Archive for June, 2012

24
Jun
12

Adventures in Disc Golfing

After watching “The Bullfrog Open: A Disc Golf Adventure” I can honestly say that I haven’t lived life as free as these 5 gentlemen have.

The story opens with 5 young adults playing a game known as disc golf. To be honest, for the first 5 years after I heard of disc golf, I thought it was some hippie side-adventure that they did in to spite The Man. This film has proved that mentality to be completely incorrect. This sport is one of strategy, logic, and skill.

As the tale unfolds, it tells a story of 2 brothers, who with the help of a few friends, live out a dream of playing “The Augusta of Disc Golf”. This trip was 3 years in the making, as The Big Tiff (one of the brothers’ friends, aka Chris Kowalski aka Emperor Tiffer of the Coastal City) explains in the opening remarks. This is a saga of friendship and competition that took years to plan and camaraderie and competition shines through. 5 friends, from 4 different cities, gather together for one momentous championship tournament. As the Brothers Williams take us on this journey, we learn a great deal about the gameplay, gain insights to how they feel as they play this strenuous 3 days, and a little bit about the future of mankind, thanks mainly to Rob Morse (King Robert of the Mountain Lake).

First off, one cannot say enough about Dan Williams’ (Chief Daniel of the Eastern Harbor) incredible camera work. To be able to finish in the place that he did in the tournament, and still be able to catch camera shots that are NatGeo worthy is a testament to living up to his last name. Without Williams’ work, we would have no Adventure and without God, we would have no Universe.

With each participant, each gave a critical component to this film. Kowalski is no different. His stunning commentary around the campfire, and his constant underhanded commentary with others made me believe that disc golf is not a black and white game. I believe he added a sense of symbolism in his Arabic headdress and attempted turkey genocide to these ends. Life is full of deceit and hidden meaning, much like the “game” of disc golf. Without him, this film would just be another well edited YouTube video.

Mike Manzella (Grand Master Mike of the Southern Shore) summed up the main point for me, in the sense of comradarie. Here is a man, a very successful tennis player, who leaves the wonderful shores of Naples, FL to hang out with his childhood friends and to sit around campfires all day, drinking and smoking while wearing fashionable hats. I believe Manzella does mean “greatest friend” in Italian.

One cannot mention the name Christopher Williams without mentioning “disc golf”, or maybe even “film editing” after this work. As a three-time Bullfrog Open Champion, and editor of several feature photo-montages in college, he is “The Guy” you’d want to put together such a project. His commentary is akin to Socrates at the Forum or Mark Cuban on ESPN. No bullshit, and everything he says is important. In terms of the editing, well, I just submitted it for the new season of 30 for 30. As my consultant on all thing musical, I had no doubt that the soundtrack would be outstanding, but when I heard Living Colour’s Cult of Personality, I almost shit myself. What a well done job.

King Robert II, of The Mountain Lake stole the show. His flute-work is, dare I say….INCREDIBLE. At each end of the day, I was ecstatic to get a new day started with Robert and his talent. I’m not going to write anything else about his work in this film because it’d be an insult if I attempted to describe it.

In summation, I look forward to seeing more work from the Williams Brothers and all films featuring anyone or anything in this piece. Outfuckingstanding.

20
Jun
12

The Patriot

“Arghhhhhhhhhh­h……” I groan.

As much as I love The Patriot, I hate The Patriot when I “have to” go there after I was just drinking at the same bar 8 hours ago. But….. it was Chris’ birthday and I promised to introduce him to Selina, a very talented bartender who works at the bar.

The Patriot is what I imagine Europeans think of when they think of an American bar. It’s dirty, there’s country music, neon lights, an eccentric group of drinkers, and very good looking bartenders who occasionally dance on the bar. Pair this yokel Americana situation with the fact that it’s a 10 minute walk from Wall Street and you have a very interesting situation. It’s located in this  strange nexus of shitty bars such as Dakota Roadhouse (which sports an asshole dog that likes to steal your food) and Raccoon Lounge (the feeling you get from the name sums up that place). For being so close to the financial heart of the world, the standards of “WoChamb” (west of Chambers Ave) are surprisingly low class. I like to go there for the company mainly. It’s a mishmash of stockbrokers or “button-downs” as my friend calls them, construction workers, hipsters, and men that appear to be without home. I’ve met the whole gambit of characters at The Patriot, from the creator of DOS to an opera singer who works sushi restaurants. It’s a pretty eccentric place with no real identity other then providing the perfect atmosphere to get absolutely smashed.

Sunday brunch at Ulysses is something of a tradition amongst my friends. It’s a great, classy place with fantastic food and even more fantastic Bloody Marys.  This isn’t a weekly thing or anything, more of a random thing to do whenever someone wakes up early enough on a Sunday to arrange a brunch. This was different though; this morning we had business in downtown. I needed to get Chris to meet Selina’s nipples.

Anyway, brunch went on without incident; a few Bloody Marys and some corned beef revived my stomach up. As we trekked up to The Patriot I realized I wasn’t quite in the mood to go drinking, but a commitment is a commitment and Syracuse (my alumna mater) was playing a noon basketball game that I wanted to watch. When I opened the door to the bar my wish-washiness washed itself away. The slightly unsanitary smell of the place woke me up and let me know it was time to get busy. ­Then I saw the exact type of person I had been told hangs out at The Patriot on Sunday afternoons. At the nearest end of the bar to me sat a man with his back turned. I couldn’t see his face but I could see the 5 plastic toy dinosaurs that were lined up in front of him. The dinosaurs varied in shape, size and origin. One was a 15” tall T-Rex that looked like it was from the Jurassic Park catalogue while another was far cuter and friendly; possibly one of the adult dinosaurs in The Land Before Time. In front of each of the dinosaurs sat a shot glass of some brown liquid and a crazy fun straw which led the booze from the shot glass to the dinosaur’s mouth. The 5 dinosaurs formed a semi-circle in front of the man at the bar giving the appearance of an alcoholic version of a 6 year old girl’s tea party. Actually, that’s exactly what it was.

By this time I’m walking myself over to the bar without trying to stare….just knowing in a few short seconds I’ll be sitting at the bar where I can observe this specimen from a less awkward place. I have a lot of hobbies; but my favorite thing to do is to watch people and fabricate little stories about their days. I could do it all day. Union Square is probably my favorite place to people-watch due to the variety of people. Get bored of watching two old men fight over a chess game? Then stare at the pretty lady who keeps looking at her phone. What’s she waiting for? Maybe a first date? Cocaine?? Sometimes I create nicknames for my observational subjects like Lurch, Porky Thunder, or Gung Ho. I’m the type of person who spends a first date by pointing out people to my date and saying“What do you think she’s doing eating alone on a Friday night?” instead of “Which part of the city do you live in?”  

So I’m sitting at this shitty bar watching this guy from the corner of my eye and he just continued on sitting there like the most normal thing in the fucking world. Don’t mind me and these inebriated dinosaurs. Nope, just sipping on this drink and watching this basketball game on TV….nothing strange going on here.

“Every Sunday this happens.” The bartender explained to me, as I clearly cannot take my eyes off the scene (alright, maybe I wasn’t viewing out of the corner of my eye). “What’s really awesome is that he takes little sips from each of the shot glasses when he thinks no one is looking so that it appears the dinosaurs are really getting wasted with him”.

I couldn’t help myself….I had to find out more of the story. My imagination is having an explosion in my head. It doesn’t want to make up a story, it just needs the details immediately. Truth is always stranger than fiction.

“So, who’s your team?” I asked as I motion up to the TV which is now (finally…) playing the Syracuse game in hopes of buttering him up for the inquisition.

“I call the one on the right Oedipus Rex. He can be a real asshole. These other ones are Waffles, Puddles, Plate, and Jeff.” He said without looking away from the TV. “Don’t bullshit me with that basketball crap. If you want to know what’s the deal with my friends here, just come out and ask, I’m not embarrassed.”

Stunned. Fuck. Shit. Fuck Shit. Here I was, trying to play it cool like I’ve done before with countless other insane individuals around this city and this guy comes back with the sane-est statement I’ve ever heard.

“How do you know I wasn’t genuinely interested in your take on this basketball game? I’m a pretty big college basketball fan myself and the viewing crowd here looks a little sparse…” I say, trying to make sad excuses for my prying. The great joy of being a people-watcher is believing that the person doesn’t know you’re thinking about them. It’s all about noting their little traits and then making witty banter about it to a friend or in your own head. This situation is more like a lioness wondering why you care about the ripping of flesh she’s doing and now suddenly her interest is on you. Role reversal. Suddenly I was a stalker nutcase.

“I’m pretty good at observing people too,” he continued as he looked at me, finally taking his eye off the TV.  “I could tell from your walk and the fact that you’re sitting here and the three guys who came in with are sitting at that table in the corner. There are other TVs and I bet you’d rather talk basketball with your buddies than me. You wanted to know what kind of quack I am. I’m not a quack or at least not more than anyone else. I’m not trying to be a scene. Not like your buddy over there that’s screaming at a TV, hoping he can influence a fucking game taking place hundreds of miles away.” In the background I hear Chris yelling “when the fuck are we gonna play some defense???” as he bashes the table.

“These toys are my son’s…Richie. He’s grown up now, but I keep them around. I used to come to this bar and hang out with my buddies just like you are. Slowly they went away. Moved. One died. Another’s too busy to hang out anymore and the other’s wife hates me. I remember my son playing with these same toys when he was a kid and how much fun he had. He didn’t need anyone else there.”

His gaze wandered off into deep into and beyond the Budweiser clock on the wall. Not only had this situation put me in “stunned” mode, but him as well. His own conversation had hypnotized him and his mind was somewhere else in space/time.  Maybe to 1994 standing in the doorway of his son’s room watching his boy play with these toys. Quietly yearning to be be able to take part in Rich’s jocund playtime but, he was an adult with bills to pay and politics to be concerned with.

3 awkward minutes of me sitting there at this bar while a bathetic montage of events played in this man’s head. Abruptly he shivered, shaking his head and bringing himself back to The Patriot.  

“Anywhat….so here I am, a 62 year old retired trash collector and I sit at this bar every week with these fucking toys. We get drunk together. People do crazy shit when they’re drunk. I like to have fun like my son used to have. To drink with someone that reminds me of old times, probably for the very same reason you drink with your friends.”

“…gggrooarrrrrrrr……” the man quietly growled to himself, apparently speaking for the dinosaurs. Then he lifted the shotglass from Odepius Rex, downed the brown drink and quickly replaced it to it’s original position.“He never lets anyone else drink until his is gone. Like I said, he’s an asshole.”

This man had just elucidated insanity to me. You can’t be alone in New York. There’s always people around and the nonstop laughter, chatter, singing, music playing, yelling and so forth is a constant reminder.  It’s too expensive to live in NY alone, so there’s roommates even in your own space talking on the phone, watching TV, or playing music. The list never stops.  There’s nowhere quiet in New York.

Two or three years ago I was having a tough night and I just wanted to be alone. So I sat, in a park, covering my ears with my hands and humming to myself to drown out the white commotion of Manhattan. To escape, just for a few moments, regardless at what cost to my own public pride and reputation. I sat there for 30 minutes, maybe an hour doing that. I must have looked crazy but that was what I needed.

I knew exactly what he’s talking about. Sometimes looking crazy is worth getting to someplace comfortable and relaxing. Bringing this full circle, I think that’s what The Patriot and to a larger extend, drinking are all about. I felt embarrassed for treating this man as an exhibit. I was the high school bitch who picks out others’ weirdness to hide her own shame and shortcomings.

“Can I buy you and your friends a round?”

20
Jun
12

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hiking

On April 26, 1336, Petrarch climbed Mount Ventoux, the French Alpine peak, for fun and kicked off the European Renaissance.  Six and a half centuries later, the British cyclist Tommy Simpson would die on Mount Ventoux during the 13th stage of the Tour de France screaming his last words, “Put me back on my bike!”. Two thousand years before Simpson succumbed to the storied mountain, Ventoux hosted the “Welcome to the Alps” party for Hannibal’s invading Carthaginian army. As he marched through Southern France gathering Gallic allies, Mount Ventoux would be the first reminder of the massive natural barrier that stood between Hannibal and destiny.

It was here on this legendary mountain that I now found myself…in the gift shop.

“Excusez-moi, puis-je vous aider Monsieur?” says the shopkeeper. I don’t speak french but if I was to make a wild guess, this woman is asking me if I need help buying the beautiful and expensive coffee table book I’ve been exploring (and probably ruining) for the last 20 minutes.

“Pardon, je ne parle Francais. Ehhhh….but no, thank you, I’m just browsing.” I say, utilizing all of my French knowledge. She gives me a little polite grimace and goes to help some bikers.

Growing up, I was a pretty outdoorsy kid. Every summer my parents provided an outlet for my adventurous whims. One summer I’d go out west to visit relatives in Western Colorado where we’d kayak the Gunnison and Colorado Rivers and another year I’d go to a summer camp in the Adirondacks for a few weeks, honing my archery, survival and sailing skills. In retrospect, I’ve never properly thanked my parents for those summers away from them…maybe sometime later…..

In addition to getting me out of the house for a few weeks, my parents’ goal was to mold me into an Evangelical Christian. For the summer of 1997 my parents sent me to a Christian hiking program in the Adirondacks. This time was spent traipsing around the woods of Upstate New York with Christian hippies. It provided me with a good foundation of reflection…. ehhh… renaissance. I not only learned about the evils of evolution, but also about marijuana and blow-jobs. There was a sense of hidden truths that seeped through the religious dogma and provided a very stereotypical “coming-of-age” experience.  We’d listen to our group leader (who was the camp director’s son), Mike, talk about his fear of death while rock climbing and it just seemed very contrary to the religious canon which we were just instructed in. One day, our group leader was trying to explain evolution and why it was wrong, and one of my friends brought up the example of the Peppered Moth to try and prove our leader wrong. Our leader, faced with an obvious example of rapid evolution/natural selection was dumbfounded and fell back on the cliche. “The Bible says that this did not happen, so it must be misunderstood.” Then he quickly walked away, embarrassed, while four 13 year olds taunted him for being a “pussy”. So, the 20 year old, who was studying “Pastoral Ministry”, ran away from a group of 13 year olds who were left laughing, calling him a pussy.

At the end of 2 weeks, the small troop of boys would have hiked half of the high peaks in the Adirondacks (23 out of 46). Therefore, if  you did it two years in a row (or even two consecutive 2 week sessions) then you would have hiked all 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks and get to call yourself a “46er”. I only did the program once and then climbed the rest of the peaks sporadically over the next few years. The Adirondacks are pretty rustic and sparsely populated, particularly around the “High Peaks Region” which is centered close to Lake Placid. Even so, we’d run into the occasional scene of high society infringing on the wilderness. One moutain, known strictly as “Sawteeth” has a trailhead that starts in a golf course.  As we walked past the 15th green, the threesome that was playing stopped putting and gave us some pretty nasty looks. As if to say, “how dare you interrupt the scenery of these majestic hills while I put this little ball in that hole.” Mountain climbing is a sport of “you vs. nature”. Nature is going to throw hot days, muddy trails, gnats, and a whole mess of other things at you in order to prevent you from winning and reaching the apex of the mountain. We were in an epic struggle with nature and these golfers were using her as wallpaper for their ostentatious game. Thankfully, the whole situation at least provided us with some scathing conversation to distract us from the mundane task of walking steadily at a slight incline.  I think I even heard the Mike drop an F-bomb that day.

Toward the end of that two week period we climbed a mountain called Whiteface. From the summit of a nearby mountain we could see the white-topped mountain and on top of it, a little building that looked remarkably like Jabba the Hutt’s palace. The day after getting this distant view of our objective we climbed that grueling bitch. Out of the 50-some mountains in NY and 13 in Colorado that I’ve climbed, Whiteface was the most exhausting. It’s a 10 mile hike to the base of the mountain and then a disgusting 2 or 3 mile rapid ascent to the top.

    Most people, in modern times, don’t realize just how good we smell on a regular basis. Since Americans tend to shower daily, we’re not only caught off guard by a non-showering person but we tend to ignore 99% of the population who smell pretty good. Well, after hiking 17 mountains over 10 days without a shower, the reverse happens. The 10 guys who were part of my hiking squad smelled normal to me; even the horse flies that lived in our hair seemed in sync with our being. The smell of old sweat and mold had replaced Irish Spring and Old Spice. Until this point in our journey, we hadn’t gotten close enough to any “normal” smelling strangers to notice the difference. When we got to the top of Whiteface Mountain the wide gap in smell disparity between us and others was more than apparent.

Whiteface Mountain is not only the 5th highest mountain in New York, but also a highly visited skiing resort,. There is a road that climbs from the base of the mountain all the way to Jabba the Hutt’s Palace. The “palace” is really a little castle that includes the ski lodge, a restaurant, gift shop, etc. At the gift shop you can buy a bumper sticker that says “This car climbed Whiteface Mountain!” and therefore, it represents almost everything wrong with society.
As we neared the top, it became more clear that we were approaching a summit. Mountain peaks don’t always look like you’ve reached the top of a natural pyramid. Sometimes it’s just a clearing in the woods with no view at all and you’re left thinking, “ehhhh….lame, Nature. Lame.” Conversely, there’s no better feeling than seeing that your goal is attainable and the rush of victory will soon surge through you. The last part of the ascent is a sharp 45+ degrees, so you can’t really see what’s at the top until you’re practically there. At about 50 feet from what I assumed to be the top I could see the top of the Palace and hats. These hats were moving and a could seconds later I could see the faces that were supporting the hats.
“Look at the people climbing up here Mommy!” one boy exclaimed to his now interested mother. We had become a zoo exhibit to the people who had travelled comfortably to the summit in air conditioned minivans.
The boy was amazed. The zoo animals had escaped from their exhibit and were now in the viewing area.
I think at that moment I began my 20 year transition into an adult. The idea that what we were doing was awesome and we were having good, clean fun. It didn’t matter that other people looked at us like we were idiots for climbing to the top of a mountain that you could drive up. We climbed the mountain not for a view or to grab lunch at it’s famous restaurant. We climbed it because it was there and we wanted to experience something, but something unknown. Like Plutarch, we climbed it because it was there and sometimes the reason reveals itself as a revolution only after you’ve completed the task. For me, it was kick-started a much needed adolescence and taught me to explore paths that I might ignore because society tells me “do things this way”. For our group leader, I think he began to reevaluate a set of long held beliefs.