Sunday, January 25, 2009

YES WE CAN!!! And we did at that!

Zowie! After an arduous drive from Boston, a quick nap, shower, and grub we headed down to DC for the inauguration. We were one of the "lucky ones". My dad lives in Maryland and commutes to work in DC. We had a nice, comfy, warm place to crash. We made it to his house at six-ish (mind you, I had been on the road since 1am when I left Boston). A very delicious lasagna awaited us. With our bellies full, Jack Bauer on the 60inch TV, and a "briefing" about transit, we nestled into slumber.

Five AM came to quickly. We winterized ourselves. Like we were back in Fairbanks, Alaska winterized. LOL Layers upon layers upon layers. It was going to be a long frigid day. Dad drove us to the commuter bus meeting spot. We boarded the bus and took off for the half hour drive to the metro station. Easy Peasy. The metro station, the green line, will take us strait into the belly of the beast.

The metro itself was no different than the 1 or 9 in New York City or the Central Line in London or any Tokyo line. It was crowded - like WWII boxcar crowded. Unfortunately only about 1% of the people were commuter babies. The other 99% had never traveled in such close quarters. They did not know the "rules of commuting". LOL 1) When you get on the train, walk to the center of the car. 2) Every available space is occupied by a warm body. 3) The train is not full until your nose is in someone's arm pit. LOL

We were supposed to exit at L'Enfant Plaza, but they had closed it due to way to many bodies. We made the executive decision to overshoot and get off at the next stop as opposed to getting off at the stop before L'Enfant. It was a shorter walk to the mall area. Well, that's what we reckoned. Passing thru L'Enfant we could see masses of bodies shuffling towards the exits. A slow undulating wave of humanity. It was a precursor of things to come.

We hit our stop and exited the train. Topside we were turned around. We had maps. That helped. We followed the crowd. First this way. Then that. To one dead end. Then another road block. It reminded me of the scene in Spinal Tap when the band couldn't find the way to the stage. They just walked around in circles. The cops were no help. They were only concerned with their little patch of real estate. They tried. I got my information by eavesdropping on a hispanic gentleman engaged in a mobile phone conversation. Lucky my scant knowledge of Spanish was in the forefront of my brain! The police were directing people toward the parade route. It was only 0830. We wanted to see the swearing in. Our charge became how to get to the mall area. I felt like I was in a video game, roaming around a huge map without unlimited ammo or life. LOL At least I could "pick up items" to help me with my journey!

We made our way down to 3rd and 14th. This was a gated area that let in ticket holders. SCORE!!! We were close. The lovely policewoman told us to get to the general public viewing area in the mall we should take the car tunnel. That was a walk. Reminded me of a zombie movie. At least these were slow, lumbering zombies - to many layers of clothing to move swiftly. Upon exiting the car tunnel there were circus barkers telling everyone which way to go. It was a festive atmosphere. Roskilde, Graspop, Rock im Park/Rock am Ring, Donington.... Now imagine those festivals with 100x more people! And without the drunk and disorderly.

As we neared the mall area, the throngs of people became thick like molasses, immovable like a concrete wall. We had to snake through the crowd to get where we wanted to go. It was if we were Emmitt Smith moving in super slow motion, dodging defensive linesmen. People were in the trees to get a better view of the crowd. They were standing on block fencing. Standing on the porto potty's as well.

Our timing was pristine. We found our way to the lawn just in front of the Washington Monument before the first words were uttered commencing the inauguration of our 44th president. The atmosphere was electric. Their was such a vibe of peace and astonishment and unbridled giddyness . . . the love in's of the 60s and Height Ashbury paled in comparison. The air was alive with good will and promise.

Our perch did not allow us to see any of the screens. The closest we came to seeing the swearing in was me on my tippy toes, hand outstretched with my Canon SX10 IS with it's 20x optical zoom precariously trained to the distant screen, my viewfinder angled down so that Walt, Greg, and who ever else was behind me could see. It was comical. We made friends.

I don't remember the actual speech. I just remember the voice of confidence. The voice that inspired so many. You could no longer feel the cold.


Gobsmacking happiness




Then began the long arduous trek back home. Us and two million plus other people. To say the transit system was overwhelmed is an understatement. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get thru L'Enfant to the subway platform. At least 6 people passed out around us because of the heat. They didn't have the heat on in the shoppes, just that when you have thousands of people all radiating 98.6 degrees, it becomes a bit unbearable. Luckily everyone was still in good spirits. There was some rumbling, but it's expected and understandable. We felt like cattle being corralled and pushed down shoots to the slaughter house. Most of the time was spent standing still. Then shuffle a few steps. Stop. Rest. Repeat. It was a slow arduous process. Not fun in the slightest. Thankfully, we hit the platform and could breath.

The trains back were not packed. They were full, but manageable. The bus was waiting for us at the end of the green line. We only had to wait about ten minutes before the bus ferried us back to the meeting point. From there, Dad met us with bottles of water and a heated vehicle. Once home we feasted on home made soup. Nice and warm for the tummy. We took a rest and hit the road north, bound for New Jersey. We rolled in at 2310 hours. Not bad time.

Over the weekend I finally got to sit down and SEE the swearing in and Obama's speech. It still moved me. I'm very happy that I was a part of history. It is a great honour to say ... " I.WAS.THERE." But next inauguration I'm watching from the warmth and comfort of my living room!


Oh, I almost forgot!! The pictures! LOL
Inauguration Photos
These were taken by Walt, Greg, and me. Hope you enjoy them. -smooches-

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Not to long ago I got a late night PM from a mate of mine. He wanted to know what "shows I was doing". I told him and he asked if I would work them. I didn't hesitate to say yes. Mind you, I haven't worked a show since the Ted Nugent show in, wot 2004 I think. This wasn't going to be as labour intensive. This would be more like doing the medical conferences. I would be in my element, left alone, to do my job.

I didn't realize how much I missed it! It was a bummer not being able to hang with my mates, some of whom had traveled well over 3000 miles to be at the show. Some live less than an hour away, but I hadn't seen them in ages. But it was dead groovy the actual work environment.

I got my credentials, took a tour of the facility, and notateds the bathrooms. Clean ones that I only had to share with the people who were using this space as their command center. I was working with a good friend whom I hadn't seen since I was in Dublin two years ago! LOL I was issued my equipment. Went over production notes. And Bob's your uncle.

It took about 2 songs for me to find my groove. I think the 4th and 5th song I shot I was at my best. I cursed myself for not getting to the groove sooner, but the equipment was actually "older" than the last that I used. LOL I also only had a sketchy story board of what to shoot. I did have some shots planned in my head and was able to follow the pyro and laser guy's cues pretty well.Both would uncover thier boards a few minutes before they were to start then cover them when they were done. That dictated my wide and tight shots.

There was only the one camera so I had to roll primarily A roll and some B roll when I could sneak it in. The transitision between the two were a bit shaking to start. Like I said it took a few songs to find my pacing. I do feel a bit guilty - I know - when have I ever felt guilty about anything? See, a majority of my mates were on the rail in my line of sight! There were a lot - I mean A LOT of shots I framed around them! I hope it's not too obvious, but as my "boss" (ok immediate supervisor) knows the same people I know, it may stand out when he views the dailies (or in this case nightlies) LOL

Any ways, working last night reminded me of why I had gone into that field to begin with and I yearned to be back in the field now. Teaching is great. The hours are better. The pay is better. But the commeraderie that I felt last night is not there in teaching. The instant satisfaction of "knowing I got the frakking money shot" is not there. Teaching isn't framed beautifully. There is no road dog mentallity in teaching. No staying up for 20 hours and then driving to the next city to stay up 20+ more hours.

I'm not crazy, this is just my life. Or rather was my life and now only occupies a small part of my life. Many people can't understand why I do what I do. 30-50 concerts a year. 3-5 countries a year. Major source of communication the internet. LOL Being BFF with people you "only know on a message board". It's so much more than that.

Yesterday people called my name and gave me great big hugs. People whom I don't remember remembered me. Now I know you say, but Vic. Everyday you walk into school, the kids yell your name and come grab a hug. This is true. It's like my old life in miniature form and no soundtrack.

I'm not saying I will go back to my old life (ok, tonite and the last week of January not withstanding, and possibly Copenhagen in July) but I like revisiting it. I don't wanna be that old broad that regrets the choices I've made. Or did the shouldawouldacoulda. In my heart, I'm a road dog for life.

Bring on Boston - I check in in 4 hours!

Wanderer, rover, nomad, vagabond...where I lay my head is home...wherever I may roam!

P.S. Kudos to the fan who threw the chicken onstage!!! "Oh, it's not a REAL chicken??!!" - G. Randazzo

Monday, January 5, 2009

Toloache - A Restaurant you've got to try!

I got a call from my sister the morning of her birthday weekend. "Toloache!" she says. "I want to go to Toloache for dinner." She gave me the website and their phone number 212-581-1818 and told me to make it happen. I went to the website and stared dejectedly "Reservations must be made three days in advance" (sic). I sighed. I called. It was still early, not yet 0930. No one answered. I tried again at 10 then again close to 11 am. Their first service is 1130 so I was happy to get thru before they were slammed with the brunch crowd. I was able to make a reservation for that night with no problems.

The restaurant is on 251 West 50th St., right off the corner of Broadway and 50th across the alley from the Gershwin Theatre. Across the street is also an entrance to the 1,2,3 and 9.

Toloache seats 90. There are two floors. The bottom floor has a bar that faces the door. The stairs leading up to the loft area are made of a lovely light coloured wood; the rise a bit high but the run a comfortable size. I should have worn my knee braces before tackling them. The lighting is soft but not so much you can't see the food or your company. Mexican style music is played. It's not to loud that you have to scream at your company or strain to hear them. You can hold a regular conversation with no problems.

Our waiter was attentive without being overbearing. It was our first time to the restaurant so everything looked good. We asked him what he recommended. He responded by asking us what we like. He didn't try to force the food on us but rather asked relevant questions and steered us toward food he thought we'd like.

We choose the adobo rubbed tuna and the roasted suckling pig. While we were waiting, we ordered some fresh guacamole (tradicional) which came with warm chips. Even if you don't normally like guacamole, try this. I'm not big on veggies but this was very scrumptious. It's creamy. It's flavourful. It's much better than "salsa" for dipping your chips. About ten minutes later our main course arrived. OMG!!! Both were delicious! The four pieces of tuna was seared on the outside and a gorgeous deep maroon on the inside. It lay on a bed of rice sprinkled with corn. It was topped with tiny pineapple chunks. It was a nice light tasting meal. Very flavourful and filling. The shredded roasted pork watered in your mouth. The orange salsa was savory.

Because it was a birthday celebration we went all out and ordered margarita's. Hey we're "big gyrls" LOL But these are not just any old margaritas. We got one blueberry and one pomegranate. Both came with copious amounts of tequila. The blueberry was "heavy" and berry flavoured while the pomegranate was lighter and melony. Mind you, this is not the type of margaritas you may be used to. No salt rimmed cone shaped glass with thin stem. These were sturdy cylinder shaped glasses no more than 3 inches tall - about a cup and a half of liquid. It was the perfect amount!

For desert we ordered a churros and a pastel de chocolate. I'm a huge lover of chocolate, but I prefered the churros. The churros came in a "log cabin" of six sticks with chocolate and caramel dipping sauce. The pastel de chocolate looked like a chocolate flat topped muffin with caramel ice cream on the side. It was the best caramel (dulce de leche) ice cream I've ever had - better than Breyers! I was a bit disappointed with the chocolate. The inside was a creamy dark chocolate mousse. The cake was lovingly warmed. But as I said, I liked the churros better. They were light and cinnamony.

With a drink and dessert, budget about $55 per person for a meal. It's leisurely. It's enjoyable. The wait staff and the bussers are lovely gentlemen. Our water was refilled without asking. Our table was kept spotless. Plates, extra silver ware, etc did not pile up. Everything was removed and or replaced quickly, unobtrusively, and with a smile.

You want upscale modern Mexican food without the kitch? Go to Toloache!

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