Tuesday, December 23, 2008

NFL: No Snow Angels Allowed

After a tough touchdown reception in Sunday's blizzard conditions in Foxboro, New England Patriots Pro-Bowl receiver Wes Welker did what anyone playing football in a snowstorm would do: he made a snow angel. 70,000 approving fans in the stands threw thousands of snowballs in a show of support.

The NFL officials at Sunday's game, however, didn't approve. They awarded the year's first snow angel penalty: 15 yards for "Demonstration." Officially, a player isn't allowed to drop to the ground in celebration as the the league deems the action excessive (unless it is to pray). Kids at home, remember: no snow angels allowed if you score a TD in a snowstorm. Forget the joy, forget the fun... and while you're at it, better cancel the snowmen and the hot cocoa too.

Sunday's snow angel wasn't the first made by a New England Patriot. Long snapper Lonnie Paxton made a snow angel in 2001 after a tight playoff victory against Oakland on the way to New England's first Super Bowl victory. Unlike Sunday's officials, Paxton approved of Welker's winter spirit. "He doesn't fill up quite as much space as I did," Paxton said of the 5-foot-8-inch Welker. "He's a little snow angel."

Bah humbug, NFL. And Happy Holidays Wes Welker!

To see a replay of Welker's TD (and ensuing celebration), click here.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Happy Holidays

I will spend this holiday season surrounded by the two friends pictured above -- and various other friends and family. Here's hoping everyone has a great holiday and that you all spend it with family or friends.

I say that because I did spend about 8 or 9 Christmases far away from my family -- either in Utah, Arizona, Germany, England or some other far-off place. I was always a little bummed out not to be with my family -- especially when my family has such a tradition of getting together at the holidays. But my holidays were always memorable no matter where I was or who I was with. In fact, some of the holidays spent with new friends or strangers were special in their own ways -- because of the way holiday "orphans" found each other -- or the way people I didn't know as well were so quick to include me in their special traditions.

I always remember the New Year's Eve between 1996 and 1997. My hockey friends in Garmisch -- Tino, Eva, Giacco -- and I went to Raimond Winter's parents' place. We spent the evening listening to Raimond's father telling WWII stories and telling us about how it was in the old days. Then we went out to Raimond's farmhouse where he fired off his own fireworks display at midnight -- one of hundreds of Garmischers shooting off pyrotechnics. It was a night to remember.

I think of it now, because this fall, Ali and I -- 12 years later -- revisited Garmisch. Despite having fallen out of touch, I located all four of them (and a couple of other hockey friends). We played hockey, drank beers, went hiking, and re-established a forever friendship.

Happy holidays and may you spend time together with your families and friends new and old.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New Recipe

I am tired of the same old food rotation. One time, Alison and I actually made a list of all the dinners we know how to cook. The list was impressive; when we really put our minds to it, we recalled many meals that we had forgotten. But now the list has been lost, and our home-dining experience lately have been a bit monotonous. (Fortunately, we've also been in the habit lately of watching Seinfeld reruns while we eat -- that's livened things up somewhat!)

Until last night, when I wandered into the produce section of the local supermarket. Butternut squash was up-front and center as being relatively in-season. Orange squash, I thought. What goes with butternut squash? I dreamed up the following recipe, and it was fabulous (all amounts are approximated, as that's how I cook):

-- Top half of a butternut squash, diced in half-inch square pieces.
-- One sweet potato, diced in half-inch square pieces.
-- One half red bell pepper, diced.
-- 1 tablespoon soy sauce.
-- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, ground.
-- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
-- 1 teaspoon black pepper
-- 1 teaspoon red pepper
-- 2 cloves fresh garlic, diced.

Preheat oven to 350. Oil a 9x11 inch glass baking dish with olive oil. Dice garlic; set aside. Spread squash and potato pieces in dish. Sprinkle soy sauce over vegetables. Spread ginger, cinnamon, black and red pepper over veggies. Spread bell pepper over everything. Spread garlic pieces over entire dish. Cover dish with foil. Bake for 40 minutes. Serves 2 adults (if one of them has an above average appetite and doesn't mind stuffing oneself).

We served the dish with white rice, salad, and cheap red wine. There were so many flavors coming at us from so many directions (including the cheap wine, which I enjoyed immensely). For dessert, we microwaved some gluten-free chocolate cake that we had made a few nights earlier. On the cake we served Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

And so ended our dinner-time monotony; it was a most excellent meal, and I highly recommend it to everyone!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


November is National Novel Writing Month. I have participated each of the last four Novembers and one time in April. Here's the deal:

50,000 words in 30 days. That about says it all. You write a novel in a month. And, no, the words I am writing for this blog do not count. The whole idea is rather silly, really. It means I have to find time to hit a daily word quota of 1667 words per day. Don't you think I am busy enough without writing a flipping novel this month? Apparently I'm not.

If I don't clean the bathroom, my own room (or even myself), you'll know why. I am busy writing the Great American Next Novel. Three cheers for Nanowrimo!

For info, check out Nanowrimo.org

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Latest Story

Check out my latest article about our weekend in Franconia Notch in Upper Valley Image magazine's Fall issue.

Click here to visit Image

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Wedding Photo Extravaganza

I'm not the type who spent his life "dreaming of my wedding day." And it's a good thing; if I were, my dreams and expectations would have never lived up to the time we had on September 12, 2008. Ali and I planned and looked forward to our wedding for 8 months and 17 days since the day I asked her to marry me on the Nordic trails at the Morse Farm. And everything was perfect.

We had so much fun, that we'd do it over again in a second. But we hear that people don't really get as excited about the second wedding. So, instead, we'll just keep re-living the day through pictures. And here they are...

First, a huge thank you to our tree-climbing photographer Dave Vuono. Also thank you to Julie Aiken and Jan Leja who snapped hundreds of pictures too.

Viewing Directions:
Choose Photos to view. At Picasa screen, click "Slideshow." Then fasten your seatbelt... it's a wild ride!

Click here to view Jan Leja's wedding photos

Click here to view Julie Aiken's wedding photos

Click here to view Dave Vuono's wedding photos

Click here to view Julie Aiken's Nite-Before Party photos

Click here to view Julie Aiken's Day-After Party photos

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Europa 2008

Alison and I were told that we were the first Americans in history to fly into Munich, Germany the week after the end of Oktoberfest. Well, here's a secret that I'll share if you promise not to tell anyone: there is no shortage of beer in Bavaria, even after the conclusion of the Fest.

Alison and I spent two weeks in Europe. Our mornings were lazy, but our days were full and varied -- we did lots of sight-seeing, ran the Munich Marathon, hiked all over the Alps, rock climbed in Bavaria and northern Italy, visited a pool/waterslide with Malen Pichler (age 9), and practiced our German with the locals. Regardless of the day's activity, however, every afternoon or early evening we always seemed to find ourselves at a table like the one pictured above sipping a wheat beer or white wine and just enjoying being in Europe. Then we would find dinner and a Gasthaus, Pension, or a friend's house to stay, and repeat the whole procedure the next morning.

The highlights for me were running personal bests in the marathon (we both ran 3 minutes faster than the personal bests we set in our last marathon), staying with old friends the Pichlers in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, playing hockey and visiting with the Odies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, driving our rental car (a Mercedes hatchback -- not unlike our Honda Fit) over the craziest mountain pass I've ever experienced (or imagined) in the Italian Dolomites, driving the same rental car down a street with a width of 1.8 meters in Arco, Italy... well, forget listing the highlights. The whole vacation was a highlight!

Now we're back in Vermont, the snow is starting to fall, and we are ready for our next vacation.

Europa '08 Photos: Click here!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A New Season

I'm back after a short hiatus, and I have to say to all those who said "where have you been? What have you been doing?":

None of your business! I've been busy, okay?

The fact is, everything has changed. These days, I'm a married man with responsibilities. Yeah, that's right. What exactly are these responsibilities? Um, well, I'm not exactly sure, but I have them now, so there!

In other news, the temperature dipped almost into the 20s last night, causing the season's first frost. We can officially say that summer is over and fall has begun. No more swimming in the river for Oscar and me, but we will be enjoying the changing of the leaves -- which, by the way, are the best in Vermont in at least three years. It has been a colorful fall.

In other signs that summer is over, I am back in the regular ice hockey rotation. Two highly competitive regular (for old, out-of-shape guys) skates, plus two others that I plan to pop in on every now and then. Hockey should keep my fitness level up through the winter -- plus the sport rules.

And, finally, Alison and I are testing out a new concept this week: a fall marathon. So far, it seems like it has been working; we never stopped running after Vermont City Marathon, so you would think we're in-shape and ready. Well, we are in-shape, and hopefully that translates into two awesome marathon results. We'll keep you posted.

That's the report this week from Aiken-land. Married life is good, and fall is here. Get ready for falling leaves and a long, dark (but fun) winter. Go old-guy hockey!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


photo by jan

Not much more to say on this topic... thanks to all who were there and to those who weren't. It was the best day of my life so far and the best week. So great to hang with friends from the past -- as well as so many new friends. Having both of our families there was fabulous...

... and I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with Ali.

See you all next post!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Peaks and Valleys

Obviously, it was a roller coaster of a weekend.

Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots, took a hit below the knee on Sunday ending his season. Man, Tom's last two games have been a bummer. They do not, however, take anything away from his amazing accomplishments.

The team released the following statement regarding Brady:

"After extensive tests this morning, it was revealed that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's left knee, which was injured in the first quarter of yesterday's game, will require surgery. He will be placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the 2008 season."

Best wishes for a speedy recovery Tom... we can't wait to see you back in action. As for the rest of the Patriots, I still predict a fourth Super Bowl title in nine years. If everyone does their job and buys into Belichick's philosophy, no one can beat them. I could play quarterback...

In other news, my life is complete. That's right, folks. At the wedding of Brad Sands, former tour manager of Phish, all four original members of the greatest band ever borrowed the instruments of the wedding band and performed three classic Phish songs. View part of "Julius" at the following link:


The band made no official announcement.

I agree that it's sort of weird to see Fishman wearing a suit and tie rather than his usual on-tour smocky-dress, but still, seeing the four of them together on-stage is a sight for sore eyes! I look forward to seeing the Phab Phour play again at a non-rainy-site-with-a-paved-parking-lot near me.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Rose

Yesterday Alison and I, accompanied by Oscar, went climbing in Bolton Notch. We started on a sport route -- actually the site of our first date (which wasn't officially a "date"; rather, it was more of a "let's go climbing" get-together, but, of course it could be argued that it was a date since both of us later admitted to having some romantic interest... anyway, that is totally not the point of this blog entry!)

Anyway, we warmed up at the sport route, er, mentioned above, and then we continued along the base of the cliff. There were a couple of other climbing parties out there, and one of them was in the middle of climbing one of the routes we probably had our eye on. So we continued past and found ourselves looking up at a 100- plus foot high crack in the the rock known as The Rose.

An overhung 5.10 route, the rock is pretty much flat all around the crack, and you would have to lay back and cling to the crack for the entire 100 feet. I would have loved to have laid out my climbing rack and trad climbed it, but I'm not that confident yet, so we hiked around and set up a top-rope from the top. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera, so we will have to settle for the accompanying image of this nice red flower.

Neither of us scaled The Rose yesterday. I guess we haven't been climbing as much as we would have liked this summer -- and we certainly (until lately) haven't been outside as much as we would have liked. The Rose is totally possible, but it is three times as tall as any route at the gym and its difficulty is sustained the entire way. And, it is difficult to make a project of it because everytime you fall, the route is so overhung that you find yourself hanging by the rope 15 feet away from the rock. Once you fall, you have to get lowered to the ground to start all over again.

But I have a new mission for Autumn 2008: climb The Rose. I'm looking forward to a nice Indian summer and a pleasant fall. And I plan to return the the Notch as often as it takes to climb that thing to the top.

Litter Bugs

I have a gripe. I run about two or three mornings per week on a beautiful Vermont dirt road. A stream runs along part of it, it passes through beautiful hayfields, and it has amazing views and vistas. But every morning, there is new garbage thrown alongside this dirt road. And of course my dog Oscar, who runs with me, gets into it (because that's what dogs do).

People! Throw your damn trash in a garbage can! I am sick of the litterbugs getting my dog in trouble with me. Seriously, why is it that every firepit at a beautiful overlook has broken glass around it, every beach is full of litter, and every dirt road is covered with old take-out food bags and pizza boxes? If you're too lazy to cook your own dinner, at least find a trash can at a gas station and toss your refuse there. Sheesh!

As long as I'm on a rant, one more thing. In my running experience, I have become aware that motorists fall into one of four groups -- in regard to pedestrians (ie runners, walkers, bikers, etc.) Group 1 doesn't even know we're out there. To this group, I guess keep doing what you're doing... I hope you don't hit me. Group 2 is pissed at us. "What the hell are you runners doing on my road?" is the attitude. Again, just please don't hit me. Group 3 is aware and members of this group give me a wide berth everytime. For this, I am appreciative, but you may want to also take note of oncoming traffic -- particularly traffic you can't see. I mean, it's nice that you're giving me lots of room, but just over the hill we're about to crest or around this blind turn, there may be a moving van coming at us at 60mph! The last thing I want is for you to have a head-on, flip over, and land on me. Group 4 gives me a wide berth on the open road, but slows down when they can't see what's ahead. Three cheers for Group 4.

Moral of the story: watch out for pedestrians and don't be a litter bug.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


I have a nasty addiction to caffeine. And I will say this about my addiction: at least it's not heroin or painkillers!

It's not just any caffeine. In my opinion, coffee is gross. Yuck! And I know, because I have tasted it. One time when I was four, I was being bratty and demanding that my dad give me some of the instant coffee he made and drank each morning. Tired of the whining, he said fine and filled a cup of the scalding hot stuff. Having never consumed a hot drink before, I drank it right down -- and burned my mouth, throat, and tongue (before calling the agencies, bear in mind that this event was 33 years ago, I turned out mostly normal, and my folks were otherwise mostly responsible parents).

The point, anyway, is that I'm not one of those people who just decides something without giving it a fair, open-minded chance. To this day, even the smell of coffee makes my throat hurt.

No, I am a soda drinker. Not just any soda; I will drink Coke -- not Pepsi -- or Mountain Dew. I am currently on the one-pop-a-day program, but there have been times when I have consumed much more. Like four or five a day or more. At times like those, I can just feel my teeth decaying.

Dentally speaking (do you mind if I speak dentally for a moment?), I only have one filling, so apparently my teeth can stand up to the onslaught of these sugary, syrupy beverages. But it's not really my teeth I'm worried about. I am a healthy person for the most part, and, from a health and intake perspective, soda is my one Achilles heel. Don't get me wrong; I could quit at any time. In fact, I have quit -- many times! But then I'll go on a long road trip, or I'll get busy at work. Or something. And next thing you know, I'm back up to four a day!

Well, I am going to try to keep the soda consumption under control. I don't want to wind up obese or with diabetes. On the other hand, I don't eat chips by the bag while watching TV. I don't suck down candy. I don't smoke or do heroin. What you are reading is a good example of rationalization. So thank you for helping me out... suddenly everything seems clear. There are plenty of bad things I could be doing, and, chances are, it probably won't kill me. And, that traumatic childhood experience with the hot coffee probably scarred me emotionally, so nothing I do is really my fault.

I feel better now. And, besides, what's wrong with a nice cold Coke or Mountain Dew now and then?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Great Buddy

Yes, these are big fish, but my Uncle John was a great fisherman. John Fred Obuchowski died yesterday morning.

I guess I'm not much of an obit-writer, because I don't really know the vital statistics. For example: birthdate, not sure. Age, also unsure, although I know he was in his eighties. Birthplace, not positive, although I assume it was way back in the day, someplace in southern Vermont. Service in WWII, I know he was there, but not where exactly or how much. (However, he's been a regular at the American Legion ever since.)

Hmmm, maybe it'll be better to start with what I do know…

Uncle John was not exactly my uncle; he was my dad’s uncle, which makes him my “grand-uncle.” Whatever he was, he was a great buddy and an awesome friend, and I am going to miss him. If he did not originate the phrase “You can’t put it on if you don’t have it,” then he made it famous, and I have sworn by it (which is why I always carry the heaviest pack or overdress -- but am never cold).

I went on literally hundreds of fishing trips with Uncle John. He always made sure the cooler was full and that we had plenty of sandwiches. Notice the emphasis on the cooler and food, not on fish caught. I guess if you had plenty to eat and drink, the trip was a success, even if you got skunked. One year, we went out a couple of times with charter captain Gary Frazier to learn some of his secret spots. The second trip, when Uncle John pulled out the cooler to start working on some roast pork sandwiches on Polish rye with fresh tomato and mustard, I saw Gary grab his wife, who had joined us for the trip. “Watch,” he said. “I want you to see how he does this.”

Uncle John was, in a word, loud. “Hey, all right!” (at full volume) was his favorite moniker. When he showed up, it sounded like he brought an entourage even if it was just him and Aunt Amelia. And it was always a party. He taught me to play cribbage – a game that is impossible to teach. Really, he made me sit and watch tons of games as a six-or-seven-year-old keeping statistics: average hands, average cribs, pegging averages. He and my dad were big players, but rarely has there been a more comprehensive student of the game than me.

I could go on and on with Uncle John-isms. He seemed to always travel with pounds of meat to grill, and he loved Vermont sweet corn. He got me my first adult-sanctioned beer (pre-21, as otherwise the gesture wouldn’t have meant as much). He loved Aunt Amelia, who I know will miss him dearly, but who I am confident will have lots of support from here on out. He raised three great kids and had several awesome grand-kids. He was a great friend and uncle to my dad. He was known by all my friends as “Uncle John.” He was there when I caught big fish and when my mother died. He was funny, and he was fun – just the way you would want a buddy to be.

Thanks for the great times, Uncle John. We all miss you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Standing Invite

Anyone familiar with my history is aware of the role the band Phish has played. I first saw them at the now-defunct bar The Front (in the building now occupied by the SkiRack in Burlington) in 1990, when I showed up a half-hour late for the show but didn't miss a thing, because I arrived only a minute before this funny-looking bearded guy who, it turned out, was the band's lead guitarist.

I have traveled far and wide to see the band. I have waited in traffic, ridden in over-packed trains in Europe, and stood in the pouring rain. And never once had a bad time. During their hiatuses (plural of "hiatus" anyone?), I have attended their solo performances -- and have always been surprised and impressed at how incredibly talented each band member is, even on his own. Case in point: bass player Mike Gordon just put on a free show at Waterfront Park last Friday. Mike has put together a great band, and the new music off his new album The Green Sparrow is fabulous (note how I resisted the urge to write "phabulous" as most Phish-writers do). It was great to see Page McConnell join him for four or five songs too.

Seeing Mike reminded me of something I've been meaning to do. As I am getting married on September 12th, I wanted to extend an official invite to Trey, Mike, Fish, and Page. You're all invited to the wedding (and, let's just say you all have a standing invite to swing by my house anytime). I have been at many of your biggest events, so I wanted you to know you're welcome at mine. Email me for directions.

PS Tom Brady, I'd invite you too, but I figure you'll be studying film that day in preparation for your game on the 14th in New York. Go Pats!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Running Group Makes History

For the first time in history, Team in Training's Run With Jan group met in North Hero, Vermont for a group run. (For more info on Run With Jan, see the "check these out" section below.) The history-making running set gathered and started the run from Aiken's camp, some runners going 5 miles and others as far as 19. Temperatures were warm, but everyone called it an improvement over the previous week's torrential group run.

When runners returned to the camp, they went to the beach where everyone jumped in the lake, which was a perfect temperature. Then runners noticed the record water levels and just about everyone contributed (some actively and others from more supervisory roles) to the removal of the wooden dock deck sections, which would have suffered severe water damage otherwise (a few end pieces had already broken apart) -- to which the writer of this blog has just one thing to say: THANK YOU!

Afterwards, runners enjoyed liquid refreshments, prompting more than one comment that perhaps alcohol and running do mix!

All in all, it was a great day and a great run.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Save the Turtles

My daily commute this summer takes me through some beautiful rural Vermont farm country. Over the hayfields and gardens, I can see the ridgeline of Green Mountains between Mount Mansfield and Camel's Hump, and I always reflect on what a great way the drive is to begin and end a day.

Yesterday, as I was coming home, a white mid-sized pickup truck stopped in the middle of the road, seemingly for no reason. He didn't even try to make it look like he tried to pull off to the side. I have to admit that I was like, "Buddy! What are you doing?"

The driver got out of his truck -- still parked in the middle of the lane -- and, leaving his door open, stepped in front of it. He bent down and picked something off the ground. It was a turtle! It had been working its way across the road, and by the time we got there, its head was jammed inside its shell -- totally freaked out.

The guy walked across the road, set it on the other side (I hope to heck that's the direction it was trying to go!), smiled and waved to me, got in his truck and continued down the Vermont country road.

You know what's better than finishing a work day at 4pm (I love that, by the way!) and driving home on a picturesque Vermont country road? It's seeing someone stop and do something nice along the way.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Today's Weather

It's raining. Steadily.

But because the purpose of this blog isn't to give the daily weather report, I'm not going to talk about that. Because, although people are saying it's been a rainier-than-usual summer, the honest truth is I haven't even noticed. True, I haven't been rock climbing as much outside. And true, the Winooski River across the street from our house is high in its bed, and the rock we use to judge the river's water level has been gone from view for weeks. But the fact is, the weather hasn't really affected me.

Pretty much every morning this summer, Alison, Oscar, and I have either gone for a run on one of our running loops or for a walk to the river -- rain or shine. Ali said recently that these morning forays have been her favorite part of the whole summer, and I'd have to agree with her. We live in such a beautiful nook here in Vermont... I'm glad we have had the flexibility this season to take this time in the mornings. I will miss our walks when winter takes the daylight away (and I begin my 45-minute-each-way commute to work).

And, also, when you change your career from "summer camp director" to "freelance writer," you notice after awhile how little the weather matters in your new life! For the last nine years, I'd be off to camp early on a day like this, and the day would be full of stress. Trying to come up with rainy-day activities for 40 or more kids in spaces without enough room is hard work. By the end of days like this, I'd be ready to drop. But those days are past! Today is perfect writing weather. I'm going to work on one of my freelance projects this morning and then head over to EatingWell. I like being able to enjoy a day while the earth gets to drink its fill; it makes me feel like my motives are a little more in line with the planet's.

Although this is not a weather blog, I love a rainy day.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gardening vs. Weeding

Left: my vegetable garden before weeding.
Right: my vegetable garden after weeding.

I am a great gardener (self-proclaimed), but a terrible weeder. Yes, two weeks ago, I went after those weeds with a vengeance. And, I have to admit, it was rewarding. I'm not saying I like weeding, but each time I went out there and knocked out another section of the garden... I felt good about myself and life in general.

That said, I think I let the weeds suffocate most of my veggies. My squash and zucchinis have not produced (although they flowered like crazy). I have only enjoyed two cucumbers. Our peppers did pretty well, and those peppers we got before the insects did were good. The beans, like the squashes, flowered but didn't produce (and I had a little incident where I might have knocked over some of my bean plants with the wheel of the lawnmower, which may have killed them -- not sure, though). Our basil, like last year, is doing well, and my four lettuce plants contributed to one taco salad. Meanwhile, the tomatoes are rocking -- hopefully they turn red before the insects get them too. And -- my pride and joy -- my garlic.

I forgot to plant my garlic last fall when you are supposed to. Instead, I planted six cloves of garlic that I bought at the grocery store -- DURING A JANUARY THAW! You're reading it right here, ladies and gentlemen! Despite the warnings of many nay-sayers (and there were lots), my garlic sprouted, it's thriving, and I believe it's going to be my cash crop this year. I haven't harvested any yet, but it's coming, baby!

My gardening skills are nothing to write about (unless you have your own blog!), but they are improving. I can't wait till next year's garden... and I can't WAIT to harvest my garlic of 2008!

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Barber

Choosing your barber is a very personal thing. Years ago, when Wayne the barber in downtown Winooski closed his operation in order to spend more time bass fishing, I was in a quandary. Who do I trust to cut my hair, who has the latest copy of Sports Illustrated in his waiting area, and who can cut my hair in less than 10 minutes?

My dad turned me on to Dick's Barber Shop on Williston Road several years ago. Dick was an older gentleman who cut good hair and kept it brief. His shop was a three-chair shop, and he cut hair at the first chair. The other two chairs would be occupied by hair-cutters on a rotating basis -- nobody staying very long. What I began to notice was that I would arrive to find Dick cutting hair, one or both of the newbies sitting reading magazines... and three or four people waiting for Dick.

When a very young barber fresh out of barber school began working for Dick, I began having him cut my hair. The kid -- named Clay -- seemed to do a great job, and I never had to wait in the line for Dick. My hair situation seemed solved.

Until one day, I showed up (and I really needed a haircut) and Clay was not there. "Where's Clay?" I asked. "He doesn't work here anymore," said Dick. Four customers were waiting for Dick, but another barber was sitting in his own barber chair reading. I went with him. He butchered me.

For several months, I avoided the place. When I finally couldn't wait any longer, I went in and waited an hour for Dick, while the butcher read.

Finally, I heard about another barber shop that had opened no more than half a mile from Dick's. Not without reservations, I checked it out. Lo and behold, Clay had opened a shop less than a mile from his old boss! Oh the scandal! The betrayal! "He's probably not too happy," was Clay's only comment about the situation.

Clay has been cutting my hair for the last four years. He has an extremely loyal following, and sometimes there's a long wait. I usually come right at 8am so I am the first in the chair. He's quick, professional, and he does it the way I like it: short.

I am a busy person, and it's often tough to find time for a haircut. This week, I went to Clay's before work at EatingWell.I had no cash, so I drove past his place to stop at an ATM, knowing that this would cost me first chair. I pulled up at 8:30am to find his shop dark. "On Vacation. Back July 22" read the sign on his door. I sat in my car, not knowing what to do. Finally, I pulled out and turned left.

And went to Dick's.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Article in Livin' magazine

Later this month, endurance runners from all over the country will line up at the start of West Windsor's Vermont 100 Endurance Run. Ali and I will be on location also, volunteering at the Spirit of Mile 76 aid station (I'll be urging runners to keep it up -- "just 24 miles to go!").

You can read about the Vermont 100 right now in my latest article, published in Livin' the Vermont Way magazine. The magazine should be on shelves now, and if it's not, tell your local bookstore and magazine stand to start carrying it!

The link to the article is as follows:


Be sure to check out the cool photo by Jan Leja while you're there!

Editor's Note: you will need to copy and paste the link into your Internet Explorer window. Due to technical issues, the link does not seem to connect directly to Livin from this post. Waa.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Jones Bash Named Best Hoe-Down of '08

Marc Jones moved all of the Jones Certified Organic Dairy farm equipment out of the equipment shed yesterday for an old-fashioned barn dance. Once the tractors and hayers were out of the way, Marc's wife Carol brought down microphones and sound equipment, seats, coolers, a sheet or two of plywood for a stage, and two plush velvety chairs for performers.

The only things she was missing were people and the Snack Bus, and by 5pm they showed up in full force -- the people carrying coolers and fold-out chairs under their arms, and the Snack Bus ready to sling their burgers, hot dogs, and fries.

As we drove in, padded dirt bikers (read, Carol and Marc's son William and his friends) led us to our campsites out in the field. Strolling from the tent site to the dance hall, I couldn't help thinking of the Vermont ReggaeFest when it was held in the hills of Johnson, Vermont.

The only differences were that the main musical influence at Carol's was folk; there were about 19,900 fewer people at Carol's (I believe there were 20K at the ReggaeFest); and the Jones farm, located in beautiful Georgia, Vermont, was (if you can believe it) slightly more scenic.

There were many highlights during the open mike sessions that started the music off -- and one low-light: me snapping my G-string (the one on my guitar, thank you) just before my hardest song. Then Lowell Thompson played two sets. He was so wonderful that even Marc and Carol's milk cows crowded along the fence at the edge of their pasture to listen. Big Boots Deville provided dance covers for those who wanted to dance, but I'd have to say that the Snack Bus' root beer floats may have been the biggest hit of the evening. 75% of people polled said they went back for seconds.

And now the big news: the entire staff of this website has voted unanimously to name the party "Hoe-down of the Year"! It was the best I have been to in a long time: awesome live music, great people, and beautiful surroundings. Thanks Marc and Carol, and congrats on the recognition!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer Training

The holiday weekend is over, which means several things. One, it means that summer is here in full swing. This really rings true weather-wise this year in Vermont. Sheesh -- in June, I swear it rained every day -- whether for full days or for thunder showers here and there. But it has been hot and dry ever since July hit -- perfect weather for a July 4th weekend. Yep... summer's here, no mistakin'.

Two, it means peak time for the social calendar. The weekend was busy (friends, family, running, biking, swimming, canoeing, beer-drinking, firework-watching, etc.), but what else do you expect from a holiday? For the next two weeks though -- it is one thing after another. It's like Christmastime; something happening every day.

Most of all, with the holiday being over, it means the athletic training schedule takes over in earnest. Coming up, we have three big events: the Colchester Triathlon, the 100 on 100, and the Munchen Marathon. Alison actually ran a trialthon on July 5 -- we ran 5 miles, she swam for 25 minutes, and then she went on a 16-mile bike ride with her dad. I'm the one who will most likely suffer through the tri; I have swum once and have not been on my bike. Well, I have three weeks to turn it around. The 100 mile relay on Vermont's Route 100 will serve as a training for the marathon. Marathon training started in earnest yesterday with an 11-miler. The marathon is on October 12 -- which means for the first time ever, I will put in a full training season for a 26-miler. In addition to the schedule of long runs, I plan to incorporate some speed and tempo work. Time to get in shape!

With July 4th behind us, I suddenly feel like I can see the end of summer. What? Over already? Don't worry; there's no need to fear. Just keep telling myself there's plenty of summer left to enjoy.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good People Helping Good People

Yesterday, I left EatingWell early. Kelley, the new Adventure Center manager at Stowe, had put out a call: Shannon (the old Adventure Center manager) needed us. Shannon ran all the kids' programs at Stowe for the last three years -- and both of the winters I have been there. She was spectacular -- great supervisor, boss, role model, and person. But she had a golden employment opportunity in Parry Sound, Ontario (Number 4, Bobby Orr's hometown, but then you already know that), and she left us at the end of this past winter.

She has been up in Canada all spring getting settled at her new job, while her husband Chris has been finishing up his school year as a teacher and finalizing the sale of their house. On a recent trip up to visit Shannon and their kids, Chris had a motorcycle accident on his way home and was badly injured.

So Kelley spread the word: "Chris needs help loading the moving van!" The call was answered. Jim and Heather, two other Adventure Center supervisors were there all afternoon with Mike, an instructor and freeskyle coach. Donna, our ski school operations manager, had her sleeves rolled up as she supervised the packing of the moving truck (and boy did she pack it full). Our ski school director himself, Dave, dissembled their wooden swingset and helped to empty the house. Kelley and Martha, a front desk ticket seller in the AC, packed and loaded tons of stuff (and gave me a ride from Stowe).

It was great to see such a level of community and friendship. Shannon stepped up to the plate for us every day she worked at Stowe, and I'm glad everyone took some time to help a friend. As I type, Chris and his dad are driving a Uhaul moving truck and pulling a loaded trailer (followed by his mom who is pulling a bass boat) on their way to the Canadian border. Good luck in Parry Sound, Shannon. Best wishes for a speedy (ish) recovery, Chris.

And viva Stowe -- only 172 days till the official first day of winter!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Front Porch Pickin' Session

Ahhh, summer! Last night, Alison, Oscar, and I got together with good friends and had an old-fashioned jam-slash-hang-out party on our front porch (see pic!). When Maria and Carol arrived, the sheep on the lawn baa-ed their welcomes, and Carol immediately whipped out her guitar to play them a "hello-sheep" song. Their only response was to continue to eat their grass, which I'm pretty sure means they appreciated the music -- and the gesture.

We munched on chips, homemade guacemole (secret ingredient -- freshly squeezed lemon juice), salsa, Vermont sweet apple sausages, and local strawberries (grown and picked in Essex, Vermont), drank some wine (the cheap stuff... and boy was it good), sang, and played our guitars.

The sun settled behind the hill in front of our house, and the mosquitos -- although the porch is enclosed -- still somehow managed to get inside. We played until fireflies lit up our front yard like the strip in Las Vegas. We didn't sing and play as much as some jam sessions we've had, but it felt good to just hang out and chit-chat about families, running, wedding planning, and summer for awhile. We still played a couple of standards and figured out a couple new ones too (Alabama's Dixieland Delight and Kermit the Frog's Rainbow Connection).

What felt really good, I'd say, is the connection friends can make at a front porch pickin' sesh on a warm Vermont evening. Ah, summer!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Week of Writing

It's been a week since my last post, and you are probably saying, what's up? Why hasn't he been writing? Oh, I have been writing. I spent the last six days attending a workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It's a great place to work on your writing. First off, the Work Center -- or "Fock" as I called it, as that's how you would pronounce F.A.W.C. (which, I suppose makes all the attendees "Fockers") -- had five or six workshops going on simultaneously -- two fiction, one poetry, one painting, and one printing -- so that meant you were surrounded by about fifty Fockers creating stuff. The faculty was incredible -- best-selling author Pam Houston, fiction writer, novelist, and journalist Matt Klam (my workshop's leader), and former United States poet laureate Maxine Kumin. My week started the day before the workshop, when Dorothy, the head Focker, called and asked if I would give Maxine a ride to the Cape(apparently her husband had a health issue). If you are wondering what a laureate in her eighties talks about, we listened to the Red Sox game and talked about writing. About what you'd expect.

My group had seven people -- mostly unpublished, but all highly skilled writers. We workshopped our pieces and did some writing. We laughed about our eighth participant, Georgia Davis who had paid in full, but never showed. We finally decided to make our assignment on the last night a piece about Georgia. We went to work there in Provincetown -- a place where everything is upside-down -- surrounded by writers, after reading night, when all the Fockers shared their work up at the podium in the Kunitz Lounge. It was amazing what people came up with. Georgia was a hot surfer, a middle-age wife living a double life. She was deathly afraid of flying, and she was listening in on our group with a bug she placed in our studio that was tuned into her Iphone.

One guy in the group didn't do any writing on Georgia, but he took it one step further. Into our class walked a short-haired woman. She looked twice at the door, seemed confused about something, then apologized for being late. Matt the teacher looked at her in disbelief; we all did. Was it Georgia? She was, until she and the guy couldn't keep straight faces anymore. She was a fake.

That's what I've been doing all week.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


These are good times if you are a self-taught musician. Take me, for example. I hear a song I like on the radio -- or someone tells me about a song I should play. All I have to do is "google" it, and I'll easily find the chords and lyrics. It's actually too bad I wasn't better, because more often than not, I also find guitar tablature that's way above my ability. Anyway, I take what I can use, print it out, and then teach myself the new song.

I've been hearing a new song on the country radio station -- "15 Minutes" by a somewhat local country singer named Jamie Lee Thurston. Not to digress, but I feel I should mention that three years ago, I not only hated country, but swore I'd never listen to it. These days -- and I'm not sure how it happened -- I am a country music addict. Not to digress further, Jamie Lee's song, incidentally, is about how last night he decided to quit all of his vices -- smoking, women, and drinking and how "...it was the worst 15 minutes" of his life. Apparently Jamie Lee is just on the verge of making the big-time, but he's not quite there yet. How do I know this? Because when you google his song or him, you get some hits, but no information.

How am I going to learn his song? I asked myself. I've only heard it like twice, so I don't even know the words. I decided that the first step was to call the radio station so, at least, I could hear it again. Knowing I was going to be in my car for an hour, I called the radio and asked the DJ if he would play my song. He said, no, that the entire playlist was locked in for the rest of the afternoon, but there was a request program later that evening, and I could try back then. Suddenly my phone beeped and flashed. "No Service Area." I lost him.

The next morning, no closer to learning the song, I thought of that DJ. I felt a little badly because I bet he thought I hung up on him. I decided to set the record straight. "I'm the guy who called yesterday to request a Jamie Lee Thurston song," I said when he answered. I explained how I had hung up on him, but that I really hadn't hung up; I had just lost cell coverage. I told him I listened to his program all the time and I wanted him to know I understood that they can't always play requests. He said that sometimes callers do get really angry, and he thanked me and we hung up. I never even requested my song.

Two songs later, he put on "15 minutes." At the song's end, he came back on the airwaves and, although he did not reference our conversation, his voice was more vivid and lively. I felt good -- and I heard the song I wanted to hear. So last piece: how am I going to learn that song? I think what I'll do is go down to the music store and buy Jamie Lee's CD. He's on the verge of making it, I hear he's a hard-working, local guy... and I bet another CD sale wouldn't hurt him at all.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Summer Hits Vermont

92 degrees. That's what our outdoor thermometer says. In some places, 92 doesn't really phase people, but here in northern Vermont, it really affects us. We get slow -- really slow. And we don't function at our normal levels. It's like we're all taking downers. We're tired, but people don't want to take naps because it's so sticky and uncomfortable. 92 really hits us hard around here.

So what do we do to survive. Two words. "Find Water." I happen to be lucky; my family has a cottage in the Lake Champlain Islands right on the broad lake. And when it gets hot like this, there is no better place to be. Along the water, it feels ten degrees cooler, especially when the wind blows like it did today. Oscar made a bee-line for the water, and spent the better part of the afternoon in the water. The water is still icy -- although it's June -- so we got the canoe out. Oscar took his first canoe ride and didn't find it very relaxing. He wouldn't lay down or move; he half-stood, half-sat between my feet the whole time. Alison swam, wearing a wetsuit on everything but her feet, and reported numbness there after about ten minutes. It looked refreshing though.

Back in Richmond, our house is surrounded on three sides by trees and, for the most part, stays in the shade. All windows are closed and curtains drawn. Luckily, it stays pretty cool in here. It's hot, and we're not used to it, but we are doing our best to find water, drink water, and stay cool.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Getting in Shape

Every year as ski season winds down (this event isn’t happening as I write – as much as I sometimes do hope for endless winter!), I have to get back into the habit of running. It hurts, let me tell you. Even though I wouldn’t exactly say that I sit on a couch all winter – I’m out there downhill skiing, backcountry skiing, playing hockey, rock climbing at the gym – getting in the running “habit” is every bit as difficult as getting back in running “shape.”

Ski season generally ends around mid-April, and I can say that now – early June – I am finally in the running habit. I started going out once or twice a week in late March, got out four or five times a week in April, ran a marathon in May, recovered, and now most days I get up feeling mentally and physically prepared for a run that I know I must complete sometime that day. It’s a good mindset!

The same goes for writing. Writing, when you get down to it, is no different than running. It exercises muscles that – after periods of atrophy – need to be worked out a little bit. This spring I have been pitching magazines, writing stories, and doing a daily “10-minute writing drill.” I am also into the second week of an internship at EatingWell magazine (like running, it certainly helps to surround oneself with a bunch of people who eat, think, and do writing all day long!), and I’m getting ready to go to a week-long writers’ workshop on Cape Cod later this month. And, I am happy to report that – different than my running muscles – the writing muscles feel mostly worked out and limber as of June 6th. If only the running came as easily!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Two days ago, Alison and I took Oscar our 18-month-old yellow lab for a run on the Burlington Bike Path. I should qualify that statement: Alison and I were running. For Oscar, our running pace is nothing too strenuous -- a brisk walk, or at best, maybe a trot.

I think he enjoys our runs. He smiles, stays right with us, and gets excited whenever he sees us pull out our running shoes. But what he really loves is running -- full-speed, honest-to-goodness, dog-running.

For example, 3.5 miles into our bike path jog, we came to the Starr Farm dog park. Dog parks, as far as I'm concerned, are miracles, because they promote so many positives. Anyway, we decided to take a little break to let Oscar visit with some of the dogs within the fence of the park. So with our dog straining at his leash in excitement, we opened the gate, stepped inside, and let him go.

Full tilt, slobber flying on both sides, and tufts of grass and dirt flying into the air with each of his thundering bounds, Oscar charged three-quarters of the way across the park to where a group about four dogs were standing. Three of the other dogs froze -- mesmorized by the 70-pound yellow flash hurtling towards them like a meteorite. The fourth dog, a smallish light-brown terrier, bounded into action. It charged away, with Oscar in hot pursuit -- one lap, two laps, three laps, four laps...

And I am talking about full speed. They finally came to a stop, panted for a second or two, then launched towards each other, wrestling and playing until they separated and went into chase-mode again, full speed, in circles, changing directions, from one side to the other -- all around the park.

Oscar hopped, skipped, laughed, smiled, and jumped the whole time he was in the park. Exuberant. This is living, he seemed to be saying. He re-joined us for the rest of our run after five or ten minutes in the dog park. He breathed a little more heavily after his high-speed tempo workout, but I know he could have gone longer. If it's fun, Oscar has energy reserves. Although he let his tongue hang out of the side of his mouth on the way back, I wasn't fooled. He would have run all day if we had let him.

Friday, May 30, 2008

In Training

I am currently in training. For what am I training, you might ask? It's a complicated question. I just ran the Vermont City Marathon on Sunday, and I did train for it, but I wouldn't say I exactly train for the events I sign up to run. After all, while I ran a respectable 3 hours and 26 minutes, I'm not breaking any speed records. No, I sign up for the events to make myself train. I know that if I don't train for a marathon, I am going to get hurt, so marathons are motivation. Shorter races -- 5Ks, 10Ks, and half-marathons -- when I run in them, are like training runs themselves. Add other competitors, spectators, timing chips, and start and finish lines, and suddenly I run just a little bit harder than on a normal morning jog on a dirt road.

What I'm in training for is to maintain my physical and mental well-being. If I force myself to run in the morning, although it might hurt and although I might not feel like it, I always feel better physically and I feel better about myself. Like I accomplished something and did something good for myself. So much of it is mental. For example, if I eat a cookie on a non-exercise day, I swear I can feel the calories and fat going right to my stomach and my mid-section expanding. However, if I run, I feel like I can eat three cookies, and they don't touch me.

Is this all in my head? Maybe it is. I don't just run, though. I play pick-up ice hockey, and I rock climb. All of them have the same effect on me. At hockey, I always play as hard as I can. In fact, I usually keep score; I noticed that everyone else plays a bit harder too when there's something on the line. Last night, the white team won 8-7, and -- let me tell you -- people were scrapping at the end trying to lift their respective team. Hockey complements my running, because it serves as a tempo run and a speed workout. When I run, I just run. A good clip, but the same steady pace. Hockey is all about short, explosive bursts. You skate at full-speed for two minutes, then rest. Meanwhile, at the end of a hockey session, many players are sucking wind. Not me; my running endurance makes me a third period player.

And, finally, rock climbing is the glue that holds it all together. The yoga session of my weekly workouts. Climbing is a full-body strength, stretching, and balancing workout, and it's the exercise that keeps my muscles and my body toned. It's like doing the trim when you paint a room; it's a small piece, but it makes everything look sharper and more complete.

I am a strong believer in cross-training. Maybe I'll never be "great" at any of my big three sports, because I never fully dedicate myself to any of them. But because I regularly exercise -- and all of my workouts complement each other -- I feel great... and I can have two helpings of everything each night at dinner.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


It comes in all forms. A nasty face when a kid tries to eat peas. The wag of a tail when you scratch your dog behind the ears. A pat on the back. A thank you.

Positive feedback keeps people going. Other feedback keeps them honest. Either way, feedback is a critical part of everyone's diet. Without it, how would you know where you stand in the world? How would you improve?

This weekend, I dealt with a minor bout of writer's block. It's nasty stuff, writer's block -- especially if you're a writer! Here's what happened: I submitted a project I've been working on to an editor. There weren't really any guidelines on this particular piece (see... already a minimum of feedback), and the topic was very broad. I had tons of material for it, but a relatively limited word length to work with. I really wasn't sure if what I wrote was what the editor wanted.

In that climate, I began work on another piece. I have to say, the ideas weren't flowing. The lead was tough to write, so I skipped it and moved on. Still, my muse was singing off key. Nothing clever, nothing smooth. It felt like everything I wrote read poorly. And I found that my mind kept wandering over to the earlier piece. "Is it what she wanted?"

Yesterday, I got an email from the editor. Not only was the article good, she said, she wanted to work with me on a couple more projects. Positive feedback (or any feedback, see, because if she said she didn't like it, I could have fixed it!) is the breakfast of champions. And, once again, the words are flying from my head through my keyboard and onto the monitor.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Best of Burlington article

Make sure you run out and buy the summer issue of Best of Burlington magazine. Great photos, excellent articles, really well-laid-out... and, best of all, an article by me about everyone's favorite place: the bike path! I noticed that they're sold out at Borders and Barnes and Noble, but if you see it anyplace, spread the word. It's an excellent new publication!

In other news, not to sound too much like a letter from my grandmother, but I am getting ready to plant my starters. That's right: I'm a gardener now too. You might wonder what motivated me to take up gardening. Well, it's simple: I love to eat! Garden-fresh cukes (pickling sized are best, although I don't like pickles only the cukes), tomatos, etc. I started the seeds as long as a month ago, and I am putting the squash, zuccinis, beans, radishes, lettuce, and cukes in the ground today or tomorrow. The tomatos, basil, and anything else I want, I'll have to buy starters at the store, because I drowned mine apparently. Oh well, it's a learning curve!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Welcome Summer!

Memorial Day weekend -- aka "Marathon Weekend in Vermont" -- 2008 has come and gone, and that means the unofficial beginning of summer! And I have to say, I have not looked forward to summer like I am this time around in a long time.

What's different? For one, a new job: I'm a "writer" now. Okay, okay... I've been writing for a long time now, but this is different; I quit my job and I'm writing! Now do you get the picture? Either I'll be publishing a whole lot more, or I'll be losing those extra few pounds I've been worried about! I'm not just writing, though. I am also interning at Eating Well magazine (buy it -- there's lots of good stuff, including recipes, yumm!) to learn how the magazine business works. See? There's method to the madness; I couldn't have done that and worked my old job.

Also, I have a dog that runs and a girlfriend (soon to be wife) who rock climbs, and I plan to do lots of those this summer. And, of course, I'll keep everyone posted on the excitement on this here blog!