Monday, August 8, 2011

Hellooooo Übers!

...and we're back!

I just got home from my favorite place in the world. A lovely little break from the craziness that is LA. Man, oh manischewitz did I need a breather.

I had been spending all of my days on the 405, slowly dying inside. Here's a picture of me on the onramp out of Santa Monica. I was on the ramp for twenty minutes before even getting onto the freeway. Lovely, right?

For three hours a day I was sitting in traffic to get to my part-time, basically minimum wage retail job where I pay $9 for parking a day. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore working at LUSH. My manager and co-workers are amazing and I get a ridiculously awesome discount on things I would be buying anyways, not to mention I smell like a gosh darned angel everyday. The whole driving thing has been wearing down on me a lot, despite my efforts to make it as enjoyable as possible with music and positive thinking. I would wake up super excited to go to work and wear myself out on the drive. Silly. I just transferred locations though! I start in Glendale this week-- an easy drive down the 134 and free parking. I'm in heaven.

It's a much smaller store but still super cute and cozy.

Oh! I'm also rounding home base on my internship with Bang. What a summer. Just turned in my final paperwork and I'm all set. Can't wait to get my diploma in the mail, finally.

Two months into LA. Done. Check. Nice work. Lots to be proud of.

(Sigh), I needed a vacation.

Semi-annually, like clockwork, my stress and exhaustion build up until they are almost unbearable. Despite my cheery smile and bouncy hair, I am quietly self-destructing. (This is all of course much less dramatic than I make it sound in writing, it's all just for effect, I promise). I get to release all of this negative energy (1) at Christmas time with the help of yuletide cheer, The Santa Clause, Elf, Bing Crosby singing "The Christmas Song", and baking fudge; and (2), in the beginning of August, nestled deep in the San Bernardino forest up a little curvy road above Redlands.

My home and my escape: Camp Bravo.

If there was a heaven on earth, it would be Bravo. Maybe 'sanctuary' is a better word. I always try and talk about it with others but it never quite translates unless you have been there to experience the magic that goes on up that mountain. I'm sure you have seen scenes from movies growing up about kids at camp and thought that it was all fake.

My favorite example: The Parent Trap (the one with Lindsey Lohan before she lost her mind). Everyone's leaving and crying in the camp scene and you're sitting on the couch thinking, "Uh, sure. You dummies have known each other a week. Stop pretending like you could care so much. Get to the part where Hallie's in the car in London while 'Here Comes the Sun' is playing and then she gets to go to her mother's wedding dress shop with the top hats. Gosh dangn't, Disney, I only get to see this movie three times a year during the summer, get to the good part."

No? Just me? Moving on.

Well those scenes are actually pretty accurate depictions of camp life done right. Bravo has this way of soothing, inspiring, and recharging everyone. We're family. Whenever I'm down, I know exactly who to call to make me feel better, or better yet, they somehow know to call me first. There's something about Bravo people: they truly invest in your feelings and opinions, they listen a little more intently, they genuinely will do anything for you, and they totally 100% believe in you. It's the warmest feeling.

Bravo is where I met my very best friends: Blake, Nikolai, Rachel, and Mariko. Here's a picture of Rachel, Blake, Nikolai, and I when we were just little camper babies. I had only known them for a week when this was taken. I can't imagine where or what I would be doing without the family I have made at Bravo.

I have had a very different experience at Bravo then others. I was only a camper for one year-- and I aged out that year. I then applied to be a counselor and was very lucky to have been chosen from a group of fantastic people. I have now been with Bravo for five years--- very miniscule compared to others who have been with the company since they were eleven. Most people are super supportive of my being new to Bravo and don't treat me any differently. But (...there's always a but) there are also a handful who are, I don't know, slightly offended/annoyed by it? (Not the majority of course, just a couple of dumb babies that ruin it for everyone) (That was a Rugrats reference, if you were wondering).

Oh well, it's never really bothered me. I don't let it. I have my own relationship with Bravo and it is what it is. And really, as much as I personally get out of Camp Bravo, I really do it for those kids. I can see how much it can transform their lives and that's all that matters. I've seen some campers brighten from year to year, becoming stronger and more resilient and proud. Bravo changes lives, I kid you not.

Here's me and one of my favorite campers, Jack. I have been his counselor since he was 13. I swear he grows a foot each year. He's the best.

At this point Bravo people are nodding and smiling and saying, "Right on. You know it" and the unBravo people are going, "Move on. We get it".

I'm not sure how I plan on covering what I have done/experienced this week. But I am sure as hell going to try.

After working all day Saturday I packed up my stuff and drove to Long Beach to meet Mariko. Mari and I have worked as co-counselors together for the last four years. Now we have both become Übers-- Assistant Camp Directors. Quite the honor. They only get new Übers when they need them, which hasn't been for at least four or five years, so there isn't a training manual or anything. We spent the week running around camp, pretending to have our crap together. It was a blast. We played pranks, hung out with the campers, counselors, and teachers, and participated in camp activities in new ways. It's been so interesting to see Bravo from a camper, counselor, and then Über point of view. I'm very lucky. Even more lucky to learn everything with Mari. She's truly a bright light in my world.

Right? She's adorable. Mari and I have too much fun together. We're also an unstoppable team. We rock good cop/bad cop. You decide who's who.

I am also so lucky to be working alongside David and Artur, the camp directors. They are my heroes. Not to mention all of the counselors and teachers. They made the week so hilariously fun. UGH I love them, it hurts.

And how could I possibly forget, my two favorite boys in the world:

Blake and Nikolai. The three of us together is just pure happiness. I honestly couldn't love them more than I do. They spoil me. We're all just super protective of each other's well being. My transition to LA would have been much more difficult without them.

It was such a great week. We had an awesome teaching staff and great campers as always. Things are always challenging, but so rewarding. The week always flies by. There are so many funny stories I could tell, but I know it can be overwhelming. So here are some summaries:

- Every time Mariko and I would see Cabin 6 boys they would yell, "Hellloooo Überrrssss!" Very flattering to our egos, really. Sweet boys. By Blake and Nikolai's instruction though, of course. Here's a picture of them at the dance with a routine choreographed by one of the cabin 6 boys, Flynn.

They were also always coming up with new ways to welcome David, Artur, Mari and I for when we made nighttime rounds. My favorite: the boys stacked up like human Lincoln Logs followed by Blake and Nikolai serenading us with I'll Cover You from Rent. Hilarious.

- Mariko and I also played some pranks--- big and small. One night I sprinted into cabin 6 after rounds one night, slammed the door behind me, and through heavy pants said, "There's an f-ing bear outside". All the boys jumped up and ran to the door, clenching their fists, their hunting/protecting instincts kicking in, strategizing how they were going to handle the situation while Blake yelled, "Everyone CALM DOWN, NO ONE is leaving the cabin!" before Mariko leaped out and roared and banged on the window. Classic. Then they had to play it off like they knew all along, cause they're boys. Of course.

We also arranged a hostile camper takeover reminiscent of Lord of the Flies. The counselors were tied up in the center of their color groups while the campers made savage noises and shook tree branches around while dancing in a circle. When we came down for lineup and breakfast... it looked hilarious. Artur got a kick out of it.

Our big ongoing prank was on Edgar, the combat teacher. We hid some rubber chickens in his room, and he slowly found them over a two day period. Then he threatened us with the "wrath of Edgar" and that we shouldn't "F with him". So we found a raft box and labeled it "The Wraft of Edgar?" and hung the chickens all over his room with little paper wings. We thought it was funny. Not much of a prank, just funny to see his reactions.

- A lot of the usual Bravo things happened, too. Meal times, hot tubbing, staff collage, eating WAY too much candy (I could have --and almost did-- singlehandedly take down an entire Jelly Belly container from Costco. No shame. Honestly the amount of coffee and sugar that goes into my body at Bravo is kind of embarrassing), the black & white ball/dance, Hairspray movie/sing along night, trust circle-- the works. So much fun.

I feel completely recharged. Bring it, life. It's just that little oomph I needed to get me motivated to get things rolling in the right direction. Oh Bravo.

Okay. We can move on now.

My sketch show at BANG opened last night! Blake and Nikolai were nice enough to hustle down the mountain to come see it. They were (unfortunately but not surprisingly) tardy for the party. They did however pay for their tickets anyways, brought me a huge bouquet of flowers (in Bravo color group theme), and candy to help wean me off my current sugar addiction. It was a really fun show! We have one more performance next Sunday if anyone is in town!

I told you they spoil me. The best kind of brothers.

My mom and Connie came out this weekend to visit, too! So fun. We went and ate at Fritto Misto in Santa Monica-- it is the Griddle Cafe of Italian restaurants; a non-negotiable compulsory stop, no discussions. Connie was very excited to go the Griddle though, too. She's one my biggest (self-proclaimed) blog fans, so of course she knew where she would be eating Sunday morning. Here's Connie with her peanut butter crusted french toast with lots of whipped cream! MMM...

Also, I found out the host at the Griddle on Sunday mornings used to work at Bang... so I dropped some names and he sat us right away, with a line of others ahead of us waiting. Alrighhhtttt.... Man, I'm so LA. I'm sure it made me look very important.


Okay. I unfortunately have more to unpack, not to mention all my stinky camp clothes to take care of. I think Blake and Nikolai and I are spending another evening hanging out. It can be a weird transition coming down the mountain--- getting back to normal life. It's much easier with others around to make everything go by smoothly. And how weird... the first time I don't have to drive nine hours home to Arizona! Just a short 40 minutes away. I'm a very lucky and happy girl.

Hope everyone finds their own way to recharge themselves this week. Or better yet, I hope you have your life so together and you are so positive that you simply don't need it. Yes?

I will catch up with my own life soon. Soon. I still feel like I am sprinting behind, trying to grab onto its' coattails. Give me some time, I'll get there. Kisses everyone.

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