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.


Hey Grandpa, how’d you know?

Taos Ski Valley is known as an old-school, die-hard skiers’ mountain, tailored to family and friends that just love to ski. On Christmas Eve it is known for the Torch Light Parade down Snakedance and on New Years for the fireworks that light up the valley. But mostly, Taos is known for its family traditions that have remained unchanged for more than 50 years.

The beauty of tradition is that while places may evolve, just as many people grow out of them as into them, keeping their essence pulsating with life. The Taos I knew is in a double A-Frame cabin that was built the summer of 1961 by my visionary grandfather, James T. McGuckin. On a whim, he and my grandmother, Gay, visited the ski valley for the New Year. They were so taken by the “epic” skiing and the lively but cozy atmosphere, that two months later my grandfather rented a 1-acre parcel for $5,000. That summer, he built the two-story pine wood cabin modeled after a photo in Ski Magazine that was featuring new-age mountain homes.

During his many trips from his home in Albuquerque to Taos that spring, my grandfather developed a close friendship with Ernie Blake, founder of TSV. That Christmas, Ernie asked him to join five other homeowners on the Taos Board of Directors – and for the McGuckin’s to join the Blake’s for Christmas dinner.

The Blake’s have eaten Christmas turkey with us every year since. Now, after our 56th year, the two families spread over four generations, Taos has grown from a single Poma lift up Al’s Run to 12 quads, and Ernie is gone; but against all odds, the cabin hasn’t changed a bit.

The cabin smells like Christmas, even in March, decorated year-round with mistletoe and Nutcrackers, and I can still see myself as a little girl sitting in the chair next to the fire playing Mario Brothers on my game-boy. The air was always filled with the endless pinball chatter of the five McGuckin women, which, has become a forewarning for any man who has ever attempted to enter the clan. Only two were successful and both broke one of my grandfather’s ribs by colliding on the slopes with him on separate occasions.

Now, at 28 and having since replaced the game-boy with a Kindle, I’ve found my seat at the “big-kids table” with my mom, my sister, Emily, her husband Chris, my three aunts and my grandmother, drinking wine and reminiscing.

Reminiscing about the time my grandfather was run off the catwalk by an out of control skier, breaking his leg at the beginning of an epic powder day. When everyone else returned home at the end of the day, he sat with a cast and a bourbon in silence. On the door he had placed a sign:  “Anyone who enters and speaks, mumbles, whispers about the conditions today DIES-DEAD. Signed, the disgruntled bastard.” The sign is still there, framed with an X-Ray of his leg.

Or the times when Emily and I were little and the ski patrol managed to put on Santa and elf suits and come by the house singing carols on Christmas Eve. I realize now that it was in exchange for a bottle of Whiskey.

Or when my aunt Amy lost her new pearl earring and initiated a full-cabin search party. Three days later, she developed a terrible ear-ache. With tweezers and a flashlight, my grandpa miraculously fixed her ear by simultaneously finding the earring.

My Taos isn’t about rope-drop fresh tracks, but my childhood and that of my future children. My Taos is about reading a “short” story that I wrote called Rudy Reindeer to everyone on Christmas Eve for an hour and a half, on film, and having all 13 people listen contently. It’s about the occasional find of 1960’s canned goods in the pantry or the original Barbie doll in the cupboards, half eaten by mice.

It’s about my dad and I singing Silent Night out of key and two-stepping to South by Southwest at the Saint Bernard. It’s about my mom’s green chili grits on Christmas morning and my grandmother’s green-chili stew for after skiing. It’s about Emily’s excitement to decorate the tree and telling me every year, “It’s my turn; you got to put the angel on last year.” It’s about my mom consoling me when Emily told me that Santa was just the ski patrol.

My Taos exists because a man somehow knew 56 years ago that of all places, Taos would never sell out.

I thought that like most traditions, ours began by luck and then eventually habit. I always thought that my grandfather accidentally fell into investing in Taos Ski Valley, that he had just stumbled on it and out of impulse, bought.

But, when I asked him if he knew what he was doing when he built that Double-A Frame cabin, he smiled contently and looked at me through his 83-year-old, always calculating, still vibrant brown eyes — and he said yes.

Blog, My Thoughts on You

Can’t stay like this forever, kid.

Gradually the distance between your person and your childhood grows apart. You start thinking about what your parents think less. You’re beliefs start to mold to your situation more. The time you find for church is really based on your own time. The time you find for anything – is based on your own time. And your money is your own, the responsibility of your wealth becomes your own.

While we, some of us, maintain the knowledge that if it all fell through you could always go home to mommy, you don’t. Because you psychologically can’t anymore. You’re self worth depends on coming out of hardships on your own dime. Or you do, and you revert back to a childlike state indefinitely, until you can once again muster up the courage to leave home and break the inertia.  Inertia you never had to break to begin with because it was just written. You went away to college because that’s what you do. Or because that’s what you did.

But as time passes, and your bad decisions become your own burden, childhood’s distant memory either becomes a source of inspiration or it becomes a truly distant memory that you only revisit in a dream-like state or when you are around others that remind you.

Things that remind you of childhood like your dog, your house, your friends, your pictures or t-shirts, trophies, notes, letters. But even then, all that stuff is not really representative of what you were like as a kid.

All at once, childhood seems to disintegrate with time. Sometimes this decomposition happens due to your own changing perception or mentally you block out memories. Or it happens because you change. It can’t stay like this forever. But in your 20s, all you know is what it was. And it’s hard to imagine being any older than you already are now. Like in your 40s or your parents age.


I feel like your entire being relies on what memories you choose to hold on to from your past. Which of those matter now and which won’t ever matter again.

Interestingly for me, the ones I thought would be the most significant memories never have affected my being and the most minimal have become stories I remember and repeat to anyone of value.

When my parents decided to sell the house I grew up in, I had to return home to decipher which of my childhood’s most precious belongings got to continue along in my adulthood. I had to go through and pick out the memories I thought were the most significant and throw the rest away. Maybe not throw, but certainly dispose of the physical evidence. And then what happens, when the evidence disintegrates with time? Do you ever find subtle reminders of times of yore? Or does that memory truly die with that Friday’s trash pickup?

Because certain things that live in my time-capsule room of my childhood are only subtle reminders of my most innocent and favorable memories. But there is no room for them in my adult life, in my small adult apartment on Little Raven Street.

There’s no room in my dresser drawers for my first pair of soccer shorts – Umbros — that were slightly too short, which I wore on my first soccer team that was made up of all boys. One of the boys saw my underwear one day and from then on I was dubbed “Claire bear star underwear”.

There’s no room in my current life for endless t-shirts of soccer, basketball, softball team jersey’s from high school.  Or decorated socks from home games and shrines to Scott Bradley from 7th grade.

There’s nowhere to put my endless amounts of trophies from swim team at Westwood Country Club in Vienna, Virginia. Or a place for Kevin Chakin’s photo I kept from swim team pictures circa 1996. Or what about the little sheets of pink paper that told you where you were in line in swim team for the races. For good luck, we would tear off a corner and put it in our suits for the race. To those races I won, I still have those pink corners.

I’m not sure where I’m going to put those beanie babies that Scott gave me, or the endless amounts of dried flowers I kept from my endless amounts of boyfriends. Prom, homecoming, Valentines Day, birthdays, Christmas. It didn’t matter – I always had a guy at every holiday corner. It was my thing. And each one was special. So special that I kept every single rose I was ever given.

I was never given a rose Brian Fischer though. His memory will forever be burned in the pages of my leather diary aging from 6th-9th grade.

And what about my diaries. My books. My notes. Everything I’ve ever written. My pen never turned to gold. And those wistful wishes of becoming a coveted writer, where my childhood brilliance would be forever archived in a museum – those wishes are but distant memories now. So who will ever want to read that stuff now? My children? My grandchildren? What if I die before I ever even have kids? Then all the stuff will sit in a trunk that doesn’t exist, like some sad old ladies memories that turned out to never be important to anyone else buy her.

But if you throw them away, they are gone to the wind.

Does our stuff make us who we are? If my house burned down and I never had the luxury of deciphering the worth of my valuables, would I be a different human? Would my memories completely fade with time and only date back 5-10 years? Would I still have dreams of frolicking in the field with Sean Settle as kids, making up stories about hunting mad-men that would snatch you if you went past the line of the meadows?

If I died and my house burned down, would my soul then disintegrate with the ashes?

I always felt as a kid that my only value was in the pages of my journals. My journals that I declared independence, faith, values, morals – all of which I never kept once faced with actually having to choose my alignment. My journals declaring my deep passionate love for whoever, or my deep gushing sadness about whatever. If a fire were to come and take back my belongings – take them all, I’d say: But spare my journals which I never cared quite enough about to actually place in a safe or fire proof box – though the thought had crossed my mind on more than one occasion.

But there is no fire. Only change. My parents moving on with their lives. Molly, my childhood dog passing away because she didn’t have the energy to move on to a new set of memories. Change of beginning the adult portion of my being, where success and time are only defined by what I physically make of them and never more. Change affecting all portions of my being, and already displacing portions of my physicality.

So what, with change. It’s the purging of your soul. Catharsis from your used to be. Distance between your reality and your unrealized plans. Change is where you get to silo off that which made you who you are and that which almost did.

Blog, My Thoughts on You

Battle Cry for the Gen Y

My dad’s very corporate company spends lots of money doing research about why people my age think the way we do. So I’d like to save everyone a little time and give you all a screen shot of the inner-thinking’s of my generation. Our lives are easy, full of convenience and entertainment. We’ve always had everything. There was no famine, no war, no depression. Even the depression/recession hasn’t really affected us because we don’t own anything. Mostly though, it’s because we are the computer generation — in fact the recession has made us worth more because it made the Internet the center of the universe, and who knows it better?

With our lives of convenience comes the need for mobility. So, naturally, since our laptops can go anywhere, we wonder why we can’t go anywhere, too. Doesn’t really make sense to have global WiFi if you’re not gonna use it, now does it? You don’t even really need a laptop anyway. You just need a computer, any computer, anywhere because there’s this cool thing called internet applications. What that means is that software doesn’t exist anymore. Only applications – Internet-based apps that perform all the same tasks as software, but from anywhere. Are you scared yet?

What about the value of face-to-face time? Well sure, that’s important depending on what you do. But you can get face-to-face time in for, like, two hours a week and the rest can really be done elsewhere.

Don’t you think the work days should be shorter then? Now that you can be as productive, if not more, in a fraction of the time? Instead of decreasing work days, there is actually more work, which is fundamentally why we Gen Y’ers feel like we’re worth more. Because let’s face it, we’re doing 10 times as much as you used to do when you had to calculate everything by hand and there was no spell check. Or when making a creative comp meant literally taking your own photos in a shoot, and piecing it all together in a final product that may never go further than your office.

So while you may think we’re all rebellious, greedy and lazy, we’re here doing your work 10 times faster and better and we’re getting paid, like, nothing to do it because we don’t need as much shit in our lives to be fulfilled. And because some assholes in Washington are telling us that we’re fortunate just to have a job. Creating fear in the job market, so that they don’t lose their jobs to some MBA Gen Y’er who will take half their salary.

Fear is a good way to keep control, but it won’t last. Because another thing you should know about us is that we aren’t scared of anything. Anything. We like to play, we like to drink, we like to come to work hungover and we can still do your job better than you.

Now all hope isn’t lost for the retiring baby boomers and their younger siblings. I’m just letting you into the mind of Y, or “i”, I suppose. We’re cool people, too, you know. We just don’t want to live our lives by the same standards as you during your over-inflated consumerism, 80s Wall Street, all-work/no-play days. We think your outfits looked stupid back then, and those thin ties made your heads look small.

I should take this time to also mention that high schoolers wearing emo-thin jeans are NOT part of the generation I’m explaining here. Gen Y is mid-20 to early 30 somethings, working professionals with college degrees and vivid memories of the following: Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky, OJ Simpson, John Benee Ramsey, black Michael Jackson. Not those snot-nosed kids who grew up playing World of Warcraft instead of capture the flag. We passed notes, not “sexts”. We played team sports and had to do thousands of extra curricular activities to get into college. We did not grow up obese and over-prescribed. We were just kids that had Silent Sustained Reading time, the Oregon Trail, 3 1/2-inch Floppies, casette tapes, Green Day, flannel shirts, Molly Ringwald, Pop-Up Video, sagging shorts and Adidas.

I’m not saying we’re all that or anything. All I’m saying is that we’re going to run this shit pretty soon. And when we do, we’re not having casual Fridays, we’re having Powder-day Fridays. We’re not working 9-5 and we’re burning all the cubicles. Our computers are not going to be the place where “collaboration” takes place, because get serious, a computer is a stifling, mind-sucking device. We’re going to be out in the world, exploring, collaborating on our iPhones in the middle of the jungle. And we’re still going to be productive. Don’t you get it? We don’t want your stinky throne; we don’t like to sit down.

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.