29 November 2016

Becoming A Regular

It all sounds fun in the beginning. Live a life of adventure. Move to Cincinnati. Milwaukee. Atlanta. LA. Even if you stay predominantly in one town, it is still possible to fall into the trap. While in Tucson, I moved eleven times in nine years. We will not even count the months after college where the Scion xA was the closest thing I had to a permanent address. While it seemed fun in the moment, the long term effects of this lifestyle were anything but.

The transient lifestyle ultimately produced stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. I was constantly moving, yet getting nowhere. Furthermore, a deep longing for something more was starting to emerge. This longing was to be be known, feel settled, and ultimately experience greater joy in the day to day. I have met many frustrated and lonely souls who think shift can happen magically on its own. I was one, and I was wrong. I discovered it takes time, patience, and most of all, intentionality.

Since moving back to Phoenix, I decided to translate the minimalist approach often associated with material goods to my daily interactions, reducing the number of retail and service establishments I patronize to approximately ten. For all the mathematicians out there, this is roughly one establishment per life function – drinking coffee, drinking alcohol, worshipping Jesus, and buying groceries – perhaps in that order, perhaps not. I can recall months in the not too distant past where I patronized that many different Starbucks locations. After two years, the effects of becoming a "regular" are starting to kick in, and the longing I had always hoped for came true by age 30.

While in the midst of the chaos, I was unable to accurately account for the time, energy and emotion I was spending on trivial matters. I am scared to retroactively assign a figure. At this point, it is moot. The quality of life spoke for itself. Objectively speaking, however, it makes logical sense. Math doesn’t lie. These resources are finite. If they are spent on what does not matter, they are not available for what does. Once I was stop spending resources on the former, life got exciting.

Once I stopped spending time locating the frozen peas in every Frys, Safeway, and Whole Foods in a tri-city area, I was able to experience the victory found when I created my first custom AutoCad linetype after a 16 hours of research and development. Once I stopped exhausting mental energy figuring out what every cafe from Congress to St. Phillips calls a “large”, I was able to experience the joy found when the Smooth Brew barista handed me my drink before I requested it. Once I stopped making small talk at a new church every Sunday, I was able to experience the love, healing and grace found in the real talk that happens every Friday at Windsor with my best friend from church.

The decision to become a “regular” was the best decision I’ve made in recent years. It should go without saying that it is crucial to select your narrow list of establishments carefully. You will be back. Don’t get awful haircuts every six weeks and hate your life. In this case, abort mission. Don’t settle for sub-par. Test as quickly as possible and become a “regular” somewhere you are excited about. The sooner you have regularity, the sooner you will discover familiarity. The sooner you have familiarity, the sooner you will be open to vulnerability. The sooner you have vulnerability, the sooner you will certainly experience true community.

02 September 2016

Police Reports Come In Threes

Tonight's episode of Nate and the Phoenix PD takes place at the intersection of 27th Avenue and Glendale at approximately 20:45.

Nate is sitting peacefully at a red light in the beige rental GMC Acadia he acquired while his truck is getting $5515.91 of repairs completed from last week's uninsured drunk motorcycle hit and run, wondering if the settlement check from the vehicle break in at South Mountain four weeks ago has arrived. He is headed southbound in the curb lane. The exact color of the Acadia is still out for debate, but clearly "gold" is wrong by everyone's standards but Nate's.

The light turns green and the late model Chevy Malibu in front of Nate begins to enter the intersection. Nate hesitates to go since there is clearly a pedestrian in the opposite crosswalk who has not completed the transaction. The Malibu moves forward through the intersection business as usual.

Kindly follow Nate's thought train below as he watches the Malibu:

1/4 through the intersection, approximate speed 5 mph: "Clearly this person will see the woman wearing all black at night walking slowly right in front of him and slow down."

1/2 through the intersection, approximate speed 10 mph: "Why is this person continuing to accelerate, and why is the woman not trying to get out of the way?"

3/4 through the intersection, approximate speed 15 mph: "It's possible this person has zero intention of stopping. This woman is in imminent danger if the there is not an immediate change in trajectory."

4/4 through the intersection, approximate speed 20 mph: "It's obvious this person did not apply the brakes until after this woman was lying on the ground. That was a loud crash. Am I the person who is responsible for calling 911 and filing a 3rd police report in 4 weeks? Is she alive?"

Rather than proceeding through the intersection only to block traffic and further aggravate the situation, Nate makes an immediate right into the Circle K and runs across Glendale to the heart of the incident.

By this time, the driver has helped the woman onto the sidewalk, returned to his vehicle, and fled the scene. Nate describes the accident to the 911 dispatcher and hands his phone to another witness who describes the suspect whom Nate did not see.

The overall collective effort was futile at best. Police and paramedics arrive. Nate finds relief in the fact that the victim's missing arm and general lack of mental acuity were preexisting conditions. He gives a brief statement and returns to his temporary vehicle. The woman claims she broke her leg and is transported from the scene in an ambulance.

26 August 2016

Another Night in Garfield

IMG_20160826_240748879Last night at approximately 23:30, I hear a loud crash. I look out the window, expecting to see a car accident in the intersection outside my house. I see nothing. I walk outside.

Female Neighbor (FN) was outside and says someone crashed into the "church", meaning Core Crossfit across the street. I look around and see nothing. 

I walk to the corner and again see nothing. I turn around and immediately realized my poor hearing had deceived me. She really said "truck", meaning MY truck. 

A 20-something Caucasian Male (CM), wearing all black, lacking any helmet or protective gear is lying on the ground amidst his large Harley motorcycle and pieces of both my vehicle and his bike. I ask him if he is ok and if needs me to call for medical help. In a panicked yet bloody fashion, he responds "no please don't call the cops".

He then stands up, presents his faded black backpack with outstretched arms and asks Male Neighbor (MN), "Can you hide this"? MN and the entire group decline his request. CM proceeds to call his girlfriend and says, "I crashed you gotta come pick me up." 

At this point, I go inside to phone 911, reporting both the medical emergency and the potential illegal activity. 

I return to CM who then requests that we help him move his bloody motorcycle out of the street. When CM's strength gives out, I finish lifting it up and engage the kickstand. At this point CM admits he needs medical attention. While I am obtaining water and towels as prescribed by the 911 dispatcher, CM decides start stumbling south on 9th St, presumably to ditch his backpack and flee the scene. FN andMN do nothing to stop this. 

Shortly thereafter, the fire truck and ambulance arrive. I tell them the injured party has left the scene and pointed in the general direction of his departure. During this 30 second exchange, a motorcycle cop and 3 police SUVs arrive. All public service vehicles immediately scatter, shining beacons down the streets and into the alleys. 

Standing by my smashed vehicle, I patiently wait to make sure CM's apprehension and general well being are secure. 3 minutes later, Officer Brooks (OB) returns to the scene and reports that "they have found an individual who is not under arrest and may or may not be related to this incident". OB requests that I go ID the individual. 

I ride shotgun in the police Tahoe for approximately 1 city block. I then provide positive identification of CM who is now unconscious on a stretcher with his clothing being cut away. 

After CM is rushed to the hospital, Brooks and another officer return to the scene determined to find the backpackabout which CM was so paranoid. Phones and flashlights in hand, FN and I, along with OB and Tucson Native Officer (TNO) aka Officer 2 search behind walls and underneath bushes. The officers locate it 2 minutes later, "hidden"  in a driveway. They proceed to search the backpack and conveniently choose to deny any further conversation about said backpack. 

Again returning to the scene, OB requests that I positively identify the backpack. I affirm. 

While waiting for the tow truck to arrive and tow away CM's motorcycle, complete with expired plates, OB and TNO keep me company and converse casually about the likelihood of heroin in CM's system as I cut away my hanging-chad-style bumper and mudflap and sweep the wreckage out of East McKinley Street. 

07 April 2016

Things I Don’t Miss

The last six months have been extremely radically transformative. In an effort to seek clarity, I have spontaneously leaned into nearly every urge to purge possessions and routines that have been impressed upon my heart as wasteful, unnecessary, or contradictory to living the best life possible. It started as a test. What could life look like if I followed through with this philosophy? Were the items I have been holding on to actually making my life better, or were they are burden in disguise? There was only one way to find out: get rid of it and see if I looked back. The running total of items I have re-acquired or routines I have re-initiated is as follows: ZERO. Here are some items that no longer have presence in my life.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat: The fall of last year, I accepted a challenge that God impressed upon my heart: social media free 2016. This actually started three months early. Now 7 months in, I have not had any desire to return. The purpose they served in my life for so long is now unclear to me. I can’t begin to think where I would find time for these intellectual vortices.  I have rediscovered an amazing device called a telephone. Yes, they still make those, for talking. One phone call or face to face meeting every quarter tells me far more about my friends than a daily selfie and political re-tweet.  My “friendships” are far fewer, but far better.

90% of my Contacts List: This may sound ruthless, but it’s honest. Last football season at Arcadia Tavern, I made a list. I listed all the folks who were actively consuming time, energy, thought, or money on a regular basis. The long list demonstrated both a blessing and a curse. I have reached a lot of people, but I wasn’t reaching any of them particularly well. I shortened the list to 16 people who I would focus and spend time with on a regular basis. I then altered the visibility of my phone contact list to reflect this list. I now have to think twice to search for a name outside this list. This pause helps me to reflect whether I truly have time and energy for this, or is it just getting in the way of the others who truly matter. Plus, I have saved a lot of time not scrolling through a list of 300 people I never talk to just to find the one that matters.

64 pack of Crayola crayons: This symbolizes a series of items in my dresser that I have held on to thinking, “I like the idea of me using these again some day”. Really, these items were just getting moved from house to house, not getting used, while preventing the drawer from closing. Every time I looked into this disaster, I would think to myself, “why”? Then I would get stuck, frustrated, close the drawer, and have the same problem a week later. A week ago, I took a cold hard, objective look at each item. If I couldn’t recall the last time I used it, I had to admit to myself that I probably wouldn’t start any time soon. It went in the trash faster than I could second guess. Removing emotion in this situation was key. The next day, I immediately felt lighter. I have already forgotten what was in there.

Greeting cards: It seems harmless at the time - hold on to a few cards for sentimental value.  A few years later, a “few” becomes 150 shoved in every crack and crevice. Have I ever gone back and looked at them again? Absolutely not. A clean dresser surface is far more pleasing to look at than a pile of papers, and far more structurally stable.

Coffee maker: For someone who drinks coffee every day, this seemed absurd, especially since I got a super nice one for $2.50 on clearance. I found myself throwing away a majority of the pot, or drinking far more than I should. The inability to truly see or clean the inner working of this device also led to many sleepless nights. I went the French press route and got to know my local baristas. I rediscovered a my counter top, and spend a lot less time and frustration moving shit around before chopping the essentials for the monthly raclette.

This list could go on – but I’m tired. Until next time…

07 October 2015

Tonight on Uber: I Should Have Known From the Start

scionA gentleman solicits a ride in a rural pocket of dead end neighborhood near Union Hills and 28th St, the dirt road muddied by the concurrent rain storm. He stumbles out of an anonymous home with arm loads of disheveled luggage.

I should have known from the start.

He dumps his items in the back seat and informs me he needs to go pee before we leave. Rather than going back inside, he unzips 8 inches from my car and relieves himself. At least his back is turned.

I should have known from the start.

Before we stop at the first traffic light, I am up to speed on the intimate details of his personal life. Not knowing exactly how to console a 68 year old man sobbing in my passenger seat, I offer a brief pat on the shoulder and redirect the conversation.

I should have known from the start.

Classic rock is his forte, so I rapidly locate KLSX. He excitably takes control of the stereo. I have never seen my stereo display “max volume”. I have never been more thankful for steering wheel volume control. Thank you, dear passenger, for informing me that my stereo is not very good. Your suggestion to upgrade to an $1000 Bose system in my $3000 Scion is dually noted.

I should have known from the start.

The fun lasts until the song reminds him of his late father, and everyone else who has passed away in the last twenty years. Grief can only be solved one way at a time like this: more booze. 

Upon request, we roll into Circle K. He withdraws his wallet and flips through hundreds of dollars in cash, implying I make his beer run for him. Quickly scanning what I will remove from my car and take in with me, I ask him what he wants. Since he cannot decide between wine and a six pack of Corona, he decides to run the errand himself.

Natty Light is neither Corona nor wine.

Before I can stop him, he cracks one open and toasts to his brother. My concern about the open container in my vehicle diminishes as he pours it out the window in the gas station parking lot. Superstition has it that dumping some on the ground allows the toast to transcend into the afterlife.

I should have known from the start.

The final two miles launch a series of rapid fire juxtapositions.

Accusations of taking longer routes to rack up fares are unsubstantiated by failure to articulate a preferred route.

Desires to drive all night to Vegas are confused by vociferous concern over the cost of the current $14 fare.

Drunk dials to “Sherry Circle K” are veiled by demands for marital reconciliation prayers while parked in the driveway.

Fears of facing his mother are lost with the invitation to join them inside at 10:30 PM and eat her  “killer menudo”.