Sunday, November 16, 2014


I've waited a year to write this...

A year ago today I gave myself the best early birthday present I could think of.
I quit my job.
I left a 25-30+ hour job, WITH BENEFITS, at Starbucks, to roll the dice on a seasonal job at Crate & Barrel with no guarantee of a regular gig. It had the potential to blow up in my face and be the dumbest move I'd ever make in my working life. 

Since then, people have asked me, "do you miss Starbucks?"

The answer: not for one second.

But, the truth is this : I don't miss the job, I do miss the people.

Through Starbucks I've met some interesting people over the years. 

In my years as a barista, I've met some  the greatest people I've ever known. People I'm lucky to call friend. People who I've stayed in contact with no matter what store I've worked for. People who give me a heartfelt " I'm proud of you" when I share my ups. And offer to buy me a beer and let me bend their ear when I share my downs.
These people I take with me wherever I go.

But I've also seen some of the laziest sacks of crap in the history of crap.. get promoted over me. I've seen some of the worst examples of how to treat a person reflected in how the customers treat the baristas. (Not all the customers were bad).  I've been cursed at. I've been called a number of racist things. I've even been spit on. In my last year wearing the apron, I had the misfortune of working for one of the most condescending, pompous sacks of rat shit this earth has ever produced. Someone who would take daily jabs at the way I did my job. Someone who wouldn't give me 3 Saturday's off in a row so I could take a weekend class (this put me a semester behind). Someone who would say things like, "you need to work on (it was different everyday) but, you know, it's not all your fault. You were trained poorly cause you weren't trained by me" and "I noticed you get a venti drink each day, this is a waste of our cups. Do you NEED to have a venti? We have to save product. Either bring in your own cup or get a smaller size."
A conversation in which I asked, "what do I have to do to move up in this company?" was met with a smirk, a chuckle to himself and a change of subject. ( that was, in the end, the final straw).

These awful people, I let go... And wash away their negativity.

Working at c&b was so different. Apples & oranges, homie. The managers would say, "great job" and It would be a legit compliment. I was getting good feedback and enjoyed the work I was doing. It was like a 10lb weight being lifted off my chest. Though I was working, it almost seemed like a vacation from the stress I faced daily.

Some of my regular customers from Starbucks, ones who used to say "you're the best" as I handed them their drink, followed me into my new job and started coming into crate ... Because they knew I'd give them great customer service...

And then... When my seasonal job drew to a close... I was let go.

For 2 weeks, I didn't have a job. It was a scary time and I began to worry I'd put our future in jeopardy.

And then, one day as I drove to class, the manager called and said, " Tom, 
you did such a great job this season. We have an opening and would love for you to come back and work for us."

A year later, I'm still there. 

You know, once, just before I left Starbucks , my manager said, "you're just a guy who just punches in and punches out and doesn't do much extra"... Last month, at C&B, I was named one of the Associates of the quarter, for great customer service and "always willing to lend an extra hand". 
In the past year I've gone from just sales to also doing weekend demonstrations for products we have in the store to interviewing for a management position ( though I didn't get it, to even be considered was great and seemingly unfathomable at the bux) to, now, helping train this years seasonal workers.

The customers who recognize me from my old job sometimes comment how much happier I look.  

It's been a quick year and I just wanted to comment on it.... Cause that's what I do. I write. And, for taking the time to read, I thank you.

If nothing else from this writing , take this away: 
I punch in each day... Hustle, help people when I can and do my job to the best of my ability. I try to do this each day, like I've always done. Before, it used to be a struggle to find the strength to get up, put on my uniform and go to work. The difference between this year and the one before it is that though I do go home exhausted... I do not go home defeated.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Goodbye Mrs. Reyes

Last week I learned from my mom that mrs Reyes passed away. She was 95 and one of the toughest people I've ever met. We were not blood related... She was, in fact, my moms first mother in law ( both my parents were married before marrying and eventually having me). In my lifetime I maybe got to meet her in person only a handful of times. And yet, She always, without fail, for as long as I can remember, called me her grandson and asked for me whenever she talked to my mom. 

When I was in the 6th grade she sent me a black leather wallet with $5 in it. It was the first wallet I ever owned and, in all honesty, the same wallet I use today. She was, and is, a part of my family.

I only had one real true, blood related, grandma. Her name was Mary Louise Reyna ( Mamo) and I can't help but smile when I think about her.  She was nice and sweet, she used to take me to school. She could play the piano by ear and bought me my first comic book.

My moms mom was everything I could've ever asked for in a grandmother.

She was the complete opposite of Miss Valdespino .

Miss Valdespino, my dad's mom, was never much of a grandma. My first real memory of her was my dad begging her to hug me. I was maybe 5 at the time. The last time I saw her was at a Safeway, I walked up and put my arms out for a hug, she walked by as if she didn't know me.., though I know she knew who I was. I was maybe 20 ( this day is also notable as the only time I heard my Auntie Barbara swear as, upon miss Valdespino not acknowledge me, said, " what a bitch!!" as she walked by).

I've heard time and again that You Can't Choose your family. And over the years, I've learned this isn't true.

  I only ever had one grandmother ... And she was the best... But if I had to choose a second... It would've been mrs Reyes.

Family, as I've come to know and define it, is NOT who you are blood related to... Family is who is in your heart. They are the people you first think to contact when something great happens in your life, they are the people you call when you need help, they are the people who know they can count on you just as you know you can rely on them . Sometimes years or decades can go by, but that doesn't lessen the bonds of family you hold on to. The ones you create.  You simply pick up where you left off.

As I type this, I'm in the house of my Aunty Marty in LA. And though we are not blood related she has been my Aunt since before I was born. 
It's nice to see and visit with my family here in LA. Even if I'm here  to say goodbye to one of them tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2014

25 years: Earthquake of '89

25 years ago today a young Tommy was rushing through his home work, both my parents were home and we were getting ready to watch The Giants vs. The A's in the World Series!!! And that's when the ground started to shake. "Mom", I said as she was standing in the doorway. "it's okay, just a little earthquake" and then when it DIDN'T STOP shaking, I ran to the doorway. As I did this, the glass cabinet I was sitting infront of collapsed on the chair I was sitting in seconds before. One more moments hesitation and I'd have been hurt badly. I had a small cut on my leg from shattered glass but otherwise we were okay. We were lucky. There wasn't any power for awhile and once it came back we saw our city in ruins. The seemingly endless, depressing aftershocks... The stories of people trapped in the collapsed bay bridge .., they pulled a guy named Buck Helm out of the bridge...Alive... It gave the city hope... Sadly, he did live long after that... Images of houses in the Marina being help up by wooden planks for people to get out of their  homes as the houses were literally sinking into the ground...
Even as The storyteller I am today, I don't think I could've made stuff like this up. This was real life. And watching the news as an 8 ( about to be 9) year old, it was scary. I didn't go to school for a week. And then when the World Series resumed, Oakland kicked SF ass. UGGGH.
I was lucky though, at the time many people in my family were living on the same block and nobody was really hurt. We were able to be together. Many families weren't.
If you were too young to remember the quake of '89, it's hard to fully capture how crazy the whole thing was... You can read about it or watch videos... Watch the "earthquake" episode of "Full House"...  But I was there, actually in it...and the memories of that day have stayed with me, vivid, as the day they happend. I suspect they always will.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Tommy wrote a comic book....

This is a photo of me, Tom Valdespino,  inking the last page on "My Hero vs. His Mind", my very first comic!! ( photo credit: Ashley G)

I love comic books. Always have and, I suspect, always will. 

For most, when you hear " comic book " you think superheroes in costumes fighting bad guys. BOOM!! POW!! However, this is not the case as, just like with novels, there is literally something out there for everyone. 

Stories of love, loss and family. Stories that will make you laugh, stories that will break your heart. Stories, told in sequential art, that I dare say, at times. top their prose counterparts. 

My love of comics goes back as far as I can remember...

Starting when I was four years old with "Transformers #3", the first comic I ever remember owning, comic books helped teach me how to read. 

And if you know nothing else about me, know this: Reading is as important to me as breathing. I need to do both each day to survive.

When I was a teenager, I stopped buying comics. I wish I had a better excuse than because it "wasn't cool". Still, every now and again I'd pick up a Wizard magazine " just to see what was happening".

As I got older, cared less ( than eventually didn't care at all) of what others thought I reignited my love of comics. I realized there was more than capes and cowls, jokers and madmen, there were personal stories and autobiographical comics of everyday people. They weren't like me neccisarily but they were good stories to read.

Around this time, in my late teens and early twenties, I started writing more and more. I hesitated to show this to anyone.

When I was 22 I wrote a 250 page novel. It took me 4 months.  I showed it to a few people ( people I knew, friends and family) who seemed to like it. It's called "kaleidoscope" and is about a guy in his 20s raising his young nephew. It remains unpublished. Though, in writing about it now I may one day revisit it.

In the fall of 2012 I decided to go back to college. In addition to all the classes I HAD to take, I took an English class "just for fun". That class was called "The Graphic Novel as Literature" and for our final project we had to write and draw our very own comic.

For my final I decided to write about my Uncle Bobby... And his lifelong battle with schizophrenia. 

And though I'm no artist (I can hardly draw a straight line) the story, both true and heartbreaking, was universal. Nobody wants to see someone they love suffer.

I entered this final project in a comic contest that year at DVC. And, to my surprise, it won an award. I was given art supplies at an award ceremony and everything !!

But the best part of that award ceremony was several of the judges (teachers in English and Art at DVC) telling me I should continue to work on the story. "You've really got something here, Tom."

There were many starts and stops, times work and school got in the way, an entire summer where I didn't know what to draw next... Two years have gone by... But last week, ironically on National Comic Book Day, I finally finished.

"My Hero vs. His Mind" is about my Uncle Bobby and his battles with schizophrenia. Though he's struggled with the voices in his head my whole life it's only in the last few years that they've gotten too loud to ignore.

Not many people, outside of my family, know about this. And it wasn't/isn't easy to write or talk about. It's not easy to write this now.
But his story is an incredible one, everyday he fights to not listen to the voices... And this story was one I felt needed to be shared.

And because you're my peeps... You can read the first few pages here...

I've loved comics my entire life... But never did I think in them I'd find a new medium in which to tell stories of my own.

Where I'm at now:

With principle drawing and writing done I'm researching where to submit it for publication... Or, more likely, where to dip my toes into the seemingly scary world of self publishing .

One way or another,  " My Hero vs. His Mind" will come out one day. I will see to it.

When it does cone out , I will let you know... Bring money !! Haha.

In the meantime, working on this has broken open the creative floodgates... There may be more stories coming hopefully sooner than later... And I'm incredibly happy that I have a new way in which to tell them.

Thank you for reading , thank you for believing in me...


Friday, September 12, 2014

Beat LA

Gmen going into prob the most important series of the season this weekend. I had a feeling the season would wind down like this... September baseball, homie... Where the SF Giants #beatLA 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Food that has a smiley face freaks me the F out.

" I'm okay with the fact your about to slaughter me, Tommy. Look how happy I am to be your food", it seems to say .

If it has to have a face, I'd rather it'd look all shocked and terrified ( I've seen a cake like that before) so that just before I bite in I can whisper to that doughnut, "you picked the wrong snacker. Your about to die , bitch !!"

Monday, September 8, 2014


Saw a video ( and when I say video, I mean it. An old VHS tape recently converted to DVD) of my cousins 3rd birthday.
She had a clown for the party and at one point the clown asked the kids at the party what, if anything, they collected.
My answer was comic books.
The year was 1991, I was 11 years old...
More than 20 years later I still love reading comics ...
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think, in my old(er) age I'd be working on one of my own.
That the first chapter would win an award. 
And people that I'd never met previous would want to read more. 
And despite the artwork not being great, and a over a year gap since the award... People are STILL asking and encouraging me to finish this story.
I'm getting close... It takes time... 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

#CHUBcon : Blue Moon Horchata Ale

If you've been following me on Instagram or twitter or elsewhere you've probably seen this at some point: 


And maybe you've wondered, " what is that?" 

I once joked with friends that I was going to start a convention for plus sized people (others were welcome too) and call it CHUBcon. A convention for people who are tired of hearing, "You do you know those mcNuggets are bad for you" or "You like Pringles potato chips? I only buy organic farmers market oranges", etc... I said my convention would be for fans who, like myself, enjoyed getting their snack on!! 

If you've ever thought to yourself, "I have to try that bacon flavored..." Or, "they have HOW MANY flavors of kit-kats?!? I wanna try ..." Then CHUBcon is for you. 

I talked about how I'd get all the snack companies to sponsor it and there would be panels revealing all the new stuff coming out... It would blow up and eventually be a comic con for the snack crowd. I also hoped John Goodman would show up that first year as an honored guest.

 In the end, or I should say SO FAR, CHUBcon is just the hashtag I use for food pictures I post.

However, not long ago, my buddy Joe ( SHOUTOUT ) suggested I take CHUBcon to the next level and actually start writing about the stuff I'm trying. 

So, periodically, that's what I'm going to do..,

And it all starts with the item that sparked this idea:

Blue Moon Horchata Ale.

I'd heard they were making an horchata flavored beer several months back and, not seeing it on the shelves soon after , I assumed like the unicorn it was a mythical creature that would only be the stuff of legend.
That was, dear readers, until this week...
Found in a sampler pack, Blue Moon Horchata Ale was billed as "ale with a subtly sweet yet spiced taste ".
My Mexican taste buds were looking to put this to the test.
The first sip didn't taste like much... The second sip was where the cinnamon taste was hiding. And that's where it ended. I did not get any of the "spice" or anything else the beer promised me.
If you took a regular blue moon and put a dash of cinnamon in it, you could make your own.
That said, did not hate this. 
In fact, I would have it again. Though I don't see this as a regular go to drink I will say that it was fun and did taste interesting enough that I wouldn't mind having another.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Uncle Day

Father's Day isn't just about fathers. For those of us, like myself , who for one reason or another didn't grow up with a dad it's more a day to say thank you for all the dudes who made a difference in your life. 
And for me, no man has made a bigger impact on my life than my uncle Bobby.

My dad passed away in March of 1990, when I was 9. A few months later, in June, would be my first Fathers Day without a Dad. But my Uncle Bobby made sure I didn't spend it alone. 
I wish I could recall what we did, or if he and my mom and I even did anything. All I do remember is that they were both there. And looking back on it now, though I didn't realize it as a kid, that was enough. 

My Uncle Bobby taught me a great many things. He taught me almost everything I know about the music that came before me. He  (and my Papo and my cousin Michael .. Who took me to my first game...) taught me about the great game of baseball.  But most of all Uncle Bobby taught me, just by being himself, what a great man should be like. He's the best uncle in the world and my role model. Everyday I strive to be more like him. 

For some reason there aren't a great many cards for uncles on Father's Day.... And this year, like so many since I was 9, I made him a card of my own... 

Love you, Uncle Bobby, more than these words can express ...


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Happy free comic book day 2014

Happy free comic book day, nerds.

And for non nerds, WHAT is free comic book day?

It's the first Saturday in May in which, each year, participating comic book stores will give out free comic books made by all the major companies. For new and old readers alike, this is great.... Who doesn't like free stuff. 

For people with kids, this is a great way to introduce them to comics and promote reading in general. 

If you have never read comics or read them as a kid (and watch the movies that come out now) and your looking for something to do today, I strongly recommend checking it out. It costs nothing and maybe you will find something new to read.

No matter what type of genre you dig, there literally is a comic for everyone out there... One simply has to take the time to look and discover that next great read is out there... 


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Throwback thursday ... From oct 24, 2012

How I get dressed when nobody is around: I DO NOT put one pant leg at a time... Thats for common folk... Rather, I hook one belt loop to the dresser, one to the doorknob (using bungie chords.. As I'm a plus sized man and don't wanna break the loops),  stand on the edge of the bed and JUMP into those MF's like Michael (Jackson, Jordan, take your pick... Game 6). Also: after every item of clothing put on I look in the mirror for 30-45 seconds and say,"SWAG" to myself ( making a mental note to high five myself at the end of the proccess) THEN: I spend 15 min giving my SnapBack the proper "gangsta lean"... If I'm not wearing a hat, I comb out my beard to give it a Rick Ross like body. If uninterrupted , I've got my total prep time down to 2 hrs, 15 min.... THIS is why I  say my look was premeditated, I'm not playing. Preferred music while doing all this: John Mayer's Your Body Is A Wonderland on repeat... Though Maroon 5 ""Moves like Jagger" sometimes works too... But only if it's Thursday .

Monday, March 17, 2014

Doughnuts, Baseball and all the memories in between...

I woke up Sunday morning and wanted a doughnut. 

And this made me think about my Dad.

It's funny how something so simple can remind you of something else entirely. 

And the thought of this reminded me of Sunday mornings when I was a little kid, waking up and always seeing that pink box that no doubt had my favorite, a chocolate old fashioned doughnut, inside waiting for me.

My parents worked all the time, often times early in the morning and until it was dark outside. I can clearly remember being literally carried (i.e.- dragged... See also: "hurry up boy, we are going to be late") down the stairs ( I'm sorry but a 5 year old legs don't work properly at 5am when he's tired) as they dropped me off at my Mamo & Papo's (my grandparents) house before they went to work. It was at Mamo & Papos house that I slept a few hours and Mamo ( later my Uncle Bobby) would take me to school. 

To say my parents worked hard would be an understatement... But Sunday was usually a day they had off together.

Now, as an adult, I realize you just can't turn off your internal alarm clock and though you don't have to, you still find yourself waking up early for some god awful reason ( as I type this it's just past 7:20 in the am on my day off).

So most Sundays my dad would get up before my mom and I and pick up doughnuts for the morning. 

 Don't get me wrong, this isn't the only thing I remember about my dad. I remember a bunch of other things about him... Being in the car as he drove, Waiting with him, for what seemed like an eternity at Bart, to pick up my mom... going to see wwf wrestling at the cow palace and later, when he worked a second job as a security guard there, telling me all the inside info of what the wrestlers were like backstage (" that George "The Animal" Steele is really smart, he signed this paper for you. And The Barbarian got drunk and tried to pick a fight with another security guy... I wasn't there but I heard about it."). 

 In the more than 20+ years since he passed away I, sadly, seem to forget more and more of him... I can't remember the sound of his voice or if he liked to read as much as I do (I'm going to assume I get that from my mom, who can tear though a huge novel in a few hours). The memory of those doughnuts and dozens of other little, small, memories I have, I hold onto. And treasure. They are all I have left.

My dad passed away on March 12, 1990... A year later, March 16, 1991, my family was gathered together in a memorial service for him... And it was on this morning that my Papo died.

To say my Papo was a larger than life character, at least to me, would be an understatement. I'm fortunate that, to this day, I still get to hear crazy Papo stories whenever my family gets together ( which happens less and less now). It seems he was always into something when he was younger. By the time I came around, he was older, walked with a cane, but we still managed to get into mischief. 

(both he and my dad, I think, passed away thinking THEY were each the first ones to give me my first sip of beer)

In the years before I started school (the years I can remember at least) I spent every day with my Mamo, Papo & Uncle Bobby, at their house, playing with my toys and making a mess. They never complained.

 I would also help Papo tend to the garden in the backyard as it was my job to stomp on the snails that were messing thing up ( I don't know HOW they were messing things up, but it kept me busy). 

More than anything else though, I remember being really little ( maybe 4 or 5 years old) and Papo turning on the tv and showing me the game of baseball, San Francisco Giants baseball to be specific. He and my Uncle Bobby explained the rules and all that and how The Dodgers were bums ( still are) and I was hooked. From then on, the Giants were my team. Sadly, he never got to see The Giants win that first World Series in 2010 but as they recorded that final out, I thought of him and all the other Giants fans that didn't get to see this and how they were there in spirit.
The love of the game, the love of the team... THAT was the greatest gift my Papo ever gave me.

I went back and forth all week, deciding if I was going to write something about the anniversary of their deaths. And if I did write something, would I even share it. I write this for nobody other than myself. 

Last week marked the anniversary of their deaths. And though the time I got to spend with each man was not nearly long enough I'd like to think they'd be proud of the man I've become, the man my Mom & my Uncle Bobby raised me to be... The life I've made ( and am still carving out for myself) and...  last but not least, I'd at least get a high five or a slap on the back from both for the beautiful woman I've found to love and who I can't wait to call my wife. 

I suspect they are doing just that, high giving and, okay, maybe having a few beers, and still looking out for me from above.

I love and miss both of you more than simply writing a few memories down could ever express, 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Large Marge

When I was little watching peewee big adventure and the part w/ large marge would come up, I'd ask my mom to come into the room and watch it with me, so I wouldn't be in the room by myself...thankfully she always did... 
Sadly, I can't watch Large Marge's ghost face to THIS day... seriously, when that part comes up, I look away... 

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