A Kansan and kawaii.

Still battling jet lag following a 10-day Asian adventure, I find myself reflecting on food, what it means to be an American and the art of communication—specifically advertising and signage.

Living in a time in the US where sponsored messages are dominated by attempts to project realness, Japan offered a world of cute cartoon characters (kawaii) posing as brand icons and spokespeople. Here’s a quick overview of what I saw…

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One thing.

It’s hard to be human without occasionally contemplating fate, luck and circumstance. Once the day has begun, thousands of possibilities take form. It’s the domino effect of life. And the unpredictable outcomes of our attempts to live an interesting existence.

Now imagine if the one errant factor in an otherwise routine day is your electricity and gas—the magical source of light, warm water and the Internet. Suddenly the plot thickens (and people can get very stinky). Many would freak out and leave the landlord profanity-filled messages. Others might book a hotel room or make plans to stay with friends. And some—the somewhat easy-going few—might grab a bottle of wine and a chunk of cheese from the lukewarm refrigerator and sit on the deck while assessing the situation.

We went with option 3 when our modern world went dark last week. It turned out to be a really memorable evening. No dinner making. No Netflixing. No lightbulbs. Just life, love and a few basic necessities.

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The fuzz.

Digging down through the layers of what used to be. So many hoops. Such a goddamn circus. Chasing one thing and leaving another behind. Memories burn, but the place is someone else’s reality now.

Restless people leave a path. A trail of impressions. Smiles and farewells. You don’t always feel different—but everything has changed.

Grandpa still smiles in pictures but he’s long gone.

And all the girls I’ve loved before love someone else tonight. But I still feel it all. I remember the music that was playing. The smell in the air. The context and the underlying complexity.

Life reinvents itself as it should. We make messes of things. We have good intentions and bad ideas simultaneously. Contradictions packed in confirmations. So we push. And morph. And make new plans that would surprise our old ideas. That send previous selves into tailspins.

My talent is recognizing that I have very little. My area of expertise is being an amateur. My specialty if floating from one experience to the next yearning for something just out of reach. But so close.

Today I live in place I barely knew two years ago. Where entire streets bring back good memories. And steep corners take me to emotional roller coaster realities that have faded into the fuzz.

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Modern man.

I’ve spent the better part of my adult life working in an industry that thrives on the notion that buying things is the only way to stay relevant. Don’t get me wrong—it’s not that some brands of pasta aren’t better than others, or that the latest business management software won’t make running your hipster coffee shop easier—but we operate on the principle that every product you interact with says something about who you are. From internet security to luxury cars, your reputation is on the line.

All this noise was running through my head a few weeks back when I passed a stretch of jewelry stores in my hometown. The windows were filled with sparkles next to tiny signs that referenced a range of financing plans available. Show your love with debt that’ll follow you for the next 20 years! Talk about romance.

But try as we may, few of us are immune to the slight buzz that follows buying new things. As a matter of fact, my lady friend and I get each other gifts all the time. Last week, I went nuts and picked up three packs of Mrs. Grossman’s brand stickers and Sunday she came home with a $2 pack of cucumber seeds to be plant in the backyard. Now as things continue to move in the right direction, and everyone keeps asking when we’ll seal the deal, I can only hope that whatever THE ring lacks in diamonds and debt can be offset with smiles and stickers.

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Backyard bouquet.

My Midwestern upbringing taught me that counting on the beauty of outdoor plants can be a forecast for disappointment. With surprise snowstorms as late as May and the possibility of 100-degree temps in early April, flowers may pop but they rarely stick around for long.

So you can imagine my shock when the wild vegetation that’s overtaken our Oakland quarter-acre produced roses. Lots and lots of roses. Here are a few snapshots. While they’re nothing special in terms of photography, they’re meant to be a bright spot in bad news stream that’s dominated most computer screens for the last few months. Use accordingly.

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Living and learning here and there.

I’ve been called all sorts of things in my life. Most names aren’t appropriate for this family-friendly collection of funny thoughts, but “restless” is one that stands out among the many cuss words.

I never took offense. For me, restless is the polar opposite of the repulsive alternative—stagnant. So I’ve spent the years early rising, overbooking and cleaning things with the precision of a meth-addict. The worst of this tendency appears on weekends where agendas are carefully calculated for maximum joy and efficiency. Ten whiskey shots on Saturday means a ten-mile bike ride on Sunday morning. The theory is, essentially, that it all balances out as long as there’s a motivational blueprint.

And then this past Sunday snuck up on me. The fridge was stocked. The house and car were clean. And no plans were made.

The question was asked, “What do you want to do today?”

I thought it over for a second as rays of sunshine lit up the bedroom and birds chirped outside. I had a crazy idea. An unexpected answer that felt funny on the tip of my tongue.

“Nothing. Let’s just hang out…maybe barbecue some chicken legs.”

And so it was. Things were nice, not epic. Now I have big plans for this coming weekend. The first order of business? No business at all.

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