Category Archives: Travel

tidepools

Anne and I were standing at the edge of some tidepools, watching tiny fish swim around in them.

“They look just like little versions of the fish we see on the reef,” I said.

“I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what they are,” Anne replied. A wave crashed against the rocks nearby, and the water near our feet gently rose a few inches. As the tide ran out, it created a small current between two tide pools, drawing some new fish into the one we were watching. They swam around together, like they’d always been there.

“You know how I like to think about nature being really simple?” I said, “like how it just repeats little things over and over again to make bigger, more complex things?”

“Like when you talk about fractals?” She said. Another wave hit the rocks, splashing brilliant white foam into the air.

“Yeah, sort of, ” I said. “So let’s look at these tide pools, and consider that the fish who live in them have no idea that, just a short distance away, is the entire ocean, and it’s filled with giant versions of themselves.”

“It’s not necessarily a short distance for them,” she added.

“Dammit. You’re right. That messes this up a little bit, but go with me for a second.” I put my hand into the water and the fish darted away. “These fish may not even know about the fish one tidepool over, separated by a few inches of rocks, unless the tide pushes or pulls them there.

“So. Imagine that we are in this tidepool, and we have no idea that there’s a huge ocean just a short distance away. Or imagine that something is looking at us in this tidepool, and we have no way at all to even perceive that they are there.”

“Woah.”

“Right? And the tidepool can’t exist without the ocean, and the tides can’t exist without the moon, and the moon can’t exist without the Earth, and the Earth can’t exist without the solar system…”

She looked at me, and I trailed off.

“I’m just saying, I think it would be neat if we humans could get out of our tidepool, someday. I’d like to see what’s on the other side of the rocks.”

She clasped my hand in hers. “Let’s go for a swim,” she said.

How I spent my birthday

My sound guy, Matt, helped me take off my mic. My wardrobe stylist, Kristin, helped me out of my jacket, while my makeup artist, Molly, handed me a wipe thing to get my makeup off my face.

Anne stood up from the audience and said, “we have something for you.”

“Dude, I don’t want anyone making a big deal about my birthday,” I said, “especially at work.”

“Well, it’s too late. I got you Batman cupcakes.”

From behind the green screen, my stage manager, Roger, handed me a chocolate cupcake with a batman cookie on top of it. It was pretty awesome.

“Holy shit that’s amazing and I’m so glad you did this!” I said. “Please don’t sing.”

“Nobody is going to sing. We also got enough cupcakes for the whole audience and crew, too,” Anne said.

I turned to the audience and told them. Someone shouted out that they knew, because they’d been let in on the secret while I was changing my wardrobe earlier.

I walked out the stage door, and saw boxes of cupcakes set up on a table. For the next few minutes, I thanked every person who came to the show, and handed them a cupcake and a Sharknado toy that our friends at Funko provided to us to give away. My crew and the show staff gathered around and wished me happy birthday, Kristin gave me some Star Wars Vans, Molly gave me some craft beer, and my writers gave me a card that was accompanied by even more beer. My people just get me, you guys.

After I changed into my normal clothes, Anne and I drove up to Santa Barbara — well, Anne drove while I drifted in and out of sleep — to spend a couple days for my birthday. Traffic was surprisingly light, and we got to our hotel early enough to watch the gorgeous sunset over the Pacific Ocean. We had a wonderful dinner, shared a fantastic bottle of wine, and fell asleep before 10pm.

12 hours of sleep later, we woke up. After five exhausting days at Comicon and a taping of The Wil Wheaton Project, I finally felt rested.

“Happy birthday,” Anne said to me as we stretched and tried to convince ourselves that getting out of bed was a thing we should probably do.

“Thanks,” I said. “It’s totally my birthday.”

“All day long!”

We had breakfast, and then took a long walk on the beach. There weren’t too many people out, and most of the people who were there had adorable dogs running around. Anne and I are dog people, so we got to stop several times to throw a ball or scratch a scruffy neck.

“You know what I think would be awesome?” I said, as we reached a sea wall a couple miles away and began our walk back to the hotel. Before Anne could answer, I continued, “I think we should go to the spa and get massages.”

“That’s the best idea you’ve ever had,” she said.

“I know. I’m kind of amazing.”

We got back to the hotel,found out that we could book into the couple’s massage room, and got 80-minute massages in a beautiful room with windows open to the ocean, the sound of gently breaking waves carried in on a soft ocean breeze.

After our massage, we went back to our room to get ready for dinner … but first I had to take a nap, because when you’re 42, that’s how you spend your birthday.

I woke up two hours later, and got ready for dinner, which would be at one of my favorite restaurants in town. I looked for my nice shirt in the suitcase, and discovered that, in my exhaustion a day earlier, I had forgotten to pack it.

“I’m not as amazing as I said I was earlier. I forgot to bring my nice shirt.”

“It’s okay,” Anne said, “the restaurant isn’t fancy.”

“But I wanted to look nice for you.”

“I don’t care how you look,” she said.

“Even if I look like a hobo?” I said.

“You can’t look like a hobo, because you also forgot to pack your hobo bindle.”

“Dammit!” I pulled on a black t-shirt that was at least more appropriate than the Tabletop T-shirt I had been wearing.

We got to dinner, and it was awesome. I had all the food I wanted, and the restaurant even gave me a chocolate souffle with a candle in it, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY WIL written on the plate in chocolate. I’m always excited when someone spells my name correctly, and then I was even more excited when I found out that they knew how to spell my name because the servers were fans of The Wil Wheaton Project. I blew out the candle, and wished for the show to get picked up for more episodes, because I love working with the people who make it happen.

We went back to the hotel, watched the show I’d taped the day before, and almost immediately fell asleep afterward. We slept for another 10 hours, and took another long walk on the beach before we got back into the car to go home.

It was an absolutely perfect, beautiful day. There were some high clouds, and the sun was very warm, but the breeze off the ocean kept us cool. We were so happy and content, we didn’t want to leave, and by the time we got back to the hotel we realized that we’d walked almost eight miles.

On the way home, as we neared Ventura and were about to turn inland, leaving the ocean views to memory, I said to my wife, “This was the best birthday trip, ever. I feel totally rested, completely relaxed, and like I got all my hit points back. I really needed this. Thank you for making it happen.”

“You’re welcome. I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

How I spent my Comicon

I spent five days at Comicon this year, and discovered a new level of exhaustion and fatigue every day, surpassing the level I’d discovered the day before. By the time I was finally on the train back home, I had reached a point of burn out that I never though I’d experience: I pretty much don’t want to go to Comicon any more, because it’s stopped being fun for me.

Wednesday, we got on a much-delayed train (tragically, a northbound train hit a woman up near Ventura, so the southbound train was delayed by almost three hours) and headed down for Hop-Con at Stone’s Liberty Station. We celebrated the launch of w00tstout 2.0, and tapped some awesome limited collaboration brews, including my own white sage IPA, called the Tao of Sage. Much fun was had, and I drank as much beer as I’ve ever had in my life. I’m not sure how it got away from me so quickly (I suspect it was the 13.5% w00tstout on cask with s’mores) but my wife had to literally roll me into bed, because I sort of overdid it. Lesson learned, I woke up Thursday morning without a hangover (Anne says she kept giving me water) and vowed to institute Operation: Beer Just Drink One for the rest of the con (a quest I completed, I’m happy to note).

Thursday night, we did w00tstock 6.0. It was a great show, with some standout performances by Mega Ran, Marian Call, and Thomas Lennon. Craig Ferguson even came by to make jokes.

I always want to perform something new at w00tstock, but I’ve been so busy with The Wil Wheaton Project, I haven’t had time to write anything that isn’t specifically for the show. I had some stuff in my pocket that hadn’t been performed for w00tstock before, though, so I went with my story Blue Light Special, from The Happiest Days of Our Lives. It felt like a little bit of a cheat to me, but the audience loved it, and I had a hell of a good time performing it.

After the show was over, we tried to go to the Geek & Sundry lounge, but upon discovering that the rest of the world was there, in a room that I’m fairly sure was 500° Kelvin and 812% humidity, we ended up going back to our hotel, crashing into bed, and sleeping for almost 10 hours.

This was a theme for me at Comicon this year, and it’s probably the only reason I was able to survive it (emotionally and physically): I didn’t stay up too late, I didn’t overdo anything, and I made sure that I got to sleep as much as I needed, on every night that it was possible to do that.

Friday morning, I went down to the convention center and actually went inside for the first time. I was a surprise guest on the Big Bang Theory writer’s panel, and we showed a trailer for the imaginary film Serial Apeist 2: Monkey See, Monkey Kill. The audience loved it, and they really seemed to be happy that I was there, which made me feel good.

Friday night, I took a crew from The Wil Wheaton Project to Syfy’s Sharknado 2 party, where we made some funny stuff together. Some of it made it into this week’s show, if you’re into that.

Sidebar: How much fun was Sharknado 2?! I love that everyone in the film’s universe just accepts that there can be a massive shark-infested weather event, and then stuff happens. I also noticed that, according to some Twitter thing, I was the second most prolific Sharknado 2 Twittering person, behind the official account. I’m, uh, I’m not going to try to pretend that I’m not proud of that.

Saturday, we went back to the convention center, where Anne did a signing at Cupcake Quarterly, a really cool nerdy pin-up magazine that our friend publishes. After dropping her off, I tried my best to get through the con floor to visit some of my friends, and this is where I discovered that, maybe, I just can’t enjoy Comicon like I used to.

I realize that I’m on television every week, and even though that audience is smaller than we all hoped it would be (turns out promotion off the network is kind of important), that audience is maybe, um, oversampled at Comicon. There’s also the whole Big Bang Theory thing, and Tabletop is pretty popular with my people … so on the one hand, it was really exciting and awesome to meet so many people who love the shows I make as much as I do, and I tried to take pictures and stuff with as many people as I could, but I quickly learned that there’s no such thing as “just one quick selfie”.  I hate telling people no when they ask, but if I said yes to one person, that person quickly became ten people, and then a small crowd formed. I got a little panicky once, when I was literally surrounded, but everyone I interacted with was kind and understanding, and with the help of my friend Shawn, I was able to make it across the floor to visit with some people I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.

So, before I continue: I know this is a #firstworldproblem and a #celebrityproblem and whatever else you want to say about it. I get that, and I know that from a business position it’s an amazing problem to have. From a human being perspective, though, it’s a bummer, because I couldn’t wander the floor and look at art and talk to comic creators, because whenever I stopped  I got sort of mobbed, even with my friend doing his best to keep an eye on me. I suppose I could be one of those people with a couple of security goons, but that seems even worse. If I do go back next year, I think I’ll have to cosplay in a full mask or something, which is weird, but at least I’ll get a chance to maybe pick up some cool art and books.

After Anne was done signing, I did a quick interview for Rotten Tomatoes, and then we spent a little bit of time at a really nice cocktail party that Bill Prady has every year. Finally, I got to see a lot of my friends all in one place, and that was really nice.

Before we knew it, it was time for the Geek & Sundry panel, which I had to leave early because I had to get up to a theatre a couple miles away from the convention center to perform in the Welcome To Night Vale / Thrilling Adventure Hour crossover show.

“You look exhausted,” Ben Blacker (Thrilling Adventure co-writer) said to me when he saw me backstage.

“I am,” I said, “and I’m soaked through because of the humidity, but I’m really glad to be here for this show.”

I looked around the backstage area, and took in the curtain, the lights, the prop boxes, and all of the things that I only see backstage in a theater. I heard some of the other actors running their lines out on the stage, and flipped through my script to catch up to them.

“I’m so happy to be here, though, because I feel like I’m back in my element as a performer, back where I belong, back where I’m doing actual work, instead of being ‘that guy from TV’.” I wiped sweat off my face and took a deep breath. “It’s like I’ve been doing hundreds of performances for an audience of one for the last few days, and I’m looking forward to doing one performance for an audience of whatever fits in this theater.”

“I get that,” he said.

“I feel like it’ll be rejuvenating,” I said.

“That’s awesome,” he said, “and you’re up on the next page.”

I walked up to the mic and joined the rehearsal. It took me a few tries to find the character, but with the help of Ben Blacker and his co-writer Ben Acker, I brought the omniscient galactic being S’Tonge to life in a way that was incredibly fun and deeply satisfying. And not for nothing, I got to be in Welcome to Night Vale and The Thrilling Adventure Hour on the same stage in the same show, and I never thought I’d get to do that.

When the show was over, I thanked everyone for having me, found my wife, and went back to our hotel.

“I have found a new level of tired that I didn’t know existed,” I said, in the elevator.

“You said that yesterday,” she said.

“I know.” I said.

We went to sleep, and got up early Sunday morning so I could make it to Nerd HQ for a panel with Felicia. After that panel ended, Anne and I were rushed to the train station in a freaking golf cart motorcade — for reals — and a few hours later, were back in our house. The dogs were extremely excited to see us, and even the cats couldn’t pretend that they didn’t give a fuck about us for very long.

I unpacked my suitcase and repacked it with clean clothes, because the next day, Anne took me away for my birthday, which I’ll write about later.

waking up on the 40th floor

I’m on the 40th floor of a hotel that’s way too fancy for me. My room is bigger than my first apartment. A box next to the bed controls everything from the lights to the curtains to the music that seems to just appear out of thin air at the touch of a button.

Last night, I ate dinner in a restaurant that was way too fancy for me, and had the fanciest sidecar I’ve ever had. It had jalapeño in it.

I got to New York in one of the fanciest seats in the sky I’ve ever sat in. It could turn into a bed if I wanted, and it came with a TV.

In about an hour, someone is coming to my fancy hotel room to make me look fancier than I am, so I can go talk to the press about a new show — my new show — that the network is so excited about promoting, they put me in this fancy place to talk about it. If all this press works out, and enough people watch it, I may even get to do it for more than 12 episodes.

Tomorrow, I’ll go be fancy again, for pretty much all the press in the world, and then I get to go home to my wife and pets on Friday. I’ll spend the weekend with my family, in my house that I love, and I won’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do.

My new show, that I’ve been working on for over a year, premieres in less than two weeks, and even though we’ve been working on it for so long, it only began to feel real two days ago.

How did I even get this life? I will take none of this for granted. I will appreciate every good thing in my life, and keep working hard to earn those things. I am and will be grateful for everything in my life, even these things that feel too fancy and weird for me.

I keep expecting to wake up from all of this, which is probably why I can’t seem to sleep for more than 40 minutes at a time.

two pictures from portland

I spent the weekend in Portland, visiting my sister and her family. I also saw some friends, and recorded an episode of Livewire Radio. It was a gorgeous weekend, with perfect weather, so we got to walk even more than we usually do when we visit.

We were walking downtown with my sister and her son when I spotted this in the street next to the crosswalk:

pdx_toynbee.jpg

I got really excited, because it’s the first Toynbee tile I’ve ever seen that wasn’t just a picture on the Internet. While I was taking this picture, Anne was counting down the seconds on the crosswalk. Hearing “…4…3…2…1″ while I was taking the picture made the whole stupid thing a little more thrilling than it should have been, but I’m easily entertained.

One more picture (as promised in the title) before I get ready to go to the set:

steel_bridge

Steel Bridge is one of my favorite bridges in the country, and this weekend was the first time we walked across it and up the opposite bank of the river. When we were about a quarter mile from it, heading toward a different bridge to cross back to downtown, a boat came up the river toward Steel Bridge. “Dude! If we hurry, we can get up to the bridge and stand right there when it goes up!” I said to Anne.

“You think we can make it?” She said.

“Yes. I know we can.”

“Are you sure it’s going to go past the bridge?”

“Unless it makes a U-turn in the middle of the river, it has to go past the bridge,” I said. “Come on! It’ll be cool!”

We turned around and walked quickly back toward Steel Bridge, the boat slowly gaining on us. When we were about 500 yards from the bridge, the boat blew its horn, presumably to alert the bridge person that it needed to go up … but when I looked at the boat to see how far it was from the bridge, I saw that it had blown its horn to alert nearby vessels that it was making a U-turn in the middle of the river.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I said, laughing, as we walked onto the bridge and began to walk back across it. “Well, it would have been cool.”

Anne laughed with me, and held my hand.

has anyone else had this uncomfortable experience with an Uber driver recently?

I really like Uber, and I’ll take Uber over a taxi every single time I can. I really like being in a clean car, with a friendly driver who genuinely cares about my experience, because I’m rating them and that matters to them. Basically, they work a little harder to give me better service, and I pay about a 5% premium for that.

Earlier this week, though, I took Uber to and from the Stone Company Store in Pasadena, and both drivers gave me this aggressive sales pitch that made me very uncomfortable. They both wanted me to contact them directly when I needed an Uber car, so they could drive to wherever I was, wait for me to request an Uber car, and then they’d answer the request.

Both times, the pitch was a very hard sell, accompanied by boasts about their clients in Bel Air or Beverly Hills, and left me feeling like I’d rather not ride with either of these guys again. When I’ve hired a driver, I just want that driver to get me where I’m going safely and comfortably. I don’t want to feel like I’m getting a high-pressure sales pitch when I’m basically a captive audience.

I’m putting this out there because I want to know if this is happening to anyone else in LA or any other cities? Is this some new kind of official Uber policy? Or did I just happen to get two seemingly random guys who were working off of almost the exact same script?

… and I’m talkin’ about the road

It’s the third day of the WIL WHEATON VS PAUL AND STORM MEGA ULTRA SUPER TOUR 2014, and we are in New York City tonight.

IMG_0126Last night in Philadelphia, we played one of the best shows we’ve ever played. I haven’t put together precisely why, but something just felt solid and locked together on the stage in a way that it hasn’t in the past. We always have fun, and we always feel good about our performances, but last night we all just felt connected in a way that we haven’t before, like we were sharing a brain.

The audience was great, and even demanded an actual for realsies encore from us!

Here’s a couple of shots from the theatre:

Paul and Storm doing a soundcheck.
Paul and Storm doing a soundcheck. (Bonus Anne Wheaton photobomb.)
Backstage, there's a wall covered with setlists from the bands who have played there.
Backstage, there’s a wall covered with setlists from the bands who have played there.
Storm's rockin' the house.
Storm’s rockin’ the house.
Obligatory artsy photo from backstage.
Obligatory artsy photo from backstage.
Intr.oducing the show
Introducing the show.

We stayed up very late, and didn’t get into bed until almost 3am. BUT! Before we left the theatre, we made another tribute to a classic American film:

Then, today, while we were on the road, we made two more featuring a pair of classic commercial jingles:

We keep joking about being “on the road, man”, knowing full well that driving for a couple hours at a time doesn’t really count, but it’s been really fun to hang out together as we drive from city to city. I’m getting to see a lot of, uh, refineries, and trees and also trees, and even some trees. We’re driving over lots of beautiful rivers and past houses that are older than the city I live in. I’m getting a real perspective on just how much of a dystopian urban sprawl I live in back in Los Angeles, and taking some small comfort in knowing that drivers near Washington, DC, are even worse than the ones we have at home.

IMG_0101
Refineries. Refineries everywhere.

Last night, the manager at the Live Café in Philadelphia told us that he loves it when nerd crowds come to shows, because they’re always awesome and polite and really fun to be around. I told him, “We have a wonderful audience, and I love to perform for them, because we all love the same things, and we’re basically here to celebrate those things together. And, as a general rule, nerds tend to be more awesome than dudebros.”

It sounded better in my head, and the post-show bourbon probably didn’t help with the translation, but my point was that we are very lucky to perform for the audiences who come to see us, and I’m grateful that I get to do what I do.

In a few hours, we’ll be on stage in New York, and tomorrow, we’ll be back on the road to Boston.

because I’m talking about the rooooaaaaddddd….

William Penn’s Wiener (or: Hello. I am 12 years-old. Again.)

Last night, we stayed in downtown Philadelphia. Our hotel room had a great view of city hall, which is topped by a giant statue of William Penn, holding a proclamation about the city’s commitment to fighting off bears or robots or something.

BUT! When you look at it the right way — like out our hotel window, for instance — it looks like he’s wagging his wiener at New Jersey.

William Penn's Weiner

He was truly a great American.

Wesley’s Sweater: Then and Now

Earlier this year, at a convention in New York City, a guy brought me this picture to sign for him.

Wesley Crusher's Sweater 1987

That’s me in 1987, wearing one of Wesley Crusher’s first sweaters.

As I reached for my pen, he reached into a bag he was carrying, and took out … that sweater, which he’d bought at an auction.

“OH MY SWEET BABY JESUS!” I may have shouted, “I NEED TO TAKE A PICTURE RIGHT NOW.”

So this happened:

Wil Wheaton holds Wesley Crusher's 1987 Sweater

As I held that sweater for the first time in 25 years, a flood of memories washed over me: the first day I worked on Next Generation, on Stage 16, walking through Farpoint Station with Gates … the first time I walked through the Enterprise, on stage 9, pretending that it was a real spaceship … the first time I walked into the bridge, while it was still being built on stage 6 … the first few months of working on Star Trek, being part of something I’d loved my entire life, and wearing truly awful sweaters in the middle of summer.

All my peers got to wear awesome spacesuits,  and I was in these ridiculous things that were never cool, in any century, including the 24th.  I remembered how happy I was when Wesley was promoted to Acting Ensign, and I knew that I wouldn’t have to put on one of those hideous sweaters ever again.

That’s when I got an idea.

There’s this thing on the Internet where people will post a picture that was taken in, say, 1987, and then recreate the picture in our modern times. I looked down at the sweater in my hands, and I knew what I had to do.

Wil Wheaton wears Wesley Crusher's 1987 sweater in 2013

I’m not gonna lie, Marge: putting that sweater on again felt strange, but also good.

Here they are, side by side:

Wesley's Sweater Then and Now

I love that I can still do that goofy smile — which was 100% genuine, because I was as excited to be on the Enterprise as Wesley Crusher was — all these years later. And though it felt pretty good to be temporarily reunited with an old friend, it felt even better to take that sweater off for the last time.