5.31.2010

Greensboro (VT) skyline and beer

Greensboro Bend, Vermont, on Saturday afternoon: winding dirt roads and fields of yellow flowers. As I was taking this photo I could hear a band playing in the distance, alerting me to the fact that I was close to the grand opening celebration of the Hill Farmstead Brewery.

Craft breweries are common in Vermont and brews that once I thought were good (Magic Hat, Otter Creek) I now consider commonplace. The Hill Farmstead Brewery has already won some gold medals at a major brewing competition and promises to bring finely crafted small batch brews to select local bars and restaurants.

Beer #1: "Abner" -- triple dry hopped, naturally carbonated....

People came from far and wide to sample the brews, eat, and listen to a band. The brewery itself is a small and unassuming building the size of a large garage, so the event was held in a field.

Beer #2: "Edward" -- double dry hopped, naturally carbonated... I preferred this to the Abner.

The keyboardist seemed pretty unhappy to be passing the glass to the horn player.

5.29.2010

Earn your turns (mountain bike style)

There has been a stretch of great early season summer weather in central Vermont. It's great to experience some warm sunny days strung together because the previous two summers have ranged from pretty damp to downright sodden...

Consequently, I have been spending a lot of time riding my battered Redline Monocog. As I once posted here, "Even as the apocalypse approaches, I still like riding my bike"-- what was true then, is even more true now, in this era of environmental catastrophes, global financial meltdowns, and on a more personal level -- persistent, grinding job uncertainty.

There are many place to ride a mountain bike near where I live and work, however maintaining the trail networks is a large commitment. Centrally located trails in Waterbury (Perry Hill) and Stowe (Town Loops) are heavily used and quickly deteriorate if not cared for.

Last weekend there was a massive trail building work day to perform finish work on a trail linking Little River State Park to Stowe's trail network.

Local trail builder extraordinaire Hardy Avery marshaled the volunteers at the start. Even a small work crew needs to work in an organized fashion but keeping 50+ people organized and productive seven miles into the woods takes some leadership and planning ability.

Drainage improvements are important in building trails that will last in Vermont's wet climate.

Mud-be-gone: A low section of trail after installation of a new culvert covered with rock and a sand-gravel mix.

What the finished product can look like: The Pipeline trail (photos of construction last summer here), a very buffed series of switchbacks up the hill to Trapp Family Lodge.

On a related topic, registration for the 3rd annual Vermont Mountain Bike Festival is now open.

One thing about mountain biking, it's hard to discover places to ride. This event will highlight all sorts of varied riding in the area along with various other fun happenings. The bike industry has been very supportive of this event and there will be many bling bikes to demo and lots of swag to be had... it should be a good time.

5.22.2010

Drugs and sex remain popular

It has happened again (it's pretty much an annual occurrence): Allegations of doping in professional cycling. What I've learned, in having this sorry little amateur site, is that I can write on a host of topics, including (to cite some recent examples):

Burlesque shows in Greenwich Village, New York.

Opera at Lincoln Center, New York.

Long lonely bushwhacks in Ricker Basin.

And these posts -- admittedly, mostly just unstructured, self-absorbed ramblings, hardly worth sharing -- are resolutely ignored by the wider world.

When scandal breaks, however, an old post from 2007 bubbles up in Google's search engine again and attracts visitors to this site.

Cyclist Floyd Landis (who spent millions of dollars defending himself from doping allegations, and wrote a book proclaiming that he had not used performance-enhancing drugs) announced this week that his improbable tale of innocence was a fabrication and also named several high profile former teammates as accomplices in doping. This news story promptly sparked a small flurry of google searches:

The post in question has become the single most viewed page on this site since it was written in 2007...

Myself, I think it's time for Lance Armstrong to retire for good and fade out of the spotlight. He (and his team) combine a penchant for Nixonian-style secrecy and stonewalling with athletic achievements of Barry-Bondsian proportions and the combination is starting to get old and wearing. It's time to move on.

(The 'sex' referred to in the title of this post is due to the fact that a post I wrote about go go girls in Thamel, Kathmandu, is also very popular. It seems that people want to plan their tawdry sex acts in advance of their trip.)

5.18.2010

Spring woods 2010

This is kind of a tradition with me: A walk in the spring woods of Little River State Park before the place opens to visitors (see here and here for previous examples).

My lack of TLC for my camera gear is evident in these images but I am an amateur and also covered a lot of rugged ground in the course of this day.

A real camera bag would probably be a wise investment at some point to provide better protection for my gear as I crash through the woods instead of wrapping extra lenses in an old t-shirt and tossing them into my backpack, as is my usual style.

Quiet and still at the reservoir in the morning.

Much higher up, I found a set of moose antlers on an unnamed height of land. This area (the east side of Bolton) is like a resort for moose. The other side of side of the mountain is a resort for people, with lifts, cut trails, hotels, condos, restaurants, etc.

I got very close to a moose as I was heading out but it was dark, murky twilight and I was very footsore so I didn't bother fooling with the camera as the animal trotted away from me.

A pitcher plant growing in the rocks along a stream.

At lower elevations the wildflowers had already gone by. Higher up, however, there were violets, trilium, and trout lilies.

Trout lilies grow profusely in birch glades at over 2000 feet of elevation. It's like walking on a carpet of yellow -- but only for a week or two of the entire year.

The view from the top, SE. This hike took all day and involved some serious bushwacking through some thick cripplebush at the top, where there were still pockets of snow on shaded northern slopes.

5.10.2010

New York high life

Sempre libera degg´io
folleggiare di gioia in gioia,
vo´che scorra il viver mio
pei sentieri del piacer.
Nasca il giorno, o il giorno muoia,
sempre lieta ne´ ritrovi,
a diletti sempre nuovi
dee volare il mio pensier...*

Late, as usual: On our recent trip to New York, we had tickets to La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera, a markedly different event than the previous evening's Penny Arcade Experience.

Our tickets were in the nosebleed seats and it was like watching an opera from four stories up, but the opera house has good acoustics and the production featured a full orchestra.

Jeff and Eva dressed up and on the town (it's rare for me to post this kind of photo here, they usually show up in my facebook account).

Sweeping staircases and lots of Swarovski crystal.

The seats were not for the acrophobic.

This was the last Metropolitan Opera production of a very traditional La Traviata. Next season the Met launches a new sexed-up version more suited for modern tastes (clips here) :

On one hand Violetta is supposed to be a famous courtesan so a sexier production can be justified because what was titillating and scandalous in 1860 is not so shocking now.

I read, however, that the new production also features the character of death, watching from the wings -- a completely modern addendum not included in Verdi original. I shouldn't judge something I haven't seen but that seems quite unnecessary -- anyone with any familiarity with the form and the liberetto isn't going to expect Violetta and Alfredo to get married and live happily ever after at the conclusion of the third act. It's a tragic Italian opera -- the heroine dies at the end, in her lover's arms.

After great weather in New York for the first days of our trip, Sunday turned out gray, chill and rainy. I wanted to see the Cartier-Bresson exhibit at MoMA but the museum was also running a exhibition on Tim Burton which led to huge lines to get in... so we trudged up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art instead.

Given that it was such a damp day many thousands had the same idea but the museum is a vast space -- one could spend months there, and still discover previously unseen treasures -- so it wasn't too bad once inside.

All in all New Yorkers were nice and it was fairly easy to get around the city but I thought that the city seemed a bit down on its luck and shabby: A post-9/11, post-financial meltdown hangover of sorts.

The trip also brought back memories for me because I had last taken the train down the Hudson Valley in the late 80's when I was a college student in Poughkeepsie: The landscape hasn't changed too much in the intervening years -- the upper Hudson River valley in New York didn't look particularly prosperous then, and it doesn't look prosperous now.

*Translation:
Free and aimless I frolic
From joy to joy,
Flowing along the surface
of life's path as I please.
As the day is born,
Or as the day dies,
Happily I turn to the new delights
That make my spirit soar...

5.06.2010

2010: Random Photo Content #7: Guilt and complicity on the Gulf Coast

Images from Cedar Key, Florida, March 2009 (more here).

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. Looking W-NW, far over the horizon (hundred of miles away) are the deep water oil platforms like the Deepwater Horizon.

A pristine white snowy egret.

Brown Pelicans were common at Cedar Key -- but who knows what the future holds? There were news reports this week from Alaska, showing beaches that were still contaminated with spilled crude oil, 20 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster. But hopefully the two situations are not 100% analogous.

Sunrise, looking towards the Florida mainland, with a powerstation visible in the lower right.

The "guilt and complicity" comes from the fact that as soon as I publish these prosaic and commonplace images I will hop into my car and drive alone to work... plus all the power I use in the course of my modern American day, not mention all the energy used keeping my various online presences active.

5.01.2010

Bourgeois bohemians in the almost naked city: The Penny Arcade Experience at Le Poisson Rouge, 4/23/2010

-- Miss Arcade engages the concepts of individuality and rebellion in a world that currently markets the corrupt idea of Bourgeois Bohemia. “Bourgeois and Bohemia are two entirely different value systems..” Miss Arcade says, ”You can no more be a bourgeois bohemian than you can be an atheist catholic.” --
So, we made a short trip to New York. I have some slight familiarity with the city but after living in Vermont for more than 20 years being in a noisy, crowded environment is quite overwelming. Predictably, we got lost several times and also managed to spend lots of money in a short period of time.

Saturday we had tickets to a performance of La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera...so for Friday night I wanted to find something less refined and polished. A short listing in a free newspaper clued me in to an event at a club on Bleeker Street in the Village, not too far from our downtown hotel:

Not knowing quite what to expect, we marched up Broadway in search of Le Poisson Rouge.

Penny Arcade (bio here -- her history in New York, goes back to the early 70s, and the end times of Warhol's Factory) harangued the crowd while the show's entourage of erotic dancers watched from the stage.

The two topics most addressed in the course of the production were:
  1. The artist's distaste for formal, academic artistic criticism and analysis of gay culture.
  2. A requiem for old, pre-gentrification, pre-Guliani, pre-Bankster culture, New York. Ie, Ms. Arcade finds the new, cleaned-up-by-Disney Times Square district to be emblematic of what is wrong with the present state of the city.
Lest the reader come away with the impression that this was an evening of pedantic diatribes, most of the show consisted of erotic dancers of both sexes -- the event really served as a celebration of gender-bending -- swaying to pulsing dance music.

Unlike at many shows, taking photos was not at all discouraged.

DJ Lady Miss Kier sporting some way big hair.

At one point in the proceedings, the Pope showed up to rail against the immoral goings-on.


Dancers hustled for tips. Another one of Penny Arcade's complaints about contemporary New York was the rise of "happy burlesque"...

There was a certain irony in our presence at this event: We were tourists on Bleeker Street, waifs from the countryside who had made a supersized version of some suburban college kid's weekend journey from the suburbs of New Jersey or Connecticut (where I spent a lot of time growing up) to the lights and glitz of New York, and who had our return tickets safely booked.

I remember the dismissive phrase "bridge and tunnel crowd" from my days in college and there's no doubt this could be applied to our trip. I must say, however, that I enjoyed the show, and also that I felt quite at home in what was a rather louche and freaky environment. In some ways Vermont is a cultural mecca -- there's always something going -- but it's very small and there is a lot of homogeneity here, and not many people seem to live on the edge.