Monday, April 27, 2009

almost poetic

I just finished reading Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I started reading it during my month-long traveling bender. It rekindled the same itchy feet syndrome first diagnosed by Jack Kerouac and nearly cured by an ill-fated attempt to live overseas. This time, however, in Pirsig's wandering tale of a cross country motorcycle trip intertwined with a past borne of insanity and ancient Greek philosophy, my life circumstances changed considerably. Oddly, so too did the book.

During the course of my reading, she and I made that whole "getting married" thing official, I logged about 10,000 miles of air travel, got attacked by a macaw, lost my job (technically, destaffed, but let's call it what it is), and started trying to get this bum back of mine fixed. I thought it rather fitting the way the book ended. So, if I may quote the last paragraph, "'Tis a far, far better thing...."

Wait, that's not right.

Ahem. Here it is:
Trials never end, of course. Unhappiness and misfortune are bound to occur as long as people live, but there is a feeling now, that was not here before, and is not just on the surface of things, but penetrates all the way through: We've won it. It's going to get better now. You can sort of tell these things.

For all the stresses of my life past, and those to come, I know this to be true. Words truer were never written, nor at a better time for me to read them in a 35 year old classic.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


From the opening lines of the play, I knew I was in for a better show than the other time I'd seen it. The play is called Crowns, and we went to see it at the Lincoln Theater on U Street on Friday night. To succinctly summarize it, it's a historical musical on the origins of women's hats in the black church. Having been to so few black churches in my lifetime, I had to take their word for it.

Every Sunday, when we went to church, Grandma always had on a beautiful hat.

"Mmmm, hmmm," rose the agreement from the audience. It was altogether entertaining and enlightening. The costumes were vibrant, the voices were incredible, and the production was top-notch. I guess that's the difference between the community theater production I saw in the park in St. Pete and this merry band of professional thespians we saw on Friday.

The play opened and closed with an old hymn called, ""When I've Done the Best I Can, I Want My Crown." In this simple hymn, it explains the title of the play beautifully. For the entirety of the play, that point is built upon. We see that the hats that these women wear to church are based in part on African tribal custom and slave history, as church was the only place that slaves were allowed to congregate. Do right by the Lord on earth, you'll be rewarded with a crown in heaven.

I've racked my brain trying to come up with a subject that would hit home as closely as it did for the mostly female audience. I felt a little kinship with the plot line of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Greek and Italian families aren't a whole lot different. Following our family reunion a few summers back, I saw just how true that could be. Perhaps My Big, Loud Italian Reunion? That's only a familial culture thing, though. This play clearly struck a chord that went beyond individual families. I could identify with some of the subject matter based on my years in Alachua County, but being white and male, I couldn't grasp the cultural significance of it beyond what the plot was.

It triggered a brief Florida memory in me. Otis, the head custodian at my old school, lost a family member (I think it was his mother, but I can't recall) a few years ago. I was one of three coworkers that went to her memorial service. It was a blistering hot day. The church was packed with people in their Sunday best, crowns included. Crowns illustrated why perfectly.

I need to start going to church again. Any local recommendations?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

my titles seem to have nothing to do with the content of the post lately

Remember way back last season? I took a hard fall and messed up my back pretty good. Nothing? Here.

Well, the x-rays that the chiropractor took showed not a pretty picture. Traumatic spondylolisthesis. That's a lot of syllables to say that I fell hard and broke something. My back is pretty screwed up. It explains a whole lot. He was astounded that no one had before thought to take films of my back before. Nope, send me on my merry way to physical therapy, strengthen up the muscles, but ignore the underlying cause.

Long story short, twice a week intensively until it's closer to right. I'm pretty sore today from the adjustment. On the bright side of things, my back doesn't hurt as bad either.

Monday, April 20, 2009

rub a dub dub

Two nights of great grub! I've found a new awesome place to eat. Ok, not really found, but I spent a bit more time there this weekend than most people would consider normal. Food's that good. It's called Astor Mediterranean. They have one in Adam's Morgan also that's been open longer. It's a little off the beaten path, but it's pretty easy to get to.

The service is fast and friendly. The food is delicious with large enough portions to satisfy me. Friday night, I was going to go for the lamb kabob. Ravi Kabob makes a pretty mean lamb kabob, and I figure Astor would be the same. When I got to the counter to order, the cashier politely pointed out the ribeye special. I caved. Good choice! Well seasoned, a little overdone for medium, but it was still moist and delicious. It came with two sides, rice and spicy chick peas. Also excellent. I was pretty hungry on Friday, too. My mom was in town, so the three of us split an order of baclava and rice pudding. The baclava is served to share. Very thick, dripping with honey, flaky phyllo dough. Incredible. The rice pudding was rich and creamy with raisins, cinnamons, and coconut shavings garnished.

She and I brought her friends there last night. The cashier recognized me, said hello, and quietly thanked me for bringing such a large group. The girls all ordered something different. Raves were given to the hummous, which for $3.50 is quite a steal! The girls all had leftovers for today. Me? I polished off a deliciously messy Mediterranean chicken pita. Not recommended for a first date as there is no way to eat it neatly. It is delicious though!

Go. Eat. Enjoy. You may just see me there.

Friday, April 17, 2009

big, loud italian dinner

Oh, how I miss them! Way back when the Sopranos were still on the air, back when I lived in my first college apartment (probably the most posh pad I lived in!), we made a weekly tradition of Sunday dinner. Brian bought The Sopranos cookbook and every so often, we'd make a recipe from it. From scratch gravy, chicken cacciatore, lasagna. One thing that was never in short supply was the good friends and flowing beverage. By the time 9:00 rolled around, HBO was a little bit blurry, our belts were a lot bit tighter, and a warm afterglow of a good night permeated the room.

I miss that camaraderie. I suppose that's why I try so hard for '80s movie night to be a success. It was initially, but trying to do it weekly in D.C. is a bit tough. Once a month is more doable for most, though the number of occasions with more than 4 attendees are few and far between.

Flash to tonight. Big, loud, Italian dinner resumes. I actually didn't have enough chairs. First time I've had that many over for dinner. What'd I make? My Pinch-of-this, Pinch-of-that Sauce over homemade gnocchi. Yeah, that's right. I made gnocchi from scratch. To be fair, I had 3 pairs of hand to shape them properly and cook them up right. For what occasion did we undertake this elaborate meal? Mom's in town.

Want the recipe? I learned it from my mom, who learned it from hers, who learned it from hers in turn. One of those, yeah.

Peel the potatoes, boil them. Put them through the potato ricer. Let them cool enough to handle. Knead with some flour. How much? Enough. Add an egg to bind them. Roll the dough out on a floured surface, and cut them into knuckle-sized morsels. Drop them individually into boiling water. They're done when they float. Sauce 'em and serve 'em. Mangia!

Notice how that recipe doesn't really have quantities? Yeah, that's how I learned it, and that's how I remember it. Just like polenta. But that's another day, another meal.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

testing, testing....

One more marking period to go. One gauntlet of stste-mandated testing in the way. This is going to test my patience with test preparation and what I see as something more worthwhile: actually teaching my students something new, instead of spending what may amount to the rest of the year on review.

They aren't particularly excited about it. I guess I ought to try my best to make it exciting, but who among us really wants to listen to their boring teacher reteach stuff we already learned and learned well?! I could get up on my soapbox and rant and rave about it all, but I know it ain't going away. Only way I can reduce or eliminate testing is to invent a better mousetrap. To a bureaucrat, this testing assault proves everything. To an educator, the testing proves that the bureaucrats know nothing. Maybe I ought to become one someday and shake up their view of the world.

Is it Juneteenth yet?

Monday, April 13, 2009

going big

Last week gave me some reflection on how going big has changed since I first started writing here. When I first staked my blogspot claim, the website hadn't yet been acquired by Google, I still occasionally blogged on Myspace, and I was going to South Korea to teach English. Oddly, I think it was also after that plan had begun to fall apart. That plan was completely Go Big. Never been in a foreign country for more than a few days, and Canada really isn't too different in such a short trip. Then I wanted to live in the Far East? "You must be crazy," crossed the lips of quite a few friends and acquaintances.

Thus began the Go Big philosophy. I chose D.C. because...well, I rarely give the same answer twice. Threw a dart. Jumped ahead two years in my life plan, which isn't really a plan after all. Needed a change. Love seasons. So, I moved solo. No job, no home, few friends and family to help get settled.

Going Big before I left Gainesville meant planning a climbing trip in 10 minutes, driving 8 hours each way for a day and a half on the rocks. Buying tickets for Bonnaroo with about five minutes of thinking about it. Buying a sword for no apparent reason. Ok, that last one's pretty lame. It was more of a spontaneity spur than anything. I think I'd made it a New Years' resolution a few years back. Something about not being predictable. I think I've managed to keep it.

Taking a big risk in life is always fraught with perils. The big risks these days aren't quite the same. I do my research, then jump in with both feet. Am I still scared of the outcome of these possibly life-altering decisions? Absolutely, but I wouldn't change a thing that's happened since. Going Home's not an option.

I choose go big.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

the core of it all

Through the post of another climber friend of mine from the Florida days, I heard of a pro climber's very similar-sounding back pain.

Read it here.

The genesis of mine, as best I can tell, was from a bad fall on a snowboard last season. My lumbar region was swollen for three weeks. It was fine after that; I'd started running again and riding my bike. Come June, I'm down in Florida for Mom's birthday. Showering off after a run, I'm immobilized with shooting pains from my back down my left leg. When I got back to VA, started with the physical therapy.

He said I had a "weak core". Eight weeks later, my back was a little stronger, abs were a lot sorer. No problems until the last month or so. It's been debilitating at times. A few tricks to keep me upright while sitting. A trip to the chiropractor on Monday to attempt to straighten it out. We'll see how it goes.

Final California reflections coming soon.

Friday, April 10, 2009

like, totally rad

So, we went to Yosemite on Wednesday. We totally had a blast, like for sure!

We got to see all these amazing waterfalls. All the pretty snow melts which is sad, but it totally makes the rivers strong and stuff. Then when they make waterfalls, they're the raddest. Totally.

So, we went hiking up like 600 steps of stone to get to the top of one of them. There were all these people on the trail, and I was all like, "Excuse me, I'm trying to get my solitude on. You people are in my way on this totally paved trail. It's like I'm at the mall, which I'm totally not because I don't see an Auntie Anne's or Gap in sight. Which reminds me, so would I look good with a nose piercing? Not like a big one, just like one of those really cute stars that twinkles..."

We got to take these totally awesome photos of all the falls and these rocks around us. I think one was called El Capitan, which means like The Capitan in Spanish. You'd think I would know that, but my Spanish teacher was such a flake. I mean, oh, my god. How am I supposed to learn Spanish? It's like a whole 'nother language, and I already speak American. Isn't that enough?

So then today, we went to the Center of the Universe. I mean, for real. It's like where all these really amazing climbers go and climb on these boulders. Without ropes! Can you believe it?! Then it started raining and we had to leave. Total bummer.

Wait, wrong Valley accent? Oops. See what happens when I drive 200 miles through desolate farmland in eastern Cali. My mind wanders a little bit. Off to San Fran tomorrow again. Hopefully, my mind will be right...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

hey, person coming from israel!

Or as Lee put it, "Yo, Semite!" He's a clever one, that Lee. Anyhow, that's where we're headed today. A shiny new day dawns on us. It's gorgeous here again, but yesterday's dawn looked the same before rains descended on our brief tour of San Francisco.

We saw the one typical SF sight, took a few pictures of it, decided it was too wet, and went to get a pie. Our day scrambling and climbing and hiking was not as productive as we'd have hoped on Monday. The temperatures were too warm for sandstone slopers to be any fun, and the parks service had shut down the redwood trail we wanted to hike. Controlled burning. Can't say I'm that upset about the fact they were actually doing controlled burns with the NIMBY attitude that can precede them. More disappointed that I couldn't hike that trail that day.

So, off to the Valley we go. Hopefully the weather gods are on our side, though the weather scientists seem to be stacked against us. Keep your fingers crossed!

Monday, April 6, 2009


Safely landed in the Golden State yesterday. Eaten a little bit of food it seems. Good times with family thus far. Fighting that nagging back injury of mine. Lately, it's been fierce, but I am not going to let something chronic keep me off the rocks. Today was a little warm; tomorrow, likely a little cooler. Perfect for sandstone.

She and I aim to hit a local spot for a spell, do a little hiking, shutterbugging, and bouldering on some West Side sandstone. We'll see how it compares to that sweet southern sloperiffic sandstone I'm used to. Come to find out that the problem I was salivating over on Vimeo goes at a V-fun. The video or pictures will be dope though; I dug through the topo on the plane yesterday. No classics marked, so we'll just hop around to the problems I can flash or fall safely on.

Classic climber named problems all of them. Tick list to follow by the end of the week. My tips are sweating for that granite in the Center of the Universe. Hopefully, Mother Nature and hordes of tourists don't impede that goal.

At least we'll get some solitary hiking time and quality time together to take in the sights the rest of the week. Good times. My body is telling me it's late, though the west coast time zone tells me otherwise. G'nite.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

the sounds of silence

The whole day through, it was a madhouse in here. What a disaster of a morning with one, and a fidgety, barely focused day for all.

Now, it's quiet as a tomb. I can actually get some work done.

Alas, what am I doing? Barely working. Too excited for our upcoming trip to the Golden State. Too excited to focus on anything but Castle Rock and Yosemite dreaming.

Castle rock bouldering from Nicolas Mathieu on Vimeo.
So, I won't be flashing V10s or anything, but there is this wicked-looking V4 called The Spoon that I want to burn up.

Oh, and this is why I want need must go to Yosemite. Maybe I can soak up some history and ability by osmosis of the Tommy Caldwells and Ron Kauks and Chris Sharmas of the world that have climbed this amazing piece of stone.

Midnight Lightning from Deep Roots Media - Dane Henry on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


It's been a long time coming. We were walking around the tidal basin, looking at the pretty cherry blossoms. It is that time of year, after all. They still stun me with their brilliance.

Anyhow, the mood struck, and there was a diamond burning a hole in my pocket. I drop and ask that question she's been aching to hear for months.

Tearfully, of course, she says yes.

I jump up, excited...

...and promptly drop the ring into the tidal basin. Oops.

[No, not really. Gawrsh, you're gullible! Go look at a calendar. This is however a true story that had a happy ending for a friend of hers. The actual girl in the real story was about to jump in to get it before he stopped her. The ring was a fake. The real one was still in his pocket.

To guys: Best. Joke. Ever.

To girls: Meanest. Engagement. Story. Ever.]

So, um, honestly, did you think I'd announce such a momentous occasion via the interwebs? Go look in a mirror. I think April Fool may be written on your forehead.