About Me

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I live in Brooklyn, NY and I love it here.  I came here for my career in 2009 and haven't once looked back. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fame and success...

I had some more thoughts about fame and success versus the potential personal enrichment of a music career/hobby and wanted to articulate them. They were thoughts mainly continuing on about how fame is not the best goal for a musician. I suppose I should also qualify success, for one thing, since it's relative to one's own ideals. I mean the kind of success that is defined outwardly by society (i.e. making money and being stable) and not necessarily one's own personal ideal of success. Of course, I want to be that kind of successful, the success that says you acheived the goal you set out to acheive (in this case to write music and get it heard).

Anyway, I guess I'd be lying if I said I'd never imagined fame or even remotely fantasized about it. But I have to tell you that mainly, when I daydream about my music, it's typically just me enjoying what I'm doing, whether it be getting a job composing a film score or performing live with a band and really rockin' out. I think it's important in this kind of pursuit not to get caught up in the idea of fame.

Every time I finish a project, the question immediately becomes "what next?" (I seem so tireless, I know). I've noticed that I can tell when I'm getting caught up in the idea of being famous one day because my thoughts turn to what kind of musical endeavour will garner the most attention and make me the most money instead of what will I enjoy doing or what I have proven to be good at. These are all, obviously, valid concerns but in the end, I have to take a step back and ask myself, "am I enjoying doing it?" and, more importantly, "is it genuinely me?" More so than personal enjoyment, the notion of genuineness is increasingly important to me.

I think back on the days when I really wanted to be the lead singer to a band. I would write really horrible lyrics and was too squeamish to try and mold those words into some kind of vocal lines and sometimes too shy to coax my bandmates into playing the songs. Other times when I was attempting things musically that seemed fun or seemed like they'd be enriching: Trying to write atonal choral music in grad school, trying to write weird avant garde solo instrumental pieces in grad school and trying to busk in Prospect Park or singing at open mics in Cary, NC. None of these things are really me and I've decided I'm okay with that. Some of them were actual exercises in grad school to hone my compositional skills that just turned into informative episodes that helped me figure out what I didn't want to do. Others were probably influenced more by what I saw other people doing than what I really wanted to do myself. I can tell because I've caught myself doing this a few times and I finally just looked deeply at it. Those times I've wanted to try singing or felt I had to start a band that instant, for example, I'm quite sure most of those episodes happened after having seen a pretty good local band or upon hearing a good song and imagining myself playing it live with one of my old bands. I guess you could call it "rock-out envy."

Invariably, though, the music I would write (or attempt to write) after such an episode would come out feeling contrived and rushed. So perhaps, one needs other motives for wanting to create. Not just because it looks fun or because I want to be on stage again. Seeing a band playing and thinking, "I remember doing that, that was fun, I wanna try that again," is probably not a terrible reason to want to continue playing music. It can't inspire real creation though.

Nor can a desire for fame. I find myself quoting the great Henry Winkler these days and I'm going to do it again. "Do you need to do this thing? Or does it just sound exciting? Because if you don't then maybe you should just go sell Buicks or something." (Sidebar: when did I hear Henry Winkler say all of this? 7 years ago at Chapman University, Henry Winkler came to speak to a group of high school kids that I was assistant teaching during a summer film program run by Duke University. I was there, I taped the whole thing and man, do I wish I still had the raw Mini DV tape).

Do I need to do this? At this point yes. I can't imagine myself not writing music or doing something musical. The depression I went through as a younger adult was at its worst when I couldn't see for myself a future that contained music. When I was a year from graduating high school and the panic about what I'd do upon graduating set in, the only thing that popped into mind to do was to study music. I didn't even have a back up until I started my film major. When I was 11 I was listening to classical music and film scores and I think, then, I first hatched the idea to become a film composer. When I was 9, I picked up a Magical Musical Thing, a cheesy toy from the late 70's (By Mattel, I think), and took to it instantly, prompting my parents to buy me a piano, extricate me from Cub Scouts and get me into piano lessons immediately.

All of these things that led me on this path to where I am today were instances of genuine interest in playing or creating music. To taint that with a wish solely to be famous for what I do would be foolish. Fame couldn't be nearly as rewarding as creating music. Not that I speak from a great deal of experience with fame or anything. I can't say that it wasn't invigorating to have my music heard by forty or fifty people at my recital back in 2008...and how cool was it to have people tell me they saw my name on NBC 17 on the credits for REX on Call? And don't forget the handful of times I've been recognized at film screenings for my work scoring. But I can tell you that the most enjoyable experiences I've had with music have been the unstructured unseen improvisatory times. Playing and laughing with my band mates from Brilliance as a Fashion in the 10' X 20' aluminum practice space in West Greensboro as we jammed and tweaked our songs. Sitting in my dorm room Sophomore year, messing around with loop creation software and making songs to the utter annoyance of my poor roommate who had to listen to each loop cycle over and over as I honed the ideas. The summer after 8th grade that I spent carrying my new electric guitar with me just about everywhere, practicing chord changes and learning new songs. Or just sitting at my piano, on any given day, with the window open solo improvising, losing track of time. This is why I do what I do.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

New (Old) Song and some thoughts...

So, I was digging through some files tonight, technically early this morning to some of you who won't read this until it's fully Sunday, sun up and all. Anyway, I found this little gem that I decided I like enough to post here. It's on the FB page as well.

Called it Sudden Rainstorm. I thought about that title though and it really seems more like one of those rainstorms that creeps in slowly and before you know it you look up and the sun is gone and the sky is a creepy dark gray, thunder rumbling louder and louder every second...you'll hear what I mean.

Anyhow, this is just to preface that I have been writing again, mainly in Fruity Loops and I may just get those pieces finished in the next few days and post them here and there. It feels good to be writing again, especially since I keep saying I want to try out Indaba. It's been slow going though. Earlier in the week I made a comment on the Facebook page about still not grasping the point of Twitter and was met with encouragement to give it another shot and tips on how to get the most out of it. Wanting to be smart about my online networking, I decided to do so. But I realized that there's something overwhelming about trying to find your way around a new social networking site. Indaba is no different. It doesn't help either that on top of Indaba and Twitter, I recently joined FourSquare and Yelp. FourSquare and Yelp, being that they require physically going out places to get the most out of them, can wait. I'm getting a little broke this month to be going out so much.

Anyway, Twitter and Indaba can only help my career. Yelp and FourSquare are, at best, distractions at this point. It can be frustrating, too, with so many distractions that I feel like I'm not getting near as much done as I'd like. The temptation to go out and do things in this city in the summertime is pretty impossible to ignore sometimes. Add to that the fact that every time I think my troubleshooting with this computer is over, I waste an entire day off trying to isolate problems when I could be recording, writing, or generally using the computer to be creative. Then, because it's so hard to get things going with a small amount of time, say, before work, I invariably end up waiting another week to get working again.

If only I didn't need a day job...which is probably the cry of every artist in the world who isn't already successful enough to support themselves solely with their craft. I could wish for more hours in the day but if I got them I'd use them sleeping or socializing, knowing me. But then, when one realizes that those two have become the default activities to spend free time on, one wonders if one's interest in becoming a professional artist hasn't waned considerably. I sure hope not. It's awful to think of something that was once my hobby and then became my passion could be relegating itself to the realm of the sometime aspiration of a whimsical teenager.

I suppose it's key to stop and remember why I do these things at all. Why I even bother. If I were one of those people who would answer that question with something trite like a wish to be famous or successful, then I'd seriously have to question myself. It's awful hard to base an interest in something on the desire for fame or success when you examine the notion of fame or success, whatever that might mean to you. It's simply a destination, one that you could get to by many paths. If I only wanted to be a musician to be famous (and not, say, to personally enrich my life through the creative process), then I might as well not be a musician specifically but should instead just find the thing that's most likely to make me famous. Some people resort to reality TV for this. I shall not stoop so low. For it is not fame that I want but the chance to create and collaborate. Supporting myself while doing it would be nice too, of course.

My point is that being famous is not a very lofty goal...Paris Hilton is famous (and for what?) Instead, to be able to express myself creatively and enjoy doing so is a good enough goal for me. To continue doing it and enjoy doing it despite the pressures of other responsibilities. If I make money, awesome. If not, at least I kept it up.

Anyway, back on the topic of Indaba, I really like the idea behind this site and am seriously going to be uploading music and considering spending a good amount of my "music time" on Wednesdays on tinkering with the features, maybe connecting with other musicians. The thing is, with a site like this, there are so many uses. Collaboration, hosting, networking, meeting potential band mates. All these things and I can't think of which to use it for. I'd love to jam with some people soon. I thought about it recently. Just having some friends over and gathering around the piano and improvising. I'd also love to get my chops up recording and getting input from other musicians, possibly collaborating. We'll see.

For now, I need to sleep. A comment on the weather though...Fall is almost here, I can taste it. Favorite season of the year, hands down. I mean, I wore a jacket last night! In August! Gonna go for now. Enjoy the music!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Rainy Sunday Afternoon...

Sat at home today and riffed on guitar, came up with a few things using the loop station built into Guitar Rig 3. I'm please to say that it appears to be working quite well. At one point, I had 5 layers of recorded audio playing back and all manner of guitar processing effects running with no audio glitches, no crackling, no freezing and no crashing. It all comes down to dust and proper computer maintenance. I should be ashamed.

But for now, hurray for productivity. I even began looking for more scripts and practicing some of the ones I have ready for my demo recording session, coming up in about a month.

Earlier this afternoon, I went with a friend to the New Amsterdam Market near South Street Seaport. It was very cool, despite the rain, to hang out underneath the overpass of the FDR with a huge crowd of people, all interested in the myriad of local food and products on sale. I even got to visit the table for Kombucha Brooklyn. Some of you may know, or have heard me rant about how great Kombucha is. It's essentially a Chinese fermented tea that restores vitality and balances the body's systems, contains amino acids and probiotics, blah blah blah. It's really great though but because of the recent FDA shenanigans, I've decided to brew my own. So, I was happy to get a chance to talk to Kombucha people (spoke with the fellow in this video) about getting a SCOBY. The other day I even found a glass jar on freecycle that will be a perfect vessel for brewing said Kombucha. Even has a spigot on the bottom. As for finding a SCOBY, I've been scouring craigslist and have found a few sources but the gentleman at the Kombucha Brooklyn table at the market said they'd have their online store up and running soon, too.

Anyway, In addition to checking out Kombucha Brooklyn's tent, we tried Bellwether Hard Cider, smoked duck breast from the Hudson Valley Duck Farm, Mast Brothers' Chocolate
, and pulled pork sandwiches and sweet corn flavored ice cream from another table (The name of that farm/store escapes me now) among other things. I'm thinking about going back next time they have it because there was plenty of amazing produce there. One local farm, my friend and I are actually thinking of going to visit, the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. They're just up in Pocantico Hills, New York, a quick ride on the Metro North train and there's apparently a really good local restaurant attached to the farm.

In addition to their being a myriad of different vendors there, they had a tomato tasting and a sort of ice cream festival. These things you had to buy tickets for so we opted not to partake.

Lately, things like the multiple farmer's markets, drawing produce from Long Island, Westchester County, Upstate NY as well as PA and NJ, and urban farms, even, in the city and the local food movement have been on my mind a lot. It's becoming clear the more I sink into this locavore movement that local eating is becoming the new organic. Or at least become a more important consideration when choosing where one's food comes from. An organic apple from Chile or New Zealand may be organic but it probably took a heck of a lot of energy to get to your supermarket. If I sound preachy it's because I'm currently reading the Omnivore's Dilemma, and just finished reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which is probably the most known locavore tome. Since finishing the latter, eating locally produced food has become even more important to me. Not just for the obvious reasons of favoring food that didn't require so much energy to get to me either. I had an experience the other day involving a tomato that makes me never want to eat them out of season ever again. They just don't taste that good. I was eating at an Irish pub in Raleigh a week and a half ago and shoved an underripe tomato in my mouth to my immediate dismay. Tomatoes from across the country, say from California, are often grown out of season from the rest of the country, picked underripe and then refrigerated, exposed to ethylene gas to make them ripen (or rather turn red). The resulting red rubber ball tastes exactly like a red rubber ball. Why would one eat something like this (or rather, why would a restaurant serve it) in August when properly vine-ripened tomatoes are easily accesible, cheap and incredibly tasty, for having come much more freshly from the plant. I was thinking all this as I gazed on the tomato samples at the table where they were having the tasting. Gorgeous heriloom tomatoes, every shade from red to yellow. Salivating just thinking about it.

Any NYC outsider would be surprised at the availability of local produce in the city. And it's a noble cause, one that I'm proud to align with. Especially the more I read about factory farming and the monoculture mentality that most industrial agriculture is adhering to, which damages the ecosystem. If you're interested, and haven't, I recommend reading both of those books...even if you're somebody who doesn't want to know where your food comes from.

Anyway, I just wanted to check in for a sec, before shutting down this computer so I can unplug it and rearrange the room a little. I'm a busy little bee this evening, aren't I?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Clean slate...

You're never going to believe this...I don't want to speak too soon but I think I figured out the problem with my computer, the source of my eventual livelihood, and incidentally, most of my current frustration.

I'm in the process of reinstalling all of my software, piece by piece and copying files from my backup drive back to my main hard drive right now. A few days ago, I freshly installed my operating system and, subsequently, a few of my software synthesizers and the drivers for my sound card and audio interface, the bare minimum, as it were, to do my work. After a few tests of just playing through the computer with the keyboard, sure enough, with no other background operations running, no silly internet toolbars, no anti-virus software and no possibility of any viruses on the computer, I had dropouts, audio glitches and CPU overload. WTF?!

So, naturally, I called my dad, whose brain I normally pick when things like this happen and he suggested re-seating the memory sticks. So I powered down and went to pull them off the motherboard and swap them and that's when my attention was drawn to the amount of dust covering the motherboard and, incidentally, the processor fan. I am a classic idiot. I haven't cleaned off the dust in there since I built this computer 2 years ago! So, I promptly ran out to Radio Shack and bought a can of air and proceeded to blow the caked on dust out of there and then suck it all up with a vacuum.

So, I've yet to do any extensive testing but I'm pretty sure that will have fixed it. An overheating processor makes total sense. That would explain why it was so intermittent, yet so regular. Once it would get going doing a lot of work, it was only a matter of time before it started to drop out.

The question is, why did I insist on overlooking the most obvious of solutions to things like this? My mind is too complex. What can I say? I initially imagine that something this baffling must have some complex reason behind it. Wonderful life lesson here.

This particular clean install I've done has made me realize how little I actually need to have running on this computer. I've been using Google Documents so no need for a word processor, I have anti-virus that I know works, there are some files that I never use and can just leave on my online backup or my external hard drive, and I don't need to run a million internet tool bars. In fact, I don't even think I'll be doing much web surfing at home now that I have a smart phone.

Remember how I said I wanted a Droid. Well, I caved, mostly because it made sense too. Waiting for the discount in December when I would have been eligible, would have saved me the exact amount of money I would have spent now to use my insurance plan to get my old phone replaced. So, now I have entered the world of the smart phone and there is no going back. (I ended up with the LG Ally)I'm probably a little bit too enamored of it and I'm sort of waiting for the novelty of all the various applications and the sheer utility of the thing to wear off. In the meantime, I've been thinking all sorts of existential thoughts about what it's doing to my way of thinking and my lifestyle. For instance, am I losing brain cells playing with this thing? Is it making me smarter or dumber? And what of my attention span? Am I becoming one of those guys who whips out his smart phone every five seconds (I saw a few people give me a look while I was walking and texting...yes, I walked and texted a few times in the last day or so). And all manner of other thoughts ranging from loss of productivity (i.e. time spent playing with the light saber app) to, ironically, gain in productivity (I found a neat application that I can use to make loop-based songs like I used to do in college with Fruity Loops so now I can capture ideas at work or wherever I am) right down to how much energy the smart phone consumer tacks on to what he/she already uses and why no one has thought to put solar power on a smart phone like they did with calculators (I admit it probably wouldn't supply enough power to fully charge a phone's battery but perhaps it could extend the life of one...then again, I guess the phone would have to spend enough time out of one's pocket in the outdoors for such a feature to matter...nevermind).

At any rate, hopefully, at least, the cordoning off of my internet time to periods when I'm out and about killing time, or otherwise away from home, will lead to more productivity music-wise when I am home. Let's hope. In addition, I now have another clean slate on my computer with this fresh install and this time, my files are all safe. Hopefully, it'll work much faster as well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A vacation....

The first paid vacation in five years, or so I've calculated. I'm currently sitting at my folks' place in Raleigh contemplating such. This week was very relaxing and laid back, with only a slight few bumps along the way. The most interesting thing to note about this week is that little, except for my travel plan, was planned out according to any sort of strict schedule. As a result, I intentionally had a lot of time where I was simply hanging out with no real itinerary. Sometimes, impromtpu plans emerged, sometimes I was content to just relax.

In Boston, as I may have mentioned in the previous blog, it was nice while I was just chillin' with friends to not have plans that necessitated running around trying to get places and see things but when it came to having to kill time in the city it was a bit tricky. But even still, I made plans on the fly to meet up with a friend who was staying in Boston for a few months and that killed all the time I had and I barely had to spend a dime or figure out any logistics.

My days back in NYC between returning from Boston and traveling to Raleigh were similarly spent. I ended up hanging out with a friend most of the time, which included that impromptu trip to the beach. Here in Raleigh it's been a similar scene and maybe even more laid back despite the day of my arrival being a bit hectic.

Delta cancelled my flight first of all and put me on another flight for Friday but I called and said I wanted an earlier flight. They said it was because of weather...um, it was cloudy? Anyhow, I got an earlier flight but so early was the flight that I realized that I had to drop everything and, well, pick up everything and run out the door prepacked suitcase and peanut butter and jelly sandwich in hand in order to catch said flight, still not knowing who was going to picking me up now that I'd be arriving two hours earlier. There was a lot of running to catch public transportation and I had spectacular train (and bus) luck (I was not the only New Yorker running to catch a 12 noon flight, I spoke with an out of breath Wisconsoner who had just barely made the M60 bus right behind me after having gotten off the train at Astoria Blvd). The packed bus made it to the airport at 11:15 so I was all ready to go but saw the line for security and almost freaked out because I still hadn't checked in to my flight. Because I freaking rock, I was able to get to the gate and get a seat assignment with half an hour to spare, good considering I had left my house at 9:50 and it normally takes an hour and a half to make LaGuardia airport taking only public transit.

When I got on the plane I realized that the seating assignment I was so happy to find was a window seat, was also at the front of business class with some massive foot room. My luck, which for the next two hours would be characterized by an almost pendular swing from good to bad, changed when the fattest man who could have boarded through the front door of the plane was seated next to me, almost fully negating the amount of foot room I had previously been grinning about. Luckily though, he was reseated at his own request, relinquishing my elbow space and I sat out a comfortable flight. Upon arrival in Raleigh though, I somehow managed to snap my phone while trying to call my sister (who I had begged to come pick me up). Yep, the Motorola Krave has a plastic flip that besides being gimmicky and useless (you're supposed to be able to tap the touch screen through it, thus not having to open the phone up to text, etc.), is also quite flimsy. But, and here's that pendular swing, I, for some unknown reason, had thrown my phone's headset into my suitcase the previous evening without knowing why. So, it still works thankfully, but I'm still debating getting a new one when I get back even though I had wanted to wait to get a Droid.

But anyway, I left the airport with my sister and the kids and spent the whole afternoon just doing kid stuff and having dinner with them. That night my brother arrived from Boone and we hung out all night and all day Friday. We did go have lunch with a friend but beyond that we sort of just did whatever, hung around, petted the cat, played our instruments (guitar and bass), tried to fix my brother's car stereo, photographed spiders on my parents' side porch, walked to the North Carolina Art Museum and checked out their new space, etc.

Not having to stick to a strict schedule has been both relaxing and strangely stressful though. More of the former though. I'd have liked to have had certain opportunities while being home but I've missed a few for various reasons, mainly because those opportunities were last minute, friends getting in touch last minute, me being too lazy to message people prior to leaving, etc. Since I've been so relaxed, though, about my time, it's been easier to let it go when nothing works out. Probably because not trying to fit in seeing everyone (i.e. driving all over) immediately seems like the more relaxing choice. I think I've just gotten really into the idea of taking it easy while I'm not working.

And that's what I had in mind for this vacation anyway. Granted, I didn't have a whole lot of cash to spend on a big vacation. But, either way, this is what I needed after all of the stress of the past year. Schedule changes, juggling freelance schedules, working composing gigs, not working composing gigs and starting this new voice over venture. Which is probably not nearly as stressful now as it is going to get eventually.

In a few hours, I'm going to be meeting with a graphic designer friend who is working on a new logo for me and design for my web graphics, business cards, marketing materials, etc. Excited about that. But meanwhile, I'm doing laundry...how cool is that? Last night and the night before I watched my parents' new HD TV for a while.

Tomorrow's going to be interesting though. I, once again not planning ahead (or was I), I scheduled my flight for 7am, not thinking about who would drive me to the airport or how tired I'd be. I have to go right back to work too at 11pm and work the overnight shift. So maybe it'll be better not getting much sleep tonight since it'll make me inclined to sleep during the day and so I'll have an easier time staying awake all night.

At any rate, I think I'm just about ready to reinstate routine and get back in the swing of things. On Wednesday, I'm going to reinstall my operating system and start troubleshooting. This time I have a 32 bit operating system and maybe that'll clear up some of the compatibility issues if not all of them. Then I can start composing, recording, and just generally tooling around again. For now, I'm signing off so I can get showered and get ready to meet this designer. Laters...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blurb #18

Just a quick blurb from the road...well, technically I'm not on the road. I'm sitting in my friend Jeff's living room, up later than I've been since the night of the wedding Friday night, trying to figure out what to do with my time tomorrow. See, I haven't really planned very well this weekend. I've planned well enough but too much of it has been on the fly. That's been nice while hanging out with my friends here. It's been relaxing to just hang out and not feel like I absolutely have to be a tourist just because I'm in Boston. In fact, the only times we've left the house this weekend were to go and eat or to throw the Aerobie in the park nearby with the dog, Lola. It's been great.

Anyway, Jeff and Debbie work tomorrow so I'm on my own for getting around and killing time...which would be no problem except my bus doesn't leave until around 2pm, so I'm up currently trying to figure out whether South Station has baggage lockers. The only answers I've found are on yahoo answers or other forums so I'm not sure if I can trust them. Luckily, I did find a number to call tomorrow morning so I can find out before I leave.

Jeff and Debbie live in Medford so I gotta walk to a bus stop and then take a train from Davis Square in to the city. But that should be no problem. When I left NYC on Friday, I had to stand up with my bag on my shoulder for the whole subway ride to Grand Central Terminal. I evidently survived that. I'm not saying it'll be fun though...but, hey, I brought this on my self.

Beyond my travel woes, I must say I've had the most splendid weekend so far. Matt's wedding in Groton was quite the party. Set at a small Catholic Church in the village on a breezy August afternoon and ending at a small restaurant in a barn that served local food from the adjacent farm. Probably the most exquisite filet mignon I've had in my life. Additionally, a great 9 piece band serenaded us while we danced between courses. And as for courses, there were 7 of them. All proceeded by a cocktail hour on the porch outside.

Pictures, are below. Later in the week I head to Raleigh...my cat probably hates me right about now. Oh well, Good Night.

Matt's Wedding:

Best of Matt's Wedding

Also, included are photos I shot in Boston with my friend Mary Kate the last day after I typed this blog.

Boston August 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Camping in the Adirondacks...

It's too bad that such an amazing weekend breathing fresh mountain air, sleeping in a tent and cooking all of my food over a fire had to end with me finding my bike missing from the courtyard upon my return to New York. But such was the case. The cable lock alone was left dangling from the fence and the oblivious security guard would only say, when pressed, "I got here at 6:30 tonight." Never mind doing rounds around the courtyard when beginning the shift. All I could do was report it to the police and tell the super. Come to find out though, after talking to him, another bike had been stolen over the weekend as well. So maybe now he'll fix the lock on the front door to the courtyard.

Anyway, the camping trip, which was my friend Matt's bachelor party, was a much needed respite from the constant hum and din of the city. The campgrounds were near Warrensburg, NY in the Adirondack mountains, so the trip required a train ride to Westchester County and a subsequent car ride provided by Matt's best man, Chris...who was an hour and a half late picking us up from Bronxville. Once underway, it didn't take me long to get mildly dizzy and car sick but Albany was only two hours away up the Taconic State Parkway, thankfully. We were planning on meeting two more in Albany (the Bills) and picking up a load of groceries and booze and then making our way on up to Warrensburg, hopefully before nightfall. But these things usually never go exactly to plan.

The Super Wal Mart in Albany is a mini city. Two levels of retail spread over an area the size of ten city blocks, and just about anything and everything available, including a disappointing array of organic produce, cheap clothing and household supplies and, you guessed it, hand gun ammo. The nature of these stores is that they suck you in and convince you, by using prices that don't end in 9, that you can afford to throw one more thing into your cart...continually. So, after an hour or so, we left with a lot of food and camping supplies that we may or may not have needed...the most obvious frivolity being a $7 machete that, thankfully, the best man paid for. It was worth every penny come to find out.

We got underway around 7:45, with daylight fading all around us along with the prospects of having any kind of natural light under which to set up camp. The campsite at Camp Dippikill, owned by the Albany University Student Association, consisted of several cabins and a trail heading out to a lake surrounded by campsites. (scroll to the right to see the lake...we were on the east side of it near the spillway)

View Larger Map
There was free wood and canoes for general use and a series of hiking trails, one of which led to a gorgeous summit with 180 degree views. All this was great but would have to wait until daylight. At that moment though, we had to deal with lugging the night's food and booze along with all of our packs about a mile down the path and around to the opposite side of the lake. My back was killing me about a quarter mile in.

Fire started, tents set up, booze poured and music going on the iPod speaker Chris had lugged out there, we were set for the night. And what stars! Man, I missed the mountains and this was my chance to finally taste the outdoors in NY State. Quite refreshing. And dinner consisted of merely grilled steak and asparagus, punctuated with handfuls of potato chips and gin and tonics. Healthy enough, right? After dinner activities around the campfire included listening to really loud Dave Matthews on the iPod, recreational slashing of anything we could find with the dull machete that somehow made it from Super Wal Mart all the way to our campsite, telling "your mom" jokes, drinking and stoking the fire all too often. Matt and Chris might have gone in the lake after a while, too...did I mention the night time low temperature was 40 degrees F? Chris' shivering question, "Why did I do that?!" was probably the funniest thing and the hardest I laughed all weekend.

Though my sleep that night was delicious, it was, unfortunately, interrupted by one of the Bills hurling "your mom" jokes (leftover from the previous night's witty banter) along with pine cones at my friend's tent. Apparently he had been crowded in the best man's tent and couldn't sleep. About the time he turned the iPod back on, I told him to shut it so we could all sleep seeing as how it was only 8:30 a.m.

After finally getting up around 11 and having a breakfast of bacon and more bacon (I actually had some peanut butter toast as well), Matt, the Bill that wasn't up early and I took off for the summit, which was a shorter hike than our trek to the campground from the cars. I snapped some photos of the views of the surrounding peaks and the Hudson river below (forgive the quality as they were snapped with my cell phone since my camera battery died while I was snapping the other photos of the campfire the previous night):

Matt's Camping Trip

Upon returning to the campground I swam in the muddy lake for a bit and then a few of us decided to head back to the car to get food for that night. Earlier that morning my friend had swum across the lake (immediately after he had woken up) to the boathouse to fetch us a canoe to cut the hike in half. So we loaded up the canoe with an empty pack and ourselves while Chris debated coming with us. After relating an incident where he had capsized a canoe once while trying to get in it, he promptly, though surely inadvertently, reenacted the scenario for us. Luckily for me, my bathing suit was still on. Unlucky for Bill, his iPhone was in the empty pack and it didn't turn on for hours.

We recovered, emptied the boat and tried it again though the whole trip to the boathouse, with three guys in one canoe, was uneasy and fears abounded of falling back in the lake, this time in the deepest part. We made it safely to the boathouse though and hiked back the rest of the way to the cars but, unfortunately, when we returned to the boathouse, loaded with food and booze, all of the canoes were out on the lake, filled with college kids. So we had to hike the rest of the way but it was no big deal. Later on, I hiked over to fetch back another canoe for the next morning's ride back.

The highlight of the trip for me came that evening and was actually during a moment of solitude. Matt had brought a South American hammock and had slung it between two trees by the lake shore and I perched myself in it with the book I'm reading and a glass, er, cup of red wine. The air was perfect, mid 60s, the sky at sunset was beautiful and I had just enough residual light to finish off a chapter resting in probably the most comfortable hammock I've ever been in. A nighttime canoe ride rounded off my silent meditative moments and then I rejoined the guys for some more ridiculousness before going to bed relatively early.

The following day's hike back was not nearly as exhausting to me somehow as the hike in on Friday night. Probably the mountain air and a general feeling of being well rested. Our ride back was smoother as well, punctuated by a stop in downtown Albany for lunch at a burrito place called Bomber's, and an impromptu stop at the NY Giants training camp. Something I probably would have never been interested in doing on my own but which was actually kind of cool.

We finally left Albany around 4:30 p.m. arriving at the train station in Bronxville just shy of the 6:27 train to Grand Central. I had to wait another hour for the next and was cursing myself for not having the time for a nap before my overnight shift at work. I managed though. I always seem to.

Now, I prepare for my trip to Massachusetts for the wedding and my subsequent weekend in Boston. Today I had another coaching session at Edge and have planned out the rest of my sessions up to my demo preparation. Getting excited. More on that in another entry though. I must sleep for the moment.