Take inventory.

Breaking up has inspired creative expression since the beginning of mankind. The seemingly endless supply of poetry, music and books dedicated to heartache and misery are persistent reminders that this special form of disappointment can be debilitating.

As creatures built to survive, we have good reasons to avoid the whole messy situation if at all possible. So when my relationship of 15 years started to take a sharp turn toward a steep cliff, she and I made a deliberate effort to avoid the ugliness of an emotional disaster and work through the issues as best we could. Now, years later, we’ve gotten to that spot where dinner at a restaurant is a plan to look forward to, but visits to the apartment can still be slightly uncomfortable.

Some of what was formerly “our” stuff is now officially my stuff, there are lots of pictures around of me and my new lady and my housekeeping immediately goes under the microscope. When my ex walks in, there’s an undeniable evaluation process going on as she strolls around trying to figure out how my new life works.

This is basically how everything was going down when she stopped by last week. No problem. And then I felt a slight churn in my guts. A familiar sensation, but somewhat inconvenient considering the circumstances.

“Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” I said, feeling slightly embarrassed as I headed down the hall to the restroom.

A minute later I discovered that we were completely out of toilet paper. Of all the times to fail at meeting the most basic expectations of the world, I’d found one of the most sensitive. I’d made reservations. I’d swept. I’d walked the dog. A candle was burning and the laundry was done. But I’d managed to overlook one basic requirement of modern man.

I came up with a quick solution (not worth going into)—and wound up telling her the  story after dinner as we strolled down the sidewalk near the neighborhood Walgreens. We laughed about the whole thing and for at least ten minutes or so we were just two people, without any baggage, making poop jokes. An unpleasant and somehow perfect end to the evening.

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Second story.

We paid the rent early this month to make a good impression on the new landlord. All the utilities are covered. No one is after me for anything that I can think of. I’m sitting on the second story of a temperature-controlled, luxury bus on its way to a campus full of friendly faces and free food. It all seems damn near perfect.

Then I spot the first desperate homeless person of the day. Using the sidewalk as a bed and the trashcan nearby as a pantry, I wonder where he came from and how it all came to this.

Right on cue, a parade of Uber commuters come into sight. Each cheap four-door sedan is the same—the passengers are elbow-to-elbow in the backseat staring at their phones while the driver silently dodges other Uber drivers’ angry maneuvers. It seems someone is always getting screwed in our “sharing” economy.

And the scene wouldn’t be complete without a swath of tourists aiming their sparkling new iPhones toward a row of palm trees planted along the Embarcadero. Each of them tries to capture the Instagram shot that will define their time away from home. Their time in a place where the homeless are part of the landscape, Ubers outnumber daily drivers, and a lucky guy sits on the second story of a fancy bus and watches it all unfold.  

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Nice Shot: Full circle edition

'59 Ford'49 Merc'59 Wagon

If I weren’t some idiot trying to make the best of life in the middle of the city, I’d be happy to own any one of these Craigslist cars.

After a brake job, of course. And a new set of tires. And possibly a new gas tank. And maybe a rebuilt carburetor or two. Also some new wiring.

Then I’d be ready to go!

But where?

The roads are full of assholes. And the way people drive these days, I really prefer walking. Which is how I wound up living in the middle of the city in the first place.

I guess that settles it?

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The process.

If there’s one thing you can count on in life, it’s process. Even in our restless world of instant gratification, there are the inevitable terms and conditions, download times and numerous tiny buttons that lead to tiny progress bars that eventually lead to tiny conclusions in the great scheme of other processes.

The reality of trying to buy a couch has made the step-by-step stress of our modern life more apparent than ever before. A high-class problem no doubt, but valid all the same. There’s an overwhelming array of colors, configurations and questionable availability. In stock. Out of stock. Strange notes and warnings with every click. You can’t see anything in store, but please read all the robotic reviews. Chat with an operator who will simply copy and paste the answers you’ve already read on the website as replies. Allow 30 days for fabric harvesting. Ask about our white glove furniture delivery—only available in Oklahoma and Virginia. Please be prepared to be disappointed (all sales final).

So, for now, I sit at the 70’s desk chair I picked up for free next to the dumpster at Salvation Army almost 20 years ago. I didn’t choose the fabric, the style or have it delivered. I tossed it in the trunk of my ‘68 Impala and its been with me since. It was a process for sure, but a fairly simple one.

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Two Midwesterners walk into a bar.

Our neighborhood is almost as dog friendly as it is people friendly. Which means we don’t have to stay home to spend an evening with Woody. This leads to all sorts of local adventures involving food, drink and light-hearted socialization. This is how we met Jeff.

An older, distinguished individual wearing a corduroy sport coat, Jeff first got acquainted with Woody. I shared the brief saga of the purebred black lab abandoned at the pound in Missouri and the conversation lead to various personal stories on both sides of the table. It wasn’t long until we discovered we were both Midwestern transplants who fell in love with San Francisco. Then we transitioned into what-do-you-do-for-a-living part of the talk and discovered that we’d both relocated to pursue copywriting gigs. At that point, we were both obviously delighted by the fact that even with over 30 years difference in age, we’d had such similar experiences.

There was a pause in the conversation as we checked in with our respective tables. Then Jeff leaned forward as if he had a secret to share. He lowered his voice slightly.

“But you know what really shocked me the most when I moved to San Francisco…,” he asked with a slight grin.

A million things ran through my head as I considered my own experience.

“…every single apartment I looked at, there were NO screens on the windows, I couldn’t believe I’d moved to a place where there were no mosquitos coming in! It was amazing.”

And that’s when I knew I’d crossed paths with a true Midwesterner with a genuine appreciation for how special this place really is.

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All that for this: A haiku of sorts on modern professionalism

Shoulder to shoulder on a packed bus headed for the suburbs. Someone keeps farting. The traffic is thick, but moving. I got out of bed at 5:30 to make a 9 AM meeting and I’m still going to be late. 

I think back to parent teacher conferences in grade school when my folks learned I was starting to mouth off as I explored the social benefits of being a showoff. I needed more discipline.

And how seriously the public school administrators reacted when I get suspended for a fist fight in the library. It seemed I had an irrevocable, one-way ticket to a life of crime.

I consider all the homework mapped out on endless sheets of notebook paper. At least a hundred thousand long hours of useless memorization of facts and figures that’ve been long gone for years. All for a good grade in an insignificant class, happening during a random semester of a mostly forgettable education. I was on the right track. 

There were college majors, minors and 3×3 areas of focus. So many over priced textbooks that often went unread. Office hours, credit hours and syllabi that rarely amounted to more than just another small step forward. It looked like I’d overcome the predictions. 

All that for this.

It looks like I’m going to make my 9 AM meeting.

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