On This Sunday: 15 years ago

Everyone is often asked where they were and what they were doing at the moment when they heard about several hijacked commercial airliners crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania on this day in 2001. My story is about as unremarkable as anyone else’s but it is worth sharing in this space or in any online platform for the first time.

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was 12 years old and just started 7th grade at John Burroughs Middle School in Los Angeles. At the time, I was living with my biological father in the Koreatown neighborhood of the city. It was during the 6 a.m. PT hour when I was awoken to audio from our television set in another room. It was morning and tuning in to local news seemed like a customary thing to do. When I came over to see what was on the television, it was bad. It wasn’t like a live aerial footage of a traffic accident on one of L.A.’s many freeways tying up traffic somewhere or a wildfire breaking out in the hills. By the time I saw what was on the television set, one or both of the hijacked airliners crashed into the Twin Towers. Being more than 2,000 miles away from where this and the attacks in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon happened, I saw no reason to feel scared about what was going on and neither did most around me in this West Coast city where I grew up.

I went to school shortly after. Coincidentally, the Los Angeles Unified School District scheduled in advance that very day to be a half-day for students at JB — what students often referred to the school. There were certainly discussions among the students, faculty and staff about the events that occurred earlier that morning on the East Coast although nothing else seemed out of the ordinary about the day. No stepped up security or anything. All the students including myself were still trying to process what was going on while being somewhat gleeful over the fact it was a half-day anyway.

Using my LACMTA student transit pass, I took some buses around the city to see how this second-largest city in the nation was responding to the morning’s terrorist attacks on the other side of the country. At least from my own recollection, the Starbucks near my school closed its doors for the rest of the day. The Metro Red Line subway service was shut down and stations shuttered (I specifically remember going to the Wilshire / Vermont station where the gates draped over the portal to the station).

Later that day, I came back home to watch more of the television news coverage. All the major broadcast stations were still on this story — reporters and anchors from their network news divisions helming the nonstop coverage with occasional local news cut-ins to update viewers on local responses and reactions to the terrorist attacks. Even a local broadcast affiliate of the Home Shopping Network at the time (now a Spanish-language network affiliate), which normally didn’t air any news or local programming, was feeding in live rolling coverage from either CNN or ABC News. Then-President George W. Bush gave a televised address to the nation that night, vowing to hunt down and bring to justice the individuals responsible for the attacks.

For that day, that’s all I could recount. Again, nothing remarkable.

Nine years later on Oct. 18, 2010, I would find myself visiting the first of the two 9/11 memorial sites on the East Coast. While on a trip to Washington, D.C. for a PRSSA Conference, I took the Washington Metrorail with some friends to the Pentagon. While we didn’t go in the facility, we visited a public space outside of the Pentagon that included a memorial for the victims killed at that site.

Two years later on Sept. 29, 2012, I visited the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York. I also captured a shot of the One World Trade Center tower, which was still under construction at the time.

On this day back in 2001, after the nation realized what just happened and began to process it all, I still didn’t know what to make of the morning’s events. I also never expected that years later, I would find myself visiting two of the three sites that collectively came to symbolize the worst moment in our nation’s history. Having visited the memorials at the Pentagon and World Trade Center, it puts a lot into perspective. Being at those sites in person to observe what these places look like, what they feel like and picturing the sheer loss of life that had taken place years before, I felt that I finally understood the true impact 9/11 has had on the country as a whole. Even though I didn’t know anyone that died in these attacks, I can better empathize with the families and friends of the victims who did.

These visits in 2010 and 2012 aren’t anything remarkable either. It’s also just like any other story you might hear from anyone else. However, the main takeaway is that I finally can make something of all this — 15 years to the day since I began to process what just happened.

On This Sunday: Flip-adelphia

No, not that drinking game from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I’m referring to this — an iconic fixture at the city’s 30th Street Station, its main passenger rail terminal.

Yes, the flipping display board that’s known as the Solari board, named after its Italian manufacturer. Once common in airports and train stations all around the world, only a few of these remain as digital display boards become the norm. By the year’s end, Philly will make its upgrade as well.

It was this past week back in 2012 when I moved to Philadelphia from SoCal for a one-year service with AmeriCorps. I ultimately moved back to California after a little more than a year living on the East Coast.

Even though my time in the City of Brotherly Love was short, the sight and sounds of the clicking and clacking from 30th Street Station’s Solari board is one I still remember vividly and fondly. I share the same level of appreciation for this board as the natives of the Delaware Valley. Being a devoted fan of trains before I even moved to Philly, this board always became a welcome part of my numerous Amtrak train travels to cities like New York City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and Boston. Even when I was simply passing through to make local transit connections, I would sometimes stop to watch and listen to the board as it became a personal source of amusement at each turn.

The 30th Street Station Solari board: Much like Philly itself, I hardly knew ye. You will be greatly missed.

IMG_0346

12:52 a.m. ET on Nov. 12, 2012. Taken on my way back home from Atlanta!

Reflections and Expectations: Take It Easy

Hiking at the Almaden Quicksilver Park and Jackson Browne in Downtown San Jose

On the hunt again, staying in shape in all sorts of ways and not quite running on empty with Jackson Browne.

Let’s look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations. Join me, won’t you?

August

VSCE – Earlier this month, my stint with this Oakland consulting firm ended after a six-week run. I was grateful for the opportunity to slowly return to my community relations in transportation roots with the firm during my short time there. I’m still focused on finding out where I will be going next.

Getting active – To find some low- to no-cost ways of filling time while I continue to look for work, I embarked on three new activities in addition to my existing weekly yoga practice to get out of the house more and keep myself active — Krav Maga, hiking and going to the gym.

  • Krav Maga – On Aug. 6, I visited the Tactica Krav Maga Institute in Santa Clara for a trial course on this Israeli self-defense system. I decided to give it a try after a July incident in San Jose where I was nearly assaulted by a belligerent homeless man at a bus stop. That, combined with some already lingering interest in this form of martial arts, led me to take this up. In sum, it was as intense as one would expect for an activity like this but I absolutely enjoyed it. Even after only one session, I already have a better understanding of how to defend myself when the situation warrants it. I’m interested in continuing with these sessions in the future although such plans will be on hold for now.
  • Hiking – For the first two Sundays of the month, I went on a hike to the Almaden Quicksilver Park here in Santa Clara County. This was my first solo hiking venture, spending a couple of hours at each turn walking along some of the many trails within the park. Over time, I hope to make more visits to this park to cover as many of the trails as possible. I also hope to visit some of the other hiking trails throughout the county, the Bay Area and beyond.
  • Going to the gym – After being constantly prodded by their SiriusXM radio ads, I took up a membership at Retro Fitness in San Jose. In the middle part of the month, I began making near daily visits to get more cardiovascular exercises going. I hope this is something I can keep up on a regular basis for as long as possible. The low-cost monthly membership and the overall great atmosphere of the gym makes it all the more attractive.

Jackson Browne – On Aug. 16, I went to see this legendary singer-songwriter perform at the City National Civic in San Jose. I’ve been a fan of Jackson Browne since 2010 — my junior / senior years at Cal State Fullerton — along with his activism on environmental and social causes.

Bearing in mind how much of a fan I still am of Ellie Goulding, I expected as much that Jackson’s concert would be of a different atmosphere with its demographics and energy levels compared to Ellie’s concert at nearby SAP Center in April. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed listening to Jackson perform and, even through his music, he still advocates for a better country and a better world through the messages in his songs.

Seeing two of my absolutely favorite musicians performing this year in venues so close to home? I couldn’t have asked for anything better.

September

  • RailPAC Steel Wheels Conference in Sacramento – This will be my second one after the 2014 conference in the same city. RailPAC is a passenger rail advocacy organization in California and Arizona, for which I’ve been a member since 2014. It’s part of my efforts to gradually move away from PRSA in favor of more locally transportation-focused organizations.

How’s your summer coming along? What are you looking forward to as the fall season nears? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

On This Sunday: Fun with Maps

On Friday night, I stumbled upon mapchart.net to create maps of California counties and U.S. states I have lived in and visited. Why? Because I still have quite a ways to go before I ever find myself dating anyone for the first time in my life.

Legend

For the California counties map, bear in mind that there are 58 counties in the Golden State and I have so far lived in three of them — the current being Santa Clara County in the Bay Area. Having grown up in SoCal, I spent about half of the cumulative years of my life in Los Angeles County — the most populous county in the state and the nation — as well as the tail-end of my teenage years and early adult years in Orange County.

Marked in yellow are passthrough counties, where I have passed through such jurisdictions by some form of ground transportation but did not exit the vehicles to physically set foot anywhere within their geographical limits. Most of the yellow counties are rural and sparsely populated although some of the notable exceptions include San Luis Obispo, Contra Costa and Butte (home to the City of Chico).

Over time, I expect to visit more counties — both the never-traveled in grey as well as formally visiting the ones in yellow. After I gain any major ground, I will provide an update on this space. For now, the tally of all counties visited, lived and passed through are 33.

States.png

Onto the states. The current tally of all visited, lived and passed through states are 27 plus the District of Columbia. I have only resided in two states so far with California being where I’ve called home for all but a few cumulative years of my life (I was born in and spent parts of my early life in South Korea, for which I will not cover in this post.)

Five states currently hold the passthrough distinction, which is the same idea with the counties earlier. This is down from seven at the start of 2016. This year, I managed to change the statuses of Arizona and Texas — formerly airport layover passthroughs in 2013 — by formally taking trips to Phoenix and Dallas in January and July, respectively. Visiting any of the remaining yellow states is a low priority although I hope to formally visit those states at various points in the future.

In the years to come, I hope to cover as many of the never-traveled states as possible through various means. Salt Lake City, Kansas City / St. Louis and New Orleans in the states of Utah, Missouri and Louisiana, respectively, are high on my list of new cities I want to visit next. Memphis, Minneapolis and the state of Hawaii are my so-called second-tier destinations under consideration as well. The rest of the country could be covered through future Amtrak long-distance train travels although Wyoming and South Dakota are the only two in the contiguous United States currently without passenger rail service. Regardless of the purpose or the mode of transportation, I hope to cover all 50 states in due time.

Enough with my wonky, geographical exhibitions. I should probably find some more things to do in life, preferably with other people involved somehow.

Winners and Losers: It’s Not a Normal Year

It’s been about two years since my last edition of Winners and Losers. Had to bring it back as so much has gone on in the world since my last edition. As always, I’ll be highlighting people who deserve our deepest respect as well as those who should be called out somehow.

Winners

Team U.S.A. – I did not watch the Rio Olympics, which continues my long-standing happenstance tradition of not watching the Olympics. However, the U.S. Olympics team often leads the world in the medal count including gold medals in these games. If those athletes were able to deal with competing in a country dealing with rampant political and socioeconomic turmoil as well as one of their own ruining some of the glory for the rest of our home team, I say they deserve all the credits and sponsorships they can possibly get. Except Ryan Lochte. The man is a douche.

Ellie Goulding – Only because I’ve become a big fan of her music for a full year now. I went to her concert in April at the SAP Center in San Jose and I still listen to her songs on Spotify. I just wanted to throw this in here to vainly make that point clear.

The mother and daughter at this Bernie Sanders rally I attended in Oakland on Memorial Day

Losers

Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby – These men both established themselves as monumental figures in news and entertainment, respectively. Their fame, wealth and power allowed them to allegedly mistreat women in such unspeakable ways that, at the end, we see them both in a much different light.

Before their misdeeds became public, I always thought Bill Cosby was generally an okay actor and comedian. Roger Ailes, on the other hand, launched Fox News — a platform that I would say is the worst if not for more rabid right-wing outlets Breitbart that have emerged since then. Nevertheless, I have no respect left for any of these men although I never had an opinion on Ailes anyway.

Bernie-crats – Yes, I was among the millions that supported and voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary here in California back in June.

I always admired Bernie for his genuinely populist streak that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump only pretend to have. I was disappointed but not surprised like everyone else that Sen. Sanders didn’t get far but I have no regrets as I truly believed in his message and still do. I’m skeptical that Hillary Clinton will even care to pursue the same vision and policy proposals Sanders put forth during his campaign. Very, very skeptical.

The American electorate – Oh, what the hell. In this instance, we’re all losers in this election cycle. Unless you are among the handful of people who are genuinely enthusiastic about Trump or Clinton, none of us will get any real satisfaction no matter who gets elected. Even if you’re voting for Jill Stein, Gary Johnson or some other third-party or independent candidate, we all still lose. I’m voting for Stein to break from my usual tradition of voting for a major party ticket. I’m not entirely thrilled about it but it is an option I am choosing to exercise this time around.

If only Pres. Obama could run for a third term in office. I always liked him and probably more now than ever before. His approval ratings in his final year in office is no joke.

What’s your take on these subjects? What’s your take on what I have to say? Chime in below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations: Lone Star State

Fourth of July, summer in Texas, a full year of yoga and getting my garlic on in Gilroy. Let’s look back at my month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

July

20160730_050421000_iOS

Independence Day – This year, I marked my first Fourth of July holiday in the Bay Area by attending the Rotary Fireworks show in Downtown San Jose. This continues an annual tradition of watching fireworks shows for this holiday in a different city each year — 2012 in Portland, Oregon; 2013 in Philadelphia (where I lived at the time), 2014 in Los Angeles (my first show in the city even though I grew up there) and 2015 near San Diego. Nothing too special about this year’s festivities in San Jose but still a delight to attend, nonetheless.

880d1c4e-d72c-4ab6-9005-b082a8a559d8-1

On the left: Downtown Dallas from the GeoDeck, same skyline from Perot Museum. On the right: Fort Worth Stockyards, National Videogame Museum in Frisco, Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, July 14 to July 17 – I finally was able to get a summer trip in this year after nearly conceding no trips were likely to happen.

I arrived in Dallas a week after the deadly attacks on the Dallas PD and DART police officers. When planning for the trip in June, I originally considered flying in on July 7 — the same night as the attacks — for which I was later glad to have decided on the following week instead. The hotel I stayed at for my first two nights is located only a few blocks north of where it all happened. Even when I arrived, the mood in the city was still somber and tense. Trucks in the region had bumper stickers expressing their solidarity with the police along with some businesses posting signs on their windows displaying similar sentiments. I looked forward to my trip there while keeping a thoughtful mind of the tragic events involving some of the most heroic and bravest individuals around.

I managed to cover a good cross section of the region — parts throughout Dallas proper, Fort Worth, Frisco and Grapevine. Among the notable destinations visited include the Fort Worth Stockyards, GeoDeck atop the Reunion Tower, The Sixth Floor Museum (where Lee Harvey Oswald did his worst), Perot Museum of Nature and Science, National Videogame Museum and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. I also had the chance to enjoy some of the quintessential Texas cuisine at the restaurants in the region such as Tex Mex, barbecue and Whataburger — all of which were fantastic. For all four days of my trip, I met up with my wonderful friend Nelli Tokleh, who took me around some of the best points of interests and restaurants in the Metroplex.

I should come back here sometime. I like going places where I have friends and the Metroplex is definitely one of them.

One year of yoga! – July 18 marked my first full year or practicing yoga and at The Yoga Studio in Campbell. My first visit since that milestone was on July 20, part of my usual Wednesday night vinyasa class. I never imagined I would keep it up for as long as I have. I love how much yoga has changed my life and I look forward to seeing how it will continue to benefit me in the long run. Namaste.

Gilroy Garlic Festival, July 30 – I attended this garlic-centric festival Saturday for the first time. Tons of great food with garlic infused in some way including garlic ice cream as well as sampling some ribs as part of a BBQ contest there. I liked the festival although I ran out of things to do there about two hours before leaving to take the scheduled Caltrain back to San Jose. Too early to decide whether I’ll go again next year.

August

  • Jackson Browne – He’s performing Aug. 16 in Downtown San Jose. Unlike the Ellie Goulding concert back in April, the energy level will be quite different but his music is still something to be appreciated.

How’s your summer coming along? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.

Reflections and Expectations Special: 2016 Midyear Review

On the left: SJSU convocation ceremony, one year of yoga. On the right: Phoenix, Ellie Goulding, Dallas.

Remember when I laid out this set of expectations for 2016 at the turn of the new year? I’m guessing not but we’ll revisit them anyway for this midyear review.

Within the first six months of the year, I wound up meeting some of these expectations already while others are still ongoing. Join me in this Reflections and Expectations special, looking back at the year that was…so far.

Professional development – Since the beginning of the year, a setback occurred once again in my career. Fortunately, it was a short-lived one.

In March, I was dismissed from my marketing coordinator post after less than a year at the San Jose civil engineering firm Mark Thomas & Company. I departed the company on good terms although I felt better off being let go. While the role helped me reenter the transportation business, I always realized the kind of bigger, better opportunities I wanted did not and will not exist at this company.

Three months later in late June, I joined VSCE — a small civil engineering firm in Downtown Oakland — as an outreach project analyst. This role marked a return to my roots in community relations in transportation, working with transportation agencies as clients of the firm. I’m currently working for the company on a part-time, temporary basis with a determination to be made in the fall regarding my future in this organization. Either way, I’m glad to be back to where I really want to be in this business and I remain committed to making sure I stay on track for a more successful career.

Family relationships – There are no major developments on this front. Such relationships remain stable although I still remain emotionally neutral as it relates to my biological mother in South Korea.

To fulfill a moral obligation, I invited my mother to the convocation ceremony at San Jose State University in June (more on that milestone below) as my only guest. While I initially objected to having her attend (pressure from some of my relatives led to this move), she proved me wrong by becoming a welcoming presence. In hindsight, I wish I could have done more on my part in making her feel like a truly visible part of my life in front of others in attendance that weekend. However, there were understandable limitations such as language barriers that hindered such efforts. Still, I believe we both benefitted from each other’s presence last month. As for what this means for the two of us going forward? It’s still anyone’s guess.

Healthy living – I found in recent months that I have become more proactive than expected on this front.

After recovering from a migrane headache in early March, I somehow started cutting back on sugar consumption. I found myself snacking less on candies and cookies in favor of fruits like blueberries, in particular. I still enjoy a cookie or an ice cream now and then but it is chocolate candies (think Snickers, Twix and the like) I have continued to move away from ever since.


I still practice yoga every Wednesday night at The Yoga Studio in Campbell. In fact, I celebrated my first full year of practicing yoga and at this particular studio this past week. I love how much yoga has benefitted my life in a variety of ways and I look forward to keeping at it to see where it takes me.

I’m also looking into other forms of activities throughout the year — hiking, bike riding, Krav Maga among others. This is probably the most physically active state I’ve ever been in my entire life. For as long as time and money permits, I hope to stay fit in a variety of ways that suit me.

Driving – I finally obtained a driver’s license for the first time on April 15. Even with that in hand, I’m still sticking with transit and Uber / Lyft as I have little need or desire to drive. Since then, I have driven on a few occasions using the company car or Zipcars for various purposes. Driving does have its own perks although transit and other means, while imperfect, are more economical and earth-friendly. I grew up with transit so I’m not letting that go…ever.


End of grad school – The pomp and circumstance that is the convocation ceremony is behind us. Now, I simply have to return in October to finish out my 10th and final course for the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at SJSU. Is it December yet?

Phoenix and Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex

Trips – I wound up taking trips to two new destinations this year — Phoenix in January and Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex in July. What’s great about these two cities were that I had friends in both cities I could visit, ensuring those weren’t just another set of trips where I’d be exploring the regions alone. I enjoyed both dearly.

Among others

  • I was a guest on a SiriusXM radio show in March!
  • Ellie Goulding concert in April: One of the greatest highlights of my life this year.
  • After five years of supporting my friend’s family by way of monetary donations, I finally joined the Canedy family at the Saddleback College in Mission Viejo in early June for the Relay for Life weekend. Being surrounded by some of my closest friends and their family makes me miss SoCal.

That’s where things stand in my life as of now. How about yours? What’s 2016 been like for you? What are your expectations for the rest of the year? Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear from you.