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Reno, NV

Right, then…

The first time I went to Reno was shortly after my 21st birthday.  My cousin and I flew out there for a couple of days to basically drink, gamble and ski, if memory serves.  This, mind you, was in 1992 – back when Reno was a viable alternative to going to Lake Tahoe.  Of course, a storm rolled in which would have meant renting a 4WD vehicle in order to get to the mountain.  However, my cousin didn’t want to spend the extra money on that, so we stayed at the hotel and gambled.

You can probably guess that it would have been cheaper to rent the 4WD vehicle. 

This was also the first time I was introduced to Bloody Marys.  Finding the mixture of tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish and vodka to be pleasing, I had about 15 of them – give or take.  I learned two things that evening:

  1. Casino’s are somewhat forgiving if you spill a Bloody Mary on their Blackjack table, and
  2. They are markedly less so if you do it twice.  I’d even go so far as to say they get downright pissy.

Having been 86’ed, I wandered down the train tracks to our room at The Sands (this was back when the tracks were at grade level) and passed out.  Those 15 Bloody Marys revisited me at about 4am; this is when I learned a third thing that evening:

  • When Mary comes back, she can be nasty, bordering on downright bitchy.  That’s for goddamn Skippy.

Now, in the 19 years between then and now, I’ve visited Reno a handful of times – both when it was still a viable alternative to Lake Tahoe and – as recently as five years ago – when it was altogether depressing to even be there. 

The last few years, some friends and I have been taking the train over, primarily using Reno as a basecamp so that we can go cross-country skiing.  [OK, maybe “basecamp” is a bit too exotic a phrase – we’re staying at the El Dorado(which is Spanish for:  “The Dorado”), for gawds sake.] 

The cool thing about taking the train over is that the vacation starts as soon as you board the train, as opposed to starting four to six hours after you left home.  The route itself is what makes this worth it.  Mind you, I would not have the same feelings about this, if I had to take a trip running through the San Joaquin Valley– though that might be a deep-seated aversion to farmland that I developed while growing up in the SJV.  It’s the fact that you get to watch the Sierra Nevada Mountains roll by is what makes the Reno route great. 

The past few times I’ve been, it seems that Reno has been trying to get back to something.  It’s not that they’re trying to return to their former “Biggest Little City in the World” glory, either.  No, I think they’re gunning for something between that and being the working model for economic depression, which is what it was a few years ago.  I say this because in the recent years, I’ve noticed some new side walks, some street sculpture (casino chips) and an open greenspace/park between the El Dorado and what used to be Fitzgeralds.  In short, it looks like they’re trying to spruce the place up a bit, which I like to see.

What I noticed more this year was in the former Fitzgeralds.  The Fitz has been closed since 2008, and the sight of an abandoned casino right on the strip is unnerving, to say the least.  Now, it appears that it is in the process of being reinvented as something called Commerce Row (or CommRow).  The casino downstairs has been converted into some sort of club, it seems.  To be honest, I never checked this out because a) I’m not of the age that any self-respecting man should be going to “clubs” and b) even when I was that age, I never liked them.  What interested me was on the second floor:  A climbing gym!  Yay!

Well, of course I went.  I did not get a chance to do any bouldering, but I did get eight or nine runs on the climbing wall on the outside.  Chatting with the manager, he said that the gym (called Base Camp) has been open since about October 2011 and is slowly getting more and more clientele.  [As an “It’s-a-small-world” aside, the routes were set by a guy that also works for Planet Granite, my home gym.]

While we were chatting he mentioned that down at the Truckee River, there is now a kayak park where professional kayakers come to train (in addition to being used by recreational kayakers).  This is now in addition to the proximity to snow sports (Mt.Rose, Tahoe-Donnner, etc…) and water sports (DonnerLake).

While I was putting all this together in my mind, it dawned on me: Reno is reinventing itself as an outdoor activity destination.  Think about it:  Gambling is fickle – it depends largely on ones disposable income at the moment (or the acuteness of ones addiction, should that be the case).  But with outdoor activities, most folks that participate already have made the heavy equipment buy-in…all they need to do is find a place to go and do.  Here, when you’re done going and doing, you can go back to the hotel, get some food and get your drink on and gamble, should you so desire.  Thus,Reno. 

“Genius.  Sheer genius.” –Wile E. Coyote—

Back to us, we had a great weekend.  Again, the trip up and back was great (Tip:  Buy picnic stuff and bring it on the train.  Pro tip:  Bring a nice table cloth – you will impress everyone else in the observation car.)  I think my friends that gambled came up either a little up or a little down, but everyone’s making the house payment this month, so no real damage was done.  We ate quite well (as a quick aside, the Best Ceasar Salad in the History of Time can be had at the steak house in Harrah’s).

As for Reno, I hope this reinventing works out well for them.  All too often, people and organizations refuse to change because “we’ve always done it this way” and they will hang on to the past, even to their detriment.  I like to see something choose evolve, and and a function of that, become successful because of that decision to evolve.

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One quick update before the week starts

Right, then…

I wanted to circle back on one thing and open the topic on another, before I trundle off to bed.

In the last post, I mentioned that I signed up for ClimbFind.com, so I can locate folks to climb with at my local gym. Straight out of the chute, I connected with someone that was looking for a partner the same day and time that I was looking for, and we arranged to meet…but – well, if this were a date, I’d say I was stood up, because she didn’t show. The main point, however, is that so far, it seems that the ClimbFind app is fairly slick (human frailty, aside), so I actually look forward to calling out for climbing partners to see how well it actually works.

Also, after dinking about, I’ve decided to give minimalist running a try. Since Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) became popular, I’ve been intrigued by them. In fact, I was eyeing some at REI yesterday, but backed off when the sales guy offered to let me try on a pair. After thinking about it, I remember that a former roommate bought some “invisible shoes” (or Hurarches) that he liked, so I just ordered a pair – which are approximately 1/2 the cost of VFF’s, so if I don’t like it, I’m not out that much. Note that while I’m getting a custom pair made (I had to send them a trace of my foot), I could have just ordered a kit which consists of sole material and lacing and made my own…maybe I’ll try that with the next pair. In the meantime, I’m going to work on building up some foot muscles by walking barefoot around the neighborhood (0.5 mi or so), so I don’t inadvertently tear something out the first time I try to run on these things. It should be interesting…

I’m not interesting all the time; most times, I’m rather mundane.

Right, then…

It’s been over three months since I last posted.  There’s no good reason for this other than not much has been going on.  I was expecting to have at least a trip or two to the snow for cross-country skiing or snowboarding or something, but…well…you can’t visit the snow when there is no snow to visit.  Could I have gone camping or backpacking?  I reckon so.  But to be honest, my heart just hasn’t been in it.  I think it’s a combination of winter doldrums and work (I had a few projects in January and February that required late nights and some weekend work). 

I did get a bit of travel in, though.  The first week of February, I flew toNew Orleansto help a friend celebrate a milestone birthday.  By the by, if you haven’t been, go.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something aboutNew Orleans.  It’s funky and weird and I would never want to live there, but I like the town in a visceral sense and look forward to going back.  Does that make sense? 

Being that I don’t drink, the trip was about food.  Ye gods, the food.  We ate constantly.  Only one morning did we have something as mundane as eggs; every other morning it was beignets at Café du Monde.  Beignets – for the uninitiated – are these square puffy donut pastry things (OK – you try and come up with a better description), which in and of themselves are quite good.  Improving on that is the fact that CdM serves each order (3 beignets per order) with approximately 9 pounds of powdered sugar.  Apparently, you’re supposed to put the extra powdered sugar in your coffee, to create some sort of sugar/caffeine slurry, or something.  As I drink my coffee black, I did the next best thing which involved tearing the beignet open and filling it with the powdered sugar.

I could only do this two or three times, before my vision started to blur.  I suspect it would have taken a Geiger counter to measure my blood glucose levels. 

Thusly fortified, we set out on our daily excursion.  One day, we visited Mardi Gras world – this is where the build the floats for the parades.  Another we did a walking tour of the local graveyard (St. Louis Graveyard #1 in the Treme neighborhood).  This was surprisingly interesting.  Not so much for the fact that they bury their dead above ground due to the high water table.  Nor for the fact that these are almost considered apartments, as they need to be bought and maintained by the family.  What I found interesting is how old some of the graves are.  Additionally, I learned that folks just don’t leaveNew Orleans(something that baffled the rest of the nation during Hurricane Katrina).  That said, after visiting, I can appreciate the logic.  I don’t understand it, but I appreciate it.

As an aside, whilst in the Treme section, I saw several production trucks, ostensibly there filming for Treme.  I was looking for John Goodman, so I could ply him with a hearty “Do you see what happens, Larry?” but he was nowhere to be found.

Anyway, a subsequent trip led us to the aquarium.  Now – all in all, this is a nice facility.  The problem is, is that I’m spoiled:  My “home” aquarium is the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is world-class, thus the NOLA aquarium did not really speak to me.     

Finally, we did a city tour, which involved being bussed around town (it was a nice bus) and given local history, color and humor by a native.  Of the different sections that we went through, the one that got to me was – of course – the 9th Ward. 

I have to admit that when Hurricane Katrina hit, it was one of those things like 9/11:  I can see it on CNN and I believe that it actually happened, but my mind treated it like a movie – I could never make it connect to any reality that I was in, 2000 miles away.  Seeing the 9th Ward, made a lot of connections for me.  Especially the fact that – almost 7 years later – there are still condemned houses with the USAR marks.  On some houses, you can still see the high water line.  Further, while the survivors continued on with their lives (they’re good at that in NO), they’re still hurt by it – not just the actual incident, but how and why it happened, and the complete lack of support or admission of any wrongdoing from the US Government, after the fact.  But, admittedly, they soldier on.

Soldering on is what they’re good at.  I learned something interesting while I was down there.  It’s well known that they like a good party in NO…or a bad party or anything, so long as it involves going to excess.  The reason why, I learned, is that – since its inception – New Orleans has been fraught with things that could up and kill you – Hurricanes, Alligators, disease, bugs that carry disease, invaders, murder, generalized mayhem, malfeasance and bad form – you name it.  The threat of impending death, then, led them to develop a “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Translation) attitude.  I can’t say that I blame them. 

If you go – again, recommended – do the tours.  It helps pump money into the economy, directly to the locals who need it.

Now – back to the food.  In addition to pastry, we hit Acme Oyster house twice.  Part of our group wanted the raw oysters, the other part (the two guys, I might add) were not up for mucus on the half-shell.  Now – once upon a time, I used to eat these.  This is the part of the conversation where I remind folks that alcohol (lots of alcohol) was involved during these times.  In fact, I used to do oyster shooters when I would go down toKey West.  Since then, a friend informed me that if I had to drown something in vodka and hot sauce to eat it, that I probably didn’t like it much to begin with.  Sage words, those. 

On this trip, I “discovered” barbecued oysters.  Now – here’s my new favoriteNew Orleansfood (in addition to Jambalaya).  We had these at Acme and then at Drago’s.  For what it’s worth, Drago’s had a better flavor, but Acme’s were larger.  Regardless, both were outstanding, and came with a sauce that is dead-nuts on perfect for dipping bread in (which I strongly recommend).  In addition to the aforementioned, we also had the seafood etoufee, red beans and rice and po’ boy sandwhiches.  All classics, all good.

Being that my mind is starting to cavitate thinking about this (and that I’m not really a food writer…or I’m not really a writer at all), I’ll wrap up stating that we also had dinner at Mr. B’s Bistro (filet mignon), Muffaletta’s from the Central Grocery and a whole mess of different items at Mother’s.  All strongly recommended.

I did get out and run a couple of times while I was there.  Being a low-grade literary dork, during one run I sought and found the Ignatius J. Reilly statue in front of the old. D.H. Holmes building (it’s the Chateau Bourbon Hotel, now).  Here are several pictures that are better than the one that I took with my camera phone. 

This trip was spread out over five days, after which I had had enough.  While I had a great time, I wanted to get back on a plane and head back to the Bay Area.  Since I’ve been back, I lined up a new consulting gig, which will allow me to work closer to home.  I started taking TRX classes at Planet Granite, but I’m going to lay off of those and re-focus on climbing, again (I got out of my rut with vacation, illness and work).  I just signed up for Climbfind.com, which should help an introvert like me find folks that want to climb during my off days…

..of course, the new gig is down near 3rd avenue in Foster City, which seems to be a popular kite boarding area…that looks like a terrifying new crack habit to get into…

Christmas, New Year and other things

Right, then…

Well, first off:    http://youtu.be/UpqknwKbvDE

So, I survived the holidays.  At the risk of being labeled something derogatory, I generally dislike the period between Thanksgiving and New Years.  It’s not so much due to the scratching, biting and hair-pulling that goes on about whether it’s Christmas or a “holiday” or Jesus’ birthday or a Pagan thing or whatever; all that is just a bunch of noise that I tune out.  What I dislike about the holiday season is that dragged behind the boat sensation (a la Bernie Lomax) that goes along with it – shopping, travel, gatherings, constant eating and generally being torn from my normal, vaguely-scheduled life.

By the way – did I mention that I’m an introvert?  That possibly might have something to do with my agita.

Mind you, I’m not so much of a jerk to not realize that these are good problems to have as some folks have nobody to see.  But when one is introverted, the holidays can be a draining experience.  Regardless, it’s over for another year and I’m happy to return to my vaguely-scheduled life.

Normally for Christmas, I head down a day early so I can get a morning of snowboarding in at Sierra Summit (or China Peak or whatever they call it now).  But this year…well, it’s still Fall in California it seems, thus no snow.  So I drove to Mariposa Grove in Yosemite and did a little hiking amongst the big trees, instead.  It was about 60 degrees on December 23.  I’m still blown away by that.

As for Christmas, despite my protests, the family wanted to exchange presents.  My position is that we’re all adults – presents (along with the shopping and spending) are no longer necessary, really.  For that matter, if I want something I can buy it for myself.  But every year I’m met with “You’re such a ‘bah-humbug’!”  So, we exchanged gifts.  With that, I walked away with gift cards from Starbucks and Macy’s – nice, flat and easy to pack.

As for New Years, the last time I remember actually going to a bar to celebrate was in 1999 – after that, I thought it was ridiculous to pay a $20 cover to drink $6 beers.  After that, I did house parties – same drunk, less money.  Now, for the past few years, I’ve been heading to the mountains.  My friends parents  live about 1.5 hours from a ski resort, so what we’ve been doing is spending New Years Eve day and/or New Years Day (depending on schedule) doing snow sports:  Snow shoeing and/or cross-country skiing and/or snowboarding. 

This year, we hiked for the obvious reasons.

The New Years trip has a second Christmas rolled in as that’s when my friends and I exchange gifts.  Her parents – wonderful folks with a nice Midwest mentality – see fit to give me something, which is nice (though unnecessary).  What is uncanny is their ability to get the right things – albeit, sometimes a little offbeat (e.g. A case of San Pellegrino and a stocking filled with Clif Bars and packages of nuts) but still dead-on, useful and wildly appreciated. 

My friends – nothing a change in my eating habits (I’ve gone vegetari-ish) – got me two Moosewood cookbooks.  

I'm just as shocked by this change as anyone...

 Also, appealing to my bent for the outdoors, I got a wonderful calendar: 

Yaaaay!

 

It also appeals to my low-grade lechery, which I am not above admitting.  That said, I think I should get points for drooling over this and not the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Calendar (how prole), as I tend to prefer women that can do things other than stand around and look good.

On a totally un-related note (I swear), I had been looking into finding a local gym for workout classes and such.  Not being a fan of 24-hour Fitness (which is 2 miles from my house), I joined Planet Granite – a climbing gym. 

Again, I swear the calendar had nothing to do with this.

Actually, I re-joined – I belonged to PG early in 2010, but had stopped going for reasons I do not quite remember (laziness might have had something to do with it, I think).

As I’ve done a little bit of gym climbing before, this is not entirely new to me.  That said, there’s still a ton for me to learn, so I have signed up for a basic-rock climbing course – the purpose of which is to [hopefully] learn some skills and technique other than my standard brute force method.  The longer term plan is to then follow on with skill building via practice and higher-level courses, leading to doing rock climbing on actual rock. 

You can see how this can lead to whole new destinations and activities, can’t you? (in addition to a-whole-‘nother section of REI to browse).

So now  it’s 2012 – a New Year…or so we say.  Scientifically speaking, there is nothing astronomical (in the literal sense of the word) that occurs on Jan 1 that signifies a new year.  Time is a man-made system used to understand nature; nature itself does not recognize time.  So while I bitch about relatively warm temps and no snow in December and January – the problem is with me (or people in general) expecting nature to follow along with the paper thing on my wall that consists of months, dates and pictures of lovely, lovely athletic women.

But back on point, this is the time when most folks take a look at the shambles that their lives have become and then resolve to fix every last damn thing about it.  Admittedly, I used to engage in such tomfoolery, with mixed results at best.  But in the past few years, I’ve taken a different approach and changed the angle and magnitude a bit.  First off – fewer items on the list of things to fix.  No 27 point documents detailing every little thing that I don’t like about me that I want to fix.  Now:  Five things, max.  Also, I don’t like calling these “resolutions” – there’s something too…I don’t know…Oprah-esque about it, thus I just don’t like the word or the implication.  Instead let’s call it

Things that MIMW2 is Going to Work On in 2012

Yeah. That sings.  Here we go:

1)  Continue on the path that I started in 2011.  This will include meditation, healthier eating and exercise via the 17 thousand million activities that I participate in.

2)  Hike Half Dome.  This was attempted in 2011, but was thwarted by (ironically) the only snow storm to hit the region.

3)  Let myself off the hook more.  This involves both personal and professional flubs – as yes, they happen.  I’ve gotten better at this in the recent years, but there is still improvements to be made.  The important thing that needs to be focused on is the lesson in each failure; beating oneself up incessantly is not going to do an inch of good.

…and that’s it.  See?  Nice and short – nothing too unobtainable.   If I do more than this – great.  If I do less, that’s fine too.

Enough of this.

 Happy New Year.

 

So far, it’s been a good day

Right, then…

I’ve had a rather Eastern morning.  I started with irrigating my nose with a variation of a Neti pot.  For the uninitiated, a Neti pot puts water up your nose, so you can rinse it out.  Apparently, they’ve been doing this in India for months, if not years.  So, remember how when you were little, and you’d plug your nose before your jumped into the pool, in order to  keep water from going up it?  Well, this is just like that, but in reverse.

Honestly, it’s an odd feeling.  Nothing disgusting [fortunately] has come out.  I think I feel better, but I’m not sure.  I’d imagine that if I used this thing earlier last week, my cold might have cleared up sooner.

Interesting side-effect:  The delayed drip.  So, you spray the salt water up your nose, most of it comes out the other side (which, btw, I did not know both sides were connected) and there’s obviously some residue that you need to clear out.  So, I do that this morning, then I go to Yoga (the second part of my Eastern morning) and as I’m going through a series of down-ward facing motions, I guess some hidden cavity in my head opens up and starts dumping water and whatnot.  Not a little bit, either.  It was rather hard to concentrate on my breathing and poses and not keep sniffing like some coke head.  Fortunately, that stopped, though.

Yoga was good.  The last time I took a class was in late 2008 and it was Bikram Yoga, where the heat the room to 105F.  Nothing like a good, hard sweat for 90 minutes.  Today’s class was much cooler, but I still worked up a sweat.  I still don’t know how as I was effectively stretching (or so it seemed – there could be some difficult things going on inside that I missed).

After that, we stayed to climb (parenthetical aside- the Yoga class was done at Planet Granite, so the transition to climbing was somewhat easy).  This was the first time I climbed in probably 10 to 12 years.  I tried once at the old PG location and didn’t much like it then.  I’m liking it more now – must be a reflection of changed mental something.  I don’t know if it was the Yoga or the climbing or both, but I can sure feel my arms and legs, now.

After about an hour and a half of that, we hit brunch.  My, but that was a tasty club sandwich!

Now, home and showered, I’m enjoying another beer.

Namaste.