Friday, April 29, 2016

116. Blue Jasmine

I watched the movie “Blue Jasmine” the other day. Normally, I don’t enjoy watching movies that have a lead character that I couldn’t stand to be around, but this one was a little different. The story involved a character named Jasmine who moves to San Francisco after her life as a New York socialite collapses. She finds out her husband is having multiple affairs. He also is running massive fraudulent business, her son runs away, and then her husband commits suicide while in prison. She leaves for the west coast to move in with her adopted sister and two kids, who are not as attuned to the finer things in life as she is.

I don’t like Jasmine because she’s so concerned with status and societal image. I just have never understood that culture. I don’t get why you need to “Keep up with the Jones” or anything like that. I don’t get throwing dinner parties for people you don’t even like, just so you can show off all the stuff you have. It’s probably good I no longer live in a big-time eastern city. (Though it probably happens all the time in Minneapolis.)

I just don’t feel like i need to show off things that i have. I like to earn the respect and love of people whom I care about, and nobody else matters really to me. I like to dress nicely and I’m against wearing pajama pants in public, but I don’t understand the need to say what label you’re wearing. I like shopping at outlet stores and wearing things that are comfortable that I got for a good price.

I have a theory that most of our economic and environmental problems can be traced to the fact that human beings purchase too many things for reasons they can’t really explain. That’s why I have trouble picking out souvenirs. I have to go through a rigormoroll of asking myself whether I really need something or what I’ll use it for or if it will just end up in my desk or closet three months later. It stresses me out to go through that whole thing, but I’ve probably saved a lot of money from doing just that.

Jasmine continually criticizes her sister’s choice in taste (or passive-aggressively puts it down) in design, food, and men, when the sister is really somewhat content with her life. I wish we could let people be and not put this pressure on each other to put out an image of wealth or happiness. I find myself happiest when I am surrounded by my least amount of stuff. I mean it’s okay to have your indulgences, but I have a feeling that a speed boat probably wouldn’t make me happy right now. (Or probably ever, those things are too much work.)

This is a weird line to toe. On one hand, I don’t want to criticize people’s purchasing habits, you should be allowed to purchase things that make you happy, but on the other hand, I wish more people would just focus on those things and not worry about projecting an image of wealth with what you purchase. Is there a hashtag for this?

My mind came up with the Gospel story of the woman who gives her last two coins to the poor, even though she is poor herself, where some other men donate much more than she does. The men tell themselves that they are better citizens, but Jesus says they weren’t because the woman gave everything, where the men just gave a little bit.

Give everything, don’t worry about what other people think of you. Life’s too short to let other people scrutinize your happiness.

115. Nachos

Really struggling to come up with something to write about tonight, since I went to a happy hour with my girlfriend, I thought I’d write about bar food.

I have this discussion a lot. I think the top bar food is nachos. I know a lot of people have different feelings about this sort of thing, but I gotta say that nachos are the absolute best.

First, they’re easily shareable. There is nothing worse than when you are at the bar with some friends and you try to divide up a bunch of wings. There’s always going to be discussion over if anyone has had too many or someone didn’t get enough. There’s also the debate over how hot or mild or if you want the sweet or spicy. There are two many variables in the wings equation. If you’re ordering for yourself, wings aren’t terrible. I like wings at the bar if I’m planning on chowing them down solo. However, they just create too many problems if you’re planning on sharing them with friends.

Second, sliders are just terrible. Are they a meal? Are they just snack. You never get the right amount of sliders. For some reason, three just feels like the worst number (which is what they usually give you.) Also, I’m still not a fan of the whole craze. It’s just not for me.

Now let’s get to nachos. First, there are no rules in nachos. Wait, there is one, if it sticks together, it counts as one chip. You don’t have to worry about someone taking too many or too few. They’re just there. It’s too hard to divide.

Second, melted cheese is just the best. If you don’t like melted cheese, you’re probably not American. It’s pretty much one of the few foods our divided country can agree on. (Except if you’re lactose intolerant, then sorry.)

Third, you can gussy it up however you want. You don’t have too many options with that when it comes to wings. Chicken? Beans? Three cheese? Olives? Guac? Do what you want baby! This is America, you can have a customizable platter to however your little heart desires.

Fourth, you control how spicy they are. You can have salsa on the side or on top. Who doesn’t want those things to happen?

I’ll admit, there is a certain variable element here. Because good nachos are excellent, but bad nachos are BAD. They can really mess you up for weeks. (Well, maybe not weeks, but you could heavily regret it the next day.)

I’m also not a fan of what some places call nachos. One of the worst food investments you can make is buying nachos at a sporting event. Well, the standard nachos, which are just a single-serve bag of chips and a cup of radioactive cheese. I really don’t like most store bought cheese. (I really am not a fan of Velveeta, but that’s a subject for another post.

However, I had cheese curds tonight with my beer. Cheese curds are an underrated bar food for sure.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

114. A Ramble

Warning: A ramble, because I couldn’t think of a subject to stick with
Even though I’ve been living on my own for a little over a month now, I don’t mind the solo living as much as I thought I would. Maybe it’s because I’ve been either running or going to a Yoga class or trying to see friends at least once a week. I thought it would be a lot harder, but I think it helps to have lots of friends and family not that far away. I think I’d be in a lot more trouble if I was living in Boston or New York.

I think one of the reasons that I haven’t felt all that lonely is because I’ve had plenty of stuff around the house. I get my Sunday New York Times. I try to spend at least two hours on Sunday reading it, at least so I can get through all the hard news for the day. I also try to tidy up at least for 10-15 minutes a day. I find that’s all I really need to take care of most of the business.

I’m going to try and give a rundown for most of my day. I’ve been waking up at 6:50 a.m. I bought an automatic coffee pot and I set it for about 20 minutes before I wake up. I gotta say, it’s really nice waking up to a full pot of coffee. I try to finish everything I make, but one thing I don’t enjoy doing is rushing my way through a beverage. As the Dude would say in “The Big Lebowski”... “Hey, careful, man, there's a beverage here!” I drink two or three cups, depending on how much time I have. I page through the newspaper and have some toast with peanut butter as well.

I usually pack my lunch the night before, so it doesn’t take me long to get ready to get out the door. Usually I put on a podcast from the time I walk out the door to when I walk into my office. That’s about a 40 minute window and I can ususally finish one episode.

It’s nice to be at home at about 5:05 p.m. I usually either get changed to go out for a run, get ready to go to Yoga, or take a short 20 minute nap before I do anything else. I gotta say, it’s real nice to hit that reset button when I go home before I get started on anything else.

I should probably get internet at my house though. It probably isn’t good for me to eat into my cell phone data for my usual browsing.

I’ve tried to implement a no-social Sunday, where I stay off of social media for that 24 hours. I did ok last Sunday, but I had to check twice. I told myself I needed to to check on something, but I really didn’t. Hopefully I can do better next week. It was nice to take a break from constantly swimming upstream amid the constant current of angst online.

I wish I could read more novels. I’m just not good at sticking with them unless the get me right away. I’ve probably missed out on some good books because I generally stay away from them.

113. Decency

I really like my job. I get to write. I like the people I work with. It uses a bunch of my different professional muscles. However, I sometimes see things that confound me: people leaving their trash when they come for meetings, people not saying hi and making eye contact, and people making a huge fuss over the littlest inconvenience.

I’m glad my parents taught me to pick up after myself. (Even though I may not always do it in my room.) They taught me to value and respect the work that janitors, cooks, and people behind the scenes do. Just because someone cleans up after you, it doesn’t mean you should do those common things that make their job a little easier.

I’m glad my parents taught me to be friendly, say hi, make eye contact, and at least pretend you’re interested in something someone is saying.

It relates back to common decency. That phrase has been tangled and captured by so many different groups, that it’s a cliche. Maybe common decency is the wrong phrase, I’m having trouble parsing it out. Maybe the better word is common respect. Respecting those that do jobs that we don’t see. Respecting those who make less money than you, or those who sound, or act different than you.

I stumbled with that today. I was up at the front desk helping with registration for a lunchtime seminar. About 50 people were registered, so our receptionist needed extra help. A steady stream of people were coming in. I smiled and gave people the same directions. But then a guy who had an Eastern European accent walked in. I thought he might be looking for one of the other organizations on our floor. (We routinely have people walk in and ask to see a lawyer) I greeted him and then he said he was here for the seminar. I didn’t expect that.

I had breakfast with a friend the other day and he told the story about how he happened to sit next to a CEO of a pretty big Minnesota corporation at a recent dinner event. While the guy was talkative and answered questions from other people at the table, he didn’t really ask any of his guests. My friend said you could kind of tell he wasn’t interested getting to know the other people at the table (who weren’t CEO’s). During the dinner part, a salad was served with a Raspberry vinaigrette dressing. The CEO must have missed that memo because he took it and poured it over his dessert cake.

I find that a pretty funny scenario. I wish we could all do more in admitting our mistakes. I wish our society didn’t have to depend so much on image or status. We’re all people who do dumb things. We also become lawyers, janitors, and everything in between.

I hope I always retain that aspect of wanting to help put away chairs after a meeting or saying hi and smiling to everyone who walks in your door. I hope my status is never defined by the things I own, but how I made people feel.

A lot of people like throw around the phrase, “Be a good person.” I don’t actually like that. It’s too broad. I prefer, Be a kind person. Be a person who thinks about others. Or Be someone who you would want to have dinner with.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

112. Boredom

I’ve wondered about how good it is for people to be constantly entertained in this day and age. A podcast I enjoy listening to, “Totally Awesome”, sort of tackled that subject recently. The bit of the podcast is that they tackle an seemingly uninteresting subject and unspool all the cool stuff about it.

I was waiting in the cell phone lot at the airport to pick up Katie. I listened to that podcast when a line from a philosopher they interviewed stuck out to me. He said that the reason we get bored isn’t because boredom is trying to send us a message that what we are doing isn’t working. He used the example of when we touch a hot stove, we take our hands back because we obviously don’t want to keep our hands there.

As we go through our day, there are so many ways we can reduce or get rid of the pain or boredom we experience. We have cars on demand, food on demand, video on demand, you can even get toilet paper on demand. Patience is so yesterday.

Theoretically, shouldn’t we be the most entertained generation in history? It would take you years to watch all of the content on Netflix, yet we still need more channels, more options, and more stuff. That’s so crazy to think about. I’m almost kind of jealous that my grandparents had basically one option to be entertained.

Even now, I can’t even stand looking at one screen for more than a couple minutes. I have to frantically click back and forth between tabs to see if I have missed anything. That’s why I started “No Social Sunday”, where I’ll be avoiding social media the entire day. That eats up an inordinate amount of my time during the day. And 99.99% of the time, it’s completely stupid and dumb. I don’t get anything out of it, or else I get very little out of it.

I think it’s dangerous to expect there to be little to no pain in your life. Maybe that’s part of the reason we have an opioid epidemic in this country. There are people in real pain (and I really don’t know what it’s like to be in such pain that I’d need medication), but we expect it to be perfect. If there is pain, then something is wrong. That is true, but what happens when we get rid of those warning signals? We lose something important in our minds.

There are times in my day when I get anxious and worked up over something. I have things I could do, but I have a hard time settling on one. That’s when I need to clear everything out. I usually shut down all of my devices and lie down for a little while. That usually settles me down for a while. It’s good to be free of those things, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. Who would have thought that the best way to get the most out of your entertainment would be to step away from it for a little while?

111. More Prince

A few months ago, after David Bowie died, I had a discussion with a friend and we wondered if any musician’s death would affect us the way Bowie’s seemed to affect a number of people. I struggled to come up with names. I thought maybe Springsteen or Dylan, but no one was sticking out to me.

Well, Prince’s death is affecting me more than I thought it would. He’s the first artist I’ve seen live that’s died. I saw him when I was 16, the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school. It was on his Musicology tour. Looking back on it, I don’t think I appreciated seeing him then as much as I do now.

So when news of this hit Twitter, I started to choke up a little bit. I was at work. I’m in a small office, so once one person started talking about it, everyone knew. I fell into that black hole of social media time-suck of refreshing Twitter, trying to figure out what was going on.

I had to step away from my computer for a little bit because it just got to sad. After doing some work offline, I decided to spend the 12 bucks for Prince’s Greatest Hits album. I’m glad I spent the money. After all, he was a leader in making sure artists got properly reimbursed for their work.

I put on “Let’s Go Crazy” and I started to feel a little bit better. “Dearly beloved, we’re here today to get through this thing called life.” I find it interesting that even though Prince was an eccentric guy, he was still grounded. He was a Jehovah's Witness. He rode his bike. He like pancakes.

I think the thing I liked most about Prince was that he was Minnesotan. Let’s be honest, you don’t think of Prince as Minnesota. You’d expect him to be from somewhere like New York or Los Angeles. But he was ours. He wasn’t the stereotypical Minnesotan who talked in accents and wore flannel. He was cool. He did whatever he wanted. (I can’t think of any other Minnesotan who could turn himself into a symbol and get away with it.)

One other thing was that, as weird as you thought he was, you could still tell that he was just a guy playing music. He went to Timberwolves and Lynx games. He wrote a song after the Vikings went to the NFC championship (probably not one of his better works though.) He wrote a song about the riots in Baltimore. He also valued his privacy. He was a guy from Minnesota who enjoyed making music at heart.

It’s sad that it takes a death to bring people together, but it’s a nice feeling that I’m not alone with my feelings about Prince Rogers Nelson. As many people have said today, he made Minnesota proud.

Another line from “Let’s Go Crazy” stuck with me...

Take a look around you
At least you got friends

That’s a great sentiment to have.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

110. Prince and Celebrity Death

I’ve been thinking a lot about celebrity deaths lately. It’s kind of a morbid thing, I know, but Prince’s death has hit me especially hard. I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of his, but I did see him in high school. I probably didn’t appreciate him enough back when I saw him. (The man has made relevant, fresh music in five different decades, FIVE. That’s insane.)

But I’ve been soaking in the online tributes, the videos, and the Prince marathon on the Current radio station. I think it’s because he was Minneapolis. It was pretty much agreed on by every current resident that Prince was the coolest person living in the state. It’s hard to argue. It’s been nice to see the state come together in honor of him.

I was trying to think of the other celebrities that have affected me. Oddly enough, most all of them have come recently. I think I was upset when George Harrison died, but I wasn’t enough into the Beatles to really comprehend it.

One I do vividly recall is Senator Paul Wellstone’s death. I was on my first break from my new boarding school. My mom and I were driving in the car when we heard the radio report come on. I had shook his hand a few times and really liked what he stood for. It’s weird to think that was in a time before social media broke things.

There was Robin Williams. I grew up watching his movies and he always struck me with the joy he portrayed. I really miss that spirit he had. It was just fun and funny. It put me at ease with things.

Then there was David Carr, the legendary NY Times media columnist. I appreciated his optimism about journalism and brutal honesty about writing. I never had a class with him, or met him, but his role in the New York Times documentary “Page One” really stood out for me. I especially liked it when he ripped the guys from Vice media a new one.

And then there was Flip Saunders, the Timberwolves coach. Those mid-90s TWolves teams were the first one’s I really latched on to. I loved KG and Steph Marbury. He made basketball cool again in Minnesota. I was glad he was back and it’s good to see his plan for the organization was starting to take hold.

I don’t like thinking about death a whole lot. Mourning is a weird thing. You want to put a time limit on it, but you can’t. I really didn’t think I’d be listening to only Prince Music for the last 48 hours, but it’s really helped. Death really sucks, but I’m glad there’s a joy that can come from this.

Celebrity deaths are weird because you don’t know them, but they seem extremely personal to you. You feel like you knew them, even if you never even got close to them. With all these awesome stories coming out, it’s good to know that Prince generous, funny, good-hearted, and ultimately, his own man. God bless.

Friday, April 22, 2016

109. A bad way to start your weekend

This hasn’t been a great week. In addition to Prince’s death, I’ve just been really busy at work with some high stress-projects. And there wasn’t a good end to this week either.

I was walking back from lunch with my coworker, Anousack. We went through the skyway back towards the City Center building. There’s a small liquor store in one of the buildings by us. As we walked by I saw a man look like he was up to something. He snagged a beer from a six pack and shoved it in his coat. I was taken aback. Of course shoplifting happens, but how many times do you actually see it in real time? 

He was about 100 feet ahead of us. He didn’t run or anything. I told my coworker about what I had just seen and if we should do anything. There weren’t any security guards around. We decided that it really wasn’t worth it to make a fuss over one beer. I didn’t know if the guy had a knife or a gun or something. It wasn’t worth the hassle.

And then we walked into our building, which usually has some security guards around. The guy was in front of us when I heard him yell, “That guy spit on me!” to some of the guards. He pointed at a Somalian guy who was dressed in a t shirt and jeans. (I should point out the other guy was white.) 

I’ll say here that I don’t know for sure if the guy spit on him or not, but I’ll go with the Occum’s Razor theory here. He got the cop’s attention somewhere else, so they wouldn’t go after him. And who just spits on people randomly? 

Three security guards slammed the guy up against the glass sidewall that separated the two escalators that went up to our offices. It happened just as we were going up. Anousack (my coworker) and I looked at each other stunned. Should we have said something then? We didn’t and just walked back into the office, dazed. We talked about it periodically throughout the rest of the afternoon, wondering if we should have said something.

I wish I said something. The stealing of the beer didn’t bother me. (Well, it did, but not enough to say something about it.) But the fact that some poor guy got shoved and cuffed just bothered me. I don’t think that would have happened if the dude pointed to a guy in a suit and said he had spit on him. As a white guy, I believe I have the privilege that people won’t  assume that I’ve spit on someone. The thief picked a Somalian because it’s an easy jump to make. 

I hope that guy who got ruffed up by security guards is all right. He didn’t deserve that. I hope that other guy gets what karma is coming to him. Even though this was a crappy way to end my day, it’s a good moment to reflect on what I have and what people can assume about me. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

108. Extroverted Introvert

There was a moment the other weekend that hit the sweet spot. I went out running mid-morning on Saturday. My goal was to hit up Wirth Park because I didn’t really enjoy how crowded the bike trail by me gets. (I love that it’s there, but I really don’t enjoy working out with hundreds of other people.)

I crossed the 394 bridge and made it to the park. There are a number of paved roads and trails going through the park, but I decided to get off some of the constructed trails and go on those that were blazed by foot traffic. I’ve gotten used to seeing cars and other people while running in the suburbs, but I soon made it to a place where there was nothing around me. No people, no cars, no sign of any development. I had to take off my headphones and walk.

I love those places where it seems like I am the only person around. It energizes me and makes me feel like I’ve stumbled onto some sort of magical secret place. That happened another time when I was in the North End of Boston. I walked around and made my way onto a street with no cars or no people. I remember it was a windy day and I saw a plastic bag floating around. (I swear I’m not just copying “American Beauty”).

Most of my life I’ve thought of myself as extrovert. I like talking to people for the most part. I’m curious and I enjoy speaking in public. However, there are times when I just need to shut everyone and everything else out and go for a run or a walk or some other type of energy-burning activity. I like silence.

I remember a day in high school when I walked through our gathering space and everyone was on their computer or playing music. It was just loud. It felt like too much. I told my english teacher about it before my next class. A few days later we ended up doing a class on silence. I loved it.

It’s hard to balance these aspects of my personality. I haven’t really acknowledged that I need privacy or solo time in my relationships before. That’s actually very important to me. There’s the part that revolves around physical fitness, but I also need that time to just let my wonder. I do that through walks and browsing through libraries and bookstores.

Phones haven’t helped me in need to be introverted. Sometimes I just get so sick of mine and the FOMO, that put it in airplane mode and stash it away. I really enjoy those times.

I don’t find solace in the internet and I don’t really de-stress by playing team sports. I do those things by being alone. I just need an hour or two everyday to do that.

I used to think that being alone meant you were lonely, but I think it’s become a crucial part of my life. That lonely writer thing… lol

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

107. Working Out, Working Out

As I finished up a run the other day, I saw a sight that terrified me. It wasn’t a rabid dog or a zombie. It was a group of about 200 runners making their way down behind me. I quickly moved the other side of the road. Even though it looked like I could be part of their group with my neon green running shoes, running shorts, and Under Armor top, I didn’t want to be seen with them. I really don’t enjoy working out with other people.

I really enjoy getting exercise, but I hate working out. Judging by the number of steps I take with my FitBit monitor, people may think I’m a workout fiend. I’m not, really. I don’t workout to get buff or show off my guns. I like to workout because I know I’ll get a good hit of endorphins and that I’ll have an excuse to lie around and drink beer for the rest of the day.

I actually really don’t like most of the culture surrounding exercising. It’s too serious. It’s that “if you’re not first, you’re last” mentality. I hate that so much. It makes me picture a bunch of serious zombies who thrive on protein shakes and planking. That isn’t for me. (I should say that while I don’t care to be a part of the workout culture, I’m not going to judge you if you are. To each their own.)

I guess I just don’t care for competitive culture when it comes to me burning calories. I think that’s why I have never really enjoyed races. I get nervous before them and I go to the bathroom a lot. I get nervous, shaky, and I don’t perform well. I’d rather just go out on a run by myself.

The funny thing is, I really don’t need a whole lot of motivation to go work out. I’m a pretty consistent exerciser, going for a run or doing another type of physical activity at least five days a week. I get antsy if I don’t some sort of physical activity.

There is one type of competitive exercise that I enjoy: walking. I’ve been doing FitBit challenges pretty regularly since I got one at the beginning of the year. I don’t mean to brag, but I’ve won a lot of them. (That’s sounds like a real white person humble brag.)

The one time I really did show my competitive spirit was when I was doing my wild land firefighter training with the Maryland Conservation Corps. We had to do the Pack Test, which consisted of walking three miles with 40 (I think?) pounds on our back. We had to complete the course in either 40 or 45 minutes. I don’t know what happened the first time, but I just took off and I beat most everyone by a few minutes. There were a few professional firefighters in the mix and they had some choice words for me. I repeated my task the next year as well. But I also did it in under 30 minutes, a goal I had set for myself. I haven’t been too motivated with regards to competition much since then.

I enjoy being active, but I don’t do it for many reasons other than it makes me feel good when I do it. I think that’s perfectly ok. I like being healthy, but I wish we’d stop making it such a competition.

Monday, April 18, 2016

106. Anti-Hoarder

I think I might be the anti-hoarder. I like traveling light and not having a whole lot of stuff. I don’t have much in my new apartment and I’m kind of okay with that for now. I think that’s because I’ve done the process of accumulating and shedding stuff for nearly a decade now. (Is shedding the right word?) It’s a cycle that I’m used to. Buy a few things and let other ones go. It’s the only way I know how to do things.

I haven’t gotten a whole lot of stuff in my new apartment yet. I have one table (donated from by brother), two chairs (donated from my parents), a couch (donated from friends), and stacks of Sunday edition New York Times (which I paid for myself.)

That’s pretty much it for furnishings in the main room. There is a part of me that sort of worries that it’s going to stay like this. While I disdain the accumulation of “stuff”, I wouldn’t mind having a stylish interior room. I like the idea of minimalism, even if I don’t always practice it.

But I’m sitting here at my table. It’s warm out, but not deathly hot. A late night spring rain has started to fall. I’ve got the windows open and I just put on some Grateful Dead tunes. I have a beer open. I’m happy. I mean, how much more stuff do I need? I sometimes feel a bit underprepared when I have company over, but does that really matter all that much?

Of course, I’m sure there are other days where I’ve been bored as heck and cursing my lack of stuff to do in my apartment.

Maybe a part of my aversion to stuff is my background in environmental studies. I honestly think a good portion of what’s destroying our planet comes from cheap plastic junk that people use for a couple minutes and then throw away to never be used again. I don’t care for party favors or most holiday decorations. They just don’t do it for me. I get in my anxious state thinking about all the resources that went into making that one thing.

I also hate when people buy gifts and they just end up on a shelf somewhere, unopened. It just feels so weird to me. I try to purchase thoughtful gifts for my friends and family. Hopefully they have worked.

I was in a bit of an anxious state when I went to Ikea the other week. I kept thinking, do I need this stuff? Should I be spending this money? Is this a worthwhile buy? I suppose there are a few things I could use (lamps, blinds), but most of the other stuff wasn’t all that necessary.

Maybe I’m destined to forever be an anti-pack rat. I’m okay with that. I like things being simple. It makes you appreciate those things you really do enjoy, like writing, a cold beer, a warm night, and just a little bit of music.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

105. Turkey Club Club Dagwoods

I went to Dagwood’s with high hopes. It had come to my attention that NBA player Matt Bonner AKA
“The Red Mamba” had visited there when his team, the San Antonio Spurs” played the Minnesota Timberwolves. It turns out, Bonner has a sandwich blog as well. Any place that gets profiled by a NBA player, one of the most in-shape people on the planet, is all right by me.

Matt said this of the Turkey Dagwood on his blog, “I definitely plan to go back to Dagwood's next time we play the Timberwolves.  I wouldn't say it's the Hoagie Grail, but the "Turkey Dagwood" was one of the best sandwiches I've had in a long time.” I had to go try it out myself

Thursday was going to be busy for me. I was coming to the end of two big projects and I also had a big meeting that day. My boss, who normally sat in on those meetings, would not be able to make it. Those meetings happened over the noon hour and lasted till about 1:30 or 1:45. I knew lunch wouldn’t be happening. I needed a sandwich to keep me going.

I made the trek via the skyway to the building where I had passed the restaurant many times. I usually take a walk over my lunch break (which means I unhealthfully consume the turkey sandwiches at my desk) and my interest had been piqued by the place before.

I was the only one in line at 10:30. I got my order in right away. I was a little nervous because I didn’t want to get back too late to the office, and it was about 10 to 15 minute walk there.

After waiting what seemed like another 10 to 15 minutes, I finally got my sandwich. I rushed back and wondered whether I should eat it before or after my meeting. Since I get cranky if I don’t eat, I decided on before the meeting. Looking back, I don’t know if it was the right choice.

One of the reasons like sandwiches is that they are compact and easily transportable. This one was a mess. I would have eaten at my desk, but I didn’t want sandwich oil and chips all over my workspace. I went into one of the conference rooms to eat. I made a mess.

The first thing I noticed was that it was soggy. The thing seemed like it was doused in sandwich oil. (Which was Matt’s favorite part of the whole thing.) Normally, I don’t mind a little extra oil on the sandwich, but this one was disgusting. It got all over my hands and even a little bit on my shirt. I don’t remember much about the turkey or the vegetables because I was so upset with getting my lunch all over myself. (I swear I’m not usually this messy.)

I had to disagree with Mr. Bonner’s verdict on Dagwood’s. While the sandwich was big and went for a reasonable price (It was about seven bucks), I didn’t enjoy it as much as he did. I don’t like messes and I don’t like feeling like I have to clear out a five foot radius when I eat something. I like quick, clean, and convenient, all of which Dagwood’s was not. I give it one out of five stars.

104. The Process

The political process revs me up. I love voting. I love participating in the process. I love the rights that have been bestowed on me by being an American citizen. I took that to the next level by participating as a delegate to the DFL Senate District 32 (North Branch area) caucus on Saturday afternoon.

I had done it once before as a member of the college democrats back at Saint John’s. It was a really fun day because a bunch of us from CSB/SJU basically took over the convention and scored a number of primo delegate slots to the congressional district and state convention. We even had one delegate serve as an alternate to the national convention. That whole process was a fun memory that I’ll cherish for a long time.

This time, it was a little bit quieter. I was going by myself. I didn’t have any resolutions that I wanted to have debated and I didn’t try and get a slot at the state convention. (Even though I was elected to the delegate slot when I lived with my parents in the district, I have since moved to a different one, so I thought it might be a little unfair to those who really wanted to go.)

North Branch High School hosted the convention. It was your standard fare: lots of signs for Democrats, buttons, stickers, and other political paraphernalia. The other thing I noticed was that about 80% of the convention looked to be above the age of 60. (I'm 28.)

It didn’t bother me, but it made me upset about everyone in my generation. We don’t show up because we claim the people who represent us don’t actually do anything, yet we don’t show up to the places where we could make change, like caucuses and district conventions, so the cycle continues. It’s so frustrating. There’s a reason people who are in power stay in power: no one challenges them or thinks it's hopeless to try.

The second thing I noticed had to do with the makeup of who was there. It was 100 percent white. The only person of color I saw the whole day was the Diversity and Inclusion officer from the DFL. She was a bubbly, enthusiastic, and personable woman of southeast Asian descent.

I sometimes think it’s unfair to call out places for lack of diversity when they are really less diverse areas, but not a single person of color there? That felt wrong. I don’t know the specific demographics of the area, but I know there had to be at least one person of color in that voting area. Why couldn’t we get them to show? I feel like there are a vast number of communities that are underserved by the political process.

The third thing I noticed was that it takes time. While it was exhausting to be in a school cafeteria on a  gorgeous day, I’m glad it was a bit slow. Democracy is slow and painful. I know we millennials like things done quickly, but I think our founders probably envisioned something like what was going on. There were rules to be agreed on, motions to go through, and time for speeches to be given. It was painful at times, but it had to be done.

I couldn't make the other conventions this year, so I didn't try and be a delegate, but I’m glad I showed up. Too many of us think our political process just involves tweeting and yelling. We have to show up at the places that really matter, too.

Friday, April 15, 2016

103. Erin Brockovich

I didn’t think I’d be watching the movie Erin Brockovich tonight. I’m glad I did. My brother, my dad, and I watched the movie after browsing through Netflix for about 15 minutes. It’s not quite a guys movie, but my dad isn’t big on violent movies and my brother doesn’t really care for classics. We all like Julia Roberts, so we settled on that one.

I can tell it was a good movie because my dad stayed awake through the whole thing. The backstory to those who haven’t seen it, Erin is a woman with no formal legal training who forces her way into a job at a law firm. She stumbles upon an incongruency in what had been a pro bono effort, but then she does what all good lawyers (and news reporters) do, she digs. She finds out that the local energy company has been knowingly poisoning the local water supply for years. She eventually rallies the town and wins big. (I know I gave away the ending, but it’s still worth a watch.)

As someone who (sort of) works in the legal field, I really liked it. Erin was someone I could relate to. She wasn’t a fan off bullshit and she let you know it. However, she also empathized with people. She connected with people. Lawyers are famously (or infamously) stereotypes as being money grubbers with no soul, but Erin was able to get past all that.

I struggle with the fact that I think empathy is my best quality. It’s not something that comes up often in job listings. People think empathy should be left to “helping” professions like nurses. (I don’t know about that. I’ve met some mean nurses in my life.) Erin had a lot of empathy and I don’t think she would have won her case had she not been.

I also liked this movie because had Erin had a slightly different job, like journalist, this would have been a better journalism movie than 90% of the movies out there. She was dogged. She went to house after house and just talked to people. She listened and she didn’t take know for an answer. She also knew how to search for government documents (or she learned on the fly.) All good skills for reporters to know.

It was weird that you sort of knew what would happen in this movie, but it never seemed cliche. It was just a bunch of really good victories that added up in response to a terrible tragedy.

There’s another thread of this movie that has to do with her love interest, played by Aaron Eckhardt, and how he takes care of her kids, but I think that would be worth a different blog post.

In the end, this was a heartwarming movie that didn’t fall into heartwarming cliches. It made me remember that it’s ok to empathize with people. In fact, we probably need more of it in our world. I’d recommend this movie to anyone looking for a good story, enjoyable characters, or someone who just needs to see a good win.

102. Islamophobia

Wrote another reflection on an Islamaphobia program at the Basilica last weekend.

101. Low Wattage

I love when it when I find a story so moving that I have to experience it multiple times. I’m not talking about reading something again and again to understand the facts, I’m talking about something that’s so emotionally moving that I need to go through it again to unpack it all.
I found that after listening to a story from this past weekend’s This American Life. Specifically, the second act. It’s not too long. I’d highly recommend it. Listen to it here...
To sum it up, a dude from Texas calls into a podcast and chats with host Chris Gethard for an hour. It’s easy to see that the caller is not well. He goes to work where bosses couldn’t care less if he actually did his job, goes home, goes on the internet, smokes, drinks, sleeps, repeats. Gethard does his best to pull him out of that.
I wonder how many people are stuck like that caller. The one’s who just go home, drink, smoke, eat and go to bed. I get that people do that. There are days when I just come home and plop in front of a screen. And those are ok… every once in a while. But it’s diminishing marginal returns.
I don’t pretend like I have it all figured out. I don’t have wild adventures every night. I’m not #LivingOnTheEdge. Sometimes I’m just me and the day is uneventful. And that’s ok, as long as you realize that.  
I don’t think I know everything. There are nights when I just come home and watch Netflix. I don’t think that’s always necessarily a bad thing. But when does what we love become a medication to get through the day? When does the joy get sucked out of it. I think about that a lot. Am I getting the joy out of life?
I worry about that for the future. I worry that we as a society will become so self-indulgent that we’ll forget about the little joyful painful things in life. I like the idea that we’ll always have comfort in our alcohol, internets, and television, but is it really practical? Is that really what we should be going for?

I went to a bar with my girlfriend on Wednesday night after going to a show. I don’t mean to sound judgy, but there were a few people there who just looked sad. Maybe some people just wanted a drink by themselves, and I don’t blame them. But some people just looked like they did that night after night, hoping they’ll find something there that wasn’t there before.

I take that paragraph back. That sounds really judge. But I wonder how many people self medicate to mask pain instead of cultivate joy. Alcohol masks pain really well, but it’s only that, a mask. That bothers me. I like having a beer every so often as much as the next guy, but I worry when it becomes a crutch too often.

I’m lucky that I know what joy is in my life. I think it’s good to chase it and not let those habits get the best of you.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

100. Abbey Banner

A little bit of a cop out for writing today, but I'm behind. So here's what  I wrote for the Abbey Banner Magazine. Turn to Page 17.

Monday, April 11, 2016

99. The People You Don't See

During my first day at the Marshall Independent my editor David Merrill told me that I have the best job at the paper. It turned out he was right. I got to spend a lot of time out of the office. I got to know a lot of people, cover lots of games, and I got some pretty good recognition. However, I was able to do my job as well as I did due in large part to the work David did behind the scenes.

As David heads out to a new job, I wanted to make sure he gets the props he deserved. He’ll be working with on Virginia Tech football recruiting, which is part of the network. It’s in DI college football, which is the direction he wanted to go.

I did have my disagreements and frustrations with David, but what reporter doesn’t with his editor? However, those disagreements were never about ego. At the end of the day (literally), they were about getting the best sports section out to readers. If anyone in Marshall reads this, they need to know that. David always cared about putting out a good product (even more than me sometimes.)

Yes, there were mistakes, but most people don’t realize what a precarious task it is to put together a sports section night after night. I know there are some of you who think it’s easy working in a sports department, well it’s not. You work late hours when friends are out drinking. You get paid crap and you have to deal with ownership which continually demands that you do more with less. And you have to deal with coaches and parents who think they are above silly things like deadlines. Remember that when you sit with your morning coffee and read the paper. Someone sacrificed an evening to get that out to you. And more often that not, that person was David.  

I had it easy. I really only had one person to answer to, him. David had three or four people breathing down his neck on a daily basis, to go along with dozens of coaches, administrators, and parents. I got to get outside of the office regularly. David was at the desk basically six nights a week. I was able to drop my work at 11 p.m. most nights. David stayed late, usually by himself, to make sure the finishing touches were put on everything.  

Most people forget that David had the sports reporter job before me. He was thrown to the wolves and appointed sports editor after about four months on the job when the previous sports editor quit. I didn’t know that guy, but from what I’ve gathered, he didn’t give a shit about putting out a good product. He whined and didn’t pay attention to deadlines. David, on the other hand, put forth his damnedest effort every night.

A little birdie told me that some people weren’t happy with David’s time at the paper. To use a a popular phrase of some parents I had to deal with, “I’m disappointed.”  Everyone is entitled to their opinion about the sports page, but everyone needs to know this: David gave a shit about your teams. That's more than you can ask for from young, ambitious sports reporters. He could have easily treated the job as a stepping stone, but he didn’t.

This past fall he put a lot of free time into quality coverage of the SMSU football team. That involved covering a game on his one night off. He even drove a few hours to some of the away games. He bought a new camera with his own money and used it to make sure quality pictures got in the paper. He made sure wrestlers, track athletes, soccer players, and athletes from other less popular sports got their due on the page. There were nights when those of us working with him would plead to cut off accepting anymore phone calls, but David made us wait it out. He wanted as many scores in there as possible.

It was easy for me to show I cared about the Marshall community. I could show up at the games. I got a weekly column with my face in it. David was stuck in the office most every night and he didn’t have enough time to pen a column. I got accolades and community recognition, when David didn’t as much.  

So while David finishes out his tenure in the next few weeks, remember that there are people out there who care a lot, but rarely get to show their face to the public. Working behind the scenes is not always the most fun way to work, but David did a hell of a job.  

JSYK- His Twitter handle is @SWMNDave. He’d appreciate a shout out.