Archive for Prose

The San Carlos Shul

When I woke up at the top of the mountain I knew. This was my hometown. Every kid knew the way down from here on his bike or skateboard, neither of which I had. Cowles Mt I could see my destination, however, behind the near hill across the valley. Cowles Mt. summit from Mt. Helix? Epic linkup! Thanksgiving in the old neighborhood!

Walking to shul from my brother’s place after a Shabbat in San Carlos, seeing the top of the hill upon rounding the corner, I was startled by the loveliness of my old-time stroll on a path well trodden over two decades ago.San Carlos ShulI grew up in the Young Israel shul and owe a great korat ha tov to the community and the YISD weekday minyan that provided fertile soil for my yiddeshe roots.

Rabbi Danny's Shul

The shul was in the building across the street when I finished my Orthodox conversion under Rabbi Elchonon Snyder. Begun in private homes and in the back of a construction office by Rabbi Daniel Korobkin in the time of the San Diego Kollel, the shul was moved to its current location catty-corner to Cowles Mountain.

One fine feature of the location are the many boulders across the street on West Cowles Waterfall and the Painted Wall canyon. Cowles Mt. Boulders There is no Eruv, which makes climbing hard or Shabbat, but a hike to the top of the mountain is always available to the hardy adventurer! San Carlos has a loveliness in its rural aspect, nearly Mediterranean in climate and view.

Climbing in Pacific Grove California


The landings here are beyond harsh…

Imagine Joshua Tree granite hanging over the lapping seashore and you will have climbing in Pacific Grove CA, a tiny community perched at the tip of the Monterey Peninsula. Like all places crazy beautiful, here one wanders for days of endless bouldering and never exhausting the source. Ever abundant. Ever fruitful.

The progression, apt as it is in this juncture of my life, has been one through fear. The landings here are beyond harsh. Simple moves take on a new seriousness above a gaping maw. The first lines, true classics like “The Cavity” on Molar Boulder, have sandy landings under the right tides. The Molar’s backside has a steep traverse that tiptoes above the jagged rocks below on mostly solid holds. Ending with a long reach to a crumbly edge and some tricky feet to an juggy highball mantle. A real bonebuster, I’ve grown to call those moves.

Like any fool, I remain encouraged by those early successes as I wander the bluffs. Plenty of solid rock with bad landings abounds, but I haven’t taken to the pad yet. I’m still finding my groove on the funky grit and rotton stone, doing easy stuff in my Desert Boots. I usually don’t even carry my shoes. When I do shoe up, the climbing gets hard.

Over by Lover’s Point, Pacific Grove’s most picturesque cove bouldering area, is found the Dimple Boulder. The landing can be a jump to sand between rocks, meaning good, so its tall arete has been attempted. A sit-start below the lip provides a slab to the left (don’t fall!) and the arete, a proud highball leering over sunbathing tourists and toddlers alike, to the right. I’ve come off those slimy feet many times, shoes and all. That doesn’t even include the dry, tall, and untouched upper grips.

Finally, I set up a solo-toprope system for the climb above. A sketch system to start with, hanging the cord from an anchor above and taking up the slack while climbing with a gri-gri attached to my harness. Same crumbly unclimbed stuff, but basically solid. My line was to follow a protruding quartz extrusion to the top. But, in a moment of fear, I was spit off! The anchor and gri-gri held! I moved left into the chimney and finished the climb. Although I blew the flash, “The Dyke” at West Lover’s Point remains unclimbed.

It is also today’s objective.

I Traveled Across The Country For This?

The Muffs at The Casbah

The Muffs at The Casbah

I just got back from driving both ways cross-country with my kids and it’s time to post. Both the western leg with my daughter and the eastern return with my son were packed with memories and views for a lifetime. Both kids will remember with awe the might of the Rockies and the sublime loveliness of the red desert plateau monuments. Especially memorable were the desert waters. Saphira learned to swim all over again beneath the towering Moab walls of the lower Colorado. Caleb found his Feng-Shui deep in a sun-speckled swimming hole within massive boulders. All quite wondrous indeed.

My trip was quite parental, laden with  budget concerns and the need to gobble up the miles in huge chunks to meet deadlines for assuredly grown-up endeavors. Still, it was hella fun. My kids are a riot to travel with. They grew up on the road and know what it’s all about. My experience was somewhat new. My last rig had in-dash GPS, so preloading destinations is old hat. What made it new was that the planning was done on my phone as I lay in my sleeping bag, then saved as a soup of calendar events, map coordinates, and kosher restaurant data. The app then picked the route and was followed religiously with absolute certainty.

We also have deep respect for the playlist. For the first time, I hit the road with my tunes and GPS in one device, my ancient iPhone 4. Right off, we discovered USB connectivity with in-dash display and steering wheel controls. Slick. Old school cruise control on the other side turned it into a 5,702 mile big-boy video game of variable intensity evoked by construction sites, gnarly weather, super-remote blackness and lots of big trucks. Lily Allen Sheezus got lots of play. Tristan Prettyman’s new Cedar + Gold was a downer, but fun to talk smack about. New Old Story from Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash was more of the same excellent road tunes and the easiest music I’ve ever bought online. Patti Smith Banga. Blanche Little Amber Bottles. The Libertines Legs 11. Lou Reed Take No Prisoners. Kate Nash Girl Talk took a few listens to absorb the howling, but became unanimous crowd favorite.

So what does all this have to do with the Muffs? Don’t forget that the nexus for this whole adventure was my hometown, good ol’ San Diego. Of my many roots there, one that runs uber-deep is punk rock and The Casbah. Hanging there with my best pal and all of hers, watching a band I love and generally enjoying the rich soil I grew from and the creature of contradictions that I have become was my best moment.