AbaloneFest 2013: Back, But Not Really

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Me on the left, my friend Dennis on the right.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve just been gone on a 5-day road trip to camp, dive for abalone, and to revel around the campfire in that age-old male ritual.

And, while I might physically be back here in Bellingham, the rest of me has not caught up yet. After a combined 1,600 miles of driving, 34 hours on the road, VERY late nights, and sleeping in a tent in the cold, I feel weary to my bones…but filled with epic memories, the warmth of friendships, the gorgeous images of Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Shasta, the rolling countryside of Washington, Oregon, and California, the majestic redwood trees, and the rocky Pacific coast.

The weather was absolutely perfect, the water clear and filled with abundant sea life, the abalone plentiful and delicious, and the music around the fire fan-frickin’-tastic!

jam

Best of Fish & Bicycles: AbaloneFest 2011: Of Mollusks and Men

Originally Published: May 4, 2011


If you’d asked me a couple of years ago if I could ever see myself driving over 1,600 miles in one long weekend, from Bellingham, Washington to Mendocino, California and back, so that I could don a full-body wetsuit and snorkel gear and dive into the frigid springtime waters of the Pacific Ocean in search of food, more specifically a mollusk called abalone, that I’d never even seen much less consumed…

…well, I would have said, “That’s just crazy talk!”

And yet, here I am, a few days after having returned from that very adventure — AbaloneFest 2011 — and I can honestly report that it was, indeed, the very best variety of crazy.

A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free.

Zorba The Greek

Now, I’m not an adrenaline junkie. That’s right, I’m decidedly NOT one of those guys who feels more alive when I’m doing something that could badly injure or kill me. And yet, at the same time, I do occasionally think that I’m too careful, too addicted to my comfort zone, that I miss out on some fun things, and that I could do a lot of those fun things if I pushed myself a little, worked at those activities, to gain the skills and confidence I need in order to not be so scared of injury or death.

So, that freedom that Zorba talks about, maybe it’s a freedom from fear, maybe it’s that exhilarating feeling of having accomplished something for the first time, perhaps something that you’d never thought you could do.

Not everything about this trip presented risk to life and limb, of course. But being in a car for many, long hours and sleeping in a tent with nighttime temperatures in low 30s are not the most comfortable conditions, and the diving, well, it was scary, I did it anyway, and doing it made me feel alive in an exquisite way.

Middle-aged Man And The Sea

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Out of Office: AbaloneFest 2013 Edition

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Me, at AbaloneFest 2011

Back in May 2011, I wrote two posts about a journey I took, a journey of discovery, of conquest, and of male bonding. (Post 1, Post 2)

That journey, a guy-only road trip to Mendocino, California to dive for abalone (aka: sea snails), camp, and jam on guitars around a fire was also known as AbaloneFest 2011, the 17th annual occurrence of the event, but my first time in attendance.

Sadly, I had to miss AbFest 2012, but, as you read this, I’m in a car with three Bellingham buddies, tearing down Interstate 5, en route to our first stop in southern Oregon, and then tomorrow our destination.

Needless to say, I could have done without reading this news just a few days ago (via Salon):

Three recreational abalone divers died in separate incidents over the weekend in Northern California, where powerful rip currents were reported…

Deaths from abalone diving are common during the recreational harvesting season. However, three in a single weekend was a shock, even to authorities…

Since the early 1990s, dozens of people have died in their quest to collect the prized sea snails. One diver was decapitated by a shark in Mendocino County in 2004.

I immediately emailed the article to my buddies, and the following exchange happened between me and one friend who happened to pass on going diving the last time:

Me: I might be hanging out with Tom on the beach this weekend.

Tom: Very important job, holding the beach down. I could use some help, thanks!

Me: I’m thinking we need a flask of something to sip on while we’re “holding the beach down.”


And so, I’ll be away from the interwebs at least until I return from AbFest 2013 on Monday, potentially longer if I do decide to dive and something bad happens.

In the meantime, as I’ve done the last few times I’ve been away from the blog, I’ll once again be featuring some older posts of mine, as part of my continuing Best Of Fish & Bicycles series. I’ve selected a post that will appear each day, and I’ll start later today by reposting my piece on AbaloneFest 2011.

Cheers!

Coca-Cola & Honesty

Coca-ColaThis one’s a doozy, people!

To describe the following, I’ll use a quote from Woody Allen’s Bananas:

It’s travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham!

The Coca-Cola Company is being sued on the grounds that they make false claims of health benefits from the consumption of their Vitaminwater brand of beverages.

Coca-Cola’s response? It’s one for the ages, via John Robbins via The Huffington Post:

“…no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.”

Well, given that advertisements for Vitaminwater contain claims that, “…it will keep you ‘healthy as a horse’ and will bring about a ‘healthy state of physical and mental well-being,’” I guess Coca-Cola leaves us with only one interpretation of their defense:

    Since EVERYONE knows that Coca-Cola products are bad for you, no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater is a healthy beverage!

I really don’t think Coca-Cola clearly thought this one through.

Thanks

You know, I’m sorry to admit that when I see a cornucopia, AKA horn of plenty, I usually just think of cheesy Thanksgiving cards and decorations.

And yet, when I really think about the ancient symbol, I realize that there’s a lot of useful meaning to be derived from it.

  • It is a reminder of the bounty in our lives, for which we give thanks on Thanksgiving.
  • As nice as the image is, sadly the magic cornucopia of Greco-Roman mythology, that provides an endless supply of food, doesn’t really exist. And so, it is a reminder, conversely, of the millions of people who have little to no bounty in their lives, that we might do something, no matter how small, for them.
  • It’s notable that the horn of plenty is overflowing with fruits and vegetables, rather than iPhones, sports cars, and bling. Thinking again of those who lack bounty, it’s humbling to consider how many of them would be utterly satisfied with abundant fruits and vegetables.

I, indeed, have much to be thankful for. Family, friends, food, clothing, shelter, etc.

But here, at Fish & Bicycles, I like to give thanks for…

…you!

It’s been a while since I’ve written in appreciation of all the people who take a moment to visit, to read, to click on the Like button, to leave a comment, or to choose to Follow the blog.

As I’ve written in the past, I don’t make any money from Fish & Bicycles, I work a 40+ hour per week job, and I have time-consuming responsibilities to my family and my home. Therefore, I don’t have the time to respond to everyone who Likes one of my posts or chooses to subscribe, even though I am incredibly grateful for every.single.instance.

So, thank you, dear readers! Sincerely!

I’ll leave you with some links to my previous Thanksgiving posts, ghosts of Thanksgivings past, so to speak.

2009
2010
2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

More Thanksgiving Eve Fun

Following up on my Tweet of the Day post from this morning, I thought I’d share something else I’ve come across today, a funny, entertaining piece at The Atlantic, from a seemingly unlikely source…their Health Editor.

I don’t know about you, but when I think “Health Editor” I think of dry information about diets and exercise regimens. The Atlantic‘s James Hamblin, MD, however, has a very accessible, natural writing style, peppered with just enough humor to keep the health-writing-averse engaged.

Well, in today’s piece, titled Answers to Every Possible Thanksgiving Health Question, Hamblin pulls out the comedy stops, resulting in a VERY fun read on a topic that could be a total wet blanket on the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Written like a traditional FAQ, here are some of my favorites (Be sure to read the whole thing, though!):

How bad is it that I stuff our turkey a few days in advance?

Bad — disgusting actually, don’t do that.

Is quinoa stuffing healthier than regular stuffing?

Yes. If regular white bread stuffing is what’s on the table, though, don’t let the words quinoa stuffing leave your mouth.

Tryptophan is what makes us sleepy?

Turkey has tryptophan, but not significantly more than chicken or beef. We fall asleep because we’re hypoglycemic and bored. If napping is a concern, go for a walk or ask an old person about their old love stories.

Alternatively (and hopefully not the case), sleep could be how you respond to stress.

How can I avoid talking to my family and just focus on what I really want: the f-o-o-d!

Please try to be more sincere. Some day you will spend the holidays alone, and it will suck.

How much gravy is “too much”?

Unless you have heart failure, don’t overthink it on the holiday. But then the fact that you’re asking makes me wonder if you’ve had issues with gravy in the past?

It’s my first vegetarian Thanksgiving. Should I make tofurkey?

Tofurkey is offensive, linguistically and culturally. If you want to eat turkey, eat turkey. Tofu doesn’t look or taste or smell like turkey at all. If you make tofu, own it and treat it like tofu and call it tofu.

Is pumpkin the new bacon?

Yes, but we’ll be mostly rid of pumpkin by March, and bacon is eternal. These are getting less like health questions. Well, I suppose that is a health question insofar as all of the pumpkin everywhere might be stressing us out. Like if you feel you can’t escape it. Seasonal pumpkin-related anxiety.

Do you need love to enjoy the holidays?

No, but if you have the opportunity and are on the fence about loving someone, do it.

I don’t normally smoke, but hey, it’s Thanksgiving, right?

Why are you putting me in this position?

Celebrating Eco-Progress: Starbucks

I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest, 90 miles north of Seattle, for close to 20 years, and in this corner of the world it’s almost unbearably cliché to blog about how much I love coffee.

Suffice to say, despite my February 2011 rant against my state’s coffee fetish

…I LOVE the java!

And, despite my preference for supporting local businesses, I even admit to loving that multinational megacoffeecorporation, Starbucks. (What can I say? I’ve tried many, many coffees from all kinds of roasters, some good, some bad, some ugly, but I always know, when I walk into a Starbucks, that I will like what they serve.)

And while they can certainly be doing more, Starbucks has incorporated sustainable practices in their operations, for years, and today I read about another new initiative, perfect for a new installment in my Celebrating Eco-Progress series.

Via GOOD.is:

Starbucks Is Funding Research That Would Turn Food Waste into Useful Stuff

Who’s got tons of old coffee grounds headed for the trash? Starbucks. And who’s got great ideas for repurposing waste? Scientists. It’s a promising match.

A team of researchers at the City University of Hong Kong are working on a new “biorefinery” that would turn food waste into something useful, and it’s been getting funding from Starbucks Hong Kong, which produces 5,000 tons of spent grounds and bakery waste each year.

According to a press release, the biorefinery (above) uses a mixture of fungi, which excrete enzymes that break down carbohydrates (like the ones in those coffee grounds) into simple sugars, which then go into a fermenter to become succinic acid. That succinic acid can then be used as an ingredient in a wide variety of products, including detergents, bio-plastics, and medicines.

Starbucks has been giving away, free of charge, sacks of spent coffee grounds since 1999, for use in composting, but this new effort is exciting for the decidedly larger positive impact it could have.

Way to go, Starbucks! Keep up the good work!

Free Larry!

I can go days and days scanning the news headlines and only come away from the exercise depressed as hell.

But, every once in a while I see a headline and a story like this and I feel incredibly grateful for something so refreshingly heartwarming.

Man frees 17-pound lobster from Conn. restaurant

WATERFORD, Conn. — A Connecticut man purchased a 17-pound lobster at a Waterford restaurant, then released the crustacean back into Long Island Sound.

Don MacKenzie of Niantic tells The Day of New London ( http://bit.ly/MGvGHb) he knew the lobster, nicknamed “Lucky Larry” by local children, would have to be about 80-years-old to reach his current size and felt it deserved to live.

MacKenzie won’t say how much he paid The Dock restaurant to take Larry off the menu.

He took the lobster back to sea Tuesday, releasing it in a secret location.

MacKenzie received a send-off from a group of children chanting “Let Larry Live” and the lobster was given a salute from the Niantic River Bridge operator who sounded the lift bridge’s siren as the boat carrying it headed back to sea.