Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Kenneth and Rese.. Austin Bound!

We are all going to miss you very much Kenneth and Rese! This picture was taken at their going away party last Thursday at their place -- and we are going to miss this party house! It was such a GREAT time and so good to see everyone. Both Kenneth and Rese have been so great to me and my family and I just want to give a shout out to the both of them. I can't thank them enough for all their help during the hurricane... I really don't know what I would have done without their help. They were life savers.

I hope to stop and say hello to them in Austin when I make it out that way... and hopefully see my friend CP too! Best of luck to them in their travels and hope they stay in touch.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Helen's Visit to New Orleans

My girl Helen (the girlfriend of the guy whose place I am staying, Mike Woods- both docs) came to visit. Well, she was here to more than just visit, but to interview with a hospital here and I think it went very well! Who wouldn't love to have Helen work for them-- not only is she super smart, but she is beautiful and fun to hang around with. It's hard to find someone who encompasses all of that-- oh, and she's asian so you know she rocks.

She was only down for less than 48 hours and I missed a few hours as I landed (coming back from Cali) a few hours later than when she arrived, but she came with Rose and Nate to pick me up from the airport and we got to catch up a lot that Thursday night. The next day, she had many interviews and I had to work- but after a long day, we got ready and started at this new wine bar,Sip, that opened up on Magazine, very close to where Mike lives (and where she will live too when they move back to New Orleans). So we walked over there for some wine and good times. After a couple of glasses, we went to go eat at the Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant.

We ate and drank for nearly 4 hours - just me, Rose and Helen. It was so good to see Helen and I hope that I get to see her maybe around Jazz Fest... since I will be gone when she moves back to the city. Good times, good friends... you couldn't ask for more.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Me and Polly in Catalina

After the regulator test was over and everyone else had called it a day-- actually, a week-- to head back over to Long Beach on the Island Time, Polly and stayed at the Hotel Mac Rae on Wednesday night together, one last night before leaving Catalina. After the dive, we cleaned all of our gear and headed out for a walk to Casino Point to take some pictures and be there for the sunset. We first walked through the Catalina Museum and then walked all around the Casino, checking out the amazing structure, watching the boats out in the ocean and soaking in the scenic landscapes. It was a beautiful night, the coolest shades of blues and reds in the sky, the calming blue waters and the perfect breeze.

After walking around, we went to a small, local restaurant to get us Buffalo Milks -- ok, not really milk. It was more like a pina colado with different liquors, but frozen and topped off with whip cream! It was delicious.. then we had some shrimp and chips and after our quick meal, we headed back down to Casino Point. We were going to see the 7pm movie (the only movie actually)- and they were playing Last Holiday with Queen Latifah. It was a totally cute movie and Polly and I just cried during some parts... I know- we are such girls.

It was a really cool last day, enjoying the island, dinner and a movie and then a good nights sleep! Polly was awesome and walked me down to the dock at 7:30 in the AM... you rock Polly. I missed you already, even sitting on the boat waiting to depart off to the mainland. You're a great room mate and I can't wait for our next trip... hopefully to Dubai to see JD or back to the Philippines to do more diving and stay with my family there!

Diving in Santa Catalina Island, California

We got to the island on Sunday night around 7pm and had the lovely Vicki, meet us with a huge smile and big hugs! We got there just in time for dinner and then bed time since we had 3 days of testing ahead of us! We had 20 regulators to test in 3 days and there were 8 of us testing and we were taking the island time boat to the dive site each day.

A bunch of us stayed at Hotel Mac Rae which was great because it was cheap, central and had free coffee and danishes/muffins every morning! It was a cute little hotel and was perfect for what we needed. Every morning, we reported at the dock at 9:20am where we met everyone else who was coming in from Long Beach. But every morning, the boat arrived promptly on time and we headed out to the dive site which was only a 5-10 min boat ride away. As we got on the boat, we immediately started suiting up getting ready to hit the 59 degree water! Yikes.. I had completely psyched myself up for this cold diving, but needless to say- It was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be! I got cold on only a couple of dives but was able to manage writing on my slate and trying to figure out how much weight I needed, but still desperately need to get that down, along with my buoancy in these cold waters! In between dives, we would undress halfway and the sun definitely warmed us up... thank god for the beautiful weather.

Mary let me use her 7 mil (you saved my life Mary!), I bought a 2 mil skin suit and a new mask, I wore a hood- then of course booties and gloves-- definitely a lot of gear to say the least! It was well worth it once it was said and done because the diving was amazing! We dove in these beautiful kelp beds and saw a ton of girbaldi (of course!), a horn shark, an eel, lobsters, a ton of cool flounder, halibut, etc.. some other things I don't know the name-yet. The coolest was eating 2 scallops underwater!!! We found them and would sneak up to them and before they could close their shell, you would jam your knife in and be able to get the scallop out and eat it right there... just take your reg out of your mouth and quickly stuff it in your mouth. It was the coolest thing I've ever done in the water and the scallops were delicious!!!!!

This was also the trip that I used my new canon 20D underwater and just got the Ikelite system for the first time!!! I had a couple of minor malfunctions but once I was able to get topside, wash off my camera and take the battery out and pop it back in- it went back to normal (I know I need to find a better way to troubleshoot!). I was able to get some amazing shots under the water though so i was pleased (you know, 3 out of a hundred)! I shot fully automatic for all dives- trying to figure out my depth of field and just overall handling of the machine underwater. Its tough to see what mode you are in, so I was trying to just mess with all the buttons while I was down there. I definitely need more time to play underwater with my new camera and think I will book another dive vacation so I can continue to test and learn. My brother Roger, my boy, CP and his friend (my new friend) Ryan at Reef Photo and Video have helped me with every step of this research/purchasing process! Thanks guys and hope that I can get better and become CP one day!

It was great to see John Brumm and John Francis since there is no FinTest this year.. but after Day 1- John Brumm came down with something. I hope he is ok and plan on calling him when I get back to New Orleans. I was really bummed I couldn't spend more time with him. I hope to do the women's BC test in the summer for them now that I will be experienced a bit in diving in Catalina. It was really a good time and I hope to continue doing these tests for a long time! Johns, if you are reading this-- you can count on me anytime, anywhere!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Superbowl Party at Mary and Marks!

Its Sunday and Dena dropped me off at the Long Beach Airport where I met Jeff and Polly-- the three of us heading over to Catalina later in the day to meet everyone else so we can test some regs! Our first stop was Sports Chalet so I could get me some new scuba stuff since almost all of my stuff was ruined in the flood! It rubbed off on Polly because she ended up getting herself a new mask!

After running some errands, we headed over to Mary and Mark's house in Cosa Mesa for a SuperBowl Party! I must say that these people know how to throw a party! They had 3 TV's set up, a ton of snacks and real, baked cookies and brownies (not the store kind.. and they were sooo delicious) and anything you wanted to drink! This was my first time in their home which was completely adorable and I haven't seen Mary since she was my room mate in Bonaire for the FinTest for ScubaLab/Scuba Diving Magazine. She looked great and she can work the grill like no other. I got to meet a lot of their friends, who were super nice, friendly and warm. It was fun to have 4 fintesters reunite in almost a year. A good day was had by all and I wish we could have stayed longer... but we had to catch the Catalina Express Boat to the island- we had spots on the last boat of the day!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Seeing Dena, Rock Climbing in Malibu Beach and going to see Coldplay at the Forum

I just got back from my 6 day venture to California and the first stop is Los Angeles. My good friend Dena, we went to high school together, picked me up at the crazy LAX airport and we headed to go rock climbing in Malibu Beach! Dena just moved from Seattle to LA and just loves southern Cali. But living the life of Dena Rigby is no easy task.. but somehow she gets it all done.

It was a nice drive up to Malibu Beach and we talked the entire way up... actually, we never stopped talking the entire time we were together, catching up on old times and talking about what's to come. She lives in the Valley in a cute apartment with her lovely cat Monet (who I wasn't too allergic to!). We met a couple of her friends at the the cliff to do some real rock climbing! This was my first time actually climbing outdoors so I was totally excited (That's me climbing the rock in the photo-the little speck almost at the top). It was a beautiful day there, low 70s, sunny and breezy-- typical weather for those guys. I climbed all the way to the top of the rock and I felt fearless. The view from the top was spectacular and I could of stayed up there all night. Dena and the other folks ended up climbing around the corner from me and that climb was a little more advanced for me!

After climbing and taking a million pictures, we headed to the Valley where Dena lives to go take showers and get ready for the evening. My bags didn't arrive with me, so I am just borrowing all Dena's stuff (thanks Dena!) and we were going to have my bags delivered to Robert's house-- Dena's friend who is very sweet and it looks like Robert and I might become better friends than expected! (Robert is going to buy my house in Lakeview! The contract is already signed and the deposit is down!!!! Yea!!!) So we take off to Roberts and there he had jumbo cocktail shrimp for us, sushi and delightful raspberries which I devoured. His place was really swank and it overlooked the water- life doesn't get much better than that!

After we got to know each other a bit and ate our delicious dinner, we headed out to go see Coldplay (thanks for taking us Robert! We had a blast) at the Forum in inglewood. It was a brutal hour and a half drive... but well worth the wait. It was an incredible live show and they sounded BETTER than their cd's. Coldplay packed the house ... it was one awesome live performance and they are so captivating to watch.

After the show, we ended up back at Roberts and my bags finally arrived at his house! I was so relieved because I couldn't do the reg testing for ScubaLabs without my stuff. We then made it back to Dena's for some R&R. I had stayed awake for almost 24 hours straight and had to get up in the AM to head over to Long Beach! Thanks Dena for a fantastic time and I hope to be out there again soon!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Camel Toe Steppers Rock

Last night, some friends and I went to Shiloh- a funky, hole-in-the-wall club off Tchoupitoulas, near Dick n Jenny's. My friend Cyndy Garza from college was dancing with her group- the Camel Toe Steppers!

We got there just in time to of course, miss the performance. Never fear though- because they are in such high demand, we were able to catch their encore performance. They were awesome and all the steppers that I met were so cool and full of life. This night out was just what I needed since it had been too long since I've "gone out on the town" (Not that a couple hours out was painting the town red or anything, but just nice to be out with friends).

Oh-- and I actually won something in the raffle drawing.. they were giving away these really cool t-shirts and mine said Metairie- A safe place to live. It was awesome and there is a pic in my photo gallery with me holding it up.

It was a great night and it was fun to see my girl Velvet who I had not seen in ages- since October I think! She is always a ton of fun and so was everyone else. I hope Cyndy and I can get together more often because it was so great seeing her last night. The steppers rocked the house!

Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados.... oh my!

This has been a very eventful week for me which all started with the phone call on Monday from Randi, telling me that she had to break our contract and couldn't get the financing to buy our house. So, where do I go from there?

Well, all week the weather forecasters were saying that there was going to be some heavy rain mid-week and for once they were right. On Wednesday night, around midnight, it seemed as though we were having another hurricane come our way. The house shook, the rain was beating against the window, I could hear cats shrieking outside of the window... not a restful night to say the least.

When I woke up the next morning, every news channel were doing updates on the severe weather we had the night before and much to my surprise- it was much, much worse than I thought. 30,000 homes went without power, a wall in one of the concourses at the airport collapsed, a tower fell over near the Westend exit which caused all kinds of traffic jams, a theatre burned to the ground because of an electrical fire... and that wasn't even the worst of it-- 3 tornados touched down in New Orleans!

I couldn't believe it-- in the last 5 months, we have had 2 hurricanes come through, an earthquake in Dec/Jan and now 3 tornados in one night! It is completely unheard of to have tornados touch down in the city, but it happened on Wednesday night. Basically, we got kicked when we were down- yeah, we got served. So now after we have taken little, tiny baby steps forward in this city, it seemed like we just took a huge one back.

I really don't know how I feel about the rebuild of the city- not that I don't want to rebuild because I love this city dearly- but the time it will take. They say 3-5 years, but I think it will take longer. I guess it will all depend on what happens this hurricane season.

Last night, I spoke with a friend of mine Heather who lives in Fountain Blue area and was planning on rebuilding right after the storm. She went in, gutted the house, has been diligent in getting paperwork processed, pressing the powers that be to get the checks cut, etc... and found out that her house has to be bull-dozed now. She is living in a FEMA trailer part time- but plans on waiting until after Hurricane season to rebuild. The more time that passes, the more you hear stories like this of people holding off to see what happens to our beloved city.

So besides the house, the tornedos-- the news around town is that here we are 2 weeks before carnival and the city announces that we just need a few more million dollars to throw this party. Could they not see this before? And if they did get the money- shouldn't we use it to help put people in trailers who are displaced and want to come back? I just don't get it.