“And if the night runs over/And if the day won’t last/And if your way should falter/Along this stony pass”

1.

The average lifespan of a white American male is 78 years old. I am 37 right now, which means I’m screaming towards middle-age. The halfway point.

You know, if I’m lucky.

It’s been a rocky road, though, so I don’t expect that I’ll get to live out that average. Not because I’m a fatalist. Quite the opposite, in fact. I suspect my last words will be something along the lines of “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me” or “Really?” I don’t expect the end to come.

But I also recognize that it will. Probably soon rather than later. I’ve run my body at high speeds since the time I can remember. When I was in the sixth grade, I was the sixth man on our basketball team. My coach, Bucky, never put me in the game until the second quarter (unless things were going wrong early).

I was a caged tiger on the bench. My whole body would shake. Tremors. I couldn’t sit down. I would wave towels. Scream. Holler. Yell at the crowd. The refs. Anyone. (I received ten technical fouls as a sixth grader.)

When I finally got into the game, I was a hurricane. I was everywhere. Semi-controlled chaos. A flash of brilliance and a pop of mediocrity. All at 100 miles per hour.

After one game, a parent walked up to me and said: “I’ll tell you this Brad. When you go in the game, something always happens. It’s not always good. But something always happens.”

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The Year of Friends: San Francisco

The first stop in The Year of Friends will be San Francisco. After months of conflicting schedules, I’ve finally found a window (and a cheap flight) to the Bay Area. It’s quick, considering the meandering travels from which I just returned, but I’m excited.

I’ll arrive late Thursday, February 4 and return home Sunday, February 7. That gives me two full days to catch up with some old J-school friends and visit lots of little kiddies whom I haven’t seen in far too long. I suspect I’ll have far more pictures and videos than you care to see.

The Year of Friends

Since I’m taking 2010 by the horns with The Year of Health, I thought it good to handle the other side of things as well.

One of the problems (I use this term loosely as it’s not really a problem) about being single is it’s very easy to get caught up in the dating game. I’ve certainly done that. That’s not entirely a bad thing; however, I’ve invested too much time in people who really had no intention of investing time back.

To rectify that situation, I’ve declared 2010 The Year of Friends.

This doesn’t mean I won’t date, but it does mean that whoever comes along in my life is going to need to either buckle up and join or take a back seat. There’s no compromising on this particular detail. The right person will get this, and I suspect this will be a very good filter for the wrong kind of person.

As with The Year of Health, I’ll be writing about my progress as I visit some of the coolest people on the planet: my friends.

Here’s a basic itinerary.

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The Year of Health

On January 5, one of my students, Ben Luttrull, tagged me in a Facebook Note. He said he was starting on a program to get into better shape after years of neglect. His goal: lose 35 pounds and reorganize some of his life priorities. He tagged a few people who he hoped would support, cajole and push him in his journey.

That’s a pretty lofty goal he has, one that won’t come easily. I’m not much for motivational speeches (although I am one to talk) so I thought the best way to help Ben out was to join him in his quest. So I’ve declared 2010 The Year of Health, which means I’m going to finally quit smoking after years of talking about that and I’m going to finally try to get back to my fighting weight.

As part of this process, I am going to incentivize our work. Here’s the plan.

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F-U iPhone

The restrictive nature of Apple keeps me from ever purchasing one of their products, so I’m quite happy to have Google enter the marketplace. And this video…OH, the Spoof-manity.

“‘Really’ for an Animal is Whatever its Brain Needs it to be in Order to Assist its Survival”

There’s an un-driven purposefulness happening in my life right now, a mode to which I’m unaccustomed.

This is the type of silent, meandering emptiness from which I fled just a few years ago. The quiet solitude was meant only for hiding, the hollow space filled with the terror-filled visions of my head of what might lay ahead. Addicts know that fear. I suspect the mentally ill do as well.

A sickness in the fantasies your mind constructs. An overwhelming cloud, like a bag slid over your head, suffocating.

This is not that. It’s the opposite of that. It’s a feeling of serenity, floating emptiness where the petty bothers of the world around me have ceased to motivate me. For some, this may sound like hell, I guess. For others, it may sound apathetic.

I feel sorry for both of those kinds of people. Not condescendingly. That would require a belief that this way is the best way, a notion of Big T truth that I mostly reject. It’s something far more benign than that, one that I can’t explain to someone who doesn’t already get it.

***

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A House, In Pieces

We’re slowly upgrading the digs here in Austin. It’s a long process made more difficult by my current posting in Muncie, Indiana. Still we’re making process on the home.

We’re slowly getting the living room put together, although I can’t convince Andy that we should buy furniture. He’s convinced that we should wait until…well, I don’t know when.

Living_Room

Still, I think it’s a pretty cool looking room. Eventually we’ll have a wall-mounted television. The kitchen, though, will soon be the place to be.

Kitchen

Of course, the room that most excites me is my old room, which is now my room again. It’s not much to look at now, but I’m adding little bits and pieces each time I return. (For instance, in March for SXSW I’ll add a futon, a desk chair and a book case.)

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The Return

It’s day one back at the job, a return that I actually found to be far more pleasant than I would have imagined. I’m not accustomed to this warm feeling. I had, actually, dreaded today so much because of my life before now.

In previous years, a return to my work usually was also filled with some sort of dread. Mostly because my escape was just that…leaving behind some wrong, some hurt, or some unfinished something. It was a pattern for me, like people who push themselves to the limit only to get sick just as they complete a project.

The addict side of my brain new just how far to push before breaking. (And this says nothing about the drama and chaos that would swirl around the people I chose to keep so close in my life during those days.)

Needless to say, the dread I felt welling within (so much so that I returned to the Denver airport 5 hours before my flight because of the impending stress) never materialized. I was thankful to see my students today. I was greeted with a hug from my friend Jenn. Pleasant conversations all around.

These little moments filled my heart with a joy for life that is hard to describe. I just wanted to grab everyone, give them a little shake and say thanks. For nothing in particular.

This is that shake.

This Cabin Thing

General Butler State Park.

This is my writing refuge. The place I go where there is no other place for me to go. The chaotic swirls of my life don’t find their way here. I am not sure why. I do not question these places.

And yet I don’t always trust the quiet solitude. I fear the aloneness. Before I get here, anyway. Because so much of what can go wrong in my life I try to tie to the people around me. I look at the people who have been shed throughout the last 18 months of my life, at least the ones who brought so much negativity into my existence, and I know that our lives are better alone.

And yet.

There is a still a fear that comes with my solitude. The fear that I am the issue. The fear that those people shed were only part of a much larger, more sinister story. One where they feed into The Dragon. Food for my own self destructive tendencies.

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Surrounded…

I’ve been surrounded, for the last 24 hours, by the mistakes of my life.

The living, breathing ones. An object lesson in the non-linearity of time. No matter the distance traveled away from them, they are never more than a blink away.

I am not sure what to do with them. Which is a lie. Because there is nothing that can be done with them. They simply are. Although my mind is not quite yet convinced on this particular point.

Fortunately I learned to tread water as a child. This is a better object lesson.

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