Want to get away from it all?
Want to get away from it all?
It was a long weekend in Lakeland. The fuel system on the Pontiac had some issues to the point that we got about 85 miles from Miami and had to turn around and come home. We left the Pontiac at Bob’s house and took his car. Tropical Storm Nestor moved across Florida and brought heavy rains Friday night and Saturday morning so the show was moved lock, stock, and barrel into three covered public garages. By 11:00 a.m. the weather cleared and the rest of the day was beautiful. The photo was from later in the day when the clouds had cleared to the east but some more rain showers were moving in.
We left early Sunday morning (and a shorting-out fire alarm system at 4:30 a.m. didn’t help with a good night’s sleep, neither did walking down nine flights of stairs carrying our luggage because the elevators were locked out) and got home around 11:00 a.m.
I’m taking the Pontiac into the shop this morning, then catching up on some work once I get to school. So I’ll be back a little later to catch up on what’s been going on.
I’m heading out later this morning for Kansas City and the third annual Midwest Dramatists Conference. I’ve been at all the previous conferences and made great friends and learned a lot about the craft and art. Plus, they have a great barbecue joint next to the hotel.
This year they are doing a reading of “A Life Enriching Community,” which is one of my ten-minute plays written originally for Miami 1-Acts, and has the distinction of being the last play I performed in.
Anyway, blogging will be light and variable for the rest of the week.
When I lived in Albuquerque and flew anywhere from there, it was on an MD-80.
Those weren’t the days.
One of the things I heard leading up to retirement was “Oh, now you’ll have time to travel!” Well, yes, I might, but I certainly did enough while I was working full-time because I was earning paid vacation. (Depending on how you look at it, retirement is paid vacation…)
Anyway, I’m heading out today for a few days to visit my parents in Cincinnati. So I’ll see you on the road.
Eighteen years ago today I left Albuquerque to move to Miami. It was me, Sam, the Pontiac, and my philodendron. All the rest was on the moving van. We left at 6:30 p.m., made it to Pecos, Texas, by midnight, and spent the whole next day driving across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, finally crossing the Florida border after midnight, August 2 (I had vowed I would not stop in either Mississippi or Alabama). We arrived in Miami at the home of Bob and Ken 48 hours after leaving Albuquerque. Sam’s gone, but I still have the Pontiac and the philodendron.
The afternoon of July 31, 2001, was the last time I saw Allen until 2013. It was also the inspiration for my play “Last Exit.”
When I was in Alaska, I flew from Anchorage to Valdez on Ravn Air in a turboprop plane. Here’s a look at the first turboprop, and I remember flying on one of these, too.
Allen and I loved to travel, and we had some of our best memories together when we went to Europe, to Jamaica, to Montserrat, and many road trips when we lived in Michigan and New Mexico. So in that spirit, so to speak, I took Allen along with me to Alaska, knowing that he wouldn’t let a little thing like death interfere with a visit to a place he always wanted to see. And I could hear him say, “You went to Alaska and didn’t take ME?”
So here is proof that he did get to go.
So, what’s been going on down here while I’ve been up in the Last Frontier?
I really didn’t grasp how far it is from there to here until I got home and realized that it took over 20 hours — including layovers — just to do the trip without incident. Some of my friends are still waiting for their connections, and they’re not going as far. For the record, I was the winner of the farthest-traveled from within the U.S., but there were three participants at VLFTC from Australia. They win, mate.
I’m taking the day to catch up on stuff at home (not to mention laundry), so I’ll be back later.
It took about 20 hours, including seven of those being layovers in Anchorage and Los Angeles, but I’m home again after an amazing week of theatre, friendship, learning, growing, doing, and becoming. The Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference has imprinted on me an appreciation for the craft I practice (and practice and practice) and created a bond with people I admire and truly feel a connection with both as a writer and a human being.
I took this picture as I was heading back to the hotel after the last event, the gala dinner and celebration. It was getting late, but as I’ve shown over the last ten days, the sun doesn’t really set in Valdez this time of year. In fact, it wasn’t until my flight landed in Los Angeles this morning at 5:30 a.m. PDT that I saw my first dark night in ten days.
Perhaps that’s a metaphor for the feelings I have for these wonderfully talented friends I’ve made: the light won’t go out. Or, to put it in theatre terms, it’s not goodbye; it’s just intermission.
When I told my friends and co-workers that I was going to Alaska for a week, a lot of them assumed I was going on a cruise. That’s not surprising; cruising from Seattle up along the Pacific coast is a very popular vacation and I know a lot of people who’ve done it.
Well, last night we took our own cruise along part of the Alaska coast. This was a two-hour cruise through Prince William Sound and by the Shoup Glacier. Almost all of the VLFTC company went along and we saw some spectacular wilderness along the shoreline, spotted a group of otters playing in the water, and even got to touch a piece of the glacier.
Here are some photos in no particular order. Enjoy.
The conference ends today with a monologue presentation, a slam of ten-minute plays (including “Ask Me Anything”) and a gala dinner. Tomorrow we all head for home.
The reading of “A Moment of Clarity” was beautiful, and a lot of people in the audience were wiping away tears at the end, as was I. Thank you, Dick Reichman and Dave Haynes for bringing Clyde and Dan to life.
We still have two more days of fun and theatre here in Valdez, including an evening cruise to see the nearby glacier and perhaps see some wildlife (beyond the fun at the Fringe).
I took a short walk yesterday to the top of an overlook near the convention center and got some photos of the town of Valdez and some of the plant life that grows during the short time they have to grow.
I’ve lived or visited a lot of different places with different climates, and I learn to appreciate the differences. For instance, in Florida you are very aware of the intensity of the sun so putting on SPF 50 to go out and work in the yard is part of the deal, assuming you care about not getting skin cancer. Here in coastal Alaska in the summer you carry industrial-strength Off! in your pocket or purse.
This was sent by Bob, and while it’s humorous, it’s applicable. The skeeters here are not as big as the ones in the sign — I think that applies more to northern Minnesota or Michigan — but they’re just as annoying.
The other adjustment is the amount of daylight in the summer. As I noted previously, this close to the Arctic Circle this time of year, the sky is lit up for 24 hours and the sun is up for over 19. In Florida we are used to basically 12 hours of daylight year-round and virtually no twilight: when the sun goes down, the sky goes dark almost immediately.
It rained yesterday afternoon and evening. In Florida we’re used to downpours that are localized and heavy. Here on the coast of Alaska, it’s more like a light drizzle and mist that settles in for a while.
I haven’t included any pictures of the plays yet because they haven’t done mine yet. That changes today — or tonight, actually — when “Gee Your Butt Smells Terrific” goes up at the Fringe.
This is an amazing place to have a theatre conference, and no, we don’t spend all the time in a room watching plays and eating.
Actually a lot of us spend time walking around the town. Everything is within walking distance, including restaurants and other venues, and the local people have been very welcoming. Valdez is a summer tourist mecca for trips into the Alaska interior and fishing, and even if the temperatures aren’t subtropical, it’s a nice break from the humidity that awaits my return next week.
As for wildlife, I was told to be on the lookout for moose. So far all I’ve seen are some of the local indigenous population of rabbits.
And, yes, I have wasted no time doing some shameless self-promotion. If I don’t do it, no one else will.
It has been a very busy couple of days since my arrival: meeting up with friends, old and new, getting into the routine of the festival, attending workshops and evening events, finding great places to eat, and adjusting to the climate here, which includes clouds of mosquitoes. (Note to self: stop at Safeway and pick up some Off!).
It’s also taking a little time adjusting to the permanent daylight that comes with being this far north less than two weeks away from the summer solstice.
Here’s a few other views of the surroundings taken earlier yesterday.
These were from outside the civic center where the festival is taking place. That waterway is the inlet to Prince William Sound, which was in the news 30 years ago.
One last shot: a sign on the side of the hotel that you probably wouldn’t see in Miami Beach:
I don’t intend to be here long enough to find out what happens when the snow falls off the roof.
Today the performances of the play labs begin. My play goes up on Thursday, and between now and then I’ll be going to workshops, working with the actors who will perform my plays, and generally doing what we theatre people do best: making friends and sharing creativity.
Note: the time on the posts is EDT, not AKDT (Alaska Daylight Time).
Where I am this week.
It’s the longest I’ve ever flown in full daylight.
I took off from Miami at 12:30 p.m. EDT This was taken on our descent into Anchorage at 11 p.m. AKDT last night.
For some reason I couldn’t hook up to the Microtel’s internet service last night, so I’m now at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport at Gate A-13 waiting to board the flight to Valdez.
I have no idea what kind of connection I’ll get at the Best Western in Valdez, but if you don’t hear from me by Thursday, there’s a ham sandwich in my safe deposit box.
Here’s the map of where I’m going today.
I’m spending the night in Anchorage, then arriving in Valdez Saturday afternoon, just in time for the fun to start.
The map is deceptive: the distance from Miami to Los Angeles is within a mile of the distance from Los Angeles to Anchorage, at least in terms of direct flight, and according to the airline, the flying time is the same; 5 hours and 20 minutes. I am hoping my upgrade requests come through and that the battery in my Kindle holds out.
I’ll do my best to try to post when I’m there but I have no idea what the internet connections will be like along the way or what my schedule will be like.
I do know that the climate there is a little different than what I’m used to. The record high in Valdez for June 7 is 68 F, and the forecast reminds me of June in northern Michigan.
That’s okay. I’ve got a nice sweater and jacket, and after the heat and humidity we’ve been getting here in South Florida, it will be a nice change.
For the record, Valdez in not the farthest north I’ve ever been. That honor goes to the airport outside Reykjavik, Iceland in 1986 on the way back from Europe on Iceland Air. It is the farthest west; prior to this trip that honor went to a Starbucks in downtown Seattle. It is the farthest I’ve gone to see a performance of a play of mine: “A Moment of Clarity” goes up Thursday afternoon at 3 pm AKDT. Let me know if you can make it and I’ll try to save you a seat.