Thursday, August 31, 2006


Sorry I haven't written in a while, but life in San Diego is... a vacation. I've seen bands, played tennis, gone swimming in the ocean and the pool, hung out with friends, and tonight had a barbecue on the beach. Life is good.

There has also been the small saga of my mobile phone, but we'll leave that to another post because it's late ane I'm tired. More important than a mobile phone is the arrival of Huy's friend Christoph. He got to San Diego International Airport (which I prefer to call by it's cooler name Lindbergh Field) last night for an open-ended stay because he's an uber-brain and will be doing some sort of biotech research. I don't understand these things, so we didn't talk much about that.

And anyway, who needs talking when there is grilling to do and burgers to eat?

Sutton aka King-Of-The-Grill and Christoph

Ryan workin' the tomatoes

Sean workin' the Pringles

My mom workin' her burger

Yours truly workin' the camera

The sun workin' it

Friday, August 25, 2006

San Diego, Round 2

So for those of you who were hoping for an uneventful travel story, and those of you who were hoping to hear another painful saga... well you're all in luck! Yesterday I left my apartment in Barcelona at 8am expecting the usual morning traffic on the way to the airport and instead got there in 15 minutes. Awesome. Everyone knows how much I love to spend time in airports!

But actually it was a good thing because we boarded an hour and fifteen minutes early. Seriously. They had a special secondary security area set up inside the hangar and we all had to put everything through the machine again, take off our shoes and belts (I'm sure I'm going to accidentally lose my pants one of these days), and then go through a pat-down! My favorite!

Anyway the 8 hour flight to JFK was pretty uneventful aside from the fact that I was surrounded by Loudest Family Ever. Man, those Spaniards really know how to yell. The movie was The Sentinel, and Michael Douglas's fancy new facelift meant that his face didn't move at all in any of the running scenes, of which there are many since he's on the run. Modern medicine really is a marvel.

Hung out at JFK for a few hours and then boarded my 6:05 flight to San Diego, which was slightly delayed because the incoming plane was late. No biggie, we were on board by 6:30, they closed the doors and then... we sat. For three hours. First, after an hour, a flight attendant finally came over the loudspeaker and said something like, "Ladies and gentleman, we apologize for the delay. We are missing a part for the plane and we are checking with the ground crew to see if it's actually a part we need in order to take off." But there were lots of strange pauses in there. "So, once we hear from them we'll let you know."

Hmmmm. Well the plane didn't have the part on the way in, right? So maybe we don't need it on the way out. Or did it just fall off while it was parked? Anyway, if it's not necessary, why would we have it in the first place? Maybe it's the plane's appendix.

Half an hour later, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we have heard from the ground crew that I guess we don't seem to need that part, so we'll push out of the gate momentarily." Interesting.

Half an hour after THAT, the captain came on to tell us that because of the delay we were now dealing with the international flights that leave at night and we were THIRTIETH in line for take-off. About that time everyone started to get extremely pissed off. I yelled, "DRINKS! DRINKS! DRINKS!" And most people cheered in agreement. I mean, come on. They confiscated all our beverages before we got on and then we couldn't have any water for three hours? So the flight attendants started handing out mini water bottles and people started milling around the plane until the captain came back again and, like an angry father, said, "Folks, I told you you could get up an use your cell phones as a FAVOR. No computers, no ipods, get back in your seats and fasten your seatbelts!" That went over really well.

Well fortunately I had stocked up on the important news of the day in the form of "People," "US Weekly," and "Star" magazines. You miss so much when you're out of the country! Kate Hudson cheated on Chris Robinson with OWEN WILSON?!?! So yeah the three hours didn't bother me so much. But the five hours of flying were pretty boring.

Anyway now it's Friday and sunny and I took another trip to the airport this morning to drop off my sister and her boyfriend and then had lunch with my mom. Tonight my friend Robin is having an open house at her new studio and then my friend Sutton's band is playing. What a great start to a vacation week in San Diego!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hits & Misses - Romania 2006

What I will miss:









What I won't miss (every morning at 8am, or ever again for that matter):


I realized yesterday that I failed in my duty to post some of the photos from my time at the agency. So here goes:

Cat Food Shoot - Aug 2-3

The director and crew prepare a shot

Our view of the proceedings, from the video assist monitor. And yes, the actress is holding a fake cat.

A real cat... one of the three that travelled all the way from Amsterdam for the shoot

Black shirt + White cat = Bad News

Car Commercial Shoot - Aug 12
Some photos from Castel Films. No photos of the car though, because it's TOP SECRET!

Monica draws her guns in the old west

Roxana and Monica check out the cannon balls

Ready to be fired out of the cannon

Here my favorite of the studio lot mutts. I really wanted to take her home. When she stood up she was about the same height as when she was lying down because of her stumpy legs. I named her "Shorty" but she really only responded to "food."
Those are Oscar statues. Toppled like Lenin! Have they no respect?!?!

And here's something REALLY strange. In inner cities in the US, kids used to tie shoes together and toss them over telephone lines. In Bucharest, you tie water bottles filled with questionable substances together and throw them over telephone lines. Guess they don't want to waste their shoes... Very wise, if you ask me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hot Hot Heat

What to do when the weather hits 41 celsius (105 F) outside?

Option 1: Go to the seaside. And I did consider this for a little while, but then thought about the traffic and the lack of A/C in my car. In other words, I would have roasted myself while sitting in a Daewoo oven. Not so appealing.

Option 2: Nothing.

Option 3: Drink.

I opted in the end to combine Options 2 & 3, though I did also include a bit of housecleaning and packing in preparation for my imminent departure from Bucharest. But it was so hot, I could only vacuum or dust for a few minutes before having to fling myself onto my bed, completely sweaty and pooped. Then after "cooling off" I would go for a few more minutes. Very productive!

I also finished reading an amazing book, Jeffrey Eugenides' "Middlesex." Incredible.

And I drank some nice cold beers late at night. It was too hot to do anything outside during the day (even though I really wanted to go out and take pictures) so now I can understand why vampires are nocturnal. Romania is just too hot during the day. I can't explain how this works in winter, however.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Last Weekend in Romania

Hard to believe it, but this is my final weekend in Bucharest. On Wednesday morning I will once again board a plane and wing my way back to Barcelona via my favorite airport, Munich.

It has been a pretty amazing summer, full of cool new people, interesting places, and lots of strange early-morning noises. But I can't really wax poetic at the moment because I'm leaving the office (and hence the internet connection) in 10 minutes and anyway my brain is fried today.

So instead, I invite you to watch this. Considering the legal battles my former employers have had to go through in the past, I'm surprised Coca-Cola would want to have anything to do with the company and the games we made there... but then I guess it's easier to rip off someone else's idea than create one of your own. Anyway, it made me laugh.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Dingo Ate My Baby

Well, not really. But the bank machine DID eat my ATM card last night. How rude is that? Nice welcome back to Romania. Good thing we have cell phones and DHL and credit cards. So I'll have a new card by Friday.

Anyway, after spending more time in planes than I did on the ground over the last few days, I can still say that going back home for my 10 year high school reunion was TOTALLY worth it. So worth it that I was too busy chatting up a storm and catching up with old pals to take any photos during the event, or even at brunch the next morning. Oh well. Sometimes it's just better to enjoy the experience than look through a camera at it. Or at an LCD screen.

I spent two glorious days in beautiful, sunny La Jolla and I remembered that there are some things we Americans do really well. One is customer service. That ticketing lady in Chicago really helped me out, as did everyone else at O'Hare (except one very mean woman who told me I couldn't jump the line - well I showed HER!) Even uber-schnell Lufthansa in Munich doesn't even come close. I was impressed. And very, very grateful. Thanks to the lovely employees of O'Hare and the fact that I'm fit enough to run from one end of the biggest American airport to the other in 5 minutes flat, I made it to the first part of the reunion festivities on Friday night. Still smelly, but hey at least I was there. And afterward I took a Very. Long. Shower. It was awesome.

Saturday I spent lazing around the beach and soaking up the sunshine and before I knew it, I was heading to the Hotel Solamar (which is new and VERY cool) for the reunion. Had some drinks with friends on the terrace by the pool, which was strange because we were all dressed up and surrounded by bikini-clad drunks girating to very loud music, and then it was time for the main event. Which which was very low-key and a lot of fun. I hadn't seen most of the people since graduating in June 1996, and while some have changed more dramatically (read: horizontally) than others, I was really impressed by a few people who have done some really cool things with their lives. Anyway, it was nice to catch up.

The return trip was long. There's really no other way to put it. I lost a whole day of my life and yesterday morning in Milan realized it was already Tuesday. But despite some delays here and there (the first one being in San Diego, where we sat on the runway for no apparent reason from 7:30 to 8:30am) it was much more relaxed than Friday was. Security in Milan took only 30 minutes or so and there was no crush of bodies or screaming in foreign languages. Note to self: Avoid traveling the day after a near terrorist strike. Or the day of.

Some photos from where I spent most of my time: the airplane.

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon


Swiss Alps

Oh, and only in Italy.... Ummm where did they hide the World Cup trophy?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

San Diego Trip, Part 1.5

How to survive international travel

1. Don’t. Just stay home.

2. If you’re going somewhere, go for a looooong time. These weekend jaunts just aren’t worth the headache anymore, unfortunately.

3. Keep a sense of humor. You’ll need it.

4. Dress in layers – you will go from no air conditioning to full blast A/C depending on how long you spend in a certain room and what country you’re in. In Milan, for instance, there is A/C on full-blast in an area where there are only 3 people. But no A/C where there are hundreds and hundreds waiting to get through security.

5. Be nice. Really nice. To everyone – your seat mate, the person in front of you in line, the person at the ticket counter, the guy going through your smelly socks in your bag. The nicer you are, the more stuff you get and the better your chances of survival.

That is how I’ve managed to survive the rest of my 24-hour odyssey from Bucharest to San Diego.

After getting through security with an hour to spare before my flight, I was disheartened when I saw that it would then be delayed until 11:20. Then noon. We finally took off at 1pm and I knew I wouldn’t make the connection in Chicago. 9 hours later (most of which I again slept through) I landed. Right at the exact moment my flight for San Diego was taking off.

I got through a 30 minute customs line, had a laugh at my own expense with the passport control agent over my lack of deodorant and toothpaste, and ran through baggage claim (fortunately I hadn’t checked anything) and stopped dead in a line for American Airlines. Because my ticket was booked separately from the Alitalia legs, I couldn’t just run to the front of the line and have a new ticket issued. So I waited in the line for a while until I saw an Alitalia woman who had been at the plane when we got off walk by.

I stopped her and asked if there was any way she could help me since Alitalia really screwed me and I wasn’t going to make the next flight at 5pm. At this point it was 4:20. She took pity on me and walked me to another ticket desk and did the best she could. She was particularly helpful when she learned I was going to San Diego only for the weekend, and for my 10 year high school reunion. She rebooked me on the 8:25 flight, which would’ve gotten me in at 11pm. I’d miss the first night’s festivities but at least not everything. Then she leaned forward and said, “But if I were you I’d haul ass to the gate and try to make the 5:02.”

Which is exactly what I did. At 4:30 I was upstairs waiting for the train to the next terminal. At 4:32 I was in the security line without a boarding pass (silly me) and was redirected to the desk. At 4:34 that nice lady redirected me to first class check in so I could try to make the 5:02. At 4:40 I was 2nd in line to check in and the next available agent went on a break. I heaved an obvious sigh of despair and the guy in front of me took pity when I mentioned my flight was in 15 minutes. He said his was in 3 hours and let me go ahead of him. Thanks dude!

At 4:45 I had 2 boarding passes in my hand and I was taking off half my clothes (jacket, watch, belt, shoes) and going through security for the fourth time. They decided they needed to check one of my bags very thoroughly – the one with the smelly socks again! These poor security people, I feel sorry for them, having to go through dirty socks and underwear. Be nice to security people, too. They don’t want to have to check out your dirty undies, I promise. And they can make your life a living hell if they want to. Latex gloves, anyone?

At 4:50 I was having a Home Alone moment as I ran to my gate, which of course had to be at the very end of the hall. I ran for 8 or 10 straight minutes under the flags that hang in the hallway at O’Hare and finally reached the gate, very sweaty. After some confusion about my ticket, I was allowed on board. My seat was taken so I was offered the front row, which was completely empty. Score! At 5pm, I was in my seat, sweating bullets, completely out of breath, and able to tell my friend Ryan that I’d be arriving at 7:15 in San Diego. That’s 3 hours from now.

Hopefully the rest of the trip will go smoothly and I’ll be at my party at 8pm as planned!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Believe it or not...

... I miss Munich airport.

I'm sure George and Lamberto will complain, but they'll also have to agree with me that Milan Malpensa is kind of a disgusting mess. And the day after an attempted terrorist attack, it's that much worse. Basically these terrorists have succeeded if they feel that part of the terror of flying is smelling badly (my deodorant was confiscated), having really bad dragon breath (my mini toothpaste was also taken), or having your eyes glued shut if you fall asleep with your contacts in (they took my contact lens solution). And yes, I am overcome with fear.

Even little Otopeni airport in Bucharest was crazy this morning, with very slow check-in and long security lines at 6am. But the true fun awaited me upon arrival in Milan, where I waited in a 2 hour line to get to the connecting flight area. I managed to sneak my way through the line faster than I probably should have without making any enemies. Which is lucky because several impressive fights broke out, mostly between large women. Everyone is trying to be patient and understanding, but nerves started to wear understandably thin.

No explanation for the long wait - though we all knew the reason - and after nearly two hours squashed in a disorganized "line" (more like a mass of bodies) I found myself walking through one of just six x-ray machines. Because "Chicago" is listed as my next destination, I was taken aside to a cozy nook where a handsome Italian guard pawed through my smelly socks which weren't meant to see the light of day until after emerging from the washing machine in La Jolla. Don't you love it when handsome Italians go through your nasty dirty laundry? It's my favorite.

So now I'm sitting at a cafe and on my third attempt I got the wireless going (again, I miss you Munich - you and your weird flat hotdogs! and my favorite cafe!) I have decided to let you all know what fun awaits you if you decide to travel to the US during these "liquid bomb" times.

Oh one interesting thing Handsome Italian told me is that I had the option to try to SELL my things that were being confiscated! Can you imagine? A half-used Dove deodorant (hmmm Spring Fresh! - excellent vintage), a mini bottle of eye drops, a small bottle of contact lens solution (clearly the most valuable item), and the tiniest ever tube of Rembrandt toothpaste.

I will start the bidding at 3 euro. Any takers?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

California here I come!!!

Narrowly-averted terrorist plots aside, tomorrow I will spend the day on planes as I cross Europe, the Atlantic, and the US to get to San Diego for my 10 year high school reunion. Yes, it's a long way to travel for something that most people would rather skip, but as class president I felt I should be there. And also, I want to see who got ugly, fat, old, bald, and knocked up. Especially since I am one of the lucky few who got hotter.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Stay safe and dry. (We are having a bit of a monsoon here in Bucharest tonight.) And for heaven's sake, do not bring liquid on board a plane. Silly people! Who would think to bring TOOTHPASTE on a Transatlantic flight? Geez, my flight from Milan to Chicago will have THE worst morning breath of all time. I shudder to think about it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hollywood, Romania

After weeks and weeks of 90+ degree weather (and last week nearly 100) the rain finally came over the weekend and cooled Bucharest. What a relief. The heat had been stifling and now the rain clouds have passed and the sun is out, ready to warm us up again. It should be hot hot hot again this weekend, but I'll be in San Diego! Where it's also abnormally hot... hooray!

So it's a good thing our car commercial shoot yesterday was indoors, in a studio, because we had all types of weather, from bright sunlight to muted clouds to pouring rain. Not the best for shooting anything, except yourself I guess.

But we weren't at just any studio, we were at Castel Film which is one of the premier studios in Romania. Along with seven sound stages, they have a Universal-style back lot where you can shoot westerns or modern-day suburban family dramas. And plenty of stray dogs of course! I promise to post photos tomorrow.

During lunch in the cafeteria I looked around and saw some familiar movie posters: Mimic, Highlander, Cold Mountain.... We had all those same posters on the walls during my days at Miramax. Same movies, same posters, same companies, totally different countries. Cool.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Barcelona Weekend, Take 2

The rain in Spain falls mainly when you're on the plane. And that's a good thing!

This weekend I made my second attempt at a weekend in Barcelona, and this time I made it! But not without first lending my voice to a major cat food brand. Yes, that's right. On Friday morning I was in the recording studio, putting down the voiceover for the commercial we shot last week. The ad was shown to and approved by the Romanian client (this is an international brand) on Saturday, and now must be approved by the Czech and Slovenian clients. And I thought I'd left the voiceover business behind? I'm like Sean Connery saying I'd never do another James Bond movie. There's a reason his last one is called "Never Say Never Again."

Anyway, after that exciting adventure, I was off to Otopeni Airport, where I found out that my flight was 20 minutes delayed. No biggie, because we made up the time in the air as promised by our captain, and I had less than an hour in my beloved Munich Airport before boarding my flight to Barcelona. Halfway there, the pilot came on the speaker and said, "I need to tell you about our flight to Barcelona..." and I thought, great we're going back to Munich. But instead he just told us what interesting places we'd be flying over.

So I landed in Barcelona without much fuss, had a miraculously short taxi ride home, and made it in enough time to get a new Spanish SIM card. Woo hoo! I'm back in business, baby! The weather in Barcelona broke on Friday and it was much cooler there than it had been in the past few weeks. Which is a relief, because it was also much cooler than it was in Bucharest this weekend.

So I spent two days lazing around on the terrace, doing laundry (awesome!!!!), running in the hills, and seeing friends. I was only there for two days, but it felt longer because it was so relaxing. Sunday evening I was back at the airport and off to Munich. I again only spent an hour there, but made sure to have a cappuccino at my now-favorite cafe in Munich airport. The weather was awful and the flights were pretty bumpy in and out of Munich, but at least it rained while I was on the plane and not in Spain!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

On Rock Bands and Racehorses

One of my favorite forms of meditation involves coming up with cool names for rock bands and racehorses and for chapter headings for my egomaniacal, as-yet-unwritten, bestselling autobiography.

Last night over drinks with some friends from work, we stumbled upon a gem: The Romaniacs. But a band like The Romaniacs can't stand alone. No, it requires a frontman. Or better yet, a frontWOMAN. Roxana. Roxy and The Romaniacs.

How rad is that?!

We will play our first gig at my as-yet-unopened but soon-to-be-packed hot spot here in Bucharest: California Bar.

Laugh if you want to, but all of this will happen one day in the near future. And when it does, I might give you a guest pass so you can get around the bulky bouncer and the 10 euro entrance fee. (Or 1000000000 ron, in case the whole EU thing doesn't work out in the next few years.) And I might name a thoroughbred after you someday, too. Or a lame donkey if you're not well behaved at California bar!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pussy Galore

Well the two-day cat food shoot is over, the producer didn't die from her cat allergies, the cat ate the food, the model looked like a cat owner, and all is well. This may have been the easiest and fastest shoot I've ever been on, and I've been on many.

Reasons for this?

1. Excellent pre-production
2. Entire location indoors, in an apartment 4 blocks from the agency
3. Minimal talent - one actress and one cat, plus some cat backups if necessary
4. Austrian director of photography - this guy managed to set lights and frame a shot in like 20 seconds, I swear. And make each shot look awesome.
5. No client on-set
6. Great cat wranglers

But numbers 2, 4, and 6 were definitely the keys here. Everything ran on and even ahead of schedule. It was pretty phenomenal.

Today I looked around the room where we were watching the playback and remembered another reason I love being in production - you get to work with funny characters from all over the world. We had a Romanian producer and crew, a German director, Austrian cinematographer, British agency rep, Hungarian actress, and Dutch cats and cat wranglers. Oh, and me.

This was also the first shoot this summer where I actually heard those stereotypical advertising things being said. And not just once or twice... dozens of times. My favorite, though, was when the director went to the actress and said, accent and all...

"You need to pick up ze product wis more LOVE!"