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Honeymoon Recap 7: Manic Manila

February 25th, 2011 No comments

The touchdown of Zest Airways flight Z2-171 into Manila marked the beginning of the end to our wanderings in the Philippines.  Darcy’s driver picked the five of us up and made the rounds though the bewilderingly dense traffic to drop us all off at our respective destinations about town.

Tracy and I were plopped right in front of the Somerset Millenium Makati, which Darcy was good enough to recommend and have his staff make us a reservation.  We checked in and quickly got settled into the relative luxury of our room with its stellar 18th floor view of the city, and foraged out to the nearby swanky mall complex known as Greenbelt 1 through 5 for a nice sushi dinner.

Back at our room Tracy was spent and so passed on our invitation to join Darcy and his peeps out at a bar he owned nearby, Heckle & Jeckle’s.  In the interest of camaraderie and raising a beer to the man whose resort and hospitality made such a difference for us the last 3 days, I set out myself into the warm Manila night.

There’s something I absolutely love about wandering about in an active city by myself at night.  The lights, the flow of people and the architecture all have a certain vibrancy that calls to be observed in an unhurried way that you just can’t do as well in daylight or with others around wondering why you’re smiling at everything with maw agape like some enchanted 6-year-old.  Conditions are perfect to wander aimlessly and be distract-able by shiny.  I found myself in a triangle-shaped park nestled among sky rises, faced on one edge by a slew of open fronted eateries with hoards of happy people enjoying things like late night ice cream, and throughout with bushes and trees strewn with elaborate strings of lights that put the typical Christmas yard decoration to shame.  Add in the summer evening perfume of the abounding plant life and you’ve got a faint sensation of magic in the air.

Eventually I made my winding way to Darcy’s bar.  It was a bustling joint with pool games being played, darts being thrown, and three Filipino women joining vocal forces to do a pretty darn good set of Alanis Morrisette covers.  I ordered a trusty Red Horse (by this time my well-established local brew of choice), and found Darcy in short order.

“Red Horse, eh?  That’s the beer of the poor people!”  For real?  I thought all along it was the good stuff… it was more expensive back in Boracay!  “Yeah, it’s a cheaper way to get drunk because it comes in those bigger bottles and is a higher percent alcohol.”  Ahhh… yeah, that makes sense: I started to notice the tendency for it to come in these jumbo-sized bottles of liquid fun back in Sagada.  It reckon the whole scenario was like some hapless Brit coming to the US proudly drinking Budweiser, the King of beers, presuming that we Americans somehow held fast to a reverence of monarchs.  Whatever, it tasted alright and facilitated a talented dance exhibition to Lady Gaga.

It was now at this point that I was invited to the strip club as referenced in the preface to this whole saga.  It was the next stop of the night for Darcy and his crew, and since we were all getting along so swimmingly I was a welcome tag-along.  At this point I did indeed have presence of mind enough to remind my new chums the vague inappropriateness that this would be, what with this being my honeymoon and my new wife back at the hotel sound asleep.  “Right on,” I was assured: “this one will be pretty mild, so it’ll be fine.  Now, the second one we go to, that’s gonna be inappropriate for a man on his honeymoon.  You should probably skip the second one.”

“Oh, and if the DJ announces he’d like to welcome back Darcy and his friends when we get there, he’s talking about some other Darcy.”

Fair enough.  In the interest of having experiences that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to confess to either my wife or the world, I happily joined the gang as they hopped into the Range Rover of fun bound for our next destination.

There the crowded smokiness to the cheesy choreography reaffirmed for me that, yep, strip clubs even in this part of the world aren’t really my thing for anything above, say, 20 minute doses of novelty (even if the men’s bathroom was bemusingly wallpapered with naughty cartoons).  That, and contrary to the observable taste in about 60% of the older white men we’d seen during our trip, I don’t really have a thing for Filipino girls.

With my confidence again bolstered about my recent decision to take a wife of pasty-white European descent, I finished my beer, called it a night, and gave thanks to my new friends for having me along and the fun times.

Darcy walked me out and awesomely summoned his driver to give me a ride back to the Somerset, further cementing his role in my memory as a bad-ass host.  Despite my earlier ramblings about loving to walk city streets at night, by this time it was after midnight and the tropical rains were falling in force.  Back at the hotel I stripped out of my smokey t-shirt and gave the report of my evening’s activities to a sleepy Tracy, who just chuckled.

My wife is so awesome.

Soon to sleep, for tomorrow we travel.

 

Categories: Travels Tags: , ,

On Getting Married, Part 2

November 16th, 2010 No comments

With all of that ranting about all of the commonplace, traditional aspects of a wedding that Tracy and I proudly said “no” to described in Part 1, it’s completely fair to ask what it is that we DID want our wedding to be all about.

To which I would say (assuming that question were ever asked of me), “I’m glad you asked!”, for it is what we created our wedding to be all about that I am most proud of all.

One of the things we asked ourselves as often as necessary while going through the wedding planning process is “why have a wedding at all?”  (This arises naturally when hassles of wedding planning come up, and the more cynical part of you demands to know why you didn’t opt to elope in the first place.)  “Because we have to” or “because people are expecting it” or the like are the answers to this question which will bring you deeper into the experience of the whole thing being a burden, so we were careful to create and keep present for ourselves a reason with a little more substance.

Why have a wedding at all?

The John-and-Tracy answer to this most valid question is as follows:

We live a really blessed life and there are a lot of people near and dear to us who have contributed massively to that blessed life.  Tracy and I both know for ourselves who we are for each other: even the most magnificently executed wedding day isn’t going to change or deepen that any further.  So the wedding would be less for us and more for them.  We created that our wedding would be a celebration and acknowledgment of those near and dear to us: the people who have guided, influenced, and shaped us into the kinds of people we are today who are proud become husband and wife to one another.  And THAT we couldn’t have gotten by eloping.  THAT is why have a wedding.

And that’s just what we got.  Though there were some that were missing, among our 55 guests in attendance there wasn’t a single person in that room that night that we weren’t delighted to have there, who didn’t have some special meaning to us.  We weren’t saddled with having people there that we didn’t really care for but felt we should have for some political reason or another, and I think that, as a general rule, when you have that high a percentage of beloveds in a single room you’re bound to have an amazing time.

Now then, with a clear understanding of why we should want to have a wedding for lots of guests, it only made sense that we be mindful of the substance of that wedding for which we’d have all those witnesses.  As I mentioned in part 1, a religious ceremony did not speak to us, so we didn’t do one.   Instead, working with our most excellent officiant Susie Grade we put together vows to one another that we could genuinely own as our own words, and opted to a Celtic traditional handfasting ceremony.

These two things moved Tracy and I (and I’m told, many others who were there) way more than a reading from Corinthians ever did.  Below you’ll find the complete words from the vows (I just about lost it at about line 7, by the way) and handfasting ceremony, but first and to wrap up I want to say a few things about the structure and significance of the hand fasting (that a cold reading of it probably won’t convey alone).

The hand fasting ceremony consists of a series of questions and answers asked of both the bride and groom, each in turn, which are quite similar in nature to the declarations in standard “in sickness and in health” vows we’ve heard a million times.  What I find completely awesome about them is the honest connection to reality that they betray.  For while the traditional vows are all declarations that essentially say “I promise to be perfect and never let you down even when times are rough” (which seems an unrealistically tall order when you consider divorce rates), the vows in this ceremony admit what for what is darn near inevitable over a span of decades spent in close proximity to another human being.

Let me show you what I mean.  Some of the questions are plainly positive in nature, for example: “Will you share his dreams?”  “Yes” the bride replies, right on cue.  “Will you share in her dreams?”  “Yes” then responds the groom, predictably enough.  But then later the groom gets “Will you cause her anger?”

Now here you might expect an answer like “No, never; baby, I would never do that!” (ok, perhaps a little more formal, but still a denial).

But that’s not how the script goes.

The line is “I may“.  And now the audience is truly paying attention.  “Is that your intent?” continues the officiant, “No” is what the groom confirms, and everyone in the audience who’s been married for a few years nods in approval and appreciation for the realism this ceremony [surprisingly] is imbued with.

I love everything about this ceremony.  It sets up marriage as a genuine committed journey, not an impossibly perfect ideal to be eventually fallen short of.  The full ceremony is listed below, feel free to steal and share it.  (Incidentally, this ceremony is the origin of the phrase “to tie the knot” as it pertains to marriage.  The first through sixth cords alluded to are cords of rope that are strung over the joined hands of bride and groom as the ceremony progresses.)

The Wedding Vows:

John,
I choose you to be my husband,
to join with you and to share in all that is to come,
to give and to receive,
to speak and to listen,
to inspire and to respond.
To gather wisdom from our shared experiences,
to discover the joy of loving more deeply
  as the years pass.
To build a life rich with laughter, love, and adventure
while bravely and enthusiastically facing our future.
I will be loyal to you with my whole being
as your Wife and best friend
as long as we both shall live.
Tracy,
I choose you to be my wife,
to join with you and to share in all that is to come,
to give and to receive,
to speak and to listen,
to inspire and to respond.
To gather wisdom from our shared experiences,
to discover the joy of loving more deeply
as the years pass.  
To build a life rich with laughter, love, and adventure
while bravely and enthusiastically facing our future.
I will be loyal to you with my whole being
as your Husband and best friend
as long as we both shall live.

The Celtic Handfasting Ritual:

Opening Words:
Know now before you go further, that since your lives have
crossed in this life you have formed ties between each other. As
you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to
make real, the ideals which give meaning to both this ceremony
and the institution of marriage. With full awareness, know that
within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be
handfasted before your friends and family, but you speak that
intent also to your God. The promises made today and the ties
that are bound here greatly strengthen your union; they will cross
the years and lives of each soul’s growth.

Do you still seek to enter this ceremony? Yes

Blessing: I bid you join your hands and look into each others eyes
and hear this blessing:

Blessed be this union of heart, mind, body and soul. May the
symbols of these cords which will soon drape across your wrists
also tie together your souls that you will love, cherish, and honor
one another to the end of your days.

Will you cause her pain? I May
Is that your intent? No

Will you cause him pain? I May
Is that your intent? No

Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?  Yes
And so the binding is made. (1st cord)

Will you share his laughter?  Yes

Will you share her laughter? Yes

Will both of you look for the brightness in life and
the positive in each other? Yes
And so the binding is made. (2nd cord)

Will you burden him?  I May
Is that your intent?  No

Will you burden her?  I May
Is that your intent?  No

Will you share the burdens of each so that your
spirits may grow in this union?  Yes
And so the binding is made. (3rd cord)

Will you share his dreams?  Yes

Will you share her dreams?  Yes

Will you dream together to create new realities and
hopes?  Yes
And so the binding is made. (4th cord)

Will you cause her anger?  I May
Is that your intent?  No

Will you cause him anger?  I May
Is that your intent?  No

Will you take the heat of anger and use it to temper
the strength of this union?  Yes
And so the binding is made. (5th cord)

Will you honor him?  Yes

Will you honor her?  Yes

Will you seek to never give cause to break that
honor? Please say, “We shall never do so” We shall never do so
And so the binding is made. (6th cord)

Tie (wrap) the cords around the hands while saying:

John and Tracy, remember that the knots of this binding are not
formed by these cords but instead by your vows.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

On Getting Married, Part 1

November 15th, 2010 No comments

I’m a married man!

And I’m delighted about the whole thing.  The future that I get to create and live out with my beloved the next seven decades or so is quite exciting, and I shall have much to share on the matter as time goes by.

But for now, speaking as a newly vetted participant in the whole “planning a wedding and getting married” thing, I have a few reflections to share on the matter.  Depending on your own marital status, what follows may either read as one man’s [highly abridged] guide to how to do it, or one man’s [vaguely entertaining] recounting of going through it.  In this part I want to discuss what strangely turned out to be a pivotal concept on our road to wedding day:

Defying expectations without dissing them.

The phrase “defying expectations” is usually used in, say, popular media, to connote things along the lines of “mystical”, “magical”, “delightfully surprising”: something that goes beyond the ordinary, predictable ho-hum.  In this case I use “defying” more in the spirit of a petulant child that doesn’t want to do as told, and “expectations” to refer to fast held notions of WHAT SHOULD BE.

I gather that, for a great many couples (Tracy & I included), the act of getting married/planning a wedding comes ready-made with strong sense of urgency to do things in accordance with a certain established way.  (Contrast this against the process being a blank canvas, with bride and groom having full freedom to do whatever is within their own style and self expression.)

No, by default a couple seldom has the luxury of that proverbial blank canvas upon which to create and plan their nuptials, but rather inherits a big ball of expectations that said nuptials should live up to.  It’s not surprising nor unreasonable that a feeling of pressure is there: it’s simply the sum total of various ideas and ideals that come from surrounding culture, friends, and family.  I mean, everyone knows a wedding is a big deal. And the bride and groom are generally in on it too: just by carrying a desire to have the wedding be pleasing and memorable for all involved, even the unspoken (or imagined and non-existent) expectations of others get added in.

So, when it came to Tracy and I (Tracy especially, from her experience as a wedding photographer), we realized that this sense of pressure would be there.  And we felt it.  And we occasionally got carried away or stressed by it until remembering that our wedding was in fact ours to create.  And we subsequently forgot that wisdom and went back to step one, and repeated as necessary.

Like everyone else, we really wanted to be sure we were planning our wedding to be the way we wanted it.  Perhaps less like everyone else, we were prepared and willing to say “no” to things that are highly anticipated or expected.  We were even excited to do so, to be so defiant and say to the world “we’re not gonna do X, Y or Z because everyone else does… this will be OURS!”.  It was the active resistance to doing any particular thing because it was simply expected of us: expectation without a matching desire on our part wasn’t sufficient.  Anytime we felt ourselves going through the motions of the “getting married” script and/or letting that script make our decisions for us, we came back to the question “How would John and Tracy get married?” and resumed thought from there.

It’s harder to do than it looks. :)  To be crystal clear: we didn’t even have any overzealous parents who were going zilla-style controlling on the situation.  Rather, all three were the epitome of being laid back, hands off, and keen to root us on.  Like I said before, the weight of it comes from the sum many [even humble] opinions and ideals.

But we got through to the blessed day and stayed reasonably true to our intentions, and the result was darn good.  I of course cannot be trusted to not be biased, but I will put in nonetheless that it was the best wedding I’ve ever been to.

So what did we say “no” to during our crusade for wedding individuality, and how did it fare?  Here’s the list of things that are super common in American weddings, about which were greeted by at least some form of suspicion by our non-adherence:

  • Save the Dates and RSVPs. Our save the date notice went out as an email notice leading our people to a website where we hit them up for their mailing address (electronically).  We still sent the RSVP by conventional mail, but it sure was nice to have the replies come back via the internet.  The site for both was pretty spiffy, too.
  • Bride’s maids and groom’s men. Just a Maid of Honor and a Best Man filled out our wedding party.  For my sake with groom’s men, I love my brothers and there are a few other friends who would’ve fit the bill, but I preferred to kept it simple.  Tracy’s been a bride’s maid 3 times already and is clear she did her friends a huge favor by not subjecting them to the cost and rigmarole.
  • Bachelor party. It’s supposed to be just the groom with his dude friends, I’m told, but I was quite content to have some of my near and dear girl friends be there to celebrate the occasion.  I had no interest in going to a strip club anyway.
  • Diamond ring. Tracy and I are both underwhelmed by diamond craze and think it’s only by a massive marketing campaign that rock size is somehow indicative of how much we love each other.  Nothing against anyone who chose and loves their diamonds, went simply opted for topaz instead.
  • Groom in a tuxedo. A rental would only fit so well, and a purchase would just collect dust afterward. It’s just not my style.  A three-piece suit, however, is.  Not only that, but it’s a fine piece of formal wear that I shall enjoy to wear out again.
  • Bride’s bouquet. We wanted to chuck the whole thing, but were ruled by reason that it’s an important ornament/something to do with the hands for the bride, during ceremony and pictures.  Jury’s still out on how grateful we are for caving on that one: Tracy couldn’t get rid of it fast enough and who can really say if it would have been all that awkward without it?
  • Religious ceremony. It turns out a Celtic knot tying ceremony spoke to us more genuinely than any particular religious doctrine on the subject of marriage, so that’s what we went with.  (My sister had the best reaction when I told her in advance of this: “So is that like, your religion now?” as if I’d just turned 2 shades weirder on her.)
  • Specially colored slip covers for the ceremony chairs. We were thinking it a superfluous detail that would only last about 30 minutes, but we did back down from our “no” on this one.  I will admit, they looked pretty darn good in a way that white or black wouldn’t have.
  • Elaborate decoration. We got by with adding very minimal decorations to the space in which we were married and had our reception, the space as it came needed so little else to have the ambiance we were looking for.  We even passed on having some sort of height-building elements (floral or otherwise) to demarcate our “alter” for the ceremony: we figured the 3 of us standing front and center would make it a focal point enough.
  • Sit-down dinner. We opted instead for heavy passed appetizers, spiffy spreads of various foods, a whipped potato martini bar, and carving station.
  • 10-top round tables for the reception. In our experience, people only talk with their dates and those seated to the left and the right under that setup.  We wanted more intermingling among our peeps, and so opted for a scattered assortment of high tops and 4-tops, all unreserved.  Worked great for coming and going with our alternative catering option.
  • Wedding cake. In our experience it’s overpriced, generally not as great as it’s cracked up to be, and three’s usually a ton left over and thrown away.  So we skipped entirely.  Instead we had a gelato cart with four fab flavors to choose from.

To be clear, I’m not saying that anything we did was revolutionary: a lot of these variations on the theme have either been around a long time or are coming more and more into vogue.  But every item on that list was a point of contention, met with some sort of surprise, misgivings, distaste or reservation by at least one person who is important to us.  It is these things that we stood for, the things that needed to be stood for because they don’t garnish immediate universal acceptance, which made our wedding ours.  Simply put, with no disrespect to the standard formula of weddings (ok, except perhaps wedding cake: I blasted that pretty hard) we sought to have ours a different way.  And from my vantage point, it totally worked.

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Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Unlikely Yoda

September 7th, 2010 No comments

Yesterday I drank beer with homeless people.

It’s not what I intended to do when I stepped out into the neighborhood streets that temperate and sunny Labor Day afternoon.  I was headed to the capital square for some peaceful people watching to enjoy the lazy day, so my detour wasn’t a total misfit.

How I happened to while away 2 hours on the sidewalk of Pennsylvania Avenue was one of those precious offshoots of my tendency to engage anyone in conversation when given the opening.  Two older fellows were settled about the sidewalk when I strolled by with my characteristic goofy grin (which a walk in warm weather often causes), and one of them was interested enough to ask me how it was going.  I answered in earnest, returned the question in kind, and before long I said “Well heck, you guys mind if I just take a seat and hang with you a while?”

And that’s how I met Bruce, a self-described “slightly-used-up hippie”, and Gary, a fellow in a wheelchair who had less to say than Bruce.  For my choice to accept the graciously offered 24-ounce can of Natural Ice from the brown paper bag (still kinda cold!), I was rewarded with a slice of life far removed from my ordinary and a dose of new perspective.

I think enough Natty Ice on a sidewalk will make a philosopher out of anyone, and sure enough rich conversation ensued.  Depending on your state of mind and willingness/ability to assign useful meaning, the platitudes spoken forth by my new, slightly-used-up hippie friend were either pointless drivel or priceless nuggets of wisdom.  I took to panning for gold while he spoke of the freedom of sleeping by the river while not owing or being owed anything to or by anyone, never believing people in this world who will try to tell you that some things are less important than others, and the marvel and celebration of how I’m willing to get up everyday and do things that no one else is willing to do (I’m still not sure whether or not those statements were referring to any activity in particular).

Whatever was said, I took to listening constantly for the gold coming from one who had lived a life very different from my own, because why not?  I figured worst case I’d shrug it off after enjoying a beer and company on a nice afternoon.  So we waxed philosophical and I did my best to grasp the words of my sometimes seemingly contradictory host.  Along the way there was even a jam session, featuring a fellow named Luis Small who stopped by with a steel drum, Bruce rockin’ the harmonica, and generous offers of a swig of brandy and a hit off a spliff.

This was way more fun than I was gonna have at the capital square, even if I did pass on the brandy and spliff.

It was my bladder that eventually had me be on my way.  “Hey Bruce, I totally gotta pee.   Thanks for the beer, do you mind walking with me to the liquor store on Colfax so that I may return the favor?”  After assuring him I knew I didn’t owe him anything (he wanted me to be super clear about that), it was my pleasure to take a 2 block stroll, wander in, and wonder out with a replacement king can Natural Ice plus 2 more.  I like to think of it as repaying my karmic beer debt, with interest.  With a hearty handshake and a hug I was off.

So Bruce was my Yoda for a day: the mere act of trying to figure out what he was saying gave me useful perspective on my life.  This morning during abs in the 6:30 Yoga Sculpt class I envisioned him in the cliched, starry background in the corner of my mind’s eye, telling me in prophetic tones how I get up in the morning and do things that know one else is willing to do.

It made me push just a little bit harder.

Red Rocks: First Impressions

July 1st, 2010 No comments

The stunning splendor of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre“Hey buddy, you doin’ alright?” Jason asked.

“Yeah, I’m good,” barely turning my head to acknowledge the inquiry into my well being as I continued staring out into the distance.

They thought I might be stoned.  Somehow.

Couldn’t blame ’em, for during the first 45 minutes of settling in on our high seats, sipping a cold one and waiting for dusk to fall so that 8,000 attendees could enjoy the evening screening of John Hughes’ 1986 masterpiece Ferris Beuller’s Day Off as part of the most excellent Film on The Rocks 2010 summer series, I was off in my own little world, enjoying a spiritual journey of experiencing universal oneness that gave me the glimpse of being profoundly connected to everyone and everything around me.

Now, that sounds like a hippy-dippy brand of cliched BS, so allow me to explain.

There are a number of traditions and disciplines that teach, in essence, that all of us and all of existence are but different manifestations of the same, infinite, divine presence.  My 45 minutes of staring out and focusing on sites near and far was but a meditation on that idea.  It struck me as sort of a god’s-eye-view of so many things from near and far.  From my seat at Red Rocks that night, you could see:

  • The city of Denver rising in the far distance, looking as peaceful as can be.
  • The ever marching line that separated night from day as the sun set over a dozen townships.
  • Clouds that loom and the shadows they cast as they drift across miles of rolling hills in the distance.
  • The blackening sky that stretches beyond the clouds, where the very satellites that capture the aerial views of google maps zoom around.
  • The majestic, rising stone formations above that have probably awed and inspired people for thousands and thousands of years (i.e. since well before some dude had the good idea to etch a series of wide bleachers and call it a venue).
  • 8,000 generally happy people hanging out, enjoying being outdoors while awaiting a good show.
  • My love sitting and looking cute beside me.
  • A tall, tasty pint of beer in my hand.

All of these vastly varying perspectives I could experience in the same moment.  I couldn’t keep the smile off of my face and even broke into laughter more than a couple of times.  I don’t know for sure why, maybe it was the beer.  Everything just seemed to fit together and existence itself seemed like a really fun, and well put together game, ripe for enjoying.

And thus was my first experience of the natural splendor known as Red Rocks Amphitheater.  Good place to catch a classic movie, too.

Categories: Enlightenment Tags: ,

Anti-Holidays: A Festivus for the Rest of Us

May 5th, 2010 2 comments

I went back to visit family in Wisconsin this past weekend, and it was the best visit I’ve had in a long time.  In retrospect it is quite clear why.

I left my hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin now nearly thirteen years ago, first to Madison for college, then to St. Louis for grad school, and most recently to Denver for the next chapter of the created life (ah, love!).  As my distance from home has grown, so too has the likelihood that any given trip back was for the purpose of enjoying a holiday with family.

But this time the reason was different: it was my niece’s First Communion.  Her mom (my sister) Nancy made a great go of having us 6 other siblings feel all of invited, welcomed, and wanted for the occasion.  It turns out there’s something surprisingly powerful and compelling about the email/phone call/snail mail card trifecta–good one, Nancy!

So on Saturday we converged, I from Denver, Julie from Atlanta, Susie from Chicago, and Kevin, Mary and Mike from their nooks about the greater Milwaukee area.  The rare occasion of seven of us in the same room.  We’re a great group of folks in general, but when you strip out the hectic travel, the usual to-dos, and the low-to-moderate drama of who’s staying where which characteristically plague holiday gatherings, what remains is a fantastic, lively and engaged group of adults with way more to say than apologies of how they have to go soon to be with the in-laws.

The whole experience has me thinking the counter-intuitive notion that the holidays are a terrible time to be with family: there’s just too much going on.  Better to have it be some other day: that’s when you really get to enjoy quality time.  I call it the anti-holiday.  Nancy I think stumbled upon something great to get us all together on a calendar day that has no presence on Hallmark’s revenue radar.  I think it would be great for my family to have our own moving target of a holiday that could change from year to year, such that this one doesn’t just go down as a fluke.

Our own, dynamic Festivus.  We can even skip the Airing of Grievances.

Announcing JPL Consulting

April 3rd, 2010 3 comments

With the help of some great work with the folks at Maverick and Company I’m proud to announce the birth of the most clearly articulated professional identity that I’ve ever had, JPL Consulting.

JPL Consulting is the culmination of nearly seven years of experience doing web application programming and design.  You can see in the evolution from True Edge Consulting and then Playground Creative that this is really the first time I’ve presented precisely what it is that I do.  In retrospect it’s strange that it’s taken me this long to do just that.

I’ve also created a companion blog, which contains missives and essays about custom software development and being a programmer for hire.  This is perhaps the most interesting part: I have a lot of thoughts, perspective and ideas to share drawn from six plus years in this business.  A worthy read for anyone who wants to know how I roll professionally, and especially for anyone who’s involved in the hiring, doing, or managing of custom programming projects.

Categories: Enlightenment Tags:

In Search of the 5 Gems of Denver

February 12th, 2010 No comments

Even though I thought it a shamefully telling trait of being a nerd back then, I don’t mind telling you now that I was totally a Nintendo kid during my years of growing up.  Because of it, I’m left even now with a few indelible concepts & cliches borrowed from all the video games I used to play, and it’s still fun for me to fit them to my every day life.

One such cliche is the quest to find “X shiny objects” necessary to open the magic door/access the hidden realm/lift the curse/etc., usual as a prerequisite to finding and killing the ultimate bad guy and winning the game.  Zelda had its 8 pieces of the TriForce, the first Final Fantasy had its 4 orbs, Sonic had its 6 chaos emeralds, etc. etc.

So I’ve made up that, as a way to frame my task of getting settled into and acquainted with my new town, I’m on a quest for the 5 Gems of Denver, and by that I mean 5 of a very specific kind of thing:  I’m out to find no fewer than 5 features of Denver, be they places, events, venues, restaurants, parks, cultural institutions and so on, that constitute distinct reasons to fall in love with this particular town.  They have to be recurring in nature: something that can become a more-or-less regular staple of my happy lifestyle here.  They don’t have to be universally unique, something that makes me say “wow, cool–there’s nothing like that in St. Louis that I know of” is sufficient to meet the uniqueness criteria.

So far I’ve found one of the Gems of Denver, which I mentioned before, Core Power Yoga.  I love it, it boasts a community and following like nothing in St. Louis, and it remains a regular facet of my typical week.  That leaves four more, and by the time I finish this quest I will have much to brag on about my new home.

The imminent bike season should make it much easier and faster to do so, but I wouldn’t mind to cheat a little with some help and hints.  If you have some ideas of where the Gems of Denver are to be found, by all means share.  When I’ve found my 5 I’ll post the what and why of the whole collection.

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Bluffing About Books I’d Recommend

January 7th, 2010 No comments

A friend of mine Tom is a huge fan of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, a treatise on a [then] new form of psychotherapy that was formulated based on the author’s experience as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.  The central premise is that man can deal with whatever life throws at him, so long as the “why” or purpose of it is present and deemed worthy.

At his recommendation I gave it a read, and because he’s looking to get it republished and refurbished for the times, he asked me how likely, on a scale of one to ten, I would be to recommend it to others.

I told him I’d give it a two.

It’s a good book and I actually do find it recommendable.  So why just a measly two?  I told Tom that I have about ten other books in the area of philosophy/transformation that I would recommend before this one, and how often do you have a single person follow so many of your reading recommendations as to get that far down the list?

Tom called my bluff and said, in essence, “wow, that’s cool–tell me your ten, I’m interested!”

Here’s the list I banged out in answer to most his reasonable request:

  1. Laughing with God by Jerry Stocking.  It’s my island book.  Fantastically whimsical, made up conversation between a regular dude and God.  I think it’s my most favorite personification of God, and the most believable too.
  2. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Classic, super pragmatic and spot on in it’s wisdom.  I found it noteworthy how many of the chapters map on pretty cleanly to the distinctions taught in communication courses I’ve taken, and vice-versa.
  3. The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss.  Not overtly transformational per se, but a really poignant guide to mapping out what REALLY contributes to quality of life versus all the clutter that we pretend is.
  4. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  Sub-titled “A guide to Spiritual Enlightenment”, it’s thick but super powerful if you can wrap your head around it.
  5. The Multi Orgasmic Couple by Mantek and Maneewan Chia.  Delightfully useful in its own right, and there’s nothing quite like the spiritual, positive Taoist slant on sexuality to wash away a lot of the head trash of anxiety and shame that still lingers pretty prominently in Western culture.
  6. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen.  Eating well for both flavor and being well nourished contribute pretty strongly to quality of life in my book, and this quick read is a fantastic treatise on the current state of our industrial food production, how much our diet has slowly morphed into so much processed corn, and what’s available out of a simple return to real food.
  7. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.  Super interesting read loaded with food for thought about humanity’s place among all life on earth.  (I get the biggest kick out of the jellyfish story.)
  8. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.  The life and times of Jesus from age 6 through to the end of his ministry (including the in-between years that biblical accounts always seem to skip over), as told by his smart ass best friend Biff.  Ironically the most accessible delivery of Christ’s message I’ve ever encountered, and funny as hell to boot.
  9. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.  Narrative of life during a 17 day motorcycle road trip, with well written philosophical bits brilliantly interwoven.
  10. How to Win By Quitting by Jerry Stocking.  Series of self contained essays on the cultural, personal, and societal games we play and appear to be stuck in without even realizing it.  Food for thought for recognizing the water you swim in, and insight into how much of life we think we’re bound to is actually quite optional.