It’s All Fair in Love and Eating a Bag of Cheez-Its

Halfway to the library I realized my mistake. I had left my knapsack on the third floor of Temple Hall. Not a terrible mistake—it would only take a few minutes to walk back—but an inconvenience nonetheless. Kind of like running out of gas two-hundred feet from a gas station, or pooping and then realizing there’s no toilet paper.

The knapsack, while itself not of great value, did contain my lunch for the day, the value of which cannot be overstated. In addition to fueling mind and body, I had spent valuable time in the morning—time that could have been spent sleeping—prepping the meal: peanut butter and jelly, apple, chips, and Cheez-Its. What a waste it would all be if, for whatever reason, it wasn’t there when I returned.

Climbing the stairs of Temple Hall I thought about the fate of my knapsack. Was it still there, sitting on the table I had sat at only ten or fifteen minutes ago? Or had it been taken? Ravaged by wolves or, worse, overworked TAs? These unanswered questions loomed large.

I rounded the last corner and, much to my relief, saw the knapsack in the exact spot I had left it in. Not even a single TA in the vicinity to shoo away! As I drew closer, though, I realized there was a guy sitting in the spot I had sat in, knapsack directly in front of him.

This seemed odd for a couple of reasons. For starters, he didn’t move the knapsack out of his way. Just left it there, seemingly untouched, impeding him from utilizing the surface in front of him. He also could have chosen another spot. There were empty chairs to either side of him. In fact, there were at least three spots to his left and one to his right. Why sit in the only chair that had something in front of it?

At the table I tried to make eye contact. However, the guy, who was listening to music, kept his head down. Grabbing the knapsack I looked his way once more, hoping for some kind of acknowledging glance or head nod. Something to at least let him know the bag was mine and I wasn’t an overworked TA or human looking wolf. But his head remained down all the while. There was almost a military-like discipline to it. Again, odd, but I’d been involved in odder. (Not to be confused with an actual otter, as seen below.)

With the knapsack in hand I began walking back to the library. As I distanced myself from the table I checked the contents of the knapsack, just to be sure: peanut butter and jelly, apple, chips. It seemed to all be—wait, where were the Cheez-Its? I checked again, hoping I’d missed something. Peanut butter and jelly, apple, chips… but no Cheez-Its. The Cheez-Its were missing (unfortunately, it hadn’t been 48 hours so I couldn’t file an official report).

Instinctively, I looked back at the table where the knapsack had been and, to my surprise, made eye contact with the guy who had been so reluctant to make eye contact with me. It was just a moment—a quick glance—but the look on his face said it all. He was almost embarrassed. Or, perhaps more accurately, ashamed. And at that moment I knew: he had taken the Cheez-Its. And he knew that I knew. I paused, and then, doing us both a favor, closed the knapsack and continued to walk back to the library.

Pros and Cons of Common Modes of Transportation

Car

Pro: high level of mobility independence and a shelter to snack/sleep/change clothes whenever the moment calls for it.

Con: can often lead to costly mechanical issues and is a real bummer when someone throws a bowling ball through the windshield.

Bus

Pro: cost effective.

Con: a lot of waiting around and mostly responsible for that one night you spent in prison.

Plane

Pro: very efficient way to travel. Twelve hour drives are instead two hour flights and transoceanic passage is a big combination of words that I am happy to have used.

Con: can be quite costly. Also, sleeping on a plane is about as enjoyable as, say, nipple chafing.

1000 ants carrying a chair

Pro: very reliable form of transportation.

Con: they don’t travel to Detroit.

Surfboard (on water)

Pro: cost effective and totally rad.

Con: destinations are limited to the waves you can catch. (I know at least two guys who use this form of transportation to “commute” to work every day. One is a professional surfer and the other has been without a job for the past ten years.)

Surfboard (on land)

Pro: cost effective and kind of rad.

Con: not very efficient and incredibly dangerous on the freeway.

Subway:

Pro: relatively cost effective.

Con: a sandwich shop.

4 Things My Wife Has Made Me Better At

My wife makes me a better person. I know that sounds like something a wife would make a husband say, but it’s the truth, my wife did make me say it. She’s standing over my shoulder.*

Moving along now. I’m not always a very practical person. I think dreams were meant to be chased, no matter how naive or impractical, and money buried in the backyard because banks are not to be trusted. That’s how my brain works. My wife knows that. As such, she does her best, little by little, to make me a more practical, functioning member of society. It’s not easy, but I like to think she has succeeded. At least a little bit. Here are four things—practical things—my wife has made me better at since we first met on that joyous April day almost four years ago.

Paying bills. I like to think I’m pretty good when it comes to money management. And that may be true to a certain extent; I don’t spend a lot. It’s in my nature. For example, whenever my wife is at the store and asks if we need anything, my default answer is always, “NO! NOW GET BACK TO THE HOUSE BEFORE YOU BLOW THE CHEDDARS GIFT CARD TOO!” Even if we desperately need food, or haven’t had any deodorant for two and a half months, I’ll tell her we’re good. We don’t need to be spending that kind of money. However, my affinity for not spending money affects my ability to pay bills. If it were left up to me, most of our bills wouldn’t get paid because they’d be sitting in a drawer somewhere with me assuming it would all work out because my intentions are good and come on everybody let’s be happy. It’s just easier that way. Thankfully, my wife is there to tell me that kind of behavior, however logical to me, is in fact ludicrous. Now pay the freaking bill, Devon.

Making a resume. My wife has helped me get at least two jobs since we’ve been together. Probably more. Some of that is because she’s applied to a few jobs for me—some I knew about and some I didn’t—and filled out the questions entirely. But some of that is also because she’s improved my resume immensely. For perspective, here’s a picture of what my resume looked like before her influence:

Needless to say, I wasn’t getting a lot of callbacks. Now, however, with my wife’s influence, I have a working resume that got me a job and is no longer a picture of a sandwich.

Locating things in obvious places. I have a difficult time finding things. For instance, not too long ago, my wife asked me to get a new trash bag to replace the trash bag we had just removed. No problem, I said. I was already in the kitchen and, according to my wife and TIME magazine, I’m an incredible husband. I looked under the sink and saw no bags. Apparently we were out. I relayed this information to my wife with my deepest regret. Unconvinced, she scurried to my location and looked under the sink. A triumphant smile crept across her face (all husbands know this smile). She then, with a startling amount of satisfaction, pointed out three boxes of trash bags, for a grand total of ninety trash bags. I also lose my keys almost daily. With my wife’s guidance, however, I am making progress.

Plunging toilets. My wife and I have lived together for a few years now. Inevitably, we’ve encountered a few clogged toilets along the way. At this point I’m quite comfortable with the scenario, but pretty terrible with a plunger. I don’t know what it is—poor technique or something in my diet—but it’s not for a lack of effort. For example, during our most recent “incident,” I spent what must have been thirty minutes working on the problem. No luck. Defeated, I told my wife the unfortunate news. We’d have to blow up the toilet. Unconvinced (a reoccurring theme it would appear), she walked into the bathroom and shut the door. Not thirty seconds later I heard a flush. Surely not, I thought. Moments later, however, she exited the bathroom and looked at me, not saying a word, a triumphant smile (and perhaps a touch of pity) across her face. At my request, she has since shown me her plunging technique. I could not be more eager for the next opportunity to prove myself.

*She really does make me a better person and wasn’t standing over my shoulder. That would have been creepy, and probably welcomed.

My Dog is Applying to College, a Father’s Experience

It’s happening. My dog is applying to colleges. Well known colleges. Prestigious colleges. Colleges she has no chance of getting in to because she slacked off a little too much third period.

It feels entirely too soon to be going through this. Just yesterday, it seems, we (my wife and I) were meeting her for the first time. There she was, sitting in the grass outside of PetSmart, a toy fox by her side. We couldn’t have been more excited, and less prepared.

Now, almost two years later, she’s applying for colleges. Sure, she’s just a young teenager. But it’s what you have to do just to stay competitive. Dog colleges, as it turns out, are extremely competitive. Perhaps more so than human colleges, even. For instance, our neighbor’s dog, a young sheltie, is off at her second piano lesson of the day. After that, she’s got advanced ballet, followed by woodworking for people who are already pretty good at woodworking. She’s the only dog in a class full of humans. She’s that good! Rumor has it, she’s even got a paw in the door at Barkvard University. Meanwhile, we (my dog, wife, and I) just mastered the doggie door.

It’s also expensive. I hate to be the dog dad that points out how much his dog’s school could cost, but $20,000 for a year at state? $50,000 for a year at Barkmouth, the school she so desperately wants to go to? It’s a lot to take in. And, if Dad is being honest, it sometimes makes him feel as though that “pleasant little surprise” a couple of years ago may not have been so pleasant. But then, as always, she’ll rest her paw on my foot, or sit patiently by my side, and I’ll forget about the car my wife and I won’t be getting or the vacation we won’t be taking.

Her love for us is unconditional, and ours for her too. So of course we’ll do anything to help her achieve her goals—whether that be mastering the doggie door or applying to college—even if that goal costs the same as a manned mission to the moon. As a matter of fact, we’re working on an application now. She’s writing an essay on why she wants to go to Barkmouth, I’m editing, and my wife is editing my editing because I can be “a bit of a loose cannon” on the page. She flatters me. Anyway, here’s a brief excerpt:

“But most of all, I want to make my parents proud. I know they worry—especially Dad. I know the cost and competitiveness of college probably has him thinking about some joke involving a manned mission to the moon (nice one, Dad). But, deep down, I also know Barkmouth is where I’m supposed to be.”

Smart, funny, and intuitive—it’s clear she takes after Dad.* It’s also clear she’s more grown up than I’d like to admit. Which may be the toughest part about this process. She no longer needs me as much as I’d like to be needed, and in only four short dog years she’ll be packing her bags and heading off to college, wherever that may be.

They say it goes fast. And they’re right. One second you’re holding her in your arms, an eight-week-old puppy slobbering all over you because she’s still a little car sick, and the next she’s writing essays for her college applications. It happens in the blink of an eye. So, as much as I can, I’m going to embrace and cherish the next four dog years. Take too many photos. Play too much. Embarrass her in front of her friends. Give her a few too many treats under the table. Let her pee on as many bushes and fire hydrants as she wants. Because soon she’ll be away at college, and soon I’ll have to take out a second mortgage on the house that I don’t have yet because college is expensive, but parents will pay for it anyway because they love their kids unconditionally.

It’s shameful that colleges take advantage of that (I stand by that, Barkmouth!).

*A later draft of this read: “It’s clear she takes after Mom. Dad’s an idiot, and sleeping on the couch tonight.” My wife had nothing to do with it.

A Letter to My Six-Year-Old Self

Devon,

It’s me. Well, you. From the future.

I know you must have your suspicions. After all, you’re six. You question everything. So allow me to verify my identity by telling you something only you would know: your favorite food. Or should I say, foods?

That’s right. Lasagna and brownies. I know about ‘em both. I also know about that pocket comb you stole from your friend Matt’s house and your secret crush on Krista. I know everything about you, Devon. I’m you. Just a few years older.

How much older? Brace yourself… twenty years.

I know, hard to imagine. Me, you, us, twenty-six-years old. It’s not as old as it sounds, though. Sure, I could be your dad at this point, but, well, man, maybe it is as old as it sounds. Shoot!

Any way, let me get to the point. I’m writing to you for a couple of specific reasons. First, I’d like to tell you a little about the future (without disclosing too much) to calm a few of your apprehensions. I’d also like to help you avoid a couple of potentially embarrassing moments. Nothing terrible, but yeah, it would be cool to avoid some of that stuff.

So, here are 10 things you should know about the future. Listen up!

1. You get a girlfriend. It takes a little while. Maybe a little while longer than some of your friends. But the wait is worth it. (You also get to kiss that girl, which is just as amazing as you think it will be.)

2. You go back to school after you finish school. It sounds insane now, but it’ll make more sense later.

3. Mom and Dad paying the bills and making food and stuff is SO much cooler than you can possibly imagine. Don’t take it for granted.

4. You have most of your hair at twenty-six. A bit more everywhere else, and maybe even one or two gray hairs in your beard, but almost all the head hair is still there.

5. You forget your lunch in third grade and cry about it a little. Try not to do this.

6. In high school, you think it will be cool to wear your clothes a few sizes too big. This is not as cool as you think it is.

7. The corduroy pants you like so much in middle school ARE as cool as you think they are. Despite what other people might say.

8. At twenty-six, Mom and Dad are still the coolest, smartest people you know (along with one other very special lady who shall remain nameless).

9. As it turns out, you really don’t use that much math in the real world.

10. You will always have anxiety and doubts about the future. That’s okay. Continue to be positive and kind and things will generally work out in your favor.

The rest you’ll figure out as you go. Good luck, Devon.

Sincerely,
You

My Childhood Bus Driver Was a Superhero

The first time I missed the school bus I was maybe six or seven. I remember looking through the crack of the front door, seeing the paralyzing image of the bus barreling down the road in the wrong direction. Had I decided to act, maybe run out the front door waving my hands and yelling, like a six or seven year old can, I could have surely flagged it down. But instead I stood there, motionless, unable to move, unable to do anything but watch as the bus crept onward in the wrong direction. I felt helpless, ashamed that I couldn’t have done more. After all, it wasn’t just me that missed the bus because of my cowardice; it was my twin brother, too.

I don’t entirely know why this was such a big deal, but it was. I suppose it had to do with the unfamiliarity of the situation, and the panicky, suffocating feeling it induced. We were kids of routine. We woke up, showered, had breakfast, played in the street while waiting for the bus, and then got on the bus. We didn’t miss the bus. That’s not the type of kids we were. What were we to do now? Inconvenience our Mom for an hour or so and have her gladly take us? Ha! What a ridiculous and rational thought.

With the bus no longer visible I walked outside (atta boy, Devon!), my mind clouded, still in disbelief as to what just happened. This was it. This was where the world stopped spinning and tomorrow never came because that’s how things work at six or seven. Game over, Devon. You blew it. But then something happened.

I like to think it was a sound. The distant rumble of an old, powerful engine. Or maybe it was an image. That familiar flash of yellow streaking through the trees. Or maybe it was some combination of both. I can’t be certain how it happened, exactly, or what I heard or saw, but I can tell you this: the bus was coming back.

Tim, our bus driver, having never before seen us miss the bus, went out of his way that morning to swing by our house one more time. He didn’t have to do that. He already surely waited longer at our stop than most other bus drivers would have. He had other kids to pick up still. He had done his job. Even so, he decided to come back, feeling as though something wasn’t right. Feeling genuinely concerned, it would seem. And because of that, my brother and I were able to hop on the bus that morning, all of our worries and feelings of apprehension completely put to rest. The world would continue to spin. At least for another day.

I’ll never forget it. But Tim, I’m sure he doesn’t remember. Because, to him, there was nothing to remember. Just another day blurred amongst the many, where he simply went out and did his job. And that’s the thing about Tim—about other people, too—that I greatly admire: how he went about his job every single day, caring, doing his best.

Tim was amazing at his job because he showed up everyday, and did it to the best of his ability. He cared about the work he was doing, and about the kids he was driving. It was easy to see. Was driving a bus full of kids his dream job? Maybe. Maybe not. But you couldn’t tell if it wasn’t, and that’s what made Tim the bus driver he was.

It’s hard to do. And maybe a littler harder when your job isn’t your “dream job”. Maybe what you’re really passionate about is what you do when you get home. And that’s great. I’m all for that. I do that. But sometimes that means the work you’re supposed to be doing at your “day job” takes a backseat. Just show up, clock in, clock out, do as little as you have to to get by, leave, and get paid. It’s the easy thing to do. I’ve been guilty of it before. I don’t like when I do it, but it’s an honest truth.

But there’s something to be said about someone who genuinely cares about the work they are doing each and every day, and the people they are doing it for—regardless of profession. It makes a difference. It makes a difference in the product you’re making or serving, and the experience of the people who are ultimately affected by it.

There’s this guy who works at the Walgreens I frequent. I don’t know his name, but every time I see him working the counter he’s exuding positivity, welcoming customers, engaging in conversations—caring; doing his best. And every time I leave after having seen him I feel better about my day. That’s the type of pride and character a person is supposed to have in their job. Something Tim had.

I haven’t seen Tim in over a decade now, but the positive impact he had on my life remains the same. He eased the transition of going to two new schools, and meeting new kids, that much easier. Seeing Tim behind the wheel every day during those years was comforting, because at the end of the day, I knew he’d always do his best to do what was best for me. But then again, that’s just what superheroes do.

9 Things You Don’t Want to Hear From the Person Cutting Your Hair

1. So we agreed that you WERE okay with the big chunk off the top?

2. It’s not what we talked about, but I think you’re still going to like it.

3. Eh, I think we’ll go ahead and go with my idea instead.

4. Did you know this is my first haircut? I didn’t go to school for it or anything, either. In fact, I don’t even work here. My sister does. But she’s sick for the day and asked me to fill in. Cool, right?

5. I’m sooo mad at him. Can you believe he did that? Drove his car into a light pole. Yeah, he’s totally fine. Walked away without a scratch. But the car—HA!—it’s totaled. It’s not even a good story. Like he was running away from the cops or anything. He was just texting. How unoriginal is that? It is kinda sweet that he was texting me, but he’s still got a long way to go before he’s out of the dog house. Maybe he can take me to that new Mexican place on the corner of Jefferson and Greene? Have you been there yet? My friend Debbie says the tamales are TO DIE FOR. Like she literally said she’d probably die for them. At least take a bullet to the leg. That’s how good they are. They also have dollar taco and beer night on Tuesday. What a deal, right? I mean, seven dollars and you’re out the door with a taco and six beers. Hard to beat. Oh, look at me. I’m rambling and cutting again. HA! I ended up taking quite a bit off. That’s what we talked about, right? Or did you just sit down? Don’t worry, it’ll grow back.

6. Alright sweetie, that’ll be $75 (for a male haircut that took ten minutes).

7. Thanks for giving me a chance, man. The last guy I cut ended up pretty disappointed and actually cried a little on the way out.

8. You know what the worst part about cutting hair is? Making conversation with the clients. Oh—no offense, though.

9. Whoops.

There’s Nothing Quite Like a Family Canoe Trip

I stood there, knee-deep in the middle of the river, as I watched our canoe float around the bend and into the distance, my buddy swimming after it. Not able to do much else, I untwisted the cap and finished the rest of my beer.

We had met at my parents’ house earlier that morning—my Mom, Dad, buddy, fiancee, and I. It was my Mom’s birthday. She wanted to go floating. So we packed up the cars and drove a couple of hours south to the Buffalo River. A river I had floated plenty growing up, but one I hadn’t been to in a few years.

We spent the first half of our float playing canoe/kayak-hot-potato. When we shoved off it was my fiancee, myself, and our dog in one canoe, my parents and their dog in another, and my buddy in the lone kayak. At the time of our incident, though, my Mom was in the kayak, my fiancee was in the other canoe with my Dad and parents’ dog, and my buddy, my dog, and I were in the canoe I began in. It was all rather intricate, and could probably be outlined nicely in a science-y way by somebody at MIT. But, unfortunately, you’re left with me.

It looked harmless. Just another set of small rapids. Maybe a little quicker than the last, but nothing serious. Nothing to think too much about. We’d just do what we always did and we’d be fine: aim for the V, paddle as though we were well informed, and let Mother Nature do the rest. Except, on this particular occasion, Mother Nature had decided to place a medium sized tree in the middle of the river.

By the time we realized what was happening it was too late. With about fifteen to twenty feet between us and the tree, at the complete and utter mercy of the current, my buddy laughed and said, “Oh shit.” Some fifteen to twenty feet later we toppled over.

Under water, I flailed my arms, trying desperately to figure out which way was up. As the current pulled me along, a rock on the bottom of the river raked my hamstring, tearing my swimsuit in the process. I didn’t care, though. All I wanted at that moment was to break the surface of the water. The image of the fallen tree—a strainer, one of the most dangerous things on a river—consumed my thoughts. Sure, it wasn’t very deep and the water wasn’t super strong, but it was enough to be dangerous.

Moments later I felt a strong resistance. I couldn’t quite place it. Was it the tree? A limb, perhaps? Or something else? As I rose to break the surface of the water, I saw my buddy, holding on to the fallen tree with one hand, pulling me in with the other.

I grabbed hold of the tree, steadying myself, and looked to my other side to see my dog, Denver, standing on the same tree, just feet away. She looked calm. As if she had been there for a while. Almost as if she had been there before, on a previous holiday, perhaps, where she ate too much caviar and read the latest issue of Time. I felt my heart warm with pride.

That feeling soon passed, though, as I looked down the river to see our canoe, and everything we had in it, floating joyously down the river. With time against us, we quickly came up with a plan: my buddy would take off down the river in pursuit of the canoe, and I would stay behind with Denver and escort her to safety. It made the most sense. I was the stronger stay-behind-on-the-tree guy.

From our perch on the fallen tree, Denver and I watched as my buddy ran across a shallow part of the river, only to dive back in headfirst at the next convenient location. Returning my attention to Denver, I grabbed her by the life jacket (fearful of her first river experience, my fiancee and I had purchased it the night before) and let the current take the two of us down stream. We floated harmlessly to an area of the river where I could stand without much effort. From there, Denver swam to shore with ease, and I stood up to realize my footwear had been lost in the crash.

Perfect.

With my mobility greatly hampered, I watched my buddy continue around the bend as a distant spectator. It was only a matter of moments now before he caught up with the canoe. Who knew what would be lost in the crash, but at least we’d have our river transportation.

As he disappeared out of sight, my attention was drawn to a rather surprising image. My beer. Still in the koozie hanging around my neck. I couldn’t help but chuckle—my swimsuit had been ripped, my sandals taken by the river, my hat, too, and yet, the beer remained. Untouched. Feeling as though it was the right thing to do—perhaps the only thing to do—I untwisted the cap and drank the rest of it.

This story would go on to have a happy ending. Thanks to my buddy’s efforts, but mostly thanks to a nice gentleman around the bend who had grabbed almost all of our stuff, not to mention a heroic effort from my Mom, we didn’t lose a single item in the crash. Before we could thank him, however, he took off and disappeared in to the wilderness, where he would almost surely help a family of squirrels build a 2,000 ft home, free of charge.

While the fall might have been the most noteworthy, or story worthy, thing to happen on our float, the trip was much more than just that. I’d like to talk about that stuff now. The stuff that really made our trip.

-June Bug antics. June Bug is my parents’ dog. While they drove a car to our end point, establishing our own shuttle system, June spent the majority of her time trying to sneak in to a strangers running car. Something she succeeded at more than once.

-Skipping rocks. No matter how old I get, skipping rocks is one of the first things I do after arriving at the river. I love everything about it. The search for the best rock. The sight of the rock dancing on the surface of the water. The unloading of the car I’m missing out on because I’m skipping rocks and not hauling a heavy cooler across the river bank.

-Pretty scenery. I love the mountains, but the river isn’t too far behind. The sand bars, the trees, the cliffs (The Buffalo River is fantastic for this), the stillness of the undisturbed water—it’s both peaceful and beautiful. And here’s the best part: on the river, you get to experience that over and over again. With each curvature of the river, and bend that you go around, you enjoy a new stretch of river. Sure, it’s most likely similar to what you were just on, but it’s unknown, unexperienced as of yet. Like unwrapping a present.

-Swinging/jumping off things. Because it’s not a proper float trip without at least one rope swing or rock jump. On this particular occasion, we were lucky enough to have one of each.

-Dad using an excessive amount of sunscreen. My Dad is an always prepared, well organized, do it by the book kind of guy. Need a stamp? He’s got it. On a road trip? He’s locked in at two over. Stranded in a remote part of the world and have no cell phone reception? He’s got a map of the place, and an inflatable house with water and food and a nice little back yard pool. And, if you’re on the river, he’ll have plenty of sunscreen for you, and also on his body.

-Bald eagle. We saw the same bald eagle at two different times on the river. Up close, you realize how impressive the creature is. Seeing it soar down the river, the Ozark hills and mountains as the backdrop, was a sight to see.

-Seeing my dog play in the river for the first time. This was Denver’s first river experience. Having never been on a river before, let alone swam in water, I—we (my fiancee and I)—were a bit nervous as to how she would respond. Concerns, however, that were quickly put at ease. From the moment we arrived, she was in the water, splashing, swimming, playing fetch, generally having the time of her life.

-My fiancee forgetting a change of clothing, AND her swimsuit. As a result, she spent the majority of the float in her underwear, and I spent the trip home without a shirt.

-Seeing my Mom in a kayak and canoe, in her element, happy, being active and physically fit. My Mom is the ultimate adventurer—constantly running, doing yoga, hiking, traveling, taking part in mud runs and adventure races. She’s an inspiration to anybody who wants to live an active, adventurous, healthy lifestyle. Seeing her out on the river again reminded me of this, and how cool it is.

Getting Older With Childhood Friends

Like a lot of people, I moved back to my hometown after college. Money was simply coming in faster than I could keep up with. I even had to open up a number of offshore accounts just to get some of it off my hands. So it only made sense to bunk up with my parents for a bit. Any way, it’s been a few years since then and I’m still here, in my hometown. (Living on my own now because money has slowed to a manageable rate!)

I didn’t necessarily plan it that way, but that’s how it has played out. Facts are facts. And while it’s not all great, there are a few pretty cool things about spending some adult years in a place where I grew up. Among them being the ability to reconnect with childhood friends (and meeting an incredible, kind-hearted, talented, funny, smart, smarter than you, and by you I mean me, pretty little lady who would become your fiance; and by your I mean my).

Some people may think that sounds terrible. Seeing people from your past. From your younger days when you may have been a different person, may have done some regrettable things, may have stolen your buddies super cool pocket comb which you still feel pretty guilty about. And sure, there are those people who, if you see, make you hide in the Chick-fil-A play-place for an hour and a half, because apparently that’s how long it takes to eat a chicken salad. But, if you’re lucky, there are a handful of childhood friends who really were your good friends. And who you really do enjoy seeing.

For example, I play in a soccer league once a week—have for most of the time I’ve been back in my hometown—with a good majority of the team being guys I grew up with. It’s something I always look forward to. Some of that’s because it feels good to run around playing a sport I enjoy playing, and being competitive, and thinking differently than I do most of the week. But it’s also because it’s fun spending time with a bunch of buddies—joking, telling stories, talking about life.

These are people I played hide n’ seek with. People I played backyard soccer and baseball and football with. People I chased after girls with (or at least talked about girls with; girls are intimidating, man). People I looked up to and emulated. People I learned about life with, if only just a little bit. Now those same people are getting married, buying houses, and having kids. And I’m seeing it first hand. Which is pretty crazy, considering some of these people I wouldn’t have trusted to keep my pet rock alive (if I had a pet rock, cause I definitely didn’t, and its name wasn’t Tim). But now they’re great parents and productive members of the community.

That’s also not to say living in one’s hometown is better than not living in one’s hometown. There’s something to be said about meeting new people, with different insights and perspectives and upbringings; exploring unknown landscapes, giving you a glimpse into the world outside of your bubble—however big or small that may be. Perhaps even finding a place that feels more like home than any other place you’ve been before. I think it sounds incredibly exciting, and I’ve always been intrigued by the adventure it would offer. The two are just different.

Is living in my hometown what I expected at this stage in my life? Probably not. I’m not sure what I did expect—maybe to have a little place in the south of France, and another in the Swiss Alps, and another in the mountains of Colorado, and maybe a place in Milan too, probably another one in South America somewhere as well, like Peru or Chile, and who could forget Australia! (However, I’d probably be too busy romping around the world, living for week’s at a time in a remote part of Africa learning about the origin of life, or skiing the best mountains the world has to offer, or riding a motorcycle across Europe, or entertaining high profile guests to some tasty dinners in my New York and Tokyo high rise apartments, to spend too much time at any given place, so maybe I’d just Airbnb?), but it’s where I find myself now. And, as luck would have it, it’s turned in to a unique opportunity. One I’m glad to have had, and to be having now. However long it may last.

A Letter From a Dying Member of the American Community

Things used to be different. They used to be great. I used to be great; spending days bumbling through neighborhoods and cities, past pedestrians and buildings with a certain dignity and respect. I was admired then. I meant something THEN. I even remember spending afternoons and long weekends on the dazzling Route-66. How I can see her shimmer in the summer light now. Man, we had fun. Those days, however, those memories—well, they’re just that. Memories. Distant memories.

It’s a different world now. It’s not the world I knew growing up. Definitely not the world my parents knew. It’s busier now. Less personable. People eat alone in their cars, not having the time, or desire, it seems, to do anything else. And when they do have time, they spend it on these weird hand held devices that look like a contact book without any pages. Always scrolling and tapping away. I guess it’s no surprise they don’t have use for an old fogey like me.

Who am I? Isn’t it obvious? I’m Stick Shift (manual transmission, if you like). One lonely old stick shift, left to sit with its thoughts in the middle of Who-Knows, Michigan. Fun fact: it’s cold here this time of year. It’s always cold.

While I’m just one, potentially deranged, stick shift, I think I speak for my brothers and sisters when I say: go fly a kite, automatic transmissions. Seriously, just take the day, or the rest of your life, and go fly a kite. Preferably next to a dangerously steep and slippery hill. I mean, thanks to you guys, a good majority of us, including myself, have been forgotten like last week’s newspaper. Or worse, like that can of old Catnip that’s been sitting next to me for the past five years.

When automatics first started appearing on the road I thought it was cute. Sure, it was a pretty terrible concept for a car, but they added a certain something. Something that I have yet to figure out, but something nonetheless. Then, slowly, automatics began to take over. Stick shifts everywhere were being passed over at dealerships, without so much as a test drive, for this new, weird, grotesque smelling, automatic.

I assured myself it was just a fad. Give people some time to figure out how tremendously terrible the car was—is—and things would go back to normal. But they didn’t… They didn’t. Things got worse. Like a bad virus, automatics continued to dot the landscape. And then the unthinkable happened. They began replacing stick shifts.

I remember the first time I saw it. Billy, a 1992 Honda Civic. Oh sweet Billy. My neighbor, and best friend of seven years. We spent many evenings talking about the finer things in life, sharing our dreams, fears, hopes. Many gallons of oil were had together, and then… one day… Billy was gone. And in his place? A shiny, filthy, automatic.

Billy of course wasn’t the only one. The rest of my neighborhood was soon replaced, myself included. I tried to care when it happened, but seeing Billy go like that, I didn’t have anything left inside of me to give. It didn’t help that my owner savagely sent me to a pick-n-pull, where strangers came and went, taking every thing I had, literally leaving me with nothing left inside. But I meant that emotionally, too.

Sure, there are still stick shifts out there. A lucky few, enjoying the open road, the concrete beneath their wheels. It seems as though they’ve been able to put off the inevitable, if only for a short while longer. Their day will surely soon come. Their world as they know it will be ripped out from under them like a novice magician ripping a table cloth out from underneath restaurant goers. I hope to all get out I’m wrong, but I can’t help but feel I’m right.

So for now, and the foreseeable future, I’ll be here. In the middle of Who-Knows, Michigan, next to an old can of Catnip, watching things unfold—hoping for the best, expecting the worst, and longing deeply for England.