Every year at about this time I send all of my friends and loved ones a post wishing them the best for the new year. It is not always an easy task to sit down and enumerate the goods and the bads of a year. Looking back on 5779, it has been an incredibly full year, replete with mostly good changes and experiences.
As I am sure you know (if we are friends, relatives, or even if you are a frequent reader of my blog), last November (Cheshvan/Kislev on the Hebrew calendar… but I will stop with that) I was recruited by a company called Taos for a position as Senior Windows Engineer for Sony Pictures Entertainment… in the Los Angeles area. This was not something out of the blue… As Liza and I had been getting more serious, I decided the best way to see where that relationship was going was for us to live in the same city, if not the same house. I had visited a few times (and she had visited me as well), but it was time to make a move. On December 7th I boarded my flight to Los Angeles, leaving Ottawa behind me. Well, not completely behind me… but I would no longer be living there.
My first month in California was wonderful but hectic – while I had rented an apartment, I still did not have any furniture there, and I would have to wait at least one and probably two pay periods before buying some. I spent three weeks living at Liza’s house… with her and her daughter. The daughter and I did not get on very well, but I will not go into that. After three weeks I was able to finance a bed, and I moved into my apartment on December 30. Yay! It would not be so simple in the coming months…
The job was great, but it was very different from anything I had done before. Their systems were different, their policies and procedures were different, and I was told from the outset that they usually expect people to get up to speed in about six months. At the time I thought that was ridiculously generous. I would come to reevaluate my position on that. Two weeks after I arrived, Sony Pictures closed for the holidays, and I had ten days paid vacation to enjoy California. Unfortunately this time coincided with Liza’s busiest period, so I had a lot of time alone… Liza owns a retail store, and any retailer will tell you that December is where they make their bones.
I went back to Ottawa to finish up some business in January; unfortunately my visit was met with a blizzard, and I was not able to get nearly as much done as I had hoped. Crap. To put the icing on the cake, I came back to California with a very bad head/chest cold. Thanks Canadian Winters… I will not miss you!
In April, my older son (Aaron) came to spend a week with us here, and it was great to have him. We have been evolving our relationship over the years, and I really like spending time with him. I also respect that while he likes me too, he also wants his alone time. I understand because I do too.
I mention that the apartment I rented here was actually a sub-let, and the owner came back from traveling abroad, expecting to be there for two to three weeks. Liza and I agreed that I should stay with her (and her daughter) during that period. Unfortunately, the 2-3 weeks turned into… well, it’s nearly October and he is still there. As Liza and her daughter was going off to Europe and Israel for the summer, and then after the summer the daughter was going away to university, we decided that I would hop AirBNBs during the week, and I would stay with them only on the weekends. By mid-June they went off on their adventures, and I had the house to myself (and Princess Sophie) for six weeks. I would not be spending the next month in the house though.
Liza and I have a friend who had an apartment in Hollywood. She was moving to New York at the beginning of August, and rather than give up the apartment then, she sub-let it to me for the month of August. It was more comfortable, or at least more stable, than hopping between AirBNBs. While there was some drama with the building manager (about whom I had already been warned), the stay was reasonably uneventful.
In June I planned a trip. My friend Josh wanted me to go to Cuba with him and show him around. It is still much easier to get to Cuba from Canada than from the US, and I decided it would be a great opportunity to visit friends and family. I planned for a day in Oakville/Hamilton on the front end, and another day on the back end. I got to see my kids, my friends, and nearly everyone I wanted to see… if not everyone.
Havana was wonderful… as always. I got to see a lot of friends, and I made some new ones. I am always happy and relaxed in Cuba, and this trip was no different. Unfortunately, on my last day there I came down with a cold… which meant it would be bad to see my kids on my one day in Canada because I did not want to get them sick.
Sick or not, the day I spent in Canada was my 47th birthday, and my friend Lyle threw me a cigar party. All of our cigar smoking friends came over, and we spent the afternoon and evening sitting outside, smoking cigars, and sharing stories. A great day to be sure, and I only wish I hadn’t been sick for it.
I had been bragging to all of my dog-loving friends that I was not only seeing my kids, but I would be seeing my Gingit. I started counting down the days, and my friends would ask me almost every day how much longer until I saw them. It was 23 days out when I got the message from Theresa that was like a kick to my gut. Gingit was hit by a car and died.
I was so saddened by this that some people suggested I take a day off work to recover, but that is not how I am. I was sad, so terribly sad, but I would persevere.
That weekend, Liza and I went to Griffith Park. We were not hiking, but we went to sit in nature, and we had lunch at the shack. The area was replete with dogs and their owners, and Liza, knowing how sad I was, but also knowing that she has been saying all along that we probably would never get a dog, started compiling a list of things that a dog would have to fulfill for her to be ready to adopt a dog. I was not thinking we would be getting a dog… firstly I was too sad about Gingit, and secondly, I knew that she had been saying all along that we were not getting a dog.
Two hours later we were sitting at The Alcove having a coffee when everything changed.
We sat outside, as we almost always do at The Alcove, a restaurant-café-bar in the Los Feliz neighbourhood, just a few doors down from Liza’s store. A dog came up to us to say hello… and both Liza and I were smitten. I say hello to every dog I meet, but Liza is not like that. Within three minutes, this dog (Sophie) was on Liza’s lap… and not for a quick appearance. The human she was with (a nice guy named Zeeshan) told us she was not her real human, but a foster parent for an organization called Dogs Without Boarders. We had a great chat, and Liza fell in love. “Mitch, we need to adopt this dog.” I explained how I loved her enthusiasm, but that she was getting on a plane the following Sunday for six weeks; following that, she and Hannah would be home for a month (Hannah does not like dogs), and then she would be gone for another ten days, taking Hannah to Boston to settle her in at school. If she was still interested, we could start looking for a dog in September.
“No, this is our perfect dog. We should adopt her… now.”
Obviously I was not going to talk her out of it. Over the course of the next few days I filled out forms, was interviewed, and approved to foster-to-adopt. Friday evening, a very quiet and nervous (but still friendly) Sophie came home with us. Nine days later, after Sophie and I had literally had a week together (remember, I was still in AirBNB for two of those days because Liza and Hannah were getting ready to go) I took Sophie to the adoption clinic in Beverly Hills, and she was ours. It didn’t take more than a couple of weeks to crown her Princess Sophie. She has become a wonderful and irreplaceable member of the family.
I have had four dogs in my life… Kelev, a stray mutt puppy who lived on my Army pase in Qiryat Malachi, Bailey, Jacob, and Gingit. I like to think that the four of them were over the Rainbow Bridge in Doggie Heaven, looking down at me, and seeing how terribly sad I was. I think the four of them picked Sophie to come to cheer me up and make my life whole again, knowing that she would also make Liza’s life whole. I still miss all of my doggies… and I thank them all for sending Sophie to me.
If you know me, you know I am a cigar smoker. I love my cigars. When I was in Cuba, I spent a lovely evening with friends of mine, one of whom is a Habanos Sommelier, and her husband, who is not Cuban, but who is a Master Certified Cigar Sommelier (and who is creating his own line of cigars in the Dominican Republic). We had a lovely conversation and several wonderful cigars. We discussed pairings and much more. Following that evening, it seems they recommended me to someone at the International Association of Cigar Sommeliers, and I was invited to attend their course in Los Angeles. I had to do a lot of pre-course work (and studying), but I enjoyed every minute of it. The second weekend in September I showed up at a gorgeous house in the Hollywood Hills, and over the course of the weekend I (and eight other attendees) dove deep into subjects ranging from History to processes to terroir to rolling to etiquette, and so much more. The class was delivered in Spanish, and somehow because of my rudimentary knowledge of Spanish but rather deep understanding of the subject matter I was able to help with the simultaneous translation of the class. We all had an amazing time, learned a lot, and smoked some very nice cigars. We also all walked away with a certificate of completion; it was not for another two weeks when I took the actual exam that I became a Certified Cigar Sommelier, but I achieved it, and I am quite happy about it. I am hoping to expand on that early next year by taking the Master class to become a Master Certified Cigar Sommelier. We will see about that.
I earned my Black Belt in Taekwondo in June of 2010, and two years later I achieved my Second Dan Black Belt. After that, life got very complicated. I will not rehash old wounds, but there were several very bad years that prevented me from going forward with my Taekwondo. In 2017, after having lost a tremendous amount of weight, I started up again, and sometime in early 2018 I pre-tested with my friend and Master Dimitrios Beis. I then got very busy again, and since I was living in Ottawa (Master Beis lives in Mississauga, a city adjacent to Toronto) it fell by the wayside. I started gaining all of that weight back again, and I forgot about it… until April or May of this year, when I decided to go try a new club in California. I asked Master Beis’ advice and blessing, and got it… on the condition that based on my pre-test (and the essay I helped him with for his Sixth Dan Black Belt) he would bestow upon me the rank of Third Dan Black Belt. It was truly an honour, and I was amazed to be there… but I did not really feel like I had earned it, so I would go out of my way to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I accepted, and I am proud of my new rank. But I have focused a lot of my energy on losing the weight I gained over the past two years, and am looking forward to being able to fit into all of my old clothes; the only article of clothing I do not want to fit into is my 2nd Dan Black Belt… I want that to forevermore be too small on me!
Things at Sony Pictures did not go according to plan. Don’t get me wrong, I think I stepped up to the plate technically, but there were a couple of people there who was never a member of my fan club; that is going to happen anywhere you go, and really shouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, these people were very influential, and in August I was informed that I probably would not be able to make things right and should look for something else. I looked outside of Taos, but I also reached out to our Recruiting department. Earlier this week they told me that they wanted to talk to me about another client who had a role that might suit me. Tuesday we discussed, Wednesday I interviewed, Thursday we signed the paperwork. I am now looking forward, right after Yom Kippur, to starting at my new position. I am excited, and that excitement is likely amplified by how nervous I was that I might find myself unemployed. That is now behind me.
To add to the wonderful news of this week, my friend was able to sell my car in Canada, so not only can I stop making monthly payments, I am also getting a few sheqels back for my trouble. I will be buying something nice for her kids as a thank you for all of her help.
Have there been bad things this year? Sure. Every year has those. The important thing is having a positive balance… Someone who buys Five Million Dollars in lottery tickets and wins $3,500,000 is still down… I feel like my balance this year weighs heavily in favour of the positive. I have a good job, wonderful friends and family, and the love of a wonderful woman… and the undying love of a 15lbs Terrier Poodle named Princess Sophie. What more could a man ask for?
Shana Tova uMevurechet – Have a wonderful and blessed New Year to all. Happy תש״פ!!