Friday, January 5, 2007

Back in town

Hey Everyone --

I'm back in town. I will probably post one more entry this weekend (more for my own sense of finishing off this thread than for passing on additional info). Thanks for reading this stuff and for your support. It meant a lot for me to know that you guys were listening and watching.

I'm sorry I didn't get to reply personally to people's questions and comments. Internet time was at a premium so I didn't get to read everything until I got back. I'll try to catch-up soon.

I guess I have to go to the meeting on the 22, since the march is an agenda item wink Hugs to everyone if I don't see you before then!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Proper way to remove a Stormtrooper helmet

Hi Everyone --

I'm sorry I haven't blogged lately. After the troop, I was so tired, I needed a bit of a break from everything. Andrew and I slept-in and went shopping in Beverly Hills.

After my last post, I went through and read everyone's comments; I was really touched by people's support and prayers. I went back out to the lounge and actually got a bit teary-eyed as I explained everyone's posts. I received a lot of hugs and learned something very courageous about another trooper...

One of the first people I met here was a trooper named Rick from Florida. He was very friendly, passed me a trading card and we chatted frequently over the next few days. After I told him about the support I was receiving from the troops and FF back home, he told me that there were not just 200 troops marching, but that there were, in actuality, 201 marching. He then showed me a vial he wore on a chain around his neck; it contained the ashes of his young son. A couple years ago, after his little boy was diagnosed with cancer, the 501 in his community frequently visited his son and were preparing to name the little guy as an honorary 501 member. A week before he was to be inducted, the little boy died of his illness. The 501 then gave Rick a set of his own armour and Rick became a member of the 501. Rick now troops in memory of his son, visiting other children with cancer and assisting in his community. I was very proud to march with Rick and our 201st trooper.

There aren't sufficient words to describe parade day. Most troops were up by 3:30 am to prepare and we were all geared-up and ready to go at 5. One of the funniest and most awkward moments was watching troopers gear-down and gear back up again on the bus after using the on-board toilet (the LAST available bathroom for 5 hours).

The morning was very chilly. I had the foresight to bring a thermal blanket -- one of those disposable tin-foil looking things. The other troops teased me quite a bit at first, calling me Jiffy-Pop and TK-TV-dinner, but once they realized how warm I was, the teasing fell off quickly!

A couple people were so cold at first, that they made the error of failing to turn on their helmet fans when we started to march. I turned mine on right away and was very happy I did. Although I was very chilly the first 5 minutes, I really needed it by the end of the parade. I watche the sweat off of one of the troopers in front of me drip out the back of his helmet and dribble down the back of his armour.

Most of us made the whole distance. Out of the 201 marching, we lost 16 by the end of the parade. Most losses were as a result of armour malfunction: plates fell-off or fans quit working. As one of my fellow troopers said, in most cases, it took more courage to fall-out of the parade than to finish it. One of the flag-bearers, or "flaggots" as we called them behind their backs wink , had his visor fog-up so badly that he could not see. Rather than continuing to march, risking putting his company out of formation, he decided to step out. I wanted to thank him and all other troopers for being strong enough to do so.

I didn't know this, but our founder, Albin, walks with a prosthetic leg. He was in the front row of our company. Albin made almost the whole march before he bowed out due to his discomfort. It was very inspirational.

Many of the troops gathered after the march and I got to see people's injuries first-hand. Many people were bruised and had be cut quite deeply by their gear. I was very, very happy to escape largely unscathed. I have a blister on my pinky-toe and a 2 cm bruise on my thigh from my cod. Others were not so lucky -- I talked to one girl who had blisters and was bleeding from cuts caused by her cod-piece.

One trooper, Steve, ended up in the hospital. If you see a video on you-tube about a trooper doing push-ups -- that's him. Very nice guy. He marched the whole parade, calling cadence the entire time for the troops at the back. At the end, when we started to take off our helmets, he passed-out cold. Paramedics rushed in. He spent a few hours in the hospital receiving fluids via I.V. and was returned to us largely unharmed. Yay! For any paramedics reading this, please take note: The proper way to remove a stormtrooper helmet is to give it a quarter turn to the left or the right BEFORE trying to take it off someone's head!!!

I have more to write, but I'm out of time this morning.


Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year, George

Hi Guys --

This will be my last post before the parade. We have to be in gear, post-breakfast and ready to climb on the buses at 5:01 tomorrow. Bonus points as to the fans who know why that specific time was chosen wink

We did a dry run today in full gear. My stuff held together well and nothing rubbed, well, nothing more than usual. We paraded before George Lucas himself. I can't see much more than the trooper directly in front of me, but one of the Royal Guards told us that when he saw us, he was grinning ear to ear! I hope we do him proud.

We were lucky to have some photos taken with Lucas. I'm not sure where and when they'll be posted, but I'll let you know when I find out. One was of the band and all troops; one was of George and only the 501 (I lucked out and you will find me directly to the right of the Canadian flag); but the last one was awesome. We were put into small groups according to Garrison and had photos taken with him. There were 4 garrisons in our group, but only about 15 troopers in mine. I was about 4 feet from the man himself! The best part was that we had to run across the field to stand behind him. I had my hair down and he gave me a great big smile as he watched me line up behind him!

I have checked and double-checked my armour. NOTHING is going to fall off of me. The trooper in front of me lost his thigh pieces as we got in formation. I laughed pretty hard at that as he had his thighs snapped into his cod-piece. None of the drill captains were willing to reach into his cod to re-attach them -- we had to get the fellow's girlfriend off the sidelines to snap the pieces back in place! He lost them again during the practice march. He's fixing them right now as we have been told that if there are any armour malfunctions, we will be removed from the parade. Yikes!

I feel a lot better after our dry run today. I think we'll do well. My only concern now is that there is no bathroom ANYWHERE. That is, from the time we get off the buses to the time we finish the route - 6 hours later, there will be no opportunity to go. I hope my poor little bladder can take it! I'm hydrating up tonight and not having anything tomorrow.

Shane, Randy (the sole attendee from the Canadian Garrison) and I had a little video opportunity today. All the foreign Garrisons were asked to film short clips for the documentary they're filming and to wish George a Happy New Year. We ended our clip with a little Bob & Doug MacKenzie.

I hope to represent you guys well tomorrow and I hope you're watching. Somebody tape it for me please!

Hugs to all,

Wears White Plastic

Hi Everyone --

Saturday was tougher than every day before. We were practicing marching with the band on the Astroturf and with all 3 squads together and the music playing, it was really tough to hear the commands. I almost smacked into the guy in front of me on several occasions when I couldn't hear the "Halt". We were a bit (okay, a lot) of a gaggle at first, but by the end of the day, we were doing well.

This has not been easy. The drill captains have their hands full trying to teach 200+ people to march as a whole unit. It's tough on our bodies too. I've seen swollen ankles and knees - and everyone seems to have shin-splints, sore backs, etc. We go out and have a lot of fun in the evenings, but this has not been a cake-walk. We're all working really hard during the day, without complaint, and we're really earning the beers we have in the evening.

I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I went to bed at 10:30 last night. No partying for me. Poor Andrew -- he came in last night and I had dinner with him and then went to bed! He's still in bed while I'm already done breakfast and about to gear-up to head out.

We have a dress rehearsal today. Everyone must be in full gear and make-up. There are armoured troopers everywhere! Getting us all on the buses should be interesting. Most of us can't sit, so we'll be packed in there like plastic sardines.

The beer squad has been doing very well. So well in fact, that our squad leader, who has been nick-named "Wears White Plastic" has been selected for a very prestigious job. He has the pleasure of escorting George Lucas around the practice facilities today, acting as his bodyguard. Wears White Plastic, whose real name is Louis, tried to have our whole squad included, but no success there sad Oh well, it's nice to be recognized for working so hard.

We've got now what should be our final line-ups. I am in the line of troops closest to the camera. We will be the first troops you see behind vader. I am the 7th trooper from the front -- look for me!

We received a great order from our drill captain last night. We have been instructed to march over and through anyone who gets in front of us. A lot of people will be running in front of us to take photos, but we have been told that nothing is to stop us marching. I can't wait to smoke my first photographer!

Yesterday they taught us what to do if we need to drop out of the parade. Once we are out, a van will pick us up and we will be out of the parade. Permanently. There is no going back once you drop out. I'm getting even more scared and nervous than before. I do NOT want that to be me. Please don't let that be me. If you pray, please pray that it will not be me.

I need to get into my gear for the dress rehersal.

I will try to get on-line again today so I'll chat with you all later!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Badlands Drinking Team Shirts: Sansweet Approved

Hi All --

Yesterday was tough. Really tough. The sun was beating down on us, we were sweating up a storm and trying to learn how to do a proper wheel. Over and over and over again! The video cameras were out and they had us race across the football field to line up in formation three or four times in a row just to turn around and start marching back. Sprinting 80 yards and then putting on a bucket causes lenses to fog up really quickly! Our platoon (platoon 2) seems to be doing quite well, but the first platoon could use a bit more work. I believe they're having an impromptu practice session in 10 minutes to go through things again.

You should all be really proud of me: out of the 80 stormtroopers in our Company, my squad of 8 was selected as the best squad yesterday. We were cheered by our entire company and our drill instructor bought us beers after marching. We've started calling ourselves the beer squad. One of our squad members is going to make up t-shirts for us! We have been working pretty hard, so it's good to be recognized for it. Jordie -- thanks for teaching me the basics, it's serving me well -- when I get back, I'm going to pass that beer on to you.

This is really, REALLY tentative (our line-ups seem to change quite frequently) but right now, the beer squad of 8 is camera-side. That is, when you see the first company of stormtroopers walk past the cameras, we should be those closest to them. We're such glory hogs wink We should be the first group of stormtroopers behind Vader. I will let people know when I have a better idea of what's happening.

I apologize if this post is not quite as snappy as the others. I stayed out about two beers and one tequila shot too late last night. Most of the international people were out after dinner last night and were sharing treats they'd brought with them. The folks from the Philippines were handing out some strange sort of cracker that would expand in your mouth and one of the Kiwis had a bizarre pineapple toffee -- I think I'm still picking it out of my teeth. We were hanging out, joking, swapping patches and buying each other beers. I pulled out my temporary tattoos and we were having fun applying them to each other's arms and even on one poor fellow's shaved head! At one point, one of the guys from Singapore grabbed Mary Franklin and I ended up applying one to her arm too (she has the most amazing arms I've ever seen -- she could break me in half). I think of the 70+ tattoos I've brought down, I've only got 5 left!

I feel very, very privileged to be here. I have met more and more people each day; all of them are excited to be here and have been working hard to make this look good. I am so happy to have been a part of this as it's unlike anything that's been done before. Our group is really bonding with each other and I'm sure that I will come back with more friends than I can count. I wish everyone had this great opportunity; I think about the Badlands folks and the Calgary FF a lot while I'm here.

I know our group caught a bit of flak for the Badlands Drinking Team shirts, but I've received nothing but compliments on it. I've even had people taking photos of the back of my shirt to try and make their own. Shane was wearing his shirt yesterday too. Apparently, Steve Sansweet walked up to Shane and requested one for his collection!

Last night we were told that tomorrow, after the dress rehearsal, George himself will be doing a final review of the troops and then we'll do a group photo. I can't wait!


Friday, December 29, 2006

First day of herding cats

Hey Everyone --

You're making me nervous -- I didn't realize so many people would be reading this thread.

One of the things I haven't really talked about yet is the media here. Video cameras are EVERYWHERE. You can't do anything without getting it caught on film. Lucas (and a couple media outlets) are doing a documentary of our experiences, so they are constantly interviewing people and shooting action shots. Yesterday at breakfast, they stuffed a 3-foot camera in my face, put a huge boom mike above my head and then had the nerve to tell me to "act natural"! The crews are really nice, but it's unnerving to have everything recorded.

Last night I hug out with the UK boys again. They gave me a pile of flakes (UK chocolate bars), trading cards and even a UK patch. The film crew came by and took us to a steakhouse in Universal City, fed us some shots (filming the whole time) and then convinced some of the boys to get on the mechanical bull. Thank God none of them were hurt.

I haven't seen much of Shane since I got down here. They separated the scouts out early, so he's been marching in a different squad. Since I didn't know anyone else, I've been actively meeting people and everyone has been great. I've met a really exhausted fellow from the Philippines (it was 4 am for him while we were eating lunch); a couple from Japan (the guy has been having a tough go of it as he doesn't speak English); a very odd Italian fellow -- the Italians came dressed in cowboy gear; a fellow from Thailand who went to Trent University for a couple years; and the list goes on and on... Most people have patches or stickers or pins to give out. The Aussies were handing out kangaroo keychains. I feel badly as I don't have any goodies to gift. I'm down to one or two patches. If I ever do anything like this again I will need to remember to bring a tonne of presents down with me.

Our first day of marching: they loaded us on to 5 buses yesterday and drove us to the hugest high school I have ever seen. It was a bit like herding cats, but they finally separated us out into groups (and by size) and training began. It was tough to hear the commands over the practicing marching band -- they are amazing btw -- so they took us to another corner of the grounds. We learned to fall in, line-up properly and make left and right turns. We're now working on keeping in perfect formation while marching. It's a lot harder than it looks as everyone's stride is slightly different. Once we learned the basics, they had us put on our buckets and try it with no peripheral vision. Wow -- not easy. We need lots and lots of practice!

One of the coolest things I saw yesterday:
They had all of us bring our helmets to the practice grounds but during the first part of the day they had us practice without them. We left all of our helmets on the field, lined up row on row. 250 helmets in perfect formation -- it was unbelievable, and slightly unsetting -- they looked like tombstones. I took a bunch of photos and when I get back, I'll convince Andrew to post them for me.

I should go -- 15 minutes of internet time costs me $5 US.

Cheers everyone,

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Jeans and Buckets

Sorry last night was so brief -- they were kicking us out of the business centre as they needed to close. I have a couple minutes before the bus leaves, so I will try to flesh things out a bit more now.

The UK Garrison had very nifty shirts; they listed the name of all of their marchers on the back. A few of the Garrisons had their own parade shirts made. I thought it would be cool if we had made our own, but for some reason it seems silly to make a t-shirt for 2 people. The German Garrision had matching army cases with their TK numbers, their flag and "Rose Parade Deployment" printed on them. Very awesome.

So what did George look like? Exactly like all the photos! His hair really does that "wave" and it's very salt and pepper. The only thing that was different is that he was NOT wearing plaid!

And what did he tell us? He was, understandably, nervous. Who wouldn't be in a room full of 250 raving star wars fans? Every camera in the room was on him. He walked up to the mike and told us that he fully expected us to fail to survive the ordeal, but that those troops that would follow would march to glory carrying a piece of us with them! He also hinted that there would be photos with George on Sunday. That sounds awesome!!!!

Today, we are going to be shuttled to a stadium to learn how to march. Mary Franklin (one of the key organizers of this shebang) in her speech last night explained that she fully expects today to be one big cluster **** Organizing 250 marchers cannot be an easy feat. She has asked us to be prepared and patient. I think I'm ready to go. They've asked us to have our helmets with us so they can take photos of us in jeans and buckets. We'll look pretty goofy happy I suspect the real reason is so that we can learn to position ourselves without using our peripheral vision.

One interesting thing I've noticed is the lack of estrogen around here. I think I've seen about 15 other chicks (although there are rumours of about 50 being here) and of the ones I've met, only 2 of them are TKs. I've also met a couple scout girls, but most are officers. It makes me a little sad -- I thought there would be more of us.

I don't know how many people are aware of this, but we were all slated to share rooms. 4 to a room with 2 beds. Yikes! I'm not very good at sharing (and I'm a very light sleeper), so I bit the bullet and paid for my own room. I was regretting my decision last night as people were bonding with their new roommates, but this morning, I was pretty happy about things. A lot of people were discovering that roommates snored or squirmed or didn't like to go to bed until 4 am. Most are pretty tired, but I'm feeling refreshed!

I've got to go get on that bus -- more later!