Spins

My mind is a wheel. As it continues to spin, I realize I won't fall asleep until it slows down a bit.

But that’s hard. The sunrise after next, four wheels are going to be spinning an awful lot.

Our mapped itinerary resembles one of those old connect-the-dots drawings, one penciled by a 6 year old navigating his first wet fart. Over 25 stops. Over 100 hours of driving time. Back to back family reunions. The company we seek from age 6 months to 85.

Where does this meandering path lead?

I can't say. I don't know.

But I can tell you why, and that I know it is right.

Another time. The spin is beginning to slow.

To Retire

Roth IRA

401K

Stock Options

Saving

Investing

Collateral

There will come a day that I will want to stop working. Then what?

That's what I'm told, that I should start planning for retirement.

At least start considering it.

I have.

I've considered it all my adult life.

And I have decided that work and life are one and the same. So, what would I be retiring from? Life?

People look forward to retirement because they've accepted the notion that the time before retirement is not pleasant. It's a palliative prescription to an overworked and unfulfilled society.

Am I wrong for trying to avoid that kind of life?

What is an alternative?

No need to answer. The question itself is a great place to start.

I ask it often.

One day I'd love to have an answer.

Hopefully before it's time to retire.

Rebuilding the Pyramid

The abstract has structure too. A base on which things are built. It's simple physics. If the foundation loses its structural integrity, there is risk of collapse. I'm an engineer, I should understand that.

But what I was doing felt too much like floating. Why worry about physics if I'm defying gravity?

But I wasn't. I'd been trying to tell myself that. The cruise was terminal.

The road had not yet been built.

This thought had not yet fully manifested. A gentle knocking. A wisdom nugget shaken loose after months of introspective calcification. I ignored it.

Instead, realization came in the form of a collision. Pedaling down a road, I was struck by a bus.

Bike Vs. Life

Inversion is exhilarating. Disorientation. Lack of control. I prefer it when intentional. And over water.

Cool refreshing water.

Feet near the edge. Deep breath. Bend knees. Leap. Arched back. Water spins into view, then rocks, then sky again. Look down in time to watch my feet hit. Upon impact the water breaks. Being submerged. Ice cold. The invigorating chill charges the body from toes to nose.

No water here. This inversion was flanked by large crush capable vehicle and curb. My pedal powered buffer between my dynamic self and the pavement was bus-punched out from under. The unexpectedness made for adrenaline fueled hyperconsciousness pumping to the point of slow motion. Instinct took over. Chin tucked, arms up. It felt so natural. So smooth.

And... impact.

The pavement did not break.

There was no splash.

What I first felt was embarrassment. I do not like to fall off my bike. I needed to catch up to Tugboat who was riding ahead.

Wait.

I just got hit by a bus.

My ride lay in bent rest on the sidewalk. I looked down to see my hands dripping blood. As the sting from my intense road rash set in, so did the awareness of my less than ideal circumstances.

I wanted a couch. My own. One on which I could sprawl out and fart unabashedly. A bottle of bourbon. Some Papa Rico mac and cheese. The soothing company of Walter White. I'd be well on my way to recovery.

A home.

Not a road.

My emotions, I'd tucked them away like bright easter eggs. And rather than prancing with intentionality to collect them all, I waited for a bus, to take a swing at my brain basket. My worries, fears, my tucked away insecurities tumbled and smashed in a dazzling way on the hard blood stained pavement of life.

Just like eggs.


Why couldn't I see it before?

Things look different upside down.


Abraham Maslow, the Emmett Brown of psychology. Instead of time travel, he chases self-actualization, which most times seems just as elusive. His flux capacitor is the hierarchy of needs.

The hierarchy is this magic pyramid attempting to explain what exactly human beings need in order to kick ass. To reach true human potential.

maslow

My recent lifestyle has been an accidental practical examination of the tiers and their corresponding elements.

Can puterporn replace love?

Can piggy replace employment?

Can notmycouch replace a home?

Non-conformity sure is exotic. And it was fun, for a little while. Thing is, each element of that hierarchy is like an anatomical joint. Removing them can be crippling.

But I like to learn things for myself.

Knacked, KEN, this unwieldy beast of a dream, is perched on top of my pyramid. I give her my time, my love, my hard work. She voraciously consumes it all without question, growing fat. Huge. Heavy. Like Jabba the Hutt. She deserves it.

Meanwhile, I get the misguided sense that my life had grown complicated and clunky. Shackled with superfluousities. Clogged with unnecessaries.

As a kid I would take things apart. Examine the mechanisms. Learn. Reassemble. Is life any different? A confident tinkerer, I dive right in. But in the end, it turns out I'm more like Kathy Bates working on James Caan.

Hard to run or even stand, much less support the dense load of a dream.

But I had wheels, so I kept rolling forward. Trying to build something on top of nothing. Drifting forward on the only path I'd left open. But like floating down a river, it made avoiding obstacles difficult, and collisions inevitable.


I just wasn't expecting something so literal. Buses hurt. But being submerged in the shocking reality I'd been avoiding was much more painful than the bus/pavement two punch combo.

That cold truth hurt. It was also exhilarating. With it came a clarity I did not have before. I saw every obstacle and what I needed to do to get through.

At the end of that, a place to start again.

My reintroduction to gravity. A brush up on some elementary physics. It had been a while.


It was 8 months ago yesterday.

Slinging sandwiches for some steady money, I found myself a nice home, and some nicer people. It may just be snot and duct tape holding my pyramid together, but it feels a hell of a lot sturdier.

And so am I.

Ready for another go, I find myself in a familiar place.

But not the same.

Sticky Skin

I was back. I could smell it. Feel it under my feet. A thin layer, coating my skin. The Mexican jungle.

He waved me down, calling my name. Never that excited to see me before. This time, his soft Israeli eyes full of affection. Before, they were always somewhere else.

It was what he had mentioned that one night. The night of the smoky mescal con chapulines and dried ground up worms. The ceremony.

He took my hand and we went into a hut. Vast and dark. I saw what looked like canvas bean bag chairs spread throughout. As we were sitting down, the shaman welcomed us by name.

Barefoot, shirtless, we sat indian style on some primitive pad. My friend, my guide, a furless teddybear at my side. His clammy hand held mine. It seemed appropriate. From the shaman: silence, or nondescript mumbling, I cannot remember.

How did he know my name? I didn't know I would be here. Just as I had entered his hut, he entered my mind. In this dim shanty, we were all cracked open. In the air a muffled echo, like the ocean. Our thoughts, subconscious, our souls flooding out no longer contained. Briny mind juice sloshing with our doubts and fears as this plain clothes buddha reaches out to let it all flow between his fingers.

He came to each of us, one by one. Bald, wearing khaki shorts and a frayed burgundy polo shirt. Maybe he'd just finished a round of golf with Bill Murray. He had a wirebound notebook and a yellow #2 pencil with a pink pointy eraser. On the paper he sketched our lives.

My friend went first. It started at a point at the top. He hastily shaded an area that widened a bit, eventually coming back to a point at the bottom. Like a feather. Overtop of this he drew a wavy line, connecting each point, representing the path we take, from birth, to death. And a logo, or symbol, our sign. My friend seemed very satisfied.

He began sketching my life. On the same piece of lined notebook paper, adjacent to the other. Maybe to save space.

At this point, it is very important to relax. No resistance. Don't hide. Let yourself be seen for all that you are.

We watch with heavy hypnotized eyes. Horizontal. I was the little spoon. His arm over me. Our skin sticking together in the heat.

I've never been a fan of the cultural rules assigned to haptic communication. Homophobia is passé. My companion in this strange place is an amalgamation of close friends from my past. It wears the skin of the Israeli, borrowing his eyes, but radiating the love and support of anybody I've ever meant anything to. It is a comfort. We're not alone on this squiggly graphite line called life. Be it sticky skinned friends, lovers, or puppy dogs.

Was it the heat that made me sweat, or was it that lingering fear? That dark seed sprouting shit thoughts, the root of all my anxiety. The work I do, this windy path I take, does it go anywhere? It can be suffocating. As if all my strides are merely convulsions of a graceless near death beast.

In this omniscient mumbler's eyes, I see that sharp flawed reflection of myself. That look that we never really see. Of being truly known in our entirety.

He draws. Curves and bends, back around again. Up, some down, never straight.

[Me]

It pierces through to this pulsing leathery mass I carry in my chest.

[Me]

Each inch drawn another inch deeper. My body shutters. This is it. My life.

A charge like lightning. Fluttering deep in my belly. What he says next will complete it. A revelatory mental orgasm.

Consciousness bubbles. Is it the "total consciousness" I'd heard so much about?

No.

I'm awake.

Shit… I scramble, clawing at my pillow and blankets trying to pull myself back into the dream. I sit up. My back against the wall. Left with only the sticky skin.

Soon, I fall back asleep. This time, a Scandinavian country club, bouncing barefoot on this half gravity fairway at dusk. Later, professional wrestling in Thailand.

My dreams. The winding path. They continue. So I do as well.

A quick half step back north. Working side by side with Tugboat. The windy path this week was a long walk along the river, a baby björn strapped to my chest.

There's a warmth here. I think I might stay a bit.

Tres Años

Lost. Deep in the woods. The first big ride of the season. I was exhausted from the tricky terrain and steep hills. Chugging along because what else is there to do. As long as you keep moving, eventually you find something. Something familiar maybe, anything to give you a sense of where you are and what direction you need to go. To this day I've not been able to rediscover the windy ridge that led me there. The path eventually became more clear, and ended at this rock overlook. From there I could see everything so clearly. My new home, and the valley that it rest in, the mountains hugging that valley.

When the leaves fell I realized that, if the light was just right, I could see the rock ledges first thing in the morning while lying in bed. They were calling me back. I would go on these midnight full moon hikes alone to see if I could find them again. Wandering lost, every cracking tree making me jump. The snow was iced over. Only the animals had been there before me, their prints frozen in. The crunch of my steps seemed so loud compared to everything else. And every time that sound came from somewhere else, my heart would beat faster. I enjoyed trying to freak myself out. They were my moonlight adventures. I did this a few times, never to find the ledges. There were frozen waterfalls, a random car door, but never what I was looking for. I'd take a heavy sip of whiskey and trudge back down through town, back home. By that time the snow had been left alone to dust everything over and my path was usually the only one.

Cold, quiet. What I had been doing for work, I didn't want to do anymore. What I had moved to Vermont to learn: sustainable building and design, I didn't want to make a career out of either. It felt like being back to the beginning again.

A friend and I had this term, underemployment. We thought it had a softer sound to it than unemployment. Like, there was nothing to be worried about. We had the skills, it was more the fault of others for not hiring us. Fuck them. We were underemployed.

Early 2010, I decided that even if nobody was paying me to get up and work, I'd do it anyways. I set a schedule, and decided for 5 days a week, I would simply be productive. I made elaborate color coded lists of tasks, and each day I'd reprioritize, carry over all the things that didn't get done. I was drawing every morning. I listened to French audio tapes. On a whim, I'd follow through on any little thought, make a project out of it. Explore it for as long as my interest held. My underemployment became gainful. I was working for myself.

On January 30th, that 'no fucking around' attitude gave me the gumption to make a date with the moon. On my calendar it's marked simply as, 'Da Moooooon'. We were to meet at the ledges, of which I discovered are named the Wu Ledges. To woo the moon at the The Ledges of Wu. Beautiful. Now, to get there. I had a plan. I used a compass. With a screenshot of a local terrain map and some photoshop fu, I was able to calculate the exact direction to walk from a specific entry point. Thrashing and slipping through the woods wasn't all that elegant, but I got there. True romance. Under her gentle light I explored the terrain, familiarizing myself with her elusive ways. Hell, I may have even made a snow angel.

Catching a glimpse, and forging a path with stubbornness and bourbon. While there, the alternative routes are immediately apparent. Some easier, shorter, but they aren't the path I took. For whatever reason, my path was different. When I return, as I did frequently, it was much easier. I knew my way.

Two weeks later. Three years ago. It was a glimpse of something else. It's hard to say exactly what it was. Gainful underemployment had me taking daily hits of this really heavy shit that was a bit disorienting. Some would call it inspiration, but it was of a much more potent variety. I call it sparkle dust. Like that shimmery iridescent soot Tinker Bell sprinkles when she's feeling generous. The magic shit that makes you fly. I must have done at least a few bumps.

It started with knitting. I had this project in mind to help me bear the long cold Vermont winters. Wool socks that ride all the way up to the ass cheeks. Fastened to a sleek pair of running shorts with some big buttons. It's hard to imagine better indoor winter apparel. But rounding the heel is a trick. I was hoping someone could teach me. What I wanted was an in with a seasoned knitter. But they typically aren't ones to post their whereabouts on social media sites. They know a passing trend when they see one.

It was an incredibly frustrating dilemma. Yeah yeah, who gives a shit about my socks. What's frustrating is that the information is out there in this incredibly pure form that has not yet been dumbed down by the digital medium. More pure than anything you'd find in a google search. The connection between two people is so much more powerful than the connection between one person and a webpage.

I want spontaneous. No commitment, effortless. An educational quid pro quo. The only prerequisite being one person's knowledge and the others desire to learn it. The ability to browse the content of your local community as if it were a course catalog. And the freedom to audit whatever it is that interests you. Your immediate environment is now an intellectual amusement park. Everybody has something to learn and knowledge to share. A crowd sourced education platform to better people and communities.

Just words… Soon after that revelatory vision, I got a job at a gas station. Then a restaurant. Soon, I was working 7 days a week. I still don't have those socks. And Knack Education Network is little more than words on a digital page. Just words...

What exactly did I see? Does the direction I'm going lead anywhere? Maybe I'm not drinking enough bourbon.

Three years and still chugging. That's either awful or something to celebrate. I chose the latter.

A Drop in 660,000 Gallons

You should know, I'm coming for you. Your scent is in the air. Like blood to a shark. The water is murky, but I will find my way.

When you least expect it, I will appear. I've been shut up. My own doing. I'm kind of pissed about it.

Now I'm hungry.

No idea where I'm going. Know not what I'm doing.

But it's time to feed.

It could get messy.

But rest assured.

It will be a feast.

Blood in the Water

State of Play

I had this fantasy of what it would be like. A garage, make shift office, with extension cords and a floor cold, damp, and stained with oil. We'd pee through a crack between the boards of an unfinished wall that the light shines through. A mini fridge stocked with kool-aid, beer, and cottage cheese. I'd stash carrot sticks in the scraggly neck beard adorning my face. For a snack. We'd work incessantly. Stop occasionally to play basketball. Both of us, terrible, but competitive, aggressive, and boastful. It's a game of charlie horses and shit talk. Our release. The scrapes on our knees crack open and sting when we sit back down to work. And we'd create something.

It's like the geek version of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Dweeb outlaws blowing up railroad cars of conformity. Coding our way into the sunset. A pocket protector's wet dream. My shoddily thought out romantic take on what it must be like to start a tech company.

Well, not my idea. My little cliche frankenstein baby. The way I envisioned Jobs and Woz, Brin and Page. Arnold and Pheiffer with the style points of Clinton and Gore. Real life superhero duos.

So I put put on my mask. Stubborn, defiant, naive. So much so that it might work. And who cares if it doesn't. The important thing is…

Wait, yeah… I guess the important thing is that something is produced. That whatever the grand idea is, it gets chased down. Made.

It didn't. At least not enough in my eyes. If that hacker fantasy was a steamy love story, then what I was doing was just masturbation. I neutered the allure. I got discouraged. The Fade.

Tugboat would suggest there was too much focus on the solution. We lost focus on what we set out to do in the first place. To frame the problem in an inappropriate metaphor, imagine being entangled in the classic affair of coitus. Depending on the parties, and their corresponding anatomical advantages and disadvantages, when participating with the intent of mutual completion, one can encounter a variety of obstacles that often require composure and tact.

It is not uncommon to find oneself in a certain rhythm, that may feel right, but is not necessarily producing visible or audible results. It's a simple case of tunnel vision. And while it may seem great to feel like you're doing something, it's important to be mindful of the ultimate goal. Get yourself some perspective. If necessary, pull out, take a step back. Make a sandwich. Come back and look at the situation with fresh eyes and the humility to admit that what you were just doing may not have been working. That's ok. Consider changing your position. Sometimes, you need to think out of the box. But at the same time, you shouldn't over think it. When you're ready, take a deep breath, and dive back in.

Yeah, it's a delicate dance. Those who lack the skills to improvise will struggle the most. The ins and outs and mechanics of it all is obvious. But what no one tells you is that none of that shit matters if you're not in tune at that other level. This other level is where the juices flow. Where the real connection is made. Is it love? Because the fact is you should have great passion for what you're doing. The act, when done well, should be immensely gratifying. This is no place for dull rhythms or monotonous half assedry. If that's the case then stop wasting everyone's time.

My mind was stuck in a preterite stutter. Running from something while never taking my eyes off it. Never looking ahead. And more importantly never looking around to see where I am. This unending battle with my past failure. Feeling that there's something to prove. A stigma that I needed to right. Prove that I am able. Simply…. able. Over and over again till rote. I felt like to move forward, I had to make that clear to myself. But you can't see tomorrow with yesterday's eyes. And unimaginative selfish repetition is certainly no way to make love.

The particular flavor of this cleverly subtle torture came in an ugly package of 6500 lines of near indecipherable code. For me, this was some heavy geek shit. I loved the challenge. The code was a bare bones vanilla system for tagging the glorious content that will one day grace knacked.net. I was trying to modify it to handle more terms in an elegant way, specifically, with nested trees. Each day I slowly worked away. Brief moments of imaginary sensations of progress. Working through hour long supposed solutions only to find more errors and back to the beginning again. I had lots of ideas as to how to solve the problem, but each implementation would take hours, and every time I did, I discovered more and more variables, eventually coagulating into this beast of an unwieldy dilemma. The cherry was knowing that someone with a few years experience in the industry could probably bang out what I was attempting to do in a few days. It was taking me months. And I was nowhere. At the current rate, knacked.net would be up and running in 2020.

I didn't want to blog about this. There was no progress to show, and it was quite dull. No inappropriate metaphors came to mind. Beyond that, I thought the blog was ugly. It didn't represent me, or my idea for what this all is suppose to be. I was ashamed of a lot of things, and to draw more attention to that wasn't appealing. I wasn't ready to own up to my fuckups and flawed ways of thinking.

This acknowledgement was a big step. The choice not to see it as failure, but instead as embracing the many possible ways of moving forward. I had boxed myself in. Now, there is immense freedom. My stubbornness, stripped of ego, becomes determination. Taking me from cold isolation to warm collaboration. A place to learn and connect. What knacked.net is all about.

So where does that leave us? Well shit. I'm broke and Tugboat's in a sea of diapers. Short on money and resources. She's been a onerous dame to court. But I don't mind chasing her down. It's been nearly 3 years and I only fall deeper into her trance. True love can be rough.

But sometimes I like it rough.

Little Toot

At the end of 2012, a wonderful little lady decided it was time to stretch her chubby legs.

The Knack Education Network would like to tenderly welcome Tugboat’s Little Toot into the world. Warmest wishes to Tugboat and his lovely family.

Little Tootly

The Fade |a haiku|


Love, memories, light
Vanilla, Big Daddy Kane
High, bright, fade away

Gone. Be a new day
Same? Same same but different
Ok? Yes, let go

What’s thought lost, below
That which burns bright will always stay
What fades still can grow

Out

I am currently out of the office. Or, the office is out of me. Wait... the office never really existed, but the inverted plastic crate that served as my standup desk in my office/sleeping space, that whole thing, I’m away from that. But I’m still working, just not there. Instead of being in a deserted apartment on the side of a naked ski mountain, I’m currently in a crowded coffee shop 1500 miles away.

For a month...
I’ve been gone
Far from what I called home
Sleeping on a floor
Without my favorite cast iron pan

… but on the other hand
My belly doesn’t jiggle so much
Shit’s gettin’ done
Higher miles bring more smiles
I’ve been uncaged (rawr)

Road Home

Simpler. Much much simpler. An old bike. A skinny computer. Some beard wax. A bag of pistachios. It’s hard to find peace and quiet. Siestas are a bit more elusive. It isn’t sensible to spend hours cooking lunches. My physical and fiscal environment will never be just right. Who cares. Stripped, stoic, the underlying me mechanics are revealed.

I am...

“You are where you want to be”, Tugboat said with a shit eating grin. His face flashed into a distorted/younger/bearded Jack Nicholson. The voice popped in my head instantly and I couldn’t stop laughing.

We were taking a walk, very much enjoying the effects of some homegrown psilocybe cubensis that had been lovingly infused into a chai tea I steeped not more than 30 minutes earlier. It was my first time. I very much enjoyed the experience.

“You are where you want to be”

Or was it, “where you are is where you want to be”. I can’t remember which. But it doesn’t matter.

As Tugboat guided me along, it felt as if everything was unfolding like a choreographed serendipitous dance. A walk through a park was the most beautiful song, full of bright colorful crescendos bouncing off the meandering path ahead of us. My face hurt from smiling so much.

Everything was where it was supposed to be. And we were there too. A part of it. The thing of it was, nothing had changed. We were simply enjoying the view from an altered state of perception.

“You are where you want to be”

I got it then, but I really feel it now. The ultimate punch line to the world’s only joke. The common tendency of externalizing unhappiness. Push against the grain. Resisting change. Distractions. Material things and their implied relationship to our personal happiness. It’s bunk.

It’s easier than that. What makes you feel warm inside? Bright. It’s all a big hot and cold game. You know, that game we played when we were kids? I kicked ass at that game. Keep moving. Feeling.

Express yourself and what you are passionate about. Connect. We are what we do, what we build, what we make. Be it relationships, cupcakes, or a blaxploitation spaghetti western. The rest, if it doesn’t help us do that, is kind of irrelevant. Our ideal selves are uninhibited by external factors. Certainly not reliant on them.

Aid the make. So many tools and people happy to help. Surround yourself with them. Find other hot/cold champs. You’ll know when you do; they’re magnetic. Go with it. Play.

Since I’ve been away, it’s like I haven’t been any place at all. Just between. But strangely enough, that feels right. Never has my immediate future been more unsure. I’m cool with that. It feels like the beginning of something.

Getting warmer.