Tuesday, November 15, 2011

European Trip II

We Arrived in London on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in mid July. The British Airways flight was decent and the convenience factor of flying out of Bwi was worth it's weight in gold. However, Virgin airlines quality of service still reigns supreme when convenience is taken out of the occasion.

The Weather was excellent by London standards. Seventy degrees and sunny. From what I understand in my limited exposure to Old Blighty this is a bit of a rarity.

We took a train to the tube, and the tube to the Charing Cross station. We "minded the gap". Although my last trip to London was a bit of a quick one it still felt good to be back.

I draw comparisons to what I am familiar with, and I can say with reasonable certainty that London and NY are fraternal twins from different mothers if that is even possible.

Jet lagged, tired, and anxious, we threw our bags down and hit the town for some simple pub n grub. (look up place) Market was a very busy and vibrant environment. Think Adams Morgan only being surrounded by people with more depth and interesting accents. After a few beers and some good conversation my jet lag got the best of me and it was off to dream land for me.

The following morning we walked along the Thames to our office in downtown. What an experience to have the privilege to be able to say that. Throughout the day We conducted our business and met with our clients.

The following evening, I ventured out on my own and landed at a bar called Smalliskys. Met a guy with a thick english accent who had me laughing. It was a short night, after a few beers I walked across the street and went to bed.

One caveat to this entry. Each night no matter how early I turned in, I simply could not shake my jet leg and get a decent nights sleep. That and what sounded like a garbage truck outside my window every morning, also did I mention the 3am drunken American revelers singing the American national anthem in London?

The next evening brought more pub n grub. We went to a fondue restaurant with some of our affiliate folks. I am glad I can say that I ate fondue, but I am also glad that I can say that I will probably never eat fondue again.

That being said the restaurant was interesting. It reminded me of eating at an old country farm house, right there in the smack dab center of London. The decor was what I would consider an old style English. All in all I am glad I went. Also, it was nice to experience a meal with Londoners.

The following day we finished our business in London and took off to Dublin. It was a quick hop from London to Dublin. From the air my first impression of Ireland was fields with hedgerows. Many, many hedgerows. I imagine the English country side is very similar. Steven Ambrose referenced these frequently in his WW II books. Getting an aerial view of Ireland made it real for me.

From the airport our driver picked us up. He had a thick Irish accent that was notably distinguished from the English ones I had gotten used to. For some reason, I had a preconceived assumption that they'd be more comparable. This was not the case! David was a quiet sort of guy. Although towards the end of our trip, he picked up a conversation. His main complaint was the Irish economy. This turned out to be a running theme throughout my time spent there. I get the distinct impression that their country is hurting worse than ours.

Driving through the Irish country side it took us two hours to reach Waterford Ireland. Waterford is located in the southern portion of the Irish country side. Waterford is known for it's crystal glass, and tall ship festival amongst other things. The town is quant and quiet and just my style.

Upon going to the lobby in search for a soda machine I stumbled into a group of seniors on a bus trip. They were playing traditional Irish music and dancing. It was great, I sat down and watched them for about an hour.

The following day Kieran drove us to the coast. We walked through the town of ... And hit a couple of pubs along the way. The village was stunning and reminded me of a cross between Cape Cod Mass with its fishing fleets and Malibu California with its picturesque landscape and cliffs.

If there is such a thing as paradise I think I may have found it.

On to Dublin...I had no expectations. I had done no research on Dublin other than a quick Google. Dublin was incredible. It is many things that London is not. Navigable, authentic, circus like. We hit the pub district and had a great time. A couple of the pubs I couldn't get the vibe down but were still very enjoyable.

A walk down the shopping district was entertaining to say it best. Multiple street performers created a circus-esque atmosphere. It had a very Key West vibe.

Our last night there was last night as I write this. We went to a local bar called Grogans. I was excited to see a local bar and talk to "the locals". I need to realize that not everyone wants to share their culture with Americans. And quite frankly they have a right not to. After getting slightly hassled at the door by some Irish blokes, the bar tender rolled his eyes at me when I asked what was on tap.

Another fellow was trying to start trouble. It was then that we decided to leave. We ended up at a hotel lounge listening to techno.

It was a great time! I am ready for home.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Growing Me Up a Garden

We bought a raised cedar garden bed from Home Depot. We felt that we'd splurge and buy the $180 kit as opposed to using pressure treated wood. Arsenic just doesn't go well with tomatoes from what we hear.

The project was a lot of fun. Both Lara and I take an active role in maintaining the garden. The other night we ate romaine lettuce that we grew from baby plants. It tasted incredible.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some 2010 Highlights

Well it appears as though my daily responsibilities have stifled my blog posting as of late.

It is quite evident that my blog posts have been lacking and borderline non-existent over this past year.

What can I say? Between learning the ropes of the new job, working on the house, maintaining the yard, and trying to have some sort of a life, my leisure time has become a commodity and it's getting harder to focus on this blog anymore.

I do enjoy my responsibilities and even look forward to working with my hands. I enjoy planting our flowers, watering our shrubs, hanging out in the garage and tipping back a few beers while working on my truck. At this point in my life, after staring into a luminescent screen for eight to ten hours a day, getting my hands dirty has become an enjoyable release.

Anyways, to touch on some of the bigger highlights since my last post, there have been several notable blog-worthy developments over the past year. I am engaged. Matilda and I got engaged in front of her parents and brother back in April. We are planning a private wedding in Jamaica sometime in February.

In March of this year I was laid off by BBN Technologies where I had worked on the same project for five consecutive years. Only after the government had spent millions of dollars and countless man hours to develop this piece of software that my company was working on did they decide to throw it away and start over with a different contractor.

I have to be honest, it was definitely frustrating at the very least. I have never committed myself to any project or company for that amount of time. To see five years worth of effort get tossed away like that was devastating. Looking back however, the scenario is typical in the cut throat world of defense contracting.

Shortly thereafter, I was yearning for a clearer mind and a sense of adventure since I had both the money and the time to challenge myself to do something that I have always wanted to do. So in May I packed up a bag or two and I set off on a solo cross-country motorcycle journey across the United States. In eight days I went coast to coast on route 40 from Baltimore MD to San Diego CA through nine beatiful states.

The trip was absolutely incredible, I was completely exposed to the environment on my motorcycle through the most unimaginable weather conditions I have ever experienced. Outside of hiking some mountains in Alaska and accidentally running into some glacier crossings it was the most challenging and at times the scariest adventure of my life. More on this in another blog post.

I spent the other half of the summer voluntarily unemployed strumming on my banjo and learning how to sweat pipes, roll sod, put up fences, run 14-2 with ground. Yes, I was my own apprentice learning the trades of plumbing, landscaping, electricity and all around general maintenance while fixing up our 1920's era Baltimore Bungalow.

More recently, I started a new job in the private sector and have been working 9 - 10 hour days trying to play catch up from working in the government industry for so long. My skills were practically obsolete compared to the private sector. But here I am, the knowledge is starting to come together, I've got a great girl, a great pad, a great life all around.

Life is good and I am happy and that’s all that really matters.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Salty Balty-More

It had been a long time coming and to be truthful I am surprised it did not happen sooner. In fact, it was over two years ago during an unusualy long and bitter cold winter that I mustered up the courage to sell the majority of my belongings and completely split out of DC town for what I assumed would be at the very least an extended vacation on the West Coast.

In transition, and shortly after moving into Matilda's apartment as a staging ground for a cross country truck trip, I fell ill to a severe inner ear infection that had my world spinning and kept me off balance and severely sick for the better part of six months. My wanderlust would have to wait.

After using the winter to slowly heal and nearing the completion of Matilda's degree we decided that it would be best if we left the DC region entirely.

Even though as a result of my ear infection, I did not have the chance to explore the West Coast, we still flirted with the idea of settling in San Diego, Colorado, and even discussed Austin Texas. One compelling factor that kept us grounded to the East Coast in our discussions was the proximity to our families in Upstate, New York. We were willing to sacrifice a lot, but family was uncomprimisable.

After many discussions the question seemed to always come back full circle. Should we just stay in DC? Mind you that I have run the full gambit in DC metro living. I have lived in Arlington, S. Alexandria, N. Alexandria, Woodbridge, and Manassas. Never quite finding a comfortable landing.

The last eight years have had me cooped up in apartments, high-rises, and condominiums. As a result, I was desperately yearning for a my own house with a garage, a workshop, and a garden. All a man needs. Seriously, I have been working with intangible software at my 9 to 5 for years. I needed some space and opportunity where I could work and get my hands dirty building, fixing, growing tangible objects. We knew that this was not going to be an affordable possibility in the greater DC region.

After some research and a general familiarity with our largest northern neighbor we decided to entertain the idea of moving to Baltimore.

Fast forward six more months and it was late October and Matilda had been working in Baltimore since September. So towards the latter part of October after working with a Realtor over the entire summer we found a beautiful house in North East Baltimore that seemed ironicaly have found us. As it turns out it is a true original craftsman house, a type of house we have always dreamed of owning. The Arts and Crafts (Craftsman) movement in architecture is a facinating history and we both agreed with the pricinples of this movement. We made an offer on the house and anxiously waited for the sellers to accept. They did, and as of November 20th we have taken ownership of our dream home.

So here we are, we live within the city limits, I have a detached two car garage, my back yard, with a garden coming soon. I even got my workshop downstaires in the semi-finished basement. Lastly as a major bonus, I have always wanted to live in a sea-faring community and everyday as I drive over the Inner Harbor on the route 95 bridge I get the opportunity to look off to my left and see ocean freighters unloading their cargo. What a beautiful sight.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Playing Catch (up) Part II

It was the evening of October 14th as I recall. Yes... the evening before our big trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I had strategically placed my digital camera on the top of my nightstand delicately balancing it on my cell phone charger. "There's no way I'd forget both and I'd rather be caught dead than miss the opportunity to photograph some of those incredible desert rock formations", I thought to myself before falling asleep.

And as I recall it was around the time that we arrived 2,500 miles away in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and budged our way directly to the front of the overcrowded luggage line that it hit me. Right then as I tore open my bag I knew it would not contain a camera nor a cell phone charger. Both of them would be delicately balanced on top of one another 2,500 miles away on my nightstand.

The whole situation reminds me of a time just a few years ago when I went camping on a cold night and forgot to bring a sleeping bag! Can you comprehend this statement? I had brought EVERY god damn camping provision but forgot a sleeping bag. I had brought glowsticks for finding my way in the dark (just in case my flashlight failed) but I forgot a sleeping bag!

Anyways as we picked up the rental car in Albuquerque, NM, and made the 60 mile trip in the direction of Santa Fe, the drive was dark, flat, and the surrounding environment seemed barren. As flat as the drive seemed I will say that after every few mile markers I would catch a fleeting peripheral glimpse of something large "out there". The source of these objects would remain a mystery until early the next morning.

It was not until I woke up and threw the covers off of my jet lagged East Coast ridden body and stepped outside into the bright sunlight that I was fully able to take in the surrounding environment.

Yes, right then it became apparent to me that I was indeed in the middle of the American desert.

Now don't get me wrong, I have experienced the desert before. Luckily, I have been afforded the opportunity to visit Las Vegas several times as well as parts of San Diego that were desert-"esque" if you will. But I had never taken the opportunity to drive beyond the boundaries of the Las Vegas strip to witness the remote and barren desert just a few miles away.

And here I found myself standing just a few feet outside of my hotel room in the middle of nowhere. With the lack the stimulation of squirting water fountains, impromptu scary pirate shows, and the electrifying lights that have become so synonymous with the Las Vegas strip, my attention was left solely to be consumed by views of peculiar desert rock formations as well as the odd cacti or two.

Matilda was busy most of the time making arraignments and preparations for her brothers wedding. I had no hard feelings and actually to be frank this suited me just fine because I was in the mood to do some exploring. That very same afternoon I loaded up our rented Chevrolet two door Cobalt with some basic utilities and set off towards the Santa Fe National Forest.

As I drove through the Santa Fe national forest (destination unknown), I stopped the car and pulled it over to what appeared to be a trail that appeared to have been rudimentary cut through some isolated desert brush. I decided to go for a short hike and I was about two miles into the trail when I made my way into the middle of two ominous looking cliffs.

It was only after I saw a pebble fall off the top of the cliff which in turn trickeled into a minor sand avalanche that I was coincidentally standing at the base of that common sense prevailed and I thought to myself that it was probably a good idea to return to the car since I did not feel like dying that particular day.

On the way back towards the hotel I noticed that my gas needle was dangerously flirting with the letter "E".

I stopped to get gas and just as I was finishing up a small Spanish man no taller than five foot five carrying a backpack approached me and asked for change. Now on the East Coast as many bums have come to find out, I have a strict rule of not funding their addictions to controlled substances. Just as I was about to scold him and send him off he said he was just trying to make his way back to Santa Fe. I wanted to offer him a ride instead of change and I seriously had to fight the urge to say hop in but in the end I told him I had nothing for him which was the most truthful I've ever been with a vagrant before. I had not brought any cash or change hiking with me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Playing Catch (Up) Part I

I know, I know, you don't have to say it. I will say it myself! I've been more than negligent concerning this blog as of late and I'm sorry for it. Anyways, in repentance I will do my due diligence to fill you in to my boring life as much as my brittle memory will afford me to recall the last 60+ days.

Where to begin? There was that late summers canoe ride down the narrow Shenandoah River. There was also that extended weekend jaunt to the high and dusty desert plains region of that forgotten state that we call New Mexico. And believe it or not, interspersed in between both of these events there was a new house purchase and a subsequent pending move.

So during the early part of September, Matilida, myself, as well as a few friends packed up some ruck sacks and drove due west down the forever famous route 66. It was about 50 miles or so when we found ourselves conveniently located under the cover of the Shenandoah mountain range and decided to make a weekend of it. We had come in a pseudo-celebration of my thirtieth birthday.

It turned out to be nothing less than a beautiful weekend, and as we canoed down the Shenandoah river that Saturday afternoon in two bright red canoes, I thought to myself how pleasurable it was to be able to afford this luxury on my 30th birthday.

Later that afternoon it was just a few moments after we had cautiously navigated our canoes around an assembly of wading dairy cows where we found a an impromptu formation of flat rocks. It was on these flat rocks where the four of us moored our canoes just a few feet from shore and ate sandwiches in near silence under the unrelenting late summer sun.

That weekend will live forever in my mind as the close of summer 2009.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Looking Back and Looking Forward

"Well... some day you'll understand".

This phrase was spoken from the lips of many good men and I can prove to you that this quotation is an indisputable fact.

The reason that I know this is that I remember hearing this phrase fall off my deaf ears many times. In fact, it came from my own fathers mouth as he put forth his best effort to lecture me in his most stern manner.

“You’ll understand someday” he would always profess in his typical mellow yet convincing manner.

It was during those confusing and disconcerting years when I somehow managed to find my own survival mechanism and pull myself through all of the teenage stages of typical pent up angst, hormonal imbalances, and nefarious behavior that come along with it.

Call it an instinctual survival mechanism, but I somehow managed to crawl out of that snake pit of competing interests and survive and even flourish fairly unscathed (ok well maybe with a few scars).

Yet here I stand today at this very moment, in the form of a grown middle aged man with an ever growing beer gut.

Feeling privileged to be in "decent" health (under 200 pounds), to be gainfully employed, and to be living in the capital of the free world. I am only left to wonder when this "coming of age" post-teen enlightenment managed to take its hold in me. This phrase had been so frequently repeated and promised to me as a young rebellious youth that it's now engraved in my mind.

The person that I am today is in stark contrast to my pre-college frame of mind and even my immediate post-college "championship" years. It's no secret, I could have been labeled or even branded as one of those so called "problem children".

I'll admit that my first honest pull off the smooth neck of a 100 proof 32 liter liquor bottle came right around the ripe old age of 13. In addition to my self-indulgences with illicit substances, I am not proud of the fact that I graduated nearly last in my high school class. Rumor has it that I even wore the silver bracelets once before the age of 16. It’s true, my moral compass typically pointed south in these formative but festive years of adolescence.

I'll keep it simple and say only that many lessons have been learned since the early days and although I may have struggled throughout my teenage experience and participated in some unsavory debaucheries in my twenties, I now have learned to take life a little more seriously.

So I take a drink and say...

Dear "My Twenties",

This has been a long time coming. First, I wanted to thank you for all of those years. College, relationships, breakups, first jobs, hangovers, travels, deaths and births.

We had a lot of fun together (I think...) details are kind of hazy at this point but I will never forget you.

However, I wanted to let you know that I feel that we've grown apart and I'm moving on with my life.

Yes, it's true that I've met someone else. Her name is "My Thirties". We've grown so close to each other over the past few years and we are ready to make a commitment to each other.

So as of Sunday Sept. 6th I am initiating the "no contact" rule with you.

Please don't call because I will not be returning your phone calls. Oh and by the way... I will not accept your flowers.

It’s over.

Good Luck!