Sunday, July 1, 2007

A Very Campy Post

Friday 6:45am (journal excerpt): Last night was filled with snarling and growling around the tent. So much scary noise that it was nearly impossible to fall asleep. No, we didn't have prowling bears...just snoring neighbors in the lot next to us!

The camping trip at Cades Cove campground in the Great Smoky Mountains was a big success. The four of us made it back and my parents are on their way to their next camp destination (yes, my parents are summer nomads). I could go on and on about everything that happened but I'll just summarize and let the photos do the talking.

Length of visit: 4 days, 3 nights
Weather: Hot but survivable, 1 strong storm on Thursday

Wildlife seen: 1 snake, 4 black bears, 8-10 deer, 2 turkeys, 1 nest of hornets, squirrels, 2 piliated woodpeckers (you'd think prosthetics would have come further these days), and a host of other birds.

Activities: 2 hikes with Trevor along Abram's Creek (rock hopping), 1 ranger guided 2.5 mile night hike (9pm to 11pm) through the Cove, countless bike rides, ranger presentation about black bears, and one trip through the Cades Cove loop.

Food: We didn't eat just camp food. We had the obligatory dogs and burgers but also had rib eye steaks, grilled chicken, green beans w/ red bliss potatoes, and even a full pot roast with veggies.

Most memorable moment: On the night hike, it had rained earlier and the clouds were leaving. Just as Ranger Mike was finishing his story at one way point, the clouds cleared, revealing a glowing, full moon just over the point of Gregory Bald (mountain). It may sound lame, but it was impressive.

Best camping advice from a 7 y/o: On our last night, everyone slept in my parents' pop-up camper except me-I slept alone in the tent across the street. As I had hugged Trevor good night and was slipping into my tent, he hollered back, "If anything happens tonight...just hit them in the head with the flashlight!"
Most Interesting Educational Experience: In the black bear presentation, Ranger Mike informed us that one of black bear's favorite spring food is squaw root, which is a hallucinogenic. So we are hiking in an area with a bunch of bears hopped up on drugs?????

Trevor surveying Abram's Creek when we arrived.
Our first contact with wildlife...a banded water snake.
Trevor and I "out on a limb" at Abram's Creek.
Somebody snuck 2 marshmallows before dinner....whoever it was, wasn't "saying".
A wild turkey. She was with another hen and no gobblers.
I took this shot on Trevor and my afternoon hike.
The afternoon sun coming thought the tree canopy. Humidity at this point had to have been 100% as the rains evaporated.
Alexis "rock hopping" a stream. Trevor preferred using the downed trees.
This juvenile black bear is still under care from Momma Bear who was about 50 feet up in the brush. The photo is a little "jaggy" because I had max telephoto lens on and wasn't getting any closer!
The rhododendron were in full bloom.
A home of one of the original settlers of Cades Cove.
Brett trying to "convince" Trevor that Trevor's bike wasn't too small for Brett.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Open Letter To Smokey The Bear

Dear S. Bear,

I will be camping with my parents in the Great Smokey Mountains for the next several days. I have always respected the work you do and promise that I will do my part to prevent forest fires. For what it’s worth, I always rooted for Yogi to get that pic-i-nic basket.

But the recent upsurge in bear attacks is a concern for me. I know that there is always a “bad apple” in the bunch but your bear pals aren’t doing much to disparage the “bear-o-phobia” spread by bear-hate-mongers like Stephen Colbert’s “threat down” or Al Gore’s crusade against your illegitimate child, “ManBearPig”.

I just wanted to forewarn you and your band of ruffians that I will be packing heat this weekend. Yeah, I know firearms are not allowed in this federal park, but I’d rather get a ticket/fine for a park violation than serve as the main entrĂ©e for you and your buddies.

Yeah, that’s right, I’m calling you out. You and your homies step ONE paw into my camp site and I’ll pop a cap in your ass. I’m not talking about one of those pretty tranquilizer darts they hit you with….I mean fresh, hot lead.

I'm serial....

PS: For the rest of you, I'll be back on regular blog duty next week......providing Smokey doesn't get the jump on me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Solitude Stands By The Window

Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk chka-chka-chka-chka
Tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk chka-chka-chka-chka
Is there a more obvious and happy sound of summer than a rainbird sprinkler? Ok, maybe the ice cream truck, but stay with me here and quit digging for change.

To me, the sound of the sprinkler reminds me of playing in ankle high wet grass with friends. We had more fun than a day at Wet n’ Wild ever could and for 1/1,000,000th of the cost.

It plays back in slow motion in my mind now. Laughing and dodging the splash. Timing and charging that aquatic machine gun while it fires it’s 68 degree bullets at us. The droplets of water glowed with the light of the sun. I can almost feel the wet nylon bathing suit clinging to my legs.
Afterwards, we would eat popsicles sitting on that red painted picnic table that every American family had in the 70s. No, not popsicles from the ice cream man (I told you to forget about him dammit). This were homemade ones made with kool-aid & extra sugar in those Tupperware molds.

But today, that sound is as lonesome as a far off train whistle. I am sitting on our back deck, missing Alexis and Brett sitting next to me and the sound of Trevor playing in the back yard. You see, the three of them are on vacation in Florida with Alexis parents for the week and I miss them something fierce. This has been the longest week ever and it’s only half over.

It seems like the best times in life are the times when you are likely to think that you are too busy to stop & enjoy them. This week is making me realize that.

Here's a quiz: While Chris has been living a bachelor's life this week, what is the most exciting thing he's done with this opportunity?

A) Went to the Honda Hoot motorcycle event-alone.
B) Had a grilled ribeye & baked potato while watching boxing-alone.
C) Had cheetohs and watched porn-alone.
D) Went to a show at the Rainbow Club-alone.
E) Had cheetohs & a ribeye watching the drag show sitting on top of a motorcycle.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sweep the Leg....You Got A Problem with That?

I have a question for you. It has been bugging me for a few weeks. Perhaps you can help me out with an answer…..what do you call the male equivalent of a “camel toe”? There has GOT to be a great name for a dude wearing pants so embarrassingly tight that you can see his “junk”.

Jimmy Buffet’s School of Martial Arts (read on, not just about karate)
I have been reading the Fighters Fact Book by Loren Christensen to supplement my training at Butturini Family Karate. Why would I need to read a book when I am being trained by highly qualified staff? I look at it this way….all things being equal, if I am fighting a similar skilled and sized partner who has ALSO been trained by the same staff…..any little extra edge could make the difference!

Anyway, Christensen made an excellent quodlibet to decry the difference between memorizing and understanding karate moves. He said that a parrot can mimic, but it can’t carry on a conversation.

He is pointing out that anyone can memorize a “form” or “kata” (series of moves) and repeat them. That is even a necessary part of the beginning of martial arts training. But as you progress, you gain an understanding of the moves, when to use them, how to pick up on subtle body movements of your opponent to KNOW what he/she is about to do etc. You know how to respond in sparring or in a real attack.

The difference in class is evident when an instructor tells us to go freestyle for 1 minute on the bag and throw any punch, kick or punch/kick combinations we want. Some people can throw combos with a comfortable flow. Others seem mechanical with long pauses as they try to think of a combo to throw other than “Polly wants a cracker.” It doesn’t necessarily have to do with belt rank or length of experience. Tonight we were going to do some free form combos in the last 15 minutes of class and a student ranked the same as me and who is on a demo team said, “We like it better when you TELL us what to do.”
When I heard that statement, I immediately thought back to Christensen’s statement about the parrot. It was one of those “life imitating [martial] art” moments because I applied his statement to general life and personal growth. It’s the difference between “talking the talk” and “walking the walk”.

Want proof? The next time someone identifies themselves as “I’m a Republican”, “I’m a Democrat”, “I’m a Baptist” or any other label, ask them “Why?”.

I think many people, maybe even the majority of people, will have a hard time giving a coherent statement about why they consciously chose to align themselves with that label. It’s just “because”. Too often it is "We like it better when you TELL us what to do....don't make us think for ourselves."
I am NOT CRITICIZING because I can be just as guilty of this at sometimes. When you allow yourself to just go through the motions of life (i.e. living unconsciously), it’s easy to adopt “the party line” and start parroting.

So any ol’ parrot can say “I’m a pretty boy! What’s your name?”

But it takes a purposeful being to truly walk the walk. And before you can walk that walk, you have to understand why you chose THAT walk to begin with.

Or as Steven Tyler (the obvious role model of conscious living, right?) would say…understanding why you “WALK THIS WAY…..TALK THIS WAY….WALK THIS WAY”

Just gimme a kiss.

And on that note, you must absolutely watch this ultra hilarious video for the song "Sweep The Leg" by the band No More Kings. It won a grammy...for the best music video EVER.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Foodgasms and Landmines

My mouth is enjoying a foodgasm right now. Flavors are partying in my mouth. Tonight I made hibachi style steak & mushrooms, sesame onions and zucchini, sweet jasmine rice, and golden shrimp sauce. Alexis, Brett, and I agreed that the only thing that would have made the dinner better would have been to add some pot-stickers.

If you have never tried sweet jasmine rice, do yourself a favor and pick up a box or bag at your grocery store. It has a slightly sweet taste that offsets spicy heat in the main dish. It can be substituted for plain rice in any dish but is perfectly matched with Thai or Japanese dishes.

One of the things that I love about food is the memories behind certain recipes. Almost everything I cook, I have learned to cook since Alexis and I got married over 11 years ago. So when I make chicken marsala or my perfect ribs, those foodgasm's are mini-celebrations of my relationship with the most wonderful woman on Earth.

Tears from heaven
Gods be praised! Spring is her which means one thing....the first shipment of Vidalia Onions are here! Sweet onion varieties like vidalia's, walla walla's, or jumbo texas are a different creature from the year round varieties like white, yellow or spanish onions. They are juicy, sweet, and don't have that bitter bite.

Rent This Space
If you look to the About Me section on the right, you will see I have someone renting my space for the bargain basement price of 25 BlogExplosion credits. Yes, Ms. Brandi is my first pimp, errr I mean blog renter.

Speaking of Princess Brandi, she and I where having an innocuous instant message session. You know, Trevor said this, Angel did that, or Alexis and I went to Pelancho's for lunch.

Then I stepped on a mental landmine. An innocent comment triggered a deeper discussion. Before we knew it, we were discussing some painful memories in both of our pasts.

What is a mental landmine? A repressed memory or denied feeling that was perfectly hidden below the surface explodes when stepped on by a comment by a friend, family member, or co-worker. You instantly go from talking about the weather to discussing unresolved feelings about the death of a loved one or a traumatic event from your life.

If you find yourself asking, "How in the HELL did we end up talking about THAT?", you probably just stepped on a mental landmine.

OOooohh I just had another thought. You know how Princess Di was an activist against the use of landmines because they claim innocent victims years after a war has ended? Mental landmines are like that too. They are relics of a war long over, battles that we thought were only memories yet they still claim victims, victims that were not even around when that war was fought.

Ok, I'm done with the analogies......

Monday, April 24, 2006

Rainbows and my pot o gold

This afternoon Trevor excitedly yelled out that there was a rainbow after a thunderstorm rolled in. I stepped out into brilliant sunshine from the west. The colors of everthing were vivid. Black wet roads. Deep green leaves. The air smelled fresh. Critters were coming back out to survey what nature had wrought. In the Eastern sky, a technicolor double rainbow sharply contrasted a dark sky.
I was so excited and snapped photo after photo as I heard Kermit the Frog singing in my head...."Why are there so many, songs about rainbows"

Speaking of rainbows, I have pots of gold. One is my incredible wife, Alexis. I love that woman. She makes my life better ever day, just by being in it. Three others are my kids, who are each so special to me. I have a great job, excellent health, and spectacular friends. There are treasures all around.

I have been in a funk for several days. I have been blah. But that rainbow reminded me of a few things tonight. I think part of it was hearing the unabashed joy and excitement in a 6 year old's voice about seeing a rainbow. It's nature's magic. There is magic all around you, you just have to open your eyes and ears.

Life is good. Yeah the war is going on, gas is expensive, and shit happens. But at the same time, there are pearls and diamonds to be found in each day. You just have to look for them.
Rainbow Connection
Written by Paul Williams and used by Kermit the Frog, of The Muppets, Jim Henson
Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of thatand someone believed it
,and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
All of us under its spell,
we know that it's probably magic....
Have you been half asleepand have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
La, la la, La, la la la, La Laa, la la, La, La la laaaaaaa