Sunday, August 19, 2012


It's not that I don't love you, I just, I just want to give you the best I can. And for now, that happens to be in a beautiful new home that I think you'll love. Won't you follow me there?

Come with me. Please.



Monday, August 13, 2012


I turned 29 today.

I'm not really sure what that means - quite possibly, it means nothing.

I am at the front end of a generation that is readily criticized for it's vocality, a vocality that can often be mistaken for self awareness. So claiming to have any sort of insight on to what this milestone in my life means would probably not be met with open arms.

But I am fascinated with the idea of aging, the idea of seeing one's self evolve, or try to. Of being able to look in the mirror and note a change, even a slight one, as a denotation of a life lived, or life in the process of being lived.

There have been so many changes for me.

Some have been obvious.

The grey hair started in college as random of assortments of one or two, but that now populate my head, most specifically the sides, in rapidly increasing gangs.

There are the bags that started appearing under my eyes in the last year when I didn't get enough sleep. There was a time when not getting enough sleep was a private fact, suddenly, it was public knowledge.

Then were the random things, the dry skin that appeared under my arms. I don't know if it suddenly appeared or I just suddenly noticed it, either way my dermatologists response when I brought it up was remarkably unremarkable.

He just laughed. And followed it with

Ahhh you're getting older.

I was suddenly aware.

Then there were the not so obvious signs.

Some signs are ones that I only think I see, lenses over eyes that have now been colored with the faintest shade of wisdom, as only experience can provide.

I know I look older, though I still look young. What defines my older though I’m not quite sure. It’s a subtle shift for sure. But much like Pirsig’s thoughts on quality, while I can’t describe it, I know it when I see it.

But perhaps what I actually see is my experience, a person who is perennially at the end of a constantly expanding timeline.

Perhaps I see growth.

I think about the number.


What does that even mean?

Before they occurred I had deeply ingrained suppositions for all the major numbers. 21 meant freedom, 25 would be my peak, 30 my defining year as an adult. Perhaps marriage, kids.

But as they happened the ages were much less defined. 21 seemed significant at the time, but 22 to 25 were very much a blur. Certainly by the time I hit it, 25 didn't feel like any sort of peak. Had it actually been my peak, I'm sure I'd be depressed right now. 28 became a rebuilding year, a time to reorganize the bricks of my life that, I thought, had been organized into a steady foundation.

It's amazing how a how a house of cards can pass for a house of bricks.

So as the weeks prior to the last year of my twenties turned into days, I felt not anxiety or dread or anything that caused my heart any extra movement. Instead the most significant sensation I felt was curiosity. What did this age mean?

Me, myself, at 29 years old.

A broad look at my life brings certain things to mind. In many ways I feel calmer, more at ease, more comfortable with myself than ever.

Yet at the same time I feel more impatient and anticipatory of the things I want to fill my life with.

Those things aside though, when I look in the mirror, I see a man I almost don't recognize. For as much as I presupposed the life I would have at older ages, I don't really think I ever accurately conceptualized the idea of 29 year old me.

In some ways, I find it almost impressive. Like owning a car that continues to run after decades.

And in some ways it's terrifying. When I take a close look at my life, as I make great effort to on my birthday, I am always reminded of how incredibly fortunate I have been.

Fortunate actually seems a trivial iteration of the word Fortune, yet that is what I have. A Fortune. A wealth, a bounty of good luck and wonderful people in my life who, when in the same room, make me wonder how I managed to find so many of them.

And whenever I think about how lucky I am, I am reminded of a quote I first read in high school.

Watch out when you're getting all you want. Fattening hogs ain' in luck.
-Joel Chandler Harris

The hog writing this post grows fatter and more paranoid every day.

Because for as much as I want, as much I crave, or I strive or complain, I have no need or want for anything. If I never made more money, friends, or had more experiences than I do today, I would still be one of the luckiest people alive

So I can't help be paranoid that this 29 year old me is always one poor mistake from losing it all.

My therapist would tell me that is my anxiety kicking in. And then she'd have me read one of the sizable chapters in the even more sizable "Anxiety Workbook" she encouraged me (successfully) to purchase.

And in many ways she is right.

Because in some ways the anxiety is unfounded.

But I look at my life at 29, at the people around me, at the air that I am privileged enough to breathe, at the absurdly incomparable good fortune I have had, and marvel at how anybody with a modicum of self awareness wouldn't also worry that all could be lost in an instant.

But being grateful and paranoid is not really a thing one is. They are emotions, feelings that one experiences. And I would be saddened if those were the only two things that defined me at any age.

I had a great writing teacher once who gave me this axiom:

Whenever you can, do not sum up.

So if I were to end this by saying where I was and who I am, well, it would be a lie and also go against a pretty great axiom.

The good news is I don’t have enough information to sum up. I know I am excited to be this age, at the things ahead of me, at the year I have already embarked upon.

And while I’ll possibly never be sure of where I am, perhaps it is the confidence in where I’ve been that will help me keep every age I am, in perspective.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Really Mistaken Beliefs

I don't know where it started, or where it came from. It was just there, in my head like a fact I had always known.

I can hum along to any song I had never heard.

Of all the things for one to be capable of, this seems quiet ridiculous.

It wasn’t something I ‘made up’ exactly. That would have required some thought behind it. My efforts were more spent on defending this ridiculous statement.

Why humming? It had nothing to do with an actual ability. I was not a prolific hummer by any means. I didn’t' regularly strut around the house in a top hat swinging a pocket watch. I can't even remember a single instance where I even wanted to hum.

I might have owned a kazoo at one point in time. And I had one of those “make fun stuff out of the things in your home” books. One of the activities was turning a comb with a piece of wax paper into a kazoo. After I created it I remember thinking.


Even at 7.

So my prolific humming wasn’t one born of experience. It was just something I claimed, and for some reason, something I was proud to share.

Perhaps it was me compensating.

It could have been due to the fact that I couldn't really whistle. Not in the traditional sense anyway. I would try and try but it just, it didn't work. I couldn't understand why either. It seemed like a simple two part process.

But as I would learn later in life, over and over again; how simple something is has nothing to do with how good I am at it.

I would do this kind crap whistle, which came as a result of making a Lamaze face and pushing air out between the space in my front teeth.

I'm not sure how many people I told or how often it came up. I do distinctly remember an argument with my sister though that took place in my kitchen.

I had shared my secret ability with my sister and she immediately challenged me.

But how do you know?
I just know.
But how?
I can just do it.
Any song?
Yea I can hum along to any song on the radio.

The discussion then went deeper with my sister trying to use things like "logic" and "reason" which I had no interest in.

In all fairness, I was 7.

The beauty of youth is that you can say completely insane ridiculous things that carry no significance or any bearing on the course of your adult life. Had I known this back then, I would have claimed to be good at far more interesting things than humming.

It was also around the same time that I had developed another mistaken belief. This one I didn’t really share with anybody, I just thought about it a lot. My belief was that, when competing in the Olympics, the possible medals were:


I have NO idea where I got this idea.

Maybe I had some kind of inferiority complex and wanting to make sure that I always had the chance for some recognition, I created a recognized 4th place as a possible thing to aspire to/fall back on?

I would revisit this notion as I did underwater somersault contests by myself at hotel pools on family vacations.

I would pretend to be different people in my class from school, going through underwater commentary in my head. I would do as many somersaults as I could without coming up for air, somewhere between three and five usually.

The people I liked or was friends with would do very well getting the silver or sometimes a bronze. People I didn’t like would get a copper or nothing at all.

I always got the gold.

I pretty much knew I wasn’t going to get gold in any real events, so why not one I made up?

It is not exaggeration to say I spent hours doing this.

It still doesn’t explain where the copper came into all of this.

The only place I could have even heard of copper is in a 64 pack of Crayola Crayons with a built in plastic sharpener. Copper was one of the four crayons in the box that had a very distinct metallic sheen to it. So I must have just thought if Crayola deemed it enough to be part of the pack then it must be deemed adequate by the International Olympic Committee.

Not that I knew what that was.

It wasn’t until years later watching, or should I say, actually paying attention to the Olympics that I found myself thinking:

Hey what happened to the copper metal?

I might have brought up this point to my parents, or I might not. There is a good chance I just continued watching the Olympics, observing the athletes compete for far 25% fewer medals than I thought should be available.

I probably just watched the TV as athletes crossed the finish line 4th, and thought to myself they deserved a medal for their efforts, something to act as a thank you, something they could treat as their swan song.

A swan song I could probably hum along to.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Selfish Asshole

I’m a selfish asshole.

Hear me out.

In exactly two weeks I’m going be 29. And in 29 years of living (plus 9 months in the womb where I didn’t accomplish much) I have never really had to ask for much.

I grew up in a loving household full of people who (while they may not have always understood me, and frankly, who can blame them) always supported me.

I have written before about I have such an abundance of things in my life that I regularly have to purge my life of material possessions. It’s a position that so few people ever find them in, a position I try to remember whenever I feel myself wanting for something.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday I like to take stock of my life. I like to spend some time contemplating, thinking, and comparing where I am now to where I was a year ago. It can be challenging as I constantly find myself coming up short of the places I’d hoped, or expected, to be.

In addition to reflection my birthday usually involves celebration. Typically there are two types of gatherings.

I will do a birthday dinner with a small group of my close friends at a really nice restaurant. We make toasts, we laugh, and we eat incredible food. And then I will set up a get together for my larger circle of friends, something where people can come in and out of at their leisure, stop by, celebrate for as little or as long as they’d like.

And I won’t lie; at both affairs I usually don’t pay for a thing. And I’ve never had a problem with it. I mean on your birthday you should be able to get whatever you want. At least that’s been my mentality.

But for some time now I’ve been feeling a weird strange cloud drifting over my soul. I’d be lying if I had said it was a recent phenomenon, but it is only recently that I have started to pay more attention to it. It’s a feeling that I’m not doing enough.

For the past 4 years I’ve lived alone. For the past 6 I’m floated in and out of jobs that I thought would bring me the things I’ve wanted. I’ve received raises, title changes, and new responsibilities.

In that same time I’ve traveled. I’ve had incredible experiences in places around the country and around the world. I’ve taken up hobbies that have occupied so much space in my mind that others can attest I am sometimes less present than I should be.

More than anything, I have had opportunities.

When I’ve wanted something, the thing I have wanted is so far above the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy that he would probably be baffled that one person could possibly want for so much.

My highs have been higher than I could have possibly imagined, and my lows, while sad and challenging and life changing, have always been something I could eventually work my way through.

There has always been a road. And while that road may have been concealed, or bumpy, or long, there has always been a road. I have never been without a road. But for so many others, that has never been the case.

And I know this. I know it the way people know war and famine and poverty exists. They are the kinds of things we may try to remind ourselves, but never too often so as not to make ourselves feel sad. After all, there is only so much we can do.


Here’s the thing. I don’t do anything.

When disaster strikes a far away country in the form of a tornado or a tsunami I give money to the Red Cross. When my friends do a marathon to raise money to fight cancer I give money to their cause. I have situational generosity. But I never really give anything that requires anything.

A handful of years ago I went to work at a nonprofit thinking that would give me the feeling of generosity and altruism I had hoped would at some point infuse my life.

But for a myriad of reasons, those feelings never came. I wasn’t more generous or giving towards those in needs while I worked there, I was just more awareness. But awareness without action is like a kite without a string.

So I left that job to pursue something I loved. And I was a happier employee than I’d ever been and for many moons that feeling of wanting to give back remained held at bay.

I think we all kind of wait and hope for that moment when everything changes. We expect that moment of clarity, that single instant when our worlds come into focus, our worries fade away and the single most important clear and obvious needs of the universe come into focus.

Though for most people those moments never arrive. It seems silly to admit that I have been waiting for a moment like that when my life has been supersaturated with such moments.

So after two weeks spent on the west coast spent socializing, contemplating and interacting in different cities with different people over different issues, I’m done waiting.

And that is why on the eve of my 29th year I’m “giving up” my birthday to raise money for a cause that takes every single cent it raises and uses it to bring clean drinking water to those in need.

The facts of how clean water can change the world are truly overwhelming. And if you’re interested in reading about them you can find them at Charity: Water.

So what does this mean?

That means this year I will be passing up that small gathering at the fancy restaurant to celebrate me.

That means this I’m not having a party where people come and buy me drinks. Sure I'll still get people together, but the drinks will be cheap, and nobody is allowed to buy me a single one.

Even as I write this though, even as I tell you that I am proud to be committing to raising $1,000 dollars for this incredible cause, I am also aware what a copout it is.

Sure I’m “giving up” my birthday this year but what am I actually giving up?

I’m not giving $1,000 out of my own pocket. I’m asking my friends to help me. I’m asking people instead of buying me drinks on my birthday, to take 29 bucks and put it towards something that actually matters.

While I have no idea if I’ll reach my goal, I do know that it already feels good to want something that will help somebody who deserves it, somebody to whom the words ‘want’ and ‘need’ are exactly the same.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What I Shouldn't Have Not Done

Growing up, I often thought the role of adults was simply to confuse me.
It was about the same time I realized my parents didn't have the answer to everything, which I realized, adults in general didn't have answers to a lot of things.
But as an adult you can't just not have an answer, you have to say something. Hence why I think oftentimes adults just make some stuff up, or repeat something they heard somebody else say. Maybe they will bring something out of their "my parents used to say this" handbook.
I suppose it also comes down to the fact that at a certain point, you just run out of things to say. I know for a fact that as a child I was always talking… actually that hasn’t really changed. But I can’t imagine my parents had a response to everything I was saying, also I can’t imagine they listened to everything I said.
Whatever the reason, as a teenager I heard some very confusing things.
Like after I sneezed my parents would say gazzazablatz. To this day I have NO idea where the hell they got that term. And any time I tried to use it out of the house it was met with confusion.
It means bless you.
In what language?
Um… Boehmcke?
I still say it to this day but I’m much more aware of the face that it is in fact a very niche saying.
My sister and I were frequently accused of inactivity, which looking back seems a bit ridiculous considering I felt like for the first half of my life I was always in motion.
But when I stopped moving, or more specifically, when we weren’t doing what we were supposed to be doing my parents would bust out this gem:

You’re j sitting there, like a bump on a log!
A more vague and generic statement I have never heard. I understand what this means but I also feel like it was a bit unfair. Sometimes, even as a teenager, I was very tired. Had I accused my parents of being bumps on logs I most likely would have been sent to my room.
But the term itself is so devoid of any character. You look like… a thing on… another thing! Bump on a log, lump on a frog, chunk on a dog; none of it really makes any sense.
Sometimes though I think my parents would have preferred I be a bump on a log than the frenetic, 50 question, “can I, may I, would you mind if I,” type of kid that I was.
Whenever my mom was tired of answering my questions, or I didn’t really care specifically about what I was asking, she would say to me:
Knock yourself out.
I found this one to be particularly hilarious because as a child there was a very good possibility of this actually occurring. Whenever they said this I had this image in my head of wearing gigantic red boxing gloves and giving myself an uppercut to the chin, knocking myself unconscious.
And while that never literally happened, the similar equivalent almost did. Like that time I ran out onto an icy path but slipped and went nearly horizontal into midair before landing on the back of my head.
I didn’t knock myself out, but it’s really a miracle I didn’t.
I suppose the opposite of knocking myself out would have been being “bent out of shape.” This was another one of my parents’ favorites. I was a kind of oversensitive kid and even now, I still kind of am. But whenever I would get really upset or frustrated about something that my parents didn’t feel was justified I would be accused of being bent out of shape.
This, to me, always conjured up an image of some metal man all twisted and curved walking all crazy because of his literal imposition.
The other problem with being called bent out of shape is there is no real good come back.
I’m not bent out of shape! I’m… in shape! I’m bent into shape!
I didn’t have a lot of good comeback when trying to refute accusations from my parents.
But when it comes down to the ultimate opposition silencer, that honor must go to my high school band teacher.
He was a really nice guy one on one, always really friendly and personable, somebody you might like to have a dinner party… if you were prone to throwing dinner parties in the 10th grade.
But when he lost control of a room of 100 teenagers he would lose his cool and dish out what is still the most confusing statement I have ever heard:
He said this every day.
I guess we were a chatty group. It’s tough being a nice teacher, kids frequently mistake kindness for weakness. And anytime we stopped focusing and digressed into chatter he would come out swinging with that confusing statement.
And I would always stop talking immediately, mainly because I was trying to figure out what the hell he was saying.
I’d start making sentence trees on my sheet music.
Why am I the only one talking?
Why am I not talking?
Why am I (not) the only one talking?
It was like a math equation wrapped in words and put to music.
Every time he said it I would instantly become lost in a 15 minute haze of wonderment, trying to figure out why on earth he chose such a confusing statement.
Maybe he did it on purpose. Maybe that is the best way to deal with teenagers is just to confuse them until they shut up. It apparently worked for us.
Sometimes I think about that teacher and wonder how he came across that statement. Did his parents used to say it? Did his band teacher say it to him?
Who knows what he’d tell me, but whatever his reason, I’d probably say the same thing to him.
Hey if it works, knock yourself out.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sort of Borrowed Goods

Two or three times a year I leave the house without any deodorant on. I don’t do this on purpose; sometimes I just forget.

I have a very short attention span.

So short in fact, that I will walk from one room in my apartment to another room only 10 feet away to do something, do something else entirely, and not realize until hours later that I never did the thing I set out to do.

This has always been the case since I was a kid. My parents used to yell at me for not paying attention. But that’s not the case. I always paid attention. I paid attention to everything. That was the problem. I couldn’t pay attention for long because there was always something new I had to pay attention to.

It’s difficult being me.

So it is understandable that in the daily routine of getting ready in the morning, sometimes I leave out a crucial step like putting on deodorant.

If it is a normal workday it’s not a problem because I keep a stick of deodorant in my desk at work. I do this for my forgetful days or if I need to re-fortify the pits before leaving the office for what I anticipate being a particularly sweaty night.

However, if I am headed to any place but work, well then I have an issue. It’s at this point that I have to do some calculations.

How long I will be out + how much I like the people I will be around = Whether or not action must be taken

If that formula adds up to equal the fact that action must be taken, I head for the nearest drug store.

Now before you judge me, I will say no, I do not grab a brand new stick of deodorant from the shelf, open it, apply it to myself and then put it back on the shelf. That would be disgusting and also morally reprehensible. I’m not a savage after all. I understand that is completely unacceptable. I would never do that with a stick of deodorant.

That’s why I use the spray.

It’s not something I do a lot, I’ve probably only done it two or three times in my life. And it’s been necessary. Stinky times call for desperate measures.

The toughest part is doing it discreetly. It would almost definitely be easier to actually steal the entire bottle of deodorant spray than it is to use it without anybody noticing. I have to pretend to read the label of the bottle, discreetly look up and down the aisle and then… shove the bottle under my shirt so I can give a quick blast of chilly pressurized mountain fresh air into each pit.

You might not approve of this, but I can assure you the people I saw on those occasions certainly did.

And since I’m forgetful, it’s not only deodorant that’s gets left behind. Sometimes it’s something much more important like sun block.

Last year I was in Chicago for a conference.

I had a whole day to myself before the conference started. It was a brilliantly sunshiney day and I wanted to spend it outside eating and seeing the city.

I signed up for an Architecture boat cruise. And it wasn’t until about an hour before the cruise that I realize… I haven’t brought any sun block.

Again, predicament.

Now I could have easily have just purchased a bottle of sunscreen but they only had bottles over three ounces, which means that I was going to use it once, and then I would have to leave it behind since I wasn’t checking my luggage back to New York.

I didn’t want to waste all that sun block.

So I utilized my deodorant strategy and I located a drug store.

I walk into the drug store and locate the sun block aisle. There was no way I could effectively apply a cream to my body efficiently with enough time to actually protect myself and still not get caught at the same time. So I look around and I find the aerosol spray cans (which function very similarly to the spray deodorant I was familiar with pirating).

I take a look up and down the aisle… and then I panic.

This was going to require way more than two discreet sprays. I have a face and ears and neck and arms to cover. This drug store is far too crowded and there are too many people coming in and out of the aisles.

So instead I start a sort of walk-and-spray tour of the store. I walk down an aisle and when I think no one is looking I launch into what looks like an epileptic fit trying to cover as much of my body as I can in three seconds.

And I can’t do it for longer than that because sun block is fragrant. You always know when somebody is applying it.

So I’m walking up and down aisles, sporadically sun blocking myself, and the longer I do it, the faster my pulse races.

I finally think I have enough coverage and return the bottle to the shelf and walk out the door. But my hear was pounding so hard as I thought a security guard was going to full out tackle me before I got to the door.

But I made it out the door without any violence, and even better, I didn’t get burnt on the cruise.

I know it seems like I wasted a whole bunch of sun block, but don’t blame me.

Blame the TSA.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sumpin Good

It was called the sump.

Quite a name huh?

It was this reservoir/murky water/sewage area enclosure between the big town park and the driving range. I actually didn't know it was called the sump until I got to high school. The only reason I knew it was called the sump was because apparently, that's where teenagers would go to drink and smoke and do god knows what else.

And those stories always involved the sump.

I say god knows what else because I never found out… because I never went. Just like I never went or did a lot of things in high school. Not that I was a sheltered kid. In fact I would argue I had a more robust high school experience than most people. However, my experience consisted of things that did not happen in a sump.

I was never a part of that kind of crowd. Looking back you could probably have picked out the "Sump" crowd in 4th or 5th grade.

I might have had some casual acquaintance with pre-sump people back then, but that was it. I remember hanging out with my friend Jeff one day when he ran into a couple of his slightly older, slightly more nefarious friends. Pre-sump types. The types that left at each other's jokes but seemed to never hear mine. No matter how many times I repeated them.

Well Jet and I and the pre-sumpers were just walking around one day when we all went in to the local drug store. They all bought large cans of Arizona Iced Tea. I didn't particularly want one but I figured this was what cool people did. So I bought one too.

We then walked behind the bank and sat on the curb of the closed drive through teller drinking our iced teas. Like it was illegal or something. I distinctly remember stepping outside myself to observe us sitting against the backdrop of white washed brick and thinking "Is this what being cool is about? Sitting behind the bank and drinking Iced tea?"

It was merely a foreshadowing for years later when alcohol and cigarettes would replace ice tea and tires, broken glass (and possibly sewage) would replace white washed bank walls. Teenagedom was a far cry from adolescence.

People started referring to the gathering at the sump as "Sump Parties."

It seemed a strange pairing of words even back then. Like, Manure Fiesta or Compost Celebration.

But when you are a teenager with no privacy and nowhere else to go, I suppose a sump is the equivalent of a local Tijuana.

There might have even been a donkey at the sump, who knows.

I never went to the "sump parties" for several reasons. The first was, IT WAS AT THE SUMP. The idea of lying to my parents to hop over a fence into a park, to sneak through another fence, to scramble down a disgusting trash filled hill in the pitch black of night so I could hang out around of bunch of people I couldn't see smoking cigarettes just didn't get my joy meter spinning.

I was far more interested in staying home, watching Friday night television about idealized versions of high school and cramming things like waffles, ice cream and as many sugar based toppings as possible into a bowl in a sundae that probably should have come with a full medical and dental plan.

The other reason I never went to a sump party was because, well, I was never invited.

Now I'm sure most of the people who went weren't "invited." Ninth graders aren't known for sending out hand written invitations to partake in illegal activities. I'm sure most of the people just heard from somebody who heard from somebody else. They probably didn't need to say more than "alcohol, sump, night" to spread the word.

But I had never gone to an event that I wasn't invited to. We had these "float making parties" in 7th and 8th grade where a bunch of kids would get together to fold tissue paper flowers to go on the floats. But those weren't the kinds of parties that everybody wanted to go to.

Hey guys, who wants to do some manual labor?

But there were girls there, often lots of girls. So needless to say, I went. There was usually a healthy amount of pretzels and soda and that was good enough for me.

That wasn't a real party type of party with cool kids and sketchy goings on. Those were the kinds of parties that like... moms invited to me to. In fact looking back, I'm almost positive I was invited to more social gatherings by mothers of my friends than by my actual friends.

And that formalized invitation, which expressed interest in having me partake in a social function was something significant for me. I was invited and so I attended.

This inability to understand social gatherings would follow me into my college years when people down the hall said, "Hey we're going to a frat party." And my first thought was "were you invited?" I had never really gone anywhere I wasn't directly invited before. I always thought that the only people who were supposed to show up were those directly told of the event.

I've come a long way since then considering when I plan my own birthday I usually end up telling my friends "Tell anybody who might like me they should come."

Needless to say I haven't typically had epic turnouts at my birthday.

But then again, I've never had my birthday at the sump.