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NW CanCon Monday, May 26, 2008

Announcing: NW CanCon, the ultimate resource for Canadian Music in the Pacific Northwest.

I just wanted to let you know about a new project I've been working on for a couple of weeks, called NW CanCon. It's technically a blog, but it will play more like a website. Maybe someday I'll give it its own domain, but for now it's hosted over on Wordpress for two reasons: mostly so I can try it out, and also because they make it easy to do web pages.

Anyhow, the main point of the site is to keep tabs on upcoming concerts and appearances by Canadian bands and musicians in Oregon and Washington. Hopefully we'll be able to put some photos and interviews up there too. As a side benefit, I've compiled a list of all the current Canadian acts I can come up with, including links to their official websites. I have a list of defunct acts as well, which will be up there eventually.

If you know of an upcoming show in the area, or a band that I haven't listed please let me know.

California Sunday, May 25, 2008

Rush hour traffic builds May 22 on I-80 heading toward the Bay Bridge May 22 in San Francisco.

Friday morning began with another 4:40 a.m. alarm to get me out to the airport in time for a 7:20 flight. Postponing a shower, I dressed in the dark to avoid waking my roommate.

I realized, as I returned my rental car, that I'd forgotten to fill the tank. D'oh! Not much to do about that now. I headed up to catch a shuttle to the airport.

Just as the bus appeared, I realized that I'd left my suit hanging in the closet at the hotel. Damn. I need that. So I went into the rental hut, and asked whether I might be able to get my car back. Too late, I'd have to rent another. So I tried to call the hotel. The directory that Avis had had the wrong number, so they called 411. That put me through to a fax machine. Geez.

So at 5:30 a.m. I called up my manager (who had probably had about 2 hours sleep, but was also due for an early morning flight). He gave me a number for the hotel. I called them, they put me through to my roommate, who was kind enough to bring my suit down to the front desk. They put it on the next shuttle to the airport, where I picked it up. That crisis averted, I went through security and got on a plane to Oakland.

In Oakland, I got a call from another photographer, Jim, who had been on the same flight. Since it was only about 10 and we didn't have to be at the shoot until 4:30, we decided to check into the hotel (in San Francisco), have some lunch, and then get back to Berkeley before the traffic got bad. We collected our vehicles and drove across the bay to a cute hotel with Japanese decor on Sutter Street.

Driving across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland.

After plugging in my battery chargers, I met up with Jim who knew a great Thai restaurant right next to the hotel. Back at the hotel we took an hour or so to shower and get changed then headed back across the Bay Bridge for our shoot in Berkeley.

Having left San Francisco early to beat traffic, we had a couple of hours to kill in Berkeley. After doing a bit of Goodwill hunting, Jim and I stopped at a small coffee shop near the university. As we enjoyed cool drinks in the sun, I got a phone call—no change to today's shoot, but they needed me at San Jose State in the morning, instead of San Francisco State—still in the Bay Area, but about 50 miles south.

Hanging out May 22 at a coffee shop in Berkeley, Calif.

The Berkeley shoot was at the Greek Theatre. I wish I had a picture of it: it's a really cool amphitheater with these huge columns behind the stage, and about 20 feet up they had a bunch of colored flags. Down in the green room there were posters from some really amazing concerts that it's hosted, like the Beastie Boys and Wilco, and dozens more I can't remember. I kind of wish I lived closer.

Anyway, after the shoot, we headed back to the San Francisco hotel, I changed, packed up my stuff, looked up directions, and drove to another hotel in San Jose. I got there about 10 and checked in, then went looking for something to eat. The hotel restaurant was closed, so they recommended a restaurant about two blocks away—a bit expensive, but at nearly 11 p.m. I wasn't going to argue.

Saturday morning I got to sleep in until 6 before checking out and traveling in convoy to San Jose State University (I still don't know where it is). That job was big, but not as insane as I'd been led to believe. Then, after a quick group stop at Wendy's, we all rushed off to San Francisco State for their main ceremony. We got there just in time for the ceremony, but had plenty of time to get ready as the 3500 or so graduates processed into the stadium. The graduates probably won't remember it, but the band was great, the honorary degrees included Isabel Allende, and the keynote speech was delivered by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The ceremony was long—about four hours—and after some gear/car swapping, it was straight to the airport for me for the last flight home.

[left] A traveler sleeps at San Francisco International Airport May 22. He looks like I felt.

The grad season is only half over, but (barring some last-minute change, which wouldn't surprise me now) the rest are within driving distance of Portland. It will be nice to be back on my home turf.

A couple of days in Phoenix

My grandparents, Ken and Magda Davey, walk hand-in-hand May 21 across a parking lot in Phoenix, Ariz.

After last week's trip to the east coast, I had about 36 hours at home to get caught up and prepare for the next tour. This one promised to be a lot easier, if only because it was out west: shorter, direct flights, all in the same time zone.

Better yet, I got to leave a day early to visit my uncle and cousins in Phoenix, and my grandparents from Toronto who happened to be there visiting them.

My Tuesday afternoon flight to the Grand Canyon state was only a few minutes late. My checked bags arrived promptly, I picked up my rental car, and found light traffic on the Phoenix freeways, even though I arrived at the peak of rush hour.

I spent Tuesday evening and Wednesday with my family, not really doing anything in particular, just catching up. We were happy to stay indoors as it was well over 100°F there. Wednesday evening I went out on Mill Ave. in Tempe with my cousins, giving them an evening away from their daughters. That was fun, especially since I only get to see them once a year or so.

[right] An angelic Lila Schwier sleeps on her mother Audrey's lap. [below] Later, Lila was less of an angel.

Thursday it was back to work again. Rain had moved into the desert, and the temperature had dropped by 30°. I was supposed to be at the Maricopa County Events Center in Sun City West—northwest of Phoenix, a full 50 miles from my uncle's place in Mesa—at 12:30 to shoot two high school ceremonies. That morning I got a call that one of the other shooters, Ken, had missed his flight from Los Angeles, and could I pick him up at the airport at 11:30? No problem. Oh, and by the way, instead of shooting two ceremonies back-to-back in Sun City West, we need you to go to a different ceremony after the first grad. We'll have directions for you there. OK.

We got to the Events Center right on time, and that ceremony went pretty smoothly, at least for me. The second ceremony turned out to be in Casa Grande, southeast of Phoenix, 75 miles away. We had two hours, but knowing that we would have to drive through rush hour traffic, we figured it would be best to get in the neighborhood first, then find something to eat.

It turns out that Casa Grande, or at least the part we were in, is one of those instant bedroom communities that bloom in the desert like wildflowers after a rainfall. As we drove into town, there were helpful direction-finding signs at every intersection, each identifying eight to 10 residential developments being built. We didn't have much time, and without seeing any indication of a retail area, we settled for a gas station convenience store. Ken bought a burrito, I settled for a Coke.

[right] Only in Phoenix can this be considered "A Traditional Irish Pub and Restaurant."

Back at the school, the ceremony that had been planned for the football stadium was hastily being transferred indoors due to the steady rain. Chairs for the grads filled the gymnasium floor, the band was packed into a small space at the back of the gym, and there were some risers for the choir beside the 8-by-16 temporary stage. The gym's grandstands only fit about a third of the expected crowd. A closed-circuit TV system set up in the school's lobby area for the disgruntled remainder of the students' relatives.

Ken and I started getting set up, struggling to figure out how to photograph a two-line ceremony on the
crowded, microscopic stage without getting the way of the grads or the video cameras broadcasting the ceremony to those outside the gym. Meanwhile, the other two photographers for the ceremony—who had the job bag with the event details, flash cards, and other things we needed—had missed the exit by about 20 miles. They arrived at the ceremony about 15 minutes before it began, and we scrambled to get them set up for their shots.

I don't know whether it was the weather, the crowded gymnasium, or just the school itself, but it was easily the loudest, most raucous graduation ceremony I've seen to date. There were at least a dozen beach balls and other inflatables bouncing around the sea of mortarboards, and there were tremendous cheers at every possible applause point.

Under normal circumstances, the 8 p.m. ceremony would have wrapped up around 10 but, mercifully, the fire marshal decided that there were too many people in the building, so the administration dispensed with all of the remaining speeches and went straight to the presentation of diplomas.

We were back to the hotel a bit before 11. We delivered our job bag to the war room, had some pizza and went to bed.

[left] Audrey and Julia read Letters Home May 21 in Phoenix.

Connecticut Wednesday, May 21, 2008

This is about all I saw of Connecticut this time around: I-84 near Middlebury.

One of the consequences of this whirlwind tour of the country is that I don't really get to see any of it. After dinner in New York on Saturday, I drove an hour and a half through a maze of freeways en route to Danbury, Conn.

Near the western edge of the state, Danbury is a small city that you've heard of but can't remember why. It turns out that, among other things, Danbury is the headquarters for a number of well-known companies: Scholastic Publishing, Praxair, and Ethan Allen Interiors.

Farooq Kathwari, president of Ethan Allen, was the honorary doctorate recipient at Western Connecticut State University's graduation last Sunday, which is what brought me to town.

For this particular event, the challenges thrown my way had nothing to do with travel, it was the event itself.

It should have been pretty straightforward: about 750 graduates in a single-line ceremony with two of us on hand to shoot pictures of them as they received their diplomas and a portrait just afterwards.

The night before the ceremony I checked the details and discovered that the ceremony would be held at WCSU's west campus, not the main campus as I had originally thought. This was actually more convenient for me as it was closer to the hotel.

I arrived at the event site at 8:30 a.m., the requisite two hours before the shoot was supposed to start, only to find that my paperwork was wrong, the ceremony would start at 10, not 10:30. No problem, we still had plenty of time. My partner wasn't there yet, but the hotel manager had indicated that she checked in, so I wasn't worried. I wondered if she might be headed to the other campus, but I didn't have her phone number so I just started getting ready for the ceremony.

I tried to get hold of the university's contact person, but she didn't answer her phone. I left a message, and talked to the alternate contact who was right at hand. He gave me the details of the ceremony--which direction the grads would be walking, where the presenter would stand, etc., and, as we were now within an hour of the ceremony I started preparing my partner's shot as well.

The clock continued to tick, and there was still no sign of my partner, so I started making phone calls. I looked at the job sheet for the ceremony: the regional manager's name was there, but no phone number. I looked in my kit for the company directory: it was missing. I looked at the other paperwork for some numbers: nothing. So I called the emergency 1-800 number listed on the job sheet ... no answer. I called the alternate emergency number ... no answer, not even an opportunity to leave a voice mail.

Hmmm... I have a ceremony coming up in about 30 minutes, and I'm the only one here. Realizing that it was about 6:30 a.m. on the west coast, I tried to call the Pacific Northwest regional manager--no answer. I called the only other name I had in my phone: a mid-west regional manager who had saved my butt the previous weekend when the airline lost my luggage. He didn't answer, so I left a message.

A couple minutes later, he called back, said he was shooting a race, and he'd be able to get me a phone number in a few minutes. With about 20 minutes to spare, I got another number I could call. With that number, I finally got hold of someone who knew what was going on.

It turns out that my partner for the event was sick. She'd called the regional manager and the university contact, but neither of those had bothered to pass that information along to me. An hour before the ceremony's start time the RM had dispatched one of the shooters another event to cover my shoot, but he was coming from somewhere in Massachusetts, 1.5 hours away.

The procession began, and Greg wasn't there. The provost's welcome, national anthem, president's congratulations, student speaker, honorary doctorate, and keynote speech all came and went without any sign of him. The grads started marching across the stage, and he still wasn't there.

I guess Greg arrived about 10 minutes after the grads started walking across the stage, and he jumped right in and started shooting. The university's coordinator cycled the ones he missed back into line, so he got everybody, although the order was completely messed up. I feel sorry for whoever it is back in Iowa that will have to sort them out. I won't bore you with details of the other technical issues that plagued the event.

Waterbury, Conn., locals hang out at Boru's Bar & Grill May 18. "What's the camera for?" they asked. "Taking pictures."

After the ceremony, Greg and I headed to Hartford for our flights home. Greg--who is also from Portland--had less than three hours to make the 1.5 hour drive, return his rental, check in, get through security and onto the plane. Lunch was out of the question, so we parted ways.

I, on the other hand, had a later flight and my empty stomach wouldn't be ignored. Halfway from Danbury to Hartford, I pulled off the highway in Waterbury to find a bite to eat.

Eschewing the fast food joints at the freeway exit, I drove towards the downtown area. It was pretty quiet at 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, but Boru's Bar & Grill was open. I was a bit out of place in my suit and tie, but I sat down at the bar anyway, as the half-dozen locals started throwing beer coasters at each other. I don't think there was any particular occasion, but they were pretty boisterous.

The menu described the hamburger as "so good it will change your life," so I ordered one of those and a coke. I'm not sure it was that good, but it was the best I've had in a while. Maybe if I'd ordered the cheeseburger.

Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) is a major hub for Northwest Airlines. I don't know when they started painting their fleet with the "nwa" logo, but that always meant something different to me.

After lunch I headed off to Bradley Airport for my return flight to Portland (via Minneapolis). Sure enough, there was Greg waiting at my gate. He'd missed his flight and spent the rest of the time trying to rearrange another way home.

We got back to Portland around 11:30 PDT and I went straight home to bed.

Saturday in New York Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shawn Lynch signs up to borrow a Canon Powershot G9 May 17 at the New York Photo Festival in Brooklyn.

It's Tuesday afternoon and guess where I am--that's right, back at the airport. One of the things that makes PDX the TSA's 2007 Airport of the Year is the free wi-fi, which I'm taking full advantage of right now. Stories from this trip will come later. For now we'll backtrack to last weekend.

Saturday morning's shoot was at the Prudential Center, aka "The Rock," home of the New Jersey Devils, in downtown Newark. My colleague "Jack," with his 25 years of experience, was surprisingly dependent on me to set up the shots. The job was long, but uneventful.

I only had two jobs in the New York area on the weekend, so with the travel hassle it was marginally worthwhile. But what tipped the balance for me was the opportunity to spend an afternoon in the city. I'd only been to New York once before, for just an afternoon on a school trip when I was about 13, so all I know about New York is what I've seen in movies and on television.

As soon as my trip was confirmed I got hold of my buddy Shawn Lynch, who recently moved to NY from Boston. He said that he would be spending the day at the New York Photo Festival, so I jumped online and bought a day pass.

[right] The Manhattan Bridge looms large over the Empire State Building in this photo from the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn.

The Photo Festival is a huge, five-day gathering of photographers from all over the world, with seminars, panels, and gallery displays in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn. (Dumbo, which stands for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass" is an area of a few square blocks between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges right across the East River from Manhattan. It reminds me a lot of Portland's Pearl District--old brick warehouses renovated into art galleries and tony restaurants.) Most of the
photography at the festival seemed to be fashion and fine art, but the Dumbo area is home to the VII photo agency, one of the foremost photojournalism and documentary photography agencies in the world.

After we met up Saturday, Shawn borrowed a Powershot G9 from the Canon booth at the festival, and we wandered around the neighborhood taking pictures of whatever inspired us. (I used my DSLR.) Here are a few of my favorites.

It was a beautiful, sunny day, so there were plenty of people in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

[left] Shawn models for
me in front of Tattfoo Tan's mural "NMS—Nature Matching System"

[right] A chef prepares sushi at the Miso Restaurant in Dumbo. [below right] In New York, it seems, people have to be told the obvious. One of the things I remember from my first trip to New York was a sign above a fire hydrant that said "This is not drinking water." This sign: "Pesticide application. Do not enter."

They're calling me to board the plane now ... gotta go.

More airports, more planes Monday, May 19, 2008

After shooting golf Monday and Tuesday last week, Wednesday was a welcome day back in the office—buying some groceries, charging batteries, answering emails, making phone calls.

Thursday was supposed to be basically a day off. All I had to do was take a case of camera gear to the FedEx outlet around the corner from my place. I had visions of taking a bike ride, doing some shopping, and maybe doing some housework. I slept in a bit, did laundry, and arranged some personal travel (Yay! more airplanes!) in the morning. The call with the address for the camera case finally came around noon. Just as I was about to walk over to Kinko's, I got another call—the powers that be decided it was more important to ship the case to California instead, so I had to drive to the airport to ship it "next flight guaranteed."

After getting that taken care of, I spent the rest of the afternoon arranging this week's travel a
nd packing. So much for a day off.

Early Friday morning it was back to the airport for a flight to Newark.

This weekend's trip had its own challenges, but the travel itself was reasonably sane. I flew out to Newark via Minneapolis on Friday. Both of those legs are only about 2.5 hours in the air, and they were only about 1.5 hours late on the back end. My hotel was right at the airport, so that was convenient, and I got there at an entirely reasonable 8:30 p.m. I went down to the hotel restaurant and had a huge plate of chicken Parmesan on linguine, and went back to my hotel room.

For these overnight trips, EPG sets us up two to a room, and so you never know who you're going to be rooming with. Actually, I have the name of the person, but I haven't been sharing a room with anyone I've ever met before. For my night in Newark I was sharing a room with ... let's call him Jack.

Jack is from Seattle. He appears to be in his mid- to late-30s, but he said he's been shooting grads for 25 years, so who knows.

When I got back up to my room after dinner on Friday night, Jack was just moving in. We introduced ourselves as we consumed every outlet in the room with our various battery chargers and ironed our well-traveled shirts.

Jack—who had been on the road continuously for more than a week—raved on about this girl that he'd been on a self-imposed 6-week timeout with, but who was now asking when he would be back and then there was this girl he visited up in Toronto last week and how he wasn't properly expressing his emotions and this and that and whatever.

As I booted up my computer to check my email before bed, Jack warned me that he snores loudly, and also mentioned that he likes to go to sleep with one of those ambient sounds things playing. Tonight's track had a subliminal inspirational message, he said. Figuring that it could only be better than the sound of the air conditioner and that I was tired enough to sleep through anything, I said it wouldn't be a problem.

Jack turned on the sound, which began with crickets chirping, and then added another track of some electronic tumbling sound with deep strings behind it. Two chords in a descending major second, which then repeated. At that moment—about two hours after he had checked in—Jack realized that he'd left his car parked in the hotel entrance and went to move it.

He wasn't back for nearly an hour. When he came back into the room, he was again raving about his girl, who had called him "at just the right time" with, apparently, just the right news. So he went on about that for a while.

Meanwhile, the "sound" has been playing the whole time. Two chords in a descending major second, over and over and over again. I left it playing while he was gone, in an attempt to acclimate to it.

We turned out the lights around 11:30 to the sound of tumbling electrons in a descending major second.

An hour and a half later, Jack was fast asleep and I was not. Thankfully, I heard it fade into the distance as the track ended.

Just as I was slipping into a badly-needed sleep, the crickets came back. The track was on repeat. Damn.

Half an hour later, as the music box continued its eternal descending major seconds, I decided that politeness be damned: Jack was snoring and I wasn't going to get any sleep if that sound kept playing. So I got up and turned the infernal thing off.

Fifteen minutes later, Jack snored himself awake, got up, and turned the #@^% thing back on! I rolled over and buried my head in the pillows.

I guess I fell asleep somewhere around 2:30. The alarm went off at 5:40 with the inspirational sound still playing. I don't know if there was a subliminal message in that tape, but I didn't feel particularly inspired.

I shaved and showered and came out of the bathroom to hear the alarm going off again. "I keep hitting the snooze button so it keeps me on time," said a well-refreshed Jack, who had gone to the trouble of writing out the morning's schedule.

I turned on the TV to get caught up on the news while I dressed.

"Do you mind if we don't watch news?" asked Jack. "I don't want to see anything bad."

Well OK then. I turned the TV off.

OSAA 5A State Golf Tournament—Day 2

Sloan Tennant of Pendleton High School puts his ball up on the second green May 13 at the 5A state golf tournament in Corvallis. The sophomore had a combined score of 163 to finish tied for 35th.

Things are getting a bit out of order here, so if you're trying to get the chronology straight, I was in Ohio first, then immediately turned around and went to Corvallis, Ore., for the golf tournament. I blogged about Day 1 of the golf a few days ago.

The weather wasn't as nice on Day 2, but at least it didn't rain. Here are some of my favorite images from that day.

[below, left] Pendleton junior Kordd Thornton follows his approach shot on the ninth hole. [below, right] Bend's Andrew Vijarro pumps his fist after birdying the ninth hole at Trysting Tree. Vijarro and Nick Sherwood of West Albany tied for first with two-day scores of 143. A strong second day by West Albany put them first as a team. The Lava Bears were fourth.

You don't see a lot of photos of fairway shots, partly because you don't know exactly where the players will be. As I found out, it's also a bit more dangerous.

On this hole (left) the drives usually land near the top of a little hill right beside a huge tree, so I parked myself there. For the first group I photographed going through that hole, one of the guys I wasn't shooting ended up a bit short—on the right side of the fairway, but at the bottom of the swale, about 30 yards from me. Since the hole heads a little left from there, I figured I was pretty safe standing right up against the tree. I watched as he played his wood, and saw the ball coming straight at me. Yikes! I ducked as it whistled through the branches about 10 or 15 feet from where I had been.

The kid was cool, though, and apologized for sending the ball at me. I told him not to sweat it, it was my fault for standing there.

[left] Sloan Tennant of Pendleton High School winces as his chip shot narrowly missed the cup on the ninth green. (The Pendleton team started on the 10th hole on day 2 of the tournament, so this was his last hole.) [right] Bend's Andrew Vijarro reacts after narrowly missing his par putt on the 18. I don't think he knew it at the time, but he would have won the tournament if he'd made that putt.

Ohio Trip—Day 3: flying home

[above] A dozen planes queue up on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) May 11, waiting for their turn on the runway. I think there were five or six more in front of my plane when I took this photo.

I've decided that I really don't like flying through Philadelphia. While it wasn't as bad as my first experience with that airport, the second go-around could hardly be described as a pleasure. (According to, the two flights that I took out of Philadelphia—US 1156 and US 3915—have among the worst records for being on time: both 0.1 on a scale of 0-5.)

After a brief night's sleep in West Chester, Ohio, I headed back to Oxford only to realize that I'd left two of my three camera batteries in the chargers back at the hotel. Since it was 45 minutes to get back there, and not between Oxford and Columbus, I had them ship the batteries back to me in Portland. For the shoot, I used my spare battery and another photographer's spare. That was the extent of the excitement for that job.

From there, I made the two-hour drive back to Columbus for my plane home. As before the plane into PHL was on time (or pretty close), but my next plane was delayed. We boarded pretty much on time, but then sat on the taxiway for close to an hour before taking off.

For the next six hours, I had two views to choose from.

I got home around 11:30 and went straight to bed to get some rest before my next early morning call time.

Ohio Trip—Day 2: another long day Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The "new" Ulysses S. Grant Bridge spans the Ohio River between Portsmouth, Ohio, and South Shore, Ky. Originally built in 1927, the $38-million replacement was opened in 2006.

Saturday morning, after four hours of sleep, I was jolted awake by the alarm on my cell phone, which was charging on the opposite side of the room. I bolted upright, a bit dazed, trying to figure out exactly where I was as I leapt out of bed to silence the "Provincial" tone that was two steps too loud.

Once I had my bearings, I called down to the front desk to see if my suitcase had arrived. Sure enough, it was there and I would have clothes to wear for the day. Pulling on the jeans and t-shirt I'd worn the day before, I went down to the lobby and picked it up.

A quick shave and shower, and it was back to the lobby for the complimentary breakfast. Sausage, biscuits and gravy ... no doubt, we're in the South. (Did I mention that Portsmouth is about as far south as Ohio goes? "Appalachia" rhymes with "latch" here.)

Richard (my room mate, from Seattle) followed me down to the campus of Shawnee State University for the morning's shoot. The university has a very pretty campus right down on the Ohio River, but for whatever reason the campus planners have put the school's back to the river ... shame.

The weather was fantastic for the outdoor shoot, which wrapped up around noon. We got out of there a little before 1, looking for some lunch. Something quick and not too expensive, and I always like to find something a little local—I prefer my food served by a restaurant with revenues smaller than the GDP of a mid-sized nation. Driving around the town of about 20,000 I thought I'd hit the jackpot at a roadside hut called "Dairy Creme," but they didn't take credit cards (Richard was out of cash) so we had to pass. Richard suggested that we get a couple photos of this really cool bridge (see above) and then get something along the way to our next gig. My instincts told me that this was a bad idea, but I went along with it.

Our next destination was Oxford, Ohio, a little north of Cincinnati. Now, as densely populated as Ohio is (compared to Oregon, anyway), the south is a relatively uninhabited section. There are roads everywhere, but they aren't the big, straight freeways you find elsewhere in the state, and eateries along the way are few and far between.

We wound our way west through the very scenic hills of OH-125 for about an hour before reaching West Union, where Google told me to head north on OH-247. We drove through the bulk of the town up to our turn without finding anywhere to eat. Since it was now almost 2:30, we decided to find something—anything—before heading any further. Just as I was about to give up on the town as the only place in the union with no dining establishments whatsoever, I spotted a tourist information booth. With their help, we found "the strip" a bit further down the road after it seems to leave town.

The intersection of Main St. and Cross St. in West Union, Ohio. I like single, four-way traffic light.

Wendy's ... no ... McDonald's ... no ... BK ... no ... Arby's ... yeah, right ... KFC ... no ... Domino's ... not enough time. Then, at the end of the strip I spotted something I'd only heard rumours of: a giant statue of an overly happy kid with a 50's hairdo and crazy checkered overalls. You saw it as Dr. Evil's escape pod in the Austin Powers movie. That's right, it was a Big Boy. A Frisch's Big Boy, to be precise. It may be a popular chain in some parts of the country, but they don't have any franchises anywhere near anywhere I've ever lived, so we pulled in.

I'd always thought it was more like a McDonald's, but they made us wait to be seated, and took our orders from the table. The salad bar was pretty good. The burger ... better than average, but I suppose that doesn't mean much. The fries were alright.

From West Union we drove north to US-52, a near-freeway that went straight to Cininnati. Skirting around the edge of the city, we got to Oxford with about an hour to spare.

Oxford is home to Miami University. Actually, I should say that Miami University is home to the town of Oxford, as the school was there first (1809). The town looks like a good place for a college party for a weekend—say, if your school had a football game there—but I don't know if I'd want to live/study there.

The shoot was pretty uneventful. We got out of there around 9:45, followed by a 45 minute drive back to our hotel in West Chester. After dropping our stuff at the hotel, of course, we were all hungry and looking forward to a beer. One of the guys found an O'Casey's or O'Flannigan's or something like that a couple miles from our digs, so we piled into my car and headed over there.

The door was unlocked, and our watches said 10:53, but the waitress told us it was 11:02, two minutes after closing. Grumbling and protesting, we drove back and ate at the Frisch's Big Boy next door
to the hotel. They don't serve beer.

Back at the hotel, I plugged in all of my batteries, checked my emails for the first time in two days, discovered there was no job bag for me for the next morning's shoot, and hit the sack around 1. The alarm was set for 6.

Ohio Trip—Day 1: an inauspicious start Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Last Friday, my day began with a 6:30 trip to the airport. So far, so good.

Walking onto the departures level, I checked my itinerary for the flight—8:45 a.m. from PDX to PHL (Philadelphia) arriving at 4:53 p.m., followed by a 5:50 p.m. flight from PHL to CMH (Columbus, Ohio) arriving at 7:32.

Great ... but which airline? I couldn't remember! I thought I remembered a "U" logo, so I looked at the United Airlines board. Hmmm... no flights to Philadelphia.

One of the agents nearby sensed my concern as I searched through my papers for some indication of which nearly bankrupt corporation would be transporting me across the continent. If you're going directly to Philadelphia, she said, it's US Airways. Thanks, I said, as I hauled my gear a quarter mile down the lobby to the second-farthest ticket counter.

The airline personnel kindly told me that the price of the ticket only included one checked bag. Additional bags were $25 each. So I checked my suitcase—the lightest of the three items—and kept my backpack and camera gear with me.

Going through security with two large packs full of camera gear, a laptop, and various bits of electronica can be an adventure. Strangely, none of these tripped me up—nope, it was my toothpaste, the last ounce in my tube, which was promptly confiscated by the TSA. [I should mention, however, that I saw one of the flight attendants on that flight brushing her teeth with a full tube on the counter beside her.]

Our departure from Portland was delayed by about 30 minutes due to some weather on the east coast. That's right—though we had a five-hour flight clear across the continent, we were delayed by something happening 2500 miles away.

I forgot to buy a book before I left, and the in-flight movie (27 Dresses) was clearly not worth watching. So I did every crossword, sudoku, and word puzzle in the in-flight magazine.

Having declined the $7 in-flight breakfast/lunch, I was a mite peckish when we arrived in Philly. But with only 30 minutes before my next flight I didn't think I would have time to eat. Of course I was a little bit happy to see that my connecting flight was delayed by an hour. I scarfed down some Chinese food and found a seat at the gate only to discover that my flight had been postponed for another 1-1/2 hours. According to the chatter in the waiting area, many other flights had been postponed repeatedly and eventually canceled. Needless to say, I was a little less than optimistic about my chances of making the 8:30 a.m. call time for Saturday morning's shoot. I bought a book to read.

We finally landed in Columbus a little after 11 p.m., more than 3-1/2 hours late. Cursing the two-hour drive I still had to make, I waited by the luggage carousel for my suitcase. And waited. And waited. Then the luggage handler guy shut the belt down and said that was everything from the flight. So my next stop was the luggage handling office—"For privacy, only one customer in the office at a time."—and filled out some paperwork as three or four other passengers did the same. Visions of my suitcase chasing me from city to city danced through my head as I explained to the airline personnel that I would be on the move over the weekend. They promised to call before sending the suitcase anywhere.

I picked up my rental car and called the manager for the shoot to let him know that I didn't have the requisite dark suit to wear for the shoot. Actually, it turns out I called the manager for the adjacent region ("Mid-Central" sounds like it would include Ohio, no?), but he was very helpful. As I drove south from Columbus he found a 24-hour Wal-Mart near my hotel and said that the company pay for whatever I could find to wear. Yay, I thought, clothes shopping at 2 a.m. in Portsmouth, Ohio! Does it get any better than that?

About half an hour later, still on my way to Portsmouth, I got a call from the airline who said they had my luggage at the airport in Columbus. I again explained my itinerary, and they said they would send it on to my Saturday night hotel in West Chester. But when I mentioned that I was about to head out shopping, they found a way to get it to my hotel overnight. I canceled my shopping trip, checked in to the hotel at about 2 a.m., got some toothpaste from the front desk and borrowed some contact solution from my room mate (whom I'd never met before), and went to bed.

At 7 a.m. (4 a.m. Pacific time) the alarm kicked me out of bed, disoriented and tired, hardly ready for a long day of work. But that will have to wait until the next post ...

OSAA State Golf Tournament Monday, May 12, 2008

The best high school golfers in Oregon took to the links today in pursuit of individual and team state titles. At the Trysting Tree Golf Club in Corvallis, Wilsonville leads by three strokes over Bend after the first day of the two-day, class 5A tournament. Bend's Andrew Vijarro had the best individual round with 70 (-2).

Full results from the tournaments are available here.

[left] Crescent Valley's Tyler DeSpain winces as his chip shot just misses the cup on the ninth hole. DeSpain shot a 79 on Monday. [below] Jesse Salzwadel of Wilsonville shoots his approach from under a tree on eight.

I intended to post some photos from my trip to Ohio today, but I left them at home in the brief visit I paid there last night, so they'll have to wait for another day. Needless to say, it was a bit of an adventure. I'm here in Corvallis tonight (it was cheaper and quicker to get a hotel here than drive home tonight and back again tomorrow). One more day of golf tomorrow, then it's home for 48+ hours!

Queen's Alumni celebrate cinco de mayo Monday, May 05, 2008

The Portland branch of the Queen's Alumni Association celebrated cinco de mayo Sunday with a party at the casa de "Adamo" Green (Sc'94) and "Laurrra" Argalis. The celebration featured margaritas mixed by "Julia" (Comm'99) and "Roberto Jesus Salazar," Mexican food and beer, and a homemade piñata.

[below] "Laurrra" tries to avoid the camera.

[above] "Julia" unleashes her wrath on the piñata. [below, left] The piñata wore a Cheshire grin, but the humans had the last laugh. [below, right] "Adamo" (Sc'94), "Laurrra," "Roberto Jesus Salazar," "Julia" (Comm'99), "Heatherita," "Evano" (not sure which class), and "Mateo" (Sc'96) all adopted Spanish monikers for the day.

More fencing Friday, May 02, 2008

Courtney Hurley (right) can't evade the touch of Hannah Safford as they joust in the women's team epee event at the USFA National Championships Apr. 28 in Portland. Hurley, currently ranked no. 1 in the U.S. in women's epee, led her team from the New York Athletic Club to victory in the team event. The 18-year-old from San Antonio Texas also won the gold medal in the women's individual event. Safford, 17, was second.

With her Uncle Frank watching, Beaverton's Mariel Zagunis explains the scoring area to Kathy Woodman of Portland Apr. 28 during the USFA National Championships in the Rose City. Zagunis, who won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics, competes in the women's sabre event, where fencers score by touching their opponent in the arms, chest, neck or back.

Daria Schneider (right) goes on the offense in her joust with Mariel Zagunis in the women's individual sabre at the USFA National Championships in Portland. Zagunis scored four of the last five points to win the bout 15-14. The left-hander, currently ranked third in the United States, finished tied for third at this weekend's championships. Schneider was 14th. [below] Zagunis and Schneider both celebrate and look to the referee after a near-simultaneous touch. In these cases, the referee decides who gets the point.

In the fencing world, sabre is considered the polar opposite of epee: in epee, fencers have to connect the smallest part of the sword (the tip) with a fair amount of force against the largest target area (any part of the opponent's body). In sabre, the athletes have a smaller target area (basically the torso and arms), but the slightest graze with the tip or blade counts.

In epee, the action is (relatively) slow and deliberate. Sabre action is so fast, they don't even run the timer—on the "allez" command, the fencers attack each other in a flash and within about three seconds both lights go on indicating that both fencers have touched their opponent.

Unlike epee, though, only one fencer can score in sabre. So as soon as the lights go off, both fencers scream and pump their fists in celebration in an apparent effort to influence the referee's judgement. (In foil, if both fencers score a simultaneous touch, no points are awarded.)

[right] Mariel Zagunis (left) celebrates a 15-14 win over Daria Schneider in the women's individual sabre competition. The first fencer to 15 points wins.

USFA Current point standings
Final results for the 2008 USFA National Championships: ME, MF, MS, WE, WF, WS,