Operation: Vodka Soda Lime

29 Dec
VSL

Yes, that is my hand. And yes, I’m missing a lime.

Happy (almost) 2014!  I think it’s going to be a great year.

At Christmas dinner, my family went around the table, and eveyone said (in three words) what they were looking forward to in the new year.  For example, Aunt Leslie said: “Jazz-er-cise” (yes, we explained that is 3 syllables, not 3 words).  I said: “meet new people” (good job! 3 words!).

But seriously, I need to make a serious effort to meet people in this town, to which I have just recently moved.  (I only have two friends, and they are nuts.)

Naturally, I’m going to go about this in the best way possible: by frequenting bars, the mecca from which all good friendships and romances spring (Aunt Leslie met Uncle Pete at a bar, okay!).

Also naturally, my plan is ambitious: I will go to a bar and order a drink every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night in the month of January.

The genesis of this idea came from my friend Alayna, who reads a blog called Sitting in Bars with Cake.  As the name suggests, it’s about this 26-year-old girl who takes cakes to bars in an effort to meet guys (or, as she puts it, “lure boys with sugar”).  Not a joke.  This year alone, she took 50 cakes to bars.

I’m skipping the cake.  (In part due to her low “luring” success rate, based on my truncated perusal of her blog.)

Shall we say, I’ll just be “sitting in bars with… a personality.”

For those concerned: Don’t worry; my doctor has already approved this.  (Not.  My checkup is not until January 27, but I’ll be sure to get his thoughts on it at that point.)

But seriously, don’t worry.  February will be a month of detox involving meeting new people at yoga class and the juice bar.

Briefly, here are the rules:

  • I will attempt to take one picture per night (for purposes of documentation).
  • I will PROMPTLY (yes, promptly, Lucie!) post brief synopses of all the interesting people and new friends I meet.
  • This operation will commence on New Year’s Eve, which is on Tuesday.  Therefore, for the first week, I will be swapping Tuesday night for Wednesday night.
  • I get to bail on one day; therefore, there will be a total of 15 drinking days in this operation.

Wish me luck!

This was NYE 2011 (with fav members of the fam! + Lisa). I’m reusing this dress this year!!

Pompeii

9 Dec

“It was all unknown to me then, as I sat on that white bench on the day I finished my hike. Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know. That it was enough to trust that what I’d done was true. To understand its meaning without yet being able to say precisely what it was . . . . To believe that I didn’t need to reach with my bare hands anymore. To know that seeing the fish beneath the surface of the water was enough. That it was everything. It was my life — like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was, to let it be.” – Cheryl StrayedDSC02087pp

Do you know what has surprised me the most about life?

You grow up and you think about building a life — deliberately, brick by brick. You go at it. Stacking them just so, building something that is strong and straight. You know, a solid foundation. Something that is disciplined and noble. That you can be proud of. That is not tarnished by oozing mortar or fireplace soot.

And then you step back and you look at your brick wall.

And it looks like the fucking Pompeii ruins.

Has anyone else had that experience. The soup-sandwich-clusterfuck-of-a-life experience?

And then there are moments when the sun hits your shitty-brick-wall-ruins just right, when wind blows across its rough edges just so. When the magic of the place courses through you. When the miracle of the fact that something you’ve built still stands — something! — strikes you. The beautiful mess of it all. The speckled dust of goodness in it.

That’s the thing I didn’t expect in life. How messy it all is. That messy is okay. That messy can dazzle, in its own crazy way.

Oh, my twenties. What a decade.

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The Real World: Keeping It Crazy

1 Dec
You may recognize Mohammad.

You may recognize Mohammad on this year’s Christmas card.

In the words of John Mayer…

Welcome to the real world,” they said to me
Condescendingly
Take a seat
Take your life
Plot it out in black and white
 

I now live in an apartment.  I drive a car.  I don’t carry toilet paper in my pocket.  I drink “chocolate glazed donut” flavored coffee.  No, I haven’t been on any jungle walks lately.

Yes, crazy stuff still happens to me.

It is now called my job.

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I am a good shot. At the three foot range.

For instance, [above] was my first day at work.  As you may recall, I left the Appalachian Trail because my dream job landed in my lap.  I’ve been at work for several months now and… I love it.  I literally wake up stoked to go to work.

I’m a prosecutor in a very dangerous city on the east coast (that has recently been likened to a “war zone” by the local paper, readers of which are counting down the “shooting days” left in the year).  

I prosecute violent crime… i.e., guns, drugs, etc. and also an individual who inspired last month’s Halloween costume:

Yes, that individual is a bank robber.

Yes, that individual is a bank robber.

I haven’t been blogging lately, in part because I’ve been trying to figure out (1) how to prosecute violent criminals and (2) how not to get shot in the process.

But also because I’ve been lazy and because I feel weird writing about my real life… i.e., the lady at Trader Joe’s who told me to “rot in hell” (because of my bad parking job… yes, it was pretty bad) and the night I ended up at the cigar lounge smoking my first, second, and third cigars ever (which I later learned were called “Acid Blondies”… yes, when I went to order one, I was confused and asked for a “blondie on acid”).

I will try to do better, folks.  In life and in more regularly posting to this blog.

As for Bojangles, he is at home and looking for a full-time job, though in the interim he’s had the opportunity to return to his first love: cutting down trees.

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Yes, cutting down trees is as dangerous as it appears in this picture.

Yes, I was there and cutting down trees is as dangerous as it appears in this picture.

A Dream Come True

13 Oct

On the Friday before last — October 4th — Bojangles summited Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.Bojangles Katahdin

In all, he hiked 2,185.9 miles

through 14 states

in 197 days,

which is over 6 1/2 months.

In the process, he lost 38 pounds.

He is amazing.

FieldLake

His crew after me.

His crew after me.

FogMouseMount100 MileSunsetFor Bojangles, the AT was a dream that took hold over a year ago, when he moved back into his parent’s basement and started working at a moving company to save money for the hike of a lifetime.

And now he’s done it, and he’s moving back into his parent’s basement.  He’s not sure what’s next in life.  He figured the AT would help him with that.

He says he thought he’d feel different — changed in some profound way — when he got done.  But he says he feels the same.

I told him that when he looks back in 15 years, the change in him will be plain as day.

To me, the greatest gift of an AT thru-hike — or a similar escape from the real world — is the gift of time. Time to see.  To feel.  To think.  All those hours spent in your head.

Time is also one of the greatest gifts of life.  It is life’s currency.  When you look back on your life, you’re going to count your hours and days and weeks and months and years and wonder where they went.  My hope for Bojangles is that he lives every one of them like he lived the last 6 1/2 months — fully embracing the pain and the possibility, the crooked paths and the straightaways, the doubt and the doggedness, and — of course — the sweet, sweet joy of triumph.

CONGRATULATIONS, BO!

Broken Silence

13 Sep

My heart still beats.  My lungs still inflate.  I am alive.  [Though down a toe:]

Leaving the Trail was much more painful than this.

Leaving the Trail was much more painful than this.

I haven’t posted… in a while… because I have been living in a swirl of head-spinning change, which has made me want to crawl into a hole rather than broadcast my abstruse emotions over the blogosphere.

The short and skinny of it is that I left the Trail because I got my dream job.

Leaving the Trail was devastating.

It all happened very abruptly, and that day was one of the hardest of my life.  No joke.

We sat on a rock in New York, and he promised me he’d finish.

“But I never would have made it here without you.”

I would have called him a liar, but I already knew this.  He would have hiked home to Pennsylvania and never left.

“Use the hand sanitizer,” I said.

This was a joke.  I had done everything but eat the stuff and had still been the Trail’s harbinger of sickness.

I attempted to dam the stream of tears flooding my face, I hugged Bojangles, and I watched him clamor over the rocks away from me.  He turned around and waved and then disappeared into the woods.

Five minutes later, I got a text.  He’d been stung by a bee.  I bawled.

It was so hard.  Hiking the Trail with Bo was my whole life.  Every second of every minute of every hour of every day.  It took 5 hours on a highway to get me back to the real world, but more than a month to get me where I can type this.

I may fill in the details later, but in the interest of continuity, here’s where we’re at:

Since I recovered from the tonsillectomy, Bojangles and I finished up the very tail end of Virginia, went through West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and into New York.  I left Bojangles where the AT crosses West Mombasha Road at mile 1374.7.

Since then, his pace has considerably slowed, undoubtedly due to lack of the great slave driver Oxy.  BUT, like a champ, he’s hiked all the way through Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire.  He’s now at mile 1887.6, and we shall follow him as he goes the last 300 miles!

The weekend before last, I visited him in the White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire.  Being there, amidst Bojangles and other scruffy hikers — a bizarre clan of which I was no longer a part — was emotional.  Nostalgia, failure, guilt, regret swirled ribbons around my head.

Bo didn’t understand.  “The AT gave you your dream job,” he said.  “It hasn’t given me shit.”

Here's Bo a few days ago on the top of Mt. Washington in the Whites of New Hampshire.

Bo a few days ago on the top of Mt. Washington in the Whites of New Hampshire.  Obviously, the AT did give him something:  a homeless person’s beard.

Rocksylvania

18 Jul

7/17 – 21.9 miles
7/18 – 18.0 miles
AT Mile Marker – 1,235.6 miles

Hope everyone is surviving the heat wave. I’m on my 10th liter of water of the day. I don’t even remember what air conditioning feels like. Probably a bit chilly for my taste.

Also making things difficult for me are… the boulder fields. AT hikers know Pennsylvania as “Rocksylvania” because God unloaded a dump truck of ’em overhead this state.

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We shared the shelter last night with two old women – one perhaps well into her 70s and the other similarly situated in her 60s. The four of us were so hot and knackered that we barely spoke a word to one another.

This morning, the old women woke up at 5:30. Though they seemed to work diligently, it took them a while to break camp. “Why are old people so slow?”, Bojangles asked me later.

They left before us, but we soon caught up to the women… in… a boulder field. We zoomed (relatively) past them, but I spent the next hour thinking about them. “How in the hell are they doing this?” “Why?” “It’s going to take them all day to get 10 miles.” I wish I would have gotten their stories. And a picture. But I barely said a word to them.

The bugs are terrible. My body is riddled with mosquito bites. 100% DEET insect repellent is doing nothing but giving me DEET poisoning. As for the gnats… they swarm around me as if I’m a steaming pile of cow dung. For sport, I killed 33 of them on my chest in the last half hour of hiking yesterday. Their blood and guts streaked my shirt.

And yet, yesterday at 6 PM, I was listening to Green Day and tripping over rocks and almost busting my head open when I realized I’m having the time of my life.

Yesterday, I accepted the job I will start in September — when this wild year comes to an end. And yesterday one of my dear friends from law school, who is my age, had lung surgery to remove cancer. And my Dad was bummed because his puppy Velcro had a bad night at obedience class. I told my future employer yes, I told my friend good luck, and I told my Dad to go back and try again.

I’m on this damn hike because I read a book about a woman my age who, fifteen years ago — with heroin tracks in her ankles — set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She wrote, “The best thing you can do with your life is to tackle the motherfucking shit out of it.”

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Update

15 Jul

“I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
– Agatha Christie

7/13 – 17.4 miles
7/14 – 11.3 miles
7/15 – 24.4 miles
AT Mile Marker – 1,213.7

Let me recap the major points of the past few days, with no attempt at organization. And with a lot of whining.

On Saturday the 13th, Bojangles got attacked by a swarm of bees while taking a #2. I was drinking some water on the Trail when he ran out of the woods with no pants on, screaming like a banshee and grabbing his butt. I gave him one of those insect bite relief sticks, but apparently I did not display nearly enough sympathy because for the rest of the afternoon, I had to field questions like this: “Do you have any idea what it’s like to get attacked by bees?” “Can you imagine what that must feel like?”

On Sunday the 14th, we only covered 11 miles because we had difficulty launching from Bojangles’ parents’ house. They slackpacked us for 80 miles over 5 days. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Bojangles!

The sweltering heat is uncomfortable, but what is really driving me bonkers is the bugs. In particular, the other day, after inhaling up my nostril the 11th gnat of the day, I erupted in a tirade (mostly directed at the Appalachian gnat population, though I do faintly remember kicking a tree stump and barking at Bojangles). The next day I was (very happily) outfitted in this:

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Bojangles makes fewer and fewer jokes about my new headgear as time goes on and our gnat following grows. I said nothing (but snapped a photo) when I saw him today with sassafras leaves affixed to his forehead (he says they are natural insect repellents):

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We cruised into the shelter last night at about 9 PM. It turned out to be one of the worst nights on the Trail. Worse than the freezing cold March nights in Georgia. Almost as bad as the searing throat pain nights in Virginia. It was hot as Hellman’s. I laid on top of my sleeping bag, which slowly soaked with sweat. Meanwhile, the mosquitos (and who knows what other creepy crawlers) had a field day chomping down on my exposed skin. Let’s just say I was ready to get up when 5:30 AM came.

What else has happened. Oh yes, only perhaps the single grossest moment of my life. I’ll spare you, but let’s just say I’m experiencing some serious gastrointestinal issues. That royally suck when you are in the woods. Moving on…

Let me tell you everything I’ve learned about hitchhiking: wave an American flag. Seriously, the flag has earned its keep.

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Here are some red mushrooms growing on a tree:

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Other pictures of late…

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Also, underarm chafing (it is worse in other areas I will leave out):

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