A trip to CW Pencil Enterprise…The best day that was ever had in New York City

As I promised I went to New York City to go and see CW Pencil Enterprise for myself, and I had to best day in the history of New York (in my opinion.)

You can take this as a rock out in the United States on a budget kind of post as well.  I had kicked the idea around for a while, there is a pencil store so close-Boston and New York are close to me-so I had to see it for myself.  I get it, in the small community of stationary junkies, I am a small fish, but I still thought it would be awesome to hit the store up and just spend a day in New York City a place that a lot of my favorite movies and TV shows are set (I either obsess about something or I let it die) and this is what I do, I like to randomly go and do something.  I started my planning Amtrak.

 Amtrak is my new favorite way to travel, especially to a place that when I drove there I hated it. First off there is no ridiculous security line like the airport.  Went in, waited for the train, ate and then boarded.  A conductor scanned my ticket and we went on our way. The price is worth noting as well, I got to New York and back for 120$, and I did not have to drive in New York.  Add 40$ to the total for parking my car in Boston.  The train is something I am going to use as much as humanly possible on my adventures.  I had time to work or read whatever I wanted, I am not crazy about flying, no take off no landing, and I can go and buy my own soda rather than waiting for it to be brought.  If you travel by train you get to see some amazing views of the country.

Im not even sure where that is, somewhere between Boston and Connecticut, it is probably Rhode Island, but the whole thing just felt right.  Watching America go buy with a pencil in my hand was pretty great.  Im kind of stoked to figure out where to go next, but I will need to save for the next one.  The next thing about train travel is the people you meet.  Sure I probably lucked out this time, but right now it is train 1-plane 0.  On my last good plane ride I spent four hours listening to a woman who was convinced that denim was making a comeback in fashion, and she was excited about it.  Head phones are not the international symbol we think they are.  On the train I met a Vietnam veteran who was an actual hobo.

I asked him if I could write about him, he said that would be cool, but part of the story is about how many beers he had during this time so for the sake of his Dignity we will just be calling him JL on the off chance he was not sure to what he agreed to.  JL sat and rode for a while and looked well enough, minus the fact that he was running through beers at a good clip (he had them in his bag.  See what I mean about security? BYOB!) At some point I got a pepsi and he assumed the can to be beer and wanted to know why I paid the eight dollar train price of beer.  I told him it was soda, he then offered me a beer, to which I declined, being 0750 and all.  He told me his story.  He is a hobo (his term) and he was on his way to Tampa.  He stays in Boston as long as possible, and then heads south for the winter where he has connections with a lot of street people (his term also.)  His sister had bought him a nice new pair of boots as a Christmas gift, and his Ex had let him spend the night waiting on his train.  He said she woke him up promptly to be on his way.  He had a backpack with him and he would hop off the train to smoke at any stops longer than a minute.  He said if he missed the train he wanted me to have his bag.  We talked for a while about why he moved about.  He said he came back from Vietnam and eventually moved into a bottle and stayed there.  The long and short of it was that he travelled back and forth according to the seasons and ate and drank on his VA check while living in shelters.  He has it figured out and seems to work for him.  We enjoyed a little pizza before he hunted a liquor store and went on to his connecting train to move on.  If your in tampa and you spot JL remind him to call me so I can check up on him.  He has my number.

SO that leads us to my first slice of New York City pizza.  We had it at a place called Little Italy, that is the name of the eatery.

I was not disappointed.  New York Pizza was everything I had dreamed it could be.

Next came The Empire State Building.  The fee to go to the 86th floor was 35$.  That brings our total (with the pizza) to about 200$.  I wanted the open air observatory, so thats where I went rather than the top to be in a box.  It was here that I got to kill off a bucket list item.  They cram the elevators full for efficiency.  The second trip on one of them and as soon as the doors closed I said to the full elevator “I suppose you all are wondering why I gathered you here today.”  Needless to say the uncomfortable was palpable.  It took me fifteen minutes of tour dodging and security to get to the top.  Let us describe a special kind of cold at the top of that building.  However the photos and the recreation of a Home Alone 2 moment were worth it.  As well as meeting a British woman and her daughter who seemed to believe that my southern accent was from some forgotten colony island rather than the southern United States.


On my way out I acquired my Rough Guide to New York ( a must and it is in the first photo.)  Brings our total to 215$.  I escaped this building and set off on the three mile trek to CW Pencil Enterprise.  Here is part of the beauty of a trip like this.  Whip out the pocket guide, grab the map, plan your route and see what attractions are listed along the way.  A ton of them are things like buildings that cost you nothing at all to admire and take a photo of.  Things like The Flat Iron Building make me wish that I could sketch.  However I cannot sketch so I tell you how to visit cities and sites on a budget.

  

There is a ton of free city to experience along the way.  However the point of this entry is of course CW Pencil Enterprise.  We have arrived.

This is why I had come.  This is the reason for the trip in the first place.  Four hours on a train, three miles on foot, and do it all again later to see this wonderful little shop that has gotten so much press.  I know that I am a small fish in the world of blogging and especially among stationary junkies, however The Pencil Ladies will make you feel like they opened the store just so you can visit.  That is how awesome they are.  I got to meet two of them on this day.  I walked in, sat down my bag and proudly declared that I had trekked from Boston to see this store and write about it.  Caitlyn did not miss a beat and told me to stay as long as I like.  The resident blogger showed the shop off, allowed me to show off some of my own pencils and exchanged my dollars for quarters so that I could gleefully continue to feed them to the pencil machine in the store.  Eventually Caroline, the pencil lady that started it all, came in and I was introduced while trying not to come off as weird.  Again The Pencil Ladies are awesome.  They chatted with me for quite a while.  Now the super fun part comes in when two ladies who had already checked out and left came back to the store.  Apparently there is an Atlanta based stationary blogger/podcaster named Brad whom I mildly resemble (I am sure to them the accent is basically the same) and so they came back and asked if I was Brad.  I was not sure what was going on, but we eventually established who they were talking about and that I am not The Pen Addict.  However I was very flattered and of course the stories are the point of the whole thing.  They added me on Instagram and such (she’s a popular artist herself @penguinscreative April Wu, seriously she’s talented) and they allowed me to get a shot with them just because…they are awesome.

The Pencil ladies showed me some of their cooler vintage items, like a box os 1950s Blackwings and a 1920s case of mongol brand pencils, which we established the packaging was a little racist.

  

Lastly before taking off I presented them my humble offering.  I figured they would have some sort of wall of fame for analogue items people would bring to the store as an offering to The Pencil Ladies.  Turns out that is not a thing…not yet!  See for yourself that they enjoyed the excellent military compass!

I think it goes without saying that I gave up a good bit of my spending money in this store.  This will not be factored into the cost of the trip as you can recreate a trip similar to this without feeding an addiction.  I have two friends (you guys know Carl, and will soon know Tyler) who had asked for an awesome grab bag of graphite from my travels.  I was happy to suck them into this world with me.  I cannot lavish enough praise on this store or the wonderful ladies who run it, it will become a New York must for me.  They treat you like a friend the moment you hit the door.  Now the rest of this is going to go fast as it is getting long.

I made the trek back to the ESB.  I want to point out that every single citizen of New York that I encountered along the way was awesome.  Everyone was helpful, kind, did I say it was the perfect day?  Anyhow seeing as how this became a part pilgrimage for another one of my obsessions (Home Alone 2) I wanted to see The Plaza Hotel and Central Park.  I was getting low on time and would have to book it if I wanted photos.  Fifth Avenue here I go.  Free attractions along the way.

Along the way I encountered a building playing what could only be the soundtrack to Home Alone 2 and putting on a light show.  I asked an officer of the NYPD why this was happening.  He pointed behind me.  I had unknowingly come upon Rockefeller Center.  As any Home Alone Pilgrim would, I fell to my knees and wept…and face timed my son and mother so they could see…then I took pictures.

 
Now me ? I consider the things that you can see along the way to be free attractions  and a way to make the most of your trip.

  
  

In the end I made it to The Plaza Hotel, and had my photo taken on the steps in true Home Alone fashion.

  

After this I headed into Central Park.  I did not go far, I wanted my Grandparents to see it on FaceTime, and so I took them in as far as a bridge, and from the first bridge along the path of Kevin, I took what will be some of my favorite photos.  They will be seen after my signature when this finally ends.  It was 1850, I was low on time and had a train to catch and 1.5 miles back.  I started walking.  A quick duck into a store for souvenir NYC snow globes for the family and I made my train with twenty minutes to spare.  For less than 300$ I had an utterly awesome day in New York City and am already thinking ahead to what to do next time.  One of my big savings is that I walked.  New York is a walking city.  (The Ganger means Big Walker.)  I accomplished a lot of goals (home alone and otherwise) and I made my journey to see the awesome CW Pencil Enterprise and meet the pencil ladies.  Needless to say despite it being 0200, Carl came over and we dug into our goodies from the pencil store.  I hope you enjoy this and can take a trip on the cheap and live a little for yourself.

  
Hrolf The Ganger


  
  

 

 

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Time for an adventure!

Get your kits together, because we are going on an adventure!  I am not going to jump the gun and make the entire rules and tools list now.  I will go ahead and add an item to it, but first… 

 
That’s right, I am going to see CW Pencil enterprises in New York City tomorrow!!! I’ll probably do quite a bit while I’m there but let’s face it, I’m going for the pencil store.

Step 1: ensure destination will be open.  Complete…11-7.  

Step 2: double check the weather. 

 
It is going to be cold, but I can handle cold.  Leads to step 3: get your clothes together.  For tomorrow I will be rocking a base layer from the army, we call them ninja suits, and wool socks, good leather boots, outer wear kuhl Ryder pants, Kuhl Thor fleece sweater, and a good wool pea coat.  Once you are dressed check your pockets for knives.

     That’s right it is time to break rule number 1.  The Amtrak web site says no knives whatsoever.  So we I guess by my own standards, while in New York I am a lifeless man.  Unless… 

 
Go ahead and add an umbrella to your gear list.  A good umbrella can make all the difference between an little rain and a ruined day.  Especially when that umbrella is the walking stick umbrella from Unbreakable Umbrella.  Observe.

That’s all I’m saying.  I’m putting my bag together as we speak.  Large camera that is a bit excessive-check, cash-check, list of ideas for after I have achieved pencil glory-good to go, head phones because no one on a 4 hour train ride likes that guy who forgot his head phones-check, couple of books-that’s a must.  Of course I will be obeying the rules about having pencils and a notebook and live updating about this basically all day.  I am not really sure what else to say.

  I’ve given you the basics of how you start something like this, you just have to put together the means and be willing to throw a couple of books and pipes in a bag and ride the rail, that’s the biggest part is being willing to go and do, get off of the couch and chase your passion whatever that may be. Watch for updates. 

Hrolf the Ganger

There are two kinds of people in history…

I have been away for a while.  I believe at is or a similar phrase are the beginnings of most of my posts.  It is true though, I was taken away by my School.  Ah yes I have completed my first year of college.  For a high school dropout who has actually realized the dream of using my military benefits to better myself (in my opinion), it is fairly amazing to be attending college and by some miracle coming out on the Dean’s list for both semesters so far.  I know that it is a very long road to be sure, but when you say a year is down, then the next three do not seem all that long.  We have had a good year here.  I am behind in posting the journal posts, but the idea is that I am not going to go back and type them all out.  What counts is that they are in the journal for my family to read, not that they end up in here, all further ones will be posted.  The idea is not to spend all my time in life rerecording, just the once will do.

I will give a brief recap.  There was a second post about camping.  There is a rather good entry espousing to my son(s) the dedication that you have show if you wish to succeed at anything.  That little gym was written at about 0300 one night when I stayed up to do homework rather than working on it while Liam was awake.

I want the boys to see that you must be prepared to sacrifice if you want to succeed.  You have to be ready to skip movies, concerts, sleep.  I managed my goals this semester, I kept my grades up and I still managed to spend time with my family.  Liam has been in daycare the few days that I am class and it has done him a world of good.  He has learned at a faster rate than he would have cooped up with me.  The baby is due in February and I had intended to take the semester off.  However my advisor has asked me to take at least one online history course and Katie believes that I should keep moving as well.  Our family has come through in fine fashion to help us get through the coming semester as I have been offered (and hopefully will get) the chance to be a student instructor in history.  That is the kind of thing that grad school applications are made of as my grades and high school drop out will only walk me so far.

Our family had a nice Christmas.  Our pajama theme was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The day before Christmas Liam became sick.  We have all had a cold, but Liam’s got worse.  I hoped he would kick it but he didn’t and two days later it was apparent that he had pneumonia.  We were going to make him an appointment Monday morning, but during the night he kept getting worse.  At 0430 I finally took him to the hospital.  It was there that they confirmed that he had pneumonia.

The raging fever, accelerated hear rate, trouble breathing, the infection…this could have been a death sentence a relatively short time in history ago.  That is what leads me to my main point.  In some parts of the world today, pneumonia, especially in children, is still a death sentence.  We were at the hospital for maybe an hour and a half. Basic medicine (which we had at home, and were already using) to bring the fever down, couple of chest x-rays to confirm the diagnoses, and a dose of and prescription for antibiotics, and we were on our way, with the certainty that my son would survive the night.  It is only my studies of medicine and history, I feel, that make me sensitive to what a modern miracle that is.  I walked out thinking “everyone should have that.”  That is where the point of this post begins.

Firstly I have always had a bent towards history, and realized my passion in an epiphany when trying to pick my major.  However our long educations make us insensitive to certain things.  I have the theory that in history there are two kinds of people: Historical Figures and just Figures.  Your historical figures are someone remembered.  We will work with examples like Jamestown colony.  We know names like Captain John Smith, he is a historical figure.  However your “figures”are just that, they are numbers.  From elementary school onward we learn things like “over half the colonists died of…” the figures were worse than that, but you get the idea.  The death figures we read over, to us they are facts and figures.  We get accustom to them, and our currently low mortality rates do not help us to think of the ones in the past as being something that borders on fiction.  It is true that a certain normalcy forms when something happens often enough.  A situation in Brazil proved that maternal instinct is more cultural construct than it is total instinct, in that it can be overridden by prolonged and truly desperate circumstances. They were people though, starving, freezing, dying of disease.  They were husbands, wives, CHILDREN.  They were peoples children.  Children died too.  We forget to think about when we read “children that survived to adulthood.”  Let that sink in.  You may have seen my graveyard posts.  The end of all anti vaccine arguments is “I am sorry that you enjoy being able to name your children before they are six.”  We are not so far into a time when children don’t just die.  At least to the people reading this.  That is the second half.

My studies have made me aware of problems in the world.  I knew about them, more than the common man anyhow, due to service in Iraq, seeing the people so poor they didn’t eat enough.  I won’t go into all the details, but with my school I’ve realized it isn’t just war zones.  There are places where people just do not have anything.  If their children had gotten the same sickness that my son had and I consider it minor, their child would be dead.  I am grateful that my son has that, but I am aware of the imbalance in the world.  My son lives, countless die.  I avoid things like commercials of the kids starving because I know I cannot do enough, like I could not do enough in Iraq.  The weight of millions bares down on me.  Past and present.  I ignore the fact that I enjoy the products of this situation.  I sit here on my fancy made in China computer, wearing my Singapore and Vietnam clothes not knowing if they get a decent wage or if they are modern slaves.  The more I study the more the weight heaves on thinking about how there are children forced to be soldiers.  Someone posted an article saying minority children in America do not get to be children.  Fine that may be true in some cases (race put aside) but I wonder if the ones saying we must broaden our thoughts want to broaden far enough to the places where nine year olds carry AK-47’s.  I am thankful my son had a hospital and care and insurance, and I wish everyone had that, but I have this fight club moment when I sit on my Ikea couch and wonder if the guilt will win, or if I just accept that is the way it is?  We journey on, but we wonder, will we always have it so good?

Hrolf the Ganger

Baton Fire Wood

Here is my post on batoning firewood.  The technique is best used to make kindling or in the last ditch, split firewood.  Enjoy the video.

 

We did it we went camping part 1.

 Very This entry is a little backdated, but thats the way it goes sometimes.

10/9/2015-10/11/2015

We did it.  We bit the bullet and went camping.  We made the decision last minute on Wednesday.  We had talked about it back and forth some, and due to Columbus day being the last real weekend before the campsites close down, we went ahead and booked a campsite.  Nature of the adventure beast right?  Just jump in.  We had pretty much all the gear we needed anyhow.  We pull it all out while still working and trying to get through homework and wrangle a three year old.  We did need to buy a new tent and such, the one I have barely holds me and my gear.  We made this attempt all while seeing if we could keep from turning the house inside out (fail).  I managed to chug through enough homework so that I could go without having one of those panic attacks at how much work I was ignoring and ruining everyones trip.  We prepared on Thursday, and Katie dropped Liam and I off at school on Friday.  She went to buy the food and a cooler and put all of the stuff into the car.  She picked us up as soon as school was out and we were on our way to the cape.  Being that it was Columbus day weekend and we were driving to Cape Cod, the traffic was fairly thick, but we made it just fine.  When we arrived we followed the rules and set out tent up before we did anything else.  If you have your notebook handy go ahead and take this down.  Rule #2 shelter first.  It is a part of the trinity of shelter fire food.

 Once the house was set up we went to the camp store to obtain firewood, built a fire and busted out the camp chairs.  Liam showed us that there is an infallible rule involving kids and camp fires.  Children will find a stick, shove it in the fire, pull it out, blow the small flame on the end out, and repeat this process to madness.  It is such a simple form of entertainment, and it is just a natural part of being a child.  Their curiosity is wonderful.  I remember doing this as a child.  Anyhow it seemed to me it was time to do what I had been looking forward to all along, to bust out my pipe and sit in a camp chair by the fire while watching my boy play with a stick.  We built the fire together with a flint and steel and a little homemade tinder just to make sure that he starts seeing how it is done early.  I was enjoying our little scene with my pipe, reflecting on how I was now in the chair that I remember my Grandfather and Uncle being in previously, maker of fire, all great knowing camping sage…

 That is about the time the rain started.  A few drops managed to hit before the weather alert came through.  Cape Cod suddenly went from cool and clear to holy wow thunderstorms.  So rather than a long night of sipping teamed smoking a pipe and cooking marshmallows over a fire, the first of our nights camping will be spent inside the tent, playing cards (war) and listening to Johnny Cash on my phone.  We will count this as being unplugged because we are not using it to sit around and check Facebook, it was just a radio and lots of people take radios camping.  For us this is just part of the experience!  It was great really, minus the fact that the storms were fairly strong.  Also part of the experience is the little mistakes you make along the way that become part of the ritual every time you do this.  This camping trips (first) mistake was that apparently we had stolen some of the batteries from the lantern to put in the army flashlight when Katie needed it, and we did not bring this flashlight with us.  From this point on during the trip all night time activities will be conducted by headlamps.  So now part of our camping ritual will be overpacking every four of battery and socks for the kids because Mistake #2 was an awful parent moment, apparently Liam’s only socks were the ones he was wearing.  Not to fear we brought absolutely everything else he needed and if you pull them up the right way he can wear his mother’s socks…

  
 Liam however did enjoy the concept of getting to pee in the woods.  I mean yes there was a clean facility across the street, but he is three and should get to pee in the woods.  Anyhow we brought the cards for a reason so we decided to bask in the experience of being rained in for the night.  We brought them for the same reason that we brought notebooks, and a book each, and a set of liars dice.  These are the methods that allow people to enjoy each others company and not resort to Facebook when un entertained company becomes just too much.  That is why we are here, we want to unplug for a bit.  To get away from the petty concerns of the day to day and live a little.  Andrew, one of my classmates how I planned to balance this with the massive homework load I would be ignoring for two days.  I told him, and Liam I do hope this holds true, that my son would never remember my GPA, but he would remember camping.  He would also remember if I was always telling him that I am too busy.

  
  
This is what Katie and I are trying to keep in mind, our son is young only once and the clock is rapidly ticking.  We were given stark reminders of the shortness of life this past week.  First the veterans community…and humanity really, lost one of our titans.  Justin Fitch’s battle with cancer is over.  On Sunday October 4th we woke up to find out that the lie we had been telling ourselves, that he would always be there, was not true.  If you have ever been to a team minuteman event up until recently, then you know who I am talking about.  The first time I got to step off with these fine people, Justin Fitch took me into his family, and at the end of it all he had a drink from the horn, despite being on chemo therapy.  “This could kill me you know” he said lowering the horn with beer foam on his face.  After an appropriate freak out from me he explained that it may be the only drink he ever has with me.  It was if you are wondering.  Secondly I basically found our next door neighbor dead.  His back door had been ajar for three days and after leaving him a note about it, it became apparent that he had not been leaving.  Police were called, Alex was dead.  Sixty seven is not young, but it is to young to die in a hoarded up apartment filled with garbage and cat crap, in your sleep.  So todays final words (before part two) are this, remember that you will die.


Hrolf The Ganger.

Rules and tools.

Welcome back.  It is time to go for the second part of this life is an adventure blog.  This is where the rules and tools of the trades come in.  This will strike you as a little zombieland or NCIS, but it is a good way to live.  My Uncle Fred will attest that I have kept a little note book of reminders since before the movie so laugh all you want, but I am still alive.  You are also about to get a birds eye view into things I spend too much time thinking about.  Anyhow let us get right into the good stuff.  Your necessary gear list starts now.  Feel free to write this down hahahahaha (you’ll understand in a moment.)

Necessary Gear

  1.  A knife.
  2. A notebook.
  3. A pencil.
  4. A bag.

So part 1 is a knife.  This is also rule 1.  Again this is not a tv joke.  Live by the quote  A knifeless man (woman) is a lifeless man (woman).  The best tool you can have is a knife.  Multipurpose endless ammunition survival tool never ending uses knife.  Also make a note this is not the place to go cheap.  Your knife is your life, think that through when you are pricing them.

  

Some of my favorite pieces.  You have the Gerber folding tanto based off the IDF fighting knife, A gerber multi tool w/knife, the ever handy much knocked off Victorinox prize bragging rights of the school yard Swiss Army Knife, Skallywag Tactical dagger (advanced users only), the Gerber Bear Grylls survival knife (one of the best despite the name on it), and the beast of the western fighting force the Ka-Bar fighting knife (advanced users only).  Not pictured is the Case Medium Stockman, and the classic Opinel #8.  One day when Im running short on material I will do an in depth on each and every one of these beauties will get the job done, with a couple of caveats.  1.  do not just rely on a multi took, in fact have one of each if at all possible.  I personally have a fixed blade stashed somewhere with a folder in my pocket.  Congratulations you have now started your everyday carry kit.  Now that I have said it once I will henceforth refer to it as EDC.  These tools are not just for adventuring, it is just life.  It is a wacky wacky world.

2.  You are on an adventure! this is your life! write it down.  You need a notebook!  (also yes this is part of why I thought telling you to write it down earlier was funny.)

I love notebooks.  I have one for everything.  I have a journal (you see it in pictures on this blog) I don’t keep so much of a journal for myself anymore…I will work it out.  Anyhow Journal, rule/gear book, a notebook tracking which books I have read (and when), I keep the books in a notebook, a bucket list notebook, a notebook for when I read the Bible, and one day I will have a notebook to track what each notebook is for.  My notebook of choice is the great Moleskine.  It was the simple product of choice for years of adventurers, artists, writers, and whatever your hobby is they probably have a notebook specifically for that.  In the photo you will see some various choices.  Once you have payed for a nice knife you can rest assured that a simple composition book will do.  Whatever it is, there is not quite any feeling like seeing those pages fill up and knowing that it is your life, your story you are writing down.  The simple and sturdy notebook should you choose Moleskine has what you need and no more, a ribbon page marker, lined pages, an elastic strap to keep it closed, and a little accordion pocket for the odds and ends you pick up along the way.

3.  Along with the notebook comes another one of my favorite things in life is the pencil.  Humble lovable pencil, or as some call it The Russian Space Pen.

The pencil is your stylus of choice for any reason you can list.  Do not get me wrong, I love pens too, but the pencil is the way to go.  Reasons you ask?  The pencil doesn’t quit working despite still having ink, it does not dry out, it is unaffected by weird gravity fluctuations (despite the whole space pen, Russian story being just that), they just have that classic feel in your hand, the ink does run when wet, you can erase (some people say thats a reason not to use them), and when/if it breaks or gets dull you can use the knife that you most certainly have to resharpen your pencil, and you will feel awesome for having done so.  I keep a pretty large stash of pencils with me at all times (with my notebooks).  Whats not to love about a good #2???  Some of my favorites? Ticonderoga and Mirdao.

4.  Last but not least, a bag.  You will need a bag to carry everything with you.  The knife, a small notebook, and pencils can go in your pocket, but you can put more in a bag.  A bag holds your various other goodies, stuff you find, or your whole life when you are out on a journey.  Back pack is my norm, but I also enjoy a good messenger bag for a day at school.

These are my two carry all, be all bags for most every day.  Pictured is a black Goruck GR1, and a line of trade messenger bag.  Both of them are top of the line, and their price can reflect it.  The Goruck is meant to carry more crap than you can come up with, and the line of trade while it holds plenty is meant to carry the bare essentials.  I use the go ruck for everything you can imagine, during the week it carries my lunch, gym clothes and shoes, water bottle, and thermos.  The line of trade carries note book, pencils, and every school book and notebook, and computer for school.

These items are the start of your everyday carry and if you want to be able to pick up and go you will put them together.  Do not do it because I told you to, do it because you want to go where your feet carry you.

When you look up the mountain…

I should be doing more homework right now, but I got it all done last week end, which you will see why that is impressive and I should not be worried now.  Ive gotten a good bit done tonight and now I want to sit down and do a couple of entries that I think have been a long time coming.  First lets hit the journal and then the rest will follow.


9-23-2015

We did it.  Keith and I joined the Spartan TriFecta tribe by completing the spartan beast at Killington, Vermont.  This is the birthplace of the beast and the medal says as much.  The first photo on the previous page is of Keith and I right before the race.

 Before this I had done spartan races already (two of them anyhow), and then I met Keith at the Natick Church of Christ.  I decided that this year I was going to get my trifecta so that I could get most of it done while school was out for the summer and before critter (child 2) gets here.  I invited some guys to come with me and Keith took me up on the offer.  He also said if he started this he was going to finish it.  He just wanted to go ahead and get the trifecta as well.  This is the kind of guy you need by your side in these kinds of messes.

 Three races later and the trifecta is in the bag.  Let us just be frank, for a guy who calls himself Hrolf the Ganger (Hrolf the big walker), the day on that mountain was one of the longest days of my life, and for a soldier that is saying something in my opinion.  Estimated 15-16 miles of mountainous hell, designed by Norm Koch (I now understand the patches that say effnorm).  I will not bother to hash out all the details about the water, and all the other stuff that made this race into a Stalingrad dumpster fire, if you were there then you know.

 What I will say is that I have never wanted to quit something so badly in my life.  At some points going up that mountain it got down to hiking for one minute and stopping for 3 or 4 to rub the cramps out of my legs.  Another fun thing is when you get to the top of a (loose) cargo net and suddenly your core decides to turn into one big cramp.  It was so tight, that may have been the best abs I’ve ever had…you know pain aside and it being a ball of contracted muscle.  I may have gotten my first successful spear throw here (yes on the little one.  still counts.  no burpees.)  None of this changes the fact that my marathon runner of a partner could have gone on faster without me.  He bested the herculean lift and sled pull this time which really nixes the parts of the race where I am a beneficial team member.  No matter how many times I told him to go on, go finish, he wouldn’t do it, even when we were facing cut offs, even when I was on the last big hill dry heaving with thirty minutes left and a mile to go he would not just go.  He is the best friend you could want on the mountain.

 I was able to chug on.  He and I kept to our normal pattern of helping people when we could.  There was a guy named Mike having a panic attack.  He had gotten really dehydrated and decided there was no way out of the woods and they that continued up hill forever as some kind of bizarre purgatory.   Medical wouldn’t get there in time to calm him down, so we got him sipping water and led him off the mountain literally by the hand.  When we got to the bottom, thankfully it was a water point, we had to give him the bad news that he was done.  We had to tell him he couldn’t go back out, he was dehydrated and the moment he saw another up hill in the woods it would all happen again (there was one not 500 feet after that water point) and there was still 3 miles of race to go.

 
To the point, Killington was filled with soul crushing.  I had accepted six hours before we finished that we were not going to make cut offs.  I was quite confident that given all the time we needed we could make the end of the course, but there wasn’t time.  However training kicked in, which really means imagine that you just can’t stop and go stupid for a while and keep moving.  Having a good buddy doesn’t hurt either.  Somehow we kept passing the cutoffs, sometimes within minutes.  In the end suddenly the fire jump was in sight and we crossed that finish line with twelve minutes left.  twelve minutes.  We were out there for twelve hours fourteen minutes.  There were 100 more after us.  We did it.  We left some things that needed to die out there on that mountain.  Katie was at the finish line, towel draped over her shoulders cheering us on.  She was a real trooper having to hang out and wait all day.  The mountain was ours.  I think I rediscovered some parts of myself that had lain dormant for a while.

 Moving on, while I was recovering I still needed to take some friends for exercise.  I took them Geocaching as that was about all I was up for.  This also gave me a chance to get a picture of Liam at the grave yard for the journal, he is at the graves of the Rice family, at Robin Hill cemetery.

 The third is simply a picture of him helping me with the garbage.  Seems dull I know, but this is what we do.  We help each other.  Garbage is one of his favorite things to help with.  He is currently very excited because Halloween decorations are already going up.

  
Halloween is one of our favorite holidays.  With a kid you have to split the movie festival into two portions.  The part the kid can watch, and the part that would classify as child abuse if you let them watch.  Casper is one of our staple movies.  It being twenty years old this year makes this a great moment to reflect about this movie.  I remember going to see this movie in theaters with my Grandmother Vicki.  I remember that pizza hut had a bunch of rubber glow in the dark puppets of the ghosts (I had casper).  Every year around this time I have to fight the urge to pile all this kind of crap up off of eBay.  I remember my buddy Danny Armstrong and I at the neighborhood pool discussing the bad words that were featured in Casper.  I remember my grandmother calling for showtimes in front of the sink of the cabin she and my grandfather lived at.  Not long after it came out I got the VHS and I’ve kept this movie close ever since.

 Reflection and making things to reflect upon is the point of this.  We need anchor points that we can share and call constant.

end.

There you have it.  This one is not very adventurous, but the life of a late comer college student and family man is not always exciting.  Homework, papers, repeat.  I may have beaten the mountain but it does not look like I will be able to beat remedial math. Tomorrow is several events which I am sure you will see all about.

Hrolf the Ganger

P.S. the halloween movie count stands as such.

Kid friendly: Hocus Pocus, Casper

With Carl: Halloween,2,4,5,6,H20

Alone: Scream,2

Halloween is coming…

9-16-2015

On Monday in preparation for the start of Halloween season in our house, which was officially September 15 in our house, Liam and I decided to complete a couple of initiatives.  We marked the event and decided to go outside for a while and hit up the playground, and to go geocaching.  Geocaching is a good time and it is a great outdoor activity.

This cache did have trinkets in it, so Liam took a small purple car, and in exchange we left a keychain compass.  The super fun part which made this an easy double check day, was that the geocache was located in Robin Hill cemetery! 

 The cemetery is small, but everything about the day was perfect.  The air was chilled just right and despite being September there were actually some leaves blowing around.  We managed some time at the playground, which we try to do as often as possible…more on that later. 

 Later on in the evening, my friends Devin, Jon, and Leo came over for a tradition that has almost been completely lost to Las Vegas style debauchery…poker night.  This was our first one, we try to have a game night every so often.  The boys were good enough to let Liam hang out and play with a small set of his own cards and some chips of a very large denomination that we were not using.

If you’ve never tried to have a game night or a poker night you and your friends should give it a try.  Throw your phone in a corner for the night, invite your friends to the table, and have a conversation and some genuine game time.  You will enjoy the sound of cards on cards and chips rattling without the risk of losing you home.  Side note: yes we decided to play Casino Royale in the back ground.

  Beverages for the night?  A combination of two of the best things in the world.  Tea and Whiskey.  Tea and Whiskey.  I do not need to say it again.  It was a great combo.  We weren’t mixing we were sipping both.  It made for a good night.  If you must know the tea was Black Dragon Pearl, the whiskey was Larceny Bourbon.

  Today Carl, Katie and I were able to start the Halloween movie festival for 2015.  First movie set is always the same.  We begin with Halloween.  We finished the second one as well.  Halloween is our first major celebration usually so let the games begin.  It can’t get much better than living in New England for the season.  I mean what better place to take a kid geocaching in an old cemetery, and let him play so you can grab some photos.  He was playing with the toy car he got out of the cache on the headstones.  I told him not to do that, and he looked at me and said “Daddy…they dead.” 

 Moral of the story.  Get some friends together for an analogue game night and unplug.  Start your adventure. 

   

A new way to adventure.

I have written several entries detailing my extreme love of recording and reflection upon the events of my life and the lives of my family.  Now we are going to try something new.  Let us just dive right in.  The entire point of this is to show that life is an adventure, take notes along the way, and get the most out of it.

  
September 13 2015

Last night I read a quote from the Dalai Lama.  It was about making sure you remember to live.  Ill stick the picture in here that it came from.  People have asked me before why I do some of the things I do.  I normally answer that I am trying to make my obituary more interesting.  I attempt to live to the fullest, often to the point of exhaustion.

Life is, and has been an adventure.  I’ve always kept a journal, the problem is that I have been trying to keep too many since Liam came along.  One for me, one for him, etc.  Yea…that is not working.  I end up spending either no time recording, or I spend so much time trying to catch up that we lose time on actually doing things.

Now this family will have a single cohesive narrative.  Thanks to the fact that we will be putting it online you can follow along if you like.  I have a pretty good idea of how we are going to do it as well.  Now the fun part, doing it.  You are going to need some gear.  My Grandmother has always been a picture taker (a fact that despite griping we all appreciate later) and she apparently has been notorious for home video as well.  I will tell you all about the adventure of preserving her Super 8s one day.  I am a picture taker as well.  So much so with the nice digital cameras we have that I end up not doing anything with them either.

In one of my previous posts, I wrote about getting hungry again.  You can go read that if you want to know what it means.  This is where we are going.  I cannot allow the fact that Liam’s journal did not go well to make me stop.  It just means you condense, reset, and try again.

 That photo at the top? (if you are reading this you’ll need to look at the pictures posted along with this, it is typed out from the journal where the pictures actually are.)  That is Liam and Katie making dinner.  This will be common practice.  I bought a Fuji Instax for this project.  I know it seems retro and expensive, but it is one chance, no frills, no filters or corrections, pull it out and stick it in the book photography.  Something I feel I could stand to have when I have a computer with 60,000 photos in it doing nothing.

This family is going to record what we do.  Note the two photos on page two. We do things.  We read books and tell stories together.  Stories that actually involve falling down when Jack chops down the beanstalk.

It is time to go outside.  See the world.  Share with the world.  Along the way we might clean some junk out of our house, and un bury ourselves.  The world has turned into a strange place and we are going to see the beautiful places before the dark corners of the map are all colored in.

Brandon Bledsoe “Hrolf the Ganger”

  

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