AndyO Blog

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Driving to Lake Chelan

We're back in beautiful Lake Chelan, where my wife attends a conference every year. It's also become a tradition for the kids and me to come with her. I still remember the first time I came along with Cameron, who was only a few months old. It's certainly a lot easier now, even though I have to watch after two kids now.

To sleep... perchance to dream

Before we left Seattle, I decided to sleep in -- and then sleep some more. Brenda had told me the day before that we were leaving early, and I'd agreed. But then I went downstairs with the boys and enjoyed a nice mid-morning nap to the soothing sounds of The Lion King.

When I got back upstairs, Brenda was pulling all her bags out of our Outback and throwing them in the Jetta. I asked what she was doing, and she said, "I need to go. I'll meet you there."

Ooops. Shouldn't have taken that mid-morning nap.

After several minutes of negotiating -- I was standing in the entryway, and she was standing near her car -- she agreed to give me 30 minutes.

In the shower, I started singing a new song:

"I'm in the doghouse/ And the whole neighborhood knows it..."

Sidenote: I live in a neighborhood where a public argument will become fodder for many gossip sessions. I've learned not to care about this stuff -- unless I'm truly out of line (that is, yelling).

Good news/Bad news

I made it out of the house in about 45 minutes, although by the time we gassed up the car and returned to the house for some stuff I'd forgotten, it was well over an hour.

The good news was that we got to Campbell's at Lake Chelan in about 3-1/2 hours. The bad news was they didn't have our room ready.

I'm not one of those people who always thinks his room should be ready -- especially when I'm getting in before check-in time -- but you think they would have given a little extra effort for  the person putting on the conference (Brenda). Instead, we got the, "Check-in time is at 4:00. We'll call you if we can get your room ready earlier."

Brenda had to run off to a meeting, and I decided to sit in the lobby with Drew (wearing only a diaper) and Cameron (wearing all his clothes). They raised hell, jumping on couches and having a good time. The concierge finally told them to settle down.

At 4:10, I got up and waited in line to check in. When I got up to the front, around 4:25, they said they still didn't know if my room was available -- but they would check. Thankfully, it was available.

But when we arrived at the room, there was a housekeeping cart sitting out front. I asked the person there if the room was ready, and they called someone on their walkie talkie.

"I just told the office that that room was ready!" a man yelled on the walkie talkie.

I decided at this point, they were either having a really bad day -- or they hadn't trained their staff.

Freeze Gopher!

After we were in the room and starting to relax, I got out my new telephoto lens for my Canon G9. Fortunately, a subject appeared in the distance. After taking a few shots, I thought maybe it was a gopher. Or a groundhog. Or a prairie dog.

Later I found out it was a marmot -- probably a Yellow-bellied Marmot, which is common in the Northwest.

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Later I went out during twilight to take some additional pictures of Campbell's. I love this time of the day, with the mountains sharpening against the sky, the lake starting to calm.

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posted by AndyO @ 8:01 PM   1 comments links to this post

Tim Russert - In memoriam

Update - 6/22/08

I just read that Tom Brokaw will be taking over for Tim Russert on "Meet the Press." I don't think anyone else could have taken over, at least on the NBC roster, as Brokaw was the most popular news anchroman when he stepped down in 2004. Brokaw will bring the authority that NBC needs in an election year.

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When I read about Tim Russert's death last Friday, it seemed a little surreal. I had practically just seen him at my work two years earlier, on June 8, 2006, where he talked to the small crowd, and then signed copies of "Wisdom of Our Fathers." I wasn't going to buy the book, but just listening to him talk about it sold me (it was a collection of letters from people who talked about the wisdom of their fathers). I gave it to my Dad for Father's Day, and he really enjoyed it.

I have to admit I didn't watch "Meet the Press" too often, but I did see Mr. Russert on other news shows. He always came across as a serious journalist. When I saw him in person, Russert seemed like the kind of guy you could sit down with and have a few beers -- a friend. It was this quality that made him so popular with TV audiences.

Thinking back on the hour I spent with Russert, thinking about the brief exchange we had when he signed my book, I'm reminded of how one person can make a difference. In this age of media spin and information overload, it was refreshing to find someone in a position of influence who knew how to cut through the B.S. Who knew how to shine a light on the Truth.

It's rare to see such an outpouring of sympathy and mourning for a journalist. From what I've read, Russert's funeral was much like a state funeral -- with mayors, senators, presidents, colleagues, and presidential hopefuls in attendance.

I think that Russert would have been shocked by the amount of attention his funeral received. I think he would have worried about what wasn't being reported on because of his funeral.

But sometimes people need to stop and pay tribute to a person who changed the world.

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posted by AndyO @ 1:05 AM   0 comments links to this post

Monday, June 02, 2008

Rush at Clark County Amphitheater - 6/1/08

For my final Rush show on the Snakes & Arrows tour, I went with my brother and his girlfriend Helen. They picked me up around 2:00, and we drove straight to the amphitheater (only stopping off at Wendy's and a rest stop). As usual, Erik and I talked (Helen wanted to sleep in the back).

When we got to Clark County, three or so hours later, I stepped out into surprisingly cold air. I'd worn shorts, and I was trying to decide whether to put on my sweats. Instead, I just put on a North Face jacket, and then we walked to the venue.

Even though we had an hour or so before the show started, I ended up passing the time quickly by talking to friends. Monica told me that Ray had talked to Howard, Rush's lighting director, about the Gorge show the night before. Howard said that it had been a very difficult concert for the crew, and that he'd lost a bunch of lights and lasers due to the wind. He said that instead of going to the after-show party with the crew, he ended up going right to bed. He was looking forward to playing the show at Clark County.

Set 1

When the show started, Geddy came out wearing a long coat. He also had a scarf wrapped around his neck. Seeing this made me feel even colder than I already was. The band sounded great, and at close range they looked like they were having fun.

Geddy and Neil at Clark County - photo by Monica Z

Almost right away, Alex acknowledged a group of guys standing in front of me, many of whom were wearing golf gear. (I'm guessing that he'd gone golfing with them during the day -- or at least seen them on the course.)

I spent some time pointing things out to Helen, as this was her first Rush concert. She seemed genuinely amazed at all the stuff going on, and recognized a bunch of the songs

As with every show at Clark County, the shortest man in the venue ended up standing behind Erik, who stands at 6 feet 7. The problem was, he really couldn't stand behind Helen or me, as we both stand at or over 6 feet. Somehow, he ended up moving down his row where he could see better. In general, people seemed to be moving around quite a bit.

During the intermission, I walked up to the restroom with my friend Keith, and we talked about what we'd been doing since we'd last seen each other. As we were standing in the mile-long line at the restroom, we saw a bunch of security people and finally Sheriff's deputies run into the bathroom. I never did see them pull someone out, but it sure looked exciting.

Monica told me that Steve had been shut down from taking pictures by Michael Mossbach, Rush's security director. He found it odd that he was the only one Michael targeted, as everyone around them was either taking pictures or video (or holding signs that blocked the view).

Set 2

During the second set, I wasn't getting any warmer. In fact, I think the temperature dropped into the low 50s (F). Geddy continued to wear the long coat and the scarf across his neck.

I noticed a lot of activity off the stage, with Rush security people scanning the audience. They seemed to be pointing right at me, although I wasn't taking any pictures or doing anything other than air drumming (when appropriate, of course). Sure enough, Michael inched by me and then waited behind a guy who was taking pictures. Then he tapped him on the shoulder, and, from what I could tell, erased every picture the guy had taken. What was odd was this guy was with the golf guys that Alex had acknowledged, and was wearing a backstage pass on his shirt.

When the band played Witch Hunt, I saw Geddy warming his hands on the fire, which I thought was funny. But I have to admit the heat felt pretty good. As the band got closer to the end of the show, some other interesting things happened.

Neil Peart at Clark County - Photo by Monica Z

During One Little Victory, Neil seemed to miss the hi-hat downbeat he plays along with the double-bass. He ended up switching the beat around until he found the downbeat. What was strange was at the end of the song, he did the same thing. It almost sounded like he was bored and trying to find a new way to play the beat.

During YYZ, Alex made some big boo-boos. During the chorus, he started on a wrong note. He looked back at Neil, who was laughing at him. He kept making self-deprecating gestures to the audience -- like holding his nose as if to acknowledge his poor playing.

Making Memories

This show marks the end of my Snakes & Arrows tour. The band is going on to play many more shows, but between the 2007 and 2008 tours I've seen Rush nine times -- including my first ever Toronto shows and Ottawa. I remember when I used to see these guys once every two years.

People always ask me why I attend so many shows, and I guess the simplest answer is that Rush's music makes me happy. It reminds me of why I picked up the drum sticks. It inspires me. It gives me an excuse to travel to places I've never been, and see friends I haven't seen in a while. There aren't too many things that can do that for me.

So, for those who want to know, here were my favorite shows on the tour:

  1. Toronto 2 (2007)
  2. Phoenix (2008)
  3. Clark County (2008)
  4. White River (2007)
  5. The Gorge (2008)
  6. Toronto 1 (2007)
  7. Vancouver B.C. (2008)
  8. Clark County (2007)
  9. Ottawa (2007)

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posted by AndyO @ 11:30 PM   7 comments links to this post

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Rush at the Gorge - 5/31/08

I wasn't originally going to take Cameron to the Gorge show, but then I ended up buying some box seat tickets that someone advertised at work. This would allow Cameron to be able to see over the crowd, as the box seats were elevated behind the floor seats.

On the day of the concert, Cameron and I met Monica and Ray (who had flown in from New York) at Monica's house. A light rain was falling, so I brought my rain jacket. We piled in Monica's car and drove off to Eastern Washington.

Ray had never been to the eastern side of the state. We drove over Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 through a dramatic mountain landscape. Seeing that familiar road through Ray's eyes made me appreciate it more than usual.

Descending from the mountains, we passed from the sea of green trees into the pale desert of Eastern Washington -- finally turning off at Ellensburg. This city, home to Central Washington University, was usually a place where I stopped off for food, gas, or a bathroom break, but this time Monica wanted to drive the back roads to Ginkgo Petrified Forest. In all my trips from Seattle to the Tri-Cities (where I grew up), I'd never traveled this back road of rolling hills, sagebrush, volcanic rocks, and wind farms.

Ginkgo Petrified Forest

I had stopped at Ginkgo Petrified Forest only one other time, when I was a kid. From what I found out at the interpretive center, it was formed about 15 million years ago when ancient forests were covered with volcanic ash, which gradually replaced the tree trunks with minerals in the groundwater. The petrified trunks were protected by basalt, until the Missoula floods eroded the basalt at the end of the last ice age. These petrified trees weren't discovered until 1927, and when they were done excavating them in 1938 they had discovered 50 species of trees on the site -- including (you guessed it) a ginkgo tree.

We watched a movie about the discovery of these petrified trees, and enjoyed the stunning view of the Columbia River from the visitor's center.

Welcome to the Gorge

After Ginkgo, we drove on the last leg of our journey to the Gorge, near George, Washington. Now, I'll be the first to say that the Gorge is not my favorite place to watch a concert. Except for the backdrop of the Columbia River Gorge, it's out in the middle of nowhere, and the facilities (parking, bathrooms) are sub-par. But the other thing I'd forgotten about -- until we pulled up around 6:00 p.m. -- was that Eastern Washington wind. This is the kind of wind that can blow you over, as my son tried to illustrate several times. It's also the kind of wind that can blow speaker cabinets and lights all over the place.

Cameron and I found our box seats, and we talked with the other people sitting there (a father and his daughter). We soon found out that we had some special VIP amenities that came with our box seats, like a private restaurant called the Cliffhouse that had (gasp!) real bathrooms! We also had our own waiters. I ordered a $15 dinner (sandwich, chips, drink). Cameron didn't want a sandwich -- he wanted popcorn and a pretzel, which we got from the good old concession stand.

Then we waited for the show to start, while the wind continued to howl.

Set 1: Swinging speaker cabinets

The band started pretty close to their 8:00 p.m. start time, and from the first note you could tell that this would be a very different Rush show.

Those swinging speaker cabinets caused the sound to fade in and out and lose clarity and power (at least from our seats). When they turned on the fog machine, the fog dissipated across the stage in a thin, violent stream -- losing any kind of effect that the band had intended.

Yet, the band soldiered on. Alex continued to look up nervously at the speaker cabinets and lights through the entire show, while Geddy and Neil seemed energized by the elements. When Geddy first talked to the audience, he said something about possibly "being blown off the stage."

I watched the lighting operators riding the rigs like bullriders, and saw the lights and other equipment crashing together high above the band. Whenever the camera showed Neil from above, the image moved back and forth like he was being filmed by drunk cameramen. The lights that usually come down to the stage in "Between the Wheels" and "Limelight," didn't really move on this night.

Set 2

By the time the second set started, the wind kept howling. Cameron, who had been dreading the explosion in "Far Cry," was a little disappointed when there were no sparks to go along with the explosion. God knows what would have happened if those sparklers had gone off with the wind.

When Geddy introduced "The Way the Wind Blows," he said it was apropos given how hard the wind was blowing on this particular night.

When it came time for Neil's solo, I have to say it was one of the finest I've seen him play on this tour -- or ever. I don't know if he was inspired or what, but he played some amazing beats in the improvised section on the high tom-toms. He also seemed to add some new fills in his "Drum Also Waltzes" African section.

As for the crowd at this show, they were enthusiastic. But there were a few problems. First, there were the guys in last row on the floor standing on their chairs (and security only telling them once to get down). Then there was the father and his son in the box seats directly below us, standing and rocking out.

Finally, there was the asshole who threw a glow stick from the grass area from about 200 feet above us. It happened during "Spindrift," when I was looking through my binoculars. I saw a green flash out of the corner of my left eye. When I looked up at the light, I knew it was a glow stick -- and it was moving at Mach 2! I moved my head slightly and the stick just missed me. Cameron nudged me and said, "Did you know that glow stick almost hit you? It almost hit me, too!" I started thinking about what I would have done had that glow stick hit Cameron or me. I think one of us would have been hurt pretty bad, as it had been thrown from at least 200 feet above us. Now I had another reason to hate the Gorge.

In the end, it was quite a concert. Despite the sound problems caused by the wind, I thought the band played exceptionally well -- and there was that drum solo.

On the way back to Seattle, first Cameron conked out, and then Ray. And then it was up to me to keep Monica awake as we drove through the mountains and finally into the Seattle area.

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posted by AndyO @ 11:38 PM   2 comments links to this post