Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Much like my life my living situation has followed a pretty straight trajectory with a few setbacks and double backs along the way.  Willsboro to Broadalbin with summer reprieves back to the lake, then bouncing around Albany for a few years.  While I was in college I had a few delusions of dropping everything and moving to Alaska or Utah, but I had a constant vision that I wanted to live in Burlington.  Upon graduation it didn’t work out an I found myself living in Plattsburgh biding my time until I could move to the promised land, and after 6 months was able to make it to the area that I have called home for more than 5 years now.  Now things may be changing and I am feeling like it is time to make a decision on what to do with my future and where to go from here.

I need to say that I love my life.  It is important to know that I appreciate and accept what I have, while I do love pushing myself and trying to better my situation things are pretty good, so I apologize for sounding like I am whining.  People would kill to be in my situation, but as with every situation there are two sides.  One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and what looks like traps in my life may look like benefits to you, and your life may feel fantastic, but I want no part of it.  I have spent most of my life trying to live outside the lines and having no urge for a white picket fence and 2.5 kids in the suburbs opens a paradox of paralyzing choices and opportunities that boil down to a simple question.

Question: What do I want?

Answer: I don’t know.

Yesterday I got a call from my landlord that he is strongly considering selling my apartment.  While I am an ideal tenant he has gotten two unsolicited offers and is strongly considering pursuing one of them even though he has repeatedly assured me that the unit was not on the market, which is true in practice if not principal.  He kindly offered to move me into another one of his apartments that is apparently much nicer but is in a different town.  While I am going to check out the apartment I don’t much care about how nice it is because it is 10 minutes further from work, adding 20 minutes a day to my already hour and a half commute.  I can’t fault the guy for selling my apartment, he is a very nice guy and he is just trying to do what is best for him, but I can resent the fact that he is is putting me out and serving up a worse lifestyle and presenting it like he is doing me a favor.  Complicating things is that my lease ends in October, which is a very dead time for Burlington area real estate, and finding a comparable place will be a huge pain, on top of having to pack up my life and move yet again.  Oh and if you made it to this point and are saying “Why don’t you just buy a house its an investment” please keep your pontificating, I have no plans on buying in a very expensive market like Burlington on short notice while having my money tied up in long term investments, especially since I don’t know if I will be staying in the area.  I am using this time to explore my options and to consider making a move that I have been contemplating for a while.

Burlington is great, I like living here.  I have a great community of friends and comedians here, and there are an abundance of things to do and ways to spend time and money.  I really enjoy the lifestyle that I have here, but as with any small place the opportunities are limited. I have been here for 5 years and except for doing comedy nothing has really popped for me.  I am surrounded by people that I like whenever I want to be, but there is nothing concrete that absolutely keeps me here.  On top of that the job market is limited, mostly because I have blown through so many options over the years.  To be clear my job isn’t terrible, I don’t cry in the car after my shifts, and it pays well but it is a bit of a dead end with few opportunities for growth.  I can’t help but think that my resume with 4 jobs (one of them twice) over 6 years is a black mark against me and that one look at that scares people away more than the immense range of skills and achievements that I have gathered from my wandering path draws them in.

So where to do I go from here, the first step is making a list of opportunities and cutting it down.

Asheville, NC- Years ago I drove though and thought that I could live here.  It’s a beer mecca with a laid back culture, good food, and is at an acceptable area of the Black Lives Matter – All Lives Matter spectrum.  It is also a reasonable drive from my family in Richmond, friends in North Carolina, and friends in Atlanta while still being just a day’s drive from Albany.  I visited this January and enjoyed my day in the city, it is a reasonable climate with a lot of culture and things that I enjoy, including what seems to be a vibrant comedy scene.  I do fear that I will make it down there and won’t want to live in the city, and once you leave Asheville and head into the hills you are in a far different place than Vermont

Hotlanta,  GA- I haven’t really liked Atlanta during my tow previous visits, but then again I was looking at it as a travel destination rather than a place to live.  I am not a fan of 7 lane highways or sprawling suburbs, but Atlanta does have a ready made support system.  I have a whole bunch of friends in the area who all have their own deep support systems that they would allow me to tap into.  On top of that there is good beer, professional sports teams, and easy flights to anywhere in the world.  The climate is a bit too sticky for my tastes but I can get used to anything and every place has air conditioning.  I think that I can grow into loving Atlanta because it has so much to offer and will allow me to explore lifestyles and options that I have never experienced before.  I will actually be heading down in two weeks for a previously planned vacation and will pay closer attention than I would have before.

Austin/San Antonio, TX- Barbecue and burritos.  I suppose that there is much more to Texas, but from my previous trips that is what really sticks out.  Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in the US and offers a wide range of options for food, comedy, and entrepreneurial growth, and while I have never been there I feel like it would be enough of a Texas with training wheels for a Yankee like me.  On top of that it is close to San Antonio where two of my dear friends live with their families, and another couple that I am close to is moving.  I don’t know if I would be able to settle in San Antonio proper, but it is a really cool (figuratively) city that I loved when I drove through years ago.  My biggest hangup is travel considerations, and the fact that Texas is so damn Texas.  I identify as an anarchist with nihilistic tendencies, and while I am very open minded plopping me down in the land of God, Family, Country may be a bit much.  I will keep an open mind, and at least explore the options.

Tampa, FL- Lets face it, I am probably not moving to Florida.  It is a humid and swampy state shaped like a penis, but a number of my closest friends live on that penis, and they love it.  I have visited several times over the past few years (during the temperate months) and enjoyed what it has to offer.  As someone with a background in Long Term Care it is probably a decent choice since people go there to get sunburned and die, not necessarily in that order.  For all it’s drawbacks it does have good beer, lots of beaches, and the opportunity to get eaten by an alligator and/or a python.

Portland, OR- Coffee.  Beer.  Flannel.  Facial Hair. It is Burlington on a large scale.  Probably not realistic, but I would be a fool not to explore my options when I am visiting next month.  The dream of the 90’s is alive.

Plattsburgh, NY- I love the ‘burgh, enough so that I am willing to abbreviate it as “the ‘burgh” and have a good history in the lake city.  I didn’t fully appreciate it when I lived there, but that was more about be being 25 and dumb rather than the city.  I could easily see myself settling down in a place that has good memories, is close to camp, has family and close friends, and is still close enough that I don’t have to leave Burlington fully behind.  It is also extremely cheap and is a gateway to me getting my “dream” of owning a small cabin in a secluded place so that I can write in peace and get murdered by an escaped prisoner.  The biggest drawback is Plattsburgh’s climate, which for most of the year is as frigid and unwelcoming as it’s women.  I also feel like it would be a big step backward, I spent so long holding Vermont as the promised land to backtrack and return to my roots feels like defeat.

Going Nomad- I have entertained the idea of doing consulting work on federal facilities like military bases and reservations.  I think that I would really like this job for a year or two, but beyond that it isn’t sustainable.  The adventure and travel would be amazing but it is really surrendering to a lonely life of being rudderless and living in government trailers.  The consultants that I worked with on the Navajo res were all jaded divorced guys in their 50s plodding away until retirement, and I don’t know if I am that far gone.  Yet.

It is fun to entertain these options, but lets be honest I am probably not going to leave Vermont.  Last week I was offered a job in California making 170k a year doing a job that I could easily handle, and the reason was because I simply didn’t want to leave the life that i have built.  I don’t have anything holding me here, but at the same time I don’t have anything motivating me to leave, and in that case inertia almost always wins out.  I can enjoy this thought exercise and explore other areas and spend the next few months looking off the ledge and contemplating making a leap, but based on my track record I doubt that I will actually make the jump.

I welcome your opinions and view and will listen to compelling arguments, but just saying “just go for it” doesn’t work.  The boom/bust prospects just aren’t there, the best case scenario is that I like the new lifestyle I have more than the one that I currently have while the downside is that I am put into a bad situation.  I hate meeting new people and while I love exploring and having adventures I am afraid of failing in the new place that I go.  Saying “you can always move back” belittles the fact that I am in a constantly changing situation and taking a detour even for a year or two can put my in an even worse position.  I acknowledge right now that I will probably just find a new apartment and carry on with the decent but unfulfilled life that I have now.   I will always enjoy the minimalist fantasy of packing up my car and driving off into the sunset, but as with most things the fantasy is the best part.

Final Summation: None.


You Always Remember Your First Time

Today I took some time to reminisce about a moment where everything changed.  That seminal moment many years ago where I went in a boy and left a man.  As I sit here in the place where it all started more than 10 years ago I can’t help but think of how foolish and awkward I was, and how much I have grown, and how much better I have gotten at all aspects of the act.  And now it is time for you to get your mind out of the gutter as I tell the story of my first time drinking coffee.

I was a late bloomer, and didn’t come into my own with coffee until I was almost 20 years old.  I had always enjoyed the gas station cappuccinos that come out of that terrible sounding machine and that are mostly sugar with some coffee flavoring, but actual coffee was not anything that I could stand for more than a few sips.  I preferred to find my caffeine though diet sodas and little cans of energy drinks, and rode that “EXTREEEEME” lifestyle through the first two years of college, but as is my tendency one day I decided to try something new partly out of necessity and partly out of a sense of adventure, and now it has lead me down a rabbit hole that I never could have predicted.

During the summer of 2005 I overextended myself, another familiar tendency that know all too well.  I liked Organic chemistry so much during the school year that I was overjoyed to be invited to retake Orgo 2 again over the summer.  Two months of Dr Martha Hass teaching me and 6 of the other dumbasses who couldn’t hack it the first time in intensive classes 3 days a week.  That would have been torture enough, but as I have covered previously I am a workaholic.  During my 4 days off each week I still managed to juggle 2 jobs, getting up at 5am to work at a hospital pharmacy then driving up to Saratoga to work at SPAC during the evening, before heading back to Albany to crash out and repeat the process.

During one of these 70 hour work weekends I found myself with a little downtime between jobs on one of the hottest days of the summer and in that moment I felt the need to make a change.  While driving through downtown Saratoga I was overcome with the strange need for an iced coffee.  Knowing nothing of this magical bean juice I didn’t want to risk it with a gas station variety, I wanted to go to the source, the most fancy high end independent place that I could think of, Starbucks, the exact Starbucks where I am sitting now.  Walking in for the first time and being enveloped by its warm Pacific Northwestern decor and hip music made me feel like I was at home and ease some of my nerves, but I was still kind of freaking out.  I was out of place, I was this kinda grungy kid with longish hair and big mutton chops (yeah I made bad decisions) wearing a polo shirt for a performance arts center over slacks and dress shoes from being at the hospital.

Beyond being uncomfortable in the venue I was all of a sudden confronted with an entire language that I didn’t understand.  As the people in front of me in line rattled off terminology about grande half caf one pump mocha lattes I started to panic.  Coffee, I want coffee, but not hot coffee I want coffee with ice in it, but how do I say it, where is it on the board, I don’t know what all of these words mean, how foolish am I going to look to these cute baristas, are they going to like my sweet sweet mutton chops, oh god what am I doing.  And as I scoured the display board I noticed the one word I was looking for, Iced, right next to the word Americano.  I sidled up to the counter and asked for a large iced Americano.  For a few seconds the panic abated, its an Americano, Americans love coffee so it is just an iced coffee, and I am such a grown up that I ordered a large one.  Let me take a moment to say I was dumb.  If you aren’t familiar an Americano is espresso topped with water, and while it is my favorite style to drink now, it was probably not the best option at the time.  Espresso, especially Starbucks roasts of it, is the darkest most bitter way to roast coffee beans, and a large (Venti) iced Americano at Starbucks has 3 shots of espresso in it, making it one of the most bitter and burnt coffees that you will ever have, and that was what I started with.

Once my name was called, or more pointedly “Venti Iced Americano for Alan” I sheepishly approached the counter and embraced my fate.  There was no room to put in milk or cream and I couldn’t get the raw sugar to dissolve so it just formed a layer of sediment on the bottom of the cup, I gave up and headed out into the sunshine to carry on with the day.  As I stood on the busy sidewalk holding a 24 ounce cup of cold espresso water on that hot summer day I was about to embark on a journey.  I took my first sip and savored the cold beverage as it rolled over my tongue and hit all my tasted buds resulting in a jolt that I will never forget, because it was fucking terrible.  It was all that I could do to keep from spitting it out, but I gutted through that first sip and contemplated where to go from here.

I tried a few more sips and couldn’t make it work. I was faced with one of my biggest failures and unsure what to do I took a path that I don’t take often, I called it quits and threw the nearly full cup into the trash.  I think it is the sting of this defeat and my reaction to the situation that have burned it into my brain for all these years.  I couldn’t muster the  strength of will to make it through.  From where I am sitting I can see the trash can I put it in, and my inner monologue keeps calling myself a pussy and repeating the line “drink up, there are tired kids in Africa that would kill to have that full cup of coffee.”

My path through coffee has been long and twisted.  I kept trying until I started to like coffee in all its forms and embraced it’s culture.  I have used coffee as fuel, and as a reward, and as a motivator, and for pure sensory joy.  From Starbucks, to 3rd wave independent roasters, to instant and kcups, hot or cold, black or with various additives and enhancers, coffee has always been there for me.  Even when I go on my periodic detoxes to kill my tolerance the sight and smell of coffee bring up strong memories of experiences good and bad, the adventures that these beans have fueled, and the friends that I have shared my cups with. But no matter how long it has been or have far I have traveled I will never be able to forget that first Iced Americano, and the bitter taste of defeat.