I really can’t think of a better way to get back on my blog game, post-Miss Washington, then to tell a piece of this story. I love learning about different military experiences and the timing of this story couldn’t be better. Love is winning all over the country and life for those in the LGBTQIA community are improving. My first female feature is a part of the community experiencing this change. This blog is number one of a two-parter I was originally going to write as one post. There was so much good content that I split up the blog. Keep an eye out for my next military blog, featuring a drag queen!
Many that join the Army, use the military as a way to discover themselves. It provides an opportunity to travel, learn new skills and adapt to a way of life that is probably quite different from their norm. Kelsie Lyles was one of those people who joined the Army because she was a self-described “lost person.”
“A friend of mine mentioned I would make a good soldier, and my father was in the Army so I talked to a recruiter and the rest is history,” Kelsie said.
Kelsie joined the Army in November of 2011 and left for basic training the same month her own dad retired from the Army. Her current contract runs through 2019 but as of right now, if she’s still enjoying herself, she will sign another contract. If something changes in the future and she isn’t enjoying her work as much, Kelsie will switch to the National Guard or Reserves. Right now Kelsie’s rank is specialist but she is working on becoming a sergeant.
As a 92R in the Army, Kelsie is a parachute rigger. She packs parachutes for the airborne community and rig air drops loads of food, water and equipment. Jumping out of airplanes is her favorite part of the job. Kelsie lists completing long airborne school as one of her greatest achievements and is honored to be a part of the airborne community. Women play a huge role in the Army, and it’s a demographic Kelsie is proud to be a part of.
“Women can do almost any job and continue to drive for complete equality among our brothers.” Kelsie says.
As a gay woman, Kelsie’s experience in the Army isn’t quite the same as others. In recent years there has been a lot of change in the military as to how the LGBTQIA community is treated. Kelsie was fortunate enough to have joined after “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was repealed and says she actually faces more discrimination outside of the Army than in it.
Great strides have been made in the military to respect people’s private lives. Programs such as “Equal Opportunity” and “Open Door Policy” exist to prevent discrimination. Kelsie hasn’t been immune to discrimination because of her sexual orientation but believes as a whole, people have and are becoming more open minded to the homosexual lifestyle. Her weirdest experiences are when she uses a public restroom and older women mistake her for a young man.
Recently married, Kelsie and her wife Amberley tied the knot this past March. Like many military couples they had to rush to get married after Kelsie got orders to go to Germany. They were wed in a courthouse with close family and friends and plan on having a larger wedding when they return to the states. Ask Kelsie about her wife and she goes gaga.
“Oh yes my wife… If only I could put into words how wonderful she is,” Kelsie gushes.
Obviously, Kelsie and her wife were thrilled at the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage nationwide.
“Any two consenting adults have the right to decide if they’re in love and want to make lifelong commitment to each other,” Kelsie says.
The Army and military as a whole is doing better at supporting their servicemen and women while they are active, but unfortunately, this support doesn’t always extend past their military careers. Although Kelsie is still enlisted, she recognizes that the VA can be a bear to deal with. Vets exiting the military often have difficulties receiving their benefits on time. Medical benefits can cause the biggest headaches of all.
What can civilians do to make veteran lives easier?
“Honestly all soldiers really want from civilians is a thank you once in a while and to be left alone,” Kelsie says.
As she’ll point out, it’s hard enough to be away from your families for months or years at a time. Veterans don’t want to argue about personal opinions and politics. Our troops don’t control what they do, they only follow orders because that is what they swore to do.
I’ve known Kelsie since we were young kids playing fast pitch together. Watching her find herself, serve our country and find happiness from afar has been a joy. I have to admit I was a little surprised to find that her experience in the military has been pretty seamless. This was an awesome surprise of course and I am so proud of our country for the strides we are making.
For months I had been looking forward to my trip To Las Vegas, Nevada. I arrived back home Sunday exhausted but slightly depressed coming down from that Vacation high. I was looking forward to getting a tan, experiencing the array of characters one can only find in Vegas and checking out the nightlife. Happy to say I was able to do all three things and then some.
It seemed like I was the last person on Earth to visit Vegas. Tell someone you’re planning a trip and you are sure to get lots of good advice, and I soaked in every word. This vacation I took with eight other people was one that I had to do on a budget. I was able to stay in my uncle’s timeshare so we all split the transaction fees and that was it for board. The plane ticket was the most expensive part but I was able to keep that under $300. While there I had a pretty tight budget. I bought cheap food (eggs, granola bars, Uncrustables, breakfast sandwiches) and only ate out at a nice restaurant once. I didn’t rent a car but there was shuttle from our resort to the strip which was off the strip. The shuttle was $8 round trip. Lots of Vegas tip lists say “don’t think you can last more than a weekend here.” I stayed for a week and had a blast. Though I am still on “Vegas time” or rather “Vacation time” I’d say I not only survived, but I thrived. Below are my top 5 tips for Vegas!
Dang. I knew it would be hot bit nothing can really prepare you for 118 degree weather. Dealing with it is made especially tricky because the water down there is terrible. Even at restaurants the water tastes worse than any tap water I have had in Washington. Plan on bringing a water bottle that filters or buying bottled water there. I did the latter. Most stores will over price bottled water but if you are walking on the strip almost every pedestrian overpass will have at least one person selling water for a buck out of a cooler. I bought my water from these guys all week and would recommend you do the same.
Because I am getting ready for Miss Washington and my half Ironman, I didn’t want to take a ton of time off the gym. I ended up working out five out of the eight days I was there. Related to the topic above it is WAY too hot to do cardio outside though I did see one crazy person running on the hottest day we were there.
If exercising on vacation is important to you try and make sure you have a good gym to go to. While the resort had enough treadmills and bikes the weight room was a joke. A couple of the people in my group went to an off-site gym but I didn’t want to pay for the travel or gym fees so I did no-weight strength training while there. I had to text my trainer Josh for help and I wish I would’ve come prepared with workouts prior. Josh had my back but coming up with the things to do via text is annoying. On the other hand, it was fun to mix it up and do some different strength exercises that the norm.
One could probably plan a vacation to Vegas solely to eat food. There are amazing restaurants everywhere ranging from the exotic to America styles. Nearly every to chef has a restaurant there. We went to Bobby Flay’s but many others including Gordon Ramsey have restaurants in Vegas too. The thing is, these places are all super expensive and it adds up quick. I encourage you to find spot that does some sort of late night special. We’re talking some kind of shady-ish diner or dive that does a midnight – 5 a.m. $5 steak and egg special. We were lucky to have one right across the street but those kinds of late night deals aren’t hard to find. We saved a lot of money eating at the cheap place across the street, and really, how can you mess up breakfast?
My boss gave me this great idea. There is TONS of stuff on Groupon in Vegas. We were able to go to a hypnotist show for $10 each. Two people in my group were hypnotized. One was sent back into the crowd early but one “made it” to the final seven. He claims he can’t remember 90% of what happened but I will forever remember him doing his best impression of a pole dancer. Groupon has food discounts, spa deals and lots of great stuff to do on the strip.
My group was seven chicks and two dudes and this was almost too many dudes. If you have a group of girls dressed up walking down the strip you will get invited to parties at nightclubs. Almost every club has a cover charge but if you walk around the strip I guarantee someone will invite you to a club free of charge and probably open bar too. But only for girls. The guys in our group had to pay $35 for just the cover and maybe one drink. You’d be better off going to Vegas with a group of girlfriends or at east more girls than guys, then you can barter with people and say you won’t go unless your guy friends get let in too. If the men in your group are rich then no worries.
Vegas was almost exactly what I thought it would be. Crazy street performers, an unfathomable amount of lights and parties every night. There were some days spent by the pool and a handful on the strip. I even won $50 on a slot machine so I came out ahead. I went to two clubs, XS at the Encore Beach Club and Koi at Planet Hollywood. XS was definitely more cinematic but my group had more fun at Koi where I experienced bottle service for the first time in my life! The only part of my Vegas experience that really surprised me was how many languages I heard. This shouldn’t’ve surprised me because over 40 million people from all over the world visit each year. I loved the experience and would definitely go back.
Next time I go I will try to stay on the strip or at a place with a free shuttle. I did almost everything I wanted to this time, I went to a club, gambled at a slot machine (it was my first time ever doing that), saw Old Vegas and went to a show. The only thing I didn’t get to do was crash a wedding. We couldn’t figure out where the chapels were and by the time we did they were closed. But that’s ok, because now I have an excuse to go back 😉
Although veteran needs and issues and needs are and will always be something I passionate about, sometimes it can be difficult. A notoriously proud group, veterans often refuse to ask for help. Although many find the transition from active duty to civilian life challenging it’s not uncommon for me to come across a vet who tells me “you just don’t understand.” Although those aren’t exactly the words I want to hear, they’re right! I have never served and have no idea what it’s like to fight for our country, spend extended periods of time away from my family or be immersed in a different culture from mine for months on end. This is why my blog is so useful. It’s a way for me to pick at the brains of those who have or are currently serving to get tips and advice on how I can simply make veteran lives easier. I was recently able to catch up with very recent Army retiree, Captain Troy Jackson who was able to tell me a little bit about his long career in the military.
Captain Jackson served in two capacities. He was active duty in the Army and was in the Washington Army National Guard. His career spanned almost 25 years and he retired in September of last year. With a career that long Jackson has held many positions ranging from mechanic to chemical officer to computer network defense…and that’s just to name a few! Not surprisingly, he has been given a handful of respected awards including various Army Achievement Medals and a Humanitarian Service Medal. The army allowed him to travel and his two children were born in Germany as a result of that.
But therein lies one of the best yet most challenging aspects of military life. Although traveling to Germany was an amazing experience for Jackson, time away from family and long hours can be tough to deal with. Jackson noted that he is grateful for the support and patience his family had throughout his service. Jackson’s family shout-out points out that although many folks recognize that soldiers can have difficulty transitioning out of the military they may not realize that the same applies to families. Military brats are constantly moving, spouses can have difficulty even having a career of their own and once the movement stops a civilian life can feel dull or challenging to the soldier and his or her family.
But with the hardships come great opportunity as well. Families and children are able to learn world lessons through experiencing different cultures. Jackson recalled that Germany had laws and restrictions stricter than ours and that being able to travel on his own throughout the country was incredible. When thinking about the pros and the cons of the military, Jackson says without a doubt he would do it all over again and would recommend the military to young men and women looking to get a start in adulthood. I have long thought about joining the military and was curious as to what his views on women in the military is.
“I have served with female and male Soldiers throughout my military career.” said Jackson. “Women work just as hard as the men; I had several female Soldiers that turned a wrench and crawl through the mud right alongside the male Soldiers. We are an Army of one for a reason.”
Jackson’s half dozen jobs (working with both men and women!) lead him to his current career in the Pierce County Sheriff Department as a Corrections Deputy. Law enforcement is a common path for veterans and I have met quite a few that have landed in various law enforcement related careers. Something Jackson is most proud of is going back to school at the age of 30. He has earned an Associates of Arts, BS IT Management and MS IT Project Management. Jackson was proactive in his search for a job post military life and was applying to civilian jobs 14 months before he retired from the military. Unfortunately, I have learned that this isn’t always the norm for veterans.
So what can you as a civilian wanting to support veterans making the transition to a “normal life?” Jackson recommends that business owners, companies and affluent professionals offer jobs, training opportunities, and mentorship opportunities to veterans. This helps with what he considers the greatest challenge to vets coming out of the service: Finding employment with pay equal to previous military salary or just finding a job to support their family. If you don’t have the means yourself offer training and job opportunities to veterans, you can support businesses that do. Check out the link here to see what companies actively hire vets. The list includes Home Depot, Allstate, and Starbucks.
It’s odd to read about Mr. Jackson when I know him as one of the loudest pageant dads out there. Married to Dee, Jackson has two adult children, Chris and Lizzi. Lizzi has competed with me in the Miss America program and will compete for Miss Washington 2015 with me, July 3rd as Miss Rainier. All I know is that if Mr. Jackson produced a child like Lizzi, he must be pretty awesome.
I asked Mr. Jackson for some words of wisdom and this is what he gave me:
“Dream big, work hard, be persistent, be patient, stay healthy and pray; your moment will come.”
Months of training, two-a-day workouts, 3,000 calories a day. Did it all pay off? Well, let me tell you a story about the Lake Wilderness Triathlon.
Leading up to the triathlon I was feeling great, incredible even. I had stuck to a schedule since the middle of January. I was watching what I ate, swimming twice a week, running two to four times a week and biking one or two times a week too. I was lifting five to six days a week and in April, Josh Stancil started training me too. If anything, the only worry on my mind was that I might be in too good of shape. What I mean by that is I had been lifting so much more (both in frequency and weight) that I was afraid that maybe I would be too muscular. Normally when you lift for distance sports you lift light weight high reps. Because I am also training for Miss Washington, Josh and I decided to increase my weight, lifting more for power/aesthetic purposes but to do it carefully.
The middle of May marked the halfway point of training with Josh and we did a mini fit-lab to see where I was at. Before Sasquatch I had gained five pounds. We had met our goal exactly. I was also at 13.5% body fat. That was pretty low. Not too low, but lower than we expected. Women who compete in figure and body building are usually around 11% body fat and that’s after a cut or decrease in calories and fat intake. I was at 13.5% without any sort of cut. I have included some charts so you can see what body fat percentage looks like at different levels.
Day of race I knew something was a little off. I’ve competed in so many races/games matches that I can predict almost to the place how I will perform that day. There were a couple reasons why I felt a little “off.” The night before I went to bed pretty late because of a dinner engagement I had and was happy to go to! But still, it didn’t help that I went to bed pretty late, around 10 p.m. Fun fact about triathlons, they usually start very early in the day so that means you have to get up even earlier to eat. I was staying at my brother’s which was about 45 minutes away too. Combine that with my desire to eat my oatmeal and banana a couple hours before the race and that meant a 4:45 a.m. wake-up call day-of race. I actually prefer to eat three hours before a race and get to the race an hour before the start but I just didn’t have that early of a wake-up in me.
So I was a little tired day of race and then Mother Nature decided to show up. Oh the joys of being a woman. Regardless of that, you could clearly see that I was one of the only amateurs in the race. There were about 90 people racing and all but one woman and one man were in full body triathlon suits. One other woman was in a triathlon bikini and one man was just wearing the tri shorts. What was I wearing? A green and purple sports bra and black spandex shorts. As for my bike, I didn’t have clip-ins for my feet, I didn’t have aero bars and I haven’t been fitted to my bike. The only thing I looked legit in was running and that’s because I have a decent pair of shoes and that’s really all you need to run.
The swim went well. I regret that I was a little timid at the start. I should’ve put myself in the front line, but instead I was back about three of four rows in a very arrow starting point. I got kicked in the face at least four times and had to come to a complete stop a couple times as well. Once things got moving I was able to cut to the outside. For a good chunk I swam alone and was passing people continuously. I had to come to a complete stop at the turn again and got kicked too but at that point I was excited because I knew I had passed a lot of people. It was very hard to see who or what was in front of me and I really thought I might be one of the top 10 finishers. When I got out of the water folks in the crowd seemed surprised to see me and there were so many bikes still on the racks I thought I was right up there. Come to find out I had the 29th fastest swim which is still pretty decent but I know it’ll be easy to improve there.
Next came the bike. My transition was super-fast. Probably because I didn’t have to take off a wetsuit or clip-ins but once I got on my bike it all went downhill. Immediately I was passed by a couple of men. At first that didn’t bother me because I knew cycling was my weakest point and I knew some men would definitely pass me. The problem was my bike wouldn’t shift. I was in a low gear the entire time and I felt like literally everyone had passed me. In reality, around 30 or 40 people passed me which was discouraging to say the least. Those 26 miles drug on forever and I don’t think I’ll ever be more grateful to run.
Even my specialty wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be. I ended up having the 9th fastest run overall but I probably could’ve been much faster if I hadn’t’ve spent so much time on the bike. After an hour and 45 minutes of riding my quads were so tired. If I had clip-ins it would be the glutes doing all the work but without clip-ins your bike stride has to adjust and you end up using quads instead of the real engine which is your glutes. I was able to pass quite a few people during the run and finished 61st overall. My run was the fastest woman time and my time would’ve won the open 10K (though the winner for that was not very fast). One woman even came up to me after and said “Holy crap you’re fast!” so that made the day better when I was feeling a little discouraged.
This triathlon was just what I wanted it to be. A check-up on my progress. I knew that biking was a weakness but I didn’t know how to deal with something like a broken bike during. I have already gotten some help from more knowledgeable folks on my bike and fixed the shifting issue. Thank heavens because there is no way I could ride 56 miles on a bike in 4th gear.
Even though the tri didn’t go as planned I still had a blast and cannot wait for my next one. The exciting part is that the reason I didn’t hit my goals had nothing to do with my actual level of fitness and more to do with strategy and technical issues. A very humbling and exhausting experience, can’t wait for next time!
As a side note, now I am in my “cutting” phase of prep for Miss Washington so I will be eating 500-800 less calories a day. My cut is pretty short because I didn’t want to start cutting until after my first Tri, pus the week before Miss Washington I will be in Renton doing Miss Washington events and rehearsals and food will be provided for me…and I ain’t one to say no to free food. Still training for my half-Ironman, still getting ready for Miss Washington. I will start posting my meals and workouts again starting tomorrow!
As many of you know, I am competing in the Miss Washington Scholarship Organization one final time. This means I am required to make a commercial to support our premiere sponsor Brotherton Cadillac Buick GMC. This year we were randomly assigned video topics and mine was “chains.” This is a competition amongst the contestants and whoever gets the most views will win a cash scholarship! YouTube is tricky about how it counts views, so be sure to view on all your devices. If you like the video enough to share it, I’d sure appreciate it! If you hate the video enough to message me about how you hate it, I’d appreciate that too because at least you watched it. Thanks y’all!
The idea of writing about CWU triple jumper Jonathan Osborne crossed my mind when I found myself mentioning him during a high school presentation. I was speaking with High Schoolers about what it takes to run track in college and encouraging them not to get discouraged. I mentioned Jonathan as an example of someone who didn’t make a college team at first, but worked hard to earn a spot. This was before his 5th place finish and an overall track season that wowed all of us.
I first “met” Jonathan two years ago, his freshman year. I put “met” in quotes because we never officially met per say and just saw him as the smiley kid who was just tagging along. At 5’6” and only 135 pounds coming into his freshman year, Jonathan didn’t exactly look intimidating. Friendly, hardworking and always with a smile on his face, Jonathan didn’t stand out for any reason other than that.
Now a 20-year-old Junior at CWU studying public relations with a minor in advertising, Jonathan is originally from Federal Way and attended Decatur High School. A large school that swung between 3A and 4A, according to Jonathan, Decatur didn’t have a stellar track program and Jonathan was able to contribute quite a bit throughout his four seasons. Not just a track athlete, Jonathan tried his hand at tennis and swim team, but his passion was always track & field, jumping in particular. As many of us that competed in high school track know, you usually don’t compete in just one or two events. High School track meets usually mean competing in four events, every meet. For Jonathan, it was a combination of the 100m, 200m 4x100m, long jump, triple jump, high jump and/or javelin. Jonathan recalls that he was usually about the 3rd highest scorer on his team but never actually qualified for state in high school. In fact, the furthest he ever made it in high school was districts and that was as a member of the 4x100m relay, not individually.
His decision to attend Central was based off his love for the campus and its public relations program. Track didn’t play a huge role in his decision but he did send CWU Head Track & Field Coach Kevin Adkisson an email his freshman year inquiring about joining the team. After looking at his high school stats, Adkisson essentially told Jonathan he wasn’t where he needed to be to get a roster spot, but he was welcome to practice with the team. Jonathan opted to redshirt and still attended each practice his freshman year.
“Looking back at it,” chuckles Jonathan. “If I was Coach Kevin, I wouldn’t have put a guy on the team with those stats either.”
The fact that Jonathan had to redshirt season didn’t discourage him much, but he did have moments where he doubted his role on the team. He knew he had some work to do and still considered himself to be part of the team though he struggled to make good friends. Hearing conversations about the previous meet that he couldn’t be a part of was frustrating and he told himself he would give it until the next fall for things to feel better.
His sophomore year, Jonathan made the roster and was able to compete in meets wearing the CWU jersey. Tony Monroe, the CWU jumps coach, recognized his dedication and fought for Jonathan when it came time to picking and choosing who would be on the team. Unlike in high school, horizontal jumps would be Jonathan’s sole focus. Although, he had subtle improvements, Jonathan didn’t make it to the conference championships and battled an injury the whole season. At that time, Jonathan’s focus was long jump and he had almost given up on triple jump but with some encouragement from his coach he continued to work on it.
The summer between Jonathan’s sophomore and junior year, Jonathan decided to make some changes to his training. He increased his lifting regiment and focused more on running and speed work as opposed to jumping as much. Because of his history with shin problems, Jonathan wanted to be careful about jumping so much as triple jump is especially hard on the legs. That winter, Jonathan was still unsure about where he was. At an unattached indoor meet at the University of Washington, Jonathan finally crossed to 40’ barrier in triple jump and that marked the beginning of his breakthrough and shift to a triple jump focus.
Not a scholarship athlete, even after making the squad his sophomore year Jonathan still had to try out for a spot on the roster. After his trial meet at UW, making the roster turned out to be no problem and he increased his triple jump PR at the inner squad meet to 42’. His improvements were coming almost faster than he could re-write his goals, as Jonathan’s outdoor season progressed and he continued to surpass even his own expectations. After a near out-of-body experience at the home meet this year, Jonathan crushed last year’s and this year’s conference provisional standard (the length one must jump in order to compete at the conference championships) leaping a shocking 44’6.75’. This improved his personal best by a whopping three feet. To put that in perspective for someone who doesn’t know much about jumping, the difference between a man and woman competing at the same level is usually about three feet. A woman who can jump 17’ is about as skilled as a male who can jump 20’. Jonathan’s jump was essentially the difference between a male and woman jumper. Another way to explain is that improving a whole foot in a jump event is roughly equal to dropping half a second in the 100m. Jonathan’s PR would be equivalent to dropping 1.5 seconds in the 100m. Something that never happens at high levels of competition.
This improvement landed Jonathan a spot in the conference championships. As soon as Jonathan heard the measurer say 44’ he didn’t wait around to hear what the extra inches were and took off running. Adkisson was also shocked at Jonathan’s jump.
“His jaw dropped and he said ‘wow, I’m so proud of you,’’’ recalled Jonathan.
Jonathan still doesn’t know where that jump came from, but he came relatively close to that jump at the 2015 Conference Championships where he jumped 43’10.75,” nabbing a 5th place finish and scoring for his team. Pretty incredible for someone who didn’t make the team his freshman year and was ranked 17 or 18 out of 20 the year prior. Jonathan’s progress hasn’t gone unnoticed. Other coaches have observed his improvement and have gone so far as to ask Jonathan’s coach as to how/why Jonathan has made so much improvement.
“I am very happy to see how this year finished up for him, as he is one of those great examples of how hard work and persistence have paid off,” said Adkisson.
As far as inspiration goes, Jonathan credits his All-American teammate Luke Plummer.
“I’ve seen him every day just working really hard,” explained Jonathan. “I knew who he was already because we were in the same league in high school and when I saw him going here and just watched his work ethic I modeled myself after that.”
Luke’s feelings towards Jonathan are brotherly.
“It’s been an incredible to see Jon progress,” said Luke. “I really saw his work ethic pick up these past two years. He got stronger, faster, and kept working on his technique and it finally paid off for him! I’ve felt like a proud big brother seeing him do what he did this year because I knew he had it in him, it just needed to all click. I’m just happy to see all of his hard work pay off and am excited to see what has yet to come!
Jonathan turns to the pros for inspiration as well. He watches films, reads interviews and a quick scan of his social media lets you know the guy is obsessed with track & field. Next year, Jonathan hopes to be top three in the conference. Quite an achievement considering just a year ago, in his wildest dreams he would’ve been satisfied simply qualifying for conference. Although 44′ is quite and improvement from the 38′ he came in with, Jonathan feels he is nowhere near his peak.While the “never give up on your dreams,” saying gets old, Jonathan is the example that hard work and the right attitude can take you far. Jonathan doesn’t do it for a scholarship, for swag or for anything else tangible, Jonathan competes because he loves it.
“If you love it don’t give up on it, ‘cause you never know.”
If I had to go on the same vacation every year, if I could only camp once a year, if there was a law that said I could only travel to one place outside of the town I was living, I would choose The Gorge Amphitheatre, in George, WA every Sasquatch season. Arguably one of the most beautiful music venues not only in the U.S., but world, Sasquatch Festival is a chance to unleash your inner animal, forget the rules for a while and attend incredible shows. If you love music and you haven’t attendee yet, start saving for next year because it’s an experience like nothing else.
After a disastrous attempt to expand Sasquatch to two weekends last year. This year the Sasquatch Festival was only one weekend and four days instead of three. Ticket prices stayed the same this year but did not include camping like they did last year. I also didn’t think the lineup was as strong as last year, but was still stoked to attend and see what the festival experience would bring, round two. Realistically, I could probably write a book on Sasquatch but I will keep it as brief as I can and use this as a way to pass along info about musicians I didn’t know much about before and who I think others would like too.
Disclaimer: my musical taste tends to be electronica infused music but not EDM. I love indie rock with electronic elements and indie pop. I have also become somewhat of a hip-hop in in recent years. This obviously influences what shows I chose to attend. I opted out of Modest Mouse for ODESZA even though I like Modest Mouse, quite a bit. When I’m at a festival, in general I like to be moving. Dancing, jumping up and down etc. When I’m at the Gorge, I’m there to go crazy and dance ‘til my feet hurt. Calmer shows are for theatres and smaller venues. Keep this in mind when I give you lowdown.
Best Overall Show: Kiesza Like a lot of people, I only knew Kiesza from her viral music video to “Hideaway.” She seemed like someone I could get into but I didn’t expect to be entranced. Kiesza was in Chupacabra which was the stage where most of the danceable music was going on. It is a huge white tent and it gets HOT.
Just like in most of her music videos, Kiesza dances throughout her entire show. She has two back-up dancers who are drenched in sweat by the end of the show, Kiesza on the other hand, looked like all the dancing was hardly a workout. And when I say dancing, I mean really dancing. Footwork and thoughtfully choreographed moves, not just shaking her butt (sorry Beyonce). I thought the art of molding dance and pop music was lost but I honestly don’t think there has been anyone since MAYBE Madonna who can sing well and dance well like Kiesza. If you need to see what I mean, check out this video.
It wasn’t just the dancing that impressed me, more so that combined with her vocals. Kiesza sounded perfect, about as close to the recording as they come. These are what I imagine to be very hard songs to sing when tired. Kiesza was hitting every big note. Her voice was powerful and she never once sounded shrieky or shouty which tends to happen when one gets tired, and I know this from personal experience.
I get the feeling that she is a perfectionist. Everything in her show seemed carefully thought out and it paid off. Incredible. Check-out her most recent album Sound of a Woman and listen to her track with Diplo and Skrillex called “Take U There” while you’re at it.
Definitely a show I was super excited for. Schoolboy came out with a ton of crazy energy. He was jumping and dancing around the stage and definitely hyped up the crowd. Though funny enough the pit stayed pretty calm. I was upfront and was surprised that I had any space at all. Then about two thirds of the way through something must’ve happened in the back because we all got pushed forward and bodies went down. Though I went to some pretty crazy shows where the pit was intense, this is the only one where I saw multiple people fall-down and nearly get trampled to death.
I did notice immediately that Schoolboy was tired, one song and he was heaving. He would drop a couple words here and there when he was rapping but it was still fun because I knew all the words. Highlights would be when he took a puff out of his inhaler on –stage and when he surprised us all and did his verse from “2 On.” Best performance from him was “Yay Yay,” at least I had the most fun during that song (and “2 On” 🙂
Craziest Show: twenty one pilots Didn’t know much about this group before attending but had a pretty good feeling it would be an intense show. Intense was an understatement. I was literally in the very front against the barrier and it was a lot to take in. twenty one pilots is a two-member group. One on drums and occasionally trumpet and one sings/raps, plays piano, and ukulele.
Pretty interesting combo and this group is still hard for me to define genre-wise. They’re a mix of rap, rock and indie-pop but perform in ski masks and red and black paint on their bodies. They crowd surfed not only their own bodies, but a small drum kit and ended the show sitting on the crowd playing bass drums covered with water. I would’ve loved to have seen the show in the dark because it was too light out to have any light elements at the time they performed Saturday. Check out my favorite song of theirs “Holding On To You” and their most recent album Blurryface
Most Energetic Show: Run the Jewels With a crowd that was practically salivating by the time El-P and Killer Mike got on stage, Run the Jewels couldn’t help but give that energy right back. The two were jumping around the whole time, pumping up the crowd. If you’ve seen them, they both could lose a few so I was honestly impressed that they were able to jump around like they did the whole time. Needless to say, they were both pretty sweaty by the end of it.
Probably 80% of the shows I attended had a DJ element to their sound. Run the Jewels had the best DJ and I think he was actually doing quite a bit of live mixing which was awesome. Shout-out to DJ TrackStar! They also had a great light show. They played on the Bigfoot stage Monday night when it was dark so the production looked awesome against the dark sky.
Run the Jewels’ show ended right when Kendrick Lamar started so their crowd wasn’t as big as it could’ve been and thinned out as time went on. I stayed the whole time and sprinted to the main stage in time for Kendrick, but others didn’t take that risk. Check out Run the Jewels’ latest album Run the Jewels 2 and try not to go nuts.
Biggest Surprise: MØ What an awesome person. MØ’s outfit was dope, her sound was awesome and she brought just as much energy as any of the group acts or male performers out there. Her dress was a loose fitting sparkly gold complete with combat boots and a hat. Needless to say, I wanted her outfit.
This show was a dance party in itself and like some of the others would’ve been so much better at night when a light show would be view-able. Either way, MØ’s voice sounded awesome and love the raspy yet airy tone she has. Haven’t stopped listening to her since I got back! Please check out her recent album No Mythologies to Follow. One of my favorite songs off of that album is “XXX 88 feat. Diplo.” I also love and recommended giving a listen to her feature in Major Lazer’s “Lean On” and “New Year’s Eve.”
Best Sound: James Blake I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, James Blake is making the sexiest music out there right now and let me tell you the crowd was feelin’ it, myself included! James Blake combines haunting R&B-esque vocals with dark electronic and piano music that creates a unique sound that I don’t think is comparable to anyone else currently in the biz.
James would lull me in to a romantic state and then suddenly turn up the bass. Folks around me were lovin’ on whoever they brought with them then suddenly were jolted out of the love spell and thrust into dance party mode. It was awesome…and was one of the only shows I truly did not want to end. Incredible that a man can sit at a piano/synthesizer etc., not move and still mesmerize me
Best Dance Party: AlunaGeorge This was a really tough choice because there a ton of dance shows, whether EDM or the sort of indie-pop that AlunaGeorge is. Ultimately AlunaGeorge won this for me because Aluna sounded great, she got the crowd pumped and there were stars in my eyes the whole time. Highlight was definitely when she sang “White Noise,” her featured song on Disclosure’s Settle album. If you haven’t listened to AlunaGeorge before please do so! Other than “White Noise” I recommended “Attracting Flies” and “Best be Believing.”
Biggest Disappointment: Kendrick Lamar The only let down of Sasquatch. I was super excited and left with a horrible taste in my mouth. In his one and a half hour set, Kendrick played 11 songs. Why? Because he took his sweet time transitioning from song to song and he did “m.A.A.d city” FOUR TIMES. He didn’t play “King Kunta” at all which left me heartbroken. Two of the times he did “m.A.A.d city”, he brought fans up on stage and they rapped along with him. This was cute and probably incredible for those particular fans but I did not spend a month’s worth of rent to watch random people do Karaoke. This was his first show since To Pimp a Butterfly dropped and there was a lot of hype. Kendrick did not deliver. He also left most of the rapping up to the audience and I also noticed that his band messed up a couple times. Sad to say I will probably never go out of my way to see Kendrick again.
Most Forgettable: The War on Drugs Dudes on stage, playing their music, hardly moving, no special lighting, no set. I guess I am not as hipster as I thought, but that sucked. I was excited for this show but the excitement quickly ran out.
Hottest Performer: Lana Del Rey Although all she did was stand up there and sing, she looked great. That woman has perfect hair. Teach me.
Best Small Show: Grynch I just saw this dude the weekend prior and I have to say he brought it again. Tons of guests on stage with him (including Sol) and the crowd was going crazy. Someone even through bread on stage. I felt a lot of happiness during that show. Grynch sounded even better than the last time I saw him because the sound and mic system were better. Great show and it was at the smallest stage there early Monday afternoon.
Artist to Watch: PHOX First of all, Monica Martin, the lead singer of the indie-folk group is absolutely adorable. She spoke (and sang) softy whilst saying nasty things. The lady was sassy but in the most innocent way possible.
This band was beautiful. The harmonies they achieved were heavenly and all of the musicians had their moment to shine in the six-piece out of Wisconsin
Honorable Mentions: Chromeo, Ab-Soul, St. Paul & the Broken Bones Great shows! Chromeo was a party, Ab-Soul outperformed Kendrick and St. Paul & the Broken Bones hit me right in my soul but in the grooviest way possible.
What a great experience! I will definitely attend again, if not next year, after that! Fingers crossed for a Prince headliner. 😉
A couple weekends back, I had the pleasure of attending the CWU Spring Concert. The show was headlined by Sol, Grynch and Nacho Picasso opened. If you know me, you know I have witnessed Sol in concert quite a few times. This was my first time ever seeing Grynch or Nacho other than a quick moment on stage at a recent Sam Lachow show in Seattle. I was stoked to see such an awesome grouping at CWU. All Seattle artists, all hip-hop, all in Ellensburg. But before I do my review of the show, let me backtrack a little.
Before the show I got to hang out with Grynch and Nacho Picasso. I work at a craft brewery called Iron Horse Brewery. I asked Grynch and crew if they would like to take a tour and I was so happy when they said yes. Some artists, whether actors, or musicians, or poets, propel one persona with their art, but are much different in real life. Grynch and Nacho Picasso are not two of those artists. They are almost exactly what you would expect them to be like in real life.
Grynch showed up to the Iron Horse Production Facility first. He was cool, calm, and collected. Very polite and friendly and so was everyone who was with him which included his DJ, DJ Nphared. He seemed genuinely interested in learning about the brewery and for the most part quietly listened while the tour was going on.
Nacho arrived shortly after Grynch, and you knew immediately that he had. He was loud, obnoxious but definitely friendly. He appeared somewhat interested in the brewery but seemed like the type that is easily bored. When we were all sitting around sampling some of the beer, Nacho reflected on his childhood. He mentioned that he used to go fishing with his grandpa at Moses Lake and his grandpa would make him take the fish off the hooks with his hands and he hated it. His grandpa always made him though because he claimed Nacho was good luck.
“Grandpa these are pimp hands,” Nacho said while twisting his hands around dramatically.
This was Nacho’s attempt to get out of fishing but I don’t think it worked.
Overall, the whole Seattle crew were quite lovely. They loved our flagship beer, Irish Death, and they loved that the brewery I work for isn’t very wasteful and keep things local. Local people trying to make it, regardless of industry need to stick together and I hope the brewery and Seattle hip-hop can continue to do that.
What was super sweet about meeting them beforehand was that Grynch gave me a shout-out during his show and one of Nacho’s guys gave me a shirt. It felt pretty cool and I definitely appreciated it. Grynch’s DJ has an Irish Death sticker on his laptop now too!
Grynch opened the show and he brought a ton of energy. The crowd gave him a lot of energy so that helped too. I felt bad because it took a while for the room to fill up. A lot of people showed up for Nacho Picasso and the SURC Ballroom was pretty packed by the time Sol got on stage. I wish that Grynch’s hand mic would’ve been a little louder or the music would’ve been turned down a bit. Sometimes it was hard to hear him and he was overpowered by the music. When I could hear him, he sounded crisp and clean. Grynch also brought CWU Alum Wanz (you know him from “Thriftshop”) on stage and they performed Wanz’s tribute to Nate Dogg which was so dope. Be sure to check out the music video and song featuring Warren G, Critical and Grynch.
Nacho Picasso and crew took the stage next. I have it on good authority that he was drinking quite a bit before the show (and no, not Iron Horse beer) but you know what, I couldn’t tell! He sounded great and the energy was where it needed to be. I particularly liked his sweatpants with suspenders look, which didn’t last long because he took his shirt off early in the set. If you aren’t familiar with Nacho I would describe him as sort of a Tyler the Creator meets ScHoolboy Q with some Danny Brown mixed in there because they both use electronica elements and are equally crazy. Some of his stuff sounds pretty dark and heavy but he has tracks you want to “party” to as well. Nacho isn’t afraid to say anything, I mean anything. He is an entertainer to the max. Most of his stuff isn’t appropriate for this blog because kids read this stuff but if you’re curious you can look him up yourself. I really like “American Literature” and his verse in Sam Lachow’s “Lemony Snicket.”
The crowd was ready for Sol and so was I. This marked the third time I would see him perform and I was super curious as to what it would be like. The first time I saw him was at Sasquatch when he played a big stage to a lot of fans. The second time I saw him was almost the exact opposite. He headlined Timbrrr!fest in Leavenworth and played a smaller stage where I am pretty sure 80% of the crowd had no idea who he was.
This audience was the happy medium. A lot of folks were familiar with his music but maybe 40% or more were experiencing him for the first time. Just like with the opening acts, the crowd was giving him the energy and he responded. Though the general formula to the show was the same (he even made the same joke about dudes making a move during “Need Your Love”) it still felt fresh. Sol played a combination of old and new stuff but as usual, closed with “Paint” which I almost feel is his anthem. The radio-ready song soothes my soul and makes me want to jump and down at the same time. I sure was jumping up and down the whole time and loving every minute of it. The thing I love about Sol is his smile. Not to be cheesy or fangirl, I like it because there’s nothing better than watching someone have fun. Sol looks like he is having such a good time up there I can’t help but have fun too. As a performer myself, I understand the joy that comes from a live performance that doesn’t really compare to anything else on Earth. All artists talk about that feeling, but I believe many start to see their art as a job but that certainly hasn’t happened to Sol, and for that I appreciate him.
If you get the chance, please support guys like Grynch, Nacho Picasso and Sol. Support local music, support local hip-hop and make sure Seattle remains a hub for creativity and musical exploration.
In the middle of April I had the opportunity to take a private tour of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The tour was followed up by a Q&A session with two Gates Foundation employees who spoke on how to best go about getting a job at the foundation. I was in awe at some of the projects that the Gates Foundation has funded and the work they are continuing to do. Despite the literally billions of dollars the foundation gives away in grants each year, I couldn’t help but feel a little uncomfortable with the method being used to solve world health problems. More on that after a little background on the foundation.
At the tour we were actually told how Bill and Melinda met, a story I had not heard before. Melinda came to work for Microsoft as a programmer and that is how she met Bill. They were later married and in 1997 they read this article about children dying from diseases no longer in existence in the United States. Both extremely intelligent and very capable, this article sparked the idea to form the foundation. 1997 also marked the launch of the Gates Library Foundation. In 1998, the Bill and Melinda Gates Children’s Vaccine Program at Seattle-based PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health) was formed. The Gates Millennium Scholars Program was established in 1998, and in 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was officially formed. Many changes happened between 2000 and 2010, including new offices all over the world, Warren Buffet pledging $30 billion and Bill stepping away from Microsoft to work fulltime at the foundation. In 2011, the world headquarters opened in Seattle, the same headquarters I had the pleasure of touring.
What this Foundation does is hand out money in the form of grants to organizations and groups that they think will do the work needed to solve world health problems. Some of the Gates Foundation’s goals are to eradicate polio from the face of the earth, help develop family planning in poverty stricken regions of the world, and reduce hunger and poverty through agriculture development programs across the world. All of these are valid causes I support.
The Gates foundation solves these problems by encouraging innovation. The foundation will present competitions such as the “Reinvent the Toilet” challenge. This challenge was open to anyone and entries were submitted by colleges all over the world. Similar challenges have been presented with similar results. The Gates Foundation has inspired new innovative solutions to vaccine storage, water filtering and even condoms. All of this advancement is truly incredible and downright inspiring but I had an uncomfortable feeling about it all. It dawned on me when I saw a pair of TOMS shoes displayed at the Foundation (I once wrote a paper on the trouble with TOMS). Then it struck me, nothing was said about education. Of all the things that were highlighted verbally in the tour, none of them included providing educational opportunities for those living in third-world countries, so I did some research.
In 2013 the Gates Foundation awarded $3.6 billion in grants and in 2014 that number rose to $3.9 billion. Incredible! On top of that, the Gates Foundation endowment is around $45.3 billion. All of these numbers were taken right off their website. (As a side note, if any of this info seems sketchy to you comment below and would be happy to site my sources.) Although I think these projects are important, I want to see the Gates Foundation work towards giving impoverished and undereducated people the opportunity to help themselves. Armed with an education and a means to use that education, I believe these populations could help themselves. The method the Gates Foundation is using right now, or rather the method of the charities they support, is to come in and give people something they need (a toilet, a vaccine, a mosquito net) and then leave. This is the “White Santa Claus Effect.” This is when a predominantly Caucasian or really any group from first world countries hand out something to poorer less educated people. In some cases, this is absolutely what’s needed, but in the long term this method of philanthropy doesn’t teach a man to fish, it feeds him for a day. There are other moral issues that this creates, people using their money as a means to feel less guilt, people not wanting to do any actual work to help, creating a dependent population etc. but I won’t get into that now.
So what does the Gates Foundation give to education? Last year they gave about $93.3 million. That’s a ton of cash but when compared to overall giving and potential earnings on their endowment, that $93.3 million is about 2% of potential endowment earnings and only .2% of the whole endowment. That seems crazy to me considering most people agree that an education is the ticket out of poverty.
I am glad that the Gates Foundation gives anything at all! I only wish that they would focus more on giving these impoverished populations the tools to get themselves out of trouble. This could be done by building new schools and funding them until they are self-sufficient, improving existing schools and then creating opportunities for students to use what they have learned through employment opportunities; building, creating and experimenting. Let these countries invent their own toilet!
Sometime I come across as someone that wants to critique everything, but that is not my goal. I believe the Gates Foundation is an incredible project and I applaud Bill and Melinda for their work. I do think that there is a fundamental problem with the way the Gates Foundation money is being awarded and although the work they are doing is good, bigger strides towards solving some of these issues could be made. I encourage you all to keep a watchful eye on any charity and do your own research on the difference between simply handing out cash and teaching someone how to get it for themselves.
There are some people in the world that are so good (I mean down to their core good) that it restores your faith in humanity. For me, Harry Engel is one of those people, although he probably has no idea. In fact, when I was interviewing Harry for this blog I started to cry. Silent, but happy tears rolled down my face but Harry never stopped talking and didn’t ask me why I was crying. Maybe he didn’t notice, or maybe he knew why I was crying, or maybe it was a little of the Asperger Syndrome Harry has kicking in. Either way I was glad he allowed me to the let the tears roll.
When you meet Harry for the first time, it’s clear he is not your average college student. Quirky, intelligent and outstandingly kind, Harry is one of the .2% in the U.S. that is known to have Asperger Syndrome. First acknowledged in the 1940s, there is still much to learn about the disorder. Asperger Syndrome has been called many things including “high functioning Autism, “people with a dash of autism” and/or a development disorder somewhere in the Autism spectrum. Essentially, someone with Asperger Syndrome is someone that operates a little differently cognitively.
Asperger’s Disorder is different from classic Autism because the signs and symptoms are less severe. In fact, many people go their whole life without realizing they have Asperger’s or are diagnosed as adults. People with Asperger’s often appear to be neurotypical people simply acting a little oddly. Children with Asperger’s often appear uninterested in other people and can be awkward in social situations. Usually wanting to fit in, people with Asperger’s sometimes end up not understanding conventional social rules which may lead to avoiding eye contact, body ticks, swaying back and forth and/or the inability to empathize or use sarcasm correctly.
In Harry’s case, he self-identifies himself as an “aspy” based on his tendency to take things literally, be socially awkward at times and obsess over certain hobbies and interests. A couple of Harry’s interests include mathematics and politics, while his hobbies include video games and reading Wikipedia, (correcting articles where he sees fit) and running. It was through running that I met Harry.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s at 10 years old, Harry is now a 19-year-old freshman at Central Washington University with plans to major in actuarial science. At 10 years old, Harry believed Asperger’s meant he was simply not as good. However, after diagnosis he was enrolled in a social skills course where he learned about other’s who were like him and the history of the disorder. Those classes taught him that he was, in his words, “just a human being.” A human with Asperger’s, but perfectly capable. Harry credits his parents, Robin and Larry Engel for treating him like he was any other kid and in his words “playing it cool,” encouraging him to explore all of his interests. In the first couple years after his diagnosis, Harry felt that his Asperger’s would hold him back, but now embraces his situation and takes advantage of any opportunity available to him.
“I truly believed that I wouldn’t be as good as other people at certain things,” reflected Harry.
Harry has proved to be more than “good” and is known by me as one of the most inspirational runners I have ever come across. Harry runs cross-country for Central and has already had quite an effect on his teammates, especially me.
Harry’s road to a passion for running is triumphant. Harry laughs about it now, but the story of how his passion formulated is related to his Asperger’s. He remembers the date, November 14, 2004. Harry was told “never run again…ever.” Out of context it sounds awful, but in reality it was simply an elementary school staff member telling him not to run in the parking lot. With Harry’s Asperger’s, he took that comment literally and “seriously thought the person told me I could never run,” he laughs now.
That wasn’t the first time Harry had been told he would never run. As a young child his legs and arms did not function correctly and his family had to seek treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital. A physical therapist went as far as to tell Harry and his parents he would never compete in any sports whatsoever. The physical therapy and treatment Harry received at Children’s helped him get on his feet and now he can hardly be stopped.
For Harry, running means freedom. Through the 11th grade he was still enrolled in a social skills course and felt somewhat restricted. Running is a chance to escape to a place where Harry feels in control, knows where he is, where he wants to go and what he needs to do to get there.
This mentality was seen in action at the GNAC Cross-Country Championships last fall. The top 10 runners from each University in the conference get to compete against each other for the title of “Conference Champions.” Harry, who was Central’s number 11 runner normally wouldn’t’ve gotten to compete but because one of his teammates was sick, Harry was able to compete in Central’s 10th spot. Harry’s excitement was obvious leading up to the race. Although I didn’t doubt his ability to run a great time, even a lifetime PR, it was hard to believe that he could deliver what he did. That day, Harry ran the time of his life (so far) dropping almost 90 seconds from his previous best time and crossing the finish line in 53rd place overall, but 5th out of the Central harriers competing. Harry came into the meet marked as Central’s 10th guy, but finished as their 5th. It’s hard for people who don’t run cross-country to understand, but dropping that much time and ending up scoring for your team when you never had before was something remarkable.
Harry lists his conference run as one of the best races of his life. At the time of our interview, Harry’s new goal was to help a Central team get to nationals in XC and win a 5K or higher. Well, this Saturday Harry ran the 10K at the home Central meet and won…I guess it’s already time to set some new goals.
Harry’s XC season ended at the conference championships, but I was fortunate enough to compete at regionals and nationals that year. I remember Harry texting me advice at regionals and even called me to give me a pep talk. At nationals I received texts from Harry as well. These texts usually consisted of Harry reminding me that I could accomplish anything that I wanted; I just had to decide to do it. Crazy to think that a freshman with Asperger’s was giving the seasoned senior runner advice on how to run a race. Funny as it sounds; I give partial credit to Harry on my second All-American achievement. My last quarter of school was hard on me, running included, and reading Harry’s messages gave me an extra boost of life right before I started the final race of my collegiate cross-country career.
April is National Autism Awareness month and Harry was given the opportunity to speak at an open panel where he and other Central students with autism were able to answer questions about what it is like to be an “aspy” college student. You can find more information about that panel here.
When asked to give advice on how to live your life, Harry had a couple of things to tell me.
“If I had any pieces of advice for people I have a couple things. First of all, if you ever for a moment think you can’t do something you will not do as well as you would thinking that you would succeed. Whenever you go into a difficult task always come in thinking you will seize the day and succeed.”
For my runner friends who may be reading this, Harry had further advice.
“Those of you out there who are about to run a race, ask yourself, ‘what do I want to be remembered for?’ I don’t know about you, but I want to be remembered as somebody that could succeed no matter the situation.”
When I was trying to think of people who I respected, admired, thought were interesting and inspiring, Harry was one of the first to come to mind. I hope Harry is ok with me remembering him as someone that was wonderful to be around no matter the situation.