This day was another day I had been really looking forward to. Heading off to Justin’s home to meet more of his family and have a good ol American Barbecue. It was going to be that little bit more special because last night we found out that Chris Kaiser (author of the Blog, ‘Life under the Lights’ had arrived in San Francisco along with his wife Gina.
They had flown for over 8 hours across the country to spend a few days in San Francisco with Justin and me and to have a bit of delayed honeymoon at the same time. I had communicated with Chris for a good few months on various things as a result of our blogs linking to each other and us sharing similar views on a number of issues, but It totally blew my mind to think that he and his wife would invest so much time and money to come all of that way just to say hi.
We spoke briefly the night before and arranged to meet up this morning to travel up to Justin’s house on the train, as he lives about 1 hour out of the city. So, I woke nice and early and got dressed and packed some clothes into my rucksack so that I could get changed before the ‘Tweet Up’ later that night.
Ever since we had decided to do this whole trip, Justin and I had planned have an evening where we would hopefully meet up with some other bloggers and maybe even a few of our readers too.
Well, since Ted got involved, he got his business hat on and went off to speak with the Manager of the Gordon Birsch Brewery, down by the bay, under the bay bridge earlier in the week. By the time the day of the Tweet up came along he had arranged for the venue for free and for a certain amount of the bar tab to be met by the Brewery itself. He was going to section off part of the bar area and have a life web cast of the event, complete with a chat room on the site so that others could watch on line and interact with us, even if they couldn’t make it to San Francisco. Ted also managed to link up with EMS1.com who were going to cover the rest of the bar bill and the food for the evening – Score!!
But that was all going to be happening much later in the day. First off I had to meet up with Chris and Gina.
I got to Chris’s hotel only 20 minutes late and stood in the reception area looking for someone who could look like a paramedic blogger!
I glanced straight over to one of the tables and thought ‘that must be them’, but being the shy kind of guy that I am, thought it best to ring him first to check. As he picked his mobile up and said hello, I walked over and introduced myself.
I was a bit nervous about this meeting. I had spoken to Chris twice on the phone whilst being in the States, and each time the conversation would go something like this:
“Hi Chris, it’s great to finally speak to you”
“I’m just saying, that its fab to get to speak to you in person!”
“Sorry, I can’t really understand you!”
And that folks was how it was.
I have always found Chris’s blog and his comments on my blog very amusing. He has a cutting wit which is very apparent in his writings and many a time his comments have had me laughing out loud and handing Mrs999 the phone whilst saying ‘look what CK has wrote now’. However, if the whole time we were going to be speaking to each other consisted of him saying “what?”, then this was going to be a different story.
Chris later told me that even though he could understand what I was saying when we met in person, he had real trouble understanding me when I was talking on the phone. I can’t for a moment understand the reason why? Doesn’t everyone speak the Queens ‘Geordie’ English?
It was very surreal sitting at a table with Chris and Gina, another moment where I realise the changes that blogging has brought to my life over the last year.
Anyway, time was running out and we needed to get moving. I had my instructions on which train to get and where to get off, so headed off to the Bart station, bought our tickets then jumped on the train for our Journey out to the Schorr household.
After about an hour we arrived at a station about 20 mins drive from Justin’s house. As we got off the train, Chris was excitedly awaiting Justin’s arrival (they hadn’t met yet) so that he could take the mick out of Justin’s ‘eco friendly’ Toyota Prius (Chris believes in BIG TRUCKS). Soon after our arrival, we heard a horn beeping in the car park, and there is Justin in his dads HUGE Truck. Oh well Chris, better luck next time!
After a short drive, we arrived in at Justin’s home, and as I walked in, I was met by Justin’s dad who proceeded to shake my hand and place a bottle of Guinness in the other. Oh Crap….I hate Guinness! However, there was no way I was going to be disrespectful as soon as I walked through the door.
The next 20 minutes was spent taking sips of the Guinness, then mouthfuls of snacks to try and take the taste out of my mouth.
I got to meet more of Justin’s family, his mother and one of his close friends and his family too. We moved out to the back garden and sat in the sun, having our drinks and chatting on about various things whilst Justin and Kim worked on the barbeque and the rest of the food.
I had been out and about for the last few hours now, and the call of nature started to become an issue, so I asked where the toilet was and Justin pointed me in the right direction…Along a corridor and first door on the right.
It wasn’t locked so I went straight in, but the door seemed to jam half way in. As I glanced up, I caught a reflection in the bathroom mirror……A look of wide mouthed shock…..
“Oh God, I’m so sorry!”
I stumbled backwards and shut the door. Feeling my cheeks start to redden, I walked back into the kitchen area, went straight over to Kim and placed my head on her shoulder. She reached up with one hand and placed it on my cheek.
“What’s up Mark?”
“I’ve just walked in on Justin’s Mam sitting on the Toilet!”
This is just brilliant! Meeting Justin’s parents for the first time, and I go and see him Mam sitting on the toilet. It has been a long time since I have ever felt that embarrassed.
A couple of minutes later Justin’s Mam came out of the bathroom and walked over to me and gave me a cuddle and said it was alright. Oh…my….god…..Just let the ground open up and swallow me.
The day moves on and we start to eat our wonderful lunch. By this time I had managed to finish the Guinness and had now moved onto lager, so was enjoying a little drink. I was standing in the kitchen talking to Kim when all of a sudden I heard Justin`s Dad:
“Just to let you know that I’m going to the toilet now! Just in case you wanted to walk in on me as well!”
Great, just great!
For the rest of the afternoon, I enjoyed a real family afternoon. Morgan had lost some of her shyness towards me and we ended up chasing each other around the front room and playing boo! Chris and Gina seemed to be enjoying the time in the family home and they certainly benefitted from picking the brains of Justin’s Dad about all things fire related (All fire fighters together!)
There was a phone call from Kim’s mam at one point, so I got to speak to her for a short while too. I think she was more excited than anyone about what was going on, and it was lovely to hear the obvious support and pride that she had in what Justin and I were trying to do. Maybe next time I go over, I will get to meet Kim’s family too.
But before you knew it, it was time to get ready to head off back into San Francisco for the Tweet up.
I said my goodbyes to everyone then Justin, Kim, Gina, Chris and I headed off back into the city, but before we even travelled 10 minutes we hit traffic on the motorway which was going to leave us fashionably late for our own party. So, stuck in traffic, there was only one thing left to do…..Start tweeting.
There had been some back and forth between Chris and me for the last couple of months about a post that I had put up about my preconceptions of the US EMS system. Shortly after I published the post, Chris started viciously attacking me on my blog, throwing accusations and terrible comments in my direction about all things British and NHS related (well intended of course). There was only one way to settle it, like men….We were going to arm wrestle, and to make it more interesting, let’s broadcast it over the net as part of the live webcast of the tweet up.
The trash talk started whilst stuck in the traffic heading into San Francisco. A number of Tweets went back and forward but I don’t think that he recovered after he received the tweet
“We are going to be late for the Tweet up as we have to turn round as Chris has left his balls at home!”
Oh, how we all laughed!
Once we got into the city and got parked we made it to the party about 30 mins late. By this time, there was only about 5 people standing around Ted and his computer and equipment. Oh well, at least there is plenty of drink and food to go around. However, we very quickly realised that it wasn’t the end of the world that the pub wasn’t packed out, as there were a whole group of our friends online and in the chat room just waiting to say Hi.
Justin and I moved over to the web cam and said hello to everyone, then started looking through the chat room and answering questions that were coming up as we were standing there. Throughout the next hour, more people arrived and by the end of the night, we had about 15-20 people in the bar area and over 170 people had been watching on line.
It was great to be able to share our experience with those who had been following along for the week on line, and as we were looking at the screen, familiar names kept popping up. Names of some of our followers who had actually made the whole pilot episode possible. Early on in the week, Ted put a ‘donate’ button on his blog and asked people if they would like to donate to the Chronicles of EMS to help get the pilot done. I am not exaggerating when I say that we were all amazed and humbled to see the amount of people who donated their own hard earned money, to relative strangers, so that they could be part of what we were doing and see the final product. I couldn’t possibly name everyone who donated, but rest assured, we know who each and everyone of you are, and hopefully most of you know that we know.
The Trailer should show you the quality of the end product that Ted and the team are producing and you should all feel incredibly proud that ultimately it is down to you all that this is making its way onto film. Everything in the world starts off small. Who knows where the Chronicles will go and what will come from it, but surely it is the first time that such a ‘grass roots’ effort has gained the following that we now have and the enthusiasm that is now all around us.
So as a quick side step:
Thank you all for supporting us and thank you for helping change what was going to be an amazing ‘personal’ journey for Justin and I, into something much, much bigger and better.
Back to the tweet up and the time had finally arrived.
Chris and I took up our positions at the table, Ted adjusted the camera and before we knew it, The Limey and The Yank were about to put months of tension to rest. Meanwhile in the chat room, the bets were flying.
Chris is a big guy! And ever since I saw him earlier in the day, I assumed that this would go one way only, there is no way I could beat him right?
Ready?…1, 2, 3…..Go!
It was all over in seconds, Chris was humiliated by the Brit. Yay!!!
It was all done with good humour though, but I will never let him forget it……EVER!
There was now only 30 minutes left of the web cast, so we tried to spend some more time with the people watching on line before Ted, Justin and I said good bye and we disconnected.
What a great night, which had nothing to do with the free food and drink, but had more to do with the fact that I was surrounded by people who truly believed in what we were doing and who were excited about the possibility of where this might come and what we might achieve.
Another 30 mins later and the bar was starting to empty. It was getting late and Justin and I had to be up early again in the morning. In fact, we decided it was better that Justin just crash out at my hotel to save him getting up at a ridiculous time in the morning (Good job I had two beds in my room – I don’t think the Bromance would have stretched to ‘topping and tailing’ in bed.
Tomorrow would be my last shift working with the SFFD. My last shift on Engine 13, and my last full day in San Francisco.
I had better be getting some sleep!