Orange Juice, ETC

The blog of Elias & Theresa Carlson

31 Things: LB to ID

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The last time I wrote one of these birthday posts (30 Things: Theresa) I opened it with the phrase, “So much has happened since 29 Things. Another year and a new city…” At the time I figured Theresa and I would settle into a 3-5 year stretch in sunny Southern California before resettling one last time in Priest River, Idaho, Theresa’s hometown and the place we figured we’d eventually settle down for good. I had no idea how much unexpected change the next year was to bring. Another year and a new (old for her) small logging town…

After a mere 11 months in the land of tacos, beaches, and eternal sunshine, tragedy pushed our Idaho timeline up far sooner than we could’ve possibly imagined. In the blink of an eye we relocated Priest River to spend as much time as possible with Theresa’s dad as he battled melanoma. We lost him in June, one day before my birthday. This year Theresa’s birthday will be bittersweet as well since September 25th is also Dan’s birthday, and this will be our first without him.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life so far, it’s that if you allow them to, difficult times make the good times just a little bit sweeter. It doesn’t make sorrow any easier, but when it comes time to smile, the smile comes from a deeper, truer place. I’m sure we will shed a few tears this birthday, but I know the smiles will quickly follow.

With that in mind, here are 31 of my very favorite things about Theresa, who more often than not is the reason I’m smiling.

1. She’s the kind of girl who’d leave the beach and the sunshine (her favorite things) at the drop of a hat and move across the country to support her family
2. Late night conversations about life, death, loss and God.
3. Sharing her small childhood bedroom in our future house
4. Armchair psychology
5. She’s just as excited about buying an old ’78 Ford F150 pickup as I am
6. When she makes me scoot closer to her on the couch so she can drape her legs over mine.
7. Her tenacity in cleaning a gross old buffalo skull so it will be beautiful enough to hang on our wall
8. Our future miniature donkey, Maraschino
9. Her worker bee attitude
10. How when she finds a new instagram of someone’s cute animal or child, and then proceeds to shove her phone in my face for the next 15 minutes so I don’t miss a single photo. Typically accompanied by, “Look at how wild (name of animal/child) is being in this one!”
11. One of her top priorities is making sure we have a 4WD vehicle capable of taking friends and family with us on our favorite hikes
12. Her unabashed love for the pickling cukes we grew in our garden
13. I just can’t wait to see what she does with a whole house, after all these years of making our apartments look amazing
14. She reads the social/political commentary I can’t seem to stop posting on Facebook and doesn’t think I’m crazy or weird, and always has insightful things to say about the topic
15. When we spend 2 days holed up in our tent for our anniversary she never complains and we still have a blast
16. Pony Draw Poker
17. She works as hard as any of the guys when we bring in the firewood for the winter
18. How much she loves Amos (the family black lab) and personally puts him to bed every night so she can get one last snuggle in
19. After 8 years of marriage she’s still letting me pull off the road in random places and patiently posing for pictures
20. She tried to get me to smuggle some driftwood out of Canada (I talked her out of it. This time…)
21. There’s no one I’d rather share a cup of coffee and a pastry with on a drizzly Saturday morning
22. Road trips to Seattle, just the two of us
23. How badass she looks in her dad’s old Frostline aluminum frame backpack
24. She always wants to watch TV while we work out, but she’ll put on music instead because she knows I can’t concentrate if there are bright lights and motion in my field of vision
25. Chinups
26. Her fine collection of animal skulls
27. The way she smiles at me when I do stupid dances to extremely un-danceable TV show theme songs
28. Trips to the Winter Ridge natural food store in Sand Point
29. Yard/Estate sale shopping on old country roads. Lots of duds, and a few gems
30. When I have to get out of bed to throw a tshirt over the tiny, faint LED light on her laptop because it’s keeping her awake
31. How adorable she looks in an oversized beanie (seriously, look at that picture)

There is Grace in the Dead of Silence

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This Valentine’s Day is a bit different than most. Theresa and I had anticipated spending it on a beach somewhere in Southern California, where even in February it will likely be sunny and 65 degrees. Instead we are holed up in North Idaho watching the little creek out back swell with freshly melted snow. We’ve traded sunshine, savory tacos, and a group of the finest friends one could hope for, for snow, shepherd’s pie, and the warmth of a tight-knit family.

We live here now. Here being Priest River, Idaho, population 1,700-ish. Probably for good. We knew we’d end up in North Idaho someday, we just didn’t know exactly when “someday” would come. Whenever the topic would arise the conclusion was always that the timing didn’t feel quite right, and in fact we often prayed together that we’d know clearly when to make the move. When we got the news about Dan, as odd as it sounds, it was an answer to prayer. What better reason to move now, with no hesitation, than this? It’s certainly not the way we’d have chosen for things to work out. But there is deep blessing in even the most terrible situations if you are willing to look for it.

And that brings me to the point of this post. It is Valentine’s Day after all. And in the Miller household that means crafting things with your hands to bless the ones you love. The Miller house is filled with these little mementos, bowls filled with hand-carved wooden hearts, intricate quilts on the walls. The places Theresa and I have called home have slowly filled with similar relics that we’ve made (or occasionally bought) for each other. Most days we don’t give them a second thought. But sometimes I’ll catch myself admiring something Theresa made for me and a little smile will spread across my face.

This year, I’m crafting this post for Theresa. So that someday as she sifts through old posts on our blog, as she sometimes does, she’ll see this post and remember how much I love her.

Theresa, you can’t imagine how deeply and constantly blessed I am to have you as my wife. You have made my wildest dreams come true simply by loving me so well, and as a result, enabling me to become the person I was created to be. Our marriage has been, and continues to be, a most incredible adventure. How could we have known what a whirlwind of joy, uncertainty, excitement, trepidation, pain, and beauty would unfold in our lives over the last three years?

In the midst of it all, your love has been the rock on which I’ve steadied myself in moments of doubt. It has changed me, bit by bit, for the better, chipping away at the selfishness and aimlessness I so often struggle with. It underpins all of the best parts of me, strengthening and feeding them. It is an incredible thing to wake up each morning and know that, try as I might, I may never be able to love you as well as you love me. This knowledge overwhelms me, and humbles me. It transforms me.

You are my blessing in this difficult time. Without you I would not be a part of this beautiful family. I wouldn’t have the privilege of walking alongside you and your family as your father deals with the realities of cancer. And believe me, it is a privilege. I have so loved watching you serve your mom and dad these last few weeks as we transition into this unexpected new phase in our life. Your heart to love and serve was tailor made for times like these, and it is incredible to watch you love so well. You are an incredible wife, sister, and daughter, and you make the lives of those around you immeasurably richer. I know you don’t always feel that way, but I can see it and so do the fortunate few who can say they know you well.

I love you more than words can say, but hopefully these few words can give you some idea.

Happy Valentines Day.
xoxo

Joshua Tree, California: A Most Excellent Getaway Spot

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We found it odd. The way the chipmunk staggered woozily from the brush like the town drunk in a bad Western. Perhaps he’d nibbled his way into some camper’s stash of peyote. Maybe he was just a little dehydrated. But then we noticed the leg. It dragged lifeless behind him as he crossed the pathway and collapsed, tiny rib cage heaving, at the base of a small boulder.

I looked at Joseph, “Oh man, that’s sad. I wonder what happened to him. I hope some jerk camper didn’t slingshot him for fun.”

We took a few steps closer.

“I think maybe that’s a bite mark,” Joseph said, observing a small gash in the chipmunk’s left hindquarter. We watched as a crimson stain seeped through brown fur.

As the light in the little eyes grew dimmer, the ragged gasps for breath shallower, we looked at each other and knew:

“It has to be a rattlesnake.”

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Everyone needs a Most Excellent Getaway Spot Preferably Not More Than Three Hours Away (MEGS-PNMTTHA). Henceforth referred to as MEGS for the sake of brevity.

For most of my life my MEGS of choice was “The Place” – a rustic cabin on the Eastern side of Washington’s North Cascades, nestled amongst the pines just off a dusty gravel road within earshot of Lost River. It’s the kind of place where you wake to songbirds and pine squirrels to find bucks with velvet antlers off the back porch. For years this patch of forest and river bank has been my escape. A place of rest and restoration, and a vital point of connection to the natural world. Everyone needs a Most Excellent Getaway Spot.

Now, an ideal MEGS carefully blends several attributes into one location. The first of these is accessibility. Your place should be no more than four hours distance by car from your current residence. This is far enough to remove you from the distractions of normal life and makes it the perfect choice for long weekends, or mid-Friday getaways. Second, it must provide access to an outstanding natural area. It doesn’t have to be Yosemite, but it must bring you joy. It can be a lake, a river, an ocean, or a desert. The most important thing is that it be a little wilder, a little freer, and that it inspire you to be the same. It must also be peaceful. You should find yourself slowing down, unwinding, and breathing more deeply in the comfort of your MEGS. And finally, it should accommodate a group of 2-5 comfortably. The reason for this is simple: adventures are often best when shared.

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My first experience with Joshua Tree was at the age of 13 on a month-long road trip from Seattle to San Antonio and back. My parents piled enough camping gear, granola bars, and fruit snacks to supply a family of seven into our big black GMC van and we hit the road. It was the kind of youth-defining All-American road trip that sticks with you for the rest of your life, and while I have several vivid memories from it – shitting furiously, puking, shitting furiously again, then dry-heaving repeatedly over a decrepit toilet somewhere near the edge of the Grand Canyon being a particular gem – one of my favorites occurred in Joshua Tree.

Like most red-blooded American boys I was (am) obsessed with all things scaly. The capture and close examination of any fish, lizard, or snake representing the zenith of my youthful aspirations (an obsession I’m proud to say I’ve not entirely outgrown). I had in my possession at the time a copy of Peterson Field Guides: Western Reptiles and Amphibians which I pored over with the a religious fervor as the family van rumbled its way South. With each passing state – Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico – I noted the various reptiles that might be found and formulated grandiose plans for their capture.

Of all the reptiles in my book, none captured my imagination like the rattlesnake. Beautiful, deadly, bordering on mythical, there are few creatures an adventurous boy would rather encounter (from a safe distance at least).

On the return trip to Seattle, my parents took us West through New Mexico, Arizona, and California. Our stop in Joshua Tree was brief. More of a drive-through on our way to bigger better things (Disneyland! Yosemite!) than a proper visit. But I’ll never forget the rattlesnake.

It was my brother Joseph who spotted it first, coiled and sleek, in a deep cleft between two large boulders. We marveled wide-eyed from our perch atop the rocks, hearts thrilling with our proximity to coiled death. The snake was unconcerned, brow furrowed in a perpetual scowl, tongue gently flicking the desert air.

Our encounter lasted no more than 5 minutes. But the memory lingers still. For 21 years whenever someone mentions Joshua Tree, the image of that little rattlesnake pops into my head, as clear as the blue sky.

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Which brings us back to the demise of our drunken chipmunk.

“If it’s a rattlesnake, that means he was JUST bitten. Which means it must be nearby.”

Joseph and I glanced at each other and immediately began searching the surrounding rocks and desert shrubs for signs of the cold-blooded assassin. To no avail. After ten minutes we were ready to admit defeat, turning to head back to the main pathway, when I saw it.

It was a small Southwestern Speckled Rattlesnake. No more than 2 or 3 feet in length. It emerged from the brush and probed its way methodically up and over a small boulder, delicately tasting the air for the scent of its fallen prey. As we watched in awe, I was struck by the sophistication of the snake’s design; perfectly equipped for its deadly task.

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For more Rattlesnake info visit the California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Joseph and I quickly realized that it was going to take the snake at least another 15 minutes to sniff its way to the chipmunk, which had fallen alongside the main footpath. In the name of safety – both the snake’s and future hiker’s – we decided to intervene. Joseph scooped up the lifeless rodent with a pair of sticks and gently plopped it down a few feet from the snake which quickly located it and began the gruesome yet fascinating process of consuming it.

For the next twenty minutes I was 11 again. We watched with rapt attention as the rattlesnake sniffed the length of the chipmunk, located the head, unhinged its jaw and slowly, inch by inch, swallowed it whole. I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed anything weirder, or more fascinating in nature.

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This remarkable encounter solidified what had become increasingly clear to me over three brilliant days in the high desert: I may have temporarily lost my Northwest MEGS, but until fate or good fortune finds me back amongst the pines Joshua Tree will make for a fine substitute.

If you live within driving distance, or if you’re road-tripping through Southern California, a night or two under the innumerable Joshua Tree stars will be well worth your time. Just make sure you come prepared.

A few quick tips on that note:

  1. Bring lots of water. This is the desert, there is no running water in the campgrounds. I’d recommend 1 gallon per person per day. That will probably be more than you need, but that’s OK.
  2. Bring portable shade. Joshua Tree is incredible during the first few hours of the day, and the last few. But during the high heat of midday it can be witheringly hot. We pack a large tarp which we string up wherever we can. Or you can look for shady slot canyons where you can get in a bit of bouldering in the cool shadows provided by the rocks.
  3. Bring lightweight breathable desert attire during the day, and a few warmer layers for the night. You’ll want as few clothes on as possible between 11-3 and you’ll probably want long pants and a warm jacket once the sun goes down.
  4. Bring appropriate footwear. Cacti, sharp rocks, and rattlesnakes abound in JT. This is not flip-flip country. Good sturdy tennis shoes or an appropriate outdoor shoe of some kind are a must.
  5. Bring firewood. There’s nothing better than roasting marshmallows or drinking beers by the fire beneath the starry night sky.
  6. Bring a camera. Desert sunsets are unforgettable. The harsh flat colors of the daytime retreat with the sun and a world awash in pastels – oranges, minty greens, purples, and blues – emerges from the dust.

Whatever city, state, or country you find yourself in, I encourage you to discover your own MEGS. Find yourself a little patch of forest, a favorite stream, or perhaps an entire mountain range, and make it yours. To quote the poet of The Sierra, John Muir,

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

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Riding Comets Through Outer Space

Forgive us while we nerd out for a minute…

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A 4 image composite photo of Comet 67P taken by Rosetta’s NAVCAM.
Photo Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

Ten years ago the European Space Agency (ESA) launched Rosetta, a spacecraft loaded with a small probe named Philae. Their purpose? To catch and land on Comet 67P, a mass of rock and ice the size of Mt. Fuji hurtling through space at over 84,000 MPH. On Wednesday, after a journey spanning a decade and covering a distance of over 3.5 Billion miles, they achieved their goal. Rosetta launched Philae, which successfully attached itself to the surface of the comet. And today I’m looking at pictures of Comet 67P on Flickr. What an incredible world we live in.

You may ask, “Who cares? Why does this even matter?”

And to that I just have to say, “YOU GUYS! HUMANS LANDED A SPACECRAFT ON A FREAKING COMET!!!”

Seriously though, I don’t have any big answers for you, but just stop for five minutes and think about the logistical marvel that humankind has just achieved. I can’t help but feel a sense of pride and awe at the achievement. And I will be looking forward to any new scientific discoveries that come as a result of this most impressive feat.

If you’d like some more specifics about the mission here’s an informative article from Vox that covers the big points: Why The Comet Landing Matters

Below are a few of my favorite photos from the mission, which are available on ESA’s Flickr. You can see the full set here.

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Rosetta mission selfie showing Comet 67P and one of Rosetta’s solar wings. Taken using Philae’s CIVA camera.
Photo Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA

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A “Beauty Shot” of Comet 67P taken by Rosetta from a distance of 10km.
Photo Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

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A “Beauty Shot” of Comet 67P taken by Rosetta from a distance of 10km.
Photo Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM

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Infographic summarising the milestones of Rosetta’s journey through the Solar System.
Photo Credit: ESA

30 Things: Theresa

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Theresa is 30! You know what that means… It’s time for one of my favorite annual traditions: writing up a new list of favorite things about Theresa.

So much has happened since “Sad Songs and Birthdays” (AKA: 29 Things). Another year and a new city have provided numerous opportunities to rediscover all the ways Theresa surprises and delights me. Here are 30 of them:

1. Last year’s 29 Things #2 was this: “She wants to move to LA, or New York, or anywhere with me. Just because it’d be fun.” Well guess what. She moved to LA with me, just for fun. And it’s been wonderful.
2. Tously beach hair and salty skin.
3. She’s the best office mate ever (sorry Jeremy & Shaun)
4. Hole Mole (pronounced ho-lay mo-lay) Rosarito Tacos at least once a week, preferably twice.
5. How cute she looks in her banana rash guard.
6. Floating on our backs together as the waves wash over our bodies.
7. Carefully selecting songs for our seasonal playlists so that they don’t overlap
8. Outdoor showers under the Big Sur Redwoods
9. She makes me catch baby lizards because she wants to touch their warm dry skin
10. Learning to love a new city together
11. Mid-morning workouts
12. Leaving the air conditioner off all day out of stubbornness and then cooling ourselves at night by rubbing ice cubes all over our skin.
13. Long walks on the beach.
14. Traveling back to Seattle together to see friends and family, and visit all our favorite old spots.
15. That one time in Joshua Tree when she made us all stay up late saying nice things about each other.
16. California Road Trips!
17. She’s not afraid to learn new things like rock climbing and how to dive under the waves.
18. The upcoming Wes Anderson Halloween Party she’s been planning for the last year.
19. The way she smooths off my rough edges, and lets me smooth off hers.
20. Her undying affection for popsicles.
21. She’s on Joseph’s short list of “Women Whose Advice You Should Always Heed.” (And mine too, duh.)
22. New Chairs!
23. She’s turned our Long Beach apartment into a home just as wonderful as the one we shared in Seattle.
24. Cold Brews & Coconut Scone mornings at Lord Windsor
25. She’s the very best kind of friend, sister, aunt, and wife.
26. Her happy face when I get back from my latest trip.
27. Her instagram is always better than mine.
28. She patiently helps me shop for hiking gear when I’m completely unprepared and being a little silly.
29. She has the best ponytail.
30. After 7 years of marriage, and 30 years on this planet I find her as beautiful, witty, intelligent, wise, creative, and strong as the day I met her.

Impromptu Portrait Session

Sometimes inspiration strikes and you’ve just got to go for it. While taking an afternoon break from work I came across the incredible photography portfolio of Ramon Haindl and was intrigued by one of his portraits.

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I was struck by the simplicity of the lighting in this particular portrait which uses a sheer curtain as a backdrop, and a handheld LED panel for a fill light. The curtain acts as a giant softbox and provides beautiful wraparound rim light on the subject. It seemed like a fun style to emulate, since Theresa and I have a large sheer curtain hanging in the main window of our apartment. So we grabbed Theresa’s black sequin jacket and a LED camping headlamp and started playing around.

I couldn’t achieve the same fill effect with my tiny lamp, in part because the bright afternoon sun was simply to strong to overcome the minimal output of my headlamp, but it did serve to add a bit of sparkle to the jacket, and gently highlight a few strands of hair. After I’d satisfied my curiosity with the first setup we started to play around with the curtain. It’s amazing what a difference you can achieve with a few adjustments in position and exposure settings.

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A Redwood Wedding: Gabe & Bri Cortez

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As you may recall, weddings aren’t typically my thing. If I’m gonna break a sweat shooting a camera I’d rather it be the result of elevation gain and not a button-up & tie. I’ve learned to love them, but they’re a lot of work. And as the photographer you kind of miss all the fun stuff because you’re so busy trying to get the next shot.

But under the right circumstances I’m game. This time around my brother Joseph sweet-talked me into helping him out after he committed to act as photographer for his pal Gabe Cortez. Having never shot a wedding before, Joseph quickly realized he was in over his head and called for backup (that’s me). It wasn’t a hard sell. Gabe and his then-fiancé Brianna had reserved a spot at Stones & Flowers, a little retreat nestled beneath towering Redwoods near Santa Cruz, California. They also wanted us to shoot the entire wedding on film! Since I much prefer shooting film to digital, the opportunity was too tempting to pass up. As an added bonus Joseph and I would be driving up the California coast with our friend Ryan Tuck – who you may remember from Rivers & Roads – and the three of us had already conspired to sneak in a little fly-fishing on the way back should time allow.

I’d met Gabe briefly earlier in the year when he manned the studio drums for Joseph’s in-progress EP. He’s a dapper guy, with an excellent beard, bright eyes, and a quick intelligent way about him. I get the impression he’s “the cool one” in whatever crowd he finds himself, but not in an aloof, douchey way. It’s the result of his confident, direct manner more than any conscious effort. Cliche as it may sound he’s one of those guys that just seems to effortlessly exude cool. Maybe it’s just the beard, I dunno.

Prior to the wedding I’d never met Bri, but it didn’t take her more than a couple seconds to win me over. She’s adorable, kind, and sweet in the most genuine sense. She’s clearly a match for Gabe in the cool department, in fact as a graphic designer in San Francisco she may well have the market cornered; I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of cool these days. However, what I appreciated most about Bri was her ability to focus completely on whoever she was with in a given moment. Several time throughout the weekend she would stop to chat with Joseph and I and each time I was struck at how personable and thoughtful she was. Even on her wedding day it never seemed to be about her.

Needless to say it was a delight to spend time with Gabe and Bri over the weekend, and a joy to shoot their wedding. The location was incredible, the people were beautiful, and it was a complete honor to witness the outpouring of love and support from the community of people who gathered to celebrate them.

Shooting the entire wedding on film proved to be a delightful challenge. I’ve always enjoyed how film forces you to slow down, and while it didn’t make covering the wedding any less hectic, it certainly made the results more rewarding. As for Joseph? Well, he did great, and came away with a new appreciation for all the works that goes into covering a wedding. He even had enough energy left to dance the night away.

I’m pleased to be able to share a few of my favorite photos with you here. Many thanks to Gabe and Bri for welcoming me so warmly on this special day.

NOTE: All Black & White photos + opening shot by Joseph Carlson.

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Tyson Motsenbocker: Letters to Lost Loves

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Photo: Jaimie Motsenbocker

Tyson Motsenbocker – actual person – has long existed in my mind as something of a myth, a legend, a fantastical creature. I first heard his name back when Joseph was at college in Spokane. Tyson had gathered a ragtag bunch of chain smokers, Joseph among them, and started a little band called Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful. Their songs were often good, if a little uneven, and beneath the occasionally raw production you could hear the talent, both musically and lyrically.

I say Tyson existed as a myth because for many years I’d only heard tales of his songwriting prowess (and volume) from Joseph, yet I’d never actually met him, though I’d seen a few KPB shows here and there. Fast forward to the present day. Joseph and Tyson both moved to California. Tyson to San Diego, and Joseph to Pasadena. As you know by now, Theresa and I recently followed her sister, Joseph, and our hearts to Long Beach. And I finally got to meet Tyson.

As it turns out he’s pretty awesome. Not that I doubted it. But it’s always a wonderful thing to meet a person you just click with. He’s creative, a bit introverted, eloquent, and has fine taste in motorcycles among other things. I know someone else a lot like that, although perhaps less eloquent… (it’s me in case you were wondering). We’ve become fast friends, and it’s been wonderful to get to know the man behind the legend in real life.

Since his KPB days I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to Tyson’s musical evolution, usually via top secret rough-cut MP3s that Joseph would email me on the sly, under oath to share them with no one. Over the years the raw talent on display in college has come into full bloom. Gone is the unevenness of the young musician. In its place is polish and depth. His best songs are capable of, as Joseph would put it, “shutting you up, sitting you down, and making you feel stuff.”

Cutting to the chase… As you know I was honored to help Tyson produce a few videos for his ongoing Kickstarter project. They are all live now (see below) and there are 8 days left in his campaign. He’s tantalizingly close to his goal of $10,000. I think you know where I’m going with this. If you haven’t already, watch the videos. And if any of them move you, as I’m sure they will, please consider donating a bit to make this project a reality.

You can contribute here: Letters to Lost Loves LP

Tyson Motsenbocker : Always from Japhy Rider on Vimeo.

Tyson Motsenbocker : You Didn’t Wait for Me from Japhy Rider on Vimeo.

Letters to Lost Loves // LP and Short Stories Kickstarter from Japhy Rider on Vimeo.

Music! Video! Music Video! Tyson Motsenbocker’s Kickstarter

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Last month Tyson Motsenbocker commissioned me to shoot 3 Kickstarter videos for his upcoming full-length album + book project, Letters to Lost Loves. We had a blast in the studio and I’m completely thrilled with the final product. I can’t wait to hear the full album.

There will be two more videos coming out in the next few weeks, each of which is a live-take of a brand new song from the album. Stay tuned!

If you’d like to make the world a better, more beautiful place, get yourself on over to his Kickstarter page and contribute.

Adventures in Skateboarding

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During our years in Seattle Elias and I accumulated a longboard and a skateboard. Elias rode the longboard regularly for about one summer. Unfortunately the wet Seattle climate put a damper on our best laid plans and the skateboards spent most of their time in our storage unit. When we cleaned it out before the move to Long Beach we got rid of about half of its contents, but the skateboards made the cut.

Elias gave me my first lesson a couple of weeks after the move and we have been making good use of them ever since. They were functional but not much to look at so we decided to give them an update. We bought some paint, sanded them down and practiced up on our painting skills. My board (I should say Elias’ longboard that he kindly lets me use) became a prickly pear and his became a kaleidoscope of patterns and colors.

Before and After:

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Elias: It’s funny how certain possessions really stick with you over the years. My very first skateboard was a white Toys ‘R’ Us special, with a big picture of Bart Simpson grinning up at me, the words “Official Bart Simpson Vehicle of Destruction” circling his head. It was quite possibly the coolest gift a 9 year old could’ve received. Sadly it didn’t last long. A friend chickened out on a hill, bailed, and sent it shooting into oncoming traffic. My dreams of becoming a pro skater were reduced to a handful of splinters.

A few years later I got my second board, a hand-me-down from a neighborhood boy a few years older than I. I don’t remember what was on it, only that it had neon green plastic rails on the underside, and that it was FAST. The Bart Simpson board was cool, but it was hardly a quality board. This board was the real deal. I spent hours whizzing around our cul-de-sac, often using the neighbor’s elevated driveway as my personal rocket launcher. Cool as that board was, it wasn’t quite what I wanted. It was an old-school style with a wide tail, and fat wheels. I could really fly on it, but I couldn’t get it off the ground.

Sometime in 9th grade I got my third board. A bonafide trick board, with a rounded nose and tail, and smaller wheels. Perfect for learning to ollie over small obstacles in the center of the cul-de-sac. My friend Geoff and I skated all over the suburbs we called home looking for good parking lots to practice our shove-its, kickflips, and grinds. It was a glorious time, and one of my first real tastes of freedom. With a good friend, time to kill, and a skateboard the world is yours for the taking.

Eventually though, basketball became an all-consuming obsession and my skateboard spent more and more time in the garage. When I turned 16 and started driving it really sealed the deal. I dabbled again briefly in college, but it didn’t last long and I never really touched a skateboard again until Theresa bought me the longboard for cruising around Greenlake, and as you know, that really only lasted one summer.

And now I’m almost 32 and I’ve rediscovered the joy of skateboarding all over again. Turns out Long Beach is really flat, and always sunny. And I have a cute friend, and just enough time to kill in the evenings. I’m not nearly as good at tricks, but that’s OK. There’s nothing quite like cruising along the beach boardwalk at sunset. I guess sometimes you have to grow up to rediscover the good stuff you thought you’d left behind.

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Theresa: Most afternoons when Elias is finished with work, we pack up our boards and head down to the beach to skate along the path next to the ocean. I would like to think that I caught on fairly quickly but really I have no one to compare myself to. Long Beach is the perfect place to learn because the boardwalk is smooth and flat and there are fewer people than at the more popular beaches. Now that I’ve gotten used to cruising along on flat ground I have been working on hills and braking with my foot.

So far there have been no falls, and only one ride in which I thought I, or some other unfortunate soul, might die. We took a trip to the Rose Bowl and I was promised the ride was flat. To the more advanced skateboarder that may feel like the case, but to a beginner like me it felt like life and death. Granted the hill was not steep, however it was a long slope in which I continued to gain speed before the path leveled out at the bottom. As I gained speed, my board started to wobble a bit which did not boost the confidence of someone who is sometimes challenged on flat ground.

As I was flying down the hill on a wobbly board at somewhere between 15-25mph it felt manageable, but I started to notice that though I had gotten a nice stretch with minimal pedestrians, there were gathering groups of people at the bottom of the hill that I would have to navigate and I would only pick up more speed before I get to them. I started to imagine the scenarios that may ensue: 1) I will run into someone at a high speed, knocking them and myself to the ground causing damage to us both. 2) I will try to dodge someone and loose my balance and my body will skid along the ground while my board whizzes into either a person or a car, neither good. 3) I could always veer out into the street to avoid a person, but since I am not balanced enough to look behind me while flying down the hill, I will be veering out into the street blindly and risk getting hit by a car.

Reflecting on the ride, I am not sure how I managed without hurting myself or another person. I was pleased to have made it around in one piece but it will be a while before someone cons me into the Rose Bowl again (ahem, Joseph)! Despite my harrowing ride down the hill of doom, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning how to skateboard. It makes me feel less like I am almost thirty and gave me a fine reason to buy checkered Vans like a teenager. Win Win.

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