Photos and Words of Patrick Calder

I live in Washington, DC with 1 cat named Pixel, 6 cameras, 3 computers, 158 movies, 286 books, and 1 bowling pin. I own the Design Foundry and pretend to be a graphic designer by day.

Mirror Mirror / June 26, 2017 / Comment on this

I have a dresser in my bedroom that has been in the family for a while. I’m told my uncle used it as a boy, which makes it at least 60 years old, and I’d suspect older. There are mounting points on the back, for a mirror that I’d never seen in my life. But I’d been thinking for the last few years that it would be nice to put one back on there. I’d researched a bit, for what style the original would have been. And kept an eye out for second hand mirrors.

Then a few months back, Abbey and I were wandering through (local salvage business) Community F0rklift, when she saw this mirror, and urged me to get it for the dresser. It was pretty dirty, and a bit beat up. And I wasn’t sure about the size. But it was cheap, and I didn’t really have anything to lose.

16722729 10154950405578745 4780961147157192013 o

When we got it home, it was too big by several inches. I stewed on that for a while, thinking I could use it somewhere else or sell it on to someone else. But. it occurred to me a day or so later, thatI could probably move the mounting brackets and rotate the mirror 90 degrees. I would just have to chop out a few inches of the bottom bar; but that cut could be hidden behind one of the uprights.

So… this could still work, it seemed.

The first picture above was after a rough cleaning. Some mineral spirits, to get the grime out and get a good look at the condition of the piece.

16819222 10154950405263745 5333018347776624401 o

16797421 10154950406253745 6241212535193369979 o

16819253 10154950405333745 7614700247012679466 o

16826152 10154950405608745 2076213141727855604 o

As you can see in these two photos, there were a couple spots where veneer had broken away. And some minor cracks in one of the uprights. The back panel needed a few new nails to hold it firm. But otherwise, it was in solid shape, and the mirror itself was really good for it’s age.

16797506 10154950406368745 5308300842357101698 o

The first step is usually deconstruction, so I broke down the frame into it’s constituent parts, and scrubbed everything with denatured alcohol and 4-aught steel wool. (I was fairly sure it was finished in shellac, and denatured alcohol will dissolve shellac.) As you can see, it took off the finish and a fair amount of staining. And all the scrapes, like the one on the above photo, disappeared during this process too. (I assume, between the overall lightening, and some carried over stain, the scrapes now just blended in.) The original wood grain now stood out much more.

16797401 10154950406493745 1427468667785685175 o  1

16836129 10154950405928745 997368414148250630 o

I measured, tested, and chopped out about 4 inches of the bottom bar.

Next I needed to deal with the missing and loose veneer. The loose veneer is fairly easy… I could just use some wood glue, and clamp it in place to dry.

16797736 10154950405788745 5666641282667644647 o

16836546 10154950405953745 6859967281571607261 o

I’ve never dealt with veneer before, so I did a lot of studying and how-to watching at this point. It basically came down to trimming away the damaged veneer until you got a nice clean edge, and applying the new. I searched for the closest veneer I could find to the original, in texture and pattern. Then I made some templates of the spots to be redone, out of brown paper bag. I got lucky and they looked pretty good on the first try. This was heat-adhesive backed veneer, so I literally ironed it on, and taped/clamped it until it cooled.

16819365 10154950406083745 2943561310194096701 o

At this point, I re-stained all the pieces so they matched the dresser. (They were already a close match.)

16797631 10154950406593745 3305655566336124932 o

And I re-shellaced everything. The wood came out quite beautiful.

At this point, all that was left was to reposition the mounting brackets, and re-assembling the whole thing. I used all the original hardware, which had been cleaned up as well.

When assembled and mounted on the dresser, it was perfect. If you didn’t know the story, you’d never know it wasn’t original.

16836086 10154950405253745 2473499882397832000 o

16797523 10154950405243745 2251515336947198550 o

Random advice from a fairly newbie homeowner / May 2, 2014 / Comment on this

Most valuable, simple things I’ve learned:

Almost every utility faucet, (as opposed to the ‘pretty’ faucets in baths and kitchens), has a nut right underneath the handle/shutoff. If (when) the faucet starts to drip or leak, first try tightening that nut. So far, it has solved the problem every time.

Plant bulbs. They typically have large, dramatic flowers, so the neighbors are impressed. But they’re ridiculously easy to take care of. Plant them at the right time, pointing in the right direction. Make sure the soil isn’t complete crap. And barring a drought… you’ll have an awesome garden.

Similarly… Pansies are awesome. I planted them in the fall just so I wouldn’t have a big empty garden bed until spring. Not only did they survive winter, but they’re growing like crazy now that spring is here. A flower for all seasons.

Youtube is invaluable. Every single thing you can imagine wanting to do to, in, or around your house… at least 20 people have done, recorded, and uploaded to youtube, with running commentary on how best they think to do it. And a lot of these people are professionals, sharing videos as a means of promoting themselves. Just be sure to watch several videos on each topic, to see which advice is consistently considered ‘good’.

Trust no one who comes to your door to sell you something. No one.

Most commonly used tools? A painter’s tool. A utility knife. A hand drill/driver. A small hand-garden-trowel. And a big-ass wrench. There’s plenty of other tools that have come in handy. But I keep going back to these.

Live near Home Depot.

happiness / September 22, 2013 / Comment on this

I’m conflicted.

It was easier to deal with being a clueless fuck-up, while dating. When things fell apart, I could look and say “Wow… I was an idiot there… shouldn’t have done that.” But it seems to suck a lot more when a productive, meaningful relationship falls apart. There’s nothing simple and detached to blame. It’s just a loss of something really good.

So… as this occurred to me, I’m of course thinking how much easier it all once was. But at the same time, I am also going through some photo archives. And when I got more than a couple years back in the archives, it got kind of depressing. I had some great times. But my life was stagnant back then, for so many years. To look back and see it in full color… it’s disheartening.

So I can’t take solace in the past nor the present. And it seems the price for higher highs is lower lows.

Okay… pretty photo chaser:

Mockingbird Chick

work hard / August 5, 2013 / Comment on this

I think reality only punishes me for relaxing or being lazy. Thats seems to be when clients freak out and shit falls apart. But when I work hard, wether for someone else or for myself, things just… flow. No one complains to me. Nothing blows up.

This does not pair well with my desire to be idly rich.

Do it. / July 28, 2013 / Comment on this

“What do you do when (if) you ever feel like giving up?” – theaudacityofswope

There is no such goddamn thing. There is only getting up and doing it all over again, smarter and harder, until something ups and fucking kills you, because that’s the only thing big enough to stop you.

This is The Great Work, and all you have to do is choose it, not look back and never fucking stop until you’re in your box, under the dirt and flowers are growing between your teeth.

And that is why I’ll never be asked to do motivational speaking. G’night.

– Warren Ellis

Life is hard. / May 28, 2013 / Comment on this

It’s hard, right now.

It’s been almost a year since Heidi broke things off. And I am still living there, for various reasons. And I think we both try really hard to make the best of it. But life is life. There will be good times and bad times. But because you know each other so well, the good times will be really good. And the bad times… they will be really bad.

And I don’t have a way to let much of it out. There are the occasional friends who go way out of their way to help, which I love. But due to location, distance, or being busy trying to contribute what I can to the house, I don’t get to be very social. I think some people understand and some people aren’t sure if I’m withdrawing from them.

And of course I’m trying to buy the house, which I recently wrote about the process of. And it’s hard. I’ve had the contract on that house almost 9 months. 9 months of waiting. People hear that, and they’re shocked and aghast and very supportive. But the bad part is not that it’s been 9 months. It’s that it’s been 9 months in 2 week intervals. “We’re almost there… wait… just a little longer. We’re almost there… wait… just a little longer. We’re almost there… wait… just a little longer.” For 9 months. I hate this whole thing, now.

And I have some wonderful people in my life. But some of those relationships have their own drama attached, which is even leaking into otherwise happy portions of my life. If everything else in my life was good, I probably wouldn’t care. But fuck it… not gonna screw up wonderful things because some third party has issues.

It’s hard, right now. No details. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings with anger or revealing too many personal details. But dammit…

Tools / March 2, 2013 / Comment on this

In my time with Heidi, I picked up a lot of practical experience in home repair, construction, etc. And by association, the incentive to do such work. (It had never really been an issue in my life before, since I’d lived in rental space my whole life.)

I built things in “Technology Class” (read: Shop Class) in grade school, and made toolboxes and birdhouses in boy scouts. I was always taking things apart. Always wanting to know how things worked.

But I was never quite mechanical. Never traditionally “manly” in the saw, hammer, and wrench kind-of-way. First person you call to fix the computer, but not the radiator.

So all this do-it-yourself stuff kicking in now, it’s kind of interesting. Every time I pick up another tool for the toolbox, I imagine the reaction my father — who worked with his hands most of his life — would have had. I mean… you know… besides the smart-ass remark.

Next Year / December 29, 2012 / Comment on this

Resolutions, goals, whatnot. What do I want to do or get from the coming year.

I’ll publish a photo book. I don’t know what theme there will be yet. Lots of possibilities. But I want to do something new with my photographs. So I will put together a book, and offer it up on a print-on-demand service. Actually selling anything is a pretty low priority. Putting together an Artomatic exhibit this past year was an experience. So now onto another new one.

I’ll buy a house. I’ve actually been at this for probably close to half a year. But sadly, even though I have a contract, we haven’t yet made it to closing. Knock on wood, we will close shortly after New Years. And then the real fun begins. There’s all the excitement and fun I look forward to … painting, decorating, hosting, renovating… . And there’s all the unexpected problems… furnace, leaks, thefts, breakage. There’s the fear, of being responsible. There’s the accomplishment of another new way to take control of my life. It’s going to be something.

More to come…?

Wood / July 6, 2011 / Comment on this


I took a class–with Heidi–at the Maryland Woodworkers Club; the Fundamentals of Woodworking class. I grew up with a father who did a bit of construction/roofing here and there, and the obligatory shop classes and boy scout projects. But I was long overdue for a refresher course.

I’d been to the shop once before and it tends to be full of extremely enthusiastic people, who border on a little weird. You know… the kind of people I like. The instructor was friendly from the start. Don’t mistake him for cute though; his inner hard-ass made several appearances. But that’s all the better in a teacher.

They walk you through basic concepts and most of the equipment in the shop, via some minor class time and the construction of a desktop bookshelf. Having done all those obligatory shop classes and such as a kid, I was still surprised how well everything actually came out. I attribute it to real teaching by a skilled practitioner, and not someone just walking you through a syllabus.

I had fun. I got reacquainted with numerous tools and methods. I built a book case. And I worked well with Heidi. It was a very good weekend. And I’m going back for a furniture class in a couple weeks.


Rules for dating (especially for “nice guys”) / September 27, 2010 / Comment on this

In no particular order, and open to frequent revision:

Rule 1: Forget everything you’ve learned. Forget whatever you saw on every TV show, movie, fairy tale, or webcast. Most of them are ridiculous, stilted, or simplistic. Real emotions and hormones are unreliable, gritty, and erratic. To think a cleaned up hollywood remake of a 1,000 year old fairytale is going to say anything useful to you today is foolish.

Rule 2: Say every stupid thing that comes into your head. When I was much younger, I had a wonderful night talking with a very cute girl. I felt like I was being smooth and charming and everything good. Then I leaned against a folding chair and flipped over the back of it. I laughed at myself and figured I’d had a good run… at least I tried. The girl left shortly thereafter, but 3 minutes later, her sister came back and gave me the girl’s phone number. Sometimes, it pays to be ridiculous. Better that you make an impact – no matter how ridiculous it might require you to be; than you being polite and kind and proper and not having them remember your name.

Rule 3: Don’t be self deprecating. I used to do this, as a means of getting a laugh and relieving any tension. But … you don’t want to relieve the tension. Tension is not always bad. Besides… no one has ever been impressed with someone who always puts themselves down. You don’t have to be a conceited dick, but if you don’t act like you’re worth something, why should anyone else believe it?

Rule 4: The Andrew Rule – Andrew’s rules number 1 through 5 are all the same: “You put the penis in the girl”. You meet an attractive woman, you’ll want to have sex with her. If she’s still talking to you despite the fact you’ve been trying not to stare at her boobs for the last 10 minutes, she probably finds you attractive and enjoys sex too. Hey… you have something in common! Why don’t you do something about that?

Rule 5: The Mairin Rule – “Don’t think too much”. Don’t try and guess why the other person is behaving a certain way. You’re probably not going to be even close, and certainly not going to have a complete picture. And all it will do is make you paranoid in the meantime. Be happy with what you learn outright, and if you need to know why they’re acting a certain way…? Ask.

Change / August 13, 2010 / Comment on this

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single minute before starting to improve the world.

– Anne Frank, (via Holly)

you handle the clothes, I’ll try to handle the ‘being a man’ part / July 1, 2010 / Comment on this

Okay. I admit it. I’m done with puberty. My growth spurt is probably over. I think my voice has finished changing. So at the possibly-old-but-still-immature age of 35, I went out with a friend for the sole purpose of buying some more adult clothes.* Blue jeans and black t-shirts will only get you so far in life.

The friend was a necessity. I have the fashion sense of… well… a 35 year old redneck. I shop better with other people to slow me down too. Too often I just skim without ever stopping. Having someone question my assumptions worked out pretty well too. (Large? Extra Large?) And the things I didn’t even know you could do in some of these stores. (I’d never heard of putting stuff on hold while you shop).

I’m pretty sure I ended up buying something in every store I’ve ever reviled or made fun of. Benetton, Banana Republic, American Eagle, Nordstroms etc. Certainly shopped in all the rest too… Abercrombie and Fitch, and company.

Some observations:

Banana Republic — mostly — has their shit down. Beautiful clothes, but I’ve always known that, even if I didn’t shop there. Refined but relaxed presentation. And the bag… the thing.. the piece of art they handed me at the register. The shirt I bought was folded exactly so, placed in the perfectly sized bag, in a way that the whole thing looked better than the clothes even looked on me.

Benetton was pretty impressive too. I think they took the award for their staff. People honestly being knowledgeable and helpful without feeling like their main objective was to collect a paycheck.

It does appear though, that straight men do not work at Malls. At least not in the clothing stores. Maybe at the cigar shop? Or maybe they just can’t bring themselves to work in a building called the “Fashion Center”?

Nothing will make you realize how scruffy you look, like going shopping for new clothes. Two days unshaven. Baggy jeans. Worn t-shirt. Yeahhhhh…

*Okay… so I also got to watch the previously mentioned friend looking hawt, while she shopped. But that wasn’t a purpose… just a benefit. And she really made the whole thing ridiculously fun, anyway.

Nice Guys / May 23, 2010 / Comment on this

Being a “nice guy” is like being an alcoholic, in that you’re never really cured. There’s always that little bit of something in the back of your mind, waiting to jump out and take over your life again. So I speak from personal experience, but hopefully at a distance. It certainly feels like a drastic change occurred in my life within the last few years. And there’s plenty of evidence to support that. But I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m in a unique place, able to see the issue from both sides.

For the sake of less arguments, let’s define what a “nice guy” is. You’ve met them. You know them. You’ve listened to them talk, and talk, and talk. If you’re a woman, you think they’re your sweet, vaguely clueless friend. If you’re a man, you’re friends with them; but you find yourself shaking your head a lot at what they do. And if you are them, you have a justification for everything I’m going to say, anyway.

The “nice guy” label doesn’t come from a good place. Although these men probably are pleasant overall, the name has nothing to do with desirable personality traits. It comes from what is a common refrain, when discussing male/female interaction with these men. “Women don’t want nice guys. They want assholes.” Or “I’m a nice guy, so women never want me.” You know you’ve heard this dozens, if not hundreds of times. Most likely among guys talking to guys. If it’s a guy talking to a woman, I promise you he has a crush on you, but doesn’t think he has any real chance; but maybe if they can just convince you…

Those discussions always proceed with great amounts of logic and reasoning. Always with the logic. Like many things in my life, I always felt safe retreating to logic. “Well… if you look at it in this common sense way… A + B = C, then I’m right, even if it didn’t work out.” And while I was almost certainly correct, it was completely beside the point. I was trying to use logic as a defense in human relationships, which are at their core, completely illogical.

The nice guy will eventually tell you where he has firmly positioned himself in the whole scheme of relationships. “I don’t even try anymore.” “I don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy.” “She wasn’t what I was looking for, anyway.” “I just can’t meet women, because of X”.

And the nice guy is going to do this…. over, and over, and over and over… the nice guy telling you about their dating life at 25 will sound pretty much the same at 30, and 35, and…

Why are we like this? I would guess a little bit of conditioning, and — if current science is to be believed — a little bit of biology. Second point first, ‘nice guys’ are almost always geeks to some extent. While they may not wear a pocket protector, the personality quirks are still there. Often with a strong leaning toward Asperger’s-type traits.

But the conditioning part is what interests me most about all this. “Why did I think about men, women, and relationships in this way?” In general, everyone you’ve met shares the same large cultural reference pool. So it’s probably not a question of strictly ‘what’ you’re exposed to. I had the same interests as anyone else. And to some extent, they even matured as I got older. But especially when you’re talking about the sexes and how they interact, there was always a certain amount of unflattering naiveté. Like I was looking at the world through a Norman Rockwell painting, or Disney colored glasses. Women are great, but you put them on a relatively chaste pedestal. Dating always leads to something more involved when it goes well. Sex is great, but it’s walled off in it’s own little world. I would like to say it’s a sort of junior-high point of view of the adult world. But I’d guess junior high kids today are less clueless than I was.

Many years ago, when I first started questioning the “Women don’t like nice guys” mantra, I said that maybe it’s not ‘assholes’ they want so much as confident men. Confidence is absolutely an attractive trait. Real or faked, it gets me better results in both business and personal life, regardless of whether I actually know what I’m doing. But… like everything else… I don’t know if this is really so clear cut. Confidence is a symptom of a personality that is outgoing, that takes initiative. You’re not sitting back examining life, but you’re actually participating in it. You’re engaged, good or bad.

Those kinds of traits absolutely run contrary to the mental process of a nice guy. These men don’t want to exert themselves on someone. “I’ll just tell this person I’m interested in about myself, and if they’re likewise interested, they’ll let me know, and we’ll…” …whatever. It sounds so mature, and logical. But relationships don’t start out like you’re drafting some mutually beneficial contract. Looking back, every person I consider important — every relationship, male or female, that means something to me — initially flared up in my life like a struck match.

What about sex? For nice guys, it’s this great thing that will come about after you’ve established a relationship with someone. While you’re by no means celibate or ashamed of sex, it’s not part of this early connection with someone. It’s a secondary, or tertiary stage. This one is harder to discuss intelligently. If relationships — as I said earlier — are completely illogical, sex is completely insane. Sex is hormones coursing through the blood telling you to do ridiculous things that probably even violate the laws of physics. What on earth made nice guys think this blood/sweat/magic thing can be left out of the discussion? A romantic relationship doesn’t lead to sex. Sex is part of a romantic relationship. Leave it out, even initially, and you’re leaving out a vital ingredient. The unspoken promise of sex, the looks, the hand on the other person, the holding, the actions themselves. Some female friends recently stated that while yes they wanted nice men, (presumably with a looser definition than mine), they wanted nice men who would put them over the arm of the couch and fuck them. The idea that women want to have sex isn’t shocking. But the sheer directness and central nature — that struck out at my dormant “nice guy”. Every woman I’ve asked about this has agreed with the main point, without question. Even better? The women who made the initial comment are the geekiest, most intelligent, uber-nerdy, (honestly… Asperger-ish) women I know. Apparently there are no “nice women”.

How do I think of life and relationships now?

Life is chaos. Try to simplify it and make it manageable and understandable, and you’re actually stripping out the things that make it worth living. If you dive into the chaos and let things swirl around you, it’s fascinating what you will see and experience. A hour of unexpected, new, exciting things is worth many times even the most enjoyable pre-planned day.

Relationships are similar. Don’t go in with a plan. Just go in. Interact in every way that comes up. Say every stupid thing that comes into your head. Forget everything you’ve ever seen or read, because every human relationship is unique. If there’s a connection, seize it immediately. And if not, that person still fits in your life somewhere.

why / July 14, 2009 / Comment on this

main reason i didn’t join army and could never succeed in big business: I can’t accept “because I say so” as a legitimate reason.

who pulled out the rug? / September 8, 2008 / Comment on this

I think I’ve spent much of my life screwing myself over.

Admittedly, I have the social skills of a turnip. I’m willing to chalk that up to just some twisted little genetic joke. But every attempt at self-improvement seems to have been tragically flawed.

Somewhere along the way I got this image of what is good, what is appropriate, what is productive. It’s a shame that this image doesn’t have anything to do with reality. It’s like some warped melding of Disney, Normal Rockwell, Boys Life, and a couple dozen after-school specials. I’ve forever been constructing this ideal, howdydoody, good-guy image, and trying to live up to it. But it inevitably seems I missed those days and those discussions where people are told that this isn’t how the world really works. And it turns out that I not only wasted my time making myself into something irrelevant, but that I can’t even relate well to my friends because I’m not on the same page any more.
At best, it seems to take me years to catch up with where everyone else is with their life. And it’s not like they stopped changing. I’m perpetually behind and trying to keep up.

No sulking here. No woe-is-me. My decisions, my screw-ups. Its just frustrating.
I think for a few years there, between the chaos of college, and my more recent attempts at once again being social, my life was quiet and calm. It wasn’t so much good, though — looking back. I was simply never challenged in any significant way. And if there’s one sure thing I’ve learned about myself, it’s that I don’t improve without challenge.

Now I find myself with more social relationships than I’ve had since college. I’m trying to deal with friendships and more. At first, I’d just simply forgotten what it was like. But this isn’t even college anymore. So it’s not even the same. There’s whole new levels of complexity for me to completely misinterpret.

So I don’t know what to be. It isn’t that I’m not “being myself”. I you’re following along here, you see I don’t know what “myself” is. These overly-simplified and idealistic things I tried to use as my foundation are not really functional. And I’m sick of seeing things slip through my fingers because I didn’t recognize them in time.

No answers right now. But this isn’t intended to be a dire message or anything. Just something I’ve been meaning to put into words.

second drink / April 10, 2008 / Comment on this

To clear up an apparently common misconception regarding my recent post on drinking…

I was:

  • NOT complaining about people who ask me if I want a drink
  • NOT bitching about … well.. anything
  • NOT upset with… anyone
  • NOT saying I would never drink

Obviously the subject has come up a lot in my past. And that day, I just felt like I wanted to write something about it. It wasn’t a backlash to any singular or combined incident(s). Call it passively educational.

Barring premature death — probably from pissing off an angry woman — I will drink, eventually. Until that time, I’ll go back to keeping the neurotic parts of this in my own head.

Drinking and Defining “Is” / March 30, 2008 / Comment on this

Living in Sin PartyPeople behave rather ridiculously if you say you aren’t drinking. They don’t care if you aren’t eating, or you aren’t dancing. But if you don’t have a drink, there must be something interesting happening. And if you’ve never had a drink, the information will travel. It will be spoken in tones normally reserved for discussing your friend fucking the new girl in the bathroom while his fiance danced 20 feet away. You’re cute, and naive, and “probably better off”. And once the message has spread, coming up at every social gathering, to inform those people who hadn’t heard yet, you will never be offered a drink again. You will forever be the quick, quiet, friendly joke when drinking comes up.
The only thing that will make it more ridiculous is to try and explain that you’re not “not drinking”, but that you’ve just never had a drink. People look at it as one of those bullshit, convenient excuses to justify something with no logical explanation.

Why haven’t I had a drink?

The big shadow looming over all is of course, my father. A lifelong alcoholic, despite not having had a drink in probably 20 years. But growing up in the family of an alcoholic means spending your formative years hearing that nothing good ever comes from drinking. Drinking means fighting, and yelling, and coming home late at night to go immediately to bed. Drinking is years of self-help and rebuilding your life, and breaking up your family, and…

Of course you grow up, and you realize most things you learned growing up were questionable at best. Alcohol, like most everything in life, is not inherently evil.

Addiction is the heart breaker, making people do things despite knowing they’re wrong. And the wonders of modern medicine came along just in time to tell me that addiction — especially alcoholism — could very well be genetic. Was your father a drunk? Watch out. You could be too. And educated, reasonable debate never had a strong toehold in my family. Don’t do drugs… they’re all evil and will destroy your life… worse than anything else. Sex education consisted of never closing your door when you had a girl in your room. (Lucky for my mother I was never gay). And whatever you do… don’t drink. One drink and you could become an alcoholic.

I don’t believe that anymore, of course. It is a “belief”, though, because it’s never been tested. So I can’t provide logical arguments to support it. Just practical experience through many friends and acquaintances, and knowledge of my own mind.

(And don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame my family for anything. What happened when I was a child was long ago; and you simply can’t live in the past. That’s as bad an addiction as any drug. And now, I am an adult, and have no one to blame but myself for any choice I make.)

Momentum can make it pretty hard to drink, as well, after a while. Don’t drink when you’re a teenager? Rare, but sure to be fixed in college. Don’t drink in college? Weird, but then someone has to drive us out for burgers at 3 AM after the keg is tapped out. Don’t drink in your 20s? Is something wrong… are you a recovering alcoholic? Don’t drink in your 30s? Wow… didn’t Steve Carell make a movie about you? It keeps becoming a grander, more momentous thing with each passing moment. If it’s not now an elixir of the gods, turning me instantly into Buddy Love, then everyone involved will be surely let down.

Maybe I exaggerate a bit. Just a bit.

Probably the biggest remaining issue, that still trips me up is simple neuroses. It’s really no secret that I think too much… worry too much. I am forever trying to keep myself from saying or doing something stupid, even while knowing full well that every great thing in my life has come from moments of ignorance or stupidity. While nowhere near as closed off as some people believe, I am forever trying to maintain personal control, like my friends are squirrels who may scamper off at the first loud noise. And the idea of drinking is like purposely ripping a hole in that dam. What stupid thing will I do or say that will ruin everything?

Of course that’s stupid. I said it was a neurosis. But like seemingly everything in life, it’s easier said than done to actually ‘fix’ it.

The next time you ask someone why they don’t drink, (*ahem* “haven’t had a drink”), think about this. And ask yourself would you rather hear all that in the middle of a party, or maybe that joke they make is just a little less likely to kill the mood.

Shut Up / October 29, 2007 / Comment on this

Most of the trouble I cause in my world comes from an inability to stop myself from talking. At least 95% of those instances revolve around me being agitated to one extreme or another about something. And while I well know I should keep my mouth shut when I’m worked-up, I’m not always successful. I could argue that most of the agitation is caused by someone else making inappropriate comments in a similarly excited state. But being occasionally unable to ignore such provocations–as you would expect from any rational person–isn’t something to be proud of.

I seem to be able to better handle it in business than my personal life. But then you won’t survive long in business if you take it personally, for various reasons, (mental health, upset clients, lack of objectivity, blah blah blah). And I’ve found that even when a client does go off the deep and attempt to take me with them, if I just keep quiet and wait a day or two, cooler thoughts will prevail without any intervention from me.

But friends and family have signed some waiver. They’ve probably seen me behaving like a jackass at some point, and still decided to continue talking to me. So my guard is down, my filters are off. While there’s still plenty of things I shouldn’t say, I usually don’t see them coming until they’re on the way out of my mouth. In extreme cases I’ve cut off any meaningful conversations with certain people, in order to avoid conflict. But I don’t like that, and it’s not friendship, to me.

I don’t have an acceptable excuse. I don’t have a solution. I’m still working on it.

Failure / October 11, 2007 / Comment on this

Failure is being without resource or hope. You have nothing and nowhere. You’re not only homeless, but literally on the streets, with nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. And you have no idea what to do to make it better.

To me, that was always the ultimate worst outcome of failure. (Sure, you can argue death would be worse, but if I died, I don’t think I’d care any more about the failure aspect. And I’m looking for real suffering, here.)


Look at street people. Talk to them. Or, try to anyway. Most of the real, hardcore street people are not there because of a single bad turn of events in their life. Losing your job and getting kicked out of your apartment does not directly equate to peeing yourself and sleeping under a bridge for 15 years. I’m not trying to make any judgment call about these people except to say that they’ve usually got larger issues than a rough patch in life.

So barring extraordinary circumstances, no matter how bad the average, healthy person fails, they’re never likely to hit that perceived rock bottom.

The whole point of this is then to ask: if I simply cannot fail like I always worried, then what’s stop me from trying… anything? What have you always dreamed of doing, but you feared the worst? Well if the worst isn’t a possibility, then what’s stopping you?

definition of success / February 26, 2007 / Comment on this

I read a definition of success recently that I really like:

Success is when opportunity meets readiness

I think the original quote is about Hollywood, but it’s pretty universal, in my opinion. And it’s been very true about my own life. Every major thing that’s happened to me involved a specific event that occurred unexpectedly, but while I was fortunately ready to exploit it. It could also be considered a practical definition of fate: when the right moment comes along, you’re ready to seize it.
I think where it falls apart for some people is the last bit. They know that finding the right moment is vital, but they seem to expect it to carry them off like a wave, when it happens. But the reality is you have to be able to recognize the moment, react in time, and run with it.

the clean act / September 9, 2005 / Comment on this

I am now taking applications for a new filthy assistant to accompany me to the Adams Morgan Street Festival on Sunday. Tonto is currently off in the far north doing strange things with his horses, and won’t be back in time. There will be loud music, crazy people, and bad food. Cheap crap will be sold at immense prices from behind a card table in the middle of the street. Can you think of a better way to finish a day with sore feet that smell like charcoal smoke?
I finally broke down today and uncrated the last of my items from NY. My sculpture made it through unscathed, thanks no doubt to the many hours of newspaper-scrunching, done by my mother and I.
I love getting stuff in the mail. So it’s not that I am simply lazy, that I avoided unpacking. I have many involved reasons for being too lazy to unpack. My apartment generally exists just slightly to the losing side of homeostasis. Everything has its place, so long as I go through once or twice a month and repair collapsing shelves and unbury the chairs from piles of jackets. But this means bringing in 3 large boxes of childhood memories and college detritus can completely throw off the balance.
My closet is a little scary on a good day. Bring in an additional 22 years of memories, and we have a problem, Houston. God I didn’t wanna have to clean out my closet. I just got it to the point were it was so full, things couldn’t fall over anymore. What more could I want?!
I would say it is pretty much impossible to clean out your apartment in order to find space for all your childhood tchatchkes, without getting philosophical about the implications. Making yourself whole… a unified vision of yourself… coming to terms with your past and present… crap like that. I’m really trying to avoid it, though. As far as I can tell, I don’t have a whole lot of unresolved childhood issues. I’d like to keep it that way. Fuck… just using the term “childhood issues” makes me cringe.
I’ll tell ya, what did make me ponderous is the sheer amount of stuff I had in storage “just in case” and for “future use at some unknown time”. You know… boxes, and picture frames and crutches and… Good god. I have this vision of myself living a very clean, uncomplicated life. I want to be that person in the story who has exactly what they need, and nothing more. Somehow, I don’t think that involves hoarding “maybe” stuff. A little more stable than just Bohemian… but not quite “comfortable”.
Gawd, this place looks like hell. And I’ve already taken the larger stuff to the trash room. At least Pixel is happy. There’s nothing better to her than a pile of garbage to sleep on.
Anyone want some crutches?

do / April 11, 2005 / Comment on this

Note to my friends:
“You’re all completely fucking nuts; and should be rounded up and shipped to Guam where you can spend years working in their fish cannery.” More and more I can understand the urge to break off all human contact, live in a log cabin in east nowhere, and send mail-bombs to annoying people.
If you’re my friend, I don’t care how much you know. I will in fact point, make fun, and ridicule you if you don’t stop trying to impress me. Discussions? Great. But nothing kills a good talk faster than stating an undeniable fact and refusing to consider outside comment. Keep in mind that of all the things that humanity has ever known in the entire time it has existed…. almost every one of them have been proven wrong.
I’m not sure why, but more and more, I’m having problems with ‘professional appreciators’, (to steal a phrase from High Fidelity). Not, you know, actual interpersonal conflicts or fisticuffs. But they’re grating on my fucking nerves.
I’m guessing it has something to do with having started my own business last year. I tried explaining something similar earlier tonight… and failed miserably. But once you take that huge dive off a cliff, and do something that average, comfortable people don’t do… it’s either addictive or horizon-expanding. (Not that those two things don’t usually go together.) The final act of “doing” that thing is what sets you apart. Everyone and their janitor has plans. But most people don’t “do” it. Being a procrastinator most of my life gives the act a certain special feeling. But now that I’m on the far side of that hurdle, I’m seeing how much is accomplished even nowadays due to sheer force of will.
I’m feeling this need, more and more, to go into my life, and see why I’m doing things. See what is working and what isn’t. To throw out the useless, and bring in something good. But oh god, does it seem like a lot of work. Especially when nothing involved is tangible, and most of it would be hard to quantify.
Oy, I am so tired. But I don’t want it to be tomorrow. And if I go to sleep, it will be tomorrow that much faster. I am probably going to be slammed with work tomorrow, and have it carry through most of the week. This… I could do without.
These thoughts have been neither coherent nor comprehensive. They are just the healthier expressions of dark, little, festering thoughts that have been sitting on my chest lately.

Scales and weight. / January 4, 2003 / Comment on this

Someone bought me a scale for Christmas. I dunno if this was supposed to be a hint. But if so, it backfired.
I was surprised 6 months ago to find out I hadn’t changed weight since college. And when I was given the scale last month, I immediately checked again, and even in full clothing, I was in my college range.
This morning, I locked the doors, barred the windows, drew the shades, cover the picture of Jesus, unplugged the TV, activated the white noise generator, and weighed myself in the buff, to get a true measure of my weight.
178.5 lbs.*
so nyah!
(*When you you stand 6’3″, this weight is not as bad as it sounds, thank you. Last time I checked, the ideal weight charts at that height gave a range of 175 through 195 lbs.)

Congratulate me… for I am / May 23, 2002 / Comment on this

Congratulate me… for I am once again a poor slob. (Normally I make a comfortable living as a slob). But tonight I mailed off my last payment on my student loans.
I may be broke, but at least I’m out of the red.