The People We Wanted to Be

A decade has passed since that awful day on September 11, 2001. In terms of your memory, that’s a long time. The major moments tend to stick, but the bits and pieces of it all flitter away into the mind, gone from most purposeful thought.

What it leaves, though, is a filtered version of the things that mattered that day — and the days after. Those moments and emotions that have stuck have become my defining view of that day’s events.

I am prone to disappearing. I find ways to sequester myself from the world, whether driving alone when I could take the train or locking my doors on the weekend and emerging again only when it’s time for work. I am, and have always been, a solitary creature. That’s not to suggest to don’t love people. In fact (and surprisingly), I have a great passion of them.

Many times, I just find all of the emotion to much to handle. I get overloaded with expectations, with disappointments, with joys. To survive, I need solitude to recharge and reboot.

In those terrible hours and days and weeks after 9/11, I remember not wanting that solitude. I remember looking around at the faces in the offices of Wired.com, professionals who were trying to find a way to make our stories make a difference from 3,000 miles away, and wanting to stay with everyone. On that awful day, people lingered about, not wanting to go home. I ended up sitting in a bar with my editor, one with whom I had a terrible relationship, and just processing through what we had seen. There were few words. Just silent drinking.

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And So Another Ends To Begin Again

brad_andyI met this dude in 1996, the year I rolled into Austin. We worked together at Trudy’s. We also became best friends over a bottle of Jameson’s Irish Whiskey while discussing how we’d ended up in Austin.

The short story: the women we’d been with decided to not be with us. Good enough: we bonded as men.

Much has happened since then, but one of the constants in my life has been our friendship.

We lived together for two years then, when I moved away in 1998 to go to graduate school I’d stay with him  when I’d return for SXSW Interactive, and when I moved back to Austin in 2002 I bought a house where he’s lived since. (I lived here for two years until the job pulled me away.)

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The Summer of Run: “Earned” 3

I am putting the finishing touches on my fifth essay from The Summer of Run, a 4,000-word piece about the three most important life lessons I’ve ever been taught (by men other than my father, that is).

Strangely, this has been the hardest essay to write, taking nearly 14 hours of writing, editing, and thinking time. And that just gets me to the draft stage. Here’s my favorite portion of Act 2, a story about the moment I decided to quit baseball after 11 years:

I thanked him, repeatedly, and declined. Resigned, he shook my hand, and watched me leave.

As I walked out the door, my stomach dropped to the floor and the voice inside me begged me to turn around, but my pride wouldn’t let me. I’d made my decision, I thought, and that meant following through. I’d run track my junior year, but I’d already decided I’d return to baseball in my final year, an idea Coach readily accepted when I approached him about playing at the start of my senior year in high school.

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In Which I Run The Country Music Marathon, and Find a Piece of Me

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” — Steve Prefontaine

After 13 weeks of training, I ran The Country Music Marathon in Nashville, Tennessee in 3:52:49.

It’s the best time I’ve ever run, but 7 minutes, 50 seconds slower than I needed to qualify for the Pike’s Peak Ascent, the insanely crazy race up the side of a mountain than ends with a 3-mile run above the tree line.

I desperately want to qualify for this, and I desperately want to run it. Today was not that day, though.

Instead, I found something I hadn’t expected to find.

***

My alarm went off at 3:30 this morning. To be completely accurate, 5 alarms went off at varying times between 3:20 and 3:35 this morning.

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The Wilbur Wright Shooting Range

My former student – and The Invictus Writer – David Ake finally got me out to the shooting range today. It was a cold, dreary day but that hardly dampened our spirits. He’s an excellent teacher and an honor to his country. (He’s a veteran of the second Gulf War.)

Here’s my first attempt to fire an AK-47. It’s not pretty:

(You can see all three of our videos here at my The Gun Range YouTube playlist.)

 

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The Tigger Talk: On Life, the Process, and Everything

Grades don’t matter.

This is what I tell my students ever week throughout the school year. Education is about the process, I tell them as they roll their eyes, not the product. I implore them to focus on squeezing out every bit of knowledge from their assignments. I want them to attack uncertainty without fear of failure. I encourage them to fail.

Because in failure we learn.

But the truth is that even those students who try – try – to focus on learning and not grades still fall victim to that red letter penned upon their assignments. I can see it in their eyes, the smiles that beam across their face when they earn As and the sunken, silent despair when they earn Fs.

I want to grab each of them, look them in the eyes, and remind them that grades don’t matter. In class or in life. What matters is the process. What matters is the way you approach your education, your relationships, and your life.

Of course I can’t convince my students to think this way. Too much of our educational system is built around grades. So I do the only thing that I can: I tell them my story.

This is The Tigger Talk.

***

Part 1: On Life

Grades don’t matter. I’ve told you that throughout the semester. Before every assignment. After every assignment. Grades are simply irrelevant to what you have learned and what you know.

I’ve told you this but I haven’t told you why I know this. Today I am going to do that.

 

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A Valentine’s Day Treatise

If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know that I have a deep and meaningful relationship with Mr. Hank Moody (and Charles Bukowski, the writer the show Californication is based upon).

At his highest, Moody is a sharp, witty writer examining the human condition while balancing his on-again/off-again relationship with girlfriend Karen and his casual escapes with other women.

At his lowest, he’s a drunken out-of-control addict unable to keep himself from self-destructing across the lives of everyone he cares about and everyone with whom he comes in contact.

Yet each week, you root for him. Even the other characters on the show root for him, especially the ones he spills across the most. Surely the damages cut a little deeper each time, but somehow you continue to like him.

Because he is unabashedly a Romantic.

He lives his life fully, openly and with the belief that this time – this time – is when everybody will finally get it right, make the right decisions and reach the zenith. Inevitably he falls when that peak is missed.

Until he gets back up.

**

I can tell you the moment that I fell in love for the first time. (That I can also tell you the time, location and type of drink I had for the first time may be more insightful that I wished it to be.)

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Running Man, the 2011 Edition

The Year of Health ended just a few days ago.

If I had to add it up I’d say I came out on the plus side of things last year.

On the positive: I quit smoking 48 weeks and nearly 2 days ago. I weighed in the neighborhood of 165. I completed my fastest half-marathon ever and finished a brutally cold trail marathon in December. I even regularly breached the sub-8 minute mile mark.

On the negative: My six-week post-marathon routine hasn’t been great and I’ve put on 10 unwanted pounds. I didn’t hit my time goal on the marathon. I haven’t found cross-training routines I care for.

Still, I consider the year a success. It’s certainly gotten me ready for the upcoming Year of Health 2: Electric Bugaloo. (As an aside, Electric Bugaloo will never, ever go out of style as a sequel name. Kudos to you 1980s.) Last year was training, this year should be epic.

Which brings us to my next 90-in-90 challenge: the De-Fatman Edition.

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Austin Tales: Where I Worked from 1996-1998

There’s simply too much to explain about this place. But nearly everything of interest that happened to me in Austin – and by that I mean nearly everything I will ever commit to the page in this forum – happened at Antone’s, the best blues bar on the planet.

To list all the musicians I saw here would serve no real purpose, but there’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t recall – in that sunset fading way – the days of my youth.

So New: In Which I Take The Bean Out (40 of 90)

Two years ago, I dated a woman with a 16-year old daughter. That was a first for me. I’ve certainly dated single moms before, but never one with a kid who would really remember any interactions we’d have.

I fell in love with her immediately, the way in which adults fall in love with children. She was this beautiful, funny, engaging, shy, nerdy, awesome love-able kid. We had our ups and downs, most of which I was prepared.

(Of course, I was wholly unprepared for the strength of the emotional outbursts – both good and bad – that come with being a teenager. Even as someone who has taught teenagers, it’s hard to gird yourself for that inevitable one-on-one clash.)

Still, in the short time The Bean’s mom and I dated, I developed a bond with her. One that I was devastated to lose when my relationship with her mom ended.

I kept in touch with The Bean through social media, although I checked in with the ex to make sure that it was okay. I’m very cognizant that she’s not my child and I wouldn’t ever want to over-step my bounds in that way. Still, I really wanted to catch up with the nugget in person. There’s only so much Twitter can do. I ran the idea of taking The Bean out past the ex, and she graciously agreed.

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