Storybrooke- How I Got There

Inception: 19 February 2016

I have been wanting to visit Storybrooke almost since I began watching Once. It is, after all, just across the border.  And I’ve been to Vancouver many times. I love that city and if I wasn’t here, I think Vancouver would be my next choice of places to live. This won’t even be my first trip to Vancouver for the express purpose of visiting filming locations. I went to Vancouver a few trips ago when it was called Caprica in my mind. A friend and I went together and we spent a few days exploring, imagining, taking pictures and pretending. Like recess all over again, but the playground of my mind encompassed a city and then some instead of just a rainy school yard in the tiny town where I grew up. The trip was magical.

(Of note, at the time of writing this, the title is an accountability lever, I haven’t left yet. But I WILL.) (Second parenthetical note: I will not post any spoiler pictures of any filming I might happen to see. Spoilers suck.) 

For the past year or so I have spoken to my friends about a potential trip to Storybrooke but the perfect solution for the trip did not emerge from imagination into reality. The timing was wrong, not everyone could get off work, our interests didn’t align sufficiently.

My mother and I were robbed of a mother/daughter adventure we had planned together the summer I was hurt. During the time we would have been traveling that summer, I was in therapy (all the kinds) five days a week and sleeping most of the rest of the time, when I wasn’t crying. Five years later, now that I have begun to travel again, with limitations, we have begun to revisit the idea of our lost mother/daughter adventure. I hooked her on Once this fall and Once has been her very first experience with binge watching. She loves it too.

I suggested we explore British Columbia outside Vancouver. I never have, there are many places there she hasn’t been either and we have family in Vancouver. A good opportunity to visit Storybrooke. But here again I have found a lack of alignment. Mother isn’t interested in watching filming or wandering off to find that one scene, she would be satisfied with a day spent seeing a few places and then moving on. No resentment here on my part, our priorities are simply different.

After our most recent conversation about this summer I realized that what I really wanted, wanted more than anything else out of my trip to Storybrooke, was to go by myself.

I used to travel alone and I loved it. I am a writer who finds that life gets in the way of my ideas, my dreams, that it presents and infinity of destructive distractions from which I seemingly cannot escape, if I intend to pay the rent and put food on the table. Stuff like that. My birds enjoy regular meals and so do I, after all.

I need two things: to regain something that has been lost to me for five years, and to make this writer’s journey what I need it to be. Ok three things: I need to make this happen for myself, without a babysitter.

I have begun telling people that I am going to Storybrooke. I have begun telling them because I need to hear it for it to be real, for this trip to step out of the realm of daydream and into the light of day. I spend my walking time thinking about which scenes to research for their locations, about all the little details I will need to plan for myself to keep myself safe and how to make this possible for me as I am now, a disabled woman.

Earlier this week I got on Steveston’s website and began poking around. I know the basics, but wanted to start looking at the site from outside the distant vantage of someday and instead from the here and now. I chose tentative dates which I won’t reveal on the internet because I do not want to have unwelcome visitors arrive at my home and scare my birds while I am not here. Likewise, I won’t be posting pictures until after my return.

But these baby steps I took and I found myself giggling in anticipation. I spoke with a coworker, who happens to be Canadian, about particulars I have forgotten. Given my current condition I am approaching this with an admitted trepidation. I have significant limitations and situational challenges which give me definite pause: poor memory, sensitivity to noise and flashing lights, fatigue, balance etc…

How will I manage? By managing.

Planning: 21 February 2016

Today I began managing in earnest. I signed up for AirBnB and scouted a few places I might stay. Surprisingly, meeting my needs is going to be cheaper than I thought. And more available than I thought. Next step: Uber.

Because I cannot drive and riding public transit is VERY hard on me, I rely on Uber for trips that are further than I want to go by either my own two feet or by bus. Out of paranoia I researched to make sure that Vancouver is indeed on the list of Uber cities, it must be, right? Wrong. Vancouver threw Uber out on its ass due to entrenched taxi tycoons, near as I can figure from the few articles I read. How dreadful!

What would have been a fairly easy trip just turned into something MUCH harder and likely made somethings impossible.

To be honest, I almost gave up right then. Taxis are expensive, inconvenient, smelly, dirty, gross, bad drivers, often smoked in and just generally speaking not a way any fragile person wants to get around. I learned this from being forced into taxis for transit to and from therapies.

I put down my research and pushed play on my audiobook because I just couldn’t deal with it right then. An hour later I finished the audiobook and rented the movie- a disappointment and a lost opportunity to do justice to a unique story, I think. (The Time Traveler’s Wife)

And now is now. I decided, listening to a tale about time and how important living life really is, that I don’t care that this trip just got harder. I am not giving up.

It doesn’t matter how hard it is, or how long it takes, I am determined. Roughly paraphrased from Laura Roslin, a personal hero. Whom I will think about while I am in Caprica/Storybrooke.

What I have to do now is plan more carefully than I had originally intended. I now have to map out each location I want to visit and determine how to bus it there. If I can bus it there. I will have to figure out how to get a disabled pass and make sure that I can always get a seat so that I don’t fall while the bus is moving. And I have to plan where it is I will rest when I get there, wherever there is. I searched for an app that would let me put pins in a map so I can keep track of all the locations I have in mind. Which day for which places. What are the bus schedules?

I am doing it anyway.

I can. I will. I am.

I am holding myself capable. I am also capable of not giving in to the easy path, which would be to give up because this will be hard. I am choosing to do the hard thing because I am not going to sit at home and just forget about my dreams. This is just one more problem to solve, one more street to cross. It was many months after my injury before I was able to cross the street alone, but I did it because I wanted something. My freedom. Freedom happened to be in the form of grapes, I had run out and that was the tipping point. I was determined that my woes would not stand between me and my grapes. Here I am, determined again, not to let bus riding stand between me and getting back what was once mine. Travel. Fork over the grapes universe, I’m in the mood to munch.

Time to defy gravity. And be sure to bring enough ziplocks to defy bus-sickness or at least contain it.

The plan:

Spend about a week away from home. So far AirBnB appears to have what I need in good order. Better than a youth hostel by far and comparable price-wise last I checked (admittedly, years ago).

What to do:

Walk: as much as possible = pleasurable PT

Eat good food: Le Gavroche (WHAT!!!??? NO! It can’t be. This is a tragedy of the first order!!!) and whatever else I can get my hands on for good dinners, pursue excellent seafood

Photography: I haven’t decided which camera to take, carrying heavy things is a problem.

Write: begin spec for a TV series, journal, blog articles for Once = WAY more than a week’s worth of work.

Theatre/Show: find a play/opera/show and go to it, preferably at the Orpheum since I failed to go there on my Caprica trip.

Sit and Soak: find a interesting places and absorb them, notice stuff and think about it, write about it.

Watch Filming: if I am really lucky and they happen to be filming the week I’m there. It could happen! But I’m not banking on it.

Find new suits for work: Canadians actually carry clothes for tiny adults like me. One of my favorite suit jackets came from downtown Vancouver.

Where to do it:

Filming locations: as many as possible

  1. Mr. Gold’s Shop- found
  2. Storybrooke ParkTime Portal in Storybrooke Park
  3. Granny’s- found
  4. Docks/ Cannery- found
  5. Storybrooke beaches and waterfront, Henry’s Castle etc. -many found
  6. Storybrooke CemeteryMills Mausoleum
  7. Mr. Gold’s house- fat chance finding this one- and yet! Found.
  8. Wooded park where they shoot the Enchanted Forest and the Storybrooke WellThe Well Once Season 4
  9. Zelena’s farm house

Van Dusen Botanical Gardens: I love this garden and will visit on every trip I take if possible.

Queen Elizabeth Park: Also cool garden will visit if possible and convenient.

UBC Rose Garden: Another traditional haunt of mine, campus is gorgeous, also Japanese gardens available.

Coffee Shops for rain and/or cold: preferably at/near filming locations-how long will they let me sit in Granny’s if I keep ordering food?

Stanley Park: haven’t explored the western part of the park yet.

One new park I don’t yet know about: where will this be? Adventure!

To Do List:

Request time off work

Book AirBnB

Book train/bus to Vancouver

Decide which points of interest to visit

Plan transit to all points of interest

Packing List:

Umbrella

Ziplock bags- at least 5 because I’m busing it even if I’m barfing.

Device chargers

Warm clothes

Tin Whistle- not hauling the ukulele, but I wish.

Walking shoes

I am going to blog this trip all the way through, though updates will be delayed while I’m actually there. I am hoping that other fans will chime in with places they found, their experiences and recommendations. I’ll also delightedly crowd source my Google efforts to find filming locations I haven’t yet stumbled across.

If this was your trip, where would you go? Did you go some places and find it neat? Please share with me its address or real life name so I can find it. Please do comment below so I can keep track of all your wonderful suggestions.

22 February 2016: Whack-a-Mole

Now that it’s real, I have to get to work.

I woke up this morning anxious and have remained so more or less all day. I am vacillating between giddy excitement and agitation. It seems that this trip will be an exercise in managing not only the nuts and bolts of travel for a disabled person, but also that person’s concerns about her own abilities.

I can do this, that’s not in question. But that reality does little to stop the what-if game. Of course the what-if game is an evolutionary advantage and among the reasons we humans are so successful as a species. For me that means addressing each what-if as it crops up like a game of whack-a-mole.

I have requested the time off work- a two week chunk because I don’t know exactly when I’m going yet. My boss was fine with that, he’s a good guy. Step the next, figure out how to get there. The train is my preference, but it turns out that I probably can’t catch a train coming home as early as it leaves due to lack of Uber. I can certainly take an early train on the way there through, no problem. I guess I’ll have to bus it back. But that will be ok because Uber will take me home from the station. Whack.

Next: how am I going to get around the city? Here I have a disabled pass which ensures that I get a seat and can ride safely. But what is the likelihood of a bus full of commuters in Vancouver giving a thirty something well-dressed lady a seat before the bus takes off and I fall? I depend on my little card to keep me safe here, I may have to time my travel to stay away from commute o’clock. My previous bus riding experiences weren’t overly crowded in Vancouver. Then there’s the whole Sky Train thing. Do I dare try to use their light rail system? I haven’t even tried it here.

Maybe that’s an experiment worth making before I leave. Light rail is dicey because some systems don’t even have drivers. The doors open and close quickly and the train takes off, seated disabled person or not. At least, I’ve never looked to see if there’s some kind of gimp button that would allow extra time for someone like me to get seated.

Whack! I emailed the Vancouver transit folks to ask for suggestions.

The good news is that I am not so bad as to fall instantly on a moving object like I used to. I used to do PT on docks with a gait belt and my PT to improve this problem. So I can hang on and beg, as long as I can get to a rail. Most people, historically, have responded well to panic and tears. Yes, I’ve been there, done that.

Thus is the world of being disabled without said disability being obvious to the untrained observer. When it is obvious that someone needs help, most people help because most people are nice. Or at least not mean. But if someone thinks you’re after a hand-out or special treatment you don’t really need, boy-howdy, the fangs come out and people can be really awful.

But enough of that already. I’ve made some excellent progress today. I’ve scouted my transportation situation, requested the time off and have a lead on when they wrap up filming in the spring. If I am a good girl, I can get the entire trip planned and booked this week. That will take care of the planning anxiety: whack ’em dead, Barbara!

I think I’m going to engage in some PT between now and then to acclimate as best I can to buses and light rail and carrying heavy things. Whack! I’ve got time and I know PT helps.

I can.

27 February 2016

I am!

Today I booked. And then I giggled and bounced up and down on my chair. After nearly five years of being trapped by this damned injury, I’m fleeing the country, breaking out, skipping town. I’m outta here.

Jail Break

I don’t know what I did to deserve a nickel in up-state Gimp-Penitentiary, but I’m leaving that behind, disabilities or not. I can do this. I can prepare for this and I can go and have a really great time. I can figure out what I need one step at a time and I am doing it.

I’ve got my passport. Check. I’ve got a place to stay in Steveston. Check. I’m booked on a train there and back. Check. I even figured out and entered my in-Vancouver transit plans into a spreadsheet. Yes, I have to write down everything, times and dates included so that I know I can get from one place to the next and know I won’t forget at an inopportune moment. I’ll do whatever it takes to make this work.

Now I get to do the fun stuff: research and plan all the filming locations I want to visit and pick which days to do them. I’ll get the bus routes down and everything before I go. I’ve already started my packing list. Onward! Sometimes adulting is rewarding.

While you’re here, come check out my Once projects:

Before you go, you can check out my research project! I have conducted a study of OUAT viewer preferences and you can check on my progress here. Yay for science!

Fan-art in the making! I’m in the midst of a Once-themed Gratitude Project. Take a look at my progress!

Happiness and Television

I love TV. Some of the people I know would say this is a sign of weakness, or at the very least, a character flaw. It is not.

For your reference, I am a thirty-something with a couple of degrees from a major university. One in a science (how I make my living) and the other in a literature (how I make the rest of me happy). I don’t think it’s necessary, or even wise, to be anything other than open about my nerdy tendencies. I like my garden. I misspent my youth getting musically educated. I am more frank than I am humble, flaw or not. Someday I’ll write fiction and publish it in some media or other. As soon as I make it happen, anyway. I’ve had some very tough knocks in my life, by any standard, and like everyone else, I am always bouncing back.

Now, let’s talk about TV and why I love it.

To be clear, I don’t love all TV. As with everything else in my life, I am PICKY about how I spend my time. I like what I like and if you like something else, then you should go write about how much you love that. Maybe you’ll convince me to give it a try. My opinions don’t mean you’re wrong, but they definitely mean I am right. Wink.

I probably fell in love with TV because of Captain Picard. My young self likely saw in him what I hoped to someday be. No, I have lots of hair and I want it to stay that way. But like with all my TV heroes since, he inspired me to go in a certain direction, to be something more than I was at that moment.

Stories have always been a hugely important part of my life, both writing my own and ingesting what other people write. From the time I could read well, I read a lot, to the point of getting in trouble over homework because I would rather be curled up with my book than doing whatever homework was due. My time with my Legos was spent telling their stories. I had a whole kingdom full of characters which I brought to life on a small table in my bedroom.

I contend with the skeptics that say TV can’t compare with books right here and now. Scripted dramatic television IS the written word. It just so happens to be brought to life by actors, as opposed to Lego figures and my fingers. These stories are someone’s artwork, someone’s dreams, someone’s fantasies which they share with us, just like books. One of my teachers once said that a piece of writing is the finger print of the author.

I will also dispute that TV categorically rots the mind. I tell you that my mind has gotten a truly staggering amount of thinking done because of what I watch on TV. I am not a passive viewer, as is clear by the fact that I am spending my precious spare time to write about TV, and my imagination feeds my whole life. Anyone who says daydreaming is a waste of time is wrong. WAY wrong. My creativity, of which daydreaming is the root, makes me a good scientist and it makes me a good person, or at least an interesting one. I hope.

I won’t go so far as to say that there isn’t mind rotting TV out there, because there is. And, from my vantage point, those shores are seemingly vast. I will make plain that I consider soap operas to be denizens of said shore, and anything else I don’t like. That said, it seems to me that if someone says watching TV will cause me mind rot, I would do well to question their TV watching choices rather than my own. I know what is worth my time and what is not.

While we are on the subject of worth my time, why write about TV? I have a couple of motivations. The first is that the kinds of articles I want to read about my shows don’t float across my e-desk. I haven’t found where in the mainstream media folks are having more than surfacey-soundbite discussions about whether they liked an episode or not. What I really miss from college were the hours spent talking about stories, how they work, their impact, how they evoked the emotions they made us feel. Surely someone outside of film school wants to have this chat.

Reason number two: I am worried that the shows I love could die off because of the shift in how viewers access TV. I am referring to the fact that viewers are cutting the cord in droves and moving toward getting their TV solely from internet sources like Hulu and Netflix. I myself buy my TV from iTunes and Amazon in addition to using services like Hulu and Netflix. If ratings continue to depend on the population of viewers making appointments to watch TV, ratings will only drop in the demographics who are making the switch. My generation and younger. that means that shows aimed at my demographic will suffer.

Once the networks cave, are forced to acknowledge the Internet, and count every viewer who paid for their content, this threat will theoretically disappear. But for now, even though I pay for my TV shows, I don’t count toward their ratings. That means that the lives of my shows depend on other people doing what I am not willing to do: pay the cable company and make an appointment for specific times to watch TV.

I don’t know how to fix this problem, but if we make enough noise, maybe progress can be made.

My intention with this blog is to write reviews for my favorite TV shows- write the change you want to see. I am particularly interested in the mechanics of writing and how they affect whether an audience responds favorably to the material or not. Structure is hugely important to the success of a story and, ideally, is largely invisible unless the audience wants to see it. Like me, and maybe you. I’m also interested in blocking and directorial choices, performances and even lighting. Before diving into a specific show and episode, I figure defining my terms is in order.

I’m totally making this up, by the way, no textbook is guiding my words.

Since my primary area of interest is in scripted dramas, I will ignore categories such as situational comedies, competition shows, sports casting and “reality” TV. Scripted dramatic television these days seems to fall roughly into three camps (that I’ve thought of so far, I reserve the right to add more).

Episodic- a viewer can sit down to most episodes and have them make sense because they stand alone with the exception of the occasional two, but at most three, episode arcs. Some of these include a theme for the entire season which typically gets expressed in around five scattered episodes, but these tend to stick to the basic formula of the stand alone. Many of the procedural crime dramas use this as did Star Trek.

Continuous Flow- examples of these include Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galactica: 2003 and Lost. I call these out by name because, as you can see, these shows are not one genre. The continuous flow style starts at point A and each episode picks up more or less where the previous one left off. You cannot jump in the middle of these without frustration. These have a book/chapter feel to me.

Hybrids- Once Upon A Time is one of these, as is Stargate: Universe I believe. While definitely not built on a series of stand-alones, after Season 1, Once has operated in two hemisphere like parts per season which work together, though in sequence as opposed to simultaneously, clearly. The first half of the season has a double whammy job of setting up not only its own mini-conclusion, but also must scaffold the second half, which spends a good deal of (more satisfying) time paying off earlier work. In addition to the two hemisphere system, Once uses some Continuous Flow and Episodic story telling tools. It tends to let an episode focus on a character, or pair of characters -Episodic- but the B story line of the episode will usually carry the major arc of the hemisphere, if not the season arc as well like a Continuous Flow show.

Which TV shows I end up reviewing will reveal my preferences clearly, but I cannot say that all do not have their merits. Growing up on Star Trek, in many of its iterations, the Episodic style established my TV paradigm. But, I remember how excited I would get when there would be the occasional two-parter. I wondered my TV couldn’t be more like the movies or better yet like books. I wanted to spend more time with the characters I loved.

We can see a clear evolution beginning to change the TV landscape as we look at late Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and definitely with The X-Files. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel took another definite step in that direction while remaining primarily episodic. It wasn’t until Battlestar Galactica: 2003 that I got my first taste of how wonderful Continuous Flow could really be. BSG felt like reading a book, what I had always wanted. There were few standalone episodes and the show took a deep dive into its characters: a dream come true.

So is there a winner? How could I say? I know people who complain bitterly about shows which are not strictly episodic because they can’t come as go as they please and still understand what is happening. Then again there’s me, who is in it for the long haul and thinks TV should get as close to being a visual book as possible. If TV were never episodic in nature, I’d be a happy camper. I want my TV to be comparable with the finest literature I can lay my hands on. And I think it can be. With Battlestar Galactica: 2003 and Breaking Bad blazing that trail, I have hope that others will follow.

With the groundwork now laid out, let’s go look in depth at some TV shows.

Further Study: see this article in the New York Times for an elegant discussion on film/TV and taste.