Michael Wolf
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A Collection of Memories
Last updated - 2021/10/31, Happy Halloween

I feel that I have poor memory and retention skills. Because of this [1], I find myself documenting my life as thoroughly as possible. Journaling (physically) (digitally) (my surroundings), photography (gallery), and archiving (email, chats, everything, obsessively) all play their part in helping me recall the moments of my mortal experience in whatever shallow way one can recollect. About 90% of what is saved, backed up, and backed up again is unexciting and may never even be reviewed. Even sitting in a rocking chair many years in the future, I'll probably ask myself why I bothered saving all this nonsense. I pride myself on looking forward, working on new projects, and seeking out interesting experiences rather than thinking too hard on the past. However, some nights I do think back to some of those old sensations that stand out-- the ones that three thousand nights of sleep later I can still sense clearly. I spare the reader and myself the bad memories. I see no value wallowing in regret here. This is an attempt to convey a scene in words as well as I can contrive.

a winding mountain trail
A Quiet Bar in Bangkok, 2019

During an evening walk in Bangkok, a light rain shower appeared. Spotting a bar at the triangular intersection of two streets, I decided to rest my legs a bit and wait out the rain. I found a spot at a table facing out one of the wide french casement windows onto the street. One of the bartenders brought me a Singha with apathetic silence and returned to smoking outside under the awning with his friend.

Facing out the window-wall in the opposite direction was the only other patron of the dimly-lit space. She was a white woman staring out into the rain with the same melancholy silence as the bartenders other window toward the river. At some point, one of the bartenders came back in to plug an aux cord into his phone and play some instrumental Nujabes tracks. It was a pretty apt mix with the muted slapping of the rain on the street helping to transition each song. I drank my beer slowly, watching those braving the rain, stepping over rain puddles with a practiced agility.

I found the upper floors of the bar were mostly closed off but there was a small art gallery where I spent more time than each work warranted just so I could justify more time at the bar before it shut down for the evening. If I were to have a choice of places to spend limbo, it would certainly be in this most cozy of spots, watching raindrops slip down the window panes.

Note: the exact bar was called ้านบ้านไมตรีจิตต์ and it existed at 482 Maitri Chit Rd, Pom Prap, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand. It appears to have closed since my visit.

Halloween, Michigan State University, 2014

The Halloween of 2014 saw snowfall but that didn't deter the party hopping nor limit the creativity of costumes worn by the students making the rounds of the Lansing neighborhood. We had just stepped into a house, warm with body heat and the buzz of the first few beers of the evening. On hearing the sound of tuning guitars and drum, the group I was with descended the stairs and found a spot comfortably close to the band. They were modest servants of the party, dressed like half-assed Village People with terrible EQ. The band brought forth covers of overplayed 90's rock songs interspersed with jokes and shoutouts. There was "Creep" and "Seven Nation Army" and few Red Hot Chilli Peppers tunes. But whenever I hear "Everlong", I think back to the cover performed in this basement, sung in accompaniment with the now-crowded basement of revelers.

Every once in awhile, among the crowd of singing, smiling, swigging kids, I would lock eyes with a girl dressed as Link. We'd talk that night about nothing important and I, forever lacking both confidence and foresight, would never ask for her number. I recall the drive back from Michigan, myself in shotgun with ample time to think about the evening with the melancholy of mild hangover. I still have a picture of her holding up a cat to the camera with an eager smile. Living a state and a half away, I don't think there was any serious consideration of seeking out this connection from the friend of a friend of a friend. Yet, when I think back of what it was like to be a college kid in the midwest, this is the evening that I love to recall.

Pipestem Resort State Park, West Virginia, 2014

West Virginia exudes a weirdness not shared by its more populated and subdivisioned neighbors. That weirdness begins to verge on unreality, particularly on the quieter trails, and most potently in the autumn. Given that I would, in a few years, move to the land of no seasons, this trip and the month of October 2014 came to shape what I sought out in life.

Built in 1963 on the Bluestone River in southern West Virginia, the hotel we checked in at struck us (with us being three Millenials with bland taste) as feeling decidedly like a Wes Anderson film set. The dining room, nearly empty of patrons, seemed to have never seen a redecoration. The waitress, decked in a light, checkered apron seemed to have spent her life in the restaurant, looking over the variegated foliage in the steep river valley below. Enamored as we were by the retro-stylings of the lodge as opposed to the repulsive architecture-thesis-project setting of our college campus, we were unprepared for the air tram into the canyon.

A second lodge exists in the park, aside the Bluestone River, accessible only by a gondola. The handful of guests staying in the gorge were out by the riverside, taking in the autumn colors. We spent the day hiking up hills, led by curiosity toward old out-buildings, cemeteries, and mossy grottoes. Some of the best photos I've taken on film came from that day-- capturing the pseudo-nostalgia of the setting with the aid of the fall leaves.

I'd go on that night to get absolutely trashed at the cabin and rack up (as I found out in the morning) $15 in long distance charges while playing around with the land-line phone. It was already a novelty, I have no regret with that expenditure, though I still recall the quizzical expression of the concierge reviewing the bill. From this trip, I'd found what I would call my perfect outdoor setting. We swore we'd take another trip to Pipestem in the future, but our worklife would get in the way every autumn until most of us had moved well out of state. Pipestem itself will never quite be the same anyway. Looking at their website in 2021 shows they are undergoing extensive remodeling [2]. At any rate, if I ever make it back to Pipestem, it'd be best if I didn't try to make comparisons. It'd be decidedly unfair to hold up any other visit to October, 2014. Memory, after all, is the enemy of wonder.

Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia, Prague, 2017

I grew up Catholic, but barely. I've had enough schooling to have a general understanding of the knowledge and lore of the Church-- good and bad. When I made my first trip to Europe in 2017, the opportunity to soak in the extensive and often bizarre traditions of Catholicism and medieval Europe as they are still preserved in the cathedrals and museums of the Old World.

It was on a day that I was taking solo, hitting the spots my partner had no interest in, that I came across the Convent of St Agnes of Bohemia. That morning I'd already gone on a decent aimless walk as well as a guided tour in the Jewish ghetto. It was pushing into the afternoon and the winter sun, aided by dreary cloud cover, was only weakly lighting the streets. No better time to pop a dissociative.

I found an entrance to the convent in an unremarkable side street. I found a brochure in the stone-walled foyer by the light of a candle on the receptionist's desk. I don't think I could have read it then for all the light in the building, but it wasn't needed. A glow coming from the soft spotlights on the works of early medieval peasant sculpture lead the way. Statues, mostly of wood, frequently of Mary; they each had an eerie disproportionate affect to them. Eyes too large, mouths set to be singing seemed to be screaming. Moving further down the corridors I found that this wasn't always a coincidence of prmitive artistry. Many of the busts were of martyrs-- Agnes, Ludmilla. The red-hued paintings of beheadings seemed to be accentuated by the lighting, and made more chilling due to the emptyness of the museum.

Having been raised separate from this grotesque history, I was both awed and set to contemplate the white-washed history of Catholicism and the fantasy reinterpretations of medieval life. I can't be sure I was really thinking these things at the time. I was mostly thinking things like "jesus that's fucking wild." Probably my favorite piece in the museum was a wooden statue of the virgin mother. She's about 3/4 normal height and beneath her cloak, dozens of little bodies cling to her body, curling around her, looking up into her face with wide open mouths that seemed to me at least like those of the damned.

But passing into the final corridor I found a treat. The museum had a large collection of Durer's woodcuts: both beauful and horrifying. At last I realized that this wasn't some small convent with impecable taste, but the National Galley of Prague and I just happened to hit it at a time when I was the only visitor in the labyrinth of grusome art.

about:blank, Berlin, 2017

In any given flyer for the club about:blank, a small camper trailer features prominantly. This is where I found myself one wintery evening amidst the large industrial sculptures and makeshift seats of the club's courtyard. About:blank ranks highly in my personal list of favorite venues for providing such a serene place to collect oneself. It may have been snowing slightly. Old disco lighting hung from a steel half-icosahedron and overhead tree branches, providing enough lighting to guide footfalls between cigarette butts but not too much to be conspicuous. Given I was coasting along on a tab of acid, I appreciated the muted setting.

My friend and I had plopped down on one side of the cushioned trailer during a lull in our conversation. I was staring somewhere in the middle distance, taking in the overlapping tracks of wind and brick-muffled techno. Without much more than a 'hey' two fellow partiers clambored in. The first, a looming blond German had to really crouch to get through the portal of the camper. Even after he found a seat on the booth, he had to keep his head bent to avoid hitting it on the curved ceiling. Coming in second was a short black kid (I say kid because he must have been 17 or 18) with a puffy jacket and a distinctly British accent. He pinned us for Americans and began on his endearing life story. "London born, but New York is my home", he went on as he put his iPhone on the little table between us, "oh the girls I left there". We probably talked about his fledgling DJ career or something while he pulled out a quarter-sized baggie from his coat pocket and began cutting coke on the screen of the iPhone using a credit card. "You went any?" The politeness obligatory of anyone doing drugs in front of a new acquaintance. I was way too fuzzed to try something new so he went on ahead himself. Wielding what I was to learn was the sign of a discerning cocaine user-- the short plastic straw, he snorted two lines and wished us a nice evening with wide, beaming smile. The two departed, with the German giving us a courteous nod on his way out.

This wasn't my first or last time seeing coke, a drug that does almost nothing for me, but it does stand out as the very picture of cocaine usage. Probably #2 most-fitting experience would be when I had a friend breathlessly talk me through some not-so-wild startup idea he had while beating his cigarette bearing hand rhythmically in the air.

Calhoun Residence Hall, Cincinnati, 2015

I can distinctly recall being winded after about the 12th flight of stairs up the pitch-black concrete stairwell of the University of Cincinnati's Calhoun Residence Hall. My friends were half-panting, half- laughing as we stumbled by the lights of our phone up the last few floors and out into the cool summer air of the roof. Calhoun was at the time both the tallest residence hall and the highest point in the city. Thus it happened to be the target of what would become the pinacle of our explorations of the secret corridors, shortcuts, roofs and sub basements of the buildings on campus. The day was the Fourth of July and my Yaesu handy-talky was already crackling with fire crew dispatches out to Western Hills.

On this summer Calhoun Hall was undergoing renovations and closed but for the dining hall on the ground floor. By those fortunate connections one makes in college, we knew a resident advisor who happened to have the keys to the roof access stairwell that would give us a 360 view of the fireworks that would be distributed around the seven hills that evening. We'd already had a festive day watching the annual Northside 4th of July parade, but we kept the buzz going with homebrewed apfelwein and shitty beers. Around 8pm I loaded myself up with a tape recorder, hi-8 camcorder, and radio to be prepared to take in the sights by any means at my hipster-ass disposal.

The microwave-dish dotted rooftop provided an uninterrupted view well into Kentucky. Above the rough grid of the city and florescent skyscrapers, little flowers of fireworks leaped into the sky from yards and streets in every neighborhood. Staring out to the horizon kept my mind off the heights. The gentle breeze and the crackling explosions in the sky imprinted themselves in my mind. Looking back at the video I took, I was clearly too drunk to hold my camcorder straight, but what I did capture was that little victory of mischievous plotting that made the holiday worth recalling. There would be many more roofs and fire escapes in the city that I would come to know and love. Cincinnati is flush with excellent views for those willing to get a little adventurous. But maybe it's the recollection of those merciless stairs to the top of Calhoun that have kept it fresh in my mind.

Potrero Hill, San Francisco, 2015

One of the first real dates Y and I went on was the Folsom Street Festival in San Francisco. We aren't really into kink things, but the festival was a short ride from the Caltrain Station and sure to provide some interesting sights we'd never seen before. Armed with two road bikes and a practiced aside voice we toured this exposition of sexual expression as outsiders-- almost as children in a museum.

But we weren't long at the street fair. We dropped by Dolores Park for an ad hoc picnic and some shitty thrift stores on the Mission. When the sun began to edge toward the horizon, we picked a train to go back down to the south bay. It was here that I used by rudimentary knowledge of San Francisco geography to put a little fun in this last leg of the day. Heading for the 22nd Street station, we crossed over the 101 pedestrian overpass. That landed us at the base of Potrero Hill.

At this point, Y shot me a little grin, dismounted and handed me her bicycle. I got to trudge up four blocks of 22nd Street guiding two bikes by their steering columns. I knew the detour would be worth the perspiration.

Hanging a left at the intersection of 22nd and Wisconsin gives one a perfectly framed view of the city of San Francisco which at this point was lit up in all of its pre-Salesforce-Tower splendor by the waning glow of the sunset. I gave Yvonne her bike back. That ride down the long block of Wisconsin Street recalled a coming-of-age film with the breeze and the gravitational pull of the descent competing with the destiny of our bodies, giving the sensation of flying. Sometimes when I think back to this moment I imagine that we reached out and held hands but I don't think we were so brave. We just took in the full panorama of the city along with the bewitching breeze of a dusk bike ride before slamming on our brakes at 20th street and laughing.

"Crystal Palace" Warehouse in Walnut Hills, Cincinnati, 2016

In the cradle of the seven hills of Cincinnati, there were once hundreds of warehouses and factories, breweries and plants. These are relics of Cincinnati's opulant industrial and meatpacking era. Anymore these monuments of long outsourced manufacturing been transformed into studio apartments or simply demolished. An avid urban explorer, I'd often heard stories of warehouse raves held throughout the late 90s and early 2000s. By no means were the parties at the scale of those in England, but idea of reusing one of these derelict spaces for a temporary autonomous zone seemed magical.

I don't know who organized the party at the Crystal Palace, a four-story brick factory that seemed to most recently been used for making paint. A bunch of random art kids seemed to have been able to convince the owners to allow the place to have a last hoorah before it was set to be demolished and replaced by (yet another) hospital.

The first floor had the DJ's setup and a set of contrived art pieces: an oil spill made of printed out pieces of paper with oil barrels on them, a low-poly pig statue, a table dedicated to discussions about trains, and a little skate ramp. But of course my friend and I were super fucked up so we weren't going to be content to hang out there. As the opener started spinning some mid-aughts remixes, we began trying doors only to find them all unlocked. The dungeon crawl had begun.

Each room had a little clue to the previous life of the facility in it. Half of an eyewash station here, a stack of flyers for a '97 golf outing there. To hyperstimulated minds, the old signs and ephemera had an air of mystery. We worked our way up the unlit stairwells, past revelers BYOBing Genesee and Rolling Rock. At some point someone found a fire extinguisher and created a fog level, traversable only by the light of cell phone flashlights and luck. But, as is often the case with parties, the best place to be is the roof. November in Cincinnati is brisk, but easily warmed by cigarette light. The roof offered views of downtown Cincinnati as well as a bright water tower for the Frisch's factory next door. Bits of bass were still thumping from the basement and cars continued to pull up, letting bunches of bringt-neon or all-black clad kids out into this callback to a scene long ago.

I recall rolling around in this chair that was welded inside two parallel tubular wheels. God knows I would have never managed to be in one of those sober. I never pulled the breakers on the main panel but just knowing I held that power was a fun experience. I did, however, manage to take a lot of photos, some of which actually turned out.

Anyway, thank you to whoever organized that. And farewell to the post-industrial midwestern cities that could host events like that at such a venue. Come for the tunes, stay for the exploration.

Kaspian Recreation Area, Lake Tahoe, 2016

Something about the cool mountain stream slipping between sun warmed boulders convineced Y and I to skinnydip for the first and only time in our lives. It was a warm late summer day and we'd enbarked on what is called a hippy-flip. That injection of serotonin with a little bit of psilocibin paired with that gorgeous setting we had to ourselves was about as close I imagine I'll ever come to the earthly paradise seen in bucolics.

Nothing bad happened. We didn't run into any other hikers, no birds stole our clothes. It was dreamlike.

1. While I've found it hard to find any scientific studies that link the intensive use of offloading mechanisms like writing/note-taking to degraded memory capacity (Morrison & Richmond, 2020), Risko and Gilbert, 2016 ), I can't help but think that the democratization of literacy and the information revolutions that followed have impacted the capacity of cognitive recall. Though, it may be a bit like Jevon's paradox in that easy access to memory offloading has enabled multitasking to make up for the gains provided by easy access to external data stores. I ramble on a bit more about distractions here.

2. Exciting things are happening! Due to renovations, McKeever Lodge will be under construction from 10/01/2020 to 7/21/2021 and Mountain Creek Lodge will be closed from 11/01/2020 to 7/21/2021. McKeever Lodge will remain open throughout renovations and will continue to offer all services. We can’t wait to welcome you back to our new and improved lodges later this year!