Long Slow Surf: Swimming
October 3, 2012

One month into a one month course on swimming this much I know, I am a three stroke, same side breather. Awesome. I also know I am taking another month of lessons but we’ll get to that in a minute.

When I started writing about this adventure I mentioned my physical therapist’s ‘suggestion’ that I get a kick board to use during laps. He didn’t elaborate on the value of using a kick board and I didn’t ask what they might be. Rather, I dismissed the whole idea as boring (read: not the ‘suggestion’ I wanted to hear) and promptly forgot about it. Then the lessons started. Night one of my first round of swimming lessons began with, you guessed it, an introduction to the kick board and it’s uses in swimming practice. Perfect.

Turns out, that amongst other things the kick board when used during laps is a great way to work on ‘the core’ muscle groups. My core is awful. Always has been, actually, to be fair it is much improved thanks to my Muay Thai workouts but still…weak. So, she (my swim instructor), had me at core. Ever used a kick board during laps? It is a lot of work and not a lot of movement. In fact, if you’re not conscious of your kicks you will likely be moving backward. Awesome. In the days after lessons started and practicing began in earnest it was not lost on me how much further along my core and thus my swimming would be if I had taken the DIRECTION of starting with a kick board back in July. Whoops.

Got my first board!!!! Kick board, anyway. My ‘lazy’ swimming practices have been replaced in the last month with some measure of discipline. I bought my very own kick board, worked out my personal comfort regarding side breathing and learned my stroke count. These basic understandings of swimming and swimming practices have altered my time spent in the pool, dramatically. Laps are switched off between kick boarding and free style. Hell, lap lengths have gone from swimming the width of the pool to swimming the length. All that in four weeks.

The last month spent in lessons not only served to re-instill fundamental swimming practices for me but also brought to the forefront a few elements of this ‘surfing adventure’ that will need to be engaged sooner rather than later. I say surfing because that is the ‘end game’ but I am fully aware that the specific elements that I am engaging today are about swimming, what’s at hand are equipment, suits, weather and still more training.

Equipment

Not only did this one month of swim lessons warrant the purchasing of a kick board but also in short order my first set of goggles. These buys may seem innocuous enough but as it happens equipment purchases get pretty complicated pretty quickly. Goggles: The pair I have are Swedish style and ideal for the pool. They’re not going to cut it in open water. Just google ‘open water swimming goggles’ the 4 billion blogs, lists, rankings and reviews that comes up is staggering. And, that’s just goggles! My next purchase will likely not be goggle related at all as I already know that I need a swim cap. A swim cap! (<–Ew.) Google that shit, too. Geez-a-loo.

The point above is this, I will be negotiating a myriad of equipment purchases from open water goggles to wet suits to bigger boards in fairly short order and the task is daunting.

Suits

Swimming suits should probably come under equipment but they don’t, not really. Not yet. For now, it’s like this, there is nothing particularly functional about any of the fashionable suits I own while doing laps. NOT EVEN the one piece. As a result, sport suits have just hit my radar  and present their own path to be negotiated. Swim suits lead directly to water wear in general, it’s not all about ‘suits,’ people. These all lead to wet suits…

Weather

Wet suits lead to weather. It is October. October begs the question, are you really going to start open water swimming in the winter?????? It is possible here in the South lands but is it a good idea? I’m thinking not. I’m thinking open water swimming is on delay until the spring. Maybe by then I will have figured out which goggles and which wet suit to wear! Between now and then, I think (<–at this moment) I’m staying in the pool.

The Next Right Step

October brings with it another month of lessons. This months lessons are not meant to focus on swimming basics, well…not swimming pool basics. I have figured out through a ton of reading that there are a couple of open water basic skills that I will need to work on in a pool. First among them, dolphin diving. Second, sighting. To that end, I have signed up for another month with directions. After that, I have located a local pool that offers several hours of lane use day or night through out the week, year round. I will be getting a pass there to continue working on swimming skills during the late Fall and Winter.

Not to worry though, the ocean and boards are in my immediate future. I have resolved to spend more time paddle boarding in the coming months. If you have not paddle boarded, do. For me there is a tranquility in paddle boarding that I find in fairly short order upon paddling out. So much so that it begs the question, why do I wait so long between paddling days? Why?

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Tis that Time, Again.
December 31, 2011

If you’re in need of some amusement, feel free to review the FIVE whole blogs I managed to log this year. Five. The gaping holes in my written year lend themselves rather succinctly to outlining the kind of year I actually had. In the interest of a year-end comparative I went back to the end of 2010 to see what I had written, I wrote nothing. So there is a change! This year actually ends.

Never been a huge fan of year-ends, less concerned with new years than I am with new birthdays but I regard both with general disdain. The demarcation of time passed has always served as an opportunity to beat myself senseless over failures, rather than any kind of celebration of growth or success. In the last few days I’ve vacillated between my usual ‘look, look at what you have not done’ thought processes and the conviction that articulating any of those thoughts would be a disservice to my friends. That’s new.

If I said only one thing about 2011 and what I’ve come to understand from it, it would be this: I get by with a little (or, a fuck-ton of) help from my friends. 

This whole positive spin thing is new so in keeping with the #1 thing I learned this year, I’m gonna borrow a friend’s model. Mostly.  This post will cover 11 successes, celebrations or understandings I’ve experienced in 2011.

1.) I get by with the help of my friends. In more instances than I can count I have been carried through this year by friends in my life. I’ve shared this before but it is worth repeating, some of my closest friends can be counted among my family and it is my friends that constitute my family. Got it?

2.) I’m still standing. See, #1. In February of this year 2010 came to a crushing close. Sounds dramatic, I know. The fact remains, though. My father died in the first week of November 2010. It took weeks following his death to end his life. Arranging the funeral, sorting and filing paperwork. It seemed to me at the time that there was roughly 6842 questions that had to be answered. I can take charge of anything, just ask my friends, and I did. Then I returned home and sorted out my own life which had fallen into it’s own state of disarray. At the point that everything, everywhere was back to rights the reality of his death caught up with me. In the second week of February, I got up one morning walked the three(?) steps to the end of my bed and dropped to my knees. I hit a wall. I couldn’t breath. I couldn’t get up. In the hours, then the days, weeks and months that followed that morning friends in my immediate circle saved my life, carried my weight, sorted my head and kept me going until I could stand and move on my own again.

3.) I managed to put together two years. See, #1 & #2. Thank the Great Pumpkin.

4.) This year has afforded me the opportunity to see a number of unfuckingbelievable concerts! Slash in Oregon featuring TK!!! They think they were featuring Myles and I’m glad he was there BUT that show features Todd (are you kidding me) Kerns.  Merle Haggard & Kris Kristofferson under the stars at the Greek. Foo Fighters x 3, the Forum shows were fantastic but seeing the Foos on Record Store Day at Fingerprints in Long Beach goes down as one of the most incredible shows that I have ever been to.The Golden God Revolver Awards featuring LOADED with some appearances by others like…the OG Alice Cooper band! Oh, and did I mention Loaded? Loaded at the Viper Room in April, can you say happy birthday to me?! And,to take the live music year out! BOB SEGER!!!!!!!!!!!!! Have not seen Bob since 1996 and listening to him and Alto Reed in a sold out Staples Center was staggering. All of the Bullets were fantastic but Alto, shit.

5.) Orange belt. I got my orange belt in Muay Thai this year. I didn’t start at orange, of course, that’s just where I got to. In Muay Thai, generally there isn’t a belt system but the Master at my dojo was done ‘coaching’ parents on the progress of the younger students. Turns out the belt system works for me, too. It has been a measurable system of growth. Besides the pretty color scheme (Ha.) the thing about Kick boxing in general that works for me is it helps me to focus on nothing but the next step in front of me. When I don’t, it hurts. Real straight forward means of getting centered. Being focused and getting centered amounts, for me, to getting right. I never feel more together than I do leaving the dojo a sweaty, stinky, bruised disaster. I love it. 

6.) Travel. There is pretty much nowhere on this planet that I don’t want to see. I grew up in a family, in a town where most never leave. For various reasons, see #3, I believed for a huge portion of my life that I would die in that same town without ever leaving it. For that very reason, trying to out run that belief I began taking road trips at ages most kids wouldn’t. I had to. That need to travel has never left me, for some time including this last year, I’ve been in a position to direct that travel impulse. 2011 saw trips to two of my favorite places, Salem, Oregon in February and Seattle this past October. Oregon was a show jaunt with my Loaded family. Seattle a trip to see a once in a life time event featuring a life long hero. June afforded me my first travel to Europe. I got to head over to England to witness (and participate!) in my friends’ wedding! In the process got to see London and any number of sites and places that I have only ever dreamed of. This holiday season took me to the Bay Area on a couple of occasions and to the Sacramento area which I’ve not seen in quite some time.

7.) Guitar. This year saw the return of the guitar to my life in earnest. This one is still all mine for now.

8.) Books. Reading is a huge part of my life and this year there were a number of books that left their mark upon me. Duff McKagan’s autobiography, It’s So Easy and Other Lies deserves a post unto itself frankly. To say the very least it is a staggering tale of fortitude and perseverance. Susan Casey’s, The Wave: In the pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean was sent to me by a friend and has left me convinced that the next hobby I shall undertake is big wave surfing! Rick Riordan’s, The Son of Neptune, Book Two in the Heroes of Olympus series came out in October! Bless Riordan! His adventure series’ are some of the funnest books I’ve read. And, last though not least, everything written by Edward Bear has been read, reread, quoted and carried around with me over the course of this year.

9.) Dream Job. By the grace of a friend, I had the opportunity to see how an industry I’ve dreamed of being a part of operates. I learned more than I wanted to and less than I needed to, if that makes any sense. And, even if it doesn’t, I know that I got an opportunity to see from an inside perspective how a project evolves and that is not a place I could have garnered on my own.

10.) I’m a grown up. You might think that that one would have occurred to me sooner but you would be wrong. I figured this out, wait for it…by virtue of my friends. On multiple occasions, in recent days I have found myself dumbfounded by the unsolicited characterizations friends have made of me. To the degree that I recently declared somewhere that I hope to be the person that my friends believe I am. That’s the benchmark, right there and at some point I must have met it otherwise they would not have had reason to mention the virtues they think I posses. So, at the risk of repeating myself, I hope to be the person my friends believe me to be.

11.) New year, new birthday. This one just amuses me. I mentioned at the outset of this post my disdain for new years and new birthdays. As fate would have it I head into this new year knowing that on my next birthday Guns n’ Roses, the band that brought me to music in the first place will be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. A few friends and I will be on hand to witness the induction and I could not be more excited about it. Nor, would I be there at all if it wasn’t for the kindest gesture from a dear friend. Bring on the New Years.

Thank you, thank you, thank you does not begin to cover the scope of my gratitude for the friends that have brought me through this year.

Love you lots. Happy New Year!

ThisILove, Pt. II
January 5, 2011

This post is the follow-up or conclusion to this post: This I Love, Pt. I. Yeah, it’s only taken 5 plus months to get it off my draft clip board. Eeesh. Having owned that these are 6-10 on the short list of works of art that have shaped my identity.

Six

 

James Galvin’s, The Meadow is easily one of the most beautifully written books that I have encountered. I understood upon completion of this reading that I would very much like to be James Galvin when I grow up. Or, barring that I would like to be able to string a sentence together half as well.

Seven

 

It was in my first visit to the Museum of Modern Art, Queens (Manhattan was being remodeled) that I encountered Umberto Boccioni’s, Dynamism of A Soccer Player. I was rendered mute. The colors and the motion of the work suggested that the painting itself was ACTUALLY in motion. I can not even begin to guess how long I stood there agape.

Eight

I have been in love with guitars for as long as I can remember. As a 4 or 5-year-old I saw my first guitar up close in the hands of my Great Uncle. I can recall sitting on my knees with my face inches away from the guitar watching him play for hours. There is not another object in my life that I can meet and simply upon sight be rendered giddy, awed, eased, turned on and comforted to my core.

Nine 

Alexandre Hogue’s dust bowl era paintings and sketches are inspiring to me on a couple of levels. First, as a history nerd with a particular investment in the Dust Bowl (my paternal grandparents met in a migrant camp in Arizona), the fact that Hogue’s work invokes not just a fascination with painting on my part but also gives rise to my love of history makes him a favorite of mine. Second, Hogue’s critique of ‘environmental policy’ lends itself nicely to my own politics on the matter. His dust bowl pieces are critical and heartbreaking as they should be.

 

Ten 

Last though certainly not least, Wrigley Field! Or, is it just the Cubs. Or, Cubbie culture. Wrigley Field embodies every aspect of baseball mythology-it is legend AND it is real. The Cubs, losers though they may be have HEART. That I respect. And as for Cubbie culture, I’m not sure there is a club, sect, base or label in my life that I am prouder to be a part of.

The Happy & The Crappy: XIII
December 26, 2010

Yeah, about this holiday…not so fucking much. Why won’t this day end?

from the stacks:July, August, September & October
October 26, 2010

Books Bought, Got, Borrowed or Read

 

  HA! As if I could possibly recall all the books I’ve encountered in the last four months. That said, I’ll just hit the highlights and then be back up to speed. The end of my summer was largely spent reading Steig Larsson’s ‘Girl’ trilogy. If you’ve not read these books, DO. And, no, seeing the movies does not count.

It was not all Girls with tattoos however. Happily, Justin Cronin returned vampires to their long absent eviscerating natures. I am a huge fan of mythology and I am fine with the notion of vampire love, really. The thing is, I am also fine with vampires as the soul sucking scourge of humanity. For so long now it seems we’ve been held rapt with vampire lite stories, it was thoroughly enjoyable to read The Passage! All hail wide scale carnage!

From the polar opposite end of the spectrum, early this Fall I was given Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea to read. Not entirely certain what to say about this book except that it makes me want to be a better person.  It is a carry it with you read beyond any shadow of a doubt.

And, this month I find myself in complete awe of Willie Nelson and Joe Patoski’s Willie Nelson an Epic Life. Wow. Just wow.

 

 

On Radar  

 

Postcards from The Edge

&

Wishful Drinking

-Carrie Fisher

 

 

 

365
October 22, 2010

That’s one.

 

 

 

 

 

ThisILove, Pt. 1
July 28, 2010

In the interest of staying busy I have picked up a couple of writing prompt books, the scope of the prompts ranges from simple 3 minute free-write exercises to multi-part complex pieces. This particular post is the result of a prompt that in anyone else’s hands would probably fall under a “simple” exercise. The deal was list 10 works of art that you enjoy. Just 10. The list (of 10) that follows has taken weeks to narrow down, spans a huge portion of my life and requires being posted in two parts. The net result however was worth the work, I think. The following are 10 ‘pieces’ of art that have shaped the very core of my being, not to put to fine a point on it. In sharing them I make only the slightest effort at conveying what each piece means to me.

ONE

 

AFD, speaks for itself. Or, it ought to leastways.

Two

The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. Growing up, I spent as much time as I could roaming the halls of this place, in complete awe of the weirdness. Weird, I love. 

 

Three

 Chewy. I am a complete Star Wars nerd. Chewy was is and will always be the moral center of that troop of weirdos and I love him still.

Four 

 Black & white. I’m a huge fan of black & white. It seems so simple. In addition, some of the most spectacular experiences of my life have occurred in the outdoors. Last, though certainly not least, I am not much of a photographer but I do love the perspective others manage to take.

 

Five

 

Music, imagination, alternate worlds (with in worlds) what is not to love about Fraggle Rock. Jim Henson was a genius.

from the stacks: May
July 9, 2010

 

Books Bought, Got, or Borrowed

 

Love Is A Mixed Tape: Life and Loss, One Song At A Time

-Rob Sheffield

Ironweed

-William Kennedy

Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

&

 Chelsea Chelsea, Bang Bang

-Chelsea Handler

Modern Baptists

-James Wilcox

Tropic of Cancer

-Henry Miller

Pompeii

-Robert Harris

Fall to Pieces: A Memoir of Drugs, Rock n’ roll, and Mental Illness

-Mary Forsberg Weiland w/Larkin Warren

 

Books Read

 

Bite Me

-Christopher Moore

Ironweed

-William Kennedy

Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea

-Chelsea Handler

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness

-Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn

Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories From History and The Arts (A-D)

-Clive James

Modern Baptists

-James Wilcox

 

Line sitting and state skipping are the contexts in which I engaged two of the readings that I got around to this month. This year’s Cinco de Mayo reading proved to be noteworthy at least in as much as I KNOW that I was reading on Cinco de Mayo. Not gonna lie, as holidays go the 5th of May has never made a huge impression on my life. That is, until this year. My May 5, 2010 was spent for the most part in line waiting for a not so secret Jane’s Addiction show! The band announced the weekend before the show that they would be hosting a surprise gig. Turns out, the show was on the 5th at the Bardot in Hollywood. By and large it was a private show that the band decided to allow 100 fans into as well.  The first 100 fans that is. In order to ensure my entry (You’ve heard Duff is in the band, right?) I arrived by noon on the afternoon of the 5th and brought with me Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia. I did NOT bring sunscreen. Huge. Error.

Cultural Amnesia is James’ endeavor at presenting a kind of autobiography.  The tome (1000 plus pages qualifies the tome status) is a collection of excerpts highlighting the politics, philosophies, arts and ideas of the times they represent, the scope of which runs the course of James’ lifetime.  Though a massive undertaking, James’ approach is so fascinating to me (cultural historian by training) that I could not have been more excited to engage the work.

In the interest of full disclosure this book is being read in pieces. Cut me some slack, it’s huge. And, not for nothing, my experience of his approach thus far is that it has a tendency to send ( me) the reader off into tangents of cultural biography that are distinctly their own. Case in point, I could not help but pause to ruminate on the fact that:

 

(from my reading journal on May 5, 2010)

I’m sitting on Vine, between Hollywood Blvd. and Yucca, reading this book which analyzes (or attempts to anyway) the convergence of voices which shape a man’s life. I am waiting to be one of one hundred fans admitted to the Jane’s Addiction show at The Bardot. This show functions as the public debut of Duff McKagan, my life long hero, as the new bass player for the group. I’m ‘resting’ my ass (Note: I’ve moved it off the concrete.) in the folding lawn chair of a guy I don’t know-who’s gone on a beer run. I’m 6 months and 13 days sober, fyi. What brought all of this to my attention were the tourists who just stopped to photograph the Walk of Fame stars in front of me. My feet have been stretched across Johnny Carson. Talk about a chorus of voices that has shaped THIS woman’s present, day and life. Damn.

It is too early to tell whether or not James will be able to pull off this endeavor as a whole. It is NOT too early to know that it has made me conscious of the spirit(s) of the age in which I dwell. I love that. Not incidentally, the book is beautifully written and James’ mastery of language is reason alone to celebrate this book.

If the aforementioned reading serves as an example of reading the right work in the right place, then my reading of Chelsea Handler’s, Are you there, Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea serves as a stark example of reading the wrong book in the wrong place. At the outset of what was to be another musical adventure late last month I found myself on a very early flight winging my way to NYC. Unable to get back to sleep, I got out Handler’s book and proceeded to lose my shit laughing on the plane. Tears, cramps and derisive glares from my seatmates are what Handler’s book got me. It’s been a while since I have read a book (or in Handler’s case books) that have kept me doubled over laughing, hers did!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Note: It’s July. If I spent another moment thinking about May I just might ‘lose my shit’ on a whole ‘nother level. Ergo, this blog while not done is due. Happy reading!

Spring Has Sprung
April 22, 2010

Last Wednesday I turned 35. Today, I have 6 months. Last night was my first night in my new place. This morning, whether I want to or not, everything I do is getting done different.

The Best Laid Plans
February 28, 2010

This month (or this year) began with some ideas (read:plans) on how things were going to go and none of that has worked out exactly. Let’s start with reading, as an example, the *idea* was to jump into Hemingway. After a suggestion on a previous post I started with Islands In The Stream, great. That read, in theory should have plunged me into a Hemingway tangent and the plan would have been realized. What actually happened? The kids died. If you don’t know what that means, it’s cool, I will elaborate in another post at another time. Will have to suffice to say, the book got set down and it took several fits and starts over a few weeks for me to pick it back up. Not to worry though, there was a tangent and it came under the author heading of Christopher Moore.

And the Book of the Year goes to….

 

My friend said, read these books, Christopher Moore is doing a book tour and we’re going.  Truth be told, I was reticent as I had read a Moore book before, Practical Demon Keeping, and I did not care for it. At all. Alas, I am *still* not in charge. I like vampires and his (Moore’s) new book is the third in his vampire tales, alright. My Moore-ish adventure began with Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck the precursors to the upcoming release. Followed in short order by, Coyote Blue (well, sort of), A Dirty Job, Lamb and currently The Stupidest Angel.

On Demons & Coyotes

Not entirely certain what it is about these two books that did not work for me, but, yeah, did NOT work for me. I *suffered* through Practical Demon Keeping as it is not my habit to leave a book unfinished. Not entirely certain why I can’t walk away from a book if I don’t like it, BUT, I do have the satisfaction of knowing that if I can just get through it I never have to read another one again.

About that.

My friend’s enthusiasm for Moore, he is her favorite (and she is one of my favorite people, see how this works?) is the means by which I found myself roped in, again. Maybe I missed something? Maybe *I* got it wrong? well, had I begun my latest foray into Moore’s works with Coyote Blue it would have ended right then and there. I can tell you that what bothered me, right off the bat, was his depiction of an Indian, any Indian. It is a button and a peeve. As an American historian by training and a culturalist to boot most depictions of ‘Native Americans’ irk me. Moore, no exception. What is of note here and it has nothing to do with the merits of his work? I closed the book. Not going to do it. Several chapters in, I quit. Then I returned it to my friend and said, ‘Nope. Stopped reading.’ It’s her favorite. Ha! Nothing to be done for it, however, I had already told the truth.

 

And the Lord said…

 

Read this book. Okay, the Lord had nothing to do with it. If you only ever read one Christopher Moore book, in your life, let it be Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Sweet Mother O’ God, this is hands down one of the funniest books that I have EVER read. Not only did I laugh, chuckle, guffaw and peal may way through this book-the ‘message’ (you know the one) in the end (you know which one) remains completely intact. Brilliant.