The Road to Reno

Isabella’s (she’s 10) USAIGC/IAGC World Championship gymnastics competition tournament takes us this year to Reno, Nevada.

Reno.  Exotic (enough). Beautiful. Legendary.

Isabella is something of an odds-on favorite. No pressure, though.

For my Los Angeles friends, if you are going to make the drive to Reno, please do yourself the absolute favor and go the Inland route (LA speak: the 5 to the E-14 to the N-395 forever to the N-580) instead of the Central Valley (I-5 to Sacramento, then E-80) route.  Your eyes and heart will thank you.  (Because, who needs to drive through another Stockton?  No offense intended, Stockton.)  20 minutes longer to drive, but absolutely worth it.  The drive is part of the show.

Make sure you have enough gas though.  Don’t do the Mojave with a 1/4 tank.

The total drive to Reno is 8-ish hours, either way.  Gas-fills, bathrooms, McDonalds…

On the 395 tour, you will drive through an ancient river bed for a hundred miles with 5.000 foot mountains on either side. [Site-see at Fossil Falls.]  Then, once you get through the town of Bishop, the road turns left, ominously, to the west.

And you will drive toward 13,000 foot mountain peaks (2 miles high).  Black rock.  Sheer cliffs.  Unbelievable.  Gorgeous.  Towering.  Snow capped even at the end on June.

The Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

Then, eventually, you will start to climb those mountains.  Gradually.  But even a Prius can easily handle it.  (I think we made it up to 8,036 feet.)  Ears popping, jaws gaping.  43 MPG.  Summer conditions, mind you.  And it takes a couple of hours.

And, then you skirt Yosemite and go through Toiyabe National Forest.  You’ll race the raging river down the mountains.  [For my East Coasts friends, a West Coast forest is not just a symphony of deep green; there’s no kudzu here.  You can actually see each tree trunk.  Millions and millions and millions.]

Hopefully you will get stuck behind a slow-moving pickup truck, on a two-lane stretch down the incline.  Because, it’s not about getting there, it’s about the getting there.

These are things my daughters will remember about this even without photos.  Even though we had a camera handy, I wanted them to see it through their own eyes.

And, we haven’t even gotten to Reno yet.

The Man on the Roof

Just like any other “get-ready-for-bed” evening, around 9:30.  DDFT’s mother is out working hard, harder than you think, on behalf of Hollywood’s composers and songwriters.

I’ve already made tonight’s last call to Julianna (12) and Isabella (10) for brush your teeth, now!  Now!

Then, the neighbors’ dogs start barking.  And, that causes a chain reaction.  Soon, our fierce chihuahuas join in the cause.

We hear a thud outside, nothing huge.  Like a big wind knocked something over.  I don’t think anything of it.

But, the wind is calm tonight.  Too calm.

Me:  Shush dogs!  Knock it off!  Bed time, girls!  I’ve got work to do.

Isabella:  Daddy, if that was wind, then I’m afraid that the umbrellas will fall into the pool.

Me:  Honey, don’t worry.  It’s not a windy tonight.

Iz: If it’s not a windy night, then what was that noise?

Julianna (rushed):  I’m going to get the flower I left outside so it doesn’t blow over.

Me:  Girls, it’s not windy.  Nothing is getting blown over.  Stop!  Bedtime!

Julianna flips on the outside light, heads outside and grabs her flower off of the patio.  The umbrellas are fine.

There’s another, lesser thump.  She heads back in.

Iz: But, Daddy…  There’s no wind, didn’t you heard another thump?

Me: I don’t know, honey.  Maybe, I’m busy.

I keep typing away at my computer.

Then, Julianna sits down, turns her head, looks out the Family Room window, and says in the most possibly, chilling horror-voice way possible:

“Daddy…  There’s someone in the backyard.”

Hairs stand on end.

Multiple adrenaline boosts.

Me:  Honey?  What?

Julianna: A guy is looking at me.

Me:  What?! No.  What?  We have a fence! A gate!  Really?

I run to the window, and sure as hell.  There’s a guy there.  In the backyard.  Standing there.  Eye contact.

Adrenaline.  Fucking boosting.  Boosting.

He’s a police officer.  In my backyard.  Acknowledging me.  Pointing to his badge.  Hand on holster.  Letting me know he’s on Patrol.

He motions me to come out.  Hand on holster.  Yes, I see that.  In my yard.

Since he is in the backyard, I opt to go out the front door and wrap around.

On my trek, I check my mental filing cabinet for Unconstitutional Police Intrusions.  “Exigent Circumstances” allow the police to ignore search warrants in an emergency.  I must be “exigent.”  I’m guessing: Serial Killer.

Me (approaching two officers) inside my gate:  Please, tell me what is going on?

Officer (male):  We’re in pursuit of a male suspect, jumping fences between yards.  Have you seen anything?

Me:  No, but the dogs have been barking like Hell for the last few minutes.

Officer:  Ok, sir, may we check your yard?  (For the axe murderer.)


Me:  Oh, God, yes.

I race back in through the front door to make sure the girls are Ok,  Scared little girls…  Just as the police helicopters basically land on my roof with their Night Sun technology.

Then, I realize….

I open the sliding door to the patio and approach the Officer (female) with my hands up.  I try to tell her to check the garage.

She can’t hear me because the chopper is giving us a haircut.

I take a few steps closer, knowing her hand is on her holster.  She motions for me to back off.   Her hand is on her goddamn holster!

Me (yelling):  The back garage door is unlocked!

Officer (female):  Ok!!  Thank you!

LAPD, always, so polite.

I high-tail it back to the patio, then inside to relative safety.  The girls are, of course, freaking out.

Screams of “I’m Scared…”  “Daddy!!!”

I play it cool with the girls.  Dial it back.  Rico Suave.  Billy D. Williams.

Me:  I’m sure it’s nothing.  The police are here. They’ve got their flashlights.  Did you see the helicopter?  I’m sure there’s a SWAT team around the corner.  We are the safest people in the world.  Yeah,…  It’s all cool…

They check out the garage.  They look through the Aloe bush.  They check behind the pool filter.

Officer (male) says something into his microphone.

The helicopter flies away, the officers depart (kindly closing the gate), and life returns to what the fuck just happened?

And, within 30 seconds, DDFT’s resident Mommy pulls into the driveway.  Isabella can’t wait to tell her what happened.

But, the next door neighbor had already intervened.

Mommy: Jessica says there was a guy who jumped on the roof!

Isabella:  The Thud!

Julianna:  Who could jump on the roof?

Me:  There were police searching in the backyard.  A Helicopter almost landed in the pool.

Mommy:  Where did he go?  Over the fence?

Me: We don’t know.  But, the helicopter was so low it nearly took out the chimney.  There is no bad guy here.

Mommy: And how do we sleep tonight?

Me:  Safely.  But, with one eye open.

Darren Otero ©®



I introduced myself to someone last night. “Darren,” I said. He said, “Like from that Bewitched TV show. Ha!” For the record, my mother had a TV Guide and easily could have named me Mannix, Jethro, or (my favorite): Ironside.

(Also, Bewitched ‘Darrin’ spelled it wrong.) Don’t mock peoples’ names. It’s not their fault. Please Endora me:

[Editor’s note:  It has been pointed out that Mannix and Ironside premiered after my birth certificate was certified with the certain-to-be mocked “Darren” name.  These people are party-poopers.  My parents could have gone with Star Trek’s James Tiberius.  I’m just saying.  I hold no grudges, Mom.]


The Daddy/Daughter Fun Time Caravan went on the road to Fallbrook, CA.  (Yeah, I had to Google it, too.)

Anyway, Isabella (she’s 10, you know) was competing in the Pajama Party gymnastics meet.  The last competition of the Regular season.  In the lovely town of Fallbrook.  (I am not being facetious.  Gentle rolling hills….)  But it’s 120 miles away.

It was just Isabella and me on a 2 hour drive.  And, you know, she’s actually a very pleasant person once you get past the whole “where’s my sweater” “stop staring at me” stage.  (I doubt she’d say the same about me.  Where’s my damn JEB! sweater?)

We make it through the rain (what the hell?  Southern California?  In May?)

Isabella amps herself up.  She shrugs off the numerous injuries that have plagued her year. Knees, back.  Her bad attitude.

First up:  Uneven Bars.  She told me earlier, she was going to do a flyaway (a back somersault dismount off of the high bar.  Please don’t break your neck.)

But, here’s a Gold Medal-winning (9.450) performance for a 10-year-old.  Next up the Western Regionals, then the World Championships.

Isabella Bars



Bryd Middle School

I am weighing in on the current (Spring 2017) Los Angeles School Board Election.  I’ve never done that before.

But, some guy came to the door and gave me a pamphlet. Ironically, my mail-in ballot had just arrived from the postman.

So, I checked out his candidate’s website. She’s young and full of energy.  She’ll make a positive difference for our children.

And, since I’m all about due diligence, I also dialed up her opponent’s website.

She’s also young, she wants to make a difference.  To improve our childrens’ education.

Whew!  Because, I thought for sure one of them would suck.  And, I would be able to tell that from their very vague promises.  Charters?  Funding?  Taxes?  China?

Now, I’m not going to tell you who I voted for. But, if someone is running for the School Board, I don’t expect to find 4 or 5 easy, easy typos on their website. (Like the misspelling of her Middle School’s name.)

She’s running for School Board.

Here’s my 550th post: Tree Limb

Due to a clerical error, I mis-reported an earlier post as my 550th post.   This is my actually It.  (And, you really, really don’t want to see my rough drafts…)

Gotta love the government:

Sunday morning. We heard a crash outside. Did you hear that? Sounded like a tree.

We poke our heads outside…

A monster tree branch fell across the street, blocking the road.

Wife: Someone will call.

Me: For once in my life, I will be that someone. (Movies will be made. I will be a Hero!)

So, I call the police station a half mile away. I explain what happened.

The dispatcher says: Let me patch you through to Street Services.

I wait a minute or so and explain the situation to that dispatcher. She says, and I am not kidding,

“Let me patch you through to Street Services.”

Then, their phone rings, and I hear the message: “Thank you for calling Street Services. Our office is currently closed. Please call back during regular business hours: Monday through Friday, 7am to 3:55pm”

3:55? Really? 3:55.

Now, I am one of those Big Government liberals you hear about (what with the health care and the roads and the schools). But, Jesus. 3:55? I thought my taxes could get us to at least 4:00.

Meanwhile, because it is Sunday, I try the Internet: the Street Services website wants me to Create an Account. (I don’t want to do that. Social Security Number. Credit Card. Mother’s Maiden Name?… No, unless you are a Nigerian Prince?)

And, “Is this a Tree Emergency. If anyone is injured, call 911.”

Hmmm. Is this an emergency?

No, it is just a 1200 pound tree branch that is blocking the road. No one was hurt, no cars crushed. Traffic is blocked, though.

“This voice mail message does not receive incoming messages.”

You’re kidding. Isn’t that the whole point of voice mail?

“Para informacíon en español, oprima el número dos.”


Saturday Is Milk Duds Day

My wife is out town dealing with Family Issues.  Big time stuff.

So, at home…   It is by definition: Daddy/Daughter Fun Time.

I forgot to un-set my alarm on Saturday.  So, Yay! It’s 6:00 a.m.  On Saturday.  I’m awake and UP for no damn reason.

Shit.   Crap.  Saturday.

And, I have no one to yell at.  They’re all still asleep. Even, the damn dogs are still sleeping.

So, I’ll stare at my screen.  “O, Internet bring me wisdom.”  (Internet:  Ha!  You’re kidding, right?).

Eventually, the first child wakes:

Me: What do you want for breakfast?

Child One:  Stop Yelling at Me!!

Yell?  (hint, she’s 10)

She plops on the sofa, covering her head with a blanket.

Child One:  Daddy!  I’m hungry!

Because 90 seconds is a long dang time.

Then the other child crawls out of her pre-teen soup:

Me:  Hello.

Child Two:  I hate you.

I am paraphrasing all of this, of course.  Lots of words are said.  But, these are the things I hear.

Me:  Honey…  You are here because of me…

(Also, Mommy. Largely Mommy.  Me too, though:  Please don’t think biology.  Because, you know, oftentimes Dads get shorted.)

Hang on…   Child One is chewing something.

Me:  What are you eating?

Child One:  Milk Duds.

Me: “Milk” chocolate is not milk. I’m a Good Father!  (say the voices in my head.)

Child Two:  Why does she get candy when I don’t?!  That’s not fair!

Crap…  9:00 am

The day is young.