Loggers in L.A.

I love the Northwest. I really do. If my life lasted another 80 years I’d plan on being based here for at least 70 of them. That being said, sometimes Southern California just feels really, really nice.

This recent visit was my first time in Los Angeles. Growing up in my house LA was always the bad guy. The big polluted city full of nothing but rich jerks, airheads, and gangs, all either pushing or using drugs that they wash down with water stolen from the poorer outlying towns. And they don’t have seasons! That’s the way I was raised. Blame my father.

After that you terrible description you might be wondering why I would ever visit LA. Well, I work in the student programs of the Associated Students of Puget Sound. I work in the office that brings performers to campus. Lectures, comedians, movies, musicians – stuff like that. There are 7 of us in the office and this year three of us got to attend a conference called NACA West.

NACA stands for National Association of Campus Activities and is kind of like a showroom for college performers. Agencies submit members of their roster to be showcased for the students and advisors that make the decisions and we in turn choose whether or not to book these performers for dates on our campus. It is a great opportunity for the school to tap a new source of talent as well as a wonderful experience for those who get to attend. We are lucky that Puget Sound sends students every year and I am lucky that I have been able to attend twice.

Now, to be fair, NACA West was not in Los Angeles. It was about an hour East in Ontario, California. Where is Ontario? Well, its East. That’s all I can tell you. They have an airport. And three In-N-Out. And a mall. And two movie theatres sharing a parking lot for a total of 52 screens. And hotels built for the sole purpose of servicing the people who visit that mall. And of course a convention center where we held our conference.

Luckily (I guess) the cheapest option for travel was to leave Tacoma at 3 AM on Thursday and arrive early in the morning in Los Angeles. Registration didn’t start until that afternoon and we didn’t see any reason to explore the Ontario mall, so we did what any other vitamin C deprived Washingtonian would do in the middle November, we went to Venice Beach. Despite never getting used to the fact that the shapes I saw on the horizon were not mountains but smog (gross), those two hours on Venice Beach almost made up for a childhood of brainwashing I endured about California. Yes, I saw a lot of those problems but they didn’t seem to bother me. Maybe it was sudden rush of sunshine, or maybe the smog was cutting off my oxygen supply, but I actually enjoyed my time there.

And then we made it to the conference and I saw Zero from Holes ruin my childhood by enlightening me about his new rap career. Maybe that knowledge would have been palatable on the beach, but not in a dark conference room turned theatre. Despite Mr. Zeroni’s efforts, I still flew North with a better appreciation for Southern California, and you know what, maybe this is the lack of sun talking, but I’m not sure I’d object to joining the So-Cal alumni and spending more than a weekend down there.

“Look at All the People You Helped Make Happy”

I had intended for my first post to be an introduction so that any readers could understand what I participate in and what they can expect to see represented here. But I can’t do that at the moment. You see, I just had a great experience and want to share it as soon as I can.

Do you see those words up there? The title of this post? “Look at all of the people you helped to make happy tonight.” That’s what I couldn’t wait to tell you about.

I have a job at school as the Cultural Events Programmer for the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound (ASUPS). I find, book, and promote performers that come to campus that fit into the label of Cultural Events. I also basically get to define what cultural events mean, so that’s pretty great.

Between finding a venue, setting a price, officially signing the artist, hiring sound, promotion, and other small pieces there were hiccups, but one stood out. We had partnered with professors from the Spanish and Music departments to provide classroom visits the day before the show, so Friday at 6:30 AM our Programs Office Assistant and I left Tacoma to pick up the artists in Seattle. For those of you not familiar with the area, the drive should be somewhere between 40-60 minutes. It took us two and a half hours. There was an accident and rush hour starts even earlier than I had anticipated. Luckily we built in time and made it back to campus with the artists just before their first classroom visit. I spent the next two hours being reminded how little Spanish I remember from high school before attending my one class of the day in which I am enrolled before their next classroom session and driving them back. All in all I was in a class that I was registered for one hour of the day, in classes in which I am not a student for two hours, and six hours driving a 15 passenger van. It was an interesting day.

An event like this is a lot of work. And a lot of the work is just grunt work that doesn’t require anything but time. And it sometimes feels tedious and you wonder why you are spending so much time on something like this when you have been forced to just skim readings for classes that you are paying to attend. It doesn’t make sense sometimes. But it’s a wonderful thing when you get to participate in something like this. When you look around at everyone dancing in the aisles, look back at what had to happen to allow for this moment and are brought back into the moment in order to witness the organic standing ovation. You know the kind where the clapping hands grow out of the music and act as an accent to the last note instead of an obligation and half the audience is already standing when the music ends so this is the only logical next step, the only way to show more appreciation for the music. When that moment happens, and you realize that you contributed in any small way to the experience in that room, when you see “all of the people that you helped make happy,” you feel like you can do anything. It’s a wonderful feeling.