May, 2010 Archive
Being a full blooded American I love road trips. My family vacations were not even faintly familiar to how I travel now: first class plane, VIP lounges and very nice hotels. They were long wonderful journeys in the back of a Pontiac station wagon with fake wood paneling. My two sisters and I packed in the back along with our beloved dog Gidget. We were usually heading to see our aunts, uncles and cousins in Pennsylvania — an 8-hour trip that was full of promise, when even stopping at a bathroom at a rest stop held a bit of the magic of travel.
So I was so happy that a road trip along Route 66 was added to the list. We couldn’t do the whole of route 66 as that would take too long; however, saying that I realize how ridiculous the shear amount of what I accomplish in these weekend shows is and simple logistics never stopped my producers before in cramming 1 week’s worth of activities in 2 days time. But there are speed limits to observe.
I love driving and I also love shooting driving sequences. Usually it’s some nice alone time as the camera shoots me from another vehicle I can crank up the tunes and have a good time. I’m also shooting with one of my dearest friends and cameramen, Brian Miller. We became close during the shooting of all those Royal Caribbean cruise shows and it’s great to be back together working again. Driving along Route 66 you are reminded of a young America still filled with such hope and promise. With all that’s going on right now in the world and us as a country I really ache for a time I was never even a part of. But that’s the allure of this trip, to turn back time and feel things more simply I guess. In our traveling world these days we want hotels with wave pools and restaurants that serve 5 different types of cuisine, we want to be entertained constantly and we want to make sure we are overloaded in our options of what to do. So just driving in a car stopping at an old gas station to enjoy a soda? Now that’s a vacation.
Funny story with Cool Springs Gas Station, when we went in for a snack all they had were cans of soda. It was also a knick-knack and souvenir shop and I spied in the back an old green glass coca-cola bottle. The owner happily rinsed it out with hot water and soap and then we poured the 2009 can of coke into something that looked more appropriate for the place. Once we were done the scene, sitting outside some motorcycles pulled over saw my drink and said “They have bottles of coke? Great!”
Our last day of shooting was at the Grand Canyon. We had arrived the night before and were to be ready to go at 4:30am the next day for the sunrise. Christina and I walked out of our rooms at 4:30am and saw nobody. Uh oh we thought, this can’t be right as there’s usually someone loading up a van with equipment or snacks and beverages. When we called our beloved producer Ben he nearly had a heart attack as two vans left that morning each one thinking me and Christina were in the other one. They were already positioned over the rim for the best view of the sunrise and aside from the host of the show not being there it was going to be one heck of a shot. They raced and got me, running out of the car, being handed my mic and battery pack and quickly hiding it within my clothing a dash of lip gloss and now I’m in front of camera minutes away from the sun rising and exposing the glorious depths of our Grand Canyon. Definitely worth getting up at 3:30am.
I have run away this weekend and joined the circus. The dream of every young kid. It was our first taste that life could be exciting, daring and adventurous. I love when I really get to immerse myself in the lives of others and I am most looking forward to getting to experience a bit of a lifestyle that seems to exist in this flying trapeze of another world.
I understand a lot of viewers will wonder how this is a Great Weekend — doing something no one can do (unless of course you join the circus) but for me it’s that behind-the-scenes look at other people’s lives that really can round out a travel experience. Usually the show is comprised of the accessible and the immersive to give you a full perspective of why travel is so important.â€¨
There was also a sense of time travel as well. To go back to a time and feel like a child who has snuck into the Big Top to watch the clowns, acrobats and trapeze artists not only rehearse, but hang-out, gossip, relax and eat. Even behind-the-scenes with no make-up or sequined costumes the magic is still there. And what magic there was …â€¨ â€¨
Watching as well as participating in putting up the Big Top, you can’t help but marvel at the fact that they assemble their own world, create it from scratch. Very similar to our childhood days of make believe of making forts and living out fantasies. Once the big top is up, the children play, the fire-breathers walk their dog and head to the mall for new sneakers. I couldn’t comprehend how they could live such a transient existence. Completely forgetting my own rambling state. But when they told me that when they have a month off between seasons they all begin to get antsy I knew exactly what they meant. I am constantly longing for home and excited for new experiences. Life is a trapeze act. Sometimes you make it and sometimes you fall.
My favorite part of the weekend actually didn’t make the show. It was after my trapeze rehearsal which had to be done around 10pm after the show, as well as after the heat of the sun. The Big Top now empty of guests was a community center of sorts for all the performers. Everyone gathered even all the kids. In the beginning I thought how tough it must be for children to have this life but there they were jumping on the trapeze net and eating the leftover cotton candy and popcorn. What a life.
One question I always get when interviewed is “What destination surprised you?” I usually talk about Berlin, Nicaragua, Cambodia, but now I have a new addition to that list: New Jersey.
Jersey has a certain reputation perpetuated by shows like Jersey Shore and The Sopranos; hysterical as Jersey Shore is and as groundbreaking as The Sopranos were, what those shows don’t portray is the common “good people” population that is as abundant as the gun-carrying, over-tanned and gelled.
I met most of those good folks at Yappy Hour at Wonder Bar, which has to be the happiest place on earth. Every Thursday they open up their back patio to the dogs and owners of Asbury Park. There’s a dog pool, a sandy area and of course plenty of butts to sniff. A local adoption agency was there as well to team up dogs with loving homes. In one hour I fell in love with a Burmese Mt. Dog named Hannah, and then there was Buddha, the 25-pound flatulent Pug.
I got to hang out with Lance Larson who is the heart and soul of Asbury Park.â€¨Lance has been deeply entrenched in the music scene here since the 60s. (It’s his red baseball cap in the back pocket on The Boss’s infamous album cover.) His girlfriend Debbie runs a cat shelter and they host Yappy Hour at Wonderbar. I think I love these people.
A highlight for me was getting to meet Kevin Cronin of REO Speedwagon and Tommy Shaw of Styx today, as their music was a part of the soundtrack of my permed hair and designer jean wearing youth. I got to sing ONSTAGE with them as well. I was so nervous that I asked if I could have stiff drink before I went onstage. All they had was Merlot!
Another rockin’ good time was had when I got to try my hand at Roller Derby. As soon as I walked into the Colliseum I knew I was going to have a good night. Over 50 women skating around in fishnet stockings and tutus. These were the Jersey Shore Roller Girls. I got a quick lesson from Malicious Megs, AC Skater, and Black Eyed Betty. My roller girl name? MC Slamher. And my signature move — green eggs and SLAM!
When I asked the ladies whose ages ran from 21 to 52 why they did it they replied, “Let’s just say we’re not into Pilates.”
It was a total thrill being out there in the rink and all the women were just fantastic in choreographing some moves so I wouldn’t end up in traction. On one of my last go’s around the rink, I fell and the bruise that developed over the next few days was a work of art. It was like its own blue-ribbon prize and I wanted so badly for people to ask me how I got it just so I could say in a tough but nonchalant voice: “Roller Derby.”
I love Maine. If I could live anywhere it would be in Maine. In fact of all the beautiful coasts I’ve visited from Florida to the Caribbean, Hawaii — even Thailand and Bali — none of them stir my heart quite the way that a fog covered rocky coast does. I was thrilled that we were doing a weekend sail onboard a 100-year-old beauty called the Victory Chimes.
The shoot had a rocky start due to rain but it was very clear from the moment we met Captain Kip and his fun crew that we were going to have a great time regardless of weather. Captain Kip is a man rarely found these days — a true old salt with a wicked sense of humor, he gave the impression that he could single handedly man the 180-ft ship himself.
My favorite part of the day became the morning line waiting for the shower. We couldn’t begin showering until 7am since the noise would cause a disturbance to the rooms just beneath it. So those of us who were early risers (or had to begin work in an hour) would make their way to the deck with a hot mug of coffee, tousled hair and sit on the bench waiting our turn as the sun came up. The water at that time in morning was like glass and as I sipped my coffee blinking the sleep from my eyes I knew that I was experiencing heaven on earth.
Our major stopover was in a tiny pristine village called Castine that was once occupied by the French, Dutch, British and then finally America. While in Castine we had a few drinks at one of the best pubs I’ve ever been to — The Passport Pub. It’s a cozy, old world hideaway with a small oak bar. The pub was covered in vintage photos, paintings and memorabilia from travels abroad. It was a bar Ernest Hemmingway had never been to but would have loved.
Also on Castine is the Maine Maritime Academy with a training simulator that is basically a million dollar video game. Here I felt what it was like to be the pilot of a tanker. I was told from the beginning that I would no doubt experience extreme sea sickness especially since I already have some troubles in that area, but I had such a great time that my inner ear forgot that I was in 12-ft swells trying to navigate through the NY harbor. Unfortunately, my soundman Dave Gaffney did not. And he owns his own sailboat!
For some strange reason, I said yes to climbing to the top of the mast. All 80ft of it. I was told I would be locked in, but found out at the last minute that you get safety attached when you make it to the top-not while climbing. The last part was the most nerve racking as I needed to climb out a bit to get over the crow’s nest, an act made more difficult by the fact that I was hugging the mast like an old school friend, not wanting to let go. Once on top it was a great view but I was still feeling uneasy and surprised by my sudden vulnerability and total lack of confidence. But then I looked across at the other mast to see that my cameraman Rory had climbed to the top with a large camera and was standing on the crow’s nest shooting me as I spoke — with no safety hook. Later when home and recounting my adventure that I had become rather proud of, I saw my husband’s face go from a smile to steely and grave. I was in trouble. And I understood why he was so upset. I really did love that I conquered the mast but ever since I have given more thought to if a shot is really worth it.
We had such a wonderful time on the Victory Chimes and it’s something I definitely want to do with my family some day.