Tag Archives: friendship

The City

Fall has burst onto the city like a trap, summer is suddenly overshadowed by color in the trees and the crisp air of an early sunset. After an amazing wedding and lovely honeymoon, the professional responsibilities we happily shirked have surged out of the closet with fervor.

training, gym, weight lifting, burpies

Tuesday nights, trading one set of work for another.

I met Michael during my interview in 2015 and I hoped we would become friends regardless of what job I worked. I am grateful to be right, and our early friendship has since been nourished by miles of trail and late nights at the office. No surprise either that he also loves to suffer in the gym, and has been a reliable motivator to work on our weaknesses together.  A few weeks ago, both of us were headed for a late night at the office but managed to shift towards a different plan, well honed over the past years. We dropped into the company gym around 630pm and got dinner at a local joint around 8pm.  There is nothing like an old school ass-kicking to shed the weight of an overly full workday.  Conversation, when possible, ranges from business to art to the delicate balance of living in the city.

I haven’t written as much as he deserves, but our friendship has been one of the distinct highlights of my experience in the city. Seriously intelligent, both deeply passionate and empathetic, and always a pleasure to spend time with. Michael has supported me (and Abigail) in many great ways since we arrived here. Tonight I stopped by his desk around 6pm and encouraged him to get out of the office- and to ride together for the short common section of our commute home. He obliged and insisted on riding far out of his way, just for the joy of picking our way through Seattle traffic and catching up on life a bit. For a commute that I have regularly begrudged, I appreciated every moment.

Thanks for jumping at the chance, buddy. To many more.

 

Not So Red

“It’s totally beautiful, but they aren’t that red.” Abigail said to me.

Greg- crushing. It is kinda more brown than red...

Greg- crushing. It is kinda more brown than red…

I had no retort. We were hiking back to Brownstone Wall, deep in the Red Rocks National Conservation area. You can see the massive, completely brown wall, almost as soon as you leave the car. Given the name, I could understand her surprise, especially after the Wingate sandstone I had just been climbing in Utah.

Tess, crushing. It gets more red in the evening light.

Tess, crushing. It gets more red in the evening light.

I left Indian Creek on a Wednesday morning and took slow roads down to Flagstaff, AZ to spend the night with Jody, Deb, and their amazing baby Elston. It had been a few years since I had seen them, and I was glad to catch up. They are full on masters of balance careers, parenting, and adventures. Hopefully I can tempt them north.

Me.  I don't know... I think it's pretty red.

Me. I don’t know… I think it’s pretty red.

Thursday I poked around Flag, then boogied to Vegas to meet Tess and Greg. After the severity of the Creek, I was excited to enjoy the relatively mellow climbing in Red Rocks and enjoy the company of close friends. That said the sport climbing flexed an entirely different set of muscles. We got after it pretty well.

Lovely lady in the desert!

Lovely lady in the desert!

I had invited Abigail to join us as soon as the dates were solid, and she flew in Friday night. I couldn’t have been more excited to see her, and share climbing in such a fantastic place. We got after some sport climbing on Saturday (many crowds), and hiked back to “Armitron” (III, 5.9 5p) on the Brownstone on Sunday.

Abigail, not looking down like a pro.

Abigail, not looking down like a pro.

Getting a good moderate route to yourself on a weekend day in Red Rocks is no small feat, and I was relieved to find the wall empty after the 90 minute walk. The climbing was excellent, but I did a poor job of managing exposure while leading a beginner. Abigail did a wonderful job of facing her fears and trusting my leads while we dispatched the 500′ face. Once we were on the walk-off though, her running legs kicked in, and she led all of us back to the car.

Psyched to know these two.

Psyched to know these two.

Tower top out. Worth the hike.

Tower top out. Worth the hike.

I’ve done bigger, longer climbs, but after climbing 11 out of 14 days, I work up on Monday completely worked. We shared a leisurely breakfast and a quick tour of the absurdities of the Vegas strip before we said goodbye to Tess and Greg, and I dropped Abigail at the airport. She had work on Tuesday, and I was suddenly thrown into the mission of moving to Seattle.  After the trip last year, and this short stay, I’m really starting to like Red Rocks, red enough or not.

Amazing walk off.

Amazing walk off.

Hiko, NV. Worth taking the backroads home.

Hiko, NV. Worth taking the backroads home.

2013 In Review

Photo: Amy O'Toole.

Photo: Amy O’Toole.

I’m grateful to say that if nothing else, the sorrows and successes of 2013 have been real. A quick review of everything:

Went to Australia. Saw family. Deepened old friendships, made new ones. Climbed. Played. Smiled.

John, Otto, and Manly Beach, NSW.

John, Otto, and Manly Beach, NSW.

Traveled back to Missoula, and liked that I came back here. Found love. Finished some great projects. Wrote a website. Loved winter.

Sceptre is in fat...

Winter. Winter. Winter.

Climbed. Skied. Hurt. Worked until I couldn’t anymore. Fought for an engineering license and lost. Lost some clients. Lost love. Lost myself.

Get it... in a boot.

Get it… in a boot.

Had foot surgery. Learned about love, and myself. Waited.

We are enough.

We are enough.

Celebrated summer. Celebrated this place. Celebrated climbing again, and better. Celebrated my profession.

Getting back into it.

Getting back into it.

Found Wyoming. Found the roots, and the crown, of my experience in the wilderness. Found the perfection in imperfection.

Huge shout to Bryan and the Feather Buttress.

Huge shout to Bryan and the Feather Buttress.

Got older. Got more honest. Got excited about winter. Got back to Chicago.

2013-12-27 16.39.50

Also, can’t talk about this year without credit to the soundtrack for it. 2013- it’s been real. To 2014, I say “yes!”

2014 is the question. Yes is the answer.

2014 is the question. Yes is the answer.

Lander, WY

Part III of III

Another perfect moment.

Back at the car, another perfect moment.

Sipping good coffee at my friend Sylvia’s house in Lander, the Monday morning bustle started slowly around me. I wasn’t due back at work in Missoula for a few more days, and I had some time to transition from the wilderness back into normal life. I smelled diesel fumes mix with wispy grey clouds against the Wind River range as the sun burned off the night chill. Lander is a gateway to the Winds- I ordered my first set of maps from Wild Iris in 2002 and is home to NOLS, the organization that formalized my wilderness knowledge. That morning, the calm remoteness of this small Wyoming town settled on me like a magic spell.

The Wind River Mountains are the best place.  Just the best. All of my practice in writing about mountains comes up short against describing this place.  The vast golden meadows, dark evergreen groves, and striking granite walls leave nothing for want. It is simply perfect here.

Back in Missoula the mornings start later.  Days are still hot, but cool nights tell of the impending autumn. I’ve climbed in the Bitterroot the past two weekends, and the lessons from my trip continue to enrich the experience here. My trip to the Winds shows me how much of my own backyard is incredible. How much is possible, without getting that far from home. How much more I can learn and do, without the carbon footprint of international travel. I could drink the Winds for the rest of the my life and never miss a drop of anything else. I am there, and I am fulfilled.

I’ve been chewing on the idea of perfection lately. To call my time in the Winds perfect seems to evoke hubris, but not to acknowledge these best days as anything less feels ungrateful. To think that my life is perfect seems boastful, but it’s fun to think that it might be. The lesson is in realizing the perfection of moments, amidst the imperfect reality of daily life. It is the imperfections that make this all beautiful- that add the character and perception to know the flawless bits.

Sunset over the Tetons. My backyard is big.

Sunset over the Tetons. My backyard is big.

Fullness

This post is big, but that reflects the fullness of my summer in Missoula. The week by week since my last post:

Ren and Jesse left for a backpacking trip in Glacier National Park and I hosted a nasty sinus infection while they were gone. Fortunately, I was still well enough to have the pleasure of hosting the incredible Strangled Darlings for a few shows in Missoula.

Sound check.

Sound check.

Jam.

Jam.

I was prime for adventure when Ren and Jesse got back from Glacier. A last minute invitation to my new friend Simon (and Brian, and Jenna) made for a seriously fun party in Lost Horse Canyon. I love rock climbing.

Ren gets into the crack climbing warmup.

Ren gets into the crack climbing warmup.

Simon is stoked on the Friday night bouldering jam.

Simon is stoked on the Friday night bouldering jam.

Yours truly getting the goods on Jamboree.

Yours truly getting the goods on Jamboree.

My fine friends on top of the Skyport Chimney. One of the coolest ledges anywhere.

My fine friends on top of the Skyport Chimney. One of the coolest ledges anywhere.

After our Lost Horse extravaganza, I headed back to work, Simon headed to Washington, and Ren and Jesse started the long drive east to North Dakota on the next leg of their adventure. August 10th is an important day, and I had an important place to be.

1100 miles. 0 regrets. Happy birthday my friend.

1100 miles. 0 regrets. Happy birthday my friend.

Dustin and I have a rule to see each other once a year, and he turned 35 last Saturday. I left after work on Friday, got to Portland at 1am, spent all day working on The Commons, and all night playing cello. We worked as late as I dared on Sunday, and I faced the reality our visit was to be painfully short. I made it back to Missoula around 130am on Monday morning and went to work at 7. I wouldn’t have spent my weekend any other way.

The new house rings with the love we put into building it.

The new house rings with the love we put into building it.

Mercifully, I wasn’t on the jobsite so much this week and recovered pretty well. Since breaking up with Sarah in June, I’ve been going to a weekly meeting with the ManKind Project. If you want to change things in your life, you have to actually do something about it. We’ve all got shit to work on in our lives, and MKP provides some structure to put my butt in gear about it. I left Missoula on Friday morning to participate in an MKP weekend seminar in Idaho, but as I was pulling through Challis, ID I got a phone call saying the seminar was cancelled due to wildfires around the location. I was thoroughly disappointed, but headed back to Missoula and quickly made plans to salvage the weekend.

Big and beautiful on the Rocky Mountain Front.

Big and beautiful on the Rocky Mountain Front.

One of the best parts of climbing is the community this arcane little sport tends to promote. This weekend was the first annual Blackleaf Canyon gathering, and by 10pm Friday night, I had a ride over with one of my most important mentors. Simply put, Blackleaf is unreal. I’m not really a great limestone climber, but damn I had fun getting on some big walls with great people.

Tim looks out to the eastern plains.

Tim looks out to the eastern plains.

Did I mention I love rock climbing? My foot has mostly recovered from surgery, but the limestone didn’t treat it well and I still need to be careful with myself. Today is a rest day, and I’m enjoying working back through all the photos.

Is all this driving sustainable? Probably not. Is my life “balanced”? Who knows. Am I making enough money in Missoula to be financially responsible? I don’t want to think about it any more. I am doing enough for the people I care about most? That’s a question worth answering. A few weeks ago my friend Nate moved away from Missoula. Before he left I asked him “Nate, what do you think I should do more of?” He said- “Skander, that’s the wrong question- you need to think about what you want to do less of?” I’ve not done a good job of doing less these last few weeks, but he was absolutely right. I’m not sure I have many answers yet, but I’ve enjoyed a few pieces to help get me pointed in the right direction:

The Medium Chill (by David Roberts, thanks Soren)

George Saunders says love. (thanks Facebook, I think…)

No regrets? (found this a while ago and started thinking about it again)

The newest addition to my blogroll- becoming minimalist. (thanks Karen)

Even when summer is so full and so busy, there are so many important things and people and places in the world. Celebrate them. I think that’s really what this summer is all about- It’s fast and full, and I’ll be grateful when it slows down. That said, there is still a lot of summer left and I’m looking forward to even more fun in the next few weeks.

Rocky Mountain sunset. BOOM.

Rocky Mountain sunset. BOOM.

Skander and Andy Go to the Beach and Break Shit

This trip has been in the making for a long time- I’ve never spent this much time with my brother and his family, and it’s been nothing but good.  Beyond that though, I’ve spent the last week with another wonderful friend, mentor, and human being.  I haven’t written about Andy Lemann very much, but he’s probably been one of the most important people in my life in the last year.

On the way down from the Blue Mountains.

On the way down from the Blue Mountains.

He got me the job that I work and love at Energetechs.
He showed me around Missoula when I didn’t know anyone else.
He’s taught me more than anyone else about architecture, dancing with beautiful women, and simplifying my life.

This is Andy's country, and he knows all the best parts- Kangaroo Valley.

This is Andy’s country, and he knows all the best parts- Kangaroo Valley.

And in September, he taught me quite a bit about family when he left Missoula and moved back to Bowral, New South Wales, to take care of his aging parents and reconnect with the community he left almost 25 years ago.

Apparently, a big deal.

Apparently, a big deal.

Delicious.

Delicious.

Rural towns are eager to have something to be proud of.  In Robertson, that's a giant concrete potatoe...

Rural towns are eager to have something to be proud of. In Robertson, that’s a giant concrete potatoe…

Bowral sunsets from the kitchen sink are not to be missed.

Bowral sunsets from the kitchen sink are not to be missed.

Andy picked me up in the Blue Mountains last Tuesday, and we celebrated his father’s birthday on Wednesday in Bowral.  I found a cello, cranked out a performance of a Bach Suite and Andy and I quickly re-arranged a bunch of the tunes that we had performed together last summer- his father couldn’t be more pleased.  More than anything though, Andy loves the beach, so Thursday afternoon we hitched a dinghy to the truck and headed for Shell Harbor- at which point we started breaking shit.

Surf! For a little bit.

Surf! For a little bit.

Andy gave me an awesome surfing lesson, until I got washing machined on some rocks and cracked a fin off his brand new surfboard (but not before I finally, finally got to stand up on top of a wave).  Friday morning we went sailing, until we jibed south, and the mainsail boom snapped in half like a toothpick.

Sail! For a little bit.

Sail! For a little bit. (Photo – Andy Lemann)

The cockpit cover tore, the bilge pump gave out (momentarily), and we managed to almost overload the dinghy (twice).  I only narrowly avoided driving on the wrong side of the road… twice.

"Bloody hell the boom broke!"  It's a unique feeling that...

“Bloody hell the boom broke!” It’s a unique feeling that…

We had hoped to sail and surf more, but with our toys in disarray we got a box of wine and hopped a train to Sydney.  Andy’s grandmother owns a place in Double Bay, one of the most desirable parts of Sydney Harbour and Andy was eager to share their little slice of heaven with me.  While it was truly a rare opportunity, my body had the last laugh because I spent the one night we had at the house writhing in pain from the wisdom tooth that decided to erupt through my gumline.  Andy naturally, took care of me with utmost compassion, and sent me on the way with family Sunday afternoon.  Thank you my friend, for amazing times here, and wonderful friendship always.

Two men, each more than worth traveling 16,000 miles to see.

Well worth 16,000 miles of traveling. (Photo- Lynley Wagner)

I’m back in Turramurra (north of Sydney) for the last few days of holiday, eating liquid food, and sorting out what other fun I can have while clutching an ice pack to my jaw.  I’ll be trying to get some larger photo albums posted on my Picasa site, and will post links shortly.

Elves

(I’m behind on posting, welcome to catching up on the adventure)

A few weeks ago I met some people at the Bozeman Ice Festival that really know how to have fun.  Despite going to Australia this week (oh yeah, didn’t see that coming did you?),  a spontaneous visit to Salt Lake City was on order for Christmas weekend.  A huge thank you to Sarah, Peter, and Brit for being amazing hosts.  While Salt Lake is known for Mormons and the Wasatch front, elves are apparently a big deal too:

Cousins Peter and Brit show off the latest fashions.

Cousins Peter and Brit show off the latest fashions (exterior door shown for scale).

I rolled in on Saturday afternoon, and after a quick hike to check on ice climbing conditions, Sarah and I joined in the Santa pub-crawl mayhem.

Well... someone needed to step up and be Pimp Santa.

Well… someone needed to step up and be Pimp Santa.

Despite a great outfit, I bailed on the pub crawl relatively early with thoughts of ice climbing on my mind.  The ice was surprisingly poorly formed and thin, and while Sarah and I ticked 3 of 4 pitches on “The Great White Icicle” (WI 3, 4p), eventually my judgement won over, and we headed for Brit’s hot tub and a fun little jam session with a few other folks.

Thinner than it looked.

Thinner than it looked.

Sarah isn’t as into backcountry skiing as I am, but fortunately she’s got some great friends.  Matt C, Hasen, Tyler, and Matt X, thanks so much for letting me join the fun.  It was dumping powder in the Wasatch, and while that pushed us on lower angle slopes, we still had an amazing day of skiing.  Sarah had lunch on the table when we rolled home, and suddenly my cello was in hand while Matt C sang Talking Heads.

Doing due diligence in the avy pit.

Doing due diligence in the avy pit.

Sweetness.

Sweetness.

Christmas Eve finished cooking a stellar meal with Sarah, then a small gathering of friends hosted by one of her former professors.

My drive home featured dry roads, and clear skies, so the hours passed quickly. Even with all of the outdoor sports centered in Salt Lake, I’ve spent very little time there.  With friends like these, I suspect I’ll be back soon.

Somewhere south of Dillon, MT.

Somewhere south of Dillon, MT.