Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My friend, the shark.

The above picture is of a very good friend of mine who also happens to be Rippy, the mascot for the LA Riptide.

While I've certainly seen mascots my entire life, I was unaware that being a mascot entails an enormous amount of dedication, responsibility, and . . . well, ability to deal with boiling hot temperatures in a very large suit.

First of all, there are no mascot "costumes." Apparently, they are always "suits" rather than "costumes," and using the term "costume" is actually a bit of an insult.

Secondly, training to spend hours on end in the suit is probably one of the most intense workouts that I can think of off-hand; my friend dons sweats, a sauna suit, more sweats, a wool beanie, and a hoodie, pulled up, to go running. This lets him prep for the temperatures in the mascot suit -- and he does this in Southern California when it's at least 80 degrees out. If you're not sure what a sauna suit is (I wasn't at first either), it's essentially vinyl or plastic so it traps all of your body heat in. It's often used by wrestlers, I believe.

Third, there are more aspects to being a mascot than I ever really thought of. When you're talking to someone with a giant head on, for example, rather than looking at them, you have to drop your head further down so the giant head that you're WEARING is looking at them. On top of that, you have to make sure you don't react to children jumping on you, punching you, berating you, yelling at you -- whatever, you have to be the stoic mascot, particularly if you're an animal mascot who can't, in theory, talk. Make sure you entertain the crowd, make sure you keep moving, make sure you hug all the little kids who want to hug you -- man, it's crazy when you think about all the stuff that he has to remember.

However, my favorite thing about his job is what he had to do today -- he went to another mascot's birthday party. See, apparently it was Rocky's birthday, Rocky being the Palm Springs Power mascot. Even though Rippy (my friend's character) is a lacrosse mascot and Rocky (the birthday boy) is a baseball mascot, it is apparently a tradition that all of the mascots try to attend the games that mark the mascot's theoretical birthday -- since Rocky's was today, apparently around 17 or so mascots all went to Palm Springs to celebrate it. I am highly hopeful that he will return with pictures; if he does, I'll put them up. Otherwise, you'll just have to remain content with the knowledge that watching someone you know walk around dressed up as a giant shark with a lacrosse stick in hand is a pretty amazingly fantastic experience.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Adventures in Stuff

Life as Del's assistant keeps me rather insulated most of the time - I'm either on the phone with cops, or legal people, or sending emails to either one, or tracking down other people so they can talk on the phone and email back and forth with the cops and the legal people. That, combined with writing run-on sentences, keeps me pretty busy. On occasion, however, I'll look around long enough to see something that makes me . . . glad I stay home a lot.

I was on my way to the grocery store to pick up a good week's worth of sustenance (Stouffer's macaroni and cheese is ridiculously expensive now, by the way). I live in a pretty small town where things tend to look the exact same every time you drive by them. All the same kinds of cars, I pass probably twelve silver Toyotas per mile, pick-up trucks are a dime a dozen - so one tends to notice when someone's driving an old 60's VW Beetle.

Of course, I only noticed him because the light at the upcoming intersection turned green before I really had to slow down much, yet he was driving at a snail's pace, so I got a little too close for comfort. I slowed down and switched lanes, prepared to overtake him and be on my merry way.

However, the curiosity of a 60's Veedub was too strong to allow me to pass without a glance. Soccer moms in minivans? Not interesting. Joe-Hank in a Silverado? Yawn. The Beetle, on the other hand, had potential. I immediately guessed that its driver was either a very old hippie-type who never could part with such a relic, or a very young hippie-type whose choices were grandpa's Beetle, or a 1990's Ford Crappy.

Instead, I look over and see . . . a rather gaunt man, most likely in his 50's, wearing a disheveled security guard or police uniform shirt.

And he had no arms.

I normally think people who double-take are simply doing it for the theatrics, but I earnestly double-took. There he was, bopping along at what was probably 35 in a 45-mph zone, leaning far forward and balancing the spokes of his steering wheel with stumps that ended just below his elbows.

Lack of artistic ability = steering wheel that resembles the X-Men symbol.

Don't get me wrong; people with disabilities or differences in appearance or functionality are due every courtesy as are people without them. But I started wondering if that was even legal or, at the very least, wise. Blind people aren't licensed to drive because vision is an important aspect of negotiating roads. I'm pretty nearsighted and astigmatic myself, and I know driving without my glasses would not only be illegal, but dangerous. I can only imagine having no arms and a sudden need to make a hard turn, to avoid an accident or even a cute kitten in the road, like this one:

There isn't a story in the world that can't be improved with a kitten.

I am happy to report that there were not, in fact, any kittens on the road that day. But, my questions as to the mechanics of turning a steering wheel with no arms still stand.