Saturday, January 24, 2009

Thursday's Events

So, I promised you a recap, didn't I? Here we go...

You've already heard about Wednesday's activities. On Thursday I woke up fairly early, and worked from the hotel throughout the day. It was rather uneventful, other than feeling strange to work remotely from a hotel room rather than my own home. That's a first for me. I'm incredibly thankful for my full time job that affords me (side note: a guy just went into the woman's bathroom at the airport!) the luxury of working remotely and traveling. I feel really lucky.

I also drove an hour back into Duluth to pick up a scanner. Had I had my wits about me on Wednesday, I would have picked one up before leaving town. But I haven't lived in a small town since 1999, so I have forgotten what it's like to not have immediate access to what you want. I got a little printer (side note: a woman just went into the ladies while the guy's still in there), and went back to the Inn where I stayed. A fairly uneventful drive, but I got what I needed...or so I thought.

Around 5pm, the Plasters picked me up and we went to Judy's Drift In for a beer. It was the second time I'd been there, and everyone welcomed me like I'd been there forever. I love small towns, where everyone knows your name. (Lady in bathroom said, "Either you're in the wrong one, or I am." Guy exits bathroom and giggles.)

The Plasters showed me around town, we had a bite to eat, and we chatted a bit about life and what keeps us busy. They understand my desire for having more hours in the day. We also confirmed the plans for filming on Friday, and they dropped me off at the Inn again.

That evening I found myself in the quiet room again, alone with my thoughts and Plaster's books. I mentally ran through the next morning: getting ready, packing the car, setting up the equipment, the interview, then scanning his images after that.

(Just got the announcement for my flight.)

I fell asleep around 1am, anxious and excited about the following day's activities and hopeful that I might live up to their expectations. There was much to accomplish the next day, and I knew the hours would disappear all too quickly.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Another Recap to Come

Oh, my friends. I have been so spoiled over these past few days! The intelligent conversations over most delicious food, beautiful scenery and kind people--can a working weekend get any better?

Tomorrow I leave to return to North Carolina. Normally a very happy (and warm) Southerner, I find myself quite surprisingly at home here in the North! My hosts, John and Gail Plaster, have been treating my like royalty and showing me the haven they have here.

Much has happened since my last post, but I will capture it all as I wait for my plane tomorrow. Right now, my brain is a bit exhausted and ready for rest!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Spot

As the Military Channel plays "Great Planes" in the background, I reflect on today. It was a very long and exciting day. I left RDU at 9am, surprisingly enough. With about 6" of snowfall in Raleigh yesterday, I honestly wasn't expecting to leave the city any time soon. Delightfully relieved that the flight wasn't delayed or canceled, I made it to Duluth on time!

Overweight, Again
Yep, my bags were over the weight limit again. Having to rearrange my checked baggage because it's over the weight limit is becoming routine. I thought I had it figured out this time, having kept my tripod in my hand as a carry on instead of packing it. The heaviest suitcase is virtually empty. I blame the lighting equipment. The Northwest Airlines check-in counter lady was very firm. It had to be less than 50lbs. By the third attempt, though, she kindly let me slip by with just 1.5lbs over the limit.

Eventually I was on the way to the gate.

Later I arrived in Detroit, made my connecting flight and then finally made it to Duluth.

Interesting People, Places
When I got to Duluth, I couldn't find my bags on the big metal baggage claim carousel. It wasn't moving. I looked left, looked right. Couldn't find my bags anywhere. I looked at a guy who had an official airport ID card hanging from his shirt. "Is this the only baggage claim area," I asked, rather confused because I had been getting misdirected all throughout the Detroit airport. He nodded. As I turned around, I saw my two bags sitting in a corner by a door. Whew, I had almost had a heart attack.

Seconds later, I was getting my rental car. The woman at the car rental counter in Duluth and I had an interesting conversation. This is why I love to travel. You meet the most interesting people in the most unexpected places. And if you're hip to it, you can learn a lot from a stranger fairly quickly. Hearing someone's story never ceases to fascinate me. People like to tell their story. You have to be patient and listen. But even at the rental car counter, you can learn part of someone's story.

She told me about her ex-husband, a Special Forces recon man who stood at a striking 6'7" tall. Now, 6'7" is tall in the States, but just imagine being that tall in the jungles of Vietnam being hunted by the VC--yikes. He was probably three feet taller than the locals around him, making him a prime shooting target. She told me how he learned to hide by leaning against trees because he was so skinny. And how he got wounded, shot in the head and thigh. She had married him after he returned from Vietnam, and on occassion would find him doing what she called "strange things" around the house. She said that the war really messed him up, and that she was glad they "deprogrammed him" when he got back, otherwise she could very well have been killed by him.

We didn't talk for a really long time, but we did cover a fair bit of details. She asked why I was there, and what the documentary was about. It made me wish I had business cards and a website up already so I share it easily when asked. She handed me the keys and directions, wishing me luck and a great trip.

On the Road East
Before I left the airport, I stopped to take this picture. I was finally on my way East on the last leg of the journey. It would be a fairly straight shot on the road, and I was told that I couldn't miss the Inn where I am staying over the next few nights. Before I knew it, I was crossing over Lake Superior and then quickly entering Wisconsin. And just as quickly, I was checked in and unpacking.

Meeting John and Gail

Around 5pm, as promised, John came to the Inn to pick me up for dinner. And over the next hours, John and his wife, Gail, would make me feel like visiting royalty! This is my first trip to Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I am quite taken with what I have seen today, thanks to them. It is easy to understand why they enjoy living here so much. While I had not planned on staying so long originally, I am quite happy that I will have more time to work remotely and get to know them.

They showed me around the area, and a few places I may need to know about over the coming days. We talked about what we enjoy (work, hobbies, recreational fun, etc.), travel, Vietnam, the Montagnards, Hollywood, writing and screenwriting, and even a little bit about blogging and social media! We eventually had dinner at a place called The Spot, on a lake where they pointed out people were ice fishing.

Ice fishing! How have I never seen anyone ice fishing in real life? Just as the darkness of evening set in, you could spot little shacks out on the frozen lake. Some had lights inside them. Then some times cars would come and go, driving slowly across the frozen water. I was fascinated and probably asked a lot of silly I'm-from-the-South questions. (But how will you learn if you don't ask?) We found common ground when comparing it to NCSU tailgating, as those little shacks have many of the comforts of home just like the good ole boys can swing together back home. Just like we tailgate in the heat and humidity in NC with tents and pig cookers and friends, the ice fishers stay out there and have a good time with their buddies in these rather comfy shacks on ice. I was so excited to learn more about it, having never really encountered the chance to even think on the topic.

The more we talked and dined, the more I got excited about our on camera interview. And with every bite of that amazing Steak Deburgo, I learned more about the two new friends sitting with me. I am sincerely excited about learning from them.

The Coming Days
Tonight we finalized our plans for filming: day, time, location, etc. I have a lot of exciting work ahead of me, for sure. With each step of this process, I grow more and more humbled and appreciative of such an opportunity.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Now the Real Work Begins

Like so many people around the world, I have been watching the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Everyone is talking about it, so I will be brief and simply say that now the real work begins. The world is watching, and I certainly hope we can all live up to the great promises that have been made. If history has taught me anything, it is that promises are hard to keep. The Vietnam War ended in the 70s but the Montagnards still need our support. I sincerely hope we do not leave Iraq the same way we left Vietnam. The real work begins today. Let's get to it.

Monday, January 19, 2009