When old dear friends reach out // serendipity and life choices

  • Her: Hey! When are you gonna be in Europe? [Redacted] and I just decided to spend three months in France. I'm going to be working on building a digital monastery and she's going to work on the monastery's farm! We might have two weeks off in early Aug
  • Me: Wow! That's major news!
  • Her: Yes, fun and a great spiritual foundation for us!!! So excited to be invited by the brothers and sisters.
  • Me: How's [redacted]? How's her life plans?
  • Her: Excited to be working n a farm. Gonna do stuff with food, just doesn't know what. How r u?
  • Me: Woa you crazy kids. I turned 35 today, not sure what that means
  • Her: Damn I am so happy. U know what a freaking honor it is to be invited to work on this project?!
  • Me: And I'm tip toeing into my love of food and history
  • Her: Yeah I know I love ur blog and book project!!! Forwarded to a few friends. Wait! What? Happy birthday you old fart
  • Me: Ha! What's your internal anchor? Center point? jeez. Farming sounds incredibly awesome
  • Her: Fuk u know how hard the last months have been?
  • Me: Yeah I can guess
  • Her: I refuse to live a lifestyle I don't buy into. So sometimes I see myself falling into that trap. And I just try to stay open.... And follow my heart. Really totally ignore my head... And listen and watch the signs around me. Other people guide me a lot!
  • Me: Heh, yes.
  • Her: I'm rooting for you too!
  • Me: We shall see but I'd rather things be hard but have someone there with me and a goal worth fighting for than easy and live half asleep
  • Her: Ok! Happy bday!
  • Me: ok thanks for letting me know xoxo sending you good vibes all the way to SUMMER IN FRANCE
  • Her: Ciao!
  • Me: Au revoir!

Personal thoughts on 2012

2012 was a year of transition and introspection. I traveled a lot.

In the beginning of the year, my role at Tumblr was to build on our international growth. I got to meet Gina and had great adventures together in South America and Europe. It was a surreal chapter where I’d start days in boardrooms and end days laughing with new friends. I spent most days following the cultural scent and met some of the most creative young people on the planet.

I’ll keep these memories forever:

  • A birthday party in a Rio favela.
  • A rooftop party overlooking an Niemeyer classic.
  • The Chilean government’s war room.
  • An artist’s apartment of musty books and splotches of fresh paint.
  • The lights over Sugarloaf and Corcovado.
  • Beers, smiles, and samba under arches
  • A boat ride without the sun.
  • Running from tear gas with Chilean students.
  • Meeting Jimmy Wales in a London eating club.
  • A balcony. Smoking. Travelers talking as if old friends. Candles.

But while on the road I felt energized, I was deflated when I returned to the office. Why, I wondered. Tumblr is an awesome product! I had to admit that I loved tech, but I was burned out by the tech culture. I loved dialogue, but I was fatigued by the echo chamber. I wanted to be creative and love my work, but I found myself at odds with a lot of things.

So I left Tumblr around the middle of the year to… travel. This time to figure out what I wanted to do, what I loved to do and what I’d want to learn from life. So instead of meetings and presentations, I swapped my laptop for a backpack and camera. I spent time writing (with a pen!) and reading and probing the tension I had between my digital overconsumption and love of creating things to be consumed.

I made time for friends again. Got some inspiration in South America, the West Coast, and Canada, talking about anything but tech. Got my taco fix, too. Biked more. Discovered the outer boroughs of New York. Spent some time to let ideas and thoughts marinate.

I’m thankful I had the time to figure some things out. Most people don’t get the opportunity. Towards the end of the year I realized that I wanted to build something that I would like to use and that I would find useful. So in the early months of this year, I’ll try to do just that. And standing at the beginning of 2013, for the first time in a while, I’m excited.

Franny’s, whose utterly undistinguished pizza is notable only for the coercive sanctimony that comes with it, is actually hailed as being one of the city’s best, when in fact it tastes in every way like 15 other pizzas you aren’t forced to eat with a fork and knife.

The Truth About Brooklyn’s Overhyped, Undercooked Restaurant Scene (via paulbrady)

Such a spot on article. It’s not that this is a ‘hater gonna hate’ screed, but Brooklyn’s restaurant scene is massively overhyped and prone to boosterism — much like a lot of the startup scene.  I live minutes from Franny’s and Al Li Da and the pizza and Tuscan plates there would be average in Manhattan, LA or even San Francisco.  The decent places - Diner and Roberta’s in Williamsburg - are great when measured stand-alone but pair them against the cluster of great places in the city and the ingenuity becomes merely clever.  Don’t even get me started on the Asian resurgence at the over-fish-sauced Pok Pok or the supremely disappointing offerings at Pork Slope and Talde.

Are there good stuff in the Brooklyn? Yes. DuMont is great. 1 or 8 Sushi is great. Di Fara is great. Tanoreen is great. Convivium Osteria is great. Go for the sincere places, not chefs latching onto a trend or inspiration from “that one great trip I had to China”.

BUT - one good thing about this is that the prices are greatly affordable. For that, I’m thankful to the restauranteurs.  The dishes are good by themselves (no need for orgiastic commendations) at reasonable prices. If that’s what you’re into, Brooklyn is where you want to be.

Hard to believe, but this was my idea of a good night 4 years ago.  This place rocks! Especially when the girls start to sing really bad covers like of the Cranberries and gyrate around.  So funny.

Every so often, I’d come on a slow night, have a couple of draft beers and see all the sad expats and guys come in listening to the girls croon into the mic. The place was lit up like a bad Hollywood set for China beach, covered in bamboo and crowded with cheap tables and chairs.  After a couple of hours, right outside in the alleys were these little stands selling wonton soups and different kinds of spring rolls.  Made for tasty midnight snacks.

I hope the Saloon is still alive and kicking in Hanoi.



David Sedaris uses, not a real stove but, a stove metaphor to talk about work-life balance:

One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work. The gist … was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

James Franco seems to defy burner-isms. A recent piece raises at least two questions: 1) Can he be for real? And 2) If so, then just how is all of this possible?

For instance:

[G]raduate school. As soon as Franco finished at UCLA, he moved to New York and enrolled in four of them: NYU for filmmaking, Columbia for fiction writing, Brooklyn College for fiction writing, and — just for good measure — a low-residency poetry program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. This fall, at 32, before he’s even done with all of these, he’ll be starting at Yale, for a Ph.D. in English, and also at the Rhode Island School of Design.

And this isn’t new:

See also:
Balanced people don’t change the world

According to his mother, Betsy, Franco has been this way since he was born. In kindergarten, he wouldn’t just build regular little block towers — he’d build structures that used every single block in the playroom. At night, he would organize his Star Wars toys before he slept. When Franco was 4 years old, a friend of the family died. Betsy gave him the standard Mortality Talk: no longer with us, just a part of life — yes, but hopefully not for a very long time. Little James burst into tears. He was inconsolable. Eventually, he managed to choke out, between sobs, “But I don’t want to die! I have so much to do!”

This is no two-burner strategy. This is everything-ism.


Lately, I get a lot of “hey how’s it going in Brazil” and I say “fine, working hard” etc. 99% of the time, this is followed by a “Man, you are so lucky, I am jealous. I wish I could do that as well.”

And this pisses me off. For a lot of reasons.

First, there are the innuendos around these…

Preach on, brother man. First. I am blessed. I get it. Second. It took hard work and the willingness to build the career that you want. It took me stints as a gopher, a coffee getter, a filing goob, years as a number monkey, years of paycheck by paycheck and yes — years of letting life just mold and sculpt the way I think.  They all combine to give me the makeup that allows me to do my job and have the awesome time that I have now.  

I get annoyed at people who ask me how they can do what I do - how they can do something they love and in a place they enjoy. Well, you work for it.  You take a chance and leap into the unknown - fail and fail again - learn from your mistakes and keep on pushing for a life that you want.  There are lots of people who I talk to who hate their jobs.  And they ask “Oh, I really like technology (e.g. read blogs and update Facebook statuses) - so can I quit my banking/consulting job and do something ‘fun’?”  Of course you can!  But be prepared to start at the bottom, to start over, to gain the actual skills to do the job well.  Most people aren’t willing to sacrifice their the safety of their cocoons, no matter how soul-sucking it is to try something new.  Being successful is more than crossing a skill of a checklist in a management textbook; how do you interact with people? how much drive do you have? how often do you chase after your ideas? how humble are you?  Those are all elements that you gain over the years based on the choices you make.

Happiness for many people, it seems, is not worth the discomfort of a new place, new skills to learn, new friends to make, a new mental orientation. Anything is possible if you’re honest about the costs.

Remember when computers were supposed to save us time? Now it seems just the opposite. The Internet just keeps giving us more ways to do nothing… We’ve been turned into zombie people. Oh, but we’re very, very busy zombies. We’re reading e-mail. We’re tweeting and retweeting. We’re downloading apps, and uploading photos. We’re updating our Facebook status and reading our news feeds and telling the whole world what we like and don’t like, because for some reason we imagine that the whole world actually cares. You know what we’re not doing? We’re not thinking. We’re processing. There’s a difference.