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Posts Tagged ‘horses’

Today In Tucson

November 8th, 2007 No comments

I’m writing from the floor of the American Public Television Fall Marketplace in Tucson. APT is one of several public television program suppliers, and once a year they invite programmers and producers to meet and view the latest offerings. In comparison to the big PBS meeting, APT tends to have a bit less star power; most of the celebrities have been second-tier TV chefs and the like. Still, that means that the food is especially good!

I’ve never been to Arizona before outside of a drive-by on my way to the West Coast, and I have to admit that I’m digging it. It’s not someplace I’d want to live, but I like Southwestern architecture, and the giant Saguaro cacti are really cool. Haven’t seen any of the local wildlife outside of a lone road runner, but considering the prevalence of snakes, spiders and scorpions, maybe that’s just as well.

In addition to program screenings, there are a lot of dinners and receptions, and–because it’s being held in a resort hotel–other extracurricular entertainment opportunities. I took a little time today to go horseback riding. And yes, that’s the first time in my life I’ve had call to type the preceding sentence. I’ve never been at all outdoorsy, but I had such a good time with the horses during last month’s Lincoln shoot that I wanted to try it again. The fact that I’d be doing so among the desert terrain was a bonus.

Tonight I stopped by the Bob Ross painting booth for an impromptu lesson. I’d done a couple of paintings at past conferences, but I’d never been that pleased with the results. This time, however, my mountains were perky and my “happy little tree” turned out pretty darned happy. I don’t have a scan for you right now, but I’m told that they’re going to mail my masterpiece to me once it dries out.

I’ll be heading home Saturday. Hopefully I’ll have better luck with my air travel than I did on the way out. My plane left some 40 minutes late from Champaign, then as it was about to land in Chicago–literally a few hundred feet from the runway–it abruptly lifted off again and did a big loop around. Not sure if there was something else on the runway or whether the crosswinds were just too strong, but by the time I landed, I had less than 15 minutes before my connecting flight took off. And, of course, it was on time. And, of course, it was at the very end of a completely different terminal.

Suddenly, I was in The Amazing Race, tearing like hell through O’Hare Airport. As you might imagine, I am terribly out of shape, and it wasn’t long before I had to stop running and settle for a fast walk punctuated by much gasping for air. I stumbled up to the gate, wheezing, and…I was just in time. They closed the jetway door just after me. Took me half an hour to stop coughing, plus I wound up in the one seat on the entire plane with a crying baby behind (I have never wanted to punch a baby as much as I did at that moment), but at least I made the damned plane. I hate air travel, and connecting through O’Hare is one of the main reasons why.

For now, though, I’m having a good time here in Tucson. I’ll be back with my regular randomness soon.

Bonus Photo!

October 18th, 2007 No comments

Here’s a bonus photo of Lincoln and his fellow lawyers from Monday’s shoot. By the way, I’ve been posting these in sepia tone because that’s the way the scenes will appear in the documentary segments. History is rarely in full color.

I believe that the car in the background is also a Lincoln.

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What I’ve Been Up To

October 18th, 2007 No comments

The last week has found me gone more often than not, due to my involvement in several WILL events. I’ve spent most of that time in costume, as either a monkey or an 1850s lawyer. Unfortunately, my attempt to merge the two–for a proposed pilot entitled Antebellum Monkey Law & Order–was met with skepticism.

Last week, the Curious George costume returned to WILL for another round of personal appearances at local events. Of all the various kids’ show characters I’ve inhabited over the years–Cookie Monster; Purple Panda; Arthur the aardvark; Clifford the big, red dog–Curious George is my favorite. That’s partially for the practical reason of having fingers instead of paws. George is also highly recognizable among the younger set, and I enjoy the unconditional love. Finally, as everyone knows, monkey = comedy gold. Pretty much anything one does in a monkey suit is going to be funny.

I spent a couple of nights last week at Decatur’s Scovill Zoo for their Halloween-themed “Boo at the Zoo” nights. I’d never been to Scovill before, and I was surprised to find such a charming, little zoo tucked into Central Illinois. By the time I got out of the George suit to take a look around it was pretty dark, but the wolves and owls were active and that was pleasantly creepy.

For the past several days, I left behind the monkey shines and traveled back to the 1850s for a WILL documentary project on Abraham Lincoln’s time working the 8th Illinois Circuit Court. We’re shooting a number of segments for our Prairie Fire series, set to air in February 2009 to coincide with the Lincoln bicentennial, and I was asked to portray one of his fellow lawyers in the historical recreation sequences.

The location shoot took place at Funks Grove, a historic park a little south of Bloomington, with an old church standing in for a court house. We had a semi-professional Lincoln portrayer (a viable job here in Illinois, whose state motto is “Lincoln! Lincoln! Lincoln!”) for the man himself, and every body we could dig up to stand in for the various lawyers and townspeople.

When the producers told me I’d be riding a horse, I was concerned. I’d been on one precisely twice before, excluding pony rides, and the first time did not go well at all. As a teenager, my dad and I tried one of those riding ranches during a Colorado vacation, and between my utter lack of horsemanship and my mount’s stubbornness, it was either full stop or full gallop.

Fortunately, on this occasion the trainers took my reluctance and inexperience into account, and paired me with an easygoing Arabian. I had trouble steering her, but as long as she was following other horses I had little trouble. Well, there was the time when Lincoln got way out in front and she took off at what was probably a modest canter but felt like full steam ahead while I clung on trying to remember the word “whoa.”

After three hours on horseback the first day–my stay atop her extended so that I could appear more comfortable in my riding posture–I was in a fair amount of pain that evening. They’re really not kidding about “saddle sore.”

Yesterday I wound up with a different horse, one which I found much easier to steer. We had to do a number of group passes in front of the “court house” for a crowd scene. By the time I had to dismount, I was surprised to find myself rather comfortable and even disappointed that I was done riding. It was a good feeling to know that I had done something well outside my comfort zone and even managed to do it pretty well.

I’m back in the office today, but I enjoyed my time in land of Lincoln. Maybe next time we can find a way to work in Curious George.