Thursday, August 4, 2011

O Canada, ay?

I love Banff! And I mean that. If I had another bumper sticker (next to the I Love NY and the Yellowstone one) that is what it would say.

I just got back from a trip to Canada with some friends who participated in the Calgary Iron Man 70.3. I pretty much had two main thoughts as I laid on the grass all day waiting for the triathletes to roll in: A) I need to be out there doing this too - being a spectator gets old; and B) These people are crazy. I like my daily runs of reasonable length where my muscles aren't screaming the following day.

My friends' (Lana & Tony) hard work paid off, though. They got into the world championships next month in Vegas. I, on the other hand, found running around Calgary's Prince Island the highlight of my athletic exertions. There's something about a city built around a river. It reminded me of Europe. So did the fact that everything closed around 5pm. Seriously? Museums, shopping, even Subway and Quiznos, closed in the evening. When I asked the concierge about it she informed me that Calgary is pretty much dead at night, no one hangs around (I guess in that way it resembles Salt Lake City).

While we were there, even the daytime was dead because of some long holiday weekend that most Canadians we asked couldn't tell us the purpose of. Random holidays sound great to me! The people were really nice though, and their accents pretty charming. To me, it resembles a Minnesotan accent. I think I picked it up while I was there. I keep talking like a Canadian and adding, "ay" onto everything, and it's not because I'm making fun of them either. Accents for me are really just addictive.
After Iron Man and a day at the Glenbow museum (which I really enjoyed...enhanced my appreciation for modern art and tried to make some of my own with Lana - see picture)

we headed to Canmore just 12 miles from Banff. We stayed at a nice resort called the Falcon Crest (like the tv show if you're old enough to remember) and loved it there as well. It was like an even cooler version of Park City or Jackson Hole and yes, the weather was cooler up there too. A nice 70 degrees.

There was a unique mountain range there called The Three Sisters and pretty much beautiful mountains all around. We headed into Banff the next day and that was definitely my favorite part of the trip, even though driving up through Glacier was awesome too. I've never enjoyed breathing so much. The scenery in Banff just had it all going on, from the glacier-cut mountains, to the glacier-milk waterways (a term for the milky greenish-blue water. Looks so good I could drink it.)

The place just has good vibes. I think I liked it almost as much as Yellowstone and that's saying a lot for me. We saw a new animal to the side of the road almost throughout the entire day. It was like someone was cueing them to show up (I secretly think they might have been). It was almost too good to be true. We saw a total of 8 bears.

EIGHT BEARS in one day - 2 black cubs, 2 brown cubs, and 4 mamas. It was awesome. And our grand total, thanks to Lana's computing skills, was 28 animals. Unfortunately, I've still yet to see a wolf.

Two of my favorite spots were Lake Louise (better than a postcard) and Takakkaw Falls actually in Yoho National Park right next to Banff. I had a Lord of the Rings moment. I just needed the soundtrack as I ran through the trees pretending to be an elf. If only...

Anyway, it was a great little vacation and refreshing to see new beauties. I'm also considering moving there now. Why not? Canada starts with a C just like my first and last name. By the way, I didn't realize that calling ourselves Americans bothers the Canadians. Apparently since we're all from North America we're technically all Americans so I guess they don't like the fact we usurped the name for ourselves. I'm sorry, but United States citizen is too many syllables when I can just say American. If they wanted to be called Americans they shouldn't have named their country Canada. Other than that, Canada's got my vote!

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Redheaded Breadhead

Well if I accomplish nothing else in my life, at least I can say I received the prestigious "Breadhead of the Month" award (the bakery equivalent of employee of the month.) I have a new nickname to go with it too - the redheaded breadhead - which my co-workers and proud family now lovingly call me. I didn't know whether I should laugh or cry when they gave it to me but the thought passed through my head, "this is not my life." I had hoped I'd be achieving a little more at this point but I guess I'll take what I can get. It's not an Oscar but it's something.
I'm actually doing quite well and not because of anything quantifiable I can report. I'm just enjoying the work, I'm enjoying being in the ring, fighting the good fight everyday and trying to overcome the resistance to be better. One of my classmates lent me this great book to read called "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield. I'm going to buy my own copy and read it again. It's all about battling (hooray for warrior metaphors) your own inner resistance, of listening to that little voice inside you that knows what you most want (or as Joseph Campbell called it following your bliss) and showing up to do the work. It doesn't matter what happens once it's out of your hands. If you show up to do the work, whether it's writing, music, marathons, whatever your heart's desire and regardless the outcome, there is enough joy in the trying and pursuing. And you know I've discovered for myself that there actually is. Maybe that's obvious, I've certainly heard it before and have probably been taught it too, but it hasn't really sunk in until now. Now I see better. For one like me who's always been so fixed on the outcome, the achievement, the resolution, the product, etc... and often fears that maybe whatever I do won't amount to anything, these new insights have been a good lesson. It really is all about the work, of learning to let go of the rest and what you can't control and being present in the work at the moment. It's getting out of your own ego more. I wish I could better elaborate but I'll leave it there. I know I still have much to learn and sometimes I have to remind myself of what Dora says in Finding Nemo: "just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.... Sometimes on hard days all I can do is chant that to myself (and have some chocolate too.) I think I've become a chocolate junkie.
Other than that I'm still running, writing, riding the Big Blue Bus to UCLA. Life's pretty busy and good. I can't believe another month is gone. The end of my 2nd quarter is in 2 weeks. One more quarter, a whole new screenplay in 10 weeks this time, and that, we'll see...
And since I mentioned the Oscars earlier, so glad The King's Speech won best picture. That and Inception were my favorite films of the year. Well, on to March, the month of the Pisces, my month actually so maybe the whole Dora swimming thing is an apt description for whatever lies ahead. Embrace the adventure!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

LA wish come true

So, studying screenwriting at UCLA and being so close to Hollywood I've had some great opportunities to hear from seasoned professionals and attend some cool screenings, especially with it being Oscar season. My wish finally came true when the director I've wanted to hear from most since being here finally had a screening and Q&A this last Friday: Christopher Nolan. I find it amazing that time after time he can create not only big blockbusters that a variety of people love (including me), but that they also have such depth and great story to them. He is a great storyteller, and I was excited to go listen to him. There wasn't necessarily one thing he said that stood out. It was the whole experience of being there and seeing someone who has been so successful and continues to be while maintaining a strong sense of what makes him unique. It was kind of cool that Guilllermo del Torro was the one who mediated, and they talked about their influences and love of noir, Borges, trying different things to tell good stories and really get to the simple, bare bones of an idea. Just two great directors just chatting for all of us. We were not allowed to ask questions about The Hobbit or Batman, however. Not that there was even much time for questions, but you take what you can get. This is another thing I love about LA (besides the awesome weather), having all this so close...and yet when you figure in traffic it's not nearly as close as you think which brings me to the thing I hate most about LA - traffic. It seriously took me 2 hours to get from Redondo Beach to UCLA which is really only about 30 miles away. Then it took another hour to get to the Egyptian theater in Hollywood. I was getting so frustrated with the lack of movement, with being so close to my destination and yet moving so glacially slow that I thought I wouldn't make it in time that I could feel my body heat rising and my habit of talking to myself increasing rapidly. I'm so glad we made it in time. It was a sold out theater, mostly fan boys. They asked that no one film any of the interview since they're using it for promotional stuff, so of course the next day some fan has already edited and introduced the interview and put it on youtube for all to see. In a world of self-promotion no one cares about the rules. Or so it seems.
Friday night I also experienced another LA attraction - the food trucks. As I dropped one of my classmates off in Venice we stopped and got some tacos at the Koji truck, but not just any tacos...Korean and Mexican fusion tacos. It was so delicious I didn't care that I'd already had a falafel sandwich before the movie and couldn't fit anything else in my stomach. I made room for these delicious creations. And they were actually cheap too. It was a good weekend, and good to get out and enjoy LA. Still love the little house by the beach, though.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pocketful of Sunshine

Hello 2011! Christmas break in Utah was good and I enjoyed being with family, but I have to give a shout out to California Januarys (I'm not sure how to spell the plural of that). Typically I have always labeled January as the worst month of the year. Absolutely hate it. But being back in California for it has definitely taken the edge off. Running on the beach in shorts, waking up to sunny days, even occasionally turning on the AC button. It's a beautiful thing. I even love California's version of the snowman (which also doubled as the great pumpkin on halloween when a neighbor down the street threw a festive blanket over it.) And this snowman will never melt. That's quite comforting. I also have to say what a satisfying thing it is to go outside and pick your breakfast off the tree. The orange tree in the backyard is in full bloom and after a morning run I usually pick one off the tree and have it for breakfast. Joy in the simple things, that's what I'm going for these days.

Having said that I can move on to the not-so-joyous things (at least at the moment). Class started up again at UCLA last week and we brought in the first acts of our screenplays to receive feedback. It felt like a slaughter. I'm sill trying to revive my spirits. Why?...I guess so I can go to battle again next week. This prescribed process of writing has just been a challenge for me and I must admit I'm finding it difficult to hear my own voice amidst all these others telling me what they think I should do. I've finally decided that all I can really do is just keep working at it. Even if I feel like a hack that will never be good at anything, I just have to keep my head down and keep working, keep trying. That is the only meaning I feel right now. That's all I'll say about that for now.
Other than that, I worked 3 very long days at the bakery restaurant this week, feeding the masses, making cappucinos, scraping obscene amounts of food into the garbage, trying to avoid some of the unsettling leers from the cooks, and secretly envying all the people going out to lunch (since going out to lunch is actually one of my favorite things to do.) Needless to say, the last 3 days have been exhausting. I never thought I'd be back to food service. But on the plus side it's interesting to have surprised even myself. So I'm getting back in the swing of things, trying to pack as much as I can into this school year, and watching a lot of movies. Speaking of which, did anyone else get on itunes and buy that song "Pocketful of Sunshine" after watching the movie "Easy A"? Ben and I watched it my last night in Utah and both of us randomly bought the song the next day. I played it for my little nieces over New Year's, too, and we practiced some good dance moves. I know the song came out a couple of years ago but, sadly, it is new to me. So here's to 2011...may it be another year of adventure with many and varied pockets full of sunshine.