The whole reason why I started this blog was to help remind myself why I’m living the life that I do. Once or twice a year, I start to falter in my conviction and second-guess my lifestyle choices. In fact, one of those times is occurring right now. I panic, I can’t sleep well at night, I feel anxious for no apparent reason. It’s usually coupled with a significant lack of money, which either spurs on my anxiety even further or is the main trigger to it. I usually accompany it with an intense desire to go shopping and purchase a whole new wardrobe- that feeling of needing to reinvent myself kicking in hard.
What saves me are my friends. I’m pretty sure I’d be on 1,000’s of different medications if I didn’t have friends. I think a lot, probably too much (hence the reason I can’t smoke weed- more thoughts and reduced ability to talk? No thanks). It begins with a choice, something I have to decide. My mind will start racing in a circle, going over the options and every possible outcome over, and over, and over until I’ve literally paced in a circle, picking the same three things up and setting them down again and again. The thing I’ve learned that saves me is an interaction with another person. As soon as I engage with someone, I’m free. My mind sits back, relaxes, and no longer cares about the 20 various hypothetical consequences of wearing shoes versus sandals to walk to the corner store.
My brain helps me out a lot, and all of the thinking it goes through has pushed me to do more in my life than I ever thought possible. But what’s really made my life possible are my friends. From inviting me out on trips, to finding a new drink at a bar to merely hanging out and pulling me out of my head- friends are the most important thing I’ve gained throughout my life. So, thanks friends. You’re awesome.
In my last semester at PSU during Fall, 2013 I took a documentary film class. This short film shows the process of preparing AeroPress coffee at Heart, brewed by my friend Ashley Rehfeld. I first posted this on jennjennago.wordpress.com, but felt it might fit a little better here on Gofer. Enjoy!
I made it to 25! I can’t believe I’m here, really. Feels like not too long ago I was 19 and moving to Portland with not much more than a snowboard bag and a dorm-room number. That seems like the marking point for me where I started really growing up; prior to then I’d always been pretty close (if not at) home, and even though I wouldn’t always stay there, I knew I could go back there very easily. Moving to Oregon suddenly put 3,000 miles between myself and anything I had known up until then. It was scary, and I honestly kind of hated portland for the first 4-5 months of living there. However, once I joined the PSU Snowboard Club my life was changed. Being a part of this group and finding people (like Chris and Eddy Barnhart) who were immediately so friendly and inclusive and FUN made me realize this was a place I wanted to be and that snowboarding was something I needed to keep doing. So that was it. I continued my push to finish my Environmental Studies degree, all while working paid (and unpaid) jobs and internships that allowed me to get that much closer to this fantastic new family of riders I’d discovered. I didn’t consciously realize that I was slowly shaping my whole life around this ‘sport’ (activity? passion? fun thing to do with friends?) but it happened all the same. Sometimes I get nervous that I should be out working a 9-5 job that pays more than $10k/year (actually I made less than that this year, according to my tax returns and W-2’s) but then I think about what that would really entail and I immediately feel better about where I’m at.
Last year I celebrated my birthday in the snowy mountains of Alaska, and this year I was in the rather warm Salt Lake City with a few more friends and a lot less snow. On my actual birthday I was taken through my first runs of (baby) chutes at Brighton,
followed by a gorgeous hike in to Diamond Fork Hot Springs,
and finishing with a less-than-pleasant four-police-car-pullover and drug-dog search of Tyler’s van.
Apparently there was a color festival happening the same weekend as my birthday and cops were staking out the hotsprings in hopes of catching out-of-town drugged-up hippies coming out from a relaxing soak. They didn’t find anything (of course), kept us there for about 2 hours, made me dump the rest of my closed bottle of sake (that was in my backpack) out into the dirt and charged us with open containers because we had chosen to carry out our empties instead of leave them in the hot springs for future visitors.
Oh yeah, and one of the cops wished me a happy birthday. Gee, thanks.
My second birthday celebration involved fewer police but was just as fun. My friend Laura R. works at a high-end restaurant in Park City and took myself and a few others out for one of the BEST meals of our lives. Although the plans were a little confusing to everyone (probably my fault for changing from telling everyone it was going to be a nail party to dinner party) we all had an amazing time.
I will remember that meal for the rest of my life, it was that good (seriously). There were dishes such as winter fruit salad, champagne covered lemon sorbet, filet mignon and finally a richly liquored-up desert coffee that tied the whole thing together perfectly.
Those chefs know how to make people happy.
I think turning 24 scared me more than 25; when this birthday rolled around it felt like most of the other ones I’ve had throughout my life; another year older without any kind of life crisis. Maybe that means my life is more together than it was last year? Though I find that a little hard to believe. Perhaps it’s a sign of maturity. Either way, I don’t really care; I’m just grateful to have amazing friends, family and some good stories to share. I’m gunning for another adventurous 25 years to come (and, you know, maybe a few more ;)).
When we dropped in to Niseko Negula we had no idea that we were not only going to be staying at a great pension (a pension is a cross between a nice hostel and a bed and breakfast) location but that we were about to become a part of Negula’s fantastic community itself too. Wataru (the owner) initially impressed us by being a warm and welcoming person and then surprised us by being a great musician with extremely musically-gifted friends as well.
Wataru Miyazaki, the owner of Niseko Negula
Twice now we’ve had nights that have ended in full-blown group music jams; where staff and guests alike are dancing, playing music and laughing together. Both times they’ve happened directly following a meal Colby prepared in the kitchen for everyone, all-in-all being a real community event.
The Negula living room is always full of excitement. The atmosphere is electric and its great to meet people of various cultures in such a great atmosphere.
We were each sitting around in the Negula common room, finishing the last bits of delicious yakisoba, mashed potatoes, cabbage salad or fried chicken (depending on which meal night it was) and then Yui (or Masato, or Yasue) sat down in front of a mic with an instrument and simply started jamming out.
The first night Yui and his wife Maico played a beautiful set that included renditions of a few Beatles songs, some tunes sung in japanese and a mongolian song that as far as has been explained to us is meant to mean anything from Happy Birthday to wishing someone good health in general. Once the music started up, everyone who could grab an instrument and play coherently did so.
Masato-San and Band
The second night, Masato and Keita grabbed guitars and began playing that same Mongolian good-health song. I think they played it about four different times; I’m not too confident Masato knows any other songs on guitar (which was actually a great thing, because none of us knew the song at first but by the end of their session we’d all learned the words and were singing along. I was loving it). From there, Yuki (a visiting/traveling musician) grabbed his violin, blew us all away with his talents on that stringed instrument and the rest, they say, is history.
The Negula Jam Band – Maico, Wataru, Macun, Iku
I don’t know how long we played for each night, but it was nothing short of at least an hour, though you had no idea what kind of time was passing. We were a group of American, Australian, Cambodian, Japanese and more, having the best time we possibly could. Everywhere you looked there were ecstatic ear-to-ear grins. People couldn’t help but clap or sing along when they caught the tune. Being in a foreign country where communication is limited to fragments of either english or japanese, it’s amazing the type of connection you can feel with others when you’re laughing and creating music together.
Yui Akimichi – Resident chef and musician at Negula
I think it’s safe to say these nights of gathering for delicious food creating spectacular music together have added more depth to our experience out here in Niseko, Japan. We’re approximately 5,000 miles from the closest place any one of us might call home, but with things like this being a part of our trip, that distance hasn’t been too much of a problem for us being able to relax and feel right at home out here.
Japan is full of surprises. Did you know they have an event at Rusutsu Resort called “Mixed Nuts Bowl”? Neither did we. Ever heard of the Holy Bowly? Mixed Nuts was like that; a whole course of snow shaped like a set of downhill skatepark bowls, hips and a transfer or two.
Our friend Yuki at Negula pulled one of us aside Thursday night and showed us an edit from last year’s Mixed Nuts Bowl. It turned out to be at a resort not far from where we were staying and happening the next day. Snow had been a bit lacking for us lately, so we were all excited to have the chance to get out and ride in something.
We loaded our five-person car with six people plus all of our snowboard/photo/film gear (it was cozy) and drove off towards Rusutsu. After hanging out in a closed amusement park-
Colby found an octupus to surprise. Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
-we made our way over to the resort. As per the usual, we didn’t really know what we were supposed to do once we got there, so we asked a couple kids in a lift line. As soon as they realized we needed help finding where to sign up for the event, they unstrapped from their boards, jumped out of line, grabbed a flyer from a liftee and walked us the 100 yards or so over to the tent where we could sign up. Once we’d gotten things sorted and waivers signed the two kids strapped back in and rode off. They weren’t even doing the event themselves. People here are really too nice.
The event itself was super fun; as Madison Ellsworth put it, “It’s like skating a bowl but I’m on a snowboard and actually good at it.”
A rider starts carving down the course at Rusutsu’s Mixed Nuts Bowl Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
Jenna hiking the course. So nice of them to think to add steps. Photo- Jeremy Dubs
The riding was one thing and then the announcer for the event was another. This dude was something else; at first he merely called out tricks people were doing, most of them in english. Then; and I don’t know if people switched off here or if it was the same guy, but the person on the mic was suddenly rapping for a good solid hour and a half. It was mostly in Japanese, but every now and then he’d get on a kick of just shouting, “Mix Nuts Bowl! Mix nuts! Mix Nuts! Ride, ride, ride, ride! Mix nuts! Ya! Ride! Microphone! 1, 2, 3! group 247 we here! Mix Nuts! Mix Nuts Bowl!”; it was amazing.
You can just tell he’s staring at the camera thinking of new ways to remix “Mix Nuts” on the mic. Photo- Jeremy Dubs
Towards the end of the night we still didn’t know if the event was a contest or something they were just doing for fun; but we didn’t really care either way. We’d gotten out on our boards and just rode in a group full of Japanese shredders. Watching those guys on their surfy carving boards fly around the banks was a reminder of how tricks aren’t everything; if you have great style anything you do, down to simply carving, will look unique.
We walked back to the car, loaded everything up again and headed back to Niseko Negula, our home away from home. There was more riding to be done tomorrow.
Good Times all around; Colby hanging out with Yuki, Keita, Yasue and Nimo on the side of the bowls. Photo- Jenna Kuklinski
The warning on the flashing yellow sign was supposedly only speaking to Commercial Vehicles (giant 18-wheeler trucks) but I guess I should’ve known they were talking to me and my little Mazda as well.
Driving out to SIA was an adventure in itself. Before we even got to Denver we’d already had ourselves a crazy sleepless night where people got drunk, people got lost, someone got sick, we got to hang out in a hot tub and the police showed up (not necessarily in that order).
I knew that we were supposed to get a little snow for the drive out to SIA in Denver, CO. I didn’t know that meant we’d be driving through a snow storm. At 4:00am Thursday morning the 30th of January, my car stopped moving uphill on the Vail pass four miles from the summit during this ‘dusting’ of a storm. Four miles isn’t all that far when you’re driving on the highway, but when you’re pushing a car uphill in a blizzard those four miles turn into a VERY long distance.
Luckily, Eli’s beast of a Volvo was still cruising up the pass. With Kevin and Eli pushing the Mazda through the snow and Tyler driving the Volvo we finally were making some uphill progress. Then, even, traction! I broke away from the Volvo and was cruising up the pass a good mile or so before we got stuck again and Amanda and I had to wait for Tyler to meet up with us. Then we got a call from Tyler saying he’d been reversing down the freeway for 15 minutes and had seen no sign of either Kevin or Eli. Oh Shit. It is now 4:30am, the blizzard is still blizzarding, 18-wheeler trucker trucks are flying up around and past us and we don’t know where the hell two of our friends just ended up out there.
Then Amanda got a message from an officer. He was on his way to find us, and had Kevin and Tyler in his car with us. We were so hyped that our friends weren’t plowed and mangled in a snowbank somewhere on the side of the pass!
When we told Tyler he was relieved, then freaked out because, “Amanda I can’t be driving this car when the officer gets here, I’m _____.” (You can fill in the blank here. I’m gonna just leave it at that).
Amanda gets into Eli’s car, the officer gets up to us in his car, I’m still hanging out in my car and we’re all reunited. The officer apparently picked our two friends up, then spun out for about 20minutes in his rear-wheel drive charger somewhere along the pass before making his way up to us. He then offered to try and push us with his car, but after he almost spun out into the guardrail we just thanked him and went back to pushing the Mazda with the Volvo all the way to the crest of the pass.
By the time we reached Amanda’s parent’s house it was 6am and none of us had slept at all. So we decided it’d be best if we just skipped the sleep and jumped straight into the hot tub. Once we got suited up in swim wear and bathrobes, we booked it back out into the storm and splashed into the glorious outdoor tub. Sitting there, cracked out from no sleep and our ridiculous adventure on the pass we laughed and joked and froze our ears off watching the sky lighten around us. Giant flakes whipped around the little alcove of the hot tub while we kept laughing and realizing how much you can really get done when you just don’t sleep.
SIA was it’s own adventure and half, with more talking and schmoozing than actual time spent checking out vendor’s booths. I met people, met up with people, ran around, drank, got lost and had one hell of a time. I also linked up with my friends Jeremy Dubs and Andy Stern, and officially got invited along for their trip to Japan. Two weeks later, I’m just as stoked from all of this and I have my plane ticket booked to leave the 19th to fly to Sapporo. Life is amazing, hilarious and one swell adventure. I can’t wait to keep getting after this thing (whatever it is) cause it’s real fun.
Here’s a little photo gallery of all the fun that was had-