Saturday, March 26, 2016

turtle rescue at shark pit

Unfortunately it is not uncommon to find a sea turtle in some kind of distress while snorkeling in Maui.  I’m horrified to say that its almost become the norm. Seemingly every time I go snorkeling near my home in Lahaina on the west side of Maui, I see a green sea turtle with fishing line wrapped around its neck or a hook through its fin.  I was so distraught about this when I returned to the island in December, I bought a dive knife to bring with me every time I snorkel.  Like many online purchases I imagine, it gave me some problems because the straps to secure it to my leg were made of rubber and began to dry rot almost immediately in addition to not really doing a very good job at their one purpose anyways, keeping the knife from moving around my leg.  So I stopped wearing it, hoping I could Macgyver some other strapparatus (see what I did there? combined strap and apparatus :).  And I rarely if ever even see a hawksbill as there are only 76 reported hawksbill turtles in all of the Hawaiian islands  (and yes there is a team of marine biologists that keep very good track of the hawksbill population.)  

So, Yesterday I went free diving at the beach right by my house called shark pit which is appropriately named since it houses dozens of docile white tip reef sharks and found a pair of Ray Bans then a friend and I found a huge green sea turtle with just yards upon yards of fishing line wrapped tightly around its neck and left fin.  I didn't have my knife because as it turns out I’m not MacGyver, but luckily my friend had a small pocket knife with him.  I did my best to cut the line from its neck and fin.  I wasn't able to get it all, some of it was so tightly wound around its neck that I couldn't get my finger or knife between the turtle and the line and its left fin was completely immobilized by it. So I did what I could and I hope that the line loosens from the part that I cut and maybe I can free her from the remainder of the line when I see her next.  
I decided I have to figure out my knife problem and called around to some dive shops in town and turns out Hawaiian Rafting Adventures had exactly what I needed. So then today, I returned to the same spot at shark pit and after an hour or so of swimming around, I saw one of my beloved white tip reef sharks dead on the reef because it had bitten a hook which was attached to a long fishing line wrapped tightly around a coral head.  It either suffocated or starved to death because it was bound to a few foot radius of a small coral head by a piece of barbed metal in its mouth and Nylon fishing cord that Google tells me will Biodegrade in about 600 years. I’m afraid sharks cant forgo eating or breathing quite that long.  Feeling terrible about the unnecessary death of this poor little guy, I started to swim in and look for my friend.  As I got close to the channel we have to follow back to the beach he was there and pointed out what he thought was the fishing line bound turtle I had mentioned from yesterday.  This little guy, was however much smaller, sitting in the same spot as I discovered the one from yesterday and was having some issue with its left fin as well.  Diving down and getting closer you could see that a piece of something which turned out to be a square of net had probably found its way to the shoulder are of the turtle where its fin meets its body probably years and years ago when the turtle was much smaller. If I were to estimate, the diameter of that part of the turtle’s fin was about 4” except where the net had kept it to being 2-2.5” at the most.  It was so tight, it had obviously been rubbing this poor guy raw for years so much so that he wouldn't swim with his left fin either. Not to mention the rest of his fin was in really poor shape as well probably from restricted blood flow but also I imagine he had been rubbing up against razor sharp coral for years trying to free himself of the discomfort and had inadvertently scraped of a portion of its fin. We chatted for a minute about the best way to go about this, and I suggested if we could get him to the surface, I might be able to try to cut it out.  No success with that, he was much more fearful of us than the much larger turtle from yesterday and it was too tight to make a speedy cut while swimming a resistant turtle.  I saw a few leisurely tourist paddle boarders and hailed one over to help, he was more than willing. It took a few attempts and about 20 minutes, we were able to get the turtle which turned out to be pretty heavy onto the paddle board so we could keep him still long enough to make a precise cut of just the net.  I tried for a few minutes but didn't have a good enough angle to feel confident that I wouldn't accidentally cut this poor guy in a spot that was already in a ton of pain.  So my friend Lucas took the knife and was able to get it off with one clean cut like a freaking boss!  We closely examined the area to ensure there was no more net and sent him off his way.  I know we got it because as he swam away he did so with both fins, which he hadn't done before!  I hope that now the area that was so constricted for so long can begin to heal… And Lucas happened to get all of this on his GoPro. note the angle isn't the best because we weren't trying to film, we were only concerned with helping the turtle, but luckily, Lucas set the camera down on the paddle board and it happened to be facing the action.   Caution, explicit language. 

And then I called back the lady at Hawaiian Rafting Adventures who'd sold me the strap and told her the story which brought her to tears, gave her goosebumps and didn't make her day but “something much bigger”. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

7 things only an entrepreneur understands

I am an artist and I have been traveling around the country in an RV full time (full time, as in a sleep in the RV every single night and it’s parked in a different city or even state about every week. I do not currently have a house somewhere that I go back to).  I’ve been doing outdoor art shows for over a year and half.  It has been a fairly lucrative and invaluable learning experience, for the first time, I’ve been really immersed in running a business on my own. Artists, and all other business owners alike, we’re all on the same journey and even in my short venture with entrepreneurship (a little south of 5 years) I’ve found that there are 7 things, only entrepreneurs will understand.  

#1 How many people tell you that you’re living the dream
                If I had a quarter for every time someone said “you’re living the dream” I would have more quarters than I would have if I had a quarter for every time someone said “wow, your work is amazing” or “I’m so in love with your paintings” or “if I won the lottery I’d buy all of these” (what? So never) but doesn’t buy anything.  I get that my current lifestyle living in an RV sounds super appealing to most people trapped in a 9-5 working, mortgage paying, white picket fence painting, baby diaper changing world. And it really could be cool…. if it were vacation, which it’s not. I’m not traveling the national parks of America, I’m sleeping in walmart parking lots on the way to my next show in Oklahoma or Ohio or wherever trying to run my entire business out of basically a car.  We all have our misconceptions that people have of how we run our businesses,  and I’d be willing to bet that you’ve been told you’re living the dream more times than you can count by people who you know for sure would NEVER have the self discipline to do everything you do on a day to day basis. 
                I cant imagine doing anything other than what I’m doing, it’s perfect for me, but I somewhat feel that it’s my civic duty to bring all of these “you’re living the dream-ers” from fantasy land back to the realm of reality, and remind them of all the work behind the glamour of owning a business. 

#2 How much time actually goes into running a business
                 Before doing my first art show I had never contemplated how much work goes into them. I generally spend about 30 hours a week at shows. (Friday I set up for about 5 hours, Saturday and Sunday I’m outside talking to people, trying to convince folks to spend their hard earned money on something I made to hang on their wall from 8:30-6:30ish then for another 2-4 hours to pack everything back up into my RV Sunday night)  This 30 hours doesn’t include any time spent actually painting and creating art or running the online end of my business and marketing myself.  Putting in 70+ hour weeks is often the norm for an entrepreneur, but the 9 to 5 type who wouldn’t dare put in a 41st hour without being paid overtime, it’s probably a huge shock if they think we just sit around lazily all day, cashing checks and getting others to do all the work.

#3 How much of what you do is for free
                One of my business idols is Grant Cardone, and he mentioned in one of his audiobooks (that I listen to on repeat as I drive across the country because my radio doesn’t work) that 75% of what he does, he does for free.    I had never really thought about it before, but it is absolutely true. There is probably a decreasing trend as your business grows of how much you do for free, but in the beginning, everything I did was for free.  Everything I still do is for free if you want to look at it that way.  With the exception of commissions, everything I paint, I paint for free and hope someone buys it.  Now that I’m making pretty good money, it doesn’t seem so much like that anymore, but definitely as an artist, you have to get a cohesive body of work together before you even have a chance of selling something.  I couch-surfed with a young guy in Chicago a year ago who had just gotten some flashy job doing something intangible and getting paid really well for it.  In one of our conversations, he said he wouldn’t open an email for free, which is ludicrous and I’m sure he was some combination of joking and trying to exaggerate his feeling of self importance with his fancy new job.  I can imagine though, that many people who collect pay checks think that way, and maybe entrepreneurship isn’t for them. 

# 4 How rewarding it all is
            Even though I am an artist, I actually have an engineering degree.  It wasn’t until my senior year that I learned what being an engineer would really be like i.e. working as a part of a team designing a small portion of a bigger project.  Sounds pretty anticlimactic and it would be really hard for me to get excited about contributing such a seemingly tiny amount on something.  I assume things are done that way as somewhat of a system of checks and balances because a group is probably less likely allow something terrible to slip through the cracks, but with too many minds working on one thing, I think you’re less likely to come up with something brilliant and out of the box either.  That’s good for building bridges, but I’d rather totally bust on something every once in a while to create beautiful awe inspiring artwork that’s completely a product of my imagination than always stay safe.  In the entrepreneurial world, unlike most jobs, total failure is a very real possibility, so it is rewarding like nothing else when you and only you have created a successful product.

#5 How great it is to chose your own hours even when there are 80 of them
            There are definitely some things an entrepreneur has to do at certain times, but being able to do things whenever you want as long as they get done is such a great feeling.  I am in my 20s and was living in Hawaii before I embarked on this whole cross country RV adventure (and will be returning very very soon J) so most of my friends worked in the service industry and their schedules were all over the place.  Its hard for people to coordinate hikes or trips when everyone has a different schedule, but I could pretty much always make it work if I really wanted to go and just put in more hours somewhere else.  The double edge to this sword is #5

#6 Because you don’t clock in, people don’t take it seriously when you need to work
             Perhaps it's because most of the time I could move stuff around to be able to do the fun things I wanted to do, like  surfing/hiking/paddleboarding with the whales/etc, people wouldn’t take no for an answer when it was really crunch time and I needed to get stuff done.  Just because I don’t clock in doesn’t mean that I can blow off my career.  As an entrepreneur you trade results for money, not time, which often means putting in more time than expected to achieve said results. 

#7 When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re never clocked out
            Well maybe I could metaphorically clock out, but I can’t imagine telling someone who wants to buy something from me that I’ll get back to them 9 am Monday and can’t talk to them now just because its after hours.  I try to always be available for collectors or gallery owners who want something from me, and maybe it’s because I love what I do, I don’t need 128 hours a week away from it (that’s 168 total hours in a week less the typical 40 work hours if you didn’t want to navigate that math). As every day goes by, I am more of my business and my business is more of me, we are becoming the same entity, and I can’t clock out of being myself.  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why having my wallet and phone stolen probably wont make me more cautious.

“So Alexa, you’ve gotten both your wallet and phone stolen now, are you going to be more careful?”

Probably not!

When I moved to small town Homer, Alaska back in 2009 on sort of a whim, that is a story that really warrants its own blog post or maybe even its own book,  I was shocked to learn some of the things that are just commonplace in small towns.  The most notable, which when I tell you will either be shocking to a point of disbelief or raise absolutely no alertness, which is completely telling of whether you grew up in a town of more or less than 5,000 people respectively.  People leave their keys in the ignition and often times leave their car running when they go to the grocery store.  I was shocked which grouped me with the former- my high school alone had almost that many people.  And when you live in a big city or even a substantial town you just seem to have this wall up against people which seems normal until you don’t have to do that anymore and it seems fundamentally insane.  Not saying that there aren’t places that you don’t need to possess a high level of paranoia, but what I am saying is that I don’t want to live there. Over the better part of the last decade I have really slipped into the latter group. I can probably count on one hand how many times I’ve taken my keys out of my RV in the last 19 months and I usually only close windows in accordance with temperature.  So now I’ve gotten my wallet stolen (from an art show in Chicago early this summer) and my phone out of my RV this weekend.  In both cases, I feel like I had taken a higher level of precaution than I typically do.   By chance, an art show friend of mine who lives in the bay area had been present at both the Chicago show and this Houston one, and in my Sunday morning I-don’t-have-a-phone-OMG-how-ever-will-I-survive-the-next-48-hours fluster I went to grieve and jokingly blame him for my misfortune.  He told me that I’d brought my “Island habits to the big city” and it just doesn’t work. Then he told me about one time in the Bay Area that his car had been broken into, with nothing inside, just so that they could pop the truck and see if there was anything in there.  Which I think just goes to show that there is no amount of precaution that can be taken in big cities that will deter a criminal, maybe short of a rabid German shepherd in the front seat, but who wants to ride around with a rabid German shepherd? Is it really worth it? I think not. 
What I think is that there are consequences to being ever paranoid, and there are certainly consequences to having your guard down – obviously, I was without a driver’s license for 2 months and sans phone for nearly 72 hours (gasp), but I don’t think the payoff is worth it for me. I’ll take my chances being trusting within reason and following my intuition.  The few people that I can think of from my past that were skeptical of everyone else and thought 100% of strangers were out to get them were two of the worst people I’ve ever known. One was this girl I lived with for a year who had lived in NYC (no I’m not talking about you Emily) and she was uncomfortable letting people from stay with us. I have had probably 50 experiences with couchsurfing over the years and every single one has been positive, and yet she was still so paranoid of, dear I say it, a stranger sleeping on our couch for one night and possibly using our toilet.  She was one of the craziest, most delusional, and downright sociopathic people I’ve ever met and I think that led her to being scared of other because she was someone who others needed to be scared of her.  Also, a guy I knew for a few months at the end of college was just a straight up terrible person but he looked like Laird Hamilton and it was a weird time in my life.  And he legitimately thought that everyone on the planet was out to get him, and that was because he WAS out to get everyone else.   I’m not saying that if you’re skeptical of strangers that you’re a bad person, there are a million reasons why good people could have been wronged by and are subsequently skeptical of strangers, but in my experience the people who stand out in my mind of being particularly paranoid of ALL strangers, were indeed terrible people. 
It’s natural to be scared of, say, someone breaking into your house with a gun, I’m pretty sure that whether you’re trusting or scared of strangers, this is a scary idea to you.  It is, however, unlikely that this will ever happen to either skeptical guy or trusting guy, but does being skeptical really lessen your chances of this undesirable situation? Or does being scared of this your whole life take more from you than the slight advantage you might have over skeptical guy if this were to ever occur?  I guess we’ll never know.  But I think my conclusion is that I’m unwilling to miss out on the benefits that I gain by being generally trusting of people with the hopes that I avoid a possible, but unlikely adverse situation.   I think the most logical step for me is to take my island habits back to the island where I once again can leave my keys in the ignition with my windows wide open while I’m at Mana Foods without thinking twice about someone stealing my Maui cruiser for a joyride.    

60 hours without a phone but who's counting?

My show this past weekend was in downtown Houston and was horrifically run.  Nothing about the logistics of it made any sense and it was a complete pain, but a more in depth recollection warrants a whole new blog post so that’s all I’m going to say.  Set up started at 9 pm so I didn’t get to bed until 2 am Saturday morning, so needless to say I was a little tired on Saturday.  The show was fairly slow which doesn’t help. Then I went out to dinner with a friend and got back to the RV, plug in my phone to charge and was in bed by 9. Just to ensure a fantastic night’s sleep, I took 2 nyquil and was OUT.  Sunday morning I wake up to get my phone so I can send pictures of the inside of my RV to someone who is interested in buying it. But I cant find my phone!  I know I had taken Nyquil, but I shouldn’t have been that out of it to think I charged my phone but didn’t?  So I dump the contents of my backpack that was the previous place I’d had my phone, and nothing.  So someone must have seen the cord going from the cigarette lighter under a towel on the passenger seat in the dark- and let me remind you, this is an RV so its tall, you don’t just walk through the parking lot and casually see what’s sitting on the seats (Especially when that something is underneath a bunched up towel!!!!) you really have to get close to the window and be looking for something in order to see it.  And this POS must have assumed that there was something attached to the end of that cord and had the audacity to reach his hand in through the cracked window (“Well why were your windows cracked Alexa?” you might ask.  Umm because this is the dustbowl wasteland known as South Texas and it’s a million degrees that’s why. I would have literally died if the windows had been closed. And I was parked in a lot amidst a hundred other Artists in RVs). 
So now I’m 99% sure my phone has been stolen and I have no clue what time it is, so I knock on my neighbors RV who is a friend of mine and ask to borrow her phone and sure enough mine goes straight to voicemail. 
Enraged, I go to the show, am unable to run credit card transactions for the day on Sunday, but my biggest concern is I don’t know where my friend whom I’ve been staying with lives and I don’t know her phone number either of course.  I sent her a facebook message asking her what her address is using someone else’s phone and assuming that I’d check my messages again by the end of the day to see her response. I would have been EXTREMELY shocked if a member of my generation who has facebook (so yeah, all of them) didn’t check their page over the course of 12 hours.  Soon after I sent her the message though, I remember I had some boxes shipped to her address and I luckily had one with me which had the address on it and was able to google directions on someone’s phone that way and, dear I say it, write them down on paper!  Yup, when you’re phone gets stolen folks, and you need to figure out how to get somewhere, you go old school- sort of. 
I made it back to her house no problem and went to Verizon the next day to replace it.  I had insured the phone so one might assume that if I had insurance on an Iphone5, my Iphone5 gets stolen, Verizon does indeed carry Iphone5s in stock, then I should just be able to get one Iphone5 there right? WRONG they have to spend like $50 of my $99 deductible to overnight ship it to ¼ mile from said Verizon store.  Ohh ya, that makes perfect sense, seems to be a lot of that going around in my life this week/weekend.

My experiments in going places without the aid of google maps continued Monday night when I had plans to go a friend from college’s house for dinner.  I, of course didn’t know her number either, and she on the other hand doesn’t check her facebook messages ever, so I had to send a message to a mutual friend to text her the situation.  I got her address again, got directions from a friend and headed that direction for a 7:00 dinner.  I had no clue what time it was when I headed that direction or what time it was when I got there, but all I know is if you miss one turn written on a sticky note, it doesn’t redirect you like google maps, you have to figure it out yourself! Unfortunately for me, every other road in the Woodlands is named Cypresswood something or other which led to some confusion in my ninja-redirecting of myself, and when I finally felt like I wasn’t going to find it, I pulled over at a little “Mercado” and got some guy who was playing on his smart phone in the parking lot to “buscar direcciones” for me. 
My phone arrived promptly the next morning like it was supposed to and the universe has returned to normal.
Except that the case I ordered doesn’t fit.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Acetaminophen, now that’s a drug I could get addicted to

I have been suffering from allergies basically the entire time I’ve been in the Midwest even though I’ve never had them before in my whole life. I blame corn and Monsanto, but that’s not the point.  One of my friends in Tulsa who was sick of listening to me breathe like an asthmatic offered me some Nyquil. I reluctantly took it, not knowing that it works for allergies, I had always thought it was for nighttime sniffling sneezing coughing aching stuffy head fever so you can you can rest and have a good morning medicine (WOW! whoever wrote that commercial should get a bonus because I haven’t owned a TV in over a decade)…. ahem, I thought it was for colds….  My breathing got normal again for the first time in at least weeks, I can’t even remember now, and I had crazy dreams that I also cant remember now followed by clear normal breathing for a few hours in the morning 
A few days later I’m in Illinois meeting with another friend before my next show and after going out to eat we go stop by a grocery store so I can buy some Nyquil.  I cant remember when I took them, if it was in his car on the way home or if I had waited until I got back to the RV, come to think of it, I cant remember anything after the grocery store!  I realized that I had absolutely zero recollection of the previous night when the next night I’m looking for the box and I can’t find it.  I looked everywhere and tore my RV apart like a freaking crack head looking for this stupid stuff before surrendering and going to bed anyways. I found the box 2 days later when looking for something else (isn’t that how it always happens?)
So even after basically blacking out at 7 pm and acting like a druggie the next day combing every inch (except for the actual inch where it is) for these magical little green gel capsules, I take it again.  You cant put a price on a good nights sleep I guess.  That night, I had the craziest most realistic dream. 
I was in my RV which was my office of some kind and the guy who does my aluminum printing named josh (whom Ive never met but I’ve spoken to on the phone a hundred times) was an employee of mine.  It was fairly late and Josh came into my RV to say that he was going home, we are chatting briefly before he goes to leave and by this time some guy in an orange-red paisley button down shirt has come into the RV and sits in the seat just behind the driver’s.  I whisper to josh to get rid of that guy and he walks over to him on his way out the door, grabs his shoulder like you would to a drunk person you’re trying to lead to the bathroom or out of your party and he refuses. Well he tried, then failed, so Josh just leaves, and I get up and tell this guy that he needs to go and walk him out the side door.  I lock the door behind him and then reach up to the drivers and passengers doors to lock them as well.  When I turn around to return to bed, I look out the door and the guy is standing outside looking straight in and he has a pistol  just where I can see it slightly above his belt. At that point I do a quick brainstorm and realize there is absolutely no way that I can get out of this alive and that’s when I woke up.
 It spooked me so much I couldn’t get back to sleep for at least an hour. But I guess that’s what happens when you binge watch Criminal Minds and eat one of the ingredients of Meth before bed.