✓ Goal #136) Find Graffiti by Banksy

If you don’t know who Bansky is, you should.

Say what you will about graffiti, I love it. I’d much rather see the creativity of the artists than empty brick walls. And Bansky’s work is clever, poignant, and most of all, beautiful. Each piece carries a powerful message about our culture, often capturing aspects of society which we’d prefer to ignore. He’s become the most celebrated street artist of our time by using his art to get people to stop for a moment and think … about themselves, their choices, and their priorities.

The people who truly deface our neighbourhoods are the companies that scrawl their giant slogans across buildings and buses trying to make us feel inadequate unless we buy their stuff. ~ Banksy

Like any other type of art, the best way to experience it is in person. The problem with finding Banksy’s work is that anytime it appears, it’s painted over or removed. It seems there are people who fail to see it as anything more than vandalism.

While in Los Angeles, I thought I’d try to track down some of his work. My first attempt didn’t go so well, as my research wasn’t quite right, and I ended up at the wrong wall of the right building. I did, however, find a pretty impressive piece by Mr. Brainwash called Tomato Spray, so it wasn’t a total loss.

The next morning I were on the hunt again, but this time I was better prepared. I’d spent a couple of hours tracking down addresses for pieces I was confident hadn’t been destroyed. There were two (which also happened to be a couple of my favorites.) The first was downtown in a parking lot. On a huge white wall with the word PARKING painted in bright red letters, Banksy painted over the ING, and stenciled in a little girl swinging from the A. So simple, yet powerful.

Our next stop was in a more gritty part of town. There weren’t any storefronts, and the streets were abandoned. Fences lined the sidewalks, and no Banksy artwork was to be found. Luckily I recognized the location from my research earlier in the day, and I knew that what I was looking for would be right behind one of those fences. I looked between the cracks in the fence, and there it was. Now … how to get in?

Some people become cops because they want to make the world a better place. Some people become vandals because they want to make the world a better looking place. ~ Banksy

We walked around the block to see if there was a way in without going over the fence. No such luck.

I don’t like breaking the law, but I had no other choice. I climbed over the fence and jumped to the ground. I half expected a pit bull to come running out of nowhere, but nothing of the sort happened. In the corner of the building was a little girl holding a crayon, watching a man from the bank nail boards across the door to the dream house she’d just drawn. A story that’s being repeated over, and over again throughout this country.

When my feet hit the sidewalk on the legal side of the fence, my quest to find graffiti by Banksy was over, as was my time in Los Angeles. In 48 hours, I’d met Marilyn Manson, went for a late night cruise on Mulholland Drive and found graffiti by Banksy. Before, I’d never had any interest in Los Angeles. Now that I’ve been there, I love it and can’t wait to go back!

✓ Goal #91) Meet Marilyn Manson

It’s a day I thought would never come.

I’ve been listening to Marilyn Manson’s music for more than half of my life. The influence that’s had is profound. It’s taught me to be open-minded to ideas that are inconsistent with my own and to be tolerant of people who are “different.” Marilyn Manson gave me permission to follow my own path and the courage to be myself, whatever that meant at the moment.

My life has gone through many phases … from goth to glam, prep to punk.

These phases were my path to self-discovery. And if not for the strength I found in Manson’s music, I would’ve buckled to the pressure and harassment of my peers for being different. For wearing spiked collars and black nail polish. White lipstick and holographic shirts…

Or Abercrombie at a Marilyn Manson concert.

His influence wasn’t only in the clothes I wore but also in the way I thought about life. I refused to follow the trends, and I became critical of our society. I wouldn’t allow myself to become another mindless sheep. Listening to Manson’s music pushed me to think for myself and to question authority. And that’s exactly what I did.

It wasn’t always easy and I made a lot of mistakes. But I’m a better person today for having been allowed to explore my individuality. Without the influence of Marilyn Manson, there’s no doubt I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. A little older, my “battles” are different, but I still refuse to follow the herd. I do what I want with my life, not what’s expected (and trust me, the older you get, the more expectations there are.) I no longer dress in spikes or wear lipstick but the attitude remains. I’m me … so fuck off!

One night there was a post on Marilyn Manson’s Facebook page about a book signing in Hollywood. The flights were expensive and I talked myself out of going. As much as I wanted to meet him, it didn’t seem reasonable to fly halfway across the country for a handshake and an autograph.

But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If I didn’t go I’d have huge regrets. So I booked a flight to LA for the next morning and packed my backpack.

Holy shit!

I was going to meet Marilyn Manson!

When I got to the bookstore, the line was filled with all types of people … from goths to girls dressed in miniskirts. Some were covered in tattoos, while others had none. There was blue hair, pink hair, grey hair. Platform boots, high heals, high-healed platforms. Despite our differences, we were all united in Marilyn Manson impacting our lives in some way. Listening to other people talk, I heard stories exactly the same as my own.

“If it wasn’t for Manson…”

As the people shuffled in to meet him, it wasn’t the “freak show” I’d expected it to be. People weren’t groveling or trying to attack him. Most people just shook his hand, exchanged a few words and smiled a lot.

You’d think after fifteen years, I’d know exactly what I’d say when I met him. I didn’t have a clue. He’s heard a million times how he’s changed people’s lives and when I was standing in front of him, all I could think to say was “It’s nice to meet you.” He looked at me, smiled, and said “It’s nice to meet you, too.” We shook hands, he signed my book and shook hands again. I had my picture taken with him and I moved on.

After the signing was the premiere of his new video, “Born Villian.” Watching a Marilyn Manson video with Marilyn Manson is an experience that cannot compare to anything, and it’s a night I won’t soon forget.

✓ Goal #98) Witness a Shuttle Launch

By now you’ve probably heard that the final Space Shuttle launched on Friday.

And if you’ve followed my blog over the last year, you know that witnessing a Space Shuttle launch has been a goal I’ve been struggling to accomplish for just as long. I’ve been to Florida three times in a desperate attempt to complete this goal.

Before I’d even departed for my first trip to Florida, NASA announced that the Shuttle launch was postponed. I tried to cancel our flight but wasn’t able to so I decided to go anyway and enjoy my time in Florida. I only had a couple of days before I flew back home so I spent a day at Disney World and one at Sea World. I was able to knock Goal 99 off the list, so at least the trip wasn’t a complete loss.

My next trip to Florida was a few months ago for the launch of Endeavour. I was confident everything would happen as scheduled. After all, President Obama and Gabrielle Giffords were there … NASA couldn’t delay the launch with so many prominent people there! But about two hours before lift-off, the launch was scrubbed. This time I ‘d decided to drive to Florida (all the way from Minneapolis.) Now I’d just have to turn around and drive back home without accomplishing a damn thing.

And last week I began a three-day drive from Denver to Titusville for the final launch of Atlantis (and the last launch of the Space Shuttle program.) The weather forecast predicted a 70% chance that the launch wouldn’t happen and the night before the launch, lightning struck a water tower 515 feet from the launch pad, causing concern that the Shuttle might have sustained some sort of damage.

Things weren’t looking good.

The next morning, the sky was overcast with only a few small spots of blue. I checked Kennedy Space Center’s Facebook page to make sure the launch was still go, and it was … Titusville, here I come!

My ticket was for the Hall of Fame, which is about 11 miles from the launch pad. It might not have been the greatest place, but it was still good enough. I was just happy to finally see a launch with my own eyes, even if it was from a distance. The countdown clock ticked away the minutes and my excitement grew. A few minutes before lift-off, Houston announced that the weather conditions were acceptable. The crowd began to cheer and clap. It was going to happen! But thirty seconds before lift-off, they stopped the countdown.

My heart sunk.

All I could do was wait … and hope.

A minute later, the all-clear was given, and the clock began to tick down the final seconds.

In the distance there was a huge flash of light, and smoke rolled across the ground. The fire and smoke lifted into the sky before disappearing above the clouds a few seconds later. Then the rumble of the Shuttle swept over us. Finally I’d accomplished my goal of witnessing a Space Shuttle launch. It only took a year of trying and three trips to Florida to make it happen. I guess it really is true that if you don’t quit, you can’t fail.

Looking back at all the time, energy, and money I’ve put into making this happen, I’m excited to have accomplished this goal on the final launch of the Shuttle program. It’s a moment in history and I was a part of that history.