Tuesday, May 31, 2016

148. Don't Do This

Do you ever have one of those days where one thing just sets you off for the rest of the day? That happened to me this morning as I was looking into this very computer, trying to find some words to write, and I peeked into Twitter and found a video of a man who decided to pay his approximately $200 parking ticket with pennies. The webpost didn’t condone his actions, but it felt weird that this was even news.

The story even linked to other times government vigilantes decided to take matters into their own hands and piss off some people. I’m not against the man protesting parking tickets. I’m against the fact that he thought he was sending a message when all he really was doing was making some underpaid city worker’s day worse. The guy was even puffing his feathers after he was done, saying that they could keep the change.

I wonder if that dude had worked a public-facing job in his life. I have. I’ll tell you this. The public can be real assholes sometimes. People are whiny, they’re unreasonable, and they think the world revolves around them. I am a firm believer in the Gospel of customer service, but there is no pleasing some people.

Maybe the man thoroughly researched his actions and thought, “Yes, this is the best way to reach the city council and hopefully effect change in the way my local government is funded.”But  I doubt it. I feel like if he would have stopped and taken a few breaths, he might have realized that this was a dumb idea.

After about an hour of searching down evidence about this story, I’ve boiled it down to this: The guy is upset that he had to pay a fine for speeding, but he doesn’t want to do anything to affect change of it? He tweeted an answer to my question that “no.  The system can't be fixed, it can only be abolished.” That’s sounds like it’s going really well.

I can’t stand people who just make a show for protest, yet don’t show up when it really matters. These are the people who want to make a big splash on their YouTube page, but refuse to do any actual work to change the system. Sure, it’s good to make an uproar every once in awhile, but if you scream that you want to change the system, but you’re not in the trenches doing the little, uncomfortable work to actually change things, then you’re just being selfish.

I think about the movie Spotlight with this situation. The reporters could have published early and made a big splash, but they waited. They did their homework and tightened everything up, and actually caused real change to happen. This man is not a political activist. He’s selfish and bent on destruction. He wants to hold the powerful accountable, but really can only face the female clerk manning the desk. That’s not courage. That’s not affecting change. That’s selfishness.

147. 10 years after

I don’t remember much about graduating. I remember it was hot. I remember that there were a lot of tears. I remember I got a wicked case of heat exhaustion after being out in the sun without enough sunscreen or fluids. (I’ve learned that being properly hydrated is the key to most things in life.) I remember talking with friends and celebrating at a cabin my family rented afterwards.

I remember missing a lot of people.

A lot of stock is placed in graduations. On a macro level of your life, they’re a pretty big deal. It’s really your first event as a legal adult. It’s the first time you realize you’re not going to see large swaths of people you had spent lots of time with in your formative years on a regular basis. It’s the first time you realize that things will change and you need to be prepared for them.

I guess what I didn’t know was that, at least in my case, things will work out how they are supposed to. Those events you think are life-ending, probably are not. And those unexpected challenges will test you, but not break you. The plan you lay out in your head is probably not the plan that you’re going to follow. Every path is different. And that’s OK.

I think the thing I wish high school talked about more was that being a kind, empathetic, thoughtful person is completely underrated. I think we have lots of smart people, lots of nice people, but not a lot of kind people in this world. I can think of a handful of people who I’ve looked up to who are kind people: I don’t regret any time I spent with them. You can be a kind and smart person. You can be a tough and a kind person. Kindness does not have to be a mutually exclusive characteristic.

One of the biggest keys to success, at least what I believe, is the ability to manage the day-to-day ups and downs of life. There are so many times in my day where I feel like my ship is either going to crash or it’s smooth sailing. It’s just important to remain at the wheel. Don’t let the little parts of life get you off course. I think most stressful parts of life can be overcome with a deep breath.

One thing I do regret is that I don’t get to see some of my classmates to reflect on what a weird, wonderful experience Conserve School was. I have yet to meet another person who had something similar.

As a culture, we put a lot of stock in graduation. We think it’s THE turning point in our lives. We think we need to do something drastic in order to make it memorable. While it does change your life, I don’t think it’s as big as we make it out to be. I’ve found that the bigger changes in my life have come from quieter moments when I least expected them.  

Monday, May 30, 2016

146. Alcohol

Alcohol is losing its luster with me. I enjoy beer and other adult beverages, but the diminishing marginal returns are setting in earlier. If I don’t crack open a beer until 8 p.m., my limit is two beers. Three beers just wakes me up in the middle of the night and I definitely regret even more after the first cup of coffee the next morning.

Last night I had a few too many glasses of wine at home while I was watching a movie. I woke up at about 1:30 a.m. and then did not fall back asleep until about 4:30 a.m. Losing that much sleep is just not worth it for me anymore. Eight hours of sleep is premo for me.

There are a group of guys (I think?) who live below me. They seem to enjoy their substances (both legal and illegal) quite often. They can enjoy themselves however they want (if they keep it to themselves). However, it seems like they do it too hard. The other night one guy (or at least I’m assuming it was one guy) puked outside about four different times after midnight after a night of partying. Maybe I don’t have the whole story, but that just seems like a miserable way to spend a weeknight.

I’m not trying to sound like a teetotler here. I’m just trying to evaluate what my relationship to alcohol should be. While I enjoy imbibing, I’ve begun to dislike the effects of drinking even more than drinking itself.

However, drinking on a patio is probably my favorite part of summer. It’s just nice to be outside in the sun with a relaxing beverage.

I’m also paranoid about going anywhere a car if I’m planning to have a drink. My dad gave me plenty of warnings about this throughout the course of my youth and it had an effect on me. It makes me so sad that this is still an issue in our country. Maybe some people have a handle on it, but I wish more people would be mature enough to know when to say no.

A few months ago, I went to a party that a friend hosted. Another person I knew was coming, but he was going out for a work happy hour. I don’t know anything about the company culture where this person works. I don’t know the person all that well either. I do know that it felt really weird that he had to sit in his car for 45 minutes to make sure the buzz came off. That was the smart move. It feels weird that he even had to make that decision though. At 28, I feel like you shouldn’t need to be judged for your relationship with alcohol. If you’ve figured out how to have fun without it, you’ll probably be ok.

I think the thing we forget about is the health aspects of drinking. I’ve noticed a (slight) gut, probably from the beer. My metabolism isn’t what it used to be and the extra few hundred calories from a couple beers probably aren’t helping out anything.

I still enjoy beers, but I might start saying “no thanks” more often.

145. Memorial Day

There’s something wrong our relationship to Veterans today. It’s too commercialized, sleek, and too, for lack of a better term, branded. "Supporting veterans" something people turn to when they want to look noble and good-hearted, yet when they actually have to do something, it’s a bit of a different story.

Take for example our leading Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump. I will point out that he has raised millions of dollars for veterans groups, and donated more money than I’ll ever be able to worthy charities. However, he seemed to want to get the goodwill from his words, rather than be held accountable for his promises. He only delivered on a million-dollar promise after a reporter raised questions about it.

That just bothers me. It’s look-at-me patriotism that requires no effort (or at least until he is proded to make an effort.) He’s smart enough to know that running “for” veterans is probably the easiest game in the book. Yet, he thinks it’s just about money. It’s not just about money.

Take for example the dozens of other charities that don’t really have veterans at heart.  They lose focus of their mission and end up taking advantage of genuine goodwill from donors.

I thought about those things today as I attended Mass at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Minneapolis. Memorial Day isn’t about supporting the troops when it’s advantageous to your career. It’s not about taking advantage of other people’s generosity. It’s not just about words and stickers.

It’s about sitting in plastic folding chairs in the sun, and saying prayers to those who have fallen when it would be more comfortable to be by the lake or in air conditioning.

It’s about those people who show up with walkers or wheelchairs because while it might be painful to get out of the house, this is one event they cannot miss.

It’s about the barrel chested men sweating through their Knights of Columbus Uniforms who treat the mass with the respect and the dignity, even though it's sweltering out.

It’s about the sitting, contemplating, and meditating on what sacrifice has meant in our country, and not just accepting the statistics.

It’s about the guy who wore a full suit to the cemetery because he believed that he should look sharp for this service.

It’s about the laying of wreaths, the giving of flowers, the trimming of grass around gravestones, and the quaffing of root beers.

It’s about showing up. Showing up to pray, to listen, to reflect, to support, to honor. It’s not about doing all of those things when it serves to help you in the polls or add to your bank account.

I wish our society invited more room for quiet reflection and honor. That’s not enough anymore. You need to give more money than the other guy, you need to have a bigger flag pin, and you need to talk big. Remember that you cannot buy honor, and that patriotism shouldn’t come with a (dollar) price. It’s about more than that, Mr. Trump.  

This day would not be complete without a mention of my cousin, Philip, who was killed in Iraq in 2004. God Bless you, Philip.

144. Doin Stuff

I didn’t set out to have a slow weekend. My original plans fell through last week, so I thought I’d make some new ones. On Friday night, I went to the Saints game with my friend Dave. We went to Tin Whiskers brewery prior to the game. I enjoyed checking out a new brewery in Lowertown, Saint Paul. (Side note, If I hadn’t found my place here in St. Louis Park, I would have totally moved to Lowertown.

On Saturday, I ran some errands. I bought a vacuum cleaner. You know you’ve settled down a little bit when you make the investment in a vacuum cleaner. I went to my friend Joe’s house to watch the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. We checked out the Afro Deli in Cedar-Riverside, a place I knew Joe would like. We then went to the MN United game. Even though it was an ugly loss, it was nice to get out and watch a game. (Side note: I’m pretty disappointed by the beer selection at the Minnesota United games.)

i decided to take it a little bit slower today. I started the day, as I usually do, with my Sunday New York Times. As much as I wanted to spend the whole morning reading, i know that after about ninety minutes, I begin to get restless. Maybe it’s too much coffee, maybe it’s wanting to get my day started, but some switch flips and I can’t concentrate on the paper. I put together my vacuum cleaner and did a quick run through of the apartment. It’s very satisfying to see all the crud get sucked up by the machine. You say to yourself, “Wow, I was living with all of that.”

I wanted to go outside after that. This is my favorite time of the year. It’s warm out, but not hot out, and the bugs have not descended upon the state just yet. It’s just pleasant to be outside and you don’t feel disgusting. I wanted to try out a new route, but something in my mind clicked: I wanted to do more miles. I know a lot of running is physical, but there is also a part of it that’s mental. I told myself I wanted to run seven miles. And I did! I usually do about three, but it was either focusing, the weather, or wanting to burn off all the beer I had drank over the past 48 hours, but it felt great to get outside.

I thought I was going to go to the library after that, but disaster struck. The dial on my shower broke. I was stuck with a leaky faucet. I freaked out a bit over it and called a friend. However, It seemed like it would be an easy fix. After three trips to the hardware store, I finally found got the correct part. I replaced it pretty easily. That felt really great, even though it took three hours out of my afternoon. I also managed to make it to Sherwin Williams for some more paint. My goal is to get that other room painted tomorrow. Hopefully that will happen.

I cooked a decent dinner, I busted open a bottle of win, and now I’m in my happy place writing and listening to music. The windows are open and I’m feeling good.

Plans change, a lot, but I’m glad I just didn’t sit around and mope this weekend. Some days it just feels good to accomplish things, even if they aren’t what you originally planned.

143. Long Times with Friends

As I get older, I noticed that more and more of my time with friends is divisible chunks. You hang out for two hours over beers, or you go to a ball game for three hours. You more or less know when things will start and when they will end. Their appointments, which is neither a good nor a bad thing. It’s just how it is. You have errands to run, places to be, and other things to do. It’s not like high school or college when there seemed to be more time.

So when my friend Joe Kane invited me over to watch the Champions League game this afternoon, I was excited. We had been planning to go to the MN United game as well later that evening, but since we are both soccer fans, why not watch the final? I hadn’t seen Joe in a few weeks (maybe months?). He’s a busy guy, so we usually just go out for food and beers when we have time. He’s busy with grad school and work, so we don’t get to see each all the time. But now that we live closer to one another, it’ll probably be easier to hang out, which is a good thing.

The thing I like about Joe is that we always have something to talk about. We can catch up about old friends, but our interests in sports, politics, music, and culture greatly overlap, so we usually always have something to talk about. I think in the 7+ hours we hung out together, there were very few lapses in the conversation.

It’s weird how our friendships evolve over the course of your life. As a child, you begin with playdates and sleepovers, mostly playing games or other child stuff. As you get older, you have parties (or at least I think you do), but then in college you hang out, drink beer, and go to bars. It’s harder to do that once you have jobs and families, but you begin to appreciate those times.

I notice my parents and how they interact with their friends. They’ve got a solid friend group (probably larger than mine) that goes out to plays and restaurants. Large groups of friends also accompany them on their infamous cruises. As my brother and I have gotten older, they’ve kind of reclaimed those friendships, which is kind of cool to see. i think keeping those connections healthy is an important part of getting older.

It’s interesting how my own friendships have changed over time. I don’t keep in that good of touch with high school friends that I lived with in high school. That important part of our lives is gone and we’ve just gone on to do different things. I’m sometimes envious of those friends who have close ties with their high school classmates.

As I drove Joe back to Minneapolis, we talked about music and some television shows, we probably could have chatted for another hour or so, recommending bands and songs. While sometimes you just have to put that face time in with friends, and work with what you have. Other times, it’s sure nice to have an abundance of that same time.

Friday, May 27, 2016

142. My Theory on Why Things Are Getting Worse

I’d like to think that I’m not a raving lunatic. I’d like to think that my ideas are pretty normal. I’d like to think that my ideas don’t fall in with the tin foil hat crowd. However, I have a theory why our country is going down the tubes… (Well, I really don’t think things are getting bad, but if they do be noticeably worse, this is my theory.)

We do not put grocery store carts back in their proper place after we bring them to our car. Well, maybe a lot of us do, but those who don’t cause significant headaches for the rest of us. Things are getting worse because we don’t want to put in that little bit of extra effort to make life a lot easier and smoother.

This could go for lots of things. I see it at work with people who leave trash from their lunch near their seats. I see it on the road with people who just chuck their trash out the window. I see it in stores when people don’t want an item, but refuse to return it to its proper place. (Seriously, don’t put frozen food in some other section if you don’t want it. That’s awful.) I see it when people use the handicap access button for doors instead of just opening it yourself. (SERIOUSLY.)

I’m willing to give exception to parents’ dealing with whiny kids. If you’ve got a kid wailing, returning a grocery cart probably is not at the top of your list. However, if you’re just going out on a solo mission, you probably have time to put the cart back. You can spare a minute to make that happen.

I think this pressure to do something goes back to something my mom told me when I was in junior high school. I was finishing up eighth grade and I would be heading to the Conserve School (my environmental boarding school) next fall. My mom said something to me along the lines that if I was heading there, I needed to set an example. Think of it as a much toned down version of the “with great power comes great responsibility” speech. I really didn’t have great power, but I think I had a responsibility to set an example of something I claimed to be---a steward of the environment.

I remember standing at my bus stop at some point that year and seeing a piece of trash on the ground close by. My mom’s words went through my head. No one was looking, but I picked it up and put it into a nearby trashcan.

I know I don’t always put in that extra 10 percent effort. I leave things go when I’m lazy. I don’t always pick up trash. I let things sit for days without moving them. But I think if we all did a little extra, whether that is picking up an extra piece of trash, or going out of your way to make someone’s day a little bit easier, things will get a little better. It’s not always about you.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

141. Notes on a day

Random Notes on the day:

I was happy to pay two different bills today without freaking out. One came from my dentist, charging me for my recent root canal. The other was my mortgage payment. I paid them both without going off the cliff of financial anxiety.

One, I’m lucky that I have an Health Savings Account from work that I could dip into for just such an occasion. I almost forgot about it, but it paid for the whole procedure. I’ve also (finally) figured out a good budget for me, so I was able to pay the mortgage without a complete and total meltdown.

That’s really awesome. I feel good about that.

I’ve started going to a specific yoga class on Thursday nights. I like the teacher that does the class at the time. I feel like most yoga instructors do the same thing: lead the poses and guide you through the whole process. This teacher added her own little touch to the practice. She’d use some aromatherapy in the class and sometimes she handed out postcards with flowers and quotes of affirmation. She also knew my name. I’d like to think she knew everyone’s name, but I was one of the only guys who came on a regular basis, some I’m assuming that’s what did it.

She told the class that she’s switching studios, which is too bad. That always happens to me.

Even with that change, I’m glad I’m doing yoga again. It feels good to do something other than running and it feels good to just hit pause on the day sometimes. (I’m also pretty sore today.)

I walked home for a second day in a row. It takes me a little over an hour. I like that time as well. I realize that I probably won’t have that luxury whenever the next stage of my life comes around.

There was also an ice cream social at work today with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I had the Phish food. It had chocolate, marshmallow, and caramel, and some dark chocolate fish. It’s good stuff. I like the combination of all of those things. I’m glad it came in a reasonable size too. I really just can’t eat a large bowl of ice cream like I used to.  
I’m grinding out the July issue of the Hennepin Lawyer magazine. I think it’s going to be a good one. The theme is criminal justice and the issue editor did a good job of wrangling authors for pertinent articles. I’m excited to see them all in print and get the next issue done.

I’m heading to Chicago in a couple of weeks. I know I basically did that for vacation last year, but this trip sort of just happened. I’ll be seeing the USMNT with Jack in the Copa America cup. I’ve never seen the national team play live, so this will be a fun experience. I’ll be able to see some other friends as well. It should be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

140. Home

Getting back into Minnesota.

I haven’t been into Minnesota in a while. But as I sit here listening to the Current with a cold beer (not a Minnesota brew, unfortunately, I’m not that good at setting the scene) I’m accepting that I’m back into Minnesota.

I’m going to throw in a disclaimer right here at the top: I was actually born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I don’t advertise that fact often, but I moved to Minnesota when I was about three years old. Now that I’ve got that out of the way…

I wore my state pride on my sleeve all throughout my high school days in Wisconsin, and then when I lived in Maryland and Massachusetts. It felt good to move back to Minnesota when I left for Marshall in summer of 2014, but I’ll be honest, it still felt like I was in a different state. (I mean that with all due respect to any Marshall people who may read this.)

However, a long-distance love is hard in any context. I subscribed to other newspapers. I followed other sports teams. I just got into the other states. For a hot minute I thought I’d settle down in Massachusetts. That didn’t happen.

But now that I’ve been back in the Twin Cities for nearly eight months, I gotta express my love for Minnesota again. It’s been nice to be in a place that feels like home. I feel a little settled down with my place. I know what stores I like. I know what beer I’m going to drink. I know my way around.

I think the best way to fall back in love with a place is to walk around it. I did that everywhere in Boston and I’ve started to do that again in Minneapolis. I’m about three miles from downtown Minneapolis. It’s a healthy walk, but I don’t mind doing it. I’ve started to know the bike trails, the lakes, and the streets. I think you’ve really made it once you can give directions to someone who isn’t familiar with the place.

I’ve rambled a bit with this post, but my point is, I feel like I’m at home again. I’m as close as to what I imagined my life would be like at this point in time.

I love listening to the Current and Minnesota Public Radio. I love knowing what big things are going on, like a state legislature that has done an absolutely horrible job. I like knowing all the new craft breweries that pop up. I like listening to the Replacements and Prince. I like that Prince’s death moved something in me (not that I found any joy in his passing.) I like that I’ll be going to a Saints game and a MN United game this weekend. I like picking up City Pages and noting places where I might want to check out. I like feeling settled in a place where I’m welcomed. I like being only a couple minutes from friends.

It’s good to be in a place that feels like home.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

139. Passion Project

A former grad school teacher of mine posted two links this morning about following your passion. They are titled Quitting Your Job to Pursue Your Passion is Bullshit and
Everyone’s Obsessed With ‘Adulting’ And I’m Tired Of Pretending I Give A Fuck.

I always wonder if my parent’s generation had to face these questions. I don’t think they did. However, millennials face a much different reality than the Boomers or Gen X’ers. These pieces acknowledge that, however, I don’t think this is binary issue of either pursuing your passion or selling out.

After I graduated college, I gave myself five years to get out of my comfort zone and explore different places. I wasn’t teaching English in Asia, but I did volunteer two years with AmeriCorps, I earned my master’s degree, I performed standup comedy, I was caught in the middle of one of the worst tragedies a modern American city has ever faced, I had my own column, and I even got my own theme night at a job. These are all things that shaped my post-college experience.

But I wanted some security, so I searched for a better job back in the cities and I ended my job in Marshall almost five years to the day of when I moved out to Maryland right after college. While sports writing was fun and I was passionate about it, I needed to face reality that I didn’t enjoy working late, I wasn’t making enough money, and I wasn’t passionate enough about climbing up the ladder of the sports media industry. I wanted some security

So I took a new job in Minneapolis. I wouldn’t say it’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do, but I enjoy my work, I like the people I work with, I’m paid decently, and I get to end at 4:30 p.m. Not that bad.

My passions aren’t dead. If you’re reading this, you probably know that I’m pretty darn good at keeping my new year’s resolution (although, I am a few days behind with my daily blogging.) I also know what makes me happy: watching soccer, drinking good beer with friends, and writing about turkey sandwiches. They’re not movie worthy adventures, but they’re things I’m passionate about. I’ll also eventually make it to Spain. I know I will. You can have your passion and still be in a job that pays decently. (Finding one is another matter.)

I’m still not married. I’ve wrestled with that fact as I’ve seen more and more friends get married and start to have kids. Then I realize that, even though I don’t have those specific things, I’m still pretty happy. I’m content with who I am, my values, and the relationships I’ve made. I don’t think I’ve sold out, or that I’ve set out on some crazy adventure to find true happiness. I’ve taken risks, I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone, but I’ve also realized when I’ve needed to say no. A little security isn’t a bad thing.

I’ve given up on thinking that life is supposed to be lived in a linear fashion. Don’t go for those checkpoints. Life is a pomegranate. You have to just keep digging for those nuggets of happiness.

138. Conserve School: Civil War

My high school graduating class was divided. It was a roughly 50-50 split between those who still cared about Conserve School enough to shape the school to the mission they wanted, and those who felt betrayed by the mission.

It was the fourth year of Conserve. A few waves of original teachers had resigned after our sophomore year, and another group left after our junior year. Classes were shuffled, starting times were moved earlier (this seems to still be a major sticking point among grads. Me? I didn’t care.), and there was just general uncertainty over what the school should become.

The word “administration” signified all of our frustrations with the school. We loved our teachers, but we hated the administration.

I remember being mad over things too, but I don’t remember exactly what my senior year. The school was new, so I can understand the experimenting with things. I know we hated the use of RA’s my junior year, but when I talk with staff now, I can surely understand why the switch was made. (I can understand a few of the later classes becoming more upset with the school changing the way it did business.)
I may be exaggerating and pigeonholing people in my memories here, but there was a palpable divide on our senior trip. It showcased itself on the two busses we took to our senior trip up in the UP. There was palpable tension on the bus. I think I even remember a little bit of controversy regarding the chaperones on the trip (meaning the teachers.) I think it all got worked out, but I don’t think we ever had a kumbaya moment together. Oh well.

I was on the group who thought the best way to change things would be to remain optimistic about it all and raise our concerns in proper channels instead of lashing out. I’m naturally an optimist, so I kept wanting to make my experience mine, and not let the ebbs and flows of senior year affect me.

For the first few years after graduation, there was still that sense of anger. It seemed like I had to block off the first 45 minutes of every conversation with a classmate and devote it to getting things off our chest about Conserve.

I don’t see classmates all that much anymore. From the Facebook sense of things, I think many of us have moved on with our lives, at least in terms of not being as angry with the school anymore, or at the very least, just becoming numb and indifferent about it.

I’d like to see some of my friends all in the same place again. I think it’d be good for a big contingent to go back there, even if it’s just for a weekend. I’d like to see where we’ve all ended up and how we’ve dealt with that aspect of our lives. I wonder if everyone else has had the same conversations I’ve had about my high school experience.

137. Turkey Club Club: Urban Sub

I was really looking forward to the Urban Sub. A former classmate of mine from Saint John’s had
recommended it a while back, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to go. Also, it’s kind tucked away on a weird corner of Park Place and Wayzata Blvd. I had driven past it a number of times, but I hadn’t seen it till that day. My friend Joel even had to point it out to me so we didn’t miss it the third time we passed by it.

I had been painting my apartment for most of the morning, so I felt pretty ravenous for a sandwich. The restaurant was a small place. A few metal tables inside and a counter. There were a couple tables outside as well. I was very excited to eat outside. It was an ideal one, weatherwise, just warm enough and no bugs yet.

I had looked at the menu before coming to the place. I had a tough time deciding whether I was going to get the Smoked Turkey Melt, the Turkey Avocado, or the Urban Club (Turkey, ham, bacon, tomato, greens). I was a little hesitant to get a sandwich with two types of meat after my last club sandwich, but I thought I should stay on brand.

I got the Urban Club and a can of Coke, Joel got the Westside Italian Sub. The price was a little expensive for my taste, $8.75 for the sandwich before tax. We ordered for “here.”

The server brought the sandwiches out to us wrapped in foil and butcher paper (no tray). That seemed weird to me. There really was no difference in presentation between “here” and “to go”, just where we ate them.

The sandwich had decent heft, not great. Also, I probably couldn’t make this at home. (Well, I might be able to, but it would take a long time to find all the ingredients.) As I’ve mentioned before, the bread is the tricky part to get right, but Urban Sub had their own style. The subs came on baguettes, which I’m always a little hesitant of ever since I got some dental work done. Extremely chewy foods make my jaw hurt. I kept going anyway.

The first thing I noticed was that they got the meat part right. I’m a big fan of thinly sliced meat. This was so thinly sliced, it was almost in shreds. It also wasn’t slimy. The bacon was also fresh and just the right amount of greasy. I’m not usually a mustard guy, but I only got the slightest hint of the mustard taste on the whole thing. Even though the greens went askew while I was eating and it took me a while to find a tomato, I still enjoyed the whole thing.

I’d give Urban Sub a four out of five. I don’t think it would be a regular lunch or dinner place for me (the price was a little high for just the sandwich), but I’d definitely hit it up again to fulfill those sandwich cravings.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

136. Paul McLeod

True story: My senior yearbook quote was, “Everything I know, I learned from Paul McLeod.” I used to embarrass him at the microphone during school lunches on his birthday, but since I don’t have that anymore, I’ll just write a blog post about him on his gajillionith birthday.

I first met Paul when I was 13 or 14, and touring the grounds of the Conserve School campus. I remember he wore a flannel shirt and talked about forming an Explorer's Post at Conserve. I knew we’d get along great. We lived in the same building and we saw each other often. I was in his geology class (and possibly something else?) I was also on the quiz bowl team, and he was the coach. I liked to make the joke that he was “the winningest coach in Conserve School history.” It’s funny because the three things Paul knows nothing about are: the Bible, Shakespeare, and sports.

The time I really realized that Paul McLeod was cool was when he let a group of us who were leaving for Thanksgiving break on Saturday instead of Friday night watch “Beavis and Butthead Do America.” He even watched it with us. I remember thinking, “Should we be watching this?” But then I thought, “He he’s an adult. We’re good.” That’s when I learned about the “Beavis and Butthead Principle” which states that some things are so bad that they’re good, like Beavis and Butthead.

Even in his old age, Paul is still a curious guy, which is something I seriously respect about him. He’s always traveling or scoping out old graveyards. He’s a movie buff and a fan of Hank Williams, things we talk about regularly. I still ask him for movie suggestions every so often.

Paul also once crashed on my couch during my senior year of college. Seriously. I had to explain to all my roommates that while he was my teacher, he was still a really cool guy.

Paul could also be serious. He gave the “final” Conserve School commencement speech. I try to watch it at least once a year. It’s just so perfect. He’s understated in his skewering of who needed to be skewered, yet he’s also hopeful. I still repeat the line “jewels in a handkerchief” to myself every so often.

I’ve also become friends with basically all of Paul’s family. I stayed with his sister Marie when I studied abroad in South Africa. I visited his brother Robert and wife Teri when they lived 20 minutes from me in Maryland. I’d escape to his other brother Bruce and his wife Lara’ house to play with their kids and then drink Oban with the grown ups late into the night. It was so funny to explain to friends that I’d be hanging out with “My former teacher’s brother’s family” for the evening. At one point I joked with Paul’s parents that I had spent more holidays with them then I had with my own parents.

I haven’t kept in constant touch with many of my high school classmates, unfortunately. However, I’ve kept up pretty regular correspondence with Paul ever since I graduated from high school. I’ve been very lucky to call Paul a teacher and a mentor, and it’s been even more of a privilege to call Paul a friend.

Raising a glass of Oban to you, Paul.

Friday, May 20, 2016

135. High School Confessions

This will probably be a series of posts on high school, since it’s coming up on my tenth anniversary of high school graduation.

I had a plan my senior year of high school. It was a solid plan that would ensure a happy life and that I’d be with the girl I loved for the rest of my life. She had gotten into a pretty elite, east coast college on early decision. I knew I’d also be getting into an elite, east coast college at some point, preferably one within a few hours driving distance. We’d see each other on weekends and eventually get married and go on to do whatever we were supposed to do.

Then, the college acceptances happened. I think I applied to eight schools. I got into only one of them–St. John’s, where I ended up going.  

Well, that’s not quite true. I don’t tell this part of the story often, but I got waitlisted at the same place my high school sweetheart got in on early decision. I remember being crushed that I didn’t get into my first two school choices on the east coast, and SJU was my safety school. You would think I would have been more excited about possibly getting into the same college where my girlfriend would be going.

I don’t remember feeling excited. I think I remember feeling a sort of dread because I would be prolonging the anxiety of deciding where to go. I wanted final decisions and I wanted to go. I don’t remember how or why I settled on going to Saint John’s. I also don’t remember how I told her that I was going there, but I know I made the right choice.

I’ve always considered myself a romantic. I had that storyline concocted in my head where high school sweethearts would stick it out through college and get married. It was hard to realize that wasn’t my story, but I think it’s ultimately a good thing when you do realize that.

There were a few awkward attempts to keep a spark alive after high school, but none of them really caught fire. I’m OK with that. From what I know now about myself and what I knew about her, we just would not have been happy together.

I’m in a different story now than I was back then. I’m 28 years old and living in my own place, close to Minneapolis. I’m totally fine with that. It’s not the romantic fairytale that I painted for myself back when I was 18, but I’m happy. It’s hard to not do the thing you really want to make you happy. I’m glad I didn’t go down that route.

If I could go back and tell 18-year-old me something about the future, it would be that things work out. You cannot plan out your dream life when you’re 18. I’m sure some people have, but I don’t think it works out that way most of the time. Don’t wish and hope for things that will make you happy, get scared sometimes and do something you didn’t think you would do. It’ll work out.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

134. Living alone

Living by myself.

I haven’t gone crazy yet, if you’re wondering. I’ve just passed the two month mark in my own place. I mean, I’m not surprised, but I thought the solo living anxiety would kick in at some point. It hasn’t. I’ve been able to keep a healthy, productive schedule, with enough balance between exercise and entertainment that I’ve been able to stay sane. I don’t know how long that will last.

My friend Jack stayed with me for a couple days this week. It was nice to have him around because I don’t get to see him and his wife Chelsea all that often. He remarked that the apartment still looked pretty simple. He asked if I had all my stuff at my place. I kind of do right now. I have some thing at my parents place, but nothing major. I have bed, couch, chairs, table, books, clothes, and other things here. I’m not hiding much of anything. I also just don’t like to accumulate things. I like being light and agile and ready to move at a moment’s notice. Maybe I just need to breathe. Things aren’t that bad. I don’t know why my mind is sort of blocking things in that regard. Just paint the damn walls already.

That nesting instinct still hasn’t kicked in yet. Some part of me feels like I’ll latch on to some other ship at some point in the near future, or that I’ll be forced to move somewhere else. I’ve made my mortgage payments on time, so I’m still good there. Maybe I’m worried that I’ll pick out the wrong color or model of something. Or that I’ll be stuck with some bad purchase. I’ve been known to be flustered by bad purchases and they just stick around somewhere in the basement.

That’s what’s frustrating me about my home internet. I wonder if my home value would go down if they found out that 1.5 mbps was the best that could be done. It’s frustrating. I know it sounds like a first world problem, but then you got to remember that lots of things are on the internet: maps, forms, directions, communication, entertainment. Yeah, I like getting off every once in a while, but it’s frustrating when those things don’t work the way wanted them to.

My neighbors haven’t been as noisy, but I still haven’t really met most of them. I pass some of them and say hi, but no one has really made the effort to chat for a little bit. That’s a little weird to me. It would be nice to get to know the people who live in the same building. I guess that might happen at some point. I don’t think anyone’s living in the apartment across from mine. There was a cranky looking woman who popped into the building and then into that apartment. It was just really weird.

Things are ok, I guess. I’m not lonely. I have beer (thanks Jack). I’m still (relatively) healthy and entertained. It’s pretty good as far as bachelor standards go.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

133. Panhandling

I’m a sensitive guy. I tear up during emotional parts of movies. Human interest stories get me every time. I stopped going to the Upworthy website because it just got too emotional.

However, I’ve struggled on how to turn that sensitivity into tangible action. I especially feel that way around people who are panhandling. I stopped giving money to panhandlers a while back, after I witnessed an adult I was with on a school trip tell one off. It was a weird scene. I felt uncomfortable about it the rest of the day.

I don’t usually give money anymore, but I struggle with the choice I’ve made.  

This leads to awkward situations at times. There’s always a homeless person on the corner of West Lyndale and Dunwoody Blvd., right be my church. The person is always standing on the corner, trying to get the attention of churchgoers.

I’ve occasionally just straight up bought food for people. It’s usually when I’m seriously overwhelmed and I need to do something that will directly affect someone’s life. I probably do not do this often enough.

A friend of mine gives McDonald’s gift cards. I’ve thought about doing that, but I’ve never done that. I just put it off. You struggle because you wonder if the dollar you give will help them relieve pain or hunger, or if it will just spent on some other form of self-medication.

Which, now that I think about is a very condescending attitude. I drink alcohol, sometimes multiple nights a week. Yes, I use it responsibly and I don’t have an addiction, but it feels weird saying to someone that they shouldn’t deserve something I enjoy as well. (This is just a guess, but I’m not sure many homeless people will be schlepping for growlers at Dangerous Man.)

This brings me to something else entirely: street musicians. If I have a couple bucks or change in my pocket, I will give the money to the performer. I like hearing people play their craft and I think it should be supported in public places.

I also do it to be fully present in the moment. It’s pretty easy to go around town avoid human contact. You can put your headphones in or stare at your phone and you might as well be on a different planet. People usually try to avoid anybody with a bucket out to collect spare cash. You make a connection every time you put money in there. It breaks that wall and brings forth the acknowledgement that, yes, you are a real person performing a service and you are being recognized monetarily for it.

I also like it because the musicians are usually grateful and say thank you. I also think this sort of act brings you good luck.

Giving money to people who are just straight up asking for it is a weird exercise. I don’t think my philosophy is perfect, but I hope it at least partly breaks that veneer that people create in those situations.