The Year of Incredible Focus

There is a box of mismatched Legos sitting on the second shelf of the entertainment center in my apartment, they are the ashes of my childhood, pieces of my life leftover, significant but otherwise unused.

When I first moved into my apartment, while I waited for my furniture to be delivered I came across them. As I wiled away the hours and hours waiting for the furniture delivery guy to never show up I played with those Legos, making vehicles and forts, building the same way I did when I was a child.

When it came time to put them somewhere I couldn't bring myself to throw them out so I just put them in a sealed box on my shelf. Once in a while I peek in there to take a look at them, check up on them I guess. But otherwise there they sit, undisturbed.

One of the first blogs I wrote, the fourth one to be exact, was about how I had inherited all of my parents dishes, bowls, cutlery and glassware. As a single man living by myself it was far too much for one person. Nearly 4 years later it is still too much for one person. I have more glasses than I have friends. That might concern me if I didn't have enough glasses to break one every single day for the next 2 months and still have enough for a house party.



When I first moved in to my apartment the goal was stuff. Get stuff. Acquire stuff. Display stuff. And that I succeeded at. My apartment quickly went from barren to overstuffed. It's embarrassing to note that it was two months after my apartment was robbed before I realized my sunglasses had been one of the things stolen.

And speaking of, it is just over a year since my apartment was robbed. Looking back now it is very easy for me to say how lucky I was. I was not home, I was not harmed, I lost many material possessions but nothing that I couldn't ultimately get over. Between the insurance payments and an incredibly superfluous outpouring of generosity from my coworkers, I was able to continue leading my life, continue with my trip to Fiji and move on.

The toll the robbery took on my psyche was much greater. I bought a security gate for my window. I used to laugh when somebody would come into my apartment and immediately lock the door behind them. Now I do that every time. The unique creaks and noises of my apartment that used to endear the building to me now reminded me of the robbery. Every time the trees outside brushed against the fire escape, or the people in the apartments next to mine made the floor creak, my heart momentarily stops. I realize I will never feel as safe as I did before my apartment was robbed.

After the robbery I felt angry at myself for being so connected to my material possessions. Did I really need so many watches? Did I really just say I "loved" that watch? How did I let myself get so... materialistic?

I know it wasn't intentional. When I left college with no real idea of what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be, I concentrated on the only truly tangible goal I had, having my own apartment.

So the two years I spent working two jobs to get my place were spent daydreaming of the kinds of things I would fill it with; the art, the books, the dishes. The sheer amount of time I spent thinking about dishware at 23 should have let me know it was time to find some new goals... or at least a hobby.

It was an easy, specific, tangible goal. Get enough stuff to fill my apartment and then I would feel whole.

Having had a year to think about the events of that night, the things I lost, and how it all affected me I realize that the sheer idea of having my personal space violated by a stranger has done far worse things to me than losing any of that stuff. And while I'm sure the robbery's effects on me will never entirely go away (though I can hope) I do have control over something else: my attachment to my stuff.

I am not about to make a claim that I am going to give up all of my stuff and live a monastic life. I love having nice things. But I can limit their importance in my life.

On the verge of a brand new year, and a year in which I will be closer to 30 than ever before, and following a year that rocked me in so many ways I could never have expected, I am suddenly aware of how scattered my lifestyle has been.

I have spent my days chasing new projects, new distractions, new experiences, things that are better, more unique or exciting, all without any real thought with how they were contributing to my overall story. As a writer I am also aware of how exhausting it can be trying to tell 9 different stories at the same time. And I have been focused too heavily on cramming my life full of stories, events, and experiences, that I have paid little attention to the story I was actually trying to tell.

I do know that I don't want my story to be the one of the guy who acquired too many things and had a bunch of experiences but never really ended up where he wanted to be. Now I know it's impossible to know exactly where you will end up when you begin, writing has taught me that too. And I'm not trying to do that either.

I simply seek to reduce my life down to more elemental things. Fewer, quality pieces. More significant relevant interactions with friends. And more focus when it comes to the things I want to do. While it was fun to write a huge play that I never produced, then write 6 episodes of a web series that got put on hold, and then write and shoot a short film that ended up in limbo, and then write and direct a play which actually went up, I always felt like I was at the whim of my life experiences and my own boredom. And the combination of the two was exhausting.

So in the next year I seek to do the following:
  • To clean out my apartment of those things that are not extremely necessary to who I am and the life I want to lead.
  • To limit the amount of things I do merely to distract myself, even if that means subjecting myself to sitting still and thinking about my life... my least favorite thing.
  • To focus my attention on the projects that I am in love with. To stop trying to do everything, all the time, in the fear that not doing means I am wasting away.
And those Legos on my shelf? Well, I will package them up nicely and donate them. Maybe the ashes of my childhood will become the seeds of somebody else's.

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.

A Good Reason to Go Crazy



Hey you! Yes I’m talking to you! The one sitting at your desk slumped over like the hunchback of Internet Explorer. I know exactly what you’re thinking!

You are thinking,

Man, I have way too much free time and money on my hands. I am looking for a way to be stressed and really alter my life. How can I do that?

Well lucky for you I have just the way! It’s new, it’s exciting, and it will also possibly help you lose all of your friends in the process!

HOLY CRAP THAT’S AMAZING!

Yes. Yes I know. So what is this amazing activity? What should you be doing? Or more specifically, what should you do now?

I’ll tell you, you should put on a play!

What? Rich Boehmcke that is ridiculous.

No, YOU are ridiculous.

No seriously, stop it. You should go back to doing what you do best, eating cereal and tripping over your own feet when you make eye contact with women.

Trust me. It’s so much fun. I’ve been doing it since I was 10 when we put on a dancing lip-synched version of Aladdin in my neighbors backyard.

Well, I mean if I’m being honest, that show never made it out of rehearsals. It was fatally flawed from the beginning.

Perhaps it was the fact that half of us had not hit puberty yet, and the other half had no theater training greater than the part of Protractor #3 in Mrs. Fink’s 5th grade production of The Case of the Missing Bookcase.

Or it could have been something more specific, like how none of us could figure out how to make a turban out of a bath towel and a safety pin. Or maybe it was the fact that none of the background dancers (Read: Neighbor kids) could say: He’s got the monkeys; let’s see the monkeys, without bursting into hysterics.

Now some might say I was a bit of a diva, starring of course, as Aladdin. But I only was seeking perfection for my cast. I mean we weren’t really organized. My sister was a good director and all, but a dozen kids acting like maniacs in the front yard of your house to the repetitive sound of Robin Williams' voice on a Disney CD isn’t exactly a well-oiled machine.

It wasn’t so much a musical as it was a summer mental asylum for ADD lunatics.

But I digress.

Three years later (tired with the musical theater industry… of my front yard) my friend John and I produced the first (and subsequently) last season of 2 very prominent television shows.

The shows I speak of are of course “The Rich Boehmcke Show” and the “Joe ‘The Hunk’ Shmo Show."

The shows basically consisted of John and myself taking turns hosting a talk show at my kitchen counter in front of the video camera. We used some cheesy wedding reception noise maker as applause, a ska CD as our intro music, and we dressed up in a variety of clothing from around my house to resemble different guests.

OK, basically it was really us putting on my mother’s old wigs, shoving pillows in our shirts, and pretending to be Pamela Anderson or Carmen Electra.

Again I know what you’re thinking.

RICH THESE SHOWS SOUND AMAZING! WHERE CAN I SEE THEM?

Alas, like all great television shows, the originals have been lost. Rumor has it that they may be somewhere in a box in my parents house in South Carolina but only time will tell.

But again, I digress.

I took roughly a 13 year sabbatical from TV and musical production to focus on other more productive activities like getting an education and staring at girls I was too afraid to talk to.

But alas, last year after attempting many different pursuits I came upon the brilliant idea to write and direct 2 shows. And being the charming individual I am, I coerced  my friend Andrea into assisting me assuring her it wouldn’t ruin our friendship, even though I was almost positive it would.

The shows, which were written, rehearsed, and put on in less than 4 months were an excellent study in budgeting, sleep loss, and extreme stress.

Sounds amazing right?

Well it actually was. It was maybe the most fantastic experience of my life, including the crying. And then afterwards I went back to work, and life, and just being a normal Rich Boehmcke.

Things kind of rolled along as usual, took a dip south towards crappy for a while, but then the spring happened and things were going really well for me. I was happier than I had ever been. And I realized…

Something was missing.

I realized it was the sleep loss, the stress, the neuroses and all the panic attacks that come with putting on a self financed production based around your own writing.

So we decided to do it again!

Well not so much “we” as “me” and I kind of just told Andrea I wanted to do it again. And I think I did it while she was sleep deprived or not paying attention, thereby confusing her into saying yes.

So you too should join me in this endeavor. Keep your eye (or both eyes for that matter) on me in the next month as I get ready for our next show. As over the next 4 weeks I forget to eat dinner, wear one sock at a time, and walk around town with my fly open as I commit all available brain cells to our next play.

Wait, what’s that you say? What is the next play? What the hell is it all about? Where can I buy tickets? Is there a trailer?

First of all, stop asking so many questions. You are stressing me out.

Second of all, all your questions can be answered here…




The First Rant

Since I began writing this blog, I have had many ideas for stories that never made it into a post. For the most part, these ideas are just one-liners too one dimensional to be fully fleshed out.

And more often than not they just get added to a rapidly growing list of ideas that never get used. Seeing as that document is now approaching 12 pages, this is my best effort to purge myself of these baby rants.

Home Made

In the south you come across a lot of signs that say "homemade." I don't know how this became the go-to marketing ploy of restaurants. To me it seems very similar to slapping the word "eco-friendly" on a product. But even if eco-friendly is a lie, it still implies something good. "Homemade" doesn't necessarily means something is good.

Do you know how many homemade things come out awful? Half the shit I "home make" tastes disgusting. Homemade means, "not made by professionals." Would you ever get on an airplane that said "homemade" on the side?" Would you use aspirin if it said "homemade"on the label?

Vanity Plates

If you have an idea for a vanity license plate you should have to submit it to a panel of judges at the Department of Motor Vehicles. And if that panel can't guess what it means within 5 seconds, you are not allowed to have that vanity plate. It is not fair for you to have a secret joke that I don't get on your license plate.

It will piss me off while I am driving. And then I will all of my time tailgating you to see if I can decode your plate. You might as well have a magic eye poster on your bumper.

Concert Encores and Side to Side Hand Waving

I understand there are some songs where some side to side hand waving seems appropriate or even matches up with the beat. But it has gotten out of hand. How did hand waving become the pinnacle of fun? "Oh my god here it comes. We are about to start waving our hands side to side, I am so excited."

Pretending I am a wind wiggler does not make me feel good. If I am really enjoying a movie or a good steak, I don't throw my arms into the air and start waving them around. I like to have most of my fun with my hands at my sides thank you very much.

And concert encores have gotten so predictable. Who doesn't know when an encore is coming? "Oh look the band stopped playing. Jeez, I sure do wonder if they are going to play an encore. Why are all the lights still off? I wonder if... oh my god the band is back on stage it's a MIRACLE!"

Just once I would like to see somebody come on stage and say, "Hey, I'm going to stand up here and rock your face off for 2 hours and give you the best concert I can. Screw the encore." That would be something I could get behind.

Light Beer

I understand that I am easy to make fun of. Seriously. Spend any amount of time with me and you will not be at a loss for material. But if you drink light beer you are no longer allowed to challenge MY masculinity. You know what light beer is? Diet soda for alcoholics.

Beer fills you up for a reason. It means you're done. And if you are full but not drunk, you shouldn't be drinking anymore. Drinking copious amounts of light beer while condescending to me does not make you tough. It makes you fat AND rude. Grab a real beer and leave the light beer to 10th graders and people who hate beer.

Teenagers

Speaking of 10th graders, it is really easy to hate teenagers.

That's it. Just wanted to mention it.

Flying

Every time somebody says "Have a good flight" to me, I always respond by saying thanks. But what else am I supposed to say? "Thank you, I'll try?" I know its just people being polite but my brain always wants to say "Oh yea, good point. I'm actually co-pilot for this one so I will be extra careful." Being on an airplane is one of those scenarios where you have absolutely NO control over the quality of your journey.

You don't get to pick the route, the plane, the pilot, where you sit, who sits next to you, how many people you travel with, etc. The only thing you are given the option of is whether you want the chicken or the pasta and even that doesn't matter because they microwave the hope out of everything so it all ends up tasting the same thing anyway.

Old Phone

How come in old movies when the phone rings and there is nobody on the other end of the line or they get disconnected, the person always hits the hang up button 3 or 4 times? Is there something in their mind that says hanging up on the person will make them reappear? Has this ever worked to get the caller back on the line? What is the logic progression that led to this? When you open the door and there's nobody there, do you close it and open it 3 more times just to make sure?

The Movies

When a film starts in a movie theater it is always, "MGM is PROUD TO PRESENT."

Well who is going to go see a film that starts out, "MGM IS SLIGHTLY ASHAMED AND RELATIVELY EMBARRASSED TO PRESENT:______?"

Food Network

I must I admit I am a little bit behind the times because I don't have cable but for some reason I get The Food Network. I been watching this channel a lot lately and holy crap I am addicted! Has anybody else seen this channel? Right, I'm sure you probably all have. But this channel is my crack!

I find it so inspiring. I go into my kitchen after watching some amazing concoction on TV feeling all ambitious and ready to create a masterpiece but all I have in there is peanut butter, spaghetti, and garlic salt. Here's an idea Food Network, instead of giving me recipes based on your suggested ingredients, why not base a show around the ingredients I have in my kitchen? You could call it something new every week. The first show would be called Peanut Butter, Spaghetti and Garlic Salt.

And the dish would be good. It has to be.

It's home made.

Tearful Thank Yous

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And shortly thereafter, it was merely a memory.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stress

My body breaks down once in a while.

Whether because of sickness or otherwise, it almost always coincides with major events in my life. This will be an event that is usually preceded by a long period of anticipation and heightened excitement, followed by a very intense, exciting day or week, which immediately is followed by the complete and total collapse of my body.

Some might call this being stressed out.

I went through a short period in college where I convinced myself that stress didn't exist. I read some magazine article that said stress was only another word for fear. I decided it was the gospel truth. I started proselytizing to anybody who would listen that stress doesn't exist.

Like so many other times in my life, I was wrong.

It was perhaps because the word gets so overused that I tried to limit my reliance on it. Everybody is always stressed. This is stressful, that is stressful. I was so fed up I just didn't want to listen to it anymore. I wanted to prove to people that stress didn't exist. I could prove to them stress doesn't exist.

It did not work. And years later things have changed a lot. In fact, I have been feeling stressed lately. But in all fairness it's actually kind of a good stress.

Kind of.

Through my own personal stroke of brilliance, I made a decision this summer that I had way too much free time and I wanted a project. So, as a direct result of that thought, in exactly 3 days from now, a 2 night run of short plays that I wrote and directed will be performed at a small off, off, off, take a left and keep going, off, Broadway theater in New York City.

The plays, presented in collaboration with my friend Andrea, are pretty much self-everything'd.

And by that I mean we have rented the theater, found the actors, set up the ticketing, arranged the rehearsals etc. I started writing the 2 plays in July. And then there were multiple drafts, and editing, and reworkings and discussions before we picked and booked a theater and a date for the performance to be held, thereby giving using a deadline we could not miss.

A deadline that has been increasing my heart rate the closer it comes.

Since then we have put a tremendous amount of time into getting all the different aspects of the show together that will be necessary to make it a success. And while I feel very much that I am on the eve of the thrill of my life, my body is well aware that the end is near, and is not handling the stress too well.

In fact, a hive or pimple (we are not sure yet) the size of a hobbit house has appeared on the side of my face.

Awesome, I know.

This is not exactly a normal occurrence for me, but I can't say I'm completely surprised either. My body has a history of reacting poorly to stressful times.

When I was in high school I spent 4 days at a convention in Orlando as part of my involvement in a student organization. I was running for the highest elected office in this organization. Every day was an early morning followed by a jam packed schedule and ending with a late night.

It was crazy, it was amazing, and it was exhausting. I was so sleep deprived, and nervous, and excited, and stressed that 2 Armageddon sized zits appeared on my forehead instantaneously.

I mean I went to bed looking like snow white and I woke up looking like, well, a stoplight.

We are talking very obvious red marks. So big that it looked like I was in the sights of a pair of snipers getting ready to shoot me in the forehead.

The following year was my senior year and was capped off by the last convention I would ever attend. Emotions ran high that weekend. It wasn't stressful in the same way it had been the year before, but still there was a familiar feeling there. Again nerves, and sleep deprivation crept up on me.

That last morning I had to give an introduction speech at the closing session for a distinguished guest who had become a good friend of mine. My speech was only 2 minutes, but my body just couldn't hold it together.

My left eye, not both eyes mind you, but my left eye ONLY, decided it needed to blink by itself. Frequently.

So for the next 120 seconds, my left eye closed by itself seemingly every 3 seconds. It looked like I was trying to flirt with every single person in the audience.

Perhaps it wouldn't have been so embarrassing if my introduction wasn't being projected on a 50 foot high screen behind me... in front of an audience of over 2,000 people.

In college stress got the better of me as well. My junior year I was on the homecoming committee and after a week of sleep deprivation and late night events full of intense physical activity requiring mental alertness, my body broke down. And I got shingles.

Yes I know it is an old man disease. That didn't make it any less worse for me.

In fact, I realize that staying up late and not sleeping has caused most of these horrid outbreaks and reactions. In high school and college I was never able to pull an all nighter. My body refused to do so.

I mean I tried. I made valiant efforts to work very late into the 1 am hour, but I would put my head down on my arm for a second and then boom! Next thing I know it was morning and I had a page full of derivatives stuck to my face.

In the recent weeks people keep asking me if I am excited for the plays to get put on. And I am. A little bit. But mainly I'm terrified.

Sure it is an exciting thing, and it will probably be a very unique experience to see the words that I wrote coming out of other people's mouths on a stage in front of of dozens of friends that I had to convince, coerce, and cajole to come to my show.

And I have a feeling the end will justify the means. But I have something else to worry about.

Crying.

And let me assure you, when I cry it is never a pretty sight.

To be continued...

More Signs of More Times

Those of you who read my blog (all 6 of you) are probably aware of the fact that I am not that good at editing. While I love to craft a good story, and rework it until it shines with humor, I am practically incapable of spotting typographical and grammatical errors.

In fact I am positive that the ability to spot typos is dependent on a certain gene or chromosome that I just do not have.

But while I cannot edit very well, I am fairly decent at spotting signs that are extremely confusing or just completely asinine. For your benefit (all of 6 of you) I keep a running list of all the stupid that people feel the need to put in print for the world.

I would like to preface this first sign by stating that I love the superintendent of my building. He is extremely friendly, always says hello, and lets me know when I have a package. But his English is a bit broken. And when we were experiencing trouble with the lock at the entrance of my building, my super put this sign on the front door;

Door Open. Do Not Use Key.

I appreciate his commitment to keeping the tenants informed, but there are other ways to do this. Perhaps everyone who comes within spitting distance of my front door doesn't need to know that the door doesn't lock. I'm sure we could have figured it out on our own, because the sign my super put up sent the wrong message. It essentially could have been replaced with a sign that said;

Residents Vulnerable; Rob Them.

Luckily the sign was only up for a couple of days and nothing terrible happened. Inside my building however, there was another sign that concerned me.

My floor has a garbage chute. It is a small metal slot behind a full sized door. You can't put objects in there much bigger than a small grocery bag. There are rules posted about what items should and should not be put in there. But recently somebody, perhaps my super, perhaps an angry neighbor, left a sign up that had some fuzzy grammar that I questioned.



I don't really understand this message. Obviously whoever wrote it was feeling steamed.

I can relate to the desire to drive home a point. And by underlining certain words, you make people understand that this is important and this word should be focused on. But the quotation marks? I don't really understand what it is you are saying.

Are you using the quotation ironically? If you say "DON'T PUT" does that mean you actually want them to put? Or are you trying to use a word other than put?

Perhaps the note was justified, but it is the height of passive aggression leaving a note for someone else to find. It reminded me of the post its my pot smoking roommate my sophomore year of college used to leave me. He would leave a post it on the trash that said; Take out trash.

Oooh OK. Thank you for your knowledge contribution. This is a way better idea than actually taking out the trash yourself.

In retaliation I should have put a post it on our balcony porch that said; Don't smoke pot here.

Which, by the way, when I asked him to stop smoking pot on the balcony, he responded by saying;

I'll try and keep it down.

Keep it down? You know it's not the sound that bothers me right?

A friend of mine lives in an area in which there is a strip club between the train stop and her apartment. It is impossible to get to her apartment without walking past the strip club.

Honestly, I swear.

So the last time I went to visit her, I walked past the strip club and I noticed the doors were caution taped closed and there was a sign on the door that said;

The department of buildings has determined that the conditions in these premises are imminently perilous to life.

Imminently perilous to life? IMMINENTLY PERILOUS TO LIFE?

I don't think there was even a sign like this at Guantanamo Bay, and those premises really were imminently perilous to life.

I'm not sure what that strip club did to deserve such a stamp (I can only imagine) but whatever it did do, was enough to piss somebody off.

How on earth is that place ever going to do any bit of business again? What sign can they possibly put on the door after this one has already been up?

Hello fine upstanding frequenters of strip clubs. Remember that time when the department of buildings said the conditions in here were imminently perilous to life? Well, everything is OK now. Silly misunderstanding. No seriously, we're good.

I mean it's a strip club that presumably serves alcohol (Again I'm guessing because I never went in) so how good can it be for you in the first place? Strange naked women and booze was never something the doctor recommended as a cure for anything except maybe boredom.

I received a plastic Viking helmet recently as a gift for being a finalist in a contest. And on the side of the helmet it says;

Warning this is a toy. DOES NOT PROVIDE PROTECTION. MADE IN CHINA.

I have a couple of problems with this warning. First of all if someone is looking for general head protection be it for a bike ride or a construction site, I would hope their first inclination wouldn't be to purchase a plastic Viking helmet.

Second. Does not provide protection... from what? Actual Vikings? If you are being attacked by Vikings you have bigger problems than a plastic helmet, I mean, you might have accidentally gone back in time and that is something you should be concerned about.

And finally, a Viking helmet made in China? Can you imagine Vikings outsourcing the creation of their helmets to China? Perhaps if the Vikings had been willing to work with other nations to begin with they wouldn't have had to resort to the whole conquering, pillaging, and killing thing.

Then again, maybe the Vikings wouldn't have had to be so violent if the other nations had just put a sign outside their village that said;

Door Open. Do Not Use Key

Banging the Drum

Several months ago I was standing on the train on my way to work. When the train pulls into my station at rush hour it is already pretty full and I rarely get a seat. On this particular morning there was a man sitting very near to me dressed all in black. His clothing was dirty and a little ragged, and he had several large bags with him. he may have been homeless or just down on his luck.

The most distinct thing about this man was the fact that he had a drum in his lap. It was kind of like a half a bongo, only the top part of it. And he was playing it, banging on it, non stop at 8:30 in the morning, on a fully packed train, on some random Tuesday, and he was showing no signs of stopping.

At first my thoughts were probably the same as everybody else on the train;

STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP OH MY GOD STOP!

It was obvious that people were frustrated. I caught more than one person giving him the evil eye and heard plenty of exaggerated sighs. Even though everybody wanted him to stop, nobody said anything. Maybe because everyone realized anybody playing the bongo on a rush hour train may be a little off and therefore, not worth antagonizing. It takes about 25 minutes to get from my stop to midtown, and this guy didn't look like he was getting off anytime soon.

Let me say that it is not unusual for Bongo playing to take place underground in new York City. In fact I would argue it is a staple of the subway experience. But it is something you usually hear on the platform. A tightly packed train car is the opposite of a good place for a one man bongo show.

I watched him pretty much the whole train ride. It was hard not to. I had a book with me but I couldn't really keep my focus on it. He would play for a bit and then stop for a minute; he would smile to himself as he tried out new beats, or replayed ones he knew well. He would laugh here and there as though a certain particular beat was particularly amusing, like the beats brought back memories.

Maybe they did.

But the longer I stared at him the more my thoughts changed. My frustration changed to curiosity, and then ever so slowly into introspection. It wasn't just the noise of the music of the bongo that got me thinking... it was the guy himself. Something about him and what he was doing spoke to me. And then I realized;

He was my metaphor.

Now I didn't realize it right away, because at first I thought he was just crazy. I kept wondering, doesn't this guy know he's not any good? Surely he must know that or he wouldn't be a homeless man playing bongo on the subway, he would be off somewhere in some famous bongo band.

But no matter how many people sighed or shot him dirty looks, he didn't seem to notice. He just kept right on drumming. It was almost beautiful.

He didn't have a hat out, or a sign asking for money. He didn't ask anyone to make a contribution to his fund. He just sat there, playing the bongo however he wanted, for as long as he wanted. For whatever reason, something compelled him to do it. Until somebody forced him to stop, or he completely lost interest, he would bang his drum. Just like I have been banging my drum for the past 12 months. Except my drum is a blog.

A little over a year ago I was looking for a reason to write more. I had pitched a couple of magazines with story ideas but never heard back. I knew I wasn't going to get better unless I started having a regular reason to write. The word "blogger" had taken on such a negative connotation that I had no desire to create an identity as one. But the more I thought about it, a blog was the best way for me to have the freedom and the ability to write as I wanted.

I thought I had some interesting things to share and some unique stories to tell. Most of all I thought I might be able to make people laugh. The only way to figure that out was to try. And so Boehmcke's Human Condition was born.

I started sending it out.

Nothing came of it right away and still at this point, nothing has come of it. Well, that is not entirely true. I have met some wonderful people through writing and blogging as it were. I have created a tremendous amount of meaning for myself through the process of writing. To say it gives me a sense of purpose sounds too severe, but in some ways it really has. It has given me a drive and a focus I didn't have before. I love to do it, and I love the reception I get, be it positive, negative, or just plain creepy.

But in terms of life changes... I haven't had any really that I can attribute to the blog. At least not yet. No movie offers or book deals. No newspaper or magazines asking me to syndicated myself nationally. No special on Comedy Central. No appearances on the Today Show. And yet, I keep writing.

I do so because I believe in it deep down in my bones. I believe that this is something that is going to change my life. And unlike the other jobs or internships or part time work I've had, this doesn't make me a dime. But I love it. Just the act of doing it makes me feel good.

So I keep banging my drum, sending out my blog week after week. To people I know well and barely at all. To other bloggers and other bloggers' friends. To anybody who friends me on Facebook and anybody who asks; "What types of things do you write?" I keep sending it out.

Like the bongo player, nobody asked me to start. And thankfully, as of yet, nobody has asked me to stop. But I will continue to do it until I have a reason not to, putting my writing out into the world for all who care to see until I have nothing left to write. Hoping that somebody likes it enough to make it worth my while one day leave the desk job behind.

And granted I don't read my blogs aloud on the train at 8:30 in the morning, many mornings I am thinking about them. The link is there. This bongo player and me, both unpaid, same train, both doing something that makes us happy, doing it until we run out of steam, until the gods of our art and our craft put a stop to our drumming. Until there is a reason not to.

I Quit the Gym

Several years ago I read a fantastic book called "Letters from a Nut." The premise was this gentlemen would send letters to establishments and services of all kinds stating he needed special accommodations for his "14th century sword" or his "giant butter costume."
The letters were hilarious. I decided to channel him while writing the official letter I needed to write to get out of my gym membership. I get tired of the same old communication so I decided to take some... creative license with the truth. The following letter will be mailed tomorrow.
Dear ***** Fitness,
I am writing to cancel my membership to your facility at ************* that expires on June 30, 2009. I believe I am supposed to reference this number ******, I am not sure what it means but I hope you do.
I am also not sure why I am supposed to send this letter to you by certified mail. Why can't I just quit the gym... AT the gym. Are they not competent enough to handle such transactions?
Or better yet why can't I quit over the phone? I can open and close credit cards, check my bank balance, and pay the mortgage on my APARTMENT all over the phone, so how come I can't just tell you I don't want to get fitness at your establishment via telephone? Frankly it seems a bit 19th century.
I must say that while I was happy with the gym when I first started there (those full length windows are great) I believe the quality of the facility has decreased dramatically over the last 6 months. I understand that tough times require cut backs and certain sacrifices must be made, but I felt some of those made at ***** were unwarranted and saddening.
My first complaint is the lack of Zen grass in the bathroom. All of the promotional pictures and advertisements for ***** show a delightful tuft of Zen grass next to the sink. I have been thinking about becoming a practicing 2nd Tier Zen Buddhist for some time now, and I was excited at the opportunity for a moment of Zen before and after my workout.
I never saw said grass. You have towel dispensers and toilet paper that must be constantly refilled. Why not a palate of Zen grass that you can leave and let flourish? I believe this is false advertising.
My second complaint is the removal of the Q-Tips. While I understand that you cannot provide your patrons with all the necessary toiletries, and the medical research on the effectiveness of cotton swabs is divided, I believe the Q-Tip to be the most important toiletry, and I was bemused as to why I wasn’t even given notice of its impending removal.
My third complaint is the “day” lockers. These are supposed to be for use only during your workout, yet there are very few that are ever available. There are dozens of lockers and yet I have been in the gym with a handful of other people and there was nary a free locker in sight. This means that you are not enforcing your own policy. I say shame to you!
I have a better chance of getting swine flu than I do of getting a locker in your gym. This makes me sad. I am in great need of a locker during my workout as I wear several supportive undergarments during my work day which I am really not comfortable discussing here.
My fourth complaint is your towels. As an aspiring practicing 2nd Tier Zen Buddhist I maintain a hygiene of the highest order, the robes I am supposed to wear would never be dirty or soiled. I would dry clean them weekly, and my home is the picture of immaculate cleanliness.
I recently acquired a rather unsightly rash after using one of your towels. I am positive it was due to the towel because the rash appeared immediately following use. Thankfully it was treatable and no permanent damage occurred to my lily white skin. But who is to know what other diseases have manifested themselves on your towels?
My fifth complaint is about the dress code. While you maintain a code of apparel for what people may wear while they work out, it seems some of your trainers decide to ignore this dress code. While I understand dungarees provide a comfortable style of panting, they have no place in a place of fitness.
And also this same trainer consistently changes the workout music to a station that nobody likes. I've even heard people in the gym say, "Hey, this is a station nobody likes!"
My sixth point is actually not a complaint. Your desk attendant George is a citizen of the highest moral fortitude. He is both kind and friendly, never anything but professional and I appreciate his contribution to the ***** brand. When I think ****, I think George.
For all my misgivings, my time at ***** has been worth it. I have been able to lose weight, gain muscle, and when I finally start wearing my robes, I know they will fit in a way that is appropriate and calming. I actually will probably need a smaller rope belt!
I do hope that you will make the necessary changes to provide the kind of excellent customer satisfaction that your promotional materials say you strive for. I hope one day to return to your gym and be pleasantly surprised (as well as possibly a 3rd tier Zen Buddhist).
Sincerely,
Richard Boehmcke