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Where tall tales, real and imagined, absurd and compelling, are served with a smile
If you’ve never seen footage of wingsuit-basejumping, you might have difficulty believing what your eyes are telling you. Rest assured, you are in fact seeing what you’re seeing. I can’t imagine how incredible this feels – though I would very much like to find out. In fact, last month I walked out of our bedroom in a brand new, lavender, personalized wingsuit. When my wife set eyes on me she summarily cut off one of my arms. I am confident I could still make it happen. However, my aerodynamics team insists that I would fly in circles.
My wife worries about bears around our home in Colorado. Regularly they descend into our neighborhood and rattle the garbage cans looking for discards and morsels. They are much like the bear in this video – except real.
So like a fine wine gets better with age, a fine man gets hairier. It is not something to frown upon. Rather it is the male human’s plumage recognizing its full potential. Like a proud peacock flaunting it’s feathery goods, manus peltus is the grandest expression of animalistic grandeur. Now, there are limits. And as demonstrated here, it is high time my better half fired up the flesh mower.
At least I agreed to sleep and eat my bacon outside. Please pardon my exposed coconuts.
So during the course of my day I often throw on the headphones and listen to some kind of mood music or other. Recently I had the inspiration while on Pandora to create a station based upon the Gladiator film score. Great move by me. Scores from films like (including Gladiator) Braveheart, The Shawshank Redemption, The Last of the Mohicans… I was alternating wildly between aggressively fired up and weepy. The end result was in fact some solid productivity so the film scores have been a constant presence.
I’ve always had the capacity to be moved by a powerful score. But sometimes it takes closely listening to the compositions of such stalwarts as Hans Zimmer and James Horner to really grasp the impact the music delivers. Of course, there are good scores and then there are iconic scores, scores that leave an indelible mark on the senses. Films like Jaws and Titanic come to mind. Star Wars, The Godfather… Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark… All great films supported by tremendous soundtracks and scores that complete the experience.
But for me, the powerhouses from the epic dramas deliver the most punch. Even the absence of scoring can resonate deeply. Take the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away. Nearly the entire movie is scoreless. Only when he finally succeeds in paddling out past the breakers and gazes back upon the uninhabited island that served as both refuge and prison does the powerful Alan Silvestri score cue up. The contrast from no music heightens the emotion of the climactic moment. Take a listen:
Though the top of my list admittedly includes perhaps some of the more obvious: the aforementioned Gladiator, Glory, and again, Braveheart.
What do you think? Are there movies that will forever be associated with music in your mind? Let’s hear about it…
How many times a day do you really stop and see what you’re looking at? Granted, this is arguably a more worthwhile exercise in the midst of intense nature. But even in a city – what are you noticing? We can boil it down even further: How many times a day to you look up? Really look up? There is a third dimension after all. Bottom line, we can all stand to see with better eyes from time to time. If you have a moment, take a look at this visual stunner from Terje Sorgjerd shot over the course of one week in Spain. A nice way to begin a Tuesday.
Expatified in Quito, Ecuador
This morning I jumped out of bed like my feet were on fire and pushed open the shutters off of our tiny ‘master’ bedroom – which also serves as our kitchen, dining room, and study – and breathed in the cool, Andean air of Quito. At this altitude, there is a bite to it despite the time of year, and an involuntary shiver wracks my body. Below on the street, quiteños (people from Quito) are bustling about amidst more scattered groupings of non-quiteños – this is the vibrant Mariscal Sucre after all, known affectionately (or disparagingly) as gringolandia (gringo land). Carefully leaning out against the rickety railing that fronts a small deck-type thing, I casually shout out, “Buenos días todos. ¿Qué noticias hay?” (Good morning, everybody! What news is there?). A kid with a cannon for an arm hurls a potato at me (potatoes are big in the Andes) and everybody else stays mum. Apparently there is no news this morning.
After a breakfast of llapingachos (potato and cheese pancakes) and some kind of pattie stuffed with a spicy, minced meat (I don’t know what it was, but it was good), me and the missus are off on an Ecuadorian adventure. We jump on the MetrobusQ and head south through the mountains, watching the bold colors of this South American wonderland flash past. Our destination: Baños, a touristy town (hey, we’re new here) with endless opportunities for fun. First we’re going to have a mountain race on rented ATVs (Amber will win because she races dirty), then we’ll hit the thermal baths for a steam before grabbing some local, tooth-breaking taffy and setting up shop with a cocktail or two in full view of the surrounding volcanoes, hoping to see some lava-type activity (but more hopeful that we don’t). After that, nightlife, Ecuador style (I’d tell you what this means but I’m still sorting it out).
Location: North-central Ecuador, nestled in an Andean valley at about 10,000 feet making it the second highest capital in the world (not to be mistaken with the second highest university in the world, CU, which I live next to in Boulder); sits along the flanks of the active Pinchincha volcano and nearly straddles the equator, which is a different word than Ecuador, including the spelling (as demonstrated here) though ecuador is Spanish for equator, so there you go.
When to go: There is the rainy season and the the dry season – if you prefer rain, go in the rainy season (weirdo); bottom line, a quirky combo of equator proximity and altitude makes for a basically year-round springtime (which equals year-round cleaning, I guess).
Attractions: The Historic Centre which was the first (along with Krakow, Poland) to be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Metropolitan Cathedral. The Virgin of El Panecillo. Edgardo’s jerky stand on the corner (see below). The Galapagos Islands where Darwin’s ghost might tell you to naturally select yourself off of his islands from the bow of the HMS Beagle
Famous Ecuadorians: Alejandro Aguirre, a famous poet and author; the painter Oswaldo Guayasamin; and – I kid you not – Michael Craig Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, and other seminal works of cultural genius, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, in 1962.
Cuisine: Corn – or maiz – and lots of it. Corn dumplings, toasted corn, corn pancakes, grilled corn, corn po-boys, corn scampi – those last two don’t exist (I was channeling Bubba from Forrest Gump). 4,000 varieties of potatoes; seafood; mucho pork, and even indigenous beef jerky (charqui). This is not your typical Sip & Go jerky. This is the real deal considering that it is claimed that beef jerky was invented in the region. Get it and pay homage to the unknown, pioneering jerky visionary. For cocktails: canelazo, hot water with rum, cinnamon, some sugar, and lemon or lime. Great way to take the chill off – even first thing in the morning.
Famous resident authors: Other than Aguirre (who is dead and therefore doesn’t count), Jeff Moore, an ornery rascal the locals have taken to calling bribón irascible (ornery rascal).
Ecuadorian Proverb: El diablo más sabio más por motivo de su edad que por motivo de ser al diablo. This proverb roughly translates into, the devil is wiser more on account of his age than on account of being the devil and has opened my mind’s eye like a Jim Morrison peyote trip.
The People’s Republic of Boulder
This morning my wife and I broke our fast in one of Boulder’s staple (if few) greasy spoons: The Village Coffee Shop. We were familiar with the place by way of Stephen White’s Boulder-set novels in which the protagonist and his Boulder PD friend/ally frequent the no-pretense artery clogging establishment. While waiting for two chocolate chip pancakes the size of manhole covers and a side of bacon (but of course) I noticed the t-shirts that the short order cooks uniformly wore. In the middle: Village Coffee Shop. Surrounding that was their slogan: 890 Sq. Ft. of Reality Surrounded by Boulder. This is a play on an informal slogan for the whole of Boulder: 25 Square Miles Surrounded by Reality. I think both are true.
The Village Coffee Shop is refreshingly non-p.c. (and the food is terrific). If you’re a first timer, be prepared for everything to be brought to a halt as the “Village Virgin!” call goes out and everybody goes bananas. You’re then given your ‘Village V-Card’ which gets stamped (with cherries no less) each time you bring in a new Village Virgin. In the mix is free stuff of some sort that we never really got to the bottom of. I think it starts with french fries and goes from there. I’d like to work my way up to a dozen or so of the giant pancakes to stitch together as an edible quilt for next winter. Shiver, shiver, chomp. Shiver, shiver, chomp.
Back to the slogans. The tie in is right on. Boulder is surreal in almost every way. Much of its unique-ti-tude (made up word) is derived from the absurd for sure. But bottom line: it’s a pretty remarkable place and if you had to choose, wouldn’t you like to live somewhere remarkable? That being said you can’t go a single day, or even half a day, without encountering a taste of the ridiculous. Case in point – The Boulder 420 Fest, an annual celebration of all things marijuana taking place on, you guessed it, April 20th. “420” holds great significance in pot smoking sub-culture. Being Rubiksian in my squaredom and a non-pot smoker, I never understood exactly why. Even last week on April 20th itself, my wife asked me about the significance. I took a stab in the dark that it had something to do with getting baked, extrapolating from that a culinary tie in. To wit: Bake at 420. With typical acuity for my b.s., Amber pointed out that never do you see cooking instructions calling for the oven to be set at an arbitrary 420 degrees. Bake at 350, sure. But we can’t very well have a big ol’ puff fest on March 50th, can we? That would really confuse the puffers whom may find themselves reading from some arcane Mayan calendar in an alternate dimension. I’ve since learned that the rite has roots in 1971, in San Rafael, California (if any place is goofier than Boulder, it’s California, generally). Something about a statue of Louis Pasteur and a group of teenage cats known as “The Waldos.” Whatever. The end result is that 420 carries very specific (to a pot-smoker which means very vague) meaning. And every year there is a celebration en masse on the campus of CU Boulder. This past Thursday: 10,000 partakers creating a cloud of tangy haze vast enough to give orbiting cosmonauts on the Russian Space Station a contact high accompanied by insatiable cosmo-munchies. Even my father, back in lush and bountiful New Jersey, caught wind of it (not literally which is fortunate). The story he had heard was via a reporter on scene amongst the throngs of weed fairies (see video), addlers (people who have used so many drugs they are not quite right in the head), vipers (old time hippies who hang out in after hours clubs and get smoked up – both definitions courtesy of 420dictionary.com), but mostly, really, really, really, REALLY high college students (ah, tuition dollars at work). According to the report my father caught, it was the “largest gathering of marijuana smokers on the CU campus since…yesterday.” Indeed. For a glimpse of what it was like, see the video below (note: author thinks pot smokers are dirty hippies and does not condone the following behavior; on the other hand, author likes people to make their own choices and therefore does condone reader ignoring what author thinks):
The following is a work of fresh fiction. I have no preconceived notions as to where this story will go or end up. It will be a collaborative piece based upon input from readers. There will be two or three questions at the end for consideration. Any other freeform suggestions/contributions are welcome as well.
SHE PLACED THE PHONE BACK IN its cradle softly as if in danger of cracking the hard plastic skin. Her eyes stayed focused on the relatively ancient piece of communications technology and her mind locked on a playback of the last thing she had been told.
The dilapidated motel room began to creep back into her circle of perception and slowly she turned towards the door, half expecting the spherical knob to begin a methodical rotation, set in motion from without. Again her vision began to pinpoint, drowning out everything around the knob and throughout the room like ocular background noise. The steady tick, tock of a 1970’s era bedside clock was her soundtrack. Fifteen minutes. Blinking, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them, nothing had changed except for her. She had decided.
The walk down to the shoreline from the motel had used up nearly all of the allotted time. Moving with fresh resolve she arrived at the sand and kicked off her sandals without breaking stride. A quick glance to the left and the right informed her that the beach was utterly deserted. Not surprising at three o’clock in the morning in the off season. Above her the stars were out but there was no moon. With virtually all of the oceanfront homes shuttered for the winter, very little ambient light penetrated the darkness near the waterline. What little there was seemed to be absorbed by the frothing white of the small breaking waves.
She shivered involuntarily and crossed her arms around her in an attempt to maintain body heat. The caller had instructed her to not wear a sweater or jacket, that something would be provided for her before they began their exodus. No shoes, he had also said. Walking the final steps to the solitary lifeguard tower, she checked her watch. Thirty seconds to spare. She scanned the sands on both sides of her, straining her eyes for any sign of him. Then she saw movement in the shadows to the north. She took a tentative step in that direction and searched for another sign. A figure materialized far closer than she would have suspected and walked towards her. It was him. He looked tense – grim even – as he neared. She raised a sandy foot to take another step in his direction and was about to speak when she was seized roughly from behind. Two sets of hands assailed her. One set secured her upper body as the other quickly wrapped a neoprene band around her mouth, cinching it tight. Her eyes went wide and connected with those of the caller. He had stopped walking and watched silently, clearly unalarmed by the development. She had been set up. Read more of this post