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Riding the Flume Trail in Tahoe is Insane

My sisters and I meet up at our family cabin in Incline Village (Tahoe) every summer for a week, and we’re continually looking for new and exciting adventures to keep our kids occupied. I am not one to sit on a beach and do nothing all day, so when a friend suggested taking the kids on a mountain biking adventure I decided to check it out.

My friend Greg recommended the Flume Trail in Tahoe, saying it would be a great ride for the kids and everyone would enjoy it. Now let me just point out that Greg rides his mountain bike five days a week, and he considers a 5-mile ascent at a 45-degree angle a fun ride, so I should have taken this fact into consideration before dragging my family into this adventure, but I didn’t.

We honestly didn’t know much about the Flume Trail ride so we called the Flume Trail Bike Shop the night before we planned to ride and asked a few questions, like how hard is this ride really. The answer was a bit vague being, “Oh there’s a bit of a hill at the beginning, then a few miles of flat terrain, and then a few miles of downhill.” We would soon find out that this was the understatement of the year.

The ride begins at Spooner Lake at 7000 feet and climbs to 8157 feet at the summit. If the hills don’t get you the altitude will.

FACT: The first FIVE miles of the adventure to get to the head of the Flume Trail is uphill.

This is no joke.  I spent the first five miles of the “ride” walking with my 14-year old daughter who was so frustrated with the climb that she literally gave up and sat down on the dirt trail. It took me about two hours to talk her out of turning around and get her up to the summit. My 21-year old son and 12-year old son were able to ride up most of the five miles with a few exceptions, but they had to wait 90 minutes for us at the summit.

FACT: If you have to stop for any reason you will be eaten alive by mosquitoes.

My daughter spent the first five miles swatting at flies and mosquitoes and shouting, “I am not an outdoors person!”

The next couple of miles past the summit were a walk in the park compared to that first five miles of hills. We really enjoyed the easy miles of trail that winded along the edge of Marlette Lake. However, the cakewalk was short lived, because you see the actual Flume Trail is 4.5 miles of single track trail hugging the side of a mountain with a 1600-ft drop off.

FACT: People with a fear of heights should NOT ride the Flume Trail.

This part of the ride is not family friendly. There is one place on the trail where you actually have to pick your bike up and carry it over a pile of large boulders.

The last few miles of the adventure are all downhill on loose sand and gravel, which is a challenge. But when you’ve been riding the last 4.5 miles on the edge of a cliff it’s a welcome change of pace even if it is harder to keep your bike upright.

All seven of us arrived at the end of the trail (at the Ponderosa Ranch) relatively unscathed, but incredibly thirsty, because you see we all ran out of water after that first 5-mile climb and had to ride the last 10 miles with no water.

FACT: You will need three bottles of water per person if you want to stay hydrated on this ride.

Four of the seven of us said we would do the ride again if we were more prepared. I would have absolutely loved this challenging ride had I not spent the entire time trying to talk my kids through it. So if you want to do this ride take my advice:

  • Park at the Ponderosa Ranch parking lot and take the shuttle to the Flume Trail Bike Shop where you can rent a well-equipped mountain bike.
  • Bring your own riding gloves, because they run out of loaners early in the day.
  • Pack three bottles of water per person.
  • Bring ample snacks, as you will be burning in excess of 1500 calories on this ride.
  • Pack a small first aid kit, because the only way you can get help if you’re injured is to have someone ride back to the bike shop, which could take hours.
  • An experienced rider may be able to finish the ride in under two hours, but it took us five hours, so keep that in mind.
  • Wear lots of sport sunscreen and a good pair of sunglasses to keep the dirt, dust and sun out of your eyes.
  • Apply mosquito repellent liberally.
  • Do not bring children or inexperienced riders. This is a moderately difficult ride.
  • Rent a place with a hot tub because you’ll want a long soak afterwards.

Happy trails!

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Sitting with the Geeks at The Hunger Games World Premiere

Hunger Games SutherlandI am one of the few people on the planet who has already seen the Hunger Games movie. I have never had more people–men, women and children–ask to be my date until the day I found out I would be getting a ticket to the premiere. The key word in that sentence is “a” ticket. I got ONE.

It all started back in August of 2011 when I accepted a job at Crowd Factory, which is a company whose product is social media widgets. My boss is the one who divvies up the accounts, and I was privileged enough to end up with Lions Gate Films. So far I’ve been part of the social media teams for Abduction, One for the Money, Good Deeds, and now Hunger Games.

I spent most of last year eating, breathing and dreaming up ways to make the Hunger Games fans engage online. I worked diligently with some very creative people at Lions Gate and two external digital agencies. My tiny piece of the pie in all of the Hunger Games digital magic was the “Race for Mayor” campaign on the 13 District Pages (12 Districts and The Capitol) on Facebook.

At 4:30 am on Monday November 14, 2011, there was an open conference line for the incredible group of people with whom I had spent so much time building this amazing immersive experience with. When the Hunger Games movie trailer went live at 5am we simultaneously pushed 13 new Facebook tabs to the District pages on Facebook and held our breath, waiting to see if the fans would respond. The CTA (Call to Action) was simple: I Want to Run for Mayor!

Within a week there were thousands of fans running for mayor. They had created video campaigns on YouTube, and Facebook pages to get people to endorse them, because you see there was a hook. The fan who got the most endorsements would be elected mayor of their District on Facebook, and at the time what they didn’t know is that they would also be invited to attend the world premiere of the movie in Los Angeles.

On Monday March 12, 2012, I proudly sat in Row A of the Loge section at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles with a group of geeks I had spent countless hours on the phone with, but had never met in person. I was grinning from ear to ear when Joe Drake, the President of Lions Gate, came out on stage to introduce the movie and commented on how wildly successful the marketing effort had been for the film so far. According to Fandango, Hunger Games has outsold Twilight Eclipse in pre-sales, making it the most successful pre-sales movie on record.

Then the lights dimmed and adrenalin took over as some of us saw the film for the first time. After the credits rolled we all made our way to the after party. I watched the newly minted stars enjoy their exploding celebrity status, and the veterans like Donald Sutherland graciously pose for photos with everyone who asked, including me.

There were so many moments that evening that were once-in-a-lifetime type moments. The palpable anticipation in the theater before the first frame of the film appeared on screen, and the excitement when the final credits rolled and we all realized we helped create this phenomenon. But the moment that I will never forget was when someone who I really respect at Lions Gate introduced me to someone as a “social media genius.” That made the journey all worthwhile.

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Recent articles:

How ‘Hunger Games’ Built up Must-See Fever. - New York Times

‘Hunger Games’ Dominates Facebook, Online Ticket Sales – Mashable

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Will Run Hills for Wine

Dundee Wine Run 1When a girlfriend asks you to run a half marathon on her “birthday weekend” you can’t refuse. When she tells you it’s kind of hilly, but there’s a great after party, you just have to suck it up and sign up.

July 10th 2011, marked the second annual Fueled by Fine Wine One-Half Marathon held in Dundee, Oregon in the heart of wine country, and Team Bubbles was there to suffer and celebrate.

I picked up the Team Bubbles Captain (the birthday girl) at 5:30am to make the drive from Portland to Dundee, and we arrived with just enough time to drop off our post-race paraphernalia at a friend’s house, meet up with the other members of Team Bubbles and head to the park down the street for the 7am start. I knew I was in trouble when the first turn across the start line was straight up a 45-degree hill into a Dundee neighborhood. The paved road quickly turned into gravel when we turned off into a winery at Mile 2.

Then the fun began.

Running along dusty dirt paths between rows of vines reminds me of the fact that picking up the rear on a dusty road is never a desirable position to be in. I used the water at Mile 3 to wash the grit out of my mouth.

Dundee Wine Run 2

And Miles 4-12 weren’t much better. Some of the terrain was so steep that I could power walk it faster than I could run it. I heard more F Bombs uttered in this race than I have in any other race, including the three marathons I’ve run.

“Are you f*cking kidding me?! Another f*cking hill?!” was the mantra of the day.

At some point between Mile 12 and 13 we turned onto a paved road and encountered one of the few downhill portions of the entire route. Thankfully I still had a good kick left and sprinted the last mile of downhill to the finish line where the rest of Team Bubbles was already standing in line to collect their wine glasses for the after party. We quickly grabbed our glasses and went straight to the Argyle table for a glass of what else but bubbles.

Dundee Wine Run 3

I pity the poor people who chose this race as their very first half marathon. They have probably all hung up their running shoes and decided this whole half marathon thing just isn’t for them. Don’t give up! The Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon is just some crazy person’s idea of seeing how much torture runners will endure if there’s free wine at the end.  Apparently the answer is “a lot.”

We worked our way through the post-race nosh of salami, bread, cheese and brownies, and sampled plenty of wine. In the end we raised our glasses of bubbles in a toast to surviving the crazy course, and swore we’d never run this race again.

Team_Bubbles

Epilogue

The day after the race I drove 647 miles to Lake Tahoe. When I stopped to get gas after four hours of driving I could barely get out of the car, let alone walk. I have been running for 30 years, and I felt like I had just run a marathon for the first time. I lived on Advil for three days after this race. But like childbirth, you forget the pain, and even though we all said we would never do it again I’m sure you’ll see us standing in line at the wine tent after the race next year with dirt on our shoes and smiles on our faces.

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The Hillbilly Half

I’m training for the Napa Marathon in March, and as such I have to do a lot of boring long runs on the weekends. Don’t get me wrong, I do love doing a 10-12 mile run with the girlfriends every weekend, but when you’re training for a marathon those runs tend to be more like 18- 20 miles long and it gets old. We usually run out of things to talk about by mile 16.

So I suggested we ditch the long run this past weekend and do a race instead. The only half marathon we could find in Oregon in January was the Cascade Half Marathon in Turner. Where’s Turner you say? It’s just South of Salem, four miles from Aumsville, which is now famous for having a tornado rip through town a few weeks back.

CascadeHalf

We all met in Wilsonville at 7am to carpool to Turner. There were five of us packed into the car, and all the way to Turner the conversation went something like this.

“This weather sucks.”

“This is really going to suck.”

“I think we should do the 10k instead of the half.”

“This really sucks.”

We arrive at Cascade Junior High School in Turner at 8:15am and it is still pouring down buckets. There is no real signage anywhere to indicate we have arrived at the right place, so we just follow the steady stream of cars around the corner until we see someone in a fluorescent orange vest directing traffic.

We park and reluctantly get out of the car to make our way to packet pickup. Once again, there are no signs as to where the packet pickup is or where the start line is, so we just follow the droves of people and hope they know where they’re going.

We finally find the gym and the 900 other soaking wet people who are also picking up race numbers and getting ready to get even more soaked. It is now about 8:50am and the race starts at 9am. At this point we realize that none of us has actually seen anything that resembles a starting line, and we have no idea where we’re supposed to be.

Then someone announces over the school P.A. system, “We’re going to have to kick y’all out now to get the race started. Just head to the front of the school.”

All 1000 of us, minus the elite runners who opted for the early start so they wouldn’t have to deal with this cattle call, file through the gym doors to the front of the school. Thank heavens it has stopped raining for five minutes. I look over at my friend Kelly and say, “I bet there’s just a guy up there with a Nascar flag, and he’ll just drop it and say ‘go.’ Or maybe they’ll fire a real gun with live ammunition.”

Two minutes later, the runners start moving forward. No bull horn. No starting pistol. I think I was probably right about the Nascar flag.

We get to enjoy about 30 seconds of rain-free running and then the heavens open up as if to say, let’s just see how you do with soaking wet shoes and a 30-mph wind in your face.

I had heard this would be a nice flat race on country roads and it is. I am running by cows, and chickens, and sheep, and getting into my groove until someone yells, “Car!” WTF? Car? It seems that the race course is not closed to traffic, so we are sharing this 2-lane country road with all kinds of motor vehicles, including the one that is nipping at my heels before I hit the 1-mile marker.

Now that I know we’re sharing the roads with motor vehicles I am no longer able to bliss out on the lovely array of farm animals and hillbilly road kill. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. The entire race course was a Technicolor display of frogs, lizards, moles, and various other creatures who had picked the wrong time to try to cross the road. Who knew they had such vibrantly colored innards.

The halfway point of the race is a guy standing by an orange cone telling you to turn around. I have never been happier to see a turnaround in my life. I am soaked to the bone, and when I make the turn I am running directly into the wind. Oh goodie.

Remarkably it stops raining for 20 minutes, just in time for me to look up and see a pilot car coming down the road, followed by a double wide being pulled by a semi. I’m looking at how much space there will be between me and the multi-ton mobile home when it passes by, and quickly make the decision to get off the road all together, and run in the gravel until it passes. It turns out to be a smart decision when I see that one wall of the mobile home is just about directly lined up with the shoulder of the road when it passes by, and is probably going to take out a runner or two down the road if they’re not paying attention.

MobileHome

Four miles to go, and the rain starts again. Yeah, whatever, bring it on. I can’t get any more soaked than I already am.

Two miles to go. Nice headwind of about 30mph. So, yes the course is flat, and the scenery is lovely, but the weather sucks!

I finally see the high school up ahead, and there are no signs to indicate a finish line. I am dodging the cars of the 10k runners leaving the parking lot, as I try to make my way back to the front of the school. I started there, so I assume I finish there?

Ah yes, I see a row of plastic flags and a digital time display. There are no timing chips for this race, so there’s no such thing as an official time. If you cross the finish line first you get a prize. If you cross second, nobody knows or cares.

I sprint to the finish line, grateful to be done, grab my medal and head inside to find the rest of the gang.

We head to the cafeteria to get some post-race food, which turns out to be cafeteria chicken noodle soup and oatmeal cookies, which sounds just fine when you’re chilled to the bone.

We bitch some more about the weather, the cars, the wind, the roadkill and the mobile home. We change into dry clothes, jump into the car and head for home. And there’s one thing we all agree on, the Cascade Half in Turner will now be forever known to us as the Hillbilly Half.

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Zombies and Taxes and Tequila Oh My!

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the property tax bill comes in the mail on the very same weekend that Portland hosts the annual Zombie Walk and the Great American Distillers Festival.  The only way to deal with the sticker shock of our outrageous property taxes is to go for a long run, hang out with hundreds of zombies and then go get your drink on. I was prepared to do all of the above.

I was not looking forward to running 11 miles in the rain on Saturday morning, but I knew I would be a cranky bitch if I didn’t do it. I checked the radar on Wunderground and it looked like the first hour would be dry, and then the rain would start. I can deal with that. We started right at 7am, and as predicted it started raining promptly at 8am. I needed that runner’s high to get me through property tax hell.

I honestly don’t remember what I did between the time I finished my run and the moment I left the house to head downtown to walk with zombies, so it must have been totally irrelevant, but probably included laundry and other domestic drudgery that will not be documented here for the sake of brevity.

My friend Salena had advised me that the zombies would be gathering promptly at 4pm in Pioneer Courthouse Square, and that we should get there by 3:30 to get a good seat. It was going to be hella crowded this year because they were attempting to set a Guinness World Record for number of zombies worldwide, simultaneously dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Yes, this was a worldwide event.

This is what I saw when I arrived at Pioneer Courthouse Square:

Zombie Walk Portland

Zombie Walk Portland

Imagine trying to find someone in that crowd. Thank goodness for cellphones!

The zombies were fantastic.

Random zombie

Random zombie

The Jolly Green Giant Girl

The Jolly Green Giant Girl

Two zombies fighting over lunch.

Two zombies fighting over lunch.

And then there was this guy…

Business zombie
Business zombie
Check out the contacts.

Check out the contacts.

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And then we ran into Eddie. He thinks he’s Jimi Hendrix. He insisted on taking a bunch of pictures with Salena and me and then asked for money.

Eddie as Jimi Hendrix.

Eddie as Jimi Hendrix.

After the zombies dispersed Salena and I headed back to her car so she could give me a ride to the Distiller’s Festival. This was to be the final chapter of the distraction from the property tax bill.

The Distiller’s Festival had started at 11am, and it was now 5pm, so I figured I’d be walking into an event not unlike a drunken frat party at this point. I paid my $10, got my wrist band, picked up a shot glass and went inside to meet a few of my friends. I didn’t have to walk far to find them, because they were seated near the entrance taking a break, and looking like they’d already sampled half of the offerings.

You really half to pace yourself at these events, because if you don’t you will be passed out within 30 minutes. The trick is to not take a full shot at every booth! I think I probably tasted eight tequilas, five vodkas, one absinthe, a few liquors and a whiskey or two, and I did just fine.

The second trick to surviving these events is to plan to walk to dinner afterwards. My friends, who just moved here from New York, suggested Mediterranean food, Blue Olive to be exact. The restaurant just happens to be owned by a friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years, and I wasn’t even aware that he had moved his restaurant from the Beaumont area to NW 21st.

Homayoon, owner of Blue Olive.

Homayoon, owner of Blue Olive.

Blue Olive was the perfect choice for a post Distillers Fest nosh. We ordered a cold mezza to start that included baba ghanouj, humus, tzatziki, and olives. And of course the wonderful housemade Moroccan style bread. We then ordered a Greek platter to share: lamb kabobs, lamb chops, spanakopita, mousaka, dolmathes, falafel and the most amazing Basmati rice. My friends said it was better than anything they’d ever had in New York, and they are picky customers.

The only leftovers we had were two lamb bones, which we took for our dogs.

We rolled ourselves out of Blue Olive at about 10pm and started to walk back to my car, which was about 15 blocks away. We made a quick stop at the Backspace Cafe, which was hosting a poetry slam. The current contestant was just finishing his amazing delivery, and was about to get scored by the judges. At least two gave him a perfect 10.

We finally made it back to my car, a little soaked from the rain, but happy nonetheless. I dropped my friends back at their place in the Pearl District and headed back home to face the reality of my property tax bill. But for 12 glorious hours I had successfully managed to forget all about it.

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How to Win an Emmy: Add it to your Bucket List

I have a pie-in-the-sky bucket list. My bucket list contains very specific items like:

  • Sing karaoke in Tokyo while wearing a pink wig like Scarlett Johnasson in Lost in Translation.
  • Hot air balloon ride over Napa with someone I’m madly in love with.
  • Win an Academy Award.
  • Win an Emmy® award.

Well, okay, those last two aren’t very specific at all when you think about it. I never specified what kind of Academy Award or what kind of Emmy® I wanted to win. I just put it out there for the universe to chew on.

I spent last weekend in Hollywood: at the 62nd Annual Primetime Engineering Emmy® Awards, as the recipient of an Emmy®. Yes, really.

There are three  types of Engineering Emmys, and these are the definitions:

The Engineering Emmy®: This award is presented to an individual, a company, or an organization for developments in engineering that are either so extensive an improvement on existing methods or so innovative in nature that they materially affect the transmission, recording or reception of television.

The Engineering Emmy® Plaque: This award is presented to those achievements that exhibit a high level of engineering and are important to the progress of the industry.

The Philo T. Farnsworth Award: This award honors an agency, company or institution whose contributions over a long period of time have significantly affected the state of television technology and engineering.

This year they awarded ONE Engineering Emmy®, TWO Farnsworth Awards (one went to Desilu Studios if that gives you an idea of how prestigious this award is), and FOUR Engineering Emmy® Plaques.

Ensequence and Showtime were awarded the Emmy® Plaque for Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development for the Showtime Sports Interactive project, which I have been the technical operations lead on for the past 18 months.

I have submitted my application to become a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. You either have to win an Emmy® or get signatures from two sponsors in your peer group (mine is Interactive Media) to get approved. I did both just to hedge my bets!

I am still on Cloud 9.

Engineering Emmy Awards 2010

Right before I walked in.

Engineering Emmy 2010

Accepting the award with Showtime.

Engineering Emmy Awards 2010 Stage

Standing on the stage after it was all over.

Big Bang Theory Emmy

Our hosts for the evening, Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg of Big Bang Theory.

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The Emmys and Silversun Pickups

Let me just say that last Thursday was surreal. Wait a minute, let me back up a week or two.

The Emmy Nomination…

A few weeks ago I wrote in a Cheers and Jeers blog that a project I’m on had been nominated for an Engineering Emmy. The category we were in was tough, and the enthusiasm was tempered because of this. Nobody expected us to win.

And the Emmy goes to…

Well, we won! Ensequence (the company I work for) won a joint Engineering Emmy with Showtime for “Outstanding Achievement in Engineering Development” for Showtime Sports Interactive. I have been the technical lead on this project for the past 18 months so this is what I have been living and breathing for over a year.

Word in the hallways was that we would probably only get a few seats at the awards ceremony, so there was no way I was expecting to go. I assumed the CEO would go with the project manager or something.

Fast forward to last Thursday.

L.A. Bound…

I get an email (from someone I won’t name) asking if I’m available on August 14th to go to L.A. and attend the 62nd Primetime Emmy® Engineering Awards. Holy sh*t! It took me less than five seconds to reply, “YES!” And I spent the next three hours bouncing off the walls like a 5-year old on a sugar high, and texting all of my friends.

My company got two seats at the awards. TWO. And they decided to send me and the project manager, who is also a woman. That is so cool.

The 62nd Primetime Emmy® Engineering Awards will be hosted by none other than Simon Helberg And Kunal Nayyar of Big Bang Theory. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.

bigbangtheory

The Super Secret Silversun Pickups Concert…

Oh, I almost forgot about the second reason Thursday was so surreal. My friend Peter sent me a text asking me if I was going to the secret Silversun Pickups show, and he forwarded me the email with the clues from 94.7 KNRK. I had received the same email but hadn’t had any time to even open it. I read the clues, “Take the trolley to the Pearl…lips that are hot…” I immediately knew it was Hot Lips Pizza in the Pearl. So, I recruited my friend Joe to walk over there with me at 5pm to see if the Silversun pickups were really going to play a concert in the parking lot of the Ecotrust Building (where Hot Lips Pizza is located).

I think the pictures below speak for themselves. They came, they played, they jumped in a tinted-windows van immediately afterwards and headed to the Crystal Ballroom for sound check (they were playing a regular sold-out show there that night).

So let’s recap:

  1. I woke up and found out I was going to the Engineering Emmys.
  2. The day ended with a free concert by the Silversun Pickups,who played in a parking lot in the Pearl District.

SSPU take the stage in the Ecotrust parking lot.

Silversun Pickups Portland

Silversun Pickups Portland

Brian Aubert SSPU

Nikki Monninger SSPU

Three cyclists powered the show.

Cyclists SSPU

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Was I Really at Fry's or in Some Alternate Reality?

frys_logoI’m a list person. Shopping at Fry’s during their 25th Anniversary celebration was not on my list on Saturday, but I guess I missed the huge ad campaign they supposedly ran promoting this event.

If I tell my kids that I have errands to run, and then ask them if they’d like to join me, their normal reaction is to just pretend they didn’t hear me, which is exactly what happened on Saturday.

“Okay then. I’ll just see you guys when I get back from Fry’s,” I said casually as I grabbed for my purse and started heading for the door, knowing full well what their reaction would be.

You would have thought I yelled “Fire!”

“Fry’s?! Wait! Hold on! Just let me finish this level. I want to go,” said both of my previously deaf children.

We drove down to Wilsonville and pulled into the crowded Fry’s parking lot to find…red white and blue streamers and…a petting zoo. WTF?

“Is that a llama in the parking lot?” my daughter exclaimed.

“No, I believe that’s a miniature donkey,” I said, wondering what the connection was between the petting zoo and the anniversary.

We skipped the petting zoo, and walked through the front door to be greeted by a Fry’s employee who handed me a raffle ticket to win some huge TV, and pointed me in the direction of the live music and free popcorn.

I had my list. I was on a mission. How dare they try to distract me with live music, free popcorn and mutant animals in the parking lot. I put on my blinders and headed straight to the cell phone kiosk with my daughter, while my son headed straight to the game aisle. We all had our priorities.

My daughter’s phone contract had expired with AT&T, and I had been pretty stealth about making sure the mailers that showed up in my mailbox weekly made it to the recycle bin before she had a chance to see them.  I was enjoying the fact that the contract was expired and I wasn’t beholden to AT&T at the moment. But, one day she went to the mailbox before I got home, and there it was: the AT&T mailer showing the latest touch screen phone that could be hers if I just signed a new 2-year contract.

So, here we were at the AT&T kiosk, two weeks before her birthday, Mom caving in. She walked right up to the AT&T display and said, “I want that one.”

We were quickly approached by a Fry’s employee who’s name rhymes with Bill.

“Listen,” I said. “Is this phone really free or do I have to sign up for some data package or messaging package to get it? Because when I went into the AT&T store they said this required a data package if I wanted it for free.”

Bill informed me that the AT&T stores operate under different rules than resellers like Fry’s, and that Fry’s did not require a data package, and by the way this particular phone was part of the 25th anniversary special and was indeed free.

Score.

“Great,” I said. “We’ll take it. And do you have a replacement battery for this Blackberry Bold? I know it’s considered ancient by your standards since it’s an older model.”

Bill walked us to the battery aisle, found a replacement battery and walked us back to the phone kiosk so we could complete our phone upgrade.

“I need this phone battery, because I’m leaving for Italy on Tuesday and I don’t want my phone to die every two hours,” I said.

“I’m going to Finland in a week,” he answered, and then explained that his brother had been signed to play on a professional football team in Finland, and he was going to visit him in some city that started with a “J”  and was a couple of hours north of Helsinki. “Oh, Jyväskylä?” I said, because it was the first city I thought of that started with a J. He said he thought that was the place, but I think he may have been thinking of the word “jalkopallon” which means football in Finnish.

Back to business. He started trying to upgrade my phone, and noticed the AT&T plan I had. “Wow. I’ve never seen this plan before.” He called his colleagues over to take a look at it, and they were all scratching their heads.

You see, I have a plan that AT&T doesn’t have listed on their website, doesn’t advertise, and would probably deny its existence if you called and ask for it. It’s $19.99 a month. I got it because I called AT&T to try to reduce my daughter’s monthly phone bill somehow, and I just kept pushing and pushing until I had whittled down the phone plan to the bare minimum. My daughter wants to text her friends. They all live in the 503 area code. That’s it. She can call and text anyone she wants in the 503 area code for $19.99 a month. Excellent.

Because this plan doesn’t actually exist in their upgrade screen it required some manual intervention, which gave Bill and I some time to chat. Turns out Bill is going to law school, and judging from the way he finagled that free phone upgrade I’d say he’ll make a fine lawyer.

We swapped out the battery in my Bold, moved the SIM chip from my daughter’s old phone to the new phone, said our goodbyes and went on our merry way.

Next stop, laptop accessories. I needed a power adapter for the airplane. No, not because I want to work the whole way. I have Rosetta Stone on my laptop, and I want to practice my Italian.

Need an extra storage card for my camera. Check.

Time to head to the check out counter, which as you know requires you to walk the gauntlet of temptation. Fry’s knows geeks and their children well. You came to buy a wireless router, but they know you have a weakness for peanut M&Ms while you install that router. They know you’re going to take that new XBox 360 game home and play it for hours, and you will need sustinence. And they make you wait in that aisle for the next available register, giving your will power ample time to crumble.

I quickly walked through the candy gauntlet, kids behind me saying, “Mom, can I get something,” to which I replied, “No, no and no.”

By the time we got out of Fry’s it was nearly 5pm and the petting zoo was gone, which begs the question, was it really every even there in the first place? Was there really a 25th Anniversary celebration or was that just my alternate reality that day? Was Bill really an adorable law student working at Fry’s for fun while he lived off student loans and got his law degree? Does professional American football really exist in Finland?

If I win that giant TV I got a raffle ticket for I’ll believe it was all real. Until then I’ll believe I was in the Twilight Zone for a few hours that day.

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Mother's Day is about Running, Friends, Shopping and Wine

I knew I was going to be spending time with my kids on Mother’s Day, so I took some time the day before to do what I wanted to do. Because, after all, isn’t Mother’s day about pampering Mom?

I got up at 5:30am on Saturday morning to do what I thought was going to be a 12-mile run. But when I met my faithful running buddies in the parking lot of the Centerpointe Starbucks, they informed me they had re-mapped the route and it was now well over 13 miles. “Fine,” I said, “Can you spare an Advil?”

It was a beautiful morning, and the route was fairly flat, so who am I to complain. I love my Saturday runs and my girlfriend time.

By 11am I had finished the run, caught up on all of the gossip, showered, and I was in a little private room at La Belle getting the hair ripped out of my legs by my favorite sadist Cindi. We meet for this special event about once every two months or so. I haven’t had to shave my legs since the 80′s. It’s a beautiful thing ladies. And guys, get that hairy back taken care of. Just take a Valium and have a friend drive you.

Two of my girlfriends recently mentioned a women’s clothing store called Barbara Johnson in Lake Oswego. It’s a samples clothing store, and well, it happens to be oh so conveniently located about a block away from La Belle. So after I got off the torture table I headed to check out this supposedly fabulous samples store.

I had heard that this store had samples from Pategonia and other activewear companies, and I was on a mission to get some quick-dry clothes that I could wear sailing. I explained to one of the women working there that I was looking for clothes that would look fabulous even after they had been wadded up in a little ball in a duffle bag and been out to sea all day. She somehow knew exactly what I was talking about and started to bring piles of clothes to the dressing room.

The one thing you need to be aware of at a samples store is the sizes are not true. They are samples after all. I tried on everything from a size 4 to a size 12. The DKNY Golf line size 12 was like a regular size 6. And the Exofficio size 6 was all over the map.

My favorite purchases: a black low-cut hoodie dress from Exofficio, navy quick-dry pants from Exofficio, and shorts and hoodies from Nautica.

As I was paying for my purchases I noticed the clock behind the counter. “Oh crap!” I blurted. “I have people showing up at my house in 15 minutes.”

I raced home and pulled into my driveway just as my friend Beth was pulling up to my house. I quickly got dressed as we waited for the third musketeer (Jim) to show up. We were spending our afternoon at the Sixth Annual Portland Indie Wine festival.

We had decided we would take a cab to be safe, so I called the Lake Oswego taxi service since I figured they’d probably have a driver in the area. Here’s how the conversation went after I dialed the number:

“Hello?”

“Is this Lake Oswego Taxi?”

“Yes. But not today.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’m in California visiting my 92-year old mother in the hospital, so I’m not available. But I’ll be back.”

“Okay. But I need a taxi now.”

“Let me give you a tip…”

“No, that’s okay. I’ll just call Radio Cab. Thanks.”

Yes, that was the actually conversation.

We did finally get our cab, and we made our way to the Bison Building in NE Portland for the Sixth Annual Portland Indie Wine Festival. What a perfect venue! Forty wineries and 15 local restaurants providing fabulous food and drink in a light and airy warehouse. The sun was streaming through the skylights and it was just a gorgeous day.

There were 40 wineries and 15 food establishments to sample, and we only had three hours in which to get through them all. It was a daunting task to say the least, but we were up for the challenge.

The more responsible side of me knew we would be in a world of hurt if we actually tried to sample every wine from all 40 wineries, so we picked a few “must-tries” and started with those. I won’t ramble on about every wine we tasted, but I will say we had a most amusing time when we dropped the pretentious wine snobbery adjectives and started to describe the wines like we would describe a man.

There were the wines we didn’t care for: “Bag over the head.”

And the wines we did like: “Ooh, he’s still wearing pants, but I want to take them off.”

And the wines that were a bit too young yet: “I don’t want to date him right now, but he has potential.”

A wine with a stinky nose: “This one is like a software engineer who has been wearing the same shirt for five days.”

And the wine that just blows your mind: “Wow. This is 9 1/2 Weeks in front of the fridge with the fruit.”

We ran into some old friends, some new acquaintances and some people who just defy description in this blog.

And did you know that no one liked Mike Erickson’s previous girlfriend, and that he’s getting married to Nurse Katie over Labor Day weekend? And , wow that’s a big piece of meat! These are the kinds of conversations you will either overhear or be directly involved in when you are shoulder to shoulder in a room with a few hundred people with a wine buzz. Okay I confess, I was the one who made the comment about the big piece of meat, but get your mind out of the gutter. I was referring to a big hunk of meat that was being carved up on a carving board.

At 10 minutes before six we realized we only had a few minutes to get one last taste of a favorite before we would get kicked out. I opted for the Barking Frog Syrah.

We finally called a cab—Radio Cab not Lake Oswego Taxi—and when they finally answered the phone I said, “I need a cab at NE 10th and Flanders,” to which the dispatcher answered, “You’re at the Bison Building aren’t you. I’ve already sent all of my available cabs to that location. Just go outside and flag one down.”

Sure enough the first cab came down the street about two minutes after we walked out.

Beth and Jim and I climbed into the cab and reviewed the afternoon:

  • No one knew it was Jim’s birthday until right before we left, so I admit to being a lame friend when it comes to remembering birthdays.
  • Beth and I decided that the wineries need to hire hot guys to pour the wine.
  • Stiletto heels are not the best choice in a warehouse with a cracked concrete floor. We both opted for wedges.
  • It’s not against the rules to go back to the Moonstruck chocolate booth multiple times to “clear your palette.”
  • Not all men and women are like wine. Some age better than others.
  • The Cattail Creek lamb ragout, Bob’s Red Mill polenta and salsa verde at the Wildwood booth was heaven.
  • We want Phresh Organic chef Rob Leon to open a late-night food cart that serves nothing but the Griddled brioche, wild Oregon mushrooms, vintage extra sharp white cheddar and fresh goat cheese sandwich.

Take my advice and attend this fantastic event next year. And don’t make evening plans because you will probably too wiped out to keep them.

Inside the Portland Indie Wine Festival at the Bison Building

Portland Indie Wine Festival 1


Beth and I about halfway through the tastings.

Portland Indie Wine Festival 2

Hydrating at the end of the day. Kelly, Beth and Kevin (a work colleague of Beth’s whom we ran into).

Portland Indie Wine Festival 3


Always take a cab.

Portland Indie Wine Festival 4

Birthday boy Jim, who preferred kisses to spankings once we found out it was his birthday.

Portland Indie Wine Festival 5

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So, I went to Target to Buy a DS…

Originally published on MySpace on April 28, 2009

Tomorrow is my youngest son’s birthday, and he asked for a Nintendo DS, to replace the one he lost last year. I agreed to pay for half since he lost the previous one, and off to Target we went tonight.

We arrive at the Target in Wilsonville and get Rock Star parking, which never happens at Target. The place is nearly empty.

My kids bolt from the car before I even have a chance to open my own door, and make a beeline through the front doors of Target, and straight to the Electronics section.

We quickly locate the Nintendo aisle, and the three of us stand there staring at the locked glass case, well stocked with Nintendo DS’s in red, blue, silver and black. Black?! Ooh new color.

We grab a friendly Target employee, because we know she has the keys to the Nintendo kingdom, and ask to see see “the black one.” It costs $50 more than the other DS’s and I want to know why.

I read the display card to my son, “It says it has a much bigger screen, a music player, and a built-in camera. Is that worth $50 extra to you?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he says, then turns and looks at friendly Trarget employee Lisa. “Can we open it up and see it?”

“No,” she says. “Once we open them we can’t sell them anymore.”

“Okat,” I say, “Do you have one on display we can see, so we can compare the screen size?”

“No, we don’t have one on display,” she says. “But, let me see if I can open this without damaging the packaging.”

My son’s eys light up as we follow Lisa to the counter. She carefully lifts the tape with her fingernails, careful not to rip anything, opens the box, pulls out the documentation, and pulls out … a blob!

“Uh, that is not a DS,” I say. “What is that?”

“Oh my gosh!,” she exclaims. “It’s a rock covered in black electrical tape! I don’t know how this could have happened.”

Someone had purchased the DS, taken it home, removed the DS, and replaced it with a rock that weighed exactly the same as the DS. It was covered in black electrical tape so it would look like the black DS, just in case the person at the returns counter actually opened the box and looked under the documentation.

Can you just imagine buying that for a birthday gift, and seeing the disappoinment on the kid’s face when he opened the box up to find a rock!?

Needless to say. Lisa was happy to open every other DS we wanted tp look at.

My son ended up choosing a regular silver DS, because the “much larger” screen on the expensive black DS wasn’t actually that much bigger.

Oh, but the story doesn’t end here. As we checked out we saw this on the counter:

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I looked at Lisa and said, “This just isn’t your day is it?”

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