Sunday, July 31, 2011

Back to Denver, Part 1 of 2

I missed last year's annual Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas conference after attending the two prior to that (you may recall I wrote about the last one I went to in Washington, DC - 1  2  3), so I was glad that I got to go this year. It was held in Denver from a Thursday to a Sunday. Well, Jonathan ended up needing to be in Denver on business the next week, and was scheduled to fly into Denver just an hour before I was going to leave! So I changed my flight (thank goodness this one was booked on Southwest!) to stay five days with him in Denver.

My flight was uneventful, and I had no problems finding my shuttle to the hotel. I always forget how far out the Denver airport is from the rest of the city, tho! I was able to unpack, relax a bit, and grab a light lunch before the conference began at 3pm. Not to go into details on everything I learned in each session (I know that's only interested to 3% of you, LoL), I'll just give a few highlights.

On Thursday, the conference had a wonderful start with a panel that talked about some hot topics in the field and what's going on. Then a bunch of us Early Career folks had dinner at a famous diner (yeah, you're going to have to follow The Casual Eater for that one) before the evening reception. 

Friday morning began with various tour options, and I chose the walking historic tour of LoDo, or lower downtown. I really enjoyed the tour (which was over 2 hours for just $10), and would strongly recommend it to anyone interested in some of the littler-known facts about the Mile-High City. Get Kevin! We walked a lot and saw many different things in Denver, including several haunted places, some public art, and even a fabulous Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar shoppe that let us taste the various liquids!

Friday lunch was supposed to be for Early Career Dramaturgs, but since our tour ran longer than the schedule length, several of us missed it. But, from what I heard later, nothing big was discussed. Friday afternoon included several choices of sessions, and my favorite was a panel with two of the local theatres being represented. Both are doing some unique work and I was very excited to hear about what is being done and how dramaturgy is being used in those projects. 

Friday night was set aside for seeing theatre. My first choice ended up being pushed back a week so I wasn't able to see it. I wasn't in love with any of the other choices, though I eventually settled on the Bovine Metropolis Theatre's Makeshift Shakespeare. It was described as long-form improv with Shakespearean influences. I thought it sounded different and fun so I asked several people to see it with me, eventually finding just one other person who was interested. It was a late-night show, beginning at 10:15. But it was less than two blocks away, so I wasn't concerned. Russ and I met there and as the next hour went on I became increasingly grateful that nobody else had decided to go! We both felt it was an awful show. And it can't just be attributed to an "off" night, as there were structural concerns. But all's well that ends well (pun intended).

Saturday was a different format. Rather than having scheduled panels all day, we had a large session in the morning where people proposed ideas of what they wanted to talk about. Then, they put up the possibilities on a wall and they became the next three sessions' options. I wasn't thrilled with the idea, as I generally need some time to think about each option and weigh out what will be the most beneficial and interesting for me. I chose a great session for my first selection, though my second and third might have been better served in different rooms. Still, some great conversations were born, and that was great.

Saturday night was the banquet, which for me is always slightly awkward. It's a good chance to talk with people and get to know others better, but many of the attendees want to catch up with friends they only see at this conference once a year. So I generally jump around and talk to various people during cocktail hour, trying to figure out where I should sit. This time in particular it was difficult to choose because of the buffet set-up (it was a seated dinner in San Diego and DC), so you couldn't see where many other people were until after you had your food. Then, quite the crowd moved to a local bar for a bit (but not too long, they closed at midnight!), and I heard some very intriguing career histories (which, honestly, are generally fascinating in the dramaturgy field).

Sunday was short, just a couple of things. I really enjoyed the first panel, which was a case study of sorts, with four dramaturgs discussing how they handled the same show in the past year. I was kinda sad that several people missed it (Sunday morning is a common fly-out time at this conference) and at least a few of us hope to see panels similar to this in the future.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

That Pesky Thesis.

First, the bottomline: my Master's Diploma arrived a couple weeks ago. I couldn't have been more thrilled that the long journey that is graduate school has finally ended. Jonathan was equally joyful, as this is now the first time in our entire relationship that at least one of us hasn't been in school!

Now, for some final thoughts that may interest those who've known bits and pieces of my graduate student career...

I either love or loathe telling people about my thesis. I love it when someone is genuinely interested in it or is just impressed with the idea. I loathe it when a particular person doesn't know what Rocky Horror is about, and they ask for more detail. I've gotten a lot of crazy looks, even when I try to be as vague as possible. It's also difficult to explain concisely why it has taken so long to finish (my coursework was finished in 2008).

I've received some really interesting responses. When asked how long the paper is (totaled out at 125 pages in 1.5 spacing), I usually hear "you wrote over 100 pages on just one thing?!?" and "that's probably as much writing as I've ever done combined." I'll explain that there's different chapters, but generally people glaze over, LoL. Heather, my roommate when I started writing, is now working on her PhD (not in theatre), and was genuinely shocked at the length... her dissertation will likely be shorter. In my field, my thesis is a pretty standard length, though on the higher end of average (I've always been verbose!). And, until I was already in the midst of writing, I thought that 40,000 words was a standard across-the-board. I had 2 friends in religion and another in sociology who were quick to correct; religion theses clocked in around 80 pages, sociology dissertation at only 96.

Anyway, there are only a handful of people who know the entire history of my thesis, and it is not my intention to rehash that here. But, for those whom I don't talk to regularly but follow us here, I wanted to let you know that I finished. Defended, revised, and submitted. I'm now a Master. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Avenue of the Giants, Part II

In the morning we headed out with the Loleta Cheese Factory as our first stop. It was several miles north of Rio Dell (where we stayed the night), and we found parking pretty easily. The employee we met was very friendly, and she encouraged us to help ourselves to samples while she was doing some phone business. They had over 30 varieties of cheese to sample, and they don't stop you after just a few! This was nice, as we were able to try all sorts of interesting things. Then, we were given a tour and explanation of how their process works, along with the history of the factory. It was all very fascinating, and we were able to see some of the work through a couple of large windows. I was hooked on the quality of their cheese, though we ultimately only bought on kind - the Humboldt Gold, which turned out the be the house specialty! We enjoyed it over the next week, and it was gone when Dennis left. I thought about buying some cheese curds, but ultimately refrained.
Then, it was on to the Avenue of the Giants, where we planned to drive the route, stopping along the way at given stops and walking around. The guys also biked several miles (maybe 10?) of it. We met another bicyclist along the way who was loaded down... he was doing a trip from Montana down to the Grand Canyon, up 101 along the California coast, into Canada, and eventually back to Montana! He was probably about our age and was just camping along the way, giving himself several months for his trip. It was fascinating to talk with him a bit - he didn't keep a blog though. I would've been very interested to read about his adventures!
 beautiful woods
 looking up
 tall trees
 there were fallen trees all over. This is the bottom of one.
Yep. We ponied up $6 to drive through a tree, LoL. I got out in advance and photographed Jonathan and Dennis coming through.

The trees were immense, but after an entire day of looking at them, I became a little disenchanted with their enormity. At some point in the late afternoon we decided to head to Napa for the night, planning to spend Saturday there. The drive was longer than we had expected, and we actually stayed in Vallejo due to everything being full or for millionaires in Napa proper. Our Motel 6 wasn't bad, but the beds were old and there were police cars patrolling the parking lot, so it clearly wasn't in the best part of town. However, it did the trick and minimized our drive time the following day.

We stopped at a Denny's for breakfast, and proceeded to have the worst service I've ever encountered at a Denny's. We were seated immediately, but it was nearly 20 minutes before we were even asked what we'd like to drink! The restaurant wasn't completely full, and given their proximity to a theme park, you'd think they'd understand a Saturday morning breakfast crowd. Nonetheless, it turned into a lengthy meal.

The guys were going to bike through some hills and a winery or two, and I planned to hit the Napa outlet mall. They dropped me off and I spent several hours at the Napa Premium Outlets, which I probably wouldn't go back to. I went into almost every store just because I had the time... including stores from which I would never purchase an item (due to style and/or pricing). This "unlimited time" thing did give me the chance to try on a bunch of styles at Maidenform and Levi's, which are stores that generally overwhelm me by how many different fittings they have for things! In the end, however, the only thing I bought was a couple shirts on sale at the Banana Republic Outlet. Jonathan and Dennis had a good bike ride, but unfortunately didn't do any tastings afterward due to the exorbitant pricing of tastings at the particular vineyard where they ended their ride.

After they picked me up we headed for home (we're only like an hour and a half from Napa), ending our trip a day early. We did miss out on several planned excursions (including Fern Canyon), but that just gives us a reason to go back!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Avenue of the Giants, Part I

In addition to Yosemite, another big trip we planned while Dennis was visiting was the Redwoods in Northern California. We set aside more time for this one, leaving late Thursday morning and planning to come back Sunday evening. Jonathan and Dennis had looked at multiple possible places for us to stay on this trip, and ultimately Dennis booked a house that looked great and offered some nice views.

We had another rental car for this trip, and had no problems with the Nissan Sentra. The guys even managed to put up and take down the bike rack and bikes multiple times with no problems. We headed out of town and hit some traffic getting up through San Francisco and over the Golden Gate Bridge, but nothing horrendous.
Golden Gate Bridge
We stopped just north of San Francisco to grab some coffee and bagels, then drove for several hours before stopping for a picnic lunch at a state park. Problematically, they charged us $7 just to be in there for an hour. We found out the next day that we might have been able to finagle an hour-long free pass, but you live and learn. Another thing we learned pretty quickly... we were in the middle of hippie country! We must have seen 10 Volkswagen camper vans on the trip, if not more! We saw three of them at the park alone!
two of the vans were next to each other

As we got further and further north (it's a good thing it's not dark until after 9pm here!), we started to see some tourist traps, indicating that we were indeed in Redwoods territory. We switched off the highway and onto a more scenic route along the coast for a while, which gave us some nice views.
there were several similar things as well. This is a home inside a fallen tree.

We arrived at the rental house between 9 and 9:30pm and unloaded the car as the sun set. Our immediate impressions weren't amazing, but we continued setting things up and whatnot. However, by the time we had all seriously inspected the place we came to some pretty stark conclusions... First of all, there were no curtains on the windows, and there were several LARGE windows facing the wilderness. There was also no television... not a huge deal. BUT, when the advertisement boasted a large video selection, and there were NO videos to speak of, that was a downer. The dishes were kept in a bureau... not a deal-breaker, but strange. The thermostat was strange. The furniture didn't match up to the online photos. We did have the wireless internet promised, but the cell signal wasn't great. The bathroom had a dingy feel to it. The floor was simply painted, and there was a hole in the ceiling. Anyway, that's enough with the nitpicks; suffice it to say that it was not worth the price it was listed for, and instead of our three planned nights, we left after one.
The main rooms: dining/living/kitchen. you can see the large windows with no curtains.
Stay tuned for the second part of this trip!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yosemite National Park, Part II

The next morning we woke up, showered and packed up, then stopped at the Bug Rustic Resort to have some breakfast. We were all hungry and the eggs and bacon were pretty good! The weird part was that they served coffee in tempered glasses (the same ones that they use to serve beer in the evenings), which was really hot on your hands.

We headed into Yosemite and found parking. We did hit a line getting in, but eventually they waved those who had already paid into another line and that helped out a lot. We got onto a bus, rode to a major area, then switched buses to ride to where we'd do our hike. Our plan was to do the Vernal Falls trail, which was absolutely swamped when we started. It started thinning out after 5 or 10 minutes though, and it wasn't bad after that. We didn't go all the way to the top but we came pretty close (you get soaking wet at the top which is why we opted not to). 
not the waterfall we hiked to the top of, but a pretty one nonetheless
another pretty waterfall
Dennis at the bridge that crosses mid-way up the Vernal Falls hike

After that we rode the bus through some more of the park until we got to the main area. We went through the visitor's center and the gift shops before heading back to the car. On our way out we stopped by El Capitan, which is famous for the climbers who take on the 3,300 ft high challenge! I wasn't able to spot any climbers with the naked eye until Jonathan showed me exactly where they were. Everyone standing around staring was helping everyone else see the climbers. There were only two that we saw, though there could have been others... they were practically specks! If you look at the photo to the right as if it's the Statue of Liberty, you can make out the climbers perched on her shoulder.

While I was initially fearful of bears, the only wildlife we really encountered up-close were squirrels. At one point on our hike I asked a park ranger how many bears resided within Yosemite. She said there were about 33 in the Valley, and around 200 in the entire park. 33 in the Valley (about 7 square miles) seems like a good amount, but 200 overall seems puny... the park is over 750,000 acres!

And, as a final note, if you're reading this post and were at Yosemite the same time we were, consider looking at this poster. A man went missing near Upper Yosemite Falls and has yet to be found.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Yosemite National Park, Part I

Jonathan's uncle, Dennis, was out visiting for a couple weeks. We had a lot of different ideas on things to do and places to go, and Yosemite National Park was a priority. [warning, this is an image-heavy post.]

We had originally planned to camp in the Park and spend a few days there, but it was booked up months in advance (Jonathan and I had tried to go there in May but quickly dropped the idea). So, we figured we'd find a place near the park and just go in and out for a few days. That also proved to be pretty difficult, but Dennis sweet-talked us a campsite at a KOA about forty minutes from Yosemite's entrance.

It was a pretty rural drive out to Yosemite, and we made a couple of stops to buy cherries and have some lunch at In-n-Out. We drove straight to the campsite and set up everything, then had a bit of a break before we drove to that Park around 4pm.

There was a one-way bridge to get to Yosemite that had a wait time when the traffic was going the other way.

After talking about several options, we decided to head toward Glacial Point for a sunset around 8pm. It took us a couple of hours to drive up that way (of course we made stops to admire the views and take plenty of photos!), and we had some time to talk and catch up while we waited for the sun to start going down.


Around 7:45pm there was a sunset talk by Ranger Dick, whom none of us really cared for. There were some clouds, so the view wasn't spectacular... and around 8:20 when the sun started to lower out of view, the Ranger pretty much said we could either leave or stay for a star talk later. So, we started heading toward the car. About fifteen minutes later we discovered that the color had come alive over the mountains and that we should have stayed. We pulled over a few more times to snap pictures as we continued down the mountain.

yes, that is SNOW on the ground! It was quite chilly, and they had snow fall less than a week before! in JUNE!
We managed to avoid the line getting out of the Park, but it took us a really long time to get back to the campground. We stopped at Carl's Jr. on the way to grab a (really late) dinner.
the line to get out of Yosemite!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Oakland A's

Jonathan called from work one day to ask what we were doing the following night. I was supposed to go to board game group, but I quickly dropped that when he said that he could get tickets to the Oakland Athletics baseball game.

And they weren't just any tickets. They were box seats, which I had never been in before. I was pretty psyched, and greatly looked forward to it. I began researching how we'd get there (with rush hour and not being too familiar with the East Bay, we were a little concerned), and ultimately concluded that driving was going to be the easiest. Had it been a day game, a train might've been easier, but not at night.

Tuesday morning I dropped Jonathan off at work so I could go shopping for some A's accessories. I picked up a hat for him and a shirt for me before taking advantage of having the car to run some other errands. I totally meant to take a photo of us at the game, but it slipped my mind!

We gave ourselves plenty of time and the drive wasn't very bad after all. Parking was also pretty easy (and free on Tuesdays!), and we headed into the stadium with plenty of time. We took our time walking around before heading up to our level. It's a pretty strange stadium in that it took us a while to find stairs to get up higher... turns out that you actually have to go out into the stands and go up that way. We arrived at our box and the door was locked. We walked around a bit, waiting for others to show up, but about ten minutes before first pitch we went to the information booth to get the box opened. Turned out, we were the only ones there through the National Anthem and into the top of the first inning! The next couple people who arrived were friends of ours, and the four of us were alone in the box for another inning or so before anyone else showed up.

We had a great time, the weather was beautiful (we had our windows open the entire time), but we struggled to find food. Carmen and EB walked around for probably twenty minutes before finding food, and we did the same, ultimately choosing some snacks, as we had shared a personal pizza that another friend brought for us on her way to the box.

All in all it was a great experience and we added the A's to the list of pro baseball home teams we've seen, in addition to the Rockies, the Giants, and the Phillies.