Powershift 2013

After two days back in Virginia- waking up after a full night’s sleep, sitting through classes that don’t inspire me or make my blood boil, and being surrounded by people that could give a fuck less about fossil fuels, sustainability, or environmental injustice- I can say that Powershift was actually really great. And I say that with a healthy distrust for big (even environmental) organizations headed by white men and/or more-mainstream liberal organizations like moveon.org.

So first off, Pittsburgh. I’m sorry, I just always thought you would be dirty, at best. This city is fantastic! I saw some of the coolest architecture I’ve ever seen there, as well as a really thriving arts scene. I don’t actually know much of anything about local politics, but they were apparently the first city to ban fracking, as well as exhibiting a number of progressive, green infrastructure projects. The convention center itself is actually the first green convention center in the world and featured many encouraging elements such as hundreds of solar panels on the roof, and an impressive recycling/composting system. This really is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been to as well.

Also Anti-flag is from there…

The (in)famous giant rubber ducky!!!
The (in)famous giant rubber ducky!!!
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The Allegheny River at sunset

The first night we missed the keynote speeches, but spent hours walking around looking at the different tables, talking to the people from different organizations. They ran the gamut of encouraging Pittsburgh tourism to ending capitalism…

It was really encouraging looking at the different groups of young people, from literally all of the country, sitting, talking, exchanging ideas, spreading awareness. There were mohawked punks and long-haired, bare-foot hippies and stoic indigenous representatives, and faith leaders, and radical anarchists, and average-looking students. There were green tech executives and ex-coal miners. There were artists and rappers, and occupy-era social media legends. It was a really great moment of “aha! these are our people!”

I really liked that none of the panels or speeches involved proving climate change or skepticism(save for the panel on how to talk to CC skeptics). As a movement, a nation, and as humans in general, the sooner we stop giving legitimacy to fossil fuel industry-backed “skeptics” and disinformation, the better. (if you disagree with that, that’s a whole-nother post..) I was also pleased to see a lot of the focus on impoverished communities and indigenous peoples fighting tar sands, fracking, pollution, environmental degradation, etc- important voices that are, too often, not represented. Being more inclusive and less white/middle-class was also a major theme, although the ability to pay for the registration and travel still reinforced that trend…

I missed it, but during one of the keynotes an indigenous woman was cut off during a speech. I don’t know if it was a time issue or something more nefarious, but it seemed to highlight the divide between the big-box environmental groups and the more radical, smaller ones. During a speech by a, black, ex-Obama organizer, a section of the audience stood up chanting “The EAC (Energy Action Coalition- the main organizer of the event) doesn’t stand for me!” There was at least one speaker that resigned in a show of solidarity.

Similarly, somebody put up a banner in front of the snack bar that read “Don’t support Coca Cola,” and promoted local, sustainable food over the corporate, Convention Center-contracted company. In one of the panels I attended on capitalism and the climate, one of the panelists- a more radical, indigenous organizer- broke away from the pack and argued against using solar cells because they are made from copper, which is just as destructive as other extractive processes. This was really interesting because it blew up one of the two big paths to energy sustainability that virtually everyone else was calling for.

I was kind of surprised more instances of protest within the conference didn’t occur, with such a huge variety of people, organizations, and opinions. That being said, many of the speakers and workshops surprised me too- there were(really, really good/ productive) anti-oppression workshops that focused on male privilege, white privilege, and class divide as well as panels on ending capitalism and what to do if you get arrested protesting. It wasn’t all just a “lefty” feel-good, flower power, tree-hugging fest.

With such a huge focus on sustainability, and food, it was a wonder that nothing sustainable/environmentally-conscious was offered. Somebody brought up that Food Not Bombs had provided food at a similar, smaller, event. Somebody else pointed out that they could have had food trucks, which could’ve provided a wide range of dietary options and supported small businesses. On Saturday, a colleague and I wandered through downtown looking for anything that provided good vegan/vegetarian food for over an hour.

Maybe I just have an over-affinity for the days of Occupy, but I would really like to see something with this content, and size, happen in a more-democratic, more-egalitarian, grass-roots fashion, with no registration fees or costs, but suggested donations, allowing environmentally-minded people from every walk of life to attend. Similarly, I feel like many of the panels were not as productive as they could have been, strictly because of the time constraints.

A couple of the highlights for me were the male priviledge workshop- I don’t remember the speaker’s name, but he(and he was very adiment about not assuming a person’s preferred gender, so this shows how much I listen..) completely kicked ass. A lot of time was given to audience members voicing their concerns and ideas, and I feel like it was really productive, especially to anybody that hadn’t ever thought about sexism before; and the “Social Media All stars” and photography panels. There was an interesting panel on connecting the “School to prison Pipeline” to environmental justice that featured at least one member of the Dream Defenders- one of my favorite movement-organizations right now.

Really though, my biggest complaint is that I couldn’t attend absolutely everything.

members of The Overpass Light Brigade take the stage behind Rev. Yearwood.
members of The Overpass Light Brigade take the stage behind Rev. Yearwood during the Saturday keynote.
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ODU student, Tynell Johnson, with Kandi Mosset of The Indigenous Environmental Network. Mosset spoke at the Saturday keynote address.

Solo Cross-country Trip

So back in March when Nate and I moved back to Virginia, I left my jeep in storage, because it was cheaper than bringing back, and at the time I wasn’t sure if I was going back or not…

Well, as it turns out, I’m not going back, to stay, and it really sucks driving a minivan, so there’s the background on why I’m out here.

The shock of going from cool, raining Virginia to ungodly 111 degrees and partly cloudy was worse than I had anticipated. Stepping out of the airport literally felt like opening an oven, except the initial heat blast didn’t go away.

I caught a bus to the Riviera- fun fact the 108 bus runs from the airport to some hotels. and for all the other ones, get off at the big bus terminal place and get on the Deuce. this is much cheaper than a cab- and to my complete suprise there was no line to check in.. When I finally located the elevator to my floor, there were about a dozen confused, and extremely heavily-dressed firefighters. most of them had hug sections of fire hose, and each one also carried some kind of pick-axe/pitch-fork shovel thing. They were lost, in a maze of a hotel. It was absurdly funny, and luckily nothing was seriously on fire…

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2 of the 5 firetrucks that were in front of the hotel

The next morning I walked straight to the storage place, and some how, the jeep miraculously started up no problem- after sitting for almost 5 months. I drove around some familiar areas a little bit before it became too hot to do anything but fly down the interstate.

20 minutes outside Vegas I got onto the Great Basin Highway, which right from the beginning is completely breath-taking and took that until it reconnected with I15 again in Cedar City, UT.

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i think i took this identical picture 5 months ago, when I explored for just a couple mile.

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Until I was 9, my family lived in Las Vegas, and we had a condo in the ski resort that is now Eagle Point, 18 miles up the mountains from Beaver. I drove up to it, walked around- nothings changed in 12 years..- and then explored some of the back roads we used to take the Jeep down on expeditionary fishing trips.

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campsite. can’t complain about the view
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three creeks reservoir, Fishlake Nat’l Park, UT
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other side of reservoir
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ski lift swing…
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When I was a little kid, this was a big, full lake, and water would flow over this section of road. I have epic memories of wading the jeep through water to get to better fishing spots.

This morning I woke up, and headed out, down the other side of the mountains through meadows and way-too-steep dirt roads.

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I jumped off I15 (as much as I wanted to take a different route, and stay on it) where I70 starts. Alot of the scenery is really incredible between there and Green River, especially from a geological perspective. The pictures don’t do any justice either.

I passed by the overpass we barely made it to, when me and Kyle blew up the radiator on our way to the Grand Canyon almost exactly 3 years ago. And after not finding a Panera in Grand Junction, I had to settle for this McDs, where I’ve been sitting, typing, waiting for my laptop and iphone to charge for too long. I’m hungry, and since this place doesn’t serve actual food, its time to move on…

coast to coast part 6

I absolutely hate Kansas.

The only way driving across Kansas could be worse is if I have to be really hungover. And I was. We drove all day, got terribly rerouted outside of Kansas City when we tried to avoid the tolls (in my experience, its always best to just bite the bullet and pay), and got a hotel outside of St. Louis.

The next day, Nate’s psycho mom stopped putting gas money into his account because she thought I (because i’m such a dirtbag, bum) needed to pay the rest. (long story, its complicated, i didnt owe Nate or his mother anything), so he was really pissed most of the day, which meant I had a pretty awesome time. its funny how that dynamic worked, He would be super pissed off, and I was just glad to be alive, glad to be on the road, glad to be somewhere exciting, glad to see the sky, despite having to pay for the gas, which I didnt have money for…

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ze arch

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we, literally, made a wrong turn…

After going the wrong way past “The Gateway West,” and crossing the “mahteh mississipeh” we somehow got off of 70. And by we, i mean Nate. I forget the name of the route we ended up on, but it was about a 2 hour delay of driving Illinois back roads past farms, and the smallest little towns. I thoroughly enjoyed it…

 

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if you’ve ever wondered how clouds are made…

Imagewiddle baby arch.. knock-off

It was in one of these small farmy towns that we stopped for food. I was really taken back by how friendly everyone was- probably half because of my mood, and half having lived in Vegas for 2 months. i bought chips, salsa, and bagels at this store. it was unlike any store i’ve seen, but also exactly what i would imagine in a store whose main customers drive in from miles away once a week or less, and buy in bulk. Sort of a Costco version of a convenience store along the Appalachian Trail. I thought it rocked, all the employees were super nice, but not overly nice in a cheesey way.

We drove through Indiana, and through Ohio to Columbus, where my good friend and mentor, Dav was waiting.

Imagethe bible belt buckle

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#wesellbeeronsunday

As usual, we had a great, interesting,one-of-a-kind time with Dav. He gave us cigar cutters and a pipe as gifts and treated us to chinese take-out and great local beer (I think the company was just called Columbus). At one point, his 2 sons, wife, and 9-month-old baby are all asleep and he blasts Alice In Chains and Motorhead through half-broken speakers in a 2 bed-room apartment with many neighbors. It was fantastic.

coast to coast part 4…

so… i got super behind on this, being on another trip, and only having internet rarely over the last week. my apologies.

So i put the jeep in storage, immediately got an enticing phone call to go work for a movie writer who owns a vineyard near San Francisco(which i painfully declined, and we headed out… 

Imagenevada desert

Imageancient markings on a pole next to the mcdonald’s in mesquite, NV. note the genitalia.

Utah was really beautiful, and it was definitely nice actually being able to see the scenery, as opposed to when i came through there in January and everything was covered in a uniform blanket of snow…

ImageNate riding around a rest stop parking lot. it was below freezing…

Imageoh beaver, how i’ve missed you… we used to ski those mountains when i was a wee lad. Lots of great childhood memories hiking, fishing, camping, and staying in our cabin up there

Imagethis is where I-70 starts in Utah. We took it all the way to where it ends in Baltimore.

ImageGoing back through these pictures, I’m reminded of how beautiful this drive through Utah was. I definitely plan to return and experience more of it. i would recommend this state to a friend. more pics are available on my facebook- facebook.com/seandelakaza the album should be viewable to everyone.

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I would not advise trying to get through the rockies 2 days after a major snow storm… but Nate’s Volvo did the job… We made it into our friend’s house near downtown Denver around 1 AM.

coast to coast part 3

“are these those guys?” i heard a timid, yet confident voice say as i lay  in a sleeping bag on nice hotel carpet, somewhere between sleep and awake. My friend from Lynchburg, Keina, had gotten us into their very nice hotel and her male school-mates let us crash in their room. She had previously explained us to them in a way that made us sound much more like rugged, admirable, respectable, adventurers than broke, pseudo-bums, which was really nice because they were all their for a business school event and were all very well dressed… we waited until they were all done rushing around, getting ready to get up and get ready. Keina came in on her way out and gave us a couple of free breakfast tickets, which allowed us to stuff our faces along side much more… wealthy, tourists.

After driving around looking for the newest incarnation of the Zephyr skateshop, and never finding it, we headed East back towards Vegas. We flew past Downtown LA, and saw the Hollywood sign.

e stopped at “the world’s largest thermometer,” which I remember from weekend drives when i was much younger.

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The plan was originally to get back to Vegas, put my Jeep in storage and head on to Denver all in the same day, but by the time we got to Vegas, all the storage places were closed so we had to get a hotel room there, which wasn’t too bad.

I took a drive out to find some food and ended up parked in front of my old house. I hadn’t set foot inside for 12 years, had only seen it once since then… and there it was.

Eventually i headed back, watched half of a movie and went to sleep, knowing tomorrow would be a long day…

coast to coast part 2

our hidden car/campsite. ImageEven in a “0 degree” sleeping bag, it was still too cold to sleep very well, and then as soon as it started getting light out, our quiet little end of the road pull-off erupted with revving dirt bikes and ATVs.

ImageThere was no one near us when we went to sleep. woke up to pickups as far as the eye could see.
We drove the rest of the way through the park, through a couple small, cool mountain towns, and then down into San Bernadino. This is definitely one of my favorite drives of all time as far a scenery, and the fact that LA lay ahead of us only added to the excitement.

ImageImageImageAfter about two hours of driving we got to Huntington Beach, and, as giddy as school girls, skated to the beach on little penny boards.

BFFs

surfer bros catchin gnarly pounders
surfer bros catchin gnarly pounders

later that evening we met up with a long-time friend that also just happened to be in LA that weekend. We explored Venice Beach- saw a seal from the pier, drove around Santa Monica (a place i definitely never thought i’d end up) and checked out Pacific Park.

venice pier
venice pier

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santa monica pier
santa monica pier