2017: A Year In Review

Every December I take a few hours to think back on the year and think back over everything that went on.  I am sure that I missed a lot of things, but here is some of it.

I suppose that the easiest way to start is to explore the big life change events that went on for people around me.  This January my grandmother passed away, it was sad, but she was 89 and had lived a long and fulfilled life so it was easy to celebrate her passing.  I happened to be on a road trip at the time, which made things pretty complicated, but gave me some space and literal distance to process everything.  Unfortunately she wasn’t the only person I lost this year.  A comic from Boston that I knew a little, but liked a lot took his own life this fall.  It was a really rough blow, we had just talked a few weeks earlier and he was coming up to spend a weekend and was going to stay at my place.  He was a great guy, and while we didn’t know each other that well I still felt a big sense of loss, not only for him but for his whole community.  Just a few months later my own personal community took a hit when one of my friends passed away unexpectedly, I have already written a lot about that and don’t feel like I can add more.  I am at the point that these things make me feel bad but unfortunately I have become a bit numb to them.  Maybe it is me trying to be stoic about it, but to be honest my friends have been dying at a pretty high rate since I was in high school, and I have put a defense mechanism in place to carry on.  I know that it sounds like a bullshit “On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero” line, but part of caring about a lot of people is being there when they move on, the best I can do is try to my best to stay strong and survive.

On a brighter note I got to be part of two awesome weddings this year.  My friends Dave and Jess got married after 10 years together.  I have a theory that they actually got married several years ago so that he could get a green card, and they just threw a big celebration for our benefit.  I’ll take it, it was a pretty awesome wedding, they had a poutine bar, an entire bar of poutine, what will those crazy Canadians think of next?  And for the record every time I bring up my theory about them being already married they do not deny it.  I also had the pleasure of performing a wedding for my Aunt Carrie and my new Uncle Dale (not to be confused with my previously existing Uncle Dale).  Carrie is definitely one of my top 7 or 8 aunts and it was an honor to share their day.  It was a beautiful fall afternoon at our camp and we were surrounded by family and friends, a good time was had by all.  I wish many happy years to both couples.

I think that this year I spent more time on road trips than any other year since I went cross country back in 2009.  Beyond my normal trip to Gatlinburg I went to Michigan to visit my brother, flew out to Minnesota to rent a car and drive the northern plains, drove to DC for Grand Council with a stop over at the Dogfish brewery, plus the regular trips to Albany and a pair of trips to Portland.  It was good to get on the road, there is something about driving long distances through open spaces that puts me at ease.  It can definitely get old, like chasing a storm from Michigan across Canada and through western NY, but being out there and experiencing America feels so good.  Added to that was the fact that most of these trips included spending time with a lot of my friends and family, which makes any amount of miles worthwhile.

My great plains road trip was the high point of my summer.  I have always had a fascination with wide open spaces, and there is no better place for that than the Dakotas.   I spent most of a week just driving around with no real itinerary.  There were places that I wanted to see and things that I wanted to do, but all I had was a rental car and a camera.  I was able to have some really awesome moments in nature, and see some realy wild places, while also knocking 5 more states off my burrito list.  I do wish that I would have spent more time truly disconnecting from the world and trying to find some inner space.  But in the end it was a truly memorable experience, and has inspired me to spend more time in national parks in the coming years.

One of my great struggles has been finding things that really capture my interest.  I often have a tendency to flit between things, working diligently for a few weeks before moving on to something else.  This year was no different.  I did a good amount of painting, but flirted with learning how to draw and spending time coloring.  I also learned to weld in an attempt to get “man skills” and explored the possibility of making metal sculptures, but in the end that turned out to be time and cost prohibited.  I learned the skill and can someday pick it up again, but after a few sessions I didn’t really have a clear direction so I had to put it on the back burner.

As always reading was a big priority.  I found myself reading a lot more fiction this year.  I tackled big projects like the Harry Potter series, the One Second After books, and Musashi on top of a spattering of classic literature and mystery/war books.  I generally don’t like fiction, or maybe I like it too much and it becomes all consuming, but I have decided to work my way through a backlog of “must reads” that have spanned the test of time, I think 2018 will include the hobbit books.  The rest of what I read was some great non ficiton, not too many memoirs or biographies, but a lot of time and attention management books, and a good amount about religions like Buddhism or improv comedy.  I should probably keep track but I assume that I made it through 60-70 books this year including a bunch by my favorite authors.  Combined with thousands of hours of podcasts it was a very good year for cramming things into my brain.

While I was busy acquiring a lot of knowledge I don’t think that I did great about putting it to good use.  I didn’t write much and a lot of what I wrote I lost interest in and walked away from.  I started writing a book, but I doubt that I will ever finish it, after more than a month I have barely made it past the introduction.  I felt like this year was lacking in silence, I was very scattered.  I didn’t spend enough time meditating and tried to hide that with trips to the isolation tank.  While I do enjoy the floats and they are helpful, going once a month does not make up for having a daily meditation practice.  I don’t think it is helpful to beat myself up for not meditating enough, but I am sure that I can get back on the horse easy enough if I put my mind to it.

Work this year was a disaster.  The bad part is that at least the first few months of 2018 are going to be even worse.  I took this job because I needed something to keep me afloat for a year or two, that was almost three years ago.  I got complacent, and even when things got bad it never hit the pain point where I needed to move on.  I don’t know if the next few months are going to get me to hit that point, but it certainly won’t be pretty.  I guess time will tell.

Comedy went pretty well.  I didn’t do any thing spectacular, missed my goal of 100 times on stage per year, and watched a lot of people who I was close with leave Vermont, but it was still a pretty successful year.  I opened for a few headliners, kept my meadery show going, did my first improv show, and wrote for and performed in the Harry Potter Roast.  I made more money this year than any previous year, played to bigger audiences, and hopefully didn’t piss off too many people along the way.  Plus I like to think that I wrote some pretty good new material and revamped some old stuff.

One of my goals this year was to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I think that I easily achieved that.  Almost every morning I took a cold shower, to the point that I actually missed it on the days when I skipped.  I sometimes like to now stand in the snow and feel how cold it is, it makes me feel alive.  I put in bunch of bodywork with various torture devices like acupressure mats, graston scrapers, and golf balls, all of which hurt like hell but were good in the long run.  I also started taking more chances as a comic.  My favorite new joke involves an encore, and the first few times I tried it I was scared shitless because it was very uncomfortable.  But over time I found that it is something that is so different that the audience almost has no choice but to have a reaction to it.  I also spent more time talking to strangers, which is very uncomfortable, but helps to put myself out there.

This year wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that good either.  I don’t think that it will go down in the record books as a pivotal year, but now that I am in my 30s the pivotal years must be fewer and further between.  I had a bunch of stuff that I wanted to do, some of which I actually accomplished, and I had a pretty good time with some pretty good people along the way.  I swam in the Atlantic, stood on the shores of the great lakes, walked the canyons of the badlands and the hills of the prairie, and in the end I appear to have cheated death once again.

Quick Hits

  • Best Media: Musashi, Dreamland, Parks and Rec, American Vandal, Seu Jorge, Alexa’s Classic Punk music station, Run the Jewels in concert
  • Best Experiences: driving through a buffalo herd in TR National Park, Aunt Carrie’s wedding, Eating at a 2 Michelin star restaurant with one of my oldest friends
  • Best Burrito: Pork Belly at Mad Taco (Waitsfield)
  • Favorite Jokes: the encore bit, two women with mullets
  • Favorite Performances: Harry Potter Roast, Reverse Roast, Grand Council Comedy Show
  • Best Purchases: Paint brushes and canvases, Merrill shoes, roomba
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My Comedy Break

At the end of October I decided to take a break from doing standup.  I have been mulling this break for a while, and the time seemed right.  The Vermont comedy community has been going through a serious bout of growing pains over the past year or so.  There have been a lot of schisms and infighting based on perceived or real slights, a huge issue popped up with someone who went out of his way to make people uncomfortable, and this fall five of the most accomplished standups and improvisers left for greener pastures.  All of this lead to me feeling like I needed a break, so I marked off the month of November and I stepped away from standup for a while.

I want to clarify that this wasn’t a woe is me, everybody is being mean and I don’t want to do this anymore type of break.  Frankly comedy is going pretty well for me.  I have had the chance to host for a guy who has a Showtime special this spring, and set up a show at a conference for a buddy of mine who is a national headliner.  My show at Havoc Mead continues to get very good reviews, and I will be starting another showcase at a fancy country club in January.  This year I didn’t grind it out as much as I should have, but I still managed to get booked a lot and made more money than I did last year.  Or depending how you look at it, I made up for more of the beer that I drank at comedy shows this year than I did last year.  Even after all of this I still felt kind of burnt out and needed to step away for a bit.

I set out on this adventure with a plan.  I was going to step away from performing, but not from attending shows or supporting my friends.  If I got the idea for jokes I would be able to think them over, but wouldn’t tear them down or agonize over them like I normally would.  I would also take some of the time that I spend on standup to focus on other performance mediums.  I would also take a little time to think over old bits and ideas that I had never been able to put forward.  The only time I would step on stage for standup was to host an open mic that I had previously signed up to host, and even then I would try to do old material and experiment with a different type of format.

I suppose the easy part was trying to fill the time.  A few months ago I had volunteered to do improv with a group called Hop Characters where we interview a local beer celebrity and do long form.  I had taken a few improv classes several years ago and occasionally would jump up to join a short for jam, but have zero long form experience.  We had a few practices that I could make it to, and the other comics were great, they had stage presence, confidence, and knew how to play well with each other, I was clearly the weakest link.  But in true improv form they pulled me along and we had a great show.  It was really fun and hopefully helped to open a door to doing more improv.

At the same time I was also working on the roast of Harry Potter.  I don’t know if I was a conventional choice to work on this.  I don’t normally write jokes, and have no theater background or experience with characters, and I don’t rely on production.  As a standup I rely strongly on stage presence and storytelling to command a room, and am used to doing it by myself instead of as part of a panel.  On top of that I only read the Harry Potter books once a few months ago and still haven’t seen all the movies.  But luckily one of the characters is a half giant with long luscious hair, so I was the logical casting choice.  I didn’t write all that many jokes in advance, but for some reason once we started writing the flood gates opened, most of them were terrible or just a decent premise, but a few of them wound up in the roast and were even big hits.  The writing and production sessions were a lot of fun, it was great to hang out with a great group of funny creative people and work on generating ideas.  We got to spend a night transforming the comedy club into Hogwartz with all sorts of designs and baubles and regalia, it was really cool.

Once everything was put together and we got to start performing it was an absolute blast.  I had pre show jitters for the first performance, but things settled down and I had fun with it.  Unfortunately I was stuck at work for one of the shows, but there is another comic who is also a half giant with amazing hair and he stepped right into the void and did awesome.  As great as it was to be on stage, being backstage and hanging out with everyone was the best part.  I never understood why the theater kids in high school were always so jazzed to stay at school until midnight working on sets and costumes, but now I understand.  Even now a week after the show I am still having flashes back to my favorite moments.  I think that after more than 3 years, dozens of standup shows, 1 improv show, hundreds of open mics, and everything else that I have done in comedy this is and will be my favorite thing that I have done.  I can’t wait to start planning out the next roast.

One of the things that I also put in time on this month was storytelling.  In the past month I have done two events with Storytelling Vermont, took second place at Extempo, and am going to perform at a cool event with the Burlington writers workshop.  I really enjoy storytelling because it allows me to connect with people on a deeper level and try to reach more emotions.  Luckily I live in a place with so many storytelling opportunities, and I had a good friend who twisted my arm and forced me to give it a shot.  Beyond oral stories I also tried to write a bit.  I wrote something about a friend, it was one of those cathartic pieces where you do your best to bleed all over the page and leave yourself out there.  It was a good way to mediate the pain and wrap it in good memories.  A few nights after that I started working on a book that I have been thinking about for a while.  I don’t know how diligent I will be, or if it will ever get finished, but one can hope.

So now what?  The answer seems obvious, I will get back to the grind of standup.  Hopefully I will get back into the swing of things, work on some new ideas, reframe old jokes, and keep getting better.  This month off helped to solidify that while I can survive without standup I still enjoy having it in my life.  I am a comic, when you put me on stage I will do my best to make people laugh no matter what type of performance medium I a doing.  I am also a member of the Vermont Comedy Community, and I like that.  I am not the best, I am not the most open or friendliest, but I am always there.  I won’t be pursuing comedy beyond a local level, but I have always been at peace with that.  And lets face it being a big fish in a small pond isn’t always a bad thing, as long as you love the pond and the people in it.

A Brief Epitaph For A Friend

A friend of mine passed away this weekend.  He was young, smart, accomplished, and a genuinely good person.  I will miss him, as I have missed all those who have gone before him.  I feel selfish writing this, but he always told me how much he enjoyed my writing, so it feels like a fitting tribute.  I have been out of practice with longform writing, but I will do my best to string together a few words for someone who I will miss dearly.

Death is a part of life  We are all born, and we all die, it is what we do in the middle that makes the difference.  Some of us leave behind towering monuments, or massive changes to the world, but a vast majority change the worlds of people in our immediate circle.  In my opinion it is the magnitude of the small impacts that truly define who we are.  World leaders can fall, celebrities can overdose, business titans can die, and while we may feel sympathy we don’t hurt as much as having a loved one pass away.  When someone dies before their time it feels like an even more significant tragedy, especially when that person is so full of promise.

I hate the idea of death inflation.  When an acquaintance dies he becomes your friend, when your friend dies he becomes your best friend, when someone who you used to know well dies he becomes like a brother to you.  I will strive to be realistic.  He was a friend of mine.  We were never in school at the same time, we didn’t hang out often, I didn’t share many hardships with him or call him up when I was facing despair.  But we texted occasionally, happy birthdays and look forward to seeing you soons.  We tracked each other’s lives through Facebook and stole off when we were in a group to have deep conversations about philosophy and life.  He was hands down one of the smartest people that I knew, and had that wonderful weirdness that the brilliant often have.  He was a delightful person.

Years ago I set a goal to run a 5k and one of my friends was going to run it with me but had to back out.  I put up a post and within seconds he responded.  Even though he was an accomplished runner he wanted to join me on a measly 5k at my turtle’s pace.  We didn’t really know each other at the time, I knew him as an awkward gangly kid who always stood on the outside of every group.  He came to Vermont the night before and we spend several hours just talking and telling stories.  I found that he was incredibly smart, well spoken, and wise well beyond his years.  It was a really fun time, and I am glad that I got the chance to share it with him.  As I started doing comedy he followed along religiously, always asking for new jokes and giving encouragement.  He made me feel like I was doing something special, and that I was making a difference.

This Saturday a large group of us got together.  Young, old, from all different backgrounds, from across the country, people who have no right being friends, but who are bound together by the fact that when we were 18 or 19 we all decided to join the same fraternity.  We rented a bar and got drunk together.  We sang songs and told stories and ate chicken wings.  It was a good time.

As I was walking through the crowd one of the guys who I have known for almost a decade grabbed my arm and said “I love what you put on facebook” and I said thanks, because it is something that I get often and kind of makes me feel uncomfortable.  He would not let me brush it off, he grabbed both my arms and looked me in the eyes and told me that one day when he was thinking about committing suicide one of my posts made him reconsider.  It shook me.  I have been friends with this guy for years, and the thought that one of the inconsequential things that I posted out of boredom kept him alive was powerful.  We looked at each other with tears in our eyes and hugged.  He was not the person who died.

Later that night the reality and the alcohol hit me.  I sat on the front steps of my college and thought deeply.  I confronted my own feelings of insignificance and accepted that I made a huge difference in the life of someone who I care about.  And true to form I put it out on Facebook.  Little did I know that as I was smugly basking in my own relevance someone else who I cared about was leaving this life.

Ever since I found out about the loss on Sunday morning I have been beating myself up.  I should know better, I should have done something, I should have asked why he wasn’t there with all of us.  But in reality there is nothing that I could have done.  I spend a lot of time thinking about death, rationalizing, reading philosophy, trying to understand what it means or if it means nothing at all.  I have spent months carrying around a coin emblazoned with Memento Mori to remember that death will happen and to make the best out of life without getting too big headed.  But when death hits my circle I fly off the handle just like everyone else.

But now I promise to do better.  I promise to make the best of the time that I have and to help others to make the best of their lives.  I hope to make a difference so that others don’t have to feel the way I feel now.  I used to think that death was easy, a way out, but after burying too many of my friends I know that it is the worst option not only for myself but for everyone around me.  Now that I have another grave to stand by I can’t bear the thought of making others feel that way.  So even though he is gone, I will do my best to live up to his expectations and to make a difference.  In the meantime all I have are happy memories to look back on.

I can’t remember where we were, but I know we were dressed up and in good spirits, it was probably a wedding.  I saw a group of the younger guys and headed over to say my hellos.  There were the normal hugs and back pats, exchanges of pleasantries and good natured ribbing.  He was standing on the edge of the group, as was his way, and when he made his way to me I pretended that I didn’t know him.  I pulled the old “I think I remember you but what is your name again” joke and he fell for it hook line and sinker.  There was terror in his eyes, like me not remembering him was the worst thing in the world, but he reacted by earnestly trying to introduce himself to me again.  I must have tipped my hand in some way and he realized that I was pulling his chain and a great big smile spread across his face as he came in to give me a big hug with all his might.

He should have known better than to fall for it, I could never forget him.

The Burrito Diaries

UPDATED Fall 2017

In May 2006 I was rudderless and lost, looking for meaning, looking for adventure, looking for the type of exhilaration that comes wrapped in a flour tortilla.  I have taken a lot of time to explain Burritos Across the US over the years.  I wrote a post, authored a Moth story, got the license plate, and have done my best to record my progress through social media.  I originally thought that I would be done by now, but that was clearly unreasonable, but as we near the 11 year mark I should probably break it down.

But First the Rules:

  1. Its a burrito, not a wrap, not an taco, not a chimichanga, a burrito.  Wet burritos are acceptable even though they are very similar to enchiladas, but mission style hold in your hand wrapped in tin foil are preferred.
  2. Airports don’t count, neither do drive through.  Burrito must be consumed with your feet on the ground in the actual state.
  3. Chains are accepted but frowned upon and will be looked back upon with shame.  SHAME.
  4. Burritos are not obligations, they are to be worshiped and enjoyed for the goodness that they contain.

Burritos Across the US

  • Alabama- Birmingham, Fall 2009
  • Alaska- TBD
  • Arizona- Phoenix, Summer 2009
    • Most scenic burrito consumed at the Grand Canyon Fall 2009
  • Arkansas- Texarkana, Fall 2009
  • California- San Francisco, Fall 2009
    • Worst neighborhood to enjoy a burrito in
  • Colorado- Cortez, Fall 2009
  • Connecticut- Mystic, Spring 2006
    • The burrito that started it all
  • Delaware- Rehobooth, Fall 2010
  • Florida- West Palm Beach, Summer 2007
  • Georgia- Atlanta, Fall 2009
    • Consumed just feet from the world’s tallest escilator.  That needs to count for something.
  • Hawaii- TBD
  • Idaho- TBD
  • Illinois- East Saint Louis, Fall 2009
  • Indiana- New Albany, Fall 2009
  • Iowa- Council Bluffs, Summer 2013
    • Most likely gave me food poisoning
  • Kansas- Parsons, Fall 2009
  • Kentucky- Erlanger, Fall 2009
  • Louisana- Baton Rouge, Fall 2009
  • Maine- Kittery, Spring 2009
  • Maryland- Baltimore, Spring 2008
  • Massachusetts- Boston, Spring 2010
    • Was completed earlier but this is the only one I was sober enough to remember consuming.  Fucking Boston.
  • Michigan- Mount Pleasant, Spring 2017
  • Minnesota- Minneapolis, Spring 2017
  • Mississippi- Hatiesburg, Fall 2009
  • Missouri- Springfield, Fall 2009
  • Montana- Miles City, Spring 2017
  • Nebraska- Omaha, Summer 2013
  • Nevada- Stateline, Fall 2009
  • New Hampshire- Keene, Spring 2009
    • Best vegetarian burrito
  • New Jersey- New Brunswick, Winter 2007
    • I do not recognize New Jersey as a state
  • New Mexico- Albuquerque, Fall 2009
    • Best burrito related failure at the International Balloon Festival
  • New York- Albany, Summer 2006
    • Home of the Bombers burrito which is the most frequently consumed of all the burritos
  • North Carolina- Charlotte, Summer 2009
  • North Dakota- Dickinson, Spring 2017
  • Ohio- Kent, Fall 2009
    • Dishonorable mention- all restaurants were closed and I was forced to eat a gas station burrito
  • Oklahoma- Oklahoma, City Fall 2009
  • Oregon- Portland, Spring 2016
    • Best food cart burrito
  • Pennsylvania- Harrisburg, Fall 2010
  • Rhode Island- Kingston, Summer 2007
  • South Carolina- Columbia, Fall 2009
  • South Dakota- Kadoka, Spring 2017
  • Tennessee- Fayetteville, Fall 2009
  • Texas- Amarillo, Fall 2009
    • Home of the best burrito that I have ever had
  • Utah- Salt Lake City, Summer 2008
    • Best college cafeteria burrito
  • Vermont- Burlington, Spring 2006
  • Virginia- Richmond, Fall 2009
  • Washington- Bainbridge Island, Spring 2016
  • Washington DC- National Mall Summer 2017
  • West Virginia- Morgantown, Winter 2008
  • Wisconsin- Eau Claire, Spring 2017
  • Wyoming- Evanston, Fall 2009

Notes

  • During Fall 2009 I drove cross country for almost 2 months and was able to consume all of these burritos at a reasonable pace
  • I have taken trips and gone to conferences solely because it would allow me to knock another burrito off the list
  • I don’t know if I spelled the town names correctly, I don’t really care.
  • Burrito is a noun, burritoed is a verb.  I invented one of those terms.
  • I have included 2 non states on this list, just because I plan on burritoing New Jersey and DC doesn’t mean that I will be proceeding to other non states.  The Puerto Rico and Guam burritos will need to eat themselves.
  • Once things are completed I may head north and try to eat something in each Canadian Province, thinking that the Canadian equivalent would be ice cream sandwiches.
  • This was fun, the trips, the adventures, sitting here and writing this.  It was fun enough that I could remember aspects of each and every one of these burritos despite years or even a decade passing.

The Best Course I Have Ever Taken

I have nearly 250 semester hours of college credits.  And have taken hundreds of hours of post graduate continuing education.  I have spent thousands of dollars on personal development classes from “Productivity gurus” in order to “optimize my psychology.” Hell I even took improv and standup classes so that I could feel like I graduated.  But the most important class that I have ever taken was during my junior year of high school.  And maybe taking that simple after school class was the spark that I needed to set me up for the success that future courses would bring.

My life is busy, it always has been.  I started down my workaholic path early and was always focused on getting things done.  I was an achiever from an early age and always wanted to check all the boxes and get all the awards.  While high school was probably my laziest period it was also one of my busiest.  I would regularly leave the house at 7AM and not get back until almost 9.  I filled my time by being the class president, a member of key club, national honor society, two trivia teams (one for quiz bowl and the other for the enirothon), band, jazz band, marching band, boy scouts, and other clubs that I am sure I forgot, all while being a 2 sport athlete and working on the weekends.  Toss in the fact that I was a teenager trying to have friendships and a fun life and things were very busy.

My father is very good at time management and has a lot of experience trying to keep my chronically late mother on some semblance of a schedule.  He did a great job pushing me to stay on time and fulfill any commitments that I had made, but as a rebellious teenager I wasn’t going to listen to most of his advice.  Luckily I found a mentor who was able to make a mark and get me to live up to my potential.  I was fortunate to have a lot of very good teachers, coaches, and advisers who made a lasting impact, but this one teacher doing an after school class made the biggest difference.

Tom Ciaccio played quarterback at Holy Cross and blew up their record books, played in Europe and signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals, but then he got into teaching.  I never had him as a teacher or as a coach, but his name rang out in the halls.  He was just a few years older than we were, and a really nice and friendly guy, with that natural leadership bearing that some people radiate.  He was a local who grew up 1 town over and did something that so few people from that area did, he went found success and then came back home.  He was an inspiration, and he didn’t shy away from the fact that he could use his talents to inspire and motivate others.  So he started an after school class on time management, and for some reason I decided to give it a try.  I remember it costing something around $75 which was a bit of a hardship at the time since I was making $5 per hour under the table washing dishes, but looking back it was the best investment I could have made.

I didn’t save much from High School.  It wasn’t a great time for me and I put it behind me pretty quickly.  But I do really wish that I would have saved the workbook from this class.  I can’t even remember the proper title, but I suppose that the impact is more important than the name.  Things were perfectly geared to get us to understand our own psychology and motivations and were presented at our 10th grade level without feeling like we were being talked down to.  There was a lot of thinkwork that needed to be done at home which was a nice change from the massive amount of essay writing that high school is known for.  He asked a lot of questions that we wouldn’t normally ask ourselves at that time, the type of questions that I am seeing a lot of my friends just start asking 15 years later.  We looked at our priorities and how we sorted our to do lists, while also developing plans to set and reach our goals and strategies to maximize our impact.  In a way it was like a football playbook where he taught us the basics and allowed us to execute and trust our instincts.

At the time I appreciated it, but looking back it is unbelievable how much I got out of that class.  My life is busy to the point of being hectic, but I have put enough systems in place that I am able to handle everything with few problems.  For example last week I worked 5 days (53 hours), spent another 8 hours commuting, performed at an open mic, attended an improv show, did all my laundry, cleaned and vacuumed my whole apartment, went to a brewery, got my car fixed, packed for an 8 day road trip, all while cooking all my own meals, walking at least 5 miles a day, meditating daily, writing a few thousand words, reading parts of 3 different books, keeping in touch with several friends, and living a pretty normal life.  And I was bored.

Maybe it is the fact that I spend most of my time doing things that I enjoy or can at least see direct benefit from, or maybe it is my natural capacity to multitask, or maybe it is the devotion to Tim Ferriss theories, or maybe it is the firm belief in systems and routines, but right now I am more productive than I have ever been.  And I am able to do it all without falling into the business trap where people feel overwhelmed.  I am far from superman, but by prioritizing and executing I am able to get more done with little stress, and it makes my life feel much easier.  I sometimes use the term busy but fulfilled, where there is a lot going on but nothing worth flipping out over.  It is nice going to bed knowing that you accomplished a lot in a day but not having too much to worry about.  It may feel boring from time to time, but I will take bored in place of overwhelmed any day.

It might seem disingenuous to tie where I am right now to a single course, but I do believe that it was something that helped to hone my skills and make me look inside myself for the best results.  All these years and classes later I am still grateful that I was able to get that motivation and insight at such an early age.  From a purely return on investment standpoint in both money and time I have reaped the rewards thousands of times over.  And for that I will always be grateful.

Book Report: Please Kill Me

I read a lot of books, I might as well try to pass along a few things.

pkm

Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk
by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain
20th Anniversary Edition, originally published 1996

I have always been a fan of punk music, but for me it was about experiencing the music rather than the history.  I think that we all have encountered that music snob who is always looking down their nose at others for not knowing the most obscure bands or the detailed evolution of music, and I never wanted to be that guy.  I suppose that in my own snobbish way I looked down on a lot of early punk bands because they lacked the defined style that came once the genre was established.  The Clash have always been one of my favorite bands, but I really never spent time exploring any of the other bands of their era.  As I get further removed from my own punk rock days I find myself less interested in new bands and more interested in the bands that came before my era. This book was one of my first forays into the history of punk, and I doubt that it will be my last.

I came to this book through an interview with the authors on WTF with Marc Maron, and it was such a good interview that I needed to immediately purchase the book and then store it on my shelf for several months.  Once I finally got around to reading it I had trouble making it through the first few chapters.  The authors assume a base level of knowledge that I did not posses, but eventually through using the glossary cast list and Wikipedia I was able to wrap my mind around the insanely large cast of characters.  We like to think of the start of a musical period as a clean origin, the Beatles coming to America, or the launch of MTV, but the punk scene grew out of an avant garde art scene and it took a meandering path picking up momentum as it went.  It didn’t even have a name, it was just a change in they type of music being played until assuming the mantle from Punk! Magazine in the late 70s.

Part of the reason why the book was so hard to get into was it’s writing style.  It is an oral history and the words come directly from interviews with the subjects of the book.  It would spend a paragraph quoting an interviewee, then another paragraph quoting another’s feelings on the same subject providing a rounded narration through the eyes of the scene rather than a single viewpoint.  This fabulous cast of characters included musicians, artists, groupies, drag queens, music producers, label executives, managers, roadies, and bar owners who each had their own history and stories that made the book seem almost as disjointed and disparate as early punk music was.  The stories ranged from sweet to gross, detailing relationships, drug use, sexual experimentation, jail terms, commercial failures, deaths, and the general disorder and disarray that punk came to symbolize.  The benefit of the disjointed oral history was that if something was too much for me or too boring I would just need to wait a few pages and it would change to a different topic and a whole new viewpoint.

I had always viewed the old school punk scene as an exciting but gross period in time.  Starting to listen to music in the sanitized world of Good Charlotte pop punk and Hot Topic fashion I always looked down at the gutter punk world.  Even as I evolved and got into darker and more underground punk I was always attracted to the music and the attitude rather than the lifestyle.  Maybe it is because I am a clear and admitted poseur, but I find nothing appealing about squatter housing and shared needles.  It is shocking to read through the list of characters in the revised 20th anniversary edition and see how many of them are dead.  Overdoses, murders, hepatitis, suicide, AIDs, and various ailments of hard living decimated this group.  A majority would have been in their late 50s or 60’s, but many of them never made it that far.  It is sad to look at their fate, an entire generation of musical icons dead and gone with nothing but their legacy remaining.

This book did nothing but reinforce the fact that the early punk scene is something fun to look at but wouldn’t have been my cup of tea.  Once I got used to the choppy flow I was able to get into the story, piece together the events, and discover a whole new world that existed beyond the scope of the few main characters that I knew.  I have recently found myself listening to a lot of music from that period and feeling a whole new connection to a lot of bands that I wouldn’t have know beforehand.  It challenged my view of the narrative that we have been fed that certain types of music spring fully formed into the world and showed me that no matter how revolutionary an idea may be there is a slow creep of ideas and sounds that allow a revolution to start.  It also reinforced my view that heroin is bad.

You should read it if: You are curious about the roots of punk rock, or are interested in the idea of New York in the 70’s.

You shouldn’t bother if: You don’t have enough imagination to piece together a story of unseen and unknown characters with little information.

Biggest regret about this book: That I never went to CGBG’s or saw any of these bands perform live.

This book inspired me to: Listen to more early punk, think about other narratives of this era (i.e. thinking about reading We Got The Neutron Bomb and the photo biography of the Clash that has been my coffee table book for years), and rewatch HBO’s Vinyl which fictionalized this period in the NYC music video.

My Final Take: It was a worthwhile read, but probably not something that I will revisit.  It opened my eyes to a different world, and my ears to a more raw sound.  Hard to get into, but then hard to put down.  3.5 stars.

A Moment of Clarity: The Sobruary Effect

For the past few years I have participated in a tradition that I called Sobruary.  During those 28 (potentially 29) days I would take a break from alcohol and try to find some balance in my life.  I sold it to myself as a way to kill my tolerance, test my resolve, work my way through some issues, kickstart my spring fitness goals, and reassess what really matters to me.  It was a successful event for the past 3 years, but I have gotten to the point where I have outgrown it.  Even though I am not participating in Sobruary this year I still feel the need to write about it as I have done in the past.

Sobruary grew out of need, and was one of the trials that I feel put me on the right path.  During the winter of 2013/14 I was dealing with a lot of personal problems and tragedy and was feeling depressed.  I wasn’t happy with how things were going in my personal life, or at my new job, and how the world was unfolding around me, plus dealing with the loss of some people who I felt close to.  I was also really getting into the world of craft beer and would celebrate that by coming home from work and drinking 5 Heady Toppers by myself in my living room on a work night just because I could.  After going on a vacation where I spent far too much time bouncing between being too drunk to function and too hung over to function I felt the need for a change.  And Sobruary was born.

It was a huge challenge, but it put me on the right path, and I don’t think that it is a coincidence that over the next year I started working out, performing comedy, and writing more consistently.  Sobruary gave me that moment of clarity that many addicts talk about, where they realize what they are doing to themselves and how they can change it.  To be clear I am not an alcoholic, I have no physical or mental dependency, but I do have a bit of a social dependency where I feel much more comfortable with a drink in my hand.  This is in probably due to how I was raised, the people that I surround myself with, and my own personal preferences and social anxieties.  I rarely “need” a drink, but I often “want” a drink, and using a period of abstinence like Sobruary makes it clear that it is a choice, and if allowed me to identify the other choices that I make.

The next two years were actually harder than the first Sobruary.  I had less conviction in the mission.  I knew that it worked and was beneficial, but because I wasn’t in such a dark place personally I didn’t feel that sense of urgency that I had felt the first time.  I was also performing during those years so I was around much more temptation.  I have the utmost respect for the comics I work with who are in recovery, spending night after night in bars surrounded by temptation is a huge challenge when things are going well, but if you are having a bad day or have just bombed it feels impossible.  By this point I was also getting a lot of pushback from some of my friends who didn’t see the point in my social experiment.  If alcohol is a focal point for many of your relationships, it is hard to overcome that when you aren’t drinking.  This really put things in perspective for me about how I reacted and interacted with friends who have entered recovery or tried moving toward a sober lifestyle.  These conflicts gave me some great insights and have helped shape the decision that I made a few weeks ago that I would not be participating in Sobruary.

Right now I my relationship with alcohol is probably the healthiest it has ever been.  I drink, and I drink often, but I very rarely drink to excess.  I have cut down on the obsession about finding the rarest or hardest to find beer and stepped away from the need to “Catch ’em all.”  Drinking is part of the experience, and that experience no longer feels mandatory.  If I feel like having a beer or visiting a brewery I do it, if I don’t then I don’t feel bad about it.  I stopped shipping or “muleing” beer for all but my closest friends, and even then it is not trades, but sharing with people I care about.  I still am on a first name basis with a dozen or so Burlington bartenders, and a few places they know exactly what I am going to order, and it sure is fun to watch them squirm and make the mental switch when I order an herbal tea.

The biggest realization that I had was that I can only remember having one hang over in the past year.  Think about that, 365 days, 5 or 6 alcohol centric vacations, and the one hangover that I can remember is from a day when I went out right after work and hadn’t eaten all day before putting a dozen beers in my face.  The vacations were the biggest test, because they show that I finally found out my limits and figured out when to call it quits instead of pushing on and continue to drink past the point that needed to.  When I was in Gatlinburg last month I was the 2nd person awake both days because I felt tired and knew my limits before going to bed.  There is something to be said about waking up without an alarm refreshed and well rested without a hangover while everybody else was busy riding the struggle bus.  I also finished that trip by taking home only a few beers, not trying to get rare things, but applying an abundance mindset that no beer is the end all and be all. Recently I have even been thinking about quitting Untappd because I don’t feel like it adds much value.  I don’t enjoy pulling myself away from real life to enter things into my phone, or feeling guilty it I forget to do it, or feeling jealousy when my friends are enjoying something that I can’t have.  It isn’t healthy for me and I will probably be taking a break for a bit and deciding if it is something that I want to keep pursuing.

I am far from perfect, and I realize that while I am pretty healthy with my alcohol consumption now things will probably change.  Sobruary was a great way to explore my relationship with alcohol, and exploration of self is one of my favorite things, it even spread to a few other friends and created a bit of a community.  Some time in the future I will most likely get back on that wagon and try Sobruary again, but at this time it isn’t something that I really need.  The important thing is that I have done a fearless and searching moral inventory and found out just what works for me.

I Live Here Now: The Search For A Mantra

I often read books or listen to podcasts where highly successful people have locked into their inner dialog and have been able to identify a word or phrase that centers them and allows them to find whatever they are searching for.  Maybe it is inner peace, motivation, a sense of direction, or simply the ability to find their center of balance.  I wanted that and for a while I have been experimenting trying to find a mantra.

I experimented with some of my favorite literary passages, phrases that alluded to my favorite punk songs, lines from TV shows or movies, Sanskrit phrases from meditation texts, and even fun sounding giberish, but it always seemed forced.  I promised myself that I would be original but I got frustrated and started stealing mantras that others have used, but to no avail.  I went as far to focus on my automatic words in stressful situations so that I could identify what phrases I leaned on as a crutch.  Nothing worked and I found myself getting even more frustrated at my inability to accomplish what seemed like a simple goal, and I was almost ready to give it all up.  Then one day a few months ago I walked to my car without a hat on and rather than be upset about how cold it was the perfect mantra jumped into my brain and stopped me in my tracks.  “I live here now.”

It may sound like nothing to you, but for me it was a lightning bolt that resonated electricity through every cell.  It symbolized all my goals and my desires, the sources of my anxieties and my hubris, it gave me ownership of my path and rooted me in the present, four short words spoke volumes.  They made everything fall into place, and I have repeated them several times a day every since, because I live here now.

The words might not sound like much to you, and they don’t have to, but they definitely symbolize a lot in my life.  Beyond the physical aspect of living in Vermont in November and being cold, it summed up a lot of the decisions that I have made along the way.  I am cold because I am in Vermont, I chose to live in Vermont, so I am cold because I chose it.  Every decision I have made in the past 31 years have lead me to the point that I am at today in this moment, they have made me who I am right now so I either need to accept it or make a decision to change.  No matter what situation I am in, I am in it because of choices I have made, and I need to address the results of these choices because I live here now.

I have long struggled with being present.  I deal with a lot of anxiety and am prone to panic attacks and sleepless nights, but I also have a very good memory and spend a lot of time ruminating on the past.  Through meditation I have gotten better at finding space for the present, but it has been a huge struggle.  This mantra grounds me because it makes me take a moment to pause and center myself.  It is a reminder that I am not living in the past or in the future, there is no time to worry about either of those, there is just time to worry about the present, because I live here now.

I am not much of a feelings person, which has caused a lot of problems in my life.  Many of my default feelings are negative and I have spent years trying to bottle them up so that they don’t get out.  This leads to it’s own challenges and only recently through self improvement practices have I been able to acknowledge certain feelings and try to detach and move on.  Having this mantra allows me to realize that I am feeling certain ways, acknowledge their presence and try to move on.  It is a small pause that allows me to accept the way I feel and determine the best way to react to the situation.  Sometimes by simply taking that break and labeling the emotions they resolve themselves.  I can’t be ruled by my negative emotions, because I live here now.

Using a mantra to resolve those emotions helps me to take ownership of how I handle situations.  I am feeling nervous because someone is running late, I live here now, and there is no need to stress about the actions of others.  My boss just walked in, I live here now, and I am confident in how well I am doing my job.  I’m about to get on stage, I live here now, and the work that I have put in to build my abilities will show itself.  I get blown off by a woman I was interested in, I live here now, and its ok if she doesn’t want to be a part of my future, plus I get to learn from the experience.  My grandmother dies, I live here now, she had a good life and it was her time.  I am pissed off at my friends for playing music too loud, I live here now, and I can either make them turn it down or I can leave.  A bigot gets sworn in as president, I live here now, I can do my best to support and protect those who are at risk.  I really want a doughnut, I live here now, I can either cave in and ruin my diet or I can wait until cheat day.

Life is filled with uncomfortable situations, challenges big and small, and if it were easy then I probably wouldn’t enjoy it anyway.  Having a few simple words bouncing through my head and reminding me that everything will be ok makes it so much more worthwhile.  Using that reminder and taking those little pauses will help me to become one of those successful people.  And even if it doesn’t work out, and this whole essay was for nothing, that is ok.

I live here now.

Coffee & Where To Find It

Coffee is one of my favorite things in the world.  While I am not physically addicted to caffeine and can go days or weeks without it I am psychologically addicted to the stuff.  Coffee stirs something inside of me that makes me creative, that allows me to express myself, and fuels the work too hard and sleep too little lifestyle that I have always embraced.  Here is a breakdown of my favorite coffee shops not including any bakeries, juicebars, and breweries pouring cold brew nitro that I frequent for my coffee fix.

Onyx Tonics
Onyx is hands down my favorite coffee shop, and one of the best places to visit in Burlington.  They routinely offer 2-3 options for coffee and espresso from various micro roasters and put craft into each cup.  The space is beautiful and relies on minimalist decor, pop art decoration, and a surprisingly wonderful teal color scheme.  The staff is awesome, always funny and chipper when engaging their regulars and newcomers alike.  If you sit there for long you can also hear them talk a little bit of shit about people who have just left, which as someone who works with the public gives them authenticity, even if it means that they probably talk shit about me once I leave.  There is a lot of traffic going through there, so it isn’t the best place to read, but I do get a lot of work done there.  You will pay a higher premium for coffee at Onyx, but it is worth it.  Between the hand selected beans and brewing each cup through the siphon system you will get great coffee from good people in a fun environment.  They also do ice cream, I hear its great but I haven’t tried it.

  • Favorite: Any coffee hand made on the siphon

Williston Coffee Shop
This is my favorite coffee shop to write in.  It is brightly lit and relatively quiet, there are even outside tables for the summer weather.  The staff is super friendly and always give me a great deal if I bring my travel mug.  The coffee isn’t out of this world, it is normally a selection from Brio kept in warming carafes, but it is always hot and plentiful.  The best part about the shop is the bakery which cranks out flaky croissants and delicious cookies served at a number of other coffee shops.  Their sandwiches look very good, but I generally stick with either pastry or salad (also very good) whenever I am there.   If I have any serious stream of consciousness writing to do this is my go to spot, something about unlimited coffee refills and a nice croissant allow me to bash out 1,500 words without breaking a sweat

  • Favorite: Croissant

Scout (3 Locations)
Scout has 3 different cafes with 3 different personalities.  The Winooski (aka Victory Circle) location is the original, a nice place with a very Portlandia feel.  You can get handmade ice cream to go with your chemex for 2 (which they get disturbed when you order just for yourself).  They enjoy adding a dramatic flair for some of their drinks, like if you order the smoked maple latte a barista (probably wearing a beanie and sporting artsy tattoos) will top it with a marshmallow and broulee it before handing it over to you at one of the hand me down diner tables.  I really enjoy sitting in the window nook looking out over the Winooski Speedway, or sitting in the back and smelling the coffee being roasted by Vivid Coffee with shares the space.  The Old North End (aka ONE) location also serves ice cream, but has a lot more room.  There are a number of simple communal tables and a ton of natural light.  This is a working man’s coffee shop and you won’t have to put up with the annoying banter that most of Burlington’s coffee shops have to offer.  In fact I can’t recall hearing anybody speak more than to order, this is a get shit done place.  The Scout Innovation Center (aka Inno) is located in a multipurpose office building and serves as more of a lunch room and coffee kiosk than a real coffee shop.  I rarely see other people reading or writing there, it is more office workers passing through on their breaks.  The benefit is that this place has a full menu and you don’t have to pay for parking.

  • Favorites: Victory Circle- Chemex for 2, ONE- Latte, Inno- Salad with beets and goat cheese

Shelburne Coffee and Wine Shop
This place used to be special to me, since it was one of the landmarks that I picked out as a kid.  Whenever we were coming to Burlington we would pass by this shop and the fire hydrant art piece across the street and I would get excited knowing that we were almost there.  That being said they make good coffee too.  I don’t stop in that frequently, and when I do it is mostly just to get an espresso and read the paper before catching a ferry.  I have never bought wine here, but I should someday now that I am a grownup.

  • Favorite: Double shot espresso

Speeder and Earl’s (2 Locations)
Speeder and Earl’s was my first introduction to Burlington coffee.  When I first moved here there was an extremely cute and bubbly barista at the Church Street location who I had a crush on.  Unfortunately she never fell madly in love with me, and I never even learned her name.  Young love dies hard.  The Church street location doesn’t have much indoor seating space so I rarely go there in the winter, but during the summer the outdoor seating is prime for people watching.  I could sit there all day sipping on cold brew and watching the cross section of humanity that is Burlington in the summer.  The Pine street location is a wonderful place to read, it is warm and cozy with plenty of people getting work done and chatting.  Every time I am in there I seem to run into friends and get pulled into a fun conversation, it is a treat.

  • Favorites: Church Street- Cold brew iced coffee, Pine Street- Clockwork Orange Latte

Maglianero
It’s and art gallery, and a coffee shop, and a building lobby, and it makes much better coffee than it deserves to.  They are the only place in Burlington that I have found serves Counter Culture coffee, which is always very good.  The coffee bar is rarely used and seems to take up more space than it needs to, but it makes an impressive sight.  I do feel like the staff doesn’t appreciate that pour over is offered since every time there is a sigh when I want something that doesn’t mean a quick shot of espresso or a cup out of the pot, but I understand that.  My one gripe is about the seating arrangement since things are scattered around an art gallery.  I have a fear of sitting on a cube that I think is supposed to be a chair that actually turns out to be a piece of modern art.

  • Favorite: Pour over

Muddy Waters
I really don’t know how I feel about Muddy’s.  It is a nice enough place with a decent coffee/tea/beer/juice/kombucha selection and a mix of students/tourists/hippies, but I have never felt at home there.  I have attended several writing groups and gone on a few dates there, but something just doesn’t seem right.  Maybe because it doesn’t have wifi and is more of a gathering place than a work/read space, I really can’t get comfortable there.  It is also always crowded with the eclectic mix of people described above, I feel too old, too young, to corporate, and not enough of a sellout at the same time.

  • Favorite: Fiddlehead IPA or Mexican Hot Chocolate

Uncommon Grounds
I am not a fan of this place, not based on the coffee, but based on the crowds.   It is always crowded and there is a tremendous wait for coffee and tables.  They do have a great tea selection which is nice, but it is a hassle to enjoy it.  Places like this were the best thing that coffee had to offer for 15 or 20 years, but have since been out shined by newcomers, which is kind of a shame.  It is a venerable standby in a crowded market, but based on the crowds and the wait they are doing ok, so I don’t feel bad about taking my business elsewhere most of the time.

  • Favorite: Irish Breakfast Tea (Does not actually contain whiskey, which based on the name it should)

Radio Bean:
I hate Radio Bean as a coffee shop.  Sure it is a nice bar, and a great performance space, and the restaurant next door is awesome, but if doesn’t do anything special for coffee and too counterculture (the movement, not the coffee brand) for its own good.  Unless you are lounging around reading books of obscure poetry you will be treated poorly by staff and patrons alike.  After several bad experiences I won’t go back during daylight.

  • Favorite: Chicken and Waffles from the restaurant that shares the space.

Starbucks (3 stores and a Barnes and Noble)
Is it snobbish of me to look down my nose at Starbucks people while they look down their noses at Dunkin people?  I used to drink a lot of espresso and got used to burnt beans, but now I have seen the light and there is no going back, snobbish or not.

  • Favorite: I still love the damn Gingerbread Latte

Nomad Coffee (Currently Essex, but anywhere they damn please)
Its a food truck, but with coffee.  I normally judge a cafe by the quality of the coffee (roaster, options, specialty drinks), the quality of the experience (staff, fellow customers), and the space (seating, light, noise).  In that case, the coffee is good but the truck limits the options, the staff is nice but I have never seen any other customers, and the space has no seating options and gets cold in the winter and warm in the summer, there is plenty of natural light.  I like the idea of the place as a coffee enthusiast, but as someone who enjoys working in coffee shops it leaves a lot to be desired.

  • Favorite: Large Coffee (preferably Brio)

 

Outside Chittenden County

  • Vermont Coffee Company, Middlebury: Factory store with great take home coffee deals, decent food, and communal tables, my go to place when visiting Midd.
  • Espresso Bueno, Barre: Good espresso drinks, decent tea selection, fabulous staff, turns into a bar at night, and hosts multiple comedy shows each month, what isn’t to like?
  • PK Coffee, Stowe: Right next to the Alchemist brewery, CounterCulture coffee on pour over, and a very nice maple latte, its a great place to fuel up for a beer adventure.
  • The Coffee Exchange, Rutland: I have never had coffee here since whenever I can get Stewarts coffee I do so, but they have a very good tea selection and support local music and comedy so they make the list.

This is not an exhaustive list, and there are plenty of places that I have yet to try or have not been to often enough to pass judgement.  Vermont has become a hotbed of coffee activity, with multiple roasters and fancy coffee shops popping up all over, even in tiny out of the way towns.  Hopefully this culture will continue to grow and I will continue to be very awake all the time.

2017 Goals

I am a checklist person, an overachiever, a doer, and setting my goals and intentions for the year is a much better option than making resolutions.  Yes I know that it is just an arbitrary period of time randomly assigned during the rotation of a big rock, but having a set time frame helps to monitor growth.  Here we go.

Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

  • Ask for help: I am terrible at asking for help, and am too stubborn to admit that I need it.  A few weeks ago I got drunk and asked someone I barely know to explain a kind of embarrassing situation I found myself in and was ashamed.  Not because I had aired my dirty laundry, or that I basically sought free therapy, or that I let my guard down, but because I asked.  The other things don’t embarrass me, asking for help does.  I am probably going to have to move to a new apartment in a few months and I am already nervous about asking two of my closest friends, who I have known for over a decade to help me move.  That is no way to live life.  This year I will ask for help more often, and in more targeted ways rather than just crowdsourcing.
  • Get nervous: My favorite feeling in the world occurs during the moments before a fight.  Those few seconds where you know what you have done to train and you trust yourself, but the outcome is still uncertain.  I get this weird paradoxical sense of peace in those moments, and while I don’t fight anymore I used to get that feeling before going on stage before a big show.  Last year I only felt that way a few times and I miss it.  This year I will put myself in more situations that push my limits and test my meddle, because if you aren’t scared you aren’t doing it right.
  • Go from zero to one: I can learn to do anything.  It sounds arrogant, but I firmly believe that once I set my mind to something I can accomplish it.  I will never be world class at anything, but I can be at least average across the population, the key is getting started.  This year I will try more new things, see where I can take them and where they will take me.
  • Live uncomfortable: Last summer I suffered through a severe bout of insomnia, but the best night I sleep I got was on a camping trip where I crashed for 9 hours on an air mattress.  This wasn’t a quiet relaxing camping trip to the woods, it was at a beer festival on uneven brewery ground and my friends kept setting off an air raid siren 20 feet from my tent.  This inspired me to spend more time in uncomfortable situations.  I have been dabbling with cold showers, trying to sleep on the floor, and finding ways to make myself more resilient by adjusting my routines.  This year I will spend more time being physically uncomfortable and becoming more resilient in order to become tougher and better.

Love The Sound Of Silence

  • Less podcasts: I love podcasts because they are great for pumping my brain full of information during my downtime, but I think I went too far.  I have listened to thousands of episodes of dozens of podcasts and it is stressing me out.  When I don’t update my app for a few days and then there are 15 new episodes I get anxious because there is so much to listen to.  When I get all caught up I get anxious because there is nothing left to listen to.  It is a vicious cycle, so I am going to drop a few podcasts that I don’t really enjoy, and try not to pick up any new ones unless there is something that really sparks my interest.  This year I will listen to less podcasts and give my mind some room to process the information that is already in there.
  • More music: This sounds counterintuitive under a silence header, but I miss music.  I used to love it, but now I probably listen to less than one album a week.  I want to change that.  This year I will listen to more music, explore new bands, and broaden my horizons, I will also attend more concerts and support more local musicians.
  • More meditation: I have a pretty good meditation practice, but I want to get better.  I also want to spend more time in the isolation tanks and get some formal instruction on meditation rather than just teaching myself.  This year I will meditate more often and for longer periods using different techniques. 
  • Better books: I love books, but even great books aren’t great for everybody all the time.  I have a habit of forcing my way through a book even though it doesn’t interest me and isn’t enjoyable.  This year I will get better at walking away from books that just aren’t doing it for me, just because someone recommended it to me or it has been on my shelf for years doesn’t mean that I need to punish myself.

Make Good Art

  • Create daily: I heard someone say that they may not write every day, and they may not take photos every day, but they certainly take time to create every day.  This year I will take at least a few moments to knowingly create something every day.
  • Write good jokes: My material is boring.  All my jokes are about beer, and my terrible dating skills, and coffee, and Vermont, and these things are my life but it doesn’t make them interesting.  This year I will write more poignant material that makes more of an impact.
  • Paint better: Painting is a fun new obsession of mine, but I am terrible at it.  Aptitude doesn’t determine how much you enjoy things, but we all like to bask in the glory of the things we do well.  This year I will paint more, take classes on painting, and watch Bob Ross on Netflix.
  • Write more:  Inspiration is patchy, routines make writers block go away.  The only way that you can get better at writing is by writing, and I need to do more of that.  It doesn’t need to be good or even be published, but it needs to be words on a page.  This year I will write more, write better, and finally learn what an Oxford comma is.
  • Have independent thought: I love quotations, and I litter them in a lot of my writing.  Even if I am not directly quoting I put in a lot of “Easter Eggs” of song lyrics or album titles.  Much of my writing is littered with paragraphs that quote both dead philosophers and punk songs and it is stupid.  A few people might get either of the references but nobody gets both and it sounds forced and weird.  I also hate spitting out an amalgamation of other people’s thoughts instead of having my own ideas or phrasing.  This year I will quote less and be quoted more.
  • Either learn to use Twitter or get off it: I hate Twitter, but it does seem like a useful tool.  Who am I kidding, this year I will delete Twitter.

If It Isn’t A Hell Yes Then Its A No

  • Make less money: This sounds counter intuitive for a New Years Goal, but I make extra money for working overtime, which generally isn’t fun.  Hopefully cutting down will help me reform my workaholic lifestyle.  This year I will say no to as many overtime shifts as possible and I won’t feel guilty about it. 
  • Buy less: I want to fight against my own consumerism.  I own a lot of things and have upgraded a lot of my basic stuff, I don’t need more.  Needing the newest gadget or impulse buying something that may be worthwhile without doing research has always been a weakness for me.  This year I will put sincere thought into the things that I purchase and will only place Amazon orders once every 2 weeks in order to cut down on impulse buying.
  • Make friendships great again: I have been neglecting a lot of my friends and I miss them.  I have also been putting up walls and not letting new friends in.  I need to be a better communicator and reach out to more of my friends, but it cannot be unilateral, I also need to be there and respond when others reach out to me.  For new people I often hide behind the veil of time.  Just because these people haven’t been with me for a decade doesn’t mean that they have less to offer.  This year I will reach out to one of my longtime friends each week, I will also try to have a meaningful conversation with a newer friend each week.  I will be open and responsive when people reach out to me.
  • Burn some bridges: Not all friendships are worthwhile and sometimes you need to cut negative and toxic people out of your life.  I have always been good at burning bridges and over time have figured out which ones I need to burn in order to light the way.  This year I will not waste as much time on people who are a negative influence on me, and will be straightforward enough to address the issue head on rather than passively shying away from it.  I probably won’t be able to do this without seeming like an asshole, but if someone is toxic to me then why should I care what they think.

Quantified Self

  • Get smaller: This year I will weigh myself every weekday and track my progress.  Tracked with MyFitnessPal.
  • Walk more: This year I will continue to walk 5 miles a day for as many days as possible, “I don’t feel like doing it” is not an acceptable excuse.  Tracked with Fitbit.
  • Eat better: This year I will eat better and track my calories more frequently and will try to get better at portion control.  Tracked with MyFitnessPal.
  • Drink more: This year I will try to expand my palate by trying new beer styles and branching out from old standards.  Tracked with Untappd.
  • Get on stage: This year I will get on stage 100 times, and make more money than I did last year.  Tracked on my wall calendar.
  • Formalize the best routine: This year I will experiment with little habits and see what works the best for me.  By getting a checklist of 5-10 things that help me win the day I will be able to weed out bad days and make myself more productive.  Tracked with Habits.

Some of these goals are specific, others are general.  Most of them are long term habit changes that won’t happen over night, but I mark any progress as a success.  I know that it isn’t realistic to achieve them all, but as long as I try to make myself a little better every day then this year will be a success.  Happy 2017.