Friday, August 14, 2009


A few days short of a year ago today I made a simple, small mistake that turned out to be the worst nightmare and toughest experience I have ever endured. I drank and drove.

This is probably not news to most of you. And I know I have preached to no end about the dangers of drinking and driving. I feel like a MADD member or something. But if I can prevent one nightmare for someone else, save one life or simply make you think twice about making the mistake I made, I feel that I have made a world of difference.

I'd like to remind you what this mistake has cost me: approximately $5,000, friends, my reputation, relationships, and a year of anxiety, headaches and heartburn.

Today was my final court date. After paying the last $15 I owed for a Motor Vehicle Report (yeah, the government charges you to look into their own records) I am a free man. My supervision has ended, all fines and fees are paid, classes and courses completed, and I have a huge load off my shoulders.

I have learned my lesson. I will never make that mistake again. And today marks a fresh start. I have some relationships that still need mending, some serious health problems that have sparked from all of the anxiety I have suffered, and a lot of debt to be paid, but I can only go up from here.

The sun is shining, it's Friday, I'm in Chicago surrounded by some of my best friends, and life is good. So I'm moving forward, closing this ugly chapter of my life and putting the past to rest.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why is it that I can't do the things I want to do? I know that I am capable of so much, but I can't do anything.

The trick is, to realize that you are always doing what you want to do. Nobody is making you do anything. Once you get that, you see you are free, and that life is a series of choices. Nothing happens to you; you choose.

Somebody once told me (somebody very important- if you know who you are, please comment) that we only have to do one thing, and that is, die. So very true.

Free will, or destiny?

Free will, moving towards or away from a purpose.

Not sure exactly what my purpose is, but I know I have one, unlike many of you. Anyone know his/her purpose? (Please share)


for now

Sunday, August 9, 2009

10 Reasons to come visit me!

While I love in down here in Champaign, I do miss my friends up North like crazy. And I try to make it back to Chicago when I can, like this coming weekend for instance, but I've been down here nearly a year, and have had quite the lack of visitors thus far.

Thanks a lot, jerks! Just kidding, but for reals, I know you're all busy with work, school and the like, but if you have some free time, even a day or two, I would love to see you.

Now that I'm off campus I have some more room to spread my legs, and even a spare bedroom for you. So, if my beautiful face and the promise of indoor plumbing aren't enough to convince you, I've compiled a list of reasons for you to get your ass down here. And the sooner the better - August and September are two happenin' months down here in CU...

1. Festivals continue beyond Labor Day!

First of all, we have the Urbana Sweet Corn Festival coming up the weekend before Labor Day. I have never been, but based on my experience at the Blues, Brews and BBQ earlier this summer, any outdoor festival in Urbana promises a good time.

September is packed with more food, music and fun, all over town(s). The Pygmalion Music Fest (September 16-19) brings bands from all over to perform at our plethora of awesome venues. Iron and Wine is the big headliner, but some of my picks include Ra Ra Riot, Headlights, Owen, Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, Joe Pug, the Horse's Ha, New Ruins and Common Loon. But check out the site for yourself and I'm sure you'll find something that interests you. Passes for the whole weekend can be purchased as well as individual show tickets. And better yet, some shows are free!

Also happening that weekend is the Urbana International Beer Tasting and Chili Cook-Off. Nothing could polish off a weekend better than beer and chili.

2. Speaking of Chili...

Once again this fall I will be cooking up large batches of my own famous chili. Using ground beef from the campus meat lab and locally grown produce from the farmer's market, I make two batches every other weekend or so (one hot and one mild) to coincide with football, of course. September 5 is the first Saturday of college football and both Illinois and Notre Dame will be nationally televised. So take the weekend off and come eat some chili and drink some beer. (I might even be DIYing that this time too...)

3. Saturdays when I'm not cooking Chili...

Chances are I will be AT the Illini home games, or at least tail-gating it up. I didn't get a chance to go to any games last year, so I'll have to make up for it this year. And the team looks better than they did last year. So, be sure to let me know in advance - I'll get some tickets (much more affordable than even a Cubs game) and we can make a day of it. Or, if the fall doesn't look good for you, we can always catch a basketball game in the winter.

4. Free Donuts!

And other baked goods. Working at the bakery not only pays my bills, it satisfies my sweet tooth, and yours.

5. Travel.

We're located within an hour drive of Atlanta, Paris and Jamaica. No joke, look at a map!

6. Bars out here for miles.

Like most college campuses, U of I has plenty-o-bars within stumbling distance of the quad. But, beyond campus there is a whole slew of high-class pubs, biker bars and local dives that are sure to match your taste, and budget. From Jupiter's 2 where you can shoot pool, play arcade games, and enjoy some of the best pizza in town (while playing the ponies in the OTB, of course), to the Iron Post where you can enjoy $1 or $2 PBR pints most nights, the nightlife options in the CU are virtually endless. Outside of nearly every city in Wisconsin, I'm pretty sure we have the most bars per capita in the midwest. Plus, for my underage friends, 19 gets you into most Champaign bars, and it's only 18 in Urbana.

7. If you don't drink, you still have to eat.

While Wisconsin may have us beat drinking-wise, Champaign-Urbana boasts the most franchise restaurants per capita in the U.S. But please, you can get a Big Mac or some Panda Express anywhere. Good news is that we also have about the same amount of independent eateries as we do fast food joints. Merry Ann's diner (a 24-hour old school Denny's-like joint) has two locations and serves breakfast all day and night. Crane Alley has some of the best sandwiches you'll ever try (not to mention over 200 bottled beers!) and Seven Saints has to-die-for gourmet sliders.

Almost every downtown (Champaign or Urbana - yeah, we have TWO downtowns) dining spot has outdoor seating, which is great in late summer-early fall.

Pizza-wise, we have great thin crust at a handful of bars, and Papa Del's makes deep dish that rivals the best of Chicago.

Vegans, vegetarians and picky eaters? No worries. Plenty of options for all y'all.

I could eat out every night of the year (if I had the money) and excite my taste buds in a new way with each meal. The CU is full of great places to get your eat on.

8. Plenty o' Fish.

School be starting soon, and that means (in my roommate Jim's words) "fresh meat!"

There are 40,000 students here, all crammed into a roughly five square mile radius. Guy or girl, straight, gay or otherwise, at the VERY LEAST, you'll have eye candy like you wouldn't believe.

9. Meet the pups!

We have three crazy dogs waiting to lick your face and hump your leg.

But seriously, they're a lot of fun and just so cute.

10. Because you miss me...

...and I miss you.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

One Year Later

It's been a year and five days since I started this blog. I reread my first few entries today.

While this blog is not quite a mirror image of my life, it represents the past year pretty well. I need not to reminisce on the events of the past year, for that you can go back and read all of my entries. I will just say this: the past year has been quite a roller coaster for me. I would never have guessed in a million years that I would be where I am today. But that's what I love most about my life. When my life gets routine, mundane, and lacks surprises, I get bored, restless and depressed. I'd much rather ride the ups and downs than ride on the straight and narrow track.

A year ago I thought I was grown up. Turn out, I had a lot of growing up to do. At the very least, this past year has allowed me to do that. While I've lost a lot, I've also gained a lot. I'll spare you the details (and once again redirect you to previous entries) and simply state that I have reconnected with myself in an entirely new- and improved- way.

And thanks to this blog, among other projects, I have become a better writer. Just as in life, I have become a better person. The best metaphor I can come up with to describe this metamorphosis, is this: a year ago I was a Clark Kent. Today, I'm a Superman.

While I don't feel invincible, I feel stronger, more conscious, more intelligent and insightful, more respectful, less afraid, and much, MUCH happier.

I still have occasions of depression and anxiety, but I have learned to deal with them in proactive ways. I have most likely mentioned this previously, but I once had a boss who, despite having his head up his ass, was full of insightful idioms and epigrams. One that comes to mind is "there are no problems, only opportunities."

This has, in a roundabout way, become a mantra of mine.

Like many of life's lessons, this way of looking at problems is much easier said than done. It is a discipline, that even the most regimented individual can not follow 24/7. But the more you try, the easier it becomes, and the more positive and optimistic view you will have on life.

But having a positive attitude is not just about turning problems into opportunities. It's a way of life that I have stumbled across this past year. I had a bit of an epiphany the other day while helping out a friend with a problem; I RARELY complain any more.

When I thought about it for awhile, I couldn't even recall the last time I had a "decent" complaint. After a little self-investigation, I realized that I don't complain, not because I have nothing to complain about, but because there is no point. Complaining solves nothing and almost always worsens the situation.

Now, I know this all sounds like the BS we've been spoon-fed since birth: don't sweat the small stuff, glass half full, etc. And I subconsciously resisted all of that for years. But I think all of my "bad luck" and misfortunes have paved the path for me to fall into a life of positive thinking. It came down to sink or swim (as you can clearly see by reading my entries from the past year) and the only way I would make it out alive is to choose to swim.

But one year later, I'm not doing the doggy paddle. I'm doing Micheal Phelps style laps.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blogging about... blogging?

I am thinking about taking a Facebook, Twitter and Blogger hiatus. In other words, this could be my last post for awhile.

I feel like I have so much to write about, but just can't get the message across clearly. I think I have OD'd on social networking. At the same time, I feel like I have been a hermit lately. Does that make any sense?

Maybe I'm just going through a bout of perfectionism. I tend to do that. One day I can't stop ranting about my life, and the next I feel like I need to hold back and express only the words that matter and make sense.

It seems that when I blog a lot, people tend to comment on and get into my posts. I like that, but maybe I am just an attention whore. I want my posts to have some relevance and not just be rants.

Readers, if you are still out there- feedback, please!