Favorite Free Thing: Outdoor Trek

Outdoor_Trek_1_7.2013You’ve probably figured out by now that Outdoor Trek is not about hiking in the woods.

No, sir.

As you can see from the photo above of me, Marcus and Mr. Spock (portrayed with authentic stoicism by Helen Parson), Outdoor Trek is the live reenactment of classic Star Trek TV episodes in a park.

Awesome, huh?

And to top it off, it’s free. That’s right, free.

Now, truth be told, Hello Earth, the non-profit theater company that puts on Outdoor Trek, does give you the option of donating money at the end of the show. But it’s optional. If you can’t afford it, you don’t have to donate.

But after watching these fine actors put on a great show with their live band, cool costumes, and tongue-in-cheek props, you will feel inclined to reach into your wallet. Plus, you get to vote with your dollars by putting them into the water jug labeled with the Star Trek episode you most want to see them produce next!

This year’s episode was “The Devil in the Dark” (William Shatner’s favorite episode). The year before last was “This Side of Paradise.” And next year in 2014, the episode will be “Mirror, Mirror.” Yes!

Outdoor Trek usually happens in Seattle during the last week of July and/or the first week of August. For evening shows, I recommend showing up an hour early to picnic in the park–it seems to be a tradition for many audience members. For exact dates, check out Hello Earth’s site, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

Outdoor Trek is absolutely one of my favorite free things. Hope to see you there next summer!

Some more pics for your viewing pleasure…

Captain Kirk examines eggs 8.2013Captain Kirk (portrayed with stern panache by Kris Hambrick) examines some strange-looking spheres…or could they be eggs????!!

Outdoor_Trek_2_8.2013Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy (played with the utmost aplomb by Shaina Ward Siegel) deal with the mysterious and frightening Horta.

Note the live band, The Redshirts, in the background.

Peg & The Horta 8.2013As you can see, I’m thrilled to high-five the multi-talented Stevie VanBronkhorst who played The Horta and drew the killer cover art for the program.

Me & Mr. Spock 8.2013Live long and prosper!

All photos (except for the first one) are by Marcus Donner.

The Best Things in Life are Free Challenge

The best things in life are free. It’s not just some corny saying.

If you’re trying to be Super Frug, and your checkbook is hurting, I challenge you to spend one month doing The Best Things in Life are Free Challenge. For one month you can only pay money for the bare essentials: rent/mortgage, utilities, insurance, gasoline or bus/train fare, and groceries to provide three meals a day.

That means NOT spending money on eating out, lattes, treats, movie tickets, entertainment, magazines, books, cosmetics, haircuts, pedicures, etc.

If you’ve never been in a situation where you only had enough money for the essentials and nothing else, you will be in for a rude awakening. It will be hard.

Get past that. Breathe. Avoid shopping unless absolutely necessary. And with more free time on your hands, try some of the following…

– Watch the sun rise.
– Go for a walk in the park.
– Go to a free reading at the library or your local bookstore.
– Rediscover your local library.
– Go for a hike.
– Sit outside and listen to the birds.
– Work in your garden.
– Ride your bike or go rollerskating or rollerblading.
– Have a long conversation with a friend.
– Play your favorite music and dance!
– Play a card or board game with your family or friends.
– Make up a new recipe using only ingredients you have at home.
– Watch all your favorite movies that you already have on video or DVD.
– Watch the sun set.

I think you will be amazed at all the things you can do and enjoy that are free.

I feel very lucky that I live in a city that is filled to the rafters with free events. The Silver Fox and I scan our local newspaper’s calendar section every Friday for interesting happenings and we almost always find something fun and free to go to.

Last week, our local bookstore, The Secret Garden Bookshop, held a “reaping” in honor of the movie release of the crazy popular young adult book, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

At the reaping, contestants (“Tributes”) compete to the death answering Hunger Games trivia questions. There was going to be cool prizes. We had to go.

Marcus and I thought we would both die early.

There was no way we could survive against the teens who had the read the book umpteen times. Each time I was called up to answer a question (you had to stand by yourself in front of the Question Queen), I would whisper, I’m not ready. I meant it. Somehow though, I squeaked through each round.

In the end, there was just four Tributes standing. As you can see in the photo at the top of this post, I am the oldest and the tallest. Marcus came in seventh. I got second place and was dubbed the “honorary Peeta.” I won a Hunger Games lunchbox and thermos. Cool.

That night, competing against people one-quarter my age, was more fun than I ever thought it could be. Everyone there was having a great time from the adults to the kids to the booksellers. We cheered every time someone answered a question right and we mourned every time someone “died.”

The beauty of it is we didn’t pay a dime for all this fun. It was totally free.

I hope you will try The Best Things in Life are Free Challenge. It can be hard but it can also be rewarding. Who knows? By the end of the month, you just might want to keep it going.

ps. Tributes in the Secret Garden Bookshop photos by Marcus Donner.

Favorite Free Thing: the Library

This post kicks off a new category called Favorite Free Things. Free is one of my favorite things. Free gifts. Free events. Free food. I love them all. And one of my favorite free things to do is go to the library. *

I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I got my first library card; I think I may have been nine. But I do remember where I got my library card. It was at the beautiful and magnificent Huntington Beach Public Library (HBPL).

The HBPL is located in a 350-acre park and is several stories high (and low with sublevels) with a theater, indoor fountains, a spiral staircase, quiet study rooms, a big bank of computers, a gift shop and more. It is HUGE. And apparently has only become more huge since I was there in the 1970s and 1980s. In the mid-1990s, the library underwent a 43,000-square-foot expansion. Whenever I think back on my childhood, one of the things I am most grateful for is that I lived close enough to walk to this amazing library.

I love the way a library smells. The smell of old paper is very comforting to me. I love seeing so many books in one place. The possibilities of what you can learn! It’s mind-blowing. I like touching books. I remember as a kid I would walk through the many, many aisles and I would trail my fingertips on the spines of the books as I scampered by.

I truly believe that one of the main reasons that I am good at reading and writing is because I spent so many hours at the library. I was there practically every week from age nine to eighteen. It was a quiet refuge away from my critical, bickering parents. I read there. I watched movies there. I volunteered there. I even got kicked out for talking too loud while studying with my friends. I had many, many good times there.

Thank God for public libraries. I googled where libraries come from and found one of the better explanations at The Straight Dope. Turns out that in the old days, rich people had social libraries; bookstores and printers had circulating libraries; and schools had school libraries. In 1833, the town library of Peterborough, New Hampshire, combined these three principles to create the U.S.’s first public library. Hats off to Peterborough!

Next time you need a break, go to the library. You can use a computer. Read a book. Browse the magazines. Listen to an author give a reading. Watch a preview of a play or opera or musical. Watch a video. Take a workshop. Got a question or a dilemma? Talk to a librarian–some of the most amazingly resourceful people in the world–and I will bet that they can help you find an answer or solution.

Or try my better-than-retail-therapy-way-to-beat-the-doldrums-or-the-blues: go to the library and pick a book at random. EXPLORE AT RANDOM until you find a book that calls to you. Then check out that book and take it home to read. I guarantee you will feel better.

* Some of you are going to say, the library is not free, it’s funded by our tax dollars. This is true. All of us who pay our taxes help to sustain public libraries. Because of taxes, libraries remain free to anyone whether you are poor or rich or somewhere in-between. That is pretty amazing.