Friday, August 15, 2014

Tahoe, Part 1

It's been a long time since I've blogged.

But I'm back at an office job now, so it seems appropriate to pick the hobby back up. I guess being paid to sit all day in a cubicle is good-enough inspiration, and besides, I do miss the diary-like format that blogging provides. I love going back and reading past blogs. It's a nice meandering through memory lane.

I'm living in Tahoe now, and I'm married. It's been quite a year.

And quite a week. A week of goodbyes, and reflecting, and mourning.

It's my second week of work. I am no longer solely in business for myself. I ache over that, but it was time to go back in-house for a while, and we need the health insurance and benefits, since Cullen won't be working when he gets out here -- at least not "working" for a company in the traditional sense. I have no doubt he will find ways to make money.

I still have a large chunk of myself in Woodside, smashed between those redwoods and soft soil. I plastered my new cubicle here with pictures of my favorite forest-spots there, and they help. They do. It's not the same as gazing out my window to the woods, or stepping out for a mid-day break for a trail run between ferns, douglas firs, and sequoias, but it's a reminder.

Leaving Woodside has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and re-adjusting to a new home, trying to meet people, and starting a new job is emotionally exhausting. I never wanted to go through this again -- to be "new" -- it lost its novelty somewhere in my late-20s.

But marriage causes us to make changes and open ourselves up to different environments and experiences. Tahoe may be new to me, but I'm living back in the Sierras, where I grew up. So it's not that unfamiliar. Cullen is moving across the country, to a coast he's never resided in, and he's leaving behind every creature comfort he's built-up over the past 20 or so years, so my change isn't all that significant, I suppose.

This week has also been a week of deaths. I lost a good friend from San Luis Obispo. He was a running partner, a business associate, and a friend. His life was cut short in a motorcycle accident. He's the second SLO friend I've lost this summer, and I'm reeling a bit from the sting of such young lives ending. Now that I'm a wife, I have a different level of sympathy for their wives. There is a collective ache that seems to be pulsing among all of us who knew both men, and I know we will carry their deaths in our memory for a long time.

Robin Williams committed suicide, and though I of course never knew him, to know that such a bright life couldn't handle his own emotional pain any longer is a hard thing to process. Especially right after Dusty, my SLO friend's accidental death, Robin's death is a slap in the face. Dusty, I'm sure, would have chosen many more days to drink up all that life has to offer, and Robin Williams gave his up. It makes me a bit angry that one could be so careless when life is offered. He rejected it. Dusty wanted it, and couldn't keep it.

Tahoe is beautiful, and I feel fortunate to live here, but it's lonely. I'm at that time of in-between. Cullen won't move out for a few more months, so it's up to me to meet people, and put a smile on my face, without someone there to make me laugh. It's up to me to keep myself warm at night, without my husband there next to me.

There, I did it. I wrote a blog, after being absent for two years. It's a start. More will follow -- stay tuned. I have a whole new journey to start documenting.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Add to our many talents BREWERS

We're finally able to imbibe in the fruits of our labor. Nine months after beginning our hard-cider making, Michaela and I bottled the lovely nectar.

We were, naturally, sampling as we mixed the various varieties together during our bottling process, and over the course of the evening, I verified, without a doubt, that it indeed has alcohol. Quite a bit in fact. I'm guessing 8 -9%. (We were aiming, originally, for somewhere in the 5% range. Oh well.)

We are so very pleased with how it turned out -- thrilled, in fact. We're very impressed with our newly discovered skills as BREWMASTERS. It's crisp, complex, and very Spanish (we even named one of the blends Contador, after the famed Spanish cyclist). In short, you wouldn't be able to purchase any American-style cider that even comes close. It's not very sweet, and any man could feel proud drinking it.

A quick recap of our process:

We picked around 700 pounds of apples back in September.
Pressed them in November.

Racked in February.

And finally, covered her parents' garage, her mom's exercise equipment, and ourselves in the concoction as we attempted to figure out our kegging carbonation method during the bottling process.

I learned that I am incapable of spelling the last name "Gyllenhaal" while drinking (we named one of the blends after the husky actor -- his name grew to 10 syllables, I believe, at one point).

Next time I'll request that Michaela choose a simpler moniker, such as, oh, I don't, know, "Adam"?*

So what's next? Well, in July, we'll hunt down a Gravenstein orchard and begin the process of attempting a sour cider, with Brett yeast. We're hoping to ramp up production significantly, for our next season, because 8 cases, shared, is simply not enough to get us through a nine-month stretch.

*Entirely coincidental that that also happens to be my boyfriend's name. I'm sure there are plenty of actors/attractive men who share that first name.

Monday, April 30, 2012

SF Ballet Date Night

Adam and I treated ourselves to a most stunning performance of Don Quixote at the SF Ballet. Not too often that us two redwoodsy ones get dressed up and go out on the town, but it sure is lovely when we do.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Boston Gauntlet of Marathon Death

I just returned from running the hottest Boston Marathon on record. It hit 90 degrees, with the radiant asphalt temps reaching into the 100s. In April. In Boston. Whilst I was running in the freezing rain all winter, logging my long runs through hail, snow, and skin-numbing cold, I smugly thought - HA. Bring it, Boston. You saucy bitch. What more could you throw at me that's harder than this? I ran up and down the 2,000 foot mountain range I live on, slipped on muddy trails, and embraced the cold thinking that it would come in handy come race day.


I should have just set up a treadmill in a sauna.

Anyhow, despite the absolutely punishing heat, and navigating a course that turned into a veritable battlefield littered with the strewn bodies of passed-out heat-stroke-stricken runners, that race will go down as the most satisfying, memorable, and masochistic thing I've yet accomplished in my fairly un-noteworthy life.

Boston itself is electric during the whole marathon weekend. The town residents see it as an excuse to drink copiously in public on a free, Boston-only Monday holiday, and being that they're Bostonians, they fully embrace the added economic revenues and the pure gladiator-theatre spectacle that is the marathon. Idiot humans, running 26 miles, totally flogging themselves -- paying for the privilege.  They don't know whether to admire us or wonder how much more de-evolved we'll become.

But anyhow, it was my first trip to Boston, so in addition to going for the race spectacle, I was equally excited to check out such a historical, venerated city.

So runners. We are total nerds. You could spot the runners in the airport and all around town everywhere you went. Skinny, wearing wicking fabric (to the airport, breakfast -- wick wick!), and big, overbuilt sneakers. There was this distinct cockiness in the air -- a haughtiness that comes from the prestige of having to qualify to get into the race in the first place, coupled with the fact that the Bostonians themselves tend to tip the scales north of a reasonable BMI level -- making the runners feel even more smug about their chosen time-suck of a sport.
But it was electric, nonetheless. The energy and excitement were palatable.

On race day itself, we caught our bus at 6 a.m. for the 10:20 race start. That seems a bit early for a mere 26 mile one-way bus ride, right? Well, considering that over 22,000 started the race, and that they had to round up probably every school bus in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, it's actually amazing that it worked out as smoothly as it did.

By the time my wave lined up at 10:20, it was in the high-70s, and we were all sweating at the start line. The wiser ones in the crowd seemed to be calculating their very-revised plans for running a fast race, but most still made the mistake of starting out too fast, or thinking that they would be above the effects of the Almighty Heat Stroke.

I was in the second camp. I slightly adjusted my pace, but in looking at my first half split as compared to my second half split, I clearly went for the positive split strategy -- which, as any runner will tell you, is not the best way to run a race. And it was a funny thing -- the temperature effects bared their ugly fangs fairly early on, so I took on plenty of water, doused myself in nearby neighbor's hoses, treated myself to plenty of ice handouts, and even took an occasional popsicle from a kid, but I just could not stay ahead of the heat-effects during the second half and still run a pace that had the number 8 anywhere in the beginning numbers. By the end, I was STOKED to see a 9:30 mile. At least I'm not hurling and fainting like the people around me, I thought. It was not a normal marathon.

It hurt, for sure, but there was this distinct feeling in the air -- this shared, collective resignation that no one was going to meet their time goal, so all 22,000 of us banded together, slowed our pace, and supported each other in our shared suffering. As the miles ticked on, the course became more and more of a battlefield and less of a prestigious marathon course. People everywhere walked up the hills. Took long breaks at the water stops. Laid down in the grass. Got carried away by the medics. Took off their shoes. Shuffled along, willing the miles to happen.

And that's when I started to love it. I loved that I was a part of this wave of craziness -- this nonsensical event we do that hurts our bodies more than it builds them, and then to collectively decide to continue on in defying temperatures that our winter-training had not prepared us for -- just so we could finish. There was this incredible feeling of accomplishment because of the added struggle, and it was interesting to feel a part of such a thick skinned-will to finish something so senseless and painful.

My favorite part, by far, were the crowds. For 26 miles, from rural Hopkinton all the way to the city center, the crowds jammed the streets screaming their heads off. It was deafening at times. They sympathetically handed us extra water and ice, told us we were crazy in their Boston accents, and cheered us on. The Wellesley girls kissed us and screamed and bore signs proclaiming messages such as "Kiss me because I'm not Irish." "Kiss me because I'm stoned." "Besame porque soy Mexicana." "Kiss me if  want to drop out," "Kiss me if you want me to take my shirt off," and so on. Closer to the city, the Boston College fraternities showered us with beers and signs that said "Shortcut, this way!" "Quit now!" and other encouraging slogans.

The last few miles to the finish line were extra punishing with the heat, so I tried to concentrate on the screaming people, the fact that the race had been going on for 116 years, and that I was now a part of the oldest and most revered marathon in the world.

Probably the worst part, post-finish, was the long, long walk to the buses to retrieve our drop bags. My bus, effing thing, was the very last bus on the street, so I hobbled along, stepping over bodies, tears running down my face, willing myself to make it to the bus so I could grab my phone and call people for immediate sympathy. Everyone else had the same plan. It was hilarious -- we were all on our phones complaining and demanding sympathy and congratulations for our self-induced flog fest.

Post race, Kelly and I met up with some friends from our North Carolina days, and being that we weren't so concerned about our fitness for the immediate future, I rallied everyone to drink Irish Car Bombs (which are, incidentally, illegal in fine Boston, but that's a whole other post). The men, having their wits about them, resisted a bit, so I may have introduced some jabs involving their lack of cajones, and pretty soon, they were slamming 'em down, in fine form.

I'm pretty sure that's the only marathon where I came home with a solid extra few pounds, thanks to the copious Irish bars and excellent fish and chips that the city is known for.

So final time, 3:48. I had originally hoped for a 3:23- 3:25-ish marathon, and I'm bummed I didn't re-qualify, but I am so glad I got to experience everything Boston threw at me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Happy Cider Time

This fall, Michaela decided it would be totally rad to make our own hard cider. Not sweet, girly cider, but French-style crisp cider. The kind that, prior to proper water sanitation methods in the 19th century U.S., was a more common beverage than water.

Ever heard of Johnny Appleseed? He wasn't planting "eating" apples, folks. He was planting apples for people to drink and get happy on.

So that's what we're doing. Making happy cider.

This past weekend was Phase 1: The Picking of the Apples. We picked 300 pounds of dry-farmed heirloom apples.

We're pretty excited about our apple selection. A variety of heirloom apples should do nicely for the type of cider we're after.

In a few weeks, we'll start the apple pressing process. We're currently researching the yeast strains we want to add to get the desired crisp, yet slightly sweet, lightly carbonated cider that will make us the most popular  brewing girls ever.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ray. Oh. Live.

Hi! Time for my seasonal blog post. Sad, but true. Blogging falls off the priority list these days. HOWEVER, I did want to post a particular high-spot in my life. I saw Ray. Live.

I've been a Ray La Montagne fan since I first heard his music, back in 2006. I still remember vividly the first time I heard him. I had just moved to North Carolina, and his music peppered my almost 3-year stay there.
To this day, when I hear him, I think of seasonal, crispy leaves that fall in the autumn, windy singletrack, and how the air there becomes electric during summer thunderstorms.

Seeing him in concert has been on my "To Do in Lifetime" list for a while now, and I finally got the chance, this past Friday, in Berkeley.

My seats weren't great, but the acoustics were wonderful, and I was in music bliss for the hour and a half that he treated us to his mastery.

His voice--scratchy and soulful--filled the outside space. His crafted lyrics were even more poignant live, and though he fumbled through the moments when he had to stop singing and address the crowd, it made his raw singing even that more special. He unwrapped his gift and left it there, for the audience to unravel and take.I found it interesting that it was so uncomfortable for him to speak, yet he showed us his story--his heartbreaks, losses, and hopes--by sharing his lyrics and baring his voice.
I wish he could have played all night.

If he comes to a venue near you, don't miss his show.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's almost Friday. Poetry time.

My weeks, these days, blend into each other. I have settled into an easy rhythm of work and rest and gatherings with friends.
It hit me that tomorrow is Friday. Some poetry, I believe, is in order. The below poem I discovered in an anthology that I have. (And love, and read incessantly.)
I read this particular poem over and over.
It grips me, and lines of it jump out at me, during the day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

August, by Esta Spalding

Skin-tight with longing, like dangerous girls,
the tomatoes reel, drunk
from the vine.

The corn, its secret ears
studded like microphones, transmits August
across the field; paranoid crickets, the noise of snakes
between stalks, peeling themselves from
I am burdended as the sky,
clouds, upset buckets pour
their varnish onto earth.

Last year you asked if I was faint because of the blood. The tomatoes
bristled in their improbable skins,


This is one way to say it.
The girl gone, you left.

& this another. 
Last year in August I hung
my head between my knees, looked up
flirting with atmosphere
but you were here
& the sky had no gravity.

Now love falls from me, 
walls from a a besieged city.
When I move the mountains shrug off
skin, horizon shudders, I wear the moon,
a cowbell.

My sympton:
the earth's
constant rotation.


On the surface the sea argues.
The tide pulls water like a cloth
from the table, beached boats, dishes 
left standing. Without apology
nature abandons us.
Returns, promiscuous, & slides between 
sheets, unspooling the length
of our bodies.

Black wild rabbits beside the lighthouse
at Letite. They disappear before 
I am certain I've seen them.
Have they learned this from you?


I read the journal of the boy who starved
to death on the other side of a river
under trees grown so old he would not feed them
to a signal fire. His last entry:
August 12 Beautiful Blueberries!

Everything I say about desire or
hunger is only lip service
in the face of it.

Still there were days I know your mouth gave that last taste of blue.


When you said you were 
I pictured a tree;
spring, the green
nippled buds

not the fall
when we are banished
from the garden.


Another woman fell
in love with the sea,
land kissed by salt, the skin
at the neck a tidal zone, she rowed
against the escaping tide
fighting to stay afloat.

To find the sea she had to turn her back to it,

The sea is a wound
& in loving it
she learned to love what goes missing


Once the rasberries grew into our room, swollen as the
brains of insects, I dreamt a 
weddding. We could not find our
way up the twisted ramp, out from under
ground, my hair earth-damp.

I woke. A rasberry bush cling to us
sticky as the toes of frogs.
A warning: you carried betrayal
like a mantis
folded to your chest -- legs, wings, tongue
would open, knife
the leaves above us.


If I could step into 
your skin, my fingers 
into your fingers putting on 
gloves, my legs, your legs,
a snake zipping
up. If I could look
out of your tired eyeholes
brain of my brain,
I might know
why we failed.
(Once we thought the same
thoughts, felt the same things.)

A heavy cloak, I wear
you, an old black wing
I can't shrug off.

O heart of my heart,
come home. O flesh, 
come to me before
the worm, before earth
ate the girl,
before you left without 


You said, there are women
I know whose presence
changes the quality of air.

I am not one of those. The leaves
lift & sigh, the river
keeps saying the unsayable things.
I hesitate to prod the corn from the coals
though I have soaked it in Arctic water.
I stop the knife near the tomato
skin, all summer coiled there.
You are not coming back.

One step is closer 
to the fire.

September will fall
with twilight's metal,
                    loose change
from a pocket. Quicker than
an oar can fight water,
I will look up from my feet
catch the leaves red-handed
embracing smoke.

Around me, lost things gather
for an instant
in earth-dark air.

Wow, right? I still have to catch my breath a bit every time I read that. She summarizes heartbreak, and all of its nuances, in each one of those lines.

And here's one more.


We are a carefully assembled summer pie,
  we didn't bother to bake. The crust, soggy now
from the melting sugar, drooping butter
smashed fruit that has lost its fragrance.
Ruby red strawberries, pocked by delicate seeds. Bruised and bleeding their
deep juices run throughout the pressed,
rolled dough.
apples, skinless and vulnerable, slopped in cinnamon,
can't cover their nakedness.

Lattice top. Magazine-cover perfect. Embracing and weaving
a textured canvas that could barely contain the bursting fruit
Now sags.

Even the tinfoil container has lost its crinkle.
  sunlight hardly reflects a sparkle. Just a tarnished reflection.

The oven groans and shifts as it cools and tightens up,
no longer expanding from the radiant heat.

I cannot reach it. I cannot reach it.


Once I saw our future children weaving through my legs. In your kitchen.
We would trade off, exchanging dates with the woods,
our moments lost in singletrack to escape the madness of our
bustling household


Sometimes, now, I grasp my arms, cross-like, around my own body
to feel what you must have felt. To step inside what could have been your thoughts.

I wonder if you thought me delicate,
crushable. A crispy, long-dead moth.

I dance between glasses of opaque red wine and cool, almost clear Chardonnays.


Come, let's twist the oven dial. A warm, smoking 400 should do nicely.