How I Remember 9/11

The morning of 9/11 I was working for a National Voicemail company that had numbers all over the US… including New York City. I worked the East Coast Shift (6AM – 2PM PST) so about the time the first plane hit I was just getting off the already busy freeway.

When I arrived in the office the phones were relatively quiet but I did notice an unusual amount of calls from the New York area. Once I sat down and looked at the situation it seemed that the New York voicemail box was giving a busy tone to customers. A few had called in about it but the majority of the information was coming from the computer itself. As I called into the voicemail system from a land-line I too got a busy tone. Now a busy tone isn’t always unusual… boxes are computers… which are programmed by humans… which means that from time to time things go wrong and you get a busy signal. There is also a very rare occurrence that will give a busy tone as well: If more than 1000 people try to access their voicemail box at the same time.

Figuring the box just needed to be reset I used an internet connection to manually talk to the box. I was able to get in that way and found out that the box was operating fine… but that the box was busy… as in it was busy because more than 1000 people were calling in at a time. I had only seen it one time before and that was on January 1st, 2000 when the end of the world fever hit and everyone picked up the phone and tried to call their boxes at midnight. I sat there stunned. How could this be?

My answer came in the form of a ringing phone… actually many ringing phones… for it was at that moment that the second plan had hit the South Tower. I was still unaware of the disaster so figured that I was about to have 20-30 angry New Yorkers to deal with. I conjured up my nicest morning voice and began to answer calls… I didn’t stop answering them until 3:00.

My first call went something like this:


CLIFF: Good morning thank you for calling {insert name of company here) how can I help you?

CALLER: Umm yeah I just wanted to see if the voicemail is down because of what is going on at the World Trade Center

CLIFF: Sir I am aware of a problem in New York right now. I’m not sure what’s going on at the World Trade Center.

CALLER: Oh, that’s right you guys are on the West Coast… you haven’t hear yet.

CLIFF: I’m sorry sir, heard what?

CALLER: Well I can’t really believe it myself, but umm… well (he clears his throat) 2 planes have exploded into the World Trade Center here in New York.

CLIFF: (standing up and getting the attention of my co-worker) Two planes have exploded into the World Trade Center?

CALLER: Yeah… this is the most awful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I can see it out my window. I’m watching it here on TV but I’m in downtown… I can see the fire from here.

CLIFF: Well sir, thank you for letting us know that. In regards to the voicemail everyone is trying to call the voicemail box at once, so there is nothing but a busy signal right now.

CALLER: That’s what I figured. Thanks for your help. Is everything quiet out there in LA?

CLIFF: As far as I know… I hope it stays that way.

CALLER: Yeah… me too. Thanks for your help.

CLIFF: My pleasure sir.


As soon as I got off the phone my co-worker already had the radio on (there was no television in our office). The phones kept ringing but we had to hear about what was going on. The radio had less information than my caller. They were still calling them explosions not planes. However, they did say that there were some unconfirmed reports of hijacked airplanes.

The rest of the day I spent on the phone with lots of people trying to retrieve and leave messages for loved ones. Some worked in the Towers and were trying to leave a message to let their loved ones know they were okay. Others had loved ones working in the Towers and were desperately trying to leave messages to see if they were okay. The emotion in their voices was overwhelming… but I knew if I broke down and let it effect me that I would be helping no one.

After staying an hour extra I finally goto in my car and immediately tuned into the radio. I hadn’t been outside all day so everything that was going on was only how I had seen it in my head. As I got on the freeway I finally felt the effects of just what that day had done to us as Americans. The 405 Freeway (usually a parking lot 10 hours out of the day) was almost completely empty. In fact the freeway had been more crowded that morning at 5:25AM then it was at 3:15PM. The final “sign” that all was not as it should be was the freeway alert signs… the read “LAX Airport Closed.” Then it finally hit me…

I pulled over to the side of the road and began sobbing uncontrollably. I had just spoken to people who had died and had spoken to mothers, husbands and parents that would be grieving the loss of a loved one after talking to me. Their voices still haunt me to this day and I will never forget them.

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Time For An Update…

On July 1st, 2019 I arrived in Seattle with my car packed to the brim with a lot of my stuff. It was past 9PM but there was still a little bit of sun on the horizon which was a sign of things to come.

Since I have moved here life has changed for me drastically… and it’s all for the better.

For the first time in my life I have stable income, a stable place to live and a wonderful life partner that is by my side to enjoy.

The first couple of weeks here were very hard while I navigated getting setup with work and figuring out where to live. Fortunately I had amazing AirBNB hosts that allowed me to stay as long as I needed to get settled and get on my feet.

At the end of August my life partner moved up from San Diego to join me was able to find a full time job and a part time seasonal job in under a week after years of slammed doors in LA. As a result we got married on November 5th, 2019 (remember, remember the 5th of November?) at sunset at Kerry Park which overlooks Seattle.

View From Kerry Park

In Mid-November we found an amazing apartment in Greenwood very close to the AirBNB that I was staying at which is very close to downtown and other spots that are busy for rideshare drivers. With two full-time incomes we were able to get a 2 bedrooms that cost less than what we paid for rent in LA! We’ve had a few maintenance issues but the apartment itself is really nice.

Obviously in the past couple of weeks things here in Seattle have changed quite a bit due to COVID hype and hoopla. All of the major employers here have people working from home and now schools are canceled until the end of March. Hopefully in a few weeks the hype and hysteria will settle down and things will slowly get back to normal. Although my partners job has not been affected Rideshare business has been decimated. Thankfully with expenses being much lower, and my health being much better, I am able to work longer hours to compensate and in theory things should be fine.

I’ll close with this thought…

A year ago I was at the 2nd lowest moment in my life. My health was in bad shape, we were being evicted from our apartment, my car insurance and car payment were months past due and someone stole my identity to open fraudulent credit cards. I was pretty sure I’d end up on the street, alone and with no hope for a future. While I didn’t contemplate outright suicide I did contemplate stopping all of my medication and just giving up and going to a hospital to live out my life.

Thankfully friends, family and providence got us through the storm and now the glow of the morning is here at last…

Morning glow morning glow
Starts to glimmer when you know
Winds of change are set to blow
And sweep this whole land through
Morning glow is long past due

Morning glow fill the earth
Come on shine far all you’re worth
We’ll be present at the birth
Of all faith looking new
Morning glow is long past due

Oh oh morning glow
I’d like to help you grow
You should have started long ago

Morning glow all day long
For we sing tomorrow’s song
Never knew we could be so strong
But now it’s very clear
Morning glow is almost here

Oh oh morning glow
I’d like to help you grow
We should have started long ago

Morning glow all your life
We can make the new day right
All the bad songs of the night
Will fade into the past
Morning glow is here at last

“Morning Glow” from “Pippen” By Stephen Schwartz
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I’m Off To See The Wizard…

I’d like to start this post with a quote from Tennyson:

“It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles… 
…Though much is taken, much abides;
And though we are not now that strength
Which in old days moved earth and heaven;
That which we are, we are…
…Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that poem today. I think what it says is that while it is tempting to play it safe, the more we are willing to risk the more alive we are. In the end what we regret most are the chances we never took. And I hope that explains, at least a little, this adventure on which I’m about to embark.

On June 30th, 2019 I will be leaving LA and driving to The Emerald City to start a new chapter in my life! The weather is better, the cost of living is cheaper and I will have more opportunities to make a decent living and pursue my dream of writing and producing a musical. LA has been my home for my entire life and but since I was 13 years old I have felt the city of Seattle calling to me from deep within and now I can finally respond to that call.

For many of you it is not a surprise that I am moving to Seattle, but that it took so damn long to do it. And while I’m happy to share the details of how it happened I want to remind all of you that sometimes it’s better to take a chance when you can and while you can, then to put it off for some other time or some other day.

For my LA friends I will be in Seattle for the month of July getting my housing and work situation all settled and sometime at the beginning of August I’ll be back down in LA one last time to get the rest of my stuff. If I can’t connect with you before I leave next week let’s make sure we connect when I’m back in August.

On a final note there is a part of me that is dead set on documenting my new adventure and most likely I will be re-launching my blog and Podcast “Tales From The Yellow Brick Road.” Hopefully this will give you all a way to keep up with my ups and downs and ins and outs as I travel down the yellow brick road of life! My hope is when I ask you about it you’ll say “I’m listening…”

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Never Fear… Hipolito Is Here… (Returning To Denny’s)

For a little over 16 years I was part of an organization (let’s call it FOJ). I was part of a group in FOJ that use to go to a Denny’s location every Saturday night for about 7 years. This large, loud group would be seated in the back of the restaurant so as to minimize disturbing other diners. This meant that every week we had the same waiter named, Hipolito.

Hipolito was a Hispanic gentleman in his 30’s with a light accent and a fantastically trimmed mustache. Always friendly, and always patient, Hipolito always managed to keep his sanity as the majority of the group took forever to order, asked for separate checks and almost always ordered water instead of a regular drink (The running gag was “H2O 4 U?”). Every time he would walk up to our group to welcome us he would almost always say, “Never fear! Hipolito is here!

Because of the proximity of this Denny’s to FOJ’s location main activities took place, I had many lunches, dinners and late night milk shakes, all the while forming bonds, discussing life and it’s struggles and hatching harebrained schemes to conquer the world. For years that Denny’s was a place of refuge, comfort and fellowship.

Until it wasn’t.

A little over 10 years ago I went through what can only be described as a bitter divorce with FOJ after I was falsely accused by one of it’s members. I maintained my innocence with FOJ but from the very beginning reason, logic and even physical proof was not enough to satisfy them. FOJ’s leaders sought my destruction as a member, as a person, as a son and as a citizen. At a certain point it seemed things had cooled off and I felt that I had gained ground in proving my innocence. But then a series of incidents led me to believe that the leaders within FOJ would do anything to break me down. My car was broken into and vandalized, but nothing was taken.

My apartment was broken into and vandalized but nothing was taken. My personal information was used to open up false cell phone accounts, false utilities and even unemployment benefits (some of which I have still have not been able to clear off the credit bureaus).

I told what was left of my friends and my family that I felt there was a highly organized attack being directed and executed by FOJ. I was called paranoid. I was told it was just a coincidence. I was even told that I was allowing my anger at the situation cloud my better judgment about FOJ. That there was no way this was a coordinated effort by any one person or organization.

A little over 2 years after the false accusation was made I learned that a key player in the early stages (let’s call him Dansk) of the incident had been let go by FOJ under mysterious circumstances. On a hunch, and with nothing to lose, I contacted Dansk and asked him if he would be willing to meet with me. At first he refused. But a week later he called me and asked if we could meet. Wanting to meet in a public place, I suggested that we meet at Denny’s by FOJ and close to his house. Dansk agreed and a date and time was set.

I showed up an hour before to make sure the restaurant was clear of any FOJ spies and to settle in a booth toward the back of the restaurant where it would be difficult for others to bother us. Dansk showed up exactly on time and we made small talk. We both ordered coffee and made it clear that’s all we would be ordering. Dansk was largely unaware of the dire consequences of the false accusation after his brief involvement. After I mentioned the  car vandalism, and the vandalism to my apartment he was visibly upset.

He then proceeded to confess that he knew from the beginning that the accusation was false and was intimidated and threatened into going along with the accusations. He apologized for not doing the right thing from the beginning and vowed to help me in any way he could. Furthermore, Dansk knew for a fact that the car vandalism, while not perpetrated by anyone in FOJ leadership, it was most definitely sanctioned by them. And while Dansk did not have proof for certain about the break in to my apartment, he was ordered to cut a check for a private investigator who may or may not have been hired to gain my personal information for someone in leadership at FOJ.

At first I could not believe that my suspicion about a coordinated effort by FOJ to destroy me was actually true and that written proof existed and had corroboration from an inside source. But that feeling was immediately replaced by heartbreak and sorrow that an organization that I loved and dedicated 16+ years of my time, talent and treasure to was capable of this level of evil.

I had several more conversations with Dansk and eventually he offered to testify on my behalf should legal action ever be taken against FOJ for their actions. It was his confession and cooperation at that Denny’s that afternoon that allowed me to finally be free of FOJ and it’s evil and to secure my safety and future from future harm or mental molestation by their leaders.

As Dansk was leaving from that meeting, who should come walking in to start his shift? None other than Hipolito, who I had not seen for the duration of the firestorm. When he asked how I was doing I was completely honest with him. I told him that I had received some news that was unpleasant to hear and that I was greatly troubled by it. “But,” I said to him smiling, “Never fear… Hipolito is here!”

For 8 long years I never returned to that Denny’s…

Until last week…

Last week I was in the area on business and was desperately hungry and needing a break. I was going to drop by another restaurant that was open but as I was about to drive by the Denny’s I felt a sense of strength and courage come over me and pulled into the parking lot. At first I scanned the cars in the lot seeing if I recognized any of them, or looking for bumper stickers giving away that FOJ people could be lurking inside. But as I parked my courage grew even stronger and speaking outloud I said, “F*** it… I don’t care who is or isn’t in there.” As I walked in the Denny’s was mostly empty, but in the back I saw an older gentleman sitting at a table reading.

I immediately recognized him as Hipolito.

As I walked over to him, he looked up an also recognized me. He got up from the table and we shook hands warmly. It turns out Hipolito is still working there as a night manager doing his best to keep the late night and early morning crowds fed and watered. He then offered me a table and went to grab a menu. As he handed me the menu he asked, “H2O 4 U?” I laughed and said, “Never fear… Hipolito is here…”

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Still on break…

LOL I’m still on a brief break…

Is blogging still a thing?

Maybe it isn’t for me anymore.

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Taking A Brief Break…

Hey everyone sorry I haven’t finished up my Experiencing A Do-Over series! Been busy with family stuff and getting a few other projects up and running off the ground.

Be back in a week or two!

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Tales From The Coffee Shop – Bean Date: S170429

This is post 1 of 1 in the series “Tales From The Coffee Shop”

Just another day at the Java Stand…

12:15PM – Arrived at the the coffee shop.

12:17PM – Ordered my Iced Tea and a Tuna Sandwich. The barista offered to heat up my tuna sandwich. My initial reaction was surprise (it’s not typically heated) and then as she was ringing it up she realized her mistake.

12:18PM – The barista had a name tag on that said “Megan Barista.” As she was handing me my change and my sandwich back I said, “Thank you, Megan Barista. But I can imagine that isn’t your real name?” She laughed and said, “Actually my last name is Pope so you can imagine the things people have said.” To which I replied, “Yes I can your holiness.” As a curtseyed and walked away.

1:25pm – A group of 5-7 women just walked in and ordered drinks. They were all wearing red hats. Red hat society maybe?

1:32PM – Yep it’s confirmed… all from the Ladies Red Hat Society. See you can have clubs for anything… including hats… red hats… red hats worn by women. #mensrednecksociety

3:15PM – A guy in his 20’s just sat at my table. He’s wearing a purple beanie, has a vape machine, a full beard, sleeve tattoos and is reading a book called “True Love”. I love when stereotypes are broken. 🙂

3:45PM – Whoops… I should know better than to listen to “The Love I Meant To Say” from SMASH in public… now I’ve gotta pretend I have something in my eyes. Anyone got a napkin?

4:29PM – I love that my new Apple Watch reminds me to get up and walk around every few hours! I’ve needed this constant reminder in my life for years and now I finally have it!

5:20PM – For the 10+ time today someone ha left the door to the coffee shop propped wide open. How hard is it to let it close behind you? Answer: NOT THAT HARD!

About This Series
I love going to coffee shops to write and work but frequently I find myself encountering strange and interesting situations and people… so why not share them with you?

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From The Archives — Knight Rider: One Man Can Make A Difference

This is post 1 of 1 in the series “From The Archives”

Various posts from the lost blog pre-2017

Originally Posted: January 6th, 2016

Ever since I was a kid I’ve watched a lot of television. My favorite show growing up was Knight Rider. For you young kids the tag line for the show was:

Knight Rider. A shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless, in a world of criminals who operate above the law.

I’ve shared on this blog before that I’ve always been very sensitive to justice and injustice. Knight Rider only served to reinforce that sensitivity. I’ve recently been re-watching the series on Netflix and have been amazed at how well that theme still comes across despite classic 80′s plot devices and cheesy stunt double fist fights.

For me much of the credit can go to Glen A. Larson the shows creator and patriarch. From the books I’ve read and TV specials I’ve seen he made sure that Knight Rider never strayed from the course. No matter what was thrown at Michael Knight and the Foundation For Law and Government (FFLAG) they always held justice up as the center piece of their motivations.

In one particularly moving episode Michael Knight confronts the man who killed Stevie (Michael’s fiancé from his previous identity). It takes every ounce of strength for Michael not to enact justice on the murderer but his partner KITT (the talking wonder-car) reminds him “You’ll never be able to live with yourself.”

There have been many times in my life when injustice has been done to me or to someone I care about. Sometimes it takes every bit of strength to restrain myself from seeking revenge or finding a way to speed up the “what comes around” mantra. Somewhere there is a balance for seeking justice and learning to accept injustice as part of our broken, messy, jacked up world.

Injustice is a product of the fall recorded in Genesis 3 and ever since that dark day in the Garden the only justice that is truly carried out is on God’s terms. Right now justice is partial, hard to come by and often overlooked all together.

It’s sometimes hard to trust that one day all things will be made right.

people love you the most for the things you hate
and hate you for loving the things that you cannot keep straight
people judge you on a curve
and tell you you’re getting what you deserve
this too shall be made right

children cannot learn when children cannot eat
stack them like lumber when children cannot sleep
children dream of wishing wells
whose waters quench all the fires of Hell
this too shall be made right

the earth and the sky and the sea are all holding their breath
wars and abuses have nature groaning with death
we say we’re just trying to stay alive
but it looks so much more like a way to die
this too shall be made right

there’s a time for peace and there is a time for war
a time to forgive and a time to settle the score
a time for babies to lose their lives
a time for hunger and genocide
this too shall be made right

I don’t know the suffering of people outside my front door
I join the oppressors of those who i choose to ignore
I’m trading comfort for human life
and that’s not just murder it’s suicide
this too shall be made right

-This To Shall Be Made Right, Derek Webb

Until then I still believe that one man can make a difference and so when I can, and to the best of my ability, I will always fight injustice done to others and check my own heart for wanting my version of justice instead of God’s.


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Toxic Friendship… Like Flint Michigan Water Toxic…

My apologies to anyone that lives in Flint…

I recently have been disentangling myself from a toxic friendship. In addition to emotional manipulation and verbal abuse, this individual took advantage of my financial generosity and contributed directly to the end of the business I had been running for 5 years.

It wasn’t until my life situation changed drastically last month that I realized I needed to finally exclude this person from my life, despite the fact that I felt like I should keep trying to help them. It was a few weeks ago that I noticed the only time I would hear from this person was when they needed something. However, when I would try to communicate there was no response, even when I told them that I was in the ER.

The realization was slow at first but finally it became crystal clear. I had ALLOWED this person to take advantage of me over and over again but did nothing about it. No one needed to point it out to me… No one had to convince me… I had known it all along and yet continued to allow the toxicity into my life.

Imagine knowing that the water you are drinking is poison, but yet you keep drinking it. Can you really blame the water at that point for the consequences and side effects? Not hardly. But you need water to live don’t you? Yes but you can choose the water you drink. Just like you can choose the people that you hang out with and include in your life.

Friendship is a give and take. At times one friend may be doing more giving and the other more taking. But when the taking is consistent, to the point of destroying the givers life, you’re no longer in a friendship… you’re in a toxic friendship.

At the end of the day I hope this person comes to their senses, gets help and is able to turn their life around. But until I see concrete evidence of change and progress I won’t be drinking that water again.

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Third Time’s The Charm!

Back in 2005 I began a blog to document the tales and stories I was experiencing in my life and to share those with friends, family and strangers. At the beginning of 2017, due to a technical glitch, I lost the main contents of my WordPress Database and therefore lost 12 years worth of posts. I have slowly been piecing those posts back together in hopes of re-posting them at some point.

However, in going through the archives I noticed a few important things. First, a lot of my posts were just a weekly summary of my Twitter feed where I was more active in actually documenting my day to day activities. The second thing that I noticed was that I posted maybe 4-5 posts of substance between 2014 and 2017 making me keenly aware that my blog was basically dead when I lost it.

This glitch has now given me the opportunity to post regularly as I will be able to curate the best of my past posts as well as post new stories when inspiration strikes. This will be my third re-start of this blog (which is insanely low for a blog that’s 12 years old) but I’m looking forward to this restart more than the others mostly because the pressure to create and post is coming from me and not from anyone, anything or anyone else.

All that being said, I hope you all enjoy this blog, it’s content and I hope that the comments and discussion will slowly return to a low hum as I travel down the Yellow Brick Road of life with you all.

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