Category Archives: adventure

Frequently Asked Questions of a Rock Star’s Aunt upon the Announcement of Tour Dates

Can you get me free tickets?


Can Pat get me free tickets?


But he works for the band, right?

Yes, but he’s not going to buy tickets for you. Tickets are not free. They are paid passes that grant the bearer access to a concert, which in turn, helps the band and venue pay their bills. Ain’t nothing in life that’s free, and that includes concert tickets. Ask me how I know this.

How do you know this?

Because I buy my own tickets.

Well, doesn’t your nephew have some sort of secret stash of comp tickets? Can I have one of those?

Are you friends with my nephew? Do you have his phone number? If you called or texted him right now, would he respond to you immediately? The opening act is allotted a limited amount of complimentary tickets by the headliner — so limited that you could count them on two hands. Spoiler Alert: His girlfriend, his mom, his record label and publishing house, his agents and management team are more important than you, and there are more of them than can be counted on two hands.

Can I buy tickets just to see Mammoth WVH?

No, but if it makes you feel better: When you buy Guns N’ Roses tickets, you get see Mammoth WVH for free!

Fine. I’ll buy the tickets. Can you get me backstage?

No. On the tour announcement, you’ll notice that the nephew’s band is listed as a “special guest” which means he is not the headliner. He is performing at the pleasure of the headliner, which means there won’t be strangers hanging out backstage, courtesy of the aunt-by-marriage of the opening act.

Can I get a laminate?


What’s a laminate?

Laminates are all-access passes assigned to band and crew members that allow them to move about the venue freely and securely in order to DO THEIR JOBS. Would you like to give me an all-access pass to your cubicle at work while you’re trying to do your job? I could rummage around in your candy dish looking for brown M&Ms while you’re in your 1-on-1 with your boss. Maybe I could take selfies of myself sitting in your desk chair when you get up to go to the bathroom, or better yet, I could follow you to the bathroom! Then I could snap some picks of us peeing together. I could also capture some candids while you’re on the phone trying to make sales calls, that is, when I’m not trying to steal used paper clips from your desk drawer or DNA from your coffee mug. That sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Can I hang out with Pat before the show starts?

No. He’s working. He’s not there to host you, to ferry autographs for you, to have snacks with you, or to take your T-shirt orders. His job is to make sure the opening act has everything it needs to put on a great show for the paying customers.

What about you? Can I hang out with you at the show?

No. I can’t afford to attend every show, but I will try to make it to a handful of geographically attainable performances in order to have conjugal visits with my husband in a hotel room I’m paying for because the opening act sleeps on the bus with ten (10) men.

That bus sounds cool! Can I see it?


According to the tour schedule, your nephew will be in [ HOMETOWN ] on [ DATE ]. Can he play my [ RELATIVE OR ACQUAINTANCE ]’s bat / bar mitzvah / birthday / retirement / anniversary / charitable event / grand opening / backyard barbecue?

Unlikely. Unless you have $20,000 for a booking fee and access to a professional grade A/V system and a big enough electrical outlet to plug into as well as an accommodating homeowners’ association and favorable noise ordinances, in which case I can put you in touch with his agent.

OK, could he just do a drive-by then? Maybe a little meet-and-greet?


Have you always been such an asshole?


Seriously, the show is going to be great. Get vaccinated. Buy your tickets. Support live and local music whenever possible and rock on through the end of the pandemic!

AZD-1222 Part 2: The Answer

Sitting inside the Arizona Coyotes hockey arena freezing my vaccinated ass off after receiving my second dose of Pfizer/BioNTech goodness.

I got a shoulder full of sugar.

As a fully informed volunteer for the AZD-1222 clinical trial, I had a 66 percent chance of receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine when I reported for duty on November 24, 2020 at a doctor’s office in Central Phoenix. As previously reported, within the first 48 hours, I suffered mightily most of the side effects associated with this vaccine:

  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills

Come to find out, those are also widely reported symptoms of middle age.

After my second shot on December 22, 2020, I experienced mild fatigue compounded by intermittent smugness: Though I brandished my gilded caveat of “well, we don’t really know for sure if I got the shot,” I was certain – certain – that I had been inoculated against the great scourge of the 21st century. I had put my body on the line again for SCIENCE and HUMANITY!

Yes, I continued to preach and practice the gospel of mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing, and I was certain I was doing my part to win the fight at both societal and cellular levels.

I certainly have an active imagination.

The placebo effect occurs when the brain persuades the body that a fake treatment is actually curative, triggering a physiological response. Here’s a fascinating study from Harvard Health about it. Though smarter people than I have confirmed this phenomenon, it doesn’t blunt the snickering coming from Pat Bertinelli.

“I’ve always said you have a really powerful brain,” he chuckled, as he departed to get his second dose of authenticated Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on March 31.

At my third blood draw in January to test for my imaginary antibodies, I was re-consented into the clinical trial. Because mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna had begun distribution and the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen jab coming online, the AstraZeneca trial could not in good conscience keep volunteers like me from accessing potentially life-saving treatments. At the same time, they needed to maintain participation in the trial to ensure the safety and efficacy of their vaccine. They had settled on an elegant and ethical compromise: As new each new demographic became eligible for inoculation, we would secure a vaccination appointment and then call the trial administrator to be individually unblinded from the trial. That way, if we were in the test group, we could cancel our appointment and free up a vaccine for another person, or if we were in the placebo group, we could go ahead and get our shots.

But this was all a moot point because AstraZeneca would soon apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and we would all be unblinded, likely as soon as early March.

It’s May.

We all know how that worked out: AstraZeneca vaccine tied to rare cases of rare blood clots. AstraZeneca reports dosing error in trial, delaying approval of vaccine. AstraZeneca misreports vaccine efficacy data in trials.

AstraZeneca’s crack team of communications “professionals” bungled basic communication practices and undermined faith in vaccines in general and their product in particular. Their jaw-dropping miscommunication has also thrown shade on the very good doctors, nurses and bench scientists doing the hard work on the ground to conduct the trial, and it’s annoyed volunteers like me who now get to field a ton of well-intentioned questions about a vaccine that I truly believe in because it SHOULD be easy to distribute to rural areas without a cold-chain infrastructure (if they can just get the damned shot approved).

I dedicated six years of my life to communicating complex scientific principles to everyday people. It’s not that hard to tell the truth in small words and big type so everyone can understand.

On March 24, Arizona opened COVID-19 vaccinations up to all adults, and I dutifully signed up and logged on, refreshing my screen about 200 times over two days and finally took the first available slot – 4:18 AM on Friday, April 2 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Sure, it was at an ungodly hour at a six-hour drive from my temporary residence, but I didn’t care. I was certain – certain – I’d received the AstraZeneca vaccine back in November.

So on March 26, I called the AZD-1222 hotline to get unblinded so I could cancel my Arizona appointment and do the big reveal.

“Stacy Bertinelli? And can I have your birth date again? And your participant ID, please?” the trial administrator said, as I doodled on my calendar, ready to scratch out April 2.

“You’re in the placebo group.”

“Wait, what? Placebo? Can you check the spelling. That’s B-E-R-T…”

“All the data is correct. You’re in the placebo group, Mrs. Bertinelli. Please do not cancel your regular vaccine appointment.”

“But I had all the side effects – chills, muscle aches, worst headache of my life?”

“Well, Mrs. Bertinelli, the mind is a powerful thing – but we appreciate your continued participation in the trial. Please bring your vaccine card to your next appointment.”

Suffice it to say, I rescheduled my Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine to a more godly hour, following our return from California. I got to do the drive-thru at State Farm Stadium on April 11 and then got to return for a walk-thru at the Gila River Hockey Arena on May 2.

And for the side-effects? I was tired, took a nap and went to be early after each one, and my shoulder hurt with both shots, but fatigue, aches and pains accompany me through middle age.

If this has taught me anything: Science is still wonderful and vaccines give us hope. Go get your shot so we can all get back to living.

AZD-1222: Pandemic Pioneering

I am participating in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trial.
Behold, the evidence of injection. I don’t know if it was THE injection or an injection, and won’t for another two years, but I have my suspicions…

My head hurts.

Is it allergies? Is it stress from the white-knuckle madness of Los Angeles traffic? Is it the two glasses of red wine I drank last night?

Is it a cellular response to a self-inflicted invader? The harbinger of Immunity.

I won’t know for certain for two years.

Yesterday, I enrolled in the AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Phase III Clinical Trials (AZD-1222), volunteering my blood and guts to fight the greatest threat to humanity since the Cold War: SARS-CoV-2, which has infected 60 million people worldwide since December 2019, killing 1.4 million of them.

As opposed to the sexier mRNA-based vaccines developed by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna, the AstraZeneca vaccine is vector-based: It uses a common cold-type virus as a Trojan horse to introduce an altered gene for the coronavirus protein into my cells in hopes of training my immune system to recognize and destroy COVID-19.

Or not.

It’s a double-blind trial, so I will not know if I got THE shot or merely a shot for two years. Until then, I will wallow in hypochondria – or at least for the next 48 hours. The clinical trial nurses advised me to watch out for certain side effects during the first two days:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fever or chills
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Diarrhea or nausea
Test kit
I gave blood and urine samples, learned I wasn’t pregnant (duh), and had the back of my skull scratched with a swab. Yay me!

I will spare you the gurgling details, but my stomach is upset.

Is it a side effect of THE shot? Or merely a symptom of yesterday’s truck stop feast of Lays Limon-flavored chips, Oberto peppered beef jerky, orange-flavored Gatorade Zero, and Australian Licorice (assorted fruit flavors)? Don’t judge.

Enrolling in the trial was a breeze: Sign up online and wait for a call.

AstraZeneca is still recruiting volunteers and especially needs African-American, Latinx, and Native American participants. It’s important because people of color are historically underrepresented in clinical trials – in part because these populations have been victimized by unethical practices, see Henrietta Lacks, Tuskegee Health Benefit Program, et al, and also because lazy researchers didn’t actively recruit and study populations that reflect the diversity of our nation. Most critically, African-Americans, Latinx and Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 – and are more likely to die from it – so volunteering for the vaccine trial can help scientists identify differences that may not be apparent if a bunch of white people like me show up.

Apparently if they don’t spark tears, they aren’t doing the COVID test right. Ouch!

My left shoulder hurts. My knees bend audibly. Intermittent pain steals through my joints: Are these the aches they warned me about? The physiological echo of an existential battle inside my cells?

Or is it just a by-product of being a 48-year-old woman who has crashed her mountain bike on more than one occasion?

My day started at the appointed 8 AM in a nondescript doctor’s office in Phoenix. They reviewed the 26-page consent form, which I had read prior to my visit and which detailed my rights as a volunteer: I can withdraw at any time, no questions asked. If I contract COVID, they will funnel me into a different study and manage my care. I will have two shots spaced 29 days apart of either the real deal or a placebo, and 66 percent of volunteers receive the real deal. I will have seven visits to this doctor’s office over the next two years and several phone calls as they monitor my progress.

Sign here and here and here. Initial there and there and there.

Then the delightful Matt did a blood draw, from which they’ll extract my genetic material for study.

Nice stick, Matt. I told you I was a bleeder.

Then I got a physical exam from the doctor and walked down the hall to meet my destiny.

Somehow, it seems like Nurse Ratched should be manning this room, but actually, the nurses were AWESOME. An easy stick… but was it the real stick?

The nurses walked me through the consents again and reminded me of the aforementioned symptoms to monitor for the next 48 hours. I went to bed at 8:30 last night and slept soundly until the splitting headache awakened me at 4:27. I got winded climbing the stairs then fell asleep in the hammock this afternoon. Are these the telltale signs of vaccine-induced fatigue? Or just symptoms of middle age?

I won’t know for another two years, but even if I learn that I got a shoulder-full of saline solution, at least I’ll know I did my part.


And Now My Watch Has Ended: TGen

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.

My first day is December 17. 

We Watched All the Marvel Universe Movies in Chronological Order: What I Learned

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:

  1. That’s a lot of time to spend on the couch.
  2. Winslow does not like explosions.
  3. Chris Hemsworth is a manly specimen of awesomeness; even Pat acknowledged that… repeatedly. **ANGEL PIRATE!**
  4. The second outing of every character’s series appears to be the weakest.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Iron Man – Without Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, none of these movies happen. Pay attention to his Dad. MUST WATCH.
  3. The Incredible Hulk – We skipped this one. Now that Mark Ruffalo is the Hulk, it wasn’t worth revisiting Edward Norton Jr. SKIP IT.
  4. Iron Man 2 – Not my favorite Iron Man, but it gives us a little more on Tony’s relationship to Howard Stark. OPTIONAL
  5. Thor – Hello, Chris Hemsworth, oh, and welcome to the party, Hawkeye! Oh, and please take off your shirt again, Thor. MUST WATCH.
  6. 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.
  7. Iron Man 3 – Good character development for Tony Stark, and really fun callbacks to the 1990s. OPTIONAL.
  8. 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.
  9. 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)
  10. Guardians of the Galaxy – Chris Pratt, shirtless! Truly, a breath of fresh air from the brooding, overwrought Dark World and Winter Soldier. Still the greatest soundtrack in movie history and so damn funny… Hello, Power Stone / Orb. MUST WATCH.
  11. 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.
  12. 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)
  13. Ant-Man – Paul Rudd, shirtless… DAAAAMMMMNNN, son. Has he been working out with Thor? This is fun and funny with terrific special effects. OPTIONAL.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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
  17. 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.
  18. 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!