have thus missed out on this tiny paradise north of the Golden Gate.
  • The next day we visited Ma & Pa in Concord. The Skipper’s preference is to limit himself to one activity per day, so after he had gone to church and then spent an afternoon at a barbecue we crashed into him like a tornado, dragging him off to the dog park for a walk and then fiddling with the TV setup (something both Ma & Pa fear to their very core) so that they would be able to watch Netflix on demand.
  • The next day was a return to work, this time on a project for the HEB grocery chain, based in San Antonio. The current project is a reunion with Khalid of DirecTV fame, and Joe, one of three partners at Commerce Architects. The first week was spent working from the CA office in Berkeley, and the following week saw three days in the HEB office in San Antonio.
  • Of special note, Audrey has a friend who works at Pixar, so during the week I was working from Berkeley, and after many years of stalking the perimeter of the Pixar compound in Emeryville, I finally got to enter the gates. It was by far the nicest work environment I’ve ever seen, and while my skillset doesn’t really match anything they would need, if they ever decided to lease office space and I was tired of working in my pajamas in the kitchen, Pixar’s campus would be an ideal spot to toil.
  • San Antonio is another place I’ve never visited, and while the weather is a bit like living on the surface of the sun, once the evening arrives and the temperatures dip into the nineties, it’s kind of a neat place. Joe and I watched game three of the NBA finals (Cavs won?!?) from a bar in the Riverwalk, and I went for a run along the river and past all manner of historic structures. Given the near-weekly visits for at least the next two months, there should be plenty of additional opportunities to explore.
  • Last of all, Audrey was home this past weekend to sing in a concert at Disney Concert Hall. Around 200 choir members and the booming Frank Gehry-designed organ amidst an awesome venue was not a bad way to spend a Friday evening.

Mike, Sully, and Ryan at Pixar

Mike, Sully, and me. I tried to play it cool while we were roaming around the Pixar campus, but if you were privy to my inner monologue you would have basically heard excited shrieking for two straight hours. Photo taken by Audrey.

April Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:29 am, April 25th, 2015

April has been an uneventful month, but here’s the latest:

  • April 30 is my last day working with Bodybuilding.com after about four years on the project. This was my first time subcontracting through Commerce Architects, and I hope to be subcontracting with them on many future projects – Joe, Stuart and Jay have been great examples of how three friends can start a company and through hard work, intelligence, and good decision making create a place that is great for customers, owners, and the people working with them.
  • Audrey is continuing her long project up in San Francisco, although she’s been home twice in April for concerts and rehearsals. Not only has it been good to see her when she returns, but it has also prevented me from sinking too far into bachelor-mode; without anyone else in the house I tend to roam around all day in pajamas, order copious amounts of takeout, bathe irregularly, and watch far too many movies and TV shows that feature spaceships and superheroes.
  • My brother has always been at a sibling disadvantage in the game of life due to the fact that I have a four year head start over him, but he does his best to to stay competitive. In the latest example, at the age of 35 he has now sold his home in Livermore and purchased a new place in Sacramento, meaning that he has owned two houses at an age at which I had yet to buy my first. I’m happy listening to the sea lions from the backyard of my current home and will likely be here for a while, so given his predilection for completely uprooting himself every 2-3 years younger Holliday will almost certainly win this particular game by a large margin.
  • Ma & Pa just returned from a trip to Turkey, which might not have been on their TODO list had I not shared stories of doing gladiator impersonations in Roman ruins after my own visit last July. Early reports are that they had a great time, Pa enjoyed the food, and they’ll be anxiously awaiting the scouting reports from wherever it is that I choose to visit next.

Since May 1 will mark the start of a work-free period of undetermined length, and thus the first chance since the world tour to go exploring, hopefully next month will offer far more interesting subject material for future journal entries.

Brothers

Posted at 11:13 pm, March 31st, 2015

Sometimes, when it’s 11PM on the last day of the month and you’re one short of the three-entries-per month goal, you just post a bunch of old pictures of the person most related to you:

Meat Massacre 2003

Meat Massacre June 2003. Facial hair is a very, very bad idea for me, but chef hats are an extraordinarily great idea.

Me & Aaron

At the Cavs game back in January 2009. Eat tacos, wear Anderson Varejao wigs, and protect your nuts.

Aaron airborn in the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, April 2009. This photo was from the beginning of the hike, before the sun and the trail drained all energy from our bodies.

March Recap

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:18 pm, March 27th, 2015

Here’s the summary of life’s events over the past month:

  • The Casa now has a lovely new roof and five new skylights, installed in two days by a team that made clear that the basketball-sized holes in the underlying plywood were potental culprits in causing the leaks in the office ceiling. Following their departure we added tremendous new seamless gutters, installed expertly by the fine men of Eduardo Gutters (aka Eduardo and his buddy). The rain should now stay on the outside and drain nicely away from any termites that might be looking for accommodation with running water around our foundations. Yes, it is slightly sad that I have reached a point in life where gutters excite me greatly.
  • Audrey is working on a job in San Francisco for several months, but unfortunately was placed into housing in a not-so-nice part of Emeryville on the border with Oakland. My dream of having her fall in love with the Bay Area was not helped by the fact that my car was broken into on my first visit to see her, although she did enjoy Valentine’s Day dinner at Skates on the Bay and a concert by Brown Sabbath, a Latino funk band that plays Black Sabbath covers.
  • On my second trip to the Bay Area we joined Ma & Pa for dinner, where Pa made soup and then modeled his pretty socks with tiny hearts on them. A few days later we joined my brother for dinner at Chow in Lafayette, where our waiter was perhaps the most memorable any of us have ever encountered. His appearance alone was unique – scary thin with dark eyes – and after his first visit Aaron commented that “he seems like a Disney character”. What made him so memorable, however, were his mannerisms; as the gaunt fellow sauntered off he sang a never-ending series of “Beep bop boop”. He then returned, presented our drinks with a “Voila!”, then beep-bopped-booped on to the next table. We couldn’t quite figure out if his French accent was authentic or not, the singing never stopped, but the enthusiasm was charming and our food arrived without incident.
  • Yesterday I returned from what will likely be my final trip out to Boise and the bodybuilding.com headquarters. After almost four years of helping them grow massively I’m getting ready to move on to other projects. They’re a great group of people, and if anyone is ever looking for a job in that area then I can highly recommend checking them out.

Unfortunate Ryan

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:42 pm, February 22nd, 2015

One of the tricks to life is coming up with mental constructs to deal with difficult situations. Religion fills this role for a lot of people – when bad things happen the way to cope is by saying that it is God’s will, or a test of faith, or some other divine intervention. For me, using religion as an explanation for tragedy is tough since I’m unconvinced by the idea of the Creator spending His valuable time devising unfair and often petty difficulties for each and every creature in the universe, so other coping mechanisms are in order.

One of those coping mechanisms came out of a discussion with my brother ages ago. In one of our many, many unusual discussions that have occurred over the years Aaron started talking to me about Unfortunate Aaron – his twin out there somewhere in the universe, or maybe in a parallel dimension, who had the exact opposite fortunes. Aaron’s life was good, which meant Unfortunate Aaron’s life was bad. If Aaron got sick, Unfortunate Aaron finally got to enjoy a healthy day. If Aaron ducked a punch in a bar fight, Unfortunate Aaron got decked. It’s obviously a ludicrous proposition, but the idea of Unfortunate Aaron, and later Unfortunate Ryan, helped highlight how good things were for us, and gave us something stupid to smile about when things were bad. The most pointed example came on a fishing trip where Aaron got horrifically seasick. He must have thrown up a few dozen times, and at one point when I went inside the boat to find him curled up in the fetal position, his surprisingly upbeat attitude was that “Unfortunate Aaron is so happy not to be barfing for once!”

I’ll be the first to admit that the idea of a bizarro twin with the exact opposite fortunes of myself is a ridiculous concept with absolutely no basis in reality, but it’s an idea that still makes me feel better during bad times. I have a great life, and when things do get rough the thought of Unfortunate Ryan’s fortunes improving slightly highlights how good I have it most of the time. This idea of a shadow Ryan in a parallel universe is no more valid than that of an old guy in a toga who wants to micro-manage every hardship I might face, but it’s one that seems to allow me to put the inevitable bad times into perspective in a way that a bearded man on a cloud dishing out misery does not.

Catching Up, Part 4

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:06 pm, December 29th, 2014

Here’s an attempted wrap-up of the events that have occurred in the two months since knee surgery:

  • Two days after knee-surgery I returned to work for Bodybuilding.com. After seeing the amazingly tough working conditions faced by people in Africa, and seeing them face those conditions without the slightest complaint, it doesn’t seem bad at all to be back to the grind in front of a laptop at a table in my comfy kitchen each morning.
  • Thanksgiving was again spent in the Bay Area with the family. Audrey and I drove up north a few days early, and I worked from a hotel room in Redwood City while she got to spend a couple of days with her best friend. Aaron and I also had a night to visit not-Ramen Dojo and the old man band bar in San Mateo. For Thanksgiving, Ma Holliday did her magic and prepared an amazing dinner, after which Audrey walked away with the Balderdash crown, much to my dad’s dismay.
  • Audrey had many singing gigs during the holidays, including a performance with the De Angelis Vocal Ensemble that took place at St. Basil’s Catholic Church in downtown LA. Following that performance we asked the always-interesting Brett and Susie about any fun spots nearby to grab a drink, and since they know every cool bar in LA we were soon at a German-Korean pub eating shortrib nachos, bratwurst, edamame, and massive steins of beer. Making things even more interesting was the girl at the next table, dressed in a full elf costume, and handing out some very impressive balloon animals (“I just finished working a party” she said. “And she’s really, really bored now” noted her tablemate).
  • After a glorious night spent sleeping in the back of the Subaru in a truck stop parking lot, I made the annual pre-dawn visit to the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, then it was on to Ma & Pa’s house for the Christmas festivities. Aaron arrived with Superman and Batman costumes in hand, and a bewildered Ma wondered how she ended up with two boys who, in their late thirties, were still wandering around the house in superhero outfits. Pa then came home, games were played, and on Christmas day we unveiled a new receiver and soundbar for the folks. A surprisingly lengthy amount of setup time later, and Casa Holliday now has a fairly solid home entertainment system.

And now, after four entries spread out over a full month, the journal is again current and ready to ring in 2015. More than twelve years since the first entry, what was originally just a way to avoid writing emails has turned into a record of nearly one-third of my life, and I’m grateful to the twos of readers who continue to check in regularly to share it.

Catching Up, Part I

Posted from Culver City, California at 10:01 am, November 29th, 2014

A lot has happened since the return from overseas, so this will be the first of probably three entries about the past six weeks…

Shortly after returning from Madagascar I had to fly to Pittsburgh for a funeral – my last grandparent died while I was in South Africa, and a memorial service was held on October 28, although it wasn’t a sad occasion since she was an awesome lady, and lived a great life that lasted into her 90s. During the service I saw two cousins who I haven’t seen in 20 years, an aunt I haven’t seen since I was a teenager, and other folks that had faded to just memories but were suddenly transformed back into flesh-and-blood. Following the service Aaron decided that when in Western Pennsylvania one should shoot guns, and our cousin obliged and met us at our aunt’s farm with a selection of firearms, after which many targets and clay pigeons were missed completely.

Prior to the memorial service I had flown into Cleveland, and shockingly had an amazing day roaming around in the Mistake by the Lake. In the morning I met my former prom date for breakfast; having not seen her since 1994, it was like one of those movies where you get to see what someone will be like twenty years in the future, except for the fact that twenty years into the future is now. From there it was off to my high school track to relive the glory days, and from there off to a few of my favorite teenage hangouts amidst some impressive Fall color. Afterwards I made a visit to my college campus, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History – as I was looking at the exotic animal collections, rock collections, and human history exhibits it was clear that this museum was at least part of the inspiration for many of the crazy trips I’ve done in my life.

Following the cultural events I decided it was time to go lowbrow, so I jumped on the NFL ticket exchange, and ten minutes later had procured a ticket in the seventh row behind the Browns bench for $75. As if going to a Browns game for the first time since the 1980s and being spitting distance from my favorite team while wearing a Bernie Kosar jersey wasn’t enough, they actually shocked everyone and won a game, something that has been a most improbable occurrence in recent history.

The next day involved a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and two days later Aaron and I made the trek up to Holliday Rd to visit our candy-making uncle and aunt before heading down to Amish country to see our parent’s alma mater and do some imbibing at the Fractured Grape.

On the departure from both Los Angeles and Pittsburgh I was given a thorough check by security – apparently it will be a while before my name is taken off of the terrorist watch list – with the security guy providing play-by-play on everything he was doing (“I am now going to run my hand up your inner thigh until I encounter resistance”). All in all an eventful trip down memory lane and through the land where I spent most of my formative years.

Shooting guns in Western Pennsylvania

Only one of the people pictured knew what he was doing with a gun, and it wasn’t either of the ones named “Holliday”. Also, I was a deadly man-weapon while firing the Cricket.

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Posted from Los Angeles International Airport, California at 6:33 am, July 15th, 2014

This will be the last entry written on US soil for quite some time – I’m sitting at the Air Canada gate at LAX watching the sun rise, and will most likely be writing the next entry from Istanbul (Istanbul was Constantinople. Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople). In the next two weeks I’ll be setting foot on four different continents, which is one of the most awesome things I’ve ever been able to write in this journal. With that ahead, however, a quick recap of the fun times over the past couple of weeks still needs to be recorded for posterity.

For the Fourth of July Audrey arranged another group trip to the amazing Hollywood Bowl to see Steve Martin, Edie Brickell and the Steep Canyon Rangers. The show this year was with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and included post-show fireworks, and while I preferred the version without the accompanying orchestra (more banjo and fiddle, less French horn), it was still pretty damn fun. As an added bonus, Paul Simon made an appearance to join his wife onstage for one number, and my thought at finally seeing a musical legend whose songs I’ve heard thousands of times was “Wow, that guy is SMALL”. Big talent in a tiny package, apparently.

The following days were filled with many errands as I made a valiant effort to verify travel arrangements and acquire appropriate gear for the trip – Audrey was displeased when I suggested I might take only two pairs of pants on a three month trip, so the pants quota was increased fifty percent, among other last-minute changes. In the midst of the packing extravaganza I made a two day journey up to the Bay Area to visit younger Holliday. A day spent hiking on the Peninsula in search of banana slugs was followed by an evening of adventure, gyros, and albino alligators at the California Academy of Sciences, followed by a day of beer, ping pong, and giant breakfasts, and there was much rejoicing.

And that’s it for my time in the US – future updates involving attempts to avoid accidentally causing international incidents, being chased by dangerous animals, and barfing in foreign countries to follow.

The Holliday Brothers in Half Moon Bay

No one understands what mutated gene in the Holliday DNA is the cause, but taking pictures with wooden people will never, ever stop being fun for us.

Meet the Parents

Posted from Culver City, California at 9:08 pm, June 28th, 2014

Three days left in June and a three-journal-entries-a-month goal, but as the saying goes “if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would ever get done.” Here’s the quick recap of the month:

  • Ma and Pa came to LA for a visit over Father’s Day weekend. The Skipper wanted to see fossils, so we went to the La Brea Tar Pits so that he could pretend to be a paleontologist while taking in all of the dire wolves, mastodons, and saber tooth tigers (RAWR!). Lunch was from a truck serving lobster rolls, and then it was off to dinner at the Saddle Peak Lodge. Ma got to enjoy the fancy settings, Pa got to enjoy elk and venison, and I think everyone went home happy.
  • I’m down to my last four days of work with bodybuilding.com before taking a break for the great African adventure. My last trip out to Boise happened a couple of weeks ago, and beers were drunk, board games were played, and Grant very nearly landed a front flip on the trampoline. Vintage arcade games at Grinkers rounded out a fun work visit.
  • Prior to the visit from the parents there was a disco bowling birthday bash that involved many shenanigans. Watching the (drunk) birthday boy go through an entire dance routine prior to releasing the ball directly into the gutter is an experience that one does not easily forget; John Travolta has nothing on Brett McDermid.

The Skipper at the La Brea Tar Pits

A saber-toothed tiger, a giant sloth, and a happy Skipper.

Mastodon at the La Brea Tar Pits

I would totally ride a mastodon if I could.

Carry On

Posted from Boise, Idaho at 8:07 pm, April 29th, 2014

Here’s a riveting recap of the life of Ryan over the past two months:

  • At the end of February / beginning of March I made a quick pilgrimage up to the Bay Area to see Aaron and the folks. Good times were had as always, with much ping pong, the Napa Valley regional cornhole championships (which I officially lost, although there were some questionable circumstances), delicious prawn tacos, and a chance to enjoy Aaron’s new casa in Livermore.
  • Earlier this month Audrey, her LA Times and fellow-Alto friend Martha, Meghen (another Alto), and I visited the Queen Mary in Long Beach for a performance by the Christ Church Cathedral Choir. I thought the music was OK, but getting to see it on a historic 1930s passenger liner was pretty awesome. Before the show started I had an hour to roam around, re-enacting scenes from Titanic, although sadly the bow was roped off so I had to forgo “I’m the king of the world!” and instead settle for “You jump, I jump” at the stern, and “Full speed ahead Mr. Murdoch” in the bridge. The Queen Mary is another addition to the list of good things about LA™.
  • In medical news, after more than two years of waiting for Obamacare’s rules against declining coverage due to pre-existing conditions, I finally switched insurance and visited an actual sports medicine doctor at UCLA. Two weeks later I was inside of an MRI medicine-tube-spaceship-time-machine getting 3-D pictures of the inside of my knee taken; we totally live in the future. I’m meeting a physical therapist this weekend and have a follow-up with the doctor in a couple of weeks, so hopefully soon it will be clear what exactly causes my knee to throw a tantrum and swell up to impressive size whenever I try to run, and with luck I’ll be able to resume the one sport I’m good at again some time in the near future. I know it’s a touchy issue with some people, but for a self-employed person like myself Obamacare has proven to be a massive, massive improvement over the former system.
  • In other news Audrey and I continue planning the grand adventure for this July-October; more details will likely follow in the next journal entry.
  • Last of all, we’ve now lived a mile from the Marina for over two years, and this past weekend we finally went sailing. Audrey’s friend has a decent-sized boat and invited us to join him, his wife, and their friend for a short afternoon on the water, which was a great way to spend a few hours. At one point he told me to take the wheel and just drive around the Marina for a bit, either not realizing or not caring that nearly all of my boat navigating experience was done holding a paddle. Luckily, despite some tight turns and various individuals in kayaks or other rentals criss-crossing all over the place with no realization that a novice captain was doing his best to avoid running them down, everyone emerged alive and well. After Adam again took over we raised the sail for a short jaunt outside of the breakwall to enjoy some decent-sized surf and the company of dolphins.

Ryan sailing in Marina del Rey

I dominated at sailing straight, but turns in the tight confines of the Marina were terrifying. Photo by Audrey.

2014, so far

Posted from Culver City, California at 8:46 pm, February 23rd, 2014

Here’s a recap of adventures in 2014 thus far:

  • Last weekend I had to make a very quick trip to the Midwest for a funeral, the first return visit to Cleveland in five years. Cleveland in February is not the best of months, but it was still both fun and sad to re-visit. The Cleveland Museum of Art has been significantly expanded and rivals any museum in the world, Case Western has upgraded everything from student housing to campus buildings, and Shaker Heights still feels like it would be a pleasant place to live. On the flip side, the economic downturn has not been kind to Cleveland, and the potholes were scary, the downtown was a ghost town after 5PM, and many buildings that weren’t vacant ten years ago are now shuttered.
  • After visiting Cleveland, I picked Aaron up at the airport at 11PM, and we then braved snowy roads in a Chevy Skidsalot for the two hour drive to Erie, slept for a very short time, and then got to see a bunch of people we’re related to. We’ve got some fun relatives who most definitely fall on the “good people” side of the spectrum.
  • Aside from expeditions to the Midwest, 2014 has mostly been about enjoying living in Southern California. Audrey got treated to lobster for Valentine’s Day, we took advantage of nice weather during a visit to the Getty, and there have been a few trips to the ocean to see what birds are visiting.
  • In homeowner news, a crack team of plumbers came to install a gas line and other hookups last Friday, and my first ever appliance purchase is now operational: the Samsung Future drying machine from space. It has knobs and LEDs and settings and musical tones and dries good. Removing the old, 320 pound stackable unit from its previous home in a hallway closet made for some good times, but I emerged (mostly) unscathed and much wiser in the ways of appliance disassembly.
  • One last minor note, but my iPhone battery was having trouble holding charge for more than a few hours, and rather than pay $80 and send my phone away for a week I figured I’d replace it myself for $25. After an hour, much stress about screws the size of dust molecules, cable connections smaller than fruit flies, and screen removal instructions that involved a suction cup and the admonition to “pull harder than you might think necessary”, my phone luckily turned on again and I am now completely certain that bomb disposal technician is not a wise future career choice for me.

Not the most exciting of starts to the year, but planning is underway for grand adventures that begin in July, so while it is slow now, there should be many, many days worthy of a journal entry during the latter half of 2014.

Shortly after landing I texted Audrey to let her know that I had just seen both of the buildings, and she was jealous.