Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Camping Stuff

A couple weeks ago I went through some of my gear, mostly in an attempt to consolidate and organize what I have. It's not a whole bunch but it's enough to take up a fair bit of space, and it's not all new or top-of-the-line but it all works well enough. Despite having enough good-enough stuff, my Amazon wishlist has plenty of links to my Backcountry.com wishlist and I can't help but check out new stuff when I'm close to a gear shop. It didn't really sink in until fairly recently, but my interest in camping equipment-- from the cheapest to the elitist-- goes back years.

My earliest memory of any sort of camping gear of my own was a toy camp folding spoon-fork thing when I was about four or five. I'm not sure why I remember that specifically, nor do I know why my parents got it, but I thought it was cool because it was a spoon and a fork that folded up. For camping! I remember my mom not letting me eat anything with it, which I felt was really unfair. Like, if you give me a spoon-fork combo, I expect to be able to eat my Berry Berry Kix with it, but since Mom got the final say my camping utensils went unused for anything more than pretend meals in the back yard.

As I grew up I wanted real gear of my own. I got the Campmor catalog delivered to me regularly, and there was one thing I wanted out of it more than anything; the Wenzel Starlight tent. I don't really know why I wanted it so bad. It probably had something to do with it being cheap enough for a kid without a job to theoretically afford on his own after a few months allowance. It was circled in almost every catalog I got from Campmor, along with different backpacks, sleeping bags, and cook sets for the least weight efficient but coolest backpacking setups my kid brain could dream up, but I never got that tent (or anything else from that catalog for that matter).

Time passed and I still didn't have a tent of my own. When I went camping with my dad we'd always share a tent, but something in me wanted my own independent sleeping space, a little slice of heaven in the form of a little cloth shelter, but I didn't have the forty dollars to shell out for the tent I wanted. One day, though, while looking around a yard sale, I found an old, stale, dirty green canvas pup tent. It had to have been decades old, with patches and stitching all around it keeping what was left of it together, stains from leaky storage and god-knows-what scattered around it.

I loved it. It was only five bucks, too! I bought it without a second thought, though later on I did have second thoughts during that one time with the bear, but that's neither here nor there. I don't remember what happened to that tent, but I think I tossed it out after the splitting headache that came from trying to sleep in the moldering green tube. Of course, it wasn't the last tent I'd get-- not even the last tent I'd pick up from a yard sale for under $10-- but it was definitely the last canvas relic of a bygone era I ever attempted to sleep in.

I now have a lot of stuff for car camping and backpacking, some of it name brand, some K-Mart quality. I want to build an ultralight backpacking kit under seven or eight pounds, but I've also been eyeing a tent-cot and queen size sleeping bag that'd probably be closer to 50. Maybe it's the variety of options that fascinates me. It could be a callback to childhood curiosity of camping and getting outside. It's probably at least partly because I work at a desk most of the week and daydream a lot. Whatever the case may be I think gear is pretty cool, and I may not go camping as much as I'd like or have much room for new gear but that won't stop me from ogling at shit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Here We Are

I try to keep an even keeled and neutral tone in the things I say and do. Most of my Facebook posts, blog pieces, and tweets are non-partisan as to not anger or hurt anyone that knows my online presence, and at work I make no mention to issues in the news or politics even when guest clientele looking for validation bark their opinions at me. I don't rock the boat because I don't care much for conflict or making my opinions known.

However, in light of current events, I feel the need to speak up for a sec.

I'm going to go ahead and throw it out there that I'm a registered Democrat. I watched the housing bubble pop when I was in college and how entire developments dried up and were abandoned, and Republican allowed lack of regulation in the banks was to blame. I believe in spreading the wealth around and helping the less fortunate. I'm a big fan of hope and change, though I also understand that these things take time. Change isn't a bad thing, and trial and error is something necessary to build something worthwhile.

A lot of my family are Republicans, and I accept that. "If it ain't broke don't fix it" isn't such a horrible idea. Over-regulation can get in the way of the growth of certain business I guess. Big government dictating every action in a person's life is a bit scary in concept. I get all that. I don't agree with it all wholeheartedly, but I can see where they come from. However, it's not the party I'm wholly against; it's their candidate in this election.

The United States of America voted an unstable xenophobic businessman into office. Donald Trump is a man that has called Mexicans rapists and criminals, proposed a ban on an entire religious group, objectified and demeaned countless women, made numerous ableist comments, will be on trial for child rape in December, and has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. He is, by many accounts, not a good person, certainly not a good businessman, and really not someone that should be elected into the most powerful position in the country.

Yet here we are. In a nation of immigrants, diversity, and opportunity, we voted in the antitheses of it all. The country I live in, the one that lauds itself as the greatest nation in the world, gave itself to a man that was selling frozen steaks not all that long ago.

And why? Are we as racist, sexist, ableist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, and terrible as the votes show?

People may cite the scandals with Hillary Clinton as reason to not vote for her, such as Whitewater and the like, but if you really want to get into an argument about development and bad land deals you can look at Trump. She was head of the State Department during the Benghazi attack in 2012 that killed four , but the Bush administration started the war in the Middle East that killed 4,424 soldiers, and the Reagan administration gave Osama bin Laden a lot of munitions to work with and get the ball rolling with Islamic extremism. She had a private email server too-- big fucking whoop. She wasn't perfect, but at least she can keep an even temperament and has experience within government.

Yet. Here. We. Are.

Sure, I'm disappointed the party I'm registered in didn't get the presidency, but what I find devastating is what the results reveal about us as a nation. We're scared. We're scared of each other. We're scared of different cultures, religions, and lifestyles. We, as a nation, apparently don't consider women or POC worthy. We are more than willing to vote a incompetent joke into the White House because we are too afraid of deviating from the status quo. We'll continue to be the nation fighting its native peoples for the sake of an oil pipeline. The systemic racism that keeps the black community oppressed and targeted by police will remain. The glass ceiling will still loom over the heads of women. The LGBT community will continue to face violence. The Muslim community will keep facing discrimination. We're going to go back on decades of social reform because of cowardice and fear.

To readers who are women, POC, LGBT, disabled, Muslim, or any combination of those; I'm so, so sorry. Do your best to be safe. Hate won't win in the end. Stay tough; you know you've had to be tougher than the shitty old white men that have called the shots for so long, and I believe in you and the positive changes to come in the future.

I'll get back to writing my usual innocuous shit again later but I'm fucking embarrassed by the state of this nation. This nation is far from great. It's an embarrassment and its true colors are showing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


It was early in the morning. The sun wasn't up yet, but the house was stuffy and hot so I couldn't fall back asleep. I was groggy, but I also counted my being up as a good thing; nobody was awake in the house, so I could watch whatever I wanted to on the TV in the living room. Five-year-old me (I can't remember how old I was, to be totally honest) snuck out of the bedroom and to the television; an old CRT with a laminated wood base that was in my family well until I was in high school. I turned it on and turned the volume down so it was barely audible. Channel surfing didn't come up with anything interesting until I found a show that caught my attention; it was the pinnacle of 1990s aesthetic; geometric shapes and gaudy pop art in the background of the stage, one of the guys from Full House and a pretty lady hosting, and home videos of people doing goofy stuff. It was called America's Funniest People, and it was like an alternate reality America's Funniest Home Videos except not quite as funny and hosted by Dave Coulier instead of Bob Saget. I watched a bunch of it for a few hours and then decided to go back to bed once the sun started coming up.
Image result for america's funniest people
The early 1990s, pictured in one image

That's the story of one of my more vivid childhood memories. It wasn't playing t-ball, my first day of kindergarten, or 7th birthday party; it's 1992-era Dave Coulier.

I liked television as a kid, so much so in fact that my parents had limited my time watching it to an hour a day at one point. It may explain why I was sneaking around the house in the early hours of the morning watching knockoff home video shows, but TV managed to be a staple in my upbringing, for better or worse. Yes, my family went camping in the summer, my dad would take me fishing, and I'd explore the neighborhood with my older brother and his friends and this big Great Dane named "Boogie", but I also remember a lot of late 1980s reruns and 1990s programming.

One show most people can agree was a cornerstone of the '90s and still watchable today is The X-Files. It's still on Netflix (thank goodness) and I've critiqued it before, but I vividly remember my parents loving the show. I was too young to watch it I guess, but looking back I kind of get it. Every night it was on, my parents would sit and watch the new episode in the living room. The theme music would kick up, and my blood would run cold. It wasn't because I was afraid of the aliens and monsters in the show; after all, I didn't get to watch it because my parents were pretty sure it'd give me nightmares. No, the thing that set me off was... the music. It was spooky, implying that something scary was coming, something so bone-chilling and horrifying that I wasn't allowed to see it. I'd run to my bedroom with my imagination running amok, dreaming up nightmarish terrors only a Halloween obsessed 8 year old can conjure, and I'd end up having bad dreams just from the opening credits.

Image result for The Adventures of Brisco County Jr orb
It just hit me that The Orb that
gaveeveryone powers is a giant
 massage ball.
One show I could watch, and actually really liked to watch, was The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. It was only one season long, but my brother and I really enjoyed it. Honestly, I can see why; it was in the Old West, it had weird steampunk and sci-fi elements, and it had Bruce Campbell playing a rough-and-tumble marshal in search of revenge. It centered around this thing called The Orb, which had the ability to give superpowers to whoever had it, and it was up to Brisco and his friends to thwart the bad guys that had it. I don't remember it making much sense, but I also remember not caring because it was action packed and corny in ways only a one-off Fox show from 1993 could be, and I loved it because of that.

I could go on with a laundry list of 80s and 90s shows and cartoons that helped mold and shape me into the Hapless Millennial I am today, but I'll spare you. It's funny to think how there was so much TV in my upbringing, so many hours hooked on it, and nowadays I don't even have cable and sometimes forget I have a Netflix account. I spend a lot more time outside, being active, doing the things my parents probably wanted me to do instead of watching reruns on The Disney Channel. Binge-watching wasn't a thing when I was a kid, but apparently I did it anyway, and that helped cement sitting in front of the TV as one of the pivotal things in my development.

In a rose-colored-glasses perspective, the programs I watched helped foster my imagination. They acted as a springboard for creativity, seeing situations and looking for solutions. They showed me people becoming friends and overcoming adversity in the face of daunting odds. I even learned things about history, science, literature, and math. Sure, oftentimes problems would be resolved in a half-hour to hour or so, sometimes even less than that, but it at least showed me that creativity and ingenuity, patience and understanding, and a healthy dose of dumb luck (or deus ex machina, whatever) can get you through to the next adventure.

Then again, I have a fairly short attention span sometimes and unrealistic expectations for myself probably thanks to too much television, but who can say for sure? All I know is that TV played a big part in my childhood.

And knowing is half the battle. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Blog Update 4-21-16

Shit. Uh...

Do you remember when I said I might get back into blogging because the off-season was coming and I'd have more time and focus?

I've posted four. Since October. Sorry about that.

For what it's worth, I've been busy with work since there was one of the best wildflower blooms in Death Valley in over a decade and we never really got slow, I've been running some more and have been preparing for another 10k next week and a Spartan Race at the end of the year, and I moved! Sure, it's a block away from where I was, but I still moved though and that's what counts. Plus, I'm still looking for advance my career so there's always that chance a bigger move will come.

Anyway, I just wanted to apologize for the infrequency of content on this blog. I, once again, can't make any guarantees that there will be weekly posts, but hopefully I can hammer out something at least once or twice a month. I think I can at least get race reports, prose-y shit, and stupid observations up from here on, so keep an eye out for those.

Have a good rest of the month! See you in May!

Ode To The Brick Bungalow

I recently moved into a new apartment. It's a bit smaller than my old place, but for all utilities included with the rent, being an upper floor unit, and having a killer mountain view from the front room and kitchen, a little less square footage isn't a big deal. I would jump on board the "tiny house movement" bandwagon, claim the move was to reduce my footprint or that it was to reduce the amount of things I feel I need to have, but really it was because the price was right and I'd spent five years in an apartment I didn't intend to spend five years in.

In early 2011 I lived in a room at the hotel where I work, which wasn't ideal; not much in the realm of privacy, living on-site apparently meant I was on call all the time, and it didn't leave a good first impression telling people I lived in a cheap little hotel room. Out of desperation I started looking for cheap apartments. Since I was a mature adult I had saved up more than enough for first months rent and deposit on a place, but since I'm me I saved that money between the mattresses of my hotel room bed, but I'd made sure I had enough for when the time came that I found a place to call home. In the couple months I looked there were a few promising leads. However, one stood out above them all; it was a one bedroom, one bath, single level brick unit with a fireplace and a covered patio, a short distance from where work.

It was also the cheapest option by a long shot.

An application was sent in shortly after touring the unit, and within a couple weeks I put down the deposit and the rent, got the keys, and settled in to the little Brick Bungalow

My intention was to be in that apartment for a few months and move to the northern coast of California for school, or Steinbeck country if I could find work. I didn't spend money on new furniture since I intended to bail on the place in short order and wanted all the money I could save, so a sofa from the side of the road (that had once housed mice I'd find out later on) faced an entertainment center found at the landfill, with an end table found in a dumpster years before next to a lamp that was scrapped from a yard sale. Actual trash filled the place, but it was strategically chosen trash so it looked intentional. I claimed it was recycling, and it was, but less for ideological reasons and more for "fuck wasting money on shit since this garbage is good enough" reasons.

Circumstances arose and I ended up staying in that apartment longer than initially anticipated. The junk furnishings got a little nicer over time. Art got on the walls. The kitchen, with its harvest gold colored faux-cobblestone linoleum flooring and yellow painted walls, became a shrine for all things tacky and thrift store chic. A large tapestry of the tree of life served as a curtain in the bedroom, and other New Age hippie shit was scattered throughout the place. It smelled of Nag Champa and coffee more often than not for a couple years. If it'd gone any further I might have ended up being a White Guy With Dreadlocks or an Insufferable Hipster Douchebag, but luckily I made it out of that phase with just a djembe and a collection of decent LP's.

After months became a year, a year became years, and years were about to become half a decade, I decided to at least move to a different place in town if I couldn't move elsewhere. It was a sort of like testing of the waters of change. Dipping my toes into the murky depths of discomfort and stress that come with some degree of personal growth meant that, if I could upgrade my place of residence at least a little bit, the possibility of going somewhere even better in the near future could be a possibility. It would mean I could find the wherewithal within myself to be the best person I could be and improve my life in ways I had yet to imagine. If nothing else, it would get me the fuck away from the next-door neighbor who'd scream and shout for no reason all hours of the day, the deteriorating shitshow of a landscaping job that was apparently bailed on a year before, and another five years in the place that became a testament to my shortcomings and failures.

Plus, cheap rent and all utilities included?! Sign me the fuck up!

After writing and dropping off a "letter of intent to vacate" the packing and cleaning began. Boxes and crates slowly made their way out of the old place and into the new one. Stuff I didn't need found its way into the dumpster, Goodwill, and my coworkers' houses. All my remaining furniture was consolidated, moved, and hauled up the stairs. After it was empty I began the task of cleaning the place, leaving it better than how it was when I moved in. Since there were already burn marks on the carpet, chipping paint on the ceiling, cobwebs in the corners, and grime on the baseboards when I initially moved in, I didn't have a huge challenge, but I at least made it look halfway presentable.

I made one last once-over of the place before going to the property management office to drop off the keys to the old place. It had the same smell as the day I moved in; that smell of old masonry, dusty, almost musty, like a church basement or a long abandoned house. Light cut through the blinds, illuminating the falling dust and giving the front room a golden sort of glow. The fridge in the kitchen echoed off the bare walls of the empty room. The bathroom was cold. The bedroom was still. Everything was similar to how it was when I moved in, and I remembered how excited I was to move out of my hotel room and into my own private space. It was a sad, nostalgic couple minutes of reflection, but at least the thought of better things persisted. I locked the door behind me, dropped off the keys, and went to my new home to get ready for work.

A part of me will miss the Brick Bungalow; it was my first place, and it was the backdrop to a lot of moments in my adult life. I guess, though, it's a similar case to my Jeep; I was reluctant to let it go, even though it sucked, but now I have a little Nissan Versa that's doing me a lot better. The Cherokee, much like The Brick Bungalow, had a lot of problems, wasn't maintained that well, and had more space filled with junk and bad memories than I really needed to keep around. The new place and the Versa are more compact, endlessly more efficient, and much more manageable.

That's about as close as I'll get to hopping on the tiny house bandwagon for now, but it's a start of something good I think.

Monday, January 25, 2016

That Nightmare I Had

When I dream, I often have a hard time remembering details of the dream after I wake up. This weekend I can remember dreaming that my girlfriend's cat, Guinness, stole a BMW sports car, and that I chased him through the streets of a city, but I can't remember which city or why Guinness turned to a life of crime. The specifics are a little hazy, but dreams end up like that most of the time; half-remembered scenes, fuzzy movies played out to be pushed aside by reality come sunup. Even though I re-enacted the music video for Holy Fuck's "Red Lights" in my head, recalling the dream later on might only be possibly by re-reading this blog post.

Sometimes dreams-- or nightmares, whichever-- stick with me, though. Last night, standing out on my back patio, I caught a glimpse of the moon in the haze of cloud through the trees. It was a pretty sight, but it reminded me of a nightmare I had as a little kid.

For a little while my family lived in an old Victorian-style house in Independence, California, on a nice corner lot near the town's market. It was a big, two-storied house built of redwood with a covered wrap-around porch and a two car garage. There were fruit trees, shrubs, and a big elm tree in the yard, and it was overall a pretty neat old house to be in. Aside from ghost stories my brother would make up to scare me or the ghost stories I'd make up based off the books I'd read in the school's library, the creep factor of living in an old house never really got to me. That is, I guess, until the nightmare I had after living in the house for awhile.

I dreamed it was autumn. It was nighttime, and the moon was full. I was in the yard alone, trying to get back into the house but finding no way in. I saw my siblings through the kitchen window, laughing and playing, and I yelled for them to let me in. They didn't notice me. I continued to shout, knowing something was in the darkness that would get me if they didn't let me in, but it was no use; I turned from the kitchen window and looked up through the bare branches of the big elm tree, and silhouetted in the moonlight was something feral and bloodthirsty jumping down onto me.

Then I woke up, thoroughly freaked out, in a now creepier house than I originally thought it to be. 

Maybe the trauma factor is what kept that dream in my mind's eye. After all, it plays on the childhood fear of what lurks in the dark and the very real possibility that my siblings would have probably ignored me and left me to die at the hand of some beastly horror (they aren't as big of jerks now as they were growing up thankfully). It could also be the realization that the old spooky house we lived in looked like something from a cornball scary movie or from those creepy books I liked so much. Whatever the case may be, whether it being a primal fear of being alone in the elements or having an extremely overactive childhood imagination that kept the memory of that nightmare alive, it's one of the most vivid recollections from back-in-the-day that I have. 

I wish I could remember the pleasant dreams I had as a kid instead of the nightmares that had me wake up screaming. Or, at least, I wish I could dream up how to catch and arrest Guinness the cat without wrecking the BMW he stole. Either would be okay.