Tuesday Tunes

A big congratulations to Kendrick Lamar for becoming the first non-classical or jazz artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2017 album, "Damn.". Poetry comes in many forms, and Sir Kendrick speaks almost all of them. Take a taste of the final track on that album—it's a true story.

On Assignment: Spanish National Soccer Team

 Roger was even cool enough to snap a very rare journalism action shot. Score! Photo: Roger Neve

Roger was even cool enough to snap a very rare journalism action shot. Score! Photo: Roger Neve

Though my life and work often seems to revolve around ridge lines and coastlines, I actually grew up between touchlines. Soccer has always been a massive influence on my life, so when I recently got the chance to work with Eight by Eight, a soccer magazine out of New York City, on a story about Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea, I was blown away.

Tied into the media day for the Spanish National Soccer Team ahead of this year's World Cup, myself and photographer Roger Neve got the chance at an exclusive interview and photoshoot with the team's starting keeper. Of course, it didn't go nearly as planned and instead of our allotted hour time slot, we got 30 minutes, but such is life when putting these things together. I also did the entire thing in Spanish, which was a nice little wrinkle, but one I'm pumped to improve upon moving forward.

In the meantime we got to check out the training facility, meet other players like Diego Costa and Koke, and spend way too much time adjusting flashes and looking over interview questions. Excited to bring this one to life ahead of the World Cup, stay tuned!

On Assignment: Andorra for the Freeride World Tour

 Following competitors around the new playground.

Following competitors around the new playground.

Though this year's focus is not on skiing, I was still able to steal away from Madrid for a couple of days for the Freeride World Tour stop in Ordino-Arcalís, Andorra, and of course, get a few turns in. This year was my third year covering the FWT, and my second year covering this stop, so I actually kind of had a lay of the land this time. Plus, I got to see a whole boatload of athletes and familiar faces from back in the States in a foreign country, which doesn't suck (bottle of wine and Barca game, anyone?). I definitely appreciated reconnecting with the scene, if only for a handful of days.

Even though I still haven't tapped into the Alps and the Dolomites, I'm starting to develop a soft-spot for the Pyrenees. Maybe it's something about the uncrowded skiing, or the three-course aprés meals, but the Euros seem to really get this skiing thing. Always missing my people back home, but nice to try something else on for a change.

 Aforementioned aprés.

Aforementioned aprés.

Stay tuned for a few interviews I was able to put together during my time in the world's sixth smallest country for Adventure Sports Network (formerly GrindTV).

On Assignment: In the Studio

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While I've always enjoyed shooting photos, my camera has always been more drawn to capturing, and perhaps freezing, the real world around me. Whenever I listened to photographer's talk about "making" a photograph instead of "taking" a photograph, I was always a little turned off, especially when it came to shooting in the static confines of a studio.

However, as part of my Master's program this year, I have spent a lot more time in the studio, learning about artificial lighting, flash, and the importance of controlling your frame. I have to be honest, it's been incredibly frustrating, but also really, really fun. In addition to all of the technical factors, I'm also trying to give directions to models (in Spanish, no less). Some of the results have been pretty hilarious, but I'm actually starting to take to it all a bit.

While I don't see myself sitting in a studio anytime soon, I'm excited to bring this new lighting knowledge out into the world and see what I can do. Here's a couple of snaps from this week, and I may be adding a fuller compilation of studio work in the next few weeks. Here's to being uncomfortable and trying something new.

On Assignment: My Latest POWDER Feature On Wildfires And The Ski Community

Experts estimate that the time it takes for an individual to recover economically, socially, and economically from a wildfire is approximately 10 years. That's a decade just to return to where you were yesterday.

It's a stat that was hard to wrap my mind around, so I chose to witness it in person in Eastern Washington. The Methow Valley was ravaged by wildfires in 2014 and 2015 (to the tune of $30 million in damages), and the community was forced to start over not onces, but twice. Through it all a small community ski resort provided temporary solace from the flames. Luckily, POWDER magazine let me tell the story in their 2018 February issue, and it is now available online. If you have a second, please check it out.

On another note, I in no way wanted this feature to be a trend piece, but after a devastating fire season worldwide in 2017, it is very possible that this small Washington community's struggle could become commonplace in years to come. I urge you to keep that in mind when reading, and understand that behind every news report are hundred of humans whose lives will never be the same. 

Big thanks to the Methow and Okanogan communities for letting me into their world and sharing their story.

Shout Out: U.S. Women's Nordic Team Makes History In Style

Amid one of the better Winter Olympic Games in recent memory, one of the Games' longest standing streaks came to fitting close in PyeongChang with the U.S. Women's Nordic Ski Team skating its way to its first ever medal, a last-gasp gold in the women's sprint relay. It was a completely fitting narrative, with Kikkan Randall, the woman who has put U.S. Nordic skiing on her back for so many years hanging close, and her mentee, Jessie Diggins, out-stretching the world champion Swedish sprinter to write history in gold.

 Mama Krich and Uncle Dan showing off for the podium. Oh the '80s.

Mama Krich and Uncle Dan showing off for the podium. Oh the '80s.

For me, it was a gold medal three decades and two generations in the making. My mom raced for the U.S. Ski Team for over a decade, competing in the 1980 and 1988 Winter Games. She was part of a strong wave of amateurs, a group that included Randall's aunt Betsy Haynes and my uncle Dan Simoneau in an era dominated by Scandinavian pedigree and Russian blood-doping. In other words, they didn't stand a chance. Still, they consistently pushed into realms never before touched by U.S. skiers—World Cups, relay podiums, individual top-10s—all in the hopes that one day all of that hard work would lead to this.

Randall is the tail end of the competitive generation after my mom, Diggins, the beginning of something new. To see how far this sport has come in the States since my mom, then a skinny 20-year-old from Maine named Leslie Bancroft, hit the track in Lake Placid is a pretty amazing thing. I never thought I'd see the day where I would get emotional about cross country skiing (aren't there, like, more fun ways to ski?), I have to admit that Randall and Diggins messed me up in the best way last week. Thank you, ladies. That was something special.

Cartas Españolas: Franco's "Nazi" Time Change

 Palacio de Cibeles, Madrid, October 2017

Palacio de Cibeles, Madrid, October 2017

It's that time of year where things start to get dark and dreary, and hibernation doesn't seem like such a bad deal, really. For many of us, these feelings are due in large part to Daylight Savings Time's dreaded, "Fall Back," a day that hit this Sunday for most of you.

Interestingly, that day hit last Sunday for me over here in Spain, so I've actually been living an hour earlier than the rest of you for almost a week!

More intriguing however, is a nerdy time fact that I learned a couple of weeks ago. Unlike it's neighbors Portugal and contrary to its orientation about the Prime Meridian, Spain is actually one hour ahead of the rest of the region, aligning with most of Eastern Europe and giving it much later sunsets than anywhere else in Southern Europe. But why?

Well, that answer is actually rooted in recent history. You see, Spain's former dictator Francisco Franco seized control of the country after the Guerra Civil due in large part to the help of friend and rising world power Adolf Hitler. Actually, it was Hitler that helped Franco pull of the aerial bombing at Guernica that is depicted in Picasso's, "La Guernica." The massacre was a training ground for Hitler's aerial bombing squadrons ahead of another, more well-known, global conflict a couple of years out.

So, needless to say, the two were buds, and as buds do, Franco decided to give his guy Hitler some props. As a show of his respect for the German dictator, Franco decided to switch the clocks to match those in Nazi Germany, a move that has persisted into the present day.

Many attribute this change to forming current Spanish culture. For one, Spaniards are creatures of the night, not eating dinner until 10 p.m. or later on most nights. Theoretically, this could be because the late sunsets don't happen until around that time. Also, some argue that Spain's long workday is another direct effect of the time change, with days starting around 8 a.m. and ending around 8 p.m. (with a hefty 2 hour lunch break in between, of course). Then of course, there is the issue that Spain's stock market opens and closes earlier than most of its European colleagues, probably not the best look for a country that has yet to truly rebound from its 2008 economic crisis.

There have been rumors that Spain hopes to abolish the Franco-era time change, but so far nothing official is in the books. Until then, we'll just have to enjoy our sunsets a little later and try to forget that we can thank Hitler for that late puesta del sol.

Tunesday Returns

Hola, gente! Hanging in Madrid now and going through a summer's worth of songs I've been waiting to share. At this point some of them might be a little old for you all, but maybe a few lucky earholes will pick on something new today. 

Currently vibing to Chance the Rapper's semi-new album, Coloring Book, and in love with the song, "Summer Friends." Tune in, drop out.

Blogaria: Wisdom from a Sofian Soup Kitchen

Thanks to Atanas, my AirBnb host in Sofia, I had the unique opportunity to work at a local soup kitchen in the Bulgarian capital. It was definitely not what I expected to be doing on this little cultural adventure, and with no Bulgarian vocab to my name, I wasn’t sure I would be of any use. Still, I loved volunteering back in the States, so I figured I’d give it a shot in Eastern Europe. Why not, right?

The event was part of Food, Not Bombs, a worldwide organization that provides fresh, vegan cuisine to the impoverished around the world. It was hosted in the Fabrika Autonomia, a community center forged from a crumbling old Soviet beer factory. At first glance, it felt like we were walking into an actual homeless camp, but up some stairs and through a metal-latched door, we popped into an open gathering place with a few plastic chairs and tables, as well as a small operating kitchen.

 Jimmy cooks up a mean  Zelay .

Jimmy cooks up a mean Zelay.

What stuck out most, was the ambitious mission of this particular branch of Food, Not Bombs. First off, it was run by a group of anarchists. In the U.S. anarchists means people in black masks that start riots and break windows, yet this group was dedicated to what they considered the root of anarchy: empowerment through building community from the ground up, starting with the underprivileged.

Not only, did the group want to feed the less fortunate, they wanted to involve them, asking them to help cook the meals and source fresh vegetables from local vendors or farmers. One of the biggest side affects of poverty is a complete loss of self-worth, but I watched the simple act of cooking give some of that back.

The second time I went to the event, Jimmy, an out-of-work construction laborer living in a gypsy camp, helped stir a giant pot of cabbage. His mother had taught him to cook as a boy, saying that someday he might need to survive on his own. Today, he was just as happy to provide for those around him, adding the perfect amount of spices to his culinary masterpiece.

Most of the poor were over 60 and could no longer work. There pensions weren’t enough to live on and their families had moved away. They were left to fend for themselves at their most vulnerable, 

 The crew, hungry as ever.

The crew, hungry as ever.

Though I couldn’t communicate directly, the stories came rolling in through some of the kitchen crew kind enough to translate. Ana, an old woman dressed in mismatched sweaters, a skirt, and tennis shoes had once been a lawyer and spoke four languages. She had fled Greece as a teenager when the Civil War ravaged her country after WWII, and earned her law degree in Bulgaria. Without citizenship, she wasn’t allowed to buy a house, and by the time she had earned her papers, her income had dried up, forcing her to pay for a low-income rental alone on the outskirts of town.

From person to person, each story carried its own power, and I started to realize that just being there—which felt like nothing—was way more significant than I could have imagined.

 Queen Ana resumes her throne.

Queen Ana resumes her throne.

On my last day at the Sofian soup collective, a woman approached me after the meal. She wouldn’t stop thanking me, and I started to get uncomfortable with what I considered unjust praise. An interpreter stepped in and explained that the lady and her son lived day to day on what they could find. Sometimes that meant going three days without eating. When they did find food, she would give it to her son. She said she felt weak all the time, but the sacrifice was worth it—he was her only child, after all. 

She wasn’t shy to tell us that she was suffering, and that she wanted the world to know it.

After a few tears she said one more thank you. Feeling completely overwhelmed, I couldn’t understand what this one was for, but picking up on my confusion she followed up. “Thank you for listening. Thank you for treating me like a human.”

I guess even when you feel completely over your head, showing up can go a long way.

 Cast of helpers.

Cast of helpers.

Bulgaria Fact: The country does not use the Euro as its currency, but rather the Lev.

Bulgarian Word: Kade (kuh-day) which means where.

Blogaria: Urban Forest Workouts

 Not your typical Central Park view.

Not your typical Central Park view.

While I float for the next month or so, I've dedicated myself to running every day. If not for the fitness benefit, I figure this will get me into a routine (word sound familiar?) that I can hold myself accountable for.

So far, so good, with 22 runs in 23 days (the lone exception being a ski mission day, more on that later). 

One of the things making these daily jog-a-bouts a little more enjoyable is the kind of impressive amount of running terrain I'm finding within city limits. Sofia for instance has a surprising amount of urban parks for what I expected out of a gray, drab, post-Communist city.

Fun fact, after visiting Cuba, China, and now Bulgaria, it seems like exercise was/is a key component in the Communist lifestyle, and nearly everyone is working out here in one form or another. That bodes well for me, as inner city parks like Park Borisova Gradina (ah, the elegance) feature full-on, forested running trails, enough so that I managed to get lost in a central city park for close to an hour before I could catch my bearings. This type of stuff is virtually unheard of in a Euro-metropolis, and I've been able to connect 40-plus minute trail runs without coming across the same track twice.

 A couple more obstacles than your typical defense.

A couple more obstacles than your typical defense.

But it doesn't stop at trail running. These parks also have a gaggle of little surprises ranging from a forest soccer field, to a fitness circuit built into the trees. On one run, I ran into a halfpipe seemingly plopped in the middle of the woods. I'm not sure of the rational behind the placement, but it sure makes the typical run a lot more exciting.

Before leaving Sofia the forest fitness circuit turned into my gym and I started to recognize the paths more and more. Still, every once in a while I would stumble on a wooded amphitheater or even a zoo.

City running can get really boring, but I have a feeling the old Bulgarian morning jog never will.

Bulgaria Facts: Bulgaria's Shopska salad, a signature mix of tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, and white cheese, was actually created by the country tourism board to promote the color's of Bulgaria's flag (white, green, and red).

During the Communist Era, religion was not banned, but it was frowned upon by the state. People could attend church, temple, or the mosque, but government agents (and even paid religious officials) stationed outside would take names of everyone who entered.

To further dissuade religious participation, the government that normally censored television programming would allow two special nights of Western television programming: Christmas Eve and Easter Sunday.

 Green's gym.

Green's gym.

Bulgarian Word: Zele (ze-lay) -- Cabbage. This is what people in Bulgaria say instead of, "Cheese," for photos.

 

 

Blogaria: The Bulgarian Chapter

 Ain't no party like a Bulgarian Garden Party.

Ain't no party like a Bulgarian Garden Party.

As mentioned in my last post, after a whirlwind winter and spring, I have landed in the former Eastern Bloc stronghold of Bulgaria. Why Bulgaria? Well, a U.S. passport can only grant you access to the Schengen Zone (most of the countries of the E.U. including France, Germany, and Spain) for 90 days during a 180-day period, meaning that one cannot simply hop over to Morocco for the weekend and start anew the following Monday (much to the surprise of an astounding amount of people I've met on this little Euro adventure). Thus, two weeks ago I looked up cheap plane tickets from Madrid and found an Eastern Exodus in the Bulgarian of Sofia. Let the misadventures continue!

I'll be spending the next month here, so I figured I'd write a little about my findings in a country that I admittedly knew very little about as of a week ago. If you follow along, you might learn some things with me, minus the potential food poisoning and bed bug attacks. Sound good?

Upon landing in Sofia, I grabbed an AirBnB close to Sofia's biggest park, Park Borisova Gradina. I'm staying with a guy named Atanas, who seems amped on getting his daily workout in and has even got me into his morning smoothie routine. He's showed me where to run in the morning, and the parks here are frigging incredible! So many trails that I spent the first few days just getting lost in the forest—in the middle of the city. Every once in a while I would pop out in front of an old Soviet monument or a strange forest amusement park, the whole scene feeling absolutely surreal.

One of my first nights in the city, Atanas invited me to a friend's garden party (yes, a Bulgarian Garden Party). In my head I imagined Bulgarian cuisine as a mix of soggy noodles, beef, and gravy with some bland bread thrown in, but I arrived to a table full of fresh veggie skewers, hot spinach bread (known as banitza), and homemade hummus. Little did I know that Bulgaria was once the Soviet Union's supermarket, growing a majority of its fresh produce and distributing throughout the Red Regime. Today that translates to a bevy of fresh fruits and vegetables and an incredibly rich and healthy cuisine.

 Typical corner store on nearly every block.

Typical corner store on nearly every block.

The party was my initial introduction, but since I have been eating fresh almost every day. Atanas is vegetarian, and we've had no issue maintaining that diet throughout the city (though I occasionally peel off for some sausage or grilled chicken).

I figured I'd really have to be strict with my healthy eating regimen during my time in Bulgaria, but I'm quickly learning that Bulgaria of a fresh foodie paradise. Who knew?

Bulgaria Facts: Nearly every major Western Empire has passed through Bulgaria at one point or another, including the Romans, Ottomans, Byzantines, Nazis, and Soviets. The result is a strangely fascinating diversity that sees things like an old Roman Catholic church underneath a Soviet shopping mall, and mosques transformed into Russian Orthodox cathedrals.

The Bulgarian language is also thought to be the origin of the Slavic languages and considered one of the hardest languages to learn in the world (lucky me!).

Bulgarian Word: Nazdrave (pronounced: Naz-Dra-Vay) -- Cheers!

My Life, In Pizza

Hey gente, if it seems like I've been bouncing around a bit, well you're right on the money. In fact, instead of adding an MD or PA to the end of my title, I'm highly considering Kade Krichko, In Flux.

A week ago I started in Cuba before stops in New York, Barcelona, Madrid, and my current temporary residence, Sofia, Bulgaria. Yep, Bulgaria.

Unintentionally enough, I have had pizza in all four of those countries over the past week, testament to either an inquisitive palate or an unfortunate addiction to cheap and greasy food. I like to think it's the former (but realize it's the latter). So instead of a travel blog, I'm giving you a pizza ranking, as well as a few notes. Listen up people, this is important.

#4 Cuba — Think frozen Tombstone Pizza that you got in the school cafeteria, minus the real cheese. This is the go-to snack move in Cuba. On the plus side, it's 20 cents and you can pretend it's something else. Like a taco. Yeah, a pizza taco. That's better.

#3 Bulgaria — This was actually a tougher call than you might think. Bulgaria does pizza well and isn't afraid to mix it up in the flavor department. We're talking ricotta cheese, banana peppers, bacon, and a lot of other flavor adders. Don't sleep on Bulgarian pie.

#2 Spain — Okay, Spain cheated a little bit, because they hired some Sicilians to make some damn decent 'Spanish' pizza. Slices are big and cheap, and they usually come with beer. The Spain-Italy connection is strong in the culinary department, so you know you'll get something tasty.

#1 New York — Notice I didn't put USA here. That's because New York is a small sliver of the country that does pizza right, every time. From $1 to $8, a slice of this stuff is going to be good. I'd say it's in the water, but I really hope that's not the reason.

New New York Times Piece!

Recently collaborated with Garrett Grove on a ski piece for the New York Times discussing the ever-present but under-reported cultural appropriation happening in China's Xinjiang region. This was a really interesting one to report and one of the hardest trips of my life, so to see it in print in addition to my feature with Powder, is a huge honor and relief!

Also, this bad boy made it all the way to the front page of the Sunday Sports section. Chills!