June

Sky Through Trees

The internet reminded me that I updated here everyday in the month of June last year. I’m not sure I’m going to accomplish that again this year, but it made me think I should put SOMETHING here. If my kid is going to start a blog, I can, as one of the third-tier (or lower) old-school web diarists/journalers/webloggers, at least make an attempt to update mine. So I’ll get this in under the wire of midnight, while avoiding a migraine, post-band practice.

It’s interesting reading the entries from last June and noting how much can change in a year and being shocked that last June was A YEAR ago already.

I’ve been slothful of late, after a kidney stone and rough cold threw me off track of running and weights. That does not feel good and I need to figure out how to schedule things back in amidst a busy work schedule and life happenings. Related: I spent Memorial Day re-organizing my clothing so that 1/3 of it isn’t draped all over my home exercise apparatuses. So that might be helpful. I’ve toyed with the idea of signing up for a fall race to kick me in the pants, but I’m loathe to pay for more races this year. The epic Syracuse Half (which seems like years ago itself) was enough and I suppose the Corporate Challenge is a thing, too. But I live on the perfect road for encouraging running (a big flat loop) and I miss feeling strong. So, time to get on that.

The problem with public blogs is figuring out how to write about the parts of your life that involve other people without dragging them in unwillingly. Some people don’t care and just do it. I am probably too concerned with how what I do affects others, both in writing and in action. That probably sums up a lot of where my mind is of late.

So let’s see where June 2016 ends up…

Things of General Importance, January 2016

pawThings that are important, at this time and at all times, for me and for you, whoever you may be, now or in the future, in no particular order:

  • Action. Just talking about things is not good enough. Even if it’s not a real possibility, at least bring a situation to a point where you can make a real decision about whether it’s worth doing.
  • Reciprocation. Putting energy toward things or people that don’t return it back is no good. Save the energy for yourself. And if you are the one not reciprocating, investigate why that is and give back or cut it loose.
  • The Internet. Occasionally a plague of meaningless interaction, “The Internet” also lets you receive wisdom and encouragement from far-flung friends and colleagues when you need it most. You should use it and not hide from it, except for short breathers. It isn’t the enemy.
  • Music. Breaking out of the usual playlist is pretty necessary right now. Taking comfort in some familiar, wordless audio is excellent. Embracing some styles that you had previously dismissed is also excellent. You should also be making it regularly, in some way. Or at least supportive of the making of it.
  • On that note: embrace all things, including those you had previously dismissed. Dismissing things leads to closed doors and missing out. You are open to adventure and life. Because it’s short.
  • Related to action is PLANNING. No one is getting younger around here. Life is busy and complicated. A plan for yourself is a good thing. Having at least a bit of a handle on that is a good thing. You have your life together to SOME extent. You know how to make a reservation. You think “I should set aside some money for that” and then make a plan to do it.
  • But some spontaneity is good too. You notice your surroundings and your situation and run with it. And that’s ok because you had that plan in place to fall back on.
  • I think I should mention action again. Who doesn’t love ACTION? Boo to sloth and apathy. ACTION!
  • Conversation. Really into conversation that is more than hitting like and 140 characters. Even though the interwebz aren’t the enemy as stated above. What is all that? Interaction but not connection. Emails are good. The dreaded PHONE??? Also, the quaint “talking in person over coffee or tea” is very nice. Remember long conversations? Yup.
  • Hugs.
  • ACTION! You like to move around and not revert to being a lump.
  • Outdoor air and mostly silence. Sounds of non-human variety.
  • Recognizing the snapshot in the view in front of you. Surveying and capturing the scene in front of you. Reflecting.
  • Equal parts laughing and brooding. Both are ok. And don’t laugh off the brooding too much, but let it happen.
  • Trying food. Wanting to try food.
  • Wanting to go somewhere new to try food.
  • Wanting to go somewhere new. Trying.

To be continued…

I’ve got… feelings… about this.

WARNING. There are spoilers for The Force Awakens in here. Don’t read it if you haven’t seen the movie or don’t care about being spoiled big-time.

falcon
(me, age 17?, in a senior photo)

When I was in high school, I wanted to be the next George Lucas or Jim Henson. My puppetry skills were largely nonexistent, so that wasn’t really happening (although I have since made at least one fairly decent puppet featured in a short film!) and really, I was torn between wanting to make movies like Star Wars and THX 1138 and wanting to just be IN them. Han and Luke and Leia are part of our modern mythology. When I was in high school, Star Wars fandom was less of a thing. I mean, it was huge, but in the mid-90s, the Star Wars trilogy was something from the past and it was somewhat less likely of a thing for a girl to be into. I appreciated Leia as a tough, capable character, but the fact was that Luke Skywalker and Han Solo were the characters with the meat on them. I wanted to fly an X-Wing and the Millennium Falcon. Yes, Harrison Ford is an attractive man and that certainly helps a character. But I wanted to BE Han Solo.

I’ll get back to that.

Star Wars was first re-released in 1997 and it’s ubiquity in pop culture started to resurface and being a Star Wars fan re-normalized. Around the same time, a show premiered on the good old WB called Felicity. Felicity Porter attended college around the same time I did and at first glance, this teen drama wouldn’t seem to be something that would appeal to a Star Wars fan, but it was smartly written and poignant and genuinely funny at times and very, very relatable. It’s actually one of my favorite shows and yes, I do own the DVD box set. Who knew at the time, while watching Javier needle Ben about wearing his hairnet, that the guy who created Felicity would be responsible for me having an emotional meltdown near the end of a Star Wars movie? Thanks, J.J. Abrams.

Like I said, I wanted to BE Han Solo. A little bit Luke too, but always Han Solo. The swagger, the humor, the blaster, the cameraderie with Chewie, and the fastest hunk of junk spaceship in the galaxy. It’s no wonder that I glommed onto Starbuck so hard when Battlestar Galactica was rebooted as she was, in many ways, the female Han Solo. So many of the same qualities in a package I could relate to! And even more so now that I have Starbuck-colored hair…

The disappointment of the prequels (which, I don’t even HATE as some do, but they weren’t great movies) and the overwhelming ubiquity of Star Wars of late wore me down and I really wasn’t sure that I even wanted to see The Force Awakens with any promptness. I crabbed about it a bit on Facebook on opening day and decided that I’d wait a few weeks until the crowds and hype wore down. It’s not that I didn’t want to be one of millions seeing the movie or a “I was a fan when it was uncool to be a fan” kind of thing. But as a fan of anything knows, there is your own personal connection to a story that is at the core of the fandom and it was hard for me to find that again amidst all of the merchandise and speculation and press junkets.

And then the next day, I decided that I was terribly wrong and I really did need to see it, over-hyping be damned. I went with my friend Alexis, from improv, on Thursday afternoon. Let me step back again for a moment. So, I’m a pretty privileged white lady. I see representations of myself everywhere. I am well-represented in media. I have seen people of color talk about seeing actors like John Boyega in a starring role in a Star Wars movie (and this is just one example for one movie) and how that makes little kids feel to see THEMSELVES on the screen. And that’s amazing. I didn’t realize I was going to have a bit of that experience, as an old white lady, walking into this movie.

I had stayed spoiler-free thanks to my blasé attitude prior to entering the theater. I’m not going to give you the blow-by-blow of what happens, but I, along with most of the rest of the theater, gasped when we realized what was happening to one of our favorite characters. I had an inkling that such things would happen. To reboot a franchise for a new generation – you’re going to have to do some stuff like that to move on. I get it. So that was upsetting, but I felt like it was done deftly. Han Solo got to come back and be, albeit older, everything he was and also to unknowingly lay the groundwork for someone that he trusted and liked to carry on that role. I do think the bit of berserker Chewbacca that we saw in that scene kind of captured all of our feelings.

Where I really choked up though was when Rey, heading out to search for Luke, sat down in the cockpit of the Falcon with Chewie, confident of the mission and how to handle the ship and with the approval of Chewbacca. I was suddenly silently crying and thinking “what is happening to me here?” And then I realized that J.J. Abrams was showing me what I always imagined myself doing, as a Star Wars fan. I was in that cockpit. I, through Rey, was Han Solo. And Han Solo would have been cool with that. And she’s Luke as well. That final sweeping scene and the conflict on Luke’s face was pretty stunning and left us wanting to just sit right there and keep watching the next installment.

J.J. Abrams didn’t make a perfect movie. There are at least 10 things I could pick apart right now in terms of pacing, MacGuffins, plausibility, etc. But hell if he didn’t bring this fan right back into her personal fandom and leave her scrambling for tissues at the end to contain her sad and happy feelings. That’s all I needed.

Screenshot 2015-12-19 09.38.22
(me, earlier this year, age 36)

And Greg Grunberg from Felicity is an X-Wing pilot!

New Video and ODE TO MY BUDDY JEFF

I posted something quickly yesterday with a direct Vimeo link on social media, but then Jeff went and posted a link with Warm Thoughts attached, so I figured I should probably expound a bit myself. Everyone, you should know Jeff Kimball. Watch the video we collaborated on and then I’ll tell you more.

Jeff and I met in college, as part of the fledgling comedy improv troupe, Sheer Idiocy at RPI. He pretty quickly became the brother-type figure that I never had and we also lived in the same apartment with a few others during our senior year, an experience both wonderful and also requiring many years of therapy to work through and I’m just talking about cleaning the refrigerator out on the first day.

While at RPI, he and I collaborated as the most dead-pan members of our improv troupe and wrote a number of musicals in the form of 24-hour theater slams. But really, it’s only been in the past few years that our friendship and collaboration has begun to really flourish. Perhaps it is the dragging of time (as of this year, 18 YEARS since we first met. Our friendship is an adult itself.) or the experience of more life situations that has strengthened our friendship. Awhile back, we started to make it a priority to meet up more regularly, even though Jeff and his wife live in the Boston area and I live in Syracuse.

In between these meetups (that have resulted in epic mountain hikes, music festivals, hotel pancake extravaganzas, etc.), we have an ongoing text conversation (including photos of eggplant parms) and emails. A few months ago, I sent out an email to some of my musically-inclined friends asking them to contribute pieces of roughly 2-3 minutes for me to create videos with. Jeff sent me a few pieces and the video above is the first that I’ve finished, with more to come, featuring more music from Jeff (as well as from other friends). Along with the video, we’ve been working on a collection of songs, perhaps to be recorded and released as well, tentatively titled “Songs for Old Teenagers.”

What I’m saying here is that I think we’ll be StefNJeff-ing, come hell or high water or broken pancake machines, for at least 18 years longer and maybe you all get to enjoy some art and music as a result.

Northeast Exploration Weekend

I recently had a number of vacation days suddenly fall into my lap to be used before the end of the year, so I decided to make this past weekend a long weekend and spent it exploring around the Adirondacks, Northern New York and a tiny bit of Quebec.

On Friday, I drove up to Plattsburgh, taking my time along the way. It was rather rainy, so I didn’t get too much. It was actually hailing on me while I was taking the mile marker photo. Things cleared up when I hit the graveyard, but it was getting dark by the time I got to Frontier Town. That’s on the list for another time!

Saturday included a jaunt up to Quebec. I had $20CDN left over from a recent trip to Montreal, so I decided I’d spend it Saturday. If you need to know, I bought a chocolate croissant in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (where there was also a giant yarn-bombed railroad spike!) and then got gas. Exciting, I know. However, I had never driven on these roads and ended up finding some really great house ruins and barn structures, as well as more gravestone. Check out the CATHERINE, CONSORT OF… one! I also came across the blockhouse in Lacolle, notable largely for the VIVE LE EMO graffiti (also, history). Neat rounded roof structure that I believe holds some utilities in Chazy, NY. And I was super-sad to see that I had missed the TEEN DANCE the night before, although they probably wouldn’t have let me in as I am not a teen. A few more interesting structures near Plattsburgh and then I froze my buns off for awhile at Ausable Point, enjoying the sound of Lake Champlain. It was pretty darn cold on Saturday, so I had to pull out the gloves, hat, AND second layer of coat. Worth it though, especially with no one else really around.

NEExWeekend: Friday & Saturday

On Sunday, fellow A/V and exploration enthusiast, Michael Fisher (watch some of his short films after you’re done here!), came over from Vermont to join in for this leg of the tour. It was an epic day of convicts, toxic waste, guns, guitars, sacrificial amphitheater altars, and buffalo wing-scented bathrooms. We started out by getting a quick peek around Dannemora, which you may have heard about in the news recently, and then headed toward Lyon Mountain. LOOK AT THAT MILL. LOOK AT IT. This is just a small set of the photos I took in there. I can’t get over that giant hook. It’s the photo on my phone wallpaper right now. By the amount of graffiti, we were obviously not the first people to ever peek around inside. I probably wouldn’t have gone all the way up to the top floor (and certainly wouldn’t have been hanging out the window) if I had been alone (would I have even gone up there?), but it was a visual treasure trove. Bring on your post-apocalyptic, war-torn Europe storylines – the Lyon Mountain Mountain Lion Toxic Asbestos Waste Factory mill will handle it. After the mill, we headed toward Merrill, NY to find the ruins of a stone amphitheater, built by Franklin Sargent in 1916. Largely overgrown, but still rather haunting to come across and clearly a place meant for sacrifices to the underworld. NEExW: Sunday

We then looped around Chateaugay and Mooers Part 1, 2, 3 and Return of Mooers back through to Plattsburgh. On the way, we passed through Churubusco, NY, which contains the fascinating Dick’s Country Store, Gun City and Music Oasis. There are indeed many guns and many guitars inside. A shocking number of guitars and musical instruments for such a remotely located place, actually. WHO KNEW? I refrained from playing the drum kits that were out. Also “Churubusco” is an amusing name. Other little bits of interest (carpet shop built into an old church?) as well along the way.

Finally, on Monday, I headed out early to stop in Newcomb, NY on my way back to Syracuse to ostensibly help AARCH folks with the closing up of Great Camp Santanoni. By the time I hiked in, they were largely done with the Main Camp, so I stayed back there for awhile and had a highly enjoyable lunch while basking on the dock in front of the boathouse. It was a perfect fall day to go in, albeit slightly too sunny for good photos (didn’t stop me from taking some). While sitting at the boathouse, it almost seemed like you could take a dip in the lake, although you’d remember it was November pretty quickly upon hitting the water. I managed to catch back up with Steven, Jennifer and Chuck at the Farm Complex on my way out and also enjoyed the porch at the Gate House for a bit before leaving. That porch hadn’t been opened up yet the summer I worked there. So much better than the jalousie windows that used to be in there! Santanoni is one of my favorite places on Earth and it was nice to spend some time alone in there again. I had been in earlier this year, snowshoeing around the lake, and it was also rather nice to replace a few of those harrowing memories with a pleasant, relaxing day.

NEExW: Monday

Not going to lie – I kind of feel like I need a vacation from my vacation, but it was fun to explore a few new areas and take the time to stop and peek around some places that I usually have to just drive through on the way to somewhere else. Where to next?

Life goals #2872634, 5, 6: Be described as “brilliant, but complicated” in posthumous radio stories about your biopics. Also, be described that way pre-posthumously. Also, have biopics.

Manifestos

Earlier this summer, while moving stuff, I pulled out my video camera and realized that it still had a tape in it and realized that I had a camera that still used tapes and I frowned. Looked at the tape and realized that it was the last thing I had been working on before I got sick. And, apart from some stuff for work, my creative output plummeted to pretty much nothing for a long time. It was around the same time that I had to abandon my second radio story and freelancing. I literally couldn’t talk without sounding like I had a mouth full of marbles because of inflammation.

More people died today in a shooting. Everything I have to say is miniscule in comparison to that, to Syria, to the struggle for black lives to matter. But we all have our own deal and for those of us who will wake up in the morning and have to deal with our own personal deals, maybe sharing our stuff is important, in a small way.

I spent a month updating this thing every day. Then I retreated quite a bit. I was updating while life was looming and then retreating as it really came crashing in, perhaps unsure about what to even say or what to share or where my story started and ended and where those of others began.

I’ve been struck, as of late, by how quickly I’ve reverted back to a mode of self that I used to know, largely in college… poked up a bit in various grad school outings. Certain refinements have taken place. I’m much neater. I eat better. I’m stronger. I think I’ve figured out my hair for the most part. Oh and I have a kid – that’s pretty different.

Simultaneously, I’ve felt like the stress of the past couple years has both stomped down on me and also cleared away. Multiple moves, the onset of a serious chronic disease, and your marriage failing are apparently major stress events in life and that’s just the big stuff that directly concerns me. Who knew? Are we not to keep trucking on as though all is well? I guess I finally realized that I can lay off myself a little bit for not being the person I wanted to be amidst all of this. I did complete a marathon though, so there’s that. But now that I’m sitting with mostly my own thoughts and space, I realize that the above-mentioned major stressors also acted as prism to focus my mind. These are galvanizing, annealing events.

A few months back I wrote the following:

So in the meantime, I feel like I have a duty to myself to try to do as much as I can. And why I will always get behind the “what have you got to lose?” line of advice. Will you regret not having done something, whether it be taking a chance on a new opportunity, telling someone how you honestly feel, or pushing yourself mentally or physically? Those of us who have lost people early and are reminded constantly of our possible limitations end up with this weird mix of nihilistic optimism, I think.

That plays a lot into my current mindset. I could wake up tomorrow unable to walk again like that one summer that started it all. The medication I’m on is probably going to cause some form of cancer later in life. I could have a stroke. Car accident. Shot. Dementia. It’s not like I worry about these things, but it’s just the reality. LIFE IS SHORT.

I also wrote a lot about saying yes to things and opening myself up more emotionally. That’s been a mixed bag. Some really great things have come of that and some things… not so much. Retreat, regroup, take what you can from it and hunker down. It still goes against most of my instincts. The fact that I still live within the city limits and not in some outer corner of the Yukon speaks to my fortitude. Although I haven’t completely given up on that idea once the child is off to college.

But about the galvanized and annealing and other words of metalwork. This year has been hard. Second hardest year ever. Maybe first. I mean, no one immediate to me died, but a great deal of hurt went around. It’s been a lot of “well, this is bad, but it seems to be happening in the best way?” And saying yes and being open emotionally sounds like happy touchy-feely stuff and really, what I’m finding is that really, that’s not the case. The deal is that I don’t really care about certain things anymore. I care about my kid, I care about me and if I seem to be kind of an asshole otherwise, I kind of don’t care.

And that’s true on one level, but the other part of it is that I’m still human, as much as I fight it. I fixate. I mourn. I become giddy. I share too much. I stay silent. I hold out hope. I’ve already given up. I covet material goods. I am a hypocrite. I withhold. I tell the truth.

I’m figuring out who I am again. I’m pretty sure I never lost that person. Pretty close to honing back in on that person, who just took some alternate forms for awhile. That person did a lot of stuff, probably too much, and, for reasons still somewhat unclear, couldn’t follow through on a lot of things. A few years and life experiences are helping me direct my actions more. People who have known me long enough know this person. It’s a easy trip back if I just let a few things go.