Count the days… Again. And Again. And Again. AND Again.

Here it is, 1 month until I’m in Boston. 1 month until I begin my penultimate year. 1 month until I become a permanent resident of the Northeast (well, sort of permanent). 1 month and the end is in sight.

I began this website exactly 4 years ago, and in that inaugural post I said that this page was the beginning of a conversation. Sometimes I’ve had a lot to say, at others I’ve felt it best to bite my tongue. For 4 years, this conversation has covered topics as far ranging as music and feminism, science and religion, conspiracy theories and stand-up comedy, and almost everything in between.

In the last 4 years, Obama was re-elected president, Superstorm Sandy decimated a region of the US, Boston was attacked, Osama Bin Laden was killed, the economy has rebounded (moderately), millions of people have died, millions have been born.

In the last 4 years, my goal has turned from a restless case of wanderlust into an actual literary project with national exposure.

I’ve crossed 8 cities off the list and all I have between me and that magical, mystical myth, NYC, is Beantown.

I don’t know how I’ll feel exactly a year from now when I’m writing the final “Count the days” post. Excited, surely, just as I am excited to move to Boston. Maybe a little terrified, too? Frightened by the thought that after almost a decade, the longest event of my life is coming to a conclusion. Of course, every move comes with it its share of terror. I’ve gotten pretty good at this and I definitely make less mistakes in the process than I did when I was first starting out. But every move brings unknowns, as well, the intangibles that can’t be planned ahead of time.

11 months after being in this city, I’m not sure what I thought would happen in New Orleans but it didn’t turn out like I expected, I know that much.

Will Boston? I’m not even sure I could tell you what I’m expecting. A metropolis? Sure, but what does that mean? The usual concerns are there (especially considering that I’m moving from a city with one of the lowest costs of living in the country to one of the most expensive), but it’s everything I don’t know about Boston that will be the biggest roadblocks. All the research in the world is nothing compared to the actual experience.

Which, come to think of it, is why I started this project in the first place.

So, 1 month.

It’s been a long conversation, but there’s still more to say.

Objects In Mirror

Are You Taking Notes?

With all the people I meet who learn of my project, I inevitably end up rehashing a lot of the same material.  The list of cities I’ve lived in gets rattled off with all the rhythmic precision of a scripted speech.  My favorite city? How do I pick my cities? What will I do when I’m done with ten cities?  All those frequently asked questions.

But once those details are covered, most people want to know if I’m keeping a record of my years.  Am I actively taking notes or keeping a journal?

The truth is, no.

Obviously, I have this blog, and from time to time I write out an amusing anecdote about an evening out, but I’d say 90% of the content on this site has little to do with the personal moments of my life.  This blog was never meant to be a diary.  I don’t even keep a Captain’s Log.  Over the years I have flirted with writing down my day to day happenings in a notebook, but such habits have never lasted more than two consecutive days.

The problem is that I hate writing about myself.  It’s really a loathsome activity.  Not exactly the greatest attitude for a would-be memoirist, but in all fairness, when I started this project I never expected to write about it.  This is your fault.  Everyone I met who said, “This would be an interesting book,” you’re to blame for my cognitive dissonance.

The truth is, I’m flattered when anyone takes an interest in my banal life, so I’m happy to talk about it.  But sitting and scribbling down a play-by-play of my daily activities strikes me as being one of the more particularly vicious circles of hell.  I don’t care how interesting a person you are, most of your days are filled by strings of boring happenings that no one needs to read about, even via Facebook.

When I set out to finally write this book, I’ll have notebooks of essays, poems, attempted journal entries and random scribbles to help piece together the chronology of my life (because, lord knows, my whiskey-addled mind isn’t remembering most of it).  But I believe the majority of the material I’m going to abstract for the final product will be derived from interviewing old friends and acquaintances in each city.

When the time comes, I hope to fly back to each city for a week, one right after the other, and revisit old haunts, reconnect with people there and see what sorts of flashbacks I can trigger.  Maybe when the time comes I’ll create a Kickstarter project to help fund my 2 1/2 month journey around the country and through my past.

Memories are notoriously unreliable.  Mine sure as hell is.  It’s not that I believe getting other people’s versions of my history will help me craft a more accurate chain of events.  If anything, it’ll probably corrode my own memory further and distort reality to an even greater degree.

But the very thing that makes memories so capricious is what makes them so fascinating.  Our mind stores memory in a complex neural net that puts very little emphasis on accuracy.  It’s all about associations and mental links, and those ways in which each mind remembers an event tells us more about the individual than the actual occurrence.

When we take the collected memories of a group of people and try to form them into one cohesive narrative, we get something far more powerful than a memoir or history.  We create a myth.

10 cities in 10 years is not a goal.  It is not a dream.
It is a story I tell at parties.  It is the thing people attach to my name like it were a title.
It is the root of a myth.

That tag has been in the About section of this site since I first created it.  Don’t let me be misunderstood.  I’m not attempting to craft a false history to seem more interesting, a la James Frey.  What will end up in 10 Cities / 10 Years: The Book will be as factual as I can manage, with as much research and secondhand supporting evidence as I can amass.

But no memoir can ever aspire to 100% accuracy.  Until someone invents a time machine out of a Delorean, there is no hope of truly recapturing a personal history.  Even with the most fastidious note-taking over the previous 7 years (and the next 3), I couldn’t hope to get everything right.  Sure, it’d make remembering dates and names easier, but greater details don’t make for a better myth.

So, no, I’m not taking notes.  I’m living my life, and in a few years when it comes time to type it all out I’ll sew together my memories with those of others and fashion my own myth.

And then I’ll start a religion.


You sleep long hours, Bethany
and dream of almost nothing
In waking chills you smell the calm sea
like martyrs’ singing blood
You return, you return, and again, you return
to hollow, filthy beds
Now, once more, at living peace
you tell fables of your decency

You write short letters, Bethany
of love, of need, of lust
With flowing, pretty calligraphy
the words sate your judge
Your answers to persecuting scorn
are meek and callow lips
pressed firmly to the throne of God
You convince your need of charity

You live for self, Bethany
and feel no moment’s shame
A silent siren stripped of dignity
still taking what you crave
You sit among the broken poor
and demand an offering
But, thrust out into the street
you will no longer find leniency

The words we say aren’t meant for anyone.

Recently, while sitting in the back room of my job on a break, I was somewhat captive audience to a conversation between two coworkers that required a little personal research after the fact.  The conversation spring-boarded off of the topic of the Texas School Board’s destruction of legitimate education, turning to the tyranny of history.

You see, don’t you know, Obama is not the first black President of these here United States.  Furthermore, America’s very first president was black.  Believe it.  You know how I know?  The internet says so.

It should be said that the coworker making this assertion about America’s supposed first Black President was, herself, black, and her conversational partner was white.  Her point was that the American history we are often taught in schools is biased and white-washed (in more ways than one).  And she is, of course, right.  Howard Zinn, anyone.  You can’t get a liberal arts education and not learn about how important women, blacks, gays and other minorities have been unjustly ignored by mainstream history.

If history is written by the victors, no one has been more victorious than White Males.

But I’m not here to decry the ills of pasty penis ownership.  It is what it is.

I’m interested in this historical “fact” that went unchallenged in the break room.  Including by me.  The tidbit sounded faintly familiar and like the sort of sufficiently preposterous hooey that always proves to be, at best, an urban legend (usually, just plain bullshit).  But I couldn’t recall specifically where I had heard it before and whether or not I knew it to be debunked, so I remained silent while the history of America was rewritten (ironically, for the goal of greater truth).

My younger self would have scoffed and asserted my incredulity, and probably would have started a fight (I mean, debate) over it.  In my older, wiser years, I’ve learned to bite my tongue a bit more (not in writing, though), especially when I don’t have the appropriate research to support my skepticism.

I should have spoken up.

John Hanson was not our first president.  Hell, he wasn’t even black.

Here’s where my natural skepticism serves me well, and why I should trust my instincts.

“Common knowledge” is often wrong, but believe it or not, uncommon knowledge is even more frequently wrong.  As a naturally skeptical person myself, I appreciate a healthy dose of questioning the Status Quo and Damning the Man.  It’s a hell of a way to pass a rainy Tuesday afternoon.  But there is a limit.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Too good to be true.”  Let me offer a corollary:  “Too amazing to be true.”  In other words, if something is so absolutely mindblowing, so preposterously history-changing, or basically the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever heard, do yourself a favor, don’t believe it.

Now, this is not me saying that you should always believe the official story.  Republicans, Democrats, they all lie from time to time.  Priests and atheists, all capable of bending the truth.  Lovers and friends, family and coworkers, they’ll all deceive you at some point.  Everybody lies.  (Where have I heard that before?)

But the more insidious untruth is that which is spread by a person who believes what they are saying.  My coworker who was passing off erroneous information as history was not trying to deceive anyone (I don’t think).  She genuinely believed that a man named John Hanson was both black and the first President of the United States.  On the latter point, she was only technically wrong.  On the former, not even close.

I have no idea where she got her info originally, and more importantly, I have no idea if the person who first made this error thought it true themselves, or if this misinformation is the product of an intentional effort to abuse the open doors of the internet.  Either way, it took me little time to find well-documented pages discounting the myth, as well as little effort to see how a nifty, unsourced article could have spread it.

I’ve touched on the topic of not taking information at face value before.  It was one of my law’s: Nothing upon another’s word.

This recent work experience is a good example of why I live by that law.  Hours after the break room conversation, I heard the guy comment to the girl that he had looked it up online and he was amazed.  In other words, this little bit of misinformation had just spread to another mind and will likely go uncorrected (I could go up to him and explain the truth, but A- that’d be creepy and B- it would likely do no good).  This speaks to the importance of knowing for sure before you claim to be an expert on any topic.  Do your research.

I am not telling anyone to trust completely, but it’s a good first stop in the pursuit of fact checking, specifically because they provide sources.  Easy tip: if someone makes a claim but offers no sources to support that claim, pull out the Red Flags.  Just as I’m telling you to be skeptical of people’s claims, you should be skeptical of debunkers, too.  Anyone can be misinformed, and anyone can lie.

Some tips for not being duped:

– Be wary of sources with obvious biases (political, religious, personal, etc.).
– Compare contradicting sources.  Does one do a better job of supporting their claims with indisputable facts (a good liar knows how to dazzle with presentation).
– Remember, a source can be wrong once and that doesn’t mean they should be forever discounted.  But demanding a higher standard of proof in the future is not out of the question.
– If a source is found to be intentionally misleading, even just once, then that source loses all credibility.  Obviously, it’s hard to prove intent, but it’s not impossible, and anyone found intentionally deceiving their audience deserves to be blackballed.

Finally, remember, if something sounds too amazing to be true (or even just faintly amazing), go ahead, indulge that little skeptical voice in your head and do the research.  You’ll look like less of a credulous simpleton at your next party.

A dream is what you wanna do, but still haven’t pursued…

Last night I had one of those vivid, surprising dreams that, at least for me, only come around once every few years. I’m not one for fantastical dreams, I have never flown in a dream or been a superhero (I did once have a dream where Spider-man had turned evil and was trying to kill me… or maybe I was the one who had turned evil… that could take some psychoanalysis). My dreams are very pragmatic (like me, fittingly) and rarely slip into the sort of surreal, Dali-esque strangeness that others seem to take for granted.

As a child, I was steeped in the mythology of Christianity so thoroughly that my dreams did on occasion include the slightly more out there imagery of the Fundamentalist worldview. In fact, one dream that has stuck with me more than any dream I have ever had was of a time when I was a young boy, first going off to summer camp. At that camp, with my brother and our fellow classmates, we came across Satan. Not the large and in charge fellow with crazy horns and a pitchfork, or the more fearsome, beguiling figure who so often haunts the mind of Christian youth (and some adults, I suppose). Rather, he was a tiny creature, almost a bug, and the boys, as boys will be boys, wanted to stomp on the little creature. However, the girls in the group wanted to spare the creatures life (those sweet, delicate nurturers), as they felt it was cruel to crush such a small thing. I, for reasons that probably explain a lot about me, sided with the girls. Having let the creature live, my brother and I returned to our cabin, and for some dream-logic reason I did so with one of those wooden, elementary school rulers in my hand. As we reached the door of the cabin, the ruler suddenly morphed into a snake (Satan! You Eve-deceiving, Jive-talking motherfucker!) and that snake struck out at me, wrapping around my neck and choking me to the point that I couldn’t even scream out. It made no difference, though, because as I looked to my brother I saw he, too, was choking.

And then I woke up. You can probably understand why a dream like that would burn itself so thoroughly into my mind. The hellscape visions of the Christian backstory (whether you believe in hell or not, it’s a firm part of the mythology) is clearly compelling, and it is no wonder that a child would not only find it frightening, but also a bit fascinating. I would guess that a good deal of Christian children-turned-Christian adults have an underlying fear (and reverence, even) for the fiery imagery from their childhood that forms a foundation for their faith that they don’t even fully realize.

Or, feel free to disagree, it’s really only a tangential point.

Back to the dream I had last night, and why it has spurred me to write this current entry. In the dream, I was a college freshman again. But not in the, “Oh no, it’s my first day of class and I’m naked” sort of anxiety way (I’ve never actually had one of those kinds of dreams… it would seem to me, being naked in dream would be kind of freeing). Rather, I and the guys who I lived with for my first 2 years of college were all back in the hall, meeting for the first time, except that we were all aware that we had done this before. We weren’t nervous about going off to a strange new world, awkward and uncertain of what was ahead of us. We were downright giddy at the thought of having our 26 years worth of knowledge (admittedly, not exactly aged and wizened) in the bodies of our 18 year old selves, ready to take on challenges that we had not only faced before, but successfully passed.

I, for one, felt invincible. The chance to relive college? Fuck yeah! First off, college was a time of parties, late-night food runs and rare class attendance, and even at the time I realized how much freedom I had. Give me a chance to relive those days while also having the full knowledge and confidence that having lived through it all and then some has given me: I say, “Sign me up!”

The actual details of the dream are rather inconsequential, other than to maybe my roommates and cohorts of the time who might appreciate the college redux, but what really matters is the emotion I felt. Much like the fear and utter helplessness that came over me when I dreamed of Satan, what will keep this dream in my mind is the exhilaration and liberation that came with the realization that I had an opportunity to do everything over again, and this time pick out the best results from the possible outcomes. It was a ‘Kid in a candy store’ sort of feeling, except replace candy with crazy parties, horny coeds, ill-advised roadtrips and… well, maybe some candy, too. I’m a sucker for peanut M&Ms.

I have always lived with a kind of ‘No Regrets’ mentality, in that I realize the place I am in my life at this very moment is a product of all the right and wrong choices I have made, the mistakes and missed opportunities. I like where I am, so I wouldn’t change the past, even to get a more desirable outcome for that moment. But what this dream made clear is, it’s not about wanting to change the past to fix what once went wrong (where’s Al when you need him?), it’s about getting a second opportunity to experience something completely different. Robert Frost had it wrong. Two Roads don’t diverge in the woods. Hundreds and hundreds of roads exist before us and we choose just one of the countless opportunities and we stick with that one, and then that choice opens up hundreds more. So much is left undone.

So, while I would not actively change where I have arrived at in my life (it’s pretty much exactly where I wanted to be, even as a know-nothing 18 year old freshman), I cannot help but grow a little excited at the thought of getting to go back and try something new, learn something I missed the first time. If it was a movie, it’d be Groundhog Day meets Big (as I write this, I realize there was a recent movie where the guy from Friends turned into the guy from High School Musical which strikes me as less a movie about a guy getting to relive his youth, and more a film about a guy getting to be way hotter than he ever really was).

As a side note, I wouldn’t want to relive high school, because while there were plenty of missed opportunities (you might say, a plethora), far more than in college, and hours upon hours wasted pursuing fulfillment in something completely empty, I also know that there is nothing about that time worth doing over. It’d be more frustrating than liberating.

It’s an odd sensation to wake up from a dream, something I know to be completely unreal, but be left with the residual buzz of emotion as I enter my day and step out into the life I’ve chosen. Not a bad feeling.


Count the days

In exactly one month, I will move to my next city:


This marks the 5th city in as many years.

Costa Mesa, CA
San Francisco

Beach 2

Two weeks after I graduated college, I left my hometown, the place I had lived for the entirety of my 22 years (excluding one summer living in Washington D.C. with a girlfriend), and began an, admittedly, ambitious journey (it sounds cheesy to call it that).  The rules of my new life were simple:  Move to a new city every year for 10 years, experience the far reaches of the United States (and hopefully other sectors of the world) and allow for a personal evolution.

Change is the word of the day.

This is not a travelogue (or Travel Blog).  This is not the seeds of a memoir.  I fully expect to misrepresent events, encounters and, most especially, memories.  I’m 4 years into this questionable endeavor and already my stories are far more interesting than they were when they happened.  Does that mean I’m embellishing the truth, or lying?  Possibly.  Not intentionally, if so.  On the other hand, we fully accept that time is often needed to more thoroughly appreciate and understand history, so maybe what I tell you now is a better representation of the truth than if you had been there to experience it yourself.

Besides, if you had been there, all you would have now would be your own memories, just as susceptible to revisionism and hacking as any other memory.

The other word of the day is Myth.

This is the beginning of a conversation.