A Look Back at April 2023

Belatedly A.F.

✍️ 🕑 April 2023 • Series: Month in ReviewMy Days in New York City • Tags: good eatslakesscrambling classNew York City

Magnolia near Prospect Park, NYC
Magnolia near Prospect Park, NYC

Though I pretend not to be a self-centered egotist, this blog is centered around me (Steve) and no one else. Its central question: “Where is Steve?”.

Perhaps, over the last few months, this question has echoed in readers’ minds more often than not. I mean, where was Steve?

Surely, Steve was going to show up at some point and update their faithful followers on their whereabouts. Surely.

So, yes. Here I am.

I’ve been trying to do these month in review posts such that they’re published at the end of the month when I wrote them. Unfortunately, I slipped the deadline.

…And then I got dreadfully ill, but that’s a topic for the belated post about May.

Self-portrait at the QFC. As you can see, my shopping experience was enhanced greatly by the security cameras.
Self-portrait at the QFC. As you can see, my shopping experience was enhanced greatly by the security cameras.
Easter-themed wares of dubious repute.
Easter-themed wares of dubious repute.

I write even when I don’t publish. It’s easy to put text into documents, and easy to take pictures. It is harder to put the two together, especially when I have a lot going on. This post has more-or-less languished on my hard drive for the last two months, and my recent edits are quite minimal.

So, let’s time warp.

(Brace yourself for un\expected tense shifts. Sorry, not sorry!)

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What I’d Been Up To

April flowers in Capitol Hill, Seattle
April flowers in Capitol Hill, Seattle


I’ve been devoting an increasing amount of my energy to work. Not because I necessarily want to, but because I have a pretty broad set of responsibilities, because I’m trying to co-organize some stuff for an academic conference, and because sometimes there are bugs in computer code. (I’d love to claim that there are no bugs in my code, but would you guess what I found and fixed last night & this morning… 😉)

Outside of work, Seattle is Seattle.

And Bellevue was Bellevue
And Bellevue was Bellevue

April, frankly, was a beautiful month here. Days came in one of two varieties: cold, dreary, gray, and drizzly – or, warm and sunny with blue skies and lots of daylight. When I returned to Seattle after visiting New York, it was drizzly and sad, but within a few days we had some “summer days” instead of “winter days,” and that sure put a smile on my face.

The best part of this is that paddling weather is here, and I did happily get out and across a large part of Lake Washington on one friday evening.

I’ve been meaning to work more on music-related stuff, and I think I have a couple covers picked out for the next time I do an open mic – quite different stylistically from what I’d typically play, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. (Even if I had a dream that I was suddenly able to play piano like Mose Allison just by banging on the black keys.)

New York City

It’s been roughly an annual tradition, since I moved out of New York City, to make an excuse to find myself there. Around this time last year, my friend Sarah’s dissertation defense was scheduled close-ish to my sister’s birthday, and it seemed positively inconceivable not to seize my airline miles and do a combined Pittsburgh-New York trip. And then my parents decided to join up as well.

Birthdays are an annual event, while dissertations aren’t. My visit to New York was extra short, because I had to schedule it around scrambling class events, but nevertheless it was filled with familiar faces, delicious food, and a lot of fun. And also, work.

A slightly hazy, but otherwise nice view of the city taken at Peak NYC at Hudson Yards.
A slightly hazy, but otherwise nice view of the city taken at Peak NYC at Hudson Yards.

Image On Where-Is-Steve

I work for a megacorporation, and their main NYC office is (unfortunately) at Times Square. I made my way there, bleary-eyed after a redeye, because I wanted to take advantage of the complimentary cold brew coffee, and because it would be a good vantage point from which I could meet my parents at their hotel room a scant few hours later.

Looking downwards whilst awaiting the 7
Looking downwards whilst awaiting the 7
Looking forwards whilst awaiting the 7
Looking forwards whilst awaiting the 7

From there, bulletpoints:

  • Frozen margaritas!!!!!
  • A weird basement airbnb in my favorite part of Queens
  • Taking my parents to a hip Malaysian cafe that I meant to try – it was ok.
  • Walking from Chinatown to the South Street Seaport w/ the rents
  • A subway ride that featured a busker who, quite strangely, decided to ask if anyone else wanted to use his microphone while he tried to hit people up for donations. There was a taker, a young lady from California, who proceeded to belt out “Please, Mr. Postman” a capella with accompaniment from her choir friends.
  • The Met
  • Central Park
  • One of the best jazz concerts I’ve ever been to in my life, featuring some otherworldly harp playing from Elio Villafranca, some unusual dance performances, and the might of the jazz orchestra at Lincoln Center. (But my mother’s disappointment that Wynton Marsalis wasn’t there.)
  • Taking the fam to the New York Transit Museum
  • Brunch, ice cream at my favorite shop, and walking along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade (for the first time in years)
  • FINALLY hitting up the Sri Lankan restaurant in the East Village, which was closed the last time I was in the city. God, I love it.
  • My sister’s favorite wine bar
  • Ukranian food with my pal Sherri
  • Fancy birthday lunch with my sis
  • Hanging out in Crown Heights with a few of my favorite people
  • Karaoke!
  • An eventual sad goodbye

Image On Where-Is-Steve

Image On Where-Is-Steve

Image On Where-Is-Steve

Along the way, I took pictures. With the Rolleiflex, with my beloved Olympus EM-5 III & my favorite fixed focal lengths for the city, with my phone, and with the smaller white Ricoh GRD IV. The Ricoh got limited use, because I felt like I much preferred using the Olympus and having more usable images in low light, and snappier response times.

Self-portrait while walking to lunch. Apparently, this is what I look like taking pictures sometimes.
Self-portrait while walking to lunch. Apparently, this is what I look like taking pictures sometimes.

Scrambling Class

As I’d mentioned before, I signed up for a class on scrambling.

Many of the class activities have happened this month, constraining some of my weekends, but generally being a lot of fun. We had a rock field trip earlier in the month near Leavenworth, where we practiced using our boots on various types of rock surfaces. I forgot my boots which somewhat limited the amount of things that I could do – I cannot easily descend steep smooth slabs in street shoes with heavily worn tread, but I still had a great time and felt that I learned a lot from the experience.

Image On Where-Is-Steve

Image On Where-Is-Steve

More excitingly, we had a snow field trip later in the month (a couple days after I returned from New York City) which involved traveling to Mount Baker. Unfortunately, the area was covered in wet, fluffy snow, where post-holing happened frequently, and long distance foot-travel was unwise. Nevertheless, I still got to practice self-arrest with my ice axe. See here, here, and here for video proof.

The following weekend, I had a Wilderness First Aid class from 8-5, which really, really stunk when the weather was unbelievably nice, but which covered a lot of really useful information. I feel like I have a much better understanding of how to better aid myself and others on the trail, and a lot of weird lingo used by first responders. (Good lord, who on earth thought that an “emergent evacuation” should be the term for an evacuation that needs to be more urgent than an “urgent evacuation.”) It’s a lot of knowledge that I hoped to never need…

Rivetting stuff
Rivetting stuff
Look at how <em>NICE</em> Magnusson park was. I could have been hanging out there all weekend!! \n\n Fun fact: A bird did in fact poop on me while I was sitting underneath that tree.
Look at how NICE Magnusson park was. I could have been hanging out there all weekend!! \n\n Fun fact: A bird did in fact poop on me while I was sitting underneath that tree.

* Dramatic irony intensifies *


R.I.P. Ryuichi Sakamoto

In sad news, Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away on March 28th, and news was made public at the beginning of April. He was a fantastic composer and pianist, well known for work with Yellow Magic Orchestra, in addition to a plethora of soundtracks.

He’s the only person in musical history who can brag they wrote a song for a Seiko watch commercial that was so good that Michael Jackson and Eric Clapton covered it.

I particularly love the way that he described a lot of his later ambient and piano work, as being like a diary. Just a way of writing his feelings. And I think that’s a really lovely way to think about music. And by god, he could express emotion with the piano.

His music has touched many, myself included, and I’m sorry for him to have passed on. He was a continuous innovator, a live group performance of his 2004 solo track “War and Peace” was featured in this very music section a few months prior.

Of all his compositions, probably my favorite is his early solo track “1000 Knives”, and my favorite recording of it was from Yellow Magic Orchestra’s debut performance in the USA, in their early days. Blistering solos, and a tight, fun band.

Songs of the Month

As per past months, I continued to gradually add tracks to a larger playlist. If you’ve read the start of last month’s music notes, you probably ought to be unsurprised by what I’m adding.

First off, I am was super stoked about the then-upcoming collaborative album In Search of a Better Tomorrow by EABS and Jaubi. If I told you that there was a fresh, experimental jazz album coming out, featuring a collaboration between artists from two countries that both start with the letter “P”, perhaps Poland and Pakistan aren’t the two that would most immediately come to mind. The singles released thus far are quite fresh, and a wonderful blend of Hindustani ragas and Polish jazz with fresh electronic elements.

I’d absolutely loved the singles that have dropped so far, and of them, “Strange Love” is my favorite. (Obviously, you’ll have to wait until the May in review post for some follow-up. 😋)

1. EABS Meets Jaubi - "Strange Love" (2023)
Youtube Spotify Bandcamp

I’d also been blown away by experimental electronic artist Katie Gately’s sort of hyper-maximalist electronic pop ever since I first stumbled upon her album Colors. Her latest album has some interesting themes of predators and prey, and throws some saxophone into the mix. It’s full of slightly cabaret-esque explosions of elements, and it is simply unlike anything anyone else is doing.

There are numerous standout tracks. “Scale” is one of them.

2. Katie Gately - "Scale" (2023)
Youtube Spotify Bandcamp

Lastly, but not leastly, I found myself captivated by another Turkish trumpeter and singer’s poppy song-writing. Barış Demirel combines the trumpet, elements of Turkish slow pop, and elements of rap into a delightful and emotional package on his EP Bi’ Aralar İyiydim. This track features some rapping from Kayra, and pretty much shows what you’re in for if you give it a listen.

3. Barış Demirel (feat. Kayra) - "Özlesem de Birini" (2023)
Youtube Spotify
Check out the playlist page for all the songs I've highlighted in one place!


A Memory Called Empire

In the last month, I finished one book: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine.

Image On Where-Is-Steve

I picked it up not fully of my own accord. It was a gift from my pal Andrew Wilkinson, who recommended it to me when we were hangin’ around my birthday in March. Andrew thought I would be most likely to actually read the book if he sent me a copy. I suppose I proved him right by immediately reading it. And, even more so, by immediately loving it.

The novel is rather poignantly dedicated to “anyone who has ever fallen in love with a culture that was devouring their own.”

I do have some quibbles with the book. I feel like the empire’s political factions are not well-developed beyond a surface level. Yes, there are groups in the street agitating on behalf of different characters who seek to become the next empire, but beyond “this group likes a military strongman,” or “this group benefits economically,” I don’t feel like I had a good understanding of their motivation. There’s a distinction between supporting someone politically and taking action, let alone extreme action, and I would have liked to see that explored more.

Beyond that, there is an extent to which some of the events in the book feel a bit contrived, and like our protagonist is just really good at (generally) sussing and doing the best thing in any given situation. Credulity is stretched, but certainly not broken for this reader, because, well, this book is exactly the kind of thing I’m predisposed to like. Your mileage may vary.

What I Thought Would Be Next…

For Steve

This May, I’m going to pay a few visits to some West Coast cities I’ve never been to before, and I might even have an excuse to pull my passport out. 🤞

I’ll also be going on my first legit scramble. Woooooooo.

(Spoiler alert: only one of those things actually happened.)

Unwritten Blog Posts

I’ll make few promises.

On the stack of things that are partially-written, but not filled in are a few posts featuring early April flower photography, that Lake 20 hike from March, that Olympus Test & Wow from February, my hot takes on Sound Transit’s rail expansion plans, and so on and so forth. Hopefully, I will get around to splicing some pictures into those and sharing while it still feels relevant.

Probably more importantly, we’re coming on the one year anniversary of my trip through the interior of B.C. and up to Haida Gwaii and I still have not finished writing about it. Realistically, it is a very hard task for me to feel up to conveying how I felt during my visit to Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site. But hopefully I will actually get over my inhibitions and get this up soonish.

Till next time!

A few more wishes from the Captiol Hill Wishing Tree...
A few more wishes from the Captiol Hill Wishing Tree...