My Availability

3 06 2010

I am testing out a new geo-networking program from TimeBridge that allows you to share your calendar and set up meeting with friends and networks.

Technology geek that I am, if I love it, you’ll probably see a more expanded post about it.  In the meantime, feel free to click the widget to see what I’m up to…

Another Old Friend Revisited…

29 04 2009

I dropped Panda and Zeta off at the groomers in Burbank, with grand plans of squeezing in my distance walk.  But since I was so close to Griffith Park, I decided to go on a little adventure, and trade the distance walk for conditioning.  And the trail at Mt. Hollywood was just the place to do it!

I drove through Griffith Park, turned right onto Los Feliz, and then another right at Vermont, as it winds past the residences, and into the Greek Theater parking area.  The road winds around, then forks.  I pulled ahead at the fork and parked–this is the beginning of the conditioning trail.

It has been over five years since I’ve been on this trail, and boy were there changes!  Erosion had washed out the very narrow,  uphill ascent, so the Park service cut a new path a few steps away, still a winding uphill, and a bit wider for a few yards, until you reach the original path, which is one-person only–and they mean it.

I took it slow and breathed deeply so as not to panic, and soon I took the height and the narrowness in stride–until I encountered a part of the trail that had been closed off due to erosion.  But the diehards (and only the diehards take this route) had already blazed over it.  They all must be gazelles, because it was still uneven and just as uphill and narrow as the previous portion.  The orange netting that had once marked it off still clung to the two poles driven into the rock.   I swallowed my hesitation, and I attempted to balance myself  (not my strong suit), holding on for dear life to the poles while I found some secure (hah!) footing on the other side of the netting.  I succeeded, moving forward on the narrow way, and pushing past wildflowers as I blazed on.

I was rewarded with my first view of the Hollywood Hills overlooking downtown Los Angeles.  Still shaded by marine layer, but spectacular nonetheless.  This hike gives you 360 degree views of Hollywood and downtown LA to the East, and Beverly Hills and Century City to the west, so it’s a favorite of tourists and locals alike.  It was only a few more feet, before I reached the “tourist” portion of the hike.

First Crest-Hollywood Hills

First Crest-Hollywood Hills

It’s still uphill, and just as conditioning, but here the path is much wider, for bike and equine access, as all the horse puckeys I had to avoid attested to.  The Hollywood sign came in sight, and I was now looking down on Griffith Park Observatory, one of the fantastic pieces of Los Angeles classic architecture.

The conquered netting, Horse riders, Griffith Park Observatory and the Hollywood sign

The conquered netting, Horse riders, Griffith Park Observatory and the Hollywood sign

Architecture at its finest

Architecture at its finest

From this point, you follow the trail to the top of the crest, with a lookout point festooned with picnic tables and park benches.  I wondered how many Winter marriage proposals (when it’s most clear in LA) had happened on this very spot.

From the top of the crest

From the top of the Crest

The tourist trail winds its way back into Griffith Park, and after passing a coyote foraging for food (fortunately he wasn’t interested in me!), I passed through a tunnel that leads back to the Greek Theater, and a little over 3.5 miles later, I returned to my car, feeling as though I had conquered once again.  That’s the benefit of this training, every day and mile completed is an accomplishment!

Speaking of accomplishment, I am at 42% of my goal!  Generous gifts from Phil of Simi Valley, and my Chicago cousin, Linda Love, have brought me closer to the $1,800 financing.  Thanks, guys!

It’s always a good time to contribute, if you haven’t already!

My Avon Walk Page

The Road to Pahrump is paved with…

27 03 2009
The Road to Pahrump is paved with...

The Road to Pahrump is paved with...

A few weekends ago, Lynn and I made our annual trek to Pahrump, Nevada, to help man Stage 12 for the Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay. Baker to Vegas is a Relay race involving law enforcement officers and personnel, including judges, probation officers, district attorneys, US Attorneys and full-time civilian police personnel. According to its creators, it’s the most “positive” event offered to law enforcement officers today, because it gives them a reason to maintain a physical fitness program so they can better perform their duties.  I grew up in Chicago, town of Al Capone and the fat cop.  Their police officer’s MO is to shoot you in the hip, rather than chase you down.  So it’s refreshing to watch the physically fit law officers do their thing–if the participants can complete this relay, then they can chase down a perp, easy!

The Baker to Vegas Challenge Cup Relay celebrated its 25th year, with close to 255 teams in attendance. So where did we come in? Well, since Lynn and I are amateur radio—Ham—operators (his call is KG6DNY, mine is KI6OIL), we assisted in radio communications between the stages. There are 20 stages that stretch from the 15/127 in Baker, California, all the way to Las Vegas, Nevada, so lots of Hams are needed.

This Relay race is particularly popular with the local Hams, although we come from all over. The race itself attracts law enforcement teams from Germany and the UK, so I’m sure the communications response is probably equally far flung! It’s a lot of fun, you get to meet some great people, and polish your radio communication skills. We did the event for the first time last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were stationed at Stage 12, and Gene Sweich, WB9COY (call signs are literally your calling card in the Ham world) asked us to do the Early Warning (EW) station.  This station involves sitting in a car one mile from the stage, and using your radio, broadcast each runners’ Bib number and time back to the stage, so that the other team runner can be in place to take the baton and start running to the next stage. Pretty straightforward, and we made a good team doing it.  So we looked forward to repeating the role for this year.

We did the 300 or so mile drive from our North Hollywood home, up Interstate 15, through Las Vegas, to Highway 160 West for the last leg to Pahrump. Pahrump is a sleepy suburb, that’s only on the map because of this race (and they love it), and the housing boomlet that unfortunately, is now pretty much defunct. I’ll leave the subtext up to you, dear readers.

Like any good Ham (and my husband is a good one), we came equipped. Our main radio was what is called a 2-meter radio (a Radio Shack HTX212), and we brought our twin handy-talkies—similar to walkie-talkies, but with a bit more technology (Icom IC V8) and a hand-held 440 meter radio that Lynn brought in case we needed to broadcast on that band (Yaesu VX5). We left NoHo about 11:30 a.m. and after grabbing breakfast at Jack-in-the-Box (cause it was cheap), we hit the road, hopping on the 134 to the 210, and the taking the 210 to the 15, and then to Highway 160, until we reached our stage.

We arrived around 4:30 p.m., only to discover that Gene had thrown out his back, and wasn’t able to make the trip up from San Diego. What a bummer, as he and his wife had an RV and a slew of antennas that helped to enhance the communications. Joy Matlack, KD6FJV, is the race’s Communications Director, and has been for over 20 years, cause she’s just that good. She, of course, was already on it, and pulled the lead from Stage 11 to handle the action at Stage 12. There seemed to be a lot of that going around, as Lynn and I heard via our ARES Net the Monday after the race, that some of the Hams on the earlier stages ended up going to the later stages to assist. We introduced ourselves to the new Stage Lead (also named Gene), and told him where we had worked last year, and that we were willing to do it again. He was amenable to this, and gave us the paperwork, then let us know that the race was actually running early. He recommended we head out to the EW Mile spot by 5:45 p.m.

After grabbing a bite to eat, and Lynn a quick nap, we headed to the EW Mile marker, and sat, watching the road, and watching the sunset. It was quiet, and our buddy Steve Wardlaw (KN6Y), who was our point of contact at the stage, thought it was too quiet. He kept checking in on the radio to make sure we were okay and still able to reach the stage. This lasted till about 7:15 p.m., when the first runner was spotted in the distance. Each team has lead vehicles that follow the runner to ensure they’re okay, are equipped with water, or to transport an injured runner to get medical help. So when we spotted the flashing lights coming along Highway 160, we knew the first runner was headed our way.

By 7:45 p.m., runners were trickling in at a steady pace, and by 8:00 p.m., we were nonstop, with me looking for Bibs and writing down times, and Lynn calling them in to the stage. This lasted a good hour and forty-five minutes, to the point that we had to just relay only the Bib numbers in order to keep up. Once we got another lull, which wasn’t until about 10:00 p.m., we relayed the rest of the information to Stage 12, to ensure all the records were accurate.

It was a dark, moonless night, and we had to use our headlights in order to see the runners. Some of the lead vehicles that followed the runners didn’t appreciate it, but what could we do? Between that, and the non-stop communications for close to two hours, our car battery died, so Steve drove up from the Stage to give us a jump. We also had some technical troubles in the form of another Ham (not part of the B2V Event) on a nearby frequency who was using too much power, which disrupted our communications to Stage 12. A bit frustrating, but we worked around it.

At 2:30 a.m. (yes, AM—we’re crazy that way), the last runner trickled past our EW spot, and Dave Greenhut, N6HD (he relieved Steve after working an earlier stage), radioed that we were free to return to the Stage, and so we did: feeling exhausted, but that our mission had been accomplished.

I love being a Ham, not only because you get to play with cool electronic toys and gadgets, but you’re a part of a supportive community that’s commited to service and excellence.  Whether it’s on a Net—an organized communication forum to practice your programming and radio skills—or during a communication event, everyone is always helpful, clear and encouraging.

It’s the type of positive reinforcement that I need these days!

Community is still Alive and Well in L.A.!

15 05 2006

Community is Still Alive and Well in L.A.

On Saturday May 13, I walked a 5K for the Revlon Run/Walk for Women to raise awareness/money for women’s cancers, primarily ovarian and breast cancer. It’s an event that I started doing at its inception 13 years ago, when I was totally into running. Between my own physical (back and hip problems), spiritual (burned on the whole church “pseudo-community” thing), and emotional/logistical struggles (tales for future blogs), it was something that I let drop off the radar of my life. Through a mere fluke of changing jobs, it blipped back on the screen; and I’m so thankful that it did.

Cancer is a big deal to me, as I have had several close relatives and dear friends who have struggled, survived and lost this battle. My sister June is currently battling a T-cell lymphoma that, while not presently life-threatening, is limiting her health, and if left unchecked, could potentially grow worse. My grandfather Joe Henry and my favorite aunt Honey both died of brain cancer. Jenifer O’Brien, a co-worker and friend, won her battle with breast cancer, but ultimately lost the war to ovarian cancer. And Peter Riley, son of my dear friends Chris and Kathy, developed a brain tumor when he was six. It was successfully removed, but his mental development was permanently altered, and at 18, he still fights the battle with constant monitoring and checkups, as well as subsequent surgeries to remove new growths from his brain. So when I hear stories about cancer of any kind, I cringe inside, get angry, rail at the sky and wonder why. It is a disease that often comes out of nowhere and is no respecter of person, be it age, race, sex or gender. Hence it’s a cause I can get behind—some people do the Aids Walk and Race for the Cure—cancer is the disease I choose to rally against. When I become rich, cancer research is one of the places where my money will go—but currently I’m not, so I can at least put my feet to the cause.

Three weeks ago, I changed jobs, moving to a new law firm called Sheppard Mullin, and the Revlon Run/Walk happened to be the event the firm chose to back, sponsoring a team with t-shirts and the works. So one of the women on the team asked if I was going to sign up, and I said, “Why not?” Lynn would be occupied doing emergency response for a run in Malibu (he’s a HAM Radio technician), so I had a free morning; I also thought it might be a good way to get to know other women in the company.

But strangely enough, I almost contemplated bailing out. That hip I spoke about earlier is still not in the best of shape, and I certainly did nothing to prepare for walking 3.5 miles (what can you do in a week, anyway?), and that 7 a.m. registration thing wasn’t making me too happy either (I’m a night owl; I know, big surprise). Somewhere between Sex and the City and Friends, I buckled down, set my alarm for 5:30 a.m.!, and when it went off at pre-dawn, got my ass out of bed, got ready, and hopped the Metro Red Line to downtown. With $3.50 a gallon gas, the planners of the event were gracious enough to provide shuttles from the Staples Center downtown to LA Coliseum on 39th and Vermont, for those of us who didn’t want to drive and pay for parking (that would be moi). It was heartening to see that others decided to go this route as well. I ran into a group of young women and men in their 20s, who were walking in support of a friend named Kelly O. One of their team had a picture of Kelly on her t-shirt. Kelly O. couldn’t have been any more than 25, if that. She was beautiful, blonde and bright, looking nothing like a person who you would expect would be battling cancer. Giving credence to the fact that Big C is no respecter of person.

I managed to meet up with the rest of the Sheppard Mullin team walkers, including Corrina Tluczek and Megan Bennett, the team leaders. The hats chosen were an ungodly pink, red and gray camouflage—I refused to wear it, but it did make the team easier to spot in the sea of pink and purple! While we all started out walking together, I felt motivated to power-walk, and ended up losing them in the press of bodies. I had the wherewithal to bring my i-Pod Nano, so to the tunes of Annie Lennox’s Diva, I kept up my brisk pace, while observing the other walkers around me.

There was a woman at the starting line who wore a white t-shirt and a pink hat that said, “I Miss U Mommy.” She was walking in memory of her mother, Guadalupe P., along with her sisters and cousins. I was extremely touched, and asked her if she would mind me snapping some pictures, to which she graciously acquiesced. Two other survivors caught my eye as well, one dressed as a “pink angel” and the other with a pink cowboy hat and a big button that read, “Cancer Sucks.” Amen, sister.

From my observational stance, I was amazed at what I saw around me. Men with their wives or girlfriends; other men, with their buddies or partners; teenage boys and girls, by themselves, or with their moms; and entire church and civic groups, all gathered together for one purpose: to walk for the cause. Had I had a chance to interview the particular ones that captured my interest, I’m sure I’d hear stories about friends, relatives, loved ones who were in their minds and hearts—some walking with them, some now departed, who motivated them to give up their Saturday morning to walk together and bump up against each other—two things that rarely happen in Los Angeles in a good way—if you’ve seen the movie Crash, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Superficiality is an art form here, and for me, true community has become difficult, if not impossible, to find and/or maintain. Most of the people who made up my community now live outside of Los Angeles and California. Some moved for the reasons I mentioned, some moved for other reasons, like housing, better work, or to be closer to family. Over the past year, the sense of feeling bereft and alone has become more pronounced. Meeting Lynn and falling in love with him has definitely softened that blow, but beyond that significant relationship, there is no sense of belonging in this town. I stay in Los Angeles for particular reasons, but given a good enough opportunity, I would strongly consider moving someplace else.

Participating in the walk renewed hope that community still exists here, and it is not impossible to find. People can and do choose to connect, not only for the cause of cancer, but for the sake of bonding, supporting, and building a life with others.

My bum hip started acting up around Mile 2, so I slowed my power pace down to a stroll. A woman next to me tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Looking Good! Looking very good!” I thanked her, and we chatted a bit about the event, and how thankful we were that the cloud cover lasted almost till the end of the race. Once we reached the end of the walk, I lost sight of her, but her unconscious reinforcement of my hope lingered. Community happens, especially in L.A.

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