Saturday, February 19, 2011


I think sometime last week marked the moment in 2011 when I passed the psychological threshold past which I am done with winter.  It happens every year.  Winter turns from exciting to a burden.  Feel like scraping frost off the car?  Waking up in the dark?  Worrying over clothing layers?  Thinking that you really do need to pull on the wind briefs or risk... well, consequences?  Yeah, me neither.  My mind has turned to dry trails in the mountains, bike wheels spinning on pavement, running with shorts and bare legs, mornings sitting on the porch, bathed in sunlight, drinking coffee and watching the thermometer start its steady climb to hot.  I know, that last one is a pipe dream in Anchorage even in the thick of summer.  Try sitting out on our porch in July and you'll find your coffee quickly cooling as you swat at mosquitoes thriving in the cool and steady shade.  Such are the affects of well treed lots, northern latitudes, and coastal moderation.  Maybe that is why C and I booked tickets to southern New Mexico, departing in a few months.  If our timing is right, we should have plenty of sunny and warm mornings.  If our timing is bad, we'll be sand blasted by spring winds.  Either way, there will be chile to eat, so we win.

It is interesting that I can pass this threshold while still enjoying all that winter brings.  Last weekend, C and I ran a great 10k loop on snowy single track, packed solid by fat bikers.  It included trails we probably wouldn't spend much time on in the summer, either because they turn to swamps or are closed to accommodate feeding bears.  Being February, the sun was out and high enough to make a difference.  Light poured through spruce and birch, branches bending under the weight of snow.  We've been skiing regularly, making the most of the groomed trails.  Indeed, I'll be sad to see the skiing go.  But then, it still being February, we've actually got a lot of winter left.  So those particular tears can go unshed for some time yet.

And speaking of skiing for awhile yet, anyone want to join our 24-hour ski race team?  (

Long time readers may remember that this blog started as something of an online chemotherapy journal.  I believe I last said I was going to do my best here to simply forget all about that particular chapter of my life.  Nevertheless, in case anyone is interested, and particularly in case anyone diagnosed with NHL or otherwise facing his or her own chemo regime finds these pages as a result of a well crafted Google search, I though I would go on and provide an update anyway.  We are about 3 1/2 months out from my last treatment.  That was on November 3, 2010.  It was probably the end of December before my system had purged and I started to feel like the drugs were no longer an anchor.  It was actually pretty nice to feel like I was just out of shape and not that I was being smothered with giant wool blankets, as was usually the case before.  I replaced my lost weight within a few weeks and have been getting stronger since.  Remember how I said C and I have been getting out for frequent skis?  Last December, I pretty much thought that was an impossibility and had written off the 2010/11 ski season entirely.  Other than right now, sitting to type this update, I no longer think about chemo at all and have in fact largely forgotten its impacts.  It is a good place to be.  One threshold I'm glad to leave behind.

So, picture of last spring's flowers in anticipation of this spring:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hawaii (Not the Teaser: The Real Thing)

So if you just want to see pretty pictures of sand and surf, feel free to skip the words and scroll immediately to the images.  For the rest of you, I've got some business to dispense of first, and when I say business, I mean the business of promoting independently produced music from Switzerland.  Long time readers (hi Mom!) may remember that while I was in the depths of chemotherapy, a friend in France sent us what was described as a "pre-pre-production" copy of a CD his brother's band was working on.  It turns out that there may have been one too many pres attached to that descriptor.  We were just sent a copy of the full release, replete with paperback book printed in French with photos of, among other things, the unique instrumentation.  After about ten seconds of intense internet research, I discovered the band has a website.  In an effort to build an immense North American audience for La Puce Qui R'nifle, I am proud to be the self-proclaimed (and wholly unverified) first U.S. blogger to provide you, the reading public, with a link to that site:

Much like the CD packaging itself, the website is all in French.  But by using a popular search engine interpreter tool, I can provide some of the following information to you.  For example, how does La Puce Qui R'nifle describe its own CD?  Thusly:  "The album of the chip?  It's 64 pages of crafts, surprises and happiness.  If you buy it, you'll almost need to come see us.  And that we know very well that it makes you think most of you healthy."  The website has previews of some tracks, although it seems possible that they will not work in all countries.  The band has this to say about it:  "By switching at the border between elegance (for us) and annoying (to you), some of the tracks on which you will click with your mouse will not be producing any music.  This is not the fault of your manicured mammal, do not hold it against him: only basely commercial.  If you want to listen with delight, buy our album which will be yours."  I was actually glad to read this, because I was about to rain unholy hell down upon my manicured mammal.  As near as I can tell, if you want to buy a copy you can e-mail the band (link provided on the website) and they will be happy to supply you directly.  The cost is 30 chf (which is about $30).  While this seems pretty clear to the non-French speaker, the translator does suggest you may be purchasing "Your slippers." You may want to verify that you are buying a CD and not paying for the rights to continue wearing your house shoes.  I also suspect that if you read French, it will all make more sense.

As alluded to in the last post, C and I took a five day trip to the North Shore of Oahu.  I had never really given that much thought to Hawaii, but it turns out it is easy to get to from Anchorage.  And in January, you are pretty much ready to go somewhere where the sun shines.  We flew into Honolulu, picked up a rental car, and drove up to a condo north of Haleiwa.  Honestly, the trip was pretty uneventful, and does not lend itself to interesting prose.  We went for some runs, we went for some walks, we did a little snorkeling, we ate pie.  And we saw a sad looking hispanic man, presumed to be from Mexico.  He was wearing the national uniform: blue jeans, long sleeve button shirt, work boots.  He was sitting in a beach park with a small radio, tape, or CD player that was blasting out banda tunes (a regional music from Sinaloa).  At his feet, a brown paper bag held two rapidly warming tall boys.  He stared out to sea.  On a beach that millions (or at least many thousands) pay good money to come and visit, he looked home sick and very much like he would have rather been many miles further east with friends and family.

We sought out wild life.  The final count included a few sea turtles (all out in the water), humpback whales (well off the coast, but breaching impressively even from a distance), one cockroach (small), one cockroach (large), chickens (feral), birds (white), reef fish (colorful), and a rat (dead).

And, being on the North Shore, we watched surfers ply the waters.  The surf was impressive.  My experience on the beach is pretty limited.  Growing up, I can remember one beach vacation to North Carolina, and a trip or two to the ocean in Los Angeles.  As an adult, there haven't been that many more trips to salt water.  The point being, I do not have much of a frame of reference for waves and surf.  But this stuff was big, it roared, and it pounded.  Given the chance, I suppose I would be happy to spend a year in Hawaii trying to learn how to safely play in it.

But now, to let the pictures do the talking:

This isn't that great a picture, but I include it now as a hair reference.  To anyone who is wondering if my hair has grown back out, it has--a little.  I spent most of the photographed hours of the trip with a hat on, so for hair this is about as good a picture as you'll get.  The picture was taken while out on a walk down the shore.

I wasn't there alone.  C agreed to come!  Another day, another walk.

When we weren't out walking or eating pie, we would sometimes sit in the sand and watch the sunset.  Here was a picture of us in the lovely low light of evening.  Of course, as you can tell by looking over C's shoulder, we weren't the only couple out at the end of the day:

It is not really clear whether we captured a moment of romance or if we should be providing this picture to the local police as evidence of broad shoulder aliens that have come to earth to engulf and subsume petite blondes.

Of course, you do not sit on the beach to watch the sunset without actually seeing a sunset, made all the more fun by the crashing surf.  And speaking of surf, the locals don't waste their time on their duffs admiring it.  They get out and play with it:

Not to be outdone, C and I did make our way out into the water too.  Here is C waiting for the next set to roll in:

And here I am, making it look easy:

Now that wave may not look as impressive as those shown further above, but a close look at my face shows unequivocally that these are hardcore conditions:

Yup, that face screams "epic"!  Or is it just the face of a desert raised kid who is trying not to drown in the equivalent of the kiddie pool?  Let's not over analyze it.