Asheville, The Art of War and Cheryl Strayed

IMG_7658I started writing this from the Chili’s across from the Comfort Inn we’re staying at in Dentsville, South Carolina tonight.

The kids are staring at me after I just scolded them for replying to the waitress with their typical “ya,” or barely discernible grunt meant to infer  that yes, they would indeed like fries with their burger.

“This is the South, where people are polite, and when they ask you if you want fries with your burger, you say yes please,” I told them.

They replied with those barely discernible grunts meant to infer that they indeed understood what I was saying.

After a long evening with Jon in Cincinnati, I was up early, as is my usual habit. I showered, dressed and sat in bed for a while waiting to wake my sleeping wife and kids.

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Cincinnati: Under the Rhine

We were going to blow through Cincinnati after a short beer stop with my buddy Jon.

We’d make our way down to Lexington and have a short hop over to Asheville in the morning.

But we met at the Rhinegeist, which felt good in the way a creative spot feels good. The brewery in a massive industrial space filled with people celebrating the end of a workweek and the upcoming holidays.

The beer was phenomenal, and catching up with one of my dearest friends was too easy in the way that makes a new place feel homey kind of way.

The kids played corn hole, ping pong and fusbal while the adults caught up, and we all waited for the pizzas Jon ordered.

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When your son wants to open a Scotch and Cigar bar in Brooklyn

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.15.14 PMDinner is a rush of passed dishes, clanking silverware and clinking glasses filled to the top with skim milk, or, perhaps wine.

Once we settle into our food and conversation, we usually meander casually around everyone’s daily experiences or football, to which my wife and daughter roll their eyes and try desperately to change the subject.

Last night Carson opened the evening with this one –

“I want to open a Scotch and cigar bar in Brooklyn.”

It’s not the most surprising thing he’s ever said.

But it made me smile, because he had no fear of putting himself out there on the line for judgement and ridicule, which families are exceedingly good at doling out.

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My friend Kenny

The 303Kenny sat by me on the train tonight.

“How’s that phone working out for you?” he asked.

“Fine, fine,” I said.

“That the six?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You have an iPad too, right?”

“Yes, but I forgot it at home today, so I’m working on my phone instead,” I replied.

“That must be nice,” he said, smiling knowingly.

I don’t know Kenny, but I sort of do.

I’ve been watching him work his social magic on the forward train car on the 5:30 train from LaSalle to Blue Island almost every night since October.

You see, every train car has its own culture, and I spent most of September and part of October trying all the cars out on the 303 to see which culture I fit into.

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A Diversity of Friends

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 12.07.39 AM

I can’t quite conjure up my earliest memory any more. I can go back to my sister’s birth in Austria in 79, which would put me at about five years old.

I remember the castle we lived in at the foot of the Rax mountains, and I remember the school that I went to before it burned to the ground after someone left a candle burning all night.

When our family left Austria in the early 80s, it was during my awakening, or so I call it. A time I can remember and which was formative for me.

Growing up as the son of missionaries working in Eastern Europe certainly left an impression deep in my heart, but moving to an Armenian neighborhood in Pasadena, California was a very different life than the one I was used to.

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Lilyhammer: Imperfect Television at its Best

Lilyhammer Season 3 Finale
Lilyhammer Season 3 Finale

I don’t review much. Mostly because I hate reading reviews.

Very seldom does something line up the same way for reviewers and critics and myself.

Life is frenetic, and as a journalist, I’m too often caught up in the spider web of pop culture and hard news, trying to dissect the edible morsels for the ravenous public.

So when I want to unwind with something entertaining, I want it to be ridiculous, far from either my own experience or the realities I have access to.

It was 2012, the snowiest year on record in Anchorage, Alaska. My wife was working nights at a local Applebees, and I was trying to come down from the highs of covering both the Iditarod, the 1,000-mile sled dog race and the Iron Dog, a 2,000-mile snow machine race.

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You Can Hack This Life. But Should You?

http://www.menlivingwithmeaning.com/l/training/

My feeds are constantly full of great life hacks.

50 Life Hacks to Make Your Life Easier

99 Life Hacks to Make Your Life Easier 

10 Essential Ways to Hack Your Life

1000 Life Hacks

And that’s just the first four of more than 28 million results for the search query “how to hack this life.”

As my two boys walk through their teenage years, I’ve been thinking about the loss of the rites of passage rituals that defined the jump from boyhood to manhood for so much of human history.

Good or bad, these tests offered boys the chance to pass through their worst fears, through struggle and pain and indecision alone and without aid.

Which, in and of itself, is an interesting concept.

You see, life as we know it today is actually a great hack.

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What my daughter sees in fairy tales

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 1.58.02 PMMy wife and I watched Maleficent last night, and I found myself overly annoyed at the lack of redeemable male characters. Not heroes, mind you, but just decent human beings in the form of men.

And that got me thinking about what my daughter will see when I watch it with the kids tonight for Saturday Dinner and a Movie.

I’ve been reading princes stories to my daughter for the last year or so. We started with George MacDonald’s princess stories, The Light Princess, The Princess and the Goblin, The Princess and Curdie and we went through all the traditional princess from the Brothers Grimm to Disney.

It’s partly because she’s eight, and she loves princess stories. It’s partly because I want to understand the message these stories are portraying so I can help her process them in our current age. I did not grow up hearing princess stories, so it’s a discovery process for both of us.

And it’s partly because the world is obsessed with fairy tales right now. Or perhaps it always has been.

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The Narrative

Screen Shot 2014-10-26 at 12.17.16 PMWe’re all suckers for great storytelling.

It’s what we’ve been doing for the better part of 10,000 years.

We’re either telling or listening. We’re attuned to the narrative of our existence as interpreted by others and broadcast back to us in one form or another.

It’s how we understand one another. It’s also how we fail to understand one another. The subtleties of our lives lost in translation, as it were.

We look for the narrative in everything. Seeking it like truth or a map legend or a rubric.

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The Art of Staying In Bed All Day

in-bed-all-dayWe stayed in bed all day watching Netflix movies and reading books in between the movies.

Call it recovery from our first big house party in a few years, where we dipped into the cellar and made like Jesus, serving the best last late into Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

I got up and made breakfast for the friends who stayed until the bitter end and then stayed the night.

We ate omelettes with leftover pulled pork and sharp cheddar cheese with salsa and avocado. I made them strong coffee, and we watched some television together before they left for their Sunday activities.

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"THE WORLD BREAKS EVERYONE, AND AFTERWARD, SOME ARE STRONG AT THE BROKEN PLACES." – HEMINGWAY