Coming and going like my motivation and interest. When was the last time I kept interest in anything more than a month? I guess there have been a few things, my mind moving like the stock market—a dizzying dance of up and down when viewed up close, but take a step back and an upward trend unfolds.
My writing is like my poetry and I want it to flow
so long as my mind takes me where I want to go.
I might argue that a good article or book is a poem expanded, where each word and phrase follow a certain rhythm. The words should flow carelessly into a reader’s mind and dance the dance that pulls others off their behinds, enrolling the participation of ideas left alone, whose home in the shadows holds seeds newly sown
A seed can grow and reach into our minds connecting all that we have learned along its rugged vines.
I believe in words’ abilities to do this—to connect areas that often do not meet like Peter on floor 2 who stays away from meat. But if you happen to run into him you might be surprised to find that you learn something new! that something shakes you and rearranges you like a snow globe shaken, whose preconceived notions are tossed in the air in brand new formation. Once here now there.
I believe we need a reshuffle in our lives.
You can see it in our eyes.
You can see it in our eyes.
I scolded my roommate’s dog this morning. She was running around the house with dirty paws. I was grumpy without coffee. She was happy with muddy feet. I snapped my fingers and told her to come. She ran away. Why won’t this dog listen to me? Am I not speaking clearly enough? I raised my voice. Still, nothing. I chased her at a full sprint, rounding the corner of the island in the kitchen like Dale (RIP) until I had her by the scruff. You listen to me! I warned her. The fear would sink and she would learn her lesson. I dragged her outside. She would learn her lesson.
What did I do? I was just walking around the kitchen when he started snapping his fingers and cursing. He does this sometimes. I get the short end of the stick. Stick. STICK! No, he’s mad at me. No stick for now. I’m sitting outside on the porch looking through the glass door at him. He seems confused and distraught now. What did I do?
What did I just do? I scolded a dog for walking in the house. The kitchen was my temple and the furry fuck just trounced through with dirty feet, but what gives? I lost control. My perfect space was tainted and I lost control of it. What can I control? Anything? No. Everything moves. Everything changes. I scolded a dog for being a dog. This is silly. I’m sorry, dog.
What the literal dump is up with this guy? Whatever, I’ll wag my tail anyway. He seems happy to let me in the door this time.
I once rejected love and care from a person whose gaze I shared
Who stood across from me with skin and heart bare
Unafraid of the thoughts that weighed me down
She was filled with hope
that my taciturn heart may one day come around.
How could she know any better?
In her green eyes I was a bird with broken feathers
and with enough time and attention I would return
to a person whose love would eternally burn
until death do us part, forever
But the dead do not feel.
The passion and love for you is real
and the emotion is visceral
but the end is eventual
I can't support the weight of your love
because my baggage is perpetual
Yes, with enough time the times will change
and we will look back and easily blame
this moment shared, this word unsaid
emotions and opinions suppressed until I fled
I fled with arrogance, still a bird with broken feathers
Quickly falling from the nest into stormy weather
strong enough to toss men from ships
and drift into the sinking abyss
I fell until the bottom came up to greet me
with enough force to unsettle my thinking
enough thinking to unsettle my drinking
"that drinking sinking thinking feeling"
From the bottom I floated still dead
unable to feel the wounds as I bled
hoping the breath of air above
would revive the soul I needed to love
But the air was not as I had thought
instead of romance I was caught
in a friendly dance with my heart and mind
prepared to share with others and bind
to something slowly forming, something built to last
something to kill the fears of the past
No true love of my life was there to save me
from the stress of nothingness that had before plagued me
it was instead new friends that were the air
that would deliver me into a world they were willing to share
It's a bond with others that fills me with life
that pulls me from the bottom wrought with strife
It's the love of my friend and my neighbor
that keeps me strong and without waver
For romantic love may come and go forever
but in friendship my love is never safer.
I let a flower drop
from the bouquet around my neck
It was Beautiful in form
and Courageous in heart
From it all things ran pure
From my neck hung the cure
But my eyes knew not what had dropped
For my eyes were caught
on the future that promised
to turn a stone without malice
That changing shoreline
was terribly exciting
but left behind the flowers
that were once kind and inviting
And my footsteps followed behind me
The flowers still dropped from my neck
like the love I regret leaving behind me
when I left you there, blindly
Unmoved the stones remained
unturned without surprise or news
I could not fathom what would result
from opening a new chapter that could bring
a new day into my heart so full of clutter
So full of the everyday words I'd mutter--
negative, debilitating, confusing words
Words with no worth
They fell from my head into my heart
like cascading ash from a volcano
falling to suffocate a town
so full of life and love
Each one present in another's presence
no matter what fell from above
There was no future, no past--
only the present to last
For the ash would cover
until the remaining souls below were killed
The smiles on their face
firing at will
The Pompeii of today
is in my heart
and there forever to stay
And I'm sorry to say
I left my flowers on the beach
and my footsteps remind me of where I've been
The changing shoreline said what will be
but my eyes were cast inward only toward me
You were a light in the dark
when hope was stark
I blew you off like candles at my birthday--
A wish for love that never came true
because my wish for love was you.
. . . \o/ . . .
Luckily I can swim.
. . . ^o_ . . .
September 8th, 2014. Dickey's Gas Station. 20 miles NW of Kansas City.
My brother just left and I've been crying for the past 15 minutes on the side of this gas station...like full on swollen face, head in hands, shoulder shrugging, torso bouncing kind of crying. I must look like a fucking idiot. Who's ever seen a bearded man in a SPAM cycling jersey crying? If I was watching I would be amused, but I'm unfortunately the one squatted here against the wall in this sliver of shade. Hopefully folks think I've just been laughing at my crotch. There's really only one direction out of this whole mess, and I guess that's to hop back on my bike again. I don't want to ride, but there's no turning back now. And I should find somewhere to sleep.
Before watching the restaurant I had been working at burn to ashes, I conjured up a new adventure. I would pack my things up on a bicycle and ride to Glacier National Park and work there for the summer, which would be a beautiful exit to the restaurant world I had unfortunately grown to resent. Just a week prior to my idea's conception I had visited Northwest Montana for the first time and decided it was the most beautiful sight I had ever set my eyes on--an earthly Providence. I had to return.
Of course, plans have a funny way of not working out, especially when they are set well into the future. I once met a highly successful man, one of the founders of Priceline.com in fact, who refused to plan his life any further than two years. His reason? How the hell was he supposed to know where he would be in two years? A fine point, sir, and I'll even raise your bet to not knowing where I'll be in 6 months! Ha ha!
Well sure enough, not long after the few lingering flames of the restaurant fire flashed their last breaths, a friend from Semester at Sea called me. He wanted to know if I was interested in going to the World Cup in Brazil in the upcoming summer, traveling all around Brazil and other parts of South America for two months all the while having the time of our lives. It would be my first taste of self-funded travel and time well spent with other friends from SAS whose tastes for the cheapest and most authentic (bordering crazy) experiences were insatiable.
So there went my Glacier plans. I was sold.
The prospects of South America provided more than just a fun adventure. In a time when I had lost my sense of direction, the trip was a chance to leave my wretched and emotional world behind and find peace in the deep woods of the Amazon or the high peaks of the Andes, which sounded like the start of an overly romanticized story including a white American man, an indigenous shaman, a bunch of ayahuasca, and, consequently, a full set of dreads and zeal for life, the Earth, and all of its righteous inhabitants.
In case you're wondering, ayahuasca is a plant native to the Amazon basin that, when prepared, makes you trip nuts. But before you trip nuts you throw up in a bucket and if you're real lucky you'll also shit your brains out. Shitting your brains out is an English language idiom used to describe the complete and violent release of fecal matter into the world all at once. It looks like this.
Most people we met that had done the stuff were concentrated around the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. Each person, in remarkable detail, spoke of frequent landings of UFO's into the lake late at night.
I did not see any UFOs. I did not take the medicine. I am, however, still incredibly intrigued by its effects and probably will partake at some point in my life. The LA Times wrote a pretty interesting piece here. See if it piques your interest.
Back in South America, on my quest to uncover life-changing insight for myself, I learned some valuable skills. For starters, I learned how to start a business and turn a profit in a foreign country in one day, how to cheer for a soccer team at the World Cup like a Mexican, and how to poop on a 16,000ft mountain. Then there were the much less exciting lessons like how to accost truck drivers at Brazilian rest stops for a free ride and how to loiter in private airport lobbies to ask, albeit unsuccessfully, owners of private jets for a ride. In one case, we missed Burger King's CFO by just thirty minutes, who I'm sure would have given us a ride. In another, we found a helicopter pilot who couldn't give us a ride but opened his home to us for the next four days. I even learned how to ask a massive oil tanker for a ride and it was simple--walk straight through the security post like you own the place, belly up to the side of the ship, ask the crew for a ride, climb aboard, and then ask the captain for a ride, wherever he was headed. Despite our confidence, we still didn't get a ride, but we sure did learn a lot about Greece and the open seas from the tanker's Greek captain.
But no matter the number of exciting experiences and highly applicable skills I learned, my life, perhaps in part because I was unwilling to puke in a bucket, remained mostly the same. I continued to struggle with remarkably erratic and emotional eating habits and let crippling bouts of depression control my life. I had hoped running away to a distant land with no intention to return* would erase all of my extra baggage, but the joke was all on me. If I had chosen a theme song, it would have been this:
The weight of lies will bring you down
And follow you to every town
'cos nothing happens here that doesn't happen there
So when you run make sure you run to something and now away from
'cos lies don't need an aeroplane to chase you down
The Weight of Lies by the Avett Brothers. Listen to it.
*Note: There are ways around proving your entrance and exit from a country, but it was a romantic idea anyway. I was coming home.
No matter where I went the world continued to tell me, in all languages, a very simple adage to the tune of this: no matter where you go, there you are. I sure wish I understood that a little earlier. By the time I landed in Lima I had heard it a zillion times, but until I really learned for myself, it meant nothing. That's what it's all about, though, right? You'll never really digest and internalize a lesson until you experience it, and I mean ALL of it. When I dropped out of college I wanted to make all of my own mistakes so I'll call it a success.
Building off that success, when I returned home I still thought I could run away from my problems. So in August of 2014 I bought a bike for $100 off Ebay, sold most of my possessions, packed up what was left, and began pedaling West with my eyes dead set on Boulder, CO--my Shangri-La, the land in which my life would fall into place.
Um, are you kidding me?
Unfortunately, no, but while the tears continued to stream down my face on the side of a gas station 20 miles outside of Kansas City, it was the only thing keeping me going. I had no reason to turn back and every reason to push forward, even when every chord in my body told me to stop. They say having a clear vision or goal will keep you going strong indefinitely, which goes to explain why the search for El Dorado pushed on or the prospects of gold in the hills sent thousands of men West to California to make a quick fortune. In a way I was looking for that pot of gold, guided entirely by an image I had created in my head of adventure, prosperity, and most importantly, happiness. I was guided by an idea.
In my next post, I'll talk more about what happened between Nashville, TN and Boulder, CO. More precisely I'll explain how a depressed and unfit Greg pieced himself together enough to ride 2,000 miles on a functioning metal piece of shit and how even the idea of a better future can motivate and push you through just about anything.
Until next time
-G 12:31 pm 7/28/17
Floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean on a floating dream world, I dropped out of school. Enthusiastically and via email.
I was bobbing around the world with a program called Semester at Sea on a floating vessel named the MV Explorer jammed with over 500 students from around the world. It looks, more or less, like this.
As it turns out, the program not only forces you to forge your ways through foreign countries as remote as Burma, but also to question your entire purpose in life, which, at 19, was a tough one to grapple with. The big question was, "What do you love?"--it fueled conversations, personal reflections, and decisions on the ship and in port. "What do you love, Greg?" I thought to myself on a daily basis. Over time I realized I loved to cook. I needed to drop out of school ASAP.
So what happens when you drop out of school not because of bad grades but because of restlessness--when you're drawn away from studies to pursue a dream that can't be learned in school?
In short, disappointment. It's the modus operandi of that infamous "real life". Expectations never meet reality and people are, well, people and are just as frustrating as you. (Yes, you are frustrating to someone and probably yourself, sorry.)
But it's not all doom and gloom. When faced with disappointment, your ability to handle it is the real difference between success and failure. Locus of control, or your ability to adapt to outside influences, plays an enormous part. Inevitably something will go awry, and the big question on the table is this: will you play an active role in how you react to the circumstances or will you fall victim to the world who just pulled one over on you? It's a choice, and one that's developed over time. Unfortunately, not all of us have the chance in life to develop this locus of control. Our ability to work hard and understand that you are in control of certain things, notably how you react, is a skill learned primarily in our youth. Were you told you were smart or told you were a hard worker? It's a short-winded example, I know, but the latter of the two tend to exhibit a much stronger locus of control and find more success, happiness, fulfillment, etc. in life.
I'm not making this stuff up, by the way. Much of what I'm referencing here comes from Charles Duhigg's eye-opening book Smarter, Better, Faster: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity who also wrote The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, which is the best and most life changing book I have ever read. I highly recommend it.
The point here is that transitioning from the fairy tale world of undergraduate life on Clemson's campus and then Semester at Sea's not-at-all-real-life floating campus, was startling. I will say, however, that the shock may have been less than if I had graduated because as a drop-out, I had no expectations for jobs or that my degree would carry me anywhere. But I didn't graduate and making life decisions remotely from a safe space on a floating piece of metal in the middle of nowhere fully equipped with a cheering squad the size of my high school graduating class was easy. When I returned home, I was free to do whatever I wanted, to become that chef I always wanted to be. What I didn't know is that it had to take place in a world not so friendly to a bright eyed and bushy tailed 19-year-old who had just made the quick decision to flush away a collegiate experience that he didn't even fund
Thus began the road to disappointing realities.
Disappointment #1: Not everyone is cheering for you all the time. Aw man. Coming home from that ship was like jumping into a glacial lake--a shock to the system. So you want to be a chef? That's cute. You've got lots to learn, pal, and guess what? You may only find a handful of people who want to help you get there. Everyone else might as well be orcs climbing up your walls to kill you and everyone inside your precious castle, not to mention your own experience with this hypothetical passion, which leads me to...
Disappointment #2: I didn't even like my new craft, you know, the one I dropped out of school to pursue. I had snagged a job at my favorite restaurant growing up, a rustic upscale southern Appalachian joint. They offered to train me from scratch. I had no experience in the field aside from reading Thomas Keller's cookbooks and picking up on techniques from my father. The opportunity was a real catch, and I was truly lucky to have snagged it. I worked closely with a chef who selflessly and patiently taught me everything I know today. There was, however, a chef in the kitchen that made coming to work living hell. He was my first taste of life off the ship. I didn't take to kindly to it, but pushed on regardless.
Over time, though, I realized this cooking thing wasn't for me. Yikes. So there I was learning my dream built in the clouds was without an escape hatch. It was like stepping out of that glacial lake to find out the world is on fire around you and your only options are to burn or freeze to death. Ironically, the restaurant burned down taking the soul of the restaurant and my faint thoughts of continuing to cook with it.
As we watched it burn I saw on the faces of the people around me a mix of confusion, anger, helplessness, good humor, and in my case, complete detachment. For me, it was a job I had already given up on, but for the others it was their livelihood. We had just hired a new executive chef who had landed a job that would finally give him the stage he needed to influence the region's diverse and rapidly growing cuisine. A new garden was in order, the kitchen was rearranged, the staff was reenergized, and then in a few hours it was gone. Talk about a shock to the system.
I've grown to understand that, like I said earlier, this is the modus operandi of life. Crisis works around a when schedule, not an if so you better believe it's coming. How you handle it becomes the real difference. Over time I've had to learn the hard way to keep on, albeit sometimes begrudgingly, keeping on. With open eyes something will poke its head up, but without a degree where do you begin? Having the whole world to choose from can be a blessing and a curse. Ever been to a Chinese menu with a 10 page menu? Try picking an entree.
If you're interested in the subject be sure to listen to NPR's TED Radio Hour podcast Crisis and Response. It's a smattering of stories from people who have faced moments of real crisis and saw avenues for prosperity within them.
My own narrative goes much further than watching the restaurant burn to the ground, but I'll stop here for the sake of length. As a college drop-out trying to find some sort of direction in a world when everything is available at once, who has seen his one guiding light literally and figuratively burn to the ground, it's a zig zag rag tag journey.
There's more to come.
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Making sense of the past and its place in the present is a convoluted battle.
It's one thing to look at what's happened for answers and another to answer the questions and challenges today with lessons learned from what's happened. Do you keep photos, memoirs, memorabilia, reminders of the things that happened for nostalgic blasts of how good things once were? Or do you keep them to see how far you've come?
There are, in my eyes, distinct differences between the two and how you approach them, to a great extent, determines your overall happiness. Or maybe your happiness determines how you approach them. What's first? The chicken or the egg? What's the cause and what's the effect?
I first noticed a stark change in my outlook on life when I looked at the pictures of my past, at the time when I felt happiest and most complete, and, yes, regarded them as great times, but only as building blocks for where I've gotten today. They were instrumental puzzle pieces in the jigsaw of life that could not possibly be completed without them.
In times past, like the two years I spent in Boulder, CO, I stared at those old puzzle pieces, which were already put in place, as something I could replicate, pick up, and put in the empty spaces that confronted me at that time. This is the big difference I'm talking about here, and it stemmed from a couple sources.
First was confidence--confidence in my sense of place, my sense of belonging, my sense of direction. A lack in any one of these brought the whole team down, and while living in Boulder, I felt depleted in all three. So what's the thing to do in that situation? Look to the times of prosperity for answers and try to bring them back to the now? Impossible, it turns out.
Second was communication--communication with friends, family, and myself. No more could I communicate with my friends both old and new that I was meeting on a daily basis, but it didn't stop there. My family became distant and then I began to misunderstand myself because I couldn't decipher my own messages. What I mean by that is this: when I was sad, I didn't know why, when I was hungry, I wasn't sure when to stop eating, when I was tired, I wasn't sure if that meant I should sleep or quit being a little bitch. Everything was lost in translation and I didn't know what anything meant. There was, however, a time when I did, and that was years prior, so to Facebook I went and found the pictures that represented that time--a time when I was fit, attractive, sharp, and funny. At my lowest, I didn't believe I had any of these attributes.
But here's the thing, once something is a part of you, it always is a part of you. I knew deep down there was a man full of charisma, kindness, patience, curiosity, and love, but it was buried six feet under.
Today I'm that man once more. I listen to friends, family, and myself. I'm confident in my place in the world, the style of communication I've developed over the years, and my abilities as a social human--a type of human I cherish the most. I've learned to communicate my feelings and thoughts to those that care and for whom I care as well. There now exists a fluid movement of ideas between those around me, but perhaps most importantly within my own mind. I feel confident in my own thoughts and know which are silly thoughts and which are legitimate considerations. It's easy to be lost in my mind because like everyone else, it's a complex and often scary place. These days there is light.
So what changed? Place, of course, because that's the one thing that's bound to change in my life. I've moved several times and am only 24. I do love my place in Whitefish, MT. Exercise habits changed. I began to view exercise as a sort of drug more powerful than any anti-depressant or ADD med could ever be. Communication changed and I started voicing my thoughts and feelings unabashedly, which had the coupled effect of having more patience and consideration for those who wished to voice their own thoughts and feelings to me.
The biggest lesson here is this: when you're confident in your views, you're more willing to consider others.
Be confident and be bold in whatever you do.
-G 3:34pm Whitefish, MT
How accessible is the adventure in Whitefish, MT?
Pretty heckin' accessible.
I'm going to spend this post talking about its proximity to Glacier National Park, the real gem of this area. I'm sure I'll throw in the occasional mention of Whitefish Mountain and surrounding trails too as I get a little bit more acclimated to and run on more of the trails around here. I've only been here for two weeks after all.
In case you don't know, this is Whitefish. A 40 minute drive to the east will get you to the entrance to Glacier National Park AKA one of the most beautiful places on earth.
To take advantage of the park, I took a casual ride on Saturday up the famous Going-to-the-Sun road, a 46 mile round trip that could easily fall into my "greatest things I've ever done" list. Second to joining my little league team when I was 8.
Here's a photo taken by a marmot on the side of the road.
Every spring the park opens up the road to cyclists only, offering the borderline crazy few the chance to see the park from a unique and unrivaled perspective. In 2014 I moved to Colorado from Tennessee on my bicycle and I learned the beauty of seeing the world from two wheels powered by your own body (more on that later). Everything, of course, moves slower and the wind on your face makes the elements, the scenery, the natural world all feel very real and available right in your lap. There's truly nothing else like it. So as you can imagine, when you start to pedal up one of the most legendary roads in the United States, I wonder if I would rather have sex or ride my bike. I've never contemplated that until now.
While the ride up was tough, it wasn't unmanageable. I trail run as well and I only "grin and bear it" when I have to run on the same godforsaken sidewalk that I always run on. Running on a trail in a beautiful place means taking your mind off of what's really hurting. It's liberating and you should try it. Biking Going-to-the-Sun road is much the same because you realize that no matter what it takes, you will make it up the damn road. Take a break. Who cares.
The road is now open to cars though so fuck it all. I guess we can drive now. Here's some more photos from the ride.
Today I ate a hot dog out of a travel mug. A hot dog is a mush of pig parts molded into a long skinny tube that American's like to eat at ball parks. A travel mug is filled with coffee for American's driving to work. The two together look like this.
This is all part of my recent obsession with hot dogs. The flavor and smell is disturbingly intoxicating and with a small line of ketchup, I'm in fucking heaven. Coat it in cornmeal and fry it? Fantastic. Wrap it in pretzel dough and bake it? I'll sell you my first born.
The hot dog gets a lot of shit, I think, but for what it's worth, I'm going to stick up for the poor meat stick. Frankly, it doesn't deserve it. Har har. The hot dog hits all the major categories of a perfect food. Number one, its vessel, a white hot dog bun made out of the most bleached, bromated, and fortified flour available along with high fructose corn syrup and dough conditioners is what is holding the cargo. Already we're winning. Does anyone else out there remember rolling that white bread up into little balls and plopping them into your mouth for the gummy and slightly sweet experience of dippin' dots but for white bread? This is what my childhood was about--eating nutritional black holes, and Runescape, but more on that later. The other component of a hot dog is very deliciously salty meat. When you top it with some sweet ketchup and maybe even a little relish, you've got sweet, salty, and acidic. It's lit.
Now to Runescape. Fuck everyone Runescape was the greatest game on the Internet in the early 2000s. It was also well worth it to spend $5/month to become a member. My father fronted the $5 because he was a hard working man with $5 to spend on his son. I was a fat thrasher. I looked like this.
Somehow I was touching myself at that age, too. Hard to believe when you look at that innocent face. Behind the fluff was a dark closet full of secrets. Innocence my ass.
Well, to whoever is out there in the world, do me a favor...eat a fucking hot dog and never question its ingredients. Trying to decipher a hot dog's ingredients is pointless, like participating in organized religion--it's a wild goose chase for an answer that doesn't exist.
Disclaimer: That ain't me, but it's a damn good picture.
Another food idea, another food truck possibility, another business with a friend this time serving health foods, or "super foods", as my friend likes to call them. To me, a superfood changes with the weather, always waiting for the wind to shift before the next health trend moves in. Remember when cottage cheese was a superfood? Kale certainly had its run and still does a bit. The primary characters in the current superfood narrative, however, are acai, chaga, cordyceps, spirulina, broccoli sprouts, to name a few.
Acai is a stone fruit from the Amazon that grows on tall trees. In America, it is buried beneath toppings in a bowl. It looks like this.
Previously, I had moved to the middle of Massachusetts to try my hand at pizza from a food truck. The concept was to grow our own food for toppings on pizza made with wheat grown right down the road and milled in a flour mill right in our own home. I do not have a visual aid for this descriptor. You'll have to use your imagination. Or Google.
You can look at our fancy website here.
In my new foray in Montana, I've jumped into the wild world of balancing a relationship in the workplace and in friendship. There are big ships and small ships, but the best kind of ships are friendships. That's what they say. Let's just hope this ship spends more time sailing and less time rummaging through Davey Jones' Locker.
Anyway, this blog is where I write words that I think fit into the big puzzle, ones that look good to me and sound good to me at the time with very little regard to MLA style and all the hoobly goobly that rules present.
You can read or not read. You can look at the pictures or not. The Internet is a fascinating place.