Homeward bound…but where is home again?

To paraphrase the Michael Buble hit: Another winters day has come, And gone away, In even Reno and LA, And I wanna go Home, Let me go home. (And no, I’m NOT gay – I bought the CD for my Mum!) I didn’t really want to go home, but as I had finished my last photo shoot at June Mountain and I felt my shooting season was done I started to think about getting home to enjoy my first big family easter in five years in a little place in central Victoria called Tarnagulla. The more I thought about it, the more I began to miss home and started to plan all the final steps: packing the bags, cleaning the apartment, getting the landlord inspection, driving the crew to the airport, finding a place to store the car for several months…and finally running the gauntlet of check-in chicks with my excess baggage. Then of course there is the three actual flights and 17 hours or so of sitting on my arse from Reno, via LAX and Sydney, to Melbourne. Why can’t heading home just be easy? I guess any big move is always a pain.

Things were winding down at our place as we all thought about home, but although I wanted to pack it away, the camera couldn’t quite go in the camera bag yet. A couple of candid “lifestyle” portrait shots needed to be taken, and it was down to the wire to get a shot of Cohen Davies. A huge snow-dumping storm had rolled into Tahoe on the last couple of days making all our outdoor locations a bust, and with his lack of mobile phone credit, he was lucky to catch me still at home before I busted a move back down to Reno (I had aleady made a trip down and back to drop Darragh off at the airport early that morning…only seeing 4 wrecked cars on the side of the road in the blizzard!) Evil Editor has the shot and it will come out in issue 1, but not the frame I preferred as somehow Cohen was reading the newspaper upside down. I swear I thought he was actually reading the paper as I fucked around getting the lighting right – he must have upside-down eyes, or didn’t notice as a result of the previous night’s action?

We filled our last few days in Tahoe on a little bit of a party train – unfortunately everyone else in town was winding down and the party ended up basically being 20 bored guys around a dowstairs pool table. We had to find ways to amuse ourselves. The highlight for Darragh was his packet of peanut M&M’s (he’s mad for the things!) and the 3 buck McLovin fake ID he bought in 7-11!

More fun was to be had on my last night in Reno. I booked into the awesomely rad 30 buck-a-night Terrible’s Sands Regency (Terribles is actually a chain based out of Vegas – not merely capitalised adjective as you might think – but has the added benefit of running petrol stations around Nevada so you can cash your “Terribles Bucks” for gas on the way out of town. Awesome.) I was rooming with Longy, who was down to his last 10 bucks (in fact he had to borrow $5 off me to pay for his $10.99 all-you-can-eat at The Eldorado Casino) and couldn’t eat again till late the next evening when he got aboard the V Australia flight home. In fact, now that I think about it, Longy never paid me back for that 5 bucks!

It was Tim’s birthday, and the last night in the States for 3 of us as Ben was flying out to London on the Wednesday too, so the three of us not-totally-skint-guys (ie, not Longy) hit the town. It was an adventure, to say the least, but a lot of fun. Sort of like a trashy Vegas. But not bad for a Tuesday night. However, now I know why The Man in Black sang ” But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die”: he was putting the guy out of his misery!

I had a reasonably late arvo flight, and despite the gods of time and scheduled lunchbreaks working against me, I managed to store the car away, check in and get my bags checked through all the way to Sydney (even if I had to secretly stuff some gear back into my board bag behind the pillar before I dropped it off at the Oversize Baggage section). I was confused when I saw the destination for my Horizon flight flash up as Mammoth – apparently, weather depending, that flight makes a short stop on the way to LAX in Mammoth Lakes. The flying scaredy cat, Longy, would have hated the swirling and turbulent landing, but it was worth it for the amazing snow stormy views out the door. Longy had taken an earlier flight to LAX, but would join me on the V Australia flight to Oz (one of the only times I have shared a flight with a mate in a long, long time. It was a welcome change…and I got my revenge for the missing $5 by freaking him out pointing out every mysterious plane noise, bang and bump on the 14 hour flight home!) As I took off from Mammoth, I turned around to see Falls/Hotham rider Lauren Smith a few rows back – while I had spent the day ferrying crew to the airport, running round Reno and waiting for my flight, she had been cuting laps in knee-deep Mammoth pow before she threw everything in a bag and made the 5.30 flight to LA and onto Oz. I wish my last day was so simple.

Canadians are weird, man!

Wow – there are a lot of loud, drunk and dumb hockey rednecks that congregate en masse down Granville Street. I know that Australians can be unbelievably embarrassing, and the cheap flights of V Australia and Jetstar are just allowing povvo bogans to travel overseas for the first time and ruin the reputation for the rest of us, but I don’t remember Sydney 2000 having such an agressive, teetering-on-out-of-control vibe…but maybe that’s because I was part of the “team” cheering along, and not a foreigner making sure that I smile and high-five the gangs of guys in red, lest I get set upon? Or maybe it has something to do with the brainless way Canadians cheer for their 51st State of America. After 10 days at Sydney 2000 I never wanted to hear “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie…Oi, Oi, Oi…” again. In Vancouver, Granville is jam packed with a sea of red and white, random games of street hockey, and chants that start up: “Can-a-da!…Can-a-da!…” Or guy will start screaming “Whoooooooo!” and then another will join in, or it will be “Yeahhhhhhhh!” and another will join in till the street sounds like a riot. Their cheering and chants are even more brainless than ours…and it’s the worst in an around Canadian hockey matches. (But then again, ‘U-S-A! U-S-A!” is pretty uninventive as well.)

And I forgot, I found another difference between Aussies and Canadians at the start of the week: Aussies shout “Show us ya tits!” at Indy/Bathurst/Melbourne Cup, whereas the Canuck chant must be ‘We want boobs! We want boobs!” After the Opening Ceremony a random mosh pit of crowd surfers (with the aforementioned “Whoooos” and “Yeaaahhhh”s) had formed on Robson and Howe Streets, and when a girl was lifted on to shoulders the booby chant started, and wasn’t sated till another girl was lifted upon high for a faux-lezo makeout. An interesting, organic way to celebrate the start of the Olympics I guess?

And I have also noticed a bit of a “bad sportsmanshio” from the home team, whether it be claiming to “Own the Podium”; or bar crowds cheering-on the last non-Canadian (and incidentally American) mogul skier to “Fall, Fall, Fall!”; ripping the flag off the back of some Americans cheering down Granville and throwing it on the ground; or booing former-Canadian Dale Begg-Smith during his medal ceremony. I hope that Aussies would never act such a way – but then again, my impressions might be coloured by the fact I had been getting back to Vancouver exhausted and grumpy each night, hating having to dodge throngs to get home, and seeing the crowds at their drunken worst?

Anyway, right now I’m in West Village, New York, New York! I decamped from the Olympics the day after Torah’s amazing Gold-Medal win – but sort of wish I had have stuck around now. And what a night it was. I was so nervous – so nervous to get the shot after she blew her first run (as night shots are clearly so different looking to the qualification photos), and so nervous for her to score well and get the win. Afterwards, I felt so happy for her and gave her a rousing shout-out and wave from the photo-pit in front of the podium – she waved back…and it gave everyone else who wasn’t cheering like an idiot a great million-dollar-smile shot looking right down the camera. So another shot missed by me. But she was smiling so much and looked so excited that i quickly blew the rest of the 16gig card on “jube” (jubilation shots, so Himbrechts tells me).

I finally managed to get up alongside the pipe – Himbrechts had left his pair of crampons lying around, which I naturally purloined and made the long hike up for the girls’ training and qualifications. Both Holly and Torah rode amazingly well, and went so big. It was awesome to watch up close. It’s hard along the pipe, as you aren’t given much chance to move around or get close to the lip for the regular fisheye shot. So I struggled to get some good shots, but think a couple turned out ok. And still I’m having trouble with my software processing the Canon EOS 1DMkIV RAW files to jpegs to put up on the web – but fear not, Evil Editor, the shots are there and there are some pretty nice ones – I’ll sort it out somehow. So again, all I have are the ones from my regular back-up 1DMkIIN and the candid pocket Sony Cybershot ones. And anyway the best of the Aussie shots I have to save for the mags: they won’t publish any shot that has been splashed around on the net before. So enjoy this small selection of action and behind the scenes.

Come fly with me, come fly, come fly away…

A tiring flight with not much sleep aboard V-Australia…and I got stung for an excess bag even though I managed to swindle a free flight from Richard Branson! I guess it shows you should read the fine print: V Australia allow you two checked-in bags, but only to a total weight of 32kg! I was about 12 kgs over with my snowboard bag and wheelie suitcase, but strangely they just charge a flat $135 fee for the bag that is excess weight, but as mine was a snowboard (ie sports equipment) I only paid 50%, or $67.50. This is certainly unlike any domestic or international airline excess baggage arrangement I have ever come across.

Fortunately the seats are quite spacious and the on-demand inflight entertainment has quite a lot of choice, and even an MSN-Messenger sort of thing where you can sms/message other seats if they accept your ‘friend request’. But don’t bank on getting a sneaky exit row seat for extra legroom (as i usually do…and need for my 196cm frame!) – V Australia charges you $150 for the privilege of having customers to open the emergency doors and save everyone on the plane. And unlike domestic flights where there is also an extra charge, the femme-bot flight attendants firmly with their sexy smiles deny anyone sit in the exit row seats unless they have forked out the cash. So that was another negative to add to having to change planes and terminals in Sydney.

V Australia now have direct flights to LA from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne…so try and make sure you book one of the direct flights to save a lot of hassle.

Despite all the inflight movies, surf and snowboard documentaries, I got a little bored so took out my camera to entertain myself while everyone slept.

Photo 1: the full moon and wing out the window, holding the camera steady on long exposure – who would have expected that there were all those colours in the dark of the ocean and sky?

2. The self-service refreshment stand…a huge fat guy who needed the seatbelt-extender to buckle up around his gut cleaned out all the packets of Smiths shortly after this.

3. The cabin has cool mood lighting and glamourous flight attendants to get you in the right frame of mind…

4. With the fisheye lens out the window I got a funny sort of self portrait reflection.