December 31, 2006

The Ferrari is like a rite of passage here for new money. You buy one at 26, flip it for a gray Lexus or Infiniti, and then you drive gray sedans the rest of your life. I keep mine because I can’t afford anything else at the moment, and I can’t afford the capital gains taxes if I sold it. I should get one of those “Don’t laugh: At least it’s paid for” bumper stickers. Nobody would appreciate the irony that I’m holding on by my teeth.

Microsurfs, Douglas Coupland

December 19, 2006

I've been keeping a list of the things that you see in the Midwest that you don't see in LA. Here's what I have so far:

*Free Parking
*Clouds :)
*Big Houses...that aren't broken up into tiny apartments
*The 30 by 30 club - I'm not sure if your familiar with this club, but it's pretty popular. Or you may think its about Baseball. But really it's all the people that put on 30 pounds by the age of 30.

December 15, 2006

Entry7_Just landed in Chicago. I'm sitting in Terminal 2 and already feel sick about buying internet time. Just so we're straight, this post cost me around $1.23.

The F in concourse F stands for Fox.

I’ve been here 20 minutes and I’m already in foreign territory. The accent is different. The clothing is different. The whole feel of the place is, of course, something I’m very used to having spent more than half my life living within a five-hour drive of this terminal. I’ve been out for three and a half years and it’s clear I no longer belong here. I keep thinking of those Kanye lyrics and wondering if I was restless in the Midwest.

December 12, 2006

Entry6_I’ve been walking to the gym lately. It’s 1.1 miles each way. I take Green Street, which means there’s less noise and fewer pedestrians. I’m finding the 40 minutes of walking good for my soul. Sometimes I reflect on my day. Other times I think about my life, friends and family. But most of the time I’m busy playing that game where you can’t step on any lines in the sidewalk. Like I said, it’s been good for my soul.

December 8, 2006

Entry5_I'm watching South Park. It's the first time I've ever watched one all the way through. The little kids are building a ladder to heaven to see there friend Kenny who died. The government gets involved and decides that Saddam is in heaven builing nuclear weapons. Bush then goes to Capitol Hill and calls for the US to bomb heaven. In the end, they decide that heaven is more an idea than a reality in the sky. That instead of trying to get to heaven, they need to "bring heaven to earth." Have Trey Parker and the South Park gang been reading N.T. Wright? Or is this just good humanism?

December 7, 2006

Entry4_I’ve had green beans every day for the last 3 weeks. But apparently, vegetables from a can don’t count as much. I say it’s still better than my alternative. Peanut M&Ms.

I’m 27 and I already feel like I’m in a weekly fight with getting’fat. Sometimes I swear He is lurking around every corner looking to invade and occupy. Especially in those places around my waist. I try to reason with Him. At least head for my calves or even my hands would do.

I refuse to get fat. And as long as I can control my body, I’m going to stay healthy. How hard is it to eat healthy and exercise daily? Seriously. If I can’t do that, what else can I do?

December 6, 2006

Entry3_My pre-bed ritual goes something like this (and may or may not include brushing my teeth): I turn off all the lights in our studio apartment. Then I put some music on over the iMac. Tonight it’s got some Christmas flavor. Namely Remy Zero singing “Some Day At Christmas” and John Lennon singing “Happy Christmas” with the Harlem community Choir (often though, it’s something like “Everything’s Not Lost” by Coldplay). I turn on the fan to divert the noise that’s all around our building. These nights I turn on the heater because I think it gets down to around 50 degrees at night and we don’t have central heating. I sadly unplug the Christmas tree. Finally, Kari and I look at each other and discuss a time we’d like to wake up. Usually it’s a ridiculously early time like 9:30am. Then we crawl into the cave where our bed is. Some nights, after about a half an hour, I quietly crawl out of bed and read, which is a common act for most S.O.F.M.S’s.

Spouses of Former Mono Sufferers.

December 5, 2006

Entry2_We put up our Christmas tree tonight. Big Lots provided this artificial, six-feet tall beauty (the last 2 feet is one single little branch). It was $12.99. That was a year ago. We haven’t been back since. Christmas always feels a little fabricated until we go “home” for Christmas. I think it will be like this until we have more than one kid in the house and the little person is at least seven. Note: The fabrication ends near 2020.

I drove to West Hollywood. It’s Sunday, which means the traffic is bearable. The 134 Freeway leads to Laurel Canyon Drive, which takes you over the Hollywood Hills and dumps you onto the Sunset Strip. The drive is a little like driving in a foreign country for the first time (unless that country is India or 43 other countries). Studio City is trapped in the 1980’s (think strip malls and 3-story stucco apartments). The Hills are drooped with remnants of the 60’s freedom and the 00’s wealth (think floor to ceiling windows). I bet every major Hollywood player has made the trip over the Hills. Who cares. At least that’s what I told myself as we drove. One three-bedroom place on the hill was selling for $899,000. Say you want to put 10% down. You’re looking at $90,000.

November 26, 2006

Entry1_It's 2:07am on Sunday and I'm on the second floor of our building. It's a lobby of sorts. And by sorts I mean it's not like a hotel lobby. It's not even like the lobby of a seedy motel. The wood floors beneath are dirty, the walls have been painted many times over and the washed up fireplace to my left hasn't given off heat since the 80's. The building has no heat and the doors and windows behind me give way to the fire escape, which gives way to a chilly 50 degrees. The kind of cold that Michigan residents begin feeling in early September. Ahead of me are a stack of studio apartments inhabited by people who are probably still up like me. I'm wearing a gray winter hat, blue jeans from Buffalo Exchange and a long-sleeve t-shirt from American Apparel that I bought with Paul Kind in May. It was the last time I bought clothes. iTunes is churning out Blowers Daughter by Damien Rice, but if I had my other computer I'd be listening to No Need To Argue by the Cranberries. Next to my keys is a pack of cloves and I've smoked two of them in the last two hours...both times were preceded by nostalgia. They're called "Splash" and I smoke about a pack or three a year. I liken my cloves to the old man's cigar or the Indian's peace pipe. The non-inhaling kind that's good for the soul.

I came up here to catch up on the news, read my favorite Blogs and to research which countries we need visas in. Instead I'm thinking about Christianity. What I like about it. What I can't stand. I'm thinking about my friends outside the faith and those who are inside. I'm thinking about our trip around the world. How, in a few short months, I'm gonna board a plane to Hong Kong and have no idea what I'm gonna do when I step off the plane. I'm thinking about the book I've been reading this week by Douglas Coupland. It's called Microsurfs. I'm also wondering why the wireless network I'm on right now is called "Nigga Pancakes." And why this person would choose to capitalize the N and the P.

I really love that secret track at the end of the Alanis Morisette "Jagged Little Pill" cd.

November 18, 2006

My day started off poorly yesterday. Have YOU ever brushed your teeth and then tried to gulp down cold water? It hurts bad. It's like pouring hot water on an ice covered windshield. I felt like my teeth we're going to explode.

You wouldn't know it from looking at me, but I go to the gym five times a week. That's twenty times a month which means I pay $1.75 for every visit. I could have paid $12.50 for my visit last night. As I climbed up to my nemesis, I noticed a class that was happening just in front of me. The instructor was happy and swinging his arms with authority. Sounds good, right? Not quite. He was 5'8" and weighed 220+ pounds. He and the six participants were doing pilates. I tripped like six times in 20 minutes on the stair climber. That's a trip every 3.3 minutes.

My night got even better when I saw a young man on the bench press. He was benching less weight than I bench. It's remarkable really. In my 13 months at the gym, I've never seen anyone bench press less weight than me. It hangs over my head like the thought of drinking water after my morning brush. If you must know, he was benching 95 pounds. I bench more. That's all you need to know.

November 3, 2006

We just booked 2 one-way tickets to Hong Kong on February 6. There is no turning back now. Beyond Hong Kong, we have no idea where we're going or when. We have no plans and no agenda.

It's ON.

We put a world map on our wall a few months ago. We're slowly adding pictures of places we'd like to visit. Who knows if we'll get to all of them or none of them.

November 2, 2006

I'm at the library because our neighbors' internet, which we steal, has been turned off. Don't they know I have work to do and BLOGS to write?

Our library is in our backyard so it's not a big deal. It's a unique place here. You've got half 20-somethings with Apple computers who are studying or writing the next important screenplay or - how stupid is this - blogging . Then the other half is a collection of homeless people and/or mentally challenged people. For example, the homeless guy next to me just ate a pack of jellybeans louder than I ever thought it was possible to eat a pack of jelly beans. And now he's passionately reading an encyclopedia. Out loud. And the older cat lady from our building just walked by with her stained shirt unbuttoned to her belly button. I think I may have seen nipple. Then there's the burn victim. He gets a million stares a day, but he always has a ginormous smile on his face. And last in my range of sight is the older homeless man with the trench coat and Starbucks cup. He always has that cup in his hand. I think Starbucks is paying him to advertise. I bet the thoughts and ideas that go up from this building are as crazy as any place on earth. It's like a running comedy show that only God knows about.

October 29, 2006

I think in another life I could have been a small mountain town kind of guy. The kind of place with a walkable downtown, apartments with fireplaces and hiking trails nearby.

Three days in Rapid City was all it took.

Despite the awkwardness of being the lone 20-something on the plane from Denver to Rapid City, I arrived to clear sky's and see-my-breath cold weather. My reason for spending $10 on a frequent flier ticket was to visit Paul Kind.

I've spent time in Flagstaff, Bozeman, Great Falls and Spokane and none compared to the mountain town feel of Rapid City. We spent most of our time downtown and in the Black Hills. Downtown has it all. Great local restaurants, movie theatre, bars with cheap drinking and pool tables, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, local shopping, post office and even some mixed zoning (Paul lives downtown). The Black Hills have just as much to offer as the downtown. High altitude lakes, beautiful colors and ample hiking trails make the Hills around Rapid City highly underrated.

What I expected was a touristy Mount Rushmore town (ala Gatlinburg). What I got was a true mountain town experience.

October 21, 2006

SO...we're moving again. In the sort-of-kind-of way. This difference between moving and what we're doing is we're not going anywhere in particular. And we're not selling all of our stuff like we have in the past two moves. We might actually have a storage unit (those Temper-Pedic pillows have to be kept somewhere).

I'll cut to the chase.

Two days after Super Bowl Sunday, Kari and i will be boarding a plane heading the Far East. And we probably won't be coming back for a long time. We've saved enough money to be out in the open world for at least a year. We have no real agenda, no real itinerary. We can do whatever we want, wherever we want. If we meet some friends who are going North to Russia for a few weeks, well, we can go with. If we love a certain country, we can stay as long as we want to. If we get bored and want to come home after six months, we can. Essentially, we'll be winging it every step of the way. That's piece one.

Countries we'd like to spend time in? China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Tibet, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Bosnia, Croatia, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa. Countries we'll actually spend time in? Who knows.

Piece two: We'll be doing as much as we can by land. If we can get there by boat, car, train, bus or by foot, we'll probably take that way. One of the luxuries of having no plans or itinerary is that you can really see the world, from the ground. Avoid planes is our motto.

Our map is gonna have a little more red in it after 2007.

October 18, 2006


Some think of a Christian as one who believes certain things. That Jesus was the Son of God, say. Or that Mary was a virgin. Or that all other religions are wrong.

Some think of a Christian as one who does certain things. Such as going to Church. Giving up liquor and tobacco. Reading the Bible.

Some think of a Christian as just a nice person.

Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." He didn't say that any particular ethic, doctrine or religion was the way, the truth and the life. He said that he was. He said that it was only by him - by living, by participating in, being caught up by the way of life that he embodied, that was his way.

Thus it is possible to be on Christ's way and with his mark upon you without ever having heard of Christ, and for that reason to be on your way to God though maybe you don't even believe in God.

A Christian is one who is on the way, though not necessarily very far along it, and who has at least some dim and half-baked idea of whom to thank.

A Christian isn't necessarily any nicer than anybody else.

**Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking.

October 13, 2006

"For as long as I can remember, I've had a theory that life on earth is purgatory, because life on earth seems to have all the purgatorial qualities that were once described to me by nuns. Sometimes I think that the amount of time you live on earth is just an inverse reflection of how good you were in a previous existence ; for example, infants who die from SIDS were actually great people when they were alive 'for real,' so they get to go to heaven after a mere five weeks in purgatory. Meanwhile, anyone Willard Scott ever congratulated for turning 102 was obvious a terrible individual who had many, many previous sins to pay for."

Chuck Klosterman, Killing Yourself to Live

October 12, 2006

I’m walking around the airport feeling proud of myself for not using those escalator type machines that run down the middle of each terminal. I despise those little moving walkways. “You know what we need around here Bill? An escalator that moves along the ground. Then people can go from car to gate without really walking.”

I hate Colorado. And by hate, I mean incredibly annoyed. Denver in particular. It’s just so damn perfect there. Even the downtown is perfect. The bad suburbs in Denver are the best suburbs in LA.

The alien spaceship airport is perfect too. The paint is fresh and each restaurant has the perfect font. I wonder if they destroy and re-build the city every ten years. Like, “Denver will be closed until 2008. Please try Colorado Springs.”

Everyone seems distracted. I have moments where I believe I’m the only one in terminal B who is thinking about something important. Like counting the number of fat people. Or wondering how much one of those old CD players costs that is bigger than a hamburger and plays up to one compact disc at a time.

An older gentleman, with a business suit on, was talking on a pay phone. A pay phone. He looked proud and talked loudly as if he wanted everyone to know that he didn’t spend $212 a month on a cell phone. His smile read, “HaHa. You Losers.” Or like he knew a secret about cell phones that none of us knew about. It’s a good thing I saw him and his old school ways. I was just about to start speed walking.

October 3, 2006

"Two days later there was a party at Bono's house celebrating the end of the tour. I spent the first ten minutes in the bathroom lecturing myself on how to behave in other people's home. Relativity was the key. Be quiet and don't lecture people not to eat because other people are starving. Life is relative to where you are standing, at any given moment. There are the sorts of things I was telling myself. And I was wearing the same clothes I'd had in Sarajevo, since washed, but my shoes still stank."

"You see, the problem was this. I understood she was gone, but just because the object of your love is fone doesn't mean you stop being in love with that person. Does it? If heaven on earth is finding love in anohter, someone who accepts you for who you are, then hell is being in love with no one there to love."

Bill Carter, Fools Rush In

**Go buy this book and read it as fast as you can. It's a thrilling account of one man's journey into the heart of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. This book tore me apart. The subtitle sums it up best: A true story of Love, War, and Redemption.

September 24, 2006

SO...we backpacked through Guatemala in April. Thought you might be interested in some of the photos we took during our two weeks of roaming. Soon enough, the piece I'm writing on our adventures will be done and posted. :)

September 20, 2006

"In the meantime, waste as much time as you can while falling in love with someone or something beautiful or involving yourself in some nice combinations. Keep reading and wasting time and keep your head down. With any luck, things will all work out all right."

Closing Paragraph, Robert Sullivan, How Not To Get Rich

September 17, 2006

"Unfortunately, you can't just not invest to not get rich; you have to spend unwisely. A great way to do this is to make occasional shopping sprees on behalf of family members or loved ones-purchases of gifts that you can't afford but that will touch that person forever, the way you will be touched forever by the payments on your credit card."

Robert Sullivan, How Not To Get Rich

September 14, 2006

"Money and happiness start out like a team, like peanut butter and jelly, but end up being like peanut butter and motor oil, a tasteless, self-defeating concoction."

Robert Sullivan, How Not To Get Rich

**A little farce on "why being bad off isn't so bad." With chapter titles like, "HOW TO CULTIVATE THE ATTITUDE THAT WILL LEAD TO NOT GETTING RICH," it's hard to turn a single page without laughing. Definitely worth the $3 and 2 hours of time. And in case you don't pick it up, this won't be the last of the quotes.

September 6, 2006

A confident 82 year old woman came into the theatre today and bought a senior discount ticket for Half Nelson. She wore a sluggish looking ring. It was silver with a black statement emblazed on it. It read "True Love Waits." I wondered how long she was planning on waiting.

September 1, 2006

"And what about God? Where was he? Or She? Or It? Beginning at a young age I had a tendancy to look for God in the oddest of places. It all started when the preacher said God was everywhere, he was even there when you were sleeping. Especially when you were sleeping. This kept me awake for years.

I would eyeball the inside of decaying fruit and peer down gopher holes. I would search birds' nests, spiders' webs and ant colonies. Sometimes I'd follow my brother when he sleepwalked onto the lawn. That seemed otherwordly."

Bill Carter, Fools Rush In

August 23, 2006

"Sometimes I thi the people to feel the saddest for are people who are unable to connect with the profound - people such as my boring brother in law, a hearty type so concerned with normality and fitting in that he eliminates any possibility of uniqueness for himself and his own personality.”

Douglas Coupland, Life After God

August 14, 2006

Spent 4 days on the Pacific Crest Trail this week -- Kennedy Meadows to Cottonwood Pass.

August 5, 2006

“I believe that you’ve had most of your important memories by the time you’re thirty. After that, memory becomes water overflowing into an already full cup. New experiences just don’t register in the same way or with the same impact. I could be shooting heroin with the Princess of Wales, naked in a crashing jet, and the experience still couldn’t compare to the time the cops chased us after we threw the Taylor’s patio furniture into their pool in the eleventh grade.”

Douglas Coupland, Life After God

March 16, 2006

3.9 miles from our apartment building is a trailhead that leads to a system of trails that run for miles and miles. I've been hiking up there at least once a week since we rang in the new year. The trails provide all kinds of flexibility for the hiker. Sometimes I hike 4 miles and sometimes 12. If I want to hike in snow, I go in one direction. For the possibility of a rattlesnake, I head in another direction. From these mountains you can see downtown LA, Hollywood, the Valley and even out to the Pacific Ocean. It used to take road trips and weekends to accomplish these sort of views and experiences. Now it takes 20 minutes! [I know I build up LA a lot, it's just hard not to!] Justin and I go up together a lot -- these pictures we're of our last trip...

February 25, 2006

I moved to LA with little expectation and notions of traffic, smog and a downtown that nobody visits. I hoped for community, but expected fragments of life with friends. I hoped for beauty, but expected a layer of orange haze around the city. I hoped for true ueban dwelling, but expected to drive more than walk and that corporate America would still be a part of everyday life. I hoped to meet dreamers, influencers and like-minded people, but I expected to encounter the upper echelons of greed, selfishness and indifference. I thought to myself, West Coast good...LA okay. Southern California good...LA okay. As if LA was some "hazy okay" in the midst of a geography of beauty, charm and ample opportunities for recreation.

Boy was I wrong.

Sure, LA has it's flaws like any other metropolis. Our homeless population is higher than any other city in America. Our public transportation system is on the same level as Cincinatti's. Our freeways are overcrowded. Our Hollywood can produce mind-numbingly bad films. And the list goes on. But here's what I keep coming back to after six months in this gigantic, center of the universe city: it's flawless. Let me explain:

**True Urban Dwelling Potential. By "true urban dwelling" I mean everything that I wrote about in the previous post. Life with Friends in a shared community. Walking and/or biking to everything that enhances and sustains everyday life. Practicing local economics and avoiding corporations. By "potential" I mean that these ideas, virtues and practices are not guaranteed upon your arrival to LA. There are certain choices that need to be made about where you work, what community you choose to reside in and whether you'd rather spend your time driving or walking. I'm finding that urban dwelling constantly challenges my priorities. I think we're driven by three human needs: Friends, Purpose and Location (or if you're a friend of John Maxwell you might make the list more simple: People, Purpose and Place). My relentless goal of the last five years has always been to mix the three together. To live in an urban location that I love where I can do life with my friends and find purpose through my occupation, volunteerism and local politics. I came hoping for the "big three" to come together nicely, and so far, LA has been kind in regards to the Urban Dwelling dream.

**Resident Dreamers. I wasn't sure what to expect upon getting up close and personal with the people that make up LA. Pretentious? Greedy? Selfish? My cynicism was enhanced by the movies, reputation and a guess at what LA locals might be like. But again, I missed the mark entirely! Instead I have met all kinds of people who are generous, down to earth and full of compassion for others. We've also encountered a group of LA residents who are more than helpful when it comes to helping you make stuff happen. In fact, we haven't met one person who passed up an opportunity to help Kari "make it" in the film/television industry. Everyone has volunteered information, time and contacts - all to move her in the right direction. Here's the thing about the people we meet at work, in town, while hiking, through mutual friends -- hardly anyone is from LA. Most of our friends come from somewhere else. Boston, Utah, New York, London, Virginia, Michigan, etc. But the one thing we all have in common is that we moved to LA because we wanted to "make it" in the entertainment industry (film, television, media, sports, etc). LA is full of people who had the guts to pack up there bags and move across the country in order to pursue acting, singing, broadcasting, directing, producing, etc. So we're finding more and more that LA is full of like-minded people with guts to move house, a dream to make happen and a life of adventure. No wonder I'm feeling so at home here.

**Beauty...Everywhere. I always thought Colorado and parts of the Pacific Northwest had the USA cornered when it came to beauty. I pictured LA in the desert with some nice beaches. Dead wrong again. I'm telling you, after spending time in those places just mentioned, LA is just as good. Of course, we have white sandy beaches. But we also have snow capped mountains and rock structures that are out of this world. Mt. Baldy stands over 10,000 feet tall and it's literally in LA's back yard. There is even beauty on the freeways. From the 134 Freeway you can overlook downtown LA, Hollywood and Beverly Hills to the left and the Rose Bowl to the right. The 210 Fwy. rolls it's way alongside the San Gabriel Mountains. The Santa Susana Pass on the CA-118 is worth driving slow through. And have I mentioned the weather? Two weeks ago our temperatures averaged in the 80's. And I can't remember the last time it rained. Oh wait, it was seven weeks ago. A typical weather week reads: Mostly Sunny. Not even Sydney compares to LA's weather. It seems like everyday I'm admiring the beauty of LA.

**Hollywood: Force of Good? Yes, that's right. You can check all your Hollywood bashing preconceptions at the keyboard! I admit, my previous view of Hollywood and her films was smut, greed, stuck up actors and behind-the-scenes crews who didn't give a damn. And while these stereotypes are probably justifiable in some instances, I'm learning there is another side to Hollywood, it's actors and it's production crews. First of all, I never knew about all of these films that are made that never hit the giant cineplex in most local cities and suburbs. I never went to any art house or independent theatres. Now I work at one and watch film after film that stirs emotions in me that I didn't know existed. Hollywood is far from indifferent. For every three films that are purely for entertainment, there is one lurking around the corner with a serious message for our lives. And for every stuck up greedy actor, there is a George Clooney or Henry Winkler or Natalie Portman - actors and actresses are doing something with there power and fortune to make a difference in the world. I'm proud to live in a town that produces movies like "Good Night and Good Luck." And I'm proud to know scores of industry people who are kind, inspiring and doing there best to make a living.

**Recreation in Abundance. Wanna hear something ironic? I lived in freezing cold Michigan where the annual snowfall is measured in feet and where 4-wheel drives are actually used and then I move to SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA and I have to buy snow chains for my car. That's because 75 miles up in the mountains is a ski resort only accessible when you have chains on your tires. The reality about LA and the surrounding basin is you actually can surf and ski in the same day. Get this: On Wednesday of last week I spent the day skiiing in Big Bear Lake. 30 degree temperatures, mounds of snow, gloves and hat a must. On Friday, I spent the day hiking Mt. Olson 4 miles behind my apartment. 75 degree temperatures, 11.5 miles of majestic trail and shorts and a t-shirt. It's no wonder recreation enthusiats flock every year to the LA area. There is more to do than time allows.

Who knows. Maybe I'm still an LA virgin? Maybe any city would seem this good in the first six months? Maybe LA will grow old the longer I'm here?

Whatever the case may be, on this day, LA is flawless to me. I've lived all over the world and LA wins hands down. So cheers to this great flawed city...

February 13, 2006

I'm telling you, there is nothing better than living in the city [unless of course, you don't like lots of people, you prefer "acreage" or you're in the farming industry]. Now, when I say city, I'm not talking about just any populated metropolis, I mean living in the heart of it all. After all, most of Los Angeles still drives to the grocery store.

I always had dreams of urban dwelling. We sort of had it in Sydney. The train system was a common mode of transportation, and I often walked to work, but that doesn't come close what I have here in LA. So, let me divulge SOME of the delirious joys of city life:

Walking As A Way Of Life :: And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. I've averaged 23.95 miles a week of walking or biking over the last month -- that's 3+ miles a day of excercise. The act of walking is beautiful in so many ways. It slows you down (2mph vs. 50-70mph). It usually involves conversation (rather than a car CD player). You meet complete strangers and encounter local spots not visible from the car. Plus you get the added bonus of completely avoiding parking lots. Outside of the random eBay pick-up or a road trip, I honestly can't think of anywhere that I go that requires a car. Check out the distances to these every day places from my apartment building:
  • Grocery Store: 0.4, 0.7 or 1.3 miles away. Take your pick.
  • Post Office: 0.4 miles
  • Theatres: 0.4, 0.7, 0.8 or 1 mile way. Here you can take your pick from one mainstream, two independent or a cheap theatre.
  • Bank: 0.3
  • Metro Stop: 0.6
  • Church: 0.1
  • Gym: 1.1
  • Favorite Hangout: 0.8 to the bar/pool hall
  • Restaurants: All > 1
  • Favorite Bookstores: 0.4, 0.8
  • Thrift Stores: 0.6, 1.8
Friends Unplanned :: Our closest friends live 0.1 and 0.6 miles away. Our other friends live within 2 miles of us. Since College I've mostly had to "plan" times with friends. We had to look at our calendars and point to a date and time somewhere off in the near future. We had to "make time" in our life for friends. But in the city, when you live within shouting distance, it's different. Instead of planning the next event, we say things like, "I'm sure we'll see you tomorrow." It's no longer always a planning issue, instead we strive to do life together, which means getting together last minute and random times throughout the week. Need to borrow the car or some ketchup? I'll walk over in a minute. Need a babysitter for an hour? We're there. Need help moving? We'll bring some boxes. Wanna have a quick lunch at Tiffany's? I'll start walking in 2 minutes. Local, Local, Local :: . I always envied New Yorkers who could place every location nicely into a "village" or "district" or even give certain localities a nickname. South Houston St? No, I live in SOHO. But I'm less envious now. I've got Old Town, Paseo and the Playhouse District. I've got South Paz and the Lake and California corner. I used to know where places were like Walmart, Wendy's and the Gas Station. Now I know where streets are. Instead of meeting at Walmart, we meet at the corner of Euclid and Colorado. Where's that little secret Thai place? It's on Holly St. between Fair Oaks and Marengo. When I'm riding West I always take Union. When riding East, I take Green St. I know where the parks are, where the homeless hang out and where to pay my parking ticket. I've never felt more like a local than I do here...and that's after five months. Corporation Avoidance :: Okay, okay, not all of them are evil, but I used to depend on corporations for my survival. Walmart for groceries and everything else under the sun. Fast food for cheap meals. Restaurant chains for nicer meals. Popular retail stores for clothing. Giant electronic stores for anything electronic. If I wanted a book, Barnes and Nobles was it. Sure, I may spend a little more, but now I get to help the guy opening a new restaurant and support the small scale fruit market on Lake. My money used to primarily support "suits" and shareholdersis, now it primarily supports wages, rental space and moderate incomes. The only fast food I ever eat is from a small chain that has a reputation for high wages, generosity, employee appreciation and buying meat and potatoes from local farms. Sure, we still have a Hooters and The Cheesecake Factory, but at least now we have options. It's great knowing that the majority of your money is helping solidify and further the local economy. While my life and my money still have ties to corporate america (mostly through the internet), its not like it used to be.

So cheers to the city. And if any of this sounds appealing, our building always has a unit open. And I'm (seriously) serious about that.

January 28, 2006

I've been thinking about my keys lately. Get this. A month ago I owned three cars, each having their own key. 1989 Accord. 1990 Civic. 1985 Cabriolet. Thhrrreeee cars. The thing is, I got sick to my stomach when I owned two cars. The truth is, the multi-car insurance does nothing for me. Neither does finding a parking space when you don't have one. And paying $2.65 for gas doesn't light my fire either. Then, only a few weeks ago, I owned zero cars. Suffice to say, my keychain felt lighter. And it was at this point that I really started thinking about my keys. The more I thought about them, the more they made sense of my life in LA.

The small one (the one that looks like it was taken from the Chronicles of Narnia set) is my mailbox key. Here's the thing: I've never had a mailbox key. The only time you need a mailbox key is when there's potential for theft. And apparently, there's theft possibilities in apartment buildings. I'm not exactly sure why though. I guess it's more tempting to steal mail when the mailbox is an inch away rather than a yard over. But, believe it or not, we chose to live in the dangerous theft-potential apartments. :) I should tell you the middle bronze key fits in here nicely too. Our 270 square feet (minus bed, couch, bikes, desk, chairs and you're left with around 200 sq. feet) only requires one key. The key leads to the apartment. The apartment leads to the city. And this is exactly where we belong.

The small black key fits nicely into a lock that I bought for my bike (another dangerous thing about urban dwelling is needing a lock for your bike). I spend a handful of minutes every week on my Trek 800 bike. Last week I added 13.2 miles to the wear on the tires. This week I'll top out around 20 miles. I can go everywhere -- friends, grocery, work, restaurant, bar, bank, theatres, and the casual thrift store. I can't imagine life without a bike. Actually, I can't imagine having to get in the car to go do everything. That's why I'm proud of my little black key. It represents the city, exercise and savings at the pump.

Finally, you'll notice a rather large key in the background. It's in the back because I like to think it's the least used key. It powers on our Volkswagon Golf, which we purchased a few weeks ago to use for Kari's shrinking commute. It's the first car I've owned with less than 100,000 miles. I'm not sure this key fits as nicely into my key metaphor, but I thought you'd like to know that we're back to one car again.

Cheers to your keys, my keys and to the janitor who's ability to memorize his keys is staggering.

January 11, 2006

I'm rich. And yes, I'm talking about material posessions and bank accounts. But here's the catch: I desire simplicity, generosity and culture jamming (see previous post).

On the deeper levels...
I know I'm rich because of the period in history in which I reside. Call it luck, fortune or a blessing, there's no doubt that I benefit from living in the 21st century. I should probably add that I live in America, where war, famine and "survival living" only exist on street level. I should also add that I'm in the middle class, and I come from a middle class family where education and travel were taught and practiced. I should add too that I'm white and the only prejudice and racism I've experienced is...well, I haven't. So, really, my fortune of living in this moment of time has more to do with my parents than it does with living in 2006. The majority world wouldn't call themselves so fortunate.

On the practical levels...
*I live inside an apartment. Our 270 square feet studio is more than enough space for sleeping, cooking and working. I find it hard to believe I have a home to come back to after being outside. If it's raining, it's not a big deal. If I get dirty, I can take a shower. If I'm tired, I can go to bed without an excess of noise and polution.

**I sleep on a matress. I should add that we spent a whopping $100 for this thing to rest out heads on. I'm finding it remarkable that I don't have to sleep on the ground, or outside. I actually can sleep in a bed, equipped with pillows and blankets (I even have spare blankets in case it gets really cold). And I should add here that my enormous apartment is big enough for other pieces of furniture. When I eat, I sit at a table. When I'm reading a book, I sit on a couch. When I get dressed in the morning, I get my clothes out of a dresser.

***I eat whenever I please. Not only can I eat soup and drink water every day, I can go out to a restaurant and order food and a beer that was imported from another country. If I'm hungry, I don't wait to eat. Instead, I get up off the couch, walk eight steps to my kitchen, open a fridge (which even keeps my food cold!) and get something to fill my empty stomach. I never go hungry for more than an hour.

****I have a standard mode of transportation. Our 1985 Volkswagon allows me the freedom to go anywhere, anytime. I am free to get a job wherever I please. I can visit people. It even allows me to "get away" for a weekend in the moutains. Even that I could afford this $500 luxury is beyond me. And get this: Because I live in the city and rarely use a vehicle, I have a bike to get me around when I don't feel like walking.

*****I have an abundance of media. I have at least fifty books on my shelf that I've read and decided to keep for re-reading purposes. Books that aid my growth, make me a better person. I have a handful of DVD's that do the same thing. I have a computer that connects me to friends and family. Does it matter that, for the first time in history, I live more than five miles from my family? No, because I have a cell phone and a computer that allows me to talk, write and even chat to them whenever I please.

******I travel. After twenty-six year on earth, I've nearly matched my age to how many countries I've visited. I'm blown away by this. Not only can I get in a car and drive myself to a Baseball game 10 miles away, I can drive myself to an airport and fly across the country to see another game. If I want to visit Guatemala over Easter, I go on my computer, in my house, and book a reservation using a credit card that got me the ticket in the first place. And does it matter that, for the first time in history, I didn't grow up in the same town/village/neighborhood as my spouse? No, because I had a car and traveled to a private school where I could meet an entire new group of women from around the world who also had the ability to travel to get an education. It's absolutely astonishing when I really think about it.

*******I have more money than I need. Not only is money intricately connected to my home, furniture, food, car, media and my ability to travel - I have a savings account with extra money that's available whenever I might need it. Every year we exceed our annual cost of living. Whether it was $10,000 in Indiana or $24,000 in Los Angeles, we always have more than we need.

So my question is, now what? How can I practice greater simplicity when I have more than I need? How I can I be a culture jammer when I look so much like the culture? How can I be a voice of dissent in matters of over-consumption when I'm a consumer? Am I already doing enough or is there more to be done? These questions, along side many others, are what I'm dwelling on these days as I think about simplicity, generosity, and what it means to be fully alive in 2006, no today. Any thoughts?

January 6, 2006

Let me introduce you to Adbusters founder, Kalle Lasn. Done. Now let me introduce you to his book, Culture Jam. So far, so interesting. He speaks of America as not a diverse country but a powerful brand that is causing a global pandemic and even manipulating us into consumer obsessers who live "designer" lives. His bottom line? Our culture is headed in the wrong direction and he wants to create a movement of people who become "culture jammers." People who are dedicated to the "uncooling of America." I love that idea. He proposes a way out by uncooling consumer items, demarketing fashions and celebrities and by breaking the "media trance" of our TV-addicted age. He writes, "Our mass media dispense a kind of Huxleyan 'soma.' The most powerful narcotic in the world is the promise of belonging. And belonging is best achieved by conforming to the prescriptions of America. In this way a perverted sense of cool takes hold of the imaginations of our children. And thus a heavily manipulative corporate ethos drives our culture. Cool is indispenable--and readily, endlessly dispensed. You can get it on every corner (for the right price), though it's highly addictive and its effects are short-lived. If you're here for cool today, you'll almost certainly be back for more tomorrow."

Similar ideas and thoughts have invaded my mind over the last couple of years as I've traveled, been endlessly sickened by American "cool" and felt the pressure of acquiring certain consumer goods. And up to this point, these endless thoughts have been laying dormant in frustration. My questions began multiplying.

Does anyone else think our culture is sliding into a giant pit? How many parts of my day are involved with a corporation? What influences my decision to buy certain goods? Have I been branded myself? Is my personality and core values more a reflection of the person I was created to be or a culture obsessed with cool?

Can anyone else relate? In the middle, I think this book will touch emotions that need to be awakened by practical ideas. For too long, I have let my frustrations turn to cynicism, which of course, leads to indifference. I hope this doesn't last. So cheers to being a culture jammer in 2006. Anyone care to join?

January 1, 2006

[i rewrote this post after being utterly disapointed with the original version which, i might add, was written at five in the morning. as i rewrote, may you reread. insert smile]

After 26 years of life and experiencing consistent failure, I have serious reservations about making any sort of "goals list" as we enter 2006. I even sometimes wonder if the goals I'm writing down are actually a prophetic recording of what I won't do in a year. Often, the annual improvements in my life come unexpectedly. But despite recent goal floundering, I have lots of areas in my life where I look to be more disciplined, more refined, and more in tune with reality.

The good news is after 26 years of life, I'm finally learning that failure and shortcomings are a serious part of life. This experience only teaches me to dream more simply with an acquired sense of realism. So as long as the dreams, disciplines and areas of refinement are shouting from the inside, I'll keep writing them out in pencil, even if some goals are sooner or later erased or forgotten about.

So, in kind regards to Mr. Maxwell (John, I always think of you this time of year when I'm writing out my goals), here are some thoughts I'm having about 2006.

**I hope to see my longing for community be more fully realized this year.We made plenty of choices last year that have put us in position to finally realize our dream of doing life with our friends. We also don't plan on moving in 2006, something that has only happened in one year out of my last ten. And it seems that wherever you find deep community taking place, you find people who have been residing in one spot for some time. So I think we're in the right place, now it's time to learn the art of community. I'm finding that community at it's purest doesn't come easily. Instead it means making deliberate choices about the street you live on, the job you take and your ability to defy laziness. I sometimes wonder if television is communities greatest enemy. This year I commit again to living out true community and inviting others to share in it. There is nothing that is more deep in my guts than living this out more fully in 2006.

**I want to keep learning what it means to live in the city.I'm finding that urban dwelling is more than living near tall buildings and lots of people. It means making calculated choices involving transportation, neighbors, money, local businesses and politics. It requres a certain level of involvement and participation. I'm learning that my desire to live in the now means urban dwelling at the purest levels.

**I want to decrease in consumerism and increase in simplicity.Quite remarkably, amid all the change that has taken place over the last 24 months, the one thing that hasn't changed is my deep desire to be counter-cultural when it comes to money and my spending/saving/giving habits. More and more, I want my resources to be aligned with bringing heaven to earth. I'd like my levels of generosity to increase, even as our income increases. And with deep conviction, I don't want my life to revolve around what I have or what I want to have. I don't want to be the kind of person whose worth and confidence is tied up in having the right car, the hippest clothing or the latest gadget. So in 2006, I choose to be a voice of dissent in matters of consumerism...and I choose to rebel against my own tendencies toward upgrading.

**I want to read a broader spectrum of materials.Over the last ten years, I've read as many Christian books as anyone. And while my reading will involve Christian pieces this year, I want to broaden my reading to include issues of culture, social justice and travel. Books have always had a profound influence on my life and writing and I don't intend this year to be any different. I received four books under the tree and I'm eager to open them up:

  • Bait and Switch - Barbara Ehrenreich

  • The Working Poor - David K. Shipler

  • Culture Jam - Kalle Lasn

  • The Overworked American - Juliet B. Schor

    **I want to finish a major writing project this year.I'm currently working on a manuscript that centers around ideas of faith, evangelicalism and what it's like to feel "left behind." I'd like to think it's style is Douglas Coupland-ish. Chunks of time will be set aside each week to research, think and write. This project, along with this Blog, will be like a spiritual discipline for me in 2006.

    So as we embark on a new year, these statements and goals are what I will be dwelling on. Thanks for a great 2005 blogging year, your 700 hits a week make this worth the time. Good night...and good luck in 2006. For now, Josh

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