Monday, June 7, 2010


So I promised myself I wouldn't blog unless I felt truly compelled to tell some sort of story. As all writers know, some days your mind is void of the right words, the right thoughts, and the right ways to say them. However, I did want to share a trailer that has me bouncing of the walls for the season to begin. I'm sure you all know it and love it - Entourage.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Lost Art of the Road Trip

On Tuesday, I am leaving to go to St. Petersburg, FL to visit two of my best friends. In the days and weeks before this vacation, I have been bouncing off the walls with glee and excitement. My last "vacation" was to Amarillo, Texas and while I don't mean to diss the cow-tippin town, vacations to me mean palm trees. Exotic locales. White sand beaches. Fruity drinks with umbrellas. On top of the fact that I get to check off my "vacation" criteria checklist, I will be re-united with two of my very best friends on the planet.

As one gets anxious about an impending vacation, they tend to bring it up in conversation. "Oh my Gaaaaaahdddd, I can't wait to get outta here and just be on vacation already!" Don't feel bad, we are ALL guilty of subtly rubbing in that we get to get out of town. For some reason it just feels good. What people cannot believe delving into the more detailed question responses, "Where are you going?" and "When are you leaving?" "You're flying?"

"No, we're driving."

ERRRRRRRRRRRRR! Conversation slams on the breaks. Windows shatter. The whole room stops in silence with mouths agape. "You guys are driving from Chicago to St. Petersburg?!?"

"Yea! It's more fun that way." My response usually elicits a laugh or a smirk or a sarcastic "Hah, well good luck..." But you know what, I will stick up for the road trip. The road trips glory has long been lost.

Now a days, our lives are about convenience and efficiency. We want to get to places as fast as possible (hell, I would love a teleporting machine), get our work done as fast as possible, and do it all with the smallest amount of effort put forth. We are a society of instant gratification. We want things when we want them, and we want them yesterday. Flying on a plane is a perfect example. We are willing to trade our hard earned dollars to achieve the convenience and efficiency we so desire. For our generation, flights seem as normal as a bowl of cereal and driving, well driving seems exhausting and passe. I am sure all of you have heard your parents or relatives say, "Back in my day, we drove. We all piled in the station wagon and drove 15 hours to the beach. And to us, it was fun, it was normal, it was a luxury."

Seeing as for the past six years of my life I have been on the poorer end of the financial spectrum, road trips for me happened out of sheer necessity. If I wanted to take a vacation, I would have to drive. I couldn't afford the $300+ plane ticket, plus all of the fun vacation stuff while I was there. My maiden voyage road trip was in college, when 4 of my friends decided we MUST go down to Tampa, FL for the Hawkeyes bowl game. The drive - it was 23 hours. We got lost. We screamed. We sweated in the southern heat. We wanted to kill each other. I swore that I would never participate in an old-fashioned road trip again.

Isn't it funny though how you look back at an experience later on with more positive nostalgia? I actually smile and reminisce about that road trip when I think about it today. So, when the opportunity presented itself for another road trip to Amarillo, Texas to visit one of my best friends last summer, I was in. I convinced my two friends Bianca and Kevin that it would be cheap, and hell, it'll be fun! On the way down, we were lovin life; the open road, good tunes, great conversation, and the building excitement of arriving in Texas. On the way back, it was a different story. I was hungover six ways from Sunday, demanding frequent "PULL OVER! PULL OVER! I'M GONNA PUKE!" In Oklahoma, we hit a dead stop on the highway for 2 1/2 hours for an accident. Tensions were boiling, we had no information on why we were stopped, and we were 12 hours from home. Did I mention that the thermometer in the car read 130 degrees? One of my road trip comrades, Kevin, was having a damn near panic attack in the back seat and kept yelling about his sweaty stench and something in his pants sticking to his leg. It was bad.

Guess who I am driving with down to St. Petersburg? Bianca and Kevin. Even though they could both afford to fly (they actually have "real" jobs), and both experienced the torturous drive home from Amarillo, they were down to drive. I think it is because they look back with that same positive nostalgia that we all have. They remember what is so great about the road trip.

The road trip is this to me - it is friends packed in a car with nothing but each others company and the radio. It's the open road and feeling free. It's the feeling of being on an adventure; much akin to the ones that seemed so amazingly fun and scary as a child. It's seeing new places and new kinds of people at every stop along the way. It's telling stories, telling fears, and eating bad fast food along the way. It's having gut wrenching belly laughs that only seem to come when a story is either really funny, or you're just damn near delirious from driving. It's keeping each other awake at 4am and being a good "co-pilot." It's bonding in a way that you can't manufacture over a dinner or night out. It's being stuck in a car, hours on end, with people you love. You get to know the people on a different, deeper level. It's singing at the top of your lungs, arms flailing, hands out the window, and dancing in your seat. It's getting frustrated, getting lost, and snapping at people; followed by the understanding that we don't really mean the hurtful things we say when we're stressed. It's the understanding that "We're in this together."

The road trip has been lost in our society. Don't be afraid to bring it back. I promise you - you're gonna thank me.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wear Sunscreen.

One of my favorite "songs" of all time is Baz Luhrmann's "(Everybody's Free to) Wear Sunscreen." It has such great advice for life. I'm sure most of you have heard this song, but being as it is 11 years since its release date, I thought I'd reshare this lyrical wealth. Enjoy.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked….You’re not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself. Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone. Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children,maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary…what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body,use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room. Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them. Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings; they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future. Understand that friends come and go,but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and
lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you
knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live
in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.
Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will
philander, you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you wereyoung prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders. Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out. Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen…

No Shame in my Game

Want to know when I graduated college? December 2008. For those whose mind glosses over that time period, let me refresh your memory.

My last semester of college, August 2008-December, was the height of the fall of our economy. September and October were being compared to the crash of '29. I knew it was awful when a teacher told our class, with tears glazing her eyes, that she feared for the graduates. She told us that she had never seen our country this way and felt pity for those of us about to embark in the blood filled waters. She told us we would be LUCKY to find a job. I didn't believe her. I believed that I would be different, I would be fine, I would find a job.

A year and a half later, do you know what I am doing? I am serving at a restaurant. Not to cast a pitiful haze on this profession because I work with some great people; but my parents did not spend $100,000 for me to fetch ketchup and Diet Pepsi's (easy on the ice) to unassuming assholes that dine. Hold on - I am beginning to sound ungrateful. The fact of the matter is, I am downright lucky to have a job at all. My co-workers can be categorized in two groups of people; college graduates in the same position as myself, and middle-aged men and women that have been laid off from their jobs. I get it, the times are tough, we're all hurting in some way, shape, or form. Everyone I work with, including myself, are rolling with the punches, trying to keep our heads above water, and working our asses off. I have zero shame in my hard, honest day's work that I endure, week after week.

Here is something I experienced this morning while serving. I don't know why, but three hours later, I am still reeling from this experience with a certain customer.

Two men, around age 50, are seated in my section. In the middle of service, a co-worker informed me that one of the men is Joe Schmoe, of Schmoe Investments. All I know of this firm are two things - the giant, shiny skyscraper with the flashy "Schmoe Investments" sign and that it employs over a thousand+ employees. My co-worker then informs me that he used to wait on him at another restaurant and his net worth is 2 BILLION. 2 BILLION?! I immediately was overcome with a rush of warmth and excitement that I had a big ole' fat tip comin' my way.

His bill was $31.10. Twenty percent would be $6. I figured being a multi-billionaire he may throw a few extra bucks for my great service and hilarious jokes (Well, hilarious may be subjective. I thought they were hilarious).

He left me $4.50.

I have no idea what it is like to be rich. Hell, I don't know what it's like to be comfortable. I don't even have a savings account! But I will tell you this: I will ALWAYS tip 20% and usually upwards towards 30% for great service. This man has a net worth he will be unable to spend in his lifetime, yet tips a hard-working individual $4.50. It killed me.

An experience like this made me think of the bigger picture. Always be gracious to strangers, tip when it is due, and remember not everyone is as fortunate as yourself. One last thing, it doesn't hurt to smile at your waiter or waitress, it means more to us than you know.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

And each day, I shall start anew.

"So often time it happens, we all live our life in chains, and we never even know we have the key." ~The Eagles

I often find myself stuck in a frame of mind that I have all these great ideas, but I don't have the means to carry them out. Or so I think. Accompanying that same frame of mind are the sister frame of minds of, "I would love to do that, but I don't have enough money," "I really want to start doing "X," but I don't have enough time/forget/can't keep up the habit," and my personal favorite, "I really want to think/be "X," but I can't."

At 24 years of age, I have become more keen of my surroundings, of my emerging adult spirit, and cognizant of the importance of life. In the years post-mortem, cough cough, I mean post-college, I have wrestled with these new found questions about myself and the world. I arise in the morning with the zeal of a child; wide-eyed and sponge-like, attempting to soak in all that I can. It is like I have finally let into the elusive "Adult's Club" and I don't know the first frikking thing about being a member but I am trying my damnedest to figure it out. All this being said, please refer to paragraph numero uno; I often find myself imposing excuses on my ideas, thoughts, and motivations. I often inhibit my own personal growth. It is as almost as if I am baby - learning the rules of society, how to walk and talk like an adult, and the morals and principles of being a "good" person.

It is this contradiction that is the beauty of the stumble through your 20's. It is the beautifully disastrous contradiction that we all face. The desire to change ourselves for the better, all while we settle for half-hearted excuses why not. For some of us, figuring out our life passions and career paths are not for the faint hearted. It is a daily struggle inside our minds and souls, and the constant question, "What do I want to spend the next 40 years of my life doing?"

I have no frikking clue.

Maybe that's part of the adventure. All I know is, I have got the keys to unlock the chains on "I want to..but..." and that's all that matters. Our 20's are frightening yet exhilarating, exhausting yet fulfilling, and opportunistic yet shackled.

So here's to putting myself out there. Here's to unlocking the chains and voicing my experiences and fears. Here's to sharing my thoughts and to the people that feel a connection and say, "I thought I was the only one who felt this." Here's to attempting to figure out this "Adult's Club" with grace, humor, and strength. Here goes nothin'.