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 Sinclairification by Grant Sinclair

Part 5: Reached For A Beer, Glad That Iím Here

01 Nov 2009

In my post entitled The Carry On Challenge, I learned an important lesson in packing light.  Namely, I bring too much stuff with me when I travel.  The differnce between that trip to Buffalo and this trip to California is that when I went to New York, I was bringing a pack full of camera gear.  On this trip, all my camera gear (G11, extra battery, three 4GB memory cards and a cable release) fits into one small camera bag.  The battery charger and Gorilla Pod need to be stored outside the camera bag, of course, and I’m bringing my laptop and its chargers and cables, but it’s still a lot less than with what I usually travel.  Therefore, I can comfortably pack for this trip in one messenger bag and one backpack.

The backpack I packed is a North Face Recon.  You see them everywhere.  I bought mine when I lived in Korea and brought it all over Asia with me.  It’s rugged, roomy and looks cool with all the flags sewn on it.  The messenger bag is a simple Jansport bag.  Nothing canvas or fancy.  Though it is a little bigger than some messenger bags you might see, it’s still small enough to fit under the seat in front of me on a plane.  On this trip, like the trip to Buffalo, I would not be checking bags.  My plan was perfect, but there were two wild cards:

Wild Card 1:
Toilerties: The whole issue with packing all your 3oz or less toiletries in a ziploc bag is a pain in the ass, especially since that includes toothpaste and deodorant.  Also, I’m going to California, so I’m going to need sunscreen.  I don’t even think anyone sells sunscreen in a size smaller than 3 oz, because it’s not enough for most people to use.  Can YOU spread sunscreen all over yourself with less than 3oz?  You can?  Well, good for you.  The rest of us can’t.

And toothpaste!  Really, what are those tiny toothpaste tubes in the travel section good for anyway?  One day?  I do have one of those little tubes (of toothpaste, pervert), but it’s something I keep in my pack for emergencies or long flights.

And for those of us who wear contact lenses, they make 2oz bottles of solution, but you can only get those if you buy a large bottle, or use an off-brand no one’s every heard of .  “Eye-Okay” contact lens solution?  Eh, I don’t think so.

Yes, they make 2oz bottles which are dodgy or hard to find, or 4oz bottles which are one ounce too big! It’s 2009, folks.  Didn’t the contact lens people get the memo?

The tiny shampoo and deodorant, however, last me a long time. 

The travel section at Target. 

They have 3oz tubes of toothpaste by Colgate, and for only $1!  I like Colgate over Crest (and really, any other brand) for one simple reason; the tops of their toothpaste tubes flip open, not screw open.  They must own a patent on this.  Why are flip tops better than twist off tops, you may ask?  If you’ve ever had to crawl behind a toilet in a less-than-sparkling bathroom to retrieve a top to something (that you now don’t want to use because it’s filty), you’ll know why.  The less often I have to do that, the better.

They actually sell 1.5 oz tubes of sunscreen by Banana Boat (in both regular and Sport), but all they had at my local Target was SPF 30.  I believe REI sells SPF 50 in a 3oz bottle.  The 1.5 oz tubes at Target sell for .99, the 3oz tubes at REI are $10.  Do you think if the people at REI knew how much Target was selling sunscreen for they would change the price?  Come on, two 1.5oz tubes at Target for $2 or one 3oz tube at REI for $10?  BONUS: When you finish 1.5oz of the Target stuff, you can throw the bottle away and lighten your load.  Not so with the 3oz REI tube.  At least know you know how to be a smart consumer in these troubled times, sunscreen-wise.  You’re welcome.

Contact Lens Solution
If you have any non-prescription medication (contact lens solution, eye drops, cold medication, etcetera), it MAY be exempt from the TSA’s 3oz rule.  I did a lot of research over weather my 4oz bottle of solution would be allowed on the plane and I couldn’t find a straight answer.  What I did find, though is that if you declare your items before you go through security, you should be okay.  No promises, though.

To declare an item, you just show it to the person at the security line who checks your ticket and ID.  I did this and the security officer replied with a simple, “Uh, okay.”  “Do I need to do anything?  Do you need to write anything on my boarding pass or something to let the security folks know this is okay?”  “Not really,” she said. “You can put it in baggie if you want.”  So I took a plastic bag off the table – courtesy of Atlanta Harstfield/Jackson International Airport – and put my bag of solution inside.  I then went through security without a problem.  Go figure.

Remember, as always to check before you fly, as the rules will have probably changed in the past three minutes.

Wild Card 2: Poster tubes
I’ve never really flown with poster tubes before, so this was a new experience.  I wasn’t selling posters, I planned to buy a few at the show.  I’be been collecting posters of most shows I’ve been to for years and have them from a few Jazz Fests in New Orleans, a bunch of Phish concerts and other shows I’ve been lucky enough to attend.

I bought my first Phish poster at a show in Hampton, Virginia in 1999.  Not long after that, I hit Ebay for posters of the Clifford Ball and Great Went and have a few others.  My most recent purchase was a poster from the Knoxville, Tennesee Phish show.  I like the posters, but there are rules.  One of those rules is that I actually have to have attended that show.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t know when to stop collecting.

Having bought posters at shows, I’ve noticed that the vendor doesn’t always supply a poster tube, leaving the customer stuck.  They bought this nice piece of artwork, but there’s no way to protect it.  Therefore, I’ve started bringing my own tubes and paper to protect the poster.

FYI, the paper is supposed to be larger than the poster.  You wrap the poster in the paper to protect it when it’s in the tube.  If the poster slides while in the tube, the paper gets damaged, not the print.

I could have just brought one tube, but with Phish, you never really know what they’re going to do.  They’ve been known to sell a different print each day, or two different prints the same day.  So I brought four (count ‘em!)  tubes with me to this show.  One large tube, about threee feet long, and three two foot tubes.

And I had a system!  One of the small tubes would go inside the big one and fold under the flap of my messenger bag and the two small tubes would go into the drink mesh on my backpack.  Simple, right?  Sure.

It actually went really well in transport.  The tubes didn’t get in the way of anything, other than being taller than my pack and sticking out a bit too far from my messenger bag.  The trouble, however, was something I really didn’t anticipate (isn’t that where trouble usually happens?).  The 3 foot tube was almost too long to fit in the overhead bin. It just fit, but fit nonetheless.

You may be thinking that overhead bins on airplanes are much longer than three feet, but remember that those bins have a divider inside for some reason.  And like it or not, your carry on has to be smaller than half the size of overhead bin, so three feet at its longest point at the most.  So if there’s one thing I hope you take away from this article, it’s that Target sells 3oz of suncreen for 80% less than REI.  And the overhead divider thing.  And also I’m probably pretty bad at math.

Moving on.

The plan was simple.  Cathy would wake me up around 5:30 AM, even though my alarm was set for 5:15.  I would then sleep on the first flight of the day, from Atlanta to Phoenix.  Because if coach seats on airplanes are known for anything, it’s comfortable sleeping.

Of course, that’s not what happened.  One of the dogs got Cathy up early, so she decided to get a head start on her day and have a shower.  I don’t blame her, and ordinarily I would sleep right through it, but I was in that half-awake/half-asleep/totally pissed off state of mind, mostly because I couldn’t stay awake or sleep, but also because Cathy had the bathroom doors closed, the light on (both totally reasonable when you’re, you know, awake) and the bathroom light was reflecting off a mirror in the bedroom.  And the light was staring at me and I was certain it was the Eye of Sauron.

The good news, though, is that I slept like a baby on the flight from Atlanta to Phoenix.  If you’ve ever tried to sleep on an airplane, you know the previous sentence is a complete lie.

I slept for a little bit, landed in Arizona with out much of a problem, paid too much for Airport Fast Food, then got on the plane to California.  All in all, it went pretty well.

I just want to take a minute here to express my hesitation at booking a flight to Ontario, California, because I wanted to be absolutely sure I wasn’t booking a flight to Ontario, Canada.  Now, I know that Ontario, Canada is a province and airlines don’t fly to provinces or states, they fly to cities, but…still.  And the fact that it says “Ontario, CA” didn’t help much.

Anyhow, once I got on the plane to Ontario, a few things became clear:
1) There would be no sleeping, because
2) Every third person on the plane was heading to the Phish concert and
3) It made the other people on the flight take notice, which was kind of funny.

We all chatted about the upcoming concert, how many shows we attended in the past, other festivals, music, dogs, where we were from, children, jobs, dogs again, etcetera.  The air was full of excitement.  The guy in my row said, “I haven’t slept in a week!” and he looked it.  Not that he looked ragged or bad, but he was really, really excited for the show.

And can you blame him?  Can you blame any of us?  WE’RE IN A RECESSION, PEOPLE, so there isn’t a lot of money or job security for vacations.  Even those folks who do have regular jobs stay close to home during their time away from work and engage in (I hate this word) stay-cations.  It hurts just to type it.

So this is it for a lot of people!  Festival 8 would be the 2009 vacation for a lot of people, which made things a lot more exciting and communal.  I talked to a couple couples (?), one of which said this was their honeymoon, the other said it was their anniversary.  And good for them, if that’s what you’re in to!  I love Phish, but if I tried to take Cathy to a festival for our honeymoon, it probably wouldn’t work.  On our anniversary, maybe, but there would have to be more than just the concert and we would have to stay someplace nice.

I only had a few things I really wanted to do this weekend; see Phish, enjoy the sunshine, buy a poster and go to In-N-Out Burger.  That’s not too much to ask, I don’t think, and the weekend got off to a good start, arriving in Ontario on time with all my luggage and poster tubes.  I met up with the fine people at Valley Music Travel to get my shuttle from the airport to Indian Wells; they checked me in without a problem or asking to see any of the many, many papers I printed out and brought with me because they told me to¸but hey, no harm, no foul.  I got my ticket, my wristband and my seat on the bus.  I’m on vacation and I’m ready to relax.

As soon as the shuttle loaded up and pulled away from the airport, someone started demanding that we stop for beer.  It was an ambitious gesture, especially since it said right in the Phish Festival 8 FAQ that there would be no drinking on the buses or shuttles.  We stopped at the first gas station we saw.

So now we’re all drinking, talking and looking forward to an exciting weekend.  The adrenaline and energy on the bus was amazing.  For some reason, though,  I wasn’t drinking and I don’t know why.  I didn’t buy beer because I didn’t want to drag it all over the place, but there were plenty of people offering and I wasn’t driving.  Odd.

The shuttle pulled into the Indian Wells Hotel and we bewildered Phish fans departed.  Some of us headed to our rooms, some of us to check in for the shuttles to the concert and others to just relax for a while and enjoy the California sun.  I checked in for the Hotel-to-concert shuttle, stopped at the Indian Wells coatcheck (just drop off my two bags and my fleece pullover, won’t need that on this trip, it’s so warm!) and hopped on the next bus to the concert, poster tubes in hand.

Again, the energy was amazing.  There was a lot of excited chatter, some of it about getting to the show and about as much as what it took to get there; time off work, extra hours, extra shifts, overtime; whatever it was, our vacation was about to start.

I was just eager to get in the gates and try to find the posters.  I darted off the bus, ran toward the venue – and was stopped by security.  They made me empty my pockets, looked in my camera bag, looked inside the poster tube and made me remove my ball cap, but for some reason, didn’t ask me about the Gorilla Pod.  Odd.  I had an easier time getting into Cuba.  Anyway, as they’re checking me, they explained, “We’re making sure no one’s bringing in professional cameras.”  I bit my tounge but wanted to tell them that it isn’t the camera that makes it “professional,” it’s the photographer.

I finally get through security, run in some direction and realize; I have no idea where I’m going.  I’m asking people where the merchandise is being sold, but no one seems to know.  It’s well past 4:00 at this point, so I’m sure there are at least a few people who have bought posters, but I’m sure I’ll be able to…oh.

First I saw the line.  Then I saw the merchandise tent.  I didn’t even have to ask, I knew what the line was for; Jim Pollock autographed Phish Festival 8 posters.  I also knew that my chances of getting one were about zero.  But here’s the thing; I was oddly okay with it.  I’m not a poster freak, contrary to what you may think after reading this, but when I saw the impressively long line, I just got in it to see what would happen.  About this time someone noticed my poster tubes and we started chatting.  One of the guys in line was going for drinks and offered to bring some back, so I gave him a five.  We chatted some more, the line didn’t move and it finally hit me that I was at Festival 8. I had been running since 5AM Atlanta time, but now was the time to relax.  The guy came back with the drinks, Phish’s very own Foam beer, brewed specially for the event.  I reached for a beer, glad that I’m here, happy to be on the West Coast again.

After a little while an announcement was made that the posters were gone, but they might have more in tonight, definetly more tomorrow.  I was thinking of being at the gates at Noon when they opened, but thought it would be more fun and more in the spirit of things to just see how it all went.  No rush, no hurry, just relax and enjoy myself.

I eventually made my way to the merchandise counter to have a look around.  There were some other posters there that I liked, so I picked up one of those.  I didn’t get a good look at the Pollock prints, but what I saw didn’t really blow me away like some of his past work.  But this print with the lightbulbs on it – I don’t know what it was – but I liked it, so I bought it.  I also picked up some Pollock Halloween masks, so as far as I was concerned, my souvenier shopping was complete.

I spent the rest of my time wandering around the grounds, talking to people, enjoying the sun and – interesting.  It’s just…nothing.  Nevermind.  Sorry.  Anyway, the air was warm, the day full of possibil – okay, there’s another one.  And another one.  Look, they said no SLR cameras, so how the hell did so many get in here?  As I walked along the grounds of Festival 8, I saw SLR cameras everywhere!  And you know what?  I wasn’t really bothered.  I approached a few people and asked how they got their cameras in and everyone had a different story, but I was looking forward to the challenge of using the G11/Gorrila Pod combination, that I was actually glad I didn’t bring my SLR out here.  What if the people at the gate had told me no?  Then what would I do?  Even if they had said yes, which lenses would I bring?  You see?  This is WAY too much thinking for a Phish conc – er – business trip.  I wanted to relax, not carry a lot and get some good pictures and the G11 is the best camera for the job.  I hope.

Upon looking for a suitable subject to test the new camera and tripod, I headed toward the Ferris wheel. Looking for an interesting point of view, I put the Gorrila Pod on the ground and took a few snaps.  One of the limitations I noticed was that I couldn’t get a full 30 second or bulb exposure like with an SLR.  I was hoping to get the Ferris wheel in full motion, but the G11 did not allow that.  I did get a couple of nice shots that can be seen here, but this one is my favorite:

A more in-depth review of the G11 is coming soon!  Back to the story.

The Gorrila Pod stands only nine inches tall.  Therefore, in order to get the pictures I wanted, I had to lay down on the ground, which had suddenly become slightly damp.  And then I noticed that it had become a bit cool.  And when I looked around, I noticed more and more people wearing hoodies, sweaters and light jackets.  I searched the crowd for other people in shorts, t-shirts or both, hoping I wasn’t the only one dressed inappropriately for the weather, but found few and far between.  Even this guy, who insisted to be photographed, was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but he was also wearing a backpack.  I have ten Lira that says he had a warmer clothing in his bag.

Now would probably be a good time to describe what I was wearing:  Wool socks, travel pants, hiking boots (all protocol for me for travel, always), a T-shirt and a ball cap.  But I would be okay, even though the sun was setting, right?  I mean, after all, I’m originally from New Jersey, I can handle cold weather!

It turns out, I can’t.

It got real cold, real fast and I could feel my cold returning quickly.  I had no choice but to buy a heavy long-sleeved shirt from a vendor.  I wasn’t happy about spending the money, but since my fleece was in the coat check at the hotel, and the show was about to start, I had no choice.  I had come so far, worked so hard and conquered the common cold, literally in the past three days that I couldn’t let this stop me now.  I wasn’t about to be sick OR miss any music.  Buying something was the only way.

And it was totally worth it.

I’m not going to get into the details of a Phish concert – there are plenty of other sites that do that – but I will say that when the band opened the festival with their drum-led New Orleans-esque tune “Party Time,” the place erupted.  A Primal Scream of joy rose from the Festival 8 crowd; there were tears of happiness, dancing and singing.  With the opening number – whose only lyrics are “party time” over and over again – the band was making a statement.  Whatever you came from, whatever you had to do to get here, whatever troubles you have back home, those are gone for now.  Leave it all behind.  Right now, this moment is what counts.  It’s party time!

© 2009

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