Sunday, April 28, 2013

Blind Pilot + Oregon Symphony

Last night I went to the most epic concert ever.  One of my favorite bands of all time, Blind Pilot, played with the Oregon Symphony at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.  I went to a Blind Pilot concert for the first time about a year and a half ago at the Crystal Ball Room.  It was an amazing show at a great venue.  But it was pretty typical for an indie folk concert: lots of young people crowded into a big room, talking and clapping and dancing to the music; the band were all dressed in their plaid shirts , rocking out to their jams, with bits of comical dialogue in between sets.  The scene last night was quite different.  The Schnitz is a stunning historical building with chandeliers and gold railings where hundreds of symphonies, operas and ballets are held each year.  People of all ages and fashions (from sequined cocktail dresses to dreadlocks under trucker hats) gathered in the ornate concert hall to sit in velvet chairs and enjoy one another's music genres.
The first half of the evening was just the Oregon Symphony performing pieces such as Greig's In the Hall of the Mountain King, to which the audience smiled and gave golf claps.  After intermission, the conductor came back on the stage followed by the members of Blind Pilot.  The guys were dressed in suits and ties, had their hair (and long beards) combed, and looked quite spiffy and sophisticated.  They played several pieces with just their 6-person band, and several pieces with a full orchestra accompanying their original songs.  I got chills hearing the incredible collaboration.  It was an amazing blend of indie rock meets symphony orchestra.  It's really indescribable.  I snuck a little video of their final song "We Are The Tide" (in which the audience broke out of normal symphony code by standing to clap and dance along) so you can see/hear for yourself...

(sorry if it's a little bouncy - I had a hard time containing my excitement and standing still long enough to capture this video)

Friday, April 26, 2013

WCS 2013

Last weekend my good friends Whitney and Meredith came to visit me in Portland.  The three of us are current or former West Coasters: Meredith lives in San Francisco and Whitney used to live in LA but now lives in Austin (we still accept her as an honorary West Coaster).  Last year Meredith hosted our first annual West Coast Summit (WCS) in San Fran.  Exactly one year later, I hosted the 2nd annual WCS here in Portland.  The weekend was wonderful.  We could have done nothing but sit and drink wine and talk and have been completely content.  But of course we packed in as much of the Portland sites as possible.
Friday, Whitney and I visited some foods carts and walked around Hawthorne before picking Meredith up from the airport.  Once the three of us were reunited, we headed to NW Portland to shop around NW 23rd then started a progressive dinner: drinks at Teardrop, happy hour at Oba, a light dinner at North 45 on NW 21st, then dessert at Papa Haydn's of course!  Several of my friends (plus Whitney's cousin who lives in Vancouver, WA) met up with us along the way.
Saturday, we got lattes at Heart Coffee then headed to the Portland Farmer's Market at PSU (so much fresh food tasting, bright flowers and great music) and then onto the Portland Saturday Market (just plain weird, as usual).  We stopped into Powell's for Meredith to get a quick 15 minutes tour (cruel, I know) and then drove out to wine country for wine tasting, which I would say was the best part of the weekend.  First we went to Stoller Vineyards where we sat outside at a picnic table and snacked on fresh bread and cheese from the farmers market while sipping delicious wines and taking in the beautiful scenery.  Then we stopped in at White Rose where we sat outside and soaked up the little bit of the sun that finally came out.  I'm convinced that there is no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon in Oregon than by wine tasting in the Willamette Valley.  That evening we met up with a couple friends for drinks in SE Portland, then had a nice dinner just for the three of us at Roost.
Sunday morning, we headed out to the gorge (but not before stopping for a latte and pasteries at Crema Coffee).  We took the scenic route (aka I got a little lost on the back roads) to Multnomah Falls where we hiked to the top of the 620 iconic waterfall.  On the way down, we just happened to run into a friend from Waco (my mom and friend Hannah's neighbor), Kelsey, and her family who were visiting a brother who lives in Portland.  It was so fun to get to see her - actually I had never met her, but knew she would be in town that weekend.
Meredith and Whitney both had afternoon flights out of Portland.  There are a million other things we could have done and seen, but I'm glad they got a glimpse of life in the Pacific Northwest.  I wish the weather had been better - it was dreary and cold most of the weekend.  And then the day after they left was 70 and sunny with all of the mountains out - of course it would work that way.  It was such a wonderful weekend with wonderful friends.  I loved being with girls who I could have deep, serious conversations with and also be completely silly.  We can always pick up where we left off.  Thanks for coming to visit, Whitney and Meredith!  I can't wait for WCS 2014, where we'll have official registration packets... and be the speakers and the audience!
progressive dinner in NW Portland

Meredith frolicking through the grass at the farmers market

Saturday Market: "ok guys, look normal."

wine country whimsy

a tire swing at the vineyard = the perfect photo shoot

sun, winetasting, friends = bliss

Multnomah Falls

Monday, April 15, 2013

Whidbey Island Marathon

Yesterday I ran the Whidbey Island Marathon, which is my fourth completed marathon.  The WIM was by far the toughest race I've ever done, although it is ranked one of the "Top 10 Places to Run a Marathon."  The scenery is beautiful, but the course is hilly and difficult.  I've tried to block most of the race out of my mind, but I'll try to recall some of the details as I write this post.

My friend Kiersten told me a while back that she was planning to run this race.  Her brother and sister-in-law live on Whidbey Island so she has been there a lot.  So I signed up back in December and did pretty well with training over the next several months (despite an ankle injury).  Friday night, Kiersten, her boyfriend Finney, and her other sister-in-law Lisa and I all drove up to Whidbey.  We drove through Seattle up to Mukilteo where we caught a ferry and rode about 15 mins to the island.  We were able to stay with Kiersten's brother Seth and sister-in-law Laura for the weekend.

Saturday was a nice relaxing day on the island.  We had breakfast, dropped by the local farmer's market, picked up our race packets, then drove the course so we had an idea of what to expect.  Let me tell you, those hills don't seem so bad when you're comfortably sitting in a car, chatting and laughing with your friends, sipping coffee, tapping the accelerator and cruising at 50mph.  It's another story when your out in the wind and rain having to lift your tired and heavy legs in order to take another step towards mile 17.  After the nice Saturday drive, we headed back to the house for naps, reading, taking walks and relaxing.  Seth and Laura prepared a delicious dinner of grilled chicken, rosemary potatoes, and asparagus (straight from their garden).  After watching some inspirational running videos on youtube, we went to bed around 10:00 that night in order to be well rested for the big day.
We woke up before sunrise on race morning to get ready by eating bagels, bananas, and peanut butter, rubbing vaseline in chaffing-prone spots, and popping a few pills of imodium (ah, the odd habits of runners).  Waiting in the cold at the starting line, trying to fight off nervous pee while contemplating what you are about to put yourself through is the worst.  The countdown and shouting of the word "Go" finally allow you to run to your pounding hearts desire.  As your heart rate increases even more, you have to remind yourself that you have 26 miles of this craziness to go, so you'd better keep calm and settle into a steady pace.
I have to tell you, after I ran the first three miles and still didn't feel like I was getting into any sort of groove, I started to worry.  I knew at that point that this was going to be a hard race and I was going to have to really fight for it.  It wasn't going to come easy.  And easy it wasn't.  This was by far the hardest race I've ever run.  It was hilly (I mean hilly).  It was cold, windy and rainy during parts of it.  And my body was not at 100%.  It was at more like 50%.  Like I said, I've already blocked most of the details of the race out of my mind, but the main point is: I finished.  I didn't jump in the back of the ambulance like I wanted to at mile 10; I kept going and I ran across that finish line at 4:21:54 (not my best time, but someday I'll reach my goal of a sub-4-hr marathon).
After the race, we all hopped/fell into the car, enjoyed a nice big burger and beer, and hobbled back to the house to take a shower and then hit the road back to Portland.  The ride home was rough because we were so tired and sitting still in a car for 5 hours after such a long run was not good for our tightening muscles.  Walking today has been quite brutal, but I'm glad to be (somewhat) mobile and able to get about without a wheelchair.
So there you have it: the Whidbey Island Marathon.  Check it off the list.
Lisa on the deck of the ferry, headed to Whidbey Island

driving the route on Saturday - it really was beautiful (minus the hills)

our cheering/support squad planning their route for race day

the one picture I took during the race - I think I was hoping to capture something beautiful to remind me that there were some nice things around the race, including the scenery

race bid and medal - I worked hard for those suckers!
Paying for Pain
It's a bit odd to think that people pay money to put themselves through such an event.  Sometimes I think we marathoners are a bit crazy.  It's like we have to make up in physical ability what we lack in sensibility.  Here are some fellow runners who also admit to such craziness...
"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming."
- Frank Shorter, 1972 Olympic marathon gold medalist
"If you feel bad at 10 miles, you're in trouble. If you feel bad at 20 miles, you're normal. If you don't feel bad at 26 miles, you're abnormal."
- Rob de Castella, winner 1983 World Marathon Championships
"Marathoning is just another form of insanity."
- John J. Kelly, winner of the 1952 Boston Marathon
"That was awful.  I want to die.  Where's the water?"
- Mary Carter, after stumbling across the 2013 Widbey Island Marathon

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Ability Not to Understand

This past Sunday was Easter Sunday, Christians’ most celebrated holiday in which believers commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a joyous occasion, coming off the heels of the darker days of the Lenten season. Megan and I drove down to St Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salem where our friend Heather is a priest. It was a day of extra celebration at the parish because Heather and Mike’s 9-month-old daughter Eleanor was being baptized. What a special day!
I entered into this day with appreciation for the sacred rituals of baptism and Easter celebration, yet questions of the underlying meaning and rules to these religious practices. I’ve recently been looking at the world through lenses of doubt and skepticism when it comes to religion and faith. These lenses are tinted grey and seem to blur my vision while simultaneously sharpening my thoughts.
The priest who gave the sermon yesterday made some comments that caught my attention. First was his mention that doubts and questioning are normal and good in a person’s faith journey. I fully agree. Then he said that we should ask God for “the ability not to understand.” The ability not to understand. We should want to not have all the answers? I’ll be the first to admit that there is a lot that I don’t understand, and never will. Especially when it comes to faith, my answer to many of the difficult questions is: “I don’t know.” Often I think that’s the best answer. It’s the honest truth. I actually love that answer. Too often, we Christians think we need to have solid, definitive answers to all of the tough questions of faith, life and God. So we create some answer that we think sounds good, blurt it out with quavering confidence, and try to make ourselves and others believe it. But the truth is, we really don’t know. We may believe one thing or another, lean to one side or the other, but there are so many things that we can’t truly know. They aren’t for us to know. Because we are not God. And so much of faith is a mystery. That’s what makes it faith rather than fact, right?
The priest also asked the question: “What makes believing the resurrection difficult?” We can all think of a dozen answers to that question. And then he went further with the question: “What might be possible if it’s true?” And that’s where Hope enters the picture. Hope is a grey word; but it’s a beautiful word. Faith, trust, desire, expectation – these are all wrapped up in a spirit of Hope. With faith, there is so much that we truly do not have the ability to understand. We can’t have the answers. So we have Hope. How wonderful to hope in a God that loves you and created you and desires good for you. How comforting to hope that we will see those we have loved and lost once again. How amazing to hope that we are all truly equal in God’s eyes.
So I’ll continue down this faith path with questions and doubts along the way, but mainly Hope. I will fully embrace my ability not to understand, while continually exploring the possibilities of Hope.
Life of Pi
Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of my favorite books and I am rereading it right now.  While it is an adventurous story of a boy and a tiger on a lifeboat, it has deep faith aspects as well.  In the words of Pi:
Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer... Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love.