Category Archives: Lifestyle

It Does to Me: A Justification for Doing What You Want

Hey, come on try a little
Nothing is forever
There’s got to be something better than
In the middle

“One Headlight” by The Wallflowers

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That was a question I remember adults asking me in my elementary school years.

“A doctor,” I’d answer, and that answer always seemed to appease the adults. If one of them had the temerity to ask which kind of doctor, I’d shrug honestly and say, “I don’t know.” This second part never seemed satisfactory, but it did usually end the inquisition. Sometimes I’d exchange “doctor” for “lawyer” and get the same results. The funny part is that even as a kid, I knew I was lying. I knew that these words—doctor and lawyer—had no connection to anything I cared about. Though the words did earn the subtle admiration of grown ups. They heard me say those words and they looked at me differently, like I was going places.

I didn’t know it then, but this common exchange was teaching me some things. One was that most people, myself apparently included, are pretentious. The second lesson was that words changed how people felt. That second lesson was more interesting.

Phantom armies clash on the battlefields of limbo. This strange, last outpost of existence. The forgotten versus the yet to be. Like some half-remembered dream. All the rules of existence are being broken.

“Captain Adam!” Superman shouts. “These people need our help!”

“…Transparent void…Eternal…We’re so small…Yet so significant. How can it matter so much?” Captain Adam wonders.

“It does to me!”

That’s from Superman Beyond #2, an issue in Final Crisis, the DC Comics miniseries written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Doug Mahnke. Morrison writes with joyful complexity. Yes, this is a story about Superman saving the day because that is what Superman does, but it’s also a reflection of Biblical, messianic promises. It’s also a meta text for Hamlet’s most famous quandary of being. It’s also a distillation of the moral sojourns that defined cold war era comics. It’s Shakespeare and Alan Moore and something sillier and more specific. It’s uniquely Morrison, and like all the best stuff, his inspiration contains multitudes. His style is singular. Some people think he’s saying a lot of nonsense, but others, like me, would choose to read his style over nearly any other comic book writer.

I’ve loved comic books for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is frantically explaining to my Uncle Richard that Batman actually got married to Catwoman!⁠1 God bless Uncle Richard, he cared. Back then, I thought he cared because a hero marrying a villain was revelatory news. Now I know he only cared because he was good man granting respect in the only language that a child understands: the adult cares too. When something greater cares for something smaller, the smaller thing feels a portion of what it means to be greater. Because Uncle Richard respected my childhood fascination, and because he was my coolest uncle⁠2 (I wanted to be like him when I grew up), I was allowed to love comic books for the rest of my life. I’m so glad that I have that. I’m 32, and it’s an incredible time to be a lifelong comic book nerd. Superheroes dominate pop culture. Ta-Nehesi Coates—perhaps the most influential writer in America—is writing the Black Panther comic book, while one of the best young directors in the world, Ryan Coogler, is making the Black Panther movie. This stuff probably shouldn’t matter that much, and yet, it does to me.

Ever since cancer, I have felt burdened by the concept of mission. It’s depressingly difficult to be okay with the mundane necessity of making a living. Why am I here? What am I doing? This is probably standard fare for a mid life crisis or types of existential philosophy, but I’m not trying to classify the feeling. It is what it is, and it seeps into everything I consume. I look at my strengths, trying to take stock of my being as a whole, and I try to decide what I should do with my abilities.

This concern of mine, the concept of mission, seeps into everything. What does God want me to do? I guess I should get right with him. How should I vote for President? I definitely will approach politics differently. What’s for lunch? I should remember to care about feeling well more than feeling good. Health, faith, and judgment coalesce to make me worry about what the heck am I doing with time? Time is the only honest currency, and it worries me.

This concern sat in the back of my brain while I was reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. In one section, he talks about how a creative mentor showed him the path to success. As a young man who’d been performing since high school, Bruce was tired of grinding out a living in the bar/club scene. He’d seen enough to know that he wasn’t going to outshine other bootstrap bands trying to get recognized in the festivals and competitions that ruled the music industry of that era. He needed a producer, and he needed a hook. He examined his toolbox.

1. Guitar

2. Voice

3. Songs

His voice would never be better than mediocre. He was pretty good on the guitar. He knew how to use it on a stage, but he’d seen lots of guys like him, and he’d seen lots of guys that were better. That left him with the songs. His songs would have to be fireworks. He knew of only one guy whose songs could stand on their own, outside of the music and the voice, songs of pure poetry. He listened to Bob Dylan endlessly. He wrote Dylan’s lyrics out so he could look at them. Then he’d write, then he’d play. Then he’d write, and he’d rewrite. Then he’d play. Then he’d rewrite and rewrite and rewrite…

Flash forward to the future, to an opportunity. Bruce is placed in front of legendary music producer, John Hammond. Bruce is given a borrowed guitar and told to play a song. He sings okay and he plays okay, but the song he plays is “Growing Up.” Just one song, but it was a lyrically vivid song that told the tale of existential development that all young people face. Bruce is soon signed to Columbia Studios. The studio propped up his vocals and polished the music with a surrounding band, but they didn’t change anything in the lyrics. “Growing Up” would be the second song on his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, now ranked as one of the top 500 albums of all time.

Years later, playing at some televised, holiday special, Bruce had the chance to meet Bob Dylan in a stairwell behind the stage. At the end of a five-minute convo, Dylan says, “If you ever need anything, let me know.” Bruce, astonished at the generosity of his idol, simply said, “It’s already been done.”

Bob Dylan was great, and by committing to being a songwriter, he gave a small Bruce Springsteen a portion of what it meant to be a great songwriter. I hear that story, and I remember, with embarrassing clarity, that I was so jealous of The Boss. Not because of his fame or his success, though both of those things sound nice, but because he knew his mission. When a person finds their mission, they should make it part of their core. Bruce Springsteen has a wife and children and a childhood and a future, but music resides in his core. We all have a strength that could become our mission. We must put that mission in our core, it might not make us big, but if we can understand it, if we chase it, it will make us significant. I believe that as hard as I can believe anything.

I’m writing these words selfishly. The words are motivation. I have to convince myself of who I want to be. What I should be doing is making the final edits of my first book, Cheeto Dust…and Other Blood on Millennial Hands, but it was becoming a slog, and I was getting disheartened. My internal battle was familiar. Will anyone care about this at all? Does anyone actually read anymore? I’ve felt it before blog posts and articles, but the size of the anxiety seems to equal the size of the writing, and while Cheeto Dust is no doorstopper, it is definitely the biggest thing that I’ve ever written, so now it’s my biggest anxiety. Here’s an unhelpful exercise: how many books did you read in 2017? Now multiply that number by how many years you have left to live. Does my book deserve to be one in that number? Even as the author, I would feel embarrassed to say that it should. So why am I still writing?

A common sentiment among writers is that one is not the writer they will become until later in life. The metric used always changes. You’re the writer you’re going to be when you turn 40, when your third book is published, once you have children, after one million words, after ten million words, after you die. I assume the next thing I write will be better than Cheeto Dust (that opinion is more about skill development than the quality of Cheeto Dust. Semantic saturation—the psychological phenomenon that words temporarily lose meaning through repetition—is a scientific fact, and I’ve been repeatedly reading Cheeto Dust for months), but I don’t really want to be doing the next thing yet. Here’s an incredibly evolved litmus test I use to know whether or not I should be doing something: will this thing I’m doing bring me closer to the person I wish to be? It’s a pretty advanced technique, I know. Anyway, finishing Cheeto Dust must be done to bring me closer to my vision of me.

I’m writing because I want to write, but am I writing about anything that matters? Yes, it does to me.

Mission. It seeps into everything. I was listening to Bill Simmons interview Masai Ujiri, the General Manager of the Toronto Raptors. Masai grew up in Nigeria, and chasing his gifts in basketball led him to America, then to Europe, then eventually back to America. A friendship with a basketball scout, David Thorpe, led him to NBA management circles. One thing to another, he is now the leader of a multi-million dollar organization. Bill Simmons asked Masai what his best tip for leadership was, and after some hemming and hawing, Masai says, “Okay, I got it.”

“Be more passionate than ambitious.”

That says it all. Maybe you love basketball. Maybe you’re a budding rockstar unearthing the details of what makes your songs special. Maybe you’re a guy who’s letting a kid know that it’s cool to like comic books. If you can get beyond wondering if this “whatever” thing matters, if you can stop caring about whether or not it is big enough, and if you can start focusing on the passion, then you’ll reach the significance.

Don’t know if you have a calling? Dial it back. Here’s a phrase that might help: how you make your money is more important than how much money you make.

I write. And, sometimes, I write! I understand it, and I’m chasing it. I’m not even particularly great at it when compared to guys like Grant Morrison. When I feel invisible under the shadow of the supremely talented, I think about Jakob Dylan. He decided to become a singer/songwriter. How could a shadow get any bigger than picking the exact profession as your father, the greatest songwriter who ever lived? But he chased it with his band, The Wallflowers, and they were pretty good. In the 90s, they were making their way out of the shadow. Unfortunately, Dylan sang their biggest hit, “One Headlight,” at the 1997 MTV Music Awards with guest star, Bruce Springsteen. Bruce, molded by decades of performing until he knew no other way, sang the song 10,000% harder than Jakob ever could, and a whole new shadow fell. The Wallflowers never inhabited their name as much as that moment.

Jakob Dylan shouldn’t stop making music just because Bruce and Bob exist. And he didn’t. He’s been successfully working as a musician for his entire life. And while he may not be as big as Bruce or his father, he’s doing something that both older musicians would be proud of: he’s playing. He gets on a stage and he plays. Most of America is working, but Jakob Dylan is playing. That’s a great reward for chasing a strength. Listen to him in 2015. He’s no joke.

We all have a strength. I think strength is purpose, granted by God, and we should all chase our own while forgetting the human comparisons. Some people might think that it’s silly that you try to do something that others can do so much better than you can. They’ll tell you that what you are doing doesn’t matter. These are the phantom armies on the battlefield of our lives.

Life, the strange outpost from which we view existence, is a silly and specific thing. It can be infinitely meaningful and temporarily meaningless, just like words. What do I want to be when I grow up? Superman wants to save the day, because the day matters. It’s just a passing revolution of the sun, but it can change the world, or, more importantly, it can change you. Maybe it will be the day you hear a Bob Dylan song and realize that you have all the tools you need. Maybe you’ll read a Grant Morrison comic book and realize that your mission does matter. At least, it does to me.

Alright, I’d better get back to editing.


1 When I spell check this, “Batman” raises no flags, but “Catwoman” gets the scarlet squiggly of shame. Someone of Grant Morrison’s caliber needs to give Catwoman some narrative attention.

2 Even at six, I knew that having a good jump shot in basketball and being married to my prettiest aunt meant that this was an exceptionally cool guy.

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My Birthday: Putting 31 in the Record Book

I turn 32 today. Four years ago, I wrote about the ubiquitous silliness of birthdays, but at 32, I feel differently. As Malin Akerman’s Billions character says, “If we don’t mark the milestones, we’re just passing with the times.” I have no interest in passing. So, for posterity’s sake, here are some things that happened while I was 31:

  • Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908
  • Donald Trump was elected President.
  • I was diagnosed with leukemia and KT and I had to postpone our wedding

  • The effort of friends caused both Bill Self and Roy Williams to write me get well letters (note KU game on iPhone in pic…true fan!)
  • We lost a James Bond and a Batman…and eventually the Tom Petty
  • KT and I had to put down Otis the dog, then we started chemo
  • There was that weird Oscars fiasco
  • KT’s grandpa, Bebop, passed away.
  • Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks were the No. 1 overall seed (unsurprisingly losing early)
  • KT and Roy Williams’ Tar Heels won the National Chamionship!
  • KT and I FINALLY got married (BEST DAY EVER!)

  • KT and I went on an amazing honeymoon (BEST WEEK EVER!)
  • KT turned an incredibly youthful 30 years old!
  • Little Brisket the dog came into our lives!
  • I finished chemo!
  • KT and I finished building and moved into our first house together!
  • I was declared cancer free!
  • I went back to work!

There’s a lot more stuff. Too much for a b-day blog post. In some respects, it’s easy to look back at 31 as a heartbreak of a year. But I don’t know if empty hearts can break. I’m lucky enough to have never been empty. I do know that a heart needs to be broken before it can heal, and healing—physically, emotionally, spiritually—is maybe the greatest miracle God gave us, right up there with life and love. You know, it’s also easy to see 31 as the very best year of my life.

Alright, that’s enough reflection for a birthday. The milestone is marked. Like Tom Petty sang:

It’s time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

KT and I love you all for all the support during 31. I greatly look forward to growing with you all during 32.

Love,
Dust

Worth a Visit? McDonald’s, specifically for the Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.

 

I’d never tried the Filet-O-Fish. I just didn’t come from that school of dietary thought. But after positive reviews from my Facebook glide (flying high on Filet-O-Fish. Seriously, a bunch of flying fishes are called a glide), I knew I had to be one of the grouper. As is sometimes my duty, I will answer your burning questions about the Filet-O-Fish Sandwich. Most importantly, does it make McDonald’s, worth a visit?

are you into fish as a consumable?

Sure you are. And why not? There are lots of reasons to eat fish. It’s considered healthier than land meat. It’s full of Omega 3s, which are supposed to be good even if you don’t actually know that much about the dietary value of fish. Maybe you’ve given up “meat” for the liturgical practice of Lent to secure passage into the afterlife, which sounds bulletproof. Maybe you’re against the way the fast-food industrial complex treats animals but you’re still into convenience and a fish is more like an alien anyway. Maybe you just enjoy the the mouthfeel of a flaky Alaskan Pollock crumbling so gently that you can chew it with your tongue.

In any of the cases, YOU SHOULD VISIT McDonald’s for a Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.

But maybe you’re not into fish. I mean, pollution is a real problem and a lot of that ends up in the water, and I’m sure McDonald’s is getting a fresh catch from the open seas. Are Alaskan Pollock from the open seas? Look, you don’t know that much about fish, we’ve covered that, but they’re kind of icky, and you’re not into them as a consumable.

You WILL NOT VISIT FOR THE FILET-O-FISH SANDWICH. Get the McNuggets because they seem safer. 

Are you a millennial, a generation that, when surveyed, ranked mcdonald’s as their least favorite restaurant and probably (but not definitely) backed that ranking with an editorial stance on mcdonald’s that mostly trashes it as a gross slaughter house of unclean garbage food?

You are (likely).

Don’t compromise your beliefs. It is NOT WORTH VISITING.

Are you a millennial that, despite what you’ve said in surveys, are still part of a generation that visits mcdonald’s more than any other restaurant in america.

Duh. It’s America, so you’re never further than 107 miles from a McDonalds in the continental 48. It’s basically impossible to not go to McDonald’s.

Perception is reality. YOU’VE ALREADY VISITED, but you do it by yourself and don’t tell anyone.

Did you enjoy these sweet tidbits about millennials that were torn directly from this author’s “I swear one day it will be out and available for purchase” book Cheeto Dust….And other blood on millennial hands?

If so, keep an eye out. I’ll buy you a Filet-O-Fish Sandwich at McDonalds while watching you read and react to every detail, waiting patiently until you’re in between bites and have dabbed the pickled relish mayo from your lips so you can answer questions I have like, “Did you read the footnote too?”

C’mon. A free Filet-O-Fish with a potential author of something you might possibly enjoy maybe? YOU HAVE TO VISIT!

did I say pickled relish mayo? that sounds like an interesting topping that might be worth visiting for.

I did say that, because that’s what I thought it was, but it’s actually a custom tartar sauce. Blend mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons relish, capers, 1 tablespoon chopped onion, parsley, and sugar in a blender until smooth. Stir remaining relish and onion into the blended mixture.

You still want to try that, but you’re not exactly rushing to the nearest McDonald’s, no matter how conveniently they’ve placed it near your home, work, gym, and directly next door to your favorite boozery (or dispensery in certain more understanding states). Now that you’re thinking about it, you could really just tack a Filet-O-Fish onto an order anytime you stop by McDonald’s, because no matter what diet of the month your doing, you’ll stop by there eventually. Even if you tell yourself you’re just getting that $1 large Coca-Cola because it’s better there than anywhere else, you’ll probably be a little hungry too, and it’s not like anyone’s going to know you ordered yourself a frankly overpriced fish sandwich for $3.79. $3.79!? That is pretty steep considering it only comes with a half slice of cheese, a Filet-O-Fish tradition that somehow honors the original recipe invented by Lou Groen in 1962 because his Cincinnati, OH franchise served a large Roman Catholic consumer base that didn’t eat meat on Fridays. You really wish you didn’t know that bit about Cincinnati because you never considered that the town to take seafood tips from. Is fish really not meat? Catholics do have a pretty great history of over-indulgence though, and isn’t overpaying for something, just because you want to and can, a little bit what American individualism is all about? You don’t need to be reminded that $3.79 could feed a kid in a third world country for a week. You already knew that. Besides, after the sales tax, you’ll drop the extra three pennies in that little Ronald McDonald donation bin they put beneath all the drive-thru windows. Unless you pay with a card, in which case, hey, you did your best. McDonald’s gave $34 million to charity in 2011, and even if that is only 0.08 percent of their $5.5 billion net revenue and way less than similar companies like Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken, it’s still not nothing. You have to figure they don’t waste the other half of that slice of cheese either. YOU’RE STILL GOING TO VISIT. It’s a free country. 

is the filet-o-fish sandwich from mcdonald’s actually worth a visit?

It was really tasty.

IT’S WORTH A VISIT.

Dusticular Cancer – March 20, Monday Morning


A couple of people recently mentioned that they have trouble reading the CarePages posts. While I’m suspicious of their laziness and technical acumen (you know who you are), I’ll also copy them here from now on. I mean, I have the time. These posts are partially therapeutic for me, partially informative for you, and hopefully helpful for whoever cares to read them. If you’re into more cancer-related reading (WHO ISN’T!?), all prior posts can be found here.

Dusty here,

KT and I are back at UNC Hospital as another month of injections begins today. Weirdly, it’s kind of a relief.

Don’t get me wrong, I much prefer not being in the hospital (If your disease-free options are to not be getting injections at the hospital or to be getting injections at the hospital, I highly recommend the former). But there’s something super frustrating about feeling like life is normal while knowing that it’s not. It makes sitting on your couch feel like being in line at the DMV. It’s not relaxing. It’s waiting.

But while I’m in the hospital, it’s less abstract. The needle pokes. The blood flows. The medicine medicates. And it’s these days where you can feel the calendar flip. That feels like progress. I get up in the morning, and instead of sitting on a couch, I sit in my car. I’m going somewhere.

Based on experience, the next couple of days will probably suck. My body has to acclimate to the medicine again after being off of it, but knowing how that goes makes it less of a big deal. For now, it’s nice to see the nurses again. They were happy that Kansas advanced in the tournament so that I could join in on making fun of their Duke-fan coworker. “I mean, you work for UNC. How good do you feel about cashing those paychecks?”

Speaking of March Madness (and because I have some time on my hands), I’m sure you all saw the news about the fire in downtown Raleigh. KT and I have a couple of friends who live in the apartment building directly next to it, and they’re completely safe staying with some family for the time being. It’s not publicly known how that happened yet, but that seems to be the next step in the way humans process this stuff. What happened? Who’d it happen to? Are they okay? How did it happen? And this is where we’re currently stuck. Maybe there’s a grand arsonist on the loose. Maybe wood construction isn’t the way of the future. I hope the “how” is discovered so everyone can answer the next part. Why. The “why” informs us of where to direct our resources. An arsonist requires human resources, educational and ethical, as another event reminds us of the holes in the human psyche. If materials are to blame, then political resources need to change regulations. Either way, the “why” is a critical part of healing the cause, not just putting out the flames.

The weirdest part about my leukemia is that they don’t know how it happens. There is no “why” to be solved. I know several of you have donated to cancer research with me in mind. It means a lot. There’s a million problems that need fixing in the world, and I’m not going to say trying to solve the unknown has more value than tackling something known like the water crisis (*sidenote below*). But it’s an honor to know that my problem has helped inspire some good. Example: our friend Natalee Jarrett raised a bunch of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for a half marathon she ran in a blazing 1:43:00. Sure, she’d probably have raised money for something else good, but I’m taking like, 2% of the credit. Thanks a ton, Natalee. It was truly, greatly appreciated. Life deals some bad beats, from fires to cancer and everything else. If you’re doing anything to help the what’s, who’, how’s and why’s of any of those beats, thank you to you too. It is appreciated.

Give someone a great week,
Dust

**Sidenote: Watching these NCCA tournament games, I keep seeing the Matt Damon commercial where he’s promoting the partnership between Stella Artois and Water.org to help fight the global water crisis. It’s noble, and I’m not denigrating their efforts in any way. This is just a point that is related. It takes roughly 20 gallons of water to brew a pint of beer (Teetotalers shouldn’t be uppity. It takes up to 132 gallons of water to make a 2-liter of soda). Do what you will with this knowledge.

Men Emotionally Mature 11 Years After Women. 30 Maturity Checks for Turning 30

I turn 30 this Monday. Does that make me a man? Rhetorical question. I’d like to believe I’ve been a man for a while, but it turns out that men’s brains don’t stop emotionally maturing until an average age of 43. Women are emotionally mature at an average age of 32, and then they just go on enduring us until we catch up. So here’s an emotional check in on how I’m doing with the top 30 maturity failings at the age of 30. Now, this list was done by the British, so it’s not perfect, but bear with me. We’ll keep a tally with a (+) for what I’m still doing or a (-) what I’m now too mature for. Yes, I’m putting emotional maturity in the (-) column. Call it a prediction. But first, let’s experience 29 one last time:

MEN’S TOP 30 MATURITY FAILINGS

1.Finding their own farts and burps hilarious – I’ve never been world class at either of these things, but I do like doing things like saying with utter sincerity, “I know exactly how I feel about that.” Then standing up, and farting. (+)

2.Eating fast food at 2:00am – It was a bag of Dorito’s a week ago. Probably still counts. (+)

3.Playing videogames – Sent an email out with NBA2K16 and the Uncharted Collection on my wish list just two days ago. (+)

4.Driving too fast or ‘racing’ another car at the lights or on the motorway – I never do this. Partially because I have a horrible driving record that I’m trying to balance out, and partially because I’m a huge wuss. (-)

5.Sniggering a bit at rude words – Only when no one is getting their feelings hurt. I hate hurt feelings. (-)

6.Driving with loud music – I’m a podcast guy now. (-)

7.Playing practical jokes – I love practical jokes. I’m also too lazy to play them. I win this one by accident. (-)

8.Trying to beat children at games and sport – What am I supposed to do? Give them a participation trophy too? (+)

9.Staying silent during an argument – I’m only staying silent so that it doesn’t become an argument. (+)

10.Not being able to cook simple meals – Please. I’ve self-glossed myself “The Kitchen Renegade” because simple meals are too simple. But I can definitely do them. (+)

11.Re-telling the same silly jokes and stories when with the lads – It’s called friendship. If I’m not retelling a story with you, it’s because we have no stories memorable enough to revisit. (+)

12.Don’t like talking about themselves/ having proper conversations – Did I ever tell you about the time I learned a valuable life lesson? (-)

13.Hating books/reading because of short attention span/they’re boring – Do audio and comic books count? (-)

14.Doing crazy dance moves – A lack of grace doesn’t make them crazy. (-)

15.Mum still doing their washing – Only when I’m home for the holidays. She’s doing dad’s anyways. (-)

16.Having their Mum still make them breakfast/any meal – Maybe this isn’t clear. She’s 1,070 miles away. (-)

17.Wearing trainers to night clubs – I don’t know what trainers are. And I don’t go to nightclubs. I go to bars. (-)

18.Owning a skateboard or BMX – Skills I don’t have. (-)

19.Not eating vegetables – Ever heard of lettuce on a hamburger? (-)

20.Changing jobs regularly – If I get fired in the next year, I’ll change this to a plus. (-)

21.Getting too excited over stag do’s – I have no idea what this means. (-)

22.Sometimes trying to do wheelies/stunts on their bike – I assume this is what movies Death Wish through Death Wish V: The Face of Death were about. (-)

23.Driving a modified car or one with a loud exhaust/boy racer – Car costs too much as it is. (-)

24.Showing off about how girls are attracted to them – There’s a very important qualifier to being able to do that. (-)

25.Wearing pyjamas, specifically cartoon pyjamas – Superfluous clothing is not my bag. (-)

26.Using dodgy chat-up lines – I may be misinterpreting, but I think I love this. (+)

27.Showing off about protein shakes/weight-lifting/how much they ‘lift’ – Duh, and hello! I’m a man aren’t I? Could a non-man bench all this weight!? (+)

28.Littering – I won’t even joke about littering. Not cool. (-)

29.Wearing saggy-crotched jeans – “Uh, cause I need the clearance, bro.” (-)

30.Having a cartoon bedspread – Girlfriend picked the spread. (-)

Stunning performance here. Prior to going through the list, I’d have expected to be above .500. Only 9 out of 30. But if I’m being honest, I don’t see those 9 going anywhere soon.

Tally up your own and let me know where you’re at in the comments or on Facebook.

Tommy Gets Married; Thoughts About Love, Commitment and Proactively Washing Dishes

My co-blogger Thomas Cooksey got married this past Friday. The wedding had the usual wedding stuff like vows, speeches, prayers, food, wine, friends, kisses, and at the core of it all, a husband and a wife. But it was all done at a very high level here, which is really all you can ask from a wedding. The rituals are nice, but any five year old can draw a picture. It takes care and execution to make art. And that’s the unusual wedding stuff like sincerity, some risky jokes, poignancy, chicken and waffle appetizers, generous pours, friends, passion, and at the core of it all, honest-to-God true love.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about commitment. Two weddings in 24 hours will do that. I mean, if half of marriages are ending in divorce, then it’s reasonable to say that commitment, while maybe not more valuable, is certainly more rare than love, possibly more precious. It’s odd that commitment requires something like death to be proven. They put that “death do us part” right there in the middle of vows, and that grim certainty is really the best case scenario. It’s probably the weirdest thing about commitment, that you pray you never have to prove the “for worse” part even as you vow it. Love is easy by comparison. Love is warm meals, comforting hugs, and good sex. Commitment is something else. It’s like an airbag. You hope that you always get to just assume it works. And maybe it’s ultimately like a fighter saying they’ve given all they had. That last punch had better of knocked you out, or how do you know? Any other loss means you could have done things differently.

I don’t think people like thinking about that side of marriage. And I don’t blame them. But most of life exists as a string of contingency preparations. I make a lunch in the morning for a hunger I’ll feel at noon. I place a portion of my paycheck into a retirement account for when I’m too old to want/need to earn more. I change my car’s oil, make insurance payments, wash my clothes, go to the gym, and do a million other mundane activities so that my life can move along smoothly and I don’t have to think thoughts like, “Am I going to die with a heart full of regret?” That’s what real commitment has to be, maintenance to prevent breakdown. That’s real passion, staving off the rust. Ambition often looks like fear, because success isn’t that different from non-failure.

Five years ago, I know I didn’t like those ideas very much. But that’s just the procrastinator in me, the same kid who would eat cereal out of a Tupperware container instead of proactively washing his dishes. Nowadays, the idea of process actually seems more sensible, and in some ways, romantic. Save $1,000 a month or win the lottery. They can both make you a millionaire, but only one of them is your creation. Pushing chocolates, fixing dinners, walking the dog. A hundred actions repeated over thousands of days to keep the machine running. Walks to prevent heart failure. Long walks with conversation to prevent failures of the heart.

A couple years ago, Thomas Cooksey had this picture as the banner of his Facebook page:

I’ve known Tommy a while now, and I think it’s safe to say that he gets it. He’s probably always understood this thing that took me running out of Tupperware several times to understand. For that, buddy, I’m proud of you, and I wish you and Annie both the best.

What Magic Johnson Can Teach You About Relationships and Success

Audiobooks are hot fire. Even better than podcasts. They’re, like, every flame emoji a tweet can hold.

I just finished When The Game Was Ours by Magic and Larry. There will never be a better personification of humanity—the thin and nuanced line of contrast and commonality we all straddle with our individualism in a shared experience called life—in sports than those two ballers. I love calling them ballers. Especially Bird. Such a magnificent goofball. Dude is just a testament to single-minded ruggedness, like if plowing a field for 12 hours a day for a decade could put a triple double in your box score. And Magic, sheeeeeeat. Pretty sure he just smiled at HIV and it was like, “ok, maybe I won’t become full-blown AIDS.” That’s a joke, obviously, but there was one particular story Magic told in that book that’s worth sharing. We’ll get to it.

The book I listened to before When The Game Was Ours was called Take The Stairs by Rory Vaden. The gist of the book is that you have to work to be successful, which is just a golden nugget of an idea. Rory whittles it down to discipline and grind. “You don’t own success, you rent it. And the rent is due every day.” Taking this principle, Rory establishes the focus areas as five categories: Family, Finance, Faculty (work), Fitness, and Fun. I found this interesting because I’d always broken my life down to the less alliteratively pleasing categories of relational, financial, physical, professional and spiritual. I was close enough. When you drill into each area, you realize that they’re all conjoined. The qualities to be physically fit—discipline and routine—are the same qualities that make you financially fit. And just like those who give the most relationally have the most friends, people who give their money tend to find more financial opportunities. Maybe’s it karma. Maybe it’s fairy dust. Maybe you can see anything through rose colored glasses. I don’t know why it happens. But I do know that you should choose to put those glasses on and start seeing the world that way.

Here’s the Magic story as I remember listening to it.

Magic was in his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, just a kid. He’d just wrapped up practice, and he sees his more reclusive, hall-of-fame teammate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar get approached by a man and a boy.

“Kareem,” the man said. “My son and I are big fans. Would you mind taking a picture with us?”

Kareem dismissed them and walked on. Magic could tell that the boy was crushed and the father was embarrassed. So Magic put on a big grin and approached the father.

“If you don’t mind, you can take a picture with me,” Magic said. “Who knows, maybe I’ll be in the Hall of Fame one day.”

The father thanked Magic and posed for the picture with his son and the 21-year-old Laker.

Over 20 years later, Magic was indeed in the Hall of Fame. But he’d also become a businessman owning chains of coffee shops, movie theaters and other entrepreneurial efforts. To support one such endeavor, Magic had set up meetings with several businesses to secure investments. He was in the middle of his pitch with the CEO of one of these businesses, and the CEO interrupted him.

“You know, you and I have met before,” the CEO said.

“Really?” Magic replied.

“Yes we have. I don’t expect you to remember, but you took a picture with me and my son when you were a rookie, after Kareem turned us down. I always appreciated that you did that.

“Of course I remember,” Magic said. “How is your son?”

He’s doing very well. He has a great job with a good law firm. In fact, my son still has that picture. It hangs on his office wall.”

Magic left that office with a multi-million dollar deal.

Putting on the glasses,
Dusty “rose-colored” Riedesel