Friday, June 26, 2015

New Thing #36 ~ Guy Wades Into a Bar....

What's that quote about 'the best laid plans?'

New Thing #34 was my first time traveling to another country: Panama.

(If you're new here, and some of your are, this post is New Thing #36 in the year of Barbie's 50 New Things. If you're anything like me, linear as hell, you might want to click back to the original post and start there. If you're nothing like me, and celebrate disorder, send me your physical address so I can schedule you for an intervention. Either way, thanks for reading!)

Weeks before leaving for Panama, my best laid plan was to incorporate additional New Things into the trip.  At least two.

Um......okay, okay, I confess. The truth is, when I left for Panama I planned to include any New Thing I could possibly manage. Any and all!  (Do not judge me, people!! Time was running short.)

This plan, best laid or not, flew directly in the face of ...
Barbie's 50 New Things Prime Directive
.....something about not lumping multiple New Things together and the Space/Time continuum.
Blah, blah, blah...

Two things I specifically intended to include:   
(#1) Swimming in the Caribbean and (#2) Surfing.

In fact, before leaving Seattle, I was so sure about these two things that I thought of them as foregone conclusiond. Upon arrival in Panama, however, it was clear that things would not go as planned. And that these two things were highly unlikely. Unforeseen circumstances and all.

After being there for a couple days, we rather spontaneously decided to splurge and book a room at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Our dual motivation was to provide Ciara and Ephraim with a get-away from the base where they lived and worked (more details later).
And to have an indulgent vacation-within-a-vacation for Jackie and I.

When we made our reservation, I had no idea what the resort would be like. Although the word 'resort' is often a good sign. And as you may be well aware, I love hotels! So I was quite excited about staying at one in another country.

Soon, we were packed and in the community van.   Then, after ...
  • surviving another perilous and death-defying Panamanian road trip to get there, 
  • checking into the opulent resort
  • drinking our ruby-red, tooty-fruity tropical Welcome beverage, 
  • ooo'ing and aah'ing over our room and the hammock on our balcony,
 ... we finally got to walk around the huge complex, taking it all in. And much to our surprise and delight, we discovered that there was a pool bar. Okay, mostly just my surprise and delight because I knew we'd stumbled upon a New Thing.

Pool bar! We are not talking about a bar in close proximity to a pool. But a bar IN THE POOL!
One that you swim up to and sit on a bar stool that is under the water!
Actually luxuriating IN THE WATER as you sip your umbrella'd cocktail, your cerveza or your repeat ruby-red, tooty-fruity, tropical Welcome beverage !! An opportunity for a New Thing if ever there was one.

"But wait," you say?  "This bar looks suspiciously bare....hmmm."
Well if you think this bar looks completely empty, you're absolutely right! In fact, it was virtually abandoned. We happened to be there during Panama's off-season (Translation: Really frickin' HOT Season). And it turned out that the bar wasn't actually staffed. At least 'officially.' Although we didn't know that at the time. Oddly enough, there wasn't a "No Bartender On Duty" pool sign.

So there we sat, in the pool bar, with no bar service.
"Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink!" (S. T. Coleridge)

We sat in this state of 'Pool Bar Denial' for some time. We chatted and let our feet kick easily under the water. Thinking that maybe, if we sat there long enough, some resort staff member would notice and take pity upon our thirsty tourist faces and come down to serve us ... something. Anything.
Seriously, I'll take tap water! But could it please have a brightly colored umbrella in it?

I'm not sure how long we waited. But at some point, one of us noticed that nearby there were a couple of plastic cups that were half empty (or half full, depending) of something. The cups were clearly abandoned. We decided, for the sake of photo documentation, we'd snag these as props.
"Ephraim, take our picture!"
I mean, technically, the New Thing was being at a pool bar. Drinking, as usual, would be optional. So, we took pictures for the blog. Yay! New Thing #36 done, right?
Come on, you know me better than that.

As it turned out, posing with cups that contained the dregs of someone else's good time didn't feel entirely satisfying. Go figure! It just didn't seem right. Plus, by this time, I really needed a drink.

Eventually, we lucked out and spotted a staff member who said they would send someone out to the pool. We soon placed our order and were sipping ice cold beverages, while sitting on a bar stool in the water. Very cool. Jackie ordered "cerveza," Ciara had a fruity drink that looked a lot like the Welcome beverage. And honestly I can't remember my order. Something with rum, I'm thinking.
Mission accomplished!

My 36th New Thing ~ Drinking at a Pool Bar

And all was right with the world.
Well, 'right,' aside from the blatant violation of my own Mission Statement and a pinkie promise not to combine New Things. Even so, CHEERS!

Along with our time at the bar, we also enjoyed the pool in a more traditional and dignified manner.


Remind me to talk to you more about Jackie's Graduation Nails in later post....

Sequoia napped through the entire Pool Bar photo shoot. 



In the shot below, to the right of those palm fronds, you can see the green roof of the pool bar. 

It was a good day.  How often does one get to shout, "I'll buy a round for the pool?" (This was especially easy since we were the only ones there.)

Post Script:
I was just asked if I was sad not having tried surfing in Panama.
Let's consider the choices, shall we?
Face-plant onto a hard board in shark infested waters.....or.....alcoholic beverage sitting in a resort pool. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Back on Track, Baby!

We'll return to our regularly scheduled program (Panama posts) after this message.

I love Autocross! 
Honest to God!! It's crazy scary and crazy fun.
I've missed it and am so happy to be back at the track. I'm still a COMPLETE novice but having the most amazing time, once again.
Fun & Fear! I'd forgotten just how well they play together.

I wait in the grid of cars, lined up and ready. Behind the wheel of my running car, helmet strapped, inching forward as my turn approaches. The car in front of me pulls up to the start and ...... GOES!
My turn. Shit.
"Are you ready?" says Colin or Darren or Chris.
"Yes," I say. Because, well.... what else am I going to say?
In my head, for the next 40-some seconds, my thoughts chant, "Faster, faster, faster! Just go, go, go. get to the finish. FASTER!" Then as I cross the finish line and brake as hard as I can in order to avoid that line of cones fast approaching, I think, "Dang, that was the finish." It's over.
But then I get to drive back around, line up in the grid and go again. To see if I can go even faster next run. Sweet!

The only tiny, little sad thing about track day is that I don't get any pictures of my runs. When you're participating in Autocross, you do not get to take pictures of this cool experience. You're either driving or you're working the course. Either way, you do not get to stop and take pictures of your favorite cars and drivers, the friends you're making. And what's even less likely is that you'll be able to get pictures of your own runs. Sad.

Through a roundabout way, however, I do know there are some pictures of me driving but the photographer and I have yet to connect so I can get his okay to use some. When I get them, I'll post here. Because frankly, I won't be able to help myself.

Photo documentation is historically an important part of my life. But I haven't done much in the way of picture taking for the past year or so. And I can't really explain that.
I mentioned this to another driver, who, like me, is relatively new to the group. I call him Benicio, for obvious reasons. I express my desire for shots of my car running the course. He also has a nice camera and says he completely understands. We are in agreement and make a pact: next time we're at Track Day together, we'll each sit out to photograph the other during their run. Some glossy 8x10s. His sleek, chromed Audi. My Velocity Red Mazda. Our own version of sexy glamour shots!
Zoom, zoom.

Fortunately, I did manage to grab a few shots of the Fun Run at the end of the day. Fun Run, where all runs are for fun and all cones are killed. (No course workers to resurrect them between runs.)

Very quickly, as I have just a brief moment and few pictures. "A word from our sponsors."

Compared to the little zippy cars, the Mustang looks so big. Tank-like. A burly big brother and not nearly as maneuverable as the little guys. But Mike's Mustang (not pictured here) kicked my ass in the first c-box on the course, every single time!

The GT-R and driver received a lot of adulation and attention. I asked George what was special about this car. He mentioned something about it being the Ironman (or some other superhero) of sports cars. 
A $100,000 Nissan. 

Our location.  
Coming from all over Western Washington, some of the participants drive a couple hours to race. 
I'm lucky; it's just a short drive from my house.

In my rookie Autocross opinion (and I do have one), the Minis and the Mazdas (especially little red ones) seem perfectly designed for Autocross.

I climb into the Mini for a ride with Chris. Michelle leans in before we take off. Something about Chris liking it when you giggle. What?
My feet braced hard against the firewall, holding one handle over my head with white knuckles, my other hand gripping the edge of the seat next to my thigh. 
I am completely silent during the entire course, but the instant we cross the finish line, I squeal like a Beatles' fan when the band first landed on American soil. I rave about what a blast it is and pummel Chris with my thanks, explaining that I have to use Lamaze breathing when I'm riding along in the Mini. He thinks I'm kidding him. 
But I'm not. 
Seriously: "Hee, hee, hee. Hoo, hoo, hoo. Hee, hee, hee."

Michelle ends up with the best time of the day! No surprise to anyone.

One of my instructors: George.

George would be the first to tell you, this course didn't favor his sleek, black Volvo. But he was fun to ride with. 

Here's the deal: I know a lot of words, but for the life of me, I can't seem to arrange them in such a way as to accurately articulate how amazing Autocross is. 

Seriously, the most incredible way to spend a weekend! 
To my two instructors last weekend: VW Chris and Volvo George. 
Thanks guys!! Love, ~ 'Autocross Barbie!'

Friday, May 1, 2015

Breaking News!

If you could have ANY superpower (absolutely not to be used for evil), which would you have? The standard top ten superpowers probably have arguably equal merit.

My personal Dream Superpower has always been Time Travel.
Or at least 'Always' from some time in the early eighties. (At least one pivotal event from college would go differently if I had possessed a top ten superpower or a .357 S & W.)

Time Travel being my true choice, you can imagine how hard it was not to make the title of this post :"Back to the Future."
As it stands, surely there's some Copyright Karmic Credit coming my way.  So I've got that going for me.

This 50 New Things Blog, that I take at my leisure (stopping time), allows me the ability that I so desire! Which includes traveling back in time to report the year of 50 New Things. I can also travel forward  to the present, in order to honor, an exceptional moment that requires timely documentation. Hold onto your Flux Capacitor.

"Live at the scene!"

Taking a real-time break from the 50 New Things reporting, let's go out to the water's edge along Ruston Way.
Happy 3rd Birthday, Miss Sequoia! 
(Or as she sometimes insists on being called, Princess Queen Ballerina Puppy!!)

Three candles on the rare and elusive frosting covered treat. 

 Princess-pink flowers, stripes and bows

Apparently I was the only person who heard the photographer's directive, 
"Do a crazy face!"

Balloons, the beach, frosting, candles, laughter, singing Happy Birthday!
Life gets no better than this!!

Happy Birthday, Magical Pixie Child!!

Now back to you in the studio, Anchor Stud, for continued coverage of the 50 New Things!

Monday, April 20, 2015

35th New Thing ~ Counting Stars

The moment the idea of 50 New Things popped into my head, I began thinking of possibilities. 
And a list was born. Potential New Things to try during the year. 
I love a list, more than most. And this one was particularly satisfying. 

Over the weeks, the list grew to over 100 potential things.

I scribbled down any thing that came to mind. Including those that didn't necessarily appeal to me. Even ones that felt cost prohibitive. Or highly unlikely. Or outright frightening.

The listed items fell naturally into four categories: 

  • Do-able 
  • Affordable
  • Outlandish (Not easily do-able)
  • Expensive. (Even the Ridiculously Expensive.)  

I discovered, contrary to my initial assumptions, that Do-able things are not always Affordable. 
And Outlandish things are not always Expensive. (There’s a sexy Venn Diagram in there somewhere.)

Then over time, another category emerged: the highly unlikely things that, no matter how Affordable or Do-able, could not be orchestrated. I call these the “Right Place at the Right Time” things. 
I'm getting off into the weeds now. "Stay on target..."

Back to the List:

One of the very first things on the early New Thing Wish List was “Stay at a 5-Star Hotel.” 

I love hotels. I love room service. Lavish spa treatments. Unrestrained attention. Beautiful blue-water pools. Hot tubs. Saunas. 

I love complimentary full-service breakfasts and evening wine receptions.  And could you send up the hotel butler to draw a lavender bath for me? Hotel butler, that's a real thing.

Staying in a 5-Star hotel. I imagine it at the very heart of Barbie's Comfort Zone AND something I've never done before. I do believe we've found some sort of sweet spot. Potentially.

It seems easy enough, a 5-Star hotel, but cost prohibitive:  The "Do-able but Expensive" category. I'm afraid this category is an overwhelmingly large part of my list. 

Honestly, I love hotels so much, the only thing keeping me from typing this very post while sitting in the suite of a 5-Star Hotel, is that I can't afford it. Hell, I'd take up residence on the entire top floor of such a  hotel if it weren't for the cost. 

On a relatively related note:
Just a couple weeks before the Panama trip, I was given the unexpected opportunity to stay at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane. (See 32nd New Thing )

That New Thing was being a Union Delegate at the biennial Council Two Convention. 
The convention was held at the Davenport Hotel. And it's where we stayed. 
I was completely unprepared for how beautiful the hotel was. As I took pictures, wandering the Grand Pennington Ballroom, the Hall of Doges, the Elizabethan Room, the Marie Antoinette Ballroom, the underground spa, pool and sauna, it occurred to me, maybe I am not only a first-time union delegate but perhaps, as bonus and a pleasant surprise, I’m staying in a five-star hotel.  

Once back home, having no idea how this hotel star-system works, I did some research. 

Hotel star ratings......  If you can call zoning out while surfing the Internet 'doing research.'
Unfortunately scouring the Internet really did nothing to clear up my confusion. 
(Isn't that always the way.)

Is there an independently administrated organization of star granters? 

Is there a government agency that oversees this rating process? 
Because if not, that would be a cabinet position worth holding, wouldn't it? 
Secretary of Leisure and Mental Wellness.
Or better yet, how about just adding a fourth branch to the American Government Tree? 
Legislative, Judicial, Executive and Luxuriance. (It is a word!)

I’ll accept that job. 
Staying in the most beautiful resorts and hotels. Taking it all in. Gathering and organizing my opinion, writing it out. How was room service this evening? What do I think of the decor of this room? Did I enjoy my spa visit?

Let’s see . . .  are these Egyptian cotton sheets . . .  
A) Softer than, 
B) Not as soft as, 
C) Just as soft as the sheets I slept on last week at that other five-star  resort? 
Hmmmmm, let me snuggle in a little deeper and get back to you on that. 

Regarding the previously mentioned online research, the evidence is a bit fuzzy. But the best guess I could come up with, based on unreliable and ever-changing web sites, was that the Davenport Hotel is usually rated as 4-Star.  ("Missed it by this much...")

Another rather spontaneous hotel stay just a couple weeks after The Davenport, was at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama. 

The place was surreal, especially when juxtaposed to the daily reality of those who live in nearby Chilibre, Paraiso and many parts of Panama City. In fact, as nice as it was, the resort felt a bit like a theme-park feature had been pre-fabbed somewhere on the back-lot of Disney Studios then lowered by an Erickson Skycrane helicopter, snugly into the Panamanian rain forest. Like it didn't really belong there, although I'm glad it was.

Again, once back home, I wondered if that huge resort might be 5-star. 

More surfing in the name of research. Click, click, click... 
Alas, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort was also a 4-Star. (Asterisk, asterisk, asterisk, see small print at the end of this post)

So, even though my true objective was to stay in a 5-Star hotel, that didn't actually happen. 
This could perhaps be seen as a less-than-successful New Thing attempt. But it's my blog and my year of New Things so I make this declaration: 
Staying at two 4-star hotels in less than three weeks counts as staying at one 8-star hotel. 
(4-stars + 4-stars = 8-stars, right?)   Don't agree? Whatever. Moving on.....

During my stay at the second-leg of the 8-Star Hotel New Thing, I was in the blessed company of a magic pixie toddler. This made everything alright, regardless of all else.

5-Stars or not, I've never stayed in a hotel where a hammock was a standard amenity. One on every room's balcony. I love hammocks!

Lots of open-air space, like this bar on the main floor overlooking the pools and a sliver of the Panama Canal.

Some people spend all their time at a luxurious resort just trying to evade the paparazzi. 

Or even better, playing Hide and Seek.

This picture reminds me of Jurassic Park. 

The library felt like a scene out of a Rudyard Kipling novel. Or a Baroness Karen von Blixen tale.

My 35th New Thing ~ Staying in an 8-Star Hotel  
(Is there an emoticon for tongue-in-cheek?)

So staying at the Gamboa Rainforest Resorts helps me to wrap a New Thing within a New Thing. Self-imposed rule breaking abounds!  And I'm not done yet.... (This last pictures is a dead give-away!)

All that asterisk business earlier is about the frustrating fact that the star-rating thing is a fickle bitch. You can search for the star-ratings of any given hotel on any two days and get two or more different results. This post was written a good bit of time after the actual trip and when I searched The Gamboa Rainforest Resort just recently, it was a solid 5-Stars. I give up trying to figure it out. ~ B