Feb 29, 2012

Dover & Dover & Dover

Yesterday was a pretty great day. I finished raking the side yard which was tedious because the leaves were few and far between. Still, I couldn't let them sit there with the rest of the yard looking as impeccable as the 17th hole at Sawgrass. And so I continued raking; raking to perfection. Standing with my hands layered on top of the rake handle; chin perched upon my hands; proud grin stretched across my face. I was done. Piling the leaves on top of the coals from the previous day's leaf-roast, they smoldered, caught fire and were nothing but ash a half hour later. I am loving this fire pit.
(above: iPhone photo of my road bike against the fence of a sheep farm on St.Paul Road)
With the yard work done (for now, more clean-up to come) I aired my tires, lubed my chain and set off for an 18-mile ride on my road bike. I can't believe I can just walk out the front door, roll down the driveway and be surrounded by great expanses of farm land. Sheep farms, dairy farms and even tree farms cover the rolling countryside that I now call home. I rolled down many familiar roads that I haven't set rubber to since 2007. Roads like Dover, Mantua Mill, Geist, Falls, Tufton and Butler to name a few. I know these names mean nothing to you guys reading this blog (both of you), but to any road racers and/or cyclists in Baltimore, they're well known and loved. They roll and wind and are beautifully paved. Memories came back to me of rides gone-by. Places where I've taken breaks to eat bananas, places where I've fixed flats, places where I've peed! Mostly memories of riding with my friend Mark who used to take me on long rides out to the middle of nowhere while I followed behind him with weary legs hoping he'd turn around and head back towards home! Marks even got about 15 years on me mind you; the animal!

I don't start my new job until the end of March. In the mean time I am going to love riding and exploring my new home. I miss city life. I really do. But I am getting used to this lifestyle out here. The only thing I can't get used to is the utter silence at all times. Without music playing, this place is dead quiet. Sleeping at night is terribly difficult. The silence is deafening. Hello darkness my old friend...

Feb 28, 2012

I'm a closet-suburbanite

So I'm all moved in to my new residence in the suburbs of Baltimore. The drive down went well and it was terrifyingly fun driving a big 16' moving truck down 95. The day of my drive was particularly windy making the 10 & 2 hand positions mandatory. One moment I'm driving along, stuffing my face with whoppers (I love those things) and the next I'm crapping my pants trying to keep the truck in my lane. But as I always enjoy saying, weather regarding a long hike, an apple pie, a leap of faith or a sprint to the shitter; "I made it".

Yesterday was my first full day at the new place. A nice little house in the country. I think I am a closet-suburbanite. I love yard work. It's one thing I enjoy AND do well. I think the reason why I like it so much, is because it shows visual progress. You see the results immediately. My father, who's birthday is today (Happy birthday Dad) instilled upon me a strong "no leaf left behind" policy. So, needless to say, I'm very thorough when I rake. The property where I live is about an acre and a half and home to two big Pines out front, Apple, Cherry and Peach trees, as well as three huge Maples. The leaves hadn't been raked this past fall so I got busy with a rake and wheelbarrow. The yard is looking sweet now. I took care of the front, back and half the side. Then, and this is something I'm truly going to love about living here: I got to burn all the leaves! Buh bye! Poof! I can start a fire for any reason, at anytime out here.

I spent all day outside raking yesterday only breaking for lunch and one more mandatory break because my back was KILLING me from all the twisting and pulling. I wanted to get the road bike out and put in an easy 25 miles or so, but I couldn't tear myself from the yard. Today I'll finish the yard and then get to pedaling on these roads I've missed so much. Although there is one additional task that I want to take care of. The previous tenant built a hideous tree house in one of the Maple trees. It was never finished and looks like a giant faded plywood box. It's an eyesore and I can't wait to burn it! Yes, I'll remove it from the tree first. Stay tuned for demolition photos...

Feb 22, 2012


I’m relocating to Westminster, MD, the suburbs (pronounced: [suhb-urbs]) just outside of Baltimore (my old stomping grounds and where I cut my teeth on all things messenger, urban decay and city life). This Saturday I will be driving a 17’ U-Haul truck down to the land of pleasant living. I’ll miss NYC. I only got to live here for four years, but a career opportunity that’s just too good to pass has been extended and I have to accept. I’ll miss so many things about the city; all of the local goodies and things that make living here so easy. I’ll miss the diversity of people, the good friends I’ve made, and my family. But I am approaching this new stage of my life with a positive outlook and in the spirit of adventure and personal progress. Although I won’t be able to step out my door and pick up a fantastic coffee at the bodega, (I’ll have to drive/ride miles into town) or order sushi, pizza, or Chinese (I’ll have to drive/ride miles into town), I do look forward to life in the ‘burbs. Bonfires, dirt bike riding, shooting my airguns from the picnic table in the back yard, raking leaves, working on bikes in a dedicated bike room and perhaps the most missed luxury taken for granted by suburbanites the world over: owning a grill. I can already smell the bbq burgers and feel the spattering fat stinging my forearms. “Beer me!”.

With the move comes a reconnection with some of the best riding I’ve ever experienced. Schaefer Farms for example. Schaefer is a Mecca of hard-packed singletrack that dips dives and lofts you into the air over and over. I can already hear the hum of my WTB’s as I zip through the piney sections and around the perimeter of those corn fields like a jaguar on roller skates. I’ll also be reunited with the Water Shed of Frederick. My All Mountain bike has no idea what it’s in for. It’ll be perfectly at home taking drop after drop, stunt after stunt, over and over as I shuttle the ‘shed with my old riding buddies I’ve missed so much. I’ll be stoked to be hanging on for dear life with the saddle in my throat and the back tire shredding fibers off my shorts as I get back as far as I can on those drops and mega-steep rollers! I’m not even mentioning the fun I’ve missed at Patapsco (Pronounced “Pa-tap-dat-ass-co” by the locals) and the luscious loops around Lock Raven Reservoir.

Need I even mention the use my road bike is going to get? Yes.

Where I’ll be living, 28 miles from down town Baltimore, is smack-dab in the center of where my old racing team used to train. Which bring to mind thoughts of getting back in shape and establishing some base mileage. I haven’t trained seriously in the last 4 years. I’d love to be racing at the level where I left off (Cat 4 road and Cat 3 CX). We’ll have to see about that, but rest assured, my skinny-tired friend will be rolling down some familiar roads once again; something I’ve missed while living in the big apple.

Feb 18, 2012

Picture of the day

I took this photo on the morning of my last day in Kobe, Japan. Love the long morning shadows laying on the weathered storefront.

Feb 9, 2012

Back in the USA

I'm back. I left Japan and flew back to NY on Saturday evening (Japan time) and arrived at JFK airport in NY on Saturday evening (NY time). A very big part of me wanted to stay there indefinitely, though part of me also wanted to return home with a broader perspective on life and humanity. While in Kobe, I tried my best to immerse myself in the local culture by exploring the unfamiliar and interacting with strangers. I'm thankful that I was able to share food, ideas and laughs with the people I have met there. I don't have any regrets about how I spent my time there. I got to experience so much. Perhaps the most memorable part of the trip will be sitting comfortably atop Mount Maya overlooking the city of Kobe while a gentle wind shook the trees and snow flakes landed and melted on my skin. Or maybe the haircut I got at Mottomachi station, where communication was limited strictly to hand gestures and myself making the sound of a pair of buzzers. It might be the beer and conversation I shared with an software engineer at a local bar during the week. But I think the most memorable experience for me will be that of my last night in Kobe:

On my last night in Kobe, I headed back to the little restaurant I had grown so fond of. I purposely left my camera at home because I wanted to enjoy myself just as the others were - without documenting every last detail of every situation. And so when I slid the door to the restaurant open, and the host saw my familiar face, he smiled and said "Only two days ago!". Yes, I was here two days ago and now I'm back! I sat down and ordered a couple pieces of tuna, salmon, and octopus as well as a plate of skewered meats. The sushi was excellent as always. The meat skewers blew my mind... I had two skewers of the following: beef, liver, fatty chicken skin, and chicken & scallion. All of which were drizzled with a sweet teriyaki sauce. By far, the fatty chicken skin skewers were the best. As I ate them I thought: man, this tastes like chicken skin but who would cook just the skin?

After my sushi and tasty little meat skewers, I used my phone to learn how to say "Can you recommend anything?". The host looked at me and said "beef?" I nodded and he went right over to the grill and pulled a kabob off for me. This was a kabob of the tastiest tender meat I've ever had and it was drizzled with a sweet peanut sauce. I gave him the thumbs up. After that I pulled the menu out and looked at what else I could try on my last night in Japan. As I browsed a stranger came up to me and said "Would you like some?" and pointed to his plate. I had no idea what it was. It looked like an omelet though the top of it seemed to be moving. I was surprised to hear this man speaking English, but I was even more surprised when the man sitting next to me said "Japanese pizza" with a smile. I tried a good sized portion and it was delicious! It did not taste anything like American pizza. It was tangy, mostly egg, with mozzarella and the top layer, which seemed to be moving were finely shaved truffles which were shaved so thin that the heat from the pizza made them flutter. I thanked him and we talked for a few minutes. I tried to buy him a beer but he said he was full and had to go.

I then struck up a conversation with the man next to me. Turns out; he teaches English at a local school and he spoke it very well. I explained to him all that I had done in Kobe and my trip to the temples in Kyoto. I told him of my hike to the top of the nearby mountain and my experiences mingling with people on the street. We then talked about places we've been and things we've seen and what we thought of people in general. I told him that I thought that there were more good people in the world than bad, and I think he understood me though I don't think he told me what he thought. Either way, he was a nice guy and we shared a bottle of Sake.

When I was about to leave, I asked him to thank the host at the door and tell him how much I appreciated eating at the restaurant the 5 or so times during the last two weeks. I asked him to thank him for his patience and hospitality and that this restaurant was one of my fondest experiences while in Japan. As it turns out, this host was actually the owner of the restaurant and he was delighted to hear this. He bowed and thanked me with a big smile and while I sat back rubbing my belly and talking with the school teacher, he brought out another bottle of Sake and two glasses saying "presento". I felt so genuinely good. It was a great way to end my time in Japan.

Feb 7, 2012

A night in Kobe

Last night I went out for dinner at the same little restaurant I ate at the night before. And again, I ordered almost the same thing. The sushi here is just THAT good. It was a dark and rainy night and I had a great time with my street photography. The paper lanterns are so photogenic... I also popped into an arcade (there are many of them and they're all over the place) and snapped a few shots of the games people were playing. On a wall above some of the games were the words: You forget your daily life with the powerful charm of a game. Before heading back to my room I popped into a bar and had an Asahi beer. The funny thing about being here is that the locals treat you like a rock star: "Ohhhh... American?? Ahhh!!!" they are even more excited when you tell them you're from New York. One guy I talked to for quite a while was very proud of his wrist band that read: I heart boobies! and he posed for a picture. Time to head back out with my two coworkers who just arrived from New York themselves... They want sushi. I think I know a place where I can take them...

Feb 6, 2012

Disposable Heroes

Wow, I know this is wishful thinking but I will be gunning for this print tonight around 3:00am. This is Shepard Fairey's latest work. There are 450 of these signed and numbered prints going up for sale at his website tomorrow around 1:00pm (US Eastern Time). I haven't been able to score the last few released prints but perhaps my luck will change tonight. Twittle-fingers, don't fail me now! This print has especially specific meaning to me, as my little brother just joined the US Marines. I'm supportive and proud of him, though I tried to dissuade him for the past several years. See Metallica's Disposable Heroes lyrics here.

Feb 5, 2012

Sushi-o tabemasu

Last night, when I arrived at the Mottomachi station from my trip to Kyoto, I did a little shopping and then grabbed a bite before heading back to the hotel. I had a hankering for sushi so I found a little alley and explored. There are so many places to find sushi in Kobe that I was having a difficult time deciding. While looking over a menu (read: looking at pictures of food) outside of one restaurant, a cook inside was waving me in. So I popped in and sat down. I know how to say “Tonight I’ll eat sushi” and so I let him know. But the problem is: that’s my limit. He then pulled a card full of kongi and asked me which type I would like. I was screwed! After a couple of minutes of me trying to explain what type I’d like, he brought me a plate with different types of fish on it! I pointed to the ones that I wanted (tuna, salmon, shrimp, and some other type of white fish). He then pointed to each of them saying: “one, one, one, one?” to which I replied: “No no; three, three, three, three Kudasai!” Good lord, it was delicious! I am not getting tired of eating sushi over here. It’s 100X better than Sushi back home. The rice is always perfect; not too soft. And the fish just tastes so much fresher!

Half way through my meal, a man walked in and sat down next to me. He ordered a bunch of sashimi. Good idea! I called the waiter over and asked for the same. So then came my fresh slabs of tuna, salmon and octopus. Oh, how I love eating here in Japan!

Tō-ji Temple - Kyoto Japan

Yesterday I took a train from Kobe to Kyoto (54 minutes taking the local JR train) to visit some of the ancient temples. I was able to see a bunch of the countryside while I traveled mostly north and read a dharma book on the way. At the Tō-ji Temple there were a few beautiful buildings and a large five-tier pagoda which is the tallest wooden structure in Japan. Standing inside this prominent pagoda was amazing… you should have seen the size of the wooden pillars running up through the center. You’re not allowed to take any photographs inside any of the structures so I can’t show you, but I’m very glad that I got to experience it. That goes for all of Japan really. I’m just so glad to be here. Inside one of the main halls stood twenty-one Buddhist statues, five of which are of Buddha and gilded. The other statues are kings. You can read more about this here. The statues are huge and very impressive! I enjoyed myself.

Above Left: Nice looking track bike. Above Right: It's Howdy Doody time!

Above Left: Kobe street corner at early morning. Above Right: Hankyu Rail Car.

Above Left: Kyoto Station. Above Right: Wanted! (most dishonorable!)

Above Left: Hot tea from a vending machine. Above Right: Tō-ji Temple.

Above Left: Taxis wait outside Kyoto Station. Above Right: A Taxi at Tō-ji Temple.

Above Left: Tō-ji Pagoda. Above Middle: McDonalds in Kyoto. Above Right: Stairs at Tō-ji.

Above Left & Right: Halls at Tō-ji Temple.

Above Left & Right: Halls at Tō-ji Temple.