Monday, February 29, 2016


One thing I’ve noticed more and more on Facebook is outrage. People are outraged over illegal immigrants. They are outraged over Donald Trump. They are outraged over abortion. They are outraged over #OscarsSoWhite. Facebook has evolved (or devolved) into a place where you air your grievances over hot-button issues.

I get it. I’ve played the game. I’ve ranted. I’ve posted my #HotTake of the day.

However, I’ve gotten equally as tired over everyone’s outrage. Is everybody’s life really that bad? (Or is it that hunky dory, full of flowers, smiling children, and delicious food made by your loving significant other every night?)

I read this article this morning called “What’s the Point of Moral Outrage?” The authors conducted a study where they concluded that expressing moral outrage was self-serving. [It] can serve as a form of personal advertisement: People who invest time and effort in condemning those who behave badly are trusted more.”

I think this is 100 percent accurate. While we may want to rightfully express a concern that is important to us through a Facebook or Instagram post, I think there we do this in part to benefit ourselves. That may not be the full reason we do something, but I know I’ve liked the warm fuzzies that I get when I post or retweet a statement that expresses my concern towards a particular issue.

This issue tears at me. On one hand, I like to be seen as a citizen of the world who cares about other people. On the other hand, who does a 200-word Facebook note really benefit? A few people might nod in agreement and learn something they may not have otherwise, but does it move the needle?

One of my favorite Bible verses is from Ash Wednesday: Matthew 6:5, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

I like that verse because it’s still relevant a few thousand years later. You could easily substitute “standing in synagogues and on the street corners” to “posting on their facebook wall and tweeting on the street corners.”

I try to approach my faith like that. Do the good things, but don’t necessarily tell the world, “LOOK AT ME AND ALL THE GOOD THINGS I’M DOING.” God sees what you are doing. It’s all right.

I’m still not sure how accurate this is, but this was posted a while back about how Jay-Z and Beyonce have allegedly provided
lots of support for protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson. It’s all been behind the scenes and quiet. I like the thought of this. Two of the biggest music stars in the world providing money to a newsworthy cause, yet they don’t want credit for it? It’s comendable.

To get back to my original point, what’s the proper way to express outrage in order to initiate a call to action, but not make it all about yourself? I have no idea.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

57. Oscar talk talk

I am not a film critic. I am not going to pretend I am a film critic. I’m going to look at some of the Oscar-nominated movies and actors through a personal lense.

Mad Max & The Martian: I’ll start off by saying this, my brother and I have very different tastes in movies. He likes mindless action flicks (the bloodier the better), gory horror movies, and Will Ferrell-esque comedies. Our interests don’t overlap too often, but it’s nice when we can agree on something to go see together.

We saw both of these movies together. We were entertained at both of them. I really liked Mad Max. (My brother said, “Mad Max was like Waterworld.”) My brother liked The Martian. They were both movies I enjoyed seeing in the theater.

The Revenant: This is another one my brother and I saw together. We both agreed it was long, much too long. The scenery was nice, but I got tired in the middle of it. Does there need to be this much groaning and grunting? Leo will probably win. That’s fine. Whatever. This was one I did not enjoy in the theater. It needed a 10 minute intermission.

Spotlight: This combined three things that I care about: journalism, Boston, and the Catholic Church. It was refreshing to see a journalism pic where the reporter didn’t sleep with the subject. I enjoyed it, not so much for the subject matter, but more for the process. Journalism can be dull sometimes.

It was one of the few movies where I walked out of the theater in silence because of what I had just seen. That doesn’t happen often (Silver Linings Playbook) was the other movie where that happened for me. I was depressed, disgusted, sad, yet hopeful at the end of it. I think good movies will do that for you.

The Big Short: This was a lot of fun. It took an important economic and political issue and made it fun. I gained a lot of respect for Adam McKay, who directed the film. He normally did Will Ferrell comedies, but this one was just a step above.

Inside Out: This one probably tops Up as my favorite Pixar movie of all time. The voices were all spot on. Amy Poehler made one of those rare movies that is fun for adults and kids, like really fun. I’d watch this one multiple times.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: My parents went and saw this movie and they liked it. That’s a rare thing. Wait, they actually saw Bridge of Spies as well (because they had actually been over that bridge on one of their many European vacations) and liked it. I think they’re just going to mark Bridge on everything in their Oscar ballot because it’s the movie they know the best.

That’s all I got on this year. My ballot will probably be awful, but whatever. It’s all about the horse race here. Does anyone really, really care who wins? It’s more about the buzz, the pre-awards talk, the awards talk, and then we move on to summer movie season. Batman vs. Superman can’t come soon enough.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

56. Girl Scout Cookies and Mindfulness

As I wandered my way through the skyway for my mid-afternoon walk, I saw a couple of girl scouts selling cookies just outside one of the stores in the City Center building. They looked like they were about eight or nine years old. They repeated the same line, “Would you like to buy some cookies?” to the few walkers who made eye contact with them.

I didn’t see anyone stop. Maybe everyone was too busy or they didn’t feel like purchasing cookies. I originally gave a polite “No, thank you” but as I walked away, I remembered that I had some cash in my pocket. I turned back and told the two girls, “Well, I changed my mind. I’d like to buy a box.” They smiled.

I didn’t have a particular preference for one, so I told them to give me their favorite. The girls didn’t quite know how to answer that questions, but one of the mom’s that was supervising recommended the lemonades. They were a vanilla sugar cookie with some lemon icing on the bottom.

I walked away feeling infinitely better about my day.

One of my steadfast beliefs about life is that you should always stop by lemonade or cookie stands if you have the money. And if you don’t have the money, don’t treat them like their adults hawking things. They’re kids. They’re out in the awful, awful world trying to make some money and bring a little refreshment into the world. I think they should be commended for that.

Everything about childhood goes too quickly. It seems like it’s corroding even faster ever since I’ve grown up. There are playdates, summer camps, music practices, and other ways to structure time. And then there’s the whole debate over participation trophies. (Ugh.)

It really only cost me four dollars to improve a kids day and help out a troop. Lemonade from a stand maybe costs fifty cents. Yeah, they’re not the healthiest foods, but the difference between life and death is not one box. I think the benefits of buying a box of cookies from a local troop are much better than buying a package of Oreos from a chain grocery store.

Even adults are in their own world most of them time. I usually have my headphones in when I’m walking around the skyway, and I’m not usually paying attention to others. If I don’t see anyone, then they can’t see me. Somedays it’s nice to do that.

Then there are other days when you want to let it all in. Life can be such a grind sometimes. It can be so filled with pressure and stress. Your soul can get sucked into a computer screen while your eyes get pricked with the pins from the glow. It sucks the magic and wonder out of your day.

I’m trying to be mindful of things during this lenten season. I try to stop an activity when my brain starts to get fried and I lose the pleasure I had when I first started that activity. It’s hard to do.

There is a simple way to stop it, though. Stop, slow down, and buy some cookies.

Friday, February 26, 2016

55. My Time on the Boston Herald Sports Desk

My time at the Boston Herald should not have been memorable. I worked there only four days a week for about four months in early 2014, it entailed crap hours (approximately 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.), and I didn’t make a lot of money.

As I wrote my post about my “what do you want to be when you grow up” post last night, I thought about the jobs I have done and my time at the Herald sticks with me more than I thought it would.

I was the lowest on the totem pole in the sports department, editorial assistant. I like to say that I was a glorified copy and paster. I didn’t write. I didn’t even edit copy. I put together box scores and took phone calls. I also took the dinner order every so often. I easily could have been resentful or thought I was better than the job, but I’m glad I wasn’t. I picked up a lot of small things from the job.

First, I learned that people will catch your mistakes. No matter how small you think a mistake will be, someone reading something you put together will notice a player’s name spelled wrong or an incorrect score. In our baseball pages, we’d have an “On this date” note which noted something significant that had happened on that particular day in a previous year. I accidently forgot to change a year on one of the dates and someone noticed it. Only the most die-hard baseball enthusiast would have noticed a milestone of Bob Feller’s career was noted 20 years before he came to the majors, but someone did, and they called the paper. I got chewed out for out (not harshly, but enough to scare me.) Double, triple, quadruple checking things are worth it.

Second, taking pride in things is important, especially when you won’t get recognized for it. My name never appeared anywhere in the newspaper or on the website. I doubt anyone ever said, “Oh man these box scores are looking fantastic today.” However, I liked it when I saw someone reading the sports page of the Herald on the T because I knew I did it. As one of my former teachers liked to quote from Robert E. Lee’s Farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia, “ satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed”  

Bill Simmons, who is one of the most well-known sports personalities on the planet, got his start at the Herald. He hated working there. He thought he was too good for it. And there were some veterans still at the Herald who hated him for that. Credit to Simmons for making it as big as he has, but we don’t all have that luxury. Sometimes we just have to do work that we think we’re overqualified for.

Third, there are people who do things that you don’t know about that make your day better. Lots of guys who work on the desk don’t get their name in the paper. But they did the copy-editing, design, layout, and all the other things that come with putting together a newspaper. They also work holidays, weekends, and times where you’re fast asleep in bed. The world does not all run on a 9-to-5 schedule.

Fourth, good exits from jobs are underrated. I could have easily flipped the bird and forgotten about my time there, but I said my thank yous and  I’ve stayed in social media contact with some of them and I’d like to think I made a semi-favorable impression during my time there.  

Not all of your crap jobs have to be miserable. Sometimes you just take what can from them and then you move on.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

54. What do you want to be when you grow up?

I think I’ve kind of taken a circuitous route to my current job. I don’t think I ever said, “Oh I want to be a Communications Specialist for a Bar Association when I grow up.” As one of my co-workers says, “Nobody knows what a bar association is until you work for one. I’m going to try and trace all of my “What I wanted to be when I grow ups” in my life.

Second Grade- I remember that wrote U.S. Senator on some worksheet. I’m suprised I even knew what a U.S. Senator was. I think it may have been because I followed the ‘96 election in the newspaper and saw Al Gore and Paul Wellstone speak that summer. I still remember the Vice President made a joke about not wanting Dole Pineapple and Kemps milk. I think I shook Paul Wellstone’s hand that year at Jesse James days in Northfield. Those were the idealistic days. I didn’t realize you’d need so much money.

Third Grade- I wrote football coach. I’m not sure why. I think I started to really get into the Vikings. I would be an awful football coach now.

Fourth Grade- I wrote Arborist in our class yearbook, but it came out as “aborist.” Which isn’t a real word, but it sounds a lot like abortion doctor. Oh the days before spell check.

Fifth Grade- I’m pretty sure this was my cartooning phase. I loved newspaper comics. They were the first thing I read in the newspaper every morning. I took a cartooning class that summer. Yet, all of my drawings turn out to look like blobs with googley eyes.

Sixth Grade- I had to a poster project on this very subject. This time I wanted to be in the Special Forces in the Army. I can remember my dad being really hesitant about this. I now know he was right. I would have been awful in that job.

Junior High/High School- Teacher was the dominant theme here. I thought I wanted to teach elementary or high school history. I remember my dad trying to talk me out of it because of the low pay and long hours. I think I had a romantic notion of it, being inspired by numerous teachers I had.

College- Teacher stuck with me for a little bit, but then some vague notions of political or environmental jobs floated in my mind. Lawyer popped up for a little bit, but then I took a Constitutional Law course and hated it. I also hated arguing and I wasn’t going at analyzing sentence things in a legal sense. I then thought maybe park ranger. I loved being outside.

Post-College- I wanted to work for the National Park Service. I started off in the Maryland State Park Service with Americorps. I thought it would be a nice stepping stone. I thought about applying to some graduate programs in park management, but then I realized that I had too much enthusiasm and initiative to survive working in the government.

Post-post College- After being disillusioned by the park service, I explored a part of my life that I hadn’t considered making a career: writing. I loved my Creative Writing class in undergrad, and I love reading about sports, so naturally, I thought I’d be a good sports writer. And then I applied to grad school for journalism, got in, and got my degree. Which more or less led me to my place in the world today.

I sometimes envy those people who knew what they wanted to do with their lives early in life, but then sometimes I do not.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

53. Shoeboxes

There’s a feature on Facebook called “On this Day” which allows you to see status updates, wall posts, photos and other random Facebook detritus that happened to you on that same day all the way back to 2007. At first I ignored it because I didn’t really care, but I’ve been checking out on a regular basis lately and I’ve got to say that I hate it.

I don’t enjoy seeing my jokes I thought were funny, my out of context song lyric-y status updates, or what I thought was significant, intelligent additions to the online digital conversation. Ninety-five percent of what I thought was brilliant at the time really didn’t age well.

I wonder how we’ll view browsing, perusing, and just getting lost in things in the future. When everything is digitized, who has time to browse? Your Facebook feeds are curated to your preferences and whims, so you don’t have to see anything out of the ordinary ever again. I take part in it, there are certain people I don’t care to see in my profile. It’s just how it is.

I suppose there is still fun stuff in the Reddit community, but there’s still a method to that madness where you don’t need to spend time in places that don’t interest you.

I have a few shoeboxes that I keep under my bed. There full of letters, notes, and random things I’ve put down on paper ever since my high school years. I enjoy digging through them every once in awhile to see what sorts of things that have slipped my mind. There is one letter from a high school friend who I haven’t heard from since graduation that was written on a piece of pink paper that was cut out in a human genome-like way. I don’t think it said anything profound, but I like just having it. There’s a birthday card from a girl who I went to high school, but was not too close with during that time. She gave me one just because we both had January birthdays. There’s a lyric from Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My”, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” I wrote it on a piece of notebook paper and I taped it to my bathroom mirror my senior year.

I’m not much into junk or knick knacks or 99% of the stuff you get at conferences. Most of it is cheap plastic crap that’s going to get stuck in a drawer and never used again, but I think the personal crap I’ve accumulated is much, much better.

I also like just wandering the streets of places. I don’t necessarily need a destination, but I like just going out and finding where things are and getting a feel for my surroundings. People look at me funny when I say I’m just going to go out and about.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about the “On this Day” feature is that it thinks it’s giving you important things, when it’s really just all the crap you never threw out. And since nothing is ever deleted on the internet, all of that crap sticks around.

I like the stuff sitting in a shoebox under my bed. It’s not perfect, but it’s important, even if I forget about it every once in a while.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

52. Fika

A few themes have bubbled up in the last few days in my blog posts: political frustration and trying to escape all of it. It’s difficult to try and distance yourself. (I honestly don’t understand how people can not know who is still in and who isn’t in the presidential race.) I still look at Facebook way too much and post a vaguely political article or reference, but I don’t even want to do that anymore. It just raises my blood pressure way too much and I don’t even have fun discussing it.

I wonder why we’re so angry about everything. I strolled through Barnes & Noble during my lunch hour. A lot of the titles in the “Current Events” section got me exhausted just reading them. (I really don’t want to google them for fear of the cookies following my online browsing.) They were all talking about how awful things were and how the rapture was upon us due to the election of Barack Obama as president. I’m sure there were a number of angry liberal books, but the market for angry political books is SO much hotter than angry Democratic stuff right now. (That could change if we get President Trump or Cruz.)

But why are we so angry? Things are pretty good right now for most of us. The stock market, despite some recent fluctuations, is breaking records, the housing market is back on it’s feet, and despite media outbursts, crime is still low.

I’m not naive. I know bad things are happening. I know ISIS is dangerous and we’re doing nothing about global warming, but can we ever be happy as a country again? It feels like if you’re happy with the way things are going you’re either completely out of touch with the system or naive. It feels like it’s impossible to objectively look at things and say, “Yeah, things are going pretty well.”

I’m glad to say that things are going well for me. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a while. It’s nice to have money in my checking account, friends who I care about, and interests and passions that sustain me. Shouldn’t that be enough? Does our happiness have to revolve around what greater events are happening in our country? I don’t think it should.

Of course, books and papers don’t sell if we pretend everything is rosy. But I think we can find that happiness and optimism in our media diets if we look at it a little sideways. I went through the “Staff Recommends” section and found a book called “Lost in Translation.” It was an illustrated book that showed words from different languages that don’t have a direct translation in English.

One of those words was Fika. A Swedish word that roughly means to sit down and have coffee and a heart to heart conversation with a friend. That’s one of my favorite things to do. I think I’m going to go back and purchase that book.

More fika, less fear. Let’s make that happen.

Monday, February 22, 2016

51. How I got here

A Facebook friend who I hadn’t spoken with in at least a decade challenged me to debate him on politics. I was a little taken aback by the message. He didn’t say hi or even acknowledge that it’s been awhile since we’ve talked. He went straight for the kill:
Ok, I'll play. Prepare for new arguments. Give me an issue that's important to you. "I think it's important for the government to ____" (health care, foreign policy, education, welfare...)
I ignored the first message, thinking that he meant it for someone else, but then he reached out again.
Just to clarify, I'm letting you pick the most important, easily defendable issue. I don't need all the talking points or statistics.
I declined, citing that I don’t really enjoy arguing politics over Facebook. (That doesn’t me it doesn’t happen, I just try to back out of them as quickly as possible.) I also noted that it’s been a long time since we talked in person and I didn’t really know about his political beliefs were shaped.

When I talk politics, I at least like knowing a little bit where a person is coming from. That allows me to extend some empathy towards their positions and softens my rage towards opinions and views outside of my own.

I also think a myriad of factors influence our politics. It’s not like choosing a sports team. So, on Facebook today, I thought I’d hash out where some of my beliefs come from.

Being a lifelong Boy Scout, attending an environmental boarding school, being an environmental studies major and working for the park service all shaped my views on the environment. And I suppose playing in the woods as a kid helped as well.

Being the son of two public school educators helped shape my views on public education and unions and their importance.

My mom, who worked with immigrants from all over the world for a good portion of her career, introduced me to numerous immigrants who dispelled the negative stereotype portrayed in the media. I believe the fear-mongering that is so prevalent towards immigrants in our country is so, so dangerous.

Having a brother who was adopted from El Salvador and who is on the spectrum made me passionate about issues related to race and mental illness. Seeing my parents struggle to keep up with the paperwork and the other issues made me furious over how little is understood about mental illness.

Having a cousin get killed in the Iraq War filled me with rage over the wars fought in the last decade. It made me realize that big, foreign actions have very real consequences. And that we need to take better care of veterans.

The Catholic Church, especially Catholic Social teaching and Benedictine spirituality, shaped my views on the need to help those less fortunate and be a more compassionate person.

Having a relative and friends who are Gay and Lesbian made me believe that gay marriage should be right. Seeing their shame and hiding their true selves made me believe in it.

Maybe I’ll debate my friend when I see him in person, but Facebook filters and aggregates things to make it look like it knows the complexities of people’s beliefs, but it doesn’t. Things are always more complicated than we’d like them to be. And I think it’s better that we recognize that.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

50. The Death of Grace

As I sit here at the kitchen table, surrounded by newspapers analyzing the results of last night’s round of caucuses and separated from the caustic, emotional upheaval that accompanies any political event, I am depressed. The elegance and grace of the American political process has evaporated.

The leading presidential candidate on the Republican side chided a sitting president for not attending the funeral of a Supreme Court Justice, wondering if he would have attended had it been in a mosque.

Why is this necessary? Why does he feel he needs to get that extra little punch in there to stir up resentment, fear, anger at something that affects almost no one? Does it really matter that Obama didn’t go to Scalia’s funeral? He went to his wake, and Vice-President Biden went to the funeral. I don’t know the rules of funeral etiquette for members of the federal level, but I’m sure I’ll go on with my day.

Pope Francis told reporters the other day, in response to a question about Trump, a “person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel. As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that. I say only that this man is not Christian if he says things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and in this I give the benefit of the doubt.”

Trump, of course, had to punch back. Why does he need to fire back at the Pope? Keep in mind that Pope Francis did not invoke Trump by name, nor did he call him not a Christian. Yet, Trump had to respond with punches of his own.

This is sad. I’m just exhausted and worked up from thinking about this post. To go back to my original thought about this, but is all this finger pointing, blame, and piss and vinegar really good for our democracy. I’m all for rigorous debate of the issues. It’s what made our country great. But all this just seems childish. It feels like a middle school playground and not a democratic process that is supposed to be the envy of the free world.

I keep thinking about the saying that a former teacher told me: when you stop thinking everyone who disagrees with you, hates you, things get a lot easier. Why can’t we all just think that way and hash out this election without the hate?

Yet, we have to play the political game like that is the case. There is no room for respectful debate. It is us vs. them. It is a zero-sum game. Compromise is for losers. You need to have the last word, or you’re a loser. It’s disgusting.

I am not a cynic. I am not a pessimist. I am not an angry voter. But as I watched Donald Trump’s victory speech in South Carolina, something sank in my heart.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

49. Money, that's what I want.

This is a riff off of something I wrote earlier today on a Facebook post. I spent the morning fiddling with student loans. I’ve become much more in tune with my loans in the past few months. Ever since I got my new (and better paying) job, I’ve had a little bit more flexibility with my money and I figured out that I should probably be putting it to good use instead of spending it on turkey sandwiches and the like.
Here is what I wrote this morning:
A PSA about your student loans AKA things I wish I would have known two years ago:
1. THE POST-GRAD GRACE PERIOD IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. Those six months ended up costing me over $4200 in interest payments. I spent the first five months of paying back my loans solely paying off that interest when I could have been paying down the principal of my loan.
2. PAY EARLY, PAY OFTEN. I'd often wait to make payments till the day when they were due. DON'T DO THIS. Interest accrues and you end up just throwing money at interest payments. Pay as soon as you can and pay as much as you can afford. Also, don't do automatic withdrawals. Be on top of your game.
3. DON'T BE BLISSFULLY IGNORANT. Money is scary, but you gotta just suck it up. I'd get incredibly anxious about my money and just avoid dealing with it. THAT IS NOT A GOOD STRATEGY. Even though I still have a lot of debt, I feel more in control of it, which is a good thing.
This isn’t a bulletproof strategy, but I’m glad I’ve started to be more in tune with my money now. When I don’t understand something, I tend to ignore it and let it fester. And then I get so anxious over it and the metaphorical shit hits the fan and I just lose all hope in everything.
I’m trying not to do that these days. I look over my account a few times a month just to make sure everything is in order and that there is not any surprises. For example, I found out that basically five months of my payments went strictly towards interest. That was over $2,000 dollars that barely scratched the surface of my loan. It’s kind of scary.
I remember in grad school that when I told a friend that I didn’t want to go out in order to save some money he told me, “Just take out more loans.” While I really think highly of this friend, I think he was wrong here. Another round of drinks would have cost a lot more had I taken more money out to feed that habit.
I hate that feeling of being saddled with debt. That feeling won’t be going away for a while (as I am in the process of buying a condo), but I can be in more control of it and I think that’s a wise course of action to take.

Friday, February 19, 2016

48. My Friend Jack

My friend Jack. I’m going to write about Jack because I’ve just eaten half of a Papa Murphy’s veggie pizza and I’m strained for other ideas.

I met Jack in the fall of 2010 just after we both started working for the Maryland Conservation Corps Americorps program. We were at our big group orientation. There were about 50 of us in the room and we all had to go around and tell where we were from and what crew we worked on. Jack said he was from Minnesota and I was like, “Oh, another native son from the motherland. I should get to know him.” And I did.

Jack was wearing a tie the first time I went over to his apartment. And that’s how I knew he was much, much cooler than me. I don’t remember what much else we did, except for going to go visit his wife Chelsea, who was working at Designer Shoe Warehouse at the time. We went into Wal Mart to buy snacks. It was pretty great. This was just after college and I didn’t have too many friends who were married at the time, so I was like whoa, Jack is much, much cooler than me.

We hung out a lot and I got to know Jack and Chelsea really well. I think we spent New Year’s Eve together a couple times. Most of the time, we’d just get drunk and play Trivial Pursuit. It was pretty awesome.

I think Jack and I bonded because I liked to ask questions and Jack liked to answer them. During our second year of MCC we were up at Fire Camp, all the first year members had to get trained, whereas the second year members had a lot of downtime. Jack and I made it through a whole box of trivial pursuit cards, just asking each other questions.

I moved to Boston in 2012 and Jack found a new job outside of the Park Service soon after. We didn’t talk as much, but still kept in touch. I was lucky enough to go with both Jack and Chelsea to Ocean City, Maryland in summer of 2012. It was such a fun weekend on the beach.

I think Jack and I became really close in the spring of 2014. Jack was applying to be an Air Traffic Controller and I was questioning whether I wanted to stay in Boston. I had what could easily be called a quarter-life crisis and Jack was nervous about the change in his life as well. Both Jack and Chelsea were gracious and helpful enough to answer my near daily calls and text messages. Chelsea was especially helpful in helping me deal with anxiety attacks. I remember sitting in the stairwell at the Boston Herald office, trying hold back tears as Chelsea helped me take a breath and calm down.

Ever since then, Jack and I message each other at least five to 10 times a day. Most of the time it deals with one of the following subjects: soccer, triscuits, yogurt, sandwiches, pizza, bears, or beers. It’s goofy, stupid, and part of the excruciating minutae of everyday life. I love it. Those things keep me going.

We now see each other a couple times a year. Jack and Chelsea live in Lincoln, Nebraska and don’t have the most flexible schedules. But we drink good beer, eat good food, and talk good soccer when we get together. It’s good stuff.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

47. Small Joys

I’ve come to relish those small, fun moments where you find something good and keep it all to yourself. Often it’s when I’m walking around the skyway and listening to a podcast and I feel like I’m in on a secret that the dozens of people walking by me have absolutely no idea about. It’s usually when I’m listening to the Men in Blazers podcast when those inside jokes come to light. I love them.

There are also times when I have a song stuck in my head and I sing or hum random words to it as I’m walking somewhere. Usually it’s only part of that song and I end up repeating that song multiple times throughout the day. Today it was the Eagles’ “Take it Easy.” That’s a song I hadn’t heard in years, yet I ended up singing it to myself throughout the day. It’s a little victory. I could have shared it or tweeted about it, but I wanted that random act of weird joy to myself. (Which I realize is now not so secret due to my writing about it.)

I had another one of those moments on my drive home from work today. I put on “Quinn the Eskimo” by Bob Dylan on in my car. That’s a weird song. It’s also not the stereotypical Dylan song. It’s got an electrified gut bucket opening riff that puts you in a good. And the chorus, “When Quinn the Eskimo gets here, everybody’s gonna jump for joy,” just makes you feel good. So, naturally, I sang along.   

I’ve clutched those small joys in my day. I’ve been told numerous times that “you need to find out how to be happy yourself before you can make someone else happy.” I never really knew what that meant. I thought making other people happy would make me happy. It works to a point. It’s exhausting to give yourself to others all the time without stopping, taking a break, and smiling.

I’ve been trying to cut down on Twitter. The barrage of people’s emotions just overwhelms me. People always need to vent, or make a snide remark, or remark how #blessed they are. No one can have a normal day on Twitter, at least if you want to get attention. Your happiness needs to be validated by other people before it’s real.

I also need to be validated a lot. I get stuck when making decisions and I often ask a bunch of questions before I proceed with things. While it’s wise to seek advice from people, a lot of times it’s best to do what’s best for yourself.

I’m not someone who’s “good” at praying or has a consistent, well-developed prayer life. What I try to do is find those moments that appear throughout the day that appear to come from a higher power. They can be a scene, a song, or one of those moments that make me smile. Not everything good in life is loud. Some of the best things are so small, only you can see them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

46. Nick's Notes 2/17

I’m so tired. I’ll just put this out there right now, I don’t know how people handle kids sometimes. As soon as I walked in the door this evening, I just wanted to collapse. Kudos to all the mom’s and dad’s who soldier on with house-related stuff even when they’re wicked tired. I didn’t feel like cooking dinner tonight, so I finished the half-eaten bowl of granola and yogurt that I didn’t finish this morning along with some Triscuits. Somedays I’m glad I still have the ability to get away with that (as in I’m glad I’m not responsible for the sustenance and care of another human being.) Maybe that will change with time, but right now I’m OK with it.

I’m doing ok with giving up Netflix for Lent. I am a week into it and I’ve been pretty OK with it. It’s freed up my mind to take care of other things: house stuff, writing letters, catching up on books, etc. There’s something freeing about not having that option in my mind to fall back on if I am bored/tired. I have to put in a little bit of effort to entertain myself. I’ve also noticed that the time goes by a lot slower now that my mind doesn’t melt away with continuous playing of television shows.

I’ve found that I still do some mindless things to entertain myself: scroll social media or dumb online games. I think those things are OK in moderation, but I’ve got to remember to stop myself once I feel my mind go slack.

My parents have been gone on a European trip for a couple of days now. It’s kind of weird having the house to myself. I like to think that I had the whole living on my own thing figured out, but those muscles have atrophied since moving back in with my parents. I’m not planning meals, cooking, grocery shopping (and I’m ashamed to say, cleaning up after myself.) Yesterday, I found myself groaning at the prospect of doing some dishes. But I have a hack to help stay focused for those things, I set the timer for about 15 minutes and just get everything done that I can. Finishing the dishes took me about seven minutes. I think it’s that removal of variables that helps things go by more quickly.

One weird thing I’ve noticed is that I can’t eat as much as I used to. That’s just one of the realities of growing older. My stomach gurgles more if I’ve had too much fried food and I feel like lying down and taking a nap after having a baked good. On the other hand, I usually feel pretty good when I eat some fruit. And I should probably stop eating a half a box of triscuits in one sitting.

Can a day go by where I don’t hear the word “impact” used incorrectly? I swear I hear it at least five times a day now. Ninety percent of the time, the correct word is affect! I guess I’m becoming more crotchety as well.

I set a timer for 15 minutes to get 500 words written. I got them typed in 11. Go me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

45. A Difficult Enemy

There’s something about the death of Antonin Scalia that’s still bothering me. It’s that we as a society seem to have our set narrative about him when a majority of our information comes from sound bites and listicles of out-of-context quotes from his decisions. I’m sure 99% of the people making opinions of him have never read a Supreme Court opinion of his or know what the term “Constitutional Originalist” means.

I don’t agree with Scalia on really anything, and I think his decisions on Obergafell and Lawrence will be seen to be out of touch. But do we know that his decisions came from a place of hatred? Or were they the byproduct of a bullheaded interpretation of the Constitution? (One I find completely ridiculous, but then again, I hated Constitutional Law.) We can cherry pick quotes from his decisions all we want, but do they really prove he was a hateful, discriminatory human being? Don’t just give me a quote, I need evidence. I don’t think the average human being (meaning non-legal scholar) has the patience to digest long, difficult arguments and give an even-handed analysis of his career.

If we want to label Scalia a bigot and leave that his legacy, we’re going to have to do some housekeeping with other historical figures. JFK was probably the worst womanizer to ever step foot in the White House. FDR carried out the worst civil liberties atrocities in this country’s history. Lincoln was nearly as bad. Regan had a ridiculous White House scandal that no one cared about.

It goes the other way too. Noted crack-user Marion Berry was re-elected to public office in Washington D.C. after serving jail time for drug use. Yet, he was beloved in DC by black citizens for helping create jobs and being a champion of the poor.

We find comfort in the narratives we concoct in our head, but we writhe in agony when forced to confront long and challenging facts.. People are difficult and they rarely fit in the metaphorical boxes that are presented to us.

It’s difficult for me to argue politics. I hate conflict. But I find that the most satisfying conversations are the ones I have with people who have different opinions than me. When I talk with them, I don’t try to change minds. I just like to listen and discuss. More often than not, I find more common ground than I thought I would. I believe we all want the same thing: safety, dignity, opportunity, happiness. People just disagree how to achieve those things. And that’s a good thing.

I’ll admit that, as a liberal, we can be an arrogant and condescending group. We like to think that we know best and that anybody who disagrees with us is backwards and out of touch. (Google Bernie-Splaining.) Do I think the Democratic party is ahead on more issues than the Republicans? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we know everything.

A former teacher of mine told me a while back that when you stop viewing the world as full of people who hate you and everything you stand for, life becomes a lot easier. Well that’s pretty easy for me to do because I’m a heterosexual, white male, but I think our society could do well to take a long drink from that well in this election season.

I think most of dog-eat-dog narrative is put out by the media, politicians, and advertising companies because it’s easier to get your money when you’re scared.

Not everyone who disagrees with you hates you. Not everyone is out to get you. Life is complicated. Life is difficult. We shouldn’t expect our heroes or our enemies to be any different.
You too can find humor where there is disagreement, just turn to Stephen Colbert.

Monday, February 15, 2016

44. My Friend Jamie Loftus

My friend Jamie is kind of weird. If you didn’t read the story of how she torments me and my turkey sandwich reviews, please check out that first. You’ll wonder why we are friends.

I first met Jamie when I was puttering around the ImprovBoston theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I got involved there by taking standup comedy classes and later working on staff as part of the front of house crew.

I actually saw Jamie for the first time at an open mic comedy night in Boston. I was way down on the list, meaning I wouldn’t get on until about 11 p.m. or so. She got on early in the show and did a bit about how she sought out other Jamie Loftus’s online. I don’t remember the specifics of the joke, but it was hilarious and it was the only subject I can recall from that evening, so her humor obviously had an effect on me.

We worked together for many of the shifts. She’d spend the slow parts of the night animating cartoons on her computer. I have no idea how she put them together, but they are … well, I’ll let you check them out.

You know how when you walk down the kids toy aisle in Target and everything is flashing and beeping and doing something to attract your attention? That’s the comedic output of Jamie Loftus. She always has something going. Whether it’s selling Shrek Nudes, attending Shrek the musical five nights in a row, diving headfirst in the trying to become a pro wrestling fan, or leading the (SFW) revolution at Playboy, she seems to have hit the sweet spot of crazy and cool professional output. It’s the like internet was made for Jamie Loftus content.

I’ll be the first to say that I don’t get all of Jamie Loftus’s humor. The jokes go over my head some of the time, but I don’t fault her for that. There’s a quote from my favorite podcast, Men in Blazers, that applies perfectly to Jamie. The two hosts were talking about a British comedian who sang terrible lounge songs, and they described him like this,  “You have to be really good at playing the piano to play that bad.” That’s Jamie. She’s discovered that secret that differentiates crap from really, really good stuff.

One thing I like to make fun of Jamie for is that for as good on Twitter as she is, she’s not the most prolific tweeter in her family. That distinction belongs to her dad, Mike Loftus, who has a few hundred more Twitter followers than her. You’ll get there one day, Jamie.

I think everyone needs to have a friend like Jamie Loftus. She’s weird, she’s different, and she has a wicked-sharp comedic mind that is far and above what I can comprehend. Well, I don’t see Jamie that often anymore, I’m still glad she’s making fun of my Turkey Club Club reviews. The world is quirky,weird, and wonderful. I think your friends should reflect that.