I Was an Accomplice!, Sunday, March 5, 2017

My friend Kerry Winston Ward, aka “fulltiltward” on YouTube, posted on Facebook that he had another caper planned for his Corporate Explorer Training (CET) company. The job was going to be Sunday, March 5, at the Palms Resort Casino in Las Vegas, and he was recruiting a team. Three of us from the Los Angeles area volunteered for the job, so on Saturday afternoon I headed for Vegas, picking up aerial specialist Nick Bower in Anaheim Hills and strong-arm specialist Ted Brody in Fontana.


Cheetah, Nick, Kerry, and Ted at a cold and windy breakfast

We arrived in Las Vegas around 8pm, and then killed some time at the Hard Rock Casino until it was time to rendezvous with Kerry, who was flying in from his lair in Cabo San Lucas via San Francisco, at McCarran International Airport. Then it was off to our hideout for the night.

We were being sheltered by Cheetah and Rhiann Platt, who in addition to sheltering notorious miscreants are international jet setters who have a cover providing equipment to aerialists under the name Aerial Essentials. The Platt’s will be setting off on their second biennial Worldwide Wedding tour in April. Their wedding count, I believe, is now up to 58, and will be augmented in the 13 countries on their new itinerary. Rhiann would be joining us on the caper, while Cheetah would be working on ensuring that Aerial Essentials was ready to thrive during the upcoming absence of the principals.


We were up early in the morning, and off to breakfast with Cheetah at The Cracked Egg in Summerlin, where to toughen ourselves up (or maybe because there was a long wait) we ate outside in the frigid wind. As we ate Kerry briefed us on the job–we were going to kidnap Amelia Earhart! No, not THAT Amelia Earhart, but close. This was Amelia Rose Earhart, code-name AER, who had been named after THAT Amelia Earhart, and who circumnavigated the globe piloting a single-engine plane, albeit with a co-pilot.


AER was going to be the keynote speaker at a conference of the National Utility Contractors Association (NUCA). We were masquerading as hotel staff, and our job was to snatch AER after her talk. Then Kerry would lead the assembled multitudes through a series of activities culminating (hopefully) with a rescue of AER. Brilliant plan, and it came off without a hitch! We were lucky that Ted was on the team. As you can see from the picture above, Ted very much stands out within the CET gang, and it turned out that AER in heels was just about as tall as Ted.


Security camera captures the abduction

I am happy to report that after qualifying on the Zing Air Z-Curve Bows (blindfolded, nonetheless), mastering the Two 2×4 Team Slide, and demonstrating proficiency as Police Sketch Artists, the participants were able to decode the Caesar Cipher and rescue Ms. Earhart!

After cleanup it was off to Sushi Kaya where Kerry demonstrated that in addition to being a Master of Ceremonies he is also a master of the all-you-can-eat sushi bar! Nick, Ted, and I then headed back to LA, while Kerry boarded a red-eye to Newark, only to immediately board a plane back to LA to lie low before the next job, a cardboard boat build at USC for students in the Marshall School of Business scheduled for Tuesday.

Got My Mojo Working, OPSS at TRIP, February 25, 2017

There was a considerable span of time in my life when I could be counted on to get the party started. I was that guy who would be the only person out on the dance floor. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, when I was at UCLA and during my early days at LBUSD, I used to go to the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA). I would be the person who coax a young lady out onto an empty dance floor when School Violence (the semi-official AERA dance band) would begin playing to a cavernous hotel ballroom. When my housemate Gene Hurwin’s band, The Vicious Suaves, got a gig at Club Lingerie in Hollywood, 35 people came out to see them. Thirty of them were people I had invited, coaxed, bribed into coming. Bands loved me!! When I was in Sacramento overnight my friend Tito Larriva’s band Tito and Tarantula were playing in town and they invited me up on stage with them.




The last ten years of my working life, when I was sitting way too long at my desk and my car in poisonous environments both at work and at home, took a toll on my confidence level. I have been working on breaking out of the shell I had retreated into, and had a breakout day on Saturday, 2017-02-25.


I started by doing my usual morning workout, followed by a walk to Steelhead Coffee for breakfast and chats, then a walk to Elevation Studios for my Saturday Ballet class. Then it was a long walk over, around, up, down, up again, and around Signal Hill before I walked over to the Fox Coffee House for my afternoon refreshment. By the time that 7:30 pm rolled around I had already walked almost 12 miles, and I had to decide if I wanted to take a trip up to Santa Monica to see my friend Matt Hergert’s band, Ocean Park Sound System (OPSS), play at TRIP. I had some concerns about my endurance level–luckily those fears proved to be unfounded, and OPSS proved to be the perfect antidote for a mojo deficiency!


Ocean Park Sound System at TRIP

Ocean Park Sound System is the love child of a very talented aggregation of mostly middle-aged professionals reliving the musical dreams they were pursuing before they were side-tracked by the necessity of working for a living. Not only have they retained the enthusiasm and skills of their youth, but like fine wines they have improved with time!


The members of OPSS are:
Miles Feldman – Bass/vocals
John Lusitana – Guitar/vocals
Malcolm Shaner – Keyboards/vocals
Matt Hergert – Drums/vocals
Amanda Lillard – vocals
 Among the members of the band are one physician, a lawyer, a fashion designer, a legal assistant, an entertainment technology professional, and a surfer who dabbles in film and audio production when he isn’t playing live gigs around town. Together they are the ultimate party band and one that has my body moving from the first beat! I am a firm believer in the principle that a good band deserves to have people on the dance floor from start to finish, and true to that belief I managed do coax Jane onto the floor for the first few dances; when she tired the indefatigable Nancy stepped up to the plate and finished out the set. Thank you ladies!!

According to their bio, OPSS plays “Retro-Funk, Reggae and Dance Rock for your head and your body”, and “…was formed out of the surf lineup and dragging in friends and neighbors to create an analog, organic groove band.” That is a characterization that I can wholly agree with and captures the essence of the band quite well. I did capture a bit of video, but I unfortunately did not do an adequate job of capturing lead guitarist John Lusitano’s famous solo faces. I will do a better job next time, I promise!

Let’s see, what else has transpired since last we met? On Friday, 2/17, we had another big rain day. I was taking a nap at the height of the storm when I heard a “whommp” from my window. When I opened the front door to see what the noise came from, this is what met my eye…
The driver of the car was very lucky as the tree missed his vehicle by just inches. Chestnut street was blocked by the tree for almost 24 hours before a city tree removal team showed up to take care of it. They had been very busy as they had 160 trees down in Long Beach from the storm.

Jackson Wagner, Jesse Schade, and Rommel Sacan at Fox Coffee House Open Mic


Ben King

Good things have been happening at the last couple of Fox Coffee House Thursday Open Mics. The highlight for me has been a couple of collaborations between Jesse Schade and Rommel Sacan. Jesse and Rommel are two regulars, and on the last Thursday they were joined by new player Jackson Wagner. I think that we may be seeing the birth of new band, and I am looking forward to hearing more from these young men. Biweekly Saturday open mics at the Fox will resume on March 4, complete with featured performers. This weeks featured guest will be the always entertaining and very gifted guitarist Ben King.
 On Wednesday, 2/22, I took a train ride to downtown Los Angeles to the Last Bookstore for an event celebrating the release of the first novel by friend Jamie Mayer. Her book is titled Painless, and features the trials and tribulations of an 18 year old boy who was born with a neurological condition that makes him unable to feel any physical pain. The event was great, and the Last Bookstore is a very cool place to visit. It sprawls over two floors of an old bank building at Spring and 5th streets, and the highlight was a journey through the Labyrinth, followed by my passage through the Tunnel of Books!