andys aesthetic experiences

039. Flying the Skies Over Waukegan

July 2009.  On a relatively normal summer day in Wilmette, Kenny, a friend of mine invited me up to Waukegan to tag along for one of his regular flights in his Cherokee Piper - for those who don’t know, a Cherokee Piper is similar to a Cessna or any other small single engine, 4 person aircraft.  I helped taxi the plane from the hanger onto the tarmac, do some of the preflight checks, and we were off over Chain-o-Lakes and the Wisconsin/Illinois coasts of Lake Michigan.  Halfway through the flight, Kenny invited me to take the copilot side’s wheel/stick/whatever-lingo-you-prefer and, for lack of a better word, fly the plane for a bit.  It’s not as if flying is a new experience for me, but being in control of something like that is quite different.  Much like the first time that I drove a car on my own, there was a distinct feeling of trepidation on the verge of that new freedom.  Some of you may think I’m being melodramatic, which is indeed possible, but the sensation I’ll try to describe merits something more than passing mention.  So I took control, and Kenny turned around in his seat to get something from his bag, and in those tiny nervous moments I could move my wrist, and I could feel the world shifting around me.  When I first drove on my own, I felt that absurdly cliche burst of freedom that follows having all of that new space and distance open to you, and I felt that same feeling in that plane, but on a much larger scale.  On perhaps a mathematical or physical level, what changed was the addition of the z-axis - altitude.  When driving, you can move backward and forward and right and left but you are constricted by gravity and asphalt, but in that plane, there is no direction unavailable to you.  The world shifting around me is the best way to describe this new accessibility.  As I adjusted the stick and the pedals (which controlled the rudder) I was watching and feeling this space and this magnitude of perspective augment and turn around me.  Everything is possible in that space, I’m sure that there are more experienced pilots out there who can laugh off what I’m describing here as a very juvenile and unfounded epiphany, but as being a pilot is not on my list of things to do with my life, this moment deserves mention.  Nothing can compare to feeling nothing less than unhindered.  Obviously it was unrealistic to assume we’d be going anywhere else but straight back to the airport, but that feeling of being without limits, that feeling of being above street lights and stop signs and above the impossible pain of pining at the sky, that feeling of total possibility, devoid of whatever logic might disagree, everything was up there, everything was within reach.

047. Five Spice Waffle

January 2010.  At Sola Restaurant just north of Roscoe Village in Chicago, my family had brunch before seeing me off to a train back to school in Denver.  We had gone to Sola before, but only for dinner, and may I say, in general, the food is spectacular there, but this brunch did something different.  I ordered the Five Spice Waffle - Rhubarb Compote and Mascarpone Cream Cheese.  While the toppings were to die for, all warm and gooey sitting on a hot fresh waffle, it was the waffle itself that really caught me off guard.  For those that don’t know, Five Spice is a Chinese spice blend of cinnamon, anise, ginger, cloves, and fennel.  Anyway, this waffle that looked normal was so full of flavor, carried such a strong aroma, and gave way to such an experience that I could not soon forget it.  I don’t know if anyone else has experienced a meal so good that they felt high afterward, but that is the only way to describe it.  Each bite, the creamy mascarpone, the sweet, tangy, and gooey rhubarb, and the earthy, nose-tickling, explosion of flavor in the waffle, gave way to just feeling more in touch with the smells in the air, it seemed blood was flowing to my head, and the breakfast slowed down.  I was in the most perfect place, perfectly, and I don’t use that word lightly, PERFECTLY satisfied by that brunch.  Afterwards I was full, not stuffed, just full, feeling like I would never be hungry again in only the best way, my mouth still resounded those flavors and textures, those smells, and I still felt light, still like floating, still like that day could not have started on a better note.

034. Calamare a la Brasa en la Malagueta

October 2010.  Having spent the night before and that morning wandering around Malaga, taking in the city and the people and (what we were very much used to at this point) the immensely rich history written into the bricks of every building.  And as we headed down to the beach, we had some time left to grab lunch, and came across a small restaurant right on the beach.  Next to the restaurant was the skeleton of a row boat, largely filled with rocks and sand, dug out in the middle for a fire pit.  Stuck up on spits around that fire were possibly the freshest squid I had ever seen in my life, their tentacles curling and blackening and crisping in the heat.  When we sat down I already knew what I was having and took a moment to take in where we were.  Three great friends in front of me and the Mediterranean only a stones throw behind me.  Out in the harbor, cruise ships and cargo ships waited lazily in the high noon sun and spanish children ran up and down the shoreline.  When the food came, the smell was incredible. Not the harbor smell of seagulls and snails, but the smell of seafood at its best.  That warm, smokey smell punctuated by the salty brine of the ocean and the crisp heat from the fire still carrying the oregano up into the air around me.  The meat was crisp on the outside, almost crunchy in the way you expect fried calamari appetizers to be, but on the inside, the meat was transformed.  Firm yet juicy and rich like swordfish, but still salty and chewy like you’d expect from a squid.  The combination was heavenly and even now I can taste that satisfying crunch and then softness, absolutely delicious.  What really got me was when it call came together, the people I was with, the pitcher of Sangria, my toes in the sand, the beach-goer laughter in my ears fighting with the soft crashing of the ocean, the hot sun and the even hotter fire roasted squid crunching and then melting in my mouth, and the notion that this, this was what I would always want my memory to be when I think of the ocean, when I think of the beach, and when I think of having anything roast over a fire - the bar has been set very very high.

008. The Floor of the Malaga Airport

September 2010.  This is kind of a weird one, but the whole point of this list is to assess what really matters in the scheme of things.  While in Granada, we were fast approaching a nice long weekend, during which a great many of our friends were going to Oktoberfest, and we all decided to go to Paris.  Due to ridiculous bus schedules, we were forced to bus to the Malaga Airport the night before and sleep there before our morning flight.  The travel plans themselves are unimportant, what’s important is the “We” to which I am referring.  Since our first afternoon in the lobby of the NH Madrid, this group started to create something powerful, something, that even while writing about it, twists my heart with nostalgia.  Will, Abby, Tara, Machi, Katelan, Mikaela and myself, dubbed various names by other students in our program, were simply, tight.  We arrived at the airport, determined how early we could check in, and settled into a spot for the night, close to the windows near where we would enter the terminal.  All of us were forging our makeshift pillows, breaking out our bocadillos and talking about Paris and whatever else, and I started to get this feeling.  I know this feeling is not unique to me, so many people can feel at home in the weirdest of places because of who they’re with, so I only aim to try to explain those moments.  We drifted off, we stretched and walked around, and read and listened to music and relaxed and as I sat, curled up under sweatshirts and jackets, it hit me.  That drafty speckled tile floor and those jarring florescent lights, and the strange echoing silence of such a massive and empty place felt so warm and so full and so pleasant because I knew I had gone with the right people.  No other group could have made that practically sleepless dozing night as wonderful of an experience as it was.  Their drowsy laughter was like music, familiar songs whose lyrics I simply knew, their half-lidded smiles were peeks at the sun, little moments of feeling like home that combined into something bigger, something that I felt was a brief second of detachment that could have been hours and could have been the blink of an eye.  I wasn’t in an airport, I wasn’t anywhere except exactly where I wanted to be. Nothing is owned like the things that you choose for yourself, and nothing validates that ownership like the feeling that your decisions will yield something truly special.

hey followers, i haven't posted much in a while

and since i’m done with classes now until January (oh yeah quarter system), I think i’m going to take the time to do some sort of list thing.

In no particular order, I’m going to give you my aesthetic experiences.  Moments when something natural, or a work of art, or really anything struck me in such a way that I was fully alive in the moment.  That I was absorbed, resonating, and living in whatever it was that temporarily detached me from the real world.  i’ll try to use my own pictures for everything, and do my best to explain where I went for those seconds or minutes or days.

You know those moments when you’ve looked at something, heard a piece of music, been at the heart of a crowd or been completely alone, and for whatever reason, your heart raced, your eyes widened, and you began to wonder how something so innocuous and so unexpected could capture your senses in such a way.

So, starting later today, my aesthetic experiences.

be prepared for some self realization, losing your breath, and likely a bit of pretention, but it’s a fucking blog so that’s kind of the point, right?