An 8.4km Walk, and a Burger to Balance.

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…

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.

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.

Credit Where Credit is Due: L’Express

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.

Ten years later…

Ten years ago this week, I was doing nothing more than waiting for my graduation day. I was dual enrolled my senior year, so my college-term classes had ended and I no longer had any high-school requirements left.

Mostly I would just go into school and bother my old design and drawing teacher, Mr. Leogrande, and my chemistry teacher Mr. Dermody. I was one of those kids that hung around after school in favorite teacher’s classrooms for a few hours–and, you know, this was back in the day when your teenage-self could exist on school grounds for no reason without the faculty thinking you were some kind of criminal.

When I was in school, I regarded school as a neat place to be–spending free time looking up books and old periodicals in the library, going to one of the tech rooms and work at a drawing desk outside of regular class time, talking to one of my science or math teachers about something I thought was interesting (but was told to ask about it outside of class so that we could cover the material that needed to be covered). Continue reading “Ten years later…”

Writing, Shame, and Wasted Time

I don’t write negative posts anymore unless they’re about some legislation that just passed or something in the entertainment world that annoys me. Contrast this to my journal from when I was a kid, where every letter and word was a focus on how I was disappointed in myself or why I wasn’t happy in own body.

Well, lately my whole body is lit up with self-criticism, and it’s been a couple of days since it started. When I say “my whole body,” I mean it. It’s not just thoughts. It’s a feeling that trails down the spine and leaves this awful tingling in my neck, my back, and my fingertips. So where’s this terrible feeling coming from? Continue reading “Writing, Shame, and Wasted Time”

“You have the life I wanted,” he says.

As a kid I had this idea of success in measurements of fame and wealth, which are understandable measurements–even for an adult. I had no shortage of plans for my adult-self, which included being an author, making movies, being a microbiologist, being an architect, playing music, and being a theoretical physicist.

There was also no shortage of faith that I would become whatever I had in mind. Though I was raised poor–though I spent a few formative years on welfare–there was no despair, no expectation that the success I was planning for myself would not come.

Then came the end of my Junior year in high school. After applying to about a dozen colleges, I was either rejected or wait-listed from each and every one. Continue reading ““You have the life I wanted,” he says.”

Who Speaks for This Man?

Every time I attempt to define myself, it’s a war of weird conflicting ideologies and expectations. Magic rituals share space with chemical systems. Literary creations speak in their own voices, chiding and praising the actions of their creator as he wanders through life. I bark like an old man about the glorious Halcyon days of which I was never a part, and in the same breath I cry injustice like a rabid youth demanding revolution.

These are soldiers of mental contradiction, my internal voices—balanced insomuch as our certainty is never guaranteed against our own numbers. I, the functional engineer, the singular entity defined however inaccurately by corpus as “Joe Callan�, represents my true self only as much as a nation’s president reflects his citizens.

Continue reading “Who Speaks for This Man?”