42nd and Tillamook

“How are you?” She asked, standing on the corner of 42nd and Tillamook, waiting next to me for the light to change. I turned, headphones in, sunglasses on, fairly hungover on a Thursday afternoon.  As I turned, and she looked up at me. This mid-50s hippie woman, red hair in braids, with a kind expression, framing kind eyes. I definitely did not know her.

“I’m fine, thanks, how are you?”  This town is full of hippies and weirdos, homeless and eccentrics.  This exchange was not completely out of the norm, yet she didn’t neatly fall into any of those boxes.

“Are you okay?”  She asked gently.  Staring at me intensely, but in a way that expressed concern, compassion.  Not quite a smile on her lips, but more of an easy understanding. The type you share with an old friend.

“I will be.” I said.  But in that moment, I was very much not fine.  I was anything but fine. At that moment, before she broke through my cloud of self-loathing, insecurity, sadness and anger; I couldn’t decide whether to take off for South America, cry, or jump off the Fremont bridge.  I looked at her, my eyes still behind dark glasses, and tried not to cry.

“Yes, I believe you will be.”  And with that, the light turned, and we went our separate ways.  I took a deep breathe, and watched her walk away without hesitation.

Six days ago, I either quit my job, or got fired.  I’m still not exactly sure which. One of those awesome stories you see in a movie, “you can’t fire me, I quit!” is really not that awesome in real life.  Six years at a company I truly enjoyed, with people I enjoyed, and I was too stubborn to make it work. One day ago, I got dropped by a girl who I really thought I had a future with.  A lovely girl, who I truly adored. I was feeling very lost and out of control in my life. I got to be a certain age, my mid 30s to be exact, where I thought I had some things figured out.  I can rationally look at it, and understand that no one truly ever has it figured out, that life is journey, an adventure, and we’re constantly learning and evolving along the way, but in that moment, I was not rational.

How did she know?  How could that woman on the street possibly have known?  I was wearing a ball cap, big sunglasses, had my headphones in…the universal sign of, “I’m not interested in talking to you.”  And yet she did, she reached out to a stranger, because she knew that stranger needed it. She could feel it. I am grateful to that woman.

And I am not okay, but I will be.

To be 30

timberspic

one of the truly great things in my life.

And life is such a funny thing. When you’re in your early twenties, you think that not only do you know it all, but that you have every opportunity in front of you. And then you get a little bit older, not much older, but you hit thirty, and you realize that you know very little, and that opportunities haven’t come like you’d imagined them. I knew that I didn’t know shit when I was twenty, and thirty still snuck up on me.

I have a beautiful life. I live in an amazing city filled with amazing friends. I have a “career” job that’s mildly interesting, cheap rent, and a girlfriend that I absolutely and completely adore. Sometimes I wonder how I got to be so lucky.

At the same time, I wonder, “is this it?” Is this what someone is supposed to do in their 30s? Let their dreams fade in exchange for comfort and respectability? I don’t know. Truly, I have friends on both sides of the spectrum, and I haven’t a clue which is better. Both look appealing and appalling at the same time. The suburbs aren’t calling, and it’s nice to be able to go out for dinner, to afford decent beer.

I want more. I always have, but at this moment, I’m not even sure what that means. I’m not passionate about my job, but I enjoy it all the same. I’m good at it. I adore my friends, but even concerts and bars and madness gets stale after awhile. What else is there? I went fishing the other day, for the first time in a long time, and I caught the biggest fish of my life. Twice. Is this where I’m supposed to find my pleasure and fulfillment? Is this where I’m supposed to find solace, when my week isn’t going so well? I’m not sure that I’m ready to commit to that quite yet.

I used to want to be something, be anything, big. And while the terms of that may have shifted, I’m pretty sure the desire is still there. Isn’t it for all of us? The dream is making your mark on the world, of people knowing your name, or at least your work? I wonder what it means, when that starts to fade. Or when you have no idea how to accomplish it. Or what accomplishing it even means anymore.

I know I find satisfaction and comfort in things that I used to find boring. Is that growing up? Is that just getting old? I do know that I got up before the sun last weekend to get good seats at a soccer game. I sang and danced and screamed my lungs out for my adopted city’s team. I held the hand of a beautiful girl during all of it.

Maybe, and just perhaps, life isn’t a movie. Life is the moment. Those fantastic little moments that give you joy. That make you feel comfortable and happy and wanted and safe. Maybe life is just a song that builds and flows and ends with a crash, and none of it matters too much, because its just a song. But those notes, those moments that make you feel alive, maybe that’s what its all about.

I don’t have the answers, and I still struggle with it. But I know that filling my life with those moments is a beautiful thing. Maybe I’ll never write a novel, or open a brewery, but I think as long as I have those moments, I’m doing just fine.

 

Originally posted at the Hooray Collective.

Give me More.


It’s cold today. Not Minnesota cold, but cold nonetheless. I have the day off, and the sun is out, so I can’t really complain. It’s one of those days where things just feel right. I spent the last hour wandering around Oldtown. Headphones in, and my hard face on; but on the inside, I’m smiling.

I miss it down here. I live on the eastside now, in a regular neighborhood. I don’t run into many gutter punks or addicts anymore. I don’t see any homeless or street preachers outside my building anymore. And I’m not sure this is a good thing. I miss the grit. I miss the street. I miss the hustle. I miss the chaos and the insanity of it all. I miss the desperation. I miss the realness of daily life lived by people so close to the edge. So close that you can feel the tension in the air. So close that it seems like the whole neighborhood could go off at any moment. That it could go off just for fun, for something to do.

I sleep a lot more than I used to. And I’m not sure why. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting soft, like I’m losing my edge. I don’t feel as hungry, or as angry as I used to. And I’m not sure if that’s a good thing. I haven’t made it yet. I’m still as broke as I ever was. I’m just as broke as when I used to live down here. I just sleep a lot more.

I stopped into Floyd’s to get some coffee and some inspiration. It’s packed full of yuppie office people this morning. The baristas are the same, and they smiled because they remember me. And that feels nice. But the homeless and the addicts are gone. Which is somehow sad. I used to come here and write for hours. Back when I felt like everything I had to say was new and important. That my take was unique, and my style was fantastic. Back when I was hungry. Before I knew better. It’s tough to type here now. A skinny hipster with a skinny tie and oversized glasses keeps glancing sideways at me. I want to call him out, but that doesn’t seem right anymore. Seems like Floyd’s belongs to him now, and not to me. When did that happen?

hard face.

hard face.

It’s still cold in here, which I like. Motivates me to keep my fingers warm by moving swiftly across well worn keys. My beat-up, sticker covered laptop is the only one without a glowing Apple on the back. And I’m pretty sure people are judging me because of it. Odds would say that I’m the only one listening to hip hop at the moment too. Gently bobbing my head to the beat seems to be earning me scowls of disapproval too.

I’m not sure when I began to crave their approval, but I don’t think I like it. I think I need more Oldtown in my life. More late nights in the dive bars, just warm beer and the glow of the screen. More early mornings in the out of the way shops; black coffee, an empty stomach, a pen and pad. More hip hop and punk rock.

More about me, and less about them. I want more.

No Red Lights Tonight

I may not be the best, but I’m in the top two.

Who are these people who wait for the Walk signal? Standing there, with no traffic coming in any direction, yet not crossing the street. These people are not random downtown wanderers. These people have a destination in mind, a purpose. And yet they don’t seem to be in any rush to get there. Sometimes alone, or some times in whole groups, I see them wait for the signal. Not daring to step into the street without permission from the electronic box. Waiting for permission from society to act.

Who are these people, respecting authority to the point of absurdity? Are they that scared of The Man that they’ll waste their life standing on the corner until some complex traffic control algorithm in some computer somewhere decides that it’s their turn to walk? I’m not talking about the assholes who step into a busy street and just assume that the cars will stop. Fuck those guys. I’m talking about the people who wait for the light, even though they cannot see a single moving car on any street in any direction. These people confuse and sadden me.

These are the people of the world who color inside the lines. And God Bless them for that. They are the ones who keep society in tact, safe. These are not the Risk Takers. Perhaps not even people who think for themselves. They have their safe lives, and they’re happy in them. Or at least they think they are. And to me, it’s really one and the same. I won’t question their happiness. Maybe they could share a little with me? Perhaps the key to life is waiting for that light to flip from red to white. But I don’t think that’s the life that I want. And that’s probably not my version of happiness anyway. Waiting in the rain for the light to turn so I can shuffle across the pavement and continue on with my life? No Thanks.

I prefer the risk takers. Those who see things the way they are, and take advantage of the situation. Those who put themselves out there, and see how things work out. The ones who don’t play it safe all the time, and especially don’t wait for the rest of us to tell them when it’s safe to move. The ones who take a chance on something just slightly outside the mainstream. Something outside the norm, and even better if it’s outside of their own comfort zone. Those who do something original and creative, who take a chance on life. Those people are my heroes. Those people are my inspiration. The ones who create music, create a business, create a new existence from themselves as well as the rest of us.

The ones waiting for the light to turn?

I’m not interested in that sort of thing. I walk fast, and my brain moves faster. I’m not jumping in front of busses or anything, but I’m also not waiting for the light to turn. I’m onto the next thing. The next block, the next idea, the next sentence, the next song, the next idea. I want to get there first.

Some of us don’t have time to waste, waiting for the light to change.

In the words of my man Wyclef, as he said in the “Intro”, “We ain’t stopping for no red lights tonight.”

Musings from the Lucky House

It was 85 degrees at 6:53 am in her tiny walk-up apartment.  I’d been awake for an hour, sweating, staring at a ceiling fan as the blades lazily made their rounds.  Light was starting to creep in through her beige blinds, and she snored softly next to me.  I was content to let her sleep, as this may have been the first real sleep she’d gotten after a night of fighting for air and space as we both tried to find acceptable sleeping arrangements.

I sighed, and wondered about the weirdness of it all as I admired her firm pale breasts.  Sharp tan lines outlined a clever triangle of white, surrounding soft pink nipples.  They heaved gently as she slept, her arm thrown across her eyes, trying to block out the light; trying to steal just a few minutes more sleep.  Truly outstanding breasts.  Surprisingly on display since she’d announced, “It’s too hot for clothes,” a few hours earlier.

She looked at me when she said that, her eyebrow raised.  Perhaps an invitation, perhaps a suggestion, perhaps a challenge.  I smiled back, one of those smiles, and I followed her lead as we stripped down to our respective underwears.  We’d had a couple beers over the course of the night, but you couldn’t have called either of us drunk.  This was out of necessity; this was an attempt to stay cool.  Yet hot, humid nights like these were made for passion and sweat-soaked sheets.

Instead, we just stared at each other.  Her soft greenish-brown eyes and my light blues.  Sad eyes reflected in each other, daring each other to be the first to make a move.  Her glorious breasts on full display, and the hint of mischief on her lips.  It would start with contact, as it always must.  Gentle finger tips across her collarbone, maybe my toes nudging hers, or the brushing of her soft brown hair from sleepy eyes.  She would have responded in turn, and our respective underwears would have joined the rest of our clothes, strewn out on the floor.

But not this night.  This night, I wanted more than sweat and passion and clothes thrown all over her apartment.  I wanted more than embarrassed smiles the next morning.  I wanted the sense of peace and security that comes from something more.  I wanted to curl up, with her head buried in my shoulder, as we told each other about our days.  I wanted to hold hands in the grocery store, as I clowned her hippy tendencies, and she admonished my eating habits.  I wanted to make her coffee in the mornings, as she scrambled for work, always five minutes late.

But this night was not that night.  And the mood was all wrong, with the heat turned up way too high.  Instead we just starred at each other, and wondered what might have been, not what could be.  Later, once she was awake, I hugged her tightly from behind and kissed her left shoulder blade with a firm finality.

She asked if I wanted to keep a key to her apartment while she was at work.  I declined, and caught a cab to the airport.

untitled (period)

ImageThe neon of her shoelaces detracted from the seriousness of her scowl.  And allowed her mean words to ring somewhat hollow.  It was if she were playing a role, trying to be pissed, at the consistency of her soy based mocha latte (no whip).

Which is fine.  Because it’s Friday.  And I’m getting out of the city.  The sun smiles down on me today.  Just like it kisses her shoulders.  When she wears that one particular sundress.  You know the one that I mean.  My body betrays me with its constant craving of cigarettes, but they tell me that too shall pass.  My head betrays me by struggling between asserting independence and craving companionship.  My left foot betrays me, sometimes when it’s cold, from that time I broke it in New Zealand, playing soccer on the beach with a bunch of European surf rats.  My fingers betray me, with their constant pushing of the comma key on this battered, but beautifully stickered laptop.

Construction starts outside my window at 7:17 in the am.  And it makes me murderous until at least 7:23.  There isn’t much to say this morning, which seems to only happen when I sit down to attempt typing it.  Which makes sense when there are a million things I want to say, and can only shrug and smile.  With sad eyes.

It’s supposed to be mid-90s this weekend, and I will fry like a lobster.  Though that may not be the proper wording.  Does one fry a lobster?  Bake like a lobster!  That’s what I was looking for.  With a side of garlic butter.  And hopes and dreams for garnish.  And striving to do better, to accomplish something tangible.  For myself, first.  But also for all those who have said I have talent, and that they believe in me.  For those who’ve passed, and didn’t get the chance to live up to lofty expectations.  The most beautiful words in the world are, “I have faith in you.”

But mostly for myself.  I guess I’m selfish in that respect.

(and yes. that’s me in the photo above. queenstown, new zealand)

On Break Ups

this song fits these words…

And you wonder just when exactly things started to go wrong.  And then, even more depressingly, you wonder if things were ever right in the first place.  And even though you know it’s for the best, it still hurts.  The morning after it’s finally over, perhaps a month after it should have been, the world is a new place.  You are free to do anything you’d like.  It’s a new beginning.  Freedom from responsibility and accountability.  You don’t have to worry about being hurt, or hurting someone else.  Someone you might still really care about.  You can smile at that cutie on the train, and not vaguely wonder whether or not it’s a good idea.  You can take up jogging, or finally give up smoking, get back to that neglected reading list…or get back to the seriousness of writing that book you’ve been working on.

The sunshine will probably be smiling at you on this particular morning, and you will feel very alive.  But then something will remind you of her.  Probably a song you hear in passing, or maybe a particular sundress that looks just like hers.  But without a doubt, something will sneak up on you.  And you will be sad, even though you know better.  And you will struggle to walk the fine line of not needing the validation of another person’s love; and striving to be a person worthy of adoration.

And the next day, you will wake up alone, and you will remember just how much you enjoyed waking up next to her.  So comfortable, so safe.  So happy.  You’ll remember her gentle breathing and the hint of a smile on her face as she dreams.  And you might have wondered just what it was that she was dreaming of, and though you might not tell her so, you’ll secretly hope she was dreaming of you.

You won’t really remember the bad times so much right now.  That might come later, or that part might just fade away.  You’ll remember things like the rush you got from seeing her name on the caller ID when she lit up your phone, just to send a smiley face on a random Tuesday afternoon.  You’ll remember the way you made her smile when you made coffee and made her bed in the mornings as you both scrambled to get ready for work.  You’ll remember the way she squeezed your hand when you were together at a concert, saying, “hi, I know we’re in the crowded place having fun with all these friends, but I’m thinking of you.”

And even though you know it’s for the best, you can still be lonely.  And when I say “you” I mean “me”.  I am so incredibly lonely right now.

random

Wake up, it’s just another morning.  Fight From Above said that, before the death of fun in that glorious summer of 2011.  Or was it 2008?  It’s been so long since I’ve been to LA.  Disregarding issues of timing, they had the sentiment nailed.  The world doesn’t stop spinning while we sleep, and the sleep isn’t any good these days either.  They’ve stolen that from us.  Along with the living wage, and an essential faith in the democratic process.  I met James Carville yesterday, he was as cool as advertised.  But not me, I’m much cooler on paper.  And a polar bear’s toenails don’t do him a whole lot of good when he’s tap-dancing on ice this thin.

That bum might be kind of handsome with a haircut, and less drug scabs on his face.  Everyone will take a line from this and thinks it means something.  But it doesn’t.  Sometimes you want things to be one way, but they’re not.  Smiles are a fleeting form of hard currency, and I’m rich like King Midas.  My sandals are starting to wear thin, I sure hope tips pick up.  I play men’s league basketball, and they call me a youngin’ so why do I feel so old sometimes?

The train is delayed due to police activity.  The implications are vague.  When the sun shines like it does today, it’s hard to be serious about life.  Even ironically so.  Winding stairs take you down to the basement, where the action lives.  DJ’s spinning, and people drinking, everyone looks beautiful in this sort of dim lighting.  Lightning and thunder crashed a day ago, and people lost their minds.  It reminded me of home.  I saw an ex-gf carrying her puppy through downtown the other day, maybe it was defective.  We pretended not to notice each other…maybe she wasn’t pretending.  My use of commas can be overwhelming at times.

Sundress season is officially upon us.  Which makes it a beautifully depressing time to be alive.  The bathroom is through an unmarked door, which is smart.  This is Oldtown, after all.  Gutter punks stumble past, along with artists and the occasional business professional.  It’s a very excellent place.  I feel very at home.  They know me here.

You can see the mountain in the distance, if you happen to look east while crossing the river on the Red, Blue, or Green line.  I’m a public transit ninja, in a Robin Hood sort of way.  My beat up Chucks are in an attic somewhere in Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean the mindset has changed.  I’m skinnier than I have been in years, and my wallet is considerably lighter, but my words carry more weight.

But mostly, all I’m looking for is a hand to hold.

No Pity in the Rose City

It was a beautiful morning in downtown Portland.  I’d just walked my lady friend to her office in the sort of spring sunshine that brings the promise of cook-outs, and beach trips, and pixies in cutie sundresses.  The morning was bright and clear, and people on the street smiled at each other as they passed.  Smiles filled with the type of understanding that comes from many months of winter rain, and accompanied gloom.  Life was good that morning, and we could all feel it.

I turned onto Burnside and was confronted by a middle-aged homeless man beating the shit out of a fire hydrant, with what appeared to be a rolled-up newspaper.

His body heaving with anger, but he made no sound.  Just furious smacks ringing out against the morning traffic, complemented by grunts of exertion.  The light changed, but I made no move to cross the street.  This was way too interesting.  What could possibly be going on in his head?  Shaggy homeless dread locks flying through the air, framing the thin sheen of sweat that had developed across his forehead.  The light changed back and traffic moved once again, drivers staring on in a mixture of shock and horror and intrigue, not trusting their still sleepy eyes and the sight that confronted them before they’d had a chance to enjoy their second cup of coffee.  This is Portland, but keeping it weird has limits.  There must be limits, and a middle aged homeless man absolutely beating the snot out of a fire hydrant with a rolled up newspaper at 8:53 in the morning is simply unreasonable.

The man stopped and stared at me.  I stared back.  It’s best not to show fear in these types of situations, but to play it cool, like this is nothing new or out of the ordinary.  I shrugged, as if to show him that I understood, and in a way, I did.  Who hasn’t been there?  Society, and the need for acceptance is what holds us back from such acts of casual, yet intentional violence.  But a man removed from those constraints is free to act accordingly.  Perhaps I’d just witnessed something beautiful.

A crowd had gathered at the intersection, a mixture of downtown office workers and joggers and tourists; we all waited for the light to change.  A tattooed punk with a bike stood next to me, having seen most of the incident.  An older couple of affluence, complete with their Portland Guide book and expensive Japanese camera stood slightly behind us, peering at a map, trying not to make eye contact.

Suddenly, the man was back in action.  Grunting and swinging, beating on that fire hydrant once again with what remained of his rolled up newspaper.  Clearly fighting demons that I would never understand.  The punk and I shared raised eyebrows, and exchanged shrugs of, “well, what are you going to do?” while the tourists swore under their breath about the ‘homeless problem’ in downtown Portland.

The punk turned to them in a voice hard with pride, and said, “The fuck did you just say?”

The tourists, clearly startled and overwhelmed, first with the savage beating the homeless was laying down on an innocent fire hydrant, and then by the accusatory tone of this tattooed beast, replied, “Someone should do something about him, he’s clearly on drugs, at least our homeless in San Francisco are well-behaved.”

I studied the black swirling letters on the punk’s neck, as they bulged to constrain his anger. “Fuck you, and Fuck California!” He shouted as the light turned, and the masses swarmed into the street.  And he was right.  The homeless may be crazy here, but they’re our homeless.

As he crossed the street, I was able to read the letters on the back of his neck, “Rose City Pride

Faith vs Work

I’m a very strong believer in having faith.  Having faith in life, faith in my friends, faith in the strangers I meet on the street.  But more than anything, I have faith that things will work out for the best.  And that’s a dangerous thing.  It’s a dangerous trap to fall into.  You can’t always send positive vibes out, and just expect good things to come back to you.  It certainly doesn’t hurt to have faith, but faith is only half of it.  There is also the rest of it.

At some point it hit me that no matter how much positive energy I send out, I can’t sit around waiting for good things to fall into my lap.  There is also the putting in work part.  The long hours and the grind that every successful person knows.  This is a fact of life, and something I’d forgotten about.

No one is going to hand you a job, a contract, a life out of nowhere.  These are things you have to work for.  This is the getting up early part.  The long nights, the struggle, the grind.  These are the failures that you don’t dwell on, because you get back up the next morning, and do it all over again.  This is putting yourself out there, and taking chances.  Having hope, having faith in long shots, but putting in the hours that no one knows about.  All the work that goes along with it.

I know this life, I used to embrace it.  But somewhere along the line, I’d forgotten the rules to this game.  Maybe it was traveling, where you have to take things easy, and not get too upset when things don’t go as planned, because there is literally nothing you can do about it.  I think maybe that carried over when I came back to the States.  This complacency, this outlook that things will always work out in the end.  And then you wake up one day, and you know what you want, but you have no idea how to get it.  And you’re not sure how’ve you gotten to this particular spot in life.  That’s where the work part comes in.

Career, relationships, happiness in your personal life, they all follow the same rules.  You won’t just land that dream job without the long hours at thankless internships and entry level positions.  She won’t love you just because you want her to.  You won’t wake up with a happy, fulfilled life just because you’re a good person.  No one is going to hand you a book deal because you put up a couple blog posts every now and again.

Having hopes and dreams are important in life.  Turning those into measurable goals are the key.  Grinding it out, and taking chances are a necessary part of the process.  I remember that now.  I’m not scared of work.  I’m not scared of the overnight shift, or the double shift, or working weeks without time off.  I’m not scared of working full days for someone else, coming home exhausted, and then putting in countless more hours for me.  Writing, typing, revising, editing, posting, and then typing some more.  I’m not scared to go without sleep.  Sometimes that’s the only way.

You’ve got to keep the faith, but you’ve got to put in the work too.  You’ve got to be a good person, but you’ve also got to grind.  You’ve got to have dreams, but you’ve got to put in the hours to turn them into reality.  You’ve got to take chances and put yourself out there, but you’ve got to get up early the next morning and do it all again when things don’t go exactly as you’ve hoped.

Keep the faith, but in the meantime, put the hours in.  It’ll all work out, but only if you work hard enough for it.

Amazing inspirational video, I want to wake up in the mornings and brush my teeth with this video. This clip came to me via my bud Martin who writes at Siempre Mejorando, take a second to check him out.