29 August 2008

Loch, Stock, and Two Fingers of Scotch

"Give me but one hour of Scotland, Let me see it ere I die."
- William Edmondstoune Aytoun, Scottish poet/writer (1813-1865)

Nine hours by bus. We should have taken the train, but the bus was much cheaper. London to Edinburgh via the overnight coach. A contortionist's dream. For a 6´5˝ clown, a cramped and brutal nightmare. I couldn't get comfortable, couldn't fully stretch out, and on a bus I feel obligated to not get up and move around, as I like to do on a train if I'm feeling stiff. It was a long, tiring journey.

We arrived in Edinburgh, checked into a small back alley hostel, and immediately began medicating the kinks with Tennents & Scotch. We tooled around Edinburgh for a couple days, partying with fellow travelers, wandering the old streets, and then it was up to Inverness. I had a longing to gaze upon Loch Ness, that mysterious body of water that had conjured up so many hours of wonder, fear and intrigue in my imagination as a young boy. Even the name sounded ominous to me. We stayed at a comfortable B&B in Inverness and made our way down to the Loch.

I was suitably impressed. The Highlands of northern Scotland are a beautiful, rugged, rough country. Cold and hard in February, the trees barren and gnarled, but the land still lush and green. The wind sliced through our jackets and we could feel the tail end of winter in it's icy fingers. Loch Ness had small white caps on its surface and the sky was harsh and grey. 23 miles long and a mile across, because of it's great depth the Loch holds more water than all the lakes and rivers in England and Wales put together. Due to it's high peat content, the visibility of the water can be as little as four inches. Just a few feet from the shore and the earth abruptly drops away to depths of 90 feet or more. The deepest part, "Edwards Deep," is estimated at 787 feet below the surface. We wandered through the remains of the 11th-century Urquhart Castle for a while, then, as a few small flakes of snow began to swirl and the afternoon deepened towards twilight, decided to head back to Inverness to sit in front of a fire and warm up with a little bit of Glen Ord 12-year Single Malt & some Caledonian 80/- (a wonderfully hoppy red-brown ale).

We never did catch a glimpse of the monster.
KJT - Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness, Scotland (1996)

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27 August 2008

Ten Years Gone

"The measure of a man's character is what he would do 
if he knew he would never be found out."
- Thomas B. Macaulay, British writer/poet/historian/politician (1800-1859)

I wrote the following ten years ago, in November 1998:

The last nine months or so have been a juxtaposition of emotional highs and lows and a fierce test of my intestinal fortitude. I've experienced some of the most intense satori followed by the deepest depression and confusion in my life. In between these monumental peaks and valleys have been periods of happiness and wonder, terror and loneliness. My mental stability and emotional constitution have been stressed farther than I ever dreamt they would be, and I'm not out of the tunnel yet. At least now it appears that I can see a light at the end. Maybe...

On August 27, 1998 my father died of pancreatic cancer. He was not quite 61. It came suddenly and was wholly unexpected. During the first part of April he was running five miles a day and playing handball weekly. He caught what he thought was a flu bug that he couldn't shake. A couple weeks later it was diagnosed and four and a half months after that he was dead. My stress was immense and brutal and I can barely fathom what my mother and sister must be going through.

My father, not surprisingly, was quite Zen about the whole process. He did not want to die, and fought hard, but it was too far gone. I'm thankful that there seemed to be less pain than some cancers that I've read about. The cancer had spread so thoroughly that no surgery or chemotherapy could be attempted. Alternative and holistic methods that he tried seemed to help, or at least slow the advance (even to the degree of surprising his western doctors). Unfortunately it had become too pervasive. One estimate said he possibly could have had it for over a year, and it would not have been detected by a 'normal' course of bloodwork or tests.

He stoically planned the funeral, down to the last detail - even interviewing the morticians to determine which one he liked best. This took much of the burden off my mother and the rest of the family. One of the great things about my mother and father is that they are extreme realists. They understand that you do as much for yourself as you can in life, but some is left to chance and destiny. They accept that and deal with it. That attitude and their incredible strength through the whole bizarre and terrible event helped both my sister and I deal with it as best we could.

I'm still trying to come to terms with it, and I still in many ways don't realize what has happened. Days seems to drift by without me really being connected. It oftentimes feels like everything else is moving just a shade faster than I am and I have to squint and concentrate to catch up. Sleep has become somewhat of a joke and drifting in and out of consciousness throughout the night would be a more accurate description. Depression and insomnia have become unwelcome staples in my diet.

And so now, here I am ten years on. The depression and insomnia have finally been left behind like worn out shoes that were no longer needed. The anxiety attacks and agoraphobia have all but ceased. It's been quite some time since I woke up not remembering he was gone, and then having the crashing realization all over again. The ache is still there, but it's now an old wound that I've become familiar with - I worry it and pick at it, but it doesn't hurt the way it once did. I still miss talking to him, especially after I've read a really good book, seen an interesting movie, or just caught a particularly beautiful sunset. I don't discuss it with anyone hardly at all. Not my wife, not my mother or sister, not my friends. I think that's my defense mechanism. Shove it down inside, tamp it down, hide it, cover it up, but keep it there like a precious stone to selfishly polish in the dark of the night. I am sorry I couldn't or didn't talk about it more with my family, I'm sure that didn't help them, but I had to figure out the journey the best way I could. It wasn't, and isn't, easy.

R.I.P. Gene Timmermans, a man of good character, I miss you dad. 
(4 September 1937 - 27 August 1998)
KJT - Seattle (2008) (Not sure when the picture was taken, maybe in the early 90's)

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25 August 2008

RainCity Ad

Here is the ad for the Avenir RainCity waterproof bags 
(see previous post). 
Would have been a decent ad, but for the clown in the background...
KJT - Seattle (2008)

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22 August 2008

Shootin' in the Rain

"Upon us all, a little rain must fall..."
- Led Zeppelin, "The Rain Song" (1973)

Had to set up a photoshoot for our new waterproof bike bags and panniers. Obviously, to show that they're waterproof we wanted to shoot in the rain. After waiting for a week and a half, the weather reports finally looked favorable this week. Wednesday seemed to have the best outlook, with 80% chance of precipitation.

Our Raleigh marketing guy, BF, and I drove up to Seattle to meet our photographer and the "talent" (one of BFs biking buddies) at Bauhaus Coffee on Capitol Hill. Of course, when we got up to the shop there was no rain, and the clouds were actually breaking up. We decided to have lunch (Six Arms Pub - delish!) and wait to see what would happen with the weather.

Long story short, no rain so we decided to find some puddles to ride through. Problem two: no puddles. We drove around for a while, trying every place in the city we knew where there were always puddles - no dice. Then the sun came out and we had blue skies. This wasn't working out the way I'd planned. We went down to the industrial district and finally found some nice big puddles under some shady trees (so you couldn't see the beautiful blue sky and sunshine) near the stadium. We had the "talent" ride through the puddles for a while and slowly the clouds started building. After a bit we felt some sprinkles. Then it started coming down. Seattle didn't let us down after all. We shot in a few different locations near the stadiums and in Pioneer Square, got some great shots, all got somewhat soaked, and then called it a day after a few hours. I'll post some of the ads when I get them finished. 
KJT - Seattle (2008)

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19 August 2008

Tangier Dysphoria

"Africa was a big place and would offer its own suggestions."
-Paul Bowles, "Let It Come Down" (1952)

We stowed our large packs in a locker in the run-down terminal in Algeciras, itself a run-down, rather lifeless city on the southern coast of Spain. Wanting to travel light, and knowing we would be back in less than a week, we took our smaller day-packs and boarded the ferry for the run across the Straits of Gibralter. We were tired and felt strung out. We'd been traveling for some time and had already journeyed through six or seven countries. A semi-sleepless night in a hot, squalid hotel room with the traffic noise outside the window a constant irritant didn't help matters.

The morning was cloudless but cool out on the deck. Very soon we saw the shadow of land looming up in the distance and we began to get excited. Africa — the dark continent. Sounded so exotic and poetic. Our nerves were tingling with anticipation and anxiety. We really had no idea what to expect. Soon enough we made landfall and disembarked in Morocco.

The first thing that hit us was the cacophony of noise and confusion. Even at that early hour hundreds upon hundreds of people were running all over the place, shouting, shoving, ranting and raving. A thousand rough hands pinched and prodded us. A steely grip attached itself to my elbow and tried to lure me away. The man's dark eyes showed no emotion. His fingers were deeply stained with tobacco and when he spoke he had no teeth. "Smoke, smoke, blow?" he whispered. I wrenched my arm free and stumbled away. RJ gave another miscreant an elbow in the chest and we began to make our way through the crowd of touts, con-artists and pseudo-guides. Our heads were spinning. Jostled at every step, hands on our shirts, pulling at our packs. Think of those vociferous border towns, Tijuana, Juárez, Matamoros. Then increase the insanity exponentially. Add to the mix the strange (to our ears) sibilants of Arabic, French, and Castilian Spanish and you might get some idea of the whirlwind we found ourselves in.

We were annoyed and dismayed. Here was a city whose roots were laid down before the Crusades, before Muhammad, before Christ. A city of true antiquity, founded by the Phoenicians, known to the Greeks and Romans, conquered by the Vandals. It became part of the Byzantine empire before falling under Arab control with the rapid spread of Islam in the early 8th century. Occupied by the Portuguese, the English, and then partitioned between France and Spain in the early 20th century. Tangier was made an "international zone" in 1923, with joint administration of France, Spain, Britain, and later Italy. This was when William S. Burroughs lived and worked and took the name (Interzone) for his book of short stories, which he would later weave into the masterpiece "Naked Lunch." Paul Bowles, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Truman Capote, and Henri Matisse all either lived in or visited the fabled city. That was the Tangier we had hoped to find. It was not the Tangier we found ourselves in. Morocco regained it's independence and reincorporated the city in 1956, but by the late 1990s Taniger had become an aging whore, besmirched and cheaply painted with litter, garbage, apathy and indifference. It's once great history tarnished by the lingering stain of colonialism and sullied by the poverty of an estranged government. Tangier seemed shattered by the abject neglect of a disaffected populace crushed by ennui.

The one bright spot was a solitary and lonely stroll through the old Medina area - the oldest part of the city. We managed this when we somehow escaped the teeming hoard, rounded a corner, and slipped into a time warp. Here we could feel the trembling of the past in the twisting, narrow streets. The myriad styles from one house to another. A wall splashed with cryptic Arabic graffiti. Broken steps leading... where? We heard the melodious Arabic chanting of the muezzin as he called the faithful to prayer. We stopped in a tiny cáfe, literally a hole in the wall, and had small glass cups of steaming mint tea. We sat on beautifully woven carpets and sipped the sweet nectar. The tea was spell-binding in its bright, fresh flavor. Our mood increased greatly, but we decided to move on into the hinterland. We booked passage on a night train to Marrakech.
KJT - Tangier, Morocco (1998)

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14 August 2008

Diablo Lake

"I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all. The woods do that to you, they always look familiar, long lost, like the face of a long-dead relative, like an old dream, like a piece of forgotten song drifting across the water, most of all like golden eternities of past childhood or past manhood and all the living and dying and the heartbreak that went on a million years ago and the clouds as they pass overhead seem to testify (by their own lonesome familiarity) to this feeling."
- Jack Kerouac, "The Dharma Bums" (1958)

We're a couple weeks away (Oct. 2) from the 40th anniversary of the formation of North Cascades National Park Complex here in Washington state. My own 40th is coming up in December, and PN's 40th was just celebrated (wildly) last Friday night. Interesting timing then, that found myself, PN, and RJ camping last week in a small corner of the NCNPC, nestled up in the mountains, just off the shores of Lake Diablo.

Just a few hours from Seattle, up the beautiful, scenic State Route 20 (the North Cascades Highway), the Park is a wilderness wonderland - kept so pristine partially by the fact that it has just the one highway running through it (good work there, Park people!) We weren't too far from Desolation Peak, on the far side of Ross Lake, where Jack Kerouac sat watch in the Forest Service Fire Lookout Station back in the summer of 1956 - producing the stories in "The Dharma Bums" and "Desolation Angels."

It was a brief, but much-needed respite from the city grind that all three of us love, but at the same time need to distance ourselves from now and again. To regroup. To reset the counter back to zero. To sit near a noisy creek in the dark of the night, the tall trees surrounding you, a million stars overhead, the smell of pine and fresh air - it brings you a little bit back into balance. It heals some of the aches and pains of living. It is a salve for the psyche. We camped for three nights, got in two nice day hikes (one to just below the appropriately named Pyramid Peak), and I swam in the chilly, glacial Diablo Lake - it's hyper-blue/green waters reminding me of the river Inn winding through Tyrol in southern Austria. Burgers and brats were grilled, much beer consumed, labyrinthian conversations woven around the fire pit, and once again a bit of tequila was passed around. We also had Guatemalan cigars to celebrate the recent addition to RJ's family - the wonderfully named Ziya Zappa. 
With all the beer & tequila, the cigars were a bit much and went right to my head. I quickly had to revert back to the liquid barley. No one's soul melted this trip, but the rejuvenation of the spirit was certainly felt by all three.
KJT - Diablo Lake & Pyramid Peak, North Cascades National Park Complex, WA (2008)

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12 August 2008

Funk Soul Brother

"Don't you ever, be sad
Lean on me, when times are bad
When the day comes, and you are down
In a river of trouble, about to drown
Hold on, I'm coming"
- Sam & Dave, "Hold On, I'm Coming." Written by Isaac Hayes & David Porter (1966)

Just wanted to drop my two cents into the kitty... 
We lost a great one the other day. Funk-soul legend Isaac Hayes, 
20 August 1942 — 10 August 2008. Probably best known for his Grammy & Oscar-winning "Theme from Shaft," he also co-wrote two of my favorite songs of all time "Hold On, I'm Coming" and "Soul Man," both recorded by Stax soul group Sam & Dave. He had a great run as "Chef" on South Park, and starred in one of my favorite childhood movies "Escape From New York." His influence stretches across the musical galaxy. He WILL be missed.
KJT - Seattle (2008) Image courtesy of the AP

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09 August 2008

Beer Bike

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading."
- Henny Youngman, American comedian (1906-1998)

So, for the cover of our latest parts and accessories catalog at work, I used a riff off of a great pacific northwest tradition, Rainier beer. I took the iconic Rainier logo and "Raleigh-ized" it, placed it on a die-line for a 12-pack box, printed it out & glued it together, and then staged the shot and had our photographer shoot the cover image. Our Raleigh marketing guy, BF, is a crazy single-speed bike nut (and true Rainier enthusiast) and he had our factory take the logo and use it on our latest single-speed cyclocross bike - producing a sweet limited edition (not for sale to the general public). We just got a couple frames in last week and they look super-cool. It's going to be a slick ride - he's racing it in the Cross Vegas race at Interbike next month. And we already know which post-race beers will be the perfect accompaniment.
KJT - Seattle (2008) That last pic is by BF...

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06 August 2008

Writer Down

"A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny."
-Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer (1918-2008)

I've been out of town on a camping sojourn for the last several of days (more on that later)... just returned to this sad news: 
The great, great Russian writer, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, died on Monday, 3 August 2008. 
He was the author of such works as "One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich," "Cancer Ward," and the amazing "The Gulag Archipelago." And just how apropos is that quote above to our situation today...
A literary light, a humanist light, a compassionate light has been extinguished. 
R.I.P. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
KJT - Seattle (2008) (Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

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01 August 2008


"The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, American poet (1807-1882)


KJT - Seattle to Kent, WA (2008)

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