One weekend afternoon when I was a teenager, a friend named Alan was riding his moped and wiped out in the intersection at Lovers and Hillcrest. He was in the street – down but still alive – when an older lady who apparently hadn’t seen the accident struck him with her vehicle and dragged him several hundred feet to his death before realizing her car was driving funny and stopping to investigate. Everyone said he was on acid at the time of the accident.
Another friend, Paul, was drunk and driving his mom’s Mustang convertible in North Dallas. The police report said he was going upwards of 80 mph when he crested the hill and launched the car into a telephone pole, impaling himself on the steering column upon impact.
Mark wasn’t a friend and he didn’t die, but he had a damn close call when he showed up for a rumble at the 7-11 and allegedly went for a gun in his glovebox. There were some Guardian Angels who had also shown up, and one of them stopped Mark from getting the alleged gun – by slashing his throat.
Dave was a guy from work (whom I considered a pal but of whom I was also somewhat afraid) who was getting into heroin. I would hear stories about friends from work partying at Dave’s apartment. I didn’t party with them when they were doing heroin. I’d like to say I knew better. If fear is the same thing, then I knew better. A week or so after Dave overdosed, I delivered Chinese food to a nearby home. A man in his 50’s answered the door, and there was a little dog at his feet. I recognized the dog and said its name, petted it, not thinking. I looked back up, and the man was crying. “You must have known my son,” he said through the tears. I was 17.
Scott was glowingly nice, the friendliest of the skater punks I hung out with during my childhood summers at Curtis Park. He liked to smoke tons of pot. The way I heard it, a drug deal went bad, and the angry dealer came to his apartment and unloaded 14 .22 rounds into Scott’s chest. I think that was 22 years ago. It’s weird, which specifics stick with you.
My friend Art worked at the school Utrecht in Chicago. He was deadpan hilarious. First gay guy I made friends with. I remember finding out he was gay and being really surprised. I mean, he hadn’t even hit on me or anything. There was never a hint of predatory sexual aggression, no mission to turn me to the dark side, none of what my Texas upbringing had warned me about. Just a mellow, even-tempered fellow artist with the most understated sense of humor and enough kindness to engender my immediate trust. I remember when he found out he had HIV. I felt crushed. With horror, I imagined what it might be like to know that your life was going to be cut short, and precisely how. The following summer, Art died while swimming in the pond at Oxbow, an art camp in Michigan. In a drowning accident.
Bill was my roommate for several years in Chicago, and my best friend for many years, then and beyond. He was my favorite artistic collaborator, nuts and free in ways I needed and adored. At 33, he was living alone and working at DDB. He was struck by a heart attack as he descended the stairs at his El stop one night while returning from a poetry reading at Barbara’s Books in Chicago. He died alone at the bottom of the train-station stairs.
Then there was Craig, a close friend from high school. A rare cancer took him in his mid 30’s. And Diane, another college roommate, who also succumbed to cancer a few years ago. The more I think about it, the more come to mind.
Day before yesterday, I was taking the boys to school when a young woman lost control of her car in the snow and slid into my car. No one was hurt. Both cars were messed up. As I got out of my car to make sure the other driver was alright, I saw another accident happen, maybe 30 feet from where I was standing. When we cleared our accident scene and got out of the way, we passed yet another one, about 100 feet up the road. A Dodge Charger was wrapped around a telephone pole, front and rear windshields blown out from the twist and impact. A baby seat had been partially thrown through the back door’s window, and was dangling from the seatbelt. Everyone in that accident had left the scene in ambulances. It was snowing and the roads where terrible. Nothing was anyone’s fault.
I don’t like the Chevrolet Malibu the rental company gave me while my car’s in the shop. It has cloth seats that feel like the last driver bathed them in soda, and the stereo and ventilation sound wrong. Too tight, somehow. Hollow. And where am I supposed to put the dog?
This is how I woke up today: thinking about death. It’s snowing again and the heat just kicked on. Time to wake the kids.
There are some ducks to put in a row before I can announce details, but I’m starting a new thing on Monday and I’m quite excited about it. Excited because it’s a challenge. Excited because it’s a risk. Excited because it’s a cool opportunity and I get to work with some great people I already know and love, and it all starts Monday.
This month has felt longer than it looks on the calendar. I’m so grateful for March bringing a new adventure.
What you probably think of as Pittsburgh is actually a patchwork of 90-something mostly tiny municipalities, each with its own police force, fire department, and local government. Whereas “The City of Pittsburgh” has a population of only about 300,000, the greater Pittsburgh area - not including outlying suburbs - is closer to 2.7 million.
I live in a borough called Emsworth. Emsworth, with a population of roughly 2,500, sits on the Ohio River, on the northwest side of the city, about five or six miles from downtown.
At last month’s borough council meeting, one of the councilmen resigned his post. I had considered running for council last November but didn’t for mostly dumb reasons. So when I heard there was a vacancy in January, I submitted a letter of interest. The seat was to be filled at the next meeting, which was last night. In a 4-2 council vote, I was selected to fill that seat. I was sworn in and got a stack of papers to study as homework, a seat and a mailbox at the borough building, and some peppermint patties to get me through my 3-hour first meeting as a councilman.
Everyone says all politics is local. I live literally three doors away from the Emsworth borough building, so I expect that platitude to be especially true for me now. If you know me, you know I believe pretty strongly that we are obligated by democracy to participate as public servants at some point, to the extent our lives allow. I delayed this level of participation for many years because the demands of raising a family felt too great to find room for sustained public service. Last night, as I tromped down my snowy street to my first council meeting, my boys waving me off and wishing me luck, promising to clean the dinner dishes and shower and call if there were any emergencies, I could really feel that time having passed. It’s not like they’re all grown-up or whatever (Jack tried to prank-call me as I was being sworn in), but they’re closer. And besides, I can now issue empty-but-convincing threats of legal and/or police trouble should they step too far out of line.
Woke up at 5:45, made a whole mess of breakfasts, took the kids to school, and went to the YMCA. Arrived as Ben was leaving, got to visit for five minutes in the hallway between the locker room and the gym. Because I’m still laboring under the illusion that I am going to run a half marathon in April, I am training as if. So I ran four and a half miles on the treadmill. Guys, this is a big deal. I haven’t exactly made a secret of my surprise that I’m actually able to run at all, and every time my body pulls off something new, it’s a thrill. Today’s thrill was that I ran my second mile in 6:39. Exclamation point. I mean holy shit, right? That’s awfully near as fast as I was ever able to run any mile, period. I’m just a couple of months of training and a time-machine shy of beating the snot out of high-school me (a longtime dream). And the other thing? My average pace per mile was 9:01. Another exclamation point. This running stuff is bringing me enormous satisfaction and joy, at a time when I’m surely more vulnerable than usual to depression and self-loathing. BRB knocking on wood.
After I left the Y, I caught up with my parents on the phone. We talked mostly about me and work - predictably - but also about the boys, what they’re up to in school, who has a girlfriend and who doesn’t, and so on. I’m really fortunate to have a great relationship with my parents. They’re kind and present, and we have a lot in common. Yes, I said that. Anyway, we talked for over an hour. Not too long ago, having an hour to talk on the phone was unheard-of. Carpe diem.
Then I had breakfast, but at lunchtime. Yogurt and blueberries and granola. And I sat down to pay bills and, upon sitting in my chair, lost all ambition to pay the bills and decided to ignore them instead and see what that felt like. And it kinda feels great? Not ignoring an important task, per se, but letting nothing become more pressing than it truly needs to be. Feels like the kind of thing I should turn into a rule, maybe the kind of rule that will be the title of a chapter in my memoir someday.
Let nothing become more pressing than it truly needs to be.
It’s the paradoxical core of my experience right now. Paradoxical because the need to earn a living will eventually become truly pressing. Core because my actual days, right now, provide little by which to feel pressed. It’s a sometimes unsettling, foreign feeling. My thinking brain thinks it’s an ambush. But my being brain is sidling up to it, getting to know the emptiness, working out how to love it just right.
It will pass soon. And when it does, I’m sure I will welcome its passing with exuberance.
But for now, nothing pressing has the wheel, its foot resting gently on the gas, itself dozing off while I gaze out the passenger window and wonder, in a world where all roads connect, if it’s really ever possible to be lost.
Let me tell you a little about being a ward of the state:
You wake up whenever you want to. Maybe the dog farted, maybe you need to brush your teeth. Who can tell? The coffee’s cold by the time you get to it, but you figure that’s why God created microwaves, so you remove the cheesy grits you reheated and forgot to eat yesterday and you pop in your coffee and you press the button that says “Add 30 Secs” - which, come to think about it, sounds pretty good. What if you could just add 30 seconds, like whenever you wanted to? To whatever you needed to. Evil Knievel would be alive if you could do that. That first kiss at homecoming with Kristen when you were 14 might not have slipped away. You take a bite of your grits. What a guy couldn’t do with an “Add 30 Secs” button for life instead of just the microwave. And think, you could press it as many times as you needed to. Need an extra decade? It’s a lot of presses, but keep at it, champ. The world is your oyster. There’s a beep. Your coffee’s ready. Then it hits you. These grits aren’t from yesterday at all. Yesterday is the day before today. These grits are from the week before this week, and that’s not the same as yesterday. I mean in some senses, yes, but not in cheesy grits time it isn’t. And now your stomach is upset, and seeing the green fuzz of life in the bowl doesn’t help. All of a dizzy sudden, you’ve thrown up, and there’s the smell of wet fur and the tinkling of dog tags and at first you try to stop him from licking the floor clean, but it’s futile because he’s a dog, so you let go, slump back against the cabinet, thank God above, and laugh. Because through His Divine Grace and with the help of your faithful companion, you’re going to extend your “Days Since I Cleaned The Kitchen Floor” streak to a solid 100. And life is about nothing if not having goals.
Hey, since I’m going to have a couple of weeks off work, I’m going to take a few hours or days to make updates to the Pragmatist theme. I have a short list of things I want to do to it, but am entertaining requests too. Here’s my list:
Allow finer-grained positioning control over background images
Give novice users menu of available fonts (typekit support will still exist for more advanced users)
Allow users to choose squared, rounded-corner, or circle avatar crops
Allow optional placement of blog description in the header instead of in the sidebar (maybe)
Okay so that’s my list. If there’s something you’d like to see on there, let me know here.
Sadly, Tumblr provides no way for me to locate users of themes for feedback. Anyway, totally reblogging myself.
Tumblr should make a new post type that lets you post content in a tabbed modal like the EULA I just accepted. They could call it a EULA post for all I care. Just make people pay big bucks to use it, and distribute half the proceeds to whomever encounters one and presses “Accept”. I’d use it to post about life’s vicissitudes and the futility of railing against things you can’t change. And everyone would click “Accept” and I guess we’d all get rich?
“The bands are even uniquely colored and monogrammed with your family members’ names so that they won’t get switched up. Why? Because they don’t want their database to get confused and think that you, a 45-year-old man, rode the teacups instead of your little son Timmy.”—
A:Totally serious. Today was my official last day at the job where I've worked for the last seven years.
Q:Did you see it coming? Was it your own choice?
A:To the first question, yes and no. To the second question, no. I've been at my company for a long time, and I could observe my interests (human-centered design) gradually diverging from the company's client work (inbound marketing). The middle ground - website work - which supports my position, has constituted less and less of our work over time. So, yes, I could see this coming. But I'm very close to our CEO and my boss, and I long since decided to stick it out with him for as long as he wanted me to. I found out I was being laid off two weeks ago. Was being laid off my choice? Well, no! Not directly. We all want things to go better than they have been going, but that's not what's gone on. At the same time, my interests have moved more toward the product end of the spectrum, and that's just not where the company plays. It was certainly my choice to stay there as this gap widened. I wouldn't exactly call myself a victim.
Q:Do you have something else lined up?
A:No, I do not. I am talking to a few people about a handful of very interesting opportunities, and I am interested in exploring as wide a range of opportunities as I can before making any decisions. In the meantime, I am going to take a few weeks entirely off to fix my moped's carb, clean up the house, and shovel snow or whatever.
Q:So are you freaking out?
A:I have a family, and I am relentlessly mindful of the obligations that entails. I have found myself awake in the middle of the night a number of times over the past couple of weeks, struck by fear that I'd never work again. That's normal, right? But no. In general, I'm not freaking out. In a way that may end up proving to have been perverse, I think this is kind of fun.
Q:Do you need my help?
A:Absolutely! But I can't leave Pittsburgh. If you know of any interesting leadership positions involving human-centered design or UX management, please, please, please send me in the right direction. I have a solid resumé, deep and varied experience, and fantastic references, and I would be genuinely grateful for any ideas, introductions, etc. you might have.
End:Hello, I am here now.
A:Oh, hi! I was wondering how I was going to end this post!
My previous post has a grammatical error I would like to fix. I am, however, unable to edit the post in the iOS app (my only current means of access), as the app no longer presents the Edit button as it used to (i.e., there is no Edit button).
A few questions, the answers to which I hope might help resolve this issue:
Where is the damn Edit button?
Where did you put the damn Edit button??
Why would anyone remove the damn Edit button from a blogging app???
Who do you think you are, removing the damn Edit button????
What the hell?????
Toby_Jacobs:72? Thanks for the global warming, ass.
ChunkyLovr367:Fahrenheit? Get real.
ObamaScare:GOD DAMNN IT
Anonymous:YOU SET IT 2 HI HOPE YOU GET RAPPED IN THE ASS FUCKER YOU SHIT FUCK YOU CUNT
JohnMoltz:Guys, my son got up and was cold and turned it up for a few minutes. Sorry. I've fixed it. It's back to 68.
Anonymous:NICE PARENTING SHITHEAD IF THAT WAS MY KID I'D HAVE SMACKED HIM.
NestFan_X:Thank you for your explanation. 68 is, however, still too high IMHO. I believe you will find that 64 is the optimum heating level for any well-insulated house. Perhaps your house is not as well insulated as mine is. I took a sabbatical from my job for two months in 2012 in order to sufficiently ensure that my house was insulated properly. I think it's important as a global citizen and I'm rather saddened that more people don't care about this important issue. Please consider your priorities. Just FWIW.
Your opportunities are limitless. Tomorrow is a new day. Just let your worries slip away for a moment. Smile because you don't know whose day it will brighten. Smile because you can and you deserve to be happy. Smile and know that you are loved. xx