Adventure #3: The California Excursion Part 2

The next several days will be a blur of partying, eating, sleeping, errand running and general classic Socal debauchery. The night of my arrival we are joined by my cousin; the tri-fecta is complete.
This is relatively exciting. While we are all three very close family members, it has never really occurred that this specific combo would together under such enjoyable circumstances. No crazy family reunion, no crazy family drama, just three of the younger generation geared up to enjoy Socal in all its glory.
I wake up in the morning and start  it off in the same way I’ll be starting off each morning on my trip down south. I grab up the leash and take my brothers wonderfully insane dog, Jack, for a walk around the block.

As I haul Jack down the street, noting that he makes a point to pee on just about everything he sees, I am struck by one of my favorite things about california; the trees. California has some beautiful trees and as somewhat of a tree hugger type (maybe not literally), this is something I can appreciate.

Ah yes, and I failed to mention the most important part. My brother, a citizen of the area for many years now, has just acquired a unique and wonderfully spacious new apartment. He is also quite the social cat and has many wonderful friends in the area. On top of this, his birthday is on the horizon. If I must spell it out for you: P-A-R-T-Y.
The first half of this day is a mash-up of driving, errand running, food and booze buying. The second half is a bit of rearranging and redecorating the apartment for the revolving door of people that will be spinning soon. This involved moving tables and chairs in every possible combination (my brother is a photographer so it’s in his nature to never be quite satisfied with these arrangements) until we find something we can all agree maximizes the potential of the giant room that makes up the bulk of the apartment.

After giving everything our approval, and teasing my brother for his ridiculously awesome bull fighter tapestry, we’re ready to rock.

Now I know you would all love to hear stories of this part accompanied by images, but I am afraid I must disappoint. I was attending as a guest and what kind of guest would I be if I didn’t partake in the merrymaking? So I did and as a result the camera never really came out and memory is a bit hazey. Oh well, c’est la vie!
Suffice to say we ate, we drank, we danced, chit chatted, drank some more and eventually drove out the stragglers in the wee hours of the morning. A great party by all accounts.
The following day began in much the same way: I woke up, snatched the leash and took jack outside to help him mark his territory all over again. This time was a bit more special than the previous day as he decided to also add his opinion of a piece of art we saw sitting outside.

Afterward we begin discussions as to what we should do with the day. We have this one Sunday all to ourselves and then it’s back to reality for one of us; the cousin must trek back across the desert to Arizona and return to real life and work.
The choices before us, as suggested by my brother, are a hike to a waterfall or a visit to Venice Beach. Personally I had been to both in the past so my opinion was torn. Normally I always tend to favor any sort of outdoors activity but keep in mind this is post-party Sunday; a nice solid hangover doesn’t generally make a hike sound all that appealing.
It’s at this point that cousin decides to reveal he has never been to Venice Beach, which makes the decision for us.
After stuffing our faces with the incredible breakfast food at Home, it’s off into the California jungle to experience the local flavor of Venice Beach.

For those of you who have not been to Venice Beach I regret to inform you that I’m fresh out of good metaphors to illuminate what it’s like; in fact Venice is usually the metaphor I would use for places similar to it. It’s a hotbed of California art and culture. It is a massive beach and boardwalk where all manner of Californians come to perform their art, sell their wares, skate down the beach and just generally do whatever the hell they want. What many in the outside world might refer to as strange, the people of Venice Beach embrace as normal.
The proper descriptive words elude me at this point so I will simply finish this off with images of the journey.

And so ends part 2 of The California Excursion. Stay tuned for the epic conclusion as well as the tale of Monte Cristo!


Adventure #3: The California Excursion Part 1

I woke up to what had become an unpleasantly familiar sensation for me in the great state of Washington this summer: fully plugged sinuses and the allergenic feeling of a constant impending sneeze without the relief of it actually happening. Ah Washington, with your majestic mountains and lovely greenery and rampant pollen presence. I love where I’m from but at this point I could not wait to get the hell out. For all the fellow allergy sufferers out there, you know how it feels to be at your wits end and still unable to find anything that does any good against the vicious hay fever. Sunshine, ocean, great weather, crazy people and beautiful sights are all great reasons to visit southern California and don’t get me wrong; they were all reasons of mine as well. The biggest one, however, was the possibility that a change in environment might just kill the allergies.
Bright and early I hop in the car with pops as we make the journey to the south side of Seattle and the giant mechanical bird that will whisk me away to my brother, sunshine and sandy beaches. As is the norm I arrive at the airport about an hour and a half before my flight. As is not the norm, I make it through security and get my boarding pass in record time, resulting in a long wait at the terminal. Well, I guess it’s better than being rushed.

I board the plane, head straight to the back row where I hope the other two seats will remain empty, allowing me some time to catch up on lost sleep without interruption. This proves true on the first leg of the trip; all the way from Seattle to Oakland I am blessed with blissful space and silence. Unfortunately, good luck on the first half leads to bad luck in the second half.

After reaching my connecting flight in Oakland, I once again head straight to the back of the plane and take the empty row in hopes of continuing my attempt to catch up on lost sleep. I am quickly interrupted by the flight attendant informing us that this flight is sold out and every seat will be taken. This is shortly followed the company of a morbidly obese woman sporting a bag of hard boiled eggs (really, hard boiled eggs on a plane?! that’s so bad it’s almost a cliche) and a screaming 7 year old.
Well so much for sleep but at least the allergies have already left the building.
I make it through the haze of yelling and the sulfur smell of eggs all the way to LAX and not a moment too soon.
I race off the plane, try and navigate the disorganized maelstrom that is Los Angeles International Airport, and greet the warm weather and sunshine of Socal with a smile and shades.

After a little bit of confusion I’m able to find my bro and off we go into the familiar LA traffic, where the maniacal driving habits of the populace are encouraged and yet somehow there is a method to the madness that starts to form if you really pay attention.

The rest of this day is mostly a blur of sorts. Weary from lack of sleep and a day of traveling, I tag along with my brother as he goes about a normal southern California day. We eat, we drive, I meet a few hundred people, we eat again, and then we crash.
A full day and a good day.

Adventure #2: Man v. Disappointment


Some days just seem destined not to work out the way you planned. This is ok, the universe can be a little random sometimes and rarely does the word “plan” give a solid defense of its own definition. I’m starting to learn the first rule to being happy: learn to roll with the punches.

As I said in my sidenote earlier today, the initial expedition had to be cancelled due to a powerful dose of the human element. I have to stand by my decision to NOT go traipsing off into the mountainous wilderness all by myself without so much as a pellet gun to have my back. Getting trapped or injured at the bottom of a cliff, or running into a “Deliverance” character doppelganger when I’m by myself are not among my ideas of a good adventure (though I’m sure both experiences would have a profound impact on ones psyche).

So I set to finding an alternative undertaking. The day is sunny and tranquil, perfect for getting outdoors, so there is my primary focus; find something outside. I make a quick scan of the trusty interweb to see what there is to see out there. After consulting and offering my sacrifices to the Google God, he eventually ushers me into the Port of Everett website and the phrase “Jetty Island” immediately leaps out at me from the page.

The Island of Jetty

Jetty Island, how could I have forgotten you? You wonderful little strip of sediment, you tide-pool riddled two-mile beauty! Warm memories of toes in the sand, playing with little crabs, looking or starfish and exploring secret trails run a slow parade in my mind’s eye. My adventure has been found and it shall be glorious!

I scan the entire Jetty Island info page. Free parking Monday through Thursday? Sweet, let’s do this.

I grab my shades, a water bottle, and some sandals; I blow the popsicle stand and take off in the trusty 4-cylinder. The spirits are high, the gas tank is mid, the Fleetwood Mac is on full blast; oh yes, you make lovin’ fun.

I spin my way down West Marine View Drive, windows down and admiring the scenic waterfront; waterside restaurants, lush green parks, ships gliding in and out of port in the orderly fashion of an ant farm.

Spotting the sign for the public boat launch, I hang that left and wind my way through the nearly nonsensical series of white and yellow lines designed to guide vehicles through the parking lot without causing a slow motion pileup. To my good luck (or so it seems), the parking lot seems mostly barren today so I cruise on up to the front row and shut down the engine.

Looking around I can’t seem to spot the actual ferry to the island; no matter, I’m not close enough to the water to see it if it’s docked anyway… the place is curiously dead though. I gaze out across the water at the island; it too seems to be curiously dead. I then wander for a moment until I find the kiosk that normally gives ferry passes. If a waterfront area could resemble a graveyard, this would be it as even the kiosk is most certainly dead.

How could it be that on a bright, sunny, mid-70s day, Jetty Island is completely shut down?

I finally spot the small posting on the water side of the little unmanned ferry station in front of me: Jetty Island is CLOSED until July 1st.

Well shit.

That sort of information would be useful on internet as well as at the boat launch I would think.

Yet another possibility laid to rest by strange chance (I call it this because in years past, Jetty Island usually opens up much sooner than this).

I can feel a small spring of annoyance welling up inside me, the usual precursor to me verbally damning fate and whatever other faceless, nameless source I can use as a scapegoat for my current plight.

Immediately I grow defiant. The day is beautiful. I feel great. The salty sea air is invigorating and I can do no less than feel at peace when this close to the ocean.

I decide that some adventures happen on a smaller scale and when the best plans get laid to waste, the real adventure is internal. It’s at this point that we have a choice: to admit defeat, allow anger to be our master and spend precious time hating our shitty luck. Or the other side of that decision, to let go of the disappointment and find the wonder in our immediate surroundings. I have to admit that making the first choice just sometimes seems easier; I’ve walked that path my fair share of times. If you’re going to have an adventure everyday though, you have to anticipate that things won’t always go the way you think they will. If you’re going to have an adventure everyday, you have to learn to not only be content with but excited by the world around you, whether it’s what you had planned for or not.

Instead of dwelling on what did not work out, I breathe in deep the ocean air and take a walk down through the waterfront. I meander through the grass and the trees, the sand and the rocks, the docks and the boats. I read about historic areas of the port, smile at few other explorers I pass near the docks and hang out with the big bronze fisherman who’s permanently stationed at the port until the ocean takes it all back.

I sit in the shade of a tree and relax; I meditate away those little bits of annoyance within me until they dissipate into the atmosphere, too small and inconsequential to be of any harm to anyone.

Sometimes the adventure is a non-adventure. Sometimes learning to enjoy the moment is a great undertaking in and of itself.

Adventure # 1: The Bronze Soul

Today was a big day. Everyday is a big day from here on out, but today in particular was of a slightly larger scale for me personally. Today was the day I take that first big step into the abyss. The first step is always the hardest, one of many cliches I’ve found to hold true in my life.

It’s time to adventure, time to take that journey… but where? That has been the biggest hurdle plaguing me at the inception of my great life’s expedition: if one must embark on an exploit everyday of his/her life, where does one venture to? It never hurts to start small so I decided to take a look in my own backyard.

I had recently heard about a new art museum opening up not far from where I live. An art museum in Everett? I suppose anything is possible and this was something I had to see.

I took off down the fractured sidewalk of Hoyt Avenue and took in the sights and sounds. It’s kind of a sad part of town but it has it’s own beauty, sort of a weathered quality, like an above water human version of a coral reef; all the fish, big and small, poking their noses out of the windows and openings in the buildings just to update themselves on the goings on. The buildings are mostly made of old concrete and brick with moss and ivy growing in every crevice at every opportunity.

I can see a small crowd gathered outside the Salvation Army building. Two women are arguing with one another, yelling so loud that everyone can hear them yet no one has a clue what they’re yelling about. Several elderly shuffle down the steps of the public library, quickly heading off in the opposite direction.

I’m momentarily caught up in my surroundings when a mechanical voice says “walk”. What technological  advancements we have nowadays, the crosswalk is speaking to me.

I jaunt to the other side and I soon notice a stone egg adorned with a lightning bolt, my signal that I have finally arrived at the Schack Art Center.

Upon entering it is evident that I’ve come on the wrong day if I were only just a patron of the arts. They are halfway through setting up what appears to be a sculpture exhibit; this is perfect for me. The real adventure isn’t JUST in examining the artwork but in meeting those who make it happen.

I head to the counter, stick out my hand and introduce myself.

“Hi Michelle, I’m Tyler”

Michelle shakes my hand and, after realizing her name tag is how I knew her, puts on her finest customer service face and asks, “How can I help you?”

“Well I’ve never been here before, what do you guys have going on today?”

Michelle adopts an apologetic tone, “Sorry but you sort of came on the wrong day. As you can see we’re setting up for our next exhibit.”

“Well that’s ok, any chance of meeting the artist? Or at least snapping a few pictures with the ol’ smart phone here?”

Michelle leans around the corner, “hey Kevin, do you mind if someone takes pictures?”

A muffled reply and then I’m welcomed into the Schack Center with open arms.

I quickly meet Kevin Pettelle, bronze sculptor extraordinaire. He’s a medium height gentleman, a patch of grey hair lining the outer edge of his head. He’s got a quick handshake and an easy smile, a friendly person eager to make acquaintance. I ask him about the exhibit. He tells me about the work he does, how long he’s been doing it and a little about the inspiration behind his work.

Kevin was born in Seattle and has since made the Pacific Northwest home base. He tells me he’s been sculpting bronze since 1980, a very established artist in his field to say the least. Way back in 1987 he partnered with his father and brother to establish the NW Artworks Bronze Casting Service and he now runs his own studio called Soul in Bronze Studio; I highly suggest checking it out. From speaking with him and examining his work it becomes apparent to me that Kevin finds a great deal of his inspiration in the human form, a most inspiring object indeed.

Ah the human visage in all its glory and splendor. So capable of invoking a nearly unending multitude of feelings and reactions; it bends and twists, it gets fat and then skinny and then fat again, it demands, it gives, it flatters and it insults. All of this is evident in Kevin’s work, he truly is a master of his craft.

Upon exploring the rest of the art center I come to realize that this is not just a place for artists to display and sell their pieces but a teaching ground for artists new to their craft. I walk down the hallway lined with student work, admiring the guts and the glory of it all. I peer into the currently empty classrooms where hopeful amateurs have spent hours honing their skills.

At the end of the hallway I notice a pleasant surprise; a few lovely pieces from a friend in the graphic arts program at Everett Community College. I’m very interested in delving the depths of Tara’s brain to find out what inspires her interesting brand of graphic art; that will be it’s own adventure for another day.

We’re Going on a Trip!

Greetings to all the thrill seekers, life livers, trailblazing adventurers… the danger intrigued, the balefully bored, the jaunting journeymen, the frustrated cubicle dwellers, the determined net surfers, the haplessly hopeless… those who exist on an epic scale and those who just simply exist.

I am just like all of you and nothing like any of you. I have left behind some of you, I empathize with most of you and I am intent on being like a few of you.

Until very recently my life consisted of a clean shave, short hair, shiny shoes and a tie; a distressingly tidy, dull 2″x3.5″ piece of paper with my name right on it. I sold stuff and apparently did it well enough to at least warrant  my own little card, fully equipped with name, number and that lovely email address.


Living the dream, or someones dream at least.

The problem for me was that the dream started to darken, it started to blur around the edges until eventually the dream just made no sense anymore. I was ridiculously unhappy and had been for longer than I would admit; I could  no longer hide it from myself. When the opportunity came, when the office water cooler had clearly been poisoned, I strode directly out those faulty automatic doors and  looked back only long enough to laugh at and bid farewell to my own complacency.

Since that day it’s been an emotional rollercoaster of rediscovery. Since that day I have come to several realizations:

  • John Lennon had it right when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up: “happy”.
  • I am insatiably curious about the world around me.
  • I am just as curious about the world beyond my horizon.
  • I am capable of loving someone more deeply than I imagined.
  • I want to meet everyone.
  • I want to see everything.
  • I love the shit out of my family.
  • I still don’t like mayonnaise. Or miracle whip.

These things have led me to make a decision. I need to live and I don’t mean just being alive. Any jerk can exist, can take up space and air. My mind needs to find its core, to soak up all the wisdom it can. The best way for me to accomplish this is to see as much as I can, meet as many people as I can, experience as many adventures as I can. The following will be an ongoing account of my attempt to engineer at least one adventure for myself everyday for, well, as long as I can pull it off. This is The Better Adventure: A Journey to Getting Your Mind Right.