IN WORDS AND IN PICTURES
Bio & Stuff
(Without the Stuffing)
Hi there. I'm Shiggy.
Great meeting you here. Are you visual? Then please scroll down and check out all the pretty pictures. If you are more of a reader, then please sit back, relax and hopefully you'll be entertained and learn a thing or two along the way
In the Beginning.
Let there be light.
My parents came to the United States as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed immigrants from Japan and Germany. They met in Needham, Massachusetts where my older sister was born. My father was transferred back to his home town of Kobe for business. I guess you can say that I was "Made in Japan." My mum was stopped A LOT by strangers to have her photo taken with her half Caucasian and half Asian children.
At airports, the passport control personal always did a double take and thought a possible kidnapping was in progress because my mum had a green German passport, my sister had a blue American passport and I had a red Japanese passport. More common these days, but back then, and certainly back in Japan, it was considered borderline controversial.
My mum didn't know any Japanese names, so she decided to name me after my dad. Shigemitsu. His kanji characters are 成光, which means "successful light." More on the "light" part of my name in the "ps" below.
6 months- 5 years old
After living in Japan for a wee 6 months, we moved from Kobe to Chi-Town and lived there for 5 years. The Midwest sure does get cold in the winter, especially in Chicago near Lake Michigan! Go Bears!
5-12 years old
My formative years, from the ages of 5 to 12, was spent in the suburbs of jolly olde London, England for seven majestic years. As part of our school uniform at Kingston Grammar School (founded in 1561 by Royal Charter,) we had to wear a blazer, a necktie and trousers. We were only allowed to play field hockey and cricket, since "football" was considered a 2nd class sport. So "lah-di-dah," as they say! Learning French was a given, and Latin was the required language for the bright future of scholars. Posh and fancy, huh!! The first anthem I remember singing was "God Save The Queen." Every day after school I had a cuppa tea with chocolate digestive biscuits before practicing violin and piano.
My mum was a huge advocate of the arts and took us to see Petula Clark perform in "The Sound of Music." We also saw Yul Brynner in "The King and I." Many a weekends was spent at The British Museum, The Royal Albert Hall, Kew Gardens, Harrods, Piccadilly Circus, The Tate Gallery and any where else my mum's heart was interested in. We got to see the massive Fireworks in Hyde Park before the Royal Wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles.
England is a short flight to Germany, so we often visited my mum's family near Hannover during our spring or summer holidays. Sometimes we'd take the hovercraft across the English Channel from Dover to Calais and sometimes we'd take the ferry. It's amazing how a child can pick up a language just by listening.
12-15 years old
My Freshman & Sophomore year were at Rolling Hills High School, CA (Renamed Peninsula High School.) I made some wonderful and long lasting friends at RHHS and also from St. Peters by the Sea, Presbyterian Church in Rancho Palos Verdes. During Easter, our Church Youth Group would take a bus to Tijuana, Mexico and help build orphanages for the underserved.
At twelve years old I went to my first rock concert, and was among the 95,000 plus crowd at the LA Colosseum. The Who was the headliner and The Clash opened up for them.
15-17 years old
My Junior & Senior year were spent at New Trier High School, Illinois. Moving to a school with a student population of 4,000 students in your Junior year when all the cliques are established was challenging to say the least. My good friends were borne out of Winnetka Bible Church and their incredible Youth Group.
My mini-wins were 1)I got to sing the solo part for the Fauré Requiem (in Latin,) in my school choir and 2) in my senior year I got to perform as the lead singer for our band, Society's Run, in front of 700 students at Battle of the Bands. We did covers of The Cure and The Psychedelic Furs. You can find the VHS-to-DVD-to-YouTube recording on my YouTube channel if you like.
17-21 years old
I was accepted to USC and Boston University. Since I already had lived in the West Coast (LA) and the Midwest (Chicago,) I decided to venture to the East Coast for some New England clam chowdaaaah!
At 17 I set foot on Commonwealth Avenue and spent four captivating and glorious years at Boston University. The President of BU, John Silber, brought the school from bankruptcy to solvency and introduced the esteemed Nobel Laureates, Elie Wiesel (author of "Night," a work based on his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps,) and Saul Bellow as faculty members.
During my time in Beantown, I ran the Boston Marathon in sub four hours, as, gasp.... a bandit. I was so innocent and naive and flabbergasted to even think that you have to actually pay money to run using your own two legs in a public street! You mean you have to qualify? It's just running on a road, isn't it? This was pre-internet and it wasn't considered a big deal to run as a bandit back then. Now! That's a whole different story!! (Will tell you the story in person.) I carried a small disposable camera with me and took photos along the way!
During the Summer of my Sophomore year at BU I did an exchange program in Heidelberg, Germany and studied at Collegium Palatinum for 2 months. On my weekends off from school, I hopped on a train to Amsterdam, Paris, Zurich, Milano, and to other parts of Europe.
In my Junior year, I moved off campus and had many "keggers." Keg parties was the thing back then (no White Claw back then lol!) As the evening of the parties progressed I took photos, literally to remember what was happening throughout the night. I'd get the photos developed and then I'd stick them on my living room wall! Ahhhh the beauty of a college education! lol!
My roommate Darshan P., gave me the nickname "The Mayor." He said that I couldn't walk 10 feet up Comm. Ave. without fellow classmates, college professors or even the homeless people coming up to me and saying "hi Shiggy."
The BIGGEST compliment I received was from my best friend Matt's roommate. He said, "Shiggy, you are like a bouquet of flowers. You bring a smile into every room you enter."
✅Teacher. High School. College. Language Immersion Coach.
Upon graduating from B.U., I moved back to the place where I was born, "The Land of the Rising Sun." Though my mum taught me German, my dad never taught me Japanese. In Japan I started studying Japanese at Kobe Gakuin, in earnest. I studied as if my life depended on it.
When I took a bath at night, I would submerge my head under water, hold my breathe, and wouldn't come up to the surface until I was able to recite what was going to be on the test the next day. (Don't try this at home!) My face was frequently beetroot red as I came up to the surface gasping for air. Diligence, determination and sacrifice paid off. I passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam Level 1. The Highest level. The HARDEST level. I also was awarded an academic scholarship.
In order to pass the exam you had to memorize over 1,945 kanji characters. There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet. Just imagine memorizing not only the 3 different alphabets in Japan, but also the bare minimum of 1,945 kanji characters, just to be able read a newspaper.
Spoken Japanese is a complete different story. The way you speak to your elders and superiors would require one set of vocabulary and you'd need another to speak to someone younger or inferior in position to you. Men would speak with a set standard of words and women would use their own. If a man spoke using the words that women used, they would be considered effeminate. Most of my friends in Japan happened to be women, so I spoke using a more feminine vocabulary, but my Japanese home boys that I became friends with severely schooled me and I quickly learned how to speak like a Japanese man. Just as New Yorkers speak with velocity compared to say someone from the rural South, the people from Tokyo speak with a different dialect, speed, and intonation than the people from Osaka and Kobe. The people in Osaka speak a mile a minute.
When I attended B.U., I was more or less a "B" student and never really applied myself or pushed myself, but when I got a 100% on my first Japanese test, I surprised myself and I was hooked. Getting "As," nay, getting 100% on my tests became my addiction.
Whereas my sister could read something just once and had a photographic memory, I would have to study and study and study!! Hours of tedious and repetitive studying and writing the Japanese kanji characters over and over and over again by hand ad nauseum, became my norm and M.O. for two straight years.
"Nothing Else Matters"
Learning, studying and memorizing NEVER came easy to me. I always had to "do the work," but I was HUNGRY, was extremely DISCIPLINED and had a high pain threshold. I was ruthlessly focused and determined. What mattered? Results. Only results. No trying. Metallica's "Nothing else matters," and "Whatever it takes" became my battle song, and boy could I go to deep and to dark places and sing that anthem like a songbird!
Getting a 100% on my very first test was all it took for me to realize that if I want something bad enough, I would do whatever it takes to get it. Even if it meant submerging my head underwater! I had that David Goggins punishing self-torture mentality, even before "Stay Hard," was a catch-phrase. I told this to my dad on January 1st, 2022 and he no idea what I endured. Passing that exam was just part of my grand vision of being on.........keep reading!
On weekends, when not in school taking Japanese classes, I worked part time at the Kobe Horse Riding Club. Oh fancy, fancy one may say!! An exclusive and swanky, member-only horse riding club! Poor Shiggy! Quite the contrary! I would clean the dirty stalls, feed the horses and wash them after the Club members rode them. It was freezing at 6am. It was dirty. It was unglamorous. I was often beyond cold and would warm myself up by placing myself 1 inch away from the electric stove when I had a break. I wore two layers of socks, my teeth chattered, but, it set me apart from my fellow classmates because I learned colloquial Japanese and "street" Japanese that was not taught in textbooks. It was a hard, yet an invaluable character building experience.
シギー先生 Shiggy the Teacher
I was an English as a Second Language (ESL) Teacher at several all girls high schools and two female colleges. I was also a language immersion teacher at corporations including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Electric, Eli Lilly Japan, and the Hyogo Prefectural Government.
Making English learning FUN was a challenge that I enjoyed immensely. I loved teaching and miss my incredibly brilliant students. I also miss being called Shiggy Sensei! LOL!
What made me a great teacher was actually having to go through the process of learning Japanese as a second language from scratch. I know how hard it is to learn a new language and because I had to slog through the mundane and repetitious task of memorizing words such as cat and dog and pen and paper, at the end of the day it's all about motivation! That's it!! What motivates you? Money or your life? I would tell my students that if they learned just one new word a day and they'd get $100 dollars for learning each new word, they would all soon be millionaires. On the other hand, if they didn't learn one word, they'd be shot. They soon found out that it was all about. MOTIVATION. If you find out someone's motivation, they can do almost anything. Yes, not learning a new word and you'll be shot is a very extreme example and something I'm almost too embarrassed to write here, but, ironically, "c'est la vie!" That's life! N'est pas?
THE 7.2 EARTHQUAKE
JANUARY 17th, 1995 The Great Hanshin Earthquake.
At 5:46 a.m I was violently awoken to the ground shaking, my house swaying, and every plate, cup, shelf, TV, and household item crashing around and over me. The earthquake measured 7.2. I was 20 miles away from the epicenter. Over 6,000 lost their lives. The Earthquake happened exactly a year to the very day of the 4:31 a.m, January 17th, 1994 6.7 in magnitude, Northridge Earthquake!
Big in Japan! TV, Radio, Voice-Over
When I was growing up, I never had the lead role in the school play. Far from it. I was the guy in the back of the stage, holding up a sign or having a non-verbal role. However, I always wanted to be an actor. When our family went on vacation to my mum's hometown in Germany, I would ask my cousins or uncles to put up their index finger like a toy gun and pretend to shoot me like they do in TV. I would make this long drawn out, over-dramatic scene! My relatives all said that one day I should be a 'schauspieler," an actor!!! Passing the Japanese Proficiency Test and knowing that if I did whatever it takes, gave me the confidence to pursue a career on TV, on the radio and doing voice-over work.
I got signed by a Japanese talent agency and took classes with all Japanese talents. We had to learn the identical pronunciation broadcasters used on the news. That's like someone from rural Alabama or Kentucky having to learn standard news pronunciation spoken on TV broadcasting in the Midwest.
I eventually was a TV talent for ABC TV Japan, Kansai TV, Direct TV and was a Live-On-The-Air Top 20s Hits Radio Countdown Show for a FM Tokyo network. I was once sponsored as a DJ to climb Mt. Fuji by FM Shiga radio station. I did numerous voice over work for TV, radio, commercials, in-house videos, corporate and video games (Sony Playstation.) I'm very grateful for my agents and the talent company (Chara) that believed in me, found me countless jobs and represented me across the board.
Get this! My dad was flying from Chicago to Tokyo on Japan Airlines (JAL.) when he heard my voice. He heard my Japan Airlines' in-flight audio at 33,000 feet. My father told me that it was a proud moment.
For Kansai TV, I created, wrote and starred in my own TV show which had THE highest ratings in its time slot. There was even talks about making a Shiggy-bobble-head doll! Eeeek! How cool would that have been!
More on my vision..
One day, after having broken up with my fiancée in Nagoya, I had one of those Jerry Maguire type of epiphanies. In that movie, Tom Cruise hit rock bottom and came up with his mission statement and manifesto. That break up hit me hard and I did some real deep down inside soul searching and on New Year's Day, I wrote my manifesto, my vision, and sent that email to my sister and parents.
Let's briefly backtrack. In the very first few days of moving to Japan, I was watching TV at my grandmum's house and she pointed out that the guy on TV was David Spector from New York, He spoke fluent Japanese and was a master at thought-provoking puns. From the very moment I saw him, I said to myself, "I want to be on the same TV show as him."
Fast forward to leaving Nagoya and going back to Kobe after my break up. That rock bottom breakup led me to write my vision statement that included 1) run a 10K under 36 minutes 2) have my body weight in the single digits 3) be a DJ for a radio station 4) do voice-over work 5) have my own TV show and 6) be on the same TV program as David Spector.
GUESS WHAT? Within less than 2 years, I manifested my vision. YES. YES. YES. I starred in my own TV show and played over 30 different characters including a sushi chef, a yakuza, Bill Clinton and I played the female characters too. I was a DJ on a popular radio station and did numerous voice-over work. And YES, as you can see from the photo below, I was on the very same TV program as David Spector!
How did I run a sub 36 minute 10K race when your first 10K was way over 48 minutes and your body weight is in the double digits? I starved myself. I only ate apples and Japanese rice balls. That was it. I didn't want any excess weight on my body because that extra weight would slow me down. The less weight I had, the stronger and faster I became. I was gaunt, yet strong and flexible.
I would start the StairMaster at the YMCA gym at level 10, the highest setting and maintain that for 30 minutes straight. I believed in myself and in my vision and was blindly obsessed with getting results. Struggle and sacrifice was the journey I embraced. I achieved my goal of having my body fat in the single digits, and for transparency, I misjudged the 10K race course by 500 meters and my time was 36 minutes and change. I still take this as a victory over the 3 cans of Coca-Cola, one box of RedVines and one bag of potato chips that I was consuming daily, before setting my goal
Nevertheless, THAT, my friend, is the POWER of INTENTION. THAT is the power of putting your words and thoughts out into the Universe. Some may call it The Secret. The book that I happened to read at the time was from the author of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" Series, Jack Canfield, entitled, "The Aladdin Factor." In that book, the Genie tells the person that if he ASKS (wishes,) he'll be granted whatever he wants. I ASKED. And boy did I RECEIVE!
Incidentally, I used Jack Canfield's "Chicken Soup for the Soul," books for years when I was an ESL teacher. After I moved back to the US, I participated in Jack Canfield's seminar in Los Angeles. (Got a photo with him too. See Celebrity Section.) Had I not taught from the "Chicken Soup for the Soul "books, I wouldn't have known about "The Aladdin Factor." Had I not broken up with my fiancée, I probably wouldn't have read "The Aladdin Factor," and I probably would not have ASKED for those things listed above in my vision. Once you learn how to ASK, the "World is Your Oyster!"
"Where there is no Vision,
the people perish." Proverbs 29: 18 18
(President Franklin Delano Roosevelt quoted
this in his Inaugural Address in 1933.
This is my favorite quote EVER!!
"Vision," is my favorite word. If you do not have a vision, you perish. No, not necessarily death in the literal sense, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually and physically. Life becomes empty and meaningless and one is on auto-pilot. On a side note, you can tell if someone has a vision, a goal, or a dream by the sparkle and twinkle in their eyes and by their enthusiasm and energy that they radiate. Watch for this when dating!
"A man without a vision for his future, always returns to his past." In other words, there is no progress without a vision for one's future. (BTW, WHO SAID THIS ABOVE QUOTE. I can't find the source?)
Helen Keller was asked “What would be worse than being born blind?” She replied, “The only thing worse than being blind is to have sight without vision.”
Dreams come true. Here I am with
THE David Spector (far right) on the same TV show. THAT is called visualization and asking the Universe for what you want.
I created, wrote and even starred in my own weekly TV show. I got to play over 30 different characters on this hit TV show. Insights gained by being "in front" of the camera totally help me today, with being a photographer and videographer, behind the camera. With my experience, I can guide and help the inexperienced talent or every day person being interviewed, be comfortable and at ease in front of the camera.
Why I LOVE Dogs.
The Story of My Pit Bull.
Indy the Pit Bull at......
I moved back to Los Angeles after living 10 unforgettable years in Japan. One reason I moved back to the US was because of 9/11. The Nation's psyche changed overnight and the value of having family in close proximity was pivotal My mom wanted her brood closer to her nest!
WELCOME TO HOLLYWOOD!
I wanted to continue to pursue my acting career in the acting capital of the world, Hollywood, California. I earned my Screen Actors Guild (SAG) card by appearing on a Comedy Show on TV.
I didn't have any pets while living in Japan and on a whim, I decided to go to the local animal shelter. I rescued a pit bull and named her Indy. She got her freedom and "INDYpendence" from the pound. She was also released to me on the day after INDYpendence Day!
I also adopted two sister cats and named them Mikan (orange) and Star.
I also adopted a 2nd pit bull and named her Cali-blu. She was a blue nose, blue. Blue refers to her coat. A grey(ish) blue, but nonetheless a blue in the pit bull world.
I set up a 180 gallon freshwater fish tank and even had a Fly River Water Turtle (illegal, but I didn't know until I sold it!)
When looking out the window, I wanted some visual stimulation, so I installed two outdoor bird feeders for the....squirrels (LOL) and birds.
In a word, I became Dr. Dolittle. In fact, you’ve got to Doctor DO A LOT to maintain a healthy quality of life for all your pets. T'was worth all the time and energy spent on all these creatures great and small. Whoops, I forgot to mention, over the years, I had a bearded dragon, a beautiful white and orange corn snake and a chameleon. I was used to cleaning the horse stalls when I worked in the riding club in Japan, so I was used to cleaning, feeding and taking care of smaller animals. A labor of love.
Indy passed a battery of tests and qualified to become an animal assisted therapy dog with the organization Love on 4 Paws. For five wonderful years I got to take Indy on my days off from work, to volunteer 3 or 4 times a month, to various locations in LA. At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) we went to the Oncology Ward, to NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) and to PICU. We also went to Shriners Children’s Hospital (the burn unit,) to Florence Blend School for the Visually Impaired and to St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. I was fortunate to take Indy to St. John's on the very day my sister's baby was born.
It was awfully heartbreaking going one week into NICU and seeing the preemies and kiddos, and then learning the following week later, that stupid cancer took their little lives.
I never built up tolerance to human suffering, and would have to compose myself or quickly use the back of my hand to wipe away a tear or two.
Indy and I would go to various kiddo's rooms at the hospital and ask if they wanted a visit with a doggie. I would then place a clean white sheet over the child's bed. Then I would lift Indy on the bed and the child would hug, pet or simply observe Indy. I would then ask the child or their parent if they wanted a Polaroid photo with Indy. Because of all the legal reasons, HIPAA and patient privacy, only Polaroid photos were allowed. Plus, back then, no one took something called a "selfie," let alone photos with a phone with a tiny camera on it. (The Polaroid photos below of Indy and the children were taken with permission. Waivers were signed and were taken from the website.)
Taking photos in hospitals back then was not really a thing, because most cameras were of the "develop the film at a photo lab" nature. Rarely did anyone take a film camera around with them. Of course cell phone cameras changed that. Therefore, THAT one, single Polaroid photo that I gave to the parents may be the one and ONLY PHOTO that they have of their child before they passed away. I profoundly realized the power just one photo has. I didn't even realize it at the time, but a tiny photographer seed was planted in me.
Before rescuing Indy from the Los Angeles Animal Shelter on Bundy, I went to the local PetSmart store and thumbed through a "Bully Breed" Dog Magazine. On the cover it said, ”Ambassador for the Bully Breed.” From that random moment on, I wanted Indy to become an Ambassador.
One day, I entered Indy into a dog contest, hosted by billionaire Gary Michelson's Found Animals. She won!!! Indy was awarded the Ambassador for Bully Breed Dogs. Five years after seeing that magazine cover at PetSmart, my dream came true. Well done Indy! I still have that magazine. Again, the power of speaking something into existence. Vision!
I always told people at the hospitals that I was Indy's chauffeur, as Indy was always the star of the show. It was all about the kiddos (and adults too,) and my Indy-Windy girl. The power and impact that a doggie has on a vulnerable, hurt and scared person lying on a hospital bed all alone, is immeasurable and beyond mere words.
Indy suddenly passed away at 5:30 in the morning. It was THE saddest day in my entire life. (See photos of Indy making a difference below.)
Y'up, Indy had an ID Card at CHLA!!
(Above Video : Indy and I were featured in a PetSmart Commercial.)
Everybody can be great because anyone can serve." Martin Luther King Jr.
The above quote by Martin Luther King Jr. had a profound impact on my life. I always wanted to be "great" at something. This quote sums it up succinctly. "ANYONE CAN SERVE." Anyone can be of service to others. It's amazing how much better one's life gets when we aren't trapped inside of our own heads, where it's all about me, me, me, rather, when we are of service and helpful and giving to others.
The story of my pit bull Indy was the basis for a substantial grant that was awarded to Love on 4 Paws by the distinguished Annenberg Foundation. Indy and I were also featured in the above PetSmart TV commercial. (Click HERE and look for the 2 second and the 14 second mark!!)
I miss Indy-Windy. Lovabull, Adorabull, Hugabull. Pitbull. xoxo
Indy always made me proud.
Here she was announced the winner and
”Ambassador for the Bully Breed.”
I love how Indy got a medal placed around her neck and a basket full of treats and prizes!
Going to the various hospitals I saw first hand the fragility of life. Volunteering with Indy made me realize that I no longer wanted to pursue an acting career, rather I wanted to be of service. I was offered a signing bonus and an incentive to become an LAPD officer. "To Protect and To Serve," is their motto.
The K-9 Cop Division (obviously because I love dogs) was my direction. The LAPD was aggressively recruiting POs and Mayor Villaraigosa and the LAPD Chief of Police, William Bratton, wanted to raise and maintain 10,000 police officers as a bare minimum standard for the LAPD.
I received a Certificate of Completion with Honors in the Administration of Criminal Justice Program through El Camino College and credits obtained from classes taken at Compton Community College. Some classes included: Penal Code 832 Arrest and Firearms (we learned how to handle firearms correctly and learned proper handcuffing techniques,) Constitutional law, and Laws of Arrest Search and Seizure.
FireFighter Academy Graduate
I'm sure you've heard of "the golden minute." It's the critical time where an injured victim can survive or die or have have irreversible brain damage. Due to the legal scope, a police officer can only render so much aid. He/she then must call a paramedic to help the accident victim. Just as an EMT can not administer any medication and must wait for a paramedic, a police officer can't render aid beyond his/her legal capacity. It's the "golden minute," that is ticking away quickly when the police officer (usually first to arrive on the scene) is waiting for the paramedics to arrive.
Once I realized the fact the Police Officer has to secure the scene, do crowd and traffic control and and can only assist so much, I wanted to instead become a firefighter/paramedic where I could actually tend to the victim. (I was so gung-ho, that I flew to an EMS (Emergency Medical Services) Convention in Las Vegas and got to meet my idol growing up, Randy Mantooth, the paramedic and star of the 1970s hit TV show, "Emergency!)
In preparing to become a FireFighter/Paramedic:
✅I earned the National Registry Emergency Medical Technicians License (NR-EMT) after attending UCLA.
✅Top 5% in my Phlebotomy class. I became a Certified Phlebotomist (surgical incision of the vein) from UCLA Medical School.
✅Passed EKG Technician Exam from Cal State University Los Angeles.
✅Passed BLS (Basic Life Support) Exam
✅Passed BLS Instructor Exam
✅Passed ACLS (Advanced Cardio Life Support) Exam
✅Passed First Aid and CPR for pets (dogs and cats)
✅Passed the Firefighter’s CPAT (Candidates Physical Ability Test)
✅Accepted into El Camino Firefighter Academy (One of the top three Fire Academies in the entire United States.)
✅Learned Wild Land Firefighting Skills in Malibu.
✅Hands on instruction in how to extinguish an oil refinery fire at Chevron Oil Refinery in El Segundo. (see photo below)
✅Instruction in auto-extrication and how to operate jaws of life (see photo
✅Instruction in a scolding hot 1200 degree flashover chamber
✅Learned to repel from the Fire Academy training tower
✅Throughout my Fire Academy experience, with permission from the Chief, I took thousands of photos and videos. All my photos and videos were eventually used in our Class presentation right before graduation. I really enjoyed capturing and documenting our time in the Fire Academy. Another proverbial photography and videography "seed" was planted. (More on that "seed," below.)
I graduated from El Camino Fire Academy, a California State Fire Marshal Approved Firefighter Training Academy, located in Inglewood, CA. Click HERE for Class 125 Graduating Class Video.
While living in Japan, I read a book about the life of a Navy Seal. This inspired me to want to serve within the US armed forces. However, I was too old. Marines: 28. Navy: 39. Army: 35. Air Force: 39. My way of serving the United States was to go to the Fire Academy. At 40 years YOUNG!
I graduated from the Fire Academy and wanted to be a FireFighter/
Graduation Day. With my sister, her son and my mom (RIP F'Cancer) and dad!! THIS is the last time a family photo of us all together was taken. xoxo
(PSA: TAKE MORE FAMILY PHOTOS. YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE YOUR LAST!)
Here I'm in an auto-extrication class, performing "jaws of life" exercises.
Oil refinery fire containment and abatement drills at Chevron Refinery, El Segundo.
Donning PPE and mask at the Inglewood training academy.
Triathlete. Ironman X 2 Finisher
I joined the LA Tri Club and through their amazing programs have participated in numerous triathlons. I finished the World Famous "Escape from Alcatraz" triathlon and even got to jump off the starting boat near Alcatraz Island, replete with a small waterproof video/photo camera in hand.
I finished two Ironmans (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, followed by a 26.2 full marathon!) Naturally Ironman Coeur d’Alene with all its hills was hard, however the bitter 38 degree cold weather, snow capped mountains and frigid temperatures when night descended, made Ironman Lake Tahoe a (swear word) BEAST. Me being me, with a little waterproof camera that shot videos that was attached to a lanyard (pressed between my chest and my tight racing jersey when not in use,) I safely took photos and videos throughout both Ironman triathlons. During the 2.4 mile swim, I stopped mid-swim and took still photos and video while enveloped by the white steam rising from the bitter cold lake as the sun was rising! I think Instagram got the expression, "pics or it didn't happen," from me!! LOL!!
In 2010 I asked my buddy to choose a number between one and ten. She picked 7. I did seven triathlons that year!! That same year, I was nominated by the 1,800 plus member Los Angeles Triathlon Club, as "Member of the Year." Eeek! An honor that I'll never forget!! Someone was cutting onions when my name was read out!! I was invited down to San Diego to receive a statue at the "Endurance Sports Awards."
Incidentally, I was the guy at the LA Tri Club's First Thursdays (1st Thursday of the month social get togethers at a bar or restaurant) going around taking photos of the members and posting them to Facebook. I took photos because I got to meet people. I would go to a group of people, take their photo, post that photo to Facebook and become friends with people tagged in that photo. The photos were sometimes blurry. The digital camera I had was only 5-8 MP, meaning the quality was not that great. It was a point and shoot consumer camera. Great for that time, but the photos were not taken with a professional camera. Nonetheless, a memory. A tangible memory!
Believe it or not, I was quite shy, and forcing myself to go to a person I didn't know and introduce myself by way of taking their photo, was my way of overcoming my shyness! Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Morrissey, from the band The Smiths sings: "Shyness is nice, but shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life you'd like to." Eventually, overcoming my shyness and fear, has led me to going to any random stranger and asking them if i can take their picture. Now, a skill, especially useful when doing weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs or event photography.