Thursday, December 31, 2009

Excitement about Friday's Rose Parade

Well tomorrow is the big day, the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. I'm looking forward to seeing the Rose Parade and all the beautiful flower-covered floats. But as I mentioned yesterday I'm really excited to see The Natural Balance Pet Food float, featuring Tillman and four other bulldogs snowboarding on the float. It's not just any float, it was just certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the Longest Parade Float in history! I plan to Tweet live from Pasadena, so feel free to follow my coverage commentary on Friday morning, starting at 6:30 AM (pacific). I hope you can watch the parade on TV and see this amazing float. One of colleagues wrote an interesting post about it all on the PETCO blog today too. Here is another behind the scenes video that was on the morning news recently:

KTLA 5 Morning News Interviews - Natural Balance Part 2 from Natural Balance on Vimeo.

Oh- one other thing. I'd appreciate it if on Friday morning, after the Parade, you would log on and vote for the Natural Balance float as your favorite. Just click here

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Rose Parade this Friday- Watch and Win!

OK so I should let you know in advance that the next few days I'm going to be posting a fair amount about the Rose Parade and Tillman the skateboarding bulldog. I'm doing this for a few reasons: First, I'll be attending the Rose Parade Friday morning in Pasadena, CA and will be in the viewing stands along with everyone else. Second, my company is participating in the fun and will be giving away some awesome prizes to people who follow along online or on the parade route. Finally, I'm going to write about it because I'm psyched about seeing the World's Biggest Parade Float (a rendition is above). The float will have a ski slope- with active chair lifts so four different bulldogs can snowboard down the slope during the parade. Tillman, the famous skateboarding bulldog will be joined by Rose, Lyle, Niki and Tank all of whom love to snowboard! It's really quite amazing to watch these dogs in action.

above: they took the float for a test spin last week. Right now they are busy covering it with all the flowers for Friday's Tournament of Roses Parade. Check out this video below:

KTLA 5 Morning News Interviews - Natural Balance Part 1 from Natural Balance on Vimeo.


I copied the following information directly from my company blog:

My company is bringing the experience live to all of you through the company blog, twitter, and facebook and giving away over $1000 in prizes. There will be many chances to win BIG—as BIG as Tillman’s fan base, as BIG as the total number of kibbles that Natural Balance makes every year for our pets, as BIG as the float itself! It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for since the announcement, how YOU can win!

Follow these 3 steps for your chance to win:

1) Follow us on Twitter, Fan us on Facebook:

2) Keep a close eye on our social sites during the parade and Tune in to the Rose Parade on your television on New Year’s Day on one of the following networks (Check Your Local Listings for exact air times):

  • ABC
  • Hallmark Channel
  • HGTV
  • KTLA (Tribune)
  • NBC
  • RFD-TV
  • Travel Channel
  • Univision

3) We’ll be asking questions and announcing ways where you can win on our social sites. Watch and watch closely. There will be some clues in tomorrow’s and Friday’s blog posts (wink, wink)!

Attending the parade in person? Make a sign that says “Tillman Shops at PETCO” with your twitter username. Hold it high above your head as the Natural Balance float comes by. If we see your sign, we’ll tweet you live from the float and you could win big time!

Now on to the goodies! What can you win? How about a year’s supply of Natural Balance FoodNew Tillman Tips Treats? Limited Tillman and Rose Plush Toys? Or A PETCO gift card to spoil your pet’s in any way you’d like? (yes, an entire year of food for your pooch or kitty)? The

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It Was A Very Merry Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone; with a heap of fond memories and a list of things for which I am grateful. I often remind myself in life to savor the good times, appreciate all the little things and live in the moment. I consider myself especially fortunate to have learned some important life lessons earlier than most. Having lost my dad at a young age I learned to appreciate each day and take time to smell the roses. I was reminded of this again yesterday when I saw one of the floral Christmas centerpieces at my friend Amanda's home yesterday. It had roses, orchids, holly and evergreens. Indeed I did smell the roses, they were beautiful. But the roses were a life metaphor and caused me to pause for a moment and reflect on the year. I was at a Christmas day gathering, sitting outside admiring a beautiful vista of the desert floor below. Yet for a few moments I was alone with my thoughts, pondering the past twelve months and placing it all in perspective. I hadn't planned to be so introspective at this particular moment, maybe it was the rush of sugar from the eclairs I had consumed sending me into a blissful zen-like state. I smiled to myself as I realized how fortunate I am at this point in life. So I quietly gave thanks, especially for these deserts below:

above: Check out these incredible deserts. There were loads of others too, but these caught my eye the moment I walked into my friend Amanda and Gordan's home!

above: A few hummingbirds actually flew into the house earlier. One eventually made his way to the feeder hanging just outside the door. I managed to get this photo- they are so quick!

above: During a white elephant gift exchange I received a snuggie in leopard print. I have to say, it is really pretty neat. I love things like this.

above: later we found young Duncan was all snuggled up asleep with his Christmas Penguin toy. It was such a cute photo.
We did a bit of house-hopping, visiting friends on Christmas day, and then returned home for our own holiday dinner with friends. We sat by the fireplace and the Christmas tree, enjoying holiday music as we exchanged presents with our friends. I put out my spread of food so we could enjoy our wine. After dinner we watched Julie & Julia- which I enjoyed thoroughly! When our friends left to go home, and I sat by the fire with John to unwind, I decided it had been a very Merry Christmas.
-Rick Rockhill

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Wacky Christmas Eve

There are lots of ways to spend Christmas Eve in Palm Springs. Our friends Ben and Natalie are in the desert for the holidays, so we spent some time together making merry and sharing a few laughs. We always have fun when we get together; some of you may recall the post I wrote from their last visit in March. I've known Ben for ages, back when we worked together in San Diego. His wife Natalie is a super sweet gal too. Anyway, we stopped for lunch at Kaiser Grill on Palm Canyon Drive. It was nice enough to dine on the patio and watch all the action walk past the restaurant. By the looks of it, it seems as though there are a lot of tourists in Palm Springs for Christmas. We love to see tourists. And snow birds too. They spend money and keep the shops happy. Speaking of shops, after lunch we did a bit of shopping. Natalie was on a mission for a few things, and any sensible man knows never to get between woman on a shopping mission and her stores. We stopped into Desert Hatter, a cool store that sells- you guessed it, hats. They sell just about every sort of hat you could want. Even those you never knew you wanted. Or needed. Take, for instance the hats in this photo above. We all picked out crazy Christmas themed hats. I thought it made a fun photo, don't you think? Wishing you a Merry Christmas Eve....
-Rick Rockhill

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Palm Springs Christmas Tree

Christmas is such a festive time of year. I love to drive around and see all the lights on houses, trees and shrubs. Like most cities and towns around the world, Palm Springs has its own Christmas tree in front of city hall. It is a wonderful sight to see, with loads of tiny white lights from top to bottom, with a lovely lighted star at the very pinnacle. You'll notice in this photo that our tree has wires to brace it against any crazy winds that occasionally blow through the Coachella Valley. I believe the tree is just over 22 feet tall- almost as tall as the flagpole! At the tree lighting ceremony a few weeks ago, Santa Claus made an appearance to join in the fun, along with the Palm Springs high school choir. The lighting ceremony also featured free hot cocoa and cookies and horse drawn carriage rides too. These are the kinds of things that give a city a sense of community spirit and connectedness. For a brief moment in time, folks forgot who was Republican and who was Democrat. Who was white, black, Hispanic, straight, gay, young or old, super rich, wealthy or poor. Our Christmas tree is a unifying symbol in our wonderful community, of which I am quite proud.

above: The Palm Springs city hall Christmas tree went "green" this year, because it was decorated with LED (Light Emitting Diode) energy efficient lights. These lights use up to 90 percent less energy, so they are better than a normal city hall Christmas tree. I read somewhere that in California, there is some law going into effect in a year or two that will ban the sale of non-LED Christmas lights, to help the state consume less energy and go green. So Palm Springs is ahead of the trend. Does your city or town have green Christmas tree? If not, write to the Mayor and make the suggestion for next year! Oh- by the way, its getting close to Christmas, are you all ready?
-Rick Rockhill

Monday, December 21, 2009

Santa Comes to Palm Springs

Santa Claus made a special visit to Palm Springs yesterday. Our local newspaper The Desert Sun reported on the event and took these photos. It was the fifth year in a row that Santa made the trip to our desert to hand out gifts to kids at the Palm Springs Air Museum. With the dramatic backdrop of our beautiful San Jacinto mountains, Santa's helicopter touched down amid excitement and buzz of the locals. His presence has gotten everyone in the Christmas spirit here in the desert, especially the kids!

above: another photo from The Desert Sun, showing Santa greeting a little boy during his visit. Its great when the magic of Christmas affects people so positively. Of course the religious aspect of Christmas is most important, but for little kids, this sure brings it all to life.
Happy Holidays!
-Rick Rockhill

Sunday, December 20, 2009

When Friends Do Stupid Things...

Ever had a friend do something so stupid you just wince or cringe? Something so heinous that there is no excuse for their behavior? Well I have a friend who did just that. This is about someone I've known for a number of years who did something really awful to someone close to them. Just to be clear, it isn't me. I have nothing to do with it. However, word came to me that my friend was involved in something really stupid, idiotic and just plain bad. I wouldn't dream of making excuses for this friend, nor would I try to defend their behavior. However I do believe this friend has some demons to deal with. What's tough is the recipient of my friend's awful actions is a genuinely good person, who has reached the end of their rope. In other words- this was the last time the other person would put up with my friend's behavior. When I first heard of this matter, at first I was angry with my friend. This person should know external influence took over and resulted in actions that have now changed another person's life. It is a really tough situation for all involved, with some potentially messy implications. Oh its a mess alright. Selfishly, I have nothing to do with it, and technically am not involved. Yet I hurt inside, feeling incredibly bad for both individuals involved. I feel incredibly bad for the "victim" in this situation, it is someone I really respect a great deal. As I mentioned, this person's life is now changed forever. I'm sure this person will bounce back over time, but it is going to linger for some time. I feel helpless in that I cannot help either person. I want to yell at my friend and tell them what a jerk they are. It is going to be a rough patch for these two individuals-and others involved. When I think about what happened I actually wince in discomfort. There is no excuse for my friend's behavior and I intend to really come down hard about it. At the same time I also recognize there is a person inside who needs help. I'm struggling how to handle my anger, disappointment and frustration. It's really a mess on many levels. I apologize I can't be more specific but it's best I keep this vague. So this is nothing more than me venting. Thanks for reading and "listening"
-Rick Rockhill

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Sofa for The Poodles...

Our back patio sitting area has some super comfy outdoor furniture. Especially in the "cooler" months we love to sit outside with the fireplace going enjoying a nice glass of wine under the dark desert sky. The other night was particularly beautiful, so I headed to the patio to enjoy the view of the stars. Sheldon and Duncan, however beat me to the comfy love seat sofa and jumped right on up together. I had to smoosh them together so there would be enough room for me. I looked at the other pieces of furniture on the patio. One is a glider love seat, no comfy cushions. The other is one of those bobbing spring chairs-no comfy cushion either. The Poodles sure are smart. They picked the most comfortable sofa for themselves to share and enjoy the great outdoors too. Fortunately for me, they love company and have no problem sharing. So there I sat, on the Poodle Sofa and realized how lucky I was to have been adopted by these two wonderful creatures that are so much more than just pets. They are truly part of the family.
-Rick Rockhill

Friday, December 18, 2009

Book Release Party for Uncharted Waters, by Anthony Zolezzi

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a release party for "Uncharted Waters" a new book by one of my famous author friends, Anthony Zolezzi. Anthony is a respected entrepreneur who specializes in sustainable, eco-friendly and organic business endeavors. I've known Anthony for several years and never cease to be impressed by his creativity and commitment to the planet. He is a true innovator, whose personal life choices and business dealings continue to make contributions to the planet's health. Zolezzi has co-authored five books, and has been interviewed by major news networks over the years. A former Chairman for The Organic Center for Education and Promotion Anthony has truly helped shape the organic human products industry here in the US. Aside from his impressive career accomplishments, he is a really fun guy who I'm proud to consider a friend. The book release party was held at the beautiful La Valencia Hotel in scenic La Jolla, overlooking the grand Pacific Ocean. It was an appropriate spot for the party on several levels. Anthony grew up in San Diego, son of a fishing family. His book Uncharted Waters is about lessons he has learned from being a kid working on his father's boats, right on through his adult career working in boardrooms in both corporate and non-profit organizations. It is an inspirational read, with very real stories to which virtually anyone can relate. The book is packed with "fisherman's philosophies", great advice and messages to people who seek to chart their own course in business, whether in a large corporation or on your own. Chapters titled "Know that you're going to catch fish" and "The Albatross, a blessing in disguise" are aptly named. Uncharted Waters reads like the author is speaking to you personally, and is very credible. The official release isn't until March 2010, but you can see a preview on Amazon or at his website,

above: Anthony signs a copy of his book for me, while the fabulous Melissa McGinnis, of fame stands by.

above: the terrace was beautifully decorated...

above: The nautical/fisherman theme was carried throughout, this anchor ice sculpture was surrounded by a bed of lobster, crab and shrimp in the buffet. It was a fun evening filled with friends, family and food. I'm grateful to call Anthony a friend from whom I will continue to learn and grow. I'll follow the advice in his chapter entitled "Do something to change your luck" and do just that. Thanks, Anthony for giving us another great read.
-Rick Rockhill

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Night with Rita Rudner and Jennifer Hudson

This past Tuesday, our local arts venue, the McCallum Theatre held their annual fund raising Gala event. Its an important event for our theatre to generate support and funding to kick off its season each year. Tickets included dinner at one of several local restaurants followed by a performance by comedienne Rita Rudner and Oscar-winning singer-actress Jennifer Hudson. Rita Rudner is a friend of our theatre; before she started her show in Las Vegas, Rita lived in the Palm Springs area, and was a former spokesperson for us. Rita was quite funny, she performed for over 45 minutes, and kept the crowd laughing heartily. She weaved in several local references, holiday stories along with some really funny jokes from her Vegas act. She is a class act, appropriate for any audience and a lot of fun, I'd recommend seeing her if you ever get to Las Vegas.
This was Miss Hudson's first public performance in our desert, although I had the privilege of hearing her perform at a private house party in Palm Springs a few years ago. Jennifer Hudson is still quite young, having gained initial notoriety from competing on American Idol a few years ago. She is hard at work building her career, recording several albums, and performing in films such as Dreamgirls and Sex in the City. Listening to Jennifer Hudson perform and hearing her speak its clear she is a very sweet young woman. Very personable and appreciative of her audience. After her first song, One Night Only, she greeted us by saying "I'm so happy to be here signing for y'all tonight". It was very genuine and down to earth.

Miss Hudson is still early in her career, developing a stage act of her own and finding her comfort zone. Yet she can clearly sing. She showed tremendous range and emotional depth with songs like “Invisible,” “I Love U I Do” and a commanding version of “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going.” Despite a tough economy, the evening was a success, raising over $900,000 that evening. In addition to running the theatre, the McCallum's Education department has now worked with 40,000 students to teach music programs and fostering an interest in the arts.

There have been countless studies about the positive impact music and the arts has on kids. We're lucky to have a generous community that supports our theatre and the education programs to ensure our children have a place to learn and appreciate the arts for generations to come.
-Rick Rockhill

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Five Guys Really Know How to Make a Burger!

When I was in Miami last week I stumbled on a "Five Guys" restaurant location on Washington Street. I'd heard of Five Guys from the news media coverage when the president makes his jaunts to a local Five Guys joint close to the White House, but I had never even seen one before. So when I saw the sign I decided I had to check it out and decide for myself if they are worth the hype. Living in Southern California, our local favorite for fast food burgers is a family-owned chain called In-N-Out Burger. They are legendary here, and really delicious too. So in I went to see what it was all about.

Have you ever gone into a place that had a reputation of having a particular type of menu that only the locals know how to order from? That's how In N Out is here in So Cal. There is a semi-secret menu of ways you can order a burger that is part of the lore of eating at In N Out. I suspect the same is true for Five Guys. I stared at the menu wondering what the trick was to ordering here. To keep things simple I just asked for a cheeseburger. She shouted back to the grill guys something about a double. Before I knew it I had ordered my cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onions ketchup and mustard. "AND MUSTARD?" She asked? Yes, I want both ketchup and mustard I confirmed. She peddled fries on me as well. I sat and waited while they cooked to order. The folks in the kitchen called out to each other all sorts of commands and secret kitchen talk. Soon my order was called and I excitedly collected my order. The fries were huge, sitting in a Styrofoam cup within a brown paper bag. They were really greasy. I hated the idea of a Styrofoam cup- it seemed so bad for the environment these days. What IS Styrofoam anyway? The burger, however was quite delicious. I savored every bite and decided Five Guys burgers were every bit as good as In N Out. Their fries however were not nearly as good, so in the end I shall remain a fiercely loyal West Coast In N Out boy. It was still fun to experience something new and share my fast food cuisine with you here. So for those of you who imagine (incorrectly) that I only eat grass fed organic beef filet in fancy restaurants, well that's only partly true. I love a good fast food burger from time to time. At least now I know where to get one when I am back on the East Coast.
-Rick Rockhill

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guide Dogs of the Desert Hero's Brunch

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the 3rd Annual Guide Dogs Heroes Brunch. Thanks to the generosity of several major donors, the cost of brunch was completely underwritten so all proceeds help to continue to the mission of the organization. I am personally interested in what the Guide Dogs group does, but also from a business standpoint, my company helps raise and donate money for them as well. Guide Dogs of the Desert's website explains that their mission is to "improve the lives of the blind by creating opportunities for life-changing independence, and by conducting community outreach and education programs." I've had the privilege of being involved with this group for several years now and find it so inspiring. This year they chose to honor my company and our foundation, along with Natural Balance dog food for our joint partnership in support of Guide Dog schools across the country. So I attended in an official capacity representing my company to accept their award. I was humbled by their appreciation and felt so pleased to be affiliated with this great organization.

above: the invitation to the Guide Dogs Heroes brunch

above: A fun moment on stage when two guide dogs have a social moment together. Later in the presentation we heard from a visually impaired person who received a guide dog. He described how he had late onset of an eye disorder where he had full vision until his forties-and then lost his sight. Imagine how that would affect you? With a guide dog, he us now able to continue to work, travel for his job and not only continue to support himself but contribute to society as well. It is difficult to imagine until you hear from someone who shares their story with you. This Heroes Brunch did exactly that, elevated the status of these wonderful dogs who become heroes for people everyday.

above: This guide dog-in-training, "Bailey" was all tuckered out, and took a moment to relax during the presentation.

above: this is the beautiful award from the Guide Dogs of the Desert. I accepted it on behalf of my company and was humbled by their appreciation. If you ever have an opportunity to attend a graduation ceremony at a guide dog school near where you live, do yourself the favor and attend. They are free to attend and open to the public- it will really move and inspire you in many ways. If you want to help Guide Dogs of the Desert in some way, click here.

-Rick Rockhill

Sunday, December 13, 2009

It's a Swingin' Christmas Season in Palm Springs

The holiday season is well underway here, with all sorts of festivities happening. Last night we attended a great party at the new offices of Integrated Wealth Management, owned by a close friend of ours who throws this party for his clients. I didn't take a lot of photos, as a courtesy to the other guests; some of whom are high profile individuals who prefer their privacy. (Being The Palm Springs Savant, I exercise the utmost discretion at such occasions). The entire office is super modern, mostly glass with a black and white decor. The Christmas tree was white, with black and silver decorations, which worked well with the office style. I was particularly excited to find Candy Cane Martinis being served at the bar. In addition to a mini candy cane hanging on the rim of the glass, it also had a chuck of dry ice to make the martini bubble, smoke and smoulder. It seemed appropriate to stop for a fresh photo in my signature martini pose, what do you think?. The camera didn't quite capture the smoke rising from the glass, but you get the idea.

above: The table was beautifully decorated with white orchids in huge martini glasses as center-pieces. There was a fabulous spread of party munchies; fresh fruits, cheeses, delicious local dates, finger sandwiches and nibbly-things on sticks too. All sorts of delicious hot hors d'ouevres were passed on trays all night, one of my favorites were some mini puff pastry cups with goats cheese with caramelized onions. Mmmm!

above: The host asked guests to bring an unwrapped toy, which will donated to Olive Crest, an organization here in the Coachella Valley that helps abused, neglected or at-risk kids and their families. As a side note, Olive Crest shared a stat that every 10 seconds in America, a child experiences some type of abuse, including rape, physical and psychological abuse. It's great that there are non-profit organizations like Olive Crest who are there to help these kids. It was really nice to see the toys all piled up; hopefully these will make some families a little brighter. In the photo above, check out woman standing near the tree. She is a friend of mine, but I took the photo from an angle that would not reveal her identity...but some of you might recognize her. At any rate she was dressed like a true fashion diva in shiny black patent leather.

above: Take a closer look at these black patent leather boots she had on, aren't they fun? I imagine these high boots sure kept her legs warm. Our chilly winter nights don't stand in the way of ladies still being the height of fashion in Palm Springs.

above: these were the little gift boxed given to guests as they left. Cute boxes with delicious decorated sugar cookes! It sure made the ride home fun!
-Rick Rockhill

Friday, December 11, 2009

Rick's Roadshow: Photos From Miami Beach

It's been awhile since I've had an installment of Rick's Roadshow, so during my recent business trip to Miami I managed to squeeze in a few photos in between my work obligations. I've always been an early riser, so in order to maximize my time in Miami Beach I went out for early morning walks on the beach. I brought my camera on the way to Starbucks so I could snap the odd photo here or there. So Voila! I present Rick's Roadshow: Photos from Miami Beach for my loyal blogger friends!
Many years ago, when I lived in Chicago, Miami was the place I would go in the winter months to escape the cold. Some close friends had a condo there, and they were kind enough to invite me quite regularly. I also brought my grandmother to Miami on vacation a few times and she loved South Beach as much as I did. So its a place that has lots of happy memories for me. In case you didn't know, Miami Beach is known for its fabulous Art Deco style buildings (see the first photo above left). Here are a few more photos that depict the style further:

above: don't you just love the curve of this building, and the round port-hole windows?

above: a corner on Espanola Way

above: the beginning of Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. If you look closely you'll see the vertical waterfall of glass to the left of the rectangular water pool.

above: On Lincoln Road, there are these fun water fountains with mid-century modern style designs.

above: Lincoln Road has more restaurants that you could possibly imagine. I love dining al fresco!

The View from My Hotel

above: Isn't this a killer view? I've always loved being in Miami Beach!

above: the pool at the hotel. Just beyond it, a few steps away is the beach and the Atlantic Ocean

above: the pool has these great private cabana tents...

above: the hotel has two towers. This is the one I stayed in, with a spa on the ground level. We had lunch on this grassy lawn one day.

above: The view from the beach, looking back in-land toward the hotel. The big tower on the right is the main structure of the Loew's, and the smaller one to its left is the same one in the photo above this one (with the grassy lawn).
It was great to be back in Miami Beach, I only wish I hadn't been there alone!
-Rick Rockhill

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Can You Guess?

Earlier this week I was in Miami on business. I took a bunch of photos at various points headed to and from meetings. I'll post the fun photos tomorrow, but for today I thought it might be fun to test your powers of observation with these two photos. All you need to do it try to guess what time it was (approximately) in each of these two photos. The only clues I will give you are:
Both photos were taken this week, in Miami Beach, Florida. Leave your comments with your guess on time of day for each photo as indicated:

above: Photo #1

above: Photo #2
Good Luck!
Update: The correct times of each photo are: #1 5:01 AM and #2 11:14 AM. A lot of you were close, good judge of the sun's position!
-Rick Rockhill

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Travel Tales: Journey to My-Yammy

*The following is true account.*
Travel has always been a component of my job throughout my career. When you combine my work-related travel with my personal enjoyment of "people watching" plus my side hobby of writing and blogging, travel provides a seemingly never-ending supply of content for my blog. Thus was born my Travel Tales series. Today I am in Miami, Florida speaking at a Global Conference on Pet Nutrition. I flew out of Palm Springs on an early flight, still half asleep but resigned to bag a few zzzzz's on the cross-country journey. The moment I sat down I knew I would not be able to sleep. Partly due to some distracting passengers, and partly my strange desire to hear it all. I was comfortably settled in my seat, observing these representatives of humanity slowly crawl down the narrow aisles. I looked down at my Blackberry momentarily to check e-mail when I heard the voice of an excited and bubbly woman chatting. She was overwhelmed with excitement of being on a plane. I glanced up at her as she approached-she looked to be in her mid-thirties. Her perfectly-coiffed blond hair sat on her head like a helmet. She was dressed as though she had put a great deal of thought into what she picked out to wear that day (see photo of actress Pat Priest for a visual image). I made the fatal mistake of making eye contact. "Hi my name is Connie!" she boomed. "This is my first flight and I am SO excited". I feigned a smile and immediately dove for my carry-on bag to find my headphones and iPod. Much to my horror, she was sitting right behind me. It could have been worse, I thought, imagine if she were in my row. Already seated next to her was a big burly man, middle-aged with a dyed mustache that resembled broom bristles. His eyebrows looked like giant caterpillars. Through my head phones I could hear Connie introduce herself to the big burly man next to her. Turns out she won this trip in a contest and it was her first time ever traveling. As Connie chatted with the big burly man next to her, he launched into small talk, except there wasn't anything small about it. In fact he had a big huge voice that bellowed several rows in every direction. I watched his caterpillar eyebrows move up and down as he spoke. Then suddenly, I looked to my left, and standing next to me, signaling that she wanted into the row was "Amazon Woman". I started to remove my headphones and stood up to move out into the aisle, but before I could do so, she lumbered in, past me, stepping on my toes. I winced in pain as I felt my toes meld into one piece of flesh. My eyes watered. As Amazon Woman sat down next to the window, even she turned around to see what all the noise was from Connie and big burly man. Before I could get my headphones back on, Amazon Woman sparked up a conversation: "Are you going to My-Yammy too?" I thought for a moment, this woman can't be too bright, because in fact we were all going to Miami. But I gave her the benefit of the doubt and just nodded. I'm not sure why I didn't actually speak, but no words came out. Perhaps because her appearance scared me some. She was very very tall, with a wild black hair, and enormous hands and feet. Meanwhile Connie kept chatting away endlessly pressing all the buttons and admiring the blankets provided. Later, when the in-flight service began, big burly man ordered a vodka and tomato juice, which he immediately justified as a cure for his "restless leg syndrome". This seemed utterly ridiculous, but fascinated Connie which led to a two hour conversation about health issues. Turns out big burly man not only suffers from restless leg syndrome, but also sleep apnea, erectile dysfunction, allergies and what he called "carpet tunnel syndrome". As soon as I heard him say that, my eyes shot open. Carpet tunnel syndrome? He must mean carpal tunnel (as in the wrists). Well not only did he continue to explain it, but Connie kept repeating it back to him: "Ooooohhh that carpet tunnel syndrome sounds just awful, how do you catch it?" She asked. Big burly man replied that he caught it from his job. When she asked what he did for a living he told her he was a truck driver for guess who- Shaw floors and carpets (honestly what are the odds?). Connie drew the conclusion that he must have caught it from the carpets he was delivering. Big burly man agreed (although in all fairness I think he meant from the repetitive pressure and movement, but not actually FROM the carpets. Anyway, I tried to contain my fit of giggles and managed a fake cough instead. Amazon Woman looked over toward me and asked if we could use the restrooms "up there". I gazed back at her. Within a millisecond I decided to have fun with her, so once again I didn't respond verbally, I just shrugged my shoulders in a quizzical manner. She quickly stood up and banged her head on the ceiling- I immediately thought of Herman Munster, except if it were an episode of The Munsters, his head would have gone through the overhead cabin and he would have exclaimed "Uh, Lily!!" By the time my mind came back to the moment, Amazon Woman was walking past me, but I was still seated, and of course she stepped on my other foot this time. I reached down to hold my foot as it throbbed in pain. Amazon Woman grunted as she made her way down the aisle, knocking into an elderly woman's head who shrieked loudly.

Meanwhile Connie was helping call the flight attendant over so big burly man could order another vodka. Connie explained to the attendant that her friend has restless leg syndrome and the vodka really helps him. The flight attendant was nonplussed and returned with the mini-bottle. 'Ahhh, perfect", barked big burly man. By this time he was three vodkas into it, and he was guffawing loudly at virtually everything Connie said.

Amazon Woman returned- this time I pulled my legs up onto the seat, Indian style. "How soon until we get to My-Yammy?" she asked me. I figured, why start talking now, so I just twisted my face into an expression that indicated I didn't understand English. So she asked me a second time, but more loudly, and slowly: 'WHAT TIME TILL WE GET TO MY-YAMMY?" I just shook my head and raised my shoulders, still saying nothing. I was having fun with this now.She finally gave up asking me and I secretly smiled inside. I watched her out of the corner of my eye. She was studying me, as if I were a rare species she had never seen before.
Amazon Woman leaned back in her seat and the combination of her weight and the fact that the big burly man was himself large, her seat hit his knees. He leaned forward and asked her to move forward a bit. As she adjusted her seat, she pulled and tugged at her head rest, and suddenly, off it came- the entire blue leather head rest came off in her hands. Again, I thought, she is Herman Munster. Big burly man shouted "Whoa now that's some strength you have there, honey". Amazon Woman turned deep red and continued to fumble with it, attempting to reconnect it in place. Connie called over the flight attendant for another vodka for her friend with restless leg syndrome and to ask for help with Amazon Woman's head seat malfunction. Frustrated with not being able to reconnect it, she just handed it over to the flight attendant. I watched the expression on the face of the flight attendant who was clearly intimidated by Amazon Woman. She sheepishly walked away with the head rest and exhaled deeply. Amazon Woman called out to the attendant, "Am I going to have to sit here all the way to My Yammy without a head rest? she asked. The flight attendant replied: "Well this flight is completely full, so we don't have any other seats for you".Amazon Woman grumbled and then in frustration jerked her head against the window shade, which let our a slight crack sound from the impact of her massive head. Herman Munster had struck again. I turned up the volume on my iPod and squeeze my eyes shut tightly as a heaved and laughed uncontrollably. Sometimes reality is better than fiction. And then I realized, this just was all-too deserving of a blog post.
-Rick Rockhill


This blog is about life experiences & observations and stuff I am interested in. It is simply a side hobby and creative outlet; generally, with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I don't take it too seriously, nor should you. I do not profess to represent every point of view. Nothing on this site is a paid post.

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