you are awake now

I had a dream of all my failures.

I woke up pitted against myself with the reminder.
Now is not a good time,

I said to myself.

I stumbled down the hallway half awake to fill my glass with some water and thought,

I guess everything stops working, eventually. (Like I had figured out some deep, philosophical question.) Maybe I just needed to hear something true.

At this point, my dream was still fresh. I felt terribly broken and alone.
I thought about all the jobs I’d left. The people who have left me, and a lot of things in between.

I do not believe in energy wasted. I tell people this all the time. No matter what end, the things you put into forward motion are eventually transformed into something else.

As my day moved on, I was still a little hungover with things like regret and ‘I should haves’. I know better, I swear. But you know how dreams can move in and out. Sometimes they create little lies that reside in our subconscious. It is no fault of ours, except for the billions of electrical pulses creating tiny memories for us to wander in.

I was tired. It all felt a little too real. I guess maybe my defenses were down.

Then, there were the things that pulled me out of my own little war with myself.

Watching my nephew slurp down a chocolate milk.
Or even just seeing the weight carried by my family.

Waking up

I started to shake it off, as though I had grown some shell over my skin that was getting too tight and needed to be shed.

Failure is such a strong word. In the way a lot of words that we use to describe extremes. These days, I refuse to let words define personal circumstances and weigh me down. Call them what you will, but failure is only a word, and I really don’t have the space to have everything figured out.

I don’t have to know everything about myself.

I don’t have to know what or why all the time.
That is exhausting.

I felt a movement into myself. A dialogue. I needed to put those dreams to rest themselves:

you live today.
move in and out of your troubles,
like some rhythm in a song.

remember that sometimes, there are no grand finales,
remember that it is all like a tide, sometimes leaving you with an abundance,
and sometimes washing things away into a great wonder.

but it is no fault of yours that this happens, only it is what always happens in this world,
it is not against you, though some days, you find it hard to leave the comfort of your own space.

energy is absorbed and expelled, all the time.
some seasons we are given more than we need,
and sometimes, we are left with nothing.

let go of your need for power over everything,
because it’s obvious this will never, ever work.

instead, pay attention to the person sitting across from you,
and look them in the eyes and listen.

they are the truest reality

listen. let go. and keep moving.
listen. let go. and keep moving.

you are awake now.

listen.
let go.
keep moving.

 

Case #1403631

I am sitting next to a stapled packet of mind-numbing legal documents.

Stamps and notaries.

Looks like a big wonky passport, at times. A stamp. A scribble of someone’s name. A date.

I guess this is it.
Legally, the end of an agreement. No contest. Swept away almost as quickly as it came.

For some reason, the idea of a marriage being confined to a number feels a little haunting. Almost like branding cattle or some serial number on the bottom of your wireless router. But I suppose we are all numbers, aren’t we? We are statistics and I suppose I became part of a much larger one. Unlike the “men who go bald before they’re 30″ piece of pie in the chart that I assume is substantially smaller than the couples in their 20’s who realize it’s all for the better.

Hmph.

My last notary was finished yesterday, via UPS store by a woman named Pamela Anderson. Which was funny, because well, Pamela Anderson is known for a lot of things.

“So, whatcha need notarized??”

“Oh, just, these uh, name change papers for a divorce…just one little thing.”

“Huh, I’m sorry sweetie. Happened to me too! That’s why I’m here…”

She was shorter, with a tattoo sleeve that I couldn’t make out, dark curly hair. She was from Beaverton, OR. I thought that was funny. The only thing I could say was, “Oh yeah! Nice! There are some pretty good places to eat out there!”

We talked about missing good public transportation, and just living in a big city where things were always going on.

I paid my five dollars and walked back out into the muggy inferno that is July in Mississippi.

I just see a lot of fancy words.
A lot of them are confusing. A little over my head. I can’t imagine how people going through this much pain can stand to process the government jargon and hences and hereforeouts and stipulations.

Eventually, we are filed away into a cabinet, along with all the other ones that didn’t quite work out. Some, for the best. Others, tell a different story.

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There will come a time when I will forget what so much of this felt like. Thirty years from now I may read this, or some other youngin’ who is diving into a world of loss and heartbreak, and I will remember what that pain felt like, in my gut, and all over. I already brace myself from time to time, when I get that text from one of my family members saying, “I need you to call me.” or when I hear someone’s defeated tone. I brace myself for impact — for the inevitable and unexpected crack in the Earth when you least expect it.

Except today, I feel good today.

I had scrambled eggs and kale for breakfast.
Also, a steamy hot cup of PG Tips with just enough milk, that it only lightly scalded the back of my throat, which I do actually enjoy very much.

I put on a few episodes of “The Two Fat Ladies” and lost myself for a bit.

I always know where I am.
I’d like to say that I live my days with intention.

To be kind and understanding.
To carry about loads and loads of grace. For myself and for others who might misinterpret me understanding them.

I’m okay with being a number.
But only because I realize we are all more substantial than the numbers and stats and percentages that define us.

As for case #1403631…

There were a lot of things, like canning jams in the summer time.
Or passing out at Bagby hot springs,
roasted chickens,
conversations in the red Jetta (the good and the terrible)

and for the life of me,

I can’t remember a single day wasted.

 

you and me. (and everyone else)

We’ve been hit pretty hard at work lately.
The mix of a new publication and a three page spread of a certain meatloaf sandwich we make. Hey man, people love their meatloaf.

I have looked around at the faces of my co-workers, dazed and exhausted. Stretched a bit too thin, but they’re good, I tell ya. Good.

In my own body, I am tired as well.
I don’t seem to get as frazzled as I used to. Even when there is water above my eyes, I can’t think of any reason to feel any less of myself. This hasn’t come from working in the food industry. I mean, sure. The longer you work in the mess of trenches and the rows of tables and chairs, it can be an overextension of one’s soul. Enough to want to make you hide in the bathroom or the walk-in for fear of another human being’s response.

But then there is something deeper to it. For me, at least.

I find myself laughing a lot. And smiling. Understanding. Listening.

Maybe it’s some sort of mechanism I’ve developed over this past year where I say in my head, “Pfft. This is nothing.” And really, the rush will pass. All things will pass.

I had reached a point at one gig, where I just lost it. I went into the bathroom and called Hannah in tears saying, “I can’t do it anymore. It’s just too much.”

It was a combination of a lot of unhealthy things. I realized if I wanted to make it in this industry, I’d have to start making it work for me. So, I just let go.

And this is where something deeper started to take place. Out of all the rough things I’ve endured in the most recent past, there has been nothing worse than sitting on the floor of my old apartment, weeping at such a huge loss. My heart was at its lowest point, and I think often when older companions lose each other, it’s only a matter of time before the other starts to let go.

The heart can only take so much. It is a muscle. Like any muscle that cycles through its daily motion, it will tire. At some point, it will let go.

So, like rough days on the line, or running food: you sink, or you swim.

And there is an ebb and flow to sinking and swimming. There are seasons where it feels good to fight, and others where you have to submit for a while.

I revert back to myself sitting on the floor with no energy. No hope. Nothing else to say. A pain in my chest and a belly that was sick of everything. Since then, I have worked myself back up into something decently recognizable, I think. Presentable. Able to push my shoulders back and walk with meaning.

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It is quiet, where I live. So handling customers is sometimes a welcomed experience. I like the challenge of handling a person, as often times restaurants can be intimidating places to go. But to make someone laugh, or give them the space to get what they really want. Sometimes that feels like a gift.

It’s something I can give them. It’s something I have power over, but not in the way that should make you feel threatened. There is something important about communicating needs and desires. I think good communication relies on both sides making non-threatening words, and putting them together in such a way that disarms. Too often I found myself defensive. I found myself making it about me all the damn time.

And then I just let go of it.

I let go of my desire to be understood, and worked more at understanding. (I believe there is a St. Francis prayer there somewhere..)

My energy has shifted. I get to put it in places where I’ve needed it the most. Connecting with people. And that allows me to not be so afraid. You learn everyone is battling their own wars, both inside and out of their bodies. I meet that with grace, you see?

And I do it in hopes that I get it back in return.

I think this is one of those things that might change the world. Starting small, and to not threaten each other all the time with our rightness or needing to prove that we are loved and important.

We have value. And we have these tools that build up over the years, like your grandpa’s shed. We learn better how to loosen and tighten. Those big problems become smaller problems.

“Ah,” you think to yourself. “That’ll be good in no time.”

or

“Well, this one might take some time.”

And you will see better on both sides, that it’s not about winning or losing an interaction. It is about sustaining a goodness, for yourself and your community. I wish everyone could see inside themselves the things I’ve been able to see in myself.

That goodness is a simple luxury. That good communication can take time to build, but that it is most important when building up the Beloved.

I talk about the Beloved a lot. And really what I mean is humanity.

Made from the stuff of our mothers and fathers, mixed with wonder, and grown into things that have the potential of loving another.

That is what I believe in the most.

you.

and me.

and everyone else.

that’s what I really want.

 

magic.

I believe in magic.
Not the Harry Potter kind of stuff, though I’d argue to say, and others too might point out that magic is different than witchcraft and wizardry.

Oh goodness, I’m off to a great start already.

I suppose I should specify, or give you some clarity before you start thinking I’m crazy. Or, you can think I’m crazy. I’d like to think I’m showing significant signs of deviance from the norm — at least in my own head.

What I’d like to say, is that I believe in the process of creating.

I believe that there is something in each person that I’d like to call magic. For reasons I can’t explain, and you can’t explain, you’re just good at it. The mix of sub-conscious and motor memory and creativity. Also things like experience and passion and hard work.

I suppose you could just call it that, and walk away thinking that what you do isn’t that cool. And maybe it isn’t. But maybe there is this one thing that you can’t explain, but you just do it really well.

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I watched a movie last night called, “The Lunchbox”.
Anytime I can snag a non-Bollywood movie that takes place in India, I’m usually all over it. There’s nothing wrong with Bollywood because truthfully, there is PLENTY of magic involved.

This was a movie about food and mistakes and how they say, ‘the wrong train can lead you to the right station.’

But there was a line in the movie that was far more substantial. Two of the main characters were talking about a tiny restaurant closing, mistaking one of the cooks as the woman who had been sending this man his lunch. “There’s no place for talent in this country…”

While the other says, stuffing tikka masala into his mouth, “Everyone can cook, but there must be magic.

So, as the aspiring pseudo-chef in me loved to hear this, I started to think about it.
There are times, when I’ve found myself cooking for people and myself, and I think, “How did this happen?”

I mean, of course. You learn how to build flavors. You learn how to taste. You learn how to put things together and heat them up or cool them down.

But then, when you are sitting down at a table with another person and hear them moan, “Mmm.” And you all just sit around and eat and eat and drink.

That to me, is magic.

The ability to create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts.

magic.

The same goes for whatever your hand or body chooses to create. The invisible presence that circulates in a room — the ideas that were put in your head and the execution of it all.

Maybe I’m being dramatic and romanticizing a thing too much. I’ve been known to do such things, as y’all are well aware. But even at this here blog, I get to create and write and explore. Quite often, I look back at the things I’ve been able to write and wonder where it came from. Certainly some dark places, but also from a place that holds a great light.

What I hope, is that you consider the invisible presence of wonder.

That little bit extra.

The butter or a song at just the right moment.

Not one extra grain of salt.

And the presence of the Beloved,

 

nothing short of magic. 

a letter to July

You and I need to have some words.

And believe me, I think you’re a terrific month. You are the essence of summertime. I think of red popsicles and swimming pools and thick green grass. I think about heat and afternoon thunderstorms and staying up late and waking up even later.

I remember sitting on the Hawthorne bridge a year ago, watching the fireworks on July 4th. I remember hugging you, and started to sense that things were changing inside of the frame that was sitting next to me. It was a couple of weeks after that you told me you didn’t want to be married anymore.

So, I bring all that here, as I do from time to time.
I hit these weird milestones with all of this, like some sort of pill in my belly releasing every so often.

I don’t mean to. Trust me. I’d love to be writing about food more or exploring some other part of life. I wish I could write a step by step piece on breaking down a chicken and making coq au vin. Maybe one day I will get there.

Today though, I am processing a love, a love lost and a certain time when things started shaking into pieces.

I’ve found writing to be one of my most important ways of remembering, and filing things away. Not like some cabinet, where you keep receipts and old forms. It’s more like something I can see. I pick them up and look at them from time to time. I think locking them away with everything else does more harm than good to me at this point. But it’s important for me to put places with people and remember how I felt. I will lose some of those things over the years, but I think it’s important to give them their light, from time to time.

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July, you were a month that sent my world crashing into itself.
There were days I felt so alive.
Days that I wanted to let go of it all, including my own life.

I didn’t want to deal with any of it, which was unlike me at the time.

I realize, this isn’t your fault, as a month and general point in our calendar year. But I am living in your days, once again and as a person who remembers, I carry your weight. July looks a lot different in my new reality. Well, sort of new reality. I still have wood floors, and it’s warm outside. I am 2,400 miles in a different direction. South.

Very South.

Summer in the ‘very South’ is different than a Portland summer; shocking, I know! It’s not that I forgot about how hot Mississippi summers are, I’ve just been indulging in the cooler side of things for the past five years. The heat seems oppressing at times. Steamy. Bright. Relentless. It’s summer in the South.

The weather is just an indicator of my change of place. That’s all.

I realize there are lots of other people going through changes, too.
I come now to recognize the importance of time.

My friend Jen in Portland would reach out to me from time to time to gift me with little nuggets of wisdom from her own past. I think I felt a little responsible in ways for bringing some old things back into the light, but without the wisdom from other people, I would have been drifting further away from myself, I think.

“As much as you don’t want to hear this right now, time will heal.”

Because to be honest, I didn’t want to hear that. I wanted someone to tell me it was a dream, and not the reality I was struggling to grasp.

But she was right.
Time is also that thing in my belly. Sometimes it feels like waves washing over a sharp rock, and over time, dulling its edge. I always like to refer to time and geology as a metaphor for how it smooths out the sharp bits.

I must also submit to love. The amount of love and time gave way to great amounts of healing. Though I was by myself through a lot of those terrible nights, I had a lot of love on my side. And she did too.

So, July.

Hmph.
I didn’t watch fireworks. I was too tired, and fell asleep watching the Walking Dead. There was no one to kiss, or sit close to.

But I slowly dissolved into myself.
Like salt into water.

Realizing certain seasons are meant to bring us in and draw us out.

Like the tide,
washing over the edges,
turning what was once sharp, to smooth;

and leaving behind something entirely different.

It’s amazing what a little time can do.

 

 

how it could be

I believe we are at the cusp of something big and powerful.

Usually when it gets late, the mystic in me comes out a bit, and I’m okay with that. Or maybe I’m just tired and loopy.

I recently read a quote by Thoreau that said,

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

I have grown to love and learn different things in different seasons. In college, I had a heart for justice. I was heavily convicted as a son to the very conflicted Deep South. Over the years, I have had to defend the place I love and call home. I’ve had to tiptoe around its delicate nature, and also brush off the accusations and the fact that no, I do not sound like a hick. Even if I did, how does that change your opinion?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. I work on the same streets where freedom riders and walkers, preachers and teachers and mechanics pushed forward, and where they were also met with opposition. I am always carrying around this history. There is so so much to all of this, and I always want to approach it with humility. I guess there are hundreds of books written on the subject, so I will spare you the essay, and will try to not make this about me. But it is a blog, so I guess that’s a little counter-productive.

There is a weight to changing anything, really. Apathy is debilitating. It knocks the wind out of me. Oh, it’s just so much easier to work for someone else and continue living your life in a relative amount of safety. Trust me, I love that life. And I’m not here writing to make you feel guilty about yours.

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This city, especially, gave me so much. It gave me room to explore and breathe fire. I feel like I owe something back.

Going back to the quote from earlier, I settle into myself for a bit. I like to close my eyes and remember the places I’ve been and how they’ve changed me.

I think about how marriage and being a husband made me soft and squishy. It made me love another fiercely and gave me something to devote my life to.
Before that, I was putting some time into various organizations that I thought were doing good. I traveled to India and Chicago and they both knocked me flat on my face.

Any effort I have had to change the world has resulted in me falling on my ass, and scratching my chin, and probably my ass, too. Most of the time saying, What do I really believe anymore?”

It’s really easy to get consumed with facts and failure rates. But lately, I can’t think of any life changing occurrence that didn’t leave me feeling stronger than before. When you’re met with resistance and pain and failure, the only real thing to learn is that you are still alive and able to move on!

Bigger and brighter and wiser and stronger.

So I have that hope, deep deep down.
That it is possible to change — I mean, thank God we change. Right?

And we just need you, okay?

We need you to be brave and hold loosely.

We need you, screw ups and wandering souls who from time to time smoke too many cigarettes.

We need food for the revolution.

I can at least do that much.

But this isn’t something you will see in the paper. It starts small, and to be honest, sort of stays that way. But when a lot of people do small things together, things happen, and are already happening. That is when it becomes part of our daily lives. How we treat our butcher. How we buy our food. What our kids get to learn, and that we shouldn’t have to be afraid of our bosses.

There is a part of me already doubting. I already recognize the voices that tell me, and my generation are a waste. But really, part of it comes from watching you.

And before we get too comfortable with the way things are,

just for a minute, we like to imagine how it could be.

Because the price of anything, is the life you exchange for it.

pork ragu

Food is a lot of things to a lot of people.

Survival. Entertainment. Money. Community. Romance. Nourishment. Celebration.

I suppose if I’m honest, I dabble in all of those things.
If I’m not careful, I could go on and on and bore you to death. I will try not to do that today, but I’ve been wanting to process some stuff for myself.

When I get to cook, I get to explore a place and a people and I also explore my own story. So much of cooking for me now is motor and sensory memory. I know how to chop onions and taste for salt and balance a dish. What I love more than getting to cook, is to sip on something nice and process chunks of life.

This past week, I cooked dinner for a friend’s birthday. He’s been great in letting me have the freedom to do whatever, and it’s been so good for me to create and explore and to feed people who really love to eat.

pork ragu. 

It was all I could really think about. Pork something, at least.

So we went out and bought a big pork shoulder and the ingredients to make said dish. Growing up in my world, ragu came in a glass jar and tasted like spaghetti sauce. That was until I started to learn more about food and realized it is much more complex, and deeply satisfying. Even just hearing the world ragu gets my mouth all tingly.

The air conditioning was down, but I told him I liked it hot in the kitchen. Feels right to sweat a bit when you’re cookin’.

After I deboned the shoulder, I cut it up into pieces. Dried said pieces with a paper towel and seasoned them liberally with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Brown them with a little bit of oil in a stew pot. I mean, get some nice color and caramelization on those babies. Work in smallish batches so you don’t cool the pan off too much.

Once all the meat is seared off, I add the onions. I let them cook down a bit, and I use their water to scrape those brown bits off the bottom of the pot. (That’s where some magic is.)

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This is not my actual ragu, but it looked just like it. Come on, you know you want this for dinner now.

Then the diced carrots and celery. Ya know, the basics of starting a proper stew.

About four minced cloves of garlic pulverized into a paste. Throw that into the pot and let it smell up your house for a second.

Throw in your meat, along with a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary and oregano. Go ahead and throw in a bay leaf too, if you have one.

Now you start adding the sexy reds. tomato and red wine. oh gah!

We had some special tomatoes for our ragu. It was my buddy’s last jars of his granddaddy’s tomatoes, who has recently passed away. They were tangy and rich and perfect. Add about a cup of red wine, and enough water to cover the top of the meat. Toss in some more salt and pepper, and let it go low and slow, simmering for about an hour and a half.

I found some mushrooms, so I decided to throw them in there as well, because, umami.

By now, this pot of bubbling stuff just looks right. If it looks right, it probably tastes right. Unless you accidentally use salt instead of sugar for a gorgeous apple pie, which has happened to me before.

Anyways, the meat should be tender enough that you can shred it with forks, because that’s what you’ll need to do, eventually. The liquid should also be reduced by at least half. Be careful on adding salt though, because as it bubbles away, the more it reduces, the more it is concentrated. You can always dilute with more water or stock, but just keep tasting and you’ll be fine. At this point, once your ragu is done, and after the pork is shredded, you can add in some greens if you like. I used kale, and tossed it in and let cook for another five minutes.

Cook up some pasta a bit al dente. Reserve at least a half cup of your pasta water (that I presume you have salted a bit) so you can use its starch to help coat the pasta as you toss it with the ragu. Use butter, too. Adds some extra sheen to the over all dish. Add your preferred ratio of ragu to pasta, and toss, plate and serve. Grate some good hard cheese on top, too.

Yeah. Seriously.
Oof. Delicious, hearty and personal.

I think, one of those soul dishes for me. It’s how I like to eat.

Perhaps I am just an old soul, and I’m okay with that.

I like these dishes because they take a little time. They remind me that there’s a process to things, and that an extra ten minutes can change something from being good, to great.

I suppose I needed that. Some reassurance that time has the ability to transform and nourish. When I get ahead of myself, that’s when I cut corners. If I’m honest, I cannot allow myself to cut any more corners. I crave to live my life with intention, and the same goes for how I cook.

Slow and steady. At times, hard and fast.

But all having their place, especially in my little world, where a simple dish can change the outcome of an entire day.

And I never want to lose that.

 

sacred vessels

I never thought I’d be divorced.

This is what I said, on the eve of this past week’s summer solstice.
I said it to my buddy Kyle, whose response was basic and clear as day:

Well, no one ever does, I guess.

I was a little frustrated that I said such a thing in the first place. I think I was in a weak spot. A little buzzed on a couple of strong pints, and sweating like a sunuva-gun on a warm Mississippi night.

We were watching a bat swoop in and out of the porch light — snatching moths and various light-drunk bugs.

The crickets were loud. This feels like home. We both agree, silently.

My story has certainly changed. I am left with an abundance of free time to think. Sometimes, too much. There is the hum and rumble of my wall unit, keeping me cool as the humidity leaks through the cracks of this old building.

I think a lot about where I live. It was built in 1945, for soldiers returning home from WWII. It has these beautiful floors and the kitchen is precious and tiny. (And hot as hell in the summertime, apparently.)

I also think about the people who have lived here. Including those soldiers coming home wounded, physically and in other ways. I wonder how well they healed here. I wonder about their ghosts, and I wonder about a space designed to house people in transition. This certainly isn’t a place to settle down and start a family. It’s a bit too cramped for more than one big presence, even for a person as dramatic (albeit quiet), as me.

But what to do with this freedom?

I guess I’m having to restart that process a bit. I believe I’m young and have a lot of space to change and grow, in a few different ways. I talk to people all the time who have had at least four different professions. I suppose I have a little time to really figure it out. But not just professions. There are loads of those nagging philosophical questions and the South, is truly a different state of mind.

For the most part, I think about how I like the adult I am becoming.

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Yeah, I wish I had those perfect things we always want in on too. I am okay, though. I don’t need much.
I had figured, long ago, that this would be my time to travel and see the world. To experience what the other worlds had to offer. Sometimes you can do that.

I got a little ahead of myself, but that’s okay too.

The ebb and flow of starting over feels okay. I think building a community takes some time, and I gots plenty of it. I still have the urge to see so much. I don’t know what our world will look like tomorrow, and especially not twenty years from now. I just know that I love this place, and its people and I want to see as much of it as I can.

I find myself looking down my hallway from where I sit and write, and see my cookbooks line familiar shelves.

I see my wine glasses, many of them used for holding more than wine. They are used for exploring depths and laughing too much and getting to those quiet moments where we raise them and look into each others’ eyes. Sacred vessels, in my opinion.

This is my constant. 

The ability to connect.
Connecting, what I miss and crave the most.

Every day I discover little secrets about who I am. Why I have chosen food and drink as my medium to explore your depths. I think often, “Well, this is no surprise at all.”

So once again, I invite you to my table.
It is tiny, but substantial and we will eat and drink and sink deeper into each others stories.

Just give me a heads up though,

so I can put on the air conditioner,
open up the wine,
make a good soundtrack,
dish out somethin’ good,

and live into the truth that we are all sacred vessels,
poured into over and over again.
intoxicating,
and full of the stuff that gets better with time.

small moves.

It’s all kind of fragile.

I keep thinking that, as I work and come home and think about the balance created by the stars and star stuff we are made of.

I don’t know what’s holding it (and us) all together. Food systems and water and pollution. It seems like the load is too much.

I mean, yes, it is too much.

There was a time in my life when I thought I could change the world. Everything is so radical and exciting when you feel fire running through your veins. You think if all you had to do was convince enough people, everything would change.

I suppose my passions have shifted a bit over the years. I am still convicted about the lack of justice and equality, and mourn heavily with our friends who live in poverty. That will never change in my heart.
As a cook, I’ve become friends with people who have been homeless, addicts, in jail and are still currently dealing with some if not all of the above.

The kitchen has always been a place for these people. It’s no wonder that I’ve ended up there, to be honest. Yeah, the sudden rise of “how cool would it be to be a chef” has a lot of folks flocking to the nitty gritty, but I will say, things are different here.

I’m struggling a bit.
I grew to love and cook food on a deeper level in Portland. It’s a foodie city. Its economy works (decently well) around restaurants and farms and purveyors. Its markets are set up to inspire people to learn and cook with such wonderful, fresh ingredients.

This is not about me calling out a place. This is only me, moving back to a place with massive potential, and a lack of systems. These things take time, I do realize.

I also want to recognize the folks that are already here doing the hard work. And for the people who have come and gone. For the workers in the fields, under the hot sun not making much of wage either. I write this, in the same spirit as to why you do what you do. I realize I am sort of new again to this whole thing. So I am always humbled, and realize there is a lot I need to learn.

On a daily basis these days, I contemplate what it would be like to own my own spot.
Somedays I get to talk to people about it. I find it encouraging.
Other days people are less so. Saying that this place isn’t ready yet. That it will fail.

I’m getting sort of..antsy.

In the sense that I can’t afford life here, as cheap as it may be at times, on a cook’s wage. I see other friends of mine in the same position. It’s really pitiful, this whole minimum wage thing. And honestly, I’m not learning a ton, and realize that unless I am being challenged, the wage doesn’t compensate for knowledge.
I go back and forth in my head, that if I’m going to change my occupation, this will be the place, because I surely can’t support myself here for too long. It would break my heart to have to move out of the kitchen. It has been part of home the past five years.

In my head, I am constantly hearing myself say, “Well, if there’s nothing left to burn, you have to catch yourself on fire..” And while that is the intro to one of my favorite songs, it resonates deeply.

gas-stove-burning-web

I am not in this industry to make it rich.
I do want to help change it, though.

I want it to be cool.
I want workers to be respected. I want them to feel pride in what they do.
I want people to open their minds and hearts to different food cultures, and dining experiences.
I want people to support more local establishments.
I want local restaurants to challenge, but also support each other.

Otherwise, it becomes stale and stagnant.

If you’re not going to make it better, then I will.

Somehow, I will.

I am the biggest proponent of time. I’ve only been back living in the south for almost four months. This is tiny. But I am seeing potential, even among the naysayers and those who tell me this place isn’t ready. Or that I will fail. And that it is hard and expensive.

I know, I know, I know.

A place, just like a person, must keep challenging itself if it wants to grow.

I want to grow.
I want to grow here, truly. I don’t want to leave again because I can’t find what I need. The systems are not yet here, in many ways. But they are certainly on their way. You can hear it, sometimes. I see it, in little ways. People wanting more.

The South ain’t in no hurry to change, and I am not here for those reasons.
But it will start small, as it always does. With a few friends around a table with some ideas.

And who knows what it will turn into.

I just know I am ready. I’m ready for people here to live better, stronger lives. I want this for myself. I want this for my neighbor.

I feel the heat rising from my feet, and it’s a nice thing to feel. I know this sensation. Of being a little antsy, waiting for the right time to move. I love it. I love how it scares me but how it feels when you start to move.

Small moves, dude.

small moves.

Cologne, Wrist Watches and my good friend, Channing Tatum.

{I realize this piece is a bit out of the ordinary for me. But I had fun writing it, and I hope you find the humor in it as well. Enjoy!}

The first piece of mail I received at my new apartment was a magazine.

It was wrapped in plastic with two big letters on top : GQ

Channing Tatum, gracing the cover looking kind of plastic, but glancing up at me as though he knew me a bit.

“I know you from somewhere!” says Tatum.
“Mm..no, I don’t think so…” I say.

Here’s the thing. I don’t subscribe to GQ. It was sent to the previous owner, but he is long gone now.
I kept it wrapped for a while, just in case he came by asking for it. Once I knew the owner of said uber-masculine magazine had long abandoned his sweet GQ, I decided to dive in and record my experience.

I guess weirdly enough, I sorta liked it.

Ridiculous, but certainly entertaining. You know how these things go.
The first five or six pages are pure advertisement. Beefy dudes wearing super tight shirts that would make me constantly tug at my love handles. Cool tie, though.

Oh! This one is cologne. I’ve had one bottle of cologne for 6 six years. I wear it maybe three times a year. It’s from Hollister, which I believe was honestly the last time I ever walked into that store. Mostly, the smell of that places makes me either want to run away into the wild, or to make out with someone for hours. I think it sort of triggers some raging hormone. It’s that attractive smell that makes me feel like I’m the kind of guy that takes care of my stuff. Maybe.

Oh yeah! I can actually sniff pages! Up first — Bleu de Chanel, by Chanel. I’m not diggin’ it. Smells too spicy. Too much like my old deodorant. Smells like someone who is trying too hard to smell good. Smells like an 8th grader learning how to balance his aroma.

Next I see board shorts. Chiseled abs. Tan. Bros, just hangin’.
Alcohol.
More shorts.
Ah right, it’s summer.

A lot of advertisements for watches. I haven’t owned a watch since 10th grade. When I was a kid, and it was cold, I would wear my watch outside of my sleeve.

bill-murray-gq-cover-jan2013-2

I felt better putting up a picture of Bill Murray, than Channing Tatum. Sorry bud.

Next cologne to smell: Dior Homme Eau For Men (paired with a picture of Edward, from Twilight, out of character, though.)
Okay. It’s better than the first one. Notes: gin and tonic. Spice. Dial soap.

Alcohol.
Paired with an article on best college towns even when school is out. Moving on…

Oh! Another cologne already!
Chrome, by Azzaro. Meh. Notes: trying to hard, but not offensively fresh. Nothing substantial, no bottom end. Pretty bright. Pairs well with the picture, which is a bunch of dudes with sweaters around their necks running from their car to the beach.

Cigarettes.
More watches.

Dave Chappelle’s new show! Neat!

Uh oh. Another cologne. My nose is getting a little weary, but I’m ready.
Paco Rabanne, 1 Million
Weird photo of woman painted in gold hugging guy from behind who is in all black and white. I see what they did there.
Notes: Old Spice High Endurance Body Wash, but with a little more body, and a touch of vanilla yankee candle. I would have named this cologne, “375,000”

Watches again.
An article that helps you pinpoint, “What Kind of Nerd Are You”. Kind of funny. Cliche. I get it. **Spoiler** They all begin with wearing thick rimmed glasses from Warby Parker.

OH MAN BEN & JERRY’S SALTED CARAMEL CORE ICECREAM. THAT LOOKS SO GOOD.

All I can smell is cologne and some ma po tofu I just ate. It kinda works.

A really good article on asshole dads. Or I guess, “How to Not be an Asshole Dad”. Good info. Especially if you have kids that play sports.

Final cologne!
Vince Camuto, Homme
Probably my favorite out of all. But that’s not saying a lot. Balanced. Fruit. Chocolate. Citrus. Honey.

Great, now I have this insane urge to make out with somebody. Either that or buy a cover for my cell phone. And then I want a pretzel and I want to buy a cool jacket, even though it’s hot as hell outside.

jersey_cocktail_01

Then comes an article on bit coin that I also enjoy. An interesting form of online currency that a lot of folks are trying to make sense of. I will never be able to afford any, but it’s super interesting.

Oh man, here comes the cover piece!
Channing Tatum.
Who is actually a silly dude. The piece is called, “American Hustler”.

All of his shirts are so tight.
Oh, y’all look he’s cracking an egg into a pan like he’s making you breakfast!
He’s a stud. No doubt.
Talks about how he has an inner fat kid, and that he’s a high functioning alcoholic at times.
He’s washing an old muscle car with the US flag in the back ground. God bless ‘Murica!
I’d have a beer with the dude. I suppose that’s the whole point, isn’t it?

After the cover story is a few pages on how to stock a bar, which was probably my favorite piece in this whole thing. It talks about which bottles to buy on a budget, and a few simple cocktails. It describes what tools are most important, and how to be a good host when offering your bar. I like this bit. Well designed article. User friendly. Two thumbs up. Makes me want a cocktail.

Mike Myers! Where have you been!? A one page article on what he’s doing now. How he loves being a dad and has taken a lot of time off to be with his kids. Bravo. ‘WOMAN! WHOA, MAN!’

The next several pages are filled with people who are too beautiful to even look at. Sheesh. Good on them for being beautiful and tone. Yeah, they’re pretty, but can they debone an entire pig? Probably not, but then again, neither can I. (yet.)

The last article is sad, but the one right before is about a couple who eats strictly paleo for a while. Cool, I guess?

There’s one last advertisement for a watch.

Goodness gracious.
It’s kinda fun though, right? I mean isn’t that why we buy these magazines in the first place? They distract us from a life only a few can really maintain. I’m not gonna lie, the magazine kind of made me feel cool. I would never belong at GQ, but I know their presence is substantial in a certain masculine climate.

As I turn the magazine over, there’s another guy staring at me. It’s for a cologne, but there’s no way to smell it. I just have to believe that if I buy this one cologne, I will embody this man, who looks like a mix between a young Johnny Cash, a little bit of young Arnold Schwarzenegger and older John Cusack.

And maybe today, I think I’d be okay with that.