Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sometimes adventure sneaks up on you.

Sunday night I was watching a movie with my roommates until fairly late, and then checked my phone to find I had missed a call from my good friend, Erin Klein. Erin has been looking for a job for the last month or so, so when I listened to her message and all it said was, "I have a better idea than getting a job. Call me back," I was intrigued... but not enough to call her back that late. In retrospect, I wish I had.

So I finally called her back Monday afternoon to see what her brilliant idea was. She proceeded to tell me very passionately how much she wanted to apply to be on the TV reality show the Amazing Race, and that since I wasn't too attached to anyone or anything at the moment, she wanted me to be her partner. She then informed me that if we were going to apply we needed to put everything for the application packet together that night, because the applications were due the following day (Tuesday) at 5pm. She was planning on flying to California Tuesday morning to turn in the packet in person (thanks to her mom's Jet Blue flight benefits) and fly back the same day.

It took me only a few seconds to decide, "sure, why not?" And then I asked if her mom had a buddy pass I could have so she didn't have to go to California on her own. Sure enough she did. So, I told Erin I'd come over after work and we could start working on the applications and our 3-minute video.

While waiting out the last couple hours of work I went online to look over eligibility requirements for the Race, and saw that either a copy of a passport or proof of a request for a passport was required. My heart sank, because I had neither. I was about to call Erin and tell her to hold the plane reservation, but then I realized there were still a couple of hours before the passport part of the post office closed. If I leave right now...

I had half a thought to tell my boss I was sick as my excuse to leave early and use the same excuse the next day to explain my absence, but thought better of it and just told her the crazy truth instead: "Can I leave now so I can get a passport so I can fly to California tomorrow so I can be on a reality show?" Surprisingly, she was completely and totally supportive. For as spacey as she is, she's also a very free spirit.

So in the next several hours I applied for a passport, we filled out the 13 page applications, took pictures of ourselves and printed them, and made our 3-minute video of why we should be chosen. Our selling points were: a) we met working at a girls camp together where we learned a lot about resourcefulness and adaptability, b) we were single, unattached, and had useless bachelors degrees under our belts, and c) we were so intent on being considered that we FLEW to California to get the application in on time. This is the picture we included of us for the application:

After we got everything together we went to bed at midnight and woke up four short hours later to catch our flight at 6am. This is me, happy to be on the plane:

This is Erin, finishing her application while we wait for the plane:

This is what it looks like...

...when we're about here in our flight:

Long Beach Airport is essentially nothing more than a large relocatible. See, look:

So we landed and set out on our next task: trying to navigate the bus system. Erin had printed out basic instructions on how to get to the address on our package, so we started from there. We got on a bus which dropped us off at a Metro station, at which point we decided to go into Carl's Jr. to use the restroom. While politely waiting for an open stall, Erin and I exchange embarassed glances while we hear the unfortunate sounds of someone with SEVERE indigestion in one of the stalls. I use the restroom and as Erin is about to take my stall, a heavyset man emerges from the other stall and walks straight out the door. You heard me... a man, in the women's room. Furthermore, he didn't wash his hands before he made a beeline out the door. This was just our first encounter with the characters in the Long Beach area.

Next, we weren't sure we were getting on the right train, so Erin asked a man at our stop, "does this train go to Compton?" He merely nodded, so we shrugged and got on. As we found a seat I notice the man who had nodded sat right across from us, but Erin obviously didn't because she said rather loudly, "I'll bet that guy doesn't even speak English." I give her a look, and she realizes shortly thereafter that the guy was right next to us and had heard her comment. When we both made eye contact he smiled, pointed at a map on the bus, and said, "Compton." Erin just about melted into a puddle of embarassment while I laughed at her. This is the speed limit right outside the metro stop:

And this is Erin clutching our precious cargo, right before she put her foot in her mouth:

At the Compton stop we hopped onto another bus, but were wondering out loud whether it was the one going in the right direction. A handful of people on the bus told us that we were in fact on the wrong one and were all at the same time telling us how to get back onto the right track. Thanks, team metro 125!

This is me, once we HAD found the right bus. At this point we hadn't seen another white person for about half an hour:

We finally got off the bus about 45 minutes later in El Segundo. The bus had dropped us off on Main Street, and that was the address on the package. So we wandered up Main Street only a little ways until we hit our destination. It wasn't a big CBS studio and we weren't greeted by the producer of the show like we were hoping... in fact, it was a UPS store and we were greeted by a woman who had a big bucket of packages for the Amazing Race similar to ours. We consoled ourselves with the thought that surely no one else had come as far as we did to hand-deliver their package. But still, Erin was not as thrilled about it as she looks in this picture:

Well, our purpose for being there had been fulfilled, so we backtracked to familiar territory so we wouldn't get too lost for the rest of the day. On our way back to Long Beach we found this staircase at the metro stop:

At this same metro station I used a $20 bill to purchase a $1.25 metro pass, and ended up receiving $18 in Susan B. Anthony dollar coins. My purse was suddenly ten pounds heavier, and I was suddenly more inclined to give money to the homeless people who would ask for it, just to get them out of my purse.

Upon boarding the train we were shortly thereafter joined by these two characters. One, wearing a ball cap on top of a cowboy hat. The other, reading his paper with his face about two inches away from it, with a pair of perfectly good glasses in his left hand. These were the only two of the many characters we encountered that we were able to photograph without being noticed.

On this same train ride a black man with one prosthetic eye started talking to us like he was continuing a conversation he had already started (which perhaps he did, but we weren't privy to it.) He was telling us about how a lady in the train behind us had her purse stolen and was giving us all kinds of tips about how to keep that from happening to us, because we were white (still are, in fact) and seemingly easy targets. He then proceeded to tell us about how he had been mugged by three guys, one of which had cracked him in the back of the head with a baseball bat and had knocked his eye clean out of his head and into his hand. He painted quite the picture, and we got the message: if we wanted to keep our purses and eyes in tact, keep them close and be careful.

After finding our way back to Long Beach we ate a quick lunch from Albertsons (after our encounter with Mr. Indigestion in the women's room we didn't dare eat at any of the fast food establishments around us), and then boarded a bus that we thought was taking us south toward the ocean and the Aquarium. It was in fact heading north, which I didn't figure out until about 20 minutes into the bus ride, so we hopped off the bus and waited for the one coming in the other direction. It was at this point that the 2 or so hours of sleep we had received the night before was starting to catch up to us, and Erin discovered this under the lid of the Sobe drink she had. It pretty much summed up how we felt about the Long Beach area generally:

We finally made our way to the Aquarium and saw a lot of cool things. My favorite part was the touch pools, where they allowed us to touch rays and sharks and sponges and things like that. Here's Erin demonstrating:

After the Aquarium we made our way over to the rocky shore and sat, staring out into the ocean for 45 minutes or so. Then we took our buses back to the airport, and ended up landing back in Salt Lake at 10:45pm.

It was a lot of fun and we had a really good time, and it gave us a taste of what navigating strange cities will be like if we do indeed make it on the Amazing Race. It also gave me a greater appreciation for everything I have, because spending the day on California public transit and being surrounded by those who were pretty severely without made me realize how blessed I truly am. But more importantly, it made me realize how I really should learn how to tell North from South without the Wasatch mountains to guide me before I attempt any kind of Race, Amazing or otherwise.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The predictable Thanksgiving post

I feel like I'm in a fairly selfish part of my life. I seem to justify focusing on my own needs by telling myself that I need to find some kind of stability in MY life before I can help anyone else with theirs. This is bogus thinking and I recognize that, but it's an easy pattern to fall into.

Consequently I do my share of unneccessary complaining. So in order to counteract this bad ju-ju that I send into the universe, I thought I'd make a list of things I'm grateful for, especially lately. This list is not comprehensive and is in no particular order.

My knowledge of who I am, where I came from, and what I'm doing here (the Gospel of Jesus Christ.)
Blankets (my house is kept at a less-than-cozy 65 degrees.)
My silly, silly family.
My wonderful friends (that's you guys! You made the list!)
My sense of responsibility (thanks Dad!)
My tailor-made trials.
Popcorn (my life-long vice.)
Costa Vida chicken salads (my recent vice.)
Living in a country with freedoms, rights, and privileges.
Having a house to come home to, regardless of temperature (I spend a lot more time around the homeless than I used to.)
A job (not always MY job, but having one at all.)
The 18 months I spent as a missionary (the most invaluable 18 months of my life).
The countless wonders and beauties of the world (I've been watching the Planet Earth series again.)
My health.
My sense of humor (again, thanks Dad. I blame all the especially goofy things I say on him.)

There's a lot more and I could go on, but this covers the basics. I hope each of you had a good Thanksgiving and that your holidays are looking bright. If not, let me know and I'll see what I can do to arrange some brightening.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wise guy, huh?

Many of you who read this blog regularly have been the recipient of one of my token lectures. For whatever reason I like to convince myself that I'm the authority on how people should behave and I take whatever opportunity I can to inform people of what they're doing wrong. I really don't know where I get the nerve, and I'm a lot better about it than I used to be, but I still catch myself doing it sometimes.

Some of these lectures boiled down to one or two sentences include:
  • If you're not happy with your circumstances, change them. You aren't as powerless as you convince yourself you are.
  • Belittling yourself is the cheapest way to get attention from someone and, in truth, makes people want to spend less time with you. Choose a new attention strategy because it's not working, and I refuse to encourage your behavior.

  • The liberalization of women has led to the feminization of men. Women have had to learn how to make themselves happy which terrifies the initiative out of men.

  • You are not an incomplete person just because you don't have a significant other. (See The Missing Piece Meets the Big "O" by Shel Silverstein)

Anyway, I give a general apology to the universe for the times that I may have sat any of you down and lectured you about social graces. Any time I get on any one of these soap boxes something happens shortly thereafter to humble me and remind me that I have no excuse to be telling ANYONE how to behave.

Tonight I rediscovered a really neat book I own called The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All Time (In Two Lines or Less) edited by John M. Shanahan. So, to make recompense for the times I've given any of you pride-prompted wisdom, I now give you some actual wisdom from people whose reputations in history have withstood the test of time:

How many people become abstract as a way of appearing profound!
- Joseph Joubert 1752-1826

The man who can't dance thinks the band is no good.
- Polish Proverb

Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.
- Thomas a' Kempis 1380-1471

What was hard to endure is sweet to recall.
- Continental Proverb

Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement.
- Alfred Adler 1870-1937

We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done.
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-1882

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
- Henry David Thoreau 1817-1862

Those are just a few of my favorite ones. It makes me wish my thoughts would come out so eloquently.

Short summary of what I've been up to: work, raking leaves, and Jazz games (3 in the last 2 weeks, thanks to a generous roommate who works for them).

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Home on the range

My roommate is in the market for a horse. She found a few baby horses for sale in Evanston, Wyoming and decided to take a morning trip out there on Saturday morning to see them, and I decided to tag along.

One of the horses nibbling at my camera case.

First of all, it was an awfully windy day on the Wyoming plains. And with everything once green now dead and winter swiftly approaching it wasn't the most colorful of landscapes (though some people tell me that's how it always looks year round). My roommate and I discussed how the pioneers crossing the plains must have gotten to Wyoming and said "Zion my frostbitten foot! I'm going back!" But for some reason, the barren openness of it all was also endearing. Or maybe it's the lifestyle that is so prevalent in such open areas that I find so intriguing.

This ranching family who was selling the horses had no doubt been up since before dawn. I doubt any of them had watched more than the evening news on TV for many years now, and they talked a lot about the land while we were there and spoke of their horses as children. I wished for a moment I could live that life... and then a bone-chilling gust of wind would blow and I'd change my mind.

This is their dog. The reason you only count three legs in this picture is because he only HAS three legs. But man, I've never seen a better cattle-chasing dog in my life! And, he was very friendly.

That's all I have time for now, but hopefully I'll have time later today to post on some more of my adventures as of late.

Friday, November 2, 2007

The clouds of apostasy are parting...

...or are they gathering more darkly?

I grew up a gameshow fanatic. I went to a year-round elementary school and would spend my daytimes while off-track watching the same daily line-up of gameshows: Supermarket Sweep, Shop 'til you Drop, Win Lose or Draw, Name that Tune, Hollywood Squares, and Press Your Luck. But these were all merely ways to pass the long weekdays until Saturday mornings would roll around, and my favorite gameshow of all time would come on: American Gladiators.

I don't know what it is about this steroid-induced, big-haired, patriotic spandex fest that entranced me so, but it did. When my younger brother and I would get really mad at each other we would take our argument to the trampoline and engage in what we referred to as "Greer Gladiators" (the only rule being that the first one to bleed or to cry lost.) Also, I had my gladiator name all picked out in case they needed me: Bonzai. Yes, I'm aware that I'm not Asian. Now.

Anyway, I've recently read something that informs me that "they" are bringing back American Gladiators to prime-time television within the next couple of months. I'm filled with mixed emotions... happy that I will be reunited with the show I once loved so dearly (and still enjoy watching reruns of on ESPN Classic), but I know that it just won't be the same. In fact, if it's anything like what the reinvented $100,000 Pyramid was like (hosted by Donny Osmond), I would rather not see it at all.

So I submit this question to my readers... if you were a gladiator, what would your name be? Or do you have favorite gameshows you grew up watching?