Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gates of Lodore: Day 2

Day two was when everything began to gel together. The day dawned cool and crisp since we were still hours away from direct sunlight ensconsed between the high cliff walls with a promising blue sky high above us. I was anxious to get back in the ducky again but willing to wait my turn. But I had a hopeful little hunch that the chill in the air - and the even more striking chill of the water - would discourage others from volunteering to kayak. As luck would have it only one new person volunteered to fill the two ducky spots. Of course, the other ducky-er from day 1 had also stepped up as willing to brave the cold for another chance at whitewater up close.

The guides had us try a more interactive version of rock/paper/scissors called hunter/bear/samurai to see who got to start the day sitting in water. Hunter/bear/samurai requires the players to stand back to back and on the count of three to turn around and strike a pose - either aiming a gun, bear claws out or brandishing a sword. Hunter beats bear, bear beats samurai and samurai somehow beats hunter.

On our first attempt, we both turned around in bear - probably because it is the easiest thing to do and requires the least amount of thought on one's first attempt.

(The girls doing a little Hunter/Bear/Samurai (that may look like archery) reenactment - plus one Charlie's Angel)

On the second try, I outsmarted him by pulling hunter (basically, the second easiest thing to think of when someone yells "3!") to his repeated bear and I won! I would be the lucky one to sit in icy water while the shadows kept the temperatures low . . . at least I was dressed for it in my paddling pants, and an extra layer under my jacket. I loved how the water bubbled up on top of my pants!

The morning found me falling more deeply in love with kayaking because this time? This time it was actually fun! Less nerves, more adrenaline. I was over the initial fear factor and into the "wow, this is awesome!" part. Well, mostly. I still had to paddle my way through Tripplet Falls and avoid getting sucked into the "birth canal" - yikes!

The main thing I remember about this run was the part just above this pushes you closer to the wall so you have to paddle pretty hard left to avoid getting sucked into the birth canal part - ie, all that scary, narrow white stuff between the boulders. I was paddling along at a safe distance behind the lead boat following his "line" as instructed. Until he was sort of stalled out and circling and I could not slow down. I yelled at the guide that I was passing him because - how could I stop? And he said to keep going and I paddled and paddled and paddled and pointed my nose left and never even looked at that crazy birth canal for fear it would suck me right in. There was some more technical maneuvering I somehow managed to pull off successfully without getting myself wrapped on a rock or tipped - a serious hazard we were told. Check off a boost in confidence for me.


We rounded off the morning of whitewater with one more rapid - Hells - which kayakers had to skip. Or at least we had to skip part of it. We still had some fun maneuvering on the bottom half, just skipped the part that our guides aren't allowed to let us go. And I was surprisingly disappointed!

When we stopped for lunch I took the opportunity to write in my journal a bit and said this:

We are pulled off on a beautiful sandy beach on a bend of the river. The river takes another bend just downstream around a marsh. And the red rock walls of the canyon rise straight up around us stained with varying patterns of streaking black. The sky is blue with long flat clouds with wispy edges and a strong wind. The day has warmed considerably from when we set out this morning.

After lunch I turned over my kayak and paddle to someone else for the afternoon. . . which proved to be a blessing since that strong wind only grew stronger and blew straight at us all the way to camp - I was spared from a lot of extra paddling. Instead I got to play passenger for the first time on the trip as Diego rowed and I snapped photos in a futile attempt to capture the feeling of the moment.

I also inexplicably volunteered to take a turn at rowing the boat. Wow, was that ever pointless! I offered to try in a ridiculously hard spot when "uncle gusty" (our head wind) was blowing especially forcefully. I suddenly had no concept of the difference between push and pull and was unable to muster enough coordination to push or pull (whatever the guide yelled at me), keep the oars straight up and down and actually get them in the water. I believe I also lost the ability to tell the difference between right and left. We got spun around and caught in an eddy a couple of times and I finally gave up when I backed us up into a sandy beach. As much as I sometimes envied their jobs, the guides did not have it easy - just ask the newbie Danny.

We had two guides - Lars and Diego and one guide-in-training, Danny. Since this was Danny's first run on this river he could not take any passengers, he just carried our stuff - including the groover. (I will refrain from using any of the earthier jokes about this particular job.) When I was in the kayak, during the flatter parts of the river, I spent a great deal of time chatting with little Danny. I think at that point he was probably the guide I knew the best since the others were generally caught up in conversation with the passengers on their oar boats. As the afternoon wore on and the wind persisted, Danny fell further and further and further behind. Most of the afternoon we could not see him at all.

When one of the kayakers decided she had had enough rowing into the wind, the other boat tied it to the back to tow and I hopped in for a little ride. It was a lot of fun and incredibly peaceful to just lie there and look at everything that was trailing behind us.

That night's camp proved to be the best evening of the trip. Shortly after we set up our tents for the night, we gathered in our dinner circle and Loron pulled out his guitar. People sang along to songs they knew as the guides prepared another delicious meal (mmm, burritos!) and I tried to gather my thoughts and capture the moment so I could remember the feeling of being tucked into the trees away from the gusty wind, Janet's excitement that Danny chose to play "Ripple" on the guitar, everyone singing to the Beatles, Shannon exclaiming "this is what it means to be a happy camper!", the family feel of the group that were strangers just a day earlier and most of all to remember the part where I wrote: "I am so happy." And someone captured a slice of that bliss in a photograph of my blurred pen caught in motion.

And that was all before dinner which was followed by dessert!

As night fell and the stars shined their hearts out for us with radiance, a few of us were reluctant to call it a night. The sand was extra soft and shooting stars were far too common. After some games and tricks in the sand that included a bizarre balancing game concocted by one of the guides that I cannot begin to explain, I dazzled them with my silly freakishly long armed/little head trick that I am also unable to describe (you just have to see it). A couple of people crashed on the beach staring up at the stars caught up in conversation and the three guides and my favorite co-rafter - "Janet After Dark" who had enough drinks in her to be a bit rambunctious, sat on the boats talking. One of the guides had a battery-operated speaker for his ipod so we listened to music as we got to know each other in a way that you can only do sitting outside in the dark under a moonless sky. There is something about the faux anonymity of darkness that loosens tongues and encourages depth of conversation. Of course, along with the depth came the silly when Janet got a hold of the ipod.

Soon, our conversation turned into 80s dance party on the boats. It was one of the best parts of the trip - even if I could not convince Janet that I was sober . . .


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Take a Hike

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, this past weekend I experienced a first - my first hike on the Appalachian Trail. The portion of the trail I tried out was only a couple of hours north of the City by car with the option of getting there by train. I had read that it was possible to access it by train before but was always a little nervous about checking it out on my own. But now - now that I have been there, I will definitely be going back for more. We are just at the beginning of the fall colors and I look forward to seeing more.

I wasn't paying enough attention to the time and pace to come up with a proper estimate of our mileage - I guessed around 8-10 and the trip leader guessed on the higher end of 10-12 miles. Ultimately we agreed to call it 10.2 miles. The scenery was so stunning, I took a lot of photos. Enough, in fact, to create a virtual hike I want to share with all of you. So pull on your hiking shoes, dress in layers because the temperature will vary and don't forget some rain gear - because you will be sure to see a lot of rain. Don't worry about lunch, I made plenty for everyone and I never hike without a tasty homemade trail mix. Enjoy.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ruby's Wedding: Part IV

You didn't think I was finished telling you about that Indian wedding I went to earlier this summer, did you? If you've missed it, I've already talked about some of the pre-wedding festivities, the pre-ceremony photo session and limo ride and the ceremony. I can't not tell you about the rest. Especially since I haven't even made it to the part about the knock-out princess day 2 westernized bridal gown Disney only wishes it had designed.

But before I get to Day 2 and all of its fabulousness, I need to finish telling you about Day 1 of the festivities because the day did not end with the post-ceremony luncheon. After a surreal bus ride through the agricultural fields of northern California, which my seat companion noted bore a striking resemblance to India, we arrived at the hotel for some more lingering and waiting.

I was told there would be more photos and although it wasn't entirely clear, I thought maybe I was supposed to be in some of them so I couldn't change. I had also been invited to the dinner hosted by the groom's family that evening but I could feel my energy waning. After eating a few sweet snacks in a tea room on the second level of the hotel and failing to hold up my end of the conversation with a bridesmaid out of sheer fatigue, we spotted the bride and groom wandering in the gardens across the street. The two bridesmaids and I trudged our way across the street to see if we were needed and discovered a slightly more relaxed couple than we had left in the blistering sun a short time earlier outside the temple. After a few more photos, we all returned to the hotel and managed to talk the bride into sitting down for a quick drink in the lobby bar while we waited for the next event which required the groom's family who hadn't yet arrived.

Unfortunately, the waitress refused to get the bride a drink quickly as instructed and we had to rush back upstairs for another ceremony.
I wish I knew a little bit more of the official description or title of this ceremony but google is failing me and I do not recall the name. But unofficially, this is what I observed. Since the bride's family was temporarily residing in the hotel, the landing at the top of the stairs above the lobby stood proxy for the bride's familial home. A ribbon was tied across the entry blocking the groom from entering the bride's "home." Her sisters, aunts, cousins and mother were the gatekeepers as Raj and his family approached the faux threshold.

Initially, Raj attempted to bribe his way into the home with money and really hammed it up with some witty comments about his bride's worth. The women blocking his entry required more and more money from the groom as they praised her beauty and extolled her virtues. I stood near Ruby as she beamed at the spectacle until she told me she wanted him to do push-ups. I had no idea what my role in this thing should be but I passed the message along to her sisters and before we knew it, Raj was on the floor doing push-ups to access his bride. More dares were issued, one of which resulted in a (um, not so great) rendition of a song about San Francisco. I think.
Finally, after the bride's mother felt sorry for him under all that harrassment, the sisters handed the groom a pair of be-ribboned scissors which allowed him to cut the ribbon barring his entrance and he was welcomed into the "home" and everyone squeezed their way into a small conference room for yet another ceremony.

By this point, the stress and lack of sleep that led up to my very minor role in the day's events was catching up to me. I had eaten very little, slept even less and it was a struggle for me to remain polite, let alone coherent when asked any questions. While I really wanted to soldier on and finish the night out at the family dinner, I knew I just didn't have the stamina to get on the bus and drive 45 minutes, participate in a rambunctious party and wait for the bus to return. I knew the 10 pm estimated return would not prove to be accurate. I learned two broad generalizations about Indians that weekend: 1) nothing ever happens anywhere near the time it is supposed to; and 2) wow, Indians have an unbelievable amount of stamina to attend ceremony after ceremony after ceremony and party afterwards without waivering. I come from low-energy people who can sit on cozy couches in sweats and talk into the wee hours of the morning but find it difficult to stay out in a stimulating environment much past 10 pm.

So, I opted out of the evening's festivities and instead changed into something less beaded and met up with my friends for dinner. It was only about 7 or 8 pm but to me it might as well have been long past midnight. We ate some pretty good Chinese at a recommended Sacramento staple and I grunted responses, shoveled in food and used every ounce of energy I had left to keep from drifting off to sleep mid-meal.

I turned down the invitation to walk to the river and instead returned to my hotel and promptly went to sleep, hoping to rest enough to be able to keep up with the Indians at the reception the next night.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The National Parks

A small taste of the Appalachian Trail in New York (not a National Park, just where I was today).

This evening, after hiking a portion (a very small sliver) of the Appalachian Trail, I took a hot shower and settled into my couch to watch the first installment of Ken Burns' new documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea". Full episodes can be found online or you can check for local times here.

As always, spending a day in nature put me in the mindset of wanting to explore more, see more, be restored more frequently by the serenity of life away from cars and crowds and technology. The coincidence of having the opportunity to watch the first episode of Ken Burns' documentary on the National Parks was fortuitous as I was able to sink into my couch with aching calves and remind myself of a little goal I have had lurking in the back of my mind for a while - it even made my 100 list - to visit all 58 National Parks.

Near the opening of the film, an on-camera historian said the following without attribution, so I'm going to assume they are his own words which so poignantly spoke to me.
What emerges in the middle of the 19th century is this idea that going back to wild nature is restorative. It's a way of escaping the corruptions of urban civilized life finding more innocent self, returning to who you really are, returning to a kind of authenticity. And if you want to know God at first hand the way to do that is not to enter a cathedral, not to open a book but to go to the mountain top. And on the mountain top, there you will see God as God truly is in the world.
-William Cronon, historian

All my life, the times I have felt the most at peace and the closest to God are when I am sitting on mountain tops gazing on panoramic vistas, marching along rocky trails and reclining on boulders in the midst of rushing water. I am able to achieve a clarity of spirit when I escape the more civilized world that is difficult for me to achieve amid the distractions of traffic, television and teeming crowds. Meditation is no longer an effort and prayer becomes reflexive as I thank God repeatedly for allowing me this gift - the sights, the smells, the textures.

More than anything else my parents gave me, I am grateful to them for introducing me to the wonders of nature before I had words to thank them for the gift. Each summer we spent multiple weekends and 1-2 week stretches either in our 6-man Springbar tent or our trailer. When the weather cooled enough that camping was not comfortable or time was limited, we took drives up nearby canyons, went on day hikes and had picnics that got us out of the city and into the mountains. Even as each of us entered our teenage years when family vacations were less desirable, we made requests to invite friends to help us endure rather than opt out completely.

And National Parks were always central to our expeditions. Yellowstone and Zion are especially intertwined in my personal history with family traditions that span generations crawling up each side of my family tree.
(Top left, working clock-wise) me with Malcolm in Yellowstone; (top right) Erin and me in southern Utah somewhere; (left middle) my Dad and me at the Grand Canyon; (right middle) all my siblings and me in Yellowstone; (bottom right) me on my log in Yellowstone; (bottom left) siblings at Yellowstone Lake; (left middle) me at Arches; (right middle) my brothers, cousin and me in Zion.

In Yellowstone we camped at Fishing Bridge next to the lake and attended fireside chats with uniformed rangers about the habits of hibernating bear and the geothermal activity of the ground beneath us. We played cards on picnic tables and toted pocket reference books to help us identify wild flowers and trees. We encountered moose and buffalo and bear and ribbed each other when driving through the most sulfurous areas of the park. We ate ice cream cones from the Lodge as we waited in wonder to see Old Faithful erupt and swam in Yellowstone Lake to the amazement of other tourists strolling along the black sand beaches bundled in layers. We cooked dutch oven meals and indulged in treats that were in more abundant supply when we camped. We listened to Dad re-tell the stories of the things he saw and did in these very places when he was a kid and asked him to once more tell us about the time Grandpa threw a fish at a bear. We mourned the destruction of the great fire of 1988 and feared what would never be the same, even as we were grateful for the opportunity to know it so intimately before the fires. We have also been lucky enough to watch the park regenerate itself from charred black trees to a thriving wilderness.

We went to Zion and heard Mom's amazing stories of playing in the tunnel and peering out the carved windows we could only catch glimpses of as we whizzed by in the car. We hiked to Emerald Pools over and over and took our shoes off to wade in the Virgin River at the mouth of the Narrows. It was our time in Zion and Bryce National Parks that pulled me south for college where I fell in love with these parks more deeply to where I almost feel territorial over them.

In other words, I cannot think of my childhood and upbringing without envisioning my family traipsing through the woods somewhere or sitting around a campfire mesmerized by the flames, content with the world. Which is why I loved the film's closing quote so much:
The tendency nowadays to wander in wilderness is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home. That wildness is a necessity and that mountain parks and reservations are useful, not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.
-John Muir

Today I hiked with a variety of people, a couple of whom had never stepped on a trail in their lives. They are experiencing it all for the first time cautiously, with questions and concerns. But I have no memory of a learning curve; for me, wildness has always been a necessity and the mountains will always be a going home - a return to self, a fortification taken from the fountain of life.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Stuff

I believe the things we put on our walls, carry in our bags, stock our bookshelves and decorate our homes with reveals something about ourselves. Which is why I find interior decorating a bit impersonal sometimes - carefully placed coffee table books from Barnes & Noble selected for their aesthetic just aren't the same as the ones purchased in airport bookstores using the last of one's foreign currency. For me at least.

Today I would like to tell you a little story. Once upon a time my sister came to visit me in NYC. During her visit we stopped by my office. I had been settled into my office a good 6 months at that point but my shelves and walls were pretty blank. She claimed my office was sterile and completely impersonal. Which is really not my style.

As a result, when we visited an exhibit of Van Gogh's drawings at the Metropolitan Museum during her stay, she bought me this gift with the directive that I needed to put it on my desk at work:

(In return, I bought her the same gift for her office. Clever, I know.)

Now, about four years later, my office is a little more personalized. So I thought I would share a few of the items cluttering up my shelves. Please forgive all photos, they were taken with my phone and all ended up blurry. I'm no good with the camera phone. First up is a slightly abstract rendering of my beloved mystery mazda gifted to me by my sister so I would always remember my "white trash roots" - her words, not mine.

As you can tell, I've also added a calendar from the river rafting company I've traveled with twice now as well as a speaker docking station for my ipod.

I've acquired other things along the way, like art work from kids willing to draw for me:

Gifts from clients . . .
A Homer Simpson sugar cookie I was gifted in the summer of 2007 but recently discovered a "Best if used by: 02-15-09" designation on the back. Ick! And photos, of course.
A little trinket from Tikal, Guatemala.
Framed photos with my favorite travel buddy - my sister. One in Bryce Canyon and one in the best bed & breakfast in Florence, Italy (there were frescos on the ceiling).
More photos and a couple of paintings by my sister that always get a lot of attention.
A photo of my sweet dog Malcolm.
And a hodge-podge of other bits and pieces I've tacked up on my bulletin board.

(P.S. that bottle next to the kleenex is balsamic vinegar . . . )

So tell me, what is in your office? Or bedroom or cubicle or kitchen . . . .

Thursday, September 24, 2009

ch-ch-ch-changes

I often hear of how much people fear and dread change. Saying goodbye and cutting ties and moving on (from people, a place or even a behavior) to something new and different can be sad and lonely and scary. But it can also be magical and beautiful and exciting and, above all else - different! And sometimes different is better. And even if it is not better, it feels good to mix things up because being somewhere/doing something new and unfamiliar brightens up the drabness of all that same-ness that you just exchanged for this new . . . thing!

I am a person who craves change. There is something in me that loves a fresh start, a clean slate - an opportunity for reinvention. Isn't that what a new school year did for us as a child? An opportunity to get new clothes, be surrounded by a different mix of peers and to start fresh with new teachers.

I guess attending four elementary schools, three junior high schools, one high school and three separate universities will either make one hate or love change. I managed to land in the latter category.

But it sometimes makes me restless.

When in the city, I crave the mountains (though I can't recall craving the city while in the mountains).

While relaxing in my parent's living room, I crave the go-go-go pace of NYC's sidewalks.

Under the near-boiling, sopping wet temperature of a typical August in NYC (though not this year), I wonder about what it will feel like to be bundled under layers and layers and still feel cold on this very sidewalk outside my building due to a biting arctic wind.

As a student I longed for the days when I would regularly collect a paycheck.

Yet, as a working professional, I envy the relative simplicity of student life.

Growing up there was always a mile-marker age just ahead to look forward to - especially the triple-threat of 16, 18 and 21 in fast succession.

I flip through catalogues in search of a new couch, even as I sink into the comfort of the one that knows my shape so well.

I am always daydreaming about my next vacation - tropical beach or mountain adventure?

I miss snowboarding while the snow is gone.

I miss the beach when the rain slaps against my window.

I long for a companion even as I enjoy the absolute freedom of the single life.

I crave the arid desert air despite the smoothness of my skin under the influence of constant humidity.

This is not to say I do not love and appreciate the moment I am in. I long ago learned the lesson to not wish away the present (although, I must confess to the need to re-teach myself this lesson over and over again and ban the statement "I will be happy when _____" from my internal monologue).

But this craving for change is a separate sort of longing. It starts with a whisper of how things could be different, new, exciting. Change holds the thrilling promise of unknown joy and sorrow and growth and freindship. It isn't always about a revolutionary transition - job, house, state, marital status, children. Sometimes, a subtle shift is enough to satisfy the craving. A slight behavior modulation can sometimes mix things up enough to satisfy the craving - like learning to run or walking/driving a different route or inviting someone to dinner you wouldn't normally have befriended.

But lately?

Lately I've been craving something bigger. Which is probably why I have started running, gotten myself involved in social events I normally would not have participated in and just generally opened myself to doing things a little bit different from how I have done them before. The question is, are these change enough, or do I truly want more?

book reviews

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I won this book on a blog giveaway which claimed it was the single best book the person had read. I believe she even claimed it was life changing. I love book recommendations and I'm generally a pretty easy audience as long as the book has movement but I stalled out several times with this one. The writing is good, the story is interesting but for whatever reason it just didn't grab me. Normally I thoroughly enjoy diving into another culture, a different perspective on life but this one didn't take. Not that I disliked the culture or perspective, just that it did not reel me in. Instead, I felt like an outsider - as if I wasn't urban enough and didn't know enough Dominican slang to follow. It is also quite vulgar, seemingly, just for the sake of being extremely vulgar. The somewhat omniscient narrator for the bulk of the novel (though other voices take over at times) is an unapologetic player who views the world as all being motivated by sex. And that is essentially the novel. If you have sex - you are living. If you are a virgin, your life is not worth living because you are a loser.

All that being said, there was something about Diaz' writing that pulled me back in, even after abandoning the book a couple of times. I ultimately picked it back up and enjoyed it. Maybe my initial lack of interest was a timing problem, I don't know.

Ultimately, I think this book was hyped up so much that I started into it with too high of expectations. Once I dropped those expectations and just accepted it for what it is, I actually liked it. Mostly. Although, I would have preferred that the author drop the arrogant, often condescending tone. Lesson learned: don't let the hype get to you.

View all my reviews >>

Downtown Owl: A Novel Downtown Owl: A Novel by Chuck Klosterman


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What I liked best about Klosterman's novel is that is essentially a string of character studies that overlap and intertwine. Klosterman sketches out the various characters using back stories of their nick-names, descriptions of the homes they inhabit, the music they listen to and peeking into their thoughts at random to stand in as actual plot and action. While the book feels as if it is building toward an event that never happens, I can't say that I was disappointed with the ending. Had I paid more attention to the hints in the beginning, I probably would have realized where the characters were heading.

Despite the book's focus on a few key characters, I cannot say I was emotionally intertwined with how their stories ultimately played out. The author only took one character to a deeper level but I don't think I realized that until the book abruptly ended.

I would recommend the book to others for the excellent character studies. Although I think Klosterman's female character was the weakest.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Gates of Lodore: Day 1

Confession: this trip was billed as a "solo traveler" trip. I would be lying to you if I did tell you that I went into it with the teeny, tiniest glimmer of hope of meeting someone. Someone male. Someone male who was rugged, attractive and outdoorsy.

Of course, I should also tell you that I describe myself as an optimistic realist which means - hope for the best but expect reality. So while I did have this little seed of hope that maybe, perhaps, quite possibly, or at least theoritcally, I could meet someone . . . I did not expect it and mostly just figured that would be a bonus if it happened.

Before you get any ideas, I will just tell you: it didn't. And I knew that before the trip even technically started because the night before we hit the river, we had a very brief orientation meeting at which I was able to size up my travel companions. My first impression? Maybe the guides will be attractive . . .

What I did not expect is this - how unbelievably funny and interesting and fascinating this eclectic little group of six would be. Especially the women. Most especially the women.

Three of the four women with whom I spent four days on a river were around my age-ish and all four of them were bright, successful, attractive, adventerous and genuine. I could not have asked for better travel companions! The oldest among us recently lost 60 pounds so she could do things like learn to hang glide (err, or paraglide? not sure of the difference) and sky dive and just be healthy enough to do the things that had always interested her. Inspriational!


One of the women is a recently divorced psychiatrist originally from the south who talks even more than I do and can be just as ridiculous. Just hand her a coke and wait 15 minutes for the show.


Another among us films ground breaking surgeries, has a quiet sense of humor, is a travel whiz and lucky for me - lives in a nearby state!


And finally, perhaps my favorite one of all is the girl who was the most suprising. On that first day she seemed nice enough but more on the quiet side. I was still trying to remember the names of everyone and distinguish which blonde-haired girl was which. Then, after dinner, after this one had a chance to get a drink or two in her . . . she turned into "J__ After Dark"! It was hilarious for the sheer shock of it! Suddenly every other word out of her mouth was an expletive. I am not one to condone such language but I also don't condemn it too much (I am, after all, a lawyer in NYC, I cannot have too delicate of sensitivities). The contrast from daytime broke the newness tension and she was an instant hit. Oh, and she is hilarious and an intensive care RN in her day job. Or, more accurately, her night job since she works nights - which is her explanation for the swing in behavior.


Happily, it did not take the full four days for me to realize the quality of people with whom I was traveling. Going into this trip I had one goal. Ahem, aside from meeting the perfect outdoorsman with whom to share my life. This one goal was a bit more within my control - to overcome my fear of the inflatable kayak. You see, last summer, I had a bit of a disaster story in one wherein I ended up swimming through a Class III rapid. So, on that bright sunshiney Saturday morning, with a group of strangers, I vowed to be tough and strong and beat this fear.


The morning was calm and mostly flat with just a few bumps in the water. I felt strong and confident. We stopped for lunch and I chatted a bit with my fellow travelers, ate a delicious lunch and took a quick little hike up the hill to get a better view of the river below and the red rock bluffs above us. I still didn't know everyone's name and mostly, I was keeping to myself just taking in the beauty all around us.

Post-lunch we weren't in the boats very long when we pulled over to "scout out" our first real rapid . . . DISASTER FALLS! After securing the boats to shore, we took a little walk along side the river until we were above the rapid. My stomach folded into itself and doubt settled in. I was scared. The guides calmly pointed at boulders sticking out of the water and described "finger waves" and currents as I stared without seeing. I felt a little sick. There was one other person in an inflatable kayak - a "ducky" - and he was male. And he seemed unafraid, despite the fact that he had never done this before. Or, perhaps, because he had never done this before.

I asked the guides to explain over and over again how I needed to position myself just to the right of the first boulder, then point my nose slightly left to ride the current over the drop off. My heart continued to pound. Then one of the girls tugged on my pony tail and I felt slightly better. I kept thinking I wouldn't do it but the guides told me they were confident I could do it and one of the other girls told me I needed to do it for all of the girls. I took a deep breath and walked back, still flip flopping in my head.

But I climbed into the kayak anyway, chanting the instructions over and over in my head. Until I was out there in it. And soon it was over and I was still in the kayak and soaking wet and I was paddling into the "wave train" that was like a very wet little roller coaster of water. I couldn't believe I had been so afraid - that was actually fun!

I was pretty proud of myself when it was all over. And ready to tackle more rapids, but that would have to wait for another day. We were soon at our camp and before I knew it the day was ending. After setting up my tent I had planned on doing some journaling but the conversation of the group proved to be too interesting.

Someone got me started talking about my philosophy on writing and journaling and I probably lectured the one mid-thirties male in the group about how journaling is not just for women just a tad too much . . . my theory is male journalers/writers/diarists just keep it to themselves more than women might. History, as well as contemporary fiction/non-fiction/journalism is too jam packed with male writers for me to believe any sort of sweeping statement that men don't keep journals.

As our guides served dinner the conversation moved on to each person taking a turn telling about the favorite place they have ever traveled. Or, more accurately, the first thing that popped into their mind when the question was posed because it is often too hard to pick a favorite. This was revealing and I think it helped us gel as a group a bit more to discover we had been to similar places or that some had been places others had dreamed about. Plus, everyone enjoyed the opportunity to tell a little bit more about themselves to the group apart from the "what kind of animal would you be" question our guides asked us to respond to after we first climbed in our boats.

Night fell quickly and other than a few antics by my favorite after dark companion, the first night was uneventful and we all went to bed on the early side since the stars above us in the narrow canyon were mostly hidden by clouds.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Before the River

Sadly, for reasons that did not ultimately hold to be true, I did not schedule any extra time in Salt Lake before or after my river trip. But luckily I still managed to squeeze in some quality time with friends and family. Mostly through subtle cajoling . . . or, more accurately, downright begging.

I arrived into town on the later side Thursday evening and managed to stay up on the late-ish side talking to my mom and my sister. Since my sister has a new house that was freshly painted, I stayed in her guest room which meant Friday morning was a little lonely after she and her husband rushed off to work. I had a couple of choices. I could either hang out, finish packing and scrounge up some cereal from the pantry. Or, I could call my dad and see what he was up to. Guess which option I chose? And let me tell you how glad I am that I called my dad that morning with my not so subtle hints at a breakfast date! He suggested a drive up the canyon to Silver Fork Lodge, a place I had driven past countless times but never tried. It was both delicious and beautiful. Plus, as an added bonus, I got some rare one-on-one time with my dad - something every girl can use.

As per my usual, I debated between the sweet and savory side of the menu before I settled on huevos rancheros on the waiter's recommendation. But just before the waiter left us to warm in the rising sun under that brilliant blue sky with the heavenly scent of pine surrounding us, he tossed out the suggestion of a cinnamon roll to start. I immediately declined but my dad - that smart man - caved.

I had not yet settled into my vacation mode of eating and told him I would only try a couple of bites. I tried to stick to that vow even after the beautiful fresh cinnamony roll appeared at our table on a piece of beautiful china. I repeated my decision to only have a few bites when my dad used his knife to cut the cinnamon roll in half. My dad - being my dad - saw through my protests and let me eat my half and reassured me that he had taken a bite or two as well.

The huevos were delicious as well and I highly recommend the place for the food, the view, the atmosphere and the friendly service. After I told the server I was visiting from NYC he explained that was his place of birth and pointed to a flag flying over the trees and said he put that up with thoughts of NYC that morning. Being away from NYC and in the midst of travel it took me a couple of beats to realize it was there for a reason - it was 9/11. My thoughts flew to that day and I shook my head at how quickly time slips by yet always leaves a twinge of the sadness that day carried.

My dad got me back to my sister's house after a brief stop at Walgreen's with enough time to re-pack my belongings before my ride to Vernal showed up. While I believe my parents would have been happy enough to drive me to Vernal and pick me up when the trip was over, just as they did with my river trip in Idaho last summer, I decided to try something different. A month or so ago I sent an email to my high school girls and asked if any of them wanted to road trip to Vernal eating junk food along the way and stay at the classy Holiday Inn Express.

To my surprise, my request was enthusiastically answered and before I knew it I had a date with three pregnant ladies to drive through the desert in a minivan. Liz showed up first clutching her pillow with a grin on her face and a bag full of treats. Andra followed sooner than either of us expected (we aren't a crew known for its punctuality when it comes to group events) and then we swung by Michele's parent's house just like the good old days and I walked straight in - just like the good old days. Unlike those days though, Michele kissed her two girls goodbye before we stole her away. Michele also came with a bag of road trip treats. We had enough to last days!


We talked and laughed and talked and laughed and surprisingly the conversation was not exclusively centered on pregnancy, child birth or children (THANKS GUYS!). We had lunch at the Dairy Keen in Heber where Michele and I both ordered shakes that were too big but ate them anyway and Liz and Andra swooned over the pebble ice and took to-go cups. I learned that I have to pee more frequently (or maybe just as frequently) as pregnant women.

We learned that some waitresses are not happy when everyone orders baked potatoes - even when they also order side salads - because that is not "dinner."

A couple of us learned that 2 out 3 pregnant women snore enough to keep you awake at night. Enough to make a couple of roommates reach for their ipods in the middle of the night. . . .

We all learned to never walk onto an elevator when the exiting patrons are pulling a sour face.

And most importantly, I learned that the best kind of friendships never change.

Thanks for the good times ladies! I love each of you and am so glad you were so excited about driving me to a hotel in the middle of nowhere just for the chance to catch up.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm back . . .

but I can't say that I'm happy about it. I mean, wouldn't you be reluctant to leave a place as beautiful as this:
And that was just the beginning. I spent four days on the Green River and that was just not enough time - the above photo is right after the put-in at the entrance to the Gates of Lodore. Gorgeous weather and stunning views.

I conquered my fear of kayaking through rapids - and fell in love with the river.
I also took time to notice the smaller beauties.
And enjoyed a pretty phenomenal hike with some fantastic new friends.
Obviously I have a lot more to say - and a lot more photos to share - about this little trip so stay tuned. For now, just know that while I may be physically back in NYC, I left my heart out in the desert in a little inflatable kayak on the Green River.

Monday, September 14, 2009

100 Things to Accomplish

Since it has been almost two years since I made my 100 Things list, I thought it might be a good time to check in and see if I've made any progress. Anything I've managed to check off I have put in italics.

  1. get married
  2. experience pregnancy and child birth
  3. watch the sun rise over the ruins at Machu Picchu - while technically it may have been a little too cloudy to see the sunrise, I say it counts because we were there and it was AMAZING!
  4. climb Mount Kilamanjaro
  5. be recognized for something I wasn't expecting would be noticed
  6. experience an African safari
  7. learn and memorize a piano concerto - either Rachmaninoff or Chopin, or perhaps Brahms
  8. learn how to play the organ
  9. live in a place I own (I now own a house so I can't use that one but I would like to live in a place I own)
  10. take my parents to an all-inclusive tropical resort
  11. learn to speak Spanish
  12. visit Finland to discover where my ancestors and last name came from
  13. have someone call me mommy
  14. become a certified yoga instructor
  15. go to the World Series
  16. write a memoir - this sort of counts as a start, right? Although I'm not anywhere close to finished so I guess I shouldn't tick this off quite yet.
  17. have my blog comments reach double-digits - it is rare, but it happens, thank you!
  18. perhaps on a regular basis
  19. fly over over Manhattan in a helicopter
  20. hike (or ride a mule) to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
  21. have a picnic on the Great Wall of China
  22. win (or perhaps just enter) a baking contest (any baking contest, doesn't have to be on the Food Network or anything, although that would be very cool)
  23. teach a class at a university
  24. visit Sweden on summer solstice (my birthday) and spend the day and all night on a sail boat and watch the sun never set
  25. pay off my student loans
  26. have outdoor space that is all mine
  27. learn how to garden in said outdoor space
  28. paint an accent wall in my apartment
  29. see the Utah Jazz win it all
  30. set foot on every continent
  31. own one pair of ridiculously expensive shoes
  32. take a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti
  33. learn how to do tricks on my snowboard, nothing fancy, just something other than pointing my board downhill
  34. fall hopelessly and unconditionally in love permanently
  35. have the person I love fall deeply in love with me permanently
  36. become a dedicated patron of something . . . the arts, opera, maybe an orchestra
  37. volunteer for more projects like Guatemala
  38. volunteer with Habitats for Humanity
  39. learn how to build things
  40. get a dog
  41. see my sister happily married - hooray for this one!
  42. have more patience in all things
  43. buy more original art
  44. be able to recite 3 amazing poems, not sure which ones just yet
  45. distinguish myself in my career
  46. attend an NFL game
  47. have a room in my house called "the library"
  48. learn how to play the guitar
  49. visit Nepal so I can see (not necessarily climb) Mt. Everest
  50. attend a red carpet event looking smashing
  51. take a road trip from Alaska to the southern tip of Baja - or maybe press on and continue all the way to the southern most tip of Chile (which is the end of South America, right?)
  52. own a secluded cabin in either the Uintas, or near Mack's Inn in Island Park in Idaho.
  53. see an opera at La Scala in Milan
  54. understand my spirituality more completely
  55. make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land
  56. float in the Dead Sea
  57. enjoy a delectable, romantic dinner at Jean Georges or La Bernardin
  58. kiss someone passionately on the Pont Neuf in Paris
  59. hear live music in Cuba
  60. learn how to salsa dance
  61. read the stories from Arabian Nights to my children in one thousand and one nights
  62. reconnect with a lost friend - thank you Facebook for many reunions
  63. eat sushi at the crack of dawn in Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo - unfortunately I was a sushi novice when I went to Tokyo and missed this
  64. sky dive out of a plane
  65. attend the summer Olympics (the winter ones were great!)
  66. swim with dolphins
  67. eat gyros from a street stand in Turkey
  68. learn how to take a compliment
  69. be better at giving compliments
  70. with all my lofty travel plans perhaps I should just buy a round the world air ticket (I've heard they exist) and run away for a year
  71. ride a camel in Egypt and see the pyramids
  72. ride the Trans-Siberian Express across Asia
  73. sit on a jury (really)
  74. for that matter, conduct a trial (not necessarily with a jury because that isn't really my field)
  75. visit Walden Pond and read Thoreau while drifting in a canoe
  76. stand under a waterfall in Hawaii
  77. and perhaps overcome my fear of jumping off cliffs into water and jump into a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in Hawaii
  78. rent a houseboat on Lake Powell with my whole family
  79. learn more constellations (you know, other than the big and little dipper and Orion)
  80. be kissed at midnight on New Year's Eve
  81. ask someone I've only just met to go on a date (scary!)
  82. accept myself for who I am
  83. focus on healthy eating and working out long enough to get my body in the kind of shape I know it is capable of - this is more ongoing but I feel I've made a significant amount of progress here!
  84. accept myself even if I don't - somehow I think I'm better at this now, at least that is how I feel today
  85. recognize that my greatest weaknesses are often my greatest strengths
  86. ride an elephant in Thailand
  87. drive a zambonie
  88. experience a full high tea in London
  89. visit all 58 National Parks in the United States, I think I've been to 11 so far
  90. visit the ruins of Pompeii
  91. save and invest for my future - while the recession is definitely making this harder, I'm still plugging along doing my part
  92. watch the Iditarod under the Northern Lights
  93. learn how to fly fish
  94. listen to the Dalai Lama speak
  95. eat real jerk barbecue from a roadside jerk hut in Jamaica
  96. try the candy at Papabubble
  97. spend the night in the penthouse of a super fancy, over the top New York hotel with someone fun who will order room service with me, enjoy the view and giggle about how spectacular and decadent the whole experience is
  98. receive flowers from a secret admirer (but not a stalker)
  99. give a needy family Christmas anonymously
  100. how do I put this one . . . really enjoy a much anticipated honeymoon, if you know what I mean, a long honeymoon where I don't see many sights . . . I think you catch my drift.

Wow, looks like I haven't made too much progress in the last couple of years. I should have thrown a few more concrete items on there like Read War & Peace which I have some control over. Too many seem centered around traveling or getting married/having kids. Oh, well. I guess that means if that ever happens I will get to check off a lot all at once. For now, I've got some travel arrangements to make.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Make this Salad!

Another thing I did this weekend was make Mexican Salad for a barbeque I attended in Brooklyn. I should confess that this is the third week in a row that I have made this salad and each time it got better - this last batch was the best by far. It is a really simply salad to whip together and is somehow impressive, even if you show up at the party carrying your salad in a ziploc bag (transporting a pretty bowl full of salad from the A train to the L train, not to mention the blocks of walking, is no easy task):

Last weekend I made this salad and sent half of it on a cross-country road trip with my brother to save him from too many greasy drive through meals. I actually remember a bit of the history of this salad - a number of years ago my mom gave me the recipe to make it for a party. I believe the party occurred while I was still in law school and I know for certain it occurred at Michele's parent's house. We served the salad as a dip with tortilla chips and people were scraping the bowl for the last remnants - it was that good.

A few years ago (okay, five!) I was living with my sister and our brother decided to live in our extra bedroom for the summer. We cooked together a lot that summer and I have a vivid memory of all of us, with a friend or two, sitting around our kitchen table with a leftover bowl of this salad and some chips in the middle, chatting and scraping the bowl clean.

Over the years I have made a variety of versions of it, depending on what is available. Probably the biggest variable has been the dressing. The original recipe called for Thousand Island dressing but I have tossed in everything from Italian to Catalina to nothing at all with success. But what I stumbled onto this weekend is what really put the salad over the top for me and made it the star of the barbeque (except for those bacon wrapped dates someone brought, how can I compete with bacon?).

But enough build-up, I'm sure you are wondering how to try this salad for yourself, right?
Get a really large bowl and just start tossing in the following ingredients:

1 can drained and rinsed kidney beans
1 can drained and rinsed black beans
1 can drained and rinsed red beans*
1/2 can sliced olives
2-3 tomatoes (depending on size)
2-3 ears fresh sweet corn (just cut the corn kernals off the ear and dump them in)
2-3 ripe avocados
romaine lettuce (or you can use the pre-cut bagged version to make it easier)
cilantro to taste
squeeze of lime to taste
shredded cheese**
dressing of your choice - recipe of my choice is below

*really, you can use whatever variety of beans you choose or all one type. I used white catalini, black and kidney beans in this batch but I love chick peas and red beans as well. I pretty much always use kidney and the other beans rotate depending on what is in my cupboard.
**if you are going for color you can use a mix of cheddar and monterey jack (which also tastes great) but if you are wanting to keep the fat content down then I opt for a low fat mozerella

Creamy Tomatillo Dressing:
Those of you from Utah will recognize this recipe as a variation of the Tomatillo dressing of Cafe Rio fame. I have to, modestly, suggest that this is even better. One fellow bbq attendee loved it so much she was smearing it on her turkey burger, her veggies and pretty much anything that landed on her plate that night. I was proud. Below is the recipe with my alterations to follow:

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 package ranch buttermilk dry seasoning
3/4 to 1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup buttermilk
4-5 sprigs fresh cilantro
4-6 tomatillos (medium - large size)
1-2 garlic cloves

Just dump everything into a blender and blend away until you get the right texture. I started out thinking I had everything requested but when I opened my ranch buttermilk seasoning I realized I had a problem - moisture had found its way into the jar and it was no longer useable. Pretty sad considering this jar of ranch was transported from Utah by friends who surprised me with a fabulous faux Cafe Rio dinner one night while they were visiting and left this jar for me under my pillow upon their departure. After their homemade version, I was convinced they knew how to make the best tomatillo so I made a call Saturday requesting further instructions. Their secret ingredient - aside from the Ranch mix, which was now bad? - jalapenos. Of course, to give it some kick.

It was 10 pm Saturday night and I had no desire to go to the store to buy replacement ranch mix so I googled for a substitute instead. I didn't have dry celery root but I figured I could toss in the other stuff and hope for the best: minced onion, garlic powder, salt & pepper.

I nibbled on a piece of one of the jalapenos I had picked up and decided they were mild enough to toss in three. I deseeded them to keep them on the milder side. To my palate it was perfection - just enough of a kick to wake up my mouth but mild enough to present it to strangers without fear of scarring them. If it was for me alone, I probably would have added another jalapeno or two but I also didn't want to overwhelm all the other tasty flavors going on in there. I then added the juice of half a lime for good measure and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

The result - simple, crowd pleasing deliciousness. Please work this onto your menu in the next few weeks while fresh ingredients are aplenty. Serve it with tortilla chips and try to sit outside before the weather gets too cool. You will not be disappointed.

P.S. If you want to serve this as a main course and you or someone with whom you will be dining prefers a meatier meal, a simple solution is to purchase a rotisserie chicken. We did this a couple of weeks ago when I made it for friends at the beach house with great success. We (or should I say - Tiffany) simply pulled the meat off the bone and it shredded nicely and was a tasty addition to the salad.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

5K


I had a fairly uneventful Labor Day weekend. With one exception - I ran a 5k. On a sore ankle. Which is now really sore. It was hard. But not just due to the ankle. I just think running is hard. Sometimes, after the fact, I get all caught up in the triumph of actually finishing that I forget how much I hated the process. But not this time. I think it is the lingering, inexplicable ankle pain that is reminding me that while I enjoy improving my physical fitness and I am happy to have muscle tone return to my legs and very happy with the relatively quick calorie burning of it, I still have a hard time running. Except that sometimes I think I kind of like it. This last weekend just wasn't one of those times.

For starters, the race was scheduled to start at 11 am on Governor's Island - an island in New York harbor that was formerly a military post with a history dating back to the Revolutionary War. It is located a short ferry ride off the southern tip of Manhattan island. My race materials advised runners to board the 9 am ferry since the 10 am ferry would not likely give participants enough time to get to the starting point in time. So on Saturday night I set my alarm for 7 am to give myself time for a stress free morning with plenty of time to subway downtown allowing for a pre-ferry arrival of 15-30 minutes for "check-in". I also went to bed at 11 pm. That is early for me but I wanted a solid 8 hours of sleep pre-race.
Aw, good intentions.

Around 3 am I woke up with one arm extended above my head with the opposite hand frantically scratching at my forearm just as I became aware of a hot itch behind my shoulder. I tossed and turned and tried to ignore the incessant compulsion to scratch and scratch (which I am having to supress even now as I type while my left calf throbs slightly with a volcanic-sized bite). In my half-conscious state I started imagining my bed as full of angry little bed bugs feasting on my exposed flesh. And let me tell you, once that image creeps into your head when it is dark and your skin is crawling, there is no getting away from it. So I flung the covers aside and made my way to the bathroom to inspect the damage.

Just below my right elbow was a bulbous, red mound that cried out at me to S C R A T C H !! and flipping my right arm over revealed a matching red lump not too far below my wrist - each ugly bite swollen up to at least 2 inches in length. My left arm had a couple more matching lumps and using the mirror I spotted a couple on the back of my shoulder. I tried not to claw my skin off as I blinked into a fully wakeful state and dug through my toiletry cabinet to find the "After Itch" stick I packed on all exotic vacations because there is never a question of whether the mosquitos will get me, it is just a matter of when and how much. I flipped on my bedroom light as I smeared the temporary salve all over my arms and made my way to the bed wondering if I really wanted to find the culprit. While my predictably swollen reaction made me quite certain my bed-mate was a mosquito, my semi-dreamed fear of bed bugs was not entirely gone. I shook out my covers and couldn't see anything - except, wait - is that a BUG! Shoot, now I needed my glasses. After I returned from the bathroom be-spectacled, I realized the only thing in my bed was an over-sized piece of lint.

After another dose of After-Bite, I turned out the light and tried to sleep. Except now I was paranoid about not sleeping and the sound of my extra-ordinarily loud dishwasher was distracting me (I use the timer on my dishwasher to go off in the middle of the night for this very reason). The last I looked at the clock it read 4-something.

Which resulted in my sleeping until 7:40. I didn't have a lot to do to get ready to go - no need for a shower, my clothes and shoes and race materials were all set out on the couch and waiting for me. But I needed to eat a good breakfast - a fried egg, a couple of small bran muffins and some Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries. After that I was off but now it was just past 8 and I was concerned with making the 9 am ferry in time if I relied on a Sunday morning subway schedule. So I took a cab.

I arrived at the ferry station with plenty of time to just stand around and wait after giving someone my ferry ticket. The morning was cool and felt perfect for running and I was energized by all the people around me who looked like real runners.

The ferry was on time and I always find it breath taking to see the Statue of Liberty - I always feel compelled to take photos no matter how many I have taken before. I managed to get to the race staging area early enough to camp out on a hammock in the picnic area.


I read my book and enjoyed the view and tried to wait patiently until about 1030 when I decided I should start warming up. I did some slow stretching and a couple of nervous jogs and made my way to the starting point after checking in my bag. I was one of the first to line up so I just continued to pace and stretch and wait.

At about 5 minutes to 11 a garbled announcement was made about the race being delayed. I soon learned that there was some problem with the ferry being too full to carry everyone and they were delaying the race by 30-40 minutes to give all the runners time to get to the starting point. Great. I was starting to get hungry. And tired. And anxious.

After some more nervous wandering, I went back to the starting point again and this time, the race finally started. Only now - it was hot. And I was thirsty and tired. I'm not making excuses for anything, I'm just telling you how I felt. And it got worse.

The race started on the eastern side of the southern tip which means at the first bend in the road - the Statue of Liberty rose out strong and resolutely directly ahead of me. It was beautiful and I felt strong - despite all the racers rushing past me as I slowly plodded along. I soon discovered that when I select 5K on my ipod, my pace is given to me in kilometers, not miles. My kilometer pace was useless to me so I just plodded on. It was wonderful having so many people standing along the side of the road waving and clapping and cheering. I didn't know any of them but they bouyed me up and helped me to keep going. Until I recognized a couple of people! My friend Joo had volunteered to come and she invited a friend of hers (who I also know). And there they were standing on the side of the road - cameras ready cheering for me.
I somehow managed to smile for them - probably because I hadn't yet run a mile so I was still feeling relatively good. (As an aside, please forgive me for those shorts. I previously thought they were cute and comfortable and that I could somehow pull them off. This photo has taught me otherwise. I promise, this will never happen again.)

It is a good thing my friends showed up because even though I didn't see them again until after the race was over, just knowing they were there kept me running. And prevented me from cheating and opting for the 3k turnoff point - a huge temptation.

Another thing I should mention is that for a while now I have been concerned that maybe my handy little nike-plus running gadget has been, well, lying to me. You see, lately it has been telling me what a good pace I have been running and I've been feeling really good about that. Except, except that I didn't quite believe it. I knew that running on a route that was accurately measured would be telling - and it was. There were little mile marker posts along the race route and they never quite synced up with my ipod. That wouldn't be so bad except that my ipod was telling me I was half-way through long before I was actually half-way. And when it got to the point where it was cheerfully telling me "400 meters to go!", I knew he was lying. But luckily, right about the time my ipod was telling me I had completed my 5k, I was rounding that southern tip of the island where Lady Liberty rises up and there were still some race watchers standing along the road clapping and cheering and one guy was repeatedly yelling "Race for the Cure! Live Strong!" which had nothing to do with this particular race which was actually a World Trade Center Memorial race, but was still somehow motivating. I wanted to walk, I wanted to stop! I wanted to lie down on the grass. I wanted to just get the whole thing over with and never run again! But mostly, I wanted to cross the finish line running so I pressed on and before I knew it, I did just that!

In approximately 32 minutes. I saw approximately because I was so happy when I finally did cross the finish line I forgot to pay attention to the giant timer above me and then forgot to turn off my nike plus for a little bit and it registered 33:04. This race had a timed chip thing for my shoe but I cannot figure out where online to find out my race time.
[sigh]
But the bottom line is, I know my ipod is not calibrated correctly because a 5k is 3.2 miles. And, according to my ipod, I ran 3.53 miles. And I know I didn't run anything extra. While this is a little bit discouraging, I don't plan on quitting any time soon. Except maybe until my ankle doesn't hurt anymore because while before the race it was a little sore, now it only hurts when I walk. Which is a problem I am treating with ice and an ace bandage until it goes away.
Post-race I got to hang out with my friends on Governor's Island for a while in the beautiful sunshine! I especially loved hanging out with this little guy:

Oh, and I like his mom too - thanks again for coming Joo!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

fall is coming

September has arrived with cooler temperatures and a brilliantly blue sky. The kind of sky that seems to belong to September in New York. But this morning I realized there is something missing in New York September mornings as I watched the Today Show as an interviewee stood under another blue sky in front of a familiar backdrop - Salt Lake's City Hall. Catching a glimpse of that scene as I finished my breakfast and packed my lunch and snacks into my purse was enough to stick with me on my walk to work in the air that is just cool enough to warrant a sweater but still warm enough that sandals and bare legs are comfortable. As I walked I relished the warming sun on my face contrasted against a cool breeze and it clicked - while this feels like the early warnings of fall, I know what is missing.

In Salt Lake there is a smell that comes with that early morning cool air. I'm not talking about the stench of the lake that hits like an olfactory assault or the late fall scent of distant bonfires and dead leaves. The smell I am trying to recall and failing to capture is one of cool freshness and it reminds me of walking to school as a kid shivering for lack of a jacket (because I knew it wouldn't be needed after an hour or so) or climbing into my car and rolling the windows down just a smidge to surround myself with the enticing scent. It is the perfect weather for new resolutions and beginnings. Why does the new year start in the middle of the coldest season when, at best, I'm inspired to curl up on my couch? School years are really the mark of new beginnings, even when all I am doing is recomitting to the same job I've held for years.

But I'm not ready this year.

For the first time that I can remember, I want to hold onto summer.

I want the sun to shine a little bit brighter and a little bit warmer. I want to relish 80 degree temps for a few more weeks before sliding into the comfortable 70s. I want to enjoy another day or two at the beach. I want to go to a Yankees game on a warm summer night. I want to drive somewhere with the windows rolled down, my hair whipping about wildly and my skin browning under the sun. I want to spend another day lying on the grass on my rooftop sweating from the humidity. I want to buy a cone from Mr Softee and walk through the park as the sun sets. I want to play cards on a blanket spread out on the grass. I want to have a barbeque on my parent's back porch with watermelon and summer salads and darn fresh corn. I want to go for a hike in my chacos, shorts and a t-shirt. I want to have dinner with friends at a sidewalk cafe and enjoy an extra long day of sunshine.

But mostly. I want my summer vacation.

Sure, I've taken a few days off from work here and there and yes, I had a beautiful long weekend at a beach a couple of weeks ago but what I am regretting is that I have not ticked off a new destination from my wishlist. I have not escaped from my job, my apartment, this city for a week long stretch. I did not get to spend this summer researching a new country's sites and food or making travel plans. Instead, I celebrated at a couple of beautiful long-distance weddings and assumed I would be too busy for anything else.

Except, I wasn't.

This August turned out to be like every other August and the halls at work emptied out, the phones stopped ringing, emails slowed down, automatic out of office replies filled my inbox, Friday's felt optional and working past 6 felt excessive. All of that has been a nice change in pace but I feel like I missed something. That I am missing something. And I know what it is.

A break.

Luckily, a week from tomorrow I get one. It isn't as long as I would like (under a week) and it isn't quite as exotic as I may have preferred but with any luck I will get to wake up on the morning of the 11th and be reminded of that cool morning scent of my native city.
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