Blog, Come on, Fisher!, Nostalgia

Grass Fed

Driving down Sopris Creek Road, I found myself suddenly surrounded by the past. A herd of cattle, six cowboys, three Australian Sheppards, and an 80-year-old man on a six wheeler – moving the cows down valley.

Bill says, “This really is the last of the Old West. In 20 years, there won’t be such thing as real cowboys, just a bunch of nancies dancing the two-step at a country western concert.” Bill’s from Georgia and has a thick southern/western/somethin’ accent. He’s a cowboy today but, for lack of a better phrase, he’s worn a lot of hats. He’s been a rock climbing junkie, a fly fishing guide, a corporate monkey suit, an entrepreneur – he’s done it all. But Jeanie asked him about 10 years ago what he wanted to be when he was 12. He said a cowboy so that’s the hat today. Though he really doesn’t waste his time with bullshit Stetson’s and usually sports an Orvis Guide ball cap.

The last of the Old West drives their grass fed cattle from the upper part of Sopris Creek down the valley using the now-paved road as their guide. My 2001 Tacoma stood steady in the middle of the herd, while they stuck their noses in my open window and mooed as the dogs nipped their heals.

I took in the view, knowing full well this was something I’d tell my disbelieving grandchildren about someday. “There was a time when cows actually roamed the hillsides and ate the grass for food. Cowboys, like real cowboys with hats, and spurs and horses, would move them from field to field until they were full and fat and ready to eat.” The kids’ mouths would drop in disbelief. Cows probably don’t even exist at this point, except for in storybooks and paintings in museums. Now they are genetically engineered in plastic bags, equal parts protein and nutrients with zero fat. If we’re even eating animals at that point at all. We may just be getting our daily “food” out of an IV.

“And before that, there were buffalo, deer and elk, coyotes, foxes, and mountain lions that roamed these parts, completely on their own. Free.” My grandchildren will stare blankly at the use of the word “free”. To them, nothing is free because everything is just given, allotted, doled out, expected.

Bill says he likes to move the cattle every year because he knows those days are almost over. It makes me remember the days when I was a kiddo and helped move the Bar MJ’s herd with Texaco, the gentle quarter horse that lived to be 35.

I can’t help but what the future fake meat will taste like. And I’m sad to know that I am likely the last generation to ever have ever truly known a cowboy.

Blog, Come on, Fisher!

Left Handed Lay Ups

Looking back on myself at age 15, I try to remember who I was back then. I remember feeling like an introvert stuck in an extroverts body. I remember being tired all the time. Basketball, tennis, social activities, and school. I was constantly busy. I was constantly trying to win at something, to be the best. Trying to get good grades, trying to be the best point guard, trying to be the best tennis player.

My freshman year of high school, I thought I was pretty hot shit. I was the starting point guard for the JV team because the varsity coach wanted to give me play time on the court. And I was really good. I used to steal the ball and run it in for lay ups. That was my signature move. The only problem was, once I got to the other end of the court, completely uncontested, I’d usually miss the lay up. Especially left handed lay ups. So in order to move up to varsity, I had to practice those damn left handed layups until my muscles knew exactly what to do and my brain could stay out of it.

I got so good at left handed layups, that even to this day, I can do it with my eyes closed. But in all that practice and focus, I neglected the right hand. Even though that’s my primary hand! And I am so uncomfortable shooting layups on my right, I miss them all the time.

Lay ups where kind of the beginning and end of my basketball career. I was really good at making them available to me, so you an imagine the disappointment, when I’d make some incredible steal, baffling my opponent, only to get down the court and miss.

I was also a head case when it came to tennis. I would come up really strong, but those forehands of mine where unwieldy and ended up in the net more times than they didn’t. When they did go over, they were a thing of beauty. An over-exaggerated western grip that took a wind up of the kings, then bam. The ball couldn’t handle all that spin and it would go straight into the damn net. So I fought at tennis and even won a doubles championship my freshman year. But when it came to singles, being on my own on the court, going up against competitors that actually knew how to rally, I usually fell apart at the end. The bad thoughts in my mind would eat away at me, they would tear me down. And even the most unrefined competitors would beat me in the last moments.

Looking back, I was probably better than 90% of other girls my age at not one, but two sports. Sure. If you look at it like that, I was an exceptional athlete. But I was unfocused and held down by my own negativity and insecurities. I never made it, at really anything. I never hit that pinnacle you see in the movies where the underdog comes in for a big win. I never felt that glory of ‘holy shit I did this!’ I always came up short. I was always one or two steps away from the goal. I was always losing to someone who was just slightly better than me.

I rode the bench my sophomore and junior years of basketball, watching one of the best point guards run the show. She owned the original finger roll layup. She was my white, lady Steph Curry. She was awesome to watch and went on to play in college. I was her guard in practice all the way until my day on the court, my senior year, when I was the starting point guard. And I was damn good at left handed lay ups.

Blog, Come on, Fisher!

The Alicante Aquarium

By the end of April, after traveling every weekend, my CEA friends and I had seen twelve cities in the southern half of Spain, three countries and a barrio in Granada inhabited by mountain dwellers. By the end of my study abroad term, I had been to the Prado art museum in Madrid four times, the Louvre in Paris twice, the Cathedral of Sevilla for Sunday mass, looked down from the top of the cupola at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Italy, and seen Christopher Columbus’ tomb.

Each week was similar to the last. At school Tuesday, we would talk about where we had been. Wednesday we would talk about where we wanted to go. By Thursday, we would have plans and Friday morning we met at the Plaza de Cuba, bocadillo (Spanish baguette) in hand, ready for our next adventure. This week was just like all the others and the destination was Alicante, a beach town just south of Valencia.

Of all the places we had gone and all of the things we had seen, the end of April was nearing and we had yet to just go to the beach. The Spanish Riviera, the most exotic and luxurious spot on the peninsula. We weren’t expecting much historical value or days filled with site seeing. All we knew about Alicante was that there was a lighthouse that was on the cover of Lonely Planet Spain. But more importantly, we knew there was a beach and a nightlife that didn’t begin until 4 a.m. That weekend four girls that I had known for four months packed into a mini two-door rent-a-car with only our bikinis, towels and cameras for the ultimate weekend getaway at the Mediterranean coast. However, our dreams of sun were questioned once we passed through Granada, the half way point. The mountains were covered with snow all the way to the highway. Snow… in May… in Spain? Spain was supposed to be tropical. This trip was supposed to be a trip to the beach. The snow didn’t faze us and we charged on, all four more hours to Alicante.

Jackhammers greeted us in the morning of our 10 euro hostel room. It was fully equipped with five beds lined along the wall, a missing shower head and a couple of four-legged friends in the closet. The sheets had holes and the cots had springs coming through the mattresses. When we woke, cot to cot, we simultaneously began to hum “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” But something else was in the midst of the prison cell and construction site across the alley; it was rain.

It rained for three days straight. During our spring break getaway to the Spanish Riviera, we never stepped foot on the beach. Marie woke up covered with our jackets one morning because her bed had no blankets.

The next day, after 20 years of the same straight blond locks, she finally decided to cut her hair, eight inches. Kat found out that her absentee election for president of her University, which she had presided over for three years, was lost to her Vice-President. When she turned from the phone and her devastating news, she realized that she found four new friends to lean on. Lexi found a fly in her salsa. Instead of a free dinner, the Italian waiter who spoke neither Spanish nor English, gave us a bottle of tequila, Mexican birthday hats and red carnations on our way out.

Molly was determined to make our trip worth while. She led us around the city for more than two hours in the pouring rain in search of the notable (so said Lonely Planet) Alicante Aquarium. It promised to be bigger than the Monterey Bay Aquarium, more diverse than San Diego and out of the rain. Our excitement, however, for Mediterranean fish was squashed when instead we found a three-foot tall fish tank outside in the middle of a plaza that contained one species of fish – gold fish.

And I, I left for Alicante thinking I had seen almost everything. Cathedrals were all starting to look the same and Renaissance Art was becoming the same old bible story. I left yearning to turn off my brain and bask in the sun. But I returned to Sevilla with the most important lesson of all. Sometimes you lose elections, salsa attracts flies, and there aren’t enough blankets. Sometimes Aquariums are only fish tanks. Sometimes it rains on luxurious Mediterranean beach vacations. Sometimes studying abroad can be unpredictable. But always, always experiences are defined by the way you chose to describe them. And the people you are with are the words.

Blog, Come on, Fisher!, My Thoughts on You

Let’s Stop Perpetuating this Culture of Gluttony

I went out with the girls the other night and towards the end what seemed like a speed dating extravaganza, it became very apparent to all of us. All anyone cared about asking was what we did for a living. Not what do you do in your spare time? What kind of music do you listen to? What are you reading? How do you guys know each other? Nothing that might actually peer into the essence of who we were as individuals. It was as if our professions were the end-all measurement of our being. Yikes.

It made me think about when I lived in Europe, with my senora, Concha. She woke up and went to work every morning and got home at about 2pm (in time for siesta), then went out with her friends and family, drank wine, socialized, shopped for the rest of her glorious day. Always back in time to make us dinner at 10 pm. I lived in her house for 6 months and never knew what exactly she did. Her life was defined by a totally different description. It didn’t matter how big her home was, or how much money she made. When I asked her once about her job, she just smiled and said she made money working for the government. She was the happiest woman I had ever met.

My dad (Mr. Corporate America) used to say that Europeans were lazy. No one ever works! And that, in a sense, is probably true. But maybe that’s just it. Maybe they got it right. We Americans are bred to believe that the only thing that defines us is our job. You are a lawyer. You are a Doctor. It’s not you are an outgoing athletic girl, who does marketing to make ends meet. We are bred to define every aspect of ourselves by how much shit we have. How big our houses are. How big our wedding rings are. And we are bred to be divorced, obese and chronically unhappy.

Today, we Americans pay at least 45% of our earnings away in taxes when you include sales tax, social security (which we’ll never see), income, etc. etc. We are working to support a system that supports everyone else. In socialist countries, like Spain, they are at least up front about it. But in Spain, people also get a mandatory month off in August. Six hour work days. A country-wide nap time. They never bring their work home with them. In fact, they never even talk about work. They are defined by their family name, not their profession.

But I couldn’t live in Spain. And I’m also not a socialist. I certainly don’t want to support lazy bottom feeders, people that refuse to take care of themselves, people who have 18 kids on welfare, and I don’t want to continue to support everyone’s unwillingness to change. I’m an American and I want to support myself.

It isn’t just the workforce that this culture of excess seeps into, either. It’s in every aspect of your lives. Marriage: people do everything they do in the dating world to eventually get married (and support the commercial wedding industry). And society feeds off of it. Once you’re married, you get a tax break and shared health care benefits, not to mention all the crap you get from your wedding. If you never get married or have kids, you get nothing but the label of sad and single. Self employment: so you work to break the mold and work for yourself. Welcome to insanely poor health care benefits unless you pay $300 a month, 15% in Social Security taxes, zero tax breaks, audit city, no paid vacation, and near impossibility to save a dime. Vacation: so you do work a steady job and you get a finite number of vacation days. You are forced to take them by a certain time or all that hard earned time off goes to the waste side. But it looks bad if you take those days at too much consistency or all at once. So are you truly encouraged to take time off or is it just another ploy to keep you working far over what you’re paid?

Retirement. That is the American dream. And it’s not because of all the shit you can buy. It’s because deep down, everyone’s ultimate goal is to not work. Even if you happily conform to the system for your entire life, you are only doing it to finally be able to have your time to yourself. And then you have the media saying over and over; Life is short. If life is so short, why do you have to spend 40 working years to obtain your dream? It seems like such a waste of your good time. We should retire first and then work when we’re old.

In this economy, change and restructuring are the two hottest things on the market. But are we really changing or just looking for new ways to facilitate our old habits? What if we truly did change, and found new ways to live comfortably without excess? Balance work and life. Stop conforming to what everyone else wants. Stop getting married so fricking young and buying ridiculous rings you can’t afford? Stop buying crap you don’t need and start going on more vacations. Right now we’re on a country-wide diet. But the key to any diet is sustainability.

Blog, Come on, Fisher!, My Thoughts on You, Uncategorized

Intentional Forward Motion

All of the sudden, as I was driving home from my very adult job, listening to KBCO which is a very adult station, I had this moment of “holy shit, I’m an adult.” It wasn’t brought on by any big decisions or life changing events. It was just, I think, a moment of “Oh crap, when did that happen?” Like when your kid is all the sudden taller than you. It was in that moment that I became accountable for every single thing that I do. I can no longer make flippant decisions because they now directly affect my bottom line. And when did I start saying things like that? My wealth, happiness, belongings, all of it are my own. My parents are now consultants, not bosses. I think they call all of this a quarter life crisis? Whatever it is, I dubbed that day as the start of “intentional forward motion.”

Since I’m not really sure how to intentionally move forward just yet, I thought I’d take a literal approach and pick up running. Today, I hit a plateau, which certainly wasn’t intentional. I didn’t even realize it until I got back to the park and saw the clock above Ink! that I realized I had been running for more than an hour. By far the longest I have gone to date. And then I just wanted to keep on going. Something about the music on my iPod, and the smell of dirty diapers as I passed the trash cans that line Confluence Park, and the perfect almost fall air; it just felt so good. Docs tongue was practically touching the ground at this point, shaped like a full blown ping pong paddle. It was so nice and judgment free. It was just me and my dog. Silent for as long as I wanted. No distractions of beautiful mountain landscapes, other annoying bikers riding faster than me. No spandex shorts, no clif bars, no camel packs. Nothing but me, my aching knees and Docs paddle tongue.

It was nice. One might even say, addicting. I’ve heard about this – runners high I think they call it. They said watch out. They all said that. Oops.

This weekend I mountain biked in Salida. It was amazing, but I was also amazed at how much easier it felt given I’m probably in pretty good shape right about now. I hit that plateau often from biking, where I feel like I could bike all day. It doesn’t always happen, but every once in awhile, when I have just the right amount of energy and the temperature is just right, it happens to me and I could probably ride 25 miles. Is it possible that I can get that same satisfaction out of something I very openly disdain? (If you know me at all, you know that running has always been on my list of never gonna happens.)

So it all got me thinking. If all of this world is what I make of it, it only seems right that running could be a great fit into the balance. Or it could be just another huge distraction keeping me from my grandiose “bottom line” goals. Or it could be the next best thing, since it prompted me to come straight home and write this blog. Which at the end of the day — all of my forward intentions — end up here. With you. My blank WordPress, judgment free, canvas.