Monday, November 23, 2009
Most of my kayaking experience has taken place in the following three places: Monterey Bay, where the kelp beds keep the rollers to a minimum while providing a glimpse into an incredible world of oceanic wildlife; Stanford's Lake Lagunitas, where I proved to be unteachable in the art of the Eskimo roll, and which, depending on the weather, would occasionally remain either unpleasantly shallow or else dry year-round; and Ithaca's Cayuga Lake, whose lake floor possesses an unchecked bounty of sharp zebra mussels. Each of these three locales ultimately taught me the same lesson; namely, that I prefer rowing shells to ocean kayaks, and that I prefer ocean kayaks to river kayaks. That said, now that I no longer live in San Francisco, where open water rowing had become a treasured part of my life, I've been ready to take what I can get when it comes to getting on the water. Enter Salt and Pepper.
NCT is my only friend in New York who possesses both the interest and the experience necessary to taking a kayak out on the Hudson, and as a result, he became my kayaking partner this summer. We weren't able to kayak nearly as often as we wanted to, but on the few occasions that we set our boats in the water, I was glad to have him by my side. And while it's true that it would have been impossible for me to roll/drag a kayak alone from the boat storage locker, across the bike/dog-walking/chaotically-running-children path of death, down the dock ramp, and across the kayak dock, I really valued his presence for one, unshakable reason: he is incredibly calm. NCT is so calm that when I see a wake the (perceived) size of a tsunami racing towards me off the back of a trash barge, and as my voice begins to take on the nervous pitch of a yapping beagle, NCT never loses his cool; instead, he paddles leisurely alongside me, pointing out the interesting detritus in the water, commenting on the beautiful sunset, and often, as a last resort before I give myself over to panic, lines his boat right up next to mine and rests his paddle across my hull while the wake rolls through. That is a good kayaking buddy.
I can't deny that the Hudson, for myriad reasons, unnerves me in a way that San Francisco Bay does not. True, I've kept to the Bay's relatively quieter reaches of Richardson Bay and Paradise Cove, but each of those sees a substantial amount of boat traffic and rough water as well. My difficulties with the Hudson can, I think, be traced to the following fundamental issues: the combined effect of the river current and incoming tides can result in one rowing against the "current" no matter which direction one is going; the traffic on the river is significant and varied, and never seems (from my perspective) to expect encounters with small, motor-less boats; river kayaks have always felt too capricious to me. Okay, that last point is not particular to the Hudson, and is also somewhat nonsensical; what I mean by "capricious" is that river kayaks respond to water in instantaneous and often unexpected ways. Such is their strength, and it's one that I've never been able to accommodate completely.
In combination with my general nervousness regarding Hudson River kayaking, however, is my love of being on the water, and for this I will suffer almost any river kayak and boat wake induced discomfort. The privilege of seeing Riverside Park from the river cannot be underscored enough, nor can the sense of tracing the City's watery boundary with a paddle. It was for these reasons that NCT and I decided to take a chance on another cold November Sunday and roll out the boats.
We walked over to the hut of the Boat Basin dockmaster (not his actual title), and rang the bell; the water surrounding the sailboats and small yachts lay flat and inviting in the cold sunshine. The dockmaster was clearly less excited than we were, but he promised to unlock the gate to the kayak dock and said he'd meet us in ten minutes. The mothballs in the boat storage locker were even more pungent in late Fall than they'd been in the Summer, and the lock stuck in the chill. We were wriggling into our spray skirts when we heard ominous footsteps...it was the dockmaster. He had come to tell us that the area around the kayak dock was undergoing maintenance, and as a result, the dock was closed until spring. No more kayaking until April. Our faces fell.
We walked glumly along the runner's path and looked at the dock floating in the placid water. "Let's go eat brunch", said NCT. "Okay", I replied. And so we assuaged our disappointment with giant popovers and apple butter, and talked about NCT's ascent of Kilimanjaro, among other athletic feats, which seemed all the more glorious from the perspective of a warm booth and a plate of eggs.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
CG and I walked over to the festival on that brilliantly sunny Sunday afternoon, and as we passed through groves of eucalyptus trees and by the burnished tower of the De Young, I considered how viscerally important Golden Gate Park is to me. As in, I would feel wounded if it were to change drastically, much less vanish.
Monday, October 5, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
On his encounter with immigration at Charles De Gaulle Airport.
LP: I wasn't exactly yelling at them, but I was saying unpleasant things.
While walking at Fort Point in San Francisco with CGC, CG, and MAR.
CGC: If you could be either a pelican or a seagull, which would you be?
MAR: A pelican.
Thoughtfully, a few second later.
MAR: But you know, I worry that I wouldn't be very good at being a pelican.
LP: You know, when I come to this great country, I realize that if you want someone to like you, you show them your boob if you can.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
With the beginning of a new school year and business quarter--bear in mind that this is only the third Fall since I was two that hasn't seen me marching off to school--Fall also signifies a time to re-assess my current habits and practices. And so, unable to face the post-Rosh Hashanah/pre-Yom Kippur crush at Fairway this afternoon, I decided to embrace the seasonal spirit of new beginnings and place my first order at Fresh Direct. One would think that oatmeal, tea, potatoes, and one giant fillet of wild Pacific halibut--among a few other sundries--would not necessitate an online grocery order, but one would need to understand not only how little I desired to force myself through the crowded aisles with a heavy basket and then lug my grocery bags eight blocks home, but also how much Fall makes me miss shopping at the Ithaca Wegman's.
Yes, you read that right. I LOVE the Ithaca Wegman's, and I especially love it at the beginning of September, when its thousands of square feet would burst with mountains of local apples and jugs of apple cider. I loved the wide open aisles and the huge organic produce section, and the fact that I was always able to find every single thing on my list. And I loved how familiar Wegman's was to me, in spite of the delectable surprises that often awaited inside. I loved that I knew the fish guy at the fish counter, that I knew the man who sliced my turkey at the deli and the woman who picked out my favorite Pont-l'Évêque at the cheese counter, that I knew where to pluck Yorkshire Gold off the shelves in the enormous Imported Foods aisle, and that I knew where to find the chocolate-covered macadamia nuts in the model train-ringed bulk foods alcove. I even loved searching for my Subaru in a sea of Subarus in the gigantic Wegman's parking lot. I loved that I could take my time and think while I looked--for anything.
But since I no longer live in Ithaca, just as it's now no longer summer, it's time to find some new things to love. Clicking through the Fresh Direct links, I quickly liked that I could easily review and reject things in my cart, that I didn't have to engage in basket-to-basket combat with any other shoppers, and, most importantly, that I could go back (a swiftly jettisoned tactic in any assault on the Fairway battlefield). Still, the whole experience was a little too sterile for my liking, so after scheduling my delivery, I headed out to my absolute favorite grocery shopping experience in Manhattan--the 77th Street Greenmarket. There stood my favorite peach purveyor and crates of wax beans, the farmer with the cider doughnuts and the beekeeper from the Berkshires. And as I walked back home with a heavy bag of apples and haricots verts, I noticed, standing prettily in a giant tin canister, the last cosmos of summer, a parting gift from the sun and the blue sky before Autumn's first frost. Just as they've brightened the Spanish mission gardens on the West Coast for hundreds of years, the cosmos now brighten my living room desk, and serve as both a reminder of all the things I love that won't return for a few more seasons, as well as a portent of all the new things to come.
Cosmos: the harmonious, well-ordered whole of the floral world
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Likewise, I find my day-to-day life in New York to seem, on the surface, as placid as the seasons' passing: I wake up early, run/bike/or swim, work, buy groceries, see friends, cook, write, read, and sleep. As elusive as its certainty may be, this routine provides me with a sense of both comfort and anticipation; who knows who I might meet at the grocery store? What new idea I might encounter in a book before I fall asleep? How the morning light will look above the swimming pool? Of course, each period of life possesses its own inherent routine; as a graduate student, I would study, teach, and attend class instead of go to work, and I biked in the afternoons and evenings around the Finger Lakes instead of in the early mornings in Central Park. As an undergraduate I never went to the grocery store, but I did eat my meals communally every day, and on spring evenings I would walk past the same heavily scented rosebushes on my way home from the library. Now I pass the tall plane trees towering above the Museum of Natural History, and in Ithaca I walked home along the rocky cliffs above Cascadilla Creek. And in each one of these periods these unique yet seemingly passive routines provided me with the strong lattice necessary to grow.
This past week in California was a difficult one, but I relished the elements of my home that have remained the same, year after year, even as I have changed--the pelicans dive bombing off of Baker Beach, the coastal trail wending its way through the fog, and the hot Indian summer that descends upon the Bay Area every September. We call it earthquake weather with all the heavy certainty of an old wives' tale, and each year we wonder if the Big One will strike. Most years it does not, but some--like in the hot October of 1989--it does. And every year the chance that it will grows.