A concert! I went to see Delta Rae in Concert!

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Thursday, 21-Oct-2021

Or, the day in when Ben goes to a concert!

Wait…

That can’t…

That title line can’t be right. It’s a pandemic! The world is ending! There can’t be things like concerts, can there be?








Huh! Ben goes to a concert!!!


Okay, so yeah. I wore a mask, stood away from everyone, and was a kind of “social anti-social public hermit” like thing. But you know what? I WENT TO A CONCERT!!!



Now, full disclosure here – I was supposed to go to TWO concerts this week. Walk The Moon with my neighbors on Tuesday, and then Delta Rae flying solo on Thursday. But I was feeling a bit under the weather on Tuesday, and the neighbors were kinda tired out too, so… in the spirit of “Yes, the pandemic is still a thing” I decided to call it, and take some extra time to rest and recover.

Once Thursday rolled around I was feeling back up to… well, not a full 100%, but at least a solid 84.3%, give or take 0.25%, so I figured that it’d be clear to go on… AN ADVENTURE!


That’s…

That’s kinda the whole story.



Sort of like hiking, I don’t really know what to type up about the show. It was fun, the opening act was cool, and they played lots of songs that I liked, and even sang along to. I danced! Yay me!



I guess there is one pretty interesting part of the show, though… You see, I was feeling pretty bummed that I’d skipped the Walk The Moon show on Tuesday, and was definitely partially regretting my choices. I knew it was probably the right call, but… maybe it wasn’t? My brain was all confused and on the fence, you know?

Then, the Universe (yes, capitalized) gave me a sign. I was clearly told that, yes, I’d made the right decision.

What was the sign? Well… an interesting thing about Delta Rae is how amazing they are as performers. Their shows are tightly controlled, their aesthetics are on point, and their stage presence is off the charts. They’re unapologetically THEM, and they present it perfectly. Part of that is, in all the times I’ve seen them live, they’ve never covered another band’s songs, at least that I can remember.

But this time, at the very end of their set, during the Encore, they covered something. I like Walk The Moon, obviously, and my favorite song of theirs is called “Shut up and Dance”. When Delta Rae broke into a cover… I was ecstatic! Confused, since there’s absolutely no link between the bands that I know of… but the fact that they covered the song I was most excited to see, and most sad that I missed…

Well, that’s a pretty good sign in my book.

Backpacking to Green Lakes – Visiting the Sisters!

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Friday and Saturday, 22-Oct-2021 and 23-Oct-2021



Friday, 22-Oct-2021


It all started with an epic odyssey in search of coffee and breakfast.

I swear, that wasn’t the plan.


The plan was simple – get going early, pick up coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and stuff some coffee packets into my backpack before getting to the trailhead before 11.

But as we all know, simple isn’t always viable, and sometimes the world wants me to take an epic odyssey all over Bend, searching for a Starbucks that’s actually freaking open.



Yeah, so everyone’s heard of the whole “labor shortage” thing, right? And, I hope, the counter stories about workers applying to dozens of “desperately needed” jobs, only to get a single half-hearted interview?

Well, without passing judgement on which new story is lying, I can say that the Starbucks in Bend are annoying me, and that they’re understaffed… to say the least.

I stopped at four Starbucks before I finally found on that was open… and even then, they didn’t have what I was looking for “due to supply shortages”

Seriously. I didn’t make it to the trailhead ’till almost 1:00!



But you know what?

That’s fine. It’s all fine – I’m not in a rush; the trail to Green Lakes is only 5 or 7 miles each way (I think it’s officially 4.55miles to the lakes area, with a few more spent trying to find a campsite), and I still had quite a bit of daylight left. My bag was packed, I was ready to go, and the trail was waiting for me.



Adequately caffeinated, I started into the woods.

It’s… interesting. Green Lakes was one of those hikes that Sarah and I did regularly when we were still a semi-happy young couple. But I couldn’t tell you the last time I’d been out there… and frankly, I don’t know why we stopped going. It had been a tradition, for a little while, but… as with everything it seemed to have withered and died on the vine.

Going in by myself was interesting, with that context in mind. I enjoyed the familiar views, and appreciated seeing them with new eyes. I took photos, I reflected, and I continued walking until it was time to stop.


In the evening, I set up camp before heading out to explore the large Moraine flowing to the South of South Sister – It’s a very interesting geological feature, full of neat pumice stones and obsidian chunks. I watched the sunset, and appreciated the quiet and solitude of the wilderness.

Dinner was had, my book was read, and sleep came easily.





Saturday, 23-Oct-2021


Saturday dawned bright and cold – my absolute favorite was for a dawn to break.

Instead of cooking breakfast at camp, I was feeling exploratory… so I bundled up the breakfast bits and headed out toward Green Lake itself, aiming to cook up some oatmeal and jerky. With, of course, my hard-earned coffee!

Of interesting note – I got to watch various Instagrammers doing their product-placement photoshoots while I cooked and ate… One lady and her dog posed with beef jerky sticks, while another did handstands in exceptionally well-fitted yoga pants, while her fried photographed the hand lotion balanced on her feet… before saying that they should have brought their sponsored trash bags too.

It was interesting. I’m not hugely against it, mind you, but it’s definitely interesting.



After enjoying a lovely slow breakfast, I re-packed the gear, and took a walk. I’d been to Green Lakes, as I mentioned, but I hadn’t even gone past the Northern border of the camping area… There was no rush to the day, and my legs were feeling good, so I set my sights on a far-off ridgeline, and started walking.

The trail was beautiful, and I’m absolutely thankful that I took the time to explore – Green Lakes has excellent views, but the views of Broken Top from the ridgeline were unique, and the light was just,.. *muah*





After returning to camp, I could have packed up… but again, I wasn’t really in any rush for the day. I wanted to get back to the car before sunset, but… it’s all downhill, man. And I don’t walk too slowly anymore, so I felt confident enough tat I took it easy.

I stretched out in the sun, opened my book, and spent some time trying to understand the book that I’d brought with me… no easy task, since it’s a full-on psychotherapy dialogue, rooted in lessons earned during the authors time in concentration camps during the Holocaust. But worthwhile things take effort, and I feel positive about what I learned in that sun-dappled spot, in the middle of Oregon, surrounded by the peace and quiet of the mountains.




The hike out went even better than I could have hoped. I arrived back at the car with nearly an hour of sunlight left… which gave me easily enough time to quietly pack the car, take a few extra photos… and more importantly, even granted me the chance to revisit a favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in Bend (El Rodeo) that I hadn’t been to since the last time I’d hiked in the area.

A great trip, and a much appreciated chance to overwrite some negative memories with more positive ones… while also doing some significant introspection on that exact subject.

Dillon’s bachelor party – An Adirondacks adventure! (Part 3 – GoKarts, games, and the journey West)

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Weekend from 30-Sept to 04-Oct

It’s been ages since my friends and I’ve had a good old fashioned get together.

COVID, living on the West Coast, tons of little things have delayed or denied getting to get together and catch up. But now, we’ve got a good reason to get together – one of the best reasons of all, in fact! A wedding! And what comes before a wedding? The bachelor party, of course!

Dillon had asked me to be his Best Man for the wedding in November, which of course meant planning and throwing the bachelor party itself – with much help from many people, a plan was crafted and a timeline put in place. A location chosen, a guest list compiled, and a date chosen.

Plane tickets were bought, rentals secured, and reservations called in. Now, all that remained was the best part of the process – sitting back and having an amazing weekend!!!



Sunday, 03-October-2021 and Monday, 04-October-2021


Yesterday morning, we’d cooked up a glorious breakfast after relaxing and eating home-smoked ribs.

Sunday morning, we stumbled out of our rooms, one by one, surprisingly sane and capable in light of the energetic evening we’d had on Saturday. Compared to back at Northeastern we hadn’t gone that hard, truth be told, but we still hadn’t gone easy… various games of sushi-matching and ultimate battles, combined with some exceptional drinks, had taken a toll on all of us.

Thankfully, that had always been part of the plan, and we had the perfect cure-all lined up and ready for us – a diner brunch, before hitting an arcade!

Both stops were exactly what we’d hoped them to be:

For brunch, we’d tracked down a diner that was perfectly reminiscent of the various haunts that you think of when you hear “Diner” – slightly aged, with sassy coffee and strong waitresses. The food was buttery and delicious, the booths felt like they were straight out of the 50s, and there were utensils for Dillon and Daniel to stack and balance while we waited for omlettes and pancakes to be piled high on our table.

Coffee was sipped, waters chugged, and bellies were filled in exactly the right amount to chase off any remnants of hangovers that may have been hanging around. And, since its a diner in Upstate New York in the off season, there wasn’t any rush for us to pack up and head out… We had a vague timeline for the day, but nothing set in stone… so we ate, sipped, and enjoyed the good company that comes with a solid weekend adventure.



The drive to the arcade was short, and soon enough we were kicking it old-school – GoKarts (the rain held off literally exactly until we’d just finished our final lap), arcade games, tickets, and HALO shooters. We crushed them all… with many thanks to everyone donating coins for Dillon and I! I don’t want to think about how much money we stuffed into that infernal HALO game… but maybe $30 or $40 later, the two of us had beaten the game and successfully backed up the Master Chief through the events of the first game – which, compared with the cost of a full game… was probably almost worth it? Maybe?

But while duo shooters are fun, they aren’t the end-all for a six-person bachelor party. The true key for that? Laser tag. Ideally overseen by an amazingly sculpted AT-ST Chicken Walker, and guarded by arguably the scariest statue of Yoda I’ve ever seen.


See, I didn’t mention that earlier, but this arcade was… interesting. You know those movies, where the protagonists are high school kids who work at a summer camp that was probably awesome 15 years ago, but hasn’t really been maintained since? Or when you see a fixer-up TV show where they refurbish an old restaurant that’s somehow been trapped in the late 90s?

Yeah… This arcade was amazing, once. The laser tag arena was beautifully sculpted, and obviously had a lot of love put into it by some very skilled artists. But… that was a long time ago, and this was (as I’d alluded to) the off season for this tourist town. The lasers worked, sometimes, and most of the lights stayed on pretty consistently.


But you know what? We had fun! We blasted each other, got confused by the (lack of) rules, and just ran around until we were tired and out of breath. In short, we did exactly what we’d come to do, and left with smiles on our faces, and enough calories burned to easily have earned the Stewarts milkshakes




While we drove back, we discussed how the rest of the day would be low-key. “Just relaxing, no real plans” we said to Dillon. A few of us knew better, but we kept it to ourselves… because what Bachelor Party would this be, if there wasn’t a surprise in store for the groom-to-be?



No, we didn’t hire strippers or anything. Obviously.

We did something much, much sexier… We had custom Magic card decks made!!!





Shut up, we’re nerds, and we absolutely love it. Embrace the nerd! Let it roar! I now have a magic card with my face on it!

We all do, in fact – with many thanks to my Stepdad and our friend Bear, we had specialized decks made for everyone. Custom commanders printed in our likeness, and even a whole set of rare cards compiled to give Dillon a… well, I don’t know MTG very well, but even I could tell that his deck wasn’t balanced for any real competitive play. I wouldn’t say it’s overpowered… but I absolutely will say that it’s a completely ridiculous deck.

Without getting into the deep mechanics of the game: Most of the time people have 3 or 4 creatures on the deck, that have power levels of 4 or 5 each.

What did we have?

Dillon had… I think 26 level 13 creatures? I had a single level 74, and I think Brian and Bear both had 12+ level 20 creautres.

It was ridiculous, silly, and absolutely a blast to play!



We broke from the game for dinner, but kept it going long into the night.


Stepping back from Magic, though – it’s worth making note of our dinner for the evening. Chris yet again knocked it out of the park with an amazing spread, this time bought from his coworker.

Steaks.

Just… so many steaks. We had T-bones, we had Ribeye, and we had New York Strip. We had asparagus and fingerling potatoes. Roasted, seared, and delicious. We yet again gorged ourselves, eating more amazing food in a weekend than I’m pretty sure most of use would have eaten in a season a decade ago.



In short, it was an amazing evening. Good food, great drinks, and an absolutely ridiculous game of Magic.

I’ve missed this, man.




Monday, 04-October-2021


Our last day dawned drearily.

The rains that we’d been hearing about on the weather had finally hit overnight, and they continued in earnest as we packed up the cabin and tidied everything up.

But even the sky knows not to interfere with critical traditions, and the rain stopped for just long enough for us to get a few group pictures before we locked the front door and got ourselves back on the highway. One final group breakfast, at the same diner as the day before, gave us a chance to chat and visit one last time, before Chris said his goodbyes and the first member of the Bachelor Party fellowship went his way.

For the rest of us, we relaxed in the van as the miles vanished under the tires. We chatted a bit, napped a bit, and stayed low-key… a bit melancholy, maybe, but more content than anything else I think.



We dropped Bear off next, then Dillon. We had a brief visit with Liz, before dropping off the van and catching a Lyft to the airport – Brian had made the last-minute decision to fly to Baltimore to pick up his car, so I had company on the second to last leg of my weekend, before boarding a plane and winging my way back to Oregon, my own car, and my own bed.