2014
10.27

Bigger cities & greater adventures

philly

In March of this year, we moved to Philadelphia.  Eight months in, we absolutely adore it. There’s always something to do and almost* always an easy way to get to it. NY and DC are a couple of express trains away. Going to concerts within a mile of home, having food delivered well after midnight, doing grocery shopping online, having Amazon couriers deliver things the same day we order them…

Yeah. Philadelphia was a move in the right direction. I love love love cities.

There’s pages more to say and dozens of posts worth of life updates to make, but suffice it to say that Katt and I are probably happier and more fulfilled than ever. (And speaking of Katt and I–nine years in November! Wooooo!) This summer and fall consisted of a list of adventures in our new city, in our kitchen, and on the road.

More soon…but with NaNoWriMo coming up, time will be limited! I did it last year and hit the 50,000 mark somehow, so now I’m going for the repeat win starting at the end of this week. I’m still divided on two or three ideas, but I’ll be forced into a decision in about 120 hours…

Halloween’s coming up, and we were looking for something different to do…so we’re going to hit this party at the end of the week. Should be fun!

2011
12.17

A letter to the past

You’re about to enter a time in your life where people will tell you that you aren’t taking life seriously enough. They’re going to tell you to stop playing around and stop making believe. They’re going to tell you to act your age. When you don’t listen, some of them are going to ridicule you. Some of them are going to try and explain why you need to change. Some of them are going to genuinely worry about your development and your future.

But most of them will be wrong, because you’re going to be okay.

That isn’t to say there won’t be scary times ahead. Some days will be awful. Some days you’ll feel left behind–like others are growing up faster than you are, experiencing things you don’t yet understand. Some of that is going to be true, but someday you’re going to realize that growing up as fast as the others do is not as important as it seems to you now.

When the people that care about you tell you that things will be okay, listen. They might be wrong about the particulars–especially when you’re an awkward teenager–but you’ll grow beyond the worst of those particulars. And until then…

You will stay up all night with your best friends.
You will laugh so hard that it hurts all over.
You will talk about your crushes and tell secrets and try to dye your hair with kool-aid.

When you ask someone to dance, and they don’t want to…you’re going to take it hard. That’s okay. When someone asks YOU to dance–you’re going to forget anyone who said no. When you have a crush on someone, it’s going to be the best thing that ever happened to you…and it’s going to be the worst thing that ever happened to you. Both of those feelings are okay.

You’re going to realize that you’re not the smartest person in the world–or even in the school, or the class, or this room. And that’s okay too. As you get older, you learn how much that doesn’t matter, and you’ll find out how much you really like the people that are smarter than you–especially the ones you have crushes on (and there’s a lot of them).

Some of your best memories will come out of junior high.

It will take you months and months to gather the courage for your first kiss, but after it happens, you will replay it over and over again as you walk down Main Street on a
warm day in May. A spring shower will break even as the sun keeps shining through it–and for the rest of your life, you will be in love with the rain.

One cool starry night, you will sit on the dock at the lake–alone–and come to the conclusion that God is nothing like anyone tells you. You’ll stop calling God “he”. You’ll stop calling God a person. You’ll stop thinking of God as something that punishes and blesses you according to your actions. In the coming years, God will become formless, and you will slowly rebuild it as a teacher–as a guide of experience. Eventually, you’ll come to see God as everything that is.

High school will be big and scary for the first two years. You’re going to be miserable. You’ll never have felt smaller than you do there, but over time, even that will be okay. Your friends will be few, but they will make the days worthwhile.

One day you’ll realize how big the world really is. You’ll spend time with people that are older and smarter and way more cultured than you. Cooler than you. Cooler than anyone you’ve ever met. They either won’t like you much–or they’ll see you as a silly kid brother, or an ignorant fool–but your admiration of them will spark transformations in you. You’ll get a taste of the kind of person you want to become.

You’ll spend the last two years of high school in a fog of late-coming hormonal rage, obsessing over infatuations with people in the most pathetic way possible–but this will pass–and in the meantime, you’ll make some of the best friends that you’ll ever have in your life. You’ll find your voice. You’ll meet teachers–both in and out of your academic career–that will change the way you think about language, expression, thought and life itself. You’ll begin writing and reflecting, starting you on a career path that you won’t properly recognize except in distant hindsight.

You’ll start playing guitar. You’ll drink and smoke pot. Sometimes you’ll be fragile as a film of sugar-glass. Sometimes you’ll be as invulnerable and impenetrable as machine steel.

Some of your crushes will start to notice you, which will feel wonderful–but at first, you’ll be too self-absorbed to feel anything that you’ll recognize as love. You’ll cling to some, and others will cling to you. Sometimes you’ll be hurtful and selfish. Sometimes you’ll be remorseful and alone.

After high school, you’ll swing even higher and lower. Nothing you have planned today will turn out as you expect. You’ll scare people. You’ll scare yourself. You won’t recognize the person you’ve become. Still, you’ll dream big dreams. In becoming lost, you will begin searching.

You’ll drive to Los Angeles and play guitar on lonely, deserted streets. You’ll get scared and run home, but it won’t feel like home anymore. You’ll go to college in the frozen north, cocooned in drugs and self-loathing. You’ll feel so alone that your contemplation will never be darker. The guilt of your past will weigh you down. You’ll think about people you’ve hurt and people you’ve disappointed.

You will plan your own end. You will consider selling your body to the state and letting them finish the job for you. But the best friends you’ve ever had will be there for you–even if it’s just over the phone–to save you from yourself. They’ll help you rebuild, and in hindsight you will find that your darkest hours will lead you to the most important revelations.

You will retreat to the Midwest and find yourself comfortably alone. You’ll write songs and sing out your heart in the darkness. You’ll commiserate with your lost generation over screens and wires and realize how very alone you aren’t, and how many of you there are. Life will slowly trickle through you once more.

You will beat on drum sets and strum guitars, and they will heal you. You will smoke joints and swim miles down rolling midwestern rivers, and they will heal you. You will find a poet with beauty and wisdom far beyond their years. They will help you to forgive yourself. Their love will make you realize what your experiences have built inside of you. Their love will make you realize that you, too, are capable of love–not the clingy immature neediness that you once knew, not the selfish use in your past–but love. Of another, of the self, of the moment and of the world around you.

They will help heal you, and eventually you will realize that all this phenomenal healing could happen ONLY because you ALSO chose to heal yourself.

And one day–when you’ve healed enough–you will return home, and you will feel home once more. You will seek out the fears of failure and worthlessness–fears of idleness and emptiness that you once left behind–and you, resurrected by passion, will face them down. Some days you will grow, some days you will slip into old habits–but you will have regained the will to fight…to live and to love.

You will see beauty in stacking boxes and other seemingly mundane tasks. You will fuse with machines and learn production and communication in wordless languages. You will sweep streets and empty trash cans and feel strangely fulfilled. You will begin to see the effervescence in every task, in every moment, no matter what the task is.

Then, having conquered the demons you kept running from, home will grow stale. And though you become aware that you’ve outgrown it–that you’re now overstaying your time, you will linger for fear of the unknown future. You will begin to cultivate old habits once more.

Then one day, as another winter descends upon you, a strange rain will break again–unseasonably warm. As the water falls on your body, it will wash away everything you were. You will see, clearly, for the first time, what you are. You will feel love in every droplet, soaking through your skin and dissolving the walls you’ve built around your heart. The furnace in your soul will burn brighter than it ever has before.

And when fate calls you to a new world, to an opportunity to build your own path–you will leave the home you’ve outgrown, and find a new one.

From here, the cycle will go on–fear and passion, habit and change–but in your new home, in your new life, you will begin to map that cycle. You will learn rhythm. You will see the impermanence and you will play in the waves. You will realize that the goal is not one of final mastery, but one of flow. You will see the beauty of change, in joy and in pain.

Suddenly, you will find yourself reimbursed to simply let out what lies within you. Your thoughts, moments and experiences will earn your living. Your nourishment will be provided through nothing more than your uninhibited expression. Your labor will meet your love. You will have phenomenal experiences that you can’t yet imagine. You will have opportunities before you that seemed impossible dreams during the darkest days of your life.

Whatever new fears you encounter, you will feast on them–carrying surging bravery, breathing furious passion. The gratitude you feel–for simply being here now–will grow as long as you are alive.

You will accept that you are always a student. You will accept that there will always be fear and awe on the horizon, and that your path is in the love of this flux, bound in gratitude that the horizon will always be there, offering up everything.

Everything.

2011
05.22

It was a beautiful day today, and Katt has tonight off–so we decided to go for a longish walk up to Nay Aug park this morning.

We probably left shortly after 9 a.m., and I have to say: still not used to the pleasant (but kinda eerie) calm on Sundays around here. We had debated driving up to Nay Aug instead while we were still walking around downtown, but about the time we hit Mulberry (depicted in the map to the left as the longest straight highlighted blue line), I mentioned that following this particular road would take us all the way to the park.

I warned that it was 1.5 miles uphill, but Katt had been wanting to try it–so we did. When we got to the park, we ended up exploring it thoroughly, heading to the ends of the blazed trails close to I-81. There was a really interesting trestle with a stationary train just sitting on it. We wanted to cross into the far side of the park by walking along it, but after exploring the hill, we realized we were on a ridge, and the train tracks actually ran through a tunnel beneath where we were standing.

Having already gone two miles, we didn’t persist long in trying to find a way down to the tunnel entrance. Everything was pretty steep, and we really weren’t prepared to do the kind of careful scaling it would take to get to the tracks. (In the full-size version of the map, the arrow depicts the top of the ridge; below, the elevation cross-section shows the sharp change in the slope.)

We ended up winding about the back of the park and exiting on Gibson, finding our way back to Mulberry via Colfax. By the time we went back down the hill, we’d walked four miles. Now we were STARVING, so we headed across downtown to Kildare’s for an impromptu Sunday Brunch.

Service was a little sleepy the moment we walked in, but to be fair–we arrived just at the stroke of 11AM when the restaurant opened. We were certainly their first customers today. Once we were finally seated by our hostess, we were promptly attended to. (I’m notoriously over-patient in a restaurant setting, but thankfully Katt drinks a lot of water, so her refills are generally a decent litmus test of how well the waitstaff is doing.)

We had drinks at Kildare’s a couple of weeks ago when we first moved in, but this was our first meal there. I ordered a mushroom swiss burger, and Katt had a skillet of eggs, potatoes, sausage, bacon, peppers and onions. Both dishes were pretty incredible, as was our calamari starter (easy as calamari is to get right, I’ve eaten impossibly chewy, tasteless squid enough to offer credit for perfecting simplicity).

Mushrooms were plentiful, small, juicy and tender–burger was a good medium rare, as requested. An ample slice of swiss and a slightly toasted wheat bun topped off what might tie for the best burger I’ve had since we moved. Katt was happy with her skillet, but it was hearty enough that we had to bring the rest home in a clamshell.

After stopping by the apartment quick to drop off the leftovers, we headed back out for a coffee. Criss-crossing downtown one more time, we added another kilometer and a half to our path, topping us out at 8400m (5.2 mi). And all before noon on a perfect spring Sunday…

2011
04.14

Electric City Suite

As you can see, the apartment isn’t done yet. We went in for a visit today, and while the new windows and floors look great, the kitchen is obviously–not quite there yet.

Literally.

Something I didn’t appreciate at all until this visit: our apartment actually has windows on three sides. I think that Katt and I didn’t notice this before because of the old nearly-opaque frosted windows on one side. They were replaced (two normal windows and two with a much more translucent frosting in the bathroom), and the place looked even sunnier than our first two visits.

It gets better–I also just realized that while our apartment isn’t the top of the whole building, it IS the top floor on the side we’re on. That means the fire escape outside our bedroom window is the TOP DECK, which means–in turn–awesome skyline photo-ops!

Another good part about this unit is that it’s far away enough from street level that Scranton’s innovative-yet-insanity-brooking audible crosswalk system can be mostly unheard.

And look at that view! You can see the “Electric City” sign from anywhere in the apartment (except the W.C., of course).

We’re super excited to move in. Pike County is beautiful, but six years is enough for me. We’re pretty tired of living in a place where one has to drive thirty miles to see a movie.

Also(!) there’s like a dozen bars and three places to get sushi within walking distance. And, oh my god–did I mention Wegmans? We’re going to be able to shop at Wegmans again.

Can’t wait; it’s going to be a fantastic summer!

2011
03.31

Life.

It’s our destiny–and Earth’s, really–for us to fork, speciate, and become all kinds of new and interesting things in an extra-solar way.

Alright, let me back up. Sure, I’m being over-optimistic about this. Let me ask, though–is there a point not to? I certainly don’t want to be on the other team.

I’m sick of this idea that life–or that the idea of life–would be better off if humanity destroyed itself (or had never developed). I’ve little time to waste on those who despise their own human experience so very much that they should wish human experience silenced entirely.

Self-identifying as a virus or a pest as a means of subjugating your species’ environmental guilt is a cop out, and further–it’s an ironic slur on viruses, rodents, insects, and any other life you’ve identified with our own species’ perceived evils. Calling ourselves “pests” is the same, oddly enough, as declaring our behavior consistent–rather than deviant–with all other life whose ancestry has afforded them the opportunity.

We must become creatures that recognize our link in the chain. And while we’re another step, we’re not simply another step. We’re damn close to coming to a strange turning point–a step where we can, to a degree, pick our own next step.

But we have to remember: the link belongs to us only insomuch as we occupy it.

In that it will connect every link preceding us with every link following us–continuing the chain of life and building upon that which time, our ancestors, our parents and sheer opportunity have given us–the link does not belong to us alone.

It belongs to Earth–to our Solar System. To the bath of particles and showers of radiation that spawned the stage. We don’t owe it to our species to advance and learn and propagate; that’s too narrow. Until we know that there’s something out there–something else undergoing the same geologic trials of life that accelerate, over eons, to split-second motions and decisions–we owe it to…

…well, to the known universe–to keep the ball rolling to the best of our ability.

Yes, we are cruel. So are many of the beasts 130 million years our cousins. Yes, we’re hyper-reactive. Through fear we can be reduced to thoughtless reaction, and we contain the capacity for the same ruthless efficiency common to our even more ancient cousins.

We’re not perfect. Certainly far from it. There are a lot of bound up tendencies that aren’t worth what they once were to our struggle–but we must be patient with ourselves. It’s not easy to reprogram 600 million years of “fight, poison, run scared or die” in a couple hundred generations.

We are young. We will grow, but it will take time. We may suffer greater tragedies than we’ve known since the darkest days of our fire-keeping history, but we have lived through them before, going on to create art, music, language, and science–a means of understanding ourselves and how we fit in as a piece of this universe.

We’re still dumb. We’re still beasts. We’re still wired for growling and snarling and mercilessness–but that should not condemn us to self-destruction when it’s weighed against what we’ve come to understand.

We aren’t just serving ourselves. We’re serving life, and the universe’s understanding of itself. Yes, we’ve made many mistakes through ignorance of our relationship to our surroundings. But, again–patience and improvement. Disaster and recovery. We will learn. On the timescale of life, our sense of stewardship and our realization of our crucial link to our environment was no more than a thought that occurred a quantum moment ago.

These crazy, violent, horny, somewhat-to-mostly hairless mammals, these information-chaining primate freaks…they have a chance to become something else entirely–to leave the crawling, just-warm-and-cool-enough shifting surface of this simmering ball of liquid metal and rock and realize a level of understanding beyond that which we could ever afford in the safety of our planetary womb.

We beasts from some minor armpit-hair spire on a medium-sized spiral galaxy…some trans-supercluster pitstop far from the outskirts of Virgo proper: a few thousand years from now, we could be lighting the local cluster with an extra-stellar hue that would speak to ancient satellite photos of the tiny swirling marble we were born on.

We have to take care not to fuck it up now. The coming days will grow ever more important, and there are great dangers ahead as there were in the past, as there are even today.

Should we wish to destroy each other more than we should wish to inherit the stars, for instance–our accelerating technologies may yet grant that wish.

We must take care, we must press
on, and some of us–at the very least–must maintain optimism. It’s the fire-keepers and storytellers that keep us warm on the human tribe’s coldest and darkest nights.

But we cannot declare ourselves unworthy of life, unworthy of transcendence, or unworthy of the stars. In doing so, we declare over a billion years of Earth’s great unfolding biogenesis unworthy as well.

Take pride that you are alive. Take pride in your humanity. Live in mind of what you’ve inherited, and what you can leave behind for the next link in the chain.

The past and the future are depending on us.

2011
03.20

Oat & Amaranth Mocha Cookies

These oaty, multi-grain coffee cookies–like many of my other concoctions–were an experiment. Katt and I are getting ready to move, so I wanted to try and use up some odd and “open-bag” ingredients that we have around. I had some amaranth flour, oats, and some sweetened instant coffee mix that could be substituted for its own volume in sugar. I added rice flour for a smoother texture and xanthan gum to thicken the mixture and help bind the dough.

The cookies baked nice and evenly on parchment paper. They had a soft, chewy consistency, a rich, understated sweetness that paired well with the dark chocolate topping, and they were fantastic for dunking in a hot cup of coffee.

I started with this stuff:

3/4 cup – brown sugar
1/2 cup – white sugar
1/4 cup – instant coffee powder
2 tsp. – cocoa powder

3/4 cup – butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. – vanilla
1 tbsp. – water

1 & 1/2 cup – oats
AND
[1 cup - amaranth flour
1/4 cup - rice flour
1 tsp. - xanthan gum]
OR
[1 & 1/4 cup - wheat flour]

1 oz. – chopped 60% cacao chocolate

And then I did this:

-1. Preheat oven to 325 F.
0. Prepare cookie sheet with parchment paper.
1. Mix sugars, instant coffee and cocoa powder with soft or melted butter.
2. Beat in eggs.
3. Add vanilla and water.
4. Stir in oats.
[5a. in separate container, sift or mix amaranth, rice flour and xanthan gum.
5a-2. slowly add mixture to other ingredients while folding]
OR
[5b. slowly add wheat flour to other ingredients while folding]
6. Spoon onto parchment in heaping teaspoons – leave 2″ or more between cookies.
7. Top each with a large pinch of chopped chocolate.
8. Bake @ 325 F for [10-13 min. w/ amaranth & rice; 8-10 min. w/ wheat flour].

Makes about 2 dozen 3″ cookies.

2011
01.24

The Last Three Years.

I walked into my current job in May of 2008 with three years of professional experience with:

  • writing
  • editing
  • magazine layout
  • photo sourcing
  • press deadlines

The last three years have given me opportunities to expand my skill range considerably, adding:

  • HTML, CSS, MySQL, PHP, JavaScript
  • CMS experience in Joomla!, WordPress, and Drupal
  • cost-reduction in physical print and website publishing
  • cover design
  • ad and logo design
  • photo editing
  • vector illustration
  • e-book formatting

What kind of adventures are up next?

2010
06.29

I forgot/was too tired to post this yesterday, but it has to be done. Even in NYC, a restaurant experience as flawless as the one we had Sunday is worth writing about.

After Sunday’s concert, we had a passionate hunger for cheeseburgers…

It was already late on Sunday Night. I said that we should forego the taxi and just walk up through Gramercy before cutting west toward Penn Station. We had plenty of time before the last train to Suffern (where we left the car), and I figured we would happen across a place for cheeseburgers, even if it meant having to settle for a 24-hour fast food joint. Well, we didn’t have to, and it was all thanks to L’Express (Google street view).

The place seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t tie it with a previous visit, mostly because I couldn’t think of the last time I was East of 5th Ave.

The service was awesome. Now, I know it doesn’t seem like that should be difficult at 11:30 PM on a Sunday, but the place was actually pretty busy. Everything was aces: our server was attentive and delightful, our food came fast, hot, and perfectly to order (when I ask for a medium-rare burger, I expect a medium-rare burger).

The burgers ($11.95) were DELICIOUS, perfectly prepared and served on a toasted bun. Our server had gotten us both on the bacon upsell ($2.), but the add-on price was more than justified by the burger-load of bacon that came with it.

As a result of our days in food-service, we tip REALLY WELL for exceptional professionalism. Now, when I’ve been drinking I can be very generous with tips even for average service; when I’m sober, however, I can be very calculating with gratuity. As the night’s DD (for our drive home from Suffern station later), I was stone sober.

It didn’t halt my generosity; I had ZERO complaints. The ambiance was great for a post-concert-going setting, the service was perfect, and as far as the food went, I was happy with the portion-for-price and delighted with the presentation and preparation of the burger. The fries weren’t anything special, but they were crispy and munchable, and come on–I was there for THE BURGER.

Right. You might be saying “it was just a burger”, but it wasn’t just a burger. For this kind of experience, even my sober mind knew that a tip pushing the 35-40% line was appropriate. For us, this wasn’t just a meal, it was a seamless part of a fantastic evening out, and the staff at L’Express did a wonderful job.

We will certainly be back.

2010
06.19

Hypervocal Primates

image

Format draft

2010
06.18

A Post From Bed

I never use my phone to type and it makes me feel like I’m falling behind the curve.

Actually, I normally feel like I’m behind the curve where technology is concerned. In the world of paranoid fears, I would say that this “falling behind” idea consumes me more than any other. It’s this sense that I’m going to be one of the have-nots in a world that is changing more and more rapidly. Is that silly?

Few things are as important to me as the digital interconnectedness I’ve been raised with for the past fifteen years. Chat rooms taught me confidence and quick responses in conversation, not to mention speedy typing. The web gave me a home when I felt alone. It gave me the sanctuary of other minds when I was at my most fragile.

Much as I love and respect my parents, there’s a sense that, after 10 or 11 years old–I was raised by the looming meta-mind more than I was raised by them. I don’t at all see that as a bad thing; it’s not as if my parents were absent–much the opposite. It’s more that they weren’t helicopter parents, for which I am eternally grateful. They truly allowed me to explore and to grow unimpeded around the start of my teenage years, and I believe that’s one of the biggest reasons I am who I am today.

More on this later, though.
I think I’ve done enough thumb-typing practice for one night…