Friday, February 10, 2017

Best of 2016

Year after year, I extend the deadline later and later to compose this post. I have gone from writing this in December with great eagerness, to reluctantly typing this in mid January, under the influence of cold medicine and The National. Scratch that... it's now February and my influences are again cold medicine + the tunes of Ezra Bell.

Maybe its just that 2016 was such a good year, a year of no normal days, that it's quite hard to grasp how much happened, how many places I visited and how many memories transpired?

I have oftentimes used this post as a means of introspection. How did the past year go, what lessons and mistakes and joys did I learn, and what changes do I want to make in the year ahead? But as it is February, and my mind is incapable of providing the the answers... I'll just shrug instead.

So with that lame attempt at an introduction, here are my favorite photos of 2016. Special thanks to Hannah for helping me narrow down 8000 photos to 183 photos to just 32. Re: the photography, I guess I like landscapes and the back of people's heads.


Best of 2015            Best of 2014            Best of 2013           
Best of 2012            Best of 2011            Best of 2010           

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Yosemite in a Day

It's not my first time to do Yosemite in a day. It's not common, and just because people are often confused/impressed/whatever, it's also not wrong. It's not misguided to wake up around four or five in the morning, to load up your car and start driving north east. Instead, you feel very, very right as stretches of orchards replace the cityscape, and then rolling hills with grazing cattle replace the planted rows of trees, and then tall, tall pines that form a thick wall of forestry welcome you in the Stanislaus National Forest right before you reach the gates of Yosemite National Park.

Rolling past the admissions booth around eight or nine am, you can't help but smile. As you drive toward the valley, holding your breath through the tunnels, and losing it all over again as you behold Half Dome or the sun lighting the river that snakes through the valley, you know you've won big. Stop by the natural spring and collect some fresh water just as if you were passing "Go." Then drive through the valley framed by giants — El Capital, Cathedral Rocks, Sentinel Rock — and behold majesty.

For Thanksgiving, Morgan and I stayed in California. We did the Black Friday thing, we went to our respective Friendsgiving celebrations and then we got the heck out of town. The woods were waiting. We raced there and then began to climb the Mist Trail. We raced time and the coming snow. We skipped lunch and marveled at waterfalls instead. We kept an eye on the newly forming ice, we took a long, long detour, we shed layers and just as quickly, we put them back on. We finally ate an early dinner and then exited the park to the holiday tunes of James Brown, all whilst the snow began to fall and stick to the ground.

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Sunday, November 20, 2016

New York at 25

One of the best books I read in 2016 was Just Kids by Patti Smith. It made me nostalgic for New York of old, and romanticized the life I could have in New York now. It convinced me that I should leave San Francisco and go be young and seemingly free in this famed city.

I decided this work trip was going to be a definitive moment symbolized by the purchase of a rad leather jacket. Patti would approve, of course. I was going to find a leather bomber, I was going to attend jazz clubs and drink cocktails at bars alone, even eat alone. I was freshly 25 and was doing New York solo. But I learned that I'm not so brave, and I'm not a rock and roll poet, and I don't like doing things alone.

I arrived in the rain and didn't like the New York I met. Patti had me fall in love with her version—even though there were drugs and poverty and hunger and uncertainty. Suffering only rain, I felt the romantic haze washed away. This wasn't the New York of the late '60s.

Still, the sun came out and I found my jazz clubs, my friends recently moved to Brooklyn, new spots to star in the West Village and East, old friends from college and I found myself having my first New York all-nighter. I found Crawford near Chelsea and we explored the Whitney, and all these names go well together. No leather jacket though. No rock and roll dreams or poetry... at least, this trip. I wasn't ready for the move to New York, and I'm still not quite there. Maybe I never will be. But San Francisco is mighty fine, and these little work trips are just enough.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

You Can't Camp Here: Big Sur

If you can get away with it once, twice... why not go for it again? Especially a second weekend in a row.

The unfair thing about camping is the necessity of planning. WHY. It's already enough of commitment to have the gear—sleeping bags, tent, headlamps, camp stove, camp pots, food of course, cans of Tecate, emergency Clif Bars and extra layers of clothing—and then you also have to worry about booking a campsite days, weeks and sometimes months in advance.

It can be more complicated to return to nature, to sleep on the ground, than to just rent a hotel room. You might be reading this and nodding your head and saying, "Duh, Vic." I'm doing the same thing, but also in my naïveté, I romanticized camping (and still do) and I think it should be simple, that it is simple. I can be wrong about this.

Anyways, after the high of last weekend's camping trip, a group of us decided to trek down to Big Sur. Yipee! "Where will we stay? What will we do? What's there to see?" I took the reins on this one, but I think my friends are learning how much I love not having a plan. Things will work themselves out, and they always seem to do so.

Big Sur! We left the city around mid-morning and made several stops along the way. Chick-fil-a? Check. REI (because caravan members realized they were going to FREEZE in Big Sur and that we collectively had no food)? Check. Bixby Bridge for photo op? Check, McWay Falls to catch the sunset? Check.

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After our last stop, we raced along the winding Highway 1, searching for our campsite. It's technically not a legal spot. After an hour or more, my fellow passengers grew less certain of their trust in me. Turn after turn, I grew less certain of my recollection of the place. Had we passed it? Where was the pull-off with the "No Trespassing" sign? I kept our landmark a secret until finally, I shouted upon seeing it.

They all asked if I knew about the "No Trespassing" sign. Of course! This is the spot. Best little campsite around. I led them through the high brush and into a grove of trees. I mumbled a warning about poison oak, but eh... we were in to deep to worry them now. We reached a clearly within the trees and I declared it as our campsite. Interestingly enough, some sort of predator had been here first... probably a coyote or wild dog, and there was a few deer bones... but no matter! It's a great camp spot! I was slowly regaining the trust of my friends.

IMG_5363 With the yellow four-person set up, we sat down to prepare a balanced camp meal of freeze-dried chicken fried rice. We poured wine from a box and we began a simple question-based conversation, the kind that helps four loosely connected people get to better know one another. The questions got more serious too, turning to family and the difficulties of living in the city and plans for the future. All in all, it was a good conversation.

Tucking in to sleep, the trees kept us cozy + protected from the coastal breeze. A good night on the ground. As with most all camping trips, we woke with the sun. We explored the copse of trees until we found the cliffs overlooking the beach and from there, we watch the sun rise, the waves roll in and we meditated on an unplanned camping trip that worked itself out.

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