Zion National Park

I had been to Zion National Park when I was in 7th grade as an arrogant lump of teenager. My father drove me to one of the lookouts and we toured the visitor center and I was unimpressed as it was neither unhealthy food nor Magic cards. My tastes had changed considerably since and every inch of the park now interested me. Chris and I were on camping time which involves going to sleep when you’re tired at some point after the sun goes down and waking when the tent gets too warm or the sound of European tourists rising guilts you into carpe-ing some diem. Driving down from Lava Point gives one only a taste of one part of the park but it’s a heck of a part.
So Much SKy

All of the road signs were pockmarked with small(ish) arms fire reminding us that while this was a National Park for Chris and I, people lived here. Those people had their own customs and their own thoughts on what made appropriate target practice.
Pockmarked

Chris and I breezed into the park, parked, and took the tram to the first point that had a decent length hiking trail. This is what we were looking up at as we hit the trail head.
Park Proper

I was far from peak physical condition but I felt the trail was hitting me overly hard. After a loop of about four and a half miles I felt near death. I asked Chris if he found himself tired and he looked back at me saying “we’re 7000 feet above sea level.” This made me feel much better and I only wish I could use that excuse when I got tired going up to my 3rd floor apartment back in Philly.

Zion National Park’s terrain is sculpted by the Virgin River, a body of water that moves some 90% of its water in only 10% of the year. Besides being an awesome example of the Pareto principle, it suggests that this place floods, and when it floods, it floods a lot. This flood/drought cycle influenced the ecology of the park and trees close to the river are either young enough that there’s been no major flood to uproot them or old enough that they can take a deluge. That’s a heck of an excluded middle.
Virgin River Valley

Chris and I felt beat up but happy after our trail loop and took a rest before attempting The Narrows Trail. Chris was faster on the uptake and it took me a little to realize that “Narrows Trail” meant “walk up the Virgin river”. I brought my camera and the views up the walls of the canyon was moving. Each inch of rock removed was worn of water and time.

Virgin River Valley

I have a near infinite capacity for kinetic activity that requires exertion without being exhausting and at some point I felt I was dragging Chris through riparian monotony. He didn’t complain and he was polite enough to point out that the trail functionally ended dozens of miles from where we were. This was what we looked like most of the time.

River Trail

After saying “Just one more bend” some fifteen times I called it quits after the water reached sternum depth and we did the trail again in reverse. I was glad I overbought shoes. Back at the trailhead, I washed out my shoes and we took the tram back to the park entrance.

We drove out through the park and headed onto Bryce Canyon National Park. Chris didn’t mind when I stopped to take pictures and near an abandoned section of state highway I took this shot.
Cloud Cover

This view isn’t as spectacular as say The Grand Canyon, Pike’s Peak or any other number of grand vistas but this is the kind of view that makes me wish I could slow down time, bottle a moment, and hold it for a day where I spend 10 hours staring at Excel. This was my favorite view of the trip so far, until an hour later I got another treat.
View

Theoretically there were and will be views more impressive but this one knocked me back for how locally quotidian it was. Some 30 miles from here Chris and I got a sandwich served by the least interested food service worker I may have ever encountered. This view was a 30 minute drive from where she worked and she probably thought nothing of it. I hope this is something I see often enough to be sated but not so often that it becomes pedestrian.

The sandwich stop was also my first interaction with “locals”. As we pulled up, the man from American Gothic was considering his Subway sandwich while Lennie from Of Mice and Men washed off his truck and frequently sprayed Chris and the car by accident. I asked the counter attendant where he went for fun. His reply was a town some 75 miles away. More people are in my office building than his county and we are in the same country. I hope we get a chance to swap some day. We saw more local on the way to Bryce Canyon in the form of the Bryce Canyon Airport. At first I thought this was a joke but I later checked with Google Maps. A plane can land here and that is both wonderful and terrifying.
Bryce Canyon Airport

Bryce Canyon itself was nice or at least that’s how it started. As we headed East into the park and higher in altitude and the sun slid south to the horizon this was the sequence of our responses to each new canyon.
“Hmm”
“Nice”
“Neat”
“Wow”
“Wooooooooow”
“Huuuh, hur huhh, hooooooo”

The last was just a grunt. A pilcrow marking that there was nothing more to be said on the matter where a period was simply insufficient. Chris identified a color of purple in the sky that may exist beyond the rainbow. At this late hour, we practically had the park to ourselves and each grand vista was ours.
America, The Beautiful

Beamed

Strata

Bryce Canyon

We settled in for the evening at a tent slip and I was angry at having cell reception. I wanted nature dammit. I inflated my air mattress and found that it had stopped holding air properly. Air was slipping out through the fill valve and I thought myself sneaky by wrapping the plastic wrapping from the sausage we had for dinner around the inlet and tying it in place. My knot wasn’t quite tight enough and air leaked out albeit slower and now with a high pitch whistle that sounded like someone squeezing a desert rain frog. Funny followed by rage-inducing. Chris nodded off and I deflated my air mattress to the point where my body blocked the fill valve. Here I was, in Bryce Canyon, lying on an air taco, with cell reception. What the shit.

To Zion National Park

I woke up in time to pack and meet Chris.  I put my necessities bag which could have contained a baby rhino next to his which could have barely fit two squirrels.  Our first stop was to Panera bread to make a map.  This was a process of using, of all things, Bing Maps, over mediocre Wifi to plot out destinations.  Our draft route hadn’t changed much from the one we threw together some number of months ago.  Next we went to REI to realize that they held almost nothing for us.  Walmart was the motherlode.  We exited with a propane stove, a pan that somehow cost $4, tuna fish cans, oatmeal, trail mix, and a styrofoam container that seemed as resilient as a soap bubble.  Our final stop was a Radioshack so I could buy a microusb cable and I paid $15.00 for it through gritted teeth.  That was literally 1000% percent the price of something similar on Monoprice and briefly wondered if I could have something overnighted to a National Park.

We drove north towards Zion and I promptly nodded off.  Chris and I went to Panda Express, I for the first time, and we drove again towards Zion.  Once again, I nodded off waking while in the line of vehicles to get to Zion.  Zion is cut through by Utah State Route 9.  We traveled it from entrance to exit and this is what it looked like.Roadway

Every aspect of the park said “time”. The stratification of the rocks, the plants growing between millenium-old cracks, sheep that seemed to view us as just a blip on the radar. I was fine with a sense of elsewhere.

Sheep!

We returned to visitor center and learned that no campsites were available at the main camping area but that Lava Point, some 45 minutes away, held six unmonitored campsites that may or may not have space. We shrugged our shoulders and headed to lava point.

The ride to Lava Point reminded me of how little I know. I didn’t know the names of the microclimes we went through each with their unique mixture of tree, shrub, and grasses. I didn’t know what the rocks were, or how to name or identify the strata. I didn’t know what the types of erosion were nor what caused them and even the massive chasms in the ground were a mystery to me. Physicists may see their science everywhere, and as a trained chemist I feel I get extra context to the supermarket, but geologists are the closest to an extra sense. They can see time and here I was envious of their second sight. What stories did they know that I didn’t and how could I learn them?

Lava Point Campsite

We reached Lava Point and there was a single open campsite. We set up, talked, and prepared our first meal of good night sausage. Considering the thermodynamics of the pan and the thickness of the sausage, I may have trichinella but the sausage was good.Night Snack

I tried to take pictures of the stars with no luck and settled into the tent where my air mattress took up probably 75% of the available floor space. Chris hadn’t tried to kill me and was graceful in the size of my footprint. It was nice to see him again and I hoped soon I’d remember how to talk to him. We had many days for that though. In the meantime, sleep.

Ex Post Facto – To Vegas

I stepped onto Market Street at 11:30 with the intent of buying shoes and packing.  I somehow completed both in under two hours.  Two spare lenses, two pieces of bedding, two sets of spare clothing, and two toothbrushes, proving that I had made a poor inventory.  Two bags, two light sources and too much time that had passed since I had experienced “elsewhere”.  My inventory for the trip was simple but the inventory for myself was less obvious.   My physical abilities were a shadow.   This time last year I was prepping for a half marathon.  This year I was struggling to finish a 5k.  The shoes on my feet felt beyond me being “Moab Desert Hikers”.  I was maybe worth Crocs.  My emotional state wasn’t what I wished it had been.  ”Micro USB cable” never made it onto my check list leaving me stuck for charge until I touched down in Vegas and I was sweating the whole time.  The cabin of the airplane seemed cramped and I started softly sobbing when two kids started crying after we had taken off.

Then I looked around the cabin at the sacred cattle of humanity and started to calm down.  Nothing from Philadelphia could bother me here; I could edit photos, and I did; I could nod off, and I did; and I could chew on things.  The fellow next to me saw me editing photos and struck up a conversation.  He said “within 10 years the photographer will be dead”.  By the time I landed I had myself an enemy and couldn’t have been happier.  We traded numbers and I wandered to my hotel, hoping to never see him again.  The night was bring with opportunity, appropriate for Vegas.

The Excalibur was the cheapest place to stay so there I did.  I laid out my things on the other twin bed for no reason, I was leaving the next morning.

 

Reconsideration

Return

I’ve not posted since before my birthday. I am sorry. Suburbanadventure.com was conceived as a test of the statement “something interesting, notable, or funny happens to me everyday.” I think this claim applies to most with a little inspection. Then again, I seem to have some traits that incline my life toward oddity. I argue with people in the public square, talk to customer service representatives, ask personal questions of my coworkers and friends of friends, and generally treat people with trust rather than suspicion. This last characteristic sets me up for disappointment but rarely harm and has opened me to meeting nice people in strange places.

So why no posts? A few things.

Recovery

In May of this year I was diagnosed with a brain injury. The side effects of this have been considerable and have upturned much of my life due to its side effects. I’d love to write something to the tune of “thanks guys, I’m better now” but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards. I have what seems to be a competent team providing me with medical support as well as a network of friends who proved supportive.

Alec – For letting a strange man hug you.
Janine – For being anti-fragile.
Suzie – For dealing with a room mate whose personality seemed chosen daily by a roulette wheel.
Ashley – For asking “how’s your brain?”
Paul – For sharing your struggle.
Pat – For being my personal physician.
Clara – For being an actual physician.
Ben – For never being talked out.
Chris – For getting it.
Dad, Mom, Ryan – I have no evidence that you’re even aware of the existence of this blog, but we seem to be closest when things are worst. Some families are torn apart by strife while we seem galvinized by it.

The above are understatements quite simply but they are starts. I hope I can show reciprocity should any of my friends find themselves in a similar place of need. Only recently have I started to get my feet under me and I feel like I’m functioning between 60-70% capacity of what I could be doing. This feels wildly frustrating to me after a streak of successes in becoming closer to who I wished to be. Now I’m in the curious place of wishing to be who I once was.

Relocation

On June 1st I moved from Feasterville to West Philadelphia. It’s a lovely apartment I now share with two other people. My commute takes about 10 minutes yet I still find ways to be late to work. “Suburban Adventure” seems to no longer fit. City Life doesn’t yet make sense to me. I miss the smell of petrichor when it rains, I miss running my car at high speeds for uninterrupted stretches, I miss the near perfect quietude of having my house in Feasterville to myself, and I miss coming home to a place whose nooks and crannies hold no secrets to me. On the flip side, I like having something to do every evening, access to the cumulative cultural power of 2.2 million people, and the beauty of the unfolded urban landscape is its own type of breathtaking on a fine day. The kinesis of an urban center is hard to match.

Maybe once I understand the cadence of this place I’ll have something to say.

Realignment

This site has also functioned as a repository of happiness. I may be jolly but I am rarely happy. Blog posts and photos prevent me from ignoring the roaring good life I’m having by most people’s standards but there has been a change of tenor recently. Many of my recent happinesses are private as they depend on interactions with people I may not wish to share. I live with few personal secrets but I don’t wish to presume that of others.

So, what next? I’m not entirely sure.

The cumulative length of all my posts combined is some 425k words. This is signficantly longer than most novels and clocks in at about 80% the length of Infinite Jest. The posts I have enjoyed the most are travelogues and the ridiculous. The former has proven to be satisfying and I hope to continue this practice in some form. The latter have largely moved to Facebook and face-to-face conversations. The interaction from Facebook is hard to beat although I missed having total ownership of my own words. Maybe I’ll start cross-posting.

Reflection

Nothing has ever happened to me until I told someone about it. I’m an extrovert and I feel that most of friends tend to be introverts. When many are outgoing, I feel few require people to recharge in the same way I do. Text, Skype, etc don’t seem to scratch this itch which has proven troublesome as not being able to talk at the end of my workday has proven problematic.

I tend to lose weight when I’m traveling by myself and gain it when I’m traveling with other people.

Exercise in no way helps me blow off steam. In fact, if I’m bothered or am having a bad day, exercise is the last thing I want to do as it’ll only let me stew.

Whenever I’m not sure where I should eat, I should just find the nearest Subway.

Sleep seems to almost always be the best way to spend my time.

400 calories of carbohydrates in 2 hours or less will generally make me nappy.

The people in my life have a much higher turnover rate than I thought they did. The three people closest to me hasn’t been consistent for any stretch of time greater than four or five months. I’m not sure if this indicates something but I know of seek a certain permanence from those around me. This is utterly futile. Around this core is a ring of friends that seems to be much more stable. Maybe I should spend more time here.

Farce is a type of fuel. The ridiculous makes me feel alive.

Recession

My train is approaching 30th street and I’ll be on my way to Atlanta for Dragon*con in under two hours. TTFN as all the kids say.

Large Losses

Reinsurance often only applies to losses above a certain size.  For pricing, clients will often provide a large lost listing that consists of all losses among a certain amount.  Large losses often include some detail about the loss and today I reviewed a set of lost listings for a school board insurance policy.  When teachers screw up, the school board is inevitably sued and this creates some novel listings:
1) A teacher was sued for running an escort service out of the school with students as the workers.
2) A teacher was sued for convincing a physically handicapped kid to play dodgeball where upon he then had the crap knocked out of him as a handicapped kid playing dodgeball.

Train Pantomime

Sometimes if I leave work early I run into Joe on the train ride home.  He and I both take the quiet ride car and I pulled out my laptop and he pulled out his Kindle.  I texted him “what are you reading” and replied by holding his hands up to his mouth and miming that he was eating, followed by tucking his arms like he had wings and flapping them while cawing.  He was reading George RR Martin’s “A Feast for Crows”.  I replied with another text consisting of “last time you and I talked you were reading” where I then mimed thunder and the sound of katanas striking each other with accompanying hand motions.  ”A Storm Of Swords”.

The next book in the series is “A Dance with Dragons”, not sure how I’d do that while sitting.

Guarding the Bee

I’m still not very useful at work and I completely recognize this.  My normal tactic is to just kind of ignore my ignorance and plug along anyway.  Today I was asked to do some time sensitive work and began plugging away.  After a few hours I was told that I was taking too long but that something else important had to be done and someone would take over for what I was doing.  The task I was asked to do was trivial and once again I felt like head bee guy.

Spotify Save

I had entered a bid to be the photographer for a charity event in DC.  I knew the person running the event and indicated that if they couldn’t meet my rate I’d do it for free.  The event coordinator later contacted me:
Coordinator: We really like your work but we don’t have the money in our budget to pay you.
Me: How much is in your budget?
Coordinator: We have $500 for photographer and DJ.  The cheapest DJ we found was for $400.
Me: Does the venue have a PA system?
Coordinator: Yes, why?
Me: Do you have a laptop?
Coordinator: Yes, Terry, why?
Me: Spotify Premium.
My bid was accepted.

Operation Icicle Afterwards

Fifteen people attended Operation Icicle which is few compared to most gatherings I have.  There were two waves of departure which left a core of six from 1am onward.  We talked for a few hours and before one friend left we chatted:
Me: Did you enjoy yourself?
Him: I suppose.  It wasn’t your best gathering.
Me: Noted.
Him: Better luck next time.
The wood was a little damp, the night rather cold, and the ground a little wet.  These added up to less than the evening I wanted.  While cleaning up, one of the guests fell almost directly on my surgical site and I declared a moratorium on fun for the evening.  I retired for the night smelling of smoke and disappointment.
Maybe Operation Icicle had run its course.  My first one was in 1999 and I held them regularly throughout high school.  I stopped in college but returned to having them a year after.  Of those attending this evening, Rachel had been attending the longest and was the only one from my high school group to still be in my circle of friends.  For about 1/3 of the people present this was their first one.  Maybe this history and ritual was lost to them.  I’ll be moving downtown within the next half year.  I probably won’t have outdoor winter parties then.

Operation Icicle Preparation

Operation Icicle is my once a year winter party where a fire is constructed and we collectively laugh at the cold.  Normally I have some help to set up for this event but this year my crack team of six Eagle Scouts proved unable to help.  I was feeling well so was comfortable taking care of everything myself.  I had visited my doctor the previous week who told me to continue to take it easy.  At some point where I had put the sixth tree log into the back of my dad’s truck I determined that I had officially ignored doctor’s orders.
The most glaring violation of this was when moving logs from the house to the camp fire circle.  As I exited the top driveway one fell out and began rolling down W. Bristol Rd.  I stopped the car, grabbed it and threw it in the back of the truck again with the motion of someone picking up and tossing a basketball.