And a wonderful life it is

Being a charter member of the Hopelessly Single club, the Holidays were supposed to be a reminder of what I don’t have. Holiday parties have to depress me. Spending hours alone in my car should be a conduit for thoughts of loneliness. I’m supposed to look out my window at the holiday decorations, look around my empty place and wish that I had someone there with me to celebrate the season.

Yet for a variety of reasons here I am, three days from Christmas and a little over a week from New Years, and I can’t remember a time in my adult life when I was ever happier.

The realization came Sunday after I’d returned home from a getaway weekend with a lot of family and friends. I was exhausted from the travel, the lack of sleep and the damage I’d done to my body with all the eating and drinking. But I started a fire in the living room, plopped myself down on a couch and thought about how lucky I was.

I love my job. It’s not perfect and maybe it’s not ideal in some ways, but for someone with my skills and background it’s an incredible situation. I went from a struggling agency to a successful international company that had real use for me. I’ll be working here for a very long time.

It took a couple years, but I’ve come to love Eau Claire. So much so I don’t know if I’d want to live anywhere else in Wisconsin or Minnesota. Recently voted one of the 100 best places to live in the US by CNN, I can’t really argue. At 66,000 people, it’s certainly not small. The local universities ensure there’s always going to be entertainment for the younger crowd. The golfing is amazing. There are lakes and rivers and bike trails all over the place. We’ve got a Northwoods team that brings in a great crowd during the summer. The music scene is remarkable. Phoenix Park on any given Thursday is a great place to catch a couple bands. The bars range from dive to chill to sports to classy to dance club to places you can catch a good band. What EC doesn’t have in fine dining it makes up for in mom and pop joints that make for ideal meet-ups after a night of drinking or during the week when you need a good meal with good people over lunch. The housing market is great and affordable. It’s about the perfect place to raise a family.

But mostly, what has endured me most to EC is what it doesn’t have. Crime. Traffic. Ridiculous prices. The feeling that no matter where you are you’re always invading someone else’s space. I love that if I have to take a cab home it’s a five minute ride instead of thirty. I like that after going to a bar or restaurant or grocery store or golf course a few times they remember your name, who you are and treat you like a friend.

I’ve known the above for the last few months. It is important. But what really drove home the realization that my life was so great came this weekend. I was sitting a table with my brother and his girlfriend, my sister, my cousin Adam and his wife. We were playing a drinking game, telling stories and making each other howl with laughter. Here I was, sitting with some of the people I’m closest to in the world, and it hit me that each of them is local.

The four people I grew up with are my brother and sister, and my cousins Bobby and Adam. I moved often but they were the constants in my life. Now they’re all living in the same area as me, available at the drop of a hat. Through them I’ve met other awesome people, too. My brother calls me he wants to go golfing. My sister stops by to watch the Packers. Bobby and Whitney like to get drinks on the weekends. The Katies insist I come along when they need a happy hour or a big breakfast at Chucks. Now we’re adding Adam and his wife to our clan.

I’ve known some amazing women and had a few very special relationships. But when I look back at the times I’ve been the most happy, they involve a great group of friends more than anything else. My senior year(s) in college with my housemates and neighbors. My second year at Footlocker with my coworkers. Back then I knew none of that would last for one reason or another. It couldn’t. This is the first time I can look around at the people I love spending time with and believe there’s some staying power. These are people like me who are looking to make a life, put down some roots and stick around for a long time.

The thought that I might have this kind of company for a long time does nothing but make me thankful for the kind of life I’ve got.

The more things change

I’m a digital pack-rat. I don’t delete anything unless it’s easily replaceable. Movies, mp3s, software…sure. Text documents, artwork, college projects, emails, work related items…that stuff I keep around.

There’s nothing sinister involved. I’m not doing it because I think I could use it against anyone at some point down the line. Most of the time I’m not even consciously saving these relics. Google and Apple do a great job ensuring that I’ll always have a copy of whatever I need whether I like it or not.

No, I have an email inbox of 22,000 because I love reflection. I have AOL instant messages and G-chat conversations from 2003 because I love looking back.

My mom has told me that if the house was ever on fire the first thing she would run to save (assuming her family was outside and safe) would be her extensive photo albums. I can relate. When I was a junior in college my house was broken into and my laptop was stolen. I didn’t give a shit about the computer itself. What broke my heart were the emails and IMs and blogs I’d written that I didn’t have anymore. My thoughts and reflections that I’d taken the time to make note of were gone. They dated back to my junior year in high school. Even worse, they were in the possession of someone who had no business reading them. What was stolen was my version of my mom’s photo albums.

I like photos as much as the next person, but nothing will bring you back as much as the written word will. I thought about that tonight when doing some work. I needed the log-in information for an application I was going to be training an intern on tomorrow. I searched my extensive e-mail inbox for what I needed and in the search results I came upon an email from an ex-girlfriend that was dated back in 2007. I read it and was immediately brought back to where I was when her and I were together. I read it and smiled. I liked the memory so much I found the rest of the emails from her and read on.

I started at the very beginning. I read the awkward tiptoeing around our first hook-up and planning our next scandalous meet. I read the emails in which we talked about our date nights. I even read the most boring and mundane relationshippy stuff you get from couples who have long forgotten how to be interesting.

I kept an eye on the dates. I’d long forgotten when we broke up and lot of the small details, but the words on the screen told the story. Even as awful as some of it is, reading what was going on brings me back like it was yesterday.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00_5HFEtV5s]

God, I was such a fucking asshole.

I wasn’t a dick. Not really. I just didn’t handle the breakup that well. Hell, I was the one who broke up with her. But nothing that happened after the breakup was good and unfortunately I’ve got typed documentation that proves it. Tonight I couldn’t even read what I’d written. It’s brutal.

If I still had my old laptop that was ripped off I’d have some embarrassing discussions from bad breakups past. Is it a theme? Probably.

Putting your every thought in a document is great for reflection. I wouldn’t trade these conversations for anything. But when you look back and see yourself behaving like the antithesis of everything you consider yourself to be, it’s the text version of car-wreck.

And I sorta love it.

My attempt at normalcy

You know what incites change? The stark realization that what you’re doing is fucking retarded.

For example, say you live in a town and all of your friends live a minimum of 15 highway driving minutes away. And none of the bars you and your friends like to hit up are within walking distance. And one night you find yourself on the cold concrete of a jail cell because after a year’s worth of drunk driving, you finally got caught.

Perhaps that’s when you look across the cell, stare into the eyes of the meth-head you hope doesn’t strike up a conversation and think to yourself, “Hey, maybe this drunk driving thing is a pretty dumb idea”.

That might incite some much needed change.

But that’s the way it goes in my life. I can go on fucking up my life until something happens that makes me realize I’ve got to change my ways. Sometimes the law gets involved. Other times it’s humiliation. Maybe it’s shame.

But it works. In any instance where I decided I needed to change, I did and never looked back.

Take last night for example. I was laying awake at 2:30 when I got a text from a friend, “After-bar. My house. Now.”

Normal people would have ignored the text. Hell, normal people wouldn’t have seen the text because normal people are asleep. But I was dressed and out the door in two minutes. Why? Who the hell knows. Maybe I wanted to drink. It could have been because I wanted to get laid. Maybe I just wanted to be around people.

But as I walked home at 4:45 am in sub-zero temperatures, two and a half hours before I should be waking up, one thought permeated my brain, “What the fuck am I doing?”

It wasn’t just the after-bar. It was the staying up incredibly late at night. It was operating on 5 hours of sleep during the week for the past 8 years. It was the night-caps I’d rationalize because, hey, the males in my family all did it when I was growing up.

So, what the hell, now’s as good a time as any for change. It’ll be my toughest test yet, but from now I’m on I’m going to make a conscious effort to get in bed before 11:30. I’m gonna try and get seven hours of sleep. I’m even gonna try and forget about using alcohol as my signal that the day is over. I’m gonna try and be normal.

SI Author Takes Not So Subtle Jab At Blogger Who Says He’s Not Really A Blogger

Murray Chass, former New York Times baseball writer, hates bloggers, which is sorta ironic considering he himself is one.

I’ve never spent much time reading his stuff, particularly because he seems to represent the old school baseball line of thinking that is slowly being killed by advanced stats and young blood being interjected into the industry.

The only time he ever pops up on my radar is when he fucks up or annoys the blogosphere, which happened recently when he published a load of erroneous shit.

Verducci responded in a beautiful way.

Number of times he refers to Murray Chass as the dreaded “B-Word” in the brief piece? Seven. Seven times Verducci drives the knife in and gives it a good ol’ twist.

Well done.