Sunday, March 29, 2009

in a fog

Another one of those foggy D.C. spring days. Walking around the city in a cloudy mist, taking pictures of the not-yet awakened cherry blossoms. Tourists light, mud heavy. Like walking in a Poe's "Dreams"
I have been happy, tho' in a dream.
I have been happy— and I love the theme:
Dreams! in their vivid coloring of life,
As in that fleeting, shadowy, misty strife
Of semblance with reality, which brings
To the delirious eye, more lovely things
Of Paradise and Love— and all our own!
Than young Hope in his sunniest hour hath known.

'Twas a great day nonetheless. Much like last year's kite festival shenanigans with the pirate crew. I reckon they're soon to return, much as the tourists will when the heat of summer comes anew. Luckily, I'll be off somewhere else, avoiding the madding crowds.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

must be genetic or something

Starting from a young age, I was in a classroom. Not so much as a student, more as a teacher's assistant. Sure, I went to school just like the other kids, but I had teacher workday duty when the rest of my friends were at home watching the Dukes of Hazzard. From a very young age, I learned that teachers bust their humps and bring work home and worry about their students long after the dismissal bell rings. As I progressed in school myself, my involvement in other school functions grew. I began tutoring. Turns out I was pretty good at it. Summers found me volunteering in classrooms of schools nearby, helping English language learners learn basic vocabulary and skills in kindergarten.

When my path to a life of leisure as a forester, riding around in a pickup truck on backcountry roads, measuring trees and such, ended because of some difficulty with entry-level science classes, it was little wonder that I found myself at Norman Hall, surrounded by pretty coeds obsessed with bulletin boards and rubber cement. Again, turns out I'm pretty good at it.Yet again, I figured out why. It's genetic. Mom just won teacher of the year...again. I've said it before, and it bears repeating. If I'm only half the teacher that my mother is, I'll still be one hell of an educator.

Congratulations, Ma!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Having just gotten off the phone with my cousin and getting sick of telling the story, here's one for the ages. No, it's not about Shezad & Maria's wedding, though that was the reason for the trip down south.

It's about a bird.

Whilst taking pictures in the backyard at my cousin's house in St. Pete, I heard the sound of what I presumed to be an eagle or falcon or vulture or some other wicked nasty raptor.

It was a macaw named Pete. Boy, was he pissed!

She and I checked him out as he continued to shriek like a banshee. We left for breakfast at my favorite family restaurant, which coincidentally, is the only family restaurant left in my family. I guess the bar wasn't technically a restaurant, though the food made national headlines once. Too many hot peppers on a sausage sandwich for a local cop, and a waitress got arrested. But I digress...

Upon returning from breakfast, Pete was still pretty upset. He'd gotten lower in the branches, and we were still curious about his mood. Come to find out he was awfully territorial, and we were in his bubble.

Neighbor happens by, gives us a little background, and goes to get some kumquats for Pete to munch on. Meanwhile, he's getting lower and lower in the tree. Helpful Eagle Scout that I am, I decide to help Pete reach his perch by offering an olive branch (so to speak) for him to get out of the tree.

Bad idea. The second his weight was on the branch, he latched onto my index finger quicker than go. I somehow managed to get the bolt cutter strong beak off before he did any major damage. Though I sit here typing one hospital visit later, and I can only now actually type somewhat competently. Three days later.

That old saying, "Don't poke the bear," should be amended to, "or the short-tempered macaw." Both may surprise you with their ferocity and quickness. Guess I ain't climbing this week!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

jetset update

I'm not feeling much like writing lately. Been reading some good books on the plane. Two weddings down, planning the trip to Cali, starting to think about where I'm living next year. Nothing big, just crazy busy.


Is this below the 140-character limit? Yes? I must say that this Twitter thing has me intrigued, but I'm rarely that concise in my thoughts. Seems to me like an external site for compulsive Facebook status updaters or AIM away message relics still lurking about on the interwebs. Tweet.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

running on fumes

No, not me. It is St. Patrick's Day, but no, it's far too early to be on fumes. Perhaps tonight, I'll pour a pint, but that's about all. This story is about this weekend.

I got pretty spoiled with the Danger Ranger. When my fuel gauge hit E, I had about three gallons left. That translated into 60-70 miles of highway driving before I'd be pushing her up a hill. Well, in Florida, that never amounted to me running out of gas. Closest I ever came was a half-gallon left in the tank, but I did that on purpose trying to drain my fuel tank so I could change my fuel filter. Little did I know that the fuel line won't drain on the ground when you disconnect it. Who knew?

Another complication of the Danger Ranger was that my low fuel light never worked. I've grown accustomed to never seeing one, and now that my car has one, I get a little freaked out. I'm not quite sure what it means and how much is left in the tank. Used to be, I could trust my own instinct, but I just don't know this new(ish) car all that well.

Throw a new monkey wrench into the system. A rental car. Forty miles of highway with nary a filling station in sight. I was sweating. Turned the air and radio off. Slowed down to 10 below the speed limit. Drafting behind a trailer. Called AAA in anticipation of being stranded in No Man's Land with a flight to catch. AAA was no help, said if I happened to be stranded that calls were taking about an hour to fill. Called her, freaking out. All she could do was try to calm me down.

I finally did find a gas station, two miles from the rental company. I might've had a quart left in the tank. Made it there, got my receipt, and dropped the Jeep Compass off without a hitch. This traveling nonsense is far too stressful sometimes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

ballin' out of control

Horseshoes are grand. Cornhole is highly portable and inexpensive. However, bocce ball has to be my favorite of all lawn-based projectile games. I was lucky enough to get to play on a proper court when I was in Gainesville on Friday night. It was pure pleasure tossing the bocce while we waited on our table for a typically long time at Satchel's.

I challenged Palmer and Margarita to a match. Before they knew what hit them, I was up 8-1 and looking to close it out. It wasn't a fair fight. I've played a few times myself, and Margarita was a rookie. At that point, I got a teammate, and Margarita got the hang of the backhanded toss. We lost 11-8. It wasn't pretty, and under ordinary circumstances, I might've pitched a wobbler. Eh, I was having fun with all the side talk and the old friends milling about.

The hell with a new rope for climbing. No need for new climbing shoes. Forget finishing up my rack of quickdraws. I am buying a bocce set for when it warms up and dries out. No need for a perfect, walled-in court. We've got flat grass by my place. We can bocce and drink Peroni in the sunshine.

I like this idea. Who's with me?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

sleepy little seaside

Every time I come back to Florida through a sleepy little seaside town, it makes me miss Florida just a little bit more. Being near the beach is as good for my soul as being near the mountains. I need sun and sand just like I need snow and sandstone.

I was walking along Flagler Avenue this morning in New Smyrna Beach. The little tourist shops are just opening up, the locals are going about their business, waiting for the tourists to arrive. Me? I set foot in one of those little tourist traps that I'd never have ventured into except when drunk to get a trinket for m'lady. Joking with the storekeep about that fact, she laughed and said she gets more business from locals than tourists. Go figure.

So how to remedy this little problem in my head? I need to move to Springfield. The beach is a day trip away. Capitol City is field trip accessible. There's an elementary school with inept teachers, a moronic principal, and a bumbling superintendent. I'll be running the joint in six months. Mount Springfield has snow for that fix; it snows often enough to start my own snowplow business on the side. Minor league baseball, kids' sports teams, hiking trails, all-you-can-eat seafood restaurants and a top-notch watering hole called Moe's.

I am of course referring to the Springfield with Evergreen Terrace and a Kwik-E Mart and Bart, Homer, Lisa, Marge, and Maggie. Too bad I'm not a cartoon...

Friday, March 13, 2009


I reckon the next month or so are going to introduce me to the world of jetset culture. Two trips to Florida and one to California. A giant lump on my carbon footprint; sorry Ma Nature, but a whole lotta memories need to be made.

One, first wedding. This weekend will find me back in Florida near old friends for the first time in a while. Again, it'll be a short trip, but a good one nonetheless. My buddy who's getting married is yet another of my oldest friends. He and I go way back to front yard baseball, backwoods camping, and pool hall scheming. My flight gets off at lunchtime or so tomorrow.

Two, second wedding. Next weekend will find me back in Florida after an abridged work week. What a week it will be, but abridged nonetheless. It should be the frat boy wedding it's been hyped to be. Guys I haven't seen since moving and nor met my better half; the twain shall meet. Throw an evening with family into the mix, and you've got a great weekend indeed. I can't wait.

Finally, a week in California. Combine photogging in San Francisco, bouldering in Yosemite, and touristry for two in between. I aim to enjoy every single second of it. Spring Break is much needed and terrifically anticipated.

That's all I've got. A good friend told me this week to hold my tongue on some subjects regarding climbing. I ought to take his advice. Indeed, aside from him, few other climbers read this rag anyhow. I'll stick to the boards for those discussions. Stay well!

Monday, March 9, 2009

faced with a choice

Saturday night, whilst enjoying pescatarian French food, drinking wine, and laughing with my better half's family, I was faced with a choice.

Option one, stay home and watch a basketball game with a buddy of mine who I don't get to see a whole lot outside of football season. Option two, get up at 7am on a Sunday, drive three hours to the crag, clip some bolts, enjoy the sunshine, and ride three hours back.

Hmm. Go big, or go home? I chose go big.

Admittedly, I was tempted to stay home. After last week's just getting over a cold, and faced with two weddings this month in Florida, I would have relished a lazy Sunday reading in my hammock on my balcony. Alas, it wasn't to be. Sandstone called my name.

It was a great day. New people to climb with. It had been an awfully long time since I'd hopped in a car with a near stranger to go climbing. I feel like the last time was a trip to Chattanooga three years ago or so with Heckmann and Sarah. It was a great weekend, filled with interesting conversations and one Nintendo-themed send.

For all the time we three spent cragging, I think we only got on four routes. Much different than a day bouldering where I can get on far more climbs, the sheer length of the routes prevented a large number. I got to be rope gun for our first two climbs. (Rope gun, for those not in the know, is the climber that climbs each route first. It is assumed that said climber will send cleanly so that the rope quickly makes it to the top of the route, so that all others can climb it as well. Rope gun is also tasked with cleaning the route of all gear safely if no one else can send. Fortunately, I didn't have to step up on the latter.) Now, I say sheer length, but I will be mocked mercilessly by our Franklin tour guide. I am used to short boulder problems. When a route streaks past the treeline, I get a little concerned and spaced. My forearms tend to get tired on such climbs. First route was called Castaway. Not quite as hard as the Castaway at Little Rock City. I remembered how to clip in, didn't make any mistakes, and was able to choose from the far too many chalked holds around the fourth bolt.

Route two was the aformentioned streaker. Nine bolts of exposed awesomeness. I think I made it to the seventh bolt without resting before finishing up with several long deadpoints. Blood, Sweat, and Chalk. The boulderer-belittling tour guide was somewhat impressed. Tim took a few rests too. Rough Saturday.

Route three was the pinnacle of our attempts' difficulty. Bird of Prey. Also known as 7-11, because it is mostly 5.7 moves going into the 5.11 crux sequence at the top. We all had trouble figuring it out. With sapped forearms, none of us were able to send it clean. Had we not climbed Blood, Sweat and Chalk prior, I would have done better. Whether or not I would've sent eventually, I don't know. Those slopers on the top were nasty. Tim did manage to clip the anchors, lest we leave my shiny quickdraws behind. Maybe next time we go there, I'll get on it again. I can still feel the moves...

Route four was a gimmicky start, four bolt climb called Jump Start. I turned the lower section into a boulder problem, enjoyed the motion, and hung out on top for a little while. I could get used to this sport climbing thing, but I'm going to need to step my game up yet again to get any good at it. Any suggestions?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

from three to seventy-one

I happened to find myself with a little extra time this afternoon. There's been several occasions where I've tried to get to the Pentagon Memorial, only to be denied by poor planning on my part. When my folks were here for Thanksgiving, we discovered it's kind of tough to park on a military reservation without the proper credentials. With glorious weather today to boot, I found my way there with the help of Metro. It's apparently the only way to get there easily. I would've ridden my bike, but that's a little treacherous on the roads I'd have chosen.

Anyhow, it was a moving experience to say the least. Check my photos once I post them tonight or tomorrow. There are 184 individual benches parallel to the path of Flight 77 as it made its fatal descent into the Pentagon. The names are organized by the youngest victim at the entrance (Dana Falkenberg, born 1998) to the oldest in the back (Capt. John D. Yamnicky, Sr., born 1930). The tightest cluster with moving water moving emotions is centered with men and women who would've been in their late 30s and early 40s. A fair number of military officers, several enlisted non-commissioned officers and staff NCOs, but the bulk were the victims on the flight.

Mothers. Fathers. Brothers. Sisters. Adults. Children.

It brought back that same flood of emotions that I felt that cool summer morning in Florida. Shock. Heartbreak. Regardless of where you were on that day, that twinge of fear ran through all of us. Like our parents when they found out about JFK, we will always remember exactly where we were when we first heard.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

hey, dirty, baby i got your money: round deux

Jon Stewart cracks me up. He's got a helluva team on point this year. Elections, golden. If you thought he would run out of material when Bush was out of office, here comes a financial meltdown. This segment is Dennis Miller-esque, minus the thesaurus-laden foaming at the mouth. Enjoy!

march already?

Where, oh where, did my winter go? This weekend the clocks spring forward. I know the Daylight Savings people are in some sort of plot to conserve energy by making me get up when it's dark out, but doesn't it seem awfully early for that mnemonic? They need to change it to "Change Your Clocks Two Weeks Before Spring". Doesn't have quite the same pop though...

It seems like months ago that I bought my plane tickets for two weddings in March. Realistically, I guess it was. Winter flew by like most football seasons do. I kept busy pretty much all winter long. Between snowboarding treks to Pennsylvania and ice-covered climbing trips to Maryland, my weekends filled up just as quickly as they do when the Ol' Boys of Florida are battling on the gridiron in the fall. It's been nice to have a lull in my schedule last weekend and this one upcoming. Nothing besides meals with my better half's family. It just isn't going to feel liks spring with all the snow still on the ground from this weekend's dump.

Wedding one next weekend will prevent Shamrock Fest shenanigans, but I think I'll have a better time with an old friend from the neighborhood. We haven't kept in touch nearly as well as we'd like over the years during and past college, but there's nothing like one of those old friends you can immediately feel at ease with. One whose mom you call mom because you spent nearly every afternoon there in the summer, perfecting your bank shot combo with a pool cue.

Wedding two will introduce my better half to a large number of my dirty stinkin' frat boy buddies all at once. Included will be the roommates of seven out of the ten years I spent in Gainesville. Good people all, but she's only met the groom and one of the roommates prior. It should be a good time in the sunshine, plus a bonus night with some family to boot.

Which reminds me, I still need to get rental cars and hotels for those weekends. Yeah, about that....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

weather adjustments

From today's Post:
President Obama might have taken note after grousing last month when Sidwell Friends School, where his children go, closed for a smaller storm. "This might be what the president considers a serious snowstorm," his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said. Sidwell was closed again yesterday, and public schools in the District opened two hours late.
Schools were closed in Montgomery County for the third snow day this year and in Fairfax and Prince George's counties, for the second. All three school systems announced two-hour delays for today.
Virginia declared a state of emergency, calling it the worst storm in eight years. Local airports saw numerous delays and cancellations, although operations were mostly back to normal by late afternoon.

I figured it out. There's a reason why six inches of snow snarls things to a halt around here. The road crews and residents just aren't used to it. The road crews in all the lands that laugh at Beltway residents when a few flakes fall have far more practice at clearing up wintry precipitation. They get it at least yearly, if not several times a year. Twelve solid hours of snow would be cleared quickly by their more experienced crews and their more numerous trucks.

I think from here on out, I ought to expect a day off for a good dose of snow and a two-hour delay for the day after. Today marks the second such string. It'll all be gone by the weekend according to the weather reports. Wonder if that means I can hop on my bike and ride around this weekend in the called-for sixties.

We'll see.

Monday, March 2, 2009

march comes in like a lion...

Finally, we get some serious snow. In March. Go figure. It was ankle deep when I got up, drifts up to a foot. Took me a few minutes to dig out my car to drive to the store. Sadly, I've spent the majority of the day indoors catching up on work I should've done last week.

That said, I sure wish I could've found a person or two to go snowboarding with. It would've been a helluva cold day. They got no snow, but they made a bunch. I hope someday I can live where there's real rocks and real snow in the proper seasons to feed my outdoor addictions.

It's supposed to stay cold today and tomorrow, so maybe I can make a proper snowman this evening. We'll see.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

popped collars

Before I was a dirty rotten climber, I was a dirty rotten frat boy. Hard to believe, but it's true. I even lived the house for three years. Three years of waking up on the weekends to fire alarms going off, fireworks exploding the the courtyard, beer bottles in the shower, the smell of stale Natty Light wafting through the air. Don't kid yourself; for all the bluster of fraternities being paragons of virtue, that seedy side is still there. Some houses hide it better than others though. I didn't learn how to be a good person in a fraternity; I already was one. I was just able to more clearly articulate why I was a good person and add some more values to strive for beyond, "A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent."

In any case, most people nowadays are pretty surprised to hear that I was a frat boy, and even more surprised to find that I don't regret it in the least. Being one made my transition to D.C. that much easier with a good number of great guys to call on to make it seem like home faster. I'm connected with people I went to college with more often from my days in the Shelter than those prior. Climbing brought me a whole different set of friends, with little crossover between sets. When Gainesville said goodbye to me, it was the GRG crew, not the DTD crew that bid me adieu. Granted, most of my closer friends from the house had long since moved on to Atlanta and other towns to start their real lives, while I stayed behind for four more years to see them during football season and at weddings weddings weddings.