Achievement Unlocked: Gone Skydiving →

"I will NEVER go skydiving!"

All my life, I've considered myself scared of heights. It wasn't until a hot air balloon ride that I realized it's not really the height that scares me; it's that gut-sinking sensation you get when free falling that I couldn't handle.

Over the years, I had a theory that with skydiving, that gut-sinking feeling should only last for a few seconds. After that, the body will adjust, and I'd be able to enjoy the experience.

That was the theory anyways. So over the years, my original vow to never go skydiving slowly became a "maaaaaaybe."

This summer, a bunch of my childhood friends from Saudi Arabia decided to have a reunion in Hawaii, so I figured if there's ever going to be a place where I'd want to go skydiving in my lifetime, it would have to be Hawaii.

"It's not hitting me yet…"

Everyone who's skydived (skydove?) says the exact moment it hit them is the instructors swing the plane door open. Funny thing though: our plane didn’t even have a door!

For the longest time leading up to it, I kept thinking, "This hasn't really hit me yet..." Even after skimming through the legal paperwork, watching the instructional video, strapping up, taking off the plane runway...all those little moments were barely building up my anxiety. But there never was a single a moment I thought of backing out.

Up in the air, I'm taking the time to admire our flight tour along the northern coast of the Big Island. The the lush green island plant life, the gorgeous shades of ocean blue, and the beautifully clear skies that I never get to see in LA. I'm nervous, but it still hasn't hit me quite yet.

Then I see my friend Liz scooching towards the edge with her instructor, tucking herself into a little cannonball. I'm confused because we didn't talk about that position on the ground…I'm just watching her in position, trying to figure out what they hell they're doing, and in a blink, she's falling out of the plane.

And when I say "falling out of the plane," I'm not talking about how someone at the swimming pool jumps off a diving board into the air, decelerates as they hit their peak, and gracefully falls into the water. I swear, from what I saw, Liz went from 0 to 60 just like that.

That was the moment it hit me.

"Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit."

Surprisingly, I still had no second thoughts of backing out whatsoever. The whole time I'm thinking to myself, “OMG THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING.”

Then it's my turn. My feet are dangling off the side of the plane, my head is resting back on my instructor's shoulder, and the air is hitting against me the same way it hits you when you stick your hand out of a moving car.


Next thing I know, my body is horizontal and Planet Earth is rushing towards my face at full speed. The instructions were to keep my head tilted back but I couldn't help it, I had to look down. Oh, and one more thing…I FORGOT HOW TO BREATHE. You can see it in the video, for those three seconds that I'm looking down, I'm not breathing.

You know that feeling you get when you're watching a horror movie and the monster jumps out at the camera? There's that momentary shock where your body is paralyzed. It only lasts for half a second, but you can feel your heart skip a beat and your diaphragm freezing up. It was just like that but much longer.

Three seconds into the jump, I flashback to the girl on the ground telling me, "if you forget how to breathe up there...SCREAM." I pull deep from within and force myself to scream. I'll never forget how hard that was.

Now that I'm breathing normally and over the initial shock, I know the ground is rushing towards me at 129 miles per hour but it seems to be moving much slower. I notice all the little fluffy clouds shooting past me. I can see how high up the volcano is compared the rest of the island. In this very moment, I'm living above the clouds and the horizon just seems so much bigger than I've ever noticed before.

(Side note: in the video, when you see me glancing at my Apple Watch, that's me checking my heart rate, lol. On the plane it was in 95ish beats per minute and in free fall about 103.)

Towards the end of my free fall, a big ‘ol cloud moves right into our path. I could’ve sworn I read somewhere that diving into clouds was somehow dangerous, so I'm all questioning this like, "Uhhhhh." We dive into the cloud anyway, and it's white out for me, like a dense fog where you can’t see anything past your headlights.

In the middle of the cloud, my instructor pulls the cord to open the parachute. You can see in the video, when he opens the parachute, the camera view twists all over the place.

If there was ever a moment I legitimately thought I was going to die, this was it.

I can't see in front of or above me because of the cloud, so for that brief moment, I seriously think our parachute got all tangled up and we're about to die.

Thankfully we straighten out and we're out of the clouds so it's back to clear skies for me. I'm in complete awe of what just happened and what's still happening. Other than a couple unexpected hard turns in the air, it was just coasting through a victory lap all the way til we touched down to the ground.

Closing Thoughts

I used to think "living in the moment" meant doing random, crazy, spontaneous shit. Over the years I've learned what it really means is fully immersing yourself in — and appreciating the tiniest details — all experiences as they happen.

Of the 35 total seconds of free fall, I’d say the first 10 seconds of it was pure adrenaline/shock, and the rest of it was me truly living in the moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

I can't wait to do it again.

Tilted Kilt, Coming Soon Sun Sentinel

Sam's Tilted Kilt Coming Soon! →

Marci Shatzman, Sun Sentinel:

The turn lane is done, the building is up and the new Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery on Airport Road with a walking path to the movies anticipates a Jan. 19 opening.

The Celtic-themed sports bar will seat 317 diners indoors and out, with more than 60 TVs, 10 on a 1,500-foot patio under cover "with a real roof and people will be protected if the wind picks up or it rains," said first-time franchisee Samir Changela of Delray Beach. His management crew has 30 years of experience, he said.

The inside bar will seat 25, but patrons shouldn't expect a noisy room, said Changela. "Our ceiling has noise reduction insulation to absorb the reverb and echo, and we even did soundproofing on the patio," he said.

Another location of the casual dining spot opened at 219 S. Andrews Ave. in downtown Fort Lauderdale in November. Changela's site at 3320 Airport Road not only has high visibility from Interstate 95, but there's also a walkway from the parking lot of Cinemark Palace 20 and XD.

The owner thinks that's a big plus, and hopes to attract moviegoers looking for a burger, wings and a beer early or late, not to mention students. "We'll be open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on the weekends," he said.


Years ago, my closest homeboys and I made a pact...

If we're all still bachelors at the age of 35, we'll all quit our jobs and travel the world together. We'll all go to the same country, stay there until one of us finds a wife, and then move on to the next country. We'll do this until all of us are engaged.

We called it, The International Wives Tour.

Tonight I find out that one of my homeboys just proposed to his girlfriend. The first of our tight circle to take the plunge. The hardest partier of us all is finally settling down.

I'm absolutely mindblown right now but in the happiest way possible. I've attended several weddings already, but the happiness hits you so much harder when it's a close friend that you've grown up with for YEARS.

My boy is all growns up now.

Congratulations, Samir.

See you at the bachelor party. (;

Thank you, everyone!!

Thank you, everyone, for all the birthday wishes! I feel so young turning 21 again for the 7th straight year! My phone would NOT stop buzzing all day cuz of all the @replies, facebook notifications, tumblr posts and text messages...birthdays like yesterday remind me how blessed I am.

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Hopefully I got everyone in here that gave me a shoutout (over 240!?!). Love you all! <33


Oregon Reunion '08

// Due to my crappy internet, I'm gonna have to keep this blog post very, very short...

Thanks for your patience, everyone. It took me a few days longer than expected but 300 photos are up on my Flickr! (There's actually a total of 853 photos and videos which I'll make available for download soon)

What can I say? It was a very chill reunion, filled with a lot of nostalgia and laughter; it was a nice change of pace for once, compared to our past wild reunions. Once again we find ourselves as a group of people in the middle of no where, doing what we do best -- chilling, drinking and finding ways to amuse ourselves.

The highlights of the reunion are all in the photos.


Loren: you'd think it was only us kids that were drinking and partying but really it's just the adults were a lot better at dodging us than we were at them.

Mel: petting the dogs
Alan: hey Loren, do you have any peanut butter? (Reference to the movie Road Trip)

Mel: quick, deep, hollow fart
Samir: what?
Loren: dude, was that your ass??
Samir: oh shit! I thought he said "yo"

Re-Created Picture of the Moment:

In Closing...

In the movie Garden State, a wise Zach Braff one said:

Home is so much more than just a house to put your shit in.

The more I think about that quote, the more I realize how true it is. Home isn't just a house. It's not just a town. It's a time. A moment. It's the people around you in a certain phase of your life. It's the world in the eyes of someone before all that real world stuff.

Home is an experience when you're there, and a state of mind when you're not.

Let's face it, none of us will ever truly be able to "go back." Even if we decide to go to that Ar@mco sponsored reunion in Saudi next year, it wouldn't be the same. It's not that same time and it's not the same place.

But the people -- us -- we'll always have. And that will never change.

Maybe that's what 'family' really is: a group of people that miss the same imaginary place.

View Photos (289) | Downloads & Videos coming soon!