Arts in a Small Town

I’ve been finding it hard to come up with something to write, so I thought I’d add some pictures from a recent performance from Utah-based Ballet West II.

It’s been a pretty interesting month for the arts in Sublette County. The ballet performance was last week, Tuesday most of the town was thrilled to watch Carey Laine (a resident of Pinedale but an Alabama native) kill it on The Voice and earlier this month I lost my mind when I learned De La Soul, my favorite hip hop group, ever, was coming to Jackson in March.

The arts are great, and it’s been a thrill to have them in Pinedale, especially during this long and drawn out winter.

I also finally purchased a good enough phone to join Instagram. That’s been taking up a lot of my time recently. It’s a lot of fun and that’s the reason the blog has kind of been on hold.

Anyway, here are some pictures from the ballet performance. Enjoy.

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Couple of Pictures from this Weekend

Took a trip into the Bridger-Teton National Forest out of the Horse Creek parking lot to find a Christmas tree this weekend. I was more concerned with staying warm than taking pictures, so I only got a couple and it’s quite honestly all I feel like doing today because I have an ice skating show to write.

Enjoy!

 

Conifer Stand

Conifer Stand

Snowy and cold.

Snowy and cold.

Searching for the perfect one.

Searching for the perfect one.

Aspens standing tall.

Aspens standing tall.

The grove.

The grove.

Midnight Moon.

Midnight Moon, much later that evening taken in the front yard. 

A Winter’s Tale, or a Homage to Cody

This post is kind of a follow-up to the last one I wrote, which you can find Here.

It was one of the those beautifully sunny, frigidly cold winter days in Wyoming and the gang decided to hold the first ever “SlideFest.”  The idea was simple, head up to the Green River Lakes parking lot and hit the various hills and mounds that surround the area.

With lots of layers, a grill and some libations, we began the day and had a great time. What made it even better was we he had rented a cabin in Kendall Valley, which is one of the most beautiful areas in the county that is surrounded by the Bridger-Teton National Forest. After tiring ourselves out, we went back to the cabin and relaxed.

Now, I have a friend named Cody. How do I describe him? To start, he is probably the nicest person I have ever met; he has never uttered a bad word about another person, never gets frustrated or goes on a rant and I don’t think he is capable of anger. For me, he is the essence of a Wyomingite – friendly, welcoming, not much of a talker, handy, strong, helpful, adventurous, quick to laughter but (extremely, if at all) slow to anger. Whenever I’ve had people come and visit me Cody is always the highlight of the trip. One friend said, “Cody oozes modesty, but he could probably destroy anyone on the planet.”

Cody is an avid biker – he almost always wins the gold medal at races – and he is also the kind of person who will wake up one morning, decide to run a half marathon and subsequently crush the competition. One great story about Cody’s athleticism is that he went to a race in Utah, had his bike stolen, went and got another, which was quite a bad bike, was very late to the race, but still managed to win. He’s a machine.

After SlideFest, Cody, never one to just sit around and relax, suggested he and I go into the forest and try to call in some wolves. I was 100 percent in, so we jumped in his car, which is not suitable for backcountry driving – I believe it’s a Ford Mercury or something – and headed into the woods.

We drove for about two or three miles on a non-maintained, snow-covered dirt road until I, always the sensible one, said, “Codes, I don’t think we should go any further. Let’s turn around.”

Three miles in and with darkness approaching, we decided to turn back.

Three miles in and with darkness approaching, we decided to turn back.

Cody began to maneuver his car around, trying multiple three-point turns in hopes of turning around. The engine revved.

“We’re stuck,” Cody said nonchalantly.

I hopped out and began to push. We were freed! I got back in and within inches we were stuck again. Back out, push, freed, stuck again. This went on for some time.

To say I was surprised we became stuck would be a lie. One of Cody’s attributes I forgot to mention is that while he is extremely adventurous and always ready to head into the unknown, he is also apt to get stuck. Without really thinking about it, I can confidently say I’ve gotten stuck in mud, snow, or the like about eight times with Cody. We always get out, we always laugh about it, and really if I was going to get stuck with anyone, I would be glad it were Cody.

Darkness was coming on very quickly and the temperature was dropping. We began shoveling.

Stuck, again.

Stuck, again, trying to get free. 

That didn’t help out too much, but we managed to clear enough of a path and with me pushing, Cody got the car facing in the right direction. He was essentially back on the road when he was sucked into a ditch and stuck, for good.

Our last effort was to put on snow chains, but, of course, Cody’s were already mangled, so we came up with string and other stuff to try and make them work.

A poor effort.

A poor effort.

With barely an pressure on the gas pedal, the “chains” quickly snapped.

“Cody, I’m calling this one. We’re going to have to walk out of here tonight, and maybe tomorrow we can get it out with someone’s sled.”

Cody agreed.

He pulled out his Nordic skis, I strapped on my snowshoes and we began walking. As we headed away from the car, Cody realized why we had ventured out into the wilderness in the first place and put his lips to a predator call and blew.

I looked at him in shock.

“Codes, we’re in the middle of the woods, it’s freezing and dark and we are on foot. Do you really think now is the appropriate time to call in a pack of wolves?”

He laughed, I laughed and we started walking, quickly.

It was cold that night, probably around -25 degrees Fahrenheit, but we were dressed appropriately. We walked and talked, and very quickly both of us realized we were having a great time. I would make a joke, and he would laugh, Cody would ski ahead to survey the scene, and I would come running after him, snowball in hand. We laughed and laughed and laughed, for a mile and then we both realized something horrible – our girlfriends were going to be pissed.

Cody’s lady has been sitting at a bar waiting for him to come pick her up for the past hour, and mine, knowledgeable as ever, had told me, “Don’t get stuck and come back alive.” Little did we know that Cody’s girlfriend was warding off the amorous advances of a one-eyed bartender, and my girlfriend was combing the roads looking for us. Like true jackasses, we hadn’t really told anyone EXACTLY where we were going.

As the horror of two angry girlfriends materialized in our minds, I noticed we were approaching the wilderness boundary.

“Awww, who cares about them! We’re having a blast. Get next to the sign and smile!”

The man, the myth, the Cody.

The man, the myth, the Cody.

We walked the next mile or so, and had tons of fun. As we approached the road, we saw two cars sitting there. We approached, apprehensively, and the windows rolled down. There were our girlfriends, shaking their heads at our buffoonery.

“Hey!” we both exclaimed. “We got stuck and had to walk back. It’s freezing out.”

“Get in, you idiots.” We did as we were told and told them about our adventure. Like good girlfriends, they laughed, and were glad to see us safe and sound.

The next day, we headed back to the infamous spot, with two friends and two snowmobiles, and managed to get Cody’s car out and back safely to the pavement.

Stuck.

Stuck.

 

Freed!

Freed!

 

Oh, Turkey Day

Except for Halloween (who doesn’t love dressing up and being somebody different for an entire day?), Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday because it is oh so American. There is no religious connection, it’s not restricted to a specific ethnic background, and the only requirement is you’re an American and are thankful for something.

While the holiday has been exploited and become a contest of consumption (how much can you drink the night before, how much can you eat the day of and how much can you buy the day after), I still enjoy the core of the tradition (a celebration of the bounty of the New World and the realization that there are reasons to be thankful).

My mother has always been the queen of family gatherings where large quantities of food are spread on the table. She’s the best cook in the family, our house was always where everyone wanted to come and there was no way anyone could do Thanksgiving better, though many have tried.

But this year, it was my turn to be the cook/host. I was excited. I enjoy cooking, I enjoy hosting and I have to admit having all that power, I had joyful visions of me throwing my hands up and, like my mother, proclaiming, “All right, everyone get out of my kitchen,” made me giddy. Clearly, I would not have thrown the One Ring into Mt. Doom, but at least I admit it.

First up: the menu. Clearly, turkey would be on it, but what kind. I perused the Internet and found the absolute best recipe for me: Turkey with 40 Cloves of Garlic.

Then, as a homage to tradition, I chose stuffed mushrooms and sausage/rice stuffing (family favorites), and added some sauteed spinach and kale for a vegan guest (I know, I was flabbergasted, too) and the girlfriend handled the potatoes. Dessert was pumpkin pie (me) and chocolate mousse (girlfriend).

The night before, after playing some Thanksgiving Eve, cold weather darts with a friend, I came home and began the White Wine Pan Gravy. Word of advice, always read the directions before attempting the recipe because I hadn’t realized the gravy needed to cook for three hours.

The White Wine Pan Gravy started slow, but turned out great.

The White Wine Pan Gravy started slow, but turned out great.

By 11 p.m., the gravy “base” was down and it was time for bed.

Up at 7 a.m. the next morning and the first chore was the pumpkin pie (I should have done this the night before, but this was really more of a learning experience than anything else.)

Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

Using a recipe from everyone’s favorite racist chef, the pies were in by 8:30 a.m. Baking at high elevation (7,200 feet) is not fun. I’ve never really enjoyed baking, too much chemistry, but it is pretty important to have dessert, and though the recipe said the pies needed 50 minutes, up in the mountains it took about twice that time for them to finish.

With the pies baking and sweat beginning to develop on my brow from fear  the turkey wasn’t in yet, I began getting the garlic ready.

40, yes, 40, cloves of garlic.

40, yes, 40, cloves of garlic.

While chopping and seasoning and getting the turkey ready, my beautiful girlfriend walked into the kitchen. With my hands covered in garlic puree she delightfully began with the questions. (Note: My girlfriend doesn’t cook much, when she does, it’s great, but for some reason she feels intimidated by my culinary skills and that keeps her out of the kitchen).

After a few questions my blood began to slowly boil ( I know I’m a maniac, and I’m lucky she puts up with me), and then she looked at my hands that were beneath the turkey skin and said, “What’s that?”

“It’s super secret shit. Now, calm yourself down before I crack you with my seasoned paws.”

Again, I know I can be crass at times, but if my mother taught me anything it’s that mean, hurtful things are allowed to be said in the kitchen on a holiday. Thankfully, my girlfriend let it go and I got the turkey in on time.

The rice was already finished, so I moved on to the stuff mushrooms.

Stuffed mushrooms.

Stuffed mushrooms.

They came out excellent.

As the turkey sizzled while I basted it, I realized it was only 1 p.m. and everything, for the most part, was done. Well, this isn’t so bad, I thought to myself and poured a glass of wine and was coerced into taking a Thanksgiving shot of Wyoming’s own Koltiska.

Delicious yet deadly.

Delicious yet deadly.

At this point, all I needed were my guests. Cocktail hour was set to begin at 2 p.m., with dinner followed at 3 p.m.

Cocktail hour came and went. 3 o’clock came and went. And by 3:15 p.m. I was infuriated. The turkey had been out since 2:30 p.m., and was now getting cold and dry and gross. The gravy was solidifying and the rice and other side dishes were close to burning in the oven. I stood at the door waiting for my guests throwing out threats to anyone who would listen.

2:30 p.m.: OK, they’re running late, but there’s still plenty of time.

2:45 p.m.: What the hell, where is everyone?

3 p.m.: Well, it’s dinner time and no one is here.

3:10 p.m.: You know what I’d be thankful for, punctual guests.

3:15 p.m.: OK, f@#$% them, if no one is here in the next 10 minutes, I’m locking the door, eating all this food myself and they can go somewhere else.

At 3:25 p.m., they arrived. My girlfriend gave me the eyes to “be nice” and I said, “Happy Thanksgiving, dinner is now.”

As people ate and compliments came my way in between large bites, I began to ease up (here’s a hint, a pissed of chef can be quickly calmed down with praise and accolades) and enjoyed the company, the food and the holiday.

So what was I thankful for this year?

Well, a lot of things, but mostly, an awesome girlfriend, a life filled with adventures and great stories, the appreciation that you don’t need to be physically with your friends or family to feel loved and a part of things, another year in a beautiful place and the awareness that the next great adventure is right around the corner. And most importantly, my awesome mother who taught me how to run a successful holiday, and how to always be ready with a snappy, snarky comment at the most inappropriate time.

The Silmarillion and Adventure

I took a hike to Fayette Lake, and it's probably the last time I'll see the ground for a while.

I took a hike to Fayette Lake, and it’s probably the last time I’ll see bare the ground for a while.

Recently, I took a hike to Fayette Lake. Like most of the high alpine lakes in Sublette County, it is familiar and unique at the same time. There was so much sign of elk in the area I expected to come across a herd at any moment, but they must have skedaddled long before I arrived. Despite sighting no wildlife, I spent the time flinging my line into the water in hopes of catching a fish. It didn’t happen (I hate to point this out, but I haven’t caught a single fish this summer. Oh well).

While standing at the lake, I felt my feet grow numb from crossing a stream and began thinking, mostly about J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle Earth.

Prior to the hike, I began reading The Silmarillion for probably the 14th time. I love that book, even though I know once it’s finished I will have to pick up The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings, because, well, that’s the way it goes and it’s hard for me not to finish something once I’ve started it. Another thought began to germinate in my mind: What next? 

More than two years ago I arrived in Wyoming ready for anything and expecting the same. But a wanderer receives no rest, whether it’s intentional or not, and I realized it’s time to leave the Cowboy State and head for some new adventure. But where to?

For a while I’ve been thinking about moving back to New York. I have two godchildren there, my sister is planning to get married and that’s where my family and roots are. Just as the Noldor were birthed in Middle Earth, so too did they return, but was that right for me? I decided it might be and began planning for the long journey home. At the same time, a pit began to grow in my stomach.

It began small, perhaps the size of an acorn, but with every step I took back east, it became larger; growing heavier, sharper, cutting my insides and causing pain. It wasn’t the right decision, and I knew it but I kept forcing it.

At this point, I’d lost all feeling in my feet and decided I needed to get back to my car and I began walking. As I reached the apex of the ridge I felt like I could see the entire country. Behind me, the East, and in the very far distance sat New York, my home, and I could feel a slight pull. Ahead, the West, where the sun had begun making its descent toward the Pacific Ocean, and the place where I was destined to continue to. I started this journey into the West, and I wouldn’t forsake it until I reached the far coast of this country. I would finish what I started.

Year In Review Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the West

The site is live and looking good (shameless self promotion, I know), and I’ve decided the first “official,” non-explanation of why the site is a mass of jumbles should be a quick year in review because, even though it’s technically been about 14 months, I should get everyone up to speed. Also, I ‘m still a bit confused by this site. I’m not pregnant (fingers crossed), getting married (fingers double-crossed), sailing around the world in a 10-foot bathtub boat (but that would be cool), releasing an album (#jokershenchmen), trying to save the whales (“from hell’s heart I stab at thee”), running for office (insert Romney joke here) or doing anything that out of the ordinary. But then I realized I kind of have/am.

One year ago, I was living and working in New York and on a daily basis I was dealing with this:

Rooftop hanging.

Rooftop hanging.

Then, I came to Wyoming and was introduced to this:

Traffic jam in Pinedale. One of the many things I had to get used to upon arrival.

Traffic jam in Pinedale. One of the many things I had to get used to upon arrival.

Needless to say, it was quite a change.
So, without any further superfluous words or thoughts, I present an abridged year in review and other reasons why I’m loving where I’m living.

Sept. ’11 

Raindrops from Hurricane Irene pound against my window as I pack in the darkness with a lamp strapped to my head. I realize I have a ton of stuff and wonder whether or not this is the right decision to make. That thought quickly passes as I receive a text from my former employer asking if I could pick up his mail while he is doing a shoot in L.A. I don’t respond, readjust the car and sleep in Long Island for the last time.

The journey across the country is a blur. I can’t think of a single person who has not turned his face toward the highway and longingly looked to the west (I can only imagine people in the west do the same except they face east) and wondered what short of adventures he would have on the road. I expected philosophical talks in diners with transients, drunken brawls and maybe even a steamy motel room romance with a traveling saleswoman. Two days driving along the asphalt snake-spine of America known as Interstate-80, I realize this journey will be the reverse of the adage “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” For me, it was all about the destination. The journey would begin upon arrival.

Three days into the trip a cold I contracted somewhere in Iowa still ravages my body as I rumble into Nebraska with Bruce Springsteen playing in the background and Lincoln covered in red. While buying Vitamin C, Advil Cold and Sinus, Vicks and other cold remedies coveted by person without health-insurance at CVS, I ask the cashier why everyone in is crimson.

“For the Huskers!” she exclaimed.

“Who are the Huskers?” I ask.

With that, everyone in line and the store turns to me and cries, “Who the are Huskers?!” I’m pretty sure a song and dance erupted after that complete with Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews, but I may have been hallucinating from my sickness.

Day four and I’m still a little stiff but the cold is subsiding. I have renewed energy as I climb upward into the high plains and see a sign: “Wyoming: Forever West.” This journey is drawing to a close and I’m loving it.

Day five I blow out of Cheyenne like an outlaw and speed through the remaining 300 miles before turning north at Rock Springs. Nothing but anxiety as I pass nothing, nothing, a town: population 50, nothing, nothing, nothing, cows, nothing, nothing, antelope!, nothing, a town: population 20, nothing, nothing. Then, when I am just about ready to swing the car round and head back to New York, the Wind River Range appears on my right, pine trees begin to dot the landscape and I roll into a town reminiscent of the one I went to college in.

I arrive at my new home.

The rest of the month I settle into a new job, a new town and a new experience.

Looking south down Pine Street toward the Wind River Range

Pinedale, my new home.

Oct. ’11

My first foray into western-life starts unexpectedly while interviewing a local artist about photographs she took of disappearing glaciers. Said artist brought a friend along to check out her pictures. Instantly, I was drawn to him.

With a salt-and-pepper beard, tanned and wrinkled face, deep blue eyes and a cowboy hat that looked like it had been stepped and crapped on by every cow and horse in Wyoming he put a strong hand out and told me his name, which I will omit here but will tell you it was and still is the most cowboyesque name I’ve ever heard. We talked, I remembered I had another person I was supposed to be interviewing and focused on that. Before he left he told me to come up to camp and “chase cows and grizzlies around with him.”

Two weeks later I did and this is what happened Cowboy 101.

Not two minutes outside of town. This is new.

Not two minutes outside of town. This is new.

Nov. ’11 

Town council meetings, girls volleyball, fellow reporter Travis Pearson and I become best buds while hiking up to Sacred Rim. I’m still learning how to perfect the art of the news lede. Feeling good.

On the way to the massive Fremont Lake.

On the way to the massive Fremont Lake.

Dec. ’11

Decide to stick it out in Wyoming for the holidays as winter comes in full force but not as strong as usual. Temperatures drop into the negatives, a first for me, and I become acquainted with the local bars and sometimes seedy, always genuine characters who inhabit them.

Who is this guy?

Who is this guy?

Jan ’12

The New Year begins with a first, Welcoming the New Year Counting Birds

I head back to New York for the first time since coming out west and laugh out loud when I see my sister bundled up from head to toe in mere 30 degree weather. The trip is a whirlwind, as it always is because when you’ve been somewhere and come back for a visit everyone wants to buy you a drink, tell you a story and eat up all your time. It’s good to have people who love you.

Back in Wyoming, a local resident comes in and tells me two mushers taking part in the annual IPSSSDR are crashing at her place and asks if I’d like to interview them. I do, Call of the Musher.

One of the IPSSSDR athletes.

One of the IPSSSDR athletes.


Feb ’12

More cold and snow and I tell myself it’s almost over, but it’s not and someone informs me last year they had a foot of snow on July 4. The lady who hosted the mushers invites me on a snowmobile trip through the Wyoming Range and have a blast knowing the excursion is purely for enjoyment and won’t require me to write a story about it.

A snowy meadow on a frigid morning.

A snowy meadow on a frigid morning.

March ’12 

Winter holds tight, but I take part in a classic winter past time, Fishing A Hole.

Ever get the feeling you're being watched?

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?

April ’12 

The cold weather begins to break, slightly, and having made enough friends and contacts, I begin collecting camping gear for the upcoming hiking season. Snow falls at the end of the month and I begin to go a bit stir crazy, but Travis and I begin planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park and that keeps me occupied, as well as a celebration of beer, A Brotherhood of Brewers.

Hoarfrost in April?

Hoarfrost in April?

May ’12 

Spring arrives, but I realize it can be just as cold as winter. With a sleeping bag rated to 30 degrees, Travis, Andy, Abbie and I head up to Yellowstone for an experience we won’t soon forget, To the Land of Geysers, Bears and Tourists.

Andy taking in the view of the Lamar Valley.

Andy taking in the view of the Lamar Valley.

June ’12 

School ends and for the month of June it’s kind of a struggle to come up with story ideas. We make do and have some fun in the office being goofballs. Hiking begins full force and I spend most of the afternoons exploring Half Moon Lake, fishing and enjoying the fact the sun doesn’t go down until 9:30.  p.m. I also decide to conduct an experiment – eating only locally grown, harvested and raised food for an entire week. I start by collecting food from local vendors, farmers and ranchers Eating (as) Local (as I can), before putting myself to the test, A Week of Eating (mostly) Local. Mom and Max come to visit and get wiped out by the elevation.

Mom and Max checking out the glorious west.

Mom and Max checking out the glorious west.

July ’12 

Rodeos, Chuckwagon Days, the Fourth and Rendezvous (more on this later). I am more than thrilled when one of my best friends comes to Pinedale for a visit. He is the first New Yorker I’ve seen since January, and the first non-family member to come out west and see what his friend is up to.

My buddy Tom came to visit, only to realize his Long Island pal had become a Mountain Man.

My buddy Tom came to visit, only to realize his Long Island pal had become a Mountain Man.

Aug. ’12 

With the madness of Rendezvous over, I relax and enjoy some hiking and camping trips with friends and fall ever more in love with Sublette County and the west.More friends and family show up for a visit and I meet a new lady, who, after seeing me without an excessive amount of hair, agrees to spend some time with me.

My newfound western friends helped me show friends and family around the county.

My newfound western friends helped me show friends and family around the county.

Sept. ’12 

My life in Wyoming comes to a head as I take a five day hiking trip through the Wind River Range and attempt to summit one its highest peaks, It’s Entirely Possible to Fall Off of a Mountain.

At the headwaters of the Green River on our way to Peak Lake.

At the headwaters of the Green River on our way to Peak Lake.

That’s what I’ve been up to for the past year.

Now that you’re up to speed, keep checking in for all of my newest adventures.

A special shout-out and welcome to all of my new followers, Ali (aligettingreal.wordpress.com) and Cory (corymerchant.com). Check out their blogs, follow and like.

Revamping the site and “getting connected.”

Hello out there.

I had a conversation with a good friend of mine recently who kindly told me, “Nice blog. It’s good to know you were alive a year ago. Ass.”

In an attempt to call him out on his blog I quickly headed over to his page only to find that it looked awesome with up-to-date posts, a kick-ass layout and other things that made me feel inferior. So, realizing mine sucked, I decided I had better make it presentable and update it as much as possible. And here we are. New theme, new pages, new photography and a ton of work from my portfolio. Hope you check them out, follow me and tell your friends.

Additional shameless self-promotion, I am also on Twitter these days, @mattmanguso, so follow me and see what i’ve been up to. As you know, wacky adventures follow me around so there should be plenty of good tweets and upcoming posts.

New posts will be coming on the blog too, so keep an eye out for “Why I Love Sea Chanties.” Coming soon.

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