The Final Day: A Thank You Note

At midnight tonight, I will achieve a goal more than a decade in the making. An idea that began as a joke and turned into a life’s ambition will finally be completed; finito.

10 Cities / 10 Years was so many things. Most obviously, it was a travel blog – one that provided very little in the way of actual travel advice. More so, it was my attempt to keep a running analysis of the culture both in terms of art and societal patterns. It’s also a memoir predicated on the fact that all memories are fallible. And it’s the story of some amazing people who changed my life.

Most generally, it was an experiment and an endurance test.

And in less than 24 hours it will be over.

On Tuesday, I’ll reflect on the project at large and what this has meant for me and what it will mean for me in the years to come.

But today, I want to take a moment and look back. I’m using this space to say thank you to those whose lives became intertwined with mine throughout this past decade, for better or for worse (for me, mostly the former; for them, mostly the latter). This was a solitary journey for the majority of the years, yet I didn’t do it on my own.

First of all, there are the members of my family who have been a constant presence in my life, even when we don’t talk regularly. My mother, a devout Christian who would probably be mortified if she knew most of what I’ve gone through and done, has always supported my pursuit of this foolish aim. What more can one ask for?

My siblings – Fonz, Steve, Debra and Daniel – are the people I’ve fought with most in my life, and because of them I’m stronger, wiser and funnier. And boozier. They have supported me as much as they have mocked me – and if you know my family, you know that’s a lot. We might be dysfunctional, but… nah, that’s it, we’re just dysfunctional.

I want to thank Shelly and Marianne, 2 of my oldest and closest friends, strong and amazing women I’ve known since before the project began. If I’m even remotely a decent man, it’s because of both of them.

And then there are all those friends who I’ve made over the years of this project. There have been some great guys, some friends who have been fun co-workers and roommates and who I have wonderful memories with – what I can remember. If we’ve had a drink together, know that I think of you fondly. Well, I think of the whiskey fondly, and you get the residual goodwill.

Anyone who knows me, anyone who has been truly close to me, knows that wherever I go, I habitually surround myself with intelligent, talented, witty, beautiful, entertaining women. They inspire me, they encourage me, they challenge me – and in return, sometimes I’m kind of okay to hang around with.

So here’s where I want to express my love and thanks to those impressive women I’ve met along the way (even those who are no longer in my life):

Alex – my first friend of this project and still one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Love.
Ashley – perhaps the purest heart I’ve ever known. Meeting you changed my life.
Ivy and Amy – the coolest and badassiest writers I know.
Amber and Kate – cool f-ing chicks who made me feel at home in the one part of the country I never thought I’d live.
Chandra – we went through it all together, and it wasn’t always pretty, but what we had was truly unique and transformative. That isn’t forgotten.
The Ladies of Forever 21 (yes, you read that right) – it was one of the worst jobs I ever had and one of the hardest years of my life but I had some great friends that year who made it worth it.
Jacky, Emily, Jenna, Cassie, Michelle and dammit, just so many others at Demos who made Nashville a year to vaguely remember through the haze of alcohol. I was at a low point when I arrived in the city and it was largely because of you that I kept pushing through onto city 7.
Clarice (and, of course, Tom) – you made Seattle a home for me (even though I didn’t live in your home).
Rhiannon – some days, all I need is to know there is someone who will enjoy receiving New Girl quotes for no reason at all.
All the Tillicum Gals – woah, that sounds dirty.
Brielle – what can I say? We saw JT together.
Rebecca – in some of my darkest moments, you picked me up with a hug or a shot (usually the latter).
Kristin and Brittany – hated the job, liked (and admired) you both.
Annabelle – not sure they come any kinder than you.
All you dolls at E&C (ugh, yes, even you Karisa – the worst) – work was rarely boring with you around.
Emily – we’ve driven the country together – twice – and we survived robberies, mice attacks and our upstairs neighbors. If you ever need a travel companion, just give me a call. I probably won’t be doing anything important, anyway. (You’re seriously too cool.)
Amandine – you remind me that I still have so much more to explore; you’re also the best photographer I’ve ever known and I’m constantly amused by the fact that you doubt how talented you are.
Sophie – sorry about the broken foot, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed my first summer here nearly as much without you. I look forward to trying to convince people I know you in a few years.

I hope you all appreciate how much I care about you. I also hope you all appreciate how hard it was for me to remain that sincere for so long. I almost fainted.

Did I forget you? Well, I drink a lot, so what did you expect?

I guess, in the end, 10 Cities / 10 Years is the story of a guy who is naturally sort of an asshole but is marginally less so because of the people he’s met.

So, uh, thanks.

Sincerely,

~L

churchgoer

The Road Trip Begins

Sunday morning, at 9:30, we embarked.

The drive from Brooklyn to Long Beach requires roughly 42 hours. We are giving ourselves between 4 and 5 days to make it, meaning an average of 8 to 10 hours a day.

We drove for nearly 13 hours yesterday, in 6 different states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana.

Today, we are driving roughly 7 hours to Lawrence, Kansas where I will meet up with most of my family, some of whom for the 1st time in 2 years. No cats will be present.

And then Tuesday we’ll make our way south through New Mexico (the meth is better there than in Missouri).

I’ll update when and if I can.

Cheers,

~L

the Road is Life

New York City: A Year in Photos

Over the next few weeks, I’ll end up writing a plethora of words about my (1st) year in Brooklyn. Every once in awhile, though, I like to offer a different kind of summary, one in pictures. So, without belaboring the point too much, here are some of the sights of Year 10.

I hope you enjoy.

~L

[Click images to embiggen. All photos © Lyttleton 2015 – and taken on a cellphone, so why would you bother stealing them?]

 Manhattan from Brooklyn BridgeBrooklyn Bridge to Manhattan PanaManhattan Skyline (from the Met) PanaLittle Dancer of Fourteen YearsGuggenheim MuseumMonir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian Mirror CubeBrooklyn WWII Memorial1 World Trade CenterEmpire State from BroadwayJapanese IceThe Dinner Party by Judy ChicagoBrooklyn Museum Beaux-Arts CourtChild PrideBryant Park Frozen FountainChk Chk Chk at sunsetAdam Pally Introduces Death CabSpoon Shimmering DiamondSubway SnoozeEmpty SubwayFlafelSunset SilhouetteQueensboro Bridge 2Manhattan from the CemeteryProspect Park Flare 2X in X ContextNY SelfieEnd of Times

The Final 2 Weeks

I’m so close I can taste it.

Specifically, it tastes like a glass of whiskey that sat overnight on my bedstand and, cut through with melted ice, has turned lukewarm. It just sort of sits on the tongue.

One last gulp.

Ever since I started this blog back in 2009 – on the verge of moving from San Francisco to Chicago (cities 4 and 5) – I’ve expressed my varying levels of panic due to financial concerns and the reality that, with any missteps, I could end up broke and homeless. Some years were more worrisome than others (Chicago and Seattle being the toughest, post-SF), but I never felt secure. You can’t plan for all eventualities.

In May of this year, I was finally able to breathe a little easier. That’s how long it took to pay off a debt that had accumulated in the wake of my move to Brooklyn and my subsequent months of less than steady income. It required considerably longer than normal to dig myself out of my annual debt and if I had needed to save up for another move in September I would have been in quite a predicament.

But I don’t have to save. Not for another move, at least.

You remember how your parents (or grandparents) would talk about how their parents were so stingy because they grew up in the Great Depression. They had frugality and the value of a dollar ingrained in them at a young age. Even in prosperity, they never fully shook off the habits of their youth.

That’s how I feel after 10 years of living to the bone. I don’t know how to not save.

Every year I’m a little chagrined when I hear co-workers – people who make roughly the same amount of money as I do – complain about being broke. Sure, some of them have expenses I don’t, like car payments and insurance, pets and cigarettes. But they don’t have the expense of relocating every year or losing a few weeks (or months) to a job search.

I wish I could offer up some tips for how to nurture a nest egg. I sincerely do, because I could make a metric shitton of cash hawking self-help guides about saving money. I don’t have any secrets, though, no hidden tricks or lessons from the ancients.

I only know 1 thing: If you want to save money, you have to have a specific reason, a purpose.

10 Cities / 10 Years has been my purpose (in so many ways) for the majority of my adult life, and to that end I have focused all of my energy and drive. I’ve sacrificed so much on that altar – the most obvious being relationships. I haven’t always enjoyed the journey. That was never the point.

It is because of single-minded dedication (a.k.a. “obsession”) that I now find myself 2 weeks out from the completion of a decade long endeavor.

I’ve been trying to process the enormity of that accomplishment, and honestly, I can’t. I suspect that when I wake up on September 1st, I’ll feel numb. It will be over, the lingering taste of whiskey still on my tongue, and, peering ahead at my unmapped future, I’ll not know what to do with myself.

Luckily, as my experiences have proven over and over again, time will eventually help me comprehend what this has all meant. Time is like that, turning heartbreak into character, pain into strength and tragedy into comedy. Time will make sense of nonsense.

And then.

I will find a new road and I will take it to its end. I will make a goal and I will attain it. Because that’s all I know how to do.

2 weeks: The bottle is almost finished.

Jameson Insta

Enough with this ‘Millennials’ Bullshit

When I was growing up, I was part of Generation X. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I was the youngest of 5 siblings all born from the early 70s to the early 80s, so there it was: Gen X. I never felt particularly tied into everything that seemed to define that generation (we were slackers, we were aimless, we liked Hawaiian pizza), but that’s who I was and so be it.

And then, a few years ago, I started noticing that I was, by chance of my birth, now being grouped in with a whole new generation: Millennials.

I’ve always felt a bit older than my immediate contemporaries. People who are my age or just a couple years younger seemed to have grown up in a very different world than me, and I attributed that to the fact that I had older siblings who, by the force of their personalities and interests, shaped my view of everything from pop culture to politics.

This isn’t just idle comparison: Even if you were both born on January 1st, 1980, the youngest child of a family mostly raised in the 70s would have a very different experience from the oldest child of a family mostly raised in the 80s.

So, despite being born in the early 80s, I felt more or less connected to the generation of the previous decade. Until recently.

You see, I’ve never really liked the music of the 80s. If you were a child born in the 70s, you came of age during the Reagan presidency, those post-Disco years where cocaine was all the rage along with AIDS. It was… a weird decade. And I have almost no memory of it except what has filtered down to me from my siblings and family photo albums.

My one personal connection to the 80s is Back to the Future which is still (along with the sequels) one of my favorite movies. Otherwise – I can admit it – I’m a child of the 90s. Nirvana was so massive in my world that, despite a prohibition on “secular” radio, they loomed large in my mind (more so their legend than their actual music until I was old enough to have my own car).*

In the early 90s, my sister had a car and would occasionally drive me around, which is how I began developing my infatuation for 90s pop music. I will still blast the shit out of some “What A Man” (like I said, it was my sister’s car).

By the time I was old enough to drive, the 90s were coming to the end. Nirvana was long gone, replaced by a lot of crappy post-Grunge bands that I still listened to because that was what I knew of ‘rock’ music. I was never a Creed fan, at least that I can say.

My favorite songs of the era took Cobain’s angst and self-loathing and processed them through gentler, friendlier acoustics. Think Gin Blossoms and Better Than Ezra. The anger was muted, but so was the sense of humor.

I mention my musical preference because, where I once felt like I was Gen X by default despite not actually feeling that close culturally to a lot of them, it seems like I have suddenly become a Millennial by no choice of my own. The most obvious proof that I’m more Millennial than Gen X is that I’d go to a 90s Music Night well before going to 80s Music Night.

And yet I still don’t feel like a Millennial.

Kurt CobainWhat the Hell is a Millennial?

Let’s back up and define the term: Millennials are the generation born from 1980 to 2000. Or from the early 80s to the late 90s, or early 00s. Gen X are people born from the early 60s to early 80s, and a new generation, so-called Generation Z, is from 2000 on. As you can see, there’s a lot of crossover and it’s not very precise. These distinctions have less to do with birth years than with nebulous ideas of cultural and social homogeneity.

Millennials all share some traits, according to some thoroughly scientific analysis, you can be sure: They want meaning from their work; they challenge hierarchy: they embrace technology and change; they “crave” feedback and recognition; they can’t stand Hawaiian pizza.

These traits (among others) are why Millennials are such odd fits in the modern business world. Businesses run by Baby Boomers and, increasingly, Gen Xers, are having trouble integrating this new generation into their system because Millennials expect so much and demand their efforts be recognized immediately. They just don’t seem to understand that business is a machine and humans are the cogs. It’s pathetic.

If you ask some of the current (soon-to-be-former) Leaders of the World about the future LotWs, they’ll explain why Millennials are the way they are: They were never told ‘No’; They watched non-stop television; They all won participation trophies; They grew up with the latest technology; They were never forced to watch that shitty episode of The Brady Bunch where the family went to Hawaii and Bobby finds a mystical Tiki Idol.

These are the reasons why Millennials are not fitting in to the modern business world, and the reasons why they must be crushed so that they will.

And there’s me: I was told ‘no,’ a lot. I watched a lot of television, but I’m starting to realize that in comparison with my peers, not really that much (we were a reading family). I probably only won 3 or 4 trophies in my life, and I played a lot of sports (I was terrible at all of them). Oh, and fuck The Brady Bunch.

Unlike a lot of my peers, I didn’t grow up with constant technology. We had a single family computer with no internet, but it wasn’t until high school that it became a regular part of my daily activity. I didn’t own a cellphone until after I graduated college and bought one for myself.

By all accounts, I’m not much like the prototypical Millennial. And yet: I’m open to change (obviously); I seek meaning in my work (less so my night job than my occupation as a writer); I’m good with technology, and I like (crave is too strong a word) feedback and recognition for my work.

If I entered the business world, I would probably look a lot like a Millennial to the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in charge. What gives?

Is it possible that all these theories about what defines, shapes and unifies a generation are mostly just bullshit that people make up to easily label, clarify and compartmentalize incredibly complex and diverse groups of people? You know, like racism.

Hard to say. But if so, let me offer my own theory as to why Millennials aren’t fitting into the nice little boxes of the business world.

The Baby Boomers and Generation X fucked the Millennials over.

Like, bent us over and didn’t even think about reaching for the lube.

The Great Recession that pulverized the economy and killed career paths for so many of my peers – and which led to me spending 2 weeks in a hospital doing a medical study because I couldn’t find work – was directly caused by Baby Boomers and Gen Xers doing “business as usual” which means with no ethics or consideration for consequences.

The generations that preceded the Millennials fall somewhere in the range from idiots to evil, and maybe it’s for that reason that Millennials don’t go into the workforce willing to just play their role and silently take orders from a group of people who nearly flushed the global economy down the toilet.

Just a theory.

If you’re among the Baby Boomers or Generation X and you bridle at being grouped in with the people who caused the Recession even though you had nothing to do with it, well, there: Now you know what it feels like to be arbitrarily grouped under one negative umbrella because of the random years you were born.

So shut the fuck up. You don’t like how the Millennials behave? Guess what, you created them. You birthed them, you raised them, you gave them all the things you couldn’t have, and then you’re mad at them for being the results of your shitty parenting.

Or, maybe, it was good parenting and this is what it looks like when smart, dedicated, socially-conscious people enter the business world. Maybe business-as-usual is the problem, not Millennials.

Whatever the case may be, the fact is, it won’t be long until the Millennials are the ones in charge, and then we’ll see the world they help shape. Maybe it’ll actually be a welcoming, diverse, forward-thinking business climate.

Ah, who am I kidding, you guys will beat the idealism out of them, just like every older generation has since the dawn of time.

The Me Me Me Generation

Oh, and Millennials: Enough with all this idiotic nostalgia and childhood fetishizing. You’re too young to be this attached to your youth.

*The first non-Christian CD I owned was the Presidents of the United States’ debut. It was immediately taken away when my mom heard “Kitty” playing from my boombox.

            the road is life

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