Merry Christmas Everyone,
They say time flies when you're having fun and this year has flown by so I must of been having some fun. For most of the year I was unemployed which I really enjoyed. It gave me plenty of time to relax and I never got bored or restless which everyone always seemed to wonder about. All of this free time and a little money from my accident settlement also meant that I could do some traveling before I needed to return to work. I visited many wonderful places before I started to work at eToys towards the end of the year. Here is a rundown of my life in 1999:
I was still recovering and building up my strength at the beginning of the year, but I was feeling stronger everyday. My arm was bothering me due to the wires and screws poking out and on January 14, I visited the hospital to have them removed. With my arm feeling better I decided to go on a trip to Washington DC and see The Magic of Myth Star Wars exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. This was the first time I was on a trip alone since my accident and I thought that it was a good test of my recovery. I got tired with all of the walking but made it through just fine. DC was great and it allowed me to see a few things that I had missed on previous visits, including the Pentagon and the Jefferson Memorial. Later in the year I found out that there is a Darth Vader gargoyle on the Washington Cathedral and I wish I could have been able to see it while I was there.
February wasn't very eventful but I did get to see a very entertaining play with my Mom called The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Only a few actors performed it and they still managed to get through everything that Shakespeare had ever written down. I also accompanied my Mom on a trip to southern California where she attended a conference and I met some friends in Los Angeles. While walking around Pasadena one night I was even mistaken for Tom Cruise by two young girls who wouldn't leave me alone until I gave them an autograph. I've been told that I have a slight resemblance to him in the past but I think that these girls were just messing with me.
Only one thing of importance happened in March and that was Maui! The week before I left I arranged through a local dive shop to complete my classroom and pool requirements for a scuba certification. That way all I would need to do in Hawaii was four open water dives and I would be licensed. I went on this exotic getaway with relatives and friends, mostly from Oregon, and had a terrific time. I may have had one too many Mai Tais on some nights but they were free and it would be rude to refuse their generous hospitality. It was cold at home, but the weather on the island was incredible and the water was warm. I spent a good part of my time in the ocean with scuba and snorkeling. When it was all over, everyone said they had a fun time and some even suggested that we all return in the future. I can't wait.
I headed to Barcelona, Spain in April to see the city and visit a friend, Remei. Barcelona is a beautiful city with a mixture of old and new buildings. The Olympics were held there a few years ago so there is a lot of new areas but they were all designed to tastefully combine with the classic architecture of the rest of the city. A week after I returned from Spain, Hal Wamsley came to a collectable show in Modesto. Hal played a Jawa in the fist Star Wars movie so I went and asked for an autograph. The weekend after that I went with my Mom to Yosemite for a couple of days. Yosemite is so beautiful, it is always nice to spend time there and do some hiking. I had never been to the top of Yosemite Falls so that's where I headed this time. Mom even accompanied me for awhile before turning back, I was impressed. At the top there was still snow on the ground and the trail wasn't visible, but I continued on until reaching the canyon edge and a spectacular view. For the last weekend of the month I went to watch an AMA motorcycle race with some friends at Sears Point Raceway.
The next couple of months were almost entirely related to Star Wars. The first weekend of May I spent in Denver, Colorado at the Official Star Wars Celebration. There were a lot of actors there from the movie, as well as collectable dealers, product displays, and a selection of props from the film. The entire weekend was a lot of fun except for the weather. It was raining most of the time I was there and since many events were held outside, that meant misery and mud...lots of mud. Two weeks after the Celebration it was time for what the entire world was waiting for: the release of Star Wars-Episode I: The Phantom Menace which I will refer to from now on as "EP I." I saw it 3 times on the first day and loved it even though there were definitely some things I would have changed if only George Lucas would listen to my opinions. The weekend after the movie release I traveled to Plano, Texas for the Sci Fi Expo being held there. The guests at this one were all from the original Star Wars trilogy and some of them I had even seen before at previous conventions. I paid a little extra to get a ticket for the dinner with the guests and sat at the table with Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett). The thing that I really like about these smaller conventions is actually being able to meet and talk to the guests. Most of them were staying at the same hotel that I was in and at night they would be down in the hotel lounge having a drink and talking to people. John Hollis (Lobot) even bought me a beer!
Shortly afterwards I left for Detroit and the beginning of a trip that lasted for the entire month of June. In Detroit I met Jared who I was introduced to via the internet. He was trying to find somebody to travel with him on the ultimate Star Wars adventure, a trip to visit all of the filming locations in Tunisia and Europe. I eagerly signed up and before I knew it we were in Rome, Italy where we were normal tourists before heading to Naples and catching a ferry to North Africa. Once there we visited as many sites that we could find in the week that we had in Tunisia. It really felt like we were on the planet Tatooine as we found film sites from two separate Star Wars movies. They had even left the sets for Mos Espa standing in the middle of the Sahara Desert. Next we started to travel northwards through Italy, making stops at Pompeii, Venice, and Caserta (where they filmed the palace scenes for EP I). After that it was a few days of boring train rides to reach Finse, Norway where the Empire Strikes Back was shot. We were disappointed to learn that June is the month that the small town shuts down and there was still enough snow on the ground to make it impossible to reach the film sites that were located only four miles away. A couple of days later we arrived in Paris, France to look around for a little before continuing on to London, England. Here we visited Hever Castle to see where the Gungan sub surfaces at Theed in EP I. We also checked out Leavesden Studios where the stage work was performed for EP I. It would have been nice to take a tour of the studio, but it wasn't allowed so we continued on after talking to the guards for awhile. Nearby was a forest and a canal that they used as the planet Naboo in EP I and we wandered around it for awhile, losing our way a couple of times. While in London Jared had arranged to meet Garrick Hagon who played Biggs Darklighter in the first Star Wars movie. We had coffee with him and talked about his experiences in Tunisia. That was about the end of our trip, so we worked our way back to Rome and caught our flight to the USA.
In July I went to Taos, New Mexico for the Wood family reunion. I missed the last one, two years ago, so it was great to see everyone again after so long. More and more of my cousins are becoming adults and it was a little strange to see how my relationship with them has changed. This reunion was definitely different then the previous ones. It was pretty cool to be able to go out and gamble or drink with some of them. One of my favorite parts of this reunion was the dinner on the last night. Seeing the reactions of the people who were foolish enough to try "Da Bomb" hot sauce that I bought in town was hilarious.
A very big event occurred in August. I bought a new bike! It is a 1999 Honda CBR600F4 and I love it. It feels great to be riding again. I didn't realize how much I had missed it after a year of not being on a motorcycle. Earlier in the month I visited my sister for a week in her new house in Castaic. The same week some of the cousins from Oregon and their friends passed through and we all went to Six Flags Magic Mountain and had a fun time.
During September I attended the Modesto Octoberfest for the fourth time in a row. They give you a glass to drink beer with every year and now that I live pretty far away I hope I will be able to make it back in order to keep my collection going. I also went on a road trip to Colorado with my new bike and a couple of friends. We took the long way there and I ended up putting 2,200 miles on my bike. The weather was hot at home and I was surprised at how cold it was up north. I wish I had packed a little better. Other then the weather I had a great time. I had always wanted to see this part of the country and I finally got the chance. On the way to Rapid City, South Dakota we saw the beautiful Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. Right before we made it though, Franz unfortunately crashed into a back of a truck that stopped in the middle of the freeway for a duck to cross the road. He wasn't hurt too bad, but his bike was totaled and he ended up flying home. Don and I continued on and saw Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse before arriving at Pikes Peak, Colorado for the AMA races. After the races were over I went my own way home, stopping in Albuquerque, New Mexico and then visiting my grandparents in Kingman, Arizona before finally making it home after ten days on the road altogether.
I finally became employed again in October. Warren knew of a temporary job at eToys for testing their website during their busy holiday season and before I knew it I packed up and moved in with Sherry, Warren, and Richard in Castaic. So far working at eToys has been nice and all I really do is surf the web all day. How great is that!? I do hate one thing about all of this though, and that is how much my job is cutting into my slacking off time. I was just getting used to being a bum and now I have to actually get up and go to work everyday!
Not much happened over the next two months. I continued to work and commute 72 miles everyday. If it wasn't for my bike, which allows me to use the carpool lane and lane-split, I think that I would go crazy due to all the traffic. In November I attended a lecture on the archeology of Star Wars by David West Reynolds at the San Diego Museum of Art. He has been to Tunisia many times searching for film sites and his lecture was even more interesting now that I have actually been to a majority of the places that he was talking about. The Magic of Myth exhibit went on the road after it was in Washington DC so I didn't have to travel to the east coast to see it after all. Before the lecture started I walked around the exhibit and it was a little different but not much.
That's about it for the 1999 Christmas letter. I could write much more, but I tried to keep it short and it still ended up being kind of long. I am going to be hired permanently at eToys soon and I should find out about the specifics of my employment by the time you receive this letter. My revised website will be finished soon. I am adding a bunch of new pictures and changing the style a little. Hopefully it will be completed by Christmas and when it is I'll email everyone and let you know. I am going to put it up at two different addresses so if one server isn't working you can always go check out the other one. Talk to you later.