Thursday, September 29, 2016

Best Man Speech

In the spirit of wedding season, I decided to publish this on my blog in case anyone else out there was struggling with a "Best Man speech." I delivered it this past weekend and upon delivery, I have a few tips/thoughts.

1) Practice - out loud - even if you are the Micheal Jordan of public speaking you need to practice to deliver a good speech in front of real people. You need to hear your voice and how things sound out loud.

2) Unless you are a professional comedian and constantly making people laugh naturally, stick to being sincere. Maybe lob a couple light hearted jokes but if you try to hard - it will be noticed. 

3) Keep it under 5minutes. Tops.

So, hear is what I have... feel free to use it, or parts of it, or ideas from it or whatever. It is unedited and typed mostly how I spoke it. Good luck.

  Hello, my name is Billy.  

So - Over the years Eric and I have had well-intention-ed arguments over engineering topics, movies (lots of movies), beers, career paths, and even love. Eric asked me to be in his wedding and be a Best Man a while ago and that made me extremely happy. Not only because he was planning a life together with the woman of his dreams (Sarah you look gorgeous!) buuuuut - he was finally admitting that after all those arguments and debates - I - in fact - was the best man all along.

So yeah - Bookie and I met on Sea Term my freshman, his sophomore year. I know half of the room is nick-named "Bookie" - but I can't seem to bring myself to call him "Eric" was on what "Trash Compactor Watch". For those of you who aren't familiar with Mass Maritime, I will spare you the description but just know that - like a lot of things at Mass Maritime Academy - it was a boring and seemingly pointless task on the ship... (I am still not quite sure what we were supposed to be doing?)

But anyways - I was a freshman on a training ship for the first time and after I walked into the trash compactor room and saw Eric sitting there I think the dialog went something like this:
(dweeby voice) "Oh hey man whatcha doing?"
For those of you who don't know this is the voice that every freshman makes at MMA
"I'm on trash compactor watch, go away."
"Trash compactor watch... what's that? The senior sent me down here to help."
"Oh - you really want to help??"
"Sure Sure - teach me something cool"
"Alright well here we go - thiiiiiiis right here is the trash compactor."
"Sit in thiiiis seat... and watch it."
"OK cool  - 10-4"
Eric started to walk out.
"Hey wait where are you going, bro??"
"You just sit there and watch! OK?!"
Eric then proceeded to go up to the mess deck and make a sandwich.

He took his sweet time too... I am not quite sure how long he was gone for but I was pissed. The thing about Eric is that - - And I am sure everyone in the room can relate - - After giving me, much deserved, grief as a silly freshman at MMA on a ship for the first time - - He came down back to watch with a half sandwich for me too.

And if that's not quintessential Eric Bookmiller in a nutshell - I am not quite sure what is... He is always quick with a joke and to poke fun but this guy cares more about each and every one of you in this room more than life itself.

We didn't really talk or hang out much for the rest of sea term (not intentionally or out of spite - but just because we had other groups of friends) but after we got closer over the years we both still lament about the missed potential of friendship and adventures in ports in the Caribbean we could have had if we had known, at the beginning of the relationship, how great of friends we would turn out to be.

Over the next few years, we became close. Late nights cramming for tests, late nights drinking at POC because we didn't want to cram for tests, early morning engineering labs, early mornings hungover at Leo's. There was a whole lot of movies, and a whole lot of Xbox. All along the one common theme in Eric's head was always Sarah.

Just like Eric and I didn't how good of friends we would turn out to be after the trash compactor episode, I am sure Eric and Sarah (though they made had a good feeling about it) probably didn't know how incredible their relationship would turn out at the very beginning. I think that's how the best things often turn out though. You always be yourself, and you always make an effort. Life has a funny way of taking care of the rest.

Though they were in two different states, and sometimes he was in the middle of the ocean - they carved time out for each other and no matter what the situation was they made each other number one in their lives. When ever Eric would hang up the phone, there was always a "She's the one for me... She's my girl." on the tip of his tongue. I didn't know Sarah at the time but one thing was obvious about their relationship all along. They didn't have to change who they were to make each other smile, and they always put effort in and made it work.

Now, a couple weeks ago I emailed both Eric and Sarah and I asked them not to discuss the email with each other. I asked them, among other things to list qualities that they admire most about one another. Honestly, I thought this was just going to be a way to get some ammo for this speech to poke fun at them but I quickly realized after reading the separate responses why these two are meant to be. So, to wrap this up, I just want to share their responses on the top qualities they each listed.

Number one from Eric: She listens to my rants. (No small feat... as most of you know)
Number one from Sarah: He listens to all my crazy and gory work stories.

Eric's number two: She puts up with my dumb jokes
Sarah's two: He is a goofball with a dry sarcastic sense of humor that makes me smile

Three, Eric: She is smart
Sarah: He is willing to learn something new even if it is just to make me happy

Last but not least...
Eric: She's compassionate
Sarah: He sees the best in life no matter what

Clearly they are on the same page as one another...

So let's raise our glasses to Eric and Sarah... When you combine all the above, let's toast to their new life together... and for God's sake that from now on, no one else will have to listen to Eric's weird rants or Sarah's gory work stories, - but most importantly the most compassionate marriage with the driest sense of humor of them all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Thoreau Introspection

Humidity. Shiiiiit. This may be the only thing in Boston that hits you before the flight attendant's accent.
(Ding) "Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Baw-stin. Where the local time is..."
I had almost forgotten about both.

The two main reasons for the trip were to throw a bachelor party for my little brother and then celebrate a wedding the following weekend. I filled up the rest of the week with catching up with friends, workouts, and mini-adventures. 

I was halfway across Walden Pond and just about to fake a flip-turn when the first pieces for this little nugget came into my brain. That, and I had seen a few brace souls dump a myriad of thoughts and emotions into similar lists of their own. I had been off the red-eye for only a matter of hours and Walden was the first place I went. Though he did not have to elbow through tourists or see the ugly construction taking place, Thoreau was really onto something. There is just something really magical about Walden Pond.

Being back at such an awe inspiring place and not being able to call it "home" is a peculiar feeling. Through a swim at Walden and run thru the city, I found myself recounting life events, soul searching, dealing with the overwhelming feelings of such profound connections with people and places but also a gratitude to the next adventure.

I had a hard time organizing these thoughts but finally settled on this. I'm approaching the start line of the final year in my twenties so in true BuzzFeed fashion here's my 29 for 29. Twenty-nine personal lessons or thoughts for 29 years in Boston training for races and life in general.

1. I believe that a bold and hearty "Fahk you" from a Bostonian is equal to a Goose/Maverick-volleyball-style high-five anywhere else.

2. My janky running cadence is symbiotic to my current writing cadence. I love both of these activities and I am going to have to work on both if I want to get any better at either.

3. A polite "On your left" said anywhere else means "Please excuse me and do not be alarmed as I run by you." Roughly translated on the Charles River: "You wanna race, asshole?"

4. I still purposely have my read receipts on.

5. A text response in all emojis is the universal sign for "this conversation is fucking over" - How do some people not know this yet?

6. Any show with a built in laugh track is not inherently not funny.

7. I live by Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening". That poem describes perfectly the feeling of being back home, and with the same exact words, describes why I left. I still smile walking past the tattoo shop in Davis Square where I decided to have it inked into my bicep. I still give a head-nod to the artist in the window every time though I am sure he doesn't remember me.

8. I also don't remember the name of the barista at The Wholy Grain and I am sure she doesn't remember mine. Upon walking in, we both recognize each other and decide tacitly not to acknowledge the meaninglessness of the name-oversight. She remembers my order perfectly (a large black coffee and Swiss Muesli). Interactions like this make me smile.

9. What someone has hanging on their refrigerator might be the best insight into their life.

10. I'm not quite sure when I realized this but I look up to my little brother in more ways than I'll probably ever admit to him.

11. Ketchup is disgusting. It is a microcosm to all that is wrong with the world.

12. I don't follow or care for sports much anymore though I do pretend to for the sole purpose of maintain connections with some friends and family.

13. As a pudgy second grader who was banished to always playing goalie at recess, I tried to change my name from Billy to Will for no other reason than I thought it would make me run faster and be inherently "cooler". Reason being that Will Russel was the fastest kid in school. I realized far too late in the game that it was OK not to be in the "cool crowd".

14. Though I love constantly dropping hearts on friends pictures, I am not proud of how attached to social media I am. I realize it is a "highlight reel" and not a true depiction of anyone's life but am jealous of people who go weeks without caring to check-in on the world.

15. The jury was out on dating apps for a while. My gavel has, as of recently, slammed them to be bullshit. It is an easy way to jam a square shaped "fix" into a circle shaped void. It inherently robs two people of the magic of organically connecting with one another and developing a relationship. The satisfaction of an instantly gratifying connection hijacks the sensation of reliving those weightless butterfly feelings whenever anyone asks "So, how'd you meet?"

16. "Maybe we could just get together and eat a bunch of caramels." 

17. Seeing the Milky Way under a clear sky for the first time is the most phenomenally belittling experience I have had to date. If I could wish one thing on every human being, it would be this.

18. Running is church to me right now. I believe in it.

19. I still have not had to experience and endure the heartache that comes with the of the death of a loved one. Knowing that it constantly lurks in the shadows of the sometime-future scares the hell out of me.

20. My favorite thing about myself is my ability to smile and bullshit.

21. Leave no trace. But always leave things (people. places, conversations) better than you found them.

22. You're in charge of your on schedule and priorities. The excuse "I'm too busy." Is the ultimate cop out. If you don't want to be somewhere or do something, be honest and don't lead people on.

23. Having confidence and passion beats being physically attractive/sexy every single time.

24. Knowing how to learn and adapt beats actually knowing a lot almost every single time.

25. I once debated that the hardest thing in the world to endure was the tail-end of an unforgiving, tear filled, conversation after breaking a loved one's heart. (I now accept that this is actually the second hardest thing one is obligated to endure).

26a. The last mile of the Boston Marathon is absolutely breathtaking. I miss taking the T out to Woodlands on Thursday nights and running the final third of the Marathon route back into the city. I also miss the pizza, beer, and people afterwards at the dive-iest of dives that was "the upstairs Crossroads Pub."

26b. I also won't be able to think of that pub without reliving the scene of falling in love for the first time. I mean really falling in love. Hard. Started by an unsuspecting comment to a stranger who I thought had just ordered a "post-run-Martini." The lessons learned and experiences from that relationship had a profound affect on who I am and how I live/love today.

27a. Consequently, I now accept that the number one hardest thing to endure is to sit on the other side of the aforementioned break-up conversation and listen as someone that you've given your whole heart to tries to explain that they do not want to be with you anymore. 

27b. I think the best (read: only) thing one can do in the above situation is not make the situation any harder than it has to be. Sitting in silent acceptance will be your only way to "return fire" as you make it more awkward for the other person. Because fuck them and what they are putting you through. (It will also make it more awkward for the cab drive who overheard the whole thing... because fuck him, too, right?).

28. I live for awkward moments and will crack jokes or movie quotes even knowing that no one around me might get them. And as long as I think that I'm funny, that's all that matters. It also makes it all the better when people do get the jokes.

29a. Weddings are still weird to me. As I watch two friends look into each other and profess an unconditional love, I am both profoundly happy that I am not ready for that yet, but, in the same sentence, admit I am equally scared I will never be able to get on that level. 

29b. I will, however, take the opportunity at your wedding to overindulge and dance with your grandmother.

Boston from the Blue Hills Skyline Trail

Friday, September 9, 2016

Who's the douchebag?

You be the judge. These are the facts of he case, and they are undisputed. Ladies and gentlemen, Who's the douchebag?

So I got on the 2.5hr shuttle van to the airport and sat in the second row. Heading home for a bachelor party and a wedding. The van was full. Most people were just minding their own business quietly. I know this is horrible form but I had to take a call (about a job). I know how lame this is so before I picked it up I apologized to the people next to me and said I'd only be a few minutes.  No one else in the van was talking so I really didn't see a huge deal in this. It's not the best situation but not the worst. And this guy and I have been playing phone tag for almost two weeks now. I need to emphasize the fact that I wasn't talking any louder than a whisper. Seriously, I was wondering if he could even hear me.

Anyways, I pick up the phone and after about ten minutes the driver asked me to hang up so she could call dispatch. I wasn't thrilled but I abided and told the guy I'd call him right back. When she finished I went to call him back. The driver asked me "not to talk on the phone all ride" and said I should only text. I politely told her that my call meant a lot to me and I'd be quick and that it couldn't be texted, I honestly wonder if she could even hear me talking from two feet away.

I proceeded to call this guy back and lowered my volume even more. Every Time I whispered into the phone she got annoyed and made a point to speak very loudly, seemingly just to annoy me. Eleven minutes later after successfully landing this thing (only after toggling the mute button every time this lady opened her ugly throat hole). I again apologized to everyone in the van and thanked them for bearing with me. One guy even commented, "Sounded like a pretty good call." and everyone chuckled and smiled.

She then proceeded to make miserable conversation with the person in the passenger seat obnoxiously loud FOR THE REST OF THE RIDE! On the contrary, no one else in the van spoke the rest of the ride. The passenger she was speaking to, as far as I could see, didn't even want to be talking to her. Her voice was absolutely horrible and I wanted to squeeze the rest of her stupid water bottle down her gullet until she shut the fuck up.

So I honestly ask - what's the difference between me talking on my phone for 20 out of the 150min ride and her babbling the whole time? What if I had been talking to someone next to me? Would that have made a difference?

Or does she hold the trump card because she's driving? I'd totally understand if that were the case but I dont really see a huge deal in quietly taking a call on a shuttle bus. Again- I know it's not the best situation for anyone but is it so bad that she has the right to ask me to hang up?!

Does acknowledging the fact that I was "that guy" rescind me a little from the title? Or am I just a giant bag of douche for taking the call?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Who's the new guy?

I am so new to Flag that I still feel out of place calling it Flag. Like that awkward feeling speaking a foreign language in another country even if you know it fluently. How long do I have to be here before I can use the abbreviation unequivocally? And I don't know why but I told very (very) few people, even close friends, that I made the jump over one more state westward. Maybe 10-20% of me felt like my 3 month stint in Denver was a bit of a failure for more reasons than one. Maybe it was just not the right fit at the time. Maybe I moved out there for the wrong reasons in the first place. "Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the face." - Muhammad Ali.

I essentially "ghosted" the city of Denver. Judge away; I'm not proud of it but nonetheless that's what went down. On the contrary, the subtle welcoming whispers from a couple of really key friends whom I really look up to on the life spectrum broke thru to me and I couldn't ignore the opportunity (two of these friends I am currently staying with and forever will be grateful for their hospitality). For the second time in three months my entire life was in the back of a UHAUL and the rear view mirror was pointed east. It was actually a Penske truck and there wasn't a rear view mirror but shit I saved some money and the description was on point so let me get back to my story, please?

Day 3: I scored my first date out here. Mother Nature always seems to swipe right. Rapid fire style. She doesn't care about your first picture or your stupid corny description or how tall you are or what you do for a living. I didn't lob a lame one-liner out there or poke fun at any of her pictures to get the conversation going.
She even texted first. "Meet up on the mountains at sunrise." 

"Dang, a little forward." I thought, "But what the hell, right?"
Starting the trek right at 0400. I got to the top of Doyle's Saddle a little early. I waited around for a bit but it was clear to me what was going on. Cloud cover that condensed on my arm hair and cold winds that cut thru the thin shirt I was wearing. No sunrise in sight. The bitch stood me up. I proceeded onward down the back side of the climb until my watch clicked passed the 3hr mark then flipped it back and retraced my steps for another 3 hours. In a town that sees thousands of passerbys, even Mother Nature needed reassurance my intentions were good. "Fair" I thought with a smirk and grinned all the way home.

I had never moved as a kid but now appreciate how hard it must have been.  The new kid feelings were reaffirmed Day 5. Not on the mountains but my one of my next favorite places. A brewery. Dark Sky Brewery to be exact and immediately took a liking to the place in every aspect. OK, you caught me. This was actually my second night in a row here. I popped in for a beer or two the night before and it wrapped up as prescribed. However, Day 5 I accidentally sat down a the right table with two of the couples who founded the brewery (I actually met them back in April on another running adventure) but this time the conversation started with, "Are you staying here for a while or just for a training stint?" in other words "Should I bother to remember your name?" I said something to the affect of, "I'll stay if you'll have me." and two beers turned into hours of laughs and that turned into closing the place. I might have even offered to mop. High quality beer topped only by the high caliber people here. Seriously. Top notch.

Asking me why I moved again would be similar to asking the lead singer of the Beets (Monroe Yoder) why he needs more allowance.

Speaking of which, can someone please tell me where I can order a Honker Burger and get a dog like Porkchop? Though I don't doubt the move from Bloatsburg to Bluffington was hard for Doug, I digress down a 90s childhood of analogies again. I am not sorry.

I am also gearing up to give two "best man" speeches this fall so I am going to try walk the line of expressing a new found point of view without giving away all of my material (who knows if this is the best it'll get?).

Moving (spending hours upon hours driving through a cell-phone-service-less desert and nothing on the radio) got me thinking about how people "brand" themselves. And I think the "brand" one presents to the world is a reflection of the constantly rolling narration in one's head. It mostly falls to the means and methods of which we measure in our lives or what we "keep track of". Instead of thinking of the DNFs, the times it didn't workout, or the number of heartbreaks - doesn't it service us better as humans to mark a tally, instead, for all the times we made it work out, took a risk, or brought a smile to someone's face? Spoiler alert: the latter is more difficult but it is also the only way to change the tone of the voice inside your head and hence redefine your "brand" or what you are putting out into the world. And furthermore, what you are getting back from it.

So what is your brand? Because you have one whether you want one or not. What are you putting out into the world? What's your story? How do you treat people? Are you the person who complains about most things? Who can't help themselves from groaning in the grocery line impatiently? Are you the runner who is "way to taxed" or can't be bothered to thank the volunteers at a race? I guarantee it will never hurt - and most of the times help - your outlook on the race... or life. This next part is in no way meant to be seen as being said from a soapbox but I have recently made it a point to compliment or start a conversation with any major encounter throughout the day. Try it just for one day - I swear to God it will change your day/life. If you are unhappy with the personal narrative or even just a part of it - it is easy to change. And with that change your "brand" (granted moving to a new city makes it a lot easier but definitely not necessary).

It may seem insincere or forced at first. It might just be that. But that won't last long when you see faces light up around you.
"Cool hat, man!"

"I love that necklace/those earrings."
"What are you drinking?"
"What's up with your eye?" (Just kidding - don't use this one)

Just try it. Mood follows action. Key being that you need to act first.

"We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it." -Seneca

At the grocery store, just make a quick effort to smile or say an extra "How are you?" rather than the usual BS. I was recently talking with a friend on the subject of how someone actually makes new friends after high school/ college or outside of work. Well half the battle is just to show up. Don't get so caught up in yourself all of the time (some of the time is perfectly fine) but make room for the small stuff rather than the majority of your day moving from "I need this" to "I don't have time for that". The other half is usually as simple as be nice.
It goes a long the longest way. Be weird. Be different. Have a story. Have something to say. Mean it.
Otherwise your life is on autopilot and it will be over in a blink.

Fast forward to now. Day 6. I've been posted up in coffee shop for hours now and I swear I stopped in for a quick coffee and I was going to be right out but the song playing when I walked in was Dave Matthews Band - "Grey Street" (I am not sure how many other guys my age will admit that they are still DMB fans. Again, judge away). I thought how appropriate that song was and opened the laptop. I hadn't talked to barista who initially poured my coffee since I complimented her crazy turquoise jewelry. I quickly learned it was her late grandmother's jewelry and she had once lost it and she finally got it back and it meant the world to her and she appreciated the compliment.

She came by a couple times as quietly typed away with a smile and silently placed another ice-java-mocha-whosie-whats-it in front of me. I only really drink black coffee and I still don't know the difference between any coffee drinks but the free-ness of unbidden beverages was certainly an added bonus to the day. I didn't send the compliment off in the hopes of getting anything in return but the exchange brought on a mood was prohibitively pleasant the rest of the time I was there. I can't say for certain but I have an underlying feeling that the vast majority of the people in Flag are on the same page whether they are conscience to it or not. I think I'll fit in fine here.

There’s an emptiness inside her
And she’d do anything to fill it in
And though it’s red blood bleeding from her now
It’s more like cold blue ice in her heart
She feels like kicking out all the windows
And setting fire to this life
She could change everything about her using colors bold and bright
But all the colors mix together - to grey
But she says, “Please"
"There’s a crazy man that’s creeping outside my door,
I live on the corner of Grey Street and the end of the world”