Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sick of ReRuns

As of today, three of my best friends live internationally.  2 of them have moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and one of them has moved to Argentina, not a clue of what city.  Aside from my other best friends living across the country, from the south up to new seems crazy that we all live these exotic lives.

Who could ask for anything better though?  To live by chance.  To live your life differently every single day and meeting new people every single day.  I love it.  Some people are just made, once they grow up, to get out.  

Has anyone every thought, which I know every one has, how different life would be if they went to a different high school or college or got a job in one place when you expected having something completely different?  

I went to a small, southern baptist high school right outside of Memphis, TN.  Did I love that high school?  Not at all....I mean it had it's fun moments, but I never hung out with anyone in my grade and did the high school stuff they really did.  I mean I attended the occasional movie nights and bowling outings, but I never really affiliated with the cliques in our school.

It's hard to keep in touch.  Who knew while I lived in LA, that my best friend would live in Argentina?  Or even two future business partners would be living in New Zealand?  It's good though, because I still talk to them daily.  I think it's good we keep in touch.  It keeps every day of our lives new, not a rerun.  Speaking of, time to run my 12 miles...The half is only a few weeks away....if I can do 12 today, I can do 13.1 in a few weeks...

"When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it's not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end." -S.M.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Bikin' to the 'Bu

I guess it started about a year ago when I realized I really missed riding bikes.  My friend Jeff and I, who is coming to Vegas in March and I'm stoked about it, would, on the rare occasion we both weren't working, take our bikes to the trails and ride them.  He was always much more adventurous than me, going faster down the hills and hitting all the  biggest of the tree roots bulging from the ground with full speed.  I kept up though.  It was a fun time.  One day we went to the trails on a mud run with a friend of ours, Bennett.  Now, THAT, was something I could do everyday.  Pouring down ran, just truckin' it through the trails.  We were soaked head to toe, mud was clenched between my ankles and the backs of my shoes, my hair was full of the sand grit that flew from our feet to our head, and the bandana I wore ingrained quite a few pieces across my forehead.  

In my imaginative psyche, we were the exact scene from Apocalypto, only we were clothed.   Ferocity engaged in every footprint we left running through the dense forrest.  It seemed we were speeding but never losing air or feeling fatigue.  There was a bridge at one point, which had broken and was utilized as a ramp that we jumped across, almost missing the opposing ledge at one point.  It really was great, something about the outdoors is revitalizing to a guy's demeanor.

I have a friend, Richard, I go to school with out here and he was wanting to bike to Malibu.  I haven't used my bike since I left Oxford, and I had been craving a venture like this for quite some time so I told him I'd join him.  Six o'clock came early, because apparently I have a sleeping problem close to insomnia that I feel only an occasional dose of NyQuil can fix, but I got up and rode to the pier to meet my friend.  It felt good to be back on my bike.  My balance and center of gravity was definitely questioned my first few miles but in no time it returned.

It seemed almost instantaneous we reached the city limits of Malibu, but we weren't that far.  Zuma Beach was another twenty miles away.  The sun was rising and my iPod was blaring a variety of new music on iTunes Top 100 songs, keeping me at a great pace.  The PCH, Pacific Coast Highway (at one point I had no clue what it was so I deem it necessary to specify), was having a slow morning with traffic so we weren't distracted by a plethora of cars or red lights.  Finally, we got to Pepperdine.  The ride wasn't difficult except there were many other bikers on the road that day, using road bikes, which apparently are 100% percent easier to perform on rather than a mountain bike, and passed us constantly.  They also wore proper attire such as helmets, under armor shirts, and biking shorts with pads.  As a side note, if you're going to bike great distances, get biking shorts; every place I sat today I winced like a baby getting spanked.

After Pepperdine we continued down some trails in the Malibu Hills that led to the beach.  After parking the bikes we decided to walk a little ways to stretch our legs. Mine kept trying to make the same circuitous motion when I got off my bike, so the walk would be good.  The tide was very high on the beach, which makes sense because I've only ever been there during the afternoons.  The waves were bigger than usual, and the beach was desolate aside from the occasional fisherman or two.  After the lax time of walking and talking about our careers and what we wanted to do the rest of our lives and how we would attain it, we started the journey back home.  Of course, we were starved so the quick stop at the Malibu Kitchen for a shmeared bagel seemed a necessity.  

At some point the traffic began to increase and my wheels gradually sped up and I realized I was tired.  I stopped to watch the surfers; some clashing on the waves losing their boards, faces covered with chagrin, and some gliding on top of them like it was the icy capades.  I rode my bike as a kid all over the neighborhood and all over town, but the sudden idea hit me.  As a kid, I never got tired riding my bike.  I didn't look at hills as an obstacle that would be hard to get up and I wasn't tired when I finished them.  I didn't go through the trails behind the neighborhood nervous about hitting a log the wrong way and crashing or going to fast downhill that I might lost control.  I was so much more fearless in those days.  Was Jeff's mentality different than mine?  Is that why he traversed more eagerly than me?  Now, I was looking at what I was hoping to be the high rises of Santa Monica and I immediately termed each hill or distance as an obstacle.  However, it wasn't the fact I was challenging myself, it was more so I was questioning if I could finish.  Maybe, from now on, I DO need to think like I did as a child.  I need to look at everything in front of me as fun and to just take advantage and do it, not worrying about failure.  Maybe, if I don't question my ability and don't think about the reality of "tired" then I can do more than I think.  

We finished around noon at the pier and watched the tourists pace back and forth over the darkened wood going to restaurants, playing arcade games, riding the few rides it encompassed, and I headed the few short miles to my house.  Ironically, my body was exhausted, as well as my thoughts, so I took a nap.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Banana Pancakes

I have never been such the type to have role models in my life.  I have always desired one, but my expectations are ridiculous when it comes to someone I look up to.  It may be because I have too high of expectations of what I expect myself to be and alters my thoughts about a role model.  I tend to take bits and pieces of many people in my life and form the ideal blueprint of a role model, something realistically not achievable.  We're only human.

I have no intentions of making this some sappy tribute to "all the people who have influenced my life," but it has to do with banana pancakes.  Erika Lipe, Sous Chef, and in my personal opinion, THE Executive Chef of Waltz on the Square (Oxford, MS), is the entire reason I am even in Culinary School.  I had my reservations of first trying to get a job at Waltz.  When I first spoke with my best friend Jeff about it, I was picturing me walking up to the back of a kitchen - a place I was not familiar with - and a 6'5, intimidatingly loud Russian woman telling me to get the hell out of her kitchen.  Instead, I walked in to what I can only describe as a dream of a person.  She was 23, had the face of an angel, and the most soft-spoken determined voice I have ever heard.  She was sure of herself, confident, and knew how to run a kitchen.  She also has the voice of a goddess when she sings that sends people into the most tranquil environment imaginable.  Don't get me wrong - she always rocked out when necessary.  

I met the crazy's that day, soon for which I would become one, and loved it.  The kitchen became my favorite place to be.  The unending, fake chatter from Pokerface rambling in my ear his ridiculous rationale for wearing two watches, the loud piercing sounds coming from Northcutt's mouth (or whatever utensil he decided to play with that day), the order for bread from Jennifer that was feverishly shouted over the hood vents and pot throwing, and the fresh feel of a cold bottled beverage at the end of the night became my comfort place.  

Prior to all this "work", which is still hard to refer to at times because of the enjoyment I gain from it, I was originally a runner.  There are ten million things that race through my mind in a ten-second timeframe, and running has always been my best means of output.  I used to run with my best friend Lauren.  She was a beast, not the way she looked because that was heavenly, it's that could run harder than anyone I knew at the time besides my sister.  We made it quite the habit to run four to five miles at least every other day.  We had our routes plastered all over town and the times were ridiculous when we ran.  Sometimes it would be before lunch or dinner when everyone was at home and it was just two able-bodied people owning the pavement, and other times we would be running at eleven o'clock at night to escape the peer pressure of studying, only to make procrastination justifiable.  Either way, it always makes me better when I run.  It makes my emotions stabilize and work more like the tide on the beach than the whirlpool in the gym.  It keeps my physicality in check so I don't become a zombie of a person.  The Catalina Half Marathon is only three weeks away and I plan on running it, even though I haven't signed up for it yet.  I'm a pro at spontaneous adventures.  Tomorrow on top of a five mile run, I'm biking to Malibu - with a friend, not out of personal adherence, just to tag along.

What it really comes down to is that I question why we do things.  They say you are a leader or a follower, but someone had to follow someone at one point to learn how to lead.  I started working in a kitchen because one of my best friends did and he loved it, so shouldn't I?  I started running because it's the best "sport" I did in high school and I wasn't even that good at it then.  What would I be missing out on if I didn't follow someone at a point in my life?  My old roommate Drew Taggart had a friend come cook him breakfast one morning when I lived in Oxford, MS.  Catherine Servati came and made him Banana Pancakes....and all I could think is the only reason anyone actually makes Banana Pancakes is because Jack Johnson sang a song about it.

"There once was a boy.  A kind, gentle lad who wanted to do big things and make a real difference.  But he didn't know himself and therefore couldn't know where he was going or how he could make a difference.  So he looked in books to see how other people did it...and it was good.  But of course he still couldn't find himself." - A late night text from my best friend


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

1,982 Miles

            I have grown up, not in a small town, or a quiet town.  I grew up in a suburb, Southaven, Mississippi, of Memphis, Tennessee.  I lived in a town where my house was half a mile from my school, which was conveniently half a mile from my work, and was half a mile from my church.  I lived in a place where drama spread like a wildfire in California.  You walked into Shnucks, formerly Sessels, and you knew half the people waiting an hour to check out in isle number seven.  Jackie didn’t care; she was only saving up for a new Harley. 

            My life started in Southaven living in the Savannah Creek Apartments for six months until we found the house I would live in for fourteen years.  It was common to have pool parties, barbecues; the lives of people I thought were normal.           

            After working for a restaurant for four months I graduated from prepping salads, desserts, bread, appetizers; and, I began to make soup du jours, marinara, curry, and Bolognese.  My heart had always been inclined to move to the city of Los Angeles, but now that I wanted to attend Culinary School, it seemed inevitable.  I came to visit with my best friend at the time.  Aside from my random bad habits, I decided to stay up all night before I made my first visit to the never-ending city.  I thought, “What the hell?  I’m going to LA I might as well have fun!”  After misplacing my vehicle, almost missing the flight, and pissing my best friend off, I finally sobered up enough to realize I need to focus on what the hell I was doing.

            We landed and a friend gave me my first tour of the city.  We rode down La Cienega to the city until I saw the Hollywood sign far up on the hill.  In fact, I asked if the sign was as big as a person and realized I should think before I speak.  Dumb ass.

            We drove down Vine to Sunset and took the Sunset Strip into Beverly Hills and back down to Melrose to my friend’s house.  It was then my imagination ran with me to what life would be like here.  The city was unlike any city I had ever been too.  Belem, Brazil was exotic; Petrazavodsk, Russia was cold and bitter.  Venice, Italy was artsy and historic.  This city was crazy.  It was perfect.

            I decided that I would begin school in August.  I had two months to decide whether or not I would make the move or prolong my dreams even longer.  Monica from the Art Institute called me a few days later and informed me I could not begin any classes there because I had already finished my general education classes at the University of Mississippi.  I had two choices: put off schooling until October or make the move in two weeks to start in July. 

It happened.  Next thing I knew I was packing my room, loading my car, crying daily.  I was scared out of my mind!  Sure, I have lived in London!  I have moved away!  This time, I wasn’t coming back.  I spent every night my last week in Oxford anxious, worrying about what the hell I was getting myself into.  I had to convince myself daily that I was doing this for a reason.  I left every person that cared about a sobbing voicemail telling them I would miss them, and I would.

            The night before I left I spent with my best friends.  The next morning I left in tears that only God knows how to shed; saying goodbye to the most important person in my life.  It was the hardest drive I have ever had to start and finish. 

I got to Memphis and picked my father up to join me on the journey to my new life.  My radio was not working in my car at the time.  My dad was also not the most verbally explicit person, so I'll let you imagine how that was going to go.

The first day of driving consisted of my unstable emotions.  I tried every mile marker to not burst into tears and turn my little Jeep Wrangler around to stay in my comfort zone.  After eight hours of excruciating pain we ended up in Oklahoma City at my uncle’s house.  We went to eat with them, talked about my plans, and got some rest for the next day.  Of course, I didn’t sleep well; I woke up repeatedly with urges to call my friends and tell them how much I had already missed them. 

            My dad and I kept traveling.  Texas was plain.  Arizona was the longest state, driving to Flagstaff and down to Pheonix.  Next, was the desert.  I hated my bladder at this point because I felt every twenty minutes I had to use the bathroom.  Four o’clock in the morning rolled around and we ere only in Banning, two hours from Los Angeles.  We pulled over in Palm Springs first, but after an hour of not finding a hotel we ended up at the Days Inn in Banning, but it was just for a few hours of shuteye.  The next morning I woke up and we headed off with chills down my spine.  Two hours later I was back to my new homeland.