Wednesday, September 24, 2008

South, North, South, North, North, South, North

Well, I spent the last week being thankful that I am poor and have no major investments to lose. It'll be easier on us, we know what its like already. Me-1, McCain-0. Its nice that the higher ups can stop and think about the precariousness of their financial status, most of us can do it any day we want.

Luckily, however, I came to this brilliant self-discovery while bouncing through the state of California. (its on the west coast-- of America) Under the guise of visiting graduate programs, I celebrated the end of the summer with a jaunt in So. Cal. Aunty Bevvy opened her doors in San Diego and we took on a mission to see how much of her wine we could consume, which was a fair amount. Intermittently we visited the famous sand depots of Ocean and Mission Beach. Brett Favre (at least that's what his jersey said) gave us a fine show of his impeccable aim and narrowly avoided dropping seven strangers off their bicycles, denting three Mercedes and a VW, and nearly devastating the visages of four first-class females. A mighty hero. He was from Green Bay too, if that says anything.

We also stopped in to see our cousins at the famous San Diego Zoo. It turns out that caged animals don't get as excited to see us as we do of them, who knew. But it is a lovely zoo and Shawn Mullins has never performed there that I know of. SDSU seems like a fine school with a good program and the Clay Associates, a non-profit educational establishment, furthered the allure to the last stop before Mexico. (I cannot throw a stone from San Diego to Tijuana).

I stole Bev's car and drove to L.A., which it turns out would have been faster to walk there, in order to arrive on the minute of my meeting at UCLA. Six total hours of driving for an hour-and-a-half in L.A. was a bit ridiculous, but I did have a brief lunch with Cousin Grant in El Segundo, and he's nice. Back in SD, we continued on the wine goal over dinner and were delighted to receive an invite to the studios at the Clay Associates. Bless Eric for putting up with the two of us until one in the morning while he was stone sober. He and his venue are amazing and I recommend the visit.

Did I forget to mention Virgin-- Virgin America. It is the first airline that has ever acknowledged my destiny to rockstardom and they did so by keeping on the purple, blue and red club lights throughout each leg of my three flight journey and played moderate techno music when I boarded. They even let me sit first class on the last flight. We're all rockstars on the Virgin. Me-2, McCain-0.

And so it goes to San Francisco and Alex The Hooker. (no correlation between Hooker and Virgin). As I was in rough shape from the night prior, we took it easy with Emerson and discussed too many things to remember, but as soon as one was repeated it was over. I had rented a plastic box with wheels for the last few days in the Bay Area and used the POS to cruise up the coast to Stinson Beach and Point Reyes.

It had been six years since I last drove that stretch on my innaugural journey out to the West, which doesn't seem like too long, but I have driven over the Great Plains and Rocky Mts. at least twice a year for a long time now. The road gets muddled along the way. I digress. It had been a long time, I got introspective, you get the picture. But never had I been to Point Reyes Lighthouse, and it is quite the place. It has a lot of history, follow the link.

Needless to say, It was a wonderful day of loud music, American Spirits, coffee, and bad gas mileage. Oh, if you ever are out there and pass through Inverness Park, stop at the Busy Bee Bakery, yum.

Alex would also like me to mention that his work week is until Saturday, so if you visit, wait until then. He also does a lot of great things where he works, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, so check that out too.

Meetings at California College of the Arts and UC Berkeley filled much of the next day with a quick lunch with Mr. John Geisler, whom is a candidate for the MFA in Architecture at CCA. Then I pushed the plastic box up to Guerneville to the Jameson, Will and Axel. They were more than gracious hosts and let me do laundry. Turns out the Axel thinks I'm more humorous than anything and we became fast friends. I'll be manager for the band. He's cute, but you know that because Jameson has a blog all about him that you probably already read too. Short stay with the fam., and jumped back into the PLASTIC BOX-- wasn't there a time when American automakers made quality cars? Sick.

But over to Sonoma to party with the extended family at Alexa & Ryan's wedding. Not me, I didn't marry my cousin, that is actually frowned upon in Western culture. Ryan Fox did, though, and he is a nice man. They held the wedding at the Atwood Ranch, a stunning private vineyard north of Sonoma, and it was filled with family and friends. Great food, fine wines, cutting a rug, night on the town, car service from SPD; a very successful affair it was. We stayed at a small B&B in Sonoma called Ramekins. Along with being a gorgeous inn, it is also a culinary institute; giving lectures and demonstrations from leading chefs. John Ash was demonstrating over the weekend we were there.

We said our long goodbyes after breakfast the next morning, anticipating a get together next summer. Then it was back to San Francisco for another night with Hooks. He, Natalya and I went out for Vietnamese and watched the Packers get demolished while the villian from the Scream series paced up and down the restaurant with blood oozing from his mask.

Probably why the Packers lost, but who cares; Brett Favre is in San Diego. We also went to meet up with Dr. John Geisler and some of his Middlebury alumni. It was Ryan's (not me) birthday and they were all celebrating by playing bar die-- not to be confused with Mexican or Goochers. The purpose of this game was to take a die and try and throw it to hit the ceiling while simultaneously not try and hit the ceiling in order for the die to hit your opponent team's end of the table and bounce off the table while they try to catch it single-handedly, lest they may have to run around the block naked. Apparently those rules are a bit more lax since relocating to San Francicso where it is an honor and not a punishment to frolic in the buff on the streets.

Next day, back to Seattle. Did I forget anything? Probably, but you don't care, you weren't even there. Now I need to get back to studying for the GRE. Bye.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day 08: High Speeds and Livin' the Dream.

Forgive any missed events or lack of description, I'm still in a daze from the Labor day weekend activities. I hope to come out of it by the time '09 gets here. Orcas Island was invaded by seven entities over the weekend. They have names: Kelly, Alex, Drew, Adam, Kate, Liam, Sherry. If you can only visualize a face with each of these, then I'm sorry, because they brought with them the wrath of heaven and hell. First to sweep over the shores were Kelly and Alex via the Vibrator on Thursday. Their charisma and energy on the dance floor that night will long be remembered. Some of the island natives- Brad, Kaitlin, Megan, Elizabeth, Emily and Finn- joined us and witnessed a serious Riponia shredding of PJ's chipboard floors. When they stepped in, it was all over, and we cut such a rug that the support beams under PJ's house may have buckled.

Meanwhile, over the endless fields and pass the Continental Divide, Adam, Kate and Drew rushed across the Great Plains and Rocky Mts. faster than a sixteen year old on prom night. They departed Madison at 9 pm, Wednesday evening and were at PJ's house Friday morning before we could awake from the deep slumber set upon by the dance party. 28 hours. Thats roughly 2000 miles folks. With only a minor situation in the ferry lane in Anacortes (Adam had difficulties locating his computer-- which was in Wisconsin), they beat the total estimated time given by mapquest-- shattered it, and unfortunately, they also destroyed the long standing record held by yours truly. My hat goes off to them. While they recovered, napped, and scampered about Isle de Orcas, I laid out the crab pots for one final go to finish off the 08 crabbing season. By the time we all reconvened at Orcas Island Pottery we were ready to scoop up some dunges and reddies for a crabby feast. I rowed my little Walker Bay dinghy out in to rough seas (later found out that there was a gale advisory that day) to loaded pots. Sadly though, the busy season had depleted the numbers of keepers and we had to throw all of 'em back.

Spirits were lifted later with the resurrection of the pong table and we all learned some interesting things about Alex and his affinity for brightly colored underwear. Furthermore, you might be able to expect a hit single from Adam and I hitting stores sometime in the Spring of '09. It is headed to mixing and "Wabash Cannonball" will be available soon.

In lieu of becoming complete sloths, we ventured forth on Saturday to hike up Turtleback Mt. The blackberries are in full force these days and we snacked on many as we tramped up the south end of Turtleback to be graced with stunning views of Orcas and other surrounding islands. This was followed by snacks and brews on North Beach. We tried to play "throw things at things" but PJ selected the smallest piece of driftwood he could find and the game fizzled out. It was recommended that Liam and Sherry depart as early as possible that morning to arrive in time for the planned night activities but there developed some delays around "Bullshit Central" (which is a city near Portland-- I think) and we had to depart on our fishing/whale watching expedition without them.

Beau of Outer Island Expeditions again went above and beyond the call of duty and took us to the Gulf Islands (a continuation of the San Juans, but in Canada) to be dazzled by a frenzy of orcas.

We drifted about as the sun set over Salt Spring Island surrounded by forty-some whales occasionally breaching, spy hopping, and tail slapping. On our way back to Orcas, we scooped up his nine crab pots and had much better luck, raking in ten luscious crabs keen to be eaten. We also caught two of the largest sun stars that I have ever seen, much to the dismay of Kate. Upon arriving back at Camp PJ, Liam and Sherry were waiting there for us and we cooked up a fine feast fit for friends of crab and frozen pizza.

Steve Braun was a native islander and avid outdoorsman whom sadly passed years back in a kayaking accident. In memorium of him, the Orcas Rec Program started an annual triathlon in his honor. I heard about this Thursday evening from Brad and was immediately sold on it. It may come as a shock to you, but I'm not in that good of shape. Thus being the case, I knew I would need some assistance in completing this test of endurance and, unknown to them, I signed up Liam and Alex to participate in team "Livin' the Dream" for the 10th Annual Steve Braun Memorial Triathlon. They were informed of there required participation on Friday afternoon and left to prep in their own ways; which we did nightly until one to two a.m. After an exceptionally viscious training session on Saturday night, we woke up at seven a.m. to depart for Cascade Lake, leaving our team of trainers snoring and drooling.

In a haze, we registered and got ready for a .4 mile swim, 17 mile bike ride, and 3.5 mile run which myself, Alex, and Liam did respectively. It should be mentioned that I do not swim. I know how, but I also know how to swing dance, and I do that about as much as I competitively swim. It should also be mentioned that Alex is a fine biker... a damn fine biker. Alex also likes beer, and the bike that was available was a 1984 Schwinn that PJ purchased at a garage sale a year and a half ago and had never even rode. Furthermore it should be mentioned that Liam was one hell of a runner, but as Sherry pointed out, "In the two and a half years that I've dated Liam, I've never once seen him run." A more unlikely group there never was. But we were stubborn... and hungover.

I can't speak for Alex or Liam, but the swim was hell, and I don't doubt they would say something similar to their legs of the event. The water couldn't have been warmer than 65 degrees and I don't own a wetsuit, or goggles. I took the plunge and started strong but it soon became clear that I was going to have to keep my head out of the water for how hard I was panting to catch my breath. Thus, I lagged behind and finished leaving my teammates a large margin of time to catch up on.

But luckily, Alex has the largest calves of anyone I know. In slip-on Vans and a ProTec skateboarding helmet, Alex crushed the biking section of the race. He passed upwards of forty people on his ride and tagged off to Liam in good position.

Liam harnessed some serious endurance and rocked the running part, passing a handful of other runners even with a minor detour. Our trainers had stumbled their way to the lake by the start of the race and with 20 oz. lattes in hand, cheered their faces off all the while. PJ even suffered a flat tire in his quest to catch up with Alex. By the time it was over we were happy to have completed it and not mindful of our time or ranking.

And the best way to follow up a triathlon? Burgers, onion rings and beer from the Lower Tavern. Plus a long lie-down in Eastsound Park while PJ, Sherry and Megan played volleyball with some tourists. Getting back to PJ's and everyone was wiped... that is, until we received the results of the triathlon via email. Turns out that we placed 3rd out of thirteen in the team category and 20th overall. Not bad for a bunch of drinking and smoking SOBs. And finishing immediately before us were islanders Carlos and Dyana (they did the whole thing). If you didn't follow the link earlier, you can see the full results here.

Needless to say, a tame, restful night got flipped right around when it became a bronze medalist celebration! (No medals were actually given out.) Furthermore, Adam also awarded us with Rookie of the Year and first place in the "No Goggles" category. Pong, finger moustaches, encore perfomance of "Wabash Cannonball," you name it, we did it.

Alex and Kelly snuck out early the next morning and PJ, Drew, Kate, and Adam ferried over to San Juan to play some frisbee golf while Liam, Sherry, Megan, and I visited the folks at Bullock's Permaculture Farm. As we walked about the farm, I was overcome with Dionysian fantasies of running through the throngs of veggies and fruit trees in search of nymphs and satyrs. Whatever pheromones that are running in those roots, keep 'em coming.

Liam and Sherry left later that afternoon and we passed the night away with Kate's divine potato soup and Drew's famous artichoke dip, followed by Trivial Pursuit with Doctor Uno. Kate, Adam, and Drew left early this morning, hopefully at more of a leisurely pace back to Wisco. I haven't been able to pull myself together all day. One hell of a weekend.