Head of the Hootch

After a morning of hang gliding, we return to Chattanooga in time to check out the Head of the Hootch scene. The first thing about the Head of the Hootch is the sheer number of boats on the water. In spite of the fact that the river is closed to both recreational and commercial traffic for the regatta, and the fact that these boats are as sleek and trim as it gets, the river looks like it could not possibly have room for one more boat on it. As we walk over the Market St bridge to the aquarium, we have to stop and stare several times and gawk while we count the number of boats in a small space.

As we make our way across Market St bridge, the next thing that stands out is the number of people standing on the bridge. There are so many people jammed on the sidewalks on either side of the bridge at the South end that they are jumping off the sidewalks and onto the roadway to go around each other. When a close race goes under the bridge, people dart across between traffic to see how it comes out on the other side. This seems so dangerous that I wonder why they didn’t close Market St all together.

The third thing that catches our attention (oh, all right, so we could see this from our apartment before we left) is the number of tents lining the riverfront by the aquarium. There are market-style tents set up practically on top of each other. They line the street and spread out onto the grass between the road and the river. The road is closed and rowers walk in large groups, the teenagers oblivious to other pedestrians and not bothering to move out of the way when they occupy the entire sidewalk.

We make our way through the crowd looking somewhat like we need press passes. I have my tripod bag over my shoulder and Pat carries my camera bag over his. We walk down the steps next to the aquarium bridge to get under the street and out to the pier next to the fountain. I figure we’ll be able to get some good shots from under the bridge. Pat helps pick a setting by suggesting I shoot boats as they appear from behind the bridge support. These turn out ot be some of my favorite shots.

I’ve put my big lens on my camera and mounted it on my tripod. I stand behind the camera and discover that I can barely zoom out far enough to get half of an eight person boat from here. I contemplate changing lenses, but decide to stick with the 100-400mm for a while yet. I shoot the boats on the other side of the river. I zoom in and see how tight I can get from this far away. I’m pretty impressed with my lens. I’m feeling like I could pass as a professional with my lovely tripod and my nice big lens.

That’s about the time that the real professional (or wealthy want-to-be) shows up. He’s carrying what must be at least a 300mm f/2.8 lens, if not a 400mm or more. For those of you not familiar with camera lenses, we’re talking a $7,000 – 13,000 lens here. It has an enormous circumference and looks like it could gather enough light to shoot the stars at a high shutter speed. Suddenly, my big lens looks pitiful.

That’s the trouble about comparing your lenses to other people’s–someone always has a bigger lens. But when I look through my lens again at 100mm and just fit half a boat in the frame, I suddenly wonder what the heck the other guy is shooting. From here, I wonder if he can get more than one eye in the frame. I imagine some of the more dramatic sports shots I’ve ever seen and decide he can probably get some really great facial expressions. While I may have the same reach with my lens (or not, I can’t actually tell), I don’t have the same aperture opening. That means I have to have slower shutter speeds to get the same exposure that he can get by opening up his aperture wider. This allows him to freeze those rapidly moving facial expressions sharply in time when they would likely be blurred for me. I would love to see his shots.

I contemplate briefly walking over to him and asking him about his lens, but decide there’s no point in finding out what it is since I already have 2 lenses on my wish list that are in a far more practical price range. Plus, I don’t feel like embarrassing myself today by asking stupid questions. I would love to see the shots he’s getting, though. My main confusion is that he isn’t using a tripod. I wonder how he can hold that big lens without one. As I contemplate whether to talk to the photographer or not, Pat points out a large Swallow condominium complex built on the underside of a bridge structure. Their little mud huts hang, now abandoned, in a line, somehow making me think of a row of abandoned beach houses.

I turn my attention back to the boat races for a few minutes. Watching two boats neck and neck as they come to the finish line gets me excited. I am thrown back in time to my brief lessons in a learn to row class and the feeling of flying across the river in a 4-person boat when we all got into a good rhythm. I think about about how delicious it felt to kick the rears of the competing boat that day (especially when the average age of their boat was about 10 years younger than ours).

However, I don’t know who is competing against whom in this race. It makes it tough to follow or to decide whom to celebrate with. Boats just keep coming in. Then, I see the OSU women and then some OSU men. I’m somewhat excited that I recognize them by their paddles–the rowing class I took was held out of the OSU boathouse on the Scioto River in Columbus.

After shooting some more, we head to Thai Smile for lunch. I have my leftovers packed up and even think to ask for plasticware and napkins. I’m all ready for any homeless we encounter on the way home. However, it looks like all the homeless were shuttled off somewhere. All that are left on the Walnut St Bridge are a group of rowdy partiers who are having the time of their lives. We continue back across the river and go home with our leftovers still in tact.


To Clean or Not to Clean

This week is a short week for me-I am taking Friday off because friends are coming for a visit for a long weekend.  This weekend is the Head of the Hootch regatta–apparently one of the biggest regattas around for rowers.

I’m getting email newsletters from Outdoor Chattanooga, the Tennessee Aquarium, two farmer’s markets, and a hiking organization and all of them are hyping the Head of the Hootch as a an event to see.  Given that we can practically see it from our living room, I think it will be hard for us to miss.  But, back to our visitors, one is a rower and will be racing on Saturday.

It’s a funny thing about taking a day off.  It means that every other day suddenly becomes both compressed and extended.  In preparation for taking off 1 day, I work more efficiently and with more intensity and I still end up working more than one day’s worth of extra hours in the four days that lead up to it.  Is that really how vacation days are supposed to work?

In any case, I’m looking forward to acting as tour guides for our friends when they come.  I have a vague itinerary in my head ranging from going up to Point Park to enjoy the view of the fall leaves and downtown Chattanooga to taking them on a River Gorge tour at the Tennessee Aquarium.  They have told us about two restaurants they want to go to, neither of which we’ve been to before, which is even more exciting.

We actually chose to move to Chattanooga because of this couple–they had come down before for the Head of the Hootch and really enjoyed the city.  When we told them we were thinking about moving to Tennessee, they were the ones who advised us to check out Chattanooga.  So, we will take turns playing tour guides.

I’m more or less ready for their visit, which is good. They are staying in a hotel, which is probably for the best given that our guest bed now consists of a queen sized air mattress placed on our living room floor.  If I were competing in a rowing race, I would want better sleeping conditions, too.

But, since I assume they will come to our apartment at some point in time, I do feel like I should clean up the place before they get here.  I haven’t really thought about when I am going to do this.  I’ve had a few vague thoughts that maybe it would be a good time to try a housekeeper, but upon reflection, I realized that I cannot have a housekeeper when I’m working from home.  Given that there are only two distinct rooms in our place (besides the bathroom) and my office is in the largest of the two, the noise of the housekeeper cleaning would disrupt work.

I miss having a housekeeper.  We had a great one at our house in Columbus.  Having her come every week was the perfect antidote to my natural tendency towards messiness.  I don’t know why, but I would rather throw my clothes on the floor at night than to take the time to put them in the laundry.  I’d rather put dirty dishes in the sink than to rinse them and put them in the dishwasher.  Someone once told me that this was just a form of prioritization.  Apparently, having a neat house is low on my priority list.

But having a housekeeper who came once a week forced the issue.  Since the housekeeper can’t clean if the floor is covered in dirty clothes, I was forced to pick up at least once a week, which is not enough time to accumulate an enormous mess.  And, the house gets cleaned regularly in addition to being neater.  I love having a clean house; I just don’t want to be the one who has to clean it.

But now, in our apartment, it seems ridiculous that I still don’t want to spend my time cleaning it.  I am happy to have a reason to have to clean it now–we still have piles of excess stuff lining the wall of the entry hallway that we haven’t figured out what to do with yet.  The whole place could really use a good scrub.

Unfortunately, I get an instant message from my friend telling me that she and her fiancé will not be coming after all.  As it turns out, two of her team mates have health issues that preclude them participating in the race.  Since the boat requires four rowers, my friend won’t be racing after all.

I’m bummed–I was really looking forward to having friends come to see us.  Pat and I discuss the change of events that night and decide to take advantage of my planned day off since I’ve already cleared my calendar and I need to use up my vacation days or lose them.  We decide we will go hang gliding on Friday with the thought that it will be less busy on a week day and we will get more flights in that way.

The next day, I call the flight park and schedule time on the training hills both Friday and Saturday.  That settled, I decide I will not worry about cleaning up the apartment and will focus on keeping up with work instead.  That gives me pretty much unlimited time to work, besides sleeping, eating, and working out.  I’m secretly relieved that I can continue to ignore the state of the apartment for a while longer yet.

I suppose if we had a place to put everything, I would be less overwhelmed by the prospect of cleaning.  But having to figure out what to do with a bunch of stuff that I’ve already tried to figure out what to do with at least a half a dozen times before makes the whole notion seem like way too much effort.

For a moment, I wonder if I could call that TV show that comes and puts your stuff in 3 piles:  keep, donate/sell, trash.  It feels like we’ve gotten rid of so much stuff in the process of downsizing that there wouldn’t be much left to deal with.  What we really need is someone to organize what’s left.  But, there’s no point in getting organized when we have temporary living accommodations, so I decide to look the other way instead.

When I turn away from the mess and look out the windows, I see the moon rising over our apartment.  I turn my attention to capturing the moon, which seems far more interesting than cleaning the apartment.