Sunday, January 31, 2016

31. The Love You Take

A Beatles verse that I’ve been singing to myself a lot lately is, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” It’s off of the song “The End” from the Abbey Road. I’ve been trying to dissect what that means.

What does it mean to take love? Is that the amount of people giving you love? Is that what you just pick up from the day to day being of yourself? And making love? What sort of making love were they talking about? Are they talking about some Al Green style making love or more like “Love me Do” style love?

I see that word, love, a lot. Most of the times I hear it in public, I don’t know if I believe people who are saying it. Especially in this political season.

Donald Trump on Iowa: "Don't worry; it's just Iowa. We love Iowa. We're going to do great in Iowa. I expect to win Iowa.”

I wonder if he had to ever set foot in the state prior to running for president. I wonder if he’s going to say one word about the state come Tuesday morning. I wonder if he’ll sing the same tune if Ted Cruz ends up beating him.

It feels so forced when prominent people use the word love in a political context. Plenty of Republicans have said that Barack Obama doesn’t love the country. I’m not sure what they mean by that. Does that mean he doesn’t love the 320 million people that live here? I doubt anybody would. Does that mean he doesn’t love the land? Eh. That’s a stretch. Does that mean he doesn’t love the Constitution? Well, first, he was a professor of Constitutional Law and second, what does it mean to love a set of rules that were drafted over 200 years ago? I don’t know if I’d say I love the Constitution, but I certainly respect it. I respect the vision our forefathers had when the put it together.

Or when people say they disagree with homosexual lifestyle, but they love gay people anyway. What does that mean? I don’t know what is really in people’s hearts, but it feels like they are saying it through gritted teeth. How would they treat that person outside of a public eye, when no one is looking?

For some reason, the only person whom I believe as being sincere when they talk about love, is Pope Francis. The man has a gentleness and a sincerity about him. I think he backs up his talk as well. Whether it’s washing the feet of prisoners or reforming the Vatican, I sincerely believes he loves his “flock.”

So, what were the Beatles trying to say about the love you take? I think it’s about giving of yourself. It’s how much you give to other people without thinking of how it will benefit yourself. This answer is kind of trite, I know, maybe I’ll come back to it. But I think the lads from Liverpool get love more than Donald Trump does.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

30. Tough Times

I believe there is a time in everyone’s life where they are thrown off-balance. Not in a physical way, but in a psychological way. I believe everyone at some point in their life is thrown a challenge they never expected. It feels like the pain will never end, nor while your wheels ever get out of the rut they are stuck in.

I believe these moments are good things. Before I go any further, I realize I am speaking from a place of privilege. I have always had a roof over my head and enough money to get by. I am educated and have a stable family. I’ve had lots of good things in my life and I am thankful for them. Many people have had it worse off than me.

But, no matter our station in life, we all are faced with challenges. I’m almost two years from a challenging time in my life where I was rocked off my course.

Today, I am OK. I have a good job and good friends.

Looking back at it, I realized I tried to force my out of my problem. I would tell myself, “I will do X and everything will go back to normal.” I’ll be happy again. I’ll be back together with her. Everything will work out.

X rarely solves all of our problems. In fact, I doubt any substantial problem in life can be solved with a one-off solution. It was tough going for a few months there, but things calmed down with time, distance, and attention elsewhere. Those issues just fit into the place they were supposed to. Everything isn’t hunky dory in my life, but it is where it’s supposed to be and I have accepted that.
I am more sure of who I am than I was two years ago. I’m loyal. I’m compassionate. I’m curious. I don’t need much in the way of creature comforts to be happy. I don’t care for loud bars and I think packing a lunch is a smart idea. I think staying up past 11 p.m. is usually a waste. Maybe I knew these things a few years ago, but now more sure of them.

I think one of the questions I’ll begin to ask on dates is, “What is the most difficult experience you have ever had in your life?” I don’t know if I would be comfortable dating someone whose foundations haven’t been shaken at least once. If we expect our ship to keep sailing smoothly through life, we’ll end up disappointed or unhappy.

I try to tell myself to breathe when I’m faced with something challenging these days.  Most of the time it works out. Things even out and I go on with my day. I don’t think bad things will automatically destroy me anymore. And I know I can’t just fix everything with the push of a button. I have to breathe and fix one thing at a time and realize that it may not all work out in the end.

The tide comes back in, eventually. It just took it disappearing to figure that out.

Friday, January 29, 2016

29. Turkey Club Club: Allies Deli

I’d been eyeing Allie’s Deli just about since I started my new job. It’s in a convenient location in the Rand Tower. The lines are usually long when I pass by over the lunch hour. I tend to have favorable
impressions of places that have a name in front of the word “deli.”

I went there around 11 a.m. to avoid the line. I was impressed by their sandwich menu. They had 16 different specialty sandwiches along with a “build your own” menu. I went right up to the line and got the California Turkey. This one had lots of veggies. LOTS: Tomato, green pepper, cucumber, sprouts, and lettuce. They also put swiss and cheddar cheese on there.

I’m always one for speed and efficiency, but this one was done almost too quickly. It was less than a minute. Seriously, I was just staring at the menu and they called my name.

I grabbed a bag of Old Dutch Jalapeno Cheddar Chips to go along with my meal. It surprised me that they were legi 99 cents. I appreciate that.

The weight of the sandwich felt good. I thought I’d be getting my money’s worth of vegetables. I went back to my desk and unwrapped the wax paper. It was colorful and varied. It had some good heft, as I like to say.

The first bite tasted like the produce aisle. It was all crunch. Just about the whole bit was filled with veggies. Now I really like veggies, especially on my sandwich. But if I wanted that many, I would have just ordered the friggin veggie sandwich. (Or a salad)

I examined my sandwich and saw only two slices of turkey. Two! That was an unacceptable ratio of protein to vegetable. I could barely taste the turkey.

From a texture standpoint, it wasn’t bad. It was good crunch. The bread didn’t fall apart and was the appropriate amount of chewiness. And the cheese tasted fresh. However, winter tomatoes are just an absolute buzzkill. The ones on this sandwich were kind of white and mealy. They were basically getting disintegrated as soon as they reached my mouth. Yuck.  

There also wasn’t much for condiments on this one. They said there was guacamole on there, but heck if I could find it. Again, that’s probably a commentary on our food system, should we really expect delicious veggies in the middle of January? (Well, maybe with global warming we will.)

The veggies were also not evenly distributed across the bread. All the sprouts ended up in the middle of the whole thing. (As a friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Sprouts are good sometimes but only if they’re at least evenly distributed. Looks like a birds nest in the middle of your sandwich.”)

I was a little disappointed in Allie’s deli, to be honest. I’ll give it a 2.5 out of 5. The idea behind it is good, and I’m sure they’re business model is working, but I’d like a little more effort in the sandwich production department.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

28. Nick's Notes 2

Since I’m having another one of those days where my mind seems to be everywhere but focusing on this writing, I’ll spew everything out that I’ve been pondering the past few days.

I just finished season two of the West Wing. And HOLY CRAP why haven’t I watched it sooner. It’s a wonderful antidote to this political campaign season. Jed Bartlett (the fictional president played by Martin Sheen) is a cool, calm, intelligent man who understands the immensity of the power he has in his position. I don’t think anyone who is running this year has those qualities. I would vote for Jed Bartlett in a heartbeat.

I took a Buzzfeed quiz about “Which West Wing character are you?” I got Charlie Young, the aide to the president. I fully support that choice. At first I thought I might be Sam Seaborne, the Deputy Communications Director, but I think Charlie is the correct choice. He’s loyal, self-deprecating, always willing to do something for the president, and he doesn’t have much of an ego. I think I have a lot of those qualities. (I’d probably do something for the president if he asked.)

One of my favorite times of the day comes when I’m walking in the skyway with my headphones on, listening to a podcast, and I hear a joke that makes me smile. I love that. I love sharing a joke with two podcast hosts who I’ll probably never know. I get a big smile on my face and I wonder if anyone looks at me funny. Those small moments in my day where I smile are absolutely fantastic.

This essay stuck with me. It’s about a (pardon the language) “Fuck off fund.” It’s one of the better arguments for financial security that I’ve heard. Whether you like it or not, money is power. And it’s good to have a little bit of that at your disposal in case you need it.

I’ve just been powering through this week. It’s just been get up, go to work, come home, workout, eat dinner, write, read, watch tv, bed. It’s not the ideal week, but I’m ok with just powering through this time. I really just want it to be the weekend, actually.

I don’t know why the rest of my family is watching the Republican debate. I’m pretty sure none of them are going to vote for any of the knuckleheads on stage and they’re just going to ened up yelling at the television. I have better things to do on my Thursday night, like my taxes.

I realized today that kids growing up these days don’t know what it’s like to schedule their weeknights around when their favorite shows are on. They are no longer governed to the fact that they need to wait until 8 p.m. on Friday night to watch Boy Meets World. (I think that’s when it was on?) DVR’s and Netflix have ruined that part of growing up.

Also, what’s the deal with kids getting their school closing announcements right away? Psshh. Kids these days don’t have to wait for anything.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

27. I'm actually George

When I first started liking the Beatles in high school, I thought I was like George. Mainly because of my long hair. He seemed to have that reserved, mysterious cool. He didn't need to be out front of the band to demonstrate his sense of style. He had an aura about him. I thought I would be the one to write a slow, sensitive ballad like “Something.”

I thought I was cool and mysterious in high school. Neither of those things were true. I was pretty nerdy and I wore my heart on my sleeve most days. I liked being out front, either making announcements during our lunchtime school assembly meetings or in the school musical.

So then I thought I was more of a John. A little weird, but in a creative and outgoing way. I would probably be up for being part of the Plastic Ono Band. I did standup comedy. John would do standup comedy, right? I always liked his glasses. So I ran with that and embraced the energetic, slightly kooky schtick.

But lately I realized that I probably am a George. I don’t like talking about myself as much as I thought I once did. I'm much quieter than I think most people would believe. That might be one of the defining parts of my post-post-college age.

I've found that I've demurred being the one who does the most talking on dates. Maybe it's my midwestern sensibilities taking over or maybe it's because I always see that "girls like to be asked about themselves" on the list of top things to talk about on the date. Maybe it is because I want to appear romantic or mysterious or sensitive.

I recently described myself as an introverted extrovert. I need those times by myself to just sit and reflect and not let anyone bother me. Many of those times just involve browsing in a bookstore or just sitting on the train or bus without my headphones. Or just walking. I love just to walk with no particular purpose. If something is reachable within a 20-30 minute walk, I’ll happily take a stroll instead of a car. Maybe that’s from living on the east coast, or it’s because I’m impatient and I’d rather just get moving on my own. Whatever it is, I think I do my best thinking in silence, and on my feet.

I don’t know if George liked silence or not, but that seems to be in line with the spirit of who he was. He didn’t write most of the songs. While I always liked the songs he sang on, (Something was the soundtrack to many a high school daydream about my crushes) the guitar solo from Let it Be touched me in a particular way. It was short, probably no more than 30 seconds, yet it captured the song without it dominating the whole thing. He played his notes and brought what he needed to to the song without taking all the credit. That’s what I like about George.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

26. I'd like you to like me

I'm a people pleaser. Whenever I'm with a crowd of people I know, I scan the room making sure everyone is enjoying themselves. I like to include people in games, in conversations, in other random gatherings. I think I was taught it at an early age and it's just stuck with me. I hate seeing people left out or unhappy.

I'll admit that doing that doesn’t always make me happy. I get offended if people leave places early without accepting my offers of help. I write off people who weren’t wooed by my charming customer services. After I strike out with a girl, I tell myself, “Well, it’s their loss.”

And while I really enjoy saying yes to things, especially in the dating world, you don’t always have to be pleasing people.

Case in point, this past Saturday I attended a meeting at the Basilica regarding a refugee family the church is sponsoring. It’s an exciting project and one I am eager to get involved with. I also know that I’m not going to be able to throw myself into volunteering anytime day or night. I still live about 45 minutes from Minneapolis and I don’t really enjoy doing things on weeknights.

So I’ve been trying to stick with the “bite less, chew more” philosophy that a lawyer told me about. Make your impact, but don’t let it take control of you.

I volunteered to do some writing for the committee. I said I would help write copy for the web page and possibly the bulletin. Another woman tried to cull me into helping write for their committee, but I said no. It felt good. I was making a noticeable contribution, but I wasn’t trying to do everything. (Which often happens with me.)

Today I was offered to be set up with a girl. Usually my policy is to say yes. While this girl seemed really nice and cute, I politely told the matchmaker that I wasn’t interested. The girl lived about an hour away. She was also out of my preferred age range of dating partners. While there is a part of me that is second-guessing my decision, I also know that being realistic is a big part of this falling in love thing as well.

I’m not going to enjoy driving an hour to see someone. It’s just not feasible. It’s probably better that I admitted that right away instead of trying it out and seeing what comes of it. No use in trying to make someone happy when you’re not happy yourself.

Things will line up how they are supposed to. That’s been the lesson of my post post-college life. It’s good to be open to new adventures, but you don’t jump out of an airplane without a parachute. Being accepting to new things is one thing, but being ready for them is a whole different thing.

Man, I’m sounding like a grown up or something. Excuse me while I go eat a whole box of Cap’n Crunch.

Monday, January 25, 2016

25. Sandwiches are the ideal lunch food

Ever since I left college, I’ve been a working stiff that packs his own lunch (most of the time.) I strongly believe that lunch is the best meal of the day, so you might as well have the optimal meal for that time.

Here are all the reasons why you should have a sandwich for lunch.

There is no warming needed. My first job after college was with the Maryland Conservation Corps. There were six of us who did manual labor most days. We built trails, chainsawed trees, dug holes, and other things like that. We would get hungry by lunch time. And in order to avoid hangry levels, you’d want to eat right away.

We’d only get about 30-40 minutes for lunch. And if everyone of us had something to reheat in the microwave, there’s a good chance you’d be waiting for the microwave for half of your brake. And then you think people are done, but then they take their stew or whatever, stir it around, and then put it back in for four minutes. And then the other guy is on level 12 hangry, wanting his leftover spare ribs, so you take out your chili after two minutes when it’s lukewarm to avoid getting smacked in the face. And then you just suffer through it because it isn’t worth the trouble. Ain't nobody got time for the microwave!

Or else you way overheat it and you spend the rest of the afternoon with sandpaper tongue. And how clean is your office microwave anyway? It probably hasn’t been wiped out since the Carter administration. I’d rather not catch whatever super virus is living on that glass plate thank you very much.

Also, if you’re like me you probably don’t want to inhale whatever garlic chutney fish casserole your officemate heated up in the microwave. Seriously, I really don’t want to know what my office workers are eating for lunch via inhalation.

And if you have some sort of soup or salad crap, you’re going to have to do dishes. Who wants to do dishes at work? I have enough problems with them at home.

I know sandwiches take some effort to prepare. It is usually easier to grab whatever is in the refrigerator and just go with it. However, whatever work you put in the night before, you can enjoy the dividends with a full lunch break and not fitfully wait for the microwave to be free.

Sandwiches are convenient. Who really likes being chained to the depressing work break room sipping some soup that’s about as warm as your pillow? Theoretically, you could walk around with your sandwich or eat it outside with only few adjustments.

They are (somewhat) healthy. You can really have boatload of combinations here. Even though (as you know) I am prone to getting turkey, you can really go to town with some good cold cuts. And it’s a good way to get your veggies. Salads make you look conceited. Throw some of that lettuce with tomatoes and onions and you’re good to go.

Lunch is the best meal of the day, don't let the microwave ruin it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

24. Switch things up

I have a routine. I love my routine. I think it helps the day go by more quickly and it keeps me focused on the things I need to get done for the day.

My normal weekday goes like this. I get up at 6:20, take care of business in the bathroom, then head downstairs to turn on the coffee machine. I then go back to my room and change. Then it’s breakfast (usually granola and coffee) and I am usually out the door by 6:50. I drive to Forest Lake and I get on the bus at about 7:10. I usually sit in the third seat from the back on the left.

The bus departs from Forest Lake eight minutes later. I usually walk in the door at about 8:10. Most of the time I’ll go for a quick walk in the skyway before I sit down at my desk around 8:30. I grab my sandwich from the fridge at about 11:45. I head out for my lunch walk around 12:15 and head out for 30 minutes while listening to a podcast. When I get back to my office, I’ll make a cup of tea and plow through work until about 2:30, when I’ll take another 15 minute walk.

I get done with work at 4:30 and back home at about 6:00 p.m. I’ll then change and head to the gym where I’ll usually go on the treadmill for 5K. Then it’s  head home, take shower, eat dinner, write blog post and then watch some Netflix. I’ll usually make my lunch around 10:15 and then am in bed at about 10:30 where I’ll read for 20 to 30 minutes. I’ll turn out the light and it’s back at it again the next morning.

Wow, that was really boring to right out. My weekend routine is much more flexible, but it usually involves going to the Basilica for mass with my parents on Sunday mornings.

Today I switched it up. I was planning on meeting my friend Joe for brunch/lunch at about 12:30. I was going to attend the 11 a.m. mass, while my parents went to their usual one. I then realized there is no 11 a.m. mass at the Basilica. There was an 11:30, but I didn’t feel like adjusting plans.

I was getting anxious over what I should do. And then I remembered that, while I love the Basilica, there are other churches out there. I found a church close to where I was meeting Joe in Minneapolis. It was St. Stephen’s.

While it didn’t have the same aura as my normal church, it was a fine mass. The priest was also a chemistry professor at the University of St. Thomas. I made it through and I had a great lunch with Joe.

While I enjoy my routine, it’s OK to switch things up. Not many people get far in life by relying on tunnel vision.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

23. Naive Pragmatism

I did not expect to find sage advice from Forrest Gump. After re-watching the movie last night, I realized that he is just about one of the best examples of a new way of approaching things that I am trying out.

I’ll back up. I don’t like drama. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like petty grudges. (Although I am usually a pretty bad offender when it comes to holding them. Still, I do not like them.) I’ve been in a lot of new situations lately with a job and meeting new people.

One of the worst, most poisonous things you can do to a person in a new situation is to hurl your opinions of people or places on them. This sounds counterintuitive, of course you want to give advice and be helpful, but when you try and paint someone else’s picture with your own brush, I think it can lead to bad results.

For example, in my last job as a sports reporter, there was a certain coach that a few other staff members were not too fond of. There was an event where he raised his opinion about something and that stuck with those staff members. I don’t blame either person for feeling the way they did, but I felt weird accepting their opinions on face value.

I got to know the coach, and lo and behold, I actually grew to like him. He was a very good coach, probably the best one in the area. His practices were always organized and I was impressed with the discipline of his team. (That didn’t necessarily transform into good quotes, but we had a good relationship.) I’d rather get to know someone and dislike them, instead of disliking them from some other person’s experience.

I finally figured out a name for this. I call it naive pragmatism. (I originally thought I’d call it pragmatic naivety, but then I realized the other way around is much more easy to say.

And then when I was watching the movie Forrest Gump. Gump, in terms of intelligence, is an idiot. Or at least that’s the conventional view of him. But he does what he’s told and just does what he think his right. For example, when he’s in the army, he sits down next to a black man on a bus and they go on to become “best good friends.” He sees a man who was kind to him and just rolls with it. He didn’t let the prejudices of his time affect his view on things.

I like how Forrest just does what needs to be done without really considering what opinions of things people had formed before him. It serves him well being a football player, war hero, businessman, runner, etc.

I wish more people just wanted to go in and get things done, especially those running for president right now. Don’t paint people as boogeymen or scapegoats. Life is too short for that. Just get the job down and run Forrest, run.

Friday, January 22, 2016

22. Old Friends

I realized that I did not know the majority of my close friends before the age of 18. I keep in touch with a few people who I knew at age 14, but I really only see one friend who knew more before I was 14 (and even then I only see him maybe once a year.)

How you make friends after college is different because the range of your friends becomes much, much broader. When you’re in high school, your friends are mainly those in your grade. If you have a friend that’s a year older, you probably feel really cool about it. (Since I went to an extremely small high school, I may be exaggerating the meaning of it. I was friends with people from many different ages.)

Actually, I really enjoy how my relationships have transformed since high school. I was close with a handful of teachers. I’ve stayed in touch with a few of them, but I’ve had to explain to other people, “Oh they are a high school teacher of mine.” But it was a little different at Conserve. We didn’t call people Mr. or Mrs., we used first names for basically everyone. (Which, looking back at it, may have been kind of revolutionary at the time.)

I stayed in touch with one teacher, Paul. And funnily enough, I happened to live in places where he had connections. I studied abroad in South Africa and stayed with his sister when she was living in Pretoria and I was travelling around the country. I moved to Maryland after college and his brother lived about 20 minutes away from me. And then I moved to Boston, where his other brother lived just outside of the city.

At first, I’d explain to people that I was staying with my former teacher’s sibling’s house or visiting them for dinner. But then I got kind of sick of saying that, so I just said a friend’s house. The joke is that I’ve become a member of the family. (It’s a cool family, so I’ll take it as a compliment.)

But then I have another friend who I met in high school that I don’t talk to much anymore. We were pretty close in high school and bonded over numerous things. We talked every so often in college and I was in his wedding. But the last time I saw him, it just felt different. I don’t know if our interests or our life experiences just diverged, but it didn’t feel like it did in high school. I don’t know if that’s necessarily a bad or a good thing.

I have another friend who I met after college. We were fairly close when I lived in Maryland, but we don’t see each other much anymore. However, I always enjoy talking with him. We seem to be able to pick a string from an issue and just go with it. We may as well have been hanging out last week. And whenever I shoot an email over, he’ll send one right back with a good, quality response.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

21. Turkey Club Club: Maison Darras

I had my eye on Maison Darras for a while. It’s on the corner of a prominent skyway location in the
Baker building. The menu caught my eye when I walked by it one day. Also, I had no idea what the name meant. (Turns out, it’s owned by a french couple, whose last name is Darras. Masion roughly translates to “homemade.”)

I had a lunch meeting that day, so I snuck out of my office while listening to the Allman Brothers song “One Way Out.” (That would make for a great heist escape soundtrack to a movie. Seriously.)

There wasn’t a line, which is something I always appreciate. The menu was pretty simple: paninis, salads, and sandwiches. The decor was sleek and minimalist.

As I have said before, the bread is the key to the whole thing. If it’s too mushy, the whole thing just doesn’t come together. If it’s too big, then it dominates the rest of the ingredients. It has to act as a good delivery system, while also adding it’s own flavor to the mix and not overshadowing the other parts of the meal. It’s a tricky balance to strike, but it’s awesome when it comes together.

Usually, I go for wheat bread. It’s safe, (somewhat) healthy, and I like the taste better than white bread or rolls. (Don’t get me started on wraps.) MD had an unconventional grain delivery system: a baguette.

I’m a little weary of trying crunchier breads ever since I got my first root canal. They hurt my jaw and my teeth if I chew too much. However, this one was crusty, but not too difficult to work through.

I ordered the turkey, swiss, lettuce, and tomatoes. I usually don’t go for swiss, but I don’t like messing with preset menus unless it’s something I really hate. The whole thing cost $7.19 for just the sandwich itself.

I put the “One Way Out” back on my iPod as I hurried back to the office. It was a hefty sandwich. I probably could have done curls with it. The whole thing was about a foot long, like legit a foot long.

It hit all the right notes. The turkey had a slight smokey taste to it and the veggies all tasted fresh. The texture of the meat was spot on. It was thinly sliced, but it was not slimy. While the bread was thick, it didn’t really make me feel like just lying around afterwards. It was light, yet filling.

I always prefer mom and pop places over chains. I’d rather support a local business and I think they usually have better quality ingredients. Maybe I should go back and talk to the owner about Zlatan! (One of the best soccer players on the planet, plays for a French Club. ((Not a sandwich, a soccer club)))

I would give this a four out of five. I’d come here again if I was meeting a friend to grab some sandwiches to head out for the day or something. The taste, heft, and value all got high marks. The cheese also didn’t taste too swiss-y. The sign of a good sandwich is when it all comes together. And Maison Darras did just that.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

20. Nick's Notes

I just ate about 15 delicious homemade dumplings (made by Mama Hansen), drank two glasses of wine, and ate a fancy chocolate that I got for my birthday, so I'm a little stretched for ideas and wanting to just sit on the couch and digest things. I always liked writing columns where I dumped out all of the cool observations I'd seen over the past few weeks into one column, so if you'll allow me, I'm going to continue that here.

- I find that I read more of the New York Times now that I have a Sunday subscription. I don't read every article, but I try to get to everything in the front section at the very least. That usually takes two to three hours. My guilty pleasure is now the "Vows" column. Go ahead, judge me.

- I had lunch with a high school friend today, Nick Meiers. He's a really great guy. It was nice to catch up a little bit after 10(!) years. We both agreed that it's been a little difficult to keep in touch with high school classmates. And that's a real bummer to all of us who went to Conserve, but it was nice to make that connection again.

- I think I've been in about a two-year-long text message conversation with my friend Jack Schutter. I deleted the Twitter app on my phone, so I just text him things that I would tweet otherwise. That's probably a good thing because I'm kind of sick of Twitter. Here are some things I have texted Jack in the past week:

"Pulling for Derby County and Sheffield Wednesday"
"Also Elizabeth Dole is 13 years younger than Bob"
"I'm listening to Katy Perry and editing an article on planned gifts"
"Lamela playing striker for FA cup match. I predict a hat trick or a Rabona."

Actually, those are all from today. Probably better I didn't tweet those things.

- I’m no where near as excited about Superhero movies as I was five years ago. Seriously, The Dark Knight Rises was the first movie I ever bought a ticket more than a day ahead of time for. Now, I might go see them, but I won’t be disappointed if I miss them.

- I am binge-watching the West Wing. Man, it’s so good. It makes me wish just for a little bit that I pursued a career in politics, but then I remember that I’m an idealistic dreamer/nice guy who doesn’t like arguing and I remember that I probably wouldn’t enjoy it.

Martin Sheen was on the On Being podcast a few weeks ago. What a man. I really appreciate when I see Catholics whom I can relate to. I had no idea that he had been arrested numerous times in central America for protesting. It’s always interesting when you get to see a layer beneath big-time actors.  I highly recommend a listen.

- I put an offer on a condo! It’s a two-bedroom place in St. Louis Park. I really hope I get something soon. As much as I enjoy living at home (Hi mom!), I would love a closer commute.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

19. My Three Songs

If you would have asked me what my favorite song was in ninth grade, I would have probably said something like Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)”, AC/DC’s “Back in Black”, Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, or the Rolling Stones’ “Brown Sugar.” Those were the rocking songs, the kickass songs, the ones you play on full blast in your room when you want to feel cool.

Those are no longer my favorite songs. I still like them a lot, but they don’t quite pull me to another place like they once did.

My three favorite songs today are: “Let it Be” by the Beatles, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Rolling Stones, and the Ben E. King version of “Stand by Me.”

Those aren’t songs you normally play loud or ones you play when you want to rock out. They are quieter and gentler. You play them when you want to catch your breath.

I don’t know when that change happened that I began to like songs that slowed things down a little bit more. But I think I began to like those songs whose choruses I could repeat to myself when I needed the message. (Singing “Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good? when you’re on the verge of an anxiety attack doesn’t really work.)

I’m a chronic worrier. I also hold grudges. I don’t like it when I do either of those things. I tell myself to “Let it be” a lot. That song probably wasn’t my favorite Beatles track 10 years ago, but I love that message to just let it be. Paul’s singing on this song is wonderful as well. Also, George Harrison’s guitar solo is just perfect. Probably my favorite in all of rock history.

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was one of the first songs I learned to play on my guitar in high school. It’s really easy, just C and F chords basically. My friend Ben told me that this song reminded him of the 2004 Super Bowl, when the Eagles lost to the Patriots. Ben, being a huge Eagles fan, was devastated after their loss. This song came on with highlights of the Eagles season afterwards. I think that sort of attitude is good to have, especially when it comes to sports. You’ll get what you need, you just have wait for it sometimes.

And then there is “Stand By Me”. I first fell in love with the song when I heard the John Lennon version of it, but the Ben E. King version takes it up a notch. That bass hook just gets you right away. I imagine driving down some road at night, having this song blaring with just whomever you love right by you. It’s simple, just be with me and we’ll make it through this. I think this is a good philosophy to live your life by. Stand by your friends and your family because sometimes that’s all you can do. I think life really is that simple sometimes.

Monday, January 18, 2016

18. Does anyone actually have fun on the job?

Does anybody who runs for president actually have any fun? After watching debates, reading
tweets, and perusing through numerous stories about the 2016 campaign, I begin to wonder if anyone actually has fun campaigning.

I’m mainly talking about the GOP here. I normally watch both parties’ debates just to get a taste of what the other side is saying and following along with the Twitter snark in real time, but I can’t even stomach them now. They all look like radical preachers with ulcers who are trying to convince us that we are in the middle of the end times because President Obama is next to the antichrist in terms of pure evil. (Side note, I just googled antichrist to get the proper style and a picture of Obama appeared.)  And then they insist on calling each other names. Who would want to do this day in and day out for 16 months?

Sometimes I think Donald Trump is the only one having fun. It’s like he’s trying out a bit that’s kept on going and he’s made it this far, so why would he stop now? Yet, Esquire magazine just put him on the cover with the headline “Hater in Chief.” I understand that the president faces lots of crap every single day, but to approach the job like a hater? Come on.

While I have my issues with President Obama, I generally like him and support his policies. One thing I really liked about him is that he looks like he’s able to have a little bit of fun on the job. His White House Correspondent Dinner speeches have been generally well-received. His “Between Two Ferns” sketch was hilarious. I haven’t watched his episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” yet, but I imagine Jerry Seinfeld had a nice back and forth with him.

I also like that Obama recognizes people of cultural impact. In his statement after the death of legendary comedy writer Harold Ramis, he made a sly reference to the movie Caddyshack.

I remember that the White House released a statement after the death of Robin Williams. It was a very touching statement that noted the effect Williams had on millions of people. I told that to a girl whom I had gone on a couple of dates with and she snapped back, “Doesn’t he have anything better to do?”

First off, Obama most likely did not write that statement. Second, he probably did numerous important things over the course of the day. And third, that was an important thing. It was an acknowledgement that our country is more than just the acridity of Congress and the boiling anger that is carried in people’s stomachs.

There are still people that can bring us together and make us laugh. I’m glad Obama acknowledged that over the course of his presidency.

We still have approximately 11 more months of campaigning and politicking and riling up righteous anger for your respective cause. I hope the person who eventually leads our country learns to lighten up and tell a joke.

Except Ted Cruz. He should just stop.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

17. The end of small talk

I’ve been on a handful of dates in the past month or so. While I enjoy going on dates, there’s something that’s been tiring me about them. It’s the resume of things we seem to discuss before we
get anywhere near a connection.

These revolve around many everyday things: job, commute, living situation, family, siblings, location of siblings, age of siblings, high school, inevitable story about high school. Sometimes it feels like it’s a holiday gathering of relatives that I only see once a year. The same story, every time.

One of my not-so-guilty pleasures is the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column. It’s a guest-written column where people write love stories. They can involve missed connections, personal awakenings, arduous long-distance relationships, meet-cutes,  guilt, trauma, or just plain goofy things. I love it. The editor, Daniel Jones, does a great job of finding stories that don’t always fit the stereotypical love story.

I read this week’s column, “The End of Small Talk” with great delight. The author, a male, was in a pretty much similar situation as I am: serial dating without any glowing prospects. He changes his style and starts digging deep right away with big-picture questions.

As I’ve grown older and more in tune with my journalistic self, I’ve realized that I enjoy asking the questions more than I enjoy answering them. I demurred over talking about myself because I always thought it was a good idea to show more curiosity and interest in your date than in yourself. I used to think of myself as enjoying the spotlight, but I really don’t think I do unless it’s under a very controlled circumstance where I have time to hash out the right message. (For instance, my column, a class presentation, or a wedding toast.)

And while I don’t mind asking those small questions about work, friends, family and the like, you begin to wonder if that information really matters right off the bat. Will it change my opinion of a person whether they work as a teacher or a software engineer? Or if their commute is 20 minutes as opposed to an hour? I don’t think whether they have three or two siblings will really be a deal breaker.

So, on whenever my next date will be, I’m going to dig deeper. Go big right away. Doesn’t it make more sense to get a bigger picture right away? It seems odd to wiggle around the mundane things of life before you end up in a spot where you find connections over those essential things in life.

One of my favorite questions to ask people is: What’s the dream? Everyone has a dream, whether it’s to own a house or create a new business or write a book. Dreaming is universal.

I hope this works. The last few dates I’ve been on have been fine and nice, but that’s really about it. And, full disclosure, I’m pretty bad at second dates. I like to think I have a read on how the other person is feeling, but I’ve been known to be wrong.
So, you might as well reach big because even if you fail miserably, you know you took a good risk.