My last day was December 4 — the end of a four-year adventure at TGen and the start of a new journey for me.
TGen, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, explores the human genome to find the causes of and develop treatments for complex diseases. A nonprofit biomedical research organization, headquartered in Phoenix, TGen hired me as its first marketing director.
I don’t think they or I knew what we were getting into, but it was a hell of a ride. Every day, I got to work with some of the brightest minds in science and medicine, and they let me tell their stories… in small words and big type so everyone could understand.
And so everyone could celebrate and, more importantly, support their achievements.
Along the way, we made rap videos and time-lapse installations. We wrote e-newsletters and created ad campaigns. We promoted fundraisers, gave tours and posted patient-stories on social media. We launched a podcast — TGen Talks — to give voice to the people behind the discoveries.
The scientists invited me into their laboratories and lab meetings, and they gave me grace and patience as they answered my (repeated) questions and (painstakingly) explained their work so I could share it with others. They showed me that failure is always an option; that the answers found aren’t necessarily as important as the questions asked or the work put in to achieve the goal; that you can stand in awe of the mysteries of the universe while working doggedly to solve them; and that you can do great things and also have fun along the way.
I am grateful to my friend Troy Richards for introducing me to the organization that saved his life. I owe my eternal thanks to my boss, Galen Perry, for giving me a chance, and I am honored to have worked alongside the hardest-working team in the building, the MARCOM team (an army of seven, of which I was a department of one). I am humbled by everyone at TGen that put their faith in me to tell their stories.
So why did I leave?
It was not an easy decision to make, but growth doesn’t come easily. I have been invited to lead my own team at Barrow Neurological Foundation. I will still be supporting science and working to inspire donors to a cause greater than myself. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid: It’s daunting, but if we’re not afraid, we’re not growing.
Eighteen movies and about forty hours of explosions: That’s what the Marvel Universe was — up until Avengers 3: Infinity War turned it all on its head. There are NO spoilers ahead for Avengers 3… and if you haven’t seen the other 18 movies, well, you might as well quit reading now.
To get ready for the big adventure, Pat and I decided to watch all of the Avengers movies in chronological order — not in order of release — in the weeks leading up to Avengers 3. Here’s what we (I) learned:
That’s a lot of time to spend on the couch.
Winslow does not like explosions.
Chris Hemsworth is a manly specimen of awesomeness; even Pat acknowledged that… repeatedly. **ANGEL PIRATE!**
The second outing of every character’s series appears to be the weakest.
It goes without saying, but seriously people: WHY DOES ANYONE LEAVE THE THEATER AFTER THE CREDITS START TO ROLL?
Here’s the order to watch – and the events in Galaxy Vol. 1 and Vol 2. apparently happen pretty close together, ergo back-to-back, which is a lot of fun. Added bonus: My quick thoughts on whether you should invest in couch time and Thor ogling:
Captain America: The First Avenger – This is where it all starts. Pay close attention to the location and the villain. Oh, and beefed up Captain, shirtless! Special appearance by the Space Stone / Tesseract. MUST WATCH.
Iron Man – Without Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, none of these movies happen. Pay attention to his Dad. MUST WATCH.
The Incredible Hulk – We skipped this one. Now that Mark Ruffalo is the Hulk, it wasn’t worth revisiting Edward Norton Jr. SKIP IT.
Iron Man 2 – Not my favorite Iron Man, but it gives us a little more on Tony’s relationship to Howard Stark. OPTIONAL
Thor – Hello, Chris Hemsworth, oh, and welcome to the party, Hawkeye! Oh, and please take off your shirt again, Thor. MUST WATCH.
The Avengers – Fun to see the band getting together. Hulk, smash! And please take off your shirt again, Thor. Hello Mind Stone / Scepter. Greatest post-credits ever: Schwarma! MUST WATCH.
Iron Man 3 – Good character development for Tony Stark, and really fun callbacks to the 1990s. OPTIONAL.
Thor: The Dark World – The best part of this movie is Chris Evans playing Loki playing Captain America… and shirtless Chris Hemsworth. Natalie Portman doesn’t have anything to do. The only reason you’d watch this is for the Reality Stone / Aether. SKIP IT.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier aka Avengers 1.5 – Again, the second outing is always weak for these characters. They could’ve done so much with Steve Rogers integrating into the modern era, but it plays more like Avengers-lite. Would’ve loved to have seen more on his and Bucky’s relationship. OPTIONAL. (If you’re trying not to sacrifice an entire week of your life on the couch, you can skip it — but my friend Paul says it’s a MUST WATCH)
Guardians of the Galaxy – Chris Pratt, shirtless! Truly, a breath of fresh air from the brooding, overwrought DarkWorld and WinterSoldier. Still the greatest soundtrack in movie history and so damn funny… Hello, Power Stone / Orb. MUST WATCH.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 – Still fun, but needs a lot of editing. Scenes go on a little too long and the Kurt Russell / Ego infodump-diorama is tiresome, but it’s still funny. OPTIONAL.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron – This really is a mess — the second outing is always a drag — gets confusing at times and again, could use a good edit, but, Thor shirtless! Basically, Vision is invented, and this is important for Avengers 3. Plus, Thanos throws on the gauntlet in the post-credits sequence. MUST WATCH. (sorry)
Ant-Man – Paul Rudd, shirtless… DAAAAMMMMNNN, son. Has he been working out with Thor? This is fun and funny with terrific special effects. OPTIONAL.
Captain America: Civil War, aka Avengers 2.5 – Again, this really is more of an Avengers movie right up until the end when Captain America and Iron Man duke it out. Still, it deals with interesting themes, and some neat callbacks in the history of the universe, but no shirtless Thor. Welcome to the party, Black Panther! It does set us up for Avengers 3. MUST WATCH.
Doctor Strange – Kind of like Iron Man but with magic! And I could watch Benedict Cumberbatch all day. Introduces the Time Stone / Eye of Something-Or-Ruther. Important for Avengers 3. MUST WATCH.
Spider-Man: Homecoming – I felt a little weird watching shirtless Tom Holland, but this was adorable and a lovely reminder that, at heart, Peter Parker is a kid. Plus, he and Robert Downey Jr are terrific together. OPTIONAL
Thor: Ragnarok – Thor got his groove back (and his shirt is off!). This is so much fun, especially as it becomes a bro-mance between Hulk and Thor. Sets up well for Avengers 3. MUST WATCH.
Black Panther – There’s so much good here. Feminism. Anti-colonialism. Cool tech. This is one of the best in the MCU, plus lots of shirtless Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan. MUST WATCH.
So this is your list. Suffice it to say, we really enjoyed watching Avengers 3 and will likely see it again. That 2 hours, 40 minutes flew past, though sadly, no shirtless Thor. But, dear Lord, Captain America’s beard!
Today, September 3, 2017 is our 17th wedding anniversary.
Having seen and survived the Great American Eclipse and subsequent Great Apocalyptic Traffic Jam, I am reminded anew why there’s no one else on earth that I’d rather spend my time with than Patrick Bertinelli.
So much so, that I was inspired to write a song about our recent adventure (see below).
But first, a recap: We decided at the last minute (37 days out) to witness the first total solar eclipse in the continental United States in 38 years. Based on factors ranging from our dog sitters being in Oregon for the eclipse to almost all airlines and routes being sold out (plus ridiculous hotel rates), we decided to take the path of adventure: First flight in, last flight out. Take the 5:30 AM to Salt Lake, arrive at 8:05 AM, grab our rental car, drive it like we stole it (which we did) for 217 miles to Idaho Falls, Idaho, and maybe, just maybe, arrive by the 11:33 totality. Then kill an afternoon in the Gem State and fly back to Phoenix on the 8:20 PM.
We agreed to pull off Interstate 15 wherever we could at 11:10, regardless of our bearing on the centerline. The threat of bottleneck traffic made it an adventure, and bonus round: I’d get to cross Idaho off the list of states I’ve visited.
At 11:10, a few miles north of Idaho Falls and well into the path of totality, we pulled onto a country road, drove about a mile, took a right and ended up in front of a freshly mown field, adjacent to three cows.
Patrick set up his cameras. We prepared to conduct our scientific observations, and we monitored the moon’s progress across the sun with our special glasses… and then it happened: The moon blocked out the sun. The bucolic landscape descended into a dusky darkness. Stars sparkled the purple sky. Somewhere farmers and their families shouted and shot off firecrackers in the distance.
Staring gobsmacked at the silvery corona sending its tendrils around the moon, we cheered and embraced and laughed, trying to burn the memory of that magic two minutes on our brains. It was your first kiss, your first glimpse of the Grand Canyon, the birth of your first child… the thrill of all of the magical things we want to cling to and never can quite describe again: Seeing Pat when I walked with my Dad into the chapel with all our friends gathered around to celebrate our union.
When it was over, we got back in the car with an empty afternoon before us. Three miles into our return, we hit traffic in Idaho Falls, spent an hour traversing four miles, and decided to wait out the rush by grabbing lunch. An hour later, we merged back into a six-hour line of bumper-to-bumper bound for Salt Lake City. The miles crawled by as did our hopes of making the return flight. Siri warned us of our dwindling estimated time of arrival — 6:18, 6:43, 7:12, 7:35, 8:02; 8:35. We canceled at 6 PM when we were still two-and-a-half-hours away.
At 8:35, we rolled into the Luv’s Travel Plaza to fill up. I bought two toothbrushes, a tube of Crest, two liters of water, and a six of Gooseneck IPA. Ten minutes later, we checked into the Mircotel at Salt Lake City International Airport. Exhausted from our seven-plus hour return trip, I didn’t even finish my beer, but we did make the flight at 6:30 the next morning. Thank you, Southwest Airlines app.
The state of Idaho has roughly 1.6 million people in it. Idaho Falls has about 64,000. The Idaho Division of Tourism Development estimated an additional 200,000 people traveled to Eastern Idaho for the eclipse… and they all decided to leave at one time.
The same thing happened to friends in South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oregon. After the forced march back from Idaho, I have come to the conclusion that, in the event of an apocalypse (nuclear, zombie or otherwise), the majority of Americans will likely die in traffic because we are the worst drivers in the world (USE YOUR SIGNAL, BUDDY! TAKE YOUR FEET OFF THE GODDAM DASH, IDIOT! TAKE WATER WITH YOU WHENEVER YOU TRAVEL, MORON – oh, wait).
That said, there is no one that I’d rather be stuck in traffic with than Patrick Bertinelli.
And now, I have commemorated our adventure in song. Please enjoy:
We’re So Vain (with mad respect and due apologies to Carly Simon)
We walked in to the airport Like we were hunting a big eclipse. Our map zeroed in on the centerline. Our time, it was an ellipse… We had one eye on the stopwatch, as We watched the miles tick by And all the while schemed That we’d be there on time We’d be there on time, and…
We’re so vain. Why did we think that we could just do it? We’re so vain. We really thought that we could just see it. Did we? Did we?
Oh y’all made plans several years ago, And we waited until too late. Well, you booked your rooms and got your flights set, While we dragged ass to the gate. But we still forgot that traffic sucks, And now we’re all stuck here. I had a dream there were clouds in the eclipse, Clouds in the eclipse and
We’re so vain. We didn’t think that gridlock could stop us. We’re so vain. (We’re so vain!) We sat all day in terrible traffic. We did. We did.
We wanted to take a short vacation, Just out and back for some fun. So we flew on Southwest and drove to Idaho Falls To see the total eclipse of the sun Well, we made it to the path on time And when we left, we paused… on Highway 15 in stop-and-go traffic stop-and-go traffic…
And… missed that plane ‘Cause we were stuck in post-eclipse traffic Missed that plane (that plane!) And then we got to stay in a Salt Lake No-Tell Motel No-Tell Motel!
We’re so vain. Why did we think that we could just do it? We’re so vain. We really thought that we could just see it. Did we? Did we?
Last Sunday morning, Winslow interrupted our leisurely walk by following her nose into a black, satiny mass that was hiding under a bush.
“What the hell?” Pat said, straining to keep Coolidge from lifting his leg on the mystery object.
“Looks like someone’s panties,” I said, pulling Winslow aside to gingerly pick up the litter. “No, wait. It looks more like a wine bag – like you’d give as a gift.”
I pulled the black satin bag from the prickles and thorns. The interior was a jaunty black-and-white leopard print. Fastened with a satin drawstring with bejeweled ends, its tag read, Sugar Sak™: Protected with Bioshield 75®.
“Bioshield 75®? What would you put in there that needs Bioshield 75®?” Pat asked.
“Maybe it’s a bag to carry your panties? Like on the walk of shame?”
Then I wondered why the bottom of one’s purse wasn’t a suitable vessel? I mean, it’s not like you’re gonna wear them again before putting them in the laundry.
“Wait, there’s something inside,” he said. “Oh… it’s actual panties. There are panties inside.”
And never I have felt so alive: Lying in a hospital bed, the apheresis machine sucking stem cells from my veins for the better part of a workday. 6 hours, 10 minutes to be exact.
I reported for duty at Mayo Clinic Hospital at 7:15 AM in my favorite, long-sleeved dress-pajamas with my lucky New Orleans Saints Super Bowl Champions T-shirt underneath. They needed ready access to my veins, and I needed a good omen… or three.