Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Being absorbed by travel and the challenge of distilling our discoveries: Sam Anderson on the 'Dear Adam Silver' podcast

'Boomtown' by Sam Anderson
Abigail Smithson is an artist with a love for basketball. Like myself, she has a perspective of the game through art and the larger world. Her guests are a reflection of this. Author Sam Anderson provided amazing insight into the writing of his book, 'Boomtown: The fantastical saga of Oklahoma City, its chaotic founding... its purloined basketball team, and the dream of becoming a world-class metropolis'. How OKC came to be his muse and the invigoration he got through travel.

'Dear Adam Silver' podcast | Episode 37: Sam Anderson and Boom Town

SAM ANDERSON: (31m 06s) There's something to be said for coming in as an outsider, as a blank slate and then just filling in the canvas as much as you can.
ABIGAIL SMITHSON: And I think if you're from somewhere, whether it's where you grew up or you live later on. Whichever. It's so much harder to get that same level of drive towards learning about that place, you take it for granted... whereas when you're in a new place and you're a visitor, I gotta get all this info...
I visited Oklahoma in 2017. I was able to spend time with distant cousins, my only NBA roadtrip being hosted by family. I'm sure my experience of Oklahoma was unique to me. Our experience of places are inevitably shaped by the time we have, who we meet along the way and the perspectives we bring. Like any good dialogue, hopefully we get taken somewhere that we didn't expect coming in.

On being activated by novelty, Sam Anderson continues:
ANDERSON: It was like an alternate mode of being. That to me as a writer, a reporter, a whatever–as a human is like the most exciting thing, is just being in a place with all my receptors wide open and just take in everything I can take in and that's my only job is to be fully aware. It feels like a real Buddhist state of ecstasy and openness. The writing is the horrible part, the production of the thing later is the bad part. Being out there absorbing the world is just one of the happiest feelings I know...
I've grappled with this myself. On my first grand adventure backpacking around Europe, I traveled sans camera for most of the trip to fully embrace the moment. Truth be told, my camera was stolen early on but I resolved not to replace it to fully commit to the experience. I became fascinated by memory. I read books about it, and wrestled with it through writing. Especially with the ubiquity of social media and life documentation, it often becomes a battle between living in the moment or standing back to capture it.

Sam and Abigail share their struggles with this conflict as creatives:
ABIGAIL SMITHSON: (33m 12s) It's so nice for me to hear that the writing is still the horrible part for you. I too get very exhilarated by being somewhere that's new to me... realising that this could be something I spend more time with but then now I'm home and "aaaargh", slowly pecking at the keys. It's not great. 
SAM ANDERSON: The worst. The worst... I come back and it's always the same thing. I'm overwhelmed by this continent of thrilling material I've come back with and how do you go about reducing that and mapping it out and just extracting the littlest bits that tell people about the larger thing. You just lose so much and that always feels so traumatic for me. That transition from the pure ecstasy of intaking the world to the difficulty of outputting some tiny little thing represents that intake. It's always so hard and it surprises me every time how hard it is and how different the thing I produce is to what I imagined or felt along the way.
Borrowing a moment from #30HGnorthwest
Sam Anderson resolves the dilemma of disconnect by finding value in the attempt.
SAM ANDERSON: (35m 21s) As my editors always reminded me, my big sloshing Pacific Ocean of ecstatic experiences on any given subject, that's completely internal to me. It does that subject no justice if I just sit around with it sloshing around inside myself feeling happy that I contain this ocean and that I have to find a way to distil and compress... present this tiny sculpture made of salt... Here you go. That's the ocean.
'Before Sunrise' (1995) - "The answer must be in the attempt"
A worthy resolution, validated in a line from my favourite movie 'Before Sunrise'. "If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing, something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed... but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt."

Find other posts on creativity and memory here:
- Jacques Henri Lartigue: Why I'm getting a camera
- The pursuit of happiness: A collection of "Happy triggers" during travel
Retiring the @30HomeGames Instagram.
- Other people's stories - Tales of: Living in the moment

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

2018 Aussie Basketball Tour: Notes from a week in Melbourne

The 2018 Australian Tour (NBL and FIBA)
Round 19, Feb 18: ILL def. MEL (94 - 84)
FIBA Qualifier 1, Feb 22: AUS def. PHI (84 - 68)
FIBA Qualifier 2, Feb 25: AUS def. TPE (88 - 68)
Melbourne was the last stop of my Aussie basketball odyssey. The FIBA qualifying calendar coincides with the end of the NBL season so I'd be hanging around to watch 2 games of International play with the Aussie Boomers as well. My plan was to watch the league leaders play the season's final round, roadtrip with a local mate down the Great Ocean Road and return in time for the FIBA games. My stay would total 8 nights in 5 different beds. A combination of hostels, AirBnBs and crashing at a mates. I'd be back home in Sydney for the start of the NBL playoffs.

Being Australia's cultural capital, I've been to Melbourne close to a dozen times for everything from wrestling, comedy and basketball. I made the trip to see freshman Ben Simmons headline his LSU Tigers against his hometown team. I've watched the Aussie Boomers play New Zealand and the PAC-12 All Stars, including exhibition games in neighbouring Bendigo.

Pre-game vibes outside Hisense and Margaret Court Arena
First up was the final round showdown between the Hawks and Melbourne United. Illawarra sat outside playoff contention at a distant fifth but looked to upset the Championship favourites. The game at then-named Hisense Arena was tight until the Hawks broke free in the final stanza. The upset victory meant I finished my NBL roadtrip on a two-game losing streak. I watched the game with my friend Dom, her first basketball game live. We would embark for the Great Ocean Road the following day.

I had a 3 day reprieve from hoops action to hit the road. The trip south allowed me to visit iconic Aussie landmarks like the Twelve Apostles and Bells Beach, as well as do some bushwalking. It also yielded some nice vintage finds. We stocked up on classic CD albums for our drive and I scored some sweet gear. Most notably a South Dragons' Shane Heal jersey.

The first of two FIBA qualifers with the Aussie Boomers was against the Philippines. Being of Filipino heritage and having experienced the fandom behind Gilas Pilipinas firsthand during FIBA Asia, I knew that the visitors would have plenty of support in Melbourne. The game was competitive to start and plenty of fun with the cheeky banter from the Gilas faithful. As many observers reported, the contest "felt more like an away game" for the Boomers. The joviality a far cry from the shameful display their following matchup on Filipino soil. That game made international headlines, tarnishing the reputation of both programs as the contest devolved into a melee which spilled into the stands. I wish people could've witnessed the good spirits of this game instead of the lasting impression from that "basket-brawl".

Philippines and Chinese Taipei fans
The following Boomers match against 'Chinese Taipei' was a bit more traditional. A home crowd experience with only pockets of Taiwanese fans in attendance. Despite Taiwan's gutsy showing after the half, the Boomers had a dominant 20 point win over the visitors. Both international qualifiers were held at Margaret Court Arena (7,500 capacity). A smaller venue compared to United's home floor (10, 500) of Hisense Arena, now named Melbourne Arena.

The main highlight of this trip was reconnecting with different hoopsheads as I criss-crossed the country. Annie and her family of Wildcats' fans, as well as German backpackers Jakob and Lars. I met them in different parts of Australia and caught up with each of them over a game. Basketball has been an invaluable way to connect — #ThisisWhyWePlay.

It was an awesome feeling completing my first set of basketball missions. I'm halfway through the NBA cities and have two more FIBA tourneys to go. I wouldn't say I'm a completionist, I just really enjoy these adventures and would like to continue having them whilst I'm able to. Its actually taken me a while to polish off these diaries. Being cooped up with this global pandemic finally giving me the impetus. I realise that I'm driven by creating and living these types of experiences. Recounting these stories whilst the world is on lockdown reminds me of the privilege I've had to explore and why it was all worth it.

Thank You Basketball.

- Follow my daily snapshots on the @30HomeGames Instagram and hashtag #30HGoztour
- Check my tour notes from Wollongong and Adelaide
- Check my tour notes from Cairns and Brisbane
- Check my tour notes from Perth and Auckland
- Check my tour notes from my week in Melbourne

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

2018 Aussie Basketball Tour: Notes from Perth and Auckland

The home stretch of my NBL tour took me to Perth and Auckland for Round 17 and 18. These two franchises have shared the NBL trophy the entire decade so far at 4 apiece. I was especially looking forward to Perth as they're widely known for having the most raucous home court in the league.

On my maiden away game in Adelaide, I'd met Annie. She was the matriarch of a die-hard family of Wildcats' fans. I told her I'd be heading to Perth and hoped to reconnect with them for an insider's view of the Red Army.

Perth knows how to put on a show. I've been to a dozen NBA arenas and to games all around the world. I'd rate Perth number one among all my game day experiences. The very blue Perth Arena was awash in red. In the playoffs, it's tradition for teams to outfit spectators with freebie shirts so they're coordinated for the home team and TV audience to feed off. In Perth, it seemed everyone was already decked in a red and white jersey, sporting a members' lanyard.

I met with Annie and the family before the game. She insisted I grab seats early to catch Wilbur the Wildcat's pre-show entertainment. He rappelled from the rafters to unveil a "Welcome to the Jungle" sign.
Game Day in Perth and Auckland
It had the feel of a playoff game. Sworn enemies the 36ers were in town, the final round of the "Cattalini Cup". The vibe in the city on game day was palpable, red jerseys snaking through the main streets. The game lived up to the hype in spite of Perth's smothering 21 point win. Let's just say, Perth is a hostile environment for the opposing team. Especially if you happen to be Adelaide.

My New Zealand leg was unconventional in that I had a running mate in my close friend Sam. Apart from my maiden NBA trip in 2015, all my hoops adventures have been solo. Having parallel interests in comedy and punk rock would help, I'd also traveled with him previously in Melbourne where I adopted his vegan diet. I did the same during my NBA trip to the Pacific and was looking forward to going plant-based again for Auckland. My first time on the North island.

Foot Locker representing
Western Australia and the North Island
I like gauging the penetration of hoops culture when I travel. The local Footlocker repped the game with a sprawling mural of Auckland, admittedly it only featured NBA talent. Despite the Breakers being perennial contenders, the locals acknowledged that basketball had an uphill climb uprooting the National pastimes of Rugby Union and League.

Whilst I escaped Queensland with two underdog victories, the capable Breakers were set to face championship favourites Melbourne United. My home game winning streak put to an end with the visitors trouncing New Zealand by 18. The loss did sting but the kids excitedly going through the bleachers to scoop up Breakers' balloon sticks cheered me up.

Mission almost complete.
I was lucky to enjoy plenty of local culture with Perth's Opera in the Park and Fringe World festivities underway. I also got to watch the Super Bowl in town. In Auckland, we were able to catch some comedy and farewell a storied live music venue. A highlight of mine was K' Road (Karangahape Road), where we scored tasty vegan snacks and some solid vintage finds. It's also where got I dog tags made to commemorate this NBL oddysey.

The 2018 Australian Tour (NBL and FIBA)
Round 17, Feb 2: PER def. ADL (111 - 90
Round 18, Feb 11: MEL def. NZB (100 - 82) 
I had a ball visiting the two most remote cities of the NBL. Having the good fortune to experience hoops all around the globe, I still cite this Perth Game Day as my most riveting fan experience. From the loyal fan base to the pre-game presentation, I highly recommend watching a Wildcats home game if you get the chance.

- Follow my daily snapshots on the @30HomeGames Instagram and hashtag #30HGoztour
- Check my tour notes from Wollongong and Adelaide
- Check my tour notes from Cairns and Brisbane
- Check my tour notes from Perth and Auckland
- Check my tour notes from my week in Melbourne

Thursday, January 16, 2020

All Fantasy Everything: Ep.12 – Cities for a Weekend (NBA Western Conference edition)

'All Fantasy Everything' is a podcast by Portland comedian Ian Karmel. Each episode Ian invites comedic guests to draft their Top 5 picks on a range of random, often silly topics.

Following in the footsteps of JJ Redick and Jalen Rose' selections for best cities to Champagne & Campaign in, I've excerpted the Western Conference destinations drafted by Ian Karmel, Sean Jordan and David Gborie. Sean and Dave were frequent guests in early episodes of the show when it was founded in 2016. They've since become touring regulars in the AFE family with producer Marissa.

'All Fantasy Everything' podcast (Episode 12: Dec 1, 2016)
Cities for a Weekend (w/ David Gborie and Sean Jordan)

Skipping to the end, the draft picks for each comedian went as follows:

Sean Jordan
1) Sioux Falls, South Dakota
2) Minnesota, Minneapolis
3) Las Vegas, Nevada
4) Deadwood, South Dakota
5) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

David Gborie
1) San Francisco, California
2) Reno, Nevada
3) Denver, Colorado
4) Omaha, Nebraska
5) Arcana, California

Ian Karmel
1) New Orleans, Louisiana
2) Portland, Oregon (The "Rose City", Top of the food chain, Jewel of the PNW,)
3) New York City, New York
4) Austin, Texas
5) Chicago, Illinois

I've excerpted the NBA cities from the west which I'd been meaning to since I heard the pod in 2016. To this date I've yet to visit any of the five destinations below. Hopefully the spots mentioned for each city are still around by the time I come around.

Ian Karmel: First round, Second pick.
New Orleans (Southwest Division) 
New Orleans, Louisiana
IAN KARMEL: (22m 33s) I have the second pick in the first round for 'Fun cities to spend a weekend in' and as much as it breaks my heart to do so I can't take the Rose City. I can't go PDX up top. I gotta go with New Orleans, Louisiana. There's not a more fun city. Just three days! Four might kill you. 5 probably, definitely will.

Things they did once...
DAVE: I was walking down there one time [Exposition Blvd] and I stumbled onto a Jamaican block. It was crazy, they had grills in their trucks. Like meat, they were making meats. Yooo! This is lit.
IAN: I was just in New Orleans. I bought meat out the back of a truck, or the trunk of a car, not even a truck... he was selling like these jerk meatballs.

Neighbourhoods mentioned:
- French Quarter
- Bourbon street
- Exposition Boulevard
- Mississippi River

Dave Gborie: First round, Third pick
Golden State (Pacific Division)
San Francisco, California
DAVE GBORIE: (32m 13s) Honestly I gotta go with my second city, my home away from home. The Sucker Free, San Francisco man. It is the best freak town ever... I've never gone to a city and gone out and got drunk and been like "everyone here is gonna get laid tonight".

Things they did once...
DAVE: We started drinking at 6pm. By 3 o'clock in the morning I was bombing a shortboard down a San Francisco hill on the way to the beach and hit the tracks.
SEAN: I went to a spaghetti restaurant and got a 40 [malt liquor beer] with a spaghetti. That's fantastic.

Neighbourhoods mentioned:
- Chinatown
- North Beach

Ian Karmel: Second round, Fifth pick
Portland (Northwest Division)
Portland, Oregon
IAN KARMEL: (44m 57s) I'm gonna keep it West Coast and redeem my first pick. I had to get New Orleans cuz I was afraid it was going to fall off the board but I have to redeem myself to my home city, my people. The people of Portland, Oregon.

Things they did once...
SEAN: We went there [Fire on the Mountain] on the crazy-regular. Like that's how we would start if we knew we were gonna have a real fun night.
SEAN: I'm not a big strip club guy. Portland has the only strip clubs that I've ever been to where most of the girls dancing don't look like they're having a horrible time.

Neighbourhoods mentioned:
- Kachka (Russian restaurant)
- Paley's Place (Bar & Bistro)
- Ava Gene's (Italian restaurant)
- Bunk Sandwiches
- Fire on the Mountain (Wing joint)
Holman's Bar & Grill
- Wunderland: Cinema and Nickel games
- High Dive (Neighbourhood joint)
- Belmont, Southeast

Sean Jordan: Second round, Sixth pick
Minnesota (Northwest Division)
Minneapolis, Minnesota
SEAN JORDAN: (59m 54s) I'm gonna go with Minneapolis, Minnesota. Its always been my favourite city in general. Where I wanted to live, I wanted to move there but we used to go up for weekends constantly... It was the first real downtown we went to. That downtown actually has stuff going on. A lot of cities you go downtown and it'll shut at 10 o'clock or midnight or something.

Things they did once...
SEAN: This is a specific sort of weekend. For me, this is the weekend. You go into Fifth Element [RSE store] and you just look around. Maybe you see like Slug, a famous rapper in there.

Neighbourhoods mentioned:
- Emma Krumbees (Orchard Farm, Restaurant, Bakery)
- Green Giant Statue Park
- Juicy Lucy Burger in Minneapolis
- Fifth Element (Rhymesayers Store)
Deja Vu Showgirls
- Gay 90's
- First Avenue (Downtown Danceteria)
- Acme Comedy co.
- 3rd Lair (Skate Park)
- Dinkytown
- Mall of America
- Bde Maka Ska [Lake Calhoun]

Dave Gborie: Third round, Ninth pick
Denver (Northwest Division)
Denver, Colorado
DAVE GBORIE: (1h 29m 47s) I'm sorry to wait for the third pick for you guys. I'm sorry but with the third pick I made the earth sick. Denver, Colorado. Mile High till I die baby! It's the best. Here's the thing with Denver, it has everything a great city has and top of it the people are fan-f*cking-tastic...
It's a spicy town, it's a hard drinking town.

Things they did once...
IAN: It was the first major city to go legal weed. I got to be there for the last High Plains I did. Two, three years ago. It was legal there but not legal anywhere else yet which was fun. It was a fun time to be there...
DAVE: Me and you did that dab in some dude's office.

Neighbourhoods mentioned:
- High Plains Comedy Festival
- 16th Street Mall
- Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park
- Fire on the Mountain
- Torchy's Tacos
- Voodoo Doughnut
Illegal Pete's

Explore links to other Champagne & Campaign recommendations:
- Former LA Clippers teammates Spencer Hawes and JJ Redick share their favorite NBA Road Cities
- Champagning and Campaigning in the NBA Cities: Eastern Conference edition
- Champagning and Campaigning in the NBA Cities: Western Conference edition
- Jalen Rose's City Power Rankings aka Black Guy City Power Rankings