Thursday, November 19, 2015

Return To Pechanga

Gold Coast Tours shuttle bus
          Armed with my selfie stick I went for another casino adventure with a free bus ride to Pechanga, which was about 15 minutes closer than Pala, where I was a few weeks ago. The first and last time I was in Pechanga was almost 2 years ago when I was still unemployed and having so much free time, my relatives brought me there. It was also my first ever visit to a casino. A bit of sacrifice needed to be done this time, which was waking up at 4 a.m. so I could get my workout out of the way, take a shower and make it in time for the 7 a.m. pickup at Tambuli Market in Long Beach. I had scouted the location the day prior to check if there were any parking restrictions. The parking lot had a 2 hour limit which didn't help because it would be at least 8 hours before I would get back. There was no time limit for street parking. Just in case, I talked to the produce guy in the market to ask if I can park in the parking lot without getting towed away. He said it would be okay if I parked at farthest lane away from the market. As I typed this draft on my phone on the bus heading back from Pechanga in Friday afternoon rush hour traffic, I was praying that my car was still safe at Tambuli Market, because it's not exactly in a good neighborhood.
          I arrived at the bus pick up area about 20 minutes early and noticed two women waiting. I asked them if they were there for the casino bus and they said they were waiting for the one that went to San Manuel. Since they were first timers also, they couldn’t tell me if I was at the right location for the Pechanga bus. Shortly however, a huge bus which had Gold Coast Tours markings on it and a tiny sign saying Pechanga on the windshield drove by and parked on the street. I went towards it and asked the driver that it was my first time riding the bus and what he needed from me. He said he needed to see my Pechanga membership card. I didn’t have one yet having signed up online, but I showed him the membership number the website provided me. He let me on the bus as we waited for more customers.
          We were soon underway to another pick up location in the city of Carson but was actually at the Harbor Gateway Transit Center. We waited for more customers there until about 8:15 a.m. when the bus was almost full. Most of the customers were senior citizens in what I venture to guess were in their 80’s, some with canes and one with a walker. Folks, gambling has no upper age limit as long as you are over 21.
          That was the last pick up stop and we soon hit the freeway towards Temecula. I tried to take short naps and catch up with the news on my cellphone. Mostly I was vehicle watching where I noticed a lot of drivers still texting or social networking while driving. I observed this on the way to and from the casino.
          We arrived at Pechanga about an hour and a half after leaving Carson and as we got off the bus, a couple of hostesses met us at the steps to check our membership cards. Having none, I presented my ID and membership number which I got when I registered through their website, but the system didn’t recognize my number. The cute hostess provided me with a new one and sent me to the lobby to pick up my new card from the desk. The lady told me that since I came with the casino sponsored bus, I was going to be given a $10 free play credit and since I was a new member, a free spin on any of the slot machines for a chance to win an additional $5 to 1,000 prize. I also asked the lady what their wifi password for guests was. Having gotten that, what else would I do but post it on my Facebook status, then went to find a slot machine for my free spin.
The welcome committee.
          Oh well, the free spin only yielded $5 but that’s better than nothing. I roamed around for a bit and took a few selfies before sitting down at a slot machine in the non-smoking area. I inserted my new membership card and the machine asked me for my password, which I tried to punch in on the touch screen. Well, either my aim is poor or the touch screen is inaccurate because when I punch in a number, it jumps to another number. I tried another machine with the same results. I went from one machine to the next until I found one which took my password and I figured out the next thing I had to do was load the $5 and the $10 to my card so I would be able to use it to gamble. It took me awhile to figure that out. Can you tell by now that I’m really not a gambler even though I’ve been to two casinos in the past month? For some reason I also found out that the penny slots had a minimum 20 cents bet or maybe on just the machines that allowed me to log in. Who knows? Since I was given free money by the casino I played more boldly than when I was in Pala Casino a few week prior. After trying a few single bets, I put in maximum bets. Bada bing bada boom, in about 10 short minutes all the free money was gone!

          So it was time to roam around again and since I was getting hungry I checked out the restaurants in-house. The prices were still not within my comfort zone so I left the building to see if there were any fast food restaurants outside. Since Pechanga Casino was not as isolated as Pala, I thought I would find one within walking distance. I was mistaken because despite seeing many housing tracts around the area, there was no shopping center in sight. About a block away from the casino, I saw a mini mart similar to the one in Pala and bought a huge processed burrito with some soda and that filled me up. Wait, I just noticed that there was no free soda in Pechanga unlike Pala. Darn, I had to buy my own drink!
          After having lunch, I walked around the perimeter of the casino and saw the clubhouse where their golf course is. A couple of women and a man asked me if I knew where a particular restaurant was, and having seen a sign about that restaurant earlier, I pointed them to that direction. I apologized ahead of time if I sent them the wrong way. I kept on walking and reached the edge of the parking structure before turning right and back towards the casino. I kept walking until I found the front of the hotel and entered the casino from there. Thus, I was able to walk off some of the calories of the somewhat heavy lunch I had. I tried playing quarter (25 cent) slots with my own money and immediately lost a dollar in just 4 spins. I’m beginning to realize that I have no luck in gambling and more reason not to do it. I went up the second floor the first time I roamed around and went back up there again, I found a place to sit which overlooked the gaming floor. The second floor consisted of the bingo room and the high stakes poker room, where the high rollers go to lose their money and subsidize the casino. I didn’t even have enough cash in my wallet just for the buy in.
The Second Floor
          It was during this rest period that I found out about the goings on in Paris so I tried reading more about it. None of the TVs in the casino had the news on and the gamblers were blissfully unaware of what was happening.
          I walked around some more and at 1:45 p.m. I went back to the bus pick up area, but not before I cashed out the 15 cents credit left out of the $15 the casino gave me. The bus left for Long Beach at 3 p.m. and we hit Friday afternoon rush hour traffic on the way back. It lengthened our travel time by another half hour. It was dark when we arrived back at Tambuli Market. On our way to our cars, a lady whom I talked to earlier asked me if I could give her some money to buy pizza for her kids because she said she lost money at the casino trying to win back her initial losses. I apologized for being not able to subsidize her family’s dinner since I too lost money at the casino albeit not mine.
          It was a huge relief to see that my car was still in the parking lot. I did a walkaround to check if anything was missing (in case someone from a chop shop stopped by). The car appeared to be safe and intact and with that, I drove back home from another casino adventure. Next time, it might be San Manuel Casino where the bus pick up is at the same location.
The bus arrival and departure area.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Day Trip to Pala Casino

After finding an ad which offered a free shuttle bus ride to Pala Casino, a place I’ve never been to, I called the number Monday evening to ask if they had any more vacancies the next day and the operator said they did. He took my name and I said I’d be at their Cerritos pick up location at the scheduled time of 11:45 a.m. That was very convenient for me because I would be able to sleep in, wake up and workout, have lunch, without having to rush(or so I thought).

I left home for Heritage Park in Cerritos at 11:00 a.m. giving myself ample time to get there. It would normally only be a 25 minute drive. When I reached Lakewood Boulevard via Del Amo, there was road work being done in which traffic barely moved. I began to get anxious as the seconds ticked by and my time allowance was disappearing. I cut across the street and into the Lakewood Mall area to get to South Street and I must have hit every other red light on the way. I finally arrived at Heritage Park at 11:41 a.m. by my watch but didn’t see a shuttle bus waiting. Could their watch have been ahead of time and left me? Was I a victim of Murphy’s Law which states “everything that can go wrong will go wrong”? This didn’t alleviate my anxiety and minutes passed by without any sign of a shuttle bus. Oh well, it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t get to Pala Casino that day. Finally at 12 noon, a bus showed up and made the turn towards the park. Whew, I didn’t miss it after all!

When I got on the bus, the driver apologized for being late as he himself was caught in some traffic. He also added that this may be the last week that they would be doing pick ups at that location because the Parks and Recreation department had requested them to stop. Another lady who was assisting the driver asked to see my membership card which I didn’t have since I had never been to Pala Casino. She then checked my driver’s license, then we proceeded. We made one more stop at Fullerton before continuing our journey to our final destination. In the meantime an older Filipino lady named Lourdes asked me if it was my first time, then she gave me some information on what to expect, and also told me about other pick up locations. It turns out we only lived a few miles apart. When it was time for the driver’s assistant to collect some tips (a dollar from each rider), the Filipino lady lent me a dollar because the assistant couldn’t break my $20, which was the smallest denomination I had.

The bus ride was to have taken between 1.5 to 2 hours but we got there at 2 p.m. I noticed that we passed by Pechanga Casino on the way (I was there for the first and only time in January 2014 when my uncle and aunt took us there and I was still unemployed at the time). Pala Casino was another 15-20 minutes away and we had to descend a mountain along a narrow street with a lot of switchbacks. When we arrived, the driver reminded us that the bus number was 2222 and that boarding for the way back home would be at 6:45 p.m. and leaving at exactly 7:00 p.m. We were also told to show our membership cards to the employee waiting for us to get off the bus, and if we didn’t have one, that same employee would give us a new one. I was given a rudimentary bus I.D. to identify me as a customer of that bus company. I waited for Lourdes to get her phone number in case I didn’t see her again that day, so I could repay her the dollar I owed her. Then we separated ways.

Entering the casino, the first thing I looked for was the bathroom, and after using the facilities, I spied a sign on a wall saying “Free Drinks”. Free bus ride and now free drinks. I thought I died and gone to heaven! Well, the free drinks were just sodas but you wouldn’t get a complaint from me about that. I started from the front of the building and walked towards the end which happened to be where the no smoking slot machines were and the hotel. But first I had to stop to check if there was free wi-fi so I could geolocate and post it on Facebook, hahaha! Outside and across the lawn was the swimming pool and spa and beyond that was a walking trail which required a key to get into. I explored the perimeter of the casino and noticed that there were no sidewalks and other than the main street, all you could see were mountains. The casino appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. I guess the proprietors wanted to keep you inside the casino and spend your money there and not outside. I returned to the spa area and tried using the selfie stick I bought the day before. All I can say after a few shots is that I need more practice on using it, so the composition of the shot is better. I explored inside the building some more and looked at the restaurants and the prices. There was a wine bar, a noodle shop, sandwich shop, buffet, etc. I left the building and crossed the parking structure towards the mini mart I saw on our way in. Still no sidewalks and even the main road only had a bicycle lane. I went back to the casino and took more selfies. I seemed to be the only one doing it and no one seemed to notice as selfie sticks has become so common. 

In the meantime, I had availed of the free drinks a few times, but I was getting hungry. The prices of food in the restaurants were quite expensive so I thought I’d try my luck at the mini mart. I got a huge burrito and after eating that and still feeling hungry, I had a slice of pizza. That cost me less than $5.00. After that meal, I went back to the casino and imbibed more free soda. I must have walked around a lot in the first 3 hours and my legs were getting tired, so I took a break in the hotel lobby as far away as possible from the cigarette smoke. My eyes were burning, my nose was running slightly, and I started smelling like a chimney.

I had forgotten that the driver’s assistant told me earlier that I would be getting a $10 credit on my membership card so I used my own money instead to play a few rounds 25 cent poker on a machine. I never won a single round and the dollar was gone lickety split. To soothe my now lighter wallet I went to the entrances of the casino to read about the history of the Pala Indian tribe. Can you tell that I’m not really into gambling? I just took this trip to get out of the house and look around.

Pretty soon, it was time to board the bus and head back home. The drive took half an hour lesser, but the cigarette smoke lingered till the next day. I still need to check if my membership card does indeed have a $10 credit, and if it does, I may go back and enjoy the cigarette smoke another day. But first, I need to have my cilia recover.

p.s. I checked the casino’s website later and found out that the $10 credit expired after 5 hours if unused.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Second Thoughts About Retiring in the Philippines

A few years ago, with hopes of retiring early, I started to explore the possibilities of doing so in the Philippines due to the lower cost of living in that country. There were townhomes with two bedrooms in good areas that were selling for as little as $15,000, with three bedrooms costing not too much more. Fast forward about five years later and those same townhomes are now selling at more than double the original prices.

One of the places I considered was Zamboanga City to be close to my mother, however she has passed away since. I also wanted to live there to have closer access to SATTI, hahaha! I still have plenty of relatives and friends in that city but there are problems with electricity and an ongoing turmoil with certain groups trying to take over the area.

Another place I checked out was Cagayan de Oro city, but I hardly know anyone there other than a cousin and an elementary school classmate who said that area was much more peaceful than Zamboanga. Other property values I’ve looked into were in Davao and Cebu.

Currently, a main consideration is to live close to my brother in Quezon City since he is my only immediate family left. Checking properties for sale near his location showed prices ranging from 1.4 million Philippine pesos for a tiny bachelor’s pad condominium all the way to 3 million to combine 2 bachelor’s pads into one, or a one bedroom place. There’s no way I could afford those prices if I wanted to pay for the whole amount all at once. I just paid off my mortgage in the U.S. and I’m not ready to start another one in another country. The only way I could afford to buy a decent home in the Philippines is if I sell my condo here in the U.S., then move to the Philippines. Mentally and financially, I’m not ready to do that. By the way, I am qualified to buy property in the Philippines because I have dual citizenship.

It has often been suggested that before packing everything up and moving, one should try living in the area you want to move to for a couple of months or more to see if you would like it. It would not be possible for me to be off work for a couple of months but it may be possible to visit a week or two every couple of years. In fact instead of retiring in the Philippines as a backup plan, staying where I am now will be the backup plan since my mortgage is already paid off. That takes early retirement off the table though since I won’t qualify for Medicare until I’m 65 (I’m currently 58). If medical insurance was not a consideration, I would be able to retire when I’m 60 and use my retirement plans until I need to collect from Social Security. Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) could be a possibility except when I die, California has to be reimbursed for whatever expenses they used on me from my assets, before any heirs get to collect their share.

There remain other options or sacrifices if I still want to retire in the Philippines, and that is to buy a home in the suburbs, if you can call it that. Two to three bedroom townhomes in Bulacan and some parts of Cavite remain affordable but they are much farther away from my relatives in the Metro Manila area. However, I may have to buy it now or else they may no longer be affordable in a couple of years.

Another consideration with moving is having to buy a vehicle and getting a driver’s license. It would also be a major adjustment in learning how to drive in the Philippines which I hear has a lot more traffic jams nowadays and driving techniques are way more different than what I’m used to in California.

Let’s also not forget that if I buy a home there, there are start up costs of new furniture, appliances, and utilities.

As far as health insurance, since I’m a dual citizen, I will be able to avail of Philhealth, the universal health insurance of the country, although I will have to pay a certain amount up front to catch up since I have never contributed to the system.

Yet another possibility would be to rent out my condo if I decide to move to the Philippines, become a remote landlord, and use the money to pay for the new mortgage, but that would entail hiring a property management company to maintain the condo, which would decrease my proceeds.

It is due to the recent economic successes in the Philippines that property values and the cost of living have spiked, even though the poorer Filipinos have not seemed to have fared better due to this.

And then there's the politics of the country…

Oh my goodness, how can I neglect to say that one of the most positive things I can say about possibly retiring in the Philippines is the hospitality of the people. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Videos of My Daycation in L.A., Hollywood, and Beverly Hills

Well I finally uploaded these videos of my daycation to You Tube. They are rough and shaky since they are taken from a cell phone camera and I make no claims on knowing how to make videos. It is what it is and I hope you might like them (or not).

Friday, August 7, 2015

My Daycation in L.A., Hollywood, and Beverly Hills

Muscle Beach in Venice, California
Well, I unexpectedly got a few days off in a row from work and decided to become a tourist for a day. I had bookmarked a website a few months ago which offered a tour of Los Angeles, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica Pier, and Venice Beach. What was convenient  for me was that the operator picked up tourists from Long Beach hotels, instead of me having to drive to La Palma or Anaheim where most tour buses do their business. Of course, I had to pay a few extra bucks more for the convenience.
Being basically a stay at home person nowadays who doesn't like leaving my comfort zone due to underlying mild anxiety issues, I liked being guided in a tour where I didn't have to make decisions on where to go and what to do next.

I contacted the tour operator by email to ask if he knew of any free or low priced parking near one of the downtown Long Beach hotels where they pick up clients from. He suggested one across the street from the Renaissance Hotel on Ocean Boulevard and street parking around the Holiday Inn on Atlantic Avenue and 10th Street. Before I made a reservation, I drove to the Holiday Inn to check out parking areas. The concierge said the if I signed up for the tour through their hotel, I may use their parking space for a $10 fee. I looked at the parking signs at a Smart & Final store across the street and the surrounding streets and they all indicated a 2 hour parking limit. That wouldn’t work out too well for an 8 hour tour. To combine checking out parking places with my workout, I started doing a very brisk walk from the Holiday Inn towards the Renaissance Hotel which took 25 minutes. I found the parking lot that the tour operator suggested which only charged $5 for the whole day. Perfect! I then asked one of the bellpersons in the hotel where the pick up location was and he indicated that it was exactly where I was. So I walked back to the Holiday Inn to my car, drove back home, then made my reservation for the day tour.

When Monday came, I woke up early to do my requisite workout, took a shower, drove to the parking lot, paid the fee, then went to the Renaissance Hotel. I arrived earlier than the 8:30 pick up time so it gave me time to explore a couple of blocks around the area. Soon enough the tour bus came and I was greeted by our tour guide John. Seeing the front seat vacant, I rode shot gun with him. With us was a couple from Mesa, Arizona who were visiting their son in Signal Hill, two ladies from Maryland who were family members of a special Olympian in the sport of kayaking, and a mom with her two daughters who were from Cleveland, Ohio.
Sunseeker Tours bus

Tour mates

We headed towards the 110 Freeway via the Gerald Desmond and Vincent Thomas bridges while John talked about them. Otherwise, the only things between San Pedro and Los Angeles being pointed out by John were the cellular phone towers made to look like trees. Our first stop was the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum which was the current venue of the Special Olympics. For that reason, we couldn’t enter the coliseum but rather just drove around the parking lot. On the right side was the Air & Space Museum, while on the left was the Los Angeles Sports Arena, known as a boxing venue. Incidentally, the 1932 and 1984 Olympics were held in the Memorial Coliseum as well.
Next, we drove towards Los Angeles where we were shown the Convention Center (where I had my American Citizenship swearing in ceremony in the early 90’s), the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Microsoft Theater, the Disney Concert Hall, City Hall, the Superior Court where they had the O.J. Simpson and Michael Jackson trials, and the Capitol Records building which is shaped like a stack of vinyl records.
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
L.A. Superior Court
Capitol Records Building

Our next destination was Hollyweird, I mean Hollywood. We were shown the famous Hollywood sign from afar. I mistakenly thought that we would be driven up the mountain and be at the sign itself. Oh well. Then we headed to the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Hollywood and Highland avenues)and were dropped off to explore around the Grauman’s Chinese Theater for half an hour and I took the opportunity to take a few photos and videos. The first two things that I encountered as soon as I got off the tour bus was a schizophrenic talking to himself and a guy on a wheelchair smoking pot, whose second hand smoke I took a deep whiff off. I felt right at home. By the way, our tour guide warned us not to take photos of the costumed characters because they will fight with you if you don't pay them. Spiderman saw me taking a video of the stars on the ground and tapped me in the back to ask me where I was from and I told him I was from Long Beach. I also complimented him that he looked good in his costume.
Elvis' car

Then it was time for lunch at Mel’s Drive-in (next to a watch store where the lowest priced watch was $7500). I ordered what Mel’s was supposed to be famous for: the Mel’s Burger which was supposed to come from grass fed beef. I passed on their famous milk shake and opted for Diet Coke. What was so special about this burger? Other than being grass fed, having an extra large Vidalia onion and the $9.00 price (!), I couldn’t detect the difference in taste as compared to let’s say the Carl’s Jr. $1.39 burger. Hollywood is pretty expensive, I’d say! Well, at least I don’t have to eat there every day.
Mel's Drive-in with the $9 burger

After lunch, we made our way to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive.  I was hoping we could have stopped and walked around Rodeo Drive but we just drove by instead. For some reason, the place reminded me of a shopping center in Manila called Escolta when I lived there in the 70’s. It was a place where high end and high priced clothes and jewelry were sold too. 
Beverly Hills entrance

We then drove along the edge of Griffith Park via the freeway and passed through Century City on our way to the Santa Monica Pier, we parked on the bluff for a few minutes to stretch our legs and take photos of the pier about a mile away. Sometimes celebrities exercise on that path but we didn't see any that day. Then we were shown a sign that said it was the western end of the famous Route 66, after which we headed to Venice Beach. We alit the tour bus again and were given the opportunity to explore around for 20 minutes. I took a walking video until I found myself at another famous location: Muscle Beach (photo at start of this post) where a couple of girls were nice enough to offer to take my picture with my cell phone without running away with it afterwards. I scurried back to the tour bus hoping they had not left me behind.

Santa Monica Pier in the background

Route 66 Western end

We drove by Marina del Rey, Westchester, underneath LAX, before hopping on the 405 freeway to head back to Long Beach. I took videos of the tour bus going up the two bridges before John dropped my off at the Renaissance Hotel where I bid goodbye to my tour mates and thanked them and John for the enjoyable day.

Although I enjoyed the tour immensely, my impression of the locations we visited was that they were underwhelming. Seeing those places on TV made them larger than life, overhyped, overcrowded with tourists bumping into each other with hawkers, vendors, and locals. This impression has nothing to do with the content of the tour or the guide who did a fairly outstanding job to keep the participants informed. Also, stopovers at Olvera Street, the Farmer's Market, and the La Brea Tar Pits would have been nice. The areas we visited where also full of other tour companies like Starline Tours and TMZ Tours among others. Flying solo, I had to take a lot of selfies because I was too wary to hand my cell phone to strangers and ask them to take my photo.

Having experienced all that in this tour, I have to disclose that this was not my first time being in most of those locations although the times I was there was not for sightseeing. I had been to these places a few times: Los Angeles, West Hollywood (nowhere close to Hollywood and Highland), Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, Venice Beach, Century City, Griffith Park and more locations between and farther north. In the days when I was still running a lot, I had been to those cities to run in road races, but it was difficult to enjoy the view when you were gasping for air as you were trying to run as hard as you can. I think I’ve run at least 3 L.A. Marathons that started and finished in 3 different locations in the past. The only place in the tour where I haven’t run through was Beverly Hills because I don’t think the folks who live there think a bunch of sweaty people running around in their underwear through their neighborhood was classy. This time I got to enjoy being in those locations breathing normally, fairly comfortable and not sweaty despite the rising humidity, and aboard a tour bus.

And last but not least, the photo I should have taken at Venice Muscle Beach, LOL!

Blogger limits the size of the videos one can upload but I'll try to upload them on You Tube and provide the links here at a later time. If you happened to have read this blog post, thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Birthday Walk – 2015 Edition (and 2014)

The Statue of Liberty in Signal Hill
          Well I did my annual long walk to commemorate my birthday this year. Just as a refresher, I had been doing 2 hour long runs on my birthday when I was still able to run but in the past 4 years or so, I have had to modify it to long walks instead. I’ve tried to achieve the same mileage I would have done with 2 hours of running, but it has been hard mentally to walk that long. I didn’t even write about my long walk last year because my mind got lazy and I gave up after what I thought was an hour and 45 minutes. Checking back on my exercise log, I was surprised to see that I actually completed two and a half hours, but since my goal was 3 hours, I didn’t consider it a success. That walk was done in the Virginia Country Club area at around noon time on my actual birthday. I completed 10.17 miles at a pace of 14:45 minutes per mile.

          Will I have to reconsider the 3 hour goal and do just 2 hours instead – the amount of time I used to run for my birthday celebration? Sounds like a plan, so that’s what I tried to do this year.

          I wasn’t able to do the walk on my birthday but did it on June 7th instead due to my work schedule. I drove to Signal Hill with the intention of not doing the usual Long Beach Walking Club course which was 6 miles, but walking around the perimeter of the hill and up and down the streets from Pacific Coast Highway to the top of Signal Hill whatever distance it took me for 2 hours. I only wanted to walk at what I considered a cruising pace which meant no vigorous arm swings and no pushing it like I tried to do last year on flat terrain.

          Starting at the corner of Redondo and Hill Streets, I headed west and turned right on Temple Ave., then left on Willow St., left on Cherry Ave. towards Pacific Coast Highway. This is when I first saw the Statue of Liberty atop the aptly named Liberty Hotel (well it looked more like a roach motel). Who would have thunk it – a Statue of Liberty in these parts? No mistaking this place for Staten Island. I didn’t take a photo, but found it later on the streetview of Google Maps. From PCH, I climbed Stanley St. hill, and kept going and going and going around Signal Hill, descended and climbed several more hills, walked by Community Hospital of Long Beach where I work, and towards the traffic circle, then back again to Signal Hill.

          When I reached my goal of 2 hours, I kept on going with no idea when I was going to finish. My mind began to tire at about 10.5 miles so I thought I may just reach 11 miles and get it over with. By the time my GPS hit the 11 mile mark, I had walked for 2 hours, 40 minutes, and 46 seconds, which was a pace of 14:37 minutes per mile. What?! That was a cruising pace for uphill, downhill, and flats? Strange how that turned out. I was pushing the pace last year on the flats and I ended up walking faster this year when I wasn't pushing the pace and there were long hills.

          Just for comparison reasons, my 1 hour time trial pace nowadays is about 13 minutes and 21 seconds per mile. Heck, I may be able to finish a half marathon comfortably at my cruising pace if I wanted to.

          Well, at least I accomplished the 2015 edition of my long birthday walk with only a modest goal. Next year’s goal will still be 2 hours and we shall have to see if I make it after I take the first step.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Free Energy Efficient Refrigerator From SCE

The OLD             and              The NEW
Hotpoint and Whirlpool
          Sometimes there are advantages to being poor. A couple of months ago, I received an email and regular snail mail from my electricity provider - Southern California Edison, saying that I may qualify for some free energy efficient appliances. All I had to do was respond within a certain time and a home visit by one of the company's representatives was going to be arranged. Sounds like a scam or an invitation for a home invasion robbery, right? Well, except this correspondence was legit, so I sent in my application.
          A few days later, someone named Mary who represented a partner of SCE, called to ask about my income and when she could come to inspect my home to see what appliances I had. She asked me to make a copy of my income tax return and proof that I owned my home. I did that, but blocked sensitive information from the copies including my social security number and date of birth. With all the identity theft happening nowadays, one can never be too careful. On the morning Mary arrived, she looked around, checked the model of my refrigerator, air conditioner, light bulbs, and power strips. She said based on the papers I had given her, I certainly qualified to get a replacement refrigerator since mine was more than 20 years old. But first she had to verify the information I gave her. Before Mary left, she gave me a couple of CFL light bulbs (even though I've already been using those for a long time), and an "intelligent" power strip where you can plug in low voltage appliances in some receptacles and high voltage ones in different holes. The power strip is only supposed to supply the adequate amount of electricity based on which holes you plug the appliances in, instead of the full dose in all holes. I was hoping she would give me LED light bulbs instead, but she didn't have those. My air conditioner did not qualify for a replacement since I've only had it for about 8 years.
          I had already forgotten about it until Mary called a couple of weeks later asking for the measurements of my refrigerator (length, width, height, depth, and which side it opened). That could only mean that I qualified to receive a free refrigerator! How is it even possible to get things for free nowadays, much less a refrigerator?? Well SCE has a program to help low income people save electricity by exchanging certain old appliances for newer energy efficient ones. It is called the Southern California Edison Energy Savings Assistance Program.
          And how did I become a low income person? Remember I was jobless until May 2014, worked for barely minimum wage as a caregiver till August, then started earning better from August till the end of 2014. Even with the combined unemployment benefits and my wages for all of last year, I was still at the Federal Poverty Level. Thus the reason for my qualification for the free refrigerator. I received another email from SCE saying that their installation contractor named Maravilla Foundation will be contacting me to arrange an appointment to deliver the new refrigerator. Soon enough, I got the call and we arranged for the fridge to be delivered on Monday, May 18th, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. I also asked if they would take away my old one for recycling, and they said yes. Monday came and at about 1 p.m. the delivery people came, hauled the new fridge in, and hauled the old one out. They even installed everything. Thankfully I remembered to pack everything up the previous day so I could move them out of the old fridge quickly while the new one was being installed. When everything was said and done, I signed the delivery papers, thanked the men profusely for their service, then let them and their truck out of the security gate.
          I am now an owner of a brand spanking new, energy efficient Whirlpool refrigerator, which is more spacious and has more shelves than my old one. Of course, returned all the food back in the new fridge afterwards.

          Does being poor have its advantages? Certainly yes in this case. Thank you Southern California Edison! America, what a country! A country where it pays to be poor (sometimes).

Friday, May 8, 2015

The High Cost of Healthcare – A Personal Experience

Photo courtesy of
          I’ve been putting off writing about this while I waited for all the medical insurance claims to come in. Hopefully nothing more is forthcoming.

          Remember when I was hospitalized in mid-February of this year? No? Well you can read about my experience here: and here:

          I’ve been working in hospitals for more than 30 years and was never aware of the financial side of healthcare. We’ve admitted innumerable patients and never questioned how much it cost them or the insurance company. Sure, I’ve been hospitalized twice before but was never presented with a detailed bill by the insurance company until my less than one day confinement last February. The medical insurance I now have from my job sends me an email each time I receive treatment at a doctor’s office or a hospital and when I log on at the insurance company’s website, it shows an Explanation of Benefits or a statement which says what the hospital/doctor/Emergency Room/X-ray/CT/EKG/MRI/ambulance/paramedics/etc., billed the insurance company, what the insurance company paid, and how much I have to pay out of my own pocket.

          Almost $40,000 for being in a Cardiac Care Unit. What?! But I was only there for about 15 hours and the nurse didn’t even have to wipe my butt! Well, ok, so the insurance company’s contract with the hospital “only” let them pay about $6,500. Still a large amount if I had to pay it out of my own pocket. My copayment for this 15 hour stay was supposed to be $250. I’m still waiting for the hospital bill which I hope never comes.

          Another example was the ambulance bill from Long Beach to Whittier: $3002. Higher than a routine ambulance ride because it was a cardiac care run where there had to be a registered nurse present in addition to the usual 2 paramedics. Otherwise, it would “only” have been about $2000. My 3 mile routine  ride from home to the emergency room? “Only” $1937.70. Use of the pulse oximeter alone cost $88. Heck, I can buy my own pulse oximeter from CVS or Rite Aid pharmacy for almost half as much!

          Just a visit to the doctor’s office costs the insurance company $225 plus a $20 co-pay from me. It took about 10 minutes of the doctor’s time.

          It’s not that I’m complaining since the insurance company covered most of the cost. It’s just a shock how much healthcare costs in the U.S. Without the insurance contracted payments, for the first two months of this year my medical bills would have cost $56,502.42. OMG, I don’t even have that much in my saving and checking accounts!
Here is a photo of a summary of what the insurance company sent me:

          Now I’m wondering how Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) can afford to pay all the bills of the patients I take care of in the psych unit who get admitted, discharged, and readmitted several times a year.

          Come to think of it. Those hospital bills which the insurance companies pay, in turn pays for my personal bills since I work in the healthcare field, which I’m finding out is very expensive. How people can afford to be sick, I don't know. The more reason to try your best to stay healthy. Happy Nurse's Week and Happy National Hospital Week indeed!

Well, I spoke too soon. This afternoon I got a bill from the City of Long Beach Fire Department for the portion of the ambulance bill that the insurance company didn't pay, which amounted to $295 and included a $5.00 late fee. More ouch to the pocketbook :(

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My First Root Canal (and hopefully my last)

          So I had this root canal work done last week which I had been putting off for more than two years. In the meantime my regular dentist has done multiple repairs on the tooth in question due to chipping, cavities, or decay. When I finally got dental insurance again from my job and with better benefits, I finally decided to follow my dentist’s advice and went to the endodontist she referred me to. My last major dental treatment was about 3 years ago when a couple of teeth were extracted and because of my severe anxiety, had to have the surgery done under general anesthesia (Propofol) in the care of a specialist.
          I went for the initial consultation where the dental assistant took some x-rays of the tooth, after which the endodontist came, looked at the x-rays, then pushed a Q-tip sprayed with an icing chemical against the top of the tooth, and asked me if I felt pain. Of course I did. I was sent back to the receptionist who asked me if I wanted the root canal done that same afternoon and they were quite insistent. Having had a couple of fillings already done at my dentist’s clinic earlier, and having had  nothing to eat all day, I declined and made an appointment for the following week. The receptionist checked my insurance and said I would have to pay $550 out of pocket since my dentist had already used a lot of my funds. The receptionist then said, they were giving me a discount and quoted $350, so I jokingly said “lower?”. She said $250 was as low as they can go and to tell my dentist to keep referring patients to them. I asked the endodontist if it was OK for me to take a mild anxiety pill before I came for the procedure the following week and she said it was OK.
          I showed up at the time of my appointment (12:45 p.m.) and waited in the reception area for about 15 minutes before being told that my treatment would be delayed because they were busy. So I went out and took a 20 minute walk. When I returned, they were still busy but the receptionist informed me that since I had more treatments done by my dentist, my co-pay is being increased from the original $250 to $400. Well, what else can I do but offer them my credit card? I was ushered to one of the treatment rooms and waited some more. The endodontist finally came which was already about 3 p.m. by then, asked me if I had lunch, administered numbing gel on the tooth and a few minutes later injected me with a local anesthesia. There was more waiting before the dental assistant came and isolated the tooth and placed a dam in my mouth to keep the saliva from the tooth to be treated. Then she placed a block of something on the opposite jaw to keep my mouth open. It was most uncomfortable and it didn’t help that there was more waiting.
          Apparently the endodontist was shuttling between 2 or 3 patients and when she finally returned to me, the drilling finally started. I had looked up the procedure beforehand on the internet so I sorta knew what to expect. Fortunately, I didn’t feel any pain during the drilling until the endodontist went deeper, but even that was tolerable. She informed me that there was calcification deep in the tooth and that a dissolving agent had to be put in to soften it before she can proceed. So while waiting for the dissolver to do its work and for the endodontist to return from her round robin routine, I had to distract myself to keep from being more anxious. I got out of the chair, looked out the window, took a couple of selfies, and went to use the bathroom, all the while with mouth wide open.

          When the endodontist returned, she drilled deeper until she was all the way to China. Oh, I mean until she estimated she removed all the calcification. Further x-rays were taken to verify if she actually did that. Finally she confirmed that everything seems to have been taken cared of and proceeded to fill the tooth, but she warned me that because she had to drill hard into the calcification, I may be in pain when the anesthesia wore off. I was finally freed from my mouth bondage and released. I was advised to return to my dentist to be measured for a crown. Did I suddenly become royalty?
          I went to my dentist’s office to tell them that my insurance benefits were exhausted and she said I may have to settle with a temporary crown in the meantime until next year. An appointment was set for the following week.
          I didn’t have to take any analgesics that day and the next day when I went to work, however I had to take a naproxen tablet the following day just so I could get some sleep after work.

Another Root Canal Done – On My Credit Card
          The insurance company sent me an email saying an Explanation of Benefits was available at their website. It turns out, my benefits were not exhausted at all but pretty close to it with about $210 left, despite paying my dentist for 3 fillings and for cleaning, and paying the endodontist for the initial consultation at 100% and for the root canal itself at 80% with the remaining 20% out of my own pocket. This amount was $175 and not the $400 that they billed me because they thought my benefits were exhausted.
          Since it was a weekend, the endodontist clinic was closed and the insurance company customer service wasn’t available either. Come Monday morning, I called the insurance company to verify that I actually only owed the endodontist $175 and inquired as to whether the endodontist was allowed to ask me to pay above and beyond the contracted price. The customer service agent excused herself to verify this with somebody and when she returned, she said no. I then called the billing person of the endodontist to explain my situation and to ask for a refund because of the overbilling and because the extra $225 was a big burden for me. She said she couldn’t give it to me at that time but she would check my insurance coverage again and get back to me. In the meantime, I contacted my credit card company via their website and filled out a form and an explanation disputing the extra $225 charge. For now, I would not have to pay that amount until the dispute is settled.
          You know what? I don’t know what was more painful: the root canal pain in the tooth or the overbilling pain in the butt! I hope everything turns out in my favor toothwise and moneywise.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Hoka One One Tryout

The HOKA ONE ONE Bondi 3 and Rapa Nui 2
          I haven’t bought any running shoes for about 4 to 5 years mainly because I haven’t worn out what I already have due to infrequent running in recent years. In those 4 to 5 years of no purchase, the barefoot running movement had come and gone and in some cases swung over to extra thick soles in some shoes. When some of my running friends started posting pictures of their thick soled Hoka One One shoes, I became curious about them. I knew when they first came out that they were very expensive and cost $150! The shoes have a negative foot drop, a rocker sole, and due to its thickness, a cushioned ride. Being an overpronator with already damaged posterior tibilialis tendons, they were the exact opposite of rigid, motion control shoes I’ve worn for decades.
          I checked the prices online and found some closeout deals as much as 40 percent off on older models. The Bondi 3 was down to $83.99, still steep but considering the price of running shoes nowadays, more reasonable. So I ordered one just to try it out and see what the hulabaloo was all about. Maybe it would resurrect my running, maybe not, and if not then I can always wear them for walking or at work. The shoes arrived in less than a week and a couple of days later, it was time for a test drive.
          I started with baby steps and as slowly as I could jog. Any slower, I might as well have walked briskly. But I really wanted to feel the shoes. At first the cushioning made me feel like I was sinking a little instead of being propelled forward. But then again it could have been that my legs have lost muscle memory from infrequent running. I was expecting it to feel like the 1979 version of the Brooks Vantage which was very cushioned and bouncy when new and was rated best shoe by a running magazine at the time. It turned out Brooks paid the magazine for that rating. But I digress. Another thing I noticed is that it felt as if I was running more upright instead of leaning forward and on subsequent runs, my knees felt more underneath me instead of my usual overstride. Could this be due to the negative foot drop as opposed to the usual wedge shape of running shoes? But, back to this first test run which lasted a whole hour. I kept track of the mileage on Runkeeper and when the run ended, I checked the distance and pace. Heavens to Betsy! It was much slower than I thought! 4.94 miles in 1:00:54 at a pace of 12 minutes and 24 seconds per mile. The upside was that my ankles didn’t hurt and it felt like a good workout despite the utter slowness.
          Two days later, I went for another run but this time, I programmed Runkeeper to alert me to run for 2 minutes and walk for 1 minute. Another one hour run but this time despite the walk breaks, my pace was 11:14 per mile. This must have been a miscalculation by Runkeeper. Maybe the GPS didn’t connect until mid-run. The third run which was only 30 minutes yielded an 11:02 pace using my trusty old Garmin 305. Still no ankle pain.
          I went back to the website I bought the Bondi 3 from and looked for more closeout deals. I noticed the Rapa Nui 2 for 73.99 with an original price of 130. Mind you, these were trail shoes and I don’t run on trails but nobody cares what surface I’d run on them. I hemmed and hawed to myself but ordered it anyway. During the run test, I noticed that even though it was still rated as a cushioned shoe, it felt more like a stable shoe because it was a little stiffer than the Bondi 3. It actually felt like it was propelling me forward a little better and the 11:03 and 11:24 pace on the 2 minute run/1 minute walk intervals seemed to reflect that on the two workouts I tried them on. Either that or I was beginning to regain my running legs.
          Those short run/walk intervals seem to be working for me as an alternative workout to my stationary biking. I’m not looking to increase my pace or lengthen my run. I’m just happy that the Hoka One One appears to have rejuvenated my running. I’ve only had 6 workouts between the two shoes and I hope I can keep on doing what they have allowed me to do so far and not just a placebo effect of having new shoes.
          Unfortunately, two days after writing the above experience, I suffered a strained right thigh which had nothing to do with the shoes. Apparently 3 days a week of running was a little bit more than my body can handle. That's just the way my muscles react to running in the past few years. They can only tolerate about 6 weeks of running regularly before they break down again. Nevertheless, I'm still sold on the Hoka One One shoes. I'll start running in them again as soon as I heal.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Chest Pain Radiating to the Shoulders & Neck - A False Alarm (part 2)

Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital-Whittier
The first part of this post is here:

It took barely half an hour to arrive in Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital – Whittier (PIH), and I calculated that if the ambulance travelled at 60 MPH, then the distance must have been approximately 30 miles. In the ambulance with me were two paramedics and a registered nurse. According to one of the EMT's, normally an RN is not included but since I was considered critical transport, the RN was a requirement for this particular ambulance company. When I was unloaded at PIH, it took a while to find the unit I was being sent to due to the huge size of the hospital. All we knew was that I was going to room 3001 which meant it was on the third floor. But the third floor of which building was the question since the hospital had two buildings. Eventually we found it and I was offloaded from the gurney to the hospital bed. Lucky for the ambulance staff, they didn’t have to lift me and even if they had to, it would have been too easy for them since I’m only about 120 pounds soaking wet.
Hospital Care Kit

My private room and bathroom was spotless and a care kit sat on the bedside table. The usual items in an admission care kit like a basin, pitcher, tumbler, toothbrush, toothpaste, body wash/shampoo, lotion, mouthwash, and a full size box (!) of Kleenex  were already at my tray table when I arrived at the hospital. What was an unexpected surprise were a few additional personal touches to enhance a patient's comfort like an eye mask, ear plugs, and lip balm. Nice job PIH! The only thing I had trouble finding was the remote control for the TV and the wall lights. The next time the CNA came, she showed it to me - it was stowed in a receptacle under the bed. The visitor’s bench on one side of the room also happened to be a pull out bed in case a relative or friend wanted to sleep over.
My hospital bed
The nurse came and introduced himself (Rafael), hooked me up to a Holter monitor, checked my heart and lungs, did a stroke assessment, then asked me about my medical history. He said a hospitalist (doctor) was coming to see me shortly. Rafael come back later to swab my nose for an MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus) test. He said they had to do it whenever a patient was transferred from another hospital. He reported later that the test was negative. Meanwhile, I fired up my computer and connected to the hospital wi-fi hotspot. I hope I did the sequence correctly: call 911, stabilize in the ER, get admitted to the hospital, then post to Facebook, instead of the last one being done first. Well, I couldn’t connect to the wi-fi in the ER so…

The hospitalist came, listened to my heart and lungs, asked questions, did another stroke assessment, then went to the nurse’s station to write his orders but first I asked him if the nurse could give me a snack or if I was supposed to be NPO for the anticipated tests in the morning. Thankfully the CNA came back with a turkey sandwich and milk. It was my first meal since noontime the previous day and it was already 3:30 a.m. While I was eating, my brother apparently read my post on Facebook and tried contacting me via Skype video chat, but I had turned my computer off while the doctor was talking with me. When I turned it back on, I saw the missed call but before I could call back I had to update Skype first. When we finally connected, my brother Larry and his better half Ninette said they had just gotten back from out of town when they saw my post. We chatted briefly and updated them on my condition, then I tried to get some sleep by about 4:15 a.m. Alas, my body reverted to night shift mode and only slept for about an hour. The nurse came to ask me if I wanted the alternating pressure device attached to my legs to prevent stasis and blood clots. I declined and told him it wasn’t necessary since I expected myself to be moving around anyway.

The phlebotomist came next and I asked her about the blood test and since it included blood sugar and cholesterol levels, I informed her that I had eaten only two hours prior. She said she was going to note on the computer that it was a non-fasting result. Soon shift change came and I met the day shift nurse, Emily. To my surprise, Rafael, the night nurse gave report about me in my presence. I have never experienced that before. I told Emily that I was an uncooperative patient because I refused to wear the alternating pressure device.

So this is how Monday morning went: breakfast was served and as I was about to start eating the orderly or transport aide from the radiology department came by to pick me up for my head MRI. He was nice enough to give me a few minutes to eat. I was supposed to be on a cardiac diet (low fat, low cholesterol, low sodium) so it was surprising to see eggs and sausages on my plate. I haven’t eaten those things in years!

Then I was transported downstairs on a wheelchair down long hallways until we reached the MRI room. They were finishing up with another patient, then it was my turn. They checked me for metal objects so they put aside my partial denture and I let them know that I had a metal plate on my left ankle which has been there since 1972 when I broke it in a motorcycle accident. The technician said it was okay. I was pre-warned of the noise of the machine and given earplugs and an ear cover. Pretty soon, the machine started thumping and I started to get anxious. My pulse rate went up and I tried to slow my breathing down. Then suddenly I realized, it wasn’t so much that my heart was beating so fast and hard but it was the thumping of the MRI machine, so I just concentrated on relaxing. Pretty soon 14 minutes in the claustrophobia causing machine was over, and I was wheeled back to my room. It took so much concentration to keep me from jumping out of the machine in the first couple of minutes.

When I got back to my room, I asked Emily if I could walk up and down the hallway for at least half an hour so I don’t miss my daily workout and so that what is reflected on the Holter monitor would mimic what I would normally do at home. She okayed it but told me that if I started having chest pain or dizziness, to alert the closest nurse. With that, I started my walk. I encountered a therapy dog on my first lap and let it smell the back of my hand, then I continued my walk. Alas, it only lasted for 6 minutes. Did I have chest pain or dizziness? Well, no. I saw someone enter my room with a machine so I followed her. The cute girl told me I was going to have a Lexiscan. I asked, who is Lexi and why is she going to scan me? Two other technicians showed up while I was being hooked up to an EKG machine and something which I found out later was the Lexiscan was injected in my vein. While the 3 techs monitored me, my attending physician showed up and I gave him a fist bump instead of shaking his hand because it's better for infection control. He asked me a few questions and told me that my MRI was normal. There was no sign of a stroke that the other hospital may or may not have seen on the CT scan. That was another good news in addition to my normal troponin levels. I was to be taken downstairs again later for a stress test which did not involve a treadmill. The Lexiscan nuclear dye would take care of detecting any abnormalities in my heart and circulation. If you want to learn more about Lexiscan like I did, just look it up on the internet. Shortly after, another phlebotomist came to draw blood for CK-MB test.

I went back out to the hallway still wearing a hospital gown, reset my stopwatch to zero and started my walk again. This time there would be no more interruptions other than dodging nurses, doctors, housekeepers, and visitors in the hallway. Fortunately I wasn’t accused of indecent exposure since I wasn’t wearing anything underneath the gown. I should have asked for a diaper to provide more coverage rather than go commando. I completed 35 minutes and decided that was enough. A nurse's aide came to my room to bring me gray hospital socks so I can wear them instead of the red ones which came in my care kit. She said red socks were for patients who were at risk for falling and after seeing me power walking in the hallways, she didn’t think I was one. I jokingly told her I could fall for her so the red socks would be justified. She said I better not. When I saw her again a few minutes later, I changed the tone of my voice and told her – I could fall for her (as in love). Jokingly, of course J
COW-Computer On Wheels

While walking up and down the hallways of the telemetry unit, I noticed there was a COW (computer on wheels) in every room running e-MD, an electronic medical records system. I’m used to the Cerner and Epic systems. Aside from e-MD, the staff used Vocera to communicate with each other, it was attached to their lapel or scrubs near the neck area then they would mention the name of another staffmember and the system automatically connects to the other person and they can talk to each other. I won’t be surprised if the Vocera is also connected to the patient’s call light.

Lunch-Barbecued chicken breast, mixed veggies, mashed potatoes, oatmeal raisin cookie

Lunch came soon and I checked with Emily if it was ok to eat. She said yes and that the only thing I can’t have is caffeine because it affects the Lexiscan test. Trying my best at being a model patient, I even took my tray back to the dietary department cart out in the hallway and let my nurse know that I ate 100%. While I waited to be picked up for the test after lunch, a social worker stopped by to ask me if I had an advance medical directive. I said I didn’t but had a POLST (physician’s orders for life sustaining treatment) in my doctor’s office. She said that if I was interested in filling out an advance directive she could bring the forms for me, help me with it and have it notarized for free in the hospital. So I asked her to bring me one. Since she was a social worker, I also asked if they assisted patients with transportation if nobody was able to pick me up to take me home. She said they did and I requested the service. She came back with the blank advance directive which I proceeded to fill out. By the way, an advance directive is a legal paper filled out by a patient on what his wishes are if he becomes incapacitated and cannot make medical decisions for himself. The patient also assigns another person to make sure that his wishes are carried out.

Then an echocardiogram technician showed up and she did the ultrasound test while I lay on my left side. A few minutes after she left, I was finally wheeled along even longer hallways to the nuclear medicine department. The myoview/lexiscan test was done while I was lying supine first, then in the prone position. I was sent back to my room to await the results and if everything was clear, I was to be discharged.

I saw the social worker again and asked if the notary public was still available to witness my now completed advance directive. Unfortunately he was gone for the day so my advance directive is still unofficial until witnessed by a notary or two other uninterested parties.

Emily came back to see me at about 4 p.m. and told me my myoview/lexiscan stress test was negative for abnormalities and she would be preparing my discharge papers as well as arranging for transportation. I tidied up my hospital room before getting discharged and took home the care kit because when I asked the CNA if they wanted to return items I didn’t use to the supply room, she said they were going to automatically throw them away.

At 5 p.m. came and unhooked my Holter monitor, removed my IV access, then walked me downstairs to the lobby where the taxi driver was already waiting for me. I thought it was a hospital van that was taking me home and was surprised it was a taxi. I jokingly asked Emily if they used Uber to transport patients. I thanked her for taking care of me and bid her goodbye. Then I boarded the taxi, chatted with David, the driver as he entered the 710 freeway towards Long Beach. Because it was President’s Day, traffic was light and we arrived at my home in about 25 minutes. Thus ended my latest bout with chest pain false alarm.

It was reassuring to know that after all the necessary tests have been done, the chest pain, burning sensation in the neck and shoulders, and dizziness had nothing to do with my heart and brain.

However the cause of all the pains I've been experiencing remains a mystery as it is still happening two weeks after my trip to the ER and one day of hospitalization.  It could be that my body is suddenly reacting differently to exercise now and the soreness is not what I used to experience.

Random notes and observations: Just realized that I had this problem on National Heart Month.

If anything happened to me while I was by myself at home, I might not be found until weeks, months, or even years later, which has happened to other people and became news items.

With two IV sites and four blood draws, my arms look like a heroin addicts’.

As much as possible, I try to minimize my impact towards the world and my relatives and friends because as much as I dislike inconvenience, I do not want to inconvenience anyone either.

This is about the 4th time I've had a false alarm in the last 15 years or so but I've never really told anybody about it, not even my immediate family. Of course there was no Facebook when the first two happened.

I was surprised that neither the ER nurse nor the Telemetry nurse asked me if I was out of the country recently as required by the ebola screening process. Maybe because I didn't have a fever.

I think the reason why I couldn’t be accommodated in any hospitals near my home was because while I was at the emergency room, there was a drive by shooting in Long Beach where 5 people were shot and in another incident, a man in a wheelchair run over by a car.

When I was having those frequent pains, it made me more grateful when I was able to wake up in the morning still alive.