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Glasgow, First Impressions

Posted on 2 min read 73 views

The young Scotsmen waiting to board their flights all have the same haircut: buzzed on the sides, cropped short to middle length on the top. It’s jarring only in its mass coordination, as if an entire demographic decided to replicate a specific footballer.

The officer working passport control is friendly and chats with me about his trips to Minneapolis.  

“Welcome to balmy Scotland,” he says, as he hands the passport back to me.

The taxi drive into Glasgow is shockingly colorless. And it’s only after I’m dropped off at my hotel and I explore on foot that I begin to get a feel for the place. All the buildings seem either old and beautiful or old and ugly. Even the modern buildings look outdated. And then grimy exteriors open into softly lit and comfortable spaces, the architectural equivalent of not judging a book by its cover. This is heightened by it being the exact opposite of my Germanic experience, in which the exteriors are meticulous and beautiful, and then open into white and sterile interiors, with cleanliness often coming at the cost of comfort.

I packed for the trip like I do every other Europe trip, only to remember once I arrived that the outlets are different from the Continent. The front desk sends me to a store called Argos, which is in a dingy and nondescript building on high street. The escalator descends into a brightly lit and perfectly laid out grid of computer screens and catalogues. I walk in circles a couple of times and then punch in “converter” into one of the screens and nothing comes up. I walk up to the checkout counter.

The woman behind the counter tells me several times that I need to order from the catalogue, and then when she realizes that either the process or her speech is giving me trouble, she asks:

“What da ya want?” she says, smiling.

“A converter?” I say. “For an electrical outlet.”

“Ah an adapter.”

She punches the purchase into a small tablet, I pay ten pounds, and then she asks me to sit under a banner and wait. Within a couple of minutes, a pack of three adapters is sitting on the counter, and I’m simultaneously impressed with how inexpensive three adapters are and confused with why they would give me three.

As I hike deeper into the city, it gets more beautiful, while the grit remains. The restaurant where I meet my business contacts is a tiny two-story former fish market. I eat haggis for the first time, which pleasantly tastes like pate, and drink malt whiskey. The whiskeys are always one finger, never more. When the glasses of wine come, they look like small fish bowls.

That night I fall asleep enjoying the city, and the conversations, and wondering how the trips in the years to come will play out.

Leaving

Posted on 1 min read 86 views

Despite my best efforts, the anxiety is still real every time I leave Germany.

The morning starts like normal: my daughter waking me up and watching Curious George on the laptop while I drift in and out of sleep for 45 minutes. And then we play and eat breakfast, and there’s nothing at that point. But as the day continues, the ache in my chest telling me there’s something wrong (even when there’s nothing wrong), slowly starts to creep in. It grows despite my best efforts to ignore it, starve it to death, so that by the time I’m dropping off my daughter at her mother’s, I’m manic and I can barely see straight. This state of disbelief usually lasts me long enough to propel me to the outskirts of Amsterdam without caffeine.

Evolution of Place

Posted on 2 min read 89 views

I like to think that the evolution of Germany for me over the past three years, is like a microcosm of my human experience. What started as an antagonistic place that I tolerated (at best) in order to be with my daughter, has become a place of recovery. It’s a strange place to get clean, but that’s what it’s become for me: I eat well, work out regularly, write, and meditate. And that’s only the time that I don’t spend with my daughter.

When I first started coming here, I would leave as a husk of a person. I was mentally and physically demolished, and it took weeks to readjust when I got home. Now, I leave feeling better than when I arrived. There are some tangible differences in the present: buying a place instead of staying in hotels, joining a gym, and reliable Wi-Fi. And then there’s an element of necessary adaptation from my side.

It doesn’t change the fact that the people are still high-strung. I’m barely able to operate on a daily basis without being told what I’m doing wrong (as if to drive this point home, within an hour of getting to Germany yesterday, my brother and I were being lectured for not properly using the plastic dividers in the supermarket checkout line). Despite the locals best attempts at making it stressful, it’s become more funny than draining.

I don’t know what Muenster will be to me in the coming years. If you total up the sprints, I’ll spend a meaningful amount of my life there. And I’m starting to see how that’s not a terrible thing.

Travel

Posted on 1 min read 135 views

You get tangled up with all the travel. You see a clock and you don’t trust it. It should be light outside and it’s not. Today I’m staying on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation outside Phoenix (which resembles Phoenix in being one large construction site in the desert), tomorrow I’ll be in Memphis. Last week Aruba. Alien places. But it’s -28 in Minneapolis at the exact moment that I’m writing this, so whatever. 

I can’t decide if time moves fast or slow while traveling. The days are more distinct. At home, they can pass without me looking up from my desk. And yet, when traveling, a week somehow gets lost in airports and Ubers and the general friction of impermanent living. 

The only thing that seems definite is sleep. Whether home or a hotel, if I can sleep, that rising tide lifts all boats. However, it’s a challenge no matter where I am: the temperature, the light, the expanding and contracting of REM cycles. It should be easier in a familiar place like my home, but somehow it’s always unpredictable. 

Sociopathic Tendencies

Posted on 1 min read 177 views

Most of my life, many of my closest friends have been sociopaths. 

No. That’s too harsh: a large amount of my good friends have had sociopathic tendencies. They weren’t bad people, emotions just didn’t manifest naturally to the same degree that it does for others. Which is probably why they found someone that is often overwhelmed by their emotions interesting. You’re both off, and even though that doesn’t translate to empathy, you can relate to the confusion of not being able to trust yourself.

It also teaches you that emotions are not morality. From a distance, you would have been hard pressed to say who was who. My feelings and emotions often making me more unpredictable and noxious then my friends. 

At this point in my life, my closeness with people develops around the ability to understand and be understood. It seems the people that understand you best are the ones that are the most similar or the most different, and all the rest get lost in the static of normalcy.

And so I have to ask myself, where am I failing people when they need to be understood?

Flawed Characters

Posted on 1 min read 203 views

Everybody wants to like a seriously flawed character. But only as long as they are seriously flawed in a way that appeals to their emotions and personal beliefs. Today this is the cliché unbounded hard living renegade anti-hero.

Without their own personal beliefs (which inevitably exist within a larger societal context), you’re just the villain. Mix up these personal beliefs and see how quickly the constructs change.