Thursday, December 13, 2012

A True Story of Yellowstone, Cameron Diaz, WPBT, and one Small World

Sometimes, thing happen in our lives that become the stories we tell over and over. They are the unplanned, unexpected things that happen because we were in a certain place at a certain time. Some are momentous events like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Most are small personal moments that others in the area may not have noticed. I’m sure we all have a few of these in our past.

One of mine happened in Yellowstone National Park in 2004 and took a twist two weeks ago. I’ll explain.

My wife and I were on vacation. It was the first trip to Yellowstone for both of us. We were knocked out by the scenery and the wildlife and the geysers, etc. I was packing the brand new digital SLR I had bought with this trip in mind, so I was being a picture taking fool. On the third day we happened into an area of the park named Hayden Valley. The valley is filled with rolling green pastures set between craggy grey mountains.

Near one parking area we saw a group of bison that included a few baby bison (which is more fun to say than “young bison”). There were also a couple of trucks at one end of the parking lot with what looked like a film crew buzzing around. Both the wife and I spent some time in the TV business, so we were more interested in staying out of their way than gawking, so we parked at the other end of the lot and I got out to take some pictures of the bison.

In front of our car was about 5 feet of walking area before a slope dropped down about 8 feet to the meadow. I was standing about 2 to 3 feet from the edge where I felt like someone walking past me could easily go behind me to avoid the slope or disturbing my shot. Well, the TV crew had decided to set up in the meadow off the far end of the parking lot from where they had parked which meant that they would be walking past me and my wife who was still in the car.

For a reason that I would find out much later, they all decided to walk in front of me. There was no hesitation or apology from a single one. I now think this was done out of spite, but not spite for me, but I’ll get to that in a moment. Not being one to take this without a fight, I looked for a break in their line and stepped forward at the first opening forcing the remainder of them to go behind me or tumble down the hill. Problem solved.

So I take some time snapping a few bison pictures and then notice the crew filming this one guy in a blue jacket and I think I should get a shot of them since they were now a part of our vacation. I take a picture, check the picture for exposure, make an adjustment and come up to take another shot. That’s when the head of a ‘lady’ from the crew fills my lens as she’s walking my way. I look around my raised camera and say “excuse me” with some irritation. That’s when things started to get interesting.

She starts to tell me that I can’t take pictures of the crew when a park ranger comes out of nowhere and tells her that she can’t tell me what I can and can’t take pictures of and that it is my park as well as theirs. Now I’m intrigued as to what I’ve stumbled upon. I think, “Who is that guy? It’s obviously someone important, otherwise why would they object to my taking pictures?” The guy looks kind of like a balding, overweight Alan Alda to me. He is surrounded by a girl dressed like a roadie, a guy with a still camera that looks out of place and various other members of the crew. I take a couple more pictures, especially of the star and the crew for later identification.

By now, another member of the crew is wondering why the lady, who is now standing beside me, is not stopping me. They are filming, so he can’t yell to us/at me, so he waves his arms like he’s trying to stop a plane from landing and I wave back in my best mocking style. My wife told me later that there were some big dudes behind our car talking into microphones in their sleeves and acting a little aggressive. I never saw them. The park ranger sees the escalation of tempers and says “That’s it. You have to go.” But she didn’t say it to me. She said it to the film crew.

By now, my wife is getting a little worried and asks/tells me to get in the car. We are left to wonder what had just happened. Who was that guy and why were they so pissed off at me? We laughed and put our book on tape back in the player. The book happened to be Phillip Margolin’s “Ties that Bind” which features a preppy gang of three men who grow up to control a town. In the book, the gang was known as the “Vaughn Street Glee Club.” We immediately named the film crew the “Hayden Valley Glee Club” and spend the rest of the day trying to figure out who that guy was.

Well, we ran into the HVGC the next day at a location were wolves were supposed to be visible. We didn’t see any, but as my wife stood among other tourist, some of the film crew members walk past and one tourist says “there goes Cameron Diaz.” Neither of us is real up on pop culture, so my wife asks “Carmen who?” To this day she still has to double check herself to say Cameron instead of Carmen. (I later find out that they were filming “Trippin’ with Cameron Diaz” for MTV) So we finally figured out what the big deal had been the previous day and we never saw the Haden Valley Glee Club again. Well, that is until two weeks ago.

On the first night of the World Poker Blogger Tour weekend (which would take a whole other post to explain), I made a trip to the Excalibur to meet and play poker with the man who had put together our Tough Mudder team for the September Lake Tahoe event ( but had to drop out due to a work related opportunity. I won’t mention his name, but those who read this and know him will recognize him in the photo below. I’ll call him Nick. So I meet Nick and the blogger crew that was with him and we fill up a new table to play some hold ‘em. As we chat, I mention that Paula Broadwell (Petreaus’ ex) lives in my neighborhood and I had gone over to her house to see the FBI raid and the news crews and paparazzi which led to the story about the Hayden Valley Glee Club and the time I was mistaken for a paparazzo. That’s when Nick turns and asks me if Cameron and crew were filming “Trippin’”. Well, it turns out that Nick was a member of the crew. Once I returned home and pulled out the old pictures I knew that Nick had been the guy that was ‘waving’ me off.

Here’s the best of the old pictures from that day. Nick is in there as is Cameron Diaz hiding her face in her jacket collar, the guy I thought was the star (Tom Murphy), and BMX pro Mat Huffman with his back to the camera. It is now a classic for me.


So Nick has gone from a villain in my mind to a really cool guy. I hope he gets a laugh out of the picture and this story as he’s reading. I can understand how folks in this line of work would loath the paparazzi as parasites on their work, thus the hostility toward me that day in 2004. Two weeks later, Cameron and her boyfriend Justin ‘beat up’ a paparazzo and took his camera which made tabloid headlines. I may have come close to being that paparazzo. I’m glad Justin wasn’t there.

If there is a moral to the story, it is to keep in mind how small the world is getting and to treat people like friends in your future. They just may be.

Monday, July 09, 2012

One of the best dogs… Ever!

Our little girl, Wrigley, went to doggie heaven on Saturday.  She fought bravely and held on as long as she could.  She knew it would hurt Dr. K terribly when she passed and Wrigley was so loyal to Dr. K that she made it as easy on us as she could. 

Below are some of the pictures I took of her.  May she have up-up time forevermore.





Wrigley 2003-2012

May she have up-up time forevermore.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Things that made me chuckle today

I’ve never seen anything like it before.  I was in the men’s room where I’m working this week and they had a solar powered control valve on the auto-flushing urinal.  I get the feeling that someday, these will be everywhere.  Now I’ll remember the day I saw my first one.  Yay.

I was sitting in a German restaurant in Newport News.  It’s a small place that looks like less than it is on the outside.  Only two tables were taken and one of them was mine, so ignoring the conversation at the other table was impossible.  Two couples in the 70s were chatting and one of the old guys was saying shit just to keep the air occupied.  At one point he extolled the greatness of his beer by saying “you can’t buy beer like this over here” as he enjoyed the beer he had just bought… over here.

Later, I heard the same man explain how it was interesting that the waitress in the German restaurant had been to Germany, just like him.  He said “it a small world that she was in Germany 30 years after me.”  His world is small indeed, but fun.

Another good day.  Tchuss.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I’m back and Impressions of Alaska

As I’ve written a few times before, I’ve been away from this blog for a while. There will be no apologies though.  I write for myself when I feel like writing.  Few of my friends read what I post, but they do so at their own risk. Occasionally, I’ll write something to put mark what I think and when I was thinking it, or something that is longer that fits into Facebook or Twitter that I can point anyone interested toward.  The truth is that I’ve just not felt like writing recently.  Life has been very busy with fun adventures and activities, but I’ve not been able or I’ve not wanted to write about them in public.  Life continues to be good.  My mood or physical heath haven’t changed markedly over the past few months.  The biggest thing that has changed to get me back to writing here is that I feel like it.  So until my mood changes again, here goes.

As I write this, I’m finishing up a business trip to Alaska and I’m on a 777 between Seattle and Tokyo, Japan.  This trip to Alaska was my first.  I’ve now been to 47 states.  I still have not been to a Dakota or Nebraska.  My employer has a big support site in North Dakota, so that might get me to that state sometime.  I have no idea why I would end up in SD or NB, but I never thought I ‘d go to Afghanistan, and that happened, so we’ll see.

It sounds like bad luck that my first trip to AK would come in February, or that I’d go to the interior of the state where temperatures run 20 degrees colder than Anchorage.  Now that the visit is done, I’m not sure myself.  Yes, it was cold.  Two weeks before my visit, lows in Fairbanks were hitting –50 F and highs were –10 or –20F.  I got lucky that I visited during a winter heat wave.  Highs almost got up to 20 F and lows got as low as –5 F.  It was cold, but could have been much more challenging.

Driving was a challenge.  The roads were covered in snow and ice.  I’m a southern boy.  I don’t get much practice at this type of driving.  Silly me, I was thinking that they get snow and ice all the time and would have it cleared so long as the snow was not falling.  Not so.  I guess there is really nothing you can do when the freeze is solid for months at a time.  There was a light at the main road near my hotel where I had to turn left.  The turn was protected by a turn light, but the road was so slick that I couldn’t get the car through the intersection before the light turned yellow.  Some snow fell and my car slid a few times, but I didn’t get stuck or hit anyone or anything. The rental car was returned unharmed and I was glad to get that done.

A few other things were unexpected about AK.  Snowmobiles are called Snow Machines.  There was/is a big 2000 mile snow machine race going on across the state, The Iron Dog.”  The speed and distance sounded insane to me, but there were daily updates on the radio and in the newspapers, so this is real sport in AK.  Another sport that I heard about that I did not get a chance to try was Moose Turd Bowling.  I asked some of the locals about it, and it is exactly what it sounds like.  Luckily, it is strictly a winter outdoor sport.  The summer or indoor MTB champ would have both my respect and disgust.

The last and lasting impression of AK was the people I met.  I didn’t meet a single Alaskan that was not exceptionally friendly.  When I met a waitress at a restaurant, her hello sounded like she was talking to me instead of at me as I’ve come to expect.  The gas station attendant stood at my window and chatted while the car filled with gas.  I am perplexed why people would like living there in the cold and snow, but I’m equally impressed with the people in AK.  Perhaps latter has a lot to do with the former.

Thanks Alaska.  I think my trip had a lot of good luck.