Wednesday, October 6, 2010

All That Skate Odyssey, Part One

First I would like to apologize in advance if I forget anyone, leave anyone or anything out, miss spell anyone's name (I have decided to use first names only.  We who were there know who we are!), or attribute something to the wrong person!  I have a very good memory, but I have found out over the years that my memory when it comes to skating shows or rock concerts and the like is sometimes not as reliable as it should be, ha!  I need to take notes, but who wants to take notes while watching a skating show or listening to Bruce Springsteen kick ass and show everyone else how it is supposed to be done?  However, with the souvenir program from 'All That Skate' I at least cannot forget the order of the show or the numbers the skaters did!


'All That Skate Odyssey, Part One'

I originally did not think I would be able to attend All That Skate in Los Angeles.  I was born in North Hollywood at Victory Hospital, and I consider Los Angeles to be my hometown.  When Johnny Weir was originally added to the cast I could not believe figure skating could be this cruel to me!  I had never seen Johnny Weir skate in person, even though I have been a fan of his since around 2004.  Now he was going to be less than 450 miles away from me at the Staples Center, a distance I could drive in my sleep if my car were not totaled, and I was going to miss him?  I spent a little bit of time on Johnny's Facebook Page and on Twitter telling everyone even close to California (and several who ended up flying in from much further east) who wanted to go to the show good luck, enjoy the show, I can't come, whine, whine, sniffle, sniffle, cry, cry...  Ha, ha!  I was happy for my friends, however depressed for myself!

I was thrilled Johnny was going to be there, but I did not see how I could possibly make it.  I did not find the show's ticket prices to be out of line, nor did I at all find the distance to be too much, however my financial situation at this point in time was not and is not conducive to a trip of any kind, let alone one that involves purchasing a ticket, traveling and an overnight stay some place.

Ten to fifteen or so years ago I was in a much better place financially and I saw a number of shows and competitions.  I attended the last World Professional Figure Skating Championship in Landover, Maryland and the first one in Washington, D.C. at the then new MCI Arena (now the Verizon Center).  I attended a pro competition in San Jose, California the name of which is escaping me; I attended numerous Champions On Ice shows in Phoenix and in California, I attended Brian Boitano's Skating Romance I, 1996 Nationals in San Jose at what used to be the San Jose Arena but is now HP Pavilion at San Jose, Torvill and Dean's tour, a team pro competition in Tucson, Arizona (yes, really!) and one of Brian's Holiday shows in Las Vegas back in 1999.  I even took my then much younger nephew to a couple Disney On Ice shows.  That show in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay was in fact the last skating show I attended.  Therefore it is easy to see that I stopped attending shows well before Johnny Weir joined Champions On Ice or fully graced the skating world with his unique presence. 

I attended most of the shows other than Torvill and Dean and 1996 Nationals due to being a huge fan of Boitano's.  There is absolutely no doubt about that!  I even took the plunge for 1996 Nationals partly because it was less than fifty miles from Brian's hometown of Mountain View and where he lives now in San Francisco.  Besides, I seriously did not need to find a reason to visit the Bay Area!  And yes, I did meet Brian in San Jose, along with numerous other skaters.  So basically I find nothing wrong with travelling a long distance to see a figure skater I admire perform or compete.  To be perfectly honest, Johnny Weir is the first skater since Boitano I would travel a great distance just to see.  There are other skaters I like, and if they are there in a show or it takes place close to me and I am able to go; fine, great, go ahead and do it!  But Brian and Johnny are the only two skaters that I would travel across the country for, or travel several hundred miles for.  I made some amazing friends through being a fan of figure skating and of Brian Boitano, and I am still friends with most of them.  Now I have found myself making amazing friends all over again through being a fan of Johnny Weir!

When it came to All That Skate L.A. my amazing friends found it unacceptable for me to NOT be at the show.  In fact they decided I HAD to be there!  A few of us put our heads together and figured out a way for me to get to the show.  I never would have been able to do it without their assistance and INsistence; and for that I am and always will be, completely humbled and grateful! 

Once I mentioned I was going friends started congratulating me and telling me they better hear all about it when I came back!  And then the fans who had purchased V.I.P. or front row seating found out we would also be able to attend a private dress rehearsal the afternoon of the Saturday, October 2nd show!  The dress rehearsal would be at 2 pm with the evening show scheduled to begin at 7pm; and we would receive a souvenir program and a V.I.P. lanyard at the rehearsal!  The United Kittens of Weirlandia began planning for what signs we should bring, exchanging cell phone numbers and trying to set up special gatherings of our group.  Several people went to great lengths to set up a dinner between the rehearsal and the evening show, and Lizzy made a reservation at The Farm of Beverly Hills at LA Live when the Yard House would not take one.  However, she later found out the rehearsal time was longer than we thought, and it then seemed unlikely there would be time for a dinner and freshening up for everyone involved between the rehearsal and the show.  The gathering was then changed to an 11am early lunch at The LA Market; with plans to meet in the lobby of the JW Marriott, where several fans as well as the skaters were staying, at one pm to introduce ourselves and distribute signs before walking over to the Staples Center for the rehearsal at 2 pm. 

I found myself with a ticket from Phoenix to Los Angeles on Greyhound and I started to get excited about going to the show and meeting everyone!  I did try everything I could think of to get to the show another way; however it just did not work out.  Enterprise had weekend car rental rates as low as $9.99 per day, but then insurance and fuel costs have to be figured in.  The airline fare sale on Southwest ended before I could purchase a ticket; and the airline I spent years accumulating frequent flyer miles on (going back to when TWA still existed as a separate entity) conveniently had no flights available on which I could use my miles.  Seriously, why even have a frequent flyer program if you can never use your miles?  American would not let me use them going to Orlando back in 2002; or in 2006 when I took my niece to a national cheerleading competition in Knoxville, Tennessee; or in 2007 when I took her to a national cheerleading competition in Madison, Wisconsin.  So really, what level do you have to be at in these programs to be able to actually USE your miles??!!  But I digress...

Anyway, I did what in retrospect wasn't the smartest thing I could have done...I booked my bus ride for October 2nd, the morning of the show. I would be leaving the Phoenix bus depot at 3:35am and arriving in Los Angeles at approximately 11:45am.  (I have since decided if I ever have to take Greyhound anywhere again; I will NOT do it on the same day as the event I am attending!)  This meant that, although the wonderful Judith and Ila offered several of us the use of their hotel rooms to freshen up before the dress rehearsal and the show, I would basically be travelling all night with little sleep and arriving tired and likely looking like I crawled out of a hole somewhere...  Not only that, but I would also be missing the early lunch, which meant I would not be able to meet my friends until later.  This turned out to be even more disappointing than I realized beforehand! 

Back to the bus ride...  Since I do not currently have a car and was on such a tight budget I decided the way to get to the Greyhound station would be to take public transportation.  Since the latest north/south bus within walking distance went by at approximately 6:20pm, this meant I had to be ready to go at that time or walk dragging my suitcase to the next leg because I really could not afford a cab and SuperShuttle only goes to the airport.  So, after running around all day Friday October 1st to make sure my parents were taken care of with enough groceries, etc. since it's difficult for them to get around; I packed at the last possible minute, took a shower and got myself dressed.  I brought a change of clothes for when I arrived in Los Angeles, another change of clothes for the show that evening (a new pink top that looked more red than pink once it was on); and a change of clothes for the trip home on Sunday.  I also brought more pajamas and underwear than I needed (on previous trips I have been known to bring every pair I own just in case, lol!), and I was on my way.  South on Stapley to Main Street, west on the link to the light rail station, west on the light rail to 24th street, and south on 24th Street to the Greyhound station located on the southwest corner of Buckeye and 24th Street just west of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. 

I arrived at around 9 pm for a bus that would be departing at 3:35 am.  Yay!  I knew this would be the case when I planned to get to Greyhound on public transportation, and I didn't think it would be that bad.  I had a book on an interesting subject that turned out to be a bit of a yawn, plus I brought my clipboard and notes with me to work on my fanfictions if I wanted to.  I managed to complete a chapter of my story A Force of Nature: Part II I had been working on while I waited; however it still isn't updated because I simply have not had the time to put it up since I came back from Los Angeles.  I started on a chapter of another story, but it is nowhere near finished.  I tweeted a few times from the bus depot about how some women were dressed, rude people and gratuitous use of the 'F' word.  As it turns out the rude guy I tweeted about turned out to be the one who dropped about seventy-five percent of the F bombs later.  He actually was only still in Phoenix because he had been kicked off an earlier bus for arguing with the driver.  Nice!

After a few hours I started to think maybe I should be trying to get on an earlier bus, and then I would arrive in Los Angeles earlier and possibly even make the lunch at the hotel.  However, by the time I got around to thinking about it, I realized it would be impossible.  There was some sort of issue with a bus that was originally scheduled to leave at 1:35 am, and many of those passengers did not get on that bus and ended up on my 3:35 am bus.  I managed to get on the bus and find a decent seat (or so I thought!), and we departed half an hour late with a really cool driver named Michael.  Great!  I'm always afraid to fall asleep on airplanes because I'm worried I'll snore or something, lol, but since I managed to have a seat to myself on a bus I figured no one would notice if I tried to sleep and snored a little.  The seat near the window would not lock in any one position, so I set my purse and tote on it and tried to stretch out in the other seat.   

We arrived in Blythe, California for our first rest stop at a little after six am.  It's normally a thirty minute meal period because the small bus station is behind a McDonald's with several other fast food restaurants within walking distance.  Michael however gave us twenty minutes because we were already a little behind and most of us headed right for the McDonald's.  I actually ordered the wrong breakfast, but it tasted okay, so what the heck, right?  I brought it back to the bus and a little while later we were again on our way.  We made short stops in Indio, San Bernadino, Riverside, Claremont and El Monte before finally arriving in Los Angeles.  I did nap off and on during the trip and I honestly can not remember what stops I was awake for and which ones I might have been dozing during.  I didn't need to get off anyway.  BTW, what do tall people do on buses?  I'm about 5'3" and it's hard for me to find someplace for my legs...  But again I digress! 

We had left Phoenix half an hour late, but we arrived in Los Angeles fifteen minutes early!  I grabbed my purse, my tote and my bag out of the overhead bin, stepped off the bus in my hometown, thanked Michael and headed inside the bus depot.  The bathroom was being cleaned, naturally, so I found myself something to drink and wandered back to the ladies room.  I had forgotten to pack my toothbrush, so I had to buy one from the overpriced store at the bus depot in Phoenix. In the bathroom I brushed my teeth, washed up, changed my clothes, fixed my hair and did my makeup.  I looked tired, but not nearly as bad as I expected to, which isn't necessarily saying a whole lot!  Ha!

I asked a female security guard if she knew how to get to the Staples Center, and she did not.  Since it's only three miles away I was a little surprised, but I went outside in hope of finding someone who did know.  Yes, I do know I can find these things out in advance, but I didn't beyond addresses and distance, okay?!  I found an employee on break outside who told me exactly how to get there.  I could take a cab for what he figured would be around ten dollars, or I could cross the street and get on the city bus.  The employee even told me where to get off the bus and to make sure I got off before the bus turned right on to Figueroa Street since I needed to go left on Figueroa.  He was very knowledgeable and helpful.  I thanked him and walked across the street hoping I would make it to the JW Marriott in time to meet the rest of the group. 

Next All That Skate Odyssey, Part Two

Visit All That Skate Odyssey Picture and Video Links for links to pictures and video of the show!


akiko said...

Wonderful blog! Thank you, Gail!
I feel as if it was written especially for me, for I had been interested in Greyhound (I don't live in the US), and wanted to take someday--it would be an adventurous trip as you had.
ATS must be well worth the trip, and probably it looked even more beautiful for you because of all you had to endure.
I can't wait for Part Two!

WheresMyKoppy said...

It was definitely worth the trip! Greyhound can be an adventure in itself, or it can be not too bad. This wasn't so bad, it just took a long time, and I was tired when I got there.

ATS was well worth the trip, but I kind of have writer's block on part II! I hope I can make some progress soon. It will be on TV before I finish if I don't!