The Great GoogaMooga


This is such a Brooklyn conversation...it's so disappointing.

That’s what one guy said to his friends. He was standing in front of us in line for a Food and Music Festival in Brooklyn. It was at that exact moment that I realized the day would be filled with many ridiculous things said. And that’s when we decided to capture them for memory.

The festival was called The Great GoogaMooga. 'GoogaMooga' means "Giant food clusterfuck." 

Or something like that. 

Brooklyn gets all kinds of reputations for different reasons. Be it Mommies or Hipsters or whatever, I had a strong feeling we would come across all of them and more. Not just because we were in Brooklyn, but also because we were at an all day food/music/wine festival in Brooklyn on the nicest Saturday of the year and well… it’s was ripe for ridiculousity.

And people were already in a spicy mood when they got in because to start, the festival gates opened 30 minutes late, which in New York equals 5 hours. So there was that to season the mood.

The longer you are single the more you care about music festivals.

The same group of friends said that while waiting to get in. They were referencing their 35-year-old friend who thought it made sense to pay five thousand dollars for the VIP section at some music festival. They were right.

I am 28 and I enjoy music but care very little about music festivals. Way less than a large majority of my friends. Mainly because I’m afraid of the sun and I think spending all day out in a dirt field in a tank top and using a port a potty should be a once a year kind of thing. But that’s not something that repels everybody.

But if I don’t enjoy festivals now, I can’t imagine being 35 and thinking “Ya know what? I’d really like to start attending music festivals!”

Eventually the gates opened and we got inside the festival where we immediately started purchasing every delicious gourmet food item we could find.

Seeing as this was a pretty hyped up festival, and it was in Brooklyn, and the time we live in, everybody was taking pictures of everything, myself included.

People would buy food and then immediately have their friend take a picture of them eating it. Like this bacon wrapped hot dog with guacamole and sour cream for example.


No filter, extremely delicious, I’m tagging it.

That’s what somebody said while eating a chicken wing. No filter meaning she wasn’t going to alter the photo. Which if you are taking a picture of yourself eating a chicken wing, you shouldn’t need to doctor it to make people understand how much you enjoy said chicken wing.


See? Happiness.

Hot Dogs, Chicken Wings, and duck, holy crap the duck. It seems like everything was made with duck. Duck in dogs, duck in donuts, duck just… being itself. It was ubiquitous. Which prompted one of the food vendors to drop this bit of gem on a seemingly confused patron.

If you’re a vegetarian, honey, this is NOT the place for you.

And boy was he right. There was so much meat that at one point we needed to lie down on the grass and take a nap.

Well, I mean, the lay down on the grass part was intentional, the taking of the nap just kind of happened. But when I woke up 3 women instantly tied me into a conversation taking place across from me.

They were the kind of women that one might start to instantly dislike for no good reason. I’m not saying I felt that way, I’m just saying, ya know, people.

It had a lot to do with their conversation actually. And even though I listened to their conversation for a solid 20 minutes, I still had NO idea what any of them were talking about. Mainly because they all seemed to be talking at the same time.

What’s that album that says don’t put your hand in the béarnaise sauce?

This preceded a lengthy discussion about a guy, presumably one of their boyfriends, having actually put his hand IN the béarnaise sauce, which was apparently some sort of egregious transgression which was unforgivable.

I, on the other hand, couldn’t even understand why somebody would have an album that referenced béarnaise sauce.

And the next day he went down a slip and slide, a SLIP and SLIDE. AAAAAAAA slip and slide.

Girl number three said this as the other two continued talking. I couldn’t figure out if she was emphasizing slip and slide to get their attention or if she was trying to convey that a slip and slide was a bad thing. Has any adult ever caused an argument by going down a slip and slide? I can’t speak from experience.

Eventually I had to get up and walk away because if I didn’t leave then I might never have. It was like watching trashy TV.

So we wandered in and amongst the thirsty patrons waiting in line for the limited supply of poorly organized alcohol distribution. I won’t go into the details but when the line for tickets to purchase alcohol is longer than the line to actually get said alcohol, you have a serious problem on your hand.

The people who were lucky enough to purchase tickets in a timely manner quickly burned through them in an attempt to take advantage of alcohol’s rumored effects.

Let’s get another beer that’s anything besides this one.

Also a challenge was choosing the right thing to drink, because while you could sample everything, that would cost you tickets. And getting tickets was only slightly less challenging than bringing the one ring to rule them all back to Mordor.

But the lack of alcohol didn’t really bother me because I was too elated to be full of mud pudding, and fried cheesecake, and all other manner of goodness.

Take care good luck and keep the faith.

Oddly enough we heard somebody say this about an hour into the festival. But it made just as much sense seeking out the food as it did leaving it behind. 

My Chevrons

The game was called F-Zero. I didn't own it myself since I didn't have Super Nintendo but my next-door neighbor had it, and I would go over his house and play it once in a while.

It was a racing game. Except it took place in the future so you didn’t drive a car, you drove a hovercraft. You would race around these futuristic tracks competing for who could finish fastest and take first place.

I probably played it a handful of times, and while I don't remember a lot about it I do remember these little chevron signs on the ground that, when you hovered over them, gave your hovercraft a boost forward allowing u to pick up speed.

I have been thinking about those chevrons lately.

Earlier this year I declared this to be the year of incredible focus. Usually I set resolutions or tell myself I’m going to achieve something big yet incredibly hard to define like ‘commercial success.’

However, the exhaustion of the past year left we without desire to replicate that New Year strategy. I didn't know exactly what this year was going to be. What I did know, was I was going to try hard to understand my life and my passions and pursue the life that wanted to live in me.

January was spent on thinking.

What was this year actually going to be? What was I going to do? How would I approach? What did I actually want?

February was spent on planning.

OK maybe I will buy a plane ticket here and take a vacation there and invest some time in doing this

.

March became the month I clicked purchase, hit send, and set the unstoppable wheels in motion.

And all was good.

Then April happened.

And I had two thoughts, one was:

Holy shit it’s April! I can't believe a third of the year is gone. Is this the year I wanted to he having?

And the second was:

OK... What now?

With summer looming I worried I was going to become quickly swept up in that vortex of "

Ya know what I really want to do this summer…

" that quickly spits you out on the other end of "

I can't believe we didn't end up....

I began to worry that my year of incredible focus had somehow slipped into a year of seemingly deep thought but familiar (in)action.

I have been spending some time with an incredible group of go-getters who just go, do, make, be and live beautifully. One of them is my new friend Julie.

A couple of weeks ago my friend Julie and I were having drinks after our yoga class and Julie was telling me about how she just bought a bunch of concert tickets for this year in batches of two.

She knew she wanted to go to the shows; she didn't necessarily know who would go, so she just bought the tickets and figured she would find somebody later.

I thought it was such an excellent idea. And she asked me to join her for one of them.

Well kind of.

I sort of just impose myself on awesome opportunities and people. Like a friend barnacle. I tend to put myself in scenarios where I become the only viable option. Like joining a dating site where for some reason all the guys happen to be "lizard enthusiasts."

Julie and I went to that concert last weekend. We spent the afternoon working on a video project for

her new book

. And then went and grabbed some dinner and drinks before the concert.

The whole time, we talked about our lives, our friends, past loves and our spirit animals. (Trust me, it’s a thing) According to Julie mine is some sort of playful monkey/hybrid.

I still insist mine should be a pterodactyl.

After our spirit debate we arrived at the concert and immediately my heart vibrated with the base from the band. It caught me a little off guard. I was kind of shocked to feel so surprised at the sensation.

It had been a frighteningly long time since I had felt that sensation. It's a beautiful feeling.

I used to go to concerts a lot when I first got to the city. Maybe it was because I worked at a music magazine, or maybe it was because I had nothing else to do. Either way, I realized it had been a while.

Which was a shame but a wonderful wake up call. Because I am always, always looking for things that move me, that stir my soul, that make me dance, that make me so thirsty for more that I pursue those things wildly. Blindly. Freely.

And that’s when I thought about F-Zero, about those chevron signs on the track, and how I didn’t even realize I had them in my own life. They weren't under me. They were my friends, my experiences, concerts, and art, and connection. They were in front of me, next to me, and all around me.

As the night went on my love for this city and the life I lead expanded in the exponential way it tends to do when someone has managed to be present in a magnificent moment.

My mind filled up with up with realization, remembering how great I feel after I spend time with my close friends, with the people whose best characteristics I strive to emulate, and how watered the plant of my soul feels walking away from those moments.

How had I gone so long without noticing?

I started thinking about those people and things not so much as things I might happen across while on the track, but rather, things I would aim for, plan for, to make sure they were in fact always coming up soon.

And while its not a race to see who finishes first, having those people places and things that propel me forward, that get me to the next check point, rest stop, or finish line, is completely invaluable.

My Short Leash On Life


I had this assignment when I was a kid in elementary school. We were reading about being a servant in ancient Rome. And to understand the concept, we were given a handout and told to write a couple of sentences putting a value on our own skills and abilities.

I wrote about how I was tall and creative and handy. The name of the assignment was called “What Am I Worth?”

Looking back now it is kind of a funny assignment title to give to a third grader. I still have my assignment but it has been many years since I reread what I wrote.

However, I have been thinking about that assignment lately. The title of it reverberates in my head. Over and over again I hear it. When I’m silent. Before I sleep and as I walk.

What am I worth?

The question hasn’t arisen completely unprompted. The series of events that have taken place in my life over the past 15 months really do seem to warrant such a question. And the only thing I have been able to come up with in this time is more questions.

Before I knew what I had to offer (which does not exclude this very moment) I thought my offering was making people laugh. Granted it is fair to say that it is also based in a need for attention. I have told jokes, poked fun, and been loud to draw attention to myself.

See? I have something to offer and it is this. Laughter and fun, that is me!

And that is how it has been for years. It is why I frequently joke with people the first time I meet them, it is how I break down boundaries. It is how I make friends. It is how I have presented my public persona even though all along I have known it wasn't all of me. I just wasn't sure how to show off the rest.

Nor did I know I didn't have to show off at all.

There is a quote I found many years ago in some trite little nightstand book about life and such that goes: “One who requires the attention of others has not yet found the attention of himself.”

That quote has always sat peacefully in the back of my brain. I was always just inches short of understanding it, even as I tried to play down its connection to myself, lying to myself.

I have started to reevaluate my life, myself, and the way in which I act. It has something to do with the people I have spent more time around. 

Incredibly driven entrepreneurs who have created successful businesses from ideas, artists who have impacted thousands of people with little thought of failure, writers who have seen their words circle the world taking them along for the ride.

I have succeeded in gradually building up the amount of amazing, interesting, and dynamic people who surround me. And I have begun to wonder. How do I fit in?

What am I worth?

What am I worth? What are my skills? For what reasons do people value me? What is it that I offer? What do I contribute? What am I now contributing? What is it other people see when they look at me, when they talk to me? What do I bring to the table?

I know now it is not just laughter, it can’t be, and I don’t believe that it is. But as that has been my mantle for so long by the time I started asking myself those questions, I realized, I hadn’t really asked myself anything in a very long time.

I spend so much time looking elsewhere for the answers, in books, in movies, in the lives of others. Seeking solutions. Excuses. Failing to find external answers being far easier than never finding an internal reason.

And as I asked myself these questions I have grown confused and (more) insecure. I have felt the layers of myself pull back. Rolling back like dead onion skin. And bare beneath I feel sensitive, hesitant, unsure.

Afraid.

I carry these worries around like sacks on my soul, invisible to everybody but myself. I have created, I have shuffled, I have shipped. I have made noise while I do it, to let the world know I’m here, that I exist, that I should be paid attention to. Never really showing anything worth paying attention to. Never quite knowing why I need others to pay attention to me in the first place.

The reasons why I’m not quite where I thought I would be have always existed in other places. And there have always been reasons.

My mind has always sought the easiest answer and thus the easiest rationalization. I have justified things I don't have by blaming it on external factors I haven't been touched by or a set of experiences different than my own.

When I was younger I believed the reason was money. One day I would have enough money for everything to make sense. When I was a little bit older I thought it was confidence. One day I would be confident enough so everything would make sense.

At a certain point though, I realized it was something else all together. Something deeper, literally. Something that came from inside, more innate and significant that had to do with happiness of self. Something that, if nourished and given time, would manifest itself as the confidence that breeds money and success and all else that comes with it. But knowing that didn't make it any easier to find that thing. The absence or ignorance of which, had thus far defined my 20s.

I have successfully avoided all but the shallowest of internal excavation and introspection, saving my energies to spout reasoning and observations on the existence of others. Never taking the time to understand the insecurities that I have that guide most of all that I do.

I have filled my life with supposed wants, furniture and clothing and things, attempting to fulfill needs far more significant than I could understand.

As I continue to live my life, vacillating between the need for codependent relationships and borderline siloed independence, I am starting to realize, I know it’s neither of those things that I want exclusively. Yet still I struggle to figure out what, since the signposts between those territories are few and far between.

I continue to retread the same thoughts, and worries. Massaging them with my feet. Slow at sometimes. Faster at others. Hoping I am making a difference but never really feeling as such. As the same fears keep coming at me and I can process them at no faster a speed. Walking down an up escalator and calling it exercise.

It has been exhausting. I share this with the people closest to me. With strangers. With anybody willing to listen, hoping that somebody will free me from this suffocatingly thick air.

My close friends don't worry about me the same way I worry about myself. I know this because they tell me so. They tell me they know I will figure it out. That my talents and my spirit will overcome anything that comes my way. They have this incredible faith that no matter what, I will be OK.

It is that faith I seem to have lost somewhere along the way, if indeed I ever had it. Naiveté never deeming it necessary to let me see my own limits. A frighteningly beautiful allowance that has permitted me to accomplish things in my young life that I never could have, had I really understood anything I ever embarked upon.

But that belief, that trust, that everything is going to be OK no matter what is hard for me to reinvest in myself.

I have turned my eyes to the universe and its storied past of infinite wisdom. And I will attempt to put my faith in it. That no matter what happens, no matter how I feel about my own life, and regardless of whether or not I believe in free will, that as long as I continue to try, the universe will permit, predestine or allow for the creation of, a path through this life bringing me into the person I want to be.

But even that is a passive course.

So feeling at a loss for actions, behaviors, and ideas I have been grasping at everything. At metaphors. At reasons. At significance. Anything I can hold on to. To send my fingers out around and back again to my palm to let me know that I am safe. That the relationships, and life lessons, and life purpose worries that swirl within me are not completely unique. That I am secure. That I am OK. That I am normal.

Because for a while now, I haven't felt that way.

That assignment I did so long ago still exists somewhere, in a box, in my parents house, buried in the garage like a time capsule. But if I had to write it today how would I respond? What would my answers be? I can honestly say I don’t really know.

So I try to connect. Offering myself to friends. I don't know what my skills are or who I am. But take me. All that I am and all that I have to offer. I give myself to you. Lovingly. Openly.

Gratitude. That is the one thing I know I can control. I can be thankful and grateful and go out of my way to express that to the people around me. I can derive value and self worth from that. I can establish myself as somebody who is appreciative and lets it be known. Because I have so much to be thankful for.

And giving. I can be giving. I can give to my friends.

I will focus on gratitude, and I will focus on giving as much as I can to the people I love and the people that love me. And I will do that as long as I can, until I can figure out what it is my life is supposed to be.

And then I will do it some more.

New People in Old Orleans


I looked up at the fare meter on the dashboard of the cab. Though ticking slowly it had already hit $5.50.

I leaned over to Megan, who was still holding a half full cup of beer, and whispered:

I only have 4 dollars in my pocket. Do you have any cash?

She rummaged quickly through her purse before looking up at me.

I have 3 dollars.

At that time we were only halfway back to the hotel. We didn't have nearly enough cash.

I quickly spoke up:

Excuse me sir, would you mind passing the Chase bank on Royal street, I just realized we don't have enough cash.

Since the advent of the credit card machines in New York this was a situation I had rarely found myself in. I never needed to check my pocket before getting in a cab in New York. It was a liberty I had taken for granted the whole time we had been in New Orleans.

The cab driver responded.

Oh don't worry about it. I got a big tip earlier this evening. These young guys were going out tonight and they gave me 30 dollars and it was only a 10 dollar cab ride. So don't worry about it. It all works itself out.

Megan and I thanked the cab driver profusely. I turned back to her and shook my head. Why did this keep happening to us? Why did strangers keep doing nice things for us in this city?

Everybody was so friendly and sincere and welcoming. We were so embarrassed. Here we were, staying at one of the nicest hotels in the French Quarter and we didn’t even have 10 dollars between the two of us.

I had spent most of my night, heck, most of my nights, giving my money to bartenders who couldn't hear me over the loud music in the bar, mouthing my words so they could understand what I needed.

And now the one person who could actually hear me, the one person who was probably more deserving of my money than anybody I had given it to that entire trip, said he didn't need it. He had already received a nice tip that evening.

I can't imagine saying those words to somebody. If I drove a cab I don't know that I would be that generous and understanding.

Everywhere we went we found more people who wanted to tell us their story and their unique point of view. More individuals who wanted to share the history of the city, of what we've seen and what we should see.

So it should have come as no surprise that our dinner plans for our last night in New Orleans ended up completely changed because of somebody we met.

Megan and I had been out and about, doing what we do best, eating, drinking and walking around the city. We followed that up with the other thing we did best, synchronized napping.

Since losing the ability to sleep past 9 am, my ability to spend all day exploring a city and partying deep into the early hours of the morning is severely compromised without a nap.

We had dinner plans for a restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter. When Megan's Miles Davis cell phone ring woke us up from our nap, it could only mean one thing, her father and his girlfriend were ready for a pre-dinner cocktail.

But as it turns out they were calling for a different reason. They had been having a drink at a local landmark when they met a woman named Rochelle and her friend David. Rochelle and David were extremely friendly and inviting. So much so that David had invited Megan's father and subsequently us, to join for a pre-dinner drink at the restaurant his family owned, a famous French Quarter establishment around the corner from our original reservation.

By the time we got there, we were immediately overwhelmed by the owner, her son, her son's friend Rochelle, and Rochelle's friend Theresa. And the invitation for a drink had turned into an invitation to stay for dinner. It was like kismet. We were supposed to have dinner at this New Orleans main stay that only 100 years earlier had served as horse stables.

We were inundated by questions and directions.

Tell us about yourselves, where do you work, have a drink, would you like a tour, have you met so and so, get your drink it's time for the tour and so on and so on.

We changed our dinner reservation with reservations of our own, but figured when the owner of a restaurant extends you an invitation to eat at their restaurant while on vacation in their city. You have no choice but to say yes.

By the time we got to dinner, the stories we had been hearing so far started to seem more like tall tales, and the kismet started to seem slightly fixed.

Dinner was underwhelming, despite the folklore that was imposed upon us.

Try the oysters, you have to have them. They’re on me, I'll send over two orders.

And the prospect of turtle soup seemed curious. I asked the waiter about it.

What is this turtle soup?
It's turtle soup! Made from turtles. It's delicious

And that was that. So I tried some of that, though I couldn't figure out if I liked it or was turned off by it. Either way I had never felt a guilt like that consuming anything else in my life.

Rochelle made several appearances throughout our meal, standing next to our table and talking for slightly longer than seemed necessary. Theresa showed up as well, considerably drunker than everybody.

We began to wonder aloud, though quietly, to each other... was this a setup? Had Rochelle and David set up camp at that local watering hole waiting for unwitting tourists to stumble in so they could bring them to their delightful though probably overpriced restaurant? Were we a bunch of rubes, so caught up in the magic and charm of the city and it's people that we couldn't realize a setup when one literally looked us in the eye?

It was no matter at that point. We were far and away past the point of no return.

By the time our longer than necessary meal ended and our bill came (foreshadowed by claims of "comps" and "on me" though devoid of such fulfilled promises) we were ready to have our own night. And as politely as possible, we excused ourselves from our hosts company and ventured off on our own.

So by the time Megan and I were more than our fair share of sheets to the wind, and met that cab driver whom we had waited too long for, we were absolutely primed for genuine gesture.

We were ready to accept such an incredible event as routine. Because this one couldn't be anything but real, there was nothing he could get out of it. It was just New Orleans charm at it's finest. And that's how I, and probably all of us, will choose to remember that city.

Oh and that turtle soup? Despite my waiter’s enthusiasm for it, 12 hours later, because of poor preparation or massive guilt, I decided I was done with it and returned it the hard way to the hotel toilet.

A Good Look Back

Seeing as I had a bit of a rough spell a couple weeks ago, I want to end this year on a positive note. So instead of dwelling on something shitty that happened, I want to focus on what has been an otherwise incredible year.

I can say hands down, this has been one of the most incredible and intense years of my life. There are so many things to be grateful for. So I am glad to provide a retrospective on 5 things that people either said to me or did for me that made my year so wonderful.

#5 - The Cab Ride

New Years Day. It’s just after 1 am in Chicago, Illinois. Myself and 2 female friends are celebrating at a bar on the outskirts of the city. After some drinking and much dancing we decide it is time to go. We go to retrieve our coats which quickly turns into the most awful experience involving a coat I have ever been a part of.

We step outside to get cabs along with the 200 other humans, most of them blackout drunk, looking for cabs. We are in a very industrial part of town not necessarily known for its hopping night life. In retrospect, we would have picked a place easier to return from.

It is 0 degrees and I realize my coat, while stylish, is essentially useless against the cold. I am so cold I want to cry frozen tears while laying in the street but that thought freezes in my spinal cord before my body can make it a reality.

I am miserable. I have been cursed at, pushed, shoved, and told by the police that I can’t wait inside for a cab. A guy around my age, let’s call him Tom, is also hopping up and down in the freezing cold asks me where I’m going. I tell him. He tells me he’s headed in the same direction and that since he only has one person with him and I have 2, we should split a cab.

I readily agree with Tom, but my faith in this pact is lacking. If I get a cab and this guy is nearby, of course I will give him a lift, but I know I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to track him down. We are outside for 10 minutes, 20, a half hour. Tom walks further down the street to see if he can hail a cab. I go back inside to check on my friends. I get yelled at by police officers. I go back outside and that’s when I see him.

Hanging out the rear window of a cab is Tom.

Rich, Rich! Over here!

He is waving to me, flagging ME down to get in the cab with him that he has been circling in to find me. I am blown away. I tell him to hang on, I run back inside and grab my friends. We push through the hundreds of frozen drunk idiots and into our cab.

I thank Tom profusely. I thank him out of sheer gratitude to be out of the cold, but I also thank him out of guilt. Because I cannot picture myself circling to track him down. I am embarrassed and ashamed but also grateful. I give him my business card. I tell him to contact me that I need to thank him again.

We make it home and go to bed. I never hear from Tom again.

#4 – The New Job

After years toiling away in positions that I didn’t really believe in, doing things that didn’t really make me happy, I found a job this year that made me believe in my ability to succeed in a corporate environment. Since I was rapidly descending upon the possibility that I might have to become a career tour guide.

I make tons of new friends and as a ridiculously ridiculous awesome bonus, for my second staged play, my company purchases 40 tickets for employees to go to my show. I am blown away. They attend. They clap. They support me. I remain blown away.

#3 - Miami

Random Girl: Who ARE you?
Rich: Who are YOU?
Random Girl: Everybody here knows you as the guy who is always having fun.

‘Nuff said.

#2 – Glass Half Full

I spilled my drink. This is is not a new occurrence. I regularly do this. I also regularly knock cutlery off of tables and blow out candles using my nose.

I don’t do this on purpose mind you. As a human being, I tend to use a lot of air, and when I laugh, I dispense that air through my mouth and quick exhalations via my nostrils. And I like to lean over the table to be closer to whomever I am talking to. And that usually puts the candle in direct line of fire from my nasal blasts, so I laugh, and then the candle goes out. It happens. EVERY. TIME.

I was meeting with my writers group (sounds chic doesn’t it? Well it is.) and I was gesticulating grandly, as I tend to do, and I knocked over my nearly full beer. I quickly righted the glass but the beer was gone.

And right then I witnessed one of the greatest gestures of friendship I had ever witnessed. Without even missing a beat, my buddy Phil who was sitting to my left with a nearly full glass of beer poured half of his beer into mine.

He did it without hesitation. It was just, your beer is gone, here is half of mine. I absolutely LOVED that his first instinct was to make sure I had some beer, not there is a mess of beer on the floor now.

It might seem kind of small or trivial, but it was quite significant. And just another reminder for me how awesomely lucky I am to have incredible people around me. And that it really is the little things that stir us.

#1 – Friends

Through everything that has happened this year, far and away what has made anything worthwhile has been sharing my experiences with my friends. Whether it was the good, the bad, or the heart wrenching, I know I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded with the people that I have in my life.

With the awfulness that happened, so many people went out of their way, to say, offer, and do things for me that I probably will never be able to repay. I hope those people get to read this and know just how violet with gratitude my heart burns. Thank you so much.

And now, enough with the past! Here is to the future, to a 2011 filled with all of everything that we want, and none of the nothing that we don’t.

May your new year be filled with big things, or little things, or whatever it is you seek.

Cheers.

Cooling Down to Heat It Up


Fall has descended upon my fine city. And that means the rapid approachment (don’t question my grammar) of the Holidays and much chillier temperatures. This is my favorite time of year in Manhattan. I have a buddy who just moved to New York who told me that he keeps hearing 2 things from people who lived here for a while.

The first is that the next 2 months in Manhattan are magical. I have to agree.

And the second thing he keeps hearing is that once colder weather comes, single people start hunkering down into winter relationships the same way bears look for caves.

I have to say, I’ve seen this happen as well. Though I’m still not quite sure how it happens because we males are pretty much clueless when it comes to anything except fantasy football.

But it is much easier to fall (pun intended) into a relationship at this point in the year then say, oh… the summer.

During the summer there is a lot of interaction with considerably less clothes. Like at the beach.

It is there that us men make our most courageous attempts to talk to members of the fairer sex. The beach is a funny place to hit on people, because you are essentially wearing what you want those people to see you in if you are successful wooing them.

When you are in a bathing suit you really can’t hide anything. There can be no cognitive dissonance on the girl’s part of; “Maybe he looks good under that shirt?”

There is no shirt. There is only you my friend. And you look infinitely more awkward talking to a girl in your underwear than you do in clothes.

Does any man anywhere know how to talk to women? I certainly don’t, that is why for the larger part of my life I either acted like an idiot in front of females (not a good tactic) or just looked on longingly from across the room (also not a good tactic).

But as I get older, watching guys talk to girls is perhaps the most painful/entertaining thing in the world. We really have no idea what we’re doing out there. It’s a battlefield and we are over matched. It is like Saving Private Ryan with perfume and Cosmos.

Last summer at the beach I watched a guy run into a girl he knew and say;

Oh how come you didn’t tell me you were coming out here this weekend?

Well Topless Guy, I believe it probably had something to do with the fact that she did not want you to know that she was going to be there.

And here’s another knowledge fiesta for your synapses. If you are standing there in your bare chested glory, and the hot girl in the bathing suit who did not tell you she was coming out to the beach is sitting in a beach chair and does not stand up to put her arms around you, thereby forcing you to bend down awkwardly to give her a kiss on the cheek to greet her… you don’t have a chance.

Men don’t really have strategies for talking to women. We might say we do, we might think we do, but we really don’t. In kindergarten you would hit a girl you like and then run away from her as fast as you can. High School brought the slander and slouch, when you would make fun of the girl you like and then eliminate all manner of posture and turn away to appear like you didn’t care about the girl’s opinion.

College brought the drink and shoot. With the addition of alcohol the strategy was basically just consume until you have become brave enough to accost any and all women within spitting distance.

And that’s about all we got.

I have a good female friend who was recently on the receiving end of a brilliant strategy. A gentleman who had been sitting next to her handed her his iPhone and said:

Do you want to play this game?

So he tried sharing his toys, that IS nice, but ya know… you are an adult. Try using something other than video games as your opening statement.

Now I am no Don Juan, heck I’m not even like… a Bob Juan, but I gotta believe I would never use video games as part of my dating repertoire.
           
And let me be clear, up until recently I was very uncomfortable around women. In fact the first time I tried to ask someone out I was in my sophomore year of college. I found myself sitting in front of a Phoenix Suns dancer in my public speaking class. I had high blood pressure for the duration of the semester as I tried to come up with conversation topics so I could turn around and engage her with something slightly more interesting than my impression of Donkey from Shrek.

We eventually went on a date. And now we’ve been married for 6 years.

No just kidding, after that date I never her saw her again. I am apparently very good on dates.

I recently heard a story about a girl who was dancing at a bar and making out with a guy she had just met. They seemed to be getting along very well. She was really digging him until he dropped this little nugget on her;

You’re cute, but you’re a little chubby. You should try eating more salads.

Wow.

Never mind the fact that this poor girl wasn’t even chubby to being with. At what point does telling a woman she’s chubby seem like a good idea? The only living creatures I have ever told were fat are dogs.

Like my friend Sophie's dogs:


THEY could use a salad.

But even if you women decide to date us men (and really I’m still trying to figure out a value add we have for you aside from bug killing, which as you know, I really don’t do) we don’t even know how to talk about you.

Recently I have heard more guys refer to their “Lady Friend.”

This gives me the willies. I don’t like the sound of it. It sounds like you have some kind of woman of the night who comes to your chambers with wine in a calfskin thermos.

Yes Lady Friend, please avail yourself of some of my fine champagne and drape yourself upon my velvet chaise to the sounds of my harpsichord.

This is why I pretty much no longer talk to women. I communicate exclusively through acts of chivalry, small gifts, and wiggling my ears.

And that is tough to do with a winter hat on. But if you do see it, trust me, it’s magical.

Miami Bound Machine - Part 3

My experience at the beach can pretty much be summed up by an experience from my college years.

I was home on Long Island, back from my first year at ASU. One weekend my buddy Mike, his friend Jen, and I all went to the beach. We parked the car, grabbed our stuff, and headed out to the sand.

After finding a spot and dropping our things Jen and Mike stripped down to their bathing suits and jogged merrily down to the water.

I on the other hand, took off my shirt and immediately got a nosebleed.

It wasn’t like a little one either; it was like what happens when one catches a football with their face.

I started to panic. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to track down a tissue at the beach, but trust me, they are in short supply.

The awkward thing about getting a nosebleed at the beach is there is just nothing to stop it. What are you going to use… sand?

Mike: Hey Rich why are you laying face down in the sand?
Rich: Oh nothing, just a nose bleed, I think this is how they stop oil spills. I’ll be fine.

No, you can’t do that. And of course there is nobody around, I am bleeding all over my hand and the only thing I have to stop the bleeding is the shirt I just took off.

It was either use my shirt or just go bleed in the ocean. So naturally I chose to use the shirt.

Imagine my friends’ confusion when they came back from the ocean to find me with a tank top in my nose and blood on my hands.

It doesn’t get more embarrassing than that. I mean I hadn’t even been there 10 minutes! And I had JUST gotten my shirt off, which is quite the event itself. My body being so pale and reflective it requires sunglasses just to witness.

Much later on, Mike told me about a conversation he had with his friend Jen and my name came up.

Mike: Do you remember my friend Richy?
Jen: Is that the kid who almost died when we went to the beach.

Pretty much. I mean I might as well title my memoir that

The Kid Who Almost Died When We Went to the Beach: The Rich Boehmcke Story.

And even though I sometimes spontaneously bleed there, I do love the beach. But for many reasons, the beach doesn’t so much love me. Typically a lot of awful things aside from nosebleeds have happened to me at the beach. Granted this is because I have done a fair bit of travelling by myself. So I am usually at the beach on my own with nobody to look out for me.

Going in the water by yourself is a stressful situation. I remember my time in Australia when I finally got up the courage to leave my stuff on the beach and just go swimming by myself, only to see this sign when I emerged from the ocean:


Awesome.

My body was built for many things: sitting on a couch, reaching for high up objects, making really dramatic awkward movements, but the beach? No, this vessel I have is not necessarily beach ready.

Those of you who have seen me in person (and once again, my apologies) know that my skin is not really a durable looking kind of skin. I am pale. While my mother is of Italian decent, my father’s Irish German lineage beat out my mother’s genes when it came to whose skin I would get.

While “lily white” is a beautiful color, it isn’t exactly a good color for skin. And it certainly isn’t a sun proof kind of color. It is the main reason that from the ages of 6 up until recently I always wore SPF 45 when I went to the beach. And not just SPF 45, a very specific brand called Water Babies.


It is a fine product that works well but you just get to a certain age and you just look to avoid using products that have pictures of half naked children on them.

So if I am going to go to the beach I need to make sure I have plenty of sun block on hand. I reapply many times, and make sure to hit all exposed areas.

Though if I am by myself, the issue usually arises about what to do about my back. If I apply it to myself, I usually miss a rather large spot in the middle of my back, which I don’t know about until somebody points it out to me later on.

This became very obvious to me in Chile last year.

It would be beneficial if somebody could invent some sort of back scratcher/sun tan lotion applier. This way I could go to the beach alone and actually enjoy myself. Half the time I am just standing 2 feet into the ocean praying I don’t get burnt and staring at my blanket hoping somebody doesn’t steal my stuff.

But Miami should be different because I will be there with friends.

Well, not really friends, more like 100 strangers I have JUST met, but hey, same thing.

This fancy hotel I am staying at will perhaps have some sort of sun block applier. I sure hope so anyway because my goal to show up tan has failed.

In fact at this point I have really lowered my hopes for all the things I wanted to be before I showed up in Miami. I realize I won’t be buff. There is a good chance I will be ostracized for my clothes. And as for tan? Like I said, I’ve given up any hope of that.

Now my goal for when I show up to the beach is just not to look like Gollum.


Stranger: Hey Rich why is your nose bleeding?
Rich: THE PRECIOUS!

But that all remains to be seen when I finally put my feet in that Miami sand, which hopefully, I will not need to use as clotting material.

The End.  (Kind of, I’m sure there will be a recap.)

My Obsession

I have a problem; I am addicted to video contests.

Like most of the things wrong with me, I blame my mother.

It all started last spring when my mom sent me a gChat (yes my mom gChats, isn’t she hip?) that said “This is the perfect job for you” and enclosed a link to a contest website.

She was right; it was the perfect job for me.

Well, kind of. It was an amazing job. Six months living on a vineyard in Northern California getting paid 10 grand a month to keep a written and video blog of wine tastings and picnic spots. Sweet!

How could one acquire such a job? Well the first round was determined by a video submission entry. This was my video:


There were nearly 2,000 videos entered and mine was selected to be part of the top 50. And then there was a phone interview to narrow it down even more. I did the interview and my heart was beating so fast I couldn’t even pay attention to what I was saying. I may or may not have done the whole interview in German. Who knows?

Needless to say I didn’t make it to the next round.

I did get a sweet wine opener and a set of Liar’s Dice though.

I didn’t do a contest for the rest of the year, though I did write a couple of plays.

But I didn’t do any kind of video project. I hadn’t even really thought about one until a couple months ago when I got an email. It was some commercial email and in it was an advertisement for the Cold-Eeze video contest. I told everybody and their mother about it. In case you are a Fraggle, here is that video:


And do you know what happened with that contest? I WON IT! I know right? And do you know what I won? A mystery vacation! I have no idea where or when. But I do know that I am going with like 100 strangers. The best, right?

But even before I had one that contest, the process itself had me hooked like a drug addiction. That set off a seemingly ceaseless creation process that had me and my friends enter 7 different video contests in 8 weeks.

Yea I know, I get kind of obsessive.

In this process I coerced 6 different friends to play roles in these ridiculous videos that dealt with everything from a commercial for going green:


To a commercial for Bar-B-Q sauce:



WHICH I DIDN’T WIN even though the other commercials didn’t make any sense and the narrative structure of the videos didn’t equally relate to the…. Deep breath.

Sorry, sometimes I get indignant when I don’t win enough free meat to feed a Roman army.

Anyway, I realized something. I was doing better in contests where the public didn’t vote. So I said to myself, “Self, No more public votes. We are only doing panel judging from now on.”

And immediately after I came to that conclusion something else happened. I came across a contest where the winner would get 2 business class tickets to anywhere Air Pacific flies. So essentially… Fiji.

And then I had a really good idea for it.

But I had already sworn off public voting videos. What was I to do?

Seeing as I have an iron clad will and fortitude unmatched throughout the land I did what I always do… I caved.

I shot the video.

And I uploaded it hoping that the gods of the contest world would choose it as a finalist…

And they did!

So here it is. I am one of the top 3. The voting only goes until Monday the 10th. There is no registering. Just click the button for “Video 1” and click “Vote.” There is no personal information, no pets’ names, and no nonsense. It is easy peasy! And please, forward this to as many people as you can. I really want to win this one.

And I promise this will be the last one…


For a while anyway.

Tearful Thank Yous

Accepting a compliment from another human being in person is quite possibly one of the most difficult things to do in this life.

It's not because we don't want compliments. Quite the contrary actually. We really want them.

It seems we spend most of our lives chasing compliments, wanting people to tell us how good we are, how pretty we look, or what a wonderful job we've done. The funny thing is, once we actually do get those compliments, the compliments we've thirsted for like water in the desert, we dismiss them as though they are no big deal.

"Don't be silly" we say, or "It was nothing." We do this because the actual act of receiving an honest compliment is way more difficult than any of us are willing to admit.

I think the hardest part about a compliment is the eye contact. Having to look someone deep in the eye while they express to you how they feel about you and the work that you did without looking away... wow. I mean many of us can't do that with the people closest to us, but even strangers? That can be intense.

It is certainly something most of us are not used to. Nor do we actually know how to react. It is incredibly disconcerting. That connection is strange. But if you can find a way to embrace it, it really is electric. It will make you feel unlike any way you've ever felt before.

Or if you are like me... you will cry.

Not little sissy tears either. Nope. Big, huge, waterworks, man baby tears that don't stop.

The plays I had been working on for the past 3 months finally went up last week. Thursday and Friday night saw the end result of weeks and weeks of intense preparation. Everything that had been an idea, a possibility, or a thought since July became a reality twice over the course of 48 hours.

And shortly thereafter, it was merely a memory.

After the lights went out the first night, I felt kind of strange. The shows has been great and everything had gone off without a hitch. And yet, I did not feel like I expected to feel.

I did feel good about what had just transpired. I felt proud, and slightly accomplished. But I didn't feel an overwhelming rush crash over me like the wave of joy I had hoped for. One moment the shows were about to start, and slowly but surely they slipped away from me, like sand through my fingers.

Friday however, was different. The air in the room even felt different before the shows started. People seemed more excited than they did the night before. There was an energy in the room that added something to the performances that I could not have planned for.

And when the lights went out on the final scene of Friday's show I felt excited, I felt slightly relieved, but I was energized. And I was lucky enough to have many of my friends and loved ones come up to me and congratulate me and say such wonderful things.

I did my best not to dismiss the compliments. I, my cast, and my crew (Andrea) had worked hard for this. And if people had good things to say, I really wanted to appreciate the fruits of our labor. I wanted to take in their compliments, digest them, and squeeze every last drop of goodness from them.

Wishing my actors good luck before they went on I got a little teary, and the same when saying some personal thank yous to my friends after. But I was pretty much able to keep my emotions at bay. The tears sat patiently locked up in their cages behind my eyes.

The after party happened, many hugs occurred, and eventually the night came to a close. I went home and went to sleep.

The next morning when I woke up I was feeling pretty great. Exhausted from everything, and a little surprised that I hadn't had a complete emotional breakdown immediately following the applause.

The catalyst that triggered my breakdown actually would come in the form of a compliment from a person I didn't even know.

You see I had a good friend fly in from California on Friday just to see my shows and hang out in the city for a short weekend. She came with a friend of hers whom I had never met. But I was anticipating liking her since she was flying 3,000 miles to see my $12 dollar show.

We all got together for brunch on Saturday and spent the day having drinks and walking around the neighborhoods. We ended our day with a fabulous dinner at a great restaurant, a lovely place with low lighting and delicious food.

And sometime after dinner, in the middle of a low lit dining room, in the west village in Manhattan this stranger told me what she thought of my plays... and I cried like a little kid lost in the woods.

Not big whaling cries with sobbing and huff huff huffing. No it was just a very wet, can't turn off the faucets kind of cry.

We so often take for granted the support we get from our loved ones. And that is not a good thing, but yet it still happens. Yet there is still something so heavy about the compliments given to you by the people you do not know. You realize they may not be as concerned with protecting and nurturing you, they don't owe you anything, and when they say it, well, you have no choice but to pay attention.

Perhaps there was more involved. Maybe it had something to do with having had a full day to process what had actually occurred the night before. Or maybe it was the 2 bottles of wine we had with dinner. I mean that probably helped.

But who knows if I would have cried like this had this fine human not said what she said to me. Maybe my emotional connection to my work would have faded with each passing day. And maybe I would have found myself bawling in my bed one night as the exhaustion got the better of me.

But I am glad it happened when it did, because it felt right. It put a definitive end on my emotional connection to my work. It signified completion. It put a soggy exclamation point on an incredible mini journey.

And I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Textual Face Googling

The handoff, in American Football, is defined as a play in which the quarterback, who starts every play with the ball, literally hands the ball to another player on his own team, transferring responsibility for moving that ball to someone else.


I would like to propose a new definition.


The handoff, in American societal communication, shall from this point on, refer to the moment in time when a person uses one of the following phrases; "I'll text you later. Are you on Facebook?" or "Google it!" to transfer the responsibility for communication to someone else.


By using these phrases people are literally saying, they would rather take the chance of not speaking to you later, as opposed to definitely finishing your interaction now.





These 3 phrases have turned useful and fulfilling communication with other human beings into something delayed, hollow, and extremely ridiculous.


My sister dated a guy once that we all referred to as "The Texter." This individual, while seemingly normal enough in person, was apparently incapable of dialing and talking into a phone. His primary form of communication was text messages. If he was proposing a date, drinks , or just checking in, he did it all through text message.

He was, in essence, a 14 year old girl.


Now I will not deny the importance of text messaging. I do it all the time. In fact, I text so much that I recently had to increase the amount of text messages I am allowed every month as part of my plan.


My friends and I use the text message as a supplementary form of communication. Not as the form. But as time marches on, I see more and more people using texts as the sole way they interact with others.

This guy my sister dated was physically incapable of calling her to schedule plans. Perhaps it is because we have made typing so second nature that talking to people actually made him uncomfortable.

We are dividing ourselves out from the responsibility of face to face contact. In fact, I am pretty sure that within the next decade we will start seeing "Google it" popping up on people's tombstones.


Some time ago, when I still believed in the gym, I was there (getting huge obviously) and I overheard 2 people talking. It was a guy hitting on a girl who was obviously not interested. It was a painful situation. So painful in fact that I considered dropping a dumbbell on my own face so I wouldn't have to watch it anymore.

This guy is rambling on and on and I can't look away. It was like a really long, slow, car accident. He was completely oblivious to how much this girl didn't want to be talking to him.


In the span of 5 minutes this clown told this girl to "Google it" three times. Once about some band he liked, once about his tour guide from his trip to Israel, and by the third time he said it I didn't catch the reference. I was too busy eyeing a sizable weight to end my misery.


Google it? No. That girl didn't want to Google it. She's not taking notes. She's not a reporter OK? You are not hitting on Lois Lane. This is a conversation not a press conference.

Don't tell me to Google things because I am not going to. If I wanted to google it I would have Googled it before I left the house. I want you to tell me what it is. Now. That is the point of having a conversation. And if you don't know what it is, you shouldn't be talking about it in the first place. I will not Google it. I will not Wikipedia it. How dare you turn nouns into verbs on me? Why don't you go Google it and talk to me when you have some actual knowledge?


A hundred ago when somebody didn't know what something was, they didn't say;


Hey go dictionary it.

or

You should library it.


No. They just, of their own volition, got up and looked it up. I don't need you to tell me what knowledge I don't have. Go find your own knowledge.


Idiot.


But I think the ultimate slap in the face is the one that Facebook hath brought upon us.

Long ago in olden times, when people wanted to become friends or stay in touch with somebody they'd just met, they made their best efforts to do so. What started as, "May I stop by your home sometime?" eventually evolved to, "Can I get your number?" and has finally settled on, "Are you on Facebook?"


I remember the first time it happened to me. It was my last semester in college and I ran into somebody I wanted to keep in touch with. I was about to say "Hey give me your number and we can chat" but before I could say that I was hit with;

Are you on Facebook?

Oh. Oh I see how it is.


Facebook has become the consolation prize of friendship. Too lazy or uncaring to ask for a phone number, we offer up a half assed "Are you on Facebook?"


We do it so much so that it has practically become mandatory for all interactions.


So basically what you are saying is instead of spending 10 seconds putting 7 digits into your phone and pushing save, you are telling me you are going to go home, turn on your computer, get on the interweb, log on to Facebook, search for my name (pending you can spell it correctly) click the button that says "add as friend" and then wait for between 3 and 15 days while I make you sweat it out on whether or not I will accept your friendship so as not to make you think that I am a a loser with nothing else to do but sit on Facebook 23 hours a day and instantly respond to any and all requests that come my way.


And then, finally I will click "accept" so that instead of being a person of moderate relevance in your cellular phone, I can be added, and probably lost, amongst the hundreds of "friends" you are "connected to" on Facebook.


Yea, you are right. That is way better than pushing 8 buttons.


I suppose it's better than actually becoming friends. In fact, if you want to become friends with me, you should probably just go through my blog.


And if you don't know the address, well... just Google it.

Roommates

Living with people after high school hasn't really been something I've had much success with. Growing up at home was pretty normal. I mean the standard conflict about my messy room, or having not cleaned the bathroom existed, but that was pretty basic. And aside from those things, I survived without too much drama.

Once I left for college however, it was a whole new ballgame. I was not aware that some people could be so otherworldly oblivious, or that 2 people could have so many different things to disagree on. Here now, is a brief history of my college roommates.

My first college roommate took it up on himself to let his friend sleep in my bed the 3rd night I knew him. I came home late to find a strange woman sleeping in my bed. It is not nearly as cool as it sounds.

I left that situation after 3 weeks to get my own room, but I had a suite mate whose friend would take Adderall and bang on my window like a savage at 4 in the morning. I was too scared to even open the curtain.

Then my next roommate liked to smoke pot. So much so that he got taken out of our apartment in handcuffs by the police. I think that he thought I called the cops because the next day he took the TV out of the living room and moved it into his room. I never told him that the cops had been walking past our balcony and heard him say, and I quote, "This is some really good pot!"

Then I had roommates in Italy. One of which dropped a giant glass beer bottle next to my bed while I was away one weekend and didn't tell me until I found a shard of glass on the floor the size of a shrapnel grenade. I asked him what happened. He said he didn't remember.

So it stands to reason that by the time I left college I was done with roommates. (Aside from the 2 extra years I lived with my parents, which is a story for another time)

When I finally moved into my own apartment last year it was the greatest relief of my life. I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, and never had to worry about about anybody else cramping my style.

One of the benefits of having your own apartment is being able to open up your home to your dear close friends who need a place to stay when they come to visit. I have been more than willing to offer my pullout couch to the half dozen or so of my friends who have been brave/masochistic/desperate enough to spend a couple of nights at my place.

As I started preparing my apartment for my guests to arrive, I began having flashbacks to cleaning my room when I was a kid. My mother was so emphatic about every inch of the house being spotless before our guests arrived.

Did you vacuum under your bed?

No. Why? Will our guests be sleeping under the bed? Are they trolls?

Did you dust?

What do you mean did I dust? Of course I didn't dust. I never dust. Why would I dust?

All of this effort seemed extremely unnecessary. Would I ever really care if my home was that clean?

The answer of course, is yes.

I did not expect the neuroses I would develop about having my apartment being clean enough so that my friends wouldn't think I was some kind of filthy hippie when they arrived. I immediately began channeling my mother and putting everything away.

I found myself refolding the clothes that were already in my closet. Like my guests were going to throw open my closet doors, find unfolded shirts and say... "What is this? Unfolded shirts? I am outraged! I am leaving this dump!"

But some things can't be hidden. Things like 10 pounds of protein powder in a giant blue keg. I couldn't really put that away. What would my friends think when they saw that ridiculous purchase? Or the PedEgg in my bathroom? Try as I might I still can't find a great reason for owning that.

I tried to remember what it was like when I stayed at my friend's place in California last year. She is so sweet and when I arrived she told me to make myself at home. But instantly I knew she couldn't possibly mean that.

Even though we were good friends, I think she would have been quite shocked to find me sitting on her couch in my underwear at 2 in the morning drinking out of the OJ container while watching Britney Spears videos on YouTube.

I mean it's just a hunch.

Not that it is a normal nighttime activity for me, but ya know... sometimes.

But I didn't act like myself when I got there. I acted like a really awesome version of myself. And I did that by being as agreeable as humanly possible. I become a yes man. In order to make it easy as possible on my host, I just go along with everything.

Hey Rich I don't have a spare bed. Would you mind sleeping on our unfinished deck full of rusty nails and rabid cats?

No problem.

Hey Rich I wake up at 6 am and scream like a banshee for half an hour, do you mind?

Not at all.

Hey Rich for breakfast I always eat half a sheep brain, would you like one?

Give me a whole!

And sure enough the friends that came to stay with me were extremely flexible. Even though my neuroses had me making sure everyone had a different colored towel to use so nobody would get confused and use the same towel, my hosting screw ups went nearly unnoticed.

Like when I forgot to replenish the toilet paper stash before I went to work in the morning. Or when I forgot to turn on the A/C before they went to sleep in my sweltering living room. They didn't seem to mind.

But I did need to acclimate myself to having people in my home. I had to remember to do little things I didn't normally have to. Like close the door when I went to the bathroom, or put on pants when I walked out of my room in the morning.

As it turns out I really like being a temporary roommate to my friends for short periods of time. It is like a vacation from your own life.

And if you'd like to stay with me, I'd love to have you. Just let me know in advance so I can hide my protein keg and practice putting on some pants.

Oh and by the way, I actually wake up at 5 to scream like a banshee. I hope you don't mind.

Hostel Environment

Hostels, for those of you who may not know, are budget accommodations whereby travelers stay in dorm bedrooms of anywhere from 2 to 12 beds that come with either an en suite bathroom, or 1 for the entire floor. Some Hostels provide many amenities, some do not. And you pay a fraction of the price for a hotel or private lodging.

The first time I stayed in a hostel I was 20 years old. It was one of my first times traveling completely alone in a foreign country, in a new city where I didn’t know a soul. I was amazed at how easy it was to meet new people. The whole experience was exciting and I went on to stay at a dozen more throughout Western Europe. I had discovered a great way to see the world.

But three backpacking trips and somewhere over 30 hostels later, my views have started to evolve. I still agree that it is the cheapest and most unique way to see the world, meet people, and have adventures.

But I am 25 now and I’ve started to realize that it does require a certain mentality and spirit to stay in hostels. I’m not an elitist, I don’t think I am better than the other people staying in hostels, but I wonder if my mentality has changed. I wonder if the sun is setting on my time on this type of travel.

You meet a lot of people in hostels, people from all over the world. Mostly you meet other Americas, Canadians, Australians, Germans and people from the UK. This is not a bad thing per say but they just tend to be the people who travel most. People from Europe seem to stay in hostels well into their 40s and even beyond, but the Americans you meet in hostels tend to fall in the 18 to 23 age bracket. And I really noticed that more on this trip than any other

Perhaps it is because I am 25 now, in my 4th year out of college, that I became so aware on this trip. Generally the Americans you meet have just finished college, or are on a break, or taking a year off etc. Sure I meet people like myself taking 2 weeks off of work to see as much of the world as possible, but with each trip I take they are fewer and further between.

I am pretty comfortable with the whole hostel experience; I know the routine of checking in/out and how to go about making friends. But staying in a hostel is an exercise in tolerance. It is absolutely exhausting. The quality of a hostel itself is measured up against your desire to see that city on a dime. The more you want to see a place, the more you’re willing to put up with to see it.

You’ll put up with things like, bunk beds crafted by incompetent masochists that upon first glance, appear to be made of broken shards of used IKEA furniture. Or living out of the same backpack for days on end without doing laundry so that the smallest article of stinky clothing infiltrates the entire bag to create tour de force in revulsion any time you open your bag.

You begin to get very comfortable with yourself as you don’t really have a choice. When you don’t have a private place to change, being in a room full of strangers all in their underwear seems as natural as though you have been doing it your whole life. (Maybe you have, I’m not trying to judge)

I’ve already mentioned the snoring before, but oh god. It is a wonder any of these people will ever get married considering the sounds, moans, grunts, whistles, and wheezing that escapes them during sleep. Some nights I would open my eyes expecting to see a room full of baboons, or hyenas around me. But no, these were in fact human beings.

Walking into the bathrooms in hostels is always a hold your breath experience.

You hold your breath because you’re not sure how bad the bathroom is going to be once you get in it.
You hold your breath because it is either going to smell like the inside of a septic tank or some unfathomable assortment of chemicals used to kill the sense that you are inside of a septic tank.

And the bathroom is wet. Not just damp, but wet. The floor is soaked like the last 20 people to take a shower in there had pointed the nozzle straight up at the ceiling instead of towards the drain. Like the bathroom had JUST finished filming a raunchy Britney Spears video before I showed up.

I realized I had kind of hit a turning point with hostels on my last trip with the hostel in Uruguay where I spent 2 nights. I walk in and immediately the men’s bathroom smells like a severed foot left in a moldy locker full of expired hummus. There is water dripping everywhere of course, but despite all this I strip and get into the shower.

I am in there for about 3 minutes before I notice what appears to be a large piece of gauze stuck to the wall. I decide not to get a closer look. So I turned my head to the left to avoid looking at it, and I noticed what appeared to be a soaking wet pair of used blue briefs hanging on a pipe sticking out of the wall.

Awesome.

It was at that moment that I realized I might be done with hostels.

It’s not that that I don’t love traveling. I do. It’s very much a part of who I am and I value every trip I’ve taken. The opportunities that hostels provide are incredible. I have seen more of the world staying at hostels than I would have staying at any other hotel or budget accommodation.

Plus as an individual traveler it has allowed me to meet people that create unique experiences and incredible adventures that I wouldn’t otherwise just sitting on my bunk reading the complete Lord of the Rings Trilogy or an Ayn Rand novel.

But as I cross the hump from my early 20s into my late 20s, I find myself wanting more. It’s not just wanting to stay in nicer places where I can have a guaranteed good nights rest instead of playing Russian Sleep Roulette. It’s more how I experience these places that I crave more out of.

When I first started staying in hostels I felt like I had been let in on some incredible community of travelers. And I have enjoyed being a part of that community.

But a different need has surfaced within me, a desire to travel with a friend or group of friends close to me. I have always said that I traveled by myself because I got to see whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and I had no one to rely on but myself. And I loved that. There is so much to see though, and sharing it with someone changes the experience.

My sister and I still talk about the trip we took to the south of France for a week, and the funny things that happened, and how I thought I won 400 dollars at the slot machine when I had actually only won 40, and the markets, and the hilarious fish dinner. That’s what I love! I love being able to paint a canvas of memories with my loved ones that we can always go back to and relive.

Currently many of my travel memories are wrapped up written stories and in the memories of people whose names I can’t remember and will never see again. And that is all well and good because I have always loved the independence I felt while traipsing the globe on my own. But I have proved to myself I can do it. I know I am capable of such things. I crave more.

What I seek now is to continue to experience the world and laugh and drink and be amazed with someone close to me. So that we can relive it at my Wedding, at my 50th birthday party, wherever.

If nothing else, if one day I am traveling in some far-off country with a friend and I find myself in the shower staring a pair of underwear… at least I’ll know whose it is.

The Wedding

Now I could easily write about how a destination wedding on the coast of California was like a vacation from responsibility and all things remotely adult-like. I could write the ridiculous specifics about how nobody went to bed until after 1 am for four nights in a row, or how we as a group probably set records for alcohol sales in the state of California.

That would be fine and good, and I could probably make you laugh in the process. And before I left for this wedding, I was pretty sure that would be the story I would be writing now.

But I started noticing things over the course of the weekend. And those things were hard to ignore. Sure the wedding was a raging romp full of laughter and hilarity, but sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home I was noticing some thoughts I hadn’t really processed before.

Upon closer inspection of my particular experience in California, I realized that weddings are more than just alcohol fueled dance parties. Weddings are more like lenses. They are mirrors that reflect the aspects of our lives that might be harder to see had we not gathered all of our loved ones in the same place at the same time.
You see the childhood best friend, the parents, brothers, sisters, and grandparents who were there for the formative years of the happy couple, and the people they choose to surround themselves with currently. All of it is a reflection of where they’ve been, and where they are going.

It need not be said that you don’t get to choose your families, but you do get to choose your friends. And just as children say a lot about the kind of people their parents are, the friends you choose aren’t just the people you enjoy, but also representations of the characteristics and traits that you yourself value.

I quickly realized that these people from Washington, Arizona, Indiana, and beyond were more than just guests. They were the actual fabric of the wedding. They were what I was most interested in. All those details that get so much attention before the wedding happens, well they are fine and dandy but they are just the icing on the wedding cake.

I’ll admit that having a wedding in one of the most magnificent parts of the country sets you up for an incredible affair. However, location can only add so much to your wedding. People are always looking at what they think are the important things at weddings. How is the food? Is the bar stocked with choice booze? Is this ceremony going to last longer than an episode of Seinfeld?

Those details that the bride and groom spend hours agonizing over end up being more about how the wedding looks, but they can’t change how the wedding feels. No, the feeling and the emotions of the wedding, those come from the people. And no prime rib, open bar, or seaside view can compensate for that.

Weddings help us view the parts of our lives that we love the most and those that we don’t understand. And destination weddings, those rare events where people come from all across the country, or around the world, are truly unique occurrences. It may sound corny to say, but rarely, if ever, will the bride and groom see all of those people at the same time again.

So every moment you spend with your guests takes on so much more significance. You try to squeeze every possible second out of your time with everyone. You realize that those stereotypical weddings with the electric slide and the drunken toast given by the best man are more theater than celebration.

It is far more moving to watch the brother of the groom struggle through his speech because he’s never had the opportunity to verbalize what his brother means to him. It’s far more emotional to hear a little sister discuss how she can finally pass on her title of “protector” because her big sister is in the hands of a man who will do the job for her.
Watching that emotion push its way out of us is so strangely cathartic.
Regardless of whether or not you cry at weddings, there is something so significant about hearing people crystallize their feelings for each other. Our lives are filled with nods of approval and half-assed hugs. And these feelings of affection live deep beneath the depths of our souls, often growing and swelling without ever having the opportunity to surface.

So when it comes time to look your loved ones in the eye and tell them there is no one like them, that the love you feel for them is something unequaled for any person on the planet, well, it’s no wonder people cry at weddings.

You can fake a lot of things in this life. You can talk all you want about who you think you are and things you are going to be. We can fake strangers into thinking we are doctors, lawyers, or the next American Idol. But it is wonderfully refreshing to see people just being themselves because they know they couldn’t hide it if they tried.

And that’s what weddings should be, a chance for you and the love of your life to invite those that mean most to you on the planet to come together if for only once, to share in an event that is both reunion and rebirth.
Throughout my time in college whenever I would talk to my grandfather he would tell me to study hard and make good marks. Then on the day I graduated college when there was no more studying to be done, and every time I’ve seen him since, he has said “Choose your friends wisely.”

As I barrel through my 20s, it is this advice that I hold closest to my heart. As more of my friends continue theirs paths into adulthood, getting engaged and then married, I’m sure there will be more weddings I will have the opportunity to attend. I’m sure all of them will be beautifully different in one way or another.

So in some regards, this wedding was epic. We laughed so hard we fell out of chairs, and we talked so much we were hoarse for days. But even more than that, seeing up close what it is like when a wedding trades in its spectacle and drama for laughter and love makes me hopeful that one day my friends and family will feel the way I did at Marissa and Josh’s wedding. Indeed, I believe it is all any of us can hope for.