Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Phantom Vibrations


I noticed it for the first time when I went to South America a couple of years ago. After 3 flights and nearly 24 hours of travel I had arrived in Santiago, Chile without my luggage. To kill time I took a walk around the city to start my day.

I was soaking up the sights and sounds when I felt my phone vibrate. I reached my hand into my pocket and… nothing. My phone hadn't vibrated because there was no phone. My phone didn't work internationally and there was no reason to have it with me so it was turned off and buried in the bottom of my backpack where it would remain until I returned to the states.

So if my phone wasn't in my pocket why did I feel this phantom ring?

It happened to me several more times that trip and it was weird, kind of spooky. Like I had a haunted thigh.

I was in South America for over two weeks and by the time I left the phantom vibrations had tapered off. I had very much realized that there was no phone in my pocket and the only vibrations were in my brain. But since that trip phantom vibrations happen to me regularly.

Part of it makes sense because I rarely have my phone on anything but vibrate. I used to have specialized ringtones for all of my friends but stopped doing that when I realized how much effort it was.

It's not saying that I don't love my friends and think they are all deserving of individual recognition... it's just that they are all equal in my eyes.

Ahem, moving on.

But what started as a coincidental observation in South America has turned into something more. I check my phone way too often. Sometimes it does vibrate but I don't feel it. I use this as a reason to justifying checking my phone every other minute. Perhaps it is not hyperbole to call it an addiction. What else do I do 20 or 30 or… 50 times a day?

It's the only activity that's normal to do that frequently. If I wanted to know if it was raining, I might check online, or look out the window. But if walked over to the window 30 times a day to see if it was raining, people would think I was a mental patient.

If my phone were a person, our conversations would go like this.

Hey do I have an email?
No.
Hey do I have a text?
No.
Hey did somebody tweet at me?
No.
What about an email?
No.
Are you sure?
Yes.
And still no texts?
No.
Do you want to check if I have any emails?
::punch::

Yes from time to time I do get some important emails. Perhaps my bank balance is low, or somebody needs a last minute favor, or a friend is unexpectedly in town, but on the whole as embarrassing as it is to say… my life isn't that important.

There aren't teams of people running around asking each other

What would Rich Boehmcke do? What does he think? We should email him immediately and find out.

And now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure I don't want teams of people wondering that.

Sometimes I will pull my phone out of my pocket and if the little green light in the upper right hand corner isn't blinking I will just put it back in my pocket. And in my head I will congratulate myself for resting the temptation to turn on the screen just to make sure.

Like this is some kind of great life accomplishment.

I pretty much did the same thing when I was down at my parents house this weekend. They live in a quiet part of South Carolina and going down there is absolutely relaxing. Their development is super quiet, nobody has anything to do, I just sit on the porch and chill.

I take this as an opportunity to not carry my phone around all the time. An added bonus of this is I no longer have a super hot nuclear generator toxic electro wave distribution power plant pressed up against my leg for much of the day. I am absolutely terrified of the as yet unknown effects of carrying a cell phone around all day so the chance to have it not pressed up against my flesh 2/3 of the day is a welcome relief.

But even when I take my phone out of my pocket and leave it in my room, throughout the day I will still walk past my phone and glance at it.

WHAT AM I EXPECTING TO SEE?

Even when I do have an email, 999 out of 1,000 times it is some unenlightening mailing list I subscribe to, or a bank update, or something else I don't even care about. But somehow that little frigging green light makes me feel validated. Like every time it blinks it says:

Richyouarespecial Richyouarespecial Richyouareloved

When I was in South America, or any of the other times I've left the country, I have had no problem leaving my phone in my luggage until I get back home. Because I WANT to unplug. I like stepping away from technology and connection. I like being off the grid for a while. I like taking the time to soak up things like conversations and scenery and ya know… life.

And when there is no chance of being contacted, I don't worry about what might being going on elsewhere. I went to Fiji earlier this year and not only did I not care about email or Facebook or texts, but I also couldn't stay awake for the entire day and I fell asleep every night by 10.

But for some reason, if there is even a remote possibility that somebody might potentially have a fraction of a reason to get in touch with me… man it is all I can do to avoid checking my phone every 90 seconds like I am about to get a text from Jesus.

What I really need to do is realize that if there IS actually something important about to happen, I can always just take out my phone and hold it in my hand, crank up the volume and wait for said event to occur.

But again, the chance of that happening is pretty slim. Considering there are no Victoria's Secret Models, Hollywood Producers, or Renaissance patrons of the arts who have my phone number.

So if there is a chance, a slim, fractional, remote chance that somebody… anybody, wonders what would Rich Boehmcke do?

Well, I'll answer them now. He'd probably just check his email.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reason # 1 Why I'll Never Be Cooler Than You

My feet are slanty.

I didn’t know this until the 4th grade. I always just assumed I had normal feet. In fact that’s pretty much how it goes for most of us isn’t it? We think everything fine until somebody else tells us it isn’t.

I had never really had any significant pains in my body before. Up until that point the worst thing to happen to me had been a fractured finger in the summer before the third grade.

Technically it was my sister’s fault. You see we were in the Poconos sitting upstairs on the fold out futons and watching Police Academy (it’s amazing what you remember) and she said something to anger little Richard.

So instead of hashing it out with words I ran at her with my arms extended like I was an athletic Frankenstein. All she had to do was put her foot out and then my perfectly straight ring finger turned into a janky swollen mess.

My mother splinted it up with the top of a band aid box. She was less than thrilled with my conflict resolution abilities.

It wasn’t too difficult to live with and it didn’t really affect my life much except it did delay the development of my cursive handwriting.

In fact I’ll just go ahead and blame my poor handwriting today on that.

But aside from that I had never had any major pain in my body. But then I started playing CYO basketball. And it wasn’t long after I started that I would feel this excruciating pain up and down my legs hours after I got home from practice.

My parents were baffled they didn’t know what to do. They would give me Tylenol and tell me to lay down on my bed. There I would lay while the numbing pain in my legs would just continue to throb.

This happened a few times before my mom finally took me to the foot doctor. I didn’t even know there was a foot specific doctor.  Imagine my surprise when my mother brought me to a house in the neighborhood next to ours.

Wait, so this “foot doctor” can just work out of his house? We’re sure he’s legit?

We didn’t go in his front door but a door next to the garage that led into his office. Immediately I was confronted with a smell of must and stagnation. It smelled liked what I might have imagined the 70s smelled like.

The d├ęcor was that of a turn of the century explorer. Animal heads and African art displayed amongst the 24 different kinds of brown that adorned the office.

The doctor himself was a nice man, nearly a relic himself with big soft hands that he used to gingerly touch my extremely ticklish feet.

The examination room was unlike any doctor’s office I had ever been. I distinctly remembering thinking there were many tools I had never seen and certainly did not understand.

But luckily I didn’t need to. The good doctor said my feet slanted in and I would need orthotics. He took molds of my feet and a couple weeks later I had new blue plastic inserts red padding and a blue leather cover that was glued to the top.

My instructions were to wear them in every pair of shoes I wore.

Forever.

That was one of my first inclinings that I was never going to be cool. I had never heard any of my cool friends talk about having orthotics. I had never heard ANYbody talk about orthotics.

As far as I knew I was the only person on the planet who had to wear orthotics.

I sought to alleviate my insecurities by sharing this latest development with some of my elementary school “friends.”

I explained in earnest that I now had these plastic inserts I had to wear in my shoes all the time because I was getting really bad leg pains due to the slanted in nature of my feet.

And do you know what my “friends” said in response?

RICH HAS RETARDED FEET!

Damn it.

I even remember the part of the hallway on the second floor just before the staircase we were walking past the first and last time I told anybody I wear orthotics.

I eventually grew used to them and became comfortable putting them in all of my shoes. They became second nature; I just switched them from shoe to shoe whenever I change shoes. I realize right away if I’ve accidentally put on shoes that don’t have them.

It also makes trying on shoes considerably more embarrassing. Like when the shoe clerk brings out a pair and instead of just putting them on, I pull out my orthotics and slide them into the shoes as the clerk looks on with complete bafflement.

It’s like I pulled my own salad dressing out of my pocket at a restaurant.

Trust me shoe clerk, this has nothing to do with you or your shoes. It’s my feet.

Most shoes don’t account for custom plastic inserts to be added later. So a lot of shoes I really like end up being way too uncomfortable to purchase.

And I suppose it’s for the best. Maybe it’s god’s way of telling me (Through my slanty feet) that I should focus on being comfortable instead of cool.

I’m 28 years old now and have been wearing my orthotics for 18 years without interruption. However my mother will still ask me from time to time:

Are you wearing your orthotics?

Trust me mom. Between the excruciating leg pain or the inability to purchase cool shoes, I’ll stick with my uncool shoes.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chasing the Familiar

I’ve been there 100 times in dozens of different locations. I’ve spent money, I’ve used gift cards, and I’ve ordered things I never quite understood. And while I might have had the sensation many times before… I don’t think I actually realized it until just recently: I find a kind strange familial comfort in Starbucks.

A couple of weeks ago when we were first starting rehearsals for my upcoming play, I had met my actors at a Starbucks to read through some lines for a couple of hours. It was early Sunday morning when I emerged from the subway in midtown east.

It was one of those delicious fall mornings in Manhattan when you want to walk for blocks and never stop. I was chewing on my love of the weather when I walked into the Starbucks and immediately I was transported back to college.

Even though Starbucks had become ubiquitous long before I left for college. During high school I had spent plenty of time shooting the shit with friends over hot chocolate when we just needed to get out of house.

I would grab my coat and keys to leave the house when my mom would say:

Where are you going?
Mike and I are going to grab some coffee at Starbucks
But you don’t drink coffee...
I know, it’s a saying. I'll have a hot chocolate.
Then why do you say…
Bye Mom!


We had the exact same conversation almost every time.

Sometimes we’d drive to a different Starbucks just because we could. It seems we spend the first half of our lives looking for something different, and the latter half looking for more of the same.

But for as much time as I spent in Starbucks in high school, the first inhalation I take when I walk through the door always puts me on the campus of Arizona State University.

When I got to college I got a meal plan. There were points you could use for dining in the cafeteria or flex dollars you could use pretty much anywhere on campus. Those flex dollars made you feel like a member at any of the places you used them. Like you were above cash or credit. One of the places I went regularly was Starbucks.

Starbucks was where I discovered you could get a peppermint shot to kick up your cocoa. It’s where I discovered chai. And it’s also where I discovered too much chai could make my eye twitch for a week.

It was this easy breezy beverage dispensary that was almost always completely different inside the doors than outside of them.

Outside the familiar green lady looked at you with seemingly open arms. Inside it was almost always a little warmer, (or in the blistering Arizona summers, a lot cooler) it smelled wonderful and the music was mellow with just enough pep to make your foot tap if you were prone to such inclinations.

I think about the college friends I chatted with while at Starbucks. I think about the girls I dated and sat for hours with. I think about killing time before and after class.

But when the weather turns cold Sarbucks almost always makes me think of the holidays.

Just as Macy’s puts up its Christmas trees in early October, and Rockefeller center has their ice skating rink up by Halloween, Starbucks cues up the season with decorated windows, holiday cups and limited time seasonal flavors just as the leaves start to hit the ground.

Pumpkin spice, gingerbread, hazelnut and peppermint are the four horsemen of the holiday season.

Maybe it is the fact that in the winter time I almost always end up there with a loved one, huddled together while swathed in multiple woolen layers clutching those paper cups trying desperately to get warm.

And I am pretty positive my hot chocolate intake would be a fraction of what it is today without Starbucks.

Starbucks is where I discovered new Christmas music by old artists, or old music covered by new artists. It is where I discovered my affinity for their exotic smells and renewed my affinity for whipped cream.

It’s the familiar dark wood and faux iron furniture. The occasional couch when you find one and it happens to be empty. The green straws. The recycled napkins. The sounds of steaming, spitting, machines doing god knows what.

I make fun of my parents for being in love with The Panera Bread Company, a cozy chain restaurant known for its soups and sandwiches. When they moved to South Carolina they bemoaned the loss of Panera bread the way most people remember a long lost friend.

And when a Panera finally opened down the road from them, they told me often how when I came down to visit we could go there. Strange thing, going down to South Carolina to go to a restaurant I had been to dozens of time in NY.

But upon closer inspection my affinity for Starbucks was really no different. The familiar layout, regular menu items, sounds, and smells were the same hooks that tied my parents to Panera.

I was traveling in Paris one summer while backpacking in college. I was walking with a friend who mentioned having to stop off at the "American Embassy."

Imagine my surprise when she ran into a McDonalds to use the bathroom. I suddenly understood the reference.

If McDonalds was her American embassy then perhaps Starbucks is my college embassy. It is a place that I will always enjoy going if only for the fact that it reminds me of a time when my psyche was clay, my eyes were wide and my story was very much unwritten.

And also for their whipped cream. That helps too.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Content is King


When I applied to speak at the 20 Something Blogger Summit in Chicago this summer I basically gave them a list of 239 things I could speak about in the hopes that they would select me. They ended up choosing me to speak about “The Future Will Be Vlogged.”

Seemed like a fancy title, but it wasn’t until I started thinking about it that I realized I had a lot to say about that. It wasn’t just because I had created content in the past, and made videos, and posted things on the Internet. No, it was because I was getting frustrated.

Everything I saw on the Internet was so negative and snarky. Or if wasn’t directly making fun of something it was parodying it. Now I definitely believe parody can be awesomely relevant, but it just seemed liked anything that was made was parodying something else and it seemed so derivative.

And video blogging? Forget it. It seemed like every video blog I had ever came across was some pimply tween whining about how they found a hole in their sock during math.

Who cares?

So how the hell was I going to lead a session in Video blogging when I hadn’t really found anything I wanted to watch?

Well lucky I didn’t have to talk about what I liked, only what the future would hold. And luckily people tweeted live as I moderated this panel so what follows is what I actually said, and what I meant.

There is a tremendous demand for content. The rate we share content outpaces the rate we create.

In the beginning there were very few platforms whereby you could create content and share it with your friends. But then the ability to share became second nature. And amongst the major social platforms we now get bombarded with the same videos from different people on a regular basis.

That becomes an issue when every channel is airing the same shows and movies. When every website has the same videos. When you can see a piano playing cat on YouTube, Facebook, twitter, and dozens of other places.

For a while the pendulum was swinging in the direction of sharing. And while the rate at which we share will never slow down, the demand for content is now just as important. That is why you have brands like Hulu, Yahoo, YouTube, Netflix and more doing their own original content.

For a while people wanted to ingest content as fast as they could, but with that means content gets old quickly. Those who create content in the future will control it.

Content isn't a well that runs dry. It's endlessly refreshed

So many people have had great ideas for scripts, a series, or some other type of broadcasted content that they haven’t implemented because they worried about using up their good ideas.

The thing about creating though is that it’s not a one-time thing. Sure you have one hit wonders and people who do one big thing and never work again. But for the large majority of people, if you have enough in you to make one thing, chances are you have enough in you to make another. Making begets making. Start making something and see where it takes you.

It's not a challenge to find out how to be different. It's a challenge to be MORE of yourself.

And now with the hierarchy of content creators flattened and everybody having the ability to create whatever they want whenever they want, people worry, oh how will I stand out.

And so that is why you have people being audacious and ridiculous online. Doing incredibly stupid things to get attention. And sure it might work for a time. But since now everybody can make stuff, the possibility that someone out there is making something for YOU is greater than ever.

My prediction for the future is that there will be fewer major celebrities and what you will see is the rise of middle class celebrities. Not to say that minivans will become extremely popular. Rather I mean that there will be new niches and audiences that will spring up as more people connect with those with the same interests. And the best way to do that is by talking about or just doing the things you truly love.

The transition from content creator to curator happens fast. They like you; they want to know what you like.

And this is how those middle class celebs will come to be. Since we now all have an online presence, the people who like what we make will be curious to see what we like. This is how community is built, people liking things together.

So the people that never thought they could make anything will make stuff and people will see it and follow the stuff that those people making stuff never thought anybody would care to see.

Make sense? It probably shouldn’t.

Things that people have said will never work, work all the fucking time.

OK granted this is pretty vulgar but it’s true. I swear when I’m emphatic. And I am emphatic about this. The success of our culture is based on the principle that people who say stuff won’t work HAVE to be wrong.

Nobody knows for sure anymore. I have no idea what will work or what won’t. But I know what I love, and I know what I love to do. And I know how I feel when I do those things. So if I can pursue those things without harming anybody and while making myself happy… why the hell not?

So if somebody tells you no, well, just remember what Brian Grazer says:

No is just a moment in time.

I left that conference extremely enthusiastic about what I had to say and what people were eager to know. And thusly, after mocking, making fun of, and privately judging video bloggers… I became one. (anything I made fun of I eventually became.)

It supports the things I stated here. I talk about what I love. I keep it relevant. It is positive. And most importantly, I make it happen fast.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

90 Second Love.