A quick trip to London

I was in London this week, my first time on the island across the pond. On Wednesday I spent a few hours walking around the city, from Picadilly Circus to Leicester Square to Westminster. It was a loud night. Hundreds, maybe thousands of protesters marched through the streets, hours after British parliament authorized airstrikes in Syria.

We live in interesting times. Through the chaos, I managed to snap this picture of Big Ben.

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The move

It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.

After six years of living in Boston (four years of college, plus two years of working), I’m back in the New York groove, I’m in a New York state of mind, concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there’s nothin’ you can’t do. I’ve traded pahk youah cahh for hey I’m walkin heeeere, the T for the subway, Fenway for Yankee Stadium (yay), the Charles for the East River (oh dear God), chowder for bagels, and expensive stuff for even more expensive stuff.*

*That’s the whole meaning of life – trying to find a place for your stuff.

I’m happy to be back in the big city because I’ve always identified myself as a New Yorker. And I do feel like I’m more at home when I walk around New York, mostly due to Yankee hats. But the city is still very new to me. I knew Boston like the back of my hand – the good restaurants, the tourist traps, the most efficient public transit routes, the way the city smelled on a hot summer day. I’m not at that place with New York yet – in fact, I think you could live in the city your whole life without getting to that point. New York is a big city.

I had a lot of good friends in Boston, and I will miss seeing them throughout the week. But I also have a lot of good friends in New York. Tide goes in, tide goes out.

You know what the worst part about moving was? It wasn’t the packing. It wasn’t the heavy lifting. It wasn’t the lifestyle change. It wasn’t the tax forms. It wasn’t even leaving my friends. No, the worst part was that, as I moved stuff in, I kept thinking to myself: I’m eventually going to have to do this againI had no time to comprehend the current move because all I was thinking about was the inevitable future move. I suppose that’s a problem for Future Jeff.

You know what the best part about moving was? The sense of freedom that it brings. It’s pretty exhilarating.

We’ll see how long it takes for New York City to run me through the wringer, tear me up, and spit me out. I hope I come out the other side in one piece. But I do know this: when I took the subway in this morning, and I walked around Grand Central, and I saw the rush of the morning commute and the dawn of a new day, I got chills. I don’t know what that means. But I think it means something.

Vegas

Last weekend, I went to Las Vegas with three of my friends from high school.

Here are 17 random observations:

– Some dealers are strict. Some are laid back. Some want you to do the elaborate hand signals. Some don’t care.

– Dealers will help you out if you ask. They want you to win, so you can tip them.

– The dealers have to alert the pit boss any time they cash in $100 or more.

– The minimum bets increase at night, but you can still find a blackjack table for $15.

– It is hot and dry.

– The Bellagio Fountains are wonderful.

– Only play the slots if you’re up and willing to lose.

– The Strip is fairly clean!

– North Las Vegas, aka Old Vegas, is not. Do not go there.

– If you gamble a lot during the day, you will probably dream about gambling at night.

– The Bacchanal Buffet in Caesar’s Palace is legendary.

– In fact, there are lots of buffets.

– Drinks are free, but the servers will give you an attitude if you don’t tip a dollar or two.

– You can smoke in the casinos. There are small fans at every table.

– The MGM Grand has an epic sports room.

– Uber is not available.

– And, I don’t want to brag, but the four of us finished the weekend with a profit. I realize this is highly improbable. But, with some skill and some luck, you can beat the house.

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Mt. Washington

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Last weekend, some friends and I rented a house in New Hampshire and hiked Mt. Washington. It is the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6,288 feet – and, according to Wikipedia, the most prominent mountain east of the Mississippi River.

Here are some facts about the mountain:

The highest wind velocity ever recorded at any surface weather station (231 mph) was logged here on April 12, 1934.

137 fatalities have occurred since 1849. No surprise: Most are due to hypothermia–and not only in winter.

It’s long, dangerous, not particularly scenic (at least not more so than any other Presidential), the weather is always a factor, and most of all, anyone can drive to the summit so you never gain the peaceful feeling of hiking a summit and looking out over the White Mountains.

There may be worse weather, from time to time, at some forbidding place on Planet Earth, but it has yet to be reliably recorded.

Well, OF COURSE I wanted to do the hike. Who wouldn’t?

We started at Pinkham Notch base camp, about 2,000 feet above sea level. We hiked Tuckerman’s Ravine, the hardest but also the most direct route. We were on the trail at 6:30am and reached the top in under four hours. We ascended over 1,000 feet per hour and had no stragglers. All in all, it was a great success.

Except for the fact that it was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. Gusts near the top averaged 50-60 mph. Some gusts were even more powerful than that. You can see why 137 people have died. I’m surprised the number isn’t higher.

As you ascend up the mountain, the trees get shorter and shorter until you’re finally exposed. And eventually, there are no more trees, no more grass, and it’s just rocks. Lots and lots of rocks. For the last 1,000 feet or so, you are rock climbing. The winds were howling. And I just kept thinking about the lyrics to All Along the Watchtower because of course I did.

There must be some kind of way out of here
Said the joker to the thief
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.

Outside in the cold distance
A wild cat did growl
Two riders were approaching
And the wind began to howl, hey.

And then there’s the FOG. I’m not sure if you can even classify it as fog because you are literally in the clouds. Anyway, the fog made visibility low, and the wind didn’t help, and it wasn’t exactly raining but there was still condensation everywhere. Wet rocks make for a tricky climb. And yet we all pushed through. It’s interesting how your body responds in that environment – I kinda went into a hyper-focused state, like I was in survival mode. My instincts took over. And, yeah, your body has a natural instinct to not die.

Going down was even harder than going up. You use totally different muscles. And, it’s much easier to slip on the rocks.

I was really sore the next day. And, for some reason, I was even more sore the day after that. I’m still sore, actually. The hike cracked my top 5 sorest events:

**THE TOP 5**

1) Marathon

2) Day after I did an hour of lunges for middle school baseball practice

3) Tennis camp, 2006

4) 16 mile run, Superbowl Sunday 2013

5) Mt. Washington

You know, I’m starting to realize that I’m a bit of a risk taker. Like, I never expected to go bungy jumping, or run a marathon, or live in Australia, or white water raft, or hike Mt. Washington, but I’ve done those things and they have been awesome and I have been able to share those experiences with really cool people. I guess I just enjoy the ever present game of doing stuff.

I’m starting to realize that I value experiences over things. I think that’s a good thing. I hope it is. As long as I don’t die.

Here are some pictures and videos of the hike:

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Hodgepodge

I was in Los Angeles last week and caught a Dodgers game. I went to a game there back in 2001. I remember that was the first time I ever kept score at a baseball game. Eric Gagne started. Sammy Sosa hit a home run. Things were different.

Roberto Hernandez (née Fausto Carmona) started for the Dodgers. They lost 6-4.

They don’t check your ticket like most stadiums, so you can basically sit anywhere. I moved down behind the first base dugout and took this picture.

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While in LA, I visited one of the best animal shelters in the country. Is there a better sign than this?

CATS


Planes are amazing. Like, in 100 years we went from this:

First Flight

to this:

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Now I can access the internet and watch cable television from 30,000 feet in the air. That’s nuts.


I like to arrive at airports early. Really early. It keeps the blood pressure down. This post on Medium sums up my thoughts:

Authorities recommend arriving two hours before international flights. I say four. Get there four hours before your flight. You are a hundred and fifty years old. Your friends laugh at you. Have patience.

Arrive early and move through the airport like the Dalai Lama. You are in no rush. All obstacles are taken in stride, patiently, with a smile. Approach the nearly empty check-in counter. Walk up and say, I’m a bit early but I’m here to check in to … Marvel at their surprise and then their generosity. Suddenly you are always able to get an exit row or bulkhead seat. Suddenly, sure, they can slip you into Business. Suddenly tickets that are supposedly unchangeable, cannot be modified, are, after a few calls, some frowns, upbeat goodbyes, specially modifiable for you. This is what happens when there is no one behind you in line to check in.

You are hacking the airport by arriving early, knowing that all the work you could have done at home — the emails or writing or photo editing — can be done at the airport.

Boston Calling was last weekend, the bi-annual music festival that started a few years ago. I went. It was a solid lineup – Bleachers, The Hold Steady, Girl Talk, Volcano Choir, Lorde, Childish Gambino. After The Hold Steady performed, the sky got very dark and then we were told to leave.

A few minutes later, the skies opened up and there was thunder and lightning and … it was all pretty cool. Three hours later, the show resumed.

We went back. They had to cut Girl Talk and Volcano Choir, but Lorde and Childish Gambino closed the show late into the night.

I took this picture of Lorde:

Lorde

Speaking of concerts, I finally saw Arcade Fire in August. They were awesome and very high on the list of bands I had wanted to see. Here is my updated list of top 5 bands/artists I want to see live.

1) The Rolling Stones
2) Paul McCartney
3) Jack White
4) Neil Young
5) The Black Keys

A Led Zeppelin reunion trumps all of those.


I returned to the BC campus for the first time in a year. I walked onto the football field and lied down for a bit.

Alumni

Hey, the ozone layer is coming back!


Offense has all but disappeared in major league baseball. I made some charts to show this. These charts go back to 1973, when the DH was first instituted:

Runs Per Game

Batting AVG

 

Walk %

I took this picture during a Yankee broadcast:

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I will be hiking Mt. Washington next week. More on that later.

A quick trip to Seattle

As you can see, I stopped doing my daily short-form posts. Believe it or not, I actually got feedback from like three of you, which makes up a large percentage of the blog’s readership. And, well, you didn’t like them. Most of you prefer my usual, long-form posts. And, I tend to agree – I enjoy writing longer posts. I don’t want to get bogged down with having to post every day. I think it’s better if I write on my own schedule with longer, more thoughtful posts instead of me just saying HEY I LIKE THIS SONG.

So, from now on, I’ll go back to my usual blog schedule, which consists of me posting irregularly and spontaneously.

I spent four days in Seattle last week. Now that I think about it, I have seen quite a bit of this country over the past two years – here is my geo-tagged iPhoto:

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And that’s not to mention the four months I spent in Australia and New Zealand.

I saw the Mariners and Astros at Safeco Field on Tuesday night. Safeco was the tenth different ballpark I visited in 2013. I made it to double digits! I think I might try to rank all of them in a future post (update from the future – you can read that post here).

Jonathan Villar hit a home run on the first pitch of the game, and the Astros pummeled the Mariners 13-2. The announced attendance was 10,245 (!), but I would say maybe 1,000 were left in the ninth inning. It was, by far, the lowest attended crowd in any baseball game I have ever been to.*

*Obviously this excludes the assorted minor league, independent, college, and high school games I’ve attended.

But, I kinda liked it. As much as I love packed crowds, the open stadium had a very relaxing feel. We also had good seats (12 rows behind home plate), but even if we didn’t, it would have been easy to move down. The ushers didn’t care. They were unusually friendly and happy – they encouraged people to sit closer, sung along to Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and prided themselves in customer service. It was pretty much the polar opposite of Yankee Stadium.

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On Wednesday night, I visited Pike’s Place Market. This is where all the fish-tossing goes down. The market was pretty empty – like I said, it was a Wednesday night.

I also visited the famous gum wall (which looks exactly like Diagon Alley, for you Harry Potter fans out there) and the first-ever Starbucks. When I walked into the Starbucks, I was the only one in there. “Congratulations,” the barista said. “You have the whole place to myself.” And this made me think of the old Oscar Wilde quote: For one moment our lives met, our souls touched. 

I’m a dork.

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Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 9.17.15 PMI also got some pretty good pictures of the Seattle sunset. I don’t think they are as good as the one I took in Melbourne, but I did my best, ok?

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And that’s about it. Check back tomorrow, or the next day, or two weeks from now for my next post.