2011

Just walk away

I’ve been thinking (and talking) a bit about my last post – the “don’t buy new stuff, get rid of old stuff” one. Mostly about the getting rid of stuff part because I still haven’t fully unpacked from my last move. To be fair, I moved into a much larger place and was able to get everything I had out of storage, and I’ve been traveling for most of the time since the move, but still – there is stuff in boxes.

A lot of the stuff I have is stuff I don’t want. It’s stuff I’ve tried unsuccessfully to sell or thought I knew of someone I should give it to. I’ve even told people they can have stuff for free, and yet, it’s still here, still in boxes. Giving things away is hard. It requires planning and scheduling. It’s a real pain in the ass honestly. I kept thinking that I was doing the right thing by holding on to stuff for other people or hoping to get back 20-30% of what I paid for an item a few years previously but I wasn’t. I was just enabling things to pile up.

So my current feeling is as I’m going through this, and I find something I’m deciding not to keep, that stuff is just gone. If I think it might be useful for someone else I’m putting it in a stack to take around the corner to donate to the neighborhood thrift store. If I think it likely isn’t useful for anyone else, I’m putting it in the trash. I need to just walk away from it all.

I also need to come up with some clear rules about what makes something useful to me or not and I need to do this before I start sorting. On an individual level I can justify keeping anything, but painting with big strokes I can write off half of it. I need to make some hard and fast rules that apply to the real word. I can’t foresee a situation where I’m going to need more than 1 week worth of t-shirts, so there’s no need for me to keep more than 7. Likewise, how many pair of black pants do I actually need? There was a time when I had 2 pair of shoes -every day ones and nicer ones. Now I have like, hell, 7 or 8 pair? That’s just stupid.

Anyway, I’ll keep chewing through my thoughts here, and as I solidify the rules I’m making for myself I’ll detail them as well. And hopefully I’ll begin documenting the stuff I’m parting with soon.

Progression through unowning

A few years ago I was singing all kinds of minimialist anthems and preaching the gospel of less stuff on a regular basis. Since then I’ve had a kid, traveled a little less and moved into a bigger house. I was able to get rid of my storage space in that process but the result is much of that stuff is around here and I’m feeling the clutter again. I recently realized that I have so many t-shirts that if they are all clean at once they don’t fit in my t-shirt drawer.

This is no good.

So for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of a plan of attack. And now I think I have one.

I’m not buying any stuff in 2012.

That’s a over simplified soundbite of course, but it’s to make a point. There are obvious exceptions, and clarifications that need to be made. I didn’t say I’m not buying “anything” nor did I say I’m not spending money, I said I’m not buying stuff.

Food, rent, bills, consumables, responsibilities, travel, experiences – these things are not included.

If something breaks and needs to be replaced, that doesn’t count.

If the iPhone 5 comes out, that doesn’t count.

My new place has a lot of wall space and I’ve been really happy to hang up a bunch of my art collection that I haven’t been able to for a while, so I reserve the right to go to art openings, and if so inspired and budget allows – support the arts buy buying some art.

No matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, there’s a high likelihood that I’ll buy an 11″ macbook air in the next 12 months. Call this a preempted slip up.

I really really really really need a nice 35mm lens for my leica, if I find a deal I’ll likely jump on it.

I’ve got a growing kid who needs new stuff all the time, so purchases for him don’t count.

Objects that I need or am using for work (like Safecast radiation monitors and things) don’t count.

There may be some others, but really that’s my plan.

In addition to limiting the intake, I need to get rid of things. And I want to document that too. I was thinking I should do something weekly, but I don’t know if I can really pull that off. I can do monthly for sure, but maybe I should aim for a post on the 1st and 15th of each month documenting what I’ve gotten rid of, and how well I’ve been able to stick to not getting new things.

I expect to slip up from time to time. I’m impulsive and obsessive about objects so that may get the better of me from time to time, but I’m going to try and I’ll be honest about how well I do so in the long run you’ll be my judge.

12 months is a long time, but I think that’s what it’s got to be if it’s going to actually make an impact in my life. It can’t be just a one off yard sale get rid of things and then forget it tomorrow kind of deal. So we’ll see. Anyone want to try it with me?

Bye Steve

My first computer was a Macintosh 512.

I say “my” because even though it was really the family computer, I was the one on it all the time. This was late 1984 and while had Apple IIe’s at my school, the Macintosh was obviously the thing to have at home. I mean, I had one, right? I had friends with random incarnations of PCs but they seemed so blah. My Mac was cool. I was 9 or 10 at the time and somehow got a subscription to Macword and I’d rip out the full page photos of Macs and put them on my wall. There was a 5-6 panel fold out cover one time that I kept for years before there were finally more push pin holes than paper on the edges and it found it’s way to the trash. This was a few years before I progressed to ripping pages out of Thrasher for the same purpose and without question is where I developed my object lust. I could stare at those beige boxes for hours imagining all the exciting banners I could great with Print Shop on that sweet monochromatic display.

Years later a college era room mate, Jon Resh, would use an almost identical Mac Plus to make a perforated paper dot matrix banner for his room that read “Someday you will die, live hard now” which without knowing it would foreshadow many of Steve Jobs later comments about remembering that you won’t be here forever, and the importance of making the most of your life – and living it for yourself and your terms. His words stuck with me then, and resonated with me often. I knew he was right, even if it was a scary thing. You can’t live your own life and be happy without believing in yourself, and I always knew that’s what Steve was trying to tell us all to do. If we just believed in ourselves, we could do anything.

I can’t even speculate how many Macintosh products I’ve owned. I can’t even speculate how much better my life has been because I had access to those products. The first Mac I ever bought myself was a Macintosh LC. I bought it shortly after moving to Gainesville for college, and lived off pepsi and sunflower seeds for months to afford it. It was totally worth it. I’d like to say it changed my world, but the truth is my world had already been unquestionably changed because of these computers. There were only 2 computer laps on the University of Florida campus that had Macs and in the many months between when I moved out of my mothers house and bought that LC, I spent more hours than I’ll ever be comfortable admitting bouncing between those two labs. Between talking to people all over the world on #IRC and the newly released mosaic browser which allowed me to see content on literally *hundreds* of pages on the world wide web, there was a lot to keep up with. Also, since I wasn’t technically a student I could only hang out in each lab for a few hours until the SysOps would notice. But I was already a diehard at that point.

I saw someone mention yesterday that everything they’ve ever created that they were proud of was made using tools Steve Jobs had a hand in making. I thought about it and there’s no question thats true for me as well. With the exception of 4 jobs I held in my early employment carrer, Dishwasher, Grocery Store stocker, video store clerk and pizza delivery guy every single thing I’ve done professionally, for my self and my own companies or for others has involved Macs heavily. Every logo I’ve ever designed has been with the help of a Mac, and the very first logo I ever made, the first logo for my record company blatantly swiped clip art that came with our family Mac.

Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles in 2001 the iPod was released. I’d just been laid off from Playboy but I didn’t give a shit, I knew this thing was going to change my world and I bought the original 5MB version the day it was released. I still have it and it was every bit as revolutionary as I knew it would be. The thing I probably heard most in 2002 was “I hope you have stock in that company because you are selling more of those iPods by constantly talking about than any ad campaign could.” I didn’t have stock, but it wasn’t about money. It was about the future.

Through all of this, Steve Jobs has been like a constant beacon of hope. I’ve always been able to count on him, and I trusted him. I never met the man and I don’t think I ever had the opportunity, but like a dear friend who you don’t always agree with, I knew he wanted the best for me and I trusted the direction he lead me in. Dropping SCSI caused me weeks of headache at the company I worked at, but I knew it was the right move. SCSI sucked and my life would be better without it, even if it hurt to walk away. Same with floppy drives and CDS. Lots of people have vision, few people have the dedication and commitment to that vision to inspire others. Steve did, and I didn’t even realize until yesterday how important he was to me.

Over the years I’ve gone from watching his keynotes on baited breath, dying to find out what he’ll announce next, to having a pretty good idea what is coming out and not needing to see it live because I trust that I’ll know about it in a few hours and it will be every bit as awesome I as assume it will be. Because for better or worse, if something isn’t awesome Apple won’t release it. Steve wouldn’t let that happen. He was dependable and even when he took his first leave from Apple for medical reasons I never suspected he wouldn’t be around tomorrow. I mean, people get sick, and sometimes those people die, but we’re talking about Steve Jobs here. Right? I couldn’t imagine a world without him.

Earlier this year when he stepped down for real, I convinced myself that he’d done what he needed to do and was going out on top. He’d started a company, survived getting kicked out of it only to come back and rescue it from sure death and turn it into one of the most successful companies ever. How do you top that? I told myself he had accomplished his goals and was ready to move on to the next thing, and even when I read his letter saying he was stepping down for medical reasons, I downplayed it.

Hearing that he died yesterday hit me so much harder than I could have imagined. I’m getting choked up writing this right now and it’s been a full day. I’ve had friends and family die and it hasn’t impacted me this much. I feel like a idiot saying that, how could this guy who I never even met mean that much to me? I really don’t know, but as I looked around my house and saw his influence in every corner, and as I read the stories from his friends and people who had interacted with him I couldn’t help, and can’t help thinking that we, all of us, lost something so much more than just one person yesterday. This isn’t some fanboy shit either, I have a pretty strong distaste for celebrity on all levels but this one person had such a huge impact in my life, for so much of my life, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit how much I’m going to miss him.

Right now in my living room there is a Macintosh 512 on a pedestal. It’s not the one I had as a child, but I hunted for years to get one just like it. The model 128 that came out before it is “worth” more, but this one means more to me personally. I’ve had it displayed for years, not because it’s useful on any technological level, but because it’s inspiration of how far an idea can go when you really believe in it. How far you can go when you really believe in yourself. And how doing that today is of paramount importance.

Thank you Steve, thanks for everything.

I wouldn’t be who I am today without you.

Bits and Pieces – Wonderful

I was introduced to punk rock in 1987 while attending Cistercian Prep School in Dallas, Texas. Actually it was a year or two earlier that I’d gotten my first taste of it thanks to a Skate Rock compilation produced by Thrasher Magazine. I just didn’t realize it was an actual genre of music so much as something scary to freak out the grown ups. I mean, when a magazine with a monthly column called “skarfing material” (that was really just a collection of snack recipes calling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches “bloody guts and vomit bread” ) released a collection of bands with names like Suicidal Tendencies and Red Hot Chili Peppers, it had to be a joke right?

Bits and Pieces – Big Truck

The first Hot Water Music tour was as DIY as it gets. I feel confident saying that because I booked it myself, mostly through contacts I’d made either through selling records or hanging out on #punk on irc. Also, we didn’t even have a single vehicle big enough for everything we had to bring so ended up in a convoy consisting of a small van and a pickup truck. The pickup was the lifesaver because not only could we put the amps in the back, but if you were riding in the back you could actually lay down flat and stretch your legs out straight which was something you couldn’t do in the van because it was just too small. In reality we probably could have all crammed into the van, but our friend Canaan had just bought the pickup truck and volunteered to join us on the tour as part driver part roadie and we all liked him so there was really no reason to say no.

Yes that’s right, on the first Hot Water Music tour we spent many an hour sleeping in the back of a pickup truck while it was speeding down a highway somewhere along the east coast. That’s an awesome story in and of itself, but this gets even better.

We’d left town almost immediately following a show in Atlanta because we needed to be in Hot Springs, Arkansas the following evening. I admit when booking the tour I paid more attention to making sure our route was a continuous loop starting and ending in Gainesville with little or no doubling back on itself and less on how far individual shows were from each other. It was the first tour I booked, what can I say.

Bits and Pieces – It all starts somewhere

The first business I ever recall being involved in was probably around 1979 while I was attending the Burgundy Farm Country Day School just outside of Washington DC. I was in Kindergarten. Burgundy Farm is a “progressive independent” school on a former dairy farm that had classrooms actually built inside renovated barns. To a kid my age this place was kind of a wonderland. The classes were held inside, but with all the doors and windows open it seemed like outside, and everything we learned pulled art and creativity into it somehow. There were farm animals and a stream running through the campus where we often found crayfish and I distinctly remember once building a fort out of fallen leaves and sticks that you could climb inside of – it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life. Us kids used to get bused in from miles around in our parents hope of us getting our first prep for the real world. If we were lucky the bus driver would stop at a 7-11 during one leg of the trip and we’d rush in like sex starved sailors at port to buy whatever candy we could afford. My favorite thing to buy was this mini hamburger shaped thing that was actually bubblegum.

In unrelated events, this was also the time of my life when I was convinced I was a robot pulling a big scam on everyone else around me who thought I was just a normal little boy. I confided this in one of my classmates once who responded by telling me he was an alien but I could tell he was a big fat liar.

Bits and Pieces – One night in [bang] Cork (pt.2)

Continued from part 1

I looked back and said “I think that was it back there…”

“Yeah, I’m just looking for a place to pull over.”

Usually a comforting thing to hear except when the street is full open parking spots you are being driven right past. This was the worst excuse ever.

“I can just jump out at this light, no problem” I said.

“Don’t be silly, I’ll get you there” she replied and kept driving. Driving away from the hotel. About four blocks away she made a left and started driving up a hill “Since we’re over here I just want to show you something” and kept driving up the hill, away from my hotel. Half of me was trying to figure this out, perhaps there was a good view from somewhere on this hill, maybe there was some area of the city that a traveler might never see? The other half of me was quietly freaking the fuck out and knowing that something was very wrong and getting worse by the minute.