Of Cool Things and Awesome Stuff

So I was at an office building in Bellevue on business, and as I was walking back to my car I noticed this little guy.

I love real-life Easter eggs like this. Totally random, harmless, and sweet. Now, I guarantee, whenever I go to Bellevue I will be keeping my eyes peeled for more of these cute little painted rocks.

Makes me want to come up with my own little meme. Hmm… what gentle, yet awesome, havoc can I wreak…

Also this is happening:

Not sure yet whether I will be there. Honestly, it depends on scheduling conflicts outside of my control. But, I will update and let everyone who reads this blog (I think it’s up to five people now – I’m on my way internets!) know the final decision.

I DO know that IF I am able to make it, the first person who recognizes me and says “hi” (and isn’t someone I already know) will get a cool super-secret surprise!

Yay, super-secret surprises are fun and hopefully not disappointing in their smallness!

The Almond Sisters

I’ve got a bucket list. Do you? I don’t have anything written down. It’s more of a mental bucket list. It has things on it like, “go indoor skydiving”, “visit the Ireland and the UK” and “meet Kermit the Frog in ‘person’ and shake his little, felt, hand.” That last one is my version of the quest for the Grail. Another item on my little list is “Pick up a hitchhiker and take them where they need to go, or at least get them closer to their destination.” This last one could be viewed by some as one of the more insane feats a person would want to accomplish, because we’ve been taught not to trust strangers.

Especially strangers who don’t have a car. As Americans we tend to assume that if you don’t have a car, something is wrong with you, or you live in NYC. If you lived in NYC, you wouldn’t be hitchhiking, because their public transportation rocks. So, if you’re not from NYC, you don’t own a car AND you’re hitchhiking – that’s a lot of deviant behavior to swallow for most working-class to wealthy Americans.

Because then the questions start flying through our heads. Why doesn’t this person have a car? Are they homeless? Are they non compos mentis? Are they a serial killer? We have been trained to assume the worst of people, rather than the best.

When you pick up a hitchhiker, you enter into a contract of mutual trust. You’re trusting that the hitchhiker is not a crazed murderer on a spree, and the hitchhiker is trusting you to also not be a crazed murderer on a spree. You must assume the best of each other, and hold each other to that expectation.

So, the other day, I was running a few errands at a shopping center in Federal Way, WA. As I was heading back to the interstate to head home, I started to pass a 76 Station near the on-ramp when I spied three young girls, with matching t-shirts and back-packs (obviously tourists) holding a little cardboard sign with the words “To Portland” written on it. In a split-second decision, I decided to cross “pick up a hitchhiker” off of my bucket list.

I wasn’t willing to go as far as Portland (a solid 2-Hour drive), but I could at least get them closer, so I offered to drive them as far as Olympia – the state capitol – and, depending on how fast you drive – minding speed limits -, only about 90 minutes or more to Portland. (I tend to drive pretty fast…)

Turned out the girls were all au pairs, finishing up their time in the U.S. before heading back to their native countries (two from Germany, one from South Africa). Their names were Rebecca, Valentina and Laura, and they had been traveling across the country from the East Coast, after wrapping up their nanny assignments.

I asked them if they’d hitchhiked the entire way, and they said no. They’d been riding Greyhounds and Couch-Surfing and had only started hitchhiking this particular day, thinking it would be a fun way to get from Seattle to Portland (where their next couch resided), since it wasn’t too far a distance. It had taken them 4 rides to get them as far as FedWay – a distance of only 20 miles. They were thrilled when I told them I would get them at least another 45 miles closer to their destination.

They were very sweet, and grateful, and they loved almonds. One of them had a plastic figurine of a praying mantis and she was taking pictures of it a la “the roaming gnome” wherever they went. Did I mention they loved almonds? This was a big deal. They had a bag of almonds that they were sharing among the three of them.

One of the girls (Laura I think), said in the sweetest, light-German, accent, “Vhen I realized how expensive they vere, I realized, ve had to make this bag stretch!” It was adorable. You had to be there.

I half-wondered, after I had dropped them off at yet another 76 Station outside Olympia, whether they had been subsisting just on almonds, and whether I should have offered to buy them another bag. But really, it was all about the journey.

I hope the Almond Sisters made it to Portland that day. I pretty sure they did. And gals, if you’re reading this, let us know how the trip was for you!

+1Gazillion Awesomeness

So, the most amazing thing happened to me the other day that just proves that people are good. In fact, people are amazing. I’ve been shown this quite a lot in the past year by the outpouring of support from you my readers, and my friends and family, as I faced down the greatest opponent of my life so far (hopefully ever). You were there with beanies, bandanas, financial aid, uplifting notes of encouragement, and stories of personal triumph.  I want all of you to know that I never, EVER, took any of that support for granted and I am overwhelmingly grateful for it all.

Back to the latest EVENT OF AWESOME that brings me here today. I mentioned in THIS post that I had been planning to go to PAX here in Seattle for the purpose of pretending to stalk Wil Wheaton. It was a last minute decision, and I assumed that there would still be tickets. Boy, was I wrong. I had COMPLETELY underestimated the popularity of this event. It had sold out in MAY and here I was expecting tickets to be available day(s) of. Not my smartest move.

So, I couldn’t go, and I was bummed, and I mentioned this in a Post-Script to the original article. And that was that.

Then… the other day… a mysterious letter appeared in my snail mail from an address I was not familiar with. I opened it and immediately started jumping up and down and screaming my head off, then laughing my head off, and then just standing there slack-jawed (which is quite a feat for the recently headless). Why this reaction? Because that envelope contained this:

That’s right ladies and gents (and others),  it’s an autographed photo of Wil Wheaton Collating. One of my readers, a gal who calls herself Squirrel, got Wil Wheaton’s autograph for me. For me. Me who did not know her and had done nothing for her personally to deserve such an AMAZEBALLS gift. Not only that, but she went to the trouble to MAKE the card that would only have worked with Wil’s signature as the punchline.

It reads: [card exterior] I didn’t get to go to PAX so all I got was this dang card… [card interior] with a picture of Wil Wheaton collating paper… … and his autograph. AND THERE’S HIS ACTUAL AUTOGRAPH! IN INK!!

She also included a photo of him signing as evidence that he actually signed it (not necessary but so super cool); and a lovely letter telling me a little bit about how PAX was and about how she had lost her mom to cancer at a young age and how she was grateful I had beaten it and that my strength had inspired her to do this small thing for me.

Well, let me tell you, I am grateful that I beat it too – surviving the treatment and beating the disease was more than my pleasure.

But here’s the thing, the really important thing. Just because I “beat” a disease doesn’t make me entitled to anything. It doesn’t mean that I deserve gifts, or special recognition. I was very lucky to be given the ultimate gift of survival and the ability to plan for a realistically long life. Everything else is bonus.

The fact that Squirrel did this amazing thing for a gal she doesn’t even know is inspiring to ME. She has shown to me, once again, that human beings are as individuals, with a few unfortunate exceptions, creatures of good. Get us into groups and things may fall down a little bit (i.e., “mob mentality”). But one to one, we can be pretty awesome.

In an age where the nightly news, our politicians, and corporations are trying to keep us afraid of our own shadows – the best and most important thing we can do is to assume the best of each other, and hold each other to this expectation. Reach out and connect. Do something amazing for someone else, and expect nothing in return.

In other words, Be Awesome; and as Wil says, “Don’t be a dick.”

Thanks for the autograph, inspiration and warm fuzzies, Squirrel. You Rock.

Method to the Mayhem

Some my “nerdlier” readers may already be familiar with the walking mayhem that is Keith Apicary of “Talking Classics”.

But if you’re not, sit down chillun’ and get ready to be edumacated.

So, Keith is this character. And I do mean “character”*. He was once described as a 28 year-old man, with the mind of a 14 year-old boy and the body of your uncle. (If your uncle is tall, wiry, balding and wears large-frame glasses. My own uncle can only lay claim to two of these four things, but I will refrain from saying which two.)

Keith is the subject of an online documentary series (more like “mockumentary”) called Talking Classics. Keith likes, no, LOVES video games. Particularly Sega games of the early-nineties, as well as his most coveted arcade game/machine the NEO-GEO (“four bright buttons and two joy sticks”). He loves them so much he writes rap songs about them, lovingly set to chiptune underscoring.

He is also walking, talking, climbing, crawling, jumping, falling MAYHEM. And. It. Is. Awesome.

This is a guy who is so whacky nuts that he was “forcibly removed” from HIS OWN PANELS at E3, SDCC and PAX East. You might understand a little as to why by watching this:

This last Tuesday he was in Tacoma, WA with his current Apicarnage Tour. He appeared at an arcade that is near and dear to my heart: Dorky’s Barcade. The most awesome arcade ever (in WA). They have classic arcade machines, and pinball and BEER. You can find out more about them HERE.

Even though Keith was a bit late to the venue (due to traffic), it was worth the wait. His show was a fast-paced 45-minute set of his songs with some stand-up comedy filler and TONS of audience participation. I definitely got my workout in for the day, and laughed so hard my face was sore the next day.

He started off in a black jumpsuit, illuminated with ELwire initials “VB” for “Virtual Boy” his opening set piece.

Then he enthusiastically stripped this off to reveal his standard uniform of nineties print sweatshirt and Levi’s 501 jeans.

Diving in to the rest of his set with the energy of a mad man, he climbed over audience members’ heads, swung monkey-like from the overhead sprinkler pipes, grabbed a small boy and thrust him up over his head – like a warrior displaying his latest kill, fell face-first off the stage (tearing his vintage jeans) and danced on the air hockey table adjacent to the performance area. He also managed to get all of us up on our feet, jumping up and down and singing along (to songs most of us didn’t even know).

The fact that he hasn’t seriously injured himself (yet) is a miracle unto itself.

Well, he may have injured his brain...

The show was fantastic and I urge all of you with a sense of humor and a disregard for personal safety to check him out if he comes to an arcade near you. You can check out his tour dates HERE.

And the best part… did I mention… he’s heard of me!! Don’t believe me?? Well, here I present the evidence:

See? I told you he’s heard of me… sort of. Well… he’s heard of me NOW.

*“Keith Apicary” is the insane creation of the immensely talented Nathan Barnatt, formerly of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv comedy group. Nathan stayed in character the entire time. Never dropping once. True professional, amazing to behold.

Coffee Table, Mothertrucker!

I think I may just have to book a flight to Minneapolis just to buy this coffee table

Coffee Table of the Gods

It has so many features that I didn’t realize until just now that I NEED in a coffee table, even though I am neither a cocaine-addict or a porn film director.

Admit it . You’d want this coffee table, too… and the price is definitely right.

I hope I do well on the acquisition quiz…