Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 10, 11, 12 - Rocky Mountain Redemption

Denver. Four meetings. Four stations. 5 hours of sleep after 5,000 hours of driving (yes, 5,000 - Wikipedia it if you don't believe me). In between meetings, my buddy Kevin was nice enough to chauffeur me around and grab grub with me. Right before my last station visit at 5:45pm, I needed a caffeine pick-me-up. At Starbucks, my agent tells me about a new position that needs a special demo reel by Monday (the day before I leave for Brazil). I didn't have a video camera, camcorder, or any prep as to what to do, so I ended up using my digital camera and trying to think off the cuff.

I hope that leads to a job. Seriously. >) (That symbol, by the way, is the Asian parenthesis happy face. Be sure to use in the future.)

Staying classy. I freestyled later.
That night, Kevin and I headed to the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, which is an outdoor mall that's over a mile-long. We ate at Katie Mullen's Irish Pub, which had a classic library ambience - I mean that as a compliment. Nothing like leather-bound books to add class to alcohol consumption.

Honestly, I was still a little frazzled from the previous day's car accident. But come Friday, everything returned to normal - and then some, when I was back on the slopes. I did a half-day at Loveland, which is about 45-minutes west of Denver. Breaking the snowboard out of mothballs was an incredible feeling. Not gonna lie, saying I was rusty riding for the first time in more than 3 years, would be like saying Kanye's tweets are kinda strange. Drastic understatement. Kanye tweets about making good decisions in bike stores. What does that mean?

Here's my first run:


After a little while, I got the feel of the snow again. Albeit, my endurance was atrocious. If there were Viagra for snowboarding, I definitely needed some. My legs were burning pretty quickly. My hamstrings, calves, even thumb(!) cramped up at some point. Honestly, how does a thumb cramp up? As Charles Barkley would say, "That's terrible." Regardless of my terribleness, the day helped quell that urge I had sitting on my futon watching Warren Miller movies so many months ago.

Roasted red pepper bisque if you're curious
On the drive back I stopped by Idaho Springs, which is a quaint little town that's like a 1-20th scale version of Sundance in Utah. It's an old western strip town, and right in the middle is Tommyknockers Brewery. I grabbed a southwestern buffalo burger with guac and pepperjack, and washed it down with a Jack Whacker wheat ale. It was a solid way to finish the day.

Saturday morning I was off to Vail and meet up with my UCSB brethren, Rahul and Bryn Deb. Denver to Vail is normally a 2.5 hour drive, but not this weekend. I left Kevin's place at 6:45am, but because of traffic and road conditions, I didn't get to Vail until 11:30. I decided to ride half day to save some of my quickly depleting dough, and also because my wimpy legs probably couldn't withstand 30 extra minutes of boarding.

More powder than Tony Montana

These two mock my snowboard gear. Bastards.

Riding turned out to be slightly more difficult because my goggles kept fogging up. My visibilty on the slopes was pretty weak. Then after landing in a gigantic pile of powder, I got some snow inside my goggles, which then froze. I futily try to fix the prob, and only end up scratching my lenses. With jacked up goggles, I had to make a couple long runs without eye protection, and the burn was sucky. I'm still dropping Visine several days later (or Walmart's generic counterpart). My bloodshot eyes make me look like an extra from "Half Baked."

Playing in the snow was all that I hoped and more. Slicing up pow pow, chewing up gnar gnar, it was classic. Despite being out of shape (thanks for nothing, Tony Horton), the mountains had a soothing effect on the soul. Just being in the environment was like one of those old Dimetapp commercials, when the whiny kid is sick and his mom feeds him some grape cold syrup, and he becomes instantly healthy. Loveland and Vail were my Dimetapp.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Day Nine - S*^#!

These new loafers are flufftastic
Can a dog with no body and just a face run an apartment? In a word, yes. My friend Jaclyn's pomeranian, Rex, is a ball of hair and a face. He's also crazy hyper and his hair is all up on my Nikes!!! I have a hypothesis as to why he's so hyper - I saw a Four Loko in the kitchen. I'm just saying.

Dedicated April 19, 2000
There are smaller chairs to symbolize the kdis
In the morning my friend Jaclyn takes me to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, which honors those lost in the OKC federal building bombing in 1995. The memorial is down the street from her apartment. A reflective pool sits between two large Stonehenge-like structures. The structures are called the "Gates of Time" - one of which has 9:01 chiseled on it, which represents the innocence of the city before the bombing. The other gate states 9:03 and symbolizes all that has changed from the attack. On one side of the pool, there is a field of 168 empty chairs, one for every life lost that day. On the other side is a the Survivor Tree, which withstood the blast and now represents the city's resiliency.


After OKC, the trek to Denver was on. I made a quick stop in Wichita to see Chris Frye, an old rival sports guy in Mobile. In the time since I've seen him, he's got two boys. Crazy. So leaving Wichita, I decide to follow Garmin's GPS directions instead of sticking to the main highways. Major mistake. Just outside of this town called Hutchinson, I'm driving down a hill when I see several cars off the side of a two-lane highway. I start to brake, and all hell breaks loose. The road is straight black ice. I spin out, make at least two full revolutions, see an oncoming car heading my direction, struggle to get control, miss the other car, swerve off the road, off the shoulder, down an embankment when finally the car stops. The whole time I was just hoping I didn't flip, because everything I own is in my car with me. When I got out of the car, I saw that both passenger side tires came off the wheels. I can tell you this, when I was spinning in my two-wheel drive 4Runner (the 4 refers to cylinders!) and I saw the oncoming vehicle heading towards me - I thought for a split second - Oh shit, is this how it ends? That would've been super weak, especially since I like to think I defy the stereotype of bad Asian driver. God knows how many jokes my friends would say if a car accident is what did me in.

Really uncool
After waiting for an hour in the snow, a tow-truck came and took my poor car to a local auto shop. Good ol' Keith of Hutchinson, Kansas, fixed up my tires - didn't have to buy new ones, and slapped on some new windshield wipers. Altogether though, I lost about 3.5 hours through this whole process. Then had to get right back on the road to make it to Denver because I had 4 TV station meetings set up. The roads to Denver were all icy, and the most disheartening part of the drive was at about 10pm, when I saw that I still had more than 300 miles to Tebowland. Talk about depressing, especially since the fastest I can go is around 50mph. I ended up making into my buddy Kevin Sullivan's house at 2:30am. Keep in mind, I changed time zones, so it was actually 3:30 for me. At 10:30am, I had to meet with the news director for the Denver CBS affiliate. Brutal.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day Six, Seven, Eight - Lone Star

First off – I just realized that my first day of unemployment fell on the 11th – which makes it easy for me to count the number of jobless days it’s been. That being said, when February rolls around, this helpful counting shortcut will go out the window and I will return to the status of communication-major-with-no-discernible-math-skills. Unfortunate.

Anne isn't wearing make-up!
My first stop was in New Orleans for a couple hours where I met my old pals Anne and Joey Mason, who are fresh off a ridiculous honeymoon in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I wish I could've stayed longer, but I got a late start on the road and it was westward ho. Always nice to catch up in person on each others' adventures. That being said, my travel companion Mike Rockwood and I did go to Acme Oyster House on Bourbon to indulge in the so-good-it-can-only-be-construed-as-witchcraft chargrilled oysters. Masons - if you are reading this - this was completely Mike's idea and that is why he is your nemesis. I apologize in full. But damn those buttery oysters are good.

Population 1113 today bitches!
As Mike and I drove all the way to Houston, we passed thru China. China, TX, population 1112. I wonder what if all the residents in this town are called "Chinese"? Or you know how sometimes the place you're in describes the person you are (e.g. - Harvard man). Does that makes these residents Chinamen? Uncool Texas. Uncool.

Here's a little aside about Texas' independence - when you enter the state from the east on I-10, there's a mileage sign on the highway that shows you're 9,324,382 miles away from El Paso (actual number closer to 800-something). Who puts that up? The number merely indicates how long you're stuck in the Lone Star state. Apparently, El Paso is nearly just as close to Los Angeles, than it is to Houston.

Next project: Four Loko House

Mike prefers froggystyle

We got into Houston around 1am and the next day was a whole lot of rest and recovery. After a quick gym visit, we visited the Beer Can House off Malone Street. It's exactly what it sounds like - a house covered with beer cans. This "art", took John Milkovisch 20 years (1968-88) to make. It was closed, so I don't know how many beer cans it actually took to make it, but I think this Milkovisch was a real cheap ass - Busch beer cans seemed to be the most prevalent casing. Mike and I proceeded to perform freestyles off planters smothered with sliced beer cans. The thought of tetanus certainly entered our minds, but the photo op was too good to pass. Several days later, the score remains: Mike - 1, Cary - 1, Tetanus - Zero. Check back later for the final score.

The rest of my time in Houston was spent in a Tex-Mex haze. Lupe Tortilla, Laurenzo's El Tiempo Cantino - I ate so much Mexican food, I didn't even have room for Freebirds. Apologizes to all of Santa Barbara.

The only thing worth mentioning between Houston and Dallas is Buc-Ees. It's the Walmart Supercenter of gas station pit stops. It has a giant beaver for a logo, and boasts there are two reasons to stop there, #1 and #2. I shot some video of the elegant restrooms - they did not disappoint. Hopefully, I'll post this soon. Some patrons were a little curious as to what I was taking pictures of. Can't a guy just take video of gas station bathroom stalls without getting weird looks and the third degree? Damn dudes.  

Oswald was in far right window on 6th

If you look closely you can see the X's.
I stopped in Dallas to check out the 6th Floor Museum off Elm and Houston Streets. That's where JFK was assassinated. The 6th floor of the old school book depository is now a museum about that fateful day. It's quite impressive. There are minute-by-minute photos of the motorcade driving down Elm Street. Kennedy was hit at 12:30pm. There are also frame-by-frame stills of the Zapruder film. How's this for crazy? There's a quote by JFK the morning he died: "If anybody really wanted to shoot the President of the United States, it's not a difficult job, all one has to do is get in a high building... with a telescopic rifle." Eerie. You're not allowed to take pictures inside the museum, but outside on the street, there are two "X" markings that indicate the two shots he took. For us journalism junkies, there's a fascinating account of Jack Ruby's murder of Oswald. Former NY radio announcer Ike Pappas asked Oswald a question right as Ruby emerged from nowhere and shot Oswald. Pappas said he thought he was going to get hit as well. Checking out this museum was a nice two-hour break for some brain facts.

I arrived in Oklahoma City around 10 that night. My friend Jaclyn Schultz immediately took me out to the downtown party scene known as Bricktown. For someone who knew nothing about OKC - gotta be honest - it impressed me. This was a Tuesday night, and Bricktown was popping, especially the Skyy Bar. The area reminded me of Baltimore near Camden Yards. That's not a good analogy because nobody like Baltimore, except McNulty (whoever hasn't watched "The Wire" needs to!). It's a hip, relatively recently developed area that includes a riverwalk, with boat-rides, and Mickey Mantle-Bricktown Stadium, home of the triple A Astros. Mantle was from Spavinaw, OK. Don't really know how close that is to OKC. Don't really care to look it up. I have a photo of this, but this program isn't letting me upload. That's too bad because Ansel Adams called to tell me it was the greatest photo he's ever seen.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day Four, Five, & Six - Coco Loco

First of all, I'm writing this while watching my first episode ever of "Jersey Shores", so if you notice I'm dumber, no explanation needed.
Let's talk signs. Days before I leave Mobile, "Signs" pops on TV. One of my old roomates (WALA-TV photographer Riccardo Montgomery) has never seen it and we end up all watching homegirl leave cups of water all over the house - much like my other former roommate (Studio Ten's The Joe Emer).
On the Friday before heading out of town, I start to hear a whistling sound come into my car. Considering I'm about to drive across the entire country, and in snow, I figured I'd take it to the shop. Let me preface - I don't know jack about cars. JACK!!! The service department tells me that my windshield isn't completely sealed and it's a minor issue that's not really worth fixing. Sweet!
Apparently my flux capacitor is leaking major flux and if I don't fix it immediately my car will not only blow up, but it will prevent the McFlys from meeting and ultimately stop Marty from ever existing. Faced with these alternatives, I had to fix the mysterious automotive ailment. The repair dropped me $200, which isn't that much in the long run, but when you're about to embark on a travel expedition while unemployed, anything helps. Add to that, whatever part I need (plutonium?) isn't available, so I'm given a Camry as a loaner. Day-and-a-half before I drive cross country, and my car's in the shop for the night? Signs yo.
When I get back home Friday night, I'm exhausted and take a quick a nap before a bunch of friends head off to Biloxi for an innocent evening of clubbing, gambling, and the occasional Capri Sun. It's around 7pm, I'm unsuccessfully trying to sleep, when out-of-nowhere this tall black guy who looks like a supermodel breaks into my room. Thanks to Studio Ten's Joe Emer, my old friend Q McCray (WFTV reporter), the guy responsible for bringing me to Mobile in the first place, has driven from Orlando for the g'bye festivities. Insane surprise.
They didn't end there. In Biloxi, MS, my boy Mike Rockwood and his wife Jene' pop up - making the 7+ hour drive from Houston for the celebration, despite me heading to their house anyway in the next couple days. My old Wyoming roommate Stu McCann came down from Montgomery. Come to think of it, with all the dudes that ended up staying at my townhouse that night, it kind of looked like the Jersey Shores house, minus the tans, roids, and Snooki (sp?).
The weekend was better than anything since Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman ran into some crazy antics with a mustached corpse formally named Bernard. I can only sum up the festivities by saying my friends are incredible, and for those who happen to be reading this - a sincere thank you. Typical of farewell celebrations, there was just as much sadness as joy.
Leaving Mobile was more emotional than I expected it. I’ve truly grown to love the Gulf Coast, and so many of the people around me. Like my time in Wyoming, I’ve met people here that I will remain friends with for a long time. I was fortunate enough to work at a station where the newsroom crew was tighter than Brian Fontana, Brick Tamland, Champ Kind, and Ron Burgundy (before Veronica Corningstone was hired).
When closing one chapter of your life, I find it impossible not to look back and wonder what if. What if I did this, or did that? Wonder especially about relationships and what could've been? And that's where I once again realize that's not what this trip is all about. This trip is about fulfilling that what if. To avoid saying, 'man, I wish I did that.' For as much as I love Mobile and the people, the city is a homonym. And a non-proper noun definition of "mobile" relates to being on the move. Maybe it was inevitable.
Signs yo.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day One - The Here and Now

Recession. In these trying economic times (cliché), it would not seem the smartest thing to quit your job, especially a job you enjoy. To lose your insurance, benefits, income – all for nothing. No. That would not seem smart.
I am not a smart man.
I’ve worked in broadcast journalism since graduating the University of California at Santa Barbara in 2003. It’s a calling I love. I love knowing that every day at work will most likely be different than the last. I love interviewing celebrities and athletes and asking them obscure questions. I love knowing that boxer Roy Jones Jr doesn't like swimming because he doesn’t want his arm torn off by a shark (link will be provided). I love getting free media food. I love standing on the sidelines of sporting events. I love writing the perfect line. I love making someone smile. I love what I do.
But all this love has not prevented me from quitting my job. I’m doing it for several reasons – one big one is to travel. Several months ago, as I sat on a pancake-thin Wal-Mart futon with bars jabbing my spine, a Warren Miller snowboard movie came on TV. It dawned on me that I haven’t gone powder plowing in more than three years. Riding is one of my favorite hobbies. My old Kemper snowboard, it’s doubtful that company is in business still – and I’m too lazy to Google it, has been accumulating dust like Miss Havisham’s bridal gown.
Snowboarding was essentially a metaphor for the many things I, and people in the TV industry, have to sacrifice. Living far from home, I’ve missed out on weddings, funerals, birthdays, etc. I have taken one vacation for myself in the last 6 years – and even worked on that vacation. The rest of my company-issued vacation time goes to weddings and other events, but really, mostly weddings. My alter ego is Katherine Heigl in “27 Dresses.” Disclaimer: I haven’t seen that movie and am solely making the comparison based on trailers.
My contract with WALA-TV in Mobile was ending (broadcast talent are like athletes with multi-year contracts and options), and feeling confident, or optimistic, that I’ll find a new job, I decided to leave my job to see more of the world. Ideally, my unemployment will only last two months. I’m 30-years-old, single, have no kids, and can pull this off financially (at least for a little while). It seemed my career was at a crossroad, and if I didn’t pull off some sort of grand traveling scheme – I might never get the opportunity again. I didn’t backpack through Europe after college, I didn’t join the Peace Corps in Africa, I missed the boat on experiential travel earlier – and now I want to catch up.
As I leave Mobile, I will drive to New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Oklahoma City, Denver, Vail, and Las Vegas before returning home to Orange County, CA. The very next morning, I will head off to Rio De Janeiro, with a layover in New York that’s long enough that I’ll visit my sister in the city. I’ll spend 9 days in Brazil, including Iguazu Falls. Some excursions planned include hang-gliding from a mountain top to the beach, and rappelling down waterfalls.
When I return from South America, I plan on heading to Phoenix, Seattle, and Whistler. While I do all this traveling, I will drop by several TV stations in hopes of convincing them that I’m someone they want to hire. I hope my work can do the talking because my selling skills are worse than Willy Loman.
Unlike the death of a salesman, I want to take advantage of my time; my life. I want to have as few regrets as possible. I don’t want to wonder what if. If I stayed at my work, I would constantly second guess my decision. I would also question not having the sticks to take this leap of faith. So despite my apprehension, leaving a comfortable situation, a great job, it’s off to see the world. It’s time to live for now.
Recession or not, it's recess time for me.

We’ll see if I get any smarter.