Expiration Dates

*This was originally posted on my other site a few weeks earlier, but I also wanted it to live here. 


I never could have imagined that I would find myself back in the sweltering heat of Kansas this summer. But here I am.  A buddy needed a hand with some things so I said fuck it, bought the ticket and took the ride. Things move slower here in the summer time. The lack of topography leads me to a lot of thinking and daydreaming. It also leads to a lot of observation. Not unlike when a person looses their sense sight and they end up with super hearing. Less distracted by the visuals of every day life, they can now be purely focused on the sounds, smells and textures around them. You place me in a microscopic town on the prairie and my senses of mountains, cities and deserts are missing. I start to focus on the simplest of things around me. I notice the smells the most. The putrid smell of hoarding and mildew mixed with the aroma of stale cigarette smoke and unleashed pets. The hot grass as the morning heats up and the pleasant smell of home cooking. There aren’t a lot of hip breakfast joints around these parts.  At the days end, the sun takes longer to set around here. The horizon is below street level and the shadows of the buildings distort like a fun house mirror every evening. Long and lean with a hint of unnatural.

I have a bicycle with me. I always have a bicycle with me. But I’m not out by that one place where the trails are good. The riding here is so hot and monotonous that it feels like jogging. So I just go for a run instead. It’s something different and having to watch where I step is slightly more stimulating than staring at the white line.

At least the people are nice. I’ve had a lot of very pleasant conversations with people living such different lives than me, that I often feel like I used my passport to get here. I met a woman on the street today who was the main character in the Listener song “Seatbelt Hands”. She even called me sweetie and honey in the brief fifteen second interaction we had. I wanted to know her story. How she developed that speech pattern and what was the story behind that homemade tattoo of a star on  the inside of her wrist.

She’s the kind of lady that calls everybody baby honey, sugar, sweetie, she’s always making friends and she keeps us all locked outside her thick leather skin she always starts with a smile, it’s small and butter yellow but easier than a handshake, doesn’t like her hands touched she tans a lot, gets burnt a  lot smoking through the cartons but then gets put out so much, she’s considered a bargain she was born on the fourth of July with her hand on her heart loves america, & being patronized…

I have been listening to the world around me a lot more lately. Mostly because my fellow man has been disappointing me so much, that I just don’t have much to say about it anymore. Maybe my expectations are too high despite keeping them lower than the scars of my past. I know it is a wave that will come and go. I’m going to play it different this time and keep quiet. I’ll let that wave of disappointment and deceit break and wash to shore without me. I used to fight it but it does me no good. Telling scumbags that they are scumbags only makes you sound like an asshole. It’s no different than trying to tame the ocean. It’s a futile effort. So I say it to myself, smile and move on.

Once I stopped talking and listened more, I noticed how many people have a lot of old stories. Tales of experiences they’ve had but they will never do it again because of this and that or the other thing. They blame parenthood and money mostly. Both are weak excuses. It’s as if the fun times in their life had an expiration date and it has already come and gone. A delicious and fresh past has now decayed into a spoiled future, rotting and waiting to be thrown away. It doesn’t matter if they are 25 or 65, most people tend to be living in the past. I love a good story more than most, but I am also addicted to the daily pursuit of making more. Most people around me appear to be addicted to the opiate of complacency.

I go over that cliche mountain pass into the second half of my life this week. This may in fact be my midlife crisis rant. But I think I have been in that crisis since I was twenty two. I’ll be damned if I am going to stop making stories. I am just getting started, motherfucker. I will not rust. I will not rot away. I will not expire early.

Talk less. Listen more. Make new stories. Keep it dirty…

Smash Hearts

I have never been a big fan of physical contact with people outside my immediate family. If you come in for a handshake, I’ll probably give you a high 5 or preferably a knuckle pound. I am not a germophobe, I’m just not really into it. Growing up in a lower middle-class mill town, surrounded by various machismo immigrant populations (my family included) showing emotions as a man wasn’t a thing. Not that it was directly discouraged, it just didn’t exist. As I grew older I started to notice the institutionalized homophobia around me. Men shouldn’t express emotions to each other for fear of ridicule or being somehow less of a man. That never really jived with me but I played along.

As I became more interested in alternative forms of sport, I evolved away from homogeneous playing fields of traditional stick and ball sports. Instead choosing to dive head first into skateboarding, mountain biking and climbing. This opened up a whole new world of friends and experiences. Like tends to find like and I soon met people from all walks of life, race and religion that shared my obsessions. I started to develop amazing bonds with an extremely diverse group of people. International travel, trips to the hospital, run-ins with the cops, hard fought summits, and multi-day bike rides tend to bond friends a little more than your traditional ball fields and locker room banter.

Over the years some of these relationships have become so close that the only thing keeping us from being brothers and sisters is the lack of shared parents. One lasting brotherhood is my buddy Joey. A mountain of a man, built more like a bouncer with an outward appearance of a motorcycle gang affiliation, he has become one of my better friends in this world. Since the first day we met, he has greeted me with a hug. I expressed my discomfort in the situation and he was not hearing any of it.

“I’m from the desert and we do things differently here. You are going to have to get over it, man.”

At first glance, he isn’t the kind of person you disagree with, so I kept my mouth shut. But there was no hiding the apprehension on my face.

“Plus, when you walk around all day looking like me, it’s pretty fun to give out random hugs.”

We had a good laugh and have been friends ever since. I reflect on that moment a lot when I have rough interactions with people. I wish I could be more like Joey. I want to squash my inner critic and my conditioned response to shy away from human contact. This year I decided to force a change. If the bad habits were formed out of repetition so can new habits be formed. I made a New Years resolution to simply hug more people. I will throw caution to the wind and deal with all the awkward moments. I’m pleased to say that, now deep into the second half of the year, it has been a success.

Saying hello and goodbye gets a hug. Sweaty, muddy or chalk covered hands? It doesn’t matter, you get a hug too. I’ll grab you and say it’s good to see you. Because it is. Or I’ll tell you that I missed you, because I did. I’ll grab a little longer and tell you to have a great trip and be safe, because that is what I truly wish for you. This new habit has dramatically changed the way I approach my day. It has maybe even made me a little bit better person. The world seems like a fucked up place right now and handshakes aren’t going to save us any time soon. But maybe, just maybe, grabbing a fellow human and smashing hearts together will make a difference.