Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Turning pages with sticky fingers

Terry took a nasty spill the other day. I watched from my second floor window. He'd been trying to carry one too many plastic bags of groceries up the stoop to his brownstone. Down chin-first into a concrete step. He didn't have time to break his fall with the bags entangled in his grasp. I watched in a guilty silence as oranges and cans of black beans rolled down the sidewalk. That's what divorce feels like. No one can break your fall, the pain hits suddenly, and you'd left to pick up the pieces in public while people sit around and watch.

Last week I went out on an early-morning bike ride. As I rode closer to Lake Michigan, the sun rising over the water was blinding. Going east until I hit the beach was getting more and more risky. I kept thinking to myself, "sunsets are never this intense." But I kept pedaling, following my normal path, favoring the side streets to the major arterials. When I hit sand, I took off my helmet and took a seat, letting my bike fall into the dunes. To my right was the Chicago skyline, to the left, miles of beaches leading to Wisconsin. I finally got it. And it's amazing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Sunday. May Thoughts of Little or No Concern

Interested in hearing first-hand what happened in the neighborhood overnight (or in my case, where the NATO encampments are located nearby), catch up with the cops when your local Starbuck's opens. You'll hear more about your neighbors than you thought you needed to know.

Have you ever taken a road, bus or train trip across the US? Remember when you'd fall off the face of the earth for a stretch of time, immersed in the beauty of the Great Plains, in the culture of a small-town diner and their amazing biscuits and gravy or watching the sun rise over the Arizona dessert in all it's magnificent glory? Traveling alone is a transcendent experience,  I wonder if I could do it again with mobile technology. I don't think so. I'll keep you updated when I find out.

I've loved Baseball for awhile. I don't know why nor remember who got me interested. We didn't play the game as children nor went to too many games. Somewhere, somehow it clicked. Was it the Big Red Machine, watching Charlie Hustle diving head-first into 3rd? By early adulthood, I'd written my college thesis on it's place in society, read every book I could get my hands on from Only the Ball Was White, The Boys of Summer, The Pitch that Killed and of course Ball Four.
Over the last decade, while living in Chicago, my interest has waned considerably. It took me awhile to finally get why - and there's two reasons. The first being radio. Imagine having dinner with, doing homework besides or completing chores with Joe NuxhallDave Niehaus or Ron Santo in the room, chatting away about anything and everything. They could whip a up story about some old player, instantaneously produce the most random statistic or crack a really bad joke - and then keep you informed of the baseball game in the background. I don't listen enough anymore, all of my friends have gone and died.
And here's the last reason - and one that is easily repairable. My ex, when I finally asked her, after enough feigned indifference to the sport, why she didn't care about baseball, said "women who like sports have low self-esteem and are only trying to please a guy." Try living with that perspective.

I've never thought of myself as that creative. Fortunately being self-aware means knowing my shortcomings and where I fit in the realm or artistic possibilities. When I experience a moving piece, I'm immediately in awe of their discipline, dedication to their passion and covet their talent. I too wish I could be that amazing singer, actor, chef, filmmaker, painter or even writer. On the other hand, when I have painted, sketched, written or even taken a photograph, I don't get that satisfaction that I wanted upon completion. Nor have I been internally encouraged to share this others. To me, it's not really art.
Or is it?
I view art as an ultimate form of narcissism - Expressing a point of view, an image, a perspective in the form of a medium or action (it could be personal, political, social, comical, etc.). Am I close? When you watch a movie, eat a meal at an amazing restaurant, attend an art opening, we are, with total free will letting the artist know we accept their form of narcissism and willing to pay for it.

Someday I too wish I could step out, let loose my inner narcissism.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The family's the key, I think.

My sister is hard to get on the phone. She's a single mother of three (one in college granted), works full time from home and never, Ever takes time for herself (besides the occasional reality show). When you do get her ahold of her, she tends to laugh at the right times, listens to your troubles, doesn't judge and rarely asks for anything in return.

Anyone's family, in the best-case scenario, has someone like my sister who can be selfless, empathetic and comforting. Again, I said best-case. I'm sad for those that aren't that lucky but instead have a bunch of self-serving siblings who crack insults about each other when the others yet hug them when they walk through the door.

I like my family a lot. I've got 2 parents, 3 siblings, 2 in-laws, 4 nieces & 7 nephews to-date. You add on my young children, you've for a party of 21 on any given holiday. If there was an award ceremony, every single one of us would get a trophy for one talent or another. We've got a VW car dealership owner, an Oscar-winner, a Fashion Design college professor, a Pastry Chef, Graphic Designer, a Doctor, an independent business owner and - and to save the best for last, one of the few people in the world that used to work on computers when they'd take up the size of football fields. That would be the Dad, the Grandfather, the Mr. Jerry. He can pretty much build, fix or repair anything (at least what from what I've seen). He's good for a bad joke, can get along with pretty much anyone, has a liberal streak 3,000 miles long and minimal tolerance for ignorance or uneducated bullshit comments (he lives in ultra-conservative OH, you can imagine the stupid shit he hears on a daily basis). Oops, sorry, "slippery path" alert...

Last summer, the lot of us got together in upstate NY for a week or dirt, grilling, swimming, biking, rafting and general familial camaraderie. Was there a fair share of drama mixed in with the good times? Without a doubt. I myself had a few stupid-assed moments related to personal duress (fortunately that emotionally draining, self-esteem wrecking weight has been removed) and it was apparent. But the greatness and love in this moment of time keeps me sane and grounded. My favorite memory, on maybe the 5th night was the twenty of us sitting down for dinner. For that one hour, in the middle of New York, protected from 3G service by red oak, black cherry and yellow birch trees and listening to an orchestra of chickadees, starlings and sparrows, my family was a unit of one - celebrating nothing, loving everything.

Twenty-five years ago, we were a unit of six. Many people had been added with a few subtractions over the years - but the core remains consistent. We may frustrate the hell out of each other from time to time with crackpot drama and selfish motives. But really, would we have it any other way?

If interested in being a full or part-time member, we usually accept applications in the fall. I'll forward you my sister's email, she reviews all candidates.

Friday, May 4, 2012

3 Lists - Work, School & Home

Professionally speaking, we tend to share our end-goals with our friends, family and co-workers pretty openly. "I want to be a Head Accountant," "Yeah Bob, I'm hoping to work my way up from hay shoveler to Head Groomer," or my favorite, "I'm a receptionist at a colonic therapeutic clinic. I can't wait to get my license and open up my own place."

In this day and age, can we look back and say we followed these dreams to fruition - and were they everything we thought they'd be? I mean when you're 16 and say, "I want to be a Doctor" - beyond the 12+ years of post-secondary education and residency, I know I didn't have the capability of understanding what else I was not  saying. "To be" something, to have that label, as we've all learned, doesn't define who we are. So as a child and young adult, we're sharing out dreams of being a boxer, a ninja turtle or security guard imaging  being that role, but never thinking that would only be 25% of our time!

Enough of that. When I was in high school, I wanted to be an artist or architect. How's that working out for me? Not even close. To make matters even more interesting, I recently decided to take inventory of my professional career. What inspired me to do this? I was in a meeting this last Tuesday and a VP of my firm said, "you've sure been busy" after I had mentioned a skill she didn't know I had. So I thought to myself, "have I been that busy? Do I have career ADHD, get bored to easily and need something new around every corner?" Then I took it a step further...if I've had that many jobs, how many of these other things have I had such as homes, schools I've attended....and so here's begins the lists.....

Let's take a look at the last few years of jobs and see...

High School (Madeira, OH)
Dishwasher - Nursing Home
Bus Boy - Red Lobster

Post-High School (DamNeck, VA & Sebana Seca, Puerto Rico)
US Navy - Master at Arms & Operations Specialist

College/Post College (Seattle & Olympia, WA) - Keep in mind I paid my own way through school. Most of the time I had 2 or 3 of these jobs at the same time to cover all my costs and not to incur much debt.
Bank Teller - Rainier Bank
Bank Teller - US Bank
Bank Teller - Seafirst Bank
Traffic Coordinator - Comcast Cable
Front Desk Clerk/Night Auditor - Best Western Lake Union
Set Design Assistant - Northern Exposure
Barista - Cafe Paradiso
Barista - Cafe Allegro
Barista - Dancing Goats Espresso
Bartender - Eastside Tavern
Club Promoter - Moe's Mo'Rock'N Cafe

Professional Career (Seattle, Portland, Chicago)
PR Specialist - Synchrovision
Market Manager - KBA Marketing
Field Marketing Manager - Odwalla
Tour Manager - Upshot Entertainment
Tour Manager - Ogilvy Marketing
Field Marketing Manager - SignCast
Senior Event Manager - Group III Promotions/Draftworldwide
Co-Owner - Alliance Bakery & Cafe
Co-Owner - Wicker Park Inn
Account Supervisor - Legacy Marketing Partners
Senior Account Manager - envisionit media
Senior Director, Development & Special Events

Yep. I've been around the block. I think a little more than I thought. I'm not going to make excuses for most of them - many were college gigs or promotional/temporary marketing engagements.

Taking the next step, I looked at education (pre-college, I was pretty darn focused there) - I attended 7 schools in 13 years. When I realized I wasn't like most kids - having to adjust to different social groups as early as 2nd grade, again in Los Angeles, again in 7th grade when we moved to NY- I can keep going.
How would you like to stand in front of classrooms of kids who could really give a sh** and be introduced every few years? I can say it effected me in some very positive ways - I can walk into a room and introduce myself to the biggest asshole and have a conversation. I also can adapt to change exceptionally well. But there have been side-effects, I think the list above and the last below will show even more clarity;

Kindergarten - Mt Washington Elementary (Cincinnati, OH)
1st - Wilson Elementary (Cincinnati, OH)
2nd - 7th - Immaculate Heart of Mary (Cincinnati, OH)
4th - Westlake Elementary (temporary transfer to LA)
7th - 8th - St Martin's de Porres (Poughkeepsie, NY)
9th - Spackenkill High School (Poughkeepsie, NY)
10th - 12th - Moeller High School (Cincinnati, OH)

And lastly, here's the list of every place I've ever lived. And I remember every one (expect for the Number 1).....

1. Danny Court - Louisville, KY
2. LeConte Ave - Cincinnati, OH
3. Whitehouse Lane - Cincinnati, OH
4. Westlake, CA
5. Miron Dr - Poughkeepsie, NY
6. Miami Ave - Madeira, OH

6. Great Lakes, IL
7. DamNeck, VA
8. Sebana Seca, PR

Adulthood (Seattle, Portland, Chicago)
9. Lake City Way NE
10. Fremont Ave N
11. Lakeview Blvd E
12. Summit Ave E
13. Republican Ave E
14. Rogers St NW (Olympia)
15. Franklin St SE (Olympia)
16. E. Pike St.
17. 9th Ave NE
18. 42nd Ave NE
19. 10th Ave E
20. Everett Ave E
21. 11th Ave E
22. NW Quimby (Portland)
23. SE Mills (Portland)
24. 1009 N Ashland (Chicago)
25. 1645 N Ashland (Chicago)
26. W Crystal (Chicago)
27. W. Rice (Chicago)
28. N. Wicker Park Ave (Chicago)
29. W. Race (Chicago)

There you go - 29 homes in 44 years. Incredibly embarrassing to tell you the truth. I didn't know it was that high. I've been exceptionally nomadic my whole life in the context of work and where I live. Okay, that's not true. I've lived in the last location for the last 8 years! So that means 28 locations in 36 years....that sounds worse, scratch that.

As I wrap this up, a few friends have come to mind that have watched, with out judgement or critique. I thank them for deep well of patience. I'll really, really try to slow down a little bit - tomorrow.