Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I'm still the luckiest guy I know

Someday I hope to compose the words to accurately describe what a wonderfully beautiful journey this time has been. Until then, here are a couple of pictures that touch my heart.





Saturday, August 27, 2016

First

Today I took my son to his first date. He's 12, and he told me about it and we laughed both knowing he had his first kiss, too.

I'm overwhelmed with joy and floating on what can only be described as happiness. 

I love this life.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

I can't believe I get to marry you, Mandy. You're so beautiful, inside and out. #mandyshaye #nofiltereverneeded

Friday, July 8, 2016

Just because

Sean and Ireland: 

You have made my life complete, worthwhile and full of pride and joy. Thank you for being the most amazing human beings I could ever imagine. My love for you is forever. 



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Hey, Pops

Tomorrow marks 5 years since you passed away. It's been almost two thousand days since the last time I saw your blue eyes open from that Sacramento hospital bed as Kenny Loggins played through the little speakers next to you and a war raged on inside your brain. What a nice sight that was; to see your eyes again. What a tremendous relief and feeling of hope, as fleeting as it may have been. I'll never forget that moment, that battle, or any of the life that you lived so ferociously.

I want to write the words "It's hard to believe it's been so long...", but such a statement would prove false. The true sentiment is that it's easy to believe it's been that long. In a way it feels like a lifetime ago that you left. Five years is a hell of a long time when you pack in everything that's happened in my life or the lives of my children  - your grandchildren. They were so very lucky to have met you. We all still get emotional thinking about you some times. They have pictures of you on their walls in their bedrooms, and when they play sports or music or sometimes even when we dance together to Stevie Wonder in the living room, we think of you and hope that you are watching down on us all. Every touchdown or three-pointer, every tackle or base hit, every dance recital or cheer or absolute perfect report card...I can't help but think that you are a part of all of them, and with bittersweet pain and love I think of you and wish you were still here to take part in the absolute joy that I have in experiencing my kids. I feel like you were robbed of this gift, this pleasure and pride, but then I think that its all of us who were really shorted. Some of us more than others.

My little nephews, the 3 Egan boys you never got to meet...they would make you laugh so hard I can picture your shoulders bouncing up and down and your eyes getting wide open, thinking about how much payback in personality little Hudson is to your youngest son. He's the spitting image of that wild-haired and strong-willed Paddy. And what an exciting mystery lies ahead for his twin brothers with the havoc and handsome mayhem they have the potential to stir up in that beautiful family's house...and in this world around us. And then there's the darling Dearing girls...without a doubt the wildest and most passionate of us all. There will never be a more indomitable force from your progeny than that little Ashleigh. And I'm sure once she learns how to fight off her big sister, Abbi, too, will join the ranks of "girls that dominate" (as I'm sure you would christen them). True chips off the "Mozambique" block, to say the least.

The rest of us, though, we just miss you. I know for me I miss your toughness the most. There are days I have a hard time getting out of bed and dragging my ass into an office that has been pretty empty without you all this time. I don't have you to answer to when I'm late, and that's really the hardest thing to understand, I think. Maybe it's why I haven't been able to take the big picture of you down off the mantle...a "temporary" installment after your funeral that never really fit the space. At least when I show up and when I leave every day I can feel your eyes looking down and see that face and know that you could always see all the way inside me and you would never, EVER settle for any bullshit I would tell you or try to tell myself.

There just isn't another one of you out there, Dad, and the world is a little bit worse for the lack of you in it. I'm doing my best to live up to what you represented to me, and to so many others, but it's not an easy task, and I miss you tremendously. Sometimes I simply don't know how you did it. I've taken a challenging path since you left, and some of the time I just don't know how it's all going to play out. But I have your guidance to pull from every day, and believe me, I don't make jokes anymore about the motivational posters you kept on the wall reminding you that "Persistence prevails when all else fails." I will never forget the words "intestinal fortitude" or what they meant to you.

This Thanksgiving, when we are all playing basketball in your memory, in a game you started what must have been 40 years ago....you will be there with us. Just like you are every day. In spirit. In memory.

I love you, Pops.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The best part of my day...

...is often the kiss that takes place just seconds before I say goodbye to this little beauty.


😘😘😘

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

My Voice

It's amazing what 8 years and 8 months of life will do to your blog. I look back on who I was and how my voice sounded inside my head when I started this thing, and it seems so very different than the one I have now. The words I chose and the content of my experience are such distant, fond memories. That voice was so much younger, purer, sometimes even stronger, but never more honest.

This voice is an oft-beaten, love tussled and loss wounded older, wiser, harder and yet humbler voice. These days I keep it inside my head more often than not. I fear things I didn't and have lost all concern for things I once feared.  I cry, I rant, I apologize, I scold and I discipline only to love and to lament, to lavish whatever kindness I have inside upon those few I have around to share them with. I want more of it. I want more of the best of me for those I love.

I start to talk and wonder if it's even worth the effort...do I really want to hear the same thing come out of my mouth even one more time? Doesn't this very post, in fact, sound so similar to so many posts I've pasted up here before it? Is this that voice again, the voice from the past, the naive, younger, dumber, still hasn't learned his lesson voice of my past? Perhaps it is that same voice. Perhaps there is something back there from 8 years ago I missed and maybe, just maybe there is something I thought or felt that merits revisiting.

"Old or young, we're on our last cruise."

Robert Louis Stevenson once said that, and I once posted something that included it. He couldn't have been closer to the truth. And right now, I stipulate to the fact that sometimes the voices from the past have a lot of light to shed on our present...even if the voice was my own younger, less educated version of myself. It was the same cruise and I'm just further along the way. I've been through some stormy parts already, and hope that the sea stays relatively calm for me now. I'm better now at following the stars and using the compass. I count on it today. The compass. It's actually a quiter, subtler, whisper sort of a voice...but it is mine.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Cleveland

This is Cleveland. He's originally from Mississippi but he learned to walk in San Antonio and he favors Texas. 


That's the rap he gave me a couple of hours after I met him. After he had he chance to sober up a little bit. And after he had cleaned up his encampment from behind my office. 

We didn't meet in the most beautiful manner. I heard noise from the sort of alley behind my building and saw some movement in the window. By the time I ran around to see what was happening, there was Cleveland, swaying back and forth, filthy pants around his ankles, dick-in-hand, pissing on my building. I wasn't very happy about it, but it was in those first 90 seconds of meeting him...after raising my voice and starting to call the police, seeing the apologetic and embarrassed look on his face, that I realized this guy didn't have much of a choice that morning. And as I have come to know Cleveland a little better, hiring him for 1-2 hours at a time to clean up trash and graffitti around my properties usually a couple of times a week, I don't think he has been blessed with as many choices in his life as I was. In fact, he has told me "if you saw where I come from, you would see I've made progress". I know he's making an effort. 

Cleveland was a family name. His grandfather's mother's sister had a crush on "some guy named Cleveland" but nobody knows who the namesake really was. 

Cleveland ended up in Reno to try and be closer to his son, a 12 year old boy named David Ezekiel who lives in Alturas. He's trying to be closer to his son by living here, the bus line up to Alturas being his means to getting there. He also has a 27 year old son named Justin Aaron who he tells me is in medical school at Ole Miss...or more properly the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Justin was born when Cleveland was just 16 and he hasn't really been too close with him. But David he didn't know about until he was 6 years old so he has been trying to get close to him since. 

It's been a rough go for Cleveland, who told me that once he started trying to do the right thing "all hell" has come against him. Judging from the smell of him that first time I met him that hell includes some pretty powerful demons some of whom I have actually met. 

I can't do a whole lot for Cleveland. I haven't got much money right now, and I have made the mistake of letting homeless or drug addicted people live in properties I own in the past. It has really done damage to me every time so I have to keep my boundaries and take care of my family and my business. But I make a point to connect with Cleveland a couple of times a week for the past few weeks and give him money for cleaning up my properties and keeping an eye on things. 

The City of Reno has been fining me $200, $300, $500 at a time for homeless people sleeping behind a couple of my buildings and leaving their belongings. I can't keep up with cleaning it every day, so I figured I would try something new and I hope that the arrangement benefits both Cleveland and I accordingly. 

I told Cleveland today that I think you just gotta work hard and karma will come around. I hope that's the case. 

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thomas and Gordon

This is Thomas Jefferson Gayden.




















He is originally from the Bay Area. He recently lost both of his parents, but was blessed, as he said, to have been raised by such good, Christian people. He looks healthy considering he is in his early 60's, but the last year has been a little rough with 3 stays in the hospital here in Reno for a blood clot that almost killed him. His eyes and his voice are clear as anything, however...definitely not groggy or tired or what would appear to be under the influence of anything save for a little bit of homelessness.

But about 4 days ago he met his slightly younger and equally sober friend Gordon Allen Skogan. They are both very kind and soft spoken, gentlemen to be sure.














Gordon is here with the white hair and duffle bag containing crackers and a jacket that probably won't be needed this warm first day of fall in Reno. Gordon is from Carson and has lived there most of his life, but made his way up to Reno not too long ago.

When I came upon these two they were watching a couple of full shopping carts for another fellow homeless person. There is a code amongst them all, so to speak, and so I am told, having never been forced to make my bed in the cold grass of the downtown park. Proudly, Gordon let me know that "everything (he has) is here on the ground with me, those aren't my carts". A testament to traveling light, I guess.

The two let me know that in their situation they get to meet the best of humanity and also the worst of humanity. I said I could only imagine, but I was happy to meet them, and to give them each $10 to take their picture and hear a little bit of their story.

I thanked them for sharing their time with me this evening, and for allowing me to do what little I could today to try and make the world around me a slightly better place. I had been feeling pretty down and out, and I needed a reminder that there was a lot for me to be grateful for, and someone out there I could learn something from and do something for. Lucky me, there were two someones out there tonight! I'm very grateful for Thomas and Gordon, and I hope they get something warm to eat tonight. It sounded like there may be some housing lined up for them in the near future, and that's really awesome. Nothing bad ever lasts forever, and sometimes it's not as bad as it seems.


Thursday, September 10, 2015

In memory

Today is national suicide prevention day. In honor of a kid I wish I could have done more for, and in an effort to effect some kind of change in the world by telling the story, I am going to repost something from a few years ago. It was a horrible experience, and as I grow older and further from that time, I try to remember that everyone is going through something and we can all be nicer to each other.

Do good for someone today.


---

I have been thinking long and hard about whether or not to write this post. Since Monday, I've been struggling with something that happened in my world, and I have decided that as selfish as it might be, I have to get this out of my head, and move on with my life. This little bit of selfishness, as you may see, is but a ripple of that which started the ball rolling a long time ago.

Warning: this isn't warm and fluffy reading. In fact it's dark. If you have any hesitation whatsoever about reading into the sometimes gruesome and dark realities that rear their head in this life, please just stop now, and I promise I'll get back to the sweet joyful musings of kids and laughter soon. Until then, joyful this is not.

As most people know, I am a landlord. I have some apartment buildings that I work very hard to maintain. They are the homes of many people...the place that they come to sleep, eat, laugh, live. The life of a landlord is a 24 hour a day job. Just last night, I got a call at 3:45 in the morning to let someone in who had locked herself out of her home. The option I had was to force her to call a locksmith, pay the after hours fee, and likely spend a couple of hours dealing with it until she could finally return to bed. Well, in my experience, that amount of waiting is unnecessary...I was already awake, and I live close by. I could also bet that before spending the money and time, most people make a pretty good effort to break into the building, which is very secure, and such an attempt evolves into property damage that I have to deal with later on, so that's what I did...that's what I do: I answer the phone, and I deal with these things at all hours of the day and night.

It's a balancing act I play all the time, too, as my life still goes on. It wasn't easy to lay awake at 4am, with the kids in the other room sleeping, thinking about the fact that I had to get them up in enough time for school today. I am just lucky that Anna was at my house so I could leave and deal with the issue at all. The kids didn't have to be woken up until right before 8, as Sean wanted to see his mom before school. Still, since my kids were slow to rise, and could not be motivated to wake up as quickly as me, they lagged getting dressed, and I couldn't get them completely ready for school in time to also see their mom, so something had to suffer...in this case, judging by a text I just got, Babymama is pissed off about the fact that I didn't have the lunches made, or their teeth brushed. As sorry as I am that I couldn't do it all, I also get defensive because nobody really knows how this life really goes for me. I'm trying my best all the time, but I'm deeply entrenched in so many other people's lives, I am trying to make 3 businesses succeed, and I'm first and foremost, trying to make 2 little kids know that they are always loved, and the most important thing in the world. Oh well...you pick your battles, and the fight for my kids' joy is the number one for me always. I wish it was the same for everyone else.

A little over a week ago I was in the office, and a stranger walked in. He was trying to get into the apartment of a kid who lived here. I'll call my tenant Cal. So this stranger was very disheveled, and acting strange. He was obviously on drugs, and fairly desperate to get into Cal's apartment. He told me that Cal told him he could live there, and his stuff was in the apartment but he didn't have a key. I told him that Cal had never discussed having a roommate, and that even his presence in the building without Cal being home was a violation of the Lease. He kept begging me to open up his apartment. I told him to get off the property, and if his stuff was in fact inside, he could call Cal or call the police, but there was no way I was letting some stranger in. He left very upset and confused, but I think that the confusion was due in large part to his brain firing in a million wrong directions, triggered by the pains of addiction. I called Cal. I let him know what was going on and that if he was allowing someone to live in his apartment, it was a violation, and we had a problem. He assured me that this stranger was not his friend, but a casual acquaintance who he in no way wanted in the apartment, nor did he have any of his personal property there. We agreed that the stranger was not allowed on the property again, as much as we could control it, and I made a mental note to keep my eye on Cal.

I was already aware that Cal needed a little monitoring. I try not to rent to kids that are too young. Cal was 19, and not the typical tenant in my buildings. They are older, have hardwood floors, and sounds tend to get through the walls pretty easily. I warn everyone moving in that if they are late night types, or like to entertain, that this is not the place for them. Cal got the speech, and he reassured me that he was more of a recluse, involved in his church a lot, and wouldn't be a problem. I made an exception to my rule and for about a month there weren't any problems. He had some tattoos, a couple of piercings, but a genuinely great smile and warmth that told me he had a huge heart and was a good kid.

I tried to think about all of this on Thursday night when after a couple of calls from other tenants, I had to knock on Cal's door at 1am. The complaints were about noise and smoke, and the possibility of drug use going on in the apartment. I don't mess around with stuff like this, so I moved quick, and banged on the door ready to do whatever I needed to do. I had already called the police, anticipating something sketchy going down. They informed me that I could wait for a car, but they had no idea how long it would be. I knew that I couldn't wait, that the other tenants were worried about their own safety, and were quickly losing sleep and faith in their ability to enjoy the peace of their homes, so I told the police dispatch that I would head in myself, and call after if anything was out of my control. When a tall young man answered the door with his eyes dark and sunken into his head, smoke came billowing out around him. I told him I needed to talk to Cal, and he said he would go get him. "Are we being too loud?" he asked. "Yes, amoung other things," I replied, "Get Cal now." He went back in the apartment, murmurs followed by silence, and then he returned, "Cal's at the store, sorry." I told him that he and his friends had 2 minutes to leave the premises before I called the cops, and that Cal had 5 minutes to be back to talk to me before I called the cops on him. The kid went back in, and after some shuffling, Cal appeared at the front door, apologizing that he was in the bathroom when I showed up and didn't know what was going on. I watched as 7 young kids all left the building, each one more nervous than me. I made sure that my accessories let them know how serious I was, but nothing got confrontational that night. Cal agreed that everyone would be gone and he would be in my office at 9am on Friday to talk about the fact that he would no longer be living in the apartments.

About 9:30 the next morning I sat waiting for Cal with an eviction letter drawn up for both of us to go over. It had a blank in the spaces where we would fill in the date and time that he would be completely out of the apartment. By law, I could give him 3 days, but I knew that it would be too fast, and wanted to give him the chance to prove himself capable of handling this like an adult, and not forcing me to take him through the court system. When he didn't show, I texted him that we had an appointment, and asked him if he was going to show up or not. He texted back that he was sorry, but at work, and wouldn't be available until later that afternoon. I said OK, but then realized that I had, the day before, posted a notice on his door to inspect his apartment, since I wanted to make sure no one else was living there. So I went to his unit, and knocked on the door. I didn't hear anything, so I opened it up, and the security chain braced tight. Obviously someone was inside. I said "Cal, this is Brian here to do the inspection. If you're here, or if anyone is here, you need to come to the door now." Cal came to the door in his boxers and t-shirt. He was busted...probably waking from about an hour of sleep. When I went inside, two of the same guys from the night before were back in the apartment. I told Cal I'd be in my office, and expect him within 15 minutes. I told him the guests would have to be gone at that time as well...just like we talked about 8 hours earlier. He agreed.

When Cal walked into the office, it appeared that he finally understood what was going on. His piercings were out. He had put on a button up shirt. He looked respectable. He sat at the table, and started to apologize. I said that I wasn't very happy, and that he had to go. He broke down a little bit at the sight of a 3-day eviction notice for violations of his Lease. I told him that it was hard for me to feel a whole lot for someone who had lied to my face several times in the past couple of days. He straightened up and understood. He asked to not be evicted. He wanted to stay, and said he was willing to do anything. I told him, as I have had to tell others before him that this business was important to me. That when people don't feel safe in their home, they find another one, and in the process, I lose renters, and the ability to pay the bills, to feed my own family. I've had this conversation many times over the years, but as I get older the conversation gets softer and more direct. I don't really posture as much as I used to...trying hard to defend my rights to run the business as I need to, but making more of an effort to put someone else in my shoes...to create empathy and awareness that as adults living in an apartment complex, we have to be responsible to our neighbors too. Cal seemed to understand this, and asked what he could do to prove that he wouldn't be a problem. I said that there wasn't anything, and that I knew that there was not only underage drinking going on, smoking in the building, but also I believed there to be drug use. He said that he had nowhere to go and that he wouldn't know how to make it all happen in 3 days. I told him I understood, and that I wanted to help. I believed that he was a good kid. I asked him what was going on with the life he told me about when he moved in? What about the church he was a big part of? He said that he had dropped out of a lot of it recently, having fell in with some old friends. He claimed to know that he was making bad decisions and that he wanted to get back to it. I said that he was an adult, and that his actions and choices right now were going to dictate how the rest of his life was going to go.

"Cal, I don't want to file this eviction on you...I don't want to negatively affect your life, your credit, your ability to do anything in your future. I know you are a good person, and I want to help you, but you have to be honest with me right now. What kind of stuff are you guys doing?"

"Snorting amphetamines"

"Look, I know that there are worse things out there, and I've seen them, but what you're doing is not good, and it's obviously negatively affecting your decisions and your life."

"I know, and I'm sorry."

I knew he was. I told him that I appreciated his honesty, and because I trusted that he was being honest with me, finally, I wouldn't file the eviction. He could have the next couple of weeks to find a place, to clean up his apartment and move his stuff, and to get all of his security deposit back to help him with his transition. But he couldn't live here anymore, and for that I was sorry, but I couldn't let the rest of the tenants think that this was the kind of place where numerous violations would be tolerated. I need their trust too. I told Cal that I would have to inspect his apartment twice a day through the weekend, and see progress made on cleaning up. That I would be inspecting it each day over the next couple of weeks to see that no guests were staying there, and that he was staying on the right track. He agreed, and was pretty grateful. I caught that smile of his again, and felt good about how I was handling things, and grateful for how he was handling himself. We filled in the blank on our letter, and put in in his file.

I checked back that afternoon, then Saturday morning and afternoon. Each time he was making progress, cleaning up trash and boxes...making an effort. On Sunday morning when I showed up, he let me know he had already found a place, and was probably going to be out early. I told him that I was happy to hear it, and I was stoked at how he was communicating with me and handling the situation. I had been telling Anna about this kid for days now, and mentioning that he was obviously a little troubled, but had a good heart, and I was happy with how this was going. I mentioned that I felt like I wanted to help him out, and that he was just at that age where a little extra care would probably go a long way. When I got this text Sunday evening, I felt like things were pretty good:

"Hey Brian, I just wanted to thank you for your generosity. I was going down a bad path and you woke me up to the error of my ways. Ill be out on Wednesday."

I thought about texting him back, saying good job or atta boy or whatever, but I didn't. I just knew that I would be seeing him in person the next morning, and could give him some reinforcement at that time.

I was downtown Monday morning at a meeting with a client when my phone was vibrating in my pocket. I keep it silenced in my meetings. The problem was that it kept vibrating. Over and over. I finally excused myself, and looked at the number...I didn't recognize it. I read a text that didn't make a lot of sense, but said something about the police and Cal's apartment. I knew I had to leave and get back, so I apologized to my client, but said I would get back after I put out a fire. On the way to the office I called the number back, and it was Cal's father. He had been at the apartments with the police for the last hour, he said, and he had a disturbing text from one of Cal's friends that told him he needed to check on him. The police had since left, and he never made it into the building, but was very concerned.

I met him at the front door of the building, Cal's keys in my hand, and went to Cal's unit. I banged on it for a second, then opened it up, praying in my head that nothing bad would come of this situation. That stupid chain caught the door when I opened it up, but Cal didn't come to the door when I called in this time. I busted it open, and walked inside the apartment, turned my head into the bedroom, and there was Cal, lying on his bed. Cal had killed himself. His head was covered in plastic, an elastic band around his neck keeping it tight. There were tubes along the side of his body, and a couple of tanks lying next to him. I didn't know exactly what I was looking at, except that somewhere in that mess was a the dead body of the good kid I had seen and talked to not 24 hours before.

The cries of Cal's father broke out and I turned to see that he had followed me in for a brief second, and also caught a glimpse of his son on the bed. He fell into the hallway crying, and I followed him out to try and console him. But what the fuck do you say? Cal, it turns out, had the last word, and had left it for his dad to read on his laptop which sat open next to him on the bed.

After sitting his dad down in a comfortable spot, I dialed 911 and went back in the apartment. The police dispatched someone, and connected me to the paramedics, who began to instruct me to remove the plastic from his head and clear out his mouth. They told me to get his father to help me move Cal to the ground, which I told them wasn't going to happen. I started to move him myself when I heard the sirens from out front, and went to let them into the building to do what it is they do. As I grilled the police as to why they didn't go into the building an hour earlier, one of the paramedics, an acquaintance of mine, let me know that it didn't matter...it was obvious that he had been gone for a few hours. The next few hours involved a lot of police officers taking statements, getting the medical examiner in to take care of the situation, and some grief counseling for the father. Once it was all over I went home and sat on the couch and tried to figure out what had just happened. I'm still working on answering that question.

I've told the story to a few family members and friends over the last few days. I know in my heart that as often as I have been course and direct with other tenants in the past who have done damage to my property or my business, this time I was making an effort to handle with care. I did what I had to do, and I don't actually believe that I was acting in any way other that what I had to do in the situation. But there is still a deep, dark feeling in my gut that I can't shake. It's the part of me that knows that there is still a responsibility to the situation that I have to pay attention to. But it's not that of a landlord, it's one of a fellow human being. We all come into contact with people in our lives who are struggling every day. We never know what someone is going through, only how they treat us. I can't emphasize enough that we all owe it to each other to keep kindness and love in our hearts, and do our best to connect with people that cross our paths. We all just want to be loved. We all have something going on.

As I listened to the police talking with Cal's father that day, I realized that Cal had a rough life. He has battled with all kinds of addictions and problems since a young age. He was the product of his environment since he was very young. I only knew a tiny piece of who he was. All I can say is that the purpose of my life is greater than I can understand, and I will take every interaction I have from now on with my experiences in mind every time. And when it comes to my two beautiful, innocent children, I will always, ALWAYS let them know that they are loved and they are important...I never, ever want to give them cause to seek out that love in any way, including coping with an emptiness that Cal obviously felt.

I'm very sad today. I hope that this exercise of spilling my guts helps me move on and start doing a better job as a member of a thickly woven blanket of society in which we all count on each other every day to get by.







Today is Edgar Allen Poe's birthday. He had his share of addictions and problems, one of which was the scrutiny of his peers. And as most brilliant minds tend to be, he was less than appreciated during his lifetime, but his work lives on long after he's gone. This poem, sold for $9 when he wrote it, seems fitting for the week. Thanks, NPR, for sharing this with me this morning:

A Dream Within A Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Edgar Allan Poe

Thursday, September 3, 2015

THE DEVEN GUILFORD HOMICIDE - AN IN DEPTH INVESTIGATION







I've had my ass kicked by cops a couple of times...I may have been a little upset, and loudmouthed, but I still don't believe that the treatment was just.



I was lucky.



This kid...someone's innocent, non-violent, 17 year old SON...was not so lucky.





It's time to make a change.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The older I get...

...the more I only want to hang out with my kids. I was lucky enough to assist with both kids' PE classes last year, and had a wonderful time playing hooky from work for an hour or two a week. We all had a ton of fun, and I was rewarded for my efforts by this card, which arrived this last week. I couldn't wish for a more wonderful gift. These little people are the best out there.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

My gang...

...if it were about 120 years ago 

Blind Alley

"If someone's ungrateful and you tell him he's ungrateful, okay, you've called him a name. You haven't solved anything.” ― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

School of Rock

Thanks to the generosity of my mom and her boyfriend, Paul, the kids were treated to a 2 week long summer music camp at a place in south Reno called JamPro. This business is a legitimate operation boasting several practice rooms, 3 studios, all the music equipment you can imagine and instructors that are well versed in playing, recording, teaching, and making sure that all the kids involved had fun.

It was such a treat picking them up every day and seeing their excited expressions as they described the songs they were learning and the new tricks on the instruments they were playing. On their own accord every single day they would sit down and practice their songs at home and I have to say I couldn't be more proud...a common theme for me, in case you hadn't noticed.

I put together a very brief video of the final performances they gave with their bands "Across the Ocean" and "Tidal Wave" ;)

I didn't want to spend the entire concert staring at my camera, so the footage is limited to a couple of songs, but I think you'll get the idea...they were both phenomenal, and everyone really enjoyed witnessing their musical debut!


Sean and Ireland's JamPro concert! from Brian Egan on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Samesies

Although you would never know it from the occasional "brotherly" (irritated) tone that Sean has with Ireland these days, at their core are these two little love bugs. To this day, they play and laugh and love each other the way best friends should.



Next year is going to be a tough one. Sean is going into Swope Middle School as a 6th grader in an accelerated educational tract, and leaving his friends behind at Jessie Beck...including this his soon-to-be-9-year-old sister. She wasn't happy about his decision, but she supports him and is proud of him.


We all are.


Of both of them.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Matandolo

It's been quite a while since I haven't had the immediate gratification of sharing a quick picture and one-liner with a hashtag to explain my existence. In fact, when I really think about the advent of Facebook in my life, I have to consider that my blogging skills (should I be so bold as to call them that) started to take a twisting turn downward since the day I signed up for the social media behemoth. I have had but a few thought out, somewhat well-written essays on my experience for several years now, and I must admit that the F-Book and Instagram are mostly to blame. Well, the timing of my departure from those realms (temporary though it MAY be), could not be more appropriate, as I have a pretty good story to share about a recent experience traveling abroad.

This story begins many moons ago... I have been friends with John Cashill since our days in youth soccer and little league. We played on the same storied Reno National fields at Swope Middle School together when we were younger than my son Sean Patrick is now. We spent summer nights together in Graeagle, growing up and causing mischief in the ways that young boys do. We really only attended the same school together for 7th and 8th grades, but proximity was never really necessary to keep the embers of true friendship glowing between us. After high school I ventured south to San Diego and he north to Willamette, Oregon, but still we stayed in touch, and visited each other regularly. We talked, since high school, about a trip to Europe together, perhaps riding motorcycles and touring around. And although he was able to pull off a graduation backpacking trip over there, I was not, and the dialogue between us continued in the vein of "one of these days". As it does, life moves on and so had we. I moved around a bit to San Francisco and Oakland, and eventually back to Reno to raise my family. He posted up for graduate school in Seattle, Washington, and put roots down doing the same. But we visited regularly, staying involved in our mutual maturation and ....shit, did I just use that word? Really!? Let me get real for a second...we continued to party approximately 75% of the time we got back together, much to the chagrin of our girlfriends/spouses/etc. But over time we have learned a little about moderation and tempering reckless behavior, and we have, in our own rights, managed to raise some pretty amazing children along the way. I'm proud of who we are now, just at the brink of turning 40 years old together. And it was this upcoming birthday that prompted the ever-on-point "Cash Money", as I often refer to JC, to suggest, nay, insist on a boys trip to celebrate our 40th.

Originally in the plans for the trip was our mutual childhood friend (and my now business partner in the bar we own), Brian Ligon. John wanted us all to take some time and plan a big trip over to Octoberfest, and as Ligon and I were very busy recovering from an overwhelming amount of work together and separately, we simply put off the dialogue, thinking that the time was far away. Ligs, in fact, started up a new business of his own, and as time drew on, we came to realize that the three of us were likely not going to be able to get it all together, so the plan evolved. Cashill and I discussed moving the trip up from October and seizing the day, so to speak. Several global festivals were bounced around, but one I had always wanted to do seemed to rise to the top: The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain. I have always been a huge fan of large, powerful animals. I was raised riding horses, some of which didn't want to be ridden all that much. And the Reno Rodeo is, to me, one of the best events that takes place in my home town. I make a point to try and attend "extreme bulls" night every year, as the awe I experience when watching those beasts is like nothing else I know. I've harbored a bit of jealousy for the crazy cowboys that jump on their back and challenge them for 8 seconds at a time, to best their efforts. And having majored in English Literature in San Diego, the romantic prose of Earnest Hemingway (whose passion for big game and bull fights is unrivaled) did a number on me as well. I always knew that some day I would experience the thrill of the run in Pamplona. Having obtained permission from the powers that be, Cash committed to the trip, and we began booking flights and residence, securing the proper attire for the festival of San Fermin, and getting ready to experience a trip like no other I'd ever taken. With limited funds and even more limited time, I could only make a week in Spain a reality, so we booked 2 nights in Pamplona for the festivities, and the remaining 4 nights in San Sebastian, at an Air BnB apartment right off the beach. Simple and guaranteed to be a good time, this trip couldn't come fast enough for the both of us.

The precursor to the trip was, appropriately, a meeting up of our families in Graeagle, CA to celebrate the 4th of July. In the most authentic spirit of Americana, we enjoyed a night up at his parents' condo, fireworks at the Mill Pond, and a round of golf at my favorite of all courses, Plumas Pines.

At the Knotty Pine Tavern
With Aiden 


My crew golfing the Pines






















Having spent the appropriate amount of holiday time with our families, (and having listened to Pat Cashill, John's father, describe in detail how the more ferocious bulls were traditionally ran later in the week...when we would be in Pamplona), we both went home to pack and prepare for our journey. I assured Mandy, Sean and Ireland that I would take extra care not to get trampled or gored by the bulls, and (more important to them) I would text them immediately after the run was complete, since they were legitimately worried that something terrible was going to happen...thanks a lot, YouTube.

The flight from Reno to Chicago, where I was to meet up with Cash was a bit of a rough one. I tied one on with Mandy the night before, convincing myself that the more tired I was for the long flight to Madrid, the better I would sleep. This is the sort of logic that has cursed me over the years, and this time was no different. The first of many blessings, however, revealed itself to me upon check-in at the airport. While printing my ticket from the kiosk, a prompt for an upgrade popped up and I was offered 1st class to the windy city for under a hundred bucks. "Only a fool would reject such a gift", I thought, and immediately swiped my card. The flight was at 8am, but I had no shame in letting the very nice stewardess know that I wasn't in the best shape, and when she was busy filling up everyone's coffee cups and juice glasses, I would very seriously prefer a Bloody Mary to assist in getting me straight again. She nodded, obliged, and retuned often to see if I was in need of any more. I was very appreciative, but also riddled with guilt and aware that there was much more travel to come, so I said "thank you, but no".  I tried to rest in my luxurious seat at the front of the plane, and in fact nodded off a little before the decent into Chi-town. As I did, however, I felt a slight nudge on my shoulder, and opened my eyes, confused, to a plastic bag full of something or other being handed to me by the stewardess. I said, "Thank you?" as I received it, and she turned to strap herself in for the landing. Much to my joyful surprise I opened the bag to find a very nice bottle of French wine which I would tuck into my duffle bag, and explain my way through security with, all the way to Pamplona. Thank you, anonymous stewardess...you kicked my trip off properly with your thoughtful gift.

When Cash and I finally met up in Chicago, we had very little time, so we went to check in to our flight. We noticed that the agent who had assisted us in booking our airfare had neglected to seat us together, so I stepped up to the podium to discuss it with the lovely people from Iberia Airlines. Unfortunately, they told me, there were no places for us to sit together on this sold out flight, and as I was just about to put my head down in frustration, they followed with "HowEVER, it looks like you have been flagged for an upgrade, and we have 2 seats left in 1st class adjacent to each other!"

"What's going on here?" I thought...pausing only briefly before asking what the charge would be. Again, it was a fraction of the cost it should have been, and since we were going to be treated with sleeper seats, individual flat screens, as much food and drink and entertainment as we could handle, and most importantly, sleep...it was another no brainer. Cash and I stretched out and enjoyed the journey to Madrid, dreaming of what glory awaited.

















After a restful flight to Madrid, and a quick connection to Pamplona, we grabbed our duffles (both of us carried all that we needed the whole way), and booked a taxi to our hotel in Pamplona. We checked in early, donned our whites and made our way into the heart of the festival to scout out the path we would be running, and take in some of the local fare.

Pinxos in Pamplona...I am in Heaven




















On the Calle Estefata
















Cash scouting our run





















We ate well, witnessed people of all ages partying in the streets all night, until we decided to retire early, get some more rest and be limber and aware for the run we signed up for in the morning.

The morning arrived, and I had been like a 4 year old on Christmas Eve all night...thinking only of the daylight, and barely able to nod off. Regardless, it was time and we had our plan of attack worked out. We worked our way back into the center of the City, and with adrenaline pumping through us like cafe con leche to the power of 10, we got into the mix. At this point in the story, I feel that the work of our go-pro video tells the story in a way that is more entertaining, so....here's a little video of the run that I threw together!

 
Running with the Bulls from Brian Egan on Vimeo.





















No words or self-shot video will really do the intense run any justice. Even what we had planned for our run, our timing, our "outs" along the course...that all fell apart once the first of two guns went off, signaling the eminent release of the 6 fighting bulls and the handful of steer that would guide them up the Calle Estefeta, all the way to the ring where they would ultimately be slaughtered later that evening. As you can see, Cashill's dive under the fence rails was a mere second away from the rampaging bulls passing by, and the lucky runners that would jump up aside him, seeking refuge and praying not to get targeted by those angry monsters in the street. I would have liked to have run a little further, myself, but I could feel the power of those animals upon me, and dared not look away from what was in front of me for fear of stumbling on or over one of the many people that simply cowered to the ground, tucking their heads under their hands and saying a similar prayer to all those around. The slow-motion stalls of the video, while allowing a bit more for the viewer to examine, do little to translate the intensity and speed with which it all happened.  I hope that one day I will return to challenge the bulls even further, and experience that absolute thrill of a lifetime from a more centered position. But amateurs as we were, and at almost 40 years old with families to think about, we wanted to balance smart running and a humble respect for the unknown with our desire to seek the thrills that were very much experienced. It was a blast, a kick in the pants, and most importantly...not a gory scene (for us, at least...one unlucky medic actually did get gored that morning...in the thigh...not pretty).




















With ear-to-ear smiles on our faces, we returned to the same cafe that Hemingway lived above, sucked down Calimoxos (a lovely on-tap blend of red wine and Coca Cola...available at every bar in the city), and relived the experience over some tortillas de papas con jamon as I whipped out that quick video to share with our friends and family. And of course, I texted Mandy and Sean...both immediately texted me back, despite it being after midnight in the USA. I laughed at the timeliness of their responses, imagining them awake and anxious, and grateful to be able to relieve them of that.

There were tens of thousands of people...families, students, grandparents, all wandering the streets of Pamplona that afternoon and evening...drinking and eating and as the light faded to darkness, engaging in song and dance. Parades dominated the small, ancient streets around the arena, where we were headed to experience part two of the event...the Bullfight!! Approaching the arena to purchase tickets, we were immediately identified as Americans (a minority among the Spanish, even for this event), and swarmed down upon by scalpers of all variety.  My internal bullshit gauge was working overtime, as I forced our way up to the ticket window, often pushing away aggressive scalpers who thought it appropriate to grab me by the arm! As we waited in line, one Irish gentleman approached us and asked if we were buying tickets. His demeanor was different than the others, and his tone sincere. I listened as he explained that he was a season ticket holder, with seats "Three rows from the sand", and how his friends had left the festival early, unable to use the tickets. He backed his story up with a description of his profession, running a website that I had actually spent time exploring weeks ago. Well, Michael, you were correct...we couldn't have done better, and with prices less than face value, I would say that the blessings of our journey continued to pour over us.

















WHAT an experience. It was truly Death In The Afternoon, and we got a front and center taste of both Pamplonian culture and hospitality from everyone around us, as well as a glimpse at one of the 6 bulls that day putting the Matador face down in the dirt, almost costing him his life!


Captured by Cashill...Matador Undefeated!!!







I brought along a new bota bag, freshly filled with the wine that was given to me on my flight over.





















Having spent a few years of my life as a Torero, I felt a particular connection to the experience, and again, a sense of awe for the pure raw nature of the thing. Although I may be alone in this thought, I wish to experience more of the bull fighting that goes on all over Spain. From my read of it, it varies all over, but the culture and sport itself is something to respect. I take no pause from animal rights activists or the like, as I know very well that so much of the beef I enjoyed that week came from that ring, and I appreciate the fact that the beasts had a fighting chance! The Torreodors of all types demonstrated great courage and finesse, and I gained a new sort of love for this country and it's rich culture that day.




















The arena, unlike others around the country, was full of screaming, singing, music playing people. In any other city, I am told, such behavior would be considered disrespectful to both Toreador and Beast, but there in Pamplona, it was the norm. As the shade slowly found it's way above us, and the fights of the day waged on, I knew that this trip was as educational as one could have been 400 years prior, and as authentic, too.

After the fights, we returned to the streets of Pamplona, the alleyways and the parades and that special breed of partying that I am positive only the Spanish can understand, for only they have created and nurtured such a way of life for centuries.

Partygoers in Pamplona

No lack of protein here




















With plenty of wine in our bellies and another journey ahead of us the next day, we retired back, eventually, to our hotel and took one last slumber before we woke and made for the train station, and a comfortable and scenic two hour ride north to the coast of San Sebastian, or as the indigenous Basque people know it, Donostia!





















Upon landing in Donostia, and walking to pick up the keys to our Playa Zurriola flat, we recharged and ventured out first to the beach, to take in the local flavor and swim in the warm waters of the bay of Biscay. What a change in scenery! Having just come from the tourist-swarmed streets of the biggest party I had ever witnessed, the holiday-like European flavor of this gorgeous beach town took me over completely, and I was immediately enthralled.

I had read somewhere in a magazine during my travels that San Sebastian has one of the most densely populated array of Michelin rated restaurants in the world. Although I did no background check on any of the dozens of places that we dined at in those brief 3 days, I know that this fact must be true, because I have never experienced such a palette-bending, wonderful array of food in all my life. I immediately realized what a treat this place will be to bring Mandy back to...a true gastronomist if there ever was such a thing! And my kids!! They would love the playfulness and frivolity of the Spanish people...lining the beaches and surfing in the waters, and doing nothing but playing and socializing all day. After only a night I knew that San Sebastian is a slice of Heaven that I had been blessed to experience, and that a new goal in my life is to bring my whole family back here again some day...soon!


Sunset over Zarriola



Pinxos
















Croissant wrapped CHORIZO!!

Dropping in on a crowded wave




















Around the second day there, and having spent the previous night in La Parte Vieja (the old part, all Basque) we were truly humbled by a bit of culture shock. It was apparent to us that although (because?) we were easily recognized as Americans, unless we were constantly speaking Spanish, even in conversation with each other, we were treated with a little less respect, and not served the same as those around us. So we made a deal that from that point forward, unless in our apartment, we would do our best to only speak Spanish (and toss in the occasionally googled Basque phrase when convenient) with each other. I'm not sure about Cash, but I immediately noticed a difference in the vibe around us, and realized that the place I come from doesn't really have the right level of respect for other cultures or ways of life. We expect everyone to speak English around us, especially at home, but sometimes even abroad. I reflected on my own arrogance, and vowed immediately to make some personal changes in the way I treated travel, and people from other places. Upon my return home, as a matter of fact, I took it upon myself to start incorporating Spanish in my household every once in a while. After all, if I want to bring my family back to experience this place with me, we need to sharpen our skills so that we might really dive back into this culture the right way!
They party in front of the cathedral!








On our last day in San Sebastian, we rented a couple of scooters and took a few hours to explore some of the more picturesque spots that would have taken more time to get to otherwise. This was a great day, having summited Mount Ulia within a half of an hour and then venturing far south along the coast above and past La Concha, getting a feel for the coastal countryside and pure beauty of this land.




















Here's a little flavor of a part of the ride, up to the top of Igeldo Mountain!
Cashill and I took a little moto ride around San Sebastian. This was to the top of Igeldo.













The journey home to America was as lucky as the one therefrom, and we were again granted some restful sleep via a last minute upgrade to business class for next to nothing! Although I will say that the Iberia crew and accommodations put American Airlines in a distant second place in every category. Regardless, we were so grateful for the ease of the entire journey, and I, to return to the faces I love so dearly.




















Until we meet again, I'll be thinking about Spain, Pamplona and San Sebastian specifically, the food, the wine, the fun, and also about what an amazing time I had with my dear, old friend John. He was such a pleasure to travel with and so go-with-the-flow. It couldn't have happened any other way, and for that, Cash Money, I thank you, dude!


Salud!