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  • Remain Open

    I just had a wonderful, genuine conversation with a homeless man walking down 24th Street. He had bright, long fiery hair and a bushy beard to match (yes, I'm sure he wasn't what everyone just calls a hipster). He engaged me by telling me he has the same pair of headphones I did and that he likes to call them the cloudhoppers because of their size.

    "Everyone wore that style in the 80s," he remembered. He went on to talk about how everyone has tiny eardbuds now and how he once lent some of those to a friend who ended up getting the rubber covering lodged in her ear and surgically removed. "Well, not surgically, but she had to go to the doctor and have them tweezed out," he corrected himself. "They asked me if I wanted the piece back and I said yeah, those are my earbuds!" I could only laugh.

    I reached my destination and we parted, wishing each other the best possible rest of the day. If I'm honest, I was thinking about what random people thought of me talking to this guy. I hate myself for thinking that. It reminded me to make the effort to be open. So often we assume the worst about a stranger. They want something from me, they want to hurt me or are just a waste of time. But why must all our interactions be worth our time (whatever that means)? Why does everything need to be productive?

    He didn't once ask me for anything and I suppose I let the conversation unfold because maybe he needed to talk to another human being. I just can't help but feel that, fuck dude, maybe I needed that conversation as much as he did.

  • Half of the time

    Half of the time I feel broke, cracked, peeled and weathered
    Half of the time I feel shiny and new
    Half of the time I feel I'm clever
    And half of the time I just haven't a clue...

    I was listening to Wheat this week and remembered just how much I relate to this track. It's what being alive is like and I wouldn't have it any other way.

     

  • I'll show you mine if you show me yours

    Systems are a really great way to make things happen. For the past few years I've shunned them, mainly to rebel against routine and revel in spontaneity. If I'm honest though, much of my success has come from well-executed systems.

    The earliest thing that comes to mind are the personal systems I devised for studying in school. I didn't call them systems. They were just things I tried that worked well for me. In eighth grade English class we had monthly vocabulary tests. To study, I divided a sheet of paper into two columns. The words went on the left side, definitions on the right. I would review this sheet of paper until I could recite each definition by looking at the word AND tell you the word simply by looking at the definition. This technique left me more than adequately prepared and somehow I was the only student that aced every vocab test that year. Just about the only thing I didn't anticipate was my teacher embarrassing me at lunch one day by bringing me a cake and balloons to celebrate my achievement in front of half the school. Shout out to Mrs. Evanson for doing something really nice that I didn't appreciate at the time.

    Anyways, the point is that this system allowed me to flourish (and that I'm way cooler today than I was in junior high). You can use them for personal finance, athletics, really just about anything. They are sometimes tedious by nature, but what I've realized is that you can choose to think of them as enablers instead of boring, repetitive tasks. And there's a certain creativity involved in designing them. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find successful individuals in creative fields that don't use any.

    If you are still having trouble justifying their use, think of systems as assistants. Once you've got one in place, they become fairly automatically and free up your energy for what you enjoy doing most. You probably shouldn’t call them systems either. That’s boring.

    Got one to share? I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

  • But do you really care?

    I have many friends posting online about issues I *think* they care about. Net neutrality, police brutality, domestic violence, feminism. I give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s a great place to get conversation started, but what’s appalling to me is how the supposedly open-minded bully anyone that dares to disagree.

    Often it seems, that if someone disagrees with the statement or article, they are publicly shouted down by others, or more likely, a sea of likes for a clever retort intended to humiliate and annihilate, rather than have a civilized conversation. I know there are situations where a dissenter says something foul or disturbing. I am often there shaking my head with you, wondering how someone could have such a complete dearth of empathy.

    But we can be better than that. While getting defensive is a perfectly normal human reaction to values and beliefs being challenged, it’s often just serving the purpose of making us feel good about ourselves. If all we care about is winning a conversation, it looks like we don’t really care at all. Great, maybe we made someone less likely to vocalize their opinion online, but it doesn’t change how they feel about anything. It looks like we are shrouding our self interests in social issues for a upstanding public image. That’s really negative of me to say, but I believe there’s some truth in that. 

    Here are some alternative options. I encourage you to share more if you have them.

    • Instead of attacking someone’s beliefs, seek to understand them. Restate what you think they are trying to say in your own words and ask them if that’s what they meant. This shows you are making an effort to listen to them and makes it far more likely that a productive discussion ensues. You may also find out there are many things you do agree upon.

    • Remember your intention. I think that most people mean well and would like the result of them speaking out be that things actually change. They just have an ineffective approach.

    • Don’t shame. It’s perhaps one of the worst ways to evoke change. If it was any good, we’d barely have any obesity or environmental problems. If your intention is to create positive change, ask whether there are more persuasive ways.

    • Ask yourself what others really care about. Not everyone is going to care about things for the same reasons you do. If someone just cares about making money, don’t pitch them about about being greener for Gaia. Are there economic reasons why they should care? Focus on what matters to them. There are often great reasons for any person (however different) to get behind a cause.

    • Avoid should-ing. Should is so preachy that it often has the opposite effect. Here’s an example. Instead of saying that all men should be feminists, one could explain how they define the word and why you might want to (there’s lots of reasons).

    • Take some action. If you really care, you’ll find a way, however small. It’s okay to not be able to rectify all the world’s problems, but you aren’t doing much behind the screen. 

    I’m a fan of having these conversations in person whenever possible. Maybe they are happening in your social circles (and just not mine), but I feel like we’re only having these debates online. My friends constantly posting never talk about these issues in my company. Maybe they just don’t want to be a buzzkill or get too serious in social settings, but really, it’s okay. I like to hear about anything good friends are passionate about. Face time is really important because you can pick up on so many cues through tone, eye contact and body language. In my experience people are less likely to go bat shit crazy and we communicate in a much more meaningful, lasting way. Wouldn’t you say it’s worth a shot? What we’re doing right now isn’t working very well.

  • Now I know how gentrification feels

    For some people it’s a favorite bar or restaurant closing down that irks them about gentrification. For me, it’s Hamburger Eyes being forced out of their space that made it personal. 

    Hamburger Eyes is one of my favorite things about San Francisco. If you’re not familiar with these dudes, they are analog street photographers and zine publishers who once rented out studios and darkroom space to other artists and photographers. Their gritty, humorous photography is something that I always thought mirrored San Francisco’s personality - well, at least up until the last few years. I get more excited about new zines from them than any computer or phone app could ever make me.

    Situated in graffiti-laced Lilac Alley, it may not look like much from the outside, but I always felt way more comfortable in their humble space of unfinished floors, music equipment and random alien paraphernalia than fancy, nice offices with all the kombucha and coconut water I can drink.

    I know that San Francisco has historically been a city in flux and always about making a fortune, but I hate to see neighborhood assets turned out this way. I don’t know who is taking over the space, but it pained me to see a suit park his Beamer inside the garage.

    Artists can and will prevail, even if they are evicted from the places they made special. I have no doubt Ray Potes and crew will continue to keep creating and find new opportunities to thrive. It’s just defeating to think this capitalist cycle is the way things are and have seemingly no control over it.

    You know, sometimes I feel like a modern day Robin Hood, albeit not as glorious and I’m not stealing from anyone. I take the money I earn from tech corporations and spend it supporting the people I believe any chance I can. Maybe that’s all one can do. It still sucks though.