Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year, y'all!

Just a quick update....  Flew back down to California for Christmas with my Kids and Mary (and a bunch of friends from business, USC and even a movie with Teresa's ex-fiance who's a very good friend of ours).  Had a wonderful time.  Mindi and Ed (my daughter and her husband) and I took in the Nut Cracker.  Strange at 57, but I'd never actually been to a ballet before!

I always wanted to see the Nut Cracker, and this was in the Pasadena Civic Auditorium where years earlier I had attended the premier of a film I edited - the Official Tournament of Roses Parade film.  (I had worked for a fellow who had the contract for that production in the past, and that year he hired me to edit the film).

There was a float in that parade by Honda with a working rollercoaster that had a 360 loop in the middle.  It really wowed the crowds!  But, we had three camera angles on the float so in editing I cut all three together so it looked like the coaster went around the loop three times before continuing on.  Well, I knew the Tournament (and my boss) were pretty conservative, so I expected he'd tell me to change it to what it "really" was - just one loop around.

Surprisingly, he was tickled by the cut.  He said, "They'll never go for it in the final cut, but it's just too interesting no to show it to them."  Well, as you may suspect, the Tournament Film Committe loved it and said to keep it in, even though it wasn't really a "documentary" of the event.

So, back to the Civic Auditorium...  We premiered the film there on the big screen in that huge modern theater which was filled with dignitaries and muckety-mucks from the Tournament, from Pasadena Society, and anybody else who could rangle a ticket.  In other words, the place was packed.

The film ran to an appreciative crowd, and then the moment approached for the Honda float.  I was sitting in the back of the theater to observe the audience's reaction.  The coaster approached the loop.  It went around once.  Around twice.  A third time!  A roar of confusion, then awe, then boisterous approval grew and exploded from the crowd.  It was the highlingt of the evening.

Afterward, the key people in the film and in the Tournament gathered at my boss's house for a premier party, though we (Mary and I) couldn't stay long, as she was pregnant with our first child - but that's another story.

So, back to Christmas in California.  Had some great visits with friends, did a little business, saw True Grit at the movies, enjoyed some good meals.  On in particular, at P.F.Changs just before the Nutcracker, was particularly memorable.  My daughter and I were to meet Ed there at the theater and had 40 minutes before show time and had missed dinner due to a full day of Christmas shopping together.  So, we got into the crowded restaurant, got seated in about ten minutes, ordered some wonderful items off the menu which came ten minutes later, ate in ten minutes, and had ten minutes left to get to the theater, which we did in time to meet Ed and see the show.

One sad note - I was to visit some dear friends up in the mountains in Pine Mountain Club at about 6000 feet elevation at the bottom of a "bowl" surrounded by 8,000 foot mountain peaks half way between L.A. and Bakerfield (above Frazier Park near Mount Pinos) - confused yet?

Well, Alan and I had just seen True Grit at the AMC multiplex in Burbank and were on the road to a drug store to pick up some wrapping paper for the presents for our friends and then to drive up to the mountain to see them.  Teresa and I have spent Christmas Eve with them for years, staying at their home for a few days, then driving down to see my kids and Mary on Christmas morning.  But this year, Teresa couldn't drive down with me, so I took the plane and stayed with Mary and my son in our home in Burbank.

(Alan and Teresa used to live in PMC, and later when Teresa and I got together we also moved to PMC and even bought a home there.  The two friends, Bob and Shanon, were not married nor intimately involved, but had lived together as roommates - pretty much a couple without "benfits", as they say - for 18 years.)

As we were closing in on the drug store I got a call on my cell phone - "Melanie?  This is Shanon.  Bob had a heart attack and died this morning."  Silence.  "What?!", I stammered.  "Bob's dead" (delivered almost matter-of-fact).  "You're kidding?!"  "Nope."  And so began a sad and shocked journey up the mountain to stay overnight with Shanon as planned, but not under the conditions we had expected..

Alan was also always at our Christmas Eves and mornings with Bob and Shanon, so it was a surreal experience to be there at this time of year in sadness.  Bob was only fifty, an avid hiker (he had joined us in our back country hike on the John Muir Trail, up and over Donahue Pass at 12,000 feet)  and we had shared with him many hikes into the wilderness.  In fact, these came to be known as "Bob Hikes" - essentially, go off trail, climb over rocks, struggle through underbrush (better if the snow is three feet deep and it's twenty degrees) and dreturn after nightfall.

But, in addition to being in great shape, he also loved to drink and smoke.  I don't think I ever saw him sober in the twelve years I knew him, but he was the nicest, kindest fellow - always optimistic, kind of a cross between John Denver and a California Hippie who never grew up.  He'll be greatly missed, but he taught me a lot of lessons about life by the one he lived.  Teresa and I are planning a memorial web page for him in the near future, but for now, here's a couple of Bob Links about some of the hikes we've taken:

The Grouse Mountain Expedition - a photo essay

Hiking with Bob #1, #2, #3 - Three ten minute videos of me following Bob on a hike in PMC last Christmas, little realizing it would be our last.

Well, don't want to end on a down note (and I'm trying to write and watch the Rose Parade at the same time) so, here's a few cheery things about the holidays before I sign off...

My daughter and her husband are doing well financially this year and she wanted to get me something special this year.  So, she bought me the material item I have most wanted (and drooled over) for the longest time:  the Canon SX30IS camera!  (Actually, this model is only out a few months, but I was craving the earlier SX20IS for a year - and then they came out with this new and even BETTER model!

Man, was I surprised!  Let me bore you with the features I love the most:  It has a 35x "wide angle" optical zoom.  I see things in wide angle and always favored 28mm and 20mm lenses in my 35mm photography in years past.  But when I switched to digital, short of getting a digital SLR with interchangable lenses, there was no way to get wide angle in a camera with a built-in zoom lens.  (I like the built-in because of the hiking, which is where I take most of my photographs - it prevents dust and is less to carry).  So, having a true wide angle on the zoom is amazing!  Also, it shoots HD video!  So now I don't have to carry a separate video camera on hikes either.  In fact, not only is it the best still camera but also the best video camera I've owned.

(If you are interested, you can see some of my photographs here and some of my videos here - and information about some of my days in the movie biz here).

Christmas morning with family (including my son's fiancee) was wonderful, and then, I did something I'd not done before - I flew back home to Teresa and Oregon on Christmas Day at noon!  It was the last flight out of Burbank on Alaska Airlines - only partly filled, and getting through security was a breeze.

Teresa met me at the airport, all dolled up, and then drove us home where she had prepared (from scratch, being the true gourmet cook she is) a Rib Roast, from which we cut generous hand-rubbed Prime Rib portions for each of us, a special baked corn dish made with heavy cream and topped with golden Florentine cheese, an exotic olive medley, black truffle mashed potatoes and followed by pumpkin pie with homemade heavy whipped cream seasoned with cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla.

Since then, I've bought a new computer, a new netbook, and gotten them all set up with different user names for business, personal, etc.

All in all, then, it was a great finish to the year.  In 2011 we'll likely be moving back to So. Cal for a few years, as I'm about to begin a government project based on theories I created twenty years ago with some friends. This will also give me the chance to share a lot more time with my kids.

More about that later.  And now it's time to watch the end of the parade and then settle in for a nice long day of college football bowl games.

Happy New Year, y'all!

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