1. Listen, here’s my philosophy on life.

    You’ve gotta be tough.
    Mentally tough.
    Not because life is painful or out to get you, but because life is uncertain.
    It never goes the way you planned and that can make it feel like it’s never going your way, but this is simply not true.
    There is no such thing as your way, there is only life.
    And the sooner you accept that the easier it is to move on.
    That’s what it means to be tough - to move on.
    This doesn’t just apply to the huge life-changing moments either.
    Tough shit happens every day.
    Every adversity gets that toughness hard and worn like leather and you learn to move on.
    You learn to be tough.
    And the key to it all?
    It’s not grit or fortitude or confidence.
    Toughness comes from gratitude.
    Tough is grateful in all things.
    Tough has to choose between a rock and a hard place and is grateful for having a choice.
    Tough isn’t sure what’s next, but is damn grateful it’s alive to find out.
    Tough thanks the past and moves on. 
    The moment you stop being grateful is the moment you start being a little bitch. 
    Stay thankful. Stay tough. 

     


  2. Sometimes a Man

    Sometimes a man gets everything he wants
    and sometimes he wants to give it back.
    Sometimes a man puts the crazy ideas to bed
    and sometimes his thoughts won’t sleep.

    Sometimes a man believes in himself
    and sometimes he pines for a god.
    Sometimes a man lives in fear of a reckoning
    and sometimes a man lives free. 

    Sometimes a man feels he’s wasted his life
    and sometimes he shrugs it off.
    Sometimes a man cannot suffer injustice
    and sometimes he lets it be.

    Sometimes a man loves the woman he loves
    and sometimes he wishes he hadn’t.
    Sometimes a man wants to lay down strong roots
    and sometimes a man wants to flee. 

    Sometimes a man is at peace with himself
    and sometimes his other half wins.                         
    Sometimes a man feels all of these things
    and sometimes that man is me. 

     


  3. Limbo

    image

    He parked the car and lightly grabbed her wrist as she unbuckled the seatbelt.

    "Hold on," he said, "this is the best part."

    They sat frozen while the last two notes of the song played. He gave her wrist a gentle squeeze then let go.

    "So good," she said.

    "Ok, now we can go. Time to drink," he said.

    They stepped out to fresh snow fluttering about - thick flakes, the ones that lingered in the air and feathered down hanging on to the spaces in-between. They walked silently into the diner and headed for the back corner booth. 

    "How is this table always open for us?" she asked. 

    He leaned in and whispered, “Fate.” 

    "Yeah it is. Three times now," she replied. 

    She widened her eyes with playful excitement. He returned the look and they laughed.

    They settled into opposite sides of the booth as a blonde waitress arrived dressed in white. ”How yall doin? Can I get yall anything to drink? It’s cold out there isn’t it?” she asked. 

    "I’ll have a vodka tonic," she said.

    "A double scotch - neat, for me please. That should warm me up."

    "That it? Anything to eat tonight, darlin?" the waitress asked him. 

    "No, thank you. Just the drinks for now please," he said. 

    The waitress walked away and the two turned back to watch the snow through the window. He caught her reflection in the glass and could see her eyes were tired. He wanted to be needed. She caught him staring. He lowered his head and winked his eyebrows up and down. 

    She laughed. “Stupid…!” 

    She turned to face him and let out a small sigh. 

    "What am I gonna do when you leave?" she asked. 

    "You know I’ll still be around." he said

    She looked square into his eyes. “Not really. It’ll just be me by myself again. Alone again.” 

    "It won’t be that bad. It’s not like we’ll stop talking," he said.

    "I know. I’m just sick of being alone. It’s the worst." She looked away as the waitress returned with their drinks.    

    He sipped his scotch and held it, letting it coat his mouth before speaking.

    "There are worse things than being alone," he said.

    "Like what?" she asked.

    "Like being torn between two," he said.

    She looked away, back out the window, watching the flight of snowflakes on the night’s canvas. 

    He lost her eyes, but continued. “There’s nothing worse than two loves. Neither can know the whole truth. Neither can have all of you. Neither are getting what they deserve. You’re in limbo between them. Alone.”

    She glanced back at him. “Whatever. You still get to go home to someone.”

    "True. But for what?" he asked. "To fantasize about the other? To go half the way with both? It’s beyond loneliness. It’s guilt and regret hanging between two hearts and you face it alone."

    He blinked hard twice and averted his eyes back out the window.   

    "There are worse things than being alone," he said. 

    They sat and watched the snow. He took another drink - bigger this time.

    It was 11:43 and his wife was expecting him home. 

     


  4. image

    Hey there, Kid.
    One day you’re gonna grow up to have a head the size of a watermelon. Sure, you’ll have a good three decades with a nice thick head of hair in a variety of faux-hawk designs before it’s all said and done, but make no mistake: your face will be the size of a fucking deep dish pizza after puberty. Blame your dad. You’ll try try to blame him for other things too, like your lack of direction in choosing a meaningful career or your impulsive desire to quit everything at the earliest sign of any adversity or discomfort, but trust me, you have only yourself to blame for that. Revel in these bowl-coiffed times, child; they are some of your best. You can actually jog 30 feet without sucking air like you’ve just been tossed from a wave. You’re still an overachiever. You won’t believe the obnoxious little piss ant clown you become in seventh grade and you’ll kick yourself when you see that SAT score; let’s just say you barely crack four figures. Spoiler alert.

    Yeah, it’s disappointing, I know. Get used to it. That might be the defining word of your adult life. Not because life has let you down. You did. You’ll spend most of your nights wondering what the fuck happened and what might have been had you stuck with it longer, ate fewer carbs, and applied yourself now and again. But hey, tough shit. Oh and did I mention the crippling depression that will come and go? Yeah, brace yourself. Don’t worry, you don’t actually have anything to be depressed about, but you won’t be able to help yourself. And the older you get, the more you’ll think you have a handle on it while being completely confused by it. You’ll call yourself a talentless piece of shit and then stay in bed until the guilt of never having left the bed keeps you there another 12 hours or so. Have fun with that.

    In about 20 years, you’ll fancy yourself a shrugging writer with a beautiful wife and dog. You’ll live a modest life with earnest ambitions, but you’re really quite clueless; a wandering underachiever still searching for something worth trying for. You won’t find it. But man, the weather in California is gorgeous. You’re gonna love the burritos too. Just look in the mirror (but not with your shirt off. Never with your shirt off!). Before you know it, it’ll be time for you to have a smiling little bowl-cut pumpkin of your own. And you’ll realize that all of your big dreams are just that. Dreams. You’ve been a lazy son of a bitch who can’t figure out what he’s supposed to do. You wanna do something meaningful with your life? Right. I’m sure selling advertising is the way to do it, asshole.

    But hey, it’s not all bad. Actually, it’s mostly great. You’ll have had no real personal tragedies in life. And you’ll laugh a lot more than you do anything else. The video games are pretty sweet as time goes on and wait ‘til you try weed for the first time. Jesus. Speaking of which, don’t worry about all that. It goes away in your late 20s and never comes back. Try harder at other things. Your knowledge of the Gospel of John is surprisingly useless. Trust me.

    All bullshit aside, life is good. It’s a weird balance of unspeakably awful tragedy and heart-warming triumphs of humanity, but the scales tend to tip towards the good most of the time. Except on Sundays - the Redskins will ruin your life.

    It’s a good life you’ve got coming, kid. Just keep that smile on your face and take comfort knowing the french fries only taste sweeter and sweeter with each passing year. They double fry them (Belgian style) at a few places and it will blow your mind. Spoiler alert.

     


  5. Days Like Today

    image

    There’s a certain and particular searching that comes with every tragedy. A search for answers. Culprits and motives. A search for hope and silver linings. It happens every time, and sadly, more often, as history degrades into nothing but a series of explosions and attacks. We send out prayers and thoughts for the affected. We donate blood and shed tears. We imagine ourselves in the shoes of others and get angry, or sad, or just plain tired. Why do we react this way? With empathy and compassion, no matter how self-centered their origin?

    Maybe it’s the only thing that keeps us going.

    Maybe empathy is our reminder that for every tragedy, there is a legion of good. For every injured, a hundred caregivers. For every death, a nation of mourners. For every threat, an army of defenders. For every act of terror, a thousand calls for justice. For every evil act, a million voices to declare, “No. That’s not okay.”

    And that’s the only thing that gets me by on days like today. We outnumber the rotten. We don’t win every round, but we will always have the numbers. Even on days where answers are few and chaos seems to be holding the reins, the good are still winning. Healing, fighting, sleuthing, guarding, weeping, praying, hugging, and holding each other up. We are living, and for as long as that’s true, we will be winning. And that’s the only thing that gets me by on days like today.

     

  6. Fall 1998. Frederick, MD. 

     


  7. to live

    to live is to pass time.
    to be happy is a state of mind
    that comes with knowing what you want
    and the games played to attain them.
    so put your face on.
    mount up. stretch.
    run yourself ragged ‘til your legs give out and your mind clears
    enough to reveal the fog of lies that surrounds you. 
    a smog filled dew of greed and sleaze 
    in the so-called city of angels.

    to live is to move on
    to be happy is to get along
    friending her, toasting him,
    and singing on key to a song you hate.
    better a clown than a malcontent.
    better a shy chick than a grown ass woman deeply afflicted,
    wounded and lonely.
    carry on
    like the baggage you heel whenever you sleep
    or wince or smirk or grimace or squint
    down a path the leads nowhere and further away.
    to live is to be remembered.
    remember that.
    not to outlive or to love or to pander,
    and especially not to cross a checkered line marked up or down at the gate,
    but to leave a mark before you get there.
    to live is to be remembered.
    remember that.

     

  8. Pasadena, CA. 12.16.12.

    Sunday Night in America

    It had been three days since the shooting. A massacre of twenty. Our most precious twenty. Precious in the way we all understand it - little plots of joy and promise, life beaming from their round little eyes and toothfairy smiles. It had been three days and life had already moved on.

    A buddy and I were sitting behind a platter of chips and salsa, a diet coke and two beers on the table. We were there to watch the Niners play the Patriots and eat wings. This was America. Every table brimming with chicken bones and beer, fat guys in Brady jerseys and plumpy girls slurring between sips. The place was loud and crowded for a regular season game. So too was Foxboro, the field still hazy on TV from the pregame fireworks. I was in my element: propped up on a tall chair surrounded by a sea of tables too small for grown men, each one littered with cardboard coasters and table tents offering Double-Fudge Chocolate Cake to people who’ve clearly never said no to chocolate or cake or double-fudge anything.

    And then the President appeared. First on two screens, then on twenty. The two big screens went to the President last. I slowly bit into a tortilla chip. The place went quiet as he began: “Scripture tells us, ‘do not lose heart…’” There was no movement. There was silence, but one without reverence or reflection. Like the kind a mother receives from a scolded child - a half hearted show of compliance, almost a taunt, really. As the President spoke, I began to feel the twinge of pain in my chest again. The devastation of even one child lost was unimaginable - much less twenty. I welled up and felt a sigh leave my lungs.

    Not more than five minutes into his remarks, one of the big screens switched back to the game. Time’s up, POTUS. A football game on mute on one side, a somber Obama on the other. It was a gradual change in mood and an awkward one. The President’s speech a perverse soundtrack for the first quarter of Niners-Pats. A handful of booths began to murmur. Hot sauce painted hands raised mugs. Waitresses resumed their duties in sync. Eventually, half the place found its legs again. And with game still on mute it let out an unadulterated pigskin-loving, guacamole-sucking roar after every big play - very much to the disapproval of those still tuned in to the memorial service. 

    This was Sunday Night in America. Tragedy and escape. Real world grief and gridiron delight. Had we moved on or just repressed our hurt? Is football a disgrace in the wake of national heartache or a symbol of our best and truest qualities? I didn’t know. I still don’t.

    We live on a tattered spectrum of empathy and impulse. Where hard-earned wisdom goes head-to-head with deliberate ignorance. And the beauty of our country is that a real and honest slice of her lives in every bar, stadium, school, and home on any given night. Our diversity of spirit, values, and culture present in every microcosmic bubble. I wish there was a right or wrong way to spend that Sunday night, but there wasn’t. In hindsight, there still isn’t. It’s gray matter and it damned well might be the definition of freedom - or at least our brand of it. That and every Sunday night in America we’re free to choose who, what, and where we are. We might fight and fiddle over who’s right or wrong, but that’s exactly the point isn’t it? We’re a country that strives to lift up and live out ideals, but find ourselves in limbo more often than not. And though I’m left bewildered that life can run the gamut from unspeakable tragedy to happy hour wings in a matter of hours, it is who we are. Free to deal with life the way we think or feel we should deal with life. So, three days after a national tragedy, when a mourning president and a football game are shown on split screens in front of us we get to lean the way we wish. It’s gray matter. And in no way is that a judgment. If anything, it’s an acceptance.

     

  9.  

  10. Look at my dog. Just look at him. And love him.

    Brought to you by Chipotle. 

     

  11. yall play too much. quit playin. 

    From my incredibly talented friend: Chris Berry, Art Director, yall.  

     

  12. Santa Monica, CA. 10.18.12.
    Contentment is a strange place. I’m sitting on a beach, happy. Healthy. Alive. I used to sit in these spots and yearn. For an old love or a new one. A new job. A new city. New passion. Inspiration. Luck. Change. Anything else to make the present life feel inadequate. Not today. Not now. In this moment, all that self-pity is gone. Happiness is a warm sunset.

    I could still go for some beef jerky though. 

     


  13. Life is Weird: Our Bizarro Wedding

    So I saw this on Buzzfeed today about finding your bizarro wedding. It’s a simple enough game: google [“john and eunice” wedding] and look for the first wedding that comes up. What I found was uncanny.

    The first page that pops up on my search is this one

    Yes, another couple named John and Eunice, but the similarities don’t end there:

    1. Korean Americans
    2. Deeply religious Christians (at the time of nuptials, anyway)
    3. Majority of their dating relationship was long-distance (6/7 yrs for them, 3/4 yrs for us)
    4. Brides in casual white footwear (Toms for them, Flip Flops for us)
    5. Guys in sports apparel at the reception (NBA jerseys for them, Redskins for us)
    6. Six bridesmaids. Six groomsmen. 
    7. She was in grad school, while he was working.
    8. Lived in Pasadena, CA
    9. Life is weird.


    I feel so unoriginal right now. 

     


  14. A Few Words on Fear

    It always comes back to fear. Every decision about who we are and what we do, is driven by fear. It precedes everything from how we dress to who we marry (or why we don’t). We wade through life so damned scared. What will others think? What if I look stupid? What if she leaves me? What if I can’t find something better?

    Fear is why he won’t put a ring on it. Fear is why you can’t leave your shitty ass job. Fear is why your client is being a raging bitch. Fear is why you don’t get what you want. Fear is why committees exist. Fear is why you can’t be yourself. Fear is why. 

    Life is dictated by fear and living is but a series of actions to overcome it. 

    Fear of judgment. Fear of failure. Fear of loss. Fear of uncertainty. This is what we face. And when it comes to life’s big decisions, too often we clam up. We settle on safe and boring because of “what if?” We mistakenly believe life is safe and boring. It’s not. Nothing worth anything is ever safe and boring; besides, maybe, sleep. Life is the stuff that happens between the safe and boring sleeps. Life requires courage, because fear is all around once you get out of bed. 

    Fear itself is neutral; the good or bad is in our response. When facing fear, choose the path that requires stupid, brash, unapologetic courage. It will be rewarded. 

    Lastly, remember that misery will always be there. If you are in misery and afraid to climb out, remember misery does not move. Misery can always be Plans B-Z. Should you fail, you can always go back to her. She’ll be waiting there, her sweaty hands reaching out of her soiled overalls, inviting you to move back in beneath her pale skin folds. That’s gross. 

     


  15. The most amazing thing about life is that it’s nothing more than a compilation of moments. Some which are beyond our control, dictated by fortune and fate, and others which are bended to our will. The moments are all we have; the only thing that separate us from the dead. The moments are how we measure life. Live large.