Tag Archives: travel

Cesar Chavez Dead or Alive: “Ten Thousand Waves”

For the past few days I've been staying at Ten Thousand Waves, a beautiful, Japanese-style hotel in the mountains outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The Waves is just one stop on a nearly month-long trip that has taken me, first, back to Colorado to visit friends and family, and then on a road trip through Southern Colorado and New Mexico (I hope to post an extended account of this trip later).  While pure relaxation has been the main goal of the trip, I have to admit I've also been thinking of it as a sort of Jack Kerouac-esque exercise in stoking my creativity by getting myself out of San Francisco and my normal routine for awhile.  And, while I can't say I've exactly spewed out a stream of consciousness novel on a single scroll or anything, I do think it's been very helpful in that regard.

I've been working on music on and off during the trip, sometimes adding guitar parts to my brother's songs, and sometimes just recording crude acoustic guitar demos of my own using my MacBook Pro's built in mic, and, much to my amazement, I've actually been liking a lot of what I've been coming up with.  All of this culminated last night with me sitting down with laptop in my room, opening Ableton Live, and putting together the song below, which I named "Ten Thousand Waves" after the place that inspired it.

I think it's pretty evocative of The Waves' setting–the beat (inspired by "When Doves Cry," incidentally), main synth part, and lack of a proper bassline suggest to me the dryness and starkness of the New Mexican high desert, while the rippling synth lead suggests the water of The Waves' Japanese onsen

The general sound reminds me a bit of Boards of Canada and I'll probably try to refine the track even further in the direction of something like "Dayvan Cowboy" by adding some more BoC-style, electronically twisted production and percussion variation.  The outro piano coda is definitely inspired by Aphex Twin's Drukqs.

For anyone interested, the software I used was:

• Ableton Live 5.2
• Native Instruments Reaktor (for the beat)
• Native Instruments Pro-53 (the main synth part)
• Native Instruments Absynth 4 and Native Instruments Spektral Delay (for the rippling synth lead)
• Native Instruments Akoustik Piano and Native Instruments Spektral Delay (for the piano coda at the end)

Ten Thousand Waves
Cesar Chavez Dead or Alive

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That Was the Year that Was: 2006

As I've reflected on 2006, my inclination has been to focus only on the aspects of my life that didn't meet my expectations and call it a bad year.  Now that I've pored over my Flickr photos to compile an end-of-the-year retrospective, though, I've had to remind myself that by most peoples' standards, I'm actually a damn lucky guy.  I have an exciting life, and 2006 was, even by my standards, a year of many adventures and much personal growth.  Here, for the sake of posterity, is a fairly exhaustive (and exhausting) chronicle:

In January, I got to attend the National Association of Music Manufacturers show on Apple's dime, which was a fun departure from the technology-oriented conferences and trade shows I usually attend.  How many tech-industry events, after all, feature countless guitars shaped like things other than guitars, megalomaniacal drum kits, giant analogue synths covered in patch cables, Bootsy Collins and Buckethead sightings, and more metalheads than you can shake a stick at?

I had a great time, met a lot of great people, and got to see a lot of Internet-only friends for the first time at South by Southwest Interactive in March.  I scored a press photo pass, and therefore was able to do some of my best shooting ever at South by Southwest Music (I even got to watch a Flaming Lips performance from the stage–truly a high point for any serious music fan).  Austin continues to restore my soul on a yearly basis, and I will always think of it fondly as my home away from home.

In June, I threw the biggest party of my life for Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference.  This year I had corporate sponsorship, so I was able to rent out a top notch venue (111 Minna) and provide entertainment in the form of a VJ set by Chris Moulios (creator of a highly-regarded music application called ACID, and now an Apple Pro Apps engineer) and a live musical performance by San Francisco's Broker/Dealer.  Food (and a little taste of non-touristy San Francisco for the out-of-towners) was provided by the Tamale Lady. For a time, the party was even one of the top events listed on Upcoming.org (above Burning Man!) and I would estimate that somewhere around 250 people attended.

In July, I decided I needed some time to be alone, so over 4th of July weekend I took a solo road trip to the Southern California desert.  It ended up being one of the best experiences I've ever had.  I stayed at the beautiful Hollywood getaway Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs (I've since seen it mentioned in both the film The Player and the TV show Six Feet Under), where I spent the wee hours of every evening soaking in a lush hot springs pool, staring contemplatively at the stars through a ring of palms trees.  During the day I roamed around Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, free to explore to my heart's content and take as much time as I wanted photographing flooded out trailer parks and beaches made of fish bones.  I remember one night when I drove through the desert, windows open, listening to El Perro Del Mar's "God Knows," as one of the last times I was truly, completely happy.

While I was in Southern California, I also took advantage of my friend Michael McCracken's sofa and spent the 4th of July with him and his friends in Pacific Beach.  It turns out Mission Bay is a great place to watch fireworks.

Immediately after getting home from my road trip, I (with the help of my friend Kristin) threw my yearly barbecue on my rooftop in the Upper Haight.  This year the movie Capote inspired me to dub the event "The Black & White BBQ" (in homage to Capote's famous Black & White Ball), and to my surprise, people took the name seriously enough to show up in some pretty impressive monochrome outfits!  I'm also quite proud of the food we provided: instead of serving conventional hamburgers, we made tiny sliders and provided a variety of sauces and toppings so people could sample a number of different tastes (aioli, wasabi mayo, curry ketchup, jalapeno ketchup, etc.).  It was truly a triumph of high concept barbecuing.

In September, my friend Sarah Hatter organized a road trip to Bodie, CA, a well preserved Ghost Town in the Eastern Sierras that is instantly recognizable as the location for many of Anton Corbijn's Joshua Tree-era U2 photos.  She assembled a motley crew of friends (me, Mai Le, Nick Douglas, and George Oates–a group I came to refer to as "The Fellowship of the Bodie") and made reservations for us to stay at the rustic Virginia Creek Settlement in Bridgeport, CA.  We took lots of photos, drank cheap beer in cowboy bars, and bonded while sitting around the campfire telling stories.

Also in September, my close friend Courtney and I celebrated our common birthday (the 27th) with an epic week of shared festivities that included a gift exchange at our favorite hangout Bourbon & Branch, a very well-attended picnic on Rodeo Beach in Marin County, and, best of all, a wonderfully memorable 9 course meal at Manresa, a Michelin three star restaurant in the small South Bay town of Los Gatos.

The holidays began this year with what has become a hallowed tradition of mine: the feuerzangenbowle.  In early December I invited some of my closest friends over for dinner and a gift exchange, followed by a pot of spiced wine, over which a sugar cone was placed, doused with rum, and, with great drama (we played New Order's "Elegia" for mood music), set aflame.  The idea is that as the sugar cone burns, chunks of it carmelize and drop into the wine, sweetening it.  I enjoy this yearly ritual because it's such a mellow, warm, and undeniably unique way to spend time with my friends and get everyone in the holiday spirit (something I find to be a little more challenging in snowless San Francisco).

Christmas was a bit strange for me this year.  Because of the blizzard in Denver, I wasn't actually able to make it home in time for Christmas Eve, and instead ended up unexpectedly spending my first ever Christmas in San Francisco.  The blizzard ended up being a blessing in disguise, however, because I got to spend the evening cooking a fantastic meal out of the Bouchon Cookbook (brined roasted chicken, haricots vert, beet and mache salad with walnut vinaigrette), drinking delicious dessert wine, and playing Uno and Boggle with my good friends Mai Le and Chris Wetherell.  As much as I missed my family, it felt like a special thing to spend a holiday with friends.

This brings me to good place to end the post, because, despite all the disappointments and setbacks it visited upon me, I now believe 2006 should go down in the record books as a good year because of the wonderful friendships it brought me.  For the first time since I moved to California, I know that I'm developing real friendships–friendships based not on forced camaraderie and hedonism, but rather on shared values and sensibilities, common interests, and a genuine rapport.  To all of the dear friends I became closer to in 2006: thank you, and I hope I can be as good to you in 2007 as you have been to me 2006.

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Raiders of the Lost Set

I know I’m at risk of turning this blog into a constant stream of my starry eyed travel plans, but I couldn’t resist mentioning what I think is my coolest road trip idea yet: an expedition to find and photograph the hidden remains the giant set Cecil B. Demille built for his silent epic The Ten Commandments.

Chris Heathcote, my favorite del.icio.us contact, pointed me to an article about a couple of movie buffs who managed to find the remains of the full-scale Egyptian city DeMille’s crew built for the movie.  DeMille explicitly had it buried and its location kept secret so no one else would be able to use it, but these dedicated fellows tracked it down based on a hint in DeMille’s autobiography and are now excavating the remains.

The website for the excavation seems a bit vague about the actual location of the ruins, but it appears they’re located somewhere in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Preserve on California’s central coast (near Santa Maria).  I think it’d be quite the adventure to seek them out, take some photos, and then finish the day with some nice Santa Maria BBQ at Jocko’s.

[Update: Co-worker and central coast native Andrew Wooster suggests this Google Maps satellite photo may show the site of the excavation.]

My Spirit is Crying for Leaving

If summer means road trips for me, winter means long distance travel, and now that the days are getting shorter my thoughts are turning to plane flights.

It goes without saying that I’ll be heading back to Colorado to spend Christmas with my family, and I’m contemplating doing a mountain retreat with some of my oldest, best high school friends over Thanksgiving weekend (I have very warm memories of the one we did last year).

My good friend in Austin, Ian, just had another baby with his wife, and I still haven’t seen the first, so I’ve also been contemplating doing a quick weekend trip to the town I (like Greg Dulli) like to call “my home when I’m away.”  Maybe this time I can also finagle an opportunity to finally meet Wiley Wiggins (hint, hint)…

I tend to spend every New Years in Denver, since it happens to be where I am for Christmas, but this year I’ve decided I want to do something different, and I’ve more or less settled on spending it in Reykjavik.  While Iceland may seem like an odd place to travel in winter (since it’s dark all day) it stands out in my mind as the unvisited place I most want to visit right now, and their New Years celebration is reportedly pretty crazy (just ask Quentin Tarantino).  The only question now is: do I make it another solo trip or recruit friends, and if so, who?

In the longer term, it has been my ambition for many years now to visit Antarctica, but I’ve always been kind of unimpressed with the tour options available, since they tend to be cruises that only skirt the mainland.  Reading the latest issue National Geographic Traveler at lunch today, though, I noticed that Aurora Expeditions has a tour that includes an ice climb up Mount Demaria on the Antarctic Peninsula.  With that in mind, a trip to the Antarctic is looking pretty tempting next year.