Posts Tagged Kelly Jo Horton

My Evening With Carol Burnett

CarolBurnettBeing a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has its perks, however, living in Portland makes it rather difficult to take advantage of most of them. Members of the Academy often get free passes to movie screenings, plenty of DVD screeners for TV shows during Emmys voting season and countless invitations to evening events where networks parade their stars on panels for every TV show you can think of.

I have been telling myself for years, one of these days I’ll buy a plane ticket and actually attend an event where I don’t have to wear an uncomfortable floor-length gown and heels. That event showed up in my Inbox on July 1, at 10:56am. The subject line was:

“An Evening With Carol Burnett – July 22.”

I immediately clicked through because I have tried to attend these events before, and my experience has been if you snooze you lose. I signed up, me +1. Yes, I agree I will really show up and you won’t be sorry you gave me these two seats. Submit.

The confirmation came back immediately, and then I panicked. I needed a plane ticket and I needed a plus-one. Think, think, who would actually buy a plane ticket to go see Carol Burnett with me? Wait a minute, who lives in SoCal who might want to go? Hmmmm.

I ended up taking my sister Shannon who lives in Laguna Beach. She picked me up at the Burbank Airport on Monday at 2:20pm, and we made our way to NoHo (North Hollywood) to try to find a place to eat and drink. After all, we had three hours to kill before heading over to the Academy.

We parked the car near the Academy and started walking around looking for a place that served decent food and had a bar. I had no idea this would be so difficult! After passing several restaurants that served burgers, pizza and soft drinks we noticed a sign on the sidewalk just down the road that said “$4 Margaritas.”

“Who cares what kind of food they have,” I said. “They have $4 margaritas!”

We sat at that bar in Bow & Truss for the next two and a half hours eating Mahi Mahi tacos, shrimp ceviche and an odd kale salad while Bartender Ben looked on and occasionally interjected. Oh, and we had a few margaritas and they were well worth the $4.

At 6:25pm we walked across the street to the Academy and got in the back of a line that snaked its way back and forth across the courtyard in front of the building. I had been warned to arrive an hour early if I wanted to ensure I got a seat, because they had given out way more tickets than they had seats in the theater. They often do this because so many people sign up but don’t show up. Not tonight.

We did get in, and we did get good seats, but if we had come any later we would have ended up in the overflow room with the other 100 people who didn’t get into the theater.

The lights dimmed promptly at 7:30pm, and the evening started with a short reel of clips that chronicled Carol’s history in television. Then the lights came up and the President of the Academy introduced Carol Burnett and the moderator/interviewer for the evening, Kristin Chenowith.

There isn’t enough room in this blog to hold all of the stories Carol told, but I will tell you that she did talk about growing up poor with her grandmother, roller skating in the hallway and the day she met Julie Andrews. And of course there were stories about Tim Conway, Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence. Wow. What a comedic team they were.

After about 45 minutes of chit chat with Kristin, Carol finally called for questions from the audience. I had spent the entire plane ride thinking up what I would ask her if they actually called on me and handed me the microphone. I really wanted to know what the boundaries were for sketch comedy on the major networks back in the day of the Carol Burnett Show.

The first person raised his hand, then the second, then the fifth. I was wiggling in my seat, do I raise my hand? Is it a stupid question? I just knew if I didn’t ask a question I would regret it. I noticed an attendant with a mic just a few rows down from me, made eye contact with her and shot my hand in the air like a 5-year old who has to pee. Okay, here she comes, now I really have to do this. Shit.

There were three more questions from the other side of the room before the woman handed me the mic, motioned for me to stand up, whispered something into her headset mic and told me I was next. Then she pointed at me at me in that silent TV way and mouthed the word “go.”

I swallowed hard and hoped something intelligent would come out when I opened my mouth.

“Hi Carol,” I called from 20 rows back, waving so she would know where the voice was coming from. “Were there ever any characters you wanted to play or skits you wanted to include on the show where the network just said no?” The audience mumbled in approval of the question. Oh yes, it was indeed a good question.

Carol paused for just a second and then she said, “No.” Silence.

Crap. This can’t be happening to me right now. Are you kidding me right now? Nothing? Never? Nada?

Then she continued. “Oh wait, there was this one sketch…” And she proceeded to tell the story of the sketch she and Harvey Korman did about a nudist camp. Her character was positioned behind a fence with just her feet and her head showing, and Harvey was on the other side talking to her about what it was like in the nudist camp. His line was something like, “Well how do you dance in a nudist camp?” And she responded, “Very carefully,” to which the network responded, “You can’t say that on TV.”

She said the best part was that the line they finally agreed on seemed even more suggestive than the one the network nixed in the first place. During the live taping when Harvey asked, “How do you dance in a nudist colony?” she answered, “Cheek to cheek.” Yes, really.

The story got lots of laughs, and I stood there grinning from ear to ear, holding that microphone like it was a stolen Emmy. Because I knew that as soon as I let go of that microphone my moment with Carol would be over.

There were a handful of questions after mine and then Carol and Kristin were gone. But for a few brief minutes that evening I felt like I, Kelly Jo Horton, was having a personal conversation with the legendary Carol Burnett.

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Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me a Match

Jacqueline NicholsFinding love is something millions of people are willing to pay for, even in a recession. Online dating sites like Match.com and eHarmony have taken that fact to the bank, and with the recent success of Patti Stanger’s Millionaire Matchmaker TV show on Bravo, it’s no wonder that ordinary people all over the country have started hanging out a shingle proclaiming themselves to be matchmakers. So I wasn’t surprised a few weeks ago when a friend of mine told me she had recently been to one. However, I was surprised that said matchmaker was right in my own backyard in Lake Oswego, a small suburb of Portland, Oregon.

The only personal experience I have ever had with a “matchmaker” was the intake interview I had with a 20-something sales associate at It’s Just Lunch many years ago. I filled out a form, she briefly interviewed me, and then proceeded to set me up with dates over the next 12 months. Although she did set me up with some pretty interesting men, there was no real coaching or follow up after that initial intake interview. The only real advice she gave me was on what not to talk about on the first date: sex, religion, politics. She set me up and I was on my own.

Enter Jacqueline Nichols, personal matchmaker and proprietor of Intuitive Matchmaking in Lake Oswego. I was very curious about this local matchmaker so I sent her an email and arranged for a visit.

The Intuitive Matchmaking office is located in a small business building nestled in the middle of the First Addition neighborhood in Lake Oswego, and you’d never know it was there if you didn’t know exactly where to find it.

Her office space is intimate and colorful with little reminders of that love her clients are so desperately seeking. I notice a stack of brochures featuring photos of happy couples romping on the beach and the tagline “Find love. Enjoy love. Keep love” printed on the cover. Nichols takes a chair and I seat myself on – what else –  but a love seat.

I ask the obvious question, why become a matchmaker?

The answer to that question lies in the name of her business, Intuitive Matchmaking. “I have been doing spiritual work for 25 years, and have been a sort of spiritual life coach for so many people through my Gratitude for Success business,” she explains. “Part of being a spiritual life coach is helping people find balance and joy in all aspects of their life including their relationships, so it was just a natural instinct to help my clients find love as well as success in other parts of their life.” It wasn’t until her clients started writing “matchmaking” in the memo on their checks that the light bulb really went on.

“I match people at the soul level,” she says. “That’s the difference. I pay attention to what chapter of your life you’re in right now and find you someone who’s in that same place.” A lot of her clients come into the service wondering why their relationships aren’t working out. “There’s a big difference between dating material and husband/wife material, and that’s where I can help.”

So what do you get when you hire a matchmaker like Nichols? Well that depends on how much you’re willing to pay. The Beginners membership to her service starts at $99, which gets you a personal consultation and a spot in her database, where you can search to your heart’s content. If you are an Elite member Nichols will proactively search her database for matches and possibly match you with “hidden clients” who are not public in her database. You also get a monthly consultation at this level.

The top level in her service is the Platinum tier. “I am basically your personal on-call matchmaker at this level,” she says. “The Platinum clients have access to me 24/7, and I will search outside my database for matches for them if I need to.” If you have to ask the price you probably can’t afford it.

Although there are no guarantees in the search for love, Nichols claims to have a very high success rate. “I can usually find a match for someone in one to three introductions,” she says. But don’t expect those introductions to all happen in the first week. “I know your time is valuable, and I will not make an introduction unless I know it would be worth your time.”

Her database of clients is small (about 500 people and growing) in comparison to the online dating institutions like Match.com or eHarmony, but consider the fact that Nichols has done her homework on your potential matches up front. “I have met or done a phone consultation with every single person in my service. And I do background checks on everyone as well. It’s all about quality not quantity.”

Although I have never claimed to be a matchmaker I have certainly become the go-to person in my circle of friends when it comes to questions about dating, especially online dating. So, I was extremely curious to hear Nichols’ perspective on the state of dating and courtship in today’s society.

“People don’t know how to date,” she says, and I couldn’t agree more. We both agree that people are very quick to judge someone on a first date, which means in the world of fast-food dating (like Match.com) there are very few second dates. And who’s quicker to judge on a first date? According to Nichols it’s women.

“Men seem to be more forgiving on a first date. If there’s no immediate chemistry they will usually give the woman a second chance just to see if there’s something there. Women on the other hand usually have a much longer check list in their head, and if he doesn’t have that one thing they walk away.”

Nichols says people need to slow down and be more patient, and just allow the other person to get to know you. She suggests to give it at least three dates before you throw in the towel, preferably five. And what’s the perfect first date venue? “Not a coffee date!” she says with a hint of frustration. “A coffee date just says, you’re not really that special, and I want to make sure I can get out of here fast if this date is a disaster.”

In her opinion a better choice would be happy hour (2-drink max), or a meeting at a bakery and then a walk, or just a glass of wine and appetizers somewhere. “You need one to two hours with nothing scheduled after the date, so you don’t feel like you’re constantly looking at your watch because you have to be somewhere else in an hour.”

According to Nichols the biggest mistake people make on a first date is being too full of themselves. “They sit there and talk about themselves the whole time, and never really even take the time to get to know the other person.” She says men and women are equally guilty of this.

My next question is a hotly-debated topic amongst my wide circle of friends.Why do so many older men only want to date younger women? I think I already know the answer to this question, but I want to hear what she has to say.

“I don’t get those men as my clients,” she says. “The successful men in my service are looking for a partner not an accessory. Successful older men who only date younger women are doing so because they think they’re a great catch, even if they’re not.”

And what about the older women? “A lot of them want to date their fantasy,” she says. “They want to date younger men because they are trying to recapture that feeling they had in college when they fell head over heels in love and everything was so fun and easy.They are trying to make up for all of those lost years.” She says a lot of women my age are in that category. “The hardest thing I have to do is tell those women to look in the mirror and be honest with what they see. You may feel younger than you are, but you don’t look like you’re 25.” Oh snap!

Nichols’ business currently focuses on the Portland/Vancouver Metro area, but she plans to expand her business in the near future to reach out to clients in Seattle and Medford. Wait, did you just say Medford? Isn’t the median age in Medford 75? Apparently retirees in their 60s and 70s are looking for love too, and Nichols aims to help them find it.

In the end her advice is pretty straight forward and simple. Stop watching the clock, stop focusing on the finish line and just enjoy the journey. And if you want to hire someone to ride that roller coaster with you hire a matchmaker.

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You can find out more information about Jacqueline Nichols and Intuitive Matchmaking at IntuitiveMatchmaking.com.

 

Check her out on Facebook at facebook/intuitivematchmaking and on Twitter @imatchmaking.

Tell her the Dating Ninja sent you and receive 25% off one of her Beginners packages.

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And the Primetime Emmy® winner for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media is…

The Interactive Media Peer Group is the fastest growing peer group in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS), which is no surprise to those of us in the business of interactive. There are 450 active members of the Interactive Media Peer Group, and I am proud to say I am one of them.

Esther Lim (Social Media Consultant at  Altimeter Group), Rhett McLaughlin (Rhett & Link  Commercial Kings), Kelly Jo Horton (CrowdFactory), Link Neal (Rhett & Link  Commercial Kings), Howard Meltzer (CSA, Casting Director).This year I was privileged to be a part of the “Blue Ribbon Panel” that selected the 2011 Primetime Emmy® winner for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. I brought Crowd Factory CEO Sanjay Dholakia along to be my +1 for the experience.

The event was hosted at ATAS in North Hollywood on Thursday August 25th, and MC’d by Rhett & Link, hosts of IFC’s “Commercial Kings” . The theme of this year’s event was “New Orleans,” and you would have thought the party planners had paid off Mother Nature to cooperate with the theme, because the thermometer topped 103 degrees that day. Sanjay and I arrived at the venue at 4pm and had a chance to do a little mingling with the rest of the attendees before heading into the auditorium to score this year’s top five contenders for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media. This year’s nominees:

  • ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy Sync; ABC.com, Nielsen, Gravity Mobile, Shondaland
  • Conan O’Brien Presents: Team Coco; TBS.com: Team Coco Digital
  • Fringe: Division; Fox.com: Warner Bros. Television, Bad Robot Productions
  • Late Night With Jimmy Fallon; NBC.com: Gavin Purcell, Producer; Sara Schaefer, Producer; Jimmy Fallon, Producer; Robert Angelo, Producer
  • Oscar Digital Experience; ABC.com: Disney ABC Television Group; Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Each team presented a narrated video showcasing their entry, and then Rhett & Link asked some hard-hitting questions like, “Does that high-pitched sync technology freak out all of the dogs in the neighborhood?”

When the presentations were over, those of us on the voting panel scored each entry in each of these five categories:

  • Creative Achievement
  • User Experience
  • Visual Design
  • Enhancing the Story
  • Advancing Interactive Media

And yes, there really were people from Ernst & Young in the back of the room with brief cases collecting our ballots when we finished scoring.

Brian Rodda (Brian Rodda Consulting), me, Howard Meltzer (CSA, Casting Director)Once the business portion of the evening was out of the way we were all invited to toast the nominees with a signature “Digitini” cocktail created by sponsor Grey Goose Vodka just for the occasion. I don’t know what was in it, but it was a cool and refreshing respite from the heat of the day. We then made our way through the crowd congratulating the nominees, and exchanging business cards as we went. Sanjay had to run to catch a plane back to San Francisco, but I stayed to enjoy the Cajun food and catch up with my ATAS buddies.

And who ended up winning the Emmy?  The Creative Arts Emmys were held on September 10, 2011, in Hollywood and the Primetime Emmy® for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media was awarded to the Oscar Digital Experience.

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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 Pug Lady and Johnny Carson

pugsI love pugs. I do. And when I see one on the street I will always stop to pet the pug and chat with the owner, because Pug People are usually a bit crazy.

Case in point. I was at the mall yesterday with my kids: one who was spending his allowance at GameStop, the other who was spending hers at Victoria’s Secret (that’s another blog). I was just the appendage with the car keys.

We were walking through the mall when I spotted an older woman with a pug on a leash at the entrance to Macy’s. Now I’ve seen plenty of  service dogs in the mall with their trainers, and plenty of purse dogs being smuggled about, but I’ve never seen anyone get away with walking a pug in the mall!

I had to go talk to this woman (let’s call her Doris).

Doris was about 80, and the pug looked every bit as old. It was resting on its haunches while its owner chatted up another older couple.

“Excuse me. May I say hello to your pug?” I said. “I have a pug.”

Those are the four magic words: “I have a pug.” Say that to a pug owner and be prepared to be chatted up like you’ve been best friends for 20 years.

“This is Precious,” said Doris as I bent down to pet her pug (all 25 pounds of her).

As I was petting Precious I noticed something odd. She had a harness that said “Service Dog.”

I looked up at Doris and said, “She’s wearing a service dog harness,”  knowing full well what was coming next.

“Oh yes. It’s the only way I can get her into the mall,” she said with a wink. And then without missing a beat she reached into her small clutch and pulled out an old faded picture of  her siblings and their pugs, and pointed to each one, telling me their names as if they were her grandchildren.

She then carefully tucked the treasured pug picture back into her clutch and pulled out another faded photo. This one of herself and her husband dressed int heir finest at a formal dinner.

“This is my husband. He was friends with him.”  The “him” in the photo? Johnny Carson!  THE Johnny Carson having dinner with Doris and her husband. “They worked together,” she said as she slipped the photo back into her purse. And then the topic went right back to pugs.

I stood there and shared pug stories with Doris and the older couple (also pug people of course) for a few minutes more while my kids rolled their eyes with embarrassment.

We finally said our goodbyes, and as I walked off with my kids I thought to myself, who puts a service dog harness on a pug and carries around pictures of pugs and Johnny Carson in their purse? Pug People, that’s who.

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Letters to Myself, Age…

My dear friend over at The London Leprechaun once wrote a blog of letters to himself at various ages, so I thought I would do the same. If I could give myself advice…

PlutoDear Kelly (Age 3),

Yes, that toy Tonka Jeep is sturdy, but it’s not meant to be ridden down the driveway like a luge sled. Especially not face first. So now you’ve got this big scab on your face for your fourth birthday thanks to the small pebble halfway down the driveway that stopped that Tonka truck cold and launched you into the concrete like a missile. But don’t worry, there won’t be scar.

Dear Kelly (Age 4),

The Monkees are never going to drive up to your house just because you love their show so much, so stop staring out the window and watching for them. The show is taped Kelly. When you see them drive away at the end of the show they are not driving to your house. They are probably in some bar having a Scotch.

Dear Kelly (Age 5),

Uhm, you forgot to take your pajama shorts off before you left for Kindergarten this morning. They’re still there under your dress.
5thGradeDear Kelly (Age 12),

You’re lying there with your arm in a cast. It’s summer. I know it sucks. You’re lucky you didn’t land on your head when you fell into that empty swimming pool. And just so you know, your wrist is going to heal just fine and you’re going to be a fabulous volleyball player for the next 20 years. What? You’ve never tried volleyball? You will.

Dear Kelly (Age 13),

You and your best friend Cathy, whom you’ve known since you were 4 years old, have gone your separate ways. I know you are heartbroken, but let me tell you something. You two will reconcile and stay the best of friends until the day you die. Just give it some time.

Dear Kelly (Age 16),

I know that your original plan was to escape to a foreign country for a year just because you were sick of living at home. I know you’re homesick in Finland, but resist the urge to pack up and go home. Stick it out. This experience will shape the rest of your life. And that family you’re living with has a heart of gold, and you will keep in touch with them for the rest of your life.

Dear Kelly (Age 17),

When the guards at the Russian border tell you to stay in your seat on the bus and not take any pictures at the border crossing they mean it! Did you really think they wouldn’t see the camera flash as you took the picture while the bus was pulling away? Tsk tsk. You’re lucky that all they took was your film.

HomeComingDear Kelly (Age 18),

The fact that you were Homecoming Queen will have no value whatsoever later in life. No, I’m not kidding.  Sorry, but it’s not something you can put on your resume.

Dear Kelly (Age 21),

I know you went to San Diego State because you wanted to be a news reader and a reporter, but it’s going to take a while. You’ll graduate in a year and become a cocktail waitress because there are no jobs in 1980. Eventually you’ll decide enough is enough and you’ll get your first corporate job at Sun Microsystems. You will have this incredibly awesome boss who will push you into Engineering. I know it sounds really far fetched, but it’s true. You’ll love it. Don’t worry. Oh, and that news reader thing? You’ll eventually have your own political talk show. You’ll write it, co-produce it and host it. Yes, really.

Dear Kelly (Age 22),

For future reference, you’re not supposed to touch royalty. I’m sure Prince Andrew will get over it but the Mayor of San Diego will never forgive you.

Dear Kelly (Age 23),

Did you really think that buying a one-way ticket around the world and traveling by yourself was going to be without incident? You are too trusting. Leave Madrid as soon as you can and stay in India for a while. You’ll like the Shah family. Did you know that Mrs. Shah thinks you are her daughter from a past life? They will love you like a daughter. Go.

Dear Kelly (Age 29),

I know you’re wondering if you’ll ever get any sleep again. That little baby who’s waking you up at all hours will grow up to be a young man you can be proud of. He will have written two novels by the time he’s 20 years old. Oh, and he will stop spitting up eventually.

Dear Kelly (Age 41),

I know, I know, this is not where you thought you’d be at this age. Being a single mom with three kids is rough. No doubt about it. But Kelly, this time in your life is going to teach you so many good life lessons so make sure you pay attention.

SurvivorTrackDear Kelly (Age 42),

You are a Survivor. Remember that.

Dear Kelly (Age 47)

This too shall pass.

Dear Kelly (Age 48),

The teenage years don’t last forever. You’re not the first to have an angsty teenage daughter.

Dear Kelly (Age 50),

I warned you! Be careful what you wish for. You got it. Now what?

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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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The Skype Coffee Date

In the prehistoric dating world we dated people at work, in the neighborhood, or in the same zip code. If we were really adventurous we might venture to a neighboring zip code for a date. Well online dating has expanded that dating radius to every zip code, area code, postal code and country code in the world.

That’s great, right? Sure, if you have unlimited vacation time and a bottomless bank account.

What happens when a guy in area code 503 (Portland) meets a gal in area 206 (Seattle)? They exchange a few emails, maybe a phone call, and then one of them offers to make the 3-hour drive to meet for coffee (more likely dinner because it’s such a long drive). They meet and immediately realize there’s no chemistry. She thinks he looks 10 years older than his profile picture. He thinks she looks 30 pounds heavier. And they are both right. They could have saved themselves a lot of time and money if they would have done one thing: had a Skype coffee date.

All of the emails and phone calls in the world won’t show you what Skype will.  Skype adds the dimension of body language that you can’t get via email or phone. I highly suggest you skip the lengthy emails and phone calls and go straight to Skype.

The First Skype Date

Do yourself a favor and treat the first Skype date like you would any other first date. That is, take a shower, put some clean clothes on, brush your teeth, and pretend you’re actually meeting in person. I suggest “meeting” for coffee first, and following the suggestions below:

  1. Pick an area in your home that is free of clutter, and doesn’t have any personally identifying information in it.
  2. Set your computer on the table facing where you plan to sit, and then walk around to the back of the computer and take a look at what your date will see. Is there some hideous art in the background? Pictures of your kids? Your ex? Take them down or pick another spot.
  3. Check that the light is flattering. Fluorescent lights and overhead spotlights are the worst.
  4. Take a picture of yourself with your webcam so you can see the environment and the lighting before your date.
  5. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea before the date, and off you go!

The Second Skype Date

If you’re still not quite sure if you want to drive the three hours to meet your date in person, or fly 5000 miles as was the case with my first Skype coffee date, have a second date. In fact, make it a lunch or dinner date. You think I’m kidding? I’m not.

Have you ever been annoyed by the way someone eats a salad, munches their popcorn, or slurps their soup? Yep. Have a date that inlcludes food. Set your laptop on the kitchen table and have a meal with your date.

Once you have had a couple of Skype dates you’ll know if you actually want to make the effort to meet in person. You will also get the added bonus of not having first-date jitters when you have your first real date, because you’ve basically already met.

Happy Skyping!

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Kelly's B-HAG Bucket List

I’m a list person. I can’t live without lists and goals. They keep me organized and motivated. There are the boring To-Do type lists and then there are the B-HAG (Big Hairy Ass Goals) and Bucket lists.

I recently reviewed my B-HAG Bucket List and decided to make a few changes and additions, because I have actually checked off more than a few things in the past two years.

Kelly’s B-HAG Bucket List

  • Run the Napa Marathon on March 6, 2011, and qualify for the Boston Marathon. I have to have a time of 4:05 in order to qualify. My time for Carlsbad was 4:15:10 so I think this is doable.

NapaMarathon

  • And speaking of Napa, I still want to take a balloon ride over the vineyards whilst sipping champagne.
  • Run the Boston Marathon in 2012 for my 50th birthday.

BostonMarathon

  • Finish the first draft of my “Confessions of a Dating Ninja” book by the end of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) November, 2010.
  • Build a house with the Habitat for Humanity team.
  • Attend Burning Man.

Burning Man

  • Stay at a game reserve in Africa.
  • Visit the penguins in Antarctica (the only continent I haven’t been to).
  • Make a difference every day.

The list has changed quite a bit over the years. It’s gotten quite a bit shorter as well, because I’ve lived a lot of life. It’s time to dream some new dreams and fill it up again. What’s on your list?

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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.

IMG_0984

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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