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.

Death in the Woods

As we plowed down the unpaved road in a pickup truck that we would soon found out did not have 4 wheel drive I had an interesting thought:

This might not be a good idea.

Shortly thereafter my phone rang. It was my buddy in the Hyundai ahead of us.

Turn back. Don't come any further we are stuck in the mud.

Naturally by the time he had finished his sentence we were directly behind his Hyundai and stuck in snow mixed with mud which had made a wonderful slush that trapped us too.

My then girlfriend gunned the engine of her parents Toyota pickup truck we were driving, trying to get us into reverse and out of the woods. I turned to her and said:

I thought you said this was four wheel drive?

She turned to me and shrugged.

I thought it was.

Ohhhh. Suddenly it became clear.

We were going to die in the woods.

I had thought of the many ways I might die in my life. But stranded in a snow covered wood from starvation really had never entered my mind. I'm not one for camping, or hiking, or just hanging out in the woods. So not only was I surprised that I was going to die in the woods, but that we had ended up in the woods in the first place.

That wasn't the plan. The plan was to go skiing. And in 2005 when you needed to get someplace you had never been before, you went on MapQuest. And whatever MapQuest said to do... we did. It had never gotten me lost before. I had always arrived safely at my destination.

Then again MapQuest had never invented an imaginary road that cut across a mountain to a ski resort.

So there we are, 4 of us, 2 couples with a Hyundai and a Toyota stuck in the slush trying to get a pick up truck out of the slush with a board and our wits.

Needless to say this didn't work.

So instead we started debating what to do. Who should we call? The police? What would we even say?

Hi 911? Yes we are lost in the woods. No I don't know where, we are lost. Actually if you try and get directions to go skiing via MapQuest that should get you to where we are right now.

We didn't have any friends in the area, and the only friends we did have were 3 hours away back in Phoenix. We were lost deep in thought when we saw a Honda barreling down the dirt road towards us. Immediately we start screaming.

TURN BACK! STOP! DON'T COME ANY FURTHER!

Before it makes it all the way to us the Honda stops and two girls wearing flip flops step out of the car. Part of me wonders if we should have let them keep going at this point. Immediately it is obvious that these two girls are also going skiing via MapQuest directions. We explain the situation to them and right away the driver gets all pissy with us... like we're trying to prevent them from going skiing.

Yea that's it, we know the skiing is really good so we basically parked our cars in the snow on a dirt road in the middle of the woods MILES AWAY FROM THE SKI SLOPES so nobody could get to the good snow which we are hoarding.

A-holes.

The a-holes get back in their Honda (which is smaller than both of our cars) and manage to back out of the woods to safety and civilization and all that crap, whereas the four of us are left with a greater issue. It is cold. We have no plan to get out. And some of us have to go to the bathroom.

As we are all aware, there are two kinds of having to go to the bathroom. The kind you wouldn't mind doing in the woods, and the kind you never want to have to do in the woods.

Naturally you can probably imagine the situation we were faced with here.

Even though you are in the middle of the woods, miles from people, part of you still thinks...

I wish I had a door right now.

But enough about that. After walking in circles we eventually decided we had to walk back the way we came. So we locked our cars (who knows) and started trekking out of the woods. We had been walking for about 15 minutes when I saw a giant black bear running towards us.

As it turns out it was just a large dog. But when you think you're going to die in the woods your mind is ready to accept crazy things.

But now I was worried I was going to eaten by a rabid woods dog. Until I saw a man following it. At which point I was ready to be confronted by an axe. I really didn't know what to expect.

As it turns out the man was the nicest man I'd ever met in the woods (read: only). We told him our story and he said just the weekend before he had met more people in the woods who had been kindly guided there by MapQuest and it's "invent a road" software. He volunteered to drive to Wal-Mart, buy a tow strap, and then come back into the woods and tow us out!

We were all in disbelief. How could a person be so nice? That's amazing! Please do!

As he drove us one of my friends turned to the rest of us and said "Is this a good idea?"

We suddenly realized that this guy knew we were stranded in the woods and maybe he was going back to get his weapons or people chopper or axe wielding friends. But we realized we didn't really have a choice.

And believe it or not he came back, axe-less and with a tow strap, and pulled us out of the woods.

I don't remember his name, and we never heard from him again but I never used MapQuest again.

20 Something Summit – Part 2

I live in New York but I was in Chicago this past weekend for the 20 Something Blogger Summit. I met people from all over the country but nearly everybody I met from Chicago asked me the same question:

What do you think of Chicago?

They asked me as though embarrassed or ashamed, anticipating that I was going to say it disappointed me or paled in comparison to my far larger and more impressive city. This really surprised me because I am in love with Chicago and have been for some time now.

I fell in love with Chicago the way 12 year old girls fall in love with teenage pop stars. I gush about it. I am effusive to the point of obnoxious. I shout out "I LOVE THIS @#$@IN CITY" while cool breezes tousle my short brown locks as I stand on the bank overlooking the river.

I love the layout, and the restaurants, but most of all I love the architecture. I also love the perspective and space between streets and buildings which allows me to appreciate the architecture. I'm not going to argue that New York or Chicago has better architecture than the other. For arguments sakes let's say New York did. You wouldn't be able to appreciate it as much because the buildings in New York are so close together that it is challenging to fully absorb their presence and their footprint.

It's like seeing a person in profile only. You don't get the full picture of what they really look like.

Chicago gives you perspective, you have space and room to look and absorb and ingest and love.

The other thing I love about the Chicago architecture is something I found out on the boat tour I took from the Chicago Architecture Foundation. The buildings of Chicago are not insular as so many of them pay tribute to each other in one way or another. By referencing elements from the buildings next to them or mimicking a similar element or just stopping at the same height. The buildings aren't just independent individuals, they are a part of a community. It sounds silly to say that about inanimate structures. But it is true. The buildings don't compete for your attention. They reflect, and feed off, and truly support each other.

I went to Chicago for this summit not quite sure what to expect. I was excited that I was a panel moderator, but outside of my sole duty from 2:15 to 3:15 pm on Sunday afternoon, I wasn't quite sure what else to would come my way. I didn't know anybody, I had never really interacted with any of these people before, and this would be my first blog conference.

When I arrived the first night for the cocktail party (a situation which I thrive in) I was caught a bit off guard that so many of the bloggers seemed to know each other already, had been to conferences together, or fostered relationships before meeting in person. There weren't a tremendous amount of people there, perhaps less than 100, but yet I couldn't help but feel a bit like an outsider.

An outsider with a Fancy Pocket square mind you, but still, an outsider.

The next day brought sessions, speakers, forums, and a tremendous sharing of knowledge and experience. While I do (still somewhat reticently) refer to myself as a blogger, I really had no idea or concept of people in the same space. You see blogging is a lot like dancing alone in your bedroom in your underwear. You might do it every day, you might tell people about it , but it's very easy to think that you are the only one who does it, and CERTAINLY the only one who does it the way you do.

By the time it came for sessions I fully expected to be listening to speakers with hundreds of thousands of followers who would tell me just how backwards and misguided my approach to blogging was. But instead what I found, were men and women who I had far more in common with than I could have imagined.

They weren't talking about numbers, and in fact, numbers rarely came up. They talked about love, they talked about passion, and they talked about sharing who they are.

That first day, I actually showed up to the first session without a pen and paper, not really expecting to take notes. My half assed brain apparently thought that if I really needed to take notes I could just write them on my phone.

But I immediately regretted my decision to fore-go a pen. I found myself grabbing my phone every couple of minutes, writing down jewels and gems that I just wasn't quite expecting to hear, but was fully committed to remembering.

And as the weekend went on and one session turned into two and then six, every speaker used different words but essentially said the same thing.

Do what you love to do. Find a way to do it more often. Open yourself to the people who love what you love and you will see a windfall of the unexpected.

Speakers constantly referenced other speakers, and then eventually when it came my turn to speak, I did the same. What everybody had said was true. Maybe these positive inspiring quotes and stories were brand new. Maybe I had already heard them in some form before. Or maybe they were things I had already believed in my heart of hearts. But hearing those things out loud from somebody who had found success, reaffirmed those beliefs in a way that might have never come naturally.

On my best days, I tend to think nobody else does what I do, the way I do it. On my worst days, my thinking is far more self destructive. Leading up to the summit I kind of expected there to be an air of competition.

Oh what platform do you use to blog?
How many followers do you have?


Etc. These were all things that I had never concerned myself with before I started blogging but had somehow regularly obsessed over since.

But there was none of that in Chicago. There was talk of a whole lot of social media, mentions of tools I had never heard of, and tweeting beyond what is probably healthy. But there was a genuine interest in furthering and helping not just selves, but others. I left every session having learned something, even  if it wasn't something I was going to pursue. Even if it wasn't something I necessarily was interested in learning more about, it still helped frame, contextualize and and support the beliefs and ideas I was building and developing.

People rarely asked about what I did for a living, they asked what my blog was about. They asked how I ended up there. They asked me questions I rarely get asked in my daily life. Questions that felt kind of refreshing.

And that's when I realized that the 20SB Summit was a perfect fit for the city of Chicago. Just as the buildings paid tribute to, reflected, and supported each other, so did the bloggers of this conference. Whether you were there to talk or learn, whether you cared about photography or monetizing, there was an interconnectivity you could not deny.

I was inspired by the things other bloggers were doing, but also humbled by their warmth and their openness toward each other. At times it made me feel like a self centered narcissistic coot, somebody who wasn't nearly as open or supportive as he claimed to be. And yet by the time I actually had to physically walk away from the last remaining group at the conference, I felt sadness. Sure there had been awkward, frustrating, or uncomfortable moments, but when searching for adjective, incredible was the only one that felt appropriate.

There are millions of bloggers that can exist in this same space and not compete. Nobody needed to defend Chicago just as nobody needed to defend being a blogger. This particular weekend in Chicago, everything was working together rather than trying to outdo.

There's no limit to the amount of words a blogger can use, nor the amount of bloggers that can exist in the world. Indeed, there is enough love, passion, and support to keep everybody loving and blogging for a very long time.

20 Something Summit – Part 1

I’m going to Chicago.

And the crowd goes wiiiilllld.

No seriously there will be a crowd, or at least a gaggle. There will definitely be a gaggle. Why? Because I am going to moderate a panel at the first 20 Something Blogger Summit in Chicago.

I know what you’re thinking, a summit? Yes it’s THAT important. It’s kind of like the economic summit at Davos, but instead of captains of business from the most important countries, we have captains of content from the most important platforms, I.E. YouTube, Twitter, Blogger etc.

And also there will be few to none very old white haired dudes at this Summit.



I mean I’m going grey a little early but it’s not something I really want to talk about right now.

Any way, this conference is for bloggers in their 20s of all variety. If there’s a 20 something out there bemoaning their existence or making others giggle, you can be sure they will be finding their way to this conference.

So what does moderating a panel involve? Well there are many panels with many different moderators but here is what my panel is sure to involve:

  • Candy
  • Shenanigans
  • High Leg Kicks (technically most people would file this under shenanigans but I take my leg kicks very seriously)
But otherwise it’s a panel about Video blogging and how to rock at it. I’ll be joined by two awesome individuals who most likely will kick so much ass they will sprain their foots, or feets, or... feet.

But Rich, that’s just 45 minutes of a very full weekend in one of the greatest cities in the world. Is there anything else involved or will it just be a bunch of nerd types nerding out about their nerdery?

Surely not brave soul, in fact, I anticipate it being quite the outrageous affair.

Think about it, I am going to Chicago to hang out with roughly 200 people I do not know and have never met before, and I could not be more excited about it. Because unlike some people, I love strangers. LOVE THEM! I love them so much it’s scary.

Here is why:

Strangers are a blank canvas. Nobody knows anything about each other, so the bonding often has to be accelerated, and you're really just looking to see the cool parts of each other. Wait, not like, I didn't mean those parts, I mean...


When a bunch of people who don’t know each other get together somewhere very cool, it can be extremely awkward or it can be extremely awesome. Sometimes, it’s both.

But this is Chicago… in the summer… and we are in our 20s! This is the prime of our lives (at least, I tell myself that). And this isn’t like the annual accounting retreat. This is something a large majority of us don’t get paid to do. We do it out of love, and when you love to do something you love to share that with other people.

So how do we further/capture the crazy ‘nanigans that will ensue?

Well, based on my experience at Hotel Thrillist last year in Miami, a series of progressively more awkward social interactions since then, and a batch of poor ideas I have had recently, I have created a list:

1.  Those of you that remember my time in Miami last year might recall that my white pants made their debut. It was an epic debut filled with thunderstorms, late night pool parties, and a whole lot of a liquid called Torched Cherry.

I am proud to say that as soon as I can find them, I will be packing my white pants for Chicago too! This will surely cue up the good times.

2. I am bringing my video camera. There’s nothing I like more than editing a weekend of video content into a sexy short music vid put to a song I don’t own the rights too. Hopefully I can get people to say silly things, do silly things, or hold the camera while I do both.

3. The weekend of the summit is the same weekend as the Air and Water Show in Chicago. And if there are two things I love, it is air and water. The city will have an adrenaline injected energy that will infuse everybody in the city. Especially the bloggers. Don’t underestimate our adrenaline!

4. Two people who I sit next to at work, who are not related, nor connected in any way except for our job, will be going to Chicago of their own separate volitions for the very same weekend! What are the odds? Now I know this doesn’t affect anybody else, but it’s just really cool.

In fact for a while, I was considering having the two of them crash the Summit as my personal security team. But when I told my one coworker I would refer to him as my 'manservant' he seemed less than enthused and the idea quickly died.

But more than anything this is the first of something. Everybody always wants to be there for the first time something happens. It is what charts the course for the future of the event. It is when traditions are started, when expectations are met, or surpassed, and when that which is unscripted gets recorded.

Plus if you go to the first Summit and keep coming back year after year you can say things like, “oh you should have been here for the first one!”

See? Doesn’t that seem like something that would be cool to say?

So I will be in Chicago, living it up, tweeting, maybe blogging, and definitely filming. It is going to be an incredible weekend.

Even if I can’t bring my manservant.

The Dump

Slang words are funny. They sometimes arise unintentionally. Nicknames are the same way. One day all of a sudden everybody has a new name for something you’ve always known as something else. Maybe people do it because it’s easier or shorter, but then again, maybe they shouldn’t do it at all.

In South Carolina where my parents live there is a recycling center. It is a place where people from the local community can bring their bottles, cans, newspapers and other recyclable items, deposit them, and know they are helping the environment.

The facility is outdoors and is quite large. It is basically a big loop that has over a dozen different large size waste receptacles to accept all of the items people bring. People drive in and park next to the bin they need utilize and then move on to the next one, or go home, or go to lunch. I don’t know, I don’t follow them.

The official name of the facility is something like the Municipal Recycling and Waste Facility. But my parents, as well as other members of the community, refer to it simply as “The Dump.”

I imagine the person or people who work at the Municipal Recycling and Waste Facility don’t refer to it as the dump. I mean it’s really just a pride thing I imagine. I just can’t see somebody deliberately explaining to people that they work at a dump. Or not a dump, the dump.

THE DUMP!

It’s not a term that is completely new to me. Growing up my family would use that term to refer to several different locations. One of which included a house on our block belonging to the crazy guy who collected newspapers.

Now while he collected newspapers, I wouldn’t call it “a collection” by any means. You see his house was kind of the blight of our block. In a very suburban neighborhood filled with modest sized homes with manicured lawns, this crazy man was an anomaly. His house was probably the same size as every other, though nobody could really be sure because the bushes outside his house had grown to such epic proportions it actually looked like he lived in a hedge with a door.

I don’t know what the inside of his house looked like… because I value my life. But if the inside of his car was any reflection of the inside of his house, then yes, his house was a dump.

His car was a shitty light blue Honda so packed with newspapers and trash that I find it hard to believe a normal human being could fit, or would want to fit in it. But to call crazy guy a normal human would be a drastic overstatement.

I never got really close to that car because I was terrified of what might happen to me if I ever got within sniffing distance, but I remember as we would drive by I would just stare in disbelief wondering what the hell he was doing with all of those newspapers.

Whenever I saw crazy guy he was always carrying newspapers under his arm, like they were files and he was off to a very important meeting. And he was always in the library too. I remember somebody telling me that he was a college professor. But even if he was a professor of current events, I find it hard to believe that such a position would require such an extensive permanent collection of current events.

Or perhaps he was a professor of newspapers, or crumpling up stuff. Regardless, there was always infinitely more going into his house than ever came out. And thus my family referring to his house as a dump seemed justified.

Even still, we would never use that place to benchmark where our home was. We lived near a school, or the pizza place, or the park. We never said we lived by his dump of a house.

This however, is not a theory that one of my friends subscribes too. This friend of mine lives in South Carolina near the Municipal Recycling and Waste facility. I was unaware of this. So I was surprised that upon asking her where she lived, she responded with:

Do you know where the dump is?

I stopped her right there. Wait a minute. First of all, I did not know where the dump was, but at this particular moment that fact was extremely irrelevant.

Even if you do live near the dump, around the corner, down the block, underneath, above, hell, even if you live IN the dump, you do not tell people that. You tell them that you are in the vicinity of the Municipal Recycling and Waste facility. You tell them that you are not far from the recycling plant. You reframe it in a positive light. You do not tell people you live near the dump! Unless of course you don’t want people coming to visit you, which could very well be a great strategy for keeping people away.

But let’s say there is no other name for the facility. Let us say that you live near an actual dump with a sign outside that says:


Dump
(There is no other name for this place)

You find another landmark! Even if it is just you and the dump for 50 miles in every direction, you say:

Oh do you know where the Burger King is in downtown Atlanta? I’m about 250 miles north of there.

Hell, make up a landmark. But for Pete’s sake do not tell somebody you live behind, next to, near, around, close to, in the vicinity of, or remotely close to: The Dump!

Because you know what? That guy on my block, the one who collected newspapers and rifled through other people’s trash, the guy whose hair looked like he had always just woken up from a nap, with the shrubs outside his house the size of national monuments, that guy did live in a dump but I bet you he sure didn’t tell people that.

Or maybe he did. He was pretty crazy.

The Most Signs of the Most Times

Let’s get right down to it shall we?

It continues to happen. I continue to stumble across signs, labels, and symbols meant to convey a message that do more to confuse than anything else.

I would suggest some sort of common sense police but I know that would get shot down before I could… you’ve already shot it down haven’t you?

Damn it.

Well regardless, I was up in Boston visiting my sister recently when I realized I had no money. Since I stopped bartending this happens frequently. My pocket is physically much emptier since I stopped giving alcohol to strangers.

So I decided to visit an ATM to get some cash, which is the reason I visit ATMs in the first place. And I saw this sign.



Ohhh OK. Cash only. So wait… you mean this ATM doesn’t make pancakes? Here I am, walking around Boston thinking that I can stop at an ATM and get some cash and pancakes, and I come across this frigging thing that does not make OR sell pancakes. How am I supposed to deal with this?

What has this city come to?

Does anybody use the ATM for anything else aside from taking out cash? I do know that that there are far too many options in the ATM screen. As soon as you put in your pin, it is suddenly asking you if you would like to:

Make a withdrawal
Make a deposit
Check your balance
Transfer funds
Call your mother in law
Share a milkshake

I mean ENOUGH already ATM machine. Just be yourself. Nobody expects anything else from you.

Something else I don’t expect a lot from is my conditioner. But apparently my conditioner expects a lot from me, like loyalty.



Official supplier to men? What men? I don't recall signing a contract. I know I don't represent all men or even some men but shouldn't I get a say? Have I been breaking some code up until now?

I don’t know if I’m going to get in trouble here but I have definitely used other conditioners, and those conditioners were not all specifically for men. Actually, some of them were made specifically for women. I’m not sure if they were the official supplier to women, but they definitely had a contract.

Does that make me a woman?

Don’t answer that.

There should be a law about putting statements on products that can’t possibly be proved true or false. Anything in the realm of:


Official Cola of Extra Terrestrials
#1 Choice of People Who Are Picky
Official Supplier to People Who Buy Stuff

And even if it WAS the official supplier to men, who made that decision? I want to make sure I get to vote for our representative. I would vote for somebody with a name like… Burly Von Steeleater.

And speaking of manly things, I own a paper shredder. It’s pretty much the closest thing to a power tool that I own.

I have been using for about a year before I actually looked at the instructions on the top. I noticed there were some symbols there to caution silly people. One symbol said don’t put paper clips in. One symbol says do not try to shred your own hand. But there was one I didn’t understand.

Do you know which one I am talking about?



Yep you guessed it. Second from the left, no shredding of gingerbread men.

Does this apply to all cookies or specifically to gingerbread men? Is there something specific about gingerbread men that makes them a bad idea to shred? What about ginger snaps? Or snicker doodles? I mean shredding an Oreo (in addition to being a sin) also just seems impractical.

But why cookies? Is this a call the company regularly gets?

Hi is this shredder support?
Yes it is, how can I help you?
Well, I had a box of chocolate chip cookies that I meant to put in the cupboard but I accidentally jammed them into the shredder. Can you help me with that?

And it’s only cookies. No vegetables, meats, or dairy symbols.

But at least the shredder company was putting forth the effort to prevent any issues in the future. They were expending effort, whereas one of the tenants in my building proved just how lazy and inefficient that person is.

Upon leaving my building last week I saw what appeared to be a note taped to my super’s office door. Apparently somebody in my building had something to say to him before he reported for duty.



Let’s just skip over the passive aggression, because that is obvious enough. Because obviously the super of my building is controlling the individual heat going to every single apartment in the building and directing rage at him is a good choice. We all know that.

I was more confused about the whole package of the note, specifically the order of sentences.

I actually think “I can’t breathe” would have made a better lead. Because heck, by the time you get to the end of the paragraph this person just sounds whiny. But if you as the writer kick it off with your inability to process oxygen, wow! I mean if I were a super I would be like,

Hrmm should I fix that leaky pipe in 2D or the woman in 5F who won’t make it to sunup. 5F it is!

It seems like it makes the process easier.

And I’m not sure you can see this, but that note was actually written on an envelope. A blank envelope.

Which makes me think this is a person who has envelopes but no paper and they would rather waste an envelope than an actual slice of paper. I mean if you are going to write a threat, or a complaint, at least write it on an actual paper. An envelope looks like it was a mailman complaining.

Not that a mailman’s complaints are any less important than a regular person’s. Unless of course that person is Burly Von Steeleater.

That guy always comes first.

Different Down South

On its best days, there is not greater city in the world than Manhattan. On it’s worst days, this city can make you want to walk through the streets screaming expletives and throwing manhole covers at tourists.

That is why it is always a good idea to get out of town for a little while, if only because manhole covers are expensive to replace. I enjoy heading down south to visit my parents a couple of times a year. I refer to their house as the “South Carolina Writer’s Retreat.”

I call it that because the pace of life is so much slower down there that I have a bunch of time to work on whatever writing project I am currently focused on. But since life slows down so much when I visit I am also able to pay attention to just how different life is down there.

Like when I get off the plane at the Savannah airport I am greeted by a sign advertising robotic surgery.

Now I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure that guy isn’t a robot. But maybe my robot knowledge isn’t what it should be?

I have mentioned that people in my parents’ area call it the “low country.” Now I think this was a geographic nickname but I think low stands for a couple of other things. Like a low interest in healthy sandwiches.

For example, New York is so health conscious that they post the calories for food on the menus, and they don’t allow you to fry foods in oils with trans fats. And there certainly are very few restaurants in New York where a “fried sandwich” would be featured prominently on the menu.

But after I landed and my parents and I stopped for lunch near the airport… that is exactly what I found. So naturally I ordered it.


And it was just as amazing as it looks. I thought it came with a side of fruit…


I guess raspberry dipping sauce counts right? The whole weekend down there was pretty much one big commitment to “low” health standards. I don’t keep cookies in my house so of course I harass my mother as soon as I walk in the house that there are no cookies in the jar. So she went out and bought 3 packages… that I promptly ate.

My parents have their friends come and visit so staying in the guest room there is kind of like staying at a cozy bed and breakfast. The bed is super soft and the room is very comfortable. So comfortable that when I walked in and tried to turn on the lights, I actually got to second base.


I accidentally groped this metal mannequin my mom has in the room. Over the course of the weekend that mannequin and I would have quite the weekend tryst based on how many times I felt her up trying to turn on the lights.

I do love that room though. When I fall asleep there I wake up never knowing what time it is. I don’t mean in the sense that time just seems to stand still.  I mean literally.


The clock doesn’t work so I have no idea what time it is when I wake up.

I roll out of bed when I’m finally rested and then stumble into the kitchen to raid my parents’ cabinets for all the food that would normally last them 2 weeks, but that will now be gone in 18 hours.

At home in New York my life moves so fast and is so hectic sometimes that I don’t spend a lot of time just sitting on the couch eating cookies or sitting on the porch taking a nap. I mean, I also don’t have a porch. And taking a nap on the fire escape outside my window really isn’t the same.

The only time I fall asleep is on the train, and falling asleep on the train doesn’t really count as a nap, that only happens out of necessity. It’s usually all I can do to keep from drooling on the stranger next to me.

Eating is always a strategic affair as friends and I are always picking specific times we have to eat for dinner, rushing to meet up, texting to coordinate. When I visit the retreat, nobody has anywhere to be so we just eat when we’re hungry. And I just leave my phone on my bed. What do I need it for? If it rings its just going to wake me up from my nap.

But its not just the slower pace of life that catches me off guard, it’s the interactions I have when I visit stores and restaurants. Like when a server asks me if I want some coffee or tea after my meal, sometimes I order a tea, or a chai tea if I’m feeling adventurous.

I have ordered chai tea before from many nice places and chain establishments like Starbucks. I usually have a level of expectation of what I’m going to receive. Never does that level of expectation involve a teakettle wearing a dress.


Things are just different down there. I really miss it when I accidentally end up in SoHo during Fashion Week and nearly punch a sea creature in the face. (She wasn’t an actual sea creature, but she was so awful she might as well have been.) Not one of my finer moments.

Anyway, my point is for as different as it is down there, I love it. Even just writing this is making me long for the time I get to visit, albeit with a couple less cookies maybe. In fact I think I will go make myself a healthy dinner… with a side of raspberry dipping sauce.

Why Bugs Love Me or How Angelina Jolie Saved My Life

Be it my charming personality, my succulent skin, or perhaps my manly scent of awesomeocity, bugs frigging love me. And not just some bugs. All bugs everywhere, all the time, always.

This is a problem for me because I do not love bugs. I do not like them in my face; I do not like them in my place. I know they have an evolutionary purpose and they have a spot in the universe and all that crap. That’s awesome. Good for the bugs. But I don’t want them near me.

If I am in a group of people I seem to be the one that the bugs seek out. Perhaps the reflection of the sun off my pasty white skin makes all bugs think I am some sort of beacon of buggy hope.

Something about me seems to make bugs think it is OK to just stick parts of their ass into my skin. Bees, mosquitoes, whatever. That is not OK. No.

I am also not OK with even the sounds of flies. You know when they buzz so close to your ear and rattle your eardrum so severely it feels like a monkey is shaking your spine.

Maybe you don’t know, because that fly is always hanging out near my ear and nobody else sees it, they just see me slap my own ear like I’m trying to quiet the voices.

The only bug I am OK with landing on me is a lightning bug. They are so unique, and bright. But perhaps all these other bug attacks are payback from those lightning bugs I stepped on so I could see them glow… dead.

Yea, that was probably a poor decision.

But I apparently have “Sweet blood.” Which god help me if Vampires ever really do overwhelm the earth, I am going to be like the amuse-bouche of the undead.

I remember getting bitten by mosquitoes a lot as a child. But there was no time more outrageous than my first trip to Jamaica.

I was there for a convention during high school and I was staying in a house that didn’t have any air conditioning. So they left the windows open and had multiple fans going all night long. However this didn’t stop the mosquitoes from biting.

When I woke up I noticed the dozens of bites I had received on my exposed parts overnight. They weren’t just little bites that rose into a round circle. No, these were Picasso bites. Rising and elevating themselves into impressionist type shapes across my very sweaty epidermis.

Over the course of those 4 days I received over 130 mosquito bites that swelled and spread until I looked like a 3D topographical map of the earth.

I was reminded of all this bug hatred a couple weekends ago when my sister and I went up to Maine for a little R&R.

We were having a perfectly wonderful weekend until it came time for a little lakeside relaxation at night. Instead of hosing myself down in DDT and pesticides like one of our friends did, I thought I would use a little bit of common sense and just wear some long pants and sleeves.

And of course, common sense failed me again.

The mosquitoes BIT ME THROUGH MY CLOTHES. THROUGH MY JEANS. What kind of bugs were these? Thick heavy cotton and long sleeves protecting me and yet they STILL managed to pierce through to me.

Do you know who didn’t get bit? The guy in shorts and a t-shirt who was sitting outside drenched in bug spray - he was OK. The guy wearing pants and sleeves? Not so much.

But the culmination of it all happened back at my apartment. The scene of the worst bug experience of my life.

For the past 2 years, my… situation had been almost nonexistent. After those first 2 isolated incidents, I had lived a pretty much relaxed and uninterrupted experience.

But that all changed this past week.

I was in my bathroom getting ready for bed. Now I’ve mentioned before that since I live alone I rarely close the bathroom door. And I was changing out of my clothes when I saw him out of the corner of my eye.

The ghost of Barry Bonds was back in my apartment. Just as grotesque and awful. This was Larry Bonds.

And Larry Bonds was just outside my bathroom door facing away from me. If I had been in a better mood I might have laughed at the fact that Larry Bonds appeared to be mooning me. But I was too busy obsessing over the idea that either he had to die, or I was going to commit suicide, because I couldn’t live like this.

I think it is also worth pointing out that I was naked at this point in time.

Of course. Of course I am going to see Larry Bonds when I am completely naked and feeling most vulnerable. I panicked. My bathroom light was on but the rest of my apartment was dark. And if he made a break for it, I would never find him, which means I wouldn’t be able to sleep that night, nor any of the nights after it, spinning me into a maze of stress and psychosis that would ultimately see me losing my job, apartment, and friends, and just sitting under a bridge with a can of Raid screaming “LARRY BONDS CAN GO F*** HIMSELF!”

Luckily I realized that was not my best option.

I quickly scanned the bathroom for a weapon. My eyes caught the toilet brush.



Long enough to strike, but not really a killing type of weapon. I have stepped on creatures like this that then popped up and ran away cursing at me in Spanish (I imagine).

Toilet brush was no good.

I then grabbed the toilet brush holder.


But realized it didn’t give me the grip I needed for a killing blow.

I was panicking; he was going to make a break for it at any moment I knew it.

And then I saw her.

She was like a vision, a beacon, and a symbol of hope. Angelina’s scimitar eyes gazing up at me (still naked mind you) from the cover of my Vanity Fair magazine sitting on the floor of my bathroom.


Remembering that Jason Bourne had once used a rolled up magazine to stab a guy in the eye, I figured I could do something similar to kill this beast. I grabbed the magazine and rolled it up tightly.

I took one step out of the bathroom and he made a break for it.

Shit!

I quickly swatted, clipping him on the side, he jogged away and into the dark. I took another swat, smashing him into my floor. Success!

But because these things are obviously robot aliens from space he was still twitching.

Asshole.

So I grabbed a sneaker, put it on, and stepped on him with all of my weight. Compressing him so hard I fully expected and hoped to see a cucaracha shaped diamond stuck in my sneaker when I was done.

But that did not happen. Only death. And that was success enough for my naked self.

I went to bed relaxed and relieved, realizing it wasn’t clothes that I needed to give me the strength and courageous fortitude to defeat bugs... just Angelina Jolie.

Thrillist Miami - The End of... ME


So its not even noon in Miami and it is 100 degrees outside, and it is humid as a Turkish sweat lodge, which I’ve been in! The pool deck is massive with hundreds if not thousands of chairs, and cabanas and sexy sexy people in their sexy sexy swimsuits… and me.


The palest American ever.

(P.S. Thanks to Nick McGlynn for capturing for the world why I should never ever take my shirt off... ever)

So I got comfortable in the VIP section and started chatting up everybody. There was very loud dancey pop music playing putting people in a good mood so I just danced it up, but quickly realized I was going to burn to a crisp.

So I quickly put some sunblock on.

You put on sun block but you can’t stop sweating so you are just mixing sun block and sweat into a type of baste. So you baste yourself and realize you are so damn hot you have to get in the pool, which is super warm.

So it doesn’t really cool you off it just feels good. A sweaty, bastey, feel good soup of people.

So you are in the pool and you realize, you are thirsty, so you get out and you get a Corona. But as you drink your Corona you start sweating again, so you bring it into the pool. And so that’s how it went for the next 5 hours.

But being in the pool with a Corona is dangerous. I like a little limejuice in my Corona, not a little Chlorine. So I put my Corona in a water bottle.


Problem solved.

The people from Thrillist had brought a beach ball for every single person in the hotel, or at least it seemed as such. I decided to lend my powerful lung capacity to blow some up. After blowing up 1 I realize… I don’t have powerful lung capacity. So I quit that and went back to my Corona.

Something about pushing a beach ball up in the air is like Spanish fly for people looking for a good time. We had a dozen people tossing it up in the air and every 4th hit it would bounce off some strangers head, but we didn’t care. We had numbers! Somewhere between 200 and 300 people were poolside living it up like we had all just escaped from an island, an island of sobriety and no pools, and we were here to live!

Of course I lived a little too hard because I jumped up and tried to swat the beach ball and felt my shoulder pop (quickly) out of and back into its socket. I realized this was going to be painful, so I went and put more Corona in my water bottle.

I also ran out of sun block at some point and went to the hotel gift shop which only had SPF 15. The price? SIXTEEN DOLLARS! Outrageous! I mean shouldn’t there be some sort of “No more than a dollar per SPF” type of rule? But not wanting to burn, I bought it anyway.

Then my new British Vietnamese friend suggested we have a chicken fight against a 30 year old mother of 3 with a crazy slamming body.

I refused. Chicken fights, for those of you who don’t know, are when women decide it would be fun to wrestle each other while sitting on the shoulders of men who are trying not to drown.

I am a HUGE fan of not drowning. I mean I had thus far survived not getting a nosebleed in the pool and I just had a bad feeling that having 2 women fight… above me could end poorly.

So naturally I ended up in one. The BritNamese chick climbed on my shoulders and Mom of 3 climbed on another dude’s. I was almost positive we were done for. I remember thinking

Hmph, I never would have thought I would die in Miami.

I mean a mother of 3 who looked like she did Tae Bo in her sleep versus a tiny BritNamese girl with a very ladylike accent. I thought the fight would end in 2 seconds unless my girl bit the mom’s ear.

So it starts and it is crazy. I have no idea whats going on because I am just trying to keep my balance and the girl on my shoulders and I can’t look up cuz I need to keep track of how close to the water I am so I don’t drown… which I hate.

Thirty seconds later we finally went down and I came up thinking we had lost but it had been a valiant effort.

No. Not so much.

No, BritNamese was locked in battle with Mom of 3 until she took Mom of 3's head and palmed it into the water.

WE WERE CHAMPIONS!

So I celebrated with a Corona. Little did I know that this chicken fight would be the reason I wouldn’t be able to move my shoulders for 2 days. But I didn’t care. More dancing on the pool deck, more dancing in the pool. I was living it up. The crowd was amazing, and everybody was happy.

And that’s when the greatest moment of the weekend happened.

I was doing my nonsense thing in the pool when a girl I hadn’t talked to much came up to me and said;

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

I laughed, toasted her, and went to get more Corona.

Then the poolside concert happened and things REALLY got into gear. I can’t even really describe what it feels like to be dancing, in a pool, with a drink in your hand, surrounded by beautiful people, and knowing you haven’t spent a DIME to get any of it.



Oh yea did I mention there were Klondike bars? They came out of nowhere and rocked all of our worlds.

But we had to wrap it up and head to dinner.

And I went back to my room and noticed the beginning of the sunburn. But I couldn’t waste time I had to get to dinner on the roof of Red Steakhouse. And I know what you’re wondering.

Rich, this was your last night in Miami! You had only 1 more chance… did you…

You bite your tongue! How dare you question me? YOU of all people, how dare you? You want to know if I did? Of course I did.


I rocked the $#!% out of those white pants!

Boom!

We all were in our Miami best when we got to dinner where we were greeted by a violinist playing the classic hits. Including this piece of awesomeness.




I mean it really doesn’t get much better than that. We went up to dinner on the roof, and we had many drinks, and there was a ridiculous rainstorm which we thought would kill the fun.

And yes we ate, and danced, and drank the night away.  We all looked at each other knowing nothing ever would come close to Hotel Thrillist, the greatest weekend of (almost) all of our lives.


And it's funny, we all got these bracelets that got us in to all of the events. They say I "thrillist logo" Miami. And it's kind of ironic because a chunk of the "I" on mine is missing.



Which makes sense, because I definitely left a piece of myself down there.

The End.

P.S.
And yes, I did get burnt to a crisp anyway.

Damn it.

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.)

Miami Bound Machine - Part 1

I mentioned recently that my Cold-EEZE video won the contest it was in. And my prize for that was a mystery vacation. The details of my vaycay were recently revealed to me. I will be going on an all expenses paid trip to MIAMI!

Awooohooo!

The itinerary for the trip was posted on the website.


It is going to be epic. I am beyond excited. I knew it was going to be someplace warm and awesome and Miami is both of those things.

But then I started thinking.

This is Miami. This is where, at least according to Will Smith, there is a party in the city and the heat is on.

Miami is like the Las Vegas of the East Coast without all the hookers and the gambling (I’m guessing).  Nobody ever comes back from Miami with a story like

“Yea it was OK, I mean, it was kind of quiet, real low key, we just kind of hung around and ate chips.”

No, every time I talk to anybody who has come back from Miami it’s always like:

“Oh my god the beaches were so hot and everyone looked amazing and buff and then we went to the craziest club at night, and danced in an upside down anti gravity chamber of awesome. And then we drank champagne out of David Caruso’s wallet!”

Miami is the city of players, and playas, and la playa, and probably papaya. This is a city of bespoke linen suits, and bottle service, and the sexiest humans on the planet.

Well, in 3 weeks it will be home to the sexiest humans on the planet and this guy;


This just will not do. I can’t roll up to Miami looking all hokey and foolish... ya know, like myself. There will be about 100 very cool people getting on this plane to go down there for this party. And I just keep having visions of myself walking onto the plane and hearing:

GO HOME DORK

As a tiny empty vodka bottle and a honey roasted peanut hit me in the side of the face.

No, I have to get my act together. The way I see it there are 3 parts of my life I need to get in order before I make my way down on a plane full of trendy, sexy, party animals. And the first part of it is my wardrobe.

Even though I think I look OK when I go out in New York, it is always different when you go to another city. Like last year when I shot down to D.C. for the 4th of July and my friends and I went out at night. I thought I would look good in my New York staple black. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at a bar full of people who looked like they were on an Easter egg hunt.

I realize now that certain cities require certain style.

Now I have had some interesting outfit choices over the course of my life. In fact it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I actually started understanding how to buy and wear clothes.

Up until then it was a lot of hit and miss with many more misses than hits.

Like back in 8th grade when I so badly wanted to dress cool and look like the other cool people. At this time there was a popular accessory in my school. It was a belt made out of a seat belt.

I didn’t have such an accessory, and I really wanted one. And this feeling hit me about an hour before the 8th grade dance when I was visited by the pants muse. And suddenly I fancied myself a designer, a pant closure genius if you will.

So I tried to invent my own belt. I went into my father’s closet and got out one of his old leather belts and cut off the metal clasp. Then I poked a hole in both ends. And then I took, get ready for this, a combination lock, and hooked it through the hole on one end, and then the other and then I CLOSED THE LOCK.

I walked over and took a look in the mirror. Sweet! I looked awesome. This would totally make other people think I was cool.

Have you seen Rich’s awesome combination lock belt?
Man, Rich has the coolest belt ever!
It’s a belt, it’s a lock, it’s both!

Satisfied with my invention I went to open it and realized a crucial fault in my design. It was still a combination lock. And now I had to put in the combination, on an upside down lock, which was secured tightly to my pelvis.

And that’s when I started to panic. I was having trouble opening it and starting to sweat. And then I realized I had to go to the bathroom. I was like a crappy Houdini. Except I didn’t have any magical abilities and I wasn’t trying to do a magic trick, I just had to pee!

Since then I have avoided the trends. I have stuck with basics, things that worked, and things that did not require the training and expertise of a locksmith. I imagine most people would say I have a pretty clear style, nothing too crazy or outlandish.

But this is Miami! This is the place where ya know… stuff happens.

(I would be more specific here but I have never been to Miami and therefore have no idea what actually goes on)

I want to make a statement so that when we all go out to the clurb to get our drink on and dance on, people will say, hey who is THAT guy?! And not just because I managed to get Pina Colada in my hair, but because I look good!

This thought process led me to an investment reserved for a certain class of people, those either playing shuffleboard in Boca Raton or those people named Ricky Martin. This led me to an investment I never thought I’d make.

I bought white pants.

Now the actual ramifications of this decision remain to be seen. I am not sure when or where I will display these pants. But they are coming with me. I am going to rock them. I am going to show the world my confidence… or lack thereof.

But most importantly, when the time comes to go to the bathroom… I will be able to do so.

To Be Continued…

Dial 1 for Confusion

Cell phones have allowed us a tremendous amount of freedom. We can talk to our friends wherever we may be, make dinner plans, chat with our relatives, and yell at our cable provider from any place in the world. They have freed us from the bondage of land lines and the tyranny of the corded telephone. But there is something cell phones have not been able to free us from.

And that is the wrong number phone call.

I got my first cell phone in college. I was actually studying in Italy and it was more for emergency purposes than anything else. Nobody except a couple of friends back home and my parents knew I had one. I didn’t really get many wrong numbers. And if I did, they were in Italian and I couldn’t understand them anyway.

When I got back to the states I got my first brand spanking new cell American cell phone with what I thought was a pretty random Arizona cell phone number. Little did I know that number was 1 digit off from the Sunburst Resort.


People would call me and the conversation would go like this.

Hello?
Hi I’d like to make a reservation.
What?
I’d like to make a reservation for the 26 through the 30th of next month.
Um…. What?
Is this the Sunburst resort?
Oh. No.

And then they’d hang up on me all frustrated. Like I was the idiot. Like I’m running around town scratching the last digit off the phone number on the printed materials of hotels through the Phoenix metropolitan area. Some nerve I had, not taking their reservation over the phone for the hotel they didn’t call that I don’t work at.

It started happening so frequently that I thought about actually just taking the reservations and letting them fend for themselves. Hey, it’s not my fault they screwed up. But by the time I came to that resolution they stopped calling.

I also used to get calls for somebody whose nickname was “Golden Boy.” This would not have been nearly as confusing had his real first name not been Rich.

Hello?
What’s up Golden boy?
What?
Is this golden boy?
I don’t think so?
Is this Rich?
Yes.
Rich Gulden?
Oh. No.

My dad’s cell phone number used to be 1 off from the towel department at Bed Bath and Beyond. People called him on more than one occasion to get a conversation that went like this.


Hi this is Fred.
Hi can I have towels please?
What?
Can you transfer me to towels please?
You have the wrong number.
This isn’t Bed Bath and Beyond?

No you idiot face, I’m playing a prank on you. You know us folk in the bedding department, always screwing with the guys in towels. What the hell do you think?!

Did they think my dad misheard them?

Oh TOWELS. I thought you said trowels, and I was thinking to myself, man, we don’t sell any shovels.

You’d think the wrong number would result in more hilarity and less anger and frustration. People always end the calls so abruptly. As though I am going to keep them on the phone just to make fun of them.

Like my friend Julie who got a call from some guy freshman year looking to rectify problems with his girlfriend. Julie was not his girlfriend but after hanging up and trying to call his actual girlfriend only to get her voicemail, he called Julie back to ask for her advice.

Perhaps he was a womanizer of wrong misdials; perhaps he liked the sound of her voice. We all found it quite strange that he called her back for relationship advice. Perhaps he didn’t have any friends of his own. Maybe he really needed a (very) impartial third party to help solve his problem. Maybe he was really in a bind.

This must have been the thing because he called her back a third time to ask some follow up questions. And Julie, bless her heart, stayed on to chat with him to humor him and engage in a story. She really commits to the fun. And it was her thought process that I channeled recently when I had a similar scenario pop up in my own life.

Last week I was out with my good friends Josh and Marissa whose wedding I attended 2 years ago. After a dinner full of delicisiousness and more than our fair share of wine, we headed out to a pub to keep the night going. Well a couple drinks later Josh’s phone rang with an unknown number. He wasn’t going to answer it so I asked if I could. The following conversation is not exaggerated or made up.

“This is Ramon” I said as I picked up the phone.
“Oh I’m sorry I think I have the wrong number.
What number were you looking for?
(She gives some number that is not Josh’s)
Oh no that is not this number, who were you looking for?
Oh I was looking for my daughter.

It was at this point that I wondered about this woman. A. Why is she still talking to me? B. How much does she really care about her daughter if she can’t even take the time to put her on speed dial?

Where is your daughter?
She’s in her room.
Where are you?
I’m in my room.
Are you in the same house?
Yes.
You are calling your daughter from inside the house?
Yes, her music is too loud and I was going to ask her to turn it down.

It was at this point that I realized this woman must really not like her daughter if she doesn’t even want to see her face to tell her to turn off her music! How far could she be away from her? Close enough to hear the music but not far enough away to need to call her?

Oh, do you usually call your daughter from inside the house?
Sometimes.
Oh OK, well, I hope she turns down the music.
Yes me too.
Take care have a good night.
Thanks you too.

And that was it. We will never know if her daughter turned down the music. Perhaps I could have been more helpful, given her more guidance, suggested more solutions.

Or maybe I could have just transferred her to towels.

May I Take Your Coat?

I know it’s a little late for New Year’s Resolutions. But I actually make Chinese New Year’s resolutions so technically this is coming in early.

This year I made a life resolution:

Never check my coat anywhere, ever, ever again.

A coat check is a good idea in theory, but based on several bad encounters and 1 extremely awful experience on New Year’s eve/day. I have resolved to just keep my coat with me as opposed to subject myself to the insanity that comes with trying to retrieve a checked coat.

The first time I checked a coat I was living in Italy during my college years. It was winter in Florence so we would head out to the dance clubs all bundled up and ready to party.

Invariably every single person would leave the club at the same time and a gaggle of drunk Americans would converge on the coat check like they were trying to get a peak at a bearded lady or a unicorn. The process was always cumbersome and pushy and way too exhausting for my liking.

Going to school in Arizona I never had to check a coat… I never even had a coat. And then when I graduated and moved in with my roommates (my parents) I didn’t have what many people consider to be a thriving social life. I honestly don’t know if I checked a coat between 2006 and 2009.

But I went to a friend’s birthday party in Manhattan last year in a bar that had way more feet than square feet and against my better judgment, I checked my coat. I quickly forgot about it but was given a brutal reminder of the awfulness that comes with a coat check when I tried to leave.

The coat room was empty but for a giant black wooly mound on the floor. With terror in her eyes the coat check lady looked up at me and said:

“The coat rack broke; all of the coats are on the floor.”

Thank you coat check lady. I can see that.

I think it’s fair to point out that this is why I rarely pre-tip the coat check lady. It seems to me that any time I put a dollar in the coat check ladies bucket at the beginning of the night, it says to her,

Hey do me a favor and make my life a living hell when I try to get this back OK?

Amazingly that night ended with me getting my coat back but I was pretty sure that was my last interaction with a coat check.

Not so much.

Flash forward to New Year’s Eve 2009. Chicago! A swanky price fixed bar! Fancily dressed ladies! A bow tie! What could go wrong?


Everything.

As we checked our coats downstairs at MARKET BAR in Chicago I felt hesitation, but knew that I was planning to dance and dancing with a coat in hand would inhibit all of my sweet moves.

So we hand off our coats. Megan is number 84, Jen is number 85, and I am number 86. Brilliant. Ticket goes in my pocket. And we go upstairs to celebrate the New Year.

The night was a smash hit (to say nothing of the bow tie) and we had a blast. Around 12:45 we decide we better round up the cattle to go. The line going downstairs for the coat check is understandably long… perhaps 40 or so people. But I figure it should move quickly since it is only a coat check. I give you number, you give me coat. Right?

Wrong.

I’m not sure what happened while we were upstairs dancing but apparently there was seismic shift in the space time continuum because 45 minutes later, the 3 of us still had not gotten our coats and we were now only in the middle of the line.

Why were there no coats to be distributed? Where had they all gone?

Had Rumplestiltskin come by at midnight and spun all the coats into gold? Had there been a coat heist? Had the coats been thrown so far into the closet that they ended up in Narnia? Where the hell were the coats?

Of course it only got worse as drunken idiots from upstairs got on the line. And of course nobody was yelling, or pushing, or being obnoxious.

But the dramatic idiocy of the coat check fiasco got even worse if you can believe it. Every 8 minutes somebody would come out of the closet and say something like,

Does anybody have number 146?

Are you effen kidding me? This isn’t coat bingo. I wasn’t hoping to impress my friends with the sweet ladies pea coat I won on New Year’s, I want my coat!

Does anybody have a Banana Republic coat?

You know who has a Banana Republic coat? Half the frigging yuppies here. Give me my damn coat!

What does your coat look like?

What do you mean what does my coat look like, its black and made of wool like every other winter coat in the known universe. GIVE ME MY MOTHER @#$*% COAT!

Megan finally gets her coat. Soon to be followed by Jen and myself right?

Wrong.

We waited another 20 minutes for Jen to get her coat. So then there was just me in the middle of a frigging riot. I felt like I was battling to get my rice rations from the Vietcong. People are screaming, there are multiple idiots from the Market Bar trying to make things worse for everybody including one dooshbag manager who looks like a pre-pubescent Muppet who starts screaming:

Do you want people to start dying? No? Then back up.

Now I know my training in crisis management is minimal, but I am pretty sure telling people that they might DIE while waiting to get their COAT is not a best business practice.

During the 90 minutes it took me to get my coat I was pushed, prodded, shoved, condescended to, ignored, yelled at, screamed at, and cursed at.

And do you know how I finally was able to get my coat back?

I said to the coat check guy; I am looking at my coat. I can see it. Can you please give it to me?
Finally with coat I thought I was free. Hooray.

Except of course for the drunk girl sitting on the steps who would not let me up, the 45 minute wait in 0 degree weather to catch a cab, and the cops who refused to let people wait inside the bar.

But hey at least I got my coat back right?

At least.

Doogie, The Brie, and Me

Megan’s dog got diarrhea and it’s all because of the fish museum.

Here is how it happened.

This is my friend Megan.
I spent the New Year in Chicago with Megan at her Mom’s apartment. It was a very thoroughly planned out trip, it happened kind of like this.

Richard: What do you want to do for New Years?
Megan: What if we just went to Chicago?
Richard: I’ve already bought the tickets.

So we arrived early on a Wednesday morning. Megan’s lovely mother Barbara picked us up at the airport and brought us back to her beautiful apartment.

I forgot to take a picture of her.

When I got to the apartment I immediately looked for Megan’s younger sister Jaime. This is Jaime.
I ran into Jaime’s room. Jaime was still asleep so I jumped on top of her to wake her up. I was joined by Megan’s very fluffy Mini Australian Sheppard dog named, I’m not kidding here, Doogie Bowser.

Yea. I know. This is Doogie.
We get Jaime out of bed and we stroll into an as yet not painfully cold Chicago to get some breakfast. We filled our bellies at a delightful placed called West Egg and then hopped in a cab to the Shedd Aquarium.

Now, I myself am a huge fan of aquariums. I have been to aquariums in several different states and countries. And while they may not always be amazing, they are always a good time.

Not so much this time.
We get dropped off at the museum and there is a line of several HUNDRED people. The line is so long that it goes down the steps and snakes around the park out front. The line bends so much in fact that in this picture we are in line, but not even at the end of it.
So after about 30 minutes in this line a museum employee comes by and says he can get people inside instantly and starts taking people to get into the “express line.” This employee doesn't explain what the “express line” is but to me this sounds like a scam so Jaime, Megan and I pass and stay outside.

Well after another 20 minutes and another offer to get on the express line I decide to investigate and figure out what the difference is. Basically instead of paying 19 dollars you pay 39 dollars (39 Freaking dollars) which guarantees you a ticket to the 4D movie and a ticket to something at “Fantasea” which sounds like some sort of Burlesque show involving King Neptune and a dolphin.

With our extremities approaching blue we cave and decide to pay the outrageous fee. So they take us inside to the “express line” where we end up waiting for ANOTHER 30 minutes. The only difference is it was indoors.

Whoopee.

By the time we finally got our tickets  (including a ticket so see the topless King Neptune show which doesn't start for 3 hours) we were ready for some fish to blow our minds.

As it turns out, every human being in the state of Illinois was at the aquarium. I stepped on the tiny feet of no less than 40 toddlers. We had to wait on a line for everything. A line to see the skinny fish. A line to see the fat fish. A line to get in the elevator. A line to get out of the elevator. It was awful. And we were carrying our coats.

The entire time Jaime keeps raving about the 4D movie because she has seen it before. Jaime tells us this movie is amazing. This movie will change our lives. This movie will make me a good singer and thicken Megan’s hair. This movie is amazing.

This is us waiting on line for it.



We finally get into our life changing movie and does it change our lives?

No.

As it turns out a 4D movie just means that for a 15 minute film they spray water on you, whip your ankles with a string, and poke you in the back with a stick. After that we were cranky and ready to start drinking.

We left the aquarium and abandoned our plan of having lunch somewhere and just went back to the apartment. Extremely pissy and sore (from the pokes in the back) and since the view from Barbara's apartment was so grand we just decided to open a bottle of wine and decompress a little.

Well 1 bottle for 4 people is not nearly enough so we quickly opened another, and Barbara brought out some crackers and a very large, very lavish triangle of brie complete with the rind.

These delicacies were placed in the living room on the coffee table where Megan and Jaime and I sat and nibbled on them while Doogie sniffed around and looked for a cuddle. We didn’t eat much because we were more interested in drinking and bemoaning the dramatic inefficiencies of what I was now calling the Fish Museum.

I say Fish Museum because it did not deserve the title of aquarium. For me an aquarium is a happy place full of fish and joy. Whereas a Fish Museum now means a place where you pay 39 dollars to wait on a hundred lines and get poked in the back.

We were depleted. We couldn’t find enough wrong with the museum from the extra charges, to the misinformation, to the complete lack of order. We had just lost it. We were done.

So when we walked into the kitchen to join Megan’s mother for a third bottle of wine we were starting to feel more than OK. Jaime would tell us later that as we walked into the kitchen she thought to herself that she should maybe bring the Brie with her.

We continued to indulge ourselves in our 3rd bottle of wine and some time before we opened the fourth I wandered back into the living room and saw Doogie next to the coffee table but the brie was gone.

Not have chewed or half consumed but gone as though it had never existed. The plate was completely empty.

Doogie had eaten and entire wedge of Brie, rind and all and was now walking around the house with somewhere around 30 dollars worth of French cheese in his stomach that was going to make his (and Barbara’s) life hell for the next 36 hours.

It quickly became obvious the following morning that Doogie was in a world of hurt. He walked around the house in a listless kind of haze with a look on his face that seemed to say, “What have I done?”

There were many whimpers that came from the poor pooch. Many trips over the door to be let out only to change his mind and turn around when the door was actually opened. He just didn’t know what to do with himself. And in fact every time he came back in from outside, Megan’s poor mother would pick him up and put him in the sink. She would then wash his fluffy little but off so he wouldn’t leave a trace of his poor decision on anything he sat on like he did when he hopped on Megan’s white bed Thursday morning.

Even though he had done some damage Doogie wasn’t done eating.

In fact over the course of 5 days Doogie also ate other things left on the coffee table including:

A small chunk of Boursin cheese
Half a peanut butter bagel
And some eggs over medium

This was all in addition to what he was able to get from the dishwasher.

He was absolutely incorrigible. I would love to say that Doogie learned his lesson this week but I don’t think he did. In fact I am almost positive that if he saw an even larger, stinkier block of Brie on the table tomorrow that he would eat the entire thing without a second thought. So while Doogie didn’t learn anything, I certainly did.

The Chicago fish museum gives dogs diarrhea.

Harvard

I have a friend who recently started business school in Boston. But she isn't going to just any business school; she is going to the business school. Harvard Business School, the home of the academic elite, where people wear repp ties and discuss the Orwellian implications of a free market economy under a cap and trade system.

Or something like that.

Now, I went to a state school where I was a straight B student. I didn't break any academic records. And my experience with people from Harvard had been limited. Maybe I had met a graduate or two on several occasions. I had never spent my time in a room full of them. I imagined I would stick out like a Prius at a tractor pull. And I got my chance to see what that was like, when I visited.

My friend comes from a non-traditional background, which is to say not from a world of high finance and economics. She comes from publishing. So students like herself had to come in a few weeks early for some extra schooling before the rest of the students with more traditional backgrounds arrived. This is a program which Harvard calls, "Analytics."

They are not called, as I was referring to them, "The Deficients."

The first night my friend and I went to dinner and then met up with her new friends at a house party for her classmate's birthday. When we got there, the party had been going on for a while.

My preconceived notions firmly in place, I fully anticipated walking into a house with passed hors d'oeuvres, a string quartet, and people with names like Muffy discussing the retched state of the proletariat.

I certainly did not expect to hear Jay-Z blasting through the front door.

In fact, I wasn't sure this was the right place. I even suggested my friend call to make sure. But my friend, more brazen than I, pushed right into the house.

What I saw was the complete opposite of what I expected.

The party music was indeed blasting, and people were dancing in the living room. There were a mess of cups around, alcohols, and foodstuffs, and a stack of Kraft cheese slices in the kitchen. There was also a conspicuous couple lurking in a dark bedroom. All in all about 50 people socializing and just having a good time.

Granted they had been drinking for 6 hours when we got there, so that might have helped to loosen the mood.

Sure there was Absolute Vodka instead of some fake Russian crap in a plastic bottle. And people had actually brought edible things instead of Taquitos from the gas station, but it still looked like a typical college party.

And aside from the fact that everybody looked a little bit older, and there were perhaps a couple more dress shirts and a few less flip flops than there would have been 10 years ago, it could have been a freshman party in a house off campus in any town, USA.

It distinctly reminded me of walking into parties my first couples years of college back before I drank alcohol. Everyone would hold those red solo cups full of keg beer or jungle juice, and I would just stand there, with my arms akimbo, orbiting my body like I was in an anti gravity chamber, as they searched for a comfortable position to rest in that didn't scream, "I AM 18 AND VERY INSECURE."

Even though that was many years ago, I still had a flash of that feeling and quickly went to find a cup.

But what made this party different was people did not pretend I didn't exist. They would introduce themselves to me and shake my hand, ask me if I was in the program with them.

The first couple of times that happened I laughed, because, well, even though I consider myself a bright individual, this was still Harvard Business School. And I could even make it through sophomore year of my Bachelors in business. Let's just say I didn't take Calculus twice because I wanted to.

But if I hadn't known in advance that all of these kids were going to Harvard, I probably wouldn't have guessed it after meeting them. Everyone just seemed like a normal human being, which kind of made me wonder why I thought there would be such a bizarre difference to begin with, but still.

And when I met these people, it was Friday night. There were no mandatory study groups, there were no tests of reviews or projects or otherwise. They were going to party like it was their first year of undergrad, and that is how it felt.

They weren't pretentious. Most of them seemed almost kind of scared of what was to come. But I almost felt like I fit in. I know that couldn't be right, and yet, there was something beautiful about these people who had finished college, and worked for several years, embracing this decision to go back to school.

And even though it is Harvard Business School, there is still something decidedly post pubescent about shunning work to be a full time student. As competitive and grueling as a program might be, there is a youthful mentality that goes along with the decision to just not work.

Even if that does mean performing regression analysis for foreign currency markets.

Either way it was such a refreshing thing to be partying with a bunch of "kids" who were still kind of buzzing on the fact they had been admitted to Harvard to begin with.

They weren't condescending or elitist. Heck, maybe that would come in time, but for now, they were just kids on the eve of their first real week in college.

Which kind of makes me think that we are never that far away from the people we once were. All that separates us is time, and a few experiences. But it is amazing how easily we can slide back into the mantle of our youth.

Perhaps it is the comfort of a time without consequence, or a memory of a sunset whose colors burn brighter in our memory than they could have ever been in real life, but there is a satisfaction that comes from looking back, and reliving the emotions of our past that we can never hope to replicate in the future.

Airports Part 2 - Depression

My favorite thing about visiting my parents at “the resort” is the fact that I have an entire wardrobe and nearly all my necessary toiletries down there, so I don’t need to pack much to go. I just grab a backpack and I’m off.

I though this would simplify the entire process thereby eliminating things that could go wrong during travel.

Incorrect.

My 6 am flight from Savannah was due to arrive in New York at 8 am. But due to inclement weather we were forced into a holding pattern.

After 30 minutes of essentially flying in circles the pilot came on the speaker and basically said, “We’re about to run out of fuel so we’re going to go ahead and land in Baltimore.”

This began my 12 hour delay.

On this particular flight there was an especially annoying individual wearing a Bluetooth headset the whole time. I will refer to this gentleman as a WMD or Weapon of Mega Dooshdum.

I’m almost sure he would have been sitting in first class had our plane been larger than a hot pocket.

After we landed in Baltimore, everyone was worried about whether or not would be taking off in this plane again or getting on a new plane. This is when the WMD spoke up and said, “I just got off the phone with the platinum desk, this plane isn’t going anywhere.”

Ooo you got off the phone with the platinum desk? Everyone come and listen, Ezekiel is back with tales from the Platinum desk!

What else did the platinum desk tell you? How to solve the sub prime lending crisis? The name of the next American Idol? When Jesus would return?

I would have continued to focus my hate on him but of course, the woman sitting behind me was screaming in Spanish into her phone. The plane was completely still, no engine noise, there was no crisis and no need for yelling. But she apparently felt her speaking voice Spanish was not appropriate and instead was using her tornado warning Spanish.

I then realized what I don’t like about flying.

It’s the people. They are everywhere. Being weird. Being abnormal. Being creepy. I would not be bothered by flying as much if I got to do it, say, in my own plane, by myself.

I hung out in the airport for a couple of hours while angry passengers yelled at unsuspecting gate agents who were doing their damndest to help them. One woman was yelling at this particular gate agent about how this was the 3rd time this happened to her and blah blah blah.

She kept yapping until I said;

“SHUT THE HELL UP AND GO LAY ON THE TARMAC!”

Well not quite but I did tell her to leave the poor gate agent alone. I am so very brave.

If you take a look around an airport you realize this is no longer the golden age of travel. People don’t travel in suits and elegant leisurewear. They travel in whatever they found on the floor when they woke up that morning. I saw a man in a purple t-shirt whose belly was so big I thought he was wearing a prosthetic.

Perhaps he had some sort of silicone belly implant? There was no way one belly could stick out so far. It was only for the fact that his shirt stuck out so far I could see his bare flesh exposed underneath it that I realized this was no prosthetic. It was like a belly penthouse.

Beautiful.

I found out I had 7 hours until my new flight to New York, so I decided to take a shuttle bus to a train into D.C. to go see the Cherry Blossoms. I figured this would get me away from the crazies and the hideousity.

Incorrect.

In the fully packed Amtrak waiting room I came across another prized individual.

This gentleman sat across from me (also with a belly penthouse), directly in front of a brightly lit vending machine. He sat there cross eyed and absolutely transfixed by the colorful offerings available inside that magical glass box. I thought he was going to try and make a withdrawal from one of the many shelves when he made another decision.

You know how sometimes you cough up a little bit of phlegm, but you just deal with it because you are not in a place where you can get rid of it?

The gentleman sitting not 4 feet across from me in the Amtrak station waiting room did not think this was one of those places. So I watched him, cough, gag, and then let loose a horrific dribble of phlegm that fell like an autumn leaf and landed between his feet on the floor.

Beautiful.

He didn’t even try to hide it. His basic philosophy appeared to be, “I’m gross, everybody watch.”
So I took the train into Union Station in D.C. and in an effort to save money (I’m becoming cheaper by the day) I walked 45 minutes to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms, and the sun came out and it was beautiful. I sat strolled and took pictures such as this one.




And then it started to pour on me. I didn’t have an umbrella. So I walked the 45 minutes back to Union Station where I bought an Amtrak ticket back to Baltimore, which I then immediately dropped on the floor and didn’t realize until I heard over the loud speaker;

“Would Mr…. Bo-em-key please pick up his ticket at the information desk.”

Damn it.

Back on the train to the shuttle bus to the airport where I checked in for my 6 o’clock flight, and went through security. I sat down in the waiting area for a while, and was walking to my gate when a woman ran up to me and said, “Sir! You dropped this!”

It was my plane ticket.

Double damn it.

I was starting to think maybe someone or something was trying to stop me from going home. But 14 hours later I made it. Which means it took me an hour LONGER to fly home than it would have to drive.

Forget airplanes. Forget travel. Next time I’m just going to stay home and grow a belly penthouse.

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.