White stuff falling from the sky by any other name is still snow.

Posted by Ted on Dec 7, 2009 in Memories

Courtesy of M. Amidon, MA

This past weekend, we began hearing reports of our friends on the east coast having the first decent snowfall of the winter season. There were some beautiful pictures that were posted that almost made me pine for that feeling of seeing snow fall, reflecting the streetlights, covering the world in a blanket of white.


Courtesy of C. Sandifer, VA

Growing up in Cleveland and moving to Boston, winter, and snow, have always been a part of my world.  I still remember building snow tunnels in our front yard during the Blizzard of ’79.  I remember a certain party back in ’92 at Fandom House where one of the guests arrived on cross-country skis.  I enjoyed being stuck in the hotel during Arisia ’05, getting room service as the world outside the 9th story window turned white.  There’s just something magical about the falling of snow, and the way that the landscape changes, bringing to mind childhood images of sleighs and roasty fires.

3236856342_4225eee4caAlmost a year ago now, we escaped the two feet of snow that had been piled on top of cars, shoved to the side of the street, and filling every yard. We tell people about that here in the Bay Area, and you can see them visually shiver at the very thought of it.  I do miss the image of snow and that feeling, but I won’t miss the shoveling, the trying to find a parking space, the crazy drivers, the dirty slush, the stepping in a cold puddle, or the slipping on the ice.


What we found interesting when we woke up this morning was that even here, just a few minutes away, there is still snow. The difference now is that we have to drive to it, albeit not as far today as other days.

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Posted by Ted on Nov 16, 2009 in Memories

I was in Boston a year ago, having just voted in the most important election of my 36 year lifetime and being excited for the future. I’d just had a small birthday/election celebration party, and had no idea that in a year I would be living on the other side of the country.

Yesterday I watched a dirigible land and take off again as I passed the Oakland airport just before sunset. This was after going to the Fruitvale farmers market (every Thursday and Sunday, year round), and an East Bay Bicycle Coalition appreciation BBQ, where I may have volunteered to help promote the building of a bike/pedestrian path across the western span of the Bay Bridge. Saturday, we drove down to Glen Park for brunch, and then made our way up to the Sutro Baths to walk around and through the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, watching a huge cargo ship come out of the horizon, probably from China, and most likely bound for the Port of Oakland, the fourth busiest container port in the United States. Then we met some of Liz’ school friends for Burmese dinner in the Richmond district, before heading back across the bay to Fruitvale, where we enjoy being a minority in a latino neighborhood with at least a dozen taco trucks within a mile radius.

Everywhere we go, we discover new nooks of the Bay Area that make us fall in love again and again. There is so much good food to be had, both in the groceries and farmers markets, and at thousands of restaurants of every nationality. I’m sure we could never eat in the same place twice for years if we wanted to. The geography continues to take our breaths away, from the majestic redwoods to the expansive Pacific and the sometimes rolling, sometimes leaping hills that permeate the bay area. There are 7 regional parks in Oakland alone, 51 in the bay area, and 280 in the state of California. We love it here.

We miss our friends and family in Boston and New York more than any of them probably realize. We left a vibrant community, closely-knit and deep-rooted, to pursue our dreams to head west. The ache we feel in being so far away is often palpable, and yet this has very quickly become our home. It’s been reminding me lately of my first burn. After the culture shock wore off, I felt completely at home in less than a day. There is a very good reason that Burning Man evolved out of San Francisco; we have everything here, it seems. Great local food, stunning scenery, and more going on than you’ll ever be able to go to. We have schools like the Crucible and Trapeze Arts, festivals like the Fire Arts Festival, Fleet Week, and Folsom Street Fair. We have blooming flowers in November, and a palm tree in our back yard.

I wonder when the honeymoon will wear off?

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Steering towards warmer waters..

Posted by Ted on Feb 15, 2009 in Memories

This blog post was previously recorded.

I started this post almost 3 weeks ago. Proof positive is that my original starting sentence was “I look out my window, and there are mounds of snow lining every street. I walk out my front door, and onto an inch-thick sheet of ice, and through a complex obstacle course of ruts and banks everywhere I go.” Since then, I moved out of our empty apartment and in with a friend, and a few warm days melted most of the snow and ice. Over 20 years of experience says that Boston will have more snow before spring arrives, but I won’t be there for it. I won’t miss the shoveling, wrenching my shoulder slipping on the ice, or getting $100 tickets for parking on the wrong side of the street during a snow emergency.

Channel 13 says that we’re now over Albany. We took off from Logan, and I was rewarded by a view of the skyline with Venus shining overhead, bright in a dark blue sky. We flew past the Zakim Bridge, and I could see the Citgo sign reflecting off the Charles. I first arrived in Boston in 1979, when my dad brought our family up from Cleveland while he was on sabbatical. I attended kindergarten and first grade in the same year – one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. We moved back to Cleveland, but my mom had started going to school to get her Masters degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, and spent the next 4 years commuting back and forth as she finished the degree and then became staff and started a private practice. I returned to Boston in 1984 to live with my mom, and my dad started being the one to commute, never being able to find a faculty position of his own. In 1989, my mom and I moved back to Cleveland just as my senior year had started, due to her rapid decline in health. I moved back a year later for college, and at the end of my first year I went to work rather than go into debt putting myself through school. I left for DC in 1995 and remained there 3 years before moving back again in 1998, bouncing back as if Boston was the bridge that I’d tied my bungee to. Just over 10 years later, I’m now flying over Toronto towards our new home on the west coast, stretching that cord farther than it has ever been. Will it snap back after a few years, returning us to Boston again? Or will it break as we find that we like California too much? Neither of us knows, but we look forward to finding out.

As the man who sails around his soul, I have learned to navigate the waters of life. My awakening during the last several years has increased my awareness such that I can sail farther out from sight of familiar lands. Technology has made communication trivial, bringing everyone within easy reach. It wasn’t that long ago that to move out west meant packing the family into a wagon and finding a caravan – just 164 years. Today, we can pack our stuff into a truck and fly out to meet it. Keeping tabs with anyone meant writing letters and waiting weeks for a reply. Today, we can have an up-to-the-minute record of what everyone we do and don’t know are up to. However, all of the conveniences of the 21st century don’t take away the uncertainty and complexity of sailing uncharted waters. Sometimes you have control over where you go, being able to use the winds and currents to your advantage, and sometimes you are overtaken by a storm, and forced where it takes you.

Like Christopher Columbus, we set our sights on the west, risking the unknown for the excitement of exploration and untold riches. We steered ourselves into storms and dragons, testing our ingenuity and determination. Nothing in this move has gone according to plan. Cats were turned away at the airport for improper paperwork, our truck arrived 4 days late, erroneous checks needed replacing, a beloved scarf was stolen, a vehicle has yet to be sold, employment is uncertain, rental records were lost, costs were higher than expected, we lived on separate coasts for 3 weeks, and despite months of culling we still moved too much stuff.

And yet now, over Lake Michigan, I can finally relax. What’s done is done, and in a few hours my wife and I will be reunited, with a half hour of Valentines Day left to spare. Whatever difficulties there are left to face, we can do so together, and that will make all the difference.

The last several weeks have been odd in a number of ways, almost a dream. While I’ve seen our new home, it was devoid of our stuff – the truck arrived the day after I returned to Boston. Since then, goat has been there, surrounded by boxes, while I have been living out of two suitcases. My first week was spent in our empty apartment, sleeping on a sagging air mattress, and surrounded by random stuff that hadn’t made it onto the truck. It was a new experience for me, methodically cleaning, packing, and throwing stuff out, slowly emptying the home that I’d found and we’d shared of any trace of our existence. It was much more depressing than I would have expected. As the life and character drained out of the apartment, as things got boxed up or thrown out, I felt the life draining out of me as well. In all my previous moves, the place that I’d moved out of had other people’s stuff in it, but this time, I was erasing a picture with me in the center of it, leaving just me, and then finally, I left too. It was lonely.

The last two weeks were a little better, when I moved into heliopsis‘ attic. A bed, even though it had just a thin foam mattress, made a huge difference. So too did having company and a furnished home that was lived-in. It was still lonely, but without the cold echoes that I’d lived with for a week. I got a chance to see people and say goodbye. Folks at work took me out for drinks on Thursday, and afterwards I had a very surprise dinner with so many unexpected faces wishing me well and letting us know that the fires of our tribe will keep burning for us until we come back. I saw music with an old friend, and a new one. Last night I had a final chance to say goodbye in style, attending a recurring party that I’ve been to for many of the last 15 years, eating fine chocolate and playing Mars Attacks one last time.

While we still have too much stuff, we did get rid of a lot. Many clothes went to good will, books went to a friend or to the library, furniture went to people moving in as we were moving out. Papers were recycled, and china was given away. One sad moment for me was selling my car that I’d bought new in late 1995, and my first motorcycle, taking the plates off and sending them back to the insurance company. Letting them go was made easier by selling them to friends, knowing that they would be in good hands.

After flying over America for 6 hours, cutting the time of the settlers down from 6 months, we finally approached the Bay Area from the north. We flew over the San Rafael bridge, past Richmond and Berkeley. We flew right over Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands and the Bay Bridge. I could see downtown Oakland, Lake Merritt, and even down Fruitvale Avenue as we flew past Alameda. I was overjoyed to see my love in the airport, and to go, finally, to our new home.

One of the last things that I took down was my collection of fortune cookie fortunes. I had put many of them in the kitchen cabinets before my housewarming as conversation pieces, and there they remained. I hadn’t realized quite how many I’ve collected over the years, but one night I took them down and read over them, gleaning what wisdom I could from them;

In particular, one of them stood out;

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Posted by Ted on Jun 5, 2005 in Memories

a few years ago, I was interviewed by a guy who wanted to do a documentary on BBSes. I was one of the earlier interviewees, and so he was still working on his interviewing technique.

my first computer was an Epson QX-10. it ran on CP/M, and was primarily known for its word processing suite called ‘Valdocs’ which was really quite ahead of its time. my dad bought it, and he was one for buying things that sounded good, and maybe even were, but were not popular. I didn’t get an Atari 2600, I got a Bally Astrocade. We got a Betamax instead of a VHS, and we got an Epson QX-10 instead of an IBM PC.

at any rate, it was the mid 80s, and I had just gotten my first 1200 baud modem. yes, I am young enough that I never started with a 300. it was a Prometheus ProModem 1200. and I soon found BBSes. I dialed every one that I could find. I downloaded games, I played Tradewars, and I eventually found Diversi-Dial. I likely wouldn’t be where I am today, if it had not been for the community of friends that I acquired through it. I met my first girlfriend, Karyn, at a 5150 DDial party, held at the home of the SysOp, Brian. I would later meet John Adams (‘jna’ for those who know him as such), and through him Joe Turner, and through Joe to Steer Roast, to Wadlow, to Suspects, to Fandom House, and the rest is history.

I not only dialed BBSes, but when I later upgraded to 2400, I ran one; The Newton Underground. ya, it was a lame name, but I couldn’t come up with anything better. it was mostly a file upload/download site, specializing in those early graphics demos of terminally awake Scandinavians. I would later take advantage of the USRobotics special offer of discounting a $900 14400 HST for $400 as long as you operated a BBS.

soon after, I moved back to Cleveland, graduated high school, went to college, and got on the ‘Net. but I do remember those days of sitting by the computer, for hours, listening to the sounds of the modem dialing, getting busy signals, and redialing, jumping up in excitement when there would be a ring, followed by a tone, followed by static, followed by text moving across the screen.

so yes, the 3 DVD set of the documentary is now available, and yes, I’m on it, albeit very, very briefly. I mostly provide a bit of comedy, but I can live with that. I’ve only watched most of the first disc, but I have to say that Jason actually did a pretty good job with it, and I’m proud to have been a part of it.

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playa gifts in everyday life..

Posted by Ted on Feb 4, 2005 in Burning Man

so this was something I had started to write on Monday night.. life’s been busy lately. which is odd given how slow work has been. different priorities than LJ posting, at any rate.

so I was walking down into the Kendall T that night, and a man walking out offered me a T pass. “want a T pass? it’s for january, it’s only good for tonight.

I was stunned. how totally cool.

that is what being on the playa can be like. random friendly interactions with people you might never see again, and offering a gift. playa gifts are things we give each other to give reminders, or just to share the burden of living.

they can be ephemeral, or they can be longlasting. but in either case, they provide a memory of a time and a place. they can be a pendant one wears every day, a color cycling LED light that lasts for a few days, an omelette in exchange for some bacon, or a gin & tonic made during the heat of the day. and playa gifts exist off of the playa, like the card and match handed out at the post-yule pyre.

or apparently, an about-to-be-expired T pass.

as I sat on the train, embracing the sense of random goodwill, I put the pass in the memories pocket of my journal. then it struck me that doing so was completely against the spirit of the gift in the first place, and so I gave it to some kid as I walked out of Davis myself.

as I finally sit here on Friday, having spun fire for the first time this year tonight, I will note that burn night is a new moon this year.