What's in a Year?

The New Year, like a birthday, or anniversary for who knows what is but another arbitrary date to mark the passing of another fleeting year. A lot of time goes by in one year. But the New Year feels more resonant as a marker, maybe its that everyone is in it together, whereas a birthday the attention is focused on you the individual. There's more space to look backwards and forwards, as its hard to ruminate if you're the center of attention. 

I much prefer to look back at the year than the opposite. New Years Resolutions are some of the most cockeyed shit we come up with. Gym memberships and voodoo diets, new planners and abstract hopes made less tangible because they are inspired by an arbitrary marker rather than a real desire to change. 

I was stoked on 2014 from the get go. An unseasonably warm California winter, which was undeniably pleasurable, left us yearning for snow and after just a few days we set off for the great big white, aka Canada. It hardly disappointed, despite snow that was not quite perfect and mountain culture that was more than a bit strange. Regardless, it was encouraging to be jetsetting so early in the year, and left me helpful for a year that would be extar-international.

Dad and Jess stoked on all the snow.

Before the ski trip I had jumped on a plane with my mom to Pittsburgh for a family event. I had wanted to go, but caved with the chance of seeing the Carnegie International and the Andy Warhol Museum. I question to notion of flying across the country to see extended family that I hardly know, but I guess its a downward spiral because if I never make these trips, I'll never get to know them...In the end I did have some good reunions, but it I hate to say, it was the world class art that really made it worthwhile. 

Reanne at the Carnegie International

After that it was back to school what was to hopefully be my last semester. Looking back, I still can't believe how much I shoved in. Riding almost every day, racing nearly every weekend, snow camping and hiking when I wasn't racing. In the meantime I was taking an extra class to write my French thesis, which for months moved at the pace of a first year student trying to pronounce a word like grandiloquent. It got to the point where a clever professor, knowing how I worked, told me I wasn't going to graduate if I didn't shape up. Ten drafts later I proved him wrong and he laughed over a glass of wine that he knew a needed a little negative reinforcement to get the engines going. 

Graham and I had started the Puget Sound Cycling Team to race bikes in the local collegiate conference and that took us around the Pacific Northwest for two months, racing nearly every weekend. Bellingham was a highlight, we both got into the break in the road race and took second and fifth, and celebrated with beers at the brewery where my friend worked. The crit the next day, at the ass crack of dawn was made better by one of the most beautiful misty sunrises I've ever seen. I'll never like racing as much as collegiate racing I believe, there's a certain friendliness and community that can only be achieved when all the racers are at such similar points in their lives. But alas, I'll keep racing until my competitive bones say no. 

Puget Sound Cycling Club

To make my schedule even crazier, I took an introduction to mountaineering class. Why? I think I felt constricted by only cycling. There's so much to see outdoors, and two wheels can only get you so far. More than any ride, more than any French thesis, this class pushed me the hardest. Trudging through deep powder on snowshoes, digging snow caves to sleep in,  learning to self arrest on cliff like hillsides gave me an appreciation for mountains in a whole new way. You've got to work your ass off to see the best things in nature. Rolling up to a viewpoint and snapping a photo doesn't count for anything. At the same time I was hiking a lot. Washington has such a diverse landscape, from rain forests to waterfalls to crappy mountains and I wanted it all before I left for however long it may be. I'll be going back sooner than I expected, but I don't regret a single excursion, even if they meant late nights, early morning and worked muscles.

Digging Snow Caves on Mt. Rainier 

Aaron, Thom and I hiking alongthe Duckabush River

In a flash, college came and went. One minute I unceremoniously  slid my last paper under the door, the next two weeks were a blur of barbecues, bike rides, beers, rainstorms during the ceremony, frantic packing, and all of a sudden I was on a plane to Rome. I wasn't going to let anything slow my roll, and had found a job guiding bike rides in the Italian Alps. I spent over a month there, riding the most famous hills in the world. I could have stayed forever, in a blissful coma of cycling expenditure and Italian food and mountain air, but as usual I had overachieved in searching for opportunities and landed a fellowship to figure to travel to Budapest, Berlin and Leipzig to curate an exhibit back home. 

In Budapest, I got an in depth tour of the contemporary art scene, meeting curators, art directors, artists, volunteers and gallerists. I  learned about working with artists, curating choices, got a glimpse into the business side of art, but most importantly, saw how art perseveres, even when it is not easy. In Hungary there is hardly money to support contemporary art, but artists create and curates find ways to show it so that it may reach the world. It was inspiring. Leipzig and Berlin followed, my first foray into Eastern Germany, where I saw a blossoming of creation equally inspiring. Whatever humans may inflict upon the world, there is room for art I believe.  

Awesome Riding in the Italian Alps

Awed by Budapest

Otto Piene Installation at the Neuenational Galerie Berlin

Kreuzberg Berlin

Then, in another instant I was home. Looking back, I shouldn't have come home, but I felt lost, conflicted with a desire to travel meaningful and an overwhelming sense of aimlessness. Then. I was caught in another dilemma. Work with art, or with bikes? I had attempted to frame the summer around choosing which might lead to a career, or at least a job for the time being. But i felt pulled equally in both directions. 

I applied all over the place, and heard almost nothing. So I went to Las Vegas for Interbike. Interbike is the largest North American trade show for the bicycle industry, so my plan was to make connections, hand out resumes, and try to make myself a job. It was a little disheartening to say the least. Companies either would have loved to work with me but didn't have the money and so they outsourced the work, or they had someone already. I also felt lost amongst all the consumerism and materialism. The huge business side of cycling sucked some of the joy of adventure from me. At the same time though, there are some awesome people working in the industry, creating awesome things, and I had a generally fantastic time.

Lost Vegas

Uncle Jess and Antonio Colombo of Cinelli

Living at home, my parents insisted that looking for a job was a full time job in itself. I didn't take it to heart, instead backpacking, cycling every day, going out more than I should have. I felt constrained in the job search and needed release in any possible way. But I needed structure, I needed things to do. I didn't miss college itself, but I missed how I had something to fill every moment of the day. Free time is a dangerous thing when you have too much of it. For that I treasure my week bike touring the California Coast with Dylan, and backpacking with Rafi, Ari and Jordan in Big Sur, moutain biking in the Santa Barbara wilderness with my dad and uncle.

Coastal Cruising with Dylan

Big Sur Backpacking

I pretty accepted a job at a fancy bike job. In sales. Everybody could tell I wasn't that stoked, and as much as I tried to convince myself, my family and my friends, even working with high end bicycles couldn't encourage me to sit at a desk and sell over the phone all day. Then, a day before I was to start, came my savior. Not a white knight, but a white cube. The gallery i had worked for in Paris was opening in San Francisco, I had finally made contact, I interviewed and I was in for a trial period. 

I felt no unease giving up a paid job with benefits for something with no guarantee on permanence, on pay, on anything but experience. Its a gamble that has already paid off, and should become a permanent job any day now. The gallery seeks to combine their tradition of supporting French Modernist artists with local contemporary artists. I get to help curate, install, research, work with clients, marketing, odd tasks around the gallery, everything. We speak in French at work, and I feel like I'm a trusted and valued member of the team. 

I realize now that art has been my calling, and that I've known it for a while. the suffocating feeling I felt with the possibility of bike jobs is that they weren't going to put me in  a position to make a positive impact in the world. But with art, I can act on my beliefs. Art is a fundamental part of the human experience, and I can help share that with the world. Today's world needs in more than every. 

We'll be showing a young local artist in our next show, and we've gotten to be friends based on our similar ideologies, youthful energy, and passion for bikes (it all comes back to bikes fortunately). We rode yesterday from Mill Valley, doing a loop through Alpine Dam. We talked a lot about our futures, him as an artist, me as someone working with art. How can we use art to affect a greater part of the population? Where will art go in the coming years, and how can we become the influencers of that?  I realized I had done nearly the same ride in reverse on New Year's day with Simon where I had put a photo on Instagram of Simon riding into the light with the caption "The new year brings new roads, new adventures and new thrills. Stoked on 2014." It was unusually prophetic of me, but typically optimistic as we playfully rolled along some of the most beautiful roads in the world. 

Jan 1, 2014: Instagram phto

To be in the same place, but headed a totally different direction a whole year apart is striking., 2014 was a year of discovery. That continues into 2015, but with more direction and more purpose. 

This post marks a change in the blog, one which I've been meaning to make for a while now. For years it has been defined by stream of consciousness writing, spontaneity and a purposeful lack of rereading and editing. Moving forward pieces will be more structured and hopefully more consistent. There will be more about art. 

And at the end of the year, I say the same thing about 2015 that I said of this year, I'm stoked, and I can't wait for the new that comes. 

2014 was awesome. Here's to even better next year!

In Reverence to Gifford Pinchot

School is about structure, organization and schedules, so when Daniel and I set off on our outdoor adventure, we actively avoided that nonsense. A quick glance at a map told us to go to Norway Pass, north of Mt. St. Helens, and a quick glance in the pantry said car camp so you can eat more food. So we loaded up the portable grill, some brats and other delicious food, camera gear, every type of outdoor shoe, and sleeping bags into Daniel's mommy van and headed south. Tacoma of late had been covered in a dense fog, thick enough to drastically increase the desperation to leave, and the fog didn't let up for an hour driving south on I-5. But when we turned east and stopped to buy some local apples, the farmer said give it a mile and we'd see sunny skies. He wasn't kidding as a quick drop in the road initiated a serious hallelujah as the sun shone strong and we leave the dreary gray behind.

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Civilized hiking in Switzerland

Do a quick free association with hiking. Strenuous. Dirty. Outdoors. Nature. Wild. These are some words that may come up, it does of course depend on your attitude towards the activity, one which I quite enjoy. The Swiss, pioneers of mountaineering and keepers of some of the world's best mountains, may think of a few different words in terms of hiking. While hiking both in America and the Balkans where I've been is quite the outdoors experience, a physical excursion into the relatively wild nature, hiking in Switzerland is quite civilized.

Take our hike today for example. Yesterday we met my mom in Zurich, today we wanted to hike. A day trip to the alps is not worth the amount of time on trains, especially when you sleep in, so we took a short local train to Zurich local "mountain," the Uetliberg.

The train went nearly to the top of the mountain, where we found a restaurant. Along the way, the trail was wide, clean and had trash cans on the side. Luckily, there was clear signs for the extensive range of hiking aka Nordic walking trails, with arrows pointing in clear directions and distances marked. These signs were both frequent and accurate.

Picnic tables, fountains and even fire pits lined the trail, and after an hour we came to a cable car station back into town. Attached was an immaculately clean bathroom. Later we passed roads and farms, and always more restaurants.

It was two hours until it really felt as if we were in near wilderness, with a less manicured trail and no services along the way. It's not bad, just different. The positive argument is simple and easy to accept, this civilized and clean style of hiking, full of services and easily traveled to makes nature more accessible and hiking more practiced. Where I'm from in the suburbs, one is hard-pressed to get into nature without a car.

Go Switzerland for making the urban escape easy and enjoyable for everyone.

Its a Hvar Life

Our time in Split was short and sweet. Its a cool place deserving of more time than we granted it, but unfortunately for the formidable marble palace, great green hill overlooking the sea and the sky, and the artificial sandy beaches, Split was a jumping off point for Hvar. We'd been on the mainland for too long, taken too many buses recently, and the island was calling. If islands epitomize escapism, then Hvar is escapism at its finest. People go to their to maximize life, overloading themselves on happiness, fun, pleasure in a stunning natural environment graced by marble clad historical towns.

Hvar is known for its nightlife, and while that's a iffy reason at best to travel somewhere, it didn't disappoint. The secret to the island is to strike the perfect balance, party at night, but take advantage of the natural beauty in the daytime when the sun allows you too.

We came in the late afternoon off the ferry and headed straight to the beach. Crystal clear water is an under exaggeration. I'd say the water surrounding Hvar is diamond-clear. Warm enough to float in for hours. Its summer, so everyone is relaxed and at ease, which could be a factor in the so called brilliant night life. There's no kids pushing to take as many shots as they can in an hour because if you're staying up all night, why do all your drinking at once?

The hostel had a large patio, and if there is anything that makes strangers into friends, it is drinking outside while the sun goes down in a beautiful array of purples and oranges yet the temperature doesn't drop below perfectly pleasant. Its a great world where travelers are open and friendly to everyone. Even if we part ways and never talk again, we can be the best of friends tonight.

The scene is absurd. All the bars are in the old town, built into small spaces right now to churches and palaces, old marble everywhere, the port full of yachts just down to the left. Most people are at three or so bars, which are so packed that the sidewalks and the sidewalks a block down are packed. The English speaking crew rules here, with an absurd amount of Australians and English, and friendliness is high. Its clear that you go to Hvar for fun and not for meaningful encounters, at least not at night.

New friends, crazy drunk Englishmen, a club and a walk home during the beginnings of sunset, the sky a magnificent royal blue to the east, still dark in the west. The infrastructure or the nightlife is nothing special, Hvar seems to be a placebo. Tell the whole world the nightlife is great there and they'll come, their collective positivity creating the funnest nights ever. It worked, and plus, its people that make memories, not bars and clubs.

With a stop of unfortunately only two nights, there's no time to sleep in, so we wake up earlier than anyone wants, buy a feast at the market and rent a boat. Absurdly cheap, the boat gives absolute freedom. Jump off and swim whenever. See a beach, dock and sit for a while. Wave at yachts. Bump into some friends from the bar or hostel and make a pontoon. The boat makes you captain of your life. It doesn't go fast but that's okay, its makes the day last longer.

There's more to Hvar that we missed, but that's OK, it was an a thrill. Spirits are high there because everyone is so excited. Its a beautiful island aided by the collective energy of all its guests. Nature, sun, parties. Pick your poison, or shall we call it your pleasure. Next time we'll go by yacht.

All Hail Olympus

Excitement levels were inordinately high as the bus left the city and headed for nature. Its a refreshing homecoming to depart the uniform and artificial sprawl of buildings for the expanse of trees that extends just as far, yet with such greater beauty. And what better way to accentuate this splendid scenery than with a challenge? Back in Tacoma, where I go to University, Mt. Rainier looms in the distance, visible and majestic from nearly everywhere. It rise up to over 14,000 ft from sea level unbelievably quickly, dominating the horizon with little effort. Mt. Olympus on the other hand, is nearly invisible. Just 3 kilometers as the bird flies from the sea, and less from the town of Litochoro which itself is nearly on the coast, the mountain itself sits behind a series of hills , so you don't get the treat of gazing upon the awe-inspiring rock until you're nearly at the top.

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The allure of the countryside

Stop. Drop everything. Take a deep breath and for a day or two or ten change up your life completely. Its blissful to do, and rejuvenates to the point of disbelief. I flew into Southampton Thursday night, a small airport on the Southern coast of England to stay with my buddy Paul in the just as small Dorset county. After my troubles last time, I came into customs as prepared as I can be, but it was a still a mess as they didn't understand my visa and really couldn't seem to fathom that I truly planned on heading back to Paris. Of course I just bought the train ticket as a hoax...

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The green pathway of my dreams

It needs not be repeated that I'm on an endless quest to stay connected with nature and escape the metropolis that is Paris. Today, I found another gem to add to my list of green sanctuaries.

Le coulée vert or promenade plantée is Paris' precursor to the High Line in NYC. In essence, it's a four and a half kilometer pathway raised and isolated from cars and bikes, surrounded instead by trees and plants. It ends at the Bois de Vincennes, a large park to the SE of Paris.

It's not a forest trail, but it's the closest I'll get. its so refreshing to run without the mess of traffic. It adds a sense of peace to running that few places in Paris can. It's also full of other serious runners, so motivation stays triggered. We're probably all training for the looming half marathon, so being around others  is a way to gauge our training  and fitness.

On that note, my training is not where I'd like it to be. I signed up for the Paris semi marathon to get back into shape to compensate for my minimized cycling and it's done that, but not enough. I'm struggling to run long enough, I'm behind schedule, and my footing is off. But it will come.

Running is my therapy for now, I can go out, work my ass off and leave my problems on the path. All while exploring the best that Paris has to offer.

Im a minimalist runner in the sense that I bring few accessories (no water, iPod, phone, watch, etc), so here's some photos from the web...

Coulee verte