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”.


02 October 2015


InboxReturning to the minimalism bent for a moment, Nate must share a success he has had with email over the last year. While he could have done it anywhere, it happened IN Phoenix, and is, therefore, relevant.

Nate was once THAT guy who had 200, 300, 500 unread emails in his inbox, clogging his phone and his mind. Did he care about any of them? No. Did he spend time looking at them, scrolling past them, thinking about what should be done with them eventually? Yes. This is a conflict, is it not?

It actually started back in Tucson with the inception of a new Gmail account in 2014. This email was going to be strictly for personal use. The only people who would ever know this account exists were to be human beings, not companies, not newsletters, not marketing mongrels. Well, it has been over a year and this holds true. This is also the email address that alerts to his phone. Despite popular misconceptions that Nate may be extremely popular, it only goes off three or four times a week. He knows each of those chimes has importance and doesn’t have to spend time filtering. Open, read, respond, move on.  It is a beautiful thing.

The major revolution that happened in Phoenix is what is mind boggling. After a major corruption of the account for “all the other stuff”, Nate shut it down and opened a second new account for “the man” to have. However, this time Nate was extremely intentional about who “the man” was to be. He took the same strict approach, giving this email only to service providers he actually needed to engage with. Consider these the people who keep your lights on and hold your money.

Starting with a fresh email, this is the key… the secret… why someone would suffer through the last four paragraphs to get to this simple revolution. IF YOU DON’T GIVE THE ADDRESS OUT, YOU WON’T GET ANY MAIL IN.

Nate realized he was actually creating his own misery by succumbing to every cute Old Navy salesperson and rugged Ford representative. (True fact: these representatives at the auto show have nothing to do with the car company. They are models who work for a talent agency). It may seem harmless in the moment. These products, individually, are not bad. Many Nate even uses to this day. He just doesn’t need four emails a week about it. Four emails a week times ten companies equals 2,080 emails a year. Easily, this could absorb 30 hours of life a year. What about those inboxes with 3,748 emails? Suddenly the free hats and 10% off coupons aren’t as appealing. They are the hangover that lasts all year, interrupts important meetings, and usurps your mental capacity to do really awesome things.

Sometimes the process of providing an email is unavoidable, such as purchasing an airline ticket. There is a magical little button called “Unsubscribe” at the bottom of most emails. Each time he gets an email, he takes the extra second to click it. Be warned, certain companies are crafty. They actually put people in six, seven, ten email lists within their own company. Thinking you have unsubscribed, it’s all a lie. While unsubscribing from “Daily Deals”, am unknown subscription still exists to “Weekly Deals”. This process will take time. Be prepared, and have no fear. No matter how many times he has “unsubscribed”, Delta is still smart enough to send the boarding pass.

01 October 2015

Tonight on Uber: Sitting in the Car… Racking Up Fares

scionI am summonsed to an apartment complex on 17th Ave and Glendale. The passenger courteously calls to report, “I just got out of the shower, I will be right down.”

It is unclear why he called for a ride before he was ready to go, but that’s neither here nor there.

Sitting in the car… racking up fares.

He comes down the stairs, shirtless, smoking a cigarette. He asks me to pull around to the other side of the building to be closer to his heavy bag. 

Context clues lead me to believe he needs help carrying said bag down 2 flights of stairs. Ok, I’m here to serve.

I remove the bag as quickly as possible from his nearly empty apartment.

Sitting in the car… wondering if the goods I am now trafficking will get me 50 to life… racking up fares.

Minutes later, he makes his way down, shirted at last, with his broken pink e-cigarette, non-broken Camel Turkish Royals, and iPhone charger in hand. This guy is ready for a night on the town.

“The first stop is at Fry’s. It will just take five minutes”, he directs.

Sitting in the car… looking at his apartment from the Fry’s parking lot… racking up fares.

It is unclear why he did not walk to Fry’s before I was on the clock, but that is neither here nor there.

Fifteen minutes later, he calls. “Sorry, I got held up. There were lines and I found a clearance table.”

Sitting the car… watching the 90 pound girl cart attendant push with all her might for ten more minutes… racking up fares…

Triumphantly, he returns, proudly showing off his clearance Old Spice deodorant and iPhone 4/iPod charger.

He generously exclaims, “You’re so great for waiting, your tip is going to be bigger than the fare”.

Eager to get to the hot tub after a long day of packing in a 105 degree humid hell, he directs me to his friends house, unashamedly rummaging through my cd collection while en route.

“Your mom is a beautiful lady for getting you this beautiful Matt Redman CD”. 

It is unclear whether he was hitting on me, my mom, both, or neither, but that is neither here nor there.

Sitting in the car… wishing I was alone… racking up fares…

I drop him off and carry his bag to the door. He enthusiastically shows me on his phone what my earnings will be. That’s curious, as I hadn’t ended the ride yet.

“I did it for you.” Translation: “I touched your phone without asking.”

Sitting in the car… Big sigh.


25 September 2015

Tonight on Uber: The Secret Menu

scionTwo employees Uber’d their way home from the Stand in Arcadia. With all restaurant workers, I genuinely and enthusiastically ask them what the best item on the menu is. There is no better way to find delicious food than straight from the folks who make it.

With tight lipped hesitation resulting from a implicit blood-endorsed non-disclosure agreement, one passenger alludes to an item that isn’t on the menu.

Unabashedly, I probe for more specifics on this and other “secret menu” items. Nobody ever said uncovering Phoenix would be easy.

The passenger proceeds to describe a few options in delicious detail. Eagerly, I ask how to order one particular item later deemed the 36th St. Style Nachos (or Fries). He obliges, knowing full well that my stomach’s happiness is far more important than his first born child.

“However,” the passenger continues, “most of the employees don’t even know what the secret menu items are or how to make them. It’s always confusing when people actually order them. We always have to ask a manager how to ring it up too.”


24 September 2015

Tonight on Uber: Vince

scionA couple has me take them to the Del Taco drive thru. The female Del Taco worker remarks, several times, to the female passenger that she looks familiar. The passenger is seemingly in denial.

Then the worker goes in back for a minute and the passenger says, "She might recognize me from YouTube".

Suddenly thinking I might have someone famous in my car, I ask, "What is the name of your channel?".

*Insert sarcastic comment by boyfriend implying that she thinks she is so popular people would actually recognize her from the INTERNET.*

She responds, "Erica, but it is spelled Airruhkkah. That persona started on MySpace and kind of stuck."

Couple proceeds to lament about the high cost of the vegetarian burritos compared to the meat options, but that they better get used to it if they are "really doing this vegetarian thing".

They ordered 3 burritos and 2 churros for a grand total of $7.04


06 September 2015

Community for the Long Haul

IMG_5597In the midst of chaos and frustration, Nate escapes to one of his favorite Phoenix getaways. Hiking through the moonlit mountains late at night, an idea comes forth – an idea which may or may not warrant serious consideration. The concept of communal living has ambiguously woven its way in and out of his mind over time. Tonight, the concept is powerful and articulate.

The city is irrelevant, but a fun one is advisable. Start by taking a group of friends who are intentionally committed to living life together for a significant portion of time. A length of time where parents can look back with their kids and recount memories from decades past. This group of friends will choose relationships over promotions, consistency and deep roots over the next big break. Everyone contributes – their talents, their times, their uniqueness. No freeloaders allowed.

Find a neighborhood with modest homes in close proximity – homes with room enough for large dinner tables, basic needs, and nothing more. One person, the ringleader of the crew – so to speak - steps up and manages a pool of shared resources. Everyone contributes a bit financially and has access to those things that waste space 355 days a year in garages across the country.

Without the need for space to store  6 snow blowers, 3 trucks, and 12 crock pots, homes become smaller, mortgages cheaper, and A/C bills lower. Travel increases, fun multiplies, and free time expands. Time to pursue dreams. Time to enjoy family and friends. Time to be creative. Time to explore passions. Nobody worries about their empty homes or pets, because in a sense, they are common and cared for.

It is understood that homes are communal – invitations unnecessary. Meals are shared together. Nobody drives to one another – just eats, drinks, and rejoices merrily, regularly. There need not be a special occasion to see your good friends but three times a year, but rather three times a week. A signal could be put in place to protect private times of fighting or fucking – a classy version of the sock on the doorknob.

This social construct inherently fosters deep rooted relationships simply due to repetition and transparency. The fruits may not happen right away, but after five, ten, fifteen years, the players look back and say “damn, this is really, really awesome”.

23 August 2015

Driver for Hire

Scion 005.1 (640x427)Recently Nate has started to engage with the people of Phoenix in a whole new way. Working as a driver for Lyft and Uber, Nate navigates the streets of Phoenix, never knowing who may get into his passenger seat next. Each encounter has been a unique and special experience. Whether or not this business endeavor is profitable is moderately irrelevant – the real profit is human engagement in it’s most raw forms. Together for 10 to 30 minutes at a time, likely to never see each other again, the consequence of opening up is minimal at best.

In any given night, Nate may entertain a lobbyist from Washington in town to advocate for international humanitarian issues at 9:00 PM, then three far-too-post graduates headed home at 12:00 AM to do some coke and get laid by tonight’s lucky winner on a random weeknight. What is most striking to Nate is that these stories reflect the true nature of these individuals’ character. These stories are thoroughly engrained, and despite their perceived shock factor, there is no shock factor RELATIVE TO THE STORYTELLER’S PARADIGM. Each person tells their story with true authenticity and a straight face.

It has been truly enlightening to observe where people are in life – how they view relationships, work ethic, God, money, time, and social status. Nate has never intersected so many different types of people in such a concentrated period of time. Even if he had heard of such things, he always truly doubted whether or not they existed. They do. They are in full force. In some ways our society is far more advanced than it ever has been – perhaps too advanced. In other regards, people continue to embody primitive human instincts that date back centuries.

Will Nate remember each story in great detail three years from now? Likely not. Is there merit in posting each encounter on a semi-real time basis? At the risk of sacrificing presence for a written product, no. Documenting individual cases also hints at jeopardizing the authenticity, as well as creating implicit mockery at one person’s specific circumstance. That is by no means the intent.

The intent is to track how Nate will learn push his own understanding of human nature through themes extracted from the driving process as a whole. How will Nate learn to authentically engage with people he would never encounter under any other normal circumstance? How can Nate have an impact on each passenger and make their day a little bit better after a ride across town?

Lastly, Nate has learned that he can learn far more about life by listening to people from other walks of life speak authentically for 10 minutes than he can from any textbook. Each person has purpose and experience worth knowing. People love to talk about themselves – and hopefully by extending an invitation to do so, those people will realize their own purpose as strongly as Nate observes from the outside looking in.

10 July 2015

Milwaukee Musings

IMG_7620Escaping the hellacious summer heat of Phoenix, Nate found respite this early July in his all time favorite city: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Now Milwaukee is not the city most people associate with an epic life of grandeur. Often hidden in the Second City shadow, responses to Nate’s Milwaukee love are fraught with confusion and skepticism. The long running nickname “Killwaukee” probably doesn’t help either.

Upon request, the following post will aim to articulate the beauty that lies within the bounds of this mysterious city.

The basics: Milwaukee is a city on Lake Michigan with a population of roughly 550k people. Far smaller than Chicago, the sense of community is strong and established. Milwaukee embodies the greater Wisconsin quality of genuine friendlies and the kindness of stranger. The neutral division of neighborhoods amplifies this communal quality, creating numerous small towns within the larger. From the south side neighborhood of Bayview, to the northern Riverwest, each area has a distinct architectural and cultural identity. One easily knows where they are and has a sense of belonging. It is easy to be content and have all the basic social and practical needs met within a tight radius. When boredom strikes, adventure is blocks, not miles, away.

IMG_7656The breathtaking beauty: Milwaukee county has one of the most extensive and interconnected park systems in the country. One park will consist of a sandy beach reminiscent of the Pacific Coast. A quick bike ride will take you through majestic Maple and Oak trees where green is the only color seen for miles. Not only do the parks exist, they are well utilized. Despite the brutal winter, Milwaukee is a very active community. Jealously abounded within Nate when he could not jump on his bike and hop on the miles long trail. The Milwaukee river teases the trails, creating easy access to water no matter where the path takes you.

The built environment: As an architect, Nate was awestruck by the extensive inventory of historic homes from the turn of the century. Generally speaking, no two homes look alike. The rich architecture has been preserved. As new development occurs, it does so gently and respectfully. Nature prevails in the midst of development, as most homes are tucked beyond canopies of trees.

The intellect: Despite the reputation of Wisconsin as a whole, Milwaukee is well rounded, diverse, and educated. Several thriving universities call Milwaukee home, leaving no shortage of interesting conversation. High quality local musicians thrive in the intimate scene, and have opportunities to perform that would never occur in larger cities. Because people are established, they are able to hone their craft, and each establishment and exchange is a piece of art, including the famous Milwaukee Art Museum.

IMG_7676The access: Although it would be completely sustainable to never leave the great city of Milwaukee, convenient opportunities to do so make it even more appealing. A short drive or train ride will take would be urban enthusiasts to the cultural mecca of Chicago. When complete, they can return home to their quiet Milwaukee neighborhood. There are many places in the greater Chicago area that have a longer commute to the city and steeper rents. An hour or two in the opposite direction leads to the north woods where some of the greatest camping and fishing can be found on secluded lakes too abundant to number.

The energy: Similar to Tucson, Milwaukee embraces it’s quirkiness and supports local businesses. The quality of food, coffee, and beer surpasses that of most cosmopolitan cities, without the hour long wait and intense pretense. People come as they are, live fully, and laugh frequently. Not a single person Nate interacted with wanted to leave. The lack of transience creates roots. Trees with established roots bear fruit. While comfortable in their own skin, Milwaukee still welcomes newcomers. It isn’t trying to be anything, it just is.

09 June 2015

The Same, but Not Really

IMG_20150608_193706Driving through the mean streets of Glendale, Arizona late at night immediately triggered some feelings of youth for Nate. At those late hours nearly 12 years ago, as the intermediate signals flash red and yellow, with the windows rolled up and the music blaring, he would have been on the way home from Fountain Shadows after a night of shenanigans with Tiffani and Sean. Tonight he returns from Superstar video, a homebody depositing movies reminiscent of this very era.

As he experiences this season in Phoenix, however long it may be, juxtapositions of the old and new continue to prevail in a powerful way. These juxtapositions expose evolution, refinement, and a newfound appreciation of a childhood that was not as bad as the moment led him to believe. Sure things were not ideal, but are they ever, really?

The juxtapositions also illuminate the past in a way that makes Nate wonder why it wasn’t so crystal clear in the first place. To quote Dammit by Blink 182, “I guess this is growing up.”

Nate feels at home, but in a new a way, and realizes a lot of life has slipped in between his departure and return from Phoenix. The take away from this is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. He left a wanderlust teenager looking for trouble and returns an adult with a slightly increased amount of discernment. He drives around in his own car and, more noticeably, burns his own gas money. After a night at Metrocenter, he blasts down the Dunlap on ramp at the I-17, but for possibly the first time in his life, does not take the 27th Avenue fork to the old neighborhood.

Same, but not really. While he does not return to the old house and continues down the freeway, he finds himself, for possibly the first season in life, truly wanting to return to his roots, truly appreciative of where he came from.

He flips through the stations on the radio. He rocks out to Craven Morehead on Go Punk Yourself. The Edge is no longer. Christian and Country songs intersperse the familiar tunes.

Same, but not really. The palette is more expansive. The world has been seen – and rather than abandon the past like he had set out to do, the product is a balance of the old and new. Better together. The metaphor in this scenario is that Nate is not afraid to like beyond a contrived image of himself. Nate likes what he likes because he actually likes it – independent of the rest of the world. Screw ‘em.

He gathers at the George and Dragon with Randall and Su. The destination is new, but the friends are old and dear. Dad used to frequent the George and Dragon with his friends – a side of Dad that Nate heard about but never knew. For the first time in his life, Nate understands that his life and his father’s were more alike than he ever thought, and they likely would have truly enjoyed each other as adults. Sadness perks, and Nate mourns the loss of what he never had. Simultaneously, he is eternally grateful for dear friends, adopted fathers, and a God who was orchestrating this journey the whole time, a God Nate never knew back then.

Same, but not really. It is amazing how great the journey can be and how special places and people can be if there is enough room for God to work, and enough recognition that nobody but God can take the credit. It is amazing how great life can be with a grateful heart that forgives the past. It is also amazing how great life can be when the future does not rob from the present. Perhaps that is the biggest change – the future and past no longer overwhelm Nate’s present, at least most of the time. Does he have a general of sense of how things could have gone or could go? Sure. Does he spend every waking minute micromanaging and psychoanalyzing the plan, only to have it all blow up, and realize God’s plan was better in the first place? Man, is he sure trying. With each successful surrender, the days become sweeter, conversations deeper.

The place is the same, but the attitude and journey have evolved into something greater. Perhaps that is the point – it is not the place that makes or breaks happiness. While “place” is a prominent theme in this season of life, this story could be titled “Any City” Uncovered. It took leaving and coming back for Nate to realize this. Appreciate the past, take what has been learned, filter out the crap, express gratitude for joys celebrated and lessons learned, embrace the present, and hold hope in a God that has got the future covered.

21 May 2015

Musings of a Wildcat

From time to time, Nate makes his way down to the good old Alma Mater, the University of Arizona. Last weekend was one of those times. It was graduation day, nonetheless. It is strange to be on the other side of the coin. Watching the future of America emerging from Main Gate is a scary thought when you hear phrases such as “he totally kicked his ass”coming out of the mouths of those in caps and gowns.

IMG_20131116_112419Not too long ago, Nate was one of these spirited individuals without care in the world except the details of last night’s party. While ass-kicking was not a part of his usual activities, there was something special about that season. All too quickly, life starts and many of the rituals that make college one of the most enjoyable and healthy seasons come to a halt.

For Nate, many of these adult transitions were subconscious. They were completely normal based on his now current circumstances.  His life looked like those of many people around him. He must be doing something right. Not necessarily.

It wasn’t until life began to feel broken, purposeless, and frankly, miserable, that he consciously began to analyze what was missing. He found that many of the lifestyle choices inherent in the college life are absolutely crucial to a vibrant life. The fact that they are compartmentalized and reserved for those glorious  five years is completely absurd.

While there may not be parties seven nights a week as reality sets in, there are still plenty of ways to re-integrate this lifestyle into adulthood.

IMG_20150320_071525Musing Number One - Happier people drive less: Without a car for much of the time in college, Nate was forced to walk, bike, or use the bus. By design, his life was limited to a small geographic area. He was in the best shape of his life and had more energy. Nate has found that cars come with far more costs than insurance and gas. Although driving may reduce travel time, the absence of a regular workout reduces energy, productivity and creativity, resulting in a net loss. By being intentional about geographic proximity to work, friends, church, and family, it is suddenly possible, even in Phoenix, to say no to the automobile more often.

Musing Number Two – Happier people have community: College is the epitome of social engagement. During college it was rare to eat dinner alone. Whether it was a deep conversation over quesadillas at CafĂ© Sonora or a group cram session that takes up more tables than is socially acceptable at the Grill during peak hours, fellowship was built in, easy, and frequent. There is less time to be sad or bored or lonely when these methods for engagement are available. Everybody hung out in everybody else's’ dorm room, and nobody cared how messy it was. Community simply happened. Working in a small office and living alone, Nate has to be extremely intentional about this musing.  Luckily church has been a great catalyst, and is one reason why the Christian model of life is so fulfilling.

Note: This musing dovetails nicely with Number One. By living in a small area, it is likely to see the same people repeatedly and build relationships. Once solidified, it is convenient and accessible to have dinner with them for no reason at all. It isn’t as easy to meet people while driving around in a two ton metal box of solidarity.

Musing Number Three – Happier people take risks: In college, almost everything is a new experience. Therefore, there is an inherent amount of risk just to survive on a day to day basis. Trying new things and taking risks becomes a normal mode of operation that isn’t so scary after all.  People go new places, try new activities, meet new people, eat new foods, all without batting an eye. Once graduation sets in, so do adult routines which can be rather mundane. Are the obvious mundane routines such as jobs only supporting more mundane “stuff “ that in turn restrict time and resources to create new experiences?  In college, there was no room and no money for “stuff”, but there was an abundance of an even greater commodity: time. By living a minimal life, there are far fewer obligations required to support the mundane, resulting in more space to live a riskier life.  The only difference in adult life may be the lack of a massive hangover.

15 May 2015

Honing A New Craft

As Nate continues his journey through Phoenix he finds rest and rejuvenation  in the most arbitrary of venues. The most recent – the backyard of his dear childhood neighbors. Real conversation was had – emotional, intellectual, and recreational. There was space to relax, and ponder, and articulate questions never before verbalized. The take away is, again, the reinforcement that more does not equal more.

This is why minimal living is so important to the journey in life. Minimalism is not simply the idea of purging your belongings. It is the idea that your belongings do not control your time, attention and resources. Without space in the calendar, and most definitely without space in the mind to engage, these relational dynamics would simply not be possible. Those who say they can truly be “present” while simultaneously poised with a Bluetooth headset and  playing Candy Crush are a mysterious bunch.

Last week, a career idea sparked. What if Nate could use his design and communication skills to help others embrace a minimal lifestyle so they can be rich in ways they have only dreamed about, ways that do not involve money, but time and relationships.  Whether or not this idea is really a “thing” is irrelevant. If Nate has experienced something so rich, how can he NOT share it with the world. Perhaps this is a consultant service. Perhaps this is a furniture assembly service. Perhaps this is a life coach. Perhaps it is a maid service. Perhaps it is a little bit of each. The concept is simple: use the available tools to facilitate a life where one thinks more deeply about less.

The next step is to continue to study, life, observe, and document these life choices as a tools. Simultaneously, the fruitful life should also experienced and documented so others may take notice and say, “he has something I want”. That is not to say that one has to do exactly what Nate does in the newfound free time. Quite contrary. The idea is that time and energy are present to embrace that which one is truly passionate about, amplifying our unique yet complementary God given talents and dreams. Then at night, one can truly rest, not consumed by appointments, finances, and “stuff”.

How to get this idea going is still in the works. After reading enough Acuff, this is the prime time for Nate to work out all the bugs and hone the craft – when nobody notices. He probably should not even be writing this blog for the world to see… but who really reads this thing anyway? This is just another step in the journey – practicing the documentation. This is why Nate needs to write. This is why Nate needs to take pictures. This is why the spark that ignited Phoenix Uncovered cannot be extinguished.

05 May 2015

Life with Keys

IMG_7423As Nate has moved from place to place, to yet another place, and possibly seven more places over the last nine years, he has learned the importance of making things you do every day, multiple times a day, stress free.

It can be something as simple as keying all the locks on your house to the same key. He never knew what a difference it would make until he did it, had it, then lost it. Life with keys can feel overwhelming. There is a key to the entrance of the building, a key to the top lock, another key for the bottom. Then there is the ever so important key to the city from the mayor. That one is definitely a keeper. By the time all is said and done, overwhelming masses of metal overtake pockets and purses across the country.

Yes, it takes a little bit of cash and time to have a locksmith come out execute this task. If one goes the DIY route, there goes half a Saturday. This is an example though, of a little thing that gets put off day after day. It seems like no big deal, or is it?

Think of the time spent flipping through four pounds of keys to get into the house with an arm full of groceries, only to have the bag break and liquid Tide running down the stairs. Recall that moment of frustration and pain when those coffees catch up and bladder “control” is marginal at best. The train to relief is derailed yet again when the wrong key is jammed in the hole. It only looks ever so slightly different than the right key, but there is no time to compare key teeth patterns when explosion is imminent.

Imagine a life without a wrong key. Imagine a life where this routine sequence just works, every time, every day, with minimal mental exertion. Imagine how full the mental energy bank will be if it isn’t spent on trite sequences involving keys, junk drawers, or medicine cabinets. Whatever the analogous mass of metal may be, take the time and set it right, today. As the little obstacles in life begin to lift, the mind frees to think about family, dreams, and stuff that matters. One situation like rearranging the keys might not seem significant, but twenty similar situations quickly add up to a life of eating dinner at 9:00 PM, exhausted, with nothing of value accomplished. Start little, start anywhere, just start*.

*Nate has been inspired by reading a lot of Jon Acuff and Joshua Becker. Both are great resources to living a better life, and come highly recommended. 

03 May 2015


Chandler 125No, despite what the lack of activity suggests, Nate has not gotten lost in a vortex to another dimension. 

He did, however, geek out in downtown Chandler, Arizona for a solid hour with his camera, testing each and every setting. His love of exploring new places through the lens of photography had been forgotten in the midst of the previous years’ chaos. He also seems to have forgotten, ashamedly all too quickly, that the best evenings are often those which are unplanned.

While Phoenix has been an exciting place to explore, Nate has also realized he knows very little about many of the adjacent cities, each writing their own story. Yesterday’s quest for a truck took him a round-about way to downtown Chandler. He decided to park for a while at the new Peixoto Coffee. At this quaint spot, it is clear that the employees are living out many of Jon Acuff’s principles. They have found their passion and share it with the community. They focus on their craft intensely to create a richer coffee experience than you would find in any Starbucks across the country. If only Nate would care about anything as much as they care about coffee. It’s time for Nate to re-evaluate the bigger picture and determine if today’s steps are leading toward his passions.

Chandler 138The recent lack of writing indicates something is severely off course.

Yes, community has started to occupy his time. That is good. What about the other 50 hours a week? There has been nothing to report because his perspective has shifted away from that which he is passionate to that which is deemed necessary. Necessary by whose standards? Society? Others? His own false perceptions?

The light and texture found in the architecture of Chandler City Hall caused a spark . All of a sudden, it was okay, even necessary, to stop and observe, appreciate, study, and wonder. It was okay to spend enough time and energy on ONE thing, and execute it well. It was appropriate to intimately understand how one camera setting can effect the end product, and how they all work together. It was worthy of awe to stop and study something long enough to decipher what is the true essence to be captured.

Chandler 067The lessoned learned – it is going to take 150 attempts to get 3 really good pictures, if you are lucky. It is unrealistic to expect perfection to be handed to you as would a drive through order at Taco Bell. Good art takes the most precious commodity: time.

Each new opportunity and commitment punctures a small hole in his energy cup and withdraws from your time bank. When there are one or two, the pace of natural refill matches that at which it drains and allows time for rest. Once there are five, seven, or seventeen holes, suddenly that balance  cannot be sustained.

To quote Jon Acuff yet again, it is good to be reminded that “rest is not a by-product of your success: it is a by-product of your humanity”.

It is time to slow down, say no to things that don’t matter, and begin to live again.

23 January 2015

Digging Deeper

016The journey continues as Nate navigates Phoenix’s Central Corridor. A run through the neighborhood takes him to a small and endearing historic district that he driven past, unknowingly, a multitude of times. Just northeast of Central Avenue and McDowell lies a two block by two block neighborhood known as Alvarado. Just to the east lies, shockingly, East Alvarado. Even further to the east, Los Olivos. All three are similar in size and possess what Nate would have initially referred to as an “out of Phoenix” quality.

However, it is not an “out of Phoenix” experience. This is Phoenix. Perhaps making a one in their own evaluation, sweeping generalizations do large disservice to the spirit of adventure. As Nate breaks down this barrier and digs deeper, it spurs excitement and resets the paradigm to “expect the unexpected”.

While living Tucson, it was commonly stated by Nate himself, that the lack of unique small businesses and character was one of the downfalls of Phoenix. That could not be further from the truth. He has learned that once the scale is shifted, the beauty and variety in the details, side streets, textures, and colors, not only in Phoenix, but of any place, becomes evident.


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