Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Alaska Attacks!!!

Hi Rodney Drive Readers - I started writing this when I was still in Alaska, but didn't finish it while I was there.

My trip to Alaska is coming to a close shortly, and I’m now at the point where I’m counting down the hours until my flight…at the moment, it’s 25 hours…

I’ve been busy trying to watch tapes and figure out what we’ve got on our hands (and so far, there’s still a lot of tape to watch.) I’ve been landlocked the last couple of days, which is fine. It can get overwhelming looking at the stack of work, so I can easily get lost for hours just screening things.

Yesterday, I got an opportunity to get away from my tapes for a few hours – myself and some of the crew took a skiff upriver (sorry, don't know the name of it) to shoot some beauty shots for the show.

The sun was out. It was early and there was a bit of an early morning chill. But it didn’t matter – I was going upriver, something that everyone here says we needed to do.

After carefully navigating the sandbars near the beach, our driver, Paul, began speeding upriver. It was one of the most amazing boat rides I’ve ever been on – around every bend, there was yet a more spectacular view of the snow-topped mountains. The river was hugged by trees and marshland.
As we neared one bank, I heard shouts of, “MOOSE!” No, Mike Mussina wasn’t in the marshland – it was a pregnant female moose. (Not only cool, but a good score for B-Roll!) Luckily, we caught the moose as she was crossing the stream, and got to see her climb out and stumble into the marshlands.
We also spotted an Eagle, standing proud above us. My first thought, of course, was that it must be Stephen Colbert’s Eagle, Stephen Junior. He then flew off into the sky, probably off to protect America or something.
I can't fly higher than an Eagle...

After driving upriver a while longer, we stopped to do a little fishing. Instead of fishing at this stop, I wandered into the marshland, exploring slightly…and by exploring, I mean walking about 50-yards through the brush.
Our driver pointed out moose droppings, and thought bears could be nearby. This is why I only explored about 50-yards.
Isn't "Moose Droppings" a Ben & Jerry's flavor?

We headed upriver to yet another fishing spot. Our guide caught a fish within minutes, but our crew was not having much success…that is, until I grabbed the rod.
A casting session in Alaska...get it...casting!
I cast about 5 or 6 times, and was about to hand it off, when I did one more for the hell of it. The water was so clear, I could see my lure coming in towards the skiff. About five feet away from the engine, I saw something shiny go after my lure – A FISH!!! HOLY SHIT, A FISH!!!
This became a deep fried appetizer.

Sure, enough, that sonofabitch grabbed hold and I brought it up. It was a dolly – a delicious fish I had tried earlier in the week. If anything, this trip has turned me from a wuss, to a slightly more outdoorsy wuss.

After taking our trip, one of our shooter/producers and I walked through town to meet the Mayor and do an interview with him. We found him – working in the general store. I guess he owns/runs the store. As we set up for the interview, I was talking to him about the election. He initially got involved by getting elected to the town council – the position was up for grabs and he beat someone else by winning a coin flip. Then, when the Mayor’s office was up for grabs, the council voted whether he or another guy should become mayor. It was a tie vote about 5 or 6 times, he said, and that’s when he finally switched and voted for himself.

The one thing I’ve talked a little bit about is the shopping in Togiak – there really isn’t much “commerce” there – two stores, a post office, a couple of B&B’s, and people selling their homemade beaded jewelry and ivory.

Anytime I go on a trip, I love going to the local markets to see what things they carry and how much things are. Obviously, since this town is so remote, everything is beyond expensive. So, I decided to take some pics to share the cost of living with you…

Shotguns anyone?

Also, he's some pics from the brush fire across the street from the house - yes, the locals put it out using buckets and the fire department arrived when it was all done.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Togi The Dog

So in my last post, I mentioned the little dog who was hanging around.
The little guy and his little brother were wandering around the area, clearly looking for food, no real home to go to. His brother was slightly standoffish, but the little blonde guy bonded with me very quickly. No one had fed him in forever, so I was slipping him some crackers and snacks. He was BEYOND thrilled to eat. I took a liking to this little guy, but didn't think much about him until I heard about most dogs in this little Village.

People here don't treat their dogs right (the couple who run this B&B treat their dog fantastically and are the exception to the rule). Everyone has their dogs chained up outside, with very little room to run. There is very little human contact for these dogs, and they all look very hungry and thirsty. It's heartbreaking.

A lot of unwanted puppies get born and roam around. As these dogs grow up and begin to roam, they get into a lot of danger. Apparently, there are strict leash laws, and when dogs go wandering around the village, there are people who will shoot the strays for being off-leash. These strays can also get eaten by bears. Seriously.

So after hearing about this, the entire crew was thinking about saving this little guy and his brother. We talked about taking the little brother, who was black, off to the Time Bandit so they could have a new mascot (their old dog died recently). Someone asked the alleged "owner" about it, and the "owner" said they could have the dog as long as they bring it back. These people don't care about the dog - they just want some money. So the other day, the black dog just disappeared. My guess is that they held onto it knowing the show may take it.

But the little blondie kept showing up, looking for crackers for me. And also looking to lick my face. He was so sweet. So I talked with some of the locals here, and they said it'd be fine just to take him and not tell anyone. Then I talked with Heather about it, and we decided that this little guy deserved a better shot at life than what he'd have here, so we're bringing him back to LA. Yup, that's right, Winnie's got a new "frien-emy!"So we've decided to name him Togiak, but we're calling him Togi. The little guy's been staying with me for the last four days. We've had a few rough patches of piss and shit on the floor and some teething issues, but otherwise, he's awesome. And he doesn't love the cold, wet Alsaka weather. This guy is clearly made for LA.
I think he's a mix between a huskie and a lab, but not really sure. I actually saw a dog today that looked like an adult version of him. It may be his mother or father - and that dog also looked like a mutt. That's a good thing

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Alaska Strikes Back (And This Time, It's Personal!!)

Two nights ago, it was my turn to go out to visit Time Bandit. The weather had dropped from 60 degrees to 40 degrees with some rain. To get out to Time Bandit, we have to take an open, uncovered skiff. So that meant one thing: layers. I put on an undershirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a hoodie, and my waterproof neon-green jacket. On the way to the skiff, we stopped at the store in town to buy goggles – there was only one pair left for me: the pink ones. So there I was, wearing bright orange waterproof overalls, a neon green jacket, and pink goggles. I looked like a box of Pastel Crayola Crayons.

So six of us (four of us were from the show) board this tiny skiff, out to make the 10-15 mile journey out to Time Bandit.
Our skiff - Carnival Cruise Lines, beware!!

Because of the close quarters in the small boat, I had my back to the front, so I had no idea what was coming. The ride was beyond bumpy – the weather had made the sea into a choppy mess. I could feel my back getting sprayed by the ocean and by the pounding rain. Luckily, my jacket and hood kept me warm and covered. But about halfway there, the massive bumps had sped up the process of my bladder and churned up dinner - I realized I had to go to the bathroom. Badly. And hitting the bumpy sea without being able to watch it, made it all the worse. I did think at one point that I may actually have to either mess myself or peel off all my layers and unload in the sea.

Luckily, I was able to keep myself from letting go in front of my crew. But as soon as we got to the Time Bandit, I made a B-line to the bathroom. Luckily, the bathroom was nice and clean, and everything went well…until I flushed. Yup, that’s right, I clogged the Time Bandit’s bathroom. My God, was I freaking out – would the crew turn the camera on me if they found out? Would I be thrown overboard? Mocked mercilessly? I plunged and I plunged and I plunged some more. After about ten minutes, no luck. I peeked my head out, and luckily, their greenhorn (or newest crew member) came walking by. I asked him for his help and within 30 seconds, he had that toilet working like it was never clogged. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Yesterday was fairly uneventful, except for the fact that I picked up a camera and shot for the first time in years. My camera skills are weak, my tech savvy is poor, and I get very self-conscious about these things. But it was needed, so I picked up the camera and shot some material. Nothing exciting – just a few interviews we needed to get. I capped the evening off by losing $20 in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em.

I’m glad I had the time with the camera yesterday, because today, I was pressed into further duty: I was going to shoot some aerials and other material in a small prop plane. The fisherman on some of the boats use planes as spotters to get the big schools of fish. So that’s going to be a big part of our show. Luckily, we’re staying at a place where all of the pilots are staying, and we’ve all befriended each other.

So one of the pilots, Terry, offered to take me up in the sky to shoot some stuff. It was awesome. The plane is a four-seater, but really shouldn’t fit more than two. I was shooting the amazing landscape (and taking it all in as I shot), looking for large schools of fish in the water, following a few boats, and watching Terry show one of the boats he works with where to capture a massive school of fish. He also made an air drop off – he opened his window and threw a package out to the boat below him. Pretty cold when he opened it. The whole ride was amazing – an experience I never thought I’d have. The only problem was that when he was directing his boat to catch the school of fish, he kept flying in very tight, left turns. I got pretty dizzy, and hours later, I’m still feeling a bit loopy.

"I guarantee that I'm better than 40% of the shooters on youtube!!"
Also, I’ve made a new friend. I’ve dubbed him Bandit, or Bandito.
I think he can read my mind!

Now that I'm married, this is the only physical contact that is allowed!

On a separate note - the airport is across the street. Sometimes, the pilots just drive their plane over to drop off their stuff and park in the driveway. It never gets old seeing a plane in the driveway.

You can go by land, sea, or air...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Alskan Adventure Begins!!!

For those who don’t know, a few days after getting married, I booked a gig about herring fishing that would take me to Alaska for two weeks. I don’t usually go on the road for shows, but I was looking forward to this one.

I left on Thursday at 6am – flying from LA to Seattle, Seattle to Anchorage, Anchorage to Dillingham, Alaska, and Dillingham to Togiak, our final destination. A 12-hour journey.

Togiak is so remote, that you can only get there by boat or by plane…and not a big plane, a six seater. Yeah, really tiny. This was our plane to head over.

No one was singing "Peggy Sue" while on-board.

Despite my initial fear of flying in the tiny plane, I held up. It was a great ride - all mountains and snow. No roads, no houses, nothing.

I did white knuckle it twice – once when the wind was blowing us around a bit, and once when our pilot sneezed and jerked the wheel.

No puke bag needed.
Destination: Togiak

After landing in Togiak, we were taken to our accommodations – a bed and breakfast run by a nice couple. Since so many people are around for the fishing season, the place is packed, so myself and another producer are staying in a “guest house.”

Home sweet home...

The view from our living room

The accommodations have been great, and the food has been amazing. We couldn't be at a better place. I played in a poker game with the owners and some of the other guests and friends of the owners. It's been very comfortable here. And there's fresh goodies (Cookies, rice crispie treats) everyday...I can't wait to get back to LA to re-start my diet.

The weather has been spectacular – 60 degrees and crystal clear. Every time I step outside, all I see is water and mountains. Breathtaking. Pictures do it no justice.

The beach outside the house.

Boats prepping for the herring season.


Yesterday, we went out on a skiff to check out one of our main boats, Time Bandit, and meet up with some of our camera crew. It was a fun trip – I’ve seen the boat on Deadliest Catch, but I got a great perspective of how big it really is. The boat seemed nicer than some of my apartments. It’s impressive.
My head is bigger than Time Bandit.

Okay, maybe Time Bandit is bigger than my head.

To get out there, I was given a pair of suspenders and an awful neon green jacket to keep warm on the water. The colors may not be flattering, but I wasn’t taking any risks.

Neon: It's not just for bar signs any more.

The day in Alaska last until 11pm, so last night, I went for a run at 10:50pm and was able to get back as the sun was setting behind the mountains at around 11:20. It’s kind of amazing – my body was trying to wind down from the day, but I felt exhausted and ready to go to bed.

This is my running route. Hard to get lost.

Sunset at 11

Today has been a bit slower - we're waiting for fish and game to start the fishing season. The big excitement today here was a fire down at the airport. Nothing like a little a fire to bring out EVERYONE. I mean, every person in town sped to the airport like they were going to put out the fire. There's only one road in town, so I guess it was the equivalent of a freeway. Trucks, ATV's, kids on bikes, all rushing to catch some of the action. Of course, they beat the fire department by a good 10 minutes.

I'll keep posting as things happen, and get pictures on when I can. We have no cell phones, so the internet is key to everything. It is amazing - Heather and I did a video chat, and I took her outside for a tour. If you'd like a tour, feel free to send me an IM. I'll take you outside for a walk.

Hi, my name is Brian, and welcome to Universal Studios, Togiak...

And before I go for today, let me introduce you to the adorable Brandy - the dog of the house.

We're having a good time in Alaska. Now let's hope the fish bring some good drama and TV!!