Thursday, January 28, 2010

Two Recommends:

That's right, two. Why? Well, because I've only see all of one and snippets of the second, that's why. Doing my taxes, RWA treasurer stuff, life in general, this has not been a huge "See stuff at Sundance" year for me.

First is; The Company Men, written and directed by John Wells, starring Ben Afflek, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Craig T. Nelson and Kevin Costner.

This is an excellent film about a current topic; losing your job. It's sad, it's funny, and it will at times make you just as frustrated as the characters who are looking for work.

I see these people all the time. They have been downsized and outsourced and come in to the barn to apply for a job because they cannot find anything else. And we're not talking people with no skills, here; we've had loan officers, realtors, construction workers; people from all walks of life who need to make something, anything to stay afloat.

And let me tell you something; in my profession, there are people who think that we are pretty low; one step above Carney worker. The fact is, most of our employees are driving carriage as a second job. We are not out there all day, like in other parts of the country, so it's not a full-time proposition. We're out in the evenings, six days a week. Only a handful, like myself, MBA, Kar, and ~A~ do this as our only vocation. And ~A~ is looking for a job, so soon (hopefully) she will be back to work full time elsewhere and only drive occasionally. And because so many other people are hurting financially, we are too. There are just not enough rides to go around because "disposable income" is no longer disposable. It goes to our mortgage, our groceries, our children's education funds.

Ro always tells new applicants, "You can't pay the mortgage with what you make here, but you can probably make a car payment." So it is for many of our employees a place to make enough extra income to take the edge off of living paycheck to paycheck. None of our people drive up in a Rolls Royce. Unless Rolls Royce now manufactures a bashed up Mini-Van that I don’t know about.

You see, we are always hiring. People come in and their eyes light up because they've finally found a job. On commission. And you don’t get paid while you’re training, because they are "statutory" employees. Many of them work for us for just a short time and realize that they need something with more of a guaranteed income, so they go elsewhere. Which is why we are always hiring.

It’s a vicious circle.

Anyway, with the stellar cast and slick production, I cannot imagine this film not getting distributed, so look for it in your local theater sometime soon, and go see it. It's good.

Next; "The Pat Tillman Story." It is a look at the cluster f*ck that became a nightmare for the Tillman family when their former Cardinal's football player son joined (along with his brother) the military. Then he got killed, by friendly fire, but the powers that be decided to cover it up. And use him as propaganda, which he never ever wanted to happen. The family has pieced together the incident as well as they could but no one will either give them, or take responsibility, for the events that transpired.

The message I took away from the Q&A after the show (many of Tillman's family were there along with the director of the documentary) is this:

When a loved one joins the Military, they give away most of their rights as a citizen. So they must do as they are ordered. If you, as a non-military member, see something transpire that you feel is wrong, you need to write/call/complain to someone in control. Why? Because YOU are their voice.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Snoop Dog and Too Much Bitch In The Water

Tuesday night was…intense. And I just want to say that it was either the three-quarter full moon, or else someone slipped way too much "Bitch" in the drinking water, because there was a higher percentage of assholes in attendance than usual.

Our first showing (Okay for those of you who do not know, I volunteer for the Sundance Film Festival which is going on here in Utah right now, so there you have it, up to speed…)

Our first showing was "Gasland" which will open your eyes to the downside of Natural Gas harvesting. I'm not going to enter into a rant about the environment, the government royally screwing people, or how everyday citizens lose their rights because of lobbyists being in bed with certain factions in Washington; I won't have to. When this movie is available, rent it and see for yourself how your tax dollars are at work…just not for you. Unless you're a billionaire, in which case why are you wasting time reading my blog?
I am in no way, shape or form a tree hugging liberal, but jeesh!

Anyhow, what I really wanted to tell you was this: There are a ton of stories at Sundance, that's what the festival is all about, and believe it or not, some of them aren’t even mine…

Here is one:

The Snoop Dog Story

Alexi is my immediate supervisor. Before Rose Wagner she worked at Trolley Square. In 2005 the movie "Hustle and Flow" premiered at the festival. The night it played at Trolley she was managing . A man walked in and identified himself as Snoop Dog's manager. He told her that Snoop and his friends were attending the show, but they were having dinner. He got her cell phone number. A while later he called and said they were still at dinner, and could she hold up the film until they got there? She said no. A little while later they called and said they were out back, could someone let them in the rear door? She sent Krista. Then his manager said that his friends were hungry, could she get them some snacks? So Alexi sent a couple of volunteers to the snack bar with her credit card and got Snoop Dog and his friends some snacks. The bill came to $66.50. She knew that because the volunteers gave her back her credit card and her receipt after they deliver the Snoop Dog entourage their snacks. When the film was over, she waited to approach Snoop Dog's manager, holding her receipt for $66.50.

They'd left through the back door.

So, if any of you see Snoop Dog, tell him he owes Alexi $66.50, from 2005.

Personally, I think he should pay her interest.

PS: I added a link to a story about Alexi in Thursday's SLC Tribune. Alexi said she told the reporter the Snoop Dog story, but it didn't make it into the article. So much for investigative journalism! Boo! Maybe she would get paid back if it had...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Altitude Attitude

People unfamiliar with living in the upper reaches of the atmosphere sometimes get blind-sided by the effects of alcohol in a high altitude environment…

In other words, they get trashed real fast.

I'm not pointing fingers at anyone…just sayin'—


As you can imagine I've been a busy little beaver over here in Salt Lake. The Sundance Film Festival opened Friday evening here with the premier of "Get Low", a film starring Robert Duval, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black, and one of my all time favorite people, Bill Murray.

Why Bill, you ask? With a headliner like Duval, why fawn over Mr. M?

He's a Cubs fan, and a Chicagoan (okay, Wilmette, but it still counts). Duh! It's me we're talking about here, not, well, you know, someone who is not me…

So Bill was at the premier, using a crutch ("I got hurt rescuing a bunny rabbit.") At one point he, and I know this will come as a shock to those starry eyed readers of "People" and "The National Enquirer" who keep the paparazzi in business because they worship celebrities, had to use the restroom! (gasp!) so, being he was "other abled" I escorted him down in the elevator to the closest men's room available where stairs were not in the equation.

On the way back up he curiously popped his head into the "Green Room" which at this venue our volunteers use as a lounge. It's great because a video feed from the auditorium allows them to not only watch the film, but we also know when it's ending, if the sound goes out, the film breaks, or there is some other kind of disruption. So Bill walks by, pops his head in.

"What's this?" Bill asks me.

"It's our lounge where our wonderful volunteers hang out and relax," I replied.

Bill looks up at the monitor. "What are they watching?" he asks, turning to me with a quizzical expression.

"They're watching your movie, Bill."

Feigning being startled, "Oh, I'd better go and leave them alone then."

On the way back I mentioned I grew up in Des Plaines, (a suburb of Chicago) he replied, "I had cousins that lived in Des Plaines. They were really cool. Then they moved to Iowa and got weird."

I told him, "I hear that Iowa is going to use that as their new State Motto; "Move to Iowa, we'll turn you weird."

So working the Gala was a lot of fun, and it is great seeing all my Facebook Sundance friends in the flesh again. At the volunteer party last week I got to meet two people who are "imaginary internet friends" in person, which was interesting. One of them, a film maker from Chicago, was a lot of fun. We chatted and networked and I'm hooking my nephew up with him to get some experience "in the business" since that's what he's going to college for.

The other guy, who is a very handsome man in the field of media, "friended me" using the find-a-friend app and did not actually, cognitively "look" for me (or even, I suspect, at my profile. Our 'friendship" was the result of an email blast that could have included anyone…) Well, I saw his name tag, introduced myself, and I think I kind of creeped him out, in a Fatal Attraction/Stalker-ish boiling your puppy kind of way.

And you know, I'm okay with that, because it should keep him on his toes for the balance of the Festival.

The Rose Wagner Team

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I know, I know, I was supposed to post yesterday, but really, people, I got nothing', unless you absolutely must hear how I've done laundry for two days straight. Or maybe my shopping trip to Sam's Club where I stocked up on toilet paper so my family won't have to go without and use my State Line Tack catalog while I work Sundance...

Seriously, there's nothing going on. Except the Bob Mayer workshop in June, but you don't get in on that yet, because you're not URWA. You non-URWA people must wait until March to sign up for that. But all of you are welcome to the book signing; To buy, that is, or just ogle. You must be URWA to participate. And, of course, you must have written and published a book, also. Very important in a minor detail sort of a way.

Anyway, I'm rambling. I have the Sundance Volunteer party tomorrow night so here's hoping something interesting happens. Something worth blogging about. Not, you know, like somebody had clean clothes...


(This is Rudy. He is one of the barn dogs. Last Friday we took Ro out to lunch for her birthday. When we returned, Rudy was waiting by the front door. Ro thought he had dragged a huge rock out front; turns out he stole a loaf of home-made bread off the counter and was parading around with his trophy in his mouth prouder than shit. He's a naughty dog, but Ro loves him anyway. And hey, it wasn't her loaf of bread...)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

One, Two, Cha Cha Cha

It's almost that time again. Time to put on my dancing running shoes and get ready for the Big Dance. No, not basketball playoffs, silly, the Sundance Film Festival.

I got involved with the festival when we moved to Utah and I figured it would be a great place to meet other movie fans and network with folks who might possibly help me find an interesting and rewarding job. My first year, 2004, I volunteered (with my left foot in a soft boot due to bunion surgery) at the Broadway Theater. I also had several pre-fest assignments in Park City. The day after Christmas found me working at the Festival store selling t-shirts. That was the slowest and most boring day I ever spent. The night before it snowed over a foot and Park City, due to its mountain location, was a mess. I think we had five customers during my eight hour shift. A total snooze and not what I expected at all. Bleh.

For my next non-Salt Lake assignment I was slated to assist the stage crew set up on Main Street for the band The Presidents of the United States of America. Apparently, unbeknownst to the powers that be, stage erection is a union thing and they not only did not need my help, they did not want it. So I was reassigned to ice patrol. They gave a 42 year old woman with her foot in a medical boot a shovel and told her to chop the built up ice in the gutters that were cut down to accommodate wheelchair access. So I spent most of my shift wandering around Park City packing a shovel, obliterating ice, and getting the hairy eyeball from festival patrons.

"The crowds parted with a gasp as the suspected Shovel Murderer slowly made her way up the steep and icy sidewalks of Main Street, the erratic rhythm of her hideous step… drag… step… drag… sending chills racing up their collective spines. She brandished her instrument of torture, a pointed garden shovel stolen from True Value, and the image was intimidating enough to scare even the brattiest child, or most hardened, spoiled Hollywood celebrity, into behaving themselves…"

Ahh, good times.

The following year, 2005, *they* asked me to be the waitlist manager at the Broadway Theater. This means you work outside wrangling the waitlist line. The term "Crowd Liaison" is bandied about, but technically you're more of a combination bouncer, person who tells you to take a number at the deli counter, and playground monitor. I firmly believe I was suggested for the job not because of my sparkling wit and personality, but because I had the proper outdoor attire, (carriage driver, you know…)

Now I'm at The Rose Wagner Theater, what I believe is the best venue in Salt Lake. We have a beautiful 477 seat auditorium, fully appointed green room that we use as a volunteer lounge, and best of all, no hills to slog up and down. YAY!

So volunteering didn't get me what I thought it would, a job, I got that on my own, but I have made some fabulous friends that I stay in touch with 11 months out of the year on Facebook, and get to go and play with for a two week period in January. Only one of them is in the filmmaking business, but we're all fans. And a little insane. And starting next week we get to dance together for 10 days, after which we will go back to our regular lives, exhausted, and with a little more swag than we started out with. And a lot more memories.

Ahh, good times.

Monday, January 11, 2010

*Ski O'Clock

We went to Alta yesterday. For those of you who are flatlanders or not from here, or maybe you have no notion about the world of skiing, Alta is a ski area ( I hesitate to call it a "resort", and this post explains why) located at the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon, up the road from Snowbird, and is home to some of the finest skiing (and snow) in the United States. Luckily for us it's about 35 minutes from our driveway to their parking lot.

For the local, Alta is where you go and blend in, without worrying about looking poor, or uncouth. For example, my tribe brings our own food. At a place like Solitude (located in Big Cottonwood Canyon, down the road from Brighton) they have a "special" lunchroom, named "The Brown Bag", where you are invited to bring your culinary sundries and nosh in an informal area that has amenities such as a television and one microwave oven you share with 164 other people. It's reminiscent of the "Steerage" area on a luxury liner, and is permeated with the smell of Fruit Loops, dirty diapers, and Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches. In other words, it's gross.

Alta, on the other hand, has no such delineation. Buy food, bring your own, they don't care. Now, you might wonder why I prefer to dine in an area designed for food purchased from said ski business as opposed to dining in an area reserved for those who have chosen, for whatever reason, to bring their own meals.

Well, for one, because it's a "restaurant", people don't feel free to change their child's diapers right there on the table next to you. Not only is it frowned upon, and ruins the ambiance, but it is in violation of health code. I'm able to dine with confidence, knowing that not only was my table bussed and wiped with sanitizer, it has also been kept, due to county health regulations, virtually ass free. I appreciate the little things like that.

For another thing, they do not make you feel disenfranchised because you, as a local, have chosen not to purchase a $9.00 bowl of bad chili. Because while you can pile as much shredded cheese, diced onions and sour cream on top as you want, you'll never make that .75¢ bowl of chili worth $9.00, no matter how much of your condiments overflow across your tray.

Also, you can camp. "Camping" for those of you unfamiliar with the restaurant trade, is a term used by wait staff when a table has been occupied by the same group for hours on end. This means that management has been unable to re-seat that particular piece of real estate and the server will only be getting a single tip for hours upon hours of occupation. And from experience I can tell you it's not going to be a big one. So, because the Alta Lodge is designed to be a cafeteria style eatery, one can hang out for eons and not feel the need to move on after 45 minutes or so by a hostess circling your table like a turkey vulture wanting you to move on.

(The best thing about skiing Alta on a Sunday is... no crowds. YAY!)
Alta also is a skier's mountain, so no snowboarders are allowed (sorry Stacey…) which I really like because I'm not that great of a skier so after about three hours I.Am.Done. and need to park my sore ass at a table and chill. Note that I said at, not on. Thus the table is still ass free. And I can ski with confidence, for me at least, secure in the knowledge that a teenager will not be hucking a big one over the top of my head, forcing me to duck at the incoming missile they become, laughing at me when I sprawl on the snow in an act of self preservation. This I like. No diving for cover.

Now, at some of the resorts in Park City, you are treated like royalty. At the Canyons, for example, a guest rides a gondola from the parking area to the ski village. Young, good looking Aussies and New Zealander's, working here during their summer, take your equipment out of your hands, place it into the ski/board slots on the exterior of the gondola, and you ride in relative comfort up the hill until you arrive at the village where yet more ruggedly handsome model-wanna-be's remove your gear and offer to get you a "Ski Valet" who will slog your shit expensive equipment to the lifts. They expect a tip, by the way. And I don't blame them because after a while your stuff gets heavy and one prefers to be fresh when one hits the slopes. At Alta, unless you've taken the ski bus or a shuttle from one of the rental lodges to the door, everyone parks and drags their own equipment to the facilities. They do not have a group of Sherpas to tote your crap from point A to point B. Being a pack mule is a great equalizer.

(Being a pack mule is one thing but packing small humans is another. Three words: Get.A.Sitter.)

So Alta, while being one of the best ski destinations around, is not a "resort", it's a mountain. And one we enjoy sojourning to regularly in the winter (and occasionally in the summer, where you can hike the same hill's you ski) because nobody knows if you're one of the unfortunate visitors, or a lucky, lucky local. And lucky we are; I see the envy in the eyes of tourists whenever they find out that we live here. We can drive up in less than an hour. And bring our own lunch.

*Ski O'Clock is what the locals of Park City call the time, in winter, between 4-6 pm when the resorts without night skiing start closing down and tourists clog the arterial roads clamoring to get back to their hotels. I won’t tell you what they call the ten days of the Sundance Film Festival. Trust me, it's not pleasant.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

You Know You're A Carriage Driver In SLC When…

The people in front of you are either stopped or moving too slow you tell them to "Walk on!"

You know the location of every pot hole around Temple Square.

You feel naked if you leave your house wearing less than four layers of clothing.

You know that frozen strawberry Twizzlers taste better than room temperature ones.

You roll your eyes when the person in front of you in line pays with a credit card because you think it'll take forever, and then you breathe a sigh of relief when you realize you're in the "real world" and the clerk doesn’t have to write the information by hand, they only have to swipe it.

You know the difference between animals being worked and animals being abused.

You can spot a panhandler from 100 yards away.

You carry a bag full of snacks. Everywhere.

You know that not only do horses like apples and carrots, but they like Twizzlers, Mambas, Starburst Fruit Chews and Oreo cookies. Especially Oreo cookies. Except Cisco.

You overdress for every weather occasion because it's easier to take off then put on.

You know traffic patterns so well that even your horse knows when to change lanes.

You're in your car, and while the other motorists watch for the light to change to green, you watch the crosswalk countdown timer and start creeping ahead when it's at "01" so you'll have plenty of time to get through the intersection.

You forget you're in your car and stop at the intersection line when the crosswalk timer is under "10" because you might not have enough time to make it through before the light changes, and the people behind you think you're just some random idiot.

Not only do you know the location of every restaurant and hotel in the downtown area, but you can tell someone the best places to park and what streets to avoid. And which restaurants to avoid. And to stay away from Pioneer Park, unless they want 1)drugs 2) a souvenir knife wound or 3) a mugging.

You sneer at people who consider 32 degrees to be "cold". 6 degrees is cold, 32 degrees is Bar-B-Que and shorts weather.

Your kid runs too far ahead of you in the grocery store and you tell them to "Ho!"

You know the proper definition of "Flipping a bitch."

You look for a parking spot at least 17 feet long even though you’re driving a compact car.

You consider the snazzy and stylish "winter boots" in a shoe store Barbie clothes, because you know "real" winter boots weigh at least 10 pounds and, if necessary, can be used as a weapon.

Feel free to add to the list.

Monday, January 4, 2010

On To The Next Thing…

I have a lot to get done this month. The Sundance Film Festival begins soon and I have tons-o-crap to do to get ready for that puppy. Online training, digging out my "grown up" clothes, limber up my liver for the parties both before and after… plus since in my position I have to be nice to people (shudder) I need to practice my smiling. You know, so it looks like I'm pleasant and friendly, not like a grimace I might make right before I rip their throat out with my teeth. More smile, less snarl. That's my goal.

I set more goals for this year the other evening at a writers party, and yeah, it was very hoity toity and dignified… we paraded around in our sport jackets with the suede patches on the elbows, our pinkies stuck out whilst holding our well worn copies of Strunk and White's Elements of Style aloft. Then we sacrificed a goat. Or maybe it was a cheesecake. I don't remember, as by then I was lightly toasted. I brought wine and Honey Baked Ham. You can guess which one I had more of.

This year I have a second book to finish and a third book to begin. And finish.

This week I need to go to the carriage barn and strip my carriage of all the Christmas decorations I slathered on it. I bought more right after the holidays when they're cheap, because stuff tends to get trashed in the six weeks it hangs on the carriage during all kinds of weather and all kinds of drivers. Since "my" carriage doesn’t actually belong to "me" it gets used by other, random drivers who are not always careful about the crap attached to it, but that's what happens and it's also why I buy my stuff after Christmas. Contrary to public opinion I am no dummy.

I went out and got a Wii yesterday to go along with the humongous TVzilla in the living room. I'm not a "gamer", but I wanted to utilize the fitness aspects of it since I lost about five pounds during the holiday crunch. I also added about three pounds of muscle, but that's good and is about par for the course. So I want to keep the loss/toning ratio going and that won't happen just sitting on the couch reading or writing. Writing, as it turns out, is not particularly aerobic. And reading is only aerobic if I do it on my treadmill and I've been known to fall off my treadmill when I'm not paying strict attention to where exactly my feet are. It's not pretty, folks. It is, however, highly amusing if you happen to witness it.

I played around with the Wii yesterday and now I'm stiff and sore, so this morning I'm having a breakfast of coffee with an Advil chaser. If I was a horse they'd have put me down by now.

Happy New Year. I hope you're in better shape than I am.