July 18, 2003


Motoshi, Miho and I are going to see Johnny English (or Johnny Engrish, as we call it here at The Dojo) tonight. I may return a full report on the movie later this evening, or I may just have a few scorpion bowls at Jack’s and pass out in a dumpster.

Either way, it’ll be a typical Friday night.

July 17, 2003

projector abuse

No words tonight, as I start working out my philosophies on Grace, Elegance, Finesse and Robustness.

Instead, check out the new A/V Club. It has all the old Spontaneous Combustion mp3s that you loved so much you built entire playlists around them, plus a few new ones to keep it kicking. Check out the “You Don’t Know Brian Perez Reprise” and “Scream Sensation” if you wanna shake it up a bit. I also fixed “Mitigation into Freaky Wobble” as it seemed to be cutting off midway through.

Seraph and Galley Slave are just as you remembered. Putting these two works in such close proximity is pure lunacy.

July 15, 2003


We do things differently, here.

The summer finally feels like it’s rounding itself out. Today we drove to the Portland airport to pick up Motoshi’s girlfriend Miho, who has flown in from Japan to spend the rest of the summer with us. Once the Hood River dries up the two of them will be off to New Zealand for a year. The Gorge is but one stop on Motoshi’s world kiteboarding tour. Miho is a kiteboarder too, and it sounds like the two of them have done enough kite instruction in Japan to risk some kiting instructions on me. I’m excited.

I’m writing this thing while sitting outside, and the sprinklers keep cycling on which forces me to relocate. The bench was getting sprayed. Now the front steps are getting sprayed. It’s like chess only wetter and sexier. Yowza. Soon I’ll find myself on the roof with a shoe on my head, cursing the heavens to bring down any sort angry precipitation. And it might have had something to do with sprinklers.

The sprinklers are the only thing keeping me from sleeping in the backyard most nights, as the weather here is always absolutely amazing. I haven’t seen rain in a month. I have yet to get a good thunderstorm this summer. Every time I call the folks back in Minnesota it sounds like they’re suffering another thunderstorm. They curse tornadoes and lightning strikes. I curse blue skies. We’re both right.

People out here also curse mosquitoes, and flip out when they are SWARMING. Good god, the mosquitoes are SWARMING tonight, aren’t they?! In Oregon a swarm requires that you twitch twice in five minutes to keep your body clear of probing proboscises. In Minnesota a swarm carries off all your women and children and requires a good rock huckin’ to return the peace.

Oregon breeds whiners. By all means people should move here. People should move here now, it’s so craptacularly beautiful. But for heaven’s sake, don’t grow up here. You can’t truly take advantage of the rugged Cascade landscape until you’ve suffered through the Midwest and have learned how to deal with hardship. Grow up in Oregon and you’re destined for a weak mind and brittle bones. Move to Oregon from the Midwest and you come outfitted with everything you need to fine-tune your meat body.

So yeah, the weather out here is damn amazing, but I can’t trust it. It’s too nice. It puts me on edge. I don’t trust anything that can take all the activity and rigors of a hot American summer without unleashing fury every once in awhile. The Midwest gets it. There the weather winches down to the breaking point and suddenly explodes with theatrics across the wide night sky. The Cascades make the mistake of bottling up this rage and pushing it deeper into the gut. And when it finally breaks? It breaks big. An entire mountain pops open and dumps a flood of boiling cement down its slopes, forty feet deep, at sixty miles an hour. The blast instantly scours a couple thousand acres from the surface of the earth.

I suppose the sprinklers aren’t all bad. They fill up the bird bath and the crows love that.

Having Miho around really seems to round out our household. Three people always make for an awkward group, spare tire and all. Four? Four is perfect. Four is a party. Tonight we tossed together a nice little welcome feast. Mike made a roast. Miho made rice. I have a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies waiting in the fridge. Motoshi make a salad with Japanese radish. The Japanese radish was about a foot and a half long and four inches thick. And white. And led to a four-person exchange of lewd comments that spanned no less than two languages.

While assessing my weapons cache of baking elements, I realized I needed some cooling racks or wax paper. (bowls? check. electric mixer? check. enough sugar to float an entire kindergarten classroom to the ceiling? double check. plenty of flourine, the authentic baking element? check.) Wax paper struck me as the cost-effective solution so I hoofed on down to Rite-Aid to get some. I bought the store clean out of wax paper, which means I bought one box. I asked Josh the Cashier if I got a discount for living with the store manager. He said no, but he was wearing hornrimmed glasses so we started talking about stuff and things.

Watch this. People that wear hornrimmed glasses instantly identify with anyone else that is wearing hornrimmed glasses. We are a secret society. We are the Masons. We are the hidden gears that make the universe swirl. We share a mutual respect of the “I’m a nerd, doo-bee-doo, I don’t care,” mantra. People in hornrimmed glasses wear their nerdiness as a badge of honor.

If both parties are decked out with hornrims, they can cut straight to the chase in conversation. Participants can skip all that waffling and side-stepping that usually must pass before they feel comfortable partaking in nerd conversation. And today? In the course of about five seconds we agreed that nerd subjects were acceptable and could be talked about with Great Excitement. That’s one thing about nerds; we’d much rather talk about our interests with energy and passion. If you’re listening you don’t need to be remotely associated with the subject, but if you appear genuinely interested you can really get a nerd going.

The topic was 3D animation and design. Josh had been studying the stuff up in Seattle, and was back in Hood River for a brief stint before returning to do more school-adge. Super cool. No ego. Off in a world of his own devising. Pure nerd material. Ultimately he wants to do character modeling for video games. We talked about physics engines and 3D Studio Max and Maya and how muscle modeling works. Then another customer wanted cigarettes (and a clean white t-shirt, I would hope) so I had to duck out.

Check out people in hornrims. Watch how they interact with their own kind. Drag your fingers through the undercurrents. You can feel it.

An exciteding nerd is a happy nerd.

July 13, 2003


This summer continues to be absolutely incredible, and there’s still a lot of room for more neat stuff to happen. Today after work, Adam, Kelsey and I were going to go to the gym to do some rock climbing, but for some reason the gym cancelled Adam’s membership at the end of June and they wouldn’t let us in. Well, they let us in and let us sit on their burgundy leather couch but they wouldn’t let us climb. We wanted to climb, not sit on a bloody leather couch.

So we went to the elementary school and ran around with swords for a few hours instead.

We’re going to do it again on Tuesday.

Anyways. My windsurfing has been getting better through fits and starts of good, bad and horrible sessions. I’ve just gotta stay on the water, keep at it, and take a break when it stops being fun. Other endeavors offer opportunities for growth, too. I’m quickly mobilizing a rag-tag army of Big Winds misfits to summit Mount Adams within a month, and it sounds like I’ll be able to start climbing and snowboarding down Mount Hood by September.

So, that’s the plan. I’ll hang around here at least until September, but then what? For me, all roads have led to Hood River, but now I’m feeling that none lead out. Not that that’s bad; I could be really happy here in a semi-permanent arrangement. I just need some of my people back. The difference between this experience and studying abroad is that here I have nothing to go back to; no regular life to resume back home. I’m not even sure if I am able to go back; whether Minnesota is still in my cards or not.

So now what? My future has so many possibilities it is baffling. I can’t leave this area until I’ve climbed some fucking mountains, but after that what will the winter hold? I could work at a Mount Hood ski resort. I could work at a ski resort elsewhere in the country. Hell, I could work at a ski resort outside the country. I could toss some roots down in the soil and look for a job in Hood River, doing web design, journalism, freelance work, grunt work, etc. If I end up freelancing I will need an office of some sort, or at least a house that offers separate space for an office (with a TV that always plays the movie “Office Space”). I simply refuse to run a business from my bedroom. The garage is fine.

But if I stay here for the winter I have an inking it could get really lonely, especially when all the summer people cast off into the wind. I mean, a lot can happen between now and then. I could find a hidden cache of Woochers or Nerds, or some of my friends from back home might finally realize what’s good for ’em and move out here. You hear that? MOVE OUT HERE. If you don’t do it for you, do it for your soul muscles.

So. I could stay. Or. I could leave. If I want to follow windsurfing to its logical conclusion I should get a job in Maui for the winter season. Such a thing is possible. There are windsurfing shops and jobs and places to live in the ocean, too. Or. I could toss all my non-essentials in mini-storage for the winter, update my license tabs for the Green Dragon and hit Roadside America for the winter. California. The Southwest. Florida. I could go wherever the wind takes me. Maybe I could end up in Alaska… though I’d like to save that trip for next summer, grab some friends, and travel up there for a month.

So. I could wander. Or. I could go home to Duluth (for yet another year of the Most Abyssmal Winters in America Ever). Maybe I want to take some web design classes at Lake Superior College. Maybe I could get a gig at the Duluth News Tribune or the Ripsaw or some other local rag. Maybe I could run a web design business from my house. That I buy. Or rent. It all begs another question I haven’t been able to answer: Do I want to wander or take root?

Or. I could start firing off resumes to the rock & roll companies I want to work for. Outdoor companies. Music companies. Magazines. But the more I think about how groovy it would be to work for those guys, how groovy it would be to sit right in the thick of their passions, the more I realize how groovy it is being here in Hood River. Being here now. I can snowboard in the morning, windsurf in the afternoon and climb in the evening. I can try out mountain biking, kayaking and mountaineering in some of the nicest places in the country. I can work, learn and grow in earth, water and ice.

For now, let’s keep it grounded. I’ll climb the second highest peak in Washington. I’ll climb the highest peak in Oregon.

And from there, I’ll see where I want to go.

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July 12, 2003

Rebel Cookies

The neighbors are smoking cigarettes and playing croquet.

The other neighbors are throwing a party in their RV.

We will not speak of my windsurfing session today. Let’s just say I was about to break my rig in half and throw it to the kiters.

One day I told my roommate it might be nice to have more than two sauce pans. He asked why. I said because we might need to use more than two sauce pans. He said what am I? A gourmet cook?

I have since made enchiladas, fried rice, carrot smoothies, couscous and meiso soup. It has been years since this house has seen anything but frozen pizza and Campbell’s. Soon I will make phad thai, black beans and rice, and stir fry. My other roommate has already started calling me the Chef.

There’s something unwholesome about making cookies after dark. I like it.

I turbo-softened the butter using the high-intensity drying light in the bathroom.

While blending the sugar and butter I almost dropped a steak knife on my foot.

The first batch of cookies are out of the oven. I have cracked a PBR in celebration. Or in rebellion.

lobster sticks to wetsuit

You know, a lotion ad campaign that said “Love your Skin” would probably go over pretty well. On the other hand, a lotion campaign that said “Love your Flesh” would probably creep the hell out of people.

These are the things you think about after your wetsuit gives you weird sunburn patterns.

July 11, 2003

seven eleven

Let’s see, what day is it? Friday? The Eleventh. 7-11? The sign of a good summer is when you feel all conventional units of time slip into a shapeless mush, to be replaced by measurements much more personal and kinetic. During my first few weeks out in Oregon I kept track of the days, the weeks, the landmarks. On one day it was officially one week since I left Minnesota. On another day it was two weeks, marking the longest I had ever been away from my home state.

Then I started slipping. I missed one month by a week or so. I’m coming up on two months now, but I’ll probably forget that day too. When it comes I won’t think of it as the day that marks two months gone, but the day that Cherry Poppin’ Daddies played in Hood River.

As it is, the weeks are arbitrary. The months are arbitrary. I find myself measuring the passage of time by progress, change and rhythm. Before I left the Midwest I spent a few days down in Madison for my sister’s graduation. When Greta and Tyler bought their house they inherited a head of medusa modeled out of a gigantic jade plant. As my parents and I packed up to make our way back to Hopkins, my sister slipped me a clipping of the jade. Back in Hopkins my mom planted it in a cereal bowl.

The morning I hit the road I squeezed the plant into the last open crack in my Green Dragon Wagon; it ended up on the edge of the rear seat. If I tried to open the door it would fall out, so I had to drop it in through the window.

Three days later, a little shred of jade plant found itself on the kitchen windowsill in a house on Eugene Street. I watered it regularly, but for the first week or so it was pretty stressed out and didn’t do so hot. The snakes were dimpled. I eventually intervened, removed a few excess snakes and shoved it deeper into the cereal bowl. It liked that, and has since started to grow into a robust little jade. It drinks up water like your blood drinks up wine, and I need to rotate it every so often to make sure it grows up balanced.

When I showed up in Hood River I knew nothing about how to properly rig a sail, how to put on a harness or how to get on the board without uphauling. I knew enough to get on the water and fool around in the Midwest; what was sufficient to teach eightysomeodd 9- to 14-year-olds about windsurfing. My limbs were atrophied from my academic rigors. My brain was curdled and it took time to shake it off.

And I’ve come a ways so far. Yesterday I had my best session yet out on the River at the Event Site. I’m nailing my waterstarts on my Mistral Edge, to the point where I’m finally spending more time on the board than off. I’ve stopped taking crazy random falls, and now when I get to the end of my reach I can set down my gear, hop off and waterstart in less than a minute. In previous sessions, such a feat could take me more than an hour (see: Rowena). I’m dialing into my harness in high winds, and I’m getting more familiar with gusts, lulls, and the general squirrelyness of the Gorge.

With windsurfing you develop a strong sense for the wind. It speaks to you. It whispers, like a person. You can read it but not always accurately, because the wind is the hymn of the gypsy. Rig up or rig down? Is it going to build or drop off? You feel a oneness with the forces of nature, and you weep for all those straggling breezes that have never dragged a soul across the water.

This sense doesn’t develop naturally, and requires that you train yourself to listen. It takes time, but it is time measured by the wind, not by minutes or hours. You must court her like a gentleman, patient and elegant. If you try to force yourself upon her, rush the process, she will chew you up and spit you out. She will stop talking and your ears will hum. The wind calls the shots around here, and she hears it when you curse her name. She hears everything.

The two of you will love, will lose, will sacrifice. These are inevitable. You alone will determine how you handle the three, as the wind already has her mind made up. Only after you have learned to listen will you learn to sail. Will you learn to live. Will you learn to sacrifice with grace. To lose with humility. To love with everything.

And then?

You will raise a ruckus.

July 9, 2003

A day for uncomfortable shoes

This morning, July 9th, I went snowboarding at Mount Hood. We woke up at 5:30, hit the road at 6:30 and were on the slopes by 8:00. I worked on my carves, spins and 180s. Motoshi rented a snowboard from a man with a foot for a hand. We snowboarded until 1:00 when the snow had become so slushy we had to swim down.

Mount Hood is an angry-looking mountain. The words “snaggle-toothed” and “old man” come to mind. He gave me a steamy red blister on the back of my heel. From Mount Hood you can see Mount Jefferson and the Three Sisters, which all top out over 10,000 feet. I don’t know if they all want to give me blisters too, but I’m willing to give them a chance.

This evening I went rock climbing at Pete’s Pile with Sara and Ryan. Ryan lead climbed and set up four routes, and we climbed until the sun disappeared behind the saddle of Mount Hood. Ryan works as a mountaineering guide in the Cascades area, so we talked abou how I was to become a pure-blood mountain man. All three of us hail from the Midwest, so we all know anything is possible.

My goal is to summit Mount Adams by September. I will need crampons, trekking poles and guns. And a sixer of Grainbelt.