Archive for September, 2014


Monday, September 22nd, 2014

There is an old adage about warfare, deeming it “interminable boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.”  That seems an adequate description of several of my Groupon adventures.

Last weekend I signed up for a stunt driving class.  Much like my adventures at the gun range I secretly suspected we were about to unearth my inner International Spy which is an alter ego I am utterly convinced that I possess despite all evidence to the contrary.   I don’t doubt that there are many people in the business of international espionage but I suspect most of them are not unnervingly good looking nor do they tear about the countryside off roading in a very public way in vehicles that retail for hundreds of thousands of dollars BEFORE you factor in the stereo upgrade.  But if I am going to unleash an inner demon that is the one that I would like to unleash thank you very much.  I would settle for unnervingly good looking, actually.  I started with the driving.

The stunt driving school had three BMW3 series cars which are apparently idea for the task as they are perfectly balanced and certain safety features like anti-lock brakes could be over ridden.  We were taught several basic exercises – the “J” move which is where you drive spin the car 180 degrees, another version of this that begins with the car in a high speed reverse, and a basic slalom.  We were taken through each exercise in car with the instructor demonstrating then swapped out so we could have a go on our own.

Here’s where the war adage takes effect.  When you are in the car it feels like you are only playing around for about five minutes.  In reality with the demonstrations and depending on how quickly you cotton on it is more like twenty.  Three cars and twelve participants makes for a lot of waiting.  Plus the weather which had promised to be a sunny and balmy fall day had turned to the first bite of winter and was overcast and chilly, and there was only an open sided tent in which to take shelter.  I was alone so there were moments of pure enjoyment followed by extended periods of waiting around, not really rooting for the other participants and secretly resenting them a little.  The good news is I am pretty good at it.  That’s where the war adage falls apart for me.  I am curiously fearless and in my world there is no such thing as too fast too high too spinny too anything in my world.  The main instructor had me in the car and after the first “J” spin he stopped and informed me that generally he liked to take a moment then so people could take a moment to regain their composure and let their adrenalin settle.  I think my pulse rate was about the same as when I emerge from a refreshing nap and he was a little startled to see how calm I was.  “You look fine” he said in a slightly curious and possibly disappointed way.  “I don’t really do scared” I explained.  One bonus point for me.  (As a aside, I actually DO scared but only in a different way.  Invite me to a party with more than four people at it or ask me to go bathing suit shopping in January and you can see what pure terror looks like).

The class was fun but I will remember to bring a buddy the next time I do such a thing, if only to provide an appropriate measure of fear-by-proxy for the instructors.  It was all I could do not to slam my little car in its spot in the garage by executing a reverse spin but I rationalized that I didn’t have the run up space.  Perhaps my inner spy will be unleashed yet



LA Stories

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Recently I flew down to sunny California to attend the Story Expo.  It was a three day conference on writing predominantly for film and television.  the experience was astonishingly enlightening and I was fired up with enthusiasm, energy and subsequently a complete inability to write anything about it.

I have had this happen before when I have crammed so much information in to a short span of time that save writing a small treatise there is too much information to disseminate in a single essay.   This trip was a different experience for me on several levels.  I have been to many music conferences over the years but this is the first time I have truly addressed my secret passion for writing, and my geographical focus turned to a single strip along the oceanfront from the airport to Venice and back while I am normally bouncing from downtown to Pasadena to Venice to Malibu and all places in between.

Here’s my route close up.

And here it is in the larger picture of LA.

In an effort to describe the limitations of my geographical forays and to start the writing flow again I went to a website enumerating the Latin names of phobias in the search for a term to describe my extremely limited movement.  Xenophobia and agoraphobia skirt the parameters (being the fears of things perceived to be foreign or strange and the fear of open spaces respectively) but nothing really nailed it.  I WAS delighted to discover Aulophobia (fear of flutes), bufonophobia (toads), genuphobia (knees) and lutraphobia (otters).  Porphyrophobia is the fear of the colour purple (I am assuming the actual colour rather than the 1985 Oprah Winfrey film of the same name).  I hope to utilize this list more at some point.

The Expo itself was excellent.   I learned a great deal, met some inspirational teachers and am looking forward to a return visit next year.  In an effort to avoid doing a huge injustice to any of the talented instructors I will not attempt to paraphrase their lectures.  I will say that the seminars were very well organized and the subjects covered all aspects of creative writing from the very nascent stages to helping people pitch and sell a finished product.

The host venue was the Westin LAX.  I opted against staying there and instead rented a beautiful apartment in the Venice Canals.  It was an easy 15-20 minute commute and meant the difference between staying in a generic hotel room in an area with limited fast food meal options that looked like this:

To a place on the water, five minutes from the beach and a stone’s throw from fantastic restaurants.

I have loved Venice and the few canals that remain ever since an old friend moved there some years ago.  They are changing of course, as all things do.  Many of the tiny cottages remain, but they are being bought up and much larger homes are being built in their stead.

It is still a calm and beautiful place to be, and the quirkiness endemic to Venice still remains.

Here are two transportation options to be had in the area – kayak and USS Enterprise

I did find some time on the Sunday before my departure to wander in to Santa Monica long the main street in Venice and back along the boardwalk.  The weather was perfect and I was delighted to see they have reclaimed an area in front of the court house and turned it in to a beautiful park.

I stopped to watch some excellent break dancers, dabbled my toes in the ocean, breathed in some salty aired and called myself lucky for being able to experience all the things I managed to cram in to a single weekend.  I am a fortunate soul.  Now I just need to write about it.