Monday, June 24, 2013

Lumberjacking and the first weekend of summer

Summer begun in earnest in New York this weekend with the weather seemingly just waiting for the calendar-official change of season to go from unseasonably cool to consistently over 80. In addition to the official first day of summer, it was also my first official summer Friday, giving me an extra day of first summer weekend to enjoy. I spent as much of it outside as possible, which was made easier by the surplus of free festivals and outdoor events that also come with summer of the city. Some of them were even in western Queens (in Astoria's fine neighbor: Long Island City)!

On Friday, after struggling through the first week of a contest at my gym and running through a volunteer obligation in Brooklyn, I went to a Summer Solstice festival in Socrates Sculpture Park, located just a few blocks from my first apartment in Astoria (well, not counting my two-month sublet when I had just moved). For some reason the main event at this solstice festival was Mexican wrestling. They also had free yoga classes and kayaking, although having just kayaked in Thailand on brilliant blue seas, I wasn't ready for the brackish sewage that passes for water in the East River. That said, I've kayaked here in the past without once the memories of Thailand have faded, I won't be too high and mighty to do it again. 

Brave kayakers taking on Hallets Cove. 
Some kind of mixed media tapestry that anyone could add to. This picture was taken on my shitty phone, but it's almost like an Instagram filter, right? 
On Saturday, Sam also had off, by virtue of it being a traditional weekend, so I talked him into coming to an outdoor activity festival in Central Park. I think it was sponsored by Bare Naked because they certainly were foisting the granola samples on us. Some of the outdoor activities included kayaking and yoga (apparently festival standbys) as well as stand-up paddle boating and catch-and-release fishing. The kayaking and paddleboating were both done in a pool that had been brought in and constructed in the park, but ultimately we passed because kayaking in circles in a swimming pool was less appealing than kayaking in the East River and didn't really justify the line. Also, I was more interested in the free rock climbing. On the way to the rock walls though, we ran across a section of the festival devoted to lumberjacking (lumberjackmanship?). There was a thing where you could practice sawing and a pool where you face off against friends in log rolling. The part that caught our fancy though was the "sprint climb." None of the people we watching climbing were doing remotely what I would call a sprint, but apparently professional lumberjacks can shimmy up and down a tree in just a few seconds.

Sprint climbing!
Basically the climb involved wearing leg braces with spikes at the sides of the feet. You would jam the spikes into the wood enough that you could support your weight and stand up. You also had a length of rope wrapped around the tree that you would lift up the tree and use to keep yourself close to it. We waited in line for about a half hour, so we got to watch a number of people try it. Some made it look very easy, and others made it look very hard. Once we finally got strapped in, I found I was in the "making it look hard" camp. It took me several tries to figure out how to plant my feet to actually keep from falling. In the end, I got a little over halfway up before getting tired and coming down. I must have  done something wrong in my technique because I ended up with a gnarly bruise on the back on my thigh (just in time for sundress season!) from the brace thing digging into it, but overall it was a fun experience. I don't think I'll be giving up my day job and seeking a new life as a lumberjack any time soon though.

Me as a lumberjack. Sort of. 
 On Saturday night, we were back in Brooklyn to meet some friends for dinner. On the way, we stopped by the Renegade Craft Fair (an event full of fun artisans that I try to catch every year if I remember). Didn't buy too much, but we got some nice pictures in the park where it took place.

The view from Brooklyn. Not quite as nice as the view from Queens, I suppose. 

Hanging out on some weird wooden trampoline things. This is what summer is all about.  
 Sunday, I had some work to do, but I didn't want to let that keep me from feeding my newfound need for constant craft fairs and free festivals, so I made one final outing. They recently started a Queens version of the Brooklyn Flea in Long Island City that I wanted to check out. It's pretty small still, but where they lacked in vendors, they made up for in tons of food. Which really is my favorite thing about the Brooklyn Flea anyway. There was even a place serving South African street food! I wasn't nearly hungry enough to take full advantage of it, but I'll definitely be back sometime in the summer when my appetite is more fitting all the deliciousness.
View of the UN building from Long Island City. 

Sam enjoying a jerk chicken sandwich. He had the good sense to not have a huge breakfast. 
 That pretty much sums up the weekend. Now that I'm forced to spend the day inside working, the heat doesn't seem nearly as nice. We might even have to put in the A/C unit tonight because fans aren't cutting it. On the plus side, very soon the Astoria Park pool will be opening! Bring it, summer.

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