My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway Hotel (Near LAX)

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

Though I’ve traveled the world, I’ve never been to New York City; and until a few days ago, I had never visited Los Angeles… unless you count a 30 minute layover at the airport on my way to Bangkok, Thailand back in 2004.

In the year 2018, I’ll be able to explain why exactly I was in Los Angeles this past week and how it all came down to a blog post I did back in the summer. But for now, I suppose all I can really say is I have now officially been shuttled through Los Angeles and visited an actual Hollywood set…

And when I wasn’t on set, I was at my hotel- the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel. It was undeniably strange being in California without my wife and children. After all, we were just in San Diego back in September; as my wife’s family is from California.

You might expect that I spent a good amount of my time in the pool, or the hot tub, or the gym… or at least hanging out upstairs in my room catching up on TV shows that I never have time for anymore.

But, nope.

I slept 10 hours my first night there and 9 hours my second night. As an actively involved husband and father, who not only has a full-time job but also this blog and my YouTube Channel, it is quite uncommon that I get the privilege of falling asleep at 8 or 9 PM, for two nights in a row.

Clearly, I took advantage of the situation. The room was like a sleep chamber for me.

At this point in my life, uninterrupted sleep has a much greater value than entertainment or leisure time.

I didn’t use my phone while I was there. I didn’t even bring my laptop. I just slipped into peaceful oblivion.

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

Granted, I did have to eat. And as you know, I am a vegan. A manly vegan, to be exact- which is an exceptionally rare demographic.

For breakfast, I headed downstairs to Starbucks. I began the day with a fruit cup and some Evolution Sweet Greens cold-pressed juice; along with a Core Meal bar (made of oats and nuts) which I brought with me from Whole Foods back in Nashville.

For dinner, there were two stand-out vegan options on the menu at Costero California Bar + Bistro; which is located near the lobby of the hotel.

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

For just $16, I was able to enjoy a luscious roasted vegetable pizza. (Of course, I specifically ordered it without the cheese.) I was perfectly pleased. In fact, I could totally consume another gourmet pizza like that right now.

Or if one might be in the mood for something a little more “beefy”, there is also the veggie burger served with fries.

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

Honestly, between those two options, I’d be good every night of the week: I wouldn’t need any other options at the hotel for dinner.

I will likely be staying at the Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Hotel a year from now as well. So it’s good to have a plan and know what to expect when I go back.

After a few nights in Los Angeles, I was shuttled back to LAX, where I stopped by Real Food Daily (Organic Plant-Based Food) for lunch for noodles, sea vegetables, and seitan.

http://www.evolutionfresh.com/juice/sweet-greens-lemon/

Thanks to American Airlines, where you actually get to watch movies for free on the flight, the 5 hour flight back to Nashville went by so quickly I didn’t even have to get up to use the restroom.

The next morning back at the cul-de-sac, my wife let me sleep in until 7 AM… which is when she allowed our 6 year-old son to start shooting me with his brand new fart-sound gun; to be followed by my wife lowering our 6 month-old daughter onto my chest, as our baby girl both smiled and drooled with the same intensity.

Clearly, I was missed.

My 1st Visit to Los Angeles: The Manly Vegan Takes on the Sheraton Gateway LAX Hotel

@SheratonLAX @corefoods @RealFoodDaily @AmericanAir #vegan #LAX

Advertisements

How to Know If Your Hairline is Receding

I remember when I was 19, asking the lady who cuts my hair if my hairline was starting to recede or not. She looked closely at my scalp, and confirmed:

“Yes, it is. See how this hair right here up front is shorter than the rest? That’s how you know.”

Like someone having just heard their own death sentence, I asked, “How much time do you think I have before it starts becoming obvious that I’m gradually losing my hair?”

(Because to a 19 year-old boy, the issue seems to hold that much weight.)

I took it like a man when she told me: “I’d say about 35. You’re probably safe until you are 35 years old.”

Vegans Don’t Get Enough Protein and the World is Still Flat

Being just 19 at the time, I remember what a scary thought it was to imagine that if she was wrong, since my receding hairline had definitely begun, that I could be a victim of early male pattern baldness before I was even in my mid-20s.

Fifteen years have passed since that day.

I’ve made it to age 34, just 7 months away from that fateful birthday when I turn 35. My genes have been good to me.

While I won’t make it to my 50s and still have a full head of hair and a “straight across hairline” like Brad Pitt or John Stamos, or Tony Danza in his 60s, I reached my goal of making it until at least the time I got married.

With all that being said, I now realize how it didn’t even matter anyway, as this video I made explains:

Life experience has taught me that hair loss is one of those things that guys allow themselves to worry about and even become preoccupied by.

Like worrying about your height. Or your size; I’m being discreet about that, in case you’re reading between the lines.

There are companies across the world who are eager to make money off you by selling you the false hope of giving you the “cure”.

They play on your emotions related to you losing your hair, or not being tall enough, or big enough (again, I’m being discreet); they will try to scare you with “the ladies agree size really does matter.”

That’s all garbage.

Are you a man who is sincere, hard-working, creative, caring, passionate, funny, and emotionally intelligent?

Those are the things that make you attractive and respectable and cool as a man.

It’s not about that other stuff.

Just imagine how liberated your mind can become once you accept this as truth, instead of the lies you allow yourself to believe.

I wish someone would have explained this to me when I was 19.

Why Tap Dancing is Officially Masculine (And Most Other Kinds of Dancing are Feminine)

Le tap dance; la clog.

Unlike the French and Spanish languages, English doesn’t have masculine and feminine nouns.  Yet still, there are subtle gender clues and accents if we look closely enough for them.  Like the way that Coldplay is masculine, while The Fray is feminine (because they got famous by having their songs featured on Grey’s Anatomy). And the way a Dodge Dakota is masculine; while a Nissan X-Terra is feminine (this was referenced in an episode of The Office).

During dinner a few weeks ago I happened to catch 20 minutes of So You Think You Can Dance.  It was a results episode so they were mainly filling the air time with professional tap dancers, all of which were male.  Mainly dancing solo, but there were a few duos.  Interestingly, after each of them danced, they were briefly interviewed.  I couldn’t help but notice that none of these male tap dancers were the least bit effeminate or sexually questionable in any way- they were ordinary, straight dudes.

I’m okay with being politically incorrect in stating this fact that we already know and recognize: It’s common for professional male dancers (especially on reality TV shows) to not be straight.  Which is ironic because as we watch these couples dance, the male is being represented by a man who in reality may not be sexually attracted to women.  Typically, straight men are not the ones representing the guy in the relationship in these dances.

Why are straight men typically inclined not to be good dancers?  Because group dancing and dancing in pairs, as a whole, are more of feminine acts.  Dancing as we know it today is free-spirited and emotionally expressive.  It often shows the ups and downs of relationships and/or life in general.  That doesn’t work for most men, because a man’s mind is wired to be formulaic and often emotionally repressive.  Most men have to “learn to dance”.  Tell me what to do so I can get this right. It’s more about straight memorization for a straight guy to learn to dance.  He’s learning to dance to make his girlfriend or wife happy- not to express himself in a new exciting way.

When I think of famous tap dancers throughout American history, I think of classy Italian, Jewish, and African-American men wearing black suits like Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Hines, and of course, the legendary Tony Danza.  Although, this isn’t to say that all or even most tap-dancing men are straight.  But what I do recognize is 1) that because tap dancing is simply based on rhythm and formula (which are masculine elements- famous female drummers are a rare thing), and 2) that tap dancing only really evokes one basic emotional feel, which is always positive and upbeat.  I never remember seeing a tap dancing routine which went from happy, to sad, to angry, back to happy, to a feeling of loss, to happy, to acceptance of grief, to contentment, the way a typical 2 minute dance song on Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance typically does.

Clogging, on the other hand, though similar to tap-dancing, is not masculine.  It often involves groups, costumes, and festive music- therefore making it a feminine art form, since there is room for “artistic expression”.  But square dancing is masculine because, like in tap-dancing, the mood is always the same (upbeat) and there is no guesswork on how to do it, since the instructions are typically spoken to music.

So how could a man and a woman dance to music and it realistically represent them and their relationship?  I’m picturing a guy tap dancing in his own little world while the woman ballet dances around him, and the guy is seemingly oblivious to what is going on.

How to Wear Pink, If You’re a Guy

 

Because you’re old enough to know now.

The idea that it takes a real man to wear pink is a misconception.  Any guy can wear pink.  The question is, can that guy pull it off, or will he look stupid in the process?  He might look pretty stupid, actually.  And like he doesn’t know how to dress himself, which is an abomination against Italian men everywhere.  But not if he reads my advice on how to make it work.

It’s all about the pants. No matter what you’ve heard, don’t ever wear a pink shirt with khakis.  You don’t want to have a light colored shirt and light colored pants.  That’s too many weak colors; there needs to be a strong color to counter the pink.  Like black, dark gray, slate, or dark blue jeans.

Don’t talk about your pink shirt. If you yourself are the one acknowledging to others that you are wearing pink today, you are saying, “I don’t totally feel confident wearing this- it’s not what I’m used to”.  Let others do the “pink speaking” for you.  And if you’re wearing the right pants with the pink shirt, you are most likely to get compliments, not laughs or funny looks.

Limit your wearing of the pink shirt to once a month. Pink shirts are special.  If you wear your pink shirt every Thursday, you’ll become “the Pink Shirt Guy”.  You don’t want to bring too much attention to yourself by wearing it.  You want to be able to pull it off effortlessly.  Use it, but don’t abuse it.

Now, go buy yourself a pink shirt at TJ Maxx and be the guy that can always pull off wearing a pink shirt.

dad from day one: The Importance of a Man’s Shoes

Twenty-three weeks.

I blame it on my Italian heritage, which trickled down to me throughout my life thanks to my grandfather Metallo; of course, since I grew up in the South, he was simply “Paw Paw”.  I’ve inherited an instinct to incorporate just a little bit of peculiar character in purchased items.  It’s a careful balance of finding items that are slightly flashy and clashing, yet still classy, but not trashy. (Bet you can’t say that phrase five times real fast…)

In this American generation, the idea of a man caring much about his shoes is often considered to be related to gay or metrosexual culture.  But I don’t subscribe to that mentality.  In fact, I believe an important part of being a man is how he dresses; and as everyone should know, his shoes are the most important part of the wardrobe, since they ultimately set the tone for his clothing.

My mindset is more of an old-school class American idea; yet it is still a staple concept of any movie or TV show portraying Italian culture.  From The Godfather movies to The Sopranos, the way an Italian man dresses is well planned out.  Never an accident.  Italians are not slobs.

Paw Paw Metallo

Being that my wife and I both are one quarter Italian, our son Jack will also be one quarter Italian as well.  That means he will not get by with the typical American guy’s shoe collection: a pair of black dress shoes, a brown pair of boots, a pair of running shoes, and a pair of flip flops.  No, not my son.

Jack will be like me.  I own no less than 15 pairs of shoes, some of which are at least 10 years old, yet you would never know it because I take such good care of them.  And while Jack won’t be born for another three months, he already has two pairs of essential “flashy, clashing, and classy yet not trashy” shoes awaiting him.

Last week as my wife and I were registering at Target, we found some shoes on clearance that not only meet the criteria, but also are essentially identical to shoes I already own.  A pair of Kelly green sneakers (6-9 months, in time for Summer) and a pair of white leather loafers (12-18 months, just in time for Christmas).  Like father, like son.

*Jack is still the size of a papaya; no major change in fruit size this week.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

Official "baby bump" picture

A Storytelling of Snake Charmers (or Escapists)

Sometimes there’s no way to get around or over a problem; the only way to get past it is to just go through it.

This past Saturday my friend Tommy and I embarked on our second annual canoe trip on The Harpeth River in Nashville.  The same river that just a month ago flooded much of the western part of the city.  I would love to paint myself as this avid outdoorsman, compensating for the fact (as I’ve established before) that I’m no athlete.  But really, it’s just that I can’t turn down an activity with a friend that allows me to spend several hours breathing fresh air, getting sunburned (just my knees, very badly), and getting to see wildlife.

Especially one that I deem as a lazy adventure (Manspeak, Volume 8: Relaxation).  With the water being as high as it was, very little power was needed on our part to get the canoe moving.  Just basic steering away from rocks and into the best currents.  Like most male oriented social activities, canoeing  kept us from awkwardly facing each other the whole time (Manspeak, Volume 4: Stance).  And gave us something to do when there was nothing to say (which never really happened, because of our mutual love for Super Mario Bros. 2, McGee and Me, and fatherhood).

Two hours into our journey, after relatively no stress whatsoever, I had to do it.  I had to, in typical 1980’s sitcom fashion, speak a line of ironic foreshadowing: “This has been a really laid back trip.  No problems at all.”

Instantly, we look up and ahead.  Two trees had fallen from the flood; one from both sides of the river, blocking the entire length of passage, doubly.  But even in that moment, we didn’t realize that this puzzle ahead was more complicated than just getting past two fallen trees.

We decided the right side of the river promised the easiest and quickest clearance.  I had learned from our last trip that where there was thick, abundant, yellowish foam, it meant there was a decaying animal trapped alongside the river.  As we got closer to the foam, both of us smelled the corpse before we saw it.  A large dead fish, head and tail missing.  Still the size of the pillow you sleep on every night.  Meaning that passing through would ineviditably mean we would have to step in the water to lift the canoe over the fallen tree, we opted to check out the left side of the river blockage as to not get funky fish foam on our sunburning legs.

We steered to the canoe to the other side, seeing right way that the depth of blockage was even greater.  In our strategy forming minds, we both came up with our own idea of how to get through.  Tommy wanted us to stick to our original plan; to step in the water and lift the canoe over our heads and over the trees, then place it back in the water and hop back in the canoe.

I, however, saw a different means of escape.  Shaking the tree and its submerged limbs further in and out of the water, I came to the conclusion that if I crouched down low in the boat, Tommy could stand on the tree, pushing the canoe through the limbs as I helped keep them pushed down to make way for our path.

Tommy is an easy-going guy.  Or maybe it was my natural older brother demeanor, but I convinced him to do it my way.

And right as he said, “alright, let’s do this”, I replied with “Oh, there’s a snake right there!”

I picked my oar up, placing it on my shoulder like a rifle.  “Look five feet away from the end of my oar.  There’s a black snake wrapped around that branch.  He blends in almost perfectly.  His head is up, and he’s looking at us right now.”

It’s not that he didn’t believe me, it’s just that my head was in the way for a few minutes before he could finally see the thing.  And when he did, he jumped in to “crisis mode” with me.

Of course, a man in Crisis Mode is not a man who gets nervous or noticeably excited.  He is a man who speaks lower and slower as he attempts to play the situation in slo-mo, in order to figure out the best practical solution for the potentially dangerous and deadly problem.

After another five minutes (which seemed like 20) of deliberation, after realizing our wishes of killing the snake with a flame thrower were not part of reality (thanks a lot Contra), that we had to meet this problem head on, we went in to Action Mode, while of course, simultaneously remaining in Crisis Mode.

Keeping our eyes constantly scanning the weather, the bank (filled with a good amount of visible snake holes), and the canopy of tree branches over us for more snakes, we carefully lifted the canoe out of the water and over the fallen tree, sliding in the mud (he was wearing flip flops, I was wearing my ten-year old New Balance cross country running shoes), only to realize that once we set the canoe back into the water, another 12 feet ahead was another (this being the third) fallen tree blocking the entire width of the river.

The snake, now behind us, had slithered off of his resting (preying) place on the branch.  Was he in the water now?  Were his friends waiting up ahead of us?  We tried not to think about it.

We hoisted the canoe over the final tree.  The only way into our vehicular escape module was to hop down a few feet from the tree we were standing on at that point, which meant possibly tipping the boat over.  Thank God, we both landed it and got out of there as fast as we could.

The final hour of the trip involved a lot of head turning at every threat of another lethal animal.  We did end up seeing a doe that froze once it saw us.  I was convinced I would see a great beast out there, like a mountain lion or a blank panther.  Never happened though.

The thing is, I’m typically the last person to ever spot any kind of creature in wildlife.  And despite me being so close to the snake, I’m still amazed I spotted it.  We talked about the possible ending this story would have had if I wouldn’t have miraculously seen the snake.  I would have remained in the canoe as Tommy pushed us through, the snake would have been inches away from my nose- either biting my face and falling into the canoe with us.

When I bought my mountain bike back in April, the girl who sold it to me told me that when her brother was working at Bonnaroo last year, he got bit by a water moccasin.  He had to be airlifted to the hospital and given a $40,000 antidote.  Now he was to pay off that debt on a $30,000 a year salary.

But in that moment encountering the snake on the river, what else could we do?  We couldn’t go over or around the problem, we just had to man up and go through the problem.

Myself and Tommy back in 2008

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People and Good Things Happen to Bad People?

Slight of hand and twist of fate.

One of the most frustrating questions for people who are curious, yet skeptical, about Christianity is the fact that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  I can’t claim to have the answer to that impossible question, but I can at least take a stab at it. 

Throughout the history of humanization, “man” has struggled to bring glory to himself- if it means conquering and killing, abusing others, taking them as slaves, and any other hellish action that can be filed under the category of “Greed”.  Man has become rich, by taking from others.  Man has become rich, and refused to share with others.  But in the end, it works for man.  Because he gets what he ultimately wants- glory. 

Ultimately, being rich and famous isn’t about knowing that you’ll always have all your needs and wants fulfilled.  It’s knowing that you’re above others, in a carnal sense.  That you are special.  That you are envied.  That others want what you have.  That’s the glory of man. 

What a waste.

I equate the glory of man with bringing hell to Earth.  Literally raising hell.  Instantly, I can think of three Biblical examples when man tried to bring glory to himself, he ultimately was cursed by God.

Adam eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, after Satan telling Adam that he could become like God.  Cursed.  The future of man would suffer death, evil, and pain.

Moses using his staff to draw water from the rock for all the people to drink.  Then instead of saying this miracle was by the grace of God, Moses himself took the credit.  Cursed.  He didn’t get to live in the Promised Land.

King David taking a military census with the intention of realizing how powerful and successful he was.  Cursed.  God brought a plague and hundreds and hundreds of people were killed.

In all three instances, God wanted the glory, but man took it from God.

Why do good things happen to bad people? God is blessing them (with power, wisdom, intelligence, money, health, etc.) and they are taking the glory for themselves.  By taking the glory, they are refusing God’s true blessing.  And that may mean that  instead of blessing the people that the bad person influences, the bad person now brings on an earthly curse to them instead.  Of course, in the end, the man who refused to give God the glory will be the one who is cursed in the worst way.

Why do bad things happen to good people?  Because in the end, if that person is willing to glorify God through it, the person will be blessed.  I equate glorifying God with bringing down heaven to Earth. 

God wants glory.  And so does man.  Good things happen when God gets it.  Bad things happen when man gets it.  But right now, God is allowing man to do what he likes.  Yes, God may choose to intervene.  But often He does not.  Because it’s possible that through a bad person’s bad actions, God can be glorified through an affected good person’s good actions- those actions include bringing glory to God through it, however they can find a way.

This concept even sheds light on why “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” is so important that it’s one of the Ten Commandments.  We can chose to use God’s name to sound cool (“Oh my God!”, “Jesus!”, “Lordy, Lordy, Tammy’s forty!” etc.) or we can chose to use God’s name to actually reference Him in a purposeful, postive way (“The only reason the Nashville flood didn’t get my house is because God spared me”). 

Because even everyday good people like us still run the risk of taking glory from God.  In our everyday, ordinary events.  I try to keep that in mind at all times.  For me right now, it’s about my wife and I trying to sell our house. 

We work hard to keep our ads active on Craig’s List twice a day.  And we keep a good looking “for sale” sign out front with a plastic sleeve containing colorful, creative flyers.  We keep our house in immaculate condition.  Plus, we know for a fact that our asking price is thousands less than everyone else in our neighborhood. 

Yet it’s all the other houses that are selling.  All around us.  Because they’re going through realtors and we’re not. 

Everyday, throughout the day, together and while we’re apart, my wife and I pray not only for the right person to find our house, but also that God will be glorified through it.  Because as opposed to us saying, “WE sold OUR house!” we can say, “Thank God!  He brought us the right person and they bought our house!”

But even if He doesn’t bring someone to buy our house, if He doesn’t bless our solid efforts to sell our house without a realtor, and we have to throw in the towel and pay thousands to a realtor, God will still be glorified through it. 

Our lives ultimately are about one of two things- raising hell (by taking the glory) or bringing heaven to Earth (by giving it to God).