a TigerRAWk Film

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Shared Life: Winter In Chicago 2020 - Apocalypse Edition (January - March)

When it began, one probably didn't expect what 2020 has become: an apocalyptic type of year. Australia caught fire, a war seemingly nearly broke out, then a worldwide pandemic called COVID-19 more or less put a stop to life as we know it for most folks. I was among the fortunate ones to be able to continue my job and even was given a few days to "work from home" along with a "hazard" pay increase. As I write this, we continue to live in quarantine due to the pandemic induced "stay-at-home" orders and guidance. Of course you have some folks who are making it political, arguing over this or that, coming up with conspiracy theories, and upset over the rights they believe that they have lost due to government overreach. I am thankful to know a lot of folks who, during this time, are stepping up in loving kindness to those around them and even creating services to meet needs that are unique to this time.

A part of me wishes that I had done more activities in the time we had before the "stay-at-home" orders and guidance went into effect. Perhaps a few more shows. Maybe attend some local minor league hockey or maybe made a trip to Pittsburgh for a Penguins game. I dealt with some unusual illness during the early months of the year that had me miss a couple days of work and generally not feel up to going out to a show or anything else. Oh well...hindsight. We had been planning a trip to Russia and invested money toward that so I felt I should be somewhat mindful of spending and certainly did not have the foresight to know that some things I did pay for in advance would not be happening (and with that said, I hope to get refunded for things not rescheduled).

Some good that has come from this though has been seeing a lot of live performances on the internet of bands or artists that I likely would not have seen or in a way that no one has likely seen done. I think in hard times, the creative folks really step it up and that has certainly come through during this time.

The last few years, I waited until the year was over to post each of the seasonal "A Shared Life" clips. I tried to have the blog ready so that I could post each season's video about one week apart in January and be able to share the blog within that week at least as well. Part of the reasoning for that was that I wasn't getting the projects done in a very timely manner. I might have finished a project for one season in a reasonable time but not others. I also had work to finish on projects from the previous year to get done and I wanted to get them posted before getting these seasonal ones posted which was a self imposed deadline and restriction. An example, I think that by the time I finished the winter project last year, it was June or July (though it may have been much later). Now I know it is nearly June as I type this, but under the current circumstances, I think I will probably get a chance to finish up the seasonal projects at least within the following season (for example, I am finished with winter while it is still spring and not yet summer) so that I can post them within a reasonable time of the end of the season. I finished the last of the projects from 2019 and I don't have anything on the table that needs worked on nor any prospects of projects that are needing to be done. I may work around with some stuff here or there but nothing is pressing and nothing has deadlines currently to stop me from getting these seasonal projects done in a timely manner.

This project documents the winter of 2020...January through the end of March. Things began to change in March as far as the effect on our life and I began to document when the "stay-at-home" orders and guidance were placed on Illinois and Chicago as the beginning of the apocalypse somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I also decided to make an intro clip that will start these videos. This project happens to have an early edition of that clip before I added some effects to make the images appear old with static noise, anti-alias, and bad film and television effects. I made a new edition after I finalized this project and though I could probably make the change, I am just going to leave it alone and let the remaining apocalypse era videos have the new edition. I wrote a short blog regarding the apocalypse intro that you can read about here.
January 2020
On Wednesday January 1st, I decided to go into work on New Year's Day this year and so I captured some clips of the morning commute.

On Friday January 3rd, we gathered with our friends Josh, Anastasia, Kevin, Jasmine, and Cindy in Aurora, IL for a Murder Mystery Dinner party. It was a fun game.

On Saturday January 4th, Elphie and I attended a punk show put on by Quinn Anderson. It was in a cold building running off generators in a skatepark behind a Mexican restaurant called The Fallout. Quinn put on a RAD show! Her band, KillCult played and did a great job! She also did one song with What's Your Damage to make a music video you can watch here (some of my footage ended up being used). 2Minute Minor also played and a bunch of other bands I either am not familiar with or much less familiar with: The Big Cheese, Constant Buzz, Signals, Miracle Whip, and The Kreutzer Sonata. It was a lot of fun to see a punk show like this.

On Thursday January 9th, as I waited on the bus to go to work, I noticed stuffed animals attached to the side of a nearby garbage truck. I thought it was funny so I captured a shot of it and included it in the project. This is the second garbage truck I have seen decorated with things possibly from someone's trash. A couple years ago I documented a garbage truck with a painting or picture attached to its side. I also included a still shot of a headline from a Pittsburgh news station that read "These Aren't My Pants" which I of course shared to Five Iron Frenzy!

On Friday January 17th, as I walked to the bank after work in a blizzard, I noticed and captured filming trailers along broadway in Uptown indicating some sort of filming was taking place which turned out to be ChicagoPD.

On Saturday January 18th, we once again came out to Uptown for Mellie's birthday party at JPUSA. While it was done snowing for the most part, it was pretty cold. I tried to pay for parking but the machine would not accept my payment. I lucked out and did not receive a ticket. It was a fun time hanging with friends.

On Friday January 24th, it had become significantly warmer and between rain and the melting of the snow, there was a lot of fog in Uptown. I took a lunchtime walk to capture a shot of it.

On Tuesday January 28th, as I waited for the train at the CTA Roosevelt station, I captured some police activity as they searched another train. I think the culprit escaped, at least from the platform, though perhaps captured in the tunnels or on the roads below.

On Friday January 31st, I went to Concord Music Hall to see Thrice and mewithoutYOU. mewithoutYOU had stated that this would be their last year as an active band (COVID-19 has caused a change in those plans) and Thrice was celebrating 15 years since the release of Vheissu. I missed the first band of the night. I ended up capturing "Paper Hanger" by mewithoutYOU and "Music Box" from Thrice. Dustin Kensrue was having difficulty due to illness but he got through the set. I really do like Thrice, but I don't necessarily like the live experience and it mostly seems to be due to the type of people in the crowd...at least wherever I end up. I had hoped to capture "Weight Of Glory" but I didn't realize they started into it until it was too late but I do like "Music Box" and glad to add it to the collection of songs I've captured by Thrice which is mostly all songs from Vheissu at this point. It really is a good album front to back...probably my favorite.

February 2020
On Thursday February 6th, Leper played what was intended to be a fundraiser for Chicago Tiny Houses at the Safari Lounge. They played a bit of a stripped down set due to lack of equipment. I captured "Skeleton Hands."
On Saturday February 8th, the annual Ollie Mob Meetup to play WhirlyBall occurred in Vernon Hills, IL. I didn't get to play in every game as I did last year and I didn't score any goals this year but it was another fun time with the crew and afterwards we ate at Portillo's again. Additional soundtrack in this clip is "Ollie Ollie" by Flatfoot 56.

On Tuesday February 11th, I captured some rats on the tracks at the CTA Roosevelt Station. I had thoughts of a lyric from "Timothy Hay" by mewithoutYOU as I captured this, though I didn't chose to use that track in the soundtrack.

On Thursday February 13th, we had a hard day at the shelter. One individual took it out on a wall. You never know what some folks are dealing with and unfortunately in this case, whatever this individual was dealing with, it wasn't something that we could help him with in his present state.

On Friday February 14th, it was the coldest day of the year. I commuted to work on this Valentine's Day while it was zero degrees.

On Saturday February 15th, Guy Allen joined us to go to Nocturna at Metro. There was one person who had all sorts of glowing apparatuses with her that I captured on video.

On Wednesday February 19th, I documented the start of McDonald's Shamrock Shake Season!

On Saturday February 22nd, I microwaved the remaining Peeps from Christmas and filmed the spectacle of it.

On Wednesday February 26th, I had some some bubbles on my finger for some reason and Stein seemed particularly interested in it so I captured his reaction to the soap bubbles.

On Saturday February 29th, on Leap Day, Josh and Anastasia decided to host an open mic and songwriting workshop at their home. In the video footage I labeled it as The Uh-Oh House but they have decided to call it The Burrow. There were performances by The Uh-Ohs, Butterfield Creek members (Steven and Skittles), 6'10, Burn The Barn, The Psalmist, John Ludwig, Buzz, Panda, Bill Kingsbury, and Justin Wheeler of Modern Daybreak. We also took the time to celebrate Josh's birthday. Once again, it was good hangs with friends.

March 2020
On Monday March 2nd, I caught He Is Legend at Bottom Lounge. I captured "Dixie Wolf (The Seduction Of...)." It was good to see them again after a few years and I was able to get their new record.
On Wednesday March 4th, the Free And Equal Open Presidential Debate was held in the Hilton in Chicago. Elphie had taken an interest in the candidate Vermin Supreme and decided that she really wanted to go to this and I decided it sounded like an interesting experience so I decided to go as well. And it was indeed an interesting experience! I felt like I was able to learn some things about the world of politics as well as about the values and platforms of some alternative parties to "duopoly" as the  Republican and Democrat parties were often referred as. There were a few Libertarians (including Vermin Supreme) and various Socialists, Greens, Independents, and even some lower level Democrats and Republicans. Vermin Supreme, of course, was quite entertaining. There was one guy who stated that he'd essentially dismantle the federal government on his first day in office then promptly resign. The Independent candidate, Mark Charles, who is Native American, made points that really make me think about things from a different perspective. One point being the inherent racism and classism of the Constitution as it was originally written and still remains so despite some amendments. It was an interesting event and I am glad to have gone. I hung around for a while afterwards and Elphie stayed even longer for the after party. Additional soundtrack in this clip is "Hey America" by Headnoise.

On Friday March 6th, Elphie and I attended a pole dance charity event. I did not get any shots from this. I was fighting off a cold during this event and didn't really feel the best. I also wasn't sure that it was appropriate so I chose not to capture any footage.

On Saturday March 7th, before the Flatfoot 56 show at Chop Shop, there was an Ollie Mob Meetup at Palermo's of 63rd to enjoy some great pizza. It was a good time as usual. Afterwards, the Bawinkel's told us that the Indian statue from Wayne's World was just down the street so we drove by it and got a shot of it. That night, at Chop Shop, I got to hang with Sid Duffour and rode home with him afterwards. Bryan McPherson opened the show followed by The Crombies and AM Taxi. I captured a new and yet to be released song from Flatfoot 56. I also captured Kyle and Tobin talking about the Ollie Mob meetup from earlier in the day as well as the demise of the Dan Blysma bobblehead I gave Kyle prior to the show. It didn't hold up to Kyle bouncing the stage and he lost his head.

On Sunday March 8th, Elphie and I went to Vic Theatre to see Drew Lynch perform his Speech Therapy comedy stand-up show. It was enjoyable. We ended up in the balcony because there were no seats available on the floor. We tried to sit in an area that was apparently reserved for folks with physical disabilities, and were reprimanded. The balcony wasn't too bad. We didn't want to wait to go through the meet and greet line but I captured a shot from outside the door.

Because of the connection Elphie made with Vermin Supreme and his campaign manager online, it worked out that Vermin Supreme would stay the night at our house and we would possibly drive him to Peoria for the state Libertarian convention. I left work a bit early and we picked up President Vermin Supreme at Midway on Thursday March 12th and brought him to our house. Some folks came by to hang out who were local members of the Libertarian party and our friend Flex Luther. It was on this day that professional sports (which included a Pittsburgh Penguins game I hoped to watch) ground to a halt due to COVID-19 concerns and it was suggested that people should not congregate in groups. The term social distancing was being used and recommendations to "elbow bump" instead of handshake, hug, or other greetings. To some extent, there was some lighthearted joking about the situation at this point. That evening, with his consent, we took President Vermin Supreme to Cobra Lounge and he went into campaign mode and character. Friends met up with us there included Dubil, Betty, and Kathleen. We went from there to Exit which was having a "Fetish Night" and Betty and Kathleen rode with us there. We hung there for a while. Vermin got a few drinks and continued to campaign until about 1am or so. We headed back to the house and Elphie played him in a table top basketball game before we all got some sleep for the drive in the morning.

On Friday March 13th, we drove President Vermin Supreme to DeKalb, IL where he was able to ride with a delegate to the convention. Upon returning home, I considered going to a punk show that evening. The lineup originally included a good friend but he had to drop out due to health concerns regarding COVID-19. The strong suggestions against gatherings led me to decide to not go, though part of me wishes that I would have.

On Monday March 16th, we began to live life under the new "stay-at-home" orders and guidance. I (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) began to label clips as "Apocalypse" with this being day one. The clip shows me headed to work then drinking a Shamrock Shake. I wanted to make sure I got one as I wasn't sure if they would be available on Saint Patrick's Day with the uncertainly of the new restrictions on what we could and could not do.

On Tuesday March 17th, Apocalypse day 2, it was a strange Saint Patrick's Day. It was also primary election day in Illinois and it was said that "democracy must go on" so folks still went to cast their vote while being ordered to "stay-at-home." I was able to obtain one last Shamrock Shake to end the season successfully. We also got to watch the live stream of the Dropkick Murphys which was one of the first of many to watch in the new normal of live music.

On Sunday March 22nd, on the first day of spring the Apocalypse (day 7) took a turn for the worst as we were hit with another snowstorm.

On Monday March 23rd, Apocalypse day 8, I enjoyed a socially distant commute home on the CTA being the only person in the train car for most of the ride. It was a strange feeling to ride alone on public transit in Chicago during evening rush hour.

On Wednesday March 25, Apocalypse day 10, the Penguins game against the Blackhawks was to be played that night but it became a casualty of COVID-19. It appears at this point that it will not be made up. I think at this point, this was the greatest personal impact so far.

On Saturday March 28th, Apocalypse day 13, another turn for the worst as we cooked the last of our venison on the grill.

On Monday March 30th, I captured some graffiti during the morning commute of Apocalypse day 15 of a Simpsons character. I had wanted to capture it for a while but this was the best chance I got and with the social distancing, it allowed me the room to sit on the CTA where I could capture it easily.

On Tuesday March 31st, Apocalypse day 16, I captured the emptiness of downtown Chicago during my commute.

Additional soundtrack includes "Tornado In The Winter" by The Trigger Code and "Nothing" by Ballydowse.

Footage filmed using an iPhone 6 and 8 by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson. Titles created using Motion 4 on a Macbook by Joel A. Swanson. Edited using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson

Monday, May 25, 2020

An Apocalyptic Noise Collage For 2020 Video Intros (Perhaps)

With the various events that one could deem apocalyptic that have occurred with the onset of 2020, I had an idea to create an intro video that I could use for the "A Shared Life" videos I create from whatever we are allowed to do in 2020 or as long as these events continue to occur.

The idea started with wanting to take some audio clips from some tunes I knew had apocalyptic lyrics (or even simply said "apocalypse") and add to it some distorted radio noise as though one were trying to tune in to a station on an old radio with a dial. One song, "Apocalypse" by F.B.S. already had a lot of that in the song with news clips mixed into the final (digital) mix of the song toward the end. I layered the last part of that track with the beginning of "And Then, Came Then" by The Chariot for the noisy undertones. I found a few other radio effects in Soundtrack Pro on Final Cut Pro that I added in as well for a little more noise. I took the apocalyptic lyrical clips from "Kick Your Askin' For It" by Neon Horse, "Apocalypse Now" by Squad Five-0, and "Armageddon" by The Homeless Gospel Choir as well as "Apocalypse" by F.B.S. and "And Then, Came Then" by The Chariot and dropped those on top of the noise from the clips and the radio tuning sound effects.

With the audio done, I took some apocalyptic imagery such as a virus image that seems to be used on news broadcasts as COVID-19, folks in hazmat suits spraying disinfectant, empty Chicago streets, a fallout shelter sign, and a nuclear explosion along with a skull and cross bones that I did a couple added effects on to make it zoom in on one take and layer on top of itself in another. I created a 10 second mix of these images then sped it up double time and caused it to repeat over and over while the noise audio track runs its course. I finished it then went back and added some more effects such as static noise, anti-alias, and effects to resemble bad film and television. The bad television effect, since it takes the digital video and sort of split screens it, top half moved to the bottom of the video, I randomly added it into different sections of the entirety of the video. I feel the effects add to the apocalyptic mood. The original cut I did without those effects felt too "clean" to me.

I think I am happy with this final result though from what I can tell, I don't think the compressed YouTube file translated the effects that well and it may not look quite as I intended it to.

I could probably make something bigger and longer. Perhaps I will as this time we live in drags on. But for now, I am happy with this final result.

The project was created using Motion 4 on a Macbook and Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Shared Life: Alaska! (Elphie's 50th State...or so we thought)


Elphie and I took a trip to Anchorage, Alaska around Labor Day in early fall 2019. We were essentially gone for a week - August 30th through September 5th, 2019. We flew on Alaska Airlines and stayed in the Arctic Adventure Hostel that we booked through booking.com. My cousin, Mike Phelps, provided a huge assist to us by allowing us to use his truck while we were in Alaska. I have had family connections in and around Anchorage over the past 30-ish years but never seemed to have the opportunity to visit previously. I wish I had. My uncle Andy lived there and died there in 2010. He had a fairly big impact on the community there and this trip allowed the opportunity to see some of the impact. I reached out to my aunt Rebecca for some tips of things to see and do while we were in Anchorage and she gave us some ideas. It was good to get to see things and walk in the places where Andy lived his life. Debbie, who joined us for part of our spring 2019 West by Southwest trip also joined part of this trip.

A large part of the reason for this trip was it would be Elphie's 50th and last state visited! We celebrated this feat and of course documented it. Later, after returning home, as Elphie was listing when she visited each state for the first time, she could not recall if she ever visited Rhode Island. It's also possible that New Jersey had been missed. We hope to remedy this with a 50th state re-do trip into the Northeast as soon as we can make it happen (current travel restrictions due to Covid-19 affect this and other travel plans we had coming in 2020).

The trip was documented using iPhone 6 and 8 and a Canon Rebel T6 camera. I created the titles and animated the maps (taken from screenshots of Google Maps) using Motion 4 on a Macbook and I edited the rest of the project using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini.

This is the Fall 2019 trip to Alaska as filmed (and photographed) by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson.
I worked on the first and last day of this project first as I did with the Spring 2019 trip project so I could work out what I hoped could be a decent teaser trailer. I think I am happy with what I was able to come up with. It is similar to what I created for the Spring 2019 trip in style of the appearance of photographs taken from each day being dropped in. The teaser trailer consists of the intro piece that I put in among the first day footage. From the last day I took a piece of the credits which highlight the people who helped make the trip possible - Mike and Debbie - as well as businesses - Alaska Airlines and booking.com - and of course what trip would be complete without consulting Atlas Obscura? I took screenshots from Google Maps to show the places that we went during the trip. These were used throughout the project. I decided that instead of making another single map that I would instead compile all the maps I used for this project together. I combined the maps that showed the travel of each day together with photographs that highlight what we had done each day so it basically alternates between the maps and photos. I had the soundtrack for this part in mind for this since making the trip - "48 States" by Smalltown Poets. There is mention of Alaska in the lyrics and somewhat makes sense overall in the theme (though had it been titled "50 States" it would have made even more sense).

We flew out of Chicago on Friday August 30th, 2019 around midnight. On my way to work in the morning, I saw an old guy who walks or slowly jogs around the neighborhood so I decided to capture video of him on this morning. He had been the subject of conversation in our home and integrating him into a video seemed like it should happen. I also filmed a little bit of the CTA train ride into the city for work. I didn't feel there was a lot of reason to map out the transit to and from work on this project as the commute for our trip actually began after I returned home from work.

I put the intro project in after these two short clips from the morning. I actually finished working on the footage from the first day prior to getting any work done on the intro project or any of the maps done. The intro consists of the title (of course) which I again consulted with Elphie on font styles that felt "Alaskan" for this trip. We came to an agreement on what we liked and used two different fonts to build the title and will use them again with the credits. I also used a smoke effect with the text. Not intending to be insensitive, I chose to do that effect due to wildfires happening in Alaska. In the title, I acknowledged that we mistakenly believed this to be the trip for Elphie to have visited all 50 states. I tried to organize the text around the Google Maps image of Alaska the best that I could but I did overwrite it a bit in the northwestern parts. When I made the title screen, I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted the intro project to look or how I would document the travel in the intro as I have on the last several trip projects since I learned how to create and animate maps so I made two different title screens to choose from. In previous projects, I have made one large map that showed the overall travel of the trip. If I did that, it would be hard to show the travel in and around Anchorage so it may as well have just shown the flights between Chicago and Anchorage. I decided to compile all the maps together in the intro along with photographs I selected that highlighted what we saw and did during the trip. Once I decided on this, I decided to go with the title screen which had the Google Maps image of Alaska included instead of the just text. I think it worked out a lot better and a lot easier. I sped up the maps of our travelling around Anchorage and compiled them together. The travel of each day is documented at high speed then the photographs highlighting what we saw or did each day are dropped in next. I once again decided to try to create the appearance that the photos were being sort of dealt in like cards onto a table. I like the feel it gives. I feel using the photos to highlight the trip is easier than trying to compile the best footage as I go to be used in this part of the project (and the teaser trailer too).

After this intro project, the footage returns to that which was captured on August 30th, 2019 as we packed up to go and Stein snooped around in curiosity. We left the house and boarded the CTA Western bus. I captured the approach of the bus then overlayed that with the maps documenting the bus ride. We decided to get off at the first blue line option then rode the CTA Blue Line through the city to O'Hare. We thought it might be less crowded before the train went through the city and make it easier to get on board with our luggage. I documented the train approaching the station then used the animated map to show the transit to the airport. I captured a little bit of footage of our arrival at O'Hare including a restroom specific to service animals. We got through the security check relatively smoothly as I recall. We had time to spare once we found the terminal we would be departing from so we went in search of some food. We had to go into an international terminal and found the only thing open was McDonald's. We then boarded our Alaska Airlines flight where I got some footage of the take off and our departure from Chicago. I was able to capture the city at night as well as the Baha'i' Temple (at least I recall seeing it even if I didn't capture it on video). I watched some Marvel movie before trying to sleep a little bit on the flight.

We arrived in Anchorage while it was still dark. I captured our descent and landing at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. The airport has a lot of things on display in it that we checked out as we made our way out, getting photographs to highlight Elphie's 50th state. I also documented Elphie stepping out of the airport onto Alaskan soil! This airport definitely had a different feel to it than most. There were people gathering their guns and other outdoors related gear from a special section of the checked luggage area. We tried to see if there was an option to ride public transit but it appeared that we would be waiting several hours so we took a taxi instead to the Arctic Adventure Hostel.

We woke up in the early afternoon. My cousin, Mike Phillips had reached out to see if we'd be free to meet with him. I had connected with him a few months back to let him know we'd be coming to Alaska. In our conversations, he offered the possibility of using his truck. Once we got ourselves up, awake, ate some breakfast, and got moving, we met with him and took a ride with him over to REI. He was leading a group on a hunting trip and needed up pick up some tape for one of the hunters and some other supplies. He took us to where he was living and set us up with his truck as well as some bear mace...just in case. He informed us if a moose were to charge to get behind a tree. Apparently the female moose are the aggressors. Mike also gave us some salmon he had caught and we thought we might eat it that night for dinner. We went inside with Mike for a bit and saw the house he is living in with some friends. We left as it got to be early evening. Mike needed to rest up for his hunting trip and we needed to meet up with Debbie somewhere.

We drove Mike's truck back into Anchorage. We learned that Anchorage technically covers a very large area beyond the city. One could live in Anchorage but be over an hour away from downtown. Elphie wanted to celebrate that she had arrived at her 50th state so we found a Party World and went into get supplies to celebrate with. The workers were setting the place up for Halloween and let us preview their haunted house. There were different decorations up around the store including some zombies that crawled on the ground toward us. Elphie got some black and gold 50th balloons, a party hat, noise makers, party poppers, and a confetti cannon (some of this was purchased at Wal*Mart but I can't remember which came from where). We headed over to the Wal*Mart to buy some food for the week as well as some other supplies (some of which we'd be returning) and other celebratory items. We waited in the parking lot for Debbie to arrive to properly celebrate the 50th state of Elphie! We celebrated and captured it all on film then cleaned up the mess afterwards as much as possible.

We headed back to the hostel to unload the food and supplies we got at Wal*Mart as well as the salmon so we could eat it another night. Debbie wanted to get something from a restaurant. We asked some folks at the hostel for suggestions and ended up settling on a place called Humpy's. They were going to have live music it turned out. I got a crab cake burger. It was pretty good food and drinks. Elphie captured a shot of the band playing as we left. I captured a shot of the  Anchorage police in action as we headed toward the hostel. We drove out of the city trying to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights but there was too much cloud cover. We saw an interesting lit up building though that I assume was meant to appear like the Northern Lights. By this time, it was nearing midnight so we headed back to our hostel and Debbie to her BnB for the night.

We woke early on Sunday. We planned to go to the Alaska State Fair and also a glacier and so we needed to get an early start. Debbie drove with her rented car and we headed out of the city to the northeast on Highway One. We actually headed this direction the previous night in our attempt to see the Northern Lights as well. I got some footage as we drove to the glacier of the mountains, river, and other glaciers. As we drove and approached the fairgrounds, which we would pass then attend on our way back, we encountered a traffic jam. Apparently there was roadwork being done in the area of the fair, where there was of course extra traffic anyway. We pulled off while in the traffic jam at a port-o-potty so Elphie and Debbie could use it. I got footage of this because I thought it was funny. You can see Elphie's reaction in the video. We continued on the drive and I continued to get footage of the scenery. We would pull off a few times as we went. While we didn't go to the official viewing area, we arrived near Glacier View and got a very good view of the Matanuska Glacier. It really was quite the sight! We hung around here for a while and I got a couple different shots of the glacier. I also captured some Ghostbusters who also happened to be checking out the glacier!

We headed back toward Anchorage to go to the Alaska State Fair near the town of Palmer. I didn't shoot as much footage on the return trip. Once we got to the fair and got ourselves parked, we headed in. I captured some shots as we walked through the parking lot and the midway as we entered. Debbie had to run back to the car I think then did something else on her own while Elphie and I went another way. We ended up stopping at a stage where a bluegrass band was playing. It began to lightly rain so we went into a nearby exhibition building. We marked the map to show that we had traveled from Chicago and a lady told us some things about the area and why the fair happens there. We heard that there was a very large pumpkin on display so we figured that we should see that. We checked out a few other things in the building then started on our way through the rest of the fair. We went into another exhibition building that was a children's zone where there was a lot of fun activities that were science and engineering based. Next to that building was a garden that we walked through. After that, we went into and exhibition building was aquariums and a bunch of reptiles and amphibians. As seems to happen when we come around, some tortoises had sex in front of us and once again we captured footage of that. After this, we headed to an arena to see a lumberjack show but we were quite early so we headed into the exhibition barn where the prize winning farm animals were being housed. We checked them out for a while before headed back to see the lumberjack show. This also was where the prize winning produce was on display including the huge pumpkin as well as a cabbage named "Cabbage Jack." Back at the lumberjack show, while we waited for it to start, I went to get Dippin' Dots. The show runner assigned a lumberjack to each section of the crowd. It was a funny show and somewhat staged more than an authentic competition but it was a good time. After this was over, we went to find some food and decided on a quesadilla with reindeer and salmon meat in it. This was very good! From here, we went back in the exhibition barn to see more of the animals on display. We had also gone into a building that had a food cooking and baking contests. Elphie and Debbie enjoyed some pieces of cake at this. As we made our way to another part of the fair, we found a lot of different food options there as well as rides and activities. I captured a shot of the sun as it was nearing the sunset. As we left, I captured a silent dance party going on and some footage of the lit up midway. We got a picture at the Alaska State Fair sign and then we tried to hurry over to the car to try to get on the road before a train blocked out way. That didn't work out so I took a shot of the train as it left. I also captured the building lit up like northern lights again as we approached Anchorage on our return to our lodging.

We slept in, probably a bit later than we intended. We woke to sun and fairly clear skies and decided to go to Flat Top, a nearby mountain and check out the view. When we got up there, it was very windy and felt cold. Elphie wore her sandals and doing much hiking wasn't going to be in the cards for us. We did hike a small trail to an overlook of the bay and Anchorage. There was information on nearby mountains and peaks as well as some a long way out that could be viewed from the overlook. Unfortunately it wasn't clear enough to see most of those mountains. The wildfires, clouds, and some rain made it hard to see much beyond the bay and city. Even so, the view from this trail at Flat Top was pretty cool and we hung around there for a while.

We decided to go check out the World's Largest Chocolatefall, which we learned about on Atlas Obscura, at Alaska Wild Berry Products after visiting Flat Top. When we arrived, there was a bus full of tourists who were getting ready to leave. Another bus arrived while we were there so apparently it is a tourist hot spot. We purchased chocolates, meats, and other items to give our families for Christmas. We also got some for ourselves as well as some ice cream and it was some really good ice cream!

We didn't really do too much on this day. We headed back to the hostel after this and cooked the salmon that Mike gave us in the kitchen and relaxed for the evening. The thought to try to see Northern Lights was thwarted by the continued cloud cover. Funny thing. We watched a lot of Alaska shows on the Discovery channel when we had downtime in the hostel.

We woke up to a cooler and damp day. We checked what the forecast showed and decided to go ahead to the Alaska Zoo and hope for the best. The rain had stopped but it remained fairly cool. On our way to the zoo, we checked out a neighborhood built with its own runway called Sky Harbor. Most if not all the houses had large garages that were actually hangars for airplanes there were some airplanes out in front of some houses. We hoped to see a plane land but it didn't happen while we were there. We then headed over to the zoo.

The Alaska Zoo was one of the favorite zoos Elphie and I have had a chance to visit. It was much like a nature trail with the animals being of the type that could be natural to the environment around Anchorage, Alaska though perhaps native to other northern regions. Many of the animals were active while we were there. It was at the zoo that we actually got to see some moose. We also saw reindeer or caribou as well. Both were animals I had hoped to see. We also saw some wolves, tigers, coyotes, mountain goats, Kodiak Bears, Polar Bears, porcupines, birds, and musk oxen. One of the musk oxen seemed to be a bit agitated and charged the fence on several occasions. One of the porcupines had a snaggle tooth and seemed to have bit around the fencing. The wolves were interesting and one seemed to be stalking something. When we got to the coyote pen, the coyotes came running up to us like they expected us to be feeding them. They almost seemed like tamed dogs. There was an "off exhibit" which had cans of Off in it which was pretty funny. We got to see the feeding of the mountain goats, a fox, a porcupine, and the Kodiak Bears. The zoo worker called it "giving enrichment."

We decided as the zoo closed it was time to get ourselves some enrichment. I looked up restaurants in the area and found a couple options and decided on a burger restaurant called Wee B's. Elphie and I both got Elk burgers, fries, and a milkshake.

Since the weather cleared somewhat, we decided to drive to the Byron and Portage Glacier and check it out before it got dark. We still had a few hours of daylight left since we were so far north and the sun set was much later in the evening. We drove along the Turnagain Arm and passed a spot near Beluga Point where there once was a pipe with fresh water flowing from a spring. The pipe has been removed. I suppose one could still retrieve water from it if they wanted to. We didn't stop but we did drive by and I found the spot in the footage when we did pass it and included it in the project. Elphie shot a lot of footage as we drove along the Turnagain Arm. Perhaps she captured the Turnagain Arm Bore Tide but I could't tell for certain if it was in the footage. We also passed by the ghost town of Portage. I don't think that any footage was captured and it might not be easy to tell but we did pass it and I recall seeing what appeared to be a toppled building that would have been in Portage.

As we drove, we were able to begin to get some footage of the glaciers. I had set the Byron Glacier as our destination and we turned off the main road to a parking lot at the trail head leading to the Byron Glacier. We got out and looked at the glacier but we did not walk the trail. I walked further down the road to the waterfront where I could see more glaciers including the Portage Glacier and some ice bergs that have come off that. I returned to the truck then we drove to another parking lot next to the water where we could view all the glaciers in the area. These glaciers were pretty amazing to see.

We drove back to Anchorage, again along the Turnagain Arm. We could see the sunset through some breaks in the cloud cover as well as some other glaciers and we passed a train that I assume gives scenic tours. We decided to drive into downtown. We actually went down to Ship Creek but there wasn't much to be seen at night so we figured we'd try to go back the next day. We did check out the Statehood Memorial before heading back to the hostel.

We got up earlier on this day and headed to the Eagle River Nature Center so I could see where my uncle, Andy Sorensen, spent some of his time and see if there was any memorial set up for him. He designed the logo for the nature center so I figured I'd at least get to see that but I understood that there was some sort of memorial to him. There was a tree on the back patio which had a leaf dedicated to his memory from the family as well as another dedication and acknowledgement of his design for the logo. We met aperson named Asta who was the last remaining person still working at the nature center from the time it was founded when my uncle worked there with a couple who had also since passed. She said some nice things about Andy and we looked at the items for sale with his logo on it. I checked out all the displays of wildlife and other natural things. We were urged to walk the short trail which we were told included some scenery that Andy most likely painted in some of his art endeavors. It was a nice walk. One of the trails was closed due to bear activity so that was somewhat in the back of our mind but we had no bear trouble on our walk. We got to a viewing deck over the river and I noticed a dead salmon. We would learn later that most likely any salmon in the rivers would be dead or dying at this time of the season. We got some footage of the scenery and then we made our way back. We bought some stickers and other items that had Andy's design on it then we headed to the hostel to eat lunch.

After lunch, we headed back downtown to Ship Creek so I could see if there was anything there that paid tribute to Andy. I would find out later, had I walked a short distance a different way than I walked, I might have seen a picture of Andy and his kids, Erik and Jacob but I suppose I'll have to see it another time. We did see the sign for the Slam'n Salm'n Derby and the Bait Shack which we learned took over the Derby. I walked down to the dam to see if I could find any live salmon. I did find one but it wouldn't be living much longer. I saw lots of decayed remains and one full bodied remain of salmon. I returned to where we started on Ship Creek and bought a Reindeer Dog from vendor, The Stand Hot Dogs - Anchorage, and it was great! The guy running the stand (along with his daughter but she wasn't on site at this time) was fun. He heckled Elphie for not buying her own Reindeer Dog to try. He had a special sauce that I tried on my dog and added some other condiments. We talked to him for a while about our trip and why we came down to Ship Creek and he told us some about the derby as well as about the new person running it. He wasn't sure if he knew Andy but I think he indicated the possibility of the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award might still be at the local soup kitchen.

After getting the reindeer dog, we began to walk to downtown. We headed to the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, thinking it would bring us to Resolution Park. It turned out that Resolution Park was off another road. I wanted to get there to try to get a glimpse of Denali but it remained too cloudy in that direction to see Denali. We walked around for a while. We came off the trail at Elderberry Park then walked along Fifth Avenue where we found the Light Speed Planetary Walk somewhat inadvertently. We walked Mars to Earth to Venus to Mercury to the Sun. We then went to Town Square Park where we sat a bit and then into the Fifth Avenue Mall which is five stories tall. Elphie ended up getting her dinner from the food court. We left the mall and headed back to where the truck was parked near Ship Creek. We saw a rainbow and helicopter and watched some guys skateboarding for a bit before heading back to the hostel. On the way back, I did find Resolution Park and got some scenic footage from there as well as a shot of the Captain Cook statue. I also got a shot across the street at Hostetler Park. It seemed there might be some sort of memorial there but I wasn't sure what it was so I looked it up and found it was a memorial to the Victims of Justice.

Back at the Arctic Adventure Hostel, we researched a bit more on the possible whereabouts of Andy's Sportsmanship Award. All that we found indicated it would likely be at the Downtown Hope Center so we figured when we checked out of the hostel in the morning, that is where were would go to see if I could see it.

We woke up on Thursday, September 5th, 2019 and got our things together so we could check out on time. We had some breakfast in the hostel kitchen then checked out and headed over to the Downtown Hope Center to see if the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award was still there. We arrived as they were about to begin serving lunch so I figured we could circle back around after.

Elphie wanted to go back to Alaska Wild Berry Products to get a couple more things and we got some more ice cream. She also wanted to send out some postcards so we stopped at a post office for her to do that.

We returned to the Downtown Hope Center and I was able to go in and after talking with a couple of staff, I was taken to an office where the award was sitting. I was able to talk to a director of the center and learned a bit about the homeless situation in Anchorage. It was a bit unexpected to see folks on the street considering it isn't a big city really and the climate but homelessness affects anyone anywhere. I also learned that it seems that the new person who had taken over the Slam'n Salm'n Derby did not donate proceeds to the Downtown Hope Center as they were supposed to. This also meant that the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award had not been given out for the past two years. Between what was said by the guy at The Stand, some online research, and what I learned here at the Downtown Hope Center, the last person awarded the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award (but not named on the award) now runs the Slam'n Salm'n Derby and also runs the Bait Shack and isn't doing things in the right spirit of the Derby itself but especially not in the right spirit of one who earns the Andy Sorensen Sportsmanship Award. This is a shame. According to the website, it looks like the 2020 Slam'n Salm'n Derby has the Downtown Hope Center a a recipient of proceeds so hopefully that is the case and things have been rectified in that regard.

We headed over to Wal*Mart next to return items that we had purchased that we couldn't bring back to Chicago with us. After doing this return, we released Elphie's "50" balloons which had lost most of their helium by this point. The black balloon flew a bit better than the gold one. In fact, it made it quite high into the sky while the gold one didn't appear that it would even make it out of the parking lot. Eventually, the gold balloon got some air under it and flew away at least over the nearby apartments and out of our sight.

We decided to get lunch at Wee B's again on our way to drop off Mike's truck after we fueled it back up. We learned the downside to driving a large pickup truck when we saw the amount the gas would cost. We got Buffalo Burgers this time. I also got a chocolate cherry milkshake! While waiting on our food to be prepared, I played Ms. Pacman and set the high score. It wasn't the best...but it was fun to set another high score on another game in another state. I left the challenge to fellow Ms. Pacman enthusiast Nate Allen! We drove the truck back to Mike's, made sure we unloaded everything of ours from the truck, and then realized we also took his bear mace out. I left it by his storage unit and hoped it would be ok.

At this point, I ordered an Uber ride for the first time ever...and we survived! The driver arrived and everything checked out as it should. We got our things into his vehicle and got in and rode to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. From things I had heard, I decided to tip him in cash instead of in the app. We unloaded and went inside the airport. We had plenty of time to spare. I finished off a bottle of Mt. Dew so I wouldn't have to throw it away at the security check. I also got some video and photographs of the various taxidermy bears, moose, and other animals throughout the airport as well as some artifacts of the native people and airplanes on display. We went into a lounge area for a bit after finding our gate. As we walked, I noticed that the first football game of the season was on television being broadcast from Chicago. It was a bit odd seeing a night game going on where we live and it being dark while it was still bright sunlight where we were. We boarded the plane and lucky us...we were in front of a baby. I got some footage as we took off from Anchorage and as we went over mountains and glaciers. As we flew southeast, we saw the sun set as well. Elphie captured her reaction to the baby screaming behind us. I watched more comic book movies as we flew...I wasn't really able to sleep. As we arrived near Chicago, I got some shots of the city lights  I thought but it may have been somewhere else. We began our descent so I began to film...and filmed for about 15 minutes so I sped up the footage. I captured the Chicago lights as we came over the city and descended to our landing at O'Hare.

We landed at O'Hare and gathered our things then took public transit home. It was still dark. We took the CTA Blue Line to the Western stop. We decided to get off at the north stop and catch the CTA Western bus from there and walked from the stop to the house. As I checked the mail, it was now daylight, the old man was out doing his walk again so I captured some footage of him...again. I decided to take the day off from work since I didn't get any sleep. I did originally plan to come back in that day but that changed due to my exhaustion. Also that evening we were going to see Bush, Live and Our Lady Peace in Tinley Park at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre so I'd have had to leave work early to get there in time to find a decent spot to sit. I laid down to sleep with Stein laying on top of me and that is where the documentation of this trip comes to an end.

Little did we know that Elphie would have a gallbladder attack...let alone that some of the issues she's had for several years likely were due to this gallstone. Less than a day after our return we ended up in the hospital.

I put the credits over the sped up clip of our descent into Chicago and landing. I think with the effects I used on the text coupled with the lit up wing cutting through the clouds, it all worked together quite nicely. I added in a special thanks to Mike and Debbie and acknowledge the businesses that helped make the trip possible then gave information on the filming, editing and creation of titles and animations as well as the soundtrack.

Additional soundtrack is "48 States" by Smalltown Poets, "Black Mountain" by The Trigger Code, "Scarborough Fair" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Tortoises All The Way Down" by mewithoutYou, "On This Mountain" by The Soil And The Sun, "I've Been To The Mountain Top, But It Wasn't There" by Samuel Lockridge, "Come To The Mountain" by Destroy Nate Allen, "I Hate Everything (Odio Tutto)" by Leper, "Bear's Vision Of Saint Agnes" by mewithoutYou, "Cure In The Mountains" by The La De Les, "Falling In Love With Glaciers" by Listener, "From The Mountains" by Flashlight Party, "I Am Mountain" by Gungor, "Run To The River" by Live, "Two Mountains" by Aaron Lee Martin (apologies I missed this in the video acknowledgement), "Sugar Mountain" by Black Swift, "Mountain Dew" by Pogues with The Dubliners, "Swing Low, Sweetheart" by The Scurvies, and "This World" by The Castros.

This project was filmed using an iPhone 6 and 8 and Canon Rebel T6 by Elphie and Joel A. Swanson. Titles and animations were created using Motion 4 on a Macbook by Joel A. Swanson. Editing was done using Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini by Joel A. Swanson