Turning 41

14 Days of Reflection: Weekend Look #3 – The First Day of Vacation

IMG_4440For many people, and understandably so, the second that vacation begins, the care to construct a styley look ends. And truly, I will never fault anyone for taking off the work clothes and slipping on the t-shirt, shorts and flips-flops.

On the other hand, as long as you gotta wear something (assuming you’re vacationing with family in, say, San Diego, and not at “Sea Mountain Nude Hotsprings”) why not wear something well put together?

The trick is this: if you know that you won’t have the headspace to pick out a bunch of vacation outfits as you rush to cram your suitcases, pick them out in advance. Way in advance. In other words, identify a couple of pairs of pants, a few shirts, a pair of shoes, and yes, a classy layer-piece: a sweater or an unconstrcuted blazer or both.

Then, when your plane takes off in three hours and you still haven’t filled your suitcase, you need not panic: you know what you’re packing.

As Gabi and I approach our first week as (and with) future-family, I’m struck by two competing forces at work. First, there is, well, the familiar. Gabi’s family is very tightly knit and meals with them are full of laughter, good-natured ribbing, and decades’ worth of stories. They seem to appreciate and understand my humor, although folks are divided on whether my puns are brilliant or groan-worthy.

IMG_4437On the other hand, there is the unfamiliar. Deeply unfamiliar. People who are dear to me, and have been for years, take on roles of new significance. Future father-in-law. Future mother-in-law. Future brother-in-law. I have never really known these roles in my life, and I’m acutely aware of this, the way a new article of clothing feels very there.

It seems appropriate, in these circumstances, to wear something fitting this odd and beautiful confluence of well-known and never known. Here, on this San Diego beach, what could do that better than comfy sneakers, a soft sweater, my old hat – and a red flower in my lapel?

Blogging Back and Forth Forever: Getting Engaged, and 14 Days of Reflection

 For those in the know, “Blogging back and forth forever” ))<>(( can be a our little inside joke, a little indie-film triviata.

For those not in the know, just take my word for it; It’s weird and sweet and evocative and sort of grody and, well, forever.

Sort of like life.

Yesterday, Gabi and I got engaged. She looked beautiful. I was wearing a fantastic suit. There was a lot of crying and laughing and a guest appearance by local San Francisco celebrity weather pattern, Karl The Fog. 

This engagement was a long time coming. Gabi and I built our bridge towards each other step by step, over a span (no pun intended) of three years. When it was time to take the plunge (eek, definitely no pun intended) it was with eyes wide open — taking in the dazzling sun on the San Francisco Bay (metaphorical for life’s various gifts and treasures) as well as the mirk, the clouds, the unknown. We planned it together, down to the exact day, the exact time of day, but for Gabi, the details were unknown. Sometimes, you need to keep some mystery – to recreate, in my opinion, the true Mystery that we are all faced with: our Existence. Part of it are revealed, from time to time, like the majestic Marin tower of the Golden Gate bridge.

It emerged, as we drove across the bay, as if to guide us on our paths towards eternity.

 Today I am 41. Dear readers, you may have figured out (“Surprise!”) that this project, “14 days of reflection,” was intended to crescendo with my innocent little question to her, but with that now residing nearby as a memory, it’s time for me to celebrate my birthday. Gabi has given me many gifts over the past three years, and while the greatest one, by far, is the gift of our life together, today, we laughed about the way that she guided my path as I crafted my on-line persona (more on the deep power of the persona, here). My fashion style was in place, already, but my communication style is very much a joint project, and I suspect it will be a project that will involve a lot of creativity and a lot of time.

May this be a year of thriving.

May this be a year of growing close together.

And may this be a lifetime of exploration for my fiancee and I, both in person, but also online.

May we blog back and forth forever.

Turning 41 and the Aftermath: 14 Days of Reflection – Episode 6: Holy Shnikeys, I Climbed a Mountain


28 and (mostly) fearless.

When I was 28, a friend told me about her solo trip across Africa. Seeing me blanch, she remarked, “Being alone in a strange place scares you? Maybe you need to spend 3 days alone in the desert.”

That was the exact opposite of something I’d wanted to do. Imagining the sun setting over a rocky desert sandscape, the evening winds, the cry of desert-foxes in the distance, and only me, all alone – that terrified me.

And less than a year later, that’s exactly where I found myself.

Once I was there, my backpack loaded with apricots and halva and countless water bottles, I was no longer afraid.

On day two, I climbed a mountain.

I didn’t know it was a mountain until I climbed down. The ascent had been arduous, hot, interminable, but I didn’t know what I was climbing until the other side revealed it to me in its desert splendor.

A mountain.

archiveRecently, I discovered a new feature: the blog archive. It’s a line of code you can install in your blog to create a list that readers can click and browse.

I did, and I clicked, and guess what I saw?

Blog posts. Lots and lots and lots. Way more than I could have imagined.

Some low points: the death of my uncle. High points: a Style Up that close to a thousand people read in a single day. And plenty of normal, day-to-day stuff: when to roll up blazer sleeves.

Without realizing it, I had climbed a mountain, word by word, month by month.

Tomorrow, Gabi and I depart for a weekend together. Towards the end of the weekend, I’m turning 41. And looking back over the three years we’ve been together, and the years I lived before knowing her, it’s a mountain of sorts. I’m proud of how far we’ve come together. And I’m proud of how high I’ve climbed, solo.

And sometimes, it takes looking back to see how high you’ve climbed.

Turning 41 and the Aftermath: 14 Days of Reflection — Episode 5. How do you know when the suit fits?

deansuitMy colleague, Dean, is a dapper dresser.

He’s pretty much a sage in any topic of conversation: how to handle criticism, how to shake off a bad day, how to turn 60 without losing your marbles.

So when Dean asked what I thought of his new, made-to-order suit, well, I was honored.

This lead to a whole conversation about fit; how do you know when you’ve achieved a perfect fit?

Humbly, I offer my thoughts.

1. When it fits, you know.

We spend a lot of time in life toiling over choices. Most of my best decisions in life were not so much something I “decided” as “came to recognize.”

In a shop, looking in the mirror, with a proper-fitting shirt, a great color or pattern, some styley, new kicks, you’ll say: whoa. There it is.

And guess what? That’s it.

coffeeshop2. You get compliments – on the right thing and on the wrong things, too.

Don’t embark on any endeavor with compliments in mind.

On the other hand, when you’re really nailing it, people can’t help themselves. You’ll get compliments on what you’re wearing, sure, but also, people will compliment your new haircut which you got five weeks ago, your new glasses which you’ve had for a year.

What people are picking up on is not your clothes. Rather, they can feel your confidence.

3. Your well-fitting-whatever will live on top of your pile (or at the front of the closet) because you can’t get enough.

Choose your outfits like you should choose your relationships. What sort of shirt/relationship do you want to be with? Something that pushes you out of your comfort zone but leaves you craving the “real you?” Something that is steady and constant – but a but predictable. Maybe even boring?

stripes2How about something that you’re just excited to put on. And when you say goodbye, it’s for a short while, only?

That’s a good fit.

4. It brings you joy.

To be honest, I’m a pretty spiritual guy, and I connect very much to religion, ritual, and all the spiritual stuff in the old books with the yellow pages. 

That said, I know that real joy comes from simple things. Good food. Beer. Music. Hiking. Art. And spending time with someone you love.

If you find a great outfit, it might bring you some joy. Don’t deny it. Embrace it.

It’s a tiny taste of the larger joys that life has to offer, but hey – life is tough. Snatch your joy wherever and however you can.

smoo5. It connects you to others

My friend Luke, who has a Ph.D. and a way with words, once described his feelings about moving away from the community he’d grown close to for several years, and did this by referring to his basketball shoes: “These shoes fit so well, I don’t even feel them. In fact, it’s hard to tell where my foot ends and the world begins. That’s how I feel about you all.”

Yes, indeed. Well fitting clothes, like a well-fitting community, like a great relationship, help you feel united with yourself and connected to the world.