Summer Camp and Petty Crime in Prospect Park

During the summer, my local park turns into one massive summer camp. The baseball camp bleeds into the lacrosse camp bleeds into the Harry Potter camp bleeds into Percy Jackson Camp bleeds into the toddlers who pick at the grass and do singalongs bleeds into the Orthodox Jewish toddlers who pick and grass and do Orthodox Jewish singalongs.

Usually, I do my best to ignore them all as I take my daily walk, but one day last August I felt compelled to stop and watch an event that was unfolding on the main lawn.

There was a massive dragon in the middle of the field. It was made out of paper, cardboard, and black cloth. It looked like a stripped down version of what you would see at a Chinese parade.

I didn’t envy the five camp counselors who were manning the dragon, with their torsos covered entirely in black felt. It was 95 degrees and humid. Standing around the dragon, tossing homemade cardboard swords in the air and catching them, were five more counselors.

Thirty yards across from the dragon stood about fifty children, ages seven through twelve, each brandishing cardboard swords of their own. Four counselors on this team led the group in call and response chanting. It appeared that they were about to go to war.

“Romans!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Who are we?”

“We are legion!”

“What is pain?”

“Fresh bread!”

“What is fatigue?”

“Army clothes!”

The kids were frothing at the mouth. They screamed their responses at the top of their lungs, pounded their chests, and stabbed their swords into the air for emphasis.

As someone who only ever went to basketball camp growing up, I had no clue what was happening. Weren’t summer camps about playing capture the flag or something? I took a seat to watch the action, riveted. The “good guys” (all the campers) were supposed to represent Roman soldiers, but I couldn’t tell who the “bad guys” were. They were definitely not referred to as Carthaginians, so it wasn’t like they were faithfully recreating a famous historical battle. I guess I could have deduced that from the dragon.

Even though there were 50 child soldiers ready for battle, bloodlust in their eyes, mouths drawn back in snarls, only ten kids were sent forward to fight.

If I was a parent, I would be kinda pissed. If you’re going to dress my kid like a warrior, make her recite chant after chant about winning honor on the great field of battle and using the tip of her spear for justice, you better let her at least fight someone. With all that buildup and no discharge, I’d be worried she’d use the excess energy kicking the living shit out of her siblings when she gets home.

As the battle progressed, a few of the younger kids in the back of the pack could not contain themselves. They charged forward to try to join the fracas.

The counselors were on it. They grabbed the kids and ordered them back, staying in character the whole time.

“Hold the line, soldiers! Hold the line! We need you back here!”

Those kids wanted to use those swords so bad their heads were ready to explode. I would not like to have been a squirrel walking by.

After a couple minutes of sword fighting, half of the “evil” counselors were dead. The other half had been converted to the good side. I’m not sure how. Maybe the Romans sent a priest.

When the captured counselors got back behind the good guys line, the same kids who tried to charge sprung into action. They surrounded a captured soldier and held him at sword point.

“Traitor!”

“Murderer!”

“He did a homicide!”

The kids seemed actually mad. Things had gone full Stanford Prison Experiment. A more senior counselor had to walk over and ease the tension.

Fighting on the battlefield continued until the original ten kid fighters, plus one counselor, had advanced to battling the dragon.

After the last of the “bad guy” counselors were slain, the lead counselor called off the kids who were fighting by his side. He then approached the dragon and, with a mighty downward slash, felled it. The counselor raised his sword and everyone cheered.

I couldn’t believe it! From what I could tell, this was the climax of the entire camp. Why on earth would they not let the kids be the heroes? Was it all part of some lesson? That life was about waiting your turn, following orders, holding the line, and letting more senior people have all the fun? At least at my basketball camps the counselors didn’t all of a sudden insert themselves into the games and start dunking on the kids.

Once the dragon had collapsed on its side, the counselor turned back to the campers.

“Warriors, come forward and have your vengeance!”

The kids ran over and started beating the living shit out of the already dead dragon. They loved it. They wailed on that thing until their cardboard swords started to bend and break.

It was weird watching them all attack the dead dragon carcass. I had flashes of how Nietze felt when he went crazy after watching a horse get flogged on the streets of Turin.

The kids liked beating that already dead dragon a little too much. Jordan Peterson has been making a lot of waves lately by saying that we all have a “monster within us,” and what I was watching had me thinking he’s right. We’re definitely one bad power outage away from the world turning into Lord of the Flies.

There were so many Roman soldiers trying to get their licks in on the dragon that the smaller kids, those same ones who tried to hard to get in on the action earlier, were still on the outside looking in. They circled the mass of kids, looking for an opening to get their licks in on the dragon, but never found one. They pounded the grass in frustration.

After a few minutes, the whole thing was called off. There was a final chant about honor and pride or something, and camp was over.

The campers dispersed, and I followed behind some of them as they walked to an ice cream vendor in the middle of the park. One of the kids I was near started muttering to himself, “kill their family, burn their homes, kill their family, burn their homes,” as he swung at shrubs with his sword. I’m telling you, they unlocked something in these kids minds that was better left untouched. I gave them a wide berth as I passed.

I was brought out of my thoughts when the ice cream vendor I was approaching started shouting at someone who had just left the stand.

“Hey! What you doing! Hey!”

A teenager, about 15, and smoking a cigarette, was walking away with a smirk on his face and a Snapple in his hand.

The vendor, a small man in his early 40’s, looked at me.

“He stole that Snapple!”

I was unsure what to say, so I defaulted to playing dumb.

“Him?” I pointed at the only person holding a Snapple in a 50-yard radius.

“Yes!”

“Wow, sorry.”

“He stole it!”

The guy was looking at me like I should go perform a citizen’s arrest. It felt like an extreme version of the way people seem to love stopping me on the street to ask for directions. I don’t know why I get singled out, but I almost never know how to get anywhere, so I just leave people disappointed.

I knew the same thing would happen here, but I still stroked my chin like I was developing a plan.

The kid was 30 feet away now, casually strolling, defiant. I was annoyed by his youthful brazenness, but not enough to actually confront him and risk getting knifed. Or worse, embarrassed.

“That kid stole my Snapple!” The vendor repeated.

“I know! You just told me that.”

“Stop him!”

I just stood there, despite the vendor’s increasingly aggressive exhortations. After a few seconds, he shook his head and stormed away. It was starting to feel like he was more upset at me than the Snapple thief.

The vendor then flagged down a gardener who was passing by in his truck. He pointed at the thief, who was a good 20 yards away at this point.

Vendor: “Stop him! He stole a Snapple!”

Gardener: “I can’t do anything. I’m a gardener. Call 911.”

I wish I’d quickly and confidently used a line like that.

“I can’t do anything! I’m a non-confrontational tech worker on my lunch break and I’ve never been in a fight. Plus he’s smoking a cigarette and I really hate secondhand smoke!”

As the gardener drove off, the vendor turned back toward me with a look like, “can you believe this gardener? He has all sorts of sharp objects with which to apprehend a criminal! What a coward.”

He took a breath and then ordered me to call 911. I don’t know what pheromone I was giving off that caused this guy to think I was his enforcer, but I didn’t fight it. I just told him the truth, which was that I didn’t have my phone on me.

I guess he didn’t have one either, because at that point he gave up and went back to his stand.

I like to imagine that the Snapple thief got what he deserved. He was heading towards a group of campers. I imagined he might accidentally anger some of the overstimulated, under-satisfied, bloodthirsty, nine-year-olds, and that they could finally get a true taste of vengeance.

 

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Brooklyn Weirdos

The dogs in my Brooklyn neighborhood have it good. Birdie, Phoebe, Izzy, Charlie, Shady, Bluey, Ricky, Lacey, and even the dogs with names that don’t have an “e” sound at the end, are all treated like royalty.

They are free to roam off-leash almost every morning. Their perfectly groomed coats glisten in the sun as they accept fancy treats that their owner’s produce out of elaborate fanny packs.  They are even talked to like they have human-level intelligence. 

“Do you think you’ll want more water in a few minutes, Phoebe? Should we circle back to the water fountain later, after we play with your friend Charlie? Just let me know.” 

If these dogs are to be treated like they have critical thinking skills, fine. If they are going to have more expensive haircuts, better dental care, and wear nicer clothes than me, that’s cool, too. They just can’t also be allowed to pee on me. 

That’s what I found myself thinking one morning, sitting under a tree in the park, as a terrier named Bentley marked his territory at my feet. The stream didn’t make direct contact with my body, but my left leg caught some splatter. Was it cat urine or dog urine that carried that deadly disease that kills pregnant women? I couldn’t remember, but I was sure to look it up after going home and taking a Silkwood Shower.

I let out a “hey!” and gently shoved Bentley away. I turned my head and searched for his owner.

A tall woman with a visor power walked by, flashing a smile: “So sorry about that! Come on, Bentley! Come on!” 

She sped past, and in a few seconds, she was around the bend in the walking path. 

I thought she might rush over and put Bentley on a leash. I figured she’d at least chastise him for urinating on a fellow park goer. Perhaps a punishment was in store later, and he would be forced to dry dog food that night instead of filet mignon. 

Bentley and I glared at each other for a few more seconds, neither wanting to give up what we rightfully believed was our territory. Me, because I was there first, and finders keepers. Bentley, because he had peed on me, so why on earth would I not move? He had a point, but I was stubborn. I had paper towels to wipe my leg. I wasn’t going anywhere. 

Eventually, he tottered away. At the pace he was moving, he’d catch up to his owner in about an hour. Who knows what kind of terror he would wreak along the way.

Watching him leave, I imagined what would have happened to my childhood dog if he had peed on a random person. 

When I was around 11, our golden retriever, Calvin,  pooped in the house.

My dad was gardening in the back yard. I was slinking around the kitchen, hoping I wouldn’t be asked to help. I noticed a little turd near the kitchen window, but before I could clean it up, my dad noticed too. 

My Dad is one of the kindest, most gentle humans I’ve ever met. That all went out the window when walked by the sliding glass door and saw the feces. He turned into a Guantanamo Bay interrogator, quickly leaning down to swat Calvin’s nose with the full force of his open hand. 

“Why did you do that! Bad! No! You do not do that!”

He shoved Calvin’s nose toward the poop. Calvin stared at his movement with a scared, but curious, expression. He wasn’t the smartest dog.

“What is this substance?” he seemed to be thinking. “It smells interesting. Better have a taste.”

He extended his tongue, and thwack! Another slap to the snout. 

“Now you want to eat it?!”

My dad lifted Calvin straight off the ground and pinned him up against the wall, holding him by the front paws. He screamed into his face.

“You poop outside! Bad dog! You. Do Not. Shit. In the house!”

Calvin took this in stride. He wore a bemused, quizzical look. It’s like he knew something was off, but he was also getting a nice release in his lower back due to the way his legs were dangling. He wasn’t stressing it too hard.

I, on the other hand, was unsettled. Who was this man, who so rarely raised his voice, and never swore,  treating the dog like a criminal he caught reaching into his back pocket on a crowded train?

“Dad, you’re hurting him!”

While still pinning Calvin to the wall, he chastised me from over his shoulder.

“This is how they learn. You’ve got to show them who the alpha male is!”

If my dad owned Bentley, and he caught him peeing on someone in the park, it would have been on.

The incident occurred near the lake in Prospect Park. I could see my dad heaving the little dog into the water. With a yelp, Bentley would emerge, gasping for breath, while my father taught him a lesson from the shore. 

“You got that person wet, and now you’re wet! Eye for an eye, you mangy piece of shit! How does it feel? You’re lucky it’s not winter!”

My dad is not cruel. He always loved our pets and treated them well. He just thought that tough discipline was the only way to maintain the hierarchy between man and beast. That’s how I thought everyone dealt with their animals. I had clearly never been to Brooklyn.

These dogs don’t suffer beatings. It actually doesn’t seem like they suffer, period. I think half of the household spending in my neighborhood goes toward canine healthcare. 

There is one regular park goer, a German Shepard, who marches around using only her two front legs. Her injured hind legs are cradled in form fitting sockets, part of a wheeled contraption that appears to have been custom made at great expense. She always looks quite pleased with her setup, and she plays with the other dogs like she has four healthy legs. 

Better yet is Roger, a Chocolate Lab who coasts through the park while sitting in a tricked out wagon, looking like an emperor in a chariot. His ride is outfitted with a cushy blanket and a water bowl. He sits upright and dignified as his servants  owners labor to pull him from place to place, which looks like it takes no small amount of muscle power. 

One day, as Roger entered the park, I heard a neighbor check in on him. 

“Hey! How’s old Roger doing with his arthritis?”

“Pretty good. We take him swimming at the pool every day, so he’s maintaining his strength.”

Swimming! At a pool! Pools are hard to come by in NYC. I saw a “pop up” pool one time this summer, near the Brooklyn Pier. About 75 people were crammed into a 15 by 20 pool, holding their children and elbowing for room so that their little ones could bob with their floaties. This was a quickly constructed above ground pool, with rusty aluminum siding. It sat directly below a massive highway. Such is the appetite for pool going in New York. 

Overhearing this, I was surprised. How do you even find a pool that accepts dogs? And who were these people, so focused on providing physical therapy for a pet? Don’t they have anything better to do? 

Then, I took stock of my situation. I was shirtless, wearing toe shoes, and hanging from a tree branch. I was taking loud breaths and craning my neck back and forth so as to better mobilize my shoulder muscles. It was 11 AM on a Tuesday. Kids at summer camp were giving me weird looks, but I hardly noticed them as I eavesdropped on the conversations people were having about their dogs. 

Maybe Roger’s owners aren’t so odd. Maybe we all have our quirks.

“Can you believe that grown man who’s always out in the middle of the day, topless, swinging from tree branches and grunting?” the owners probably say, sitting poolside and giving Roger his afternoon deep tissue massage. 

“Doesn’t he have anything better to do?”

 

How Ancient Wisdom Can Help Us Deal With Haters

Like most everyone, I once waged a battle against a force as relentless, punishing and timeless as waves crashing on the beach: kids being dicks to each other.

Here’s a quick recap of my life up until age 16, with a focus on what would become the major annoyance of my youth: my high voice making me feel inadequate on the basketball court. 

3rd through 6th grade — The good ol’ days. I was tiny and had a high voice, but every other young boy was in the same boat. We could all answer an incoming phone call and be mistaken for our sister or mother. This happened to me all the time. I hated it. If only cell phones had taken over a bit earlier.

7th grade — Even amongst mostly pre-pubescent people, I was smaller and more squeaky-voiced than most. I compensated by being scrappy on the court, which rubbed some people the wrong way. That included opposing coaches.

Once, when taking a crucial shot, a 40-year-old coach leaned over and whispered in my ear that I was a “little bitch.” I was 12. And you wonder why the AAU circuit gets a bad rap.

8th through 9th grade — The kids I played against were pretty much done with puberty. I still looked like someone you’d try to help if you saw me alone in the mall. 

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-12-27-59-pm
This is me at age FIFTEEN

This was the period where it felt like every time I called a play on the court, someone on the other team would echo back my words, mockingly, in a comically high voice. It was like playing against a team full of 80’s movie bullies. 

Throughout my playing career, I used to get so focused on the game that I often couldn’t hear the crowd noise. I think that’s why I found it amazing that there were people who had the wherewithal to openly mock me during a game. Kids are ruthless.

The annoying thing is, it totally worked. I hated when people made fun of my voice. I silently cursed my endocrine system. I jealously stared at other guy’s protruding Adam’s Apples during class. I ate like an NFL Lineman, hoping to jumpstart my growth and development. I did everything besides wander around by a radiation plant in hopes of scrambling some sense into my DNA.

Nothing worked. I was stuck.

I was too naive to realize there was no problem to be dealt with.

I never came across the studies showing that delayed puberty can lead to an increase in final height. I never thought of responding to the jeers with “do you idiots realize Mike Tyson has a high voice and he’d send your septum into your brain with one punch for looking at him wrong? Are you really equating vocal pitch with masculinity?” That would have probably led to more mocking for my use of big words. Again, kids suck.

What my interest in history has taught me is that everyone, no matter how awesome, is persecuted in some way. DaVinci was hated on for being gay. Socrates was murdered for suggesting that maybe a bunch of toga wearing gods didn’t have all the answers. Copernicus was excommunicated for pointing out that the sun does not revolve around the earth.

What all those people had in common was a strength of conviction. DaVinci rolled with a posse of gay dudes in open defiance of the customs at the time. Socrates accepted his death sentence with dignity, refusing to back down from his stance. (The judges that put him to death were later put to death themselves for having made a dumb mistake. Ancient Greece was on some real eye for an eye ish.) Copernicus, having been excommunicated and excoriated by the entire community, remained defiant. While in exile, he is known to have said (my updated translation) “those fucking dummies are gonna feel pretty stupid when I’m proven right.”

Now, being made fun of by a bunch of people for having a high voice doesn’t seem so bad. The giants of history had it a lot worse. I just want to reiterate the ancient wisdom that it’s always better to keep your head down, tune out the nonsense, and continue to work toward your goals. 

Eventually, my voice did deepen. Even if it hadn’t, my relentless focus on being a good player would have put me in the upper echelon of athletes for my age.  Would it really have been that bad if I sounded like a Powerpuff girl but still dropped 30 points per game? My anger only served as a distraction. 

I was infuriated by mean, un-clever people over something that was outside of my control. I hope to never repeat that mistake.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has an elegant way of putting it:

Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

The quote is not 100% applicable, because I wasn’t so much misunderstood as simply picked on, but the basic point remains. There will be haters, and you only hurt yourself by giving them credence.

The Pros and Cons of Exercising in Public

I haven’t spent much time working out in gyms these past 6 years. This is probably because, in my brain, gym time = a large human telling me I’m a piece of shit unless I exceed my one rep max on the bench press like, right this fucking second.

One particularly bad lifting memory comes from my junior year of college. I was supposed to be doing some pull-ups with a weight vest on. Instead, I was staring into the distance. Someone from the baseball team snapped me out of it by asking if I was okay.

Instead of saying “yep!” like I normally would, I talked about a holocaust survivor I had just read about. The only way he could pass the time at the concentration camp was by thinking about the house he wanted to build for himself when he got out. He built it brick by brick in his mind as he suffered through his sentence.

I had noticed the bricks in the team gym. They triggered me to think about whether I could get through my tedious, painful lifting session if I put my brain in a completely different place. What could I build in my mind? What was I going to do when I got out?

Baseball player: “Dude…that’s pretty dramatic.” And he walked off to go squat.

Of course, he’s right. Still, I tend to avoid gyms. That means I spend a lot of time exercising outdoors. I’ve never had qualms about working out in front of other people. I’ve done burpees in an airport when my flight got delayed. 

My workouts tend to strike people as strange, so doing them in a dense city provokes a range of reactions. 

The most common interaction I have is when a passerby comments on my tenacity, but in a way that lets me know they would never do what I’m doing. They’ll say “whoa!” and “nice!” but the words will have a twinge of reproach to them. 

It’s like when I see an ant carrying a piece of food that is 10 times her size. (I just learned worker ants are always female.) I think “impressive! ” not “I wish I was currently carrying a taco the size of a Toyota Yaris while walking to meet my queen.” So, I get where people are coming from when they see me sprinting up a hill in 100-degree weather. 

The problems start when people tell me to change my ways. One morning, after I finished a set of pull-ups on a tree branch, I heard a creaky voice from an upstairs window shout at me.

Old Woman: Don’t do that!

Me: What?

Old Woman: Don’t hang on the tree, it’s not good for it.

Me: It’ll be fine. We’re meant to climb trees, it’s in our DNA. And I’m done anyway.

Old Woman (angry): Find a different tree!

Me: Do you own this tree? Cause it looks like it was planted 80 years ago and it’s on public property. Don’t you have some cats to take care of?

I wish I’d said the last paragraph. I just walked away. 

Thankfully, I have had fulfilling interactions as well. 

I was recently doing sprints up a hill on 23rd street in San Francisco. I would do jumps at the bottom of the hill, and then sprint to the top. The hill was classic SF, in that it’s so steep you are amazed that cars can still park perpendicular to the sidewalk without being toppled by gravity. 

When I was finished with my workout I immediately took a seat on the sidewalk, too tired to stand. 

I saw a man approaching out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t concerned because he wasn’t talking to himself, nor was he holding a large U-lock with the look of someone who wanted to do something menacing. (I’m on high alert for this after taking a routine walk through the Mission District in San Francisco only to have a woman hurl a large U-lock at my girlfriend. It narrowly missed. The mental health problem in SF is real, y’all.) 

So, this guy waves and says “That was a good workout. My daughter and I were watching you through the window. She’s a runner, and she’s very impressed.” He then introduced me to his daughter, I left my girlfriend, and we’re now en-route to the Bahamas to run Caribbean hills together.

But really, the father continued on to say that he too was impressed with my workout. He wished me the best of luck and he walked away. He struck me as a genuine, happy person. 

I was having a bit of a down moment before my workout started. I had just returned from an international trip, and I was feeling some of that general jet lag blah-ness. My interaction with this friendly dad completely revitalized me. 

There was something magical about imagining that my efforts inspired someone. Of course, I have no idea if I did or not. But, if that daughter was impressed, maybe after seeing me she decided to stop scrolling through Instagram and get some fresh air. I have definitely been motivated by strangers working out before. I’ll never know if that happened in this case, but it’s fun to think about. Feeling that connection, that sense of purpose, was energizing. I was feeling gloomy and insignificant one moment, and walking home with a skip in my step the next. 

The whole thing felt very personal and small on one level, and yet very significant at the same time. It reminded me of a quote from Ernest Becker:

“Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.”

Maybe I changed someone’s life. Maybe I need to explore avenues where I directly influence the people around me, instead of waiting for things like this to happen. Or, maybe I’m a shallow person who doesn’t really like the idea of helping anyone, but instead craves the feeling of personal satisfaction that comes along with it. Who knows. I’m happy to have had the experience and to have the time to explore these thoughts. 

In the meantime, I’m off to do pull-ups on construction scaffolding while the NYC passerby give me quizzical looks.

Getting Over the Stigma of Making “Rash” Decisions

Back in June of 2015, I thought that I was going to be in Los Angeles for the rest of my life. My goal was to be a TV writer. Where else would I go? Why would I leave?

Within a month, I had answered those questions. I would go to Wisconsin, and I would leave because my priorities changed. I was fully committed to living simply, tending my future homestead and eating delicious cheese. There, in the spacious, affordable Midwest, I would stake my claim.

Not quite. After 6 months in the Badger State, my bags were packed and I was off to NYC. By this point, I was no longer sure where I would spend the rest of my life, but I figured I’d be there for at least a year. Two months later, I was on a flight to San Francisco to make my new home in the Bay Area.

A week after that, I had left SF and was traveling the streets of Sri Lanka, determined to make it as an amateur snake charmer. That’s not true, but there are people in my life who wouldn’t have been surprised.

I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned amidst all this moving. I thought I would jot down some thoughts.

One result of all the change is that am no longer afraid of making a rash decision. For the longest time, I was pretty bad at making any decisions. Routine purchases, such as replacement ear buds when my headphones would break, often became grueling, day-long affairs. “Why do the $7 Sony’s get better Amazon reviews than the $9 Sony’s?” “Should I wait for a sale?” “These refurbished Apple headphones look pretty good, but EarBudStudForLife made a good point in that Yahoo answers thread from 2011 when he said that refurbished stuff is never as good as you think it’s going to be.” And on and on.

Now, I will buy the first thing that looks good and not think twice. I mean, I just changed jobs, moved across the country and back, broke up with and got back together with my girlfriend, and started eating gluten again. Things change, evolve, grow, gain and shrink in importance. If I can accept that with big things in life, I can surely accept that it doesn’t matter which brand of organic brown rice I purchase.

I think that the idea of rash decisions is a bit of a fallacy. Sure, you don’t want to blow all your money on the first shiny thing that catches your eye. It might not be a good idea to marry the first person you have a crush on. Don’t do heroin all day every day just because it feels good at first. Etc.  

But what is really so awful about having a hunch or a feeling, and going boldly in that direction? No one can predict the future. If after a decision you are still alive, happy and healthy, can it be said a decision was bad or “rash”? It just is. You never know if choosing the alternative would have unlocked a series of events that seemed good at first but ultimately ended in you getting hit by a bus.

I’m trying to get better at trusting my intuition. It’s important to realize that most accusations that you are acting too quickly come from a place of fear. You are doing something that person wouldn’t do. The outcome is unknown. That’s scary to them.

But, there are good things that can come from taking bold action as well. Maybe I’m drinking too much of the Silicon Valley kool-aid, but I’ve been identifying with the “move fast and break things” ethos. The best way to learn is by doing. If I had never gone to the Midwest and fully committed, I wouldn’t have been ever to cross that off my list of ideas. I wouldn’t have been able to deepen my relationships with people who live there that I care about.  And I definitely I wouldn’t have been able to provide Goodwill with enough winter clothes to outfit an Everest expedition.

That being said, I do wish I had been less adamant in thinking that all these changes were the best moves I could possibly be making and that anyone who couldn’t see that was crazy. I have a tendency to feel that every decision is binding and irrevocable. I think that I overcompensate for this fear by going over the top with my proselytizing.

I couldn’t just leave LA, I had to make myself think I disliked LA. Same with Madison, and same with NYC. I was vocal in criticizing all those places, partly as a way to convince myself that I was always making a perfect, logical choice. People who paid a premium to be near some sand were shortsighted. People who bravely weathered the elements and had dreams of living independently and off the land were heroic. I put myself in the latter camp, and I wasn’t shy about saying so.

I have no regrets about all my moving, I just hope that next time it happens I can be more thoughtful with how I present it to myself and to other people. Because things always change. At the quantum level*, the universe operates on probabilities, not certainties. All you can do is make an informed decision, be honest with yourself, and hope for the best.

Rash isn’t always bad, and bad isn’t even always bad. It’s all about perspective.**

* Reading one Stephen Hawking book pretty much makes me an expert on this.

** I’m sorry if my first attempt at being semi-serious makes me sound like the Dail Llama and Tony Robbins if they got drunk together and giving an overwrought TED talk.

 

Book Reviews, Harvard Weightlifting Madness, Hollywood Sadness

kesey

 

Books I’ve Been Reading

The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe

This is a classic for anyone who truly wants to understand the origins of the psychedelic movement in the 1960’s. If you’ve ever done a psychedelic and been overly worried about set and setting (quiet room, trip guide, etc.) then this could be a good book to check out. To the originators of the whole movement, set and setting was far less important than partying as hard as possible at all times. The core group out of northern California was tripping 24/7 and tooling around the country in a tricked out party bus. It’s a great read. Ken Kesey is like Keith Richards, Rob Gronkowski and Jesus all wrapped into one.

– The End of All Evil, by Jeremy Locke

This is a short read about how we are all slaves to our corporate masters. Also touches on how every nation exists to exploit its citizens and can only exists as long as we all live in fear. Should this book be required reading in high school instead of garbage like The Scarlet Letter? I say yes.

– Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, by D.T. Max

A biography of one of my favorite writers, David Foster Wallace. I loved it. DFW was one of the most accomplished writers of his generation. That didn’t stop him from spending an insane amount of his free time writing letters to Jonathan Franzen, pleading for help with his procrastination problem. Makes me feel better for not blogging for months at a time!

Random Thoughts

  • This was in Delta’s in flight magazine:

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“Richard, the article is about how happy we all are. You’ve got to smile”

*Richard tries to smile.*

“Mr. Anderson, you’re frowning. Think about your happiest memory.”

*Richard imagines the sweet release of death*

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“That’ll do.”

 

  • I found an old training manual from my freshman year at Harvard. It’s amazing. If you read it, you’d probably think we were training for a strong man competition. If wins and losses were determined by who could scream the loudest while getting so deep into a backsquat that you can feel your discs slipping out of place, we would have been set. I mean, check out our unofficial mascot, Harvey Crim, who is featured on the first page of the manual:

Harvey Crim

 

Classic basketball body right there. Pretty sure Kevin Durant would be better if he looked like the physical embodiment of roid rage.

We all prayed at the alter of Harvey Crim. It’s nuts to look back and see the kinds of workouts we were doing either right before or right after a 3 hour practice. But, at least we had a manifesto on the second page of the book explaining why it was so crucial to work ourselves into oblivion day after day regardless of whether it made us better players:Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 14.28.38 PM

That’s some intense, typo riddled craziness! Did you catch the author? 

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If we ever had to see a real doctor because it felt like our workouts were making our knee tendons disintegrate, that was a disaster. Shouldn’t be done. Fight through it. Or, we were encouraged to seek out Dr. Squat instead. His prescription? Squats until you saw the white buffalo, preferably followed by exhaustion induced vomiting.

I’m all about hard work, and I have tons of fond memories of working out with my college teammates. I still maintain that we should have been a little more focused on improving our jump shots instead of our lifting numbers.

  • I found a great screen shot of an email from my ICM days. It shows just how brutal it is trying to make it as an actress in Hollywood.

Casting

 

Not just beautiful. Not just sexy. Beautiful AND sexy. That’s the golden ticket. Go to Julliard and learn how to be super, duper hot.

 

 

 

 

Quora

Quora is a question and answer site that’s trying to be a better Yahoo Answers. Which is not very hard. Here’s some typical content on Yahoo Answers:

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There is no way that question would get 39 different responses on Quora. It’s a site started by Harvard people, so you know they try to keep it classy.

There are some really cool people writing answers. NBA owners, hedge fund gurus, the founder of Wikipedia, and famous writers all use the site regularly. But, some of my favorite answers are from unknown people with specific passions. I particularly enjoyed this dope original artwork satirizing modern life, this surprisingly entertaining explanation of what happens when an airplane takes off  and this thought experiment on how an evil genius could take over the world.

The best part is how you don’t feel like you’re wasting your life when you procrastinate on Quora, as opposed to Facebook. Elon Musk’s wife is not on Facebook talking about how Elon treats his women like they’re robots to be judged solely on their utility. It sounds like Elon would have replaced his ex with an efficient, all-electric version if that were possible. Instead he just upgraded to a younger, hotter actress.

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I write answers on Quora now and then. This one, about a time in my life when I felt like a failure, really struck a chord. It has now been viewed about 460 thousand more times than anything else I’ve ever written. I also write about basketball and talent agencies, as usual.

That’s it. I’m not a Quora shill getting paid to say any of this. I just like the site and wanted to give a quick shout out to my fellow Quoraians, including some person named Avery Hemming, who tried to bring a bit of Yahoo Answers flavor to the site when she asked me this gem of a question:

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My answer is ALL OF THEM. If anyone can do it, you can Avery.