I'm pretty jacked. Usually the word is used by a jock wearing a SnapBack, or a lacrosse player, or the type of person who yells loudly at a bar when their team scores a winning goal. I used to be up with the lingo, but I've since fallen away from a dedicated following of sports, and am now the one that yells, "YEAH, SPORTS" when others cheer. Now back to my original point. Jacked. A term of prolific excitement. I'm jacked to go back to Amsterdam.
Some of my most fond memories, as well as nightmares began there. Spending the day on an elaborate date with a breathtaking girl from Milan, as we traversed the canals and kissed on a ferry: Fond Memory. Having nearly $5000 of camera equipment stolen, as well as purchasing my first and only pack of cigarettes (I still have it, and one remains.): nightmare. So many emotions are wrapped up in one city, so many friends I had to leave that felt as if I had known them for years. These are the joys of traveling alone. You are forced to create new experiences, and you're drawn so far out of your comfort zone that it terrifies even the most extroverted of travelers.
Im on my flight to Minneapolis from Fargo. There's about 25 of us evenly spread throughout a 50 seater Delta CRJ-200. The flight attendant both poorly imitated a British accent, and occasionally sung the words to his air safety spiel. I like writing in the air. It's something about the combination of sleep deprevstion and looking out the window that brings better adjectives to mind.
I'll soon be boarding the A330 for what my Delta App says will be a 10hr20min flight. I'm stocked with a bottle of sleeping pills, a few granola bars, and some mandarin oranges...courtesy of the Delra IROP cart, with the exception of the pills. This is the third flight I've tried boarding today, and apparently it is a 'charm'. The other two filled up with passengers who actually pay for flights, so they certainly are prioritized. I woke up this morning whole-heartedly planning on going to Santiago, Chile. But not getting out of Fargo early meant not making it to MSP, and then Atlanta.
I really don't care where I end up. I have 4 days off, and even my outgoing self needs a break from Fargo occasionally, as much as I adore the city. To twist up this adventure from the last, I hope to take a train a couple hours South to a city on the coast of Belgium. I saw gorgeous pictures on the interwebs, and I really hope I can find two trees in a park to lounge in my new hammock. Literally, that's a main goal of this trip. If I can lay in my hammock and read, it will have been successful for me.
Also, if you like blogs like this, please, please tell me so. It's a creative outlet for me whether you enjoy it or not, but I would write more if anyone cares for my musings.
I'm currently lounging in my favorite coffee shop in Fargo, and also the world. I'm exuberantly over-caffeinated, but I certainly couldn't be more content. The past year has brought me many places, but the majority of my time has been spent here overindulging in coffee. I generally pretend I'm getting work done, and chat with other regulars who sip coffee and do the same. Many days I start the day on 0% energy and motivation. The coffee provides 50%, and the remaining half is gathered from the people in the coffee shop. I fill up with enough of that energy and motivation to hopefully last me the remainder of the day. I have a daily goal to meet someone new every day - most of which have been from here. Sometimes when I don't have a direct 'in' or mutual friend, I have to use the line, 'I try to meet someone new every day, hi, I'm Nick.' This works in Fargo, and a few other places, but pretty much just Fargo. I tried a similar thing in NY and nearly got stabbed. Not really, but they told me to get out of their face. Outside of traveling, and with the exception of Sundays, this coffee shop has become a common daily routine.
20Below Coffee Co's first birthday is rapidly approaching, and I couldn't be more ecstatic for them. In talking to the owners, the primary goal of the shop was to bring the community together, and contribute to the exponential growth Fargo seems to be experiencing these past couple of years.
The coffee roasters have certainly achieved this, and much more. It has dramatically impacted so many individuals in the community, whether it be private events, or just purely the conversational atmosphere that it presents. It seems to have become the haven for business meetings of all sorts, catchup chats, and even college classes (thanks, Jeff Knight). Personally, 20below Coffee has actually altered my life for the better. I've formed lifetime relationships, acquired a taste for real coffee, and furthered my developing career in oh-so-many ways.
So first. Coffee. I've never been much of a coffee connoisseur, but 20below taught me that the substance can be sought after mainly for the taste, and not for the caffeine kick. I actually hate what coffee does to my body, generally. It leaves my mind awake, but my body asleep and unable to do much. Since developing more of an addiction to it, the effects are not nearly as severe, but my piano students definitely know how much coffee I've had before a lesson. I've learned what coffee blends I like, and how they are best prepared. I've learned about espresso, and that I rather enjoy it chased with a bit of sparkling water. If I were to catalog exactly how much of my money 20below has taken from me, I'm not sure what I'd do - but I certainly don't regret it in the slightest.
As far as relationships go, 20below has been the instigator of most of my current friendships downtown. I never lived a 'downtown' lifestyle until I started going to 20below. I had done my reading, editing, and anything else at Dunn Brothers on 25th. It was quite the distance, as I live in way north Fargo. I had heard the buzz of a new coffee shop opening downtown, so I cheated on Dunn Bro's to check it out, and I think I've been back to Dunn Bro's once in the past year? Through 20below I've gained so many connections, started working at the prairie den, and even opened my own studio downtown. Anyone I know downtown can be traced back to the coffee shop - since it was, and still somewhat is, my office.
I've been lucky enough to play a couple of music gigs at the shop, as well, which I'm very thankful for having been given the opportunity. Shameless plug: I'm playing Friday, April 1st at 6, so please come. I've also had a display of my photography in the shop, which has given me some wonderful exposure.
Other mentionables the shop has been used for... A couple of successful dates (clearly not ALL that successful), client meetings, bible studies, stalling productivity, people watching, philosophical conversations with strangers, lunch breaks, coffee, coffee, coffee, and espresso.
I can always enter 20below with the confidence that I will know at least all the baristas, and usually half of the current patrons - this is always a pick-me-up when experiencing the darkest of moods. Not including the baristas, I currently know 8 people here. All except 1 I would never have known without the shop. All have served me with wonderful conversations on multiple occasions. I've realized that everyone has a 'specialty' of some sort. When I meet someone here, my internal thought is 'tell me a lot about something I know nothing about'. Yesterday I learned quite a bit about the history of JRR Tolkien's family, an LGBTQ perspective on genderless bathrooms, and the Japanese word for nostalgia. I also met a local artist who helped me with my recent endeavor to attempt to paint. Today I met a pastor, and hopefully we'll enter a meaningful conversation soon.
So...thank you 20below and all you've done for my life - and for many others in the community.
I don't particularly enjoy watching sports. I find there to be much more beneficial methods of wasting one's time. I hold that the majority of life's participation is meaningless, but that certain things are slightly more useful than others. Sports were significantly more invigorating in high school because I played them, and spent time with people who watched them. My current sports-stats are actually 5 years out-dated -- because Reggie Bush no longer plays for the Saints, and has probably been traded multiple times, or maybe even retired and committed a felony since I last cared about his whereabouts. I have little care in the world for watching organized sports, although I really enjoy playing them. Returning to my 'wasting time' comment, I feel that watching something other than sports provides a much better return of value, personally. I feel the same way about video games. They could be pure enjoyment, but no return on investment. I certainly waste a large amount of my time, but recently I've been pushed to make sure I'm always spending my time doing useful things.
I lose my logical consistency when March Madness comes around.
For those even less educated than myself, March Madness is the term coined to celebrate the chaos of the NCAA mens basketball tournament every year. 64 teams in a bracket all competing for the title. This has always enticed me, even in the past couple of years where I've been absent from sports, and present on Netflix. There's something peculiar about my desire to fill out a bracket with absolutely zero knowledge of the team's prior season. I think it's because each team is ranked. My mom instilled the value in me that one can have zero interest in sports for the entire year, and yet throw parties, eat copious amounts of food, and be driven to a near vegetative state because of the overwhelming amount of basketball that can be watched in a 2 week period. I have no plausible guess as to which team will *most likely* be better, but I'm guessing such an idea is true for everyone. You must have quite the amount of sports knowledge to actually claim to know the outcome of many games in the NCAA. Unless you think Duke ever has a chance, then you're definitely wrong.
At this point, my bracket resides in the lowest level of hell next to the majority of others who prophesied Michigan State to make it farther than the first round. I had them winning the entire shabang. I'm not even upset, but I believe March Madness gives the average uneducated sports-fan the ability to place stock, and hold an allegiance with a given team. It's more than I have the 'authority' to do with other sports. Here are a couple guidelines I use, personally, to choose my teams. They don't actually hold any merit, but when any outcome is possible, it doesn't really matter how you pick your teams.
1.) Choose an Ivy league team to win. They are generally underdogs, but they are vastly more intelligent underdogs. This year's was Yale. They weren't smart enough, but a couple of years ago Harvard was able to go the distance.
2.) Catholic teams must lose. My theological dispositions have a very opposing propensity toward Catholicism, so It's natural that I'd choose them to lose. So far they've been winning, and if anything about this upsets me, this does. A theological war is much easier for me than choosing sports teams based on any potential they might have.
3.) Pick Duke to lose in the 2nd round. This has worked well for many years, but apparently they've stepped up their game a bit this year. I find that my parental indoctrination while growing up manifests in two forms. Either I agree entirely, and for no actual reason, with my dad about an issue, team, or product. This is evident in my hatred for Notredame football, my love for Ford cars, and use of Canon cameras (and equal hatred for Nikon). Conversely, I could polarize myself from my dads opinions. This appears in my groundless hatred for Duke - just because my dad is their biggest fan. On a psychological level, I find it interesting how particular interests are dead-on with parents, and others couldn't be more opposing.
March Madness is probably the only time I'll ever be distracted at Buffalo Wild Wings. I generally go there for the wings, and certainly not the sports. It's a time where the sports-illiterate can pretend they know something. I didn't even watch the Superbowl this year, but I will watch the NCAA tournament.
I've taught lessons at Schmitt Music for nearly the past four years. Parting ways was always inevitable, but it's beginning to kick in that I won't be going there anymore. The majority of students have been piano and guitar, with the occasional vocal lesson scattered in. I averaged 25-30 students a week during this time, and I feel like I've seen everything in a fairly short amount of time. The kids' unsuspectingly witty humor and downright unintentional rudeness never ceased to baffle / entertain me. My last day was last Wednesday. I no longer teach there, and it's rather bittersweet. In switching locations, I've unfortunately lost a few dear students whom I had become very close with.
There's something about chatting with a kid nearly every week for 3 years. You're more invested in their life than many of the kids in their class. Gaining their trust is essential for them to learn quicker, so I answered questions about everything from my (lack of) relationship status, to my hobbies, and outside-of-schmitt work. I sang way too much 'Frozen' soundtrack, jammed to highschool musical duets, and helped kids write songs. I had parents tell me that music and my teaching was helping them cope with bullies at school, which gave me tears of sadness and joy. It's always encouraging to know I made a difference while I was there. These kids have taught me so much about music, and really life in general. Life was really much simpler at that age. I don't really remember my thought processes when I was that young, but I can see how they think every single day, and it really amuses me. There's also something about being a fill-in psychologist for kids who have a rough life at home. Some would cry and talk about their problems, and I would do my best to help them out. Some would greet me at the studio with a big hug telling me they couldn't wait for lessons. Occasionally when I asked what their favorite part of the week was, some would say, 'the last lesson.'. I get to keep some of the kids, but I will certainly miss some of them that I don't.
Leaving a job of 4 years felt similar to leaving high school for me - it hit me once I sat down in the car after my last day. I'm really not going back, but I'm anticipating future adventures. Now for a few notes of thanks to the ever-great Schmitt Music, as well as a few things I've learned.
1.) Musical Ability
I wouldn't be anywhere near the musician I am today without the job. I applied with the idea of selling instruments and working the till, but they threw me into teaching. Teaching well requires an even further knowledge of the instrument, understanding of theory, and note-reading ability. Without teaching, I would have never been pushed to learn new things so quickly.
The second facet to my musical ability is those I met while working at Schmitt. Each employee, but particularly my manager, has influenced my playing and how I've learned while I was there.
2.) Kids are savages.
I love kids with all my heart, but they don't know the implications of their statements, and I really enjoy that.
3.) John Mayer
Without Schmitt, I probably wouldn't have been influenced by John Mayer quite as much as I am right now. My manager showed me his goodness, and that influence is important enough to make the list.
4.) Lifelong Friendships (with employees)
Without getting too sentimental or sappy, I made some great friendships that will last until I die, or they do.
Many of you have enjoyed my students' actions over the past few years, and I put together some of my favorites over my time at schmitt.
I'll still be teaching in my new studio, but I have around 15 students and am focusing much more of my time on photography.
"I jokingly asked my youngest piano student what he was going to get me for my birthday next week, so he asks me how old I'll be, and I say, 21. He then smiles big and says, "My dad will buy you '34 sack of beer'..." Oh kids"
Today I learned from the same snobby piano student as last week that;
"You smell like my grandmothers stew."
"Your hair is too long."
"Ew, you need to shave, your beard is scaring me."
"You have interesting eyelashes - and that's a compliment."
A direct quote from a piano student today: "Why don't you go back to school, don't you want a career?" "I can't afford to go to school right now."
Her: "My family is really rich."
"Okay, little snob, at least I can play the piano." is what I would have loved to say:)
Tonight my 1st grade piano student turns to his next page and exclaims, "This song is harder than a butt-load of socks"
I completely lost it. Kids are great.
Taught a new piano student today. She guessed that I was 30 years old. She was seriously surprised that I was younger than her mother. What.
Tonight my 2nd grade piano student was talking about how he recently started gymnastics and had a lot of fun on the "balance bean". Kids are great.
So my 2nd grade piano student comes into his lesson earlier tonight and I asked him how piano is going and he replied, "Piano is on the top of my not fun list, along with squash"
"No offense, but I can sing higher and better than you can...but no offense" - Piano student
"I have to shower twice a week because my mom is mean" - One of mypiano students
6 year old girl piano student: You shaved again?! Your hair was doing so great.
"Sometimes when I talk my hiccups interrupt me" - piano student
Today I was telling a 3rd grade piano student how I was going to go to a softball league game with guys from Delta. He goes, "do you play?"
I said, "No. I just watch. Do you think I could?"
He glances down at my belly, looks back at me, smiles and shakes his head." So shameless, so cute.
"Was there such thing as trampolines when you were little?" - 2nd grade (boy) piano student
No - They weren't invented yet, because that's how old I am.
I was singing along with a 7 year old piano student of mine while she was playing, when she stops and turns to me...
"You can't sing, because you're not handsome. You're like an old man."
I asked one of my high school piano students what he was going to do after he graduated. Without skipping a beat, he sang Dr. Dre's line, "smoke weed every day."
I recently shaved my head again. An 8 year old piano student goes, "Why are you bald.....Don't you want a girlfriend?!" He's always trying to give me relationship advice.
"Your bald head makes you look like Squidward." - Piano Student
**Piano student sees me snapchatting**
"Hey, let's be friends on snapchat - actually never mind, I don't wanna be friends with you."
**Student takes my phone and takes a snapchat.**
7 year old student walks into the piano lesson... "Alright, let's get this over with."
Piano student is playing an Ed Sheeran love song and when it references kissing, she stops playing and says,
"Speaking of kissing, do you have a girlfriend yet? You're going to be single your whole life if you don't find one."
Piano student today: "If 'the Blues' were a a person, I would've killed it by now."
"How was your week?"
Piano student: "Good. Grandma came over. We spent all her money."
"You'd be a good funeral player." - Piano Student
"I didn't practice because I forgot and I didn't want to." - Student
Me: "Why are you laughing?"
Student: "Your scarf."
Student: "Men look dumb with scarves on."
Adult struggles as described by my 7 year old student: "I was going to go on a play-date with Hudson. He's REALLY, really handsome, and he's really nice to me, but now he has a girlfriend. I wish I was his girlfriend."
A 2nd grade student - out of the blue says,
"You know how your rule is no farts? Then you wouldn't want my dad as astudent....you don't know what happens at night. That room is full of skunks."
Literally the first thing my 5th grade student says today.
"I'm going to be honest with you, you look better with hair."
So much about my baldness lately.
"What happens if you don't practice guitar?"
7th grade girl: "I get grounded, which means no phone, which is bad...because boy crush...and he likes me back too (big smile), but we go to different schools, but we can't date because I have to wait until I'm 16 because it's a proven fact that kids that start to date at 12 years old do bad things and my dad says I shouldn't date til I'm 30 - and I won't have kids til I'm out of college because you can't do anything with them. They will keep me away from the bars, when I'm old enough, anyway.
A first grade student brought in her new Shel Silverstein book so she could read me some poems. She said she normally reads them to her dog.
I love a 5 year old students understanding of the death of her cat.
"He had a bump on his head so he died. We burned the cat. It's called cremating. They took her ashes and hid them in a pot so we don't look at it and be sad."
"I have a fun song for you to play."
Student: "Your typical fun is hard."
Student: "I'm not arguing, I'm just explaining why I'm right."
"You're lucky I said please, because I'm going to be nice to you today." - 7 year old student
Yes. This is a New Years resolution blog. It's not the first one you've seen, and certainly won't be the last. Lest I sound exceptionally cliche, I'm not going to tell you that I'll go to the gym three times a week, I won't tell you my specific plan to conquer my lasting 'freshman-50' from 4 years ago, and I definitely won't claim self-righteousness in how I want to be a better person. I would love to do ALL of those things, but I have less vague and more meaningful goals for 2016.
1.) Blog more.
Writing helps me process life in a way that no other activity allows for. My friends in other states and countries can keep tabs on what I'm doing, feeling, learning, and what I'm taking pictures of. Putting a specific timeline on a goal can be dangerous, but I'd like to say something about life, travel, religion, or politics, at least once a week. I claim no enduring wisdom in these posts, but all perspectives are unique, and I would love if all my friends kept a blog.
2.) Meet everyone.
I've met SO many people in the last 6 months. New relationships catch me by surprise sometimes, but they form best when I'm intentional about meeting new people. A new opportunity in life can be denied by simply not introducing yourself to someone next to you in the checkout line, not commenting on the intriguing book a man is reading at the coffee shop, or even deciding to work at home for the day. I've been at the coffee shop for a few hours now, and I've already met four new people, so my resolution is off to a wonderful start.
All of 2015, and especially December was a great month of travel, with adventures to Amsterdam and Paris. I hope to visit 6 continents in 2016. It's a lofty goal, but I'm already at 1/6, of course. I hope to be 2/6 by the end of January with another eurotrip, but we'll see. Paris and Amsterdam allowed me to meet people from all over the US, Europe, as well as a mate (friend, not lover) in Australia, so I have some buddies to catch up with in more places than I have time to travel.
4.) Not vote for Donald Trump.
Like the lambo owner in that one youtube ad that attributes his wealth to reading book a day (the 'just here in my garage' guy), I'd like to read more than I do. I want to gain knowledge on a wide variety of topics that I don't currently dabble in to make me more useful in society.
6.) Take pictures.
I hope to be nearly sufficient upon photography income by the end of 2016. This means teaching only the students I enjoy working with, and slowly cutting off the rest by the end of the year. I think it's achievable, but it will be difficult. I want to tell the stories of people with photo, video, and music. It's what I'm already doing, but I hope to be continually more full-time as the year progresses.
My only guaranteed resolution on the list relations to Donald Trump, but I think the rest are all are achievable, and measurable, and profitable - so we'll see!
With my St. Louis trip being two weeks ago, I finally get to hop on a plane again. Next Thursday I'll be heading to Tampa to shoot my oldest friend's engagement photos. I haven't been to Florida since February, so I'm quite excited about the trip. The forecast appears to show high 80's, which means I'll have to search for a pair of shorts beneath all of Fargo's winter clothing.
Here's a shot from last time:
From the darkest corners of my soul comes an admittance nearly beyond my ability to craft sentences in which a confession would be believable. An "optimist pretender" has come to terms with the possibility that he doesn’t have to wear the mask any longer. There appears to be a unique darkness found in the first realization of one’s own nihilistic tendencies. Such a night has unfortunately, yet inevitably arrived. Depression is the most powerful writing prompt in existence. The literary abilities found in such states of mind reach far above any ill-attempted happiness unsuccessfully seeking a rivalry.
Sadness is truly the most beautiful, yet complex emotion. It only exists as the lack of joy, which is regrettably unachievable in it’s entirety. Joy is ultimately sought, but is marred by the one thing able to prevent its existence. Such an idea presupposes sadness’ triumph in dominance over any lasting joy.
Liquor generally places a haze over my thoughts, clouding the senses, and making writing very difficult. This night, the mind has an odd clarity, and a seemingly prophetic vision over life, as if such silliness were possible. I might only compare it with tunnel vision, yet the sort that pierces its gaze onto every avenue and lane of life simultaneously. If I may bring further controversy to this essay, I will claim that the absence and longing of love is an exceptionally superior emotion to love itself. Conversely, those finding acceptance in love with another are unable to presently understand the lack of it, but have experienced it at one point in the past.
Where does inadequacy come from and why will it always last? It reigns on the throne, and lies in the heart of loneliness’ existence. Inadequacy opposes love’s existence in the lives of those who don’t measure up, ultimately preventing joy from blooming. Thoughtfulness is a crime to those who don’t appreciate it. Sad emotions swiftly change to a cold and dark anger when the root of inadequacy cannot be discovered or changed despite deep soul searching.
The seed of depression was planted recently, and slowly watered by a kind and gentle gardener. She desired the best for the seed, not knowing what it would grow to become. It has reached full bloom, and with the assistance of an anticipated night, is more vibrant than ever.
For the first time in my life, over the past hour I’ve pondered how I should exist outside the confines of love. Not the sort of longing and desperate, yet unsuccessful love, but the sort you find in another person who values you more than anyone. I’m scared that I don’t know how I should live outside of finding love in another. I know I'll remain living because life will be a continual search, never really knowing if I'll find what I'm looking for. If anything, I can remove the optimist's mask to show more truly what's inside.