Friday, December 25, 2009

Attack Of The Christmas Tree

My 2009 Christmas Tree: Holla!!!

It's been a few years since a Christmas tree has entered my abode. You know, I didn't really know why it's been so long until this holiday season.

Do you ever have memories which are so dire, so embarrassing, so bad that they bury themselves deep within the oceans of your mind to hopefully never see the light of the sun again (i.e. too many awkward first dates to count, a piggy back ride which turned into a bloody muddy mess, considering to actually vote Republican, etc.).

Well, this year when I thought of getting a Christmas tree (actually it was Roz who inspired me to get one), I had one of those flashbacks to one of those deep dark memories: my first "job".

It was the winter of 1987. I was 15 (10th Grade). One of my best friends in the world (Jay Yoon Lee) and I were in Mr. Roehler's Biology class. I can't remember how it came up, but I remember the topic of Mr. Roehler's Christmas Tree Farm came up. In fact, he had job openings! Now I was boyish 15 verging on manhood, and one of those coming-of-age acts is to get a J-O-B! (C'mon, you need money for that Intellivision video game you just have to have, tickets to a movie, or the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book. Ummm, yeah, girls weren't exactly in the picture at this point. Let's be honest. I was too much of a skinny little nerd, so people of the female persuasion just saw me as "Mr. Help-For-Homework".)

Going International! (Yup, those are postcards!)

The thought of work was truly alien to me. I must admit I was a little trepidatious about the whole endeavor. Jay was all excited about it and was already scheming what he was going to do with his riches. I had to go along for the ride.

So on one winter eve after school, Jay and I drove all the way to Highland from Rialto and found Mr. Roehler's tree farm. We were given our saws & our orders, "When you see a customer eyeing a tree, ask to help 'em, cut their tree, lug it to their car and load it for 'em. Simple as that. Have 'em pay at the office, and if you get a tip, that's yours to keep."

Jay and I teamed up. I was glad for that. I was a shy & skinny (have I mentioned that before?!) little kid, and I was too scared to make small talk with strangers. Jay was a shmoozer and good with people even back then.

Within minutes, we had our FIRST customers. I remember following them to their tree. Now since I was the weakling of the duo, I was given the simple job: hold tree while Jay cut it. Simple enough, right? Jay started cutting down the tree....well, let's be real here, it was actually a redwood. This tree was a green skyscraper to my 15-yr old newly-employed eyes! I stood there and I held that tree with all my might.

My might wasn't enough.

Just before the tree was cut, I felt a *CRACK!* The once-solid tree shifted and then gravity began to pull the tree down towards me, of course. I blinked once. I held my breath. I blinked again. The tree was falling toward me, and I was powerless against it. Within 2-seconds, I was consumed by the tree. Pine needles cut into me. I imagine maybe a limb or two could be seen sticking out from underneath the tree...or maybe I appeared to have vanished to those who saw the tree fall.

At any rate, Jay picked up the tree with one hand--probably with one finger of one hand. "You ok?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied. At about this point, I wanted to disappear. This was my job, and I just got squashed by it!

Jay carried the tree to the customer's car (I think I held on to the tip of the tree to look like I was helping, but I know I wasn't).

Jay received a tip, and I tried to hide in the shadows. Honestly, the rest of the evening was a blur. I don't remember any trees after that one. I don't know, maybe I went to hide in the car while Jay finished off the night.

The next day in Biology class was uncomfortable.

"Corey, can I speak to ya in the back?" Mr Roehler asked. "I heard ya had a tough night on the farm." (It wasn't a farm, it was just a lot in the city which somehow was able to produce trees--amongst the smog, and 100+degree summers!) "Well, some people just aren't cut out for certain type of work. I think you might be just a tad small for this job--maybe next year. No hard feelings?"

"Ummm....", what could I say.

"Ok, let's go cut some frogs open!" Mr. Roehler gave me something like $5-10, and that was that.

This memory floated above my head. Floated above Eisenhower High School in Rialto, CA. Floated above a cloud...wait, actually it's a cloud of smog. And disappeared into my subconscious. It would revisit me from time to time, but it had been years, until last week.

This Is How I Brought In Christmas At Work--H1 Locked With A Range Of 16Mpc (a nice shift)!

Last week, I wanted a tree. The dogs and I would be alone for Christmas (I was working 10 days straight over the holidays), but I still wanted a tree. I went to a local shop, and picked a tree. The tree was under four feet ($29).

This tree fit inside my MINI Cooper.

This tree I could handle.

And off to work I go.

"Merry Christmas!!!", says Gomez.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

El Casco Viejo 2008: Bond, Cowee Bond

I. Had. No. Idea.

After finally watching Quantum of Solace on DVD the other day, I was inspired to write something about the movie with regards to a trip I made in early 2008. One of my best friends (Ang) and I were finishing up a 2-week Panama y Colombia trip and were touring around Panama City's Casco Viejo neighborhood the day before returning to the States. While strolling around the old streets, a tour group walked by us. I was taking photos, when I heard the tour guide say, "the new James Bond movie will be filmed here."


Here are two Quantum of Solace locations in Panama City's Quantum of Solace (we were all over this area when sight-seeing Casco Viejo!)

So in the new James Bond, Panama City wasn't Panama City, but La Paz, Bolivia. So, I guess I can say I've also been to Bolivia, too! Everything's a masquerade in Hollywood. There were two major scenes filmed in locations I was familiar with: Grand Hotel (actually Panama's Institute of Culture) & the Green Party (previously an old haunt of Manuel Noriega's known as El Union Club).

First day of my trip abroad. Hung out alone in Panama City. Checked out a salsa band in Casco Viejo. It was an interesting night to say the least.

Last full day of my trip; Ang & I both hung out in Casco Viejo & this is when we heard about the movie.

Filming in Casco Viejo begins for Quantum of Solace

Film Release date in the US.

I am a total fan of the new James Bond and Casino Royale, so when I heard that the next Bond movie was being filmed right where we were--I was intrigued. It wasn't until much later that I found out that filming took place just days after we left (and right after Panama's Carnival celebration).

Needless to say when the movie came out, I was totally stoked to see if I recognized anything from the movie. A crew of us set out to watch the movie on opening night. I totally jumped in my seat when scenes flashed on the big screen of places where I walked the streets of Panama City...errr...La Paz!

The Scene: Checking In To The Grand Hotel

This is a popular tourist spot in Casco Viejo

For this scene, debonaire and sexy Corey Gray...errr...James Bond, and his fellow characters check into a fancy shmancy hotel as "teachers on sabbatical who just won the lottery". The scene is only a few seconds, but in this shot the camera is at the base of the Pablo Arosenena statue pointing skyward (the eagle from the statue is the first thing shown). The camera then sweeps down towards Bond's taxi as it pulls in front of the "Andean Grand Hotel". Then the characters exit the car to check in. It's a quick scene, but we were there.

This area is actually where the French Embassy is and now has a quaint square with some monuments, cool-looking trees, and vendors (I bought a mola-embroidered shirt here). Here you can see cool views of Panama Bay, the sky-scrapers of Panama City, and many other cool areas of Casco Viejo.

Movie Screenshot: Bond, Strawberry Fields and crew arriving at the "hotel". Notice building on the left. I took photos of its old doors

This is a photo I took (not knowing anything about the movie). I wanted to capture the old buildings sandwiching a skyscraper in the background.

Doors & Windows With Character

So the camera must have been at the very base of that statue, because the eagle at the base of it is in the scene.

The Scene: The Green Party
(formerly El Union Club)

For the scene when Bond and Stawberry Fields (*ahem*), attend a party hosted by the villain of the film, an old skeleton of a structure is used for the location. I was very familiar with this structure. It was directly across the street from the bar (La Platea) I spent hours at when checking out a salsa band during the Panama Jazz Festival.

On my first night in Panama, I took a taxi to the bar Platea. The drive over was a bit sketchy. Not all streets in Casco Viejo were cool--some were dark and scary. I was dropped off near the bar and then walked in to listen to some cool music. I distinctly remember looking at the dilapidated building across the street. There was a temporary fence up around it & a trailer in front of it. It looked really cool looking, but I guess I assumed it was getting renovated (it would be a shame to not restore many of the sad structures in this same state), or fixin' to have an encounter with a wrecking ball.

For those interested on the interior of Platea, here's a clip from a band playing around the time I was there:

In the film, it looks like they must have either "CGI-ed" Platea or gave it a quick paint job, because in the movie it looks a different color and the signs were removed. It's just a trip though to think Roger Craig was walking the steps we walked just days afterward.

Movie Screenshot: Notice the window & light fromthe building in the background.

This is one of my favorite photos. Looked a little different in the movie.

In the background, was where I took photos and heard the tourguide talk about the Bond film shoot.

Movie Screenshot: I remember standing out on the sidewalk (like folks on the right) cooling off between salsa songs.

Movie Screenshot: This looks like a cool party! The street and Platea are on the other side of this building.

I remember taking this photo because I thought the building looked cool. I had to angle the shot high because I didn't want to get the fence in the picture. If I only knew the fence was there to protect the area for the upcoming shoot!

Movie Screenshot: My cab dropped me off in the lot where those white-helmeted motor cops are coming from.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More On Yelp

This is a cop-out (posting a post from another blog for my blog!), but I liked this clip about how Yelp came to be, check it out here.

Yelp on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lost Coast On The Quick

Three times to Humboldt in one year: Indigenous People's Week '08, Big Time '09, and Ari/Jeremy Wedding '09. While heading down to the wedding, I stopped off at Humboldt to hang out.

Before going into hanging out in Humboldt, I have to mention how FUN it was to ride my MINI on the 299 just north of Crescent City. Taking the tight curves, and operating my machine fast around the turns was purely sexual--I was smiling and literally laughing as I was hugging and caressing the road! Ok, back to reality....

For a first stop, stopped at A&J's for some Beatle's Rock Band (man, I need to get this!). We then hit up downtown Arcata and made a trip to the new Arcata Theater Lounge (previously, Arcata Theater). This places is AWESOME. We made it here for Silent Movie Night. Back in the day, this was a big airplane hangar of a space, but now, it's chill, chic, and dare I say modern (and this is in the town of the hippie). There were about 20 films on tap for the night, we ended up catching a couple, including Snow White.

Arcata Lounge

I was crashing at Chag's for the night, so we made trip short. I made it to Lowry's and crashed on the couch....I was so tempted to play with Trey's Millenium Falcon before going to bed!

The next morning, I hit up Stanton's for breakfast with the Lowry's, and then got to hang out with Chag, Trey, and Jeremy (babysitter) back at the house. I could write a whole other blog about Chag's work and hobbies, but I'll leave that for him to write on his own. But I do have to mention a few things. Holy smokes! I had no idea about the magnitude of Chag's comic collection. Wow! I collected a comic or two in my day, but dang, I have to bow down to Chag's library. I then got to hear a little about Chag's work with California Native Veterans and see some photos related to this work. It's so impressive to see Chag's work, and his knowledge in this field. After this, I went down memory lane and watched Chag's "homemade" video gift to his mother Sandra. Basically, he captured a few days in his life at Humboldt. He's one of my best friend's, so I was in there. It's crazy to think that was filmed over 13 years ago! We were so young.

We then headed over to Humboldt to have lunch with Bag o' Donuts, Vinny Bag o' Donuts. We picked Vinny up on campus---and I had to endure a couple of minutes of heckling by Vincenzo about my new vehicle....I don't know what he has against "Mini Coopers" (he always has to say "Mini Cooper" in a high feminine voice to try and rile me), but I think he secretly wishes he had one.

Straight Pimps

We headed over to Sunnybrae's Fiesta Cafe for lunch. Man, we just hung out for an hour, but wow---my jaw and gut were sore from laughing so hard. It's always like that when the "Three Amigos" get together (Elsie, I would write what you call us on here, but.....naaaah!!!) ;)

So, I had intended to leave Humboldt early to hit the Lost Coast, but I'm so glad I bent my schedule around---I can be so anal about these things. "Corey, you gotta loosen up!" I said to myself. So yeah, I ended up zipping down toward the Lost Coast around 4pm. I made a pitstop in Ferndale (it's the quaint Victorian town featured in a few movies---Outbreak & The Majestic for example). Here I picked up some provisions & a bottle of a local brew. Then I was on my way away from civilization---to The Lost Coast.

Downtown Ferndale

There are roads and then there are roads. This is one of THE drives for me. The road is tiny, rough, and crappy, but it makes this drive what it is---a masterpiece for the senses. The road immediately climbs above Ferndale, and then you curve through pastures once on top of the King's range. You know you are Lost within minutes. The first big drop takes you quickly down (with several hairpin switchbacks) into the Bear Creek valley. Before going down, this is where you get your first high-elevation glimpses of the Pacific. Another fast climb out of the valley and a jaunt through some more pastures, and then you're roll onto one of the climax's of the drive.

Loved The Way These Trees Looked

Yeah, I filmed this while driving one-handed Down A Curvy Road

My Favorite Piece Of Road

Here is one of the paramount views of the Lost Coast from above. It's a quick view, because you quickly head toward the ocean and down--fast of course. The elevation change on this road is something you wouldn't find on one of your more traveled highways...perhaps it was designed that way to keep this area "lost".

Once down on the beach, the road parallels the beach for several miles. Sometimes you're close enough to the water to be sprayed by crashing waves. Then this road heads inland and up to the microscopic town of Petrolia. Normally, I'd head that way, but I only had about 90min of light. So I decided to park on this stretch of the road and make a short hike of my overnight stay on the beach.

Parked & Ready To Go

The first word to come to mind when I had my pack on my back, and walking away from my car: wind. It was soo windy. I guess that's the price to pay for cloudless skies. With the wind I decided to try and find a place which would offer the best protection for the gale force breezes. My destination---a fair sized rock-formation within a half mile from the road.

My Tent Was On The Other Side Of This Rock

On Top Of The Rock Castle

Lost Coast Lichen

The Tunnel

The rock looked like my personal castle---equipped with a little bridge/tunnel. On the back side of the castle, were a couple of spots high up on the rock which looked perfect for my tent and a small bonfire. My first task was to gather up wood for a fire. I then just soaked the scenery. I tried to read a little, but the views, sounds of the waves and and smell of salt water proved too much of a distraction.

The Best Sunsets

Within an hour or so, the sun began it's disappearing act. This was one of the first times I've been on the Lost Coast when I'd actually get to see an actual sunset--in most cases clouds sneak in to cover the sun's escape. So, while atop my tower, I watched the sunset. It might be seem like a boring show, but I could watch reruns of this anytime. A cool thing about the sunset was that within minutes it was followed by another act: the moon rise. The nearly full moon rose above the King's range and lit up the beach like an early dawn.

Might Be Boring, But It's A Sunset In Its Entirety


Ok, enough with the astronomical theater, I had to set up my tent, make dinner, and build a fire--easier said than done. As the star of the night lingered, the wind stole the show, and demanded its full attention. My tent wanted to act like a balloon and fly the ocean blue on several times, but I was able to keep it at bay. Dinner was easy and quick. My fire was surprisingly easy to start. I was able to start it with my flint & stone set up, and within 1-2 seconds, it raged full on with all the oxygen jetting into it. I stared like a caveman of old into the fire for a while, but slumber called. sleeps on the Lost Coast go, this was not on the top of my list. The wind was just bad. Actually it wasn't the wind, it was more the sand which foiled a good night sleep. Sand was everywhere. The wind bullied its way through the screens of my tent like nothing. So, sand was all up in my business. I slept, but I kept waking up to blow sand off my lips and dust my face off. It was rough.

"I wonder what Bear Grylls would do," I thought to myself.

The Hike Back

In the morning, and for days afterward, I was finding sand in crevices all over--my ears were full of sand for days. But it's all an adventure right. This is what it's all about. It's all about stories. The Lost Coast provides, and I know I'll be back again.

...with a better tent.

(now on to a wedding!)

Driving Through Redwoods: Wedding-bound

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Willits Wedding

Ari and Jeremy met years ago at Humboldt State---I think many of us know about their encounter in their Spanish class where their story began. For years, we've all gotten to see their relationship grow through ups and downs, adventures and stories. For this new phase of their life together, marriage, I feel honored to be one of the people to be around when this phase began. It began in Copenhagen, Denmark: "the happiest place on Earth".

We weren't there when it happened, but Jeremy proposed to Ari at a special place: the statue of the Little Mermaid. I remember when Ari was a wee tyke---she watched Disney's "The Little Mermaid" just about every day. In other words, Jeremy picked the perfect spot to start the next phase of their life.

The months of preparation for the big day all paid off. The wedding took place at Jeremy's mother's beautiful house in Willits, CA. During this Fall wedding weekend, we were lucky to have beautiful weather...ummm...except for the chilly temperatures. The wedding ceremony took place on a scenic spot on a side of a hill (girls didn't wear heels!), with a big rock formation as background.

The Wedding Site

The reception afterward was in a barn! It wasn't a hoe-down, and their wasn't straw on the floor, the barn was transformed into a really cool party place.

The rehearsal went well. Cheryl Seidner (Wiyot) was the officiant, and she helped layout the overall structure for the wedding ceremony. I remember meeting Cheryl years ago when I was a student at Humboldt State. She worked for over 20 years at Humboldt at the Equal Opportunity Program (EOP) office. She is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. Her officiant resume began when one of my best friend's Chag asked her to do their wedding. She's done weddings for several other of my Humboldt friends since then, and I was glad she was going to be a part of this special moment for my sister and Jeremy.

Who are these dudes??? And Is That Mario With The Bouquet??

For Tomorrow

After the rehearsal, we all hit downtown Willits! Yup, we took over El Mexicano restaurant for the Rehearsal Dinner. tamales were yummy. After the rehearsal we walked down Main St. and hit up Shanachie Pub. Had a nice time here chilling the night away....well, everybody except for Johnny (dang those 21 & older requirements of the US!). A highlight: Tee drinking a 60 oz. mug of beer (congrats to Tee & Asia for their engagement!).

After a night on the budding metropolis which is Willits, we rested up for the big day. I was one of the groomsman for Jeremy. I thought with that, we'd be busy setting up, escorting people, slapping the groom out of unconsciousness, etc., but there wasn't really much for us to do. We just had to look handsome!

For me, the ceremony went so fast. We staged ourselves in waiting up in the house. We then headed to the wedding site. We escorted close family to their seats, and then positioned ourselves on the right flank of the wedding area. Ari and her posse stole the show. First the bridesmaids (Asia, I saw you almost slip, but your sure-footedness was also witnessed). And then the star shined. Dad escorted her down the aisle. He then asked if "we would all" give Ari away: we did.

Yup, That's A Kilt.

Mom, Cheryl & Joy

The Groomsmen...errr...Groomspeople

"Whatchoo Lookin' At?!"

The Bridesmaids

Ari looked so beautiful. This was my first time seeing her in her dress. I was around when she picked it out in Portland, and she picked an outstanding garment. I think what did it for me was to see her newly-made moccasins. Our mom had just finished her last stitch the night before, but those Siksika moccasins were the bomb. Ari got married in 'em, meeted & greeted with tons of people in 'em, had dinner in 'em, and danced the night away in 'em. I think she broke 'em in good. Moose hide was a good choice.

Escorting The Bride

The ceremony was magnificent. Cheryl did so well. Ari was/is stunning. Jeremy was the perfect gentleman. I heard hawks screaming in acceptance of this union. My brother and I were honored to sing an old style Eagle Whistle song (I had trouble drumming--my stick was a little light, so Tee had to be the Master of Beats, Terminator X---as he always is). After the ceremony, my bro & I were also honored to hear the best of compliments from our Auntie Chris--her words made us proud. Thanks Ari and Jeremy for letting us sing.

Here Come The Ladies (watch Asia's smoothness at 0:15 sec)

Hand Drummin'

Umm, yeah, I was filming

Husband & Wife

"Like From The Dixie Chicks Song," Says Elaine :)

Ari & Jeremy had guests from all over. There were people from up and down the west coast, there was the huge Humboldt crew, there was the contingent from Alberta (two vans worth!), and there was our family from Scotland. So yeah, they had a worldly audience.

Auntie Chris & Lavina and Cousin Leah From Alberta!

The Family From Inverness

Ari & Uncle Jim

The Humboldt Crew: They Brought It!

Cheryl Post-Ceremony

And now for the picture-taking. Ari & Jeremy had tons of photogs running around them...dare I say they had paprazzi? The hired photographer did a good job. He and his wife were all over the whole night, and I can't wait to see their work. And now for some posed photos....

The Siblings

Ari & The Big Bros

The Lovely Ladies

Those Siksika Crackin' Up



Married Feet

The sun slipped down behind the pine-covered hills as the final poses were just about ending for the new wife and husband. It was now time to get our eat on and party down---California Style. Aieeee!! :)

Ok, enough of my jibber jabber....just check out the photos!

What A Chivalrous Husband

Mom & Russell

Father & Daughter Dance

The First Dance

Happy Ari....Now, Did You Eat That Grenade Cake?!

Maybe Jeremy Has Another Career He Can Pursue?!

Groomsman Daniel Partying, Willits-Style

The Bride & Pachomio Cuttin' Rug!

My Rooster!

Groomsman Johnny Partying, Inverness-Style

Hands In The Air.

Holy Cow. Pectasan Stole The show! She Was Workin' The Robot, I Was Too Enthralled To Capture This From The Beginning (It was a 3-min Robot!). She Was An Excellent Dancer, I Even Did Some Salsa Turns On Her, And She Rocked 'Em. Yay, I Have A New Dance Partner!

Mmmm....Apple Pie

Watchin' Sis. An Unforgettable Night.

Having Breakfast With The Humboldt Crew