Category Archives: Experiences

On The Radio

Woah oh, oh, oh…  Sorry, brief Donna Summer moment there…

A few posts ago, I was reminiscing about my old Kia Sportage and it’s awesome bumper sticker…  What I didn’t mention is that car car died a horrible and noisy death – and it was captured live on NPR’s Car Talk!  As I was downloading some podcasts, it seems my episode was on re-run, and I got to hear it all over again.

Here’s the story – One night, I was coming home from rehearsal in Duluth, when my car started making this horrible rattling noise.  I slowly drove it home and left it in the garage for a few days while I drove Matt’s mother’s old car for a while, until I had time to get the Kia towed to the shop.  Then I had a thought – wouldn’t this be a great subject for the Click and Clack!  I called into Car Talk and left the details about me and my car – lo and behold, I was picked.

It made for great radio when…  well, you can hear for yourself.  My call begins around the 20:17 mark…

Car Talk – Buona Fortuna

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Free Fallin’!

Saturday could not have been a more perfect day.  Sunny, blue skies, wispy clouds, a gentle breeze…  a peaceful day that became very exciting for me for about 5 minutes.

Yep.  I went skydiving!

To be honest, this is not something I had been dying to do, nor was I dreading it.  I was a bit nervous about whether or not I’d actually be able to do it when the time came or if my sense of self preservation would keep me from jumping. Turns out, I had no choice – but I’ll get to that.

Skydive The Farm is an amazing facility in Rockmart, GA – about 1 hour outside Atlanta.  When we pulled in, I had my first twinge of fear (or as Martie put it my “S#!t’s Getting Real” Moment) when I saw the airplane taking of from a grassy field.  This was, by definition, a Buddy Holly airplane that I’m sure someone was controlling by remote control somewhere.  I do have a tendency to get airsick on takeoff, so I was not looking forward to that flight.

Once we parked and headed up to the hangar, I knew immediately I was with my kind of folks.  About 8 dogs were running around and playing.  Matt and I immediately regretted leaving Ford and Abby at home.  After signing in and filling out some waivers that I think had me offer my firstborn in there somewhere, we watched the best disclaimer video.  Ever.  Sidebar – working with City Segway Tours, we show an instructional video prior to tours that has a Stick Man falling off a Segway in a number of horrifying and hilarious ways.  About 6 out of 10 times we hear the phrase “Now I’m nervous” after the video.  Well folks, our video has nothing on this one…

I don’t remember the exact phrasing, but it was along the lines of, “You are about to participate in a highly dangerous sport.  There is no such thing as a perfect plane.  There is no such thing as a perfect parachute.  There is no such thing as a perfect jump instructor. You might actually die doing this.”  Then it went on to show an ambulance pulling into a field full of people shaking their heads and trying not to throw up.  I would have been terrified if I wasn’t trying not to giggle at ZZ Top who was explaining the video.  Well, actually, it was Bill Booth, the inventor of the tandem skydiving harness on the video.  He also has a spectacular beard.  Check it out, I’ll wait.

So, video watched, then it was time to meet Chucky – my tandem instructor. Super nice guy who, with his wife, are expecting a baby boy in September.  So I knew he had incentive to come back safe. He helped me into an incredibly tight and oh so not flattering at all jumpsuit. The announcement then came that I would be in the next load.  My tummy did a little flip.

I loaded onto the shuttle bus that took me along with about 11 other jumpers to the plane.  A shuttle bus that seemed to have a hive of wasps nesting somewhere.  It was pretty funny to see these guys who stare death in the face 10-12 times a day by jumping out of a plane freak out over a wasp.

Once we arrived at the plane, my butterflies were going full force.  Oddly enough, though, I was still more frightened of the flight than of the jump.  I don’t think my brain had processed past that part just yet.  We squeezed in sardine style, and in a matter of minutes were off.

The flight was surprisingly smooth, and soon we were climbing to 14,500 feet.  At this point, my brain had gotten to the point of realizing I was about to fall from a very high distance, and my tummy butterflies had morphed into very large fruit bats.

Then, before I realized what was happening, the door slid open and people started flinging themselves willingly out the plane.  At this point I panicked because as each person evacuated, the small plane would bobble and we had to redistribute the weight.  I was the second to last to head out, so I slid up to the door behind my cameraman, Andy.  Next thing I know, Chucky had me in the doorway, then suddenly I was streaking through the air heading to the ground like a dart.

Honestly, the whole thing happened so fast that the second I was in the free fall I forgot to be scared and immediately started having the most fun I had ever had in my life.  I free fell for 9,000 feet for about a minute.  Then, pop!  Up the chute went and we immediately came to a gentle glide for another 5 or so minutes.

It was surreal seeing the ground so far below up like a Google Earth map.  And it was so quiet!  An immediate sense of peace came over me at the beauty of it all.  So much so, that when Chucky offered me the chance to steer the chute, I declined because I was enjoying the view so much.  Then the most amazing thing happened – we saw what is known as a Sun Dog – a rainbow that is circular that was reflected off the clouds below us – and our shadow was perfectly in the center of it.  I was immediately cursing myself for not strapping a camera to myself somehow.

All too soon it was over and we were coming to a gentle stop in the middle of the field.  The adrenalin surge ebbed away, and quickly I was overwhelmed by a sense of “Boo!” as I realized I was finished.  Matt came running up with a bottle of champagne and I was immediately surrounded by my friends.  And all I wanted to do was cry because the whole experience was beyond words.  The fact that it has taken me three days to even be able to put this down shows how overwhelming the whole experience was.

Of course, no skydive is complete without the video and rockin’ soundtrack, so please enjoy…

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I Believe I Can Fly!

Late last February, my friends Brian and Martie presented me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  No, I’m not in the Mafia now, but I am going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane!

A little back story.  Brian was a Type 1 Diabetic for 38 years and was in desperate need of a new pancreas and kidney.  Two years ago he got the call that donor organs were available.  Through the tragedy of death, two lives were saved when the donor’s family gave Brian a kidney and pancreas and another recipient the other kidney.

Brian is an avid skydiver, so the surgery derailed his jumps for a little while, but he was back at it just 2 months after his surgery.   He and his wife Martie had invited me on jumps from time to time, but either the funds weren’t there, the timing was off, or I just chickened out.

When they heard about my MS Diagnosis, and saw that skydiving was on The List, they knew the time was right.  Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary of Brian 2.0, and there is no better way to celebrate than doing what he loves best.

So tomorrow morning, I am going to take the biggest leap of faith and check one more item off the list!  I can’t wait to blog about it later and will have pictures and video.

If anyone wants to join in the festivities, we will be at Skydive The Farm in Rockmart at 9:00 am.  You can hold Matt’s hand for me while I jump.

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April 11 – Off The Beaten Path

In high school, just after we got our driver’s licenses, my friends and I often liked to just get in the car and drive until we got lost.  This made for some very interesting adventures in South Atlanta, which is probably where some nice, young, Catholic girls didn’t want to be in 1990 (before the 1996 Olympics spruced everything up).

Fast forward 20 years, and with the 259 map and navigator apps available on my iPhone, not too many chances to get lost any more.

This day, however, there was horrifying traffic on I-20, and Siri refused to give me any directions that didn’t somehow involve the interstate, so I decided to take some back roads on the way home and rely purely on instinct.

What a great adventure!  I weaved my way through East Atlanta which is now where I want to live.  Similar to Little Five Points, but with less chances of tripping over a homeless person.  It reminded me more of the Village in NYC.

I wasn’t too lost, because Matt and I had come here before to Trader’s where we bought an awesome leather ottoman.  As I drove past all the shops and restaurants, though, I thought, “Why haven’t we come back?”

I guess I’ll have to remedy that soon!

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April 5th – 10th: Just Be Nice

I know, I know, I said I would post everyday on my new experiences…  One of the groovy highlights of MS is it’s unpredictability, and I have been struggling the last week with fatigue and nausea.  Pity party for one, over here…  but I have been trying to keep up my resolve to try something new everyday!!

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There are very few things about my old Kia Sportage that I miss.  It was the first car I bought with my own money, but it had problems from day one and spent more time in the shop than in my driveway.  I finally got rid of it when it threw a rod and punched a hole through my oil pan.  I donated it to charity, thinking it would be sold for scrap, but low and behold I actually saw it on the road a few days ago (or at least its bumper).  How did I recognize it?  Well on the bumper was a City Segway Tours bumper sticker and my favorite bumper sticker ever – a simple request:  Just Be Nice.

I miss that bumper sticker.  My car now is geeked out with my NASA and Think Geek’s Timmy bumper stickers.  But it was the Just Be Nice sticker (and my good buddy Wil Wheaton’s personal motto) that inspired this New Thing.

I’m not (I’m pretty sure) a mean person, but I know from time to time I can be a little distant or formal with folks, especially strangers.  I thought I’d try and change that.  So for the past few days, every person that I interacted with, I made a conscious effort to extend a compliment to them.  Strangers on the elevator were complimented on their shoes or purse; co-workers got a sincere thank for their hard work or some positive feedback passed along from customers; tenants in my building were praised on their dogs.  And something wonderful happened.  That person seemed, if for only a brief second, connected with me and I could feel the pride and happiness coming off of them.  It made me feel happy to have brought a little bit of sunshine in their life.

Try it yourself sometime.  I promise it will make the day a happy one.

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April 1st – Two Things I’ve never done…

I am sticking to my promise to do something new everyday in April – as long as I remember to do it!  I almost forgot to do something yesterday, but then realized I had inadvertently done two things I’d never done before!

1.  Record Breaking Day at CST Atlanta

Some of you may know that I run a tour operation of Downtown Atlanta – City Segway Tours Atlanta.  We had a spectacular day yesterday in which we got 115 riders up on Segways in one day! Our previous record was 66 (which we had only hit the day before!)

It was a bit of finagling to break that 100 mark – we only have 30 machines, and factoring in for the guides, the most we could realistically do on traditional tours would be 81 in one day.  We had 102 kids visiting from Minnesota (near and dear to my heart!) so we set up special 1 1/2 hour tours that went back to back.  Then we also had 13 folks on regular tours, so there was a lot of Segway swapping, nail biting, and prayers that all 30 machines would make it through the  day without any dead batteries.  Well, I’m happy to say, it was a success!!

2.  April Foolin’

Every year I try to get my mom on April Fools Day.  Epic “gets” include convincing her I had accidentally flooded my freshman dorm, and one year when I called and told her I had been hit in the face with a hockey puck during an Atlanta Thrashers game.  She has gotten so sly to me, however, that she refuses to believe anything I tell her on April 1 (heaven forbid I actually get into a real scrape!).  I’ve tried getting her a few days later, but she’s on to me.

With the craziness of yesterday – I completely forgot to try something (much to her relief, I’m sure).  I guess that just means I’ll have to come up with something extra special next year!

Now to come up with something I’ve never done before by the end of the day…  🙂

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50 (ish) Miles From Home

Last weekend I participated in the Challenge Walk for MS in Charleston, South Carolina.  It was an event that I had been training for and raising money for since November.  I’m happy to say I raised over $4000 for Multiple Sclerosis Research!  Yayyyy!  Now, I could recap the whole thing, but I video blogged the weekend, and complied it all here for you to enjoy…

50 Miles!

There you have it!  Thanks for watching, and thank you so much to those of you that helped me raise $4000 for MS!

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Cell Fish

If anyone wonders what that fishy smell is, it just might be my cell phone.

I realize this may take some explaining…

Last night I had the unique opportunity to become a participant in Penn & Teller’s Show at the Rio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The duo started the show off by asking everyone to pull out their cell phones and hold them in the air. I thought this was going to be the typical “Please silence your cell phones” plea, until they explained that this would be a unique opportunity for someone to come on stage, be part of a trick, and have the opportunity to video tape it up close and learn the secret. Oooh, ooh, pick me!!

And pick me they did. I was brought up to the stage and asked by Penn if I had a friend in the audience who could call me. My friend and co-worker Matt G. volunteered, so they had him call me. After identifying that it was indeed my ringtone and phone, they started to video from the stage. After introducing themselves and me, they then proceeded to introduce me to Criss Angel! Well, not really Criss Angel but a life-size cutout of him. After getting a nice video Criss and I, they then had me watch as Penn dropped my phone into an empty paper cup, place it on the floor, and then stomp it to smithereens. Well, if you read my last blog post, you would know I have a pretty tough iPhone, but this time – it was gone.

Penn then had Matt G. call my phone again. Suddenly, there was a faint ringing in the back of the theater. The spotlight searched out a gentleman near the back of the theater who they asked to reach under his seat and pull out what he found there. He discovered a very large Styrofoam box. As they passed it up to the stage and I collected it, Penn asked Matt to call the phone again. Sure enough, the ringing was coming from inside the sealed, taped box. We opened it up and what was inside? A fish. A Tilapia, to be exact.

After having Matt call one more time, I was amazed (and slightly horrified) that the fish was indeed emitting my ringtone. They sliced the head off and there inside, in a plastic bag, was my cell phone!! It was handed back to me with just the one request that I not watch the video of how it was done until after the show.

Now that I know the secrets of the Universe (or at least just this trick), I debated whether or not to share the video and explanation. But then I had a thought: P&T’s entire show is about debunking magic myths and getting the audience involved in how it is done. They flat out showed us in a wonderful monologue and mime routine where they illustrated the seven fundamentals to slight of hand:

Palm
Ditch
Steal
Load
Simulation
Misdirection
Switch

Not always in this order, of course

(Also, I realized that in revealing the step by step of how the trick is done wouldn’t lessen any the enjoyment of one watching, because the pure artistry in the way these two perform is amazing. Magic, if you will.)

So here it is – the secret of the iPhone in the Fish, or, “Cell Fish.”

While looking for a volunteer, they seemed to specifically look for someone with an iPhone. After I was selected, I was asked to remove the case. Then as their banter started and the video began, so did the trick.

First up, the Steal. Not so much a steal as a gift, since I willingly handed off my phone to Penn. Then, Criss Angel. As they brought out the cut out, Penn notices he isn’t wearing his customary 20 lb cross and proceeds to put it around his neck. In doing so, he Ditches the phone into a pouch on the back of the cut out while Loading an identical phone he had Palmed from his sleeve and then proceeding to continue as if it is my phone. The cut out is moved off stage where a stagehand places my phone into a plastic bag and then into a fish with a slit cut into one side. The fish phone is flipped, hiding the slit, packed in ice and sealed in a Styrofoam box then run to the back of the theater I assume though a tunnel / trap door under the guest’s seat.

While all this backstage activity is going on, I am being Misdirected onstage. As Penn is placing the Switched phone into the cup, he drops the lid on the ground. As I bend over to pick it up, he throws the imposter phone over his shoulder to the audience’s enjoyment where it is caught by Teller, and while I am not in on the joke that the audience is with the Duo, I don’t notice because Penn is just so funny and charismatic and I’m enjoying being on stage.

Now for the Simulation. I am guessing that it would be hard to hear the ringing of a phone, inside a bag, inside a fish, packed in ice, sealed in a Styrofoam box under the seat of a 380 lb man. So, I’m thinking the tech crew had recorded the initial ringing of my phone and then looped it back through a speaker under the seat.

The rest of the trick is pure showmanship as the box is dramatically passed forward, through the shock of opening the box and finding a raw fish. The horror upon hearing the ringing coming from inside said stinky, raw fish and ending with our amazement of how a phone got inside a whole fish.

Penn and Teller have long been one of my favorite acts. Their straightforward approach to classic tricks, and then the breaking down of those tricks is always entertaining yet I still often scratch my head and say, “But really, how did they do that?!” It is pure artistry. I am thrilled to have been a part of it, even if for only a few minutes.

Video: Cell Fish (The video ends after the fish is presented backstage, but before it goes in the fish, I presume because they didn’t think I’d want 2-3 minutes of the inside of a raw fish. For that I am thankful).

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