State of the Dread: July 2018

I usually have projects going on a few fronts, and am trying not to spread myself too thin. When I was setting annual goals in January, I wanted to have a book out by now, but some other demands have landed on my lap and taken priority. Nevertheless, here’s what I’m up to:

ART: I have a commission on deck that I haven’t been working on because of my day job and other stuff. Once this other stuff (see “career” below) is taken care off, that’s the next big thing. Keep an eye on my instagram, @GrahamBeRad.

WRITING: So hey, good news! When the “Ready Set Write” folks on YouTube read one of my pages, I was unknowingly entered into a monthly contest to get a five-page critique, and I won! So I have them looking at the first five pages of a different project.

I’m attending Lisa Mangum’s writing retreat at Capitol Reef next month too, which gets me another five page critique, so I’m having her look at different pages of the same project, due out in November. This book will also have an audio part, narrated by yours truly. #FridayFighters

FITNESS: Not as explosive as it was in 2012 when I trained for a mud run back then, but I’m determined to keep it up even after my Spartan Race this month. Once again, outside life has been derailed by my…

CAREER: I’m still studying to make a position change at work. I’ve failed the test twice and I really want to pass it on the next attempt. But even if I were to pass it like, TOMORROW, I am sure I would still have to be a trucker for a little while because of some jobs the company has going. Nevertheless, passing the test will free up my time and energy for drawing, writing, and gettin’ dem gainz.

 

 

Ten Years On

It’s been a great two days at Fyrecon so far. I’ve done one presentation and five panels so far, with two more panels and another class tomorrow. Things are humming right along.

Tonight I’m decompressing in my living room, thinking back to where I was in 2008. I was on my own for the first time in earnest. Renting a bedroom in a rundown house in Provo, with intermittent utilities, friends out of town, a dating life that was deader than Nixon, and too many bills to pay for how much money I was making.

My happiness came from three things: reading, writing, and lifting weights with the only two guys I knew who didn’t go out to sell Comcast that summer.

Stuff broke. My car. My A/C. My hopes and dreams for grades and girlfriends. By summer’s end I would abandon my college track and embrace the working life whole-hog. I occasionally snuck out of the house to go for a run by myself, but mostly I juggled jobs while trying to make ends meet.

I worked for APX Alarm. Life was that rough.

In the spirit of counting one’s blessings, today I am really damn well off. And I need to keep that in mind when I start focusing too much on where I’m failing.

I haven’t yet passed that test at work. I spend most of the time driving the worst of the big trucks we have. I hate my dispatcher. Cash always seems to be short.

But.

I have Schaara. We have a house. We have two boys who are crazy, but we love them. I make a decent living and soon I will make an even better one. I’m presenting at writing conferences. I have readers! I have books out! I finally bench pressed 250 this year!

So here I sit, on my couch in my living room, listening to my generally quiet neighborhood, but for the passing cars every now and then, and the chirping crickets who are desperate to get it on.

My life is blessed, my prayers have been answered, and though my ambitions live on, I am content.

Story time: I’m not as bold as I used to be.

One time, I called up a girl that I knew had a crush on me, and told her she shouldn’t marry a guy she had just gotten engaged to. It was the right thing to do and yet I would never do it again.

Last week, a friend gave me a motorcycle. Just up and gave it to me. Awesome. It took a little convincing for my wife to welcome it into our home, but she’s warming up to the idea.

Frankly I don’t blame her for being hesitant. She wasn’t in my life when I had my accident in 2009, but she’s heard the stories, seen the pictures, seen my scars get lighter over the years. She was with me when I went through PT in 2012 because I hadn’t gotten proper treatment three years prior. It lingers.

(And my accident wasn’t even that bad–hell, you could call it lucky, considering I was wearing board shorts, a T-shirt, and no helmet. But I digress.)

As I sat on my new Chinese steel horse in my garage, I thought back to the last time I owned a motorcycle, in 2007. I had bought it off of my older brother. It was the bike I learned to ride on, a ’92 Honda Nighthawk 250.

Great size for a novice rider. Plenty of power, but not so much that it would overwhelm you if you didn’t know what you were doing.

When I got that bike in 2007, my life was very different. I was 23, single, working full-time, in college part-time, still living at home and helping my mom with a few bills here and there. My parents’ divorce had just finalized and she was still on meds/chemo/radiation from her cancer treatments. I had a lot going on in my life and pretty much all of it was great, truth be told.

I had a lot of really great friends, too. And if I may be so bold, I was even kind of popular with the ladies in the circles where I ran. I went on a lot of dates but didn’t bother getting serious with anyone, since I planned to go to school out of state later on.

This particular story centers on a girl, we’ll call her Michelle, who I’d known for a year or so, friend-of-a-friend situation. Our mutual friend had dropped a hint or two that Michelle was into me, which I thought was pretty cool, even though I didn’t see us getting together. Major confidence builder, knowing that a girl likes you.

A few things about Michelle: she worked hard and supported herself, even at the young age of 21. She had to. She had a daughter. The daughter’s father was in the picture, but not with Michelle. It happens. No judgment from me, I’d dated girls with kids before.

Still, I knew I wasn’t going to get involved with Michelle, and I had to be careful when groups of us hung out, because I didn’t want to give her the impression I would go after her. Our lives weren’t on the same path.

Then she started showing up to group hangouts with another guy, and there was talk of an engagement on the horizon. I thought that was cool, good for her. She wanted to be married and have a family, all that stuff, and it looked like it was finally happening!

This is where the boldness comes in.

After a few hangouts with the group, and some observations I made, I got the feeling this wouldn’t end well for Michelle. The guy wasn’t necessarily bad news, he was just…well, there’s “settling for what you want,” and then there’s something three floors beneath that, and that’s what Michelle was going to anchor herself to for the rest of her life.

As I went about my life, working, studying, going to school, it kept swimming around in my head. Michelle is going to marry a deadbeat guy. Her life is hard enough without attaching herself to this, and maybe she thinks it will fix her problems, but it won’t.

I prayed about it, I thought over it, and got it into my head that I needed to tell her she shouldn’t do it.

I tried to talk myself out of it, to analyze the consequences and stuff, of what it might do to her if I said that to her. In the end I weighed the cost and the outcome, and decided it was better if I said something to her, if it would have a positive effect on her.

So one day, after I left work and rode my old motorcycle to school (heeeeeey it finally came into the story), I stopped in the parking lot, shut it off, and started to head inside. Then I stopped. I took my helmet off, locked it to the bike, and called up our Mutual Friend to get Michelle’s number.

Mutual Friend knew what I was up to, and had my back. So I called Michelle. I still don’t remember everything I said, only that I prefaced it with a lot of things, and it boiled down to “You might think you want this, but you can do a lot better for yourself, and it would be better for you to find that.”

It didn’t scare me to say that, it just made me really nervous, and I was worried even then that I had done the wrong thing.

Fortunately, to my relief, Michelle was grateful that I had called, and even better, she told me she had already broken off the engagement. She knew she was walking into the wrong situation, even though she really wanted to be married. Big sigh.

We still hung out in groups, and things were great after that. We even went to see Stardust that summer, and had a good time of it. It made me glad to see that she had taken control of her life and her daughter’s life, and to this day she is still an excellent mother, providing for her family mostly on her own.

The point of this story, as I think back to it now, is that I doubt I would be that bold today. And I mean even if I wasn’t a married man with my own kids. I just wouldn’t jump into a peer’s business like that, knowing they might get the wrong idea about my intentions.

I wonder why it is. Maybe cynicism? Maybe I have enough of my own problems? Is it self-interest? Do I lack sufficient altruism? It could be a degree of apathy. As I’ve gotten older, I know that I care less and less for my fellow man in the abstract.

I’ll help a stranger, I’ll help a friend, and yet I find myself remaining distant from a lot of, I don’t know, emotional complications. I find myself thinking that people should reap their own consequences, and they should, but shouldn’t I also care a little more? Reach out more? Give good advice, even if someone won’t like it?

You think that you get smarter as you get older. Me, well, I’ve gotten more information, but I think the last ten years have added to my confusion, not my wisdom. Hell if I know.

Maybe if a friend was going to make a damaging decision like that, I would still say something. I hope I would. Guess we’ll know when it happens.

I just know that there was a time when I would have done it without question. Even if I had to talk myself into it.

I’m getting older, there’s no stopping that. But I can decide if I get better or worse as a friend. Food for thought.

Thoughts on Mind-Reading

cap detention

 

It was oddly difficult to title this post, because I know what I want to say, I just don’t know how to sum it all up in a one-liner. Here goes:

I have a theory about the impact of social media on our interactions with each other: Twitter and Facebook are the closest thing we have to actual telepathy, where we get raw, brutal insights into the minds of those around us, oftentimes whether we want to or not.

To illustrate the net result of this, I give you an anime parable from the Japanese cartoon Kino’s JourneyKino is a young girl who rides around on a talking motorcycle called Hermes, going from fictional country to fictional country, never spending more than three days in the same spot.

Image result for kino's journey

Each episode of the cartoon (available on Amazon) had a fairy tale quality to it, and Kino learned lessons from the various places she traveled. I found it quite touching and insightful, as any good fairy tale would be.

The pilot episode has hung with me for a few years. Kino arrives in a country where everybody is in hiding and nobody leaves their homes to talk to each other. She visits a man in his home and learns that everyone in town drank a potion that would give them telepathy. The idea was that if everyone understood each other’s thoughts, it would create harmony.

Instead, it drove everyone apart, and nobody could stand each other. Even the man and his wife split up, despite loving each other deeply before the potion. He was a musician and she was a florist, but neither of them could stand each other’s trade by the time the telepathy had taken full effect.

Now everyone lived so far apart that they wouldn’t have to hear each other’s thoughts. As tragic as that was, Kino noticed when she left the man’s house that he had maintained the flowers out front, the flowers planted by his wife.

Down the road, Kino passed another house occupied by the wife, and she heard classical music coming from inside.

The takeaway for me was this:

  • There’s a reason our innermost thoughts are known only to us and God. Part of the human experience is to decide what to say, what to think, and what to keep to ourselves, especially in consideration of others. This burden is heavier than we think, and we ignore it at our own peril.
  • People leave their mark on us in one way or another, especially the ones we love the most. Those closest to us can push our buttons in ways that others can’t, but we take people as the sum of their parts.
  • Love (specifically) and society (broadly) is about living together in spite of the things we might not like about each other, because we value the things we do like about each other.

I’m writing about this tonight after an experience I had yesterday, where somebody shared an opinion on Twitter that grated hard against my values. (Shocking, right.) This person was also an artist, working in a different medium than I do, but I am a fan of their work.

I’m sure they felt very passionately about what they said. They might have even been coming from a genuinely good place. My instinct was to assume otherwise, to the point of feeling like they were directly attacking my belief system, and by extension, me.

When I sat down to update my journal for the evening, I chastised myself for thinking that way, and recalled Kino’s journey to the country of nationalized telepaths.

This wasn’t the first time I had had such an interaction with a fellow artist. I myself am on the “conservatarian” side of the spectrum, while a lot of other artists fall on the left side of the grid.

What good would I be doing them if I got so angry at their Tweets or blog posts that I cut them out of my life? Not just stopped following them on social media, but tossed out their books or albums or movies?

I used to follow a bunch of authors and artists whose work I loved (and still do.) But most of them, at one point or another, spouted off ideas that I found philosophically wrong or politically ignorant. Often in today’s climate you’ll see people attach their dislike of an artist’s work to a dislike of the artist’s values, whether or not those values are reflected in that work.

And I think back to Kino. I think back to a nation full of people living so far apart from one another that they have no interpersonal connections, no communication, because they can’t stand each other…and yet they miss each other.

People will spout off on the Internet with things that they would mostly never say in real life to a random stranger. (There are exceptions, we’ve all met one.) I don’t blame Twitter or Tumblr or anything for this; a person’s words are the property of that person. They alone are answerable for it.

I’ve had to unfriend very few people for espousing really, really offensive beliefs (including cutting out a couple of friends in 2016 who I found out were…pretty proud racists, actually.)

Other times, if I run into a fellow artist who starts spitting political fire all over their platform, my policy is just to mute or unfollow (if it’s bad enough), and continue to enjoy their work. I don’t have to be a florist to enjoy flowers, or a composer to enjoy music.

What I’m trying to say with all of this is that social media connects us to each other in ways never before seen in human history. Maybe the rampant, staggering division is an unforeseen consequence (I doubt it) but we can still choose to be better. To be kinder. To listen to each other. And to share the best things about us with each other, patiently, and considerately.

I hope all of this made sense. Online, you’re pretty close to reading someone’s mind. Remember that everyone is imperfect, like you, and that before we completely cut anyone out, let’s remember the good parts about them in the first place.

That’s all for now. Get back to work.

Mother Knows Best (How To Get You In Trouble)

Once, when I was 18, my mom insisted that I wear a sweater to a girl’s house. The sweater had a bad double-entendre on it.

Story time:

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In 2002, my older brother went to serve an LDS mission to Italy. He left his ’92 Honda Nighthawk 250 at our house. Our vehicular situation required me to learn how to ride, and I quickly fell in love with motorcycles.

My parents, being the safety ninnies that they were, wanted me to “be careful” on the bike, whatever that meant…well anyway, in those days I usually spent Saturday nights hanging out with my friend Rachael, who lived on the edge of town.

As I was gearing up to ride the bike out to her neighborhood, my parents complained that I was wearing dark clothing (cargo nylons, a hoodie, a backpack) and would not be immediately visible to motorists on the dark roads in Henderson.

I informed them that I wasn’t wearing dark clothing, but rather really cool-looking clothing which enhanced my aesthetic appeal, a key factor when I was going to Rachael’s house, because I liked to hit on her sister.

There was some back-and-forth, but my parents insisted that I wear a light-colored sweater for the ride. I didn’t have one. Dad dug one out of his drawer, a sun-worn old white sweatshirt that was older than I was. It had a logo on it. And a slogan. I read the slogan.

And I quickly realized something.

Flashback time: my parents owned a print shop when I was a baby. It was called “Graphic Insanity.” My dad probably thought it was cool and edgy to put a slogan on the sweater that…had more than one meaning. I remembered seeing the sweater when I was five or six, before I had the frame of reference to understand.

Flash forward to 2002, when I was 18, after spending my formative years in the Las Vegas valley, and suddenly I understood what “printers do it without wrinkling the sheets” meant.

In my own constructive way, I indicated to my mom that this was a problem. There may have been a subtle charge of hypocrisy leveled against her and my dad (e.g., “you filthy hypocrites”) when I put it all together. Nevertheless, they again insisted on the sweatshirt. For visibility, or whatever. Never mind that the motorcycle had, like, LIGHTS  on it, and stuff.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that Rachael’s dad was a CSI agent, so my very conservative, very Mormon parents were basically ordering me to put on a shirt with a sex joke before riding a motorcycle to the house of a girl with a cop father.

Understandably, I put my original hoodie in my backpack, donned the dirty sex sweater, rode the motorcycle down the road, changed into the original hoodie, and went to Rachael’s house for the evening as planned.

It simply occurred to me that there were better ways to die, thus, I acted accordingly.

Besides, I had already used up my extra grace capital with Rachael’s dad earlier that year, when I knocked on his door at 1AM because my truck had died while I was trying to drop an old car in the desert near his house, and I needed to use his phone.

But that’s a story for another day.

Remembering Edwin Jackson

 

Aside from Nick Foles winning Super Bowl MVP honors over the New England Evil Empire, there was news in the NFL yesterday, of a more tragic sort. Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson was killed by a drunk driver on the I-70.

It’s been heartwarming to see the condolences pour out of Indy and the League at large. Anyone who knew this man had great things to say about him. He was humble and cared about his community. People were his people. He took care of his family, and his mom especially played a huge role in getting him into the NFL.

His nickname was Pound Cake. For a guy in his position, you might think it’s because he hits hard, and while that was certainly true, the real story is more moving than that. He had a meeting with the Arizona Cardinals after going undrafted in 2016. Unfortunately he missed his plane from Georgia, so the staff was waiting for him in Glendale, staying late on their own time, only to find out he wasn’t coming.

So he called his brother, who told him to call his mom. His agent rescheduled the flight, and his mom made a ton of home-baked southern pound cakes, fresh and boxed warm, for Edwin to take to Arizona. When the coaches hinted that they wanted compensation for their wasted time, Edwin gave them the cakes, and all was forgiven. From then on, he was the pound cake guy. (Full story here, at IndyStar.)

He didn’t land a roster spot in Arizona, but the Colts picked him up in the offseason, and he ended up being a bright spot on an otherwise anemic and uninspiring defense. He was set to be a player for a while in Indy, until he was tragically taken by a motorist who was in the US illegally, driving without a license (illegally), and drunk (illegally.)

A scofflaw ignored three rules that should have protected people on the road, the biggest of these being that he was intoxicated, and in an instant, he robbed a mother of her son, a family of their brother, a team of their friend, and a legion of fans of an admirable player. The loss to his family is severe, and the loss to the community is tragic. Nobody deserves this, and yes, it’s even harder to bear when the person lost was kind, humble, and charitable.

I keep thinking back to Zurlon Tipton, another former Colt who passed away in 2016 (though under drastically different circumstances.) Both Zurlon and Edwin were 26 at the time of their deaths. Far, far too young to be gone. I got married at 26. The biggest moments of my life hadn’t even happened to me yet.

My condolences, my thoughts, and my prayers go out to the Jackson family. I know that that doesn’t alleviate anything. It doesn’t give them their son back. The best I can do is offer that, and remember the good example that Edwin Jackson set.

As a final note, Edwin Jackson’s preferred charity was Hope For Justice, an organization that fights human trafficking and modern-day slavery. A couple of fellow Colts fans at r/Colts have made donations in Edwin’s name, to the tune of $53 (his jersey number.) I’ll be joining them when I get paid on Friday.

Drive safe, drive sober, you guys. It’s never worth it.

Rest well, Pound Cake. Colts Nation misses you already.

 

Attention as Currency

There is no creation without destruction, and the cost might not be immediately obvious.

 

Let’s talk about the digital age.

 

Allergic to Studying
Allergic to studying…and Spanish pollen…

 

I am not the academic or scholastic type. I hated school. I barely passed and didn’t put much effort in. I was there to chill with friends, and because I had to be there. You want an enthusiastic student, talk to Dr. Bradley.

 

From 2003-2005, that had to change. I spent two years in Spain as a Mormon missionary, and my job was to serve and teach. Can’t teach if you don’t know anything, so my mission president implemented a rigorous study program.

 

I struggled with it at first, but eventually learned to love it. There were goals and milestones to reach, and with nothing else to distract me, I chewed the program up and spat it out.
Distractions these days are constant. Phones, computers, websites and apps have two purposes: take your time, and take your money. Sometimes simultaneously.

 

Back then, in the mission, we didn’t use computers more than once a week, and were very limited on phone usage. Distractions came in the form of thinking too much about home, about girls, about things I missed. Other than that, there wasn’t an instantaneous access to things I wanted, so it was easier to study and focus.
 

I killed that program in 8 months. When President Watson added a 5th level, wherein we had to memorize a ton of scriptures, I was among the first to reach it.

 

Our schedule required us to be up no later than 7AM, but I usually got up at 6, and sometimes 5, to grind when a milestone was close.

 

There were days when I couldn’t get started though. I hated missing even a minute, but if my thoughts strayed, I could waste ten minutes thinking about a letter from a girl-friend, which I couldn’t reply to until the following week. It sucked, but I whipped myself back into focus and finished the study program.

 

Now I’m beset by distractions at every turn. Some are relevant, most are self-inflicted. Damn this smartphone and every social network that I haven’t deleted. Damn blogging and texting and every project idea I have but can’t possibly tackle. Damn this scattered brain in my 30s, reminding me of the brain I had in my 20s.

 

Right now I am studying for part of my pending career change, and have reverted to many of the habits I developed in the summer of 2004, memorizing content for a certification exam. I have gotten better about the time I waste, but still have so far to go.

 

The digital age has created unparalleled opportunities for commerce, communication, and information. Speaking for myself, I have consumed this age at the expense of my focus and discipline.  Maybe you have, too.

 

Be careful about the time you waste and the habits you develop. Set a goal and work toward crushing it. You will realize just how little time you have every day.

 

And maybe you won’t waste so much of it, like I do.

Sounding Off as a Former Resident of Spain

This is a bit out of the norm for me. I generally try to avoid politics online these days, mainly because here in the States, nobody is solving anything. Social media can generally be boiled down to

  1. The “ZOMFG THIS IS JUST LIKE HARRY POTTER ONLY THE BAD PARTS AND WE’RE IN THE #RESISTANCE BECAUSE WE’RE TOTES HEROES” camp
  2. The “THIS IS WHY TRUMP WON #MAGA #MAGA #MAGA” camp
  3. And finally, the “STFU THEY BOTH SUCKED” camp.

I more or less belong to the third one. We have the government we deserve because we keep falling for stupid, divisive garbage and patting ourselves on the back for being better than the other guy.

The problem is, when you’re the biggest gun on the block, and everyone else is kind of counting on you to keep that thing in working order, and then you neglect or abuse that gun and let it fall out of working order, suddenly a gang of renegades moves into the neighborhood and starts doing whatever they want.

For those of you not following the metaphor, the gang is ISIS.

For the umpteenth time in a few short years, some ISIS a–hole committed a terrorist attack because of his backwards, Stone Age beliefs, that people of his kind are better and people not of his kind are not even people, and should be slain for it.

A sensible response would involve hunting these clowns down, along with everyone who ever financed, aided, or abetted them, and permanently removing their ability to organize and harm other people. Maybe that means seizing their assets. Maybe that means destroying their infrastructure. Maybe that means catching and executing them. The point is, we’d do it.

But we’re not. We keep allowing things like this to happen. Somehow, the status quo wherein peaceful citizens in peaceful cities get killed all the time is preferable to hunkering down and actually solving the problem.

We have two ruling political parties who don’t want to solve that problem. They want the problem blamed on the other side, in exchange for power, so that they can…keep the problem going. A cultural and media behemoth works at the beck and call of these parties to keep them in their frenzied state of pride, contention, and mistrust.

The lives of our military don’t matter to them. The lives of civilians don’t matter to them. All that matters is power, and capital, and whatever they can generate from ongoing news coverage of the carnage.

We’ve had these attacks stateside, we’ve had them all over the world. For the first time, I’m seeing the aftermath of an attack in a city where I lived, if briefly. I served an LDS mission in Barcelona, Spain. While I was only in Barce proper for a month, I visited frequently for numerous reasons. I’ve walked that Rambla. I’ve shopped at those stores, eaten at those restaurants, mingled with those tourists, tossed coins to those street performers. I’ve sung in a plaza not five minutes from there, surrounded by other missionaries from all over the world.

The Spanish people are my people. I’ve been among them as they’ve dealt with this before. In March of 2004, terrorists attacked a train station in Madrid, roughly 200 miles from where I was living (Zaragoza.) It was 9/11 all over again, with some cultural differences.

Later, while we were weathering a recession in the USA–and then slowly coming out of it–Spain was hit with one twice as hard. In fact, if you were under 30, you had a 50% chance of being flat-out unemployed. To this day, it’s still close to that bad. One of my friends just moved back to the States (dual citizen) to find work here because of how hard it is over there.

My point is, Spain is like my backyard, or the next neighborhood over. They’re not just foreign names on a map on the news. This particular attack…it hits me in a way that the others haven’t. Part of that is the fact that it’s about the fifteenth attack since 2014, when ISIS came into power.

And there’s no end in sight.

We’ve become comfortable with this. Somehow we’ve reached a point where this is better than solving the problem.

I’m used to that from the government. I wish we here on the ground were better, though. I thought we were. Thought I was.

I hope we can, as a nation, as a species, as a planet, get our crap together before anyone else has to suffer like this.

Or, we can go back to our stupid hashtags and backpatting, and watch some other insane whackjob do this in another country.

Buy my mom’s house in Henderson, NV.

For years, you’ve wanted to be a legit Old Hendersonian.
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You’ve wanted to live within walking distance of the Water Street District, where you can eat a different culture’s food every day of the week.
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Where old men in white smocks cut your hair with hand-sharpened scissors and tell you stories about The War.
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A place where whatever grocery store across from Wal-Mart is trying to survive this week. (Is it a Sav-On? It’s Albertson’s. No, it’s Haagens? No, it’s an Albertson’s again…)
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Well, you no longer have to dream about being closer to Target AND Walgreens AND Friendly’s Donuts AND Johnny Mac’s AND Cinedome 12, with its $4 Tuesday Tickets and the same ticket-tearing lady who’s been there since I was 11.
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Yes, all of this is within your reach, because a home just went up for sale in…THE TRIANGLE! Specifically, my mom’s house!
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You can be the envy of your friends as you step out into your front yard, look west, and gaze upon the industrial masterpiece that is Timet Industries! They make titanium there, how cool is that?!
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And it’s right behind the James I. Gibson Library, which used to be by City Hall, but has since moved closer. About 90% closer. It’s on  your doorstep, giving you The Look, and jangling its keys. Once you own this classy, revamped, War-era house, you’ll have that last 10% right at your fingertips.
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Directly east of your new Legit Hendo House is the leggitest Discount Tire Store in the whole valley, designation “NVL01”. I worked there in high school when it was a much less classy outfit than it is now.
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A decade ago, many Triangle houses were derelict or outright abandoned. In just the last year or two, many of Mom’s neighbors have redone their houses, and the neighborhood on the whole is looking a lot better, which is why these houses have gone up in value. That, and the location.
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In fact, here’s a short list of what’s within a mile or so of your new place:
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-Walgreens
-St. Rose Hospital
-Capriotti’s
-Albertson’s (for now…)
-Chevron/Terrible’s
-McDonald’s
-Del Taco, El Pollo Loco, Subway, Jimmy John’s, Carl’s Jr. (same shopping center)
-Target, PetSmart, Staples, Marshall’s, and Big Lots (also same shopping center)
-The Henderson Convention Center
-The Farmer’s Market (every Thursday)
-Jack in the Box, Sonic, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Pep Boys, and the US Post Office…all next door to each other.
-And that’s not even counting the Wal-Mart on the corner of Lake Mead and Boulder.
For crying out loud, you’re less than two miles from Cinedome 12 (the cheap seats!), Johnny Mac’s (wings! pizza! ribs!), Friendly’s Donuts (JUST ASK ANYONE IN TOWN), and the Sunset Pizzeria.
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The only Old Henderson Landmark not inside that circle is the El Torito restaurant, which was teleported out of Mexico thirty years ago and is still serving the same recipes today. Deadpool himself would swear by these chimichangas, and we all know how Deadpool likes to swear.
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But enough about the neighborhood perks! What about the house perks?
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Well, my mom bought the place in 2009, after having to sell the house I grew up in off of Pacific and Horizon. Check out the B&A:
mom house
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You’re getting new paint inside and out.
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New windows, all up to city code.
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Plenty of new plumbing and fixtures (including for the kitchen, hall bath, and laundry.)
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Three of the rooms couldn’t even be used when she moved in. Now the house has 4 bedrooms and 2 renovated bathrooms, plus:
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A walk-in pantry
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A spacious living room and family room
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Tile and laminate flooring
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AC and a swamp cooler
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A 12′ storage shed out back
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And 2 driveways out front on either side of the property. (3, if you count the pull-through.)
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Heck, you’ve even got pomegranate trees in the backyard, and fertile soil full of fertilizer from Mom’s two hyperactive egg-laying hens. Those planter boxes have more chicken crap in them than Green Valley High School’s entire athletic roster.
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Mom’s been able to run a full-time business out of this house, with two 12-foot wide longarm quilting machines, the whole time she’s been there.
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The downside of that is that her house has been full of business-related stuff, and she’s the only one living there, so most people who walk through have only seen a house full of unidentifiable quilting stuff that might or might not be used to conceal the activities of a serial killer–and I can’t think of anything more Vintage Henderson than that.
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Not to worry, though–Mom’s bringing that stuff with her when she moves into my basement in Utah.
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So if you’re in the market for a Hendo House, seize your chance to own a legend! Her agents Sherrie ((702) 525-4316) and Mary ((702) 281-0322) will get you a showing.
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Or be a sweater vest sellout and buy a boxy little cookie-cutter shack in Green Valley that costs WAY more than it’s worth, plus an HOA. Don’t let me tell you what to do.

Talk Trash, Eat Trash: Bike Race Edition

Teenage boys talk trash. That’s just biology. The smart ones are tactical about it, and then there’s 15 year-old Graham.

I got fat in my mid-teens. I cut P.E. In favor of a drawing class, and started eating all the time. Once I realized I was sneaking up on 200 pounds, I decided to start exercising again. (You don’t burn calories at a drawing table, I discovered.)

So I set up a bike and trainer in our workshop out back, dropped an Offspring album in the CD player, and started pounding out circuits in the evening. The worst of the weight melted off over the course of months, and my confidence grew.

Around this time, my dad and sister were participating in a series of bicycle criterium races in Southern Cali, and we went down there about once a month to cheer them on. I think it was April or May of 2000 when, after a few months of spinning (and a 50-miler in Mexico where I blew a tire), I was feeling pretty damn bulletproof.

I’ve heard it said that humanity and the lowest form of bacteria are only about 10% different when it comes to genetic coding, or something to that effect. I don’t know, ask a scientist. The thing that sticks in my head is that all life on Earth comes from the same biological stock, and once you start narrowing that by phyla and genus and class and all that, we have a ton in common with our fellow mammals.

An apt simile, then, would be to say that I was like a wolf, territorial, anxious to assert dominance and demand the respect of other teenaged boy wolves with bad musical taste. The problem was, I had never actually been in a wolf fight, but I had imagined it a TON while spinning in a workshop after dark.

When I saw other teenage boys warming up for their own crits, I started talking trash about how they were skinny California twerps and I could totally wreck them on a bike. It didn’t take long for my family to get sick of me repeating this, and before I knew it, I was wearing my dad’s spare jersey and cleats, sitting on his 20-pound aluminum racer, surrounded by 150-pound Twerps, waiting for the race to start.

(They let you do that if you sign a waiver.)

It was essentially 20 laps or so around a city block where there was an elementary school in West Covina. The race started, and I went off like a cannon, smoking those twerps and giving them a good view of my (imaginary) sculpted posterior. I was awesome! I was unstoppable! I was gonna win this thing SO HARD!

20 laps, you say? Why not just end it at half a lap? Cause that’s when I blew up.

Soon the Twerps were lapping me. Then again. Then again. Before long I was almost lapped out. On my 10th, they were on their 16th. By their 20th, I think I had completed 12 or 13. If you’re grading that, I scored a 65% on a Can Your Cardio Cash The Check Your Mouth Just Wrote test.

As for my mouth, it was back at the van with the rest of me, choking on a baker’s dozen of hot, fresh, gooey STFUpcakes.

It was the kind of story that became family legend before the ink had even dried. To this day, we’ll get together as a family to hang out or play games, and we’ll all start jabbing each other, and then we pull out our Universal Argument Enders, and mine inevitably goes to “Yeah? How ’bout that bike race?”

Frankly, that’s as it should be. It’s important to overcome those parts of your biology. I mean yeah, we need to eat and sleep and challenge ourselves in between, but it’s also important to get kicked in the huevos every now and then so you remember what you’re made of. Otherwise you end up being that guy sitting on the couch watching TV with both hands stuck in Pringles cans, making fun of Olympians who only come in second.

Don’t be that guy. Go lose a race once in a while!

Then shut up and get back to work.