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!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Viva La Puerto Rico I

I'm going to assume that if you are like me (your typical narrow-minded American foodie) a green banana probably does not sound all that appealing to you?

Especially if it were pronounced in a foreign language such as "Mofongo" and was presented to you on a small plate as an unpeeled, mashed mound of starch that resembled something akin to pouring gravy over loose mound of potatoes.

However, take said green bananas in oddly shaped form, add tender pieces of marinated chicken, plump oversized shrimp, or mouth watering lobster meat and it becomes a personal heaven to your palate.

Much like this unexpected fusion of unfamiliar food that managed to confuse the delicate argument between my taste buds and eyes, I can honestly say that I had little (if any) idea of what to expect from the rest of my travels to Puerto Rico.

I knew that they spoke Spanish, and that the island is an American territory with its own culture, language, diversity and practices.

One of the most comforting aspects of traveling to PR that's not typically found in too many other places in the Caribbean is that I was still entitled to all of my rights as American citizen.

With any luck, there would be no frantic dark alley payments to a crooked cop trying to squeeze me out of a few greasy American dollars. Let's hope not anyways!

Matilda and I touched down at the airport just outside of San Juan to the sound of an entire cabin full of clapping passengers. (Is this a local custom of PR? Because this was one of the least turbulent landings I have ever experienced).

Just outside of baggage claim we hopped into the back seat of a generic looking red bus and found ourselves on our way to the "U-Save" car rental place.

Almost immediately as I sat in the back of a bus
and was unable to communicate with the bus driver my nerves began to work themselves into overdrive.

How did we find ourselves in a different country and on a generic bus trying to rent a car from some place called "U-Die", I mean "U-Save"? I wondered nervously to myself.

Shortly thereafter, I was able to calm myself down as I was able to regaine control over the situation. I realized this only after I had a full grip on the rental cars steering wheel and was able to manage locking both doors.

Thank you mom and
dad for my overwhelming anxiety issues. I have a friend who calls himself "anxiety" for life. I say that as a joke because I love both of my parents to death, but for anyone that ever knew my father or knows my mother would realize that they both worried excessively and I managed to somehow inherit the sum of their anxiety.

Anyways moving on... as we casually walked into the hotel with minimal expectations, I could not believe my surroundings once we took one step inside.

The hotel was beyond incredible and resembled something out of a propped movie (read: perfect). Everything was sparkling clean,
and the lobby was massive.

The vast paned windows in the lobby were so close to the ocean that a fine ocean mist kept them covered most of the time I was there.

A quick look outside revealed four pools, a swim up bar, two jacuzzis, and a private lagoon all at
our disposal.

I knew right then and there that this was the beginning of a good vacation. So rightly and desperately needed might I add.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Lake Anna Weekend Blitz

Saturdays are definitely a commodity and one thing is for sure, they are usually over before you know it. That is why I try to make the best of my Saturdays during the summer months.

After choking down a stale breakfast cookie last Saturday morning, I threw on my D.O.T approved full face helmet, pushed in the choke, popped the stand and just a matter of minutes later I was southbound and down route 28.

Finding my way through Manassas, Nokesville, Culpepper and eventually ending up somewhere on the outskirts of the ever gorgeous Lake Anna.

It is still amazing to me that after living in Northern Virginia for almost 8 years now how rural "The Real Virginia" can be.

This serene and beautiful virgin habitat resides just a handful of miles outside of the industrial looking, traffic strewn, North-South Virginia boundary otherwise known as the capital beltway.

As I rode past a fresh crop of sprouting tobacco plants basking themselves in the glow of the sweltering sun, I could smell their sweet aroma as it crept up through the air and eventually found its way into my nasal passages.

Taking in the smell of nature while riding on my motorcycle is one of my favorite aspects of riding.

I distinctly remember what it felt like just a few months ago as I drove down the Eastern Shore and got my first whiff of the dry salty ocean air as it drifted from my nose and clung to my exposed skin.

After a sometimes anxious hour and a half of straight riding, I finally reached my destination of Mineral Virginia.

As I found myself navigating through a desolate back field traversing a muddy makeshift parking lot it was just then that I heard the first wail of a banjo echo through the trees in the distance. I had made it to the blue grass festival!

The fest was decent at best. I stayed for a couple of hours. I could tell that I did not fit the demographic for this particular event. I was under 60, did not have a confederate flag flagrantly draped off the back of my motorcycle and I did not have a wad of tobacco balled up in the right cheek of my mouth. I found my way out of the festival midway through a set.

Shortly thereafter I must have passed Lake Anna State Park's driveway about three times before I was finally able to find it. The drive through the park was fairly uneventful. I decided to go try my luck at the beach in the park to see if I could score some rays and a little midday nap.

As I got to the beach I noticed it there were signs posted indicating that there was an additional beach fee. How ridiculous I thought to myself, I'm not paying an additional fee to sit on an artificial and crowded beach.

In non violent protest as perfected by Gandhi I set my towel just outside of the beach area on the grass and sat down to rest. After a failed attempt to catch a nap, I made a few phone calls and was back on the bike northbound towards Manassas.

The ride back was LONG and tiring to say the least. I got lost at least 10 times and was starting to become frustrated right around the time that I ended up just south of Leesburg Virginia.

After picking a road at random that appeared to lead in the direction east I was finally able to call it a day.

As I parked my bike in the parking lot. I hobbled off the bike with a sore ass and found my way upstairs where B-ron and Fab Five had been waiting for me with Matilda.

Was it as I navigated my way down Route 522 along side the base of the Blue Ridge mountain range or when I caught my first site of the glistening waters of the deep blue Lake Anna when the endorphins kicked in and I found myself high on life? I don't know. But either way both made for an incredible day!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Summer that Never Came

Had you talked to me in early March, I had nothing on my mind except for the fact that I had just recently gotten over an illness that had consumed the better part of six months of my life.

I was extremely anxious and ready to ex-spell some of this un-invited cooped up energy to say the very least.

Suffice it to say that I was looking more than forward to some sort of idea that would bring me towards my ultimate goal of that seemingly un-graspable concept of "simple relaxation".

Hell... maybe alls it would take is hearing that crisp pick of the banjo echoing through the Shenandoah valley as I dozed off under the waning crescent moon that would bring me to my own salvation!

If that doesn't suit your fancy how about more of a moderate range? Let's go with riding my motorcycle into endless sunsets to just feeling the grit of sand between my toes as I basked in the luminous and radiant glow of the sun reflecting off of the salty beaches of the eastern Maryland shore.

After countless and sometimes violent torrential downpours that seemed to fall strategically on a Friday and end late Sunday night just as I realized that you I had to go back to work tomorrow, here I stand four months later.

Two moves and one muggings later, it's mid July and I feel robbed of not just my own dignity but of something that people take for granted. I feel robbed of my summer.

Let's just say "I'm ready to get my summer on" Who's with me?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sometimes I Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me.

Hey listen, I apologize now. I'm sorry ok? All's I can say is that I thought it was over (no not my opening line in the Chan 4 news broadcast) come on let's get serious here.

But no, seriously, I thought the incident was done. "This will happen never again." "Done with! That's the way these things go right?" "We're moving on".

Do you still blame me?

On July 10th I was nearly as over it as you can be. This was four days later and I was more than anxious for life to get back to some sort of semblance of normality.

At work that day, I couldn't help but think of anything else except for the fact that within just a matter of hours this was going to be the first chance since the attack that I would finally get a chance to pull back a coupla beers and just chill with Matilda and Allen in our new apartment. We'd drink some beers. We'd crack the occasional joke about someone breaking in. Ha ha ha.

"Get some movies too, take your time, I'll be fine". Matilda yelled as Allen and I were fastidiously on our way out the door.

Fast forward about 15 minutes after I had hit Giant and the nights libations had been secured... as I'm filling out a Block Buster application I received a call from Matilda saying that two burly black men had come to our door at 7:30 at night.

"It has to be those guys from the apartment complex that are there to install the locks on the windows". I preached in good faith might I add.

"Nope, already called the apartment complex". Came the reply.

"We'll be there in 2 minutes". I said as I crumpled up the Block Buster application.

It was right then as I stepped out of the Block Buster door and laid one foot onto the sidewalk that I saw the the dirtbag that robbed me.

It was something about his walk, his slight strut to the right hand side with this overwhelming air of intimidation. It was those dangling dreaded braids that I remembered so clearly before I pulled poor Allen into the truck and told him with a shaking voice that I was sure it was the guy that robbed me.

Soon thereafter, when they told me that they knew who he was and that the dog had lost his scent just a block away from where he lived. I grew more furious by the second.

Three days later, after lost sleep and brutalized nerves for the entire weekend, I've learned that the two guys who felt totally inclined to come to our door that night were more than likely related to the case. The two guys that I thought had followed me to Block Buster were probably not.

Damn. I look back and aside from the boxes that line our living space, this is a reminder of where we are at now. The message for tonight is to trust your instincts but don't trust them too much to make you paranoid.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Almost Dead

It happened in the blink of an eye and yet somehow it still managed to feel like it would never end.

It happened as I've always imagined that these types of things happen. Violently and without warning. Add a dimly lit parking lot on a humid dark summers night, a lone victim unsuspectingly carrying on about his business and you have the perfect four liner crime blurb in your local paper.

Except this time was different for me. This time I wasn't perusing through the Washington Post's crime beat section as I casually sipped my first cup of coffee at work. No... no... unfortunately for me, this time I was actually forced to live through the traumatizing real life experience.

As we walked our dog Emma through the apartment complex I thought to myself how nice it was to live in the burbs for the summer. It wasn't much passed 9:45 on a quiet Monday night and Matilda and I were on our way to the back parking lot to see if we could get Emma to do her business for the night.

After several failed attempts by Matilda and I to coax her into relieving herself we gave up and began walking back to the apartment. As we were walking back I noticed that Emma was finally ready to go do her business. I volunteered to walk the 250 feet or so back to the dog bag station in the parking lot and grab a bag.

As I neared the bagging station, about 500 feet away three dark figures caught my attention walking out of a foot path in the woods that connects the apartment parking lot to a large shopping center.

Even at this stage, I was fairly sure that trouble was imminent. Even though they were far enough away for me to outrun them, I considered all of my options. At this point I was under no immediate threat and I figured my best option was to get back to the middle of the well lit apartment complexwhere I felt confident that they would not dare to jack me.

As I walked as fast and inconspicuously as I could, the fear was too overwhelming to look behind me. At some point (and details are hazy at this point) I instinctually knew that they were behind me. Just mere seconds later I heard the fast pattering of running feet.

In a last act of desperation I opened my mouth to call out to Matilda to run and as my brain was crafting the words to roll off my tongue I thought better of the idea and decided not to tip them off to the fact that Matilda was ahead of me. And by this time she was well ahead of me.

"This is it" I thought to myself, my very first time ever being mugged. I wondered how would it go down? I had lived in Woodbridge for 5 years previous to this and knew that it was generally a safe upscale neighborhood. I was scared but not worried if you can even try to makes sense of that statement.

That all changed the moment I saw the small black pistol out of my peripheral vision and felt it make contact with the side of my head just and inch or two above my right ear. It was also at this time that I felt something sharp in my back as well as a clenched hand on the collar of my tee shirt.

My body was instantaneously overwhelmed by shock that I had trouble getting my legs to do what came natural to them. I could barely walk. Whatever chemical is secreted in your brain beyond adrenaline in high pressure situations is a god send. I immediately went into survival mode. As calm as watching the sunset I asked:

Me: "What do you want".
Robber 1: "Give me the money nigga".
Robber 2: "Give us money nigga or you gonna get hurt".
Me: "I'm walking my dog man, I have no money on me".
Robber 1: "You better get money nigga".
Me: "I've got money in my apartment, just chill, just relax".

As I tried desperately to reassure them that they were going to get paid, I saw a large object come towards my face, I reacted by falling into a yard as one of their fists made its first contact with the right side of my cheekbone.

As I laid in the damp grass I thought to myself that it's just a matter of time before I'm dead. What would my family think? What about the things that I haven't accomplished yet? It's amazing the things that run through your mind when you're life is in jeopardy.

I believe that I heard the distinct dry crackling sound of the high voltage stun gun before I first felt the current make its entrance into my rib cage and penetrate legs. I had never been stunned before and the only way that I can attempt to describe the feeling is that I can understand exactly why they call it a "stun gun". It wasn't exactly painful it was just was what it was.

Luckily one of these criminals had a fragment of a conscious and told the others to stop. As they grabbed me and pulled me up I got my first glimpse of the masks they were wearing. Apparently, the common run of the mill criminal ski mask has been replaced by the more stylish and intimidating scream mask.

As they walked me like a dog with the gun firmly pressed to the back of my head, I quickly scanned the area ahead of me to look for Matilda. She was no where in my limited scope of vision. Later on after the fact I learned she had heard an odd sound (the tazer) and saw them pounce on me. Knowing I had no money on me she ran up the stairs and into the apartment to get money.

After reaching the steps up to our apartment I began to cycle through a list of ideas for not letting them into the apartment. Them entering the apartment was an assured deal breaker for me. I knew that if they entered the apartment Matilda and I would b0th be found tied up and dead sometime the next day more than likely. However, as I tried to explain that she would get the money and throw it down, criminal one said he was going to shoot me. As I got three quarters of the way up the stairs the door opened and Matilda was holding onto cash, as one of them stepped a foot into the house Matilda told him that he was not coming in and I said he was not to make another step.

After an exchange of about $50 cash, I stood nearly face to face with him still with his scream mask. He said something to me that I do not remember. Something insulting but neither Matilda nor I can remember exactly what it was.

I stood there and proudly took it like a bitch. You want to know why?...

Because Matilda and I were both still alive at a cost of only $25 a piece.
Because this kid risked 15 years in prison for what I make in 1 hour. That's .0003 $ per hour.
Because statistically speaking this dumb son of a bitch will most likely never live past 30.
and lastly...
Because no matter what I think of that I could have done differently I can smile and think to myself that I know we did everything right and the fact that we are both still alive proves it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Thunder Rolls

June 21st may be the first official day of summer but Memorial Day weekend is the "unofficial" kick off of to the summer season.

Officially or unofficially, whatever your persuasion may be, the start of summer couldn't have started nicer than last Saturday afternoon in suburban Washington, DC as the sun was shining bright and the air was warm to the touch.

Matilda's brother Ara and his fiancee Lucy who were in town for a wedding hopped in their rental car (a PT Cruiser none the less) and headed southbound to Richmond for a rehearsal dinner they were invited to.

As for me, well I had my sights set on attending the annual DelFest bluegrass concert for the evening. Nestled in the Cumberland Gap region, DelFest attracts several top bands in the bluegrass circuit. Visions of sipping beer, banjo pickin, and slapping my thigh to some bluegrass music occupied my mind for most of the day. In preparation, I decided to clean my motorcycle for the festival and of course the Rolling Thunder Memorial Day motorcycle parade the following day.

Later on that evening after I had cleaned the bike, done the laundry, and performed a host of other chores for the day I simply could not muster up the energy to drive the three hours out to Cumberland Maryland on my motorcycle. I was dangerously low on fuel and no amount of Red Bull was going to top off my tank.

As tired as I was, I still managed to find enough energy to be disappointed in myself for not making the effort to go to something I had been looking forward to for so long. Mentally torturing myself I couldn't help but think about how tonight there would be no dancing, no thigh slapping good times, no sipping of beer... (well lets not get carried away here)... of course there would be sipping of beer and perhaps even some of my own banjo pickin but it would be done in the comfort and safety of Matilda's living room.

Later that night after having a few beers with my friend Bryan I happened to catch the eleven o'clock news while flipping through channels. One of the lead stories was concerning Del Fest.

Apparently, a violent storm had passed through the area resulting in the main stage being destroyed by wind. Four people had also sustained minor injuries from lighting that had struck the festival.

I thought to myself how ironic it was that my own pure laziness saved me from a torrential downpour and the possibility of being struck by lighting.

Lucidly dreaming but soundly sleeping in my own bed that night I was awkwardly comfortable that I did not make it to the festival that evening.

The next day was great. I woke up at 11:00 a.m. and rushed to the shower in order to make the twelve o'clock motorcycle parade going on downtown. Driving on my motorcycle downtown there was car and motorcycle traffic everywhere.

After driving down several side streets and getting denied access I ended up attaching myself (uninvited of course) to a group of about seven Harley's.

As we pulled up to a police barricade for no reason that I could discern, the officer moved an orange barrel and let us directly into the parade completely circumventing the Pentagon staging area.

Deciding not to immediately jump into the parade I ended up parking my bike on the side of the street next to about fifteen other riders from an Ohio chapter and watched the parade for a good two and a half hours.

I could not believe the shear volume of motorcycles slowly moving down Independence Avenue. This was the largest Rolling Thunder parade I had ever witnessed. The name "Rolling Thunder" was the name given to one of the most intense operations in the Vietnam war. Rolling Thunder was designed specifically for intimidation purposes against the Northern Vietnamese by dropping massive bombs on several disbursed targets throughout the country.

It was hard not to see the symbolism in the name "Rolling Thunder" as hundreds of thousands of eclectic cycles and cyclists took the the streets to bring attention to their cause. With engines revved in rebellion, they slowly crept down Constitution Avenue all the while knowing they were just a stones throw from the White house.

Some of the bikes were rigged out with the most random decorations. A personal favorite for me was the large Buffalo head (yes it was real) mounted to the sissy bar on the back of a motorcycle.

How random I thought to myself. I could not think of any significance of a Buffalo head to the Memorial day holiday. Maybe he was from Buffalo?

In any case, the day was great and my summer has officially begun. Now if mother nature would just cooperate!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cannonball Run

Five hundred and fifty miles, four states, three beaches, two days, and one hell of a ride.

It all started Friday evening when I hopped on the bike and drove up to Baltimore to see Larry Keel with Natural Bridge perform at Baltimore's equivalent of Iota... The 8x10.

As much as I typically enjoy drinking a beer and spacing out to the Keels, this was one show I just could not get into.

I'm going to chalk it up to the performing environment since I am more accustomed to seeing Larry and Jenny perform on a stage outdoors while under the influence of alcohol.

The highlight of the show for me was when I met a married couple from Buffalo. I later discovered that the woman and I had both went to Fredonia just one year apart from each other. Her for Comp. Sci and myself for Media Arts. After rattling off several names we failed to connect to Kevin Bacon.

Later that night I crashed at Matilda's cousins house in Canton. Early the next morning it was off to Wilmington Delaware to watch my niece play soccer. The drive up to Delaware on 95 north was the worst part of the entire trip.

I think they should amend the death and taxes proverb to include the fact that you can always count on some douche bag with Jersey plates riding 6 inches from your bumper on Northbound 95.

Anyhow, eventually after making it to Wilmington Delaware I spent the next two hours driving around in sunny 85 degree weather with a leather jacket on desperately trying to find the school where Brittany was playing. After stopping to ask at least six people for directions it occurred to me that people in Delaware seemed to live in their own world. I think they call it Space Case ville or something to that effect.

Not one single person had any idea where I could find River Rd. Eventually, I did find 122 River Road but to my horror I realized my sister had given me the wrong address when 122 River Road turned out to be a modest residential house.

Fuming at myself for not printing directions beforehand, I met up with my sister and her family at their hotel room in Newark Delaware, drank my two beer motorcycling limit, and devoured some greasy pizza.

Shortly thereafter, I was headed southbound down famous Route One in search of my overnight destination - Rehoboth Beach. Endless rolling tobacco farms, bridges over narrow ocean inlets, and the smell of the salty sea characterized my trip down the Delmarva peninsula.

About fifty miles deep into an eighty five mile drive with the sun setting to my west my bike fizzled out right before an eerie looking bridge in the middle of nowhere. Slightly panicked, I realized I needed gas, I switched the gas line over to my reserve and prayed that my bike would start. Thank god it did and I was scrambling to the nearest gas station.

After arriving in Rehoboth Beach with grand visions of a crazy night out, I would say it was around the time I took the first sip of a Dogfishhead beer when I realized that I needed a motel room STAT because I was about to pass out from exhaustion. The Seabreeze inn would suffice. After washing the road grit out of my eyes, I laid down in bed for just a minute when I heard voices from outside the door and realized it was morning.

After getting some breakfast and strolling along the beach, I hit Route 50 West to DC. The initial part of the drive was uneventful. About three quarters of the way home I came to the Bay Bridge. While driving over the bridge I had to remind myself to take deep breaths. Being that high up on a motorcycle over water with no pull off lane is somewhat intimidating to say the least. However after a few adrenaline filled minutes I was back on solid ground.

About 25 miles outside of Alexandria I was ready to throw in the towel. My butt was numb, I was sweating profusely, my arms were sunburned and I was dehydrated. I had to pull off and pretend I was shopping inside a 7/11 to cool down. When I made it home I checked the temperature and it said 96 degrees. The rest of the night I was in a relaxation mode.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My Own Mile High Club

As we made our final decent towards the massive Denver International Airport the view was absolutely astonishing. Snow covered mountain peaks sparsely decorated with vegetation smoothly flowed into seemingly empty abandoned valleys. We were at the start of the Rockies.

It's been a long time since I have had the privilege to visit Denver. I remember when I was younger my mother and father took me to Denver during one of my fathers many business trips. I do not remember much from that experience except for an odd random Abraham Lincoln ice sculpture in some ritzy mountain resort.

Matilda and I met up with her younger brother who picked us up from the airport and promptly drove us to the nearest watering hole (a biker bar none the less) to quench my alcohol craving and satisfy Matilda's blood sugar level. Bikers --check--, a thick haze of cigarette smoke --check--, dirty bathrooms --check--, and cheap beer made the Piper Inn the perfect dive.

After the long flight and the subsequent feasting on wings and drinking cheap beer we elected to stay in and relax that night.

Later the next day Matillda's brother took me up and into the Rockies to a ski resort called Keystone. As it turned out, we got a fantastic deal to snowboard all day for only $32 in observance of Keystone's customer appreciation day.

We pulled into the gravelly parking and as I glanced towards the crest of the mountain I could already feel my helpless lungs trying to acclimatize themselves to the lack of oxygen.

Tickets paid for with snow boards in hand, we stumbled into an enclosed gondola and made our way up to the summit of the mountain. I was in absolute awe of the scenery the entire ride up the mountain. I thought to myself how inferior the bunny hill ski slopes I had previously experienced in the Mid-Atlantic area were in relation to this goliath of a mountain.

The conditions on the top half of the mountain were beyond our expectations. Fresh powder took most of the laboring work out of boarding. However, half way down the mountain the conditions became something less than accommodating. The previous day had been about 72 degree's and sunny which made the bottom portion of the mountain feel like I should exchange my snowboard for a pair of ice skates.

After two quick runs down the mountain I felt as if my legs had been crafted out of jello. The ice was doing its damage and I was unsure how many more runs I could make in these conditions.

Several times with mild embarrassment I had to stop to catch my breath and massage my calves. The good thing was the mountain was so enormous and contained so many different trails that we would go several minutes without seeing anyone else.

It was during one gondola ride that we met some Australians who had come half way around the world to ski the great Rockies. They told us that these were the best mountains in the world for skiing and that they made the trip annually.

All in all we made about ten runs down the mountain before we surrendered our aching bodies to the two hour ride back into Denver. Along the way we stopped at bbq joint and choked down some pit beef subs like two emaciated savages. The vacation was off to a good start.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Balance of Life

What a hell of a Winter. It is safe to say that at any given moment from the frame of late October through early January you were most likely to find me in one of three places: laying on a couch, in a random doctors office, or slumped in front of my work computer desperately trying to act productive.

As you are probably aware, during the latter part of October I sold most of my belongings and I moved out of my house and into Matilda's house. The moving process was undoubtedly stressful to say the least, and as a result the process must have taken its toll on my body's immune system.

My admiration over completing the moving process was violently terminated one day while at work when I was casually talking to a colleague. Out of nowhere my eyes began to feel out of focus, I began feeling quezzy and soon thereafter objects in the room began to spin. Not too long after that came the nausea and vomiting.

Dismissing it as something that I must have eaten, I worked the rest of the day and came home and basically collapsed onto the couch. When I awoke the next day things were slightly better. Instead of the merry-go-round feeling I had a feeling of being on a small ship battling six foot sea swells.

After about two weeks of this feeling with little to no improvement I went to my first Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. This would kick off what would turn out to be a long series of doctors visits, blood tests, brain scans and CT scans. With the initial absence of a definitive diagnosis came the talks of being screen for the possibility of cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV, (insert several other scary diseases here).

Many anxiety ridden sleepless nights followed. I could not help but wonder how many tumors or MS induced brain lesions would be found on my MRI scan. Or what blood born pathogen might have decided to take up residence in my blood stream and help itself to my white blood cells.

After being tested for every invasive microbe known to mankind my original diagnosis of vestibular neuritis seemed the only diagnosis to make sense. Yet, since vestibular neuritis is a diagnosis of exclusion and since I have always been a bit of a hypochondriac, this was painful for my anxiety level.

Slowly but surely I have recovered most of my balance. My blurred vision has gotten significantly better and I have completely quit smoking and I did not take a single drink of alcohol or caffeine for about four months. I now take daily vitamins and try to exercise daily.

The impact that this has had on me is immeasurable. Never has my health been threatened to this extent. I have sincerely learned the value of good health and will cherish it from this point forward. While the severity of my ailment isn't nearly as bad as other life threatening diseases, in the moment it still felt overwhelming.