PT in DC

My trip to see Porcupine Tree in Washington was really fun, although it was tiring due to the schedule. The concert was absolutely incredible, not just the music but the whole experience. There were lights casting beams through the artificial mist, strobes pulsing in time to the drums, video screens adding depth to the music, the crowd was energetic, and there wasn’t a bad seat in the theater (The Anthem). The band started off with a few powerful songs, then eased up a little bit before intermission, then just blew everyone away during the second half. It was nearly a three hour show, and the audience would have stayed for another hour or two, but the singer said the band needed a break after doing New York, Philadelphia, and Washington on consecutive nights.

The next day I stopped at the International Spy Museum, then walked through the US Botanic Garden and past the Capitol on the way back to the train station. The train ride was 10 hours each way, but it’s not as much fun at night when you can’t see the scenery.

I took a few pictures, including one of a guy peeing on a wall in the park two blocks north of the Capitol.

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the bro code

The gas company gave some employees free tickets to the Cleveland Guardians baseball game yesterday. The seats were waaaayyy up there, and I had a nice Goodyear-blimp-like view of the game. There was a metal and plexiglas guardrail directly in front of my seat, and the architect designed it so I could not see home plate without leaning into my neighbor or painfully craning my neck. The “chicken strips” were just big nuggets of mechanically-separated goo. But the worst part was that it was a night out with the bros.

I’m not a social person; I like meeting new people about as much as I like the New York Yankees. The problem is that my friend at work (AJ, from a previous post) asked if he could have my extra tickets for his friends. That’s fine, no one else I know wanted to go with me, but then again I don’t have any other friends. AJ, however, has lots of friends, primarily other middle-aged white guys who try to be as ironic and witty as possible to cover for the fact they don’t discuss personal or serious topics.

Instead of going to the game alone, I allowed myself to get roped into joining the gaggle of guys for the game. They were mostly well behaved, but they occasionally made inappropriate comments and were unusually loud a few times – typical for a bunch of older dudes with alcohol. I like to sit quietly and watch the game, but they kept involving me in the conversation. As the game wore on, I wished I had not gone at all, but I survived. I did get a nice sunset picture from the upper deck, so it wasn’t all bad.

I have always enjoyed the company of females or mixed groups rather than just a bunch of guys. I don’t know what to talk about with other guys – sports, grilled meats, booze, tools, strippers? Those topics were pretty much all that was discussed, with the typical amount of one-upmanship and embellishment. I mostly sat back and let the conversation flow around me. As usual, I felt alone in the crowd, although AJ did his best to make me feel like part of the group (which I appreciated).

lakeside letdown

I had a big emotional letdown yesterday, and I couldn’t get any work done after about 11 am. I get a little hypomanic when I go on adventures, and the depth of the depression is correlated to the anticipation of the adventure. I was feeling depressed and tired and especially worthless yesterday; I’m slightly better this morning, so we’ll see how the day goes.

I feel guilty anytime I do something for myself, because either I don’t deserve it, or I’m not doing something for someone else, or I’m abandoning my family. To be honest, I didn’t think about anyone but myself almost the entire time I was gone; not in a selfish way, just that I was wrapped up in my activities.

Mindfulness, I hear someone thinking. Yes, I was being mindful much of the time, living in the moment in the place I was. But when I come back from the mindfulness trip, I feel like I should have been doing or thinking something else other than living just for me.

There’s a whole bunch of things wrapped up here: self-esteem, anxiety, worry, feeling undeserving, and a lack of self care.

Ugh, my brain.

In the meantime, more pictures:

Lakeside

 

At the far edge of the lake

 

Downstream

 

Pileated woodpecker gulping down insects

a mini-vacation

I’m in the middle of Pennsylvania, where there are more Sheetz than McDonalds. If you don’t have a Sheetz (or Wawa) near you, you’re missing out. Actually, I discovered an anti-Sheetz here called Snappy’s, which is very similar to Sheetz except the prices are more reasonable and the fresh-made sandwiches taste better.

I explored for two days in and near Black Moshannon State Park on foot and by car. Lots of neat landscapes, plant life, streams, and peat bogs are found here. The only disappointment is that the trees have not fully leafed out yet and many plants are not blooming yet at the higher elevations here due to the colder air and the slow start to spring.

Something I realize is that I’m old and fat and out of shape, and my sure-footedness and sense of balance is not what it used to be. I couldn’t do all the trails I wanted to, because some of them are simply too dangerous for me. Dirty Harry once said “A man’s got to know his limitations,” and I remembered that yesterday as I was climbing up a steep, rock-strewn path. Going up was difficult; going back down would have been very hazardous to my health. There are no warning signs in the forest, so you need to be smart. Rather than attempt climbing back down through the ankle-breakers, I pulled out the compass and topo map and decided to bushwhack through the forest. After a half-hour I found another trail which led me to a road which circled back to my car. I lost a little blood due to brush scratching my legs, but I think that was the best decision of the day. The second-best decision of the day was calling ahead to a pizza place for a stromboli to take back to the hotel.

A few photos (click for larger size) :

Climbing the steep rocky trail
No way can I climb down this
A slightly better alternative: going off-trail through former logging spoils
A rewarding view

More pictures later.

the most interesting mind in the world

Back in December, I was bored, and my mind was wandering. Nothing good comes from that.

I started thinking something interesting might happen, something that would shake up the social order, something that would wake up America and maybe change the path of our country for the better. Instead, we got the coronavirus.

A few weeks ago, once again my mind was wandering, and I was thinking again about something interesting happening just to our family. Maybe we could win some lottery money, or get a new car, or have something positive happen to break us out of the lockdown doldrums we have been in. Instead, we got this:

My wife was in a serious crash about 2 miles from our house. The car did its job and protected her; she wasn’t hurt too badly. She had no broken bones and no significant injuries, she just had a sprained knee, a few bruises, and pains all over. It was 100% the other driver’s fault, as they had rolled through a stop sign and left her zero reaction time before impact. Their insurance is paying for everything, so we’ll see how smoothly that goes.

The next time my mind wanders, I will think of nothing interesting. Normal. Boring. Ordinary. Safe.

In the meantime, we will have to get a new car, at significant expense. We can either replace our car with something similar (100,000 miles, unknown maintenance history), or spend a ton of money and get something newer. I’m leaning toward the latter, even though that will take a serious bite out of our savings account. It’s only money, right?

rob vs. the volcano

Once upon a time I went on real hikes. I hiked up a goddamn volcano, and I have the picture to prove it.

Lassen National Park is at the southern extent of the Cascades Range in California. There are fragile wetlands, desolate lava flow areas, hot springs and mud pots, and the trail to the top of Mt. Lassen, which last erupted in 1917.

I scanned a few pictures from the day I drove through the park. I only had time to hike to the top and continue on my way, but there was some nice scenery along the park roads.

Proof, bitches. Mount Shasta is in the far distance.

faces of san francisco

At my high school, the photo class took a trip to San Francisco every spring. Looking back, I can’t believe they let 30 teenagers loose in the city and said “Meet the bus at the corner of Grant and Columbus at 1pm,” and everyone made it just fine. No one got into trouble, no one got run over by a Muni bus, and no one got lost in the days before cell phones and Google Maps.

Armed with a Minolta, and several rolls of black-and-white film (kids: ask your parents), we roamed from the Financial District to Chinatown to Aquatic Park looking for interesting sights and subjects. Some of the “people” photos are below. I have never been good at capturing people, but this day was pretty successful. I have misplaced the negatives, so I had to scan the prints, but they still look okay to my non-expert eye.

alone in chinatown

Alone in Chinatown

bouncers

Waiting for customers

pigeons

Feeding the pigeons

olympic peninsula

I don’t have anything of substance to say, so I’ll post a few pictures. In 1997, while working in Vancouver, I was sent to a 3-day workshop in Seattle that began on a Monday morning. Of course I didn’t go directly there. I spent the weekend looking at stuff on the Olympic Peninsula: rainforest, moss, elk, wetlands, beaches, Indian museums, forts, bridges, and ferries. It was a great weekend … until Sunday night, when I didn’t feel very well. I went to the Kingdome to watch a baseball game, and I became violently ill with some kind of intestinal distress. Ew, enough said. I was sick for the next three days, but I still attended the workshop for my boss. That is dedication.

Anyway, here are a few poor quality pictures from the peninsula.

lake_crescent
Crescent Lake at dusk. This photo was taken with a cheap plastic 35mm camera, then the paper photo was recently scanned. No color fixing. Despite the poor quality, one of my favorite photos ever.

ahlstrom_prairie
Dead Elk, Ahlstrom Prairie

ozette_trail
Boardwalk trail on the way to the beach.

whidbey
Whidbey Island Bridge (I know, too much dust!)

ice and granite

Now for some photos, this time on the way home from Las Vegas to Hippietown through Yosemite National Park. I have had the thrill of flying over the park a couple of times, and it is just as amazing from the air as it is on the ground. I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted exploring Yosemite, but there are still great memories from the small area I did visit. I probably will never make it there again, but who knows?

Tioga Lake:

Picture2 067

 

Mount Dana:

Picture2 084

 

Tenaya Lake:

Picture2 102

 

from Olmstead Point (I think):

Picture3 001

 

All photos mine, May 2004.

goodbye max

We said good bye to Max today. He had been getting progressively sicker for the past few weeks, and we decided it was time to let him go. He went to rest in Nicole’s arms at the vet. We brought him home and buried him in the woods behind the house.

DSCN3166

Max loved his people, and we loved him in return. He and the kids grew up together, so they have many special memories of him. We were all sad, but we will remember all the good times we had with him.

Jake stuff on my cat 009

Max survived a lot during his nearly 15 years, including the move from California, the cricket swarm, the white cat next door, and several injuries. He lived a full life, and I am honored to have shared it with him.

Good bye, Max.

jake attacks football

 

death valley

I drove through Death Valley National Park during my Eastern Sierras/Vegas trip in May 2004. Of course I was on a manic high during this whole trip. I won about $250 at the casino at 1am, couldn’t get to sleep, and decided it would be a good idea to go out again at 3am, then head for home.

I was driving through the desert at dawn, and falling asleep at 65 mph. I was listening to Pink Floyd, and in the beginning of “Time” when the alarm rings, it startled me so badly I jerked the wheel, and almost ran off the road into the sagebrush. Now I was wide awake. I got to Death Valley at about 7am, and it was already 85 degrees.

These pictures are at Zabriskie Point. I suppose they are the same pictures everyone else takes from the same spot, but I enjoy them just the same.

zabriskie1

zabriskie2

Plus a Joshua tree:

joshua tree

because the internet needs more cats

This is Max.

Max contemplates life

Max is the Big Cat in the house, about 12 years old, and definitely in charge of his domain. He is confident and proud cat, if slightly past his prime, and he loves his people. Max likes to relax.

Yup, life is pretty goddamn good for the Big Cat.

This is Erma.

I'm okay with second fiddle.

Erma is about 12 years old, and knows she is not the Big Cat. She is neurotic and skittish, but still loves her people. Erma likes to play dead.

I hope that car doesn't run over me.

Max and Erma have reached a mutual understanding about the social order of the house. She has given all authority to Max, and they usually get along just fine.

Ebony and Ivory, or something like that.

This is Opal.

HI I'M A KITTY AND I WANT TO PLAY!!!!

Opal is about 3 months old, and full of energy. Opal likes to play.

everything is a toy for kittens

Opal also likes to challenge the social order of the house. Usually, the Big Cat gets the tuna can first … until now.

What the hell, you little shit? That's supposed to be MY tuna can.

Max is not impressed with Opal’s youthful exuberance, but he still knows he is in charge.

"I see you, but I'm choosing to ignore you." ... "Let's PLAY!!!"

Erma is terrified.

HOLY FUCKING CHRIST ON A CRACKER WHAT THE FLYING FUCK? ...

Erma’s entire understanding of the social order has been turned inside-out, and her normally quiet home has become a house of horror. She growls and hisses defensively whenever Opal approaches, and she is too nervous to relax inside the house. Opal just wants to play with Erma.

But Irma, I just want to PLAY!!!!

We expected Erma to tolerate a new kitty better than Max, but the opposite has been true. I’m hoping that their dispute will go away after a month or so, because we don’t want Erma to be so stressed out. Of course there’s nothing we can really do, as the cats have to sort things out for themselves.

(Opal pictures by me; all others by Nicole. Mouse-over for captions.)