Sunday, November 29, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thelma and Louise

My friend and fellow field guide Peggy came out from Colorado for a visit this past week. It was awesome to see her, and her presence was a welcome breath of wilderness-y air in my tiny Brooklyn apartment. 

I mean that literally, actually. She brought me some wild sage from the Utah desert, but even better than that was her water bottle. It was blackened from who knows how many hours of sitting in a campfire, and I couldn't stop smelling it.

"I half expected to see you spooning it when I woke up this morning," she told me the next day.

She was here almost a week, which is peanuts compared the number of 
nights I spent crashing on her couch over the summer when I was doing the homeless thing. It was nice to repay the favor a little.

It was funny to have someone around who acts, well, kind of like I do. As we were cooking dinner one night, I said something about the lack of counter space. She said, "Eh, whatever," and plopped down on the floor with a cutting board in her lap. This is the kind of thing that tends to cause raised eyebrows around civilized folk but seems perfectly normal to people who scrub pots with sand and use Wag Bags to do their business.

Peggy and I trained at the same time, and I remember the very first day that we arrived at the office in Durango. One of the senior guides who led the training came in, took one look at us, and said, "I can already tell the two of you are going to be just fine."

"How come?"

"Because there are plenty of chairs available, and you're both sitting on the floor."

Playing with Photo Booth. Sitting on the floor.

Friday, November 13, 2009


I just made an exciting discovery. I can't believe it took me this long to find out about this society, because its mission is to provide exactly what this blog is all about. And it's based in New York.

It's called Adventure Society. They do archery, horseback riding, hiking. Holistic things like cooking, massage classes and yoga. Dog sledding. Cross-country skiing. I'm excited.

Some of their trips are a little too rich for my blood (dog sledding, $203 for non-members - yikes!) but others look doable in moderation. $65 for a winter Delaware Water Gap hike with optional beer tasting? I could get behind that.

I created an account to get on their email list and was asked a number of questions. My favorite of these was "What is your secret fantasy?" Cheeky. I like it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Just search for "Trekkie69"

Internet, meet Priscilla.

Priscilla is a 12-year-old Trek Mountain Track Sport 800. She didn't really want me to post this picture because she's sensitive about her weight these days - so many light-weight young aluminum models on the market and all - but I maintain that she looks pretty damn good for her age. She likes Tom Waits, long rides on leafy trails, and wax-based lubricants. She's got kind of a thing for Cannondales. Interested young studs can check out her full profile on

At first she was a  little irritated with me for leaving her in the shed all those years while I was away in college and out west, but we have too much history together. She can't stay mad at me. (If she can forgive me for that time I rode her up and down Killington knowing full well that she has no suspension, she can forgive me for anything.)

Twelve years ago, I was broken-hearted and disillusioned about bicycles. I had spent weeks trying to rehabilitate an old three-speed purchased at a yard sale for ten bucks, and what thanks did I get? A runaway front tire, a face-plant on the sidewalk, and a broken jaw.

I was slow to trust again. But Priscilla showed me that some friends will never let you down.

Yesterday, we took a nice long ride around Central Park. It was a perfect golden November afternoon, and while we found some cool little spots to go off-road, mostly we just moseyed around taking in the scene.

After that, we decided to play the game of "How close can we stay to the East River while making our way downtown to the Williamsburg Bridge?" Not an easy task. It involved many detours and a lot of backtracking, but it was worth it.

Twelve miles, three hours, and more hills than I would have believed possible in New York City. Spend too long here, and you start to forget it's built on an honest-to-goodness chunk of glacier-carved geography, bumps and all. 

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Almost a gear post

The moment I saw her, I knew.

I had only been in New York a couple of weeks, and after living for almost two years in the worst dressed city in America, I was surrounded by people who looked like they just stepped out of "Sex and the City." It was freaking me out.

I watched with the fascination of an anthropologist as women sashayed down the street in stilettos so high that I tripped just looking at them. There was jewelry without the tiniest bit of hemp. There were skinny jeans and trendy gladiator sandals and onesies for grown-ups. (I later learned these were known as "rompers." Sure.)

Anyway, I met Sophia at an orientation get-together in the heart of New York's fashion district, and as soon as I got a load of her outfit, my heart swelled with sandalwood-scented joy. 

She was one of us.

Oooooh, she was crunchy, all right. She was wearing Chacos, pretty much a giveaway in itself. But what really sealed the deal was the cotton retro-print dress that she was wearing over jeans.

I knew then and there that we were going to be friends. (My first guess was that she was from Portland. Turned out she was from San Francisco. Surprise, surprise.)

The dress over jeans thing is a staple of my wardrobe. I have several light, casual dresses that I love and I refuse to go through a whole winter season without them. I am not alone in this. I have encountered female ski bums and wilderness guides all over the western U.S. who love the look.

I predict that the fashion plates along Seventh Avenue will be copying me 
by this time next year.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Out of this world

Between the NYC marathon and the insanity that was Halloween, it was a big weekend around these parts. There's also a certain team from hell in the World Series right now, which a lot of people seem to think is a really big deal, but whatever.

Watching finishers swaggering around in their metallic space blankets made me want to start training for next year's marathon immediately. Runners wrapped in those babies may as well have had "BADASS" branded on their foreheads. Crowds parted for them. Swathed in mystique, they flaunted those tinfoil sheets like battle scars. A gritty glint in their eyes said, "Yeah, I just ran twenty-six miles. Now get out of my way, because I'm about to puke."

I saw one guy running in a pair of FiveFingers, which made me happy beyond all reason.

This was my first New York Halloween, so I checked out the Greenwich Village parade despite the rain. It was as if a big soggy lingerie bomb had exploded in Manhattan. 

It was fun taking in the scene, but I also found myself jumping out of my skin because I hate not being able to walk freely. I relish stretching my legs with a nice long stride, and now that I think about it, crowded sidewalks are one of my least favorite things about city living. I frequently get the urge to punch slow walkers in the back of the head. 

Later in the evening, I headed back to Brooklyn where the costumes were a lot less slutty and a whole lot more ironic. They do loft parties right in Williamsburg - there was a keg of Brooklyn Lager. Good stuff.

As for my costume... well, lately I am tempted at least a dozen times a day to be that Red Sox fan starting "Yankees suck!" chants in the middle of Manhattan. So I chose to fully embrace that urge and go as Belligerent Bostonian Killed By An Irate Baseball Bat-Wielding Yankees Fan.

I pretty much acted as obnoxious as possible. It went over well.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Thank you, YouTube

I just stumbled across this little gem.

Lady, I wish I could help you out, but I live in Williamsburg. At first I was stoked because I thought there was an abundance of outdoorsy guys here, but that was before I realized that a flannel shirt in Brooklyn does not a mountain man make. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Sometimes being crunchy in the Big Apple means getting the hell out of it.

That's just what I did over the weekend. Went home to Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, hugged a few trees, and went for a bike ride with my dad. We got caught in a crazy downpour, which was amazing. I may have frightened a few people near the wharf with my exhilarated whooping. Have I mentioned that I love fall in New England?

I also ran to Ned's Point lighthouse in my FiveFingers. Man, it felt great to take a deep breath and smell living things!

I took Megabus there and Lucky Star back, since Megabus doesn't let you transport a bike. There are all kinds of cheap bus options going from NYC to other major cities on the east coast. A couple more are Fung Wah and BoltBus.

Other trips I'd like to make at some point are the Long Island Railroad to Montauk and Bus 137 to Toms  River, NJ. I've been dying to visit the fabled Pine Barrens of New Jersey ever since I started reading about Tom Brown, Jr. I highly recommend his book The Way of the Scout, if you're into stories involving ridiculous tracking abilities and badass psychological warfare.

But that's another post for another day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Urban Survival Tip #1

In my experience, if you find yourself in a pinch somewhere in the middle of civilization, a willingness to forego some of society’s more frivolous conventions can be a real advantage.

For instance, I packed a yogurt in my lunch recently and found that the kitchen at my school was out of spoons. In the wilderness, I would have simply picked up a stick and whittled myself a utensil. Since there is a dearth of woody debris just south of Times Square, I peeled off the tinfoil cover and fashioned it into a scoop. Worked like a charm. Then there was one morning last week, when I got out of the shower and couldn’t find my hairbrush. In a rush to get to class on time, I pulled a Little Mermaid and used a dinglehopper. Effective, efficient, and probably caused less breakage to my hair.

Today’s urban survival tip is one I’m sure most women will be able to relate to. You’re at a concert, or a bar, or an airport, and you have to pee. Bad. You’re at the point where you’re even breathing carefully, lest a particularly jolting inhale cause you to wet yourself. You waddle up to the ladies’ room – and alas! There are twenty-five women ahead of you in an unmoving line.

And -- naturally -- there’s no line for the men’s room.*

We’ve all done it. We’ve all stood in that interminable line, shifting our weight and stealing resentful glances at the occasional guy who breezes right through the door. We’ve all ground our teeth at the sound of that merry stream. 

My advice to you ladies? Do what I did at an Arby’s somewhere between Boston and New York this afternoon and tell that long-suffering line of women, "I'm going in."

1) Maybe I’m unusual in this respect, but after months of playing fart baseball in the wilderness with a bunch of teenage boys who subsisted on a diet of whole grains and rehydrated chili, I just can’t get too worked up about bodily functions, mine or anyone else’s. So if a dude wanders in to use the urinal while I’m in the stall, I’ll just wait patiently for him to do his thing, zip up, and depart before I mosey on out. (You don’t want to startle the poor guy into early-onset prostate issues.) 

If a man walks in just as you’re leaving, give him a saucy smile. If you’re shy, you'll save face because you seem confident.  If you’re like me, and find that an irrepressible streak of mischief surfaces in such situations, you can delight in his discomfort when he stammers out a “Sorry!” because he thinks for an instant that he’s the one in the wrong place.

2) The other women won’t judge you. In fact, they’ll probably thank you for it. I guarantee you that most of them have been eyeing that door the whole time, wishing they had the nerve to just go for it. They just need a little push. You can be their William Wallace. (After I emerged from the little boy’s room at Arby’s today, the next girl in line smiled at me and was in there before the door had started swinging shut.)

#3 Public men’s restrooms aren’t that bad. Okay, sure, some of them are atrocious. But there’s a rule I just invented that says that on a scale of one to ten (if one is a bathroom at the Ritz Carlton and ten is a Tau Kappa Epsilon bathroom on a Saturday morning), the men’s room at a given establishment will be only one or two points more disgusting than the women’s room. Girls are gross, too.

Try it. It will set you free.

*Sporting events are an exception. Often the line for the men’s room will actually be longer because of all the beer that has been consumed since 8 a.m. Guys, crash the ladies' room at your peril.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And the moon is the only light we'll see

The Playing for Change fall tour is coming to New York this Sunday. You should go.

Man, that video gives me "Where the Hell is Matt?"-type feelings. (You 
know what I mean. The part where all the people crash together in the 
plaza in Madrid? My heart grows three sizes every time.)

Playing for Change is such an incredible idea. Music? Facilitating 
peace? All over the world? My music-lovin', travel-buggin' little ass 
can barely even handle it.

From their website:

Musicians from different cultures uniting together for the common purpose of peace through music is a powerful statement. For the past four years Playing For Change has traveled the world with a  mobile recording studio and cameras in search of such inspiration. Throughout the journey we created  a family of over 100 musicians from all walks of life. We connect these musicians together with "Songs Around The World." 

They'll be at the Town Hall at 8:00 on Sunday - just three blocks from 
where I go to school! gah! - and I'd be all over it if tickets were a little 
cheaper and I wasn't planning on being out of town this weekend. But 
as it is, I'm getting out of Dodge and going home to Massachusetts to 
see my parents and breathe in a little non-city air.

My hometown on Buzzard's Bay.

So please send some of those musical vibrations my way.

I'm also planning on bringing my old bike back to New York with me. Stay tuned for some island bike trail adventures!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Refined taste

What does it say about me that at a comedy show I attended recently - one that contained a fair amount of intelligent political and social humor - the thing I found funniest, by far, was a poop joke?

Don't answer that.

Monday, October 19, 2009

So long, 3.4 oz toiletries

After a nice long day of swimming and yoga-ing at Chelsea Piers, I just put both my feet behind my head at the same time. I think I was like 14 the last time I did that. Yesss.

It's counter-intuitive because school is absolutely balls-out insane right now, but I feel like now that I'm in New York, I'm way less stressed out than I ever was when I was living out west. 

That's right. The city that doesn't sleep is chilling me out. 

I can totally feel it physically. I'm not as wound up. Even my blood pressure's lower. I think it comes down to the difference between the toll that normal, day-to-day busy stress takes on me and how I handle emotional stress. The normal stuff feels like a breeze right now.

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved my time out west. It was a ride and a half. I smirk when I look back at some of my my escapades. At various times I was homeless (voluntarily, and never friendless), literally down to my last dollar (I may or may not have visited the plasma center in Spokane, Washington a few times), and marooned at a motel in northern Montana after Canada rejected me.

Snowshoeing in Canada after I finagled my way in. Suckers.

I was also freaked out, in love, terrified I was making huge mistakes, adrift, far from my family - a ridiculous cocktail of WHOA THERE WHAT AM I DOING? I lived out of a duffel bag a fair amount. And sleeping on the ground and backpacking all the time really did a number on my body. No wonder I was wound so friggin' tight I couldn't get my feet behind my head.

I know I'll start to get that adventure itch again, probably before too much longer, but for now it's really nice to have a breather. Last week I went to Duane Reade and bought the gigantic bottle of Listerine because I'll actually be in one place long enough to use it all! IT WAS AWESOME.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Getting in touch with my inner spider monkey

I took advantage of my Groupon today and went climbing at Chelsea Piers.

It was sweet. I tried three different routes and even if the second one might've gotten a little dicey, I made it to the top each time. I like how climbing is as much a mind game as it is a physical one. You really do have to think a few steps ahead.

Now everything from my elbows to my fingertips is burning. A lot of my friends in Colorado were really into climbing, and now I get why their forearms were bigger than their biceps.

There were a few people there who were obviously really experienced climbers. I overheard them talking about how they used to live in Calfornia. (Of course. Sophia, were they part of your crunchy crowd out there?) It was crazy watching them scurry across the part of the wall that was nearly horizontal. It's billed as the biggest wall in the Northeast, which wouldn't surprise me. It's huge.

I can see why climbing is so addicting for some people. I'd love to keep doing it, but I can't afford a membership at the moment. The Groupon gives me access to the whole Chelsea Piers facility for a whole week, though, and I'm planning on making the most of it. They have everything, even an indoor beach volleyball court. I have my eye on some yoga classes, maybe some boxing, and definitely the pool.

Oh, yes. It's gonna be a good week.

Friday, October 16, 2009

I might even crack the window open tonight

It has been absolutely freezing in my apartment lately. The heater is broken and my wimpy quilt just hasn't been up to the task at night. I started wearing layers and more layers to bed, and when that didn't cut it, I brought in the big guns.

That's a -20 degree bag. It kept me warm on many a frigid night in the desert last winter. It smells like campfire and unspeakable grody-ness, which is making me nostalgic. (After 100+ field days, it might be due for a wash.)

Didn't expect to need it here, but let this be a lesson to all of us. New York is a wilderness full of drafty buildings and unresponsive landlords. BE PREPARED.

When you get old and start losing your hair/Can you tell me who will still care?

Since my last post,

1) The Red Sox left their heads most decidedly up their asses and got themselves eliminated.
2) The Rockies, my backup team, flamed out shortly thereafter.
3) I don't even want to talk about the Patriots.
4) I saw Barefoot Truth, and they were an explosion of awesomeness and flannel.

I took some pictures, but either my camera was having issues or I just suck at taking low-light photos. I salvaged a couple that weren't too horrible and tinkered with them a bit in Photoshop so that instead of crappy and blurry, they look cool and artistic. Or maybe pretentious and contrived. Your call.

And the next night?

Okay, look. I did something that you might judge me for. And it's cool if you do. I'll understand. But if seeing Hanson in concert makes me a bad half-assed hippie, then I don't want to be right.

With the exception of a few guys (either gay or putting forth an inspired effort to get laid that night), the audience was female and mid-twenties: legions of "MMMBop"-singing teeny boppers all grown up. It was glorious.

Oh, the days when a toss of Zac's long tresses made my heart flutter. I remember going to the orthodontist's office in eighth grade after someone threw a frisbee into my teeth during a game of Ultimate (yet another reason why I'm a bad half-assed hippie: I now freak out when a disc whizzes even remotely close to my face). I had to get my front teeth fixed and I was a teary, hyperventilating mess.

But then a Hanson song came on, and I felt like everything was going to be okay. (How adorable was I? And pathetic?)

Anyway, my point is this: I would have done terrible things for a chance to see them when I was twelve, and I never got the chance.

...until yesterday. Boom. Full circle! No regrets!

As for why I'm talking about them in a blog that's supposed to be about crunchy stuff, they actually organized a one-mile barefoot walk earlier that day as part of their "Use Your Sole" tour. They're raising money for a number of different causes including AIDS treatment and research and drilling wells for clean water in Africa. Good stuff.

I've heard a lot of 1997-themed punchlines in the last 24 hours, but the crazy thing is, Hanson is actually totally legit now. Great musicians, great performers.

And yes, they played "MMMBop."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Barefoot Truth: Certified Crunchy

Music post!

Fellow New Yorkers, there is a band I would like you to meet. I've known about them for a few years now, but I recently rediscovered them, and holy crap have they gotten even more awesome since the last time I checked. They're playing at the Canal Room in Manhattan this Wednesday, and they're called Barefoot Truth.

I know what you're thinking. 

You're thinking, are they a hobbit band?

Wait, wait, just kidding. (BFT, if you're reading this, you know I love you.) Here are some better ones.

There we go.

I first started listening to these guys when I was in college. Back then they were just "Barefoot" (for a cautionary tale in karma and what happens when a big label muscles out an independent band, check out these clowns). It started with just two of them: Will and Jay, college boys out of Connecticut. They were really mellow and acoustic, great beach-y music that reminded me of Dispatch (my first love). I actually bought their album "Changes in the Weather" on CD Baby. 

I say "actually" because I was a dedicated music mooch who copied all my music off my hallmates' iTunes libraries. But no one else knew about these guys, and so I shelled out some money, figuring it was the least I could do to support a young independent band whose music made me happy. I was glad I did. Soon other music mooches on my hall were approaching me to tell me they'd ripped off the entire album from MY iTunes library and who the hell was this Barefoot band, anyway?

They sort of fell off my radar screen after I graduated. I didn't have a functional computer or an iPod over the next two years, so updating my music collection wasn't much of a concern. But then a couple of months ago, I landed back on the east coast, bought a laptop, and thought, "Huh, I should see what those guys have been up to."


Are you familiar with John Butler Trio? They're this really sick band from Australia, and when I saw them live in Philly in 2005, it was easily the best show I'd ever seen. The musicianship was astounding.

When I caught up with Barefoot Truth and started listening to their song "Broken Road," I thought, "Whoa, am I listening to John Butler Trio?" Except it was like a JBT with a fuller, richer sound. And a better lead singer. (Sorry, John Butler! You know I love you!) Maybe you don't know what I'm talking about, but trust me on this. I can't think of much higher praise. The bass, the slide guitar... it just sang.

The dudes in BFT have graduated and added three more members, an upright bass, a harmonica, a Weissenborn lap guitar, a keyboard, a didgeridoo, and a whole lot more rocking-your-face-off. The growth they've shown as a band is startling.

They have a new album called "Threads" coming out early next year, and they'll be playing some of its songs on this fall tour. They streamed the first half of it on their website for a limited time recently, and it's all kinds of awesome. A great song to check out now is "All Good Reasons," which I may or may not have had on repeat for about a month. I may or may not be listening to it right now.

Tickets for their Wed. Oct. 14th show are ten bucks in advance, twelve at the door. It's 18+ and the show starts at 9, with Spiritual Rez opening. Come on out and say hello!

Now I'm going back to bed, because I did more than 100 sun salutations before 9am and I need a nap. The yoga-thon raised $1,652 to feed and educate Maasai girls! Night, folks.

P.S. Red Sox, get your heads out of your asses!