Thursday, August 25, 2011

Kicking the Funk Out

After a frustrating couple weeks being in over my head with work, projects, and that craziness that is the wrapping up of summer, I had a day where I felt like a normal person.  Can I just tell you about my great day, and then get back to putting up all my backlogged blogs I've run completely behind on?

It seemed just like any other day- work, running errands, heading to the gym to get in a bit of climbing.  But oh no, this was not going to be any day of climbing for me.  This was the day I turned a corner, and saw a glimpse of my climbing future.

You see, I've been climbing for about two and a half years now.  During some of my darkest days of soul searching, I fell into the world of climbing and my life was forever changed.  Here was a world where everyday problems dissolved as soon as my hands hit the wall.

When you climb, the problems in front of you involve figuring out how to maneuver, how to get over the roadblocks in your head, how to get to the top.  And then you do it.  You realize that your back taxes and difficult relationships, your career hurdles, your empty fridge, and your high maintenance cat are totally insignificant, because you got over this wall.  It's pretty neat.

Literal metaphors aside, I've been climbing steadily for the past two years, without improvement.  I've sat back, initially to nurse a torn tendon from a bad fall, but it's become a total mind block.  Something had changed.  My fear of heights came back, and I've been one foot out the door, run-out-of-steam exhausted after an hour when I would have just been warmed up during those first magical months of climbing.  I had all but decided I was never going to improve, that the fearless climbing hunger had waned, and that it was more important for me to have a longer, if less impressive climbing career than a short and amped one.

Today, something changed.  I was prepared for my usual repeat of the same routes I can always do, and the same failed half-hearted attempts at the ones just beyond my reach during my slotted hour of enthusiasm.  Instead, I started slow.  I sat longer.  I watched other climbers.  It was that perfect quiet afternoon in the boulder room, where you don't have to wait for the routes you want, and you can sit on the floor without blocking routes.  A few others were attempting the same routes, taking turns working out the problems and giving each other tips on how to hit the moves.  These were routes I never thought of attempting, but as we watched each other and made suggestions, I realized it was one of the first moments I felt a sense of community at the climbing gym.  Which is what I'd immediately felt at my old stomping grounds in New York when I was a fledgling climber.

Two of the burliest dudes began attempting a hairy V4.  It was technical, balancey, and all on an awkward, slight overhang.  Oh, and it involved a major dyno move of lunging up to the final hold, about 3 feet above the one before.  In walked a little girl, who couldn't have weighed more than a sack of potatoes.  She watched the guys quietly, then walked up to the wall and scooted up that v4 like it was climbing up a ladder.  She didn't even need to use the dyno move, because she mantled off the two walls to get to the top.

She's usually climbing most of the days that I'm there- apparently she's been climbing since she was two and just competed at a national competition.  She lead climbs, dangling like a spider from the tallest walls in the top-roping room.  (Leading is waaaay more difficult, and you have to clip the rope into carabiners as you go up, instead of held by a bolt at the top of the route.)

"Awesome," I told her when she came down from the V4.  I tried not to gush.  I listened to her advise on a couple other problems, then she demoed a few routes for me that had been giving me problems.

"I always get stuck here," I said about a tricky roof.


"I don't know what to do with my feet."

"Why?  You just do it."

That seemed to be her response to everything.  When I told her I couldn't finish one because it made my fear of heights kick in, she said why, just do it.  It was like Socrates combined with a 2-year-old.  But she did have a point.

And that was how I finally got onto, and climbed, three V1s.  Maybe I had been too obsessed with getting all the 0s first, or that I just didn't believe I was good enough.  There's a point where even if you are in shape, you can't get any further without the right technique.  But with your head in the right place, and with a 10-year-old climbing prodigy barking orders at you, you can definitely push yourself to the limit.

Are my arms feeling it?  You bet.  But it's the best pain in the world.

Monday, August 15, 2011

M & M Get Married

After an intense and complicated transport to the Midwest last week, I participated in the beautiful wedding of my best friend.  (Sorry for that bummer of a last post.)  Here are some highlights in more pictures than words:

Getting manis and pedis:

Getting ready on the morning of the big day:

My hair- the most expensive braid in history but pretty all the same:

The bride, loading up the amazing dress and heading to the venue:

Maid of honor and sister:

Pal from school.  Don't you love how we all have different dresses?

With the lovely bride:

My favorite- a cupcake tree!  So much better to have a variety than merely one cake:

The venue:

Couldn't have asked for a lovelier wedding:

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Big Event

It's not every day that you get to be in a parade.  This last weekend, I participated in the smallest parade with the biggest heart at the Bodega Big Event.  Here are some pictorial highlights to my latest community.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

From the Pits of Milwaukee

I've been to some sad places, but the Greyhound bus depot in Milwaukee is definitely a contender for the top ten.  Screaming kids, check.  Cranky workers, check.  Transients singing off-key, check.  Sad souls who seem to have no place to go but plenty of time to wait, check.  

After an especially long flight with passengers on both sides actively typing on their computers (elbows, ouch!) I find myself here, waiting for the last leg of my journey.  It's lonely, bus stations.  It means we have no cars or independence, no loved ones to meet us at the baggage terminal and get us home.  I'm here for my best friend's wedding.  It is one of the biggest days of her life, and I am lucky enough to have been invited to be part of it.

I'm a terrible friend.  I am simultaneously happy and excited for her, and sad and lonely for myself.  I will show up, again, alone and surrounded by happy couples because I couldn't seem to keep what I had intact. It was really good, then it changed without warning, and now it's gone.  He will be happy, and I will, too.  That's how it works with memories- with enough distance they will hardly seem like they even happened.

I went outside to watch a thunderstorm, something I haven't seen since I left New York almost a year ago.  I felt elated for a moment, but it passed as quickly as the lightning bolt in front of me.  I will wait for another jolt, an electric shock, a way to defibrillate my heart again.  I will wait one more hour for the bus, so I can keep moving.

Rivertown Revival

This weekend, I went to Petaluma with my friend Daisy and her pal Roo, in town from Colorado.  We hit up the Rivertown Revival, Petaluma's version of the Handcar Regatta (on water instead of land).

It was a gorgeous, hot day and finally felt like summer ... and there were $5 weddings under a red umbrella!  If they hadn't been so legally binding, I would have been tempted to get one myself.

It was great being in a wide open space with plastic pints of beer, sunshine and great live music.  Of course, it was mostly a country/bluegrass theme, and I'm inspired to learn the washboard.  Seriously!

My personal highlight of the day was fried pickles- or frickles, from the Fabulous Frickle Brothers.  I got mine with sriracha dipping sauce, and the Frickle version of Ranch.  I am a friend food connoisseur and a huge pickle fan, so this was the closest I've been to heaven all summer.

The boat race happened in the afternoon, and was quite dramatic considering it passed by in seemingly slow motion.

I rooted for the Rainbow Brite boat!

There was great people watching, especially those of the steampunk variety.  I love it!

With Daisy and her friend Debby in the shade.

This ensures I won't miss the Handcar Regatta this fall!

How to Use a Moka Pot

The last few weeks, I had a housesitting stint, which was great until it came time to making the coffee.  Has anyone ever seen the old European espresso pots?  For a normal person, it's probably intuitive, but for me I had to find some answers to get my cup of brew.  Thanks, Wikipedia!

First off, it's called a Moka pot.  And it is really easy to use- maybe even easier than my usual French press.  So next time you're at Aunt Martha's and want to make coffee when she's at church, you'll know what to do.

First, fill the bottom canister with water.

Drop in the filter cup (the cone-shaped screen that fits into the bottom vessel).  Fill with ground coffee about 3/4 up so there's room for it to expand with the steam.  I thought a fine-medium grind was best, but espresso can be too strong for me.

Screw the top onto the bottom (it should be rinsed clean and empty).  Boil on high heat until the water from the bottom steams into coffee in the top vessel.  Like magic!  You know it's ready when the coffee in the top pot gurgles like crazy.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Funky Old Train Ads

More fun from the Western Railway Train Museum.  This time it's to share the terrific vintage ads lining the interior of the restored cars.

Hope you enjoy these as much as I did.