Monday, February 28, 2011

Friends: Old, New and Found

Skyler plays at Box Canyon in Yorba Linda.
This is my 700th post so I'm going to postpone the sad story I was going to tell and instead celebrate my recent visit with friends. Kirk and I vacationed in Southern California last week where I reconnected with grown women I knew as little girls. Now, they all have little-ish ones of their own and the cycle begins anew.

Here's Lisa's little girl, Skyler, learning to ride a bike without training wheels - an historical day:

And Kath's daughter, Emma "The Mighty Gumdrop" Teager dressed as John Hancock for a school project:

I can't wait to see Kath's son Devin play in the World Cup. Seriously, the kid's got talent. After a wonderful visit with The Teagers, we cruised down the gorgeous 241 Highway and visited with a girl I met in kindergarten, Chrissie Adams. Our friend Lisa Ground came over and the reminiscing began:

Some things never change.

Then, Kirk had to attend a work-related event in West Hollywood, so I made Diane come along to keep me company at the bar:

Later on, Susie joined us and regaled us with stories from The Wild 90s. Seems so long ago now.

Eventually, we made our way up to Santa Barbara, where I reconnected with Michelle and Chrissie, two sisters who have been my friends since we were 8 or so:

I also got to meet Michelle's new beau, Steve, who is lovely:

And Chrissie's friend, Tammy Sue, who was featured in one of my favorite shots from the trip:

Anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to collectibles, I prefer high quality humans.

Animals too. I don't know this guy but we saw him at a rest stop outside Ojai and I couldn't resist. I called the dog "Sweet Pea" - as I do most animals - only to discover it was her actual name.

Turns out we were friends too - just hadn't met before.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monster Truck FAIL

I enjoy film festivals and science seminars as much as the next girl but now and then, something from the redneck category has its place. So, Kirk purchased tickets for the Monster Truck Rally at the Pepsi Center because we thought it'd be a HOOT.

We'd both experienced monster truck shows before so we knew what to expect. I had gone with my father in Seattle years ago and I'll never forget watching a giant truck literally bite the spoiler off a Porsche Turbo. In my high-octane brain, I'm sure it represented one class system sticking it to the other; I found it deeply satisfying.

But things have changed and entertainment standards have been significantly lowered. The show began at 2 p.m. and for the next 45 minutes, we sat in our seats, stupified. One by one, excessively obese trucks made their slow entrance into the seemingly tiny dirt stage and one at a time, performed one single trick - driving over a line of cars until the fat body pointed high, exposing the truck's undersides. It was somewhat interesting the first 10 times but those giant axles all start to look the same after awhile.

There was no racing. No speed. No dirt flying. Instead, we were directed to the TV screens above to watch an endless stream of commercials, ads for sponsored crap being sold within the walls of the Pepsi Center. We couldn't believe it. "Um, did we leave our beautiful home to come here and watch TV?" I finally said. Kirk just gaped, incredulous.

Every time the engines would rev, we'd say, "Okay, for sure now, they are going to do something exciting." Nope, just noise. Not one speck of dirt would besmirch those perfect paint jobs - it was shameful.

In a sad attempt to make the "sport" seem legitimate, a mystifying point system was added but never explained. Even worse, the drivers would get out of their trucks to be interviewed by some ESPN wanna-be. The drivers were asked about their feelings, their trucks, their feelings about their trucks. Oh, it was awful.

At one point, a slick silver motorcycle thing came out with flames shooting out of it. "COOL!" we thought. It then did one slow lap around the dirt. The driver then got off and held up his arms to the crowd, which roared in approval. I refused. "Wait, why are we clapping? Because he didn't fall off? I don't get it." 

More commercials. Then, some guy in orange board shorts stood in the dirt and started dancing badly and singing horribly. I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. It was the same facility where I saw the Dalai Lama speak and I can assure you that watching an old man sit in a chair was about 8.5 million times more exciting that what I was watching that day. 

Kirk and I looked around at the other attendees, thinking surely they would be upset as well but they just looked like drooling zombies, content with commercials, mind-numbing chatter and idle trucks too fat to do anything at all except nearly tip over. I commented out loud, "I just can't believe it" and the young guy next to me chimed in, "I know, isn't this great?!" It was all so symbolic of where we are as a country - fat and dumbed-down. Try as I might, I just couldn't ignore it.

Let's face it, one-third of Americans are obese - that's 102 million people. Our physical activity and couch passivity have created a society plagued with diabetes and heart conditions. Meanwhile, our student test scores drop as we regularly get our asses kicked by China and India in manufacturing. Watching those giant behemoths do the same stupid thing over and over and over again while the crowd roared their approval between commercials, made me depressed. Holy shit, aren't things supposed to improve over time and not get worse?

Finally, we could take it no more and got up to leave, amazed that others were not following. As I walked to the ladies room, intermission was announced. "Intermission from what?" I wondered aloud. Kirk was beyond upset. I asked him how much he paid for the tickets. "Too much," he said, shaking his head. "I will never tell. Never, ever, ever."

The deflating experience did give me a new appreciation for the rodeo, which delivers constant dangerous action at a constant pace. The only 'commercials' we are forced to watch is the occasional pretty horsewoman riding a handsome steed while holding a sponsor flag - harder than it looks, trust me. And maybe 10 seconds each? Seems a small price to pay for the variety of events and the seamless production value.

 So yeah, Kirk and I feel completely duped and we won't be making the same mistake again. It's another reminder that bigger and slower is not better. Not ever.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Night Skiing

Photo by Brian J. Gibson.
Before this weekend's memories overtake the previous weekend, I need to share this feeling. Sometime last year, my pal, Camille, bid on a weekend ski condo package in Keystone to benefit the Center for Native Ecosystems. Being a generous soul, Camille opted to share her bounty with me, Kirk and another lovely couple, Mike and Michelle. 

View from our balcony.
I'd never been to Keystone but our condo was literally at the bottom of the slopes. We pretty much walked out the front door and got in the lift line - amazing. Though we didn't hit the slopes until 10:30 a.m. (we partied a wee bit the night before), we still had the entire day ahead because the slopes do not close until 8 p.m.

That's right, Night Skiing, baby!

The last time I had skied at night was in the 80s, which means I recall no details, only that it was surreal. Still, my 11:30, by legs were killing me and I didn't think I could last.

We stopped for lunch and persevered through a ground blizzard until about 2:30 p.m., when Kirk left the slopes out of concern for his right knee, which he'd hurt in the past. I opted to remain for a few more runs - didn't want to waste the pricey lift ticket and the beautiful, if not moody, Colorado day.

And so, up and down I went, sticking to blues/greens, for I have nothing to prove and need my body for future adventures. To my surprise, my legs stopped hurting and I was starting to hit my groove. Again and again, I'd ski down the mountain with the thought, "This will be my last run." Again and again, I'd say to myself, "Wellllll, maybe just one more."

This went on and on, until about 4:30 p.m. when the night lights came on and I remembered the Night Skiing. Holy cow, I can't leave now! And so, I skied for another two hours on nearly empty slopes and it was the most fun I've had in much too long.

Photo compliments of
With what felt like the entire mountain all to myself, I skied from one pail green spotlight to another, whizzing and turning like a skier who - for that day anyway - knew what she was doing. (Somehow, I never did fall.) It was glorious - I did NOT want to stop.

Riding up in the pitch-dark gondola with other skiers, we couldn't believe our luck:
"Isn't this great!" 
"The snow is perfect!" 
"There's nobody here!"
"I'm not even that cold, are you?" 

Understand that there are a few things that captivate Coloradoans. After nearly five years here, I feel comfortable listing the Top 5:
  1. Skiing/Snowboarding
  2. Denver Broncos
  3. Outdoor Adventures: hiking, biking, mountain climbing, etc. 
  4. Religion
  5. Skiing/Snowboarding
Oh, I love skiing, don't get me wrong but the long drive and ensuing traffic, the cost (Keystone full day lift ticket, including night skiing: $97), the gear (I have my own but many have to rent), the effort to get all the gear on and the day-long exertion all makes one ask: Is this even worth it?

As I whooshed down those slopes on Saturday night, the answer was a resounding YES! Because nobody was around, I felt comfortable yelling at the top of my lungs things like, "WHEEEEE!" and "GOD BLESS COLORADO!" Why don't I do this more often? The experience was exhilarating. Traveling in the dark at high speed, propelled only by the laws of gravity and your own body? Nothing beats it.

Eventually, I started to worry that my pals back at the condo were holding up dinner on my account. When I finally decided to call it a day, I came limping 'home' to a roomful of friends cheering my stamina.

Getting those boots off was like giving birth, I tell ya, it felt like they'd been welded to my skin, but a cold Corona and a hot tub in the snow were my rewards. Oh, that and the feeling that I had just had my best day of skiing in my life.

As for the state-wide skiing obsession, I think I get it now. Big thanks to Camille and Kirk for making it happen.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Starting From Scratch

Resume t-shirt compliments of Popgadget.
As positive as I feel about 2011, it has begun with a job hunt. I had received the distressing news just a few days before Christmas that my main client was going under and my services would no longer be needed.

So after a few weeks of denial, I've finally dug up my ancient resume. After blowing off a substantial layer of dust, I tweaked it a bit, updated the entries and sent it to a couple of close friends. Feedback included everything from "Make your name bigger" to "This needs to be completely redone."

It was then I realized I had not used a resume since 2000, just after the dotcom boom. And even then, just barely.

Back then, I was laid off in the first wave of employee bloodletting that soon took over the Bay Area like a pink slip tsunami. Because the 'crash' had not yet sunk in, I did not panic. Instead, I simply updated a few paragraphs, posted my resume on a new site called and ran off to Burning Man. When I came back, I had a job.

Flash forward eleven years and much has changed. When I recently posted an ironic question on Facebook, "Do they still send out resumes on fancy paper?" I was being facetious. Most folks did not get the joke and kindly informed me that they "send them out on email now." Who knew? (Still waiting impatiently for that sarcasm font....)

So thanks to my scary-smart pal, Gins, I am now tasked with digging deep into my past, listing every media source that held my by-line, every amazing event I coordinated, every bizarre volunteer gig, and most importantly, every big name client that I ever handled. I dug through file cabinets, magazines, newspapers, videotapes, radio sound files and photographs. Turns out, I've done a lot.

After 30 years of working, my experiences vary from handling Fortune 500 execs to putting on exotic $100K Hollywood parties. Of course, it also includes hanging out with super charming cows, publishing front page photos, orchestrating media for Snoop Dogg and exploring Phyllis Diller's wig room...interviewing rock musicians and photographing cowboys...putting on film festivals and launching factories...creating improv comedy benefit shows and reviewing restaurants and films....being a limousine chauffeur and photographing the Kentucky'-cetera. 

I don't mean to brag but Gins has informed me that this is exactly the time to brag. And it turns out that while I'm a superb promoter for other entities, I am less skilled at promoting myself. I was raised by Midwesterners, after all. Despite my giant ego, I can usually get it to stop just short of being obnoxious. (I said, usually.)

My brother is the same way. Despite his hard-to-ignore good looks, he has never let a single one of the million compliments actually sink in, which is why he's also charming as well. It's a great trick and one I've learned well from. Know all the incredible facts about yourself but try not to actually believe them.

So now I am tasked with trying to summarize my entire 'life's work', as it were, into something I can spit out in a sentence or two. How to explain it all? The question remains: What is it exactly that I do?