Thursday, September 27, 2012

Adventures in La La Land

Two weeks ago, Greg & I flew down to Los Angeles to visit Greg's brother, Doug. While we would have eventually made the trip no matter what, the timing was dictated by the upcoming expiration of our Southwest Airlines credit for unused tickets that we purchased last year. We decided to make it a long weekend and flew down early Friday morning, not returning to Portland until after midnight Sunday night/Monday morning.
leaving Portland at 7am
While L.A. actually has an extensive public transportation network, many of the areas we wanted to go were much more easily reached by car. Thankfully, Doug's girlfriend Alexis offered the use of her car for most of the weekend and we were thus able to avoid wasting precious time waiting for the bus. We also did some serious walking and, on Sunday, rode both the bus and subway (Metro) as well as took the FlyAway bus from Union Station to the airport.
What, traffic in L.A.??? No way!!!
Our list of things to see was pretty short. While this was Greg's first trip to L.A., I have been many times. Mainly we just wanted to hang out with Doug, whom we only see once or twice a year, and drink some local beer. Since Greg hadn't seen the ocean in many months, one of his requests was to spend some time on the coast. And, sports lover that he is, go to a Dodgers game.
putting our toes in the Pacific
Doug picked us up at the airport around 10:45am on Friday and we drove straight to Venice Beach for brunch at The Sidewalk Cafe. Afterward, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the canal district, then returned to the beach to people watch. Soon enough, it was time to stop for a beer at Larry's, and we spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out in the area just south of Santa Monica, at a great beer bar called Library Alehouse. We eventually picked up Alexis after she got off work and headed to Koreatown for more craft beer (at Beer Belly), then back to Doug's neighborhood, Silver Lake, for a late dinner at Gingergrass.
don't try this at home - we just enjoyed watching the skateboarders at the Venice Beach Skatepark
Doug is a Research Associate at USC whose field of study is Earth & Planetary Science. So, of course, it made sense for him to take us to Griffith Observatory. That's where we spent several hours enjoying the views over all of Los Angeles and the excellent, free exhibits, after brunch at Home Restaurant on Saturday. Then we cruised along Hollywood Blvd and Sunset Blvd so Greg could see the Walk of Fame, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and even the Church of Scientology. After a brief break at Doug's apartment, we went to Mohawk Bend, a fantastic beer bar, for drinks & dinner. From there we walked to Dodger Stadium for an exciting game against the St Louis Cardinals, which was won by the home team in the bottom of the ninth inning! We capped off the evening with delicious burritos from the Tacos El Gallito food truck.
view of downtown L.A. from the Griffith Observatory
We started our day Sunday by walking & busing to Golden Road Brewery for lunch, beer & football. Then we took the bus downtown and spent the remainder of the afternoon checking out Union Station and the historic area around Olvera Street, watching part of a special service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels, and exploring the amazing exterior of Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall. Too soon it was time to head to the airport for our 7pm flight.
no doubt this was designed by Frank Gehry
As you can tell, this was a very active trip and we stayed on the go pretty much nonstop. What I haven't mentioned is the weather. The forecast for the entire weekend was unseasonably hot; it actually got up 100F on Friday, 103 on Saturday, and finally cooled off to 88 on Sunday. We made sure to slather on sunscreen every day before we left the house, drank tons of water, and wore hats & sunglasses all day. We survived, but we sure were glad to get back to Portland's cooler temps!
staying cool in the Venice canal district
We really enjoyed our visit with Doug & Alexis. We crammed a lot of activity into 52 hours, including about 8 hours of much-needed sleep both nights. L.A. has a lot to offer for residents & visitors, way more than you can see or do in one weekend. And while it's fun to visit, it's just not somewhere that I want to live for a lot of reasons, namely the overall size of the city (too many people), the traffic (too many cars), and the climate (too hot).
Thanks for everything, Doug & Alexis!!!
Here's the link to all of my L.A. photos: Images of La La Land
You can also follow most of my daily activities, including my check-ins in L.A. (with more photos!), on Foursquare.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Don't blink or you'll miss me!

Well, that's not entirely true. If you're paying attention, you can spot me fairly easily on the most recent episode of Leverage, "The Real Fake Car Job." On Grimm, I wouldn't expect anyone to know that sexy cop checking on the Parks & Rec worker at the scene of the accident is me. So I'm going to make it easy for you, by posting screen shots from both shows here.
what Gina was really saying to Tim is "Did you see that extra we just walked by? She's amazing!"
For this episode of Leverage, they hired over 100 extras to help stage a fake car show called Portland Vintage. We filmed on a golf course in Clackamas on May 8th, a beautiful, sunny day. I think we ended up working almost 12 hours to get all the shots they needed, after which most of us were severely sun burned. To their credit, they did provide sunscreen, which I applied repeatedly, but unfortunately there were not many places to stand in the shade.
that's me getting some fake water from a cooler
Considering the shoot took place in an area 14 miles from where I live, not easily accessible by public transportation, I was very lucky to be offered a ride to the set by one of my coworkers, Brett Kelly. He's a regular extra on Grimm (look for him as a cop at the precinct) and I believe this was his first time to work on Leverage. We always have fun hanging out together.
I was actually encouraged to bring my camera as a prop for this shoot. Normally we are forbidden to photograph anything on set and especially are told not to communicate any details about the show in advance of its air date. But in this case they wanted the car show to look realistic, which included having attendees take pictures of the beautiful old cars.
that's me in the beige top & black skirt taking real pictures at the fake car show
I know I could have faked taking pictures, like I've previously done as a CSI on Grimm (where I was even complimented by the star of the show, David Giuntoli, for "the best fake picture-taking I've ever seen"). But I couldn't resist the opportunity to take real pictures and have had to wait until now to share them with you: Leverage 507 Picasa web album
me as a CSI photographer on Grimm "Bigfeet" - Season 1 Episode 21
As for the latest Grimm episode, this is the scene that was shot on my birthday, July 12th. Another scorching summer day, but luckily we were filming underneath the Morrison Street Bridge so it was easy enough to stay in the shade. Of course, wearing that heavy polyester-blend cop uniform, gun belt, radio, etc. takes its toll after 8+ hours on set!
the birthday girl cop
This was also the occasion of the infamous incident when one of the fluffers (my word for the makeup/wardrobe people that tend to the lead actors) walked up to me and, with no warning, started wiping/massaging my left butt cheek, apparently to remove an imaginary spot. When I whirled around, startled, he said "Don't worry, I'm a professional!"
see, no spots on either cheek!
I haven't been working on the tv shows as much lately, primarily because I'm staying busy with other projects. But you'll still have a chance to see me on the next Leverage episode (508 - in a white lab coat) and on the season finale (Episode 515). I also worked on a skit for Portlandia which won't air until January, 2013. Just don't blink or you'll miss me!
Oh, and if you'd like to watch the latest episodes of Grimm & Leverage and see me in action, here are the links:
Grimm: Season 2 Episode 4
Leverage: Season 5 Episode 7

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hop Bombs & Flat Tires

This may be the longest I've ever gone between posts since I started this blog over three years ago. My excuses are many, but let's just sum it up by saying I've been busy this summer with beer & bikes.
our bikes parked in front of Alameda Brewing
As you already know from my Facebook status updates, checking in & posting pictures at local breweries and other beer-centric establishments, I have spent a lot of time drinking beer this summer. Part of the reason is that Portland event organizers heavily load the calendar with outdoor festivals of all kinds during our brief fair-weather weeks/months. It is not impossible to find something to do outside every day of the week from June to August and many activities are free. It's also the best time of year to invite family & friends to visit so they can enjoy all the festivities on warm, sunny days.
Greg chats with our friend Dale as we prepare to supervise at Oregon Brewers Festival
Of course, Greg & I opt to participate in many of the beer-focused events. This year, we have volunteered at all of the major beer festivals in Portland as well as some smaller fundraisers. And because we are becoming more well-known in the festival circuit, we are often asked to work as supervisors. It's hard work, but we are rewarded with free beer, so usually it's worth it! Last week I even participated in my first hop harvest, pulling fresh hops off the vines at Lucky Lab Brewing which they will use to brew a beer called, appropriately, "The Mutt."
harvesting hops at Lucky Lab
Since we moved to Portland in January, we have volunteered at an average of two events (not always for beer, but also wine, food, community projects, etc.) per month. In the five week stretch of late June through early August, we racked up a combined 40+ hours of volunteer service. Considering that Greg is working full time and I occasionally moonlight as an extra on Grimm, Leverage, Portlandia and other tv/film projects, plus we are enjoying the riches of my continued winning streak (free movie tickets all summer long, free meals and much more), there never seems to be enough time to do everything!
working as an extra on Bad Signs - The Movie
We've also enjoyed entertaining visitors and showing them why we love our new hometown. As I previously wrote about, my mom & step-dad flew in from Tennessee and spent a fun-filled week with us in mid-June. In late July, my friend Shana, along with her husband & two children from Orlando, were on vacation in Oregon & Washington and made time to spend an lovely afternoon hanging out in my neighborhood in southeast Portland. Later that same week, our friends Eva & Jeremy drove down from Seattle to stay with us during Oregon Brewers Festival for which we all volunteered but still managed to spend some quality time catching up and drinking beer. Most recently, in late August, Greg's youngest brother, Brian, and his girlfriend Colleen, flew in from Indianapolis and willingly let us drag them all around the city on foot so they could truly experience life as we know it here in Portland.
Brian & Colleen on the Burnside Bridge with the Steel Bridge in the background
Another way we're taking advantage of the fantastic weather of late is by riding our bikes. After I won a bike through a promotion sponsored by Mellow Mushroom in conjunction with the Filmed By Bike festival, it wasn't long before Greg was trying out bikes at REI. Now he proudly rides his bike to work (around three miles one way) every day. We've also continued to participate in the monthly Sunday Parkways, where the city shuts down approximately nine miles of neighborhood streets so everyone can enjoy car-free transportation & activities for five hours. And we still try to find time to take longer rides whenever possible, like yesterday's 27 mile adventure to Vancouver, WA and back.
biker self-portrait

Southeast Portland Sunday Parkways
So why the "Hop Bombs & Flat Tires" title of this post? Well, other than the obvious beer & bikes reference, it calls out two things that have happened recently. First, call me crazy, but ever since I got a hop tattoo to compliment the two-row barley that was already on my left ankle, I have developed a new-found love & appreciation for hoppy beers. And not just the standard IPA's, which I still don't particularly care for, but the Imperial IPA's, which are loaded with hops and often approach 100 IBU's! These are extreme even for a seasoned IPA-drinker, so there's no explanation for the 360-degree change in my palate other than the tattoo.
If getting a hop tattoo made me love hoppy beers, should I also get a tattoo of something else I don't like in order to change my opinion of it???
And finally, the flat tire. We knew it was inevitable, that at some point, probably when we were least expecting it, one of us would get a flat while riding our bikes. It happened yesterday, just as we were approaching the I-5 Columbia River crossing in far north Portland. Luckily, we were prepared, carrying a pump, tire levers, patch kits, basic tools, water, hand wipes, etc. (but not spare tubes). Greg had even taken an REI fix-a-flat class in early August so he at least had some hands-on experience changing a tire. While we certainly didn't set any speed records, by working together we managed to remove the rear wheel completely, remove the tire from the rim, remove the tube from the tire, identify the source of the leak, patch it, and then reassemble everything. And we did it well enough that we continued our trip into Washington, celebrated with beers at McMenamins on the Columbia, and still enjoyed the ride all the way back home.
great view of Mt Hood at Hayden Island