Pearl Jam, 2008 – Part III 30Jun08 | 6

Alright, getting around to doing this took long enough!

New York…I enjoyed New York much more than I ever thought I would.  The drive up sorta sucks, not much you can do about that, but we took the ferry at Port Imperial over into the city, which was very easy (except for finding the ferry, I guess New Jersey can’t afford to put a sign or two up…).  I wouldn’t get into New York City any other way.  The ferry was fast, easy, cheap, tons of parking, and then has free buses which run all over Manhattan.

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Once in the city proper, we immediately walked to our hotel.  It is unmarked and blends in completely (and beautifully) with the neighborhood:

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(All pictures are available here.)

The hotel itself (Chelsea Lodge) is very nice, a little small but it has a ton of personality and was very clean and comfortable.

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Oh, and it is about $100 and in fucking Manhattan!!!  If you’d like something better than my short and obscenity laden comment, check out the reviews, the New York Times Guide nails it.  Sharing a bathroom (toilet) was not as bad as it sounds at all, as each floor has two and they are shared among perhaps five room.  The wifi wasn’t working, which was a bummer, but a local bar had free wifi (FUCK YOU STARBUCKS) so it wasn’t all bad…

Chelsea is so very nice, just south of Midtown and north of Greenwich Village.  I loved the shit out of the place, actually.  Shame the cheapest one bedroom apartment I could find with a quick search was half a million.  A nice studio apartment was running for like seven million, if I remember correctly.  The neighborhood was quiet, clean and yet still bustling.

After getting settled in, we decided to do something about not having a digital camera.  I looked through a booklet in the hotel room and found Adorama, which seemed like an excellent place to find a digital camera.  They had a very nice selection and a very helpful staff, but a fucking confusing system of tickets and stations and checkouts…ended up getting a Nikon Coolpix L18, which I like a bit.  It was cheap, and it seems a bit better (though a hair thicker) than our aging Sony DSC-T5.

On the way down to Adorama, we stopped by a nice little furniture store (West Elm) and windowshopped a bit.  Took in the sights.  It was all within three or four blocks from the hotel, which was very nice!

Back at the hotel, Surprised Kelley is surprised:

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One of the first things I do with a new digital camera is try the macro mode, which I am reasonably impressed with.  It isn’t the 1.3″ the T5 is capable of, but not too shabby:

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After trying out the new camera, we set out to explore the town a bit.  The first day in NYC was free for us, as the show wasn’t until the following night.  Well, there was a show that night, but I didn’t buy tickets for it.  Kelley wanted to see Times Square, so we walked up.  On the way we stopped at a bar for a beer or two:

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With the crush of people (and lack of restaurant/bar space due to 22,000 damn Pearl Jam fans), we quickly beat a retreat back to the much more reasonable Chelsea neighborhood.   We did get a few pictures first, however:

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You see all of those people? Now, picture that in every direction as far as the eye can see. It was like walking through a high school hallway for half an hour continuously. Got a little old pretty quick.

And how can you not take a picture of this, when you’re walking underneath?

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We ate dinner at Chipotle Mexican Grill on the way back, as it was the first place that wasn’t insanely busy.  The food was actually quite excellent for being a fast food chain owned by McDonald’s.  We were recommended Chipotle’s by a guy we bumped into buying beer in Washington, D.C., and Kelley had marked it down for experimentation as well, and it did not disappoint.  They sold beer there too.   A little expensive, but I got used to Manhattan raping my wallet pretty quick.  Apparently brgr is very good too.

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Also saw this on the way back, someone forgot to update their antivirus, wonder how much money was lost due to advertising downtime?  A guy next to me found it amusing enough to take a picture of as well…dorks, what can you do…

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We got back to Chelsea around 9ish, and relaxed for a bit before turning in like old people around 10 or 11PM.

The next day will have to follow in yet another blog post, I gotta go do something productive!

Pearl Jam, 2008 – Part II 26Jun08 | 6

Now home, zero motivation, but the memories will only get duller in time, so here goes nothing…

Forgot our digital camera after we’re on the road for about an hour, so no good pictures until New York City (until we get our ‘film developed’, how quaint)…

The drive down to Washington, D.C. was surprisingly easy.   Got a combined average of about 51.1 MPG for the entire trip, best mileage was from home to DC, worst from DC to NYC.  On the way down I drove like The Grandma, from DC to NYC I drove like a clueless meth-addicted ADHD fucktard…you know, just kept up with traffic!  Going 78 in 55 zones, flooring it to avoid getting cut off by rigs (or just some rolling roadblock in the middle of the freeway), basically aiming a flying fuck at fuel efficiency…but I digress…

The hardest part was finding a place to park (instinct was to park in front of hotel entrance but Kelley said the police would get me as the street was closed for some carnival, long story short hotel said trust my gut from now on).  It actually wouldn’t have been that bad, finding parking, but I had to piss like the proverbial race horse, and it was driving me literally insane, my brain was slowly melting.  I ended up walking to the hotel from our parking spot with my pants undone and my fly halfway down.  Mothers, hide your children!

Oh, and driving around D.C. (at least the bits we visited) was wonderful as EACH AND EVERY FUCKING STREET IS CLEARLY MARKED.  Every intersection, same sign style, same location.  As a visitor, I cannot stress how appreciated that is…

We stayed at the Hotel Harrington, an older place but not without charm.  No air conditioning (or even a fan!), but for about $100 right in downtown D.C., all of about three blocks from the fucking Verizon Center?  The room was quite small, but entirely adequate.  Clean and quite?   Fuck the air conditioning, I’ll take it!

Ate at this wonderful microbrewery a few blocks from the hotel, delicious beer and excellent food.  The District Chophouse and Brewery, very much worth a visit.  Make reservations!  We had their pizza (very thin and delicious) and tried a couple of their beers.  The wheat was especially delicious! We sat near the bar at a small table for two:

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D.C. itself was clean and nice but mostly without personality.  I’m sure it was just the neighborhood we were in, right next to the FBI headquarters in the J. Edgar Hoover building and all…

The show in D.C. was awesome.  We got our tickets at around 3PM from the Will Call (about a 10 minute wait), then after dinner got through security with just a quick ass-grab from the guy working the “line” (or lack thereof, I like getting in about 15 minutes before the first act).  Literally just short of no security at all (which I experienced in NYC, but that is a tale for a future time).  Oh the show…just fucking awesome, rocking, loud, our seats were perfect at about 8 rows up just off to the right of the stage, the entire thing was perfect (except for me + black, which I remedied by the end of the song).  Check out some shitty Verizon bullshit here until the proper bootlegs are available.  The opening band, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, was surprisingly good.  Beer was expensive, but we brought four shots with us (those little bottles, how depressingly alcoholic is that?).  I lucked out and got a rum and Wild Turkey, kelley got gin and vodka.  We were pleasantly buzzed at much reduced prices, however…

Here are some pictures.  We took a ton, but Kelley kept ignoring me when I said she needed to hold the camera higher, so most of them are of the back of the heads in front of us. Here are a couple I took:

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You can see Kelley was blasted…and who is the fuck sleeping behind us?

Went to Atlantic City for a day.  The only good things I have to say about the place is the Irish Pub is a decent place to have dinner (even with the barely-fluent-in-English Russian ‘exchange student’ waitresses), and the go carts were a blast.  87 Speedway, here I come!

The hotel room was fucking amazing for the price, but riding an elevator to the 30th floor while people continually pour in and out of it…well, I thought of a few optimization strategies during some of the longer rides…

The boardwalk itself was the same four stores repeated ad-infinitium, and the casinos themselves were depressing as hell.  I couldn’t bring myself to waste a single dollar in one.  Reminded me of the iniquity of the United States at this moment in time: the ultrarich pumping money out of the middle class, spending lavishly and opulently on a gilded front, while just out back the poor molder in their tenements, barely a dime of the torrential flood of cash making it to anything even so fundamental as clean sidewalks…

Did sit on the beach at night, watching the waves and the seagulls cavorting in the unnatural brilliance over the city (reminded me of a recurring nightmare I get sometimes, no not the Sweet Potato Man, a nightmare my brain played a strange coda to a few nights later, but I digress) and looked to the right to see two people fucking in a lifeguard house.  I’d definitely call it a quicky by any standard, but they did cuddle for a while afterward.

Next stop, New York City.  Fuck…NYC is going to need its own blog post.  Maybe later after a little unwinding and a beer…

Pearl Jam, 2008 – Part I 22Jun08 | 6

So I’ve been going to see Pearl Jam off and on since 1998 (9/11/98 5/3/03 9/28/04 10/3/05 05/27/06 and now 6/22/08 and 6/25/08).  Yes.  This year, for some reason, we decided to hit them up twice.  Once in Washington, DC and once in New York City.

So, we decided to make a road trip of it.  Stopping at Atlantic City between.  Wondering around major urban areas.  Getting lost on foot, looking for highly recommended pizza joints.

Usually I detest cities.  Something about a crush of people and unending developed land for as far as the eye can see depresses the shit out of me.  I’m going to attempt to apprecitate it this time, as we’re actually trapped in Manhatten with like 24 hours of free time…if you’re stuck in a bad situation, there is nothing to be done for it except to try to find the good.

I’ll try to find something good to say about the cities.  I’m sure to have good things to say about the concerts…

Counter-intuitive: gasoline prices 18Jun08 | 0

Being on guard for concepts in life that are counter-intuitive is an important skill to have in your arsenal.  It is very easy to believe that is something IS a certain way, and much harder to actually see the way it truly is.

I find I have this bias, this difficulty in seeing or inability to predict, often with regards to environmentalism and large corporations.  Being able to winnow out the best path or the truth from such an overwhelming amount of noise, suppression and purposeful misdirection can be nearly impossible.  Simply saying “I assume this is the truth” reduces the mental workload enormously, and served our ancestors very well for hundreds of thousands of years.

In this modern day and age, it is not serving us well at all.  For most folks in a conventional sense, we can continue to act in a way which is actively destructive with little to no regard for the future, as the truth that our small action has any real impact is completely counter-intuitive.  Personally and specifically, the idea that WalMart can have a positive impact (in some aspects) by cutting costs via preferring locally grown produce due to reduced shipping costs,  I find quite counter-intuitive.

Today, I’m going to illustrate a few things which are likely counterintuitive for most folks about the high price of gasoline.

Higher gas prices could be a positive in many different ways.  Currently of course, these prices are a terrible burden for those who can’t afford the cost, and an annoyance to those who can.  Of course everyone just wants lower gas prices for fucks sake! But what if higher gas prices actually improved our current situation in nearly every sense?

…a “price floor” for gasoline: $4 a gallon for regular unleaded, which is still half the going rate in Europe today. Washington would declare that it would never let the price fall below that level. If it does, it would increase the federal gasoline tax on a monthly basis to make up the difference between the pump price and the market price.

To ease the burden on the less well-off, “anyone earning under $80,000 a year would be compensated with a reduction in the payroll taxes,” said Verleger. Or, he suggested, the government could use the gasoline tax to buy back gas guzzlers from the public and “crush them.”

But the message going forward to every car buyer and carmaker would be this: The price of gasoline is never going back down. Therefore, if you buy a big gas guzzler today, you are locking yourself into perpetually high gasoline bills. You are buying a pig that will eat you out of house and home. At the same time, if you, a manufacturer, continue building fleets of nonhybrid gas guzzlers, you are condemning yourself, your employees and shareholders to oblivion.

What a cruel thing for a candidate to say? I disagree. Every decade we look back and say: “If only we had done the right thing then, we would be in a different position today.” (emphasis added)

Ok, so there are people who think that high gas prices are a good thing…why?  Why would they want to have a minimum price for gasoline???

How about the highest participation in mass transit in the United States since 1957?

“It’s very clear that a significant portion of the increase in transit use is directly caused by people who are looking for alternatives to paying $3.50 a gallon for gas.”

Some cities with long-established public transit systems, like New York and Boston, have seen increases in ridership of 5 percent or more so far this year. But the biggest surges — of 10 to 15 percent or more over last year — are occurring in many metropolitan areas in the South and West where the driving culture is strongest and bus and rail lines are more limited.

Another side effect is that people are beginning to actually conserve and be more thrifty in their gas purchases.

The increase in transit use coincides with other signs that American motorists are beginning to change their driving habits, including buying smaller vehicles. The Energy Department recently predicted that Americans would consume slightly less gasoline this year than last — for the first yearly decline since 1991.

That thrift is also starting to swing the purchasing choices away from the unsustainable and slowly towards more rational decisions:

In fact, after 17 years worth of being this country’s best-selling vehicle, the Ford F-150 full-size pickup (42,973) has fallen for the first time to fifth place behind the Honda Accord (43,728), Toyota Camry (51,291), Corolla (52,826) and your new best-selling vehicle in the U.S., the Honda Civic (53,299). Note to automakers: that would be the sound of the canary in your coal mine hitting the floor.

And of course (and perhaps most importantly) the reduced consumption from higher prices results in an immediate and substantial benefit to the environment:

As Dubner blogged last week, Americans logged 11 billion fewer miles on the road in March of this year than they did in March 2007. That contributed to a cut of 9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted by the U.S. in the first quarter of 2008.

Increasing mass transit usage, modifying our purchasing habits towards more appropriate choices, and reducing our carbon load on the planet?  It may be counter-intuitive, but higher gas prices could be one of the best things to happen to the United States in a long time.

Camping out of a canoe along Pine Creek… 16Jun08 | 2

When I was young, that was all of the camping I’d do.  Seemed like my parents were always taking us canoe camping somewhere, on the Susquehanna, along Pine Creek…

As I got older, I started hiking more, and for a stretch all the camping I did I hiked into.  Kelley and I went canoe camping once years ago, both had fun but the weather wasn’t the greatest, a little cold with a light drizzle most of one day, just about the opposite of idea canoe camping weather…

So I’d been kicking around the idea for a while this spring of canoe camping along Pine Creek somewhere between Waterville and Jersey Shore, and decided if we were going to pull the trigger, it had to happen quickly!  June was rapidly running out, the water only getting lower and lower, and our schedules were beginning to clog up.  So, pretty much at the last minute (ok, two or three days ahead of time), “it was decided”.

I spent a lot of time consulting this ‘totally awesome’ weather site: http://www.weather.gov/forecasts…

Weather.com gave a completely lame and unhelpful weather report that there was a 90% probability of rain pretty much all day Saturday.  Looking at the radar map, I could tell that there was simply a line of thunderstorms rolling through, they were only about an hour thick (moving quickly) and there were very isolated storms in front and behind.  What I couldn’t estimate was when they were going to hit.  The weather.gov site is awesome because it lets you scroll through the predicted weather on almost an hourly basis: I used weather.com just for the scrolling radar map anyway, it won’t be missed…

I was able to discern that it was most likely for the bad weather to hit between 2PM and 5PM, and that by 8PM the probability would be back down to almost nil.  So while I was almost certain it would rain significantly upon us at some point, we lucked out and it only sprinkled lightly for about five minutes…

I spend a bit of time pondering this site as well: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/…

This site allows you to see the data from the river gauge on Pine Creek at Cedar Run.  I’ve read that 1.8 feet (or 2.0′, depending on what you read) is the recommended reading to canoe down the canyon, so I was thinking 1.5 feet is about the minimum river depth you’d want to go from Hamilton Bottom (we actually got in at Waterville) to Torbert Access (we actually got out just south of that of course).  We went at about 1.3 feet, and it was just barely not enough water.  We had to walk a couple sections (not very long at any one clip, but enough to be mildly annoying).  The cubic feet of flow median is around 300 feet per second for this time of year, but now is about half that at 150 feet per second.  Most years, this would be a perfect time to go…

The Waterville canoe access is a little strange.  You have to swing a right just before the Waterville Hotel, and then continue back past the church to this abandoned looking house.  There is a sign and a single lane track which states the access is basically through this crazy guys yard, and while he obviously does not give a fuck about how bad the place looks, you are to respect his private property more than he does.  He snagged three beers off of me and had two of them gone in about a two minute period.  If you have a lot of gear, expect it to take a while to hike all of your equipment from the road through the guys yard, and down to the water.  I think it took the four of us five or ten minutes and we had a pile of stuff!  In the future I’ll probably just get in at Hamilton Bottom instead.

So for anyone boating or floating on the creek in canoes or inner-tubes, I’d recommend first visiting the USGS website for the flow graph, and if the flow is below 1.5 feet pick another time!  It really is more enjoyable when navigation isn’t a struggle.

I created two maps, one for boating and camping the northern stretch of Pine Creek (south of Blackwell), and one for boating and camping the lower stretch (south of Waterville).  You can canoe camp the gorge at Tiadaghton, but I imagine it is pretty busy up there, much more heavily traveled.

This is a good resource as well: this document notes each of the canoe access points, flow information and a pile of other Pine Creek centric information, useful if you’re planning any trip.

Our friends who came with us had very little (practically zero) experience in a canoe, and I was amazed at how well they did.  The creek is actually much more challenging with the low levels, as navigating rocks that will Fuck You Up is required in almost every set of riffles.  Rocks that you’d normally would just scrape over instead would stop you dead or hang you up hard enough to get the boat spun around (I had to jump out in a hurry to grab hold of the boat more than once).  Reading the creek was also very hard with the low flow, it is almost impossible to tell a small and harmless wave from a stone that only has an inch of water over top of it!

The camping proper was very fun as usual, cooked up hot dogs and hamburgers, played cards by the light of a propane lantern and an oil hurricane lantern, and drank until all the alcohol was gone in the wee hours of the morning…

Over mocking protests from Kelley, I bought Egg Beaters and a small pack of bacon, and we had bacon, egg and grease sandwiches for breakfast.  The Egg Beaters are so fucking convenient compared to whole eggs, well, I can’t imagine ever doing anything else in the future!

There were a surprising number of people on the creek both days.  A ton of people in inner-tubes (bouncing their asses on rocks the whole way I bet) and a number of folks in those small fake plastic kayaks (a much more appropriate vehicle considering the water level).   We camped at Bonnell Flats, and there were a ton of people on the Rails to Trails as well.  It is a bit more comfortable than my preferred primitive campsite further upstream but they have a well and bathrooms at Bonnell Flats, so our neophyte friends have been eased into canoe camping.  Pooping in the woods will have to be a treat they experience at some future date…

Once about 8PM rolled around, we had the place to ourselves though.  Except for Brenda…oh, poor Brenda…

Next time I believe we’ll try somewhere further north, as the five or six miles of boating per day went by way too fast.  Perhaps put in at Blackwell, camp at Black Walnut Bottom (on the west side), and then take out at Camal…that would be a nice long trip!  A lot more remote and isolated further north as well: don’t get me fucking started on those god damn motorcycles and their completely absurd noise level!